Monday, September 01, 2014

City Fails Another Transparency Test

Geez, a guy can't take a couple days off to enjoy the holiday made possible by the labors of others without the wheels coming off here at home!  I'll address the Barbara Venezia column in a separate post.

First, and most important, is the decision by the City of Costa Mesa to NOT televise and replay the City Council Candidate Forum to be hosted by the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group on October 2nd.

Last week I wrote to City Communication Director Bill Lobdell, asking whether Costa Mesa Television (CMTV) would be recording the two remaining candidate forums this cycle - the Feet To The Fire Forum on September 18th and the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group forum on October 2nd.  The answer he sent me - as I was literally walking out the door for a long holiday weekend on Thursday - reads as follows:
Earlier this year, the city agreed to use public resources to record and broadcast the Mesa Verde Community, Inc. and Feet to the Fire City Council debates.

After the city made those commitments, Mal Richardson, special counsel in charge of election issues, advised that the city needed to be politically neutral, and, therefore, it should not utilize public resources for the recording and broadcasting of political debates hosted by private entities.

In addition, Richardson—who is with the law firm of Best, Best and Krieger—expressed concern that once the city agreed to participate in one political debate, it would have legal difficulty declining the request of any other group wanting the city to record and broadcast its debate.

City officials decided to honor their previous commitments to Mesa Verde Community, Inc. and Feet to the Fire, but, on the advice of counsel, will not participate in any political debates going forward.

It was too late for me to do anything about that except to reply to him that I thought it smelled of politics and I hoped the City would reconsider.  I didn't have the technology available to me over the weekend so didn't write about it until now.  Segments of the note have been referred to elsewhere, but I thought you should see it verbatim.

In the meantime, Bradley Zint wrote about the issue in the Daily Pilot, HERE.  Some of the quotations he included, and later added to, made me smile.  I particularly enjoyed Lee Ramos' comment that he wasn't going to attend the Eastside Forum - stiffing them just as he did for the recent Mesa Verde Community, Inc., forum, but "I have many friends on both sides.  I have no disrespect to them at all."  Really, old fella?  Now he's managed to alienate TWO powerful, active community organizations, including one that represents the neighborhood in which he, and I, live.  He told Zint that his campaign committee decided "some time ago" to not have him participate in those two - only the Feet To The Fire Forum.  Seems like strange advice, unless they suspected he might shoot himself in the foot at the others.  Funny - it seems like he's already done that.

At the last forum conducted by my Eastside neighbors two years ago Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger was VERY unhappy about the questions and his buddy, Mayor Jim Righeimer, accosted members of the leadership of the group and the forum moderator immediately following the event, berating them for what he thought were "unfair and slanted" questions.  As others have mentioned, this tirade happened in front of his daughter.  Nice life lesson!  Bullying 101!

It's obvious from this, and other recent events, that the current power elite in this city are very unhappy with my friends in the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group and are clearly using their political power to disenfranchise them during this election cycle.  Another example of that attitude is Planning Commission Chair - and council majority lapdog - Jim Fitzpatrick's recent calling out of the President of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group, real estate agent Jeff McConville, at the last commission meeting because he didn't do back flips supporting a proposed development on the Eastside.

The note from Lobdell, above, is more than a little contradictory, but it is clear what should happen.  Because CMTV has already taped and replayed the Mesa Verde Community, Inc., forum, and plans to do the same for the Feet To The Fire Forum, they ABSOLUTELY MUST provide the same coverage for the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group! 

In an added comment in his article Zint quotes Righeimer as committing to pay half the cost of recording and broadcasting the Eastside forum.  We think that "offer" is just so much political posturing.  We're presuming he'd try to get his buddy,  majority supporter Barry Friedland of Costa Mesa Brief, to do the job, then do an editing job favorable for his side.

Righeimer is  quoted as saying, "I'm hoping my fellow council candidates will join me in this effort to make sure Costa Mesa voters are as informed as possible before casting their votes in November."  I agree, and the best way to do that is to have Costa Mesa Television cover the event and provide the replay via their normal outlets on CMTV and streaming video.  Anything less would demonstrate to the voters of this city that this is just one more way for the mayor and his pals to stifle public participation in the political discourse in our city.

Since we have a little time, I suggest those of you who feel the same way take a few minutes to drop a little note to City CEO Tom Hatch, HERE, and request - or demand - that this bogus decision be reversed and that he instruct Dane Bora and Brad Long of Costa Mesa Television to cover the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group candidate forum on October 2nd.  AND, I hope all of you will join me at that event - in recent years it has been the best of the bunch.

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Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you, Geoff.
If the other forums are to be televised on CMTV, all forums should be televised on CMTV.

To not do so shows bias and contempt for the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighborhood Group.

btw, Their 2012 forum was the best of the group by far. No doubt the lack of favoritism and subjectivity really got to Righeimer and Co.

9/01/2014 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

A politically neutral Costa Mesa? What a hoot!

9/01/2014 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Beyond 25,550 Days said...

Folks should come out in large numbers to support the ECMNG forum!

9/02/2014 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

WOW! $170,000 to Dan Joyce to keep those skeletons in the closet from rattling? Interesting!

9/03/2014 07:57:00 AM  

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