Friday, October 17, 2014

A Civil Finale To The Campaign Forum Circuit

Last night, at the Halecrest Swim and Tennis Club, the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries hosted a candidate event that left a good taste in your mouth for a change.  This one was designed to present candidates for seats on three Special District boards and give them an opportunity to tell you about themselves and to address issues they felt were important for the positions they are seeking.  Just under 50 people attended, counting staff members and relatives of the participants.
The special districts represented in this event were the Orange County Water District, Mesa Water District and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District.  A total of eight (8) of the nine candidates running for the positions available in these special districts within Costa Mesa were present.  Only candidate Chuck Perry failed to show up.

Candidates for the Area 7 seat on the Orange County Water District are incumbent and current board president, Shawn Dewane and termed out Costa Mesa City Council member, Wendy Leece.

Candidates for the Mesa Water District seat are Ron Amburgey and incumbent Jim Atkinson.

Four candidates for the three seats on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board are long time incumbents Arlene Schafer, Bob Ooten and Mike Scheafer plus first time candidate Brian Peotter.  As I said, Perry failed to show up.

Ooten, in his role as President of the Friends of the Costa Mesa Libraries, gave a brief introduction to some of their members present, defined the organization and it's role with the three libraries in Costa Mesa and presented an award to a long-time employee.  He then turned the meeting over to Mesa Water District Board President Jim Fisler, who acted as moderator.  In this case, his role was just to introduce the candidates, since no questions were posed to them.

Fisler gave a description of Special Districts and some history.  We learned that there are 2,160 special districts in California - 27 in Orange County alone.  They cover such things as cemeteries, recreation, police and vector control - and, of course, water and sanitation.  He emphasized the value of a tightly-focused board, usually responsible for one or two elements in a community.  He also mentioned that they are governed by many of the same rules as are city councils - the Brown Act and Fair Political Practices Commission regulation, for example.

Then he announced that each candidate would have seven (7) minutes to introduce themselves and talk about their candidacy.  The candidates would appear in the order they appear on the ballot.

First up were the two candidates for a seat on the Mesa Water District Board.

Ron stressed that he's a first-time candidate and that he decided to get involved after attending a meeting of the organization last June at which a rate hike was passed.  He spoke against it.  He told us he's involved with Costa Mesa United, and that he will probably be elected President next time around.  He also told us he was on the board of the Youth Employment Service (YES) since 1987 and has been involved with the Lions Club.  He neglected to mention that he was an appointee to both the Charter Committee and the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee.

He told us, that although he has many friends on the Mesa Water board, he's "not feelin' the love" - apparently because of his position on the rate increases passed recently.  He's a believer in term limits and he doesn't want to get into any negative campaigning.  He didn't tell us if he knew anything about water.

Jim is the incumbent and has been on the Mesa Water Board for 16 years and knows his stuff.  He used his time to give the audience a primer on Mesa, the need for long-term planning and how he was a "ratepayer advocate" who voted NO on the rate increase.  He stressed that the biggest cost in delivering water was the cost of electricity used to move it from one place to another.  He talked about the 350 miles of pipe, the replacement of which would cost about $1.5 million per mile.  He spoke of the 9 wells the District maintains.  He spoke of the excellent bond rating - AAA, and quoted from a Fitch report that described Mesa Water's performance that justified that high rating.

Next came the candidates for the Orange County Water District.

Wendy is a termed-out Costa Mesa City Councilwoman, who has also served on the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees.  She told us she's not a "career politician", then listed all the political positions she's held.  I smiled.  She told us she has no conflict, unlike her opponent who serves on TWO water boards now.  She stressed that she's a hard worker who does her homework and that she works for the residents and ratepayers.  She also spoke briefly of the Poseidon desalination project that would apparently run a pipeline across Costa Mesa and cause significant disruption to the lives along it's path.


Shawn is currently the President of the Orange County Water District Board and also a member of the Mesa Water District Board.  He's a 27 year Costa Mesa resident with a decade serving on the water boards, which he says provides "pure, plentiful and affordable" water.  He is a self-described financial expert.  He mentioned that twice, in case you missed it the first time.    He spoke with authority about his contributions to the water entities in our region, with his ego fully on display.  He also mentioned his participation in the creation of the trade organization, CalDesal, which he described as a one-stop-shop for folks interested in desalination projects, and explained it was formed because of the fourteen years and thousands of forms and papers required to get the Poseidon Project to where it is today.  He explained his many trips to Sacramento and Washington, D.C. to work on water issues.  He took much of the credit for the excellent condition Mesa Water finds itself in today and beamed with pride when he spoke about the "largest water recycling facility in the world."

Next came the candidates for the three seats available for the Costa Mesa Sanitary District.  Candidate Chuck Perry was a no-show for this event.


Arlene raised a family in Costa Mesa.  She has served on the Planning Commission and the City Council, where she was Vice Mayor and Mayor.  She's a long-time member of the Sanitary District Board and is seeking re-election next month.  She spoke of her role as a Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) member, and that she had been President of the California Special Districts Association.  She spoke briefly of the upcoming Organics Recycling Program.  She also spoke of how well the board members get along.


Mike is a long-term board member, former Parks and Recreation Commissioner and City Councilman (he didn't mention either of those), long-time member of the Lions Club, President of the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation Board and Chairman of the recent 60th Anniversary Celebration (he didn't mention those, either).  He did speak briefly about some of the things he's accomplished while on the board, like using Ipads instead of killing forests to produce staff reports for meetings.  He spent a big chunk of his time discussing the upcoming conversion to the Organics Recycling program and the value of doing this inevitable conversion early rather than later.  He spoke of the fiscal solvency of the Sanitary District.


Brian, a self-described "Rocket Scientist", seemed like a nice enough young fella who just hasn't been alive long enough to understand the job on the Sanitary District Board.  In fact, he told us his goal is to eliminate it entirely by folding the Sanitary District into the Water District or The City.  He made some not very veiled criticisms of the current board and further demonstrated his lack of knowledge of the inner workings of that organization.  It's unclear if he had ever attended a board meeting or not.  I'm told not.  He ripped a page from the Jim Fitzpatrick song book and spoke of not putting the trash hauling contract out for competitive bidding since the "Eisenhower era".  He was hyper-critical of the Organics program, but didn't say anything that demonstrated that he knew much about it.


Bob is an double-degreed engineer with more than two decades experience with the Orange County Sanitary District.  He spoke in detail of the infrastructure of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District and the pro-active steps taken to prepare for disasters and to keep the effluent flowing.  He described himself as a fiscal conservative and also of the need to implement the Organics Recycling program to save money.

The program didn't provide an opportunity for any of the four-dozen audience members to ask questions, but the buzz around the room at the conclusion of the formal segment of the program seemed very positive.  Folks seemed to have learned a lot from this process and were busily chatting away with the candidates.

Costa Mesa Brief was on hand to film the festivities.  I'm sure it will be up on their YouTube website soon.  I didn't see them circulating like vultures this time, looking for "gotcha" moments, although the owner of the site engaged me in "spirited" conversation.  It seems he doesn't like the way I do my thing, doesn't like what I write and is offended when I refer to him - even though every time I mention his work the hit counter on his site starts spinning.  I encouraged him to NOT read what I write, but smiled that it bugged him so much.

So, folks, that's it!  No more candidate forums.  From now until the election you will be deluged with stuff jammed into your mailboxes, exposed to the blight of campaign signs everywhere and have candidates and their minions knocking on your doors.  It will soon be over, though.  Early November 5th we'll have a good idea of what this city will look like politically for the next few years.  Take a deep breath - we can to this!

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Poetter is out right off the bat. I've see his posts and its clear he's a waste of fresh air. Rolling the water over into the city is a plan thats been around for awhile. I know the city would love to get their hands on that water money. Amburgey is another one of them.

I like our incumbants, except for Shawn Dewayne. I'll vote for Wendy in a heartbeat.

10/17/2014 07:25:00 AM  
Anonymous And So It Goes said...

If Barry, of CM Brief, ever wants to be taken seriously he needs to stop filming in the vein of Jerry Springer/Maury Povich! His bias is all too obvious.

10/17/2014 09:26:00 AM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

These guys are playing the voters for a fool, using their family names for recognition:

Poetter: A rocket scientist for San District, who takes his cues from Fitzy's play book.

Amburgey: A concrete guy for water board that does't understand the benefit having a funded reserve account... Supported by a trio of council dudes that drained the Self Insurance Fund and touts a budget surplus.

Perry: doesn't bother to show up for his future constituency.

10/17/2014 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Who gets to vote on Mesa Water district? My absentee ballot does not have that section, and I pay Mesa Water every time they bill me. I do vote on the OCWD, at least on this ballot.

10/17/2014 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

The Mesa directors are selected by district. Apparently Atkinson is not your guy...

10/17/2014 12:50:00 PM  

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