Friday, June 27, 2014

Adios, Free Speech - The Dictator Has Spoken!

Next Tuesday evening, July 1st, very near the end of the scheduled City Council meeting, the Costa Mesa City Council will be asked to consider replacing an existing section of the Municipal Code - section 2-61, Propriety of conduct while addressing the council, with a completely new version of this ordinance titled Conduct While Addressing The Council.

The lengthy staff report, HERE, outlines why the contract legal council, to which we pay outlandish fees, think this is necessary.  They use as a reference point the Benito Acosta affair in which then-mayor Allan Mansoor  cut his presentation off at 2:25 and had him dragged from the council chambers because he wanted to finish his allotted three minutes.  It's been nearly a decade since that event and, based on what this new ordinance says, it looks like we've learned NOTHING!  And we're still paying, literally, for it to this date.  References are made on almost every Warrant the council approves for charges for "Acosta Appeal", or similar entries.  Ironically, the Warrant included in the Consent Calendar of this meeting staff report does NOT include an Acosta reference.

I've written many times in this space about the heavy-handedness of the current council majority and, more specifically, Mayor Jim Righeimer when it comes to stifling dissent.  He's manipulated the agenda to quash public comments by forcing folks to wait until the very end of the meeting - sometimes well after midnight - to step to the podium to address valid concerns with the elected leaders of this city.  He frequently interrupts speakers, including fellow-councilmembers, during their specified time, which certainly breaks their thoughts and diminishes their presentations.  Fortunately, Sandra Genis and Wendy Leece refuse to let him bully them.

This new ordinance, if passed as it is written, provides the authority to the mayor to bludgeon speakers into submission and to abridge their right of free speech.  If the council follows this advice it will be like funding a retirement annuity for Orange County lawyers, who we will have to pay to defend actions based on this bogus ordinance for decades to come!

I can see it now... "Stop talking!  Somebody else already said something like that!"  "Shut up, or else!"  "Sir, please leave the chambers, now!"  "Officer, please escort that person from the council chambers!"  "Sir, I told you to leave and now you've returned!  Officer, please arrest that person for violation of Section 2-61, b (8) of the Costa Mesa Municipal Code - being repetitive!"

I've copied and pasted the text of much of this proposed new section of the Municipal Code below.  Take a couple minutes to review it.  I've highlighted some of the sections I think are going to be problematic in bold red for ease of reading.

In my view, perhaps the most egregious item on this list - one that could end up with a speaker being charged with a misdemeanor if carried to the extreme, is number 8.  This item describes an act of disorderly behavior as, "Continuing to speak after being informed by the presiding officer that the comments are unduly repetitive of either prior comments from that speaker or comments by other speakers."  So, the mayor gets to decide whether your comments - the product of your own thought processes and passions - are "unduly repetitive" of comments made by other speakers?  Really?  This item, alone, tells me that we've learned nothing from the Benito Acosta affair.

I suspect some of you may find other elements of this proposed section of the Municipal Code troubling, too.  To me it clearly demonstrates that the mayor will stop at nothing to clamp down on opposing views, including violating the right of free speech.


2-61 Conduct while addressing the council.

(a) Any person who engages in disorderly behavior that actually disrupts,
disturbs or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of any city council
 meeting shall, upon an order by the presiding officer or a majority of the
city council, be barred from further audience before the city council during
that meeting, pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (c), below.

(b) Disorderly behavior under subdivision (a) may include, but is not limited to,
the following:

(1) Speaking without being recognized by the presiding officer.

(2) Yelling, or using a loud, disturbing voice.

(3) Using profanity or obscene gestures.

(4) Continuing to speak after the allotted time has expired.

(5) Speaking on an item at a time not designated for discussion by the
public of that item.

(6) Throwing objects.

(7) Speaking on an issue that is not within the jurisdiction of the city

(8) Continuing to speak after being informed by the presiding officer
that the comments are unduly repetitive of either prior comments
from that speaker or comments by other speakers.

(9) Attempting to engage the audience rather than the City Council.

(10) Disobeying any lawful order of the presiding officer or a majority of
the city council.

(11) Refusing to modify conduct after being advised by the presiding
officer that the conduct is disrupting the meeting.

(c) Enforcement. The rules of conduct while addressing the city council set
forth above shall be enforced in the following manner:

(1) Call to order and warning to desist. Whenever practicable, the
presiding officer or a majority of the city council shall give a warning
to the person who is breaching the rules of conduct to be orderly
and to comply with the rules of conduct hereunder. Such a warning
 shall articulate the rule of conduct being violated and the manner in
which the person must comply.

A warning shall not be necessary when it would not be effective
under the circumstances, including when, but not limited to, the
disturbance is such that the warning cannot be heard above the
noise, or the conduct of the person or persons constitutes an
immediate threat to public safety, such as the throwing of objects or
specific threats of harm and the apparent, present ability to carry
out such threats. A warning shall also not be necessary when an
individual violates the rules of conduct more than once during a
council meeting, or continuously violates the rules of conduct
council meeting after council meeting.

(2) Order barring person from meeting. A person who engages in
disorderly behavior shall be barred from the remainder of that
council meeting by the presiding officer or a majority of the city
council when that person: (i) continues the disorderly behavior after
receiving a warning pursuant to subdivision (c)(1); (ii) ceases the
disorderly behavior upon receiving a warning pursuant to
subdivision (c)(1), but later in the same council meeting resumes
such disorderly behavior; or (iii) engages in disorderly behavior and
no warning is practicable under the circumstances, pursuant to
subdivision (c)(1).

The continuation of disorderly behavior after receiving a warning,
repeated disorderly behavior during a council meeting, disorderly
behavior at council meeting after council meeting, or disorderly
behavior that is so significant that a warning cannot be given,
constitutes the type of behavior that actually disrupts, disturbs or
otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of a city council meeting.
(3) Removal. If the person barred from the meeting does not voluntarily
remove him/herself upon being instructed to do so by the presiding
officer or a majority of the city council, the presiding officer or the
majority of the city council may direct the sergeant-at-arms to
remove that person from the council chambers.

(d) The following conduct shall be unlawful and shall be punishable as a

(1) Continuing to engage in disorderly conduct, which disrupts, disturbs
or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of any city council
meeting, after receiving a warning pursuant to subdivision (c)(1) of
this section.

(2) Refusing to leave a city council meeting after being directed to do
so pursuant to subdivision (c)(2) of this section.

(3) Returning to a council meeting after being barred, removed or
directed to leave such meeting pursuant to subdivisions (c)(2) and
(c)(3) of this section. 

As the mayor continues to steamroll over our rights, I suspect there may be one or two of you who feel strongly enough about this to step to the speaker's podium Tuesday evening to address it with the council.  Keep in mind that it's not the law yet, and the old ordinance had the word "insolent" removed from it because that was a problem.  So, I guess you can be insolent if you wish - I don't recommend it, though.  And, I certainly don't recommend you echo resident Tim Lewis from the last council meeting.  Otherwise, just tell them how you feel.

And now, Benito Acosta, Allan Mansoor, and former Police Chief John Hensley reprise their roles in this video clip.  As an aside, look for Tea Partier Phil Morello, bellowing at the top of his lungs at the very end of the clip.  It's always a pleasure...

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Commission Stiff-Arms Chairman On Skate Park

It was an interesting meeting of the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission last night, to say the very least.  You can read the entire staff report HERE.

The commission voted to deny all three of the tree removal requests presented to them, but not without some serious discussions and a botched vote that had to be re-done.

Item 9a, the tree removal request on Bismark Way, HERE, was rejected unanimously by the commission.

Item 10b, for the removal of a tree on Coolidge, HERE, was first passed on a 3-2 vote, then commissioner Bob Graham - apparently asleep at the switch - requested a re-vote and reversed his vote, which resulted in a denial of the removal request.

Item 10c, a request to remove a tree at the Orange County Model Engineer's facility in Fairview Park, HERE, was quickly denied unanimously.  Nobody from the OCME group was present to argue the case.

The hot item on the agenda, the discussion of the Volcom Skate Park, HERE, went about as expected.  The staff report presented three alternatives for the commission to consider and recommended Number 3 as the appropriate move at this time.  Here's what those plans looked like, summarized from the staff report: (click on image to enlarge)

Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson led the presentation and outlined each of the alternatives for the commission.  She was aided by Baron Bettenhausen of Jones & Mayer, our contract law firm.

At one point during the discussion mention was made about security cameras being scheduled to be installed at Volcom Skate Park in the near future.  Each successive speaker and commission member thought that was a good idea.  (Those cameras are on the agenda for the City Council meeting on July 1st.)

Park Ranger Ann Harkey, who is the tip of the enforcement spear for the Skate Park and who has born the brunt of the unpleasant behaviors that are driving this discussion, reported that not much has changed at the Park.  There continue to be a few people who act disruptively, both inside the park proper and around the perimeter.  She described incidents where she attempted to enforce the rules but the offenders scattered and laid low nearby until she left.  Not described last night was an incident where she was actually attacked by a skater.  She described drug use in and around the park and general disregard for the rules about using safety equipment.  She also indicated that many of those who make trouble are from out of town. 

Harkey mentioned the security cameras, but indicated that she could not arrest someone just because the camera caught them apparently violating a rule - she had to personally witness it herself.  Mention was made of a recent injury at the park - a young man not wearing a helmet fell backwards onto the floor of the bowl and cracked his skull.  Later it was acknowledged that no claims have been made as a result of incidents at the skate park.

Jim Gray, a legend in the local skate world, spoke with passion about the issue. He thought the cameras were a great idea.  At one point he said, "You're not going to get the skaters to follow the rules by bullying them."  I understood what he meant.  The skate culture has a kind of "rebel" persona.  Gray thought less time should be spent making them wear safety equipment and more attention should be given to expanding the park - it's too small for the number of skaters and the mixture of skill levels.

Newport Mesa Unified School District Trustee, former City Council member and President and founder of the National Interscholastic Skateboard League, Katrina Foley, spoke eloquently about the sport, the culture, the rules and the need for cooperation between the City and outside groups - like hers.  She used as a positive example a young man named Jesus Acevedo - valedictorian at Estancia High School and captain of his school's skate board team.  Because the use of required safety equipment was central to the discussion, she was asked what was the minimum safety equipment she thought skaters should be using.  She answered, "a helmet".  She said elbow and knee pads are hindrances, except in the case of knee pads where sliding down a bowl in the park happens.

Rene' Prospero, a frequent skater at the park, agreed about the cameras.  He also thought the skaters themselves should be doing a better job of policing improper activity.  He did say that you will NOT find any photograph of any professional skater in any magazine wearing safety equipment - not even a helmet.  He thinks those stars are being emulated by younger skaters.  He blamed the problems at the park on a few bad apples who are spoiling it for everyone.

Speaker Anna Vrska thought #1 was too expensive, suggested a few people are the problem and wondered what other jurisdictions are doing to solve this problem.

Eventually Chairman Byron de Arakal attempted to cobble together a motion for the commission to consider using Alternate #2 as the foundation.  Take a look at that one up top again.  However, he also added an element of #1 - the need for a waiver to be signed BEFORE any skater could use the facility - a key card to permit entrance to the park would be issued once the waiver is signed.  After painstakingly trying to craft just the right verbiage his motion died for lack of a second.

Vice Chair Kim Pederson offered another motion - to basically use #3 - the staff recommendation - but to include a proviso for the staff to collaborate with skate groups - like Foleys - to develop more programs for the park and require it to come back for a review in a year.  Commissioner Don Harper seconded, but asked that the review be in six months.  It passed, 4-1, with de Arakal voting No.

Next up was Interim Parks and Community Services Manager Penny Loomer, who put on a smiley face and told us all how wonderfully things were going at the Costa Mesa Senior Center since the City Council voted two weeks ago to evict the current operator - the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation - and replace it with city staff members.  According to Loomer, everything is just dandy, with 496 new members signed up.  When asked how many members the Center had she couldn't answer because the Senior Corporation Board will not share the membership list, so the city staff is building a new one from scratch.

Loomer used a PowerPoint presentation to tell the commission and all of us in the audience - me - about the progress being made and the plans for the future following the completion of the takeover on September 7th.  I'll provide you with the images of her slide show, which are self-explanatory.  If necessary, I'll inject a comment or two.
Loomer indicated that the first two on this image donated $750.00 each for the July 3rd event.  Here's the flyer about that event.  So far, 140 people have signed up for it and will be served food by members of the Costa Mesa Public Safety organizations.  The hours are 11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Chairman de Arakal, choking on a lump in his throat, adjourned the meeting in memory of Kyle Johnson, husband of Costa Mesa High School Cheer Coach Kori Johnson, who died tragically in a car accident almost two weeks ago.  He cited the outpouring of love and support for Kori and her family by the community as a perfect example of what a caring city this is.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mark Your Calendar - Coffee With A Cop!

Yesterday the Costa Mesa Police Department issued the following press release.  This should be a fun event.  I'll remind you again as we get closer to that date.  Who knows.. you might even have a chance to chat with Officer Kha Bao, our most decorated DUI enforcer.

Come Have Coffee With a Cop!

On July 15, 2014, the Costa Mesa Police Department will host their first Coffee With a Cop event. This event brings police officers and community members together in an informal setting at a local business to discuss community issues and build relationships while enjoying a cup of coffee. All community members are invited to attend. The event will take place from 8:00AM – 10:00AM on July 15, 2014, at the McDonald's restaurant located at 3141 Harbor Blvd.

Coffee with a Cop provides an opportunity for community members to ask questions, learn more about the Costa Mesa Police Department and meet your officers. There will be no agenda or speeches, just an opportunity to voice your concerns and get to know the officers in your neighborhood.

The majority of contacts law enforcement has with the public happen during emergencies, or emotional situations. Those situations are not always the most effective times for relationship building with the community, and some community members may feel that officers are unapproachable on the street. Coffee with a Cop breaks down barriers and allows for a relaxed, one-on-one interaction.

We hope everyone can join us at this kick-off event on July 15th!

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Kudos To CMTV And A Video Fireworks Reminder

Its "Video Time" here at A Bubbling Cauldron.  Time to remind you of some events and issues using video tools.

First off, the City of Costa Mesa announced recently, HERE, that Costa Mesa Television (CMTV) has, once again, been the recipient of some significant awards for the work that Dane Bora and Brad Long have done recently.

In addition to regularly producing video records of important city meetings - City Council, Planning and Parks and Recreation Meetings - live and on streaming video, they also produce the Costa Mesa Minute and taped versions of Study Sessions and other special meetings and events where live television is not possible, like the Snoopy House celebration and many youth sports events.

This year, for example, I expect they will provide a video record of Candidate Forums as we enter the run-up to the November elections.  And, they also do public interest/public service videos, too.
One of my favorites of their recent productions is the lip-dub version of "Costa Mesa My Sweet Home" by local song writer/singer Dan Krikorian.  Look for familiar faces as you sing along...


And, click HERE for their most recent Community Report, twenty-nine minutes of information and fun.

Kudos to Dane and Brad for their continuing excellence and for enhancing the ability for us to stay informed on important community events.


Before we leave the video kudos, here's another bit of their handiwork.  Brenda Emrick and Kelly Vucinc provide us with some handy tips to remember this Independence Day holiday.  Ladies...

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Of Trees, Skate Park and Seniors

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission, under the leadership of Chairman Byron de Arakal - re-elected at the last meeting, along with Vice Chair Kim Pederson - will meet Thursday, June 26, 2014 beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  You can read the entire agenda HERE.

Old Business 9a, HERE; New Business 10b HERE and 10C HERE all involve tree removal requests and, while important to the individuals involved and to the overall well-being of our urban forest, tend to be just a little bit dry.

However, "dryness" is not a word I would associate with New Business 10a, the Volcom Skate Park Review, HERE.  No, sir... this one promises to produce some lively discussion and may include some very interested parties - skaters and others - to address the issues involved.  The first two of the three options that will be presented by Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson will certainly generate some controversy because they potentially tighten-up the management of the park - and cost more money.  If the commission chooses either of them the City Council will be required to consider and approve them.  Please read the staff report for more details.  The third is the Staff Recommendation.

Also, under item #13, Parks and Community Services Manager's Report, I'm told that Interim Manager Penny Loomer may provide the commission with an update on the Costa Mesa Senior Center and the activities that have taken place there since the City Staff inserted itself into the operations following the eviction notice given to the Senior Corporation by the City Council earlier this month.  My understanding is that there has been a very large sign-up for membership and another very large sign-up for participation in the Independence Day celebration on July 3rd.

I'll attend and report later Thursday night.  You can attend, too, if you wish or watch it live on Costa Mesa TV - Channel 3 on Time Warner Cable or Channel 99 on ATT UVerse - or watch it streamed live on your computer at the City website.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

City Issues Another Reminder About July 4th Safety

Today the City of Costa Mesa issued another press release regarding the need for safe activities over the July 4th holiday.

This wonderful holiday has become a nightmare for many residents of our city, particularly those who own pets.  Instead of having to protect the pets from the noise and chaos of the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks being ignited on ONE night, they must endure this disruption for THREE nights - the 2nd, 3rd AND the 4th.  All for the sake of fundraising for youth groups in our city.  It's all about the kids, after all.  This year there will be 37 permits issued for fireworks stands around the city...

So, I encourage you all to play nicely with your neighbors next week.  If you must spend hundreds of dollars on fireworks, please teach your kids a good lesson and use them safely.  Here's the latest press release.


City offers Independence Day safety tips and downloadable flyers about dangers of illegal fireworks
Posted Date: 6/23/2014
fireworks-illegal flyer-English
The City of Costa Mesa has made flyers that outline the dangers of and penalties for using illegal fireworks available online for residents and businesses to download (here in English and here in Spanish). The city will have additional public safety personnel on duty during the Fourth of July holiday to crackdown on those who discharge illegal fireworks.
Costa Mesa police and fire officials also offer these tips for a safe Independence Day celebration:
  • Buy fireworks only at official fireworks stands. The local nonprofits sell only “Safe and Sane” fireworks that are approved for use by the city and that bear the State Fire Marshal’s Seal of Approval. Fireworks will be for sale from June 30 to July 3 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on July 4 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to persons 18 years and older.
  • Legal fireworks can only be discharged July 2 through July 4 from 4 to 10 p.m.
  • Select and inspect your home display area in the daylight hours. Clear away debris and combustibles.
  • The viewing area should be at least 20 feet away from the fireworks. 
  • The display area should be out of the public right away and as close the curbside as possible. By keeping the display area out of the street, emergency vehicles can pass safely.
  • Use a piece of drywall or sheetrock to protect pavement or grass area. 
  • Have a water source, like the garden hose, nearby. Keep a water filled bucket ready for spent fireworks. Submerge the spent fireworks and allow for cooling completely before disposing in the trash receptacle. An adult must be present at all times during the discharge of fireworks. Be sure to close vehicle windows and doors to prevent vandalism or damage. 
  • Since all storm drains lead to the ocean, fireworks should be cleared and disposed of so that they are not swept into the storm drain system. 
  • Fireworks displays are not permitted in the city’s parks, any public parking lots or any area of school property. 
  • Illegal fireworks are those that are purchased outside the state, over the Internet or from someone’s car or garage. 
  • Selling illegal fireworks is a felony. 
  • Possession of just one illegal firework is a misdemeanor and punishable by fine or imprisonment.
  • Remember, if the firework leaves the ground and expels into the air, it is illegal in Costa Mesa. Please report those persons who are selling these kinds of fireworks – it could save someone from an injury or from the loss of property.
If you have questions about firework use in Costa Mesa, please contact the fire prevention office at (714) 327-7400 or to report active illegal firework use, please contact the Costa Mesa police at (714) 754-5252.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Planning Commission Votes To "Zero-Out" Long-Term Stays

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission, on a 4-0 vote, (Vice Chair Rob Dickson was absent) decided to pass the staff recommendation that will make it virtually impossible for Costa Mesa motel operators to house folks for long-term stays on to the City Council for further action/codification.  If the council passes this measure motels will no longer be able to use up to 25% of their rooms for long-term stays without a conditional use permit.  Unless they qualify, their allocation would be dropped to ZERO!

The staff report, HERE, provides the details of their decision.  As I mentioned in my previous entry about this issue, in order for a motel operator to qualify for a conditional use permit for long-term stays at their establishment they must meet very specific criteria.  Those are:

1 - The motel must have a minimum of at least seventy-five (75) rooms.
2 - Fireproof safety deposit boxes must be available to all occupants of the motel.
3 - Each guest room shall be serviced daily with central maid, mail, and room services.
4 - Each room shall be a minimum of three hundred seventy-five (375) square feet.
5 - The motel shall maintain on-site laundry services.
6 - The proposed use is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, uses, zoning and general plan.

As they were about to take the vote they added one additional proviso - that there be some capability to prepare meals in units earmarked for long-term stays.  The staff will cobble together some verbiage for the presentation to the City Council - sometime next month.

As that issue evolved Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick told his fellow-commissioners, the staff and the handful of folks in the audience that he thought it was important because he had gone through a situation where he spent some time in a motel and really needed cooking facilities.  One had the impression that his experience was recent...

Commissioner Colin McCarthy said this ordinance seemed quite rudimentary and was surprised there was any opposition to it at all.  He told us that if businesses don't want to follow these minimal standards to help folks who are down and out then, "I don't want them doing business in our city".

As part of the discussion Kathy Esfahani - a member of the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition - spoke to what she referred to as the misrepresentation of a letter from her on the subject written a year ago that formed part of the foundation of this move to oust long-term residents from motels.  To his credit, Fitzpatrick gave her much more than 3 minutes to present her views, then gave her a little more time to further clarify the issue.

Among the speakers on this subject was Mike Lin, owner of the beleaguered Sandpiper Motel.  He opined that the fact there are people who NEED long term housing is not a result of actions the motel operators take - it's the result of actions those folks take.  His words fell on deaf ears.  The commission certainly appears to be completely unsympathetic with him on these issues.

Former City Councilman and current council candidate Jay Humphrey told us that there are only two motels that might qualify now, then spoke on the need for affordable housing, and pointed out to the commissioners that NONE of the many projects they and the city council have approved recently had ANY affordable units included.  He implied that was very short-sighted of them.

Tamar Goldmann, as she spoke on this issue, may have captured that sentiment more precisely when she referred to it as a "let them eat cake" attitude.  Uh, huh...

The only other item on the agenda was the request by operator Eric Jones for another tattoo parlor in town, at 1145 Baker Street.  Surprisingly, this request got a luke warm reception.  McCarthy said he wouldn't vote for it at the planned location because it was across the street from a residential neighborhood.  The issue passed on a 3-1 vote, but you got the impression from the almost complete lack of enthusiasm for the business that it could easily have gone the other way.  McCarthy had made a motion to deny the request, but received no second to it.  So, those of you in the north part of town will soon have your own tattoo parlor for your inking pleasure.

An interesting sidebar - McCarthy was the first to politicize this issue by mentioning the "silly season" is upon us - campaign season.  Then, during his little discussion, Tim Sesler mentioned Humphrey's presentation and referred to him as a council candidate - completely ignoring the fact that Humphrey is a regular attendee at most important city meetings and a regular presenter of facts and questions and offers solutions, too.  Indeed, the "silly season" is upon us.

Oh, yes... before I completely forget... the woman that Mayor Jim Righeimer stiff-armed at the last council meeting when he prohibited her from addressing the council during Public Comments - I'm sorry, I missed her name -  had another shot at it when she and her husband addressed the Planning Commission at the beginning of the meeting about the poor condition of their street in front of their home.  They complained about lack of responsiveness from City Staff.  Fitzpatrick jumped right on it - referred her to Bart Mejia who was standing in for Fariba Faseli in the meeting.  One had the impression this problem would be solved rapidly.  Too bad she had to wait another week to be heard.

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