Friday, September 05, 2014

Foley and Humphrey Meet And Greet Tomorrow


In case you were wondering how to spend part of your evening tomorrow, here's an opportunity to chat with City Council candidates Katrina Foley and Jay Humphrey about what is important to you for our city.  This flyer tells you what you need to know.  Be sure to RSVP if you plan to stop in... 949-645-7643.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Special Districts Candidate Event Re-scheduled

Tonight I was advised that the meet-and-greet event for candidates for seats on local special districts this November has been re-scheduled to eliminate the conflict with the upcoming Feet To The Fire Forum.

According to the information I have, the opportunity for voters to meet and chat with special district candidates, hosted by the Friends of the Library,  will now be held on October 16, 2014 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Halecrest Community Center, 3107 Killybrooke Lane.

It is anticipated that all the candidates will attend.  That will include the following:
Orange County Water District
Wendy Leece
Shawn Dewane

Costa Mesa Sanitary District
Mike Scheaffer
Arlene Shafer
Bob Ooten
Brian Peotter
*Chuck Perry

Mesa Water District
Jim Atkinson
Ron Amburgey

*As of this writing no confirmation had been received from Perry.

This is great news for those of us who hoped to attend both events.  Now this is possible.  Thanks to the good folks at the Friends of the Library for working hard on behalf of the voters of this city and making this re-scheduling possible.  We hope they have a great turnout that evening.

As a reminder, the Feet To The Fire Forum will be held Thursday, September 18th, at the Robert B. Moore Theatre on the campus of Orange Coast College, near the intersection of Merrimac Way and Fairview Road.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the forum is from 7-8 p.m.

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Of "Tabling", Train Rides, Field Trips And More

The Costa Mesa Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee met again last night before a much, much smaller crowd than attended the previous meeting in August.  This time around a total of, maybe, fifty people drifted in and out.  I counted 40 people in the seats at one time.  You can read the agenda for the meeting HERE.

Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz provided a short presentation on the plans for installation of a landscaped median along Placentia Avenue as it runs from Wilson Street to Adams Avenue past the park.  This $1.5 million project - $844,000 in grant funds - will be presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission at its October 23rd meeting.

During the Public Comments segment nine (9) people spoke to the committee on a variety of issues.  Most requested that the park be kept as-is, in a natural state.

The committee then considered the dozen items left over from the previous meeting.  Here is a list of those items and the action - or lack thereof - that was taken on each:

1 - Basketball/Handball Courts - Vice Chair Steve Smith suggested this be "tabled", joining several other items - all field uses -  previously set aside to be considered at a future, undetermined, date.

2 - Trail Exercise Stations - This received some discussion but nobody made a motion to move it forward, so it died.

3 - Dog Park -  Died for a lack of a second to Ron Amburgey's motion to move it forward for discussion.

4- Dry Land Wildlife Viewing Area - This item actually received enough attention that a motion was made to move it forward, but it failed on a 6/3 vote.

5 - Vernal Pools Preservation with /Cables, Signage and Delineation - After a lengthy discussion, including an attempt by member (and council candidate) Lee Ramos to sandbag speaker Sandra Genis with a question about a non-existent vernal pool study, this item died for lack of a motion.

6 - Retain the Elements of the Master Plan as it Reads Now - This question has appeared in previous discussions on the other three quadrants.  After serious discussion it failed to move forward on a 5/4 vote.

7 - Include a two-tiered building that includes an Interpretive Center and Terrace/Viewing Deck - This one died for lack of a motion.

8 - Improve Placentia Avenue with Cable and Post Delineation - After spirited discussion about appearance and public safety this item died for lack of a motion.

9 - Roller Hockey Surface - This item was tabled for the time being.

10 - Improve/Designate Bike Paths and
11 - Concrete Path from NW Traffic Signal to SE Traffic Signal at Estancia High School were combined and referred to the staff for some analysis and options to be considered at the next meeting.

12 - Nature Center, Bird Watching Platforms - Died for lack of a second.

The committee then discussed the possibility of including a Native Plant Nursery, to be used to propagate plants that would be used throughout the park as replacement plantings were necessary.  After some serious discussion of this topic, guided by resident Cindy Black, the committee voted, 8-1, to have staff perform a more detailed analysis for the committee to consider at a future meeting.

After a suggestion by Vice Chair Steve Smith, the committee voted, 8-1, to hold its next regularly scheduled meeting as a field trip to Riverside Live Steamers, where model trains and athletic field uses apparently happily co-exist, on October 12th.  The public is welcome to attend.  An agenda will be distributed as the date approaches.
Then there was significant discussion about the remaining meetings this year.  Smith suggested that the November meeting - scheduled for the 5th - be cancelled because it falls on the day following the election.  Smith, Amburgey and Ramos are running for office.  The next meeting would be December 3rd.  No decision was made - Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren will consult with staff and make a decision on the November meeting.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

An Evening of Disappointment and Dismay

I'm not quite sure how to begin this report from the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night, but I guess I'll just state at the beginning that the relatively short meeting last night - we left at 11 - left me feeling more than a little disappointed and more than a little aghast at what I observed.  Let me take it from the top...

Labor negotiator Richard Kreisler reported that, during a closed session, the council approved a settlement with departed Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce of $170,225 in exchange for him releasing all claims against the City.  You'll recall that he was placed on Administrative Leave in the wake of the now-infamous 60th Anniversary debacle.

Eleven people spoke during Public Comments (Cindy Black spoke but hadn't had her name called, so Mayor Jim Righeimer slammed the door on her comments as she read a list of his developer-oriented campaign contributors)  Among the "legal" speakers were: Greg Thunnel, who lectured the council on manners; James Bridges spoke against The Charter; Harold Weitzberg stepped up and addressed in uncharacteristic vague terms the issue covered in Barbara Venezia's recent column, HERE.  I was disappointed that he chose to address this issue before the City Council, although it was certainly his right.

AND MORE Teresa Drain once again told the council that there needs to be a forensic audit of the 60th Anniversary Celebration issue; Tamar Goldmann used the "Costa Mayberry" term to describe parking issues around the city;  J. Paul Wilson and Noel Perkins both expressed concern about the proliferation of sober living homes in the city and, specifically, new ones that are about to open in their Church Street neighborhood.  Robin Leffler attempted to rebut allegations made by Weitzberg, then read Tom Egan's recent letter from the Daily Pilot regarding The Charter.  Anna Vrska read a partial list of legal services and told the council her questions would become part of a Public Records Request and Joy Williams observed about the water crisis.

During Councilmember comments Sandy Genis' thoughts included an observation that the City erred by deciding NOT to televise the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group's candidate forum on October 2nd, HERE.  She agreed with Vrska's thoughts on the legal costs - which have doubled in the past few years - and indicated that our contract with Jones and Mayer calls for an annual review of the performance of our contract legal organization, and suggested such an audit should be done before the election.

Wendy Leece said that she, Genis and Gary Monahan would finally meet on September 19th to begin discussing the labor contract with the Costa Mesa Police Association.  She expressed concern about Fireworks and hopes to have available on the meeting scheduled for 9/16 a suggestion for the revision of the Fireworks policy.  She also addressed the Group Home issue and suggested that the City was dragging it's feet by not even considering the successful ordinance passed in Orange.  She also reminded us of the West Nile Virus problem - a mosquito-born disease that has killed two Orange County Residents.  She alerted us to the possible presence of the Asian Tiger Mosquito, too.  She also addressed the small turnout at the recent "Great Reach" General Plan meeting, and suggested that all the items intended to be covered at that meeting were not covered at all.  And, she mentioned a meeting on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 222 Hanover to discuss the planned enhancements to Orange Coast College.

Monahan observed that school is back in session, then complained about Venezia's article on Weitzberg, citing it as the most important thing and was "surprised that nobody had an apology for him."  That was aimed directly at Genis.

Righeimer muttered about the 60th Celebration and Teresa Drain's comment about a forensic audit, suggesting there was a hole in the process.  He then defended the decision to not televise the Eastside forum, but reiterated that he'd pay half the cost to have it covered privately.  He alluded to the Ku Klux Klan and the Tea Party.  He acknowledged that more than half his campaign contributions come from developers and didn't see anything wrong with it.  He addressed the Group Home issue, citing Newport Beach's problems with them to the tune of $3.6 million in legal fees.  He said it is the biggest issue in the City today, citing the "concentration" of the homes.  Regarding the "legal fees" issue Vrska brought up he said, "If you want lower legal fees you just settle and write checks."  He then proceeded to tell us that a group home ordinance would generate "the mother of all legal fees", and that we would be attacked by a "multi-billion dollar industry which wants to keep the honey pot going."

Then it was Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's turn.  He engaged CEO Tom Hatch in a discussion about fireworks, telling us that youth sports depends on the revenue from safe and sane fireworks.    He said, "I'm one of those guys that love kids.", implying, I guess, that if you don't support fireworks sales you hate kids.  He said, "We get saddled for everything outside the classroom."  Funny, I thought that was part of the whole "parenting" thing.    He told us he lives across the street from a Group Home, so he understands about them.  He also commented on Weitzberg's comment, stating that he was "horrified" by the article, stating that it was "the most despicable thing I've ever seen in 30 years in Costa Mesa."  He said that if the comment attributed to Genis in the article had come from Righeimer the Daily Pilot would be all over it for 6 weeks.  Then he looked down at Weitzberg in the audience and said, "Tonight we're all Weitzbergs".  What a vacuous, self-serving buffoon he is!

Next up was Hatch and he promptly introduced new Deputy City Clerk Michael Dunn, who comes to us from Glendale and will be the facilitator of the digitization of records.  Hatch also announced that Assistant Director of Development Services Claire Flynn has returned to duty after a long illness and that contractor Jerry Guarancino will be staying on and moving to the 5th floor to manage the Group Home part of the code enforcement organization.  Guess that plan to move all the code enforcement folks downstairs isn't going to happen.  Hard to let go of your own little enforcement group.  Hatch told us calls for service at motels are down, but didn't mention that the new ordinance that hammers motel owners if they call for service too many times might have something to do with it.

Hatch mentioned the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force and told it he had "blown it up" and replaced it with four individual groups involving 10 or more staffers each.  He said the Group Home issue is a high priority and that "the public needs to help them identify problem homes." and suggested using the smart phone app, Costa Mesa Connect.  He also gave a number to report Group Home issues - 714-754-5328.  He mentioned the outsourcing of the jail and, specifically, that all the G4S employees have been hired and most are trained.

Regarding the Eastside Forum, he gave a VERY lame excuse about why he didn't want to cover it.  He said that during the Mesa Verde Community, Inc., forum recently CMTV staffer Dane Bora was asked by moderator Darnell Wyrick to assess the appropriateness of a question submitted by an audience member and Bora responded that he didn't think it was an appropriate question.  That's an easy issue to solve - just tell the CMTV staff that their role is NOT to participate in the process, just capture it on television!  He used THAT as an example of why he didn't want to televise the Eastside forum!  It's clear that the decision to forego that forum came from elsewhere and he was just grasping at straws for a reason.  Shoot, all he had to say was we were not doing it on advice from lawyers.  Yet another disappointing experience.  Hatch also mentioned a public workshop at the Neighborhood Community Center regarding the future of Talbert Park, scheduled for September 10th from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Items 33,7 and 8 were pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion at the end of the meeting.

Public Hearing #1 was the so-called TEFRA hearing on expansion financing for Whittier College of Law in The City.  It took less than two minutes - and no staff presentation - for the council to approve it, 5-0.

Not the case on Public Hearing #2, the second reading of the annexation of the Santa Ana/Colleen island of county land.  After a brief staff report - about a minute - Monahan stated that nobody was happy about his compromise of minimum 6,600 square foot lots - a deviation from the city standard of 6,000.  He said everybody was beating him up - residents and developers alike - so he was changing his vote to a 6,000 foot minimum.  We understood why shortly.

Sixteen (16) people spoke to this issue, including 4 people representing the developer of a chunk of bare land in the middle of this area.  Those included two representatives and the architect plus former Costa Mesa Director of Economic and Development Services, including former Senior staffer, Peter Naghavi, who now consults with developers.  The first representative told us he needed the city standard of 6,000 square feet to make his 13-home project work.  When asked if ALL the lots would meet the 6,000 square foot standard he paused, then said "most".  Uh, huh....  NONE of the half-dozen residents of the area in question supported the smaller lot size choice.  Anna Vrska stepped up and told Righeimer he should get his head out of his developer-buddies' rear ends and look around at the people and hear what they're saying.

Righeimer reminded us that there was going to be NO vote on a project last night - only on the annexation and the Property Tax agreement.

Wendy Leece said this looked a little like a "Bait and Switch" deal, where the developer tells us one thing, then comes back with an entirely different project that would maximize that 6,000 square foot minimum lot size.  There ensued a long discussion about "spot-zoning", "site-specific zoning" and other methods of getting around the complications.  At one point Righeimer said, "The problem we have with the reading is that we have to let people know what we're doing."  There you go!  Eventually the Property Tax segment passed, 5-0 and the annexation - with the 6,000 foot lot minimum - passed 3-2, with Genis and Leece voting NO.  Afterwards I heard mumblings of lawsuits from the disgruntled about-to-be new Costa Mesans.  We took at 10 minute break.

When we returned we heard Kreisler discuss the COIN process and then outlined the tentative agreement between The City and the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA) - the so-called miscellaneous employees who answer the phones, type reports, fix the fleet, crunch numbers, review plans, issue permits, program systems, mop the floors, etc.  This was the group that included those two hundred who, within the first few weeks of Righeimer's tenure on the council, received layoff notices.  Huy Pham, who took his life by jumping off the City Hall roof, was one of those folks.

You can read the summary of Kreisler's report HERE.  I have, and I listened to his report.  In my opinion, the employees were disemboweled with this contract.  I get too angry when I write about no raises for the term of the contract, reduced vacation and sick leave plans, more costly benefits, etc., from a group that suffered long and hard through the economic downturn, but hung in there and continued to provide excellent service.  Only four residents spoke to this issue and none of them addressed the contract specifically.

The MOST disgusting part of this segment was a comment Righeimer made following the presentation.  He looked out into the audience and addressed Association President Kelly Vucinic and the OCEA lawyer and negotiator Don Drozd and  told them that he accepts some responsibility for the past hard feelings - he used the word animous, but he was willing to consider it a "clean slate going forward".  Well, why wouldn't you, Mr. Mayor?!  You're getting what you want!  You've gutted the contract and demoralized the ENTIRE city staff.  A "clean slate" may ease your conscience, but it won't absolve you from the damage you've done to the city.  This was part of the "dismay" last night!  Mensinger was equally self-serving when he said, "Without sounding gratuitous, I also want to thank Kelly and Don."  Well, you schmuck, you ARE gratuitous!  And clueless, to boot! 

This item will be heard by the council for the second mandatory time on September 16th, at which time the residents and other interested parties may, once again, address it and the council will likely vote on the issue.  At that time I expect we'll be hearing from employees and their representatives about how they feel about the contract.

Following that circus we then heard Steve Mensinger's scheme to fund an architect to do something about Fire Stations #1 and #2.  No question that both need attention - serious attention.  However, as Wendy Leece tried to tell them, this scheme puts the cart before the horse.  FIRST there should be a professional assessment of how many stations we need and where they best might be located.  THEN identify land that might be available and/or plan on how to use existing land for new facilities.  How can you expect an architect to plan something without knowing where it will go, for goodness sake.  However, logic escaped this process and the council voted, 5-0, to move forward with whatever this plan is.

Then the trailed Consent Calendar items were addressed.  Item #3, the Warrant, passed on a 5-0 vote.

 Item #7 was the increase in the salary ranges for Reserve Police Officers., including an increase in the starting pay to $35.64 per hour.  Captain Rob Sharpnack represented the CMPD in the discussion.  After some discussion about how many vacancies the CMPD has - 26 - and how many candidates we have - 7 currently in the Academy and 4 scheduled for December - out of the blue Monahan said something like, "We just outta bump it up to $38.00" and, quick as a wink, the council voted on it with that change!  A stunned Sharpnack said "we've got a conflict", but Righeimer just waved him off with some incomprehensible gibberish.  It turns out that Monahan's number creates a HUGE problem with the full-time Police Officer pay scale. I could not help but recall the words written by former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley when he abruptly left a little over two years ago.  Referring to the council majority, he said, in part, "They are in my opinion incompetent, unskilled and unethical." You can read the post that includes the text of his farewell letter to the men and women of the CMPD HERE.

At the end we had a few more Public Comments folks.  Jay Humphrey suggested that the City should televise the Eastside forum, but maybe have a disclaimer at the beginning and end of the tape stating something like "This group does not represent the views of the city." or words to that effect.  He also addressed the bogus City Charter.

Cindy Black finished reading her list of Righeimer's developer/appointee campaign contributors.

Beth Refakes discussed the "dress donate/swap" for our adopted Marine battalion.


Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know this was another long post.  Couldn't do it more briefly.  See you tonight at the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at 6:00 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee Meets Again Tomorrow

The next meeting of the Costa Mesa Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren and Vice Chair Steve Smith, meets tomorrow, Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center from 6-8 p.m.  You can read the agenda HERE.
You may recall that the last meeting was heavily-attended and produced some probing, difficult questions from members of the public concerned about the apparent plan by some committee members to turn the Southeast Quadrant into playing fields.  Unfortunately, I missed the meeting because I spent that night enjoying Yellowstone National Park.  You can watch the YouTube video of the meeting by Barry Friedland on Costa Mesa Brief, HERE.

When you read the agenda you'll find that several items are scheduled for discussion by the committee.  Each will include opportunities for members of the public to comment in addition to the agendized Public Comment segment.  Here's a list of the dozen items scheduled for discussion for possible consideration in the Southeast Quadrant:
1 - Basketball/Handball Courts
2 - Trail Exercise Stations
3 - Dog Park
4 - Dry Land Wildlife Viewing Area
5 - Vernal Pools Preservation with Cables, Signage and Delineation
6 - Retain the elements of the Master Plan as it Reads Now
7 - Include a two-tier building that includes Interpretive Center and Terrace/Viewing Deck
8 - Improve Placentia Avenue with Cable and Post delineation
9 - Roller Hockey Surface
10 - Improve/Designate Bike Paths
11 - Concrete Path from NW Traffic Signal to SE Traffic Signal at Estancia High School
12 - Nature Center, Bird Watching Platforms

NOTE:  The following items were tabled at the August 6th meeting until a future date to be determined.  They WILL NOT be discussed tomorrow night:
  • Baseball/Softball Facilities 
  • Soccer/Football Fields
  • Multi-use Athletic Fields
  • Orange County Model Engineers Track Expansions/Improvements
In addition, under New Business, there are three items scheduled:
  • Native Plant Nursery
  • Field Trip to Riverside, CA - Riverside Live Steamers
  • Future Meeting Dates 
The next meeting is anticipated to be held October 1, 2014

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Legal Costs, Annexation, Labor Contracts On Council Agenda*

The Costa Mesa City Council will hold its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, September 2, 2014 after a month-long hiatus.  The meeting begins in Council Chambers at City Hall at 6:00 pm., but a Closed Session precedes it beginning at 4:30 p.m.  You can read the complete agenda HERE.

*(NOTE:  In the Tuesday (today) edition of the Orange County Register it was reported that this meeting had been cancelled.  WRONG!  This meeting is still scheduled for tonight!)

There are eight items on the Consent Calendar - items which most likely will not receive separate discussion and be voted upon in one vote.  However, I'll mention a few of them here and provide you with links, just in case you're interested.

Item #3 is Warrant 2521, HERE.  I'm sure you'll find some of the entries of interest.  Here are a few that caught my eye.

#0181936 - Costa Mesa Senior Center (Final Payment) - $61,000.00
#0181938 - Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (Crime/Excess Liability/Property - $443,521.96
#0181941 - City of Huntington Beach, (Helicopter Services, 6/14) - $20,545.00
#0181942 - Civil Source (Staff Suppport, Inspect. & Construction) - $67,598.05
#0182006 - Keyser Marston Assoc. (Various Homeless Consulting) - $6.770.00
#0182012 - Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (Legal) - $4,554.00
#0182051 - Trauma Intervention Program (Annual TIP Fee) - $14,061.00
#0182075 - Jones Day (Legal, CMCEA, 6/14) - $36,753.75
#0182129 - Government Staffing Svcs, (Mgt. Analyst/Proj. Mgr) - $6,480.00
#0182191 - FTOG, Inc. (Interim Buyer, 7/7-8/1/14) - $5,940.00
#0182200 - Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (Various negotiations) - $24,123.00
#0182202 - Prudential Assigned Settlement (Whitlock/Olsen) - $294,000.00
#0182283 - Interwest Consulting Group (Bldg. Inspection, 6/14) - $12,355.00
#0182432 - Jones & Mayer (Olsen) - $73,451.75
#0182437 - IDS Group, Inc. (Architect.Svcs/Plan Review) - $46,505.00
#0182441 - Pamela Olsen (Settlement-Whitlock/Olsen) - $100,000.00
#0182489 - Employment Development Department (Unemployment 4/1 - 6/30/14 - $9,175.00
#0182492 - FTOG, Inc. (Interim Buyer, 8/4-8/15/14) - $2,340.00
#0182561 - Synoptek, LLC (Implement. Mgt. SunGuard CAD) - $12,660.00

Item #7, HERE, is a much-needed salary range adjustment for Reserve Police Officers.

Item #8, HERE, is yet ANOTHER extension of the contract with Lilley Planning Consultants for an additional $225,000, taking the contract, which began in November, 2013 for $100,000, to $480,000!

There are three (3) public hearings on the agenda.  The first, HERE, is a so-called TEFRA hearing for a loan not to exceed $100,000,000 for improvements to the Whittier College of Law campus in the City.

The second public hearing, HERE, is the second reading of the Santa Ana/Colleen Island Annexation plan.  This issue has had only lukewarm support from the residents of this island of county property.  Many speakers have observed that their large lots have created a special character in their community and that the minimum lot size in this proposal of 6,600 square feet - about 1/3 the size of the existing lots - will negatively impact the surrounding properties.  Coincidentally, there is a big chunk of land in the middle of this site for which development is planned by some of the same players who bid on the Orange County Fairgrounds a few years ago.  I expect the council majority to approve the second reading and proceed with the annexation.

It seems somehow strangely significant immediately following the Labor Day holiday that the third public hearing is the Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) hearing of the proposed contract between The City and the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA).  I've read the staff report, HERE, and the summary of conditions, HERE.  It seems to me that the employees who fall under this contract, both current and future, gave away a lot so they could keep their jobs.  Read through the summary and make your own judgement.

The final item on the agenda is New Business #1, HERE.  This is Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's proposal to hire an architectural firm to provide conceptual development for the replacement of fire stations #1 and #2.  There is no estimate of cost, but whatever it is will be covered out of the municipal piggy bank - CEO Tom Hatch's slush, er, contingency fund.  You know, that million bucks the council has given him to use any way THEY want.

That will be it until the next meeting on the 16th.

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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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