Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Negotiation And Compromise Prevail

New Mayor Steve Mensinger flexed his muscles and showed off the new speaker timer system last night as he went about changing the rules of the road for comments at future council meetings.  Brad Zint, diligent reporter that he is, beat me to the punch with his Daily Pilot coverage, HERE.

The issue was the final item on the brief agenda, but Mensinger seemed determined to run an "efficient" meeting.  The first time he said that word I began to worry about thoroughness and fairness being lost to efficiency.  That's still going to take some watching at future meetings.

During the 50 minutes it took to vet Mensinger's proposal - which included changing the start time of future council meetings to 5:45 from 6:00, providing 40 minutes for Public Comments and limiting council comments and suggestions to 3 minutes per member -  a dozen members of the public spoke to the issue.  Only one, prodigal son Ken Nyquist, who made the 275 mile round trip down from Joshua Tree to address the council last night, was supportive of the plan.  All the others had problems with one or more of the elements of the changes.

Complaints ranged from the inability of some speakers to drive from work, cook dinner for their families and still make it on time for Public Comments.  Others complained about the current speaker card system, which requires that anyone wishing to speak fill out a card before the first speaker begins.  Still others felt the council members should not be restricted to 3 minutes.  Others took exception to Mensinger's characterization that the Public Comments needed to be wrapped up so the council could address "The People's Business".  Several reminded him that Public Comments ARE the "people's business".

Katrina Foley, as described in Zint's article, balked at the three minute limitation.  The council eventually agreed with her.  All committed to make their comments as brief as possible.

So, no 3-minute limitation for council members.  No requirement to submit speaker cards for Public Comments PRIOR to the first speaker beginning.  Speakers may submit their cards any time during that 40 minute period from 6:00 to 6:40.  Those who wish to speak but couldn't do so in the prescribed time may do so at the end of the meeting.  Speakers will still be limited to 3 minutes.  And, yes - future meetings will begin at 5:45.

Here's the text of the ordinance without all the "Whereas" language.  I lined through the changed language as I understood it:
1.    The order of business and item matter descriptions for City Council meeting agendas shall be as follows:
(a)    Closed Session (as required) 

(b)    Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag 
(c)    Moment of Solemn Expression 
(d)    Roll Call and Call to Order
 (e)    Closed Session Report 
(f)    Announcements
(g)    Special Presentations 

(h)    Public Comments (up to 6:40 p.m., may be extended by the Mayor
or majority vote of the City Council) 

(i)    Council Member’s Reports, Comments and Suggestions (3 minutes
each, may be extended by the Mayor or majority vote of the City

(j)    CEO Report
(k)    Consent Calendar 

(l)    Public Hearings 
(m)    Old Business 
(n)    New Business
(o)    Items Removed from the Consent calendar

 (p)    City Attorney’s Report 
 (q)    Adjournment

2.    The City Council will hold regular meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 5:45 p.m. If there are closed session items, the regular meeting will convene at 5:00 p.m. for consideration of those closed session items. Following the deliberation in closed session, the regular meeting will reconvene at 5:45 p.m.

3.    Members of the public desiring to speak during the Public Comments period will be asked to submit their speaker card at the beginning of the regular meeting prior to the first speaker.

4.    Members of the public desiring to speak on a consent calendar item will be asked to submit such a request on a speaker card prior to the start of the Consent Calendar period.

5.    A member of the public who timely submitted a speaker card but did not have an opportunity to speak during the Public Comments period will be given the opportunity to address the City Council at the end of the meeting.

So, the Big Dog got most of what he wanted and the public got a win, too.  No restrictions on council comments; ten more minutes at the beginning of the meeting for Public Comments - which may permit most of those intending to speak to do so - and the elimination of Righeimer's onerous, heavy-handed speaker card system.  We're going to have to adapt to the earlier start time, but, all things considered, it turned out OK.  Now we'll see how it actually works.

Before we leave this subject, up top I mentioned the new speaker timer system.  Well, according to those who actually do step up and speak, it's better than the previous system because it gives you a digital countdown so you can time your presentation better.  Good thing, too, because if you exceed the time permitted the new tone that sounds to let you know is loud and obnoxious - like a ship horn bearing down on you in the middle of the night!  It's kind of like aversion therapy - speak too long and you'll get an auditory slap on the wrists, except this tone is more like a punch in the face.

As an aside, I had to chuckle when, in the middle of one of Righeimer's long rants, Mensinger's cell phone rang and rang.  We should make the dais a "phone-free" zone for the duration of meetings.  No wonder he has a hard time concentrating, for goodness sake!

There was other business, too.  New Business #1, the addition of the BLVD Hotel to the BIA was addressed quickly and approved.  #2, the screening request for a development at 2068 Maple Avenue received a thorough vetting before it moved on.  Former Development Services Director Don Lamm was the consultant on the project.  It will be back, before the Planning Commission, as the developer tries to shoehorn in 4 units on a tough-to-build-on lot.
The Public Comments segment last night brought some drama of it's own.  The first speaker was our old pal, Tea Party Tom Pollitt, who used his three minutes to mangle his presentation of support to Righeimer and Mensinger in the recent arrest of two Private Investigators for crimes they allegedly committed against the Mayor Pro Tem and Mayor.  He mischaracterized the role of the activist organization, Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG) as a "union organization, and mispronounced council woman Sandra Genis' name - referring to her as "McGuiness" several times.  And, he had the temerity to "apologize to Righeimer and Mensinger on behalf of the taxpayers of Costa Mesa" for the alleged events.  What nerve!  He has no authority to apologize for me to those guys for anything somebody may or may not have done.  He and his pals have assumed the mantle of a lynch mob.   The guy is really a dolt!  And to think that he actually ran for a seat on the Orange County Board of Education last spring!

Perhaps the most interesting speaker was activist Cindy Black, who used a part of her time to read emails received as a Public Records Request regarding the Decomposed Granite path in Fairview Park that is still under investigation by US Fish and Wildlife.  The emails she read portrayed Mensinger as a major participant in the establishment of the path.  It apparently was his multiple requests to Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz that launched the chain of events that resulted in a path wide enough to drive a truck on through vernal pools protected by the Federal Government.  In the correspondence she read that path was referred to as "Steve's Path".  It's my understanding that USFW will be moving forward briskly on this subject in this new year.  It's possible that the city will incur significant sanctions for our shoddy stewardship of that site AND it's possible that those responsible may have some personal legal liability, too.  We'll be watching this closely.

At the beginning of the meeting Mensinger made two (2) Mayor's Awards.  The first was to retired Boys and Girls Club stalwart Harlan Anderson.  A very nice video was played and he was presented with a proclamation praising him for his dedication to the youth of our community through several decades of service.

The second presentation went to a new Westside restaurant, the Boathouse Collective.  I don't recall this ever being done before, but my mind may be slipping.  Anyhow, the video showed a "hot new spot" on the Westside surrounded by industrial sites.  It's another of those "green" businesses that are being touted these days.

Finally, we expected this meeting to be adjourned to a Study Session next Tuesday at which good old Mary Jane - Medical Marijuana - would be discussed.  As it turns out, that meeting will be canceled and a Special Closed Session will be held instead.  Nobody's talking about the subject of the closed session - yet.  Who knows - maybe US Fish and Wildlife is coming to slap cuffs on some folks?  Nah, I don't think so, either.  By the way, this issue generated just about the only strife on the dais last night.  Righeimer went on one of his rants about the Medical Marijuana issue and Foley followed-up by correcting the record.  She described Righeimer's summation as "factually and legally inaccurate".  During the discussion she referred to him as "Mr. Righeimer" and he immediately corrected her with a "Councilman Righeimer".  She replied with "whatever".  Actually, it should have been "Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer".  Want a little smile? 
A friend contracts that title as "M-P-T", which, if you try to say it, can come out "Empty"... Somehow, that seems very appropriate and I smile when I think of it.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

There is something seriously wrong with Pollitt. His mind just isn't there. He is obsessed with unions and sees them behind trees and the boogie man following him home. He needs some medical attention, seriously. Maybe he could talk to Nyquist.

What do you think of Rig's new hairdo

Seriously, Katrina did a great job last night. Very glad to see her there with Sandy.

I'm curious as to why Mensinger wants people to run around town with him on weekends, so they can talk off the record? That is not how you perform city business. One speaker got it right. Comments need to be made on the record before the entire council.

I am not happy with the upcoming Maple Street development. There is barely room to pull between those two buildings, and if you have an SUV the turning radius into your garage will be nearly impossible. The one next door going in will make it even worse. Someone mentioned that these projects will not necessarily bring up the neighborhood, but the neighborhood could drag down their value. The neighborhood could end up as one huge party street. We'll see. Developers seem to tout the roof top patio and the ability to have BBQs with your friends, but when asked where the friends will park, the developer kind of just went blank. He said parking is "first come, first serve" on an already over parked street. So, guests will be dragging their food from a couple blocks away to the homes for a BBQ, then have to climb to the fourth floor? Seriously? Good luck with that. I think we are creating more problems for the city.

BTW, the campaign contribution came in for the 125 Baker Street project. How much is it, Rig?

1/07/2015 06:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

Can we please move on with the DG path prosecutions! If as widely believed, steve is involved as deep as thought, he should step down and repay the city for any and all costs.

1/07/2015 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

I thought the title was "Mayor Pro Team", isn't that what was placed on on that phoney- baloney replacement badge a couple of years ago?

1/07/2015 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Great report, Geoff.
Yes, the first CM CC meeting of 2015
started with a bang.
Pollitt lied his rear end off, especially
with the statement " the two PIs hired by
the Costa Mesa Police union"!
LIAR! That was also slander I believe.
This guy will say anything to promote
his political aspirations, lies and slander included.
And to think this guy ran for a seat
on the OC Board of Education.

Cindy's presentation was the bomb.
She was great- Mensinger was speechless!
The more people become informed, the better.
Thank you, Cindy and all who represented us
the residents of Costa Mesa.

1/07/2015 12:15:00 PM  

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