Wednesday, April 08, 2015

An Early, But Surreal, Council Meeting Last Night

The Costa Mesa City Council met last night and, near the end of the meeting, demonstrated once again that cronyism guides the actions of the majority on that body.  More on that later.

First, Rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger demonstrated that he is, indeed, a rookie.  Even though he has an agenda right in front of him he still fumbled and stumbled his way through the meeting.  He was embarrassing as he read a prepared statement about the recipient of his Mayor's Award as though he was a kid in sixth grade being told to open a book to page 25 and read the third paragraph for the first time.  It's bad enough that somebody has to write that stuff for him.  The least he could do was read it with some sincerity.  Good grief.

He presented his Mayor's Award to Jeffrey Chon, owner and operator of a bar called Wayfarer on the Westside.  Nothing against gin mills and Chon seemed like a nice fella, but, really - a bar?  Well, Chun got his nice plaque and a shadowbox in which he will place his business license - apparently a rarity in Westside bars these days (think Roland Barrera).

Sixteen (16) people spoke during Public Comments and, to his credit, Mensinger didn't bifurcate them... all the speakers had a chance to address the council early in the meeting.

First up was Friend Of Steve Chuck Perry, who immediately praised the council for the median improvements around town, then asked for more bus benches on 17th Street in front of Ralph's to aid developmentally disabled bus riders.

Susan Shaw expressed concern about the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee being put on hiatus for at least a year without finishing their job, and asked about actual field numbers.  How many do we actually need?  Do we need lighted fields or what?

Teresa Drain, once again, spoke on the need for a forensic audit of the 60th Anniversary debacle.  She thanked councilwoman Katrina Foley for helping sort through some of the issues, and staffers Tammy Letourneau and Sylvia Chalmers, too.  She, once again, emphasized the need for the audit.

Mary Spadoni used her full 3 minutes to inquire about an October, 2014 meeting of many senior members of the CMPD, Assistant CEO Rick Francis and members of the County Probation Department.  She had an attendance roster and wondered what the meeting was about, implying from notes scribbled on the roster that it dealt with the large number of parolees in Costa Mesa.  She's been stonewalled in her inquiries.

A woman who's name I missed inquired about a meeting coming up with the Zoning Administrator concerning a zoning issue near her Westside home and a sign to be placed identifying an area as "Mesa Arts District".

Steve Chan once again addressed Roland Barrera and his flaunting of the rules with his two night clubs on the Westside and proposed a boycott of them and a supporting clothing manufacturer

Jay Humphrey observed that Mensinger was going to receive an award for his role in the building of more than 2,000 rental units in Costa Mesa and noted that NONE of them are affordable housing units, but some are, in fact, replacing affordable units.  He also, again, expressed concern about the status of our police staffing, observing that we are failing to attract lateral transfers, but are filling our open slots with rookie cops.

Ann Parker also addressed Roland Barrera and attempted to link him with Mayor Pro Tem's friend and business associate Scott Baugh - until recently the Chairman of the Orange County Republican Party.  She also mentioned Barrera's part in the 60th and Baugh's, as well.  Righeimer was not happy.

Beth Refakes gave us a slide show of the recent "Eggstravaganza" - the Easter celebration with the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.  Volunteers on the Military Affairs Team, including Refakes, journeyed to that location to help distribute the candies and plastic eggs that had been collected for the past few weeks for the event.  It was a huge success.

Then came Lisa Salisbury, speaking on behalf of Roland Barrera and his two night clubs, indicating that they want to be good citizens and were sorry for the confusion about permits, etc.  She spoke about the 40 or so jobs that are being created by the two businesses, and the fact that they bring affordable live music to Costa Mesa.

Tea Party Tom Pollett spoke about... The Tea Party!  How about
that?  Then he wandered off into a stream of consciousness mini-rant about Police Department negotiations and expressed an opinion that we should make better use of technology in policing.

Barrie Fisher expressed concern for the "open cul de sacs" in her neighborhood, citing that they had become hangouts for sex, drugs and gang activity.

Greg Ridge told us that Mensinger, during an event a few years ago, admitted to him that he knew the Fairview Park vernal pools came right up to the fence line at Parsons Field.  (more on that later)

Tamar Goldmann commented on the Daily Pilot article on the dramatic increase in public record requests - from 40 in 2008 to 613 in 2014, and opined that residents didn't trust the government now, so were looking for answers in documents produced by those requests.  Yep...  She specifically cited the 60th Anniversary issue.

Cindy Brenneman attempted to correct a misstatement about a South County City and their policing model.

During Council Member Comments, Gary Monahan actually had something to say this time.  Unfortunately, what he said was that the 60th was over and we should put it behind us  He said it was "old, old news.", a view not widely supported by many in the audience.  He should have just kept quiet...

Righeimer addressed the cul de sac issue and the Mesa Arts District issue.  He also reminded us that there will be a second public outreach meeting on his library scheme - which he said was not a done deal yet.  The meeting is Thursday, April 16th at the Neighborhood Community Center from 6-8 pm.  He then told us that the I405 Toll Road scheme is all but a done deal!  He complained that our tax money - Measure M funds - were being used to produce toll lanes and he was not happy about it.  He spoke of bringing "political pressure" on CalTrans on the issue.  I found myself wondering just how that happens, since CalTrans can do whatever they want on the highways - almost verbatim what he said.  He praised our City staff for their "phenomenal" job.

Mensinger also addressed the cul de sac issue and shared a personal story about visiting that area with CEO Tom Hatch and seeing guys swilling beer, only to skip through the openings in the wall at the end of the cul de sac and dash across Victoria Street.  He asked Hatch to update them on the Police Reserves program and reminded folks that they can "Walk with the Mayor" on Friday morning at 5:30 at Estancia High School.

Katrina Foley spoke of the Estancia/Tewinkle gala recently held, and described a traffic issue at Harper school which she suggested be resolved by painting the curb red nearby.  She also spoke of the 60th Anniversary and asked Hatch for a report on the content and cost of a forensic audit.  She also admitted that such an audit wouldn't answer many of the questions, at least a few of which seem to be the result of bad decisions.  She cited some good news from this mess - a whole new set of procedures to help preclude another instance like it.  She also mentioned the library meeting and asked Chief Ron Lowenberg if he could, at least temporarily, increase the visible police presence in the area to discourage the kind of acts described by Barrie Fisher.  She also spoke about the  Signature Academies at Costa Mesa and Estancia High Schools.

Sandra Genis congratulated the Orange Coast College debate team for "blowing the doors off the competition" in a recent competition.  She addressed Barrera's CASA night club and the skimpy costumes and how they might violate our rules.  She also expressed a need for more information on a forensic audit of the 60th.  She spoke of the Fairview Developmental Center, and how the City should be alert in case part or all of it becomes available.

Mensinger then turned to Hatch for his report.. and got nothing...  No comments about the inquiry about police reserves... nada.

Items 7,8 and 9 were pulled from the Consent Calendar and the remainder was passed on a 5-0 vote, with Foley wanted the record to show that she didn't vote on the Minutes - which go back nearly 4 years!

Old Business #1, the second reading of the Small Lot Ordinance modifications hit a snag when something Righeimer thought was removed regarding parking was still in the document.  It was decided to vote on the second reading with that modification, then bring it back AGAIN for a second, second reading.  Somebody was not paying attention at the last meeting, although I recall that vote was just a little confusing.  That's what happens when things get rushed and nobody in charge has the skills to keep things flowing properly.  A lack of leadership...

Then came New Business #1, the appointment of dozens of individuals to positions on the Senior Commission and many committees.  The process was bizarre, to say the least, but the outcome was predictable.

There were two new positions on the Senior Commission to be filled and thirteen (13) applicants, many of whom seemed quite qualified.  Ann Perry was selected for the 4-year term and Sue Healy got the 2-year slot.  Former councilwoman Wendy Leece, a long, long time advocate for Costa Mesa Seniors, was nominated but rejected by the council majority.

The seven positions on the Access, Building, Fire and Housing Board of Appeal were filled from the applicant pool of 8 persons.  All four current members, Bill Mason, Tariq Shamma, Larry Weichman and Gilbert Figueroa were returned and Jacob Batista, Josue Castenada and former Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick were selected for the other slots.

On the Cultural Arts Committee the nine (9) slots were filled with returning members Kathleen Eric, Lisa Grant, Frank Gutierrez, and Monica Morita.  The remaining positions were filled by Andrea Marr, Tracy Taber, Chrystal Swope, Stacie Wendland, with Rocky Evans and Jason Komala as alternates.

The Historical Preservation Committee, with five (5) slots open, four were filled with returning members - Dave Gardner, Gary Parkin, John McQueen and Karen McKenna-Juergens and Matthew Fletcher selected for the other.

The Housing and Public Service Grant Committee had 6 open slots.  Eight people applied.  The positions were filled by returning members Christian Eric, Denise Rochelle Dew-Bennett, Jeff R. Mathews, Eric Vu, and new members Yvonne Rowdert and Tony Capitelli.

The Pension Oversight Committee process was very interesting.  A dozen people applied for one of the nine (9) open positions.  Returning members Jeff Arthur, Tim Sesler, Ralph Taboada and Gary Parkin filled four of them.  Newcomers James Bridges, Robert Juneman, Al Melone and George Turner filled four more, leaving one vacancy.  The council majority decided to re-advertise and try to find a better candidate for the one remaining slot.  It was very strange, but things would soon get stranger.

Next up was the Traffic Impact Fee Ad Hoc Committee, which had four (4) open slots: 2 at large members, 1 major developer representative and 1 small developers representative.  Six people applied.  George Sakioka, likely representing large developers, and Kerry Smith representing small developers, were chosen and Walt Davenport - a member of the Newport Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees and a Planning Commissioner for more than two decades - was also chosen.  Cynthia McDonald was nominated for the other at-large slot, but was rejected by the male majority and the majority wanted to re-advertise for the position.  This generated a heated discussion because nobody would provide a description of the qualifications for the position!  Things got so hot for the Rookie Mayor that he called for a break.  It was surreal!

When they reconvened the council tackled the appointment of fifteen (15) members of the Bikeway and Walkability Committee.  The following  ten (10) people were selected unanimously: Kathleen Brown, Donna Check, Tony Capitelli, Jim Erickson, Leah Ersoylu , James Kane, Jim Kerins, Flo Martin, John Merrill and Ralph Taboada. Michael M.S. Chun was chosen on a 4-1 vote, with Monahan voting no.  Richard Huffman was chosen on a 4-1 vote, with Mensinger voting no.  Max Poling was chosen on a 4-1 vote, with Foley voting no.  Andrea Marr was chosen on a 3-2 vote, with Mensinger and Righeimer voting no.  Cynthia McDonald and Jim Drain were rejected on 3-2 votes by the council majority.  The final slot was curiously filled by a man, Brent Stoll, who doesn't live in Costa Mesa - he lives in Santa Monica - and doesn't work in Costa Mesa, although he did say he worked for an outfit that is in the process of acquiring a big piece of property in the north part of town.  That screamed "developer" to me, but he was chosen over nine (9) residents besides McDonald and Drain.  What a travesty!

This brought us to the "pulled" items from the Consent Calendar - and another surprise.  When #7 - the issue of increasing the contract with attorneys Meyers Nave, who are dealing with the Fairview Park Decomposed Granite issue - was called, Mayor Mensinger decided to recuse himself and left the auditorium.  Well, I wrote about that earlier and suggested that, because of his personal involvement (culpability?) in the whole "Decomposed Granite Trail" fiasco, that he should not be involved in the discussion or vote on increasing the contract to the attorney.  When he left Foley and Genis wanted to know why - specifically - he left.  No good explanation was given, although Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill said something about "in light of the investigation".

Several members of the public addressed this issue.  Susan Shaw and Teresa Drain expressed concern about this whole issue.   Jay Humphrey was concerned about multiple attorneys being involved and referred to a letter from US Fish and Wildlife which basically said "don't do anything".  Greg Ridge expressed outrage that we are about to spend $100,000 on this issue and don't know what it's for.  He wondered if we're paying a lawyer to defend Mensinger - who directed this act, and compared it to the 60th debacle as another situation where rules are not followed.  Earlier he told his story about Mensinger's knowledge of the location of the vernal pools.  Cindy Brenneman wondered when we would get the updated information from USFWS.  Cindy Black then took the podium and presented a slide show with images of correspondence showing that Mensinger communicated with Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz, who, in turn, communicated with his staffer, Rick Simon, asking what could be done.  I've seen subsequent correspondence in which Simon describes what they did to "Steve's Path".

Monahan moved to approve the issue, with Foley seconding it.  She went on to ask about the agreement and what the 20 hours working with the U.S. Attorney was for.  Both she and Genis were concerned about the possibility of the City defending Mensinger.  The item passed, 4-0 and Mensinger was brought back.

Item #8 was the change to policy 100-8 regarding travel distances by council and staff.  Afer a short discussion and a few comments by the public - Humphrey, Drain and Brenneman all expressed concern about lack of council oversight on travel - it passed 4-1.

That vote made half of Item #9 - approval of the trip by Mensinger, Righeimer and several staff members to a convention in Las Vegan next month -  moot.  The council voted, 5-0,  to cancel the May 19 City Council meeting and we were done for the evening.

Mensinger adjourned the meeting in memory of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Ceradyne, who passed away recently.  We were out of there before 9 p.m. with our heads reeling from some of the bizarre behavior we observed.   Cronyism is alive and not-well in Costa Mesa.

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Blogger Ocpublicsquare said...

I watched the meeting from home. Their condescension and patronizing toward residents made me sick. Appointing a resident of Santa Monica to the bike committee was the epitome of their arrogance.and shows me they have great contempt and disdain for residents. Only their agenda matters. I am so mad about how they have transformed public meetings and City Hall and I thought of Jesus when he went in and turned over the money changers' tables in the temple. In 2006, the year Righeimer moved to Costa Mesa after failed attempts to get elected in Fountain Valley, I was told that the GOP, my party forever, was planning a takeover of Costa Mesa and that commissions and committees would be stacked with only the "right people" so that Costa Mesa would always be Republican and never deal with Democrats' influence on the Council. Well here we are. Mission accomplished. It is finished. No need to follow the rules that everyone else follows when you have all the power. I never imagined that the takeover would mean cutting the heart and soul out of Costa Mesa.

4/08/2015 06:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Puffy red-faced Monahan should just step down and go do what he does best.

4/08/2015 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

As Westsider, allow me to throw a comment in about Jeff Chon. Jeff also owns The Alley in NB & Tabu Shabu on 17th Street, and the Wayfarer serves up some great food too, so it is not accurate to refer to him as simply a "bar owner". He runs top quality establishments and we need more entrepreneurs of his character and vision in this city, especially on the po' side of town.

4/08/2015 07:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Arthur, from the look of things, Gary HAS been doing what he does best. Look at his face.

Its obvious that taxpayers are paying for Mensinger's defense in the park issue, as he would not have been advised to leave otherwise. We would not have bills that high if not. Our city attorneys should know better than that and I think it should be investigated.

All manner of hell should be raised over the appointment of someone from out of own when we have people right here willing to serve.

This council is an embarrassment and we need to rid our city of this council majority. They are not here to improve our city. They are here to further their political careers. Mensinger needs to be shown the door in 2016. We need a regime change.

4/08/2015 07:44:00 AM  
Anonymous breaking bad said...

Wendy Leece, I fully believe in 2016 the City of Costa Mesa will once again be run as municipality and not as an extreme right-wing political coup breeding ground. 2 elections ago democrats and reasonable republicans banded together and almost did the unthinkable by nearly upsetting the extreme right-wing developer's are more important than residents faction. Then in the last election this same group of residents come first had 2 of the top 3 vote getters. The next election 2016, 3 spots are open. The coalition of democrats and reasonable republicans should be able to once again capture 2 of the top 3 vote getters and therefor defeat the extreme right-wing cadre that has taken over the City of Costa Mesa. I would pay for the entertainment to see Righeimer and Mensinger get their due with a council made up of them and Sandy Genis, Wendy Leece and Katrina Foley. I can't wait for the 2016 election. As a fellow republican I find myself disgusted with the actions and behavior of the current regime and how they are destroying our party.

4/08/2015 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

Last night I witnessed the low of the low for the three stooges. Their antics verge on storm trooper mentality. How could they take a Santa Monica resident, over a well qualified, active long time resident? There is something really wrong with their motives and actions. Mensinger's quick exit and recusal SCREAMS guilty, I hope he has his checkbook ready. I'm calling Santa Minuca to see if they have any committee openings and if a non resident is eligible. And also I am call Vanguard College and see when they are putting on their burlesque show because the council said they do "burlesque" so it must be true... to be continued

4/08/2015 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you for that information.
We see the OC GOP extremist plan
coming into play.
I was also sick to my stomach watching
the council majority cherry pick applicants.
The commissions and committees
are stacked with very few exceptions.
An out of town developer was chosen
over highly qualified Costa Mesans for
one position. That is outrageous!
I am grateful that both Katrina and Sandy called
them out on it. I hope the council ladies continue
to expose these shenanigans from the council majority on the dais.
2016 cannot come soon enough.

4/08/2015 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

One review of Lisa Salisbury and the Salisbury Law Group from Yelp.

Not what I would call especially positive:

4/08/2015 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Ohoh...tell me this woman isn't working the city. Although it would not surprise me.

4/09/2015 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

It does not surprise me that Monahan wants to us forget the ongoing waste of money for the 60th Anniversary.

When his friend, a fugitive wanted in two different states for: sex with a minor, embezzlement (twice), and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, he thought it was a good idea to fundraise in his memory:

“Come Celebrate Jay’s Life.”

“I do not know Jay in his past life,” Monahan said. “I do not know what went on with him.”

We should forget that for his "friend" chose to greet Costa Mesa cops with a loaded gun. So, if cops' lives don't matter to him, why would our money matter?

4/09/2015 12:19:00 PM  

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