Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The New Year Begins With Another Marathon Meeting

The Costa Mesa City Council began the year with another meeting that stretched into the next day, and, unfortunately, with the same kind of partisan fragrance lingering over it.

This will be a short report because the only guy who felt worse than me last night - I stayed home and watched the meeting on CMTV - was councilman Gary Monahan.  He made the meeting, but it was nearly two hours into it before he uttered a word.  He looked like I felt - darn winter colds!

The meeting began with a moment of solemn expression by the local Imam, then had Mayor Steve Mensinger euphoric in presenting awards to several youth football teams.

During Public Comments fifteen (15) people spoke on a wide range of issues.  Among them:
  • Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Graham asked for something to be done at Fairview Park to help protect the bluffs from eroding during the El Nino event.
  • Dr. Richard Mehren, the godfather of Fairview Park, announced the initiative recently launched by the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance, for which signature petitions are now circulating.
  • Gay Royer expressed concern about traffic around Victoria Elementary School.
  • Colin Dabo (sp) complained about the long-term problems with The Shark Club.
  • Beth Refakes gave a slide show of the recent toy drive for the children of our adopted Marines, the 1/5 at Camp Pendleton.
  • An unidentified person gave a brief primer on Leadership.
  • Chuck Perry again asked for a bench on 17th Street for the developmentally disabled kids.
  • Nam Tran - the owner of the Shark Club - rebutted Dabo's comments.
  • Ryan Esfahani asked about the relocation funds for residents of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn.
  • Jay Humphrey reported that the signature petitions for the Smart Growth Initiative have been submitted to the City Clerk and that 6,908 would be sent to the Registrar of Voters for certification.
  • Robin Leffler followed up with an observation of a very high percentage of residents encountered - 8 out of 10 - signed the petition.
  • Cindy Black asked why exparte communications do not include encounters with developers and contractors.
  • An unidentified person mentioned that Tuesday was National Law Enforcement Day and wondered what the City was doing to recognize it.
  • Another unidentified person mentioned recent rehab encounters, including the rehab reject who was caught robbing a home recently.  She described Costa Mesa as becoming an "El Nino for corruption".
Under Council Member Comments, Gary Monahan had none.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer told us "things are going the right way".  He asked for a report on the Shark Club, saying "I'm kinda done with this."
Mensinger asked CEO Tom Hatch to work with Graham on the Fairview Park Bluffs issue and spoke to Colin Dabo about the Shark Club.  He then threw a curveball to Police Chief Rob Sharpnack.  He asked him, in light of National Law Enforcement Day, if he'd give a brief report on staffing.  That was VERY interesting.  Sharpnack told us we had 111 total sworn officers, with 8 injured, 1 about to retire this week and 2 or 3 coming on board after Academy graduation next week.  Mensinger told him that Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchins was impressed with the way Costa Mesa is cleaning up the Academy classes - snagging the best of the bunch.

Katrina Foley asked Sharpnack to clarify his numbers, indicating that we have an authorized strength of 136 but only 102 able to work.  He replied that we're hiring as fast as we can but he's not willing to lower their standards.  He mentioned CMPD recruiters venturing to Northern California for recruits.  Foley also asked Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz to investigate the Victoria School issue, and asked City Attorney Tom Duarte about the $200,000 relocation amount for the Costa Mesa Motor Inn residents - he said they are hammering out the details.  She also expressed concern about the information provided about the Shark Club.

Sandra Genis expressed concern that nothing had yet been done about reviewing the performance of the City Attorney and the CEO.  She also expressed concern about exparte communications, indicating that it was not enough to know that communications happened, but with whom and about what.  She specifically mentioned all the contract employees we currently have onboard, expressing concern about conflicts of interest.  She mentioned the staff shortages which required the contractors to be hired.  She also expressed, again, concern about the Orange County Human Society - our animal shelter - because Newport Beach just canceled its arrangement after an audit showed unsatisfactory conditions.

During his report Hatch spoke of a new feature on the city web site, involving news items about the City, and mentioned Public Information Officer Tony Dodero.  He also told us sandbags were available at three locations in the city.

Four items were pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion later - which turned out to be after midnight.

Public Hearing #1, the ordinance dealing with cultivation of Medical Marijuana, received a short discussion before being passed on a 5-0 vote.  We really have no choice in this matter.  If we don't pass an ordinance before March 1 we lose all control over cultivation within the City - the State would regulate it.

Public Hearing #2, the discussion of a new set of rules for Resident Only Parking throughout the city, began at 7:45 and ended at 10:05, following comments by twenty (20) residents and a lengthy discussion of alternatives.  At the end, Righeimer made a motion to approve the staff report as written with a few modifications.  A smaller percentage of neighbors would be required for a petition, three permits per household instead of two, expiration of the permits would be three years, not two and the staff will come back in a year for re-assessment of the process.

After a short break Old Business #1, the second reading of the new ordinance regarding commercial processing of organic waste, passed on a 5-0 vote in less than two minutes.

At 10:17 p.m. the discussion began on New Business #1, the mis-identified "Changes to the Temporary Sign Code/Policy".  It began with Hatch apologizing for the inaccurately designated staff report - which basically hid the fact that it included the discussion of whether Costa Mesa Television should televise campaign forums or not.  The discussion was bifurcated - first the sign issue was dealt with.

Thirteen people spoke on the issues, most of them focusing on the CMTV issue.  NONE thought it was a good idea for CMTV to NOT televise campaign forums.

The vote on the sign issue passed 5-0.  Foley made the motion that was Option C in the staff report, modified to remove the specific date and removing the retrieval fee requirement.

During the CMTV discussion Righeimer raised the specter of Huntington Beach, where a social media page takes credit for ousting two liberal politicians in their last election.  It was in the context of "who gets to decide which forum is televised?"  He mentioned the Costa Mesa Public Square Facebook page, which has over 5,000 members (but none with a dissenting viewpoint), implying that something similar could happen in Costa Mesa.  At one point he waved his cell phone around, implying that anyone could record the forum and put it on YouTube or elsewhere.  A lawyer from Best, Best and Krieger was on hand as special council on this issue and told us that there is NO legal reason for CMTV to not televise candidate forums.  Foley and Genis said CMTV should continue to televise forums, with Foley wondering "what are you afraid of?" a couple times.  After a couple attempts at motions and substitute motions, the end result - on a 3-2 vote - was that Costa Mesa Television will no longer record and/or replay ANY candidate forums.  The vote came at 11:58 p.m.

Here's my view of this issue.  Having watched all this unfold over the past few years, and seeing the anger expressed by Righeimer and Mensinger against the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group a few years ago, this is purely another attempt to quash public awareness of campaign issues.  Not a single speaker spoke in favor of CMTV discontinuing covering these events.  Righeimer bad-mouthed the Feet To The Fire Forums and Monahan, with a few of his sparse words last night, chimed in that they were just "gotcha" events.

These men simply do not like to have their opinions challenged and/or criticized, and apparently will stop at nothing to keep that from happening.  They've institutionalized the stifling of free speech at city meetings, so this decision isn't really a surprise, but it IS disappointing.

Just after midnight they finally got around to the trailed Consent Calendar items.  Among those pulled was #3, the Warrant, by Anna Vrska, who challenged the legal fees, expressing concern about the depletion of the Self Insurance Fund, was concerned about the $16,000 spent on shirts and $16,500 to Jim Jordan for "Holiday Display consulting", and an amount to JP Morgan Chase.  Hatch answered only about the Chase issue, which involved the recent Civic Center Barrio property foreclosure.

Bob Graham expressed concern about the extension of the contract with the Boys and Girls Club, indicating that it was too long - 48 years - and showed photos of what he described as a messy bathroom - as if that had anything to do with it.  The result was that the council continued the item until the next meeting so staff can prepare an explanation for the long extension of the lease for $1.00 per year.

And so it begins for another year.  At their first meeting of the year the council majority showed us what it's going to be like for the next 12 months.  Less transparency, more partisanship and less attention paid to the views of the folks who take the time to address issues before them.  It's no wonder that there may be two initiatives on the November ballot that will appear there only because of the general distrust of these guys.  It is past time for a change - but November will present the opportunity.  We'll keep reminding you of that as these months crawl along.


Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

All the bad acts of Bully Mensinger need to be told to voters so he is not re-elected this November. Then Ranting Riggy should be recalled so he can focus on getting help.

1/06/2016 05:32:00 AM  
Anonymous zennymoon said...

Last night I sadly witnessed, in person, the vile tactics of a triad. The three boys, decided the city of Costa Mesa would not be filming ANY forums. Why. damn, if I know why...WAIT....I do, they are cowards, afraid to participate in open free speech in front of their own constituency.
Small minds, make small and detrimental decisions, based on their own needs and never put
COSTA MESA FIRST.... They were obviously quiet last night, licking their wounds from the initiative, presented a day earlier. Stand by boys, the roar of injustice will be heRd in November, shovel all tge money you and you development friends have, residents are on to your game. November 2016.....November 2016....November 2016

1/06/2016 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

What a great idea! We should rely on social media to keep informed about our government. Who needs long boring unedited forums when you can get the scoop from 20 second videos on Facebook and YouTube? In fact, let's start now! Who can put together a video of Steve motioning to discontinue filming while Katrina repeats "What are you afraid of?" Add some music and it could go viral.

1/06/2016 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous And So it Goes said...

Why not broadcast a forum/debate they participate in? Perhpas they realize their repulsive imbecility and intense eogism will be on display for all to see.

1/09/2016 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I just read Barbara Venezia's column regarding the forums no longer being filmed by CMTV. According to the article, Mensinger told Barbara Venezia on December 31, 2015 that the council had banned the filming of the forums. However, the council didn't get together to vote until January 5, 2016. We all know this is the behavior of the council, but "dumb as a rock" Mensinger see fit to throw the big FU in everyone's face.

PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, VOTE THESE GUYS OUT IN NOVEMBER. They are obviously as crooked as they come.

1/09/2016 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

The guy that complained about the Shark Club is obviously in Riggy and his developer buddies pockets, he came off like gangbusters as a concerned citizen and Riggy played it perfect with his fake disgust for this business. He wants it shut down so he can tear it down and build more high density apartments or condos.

1/11/2016 10:53:00 AM  

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