Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Short Meeting - No Surprises

The Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night ran only until just after 8:00 p.m. and, unfortunately, didn't have any surprises.  That doesn't mean it didn't have some noteworthy moments, though.  This meeting, as has been the case for most meetings for the past five years, was peppered with political power plays - again, no surprise.

It began on a very positive note, with the presentation of the Mayor's Award to Kirk McIntosh, father of the Daily Pilot Cup youth soccer event.  The most recent event just wrapped up last weekend - another success.
Fifteen individuals spoke during Public Comments - one was held over until the very end of the meeting.

The council chambers was infested with denizens of the inaccurately named Costa Mesa Public Square Facebook page, who hunkered down all together in a row.  Several of those spoke, including the notorious Doug Vogel, Shannon Bales, Julie Fowler and Louise Estrada.  Mercurio sat there like a queen bee in the midst of the group.  Those who follow Facebook and Nextdoor will find those names to be familiar.  They had a shared theme, which made me chuckle as each delivered a slightly different version.  One common thread was some heavy-duty sucking up to the council majority, overlayed with a call for more civility, which was pretty funny considering some of their posts on social media over the past several months.
Vogel criticized "blogs" - which is me.
Bales, who identified himself as a former war crimes investigator, described folks who spoke before the council as cyber bullies and supporters of the council minority - Katrina Foley and Sandra Genis.
Fowler said she was there to help, then cited "petty shenanigans" by a small group of the council minority.  Her whining was very familiar.
Estrada - a new face - complained about "council member behavior" - aimed directly at Foley - and spent most of her three minutes speaking to the audience, not the council.  Finally, very near the end of her time, Mayor Steve Mensinger finally asked her to address the council.  He's been much quicker with those offering critical comments of the council majority in the past.  She continued to criticize those who speak against the council majority.
Alex Reich urged the council to protect our open spaces, citing the history of coastal parts of Los Angeles County which experienced rampant development.
 Teresa Drain spoke of the recent dedication of the Estancia High School Freedom Wall and of the Memorial Day service at our local cemetery.

Mary Spadoni presented some recently-released crime numbers - the arrests for prostitution - and complained that the CMPD was unwilling or unable to present location of the arrests.  She also invited viewers to attend a town hall Thursday evening at the Neighborhood Community Center at which many of the current hot-button issues will be discussed.  Those include the Smart Growth Initiative, the Fairview Park Initiative, Banning Ranch and more.
Beth Refakes spoke about the sparsely-attended Community Budget meeting, thanked Munoz, the recent Open Space Meeting and observed that she fears the Women's Club is not going to get fair market value for their building and wondered if they are being treated fairly.
Long time resident Chuck Perry again stepped up to praise the council, thank Ernesto Munoz and to tell us of a conversation he had with automobile dealer Bob Robins.  It was unclear of the purpose, but it was nice to know, I guess.
Another speaker observed the large numbers of young people in the audience and expressed great pleasure that more were getting involved.  She then described Costa Mesa as being circled by sharks, referring to the council majority, developers, rehab home and prison realignment as the sharks.  She also bemoaned a perceived drop in house values in Eastside Costa Mesa of 17.6% according to a recent Orange County Register article.

During Council Member Comments Righeimer - who pretended he hadn't had anything to say - launched off in a bit of pontification directed at the young people in the audience, and chided speakers.  He referred to departing Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz as his "favorite Nicaraguan" and told us that he went to the high school in Illinois where Righeimer's father taught.  He also cited the recent arrests of two youths for their part in the Trump rally riots.
Mensinger asked CEO Tom Hatch to have Assistant CEO Rick Francis bring back a report on homelessness at the next council meeting.  In response to an earlier observation by a speaker that they knew of someone with a direct email pipeline to the council majority, so they didn't bother coming to council to speak, Mensinger griped that they should attend his Meet The Mayor events or walk the city streets with him and his entourage.   He observed that Munoz has left an indelible mark on the city - explaining that he had spent $83 million on municipal projects in the past four years - much of which was grant money.
Foley spoke of the Open Space Master Plan Workshop and referred to the next one Thursday evening.  She also hoped for more new voices in public discourse - referring to the large number of young people in the room.  She asked Hatch to look into the contract for Bus Shelters - she had recently used public transportation and found the shelters in deplorable condition.  She then observed that Social Media was hurting people and hoped folks would throttle back the rhetoric.
Genis complimented all involved on a very successful Fish Fry.  She complimented the city on the current street sweepers, but bemoaned the fact that streets are not getting swept when cars are parked.  She reminded us that the weekly Register real estate reports are just snapshots and are less relevant than annual numbers.  She also thanked Munoz for his service.  She also reminded the mayor that they have a full agenda for the next couple meetings, so she suggested the homeless report he asked for be shoved out to another meeting - sometime in July.  She also asked for more civility, but then observed the level of rancorous commentary on Facebook.  One earlier speaker had complained about her not responding to his inquiries and she reminded him that she would not be responding to vilification on social media sites, and that he actually wanted information he should contact her through official channels.
Gary Monahan had nothing to say, but Mensinger plugged his gin mill anyhow.
Hatch then spent a few minutes honoring Munoz, citing his prodigious skill acquiring grant money for city projects.  He said under his guidance Costa Mesa is the top grant-receiving city in Orange County by far.  He cited his creativity - the Fairview Park ponds and the Lions Park drainage solution were just two mentioned.  And, he referred to Munoz as the Number One Hardest Working Employee in the city.    Munoz spoke, thanking Hatch, the council, the city staff and his personal staff.  He's a good man and will, indeed, be missed.
Next came the Consent Calendar.  Four items were pulled for later discussion.  It was now 7:20, so the meeting was moving right along.

Public Hearing #1, Public Affairs Manager Dan Baker's presentation of the reauthorization of the Business Improvement Association, took only two minutes to present and pass on a 5-0 vote.
Next came the fun item of the evening, New Business #1 - the selection of a new Parks and Recreation Commissioner from the dozen applicants who had expressed interest.  One applicant, Rachael Correll, spoke to present her credentials and interest.
The council members drew numbers from an envelope to determine the order of nomination.  Katrina Foley was #1 and nominated Dr. Leah Ersoylu - perhaps the most academically qualified of the group and a current member of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee.  Genis seconded her motion.  The vote was 2-3, with the majority voting no.
Next up was Monahan, who nominated the least qualified person on the roster - Costa Mesa Public Square Iron-fisted Queen Bee Julie Mercurio and major council majority supporter.  Mensinger seconded it and the vote was 3-2, with Genis and Foley voting NO.  So, as anticipated, pure political power showed itself in an unabashed in-your-face selection of an unqualified person for an influential commission position.  Her "extensive" qualification are shown below Monahan's photo.
This was clearly a move to give her visibility before the election in November.  Actually, this is not all bad, because we will have a chance at least for a few hours each month until the election to see how incompetent she is and how ill-qualified she will be for a council seat.  So, thanks, council majority.  This is going to be fun!
The final two items on the agenda, although routine and required, had some interesting politically-charged moments.

New Business #2 was the item submitting two medical marijuana ordinances to the ballot in November.  The council had no choice in this matter, but the individual resolutions required provided an opportunity for political posturing.  The first two, which specifically authorized the placement on the ballot of the two individual issues and the third, requesting the Board of Supervisors to consolidate a General Municipal election in November, passed on a 4-0 vote - Mensinger had stepped away.  The 6th,  authorizing filing of rebuttal arguments, passed 5-0.  Items #4 and #5 were identical issues - the authorization of written arguments for or against the issues.  Righeimer suggested that he and Foley collaborate to write the argument against - she declined. So, Righeimer decided that he would write it himself and collaborate with other council members as he saw fit.  Those votes passed, 5-0.
New Business #3, the same process for the so-called Smart Growth Initiative, had three resolutions to consider.  The first two were placement of this issue on the general election ballot and the consolidation request to the Board of Supervisors, as above.  They passed, 5-0.  Righeimer then took the helm again and again decided he and Foley should collaborate on the argument against. She declined so he, again, decided he would write the argument and seek whatever help he felt necessary from other council members.  It passed 5-0.

Next came the Consent Calendar items trailed to the end - a bogus scheme to discourage public partipation, which worked again this evening.

#2, the Warrant, was pulled by someone who didn't wait around, so it passed, 5-0.

#8, the 17th Street widening project, was pulled by Jay Humphrey, who asked about the gathering of right-of-way from property owners and asked if they'd been contacted.  Foley asked Munoz, who replied that they had not because this action authorizes the contract with a consultant, who will then coordinate that activity.  The item passed, 5-0.
Item #13 was erroneously pulled by Anna Vrska and passed, 5-0.

Nobody stayed for this item so Item #14 - the permanent cancellation of the second council meeting in August,  passed , 5-0.

Then the remaining card for Public Comments that had been trailed to the end was called.  Anna Vrska stepped up to complain about the delays getting public records requests fulfilled.  She cited the rules governing such submissions and observed that the exemptions being applied to many of hers were overly-broad.  She asked for specific information.
Just before the meeting ended Righeimer flexed his muscles again and directed the City Clerk to provide a report on how many public record requests Vrska had asked for and the cost of providing them.  It's clear that this information will likely be used at a future meeting to intimidate her and others from requesting such information.  Such is life in the City of Costa Mesa under this dictatorial regime.  How very sad for us all.

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Blogger mesa verde madman said...

What a horrible place Costa Mesa has become, but it's the only home I know. Do people really think these clowns are making it better?

6/08/2016 07:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

The appointment of Mercurio to the Parks & Recreation was completely contrived. The other candidates with the exception of one, had very good qualifications. Mercurio has none. After looking at the resumes and applications of these people, the person Dr. Ersoylu was heads above any of the others. Mercurio looks like she had her kid fill out her application. Its just more of the same with these guys and will continue if left in office.

As to the speakers at the city council, as far as I'm concerned, one reaps what one sows. The way this council has treated its residents is beyond contemptible. What would one expect? People are paying their salaries, don't forget. If you are not happy getting the finger from the councilmen, then of course they are going to hear about it. Kudos to those residents who attempt to stand up for the citizens of Costa Mesa.

I find the complaining by people like Julie Fowler, Doug Vogel, Shannon Bales, quite disingenuous. All you have to do is open up any blog and you will see the nastiness displayed by these people. I understand they've been removed and/or banned completely from many sites. Kudos to Foley for putting them back in their place.

Regarding the widening of 17th Street, I'm wondering if this is being done to accommodate the massive high density projects that are still coming or is it an effort to get out in front of the potential Banning Ranch traffic that will inevitably come right through that neighborhood?

One speaker mentioned a town hall meeting to get more information on what is happening with regard to the new general plan and such. This is a great idea. Its time the residents figured out what is going on in this city. November can't come soon enough.

6/08/2016 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Let's direct staff to make a chart of what Vrska's info requests have cost the city vs. what Righeimer has caused the city to spend on unnecessary attorney's fees.

6/08/2016 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Just dawned on me that Mercurio is basically the Sarah Palin of Costa Mesa politics...sigh

6/08/2016 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Is Righeimer going to bill Anna for her requests for
Public Records?
What is he trying to prove here? If you request information
that should be available to his constituents you will be publicly
shamed and humiliated?
Haven't we had enough of that from this crew?
How low will these people go?
One answer is the satirical display of faux indignation
against the CCM opponents by many of the council guys'
supporters who spoke during Public Comments.
With few exceptions, the most disingenuous
individuals were chosen to represent this group. A few of them
are infamous for being cyber bullies. They accused others of
this behavior.
We have a chance to change this scenario in the General Election.
November cannot come soon enough.

6/08/2016 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Shaking my head in disappointment. Not disbelief mind you, just utter contempt for men who would treat others in such a way as to give other men a bad name. I was raised by my grandparents, World War II folks who believed in service, doing the right thing, and serving others. It is such a shame that these "Men" seem to only serve those who fit their mold and take such joy in attempting to intimidate and bully others who may express other free thought. There is no exchange of ideas with the Council Majority, which is a shame, because I know there are others like me, that do not always disagree with their ideas or thoughts.

And addressing the shameful, nasty comments regarding the video on "You Tube," leaves me with one question. What kind of elected official thinks it is appropriate to use such rhetoric on an "Open" forum and to publish the name, address and phone number of Citizen of Costa Mesa? Just cowardly. But when you surround yourself with "Yes" people, and others who encourage this type of nasty behavior, constantly affirming your positions, and that you never do wrong, is it any wonder? Honesty, respectful discourse, and a true exchange of ideas through discussion has left the building and is the very reason that I stopped visiting that particular forum. Those that might disagree are not treated with respect, they are ostracized.

I have to give them credit though, they are experts at denial, deflection, and deferring, much like my young children. Point out how much money you waste by not following due process, building roads where you have no right, lack of oversight and what do you get in return? How much money has Vrska cost us by requesting information? How about the 60th Anniversary? Destroying Habitat? Constant approval of variances? Friends opening night clubs without any permits, building, fire or otherwise? Appoint, arguably a less qualified member of the community to a committee, who also happens to be a great supporter and friend, rather than others with more education, proven track records and experience? The list goes on and on..... You can blame others all you want, but all three of these "Gentlemen" were on the council for all of these events and as it goes, they have NOT been very good stewards of public funds, transparency, nor hold any personal accountability.

Unless change is implemented through the democratic process, these two will continue to feed at the trough, with no regard to the "Will of the People." And from the looks of it, they both are fed quite well.

6/08/2016 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Maybe if the city was more transparent in its business, Anna wouldn't have to make those requests. How many requests are for the same materials because her original requests were ignored?

6/08/2016 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi all! Thanks for the positive comments! There were so many qualified folks, it was...frustrating to see how little that matters here. But, as they say, 'on to the next one' ;)

6/08/2016 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Leah, Katrina and Sandy gave it the old try, but this was never going to be about what is right for the Parks and Recreation Commission, it was always about politics. Thanks for continuing to look for opportunities to serve the community... the city is better for your efforts.

6/08/2016 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

What about Solid Landings, which owns the largest group of sober living homes in Costa Mesa? Didn't it just gain a major victory, with the City of Costa Mesa as the loser. Did "we" hand Solid Landings a windfall?

The settlement agreement with Costa Mesa allows Solid Landings to take up to three years to operate without that pesky city ordinance in their way before the last of their homes are closed (Pg. 3, No. 3 Settlement Agreement and General Release.

It looks like the city has now relinquished all control of these facilities for up to three years. Once that time limitation is exhausted, will Solid Landings seek state licensing which will continue to exempt them from the City sober living ordinance?

Residents heard that Solid Landings would vacate its building on 19th Street. It looks like Solid Landings might simply be moving to a center on Airway and one on Bristol. Both facilities are still in Costa Mesa. (Pg. 4, No. 4, Settlement Agreement and General Release).

It looks like Solid Landings is merely eliminating a few of their high-dollar properties that did not house as may clients as the multiple family units, so they will either be sold or leased, and maybe these homes will be sold or leased to other rehab facilities.

Without the controls of the city ordinance, the operators of these homes during the next three years will be able to make millions of dollars.

The City of Costa Mesa would have been better served to let this issue be litigated, as the ordinance would either stand or not stand. Now we will not know if the ordinance is valid. If it stood up in court, great. If it failed, then the ordinance could be re-written in such a way that it would satisfy the court. But now arguably we are back to square one with all the other sober living homes.

This “landmark” settlement appears to have gained the city nothing. The question remains, who is profiting?

6/08/2016 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Leah, thank you for all your expertise. Hopefully one of these days, we will have a council that cares about what is needed in this city and can appropriately plan for that with qualified people. Thank you, again.

Artur Nern, I'd like to know that myself. Not only would it have been much easier to get the documents than to go through all this crap that they won't win in the end anyway, but it is actually the city's job. If they can't handle it and had to hire more, so be it. Its still their job.

6/08/2016 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

So let me get this straight. The "complainers" are complaining about complaining, Mercurio's boyfriend, Chris Byrne is complaining because Katrina doesn't stare at the complainers while they complain, Vogel and Bales, who've been banned from certain sites because they cyber bully and now complaining because they have to suffer for the consequences of their cyber bullying. Is that about right?

6/09/2016 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Arthur, you hit the nail on the head with the settlement agreement. Wasn't it our mayor pro tem, Righeimer who negotiated that settlement? Dear council: please for the love of God, don't let Righeimer negotiate anything again. Or was this intentional?

6/09/2016 08:37:00 AM  

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