Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Foley And Genis On Parking, Pets And More...

Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Katrina Foley, along with Councilwoman Sandy Genis, held a little public workshop in City Council Chambers at City Hall last night to inform interested members of the public on a few issues about which Foley has been getting inquires.
A couple dozen people attended the meeting, along with a few members of the staff, who provided the background and were available to answer questions.
First up was Recreation Manager Justin Martin, who provided us with an update on the recently-renovated Bark Park.  The 10 week makeover/expansion was successful and users seem to appreciate the new turf, shade and furniture, plus other features.
CEO Tom Hatch spoke on the pet licensing process, indicating that approximately 36% of Costa Mesa residents are pet owners.  He provided us with some very interesting statistics.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 the city showed the following numbers:
  • Total active animal licenses - 5,046
  • 397 unaltered dogs (it costs $80.00 per year to license an unaltered dog)
  • 4,591 altered dogs (it costs $25.00 per year to license an altered dog) 
  • 30 service dogs
  • 28 non-domesticated animals which include mainly chickens, a mini pig and an iguana
  • 1,265 dogs owned by senior citizens age 62 and up (it costs $40.00 for an unaltered license and $10.00 for an altered pet)
  • 4,605 payments processed
  • Fees collected - $116,43.20
  • Check transactions processed - $83,000.07
  • Cash transactions processed - $33,492.50
  • Late fees collected - $2,900.00, approximately 2.5% of total fees collected
  • It was estimated that there are actually 40,000 pets in the city
He also went over the process of licensing your pet.  Genis chimed in with a comment about needing to have a chip inplanted in your pet to help with retrieval if it gets lost.
CMPD Lieutenant Vic Bakkila then spoke about the new arrangement with the Humane Society for the operation of a facility on Hamilton in Huntington Beach - just across the Costa Mesa border - which will be shared with Garden Grove.  Genis suggested the facility could use lots of volunteers to help with the site - and to be eyes and ears for The City in case things don't go well.  A half-dozen people asked questions from the audience including the use of artificial turf (Martin said we have a test strip now); the availability of dog waste bags (in theory we provide those bags at all parks); the possibility of becoming part of the new, modern County animal shelter (Foley said someone would get back to that person); how to contribute money to help with the maintenance of the Bark Park(Foley suggested contributing to the Community Foundation with the money earmarked for Bark Park use).

Dan Baker spoke of the Pet Committee, a cross-departmental group of City employees working on four points:
1 - Working with the Humane Society, including on-site visits
2 - Pet Licensing
3 - Making sure the Dog Park remains in excellent condition
4 - Community Engagement and Awareness, including knowledge of our partnering with the Humane Society.  He also mentioned a September 15th Pet Prep Rally, which will include a mobile vet to administer free rabies innoculations and pets available for adoption.  In October there will be something called the Howl-O-Ween.
Next came the discussion of Permit Parking throughout the City.  Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman took the lead on this segment.  Foley, discussing the impact of strangers parking in her Mesa Del Mar neighborhood - mostly college students from Orange Coast College - reminded us that the first week of parking at OCC each semester is FREE.  She also reminded us that after that it's only $30.00 per semester.  Genis spoke about landlords renting out garage space and creating on-street parking problems.

Raja told us that Permit Parking in residential neighborhoods was first the result of the Orange County Fair.  Then the demand spread to neighborhoods near commercial venues.  Now the impacts are coming from the large number of apartments in the city.  He told us to have an area receive permit parking 51% of the neighbors must sign the petition - a sample can be provided -  and that 70% of the usable parking (on street and in driveways) must be taken up during an inspection.  He said we currently have 2,000 homes with parking permits.  The City is divided into six zones and the permits are color-coded so they cannot be used in other zones.  Each permit is good for 3 years.
Eight members of the public, like Beth Refakes, address several elements of this issue.  Some spoke of businesses being run out of garages, foreclosing them being used for parking.  Others spoke of owners of a half-dozen cars using the streets to park them.  Others spoke of the frustration of years of reporting problems but having no resolution to them.  Others addressed obviously commercial trucks/trailers that are being left in residential neighborhoods.  Lt. Bakkila encouraged them to call the parking hotline - 714-754-5290 - to report a problem.  He said they love to haul those trucks away.  He mentioned that the CMPD used to have 8 Community Service Specialists (CSS) assigned to work on parking issues.  The staffing cuts in the CMPD lost all those people.  Presently there are seven (7) part time aides attempting to cover the entire city.  He mentioned he would work on training his sworn officers on recognition of parking decal for individual zones in the city.

Finally the discussion turned to Street Sweeping - which has been outsourced to a private company -  and the difficulty folks are having in some neighborhoods because cars clog the curbs during sweeper day.  Raja told us that if 50% of a section of street is not swept it could qualify for posting "No Parking On Sweeper Day" signs.  He told the audience to call the Transportation Department line - 714-754-5343.  He did mention that on holiday weeks - like the upcoming Labor Day holiday - NO streets will be swept due to conflicts with trash pickups.

The meeting ended promptly at 7:30 and the attendees seemed generally satisfied with the information they received.  There will be follow-up with specific neighbors on some of their specific concerns.  It was a good start and a comfortable process with excellent opportunities for residents to interact with staff and council members informally.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Righeimer Gives Mansoor A Boost - Kinda

Monday night Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who owes his presence on the City Council to former councilman Allan Mansoor who appointed him to the Planning Commission a few short months after he moved to town to give him a leg up on the competition, hosted a "Stand Up With Jim" evening in Conference Room 1A at City Hall at which Mansoor - a candidate for City Council in November - was a "Special Guest".  It was payback time.

A funny sidebar... I arrived at City Hall at exactly the same time Mansoor and his lovely little family arrived.  I went directly to the conference room through the front door but, for some reason, Mansoor walked his little brood all the way around the building and entered in the back door of City Hall.  Could it be that he got lost?  Anyhow, the wife and kids hung out in the lobby except when checking in from time to time, as in this image.
Anyhow, on with the show.  Fewer than 30 people - many of whom are avid Righeimer supporters - showed up for this non-political, political stunt.  There were many familiar faces - some of whom you'll recognize in these images.
As is his style, Righeimer controlled the conversation and, occasionally, remembered that Mansoor was in the room and threw him a bone to answer.  He opened by introducing Mansoor, who then gave a little history of his involvement in The City, including his previous 8 years on the council.
One of the first subjects discussed public safety - specifically police staffing and crime.  Mansoor, a former Orange County Deputy Sheriff, told us that it takes a long time to find, hire and train a good officer and praised Chief Rob Sharpnack for not reducing his standards to speed up the process.

There was a discussion of Prop. 57, the latest scheme by Governor Jerry Brown to unleash more criminals on our streets, following in the wake of Prop. 47 and AB 109.  At one point Mansoor told the audience that simply hiring more cops wouldn't necessarily result in less crime.  He told us that we needed to "adjust our expectations".  That got everyone's attention, particularly when one speaker asked if he meant we shouldn't hire more cops.  He backpeddled a little, and referred to the above-mentioned pieces of legislation that turned criminals loose and changed some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  Some of those crooks don't even get sent to jail.  Mansoor said they just laugh in our faces.
Righeimer addressed those criminals on our streets and said, "They gotta eat", so they will commit petty crimes - auto burglaries, etc. - knowing that they won't go to jail.

Homeless was another issue discussed at length.  Righeimer said we've never really pulled out of the recession and blamed our homelessness situation on "attractants".  And, the problem is exacerbated by the proliferation of sober living homes in the city, some failed residents of which end up as homeless sometime criminals on our streets.
Group Homes - sober living facilities - got a lot of discussion.  Righeimer explained some of the financial facts - very expensive drug tests, for example - that are paid for by insurance - ObamaCare.  Mansoor said there is no willingness to address the problem in Sacramento.  The lobby for this business is too strong.  Our two ordinances were discussed, as was the pending avalanche of request for Special Use Permits for existing units, asking for "reasonable accommodation".  The Solid Landings settlement was discussed, but Righeimer didn't acknowledge what activists have found out - that some of those homes have simply become occupied by other sober living entities.
Resident Barrie Fisher spoke of her neighborhood, which has several sober living homes adjacent to each other.  When asked by another resident about strategy to manage this issue, there was no real answer.

Resident Margaret Mooney spoke up and complained that not enough was being done about homelessness.  Righeimer asked her what she wants to do, to which she replied we need permanent suppportive housing.  Righeimer brought up his red herring $20 million bond issue that was rejected.  Mansoor said we are willing to do our part, but that other cities should be encouraged to do their part.  He had no specifics about just how you incentivize other cities to take on some of the burden of homeless.
Righeimer reprised his old refrain about being on the OC Housing Commission for more than 12 years and that it's a tough problem because of all the attractants..  He suggested transitional housing, but Mooney told him HUD is not funding transitional housing.  He rejected the "voucher for life" solution.  I asked Mansoor if, during his tour in Sacramento, he saw any indication that the State is interested in solving what is clearly not just a local problem.  He said no - that state government is broken.

Ron Amburgey wondered to Mansoor if we still had a problem with illegal immigrants because that was his big cause when he was on the council.  Mansoor said we took more than 1300 criminals off our streets during his tour - clearly a softball tossed to him by a friend.  A resident wondered about the continuing costs of the Benito Acosta affair - which she supposed was over $800,000 at this time.

The meeting ended promptly at 7:30 after 90 minutes of spirited discussion - most of it by Righeimer.  It was clear that Mansoor didn't have many answers - not surprising.

Tonight councilwomen Katrina Foley and Sandra Genis will hold a similar meeting in the same venue at the same time - 6:00 p.m.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Short-handed Planning Commission Approves Code Changes

Monday night the short-handed Costa Mesa Planning Commission - Tim Sesler and Stephan Andranian were absent - made quick work of two items on the agenda.

I apologize in advance for the crappy quality of the images.  Because I attended another event - see next post - that was held a few yards away from this one, I had to photograph the images from my recording of this event.
Chairman Rob Dickson, back from his vacation, guided the discussion, although Commissioner Colin McCarthy did nearly all the heavy lifting on these items.
Beth Refakes reminded us, once again, of the drive currently being held by the Military Affairs Team for Ball Gowns and accessories for the women of the 1/5 Marines for the Marine Ball coming up in October.

An unidentified speaker told the commission of problems with a new night club on 19th Street - The Holiday - and advised them of recent noise complaints and that they are operating outside the permitted uses.

Public Hearing #1, was bringing the various sections of the Municipal Code for two overlay zones approved in the General Plan for 2015-2035 into line with that General Plan.  After a short staff report the following speakers addressed this issue.
Jay Humphrey was concerned about the codifying unreasonable density in these areas.
Linda Teng, representing the Kennedy Commission, asked that at least 20% of these developments be designated for Affordable Housing.
Rick Huffman was concerned about taking of viable businesses for high density housing.  He said although this had been portrayed as a way to get rid of "Whores, Pimps and Drug Addicts", it was really a thinly veiled land grab that will displace existing businesses.
Cynthia McDonald was grateful that we had no "live/work" units in these plans.  She was concerned about the 4-5 story units that will pop up.  She said the only way to stop this kind of development is to vote YES on Measure Y - the Smart Growth Initiative.
Chris McEvoy asked the commission to stop approving high density housing.

After a very short discussion the commission voted, 3-0, to move this forward to the City Council.

Public Hearing #2 was a similar item, which brought the zoning requirements for the 100 acres of the Fairview Developmental Center into line with that new General Plan.
Dan Inloes conducted this staff presention and used this chart to show how the General Plan - and the codes that will be changed - would slice up the existing property.  It's pretty self explanatory.
Many of the same individuals who addressed the first item spoke on this one, too.  Jay Humphrey was concerned that the plans might include demolition of a perfectly good facility that might be used for some of the proposed plans.

Linda Teng again was concerned about affordable housing.

Cynthia McDonald was concerned for Affordable Housing for women veterans.
Jonathon Fletcher emphasized the need for Affordable Housing, particularly for Vets and Senior Citizens.  He was concerned about squandering a valuable resource.

McCarthy again took the lead on this issue and reminded us that the State has control of this process, but these changes can provide a roadmap for any future developers.  The issue passed on a 3-0 vote and the meeting adjourned until September 12th after only 65 minutes.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Bad News About Our Urban Forest

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission met last night and had a light agenda, HERE.  However, it still took more than two hours for them to work their way through it.
Beth Refakes reminded us of the current gown drive for the Marines at Camp Pendleton that continues through September 15th.  Donations may be dropped off at City Hall.

An unidentified speaker reminded us of the Banning Ranch hearing at the Newport Beach City Hall on September 7th beginning at 9:00 a.m.  She also encouraged us all to vote.

Commissioner Julie Mercurio had nothing to say.  (I feared she had permanently lost her voice, since she's had nothing to say for the past several meetings on any subject).

Byron de Arakal told the commission that AB 385, the bill to do away with Daylight Saving Time, died on the Senate floor.  He also mentioned AJR28, which apparently is designed to make Daylight Savings Time permanent year around.  He spoke about the negative impact of AB 109 and Prop 47 on our communities and spoke of Prop 57, which is on the November ballot, which will only exacerbate the negative impacts of the other two.  He spoke of the sucess of the OC Fair and the Olympics and local Olympic stars.
Kim Pederson spoke about the Master Plan Outreach meetings, citing a good turnout of passionate people.  He also spoke of the need to move forward with lighting fields, and that the Newport Mesa School District Board just approved a contract with a consultant to study which of their fields might receive permanent lighting.  He said, flat out, that we have plenty of fields, just not enough of them lighted.
Bob Graham showed images of Vista Park, along Victoria Street, to demonstrate the danger that exists due to a lack of fencing and asked Bruce Hartley if it was possible to install a fence.  He told Graham that it didn't make the cut in the last few budgets.  Graham also asked that somebody consider acquiring naming rights to Huntington Beach State Park and call it Costa Mesa State Park.
Chairman Brett Eckles commented on the Olympics, then told us the past 3, 4 and 5 years he has never seen so much support for sports in the city and gave credit to Steve Mensinger for this "achievment" - as blatant a campaign plug as I've seen lately.  He also spoke of the need for lighted fields, citing the fact that 89% of the fields in our city are school district fields.

Most of the time was spent dealing with yet another tree removal request at 3081 Klondike Avenue, in the neighborhood entered from Bear Street via Yukon, HERE.  That neighborhood entry has been the subject of controversy - and numerous tree removal requests - for several years.  The predominant tree, the Canary Island Pine, is a beautiful tree but it turns out to have been a problematic choice when this development was created.  The applicant, Gabriella Oseguera, was joined by more than a half-dozen of her neighbors requesting  trees in the parkway and adjacent to her property on the slope landscaped area be removed.
The result, after much discussion, was to have one tree that apparently is damaging a wall removed at the City's expense and the remaining two - those in the parkway - removed at the applicants cost, which includes a 3-for-one replacement.  It was decided to NOT replace those specific trees, but the replacement of trees would occur elsewhere in the city.

During his Maintenance Services Managers report Bruce Hartley provides some grim information to the commission.  Due to the ongoing drought conditions our urban forest is in bad shape.  He ticked off many statistics - none of which were available as a staff report online.  He spoke of the diseases that are affecting our forest, including the shot hole borer that afflicts Sycamore trees in town.  He told the commission that more frequent watering will begin the solution, but it won't happen overnight.  It will take years of "normal" rainfall for the forest to regain a healthy condition.
Commissioner Kim Pederson asked Hartley about the impact of the homeless on our parks.  Hartley told him it was a HUGE impact, and that the maintenance of our parks is much more complicated due to the encampments in them.  He cited the need to pick up drug paraphernalia and the need to frequently powerwash places like the Senior Center due to the infestation of homeless folks.  He told us he's heard from mothers who are afraid to visit the parks because of the homeless/rehab folks who infest them.
Justin Martin's Recreation Manager's Report was more positive.  The summer programs are winding down and enrollment was good.  The City will offer 199 classes during the upcoming fall session.
Oh, yes.. new commissioner Julie Mercurio apparently has found her voice again. She actually spoke a few times during the meeting, although her inexperience and apparent lack of doing her homework showed through.  We expect more from her.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mesa Verde Forum Smooth As Silk

The City Council Candidate Forum hosted by Mesa Verde Community, Inc., last night ran as smooth as silk - perhaps, in part, because three of the seven candidates failed to show up.
Council candidates Steve Mensinger, Allan Mansoor and Lee Ramos failed to appear even though the hosts prepared a seat at the table for each of them.  We won't talk too much about their absence except to observe that more than 150 residents missed a chance to hear their answers to some pretty darn good questions.  We're told that a couple had schedule conflicts.  I don't believe that for one second.  I think they just have a hard place in their hearts for the hosts, so they decided to sit this one out.
However, the meeting was a great success.   John Leffler, representing the Mesa Verde Community, Inc. Board, welcomed the crowd promptly at 7:00 and introduced  the moderator - former mayor Mary Hornbuckle - who took the baton and held it firmly all evening.  She did a wonderful job of keeping the candidates in line and moved the process through briskly.  She mixed just the right amount of humor with her assignment.
After each of the four candidates present - Lawyer John Stephens, Retired CPA Al Melone, former councilman Jay Humphrey and councilwoman Sandy Genis - took two minutes to introduce themselves and explain why they were running, Hornbuckle proceeded with a series of questions, each of which were asked of each candidate in order.  She rotated the order for the sake of fairness.  The first set of questions allowed up to two minutes to answer, after which the dreaded red card would be flashed and their speaking door would be slammed.  Subsequent questions allowed one minute for a response and, later, only 30 seconds.  I'm going to give you a summary of the responses - not replay every single word.  This event was taped for replay later by First Impressions Video so you can see the whole thing if you wish.
First up was a question about "the right type of growth for Costa Mesa".
Humphrey mentioned controlled development, and spoke about the current plans for more high density housing.  He also mentioned the Smart Growth Initiative.  He indicated the council should hear from the public.

Genis emphasized that the "right type of growth" should take into consideration the needs of the current residents - services, work opportunities and should have a balance of residential, commercial and industrial.  Citing the many developments around town, she described them as "a hodge podge of stuff going up."  She was concerned that we are replacing jobs with ticky-tacky housing that will be bad for the environment and for living.

Stephens agreed with them and observed that we have a Planning Commission and asked "Shouldn't they be doing some planning?" instead of just approving.  He cited enormous developments, like 125 Baker Street and the four story with roof garden developments popping up.  He specifically mentioned the radius around 17th Street and Pomona, where developments are sprouting up all around that area.

Melone observed that we are not like Irvine - we are a built-out city and our population is staying fairly level.  He agreed with the other candidates.
Melone said better allocation of resources.  He said Quality of life = safety, which means more police and fire personnel.

Stephens agreed with Melone and said we need more police officers, indicating that "perception becomes reality" when it is known we have too few cops criminals take advantage of it.  He cited the reasons for fewer cops and said we need to elect different councl members to help solve the problem.

Genis also said we need to get the number of cops up because our current staffing levels makes us a sitting duck.  She disagreed with those (Righeimer) who said more cops doesn't mean less crime.  She criticized the current council majority because they continue to blow off studies by expensive consultants that tell them we need more police.  She mentioned the lawsuit between Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and the police association as problematic.

Humphrey agreed and said currently the Fire Rescue Service and the Police Staff are working too much overtime, which puts strain on their health and performance.
Stephens mentioned he had been on the Pension Oversight Committee for a couple years.  He suggested pre-paying the pension and paying down the Fire Side Fund, which is currently costing us 7.5% interest.

Genis agreed with him, and recalled several expensive consultants that had been hired to advise on this issue.  They all recommended paying ahead on the Fire Side Fund.

Humphrey said we need to prioritize and pay down the debt.

Melone observed that the economy may go south again so we shouldn't pay ahead when it would go away anyhow.

Genis said we have new ordinances but are not enforcing them.  She also expressed disappointment that we didn't look at what other cities had done - Orange, specifically.

Stephens said we should be going after the bad operators and put more resources behind enforcement of our laws.

Melone suggested that we do what Newport Beach did - spend millions in legal fees to make sober living operators aware they are not welcome in that city. (He didn't include in his response that those Newport Beach operators just came across the border to Newport Beach).

Humhprey also stressed enforcement and cited group homes on Royal Palm that were problematic.

Melone said we should be extremely grateful for South Coast Plaza, but that the current council doesn't know how to spend our money.

Stephens said the key is tourism.  We should do as councilwoman Katrina Foley has been trying to do for a couple years and ramp-up our emphasis on tourism, generating more Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT).

Genis mentioned the Sales Tax generated by South Coast Plaza and the car dealerships, but emphasized the need to do a better job of strengthening our reserves - save, don't spend.

Humphrey said he thinks we have a balanced economy, but we've not done a good job of building back our reserves in the event of another economic downturn.  Put more money away for a rainy day.
Humphrey said the people need to be able to say "enough is enough".  He was concerned about the traffic impacts of the high density housing being built/proposed.  He said we need good planned development.

Genis said the people who live her should have a voice.  She emphasized that those with a vested interest should be heard.

Stephens, who apparently is not 100% sold on the Smart Growth Initiative, said the solution is to elect people in November that will listen to the residents.  He said the initiative wouldn't exist if he and Humphrey had been elected in the past two elections.  He said that, while he understands why the initiative was launched, it's not the best solution.  That solution is to elect a different council majority.

Melone muttered something about there never being enough money to pay for projects.  Geez!

Stephens said make it safer and immediately begin ambulance transport.

Genis said restore respect for residents, employees and tell the truth.  She said the current council majority doesn't respect you enough to tell you the truth.

Humphrey said safety.  Get the Police and Fire Departments back to proper staffing.

Melone said Group Homes, describing them as a plague.

Melone said he didn't have enough information, so he passed on the question.  This is a perfect reason that he should not have been on the ballot.

Humphrey said we spent $1.5 million on the units which should be deployed.  He cited the millions in income the city would receive if we did so.

Genis said we should immediately go to medical transport and get the Fire Department up to staff.

Stephens said it was a no-brainer - we should immediately begin medical transport.

Genis said a "carrot and stick" approach should be used - enforcement and supportive housing.  She said some of the homeless just need a little help.  She refered to the Fairview Developmental Center as a place for transitional housing.

Humphrey agreed with Genis and said there is a City fund to help with transitional housing.

Melone said Genis hit the nail on the head.  We need supportive housing.

Stephens agreed with the others and spoke about the broad spectrum of homeless folks that need help.

Humphrey said Medical Marijuana is important for folks that actually need it.  He said we need to control the process.

Genis agreed that the people who have a valid medical need should have access to it, with proper controls.

Stephens said this is not the right time for Costa Mesa to have dispensaries - that we should wait for the State to get their rules sorted out first.  He cited our current public safety challenges.

Melone agreed with Stephens and said the "medicine" should be dispensed by pharmacies, and with no sales tax.

Genis said healthy reserves; pay down the pension liability; retain Fairview Park as a natural park forever; Expand the SMART program for the youth; balanced growth; development that will actually pay its way and a new animal shelter.

Humphrey said a vibrant, healthy city that knows where it's going.  He wants balanced development, a return of the City of the Arts and protection for all our parks, including Fairview Park.

Melone cited quality of life and an animal shelter.

Stephens said he wanted to leave behind a different attitude about governance, where people actually listened.  He wants to leave behind after his eight years on the council a atmosphere where people receive thoughtful consideration of their opinions - a place where we are nice to each other and we can build consensus.
Then they began questions from the audience, with a 1 minute time limit on responses.

Humphrey is against it.  It looks like a power grab.

Melone agreed.  He said he didn't know why they wanted it.  It looks like a power grab.

Stephens said he really didn't know enough about it, but is a very satisfied customer of both entities.  He said, "If it's not broke, don't fix it".  He said it appeared that Mesa Water is trying to jam this through, and that there should be more meetings.  He said it should not be on the ballot.

Genis recalled that 30 or so years ago both entities had offices at City Hall and there was talk of the City taking both over, but it was rejected.  She said each has different missions.  She said it looks like one agency trying to glom onto another agency's revenue.

Melone said bring more fairness and participation by residents.

Stephens said, with a smile,  "Costa Mesans and Mexican Food".  He looked at the audience and said "YOU are the best part of Costa Mesa!"

Genis said "The people of Costa Mesa", citing ethnic diversity.  She said our differences make life interesting and that we're in this together for the long haul.

Humphrey said the city's diversity - that we learn from each other.  He said Fairview Park, a jewel that should be protected.  He also mentioned Talbert Park, which may someday become part of Fairview Park.
Stephens said keep Fairview Park natural forever and save Banning Ranch.

Genis acknowledged Dr. Richard Mehren - the father of Fairview Park - in the audience and said she was the only elected official to speak in Long Beach against the development of Banning Ranch.

Humphrey said keep Fairview Park natural.  He said Banning Ranch should not be developed, but should be cleaned up by the owners.

Melone said "Once again they stole my thunder."

Genis said we do have some motels that cause problems.  She spoke about one that became a Single Room Occupancy facility to meet affordable housing demands.

Humphrey said we should enforce our codes against the bad actors.  He referred to the recent conversion of a problem motel into the BLVD Hotel on Newport Boulevard.  He said the solution should be what is best for Costa Mesa, not developers.

Melone said he didn't think his Mesa Verde neighbors think there is a problem with those two motels.  He said we need a Vice Squad, trained to control prostitution.  He said the "motel thing" is a "diversion" from other issues.

Stephens said flat out that the motel issue is more of a land grab, to facilitate more High Density housing.  He agreed that we need more police and a Vice Squad, but we also need some of the motels that serve as last resort housing for folks who would otherwise be homeless.

Humphrey said NO!  It would dilute the Latino vote.

Melone said NO!  He's against the whole idea of it, but if forced, we should use one of the 5 district choices.

Stephens said district voting IS going to happen and said 5 districts may be the way to go.  Districting is not the best way to place Latinos on the council, but that they do deserve a voice.  He's against the 6 district and directly elected mayor choice that's on the ballot.

Genis said NO!  She prefers a 5 district choice.  She said the current item on the ballot will only exacerbate the current abuse of power we see in the city.

Melone asked "what potholes?".  He said our streets are nice, and reminded us we have no snow, ice or sleet.

Stephens said our streets are much better than where he grew up in San Gabriel.  He said he can live forever without the medians in Mesa Verde and elsewhere.

Genis cited a couple problem areas that need targeted repairs.

Humphrey said we need to prioritize our street repairs and that we're spending too much on medians that are not needed or wanted.

Stephens said perhaps we should lower the threshhold for permit parking in residential neighborhoods.  Much of this problem is due to high density housing nearby.

Genis blamed it on high density housing and Small Lot Developments that replace one home with six or more and provide inadequate guest parking.  She said we need more enforcement.

Humphrey cited apartment complexes that lease out garage space as a problem.

Melone said permit parking should be expanded and that if we solve the high density housing issue this problem goes away.

Genis said ZERO tolerance to violators, and increase staffing levels of the Police and Fire Departments.

Humphrey agreed, ZERO tolerance and penalize to the maximum allowed.

Melone said in his neighborhood some folks spend $1,500 - $2,000 for fireworks and received only a $150 fine.  Increase the penalties.

Stephens said first limit use of fireworks to ONLY July 4th.  He said hire undercover cops to infiltrate neighborhoods and cite offenders.  Double the fines.  And, he said every dollar in fines collected should go to youth sports.  That would increase the possibility of snitches turning in folks for illegal fireworks.

Next came a raise of hands - who supports the Smart Growth Initiative?  All raised their hands except Stephens, who asked if he could raise it half way.  He's not convinced it's the best way to solve the problem.  He suggested changing the council instead.

The final question - HOW DO WE REUNITE THIS CITY? 
Stephens said change our attitude about governing the city.  Listen to the people, not developers.

Melone said new blood on the council, including Latinos.

Humphrey said the public is not being heard.

Genis echoed that sentiment and cited recent programs - like the Great Outreach for the General Plan or the voting districts workshops, where resident input was ignored.  She suggested NO private meetings to resolve problems - they should be fleshed out in public.

Stephens said he was born in 1963 and was named after John F. Kennedy.  He quoted Kennedy, "

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin."

Melone spoke about South Coast Plaza and quality of life.

 Humphrey told us he has the skills to do the job and asked for their votes.

 Genis said she's tired of being on the "2" side of 3-2 votes, but she's still been able to accomplish some things.  She asked the audience to elect her and others on the dais so we can have a really productive community.

Hornbuckle closed by apologizing that all the candidates were not present, but that she had personally reached out to each of those absent.  Places had been set at the table, just in case they changed their minds.

From my standpoint, this event went very well.  Of course, there were no voices of discord.  In fact, there were very few folks in the audience that I would describe as avid Mensinger, Mansoor, Ramos supporters.  I think, though, that those of who did attend got a better idea of the priorities of the candidates who attended.  Thanks to the good folks of Mesa Verde Community, Inc for hosting this event, and to the very special presence of Mary Hornbuckle - the high water mark for a public servant.  She presently serves as Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Coast Community College District and will, herself, be on the ballot for re-election in November.

To the best of my knowledge, the next candidate forum will be held by my friends at the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group on October 6, 2016.

As a sidebar, when Eleanor Egan arrived before the formal program began she was greeted with a round of applause by many in the room and presented with a bouquet of gratitude for her tirelessness in the pursuit of truth on the rebuttal issue mentioned in an earlier post.  Again, kudos to her and her persistence in standing up to bullies and liars on our behalf.