Friday, August 19, 2016

Spirited Discussions Marked Costa Mesa Feet To The Fire Forum

Well, we could almost guarantee that the Costa Mesa Feet To The Fire Forum last night - the 11th in the series so far - would be just a little more spirited than the Newport Beach event the evening before.  It was.  And, it played to a crowd much larger than Wednesday night's gathering.  Last night I'm estimating the number of people in the audience to be around 175 or so.  Once again the heavy lifting on the reporting was done by another of those bright, young reporters from the Daily Pilot. Luke Money covered the event for the Daily Pilot.  You can read his article HERE
The actual forum was preceded by a "meet and greet" opportunity outside the auditorium.  Here are a few random images from that hour-long opportunity to gather literature and schmooze with would-be politicians and others.
 (Daily Pilot reporter Luke Money surveys the crowd)
 (Mansoor and daughter surrounded by CMPSrs)
 (Barry Friedland taping an interview)
 (Legendary Mary Hornbuckle - moderator of next weeks Mesa Verde forum - chats with a Mensinger supporter)
 (Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who never met a camera he didn't like, is interviewed for Costa Mesa Brief)
(Steve Mensinger chats with Costa Mesa Public Square Queen Julie Mercurio)
(Alex Reich, candidate for a seat on the Mesa Water District Board, oversees signatures)
(Jim Fitzpatrick, would-be pot czar in Costa Mesa, attended with other CMPSrs)
Again, Barbara Venezia and her co-moderator, Tom Johnson, did a good job of keeping the questions and answers moving.  Prior to the actual taping of the event Venezia laid down the ground rules - clapping and cheering was OK but shouting-out and interrupting the program was not.  And, she reminded us that OCC had security on hand to escort unruly audience members out of the venue if necessary.  I smiled.
The panel of candidates included Jay Humphrey, John Stephens, Sandy Genis, Lee Ramos, Allan Mansoor and Steve Mensinger.  I list them in that order since that's how they appeard on stage.  However, as it turned out, there was a natural adverserial relationship established early-on, pitting the first three against the other three.  Money didn't talk about that.  Oh, yes.. candidate Al Melone - the Dog Park guy - was invited to participate but opted out.  Instead, he sat near the back of the auditorium and watched with the rest of us.  It's a shame he chose to run again - votes have proven to be precious in the past two elections and his mere presence on the ballot will suck up a few.  Not many, but a few.
And, the mix of fans in the audience was interesting.  Early in the forum Humphrey, Stephens and Genis seemed to evoke the most enthusiastic response from the audience.  Ramos, Mansoor and Mensinger certainly received applause from the crowd, but it wasn't as loud.  Later that faction ramped it up and, while their numbers seemed smaller, they made much more noise.  It was fun.  At one point, as the crowd cheered and clapped a response not favorable to his position, Mensinger remarked that it was just like a council meeting.  He doesn't like criticizm.

As mentioned in Money's article, the range of issues discussed was broad, and they evoked some interesting reactions.  Mensinger, Mansoor and Ramos each chose to attack Genis and Humphrey on issues, trying to tie their former tenure on the council to decisions made that they said were problems.  Ramos was so ham-handed that he couldn't pull it off.  None of the attacks were successful.
Mensinger interrupted  Genis a couple times - just as he does on the dais.  She had to remind him he "was not the mayor" on the stage.  I smiled.  He just can't help himself.  As others have said, Donald Trump's presence in the political arena seems to have coarsened political discourse, even down here at the local level.
Some general impressions... Ramos just didn't seem to have it figured out.  His comments and answers to questions seemed lethargic and his points seemed almost irrelevant to the issues.
Mansoor apparently continues with his characteristic of getting one issue locked in his skull and attempts to tie everything else back to it.  Last night it was "motels".  Apparently, in his mind, there is no problem in the city that is not tied to motels.  He has not gotten any smarter since he last served on the council - except that he married a lovely woman who has given him two beautiful children, all of whom were in attendance last night.  It's going to be very interesting to see how he campaigns this time around.  From what I saw, he's tightly locked-in with the Costa Mesa Public Square mob, so we will see how that plays out.
Mensinger was just - how did his wife put it when he was first sworn-in? - "Just Steve being Steve".  He reminded us that, under the current regime, more than 60 miles of roads have been paved, lots of curbs and gutters have been replaced and alleys renovated.  When the discussion turned to police staffing, and the relationship with the police association, he came unglued.  He angrily denounced Humphrey for his criticizm of the lawsuit Mensinger and his pal, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer (who was in the audience) filed against the police association.  It was a low spot in the program.
Humphrey was steady with his responses and responded respectfully.

Genis continues to demonstrate why she's such a strong, positive, intelligent force on the council.

Stephens probably looked the best of any of the candidates.  His experience as a lawyer has prepared him for the jousting.  He knows how to negotiate and would be a very valuable presence on the dais.
During the discussion Ramos made the unfortunate reference to "your union pals" to Stephens.  He then did a backward tap dance, trying to extricate himself from that mess... not very effectively.
Issues discussed included the Smart Growth Initiative; Banning Ranch; marijuana; Prop. 57, the latest boneheaded plan coming out of Sacramento to put more convicted criminals back on the streets; Public Safety staffing; Staffing in general; Unfunded Pension Liability; rehab homes; ending daylight savings time.
I'm not going to try to regurgitate every word spoken in the 100 minutes of the meeting.  You'll be able to watch (and hear) it in context yourselves when Newport Beach Television finishes the production and provides it to Venezia for placement on YouTube and on her site,  And, KOCI, 101.5 FM will be broadcasting the audio feed soon.  When the specifics of the video and audio products are available I'll post about them.  And, Barry Friedland of Costa Mesa Brief was at the event and, I suspect, will produce his version for public consumption within the next day or so at his Costa Mesa Brief YouTube channel.  You will recall that earlier this year Costa Mesa Television was forbidden to cover any of the candidate forums, even though it has a long tradition of doing them, and doing them very well.  I guess Mensinger and Righeimer didn't want stupidity and falsehoods archived in city records for posterity.
During the discussion of police staffing Mensinger told us that we should be back up to authorized strength - either 136 or 140, depending on which number you want to believe - in "6 months to a year".  Well, right now they're down to just over 100 and, as Genis reminded us, even if we COULD hire 40 more cops quickly from the academies, we don't have enough training officers to manage that influx.  Mensinger was just blowing smoke.
Similarly, when talking about the staff shrinkage since he's been on the council - it's gone from around 605 employees to 440 - he said, "we didn't lay off a single person".  He conveniently forgot that as soon as he joined the council, he, Righeimer and Gary Monahan decided to lay off over 200 "miscellaneous" employees - and that fiasco resulted in a lawsuit and the death of Huy Pham, a young maintanence worker who leaped to his death from the City Hall roof.
Before the meeting Mensinger sought me out to inquire about my health, so we chatted a little.  He told me he's not attending the remaining two other scheduled candidate forums - next week with the Mesa Verde, Inc. organization and in October with the Eastside Neighbors group.  He cited a schedule conflict with the first and just said flat out that he won't go the Eastside event.  Instead, he plans to have a series of "coffees" to spread his message - including one right across the street from my house.  Well, that brightened up my day.  Maybe I can get the valet parking concession for all the Ferraris and Maseratis driven by his developer-buddies that will show up.
Later I was told that neither Mensinger, Mansoor nor Ramos will attend the remaining forums.  If that's the case, what does that tell the voters of this city?  Are these men afraid to face voters and answer questions about their policies and plans?  If so, why?  If true, it sure does reek of political cowardice. I hope they change their minds.  The voters deserve to learn more about them and their views in a public forum.  I've heard a rumor about a proposed Costa Mesa Public Square forum, but it's only that - a rumor.  I'm not on their mailing list.
So, off we go as the campaign season is officially launched.  We have seven candidates on the ballot and eight initiatives to sort out, too.  And, that doesn't count the bogus "advisory" measure the Mesa Water District is placing on the ballot to test the communities feeling about their proposed hostile takeover of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District nor the state-wide recreational marijuana issue.  Yikes!


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Blogger Honeyman said...

Excellent recap, Geoff. Like you, I thought John Stephens was excellent. He showed a great grasp of what we need on the council.

Very disappointed, but not surprised the 3 Riggy lickers wont have the character or respect for the city to show up at the other forums. Then again, Ramos barely was there last night. I swear, he makes Ryan Lochte look like a brain surgeon.

8/19/2016 05:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

To: Costa Mesa Candidate Puppets
From: Your Masters in Newport
Re: Campaign

No more public talking unless you are in the home of a comrade. You will leave your phone on 24/7 in case the little dicktator has new orders for you.

Stevie will try to make new friends who are not named Julie in order to show diversity.

Ramos will carry No Doz or a cup of coffee with him at all times to try and stay awake during daylight hours.

Boy Allan will buy a Mexican flag for his apartment window and delete Minuteman Jim Gilchrist as a Facebook friend.

8/19/2016 06:08:00 AM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

I think Menninger and Genis are locks, and it's going to be a battle for that third spot.

Stephens impressed me a lot.

Ramos - hello? Can he answer an actual question?

I was very happy to see the crowd behaved itself this year. That's progress. Last year was a mess.

8/19/2016 06:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Xyn Bohemia said...

Thank you so much Geoff for covering this important event. I really appreciate the "coming attractions" to watch for in the taped version. It looks like there was a great turnout and that Jay, Sandy and John did very well as expected. I too am saddened by the "trump effect" on the community. But i love your behind the scenes viewpoint, and the fact that you are so prompt with your blog are invaluable to me!

8/19/2016 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Mensinger had a very sour look on his face through most of the event. It was clear even to him he did not do well. Sadly, yes, it is Steve being Steve. He does like to be the center of attention, for sure. Last night his lies were quite evident and he got called out on it quite a few times. Good to know Sandy, John and Jay are on their toes.

Mansoor was indeed a sheriff department employee. He worked in the jail for many, many years and couldn't advance beyond that. That is really odd in itself. He did spend 2 month on patrol, where he was fired. He did nothing whatsoever in Sacramento, and got fired from his last job promoting (?) box lunches.

i had to laugh when one woman yelled from the audience, "Go back to sleep, Lee", which was sadly appropriate. Couldn't figure out what he was trying to say or if he even knew.

Last night was a great event, and also a poignant moment to see where the light in this city really shines. Sandy, Jay and John were heads above the others. I did note that the comments and answers from Sandy, John and Jay were city/resident oriented, whereas it seemed the responses and concerns from Mansoor and Mensinger were self-serving. They attempted to make points by attacking the others. Barbara caught Mansoor attempting to blame "previous councils", and asked him, "Uh..weren't you the previous council"? Classic.

Its a shame more in the city didn't show up for this event. It is a real eye opener into the real people running.

8/19/2016 08:06:00 AM  
Anonymous who are you kidding? said...

What the. H E doubly hickey sticks? I can't understand why the Ells candidates are afraid to go to all forums. Do they have something to fear facts or the truth? This tells me NONE of them gave what it takes to face adversity, not what I want in a council member. Cowards need not apply! So Mensinger is missing his own assiciation forum, really telling Mr. Mayor.....

8/19/2016 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Can Mensy even function as a "leader" when Riggy isn't directly overhead working the strings? If not, why wasn't Jimbo allowed into the rafters to make Steve's mouth move more in synch with the soundtrack?

More incompetence from Team High Density Higher Crime Rate.

8/19/2016 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger sasper said...

Geoff alone are responsible for me knowing anything about Costa Mesa very interesting politics. Thank you, Sandy Asper

8/19/2016 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

No doze for Ramos! That needs to be his campaign slogan! I tried to interpret his attack on Jay about an initiative that was somehow connected to a lawsuit involving Monahan, but despite speaking five languages, I still couldn’t translate it into anything understandable.

Mensinger is a bully and a liar. He has the mentality of a vulture. He didn’t like the fact that Jay brought up the fact that Steve’s decision to sue the CMPOA made it impossible for him to do his job. So then he lies about what Jay said about the tracking device attached to the car by the PI.

This tactic of complaining about the side effects of holding public office is old and ineffective. Before anyone runs, they need to have a sit down with the family and tell them it will be messy and ugly. If Steve and Riggy don’t like what they got themselves into, then they need to get out. It is that simple. Blaming Jay for Steve's decision is juvenile and speaks volumes about Steve’s character.

Mansoor reminds me of some really ugly days in Costa Mesa history. I also view him as the gateway drug that brought us Righeimer and Mensinger. We need to just say no.

8/19/2016 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you, Geoff for the great writeup.
Once again, those who discuss city issues and
stick to the facts are Genis, Humphrey and Stevens.
It's very telling that the Mensheimer camp three will
not be attending the next two candidate forums.
They are afraid of the questions they face at these
What does that tell you?
They are limited in their understanding of city
issues, much less providing solutions for problems.
If they can't face two candidate forums, what are they
doing running for CM City Council?
We need leaders on our council dais, not cowards.
Thanks again, Geoff.
It's great to see you back.

8/19/2016 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Afterward, Mensinger came up to me and asked me if I'd been shooting lately. I responded that I have a firm policy not to talk about that, at all, with people who sic policemen on me for exercising my first amendment rights, whether in public or private. He responded that it wasn't he. I said, "then tell me who it was, buddy."
He said "Don't call me buddy." Then he turned sideways and repeated five times, "Stay away from me." With emphasis. I don't know whether to expect a restraining order or not.

This is passing strange, as he shook my hand before the forum... Passing strange.

If we read the affidavit for his suit against our police, we find that he admits to being more than a little deranged. I was particularly amused by his outspoken contention that those who bugged his car are going to be criminally tried in the next thirty days. I predict it won't happen before 11-1/2 weeks -- a day or two beyond the election.

8/19/2016 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

There was considerably more applause for John, Jay and Sandy - It sounded like 3/4 or 2/3 at least. That kind of surprised me, I thought it would be more even. Steve must have noticed it too because another surprise was when he said in a dismissive way the audience was the same people who attend council meetings. Two thirds or more of the attendees dismissed with that disparaging remark. I wish that many people showed up for council meetings! His whole crew attacked at least one of the other candidates at some point. That too was weird, because everyone is giving lip service to more civility.

8/19/2016 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Robin, guess what? The people who attended the meeting last night were part those who attend council meetings, those who watch on tv, and ALL of them residents. His buddies were included in that also. I've seen most of them at council meetings.

Kwalf, what that tells me is that he (and Righeimer) are fine when they are the bully on the dais, but when they have to face someone with truth and facts, they cannot stand to face it. Bullies are generally cowards, with big mouths. I throughly expect the next forums to be fantastic outreach for Jay, Sandy and John.

Robin, I did notice that also. Ramos made a point of saying that he wanted more civility and then proceeded to attack the candidates. I guess he forgot that he said that.

8/19/2016 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Pot Stirrer: Your reference to a Donald Trump effect is right on:

“Mensinger interrupted Genis a couple times - just as he does on the dais. She had to remind him he "was not the mayor" on the stage. I smiled. He just can't help himself. As others have said, Donald Trump's presence in the political arena seems to have coarsened political discourse, even down here at the local level.”

I’ve had more than enough, thank you very much, of Trump’s perhaps greatest strength, his skill at insulting his opponents. Clearly, Mensinger, Mansoor and Ramos indulged in this unsavory practice last night.

It’s a practice unprecedented in the decades of Costa Mesa campaigns I’ve followed. Until this year, Costa Mesa candidates publicly respected (or at least appeared to respect) their opponents. Voters were spared the specter of the kind of gutter politics that surfaced last night.

Did M, M and R put down each other? No. Did they try to put down only Humphrey, Stephens, and Genis? Yes. A coincidence? Not likely.

Could it be because Mensinger’s campaign consultant-and apparent covert advisor to Mansoor and Ramos-is Dave Ellis? Ellis is the Newport Beacher with a reputation in Newport Beach politics for no-holds-barred “dirty tricks.” Ellis’s thumbprints appeared to be all over M, M and R’s tactics in the forum.

And, lest my opinion about Ellis’s impact seems unduly affected by their performance last night, I’ll point out that M, M and R are reportedly refusing to participate in the other forums this season. This refusal is another tactic used solely by Ellis in Newport Beach. Last election, for example, his 4-person “Team Newport” refused to participate in forums.

Perhaps Ellis is just taking into account the qualities of his charges. Maybe he counsels them with Mark Twain’s advice, “It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” M, M and R’s already spotty reputations would not have been further damaged had they followed that advice last night.

By indulging in Trump/Ellis tactics, Team Mensinger, Mansoor and Ramos aren’t acting like true Costa Mesans. This is a very sad aspect of an otherwise outstanding forum.

8/19/2016 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Tom, Dave Ellis wouldn't let his leashed pets show up at the Newport Beach Feet to the Fire either. I think they suffered for it, as will M, M & R at the next one.

Oh well, his circus, his monkeys.

8/19/2016 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/20/2016 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Duplicate post – correction of typos.
I went to the Feet To The Fire Forum. Time well spent. I was braced for cat-calling from the audience, which was a problem in earlier FTTF's. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the audience was mature and civil, although spirited.

I am really disappointed that the Mayor has declined to show-up for the Mesa Verde Community, Inc. forum. As I recall, that forum allowed written/vetted questions from the audience. There is a question that I don't think anyone in the media has posed, and I'd love to get this question out there:

The Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp have been pressing a lawsuit for two years and counting against the Costa Mesa Police Officers' Association, the Association's former law firm, and private investigators hired by that law firm. Lawsuits that drag-on this long and have so many moving parts can't be cheap.

Are the Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp paying all of the legal costs out of their own pockets, or are they getting financial help from other individuals or organizations? Or, are their attorneys working Pro Bono?

The answer to this question would be very telling.

If the Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp are spending their own money to right personal wrongs that were perpetrated against them, I'm with them 100%.

If the money to press this lawsuit is coming from other individuals or organizations with political axes to grind, I would look upon the lawsuit as a craven political ploy.

8/20/2016 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Jon R. - we were told that the city would not be paying for it. We have not heard who is paying for it. This lawsuit is a ploy to drain the coffers of the police association. I do believe it is being paid for by the OCGOP, but I doubt we'll ever get the true story.

The DG path incident was Steve's idea and Steve should be responsible for that. However, the city is paying for Steve's defense. They always find a way, don't they?

8/21/2016 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous breaking bad said...

Allan Mansoor's Immigration plan, de Arakal called it "An Ethnic Train Wreck". Some of the commenters on the Voice page who belong to CMPS page seem to be misrepresenting Mansoor's plan. I think Julie Fowler needs to educate herself on what really happened and on Mansoor's plan. She also needs to stop making false and misleading comments. Especially since she attacks others for misleading and misrepresenting comments. Mansoor's plan was not the Ice Agent in our jails but to train on duty Police to have Ice agent powers. That is so different and was stated by Mr. de Arakal to be an impending "Ethnic Train Wreck". Also note his comments about Fairview Park and the chamber lizards.

Costa Mesa Unplugged:
Local things for which I'm thankful
November 22, 2007|By BYRON DE ARAKAL

I’m thankful for the Costa Mesa City Council, who saw it smart to leave well enough alone at Fairview Park. Preserving the natural landscape of the park and respecting the Fairview Park Master Plan in its current form assures — for the moment, at least — that the city values one of the best open-space treasures in Orange County.

I’m thankful for the Costa Mesa Fish Fry, a flickering tradition that extends back in time before the city’s incorporation. It’s good to see that folks are still willing to strap it up and go to war to save this important event.

I’m thankful for Jim Hayes and his regional Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, who had the strategic savvy to place an ICE agent in Costa Mesa’s jail about a year ago. The move has proven potent in flagging alleged immigration violators, and it has defused the ethnic train wreck this city was girding for under Mayor Allan Mansoor’s game plan to federalize police with ICE authority.

I’m thankful for the chamber lizards at Costa Mesa City Hall. These are city residents who, out of care for this city or the lacking of a life, are fixtures at City Council meetings. They keep our elected officials and staff on their toes, which in public service is where they should be.

Finally, I’m thankful for the proliferation of blogs that observe the Costa Mesa machinery. From The Bubbling Cauldron and the CM Press to Goat Hill Harper and the CM Watchtower, it’s nice to see alternative media charting Costa Mesa’s progress.

Happy Thanksgiving.

BYRON DE ARAKAL is a former Costa Mesa parks and recreation commissioner. Readers can reach him at

8/21/2016 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Smokey said...

Thank you for reprinting Byron De Arakal's comments from 2007. Worth remembering his thoughts at the time.
Always good to know of the many blogs in our community. I had no idea!
Who needs a "public square" when we have "Open Mikes," so to speak.
Public Forums, though, are much different. Don't miss all opportunities to respond to candidates' transparencies. You're allowed to dismiss the missing. Then, VOTE!

8/22/2016 05:21:00 PM  

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