Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Lies and Deceit - The Worst Campaign Season - EVER!

With just a week to go the campaign season, both locally and nationally, has taken on a fever pitch pace, with each day producing some new element for the voters to consider.  I'm not going to address the national campaign here - I cannot do a thing to influence the outcome.  All California's electoral college votes will go to Hillary Clinton unless she's tossed in the pokey before November 8th - and even then it might not be in time.  So, we'll talk a little about our local race...
I've lived in Costa Mesa for 43 years and confess that I coasted through the election cycles for most of that time, doing what most people do - trusting that the folks we elect will do what's right for us.  Most of us just look for a familiar name - one that's not accused of being an axe murderer - and mark our ballot beside it.  Then, a little more than a dozen years ago, I began paying attention, then began writing about local politics and I can tell you with absolute certainty that there has not been a more contentious, nasty campaign season than this one.
This season has two clearly defined factions competing for the three council seats available.  Most observers expect the two incumbents, Mayor Steve Mensinger and Councilwoman Sandy Genis, to retain their seats.  That leaves four - five if you count Al Melone, who really has no chance - competing for the vacancy created by the departure of lame duck Gary Monahan.  On the Mensinger side of the equation you have former councilman and mayor Allan Mansoor and long time resident and multiple-time also-ran candidate, Lee Ramos.  On the Genis side you have long time activist and former councilman Jay Humphrey - who lost to Righeimer two years ago by 47 votes - and former candidate lawyer John Stephens - who lost to Monahan four years ago by 155 votes.
From the very get-go in this campaign it became clear that the big money was coming from developer interests supporting the Mensinger trio and against initiatives placed on the ballot by residents.  Much of the funding for the Genis side apparently has come from local public safety organizations - primarily the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association.  I was not surprised about either situation.
We have seen flyer after flyer arrive in our mailboxes with very negative, lie-filled messages about Stephens and Humphrey and the other issues - funded by outside sources.  Virtually all the negative campaigning has come from the Mensinger side.  For the most part the Genis side has produced very positive, message-driven flyers.
For example, in the early days of the campaign a large flyer appeared that blatantly lied about Measure Y, the Smart Growth Initiative.  It said the initiative was supported by developers - which could not be further from the truth.

Measure Y was generated by gathering more than 7,000 voters signatures to place it on the ballot.  Rather than simply let the voters decide the issue the council majority placed a competing measure on the ballot to confuse the voters - a typical move by them.
Measure AA was similarly placed on the ballot by collecting enough voters signatures.  This issue, the protection of Fairview Park from what has clearly been an attempt to develop at least part of it into playing fields, was very clear.  However, the council majority, again, placed another issue on the ballot to confuse the voters instead of just letting them vote AA up or down.
There were two Medical Marijuana measures that qualified for the ballot via the initiative process, one for up to 4 dispensaries and the other for up to 8.  Rather than trust the voters to make their views known the council again placed a competing issue on the ballot, Measure X, which has NOTHING in common with the other two.  Again, they don't trust the voters.
When a lawsuit forced us to consider a method of creating district voting in The City - electing council members by district instead of at-large - Righeimer hijacked the process, coerced the demographer to create a 6-district PLUS directly-elected mayor option.  None of the residents who attended the meetings on this issue expressed interest in that option, yet Righeimer demanded that it be the City choice and the majority placed it on the ballot - once again ignoring the wishes of the public.
Mansoor has been debunked as a liar when he denied voting for the 3@50 contract during his tour on the council.  Not only did he vote for it, he actually moved the motion!  And, of course, he was the most devisive councilmember we've seen in decades, aligning himself with right-wing extremist groups and costing us thousands of dollars in the Benito Acosta debacle.  His Assembly tour was marked by nearly zero accomplishment.
Ramos has also been branded as a liar by Judge Dunning for his part in the now-infamous ballot rebuttal argument for Measure Y, along with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and three other signatories.
Last week an image of Mensinger flanked by Costa Mesa Police Chief Rob Sharpnack and Fire Chief Dan Stefano was posted on the Internet on the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Facebook site.  Long time Mensinger/Righeimer sycophant Jim Fitzpatrick - who is running for a seat on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board again - confessed to the local media that he was responsible for the photoshopped image that included campaign references appearing, but said he took it down and does not know who produced the doctored image.  The City generated an immediate response on the City web site decrying the image and criticizing those responsible, HERE.
Fitzpatrick has recently been openly posting virulent critical comments about the Costa Mesa Fire Fighters and Police Officers - often getting into nasty exchanges with members of each group and spewing the party line about over-paid, greedy firefighters wanting a council they can control.  For a man running for office to behave in that manner is unbelievable and, especially when combined with his terrible judgment on the above-mentioned image issue, certainly brings into question his judgment and his qualifications for any public office.  You may recall that he resigned from two offices - the CMSD seat and as Chairman of the Planning Commission because he violated the rules about simultaneously holding those two positions.
The campaign being conducted by the Mensinger, Mansoor, Ramos side - MMR - has been laced with lies and misrepresentations - probably because their chief strategist is the notorious Dave Ellis, a political king-maker known to play fast and loose with the rules.
Mensinger oversaw a council majority that has ignored the public in most important issues.  For example, during the meetings over the past few years dealing with the update of the City's General Plan the predominant message from the public was "no high density housing".  That message was summarily ignored and the General Plan update includes onerous plans for several areas of high density housing.
When developers complained to their friends on the council about the problems they were having getting small housing developments approved because they all required deviations and variances to our codes the council and their Planning Commission promptly cobbled together the much-ballyhooed Small Lot Ordinance, which basically codified all those nasty deviations and variances to the codes that had been designed to protect the character of our neighborhoods and made it a breeze for the developers to run roughshod on our neighborhoods.
In a City that is mostly built-out there are few opportunities for any sizable developments, so all of a sudden the council majority discovered "problem motels" - a dozen or so long-time establishments that looked like juicy pickin's for developers except for the fact that the owners of those places had what Righeimer described as "unrealistic ideas of their value".  So, incredibly, he told us all from the dais that he and his council majority were going to do everything they could to make those owners see the light and have a different view of their properties' value.  To do that they created a completely new Code Enforcement organization aimed specifically at those properties and, combined with more frequent visits by fire and police teams, began to squeeze the motel owners until they cried "uncle" - and some decided to sell.  The plan, of course, was to replace those "problem" properties with high density housing - exactly what the residents DO NOT want.
They have now created a General Plan that will permit high density housing in many areas of the city and have codified Overlay Zones that carve out small businesses and potentially replace them with high density housing.  And, of course, we are seeing the results of their handiwork all over the Westside as three-story units with rooftop decks sprout up like mushrooms adding more people, more traffic and creating more demand for water, sewer and trash services.
Righeimer and Mensinger don't like criticism, so they shifted the agenda at council meetings to impede public commentors by restricting the comments segment to a specific time and all remaining comments would be trailed to the very end of the meetings - sometimes six hours later!  And, they exacerbated that infringement on free speech by frequently interrupting speakers, disrupting their thoughts.  And, of course, they used their bully pulpit - that word seems perfectly appropriate - to chide speakers who had no opportunity for rebuttal.
Similarly, the Consent Calendar under their watch has grown significantly.  It is supposed to be made up of routine items that can normally be voted upon without discussion in one vote.  However, as time passed more and more controversial items appeared on the Consent Calendar, so members of the public would "pull them" for separate discussion and vote.  That irritated Righeimer and Mensinger, so they changed the rules again - all items pulled for separate discussion would be trailed to the end of the meeting.  That effectively quashed public concerns about important issues because, again, those meetings often ran well past midnight so the folks who had pulled them had left.
All of this was happening when Mensinger and Righeimer controlled the council because they had the willing accomplice in the form of Gary Monahan,  a lame duck who has stayed way, way too long at the dance.  He was a guaranteed third vote on nearly every issue, so there was not even a pretense of discussions on most.
On that issue, they also abandoned Study Sessions - opportunities for casual discussions of upcoming important issues where staff and council members could meet in public to vet issues and flesh out conflicts or complications.  Since there was a guaranteed majority vote the Righeimer/Mensinger majority simply abandoned the Study Sessions - no need to "study" anything when they already knew how they were going to vote.
The most egregious acts by this council majority revolved around their treatment of the City employees.  Right after they took power in 2011 they immediately issued illegal layoff notices to more than 200 employees, which caused such turmoil and angst among the staff that one young man, Huy Pham, actually took his own life by jumping off City Hall roof.  After significant legal action costing hundreds of thousands of dollars those layoff notices were found to, indeed, be illegal and were rescinded, but much of the damage was done and the intent of this council majority was clear - dump as many employees as they could to avoid incurring more pension liabilities.
Such a toxic atmosphere was created toward the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department that dozens departed - either through early retirement or lateral transfers to other departments - leaving a tremendous experience/leadership vacuum.  This was compounded by the imposition of a hiring freeze, which put the City well behind the curve in re-staffing once it was lifted.  And that was coupled with an arbitrary and unrealistic staffing edict that reduced the authorized head-count by more than 20%.  The result was the elimination of specialty units like Narcotics, K-9 and the world-renowned A.B.L.E. helicopter program - the model for municipal helicopter programs throughout the country.
And, the atmosphere was so toxic that Interim Chief Steve Staveley - a legendary law enforcement leader who served in that role twice while permanent chiefs were sought - resigned in disgust leaving behind a scathing indictment of the current city leadership.  His exact words were, "They are, in my opinion, incompetent, unskilled and unethical".And, he was correct.  The current council majority has demonstrated an incredible ignorance of municipal management, particularly of public safety organizations.  If you want an idea of what it was like here in 2011, I did a little reprise of it earlier this year, HERE.
They have ignored the firefighters expired contract for two years and have refused to properly staff that organization and to deploy $1.6 million worth of rescue ambulances that could generate well in excess of $2 million in annual revenues to the City.  They ignored the re-organization model proposed by Interim Chief Tom Arnold which was fine-tuned by current chief Dan Stefano to protect a campaign contributor's ambulance contract to the detriment of the members of our community.
This majority has put pothole repair ahead of public safety, crowing about all the miles of streets they've paved and alleys they've re-surfaced.  In the meantime, we have insufficient staff in both public safety organizations to do the job right unless unreasonable overtime is required.  Last year many firefighters worked in excess of 4,000 hours - nearly two full jobs - because the council refuses to properly staff the organization.
This council has created a city that has become an annuity for lawyers.  We spend nearly $200,000 each month on legal fees and our self-insurance fund - from which many lawsuits are settled - has been nearly totally depleted.  In their quest to "run the city like a business" they've apparently found it expedient to simply do things that will generate lawsuits.
And then there's the infamous "Decomposed Granite Path" in Fairview Park to consider.  Mensinger used his influence to coerce city staffers to "improve" a user-defined path through some weeds along a fence near Estancia High School.  The result was a road wide enough that it supported a dual-wheel dump truck used to remove the decomposed granite later when it was discovered and found to encroach in the habitat of the protected San Diego Fairy Shrimp.  The action by the US Fish and Wildlife Service remains pending.
After all this long-winded blather, my point here is that ever since Mensinger and Righeimer took over things have gone downhill in our city.  The only way to get back on track is to change the balance of power on the City Council.  That means electing people who's first instinct is NOT to sell out the city to developers and to give our tax dollars to lawyers, but to protect and maintain it's eclectic nature and return city services to their once-proud stature.  The only way to do that is to elect Sandra Genis, John Stephens and Jay Humphrey next week.
And, to make it especially easy for you, Vote YES on Measure Y and Yes on Measure AA and NO on every other municipal issue, including Mesa Water's Measure TT, the hostile takeover of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District.
And while you're at it, re-elect proven leadership for the Costa Mesa Sanitary District by returning Jim Ferryman and Art Perry to the Board.
And, elect Alex Reich to the Mesa Water District Board replacing Jim Fisler.
And one last thing... be sure you vote NO on Prop. 57!  We cannot afford to have more criminals tossed out onto our streets early.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Fitzy is truly unfit for public office.
Even in this bunch of bootlickers and liars, he stands out as a miserable pile of dog crap. An obnoxious slacker who would sell out his mother for a buck or a beer or some weed.

11/01/2016 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy Lou Who said...

Well said Mr. West. If every registered voters read your blog the election would go exactly as stated above. I don't know what more we could have done to get the word out to voters to get informed and VOTE! This is the most important election certainly in the time that I have lived in Costa Mesa over the last 44 years. It's time for the citizens voices to be heard once again in Costa Mesa.

11/01/2016 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

Am sitting here in my Costa Mesa home (since Nov 1st, 1970) and Shaking My F'n Head! Good grief, Charlie Brown!

11/01/2016 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Judy Lindsay said...

Outstanding article on the recent negative history of our city. Thanks Geoff.

11/01/2016 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

So Jim Fitzpatrick tells the Daily Pilot that he found the image of SM with the Police and Fire Chief on another Facebook page. He posted the photo by accident. So he doesn't know how to go into his browser history? He can't remember a Facebook page that he obviously visits (Due to the nature of the content), less than a day after going through the trouble to download the image? He uploaded the photo by accident, which at a minimum takes two to three steps on Facebook. He didn't check the preview image while authoring the post? Why download the photo? So many questions for the ADA who will be interviewing him soon.

Hope he realizes that a good PD computer forensic specialist will be able to find the "Source" when they serve him with a warrant.

By the way, doubt the DA or PD have time for this nonsense, only my lame duck hope that someone will actually called to task for their actions.

Very poor judgement aside, how is this guy qualified to run anything? Just another in his very long history of "Oops" moments.

11/01/2016 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

People who read this blog have written some wonderful, well thought out letters to the editor which appeared in the Daily Pilot. How about some for the Register, pointing out that their endorsement of MMR (not unexpected) is based on their campaign flyers, not their actions. Jim is not a "budget hawk", but has always voted for budgets where spending outpaced anticipated revenues. He was just lucky that the economy picked up and revenues increased tremendously. He also spent down the insurance fund and postponed pricey expenditures that the council approved so they wouldn't show up until after the election. Lee has no qualifications to speak of, and they forget that Allan voted for 3% at 50 when he was on the council before and accomplished nothing in the legislature.

The Register's endorsement is based on their anti-public employee union stance and nothing more. In another city, they endorsed someone because he was a real estate developer. That's a red flag to me. I'd write a letter myself, but I live in a neighboring city.

11/01/2016 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Chris McEvoy said...


Watch this video of fitzy and I. I'll transcribe his comments about what happened. Here's a taste

'I had witnesses. I also have a video tape of the latest incident. City staff reviewed the video. It was clear to Staff I did nothing won't

Jim "unfitzy for public office" Fitzpatrick

11/01/2016 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous And So it Goes said...

Sound familiar?

THE MALIGNANT PERSONALITY: These people are mentally ill and extremely dangerous! The following precautions will help to protect you from the destructive acts of which they are capable. To recognize them, keep the following guidelines in mind:

(1) They are habitual liars. They seem incapable of either knowing or telling the truth about anything.

(2) They are egotistical to the point of narcissism. They really believe they are set apart from the rest of humanity by some special grace.

(3) They scapegoat; they are incapable of either having the insight or willingness to accept responsibility for anything they do. Whatever the problem, it is always someone else’s fault.

(4) They are remorselessly vindictive when thwarted or exposed.

(5) Genuine religious, moral, or other values play no part in their lives. They have no empathy for others and are capable of violence. Under older psychological terminology, they fall into the category of psychopath or sociopath, but unlike the typical psychopath, their behavior is masked by a superficial social facade.

11/01/2016 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Pot Stirrer:

You've given us a well researched and well written indictment of the malignant bunch that took over Costa Mesa. Their depredations are so wide-spread that it takes this kind of detailed recounting to show the enormity of their anti-resident actions (and non-actions).

Thank you for all your efforts. They are much appreciated!

11/01/2016 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous big boy pants said...

It's complete hypocrisy when you think about. A planning commissioner who is oh so willing to lie, gets to campaign and support those who get to then appoint him and there is nothing wrong there. Sesler is one of the worst people in Costa Mesa. One of the best things about voting in a new majority will be watching these willing liars get the boot. Yes Selser is a liar. His repeating comments attacking John Stephens and saying John will just increase pensions as payback is disgusting and a lie. His comments regarding pensions are often just lies and misrepresentations. Sadly he is/was on the Pension Oversight Committee. You'd think he would know the facts. Well he does and his being on the committee is how we know he just lies. Did you guys know that more than half the appointees to the pension oversight committee had no idea city employees didn't pay into Social Security. They talk about the CalPers retirement for city employees as if it's their supplemental retirement like a 401k. You hear them squawking all the time, let them have a 401k like the private sector. CalPers is their primary retirement just like Social Security is for the private sector.  Yes the formulas are much better for CalPers(because of the investment vehicles) but both are defined benefit plans based on years worked, salary earned etc. and are their primary retirements. These are the people appointed by the current council to deal with the pension issue. Yes we needed reforms to the CalPers system and your Costa Mesa Associations have been at the forefront of reforms before most other entities. Just because the system got out of whack because of the economy and other forces doesn't mean the employees deserved to be vilified with lies by the likes of Sesler and Moorlach.

As far as Moorlach. This is a man who campaigned on pension reforms. Who rails on those who receive it. And yet when you peel the onion John Moorlach has a better defined benefit retirement formula than your general city employees. 2.7% @ 55. But what's even worse is this man could have shown true leadership qualities when elected to the Board of Supervisors and refused the pension and selected a hybrid retirement. But not John Moorlach. Gimme the pension I criticize and run against. John Moorlach actually showed total hypocrisy and a lack of leadership.

11/02/2016 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous zennymoon said...

What more can you say, Geoff hit everything. This sad, commentary of our city in the last 5 years is beyond belief. Speechless is the only word I can grasp....just speechless that these council majority men, are so sleasy, lie so easily and deny.. deny.. deny.. and BTW Mensinger a Republican, who paid to have his name on the DEMOCRATIC slate slate is endorsing YES ON 57, on this flyer, a sad attempt to get votes...please talk to your family, friends and neighbors, this election is ours to win...

11/02/2016 09:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

And So It Goes, one more thing. A good share of them have police records as well as lawsuits hanging over their heads.

11/02/2016 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Didn't Righeimer, last night say that the firemen were going door to door telling people they won't come to their house if they don't support them? That is a blatant lie. Our CMFD is the most professional group of people you will ever meet, bar none. I know for a fact that none of them said that. An incredible blatant lie. Not to mention that no one would know upon receiving a call for help, who these people vote for. STOP THE LIES! VOTE THESE IDIOTS OUT OF OFFICE.

11/02/2016 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Fitzpatrick said, "I never post on Geoff West's blog." - before identification was required.
Fitzpatrick said, "I was never an advocate for marijuana." - at the registrar of voters, when he was filing for sewage.
Fitzpatrick said, "I got it off a facebook page, I can't remember where." - after posting the libelous picture of Mensy with the two chiefs, probably his own work.
Fitzpatrick said... Aw, hell, why continue? The boy ALWAYS lies, even when the truth is inconsequential to his purposes. Even Mensy does once in a while tell a true statement. Even Righeimer does not ALWAYS "misspeak". Sweet Jesus, how did a psychonutjob like this EVER get into ANY kind of politics?

Maybe sewage is where he belongs. He spews it. He should also eat it, drink it, and live in it. But by God, he should not be elected to it -- it's no elective for him.

11/02/2016 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous big boy pants said...

Kathy Esfahani. Good for you. Maybe they didnt like that you didnt illegally involve them in their cheer uniforms like Mensinger did for McCarthy previously.

11/02/2016 07:11:00 PM  

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