Friday, July 15, 2016

Council Meeting Tuesday? Maybe Not...

File under, "Just when you thought it couldn't get any stranger"....

Earlier this week the City of Costa Mesa announced the agenda for a regularly-scheduled City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.  You can read this agenda HERE.  When I looked it over I thought it was quite unusual because there is only Consent Calendar items - no Public Hearings or Old or New Business items.

The Consent Calendar has a Warrant that includes about $2.5 million in checks cut on our behalf, including more than $200,000 in legal costs again.  You know... normal stuff.

And the other items looked to not be time-sensitive, so I found myself thinking, "Why bother?"

Then, today, we received a notice unlike any other I've seen before.  This one, HERE, is a "Courtesy Notice", telling us that there MIGHT not be a council meeting on Tuesday after all.  So, good old reporter that I am, I called City Clerk Brenda Green to get the straight scoop.

It seems that she does not have the authority to cancel a meeting... only the Council does - as they did for the August 16th meeting.  It seems that there likely will not be a quorum on Tuesday, so the best she can do is to give us all a little "courtesy notice" - a head's-up - to let us know about that probability.
So, I will NOT be dragging my spavined old body to City Council Chambers next week.  I'll sneak a peek at CMTV around 5:45 p.m. to see what happened.  If they DO have a meeting after all I'll report on it.  If not, I won't...

Have a GREAT weekend.  Do something fun - like going to the Orange County Fair.  And hold a kind thought in your heart for the victims of that lunatic in Nice, France and hold your breath for whatever is happening in Turkey.  Good Grief!

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A Timely, Personal, Essay From Chief Steve Staveley

Today my friend, Steve Staveley, published a very personal essay on Facebook that I thought should be shared beyond those borders.

As most know, Chief Staveley was the interim Police Chief for the City of Costa Mesa twice within the past several years as city officials went through the process of searching for and selecting a permanent chief.  He served my community with great professionalism and skill both times.
Chief Staveley has more than four decades of law enforcement experience under his belt and is widely recognized as a true law enforcement leader.  He has retired, but remains a cop to the core.  Considering all the recent unpleasantness involving law enforcement across the country I thought I should share his observations with you.  Here is his essay:

I was not born a policeman.     I became one in 1967 - and yes policeman was the title.    Like all police officers, I learned in the academy, in classes after graduation but mostly from colleagues, mentors, leaders and experienced police officers like Gene Shields, Dave DeSoucy, Neil Wyman, Dale Wilson and so many others.    I learned what not to do and what to do to be good.   I watched those who I would later see as utter failures, rude, biased, unprofessional.   I learned from those like Bill Hamm who always tried to do the work the right way, but have fun doing it.   I had to learn some of it over a couple of times because it just did not take the first few.    I learned from peers, subordinates and supervisors.   People like Dorothy Nelson, Don Martin, Ken Baguley, Bob Reber, Billy Cox, Pat Black,   and many more.   I found in my first department and in my other agencies that I could learn as much by those I supervised as those that I worked for.    Vic Pobis and I worked together for several shifts and I was amazed how much I picked up from him.

I thought I was pretty good when I got to about 3 years of service only to learn by 7 or 8 years on the job that I had been a babe in the woods, not very good at all.     Somewhere between 5 and 7 years most police officers become what leaders would consider skilled.    That is they can handle any call without having to seek help of sergeants but they know and will ask when they need help and guidance - its experience, education and a consistent positive culture of ethical conduct to guide them that makes the difference.    Its one of the reasons great supervisors, Internal Affairs, and thoughtful discipline is so important in police agencies.  

Somewhere in that 5 to 7 year time frame, cops often begin to see the true role of the police.    They understand and can accept the idea that their profession is not really law enforcement (as everyone including the cops say ), but the police service with more effort needed in community building and community outreach to all the members of the community.   They begin to understand the concept of Justice in society and that some folks should not get arrested (where the officer has the legal authority which is often the case ) and others should be held before the courts.    A kid who makes a stupid mistake might be diverted to an in house program for redirection and a harden gang member sent straight to the next level because of his history of failure to follow societies and the communities rules.    I third kid with the same history and offense might well be best served and Justice best serviced by taking him home and letting mom and dad dispense the lesson.   That may not be as possible today as it was in the 60s and 70's and if so, that may well be a loss to the learning process.

Today, long retired, I still carry on my keys a handcuff key first put on my key ring  in 1967.    My badge, uniforms, Sam Browne are all put away.    I can still carry a gun, and I do sometimes.    It was something I always did when working full time and seldom do now.   What is funny is I still consider myself a policeman.    True, at my age, I don't possess the physical skills necessary to be a street cop.    I do still think of myself as one however, and recognize that, like many of my fellow retired cops, I know how to do community outreach, to build the quality of life in a community, to reach out to people and treat them with respect and dignity while still doing the job.    Mike Mitchell who is retired and I had this kind of conversation recently.    Like Mike,  I know how to work toward Justice in our society and what ethical police work looks and feels like.       It is not surprising then when neighbors say to me, as they did last week, that they are sorry about the Dallas cops.      They know that the only thing that keeps society moving forward ultimately is  good police work.   They know, in their heart of hearts that police work done correctly is about defending the community, growing the community, insuring Justice is done in our society for all its members.   They know too, although I have never said it to anyone, I still see myself as a policeman.   

I was not born a policeman, but when I die, I surly shall still be one, as will many of us.   Thus we are all hurt when a cop does not do the job correctly and equally hurt when one is harmed trying to do the job the right way.   But its not up to us old retired guys its up to those still doing the job.   Do it right ladies and gentlemen, do it with vigor, do it ethically and without bias and if you have a bias, whatever it might be, keep it out of your work and to yourself.   No cop ever got paid to show a bias, only to be fair, straightforward, and engaged in the community for the betterment of that community, society and the profession.       Having someone say " your a good police officer" is just about the highest praise anyone in any profession could possibly receive.     Ultimately its not medals and awards that police officers seek, its knowing they are appreciated for doing a difficult and at times, impossible job.   Appreciated by their leaders sure, but most importantly by the community they are engaged in building.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I'm almost at a loss as to how to begin this one.  This was the nearly perfect sequel to the previous council meeting - which I described in the title of my entry about it as The Worst Meeting Ever.  This one came close... too close.

The meeting of the Costa Mesa City Council yesterday, Tuesday, was a "Special Meeting", so they didn't have all the frills - Public Comments, Consent Calendar, Presentations, etc.  In fact, they didn't even bother with the Pledge of Allegiance!  This one was strictly business and only two items would be considered.  And, since both those items had been discussed in the past, we knew this was going to be fun.

And, no, I didn't attend this one.  Doctor's orders.  I did, however, watch every single second of it at home, where I was able to yell epithets at the screen as appropriate.  There was a lot of that going on last night. 
The first item - the third and final reading of the Voting by Districts issue - was first up.  Assistant City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow took the lead.  Katrina Foley asked Barlow about any contact she may have had with the attorney who sent the letter about whether adding the Directly-elected Mayor violated the settlement agreement.  She said yes, and the answer was no.  She also confirmed with Barlow that individual council members could write a position opposing this issue, but not as a council member.
Thirty-four (34) members of the public spoke to this issue.  Ten (10) supported the proposal being presented - six (6) council districts PLUS a Directly-Elected Mayor - and the remaining two dozen (24) opposed the plan.  Some of those who supported the 6-Districts stated they did so because the other choices split College Park - which was NOT true.  Apparently someone circulated a form letter implying that falsehood, which was then used as a template for submission to the council.  This is how things roll in our city these days.
It was interesting to note who some of the speakers were on this issue.  Many of those supporting the proposal were buddies with the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem.  And, also Krissie Bogner - one of the Costa Mesa Public Square minions who posts frequently - used her three minutes to tell us how she was so confused about the maps, that she didn't know where she fell in the scheme of things and it was all so confusing.  That had a very familiar ring to it - it was straight out of the Julie Mercurio songbook from a couple years ago when she portrayed herself as a false-innocent and, gee, golly, can somebody help me understand!  And then Bogner tells us that she knows that she wouldn't be in the area that includes Orange Coast College and was concerned about it.  Which is it, girl?  You can't have it both ways.
Another CMPS minion, Shannon Bales, used his three minutes to spew false information, too.  Folks tell me he was sitting in the chair I usually occupy... didn't help.. he didn't get any smarter.
Terry Koken graced the proceedings with another original tune, aimed directly at Righeimer.  When he finished he mentioned that folks on the dais had been unhappy with him for using the word "ass" at a previous meeting.  He told Righeimer that he promised not to call him a son-of-a-bitch, but he hoped when Righeimer got home his mother would run out from under the porch and bite him on the leg.  It was a sign of how things would go last night.
Another interesting speaker was former councilman/mayor/assemblyman Allan Mansoor, who told us he was not in favor of district voting, but if we have to do it he favored the one that included the directly-elected mayor because it would give us more clout on regional issues.  Katrina Foley asked him which district he lived in.  Mansoor dodged that question and Foley speculated that he didn't actually live in Costa Mesa - an interesting issue if factual, since he's announced he's running for City Council this year and to do so he MUST be an elector residing in Costa Mesa.  Maybe someone should hire an investigator to research Mansoor's domicile - we've heard rumors that he actually lives in South County.  Anyhow, he demonstrated to us that he's not gotten any smarter since he last served on the city council.
John Stephens spoke with great clarity, wondering what we were actually trying to do with this proposal.  If the goal was to provide greater opportunity for the Latino segment of our community to be represented he speculated that the six-district option actually diluted that representation significantly, particularly when you fold in the directly-elected mayor.
Several speakers who had participated in the outreach process - the workshops and individual meetings with the demographer/consultant to help craft the districting choices - expressed disappointment and chagrin that their efforts went for nothing.  Righeimer chose the six-district option even though not a single participant at any of the meetings expressed interest in that option.

A few of the proponents of the choice, like Janet Krochman - a member of the Senior Commission - presented their views clearly.  Others seemed not to have such a clear understanding.
Former councilwoman and former member of the school board Wendy Leece bemoaned what she described as the "fake outreach" effort - the expenditure of more than $79,000 for a process that was ignored by the council majority.  She also mentioned that she'd written to the Orange County District Attorney about what she perceived as a Brown Act violation at the July 5th meeting - the improper noticing of the issues discussed.
Effie Sanchez, a Latina Eastside resident who lives in District 3, had attended some of the meetings and got a lot out of the process.  She will encourage her friends to vote against this proposal.
Conception Gonzalez, a 20 year resident, used the services of the Spanish interpreter to address the council.  She thought the 5 districts were enough.  She  lives in District 4.
Almost before the last words were out of the final speaker's mouth Righeimer jumped in and made a motion to approve Option #3, the Six-districts plus directly elected mayor choice.  Gary Monahan - salivating over possibly being elected mayor for life - seconded the motion.
Righeimer then went on a twenty minute rant in which he told us he's not happy that we're being forced to do this "because we're racist".  He said people work very hard at putting blinders on when it comes to race and sexual orientation.  He said he kinda doubted that the citizens would vote for this the first time, that we'd have to vote for it a second time or a judge will come up with a plan.  He said "the issue here is more about culture than it is about race".  He also scolded the Latino population because they "don't turn out", and that unless they do turn out there's no guarantee that they'll get that seat.
He told us, in his usual garbled fashion, that he asked people why they felt the way they felt about their position on this issue and he said it was "power".  He then relaunched into his scolding screed to the Latinos for not voting, not being involved in the political process and now want not only a position on the dais - a voice - but they now want a megaphone!  And then he tried to compare Costa Mesa, with just over 110,000 residents, to cities like Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Ana - he actually mentioned Houston, too - where they directly elect a mayor.  Apples and bananas, Mr. Mayor Pro Tem!

He went on and on about how he didn't like this system because it will "make us more divisive" - meaning the city council that is elected by districts.  He's said the same thing in the previous meeting when he referred to council members "bringing home the pork" to their district.
He then gave us a primer on why district voting is bad, and that how we didn't want to do this and have been rushed into it.  He belittled the participants in the meetings - "only 106" - and that it cost us $745 per person for the meetings.

Sandy Genis said she wouldn't support the motion, but could have supported a seven-district option.  She also corrected the record on the misstatements earlier about there not being a Latino majority in one of the districts.  She also corrected the record about how directly-elected mayors actually worked in other cities.  She also gave some history on Costa Mesa's form of government.  She included mention about our code prohibition on "administrative interference" - where council members are forbidden from interfering with staff members.
Katrina Foley said she won't be supporting the issue.  She also complained about the spread of misinformation on this issue, including Righeimer's screed.  She told the audience that Righeimer had just basically told the Latino population of the city that they don't count.  She exhorted the community to prove him wrong - to get out the vote.  She said this is THE most important election in the history of our city - that it could place the power in the city in the hands of Righeimer and Mensinger and whomever they chose to fill that third spot.  She said it would likely be Mansoor, "and we all know how that turned out the last time."  She made a passionate appeal to the public to get out and vote.
The council voted, 3-2, to place the issue on the ballot.  Genis and Foley voted no.  They then voted on the other segments of the issue with the same result.  Then came the issue of who would write the argument in favor of the issue for the ballot and Righeimer said he would, and the vote was the same - 3-2, with Genis and Foley voting no.

Then Genis asked Barlow to affirm that no staff time would be used to write the arguments.  Righeimer said NO!, but as it turned out not only can staff time NOT be used to help with this argument, but it may NOT be used for ANY of the previously approved arguments that Righeimer volunteered to author.  I smiled.
They also voted, 3-2, to spend $8,400 dollars each for three mailers on this issue.  Foley then asked CEO Tom Hatch for a breakdown of ALL the costs incurred on this initiative, including the costs with the settlement agreement.

Following a short break they returned at 9:50 p.m. to address the second item on the agenda - the alternate Fairview Park initiative.  Special Counsel Patrick Munoz of Rutan and Tucker made a VERY brief staff report before public comments were taken. He told the council that the measure he had prepared was "pretty simple" - that it accomplishes two things: 1) any athletic field to be developed at Fairview Park would require a vote of the people and, 2) any other development at Fairview Park would go through the usual process.  He said they defined what athletic fields are, and passive uses.
Eighteen (18) members of the public spoke to this issue.  Not a single one spoke in favor of it.  Many were suspicious of the intent, since this initiative restricts "athletic fields" from the park, but nothing else.

Jay Humphrey was first up and immediately challenged the staff report as it addresses - inaccurately - elements of the initiative created by the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance, specifically issues involving ADA compliance.
Sue Lester told the council if they had done things right in the first place we wouldn't be here today.  She also asked about things like basketball courts - wondering if it is an end-around to the process. She described it as a "gigantic load of crap".
Dr. Richard Mehren - the Father of Fairview Park - complained about the staff report, too.  He worried about changing operating hours for a "dawn to dusk park".
Wendy Leece wondered why they were doing this.  Why waste money on this issue?

Cynthia McDonald began her three minutes by sighing, "So, again, we have a counter initiative that defies the express wishes of the residents.She described elements of this initiative as being false and misleading and  accused Righeimer and Mensinger of abusing their power just to keep it.

John Stephens walked through the construction of the initiative and brought up the specter of Mile Square Park and all the features of that park.  He said this was a horrible initiative, full of loopholes.  He said it's a terrible law, hastily-crafted and an insult to the people that collected those 7,135 signatures.  He told them to listen to the people.
Cindy Black told the council the initiative is misleading, then gave examples of prior municipal misdeeds within the park, including "Steve's Trail" through the vernal pools.
Robin Leffler closed the speakers by addressing Representation.  Mensinger interrupted her.  He refused to give her time back.  Foley moved to re-start her time.  Genis seconded.  The vote on that issue was 3-2, with Mensinger and Righeimer voting no.  Cheers from the crowd.  Leffler continued, talking about the costs of mailers - she said "nine grand" - they cost $8,400 each.  She used the story of Bre'r Rabbit and the Briar Patch.
Righeimer then moved the first two issues and launched into another rant about how he was not elected as a populist - doing whatever someone who runs up to the microphone wants.  He chided the folks that circulated the initiative for signatures.  His exact words were: "If you can't get signatures to save a park, you can't do anything.  I mean, that's like Idiot Number One can't get that deal done!"
An amusing moment occurred when, as Righeimer was continuing with his condescending rant, Mensinger interrupted him by saying, "Mr. Mayor, Ms. Brenneman just flipped off, once again, the dais.  I think that's inappropriate.  I just want to note that.  Go ahead."   Unbelievable!  Is this junior high school?  I love the brain burp he exhibited by calling Righeimer "Mr. Mayor".  Or, maybe he's right!  Sure seems like Righeimer's running the show.
Then, as Righeimer continued to attempt to rant folks in the audience called out and he lost his train of thought.  In exasperation he said, "You know what, it's amazing some people that have no life."
Foley interrupted him, saying he's saying the same thing over and over and over.  Righeimer said he's losing his train of thought so it's taking him longer to do it.  In frustration he called for a break.
Interestingly, when Mensinger called the meeting back into order Righeimer was absent so he gave the floor to Foley.  She then inquired about language in the new initiative regarding ADA bathrooms and the potential loss of $800,000 in OCTA grant dollars.  City Engineer Bart Mejia responded that it was grant funding to rehabilitate an existing trail/road.  During her questioning of Mejia Mensinger interrupted her, telling her to not characterize his answers.  It was a petulant, inappropriate misuse of his position and showed what a feeble leader he is.
Foley continued to address lawyer Munoz, asking about things like tennis courts, racketball courts, putting greens and go-cart tracks.  He responded that all those could be included in the measure.

I did notice an amusing comment from Munoz.  As they spoke about ADA issues he was searching for words and apologized for not "being familiar with your normal folks that come and speak.", then referred to Terry Koken, "the gentleman that likes to sing."  So, there you have it!  Despite what Righeimer tells us, the folks who come to speak are "normal".  Knew it all along!
 Genis then addressed the motion, wondering "What's the plan?"  She then described specific incidents of Code Enforcement harrassment of the folks gathering signatures.  She described an incident where the Code Enforcement officer was sent to observe their activities because Steve Mensinger called her boss and told her to go observe.  This is pure political intimidation and Genis was concerned about the misuse of tax dollars for this purpose.  She said there's something wrong when we use tax dollars to create this politician-initiated initiative.She said flat out that this is an abuse of power.

After clarifying with lawyer Munoz that those other elements, hardcourts, golfing venues and a go-cart track, would be included, they voted, 3-2 to place the item on the ballot.  

Before they voted on item #3 Foley asked Hatch for a complete summary on the costs of this issue.  Righeimer petulantly that he wanted costs incurred when Foley didn't show up for the police contract.  You could almost see his nose growing as he spoke.  What an infant!
Then they had a major argument about who would write the arguments.  It finally ended up that Righeimer would write the argument for and Genis would write the argument against.  That passed, 5-0.  And then the ever-contentious issue of spending money to produce 3 informational mailers was addressed.  That passed, 3-2.
Mensinger closed the meeting at 11:15... what a night!

I apologize for the tardiness of this report.  A combination of my little health issue and the fact that my primary computer is in intensive care slowed the process down.  I'll try to do better as I, and my computer, heal.  

Just a note.. this is post number 3,000 on this host.  Whew! 

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wendy Leece Asks DA For Brown Act Violation Investigation

Wendy Leece, former Costa Mesa Councilwoman and member of the Newport Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees, yesterday asked Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to investigate a possible open meeting violation by the Costa Mesa City Council at the July 5th city council meeting.
In her complaint to Rackauckas she described the violation - neither the agenda nor the full agenda report mentioned that the council would be discussing putting an elected-at-large mayor on the November ballot - and more.  She points out that it is a violation of Government Code 54954.2(e).  You can find the Brown Act HERE.
She went into great detail in her complaint, mentioning specifics of the perceived violations.  She has been informed that a representative of the Orange County District Attorney Office said her request would be given to the Special Assignment Investigation Department to determine if an investigation is warranted.
This, again, is a result of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's dictatorial posturing on the council.  He calls the shots and Mayor Steve Mensinger and lamest of lame duck councilman Gary Monahan just go along.
This is the second time in the past few days when Righeimer's actions have been given official legal challenges.  The other one was Eleanor Egan's lawsuit challenging the rebuttal on the Smart Growth Initiative, mentioned in an earlier post.
Righeimer is a cancer in our city.  He plays fast and loose with the truth and many times he just seems to be making things up as he goes along, assuming nobody will investigate and/or call him on it.  Nearly every move he makes results in legal action - apparently he just views this as a cost of doing business.  Sadly, the voters and taxpayers of this city are paying the price.  He has attempted to micro-manage every element of City government and his limited intellectual capacity and marginal managerial skills have not proven up to the task.  All that is left to him is to bully those who challenge him.   Fortunately, the November election provides an opportunity for the residents of this city to make a change and remove Righeimer's control over the agenda of this town.  By changing the majority on the city council there is an opportunity to not only stop this madness, but to actually undo some of the damage inflicted on the city over the past 5 years.

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City Clerk and Registrar of Voters Sued!

The drama never stops in Costa Mesa!  Late last week Costa Mesa resident Eleanor Egan sued Brenda Green, Costa Mesa City Clerk, and Neal Kelley, Orange County Registrar of Voters, to have purported "objectively false and misleading information" removed from the rebuttal argument on Costa Mesa First's so-called Smart Growth Initiative.
Egan, a long-time lawyer in the Costa Mesa City Attorney's office back when we actually had a City Attorney and not a contract firm handling our legal affairs, and also a Planning Commissioner not too long ago, took strong legal exception to much of the rebuttal signed by Julie Fowler, Chuck Perry, Lee Ramos, Christopher Bunyan and Jim Righeimer.
I've read through the legal paperwork, which includes a record of those statements Egan feels are false and/or misleading and must agree with her.  In fact, it seems like that rebuttal was written as though they were writing one of those stream-of-consciousness screeds seen so often on the Costa Mesa Public Square - the juvenile pontifications encouraged by Righeimer's example.

Keep in mind that Righeimer has appointed himself to write arguments on several other initiatives.  It's likely that his handiwork could result in even more legal challenges.  Since he's come to town Costa Mesa has become an annuity for lawyers.

The clock is ticking on this process.  The case has been assigned to a judge who, as of last night, had not yet considered it.  The judge will tell the parties what they must do, or not do, quickly.  The deadline for completion of all the information for the numerous initiatives that will be placed on the ballot is August 12th.  I'll try to stay abreast of this situation and keep you informed.

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