Friday, August 07, 2020


I know... I'm supposed to be retired, but this issue is just too darn important to remain mute.  This local election - November 3, 2020 - will be the second time Costa Mesa elects a mayor by direct election AND it will be the first time that council members will be selected directly by the voters in voting districts 1, 2 and 6.

So, I thought it might be appropriate to give you my take as we begin this campaign season - one that will be unlike any other in City history.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic it is highly unlikely that any kind of face-to-face candidate forums will be conducted.  I wonder if there will be creativity shown and Zoom-style forums be attempted?  Right now, my opinion is that the City should sponsor forums of some type.  Perhaps they could be conducted the same way council and commission meetings are done using CMTV as the platform and retained on the CMTV YouTube site.

So, with only the information I have available to me via the completion of ballot statements and the ballot designations for each of those candidates who have qualified for the ballot - plus my own personal knowledge from observations of incumbent and former council members - I'm going to give you my take.  You can agree, disagree, or none of the above, but it's a place to start.  Incidentally, you can view each of the aforementioned official forms by going to the city page, HERE.

So, let's take each of the four races to be contested in order and I'll give you my opinion of each candidate.  I'll go in the order they appear on that page I linked to above to make it easier for you to bounce back and forth if you choose to do so.

Disclosure:  Katrina Foley is a personal friend.  I've known her for two decades and have had a chance to watch her in many roles in which she served our community.  I have not always agreed with her, but I have always admired her intelligence, energy, organizational and oratorical skills and her unceasing willingness to serve our community.
She is the incumbent and the first directly-elected mayor in Costa Mesa history.  In her race two years ago she brought a wealth of experience as a council member (including a tour as mayor a year earlier), Planning Commissioner and Trustee on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.  She has often been at odds with the OC GOP power brokers that have run the city in the recent past.  She had been chosen mayor by her peers on the council, then de-frocked a year before the last election and replaced by multi-term council member, former mayor (and current candidate) Sandra Genis, the woman who was a co-conspirator in Foley's ouster.  In the last election Foley crushed Genis, setting the tone for a sea change mandated by the voters in the way Costa Mesa is governed.  Awkwardly, Genis remained on the council and her term expires with this election.  Foley's performance and leadership during the triple-crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse and the nation-wide plague of civil unrest, has been outstanding.  She and Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens set the pace for the council and staff, all of whom have done an exemplary job of managing these issues, even though often facing painful choices.  It will come as no surprise to learn that I will enthusiastically support Katrina Foley for mayor in this election.

Melone, whom I refer to as "Dog Park Al Melone", is a perennial also-ran and brings nothing to the race except for a love of dogs.  He will suck up a few votes, but really shouldn't get any.

Pullen is a new guy on the political scene.  I had never heard of him until he pulled his papers.  Since then he has become a Facebook friend and I've learned a little bit about him.  He's a fitness trainer and former Marine.  If being on the City Council included feats of strength - tug-of-war, for example - he might be my guy.  But it does not, and he is not.  I've asked him just why he is running and he told me he wants "change", but was unable to come up with a single thing he wanted to change.  He seems like a well-intentioned good guy and, based on the huge banner he has in his garage gym, a supporter of Black Lives Matter.

Genis, as mentioned above, is a multi-term council member who's service to our city stretches back three decades.  She's a land planner by profession and has a long history of being on the right side of issues - until recently.  When she participated in the ouster of Foley as mayor - the first time in our history that a sitting mayor was voted out by her peers - it was a purely partisan move.  This makes her claim on her ballot statement of being a "non-partisan" candidate ring hollow.  I thought it was interesting that, even though she's been a fixture on the Costa Mesa political scene for 3 decades, she apparently felt it was necessary to tell us on her disclosure form that she was a "female".  Curious.  During her recent tour on the council, when she and Allan Mansoor have often represented a minority view, she has been an obstructionist on many important issues.  Her disjointed, long-winded near-filibuster rants during discussions of important issues have contributed to many meetings running very long.  She now seems unable, or unwilling, to concisely craft her opinion.  Although she still has a cadre of supporters in the city, she will not get any support from me.

Wendy Leece has also served our community on the City Council and as a Trustee on the NMUSD Board.  I was not a Wendy Leece fan many years ago, when she ran as a Republican ticket with Allan Mansoor.  A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and she was misused, ignored and abused by the OC GOP over those years.  As far as I know she's still a Republican, but probably painfully so.  When I heard she was running I contacted her to find out why, since she has been a supporter of Foley in the past.  She told me she wanted to give the voters a choice.  When I pressed her about what kind a choice she meant, she implied a choice other than Foley and Genis.  Well, she gave me no clue about what she would change - except maybe she is unhappy with the current mask rules because it hampers her exercise of her religious services.  Anyhow, much as I like and admire Wendy for her service to our community, she will NOT get any support from me.

Another disclosure.  John Stephens is a friend.
Stephens is the current Mayor Pro Tem on our City Council.  He and Katrina Foley make a strong team and have provided leadership for the newer council members over the past couple years.  His district is a hotbed of supporters for the previous regime, so this race could be interesting.  He has demonstrated a steady hand during his tour on the council.  He, like Foley, is a lawyer by profession and those skills are demonstrated frequently as he helps navigate complex issues from the dais.  He is a smart guy with skill in building consensus - something essential during these very troubled times. If I could vote in District 1 John Stephens would certainly be my choice.  His skills and experience are far and away superior to his two challengers.

Harper is a familiar name to some.  He has served the city as a Parks and Recreation Commissioner with no distinction and has also served on the Finance Committee and on youth sports groups.  He is tightly aligned with the former GOP regime and will certainly get support from those folks.  I watched him while he was on the Parks and Recreation Commission and seldom did he contribute anything to discussions on those issues.  Even if Stephens was not in this race he would not be my recommendation.

He is also a new name - I'd never heard of him before he filed for this position.  He identifies himself as an ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE CONSULTANT - whatever that is.  He apparently works for Target Corporation.  We have little information about him.  We are unaware if he has had any kind of involvement in civic activities in our city in the past.

Chapman describes himself as a PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT with 11 years experience.  We do know he's the darling of the OC GOP.  I know very little about him, although I did see him and his husband, a former Episcopal Pastor, speak before the city council back when we actually had meetings at the Senior Center.  I expect he will get lots of support from the OC GOP in this race.  He would not be my choice if I could vote in this district.

He, also, is a new guy on the political scene.  In contrast to Chapman, he describes himself as a "boots-on-the-ground" kind of guy with strong family values.  He's a 40 year resident of Costa Mesa with a very strong, lengthy background in labor organizations.  He also is now a Facebook friend, so I've learned a little bit about him - we apparently share a love for off-road activities. If I could vote in District 2 he would likely get my vote, but I'd like to see how he handles interaction in the form of forums, etc.  I have no way of measuring his knowledge of civic affairs yet.

He's a retired engineer, active in the Costa Mesa Historical Preservation Committee and also served on the Senior Commission.  He occasionally speaks before the City Council on issues related to those activities.  He seems like a good guy, but, in my opinion, does not bring the strength, energy nor awareness of important issues to be taken seriously as a candidate.

This race will have four candidates - two potential contenders failed to qualify today.
This woman is also a brand new face in local politics.  She says she's a wife, mother of two children and a wellness coach.  I see nothing in her background to tell us that she has a clue about important municipal issues.  She may be a very nice woman, but she is the weakest candidate, by far, in this race.

Another disclosure: Jeff Harlan is my friend.
Harlan is currently the Vice Chair of the Planning Commission, a lawyer with a strong background in land use issues.  His experience on the City Council will be invaluable at a time when the State expects us to create housing opportunities out of whole cloth.  Over the years I've had a chance to watch him in action.  He's a very smart, very steady guy who makes good, thoughtful, well-reasoned comments every time he speaks.  He is far and away the best candidate in this race.  No other candidate comes close to bringing the skills he has to the council seat for District 6.  He will get my vote.

He is another person about whom not much is known.  He describes himself as a NURSE MANAGER and a Mental Health Board-Certified RN.  I would probably like him, but I can see nothing in his background that prepares him for a seat on the council, even though it appears he has a job for which we critically need good management.  He will not get my vote.

Last, and in my opinion least, is this man.  He's a multi-time candidate who, in years past, apparently had trouble with his identity.  At one time his signs said "Vote for Lee", apparently going after our small Asian community vote.  He also attempted to use his Latino heritage to appeal to our burgeoning Latino population - and failed miserably.  In his ballot statement he fails to mention Sober Living issues as problems with which we should deal - perhaps because he has been snuggled up to those folks for years.  I've had a chance to watch him on the various commission and committee assignments he's held and came away completely unimpressed.  He seemed to be having difficulty crafting a cogent thought.  He has never been a good candidate for a City Council seat and, now that his neighbors - those who know him best - will have a chance to address him specifically as a representative for our neighborhood, I expect him to finish well down the ballot again.

So, there you have it... The opinion, at the very beginning of this race, of an old guy with too much time on his hands, but who actually does still pay attention.  You can weigh these opinions for whatever you feel they are worth.  I do encourage you to click on that link above to read the statements by each candidate - the Ballot Statement and Disclosure Statement.  If you choose to comment, one way or the other, you will have to migrate back to my Facebook page to do so.  I no longer accept comments on this blog.  I get two votes this time around - for Mayor and for District 6. Fortunately for me, those races are easy calls.  I will vote for KATRINA FOLEY and JEFFREY HARLAN.

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