Thursday, October 30, 2014

And The Campaign Paper Blizzard Continues...

From my perspective, the political campaign season this time around is the most vitriolic, nasty and distasteful of any in my memory, regardless of which race you examine - and I've been watching this stuff for a long, long time.  If you believed half of what lands in your mailbox these days, every single candidate should not be running for office - they should be drawn and quartered!

Distortions, fabrications and outright lies appear every day in the form of glossy fliers for almost every candidate.  Most of them cannot be traced directly back to an opposing candidate - they are hidden behind the shield of political action committees and other out-of-town organizations - on both sides.  A few concerned residents have done a good job of uncovering the funding sources for several of those groups and have posted that information on social media sites and elsewhere.

Today there was an exception.  Along with a half-dozen other political fliers, there arrived one clearly annotated, "Paid for by Costa Mesa Police Association Independent Expenditure Committee" - lest there be any doubt about it.  Here is the front:
This will look familiar to many of you - this image has been making the rounds in social media and was worn by a couple dozen members of the public at a recent City Council meeting.

The reverse side of the flier looks like this:
 (If you have difficulty reading this image 
or the one above, just click on it to enlarge it)

The issue of police staffing has been one of the many hot-button points of discussion during this campaign season.  On this site we've discussed the reasons for the depletion of the staff of the Costa Mesa Police Department several times and who we hold directly responsible.  This flyer doesn't cover all the details, but gives you the facts of the current situation.

There is nothing in recent history that leads me to believe that the continuation of Jim Righeimer on the City Council will do anything but exacerbate the situation with the CMPD and the rest of the employee associations.  He's demonstrated, over and over, that he has great animosity for the CMPD - from what I believe was a contrived confrontation at a DUI checkpoint while he was on the Planning Commission right on through to the bogus lawsuit he, his wife and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger have filed against those brave men and women.  When the issue of police staffing shortages was brought up at a recent City Council meeting Righeimer's response during one of his many mini-tirades was, "We're gonna be just fine."

Although the CMPA has been ready, willing and able to begin contract negotiations, they've been stalled because Righeimer and Mensinger are not eligible to participate because of that lawsuit and their compatriot - Gary Monahan - has been a no-show at scheduled meetings.  They have, however, given us every indication of how those negotiations will go with the result of the contract just completed with the Costa Mesa City Employees Association - the so-called "miscellaneous employees".  That one was so draconian that take home pay for many of the members has been rolled back to numbers not seen for a decade!  You may recall that one of Righeimer's first acts on the City Council was to initiate an attempt to layoff more than half of that group.  That illegal act violated established city policy and the lawsuit it generated to protect the rights of the employees is still percolating.

The flyer clearly outlines the staffing difficulties within the CMPD, but the reluctance to properly staff organizations so they can provide even minimal service levels is felt city-wide.  There have not been the number of vacancies in city staff positions that we see today for decades!  And that is only comparing them to the authorized staff. The authorized staffing level is down from optimal staffing levels of just a few years ago by more than 30%!  Righeimer paved your streets by not providing adequate staffing for other critical areas, including public safety.

Thanks to the members of the Costa Mesa Police Association for producing this informative flyer, and for pointing out, once again, that the best solution for a safer city is a vote for Jay Humphrey and Katrina Foley on Tuesday.

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La Femme Wonkita - Numbers, With A Vengeance

Over at the La Femme Wonkita Blog, councilwoman Sandra Genis has produced some very provocative entries over the past couple days.

On Tuesday she gave us an essay, HERE, which dissects the myth of a budget surplus, complete with graphics.
Then, on Wednesday, she continues her challenge of the budget process, HERE, debunking Mayor Jim Righeimer's claim of producing a balance budget.
One gets the sense that our councilwoman is rapidly growing impatient with all the fabrication that has been going on around her on the dais and seems poised to push back in real time as it happens in the future.

Yet another reason to vote for Jay Humphrey and Katrina Foley for City Council and to vote No on Measure O.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Three More Police Recruits Graduate!

In a press release today the Costa Mesa Police Department announced the graduation of three new officers from the Police Academy yesterday.

New officers Shane Anderson, Isidro Gallardo and Daniel Holl will now join the CMPD and begin their training with a Field Training Officer.  Congratulations to all three men and welcome to Costa Mesa.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Only One Surprise At Planning Commission Meeting

In a Planning Commission meeting that lasted just over 2 hours there were very few surprises.

The Public Hearing for a Conditional Use Permit for a church at 1901 Newport Boulevard was continued until the meeting of November 10th.

Both Small Lot Developments on the agenda were approved with minimal modifications to the terms on the staff reports.  Both were praised by the planning commissioners as precisely the kind of projects the Small Lot Ordinance was intended to facilitate - with plenty of parking and open space and virtually no deviations or variances.  Of course, nobody mentioned that the Small Lot Ordinance did away with the items that required variances - those protections in the municipal code to protect the character of our neighborhoods.  Now we'll just be cramming more and more dwellings on small lots and smile about it.  Both items passed on 5-0 votes.

The final item on the agenda was the proposal to install a health club in the corner of the KMart Plaza Shopping Center.  Everyone was giddy over this one, too.  The representative pitching this plan was Bill Fancher, who lives over near Mayor Jim Righeimer and who was on the Charter committee.  The commission passed this one on a 5-0 vote.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable moments of the evening came at the hands of former employee, Steven White.  He used his three minutes to castigate members of the commission and actually demanded to know who was responsible for what he called slanderous comments made about him on the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's page.  Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick is the President of that group.  Colin McCarthy is a founding member and past president.  As expected, he received no answers to his questions/demands.

So, that's it until after the election.  The next Planning Commission meeting will be on November 10th.  The next City Council meeting will be on the 17th.  In the meantime, we can all just immerse ourselves in the nastiest political season in recent memory.

And, if you want to know why I won't be voting for Jim Righeimer for City Council, read what I wrote recently HERE.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

More Development And A Familiar Name

Later this evening the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, under the leadership of the dynamic (tongue-in-cheek) chairman, Jim Fitzpatrick - shown here hard at work at the recent Public Safety BBQ -  will take a break from their political activism, commentary-writing, sign arrangement and the like,  and get back to work earning the highest pay of any Planning Commission in the county.  They will meet for the final time until after the election next month.  The agenda for the meeting, which begins at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers, can be found HERE.

On the Consent Calendar there's an item of interest, HERE.  It's the vacation of a strip of land at the end of Pacific Avenue adjacent to Fairview Park.  It's unlikely that it will get any discussion - that's the purpose of the Consent Calendar, after all.  I just thought you'd like to see the staff report.

There are four (4) Public Hearings on the agenda.  The first one, HERE, is Conditional Use Permit for the establishement of a church in part of the building at 1901 Newport Blvd.  The applicant has requested this item be continued - again - until the meeting on November 10, 2014.
320 E. 18TH STREET
Public Hearing #2, HERE, is an application to develop a two-unit residential site at 320 East 18th Street - a small lot subdivision adjacent to the Lighthouse Community Church, where the Kline School was once located by SCEL Properties.
Public Hearing #3, HERE, is for another two-unit development, also by SCEL Properties, at 119 Cecil Place.
Public Hearing #4, HERE, is for a Conditional Use Permit for a 24-hour/7 days a week health club (Planet Fitness) in the Kmart Plaza at 2200 Harbor Blvd.  Of note for me was the name of the applicant - Bill Fancher of Fancher Development Services.  You may recall that when the Charter Committee was being formed more than a year ago, one of the persons selected was this self-same Bill Fancher.  At the time Mayor Jim Righiemer made a big deal of not knowing who he was - or, at least he feigned not knowing.  Why does it come as no surprise to find that Mr. Fancher is a developer?  Helping to craft a developer-friendly Charter?  Just sayin'...  And, here he is before the Planning Commission.... "Friends in High Places" and all that...

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Liar, Liar...

That phrase was spoken to the mayor during the bifurcated public comments section late in the evening Tuesday, October 21st.  You can watch Anna Vrska express her opinion near the end of this video clip, HERE.  Here's yet another example...

Earlier that day, at 2:52 p.m.,  after reviewing the text of the proposed Group Home Ordinance that was to receive a second reading at the council meeting that night, resident Carrie Renfro, who lives on Buoy Street, in the heart of a part of town significantly impacted by the Group Home problem, wrote to four council members - Mayor Jim Righiemer, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger and Councilwomen Sandra Genis and Wendy Leece with the following note:

"I applaud the city for finally taking some action regarding the out of control proliferation of group homes in our city; however, I am writing to ask that you reconsider the currently proposed ordinance.  The ordinance is not well written and only covers a portion of the residential areas. Further, it does not address the parolee situation.  I think it would be wise to wait a few weeks to see if the SCOTUS takes up the Newport Beach case which could have a huge bearing on how CM should proceed.  The current ordinance in its format will most certainly open us up for a lawsuit, which would further hold up any future ordinance. I figure if we are going to be tied up with lawsuit, let’s at least start with a city wide ordinance that is well crafted in the first place.  Thanks.

Carrie Renfro"

You may recall that Righeimer held one of his little mini-town halls on Renfro's side yard to discuss the infestation of Group Homes not too long ago.

At 3:26 p.m. that afternoon Righeimer responded to Renfro with the following note:

"Ms. Renfro,

Thanks for your email. The ordinance at this point applies only to R-1.
Our attorneys will start drafting R-2, R-3 etc. once and if the ordinance
is approved. Because the character of R-1 neighborhoods is different than
r-2 or r-3 neighborhoods, the ordinance will also be different.

Our ordinance is also very different from Newport Beach¹s. Newport already
lost in court and is asking for the U.S. Supreme court to take the case.
There is 20% chance they may take it. Meanwhile we have written an
ordinance we think can get though the courts once it is challenged.

Lastly, the ordinance was recommended by the task force that I put
together. Lisa Morlan, who is a founder of TBON, is OK with this ordinance.

Thanks again for your email.

James Righeimer
Mayor, City of Costa Mesa"

Following the council meeting at which the ordinance received approval several of the members of the grass-roots organization Take Back Our Neighborhoods (TBON) expressed concern about it, and the statement made by Righeimer above in which he stated categorically that TBON member Lisa Morlan "is OK with this ordinance."  He also identified her as a founder of TBON.  She's a member, not a founder.  The letter below, written to Renfro by Morlan at 2:04 p.m. on 10/22/14, explains in no uncertain terms Morlan's viewpoint on the ordinance and Righeimer's falsehoods in his letter.

Hi Carrie...Thank you for forwarding the email Mayor Righeimer is sending out...

First of all, I never received a copy of the group home ordinance to review prior to it being shared at the 1st planning commission.  I missed the last week of the Task Force meeting when the ordinance was voted on and finalized by the Task Force (I was in Washington).  I'm not even sure if a final draft was given to Task Force members to review.  How could I possibly endorse the City's propose group home ordinance without having access to it?  I would have wanted to thoroughly go through it with a fine tooth comb before giving it a thumbs up or down.  I did request a copy of the ordinance draft before I left for vacation; however, Rick Francis from the City told me I couldn't have one because of confidential and legal concerns.

For the record...this is my where I stand on the issue:

1.  The mayor should not be putting my name, or TBON's name on any email.  He did not ask me if I endorsed the current group   home ordinance.

2.  I will call/email Mayor and ask him to remove my name from any email, letter, or publication he hands out to the public.

3.  I believe Costa Mesa needs an ordinance to better regulate the over proliferation of group homes in Costa Mesa., but the current one did not have my stamp of approval.  I never had access to view the final proposed ordinance.

4.  I do believe the City attorney's did work very hard to research information to compose the ordinance.  I do know they spoke with the former mayor of Orange and the attorney who crafted their group home ordinance, Newport Beach council, League of Cities, experts in the field including Hoag Hospital.  Data of negative impacts (past and current) have been collected and reviewed, including emails/letters of complaints from Costa Mesa residents.  I do not have any reason to believe the City attorneys who worked on the ordinance were swayed to do anything illegal, unethical, or half-assed.  It is my belief the composing of the ordinance was done professionally, responsively, and with good intent (Yes...I know...many will probably shake their heads over my comment).  I understand why people are doubtful...there have been too many lies, and who can Costa Mesa citizens trust on council.

5.  I believe the group ordinance is a good start; however, it does need refining...which I hope and pray the City will do.  Would I like to see the current ordinance cover all of Costa Mesa...absolutely yes.  However, from a legal standpoint, I do understand the City attorney's recommendation to start of with R1 first.  Do I like  But I'm not an attorney who has expertise in how to battle the many law suits that are going to undoubtedly happen.  Court battles are a whole different ballgame.

6. My greatest concern is that the City will not have the manpower, such as code enforcement, and the means withal to implement/enforce the group home ordinance.  Even if the group home ordinance is crafted to cover all R1 and R2 neighborhoods, and written in a manner that earns everyone's approval, who is going to enforce it?  How is it going to be enforced?  How many City employees are going to be needed to effectively and consistently handle this?

7.  Lastly, I am NOT the founder of TBON!

Please feel free to share my email with others.  If there are further questions, please feel free to call or email.

Best regards,
Lisa Morlan

Morlan certainly grasps the issue and has an excellent perspective on the problem and the barely marginal solution provided by the Group Home Ordinance.  A couple speakers Tuesday night opined that the City was in for some serious legal problems with this ordinance.  One even told us that our "pockets are not deep enough."  He's probably right.
I don't know exactly what Righeimer's problem is with the truth, but he certainly has one.  This is only a recent example of him misstating the truth - the list is too long and painful to recount here.  He just seems to make things up as he goes along, apparently expecting that nobody will notice.

This is just one more reason he must not be returned to the City Council.  As Jay Humphrey said in a recent Daily Pilot commentary, HERE"This council election is, more than anything, about trust.  Whom do you trust?"

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Of Trees, Sewers, Signs and Medians

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission meets tonight beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers for their monthly meeting.  The agenda is HERE.

There are four (4) tree removal requests on the agenda, three of which the staff recommends denying, plus discussions of Parks Districts and Signage, Placentia Avenue Median Improvement Project and the Red Hill Median Improvement Project.

Plus, there will be a presentation on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Sewer Lateral Assistance Program (SLAP).

Spend a couple hours visiting City Hall to hear these discussions or watch it live on CMTV - or view it later via streaming video.  You're on your own on this one... a prior commitment will keep me away from this meeting.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Group Homes, Seniors, Fireworks And Me!

Well, neighbors, to say that the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night was "interesting" wouldn't even come close!  I fear this entry may end up being a little convoluted, but stick with me..  If you want to invest five hours you can watch the entire video of the meeting provided by our friends at Costa Mesa Television HERE.  I carved out a segment at the end for your viewing pleasure, below.

Before the meeting convened there was a little rally on the Council Chambers porch.  Several residents met and donned white t-shirts with a controversial image on the back.  They also had a large banner that they displayed for passing motorists along Fair Drive.  The issue generated discussion within the chambers later.  The image was from a half-page advertisement that appeared recently in the Daily Pilot.  Several officials complained that it bore no attribution - you couldn't tell who paid for it.  It turns out that the Costa Mesa Police Association paid for it, and also provided the t-shirts.

There was a pretty good crowd in the chambers when the meeting began - around 100 souls in the seats.  When you do watch it you might end up thinking you're watching the "A Bubbling Cauldron Show".  Thanks to all those kind folks who mentioned my blog during their comments throughout the meeting.  At least one councilman - Gary Monahan - got a kick out of it.

For the first time in awhile the meeting began without a presentation.  I guess Mayor Jim Righeimer's gardener must have been busy somewhere else.  Maybe the guy who washes his car was also tied up.  Fear not... I imagine his own special clerk at Stater Bros. will soon be honored for her diligence and public service and a proclamation naming a "day" for her will soon be read into the public record.  What a power-hungry megalomaniac!

The first segment of Public Comments - there were more than ten speaker cards submitted, so - as has been the case for many months - that segment was bifurcated and nearly half the speakers were forced to stay until the bitter (that seems like the right word in this case) end.  On the positive side, at least they got to speak in the same day - the meeting ended just about 11:30 p.m.

The first speaker was a guy who identified himself as Newport Beach resident Joel Bernstein and said he was a regular at the meetings.  Well, I attend virtually ALL the meetings and this was the first time I've seen his ponytail in the auditorium.  He then went on to praise Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick for his recent commentary in the Daily Pilot.  The almost uniform retching among audience members could be heard throughout the room.

Todd Fowley (sp?) began to speak on Fireworks, but was re-directed to the proper time.

Greg Thunell provided a definition of Hypocrisy for the City Council - it seemed right on point.

Cindy Brenneman - love you, girl - used her time to plug this blog, A Bubbling Cauldron.  She was the first of many who did the same last night.  I'm very grateful to you all.

Riganista Gene Hutchins - a member of the Charter Committee and chanter of the one-note-samba of Unfunded Pension Liability - sucked up valuable airtime praising Righeimer and talking about how the Charter will lead to Pension Reform.  It won't, but he just can't seem to come to grips with that fact.

Karl Ahlf, proudly wearing one of the aforementioned t-shirts, stepped up and expressed concern about the Police Department.

Robin Leffler dressed down the council, and the mayor in particular, for taking credit where none was due.

Terry Koken stepped up and sang yet another little ditty to the council.  This time it was ballad defining the word "Righeimer".  The mayor was not smiling...  Koken, following his short musical interlude, used the remainder of this time to acknowledge that, under the Righeimer regime, the people had the right to speak, but not the right to be heard.

Beth Refakes' presentation was a high point.  She spoke and showed photos of some of her recent interactions with our adopted Marine battalion at Camp Pendleton - the 1/5.  She spoke of the candy drive for their kids at Halloween.  She told us of the recent gown donations and the results.  She also showed photos of the recent return of the 1/5 from deployment in Australia.  She and staffer Dan Baker attended that event.

David Kincaid provided a scrambled version of our financial history and predicted financial doom for the city.  Thanks for that, David.

Chuck Perry was the final speaker and he complained about the Volcom Skate Park, said we need another one at Lions Park, that the Bethel Towers renovation was finished (that's not the name of the place, Chuck!) and that he was looking forward to Senior Center activities.  Then, pandering to his pals on the dais, he said the "city is looking great!"  To his credit, he didn't tell us he was running for a seat on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board.  One might not know it was him if you saw his signs, which just say "Perry".  Confusion reigns, since his brother, Art, is already on that board.

During Council Member Comments Righeimer led off with some rambling rant about the council setting direction and the staff finds the dollars for projects.  What?  He then spoke about the current street enhancements underway on East 17th Street, which have apparently generated a significant email and telephone avalanche to him by concerned residents.  Folks are concerned about the placement of the center medians and the adverse impacts they seem to be having on drivers and shoppers.  This is my neighborhood, so I understand their concerns.  There have been several accidents and mishaps during this project and many other near-misses.  In an attempt to calm the angry neighbors he told us it was going to get better because "Over time property owners will consolidate the properties and, thus, require fewer driveways."  Yep, that's what he said!  And, to further smooth things over, he told us it would only take 10-15 years.  Wow!  I feel better already!  Good grief!

He spoke of the Senior Center, indicating that the membership was nearly 1,000 now, and praised Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau.

He then told us that CalPERS had recently informed the City that they were increasing the city's contribution by 50%, from $20 million to $30 million.  Ah, the slight whiff of municipal bankruptcy is wafting through the air...

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger took time off from texting or whatever he was doing looking down into his lap to praise Estancia High School Footballers for their victory over Costa Mesa High School in the Battle of the Bell last weekend.  He asked CEO Hatch for a report on the Vet's Hall project.

Sandra Genis praised the staff for their expertise in finding grant funding for the many projects throughout the city.  She reminded us that the council cannot increase taxes - only the voters can.  She referred to the increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) two years ago which raised our tax from the lowest in the county - 6% - to 8% and provides us with about $2 million in revenue each year.  She corrected a misstatement by Hutchins about the Charter - he had said 2,500 people could change it - and reminded the audience that 2,500 people could petition the council to change something.  (Righeimer, as he so frequently does, interrupted her inappropriately).  Genis then reminded the voters to get educated on the issues before they cast their ballots.


Wendy Leece spoke briefly about Consent Calendar items - she wasn't going to pull them - the Bicycle grant and the Warrant item for the design of the council chambers.  She stressed the importance of the Orange County Vector Control Board - she represents Costa Mesa on it - and the importance of being aware of standing water because of the rise in West Nile virus and other mosquito-born illnesses.  She also addressed the homeless issue and wondered of a section of Fairview Developmental Center - the state-owned property that is diminishing - might be used for housing.  She also expressed concern for the current status of the Police Department and observed that virtually nothing is being done about paying down the Pension issue.

Gary Monahan made a big deal about finally having something to say - he acknowledged me as he began to speak - Thanks, Gary!  He reminded us of the World Series, which began last night, and pointed out his San Francisco Giants visor he wore throughout the meeting.  He spoke of the 1989 Earthquake that interrupted the series that year and mentioned that he had been there and is still rattled (pun intended) when he thinks about it.  He was serious.
He then told us that one of the two Medical Marijuana petitions had qualified and the second one probably would qualify for a vote of the people.  On November 18th the council will hear about the first one - at least.  He indicated that he was going to tinker with his rebuffed ordinance and bring it back for another consideration by the council.  He said that having one - or more - special elections could cost the city $150,000 - 200,000 EACH unless they could be consolidated.  He mentioned the possibility of combining three items on the same ballot sometime early next year.

Then, perhaps because he doesn't usually have anything to say during this segment, he put his foot firmly into a pile of manure.  He began addressing Measure O - the bogus Charter scheme - and acknowledged that he had to be careful not to campaign for it from the dais.  He took a breath and then did EXACTLY that!  Fortunately, City Attorney Tom Duarte, who sits next to him, was paying attention and stopped him before he rolled around in the dung pile.  He mentioned that I would be happy about it - I waved to him with a "thumbs up!"  He went on to complain about the ad in the Daily Pilot that showed Costa Mesa police strength comparisons - those shirts mentioned above showed the image he was concerned about.  He said the Daily Pilot is running a clarification about it.  He also talked about 17th Street and the Bicycle Education Grant.

CEO Tom Hatch had little to say during his comments.  No mention of the "fix it" communications being sent out to inform the public about the Measure P ballot gaffe.  He spoke VERY briefly about the Chamber design costs and the Bicycle education grant, indicating that NO Costa Mesa dollars were involved.

Items3,7,8 and 9 were pulled from the Consent Calendar.  9 will be re-posted for a future meeting.  The other three would be discussed at the end of the meeting - another dumb Righeimer edict.


Promptly at 7:00 the council began hearing Old Business #1, the second reading of the so-called Group Home Ordinance.  You can read the staff report, including the text of the ordinance, HEREElena Gerli, Deputy City Attorney from Jones and Mayer, made the presentation again.

Monahan confirmed that this ordinance deals only with these kind of facilities in R-1 zones, not R-2.  The R-2 issue will be dealt with immediately following the enactment of this ordinance.  Gerli told us it was better to have a separate ordinance for those kind of facilities to avoid negative litigation results on the R-1 sites.  More lawsuits coming up, folks!

During the discussion it was affirmed that this ordinance DOES NOT touch those places with 6 or fewer residents and a manager because they are treated like a "family".  The discussion among the council members stressed the intent to NOT penalize "good" operators, but to force the "bad" operators to change their ways or move on.

Thirteen members of the public spoke on this issue and it's difficult to categorize the group of them.  Some, like the first speaker, Barry Fisher, pleaded for the council to help her and her neighbors.  They have several group homes in her vicinity and have suffered with the impacts for fifteen years.  If we assume this ordinance will help with that problem, then you would put her on the "in favor" side of the ledger.  Several others expressed concern about the "problem" but were not sure this ordinance would solve it.  Some felt it should be shelved pending the inclusion of the R-2 properties.


Resident Ann Parker gave some perspective, discussing the recent hit-and-run accident in which a person on a bicycle was killed by a drunk driver, who, as it turns out apparently is a counselor for one of the very group home operators under discussion!  He was found to be drunk, had drug materials in his car and has a previous conviction.

According to acquaintances in the audience who follow this issue closely, there were many group home operators in the chambers for this issue.  A few of them, or folks representing them, spoke, too.  Paul Dumont, representing the Sober Living Network, spoke critically of the ordinance, stating, "Obviously, your City Attorney doesn't understand sober living law."  He further endeared himself to the council by telling them "you're not deep-pocketed enough", referring to Newport Beach's pending litigation that may be heard by the United States Supreme Court and, according to reports, have spent north of $3.5 million on the case.  Dumont may be right... we'll soon find out.

Another lawyer was the last to speak - Mary Helen something,  tough name to understand - and referred to some specific sections of the ordinance that she guaranteed would be problematic for us.  She has been involved in the Newport Beach litigation, so is familiar with that case, and Sober Living Law, specifically.  She encouraged the council to NOT pass the ordinance.

The council continued the discussion with Monahan giving the opinion that this is not a new issue, and recounted a personal experience with a group home near his church several years ago.   He said it "bugs" him when people think this is politically driven.  He said, "I think it's a very, very fine ordinance."  That, from our great legal scholar, the pub owner.  Good grief!

Righeimer wondered why we can't do something because there's a manager required on site 24/7.. isn't that a business?  Gerli cited the murkiness of the law in that regard and reminded us that the recovery business is a $35 billion a year business, with plenty of cash to spend on litigation.

When the conversation came around to Mensinger he said, "I'm sitting here in disbelief.  We all have family issues.", implying rehab family members.  Hmmm... I don't.

Monahan said "We're not outlawing group homes, just regulating them."


Righeimer reminded all that operators have 90 days to apply for the permit and at least a year before they have to be in compliance.  So at 8:15 the ordinance passed on a 4-1 vote, with Leece voting NO.

Instead of doing the right thing and taking a break while half the audience noisily filed out, Righeimer launched directly into the next item on the agenda, Leece's proposal for a modification of the Fireworks ordinance.  I must state right here that I thought this had ZERO chance of being passed.  I'll save you the mystery - 100 minutes later the council voted, 4-1, to Receive and File this issue.  Leece voted NO.

During the discussion there were more than a few memorable moments.  Twenty-seven (27) speakers addressed the issue, most of which were proponents of fireworks sales.  They all emphasized the need to support youth activities through the sale of fireworks, citing percentages of annual revenue upwards of 40%.  That is NOT an insignificant number and I understand their angst about possibly losing fireworks sales as a funding source.

Koken didn't sing to this issue, but did tell a story of visiting relatives "down south" in St. Louis, where they blew up stumps in a field as a form of celebration.

More than a few people stated they LOVE fireworks, but a week of explosions from illegal fireworks is just excessive and causes all kinds of problems with pets, many of whom must be drugged to make it through the time.  Jay Humphrey was one who said he loves fireworks, but that his 94 year-old Alzheimer's-afflicted mother-in-law lives with them and is very disturbed by the long duration of the explosions.  She lived through World War II and the Korean War, so the explosions apparently jog some fearful memories for her.  He said, tongue-in-cheek, that he could take a cue from some of the pet owners and drug her for a week, but that didn't seem like a good idea.

Nobody spoke against safe and sane fireworks - only the duration and what was described by some as a mask for illegal fireworks.  Speakers addressed the inability of the police department to arrest violators because it requires the officer to see the infraction.  Chief Tom Gazsi addressed that, too.

Once more Righeimer demonstrated his lack of an even hand on the reins when he permitted, unilaterally, John Kelly - Vice President of TNT Fireworks - to speak well-beyond the three minute mark.  Throughout the evening Righeimer had been keeping tight control over speakers, permitting only the slightest extension of time.  Not so with Kelly - a major contributor to campaigns.  He cited other city's "solutions" to the illegal fireworks problems - all of which require a greater police presence than we can presently muster.

Near the end speaker Tamar Goldmann criticized Mensinger for his interrogation of Leece early in the discussions - demanding to know who was on her "little study group", demanding to know when they met and where, etc.  Eventually Leece acknowledges that the only folks in the group were those who had contacted her, complaining about the fireworks.  No members of the youth sports organizations nor the industry participated.

Monahan moved to receive and file - there was no second.  The discussion continues.  Genis explained she was disappointed that we felt the need to discharge the fireworks over such a long period of time.  She, and many others, felt the discharge of the fireworks should be restricted only to July 4th, but the sales could precede that date by a few days.

Mensinger, apparently forgetting he is in a public forum and not some locker room, admitted firing guns in the air to celebrate the 4th.  He then complained about having to pony up $150,000 for youth sports activities.  I found myself wondering how many in the audience and viewing at home would feel sympathetic toward his plight.  He said, "Anything that doesn't vote gets cut."  That's an echo of something he said before.  Then he said, referring to the illegal fireworks, "Responsibility is up to the individual and we, as a community, have to solve that."  Really?  What the heck does that mean, Steve?

He moved to receive and file and Monahan seconded it.  Righeimer opined that we have to find a way to get rid of illegal fireworks and that, "If we don't stop illegal fireworks we're going to lose legal fireworks."  Sounds accurate.


Leece offered a substitute motion, restricting fireworks to July 4th, selling for five days and including the seven suggestions included in the staff report.  It received no second.  The original motion to receive and file passed, 4-1.  Leece voted NO.  We took a ten minute break - finally!

At 10:05 Recreation Manager Travis Karlen presented the proposal to form a Senior Commission to study and advise the council on issues involving the senior population, HERE.  I've said before that this should be a committee, not a paid commission.  There were only a few of us left in the chambers when this was begun. Goldmann, 39 year resident and senior, expressed concern that, among other things, the staff at the Senior Center and in City Government responsible for this operation were so young and used to dealing with children's issues that they may not relate to senior issues.  Seemed like a good observation to me.


Refakes, who has been active around the senior community with her mother, observed that there were no qualifications listed to be a member of the commission.  She also opined that, if it was a commission, it should properly meet in council chambers where the proceedings could be taped for viewing by a broader audience instead of being held at the Senior Center every other month.

There was almost no other discussion of this issue and, at 10:19, the majority first rejected - 3-2 - a motion made by Leece and then voted, 4-1, to approve the staff recommendation with the addition that applicants must live in the city.  Leece voted NO.

The Consent Calendar items were then considered. Goldmann had pulled the Warrant, Item #3, to discuss the contract payment to Lilley Consulting - more than $21,000 - and extended it out to a yearly figure and reminded the council that the original contract was for $100,000 and has now been extended a couple times to nearly $500,000!  (She mentioned A Bubbling Cauldron again)  It passed, 5-0.

Item #7, the Bicycle training item, was pulled by Jay Humphrey, who agreed with the idea.  It passed, 5-0.


Item #8, the General Plan amendment for the Santa Ana/Colleen Annexation property, generated a lot more conversation.  Several speakers stepped up to address this issue, which actually was a done deal.  The General Plan amendment is necessary, but didn't really have to be done right now.  Some of the speakers suggested it was done before the election so the folks affected wouldn't have a voter voice. Goldmann suggested it represented Re-zoning without representation.  Humphrey expressed disappointment that it was a Consent Calendar item - that it should have been an Old Business item.  It was passed, 3-2, with Genis and Leece voting NO.

At 10:40 the remainder of the Public Comments were called.  I've carved out that segment of the meeting for you to watch on the clip HERE.  It's only about 20 minutes long and will be worth your time.  Watch it now, or read what I wrote and circle back, but watch it... You'll be glad you did.


First up was Sue Lester, wearing one of those t-shirts, and explained that the CMPOA provided them.

Mary Spadoni spoke about the police department and referred to Righeimer's recent campaign flyer implying that he came from a law enforcement family.  She researched the town in question and found that it has a population of about 14,000 people and 30 cops.  She read from that city's police chief's report, which addressed drops in crime stats because they have fewer cops!  She cited the fact that we only have two motorcycle officers, not twelve previously.  As a result, DUI arrests are down significantly.  There were 961 last year and only 283 so far this year!  Her point was that all the gloating about dropping crime isn't supported by the facts.  She suggested that, if Costa Mesa had the same ratio of cops to residents we should have about 270 police officers, not the just under 100 presently.

Humphrey, citing the proximity to the election, encouraged EVERYONE to vote.

Goldmann mentioned A Bubbling Cauldron again - I blush - and criticized the Charter.


Then Steve White, who had been at the meeting the entire time and was clearly agitated, stepped up.  You will recall that he's the former city employee arrested a couple years ago for allegedly stealing a $5.00 campaign sign based on a stakeout by Mensinger and a private investigator.  I wrote about it HERE.  Well, after losing his job and being prosecuted, earlier this year he was acquitted of the crime, HERE.  He wondered why he's still out of work, and compared himself to Dan Joyce, who received a payout.  He also told the council that he has a video record of a city employee stealing signs from HIS property and the property across the street.  HERE is the link to that short video.  I can't identify the person, but I'm told that others have, indeed, identified her as a code enforcement employee.  After his three minutes White stomped away from the podium and Righeimer, demonstrating his bullying, no-class attitude, shouted after him that he could authorize the release of his personnel files and everybody could see why he was fired.  Well, we understood he resigned, so that's interesting all by itself.  Watch the video.


Teresa Drain criticized the way Bill Lobdell and Joyce were hired and, again, demanded a forensic audit of the 60th Celebration.  She also told Righeimer that she and her neighbors didn't appreciate being called 'shakedown artists".  She was not a happy person when she stepped away.

Ann Parker complained that the council "doesn't listen to us".  She told them they have caused chaos and mentioned that Righeimer's campaign had received almost $28,000 in services from a PAC that had just received an infusion of $150,000 from Disney.  Does anyone remember that Mensinger's wife works for Disney?  Parker wondered to Righeimer if he would listen to her if she had $28,000 for him.


Cindy Black also mentioned A Bubbling Cauldron (I blush again) then showed a graphic of where Righeimer's Campaign Contributions came from.  Interesting...

"BIG FAT..."

Finally, a very angry Anna Vrska stepped up and chided Righeimer for not reading the name she'd placed on the speaker card.  She apparently wrote, "Jim Righeimer is a Big Fat Liar!" on the card instead of her name.  She then launched off on a tirade about the Self-Insurance fund being overdrawn and wondered why (hint: that's where we pay legal claims from).  She demanded to see the policy that determines the configuration of meetings with city staff - she felt overkill when she asked to meet with Letourneau and ended up with four or more staffers present.  She wanted the documents supporting the expenditure of legal time on the Medical Marijuana Ordinance.  She close with an observation that referred to Righeimer as the trash needing to be taken out.  Watch the video.

When you DO watch that clip, at the very end you'll hear Monahan observe, "I just want to tell Geoff you're awful popular tonight."  Yeah, well... what can I say? ;-)

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