OC Weekly 2012 Election Guide: Costa Mesa!

Unlike other city election guides that have graced the benevolent blog pages of Navel Gazing, this one will take on a different format. A brief mention of the proposed city charter, titled Measure V, will precede an outline of city council candidates. Current council members tried to bring the initiative before voters in June but missed the filing deadline. Now it's back.


Perhaps the most contentious issue among Costa Mesa voters is deciding whether to pass or strike down Measure V, which aims to make Costa Mesa a charter city as approved by the council. If passed, Costa Mesa would follow a local constitution, giving it more control over its municipal affairs. Essentially, it allows the city council to outsource its workforce, mandates voter approval for any increase in public pension benefits, and prohibits unions from taking money out of city employee paychecks for political use. All of which, the council majority says, will save the city money. Critics, including union members and community activists, contend the proposed charter places too much power in the hands of a few council members, and is unnecessary to balance the budget.

And now, introducing the cast of characters vying for three open city council seats.


Sandra “Sandy” L. Genis is on the ticket with attorney John Stephens and business man Harold Weitzberg. She served as councilwoman from 1988-1996, and as city mayor from 1992-1994. Genis is among critics who contend that outsourcing public services leads to cronyism. Born and raised in Costa Mesa, she dubs herself as an “old style Republican,” and is well known for blocking the sale of the OC Fairgrounds from the city to the state of California. In her opinion, current council members are changing things up too quickly for her conservative tastes.

Her comrade, political newbie John Stephens, advocates for an expansion of the police force, opposes the city charter because he says it leads to corruption and fraud, and criticizes the current council's legal decisions as rash. For a trial lawyer, however, Stephens says he prefers negotiating at the table rather than in court. 

The third musketeer on the anti-charter team is Harold Weitzberg, who taught special education for 10 years before jumpstarting his own business consulting company. At 63 years old, he's finally ready to enter city politics. He believes the city council's decisions have discouraged businesses and families from moving to Costa Mesa. On medical marijuana, he thinks the city should create an ordinance authorizing dispensaries to operate. His wife, a registered nurse, operated a dispensary before the feds shut it down.

The other team, backed by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, are dubbed the “3Ms.” They include Colin McCarthy, Greg Monahan, and Steve Mensinger. Clever, no? All three share the same vision of cutting government workforce and investing city money into public infrastructure. McCarthy has served as the city's planning commissioner since 2009, and co-founded Costa Mesa Taxpayers Association, a fiscally conservative group that supports the council's austerity measures. McCarthy believes approval of the proposed city charter will free up city funds from paying union wages.

Steve Mensinger is one of two incumbents in the race. In his two years in office, he and fellow council members handed out more than 200 pink slips to city employees, for which they subsequently had to deal with an ongoing lawsuit with the unions. He strongly advocates for reduced pensions and sizing down on public employee benefits to balance the city's budget.

The second incumbent is Gary Monahan. He served a turbulent term as mayor, after he was elected for the third time to office in 2008. More than a year ago, he was the face of an attack ad criticizing him for not coming to City Hall upon learning of maintenance worker Huy Pham's suicide shortly after the pink slips debacle, instead dressing up as a leprechaun at his pub for St. Patrick's Day. He also partook in overseeing the federal shutdown of city marijuana dispensaries. He resigned in March from his mayoral position, but kept his council seat. He's up for reelection, and has named pension reform and “structural budget change” as his priorities in his candidate statement.

And then, there are the Ron Pauls of this race. One spoiler is Al Melone, a retired certified public accountant who advocates for seniors and animal lovers. He says he has no expectation of winning a seat, but he hopes his campaign will shed light on two very important issues: the July 4th fireworks are too loud and the Tewinkle dog park discriminates against small dogs. Another self-declared non-winner is James Rader, who decided not to actively campaign after he entered the race last-minute; instead, he threw his endorsement behind Genis.


There are no competing candidates, and thus no elections for Coast Community College District and Newport Mesa School District. There is however, another measure!


This Coast Community College District has proposed a $698-million bond measure, which would fund rehabilitation of its facilities. If passed, officials would strictly appropriate the money for construction repair of school buildings, laboratories and technical facilities, expanding classes for math and science, and bolstering educational resources for veterans.   

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