OC Political

A right-of-center blog covering local, statewide, and national politics

Live from Feet to the Fire: Costa Mesa Mayor 2018

Posted by Chris Nguyen on September 17, 2018

We are live from the second candidate forum tonight at Feet to the Fire: Mayor of Costa Mesa.

The Council Feet to the Fire was earlier tonight, which OC Political live blogged.

Both candidates are here tonight: Mayor Sandy Genis (R) and Councilwoman Katrina Foley (D).

Moderator Barbara Venezia introduces both candidates. She asks each candidate who they are supporting for Council.

Foley supports Andrea Marr, Manuel Chavez, and Arlis Reynolds.

Genis says she does not believe in machine politics and is not supporting any candidate because her Council district seat is not up for election.

Venezia asks about visions for the City.

Genis describes the small lot ordinance.

Foley wants a safer city and asks who is more effective. She says the moratorium on small lot ordinance was not possible because it needed a 4/5 vote. She blasts Genis for not supporting a motion to repeal it.

Genis says the motion simply repealed it and brought it back in January. She notes what was instead adopted had more open space and better parking, further noting that if Foley found it unacceptable, then why would she vote for it?

Foley says there are no differences in their voting records, with the exception of the Plant Project, which Foley called inspiring.

Genis noted the 2-acre Plant Project had 50 units on 1 acre, which was not sustainable, giving specific details about the units. The other acre was commercial. She said it was high-density that did not match the neighborhood.

Venezia asks about how to grow housing with limited land while dealing with high-density.

Foley says the City has been overdeveloped the last five years. She says projects have been placed in the wrong locations. She blasted building up to the sidewalk.

Genis says the definition of high-density matters. She says 12-20 units per acre is the definition in the General Plan. She blasts a 50-unit per acre project that Foley voted for.

Foley interrupted to say the project got rid of a slum motel.

Genis resumes noting the importance of transitions in development. She calls for walkability and bikability. She wants to break up blocks on the Westside to improve walkability.

Moderator John Canalis asks how they went from being allies in 2016 to opponents in 2018.

Foley speaks of all her campaign efforts, in both time and money, in 2016 on behalf of Genis because of their shared values. Foley says she has not changed and follows her principles. She says Genis has changed. She notes Genis nominated Foley as Mayor but despite her “Herculean efforts,” it was never enough for Genis. She says Genis then teamed up with Jim Righeimer and Allan Mansoor to oust Foley as Mayor.

Venezia attempts to interject.

Foley says she knows she has done nothing wrong.

Venezia asks why Foley still doesn’t know what happened.

Foley says there is no investigation into any wrongdoing against her. She says the meeting where she was ousted was the only time she has ever shouted at City Hall.

Venezia asks Genis for her perspective on the mayoral change.

Genis says it was the right thing for the City even though it was politically costly for herself. She believes in adhering to policy and precedent because they provide checks and balances. She found Foley would unilaterally change direction after there was a consensus. Genis expressed her concern that Foley did not respond well to dissent. Genis said the Mayor is not the boss of the city nor should she order around department heads because it is a council-manager form of government. She noted that she had the votes to be Mayor but decided to support Foley because Foley was the senior Councilmember who had not yet been Mayor. Genis expressed concern about Foley not following Brown Act comment limits. Genis expressed concern about Foley not following the sign ordinance Foley herself had voted for.

Moderator Norberto Santana asks for something that makes better headlines.

Genis speaks of the importance of respect, policy, and precedent. She says they are vital checks and balances. She says it is not okay to be a “benign despot.”

Santana asks Foley about muscling around City staff and bullying City staff.

Shouting ensues on stage between both candidates and multiple moderators.

Genis says she had heard that Foley had physically grabbed a City employee.

Foley argues these are not clear examples.

Venezia notes Genis says Foley doesn’t follow policy.

Santana asks if Foley bullies staff.

Foley notes she is endorsed by the Costa Mesa Employees Association. She says she has positive relationships with staff. She says she has high expectations for staff. She responds to nearly all emails and needs City staff to provide information for these.

Canalis asked Genis how she decided to vote to oust Foley.

Genis regretted by early Spring her vote for Foley for Mayor. She noted she campaigned for Foley in 2014. Genis says she told Foley repeatedly that she was exceeding her authority as Mayor.

Foley claims Genis never did this.

Genis says she repeatedly did so.

Audience shouting ensues.

Foley claims this was partisanship and that she has reached across the aisle. She speaks of a bipartisan coalition on sober living.

Canalis says it is still unclear.

Genis says she repeatedly spoke to Foley on the phone about her exceeding her authority as Mayor.

Foley says Genis mostly talked about her dogs.

Audience and candidate shouting ensues.

Foley says she changed the Mayor’s office into a Council office to be a collective office. She attacks Allan Mansoor, Jim Righeimer, and Steve Mensinger.

Venezia says it is clear there is a chasm between Foley and Genis.

Santana reflects on 2012 and asks what has changed on unfunded liabilities since then.

Foley says employees are paying more into City pensions than in any other City in California. She says the same is true of Costa Mesa firefighters. She has worked to increase non-PERSable benefits to prevent exacerbating the liability.

Santana asks how this will alleviate the liability from retirees.

Foley says it needs to be fixed for new employees, but for retirees it must be fixed at the State level.

Genis has pushed for a 115 Trust, which puts extra money away for pensions and other post-employment benefits. She says the trust can be added to in good economic times and drawn from in bad economic times. She warns that employee agreements must address the Obamacare tax that is coming in the next several years.

Venezia asks about finding new revenue.

Foley says she is always looking for new revenue without tax increases. She points to the Measure X marijuana revenue, including permit fees and sales taxes. She refers to the transport model for ambulance services as additional revenue. She wants to increase tourism, citing South Coast Plaza, the Performing Arts Center, Fairview Park, the Back Bay, and Disneyland. She wants to build another hotel in Costa Mesa.

Genis cites the marijuana revenue from research and development and manufacturing, but not retail via dispensaries. She says OC Fairgrounds revenue is up yet sales tax revenue from there is stagnant. She bought earrings at the OC Fairgrounds but the credit card charge went to Long Beach and is concerned the sales tax went there. She wants to use TOT revenue to fund security for tourists to ensure they feel safe, noting that San Francisco conventions are being cancelled due to tourists feeling unsafe.

Canalis asks for solutions to bathrooms, the homeless, and shelter beds.

Foley says the two of then voted the same yet it is somehow her issue. She says homelessness is the most important issue for the upcoming year. She says it is a multifaceted problem. One of the sources of homeless are “greedy sober living homes” that bring people in from out of state but then kick them out. She wants sober living homes to be declared businesses, so they can’t be in residential neighborhoods. She says a medical detox center has been built across the street from her. She wants 50 shelter beds in a series of facilities, like a women and children shelter and a co-ed shelter. This will allow enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance. She does not want Costa Mesa to become the Santa Ana Civic Center, which she walked through heading to court. She wants supportive housing and motel conversion.

Santana asks about permanent supportive housing at Fairview.

Foley says the State is not allowing that.

Genis notes permanent supportive housing is already at Fairview. She speaks of homeless people needing different levels of service ranging from those who simply need counseling to those who need permanent help to those who won’t accept services. She doesn’t like the emergency bed approach because it is unstable. She prefers transitional housing and permanent supportive housing because these transform their lives. She was concerned when she learned that Huntington Beach’s proposal for shelter beds was actually in another community. She notes the opioid crisis and soft on crime laws have made the problem worse, citing Prop 47 as an example.

Venezia asks what is something unique about each personality.

Genis can work with diverse people. Her college roommate joked they could never have parties because Genis’s friends included both peace activists and ROTC members. She has an ability to reach out to people and listen to people. She enjoys people. She appreciates the forms of government. She appreciates the Founding Fathers and that sometimes government is slow but that protects against rash decisions.

Foley says she is a “connector who gets things done.” She says she loves connecting people with those who can solve their problems. She says she is a loyal person who values loyalty. She says she reaches out when something is wrong. She notes some people are too far gone.

Santana praises civic engagement in Costa Mesa.

The moderators bring the forum to a close.

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