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Live from Feet to the Fire: Costa Mesa City Council Candidate Forum 2018

Posted by Chris Nguyen on September 17, 2018

Feet to the Fire

We are live from Feet to the Fire’s Costa Mesa City Council Candidate Forum. Immediately after this will be Feet to the Fire’s Costa Mesa Mayoral Candidate Forum.

Feet to the Fire is the liveliest candidate forum format this blogger has ever seen and may well be one of the best formats in the country. Apologies in advance for any omissions from the live blog; Feet to the Fire moves at such a quick pace that it is very difficult to get everything into the live blog.

Additionally, since Feet to the Fire is sponsored by the Daily Pilot and the Voice of OC, it is one of the few local candidate forums guaranteed to have media coverage.

We’ve live blogged from Feet to the Fire before in 2014 with the 74th Assembly District primary race, the 2nd Supervisorial District primary race, and the Costa Mesa Council race. Regrettably, scheduling conflicts prevented this blogger’s attendance at the 2016 Feet to the Fire Council forums.

Tonight’s moderators are Daily Pilot Columnist Barbara Venezia, Los Angeles Times Community News Executive Editor John Canalis, and Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana. Venezia and Canalis are the co-creators of Feet to the Fire while Santana has been a panelist since Feet to the Fire’s inception in 2010.

Every Council candidate is here tonight:

District 3

  • Brett Eckles (R)
  • Andrea Marr (D)

District 4

  • Manuel Chavez (D)
  • Michelle Figueredo-Wilson (R)
  • Steve Chan (NPP)

District 5

  • Rebecca Trahan (R)
  • Arlis Reynolds (D)
  • Allan Mansoor (R)

The District 3 candidates seem to be the friendliest set of opponents, chatting and laughing while waiting for the forum to start.

The forum begins with one of the Costa Mesa Police Department’s chaplains speaking in memory of Oscar Reyes, a Costa Mesa Police Officer who passed away of a heart attack on Thursday, followed by a moment of silence.

The Pledge of Allegiance is led by former Orange County Board of Education Trustee Elizabeth Parker.

Venezia gives an introduction of each candidate. She seems to have lost part of her paperwork for District 4, so Chavez, Figueredo-Wilson, and Chan give remarks about themselves in addition to Venezia’s comments about them.

Canalis opens asking if the Fairview Developmental Center is an appropriate location for the homeless.

Eckles urges using public-private partnerships. He points to the Network for Homeless Solutions program the City has. He wants to enforce the City’s existing ordinances, but there must be support services in the City available for the homeless, including permanent supportive housing. He opposes Fairview as a location for a shelter. He calls for permanent supportive housing instead.

Marr argues that anti-camping ordinances cannot be enforced until there are shelter beds. She says this situation is in flux and no one has a silver bullet.

Canalis asks Marr again about Fairview.

Marr says it is irrelevant because it looks unlikely.

Eckles says there must be 62 shelter beds in order to enforce the ordinances.

Chavez calls for enforcing the City’s ordinances but finding a place to build a shelter that has the least effect on the City.

Venezia asks Figueredo-Wilson for a solution to homelessness, noting the City’s active engagement on the issue.

Figueredo-Wilson notes the City has a plan that will soon be presented to federal Judge Carter to allow the City to enforce its ordinances. She says the City must engage with stakeholders. She warns of the sober living home-style situation sprouting up with the homeless.

Chan says America is a “Great Society” that “will solve” homelessness. He notes Costa Mesa was one of the five cities Judge Carter determined was actually carrying its weight on homelessness. He calls for all the cities in OC and with many across the country to pull their own weight on homelessness.

Santana asks Chan about Fairview.

Chan opposes using Fairview as a homeless shelter.

Trahan opposes using Fairview as a homeless shelter because it will add to the problem. She wants more public-private partnerships.

Reynolds says 50 additional shelter beds are needed in order to enforce the anti-camping ordinance. She opposes closing public restrooms. She wants to create a livelier community. She wants more park activities. She wants to pressure other cities on homelessness.

Venezia asks what the Council has done.

Mansoor says Fairview is certainly not a non-issue. He is concerned that Fairview could become the County’s solution to everything. He notes Costa Mesa has 12 shelter beds and needs 50 more. He notes the Network for Homeless Solutions. He challenges a mayoral candidate supporting portable toilets. He opposes the needle exchange program.

Reynolds says stakeholders need to be spoken to, and that she opposes Fairview as a homeless shelter.

Santana asks what should be done with Fairview if not a shelter.

Eckles opposes a homeless shelter there but is open to permanent supportive housing there since it is already zoned for it, if the City gains ownership of Fairview.

Chan cites the new Orange County Housing Trust as a solution for Fairview and the homeless.

Reynolds supports permanent supportive housing at Fairview. She wants to demand other cities meet their commitments on homelessness.

Marr cites Reynolds’s stakeholder approach, opposing fear mongering.

Mansoor says it is not fear mongering to demand other cities do their fair share. He supports permanent supportive housing if the City gains ownership of Fairview with strict sobriety rules.

Trahan is only open to it if residents are. She is concerned about the location and instead suggests tearing down drug hotels to build permanent supportive housing.

Reynolds attacks Mansoor for challenging the needle exchange and the portable toilets. She says the candidates are united in opposition to the needle exchange.

Chavez urges improving the homeless situation and supports permanent supportive housing.

Canalis asks about portable toilets.

Eckles opposed it, publishing an op-ed, noting it was poorly planned and were in flawed locations.

Santana asks what is the solution to public defecation and urination.

Eckles says getting them into permanent supportive housing. He notes there are restrooms in the parks.

Venezia asks about the City locking park restrooms.

Mansoor speaks about putting the safety of children first.

There is a lot of shouting from the audience when Santana interjects.

Mansoor opposes portable toilets and calls it a “mistake for our city.”

Santana interjects.

Mansoor calls for more supportive housing. He opposes needle exchange.

Santana, Mansoor, and the audience start shouting, and nothing is comprehensible.

Mansoor says the people supporting the portable toilets also support the needle exchange.

More audience shouting ensues as Santana interjects.

Venezia asks for a solution to needle waste. Santana asks Trahan to answer the bathroom question.

Figueredo-Wilson notes that once there is supportive housing and shelter beds, it is possible to enforce anti-camping ordinances. She says enforcing those ordinances will mitigate the toilet problem.

Santana interjects as the audience shouts.

Santana asks what is the solution for the homeless during the period the anti-camping ordinances cannot be enforced.

Figueredo-Wilson urges the City to reach out to the Sanitary District to help pick up needles.

Trahan calls for respect and decency for all, including “transients.” She blasts Katrina Foley for the portable toilets and points to how it made the problem worse in San Diego.

Santana interjects, asking about the toilets. The audience shouts at him again.

Trahan calls for enforcing ordinances.

Santana interjects, and more shouting ensues.

Chan says businesses want an attendant in public parks, so those restrooms could be opened.

Venezia changes topics to high-density development. She says housing and growth are needed but land is limited.

Chavez supports new housing but calls for mitigating impacts of new housing, specifically having sufficient parking.

Marr opposes more density in her district but says it would make sense to have high-density housing north of the 405. She opposes “spot zoning” and “developer giveaways.”

Venezia asks about spot zoning.

Eckles says higher-density housing needs to be put in places that make sense, working with expert land planners to ensure it reflects the character of the neighborhood.

Reynolds says the City Council needs to be more engaged with residents.

Venezia asks Mansoor why this seems to be a perennial problem no matter who is on the Council.

Mansoor says he has an open door policy. He returns phone calls and emails. He spoke against the first high-density development in Costa Mesa. He says overlays were not intended to be citywide. He says some overlays have gone too far.

Reynolds questions Mansoor for supporting Banning Ranch in Newport Beach.

Mansoor says he would call for traffic litigation and notes that Banning Ranch had significant open space.

Audience shouting ensues.

Reynolds says that Banning Ranch was blocked by the Coastal Commission.

Audience shouting ensues.

Mansoor challenges needle exchange supporters walking precincts for other candidates.

Audience shouting ensues.

Venezia asks who each candidate is supporting for Mayor.

Eckles, Figueredo-Wilson, Chan, Trahan, and Mansoor support Sandy Genis.

Marr, Chavez, and Reynolds support Katrina Foley.

Reynolds likes Foley’s approach to Banning Ranch.

Mansoor is concerned about Foley’s screaming at City staff while noting Genis’s professionalism.

More audience shouting ensues.

Venezia asks each candidate for one thing they like and one they want to fix in Costa Mesa.

Eckles says Costa Mesa residents are the best part of the city. He cites the city’s small businesses. He says he has a proven track record working with Councilmembers. He would fix working together for the common good.

Marr says Costa Mesa is a place where people live their dreams and open small businesses. She wants to fix sober living homes.

Chavez loves the sense of community, noting his principals and teachers still work here. He wants to fix infrastructure, like safer streets.

Figueredo-Wilson loves families and people. She is concerned about unfunded liabilities and calls for better economic growth and opportunities for working people and small businesses.

He loves Costa Mesa’s lifestyle. He wants to abolish the directly-elected mayor to ensure each district has one vote.

Trahan wants ethics and civility on the Council.

Reynolds loves the sense of community where everyone seems to know each other. She wants to fix homelessness.

Mansoor wants to fix homelessness and sober living homes. He loves thel families and kids of Costa Mesa.

And with that, the City Council candidate forum concludes.

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