[UPDATED: Mayor's Bar Vandalized; OCEA Comment] The Beat Goes On: Hundreds Turn Out to Voice Outrage Toward Costa Mesa City Council

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Chasen Marshall/OC Weekly
Mayor Gary Monahan
UPDATE, APRIL 18, 5:57 P.M.: After closing time on Saturday evening, someone sent a message to Costa Mesa's mayor, Gary Monahan at his place of business, Skosh Monahan's. The means of communication? A brick through the front window, with a note attached to it. 

"This wasn't directed at the bar, it was directed at the mayor, at my place of business for actions that I'm doing as mayor," Monahan told the Los Angeles Times. "That's kind of scary."

Exact details of the note were not shared, but officials did indicate that the content was critical of Monahan, made mention of the city-wide layoff notices, and the suicide of a city employee on the day the notices were issued.

The city's interim communications director, William Lobdell indicated that necessary precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of the mayor. He would not indicate if those measures were being extended to the rest of the city council. 

The Orange County Employees Association released a statement over the weekend, following the incident, "strongly [denouncing] the act of vandalism and intimidation." 

OCEA's general manager, Nick Berardino was quoted: "We abhor and do not condone violent actions. We may have differences of opinion with Mayor Monahan, and we may have different political goals, but this is America, this is our country, and we all have the right to promote our opinions and pursue our goals without fear of this kind of inexcusable repercussion."

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ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 6, 3:05 P.M.: Tuesday evening was the first time since that fateful afternoon in March that the people of Costa Mesa had a chance to formally confront its city council. The 213 layoff notices had been delivered. One city employee had taken his life. Mayor Gary Monahan made a unfavorable decision to remain at work. The city had much to say.

Monahan knew an onslaught of critical words was coming. "We've had a couple of tragic weeks ... my actions have added to that and I want to apologize for my shortcomings as mayor," he said at that beginning of the meeting. "I promise to do better.

He continued, acknowledging the packed audience, and the overflow outside the chamber doors: "I'm sure some people are going to tell me exactly what they think of me."

He was right. 

Words like "shameful," "outrage," "appalled," and "disgusted" were hurled. One resident, Susan Meyer, even called for the mayor to fire himself. Monahan sat and listened, remaining mostly expressionless. 

But the mayor wasn't the only target. The entire council, aside from council member Wendy Leece, were repeatedly ridiculed. Leece was singled-out with praise on several occasions, and thanked for her dissenting vote on the outsourcing of city jobs.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Righeimer was also a popular target, being called out for focusing more on his national profile and aim to climb the political ladder than serving his post. 

With each request to "rescind the pink slips" and every well-stated speech, heavy applause followed, and were echoed by the gathering outside. For those few speakers who supported the council, no matter how logical or illogical the thinking, boos and whispered disapproval resulted.

With everything that has transpired within the borders of Costa Mesa this year, the city was prepared for the hostile environment. Police officers stood at-the-ready on both ends of the dais, and additional officers were on hand at the rear of the chambers. 

The media was also out en force, packing the front corner of the chambers, and providing residents and activists their 15 minutes of fame.

As one media outlet put it, the council meeting had the feeling of a rally. In the two-plus hours it took to get through nearly 50 speakers, the room remained full. The council remained solemn. The hope is that some change will come. 

"You hear [the people], but you don't listen," said one resident.

When Righeimer had the chance to speak, he acknowledged the "difficult times" facing the city. But he pointed out that "we have a budget that is due in less than 90 days," and the layoff notices--which, at this point are only notices--are a necessary "option" as the council moves forward in trying to balance the budget. 

Council member Eric Bever also pointed to the tough times, and supported the idea of a financial audit of the city finances, which the Orange County Employees Association had offered to pay for earlier in the evening. But as Bever is known to do, he used his opportunity to speak as a chance to shift blame away from himself and try to build some degree of pity (FAIL!). He also took a swipe at "Wendy Leece, Jr.," when referring to Leece's daughter, Amy, who called out the "Boy's Club." 

It was a long, emotional evening. As soon as Monahan wrapped up his brief comments and prepared to move on to the remainder of the items on the agenda, the majority of the audience stood and left. 

These are indeed difficult days for the people of Costa Mesa, and its city council. A lot was said, and much is to be done. Whether anyone was listening, the people will soon find out.


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