Barbara Venezia...
Stirring the pot of controversy
 one column at a time...

Costa Mesa must quickly make

alternative plans for stray



Last Friday, when I turned my column in to my editor, I was planning to take the next two weeks off to enjoy the holidays with friends and family — returning Jan. 5.

Then, on Friday night, I got a call from Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens with some interesting news about the controversial Orange County Humane Society Shelter (OCHS) in Huntington Beach.

Stephens shared a copy of a Dec. 14 letter addressed to Costa Mesa City Manager Tom Hatch from OCHS owner De. Samir Botros.

“This letter is to inform you that our contract of animal control services with the city of Costa Mesa is due to expire on Jan. 21, 2018, “Botros wrote. “At this time, we have no intention to renew this contract.”

Botros praised the work he’s done with the city: “We have worked together for several years, and in that time we have done our best to please you and keep our relationship in good standing. Every request we received was attended to in a timely manner and done at a competitive price, without compromising care.”

His tone changed as he wrote he was “thoroughly disappointed with the recent City Council decision of our new project at 642 Baker St.” in Costa Mesa and had hoped this “facility would provide a better environment for your city's homeless pets.”

Botros complained that the Planning Commission unanimously approved the project, only to be reversed by the council.

Calling the council’s attitude “hostile and premeditated, without giving us a chance to defend ourselves,” he went on to reflect that he felt that the last council meeting “was unprofessional, and the majority of the time was spent attacking us and our operation.”

“I found it very offensive, humiliating and insulting to me and my profession to give the impression, on record and to the public, that we are incompetent and doing less than an excellent job,” he wrote.

In my opinion, Botros had plenty of opportunity to speak up in his defense over the past months and at that very council meeting.

He didn’t.

I called him two weeks ago to allow him to give his side of the story. He still hasn’t returned my call.

Researching the allegations into practices at the OCHS shelter since October was a hard one for me, since I have two rescue dogs that I cherish.

These past months were tough, reading reader email accounts and talking with those wanting to share their own personal stories about experiences at this shelter.

In October I called the U.S. Humane Society in Washington, D.C., asking if they were aware of the controversy swirling around OCHS.

I assumed they were affiliated with OCHS because of their name, and would intercede here, if nothing else just to protect their brand.

To my surprise the public information officer told me they had no affiliation with OCHS — or any other organization using the words Humane Society. A page on their site provides further explanation. Apparently anyone can use the name Humane Society in their title.

From my first conversation with Stephens, it was clear he was going to be a champion for change when it came to this city’s animal shelter issue.

And he has. But what happens next?

With OCHS off the table in January, Stephens and the city need to swing into action with a transitional plan.

Stephens asked me to get the word out that he’s looking for local animal hospitals, rescue organizations and other neighboring shelters interested in helping with strays to contact the city manager’s office. They can also Stephens directly at (714) 337-1872.

Stephens explained that on average 25 dogs and 15 cats from Costa Mesa rely on the shelter each month. Spread that number over five to 10 organizations, and that population could easily be managed, at least temporarily.

Stephens feels Costa Mesa is a world class city and needs to bring that same level to the care of its stray animals. With an estimated 75% of Costa Mesa households keeping pets, my hope is the city will create a foster program where residents can get involved.

This is a unique opportunity for a public-private partnership to initiate change and solutions.

We saw this work successfully in Newport Beach, when it separated from OCHS in 2015, creating its own shelter on Riverside Drive in Santa Ana Heights. And residents responded by forming the nonprofit Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter.

Riverside Drive is zoned for kennels and I suggested Stephens reach out to those operators, asking for transitional help.

Botros not wanting to continue with Costa Mesa in this contract is good news for those of us who felt the city shouldn’t continue to partner with him in the first place.

Circumstances now force the city’s hand to look for transitional solutions, moving toward a permanent one, sooner rather than later.

It’s time for this council to put principles above politics, come together and work with the community for the greater good.

That said, I'll be back on these pages Jan. 5.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Last Friday, when I turned my column in to my editor, I was planning to take the next two weeks off to enjoy the holidays with friends and family — returning Jan. 5.

Then, on Friday night, I got a call from Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens with some interesting news about the controversial Orange County Humane Society Shelter (OCHS) in Huntington Beach.

Last Friday, when I turned my column in to my editor, I was planning to take the next two weeks off to enjoy the holidays with friends and family — returning Jan. 5.

Then, on Friday night, I got a call from Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens with some interesting news about the controversial Orange County Humane Society Shelter (OCHS) in Huntington Beach.

2018 promises to be another

 interesting political year in

 Newport and Costa Mesa


Looking back at 2017, political tides drastically shifted in both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.

There certainly were heroes and zeros in these scenarios, depending on where you stood on the issues.

As the 2018 election season unfolds, these stories will continue, impacting the local political landscape.

In Costa Mesa, I feel two important issues will find their level this coming year, impacting council elections.

Animals will play a starring role in one of them. With a sizable population of animal lovers in this city, what council members do with the contract for the Orange County Humane Society’s Huntington Beach animal shelter — continue with it or create their own — will be important.

As will what happens next for Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who was unceremoniously removed as mayor by a majority of her fellow council members without explanation.

Unless damning evidence as to why she was removed is revealed publicly, and soon, I predict she’ll emerge as a formidable political force and win her role back in 2018 as this city faces its first direct mayoral elections.

Councilman John Stephens is a rising star to watch in 2018 as the most vocal council member advocating for the city’s animals.

Digging deep into the controversy of the Orange County Humane Society Shelter, he’s determined to find a better solution for strays come 2018. His efforts here could be what brings this fractured council together again as it explores options. Costa Mesa voters certainly will be paying attention as to who supports the best option and who doesn’t.

Turning to Newport, 2017 saw a rather different political muscle flexing — that of dissatisfied residents. They banded together to fight high-density development and to try to recall a councilman for the first time in city history.

The political action committee Line in the Sand successfully gathered enough signatures to bring the high-density Museum House project to a referendum vote, proving it was a force to be reckoned with. It prevailed with an impressive grassroots ground game, and in the end, the council fizzled, reversing approval of the project.

But Line in the Sand didn’t get involved with the committee to recall Councilman Scott Peotter, though some members overlapped.

Line in the Sand waited in the wings to endorse a candidate if a recall election came to fruition.

I felt that without that signature-gathering support, the recall committee would have a tough go of it, since it didn’t have the same tight grassroots organization as Line in the Sand does.

The recall fell short by about 1% after signatures were validated.

We’ll have to wait for a recount to see if the recall supporters can find the 106 signatures to move the needle.

Regardless, Peotter needed a big win to regain voter confidence and be reelectable in 2018.

The stink of the recall effort will follow him through the 2018 campaign, where he’ll likely face opposition.

There’s also another thing to consider as we look to Newport’s elections.

Successful or not, the blowback of this recall effort will also impact the reelection campaigns of Peotter’s council member supporters: Diane Dixon, Kevin Muldoon and new Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield.

None stuck out their neck for Peotter as far as Duffield did with robo calls, editorials and such.

Two statewide issues will be interesting to follow in 2018 as well.

1. Carl DeMaio’s efforts to repeal the increase in the state’s gas and car licensing taxes.

Will we see this on the 2018 ballot, giving voters a say regarding these increases and changes in the manner the state can levy future taxes?

2. And what will be the repurposing solution for Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa after the state closes it?

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) tells me his committee of local and state leaders will continue efforts in 2018 to come up with a plan that best serves the community.

Will the state buy into it?

Questions remain about the $2 million the state proposes spending here as it sunsets this facility.

Lastly, this year we said goodbye to some beloved local heroes who passed away and will be missed.

These were the hardest columns for me to write as I personally knew Denny O’Neil, Ralph Rodheim, Charlotte Dale and Brad Long.

Heroes certainly outweighed zeros this year, and to revisit 2017 columns about these issues and more, visit

As I close my first decade of reporting, I look forward to bringing forward more thought-provoking columns in the new year, starting Jan. 5.

Get ready for a wild political ride in 2018.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Costa Mesa is working to resolve animal shelter situation in a humane way


 I first wrote about Costa Mesa moving toward getting its own animal shelter on Oct. 25. I thought it was a good idea, but raised concerns about the Planning Commission vote approving the Orange County Humane Society’s request to develop a shelter at 642 Baker St. and to continue partnering with the city.

Costa Mesa’s contract with OCHS in Huntington Beach is up in January. The facility has received criticism the past couple of years over the conditions there. Newport Beach, for example, canceled its contract with the shelter in 2015 and started its own.

On Nov. 2, I reported that Costa Mesa Mayor Sandy Genis and Councilman John Stephens planned on appealing the Planning Commission approval. At Tuesday’s council meeting, with a vote of 4-1 (Councilman Jim Righeimer dissented), the council quashed the Baker Street plan.

When I talked to Stephens on Wednesday, he applauded Councilman Allan Mansoor for pressing the parking issue for Baker Street because it became clear that of 10 spaces proposed, just two or three would be for the public.

“Mansoor framed it in a way that discovered this issue, which never came up in a public hearing or in staff reports,” Stephens said.

Further explanation revealed that animals taken there would be held for five to seven days and then returned to the OCHS facility in Huntington Beach.

And in order for owners to claim an animal at the proposed Baker Street facility, they'd have to identify the pet online, then make an appointment to be escorted at the facility by a Costa Mesa Police Department animal-control officer. Thus, the limited parking was OK because the facility wouldn’t be open to the public without appointment.

Since November, however, Stephens has kept his promise to “dive deep,” exploring options for Costa Mesa’s unwanted animals and gaining a better understanding of the situation. He’s visited almost every shelter in the county and last week made an unannounced visit to Dr. Samir Botros, who owns the Huntington Beach shelter that contracts with Costa Mesa.

Stephens shared his “informal, paraphrased notes” from his meeting with Botros in a supplemental packet circulated at Tuesday’s council meeting.

I called Botros’ office but was told to leave a message. I was told he couldn’t get back to me to discuss Stephens’ findings until after Sunday — past my deadline

Nevertheless, Stephens concluded after his “deep dive” that Costa Mesa has “the lowest-quality service for animal care and shelters in the county.”

That needs to change, and the next step is exploring transitional solutions until a permanent one is clear.

The deadline to apply for Costa Mesa’s new Animal Services Committee is Dec. 13. Residents can fill out an application on the city’s website or at City Hall.

Appointments are scheduled for the Jan. 16 City Council meeting. Stephens said he hopes the committee will be instrumental in advising the council with a path toward a solution.

One option could be partnering with Newport in a capital campaign to build a Newport-Mesa facility.

Newport City Manager Dave Kiff confirmed that he spoke with Costa Mesa City Manager Tom Hatch this week and is open to exploring the idea.

Kiff said Newport’s shelter has a certain “spirit” and has received great community support.

If the cities can come up with a facility plan that continues that home-grown spirit and safety for the animals, he’d be open to discussions.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


Updates on water rate hikes and City Hall silence over change in mayors

This week I have updates on two stories I’ve been following: the fee increases at Mesa Water District and the removal of Katrina Foley as mayor of Costa Mesa.

On Nov. 7, I wrote about Mesa Water District’s proposed 25% rate hike.

The rationale behind the increase was a downturn in revenues since the public cut water usage in response to the drought. Pointing out there was no talk of cost-saving measures in cutting bureaucracy, the water board gave itself a 10% raise in April.

I felt these fee increases were penalizing the public for doing a good conservation job. In my column I outlined salaries and insurance benefits board members received for this lucrative part-time job.

One reader also pointed out that Mesa Water board member Shawn Dewane also sits on the Orange County Water District board and that his compensation from that district in 2016 was $21,500 in annual per diem pay, $16,229.66 in insurance benefits, $3,812.47 in retirement benefits and a $1,397.50 equipment allowance. This is all in addition to his Mesa Water board per diems of $20,160 and $16,800 in insurance benefits.

On Nov. 10, the Mesa Water board unanimously approved the rate hike and, as the Daily Pilot reported, “The primary factor behind the increases, Mesa Water officials said, is that the district is seeing large rate hikes of its own from the Orange County Water District.”

I wasn’t the only journalist who felt Mesa Water wasn’t passing the smell test. Voice of OC’s Norberto Santana Jr. dug deeper in an eye-opening column.

Talking about all of this on Tom Johnson’s KOCI FM radio show, “StuNews Sunday,” on Nov. 11 apparently didn’t sit well with Mesa Water, a sponsor of the station.

Johnson explained that station management required him to interview representatives of Mesa Water from time to time, which he did, though Johnson was relegated to what he calls “softball questions” because they were sponsors. Mesa Water spent $3,900 in 2017 for two 13-week schedules.

But there was nothing soft about my opinions or those of former Bubbling Cauldron blogger Geoff West.

Mesa Water contacted KOCI with objections to what we said on the air.

In emails Johnson shared with me, a representative of KOCI wrote Johnson on Nov. 18, saying Stacy Taylor, external affairs manager for Mesa Water, called the station saying, “One of Mesa Water’s board members made Stacy aware of the negative comments” and that this was “bad timing” since KOCI had a proposal in to Taylor for an annual sponsorship for 2018.

When KOCI suggested that Johnson “temper comments” on his show, he wrote back: “You know what, I’m going to resign from hosting ‘StuNews Sunday’ effective immediately. You can use me as the scapegoat to save Mesa Water.”

Speaking to a KOCI representative Monday regarding the current Mesa Water sponsorship proposal, I was assured the sponsorship wasn’t in jeopardy.

But on Thursday morning, Taylor told me she wasn't going to take the proposal to the board anytime soon.

“It is bad timing right now to bring that to the board for consideration,” she said.

However, in an email later, she wrote, “There is no further concern or issue and Mesa Water may consider a future KOCI sponsorship.”

Calling her Monday, I asked to speak to the mystery board member who took objection to what was said, offering an interview so the person could give his or her side of things in my column.

Taylor said she didn’t know who called KOCI or which board member objected to comments on the show.

Taylor said she’d get back to me and offered a tour of the facility with the general manager and Dewane.

I explained I wanted to do a phone interview with the parties involved before that.

Taylor insisted Mesa Water policy requires I email her my questions and she would get answers back to me.

That’s not how I roll. I speak directly to those in question, especially when it relates to elected officials.

Later I spoke with KOCI CEO Brent Kahlen. He told me he hadn’t had time to look into this yet.

Johnson, a former Daily Pilot publisher, told me he’s done at KOCI and is exploring other options for “StuNews Sunday.” That’s probably a wise move.

Costa Mesa mayoral flap remains a mystery

My other column regarding the removal of Foley as mayor (she remains a council member) also garnered much reader interest.

No one inside City Hall is willing to talk publicly about why she was removed or confirm or deny whether the city heeded Councilman Jim Righeimer’s call for an investigation.

Councilman John Stephens said he’s not “aware of any investigation or any basis for an investigation.”

He still feels the manner in which Foley was removed as mayor is a violation of city codes and is in the process of determining “what would be the appropriate procedural remedy.”

I’ll continue following both these stories.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

CMTV’s Brad Long helped

keep the community informed


I was saddened to hear of the Nov. 26 passing of longtime Costa Mesa city employee Brad Long of CMTV.

Seeing the posting on Facebook was shocking. I had no idea Long, who died of complications related to a blood disorder he’d been fighting for the past several months, was sick.

Costa Mesa Public Information officer Tony Dodero told me Long didn’t talk about his illness, and those who worked with him at the city are still trying to process the loss.

In this week’s City Hall Snapshot Update, Dodero wrote:

“While Brad had been sick for a while, his sudden passing was still a surprise to his family and friends that knew of his situation. He went to the hospital a week ago Friday, and his doctors discovered an alarmingly low platelet count, which they tried desperately to remedy with numerous transfusions, but unfortunately his body rejected them every time. The low platelets led to other complications, and Long passed away peacefully on Saturday with tons of love and support from his family.”

He was also remembered for his top-notch work on the city’s public-access TV station.

“Brad was an extremely talented videographer and a master of interviews and storytelling,” Dodero wrote. “His film and video work could be seen regularly on CMTV, and the city’s YouTube channel, and collectively that work is a historical treasure trove for the city of Costa Mesa, which he dearly loved.”

He turned his lens on multiple events.

“Over the years, Brad chronicled major events in the city like the Lions Club Fish Fry, the OC Fair Cattle Drive and Snoopy House and produced features on historical city landmarks like the Estancia Adobe and Fairview Park,” Dodero wrote. “His handiwork can be seen on police, fire and city recruitment videos and public service announcements about fireworks and coyotes. He won multiple awards for his work.”

Dodero interviewed Long earlier this year.

My “favorite part of working for Costa Mesa is without a doubt, the people, our leaders, educators, business people, co-workers (past and present), and, of course, our residents,” Long told Dodero. “Telling their stories is a close second.”

Long listed among his favorite Costa Mesa stories the first Cattle Drive in 1997.

“All they had to do back then was come out of the old Costa Mesa High Farm and head down Fairview into the parking entrance, just before Fair Drive,” Long said. "Well, all heck broke loose, and it was like a stampede of cowboys, cattle and press vehicles down Fairview Road trying to get through a funnel. It was a pure adrenaline moment for sure.”

But Long said “my proudest project would be “Echoes From the Fields: The Costa Mesa Story,” which can be viewed online at

“It’s a history of the city of Costa Mesa that took us nearly three years to complete,” he told Dodero, “but it was a labor of love and also a lot of fun to do.”

An employee of CMTV for 24 years, Long touched many lives, as is evident by reading all the heartfelt posts on his Facebook page.

I got to know him in 2010, when planning the first Feet to the Fire Forum, a candidates’ debate, at the Costa Mesa Community Center.

CMTV was one of our first partners to jump on board for this new concept.

Long and his supervisor, Dane Bora, worked with me on how to shoot the show for broadcast and remained creative and supportive over the years.

As the 2018 election season approaches, the entire Feet to the Fire family will be thinking of him.

Long and his camera were a staple at city events, and when I’d run into him he was always smiling and welcoming.

We had many chats about the good ol’ days of cable access television. He was a fan of my former comedy cooking show, “At Home on the Range,” and we’d giggle about those crazy days.

Long’s passing leaves a hole in the heart of those with whom he worked, especially Bora.

“He was a shining star in the organization, and he loved working for the city and loved being a part of the community,” said Bora. “Brad was kind, empathetic and respectful of all, and he will be greatly missed by his fellow city employees as well as the entire community.”

Dodero said Long’s family is still coping with their loss and “is undecided about any future services.”

He told me the city will be planning a memorial for city employees to honor Long, and he’ll keep me posted when there’s a firm date.

Long holds a special place in the hearts and minds of those who knew him.

Rest in peace, Brad.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

I was saddened to hear of the Nov. 26 passing of longtime Costa Mesa city employee Brad Long of CMTV.

Seeing the posting on Facebook was shocking. I had no idea Long, who died of complications related to a blood disorder he’d been fighting for the past several months, was sick.

Costa Mesans deserve to

 know why City Council 

stripped Mayor Foley of her title


Costa Mesa’s Nov. 7 City Council meeting was shocking as the council voted 3-2 to remove appointed Mayor Katrina Foley without saying why.

Considering the overwhelming number of public comments urging the council not to take this action, I’d have bet Councilwoman Sandy Genis would’ve read the room and not voted with fellow council members Jim Righeimer and Alan Mansoor for Foley’s removal.

But she did.

On the surface this seemed uncharacteristic of Genis since Foley campaigned with her in the last election and their voter fan bases greatly overlap.

Social media posts have not been kind to Genis now that she is mayor.

Some see her actions as a betrayal of a colleague who supported her and a planned power grab.

I spoke with both women, hoping to dig deeper into this unprecedented removal of a mayor in Costa Mesa.

I got very different stories.

Foley, who will remain on the council, said she’s still baffled as to why this all went down as it did.

If she’s “over-stepped” in any way as mayor, she said, why didn’t City Manager Tom Hatch let her know?

Meeting with him regularly, she continually asked if she was doing anything considered questionable. He never said she was, according to Foley.

I wanted to ask Hatch about this, but he didn’t respond to an interview request before my deadline.

Foley believes she had restored civility to once-cantankerous council meetings and put the city on the right track.

Genis doesn’t agree. Civility, she told me, was far from what she saw on the dais.

Without getting into specifics, Genis said she tried to reconcile what she was hearing from different city departments and outside agencies interacting with Foley and thought, “This could be bad for us.”

In one instance Genis, citing concerns about Foley, talked to the city attorney, who in turn talked to Foley.

“Eventually the issue became moot, so it never went anywhere,” Genis said.

Genis did not elaborate on what the issue was or why it required, in her mind, the city attorney’s attention.

In addition, Genis said she didn’t make the decision to vote to remove Foley lightly.

She explained the past six months have been stressful, describing “upset stomachs” before meetings.

“I had to swallow hard and bite my tongue” during meetings, she told me.

Though Genis said she still agrees with Foley on many issues, she couldn’t ignore the fact that a core group of supporters from whom she was hearing had become disenchanted with her.

I pressed Genis for details but she declined to provide them, saying that hashing this out in public isn’t productive for anyone.

I disagree. The why — as in why Foley lost her title a year before her term was over — is important.

Residents deserve specifics.

With that in mind I had some questions for Righeimer, who publicly called for Hatch to initiate an investigation into the activities of the former mayor.

What activities?

“This will all come out in due time,” he told me. “You’ll know why, and it’s not a personality issue.”

When I asked if there was a legal issue stopping him, he said he “wouldn’t comment either way.”

I told Righeimer it certainly didn’t appear that Genis made a spur-of-the moment decision to become mayor at the last council meeting.

He said he didn’t know up until the final vote whether Genis would vote for removal or not.

Foley alleged a friend sat behind someone in the audience who was texting Righeimer during the meeting, hoping Genis wasn’t getting cold feet and would still vote with him.

Righeimer said he did not get a text like that.

Whether this happened or not, it’s important to note that texting conversations during a public meeting are inconsistent with the spirit of open-meeting laws, where the goal is to air ideas in an open forum.

So is the removal of Foley’s title purely a political move or, as she calls it, the “politics of personal destruction”?

Righeimer said no.

He said he’s not running for office once he’s termed out and has nothing to gain.

Though some theorize removing Foley was orchestrated to give Mansoor — a Righeimer ally who became mayor pro tem in all this — a boost in the upcoming 2018 mayoral race, Righeimer agreed with me the opposite could be happening.

Those who see Foley as the wronged party will strongly support her as she runs against Mansoor — and possibly others — to become the city’s first elected mayor. The mayor, under the current system, is chosen for a two-year term by the five elected council members.

Since the meeting last week, Foley said she’s been receiving campaign contributions, calls, emails and well-wishes from supporters outraged by the turn of events.

“People are coming out of the woodwork, some I haven’t heard from in years,” she said.

So what’s my take on all of this?

In my book, if the electeds in Costa Mesa have concerns they believe are egregious enough to remove the mayor, then spit out specifics.

The fact that that they won’t leads me believe something’s happening behind the scenes of serious consequence. The public deserves to know sooner rather than later.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Increases in gas taxes and water rates 

illustrate government overreach


Did you felt the pinch at the pump as the new gas tax came into effect this month?

The 12 cent-per-gallon excise tax on gasoline is now up to 41.74 cents a gallon. But depending on where you gas up, prices vary greatly.

Apps like Gas Buddy — plug in a ZIP code and find the cheapest gas in your area — showed variations as great as $3.29 in a gallon in Corona del Mar, $3.09 in Huntington Beach and $3.45 in Irvine.

Searching for gas online before you fill up can save some money, but that still doesn’t take the sting out of why we’re paying more.

Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, who I wrote about Sept. 20, continues to make headway with his statewide signature campaign to repeal the gas and vehicle taxes approved in Sacramento without voter approval.

“Our Gas Tax Repeal Initiative will overturn the gas tax, and politicians will not be able to interfere with it because it is a Constitutional amendment being placed on the November 2018 ballot,” DeMaio wrote Tuesday to supporters. “That has been the plan, and the timetable since Day One of the campaign.”

DeMaio’s signature drive begins Nov. 27, and you’ll be able to sign it at

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of politicians reaching in my wallet without regard, which is why I’m not thrilled either with the recent proposal to increase water rates by the Mesa Water District Board — to the tune of 5% a year for the next five years.

That’s a 25% increase, which is outrageous considering the water board gave itself a 10% pay increase in April.

Board members went from $240 per meeting to $264. Members are limited to a maximum compensation of up to 10 meetings per month, not a bad gig for a part-time position when you consider their per diem, plus health insurance compensation.

Looking at the Mesa Water District website, I found compensation information for 2016.

Board President James Atkinson earned $25,920 in per diem pay and $16,800 for health insurance; Vice President Fred Bockmiller, $22,320 in per diems and $16,683.96 for insurance; Board member James Fisler, $28,800 in per diems and $10,074.96 for insurance; and board member Shawn Dewane, $20,160 in per diems and $16,800 for insurance.

There was no information on 2017 board member Marice DePasquale, but her predecessor Ethan Temianka received $26,400 in per diem pay and $10,074.96 in insurance benefits in 2016.

Dewane was a guest on the KOCI radio show Stu News Sunday with Tom Johnson. I’m also weekly contributor but wasn’t in the studio for the interview.

Listening at home I considered Dewane’s comments public relations spin justifying the rate increase. Dewane touted to Johnson how revenues at Mesa Water were down, as residents were pro-active in cutting water usage during the drought. Since operating costs remained the same, there’s a need now to increase rates, he said.

I find it irritatingly arrogant that instead of rewarding the public for reacting responsibly, Mesa Water would pick the public’s pockets rather than its own.

Dewane never offered a cost-cutting solution to compensate for the revenue downturn, only rate increases.

If the public’s using less water, why not look for administrative savings?

Are we to believe within this bureaucracy there’s no fat?

I’ve never met a government bureaucracy that couldn’t use to lose some weight!

How about board members start with not giving themselves a 10% increase in compensation months before asking the public for an increase?

Back in 2014 I wrote an article about how there’s no sweeter deal than getting yourself elected to a water board. I found there’s little oversight and no term limits.

Voters traditionally don’t pay attention to these elections. I was just as guilty as the next person.

But now I am, and so should you.

The next Mesa Water District Board meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday at 1965 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa. The public can — and should — weigh in on the rate increases.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Update on Costa Mesa Animal 

Shelter controversy 

and thoughts on the Peotter Recall 


Last week I had some strong comments about Costa Mesa’s concept of having its own animal shelter.

And though I think that is a good idea, I don’t think the city’s plan to partner with the OC Humane Society to operate that proposed shelter is.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that opinion.

Reader comments were passionate. Some shared personal horror stories about the Huntington Beach shelter.

Others weighed in, eager for a public-private partnership like what was done in Newport Beach for its shelter.

The day the column ran I heard from Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens and Councilwoman Sandy Genis. Both said they would be appealing the initial decision regarding the shelter.

In Stephens’ appeal, he states, “The issue of how we care for our animals is important. It should be decided by the City Council after a full public hearing.”

He acknowledges issues raised by the public regarding the proposed operator and location.

“This will need a deep dive,” Stephens wrote. He asked me to let my readers know he wants to hear from them by calling his cellphone, (714) 337-1874, or emailing him at

Remember that emails are subject to public record requests.

Stephens’ goal is to bring his findings to the council before January.

And speaking of hearing from the public, they sure have spoken out in Newport regarding the recall of Councilman Scott Peotter.

Last Friday, recall supporters delivered 10,688 signatures to the city clerk’s office.

Signatures now go to the county registrar for verification; 8,445 will be needed to qualify for a recall vote.

Peotter’s email blast on Monday claims he turned in 1,783 signatures to rescind signatures from the recall petition. The city clerk confirmed this to me.

Like the recall signatures, rescinded signatures must also be verified by the registrar as being legitimate Newport Beach voters.

Let’s say that both sides’ signatures are verified.

If you do the math, 10,688 minus 1,783 still leaves the recall supporters with 8,905 signatures. That’s cutting it close, but it’s still more than enough to qualify for the recall vote.

If you compare the efforts, the recall supporters certainly got more people to sign their petitions than Peotter did to rescind signatures.

In Peotter’s latest blast, he claims, “Many people that signed told me that they were misled. They thought they were signing a petition to stop high-rise development. ”

He included a photo he claims recall organizers used. It shows an aerial view of Newport with fake high-rises inserted. The caption is “Stop High-Rise Development in Newport Beach.”

The recall effort has given many reasons why Peotter should be removed from office, one being his voting record on high-density development.

And just as Peotter is calling foul here, throughout this recall process I was hearing from recall organizers that Peotter supporters were misleading folks into signing the rescind cards with all sorts of explanations that bent the truth.

Bottom line: When asked to sign anything, ask questions!

If a vote to recall Peotter happens, voters will be asked two questions.

If he should be recalled, and if yes, then select a candidate to replace him.

So far two candidates, Mike Toerge and Joy Brenner, are in the running. Others could jump in before a vote date is announced.

Campaigning and fundraising has begun. Folks are also seeking endorsements, especially from Line in the Sand, which up until now has remained silent on the recall.

Both Toerge and Brenner have already met with Line in the Sand. I hear an endorsement could be announced as soon as the recall signatures are verified.

An endorsement from this group could tip the scales for either candidate.

On the flip side, Peotter’s last email listed some of his endorsements that include his Team Newport cohorts — Mayor Kevin Muldoon, council members Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, Brad Avery, Will O’Neill and Diane Dixon.

All but Avery and O’Neill are up for reelection in 2018.

Those hitching their wagon to Peotter are making a risky move in my opinion, as the blowback from the recall will certainly play a role in next year’s election cycle for these folks.

The optics at this point don’t look good for Peotter’s success here beating a recall vote.

I asked the city clerk’s office if resignation and a council appointment to fill Peotter’s vacancy was an option.

“An elected official has the opportunity to resign at any time and the City Council may appoint a replacement,” Jennifer Nelson, assistant city clerk, told me. “However, if the registrar of voters certifies that there are 8,445 valid signatures in support of the recall, the recall will move forward even with a resignation.”

Regardless, Peotter now takes his place in Newport’s history as the only council member ever to face an actual recall petition.

Will that footnote include a total recall?


Costa Mesa’s new  deal with OC Humane  Society raises questions


The good news is Costa Mesa is moving toward getting its own animal shelter.

The bad news is the city's Planning Commission voted Monday to get in bed with the Orange County Humane Society to develop and operate a shelter at 642 Baker St.

To give you some background, Costa Mesa's strays are currently taken to the Humane Society's shelter in Huntington Beach. That contract has been in place since 2009.

The facility, at 21632 Newland St., also serves the city of Garden Grove.

 Readers may remember that Newport Beach canceled its contract with this shelter back in 2015 over concerns about how animals were treated there.

Afterward, the city began using its own shelter at 20302 Riverside Drive, in West Santa Ana Heights. The area is zoned for kennels.

In 2007, I was chairwoman of the Santa Ana Heights Redevelopment Agency Project Advisory Committee while negotiating the annexation agreement for this area.

We fought hard to keep this zoning in the agreement when West Santa Ana Heights was annexed by the city from the county in 2008.

Little did the committee know then that years later, this would pave the way for Newport to take care of its own animals.

Now it's up to Costa Mesa to take a cue from Newport and create its own shelter. However, I strongly believe it shouldn't be with this organization from Huntington Beach.

Why get in business with people who have a sketchy past?

Based on Yelp reviews of the Huntington Beach shelter, things there are not good. Users rate it two stars out of five.

Reading the 56 online reviews should give Costa Mesa's council reason alone to pause and rethink this Planning Commission decision.

I also looked at Humane Society's website expecting to see links or mention of other nonprofit rescue organizations affiliated with a shelter. I saw none there. That raises a red flag for me.

And what of the OC Animal Care investigation into the Huntington's Humane Society this year?

Has Costa Mesa studied it?

Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens tells me he is aware of the study. We also talked about the fact that the shelter was denied a kennel license in 2017.

Stephens said he visited the shelter recently with other officials and found conditions there to be good, which seems to have put his concerns at rest.

But as I told Stephens, doesn't everyone clean their house when expecting company?

Stephens tells me since the Planning Commission decision, he's gotten emails from residents opposing the idea of the Humane Society running a Costa Mesa animal shelter. He's taking those concerns into consideration.

So will he be the one to lead an appeal here?

He says he's still thinking about it, but he's open to the idea.

"Appealing something doesn't necessarily mean that you disagree with it. It means that you want to look at it on the City Council level because it is important to residents," he says.

Are there alternatives the city could look at if it decides not to go ahead with the current plan?

Stephens says Costa Mesa could create something from the ground up as Newport did. It could also explore partnering with Newport's facility.

As Stephens and I discussed the issue this week, he certainly acknowledged the success Newport has had with its effort and how the community has embraced the shelter effort.

As I wrote last week, the nonprofit Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter (FONBAS) has raised an estimated $30,000 so far just by word of mouth. The group is having its first "Howl-O-Ween" costume party fundraiser Saturday at Marina Park.

It's a fine example of a public-private partnership initiated by residents.

Is there that same passion for animals among Costa Mesans?

I think there is.

One thing you can say about the folks in that city is they take every opportunity to get involved to better their community.

They also initiate change when need be.

I feel the time is right for residents and the city to work together in creating a shelter that's truly something to be proud of.

It doesn't make sense to have outsiders with baggage run a shelter when Costa Mesa could do it better.

Stephens estimates about 75% of residents have dogs. He felt that way based on his precinct walks as a candidate.

As an advisory board member of FONBAS, I've seen a great outpouring of support from the community. I believe Costa Mesa would see the same if it had its own shelter.

As stated by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Pearl Buck, “The test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless members.”

It's time for Costa Mesa to step up and do the right thing.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


#MeToo, say women who have

 worked with O.C. Democratic

 Party and Labor Federation


The Harvey Weinstein scandal certainly has everyone talking about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

And with the #MeToo campaign on Facebook, women are sharing personal stories.

These accounts reach far and wide, including into Orange County politics, as was evident by the Oct. 17 news release from Danielle Serbin, chairwoman of the Orange County Young Democrats.

In her release, Serbin writes:

“As part of the #MeToo campaign on Facebook, several young women have bravely stepped up to alert the public about their experiences being sexually harassed and abused by men in power in Orange County Democratic and allied organizations. Specifically, women are speaking out about men in power at the Democratic Party of Orange County and/or the Orange County Labor Federation who have tried to undress young women in the workplace, sent young women pornographic images and memes and joked about porn with young interns.”

Serbin goes on to urge women to tell their stories — anonymously or publicly.

“We will work with allies to shield you from retaliation,” she writes.

According to Serbin, the news release was prepared with the alleged victims’ approval.

For the record, the Orange County Democratic Party is going to launch an investigation into the allegations, which were first reported by OC Weekly.

But what about the O.C. Labor Federation?

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically the umbrella organization under which all O.C. labor unions fall. Its website says it is one of nearly 500 state and local labor councils of the AFL-CIO representing interests of workers at the state and local levels.

This same organization, which is being accused by the Young Democrats of allowing harassment, is supposed to “advocate for social and economic justice and we strive daily to vanquish oppression and make our communities better for all people — regardless of race, color, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or ethnic or national origin.”

I called one of the higher-ups to discuss this and the allegations but didn’t receive a call back.

Serbin tells me one woman making accusations against that organization was hesitant to speak to the news media because she feared retribution from her harasser.

So why post details on Facebook?

“It’s a millennial thing,” Serbin says. “I guess they feel more comfortable with social media.”

She also told me the woman in question doesn’t plan to seek criminal charges against her alleged abuser, who she says holds a “high-ranking position within the federation.”

Though I haven’t heard from the labor federation staff, I did chat with one of the most powerful women in O.C. labor, Jennifer Muir Beuthin, general manager of the Orange County Employees Assn.

She also serves on the executive board of the California Labor Federation, representing 2.1 million workers.

But before Beuthin had a career in labor, she was a reporter for the Orange County Register, and a damn good one at that.

If there’s one person who I feel will get to the bottom of controversy in labor, it’s her.

She tells me she is going to call for a full investigation of the allegations against the O.C. Labor Federation.

When we talked she had just become aware of the Facebook posts in question.

Beuthin has her own opinions on harassment in the workplace.

“I think women are assaulted and discriminated against in a lot of different ways — pay disparity, unequal treatment, harassment,” she says. The “universal way to combat this is to mentor women to high positions.”

She says the labor movement has historically created rules and protections for working people and her organization has played a role.

Historically, unions have been the place workers can go to and expect confidentiality, as they have the ability and tools to fight back, Beuthin said.

But, she admits, “that doesn’t mean we are exempt from the problem.”

Beuthin said labor has taken steps nationally to work where it has influence against this kind of behavior.

I asked Beuthin if she‘d ever been harassed in the workplace, and she said she experienced “varying degrees” in her career.

“I think it’s happened to almost every woman who has worked for a living,” she said.

Reading the #MeToo posts of people she’s worked with, Beuthin said it’s a reminder for all of us that “we need to talk about these experiences. We don’t want this normalized.”

“It happens to so many people, especially in politics, and getting it out there is heartbreaking and constructive,” she said.

Beuthin assured me that as a labor leader she takes these allegations seriously.

“We have an obligation to investigate the allegations, no matter what,” she said.

My money’s on Beuthin to flush out these abusers and kick them to the curb.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Newport Beach nonprofit will help local animals, but there's a delay at City Hall

his week my column has gone to the dogs, literally.

As a doggie mama of two rescues, Stasha and Rocco, I’m firmly behind the efforts of a new nonprofit in town, Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter (FONBAS).

The group formed last fall.

Money raised by FONBAS goes to augment the city-run shelter at 20302 Riverside Drive, make animals more comfortable and adoptable, upgrade cages, provide additional medical and dental care and the like.

They also hope to launch a capital campaign to either buy the current shelter or another building.

The board consists of Tim Stoaks (my neighbor), Jean Watt, Walt Howald, Jonathan Langford, Evelyn Hart and Nancy Gardner. Newport police Lt. Tom Fischbacher is the city’s liaison.

Hart is in charge of forming an advisory board — which I agreed to serve on — and we built a website at

After months of organizing, the group has raised more than $30,000 just by word of mouth. On Oct. 28, there is FONBAS’ first official fundraiser, a “Howl-O-Ween” costume party for dogs at Marina Park, 1600 W. Balboa Blvd., from 10 a.m. to noon.

Prizes will be awarded for scariest, prettiest and “most Newport Beach” costumes. Awards will also go to best owner/pet ensemble, best trick and most personality.

The event is free and will feature Vladae the World Famous Russian Dog Wizard offering training tips. There will also be dog adoption opportunities from the shelter and refreshments for people and pets.

But here’s the catch: Though this seems to be a great public-private partnership with the city for a good cause, Newport hasn’t signed the simple three-page agreement FONBAS presented via the Police Department and Fischbacher in August.

Without an official agreement, the nonprofit can’t legally give money to the city or obtain insurance, according to Stoaks.

I read the document. It’s pretty much based on the same agreement the city has with Friends of Oasis and Friends of the Library.

Seeing nothing controversial in it, I asked City Manager Dave Kiff and City Attorney Aaron Harp about the holdup.

Kiff apologized for the delay and assured it will get on a City Council agenda shortly. Kiff also applauded the efforts of FONBAS and hopes to attend the fundraiser.

I guess the wheels of government turn slower than those of passionate volunteers. But, agreement or not, the event is moving forward as planned.

I’ll be there with my two fur babies in their matching pumpkin sweaters.

Stasha has volunteered to be a judge for the costume contest, as she’s far more media savvy than Rocco.

And speaking of media savvy, Stasha is used to having her picture taken. Rocco isn’t, so I wondered how he’d do during a recent photoshoot at Dogma Pet Portraits on Superior Avenue in Costa Mesa.

Turns out he’s a ham, as Dogma owner David Capron discovered.

Since 2010, Capron, a professional for 16 years, has been taking pictures of dogs.

Capron tells me he started with Emotion Portraits Studio in 2005.

“Nearly every time we made a family portrait, there was a dog in it, and over the years we’ve sold as many portraits of dogs as we have of kids,” he told me.

Along with his wife, Sylvaine, the couple switched their business concept “to address the needs of our four-legged friends and their humans,” Capron said.

They really have this doggie photography down to a science.

During the initial design appointment, about a week before your photoshoot, he gets both you and your dog comfortable in the studio. You can pick a package.

The photoshoot itself was fun. Capron was great with Stasha and Rocco as he coaxed them into poses using treats.

Next there’s the sales and ordering appointment, where you see a slideshow of photos and pick artwork.

On the home page of their website,, is a video explaining the process and photos of previous clients.

During our photoshoot I enjoyed getting to know this creative couple. It was obvious they love what they do. They’ve photographed more than 2,000 dogs and enjoyed all those photoshoots, they told me. They’re still in touch with many clients, whom they can call friends.

I can believe that. They both made me and my dogs so comfortable.

Capron said he is in a business where he gets to provide something that’s “more than just a thing.”

“We capture memories, emotions and moments in time, which, for obvious reasons, is so very important in your life with a dog,” he explained.

Looking at the photos he took of my two, I felt the images really captured their essence of wonder and fun.

I just hope Stasha and Rocco don’t start barking about wanting modeling agents now.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Glenn  vs. Dixon, Brenner vs. Peotter, 

Feet to the Fire vs. Costa Mesa 


There’s never a dull moment in Newport or Costa Mesa politics.

The city of Newport Beach recently attempted to move the small claims slander lawsuit activist Mike Glenn initiated against Councilwoman Diane Dixon, City Clerk Leilani Brown and Assistant Clerk Jennifer Nelson to Superior Court.

Glenn emailed me this week, saying the city’s motion was denied.

“Thankfully, the Superior Court agreed that this is absolutely meritless,” he wrote.

Glenn alleges comments made at a council meeting, complaining the city prepared public documents he requested and didn’t pay for, defamed him. Dixon calls his legal action a “frivolous” waste of taxpayer dollars.

Looks like all parties are headed to the small claims court in the Harbor Justice Center, before the end of the year.

Who might run in Newport Beach?

Back in April I wrote about how 51-year Corona del Mar resident Joy Brenner was planning a run for office, should Newport Councilman Scott Peotter be recalled and a special election held. Brenner and former Planning Commissioner Mike Toerge were the only names being floated.

But then, in May, Brenner had a change of heart and hoped someone else would throw their hat in the ring.

That didn’t happen, and now as the October deadline for signatures to recall Peotter gets closer, Brenner is back in the race.

“You have to find the point in your life when you can devote yourself to this, and I’m at that point,” she said.

Brenner said that over the past few months she’s “reorganized her commitments,” and after much “thoughtful contemplation,” is now ready.

“For the last six months people have been urging me to run, and offering financial support, and that was a significant factor in my decision” she said.

Former Newport Mayor John Cox, Brenner’s boyfriend, is squarely in her corner.

“Joy’s passion for the city is endless ... as is her energy,” he said. “She has been active in the city since she was 16, and put her energy to great use on my 1980 campaign for City Council. While life on the council can be brutal, Joy is fearless and fair and will make a fantastic councilwoman.”

Brenner is gearing up now, putting an advisory board together and a campaign website is already live, though she can’t fundraise with it just yet.

But folks can sign up to be notified of her latest campaign updates and learn when they will be able to donate.

As Friends of the Corona del Mar Library chairwoman, Brenner says she’s worked with almost everyone on the current council and feels her presence there could initiate a change in “tone.”

Brenner’s entry could change the dynamic of the recall effort at this point.

I’ve spoken to some residents who were on the fence about signing the recall petition because they weren’t crazy about their choices: keep Peotter or replace him with Toerge.

Brenner’s well known in Corona del Mar and could have a broader demographic appeal as the only female candidate.

Feet to the Fire Forum?

Could we see a Feet to the Fire Forum for this recall race as it progresses?

I can’t say just yet, but what I can tell you is the F2F group, Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana Jr., Stu News Newport Publisher Tom Johnson and myself, got together a few weeks ago to start planning F2F 2018.

It promises to be our best season as we explore multi-media platforms with innovative concepts.

Will CMTV return as one of our media partners?

Readers may remember in 2016 I wrote about the council deciding not to air or let CMTV tape any candidate forums. The argument was there could be too many.

I disagreed.

Forums take a great deal of work to produce — I should know as F2F producer since 2010 — and have joked many times it’s like herding cats. A flood of forums is unlikely.

When I interviewed Costa Mesa Councilman Allan Mansoor last week about his run for mayor, we talked about F2F.

He agreed to appear in 2018 and said he’d support CMTV airing and taping the forum.

Mansoor brought the subject back to the council last week, suggesting further study and a policy is needed.

Mayor Katrina Foley, who says she never thought not airing or taping forums was a good idea, doesn’t believe there needs to be further study, since there are less than a handful of candidate forums within the city.

She plans on bringing this to a vote as early as November.

Foley supports partnering with local forums so residents learn about the candidates and their views.

“More access is always better,” she says.

Councilman John Stephens agrees.

As a challenger in the 2016 election, it was more difficult for candidates like him to get their message out without forums like F2F airing on CMTV.

Not airing forums certainly gave incumbents the advantage he says.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


Mansoor responds to Foley’s assertion that he’s a ‘failed career politician’


Last week I mentioned Costa Mesa Councilman Allan Mansoor’s plan to run for mayor in 2018, and that news created — as you can imagine — a flurry of emails my way on both sides of a divided city.

This week I delved into the race a bit more with Mansoor.

So far his opponents are current Mayor Katrina Foley and former Councilman Gary Monahan.

Should Mansoor win, his council seat would be vacated, and the city could opt for a special election or appoint someone for the remaining two years of his term.

Mansoor said last week that he’s running because “I’ve been approached by a number of people, on all sides of many issues, that are concerned with our mayor’s lack of leadership and failure to follow council policy, and that is of great concern to me.”

Foley fired back, calling Mansoor a “failed career politician,” and looks forward to debating the issues with him.

Seems campaign 2018 is off to a snarky start.

I asked Mansoor to respond to Foley’s comments.

“I’ve always tried to be respectful,” he said. “Dividing people into teams is divisive. I’ve always worked with everyone, and the only team we should be on is team Costa Mesa.”

But what about his initial claims that Foley lacks leadership and fails to follow council policy? That elicited her response.

Mansoor’s beef is that Foley set a bad precedent when she “fired all the city’s commissioners” at once in January when she became mayor.

“We have an appointment policy,” he said and felt Foley should have followed or changed it if she didn’t like it.

I read the policy, and in my opinion, it’s open to interpretation as a guideline.

In January the council did vote to remove all the commissioners; Mansoor and Councilman Jim Righeimer voted no. Mansoor felt commission seats should’ve been dealt with on an individual basis.

"You potentially have five inexperienced people on the Planning Commission, and that is a huge mistake,” he told the Daily Pilot after the vote. “I think it's unprecedented to do a clean sweep like this."

And what about Foley calling Mansoor a “failed career politician?

I guess that depends on your definition of failure.

In 2016 Mansoor was elected to council for the third time, the first being in 2002. He was appointed mayor in 2005, 2007 and 2009. He was elected to the 68th Assembly District in 2010, after redistricting, and was reelected to the 74th District in 2012.

But then Mansoor lost his bid for Orange County supervisor in 2014. He dismissed Foley’s failed politician comment, saying he wants to stick to the important issues facing the city, such as rehab homes, development and homelessness.

Mansoor said it’s wrong to allow the group homes within 650 feet of each other, and there should be no exceptions.

“Costa Mesa has an over-concentration of these homes, and we have a legal right to say no,” he said.

As far as development goes, Mansoor touted his “track record of asking for reasonable setback of development projects,” and voted no on what he calls “the aggressively high-density project” at 1901 Newport Blvd.

Mansoor said the council, including Foley at the time, all voted on the overlay zone, but the intent was to be used on blighted property, which he feels 1901 Newport wasn’t. That doesn’t mean the city is “obligated to give the full density” to any project, he added.

“It was meant to increase density a little bit — revitalization — it wasn’t meant to be widespread everywhere,” he said.

Mansoor’s “not afraid to say no” to a project he doesn’t believe in, he said.

Hosting a recent homeless forum in Costa Mesa, Mansoor told me he wants to expand on those efforts as mayor.

He’s proud of the work the city has already done here, having helped a good number of those willing to be helped.

Of course those with addiction and mental illness have proven much more “service-resistant,” he explained.

As Mansoor and I talked, I told him there are those who still question his residency.

He dismissed this, saying it’s “old news,” and that he’s a registered voter on the public record with the registrar.

Moving forward, Mansoor is looking forward to the Feet to the Fire Forum season. He holds the record of being on the hot seat more than any other candidate since 2010, and, in my view, has done well at each.

But what about 2018?

Readers may remember in 2016 the Costa Mesa council voted not to air F2F or any political forums.

At the time I suggested to Righeimer and then-Mayor Steve Mensinger that the city create a policy with specific criteria for forums to apply for broadcast.

That hasn’t happened so far, but Mansoor tells me he would welcome such a policy.

We’ll see.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


Mansoor v. Foley, Glenn v. 

Dixon, and other updates


I like to give readers an update on past columns from time to time, and one story that continues to evolve is the 2018 mayoral race in Costa Mesa.

In June I wrote about Mayor Katrina Foley’s run to become the first directly elected mayor. The position she currently has is voted on by her fellow council members.

At that time, former Councilman Gary Monahan didn’t want to talk to me about his bid for mayor, but was openly chatting about it on Facebook.

Monahan stopped into the KOCI-FM studio a couple of weeks ago as I was co-hosting “Stu News Sunday” with Tom Johnson. He told us Councilman Allan Mansoor is throwing his hat in the mayoral race as well for 2018, and Monahan was in full swing with his campaign.

Mansoor pulled papers June 22 to start the Mansoor for Mayor 2018 Committee, according to the city website.

I called Mansoor to ask what prompted his decision with two years left in his council term.

“I’ve been approached by a number of people, on all sides of many issues, that are concerned with our mayor’s lack of leadership and failure to follow council policy,” Mansoor says, “and that is of great concern to me.”

I shared his comment with Foley, who didn’t waste time firing back.

“Allan Mansoor is a failed career politician,” she said. “I look forward to debating the issues. We have much work to do to repair the damage his team caused our town. We don't have the luxury of time for people who want to play politic with personal, narrow divisive agendas.”

More on Mansoor v. Foley v. Monahan next week.

Glenn vs. Dixon continues

Another story that’s taken an odd twist this week is the Mike Glenn-Diane Dixon battle.

In August I wrote about Glenn, a Newport Beach activist, suing Dixon, a councilwoman, as well as City Clerk Leilani Brown and Assistant Clerk Jennifer Nelson, in small claimscourt. He accuses them of slander.

In a nutshell, during a past council meeting, Dixon accused Glenn of owing the city more than $600 from public document requests she claimed he never picked up.

Glenn denies this and repeatedly has demanded an apology. After not getting one, he sued in the Harbor Justice Center in Newport.

Glenn sent me an email, saying the city is now attempting to move his small claims action to Superior Court.

Glenn writes the case “would be pushed out for years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers — both of my money and of taxpayer money. They state that they also want to do this so that they can file an anti-SLAPP lawsuit against me.”

Aaron C. Harp, city attorney for Newport Beach, confirmed the city is seeking to transfer the lawsuit to Superior Court “because the First Amendment freedom of speech issues belong in Superior Court.”

He tells me Dixon and Nelson believe the allegations against them fall squarely within the protections afforded speech under the First Amendment.

“Ms. Nelson and Ms. Dixon want to file what is known as an anti-SLAPP motion (a special motion to strike a complaint where the complaint arises from activity exercising the rights of petition and free speech) and Superior Court is the proper forum for this motion,” Harp says.

Glenn also complained about the timeliness of the distribution of the transfer request.

“The court distributed the document to the city and Mr. Glenn at the same time,” Harp said. “As a courtesy, and to provide more notice, the city mailed a copy of the transfer request to Mr. Glenn on the same day we received a copy from the court. Having received notice in the same manner as the city from the court, it is hard to understand the basis for his claim.”

Glenn has requested a hearing on the transfer req— this issue is far from over.

Elizabeth Gilbert case

Readers may remember on March 7 I wrote about the plight of Huntington Beach resident Elizabeth Gilbert and her battle to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, and fight the international corporation, Reckitt Benckiser, for allegedly violating his patent for a premature ejaculation drug, Promescent, after trying unsuccessfully to buy Gilbert’s company, Absorption Pharmaceuticals, in 2014.

The lawsuit continues, as the judge determines if it will proceed in Nevada or New Jersey courts.

Gilbert’s husband, Ron, was a Newport Beach urologist who was shot to death by Stanwood Elkus, then aged 75, in January 2013 as he entered the exam room of his medical practice by Hoag Hospital.

On Sept. 18 Elkus, now 79, was convicted of that murder and sentenced to life.

Ron Gilbert’s business partner, Jeff Abraham, is a good friend of mine. I asked him if he felt closure.

“People ask me that, but how can we ever get closure?” he says. “Ron’s gone, and that’s not going to change.”

Abraham says Elkus never showed remorse or apologized during the trial or sentencing.

Gilbert’s family and friends still grapple with the loss, even though they put on a brave face.

“There’s no playbook for behavior and how to feel about this whole thing,” he tells me. “I hope you never have a friend murdered.”

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


Newport council should follow radio host into battle against gasoline tax spike


few weeks ago I wrote about how the majority of Newport Beach’s City Council voted not to accept the new state gas tax revenue as a misguided protest against it. They later rescinded that decision after public outcry that they were throwing away money.

I suggested a smarter approach would be to join the movement to repeal the tax led by San Diego radio host Carl DeMaio.

I soon heard from readers who had no idea who DeMaio is. He’s a guy who should be on your radar.

To give you some background, DeMaio grew up in Orange County, is a graduate of Georgetown University, and moved to San Diego in 2002. He started his first company, the Performance Institute, which provides training and consulting solutions to financially-troubled government entities, at 23.

Crusading to reform government by improving transparency and fiscal accountability won DeMaio a seat on the San Diego City Council in 2008. He was instrumental in turning that city around from the brink of bankruptcy with his “roadmap to recovery reform agenda.”

And though his bids for mayor in 2012 and Congress in 2014 were unsuccessful and riddled with controversy, DeMaio remained committed to state-wide fiscal reform.

He’s chairman of Reform California, which is not only working to repeal the gas tax, but is pushing for public employee pension reform as well.

DeMaio’s message has garnered him a large audience for the daily news and talk show he co-hosts on KOGO-AM 600 in San Diego.

Did I mention he’s a gay, married Republican? He is all about shaking things up.

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) calls him a “warrior.”

I talked with DeMaio this week while he was in Washington, D.C. He said he is taking a two-punch approach of repealing the gas tax and mounting an effort to recall Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton).

Newman, from a historically Republican district, was a deciding vote in passing the $5.2 billion gas tax — making California gas taxes the most expensive in the country. A recallwebsite is collecting signatures — 100,000 so far according to Moorlach.

“And the data shows that all segments of Josh’s district oppose the gas tax,” says Moorlach. “Male/female. Black, Hispanic, white. Democrats and Republicans.”

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) is also working on a gas tax repeal initiative and is waging a battle in the courts.

“It gave him enough name ID that it encouraged him to also run for governor,” Moorlach says. “Carl’s team will probably leapfrog Allen’s efforts and be very successful.”

Moorlach has long been critical of Caltrans spending.

In 2014 when the state Legislative Analyst’s Office determined that Caltrans had 3,500 too many architects and engineers at a cost of $500 million per year, Moorlach called for nixing extra staff and putting these dollars toward our roads.

Of course that didn’t happen.

“Over the past 14 years, while gas taxes were rising, transportation spending has remained virtually flat,” Moorlach wrote in the Orange County Business Journal in 2016. “This means that the state has redirected transportation tax revenues.” .

DeMaio told me only 20 cents of every dollar actually makes it to our roads, while the rest is diverted to who knows where.

“I think any government agency needs to be careful of spending money that’s not theirs,” he says.

DeMaio and group have been working with legal experts to come up with a state constitutional amendment. The objective is to not only roll back the vehicle and gas tax hikes, but eliminate future politicians’ ability to raise taxes without a vote of the people.

DeMaio says eliminating these new gas taxes could save Californians an estimated $300 annually.

The initiative measure to be submitted to voters was filed with the State Attorney General’s office Sept. 14.

The reasons behind the action are included in the Statement of Findings:

“California’s taxes on gasoline and car ownership are among the highest in the nation. (b) These taxes have been raised without the consent of the people. (c) Therefore, the people hereby amend the Constitution to require voter approval of increases in the gas and car tax.”

DeMaio needs to collect 585,407 signatures for the measure to be on the November 2018 ballot. Reform California has already received pledges from over 200,000 voters who want to sign the petition once the forms are issued by the state — DeMaio is encouraging more voters to sign up at I did.

Like many, I’m not happy with the increase and the fact that legislators in Sacramento think voters are an endless ATM. Californians pay the highest tax rate in the country, have the highest rate of poverty, and our roads aren’t great either. Something is terribly wrong here.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Making sense of Covered

California and Medicare

 during open enrollment


It’s that time of year when we all have to start thinking about health insurance plans and options.

Not only do I need to figure out if my current plan will be offered again next year, and with what changes, but my husband is over 65, so I also have to research the latest Medicare plans as well.

As a columnist, research is my thing, but this insurance stuff makes my head spin.

Like it or not it’s time to start researching as open enrollment begins. Covered California open enrollment is Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, and Medicare’s is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

At, there’s information about the various open enrollments, including for a Special Enrollment Period, due to a life event like losing other coverage, getting married or having a baby, as well as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The government site also provides tips regarding the Health Insurance Marketplace and what’s required to be eligible to use these programs.

Making the right insurance choices can be confusing.

So I asked my pal Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, FACR senior physician executive at Hoag Hospital, for some thoughts on how to maneuver through this medical insurance muddle.

Hoag is part of a 50, non-profit hospital system, the second largest west of the Mississippi, so I thought he’d have some good advice, and he did.

Brant-Zawadzki agrees that “Uncertainty about healthcare abounds, and it clouds our choices.”

He says it’s important to look at options, as it can come down to a tradeoff: choice versus cost.

Even with workplace health plans, this is the case as, “as employers increasingly select health plans that package hospitals and clinicians in a ‘narrow’ network,” hoping to spend less while “maintaining quality and patient satisfaction.”

I asked the good doctor about Medicare, as information is showing up in the mail, and from what I can see, it’s a bit confusing.

Brant-Zawadzki explained Medicare has two options.

“Selecting the traditional Medicare provides full choice of physicians and facilities, but entails out-of-pocket co-pays, and many buy supplemental insurance to cover the costs that Medicare does not cover,” he says.

The other choice, Medicare Advantage, is marketed to seniors by insurance companies and large health plans like Kaiser.

He says this is “attractive because it promises low or no out-of-pocket costs for doctors, hospitalization and drugs.”

But those choosing this option should be aware that Medicare Advantage plans offer members a network of physicians and facilities that they must use, according to the plan guidelines.

“Medicare Advantage plans typically require access for all care through an assigned primary care physician, who directs the care plan, including which tests and specialists the member will need,” says Brant-Zawadzki.

He explained these managed plans have contracted specialists, and sites of service, so patients’ choices of specialists is limited.

An unexpected emergency could find a patient here in a hospital not in their plan, resulting in transfer to a hospital within their plan.

“Likewise, an on-call specialist seeing that ER patient may not be on the plan, and may bill separately for professional services,” says Brant-Zawadzki.

“This scenario causes confusion and frustration, as well as unexpected bills for the patient, not to mention the disruption in the continuum of care,” he says.

Brant-Zawadzki says if Medicare Advantage is your preference, it’s a good idea to choose a plan that bundles the hospital, its facilities and the specialists you trust.

“Just because your favorite hospital is ‘in network’ on your plan does not mean that that hospital’s out-patient lab, imaging, colonoscopy or even ambulatory surgery facilities are also in your plan,” says Brant-Zawadzki.

Ask your primary care physician what contractual obligations he or she has within the plan you’ve chosen and what facilities and specialists to which you’d likely be directed.

“You may find yourself in a facility operated by an unfamiliar entity with an unknown diagnostician” Brant-Zawadzki says.

Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans can be confusing.

Patients should access all care from the hospital network of their choice and ensure that the plan they select gives them access to not only inpatient hospital care, but all of the additional services, such as imaging, physical therapy and other outpatient services.

Cover your bases, as you research health insurance choices.

Speak to an independent insurance broker.

And you might want to attend Hoag Hospital’s free seminars about the basics of Medicare, Medicare benefits, Medicare Supplemental Insurance Plans, Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

Classes begin in September and run through November at all three campuses in Newport, Irvine and Huntington Beach.

Reservations are a must and to find the location and times in your area visit

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

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