Melone enters Costa Mesa City Council race

Al Melone, a Costa Mesa resident who unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2012, will run again in November, this time on an anti-growth platform.

In an interview Monday, the retired certified public accountant said his No. 1 campaign issue will be keeping in check development and the increased traffic that he says comes with it.

Melone, 68, a Bronx native who lives in the State Streets neighborhood, said he moved to Costa Mesa about 10 years ago from Los Angeles County to get away from the hustle-and-bustle congestion. He liked Costa Mesa's comparatively small-town vibe and said that "up until recently, it's been working out really good."

Now, though, with a population of about 110,000, the city has fixed amounts of available land and new developments moving along each month, particularly in the Westside, the cumulative effects of which are taking away "from the sleepy-town feeling," Melone said.

"That's not consistent with where I want to be living and what, I think, most of the people want," he said.

Melone joins a pool of eight candidates vying for two open seats on the five-member council.

Mayor Jim Righeimer will be seeking reelection. Councilwoman Wendy Leece is termed out.

Also running are Newport-Mesa Unified School District board member Katrina Foley, an attorney and former councilwoman; Lee Ramos, a longtime resident who serves on the charter and Fairview Park committees; Tony Capitelli, a congressional aide; Christopher Bunyan, a Banning Ranch activist who also served on the Cultural Arts and Historical Preservation committees; Harold Weitzberg, a marketing executive and Charter Committee member; and Jay Humphrey, a former councilman and retired pharmaceutical distribution executive.

Melone said he opposes the current Westside residential developments, the guidelines for which were approved in 2006.

Addressing Costa Mesa's coyote problem is also part of his campaign platform. Melone contends the wild animals pose a danger to cats and small dogs and that the city's response has been ineffective.

"I don't like feeling that I have to live in a state of fear," he said. "I think there's a huge segment of the population where that statement will resonate."

For the past several years at council meetings, Melone has routinely aired his concerns for the small-dog section of the city's Bark Park. He called improving that area his "pet project" — he owns two small dogs — but said he won't necessarily stress it during his campaign.

Melone said he will not accept campaign donations "with strings attached," such as those from organized labor or developers.

He stressed that Costa Mesa needs to once again emphasize public safety and rebuild its reserve funds so it can weather any downturns in the economy.

"It's happy days are here again," Melone said about the reemergence from the recession. The city needs "to set aside and restore those lost reserves."

Rebuilding the reserve funding, he said, is even more important than addressing Costa Mesa's unfunded pension liability — pegged by some recent estimates at $200 million to $228 million.

That amount is subjective and postponable, Melone contended.

"It's a floating number," he said, whose variables include the unpredictable stock and bond markets. "You don't know it. It's unknowable."

In the 2012 race for a seat on the council, Melone received 3,658 votes, or 4.1%, according to county registrar data. He ranked No. 7 in a field of eight.

Melone said he knows he's not a front-runner this time around, but feels he's a centrist candidate among others who are "either the North Pole or the South Pole."

He is not registered with any political party, calling himself "a true independent."

"I have been for over 30 years," Melone said. "I evaluate the person and position. I do not vote the straight party line."

He believes that one can make a difference even by unsuccessfully running for the council.

"I don't have to win to have, perhaps, a way of influencing public opinion and maybe getting changes," Melone said.

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