Los Angeles Times

Venezia: Having fun with Costa Mesa candidates

This post has been corrected, as noted below

My last several columns have focused on the Newport Beach City Council race and the new crop of candidates there.

This week I turn my attention to Costa Mesa, since candidates in that race will find themselves in hot seats at the Feet to the Fire Forum in six weeks.

Our political talk show format featuring the Feet to the Fire gang of John Canalis and Alicia Lopez of the Daily Pilot, Norberto Santana Jr. of the Voice of OC and Jack Wu of the Orange County Register will take center stage Sept. 18 at Orange Coast College's Robert B. Moore Theatre. (Doors open at 6 p.m.; the forum is from 7 to 8 p.m.)

I checked in with the candidates who have returned their campaign paperwork to the city so far: Tony Capitelli, Katrina Foley, Jay Humphrey, Lee Ramos, Mayor Jim Righeimer and Harold Weitzberg.

The other declared candidates are dog park advocate Al Melone and Banning Ranch advocate Christopher Bunyan. They hadn't yet returned their papers at this writing (Friday is the deadline).

Most of the other candidates are anticipating what should be our biggest forum to date, which is why we're moving it from the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center to OCC.

Having some fun with the candidates, I asked which of their competitors they'd most like to serve with on the council.

Capitelli, Ramos and Weitzberg all sounded like politicians, saying they'd welcome working with anyone.

Humphrey picked Foley.

Righeimer said the conservative candidate he'd like to work alongside is Ramos. On the liberal side, he'd be OK with Weitzberg.

He joked that putting that in print probably wouldn't help Weitzberg's campaign.

Weitzberg ran and lost in 2012, and Humphrey served on the council from 1990 to 1994. I asked both how their experience running for office this time differs.

"There's a greater level of animosity from those that oppose me," Humphrey says.

He says he doesn't take seriously bloggers who've called him a "dinosaur" and "Pollyanna-ish."

Weitzberg says it's a far more crowded field of candidates than last time.

First-time candidates in this race are eight-year resident Capitelli — who is Newport Mayor Keith Curry's son-in-law — and Ramos, who's been in the city since 1947.

Capitelli, who works as an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), calls himself a fresh voice for residents, while Ramos touts his institutional knowledge of the city as his strong point.

But one candidate, one of the presumed front-runners, in fact, won't be joining us.

Why isn't Foley attending?

She tells me she has a "family commitment" and wasn't aware of the forum date.

Had she not seen at least one of the many articles I've written since February about the four forums we planned this political season or any of the articles Canalis, Wu or Santana wrote?

Foley admits reading about the forums, but "as a busy attorney" she doesn't write dates in her calendar that she sees in the paper — only those she receives via formal letter or email invitation.

Journalist Roger Bloom, who acted as our candidate coordinator early in the year, tells me he spoke to all the candidates about the forum, which was originally scheduled for a different date.

Foley says he never told her the date had been changed.

Funny thing, the rest of the candidates knew about the corrected date. I guess that's the difference between being proactive and reactive.

I agree family comes first, but the fact that Foley acknowledges reading about the forums and didn't take the initiative to write down the date, email or even call us about it doesn't pass the smell test for me.

It's not like she's unfamiliar with us. We hear from her regularly about issues.

Righeimer had his own take on why she'll be a no-show.

"Katrina Foley doesn't want to defend her six years on the council, where she blew $35 million of reserves," he says.

He also points to the crowded field of candidates, saying, "If they thought she could win it, they wouldn't be running."

Foley says she plans to attend other candidate forums in the city.

None are as tough as Feet to the Fire.

[For the record, 9:20 a.m. Aug. 8: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Tony Capitelli is a three-year city resident. He is an eight-year city resident.]

BARBARA VENEZIA, whose column appears Fridays, lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

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