Weitzberg to run for Costa Mesa City Council

Harold Weitzberg, a city committee member and marketing entrepreneur, announced Wednesday that he will run for the Costa Mesa City Council.

The 64-year-old longtime resident last ran in 2012. Since then, the Queens, N.Y., native has kept active in the political scene by routinely attending council meetings, serving on the Charter Committee and helping on a marketing committee for the city’s 60th anniversary celebration. He has also been active with Costa Mesans for Responsible Government — a bipartisan, grass-roots group that opposes the council majority.

Weitzberg, a registered Democrat, lives in the Lower Birds neighborhood. He is a graduate of New York University and Hofstra University. He and his wife, Joyce, raised two daughters in Costa Mesa and have six grandchildren.

He said the council majority is, too often, undertaking a hostile “lose-lose” strategy of conflict resolution.

Weitzberg sees his candidacy as a potential change from the council majority led by Mayor Jim Righeimer, who is seeking reelection to one of the two open seats on the five-member council.

“We need to take the conflict to a higher level of dialogue to resolve it,” Weitzberg said. “It’s not impossible. You just have to create the right climate for doing that.”

Councilwoman Wendy Leece is termed out and is now running for Congress, creating the second open seat.

The other announced candidates are school board Trustee 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; and Christopher Bunyan, a Banning Ranch activist who also served on the Cultural Arts and Historical Preservation committees.

Weitzberg said his work as a brand marketing consultant — creating strategies that introduce a brand into the marketplace — would help him at City Hall.

“You take a very structured look at a problem to come up with a path for resolving that problem, or for creating a new initiative,” he said. “My skill set is knowing how to do that, how to take apart something, look at the elements of it and bring those pieces together for an effective solution.”

Weitzberg, who moved to Costa Mesa in 1983, said some of his core issues will be opposing the proposed 1,375-home Banning Ranch development and any sports fields proposed for Fairview Park, which he thinks should remain a passive natural area.

He added that the city’s multimillion-dollar unfunded pension liability needs serious consideration — “It’s a slow, long pain,” he said — but Costa Mesa will have to figure out how to cope with it for now. One solution could be using portions of budget surpluses toward the liability — an idea he brought up during Charter Committee discussions.

“But to get angry at the people who are getting the pensions because they’re getting the pensions, again, doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “And you don’t eliminate the pensions by firing the people who are getting them. You still have that obligation for at least another 25 or 30 years.”

He also said he is concerned about improving Costa Mesa’s public safety departments.

“There just aren’t enough policemen,” Weitzberg said. “The count is down. The policemen are working enormous hours.”

Though the Police Department is working on hiring more officers, it will continue having difficulty to do so under the current political environment, he said.

“ ‘Come into my web,’ said the spider to the fly. ‘Come here and be mistreated and abused’ ... To invite people into a negative environment isn’t an invitation at all,” Weitzberg said.