COSTA MESA — Five candidates for Costa Mesa City Council told Eastside residents Thursday night that they would put their needs ahead of businesses but would also focus on trying to attract revenue to close the city's $9.5-million budget gap.
The city, with its abundance of car dealerships and South Coast Plaza, is still in the midst of growing pains after having incorporated in the early 1950s.
Candidate Jim Righeimer, chairman of the Planning Commission, pointed out that it's time for the city to figure out what it wants to be "when it grows up."
Chris McEvoy, a math teacher who pledged to draw upon his love for solving problems, said one thing he doesn't want to see is the city to start redeveloping and bringing in major retailers at the expense of mom-and-pop businesses.
"We need to slow down," said McEvoy, who said he would reduce city spending on vehicles and other purchases.
The forum sponsored by the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group Inc. and moderated by Marnie O'Brien drew about 150 people to the Neighborhood Community Center. It was the fourth in a series of local debates the center.
An issue dear to Eastsiders involved Triangle Square, where developers proposed erecting LED signs to draw more visitors to the struggling center but later withdrew their application after residents complained to Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who then opposed it.
Chad Petschl, a newcomer to town who kept apologizing for "intruding" on the election process, said he wasn't sure how he planned to vote on the matter and would need more information, including an artist's rendering of what the sign would look like.
His overall philosophy, he said, can be found in the "free market."
Righeimer voted in favor of the project when it went before the Planning Commission, stating that such projects require public hearings.
Another issue was the proposed Banning Ranch residential development in Newport Beach. The project is expected to impact Costa Mesa traffic.
Sue Lester, the director of a medicinal medical marijuana coalition, said she didn't think such coveted open space should be developed.
She also said the city should do everything in its power to help low-income residents with more development of affordable housing, saying that "some of last year's middle-class and even upper-class residents" have joined the legions of "low-income" folks due to the plummeting economy.
Leece, the only incumbent in the race for two seats, touted her record of Eastside issues, namely her support for reducing the speed of motorists zipping down Broadway and opposition to the proposed electronic signs at Triangle Square.
"I will continue to be there for you," she said.