The Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday approved a $1,514 stipend for Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Steve Mensinger, who plan to attend the annual International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas later this month.
The Costa Mesa Conference and Visitors Bureau will cover the other half of the cost.
The trip is part of the city's effort to attract new commercial development, especially sit-down restaurants on Harbor Boulevard, council members said.
City staff will man a booth at the convention, and the councilmen plan to attend seminars and meet representatives from prospective businesses, according to a city staff report.
Both men, who are also real estate developers, plan to drive to the city. Their stipends include convention registration, hotel rooms and a daily food allowance. The driver will receive mileage reimbursement.
Councilwoman Wendy Leece said that the trip deserves scrutiny in the tough economic climate, and that the councilmen should file a detailed report about who they met and what they planned to do after the convention.
City regulations say the two just have to debrief the council about the convention.
Members of the public echoed Leece's sentiment.
But Mensinger, Mayor Eric Bever and Councilman Gary Monahan pushed back, saying Leece was being unreasonably critical, and that "the community should be entirely happy," in Monahan's words, to have two experienced developers working to attract businesses.
"Are we going to ask what they had for lunch and when they had their bowel movements?" Bever asked.
Lions Park structure to be demolished
In other action, the council voted to demolish the Lions Park picnic shade structure, per one of the city's Homeless Task Force recommendations, designed to make the place less inviting.
Some residents asked the council to reconsider, pointing out that the structure provides the only shade in the park. Others said that families would be impacted as well.
"They'll be deprived of the use of the park," said resident Beth Refakes.
Council members contested that.
"It's littered with a bunch of bums and homeless," Monahan said.
The council voted 4 to 0 to spend $60,000 to remove the picnic shade structure. Righeimer was absent.
City streets that regularly flood may receive some attention if Mensinger can push through his request for contingency funds.
On Tuesday he asked Hatch to find money to repair the drainage system on Wallace Street, which is on the Westside. Residents there complained to Mensinger that their homes have flooded nine times since 1998, he said.
Mensinger showed photos of flooded homes.
"Since 1998 we've known about this problem, and we've kind of nibbled around the edges with Band-Aids," he said. "It sounds like we need surgery."
Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz said that the area is exceptionally flat, which causes water to pool in the street, and that the older homes are built below-grade, making them vulnerable to floods.
Munoz said the solution is to divert water to the nearby Placentia storm drain system, but that the city had used its limited drainage funds to fix other streets with worse problems or less expensive solutions.
Fish Fry gets Fairview Park permit
Organizers of the annual Lions Club Fish Fry received permission to use Fairview Park, and to serve beer and wine at its upcoming summer event.
Council members debated how to regulate alcohol sales at the 65-year-old festival, but ultimately voted unanimously, with Righeimer absent, to approve the permit.
It limits people to buying two drinks at a time. The Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor Lions Club has traditionally held the festival at Lions Park, which was named after the group.