Candidates' forum is Wednesday in Costa Mesa

The fourth Feet to the Fire forum — this time with candidates for Costa Mesa City Council — will take place Wednesday evening.

The ongoing series of panels features journalists from various Orange County news outlets interviewing candidates for political office. Six of the eight candidates for three open seats in November are expected to attend.

They are Councilmen Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan, Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy, former Mayor Sandy Genis, attorney John Stephens and businessman Harold Weitzberg.

Candidates Al Melone and James Rader do not plan to participate. Rader has dropped out of the race, although his name remains on the ballot.

The candidates attending are split into two ideologically opposed camps, and the election has been heated.

Mensinger, Monahan and McCarthy are called the "3Ms," due to the first letters in their last names and their similar politics. They support the current council majority's plans to outsource public employees.

Genis, Stephens and Weitzberg have the backing of a community group, Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, which would like to turn back the outsourcing plans. They are considered a political slate in strong opposition to the council majority.

Melone is running independent of both groups.

The Feet to the Fire Forum is organized by Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia and Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis. They will be joined by Register columnist Frank Mickadeit, Newport Beach Independent Editor Roger Bloom and Daily Pilot columnist Jack Wu.

Norberto Santana Jr., of the Voice of OC and one of the founding panelists, will not be able to attend Wednesday night but expects to return to future forums.

Feet to the Fire forums lack some of the traditional pillars of debate, such as opening and closing statements, pre-written questions on blue cards and audience participation. Much of the conversation is impromptu.

"Our goal is to get honest answers on the issues from those seeking office," Canalis said. "I also feel like our more-relaxed atmosphere leads to livelier discussions — kind of what you might see on a Sunday morning public affairs rather than at a typical town-hall meeting."

The fourth Feet to the Fire will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave., Costa Mesa.

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