Venezia: Foley will find a changed council

Over the decades I've had many interesting careers.

I've been a hairdresser, worked in New York City's garment center and briefly had a gig as a showroom shoe model — until I fell off a pair of platforms in front of a Macy's buyer.

I've managed a rock 'n' roll club and cooked up laughs on a comedy cooking show.

And though I've enjoyed each crazy chapter, including this one as a columnist, I've never had a hankering to return to any of them.

Once I'm done, I'm done.

Apparently that isn't the case for Katrina Foley, former Costa Mesa councilwoman turned Newport-Mesa schools trustee turned council candidate.

I remember when Foley stepped down in 2010, midway through her second council term, to take a seat on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of education.

The move surprised many political watchers, including me.

Since she's been off the council, politics in Costa Mesa certainly has heated up.

Is she crazy to want back in?

I asked her if she's had any recent head injuries.

She laughed and assured me she hadn't. Her reason for wanting to return to the council is the number of people who've asked her to.

"I have had so many people in the last year pleading with me to run for council, and my school board term is up," she says.

At this point Foley believes she can do more as a parent advocate than as a school board member, and the city could use "a little balance."

Ya think?

My conversations with Foley have always been lively.

When I called to discuss her run and appearing at the Feet to the Fire forum Sept. 18 dealing with that race, it was no different.

She joked that I should stop urging Costa Mesa Police Chief Tom Gazsi to quit his job and also run for council.

"We need him as chief, though I would love to have him as a running mate," she says.

Kidding aside, Foley has strong feelings about staffing levels at the Costa Mesa Police Department since her home and a neighbor's were burglarized last year.

She told me when her neighbors were burgled, the cops took two hours to respond, since they were already dealing with two auto accidents.

In that same time frame other homes were hit as well, she says.

She speculates that if there had been more police on patrol that night, this wouldn't have happened.

During this campaign season, the subject of the city's 60th anniversary debacle — the party went over budget and city policies were not followed in the rush to put on the street party — will certainly come up.

Regarding that issue, Foley says, "When I was on council, there was a reason for checks and balances and procedures. There obviously was a breakdown here. "

It's about being a good steward of taxpayer dollars and not spending it on things that are gratuitous, she told me.

Is the city in better or worse shape than when Foley left the council?

"In some ways I feel it's in better shape because we are no longer in a recession. In many ways we are better financially," she says. "We are in worse shape in our ability to serve the public as we are short-staffed in almost every department."

Having been on the council and then on the school board, why isn't Foley making a run for Assembly or county supervisor? Those would seem to be the next obvious political steps.

"I have two boys in high school, and they are my priority," she says

Running for a position other than City Council would take her away from her family, and the timing isn't right, but she doesn't discount those options in the future.

For now, Foley, whose day job is practicing law, is gearing up for what could be a hotly contested and possibly messy council race.

"I hope we can have a clean campaign on the issues," she says. "I've never attacked people in the mail, and I don't intend to use my money that way."

Though she won't be muckraking, she's prepared to respond to attacks, which apparently have already started.

Foley deleted some posts on her Facebook page from local tea party supporters who, not surprisingly, weren't fans of hers.

But has she been away from the council game too long?

She doesn't think so.

At a recent council meeting, she noted, the discussions were about many of the same issues — like street improvements and bike trails — as when she served.

What has changed is the widening polarization in the community.

"Builders, residents, they're all part of the same community," she says. "What I saw the other night was people pitting one group against another and not listening. I hope I can change that."

Unlike my career changes, apparently Foley isn't done yet.

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

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