In 2018 Costa Mesa will directly elect a mayor for the first time. Previously, elected council members took turns at this ceremonial role.
When this new mayoral concept was being discussed and presented to the voters in 2016, it didn’t make much sense. In this new incarnation, mayoral power structure and duties remain largely the same as before.
I agree creating voting districts -- where candidates only have to run within those districts, making it far more affordable and manageable to campaign -- forms a more-diverse council. But I didn’t think coupling this issue with the mayoral one on the ballot made sense.
To be clear, anyone can run for mayor, even if you’ve served on council and are termed out. Now there’s no need to wait the required two years to be able to run again.
This newly elected mayor will have a vote on issues, so in essence that person really becomes another councilmember. And because of redistricting, one district will have two voices.
Putting those facts aside, whoever becomes the first elected mayor at large certainly takes their place in Costa Mesa’s history books, which is a big deal.
So far it seems Mayor Katrina Foley and former councilman Gary Monahan want the job.
Announcing intentions to run this early is a smart move politically and could deter lesser-known candidates.
Both Foley and Monahan have their own fan bases and each has the ability to raise money, making them hard to beat.
As I’ve watched Costa Mesa politics these last 10 years, I’ve noticed that voters are issue-oriented and tend to recycle their politicians. That’s certainly been the case with Monahan, who’s served multiple turns. Foley, who left for the school board for a stretch, is on another council tour.
I contacted them both, hoping to talk about issues important to them, their choices for political consultants and why they decided to run.
Foley was happy to chat.
She’s enjoying her role as mayor, “working with business leaders, connecting people and problem-solving,” and wants to continue this momentum she explained as her reasoning for running for mayor in 2018.
Foley had the option of running for re-election of her four-year council term in 2018, so why is she opting for a two-year mayoral term instead?
She “only wants to serve another two years” and feels it will be a good time to transition new people into leadership roles with the new district concept in place and new folks serving on city commissions.
Foley is proud of the progress made during her mayoral year so far. Projects like completing the staffing of public safety and affordable housing top her list. She’d also like to see motels on Newport Boulevard once again attract tourists and feels she needs two more years to accomplish these goals and more.
“We have a good momentum and stability; that’s important right now as we transition into directly elected mayor and districts,” she says.
Foley also plans on working with her same team of “DeSnoo & DeSnoo, Michele Mullen, Kimberlee Belli and the hundreds of volunteers” that brought in her last council win.
With an elected mayor, I wondered what will happen to the position of mayor pro tem.
“That’s a good question,” she says. “You’re the first person to ask it.”
Apparently the council still needs to figure that out.
And as I mentioned in my May 16 column, former Councilman Gary Monahan posted on Facebook: “OK I have Steve Mensinger, Jim Righeimer, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jim Fisler, Lee Ramos, Dana Rohrabacher, John Moorlach and a heck of a lot others behind me… Let’s do this.”
At the time he told me, “Nothing is final,” but that’s changed.
“My run for Mayor is now ‘officially’ endorsed By Congressman Dana Rohrabacher & Angel’s Auto Spa Owner Surat Singh,” he posted June 8.
On June 9 he posted a link to his fundraising page, as well as announcing a fundraiser for June 29 to coincide with his restaurant Skosh Monahan’s 17th anniversary. He also asked for suggestions on a campaign theme song.
I was especially interested in talking with Monahan, because after he was termed out in 2016, he told me he was done running for council and wanted to focus on his business and family.
And though he’s posting on social media about running for mayor, I guess he didn’t want to talk to me, as my call and email went unanswered.
I am ready to share his ideas with readers whenever he is ready to talk.
In the long run, it will be interesting to see if voters welcome him back.
Or has he “jumped the shark,” as they say in TV when a show’s been on too long and has lost its sizzle?
BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.