Factionalism on Peninsula Planning Board Is Simply Amazing

by on February 25, 2020 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

Some of the show that was predicted for the February 20 regular monthly meeting of the Peninsula Community Planning Board played out as expected.  The best description of it came from an audience member who walked by and soundlessly pantomimed the word “Wow” accompanied by an expression of amazement.

The gist of it was this.  The first vice-chair of the PCPB is Scott Deschenes who has resigned after one year of the turmoil.  According to the by-laws, the first vice-chair heads up the yearly election subcommittee.  Despite his desire to leave, Scott is willing to fulfill his duties until the end of the election on March 19.  That was not enough for board members “Lucky” Morrison, Don Sevrens, Margaret Virrissimo, and Mandy Havlik.

This group wanted Deschenes removed from chairing the election subcommittee.  Although they offered a thin gruel of praise to introduce their remarks, they were saying they did not trust this CHP officer and father of four to run the election.  Morrison – no one knows his real first name – read off some emails from Deschenes that he couched as unprofessional.  It was difficult to hear Morrison because he did not use a microphone but it was clear one paragraph of one email was considered especially unprofessional, enough to file a complaint with the city.

For some reason, neither Chair Robert Goldyn nor Deschenes had a copy of the complaint, but the city responded quickly to a Public Records Request and provided the complaint.  It consisted of an email from Virissimo to the city’s Planning Department including the PCPB representative Tony Kempton and two superiors, Tait Galloway, and Marlon Pangilinan,  the city attorney, and the San Diego Ethics Commission, and it copied the other three aforementioned board members, Sevrens, Havlik, and Morrison.  Wow indeed.

The email from Scott Deschenes first recounted that another complaint filed by this same crew against the chair and James Hare, chair of the Long Range Planning subcommittee, was reviewed and found to be without merit. The offending paragraph was at the bottom.

“On a different note, I will not be present at Thursday’s meeting due to a work conflict, but I wanted to announce the 2020 PCPB Election. I am calling it “Slate-O-Palooza.” There are five positions up for three year terms. As you know, this year, not only are slates allowed, they seem to be encouraged. As this year’s Election Chair, I will be having prizes for the most slanderous, defaming, and outrageously false election run. I know not all are experienced, so practice up, there is still some time.”

One board member, David Dick, responded with:

“I won’t be on a slate nor will I be a candidate. I will, instead, be slandering, defaming and outraging people from the sidelines. Will I still be eligible for a prize?”

For these comments, Virissimo and her cohorts involved the entire city. The only way to do justice to the stupidity of the complaint is to reproduce it here.  The subject line was “IMPORTANT Complaint – Peninsula Community Planning Board.”

“Greetings.

I would like to file a complaint with the City in regards to an email that was sent to our entire Peninsula Community Planning Board by a current Election Chair member of the board. The email was sent to the entire PCPB board from the current PCPB election chair Mr. Scott Deschenes and also comments from current PCPB board member Mr. David Dick.

The behavior via email from both of these gentlemen needs to be documented for historical purposes with the city. Today, we received a resignation letter from both Robert Goldyn and Scott Deschenes however I still wanted to make sure that the City was well aware of the emails.

I would like to request that a City official be present at the upcoming PCPB elections in March to avoid conflict and potential hostile behavior in public by these gentlemen or from their family and friends. We experienced it last year and I do not want to see it again in March.

On behalf of a few board members, we feel this is a very serious matter that needs to be taken seriously again this year by Tony Kempton. It has been ignored in the last three years and until something serious happens this is your warning via my email to be proactive and address these issues immediately with our board.

I understand this is an advisory board to the City, but I would assume that the City would care about our safety?

Please find email chain below in the body of this email.”

Where to begin?  This behavior needs to “documented for historical purposes?” Yes, it needs to entered in the big planning board historical record book that they keep in a safe downtown guarded by dogs. “potential hostile behavior in public by these gentlemen or from their family and friends?”  Goldyn is single and Deschenes is married with four kids, is she afraid of children?  “We experienced it last year…?” No detail of that claim.

This sentence was the favorite.

“It has been ignored in the last three years and until something serious happens this is your warning via my email to be proactive and address these issues immediately with our board.”

Virissimo doesn’t say what has been ignored but then she warns the city?  I have to think the city officials had a good laugh over that one.

Then she says the city needs to care about their safety.  Virissimo has made this claim of feeling unsafe many times in the past several years and it is patently ridiculous.  She has even gone so far as to ask an attending police officer to escort her to her car.  Proof or violence or threats even?  Non-existent.

Any intelligent person reading what was written would see both men were joking in a sarcastic manner, but joking. People can read the same thing and interpret it differently based on factors like background, beliefs, and level of intelligence.  That last factor matters most when it comes to who is offended and who understands the humor and can laugh, and it was obviously lacking.

The very act of sending this complaint directly to the city was a violation of the PCPB by-laws.  Complaints about board members are supposed to be reviewed by the board first.  Morrison explained that they could not give the complaint to the chair because he was the subject of the complaint.  Goldyn is the chair, Deschenes is the first vice-chair and there is a second vice-chair, a secretary, and a treasurer.  The complaint should have gone to the second vice-chair, not to the city.

But, what was really astonishing were the comments about a board member being unprofessional from board member Margaret Virissimo.  Her history of unprofessionalism in emails and public comments on social media, such as Next Door, were part of the election complaints filed against her in each of the past two years. There are actual records of these communications.  Deschenes’s and Dick’s remarks pale in comparison to what Virissimo has spewed forth.

What was amazing was watching a person sitting in a public meeting, where quite a few people were fully aware of her abusive behavior, saying that Deschenes was unprofessional, with a completely straight face. There was no hint of slyness or anything, it was if Virissimo was totally unaware of her own past. And then, in the midst of her comments she threw in “and Geoff Page and his B.S.” referring to this reporter.  That sounded a little unprofessional to me.  Without some way of measuring it, the word unprofessional is quite ambiguous, as Virissimo illustrated with that remark.

To substantiate the comments about Virissimo’s past behavior, a select few of the choicest of her past remarks will be read during non-agenda public comment in March.  This reporter does not make statements that cannot be backed up.

After an impassioned, and unnecessary as it turned out, comment by this reporter to the board that a vote to remove Scott would be saying they thought he was not an honest person, only three of the board members voted to remove him, Morrison, Virissimo, and Mandy Havlik.  Sevrens was not present but surely would have joined them. This was an honorable outcome.

But, unfortunately, many of those who opposed the motion to remove Deschenes from chairing the election subcommittee are leaving the board either through resignations or just not running again.  David Dick has decided not to run again and his reasonable voice will be missed. There will be seven open seats in March and if this internal group is successful, most of the PCPB will be comprised of people like them.  To some, that will be a great outcome, to others it will be a real shame.

For information on running for a board seat, go here  where all the election information is, including a candidate application that can be downloaded.

There was another piece of theater during the meeting related to the resignations of Deschenes and Robert Goldyn, the current chair.  Both men were given very fancy certificates of appreciation for their service on the PCPB by State Senator Toni Atkins’s office and by Assemblyperson Todd Gloria’s office.  In over 14 years of involvement with the PCPB, this reporter has never seen anything like this from anyone other than a city councilperson.

The current mayor used to show up once a year for a few years and hand out certificates.  It’s really all show and politics, it’s an election year and both Atkins and Gloria are running for office. These displays were barefaced ploys by politicians seeking votes not politicians wanting to sincerely thank a few board members for the first time ever.

The Atkins and Gloria actions were even more silly in light of who they were giving certificates to.  To begin with, both Deschenes and Goldyn are good people.  Deschenes is a volunteer who just got himself into something he did not expect and decided he did not need the aggravation in his life.  Four kids probably provide plenty of that.  He served one year.  Goldyn has served for five years and three of those as chair where he served well – in the opinion of all but a small minority.

But, the point is, the politicians were giving awards to two people who resigned and will not finish their elected terms.  Scott has two years on his three year term and Goldyn has one year left on his second term.  It just seemed odd to be giving awards to people who were resigning and not at the end of their terms.  And, both men received these awards, there was no distinction between Goldyn’s five years and chair responsibilities and Deschenes one year on the board.  And, it would be a good bet that neither Atkins nor Gloria knew any of this or cared, they just wanted to look magnanimous.

In other news…

Non-Agenda Public comment

  • Sarah Davis stepped up to introduce herself as running for the assembly seat Gloria is vacating.  She is a licensed midwife and has a master’s degree in health systems.  She said her concerns are healthcare, housing, and climate change.
  • Brian Curry was up next and is stumping for Barbara Bry for mayor.  Curry has been making the rounds as a volunteer and speaks highly of Bry citing her experience as a successful businessperson. Curry said that San Diego establishment does not want her in office because she is not beholden to them.
  • Tracy Dezenzo from the Ocean Beach Community Planning Board explained that she was recently appointed to the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture Board and provided information about obtaining grants for special projects such as the OB Street Fair or the Holiday Parade.  Tracy said they are seeking grant readers and advisors to help with the grant process. The website is www.sandiego.gov/arts-culture.
  • Board member Mandy Havlik announced that she will be making a presentation to Ocean Beach Town Council about safety improvements around OB Elementary some parents are seeking.

Josh Coyne, representing Council District 2, said the “Java with Jen” Point Loma event went very well and said there would be one in Mission Beach in March that anyone was welcome to.  The specifics can be found on Campbell’s city website but the information is not on the calendar yet. Coyne also mentioned the RFP that is out for redeveloping the city’s Sports Arena properties that will be due in June or July.  He said the Point Loma Association is having a discussion about this in April.

Board member Fred Kosmo who heads the PCPB Airport subcommittee, explained that a lawsuit has been filed against the San Diego Regional Airport Authority, specifically against the expansion the airport  is planning, because of the detrimental health effects from noise on the community.  A group named Quiet Skies San Diego has sued to force the organization to put a plan in place to mitigate the noise before the expansion project is done.  The group claims that noise can contribute to “cardiovascular disease, strokes, heart attacks, stress, metabolic disease like obesity and diabetes, and cognitive deficits.”

Board member Havlik announced an effort to promote tree planting and wanted board approval for a letter to the city.  She said the grass roots group of people working on this plan to approach organizations about buying trees and mentioned the city’s program where residents can apply for free trees that they maintain.  Havlik also explained they were encouraging the planting of drought tolerant trees.  The letter has yet to appear on the PCPB website but anyone wishing to get involved can contact Havlik at: havlikmandy@gmail.com.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar triggerfinger February 25, 2020 at 12:32 pm

I bet the guys downtown are passing these emails around getting a good chuckle about the childish actions of grown adults on this board.

Maybe they should just build a tree house instead and practice secret handshakes and spare the rest of the community from this petty BS.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie February 25, 2020 at 1:18 pm

These kind of shenanigans feed into the “pro-growth but non-affordable” crowd and city planners’ narrative that community planning committees are worthless and need to be abolished.

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Avatar Rufus February 28, 2020 at 9:47 am

The good news is that this circus isn’t the OB planning group!! Way to go OB. We may be crazy but we’re not Point Loma crazy.

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Avatar Geoff Page February 28, 2020 at 10:17 am

The difference between the OBPB and the PCPB is night and day. The OB meetings are friendly and informal with lots of humor and I’ve never seen any of this crap.

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