Nine days after being named Best Politician in OC Weekly‘s massive Best of 2017 issue, Irvine City Councilwoman Melissa Fox was hit by a dude. Coincidence? Yes and no. Raul Ricardo Rodriguez-Peltz of Westminster, Colorado, probably has never heard of your favorite infernal rag. However, the 28-year-old’s Oct. 29 booking into Irvine City Jail on misdemeanor assault does stem from the same stand Fox took that earned mad respect from OC Weekly‘s Best of 2017 Board of Governors. Here’s how we began what was published Oct. 20 about the county’s reigning best politico:
Having run a warped, money-hungry Irvine political machine that trampled the concept of public transparency and wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, Larry Agran wanted to maintain control over the city’s Democrats even after his forced retirement in the 2014 election. But this year, a fellow party member, first-term City Councilwoman Melissa Fox, let the 72-year-old former mayor know she isn’t one of his stooges, bucking him on his preferred location for a future veterans’ cemetery at the Orange County Great Park site.
Fox was part of a City Council majority that approved placing the state-run memorial park in what are now strawberry fields but used to be part of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. In exchange, the current land owner gets property within the nearby Great Park that is currently contaminated. Many in the audience cheered the council’s 3-2 vote for the land swap, prompting Vietnam War veteran and Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation leader Bill Cook to remark, “This is an historic day.” But Agran is not one to lose a fight without going down in another fight. He and the infernal rag in his back pocket—not us, silly; the Irvine Community News and Views—continued to lobby for “The Great Pork” to host the vet cemetery, and a local “Save the Veterans Cemetery” campaign was soon launched. Backers had until our day of publication (Nov. 9) to submit around 12,000 valid signatures from registered voters in the city to get a referendum on the November 2018 ballot affirming or denying the council’s decision. And so it was, nine days after we named Fox the best politician in the county, she was at Alton Square shopping center advising constituents against signing the petitions being spread by paid signature gatherers from out-of-town, including—you guessed it—Westminster, Colorado. (Rodriguez-Peltz told police he is a political consultant and paid petitioner.) Fox says residents complained to her about signature gathers being aggressive, so she snapped photos of them (that you can see on melissafoxblog.com). She told police that led to a confrontation in which Rodriguez-Peltz grabbed a sign she had stating, “Do not sign the misleading veterans cemetery petition. Get the facts”; swung it at her; hit her leg with it; then tore it up and threw it in the trash. When Fox called the cops, he scrammed but later surrendered. Shaken by the scary encounter, Fox vows to keep warning residents about Save the Veterans Cemetery. We expect no less from OC’s best politician.
PIE IN THE EYE IN THE SKY
Surely it was mere coincidence that a day before a federal jury in Santa Ana found that Anaheim police officer Nick Bennallack used excessive force in the fatal shooting of Manuel Diaz—an incident that sparked riots in the town that Mickey built—KCBS’s 11 p.m. newscast featured back-to-back pro-cop stories that were set in Anaheim and Laguna Niguel. First came a piece whose online title is “Judges Rule Deputy Can Be Sued for Using Excessive Force in Fatal 2013 Shooting,” about a three-member federal appeals panel finding that Orange County Deputy Michael Higgins used excessive force in fatally shooting 21-year-old Connor Zion, and then, when the knife-wielding suspect no longer posed a threat, stomping on his head three times, all captured in video footage. The slant of at least the final third of the KCBS broadcast version was to question how federal justices could have come to such a conclusion, given that Higgins was hailed as a hero and awarded a medal of valor for saving his partner’s life. One woman even wondered how it is even possible that judges can find fault with “a civil servant.” The next story shown on KCBS has this headline online: “Do Drivers Do What’s Required When Emergency Vehicles Blare Their Sirens?” It shows Sergeant Daron Wyatt, the Anaheim Police Department spokesman, taking the news station’s “Eye in the Sky” Stu Mandel on a ride-along to show the special training officers receive to safely drive while running sirens and lights that too many motorists simply ignore.
Surely it was mere coincidence that less than two days after the back-to-back reports aired, the same federal jury in Santa Ana ruled that the Diaz family was only due $200,000 of the $11 million sought in the civil-rights lawsuit.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“That is a humanitarian crisis: There are people dying, and we have a president who is an hijo de la gran puta [son of a bitch], pardon my language.” Madame LaQueer (real name: Carlos Melendez), who moved from Carolina, Puerto Rico, to SanTana shortly after appearing on season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race, said this to Tatiana Tenreyro for the Nov. 2 Billboard magazine story, “Puerto Rican ‘Drag Race’ Alumni Talk Show’s Impact on the Island Ahead of Benefit Concert.”
DEPARTMENT OF YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP
Learning prison inmates helped battle last month’s devastating Canyon Fire 2 produced this ah-ha moment: No wonder the firefighting response was so slow it has prompted a countywide investigation. Have you ever tried running up to a fire line with legs shackled or holding a high-pressure hose while handcuffed? How we discovered prisoners work as firefighters, only without the beefcake calendars, was the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation acknowledging that minimum-security inmate Armando Castillo was captured in Mission Hills just before midnight Nov. 1 after having last been seen fighting the fire near Peters Canyon Regional Park in Orange on Oct. 15. The 31-year-old was found at a motel with a woman who was placed under arrest for allegedly helping Castillo flee. He was bounced from the program that provides firefighter training, some pay, better food, conservation-camp housing and time shaved off his sentence. Convicted in August 2016 of possession of a firearm and evading a peace officer while driving recklessly, Castillo had been scheduled to be released on probation next May. Now he’s at the California Institution for Men in Chino, where he faces escape charges and the likelihood of a longer prison stretch. Hope she was worth it.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.