A candidates forum Thursday evening was more about the game of politics than about youth sports, as it was originally planned.

The grass-roots political group Costa Mesans for Responsible Government held a mini rally of sorts at the Neighborhood Community Center.

The three Costa Mesa City Council candidates backed by the group—Sandy Genis, John Stephens and Harold Weitzberg took questions from supporters and outlined some of their strategies if they are elected Nov. 6.

Originally, the youth sports advocacy group Costa Mesa United planned a forum including the competing slate of candidates, but cancelled because two of them sit on the group's board of directors. They would be so knowledgeable about the questions, the organizers said, that they would have an unfair advantage.

Stephens, who wore a black, leather first-baseman's glove and a baseball cap, said he wanted to talk about youth sports but was disappointed by Costa Mesa United's decision to cancel the event.

Genis used the occasion to talk about how she helped create the Parks and Recreation Commission during her previous tenure as a City Council member. She wore a letterman's sweater from her days playing field hockey at Estancia High School.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Genis was on the Parks and Recreation Commission. She actually helped create it.

About 20 people attended, and about five people said they were not members of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government.

Bill Harader, a retired fourth-grade teacher, said he signed up to walk precincts and hold anti-charter signs at the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Baker Street. The City Council majority, he said, has shoved its will upon the citizens.

"They were acting like it was a charter [city] from day-one," Harader said.

In addition to three council members, voters will be able to chose if the city adopts a charter form of government.

Candidates said they would work to replace or rewrite the charter, if it passes.

"The first thing I would do would be to get a citizens charter commission," Genis said.

They said they could incorporate the state's public contracting code, to prevent no-bid contracts.

"We could do it in one meeting," Stephens said.

Audience comments spanned the city's affairs: from complaining about trees in their yard, to questions about the charter and suggestions on how to run a smooth campaign.

Someone complained about the city's communications director advocating for the council majority's positions. The three candidates said they would probably get rid of the position, and Genis suggested replacing it with a grant-writer who could get state and federal funds.

Resident activist Terry Koken strummed his acoustic guitar and sang political songs to open and close the meeting.

"Let's go get them," Weitzberg said. "We have six weeks."

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher