Monday, July 28, 2014

US Fish and Wildlife Addresses Fairview Park(AMENDED*)

In an eleven (11) page letter to Bart Mejia, a Senior Engineer in the Public Services Department of the City of Costa Mesa dated July 24, 2014,  Karen A. Goebel, Assistant Field Supervisor for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) - a part of the Department of the Interior - addressed many issues that have arisen from the installation of the now-infamous illegal Decomposed Granite Path that encroached on protected areas that included the San Diego fairy shrimp within Fairview Park.  You can read the entire letter HERE.

After providing several pages of background on the issue, Goebel, beginning on page five (5) of her report, under the heading: Restoration, protection, and management of vernal pools in Fairview Park, outlines the City's responsibility to comply with the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and says, "In consideration of the degraded condition and management needs of the vernal pool habitat within Fairview Park, implementation by the City of the following measures would help ensure that the San Diego fairy shrimp population within the coastal terrace vernal pools at Fairview Park remains viable."

Under the following headings she lists specifics of what is expected of the City by the USFWS in that regard:
1 - Watershed Restoration
2 - Permanent Protection
3 - Fencing and Paths
4 - Public Education
5 - Trash
6 - Mowing, Weed Control, and Pesticide Use
7 - Employee Education
8 - Patrol 
9 - Biological Monitoring
10 - Adaptive Management
11 - Fairview Park Master Plan Update

You can review the report for the very expansive explanation of each.

For example, on page seven (7) of the report the following image appears, which shows in red the fence lines they expect to be established to protect the watershed and habitat.  Take a close look... this is a really BIG deal!  For example, if you're a member of the Harbor Soaring Society, you're going to have big problems retrieving errant plane landings in and around the rubble pile that is just to the west of their "airstrip".
The only mention of the investigation of the construction of the Decomposed Granite Path is near the end of the letter.  Goebel's says, "These are the measures that are needed to protect San Diego fairy shrimp and their habitat in Fairview Park and are not intended to offset the damage caused by path construction.  Issues relating to take that may have been caused by path construction remain under investigation by the Service at this time and will be addressed separately in the future".  So, those folks responsible for the desecration of that habitat "for the kids" are not yet off the hook.  I suspect the folks at the USFWS are not happy about it.  We look forward to learning what kind of penalties might be imposed on the City, or individuals, for the damage that was done.

When I made my first run through the letter I completely ignored what may be, as a friend mentioned, the 800 pound gorilla - the East side of Placentia.  In a paragraph that begins at the bottom of page eight (8) and continues to page nine (9), Goebels says the following:
"Three additional vernal pool areas, located east of Placentia Avenue, require additinoal surveys to determine if San Diego fairy shrimp and/or sensitive vernal plant species are present.  We recommend the City delineate the watershed of the three pools in the near future and avoid impacts to the waterhsed areas until protocol surveys (Service 1996) can be completed.  Positive survey results may require changes in management actions to address San Diego fairy shrimp.  The City should coordinate adaptive management with the Service prior to implementation."

Yikes!  As I, and a few others, read it, this could put the old kibosh on ANY activities on the Southeast Quadrant of the park - that segment that the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee is scheduled to begin addressing on August 6th.  This is, indeed, that 800 pound gorilla!  There seems to be no reason for the committee to continue to meet on this subject until this issue is resolved.

It's my understanding from Mejia that a meeting will be scheduled with USFWS to be sure the City clearly understands the full meaning and scope of the work involved.  The City will also be soliciting input from the community on this issue.  There is a meeting of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee scheduled at 6:00 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park) on August 6, 2014 during which the committee will begin discussing ideas for the Southeast Quadrant of the park.  There will be a Public Comments segment PLUS opportunities to comment on individual items.  The Public Comments segment might be a place where concerned residents could address THIS item.  And, you can aways send your thoughts to Bart at his email address at City Hall:  That's a hot link, so you should be able to just click on it to compose your message.

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Righeimer Explains COIN, Sort Of...

Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer, hot on the campaign trail to attempt to retain his city council seat in November, presented his opinions of his buddy, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's COIN ordinance to the editors of the anti-union publication Union Watch last week.  You can read the entire entry HERE.

While I know you'll read the entire interview of eleven (11) questions for yourselves, I'm going to share some observations of mine with you.  That's why you're here, right?

Right off the bat Righeimer is asked what COIN stands for and his answer is, "Civic Openness in Negotiation.  It is also referred to as 'open public employee negotiations'."  OK, so is it going to be "COIN" or "OPEN"?  I mean, this thing is still unproven and now they want to change the acronym?!  Yikes!

Righeimer gives full credit to the creation of this anchor on negotiations to Mensinger.  He credits him for being the inspiration, and also gives credit to the law firm of "Leesberg Cassidy".  Of course, he meant Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, the highly-compensated law firm who provides us with the negotiating horsepower that, so far, has resulted in NO successful negotiation after more than a year.

When asked about "tangible examples" of the COIN ordinance he admitted that, "The first contract that has been reviewed under the new COIN process hasn't been finalized.  But before it is front of the public, both parties are more reasonable in their offers and counteroffers because they know the public sees it.  In the past, one side might ask for 50 items just to overwhelm the city.  They don't do that any more."  Wow!  Really?  50 items!  How would he know that, since he wasn't privy to any of the prior negotiations?

Question #9 was, "Over time, just how much benefit do you believe can come from tough COIN ordinances?"  His answer just rocked me back.  He said, "Well, a big benefit that could have occurred is that we would not have the pension problem we have today if we had had COIN back when the pension enhancements were being negotiated.  COIN also slows down the ability of unions to come back in the future and repeal agreements they don't like."

OK, his first sentence didn't even come close to answering the question, and the reason is that NOBODY knows yet exactly what the impact of COIN will have downstream - except negotiating and recruitment chaos.  His second sentence implies that the "unions" - we don't have any in Costa Mesa - could repeal a previous agreement.  What?  How?  An agreement is an agreement...

Question 10 asks, "Do you consider a COIN ordinance to be of bipartisan benefit, and if so, who opposes COIN ordinances?"  I love his answer to this one!  He says, "For the honest brokers on both sides, transparency is not bad.  The people who are against it are the people who like the system the way it was - they would just make political endorsements or attacks in order to get a vote where a politician would not have any other input.  The guys who like the backroom deals don't like COIN."

Read that last sentence again...  Now recall that he and his majority adamantly refused to consider a COIN-type ordinance for ALL municipal contract negotiations.  Then consider that Righeimer has been going behind the scenes (backroom deals?) negotiating with business owners and developers all over town.  Where does he get that authority?  This is a perfect example of his willingness to ignore the rules, and another perfect example of why the voters should deny him a return to the council and certainly reject the Charter - a tool for even more abuse of the voters and taxpayers of the city.

At the end he predicts that COIN is "going to be the new standard", and that he expects the "process to become normal procedure, everywhere, within the next ten years."

Well, a more prudent politician might wait until there is a track record of success with the COIN process.  So far - as he readily admits in this interview - we have had NO negotiation come to fruition using the COIN process.  In fact, it certainly seems to outside observers that the process is taking a much longer time than in the past.  No, Righeimer can't just wait for facts - not with his political future on the line.  When he loses his seat in November his buddy, Scott Baugh, is going to have to find another job for him.  He may find another gullible town and have him drag his carpetbagging carcass there to see what damage he can do.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

CM4RG Endorses Foley And Humphrey

The non-partisan, politically diverse, grass-roots, citizen community action organization, Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG), at their meeting Thursday evening, overwhelmingly selected former city council members Katrina Foley and Jay Humphrey to receive the group's endorsement for the November City Council election.

According to sources, candidates who had actually filed to run for one of the two council seats available in November were invited to be interviewed by an eleven member endorsement committee.  Not all the candidates that were invited responded to the invitations.  The endorsement committee  completed its task within the last few days and presented their recommendations to the larger membership at their meeting last night.

Following what was described to me as a "lively discussion", the eligible members cast more than 100 blind ballots and the result, as I said above, was overwhelmingly for Foley and Humphrey.

So, now it begins.  I don't know how Foley and Humphrey feel about this endorsement, but I suspect both will welcome it.  Nor do I know if they plan to run as a team.  I do know that polling has recently been conducted and that Foley has been the target of negative robocalls - unsual for this early in the race.

The remaining candidates who have either announced that they are running and/or filed to run are:
Jim Righeimer
Lee Ramos
Harold Weitzberg
Tony Capitelli
Chris Bunyan
Al Melone

The final date to complete the filing process is Friday, August 8, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.  I have no idea whether the CM4RG endorsements last night will affect the decisions of any other candidates in this race.

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Oops! Where Did That Come From?

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday evening was short and not-too-sweet.

It started promptly at 6:00 p.m. when Chairman Byron de Arakal called it to order and moved smoothly to his presentation of the Chairman's Award to Macy's South Coast Plaza store - accepted by their representative Dawn Miller - for their community spirit.  The store, through a fundraiser event, gathered $1165.66 recently, which was donated for the purpose of planting ten (10) tulip trees.  Thanks to the good folks at Macy's.

There was no discussion of the Consent Calendar item - the fee increases for certain new classes - so it was approved on a 5-0 vote.  Funny, I thought there might be at least one person to show up and at least ask about that item.  Nope.  None of the half-dozen folks in the audience - the high water mark was 8 people at one point - stepped up.

Item 10a, the tree removal request by the residents at 914 Oak Street was denied after a short presentation by staff.  The applicant didn't bother to show up, so the denial passed, 5-0.  de Arakal reminded the audience and the folks at home that the commission will seldom approve a request when the applicant doesn't even bother to show up.

Then things got a little hinky.  The next item on my agenda - the same one that everyone else had and is posted on the city web site - showed item 10b as the Little Library Outpost issue.  However, de Arakal called the Park Signage issue instead.  Seems there was some sloppy staff work at play here, which caused some confusion, to say the least.  That issue, HERE, suggested that in the future each commissioner would be "responsible" for a certain number of our 29 parks, and that signage shown as part of the staff report would be installed showing either his name or a reference to the Parks Commission and an email address.  Here's one sample.

However, at this point de Arakal introduced something that was NOT on the agenda - the concept of modifying Title 12 of the Municipal Code to facilitate breaking the city into five (5) parks districts, with each commissioner responsible for a district.  There was some discussion by the commissioners and de Arakal described his vision of this plan - that the commissioners would be the first contact point on issues involving "their" parks; that they would be heavily involved in the budget for each and that they would make reports to the commission twice a year on the status of "their" parks.  Eventually the commission voted unanimously to direct staff to return in the September meeting with ideas of how this might be facilitated, including a possible draft ordinance.

As I sat there listening to this discussion of a very important possible change to the way the commission operates I found myself wondering if it violated the Brown Act, since this issue was NOT on the agenda and, in my view, couldn't logically just be an expansion of the item that WAS on the agenda - Park Signage.

Next up was Item 10c, HERE, the discussion of the new arrangement of the Bark Park Maintenance and Operations - the re-defining of the roles of the City and the Costa Mesa Bark Park Foundation.  Basically, the City is taking over all aspects of the Bark Park and the Foundation will still do fundraising activities.  The objective is to restore the park grounds to better condition and improve the operations.

During the Public Comments segment on this issue City Council Candidate Al Melone completely lost his composure.  He pounded on the speaker's podium and yelled at staffer Bruce Hartley, accusing him of not doing his job and used foul and abusive language while doing it.  At one point de Arakal had to remind him that he would not tolerate that kind of behavior, to which Melone said he was done and stormed out of the auditorium.  Clearly, this man does not possess the emotional maturity nor the civility one expects from a member of the city council.  He should recognize that he's temperamentally unsuited for that kind of an assignment and immediately withdraw his candidacy.  In addition to him sucking up valuable votes in November, the campaign trail will only further expose his shortcomings and further embarrass him.

Finally the commission got around to item 10b - the one that should have been earlier in the agenda -  the proposal by the Costa Mesa Library Foundation to establish three "Little Library Outposts" in parks around the City.  Foundation President Barbara Steck made the pitch for this concept, which generated a significant amount of conversation.  The concept was generally supported, but the upshot was that the commission voted, 4-1, to have the staff bring the concept back after further fleshing it out with the Foundation.  Commissioner Bob Graham voted NO.  There was some concern expressed by more than one commissioner about monitoring the "little libraries", and about the kind of books that might be placed in them.  I thought about that, too, as the discussion ensued, and worried about the kind of books - one commissioner used the word "propaganda" - that might be placed in them.  We live in strange times, where it's certainly possible for sexually explicit books, for example, to be placed in the libraries.  Even worse, somebody might throw in copies of the racist rants of The Mouth From Mesa North.  Heck, someone might even share the works of Rush Limbaugh, for goodness sake! ;-)

The issue was serious enough for the item to be further studied.  Steck suggested that, perhaps, they could begin with only one location.  Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson reminded the commission that the recently-installed Kaboom! facility at Shalimar Park already has such a lending/sharing library kiosk.  Commissioner Dean Abernathy suggested that, as part of the further evaluations, that facility should be monitored to try to measure the success.

At the end of the meeting, during Commissioner Comments, Abernathy reminded us of the final Concerts In The Park event next Tuesday evening.  Graham gave a short Power Point presentation about possible Bike Trails in Fairview Park.  He will also give the same presentation at the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on August 6th.  Don Harper complimented Hartley on his work on the Bark Park.  Vice Chair Kim Pederson, relating to the tree removal issue, suggested folks contact the Costa Mesa Sanitary District about their Sewer Lateral Assistance Program (SLAP), and thanked the folks at Macy's.  DeArakal reiterated his view that we need more lighted fields in the winter months - stating that we lost 60% of our fields when the time changes.  He stressed interest in a possible lease/purchase agreement with the School District for the Balaeric Center, spoke of the recent General Plan workshop on Parks, Open Space and Conservation and the fact that a consultant is being retained to facilitate the update of the Master Plan of Open Spaces.  And, he will be absent from the August 28th meeting.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Technology Travails - A Message?

Your humble correspondent is not a happy camper these days.  It seems that two separate technology outlets that dominate much of his life have simultaneously let him down - big time!

First, Time Warner Cable, which in our neighborhood has been a loyal, trustworthy source of  television for several years, decided to have a grand mal seizure for the past two evenings.  No problem during the day - I checked, but I don't usually watch television while the suns still up.  However, for the past couple nights we've suffered through the pixelation of all pixelations, regardless of channel.  And, even worse, the stuff we program for later viewing was affected too! Grrrr.  So, tomorrow, a very angry customer is going to melt the ATT telephone lines to Time Warner to extract a pound of flesh - or something.

Then, the Facebook "comments" on Daily Pilot online articles has gone through a similar meltdown.  We are well into the second day of erratic behavior, which makes it impossible to 1) read comment threads in their entirety and 2) post words of wisdom for others to read.  My friends at the Daily Pilot tell me this seems to be a problem broader than just the Daily Pilot comment threads.  I did notice that the Orange County Register is having the same kind of problem.  Mark Zuckerberg and his minions at Facebook better quit counting their profits and trying to manipulate human behavior and begin providing SERVICE.  There was life before Facebook and there will be life AFTER Facebook, too.  This is REALLY frustrating because, as you all know, I'm just full of words of wisdom that simply must be shared! ;-)

I mean, how am I supposed to spar with Mesa Water President Jim Fisler?  How am I supposed to tease Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger about his spelling deficiencies?  How am I supposed to play literary ping pong with my friend, Bruce Krochman?  And Howard Hull.. how am I supposed to razz him about his vocabulary limitations, where every person who disagrees with him is described as a "hater"?  Woe is me...  Oh, wait... I can do that here, can't I?

Maybe the electronic gods are trying to tell me something.  Maybe it's time for a vacation from technology.  What do you think?  Maybe the time is perfect.  There's only one more meeting this month - the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting tomorrow - that's it.  The Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Monday, July 28th, has been cancelled and the next City Council meeting isn't until Tuesday, August 5th, followed by the Fairview Park Citizen Advisory Committee meeting on the 6th.

So, I'm going to contemplate my navel while I plan my conversation with the folks at Time Warner Cable tomorrow and decide if I need to take a break for awhile.  We'll see.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Little Libraries, Bark Park and More

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission meets on Thursday, July 24, 2014 beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers to discuss a few interesting items.  You can read the complete agenda HERE.

On the Consent Calendar Item 7A is a list of fee proposals for Contract Youth and Adult Classes, including some fee increases.  You can read it HERE.  There are five (5) new youth instructional classes, three (3) new senior instructional classes and four (4) fee increases for current instructional classes.

There are no Public Hearings nor Old Business items, but there are a few New Business items on the agenda.  Item 10a is a tree removal request at 914 Oak Street, HERE.  The staff recommends denial of the request.

Item 10b, HERE, is a fascinating proposal for "Little Library Outposts" in three parks throughout the city.  This is a kind of free lending library, where books can be left and taken from bird house-like structures in the parks.  Read the staff report and you'll smile, guaranteed.

Item 10c, HERE, involves the maintenance and operation of the Bark Park, adjacent to the Tennis Center and Volcom Skate Park.  The staff report indicates that the City has terminated the agreement with the Costa Mesa Bark Park Foundation and will henceforth take over the responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the Bark Park, which has fallen on bad times.  The City hopes to maintain a good relationship with The Foundation for future fund raising and other special events.

Item 10d, HERE, discusses the plan to place signage at each park - 45 signs in all - as shown in this example.  The sign would include the name of the Parks and Recreation Commissioner assigned to the park and inquiries would be directed to that commissioner as appropriate.

The commission meets next on Thursday, August 28th.  However, the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meets on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 6:00 in the Neighborhood Community Center to discuss what changes, if any, it will recommend to the commission for the Southeast Quadrant of the park - where the trains and parking lot are located.  Anyone interested in the future of Fairview Park should plan to attend the meeting and express your views to the committee.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

County "COIN" Flipped

Tonight Jill Cowan, writing in the Daily Pilot, HERE, tells us that the Orange County COIN ordinance - modeled after Steve Mensinger's unproven Costa Mesa ordinance - has been given a punch in the face by the Supervisors, who refused to give it a second reading.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer got off the best line in the story.  Cowan states it thus:
"He said that without a requirement that supposals be made in public in addition to formal proposals, the county's ordinance as written, as well as Costa Mesa's, represent "a farce" of transparency."

Of course, Mensinger didn't much like that, but the fact is we don't know if this ordinance is going to work at all yet!  There has been no negotiation that has made it through the process, so we have no clue about its effectiveness.  It would seem prudent for any governmental entity considering a similar scheme to wait until Costa Mesa has had at least ONE negotiation make it through the process so the effectiveness can be evaluated.  We sure don't want them to emulate Costa Mesa's  "Ready, Fire, Aim" method of governance, do we?

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