Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Planning Commission Rejects A Church, And More...



AN EVENTFUL EVENING, FOR SURE
It was an interesting evening with the Costa Mesa Planning Commission last night.  Much of the evening went about as anticipated, but there were a couple things that snapped my eyelids open.  Let us begin...
EGGSTRAVAGANZA
Public Comments included Beth Refakes reminding us of the Eggstravaganza - the candy and gifts drive for the children of our adopted Marine battalion out of Camp Pendleton. 
A "RED MOUNTAIN" REMINDER
Businessman Tim Lewis, who apparently came directly from work judging from the grease on his hands, reminded the commission of the ownership issue on the Red Mountain project at Harbor and Hamilton.
WANTS A CODE ENFORCEMENT REPORT
During Commissioner Comments Stephan Andranian again asked for a Code Enforcement update - at the next meeting on the 22nd.
FAIRVIEW DEVELOPMENTAL CENTER
Colin McCarthy mentioned the meeting last Saturday at the Fairview Developmental Center concerning the apparent plans by the State to sell the site, which has dwindled down to just over 200 residents from something over 2700.  The meeting ran from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  McCarthy told us he arrived just after two and the Daily Pilot article about the meeting was already online.  He made a point of demanding to know if the Smart Growth Initiative will have an impact on the development of that site.
YOUTUBE VIDEO
Chairman Rob Dickson mentioned the Costa Mesa Brief YouTube video of the meeting.

The commission voted, 5-0, to pass the Consent Calendar - the minutes from the previous meeting.

PUBLIC HEARING #3 CONTINUED
As they then began to consider the Public Hearings for the evening, right off the bat Dickson announced that Public Hearing #3, the proposal for 43 units at the site of a car dealership on Harbor Blvd. at Merrimac was being continued to the next meeting at the request of the applicant, and that he would NOT be entertaining any public comments on the issue.  The commission then voted, 5-0, to continue the item.
EDUCATIONAL CENTER
First up was Public Hearing #1, the request for minor conditional use permit for a church at 3184-J Airway Avenue.  The request had been approved by the Zoning Administrator in December and called up for review by the Planning Commission by Commissioner Stephan Andranian that month, also.  The applicant was "The Ismaili Community", which apparently is a religious organization funded by the Aga Khan Development Network and has 9 hospitals, 200 clinics and 200 schools worldwide.  They have 80 facilities in the US.  They have been domiciled nearby in Irvine for many years, but say they've outgrown the site.  An odd statement, since the proposed site is just under 2,000 square feet and the site they currently occupy is 3,200 square feet.
TOO COMPLICATED - REJECTED
The complication of this application was the proximity of another church, the Berean Community Church, already located nearby, and the complication of congregations competing for parking.  Of the seven (7) members of the public who spoke about this issue, only one - the property owner and seller - spoke in favor of this move.  The rest were either representing the other church, nearby businesses who would apparently suffer from the influx of more people to the center, or concerned residents.  Following an hour of discussion the commission voted to reject the Zoning Administrators approval on a 3-2 vote.  Chairman Dickson and Vice Chair Jeff Mathews voted NO.
DON'T BLINK ON THIS ONE
Public Hearing #2, the proposed restaurant use at the shopping center at the corner of Harbor and Adams at the site of the old theater, then Paul Mitchell School, was promptly approved unanimously following 10 minutes of discussion.  Parking - an issue with the Paul Mitchell School - is apparently a non-issue now, according to applicant John Hill.

NICE LITTLE PROJECT, BUT...
Public Hearing #4, the proposed two-unit development at 1808 Pomona Avenue, should have been a slam dunk, but it had some interesting moments.  This project requested no deviations from code.  Everything was rocking along nicely - Commissioner Tim Sesler asked the owner what price point they would be at and was told $680,000 - $720,000 for the 4-bedroom model and more than $720,000 for the 5-bedroom model.  Colin McCarthy began to wax poetic again about the Small Lot Ordinance.  Then came public comments...
DESIGNED FOR SOBER LIVING HOME USE?
The first speaker, a person active within the community and particularly so in dealing with the sober living home issue, stepped up and told the commission that this neighborhood was packed with sober living homes - she described the locations in detail - then pointed out that the configuration of these two homes was as though they were designed specifically for such a facility!  The 5-bedroom unit, for example, has a bedroom with bathroom on the first floor and 4 more bedrooms and three more bathrooms on the second floor.
THEORY REINFORCED
A second speaker stepped up and told the commission that Costa Mesa has 215 unlicensed sober loving homes and 90 licensed facilities and this project was designed for such use.  A third speaker was concerned about the parking requirements for the development.
WITH A SHRUG, PASSED UNANIMOUSLY
During the subsequent discussion commissioners tap-danced around the sober living issue, stating that they couldn't make a decision based on speculation of how the properties might be used.  It's interesting to note that, based on what we're led to believe is the going rate for "clients" in sober living homes in the city, it would take just over a year to pay off one of those homes with that use.  The commission passed the project on a 5-0 vote.
2-UNITS ON MYRAN DRIVE APPROVED
Public Hearing #5, the two-unit development at 2156 Myran Drive, also passed on a 5-0 vote.  The only question on this one was the size of a landscaped area abutting Myran Drive, which was quickly resolved.
A REMINDER
The meeting ended at 8:30 with Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill reminding the commissioners that their Statements of Economic Interest were due to be submitted in March.

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Crime Stats - Los Angeles vs. Costa Mesa

LOS ANGELES AGHAST OVER RISE IN CRIME
Over the past few days the Los Angeles-based media has been peppering the airwaves with news about the dramatic increase in crime in Los Angeles.  Horrified politicians wring their hands because it's up 10% - and rightfully so.  That's a significant number and should cause concern for anyone living in or visiting that city.  In response we heard LAPD Chief Charlie Beck tell reporters that he had reassigned his elite Metro Division to work on targeted areas.  He also said part of the solution to the problem, which he attributed in part due to Prop. 47 and AB 109 releases, was to add a couple thousand more cops to his 10,000 already on board.

MEANWHILE, COSTA MESA INCREASE IS TRIPLE!
Contrast this to Costa Mesa, where our crime rate as of December 31, 2015, was up 33%.  And you can just take a peek at this chart and realize this is NOT a new situation. (click on the image to enlarge it)
SHARPNACK HAS PLANS, BUT...
New Police Chief Rob Sharpnack has told us in recent months of his plans to improve things and it all sounds just fine.  The only problem is, we are so far behind the curve in our recruitment that it will take most of this year - at least - to get the headcount back to the arbitrarily-diminished level imposed on the CMPD by the current council majority.  We're down 20 officers, so if we snag two or three per Academy class and don't lose any more officers to retirements or departures to other jurisdictions, we just might make it back to the authorized headcount by the end of the year.
LEARNING CURVE
However, having bodies behind the steering wheels of our cruisers doesn't solve the problem.  It takes months for a new officer to gain even the minimal skills to patrol alone.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE "GRANT" COPS?
And, by the way, five of our current positions are "grant" positions - and the grants are about to expire.  That eliminates those slots unless a way can be found to authorize them beyond the expiration date.
MORE CONDITIONS FOR CRIME
In the meantime, Prop. 47 will continue to negatively impact our city, as will the early-releases as a result of AB109.  And, of course, our homeless population - up a reported 45% - will continue to be problematic.  And that issue is complicated by the growing number of sober living homes in our city.  When "clients" fail in one of those places there apparently is not mechanism to ship those failures back to their homes in other states.  So, they become one of our homeless individuals and, worse, they typically are now back using whatever their drug of choice happened to be.
REMEMBER WHY...
As we move forward in what is likely to be the most contentious campaign season in Costa Mesa history, it will be important to think about this issue and to remember who is responsible for a big chunk of it.  There are plenty of campaign issues this time around, but in my view, the rising crime rate and diminished police force is right at the top.

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Planning Commission Agenda



FIRST MEETING OF FEBRUARY
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission meets again on Monday, February 8, 2016 in City Council Chambers beginning at 6:00 p.m.  The full agenda for that meeting may be found HERE.  There are five (5) public hearings schedule for this meeting.  Here's a brief rundown on the issues to be discussed.

CUP FOR SHARED PARKING ON AIRWAY
Public Hearing #1, HERE, is a request for a minor Conditional Use Permit to deviate from shared parking requirements for a religious education and cultural assembly at 3184 Airway Avenue, Suite J.  The Zoning administrator approved the request late last year and was promptly called for Planning Commission review.  The staff is recommending approval, but there are letters in the file from nearby neighboring operations opposing this change.
 ADDING A RESTAURANT AT HARBOR AND ADAMS
Public Hearing #2, HERE, is a request to amend a planning application for the shopping center at 1534 Adams Avenue, Suite J, on the north corner of Harbor Blvd. and Adams Avenue.  Specifically, the applicant wants to add 2334 square feet of restaurant space, deviate from the shared parking requirements and add valet parking.  The staff recommends approval of this one.
 43 UNITS REPLACING CAR DEALERSHIP ON HARBOR
Public Hearing #3, HERE, involves a proposed 43-unit, two-story, detached residential common interest development at 2626  Harbor Blvd. at the corner of Harbor and Merrimac. The applicant has requested this item be continued to the meeting of February, 22, 2016 to make modifications to the project.
TWO UNITS ON POMONA AVENUE
Public Hearing #4, HERE, is the planning application and tentative tract map for a detached two-unit small lot development at 1808 Pomona Avenue with no code deviations requested.
TWO MORE ON MYRAN DRIVE
Public Hearing #5, HERE, is another two-unit small lot development located at 2156 Myran Drive, which also requests no code deviations.
It looks like it's going to be a busy night at City Hall.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

City Seeks Committee Volunteers

VOLUNTEERS SOUGHT
The City of Costa Mesa is currently seeking several residents to serve on the following committees:

Bikeways and Walkability Committee
Cultural Arts Committee
Historical Preservation Committee
Finance Advisory Committee
Housing and Public Service Grant Committee
Pension Oversight Committee

FOR MORE INFO...
For more information visit the city website HERE, for complete details on the duties for each committee and the number of vacancies on each.  The deadline for applying is 5:00 p.m., Friday, February 19, 2016.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Bike Committee Had A Full Meeting



NOT A FULL TEAM AGAIN
The Costa Mesa Bikeways and Walkability Committee met again Wednesday evening at City Hall and managed to fill the time provided with productive discussions.  The committee membership is down to twelve (12), plus Brent Stoll and Dr. Kirk Bauermeister.  Two members and Stoll were absent last night.  Three positions will be filled with the current recruitment effort for this and several other city committees.  Applications must be received by 5:00 p.m., Friday, February 19th.

TAXING CARS FOR BIKE INFRASTRUCTURE
Member James Kane did more work on an analysis of Senate Bill 1183, HERE, which theoretically provides for up to $5.00 per vehicle annually to be assessed by cities, counties or other park districts to fund bicycle enhancements within their boundaries.  The following slides outline what he found out.
Apparently, there are NO jurisdictions who have taken advantage of this bill.  It would apparently take a local vote to enact the process and there are few politicians willing to impose a new tax.  It's an interesting concept, though.  According to the data Kane provided, it could provide net revenue of more than $400,000 annually for such efforts.

WEST 19TH STREET BIKE TRAIL PROJECT
There was a presentation by Min Zhou, Project Manager for KOA Corporation, the consultants working on the 19th Street Bike Path project.  They gave an overview of the project to the committee and answered several questions.  This plan will be presented as a community outreach effort in the near future, so members of the community nearby or with special interest can attend in a larger venue to hear the plans and offer comments.
 PRESENTATION OF GOALS, OBJECTIVES AND.... "RECOMMENDATIONS"
Chairman Ralph Taboada and Vice Chair Cynthia McDonald briefed the committee members on their presentation of the Goals, Objectives and Policies presented to the City Council at a recent meeting.  Much discussion revolved around the negative reception their work product received, and the demand by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer that the "policies" be modified to be called "recommendations", even though the format is the preferred style for the General Plan update.
I sat through most of the meetings where this committee met and hammered out this excellent piece of work on a rushed timetable.  I, too, was surprised and disappointed with Righeimer's reaction to it.  Yes, there were a lot of words, and, yes, it took some time to carefully craft the document - but that was their charter.

RIGHEIMER'S MOTIVATION
Personally, I think there's more at play here.  I think that Righeimer realizes - although he didn't say it - that the "rules" provided by the "policies" might negatively impact some future developments by his pals.  By calling them "recommendations" the staff can be instructed to simply not enforce those Righeimer finds objectionable.
THE REVISED MAP
There was also a lengthy discussion of the completion of the Bicycle Map for the Master Plan.  An example of a conceptual map was reviewed and, after discussion, it was agreed unanimously to put that map forward.  There was significant discussion about the method of presenting this map, with some members favoring approaching individual members of the council, while others strongly suggested to not use that tactic.  The committee will present the map to the council as a whole.

 NO TAKERS FOR CICLOVIA SUBCOMMITTEE, BUT...
Also on the agenda was a opportunity for the creation of a ciclovia subcommittee.  I wasn't at the meeting where this was proposed as an agenda item, but it seems like the plan was to form a smaller group to move forward with all elements of a possible ciclovia event similar to others held elsewhere.  When it came time for volunteers for this committee nobody stepped up.  The subsequent discussion resolved that it may be too soon for such an effort for this fledgling committee.
...AN OUTREACH SUBCOMMITTEE WILL BE FORMED
So, the conversation then turned to the creation of a broader Outreach Subcommittee, to begin with smaller steps.  Four members stepped up for this group - Chairman Taboada, Vice Chair McDonald, Rick Huffman and Jim Erickson.  The committee will wait until the next meeting, when a couple more members may be present, to fill out the five-person subcommittee and tighten the focus of its activities.  Discussions revolved around creating a presence at currently-existing programs in the city - like the Fish Fry and the Community Run - to launch greater awareness of this group and their efforts to improve bikeability and walkability in the city.
LOCKED GATES ON GREENVILLE-BANNING CHANNEL TRAIL
There was a brief slide presentation requested by Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Graham, who was in the audience last night, regarding the possibility of finding a way to open two locked gates on the trail that parallels the Greenville-Banning Channel on the Westside of town to provide access to walkers.
NEXT MEETING IN A MONTH
The next meeting will be held on March 2, 2016 at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, which is undergoing termite treatment.  The meeting adjourned at 9:07 p.m. and the 9 members of the public in attendance departed.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Riverside Freeway (SR 91) Closure

 UH, OH!
Our old pals at the OCTA have sent out the following message.  Click on the image if you need to enlarge it.  Seems like a weekend NOT to head to Vegas or the mountains via the SR 91..

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Kudos To Neth, Boos To Righeimer And More


STARTED UPBEAT
The Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night started out on a very happy note with the presentation of the Mayor's Award to former Costa Mesa Police Chief Roger Neth - a man who served this city proudly - as one of the first three officers hired and the second Police Chief- for more than three decades.
NICE NETH PRESENTATION
Costa Mesa Television prepared a very nice tribute video about Neth's career.   Mayor Steve Mensinger gave a preamble and a key to the city.  Current Chief Rob Sharpnack also paid tribute to Neth as he spoke about the core values he instilled in the department and the Chief also spoke about a few of the things of which he was most proud.  He mentioned that the Costa Mesa Police Department was on the cutting edge in using technology, such as the CAD/RMS system, videoing DUI suspects.  He didn't mention the helicopter program which he began, nor did he mention that Costa Mesa provided contract policing for the brand new city of Irvine, instilling those same values in that department.  Many of the contract employees became Irvine police officers when that department was formed.  That City is acknowledged to be one of the safest in the country.
WHERE WERE THE COPS?
It was a very nice ceremony, with some of Neth's family present.  However, I, personally, was disappointed that there were no other police officers except Sharpnack in the auditorium.  That surprised me...
POINTING OUT FALSEHOODS
The meeting fell straight off the cliff following the Neth presentation.  During Public Comments Mary Spadoni criticized the decision made at the last meeting regarding keeping the medical transport situation as-is, and cited chapter and verse from previous meetings where council members agreed to move forward with medical transport - and pointed out the falsehood made previously.
FIREFIGHTER'S PRESIDENT SPEAKS OUT
Costa Mesa Firefighters Association President Rob Gagne then stepped up and also expressed his disappointment.  He gave a history of the steps the CMFA took to help the city with their contract and their support of  Interim Chief Tom Arnold's 17-point plan.  He then directly criticized Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer for statements attributed to him from an Orange County Register article, HERE, in which he made false statements .  In that article Righeimer accused the CMFA of blocking more efficient options, which Gagne vehemently denied last night.
RIGHEIMER RANT
At that point Righeimer flew off the handle and demanded a "point of personal privilege" to respond to Gagne, even though he would have time during his Council member comments segment.  As it turned out, he used BOTH opportunities.  He ranted and raved, saying he found it "shocking" that the Union President would make those statements.  He went on and on.  Not only was it embarrassing, but he lied during his rant again.
TAMAR RIPS THEM
Tamar Goldmann began her three minutes by hoping out loud that there were still firefighters in the house because Righeimer's rant caused her blood pressure to rise.  She then cited Chief Neth for his service and the standards he established.  She mentioned a conversation she had with former Chief Tom Gazsi - now the Chief of the Los Angeles Port Police - in which the performance of the members of the department was discussed.  She observed that, despite the unpleasant atmosphere created by the council majority, those men and women who had not departed continue to perform at a high level.  She said Gazsi attributed that to the culture created by Neth and other chiefs who preceded him.
EASTER EGGSTRAVAGANZA
Beth Refakes reminded us of the current candy/easter egg collection for the children of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.

COMPARING CARE
An unidentified person provided a personal anecdote about the difference between Costa Mesa Paramedics and CARE Ambulance drivers, citing the inexperience of the CARE staff.
JAY TURNS HIS BACK
Former councilman Jay Humphrey, who lost a seat on the council to Righeimer by 47 votes in the last election, and a regular speaker before the council was apparently so upset with how the meeting was going to this point that he abandoned the several things he had planned to address and told the council that it was clear that they don't listen.  So, he decided to use his three minutes to communicate with them the only way he could - and he promptly turned his back to the council and just stood there.  He made his point.
WENDY JOINS THE CHORUS
Former councilwoman Wendy Leece, who has stayed involved in city issues since being termed out, also expressed disappointment in the Medical Transport vote.
CINDY'S SIGN
Cindy Brenneman also stepped up to express her disappointment in the council's unwillingness to listen to its staff and the consultants on the Medical Transport issue.  She spiced up her commentary, then simply used the remaining half of her time holding this sign.
HOPING FOR ACCORD
Robin Leffler joined in on the Medical Ambulance issue.  She indicated that friends called her a "Pollyanna" because she continued to hope for a good solution.
INITIATIVES AND MORE
Cindy Black told us "I'm no Pollyanna", then blasted Righeimer, saying, "That is not a pulpit and you're no preacher."  She then spoke of the citizen unrest and cited the Smart Growth Initiative that is in the works and the new Fairview Park Protection Initiative for which signatures are currently being gathered.  She also talked about the meeting Saturday at Fairview Developmental Center where input is being solicited from the public.  And, she encouraged folks to attend the meeting on February 10 in Morro Bay to reject the plan to oust the current Director of the Coastal Commission by developer groups.
CHAD (?) CONFERENCE
During Council Member Comments Katrina Foley mentioned the "CHAD" (?) conference in November.
GENIS ON CMPD PERFORMANCE AND FAIRVIEW PARK PLANS
Sandra Genis thanked the Costa Mesa Police Department for the professional way it handled the recent incident in her neighborhood where a man ran from an accident, fired a shot at police, but was later captured.  Among other things, she mentioned the recent agenda for the Parks and Recreation Commission that included items dealing with Fairview Park, citing the road that's planned, plus the parking lot lights, neither of which are part of the Master Plan for the park.  She also commented on CARE Ambulance response times, then mentioned that no council member may unilaterally decide on a relationship with another agency - that requires a discussion by the council and a vote.
GARY SEES DRUGGIES ALL THE TIME
Gary Monahan addressed CARE Ambulance and his vote.  He said he didn't like the numbers provided by the consultant.  He talked about Sober Living, citing the fact that Costa Mesa has two laws on the books but the courts have put a stay on their enforcement.  He spoke to the drug deals going on throughout the city- a speaker brought it up.  He said, "I see them all the time."  Interesting, no?  He also told us he profiles customers in his gin mill....
ANOTHER RIGHEIMER RANT
Then it was Righeimer's turn.  After mentioning the police action near his home, he went off on another anti-union screed about paramedics.  He reiterated the lie again that he didn't vote to buy the medical vans to transport patients, despite the fact that speakers had refuted his comments earlier.  He told us he was "Tired of this charade."  He said it twice.  He said he's only got 3 years left, then mumbled something.  Can he be that stupid?  Gee, I guess so.  By the way, while we're back on this subject, some of you may not have seem my commentary in the Daily Pilot Sunday on this issue.  You can read it HERE.
CLOSING REDHILL
Then came time for the CEO's report.  Tom Hatch had three issues.  The first was the closure of Redhill from Main Street to Pullman starting soon.  Here's a chart that shows it.
FAIRVIEW DEVELOPMENTAL CENTER
Then he addressed the Fairview Developmental Center issue, speaking that the General Plan would address that site for zoning for re-use should the State actually close it and sell the land.

FRANCIS' HOMELESSNESS REPORT
He then turned the segment over to Assistant CEO Rick Francis for an update on the Homelessness issue in the City.  The following series of slides explains what he told us.  Click on them if you need to enlarge them.
 BROWN ACT VIOLATION?
As the council members began to discuss this issue Genis interrupted and asked City Attorney Tom Duarte about the propriety of this practice - having an item presented without being agendized and having a discussion ensure.  She was concerned about Brown Act violations - this is not the first time this has happened.  There was NO mention of this presentation on the agenda.  Duarte told the council to keep any comments general in nature.  Mensinger blew it off, stating to Genis, "We have our City Attorney's opinion."  The arrogance of these guys is just unbelievable!
CONSENT CALENDAR
Finally, at 7:35, they got to the Consent Calendar and one item was pulled - the Warrant.  It would be discussed later.
FIFTEEN GRAND TO THINK ABOUT A FEASIBILITY STUDY
At 7:38 we got down to business on the only item on the agenda, New Business #1 - Katrina Foley's request for $15,000 for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to BEGIN a feasibility study to provide more bleachers and other enhancements at the new Costa Mesa High School athletic complex.  This should have been a quick issue - it wasn't complicated until the council got their hooks into it.  This request is simply the starting point - and $15,000 likely wouldn't be the only funds necessary.  Earlier they had approved $50,000 for a feasibility study.  Round and round they went, trying to resolve issues that were not before them.

SCHOOL OFFICIALS AND MORE
Costa Mesa High School Principal Jacob Haley spoke briefly.  Costa Mesa High School Football Coach Glen Fisher addressed the need and thanked the council for moving this forward.  Two "football parents" spoke, also in support of the plan, as did Gay Royer.
KIRK'S INSIGHT
Foley asked Dr. Kirk Bauermeister to come up from the audience to speak to the issue, providing some insight to the school district's process.  He affirmed that they needed the $15,000 and a letter from the City outlining what they were looking for in order to proceed.  He also said there was no guarantee that they would proceed.
FINALLY, A VOTE
And round and round the conversation went before Monahan moved to follow the staff recommendation, but increase the amount to $25,000.  It passed, 5-0 at 8:30.

PEA GRAVEL AND SHODDY CONSTRUCTION
The Consent Calendar items were heard.  Al Melone complained about a couple bucks paid for pea gravel at the bark park.  An unidentified person wondered why we were doing business with Blackrock Construction, since we fired them for shoddy construction on streets projects in the city and resident, and former council candidate Lee Ramos was injured and sued the company.
COULD HAVE BEEN EARLIER
We were out of there at 8:40 - an hour later than we would have been except for Righeimer's rants.  I think I have a solution... the way he waves his arms around when he gets wound up, perhaps we should just have the Sergeant-at-arms handcuff him to his chair - or just slap some duct tape on his mouth.


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