Thursday, May 21, 2015

Memorial Day - Honoring The Fallen

Monday, May 25, 2015, is Memorial Day - that day we set apart to remember those men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country as members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

This weekend millions of Americans will use this long holiday weekend to trek to some distant place for the beginning-of-summer vacation.  Unfortunately, most will "celebrate" this holiday without ever giving a thought to what it actually means.  This is not a day to celebrate, but a day to remember and honor those who served and gave their all.  This image is of the Florence American Military Cemetery just south of Florence, Italy, the burial site of more than 4,400 American soldiers who lost their lives in World War II near this location.  My wife and I visited that hallowed place and were very moved by the pristine condition and the respectful presentation honoring those brave men.
Each year I've written about this day, hoping you will stop sometime next Monday and pause to reflect about the significance of this day of remembrance.  Last year I wrote this, HERE
To help you remember what this date is all about, please take a look at this chart, extracted from THIS SITE.  As you scroll down through those entries, take a few minutes to let those numbers sink in.  (Click on the image to enlarge, if necessary)

To help you understand what this actually means, let's get personal for a moment.  One of those 58,209 names listed under the Vietnam War is Sergeant Eddie Chervony, father of Costa Mesa City Employee Jeanette Chervony.  You can read about the bravery of Sergeant Chervony HERE.  He was one of the young men who bravely fought in that very unpopular war and gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.

So, as you pause now to contemplate this holiday, here's a little help from Lee Greenwood.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Budget And OCC Meetings Scheduled Thursday Night

Two very important meetings are scheduled tomorrow, Thursday, and I'm not attending either one due to important family commitments.  However, that doesn't mean YOU shouldn't attend them and report back to me how things went!

6:00 P.M., ROOM 108, ADMIN. BLDG, OCC
Orange Coast College will hold yet another community outreach meeting to continue the discussion of their Vision 2020 expansion program.  This one involves the possibility of Student Housing on Campus and begins at 6:00 in Room 108 in the OCC Administration Building.  Here's the text of the most recent announcement of this meeting:

Reminder: Orange Coast College will be hosting a Community Meeting on Thursday, May 21 at 6 p.m., in Room 108 of the OCC Administration Building to report on the feasibility studies the college has conducted in regards to the possibility of the construction of student housing on the campus. A representative of the consulting firm of Brailsford & Dunlavey will be at the meeting to provide an overview of the firm’s findings related to the feasibility of adding residential housing on the OCC campus.

The meeting will be in the OCC Administration Building at Fairview & Arlington. Free parking will be available in Lot B next to the OCC Admin. Building. If you have additional questions please contact Doug Bennett at (714) 432-5126.

As you can see from the attached map, the Admin. building is immediately adjacent to Lot B at the Arlington Drive entrance.  Parking is free.  Click on the map to enlarge.
I've found these OCC meetings to be very informative and conducted in a very civilized manner.  The folks speaking typically are respectful of the questions asked and appear to do their best to provide answers.  Having attended several of them by this time, one thing is VERY clear - they DO LISTEN to the voices of their neighbors and other concerned residents.  That's very refreshing.  I hope you'll attend and participate.

Simultaneously, across the street at City Hall, the staff will conduct a community meeting on the proposed 2015-2016 Municipal Budget.  You can find the entire nearly 400 page document HERE

This meeting also begins at 6:00 p.m. and will be held in Conference Room 1A on the first floor of City Hall, immediately behind the City Clerk's office. 

In the past these meetings have been poorly attended, but have been quite valuable for those of us who did show up.  I suspect tomorrow's meeting will have a larger turnout than in years past.  The format has been more casual than, for example, a council study session.  Generally, the staff has been interested in hearing from the community on this subject before the council makes the final decision on this document the first meeting of June.

If I were to attend there area a few things I'd like to discuss.  Perhaps others might have the same questions.  Some of mine are:

1 - Why are we not budgeting money to expand Fire Station #4, which is pivotal to the full implementation of the deployment plan created by former Interim Chief Tom Arnold and modified by CEO Tom Hatch?

2 - On the same subject, why do we NOT cancel the contract with CARE Ambulance and begin transporting patients ourselves - and generating between $1-2 million in annual revenue for the city?  Could it be political?  Seems like a good question, since CARE has been a big campaign contributor and also contributes to events around the city.

3 - Why do we not require department heads to produce a more realistic staff requirement?   By over-projecting the needs it results in theoretical budgeted money saved by not filling positions, which is then used by the council as a piggy bank for their pet projects. 

4 - Why do we budget $4 million for the Library/Neighborhood Community Center project instead of putting at least part of that money toward more public safety staff?  Today we are nearly 30 positions short of our diminished Police Department authorized staffing level.  The Fire Department staff continues to be required to rack up horrible overtime hours because we do not adequately staff that organization.

5 - What kind of fiscal responsibility is it to have half our brand new fleet of Rescue Ambulances - at $250,000 a piece - sitting dormant?  This is directly related to the above items.  We cannot fully implement the Arnold plan.

6 - Why do we not purchase a new emergency generator - Capital Improvement Budget wish list line #93?  This is long, long, long overdue.

There are MANY other questions I have about the fiscal management of our city.  All are policy questions.  Things like what kind of a political character will put potholes before public safety?  Sure, the streets are nice, but our priorities are so screwed-up because of the hatred of the Police Department by a couple hack politicians that our city is NOT safe today.  No A.B.L.E.; A severely diminshed Gang Unit; No Narcotics Unit; A severely diminished Detective Bureau; 3/4 of our motorcycles sit unused; No K-9s, etc.  We cannot hire cops - new or Reserves -  fast enough to keep up with the hemorrhaging of officers retiring early and/or departing to other venues, including some of our most recent hires.  All this at a time when our streets are made significantly less safe by the increase of parolees and probationers in our community and the epidemic of sober living homes infesting our city.

So, attend the meeting.  Ask your own questions and listen to the answers.  I'm sorry I'll miss it, but we're getting our first chance to visit with our newest grand niece from Omaha, Miss Harper Hartte Cunningham, and we have our priorities in order. 

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Latest Scoop On Mesa Water's Conservation Plan

Greetings, water guzzlers.  As promised, today I bring to you the most recent, hot-off-the-presses information from our friends and water purveyors at the Mesa Water District.

Water Conservation Ordinance No. 26, HERE, and Resolution No. 1426, HERE, have both apparently been thoroughly vetted by attorneys and are now ready for public consumption.  The District has declared this to be an Emergency situation, which justifies the IMMEDIATE imposition of the new rules.  We are at "Level 1" as defined in the attachment to Ordinance No. 26.  However, two exceptions were made.  

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the new rules are in effect NOW, and today was the very first day we could water landscaping after the passage of the ordinance.  Next Saturday is the next day, unless it rains on Friday, at which time you can't water until next Tuesday.  Anyhow, the simple version is: You may water landscaping two days a week -  ONLY on Tuesdays and Saturdays and ONLY between the hours of 5 p.m and 8 a.m.  This DOES NOT apply to using  a hand-held bucket, watering can or similar device or use a hose with a positive self-closing water shut-off nozzle or device or for very short periods of time while adjusting or repairing an irrigation system.

Leaks must be repaired within 72 hours.

In an earlier post I told you that there would not be "Water Gestapo" patrolling to find scofflaws.  Well, it turns out that was based on incorrect information.  In fact, Mesa Water District staffers - both regular staffers and an "enhanced" crew hired specifically for this purpose - are patrolling our streets right now to help us conserve.  This week, if one of the staffers comes across a violation of the new rules - watering when you shouldn't, too much runoff, etc. - he might just get out of his truck and place a little reminder notice on your door, probably in the form of this notification, which will arrive in all our mailboxes within the next day or two in the form of a post card.
Next week, however, those same folks will begin officially citing those of us who violate the rules by placing a door-hanger on our doors and making an official record of the occurrence which will be entered into the Mesa Water database.  A letter will be sent to the violator.  Here's how it will work:

  • 1st violation - Door hanger advising of the violation and a letter sent to the violator.
  • 2nd violation - Same as the above.
  • 3rd violation - Same as the above, EXCEPT a $100 "Fee" will be imposed on your next water bill
  • 4th violation - Same as the above, EXCEPT the "Fee" will be $200
  • 5th violation - There is the very real possibility for other penalties to include disconnection of water service
Following this to it's most unlikely extreme, a member of the Mesa Water team could cite you next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and - if you continued to violate the rules - you might be looking at $300 in "fees" PLUS the discontinuation of your service.  NOBODY expects that to happen, but under the rules now in place, it COULD.  Mesa Water officials assure me that they want to work with all ratepayers to make these conservation measures work for everyone.


As a reminder, earlier Mesa Water defined restrictions on water
use that are permanent and included in this Conservation Program.  Here are the details of those previously-approved restrictions.  Some of these were amended by the new ordinance:

Limits On Watering Hours: No watering 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., except by hand
No Excessive Water Flow Or Runoff
No Washing Down Hard Or Paved Surfaces: Except for health and safety purposes
Obligation To Fix Leaks: In reasonable time (within 7 days of notice) (now within 72 hours)
Fountains: Only with re-circulating water
Limits On Washing Vehicles: Wash vehicles only with bucket or shut-off nozzle
Restaurants: Encouraged to only serve water on request
Hotels: Must provide guests option to not launder linen daily
No Installation Of Single-Pass Cooling Systems
No Installation of Non-Re-circulating Car Wash Systems
Restaurants Must Use Conserving Nozzles
Commercial Car Wash Systems Use Re-Circulating Water
Recycled Water Use Required: If available and cost-effective
Recycled Water - New Service: Required, if available and cost-effective

So, let's all try to do our part to help Mesa Water reach its 20% water consumption reduction goal.  I know we can do it.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Mesa Water Passes Conservation Ordinance

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Mesa Water District Board met last night before a standing-room-only crowd at their headquarters and voted unanimously to pass the New Water Conservation Ordinance.  The vote was 4-0 because President Shawn Dewane was absent - he was at the Orange County Water District Board meeting for their vote on the Poseidon Desal issue.  He's the past president of that board, too.

According to sources within Mesa Water District, the ordinance as proposed was tinkered with by the Board - some necessary fine-tuning to help the District meet the 20% water use reduction mandated by the State of California.

Here's a little bit of information from the Mesa Water District website this morning - which will also be mailed out to all users as a post card - that will give you an overview of the changes in place: (Click on the image to enlarge it, if necessary)
The new ordinance is being modified from the draft document discussed last night and should be available for public observation early next week.  When that happens I'll write about this subject again.  In my earlier post I provided a chart of the levels of conservation and the details of the Conservation Program in an easy-to-use format.  That chart is now out-of-date, so I'll provide you with the new version next week, when it's available.

In a nutshell, Mesa Water wants us to cut outside use as much as possible.  The new ordinance restricts landscape watering to only two days each week - Tuesday and Saturday - and not within 48 hours of a rain event.  The ordinance was considered an emergency ordinance, so it is in effect NOW, which means you may not legally water your lawns and planting areas until Tuesday, and only if you must at that time.

As a reminder, earlier Mesa Water defined restrictions on water use that are permanent and included in this Conservation Program.  Here are the details of those previously-approved restrictions.  Some of these will be amended by the new ordinance:
  • Limits On Watering Hours: No watering 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., except by hand
  • No Excessive Water Flow Or Runoff
  • No Washing Down Hard Or Paved Surfaces: Except for health and safety purposes
  • Obligation To Fix Leaks: In reasonable time (within 7 days of notice) (now within 72 hours)
  • Fountains: Only with re-circulating water
  • Limits On Washing Vehicles: Wash vehicles only with bucket or shut-off nozzle
  • Restaurants: Encouraged to only serve water on request
  • Hotels: Must provide guests option to not launder linen daily
  • No Installation Of Single-Pass Cooling Systems
  • No Installation of Non-Re-circulating Car Wash Systems
  • Restaurants Must Use Conserving Nozzles
  • Commercial Car Wash Systems Use Re-Circulating Water
  • Recycled Water Use Required: If available and cost-effective
  • Recycled Water - New Service: Required, if available and cost-effective
Penalties - Warnings with the possibility of water flow restrictor or disconnection of service.

As I mentioned, the new ordinance is the draft ordinance with the modifications imposed by The Board last night.  It's basically the Level 1 Water Supply Shortage: Water Alert, but some shifting of priorities was done last night.  I'm told that one thing that DID NOT change is the scale for penalties under this new ordinance.  The chart for penalties, as extracted from the ordinance, is as follows and are enforceable NOW:
  • 1st Violation: Warning
  • 2nd Violation: Warning
  • 3rd Violation: $100 Fee
  • 4th & Subsequent Violation: $200 Fee
  • Possibility of Discontinuing Service: For willful violations
And, no... they are not going to be sending the "Water Gestapo" out to cite you.  However, if it comes to their attention that you're violating the rules, you will be warned, and warned - per the above.  And, if you continue to thumb your nose at this crisis, it will begin to cost you in your wallet.

So, despite the recent rain, we all must do our part to conserve water.  The state says we must save 20%... that's doable.   My sweet and very patient wife and I decided to replace our 1,500 square feet of lawn with a water-wise landscape plan, which we just completed.  Yeah, OK, we added a porch, too, which took too long for us to take advantage of the rebates from the water district on replacing turf with other plantings - but YOU CAN! Read about that program HERE. This is what it looks like now.  A year from now - maybe sooner, depending on how those drought-tolerant plants respond to the loving we're giving them - it will look very different after those plants fill in.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Best Laid Plans And Organics Recycling

A funny thing happened on the way to the Mesa Water District Board meeting tonight.  I planned to attend to hear what kind of scheme they have in store for us users to deal with the perceived water crisis.  The Public Hearing was to be held tonight at the end of their regular meeting, which also includes their budget discussions

But, I digress... I got to the Mesa Water District headquarters on Placentia Avenue with 10 minutes to spare.  However, all the parking spots were already taken and folks were being routed out to the back lot, near the dirt piles, to park.  The Board Room would be guaranteed a standing room only affair, so I just blew it off and came home.  I'll check with the District Friday morning and report the results of their vote.

However, do not despair... let's talk about the other end of the pipe!  Monday night I blew off another meeting - that was a town hall conducted by the Costa Mesa Sanitary District - one of three planned - to discuss their plan to initiate an Organics Recycling Program.  The meeting room at the Halecrest Community Center was packed - standing room only - so I gathered up the literature, took a few photos and left for the Planning Commission meeting.

We've written about Organics Recycling before, about fifteen months ago when they first announced this plan.  So, let's rehash this program.  I'll provide you with some links and some answers to questions and remind you that the next town hall is this Saturday, May 16, 2015, at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue, beginning at 9 a.m.  This is for you working folks that cannot make evening meetings.  The final town hall will be held on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 6 p.m. at Back Bay High School, 390 Monte Vista Ave.  I will NOT be attending that one because it conflicts with the City Council Meeting.

Basically, in a nutshell, the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, through their trash hauler, CR&R Environmental Services, will replace one of your current trash cans beginning in June through the middle of August with an Organics Recycling cart.  It will have a different colored lid, at least, and will be used strictly for stuff that can be processed in CR&R's new $25 million plant in Perris, CA.  Things like green waste - grass, shrubs, etc., - and food waste, like grease, bones, vegetable matter and newspapers.  Those cans will be collected by a separate truck, which means TWO trucks through our neighborhoods each week instead of one.  Twice as much heavy truck traffic on our residential neighborhood streets.  All other trash that you accumulate will be placed in the other cart.  That Organic stuff will be hauled out to Perris and processed through the Anaerobic Digestion Plant and produce fertilizer and methane gas, which will be used to power their fleet.

Go the the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Site for this program, HERE, to begin learning more about this program.   When you get to that page, slide over to the Organics Recycling tab with the flashing arrow and read the drop down menu of subjects.  Almost every question you might have will be answered.  In fact, you can watch the slide show of their town hall presentation, too.

As I suspected they might, they've done a little bait and switch on us.  During the earlier meetings on this issue I asked if folks could simply NOT participate in this program.  The answer at that time was a simple "Yes".  Well, now that "Yes" comes with a caveat... you must ASK for permission to opt out and must meet specific requirements as defined by the Sanitary District.  Before you get all agitated, the restrictions make sense... you can read about it on the site.

Yes, they're going to make counter top kitchen pails available to us so we can collect all that food waste.  Yes, it will take some getting used to.  Yes, we will be able to buy compostable bags for those pails.  In fact, on that subject, do a Google search for counter top trash pails and you'll find an array of decorator-type pails you can buy on your own.

In fact, doing this makes a lot of sense.  Southern California is running out of landfill space.  This plan by CR&R is leading edge - nobody else is doing it and it's going to save a lot of space.  It's going to cost us a little more, but nobody will ever pay less than we will - a guarantee by CR&R.  In fact, the costs have gone down since the original presentations last year.

Please go to that link and read the first paragraph, which describes the reason for this plan.  Follow the other links for the FAQs, Cart distribution schedule (I'll get mine right after Independence Day) and you can also view the slide show AND Barry Friedland's Costa Mesa Brief coverage of an earlier meeting. 

I'm planning to attend the Saturday morning event at the Neighborhood Community Center.  See you there.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mesa Water District To Adopt Conservation Ordinance

Most of us who have not been in a coma for the past couple years are aware of the water crisis facing the residents of the State of California these days.  Multiple years of drought conditions have resulted in historically low levels in water reservoirs throughout California and in lakes along the Colorado River.  Farmers are being forced to abandon their crops, particularly in the Central Valley, which has been called "The Bread Basket Of The World" because of the huge amount of crops that are exported annually.  On less than 1% of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces 8% of the nation's agricultural output by value.  About one-sixth of the irrigated land in the United States is in the Central Valley.  More than 230 crops are grown in that region, including toatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots and asparagus.

Water authorities throughout the state are mandating conservation measures - driven by edicts coming out of Sacramento.  Some may consider those measures draconian, but the simple fact is that we just don't have enough water to conduct "business as usual".

We here in Costa Mesa have been insulated from most of the rhetoric because the organization that provides us with water, Mesa Water District, does a very good job of managing that precious resource.  We are told that we operate with 100% locally-accessed water from wells that dip into a couple deep aquifers below us, plus Mesa Water is on the leading edge of the technology required to re-use water.

However, tomorrow, the Board of Directors of Mesa Water will meet in the Board Room at district headquarters, 1965 Placentia Avenue,  beginning at 6:00 p.m. to discuss the adoption of Ordinance 26, The Water Conservation and Water Supply Emergency Program.   Click HERE to be taken to a page which introduces the program, provides a historical justification and includes the ordinance as proposed plus all the details about the various emergency levels and the requirements and penalties involved in each. (Note: It's a big file, so it might take a few seconds to load for you.)

The following chart capsulizes the broad brush facts of this ordinance.  Click on the image for easier reading if necessary.  You will probably wish to go to the actual ordinance and attachments for greater detail on the facts.  Little things, like if you're building a home with a swimming pool, you may not be able to fill it under certain conditions.  And, penalties COULD include disconnection of your water supply, so wealthy scofflaws cannot escape the need to conserve just because they have a few bucks.
I have never attended a Mesa Water Board meeting, but this may force me to change my mind and place myself in the presence of my former Facebook buddy, Director Jim Fisler, so I can gather information on this very important issue.  The item is near the end of the agenda, following their review of the budget, so this could run late into the evening, depending on the amount of public input/questions and whether the directors plan to tinker with the ordinance/rules much.  For more information contact Mesa Water at 949-631-1205

By the way, a hat tip to Jordan Graham of the Orange County Register for the article he recently wrote on this issue, HERE.  To my knowledge we have not received proper noticing of this extremely important issue at our home, so Graham's piece was the alarm bell for us.

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