Friday, July 25, 2008

RUNNIN' AND JUMPIN'


ON THE BACK STRETCH
Here we are, half-way through the Costa Mesa City Council filing period,
and so far only four candidates have pulled papers at City Hall. Four others have been issued an information packet - without the essential petition - but we don't know if those folks are serious or are just pedestrians passing through.

COZY FIELD SO FAR

To date
we have four former or current council members theoretically planning to run, including three former or current mayors. As of this afternoon Linda Dixon, Katrina Foley, Eric Bever and Gary Monahan have all pulled the necessary paperwork, but none had yet returned them.

FILING DEADLINE IN TWO WEEKS

Unless one of the incumbents - Dixon, Foley or Bever - drops out, the filing deadline is August 8th, two weeks from today. The mind reels as I contemplate a campaign with only four candidates for the three seats available. Perhaps some of the names I mentioned earlier view this particular race too tough to tackle, but I hope we do see some new names on the ballot this year.

FIRST CANDIDATE FORUM SCHEDULED
I've been advised that the first candidate forum, hosted by Mesa Verde, Inc., will probably be held on August 20, 2008 at the Downtown Neighborhood Community Center, near the library. Festivities will commen
ce at 6:30 with refreshments being served in a "meet and greet" atmosphere, with the formal program beginning at 7. As I've said before, this forum is usually the best organized and best attended. Candidates are fresh and most of the questions are new.

***

SHARON
DAY - OLYMPIAN!
As some may know, Costa Mesan Sharon Day - a student/athlete at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo - has made the United States Olympic Team in the high jump and will compete in Beijing when the Olympics begin on August 8, 2008. There is an effort in Costa Mesa to raise funds to
help send her family - her parents, Eugene and Yolanda and sister, Jasmin - to China to watch Sharon compete. This is being facilitated by the Palm Harvest Church and the pertinent information may be found at it's website, www.palmharvest.org. As you will see when you visit the site, they are still well short of their goal, so I encourage any of you interested in participating to visit the website and click on Sharon's image in the upper right corner for details.

MORE LOCAL LINKS

Sharon was recruited to Cal Poly by my friend, Costa Mesan Sheldon Blockburger, a former standout at Newport Harbor and a world-class decathlete while at Louisiana State University and subsequently. As an Assistant Track Coach at Cal Poly, Sheldon saw Sharon's potential. In
fact, when he left for a similar job at the University of Arizona in Tucson he recruited Sharon's sister, Jasmine, because she showed similar potential.

DIG DEEP - SEND THE DAY FAMILY TO CHINA
Please look deep into your hearts and support the Day family as they attempt to make it to China to cheer Costa Mesa's Sharon Day on to victory.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bulldog Bob Graham Strikes Out - Again


TEDIOUS MEETINGS
Sometimes
watching city meetings can be a little tedious. Occasionally a city council meeting might run well past the designated midnight witching hour - the time when the council is supposed to, literally, call it a night and move the remainder of the agenda to another meeting. History shows that, once the council begins working into the next day, they seem to have a collective lapse of judgment. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often.

PLANNING
MEETINGS DRONE
Sometimes a Planning Commission meeting will drone on and on about a specific proposed development or issue that is so laced with acronyms and specialized terminology that it's hard to keep one's eyes open. Fortunately, Jim Righeimer usually provides eye-openers in the form of his interrogation of app
licants or by angering Chairman Donn Hall, who bats him back in line.

AND THEN THERE'S BOB GRAHAM...
And then there is the Parks and Recreation Commission... Over the past couple meetings, well-intentioned commissioner Bob Graham has set a new low water
mark for stubbornness. He's put his quest to build a bridge over the Santa Ana River at 19th Street on hiatus, but he's found a new cause - a proper entrance to Fairview Park at Canary Drive.

"BULLDOG"
ON THE CASE - AGAIN
At their previous meeting in June, Graham - bulldog that
he is - presented yet another request for the "user-defined" entrance to Fairview Park at the end of Canary Drive to be upgraded to a proper entrance. Presently it's just a steep, dirt path leading from the sidewalk up into the park. (See image above) He went on and on about how dangerous it was, that seniors couldn't make the climb up and, once there, were in real danger of falling when they left down the hill. He showed photographs ad nauseum of the muddy slope following a rainy day.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, BOB

Finally, in frustration because it was clear the commission and staff were not on his side on this subject, he suggested that the access to the park at that point be walled off, prohibiting entry. It was clear that he didn't really mean it, but t
he commission took his suggestion and ran with it. They directed staff to return at the next meeting - last night - with an analysis of closing that entrance, which they did.

NAGHAVI - "TOO COSTLY"
Predictably, Graham was not happy when Peter Nagahvi, Director of Public Services, advised the commission that it was not fiscally prudent nor technically feasible to close off that entrance to the park. It would require a 12 foot wall with a fence on top of that, which would almost assuredly become a canvas for graffiti and wouldn't keep kids from climbing it to reach the park.

ROBINSON TO THE RESCUE

Graham, even more frustrated than at the earlier meeting, just kept on pounding away at this issue
. He attempted to maneuver the discussion back to creating a proper entrance, but that train had left the station last month. It was improper to address it at this meeting - it was not an agenda item. Many speakers stood and spoke on the issue. Finally, former mayor and current judge Karen Robinson - a resident of that neighborhood - took the speaker's podium. In the vernacular, she "took Graham to the woodshed" on this subject. Her anger was evident as she chastised Graham for wasting so much staff time on an issue that would not be resolved until the Fairview Park Master Plan is re-opened - something Graham just couldn't accept. Watching Robinson verbally slice and dice Graham made me happy I've never had to encounter her on the bench.

CAN'T SPIT IT OUT
Even after that, Graham wasn't finished. As Robinson stepped away from the podium he muttered something about "Maybe the Mesa Verde Homeowners Association should buy that little piece of land and take responsibility for it." Poor, clueless guy...

GRAHAM - DEDICATED, BUT CLUELESS
One thing is sure in this city... even the most ponderous of meetings can provide some great theater. Unfortun
ately, this little drama Graham produced only served to waste valuable staff resources and commission time. I doubt Graham will be considered for re-appointment to the commission following the next election. His passion has overwhelmed his judgment too many times.

GALITS
KI WEAK LEADER
Part of the problem last night, and on previous occasions, was the weak leadership provided by current Chairman, Kurt Galitski. He's been in the Big Chair for a few months now, so one expects that he might have a better grasp on the format and procedures by now. That's not the case, unfortunat
ely. In fact, this particular iteration of the Parks and Recreation Commission is more passive than active. I never thought I'd see the day when long-time commissioner Mark Harris would be the one to keep things pointed in the right direction, but that's the case these days. The men on the commission need to step up and tighten their focus on the issues before them.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saving The Banning Ranch Discussed


SMALL TURNOUT
Five dozen people, half of whom were from Newport Beach - including Councilman Keith Curry - attended a workshop Monday night at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center at Lions Park. The workshop was sponsored by a group of environmentalists and concerned citizens who wished to provide information to interested residents with the avowed hope to recruit more members to their group. Their goal is to have Banning Ranch - 412 acres of oil fields and coastal scrub land - retained as open space in perpetuity.

NO COSTA MESA OFFICIALS IN ATTENDANCE

I found it interesting that no elected or appointed Costa Mesa official found time in their busy schedules to attend this meeting. That seems strange to me, since many of the elected and appointed officials are residents of the Westside, and the Banning Ranch issue will undoubtedly be a campaign issue as we move through the summer and fall. I guess they just don't care what the voters think, nor wish to hear their concerns.

PASSIONATE PRESENTATIONS

Chris Bunyan, former - and maybe future - council candidate, was one of the organizers of the event and ponied up the cost of the room. Several passionate speakers addressed the small group and used slide shows to show the types of flora and fauna that might be in jeopardy should the Banning Ranch be turned into homes and shopping areas. Others spoke about how such open spaces are disappearing and covered with concrete and houses throughout the state.

DEVELOPERS PRESENT
The specter of the proposed development of Banning Ranch by another group - which would place 1375 homes, 75,000 square feet of retail development and a 75 room hotel - was raised to get the audience's attention. Representatives of the potential developer were in the audience taking notes and handed out their own fliers at the end of the meeting.

PRESERVATION COSTS UNCLEAR
No firm numbers are available because this effort to buy and protect the Banning Ranch is in it's infancy. Numbers like $200 million to buy the land and $30 million to mitigate the oil wells and their attendant debris were thrown around. No one really knows how much it would take to buy the land for a permanent park/wildlife refuge. Nor does anyone have a clue about where such money might come from.

COSTA MESA VS. NEWPORT BEACH?

Although the speakers made the point that they didn't want their presentation to be an "us against them" situation - Costa Mesa vs. Newport Beach - it was clear that that is very likely how this will evolve because access to any kind of residential/retail development would almost certainly require the use of Costa Mesa streets. That thought seemed to agitate some of the Westside residents in attendance.

A LONG ROAD AHEAD WITH TIME RUNNING OUT

This effort is a long way from accomplishment. Time is not on the sponsor's side because the development plan for the area will be presented to the city of Newport Beach within a couple weeks. And, of course, that one-foot wide lasso of land which Newport Beach owns further complicates the issue when determining the sphere of influence issue.

CAMPAIGN TAP-DANCING AHEAD
The Banning Ranch will certainly generate a lot of heat during the campaign season ahead. Candidates in both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa will be asked to sign on for one side or the other on this subject. I'm expecting a lot of tap-dancing to go on throughout the fall. Stay tuned....

Labels: ,