Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Supplied To Anderson"

(Image borrowed from Daily Pilot)
VISIT THE BLOG
A couple weeks ago I added a link to Daily Pilot City Editor Paul Anderson's blog, "Supplied to Anderson", on this page. I did so not as a butt-kissing exercise so he will publish more of my submissions, as some may speculate. No, I added the link because I think Anderson has recently written some powerful entries and I wanted to provide a way for you to easily access them. Those of you who read the Daily Pilot online know that Anderson's blog is available there, along with those of Brady Rhoades and other staffers.

DON'T LET OBAMA IMAGE STOP YOU
I've ragged on Anderso
n about taking the image of Barack Obama off the header of his blog - it was installed when Anderson spent much of a week in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration last month. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. In the meantime, don't let that stop you from visiting Anderson's site daily - he's been publishing new, interesting stuff almost daily.

HOMELESS ADVENTURES
I'm looking forward, for example, to the series of entries he's promised us about his evening spent with some of the homeless people in our community. Heck, with the new round of layoffs the Los Angeles Times will implement beginning on Monday, Anderson may well be out there among them permanently!

SHOULD BE IN PRINT, TOO
I've told Anderson that some of his stuff should be re-printed as a regular feature in the print edition of the Daily Pilot. What do you think?

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR

Do yourself a favor and visit Anderson's site. If your mouse hand is sprained so you can't slide over to the side of this page to the link, simple click HERE. I think you'll find it time well-spent.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sewers, Budgets And Our Equine Friends


I WATCHED IT MYSELF
Rather than just leap in and att
empt to post comments regarding the Costa Mesa City Council Study Session on Tuesday, February 10th, based on the Daily Pilot story by Alan Blank or the infernal rant published on the CM Press, I decided to hold off and watch the taped replay of the event last night. I also taped it and re-visited some segments to be sure I understood the participants clearly. That tape replay will replay 9 more times between today and March 1st. You can find that replay schedule HERE.

VIEW THE MEETING YOURSELF, TOO
There were three items of interest to all Costa Mesans and, rather than quote issues verbatim and in lengthy detail, I'll let you visit the tape replays or the streaming video of the meeting, which is up and running now so you can form your own opinions.

ROOTS IN SEWER LATERALS
The first item on the
agenda dealt with the current cooperative effort between the city and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District dealing with sewer laterals - that part of the sewer that runs from your house to the main line out in the street - being clogged and/or damaged by tree roots. Each of us is responsible for that stretch of pipe, even though it crosses under city-owned property, including sidewalks in most neighborhoods. We have to fix problems with it out to the point where it connects with the Sanitary District's pipe in the street.

MONAHAN CARRYING THE BALL

The city and sanitary district are working closely to find a way to assist homeowner
s with the costs and procedures involving tree removal and/or repair of the laterals. That's a good sign and is certainly being facilitated by Gary Monahan, who is currently double-dipping as both a councilman and member of the Sanitary District board.

MID-YEAR BUDGET REVIEW
The second item was the mid-year budget review which, as you might expect, resulted in some very interesting disclosures. Most of those were covered in Blank's Daily Pilot piece, HERE. If you want to read the CM Press rant you're on your own.

FUND BALANCE NOT ENOUGH FOR NEXT YEAR
My take on this segment of the meeting is that we're going to be able to balance the current budget for fiscal year 08/09 by dragging more money out of the "fund balance" to the tune
of nearly $11 million. Based on previous conversations with Finance Department senior staffers, that will leave only about $10 million remaining that can be used to help with the 09/10 budget. I don't think anyone in the room Tuesday felt that would be enough...

ALL INCOME SOURCES DOWN SHARPLY

Major sources of municipal income - Sales Taxes, Property Taxes and Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) all will be down this year. We know the TOT is down around 10% this
fiscal year, but the last two months are down 14% and 18% - a very sad, unhealthy trend for our friends in the hospitality business.

SALES TAX REVENUE STILL UNCLEAR
Sales Taxes are anticipated to be way down, but no reliable numbers are available right now.
Marc Puckett, Finance Director, hedged his bets by saying that he'd know more early in March. However, he did say that it looked like a 10% drop would not be unexpected.

PROPERTY TAX, TOO
Property Tax revenues will soon become apparent - assuming the state and county don't do anything stupid - like withholding them.

BLENDED APPROACH NECESSARY
It seemed to me that the general consensus around the table was that balancing the 09/10 budget is going to require a blend of fun
d balance, new revenue sources and severe belt-tightening. Among the items discussed specifically was increasing the reimbursement the city currently gets for the ABLE (helicopter) program. Many other issues were kicked around but no firm recommendations were made that would result in substantiative savings.

RE-OPEN TALKS OR LAYOFFS?
One large item involved re-opening discussions with the four employee bargaining units. Under normal circumstances - which these certainly are not - the city would be required to wait for an audited report following the end of the fiscal year in June. That would take a couple months, which w
ould take us to September before discussions could take place between the city and the employee unions. However, City Manager Allan Roeder postulated that there is enough significant data available right now to support approaching the unions to begin discussions.

DIPLOMACY NEEDED
The simple fact is that sala
ries and benefits make up the bulk of the city budget and that's where it needs to be trimmed. There are only a couple ways to do it - re-open discussions with the unions to scale back their packages or begin laying off employees. I didn't get the impression that anyone in the room Tuesday wanted the latter.

MANSOOR HAD HIS MIND MADE UP

Suffice it to say, all hands at the meeting understood that serious and severe
changes will have to be made if the city is to remain fiscally sound. I will observe that Mayor Mansoor went on a little preaching snit, reading from what was obviously a prepared text. That's our guy - never let the facts presented to him get in the way of what he already thinks!

BLEAK TIMES AHEAD
The city - and
all it's residents and employees - face some bleak times ahead. Within the next couple months we'll see just how smart and innovative our elected leaders are in dealing with this crisis - because that's exactly what it is.

RRIP AND TOT
And, I will remind you of their short-sightedness over the past year when the y1) insisted on perpetuating the RRIP program, which cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees - more than $1 million over the past couple years and, 2) their unwillingness to put the issue of increasing the TOT on the ballot for the voters to consider. Had that question been posed to the voters and they passed it, we would now be seeing an increase in revenue of approximately $1 million for each increase in percentage point. As mentioned many times before, Costa Mesa has the lowest TOT in the county - it's less than half that of most other cities.

EQUESTRIAN CENTER FUTURE?
The final item on the agenda was the presentation by Steve Beazley, CEO of the Orange County Fair and Exhibition Center, about the proposed use of the current Equestrian Center site for additional parking. Many speaker stood and told the council how valuable the Center is as a community resource - before Beazley arrived, unfortunately.

BEAZLEY - "IT DO
ESN'T PENCIL OUT"
My take on this issue is that it sure looks like Beazley has his mind made up - that the Equestrian Center just doesn't pencil out as a profit center. The Board makes only $65,000 per year net profit from that property, which is a mere pittance when you consider other potential uses. Beazley said that, by using it as a parking lot, the Board would realize over $200,000 per year.

BULLDOZE THE AMPHITHEATER?

Eric Bever posed an interesting alternative - level the current Amphitheater site and use it for parking. Surprisingly, Beazley didn't reject that out of hand....

WATCH THE TAPE AND PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAPS

So, watch the tape or streaming video of this meeting. It's very important for all of us to pay attention and provide our leaders with our views on this subject. Roeder said that he's told the city staff to come up with cost saving ideas - there are no bad ideas. Well, that ap
plies to the residents of this city, too. Let your leaders know if you think you've got a good idea - we sure do need them now.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

All Mouth - No Ears






ALWAYS ON "SEND", NEVER ON "RECEIVE"

This morn
ing in his daily rant in the CM Press, that yapping hyena, The Mouth From Mesa North, displayed for all who read his crap that he really doesn't care a whit what ANYONE else says or thinks.

NODDING OFF

As mentioned in my previous entry, at last night's brief Planning Commission meeting The Mouth must have dozed off in his seat in (appropriately) the far right rear corner of the room because he didn't jump up as usual when it was time for public c
omments. Instead, when he finally awoke from his stupor, he trundled on down to the speaker's podium and asked when they were going to hold public comments. What a schmuck!

FISLER ACQUIESCED
Fellow "improver",Vice Chair (for two more weeks) Jim Fisler, re-opened public comments so this bozo could rant about his view of what the city should be. Here's a hint - it should be more white. He also scolded new commissioner-in-absentia Steve Mensinger for not attending his very first meeting.

FOOT IN MOUTH
This morning in his pathetic blog he again scolds Mensinger for not being there and speculates wh
ere he might have been. If he had been paying attention last night he would have heard his buddy - fellow Mesa North neighbor and also-newby - Colin McCarthy tell the assembled throng that he'd spoken with Mensinger, who was out of the country on a vacation planned long before his appointment to the Planning Commission. As I said, The Mouth doesn't listen.

MISINFORMATION

This is typical of the kind of misinformation being foisted off on his readers and those members of the elected and appointed leadership who follow his lead on many items. The Mouth pretends to be a reporter because he played one (badly) in a truly terrible movie 35 years ago. Sadly for his readers, they don't know that he just makes up "facts" as he goes along.


YAPPING AND YAPPING AND YAPPING
The bias from the dais in his favor was evident last night when Fisler permitted him to go on and on - exceeding the 3 minute limit by nearly two minutes.

COFFEE WITH CASPA

On a happier note - one that is almost certain to make The Mouth apoplectic - I had a chance to visit with Humberto Caspa over coffe
e yesterday. Dr. Caspa has returned from his trip to his native Bolivia and will soon begin writing commentaries in local newspapers again. He's in the midst of researching a new project and will likely also be teaching at one of the local colleges, too.

RIGHT-WING TERRORISTS
You will recall that Caspa's book, "Terror in the Latino Barrio - The Rise of the New Right in Local Government", was published last year. It's a scathing indictment of the takeover of Cos
ta Mesa government by right-wing factions who, according to Caspa, received their guidance from our old pal, The Mouth.

MAKING "THE MOUTH" SQUIRM

I suspect we'll see Dr. Caspa engaged in local issues once again. Did you hear that, Mouth? He's baaack!

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Monday, February 09, 2009

This Week In Costa Mesa Politics

It's going to be an interesting week in Costa Mesa politics.

SHORT PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING TONIGHT
Tonight, in what may be the shortest Planning Commission meeting in history, the Planning Commission will first seat the two new members, Colin McCarthy and Stephen Mensinger - the two candidates who apparently were the high bidders for these seats. Personally, I cringe when I contemplate what this commission is going to be like with them on it. We don't need any more development flacks on the commission, but that's what we've got - and now they'll have the majority.

EGAN AND HALL TO BE RECOGNIZED
They will then recognize the contributions of outgoing commissioners Eleanor Egan and Donn Hall. Both deserve this r
ecognition for their many years of stellar service to our city. Then they will elect a new Chairman and Vice Chairman.

The only other item will be a rubber-stamp approval on an issue involving Sakioka Farms property developement. I could see this meeting lasting only 10-15 minutes, tops.

ADDENDUM
I'm going to take a page out of the CM Press song book and post an addendum to this message instead of posting a new one. This is a little summary of the brief (40 minute) Planning Commission meeting.

GOOD JOB, JIM
The Planning Commission meeting tonight was full of revelations. First, Vice Chair Jim Fisler handled the commendations for Hall and Egan with dignity. Good job, Commissioner Jim.

STALEMATE
Second, because new guy Steve Mensinger was "on vacation out of the country" he was a no-show. This created a very interesting situation. Because there were only four commissioners present, it was not possible for them to agree on a candidate for Chairman! Sam Clark nominated Fisler and rookie Colin McCarthy nominated Jim Righeimer. Both votes were 2 to 2. Then Fisler nominated Clark - same result. So, the election of both officers - the Chairman and Vice Chair - was re-agendized to their next meeting. This sounds ominous for Fisler and Clark, since we assume Mensinger will vote with Riggy and McCarthy. All of a sudden the two "improvers" on the dais are about to be marginalized.

"THE MOUTH" ROARS
Then, The Mouth From Mesa North - who apparently was snoozing in his seat in the back of the room - didn't hear Fisler call for public comments. He asked for it to be re-opened, which the commissioners agreed to do. Then, instead of holding him to the normal 3 minutes, they permitted him to rant for nearly 5 minutes, during which he gave them their marching orders. This also does not bode well for the residents of this city - particularly those with brown skins.


CITY COUNCIL STUDY SESSION TOMORROW

Tomorrow, in their study session, the City Council has some interesting things to discuss.

BUDGET REVIEW
As mentioned in an earlier entry, the will discuss the mid-year budget review.

ROOTS IN YOUR PIPES?
Before that they will discuss the issue of a financial assistance program to those who must repair their sewer laterals. For those who don't know it, property owners are responsible for the sewer pipes that extend from the sewer main to the residence, even though much of it may be under the city streets and sidewalks and may be obstructed by city trees and other plantings. The Sanitary District and the City are working on an arrangement whereby they will provide financial assistance to property owners who find it necessary to have work done on their laterals.

ADIOS TO OUR EQUINE FRIENDS?
Also on the agenda for the study session is the white-hot issue of the Equestrian Center at the Orange County Fair and Event Center. The Fair Board wants to pave over the Equestrian Center for more parking during the Fair, which will now run 5 weeks! I'm trying to figure out why we need a 5-week Fair in the first place. I mean, how many deep fried Twinkies can you eat, for goodness sake?

ATTEND OR WATCH ON DELAYED TAPE

Each of these items will certainly appear on the City Council agenda in the very near future. If you have an interest in any or all of them you may want to attend the meeting - which will be held in City Hall in Conference Room 1A beginning at 4:30 Tuesday. It will also be televised on tape delay on Costa Mesa TV, Channel 24 on your Time Warner Cable.

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