Friday, March 13, 2009

UPDATE - Mansoor Lays A Smokescreen


UPDATED INFORMATION
Since my las
t post earlier today more information regarding the intent of two items on the City Council agenda on Tuesday, March 17th has been posted on the agenda report for that meeting. Two memos, dated today, Friday, the 13th, may turn out to be not very lucky for our young jailer/mayor. I guess I understand now why the information on these items was delayed. Intentional or not, it gives those of us who question these plans very little time to gather data and comment.

GRANDSTANDING

Mayor Allan Mansoor, in what can only be described as a grandstanding move intended to demonstrate that he and the city council are "doing their part" during these difficult financial times, has proposed two changes via city ordinances that affect city council salaries and benefits.


REDUCING THEIR SALARIES?

In item 9, 2(a) he recom
mends that the council, by ordinance, consider reducing the amount each council member is paid. Presently each member receives a salary of $952.00 per month.

MANSOOR DOESN'T REALLY CARE - HE'S TERMED OUT!

However, as "patriotic" as this may seem, it's all a smoke screen. The council is prohibited by law from making any changes to their own compensation, either up or down, immediately. Such changes can only be made effective following the next general election - in 2010! And gu
ess what, folks? Mansoor is termed out at that time, so anything he proposes now won't affect him one teeny, weeny little bit. What a hypocrite!

VAGUE "BENEFITS TIMING" ISSUE

The second item, 9, 2(b) deals with the timing of adjustments in health benefits for council members. In the very brief staff report - another memo signed by Mansoor -
the intent is more than a little vague. It tells us that each council member receives $1,483.00 per month for health benefits and that Mansoor wants a discussion of the timing and implementation of future health benefits. Presently such benefit amounts are adjusted each calendar year. Options to be considered would be adjusting them on January 1st, as is presently the case; adjusting them every other year or adjusting them following each general election as salary adjustments are currently done.

DID YOU KNOW? I DIDN'T...

By the way, did you know that each council member gets paid more for their health benefits than they do in salary? I didn't, and find it very interesting, to say the least. And we're not even addressing pension eligibility!


AGAIN, NOTHING TO LOSE...
Once again, this is nothing but grandstanding by Mansoor, who will personally have very little to lose, regardless what the council does.

DOES HE THINK WE'RE IDIOTS?

I suspect this little ploy is simply a little theater - a show designed to be a bargaining tool when dealing with the four public employee unions. Mansoor obviously thinks they (and we) are complete idiots,
who won't see this for what it is. Who knows? Maybe he's right. Maybe no one will care enough about this charade to bother commenting on it to them Tuesday night. Maybe no one will care enough to send a message to them via email.

HERE'S A SUGGESTION... GIVE IT BACK!

I have a suggestion for Mansoor and the other council members. If they are serious about helping with our current budget dilemma, don't just try to fool us
with some irrelevant window-dressing - do something significant. They can't, by law, reduce nor raise their own salaries until 2010, but nothing says they have to take those pay checks. If they are serious I suggest they just endorse them back to the city for the duration of our financial crisis. That would make a real statement to the unions, and to the voters of this city, that they really do care and are willing to do their part. Too much? OK, then how about every other check? Still too much? Every third check? C'mon, council members, show us what you're made of!

MONAHAN HAS THE MOST TO LOSE, AND WON'T BE THERE!
An interesting sidebar on this little bit of drama is that the council will consider these two items on St. Patrick's Day - when councilman Gary Monahan will be absent, pulling the taps on kegs of green beer at his pub on what is probably one of his biggest days of the year. Monahan, among all the council members, probably has the most to lose with six kids to feed... That would mean he would have to get by on only a dip-and-a-half - his full load from the Sanitary District and whatever he gets from the city following the changes. And, don't forget his pub, although I understand things are not going all that well at Skosh's. Maybe someone can toddle on over there after the meeting and tell him how it went.

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City Council Agenda Items


Next Tuesday the Costa Mesa City Council will address several items that cry out for comment.

CLOSED SESSION ITEMS

In their closed session, which precedes the regular session at 5:00 p.m. and is not open to the public,
they have two items on the agenda which evoke much interest.

UNION STRATEGY

The first is a conference with the City Manager and Director of
Administrative Director regarding negotiations with the four public employee unions. While I hope that the council will hear good news - that the unions have agreed to meet and talk - I doubt that will be the case.

LINGERING ACOSTA SUIT

The second deals with the civil
suit filed by Benito Acosta as a result of the events of the evening of January 3, 2004, when he was strong-armed by the Costa Mesa Police Department, dragged bodily from the council chambers and arrested. You will recall that the criminal case against Acosta was dismissed by the judge because of a boneheaded move by our legal counsel.

FLY ON THE WALL
I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that session.




RETURN OF THE SCHONES FAMILY -
AGAIN
On the agenda for the regular meeting the council will, once again, hear a presentation by t
he Schones family regarding their illegal dwelling unit at their home on Costa Mesa Street. I've lost track of the number of times this issue has been heard by the council and Planning Commission. Yikes!

"SECRET" AGENDA ITEMS?

Way down at the end of the agenda, under New Business #2, are two interesting new ordinances that are being proposed. The first, (a), apparently deals with the timing of adjustments for city council compensation. The second, (b), apparently deals with adjustments to council benefits. I say "apparently" because there is no staff report and no text of the ordinances available for review. For there to be an agenda published without any detail on the items is very unusual and the absence of information on these items makes it virtually impossible for concerned residents to address these issues prior to the council meeting. I'm not the only person concerned about this situation...

DONN HALL SERVICE SATURDAY

Just a reminder, Saturday, March 14th, a public memorial service will be held for former mayor Donn Hall. The event begins promptly at 2:00 in front of the Estancia Adobe. Parking is available at Estancia Park, 1900 Adams Avenue.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Homeless and the Economy

(Photo Courtesy of Daily Pilot)

PAUL ANDERSON'S HOMELESS STORIES
Recently Daily Pilot City Editor Paul Anderson did a fascinating two-part piece in which he recounted his night among some of the homeless folks who live in Costa Mesa. You can read those articles HERE and HERE. It's hard not to squirm as your read his stories.

THE FACES OF COSTA MESA HOMELESSNESS

Yesterday a friend forwarded this link to me from the New York Times online. Take two minutes and nine seconds and view this video. It's part of an article published on 3/10/09 on the homeless in Costa Mesa. You can read the entire article HERE. This one puts faces on the current economic situation here locally.

RITZ C
AMERA CLOSING
While rea
ding the Orange County Register online last night an article about Ritz Camera planning to close 400 stores nationwide caught my eye. It's only one of many outfits lately that have decided to file for bankruptcy. You can read the article HERE if you wish.

LIST OF LINKS

I read the account of the planned closure of several stores and eventually made my way to the bottom of the article ,where I found a list of links that would take me to other similar stories. I've copied and pasted that list here:

COMPRESSED DISTRESS
If you wish to read about any of the stories linked above, simply just click on the title - these links are "hot". I suspect your reaction may have been similar to mine as I read down this list. Seeing those recent headlines compressed into such a small space was a punch in the gut. Yes, I know things are tough all over these days, but just reading that list of businesses in distress really drives home that point.

HOPING FOR WISDOM - SEEING NONE

I find myself hoping, with tightly crossed fingers, that our trainee president actually has a plan - that he's not in so far over his head that he's going to destroy the economic and social structure of this country within a few months. Reading the news accounts of what's happening in our country since he took office makes me very, very nervous. The upward blip from the Dow Jones Industrial Averages earlier this week didn't really do much to encourage me - or Wall Street, for that matter.

LOOKING FOR A PEP TALK

If you read of any good news on the economy please feel free to let me know. There's an email link on my profile, or you can post a comment with the information. I really need a pep talk! This is a really cute picture - one I've enjoyed for many years. However, today for me and many others it's like looking in a mirror. All we can do is "hang in there"... and hope...

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Service For Former Mayor Donn Hall Set For Saturday

CITY PRESS RELEASE ANNOUNCES SERVICE
As reported here previously, former Costa Mesa Mayor and recent Chairman of the Planning Commission, Donn Hall passed away earlier this week. The following is the complete text of the Press Release issued by the city regarding a memorial service for Hall on Saturday, March 14th.

March 10, 2009

Costa Mesa, California - MEMORIAL SERVICE SCHEDULED FOR DONN HALL

In light of former Mayor, Council Member and Planning Commissioner Donn Hall’s many years of dedicated service to the Costa Mesa community, a public memorial and remembrance service has been planned for Saturday, March 14, 2009. The service will begin promptly at 2:00 p.m. at Estancia Park, located at 1900 Adams Avenue in Costa Mesa. The services will be held in front of the Estancia Adobe and parking will be available in the Estancia Park parking lot.

Mayor Allan Mansoor released the following statement to offer condolences on the death of former Mayor, Council Member and Planning Commissioner Donn Hall:

"Donn Hall was truly a remarkable Costa Mesan -- a caring individual who immersed himself in the community and its development over the last 40 years. He had a very long and distinguished career in public service. Donn saw Costa Mesa’s population grow from 77,200 in the 70s to almost 114,000. He weighed in on many City business items over those years and was a tremendous champion for property rights. We are very saddened by his death. His strong leadership remains an inspiration. I would like to extend my personal condolences to his wife, Trudy, and his family. He will be greatly missed by all of us who had the pleasure to work with him."

DIDN'T KNOW HIM, BUT ADMIRED HIM
I did not know Donn Hall personally, although I've watched him in action on the dais as Chairman of the Planning Commission in recent years. His gruff, curmudgeonly demeanor hid his big heart. It became predictable that he would invariably stand up for the little guy. I was particularly impressed with his practice of trying to insure that every person speaking before the commission would be treated with respect and fairness. Sometimes that involved reining in a commissioner who seemed intent on flogging an applicant. He always made me smile.

PANIAN ON HALL
Long time educator and community activist, Hank Panian, has published a Townhall entry in the Daily Pilot paying homage to Hall which does an excellent job of briefly summarizing Hall's contributions to Costa Mesa. You can read that piece HERE.

HE WILL BE MISSED
Hall influenced many people in our city, including a generation of elected and appointed leaders, and certainly did set a benchmark for decorum on the dais. One can only admire the decades of dedicated service he gave to our city. Our condolences go out to his wife, Trudy, and his family. As many before me have already said, he will be missed.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jimmy Olson, We Need You Now!

"THE MOUTH" - NEWSMAN WANNABE
Recently
The Mouth From Mesa North, our old nemesis over at the CM Press - the guy who thinks he's a newsman just because he played one badly for 20 seconds in a terrible movie back in the mid-70s - has decided he's just the person to fill what he perceives to be a void in local news coverage as presented by our local newspaper of record, the Daily Pilot.

DAILY PILOT STRUGGLES
Now, I agree that the Daily Pilot is not the newspaper it once was. Because of the trauma and drama swirling around it's parents, the Los Angeles Times and the Tribune Company, as a result of Sam Zell buying them about fifteen months ago, the Daily Pilot has been forced to cut staff and reduce the number of days it actually
publishes a print edition to six days a week - they are dark on Monday. That being said, the editors and staff continue to provide us with an excellent community newspaper, full of local news and events, just as has been the case for a century. It is still being run by real, honest-to-goodness journalists.

HE DOESN'T LIKE REAL NEWS
The Mouth perpetually gripes about the way the editors of the Daily Pilot present crime coverag
e, implying they have an anti-white bias. That allegation is so ridiculous that it makes one curious about his motives.

OH, OH, OH - BREAKING NEWS!

Lately he has taken to posting supplemental entries on his blog each day. Usually he posts his primary entry before dawn. It makes me wonder if he has a newspaper route and he fires off his first entry of the day after he finishes his route. Gee, I guess that might make him a "newsman" of sorts. Anyhow, he pumps out his first rant in the wee hours each day, then spits out little snippets during the day as the urge moves him. It's kind of like a literary bowel movement.

STILL DOESN'T GET IT RIGHT
In a recent entry he actually announced that he would be doing that, even though he's done
it for weeks. I guess his objective is to become our "breaking news center". What a joke! For years he has demonstrated that he doesn't get it right - mixing distorted views of facts with his opinion.

OPINION, NOT FACTS

For years this character has presented his version of "news" - which is really his racial bias in camouflage. For example, today his #632 entry has a couple entries - opinion, not facts - addressing local issues. Further down his true colors show as he provides a few little snippets and links to, for example, a site for the National Policy Institute (NPI). If you visit that link you'll see that it's just another of his favorite far, far right sites, which also links to many, many more of kind of sites. They bemoan the lost of racial purity, that whites are in the minority, blah, blah, blah. And, of course, he frequently demonstrates that he's not yet mastered the art of "linking" - his "links" don't work
in many cases.

SCRAMBLING FOR CONTENT
In addition to the NPI snippet and link he also provides (so far) a link to Glenn Beck; an article about the Dalia Lama and - hot off the presses - a link to an article about IRA gunmen (which doesn't work). And, since I began tinkering with this entry this morning he's posted another snippet about the McClatchy news organization cutting jobs. Does he really think readers of a local blog go there to find this kind of stuff? Geez! I guess he thinks he's got to provide something, because he sure doesn't get the local scene right.

RECRUITING

This insidious guy continues to use his blog to proselytize unsuspecting readers - to suck them into his vortex of intolerance by slipping in references into his version of "real news". Unfortunately, history shows us that he may have found a fertile field here in Costa Mesa for his racial rants because several current and past members of the City Council follow his marching orders.

HE'S A DANGEROUS GUY

As I've warned you many times in the past, be careful of this bozo. He's a smart guy - he tells us that he's a Mensa member - and should never, ever be underestimated. He's already influenced events in this city - and not for the better.

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More Omens...

WHAT LIES AHEAD...
Monday night's Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting gave us a view of what may lie ahead for folks that present issues before the commission.

FAST AND LOOSE

New Chairman Jim Righeimer seemed intent upon speeding things along as he juggled the agenda. I don't
recall any chair in recent memory that treated the normal, well-established procedures with such cavalier disregard. Old Riggy's a smart fella and obviously knows how to run a meeting, but his loosey-goosey handling of issues on the dais is very likely to cause him some procedural problems downstream.

NO TIMER DISCIPLINE
For example, the only time he really paid attention to the speaker's timer was when he closed the me
eting with three minutes of silence as a tribute to former Chairman Donn Hall, who had passed away earlier that morning.

FISLER GETS A BACKHAND

And, I thought it was either carelessness on his part or an intentional affront as Righeimer failed to refer to Jim Fisler as Vice Chair. It may have been an innocent oversight, but Riggy's a quick study, so I
suspect the latter.

MENSINGER A BULLY?

And, we got a glimpse of just what kind of commissioner Steve Mensinger is going to be. Taking a page right out of Riggy's play book, he chastised the architect representing the developer of two projects before them last night not for his plans, but for Mensinger's perception of his attitude. Well, I watched the proceeding and thought the architect in question handled himself very well, particularly with some hostile questions fired at him. He met every request and the projects were eventually a
pproved over the objections of commissioners Sam Clark and Fisler - the new minority on the dais.

THE "SUNCAL" STYLE?

Maybe Mensinger thinks that style works for him in his business, but I don't think our city is well-served when commissioners exercise their power by abusing those who speak before them. We saw enough of that during Riggy's early years on the commission and it looks like Mensinger's going to carry that baton now. I don't know.. maybe that's the style at SunCal Companies, where they both work. Here's a LINK to an article in the Los Angeles Times from a couple of years ago that may give us a clue to his "style". Here's another LINK discussing his background. And, here's another LINK announcing the appointment of both Mensinger and Righeimer as Presidents of two divisions of SunCal Companies.

ONLY THICK-SKINNED FOLKS NEED APPLY

It looks to me like those standing before THIS Planning Commission better arrive with a thick skin and plenty of answers because some members of THIS group seem willing to rely on their own preconceived opinions rather than doing their homework and investigating the projects before them.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

DONN HALL PASSES

PASSES PEACEFULLY TODAY
This morning I received a message, since confirmed, that former Mayor and, most recently, Chairman of the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, Donn Hall, passed away peacefully this morning.

WORKED HARD ALTHOUGH ILL
As mentioned in an earlier post, Hall has been ill for several months. Nonetheless, he continued to soldier on, fulfilling his duties on the
commission. Those of us who have observed him in action will recall his sometimes gruff demeanor and always the champion of the little guy.

REBUFFING RIGGY
I, personally, enjoyed watching him swat then-commissioner Jim Righeimer back into line when he felt he was abusing an applicant. Recalling him on the dais makes me smile.

NO INFO ABOUT SERVICES YET

At this time no information is available regarding services but the message I received indicates that the family would prefer no flowers, food or telephone calls.

DONN HALL WILL BE MISSED
We wish his wife, Mesa Consolidated Water District Director Trudy Hall, and their family the best at this difficult time.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

It's Time To Talk!


RENE MENG REVISITED
Last week, in the pre
vious entry here, I wrote about Reserve Police Officer Rene Meng's poignant comments before the City Council at their most recent meeting. To read that entry click HERE. The Daily Pilot published a similar essay which ran in print last Friday. You can read it online HERE.

STORM CLOUDS OVERHEAD
I continue to be very concerned about the fiscal well-being of our city in light of the national economic climate and the b
oneheaded moves made by our state government. It's my opinion that, unless our public employee unions decide to sit down with our city leaders very soon to discuss modification of their current labor agreements, the city will be forced into laying off many of those brave folks who serve us in public safety jobs and keep the wheels of city government working.

WHAT DOES THE RANK AND FILE THINK?
This morning, as my wife and I were finishing breakfast at one of our
favorite places, I noticed four members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department also finishing theirs. As they left and passed my table I spoke out to them, thanked them for their service and asked what they thought about the current budget situation.

"WE'VE BEEN TELLING THEM..."

The two more senior men stopped at our table and began to talk about it to me. One said that, and I'm paraphrasing him here, "We've been telling them for years that they have to do something." Turns out he meant the city, and that they have been telling "them" to find new sources of revenue. One mentioned the Transient Occupancy Tax and I told him that ship has sailed. We cannot address that issue again until 2010.

SHUT UP AND KEEP WALKING!

Then, curiously, the other fellow told his friend that they were not supposed to be talking about this subject. He acknowledged that admonition, then agreed that they'd been told not to discuss it an
d left the restaurant. I was just a little disappointed, because it's important to know how the men and women who will be directly affected by the decisions of their union leaders feel about this situation.

HEELS DUG IN?

I had the s
trong impression that, based on what they said and the way they said it, the employee unions are not eager at all to re-open discussions of their current contracts. Instead, they will be pointing the finger at city management for falling down on their job of raising revenue for the city. This does not bode well for the near-term problem of balancing this year's budget nor does it hold out much hope for a good solution for the Fiscal Year 09/10 budget, either.

NEGOTIATION TRAINING ON TAP
In an interesting bit of timing, the agenda for next Tuesday's City Council Study Session includes an item that was on the last council meeting agenda but was pushed off because of time constraints. This item is a presentation
to them by an organization that specializes in training folks in leadership roles on the nuances of negotiating with employee groups.

UNION RECON?
I wonder if any members of the employee unions will be present at this study session?

BLEAK ECONOMIC NEWS CONTINUES

The economic news over the weekend continued t
o be bleak. The talking heads on the weekend news shows continued to provide us no good news. Quite the contrary. Our trainee President seems determined to completely re-make our country within his first 100 days and to saddle the next two generations of Americans with a debt load that will be virtually impossible to carry.

LOOKING FOR HOPE (NOT BOB)

I hope our local leaders find ways to lessen the impact of stupid, destructive decisions being ma
de at the state and national level. I keep looking for a silver lining in the storm clouds that surround us these days. So far, there are only dark clouds.

JUST TALK!

One more time... I'm NOT against the public employee unions! I don't want them to shoulder all the burden of balancing our municipal budget. What I DO want them to do is to sit with our elected leaders and the city staff and negotiate, or at least listen.

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