Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tuesday Is Decision Day

SPECIAL BUDGET COUNCIL MEETING TUESDAY
Next Tuesday, April 14th, the Costa Mesa City Council will hold a special meeting in the Council Chambers at 6 p.m. to discuss the budget.



LOOKING FOR DIRECTION

This is a session in which the city staff will present to
the council the things they've done to balance this year's budget and their ideas for coming up with a balanced Fiscal Year 2009/2010 budget. They will be looking to the council for direction, so they can begin the preparation of the new budget.

CASH TO COVER 08/09
It looks like there is enough available, accessible cash left in the fund balance piggy bank to make it through t
he current fiscal year, which ends in June. Beyond that, there will not be enough left in the kitty to balance next year, so changes must be made.

JUDI, THE "WIZ"
At the last council meeting I was amused by the "presentation" by "improver" activist Judi Berry, who fancies herself some kind of fiscal watchdog. In fact, over at the CM Press today, the racist yapping hyena who runs that blog described her as a "local financial wiz". I couldn't stop laughing for several minutes when I read that. The perky Ms. Berry - the smart half of the team of Mike and Judi Berry - presented a graphic for the council to consider. However, as she presented it she acknowledged that the numbers
were not accurate because it would have been too hard to round off the real numbers! So much for being a financial wiz! Actually, considering who she was dealing with, she could make up and present ANY numbers and the four council members present last Tuesday probably wouldn't know the difference!

WATERSHED DAY AHEAD

Next Tuesday will be a watershed day for our city. The council will be asked to set the course for the staff to navigate through our current financial crisis. It will be very interesting to see just how willing this council will be to make the tough decisions that appear to be necessary to keep our city fiscally solvent.

TIME TO SPEAK UP

Any resident who feels they have good ideas for balancing next year's budget should contact the council or city staff by telephone or email. If you really want to make an impact, present yourself before the council next Tuesday and use the three minutes provided to you during public comments to sell them on your ideas. Now is the time to make your views known.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

LIGHT 'EM UP!
Well, last night the Costa Mesa City Council, during it's discussion of Wendy Leece's proposals for changes in the enforcement of our fireworks laws, affirmed that the elected leadership of this city really isn't interested in shutting down illegal fireworks. They passed both items on a vote of 3-1, with Eric Bever voting "no" and Katrina Foley absent on spring break.

FEW SPEAKERS AT THE MEETING
The fireworks issue - the last item on the agenda - had few speakers either for or against. No self-described "marketing guru". No pistol-packing planning commissioner. Those who did speak did so with controlled passion and respect. And, the upshot of all this hub bub was less than nothing.

ADMINISTRATIVE FINES AHEAD FOR VIOLATORS
Oh, yes, they voted to approve Leece's proposals to make the violations of our fireworks laws an administrative fine, thereby avoiding costly court proceedings. Any people apprehended discharging illegal fireworks or misusing legal ones will be cited and required to appear before a contract hearing officer. Any fines collected will go directly to the city. The maximum administrative fine will remain at $500.00

COST-EFFECTIVE EDUCATION/WARNINGS
And, it was agreed that the use of 911 Reverse Technology - calling folks in so-called hot spots prior to the Independence Day holiday to provide information about safety and the fines - would be implemented. The cost is amazingly reasonable - less than $250.00 total, based on the staff report.

ONE GIANT STEP BACKWARD
Perhaps the biggest thing to come out of this was Gary Monahan's manipulation of the process to get the cap on the number of fireworks stands eliminated! Presently, if fewer permits than the authorized number are requested, the next year that number becomes the new cap. Monahan, horse trading in exchange for his vote, required his peers on the dais to authorize 40 fireworks stands, with no cap.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD...
Since only one citation was issued last year, nothing substantive came out of this process. Nope, the only thing that happened was that lots of folks vented their collective spleens on the Daily Pilot blog and Monahan succeeded in allowing even more fireworks to be sold in our city.

I GIVE UP!
I give up... I'm done trying to get folks in this city to give up fireworks. It's going to take a calamity to convince folks of the danger - something I sure don't want to see. So, have a great time on the 4th, neighbors, and please be careful.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fireworks Tonight?


ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE - ALMOST
From the looks of
the most recent agenda report, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting tonight, Tuesday, April 7th, 2009, should be fairly brief. There are a handful of hearings or, rather, re-hearings, that most likely will not require a lot of debate. Katrina Foley is off on spring break with her family, so it's unlikely that there will be much discussion on most of the issues.

FIREWORKS COULD CREATE FIREWORKS

However, o
ne item on the agenda, near the end, may cause some fireworks. That item is, in fact, Fireworks!

LEECE WANTS CHANGE
Wendy Leece has brought forward her proposals for the council to consider and, based on the staff report and attachments, promises to generate more than a little conversation.

WHOPPING TA
X PROPOSAL CAUSED ANGST
Since Lee
ce suggested a 20% tax on the sale of legal fireworks in our city recently, the Daily Pilot blogs have been on fire. Columnist Steve Smith has chimed in a couple times with his opinions and requests for solutions, HERE and HERE. Planning Commissioner Stephen Mensinger wrote a commentary on it, HERE, as did over-the-hill former star jock at Newport Harbor High School, UCLA and on the world track circuit, self-professed marketing guru Brian Theriot, HERE. Theriot, in fact, was a persistent poster on Smith's columns. I suggest you visit those articles and plow through the comment threads (bottom up, if you please) to get a feel for the passion that continues to exist on this issue.

SOLUTION? - FINES AND EDUCATION

Among the "sol
utions" to the fireworks problem that will be considered tonight are:
1) the issuance of administrative citations for those caught using fireworks illegally,
with the cap on such fines raised to $1,000.00. The use of a contract hearing officer to process these cases would cost less than the fines.
2) Determine "hot spots" and illegal fireworks problem areas and notify residents about firework safety and fine amounts using 911 Reverse technology - it would cost around $250 to do that.

I DON'T THINK IT WILL WORK...

Frankly, I think neither will do the trick. The problem here is not fines and n
otification - it's catching the folks in the act using fireworks illegally. There simply are not enough resources available to be effective in enough areas of the city. I suppose, though, that if a few folks are fined $1,000 for such an infraction it may make others think twice next year before violating the law.

WILL ANYONE SHOW UP?

It will be interesting to see how many folks show up for this item on the agenda tonight. As always, the festivities begin at the Costa Mesa City Council chambers at 6 p.m.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

What Might Have Been...

MARINOVICH IN JAIL ONCE AGAIN!
The travails of former USC and Raider quarterback Todd Marinovich have, once again, taken a turn for the worse. Last week he was arrested again, this time for a violation of his probation. This photo is his recent booking photo.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
Here are some headlines we MIGHT have seen over the past two decades:

"Marinovich guides Trojans to national championship, wins Heisman Trophy as a sophomore"

"Marinovich leads Trojans to second championship, repeats as Heisman winner as junior"

"Marinovich jumps to NFL following outstanding junior year- signs with Raiders"

"Marinovich Rookie of the Year after guiding Raiders to first Super Bowl victory in a decade"

"Marinovich named NFL MVP for 6th time"

"Marinovich breaks Marino's passing record"

"Marinovich named to Pro Football Hall of Fame on first ballot"

ACTUAL HEADLINES

Instead, we've seen the following headlines:

"Bred To Be A Superstar"

"Todd Marinovich Was Raised for Football Glory, but a Cocaine Bust and a Sacking by His Coach Mar the Dream"

"Marinovich saga fails to go by script"

"Ex-USC quarterback Marinovich arrested in Newport"

"Todd Marinovich back in jail"

"Todd Marinovich - Sacked By The Law Again"

IT'S AN OLD STORY

In August of 2007 I wrote about the sad tale of Todd Marinovich the last time he ended up in the pokey for a drug-related offense. Once again, he has recently been arrested, this time for a probation violation.

THERE IS NO GREATER BURDEN...
I suppose sport is full of stories of unfulfilled potential. Quarterback Ryan Leaf comes immediately to mind, as does Adam (PacMan) Jones, recently of the Dallas Cowboys. However, the Marinovich story strikes way, way too close to home.

ROBOQUARTERBACK
He was raised from the womb by his father to become THE quarterback. Every phase of his life was controlled by his father - so much so that he was frequently referred to as "Roboquarterback" - and the result was the finest high school quarterback I've ever seen, and that includes other local heroes Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, who went on to win Heisman Trophies while at USC.

STARDOM DESPITE LEGAL PROBLEMS
Marinovich was a star on the USC football team as a freshman despite some missteps which appeared to be the result of finally being out from under his father's thumb. Nonetheless, he had a great freshman year and then jumped to the National Football League with the Oakland Raiders. His troubles with USC followed him and his time as a Raider demonstrated again that, while a prodigious athletic talent, he lacked the self-discipline to follow the normal rules of society.

A SAD TALE, INDEED
Here we are now, with Marinovich at age 39, and perpetuating his long trail of difficulties with drugs and the law. We, once again, wish him and his family well and hope that he will soon realize how self-destructive his behavior is and get some help resolving his problems. It's very, very sad, indeed.

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