Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day - 2009

I MISS MY FATHER
Once again this weekend brings us the date that we honor and pamper our fathers. Although my father died early, many years ago, he's on my mind all the time - I really miss him. A couple years ago I wrote about him at length and provide, HERE, the link to that entry if you care to read about him.

FATHERS OF THE BEST NEIGHBORHOOD
Over here on the Eastside of Costa Mesa, in the best
neighborhood in the city, we have many wonderful fathers who deserve all the accolades they will receive on Sunday. I won't try to mention them all, but will tell you a little about a few of them.

JIM, FATHER OF THREE SONS
In no particular order, we'll start with my friend, Jim, the proud father of three wonderful sons. The eldest graduated from college a year ago and is busily launching a career in a city far away. The middle son begins his junior year at Notre Dame and is having a ball even though they don't have much of a football team. The youngest just graduated from high school this year and will start his grand college adventure in the fall. Each of these young men reflect the strong moral values of their parents and the wise and steady hand of their father as he has guided them through this point in their lives.

NEIGHBORS BOB AND STAN
On the same section of street li
ve Bob and Stan - across-the-street neighbors from each other for more than two decades. Both have two adult children - a son and daughter each - who have long flown the coop and are leading happy, successful lives with their own children. Bob and Stan, retired guys who enjoy each other's company at lunch frequently, continue to show love and support for their kids, as they have for more than 40 years.

PHIL, FATHER OF TWO BOYS
Closer to home is my neighbor, Phil - the father of two great sons. The eldest just finished his freshman year in college and the younger his freshman year in high school. Both young men reflect their father's work ethic and his joy of sport. Both give Phil many reasons to be proud of them, and his leadership and guidance in their lives. Both boys seem to have their father's engineering instincts and both will be successful men.

CRAIG, FATHER OF SIX! YIKES!

Looking directly out my window I can see the roof line of my friend and neighbor, Craig's, house. Almost any time now I expect to see two or three of his six wonderful children burst forth to play in the street - riding bikes, scooters, roller blades or just tossing the ball for their dog. Craig's three boys and three girls range from college age to six years old. The two eldest children have been away at college, but are home now. The middle three
- two daughters and a son - are in school and the just-turned-six-year-old continues to brighten our street during the day with his laughter. Craig has a half dozen reasons to be filled with joy this Sunday because his children are the happiest, most polite group of urchins I've ever seen. We're glad to have them as our neighbors.

JOE, A GREAT GUY WITH FOUR GREAT KIDS

Around the corner at the end of the street we find my friend, Joe, the father of four of the best kids you'll find anywhere. They were raised while Joe and his lovely and patient wife juggled very active business lives, family demands and still found time to be community activists and civic leaders.The three eldest have finished college and have launched themselves into careers. Each of them show signs of their parent's inclination for community involvement - a great thing for us all. The youngest, a charming, bright and mature daughter in her early teens, demonstrates to us one more time the true value of caring parents. Joe is proud of every one of his children - a feeling that is reciprocated.

KURT, FATHER OF THREE

Our friend, Kurt, has three wonderful children - two boys in college and a daughter who may be the best athlete of the three of th
em. All three of them perform at a high level, combining a great work ethic and very special personalities. Kurt beams with pride when we talk about each of them.

TARAS, FATHER OF JOCKS
Across the street is Taras, father of two terrific kids. The son, a multi-sport star in high school - is in the home stretch of his college career and the daughter is about to begin hers. Both were star athletes in high school, in great part because of the loving support and encouragement their father gave them.

MY BUDDY, GRANDPA BARRY
Just down the street we find my pal, Barry - father of two grown kids and grandfather of two grandchildren. His children were just tykes when we moved into the neighborhood almost 36 years ago - two of only a half dozen rug rats in this little enclave at the time. We watched them grow into confident, successful adults and can see the results of Barry's guidance every time they come to visit.

PATIENT MIKE
Across the street from Barry is Mike, the perpetually patient and loving father of an extremely active, developmentally disabled teenage son. Mike is his father and friend, and tries to make his son's life in our neighborhood as normal, nurturing and meaningful as is possible - and does so very successfully.

WAYNE, "FATHER" TO US ALL
I cannot close this without a mention of my dear friend and neighbor, Wayne. He's mentioned in the previous entry, linked above, but he deserves special recognition here today. Although Wayne's actually about the age of an older brother to me, EVERYONE refers to him as "father". He is, in fact, a surrogate for my own father - a man to whom I look for guidance and the example of a life well-lived. The father of two, grandfather of four and great-grandfather of 7, he continues to spread his love, wisdom and guidance over four generations of his family. An uncomplicated man, he lives the best example of a "Christian life" that I've ever seen. Without preaching to you he just shows you the way...

I'VE MISSED A FEW...
I know I've missed some other fathers here in the neighborhood - some of the newer ones with small children. For that I apologize, but will comment that those overlooked also have flocks of great children who are growing and thriving by the touch of their father's hands. I love this neighborhood...

YOU ALL DESERVE A GREAT DAY!

So, a very Happy Father's Day to all of my neighborhood fathers and the rest of you fathers out there. Thanks for all you do for your kids as you love and guide them to becoming successful, caring, responsible adults and the framers of the future of our community.

Labels:

Fork'n Belt Crime Capital of the O.C.









I warn you, don't say that title too fast...

BLEARY-EYED ON THE COMPUTER
Five and a half years ago, while I was pulling 12-14 hour shifts at the hospital bedside of my best friend, trying to facilitate his recovery from a motorcycle accident, I would return to my hotel room late at night, check my email and write to frie
nds about his progress or lack thereof, then log on to the Daily Pilot to keep up with what was going on back home.

A MUCH-
NEEDED LAUGH
On November 29, 2003, I came across an article about two boneheaded crooks who were arre
sted for using a belt and fork while committing a crime. It made me chuckle at a time when I really needed a laugh. You can read that old article - straight from the Daily Pilot archives, HERE.

HAD TO RESPOND

I was so amused by the piece that I wrote and submitted what turned out to be a Mailbag letter addressing that article. It was published December 2, 2003. You can read that letter, also from the Daily Pilot archives, HERE.

WHAT GOES AROUND...
Then, yesterday, I read Joseph Serna's blog entry of 6/17/09, HERE, about the same kind of crime in which the same kind of weapons were used!

CAREFUL - HERE IT COMES AGAIN

I guess, if you sit in one spot long enough, stuff just keeps on rotating around you! So, I think it's appropriate to proclaim Costa Mesa the "Fork'n Belt" Crime Capital of Orange County. Remember, be careful when you say that...

Labels:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Price Of A Municipal Heart?

THE GORE HAS CONGEALED
A couple days after the Monahan Massacre at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last
Tuesday night the blood splatter has begun to congeal and the impact of the changes to the proposed budget are being assessed.

MAKING HIS MARK
Although the
city staff had presented the council with a balanced budget, Gary Monahan apparently felt it was necessary for him to put his mark on the process by recommending what he initially said would be $600,000 in budget savings. He didn't even get close! When council members Eric Bever, Wendy Leece and Katrina Foley rejected his proposals to chop 1 animal control officer and 2 code enforcement officers from the budget - correctly so, in my opinion - that blocked more than $300,000 of his "savings". That left him with only a few other items that amounted to any significant savings - and not very significant, at that.

POSTMORTEM

Based on the postmortem of the massacre, it appear
s that all that shouting, name-calling and angst netted a budget dollar savings of around $100,000 - and $36,000 of that came from the city council budget itself by cutting out things like training and meals for the council, commissions and staff before their regular meetings.

THE BODY COUNT

The long term affects of Monahan's mayhem Tuesday night will take a longer time to assess. By
cutting out the Mobil Recreation Van - a new piece of equipment, by the way - the city will lose 4 staff members. By cutting out the Teen Center at the Downtown Recreation Center we will lose 3 more. If Monahan's proposal to contract-out the operations of the Neighborhood Community Center and the Downtown Recreation Center are successful, that will mean the loss of 5 full time and 20 part time staffers.

UNNECESSARY BLOODBATH

I was among the many residents of this city that sat with our jaws dropped as Monahan, and his willing accomplice,
Allan Mansoor, went about hacking away at an already professionally trimmed proposal. The blood they leave on the floor is that of the youth of this city - mainly the Latino youth on the Westside of our city. By eliminating so many of the successful programs for the youth of this city it leaves those children with few opportunities for positive activities in the afternoons. This opens the door for gang involvement, graffiti "tagging", vandalism and more. You can thank Monahan and Mansoor for that...

CUTS WON'T AFFECT HIS KIDS
I guess I can understand h
ow Mansoor and Bever, who supported many of the cuts, can be so clueless about anything dealing with the children of our city - they don't have any. I couldn't understand how Monahan, with six children of his own, could be so heartless until a friend reminded me that all his kids go to private school and won't be affected by any of these program cuts he enforced. Reflecting on the proceedings Tuesday night, I recall him making statements that implied that parents should be paying for programs - a reference, I guess, to his situation. I guess if it's good enough for Monahan, who splits his time between his bar and two municipal troughs - the city and the sanitary district - then it should be good enough for everyone!

"GOVERNMENT BY AMBUSH"

Because Monahan's draconian recommendations were not specifically "noticed" in the staff report there has been some concern within the community that there might have been a Brown Act violatio
n. According to city sources, that's not the case. The "budget" was noticed and everything is on the table at budget time. While that may be true from a legal standpoint, it still reeks of what a friend refers to as "Government By Ambush". You can bet the farm that if members of this community had been made aware that Monahan was planning to decimate our youth after school and recreation programs there would have been a packed house of unhappy parents to speak against his move.

A HEARTLESS CITY

I agree with councilwoman Katrina Foley. With these c
uts Monahan and his heartless majority have torn at the very fabric of our city. He even tried to de-fund our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), for goodness sake! Their actions will almost certainly cause young families to think hard before moving to our city. This city's motto may be, "The City of the Arts", but it will never be considered a city with a heart - Monahan took care of that last Tuesday night.

HE DEMONSTRATED HIS UNTRUSTWOR
THINESS
Monahan, early in his presentation, speculated that he was going to make some people angry. Well, Gary, you did that - in spades! You demonstrated to many of those voters who were suckers enough to return you to the dais last fall that you are not to be trusted with the welfare of our city. You've proven, once again, that you are a devious politician, looking out only for his own political future. I hope the voters of this city remember last Tuesday - I'll remind them, by the way - when you trot out your plan for a directly-elected mayor (without term limits) again.
Few in this city want to see you anoint yourself as "mayor for life"...

THE PRICE OF A MUNICIPAL HEART...

With the carnage Tuesday Monahan has provided us with the answer to the question, "What is the price of a municipal heart?" The answer is $100,000, give or take a couple bucks.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monahan Mangles The Budget - And His Reputation

WHAT THE...
What The... Heck?! (I thought better about using that "other" word, although it was certainly more a
ppropriate!) Just when you think you've seen it all, the Costa Mesa City Council provides you with a slap in the face!

RIPPED THE HEART OUT!
At last night's C
ity Council meeting, during the budget discussions, twelve-year councilman Gary Monahan reached right in and ripped the heart out our city! As I predicted earlier, he just couldn't be satisfied with the balanced budget presented by City Manager Allan Roeder and his staff. No, he had to nickel and dime what was left of the budget, much of it coming from the Recreation programs. And the ignorance of the programs that Monahan, Allan Mansoor and Eric Bever displayed was astounding! It's as though they lived in another city!

A NICKEL HERE, A DIME THERE...
Apparently not caring what the residents of this city think, Monahan started off his "surgery" by convincing the other guys on the council to shut down the very successful Neighbors to Neighbors program - which didn't affect the budget one penny beca
use it comes out of Community Development Block Grant funds. He moved forward by recommending defunding all training for the city council - saving $10,000. He also canceled the dinner meeting meals for the council and both commissions and the staff. There's another $12,900 in "savings"! He ignored the fact that many of the staff members that work the council and commission meetings go directly from their work desks to the dinner meeting, then to the council meeting - some of which last 5-6 hours - like last night's for example. I found myself wondering if that move will violate any state labor laws...

SOME MOVES REJECTED...

As he took his meat cleaver on down through the budget some of his most egregious moves were rejected as Bever joined Katrina Foley and Wendy Leece in voting against them. Among those were hi
s plan to fire one of the three animal control officers - a move that very obviously ticked off Police Chief Chris Shawkey. Monahan also wanted to fire two code enforcement officers - another move that was rejected.

CERT PROGRAM SAVED

In a truly ironic move, he suggested folding up the CERT Pro
gram - our Community Emergency Response Team. I say ironic because there was an excellent article in the Daily Pilot yesterday that outlined the activities of the CERT group. That was rejected, too. Another boneheaded move was his proposal to attempt to combine unrelated youth recreation programs, even though those he was suggesting be combined were not even slightly related in scope and activities. Fortunately, Bever, Leece and Foley blocked that one, too.

MORE NICKEL AND DIMES...
He also was successful in cutting out funding for Grad Nite, our Sister City Program and youth basketball, flag football and cheerleader programs.

CHANGING PLANNING AND PARKS COMMISSION SCHEDULES
As he kept on rolling,
he made some motions for future actions for the staff - those that will be left, that is. Among those was the proposal to consider having the Parks & Recreation Commission meet every other month and the Planning Commission meet only once a month. That followed the proposal that the two commissions be combined into one entity... that item is not dead.. yet.

MICRO-MANAGING THE COPS
He also proposed that the Police Department keep the Patrol Division fully staffed, regardless what other cuts in the department might occur - ignoring all the hard, time-consuming staff work done by Chief Shawkey and his team. I suppose micro-managing is not unex
pected by Monahan, if you get my drift.

HE DOESN'T GET IT!

Basically, Monahan - who has 6 kids - seemed not to understand at all how cutting all those recreation programs would significantly negatively impact entire neighborhoods in our city. He tore the fabric of our town to shreds last night. He acknowledged before he began shredding the budget that he might make some people mad. Well, he certainly accomplished that last night. In fact
, I wouldn't be surprised if his antics don't cost him some business at his pub.

FOLEY AND MANSOOR - TOE-TO-TOE

One of the highlights for me was the heated exchanges between Foley, Mansoor and Monahan. Foley, obviously very frustrated by the flat out stupidity of some of the motions, didn't hold her tongue. In fact, she and Mansoor got into it so often - yelling at each other - that Mansoor later demanded an apology. He didn't get one.

WHAT'S LEFT OF THE RECREATION PROGRAMS?
So now the city staff, and Recreation Manager Jana Ransom, must try to figure out what is left in their budgets and find ways to move forward. Last night's budget debate - if you can call it that - demonstrated why it's important to elect people to the city council that are smarter than your average bea
r. The combination of ignorance and stubbornness demonstrated by Mansoor and Monahan last night made me fear for the future of our city. If things move forward as directed last night, this town will become a much less family-friendly place. That's a shame.

MANSOOR'S PANDERING ACCOMPLISHED

In other earlier actions, Mayor Mansoor got his resolution about the Vietnamese flag passed. This was accompanied by speeches by several Vietnamese-American politicians and activists and ordinary members of the Orange County Vietnamese community speaking, including a couple members of Assemblyman Van Tran's staff. Did I mention that Mansoor is running for Tran's seat in the Assembly? Don't get me wrong. I really don't have a problem with
the resolution that was passed. It just seems very "convenient" for this to come up now - immediately after Mansoor declared his intention to run for Van Tran's seat. It's pure political pandering...

GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS
The good news is that the Orange Coast College State Champion baseball team was honored
by the council. Their performance - especially in this year, with it's own special adversity - was a wonderful accomplishment. All in all, it was a sad night for the residents of Costa Mesa. It demonstrated, once again, how important it is to pay attention when you're voting for elected leaders. Even though Mansoor's term expires next year, the bad news is that Monahan may be destined to be there forever! Watch him try to resurrect the "directly elected mayor" scheme next year about this time - without term limits. I think he wants to be mayor for life - kind of like Idi Amin (Dada)...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Budget Deadline And Other Stuff


Tonight's Costa Mesa City Council should be more than a little interesting.

BIA FUNDS - AGAIN

Right off the top our municipal party people, the folks who represent the Business Improvement Area (BIA), will hear the council approve the 2% assessment on hotel and motel fee
s for use by the BIA to generate visitors to our city. This is tacked onto our 6% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Usually this item is at the very end of the agenda, so the party folks will be happy tonight.

IN-N-OUT - IN OR OUT

Then the council will hear two items regarding the proposed In-N-Out restaurant at Harbor Blvd. and the 405 Freeway - the site of the defunct Kaplan's Deli. The applicant appealed both items after the Planning Commission threw them a curve ball. We'll see if the council will permit a 65 foot high sign, viewable from the freeway, or not. The second item involves maintenance of the setback.... Will the council do what is necessary to attract a high
ly desirable business to a location that has become a blight on that part of town? We'll see...

BUDGET DEADLINE NEARS - APPROVAL EXPECTED TONIGHT

Next are three items having to do with the 2009/2010 municipal budget. In a perfect world, these will move smoothly through the process without a lot of discussion. However, I don't really expect that to happen. I expect that the council - at least a couple of them - will attempt to nit-pick the proposal. Mayor Mansoor, for example, already said he wants some changes in the kind of meals provided to the council at
their dinner meeting before the council meeting. He suggested they be cut out entirely. Katrina Foley made an excellent point when Mansoor made that suggestion at the recent study session... she pointed out that many of the council meetings run 5-6 hours, so the council should have some food before the meeting starts to keep up their energy. The point here is that we're dealing with a $19 million deficit and Mansoor wants to cut back to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Great fiscal management at work!

And, I wonder if Gary Monahan plans to try to cut the contribution the city makes to the Senior Center... one could surmise that was in his plans based on his comments at the Study Session...

GOLF COURSE CONTRACT EXTENSION

Then the council will consider
the revised contract with Mesa Verde Partners (MVP) to operate the Costa Mesa Public Golf Course and Country Club.

MANSOOR PANDERING - PART DEUX

Following that item they will then consider Mayor Mansoor's request to "recognize the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam as the official flag of the Vietnamese people overseas". There's finally a staff report available which now tells us that Westminster City Councilman Andy Quach requested this item be considered. Based on information dredged up from an internet search by a friend, this item has been around for many years, so it makes one curious just why our mayor - who has announced his intention to run for the 68th State Assembly seat - would choose this particular moment in time to make this request. Don't suppose it could be because the 68th Assembly District has a very large and politically active Vietnamese-American population. What do you think?

All in all, it could be a very interesting evening in the council chambers... we'll see.

Labels:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Budget Workshop Observations

ROEDER AND YOUNG SHARE THE BATON
Last Thursday evening City Manager Allan Roeder and Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young presented the public budget workshop for
any and all residents and others who might be interested.

ATTENDANCE TRIPLED! (TO 9 PEOPLE)

In years past there have been 3 or 4 or of us who attended
and received a very thorough briefing on the budgets. This time - out of a city with a population over 113,000 - the number of attendees tripled to nine! Most of those attending were either political appointees, former appointees, former council candidates or just plain activists - like myself and one other. The exception was one older gentleman who told us he's been a resident of Costa Mesa since 1966 and this is the very first public meeting he's ever attended. He sat quietly and attentively during the almost three hour meeting and asked the occasional question. It was great to see new faces.

"FUND BALANCE" EXPLAINED
Roeder and Young did a good job of explaining to those of us in attendance precisely where we are budget-wise. They gave us a clear definition of "fund balan
ce" - another word for the city's reserves. They explained that the fund balance is a collection of earmarked chunks of cash, some of which is mandated for a particular use by policy, others that are designated for specific uses and the remainder is undesignated and available for budget-balancing purposes.

SIGNIFICANT DROP IN THE RESERVES

We learned that a year ago the total in that pot was right at $66 million and that it is down to $52 million as close as they can tell with a couple weeks to go in the fiscal year. As Financ
e Director Marc Puckett told the council at their study session, it's taken the city 56 years to accumulate this balance and, if things continue the way they're going, it could all be gone in a couple years. Scary stuff...

LAST YEAR WE USED MORE THAN DOUBLE THE PLAN

We were reminded that a
year ago a little over $6 million of the fund balance was designated to balance this year's budget. Then, at the first of the year, another $4 million or so was peeled off because our revenues were in decline. Finally, as we approach the end of the year, it looks like the city will have used around $14 million - more than double the original projection of fund balance use - to make ends meet.

NOT MUCH LEFT FOR THIS YEAR

What is left of the funds available for balancing the budget is just over $6 million, and the current proposed
budget uses a little over $3 million, leaving slightly more than $2 million of available, accessible funds for possible use later in the year if things continue to decline in the economy.

$19 MILLION IN CUTS NECESSARY

We learned that the city is almost $19 million short of balancing the budget without severe cuts. The proposed budget that was presented to the council two weeks ago, and which was discussed at length at their study session last Tuesday, lays out a methodology - a 10-point plan - by which a balanced budget can be produced. There are many unknowns in that plan - how much our sales tax revenue and property tax revenue will actually be, for example - and it is going to take a lot of teamwork and cooperation by all city departments a
nd their labor force and the organizations that represent them to make it work.

5% CUT IN LABOR COSTS - AGREEMENTS NOT YET REACHED

Right now the plan calls for a 5% reduction in labor costs and, although the bargaining units have been meeting with city staff, n
othing final has been worked out. Roeder told the nine of us that he's pleased with the way that process is going and is hopeful that agreements can be reached within a couple months.

UNKNOWN NUMBER OF EARLY RETIREES
Another unknown that is part of the plan Roeder and his staff created is a program permitting early retirement for some city employees who are nearing the combination of age and service requirements. Many of those who might be eligible for that program may take advantage of it and that will take the pressure
off and reduce the probability of layoffs.

HOW MUCH WILL T
HE STATE STEAL, ER, BORROW?
And, we still don't know for sure just how much of our Property Tax revenue the state will steal, er, borrow, from us. We think it will be 8% - roughly $3.5 million. And, there's a possibility that the state, in an attempt to balance it's budget on our backs, will also withhold our gasoline tax revenue - nearly $6 million.

IN A PERFECT WORLD THIS BUDGET WILL BE APPROVED...

Tuesday the council will discuss and debate the budget as proposed. In a perfect world they will simply take advantage of all the hard work that's been done by the staff and bargaining units over the past nine months or so when this process actually began and move to accept the budget and the components necessary to make it work. I'm a realist, though, so I don't think things will go that smoothly.

NIT-PICKING THE PROCESS

It's almost guaranteed that a couple of the council members will attempt to squeeze blood from this turnip by nit-picking at already beleaguered departments. For example, Mayor Mansoor suggested at the study session that the city either stop providing meals at the pre-council meeting dinner sessions or significantly reduce the quantity (and quality?)
of those meals. Yet another example of a small mind at work. At the study session it also sounded like Recreation programs might be in jeopardy.

WATCH MONAHAN LIKE A HAWK

Having watched the tape of the study session a couple times now, I find myself wondering what Gary Monahan is up to. In the past he's demonstrated a tendency to quick-pitch the process, sliding a controversial suggestion/proposal into the mix in the heat of battle.

SENIOR CENTER AND GANG UNIT TARGETS FOR CUTS?

For example, during the study session he asked some interesting questions about the Costa Me
sa Senior Center, leading one to suspect he may suggest a reduction - or elimination - of funding for the center. He also made the curious observation that he didn't know why the Police Department needed a Gang Unit... is he planning to suggest it be disbanded? It doesn't take a Mensa member to realize we need the Gang Unit because we have gangs in this city... duh!

GO LAKERS!

I'm sure the council meeting Tuesday will be well-worth watching. Unfortunately, it's going to directly conflict with game 6 - if there is a game 6 - of the NBA playoffs. We hope the Lakers are considerate of our needs and simply whip the Orlando Magic's butt on Sunday and help us avoid a problem.

Labels: