Friday, July 17, 2009

Mea Culpa & Dumping The Parks & Rec. Commission

ATTEND THE FAIR - LUBRICATE YOUR INNARDS
As we head into another glorious weekend I have some housekeeping to do before turning you loose to gorge yourselves on chocolate-coated bacon and other culinary delights at the Orange County Fair. Besides, if the fairgrounds is sold to help Arnold balance the state budget, this year may be the last time the fair is held in Costa Mesa!

MEA CULPA
In an earlier post, HERE, I suggested that Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy's offer of half his stipen
d to go to youth sports was a "shallow gesture". I also, in that post, indicated that the commissioners receive a stipend of $200 per meeting. Both comments were off the mark. A reader tried to set me straight with this comment:

CM Resident said...

Commissioners receive $400 a month, not $200 a month. Do you think $2400 a year is a shallow gesture? I disagree.

7/15/2009 12:01:00 PM

SLOW INFORMATION FLOW
Ever since that date I've been trying to get the real skinny on commission stipends, with no success. However, today City Manager Allan Roeder emailed me with the correct information.

PARKS GETS $100 PER MEETING
According to Roeder, Parks and Recreation Commissioners receive a stipend of $100 per meeting. They will now probably only meet once every other month, which will save the city some bucks both in the stipend and staff time preparing for only half as many meetings.

PLANNING GETS $400 PER MONTH!
The Planning Commissioners, however, receives $400 per month, regardless the number of meetings they attend - CM Resident was correct. They will now only meet once a month instead of twice. As far as I know - and Roeder knows - no one has suggested reducing their stipend because of the limited meeting schedule. So, our "concerned commissioners" will now get basically a 100% pay raise! Yep, they get the same pay for half the work! Only Colin McCarthy's offer of half his stipend for youth sports - a big gesture, as I stand corrected - seems like the right idea.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT...
Here's something for you to mull over while you're popping TUMS after your fair visit...

DISBAND THE PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
Perhaps, in light of the diminished workload and increasing budget pressure, it's time to disband the Parks & Recreation Commission, thank those five volunteers for their service to the city and fold their duties into the Planning Commission.

MAKES SENSE FROM A SERVICE STANDPOINT
I think this might make a lot of sense, both from a service and cost standpoint. With the Parks & Recreation Commission only meeting every other month the "process" gets thoroughly mangled. If you request the removal of a tree that is damaging your main drain you could be swimming in sewage for months before you get permission to yank out the offending magnolia. If a city tree is damaging the sidewalk and creating a public safety hazard we could have lots of kids and seniors take nose dives onto the concrete before "the process" provides relief. These are serious safety questions that will almost certainly come up with the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting only five or six times a year.

COST SAVINGS SMALL
From a cost standpoint, eliminating the Parks & Recreation Commission won't save much from a stipend standpoint. The way it stands now, the commissioners cost the city $500 per meeting for five or six meetings per year. That $2,500 isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but we are now counting pennies, so it makes sense. It will still require the same amount of staff preparation time, but the service will continue.

GIVE THE PLANNING COMMISSION SOMETHING TO DO
Maybe those haughty developer/commissioners on the Planning Commission will think such mundane issues are beneath their pay grade, so to speak, but that's too bad. As it is, they've got little enough to do until the economy turns around. I think combining the duties - at least for the duration of this economic distress - makes a lot of sense. Let them earn their pay...



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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Piloteer Flees The Coop

MR. ANDERSON MOVES ON...
In a blog entry today, HERE, Daily Pilot City Editor, Paul Anderson, announced to the world that he will be leaving the Daily Pilot for an assignment with City News Service later this month. He will be working the Orange County bureau, headquartering in scenic Santa Ana.

NO 'MO MONA, EITHER

This is a big loss for the Pilot, in my opinion. Paul is a very special newsman who loves "THE STORY". He's an excellent and prolific writer, as witnessed by the stories in the Pilot carrying his byline and his voluminous blog output. Plus, we won't get to see anymore pictures of his squeeze, the lovely Mona! Drat!

HELLO/GOOD-BYE
The timing is interesting. His last day at the Daily Pilot will be on July 29th but he's still scheduled for a "Meet the Editors" evening at The Newport Rib Company on Thursday, the 23rd. If he's still invited to the grub-and-gab fest next week it will be a good time to stop in, grab some great eats and to wish him well.

ADIOS, AMIGO...

So, we bid our pal, Paul, a fond adieu knowing the rascals in Santa Ana and environs now have a new pit bull to worry about. Sic 'em, amigo!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fairgrounds On The Block & Thugs Among Us

FAIRGROUNDS FOR SALE!
I had intended to give you my take on the joint City Council/Planning Commission Study Session yesterday, but first the BIG STORY is the potential sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center.

QUICK DECISION TO SELL
The Fair Board, apparently feeling significa
nt pressure from a pending budget scheme in Sacramento, met in an emergency session today at the Costa Mesa City Hall and voted to support the sale of the Fairgrounds - with the proviso that it be sold to a non-profit that would retain the property as a Fairgrounds in perpetuity. You can read Alan Blank's articles in the Daily Pilot HERE and HERE, and Jeff Overley and Ellyn Pak's article in the Orange County Register HERE.

REPRESENTATIVES, NOT THE BUDGET, ARE THE PROBLEM
This is a big deal.... and is a patheti
c example of how hapless our state government has been in attempting to balance the budget year after year. The voters of this state need to understand that the problem isn't the budget - it's the boneheads they elected to lead this state. That's where the changes need to take place.

*****

Back to the Study Session, which ran 25% longer than anticipated.

THUGS IN CHARGE?

I came away from viewing the taped replay of that meeting today with the STRONG feeling that our city is very, very close to becoming an authoritarian enclave. For example, during the discussion of Code Enforcement priorities, it was suggested by Planning Com
mission Chairman Jim Righeimer that the city should consider "sweeps" - massed enforcement efforts in certain parts of our city - to solve his perception of difficulties. Of course, this comment is aimed squarely at the minority-occupied Westside.

CLUBBED INTO SUBMISSION
Another "Riggy gem" was his suggestion that an immediate $75.00 fine for any trash can left out beyond the permitted time. No warning - just slap a $75.00 administrative citation on the perpetrator. Both of these suggestions reek of heavy-handedness, which was reinforced by comments by Riggy's buddy, Steve Mensinger. When Councilwoman Katrina Foley expressed no interest in either suggestion Righeimer flippantly quipped back to her that she needed a vote - pointing our her minority position
on the council.

TRYING TO RE-MAKE OUR CITY
It was clear to me that Righeimer and Mensinger would prefer to remake Costa Mesa in the mode of Irvine or Newport Beach. A couple times Mensinger compared Costa Mesa to Stanton - a city he described as "stopped in time".

MORE FOCUS NECESSARY

The upshot of the meeting was that a discussion of liquor stores, code enforcement and the overlay zone issues will be going back to the commission and/or the council based on the discussions tonight. The overlay discussion will be more tightly focused on the SoBECA zone and the Westside will be ignored for the time being. Code enforcement guidelines will be re-prioritized and new rules for liquor stores will be crafted.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Planning Commission and Incest

AN INTERESTING EVENING
I'll bet you're wondering
what I thought of the Planning Commission meeting on Monday night. Well, it was an interesting evening from several standpoints.

EARLY
START - NO MEAL
First, it began a half-hour earlier,
at 6:00 p.m. instead of 6:30. And, it apparently was preceded by a meal-less pre-meeting because at one commission member mentioned it. It's a good thing they didn't have anything too challenging or they would have been even more grumpy.

KICKING THE CAN
Much of the evening was sp
ent virtually kicking the can down the street, as several applicants requested extensions on their development plans... they can't round up any money! That shouldn't surprise anyone.

TRINITY CHRISTIAN CENTER
Perhaps the most interesting actual issue was the subject of the
Zoning Application for Trinity Christian Center involving special events and on-site food preparation. Some will remember that TBN, the owners of that megawatt monstrosity on Bear Street at the 405 Freeway, have been far from good neighbors. There have been issues of noise, lights, etc. for years. In fact, they've bought out many of the offended neighbors and now have a slew of homes that abut their property that they use for who-knows-what purposes.

HE'S A SMOOTH-TALKING GUY...
Anyhow, their consultant, Steve Sheldon of the Sheldon Group, is one smooth operator and he managed to sweet talk the commission in
to buying their position. I, of course, recognized Sheldon from previous presentations before the commission and the City Council. I did a little checking up and found an interesting fact.

SHELDON GROUP CLIENT LIST
SHELDON PITCHES TO HIS OWN CLIENTS!
See this image of the Sheldon Group's client list above us here?
Well, as you slide up to fourth from the bottom you will come to the to the name of "SunCal Companies". If that doesn't ring a bell, let me refresh your memory. Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer and commissioner Steve Mensinger both are presently presidents of two different divisions of that self-same SunCal Companies! So, we have Sheldon, the consultant, making a pitch for his client, Trinity Christian Center, to two of his own clients sitting on the commission. I've mentioned before that I don't like a Planning Commission that is controlled by developers - this is a perfect example of why! It's an incestuous business, where everybody knows and deals with everybody else. Makes on wonder how any kind of objective, fair decisions can be expected with this kind of a situation, doesn't it? Makes me wonder if the city is getting a fair shake...

DOING THEIR PART - OR NOT

The Planning Commission meetin
g ended on a humorous note when Colin McCarthy suggested that, in light of the current fiscal distress our city finds itself in, the commission might wish to trim or give up entirely their stipend for each meeting. Presently, they receive $200 per meeting. That brought an amusing exchange between McCarthy and Mensinger, during which Mensinger touted his community service and tallied up his financial contributions for all to hear. What a guy!

SHALLOW GESTURE, BUT BETTER THAN NONE AT ALL

The upshot of the discussion was that McCarthy chose to contribute half his stipend to youth sports activities. None of the other commissioners seemed interested in making such a gesture.

NEXT MEETING A MONTH FROM NOW
I don't know the result of the joint Study Session with the City Council this evening, but will report when I have information. The next Planning Commission meeting will be a month from now - they don't have enough work to keep them busy two meetings a month.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Shifting Priorities

FAIR TIME!
Looks like it's going to be an interesting week in our fair city. Actually, that's a little play on words, acknowledging that the Orange County Fair is now up and running.

PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING TODAY - NEW TIME

Besides the fair we have other entertainment happening here in town if the form of municipal meetings. Today there is supposed to be a Planning Commission meeting, which starts at their new time of 6:00 p.m. It's always an adventure to see what the new developer majority will come up with.


FULL AGENDA, INCLUDING THEIR STIPEND

This meeting, f
or example, is a paradox. First thing off the bat the commission will approve a resolution to decrease meetings to one per month, then launch into what may be the most packed agenda in months. At the very tail end of the meeting they are scheduled to discuss the stipend they receive as commissioners. I don't know what direction this will take because, as of this moment, there is no staff report available for review on that subject.

DOUBLE YOUR STOOGES, DOUBLE YOUR FUN

Then, even more fun, Tuesday there is a joint City Council/Planning Commission Study Session at 4:30 in Conference Room 1A, in which the council will theoretically attempt to tighten the focus of the Planning Commission. It will be interesting to see what kind of direction the majority on the council gives the majority on the commission. That should be very interesting, indeed.

INTERESTING AGENDA ITEMS
For example, the council and commission will discuss city regulations for establishments that sell alcoholic beverages for off-site consumption, code enforcement priorities and procedures and the SoBECA Plan/19 West/Mesa West Bluffs Urban Plans and the "permitted uses" in each of them.

FINALLY...
So far, no mention of the budget appears in any of the staff report...

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