Dear Loyal Readers (and the rest of you, too) THANKS FOR STOPPING IN... I can't believe we're a week away from yet another new year! Yikes! I want to thank each of you for taking the time to stop in at A Bubbling Cauldron from time to time, to see what kind of drivel I'm spewing.
COMMENTS WELCOME, EVEN WHEN THEY'RE WRONG! I know from comments posted and from separate email correspondence and phone calls that some of the views I've expressed struck a chord with you. I also know that some of you disagree completely with what I've written. That's OK - I'm always happy to hear an opposing viewpoint, no matter how wrong it might be.
THE NEWPORT-MESA BEAT This blog is mainly focused on Costa Mesa issues, with a little slop over into Newport Beach from time to time. I'm always happy to share my "wisdom" with our friends over there in the high rent district. A YEAR UNLIKE ANY OTHER This year in Costa Mesa has been one unlike any other I can recall in the more than three dozen years I've lived here. The budget travails alone would make it unique, but when you combine that with the potential sale of the Fairgrounds, it has made an amalgam of chaos that's almost impossible to explain. And that's just at the local level. When you consider that our trainee president is trying to turn the greatest representative republic in history into just another socialist enclave, I, for one, will be happy to see this year end! ROEDER LEADS A STRONG TEAM The budget problems were managed effectively by the City Staff, led as always by the best city manager in Orange County (at least), Allan Roeder. He and his team faced tremendous obstacles trying to find a way to balance the budget and maintain city services at the same time. The strength of the bench in Costa Mesa municipal government was apparent when, out of the blue and in the midst of the whole budget turmoil, Finance Director Marc Puckett left his position for reasons that have not been, and probably never will be, made known. The remaining Finance staff and the rest of the senior management team just hunkered down and all pulled together to help produce a budget that would work.
SAYING GOOD-BYE TO RETIREES Many elements of that budget were necessarily nebulous. For example, one "great unknown" was just how many staffers would take advantage of the enhanced retirement package. Hopes were that maybe 50 of the 145 or so eligible might decide to bail out early. If that was the case, management was expecting to replace only 25 of those, which would result in an annual budget savings of around $3.5 million. As it turned out, slightly more than 50 have chosen to retire and, based on the analysis by the management staff, only six will be replaced. That resulted in a savings of over $3.6 million in this fiscal year alone - virtually doubling the anticipated savings. The final numbers are still fuzzy, but that part looks like it worked out just fine.
WE'LL KNOW IN A MONTH By the end of January the staff will have prepared their mid-year budget review, which should tell us just how close we will come to the targets created last spring. THE FAIRGROUNDS SALE! Then, the city had the biggest curve ball of all - the potential sale of the Fairgrounds - thrown at it. This issue has brought together some very diverse constituencies, all fighting the sale. It's created some new friends and more than a few new adversaries. Carpetbagger Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer launched his "Save The Fair" effort, which was viewed by many as a smokescreen to facilitate the scurrilous attempt by members of the current Fair Board to form a non-profit group to purchase the fair after having hired a former legislator - Dick Ackerman - to go to Sacramento specifically to facilitate the Fairgrounds being placed on the block. Hearings were held, emissaries were dispatched to Sacramento to plead for the sale to be quashed, a bill was introduced by Assemblyman Jose Solorio - AB1590 - to stop the sale and the governor was contacted and encouraged to kill this bad idea. The City and The County of Orange agreed to form a joint powers authority for the purpose of bidding on the Fairgrounds - a choice of last resort if the sale cannot be stopped.
PROCESS IS MOVING FORWARD As of this writing the sale process continues to barrel down the track with sealed bids due by January 8, 2010, which will be opened on the 14th and an auction comprised of qualified potential buyers will commence. Fingers all over Orange County are turning blue from being crossed in hopes of the sale being stopped.
And those two items were just the "big" two that faced Costa Mesa this year. MORE BUDGET PROBLEMS AHEAD Next year the budget difficulties will certainly continue as property tax revenues are certain to decline and sales taxes, already dropping, will likely continue to show weakness as our trainee president and his band of anarchists attempt to turn the strongest economy in the world into a second tier country.
ONE MORE TIME... So, I want to thank every member of the Costa Mesa city staff, from Allan Roeder on down to the guys driving the street sweepers, for their efforts to keep the municipal wheels from coming off. 2010 will find many fewer people in place to meet the demands of our residents. It's going to take a whole lot of patience on our part as calls for service are delayed.
WITH FINGERS CROSSED... 2009 has been, in many ways, a truly terrible year. I hope, with fingers turning blue, that 2010 will be better - even if it only is a little better. I hope you all have a good year.
DID MESA CONSOLIDATED WATER PASS INCREASES? I spoke with Coleen Monteleone, Administrative Manager at Mesa Consolidated Water District, this afternoon. I was curious about how the hearing went on the proposed rate increases last night. THE ANSWER IS "YES"! Coleen told me that, first of all, the Board passed the rate increases as proposed. That means that we will be paying roughly 25% more for our water at the end of five years than we are paying now, and that the progressive increases will not require any further public hearings to implement the subsequent increases. POWERPOINT ANSWERED QUESTIONS She sent me the PowerPoint presentation used last night and answered several of my questions about this process. While it seems curious that such a huge increase would be bitten off in such a huge gulp, and that the only public hearing on these increases is being held three days before Christmas, when most residents are preoccupied with holiday responsibilities, I'm personally satisfied that this process is OK. ONLY 10 SPEAKERS SHOWED UP Ms. Monteleone told me that 10 people spoke before the Board regarding the rate increases and that 8 of them approved the increases. Thanks to those folks who took the time during this busy holiday season to present their views to the Board. She went on to tell me that currently the ratepayers of the district are paying only $.003 per gallon of water and that, after the final increase as proposed in five years, will be paying only $.004 per gallon.
NO MEDIA COVERAGE....? It's interesting that none of the local media has provided any mention of the meeting or the results. I guess our water and a 25% increase really isn't news these days.
SPREAD YOUR WEALTH So, dear readers, we have one more day until Christmas. I hope you spend tomorrow wisely, buying gifts for those you love and also finding a little change in your pockets for those less fortunate. The land of Newport-Mesa has many, many wonderful groups more than willing to help funnel your spare change into the hands of folks who really need it. MORE CHRISTMAS CHEER FOR YOU TO HEAR Once again I leave you with a couple very nice holiday clips to consider...
WATER RATE INCREASE? It's late Tuesday night and I find myself wondering if the Mesa Consolidated Water District passed the new water rates at it's meeting tonight. No word on the local media yet, but there really is no reason to expect they wouldn't pass what amounts to a 25% rate increase over the next 5 years.
SECRET FAIR BOARD MEETING? Also, a friend asked if I knew if the Orange County Fair Board was holding a meeting on Wednesday, tomorrow, at the Fairgrounds. Seems the Daily Voice makes mention of it, but the Fair web site has absolutely nothing on it's pages to indicate a meeting will be held and, if so, what the agenda will be. Sadly, this is precisely why so many activists have come to distrust this Fair Board. I'll post an entry if I hear anything about the meeting, which is theoretically to be held from 10-12 Wednesday in the Administration Building on the Fairgrounds. UPDATE!After spending much of last night trying to track down the source of the info regarding a possible OC Fair Board meeting today, finally this morning late I was advised that the information previously provided was in error. So, I called the Fair staff and was told that, indeed, the Board will not meet this month in their regularly scheduled meeting and will meet on January 21, 2010.
TIGER! Oh, yes - Tiger Woods. There, now I'm no longer the only blogger who has failed to mention Tiger Woods.. 'nuff said, except that I'm certainly going to pull MY sponsorship dollars from him! :-) MORE JOY TO ENJOY More Christmas videos for you again tonight. Tonight I'm going to juxtapose two tunes, both in the Christmas spirit, but are somewhat of a paradox. In any event, enjoy...
The local news is kind of slowing down as Christmas nears.
TSUNAMI WARNING In the Daily Pilot this morning Joseph Serna give us a little overview of Newport Beach's Tsunami preparedness, HERE. If I lived on the peninsula I wouldn't feel very comforted, since it would be unlikely most people could escape from their homes to higher ground in the event of a Pacific tsunami. Also for reference you can read the essay I wrote about the probable impact of a large earthquake along the Newport-Inglewood fault shortly after Hurricane Katrina, HERE. In it I mention the impact of a "local tsunami", caused by the quake.
GRANDMA STEVE Daily Pilot columnist Steve Smith, who has attempted to be the grandmother to us all for years, provides us with his take on Christmas letters, HERE. Don't worry, Steve-o, you're not on our list...
And, for your viewing and listening pleasure, more Christmas music...
HE KNOWS IF YOU'VE BEEN BAD OR GOOD... Here we are, on the Sunday before Christmas with only a few shopping days left before the BIG GUY comes sliding down your chimney...
3/4 MILLION DOLLAR MAN? The next few days will likely be sparse local news days. Most of us are having a hard time digesting the news that The City of Costa Mesa and it's contract legal firm spent well over $500,000 on the Benito Acosta trials - and those numbers don't even count the December costs for the actual trial time! Yikes!! I wouldn't be surprised if the final number ends up being somewhere around $750,000! Man! That's a lot of cops and firefighters.
WHILE PONDERING... So, while I think about how the city is going to balance the budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and how in the world they plan to finance the purchase of the Fairgrounds if the sale cannot be stopped, I've decided to ramp-up my Christmas entertainment for you this week. MORE CHRISTMAS FUN... We begin today with a couple selections that will likely give you some pleasure. The first, Charles Schultz' character Linus in "What is Christmas All About?" The second is a current YouTube offering called "Christmas Light Hero" that has become an instant smash. As I type this more than 1.6 million hits have been recorded on this piece. I guarantee that you'll find it fascinating. Enjoy
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