Thursday, March 25, 2010

Parks & Rec. Leadership, Fair Board Lack Thereof & Journalism

BRUMBAUGH, SHAW LEAD PARKS & REC. COMMISSION
Last night the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission elected new leaders. Vice Chair Mike Brumbaugh was elected Chairman and long time resident and activist, Terry Shaw, was elected Vice Chairman. Commissioner Jeff Mathews was nominated for Vice Chairman by Kurt Galitski but no second was put forth. It will be very interesting to see what impact this new leadership has on the activities of the commission, which meets only every other month now.

FAIR BOARD OK's BEAZLEY SECURITY SYSTEM
At it's meeting today the 32 Agriculture District Board (Fair Board) the five members in attendance voted unanimously to spend $3,000 for a security system at CEO Steve Beazley's Costa Mesa residence. According to Mona Shadia's Daily Pilot report on the meeting, HERE, the expenditure was authorized even though no testimony either in the staff report or otherwise, made a link to the vandalism and harassment experienced by Beazley and his family to his position at the Fairgrounds.

DODGE AND ELLIS ABSENT
An interesting sidebar to this story - neither Board Chairwoman Kristina Dodge nor the Vice Chair, Dave Ellis, attended the meeting today. That's more than a little curious, since Dodge was scheduled to pitch the need for Beazley's security to the Board. I guess they didn't want to be personally associated with this controversial subject. That's "leadership" for you.

OPEN MEETING RULES WILL NOW APPLY
According to Shadia's article, some good news finally came out of a Fair Board meeting. Today, on a vote of 4-1, the board agreed that sub-committees should be at least three members, which requires them to be subject to open meeting laws. Previously only two members were required in sub-committees. Hopefully, this will lead to more open discussion of important issues before the Fair Board.

ANOTHER JAW-DROPPING ADMISSION! (10:20 p.m.)
Well, now, this issue got much more interesting with the publication of Tom Johnson's column in the Daily Voice, HERE. Seems that, during the meeting at which the Fair Board agreed to follow the open meeting laws, several of them admitted to a major violation in the case of the Beazley Security System issue! According to Johnson, one Board member, Gary Hayakawa, sent an email to ALL the other Board members about this subject - a clear violation of the Bagley-Keene act. Even more astounding is the quotation by Johnson of a comment attributed to Dale Dykema, who acted as moderator of the meeting due to the absence of the Chair and Vice Chair. Once he finally admitted it was a violation of the "Brown Act" (it's really the Bagley-Keene Act), Dykema said, "but, in this case, this is different - this is a human thing." Good grief! These people really are clueless! I sure did get it right with the title of this post! Just put that on the list with all the other reasons this Fair Board should go - regardless what happens to the Fairgrounds!

CORONA DEL MAR TODAY ON THE JOB
An observation: It's hard to understand how some local stories simply don't seem to reach publication by the "real" media until well after the date of occurrence - if ever. For example, Amy Senk over at the Corona del Mar Today blog reported the failure of a structural beam above the council chambers at Newport Beach City Hall, including photos of the failure that will deem the chambers unusable for some time while it is repaired. You can read Amy's report HERE. I have yet to see any mention of this situation mentioned by the Daily Pilot nor the Orange County Register.

THE CAULDRON WILL BE ON SIMMER
I'm turning the old cauldron down to simmer for a few days while I take a little breather. Comments might be delayed as I try to find my way to a computer to approve them, but they will eventually be posted. We'll be back at full steam before the next council meeting, returning with our heads full of March Madness. In the meantime, you might wish to re-visit a little piece I wrote on March 22, 2006 to keep your juices flowing. Just click HERE and fasten your seat belt.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is Irvine Clearing The Way For The Fair?

OCLNN ARTICLE ON GREAT PARK ZONING CHANGE
Erik Holmes, in the fledgling Orange County Local News Network (OCLNN), today published an article entitled, "Irvine council considers changes to Great Park development process". You can read that article HERE. According to Holmes, the Irvine City Council is considering taking over the Orange County Great Park design review process and cut out the Community Services Commission as they do so. They are also considering a new zoning classification specific to the Great Park.

PLAN TO BROADEN THE ZONING
Holmes tells us that the current zoning is either recreation or preservation, but the plan is to broaden the zoning to allow for "government facilities, greenhouses, maintenance facilities, theaters, child care centers and restaurants in addition to the usual recreation uses of picnicking and fishing areas, nature centers, stables, golf courses, parks, swimming pools, botanical gardens, nurseries and open space." He goes on to say that sections currently zoned for preservation will remain untouched and "will include hiking, biking, horseback riding, botanical gardens and other low-impact uses."

KINDA LOOKS LIKE THE FAIRGROUNDS
I mention this tonight because it strikes me as a curious bit of coincidental timing when you consider that the future of the Orange County Fair and Events Center continues to swirl as though in a hurricane. If you look at those uses planned for this new zoning you'll find yourself thinking, "Hmmm, this looks familiar!" A suspicious guy might begin to wonder whether this proposed zoning change might make it just a teeny bit easier for the Great Park to swallow up the Orange County Fair should a new buyer with more grandiose plans for the 150 acres in Costa Mesa surface with a pile of cash in his hands.

COSTA MESA LOCKING DOWN THE FAIRGROUNDS USES
I'm even more nervous because the Costa Mesa City Council, in an attempt to get out ahead of this process, is placing on the June, 2010 ballot a measure that would lock the current zoning for the Fairgrounds for uses that are, well, a Fairgrounds! If the people of Costa Mesa vote to lock down that zoning it will take another vote of the people to unlock it in the future, thus making the timetable for any other kind of development a slow and expensive process.

NEW OWNERSHIP WILL WORRY ABOUT ROI
I worry about this because it is still unclear what happens once the Fairgrounds is sold and the state no longer has a vested interest in it. It's unclear what happens if the Fair Board is unable to negotiate a satisfactory lease agreement for their current space from the new owner. Anyone who pays $100 million - a number that has been bandied about - for that property is going to expect a good return on that investment. Since the Fair has made a small profit each year without having to lease the land, I wonder if the new owner might decide that a Fair isn't going to pay off for them. Similar questions may exist for the Orange County Marketplace, Equestrian Center, Amphitheater, etc.

IRVINE MIGHT MAKE AN OFFER THEY CAN'T REFUSE*(See below)
If our "friends" over in Irvine - The Emperor Agran and his merry minions - decide that what they need to get their Great Park finally off and running is the Orange County Fair and all, or most, of it's current amenities - Equestrian Center, Amphitheater, etc. - they might consider making the Fair Board an offer they can't refuse... like rent for a buck a year for the first 10 years, for example.

TELLER AND THE EMPEROR LUNCHING
*UPDATE (3/24/10 @ NOON): Since I posted this yesterday afternoon a friend forwarded me an article from the Orange County Business Journal by Rick Reiff in which Reiff observes that Jeff Teller, head honcho at the Orange County MarketPlace, was seen having a nice, chatty lunch with Larry Agran at Bistango in Irvine. Remember that suspicious guy a few paragraphs above? Well, he's wondering about the coincidental timing of this lunch. Teller is one smart businessman, so it wouldn't surprise me at all that he is seen schmoozing with The Emperor Agran.

TENTS OR THE OLD BUILDINGS COULD WORK
"Hey", you say, "what about the buildings they would leave behind? What about all that infrastructure? What about the historical buildings?" Well, big tents could be erected to house the exhibits as a temporary measure. Heck, the new owner of the Fairgrounds might sell all the buildings just to get them moved. The Great Park snatched Cirque du Soliel from Costa Mesa this year with absolutely no trouble at all.

FAIR SET FOR NEXT YEAR, BUT...
Look, we know we will have a 2010 Fair at the Fairgrounds this year, but all the contracts for ongoing events were supposed to have been negotiated with termination dates for next fall, coincident with the date the new buyer takes possession. The last date I heard was November 1, 2010. After that date the world is just full of question marks...

QUICK START UP AT GREAT PARK
With most of a year to plan it, the Great Park could easily begin hosting the Orange County Fair next summer. They could carve out a couple hundred acres over there and get the water, sewer and power in place in a matter of months. Heck, they could use the old runways, for goodness sake.

OOPS!
I'm concerned that we might be shooting ourselves in the foot by locking up the zoning of the Fairgrounds via a ballot measure. The way it stands right now it would take a vote of the City Council to change it. If we tie it to a vote of the people we might hamstring any good, reasonable development from happening because of the uncertainty and time delays. Some will say, "Great! That's exactly what we want!" OK, but what happens if the Fair moves south? We'll be standing there on the steps of City Hall looking across the street at 150 empty acres saying, "Uh-Oh".

ASK THE FAIR BOARD ABOUT THE GREAT PARK...
Perhaps someone should ask the Fair Board at their meeting on Thursday just what their position is on moving the Fair. Can't hurt to ask, can it?

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Law Enforcement Helicopters Under Fire?

REGISTER ARTICLE ADDRESSES CHOPPER PATROLS
The Orange County Register ran an interesting article today entitled, "Police helicopter programs get trimmed" by reporter Annie Burris, in which the impact of tightened budgets on airborne law enforcement operations in Orange County is discussed. You can read the entire article HERE. Be sure to examine the photo array that is also linked to that article for some terrific shots that demonstrate the value of helicopter patrols.

A.B.L.E. AND OTHERS
The article comments on the A.B.L.E. program, which is run as a joint venture by the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Newport Beach Police Department, with Santa Ana also participating as a contracting agency. It also mentions the airborne units operated by Huntington Beach, Anaheim, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol.

AIRBORNE BUDGETS DISCUSSED
The A.B.L.E. program, which operates a fleet of three Eurocopters, has been part of extensive discussions recently as both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach wrestle with diminishing revenues.


SEEKING OUT THE BERRYS
?
The article presents many pro-helicopter viewpoints from members of law enforcement so, during her investigation of this subject the reporter wanted to get comments from residents who might have a less-than-positive viewpoint of airborne policing. At the suggestion of another Register staffer the author tried to contact the perky Judi Berry - she who fancies herself the municipal fiscal watchdog - for comment. Unfortunately, she was apparently not available, so Burris interviewed that paragon of pomposity, her husband, Mike Berry.

MIKE INSERTS BOTH FEET
According to Burris, old Mike, while acknowledging that helicopters are useful, "wonders if the agencies are getting the best bang for their buck." She goes on to quote Mike as saying, "Once you satisfy the need of people on the ground, then spend the leftover money on a helicopter. The county has more realistic need for one but when it comes to a five (miles) by five (miles) city (of Costa Mesa) you could cover it with a Moped."

ENDEARING HIMSELF TO THE CMPD
I'm sure the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department will be quite pleased to learn that old Mike thinks our city could receive effective law enforcement coverage if the staff used Mopeds. I suggest we use their Westside neighborhood as a test site. How about, for the remainder of the year, any calls for service received for addresses within a half mile of the Berry's residence be responded to by an officer on a Moped?

PUNCH, ER, MIKE AND JUDI
Those of us who have been observers of city politics are familiar with the Judi and Mike tag team. They frequently appear as a "doubles team", each stepping up to the podium to present their wisdom for the City Council to hear. Actually, it's usually Judi who presents the more cogent views, while Mike just prattles on, demonstrating his lack of understanding of the issues, but doing it with bravado, bluster and flare.

SOURCE OF COMMUNITY INPUT?! YIKES!
The fact that old Mike continues to willingly display his ignorance for all to see is scary enough. Of greater concern is the fact that someone at the Orange County Register thought that he was a good source for community input! Geez! That's like asking our old pal, The Mouth From Mesa North, about the positive influence of Latino culture on our society, for goodness sake!

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Weekend Potpourri

EASIER THAN HERDING CATS...
While driving up to a luncheon with high school classmates on Saturday, I noticed a CHP cruiser driving very slowly along the shoulder of the Glendale Freeway, with his two left wheels in the right traffic lane. As I approached the CHP cruiser from the rear I noticed, off to it's right, a scruffy coyote walking erratically parallel with the cruiser. It seems the CHP officer driving the cruiser was herding the coyote, trying to keep it off the freeway traffic lanes just as a cowpoke might use a quarter horse to herd a heifer. My off ramp was just beyond the cruiser, so I didn't see if this operation was a success. Hopefully, for the coyote's sake, he was able to direct it down the offramp and away from the freeway traffic. After driving the California freeways for more than a half century, this one takes the cake!

CITY HALL DEMONSTRATION GARDENS
Sunday my wife and I took advantage of perfect weather and went to Costa Mesa City Hall to view the recently-completed drought-tolerant demonstration gardens that surround the building. The eight separate areas were designed by a cadre of local landscape architects and the plants were donated and installed by Village Nurseries. We both were impressed by the new plantings, which should really be beautiful in a few months, once they've had a chance to adapt to the new locations and grow a little bit. If you are considering using drought-tolerant plants in your gardens a trip to City Hall for a peek at these new gardens will certainly be helpful. The complete plant list for each is available online at the city web site.


NO COUNCIL MEETING UNTIL APRIL 6TH, BUT...
We don't have a regularly-scheduled City Council meeting again until April 6th, but that doesn't mean the wheels stop turning by any means. The staff has begun preparation of the 2010/2011 budget even as they continue to refine methodologies to balance the current budget.

WAITING FOR THE DGS TO DROP ANOTHER SHOE...
And, the seemingly never-ending drama of the Orange County Fair and Events Center continues to percolate. The State Department of General Services has promised Governor Schwarzenegger that they will move "promptly" to get the Fairgrounds sold, so I wouldn't be surprised at all to find a special council meeting being called before the next regular one.

VISIT "CHUCKMEISTER UNLEASHED" OFTEN
A reminder that my pal, Chuck Cassity, is producing some very interesting stuff over on his "Chuckmeister Unleashed" blog. You can find the link to it on the right side of this page. Whether you enjoy Chuck's ideas or not, he will certainly provoke you to think a little.

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