Saturday, April 10, 2010

Daily Pilot Cup Fiasco

GIANT GAFFE!
In what must be one of the biggest public relations gaffes in recent memory, the folks who conduct arguably one of the most positive and enduring youth sports events in our community - The Daily Pilot Cup - appear to have looked around for the biggest pile of feces they could find, then jumped squarely into the middle of it with both feet.

PARTICIPATION FEE INCREASE NO SURPRISE
As recounted in the Daily Pilot "Sounding Off" commentary on April 8th by Costa Mesa resident John Jason titled, "Soccer fee should apply to all equally", HERE, the organizers of the soccer tournament informed the team liaisons that there would be a 100% fee increase for participants - from $5.00 to $10.00. The increase came of no surprise since it had remained constant for many years.

DISCRIMINATORY DECISION
What DID come as a surprise, however, was the fact that only players from private schools would have to pay the increase - public school participants would pay the previous amount. When the tournament organizers were questioned about the disparity they apparently were told, "Private school families can more easily absorb the fee increase and we do not want to add a financial burden to the residents of the Westside of Costa Mesa."

WHAT? WHY?
After their jaws hit the floor, the parents of private school children began looking for answers to this unbelievable situation. According to Jason, tournament Director Kirk McIntosh responded in an email that it surprised him and that he was "no longer involved in the financials".

THE EXCREMENT HITS THE FAN
However, what really caused the "stuff" to hit the fan was a subsequent explanation from Cara Stephens, promotions manager, who, according to Jason's account, sent an email that stated, "This year's pricing structure was determined by the Daily Pilot, NMUSD and CM... Unfortunately, private school students who object to the one-sided fee increase based on principle will not be allowed to participate in this year's Daily Pilot Cup."

WRITERS ARE UP IN ARMS
The heat generated in the comment thread of that commentary could light a small city - with good reason. In my view, as I said in that comment thread, Stephen's statement is the most arrogant, elitist bunch of drivel I've heard in years.

CITY DENIES A ROLE IN FEES
Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder fired off a press release denying any role in creating the fee structure on the part of The City. He emphasized that the City's role is to provide the use of the City's soccer fields and the promotion of the tournament to area youth.

DAILY PILOT MEA CULPA
New Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis wrote a column that appears online Friday night and will appear in print Saturday titled, "We made a mistake", HERE, acknowledging that the fee structure created for this year's event was a bad idea, although he did try to provide part of the thought process that went into it. He went on to tell us that the decision has been reversed and that every participant will pay the same fee - $5.00.

KIND HEARTS, SOFT HEADS
Certainly, an increase in the fee would be reasonable - even doubling it doesn't seem out of line. During the discussions, someone with a kind heart probably felt guilty about imposing the increase on less-well-off children on Costa Mesa's Westside - mostly Latino kids - so they decided to exempt ALL public school participants. It's hard for me to imagine how they ever thought this would fly without controversy. Cara Stephens comment, basically telling private school kids that if they didn't like it - if they disagreed "on principle" - well, they could just sit this tournament out - was the height of arrogance.

QUESTIONING DAILY PILOT'S JUDGMENT
What troubles me most is that the editors of the Daily Pilot went along with this scheme. It troubles me because it appears to be a symptom of a deeper problem - that the current decision-makers of our newspaper of record for more than a century are so out of touch with the community that they simply didn't realize what a firestorm of controversy their decision would create.

RESTORATION OF LOST "INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE" NEEDED
Please understand that I consider myself the Daily Pilot's biggest fan. However, it seems to me that all the editors of the Daily Pilot need a kind of full-immersion therapy session into the nuances of the Newport-Mesa community. One person writing on the comment thread of Canalis' column suggested a restoration of the "meet the editors" sessions previously conducted by former editor Brady Rhoades and former City Editor Paul Anderson. That would be a good start. Further, I might suggest to John Canalis that he and his senior staff personally carve out some time to get out and about in the community - attend council meetings, homeowner association meetings and school board meetings - to get a better "feel" for the community they serve. With the departure of former publisher Tom Johnson and Director of Editorial and Online Tony Dodero more than a year ago, much of the institutional knowledge of what makes our area tick was lost. To properly serve this community that knowledge needs to be restored.

WHENCE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT?
There are plenty of tensions in our communities that strain relationships along racial lines without the Daily Pilot being an unwitting facilitator of those kind of problems, as was the case in this situation. And, oh, yes - when do we hear from the School District about this fiasco?

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Which Dave Ellis Do You Believe?

FAIRGROUNDS DRAMA CONTINUES
Another day, another scene in the on-going Fairgrounds Sale drama.

MOORLACH OR ELLIS - WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?
In earlier posts I've mentioned the job Norberto Santana, Jr. over at the Voice of OC news source is doing covering the Fairgrounds Sale. Well, yesterday he posted another entry, " Moorlach says Ellis Mischaracterized Meeting", in which he reports that Supervisor John Moorlach responded to one of his recent articles, indicating that 32nd Agricultural District Board (Fair Board) Vice Chair Dave Ellis mischaracterized a lunch meeting between the two of them. You can read that post HERE.

SCROLL DOWN FOR ELLIS' COMMENT
Be sure you scroll down to the comments because Ellis apparently responded to this issue by agreeing with Moorlach! So, as I said in a comment posted there, which Ellis do we believe - the first or second one?

THIS MESS IS THE FAIR BOARD'S FAULT
I find myself very, very angry with Kristina Dodge and the Fair Board these days. They started this whole mess and got caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, but continue to stand there with that, "Who, me?" look on their faces. In the meantime our elected leaders and the city staff wring every bit of energy they can out of their exhausted bodies trying to cobble together an acceptable proposal for the purchase of the Fairgrounds from the State.

FAIR BOARD MUST GO
Regardless how this whole Fairgrounds Sale issue eventually shakes out, it's time for the current Fair Board to go. They have proven unworthy of the trust placed in them by the governor to manage and protect the invaluable asset - the Orange County Fair and Events Center. Some of them may be wonderful, caring people, but they've demonstrated that they are a malleable, easily-led group, willing to be led astray by some of their peers.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"Voice of OC" All Over Fairgrounds Issue


TODDLER SKIPPED WALKING - IN FULL SPRINT NOW
The fledgling Voice of OC online news source - in business for a little over a week now - is all over the ongoing drama of the sale of the Orange County Fair and Events Center. Although late to the game, the coverage provided by this new, aggressive news operation has been way ahead of the competition.


IS RIGGY THE RIGHT GUY?
I mentioned in a previous post their article entitled, "Would this guy help or hurt Fairgrounds negotiations", published April 6th, that deals with the rumor that Jim Righeimer is about to be nominated for a position on the committee being created to come up with a proposal for the purchase of the Fairgrounds by the City of Costa Mesa. You can read it HERE.

TWO PIECES TODAY
Today Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana, Jr. published two articles, "Who are the Advisors to the Advisors", HERE, and "The Deal That Keeps Getting Worse", HERE. Both of these pieces should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in this issue.

THE "WHO" PLUS COUNCIL CHAOS
In the former he gives a good summary of events of the past couple days, including the fiasco at the city council meeting Tuesday night.

IN-DEPTH SUMMARY
In the latter he provides an excellent summary of events so far, covering the intrigue involved with the sale of the Fairgrounds from the beginning.

CLOCK IS TICKING ON THE PROPOSAL
I don't know what's going to happen with the proposal being hammered together by City Manager Allan Roeder, Project Manager Becky Bailey-Findley and their mysterious and as yet unnamed team, but it's highly unlikely they will be able to get a final proposal together and approved by the city council by the deadline of April 19th. Those of us who want them to succeed can only keep our fingers crossed and hope their efforts bear fruit. That clock is ticking...

MANSOOR DETERMINED TO HOG THE SPOTLIGHT
In the meantime, Allan Mansoor seems determined to use his position as mayor to keep the spotlight on himself throughout this process. His little fit of pique at the city council meeting Tuesday was a perfect example of what we can probably expect from him from now until he gets whipped in the June Primary election.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Fireworks Lead Off Council Meeting

TOLD YA!
As predicted earlier, last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting was very late getting started because of the long closed session, was brief, but was not without it's interesting moments. It was fun, even though our municipal court jester, Eric Bever, was absent.


GENIS CRIES BROWN ACT VIOLATION

Early in the evening, during the Public Comments segment, former mayor Sandra Genis sprang to the speaker's podium to express her dismay and concern at the announcement by City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow that, during the preceding closed session, a sub-committee of the City Council - council members Katrina Foley and Gary Monahan - was formed to meet with the city team preparing a proposal to the State for the acquisition of the Fairgrounds. Genis contended that the creation of such a sub-committee was not appropriate for a closed session issue - it should have been discussed in an open session.

BARLOW REJECTS CLAIM
Barlow rejected her claim and attempted to further explain the reasoning behind the creation of the sub-committee - the need to speed-up the process because the City only has a couple weeks to get it's act together and present a proposal to the State. Further comments by Wendy Leece made it clear that not everyone was on the same page, so Foley asked for more clarification by Barlow. Even following that explanation, it seemed that some on the council were still not clear on the role of this sub-committee. A subsequent recommendation by Genis to have the creation of the sub-committee ratified in open session as some kind of an emergency act. Mayor Allan Mansoor and Monahan rejected the move to re-convene the closed session, so Foley asked for a five minute break. When they returned they moved on to comments by the City Attorney and City Manager, then Mansoor adjourned the meeting without another comment on the sub-committee issue. So much for transparency in government!

RIGGY TO BE APPOINTED TO TEAM?
As a brief aside, but in a similar vein, there's a rumor going around - pointed out by Norberto Santana, Jr. in the fledgling Voice of OC publication HERE - that carpetbagging Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer may be added to the Fairgrounds negotiating team. Santana quotes City Manager Allan Roeder as confirming that there had, indeed, been discussions about adding Righeimer to the committee.

RIGGY'S BIAS SHOULD DISQUALIFY HIM
As Santana mentions in his article, some members of the community have strong feelings that Righeimer's bias on this subject should disqualify him for participating on the team. He specifically mentioned the allegation that Riggy "threatened to use his connections to pull the equestrian lease at the site and yank the contract for the vender who runs the weekend swap meet on the fairgrounds." In my opinion, based on watching Riggy's actions throughout the Fairgrounds issue, that his position has been firmly, and loudly, stated, including on the web site he created for that purpose. Although he has a certain level of expertise in large real estate projects, his bias on this subject should disqualify him.

FIREWORKS BETWEEN MANSOOR AND FOLEY
During the Council Member Comments segment Mansoor stated, "I'm losing confidence in this whole Fairgrounds process. Recently, over the last few weeks we had some information that was released from a closed session that was released to the public." As usual, it was clear that he was reading from a prepared text, rather than speaking from the heart. I wonder who wrote his comments for him? He directed his criticism specifically at Katrina Foley, apparently based on her recent comments on television station KOCE. As you might expect, Foley's response was firm and heated as she explained that she felt, after two conversations with the City Manager before her appearance on the television program, that she clearly understood what she could and could not say and acted accordingly. She was quite obviously peeved that Mansoor chose not to confront her directly either by telephone or in the closed session earlier in the evening but, instead, used his bully pulpit on the dais to vent his spleen.

CAMPAIGN POSTURING
Mansoor, clearly launching into campaign mode and sporting a new, more stylishly shaggy hairdo, may have been ticked off because Foley's televised comments stole some of his thunder because the press release she used as the foundation for her comments included quotations from him. He expressed a view that her comments somehow hampered the negotiation process. I found myself wondering how parties to the negotiations - representatives of the State, for example - feel about our mayor stating that he's "losing confidence in the process".

BERRY'S DOG POOP CRUSADE ACKNOWLEDGED
During her comments time Leece pointed out the new Canine Clean-up Bag Holder program. She mentioned specifically that Westside activists Mike and Judi Berry have participated and have a dispenser at Canyon Park with their names on it and encouraged other residents to participate. I, for one, am grateful to Judi Berry for her tenacity leading the way on this issue and am sure that, every time I see piles of dog feces in one of our parks, I will think of Mike and Judi Berry.

FAIRGROUNDS TEAM MUST BE ABOVE REPROACH
Back to the Fairgrounds issue... It's obvious that the city manager and his team are under extreme pressure to come up with a proposal that will be deemed acceptable by the State within two weeks. Quite honestly, this seems all but impossible, but I know they are working day and night trying to pull it off. I agree with Sandra Genis that it would be a shame to have all that effort go to waste if the procedures followed come into question. And, I'm very concerned about the message being sent by our unemployed mayor when he tells the world he is "losing confidence in the process." To me, that seems akin to sabotaging the process. I wonder why he would do that? I suppose a close look at his campaign contributors might shed some light on the subject... we'll see.

TROLLING FOR BIG BUCKS
And, to close this edition, I must comment on the recent fund raiser announcement sent out by the Mansoor for Assembly team. This big buck event later this month will be held at the home of Steve Mensinger and hosted by the Mensingers and Colin McCarthy and his wife plus Sam Clark, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jim Righeimer and Jeff Matthews. So, all five current Costa Mesa planning commissioners and one Parks and Recreation Commissioner - all placed in their jobs by Mansoor - are providing him financial support in his quest for Van Tran's 68th Assembly District seat next fall. Anybody smell something foul here?

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Monday, April 05, 2010

City Council Meeting By The Numbers

SHORT MEETING ANTICIPATED
The Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night may set a record for brevity - at least for the open session.

POTENTIALLY LONG CLOSED SESSION
With growling stomachs, they begin their meeting following their "dinnerless" dinner session in a closed session at 5:00 p.m. This one, which has four items on the agenda, might take awhile. I wouldn't be surprised to see that session last well past the normal starting time for the open session at 6:00 p.m.

FOUR INTERESTING ISSUES
In the closed session the council will discuss:
1) a special leave of absence for a police officer
2) labor negotiations with four unions
3) conference with real property negotiators regarding the Fairgrounds
4) the lawsuit filed by the ACLU for the day workers.

I'd love to be a mouse in the corner for that meeting!

WAR, RETIREMENT AND APPOINTMENTS
Three items in the open session include the consideration of using part of Fairview Park for a Civil War reenactment in May, an amendment to the contract between CalPERS and the city and appointment of individuals to certain city committees - none of which will take long. I'd be surprised if the meeting lasts until 7:00 p.m.

TWO ITEMS WITHDRAWN
Two items that originally appeared on the agenda were removed. Item 5 under New Business dealt with amending the section of the municipal code that addresses administrative citations.

ANOTHER BONEHEADED BEVER MOVE
Item 4 under New Business was yet another boneheaded scheme proposed by Eric Bever. This time he wanted to pass a resolution in support of denying driving privileges for convicted graffiti offenders. Of course, it's not within the purview of the city to deny driving privileges for anyone - that's the state's jurisdiction. I understand the need to effectively punish graffiti vandals, but how about we stick with things we have the authority to do, for goodness sake!

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Did You Feel It?

A ROCK AND ROLL EASTER
If you're reading this anywhere from Los Angeles south I know you probably felt the earthquake in Mexico this afternoon. That shaker, calibrated at 7.2 on the Richter Scale, sure did get a lot of people's attention! When it hit at 3:40 p.m. Easter Sunday I was enjoying a family holiday gathering in South Orange County. It rolled and swayed us for 40 seconds and set off car alarms in the neighborhood.

USGS CHART SHOWS QUAKES

Here's a chart from the USGS web site that shows the intensity of the quake and the others that have followed until just before midnight Sunday.


You can visit the USGS site HERE and click on the link in the upper left corner for California quakes - click on the line with the names of faults for more info.

GET PREPARED - NOW!
This quake is yet another reminder that each of us should get ourselves prepared for the next BIG ONE. There are many resources available online to help with the planning process. Having watched the coverage of the Haiti earthquake that took over 250,000 lives and has destroyed the economy of what was already one of the poorest nations on the planet, I think it's important for us all to get focused on what it will take for each of us as individuals to survive at least a week should our area be hit by an earthquake the magnitude of the one that hit Mexico earlier today. The clock is ticking, my friends...

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