Thursday, June 17, 2010

Father's Day - 2010

A SAD DAY FOR ME
This weekend we all will celebrate another Father's Day, which always makes me sad. My own father, Robert J. West, died more than 30 years ago at age 64 - much too early - following a very brief bout with pancreatic cancer. I've written about him in the past - you can read one remembrance HERE.

MIXED WITH JOY
At the same time I'll be filled with joy for my friends who celebrate this day being pampered by their children. Today I wish each of you fathers out there a very, very happy day on Sunday. I'll be thinking about you, and the terrific job you're doing with your kids.

BYRON'S BOYS
I'll think about my friend, Byron de Arakal, beaming with pride, as his two sons graduated from college this spring a couple weeks apart.



AND MIKE'S, TOO

I'll think of my pal, "Mr. Fish Fry" Mike Scheafer, who will attend the weddings of two sons this year, gaining daughters in the deal.




AND TONY'S CREW

I'll think of my friend, Tony Dodero, who talks the talk and walks the walk as a terrific father of three beautiful children and author of a column, Go Ask Your Dad, in the OC Family magazine. You can read the June issue HERE.




ROB'S PRECIOUS DAY

I'll think of my nephew, Rob (named for my father), proud father of three great children and the mixed blessing he has this year. His youngest son, Nate, who just graduated from high school, will enlist in the Army in September, with a tour in Afghanistan assured sometime early next year. This Father's Day will be very precious for Rob.

DAVE'S SPECIAL DAY
I'll think of my cousin David, who will give his daughter, Miriah, in marriage to Travis under the oaks on her grandmother's ranch on Saturday this weekend. His son, Christian, will perform the service, so this will be a very, very special Father's Day for Dave.

WAYNE, FATHER TO US ALL
I can go on and on and still not mention everyone who will cross my mind this weekend but I cannot close without a mention of my dear friend and neighbor, Wayne Stanfield. He's been a surrogate "father" for me for more than three decades. Wayne's wife, Barbara, passed away a couple weeks ago and her services were attended by four generations of their family. Those events drove home to me, even more clearly than ever, the great value of family and just how revered my friend, Wayne, is in his family and extended family. He sets the benchmark for us all.

Happy Father's Day to you, my friends.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Primary Count Almost Complete

30% VOTER TURNOUT
Well, the counting continues and not much is happening in the way of change. I checked the Registrar of Voters office this afternoon and find that just under 26,000 votes remain to be counted in Orange County. So far not quite 30% of the eligible voters cast ballots in the Primary election. I expect the final tally to be available by the weekend. I'll report on it next week.
REPUBLICANS OVER DEMOCRATS
42% of the registered Republicans voted while only a little over 28% of the Democrats cast a ballot.


TRAN HAS A TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
In the 47th District Congressional race, Republican Van Tran captured just under 55% (10,514) of the votes while Democrat Loretta Sanchez received all the Democrat votes - 17,010.
MANSOOR VS. NGUYEN
In the 68th Assembly District, Democrat Phu Nguyen (9,934 or 58.8% of the votes) will face Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor (21,752 or 69.3% of the votes) in November.
LEECE STILL OFF THE PACE
In the race for one of six seats available in the Republican Central Committee for the 68th Assembly District Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece is in 7th place, just about 1,000 votes behind the 6th place person. Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commissioner Jeff Mathews is in 5th place and seems secure in that slot.
MEASURE "C"!
Costa Mesa's Measure "C", which locks in the zoning for the Orange County Fair and Event Center, has passed in a landslide, 87.7% Yes to 12.3% No.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Budget Continued & Joint Powers Authority Created

BUDGET PUSHED
Tonight the Costa Mesa City Council chose to kick the budget can on down the street instead of attempting to rush to judgment on some of the issues. That was probably a good choice.

IMPORTANT LATE INFORMATION
The council received some late staff reports as the meeting was convening. Those reports will be posted on the City web site tomorrow for residents to review. The first, a summary of 19 suggestions from the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA) and the second, a summary of 25 questions from the Budget Study Session from last week, had some excellent suggestions/observations that really require some time to consider. I had a chance after the meeting to review both reports and agree with the decision to continue this issue until a special meeting at 5:30 on Tuesday, June 22.

NEW FUNDING SOURCES?
It is hoped that a resolution will be prepared for the council's consideration to place an increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax on the November ballot. Based on comments from individual council members, there may be a problem getting agreement on a specific number. Katrina Foley suggested a 3% increase while Gary Monahan suggested 2% and a 1% increase in the fee for the Business Improvement Association - those 10 hotels in town that presently access an additional 2% over our basic TOT, which is returned to them to be used for business development. Monahan's suggestion would give them 3% on top of whatever the basic TOT turns out to be. I agree with City Manager Allan Roeder - anything less than 3% will not accomplish what is necessary. In years past a 1% increase would represent about $1 million in additional revenue. Today it's about $600,000 due to the economic downturn.

GRASS-ROOTS FUND RAISING A SUCCESS
It was mentioned by Foley that her "swing-a-thon" over the past week to raise funds for the ROCKS programs for youth recreation has been extremely successful, raising over $35,000 with more contributions expected.

AD HOC COMMITTEE
Mention was also made by several speakers about the Community Budget Workshop, previously covered at this site. They supported creation of some kind of ad hoc group to meet and discuss budget issues throughout the year and to report to the council instead of trying to address them with any real significance so late in the game.

***
MASSAGE PARLOR MORATORIUM EXTENDED
The council also agreed to extend the moratorium on massage parlors for another year due to a delay in pending state legislation that will affect all such establishments.

***

FIRST JOINT POWERS AUTHORITY MEETING
Then the first meeting of the Joint Powers Authority created for the purchase of the Fairgrounds was conducted and the bylaws approved. For some reason, Allan Mansoor and Monahan bailed out before this meeting convened, so that left only Eric Bever, Wendy Leece and Foley to kick off this new organization... very peculiar. In an even more peculiar event, Bever voted NO on the bylaws. In fact, he voted NO on many issues tonight, including continuing the budget discussion. He's one strange dude.

ORANGE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS AUTHORITY
The organization will be officially known as the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (OCFA) and will have regularly scheduled meetings and, at least in the beginning, the officers will be the City Council wearing another dress. No copy of the resolution formally creating the organization was available - another strange situation. It will be presented to the board at the next meeting, immediately following the special council meeting next Tuesday, at which time we hope ALL the members will be present.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BRIEFING
Roeder, who will perform as Executive Director of the OCFA briefed the board and public on recent events. He told us that, although the past couple weeks the city negotiating team had been meeting late into the night with representatives of Facilities Management West, trying to hammer out the nuts and bolts of a deal, those meetings were temporarily placed in a pause mode while City representatives negotiated with State representatives on the deal.


ANTICIPATING A DE
AL THIS WEEK
He hopes to have the final bullet points of the deal with Facilities Management West resolved this week so it can be presented to the State, along with a check from Facilities Management West for the deposit on the transaction.

CAN'T WORRY ABOUT THE LEGISLATION - YET
Roeder also mentioned the potential difficulties with the legislation necessary to complete the deal, indicating that their first priority is to get the deal done, then worry about the legislation. He did say the legislation has been drafted, but didn't indicate by whom. You will recall that the legislature's Latino Caucus has threatened to block this legislation because of Mansoor's "Rule of Law City" resolution.

THE HARD WORK CONTINUES
So, for the next few days it will be more midnight oil for Roeder and the negotiating team until the deal is finished. He indicated that there may be something for the new OCFA board to consider at the next meeting on Tuesday next week.

TUESDAY'S THE DAY
Next Tuesday may be a very big day in our city, with the budget and, perhaps, a Fairgrounds deal finalized. We'll see...

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Election Numbers and Budget

LATEST ELECTION RESULTS
Here's the latest results from the counting of votes in the Primary Election last week. My understanding is that there are still around 60,000 ballots yet to be counted. As you will notice, none of the items of local interest will likely be changed following those votes being counted.

MANSOOR TOPS 20,000 VOTES, LOSES PERCENTAGESMATHEWS MAKES THE CUT - LEECE OUTMEASURE C APPROACHES 88%

BUDGET STA
FF REPORT AVAILABLE NOW
The staff report for the budget discussion at the City Council meeting Tuesday is now available for review. There is no new information - the city is in deep guano and the staff cuts proposed only get us half way. You can read the staff report HERE.

TOUGH CHOICES AHEAD
Tomorrow's meeting will be painful. We are down to deciding which employees must go - a choice that would cause King Solomon to flinch. This is the final scheduled council meeting of the fiscal year, so the budget must be approved at this meeting. I only hope the City Council has done it's homework a little more thoroughly than it did for the study session. And, I hope they come ready to give a fair hearing to the requests by the staff that consideration be given to placing the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and the Business License fees on the November ballot.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened Thursday...

BUDGET TO BE DECIDED TUESDAY - MAYBE
Tuesday Costa Mesa's City Council will tackle the 2010-2011 municipal budget in open session and try to come up with a balanced budget by the end of the evening. This is going to be brutal!




"DIFFERENT" BUDGET WORKSHO
P
Last Thursday I attended the Community Budget Workshop, held in Conference Room 1A at City Hall and hosted by City Manager Allan Roeder and Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young. They were prepared to present the slide show they used as a conversation guide the previous Tuesday at the council study session, but that never happened. From the very first question it was clear that the group was eager to address specific issues.

LARGER, DIVERSE TURNOUT
In previous years only a few people attended this meeting - maybe two or three of us. Last year we had a larger turnout, when a half-dozen residents and other interested parties found some time to meander through. This year it was different. There were nine attendees from diverse backgrounds and a shared concern for the fiscal condition of our city. There were three of us "old timers" - attendees who make this meeting each year. There were several for whom this was their first such meeting. There were a couple folks who are ardent Mansoor-majority supporters and a couple of us who clearly are not. There were city committee and commission members, a couple former and perhaps future council candidates, a city volunteer/activist and a couple city staffers who are directly affected by the budget difficulties, although neither of them will be laid-off at this time.

BROADER DISCUSSION
What was billed as an informational meeting during which Roeder and Young would impart budget knowledge took a strange turn early on. The meeting morphed into a discussion, rather than a tutoring session, covering budget questions but also broader community and leadership issues, as well.

A VERY SPECIAL EXPERIENCE
This particular cross section of the community somehow just clicked and the result was not just a couple hours of budget numbers, charts, graphs and a PowerPoint presentation, but four hours of lively debate of very important, mostly budget-related, issues. Roeder, as is usually the case, began jotting notes at the beginning and had filled a half dozen pages by the time we eventually wrapped up at 10:30 that night. And, amazingly, no one seemed particularly concerned that we'd managed to miss the entire Laker/Celtics game.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY A ROADBLOCK
I'm not going to try to cover all the points of discussion, but a fair amount of dialogue dealt with the unwillingness in recent years by the current and most recent previous city councils to even consider additional funding sources. Mention was made that the reasoning was more philosophical than financial in orientation - some members of the council just flat don't want new or increased taxes based on their political beliefs, even though our city is close to going down for the count.

FUNDING SOURCES MUST BE EXPANDED
We discussed the many times in the recent past when councils - including several of this current crop - just discarded out of hand any increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and Business License Fees, both of which require council approval to place them on the ballot. There was unanimity among the group that the council simply must give the voters a chance to be heard on these issues in November. Both items should be increased significantly - perhaps a 3% bump in the TOT and some significant restructuring of the Business License fees must be used to generate revenue.

EMS FEES
Also discussed at length were Emergency Medical fees - an issue that was heard not too long ago by this council and rejected. Serious consideration should be given to that issue, too.

BARGAINING UNIT RESISTANCE
Because the city faces a $16 million budget deficit and the present plan to layoff more than 75 full and part time workers only gets us half way there, negotiations are taking place with the employee bargaining units to try to reduce the remaining $8 million hole. Comments were made by employees present that there is a feeling among the staff this year that they should wait to see what kind of action the council takes regarding new funding sources before they consider extending the current furlough plan or any other method of reducing labor costs. The use of Fund Balance to bridge the time between when a balanced budget must be signed and when the bargaining units agree to participate may be necessary. However, that's almost a dry hole now, so further lay-offs are almost assured if an agreement is not reached.

CLOSE CITY HALL A DAY PER WEEK?
Among the things that were discussed were the possibility of closing City Hall one day per week, or every other week, which would be a de facto furlough plan for all employees except, probably, the public safety staff.

RECREATION PROGRAMS FIRST TO BE HIT
Roeder discussed the perception that recreation programs and staff seemed to be the first to be hit by funding reductions. He explained that almost all the other employee groups and programs have one or more mandates connected to them imposed by State of Federal laws. Recreation has no such constraints.

SOME IDEAS MAY GO FORWARD TO COUNCIL
At the end I left feeling confident that Roeder will carry some of the suggestions forward to the City Council by way of his staff report Tuesday.

MORE DISCUSSION NEEDED
As the meeting ended many of those in attendance were still pumped up about the process and suggestions were made to convene again as an ad hoc organization to continue the discussions. Names and numbers were exchanged toward that end. We'll see if a good night's sleep and the passage of a little time throws cold water on that enthusiasm. I hope not, because much was accomplished by the healthy, spirited debate by that small, manageable group.

CROSS YOUR FINGERS
And now we mark time until Tuesday night. If the council doesn't come up with a balanced budget that night there is still time - a little over two weeks - in which they can continue to hash things out. July 1 is the deadline and the clock is ticking.

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