Thursday, July 08, 2010

First Post-Layoffs Council Meeting

FOLEY MISSES COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday evening's Costa Mesa City Council meeting had some interesting moments, beginning with the absence of Katrina Foley. Don't know why she wasn't in attendance, but, as you will soon see, her absence played an interesting role right off the bat.
MANSOOR BOXED IN
As anticipated, they had to fiddle around shifting the agenda until the magic 7:00 hour for public comments. During that time there was a very entertaining moment when Eric Bever - formerly Mayor Allan Mansoor's good buddy - pulled Item 12 from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion and vote. That was the item which provided an enhanced retirement opportunity for firefighters to add a couple years of service toward their retirement. What made this especially interesting was that Bever pulled it to express his displeasure with the plan and Mansoor is known to be strongly against any such idea. Because Foley was absent from the meeting Tuesday, if both Bever and Mansoor had voted "no" on this item it would have failed - a 2-2 tie is an automatic "no". In order to save this issue - one that had already cost many hours of staff time negotiating - Mansoor was forced to vote "yes" on an issue he holds in much disregard, and he said as much. I wonder if Bever did it on purpose, just to make his former pal squirm? It was too funny!

NOISY SENIOR HOUSING ON A BUSY STREET MOVES FORWARD
The council discussed the concerns Wendy Leece had with the proposed Senior Housing project on Baker Street, near the Shark Club. Several speakers, including the owner of the Shark Club and Shaheen Sadeghi - the visionary behind the whole SoBECA Urban Plan area - spoke against the project, citing the inappropriateness of a senior housing facility in what is clearly a noisy, heavily-trafficked location. Nonetheless, the council voted 3-1 to approve it.

DOG LICENSE FEES INCREASED DRAMATICALLY
The council approved an increase in dog license fees, adding to the staff-recommended fees an additional $5.00 to be applied to a fund for dog poop bags for our municipal parks. It will now cost you $80.00 to license an unaltered dog and $25.00 for an altered dog. Seniors will receive a $10.00 discount. Replacement tags will cost $5.00 Penalties for late payment will be 50% of the fee. The city will engage a canvassing company to identify unlicensed mutts around town.

CORRECTION! Despite all the written information to the contrary, it seems that seniors will be required to pay ONLY $10.00 for a neutered mutt license. They (we) don't get a $10.00 discount, we pay a $10.00 discounted fee! So, all us geezers should immediately run out and acquire a pooch.

ADDENDUM: Per the city, to qualify for a senior discount on dog licenses one must be only 62 years of age. The county age break begins at 65. See how lucky we dog-loving geezers are to live in Costa Mesa!

COMMERCIAL TRASH FRANCHISE FEES UP, TOO
The council also raised the solid waste hauling franchise fee from 12% to 16% and permitted the haulers to show that charge separately on their bills to their customers. This increase will affect only Costa Mesa commercial haulers, not the residential haulers. And, of course, the cost will be passed on to the end-user, so Costa Mesa businesses will be hit in the pocketbook for this increase.

CIVIL FINES AND PENALTIES ALSO UP
The council also increased the civil fines and penalties. The first citation jumps from $75 to $150, the second goes from $200 to $300 and the third remains at $500.


CHI
PPING AWAY AT DEFICIT
Little by little the council is attempting to find ways to chip away at the budget imbalance. They've got a long, long way to go.


BLEAK TIMES FOR THE CMPD
Anecdotally, an opportunity presented itself for me to chat briefly with a member of the Costa Mesa Police Department on Wednesday. I asked him about life after the layoffs last week, which hit the police department especially hard. He told me that because most of the Crime Scene Investigators were either laid off or used bumping rights into other jobs, the work they previously did is now being done by patrol officers, who received a 90 minute crash course on how to be a CSI last week. He also mentioned the tremendous loss the reduction of flight time for the ABLE helicopter program is going to be. These are going to be bleak times for awhile.

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GENIS AND RIGGY ON THE FAIRGROUNDS SALEIf you wish to watch former Mayor Sandra Genis and Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer in a recent discussion on the Fairgrounds sale moderated by Rick Reiff on Inside OC, click HERE. They are in the first segment, which lasts just under 15 minutes. I think you'll find it interesting.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New Fiscal Year - First Council Meeting

WELCOME BACK
OK, we're back from a brief Independence Day holiday and ready for action again. Hope you all had a safe, sane and thoroughly enjoyable holiday, filled with family fun and respect for the reason for the day.


FIRST POST-LAYOFF MEETING OF FISCAL YEAR
In it's first meeting of the fiscal year and the first one since the city re-defined "Independence Day" by laying off 23 full-time employees, 20 part-time employees and converting 7 full-timers to part time last Friday, the Costa Mesa City Council will hold it's first meeting of the fiscal year tonight in council chambers at 6:00 p.m. (5:00 as a preamble to the closed session). In that closed session they will have a conference with the staff negotiators on the progress of negotiations with the employee bargaining units and also discuss the day laborer lawsuit.

SWEETENING FIRE SAFETY RETIREMENT
In the open session, the Consent Calendar - which usually is voted in one vote unless someone pulls one of the items for independent discussion and vote - they will consider in item #12 granting a designated period for two years of additional service credit for Fire Safety workers. The staff report can be viewed HERE. With this change the Fire Safety workers who qualify will have 2 years service credit applied to their situations and will now be able to retire with a 3%@50 years plan. If you started as a firefighter at age 20, worked 30 years and retired under this program, you would receive 90% of your salary as a retirement benefit. No mention is made in the staff report of the number of employees this might affect and the cost benefit specifically of this program.

SENIOR HOUSING ON BAKER STREET
Following the Consent Calendar the council will collectively jump into the closest phone booth for a quick change and emerge as the Redevelopment Agency for a special joint meeting during which the group will consider "Funding Commitments of Agency and City to USA Properties Fund Relating to Proposed Harper's Pointe Senior Apartment Project". The Planning Commission recently heard this project. You can read the staff report HERE.

WENDY'S LATEST BUG UP HER BUSTLE
Once the council meeting resumes among the items to be heard is Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece's request to review the Planning Commission's ruling on the above project. Wendy apparently feels this is not a good place for Senior Housing and has several questions about it. She, based on the staff report, is concerned about noise from the Shark Club, bus stops, whether the seniors living there will be forced to co-exist with handicapped people and whether sex offenders will be eligible for housing at the facility. You can read her questions and the staff-provided answers HERE.

TRASH, DOG LICENSE FEES & FINES AND PENALTIES
The council will also consider increasing the solid waste hauling franchise fee, increasing dog license fees and amending the civil fines and penalties, all of which will enhance our revenue stream if approved.

DEFERRING DEVELOPMENT IMPACT FEES
And, in a curious bit of timing, the council will consider deferring development impact fees. I understand the idea behind this - putting off the payment of very significant fees for projects in the city to encourage development - but at a time when our city is in dire financial distress, this seems to be strange timing.

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FAIRGROUNDS SALE DRAMA CONTINUES
The Fairgrounds Sale drama continues with the publication of an entry by Vern Nelson on the Orange Juice Blog this morning entitled, "The Great Fairgrounds Swindle: How Allan Mansoor sold us all out to his Campaign Contributors". You can read it HERE. Apparently Nelson, who crooned to the council in a scarlet robe last year, penned this issue as the first of a series of articles on the Fairgrounds Sale.

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