Friday, September 03, 2010

Council Meeting Promises Some Entertainment

FUN ON TUESDAY AFTER LABOR DAY(AMENDED)Tuesday, September 7th, the Costa Mesa City Council will return from a long Labor Day weekend to deal with some sticky issues at their council meeting beginning at 6:00. Actually, the closed session will commence at 5:00, so if you want to address either of the two closed session items - labor negotiations with the bargaining units and real property negotiations dealing with the Fairgrounds - be there promptly at 5. (NOTE: With all the late requests for continuances and items withdrawn, this could be a short meeting. Don't blink!)

FIXING THE SANITARY DISTRICT FLEET - AT COST
At 6:00, though, the regular meeting will commence and a review of the agenda provides some fodder for contemplation. For example, in the Consent Calendar - items which may be lumped together for a single vote - item #6 tells us the City proposes to perform fleet maintenance and repair services on Costa Mesa Sanitary District vehicles. Reading that staff report we learn that the city will not make a profit since the Sanitary District will provide the parts and our staff will perform the labor "at cost". Interesting.

FARMING OUT OUR DRUNK WOMEN
Item 7 is an agreement with the Huntington Beach Police Department to house at their facility the dozen or so female "drunk in public" arrests Costa Mesa makes each year, apparently because we lack facilities to house them. I've called the PD for more information because we just spent millions of dollars to renovate our Police Facility, so I wonder why this need was not anticipated since we've had such an agreement since 1993! Unfortunately, there was nobody available today to talk about it. Such is life in the land of budget cuts.

MORE "FAIRGROUNDS" DISCUSSION
Then, the council will morph into the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (OCFA) for a meeting during which they will consider - again - two items dealing with the lease with Facilities Management West. There's no reason to believe there will be new information, but there is no staff report attached to the agenda as of noon on Friday.

The council will then reappear as itself and start with the meat of the meeting.

GARCIA RECYCLING MAY BE CONTINUED
Public Hearing #1 will be the appeal by Garcia Recycling of the Planning Commission's revocation of it's conditional use permit for a recycling facility on West 19th Street. We assume there will be significant public input on this issue. The staff report was so long that it required six segments, individually downloaded! The Staff is recommending continuation of this issue until the meeting of October 5th.

NEIGHBOR APPEALS SCHOOL USE ON RED HILL
Next is the appeal of the Planning Commissions approval of a conditional use permit by a continuous neighboring business of the proposed school site on Red Hill. (NOTE: Late Friday a request from the appellant was received requesting a continuance to as far out as January. No word if the request will be considered.)

TRIANGLE SQUARE LED SIGNS
Then comes the biggie of the evening - the appeal by Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece of the Planning Commission's recent approval of huge LED light displays on the foundering Triangle Square retail center. Two signs, one 15X20 feet on the corner of Newport Blvd. and Harbor Blvd, facing outbound Newport Blvd. traffic and the second, and most controversial one, on the corner of 19th Street and Newport Blvd., facing the traffic emerging from the 55 Freeway ditch onto Newport Blvd. This sign, proposed and approved at 10X96 feet - nearly 1,000 square feet - that will wrap around the building just below the dome and will spill illumination more than 200 degrees around the corner. The image shown here was provided by a concerned resident, giving an idea of just what such a sign might look like.
INCREASE IN OVERALL SIGNAGE ALLOWANCE
In addition to being a huge distraction to drivers coming off the freeway, this particular sign will be in addition to the 2400 square feet of signage approved for the center, driving the approved total signage to just over 3400 square feet.

APPLICANT REQUESTS CONTINUANCE FOR A MONTH
My understanding is that several residents plan to attend and speak to this issue, even thought the applicant has requested a continuance until October 5th.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARY URGENCY ORDINANCE
After some housekeeping issue, the final two items on the agenda, for which there are no staff reports available, might generate some interest. The first, New Business #1, is an urgency ordinance dealing with medical marijuana dispensaries, but no staff report is available, so we don't know why the urgency ordinance is necessary and what it will accomplish. I expect we'll see City Council Candidate Susan Lester speak on this one, since this is the only plank in her campaign platform.(NOTE: Late Friday this item was pulled from the agenda. No word about reasons for removing it, or why it was on the agenda as an "urgency item" in the first place!)

A BUMP IN THE BIA TAX
Finally, the council will consider a resolution permitting an increase in the assessment for the Business Improvement Area (BIA), raising the assessment from 2% to 3%. Apparently the BIA doesn't have enough cash to promote Costa Mesa properly, so want to dip into the pockets of visitors for just a little more. You will recall that a 2% increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) will appear on the November ballot.

HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY!
Have a great Labor Day holiday. Posting of comments may be delayed over the weekend.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Upcoming Candidate Forums

EASTSIDE NEIGHBORS GROUP ON OCTOBER 14TH.
On Thursday, October 14th, my friends at the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group will host a forum at the Neighborhood Community Center at which it is hoped all five candidates for the Costa Mesa City Council will attend. It's my understanding that Costa Mesa TV (CMTV) will be there to tape the forum for subsequent replay. This forum will run from 6:30, for a meet and greet, with the forum running from 7:00 to 9:00. In 2008 this group produced an excellent forum, so we have high hopes for this one, too. Mark your calendar.

COSTA MESA UNITED ON OCTOBER 6TH
Yesterday, on his Facebook page, irrepressible Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger - in his own inimitable style - jumped the gun and announced to the world that Costa Mesa United will host a forum on October 6th, also at the Neighborhood Community Center, which will be unique in my memory.

UNIQUE FORMAT
This forum, according to Mensinger and confirmed by Gordon Bowley, President of Costa Mesa United, will include all five Costa Mesa City Council candidates plus all four of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board candidates in contested elections. To my knowledge, this has not been done before.

NARROW FOCUS - THE KIDS
Apparently, the format will be narrowly focused on issues that both the Costa Mesa City Council and the School Board either share overlapping responsibilities or common interests. According to Mensinger's "announcement", the theme will be "Academics, Athletics and Activities, and Ways to Improve the Infrastructure for our Community". Regarding that latter one, I'm assuming Mensinger meant playing fields, not better streets and gutters.

MORE "OFFICIAL" INFORMATION TO FOLLOW
This forum is in the early planning stages, so we're not sure whether CMTV will be available to cover it. Budget constraints have created severe staffing issues recently and, as of this morning, they had no knowledge of this event. I'll let you know more when I do. Mark your calendar for this very special event.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fairgrounds Deadline Passed - Now What?

NO BILL PASSED TODAY
Today, August 31, 2010, was the deadline for the legislation necessary to complete the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center to be passed. That did not happen.

BUDGET NOW THE ONLY HOPE
Now the only chance that is left to the advocates of the sale of the Fairgrounds to the City of Costa Mesa via it's Joint Powers Authority, the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority, is for a bill to either be passed with a budget bill or as a trailer to such bill. Neither seems likely at this time. You can read the Orange County Register story on this issue HERE.

TIRELESS WORKERS
As a Costa Mesa resident I've ridden this issue like a roller coaster, through the infrequent highs and the all-too-frequent lows. I've seen the city negotiators, led by City Manager Allan Roeder and City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow, work tirelessly to meet the unreasonable goals established by the state.

CHANGING PARTNERS, SUFFERING ABUSE
I've seen them have to change horses in the middle of the stream, abandoning American Fairs and Festivals as a potential partner and leap aboard Facilities Management West, hoping to cobble together a deal that would save the Fairgrounds. Based on many reports, this was a painful process, with many acrimonious encounters between the negotiators. We got a little taste of that when Mayor Allan Mansoor - not one part of the negotiating team - was read the riot act by FMW CEO Ken Fait during a City Council meeting. That outburst raised many an eyebrow among observers and may have shaken confidence in the process. It made FMW seem like bullies.

FAIRGROUNDS BACK ON THE BLOCK
If the legislature does not pass a bill to facilitate the current sale, then the State Department of General Services promises to immediately put the Fairgrounds back on the market, with a minimum bid of $96 million - the amount that the City has bid. In fact, perhaps in anticipation of the sale failing, they've already issued the Request for Proposals. This time there will be no auction, though. Nope, the bids will be opened on September 30th and the State hopes to consummate a deal by year's end.

WHAT ABOUT MEASURE "C"
There is also apprehension that the State may try to exempt a potential buyer from local zoning and other regulations - specifically Measure C, which was passed in June to lock in the current uses of the Fairgrounds. If that happens, well, the image I chose says it all.

WHAT ABOUT THE FAIRGROUNDS NOW?
Speculation runs rampant about the future of that 150 acres of prime urban real estate. There are more than a few that think the 32nd District Agricultural Association - the appointed body charged with operating the Fairgrounds and running the Fair - may jump ship to the Great Park in Irvine if the current deal falls through. That venue, which is bleeding money, needs a reason for existing since the housing market is prohibiting the nearly-bankrupt Lennar Corporation from doing its planned development. It would be possible to carve out a couple hundred acres at that site for the Fair and ancillary events fairly easily.

WAITING...
So, we continue to sit and hope. We hope the folks in Sacramento find a way to get past whatever issues are keeping them from approving legislation. With each passing day the chances get less and less likely...

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Monday, August 30, 2010

"The Mouth" Touts Camp Pendleton

"THE MOUTH" IS RIGHT - FINALLY
On Tuesday our old pal, The Mouth From Mesa North - writing with one of his many pen names, M.H. Millard - has a commentary appearing in the Daily Pilot suggesting using a little, teeny piece of Camp Pendleton for a new regional airport. You can read the commentary HERE.

A RARE MOMENT
As most of you know, there are few issues on which M. H. Millard and I agree, but he's got this one right. Heck, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

LARRY'S BIG ORANGE BALL
We missed the opportunity to create a regional airport at El Toro even though the voters said very clearly three times that was their preference. Only after the south county whiners finally got there way after the fourth election was that most perfect piece of real estate relegated to become even more homes. Years later that land still sits dormant, with only Larry Agran's big orange balloon as a sign of any kind of progress for all that time and money that's been spent.

VIEW OF THE RUNWAYS
Of course, from that balloon, 400 feet above the ground, you can look down at those still-pristine runways that are currently used to store boxed trees and recreational vehicles and fantasize about how great it would be to see commercial jets flying people and cargo around the world from Orange County

EASY...
Millard is correct that it might be fairly simple to carve out a small slice of Camp Pendleton and create the kind of airport so necessary to relieve the load from not only John Wayne Airport, but Lindbergh Field in San Diego, too.

RAIL MAKES IT WORK
Rail lines already connect San Diego with Orange County, so traveling to an airport at Camp Pendleton would be a snap for travelers without placing significant additional burden on already-crowded freeways.

TOO LATE?
The question now is, "Did we wait too long?" The current expansion of John Wayne does not bode well for those of us already subjected to the daily strafing by low-flying jets. Once the caps currently in place are removed in a couple years there will be extreme pressure to build a longer runway to accommodate even larger airplanes, which means that parts of Eastside Costa Mesa and the Dover Shores area of Newport Beach will become unlivable.

REMEMBER PLAYA DEL REY
If you need a reminder, this photo is of Playa del Rey, just west of Los Angeles International Airport. To accommodate the expansion of LAX, between 1965 and 1975 822 homes were vacated and over 2,000 people were relocated.
THE TIME IS NOW!
Now it the time to pick up Millard's gauntlet and begin pressuring our representatives in Washington, D.C. to consider a major regional airport at Camp Pendleton.

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Chili Cook-Off A Success

GREAT JOB, HALECREST!
Our friends in the Halecrest-Hall of Fame area of Costa Mesa did themselves proud yesterday. Their sixth annual chili cook-off was a rousing success.

Blessed with perfect weather and a record crowd, the sponsors should be feeling pretty darn good about their event today.

NO POLITICAL "WINNERS"
More than 20 versions of chili were available for the public to sample, ranging from "pretty darn mild" to "blow your socks off spicy". My wife and I tried most of them and, much to my chagrin, she decided the chili being served by Mayor Allan Mansoor was the best because it "didn't bother her stomach as much". Arrrggghhh! According to reports, neither Mansoor nor his Assembly rival, Phu Nguyen, won the top prize.

THE WINNERS WERE...
Winners - there really were no losers in this competition - included the Wingnuts chili which was deemed to be the spiciest; the McCarthy clan of Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy won for most unique and best overall was snagged by entry number 10. Sorry, my source didn't have the name of the contestant. Second over all went to #16 and third went to #3, Chris Blank. The people's choice award went to the Cowboy Chili. UPDATE: A little after 5:00 p.m. Jim Fitzpatrick sent me the official finish results: #3, Chris Blank & Grovey Chili; #2, Yvon Dunne & Mom's Chili, #1, Luise Fiduccia & Dad's Old Fashioned Chili. Congrats to all!

URP!
One thing about a chili cook-off - it's a gift that just keeps on giving. If I'd have been half-smart I would have set up a Tums booth!




ABUNDAN
CE OF POLITICOS
As you might expect, many local politicians were seen at this event. Wendy Leece had a chili booth, as did Jim Righeimer. Also spotted in the crowd were planning commissioners Sam Clark and Jim Fitzpatrick, the latter as part of the judging panel along with Realtor Larry Weichman, Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch and Chamber of Commerce President Ed Fawcett.




(Hatch, Weichman, Fitzpatrick, Fawcett)
AND MORE...
Parks & Rec. Commission Chairman Mike Brumbaugh, the driving force behind this event, seemed to be everywhere. We also came across his Vice Chair, Terry Shaw, cruising the chili booths, searching for that perfect sample. Former Planning Commissioner Jim Fisler, currently campaigning to return to his appointed seat on the Mesa Consolidated Water District Board, stopped to visit while sampling chili.

AND EVEN MORE...
We saw Katrina Foley (here with Phu Ngyyen) working the crowd and had a nice visit with Fairgrounds CEO Steve Beazley, too. Everywhere we looked there were smiles, smiles and more smile. In fact, the only frown I saw during my couple hours at this event was on the face of one perpetually grumpy old Mesa North resident observed lurking about, apparently on the prowl for something anti-white about the event so he could write about it.

ENERGY PLUS...
The vivacious young folks from the Costa Mesa High School Cheer Squad entertained the crowd with a few routines, including one with members of their youth cheer camp. Great job!



OLD CARS, TOO

A half dozen custom and/or special cars were on display in the shade - a nice touch for us old car fans. I really liked John Rubright's Studebaker convertible.

THANKS, READERS...
Thanks to those of you who made it a point to say howdy as we wandered around the crowd. It's always nice to put a face on a name and your kind words about the things you've read here are much appreciated.

MAYOR NOT HAPPY WITH ME... DUH!
And, no, the Mayor was not happy with my commentary in the Daily Pilot. He got pretty animated when he told me I was off-base with my question about why he left his job last December. And, no, he didn't clear up the mystery at all - he just said he left to do "other things" - so we are left to speculate. He went back to slinging chili, less happy than he was before. Such is life in politics.


FINALLY MET PHU

I did have a chance to meet Mansoor's competition, Phu Nguyen, as he was serving his chili to the crowd. He took a couple minutes to visit with me. Phu seems like a smart young fellow who is serious about going to Sacramento go make a difference in the state. Of course, that's what every candidate says. I understand he's been interviewed by two reporters from the Daily Pilot and that their stories will appear soon. I didn't try his chili - the thought of fish sauce in chili was off-putting for me.

A VERY SPECIAL DAY
Yep, this was a very special event and a great example of what makes Costa Mesa such a wonderful place in which to live.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Saying Good-bye, Mansoor's "Arabness" & Cassity's Wisdom

MISS ME?
"Where ya been, Potstirrer?" asked one reader via email on Saturday, apparently wondering if I was taking a page from the California legislature and was off on a little hiatus. I guess he was worried that I hadn't posted anything since Thursday.



SAYING GOOD-BYE, AGAIN

Well, I spent a big part of Friday at the funeral for a dear friend, Corki Rochlitz, who passed away unexpectedly on my birthday a couple weeks ago after what was supposed to be fairly routine surgery earlier in that week. During a hernia repair that wasn't essential but desirable according to her doctor, something went wrong, she developed sepsis, suffered a couple heart attacks on that Friday and passed away at noon on Saturday, the 14th. It was a punch in the gut for her family and friends.

REMEMBERING CORKI
So, on Friday my wife and I joined a couple hundred people at a catholic church in the South Bay area for a lovely service remembering our friend. The priest who officiated was a friend of Corki's for most of their lives and he gave a lovely remembrance. Her two sons did their best to speak of their mother, with only mixed success. Later the assembled masses convened at a fellowship hall to watch a slide show of our friend's life and to chat about her among themselves.

TRAGEDY BROUGHT US TOGETHER
This woman was my friend for only six and a half years. She became my friend when I was in Las Vegas tending to my best friend, Larry Moore, since we were 5 years old as he tried to recover from a terrible motorcycle accident. Many of you know that story...

CALM, COMPASSIONATE ENCOURAGEMENT
During my stay in Vegas I began sending nightly emails to a few mutual friends, telling them of my pal's condition. That distribution grew until one day near the end of the first week Corki wrote a nice note of encouragement and asked to be included on the list. She was also a retired LAPD officer and seemed to know, literally, everybody in that organization. So, she began forwarding my notes to most people in her email address book and would send me feedback from those folks. She was a welcome voice of calm encouragement and compassion at a time when it was sorely needed.

OUR FRIENDSHIP GREW
Following my friend's passing I finally met Corki face-to-face at his service and we had a nice visit. We continued to email each other and, over the past half-dozen years have swapped over 5,000 messages, many telephone calls and more than a few meals. She, a woman with boundless energy and compassion, became a friend in every sense of the word. We swapped stories on an almost-daily basis about our lives, families, friends - all the highs and lows you chat with friends about. She became a huge part of my life. And now she's gone...

DON'T WAIT...
Once again, as I spoke with many of her other friends Friday, I was reminded just how fragile life is and how quickly unexpected turns can appear as you travel down that road. For my pal, Larry, it was an unanticipated turn in the road. For Corki it seems to have been a nick to an internal organ during fairly routine surgery that caused it to end tragically. You just never know. So, once again, I remind you to tell those you love just how you feel about them. Don't wait...

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MANSOOR'S "ARABNESS"
With a tip of the cap to the folks at the Orange Juice blog for the loan of this image from an article they published in April, HERE, in case you missed it, the editors of the Daily Pilot decided to publish another of my commentaries Saturday. Actually, they published most of what I submitted to them. I included the missing two paragraphs in the comments section attached to the online version of my commentary, so you can read the whole thing HERE.

I find myself wondering how Allan Mansoor will feel when he reads it...

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CHUCK'S WIT AND WISDOM
For those of you who still have not placed my pal, Chuck Cassity's blog, "Chuckmeister Unleashed!" on your list of favorites, here are links to his two most recent entries, "The Coming Unpleasantness" and "Let's Poll the Judges". Just click on the titles and give yourself a treat. You can stop by the Hi-Time booth at the Halecrest-Hall of Fame Chili Cook-Off today beginning at noon and let Chuck know how you feel about his words of wisdom. See you there.

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