Friday, December 03, 2010

New Council Seated Tuesday & More (Amended)

NEW COUNCIL TO BE SEATED TUESDAY
Well, the big moment is almost upon us. Next Tuesday the "new" City Council will convene at its regularly scheduled meeting and swear in the two members elected last month. Yep, current Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece and our old carpetbagging buddy, Jim Righeimer, will be sworn in and seated on the dais to begin their four year terms leading the city. They will join Eric Bever, Gary Monahan and, temporarily, Katrina Foley. The meeting will commence at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7th - Pearl Harbor Day.


CLOSED SESSION
AT 5 TO DISCUSS ROEDER'S REPLACEMENT (PLUS)
Before that happens, though, at 5 p.m. the "old" four, minus Righeimer, wil
l go into a closed session to discuss the replacement of Allan Roeder as City Manager. Nobody is talking about what kind of an effort they are mounting to find his replacement yet - perhaps we'll get some kind of an indication following the closed session Tuesday evening. (Two additional items were added to the Closed Session late Friday evening. One deals with the appeal of the Benito Acosta case and the other deals with pending litigation)

FOLEY FOR MAYOR
?
When the open session convenes and the new members are seated the first order of business will be selection of a mayor and mayor pro tem. This is going to be fun! In some venues, including Costa Mesa in years past, the person who was Mayor Pro Tem would be elected Mayor. I'm not sure that will happen this time around because Wendy Leece ruffled a few feathers during the final days of the campaign. How about this? Let's elect Katrina Foley as Mayor (for a week) then we can do it all over again when she resigns and a new council member is appointed to replace her? Sounds like fun to me!

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting, while not particularly long, does have some items sure to draw a crowd.

FINES FOR USING UN-PERMITTED TRASH HAULERS
Buried deep in the Consent Calendar, at #11, is a resolution to charge a $1,000 administrative
penalty and deferral of Certificates of Occupancy for builders who fail to use a solid waste hauler permitted to do business in the city. Seems like a curious move in a city trying to encourage development.

RDA ANNUAL REPORT

Also in the Consent Calendar, at #13, is the Redevelopment Agency's 2010 Annual Report, which apparently tells us it is still in the black.

SEGERSTROM'S SENIOR HOUSING PLAN

The first Public Hearing - which theoretically will happen at 7:00 - deals with the planned Senior Housing Development at Mesa Verde Center. The three segments of this plan are long, as are the staff reports, but it actually shouldn't take too long on the agenda. It's a good deal and will almost certainly pass.

TEMPORARY BANNERS

Then come items dealing with new rules for temporary banners and perimeter walls on multi-family residential projects.

GET THAT JUNK CAR OFF YOUR DRIVEWAY!
The first Old Business item is the ordinance dealing with storage of inoperable vehicles on residential properties, so all you guys out there with project cars under a tarp with flat tires on your driveways are going to get "the word" Tuesday.

DON'T FEED THOSE CRITTERS!

Item 3 under Old Business is the ordinance that makes it "disorderly conduct" to fish or feed water fowl in city parks. This is aimed directly at the lake at TeWinkle Park. I suspect more than a few residents will show up for this one - particularly residents from Mesa Del Mar and College Park, who use this recreational facility frequently.

POOL CLOSURE?
Item 4 deals with adjustments to the Administrative Services budget for our current fiscal year. The three sub-sections involve a decision on whether to close the Downtown Community Pool or not; elimination of the ROCKS Program at some schools and an amendment to CDBG-R funds for the Whittier School site ROCKS Program.

BIKE TRAILS AND RECYCLING (AND BUDGET ITEMS)

Way down at the end of the agenda, under New Business, there will be a discussion of the feasibility study for a bicycle trail connection between the Santa Ana River and the Upper Newport Bay and, finally, a zoning code amendment for Recycling and Collection Facilities. (A third item was added late Friday - a review of the FY 2009/2010 budget and Calendar Year Financial Status)

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

With that to chew on for the weekend, I leave you with my first of what may be many little video clips to get you into the holiday spending frame of mind. I present to you, one more time, Stan Freberg's GREEN CHRI$TMA$.


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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gut Punch, Then Hug For Fairgrounds Employees

FOLLOW-UP ON FAIRGROUNDS EMPLOYEE MEETINGS TODAY
This is a follow-up to my earlier post today on the meetings held with current employees of the Orange County Fairgrounds. My earlier post, based on news reports and skimpy interviews, was published before the first meeting had concluded and the second one commenced.

STATE OFFICIALS LOWERED THE BOOM
As stated earlier today, State personnel officials conducted a meeting at which the current employees of the Fairgrounds were given official notice that they would only have their jobs for 120 days and that they were eligible to seek other State employment. That was a real pre-Christmas gut punch for those 82 employees who have been whipsawed over the past couple years as the Fairgrounds Sale drama unfolded.

FIRST CHANCE FOR FMW TO MEET
WITH EMPLOYEES
Following that meeting spokespersons for Facilities Management West also met with most of the group. According to Guy Lemmon, who was the primary spokesman for FMW at the meeting, this was the first time his organization has been permitted to speak with Fairgrounds employees, although they had tried to have such a meeting for many months. He was eager to meet with the employees personally and tell them, first-hand, of their plans.

LEMMON - "EVERY ONE OF THEM HAVE A JOB WITH US"

According to Lemmon, at th
e meeting with the employees he emphasized to them that everyone of them (except current CEO Steve Beazley) will have a job with FMW if they want it - assuming they're not a criminal. All they have to do is fill out an application - no interviews, no screening - the job is theirs for the taking. He also emphasized that their pay level will be what it was BEFORE the 4.60% cut they took earlier this year. Lemmon said he also told the employees that they would also have health insurance - not their current state plan, but some level of insurance that is compatible with their current coverage.

BECKY BAILEY-FINDLEY TO LEAD TRANSITION TEAM
In a press release issued simultaneously with the meeting FMW announced that former Fairgrounds CEO Becky Bailey-Findley will lead their transition team and will help select and train the permanent CEO. This should have been good news for the employees, since Bailey-Findley led them as CEO for several years.


WHIPLASH FOR FAIR EMPLOYEES
I have not spoken with anyone who attended that meeting except Lemmon, but I imagine his presentation to them - which lasted more than an hour, and longer for those who lingered to chat and give him hugs - softened the punch in the gut delivered coldly by the State representatives a couple hours earlier. On t
he one hand the State tells them they are out of a job in 120 days and then, in the other, Facilities Management West tells them they ALL can keep their jobs at a pay increase once FMW takes over. I suspect Christmas will be just a little better for most of those folks.

BEAZLEY NOT OFFERED A JOB
Back to Beazley... I spoke with him earlier today immediately following the first meeting. He indicated that he, indeed, was among those employees given the word about the potential loss of their jobs. He also indicated that he will be permitted to apply for his job with FMW but was not encouraged that he would be retained. I don't know what his plans are, but he indicated he's weighing all his options now.

SALE STALLED UNTIL 12/15/10 - AT LEAST
The sale of the Fairgrounds to Facilities Management West is stalled until a c
ourt hearing on December 15th, so we really don't know what the future holds from that standpoint. FMW will file the appropriate paperwork for that hearing later this week.

FMW COMMITMENT
During my conversation with
Lemmon tonight, and in his earlier press release, he emphasized FMW's commitment to protecting the Fair and Centennial Farm and continuing the swap meet, equestrian center and the Pacific Amphitheater. I pressed him on the "swap meet" issue, since at no time did he refer to it as the "MarketPlace". Jeff Teller, operator of the Orange County MarketPlace, is one of the folks involved in the lawsuit that has stalled the sale of the Fairgrounds. Lemmon would only say that they are committed to having a swap meet at the site. He also emphasized to me their intention to make the whole Fairgrounds experience better for visitors, but declined to go into specifics.

PROPERTY TAX IMPACT
He also indicated that one factor of this sale that seems to have been completely overlooked
by the media is the financial impact on our region. Although the dollars are not what the City of Costa Mesa would have received had the earlier deal gone through, the Fairgrounds in private hands now means very significant Property Tax dollars that were not realized while it was owned by the State.

WHAT ABOUT THE FAIR ITSELF?

Still pending are completion of negotiations with the current Fair Board about the personal and intellectual property involved with the Fair itself. It is FMW's hope to reach an agreement with the Fair Board on the operation of the Fair since the Fair itself is an activity owned by the Fair Board. The sale of the Fairgrounds as described in the current Request For Proposals - known as RFP II - is only for the real property, not the businesses at the site.


MERRY CHRISTMAS
TO THE EMPLOYEES
So, the turmoil around the Orange County Fair and Event Center continues but at
least the employees, who have been whipsawed for more than a year, can rest just a little easier knowing that they will have a job. Following the gut punch delivered by the State earlier today, it was nice for them to have it replaced by a kind hand on the shoulder. That's a nice early Christmas present for them all.

NOW WE SIT AND WAIT FOR DECEMBER 15TH...

The rest of us can only sit and wait for the results of the December 15th hearing to see which way the road will turn on the path to a sale. As always, I'll let you know more when I know more.



DEL MAR APPROVES RESOLUTION TO PURCHASE FAIRGROUNDS
In a kind of related story, tonight the Del Mar City Council approved a resolution to purchase the Del Mar Fairgrounds for $120 million, with $75 million up front in cash! Yikes! You can read all about it HERE and view a YouTube video produced by opponents below.






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Mansoor's Legacy - More Legal Problems

ACLU FILES APPEAL OF ACOSTA CASE
Jon Cassidy, in the Orange County Register today, HERE. that the American Civil Liberties Union filed an appeal in the case involving Benito Acosta back in 2006. Cassidy's article does a good job of summarizing the issue.



MANSOOR'S MISTAKE

You will recall that then-mayor Allan Mansoor cut off Acosta before his full 3 minutes were exhausted and Acosta was subsequently dragged out of the City Council Chambers and arrested. A jury rejected Acosta's case last December.

A PATHETIC LEGACY
This is just one piece of Allan Mansoor's pathetic legacy that he leaves in his wake on the road up I-5 to Sacramento. His entire tenure on the City Council was eight years of divisiveness and turmoil, but this incident, more than any other, was the exclamation point on his willingness to use Latinos in our city to further his political career.

ADDING TO OUR FISCAL DISTRESS

Now the city will be faced with even more legal costs as we, once again, must
defend Mansoor's actions. According to Cassidy's article, we're already on the hook for more than $500,000 dollars in this fiasco, with much, much more to come. We can thank our former mayor for adding to the fiscal distress of this city.

DEALING WITH PEREZ
While I'm not happy he won the election last month and will be seated in the Assembly next week, I do get some small bit of enjoyment thinking of him trying to work with Assembly Speaker John Perez - a gay man - since Mansoor first gained notoriety in Costa Mesa posting anti-gay screeds on a local web site.

THANKS A LOT!
So, thank you, Allan Mansoor, for leaving more municipal feces for us to try to clean up. Good riddance to you!

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State Fair Employees Hear Their Fate


FAIR EMPLOYEES GET PINK SLIPS
Just after noon today the Mona Shadia in the Daily Pilot, quoting an unnamed Fairgrounds official, reported that today more than 100 current all year-around employees of the Orange County Fair and Event Center will receive 120-day layoff notices at a meeting at 2:00 p.m. You can read Mona's article HERE. There is apparently a subsequent meeting with Facilities Management West officials to inform the ousted employees of it's plans. It will be like the other shoe dropping.

PASSIONS RUN HIGH
Perhaps the most provocative paragraph in Mona's story is the one that quotes that unnamed official as stating, "The bottom line is we don't trust them anymore," said the official, who requested anonymity. "We don't trust that they are looking after our best interest, or our families' best interest. This is going to be sad, it's right before the holidays. We've been told there's nothing to worry about, don't even pay attention to the media, don't talk to the media, and that we can get fired if we talk to the media." One must assume the official is talking about the Fair Board, but it's not clear.

WHAT ARE FMW'S PLANS?
It's also unclear at this time whether Facilities Management West, the presumed purchaser of the Fairgrounds, will attempt to retain many, or any, of the current employees. The list of those receiving layoff notices apparently also includes Steve Beazley, CEO of the Fairgrounds.


SALE CURRENTLY STALLED
The timing of this event is curious since the sale of the Fairgrounds is stalled by a court ruling. Theoretically, nothing is happening until after a hearing next week, on December 8th. According to a source within the State Department of General Services, they are ready to move forward with the closure of the sale but must wait for the results of the court hearing. And, it is also unclear whether incoming Governor Jerry Brown is sympathetic to the sale of the Fairgrounds, so if this process gets stalled until he officially takes office there might be a chance that the whole long, convoluted fiasco that has sapped the energy from almost everyone involved over the past 18 months may be quashed before the sale can be consummated.

MORE NEWS WHEN IT BECOMES AVAILABLE
I expect we'll hear more about today's meetings after they've been completed. I'll let you know what I know, when I know it.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chuckmeister Gets It Right - Again

HE'S AT IT AGAIN!
May I, once again, turn your attention to my friend, Chuck Cassity's blog, Chuckmeister Unleashed!, for some crystal-clear thinking? His essay - Jobs, Jobs, Jobs - will reach out and tweak the noses of some readers.

READ IT ANYHOW
I know some of my slightly left-tilted pals will find this particular contribution to the enlightenment of the masses to be offensive. That's OK with me... they need to read it anyhow! :-) Simply click HERE and enjoy the ride.

I'M WAITING...
If you feel the need to rant about this one you've got two places to vent - over on his blog and here, because I agree with him 100% on this one. Let the fun begin...

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Late Election Info and Related Issues

FISLER VICTORY CERTIFIED BY REGISTRAR OF VOTERS
Today I heard from Mesa Consolidated Water District Director Jim Fisler that the recount in his race to retain his seat has been withdrawn. A check of the Registrar of Voters site confirms that fact, so Fisler will retain his appointed seat with a slim 66 vote margin over Dan Worthington.

APPLICATIONS
TRICKLING IN
As of yesterday afternoon the City Manager's office reports that there is only one applicant for the potential vacancy on the City Council if Katrina Foley resigns next month. There are three applicants for vacancies on the Planning Commission, two of which have been reported here - Byron de Arakal and Chris Bunyan. There are also two applicants for Parks & Recreation Commission seats. The City will not confirm the identities of applicants until the filing deadline of 5:00 p.m., December 17, 2010 has passed.

WHAT ABOUT FITZPATRICK?
Still unresolved at this time is the status of Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick, who won a seat on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board in the recent election. There is a body of thought that he will not be permitted to hold both seats simultaneously. We're still awaiting word from The City on this. We assume City Attorney Kim Barlow will be consulted and rule on this issue. This needs to happen soon because Fitzpatrick will be seated on the Sanitary District Board later this week.

POTENTIAL LACK OF PLANNING COMMISSION QUORUM

IF Fitzpatrick is required to abandon his Planning Commission seat and IF one of the other
commissioners - Steve Mensinger, Colin McCarthy or Sam Clark - are appointed to the presumed Foley vacancy on the City Council, that creates a problem for the city. That would leave only two of the current planning commissioners in their jobs and could not do business because of a lack of a quorum in January.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS AND MORE QUESTIONS

In the meantime, many questions continue to swirl around City Hall. What is the status of the search for a new Fire Chief? We know that retired Chief Mike Morgan is working a temporary gig across the border in Newport Beach, but what about his replacement? What is the actual status of Police Chief Chris Shawkey and his top captain, Ron Smith? Are they gone or not? What about a replacement for long-departed Finance Director Marc Puckett, who recently landed a similar job in Petaluma? So many holes to fill...

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Bunyan Applies For Planning Commission & An Omen?

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did! And now back to the real world..




CHRIS BUNYAN APPLIES FOR PLANNING COMMISSION

I received a note last night from former City Council candidate, author and local businessman Christopher Bunyan informing me that he will file an application for the Planning Commission this afternoon.

HIS QUALIFICATIONS
This is another bit of good news. Bunyan, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2006 and again in 2008, has devoted himself to city issues and recently has been very active in tryin
g to preserve Banning Ranch without development. He cites among his strengths being well versed in CEQA, California Coastal Commission, SoBeca Urban Plan and the Westside Overlay. His presence in the applicant hopper for the open Planning Commission position will provide some variety to the choices available to the City Council when they make their decision(s). Applications for the assumed vacancy on the City Council, Planning Commission and Parks & Recreation Commission will be accepted until close of business on December 17, 2010. The City Council will make their selections at their first meeting of the new year on January 4, 2011.

AN OMEN OF THINGS TO COME IN COSTA MESA?

I don't know if you saw it, but the Los Angeles Times had an article regarding the City of Calabasas on Saturday that may be an omen of things to come here in Costa Mesa. The article was entitled "Calabasas widens city-code crackdown", and deals with the recent enforcement efforts in that city against some elderly residents who owned homes in that area more than a half-century before it was incorporated. You can read the entire article HERE.

OPPRESSION OF ELDERLY RESIDENTS
In one instance the city raided the rural ranch of a 70 year-old man, locked him out and
shut off his power and water. In another an 82 year-old resident was given a few days to "redo or tear down" his home, which was built in 1939 under Los Angeles County approval. In yet another instance an 86 year-old woman living on Social Security was ordered to disconnect her working septic tank and connect to a sewer line. Her home was built in 1937. Read the article yourself and decide your position on these heavy-handed tactics.

IS THIS THE FUTURE OF COSTA MESA?
I write about it because member
s of the current Costa Mesa Planning Commission, including about-to-be-anointed City Councilman Jim Righeimer, have demonstrated similar tendencies when dealing with older homes in our city. In one recent case, for example, they required an Eastside homeowner who wanted to renovate the home his family had owned for a half-century to demolish an outbuilding that was causing no harm to anyone. All the contiguous neighbors spoke in favor of the family before multiple hearings in front of the Planning Commission and City Council. Since it's possible that another member of the current Planning Commission will be elevated to the City Council early in January it is likely that the attitude displayed on the commission will be brought forward to the council.

A "POOR MAN'S IRVINE"?

There are more than a few people in this city very nervous about what they think they see coming with a Righeimer-dominated city council. They've already seen draconian rules imposed on cars being parked legally on driveways and are now worried that Righeimer and his minions will begin a concerted effort to turn Costa Mesa into a de facto Irvine, using Google Earth "flyovers" to discover illegal structures and force remediation by the owners.


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