Tuesday, December 07, 2010

PEARL HARBOR DAY

"A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY..."
Once again we pause here to remember December 7, 1941 - the day the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in the event that thrust the United States into World War II.


3.5 YEARS - 400,000 LIVES LOST
A little more than three and a half years later, on August 14, 1945 - my fourth birthday - Japan finally surrendered, but not until after we lost more than 400,000 young American lives.

FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE PASSING ON
As the years pass, and the generation of Americans who fought and died during World War II pass on, it becomes more difficult to educate the populace about that war. I doubt you could get an accurate response from 10% of high school seniors if you asked them when WWII occurred and who were the combatants. I just realized that this day, Pearl Harbor Day, is not reflected on my current 2010 calendar. This is truly sad because that war was a watershed event in the history of this country.

16,000,000 SERVED
Following World War II my parents generation, Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation", sucked it up and got on with the job of rebuilding the economy of this country and others around the world. More than 16 million Americans served in the military during the war - stop for a moment and contemplate that number. By contrast, over the nine years of the Vietnam War slightly fewer than 9 million served.

REBUILT THE WORLD
As my parents and their peers went about re-constructing their lives they became part of an economic engine unseen anywhere in the world before. Through the Marshall Plan, in which we rebuilt the infrastructure and economies of our enemies, the United States became the clear leader, both economically and militarily, in the world and the next half-century we had amazing prosperity. You can thank my parents generation and, to some extent mine, for that.

PAUSE AND THINK...
As you contemplate the seating of our new city council tonight please take a few minutes to reflect on the sacrifices my parents and their peers made to save our way of life more than six decades ago. Be grateful for the chance to have a vote in how you are governed. Here's a link to an entry I wrote three years ago that will help you gain some perspective.



PERHAPS THIS SHORT VIDEO CLIP WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU


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Monday, December 06, 2010

Bill Lobdell's View Of Righeimer

LOBDELL'S COLUMN TUESDAY
Tomorrow morning, as the city prepares to anoint two recently-elected council members - Wendy Leece and Jim Righeimer - Daily Pilot columnist Bill Lobdell presents yet another interesting bit of writing for you to consider. You can read the entire column HERE.

AFTER WARMING UP HE DIVES IN...
After re-hashing some other issues - the recent plane crash in the Back Bay; Facilities Management West's plan to purchase the Fairgrounds and his scheme to be a peacemake
r between Wendy Leece, Scott Baugh and John Moorlach (Moorlach apparently has balked), he dives right into Righeimer's election.

WHO, ME?
I write about this tonight because Lobdell - probably the best writer/reporter the Daily Pilot has had in years - mentioned me specifically, by name, as a critic of Righeimer. To quote Bill, "Some in the community, led by influential city blogger Geoff West, see Righeimer as a carpet-bagging opportunist who will use his intellect, hardball political instincts and Republican ties to rule the city like a Daly in Chicago." I thought that was an amusing turn of phrase because I'm not the leader of anything here in town. I'm just an old guy with a few opinions on local issues and too much time on his hands. I do agree with Lobdell's characterization of Righeimer, though.

UH, OK...
Lobdell quotes someone he describes as a "longtime Righeimer acquaintance" with whom he joked that many people are building Righeimer up to be Costa Mesa's political Darth Vader. This person apparently said, "I don't think that's far off." His words, not mine.


RIGHEIMER IS WHAT?
Lobdell then uses another interesting phrase when he says, "I'm not in the Righeimer-is-the-anti-Christ camp." Yikes!

NO.. HE'S (READ BELOW)
So, let's be clear here. I don't think Jim Righeimer is necessarily the anti-Christ. As I've stated many times, I think he is a political opportunist - a carpetbagger who stepped across the border from Fountain Valley when he saw his political prospects were much, much better in Costa Mesa. I mean, we elected Chris Steel and Allan Mansoor - how tough could it be for him, probably the most well-connected politico we've ever had in this city, to jump in and snag a political platform from which to spring to bigger and better things?

OPPORTUNIST? YOU BET!
And, guess what?! After helping his buddy, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, assist Mansoor get re-elected, sure enough - Righeimer was immediately appointed to the Planning Commission even though he had only lived in Costa Mesa a few months and submitted his application after the deadline. In appointing Righeimer, Mansoor gave the stiff-arm to long-time supporter and friend, Paul Bunney, not once, not twice but three times and clearly demonstrated that, to him, politics are more important than friendship and loyalty.

FAILED TWO YEARS AGO, BUT LEARNED
Two years ago Righeimer, perhaps a little cocky, ran for City Council and finished fourth to Gary Monahan, Katrina Foley and Eric Bever. This was only the most recent of several failures to convince an electorate that he was the right guy. But he learned from that election. He learned that he actually needed a platform to run on!

AN ORCHESTRATED CAMPAIGN

This year he created a platform out of whole cloth and took on the public employee unions. I guess he decided he needed an "enemy", so they became his "illegal aliens", the bogus platform Mansoor used in his re-election campaign. In a curious set of circumstances that some suspect might have been orchestrated, Righeimer butted heads with the police at a DUI checkpoint. And then there was the "stink-eye" issue, in which Eric Bever and Christian Eric were observed by members of the Costa Mesa Police Department hanging Righeimer signs on a fence at 17th Street and Superior. He and the police association traded campaign slaps and hardball tactics. He managed to convince enough people that the cops were out to get him that he finally won his first election - ever.

WHAT TACTICS CAN WE EXPECT?

Which brings us to Tuesday night. Some of us who pay attention to these things now wonder what kind of tactics Righeimer will employ to achieve his avowed goal of "fixing" the municipal employee salary and benefits "problem". In order for the employee contracts to be voided - which is what it would take to accomplish his plan - the City would have to declare bankruptcy and re-negotiate all contracts, including the municipal employee labor agreements. In my view, that would be catastrophic for our city. Vallejo, in northern California, tried it almost two years ago and is still in chaos.

COSTA MESA AS A LAB EXPERIMENT
Righeimer and his cronies at the Orange County Republican Party seem more than willing to use Costa Mesa as some kind of lab experiment - a petri dish in which they will grow the germ of state-wide pension reform. Of course, for that to happen unilaterally means that our city will be at a huge competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. That doesn't seem to bother Righeimer and his pals, though - particularly those who don't live in Costa Mesa. In fact, a few days ago a chance encounter placed me face-to-face with a Righeimer supporter who made absolutely no bones about it. He told me, in response to my concern about losing good employees if Righeimer's plan was implemented, that it was OK. He said, "You should probably get rid of them all and start over. There are plenty of people available out there." This man, who doesn't live in Costa Mesa by the way, is way, way off base. He wouldn't be personally impacted by such chaos in Costa Mesa, but he didn't care if we were as long as Righeimer got the credit for being the point man in pension reform.

RIGHEIMER AND MENSINGER - HEAVY-HANDED
I've watched Righeimer during his tour on the Planning Commission and watched his buddy, Steve Mensinger - the presumed replacement for Katrina Foley if and when she resigns. Both of them are experienced businessmen, used to having people jump then told to do so. They both have demonstrated a heavy hand in municipal matters, including micro-managing projects placed before them and berating applicants. That management style might work for some people in the development business, but has no place in municipal governance.

LOBDELL - RIGHEIMER SHOULD NOMINATE LEECE FOR MAYOR

Lobdell postulates that Righeimer should take the lead Tuesday night and nominate Wendy Leece as Mayor. That, I fear, is a pipe dream. Righeimer would get himself into the GOP doghouse along with Leece if he dared do such a thing. After all, Leece committed an egregious crime - she put the well-being of the City of Costa Mesa and its residents over the wishes of the leadership of the OC GOP. There is no chance Righeimer will put himself at odds with his buddies.

A WINDING, BUMPY ROAD AHEAD

We'll see how this goes tomorrow evening. If the meeting begins on time - no sure thing, since there are three items on the closed session agenda that begins at 5:00 - then we will have a new mayor and mayor pro tem before 7 p.m. And then, off we go on an adventure that I fear might resemble something akin to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (to borrow a phrase from my friend, Byron de Arakal). Fasten your seatbelts...

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Lamm Bails Out In Westminster & COPS Grant

DON LAMM TO RESIGN AS WESTMINSTER CITY MANAGER
According to an article in the Orange County Register by former Daily Pilot reporter Deepa Bharath, HERE, Westminster City Manager Don Lamm has given notice to the Mayor of his intention to resign from his position effective December 26th, 2010.

FORMER COSTA MESA HONCHO

Lamm held his position from May 1, 2009, having been Costa Mesa's Development Services Director and Deputy City Manager prior to his assignment.

LESS THAN TWO YEARS ON THE JOB
According to the Register article, Lamm is resigning to "take a break from city g
overnment and start his own business to help boost economic development throughout Orange County". OK, but did he really give the job in Westminster a good shot, with less than two years at the helm?

CITYMANAGERBAILOUTITIS
So, it looks like the rash of citymangerbailoutitis in Orange County continues. Costa Mesa City M
anager Allan Roeder has previously announced his plan to retire in March.

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"COPS" GRANT T
O BE CONSIDERED
On the agenda of the Costa Mesa City Council meeting is Item #10 on the Consent Calendar in which the council will be asked to accept and allocate funds from the 2010 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program (CHP) Grant. The city had previously applied for this grant but was rejected in 2009. This is the same grant, available only to cities who had applied but were rejected. The City has been accepted for this grant - $1,761, 595 for five new full-time officer positions over three years. The city will be obligated to fund them for a fourth year.

HOW WILL RIGHEIMER VOTE?
Presently the City has seventeen (17) sworn position vacancies with more possible due to the current budget conditions. It will be very interesting to see what a new city council, with Jim Righeimer part of the mix, will do with this item. It's possible that it will simply be approved as a part of the Consent Calendar. However, it is possible that a cou
ncil member or member of the public will call it up for separate discussion and vote.

WILL HE FOLLOW THE GOP PARTY LINE?
It seems to me that accepting this grant may fly in the face of Righeimer's scheme to dismantle our current public employee compensation plans. How will he vote on this issue? Will he set aside his lockstep following of the GOP party line and vote for the good of the city? We'll see.

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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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