Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Enough about me... back to business.

At Tuesday's Costa Mesa City Council meeting we got a little taste of what's in store for the residents and the staff in the near future. More on that later. Assistant City Manager (and City Manager-in-waiting) Tom Hatch sat on he dais. City Manager Allan Roeder has apparently removed the training wheels and will help Hatch with the transition to his new job by turning more and more of the day-to-day operations over to him. Sounds good to me... Hatch did a fine job last night.

Also, the seatin
g was rearranged to place Steve Mensinger on the far end of the dais, next to Hatch and beside Wendy Leece. Leece previously had been shoved to the far side. Now she sits between Mensinger and Mayor Gary Monahan. To Monahan's right - left as you face the council - is Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, with Eric Bever on his right side, next to City Attorney Kim Barlow. The boys on the dais may exclude Leece from participation with their votes, but at least she won't be physically shoved off to the side.


This was the first meeting that followed Monahan's new agenda and it seemed to run smoothly. Monahan read the new "Announcements" segment in which he listed events coming up in our city. I'm still wrestling with the need for this new segment, but it seems harmless enough.

They pushe
d the Closed Session to the end. Tonight there was no closed session, so we still don't know how that change is actually going to work. They also pushed the Council Member Comments segment to the end and I think we got a glimpse into the future. By the end of the meeting most members of the audience had long-since departed so they missed some pretty interesting stuff.

For example, Righeimer told his peers that he didn't want to wait for more up-to-date budget numbers before making some changes. He told them that he wanted the city to finish the year as though revenues were going to be flat, wanted an explanation of where the current budget shortfall of around $1.5 million is going to come from and that he also wanted the staff to find $15 million in this fiscal year's budget. He said "No department is sacred". He didn't explain why he wanted to do that, and no vote was taken on it, but this move sure doesn't surprise me at all. Both he and Steve Mensinger gave us a clear indication of how they want to run this city - like it's a private company, where they can call the shots and folks will jump without questioning their directives.

Mensinger, for example, told City Attorney Barlow that he wanted to chan
ge the title of the City Manager to CEO - Chief Executive Officer. She'll investigate and report back.

Back to the agenda items...

The council did approve New Business #1, which dealt with the authorization of a change in our agreement with CalPERS for the "cost sharing" issue previously negotiated with certain employee groups. This item will save the city slightly over $1 million in this fiscal year and more than $6 million over the next three. This was part of the give and take of the recent negotiations. During the discussion it seemed clear that some members of the council were inclined to NOT approve this based on political dogma. When it came time to vote only Eric Bever voted NO - the other members realized to turn this item down would be simply cutting off our municipal nose to spite our face. Bever's explanation for his vote was that he didn't vote for the agreements in the first place so he wouldn't vote in favor of this item either. What a schmuck!

After some discussion the council voted to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Orange for the use of AlertOC, a co
untywide public mass notification system. Again, bonehead Bever voted NO.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion of the evening was that about the formation of a Homeless Task Force to address what is a serious and growing problem in our city, primarily around Lions Park. Hatch led the discussion, quantifying the depth of the problem via his staff report.


One of the most
interesting moments for me came when a "Mr. Brown" - I didn't catch his first nane - addressed the council and identified himself as being from Elsinore. He apparently moved to Costa Mesa as a self-imposed homeless person because he wanted to see what it was like and our city has such great resources for the homeless! I glanced down the aisle to see the reaction to this statement by a guy I've referred to from time to time who has been a very, very vocal opponent of the social service entities on the Westside of our city, describing them in his blog as magnets for undesirables. When he heard Mr. Brown's statement he rolled his eyes back in his head and I could just see the lede for his next blog entry! This, of course, is an example of the stumbling blocks the Homeless Task Force is going to face as it moves forward.


In the end the council agreed to form the Homeless Task Force as defined in the staff report, w
ith representatives from the council, Planning and Parks Commissions, the 3R Committee, social service agencies, members of the community, etc., for a total of 18 members who will form, select leaders and begin assessing the homeless situation in our city and report back to the council in nine months or less. It's a start.

The council then discussed and agreed to form "Working Groups" - two-member sub-committees of council members charged with doing the initial review and solution-finding on several important issues. The Working Groups
and their council member assignments are:

Economic Development & Development: Righeimer and Mensinger
Sports & Recreation: Leece and Mensinger
Policies/Procedures & General Plan/Circulation: Bever and Monahan
Budget & Capital Improvements: Monahan and Righeimer
Public Safety & Motel Issues: Bever and Righeimer*

*On this issue it was originally proposed that Bever and Leece be the representatives. The c
ouncil had agreed to split the Homeless issue from this one due to the formation of the Homeless Task Force. Bever balked at being teamed with Leece and proposed a substitute motion replacing her with Righeimer. Monahan agreed to go along with it, then voted NO, along with Leece. It carried, 3-2.


As I said earlier, it became clear to me during the Council Member Comments segment at the end of the meeting that the new guys on the dais, Righeimer and Mensinger, seem determined to re-invent city government to look more like a corporation - like the ones they've headed up in the past. The problem with that idea is municipal governments have specific rules of conduct that MUST be followed. Those two are going to take a heap of watching in the months ahead. It looks to me as though their tack will be to act first, then apologize later if the have to. It's certainly time to be vigilant.


I did enjoy Righeimer being criticized by speakers last night. Both Sandra Genis and Robin Leffler rose to chew him out for mis-quoting Genis during his mini-tirade at the las
t meeting. To his credit, he kind of apologized to them both later, although it was unclear that he really thought he'd made a mistake. This is going to be fun...

The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, February 1, 2011, followed by a Study Session on February 8, 2011.

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Anonymous savo said...

Costa Mesa needs more homeless! They are not a nuisance, they are human beings. Maybe we can start an advertising campaign welcoming homeless from surrounding cities.

We could turn Talbert Nature preserve into a makeshift homeless village.

1/19/2011 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

I seriously thought they were going to drive us off a cliff last night. Faced with the gaping maw of a $6 million dollar budget shortfall, Righeimer and Mensinger voted exactly like Wendy Leece and Monahan and chose fiscal sanity over insane political dogma.Yeah that's right everyone. Jim Righeimer , shining warrior against the evil doer unions voted FOR the contract he ran against last night.The same one that they used to villify Leece and bring the entire weight of the Republican establishment against her. Yet here they are, when given the same choice, they vote for the contract. Except for the Bever, that teabagger would have gleefully driven this city of a cliff.

1/19/2011 08:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Talbert Park IS a makeshift homeless village. Have you been down in the thick brush down there lately?

In years past, we found so many camps down there, with amenities that would boggle your mind. Think Swiss Family Robinson meets Gilligan's Island, and that should give you a pretty good idea.

Homeless folks are indeed people. We do need to treat them as such. However, business owners have business to conduct, property owners have their properties to protect, and at times, the transient population can be an encumbrance to these endeavors.

1/19/2011 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous NBebs said...

I ran into a gentleman a couple months ago collecting water with plastic supermarket grocery bags at talbert park. He didn't speak a word of english. He had quite a setup including mattress, blankets, radio, even a toaster oven (I doubt he had power running to the toaster oven since this was in a large bush). He should get a surf board and take up surfing newport beach is a short bike ride away.

1/19/2011 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

Wellllll... Maybe Mr Brown could be hired as the HPS's (Homeless Park Squatter)property manager; you know a contact person.

Bever wants CM to be ran just like his HOA, we could start here and fan out into the community with his plan.

1/19/2011 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

What's up with "The Beeeev", was Ward to hard on him last night? Did Wendy give him the "Stink Eye" to make him vote to remove her from "HIS" committee?

"I don't want to be on the Girls Team" or "ooooh, she has koodies"

Grow up Beeev!

1/19/2011 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Too bad running government like a business was already tried in the 1980s and 1990s and turned out to not be the miraculous answer the all knowing business complainers thought it would be. Riggy would know this if he was capable of learning from past mistakes.
Righeimer, Mensinger, Beeve, and Monahan have nothing to teach us... unless it would be about failed businesses they ran/run or how to be an arrogant elitist.

By the way... no CMPD on that task force? They are the ones that deal with the homeless problem the most... More critical thinking boyz! Way to fail.

1/19/2011 06:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Max said...

Talbert isn't part of Costa Mesa. Plus, I've never seen someone camping there in the 20 years I have been going to that park. I DO see some homeless people at Lions Park though. It seems fair enough to ban any homeless person that walks around with loaded pants or defecates in public areas. That clearly endangers the public health. I support helping the homeless but when they ruin public property (like chairs in the library or the sides of buildings etc.) they should be banned from those areas until they can prove it won't happen again. Too bad Righeimer wants to ban cops from Costa Mesa when we need them the most. At the very least 1 park ranger should be at Lions Park, 1 at Twinkle, and 1 at Fairview who could also keep an eye on Talbert even though it's not part of Costa Mesa. The park rangers can make sure repeat offenders don't come back and that they are sent to homeless shelters where they can get some food, a shower and reasonable amount of help to prove we aren't the coldest city in Orange County.

1/19/2011 06:34:00 PM  
Anonymous tim lewis said...

Ok so we ban homeless unless they take a bath? How about we build a bath house with pay showers, connected to a building with tables, washers and dryers, a few tv's, maybe a little music and hand out passes for food at the local fast foods. Then we offer those that will, paid work of cleaning and helping at this center. We could even organize a homeless run recycle center. no city employees, only vollinters. The city provides some basic funding. This could be a start?

1/19/2011 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Max, you're right, Talbert Park is not city property, but is in our "sphere of influence". The folks calling the park "home" sleep there by night and are out and about on the west side by day. Unless you are walking into the thick brush, the camps are all but impossible to see. Many are well hidden.

We have traditionally addressed problems in the park in the past, simply because it has been a necessity.

1/19/2011 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Talbert Park is not in "our sphere of influence". What the hell is that anyway? Tabert Park Nature preserve is the County land and under county control.You know the same people that have homeless sleeping in front of their Council chambers? As for people living in the park....does any of you ever actually walk down there? The County has been doing a habitat restoration and has radically cut back the most egregious hiding spots. Yes the Pond is still fenced in and a few are sleeping around that, but maybe three or four at the most. The real reason we have homeless living in and around the westside is because of the underdeveloped industrial zone. They can sleep next to a stored boat, sometimes with cover . Numerous back alleys and storage yards that are literally a ghost town at night . It provides privacy and shelter. Not too mention that's only part time because many share motel rooms for part of the month, and Costa Mesa has a huge concentration of those down on Harbor and Newport blvd.Very few are camping in the woods.

1/20/2011 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Max said...

Rob Dimel, I still think Lion's park is a more serious problem. When I was a kid, I could bike to our local library and hang out for a few hours while I did homework. It was a nice clean environment that provided a favorable experience. Lion's Park just isn't quite there yet. I hope someday it is and I hope we can find a better way to help our fellow brothers and sisters who are homeless.

1/20/2011 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Gerri and Max, I was merely commenting on Savo's post about turning Talbert into a homeless village. I agree that Lion's Park and other areas directly in our city are a much larger problem.

As for a "sphere of influence" it means it is either in our city limits or abuts our city limits, however is not part of the city proper. Hence issues therein can become issues for the city if not managed or handled. In over 16 years working as an officer here, I can't tell you how many times I, my partners, and our fire department colleagues have had to to respond to calls for service in Talbert Park. I can tell yo how many times I have seen the OCSD down there dealing with any enforcement issues...never. I have learned that if there is a problem, we are far better off dealing with it ourselves and solving the issue, rather than trying to get the "appropriate agency" responsible for the issue to even take a look at it. If we sat back and waited for the county folks to deal with any issues in the county areas in our "sphere of influence", most of the issues would never get handled.

I think it comes down to the old If you see a problem, fix the problem, and don't wait for someone else to do it.

1/21/2011 04:46:00 PM  

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