Council Meeting Wrap-up
The Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night started off on a positive note with Estancia High School Football Coach Mike Bargas being awarded the Mayor's Award. Most of the football team was in attendance for the presentation and a couple of the young men spoke, praising Bargas. It was nice to see and an excellent counterpoint to most recent meetings.
SONORA SCHOOL ARTISTS
Young artists from Sonora School were also present and gave individual hand-crafted items to each council member, the City Attorney and CEO. I was feeling all warm and fuzzy by the time we got down to business.
BUDGET BRIEFING ON 4/26
City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch briefed the audience on upcoming events, beginning with special Study Session next Tuesday, April 26th at 4:30 in council chambers for a Budget Briefing. This is something new - and welcome. Hatch told us that the following items will be discussed:
1 - PERS rates, with two experts - Rick Santos of the Orange County PERS organization and contract PERS expert, John Bartel. Sources tell me Bartel is the expert who recently spoke before the Huntington Beach City Council on this same subject and got rave reviews. We'll see how this goes, but I'm encouraged
2 - New PERS rates are supposed to be posted on the City web site for review.
3 - A discussion will be held on Fund Balance, led by Interim Finance Director Larry Hurst.
4 - A discussion will be held about our cash flow situation.
5 - Budget deficit - estimated at $5 million at this time.
6 - Deferred Maintenance will be discussed, including long term capital projects
7 - The latest Sales Tax numbers will be discussed, but he acknowledged last night that they look good - right on original projections. At the May 10th Study Session representatives of our contractor for Sales Tax will be available for questions.
MEETINGS EVERY TUESDAY THROUGH MAY
Hatch mentioned that there will be a meeting of some kind - council, study session, budget briefing - every Tuesday through May and the final budget hearing will be held on June 14th.
POLICE CHIEF SELECTION PROCESS
He also discussed the process by which he hopes to select a new Police Chief. The applications are due by Friday, April 22nd. After some kind of "thinning process", applicants will be considered by three panels. The first panel will be made up of outside law enforcement personnel. The second will be from the non-law enforcement city staff and the third will be from the community at large. He said there will also be a workshop for members of the CMPD, apparently to get their input. Personally, I think this is a pretty complicated process. When push comes to shove it's going to be Hatch's call. I'm reminded of the old saying, "A camel is a horse designed by committee." We'll see how this goes.
Fewer than a third of the number of speakers rose to address the council than spoke the last time. Most of the 19 individuals that stepped up were critical of the council and addressed outsourcing in one form or another. Some were thoughtful and some were angry. After applause for the first few Mayor Gary Monahan reminded the crowd that he had asked for that kind of celebration to cease earlier - and that he would "trail" the remainder of the public comments to the end of the meeting if the crowd didn't cooperate. It turned out to be an idle threat, but he was obviously much more tense than in previous meetings. I guess having a brick tossed through the door of your business will do that to you.
MC CARTHY'S BOGUS POLL
The first speaker was Planning Commission Chairman and President of the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association Colin McCarthy, who presented a slide show of the push poll his organization conducted last week. It was shameless huckstering for his organization and only the most obtuse observer would miss the fact that the questions in the poll were loaded to get the response McCarthy and his minions wanted. They really do hold the residents of this city in disdain!
A great counterpoint to that presentation was the one given by former Parks and Recreation Chairman Mike Brumbaugh, who announced plans for a Picnic Pot Luck for employees and others who have lost, or are about to lose, their jobs. He emphasized it was a NON-POLITICAL event, saying that we just "want to pick up those that are down". Brumbaugh will send me more information on this June event and I'll publicize it for them. Kudos to Brumbaugh for his recognition that, "We could use a little unity now."
One young woman, whose name I didn't get, stood to complain about Costa Mesa's image and the layoffs and offered some solutions. She kept on chattering as she left the podium after her time expired, yapping away at Monahan and the rest of the council until he told her to please be quiet. As she marched straight out of the auditorium she tossed this comment over her shoulder at Monahan: "You suffer from 'short man's complex'!" The crowd reacted with a mixture of muffled laughter and gasps. Me, I just smiled...
A REMINDER FOR THE COUNCIL
The final speaker was Helen Nenadal, President of the Costa Mesa Employee's Association. She had not intended to speak, but felt compelled to stand and, once again, remind the council that they are dismantling the city before their very eyes. She told them that many employees are already looking for jobs elsewhere, choosing not to wait until the bitter end in September. She included mention of those who had not received layoff notices, too - implying that there may not be many people left by the end of the year, but that might be their plan all along.
WENDY - GENERAL PLAN, LEGAL BILLS AND APOLOGY
A few interesting tidbits came out during Council Members Comments. Wendy Leece reminded the council that our General Plan - our "constitution" - is due for review, and referred them to the section that talks about providing police protection. She also said she's been reviewing the City's legal bills and - at the end - called for a public apology from Eric Bever for his mistreatment of her daughter from the dais at the last council meeting. She didn't get one.
MENSINGER - "TROUBLE AT THE SENIOR CENTER"
Steve Mensinger mentioned "problems at the Senior Center", but didn't elaborate. I fear that he may go stomping through there like the rogue elephant he sometimes is. He has apparently been "hearing from citizens" about it - whatever that means. He suggested, in response to Leece's observation about the legal bills, that they all be posted on the city web site. Talk about micro-managing! Same with the warrants that are usually part of the Consent Calendar and never, ever considered as separate items.
"I COUNT MORE THAN YOU"
At the end of his little speech he said something that I didn't write down word for word because he caught me off guard. When the replay is available I'll provide you with the verbatim quote. Until then, paraphrasing, he said "people who live here have opinions that matter and those that don't live here don't matter as much." He then complained about "outside interference" in city affairs.
WHOSE OPINIONS DON'T MATTER?
Now, one simply must assume Mensinger was referring to speakers who address the council during public comments - many of whom are residents and employees. Is he telling those employees whose careers are at stake and the lives of their families in peril by the current plans that their opinions don't really matter, so shut the heck up? Is that what he's telling us? Sure sounded like it to me.
JUST WHO ARE THOSE "OUTSIDERS", STEVE?
As to that "outside interference" comment, I guess he must have been referring to the Orange County Republican Party hacks who have been providing the playbook for Jim Righeimer's power play into our city, right? Or, is he referring to the men and women who work in the city but live elsewhere? This is his style - using a sledgehammer when a fly swatter will do.
FOUR DAYS OF FIREWORKS?
Righeimer ended the evening with a suggestion that, since July 4th falls on a Monday this year, the city consider abandoning our fireworks sale policy and permit the sale and ignition of fireworks the ENTIRE July 4th weekend, beginning Friday night! I found myself wondering just how he planned to have our shrinking police and firefighters schedule that coverage, especially since we will be without air support for the Independence Day holiday this year for the first time in 40 years. ABLE goes into mothballs the end of June. Yet another example of his "Ready! Fire! Aim!" method of operation.
HOMELESS TASK FORCE MEETING
A reminder - the Homeless Task Force meets Wednesday at the Neighborhood Community Center at 5:30 in the Adams room. It might be kind of fun to invite a homeless person from Lions Park into the meeting to add some local color to the proceedings. Or, maybe not... :-)