Fireworks At Both Ends Of Council Meeting
OK, I'm finally back... last night's council meeting was a long, long, long one - finally finishing up just after midnight. Ugh. For the most part it played to a packed house - standing room only in the beginning for the first few hours as many kids, large and small, patiently waited to address the Fireworks and ROCKS issues. You can view all 6+ hours of the streaming video HERE - bring a pillow.
BEVER AGAIN ABSENT
By the way, Eric Bever (Who?) was a no-show at this council meeting - again. Nobody missed him.
PASTOR MIKE PLEADS FOR DIVINE HELP
You knew it was going to be an interesting meeting when Pastor Mike Decker - pastor at Palm Harvest Church and the chaplain for the Costa Mesa Police Department - led the audience in his "moment of solemn expression". His prayer was long, passionate and pointed. I glanced up at the dais as he spoke, saw the "In God We Trust" sign behind the City Council and found myself thinking that I sure hoped Decker was well-connected "up there" - this city really needs the help.
GODDARD RECEIVES MAYOR'S AWARD
A high point for me was the awarding of the Mayor's Award for this month to community volunteer extraordinaire, Mary Ellen Goddard, for her more than three decades of service to the community. Her recognition was certainly appropriate and well-deserved.
HATCH INTRODUCED THE BUDGET
City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch introduced the preliminary 2011-2011 Municipal Budget. Copies of the document were handed out to the council and some staff members. It is now posted on the City web site, along with a Budget Summary and Hatch's cover letter. No discussion took place on the budget - it was not on the agenda - but the heavy lifting begins next Tuesday at the council study session. I will say that it's a bigger budget than last year, with more dollars allocated to Capitol projects. I'll dig into it later and report back.
MONAHAN AND MENSINGER IGNORE THE RULES
Then we got down to business, but not before non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger leaned over to Mayor Gary Monahan and requested that the Fireworks issue be moved forward on the agenda. Normal practice would be for Monahan to ask the council to vote on that agenda shift, but he didn't. He and Mensinger just moved it. Why bother with the formalities of established protocol, right? I was not surprised - this is how they work - the rules are for others.
FOLSOM SETS MC CARTHY STRAIGHT
During Public Comments long time city mechanic Billy Folsom led off and hit it out of the park. He's been peeved at the cavalier attitude of Planning Commission Chairman and President of the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association, Colin McCarthy, who has been heard to disrespectfully shrug off the efforts of our maintenance staff, asking why Jiffy Lube can't change the oil on our fleet. Folsom told us all just what his job involves - the very least of which is changing oil. I cannot do justice to his presentation so I suggest you take three minutes to watch Folsom on the streaming video.
MORE MONAHAN RULE BENDING
The public comments segment was particularly interesting last night. One reason was that Monahan, again, ignored the rules and permitted speakers on the Fireworks issue speak during public comments instead of requiring them to wait until that agenda item was called. The first time it happened Wendy Leece tried to point it out - Monahan just waved her off and the flood gates were opened. I guess the rules are whatever he decides they are... more on that in a minute.
ABOUT LE TOURNEAU'S CONTRACT...
The issue of the extension of the contract with Management Partners for Tammy LeTourneau's tour as Interim Administrative Services Director was plucked from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion. Speakers wondered why this was necessary and, in particular, if we're paying someone $145,000 for the rest of this calendar year, why are we also paying her a car allowance amounting to $500 per month? It was a great question that was NOT answered. At least nobody brought up the fact that LeTourneau had been fired from her job in Brea.
ADDERTON WANTS TO SAVE ABLE
One of the really interesting events during public comments was the presentation by Peter Adderton, the businessman mentioned in an earlier post, who has a plan to salvage the ABLE helicopter program. He didn't give details of his plan, but indicated that he'd been working with the City of Newport Beach and asked the council to extend the ABLE program for two months so he could put his plan together. Only Wendy Leece picked up on that - see below.
FIREWORKS "ONLY" THREE DAYS...
The fireworks issue was discussed for a long time, with many more speakers addressing the issue. In the end, it was decided to continue to permit the sale of fireworks for 5 days, but the council changed the dates on which they may be legally discharged to July 2nd - July 4th - Saturday, Sunday and Monday. They dropped Friday as a legal date of discharge. Thanks for small favors - the weekend is still going to be a war zone.
BLOCK PARTIES ONLY ON THE 4TH
A speaker asked about block parties, pointing out that the application process is underway now and wondering if neighborhoods will be permitted to hold block parties - and close their streets to do so - over the entire weekend. The council dodged this issue and, as it stands right now, block parties will be permitted ONLY on Monday, July 4th. So, if Aunt Mable and the cousins are driving down from Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday and want to participate in your neighborhood block party they're going to have to hang around until Monday. Lucky you.
ROCKS PROGRAM ROCKS ON
The council decided to continue to fund the ROCKS after school program following a good presentation by the staff and hearing from many members of the public - mostly mothers and kids that would be negatively affected by the cancellation. The motion made by Righeimer was curious - he moved a 25% subsidy, but conditioned it on the program being budgeted for 40%... too strange.
OWNER'S SCREW-UP OK'D
The council approved the request by a resident on Gleneagles Terrace to forgive his construction mistakes on an expansion of his home. It took a long time to hear this issue - I'd previously watched the owner's pitch before a much less sympathetic Planning Commission.
I-405 IMPROVEMENT PROJECT HEARD
The council heard a long, long presentation by staff and a project manager from the Orange County Transportation Authority on the proposed I-405 Improvement project, which begins in Costa Mesa and stretches to the Los Angeles County Line. No decision was made.
The clock ticked off at 11:20 before the representatives of the Business Improvement Area (BIA) had a chance to make their pitch for re-authorization, but the council approved it and the issue will be heard again on June 7th.
BEER GARDEN AT CONCERTS IN THE PARK APPROVED
At just before midnight the staff and members of the Costa Mesa Community Foundation made their pitch for the sale of wine and beer - a Beer Garden - at the "Concerts in the Park" this year. After surprisingly little discussion the council approved it 4-0, so those who wish to drink legally at the concerts this year will have a little penned-off area in which to do so. Expect some of our homeless to take advantage of this opportunity.
Are you tired of reading this? Well, now you know how I felt as the clock struck 12 and the "council member comments" segment had yet to be heard. However, it was worth waiting for - at least for the three of us non-staff members left in the auditorium at that hour. I can't remember when there has been such a "whine fest" in the chambers before!
MENSINGER DEMANDS DECORUM
Steve Mensinger kicked off the moaning by complaining to Monahan about the "number of people that are clapping and jeering and yelling and making comments and innuendos". He went on to say he gets emails from people who complain that they can't hear what's going on because "so and so was sitting behind me making comments". He asked Monahan to review the decorum of council meetings. I had to chuckle when he said that, especially considering how he and Monahan violated the procedures in the beginning and also considering how he frequently berates fellow council member Wendy Leece on the dais. Yes, Steve, some review of the decorum is CERTAINLY necessary.
RIGHEIMER PREDICTS RECALL
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer started by saying he was going to keep his comments short, then didn't. He started with this comment: "Just for a heads-up for everybody in the community. If you haven't figured it out already, the labor unions have decided to do a recall of at least two or four of us. Um, that's, polling's been done in this city, it's been three polls now. The State Democrat convention, um, the three words they use constantly, constantly, constantly were Wisconsin, Costa Mesa and Tea Party. They're going to do everything they can to stop it. Ah, we had Nick Berardino here, who also represents our people, telling people that Costa Mesa is Ground Zero for this across the country. They had Mr. Pulaski - whose the, what is he, the treasurer, secretary, secretary- treasurer of the California Confederation of Labor saying that this is Ground Zero for it. If you haven't figured it out, all the craziness that's going on here with the ads and all these things that are being bought are because a recall is going to happen in this city. It's probably going be seven figures. It will be in the millions of dollars spent to remove this city council and, ah, I'll talk about it at some other time, I think it's a little late to talk about it. That's why it's getting crazy. That why every time you turn on your computer you see ads. They're not reporting because they've not started that process yet. They're looking to make sure the recall does not hit if Jerry Brown is going for a tax increase. They don't want to do a recall at the same time as a tax increase because they would obviously lose."
AND MUCH MORE
He went on to complain about people addressing the political ambitions and accusations of the council trying to make a profit on outsourcing. He talked about the Working Groups, too. Go to the streaming video, scroll down to the link with his name under "Council Member Reports, Comments and Suggestions" and click on it to hear his entire rant.
WENDY - WORK WITH ADDERTON TO SAVE ABLE
Wendy Leece asked Hatch to move forward with Peter Adderton to try to save ABLE.
SHE WANTS SUMMARY ON FAIRGROUNDS
She asked for a summary on the Fairgrounds because she "can't get all my information from blogs and out of the newspaper". She complained about having been removed as liaison and said she's "out of the loop".
SHE WANTS DOCUMENTS FROM BUDGET WORKING GROUP
During a comment about the Budget Working Group, she asked, as a formal public records request, for "all documents, minutes, notes from those twelve meetings of the Budget Working Group. I believe the public is owed an explanation and the reason and justification for the massive outsourcing which are still unclear as they were in March. And, there were a lot of exaggerations and the numbers as far as five million, fifteen million and yet there was no justification or detail as far as public discussion or discussion in public of where that that money was, in other words, what the shortfall was. And to make the decision based on a two-member working group to outsource, have the massive outsourcing I think was reckless and I think that, down the road, that we'll have unintended consequences. So, whatever public records are available I would like to formally request those."
MONAHAN BACKHANDS LEECE
Monahan curtly tossed Leece's complaint about not knowing about the Fairgrounds information and having been restricted from attending the meetings because they would have been a Brown Act violation, "as I'm sure you bring up all the time." He also justified the Working Groups as a concept, pointing out that they are widely used by other elected bodies. Watch the video...
BUDGET DISCUSSIONS NEXT WEEK
The next council meeting will be Tuesday, May 24th at 4:30 for a Study Session, which will likely be devoted entirely to the budget.