Another Long Meeting - And It Showed(Amended)*
Just when we start thinking that most of the council meeting chaos is over, The Mayor throws us a curve ball - as did my day today. I would have posted this hours ago, but an unanticipated, but wonderful. visit from relatives stopped me in my tracks. I was "forced" to spend the day with beautiful 6 and 10-year-olds at the Balboa Fun Zone and the beach. Got my priorities straight...
GARY SHUFFLES THE DECK
Last night all seemed right with the world as the second Costa Mesa City Council meeting of July began on time. However, immediately following the "moment of silent expression", Mayor Gary Monahan shuffled the deck on us. Instead of just letting the agenda flow in the order published, for some inexplicable reason he decided to move New Business Item #3, the SR-55 Study Update, to the head of the pack. So, following presentations to Colin Moran for being selected to the PacSun Surfing Team; Ivan Calderon, founder of Taco Mesa and Taco Rosa for his community involvement and a brief presentation by members of the Huntington Beach helicopter program that currently provides contract aerial law enforcement support following the misguided decision by our city council to disband the A.B.L.E. program, we heard about the plans for the continuation of the study for the improvement of SR-55 (Newport Blvd.) at the terminus of the freeway at 19th Street.
LITTLE TIME LEFT FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS
By the time that presentation was finished only 20 minutes was left for Public Comments, so Monahan told the crowd that any speakers who had not spoken by the magic 7:00 hour - when Public Hearings are scheduled to commence - would be trailed to the end of the meeting. As it turned, out the final three speakers began at 11:35! More on that later. If you care to do so, you can watch the entire meeting - all 5 hours and 45 minutes of it - on streaming video HERE.
VEHICLE CITATION FEE IMPOSED - FOR SOME
Ignoring the fact that the Consent Calendar had not been address yet, at 7:00 sharp the Public Hearings began and both of them were dispatched with little comment. The council agreed to have the police department begin charging $10.00 for the certification of vehicle code violations, with the exception that NO Costa Mesa resident will be charged, regardless where the violation occurred. So, if our neighbors in Newport Beach, for example, decide to visit our police department for the certification instead of going to theirs, where it costs them $22.00, we'll make a couple bucks off their dilemma.
SCOFFLAWS TO BE HANDLED
The council also approved the resolution certifying special assessments for collecting delinquent fines for municipal code violations. The list totals $32,000. Both those items were completed in less than fifteen minutes.
MASSAGE PARLOR ORDINANCE APPROVED
On to Old Business where the City Clerk had barely finished reading the title of this second reading of the new Massage Parlor ordinance before the council voted to approve it. That whole transaction took less than one minute.
YOUTH SPORTS REQUESTS APPROVED
They then briskly approved the extension of a grace period requested of the Newport Mesa Girls Softball and Group 1 Field User status for Friday Night Lights Flag Football.
INVESTMENT POLICY PASSED
New Business then brought us the Statement of Investment Policy, the discussion of which lasted only about 4 minutes. It was approved. The council blitzed through 6 items in less than 40 minutes.
ORANGE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY PROPOSAL VETTED
Then, at 7:40, we came to the discussion and presentations of the proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority, who were represented by a hoard of blue-suited folks - I counted 7. Interim Assistant CEO Terry Matz led the presentations, discussions and deliberations that went until 10:25, with a short break mid-way. I'm not going to attempt to give you a play-by-play account of this issue, but will tell you that the council decided to "receive and file" the report and instructed the staff to continue to work on questions that came up during the discussions last night; to investigate joining with surrounding communities to provide joint fire fighting efforts - Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, for example - and to open conversations with the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association to determine what kind of concessions they are willing to make if the city decides to keep the Fire Department an independent entity.
CMFA OK WITH DEEPEST CUTS
There were some interesting moments in the Fire Department discussion. Perhaps the most interesting was the announcement by Association President Tim Vasin that his group supports going to the OCFA and that they think option 3 - the one which closes a station and reflects the greatest reduction of staff, from 29 current to 23 under that plan - is the best choice.
RIGHEIMER AFTER THE MECHANICS, TOO
That news seemed to energize some members of the council - particularly Jim Righeimer. During the discussion he seemed displeased that the numbers presented did not include any savings that would potentially be realized by staff reductions in support areas where, for example, mechanics would no longer be required to work on the fire equipment - the OCFA will maintain the fleet. We know from previous discussions before the council that the fire-related fleet makes up a very large part of the workload of our maintenance team.
NO PAY INCREASE FOR YEARS
Another interesting point made by the OCFA number-cruncher was that the OCFA members, including the Costa Mesa contingent if the contract goes through, will receive no pay increases for the next several years. This is based on negotiations with their bargaining unit recently. According to Vasin, the CMFA is OK with this fact.
THE CLOCK CONTINUES TO TICK
No time line was given for making a decision on this proposal or any of the other actions described above. In the meantime, the clock ticks and we operate without senior leadership in the fire department.
8/16 MEETING CANCELED
At 10:40, following another short break, the council re-convened and took about a minute to decide to cancel the scheduled council meeting of August 16th. A light calendar for that evening was the reason given. Personally, I think everybody just needed a break, so the meeting on August 2nd will be the last one until September 6th, right after the Labor Day holiday weekend.
CONSENT CALENDAR - FINALLY
Then, the council finally got around to considering the Consent Calendar, with Eric Bever pulling the minutes of previous meetings as a tool to launch into a discussion of what he felt was the inadequacy of the current minutes. City Clerk Julie Folcik was interrogated about the format and eventually the council decided to go with an even MORE abbreviated version. It seems some were irritated that the current version quotes speakers in detail, but didn't quote the points made by council members. Folcik reminded them that the "Action Minutes" were implemented when the streaming video became available as a verbatim record of each meeting. Previously, the staff had to laboriously transcribe each word by each person verbatim for the minutes - a task that could take weeks to complete.
LEECE WANTS MORE DETAIL ON LEGAL FEES
Wendy Leece pulled Item #4, the Warrant resolution that contained the $117,000 charge from Jones & Mayer, indicating that not enough information was included. Eric Bever proposed that each entry should be divided by account to make it easier to determine how the dollars are allocated.
WEB SITE REDESIGN CONTRACT CHALLENGED
Resident Tom Egan pulled Item #5, the contract with Vision Internet Providers, Inc. for the redesign of the city web site, indicating that he thought that because it included a 40% contingency that was apparently not known by the bidders, it should be canceled and re-bid. This got CEO Tom Hatch's dander up. He rejected the contention that the contract was not fair. During the discussion of this item councilman Steve Mensinger got off the best line of the night - one that brought chuckles from the crowd that had dwindled to around 20 people by this time. He said, "As council members we should not be meddling." I'm sorry, but that is so funny that it's almost preposterous, since his entire short tenure on the council has been marked by meddling. The contract was approved as proposed
HEATED EXCHANGES ON LOBDELL'S CONTRACT
Egan also pulled Item #6, the extension of the contract for Interim Communication Director, Bill Lobdell. He apparently felt it was inappropriate to pay him more than 47 public safety staffers. Supporting his view, former Mayor Sandra Genis also stood to complain about the extension of the contract, stating that it was a no-bid contract in the beginning and had been extended twice so far. She felt the contract should have had a Request for Proposals issued and alternate candidates considered. She said Lobdell's assignment was cronyism. This prompted Mensinger to call Genis back to the podium and challenge her - a real "in your face" confrontation that was totally unacceptable by a council member. But then, that's who he is. Further in the discussion Mensinger pointed out that Irvine has a handful of highly paid PR types on staff. Wendy Leece, during her turn to speak, said Irvine doesn't matter on this issue. Mensinger tried to interrupt her - bully that he is - but Monahan shut him down and let Leece continue.
MENSINGER DOESN'T LIKE THE PACE
When Mensinger spoke again he praised Lobdell for being able to tolerate working in the city where things "move at glacial speed". That was a real clue to how he, Mensinger, feels about government and is obviously one of the reasons he keeps champing at the bit about making it work more like a business. His idea of a business is one where he, as the boss, can simply demand that an action be taken and nobody questions it. He's not looking for a government, he's looking for a dictatorship.
BEVER BAD-MOUTHS ROEDER
Bever took this opportunity to bad-mouth former City Manager Allan Roeder, saying that he never delegated anything - a lie. Righeimer chimed in and said he thought we should just make Lobdell an employee and be done with it. The contract passed, 4-1, with Leece dissenting.
MADAME EGAN QUESTIONS GROWTHPORT PARTNERS CONTRACT EXTENSION
Eleanor Egan pulled Item #7, the contract extension for GrowthPort Partners for continuation of their personnel support activities. The extended date on the staff report was incorrect and was corrected to read June 30, 2012. The reasoning was much like the previous issue - a no-bid contract that is being extended without sufficient consideration of other alternatives. Genis stood again to complain about this one, indicating that the "augmentation" went beyond the original intent. Egan complained that the nature of the work involved highly confidential personnel issues by people who were not staff members and were here only for the money. The item passed, 4-1, with Leece again dissenting. *NOTE: The original version of this segment misstated that Tammy Letourneau was affiliated with GrowthPort Partners. She is affiliated with Management Partners, the group that did the Police Department Restructuring Assessment. I apologize for the error and hope Ms. Letourneau will forgive me for the erroneous association. Perfection continues to be a goal not yet met.
LESTER FINALLY SPEAKS
We finally got back to Public Comments around 11:35 p.m.! Sue Lester addressed the lawsuits the city currently has pending, including the one with the employee bargaining unit. Genis told the council the juggling of the agenda like this short-changes the public because many speakers had long since given up and went home. Of course, that may have been Monahan's plan all along, as you'll see in the next paragraph.
MONAHAN VS. KOKEN - THE BATTLE OF WILLS
Finally, crooner Terry Koken stepped up to present his most recent song to the council. Monahan warned him not to do it and the two went back and forth with Monahan threatening to have the police officer present remove him from the council chambers. Finally Koken, who looked like he was seriously considering singing and being removed, just read the lyrics to his song. The video - drag the scroll bar across to "05:18:00" to view it - shows this little drama and you can hear City Attorney Tom Duarte tell Monahan to "just let him speak". It was a tense moment and very disturbing. Monahan was obviously ready to violate Koken's right of free speech simply because he didn't think he would like what he was going to say/sing. This episode should make us all more than a little nervous about our rights to address grievances before our elected leaders.
*HERE'S MY VERSION OF TERRY KOKEN'S PRESENTATION
This shakey, wobbly video is what happens when an old guy gets his hands on a new camera. The city video is MUCH better, but this shows Koken throughout the event. Watch him contemplate the future as Monahan threatens to have him hauled out of the auditorium.
WEAK LEADERSHIP SHOWS
So, at 12:10 a.m. this morning the council adjourned to Closed Session after another long, long and frustrating meeting. These marathon sessions clearly demonstrate the lack of strong leadership on the dais. Monahan seems to have lost his grip on the process. We are NOT being well-served by this group.