More Adventures in CouncilMania
My sweet and patient wife and I were supposed to be out of town on a much-needed vacation this week, but the "cold gods" thought differently and I've been fighting a whopper since late last week. We canceled our plans, came home and, with lots of rest, fluids and some nifty drugs, I've got my cold in a strangle hold now, so I'm going to give the last Costa Mesa City Council meeting a little attention - finally.
ANOTHER LONG MEETING, BUT NOT FOR BEVER
I'll start by telling you that, once again, our city council just couldn't find a way to complete its work in the same day they began. Once again this meeting ran past midnight. By the time they finished with the closed session, I doubt if many of them got home much before 2 a.m. Wednesday. This is a pitiful way to do business and certainly doesn't serve the community well. Maybe part time, part time councilman Eric Bever anticipated this long meeting and decided to stay home again rather than be bored with the whole thing. What was his phrase again? "I didn't sign up for this!" Yeah, that was it. I've used his photo here so you won't forget what he looks like.
HEAR FROM HATCH EARLIER HENCEFORTH
At the request of Mayor Gary Monahan, CEO Tom Hatch and contract City Attorney Tom Duarte will begin giving their reports earlier in each meeting - immediately following the Public Comments segment. This is a good idea and will provide timely, relevant information to the audience - both in the chambers and watching at home - before they have departed or nodded off. Rather than attempt to quote Hatch verbatim from his 14 minute presentation I've provided a clip of that segment. He provides lots of good information - the schedule for some very important study sessions, for example. Without further comment, Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch:
THREE MORE RFPS RELEASED
As mentioned in an earlier post, three new RFPs were presented on the Consent Calendar. Those were 1) Animal Control Services; 2) Street and Storm Drain Maintenance Services and 3) Graffiti Abatement Services. Each was pulled for separate discussion and each was passed on a 3-1 vote, with Wendy Leece voting NO. Responses will be due back in a month and the staff will then evaluate them to determine whether the responses are more cost effective than continuing to perform these critical services by city staff. It is interesting to note, once again, that "pricing" is so heavily weighted - 50% - that it is almost impossible to imagine anyone but the lowest bidder being selected. This is what happens when "money" replaces "service" as a priority on our city council.
GRANNY UNITS AND THE SIGN ORDINANCES PASSED
The "Granny Units" ordinance and the change to the "Sign" ordinance both received second readings and passed, 4-0.
TEWINKLE PARK ATHLETIC COMPLEX
Then the BIG item on the agenda, the future of the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex, was heard. I confess that I DID NOT watch all of the presentations from the three competing vendors - I'd already sat through those presentations at an earlier Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. As it was, the presentations and conversations stretched this issue more than three hours, late into the night. It came of absolutely no surprise to me that Big League Dreams, USA was named as the vendor chosen to work with the task force authorized that evening to flesh out community and user groups concerns. This, of course, gives them a HUGE leg up if, and when, this scheme finally is placed out to bid.
SOME "BIG LEAGUE" INFO
Although I've been feeling poorly, a loyal reader has done some research for us on Big League Dreams, USA. Without further editorial comment I (we) provide to you the following links to articles on several of their facilities/proposals for your own interpretation. Just click on the city name:
Oxnard, CA - Chandler, AZ - League City, TX - Chino, CA - El Paso, TX - Fresno, CA
THE PROCESS IS WRONG...
As mentioned by several speakers and councilwoman Wendy Leece, this whole process stinks. The whim of Monahan rapidly evolved into a full-blown series of presentations BEFORE members of the community had a chance to provide ANY input. It's putting the cart before the horse. No determination has been yet made by the city that it even wants such a complex to exist at TeWinkle Park. Certainly, there has been NO public outreach, nor have comments been solicited, on this issue. Sadly, this is now typical of our current city council. Led by opportunistic Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and the arrogant and ever-impatient councilman Steve Mensinger, they continue to show blatant disregard for public input and for the need to follow the rules established long ago for the conduct of city business. Tuesday night we heard from several members of the contiguous community, including Jeff Wilcox, President of the Mesa Del Mar Community Association and Lisa Reedy, a past president of that group. They, and the other speakers from that community, expressed concern about this latest overture. Noise, parking, trash, vandalism, public urination and lights were all mentioned as existing major concerns. All were opposed to ANY further development of the TeWinkle Park Sports Complex that will exacerbate those problems.
ELEANOR EGAN URGES CAUTION
Among the many speakers addressing this issue was former member of the City Attorney's office and long-time Westside activist Eleanor Egan, a woman who has served this community with distinction for decades, both as an employee and a resident. She cautioned the council to be certain about deed restrictions BEFORE moving forward. Here's her brief cautionary comment to the council:
"FAST TRACK" AND, MAYBE, OUT OF CONTROL
Clearly, this train is moving down the track - a "fast track" to use a phrase uttered by one speaker. In my opinion, it's very important that the public get out in front of this thing before it becomes a fait acommpli. The public needs to make its views known to every council member and attend meetings of the task force as they occur to monitor the proceedings and provide input when solicited. I find myself wondering just who has what to gain in this process? One might be curious about any gain Monahan might receive in this little adventure. Will his pub, for example, become the conduit through which the alcoholic beverages that will be served at the new complex flow? Just wondering...
At the end of the meeting, just as they were about to head for the Closed Session, in a move that is unprecedented in my memory, Hatch told the public specifics about issues that were going to be discussed in that closed session. In all the years I've watched these meetings I can never recall ANY discussion of closed session items, and particularly not labor negotiation issues, outside those walls. Because of the nature of this disclosure I've provided a clip of Hatch's comments here:
FODDER FOR THE YAPPERS
Before we close this one, and to provide more fodder for the cannons of some of the anonymous yappers whose mindless drivel I continue to permit to appear in comments on this blog, I feel it's important to address how some members of this city council treat members of the public who take the time to speak before them. As I suspect is the case in most municipalities, there is a cadre of folks in Costa Mesa who take the time out of their otherwise busy lives to address the council with their concerns on a variety of issues in our city. Some speak on most issues, offering their perspective on the subjects. Others show up when a favorite subject is going to be discussed - the outsourcing, for example. These folks are not whacked-out street people, living out of carts in the weeds of Talbot Park. Most are solid citizens by anyone's definition.
THE "USUAL SUSPECTS"
Among the regular speakers are a couple former elected council members - former Mayor Sandra Genis and former Vice Mayor Jay Humphrey - each of whom "did their time" on the dais and are still involved in community activities. Others include Tom and Eleanor Egan - Westside residents and activists who have devoted decades of their private time to try to help make this city an even better place to live. Eleanor, as mentioned above, is a former member of the City Attorney's office. Robin Leffler and Cindy Brenneman, both residents of Mesa Verde and officers in their community association, each devote hundreds of hours a year on community issues. Beth Refakes, an Eastside resident who adjusts her work schedule so she can observe and participate in almost every public meeting in the city, presents clear, thoughtful commentaries to the council and commissions on many issues. This year former employee Perry Valantine - a key member of the Planning Department for three decades - and long-time resident of the city, has found himself distressed about the way this city is headed and has taken his intellect, institutional knowledge and wit to the speaker's podium to address many important issues. Similarly, soft-spoken and courteous teacher Tamar Goldmann has become so frustrated with the way things have been going that she now frequently quietly steps to the microphone to instruct the council.
AND FOR THEIR TROUBLE...
Each of those speakers, and many more who speak with less frequency but I've neglected here, are not some schmucks who are pushing shopping carts around town. They are concerned citizens who are using the opportunities guaranteed to them to address grievances before the folks that make decisions that affect their lives and those of their neighbors. And, for their trouble, from their seats on the dais some members of this council chide, belittle, criticize and dismiss them as though they are swatting flies. The greatest offender, of course, is our non-elected councilman, Steve Mensinger. As I've said before, perhaps if he actually had to RUN for office instead of landing his seat of power by receiving only 3 votes, he might consider the views of the public a little differently. The arrogance and condescension with which he addresses these folks and others is unacceptable, boorish behavior. It needs to stop.
MENSINGER WANTS A HIRING FREEZE
Speaking of Mensinger, he dropped a bombshell at the end of the meeting just at the stroke of midnight. He asked Hatch to bring back at the next meeting a proposal for "a hiring freeze across the board until we have a second tier in place for new employees". I could almost hear the necks of the staff left in the audience snap as he uttered those words. At press time this afternoon no information was available about how many current vacancies are actually actively being recruited, but this raises some interesting questions. And, I wonder if he might have violated state laws about labor negotiations with that request? Is he holding a gun to the employee associations heads?
SHOOTING FROM THE HIP
For example, does the freeze include the new positions authorized that appear to be ear-marked for Dan Joyce and Bill Lobdell? What about that Park Ranger Mensinger bullied Police Chief Tom Gazsi about at the last meeting? What about the Community Service Specialists approved in a recent meeting? What about the 5 police positions to be filled by a Grant? How will this affect all those "interim" positions at City Hall? Peter Naghavi is Interim Assistant CEO now. Ernesto Munoz is Interim Public Services Director, replacing Naghavi.... and on and on. What about Joyce's and Lobdell's current jobs? This is yet another example of Mensinger's shoot-from-the-hip style - that old "Ready - Fire - Aim!" approach to doing business.
COSTA MESA MINUTES ARE GREAT!
On a positive note. I'm really enjoying the daily video Costa Mesa Minute presentations. I hope you've signed up to view them each morning. They give you timely information about good stuff going on in the city, and good news is pretty hard to come by these days. Congrats to Dane Bora and Brad Long for putting these gems together and to Christine Cordon of the City Clerk's office for her recent cameo appearance.