The Week Ahead
December promises to be a slow month for City business, but it hasn't screeched to a halt just yet. Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, December 6th, the City Council will meet in what should be their final scheduled meeting of the year. The agenda has been published and there likely will be some interesting discussions before they adjourn for 2011. Wednesday there is a Special Meeting of the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach Parks Commissions to discuss the re-landscaping of Irvine Avenue.
"SPECIAL" MEETING - CLOSED SESSION
For example, the regular meeting will be preceded by what has been announced as a "Special Meeting", beginning at 4:00. In fact, this is a closed session in which there are five (5) separate items to be discussed by the council. One of those, item #4, also involves "Arnell Management Company, Inc.", so I find myself wondering whether councilman Steve Mensinger will participate since he used to work for Arnel...
The regular meeting begins in Council Chambers at 6:00 and, as usual, the Consent Calendar has some items of interest that may be pulled for separate discussion. The first warrant, #2396, HERE, includes a line item for Jones & Mayer, the law firm that provides City Attorney services, in the amount of $126,427.61. Since the City budget just over $800,000 for legal services, an average of around $68,000 per month, it looks like we are going to be way, way over budget for legal services this year. The spreadsheet the city maintains on the web site is not current - it only shows payments through September - so it's hard to get a handle on this.
ORDER OF BUSINESS AT COUNCIL MEETINGS
There is also a resolution generated by Mayor Gary Monahan to change the order of business at council meetings, HERE. This codifies what has become the council's practice and is not a big deal. It does place the closed session BEFORE the regular meeting, which forces the council to work briskly and keeps them from making those important decisions - usually involving litigation - in the wee hours of the next day. It also clarifies what happens to items on the agenda that are not finished before the magic "witching hour" of 7:00, when they plan to begin Public Hearings. This resolution says that anything listed prior to Public Hearings - like Public Comments, for example - will be finished AFTER Old Business, but before New Business. This arbitrary rule about Public Hearings starting at 7:00 has always been a problem. It has made for herky-jerky meetings and, quite honestly, has not been uniformly enforced. At the last meeting, for example, the folks from Sakioka had to hang around until 10:30 before their brief item was heard by the council. In my view, the Public Hearings should remain where they are in the agenda schedule of events, but NOT be forced to begin at 7:00, which stifles the Public Comment segment. In fact, if they pass this resolution Tuesday it becomes effective immediately - with that meeting.
Also in the Consent Calendar are two more outsourcing Requests for Proposals (RFPs). They are for Payroll, HERE, and Information Technology, HERE. As a sidebar on this subject, last week, on Thursday, December 1st, all the employees who had previously received layoff notices received notification that those notices were extended - again. This time they are extended until March 10th - 51 weeks after the original debacle in which they were originally issued and Huy Pham leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall.
TEWINKLE PARK ATHLETIC COMPLEX TASK FORCE
Following the Public Hearings Old Business #1 is the appointments to the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex Task Force, HERE. This was continued from a previous meeting because, apparently, there were insufficient quality candidates who applied - at least in the eyes of some council members. This astounded me at the time, since they really only had to appoint one member and an alternate and had five candidates - each of whom applied on time - from which to choose. Among those was Gordon Bowley - a man who is deeply immersed in most youth sports programs in town. It's going to be VERY interesting to see who gets appointed to this task force.
RIGHEIMER'S CHARTER CITY SCHEME
The very last item on the agenda is the discussion of Jim Righeimer's scheme to turn Costa Mesa into a Charter City. The staff report includes a pretty benign draft Charter - which appears to be designed to stifle criticism rather than to reshape city government. The conversation on this one should be VERY interesting. The report includes a schedule of meetings to provide public input on this issue. In my opinion, this is the WRONG way to be going about this change. I'm NOT saying we should not convert to being a Charter City, but we SHOULD NOT rush the process. We should, as every credible source available tells us, select a Charter Commission, who would calmly deliberate and create a Charter for Costa Mesa. What will happen, though, is that the City Council, driven by the political ambitions of one man, will cobble together a Charter that will permit way, way too much opportunity for mischief. Yes, Righeimer predicted some might conjure up the specter of another Bell - appropriately so. Bell converted to a Charter City and then was pillaged by unscrupulous administrators and council members. Only 400 people voted in the election to convert Bell to a Charter City, for goodness sake!
STAFF REPORT PROVIDES GOOD INFORMATION
The staff report, HERE, includes some excellent background information, including easy-to-use charts comparing General Law cities to Charter cities. The proposed time line of events is VERY aggressive. It begins with the council meeting Tuesday where the initial discussion and public comments will be heard.
- On December 6th the report on possible City Charter will be discussed and public comment will be taken
- On December 13th a notice will be posted for the mandatory First Hearing, on January 3rd.
- On the 3rd - the first council meeting of the year and following City Hall being closed for a week for the holidays - the council will look at potential provisions to include in a Charter, take more public comment and may vote on a first draft!
- On January 10th a Town Hall meeting will be held to present charter information.
- On January 17th the notice for the second mandatory hearing on February 7th will be posted.
- On January 24th and/or 31st more Town Hall meetings MAY be held.
- On February 2nd the Second Hearing on the charter will be held.
- On February 14th another Town Hall meeting MAY be held.
- On February 28th a SPECIAL MEETING will be held to vote on the resolution directing that the Charter be submitted to the Voters.
As I've said many times, this process is being rushed by this council to the detriment of the future of our city and all the residents, current and future. IF converting Costa Mesa to a Charter City is a good idea, then it's an idea that SHOULD NOT BE RUSHED.
Wednesday the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission and the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission will hold a special joint meeting in Costa Mesa Conference Room 1A at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the plans for the re-landscaping of Irvine Avenue between 17th Street and 19th Street. You can read the agenda item HERE. This, as you are aware, is a result of the removal of 104 eucalyptus trees following the death of a driver when one of the trees fell on her car a few months ago. The hour of the meeting is unusual for any meeting in Costa Mesa, so make a note.