Saturday, January 15, 2011

Puckett's Odyssey Continues

MARC PUCKETT LANDS IN APPLE VALLEY
Thanks for the heads-up by an anonymous commenter (you will recall I DO NOT post anonymous comments - make up a name!) who provided me with this link that tells us that Costa Mesa's former Finance Director, Marc Puckett, has landed another job - this time in the high desert community of Apple Valley.


PETALUMA PIT STOP

You will recall that Puckett's odyssey recently took him to the bay area community of Petaluma, where he spent only a couple months before bailing out, apparently citing "family issues". According to a newspaper article at the time, his last day was to be January 7, 2011.

STARTED NEW JOB LAST WEEK
The article about him joining Apple Valley as its Finance Director says he started that job on January 5th. Apple Valley has a population of around 73,000 people and is presently working with a budget of $105 million.

WE WISH HIM WELL
I'm glad Puckett found a new job and hope this one works out for him. He's a very talented man, despite the circumstances surrounding his departure from Costa Mesa 18 months ago.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

NMUSD Meetings Now On Streaming Video

TIRED OF FOOTBALL?
Just in case you've got nothing else to do this weekend - after watching the four football games on Saturday and Sunday, I mean - here's some information you may find useful.



NMUSD MEETINGS ON STREAMING
VIDEO
Dane Bora and Bra
d Long, stalwarts of CMTV, have arranged for Newport Mesa Unified School District board meetings and Study Sessions to be available for viewing via streaming video on the city web site. In my view, this is a terrific community service and will, hopefully, bring school board activities into more homes in our communities.

FIRST TWO
The first two entries are the Study Session, HERE, and the formal Board Meeting, HERE, from January 11, 2011.



HUBBARD "CITY TALK" INTERVIEW

Because of the recent int
ense interest in the extracurricular activities of Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard, NMUSD Superintendent of Schools, I thought it might be worthwhile for you to view his City Talk interview from October 9. 2009, HERE. No, he doesn't make clever sexual jokes... sorry.

AND FOR SOME PERSPECTIVE...

And, for some perspective, I think
you'll appreciate the City Talk interview with Principals Kirk Bauermeister and Phil D'Agostino conducted October 6, 2010, HERE.





FOLEY COMING UP ON "CITY
TALK"
Coming up soon on City Talk will be a half-hour with Katrina Foley, whose presence on the School Board is sure to change the tempo, at least. That should be available for viewing on streaming video and in the normal rotation on CMTV next week... I'll let you know.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Costa Mesa Police Department Needs Your Help

CMPD ASKS FOR HELP
The Costa Mesa Police Department is asking for the public's help as they try to solve a murder that happened in our city recently.



NEW YEAR'S PARTY KILLING AT THE COSTA MESA HILTON

In a press release issued today, the CMPD requests your assistance if you have any cell
phone videos of the incident that occurred just before 2:00 a.m. on January 1, 2011 at the Costa Mesa Hilton Hotel, 3050 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa.

ROBERT SICKLES

Robert Sick
les was stabbed to death at 1:57 a.m. New Year's Day while at a New Year's party at that location.

CONTACT INVESTIGATORS
Please contact the investigators on this case:
Detective Kevin Condon - 715-754-5361, or
Sergeant Ed Everett - 714-754-5395

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hubbard Racy Emails Part Of A Pattern?

I'VE WAITED TO COMMENT, BUT...
I've avoided commenting much about the brewing scandal involving Newport-Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard because his case is in the initial stages in the courts. I've felt, and still do feel, that he should be given the opportunity to clear his name in court. He is charged with two felonies, apparently for the misuse of public funds while in his previous job as Superintendent of Schools in Beverly Hills. His co-defendant is a woman who worked with him in Beverly Hills, Karen Anne Christiansen.

REGISTER PUBLISHES EMAILS
Yesterday Tony Saavedra in his OC Watchdog column in the Orange County Register, HER
E, published emails obtained through a Public Records Request that covered several years of a relationship Hubbard and Christiansen had both while working together and afterward, when Hubbard began working in the Newport-Mesa job. Those emails can only be described as graphic, sexual in nature and indicative of just what might have prompted Hubbard to bestow public funds on a woman with whom he had a less-than-professional relationship.

DAILY PILOT QUOTES SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS
Joseph Serna in the Daily Pilot published a follow-on article this evening in which he refers to the Register article and also quotes the emails. You can read it HERE. His subtitle online is quite bothersome to me. It reads, "Exchanges between the Newport-Mesa schools chief and his former subordinate in Beverly Hills doesn't bother some on the school board." What I want to know is, why not?

FLUOR - "THEY'RE CONSENTING ADULTS"
Serna quotes long, long time school board member Martha Fluor as stating, "I take it with a grain of salt. They are consenting adults." Later in the piece Serna quotes her as saying, in response to some specific references Hubbard apparently made to Christiansen in emails, "So, you know, he's a very affectionate person and expresses him and does say some witty things, and that's the type of relationship when you're working with a superintendent. You develop a bond of trust and closeness that's not necessarily sexual." Is that right, Mrs. Fluor? Really?


SCHOOL BOARD TOO BLASE'

It astounds me that elected leaders on the school board have taken such a blase' attitude about this issue. I was willing to wait until the outcome of the legal actions before commenting, but the release of the emails by the media changed that. They c
learly show a man who was using his position of power in a relationship with a subordinate and it resulted in the misuse of public funds. I mean, the articles imply that he paid off his girlfriend with a $20,000 stipend because he had been unkind to her while she was grieving. Geez!

REMEMBER STEPHEN WAGNER?
If the quotations attributed to Fluor and to other members of the school board in Serna's article are accurate, it causes me much concern for the diligence of those members. We have only
to recall the pathetic case of Stephen Wagner, the former finance director for the school district, who embezzled nearly $4 million back in the late 80s and early 90s, was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison, where he died at age 43 of AIDS-related causes. Daily Pilot columnist Bill Lobdell reminded us of that case recently, HERE.

ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH - AGAIN?
If the school board is dozing at the switch again, then the voters need to remember this at the next election. This will certainly generate more comments about some of the trustees on the board overstaying their welcome. The way Fluor shrugs this off with a kind of "boys will be boys" comment makes me question her judgment. It seems to me that it's about time for someone to take a good, hard look at Superintendent Hubbard's activities since his appointment four years ago. Was his lapse of judgment in Beverly Hills a one-time thing or part of a pattern of inappropriate, and perhaps criminal, behavior? It seems unlikely that the school board is interested in taking the lead. If they won't, who will? I'd really like to hear what School Board President Walt Davenport has to say about this...

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Budget and Council Priorities

LASTED LONGER THAN EXPECTED
Tuesday afternoon's Costa Mesa City Council Study Session, which normally would run for a couple hours beginning at 4:30, ran an hour longer, but it didn't seem that long to those of us who stuck around until the bitter end.


USUAL SUSPECTS GRIPE

Following public comments in which one local gadfly echoed his recent blog rant about the city "giving field use
for free" to groups from outside the city (Santa Ana) and self-anointed budget expert Judi Berry challenging Sales Tax numbers and observing the early draw-down of the City Attorney budget ( she speculated it was because of all the "secret meetings" held during the year), City Manager Allan Roeder took the lead on the first topic - the budget. At least there was not a single mention of "dog poop" bags - a thread that permeated the last council meeting.

ROEDER AND YOUNG LEAD THE BUDGET DISCUSSION
Roeder told us that the numbers about to presented was "the most positive news we've had in some time", but that we shouldn't make any long-term assumptions based on these short term results. He then listed three areas where the City Council and staff must pay particular attention: Infrastructure Reinvestment; Facilities Reinvestment and IT (Information Technology) Reinvestment. He detailed what he meant by each, then passed off the baton to Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young to provide the overview of our current financial status. I covered much of his report in an earlier entry, HERE. You can review that if you like. Suffice it to say that we're not in nearly as deep difficulty as might have been anticipated six months ago. Based on a solid plan, implemented more than two years ago and massaged as circumstances dictated, plus the cooperation of the employee associations, we are within $1.5 million of having a balanced budget. That goal is within reach if certain assumptions about revenue streams and impact of other cost savings measures come to fruition.

HATCH DEFINED HIS JOB

Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch was a major participant in these discussions, too. He is, as Mayor Gary Monahan described him,
"City Manager-in-waiting", and certainly seems primed for the job. Since this was the first study session for the two newest members - Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger - Hatch took some time to define his view of the City Manager's office within city government, indicating that the office was responsible for Policy Formation, Implementation and Leadership. It appears to me that the transition from Roeder to Hatch is going to be nearly seamless.

RULES OF THE ROAD
Roeder, Hatch, City Attorney Kim Barlow and City Clerk Julie Folcik then presented information to
the council dealing with the "rules of the road". Items discussed included: Motions, Appeals, Rehearings and Rules of Order; Regulations regarding Regular Meetings, Special Meetings, Emergency Meetings, Closed Sessions and Study Sessions; Overview of the Agenda Process; Placing Items on the Council Agenda; Processing Constituent Requests and Complaints.

COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS
Monahan then reviewed the
committee assignments for each council member. The list is long, but will soon be available for review on the city web site.

PRIORITIES
A highlight of the meeting fo
r me was the discussion of Setting Priorities and Strategic Planning. Roeder and Hatch led this discussion, with Roeder setting the tone by indicating that the city needs to have a well-defined list of priorities on which to base all other actions, including budgeting. After the discussion Monahan summed up the issues to be discussed further at either a regular council meeting or a future study session. Other council members chimed in to reinforce this list with further comments. Those were, in no particular order:


1 - Establishment of a 5-year Plan.
2 - Creation of a Budget Subcommittee (which may include resident members).
3 - Establishment of an Economic Development
sub-committee, to flesh-out the needs and methods to get there.
4 - A complete review and re-organization of Policies and Procedures.
5 - A review of our Information Technology (IT) organization and policies with a goal if improving productivity and service.
6 - A review of Park use and Recreation Program
s, including Youth Sports.
7 - Moving forward with the Homeless Task Force.
8 - Reviewing the "Motel" problem - the drug and crime issues which seem to surround some of our seedier motels. Some suggested this be included in the Homeless Task Force - an idea which was rejected.
9 - General Plan Updat
e, which is due this year.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

Observations from the meeting tonight:

Steve Mensinger knew enough to keep a low profile this time around.

Jim Righeimer set the tone for further moves on the budget when he used such expressions as "budget trickery" when referring to the Equipment Replacement policy and pulling numbers out of the air while trying to define the "New Normal" when referring to the budget. He also cut Bobby Young off when the answers he was giving to specific questions didn't fit his agenda. We're going to have to keep a close eye on him in the future since it's clear that patience is not one of his attributes.

There are many "great unknowns" when it comes to our budget. Among them is the impact of any plan Governor Jerry Brown may have for pensions state-wide and what might be an attack on Redevelopment Agency funds. As is always the case, we are very much at the mercy of the bureaucrats in Sacramento when it comes to our budget matters.

The passage of Measure "L", the 2% increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), looks like a pretty good idea. Revenues from that area are up and are projected to rise even more. This was long-overdue. Now, about that Business License Fee...

Although we do not yet have the Christmas numbers, it appears that Sales Tax revenues are up, particularly from South Coast Plaza. Those numbers will be available late in March - they trail by a quarter. Still, projections are
solidly positive.

MEETING SCHEDULE

This meeting will become part of the viewing rotation on CMTV, Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT UVerse. It will also be available for viewing on streaming video on the city website. The next council meeting is next Tuesday, the 18th, following the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday, the 17th. No agenda is yet available for that meeting, but it will likely include some of the issues discussed this afternoon and evening, which will make it worth watching.




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Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Week Ahead, And Tucson

AH, WHAT GREAT FOOTBALL!
I hope you all had a great weekend. I sure did! Any weekend with as many good football games on the old "telly" is a good time for me.


PLANNING CO
MMISSION MEETING MONDAY
This week sees a new configuration on the Planning Commission for it's meeting on
Monday, with newbie Rob Dickson beginning his four-year term, filling the hole created by the departure of Jim Righeimer. He'll join Colin McCarthy, Sam Clark and Jim Fitzpatrick for a four-person commission until the other newbie, Edward Salcedo, is sworn in next month.

CAN HE OR CAN'T HE?
Speaking of Jimmy Fitzy, it's still unclear whether he will actually be able to serve both on the Planning Commission and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board, to which he was elected in November. According to City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow at last week's City Council meeting when responding to a question from Wendy Leece, it's not her call. She did say that if challenged and it was determined that Jimmy Fitzy cannot serve on both organizations simultaneously, that he would have to resign from one of them. Actually, if he were to be required to leave one of them today, before he's sworn in again for his new term next month, he would have to resign from the Planning Commission. However, if he is challenged and forced to resign AFTER he's re-sworn in on the commission, he would have to resign from the Sanitary District Board. I know of no challenge being made at this time.

SMALL AGENDA = SHORT MEETING - MAYBE
The meeting on Monday should be a short one, with only a few items for the commission to consider. That's good, because oth
erwise it might distract me from the National Championship game between Auburn and Oregon. Go, Ducks!

COUNCIL BUDGET REVIEW STUDY SESSION TUESDAY

Tuesday, as mentioned in my previous post, the City Council will hear a report on our current financial situation during their Study Session. This meeting has all the components to be very interesting, particularly if Jim Righeimer and his new pal on the dais, Steve Mensinger, are unwilling to accept good news for what it is. I'm sure there will be more than a few people eager to see their reaction.

TUCSON - A SAD TIME FOR US ALL
Before I close this po
st I want to express my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those innocent people gunned down in Tucson over the weekend and to those who were injured and survived. It's been impossible to turn on any news program without seeing re-run after re-run of the scene of the carnage and the face of the alleged perpetrator plastered across the screen.

WE KNOW THAT AREA WELL...

We know Tucson more than a little. We have several relatives who attended the
University of Arizona and have friends who are currently being treated at the University Medical Center - the site of the heroic surgery that appears to have saved Representative Gabrielle Giffords' life and the lives of at least a half-dozen more victims. We have driven past the site of the massacre several times in the past. Based on the most recent reports, any one of us could have been caught in that horrific event if we were stopping in to buy a gallon of milk at the Safeway store. It certainly does make one pause and reflect a little about the deranged wackos among us.

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