Friday, February 18, 2011

Orange County Fire Authority Proposal

LOOK FOR IT ON THE CITY WEB SITE
This afternoon the City of Costa Mesa sent out a press release announcing that the proposal from the Orange County Fire Authority to provide fire and related services to the city is now available for viewing on the city web site. I could not find it, but have since seen a copy and will give you a quick summary here. The proposal should be available to you soon.

INTERESTING, BUT STILL INCOMPLETE

First, let me say that I'm not a fire safety expert by any stretch of the imagination. And, despite some interesting numbers on the proposal, there are still some expensive issues to be negotiated between the OCFA and The City - like the required improvements to the fire stations, for example.

3 PROPOSALS

The OCFA proposal presents three options. They also presented the current costs of our fire operations for comparison. That number is $20,255,086 with a staff deployment of 29 personnel.

The three options and their costs are:

Option #1 - $18,157,231 - 25 personnel

Option #2 - $17,186,860 - 24 personnel - close Station #6

Option #3 - $16,483, 219 - 23 personnel - close Station #2

START-UP COSTS
The proposal will include one-time start-up costs of either $729,444 or $816,106, depending on the option chosen.

TRANSFERRED PERSONNEL

Regardless which option considered the proposal transfers 81 sworn and 2 non-sworn personnel.

SAVINGS
Annual savings are projected as:

Option #1 - $2,097,855

Option#2 - $3,068,116

Option #3 - $3,771,867

Projected savings over the first 5 years of the 20 year agreement are $26,279,844

Increases are capped at 4.5% annually.

Facilities will be leased to the CFO for $1.00 per year.

52 PAGE REPORT
That's the quick version of the 52 page report. I suggest you check the city web site for the actual report and do your own analysis. In my view, much still needs to be done before anyone can make the best decision for our city in this matter. As the old saying goes, "The devil is in the details". It's going to take some serious analysis beyond simply the numbers to determine if this a good deal for our city. Most cities in Orange County receive their fire protection from the Orange County Fire Authority.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Of An Eagle And Senior Fund Raiser

ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME!
(photo courtesy of the Daily Pilot)
In case you've missed it, a group of eleven intrepid local mariners have launched themselves on the adventure of a lifetime. Earlier this month these hearty souls joined the Alaska Eagle, Orange Coast College's 65 foot aluminum sail training vessel, for one of seven legs of a trip that began last October and will end back home in Newport Harbor in June. On this leg the crew will head for the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.

FOLLOW THE ALASKA EAGLE IN THE DAILY PILOT

You can follow the adventures as chronicled by Brad Avery, director of OCC's School of Sailing & Seamanship, in his week
ly reports in the Daily Pilot. The first three can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

*****

SENIOR CENTER FUND RAISER AT RUBY'S THURSDAY
Just a little reminder. Thursday (today or tomorrow, depending on when you're reading this) the Costa Mesa Senior Center will be holding a fund raiser at Ruby's Diner on East 17th Street from 7:00 a.m. -9:00 p.m. Print and take this flier with you and present it to your server and the Senior Center will receive 20% of your bill as a much-needed contribution.





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Eagle Shot Down - And That's Not All

WHAT'S THAT UP IN THE SKY? YOU'RE RIGHT - NOTHING!
To the surprise of nobody in the auditorium, last night the Costa Mesa City Council voted, 4-1(Wendy Leece voted NO), to dissolve the Airborne Law Enforcement Program (ABLE) despite broad public support for the program and the presentation by Commander Tim Starn which outlined several alternatives to grounding the helicopters.

"GHETTO BIRD" G
RIPES MIXED WITH KUDOS
Before a cr
owd of more than 100 concerned residents the council listened patiently as eighteen of their number presented their views. Most spoke with passion in favor of ABLE, describing personal anecdotes, quantifying the value of the helicopters, quoting statistics and expressing fear for their safety should ABLE be folded up. A few spoke in favor of ending ABLE, citing the noise created by the "Ghetto Bird" as it flew over their mostly Westside neighborhoods. I found myself smiling because it's very likely they will be among those to first suffer from the absence of the helicopter program.

POTENTIAL CHOPPING BLOCK VICTIMS I
NTRODUCED
Officer Jason Chamness, the new President of the Costa Mesa Police Association, introduced the four officers who would be cut loose if ABLE is shut down. Each were highly trained men, all of whom had three years or more with the city. None of that made any difference - the majority on the council already had it's mind made up. ABLE, which has served our community and those of our neighboring cities for more than four decades, is now history. If nothing happens between now and the end of June to change things, the helicopters and equipment used to maintain them will be sold, the four staffers who are Costa Mesa employees will be absorbed back into the CMPD and layoffs will occur.

MONAHAN - SAVE RESERVISTS, DUMP TRAINED OFFICERS
According to the city staff, when the four pilots return to the CMP
D they will exercise bumping rights - which will ripple down through the organization. We were told that before the four officers mentioned above are bounced the city would first dump the six reserve officers currently working in the department. Later Mayor Gary Monahan asked the City Attorney - Harold Potter sitting in for the resigned Kim Barlow - to investigate a way for the reserve officers to be spared. While I understand the emotion of his question, I found it curious that the council majority is willing to cut loose four highly trained sworn officers and retain the reservists.

THE THINNEST OF THREADS...

In an effort to possibly save ABLE, the staff was directed to continue the overtures already begun with the county and other cities to investigate a regional airborne law enforcement entity. According to Starn, the current joint powers authority is designed to be the framework for such an effort - it has the capability to fold in other cities. Unfortunately, for any such organization to be formed in time to save ABLE actions would have to take place with almost light speed - something that almost never happens in government at any level. If progress is not made, ABLE will be shuttered the end of June.

TWO COP SLOTS ABANDONED

The council then voted
to abandon the two police officer positions that have remained open for four months. It was not a good evening to be a Costa Mesa police officer last night. And, during all this anti-police rhetoric absolutely no mention was made of the fact that we're still paying Police Chief Chris Shawkey while he's on Administrative Leave. His package is worth over $300,000 per year - enough for a couple police officers.

FEES HIKED, FIELDS TO BE RESTED
The council also voted to significantly increase the rental of utility and ball fields and, in a subsequent, separate item, agreed to "rest" some fields, which will result in a loss of revenue in excess of $18,000 per year.


"COST
SHARING" PASSED WITH URGENCY
The council gave second reading to the ordina
nces that authorized the amendment to certain contracts with employee associations that provided for "Cost Sharing", which had been previously negotiated. One was an "urgency ordinance", which permits this issue to become effective today.

HATCH CONTRACT APP
ROVED - EXECUTIVE SEVERANCE POLICY EXAMINED
Three items involving City Manager-in-waiting Thomas Hatch were heard last night. The first was the approval of his contract - the first of such for a City Manager in Costa Mesa's history. However, most other cities in the county follow this practice. Hatch will get a nice raise and benefit package and enough severance, should that ever become necessary, to keep his nose firmly planted on the grindstone. As a result of his compensation package negotiation there will be a modification of the city council policy 300-2 regarding Executive Severance.

HATCH "CEO" - MENSINGER'S ACT ALREADY GETTING OLD
And, finally, there was unelected co
uncilman Steve Mensinger's proposal to change Hatch's title to Chief Executive Officer (CEO). This is an unnecessary bit of grandstanding on the part of Mensinger, which he acknowledged was purely symbolic. When Wendy Leece inquired about the amount of legal staff time necessary for this item, Potter responded that it was a "no-brainer" - it probably took less than an hour. In his typical flippant, in-you-face style, Mensinger asked what it cost and said he'd write a check for it. We're only a couple months into his term and this attitude is already getting mighty old. And, even worse, history shows us that, based on his tour on the Planning Commission, he's going to get even more cocky and condescending as time goes on.

HATCH GETS BUDGET F
OR CONSULTING SERVICES
The council approved a
n adjustment in this year's budget of $200,000 for consultant services for a city-wide organizational review. Hatch laid out just how that money was earmarked:

$34,000 - Police Department - ($24,000 + add'l expertise $10,000)
$15,000 - Finance Department for 5-year plan
$30,000 - Economic Developm
ent Plan
$20,000 - Enhanced Communication
$50,000 - Redesign of Web Site
$50,000 - Additional consulting (OCFA RFP, etc.)

Total - $199,000

Certainly
, in light of the staff reductions in several departments, including the City Manager's Office, this kind of expertise is essential to craft timely plans in response to the impatient city council's objectives and timetables. If no other cuts are made to the budget, or if the revenue stream is not greater than anticipated, the city will end the fiscal year with a deficit of $1.6 million.

"SEE WHAT I DID?"

The council also passed another "Mensinger Resolution" - this one to proclaim that Costa Mesa encourages local businesses to hire Costa Mesa Youth. This is just another merit badge on his "Hey, look at me!" sash - nice, but not necessary

WORRIED ABOUT ABLE'S DEMISE
I cam
e away from the meeting last night unsettled for several reasons. The first, of course, is the demise of the ABLE program and the impact its loss will have on the Costa Mesa Police Department. This program has been the model after which all other municipal helicopter programs have been designed. If one believes, as I do, that helicopters are "force multipliers" in local law enforcement, then - as former mayor Sandra Genis said last night - the closure of ABLE will likely mean more than simply the loss of four airborne officers... it will mean a SIGNIFICANT diminishing of public safety in our city.

DISREGARDING THE RULES
I'm also co
ncerned about the cavalier way some members of this council, including Monahan, seem willing to ignore or abandon council policies and/or practices when they're inconvenient. Each of those issues were hashed out and refined over long periods of time. This council - and you will recall that I predicted this - is willing to run roughshod over us all. Righeimer and Mensinger are impatient guys, used to answering to no one. It's clear now that they intend to overlay their management style on our city regardless the damage it will do. If they had not already pre-judged ABLE they might have read the staff report, which gave them a way to balance this year's budget AND still retain ABLE.

DON'T CONFUSE THEM WITH FACTS

I'm concerned about the implementation of the so-called "working groups" - two-person teams of council members charged with investigating several issue in the city. This is the first meeting where the results of those groups can be seen and it raises concerns in my mind - and others with whom I've discussed it - about Brown Act violations. Clearly, some on this council are not going to be swayed by the voices of the residents of this city - they already have their minds made up and they are not going to let facts nor residents opinions get in the way.

TWO-FACED
Finally, I was very distressed by the implication expressed by Mensinger and Righeimer r
egarding the previous - and current - management of this city. I heard Mensinger quite overtly criticize the management several times, indicating that he "had to sit four years" and watch the previous council make mistakes. He implied that retiring City Manager Allan Roeder was a culprit in this problem while smiling down at him from the dais and saying "no offense". He's proving to be a guy who will smile and shake your hand with one hand and stab you in the back with the other.

FEELING ROEDER'S PAIN
I know from having watched Roeder in action that he did all he could to advise previous councils about their budgeting practices. Every year he'd tell them that the use of fund balance to balance the budget was not a solution, it was the result of them not making the hard choices - doing their jobs. I don't know how Roeder feels about this, but I suspect these next couple weeks - he retires as of March 4th - will be mighty long and painful. It's truly sad that his long and illustrious career and his tireless dedication to this city for three dozen years will be tainted by egomanical political hacks on the council as he departs. He probably should have retired in December...










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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Planning Commission Set, Council Disassembling Continues Tonight

NEW COMMISSION SEATEDOK, so we now have a full Planning Commission. Last night the final three were sworn-in, so now Colin McCarthy, Sam Clark, Rob Dickson, Ed Salcedo and Jim (Sancho) Fitzpatrick will guide the planning process for the next two years.

MC CARTHY AS PLANNING COMMISSION CHAIR
The election of officers was an interesting sideshow. Clark, as
current Vice Chair, conducted the proceedings to elect a chairman. Fitzy nominated McCarthy, then Clark nominated himself and found himself odd-man-out when the vote was taken. McCarthy was elected Chairman, 4-1. Clark voted NO.

CLARK CONTINUES AS VICE CHAIR

Then McCarthy moderated the selection of the Vice Chairman. Dickson nominated Clark and McCarthy nominated Fitzy. When the Clark vote was taken he was elected 3-2, with McCarthy and Fitzy voting NO. This was the beginning of a tough night for Fitzy. Clark is one of the last vestiges of the old "Improvers" left in government and the intention of the NEW Jim Righeimer-led power structure is clear - to shove him aside. Steve Mensinger already let him know where he stands by appointing him to the short term seat last month.

FITZY'S SURPRISE

When it came time for the consideration of the first public hearing on th
e Irvine Company property at the Pacific Arts Plaza (formerly Two Town Center) Dickson had to excuse himself because he had a conflict - his employer has a business relationship with the Irvine Company. As he was about to depart Fitzy stopped him and wanted clarification from Tom Duarte, the Assistant City Attorney. Duarte confirmed Dickson's conflict of interest. Fitzy got a very furrowed brow and, once the item was read into the minutes, asked for 30 seconds to confer with Duarte. McCarthy, instead, called a five minute break. When they returned Fitzy excused himself - seems he also had a conflict. This was very strange, indeed. One had the impression that Fitzy was deep in introspection, contemplating other instances where he may have conflicts in the past. We'll never know.

ABLE, 2 COPS, HATCH AND MENSINGER'S "CEO"

Tonight I expect there will be a packed house at the City Council meeting as we hear, among other things, about the demise of the ABLE helicopter program, the abandonment of two open police officer positions, Tom Hatch's contract, executive severance and Mensinger's hair-brained scheme to begin calling the City Manager the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

MORE RUMBLINGS

And, as this turmoil continues to bubble I hear more rumblings about pending departures of senior staffers, sick of the abuse and the uncertainty of the future for them in our city. This is truly sad and it makes me wonder what it's going to take to wake up the residents of this city...

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Of Planners and Despoilers

TWO VERY BUSY EVENINGS AHEAD
This week is going to be a very interesting one for the City of Costa Mesa. Monday the new Planning Commission meets for their first meeting of this tour and will elected a new Chairman and Vice Chairman to guide it for the next couple years. Tuesday is the second City Council meeting of the month with lots of watershed issues on the agenda.

PLANNING COMMISSION AGENDA
Following the election of officers the Planning Commissioners will hear staff reports on Code Enforcement Updates (HERE); 2010 Annual General Plan Review(HERE) and the 2009 Development Phasing and Performance Monitoring Program(HERE). After that they will hold four public hearings that include a review of the Development Agreement for Pacific Arts Plaza master plan(HERE); a request for a time extension on an East 23rd Street condominium development(HERE); a time extension of a project at 3003 Newport Blvd.(HERE) and, the most interesting one of all, former mayor Peter Buffa's pitch for the Sutra Lounge(HERE) at Triangle Square to abandon it's food service and convert itself into strictly a night club and booze dispensary.

WRAPPING IT UP

They'll wrap up the evening by hearing a staff report on Arterial Wall Standards(HERE) and discuss the 2010 Planning Commission Design Awards and Mesa Green Design Awards Selection(HERE).


TUESDAY PROMISES THE MOST FIR
EWORKS
The City Council will consider many issues cr
itical to the future of our city - many of them on the negative side of the ledger.

DRAMATIC FEE INCREASES FOR FIELD USE
Right off the bat, so to speak, the council will consider a proposal to dramatically increase fees charged and new fee categories for the rental of utility fields and ball fields. (HERE) This may generate a lot of interest among the various user groups since they will be hit hard by these new fee increases.

COST SHARING VOTE AGAIN
They then vote again on the prev
iously approved "cost sharing" agreement(HERE) with the local safety and miscellaneous employee plans. There's no way they will vote to disapprove this issue - it would be much too costly for the city at this juncture and breaks faith with the employees of this city. If passed this will require an "urgency ordinance", as well.

HATCH CONTRACT TO BE APPROVED
The council will then vote in open session on the employee agreement with new City Manager Tom Hatch, which will take effect on March 5, 2011, one day after Allan Roeder retires. You can read the staff report (HERE). In a nutshell, Hatch will be paid an annual salary of $207,288 and will have a package, including the salary, worth $274,707. His compensation will be at a step lower than what was budgeted for Roeder. And before everybody goes nuts about these numbers, based on recent City Manager salary numbers around the county these look just right, if not slightly low.

WORKING GROUP REPORTS
Next on the agenda will be reports from the council working groups, although at the time I
write this there are no staff reports available. Those group reports are:

1- Economic Development and Development
2- Sports and Recreation
3- Policies, Procedures, and General Plan/Circulation
4- Budget and Capital Improvem
ents
5- Motel Issues

NEW BUSINESS IS NEXT
New Business will include many items of extreme importance to the future of our city. I suspect several of these items will generate a lot of discussion and have very significant community input.


ATHLETIC FIELD USE AND ALLOCATION
Council wil
l consider a staff request for modification of the current field use and allocation policy, (HERE), to include specific "rest times" for certain playing fields.

$200,000 BUDGET FOR A CONSULTANT
The council will consider a $200,000 budget adjustment so the city can hire a consultant for the city-wide organizational review(HERE). Having watched Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer in recent meetings, I assume he's going to be looking for someone who will affirm his belief that we can outsource every city function and thereby avoid all this nasty discussion about pensions. We'll see.

DUMPING ABLE
Based on the staff report (HERE), the council majority
will likely vote to dissolve the ABLE helicopter program as soon as possible. I watched the discussion during the recent study session and have read the new staff report, which includes new information in an attempt to save ABLE and/or offer alternatives to flat-out shutting it down. I think ABLE is toast at this point and I, for one, will not sleep well knowing this marvelous, forty-year law enforcement tool is no longer available to us.

DROPPING TWO POLICE OFFICERS
T
he council will almost certainly follow through and eliminate two police officer positions that have been open for several months. (HERE) This move, plus the dissolution of ABLE, certainly does raise questions about this council's position on public safety in our city.


HIRE COSTA MESA YOUTH!?

This is a strange one. (HERE) Unelected councilman Steve Mensinger appar
ently feels it's important for our city council to proclaim that local businesses should hire Costa Mesa youth. Clearly, he has way too much time on his hands these days - more on that later. Is it REALLY necessary to issue this proclamation? Doesn't the staff have plenty of real work to do these days without this kind of fluff? Good grief!

EXECUTIVE SEVERANCE
Apparently Hatch's contract is at
odds with the current policy about Executive Severance so the City Attorney and City Manager felt it was time to re-visit that policy.(HERE) OK, if you say so...


CITY CEO? C'MON, MAN!
Unelected councilman Mensinger, in another example of a guy with too much t
ime on his hands, ginned up this scheme to change the title of the City Manager to Chief Executive Officer. (HERE) In my view this is a bit of superfluous fluff designed to give Mensinger a reason to say, "Hey, look what I did!" instead of being an actual, concrete improvement to anything in our city. This is unnecessary and, to use an Allan Mansoorism, silly. What are they going to call the new Assistant Tom Hatch hires to replace himself, Assistant Chief Executive Officer? C'mon, Steve. There are many more important issues to be considered instead of this bit of window-dressing. Just leave it alone, for goodness sake! Geez!

PAY ATTENTION!
At the
end of the meeting each council member will present his or her comments and/or suggestions. You will recall this used to be done at the beginning of the meeting, when most residents were in attendance. By moving this to the caboose of the meetings there's a real temptation for some council members to "sneak" new schemes into the mix for future meetings with very few people knowing about them. Now, even the members of the media will have departed to meet deadlines. So, I caution you to watch the tape replay of this if you don't watch the meeting live, or to watch the streaming video to see what your leaders are up to next. Don't blink...

AND, ONE MORE THING... NO MORE "ANONYMOUS"

In the past couple weeks I've permitted a few comments labeled as
"anonymous", contrary to my stated policy and belief that comment threads are just to difficult to follow if we have a couple people using that moniker simultaneously. Since it is EASY to conjure up a moniker to use when commenting here I assume those who choose to use "anonymous" are just plain lazy. So, after trying to give this situation a chance to work, we're back to the original rule - no "Anonymous" comments will be published. I'll just reject them as they arrive. On the off chance that you simply cannot figure out how to do it, send me an email and I'll reply back with specific instructions - I cannot believe that anyone smart enough to read this blog can't figure this out?


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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Senior Center Fund Raiser Thursday - All Day

GOOD CHOW ON THURSDAY
Our friends at the Costa Mesa Senior Center are having another of their yummy fund raisers to help them raise money to continue providing outstanding Senior Services to us older folks in the community.

RUBY'S HELPS OUT A
GAIN
This one is on Thursday, February 17th, at Ruby's Diner, 478 17th Street, Costa Mesa, 92627. (949) 646-7829 from 7:00 a.m until 9:00 p
.m. If you buy a meal there during that time AND PRESENT THE FLIER I've made available to you at the end of this post 20% of the food sales will be donated to the Costa Mesa Senior Center.

TRY MY PIE...
So, scoot on over to Ruby's on Thursday for a delicious meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner. Have one of their wonderful burgers and a shake. Try my favorite dessert - a piece of apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese melted on it. My mouth's watering as I type the words!

FEED YOURSELF AND HELP THE SENIORS

If you treat yourself to a great meal or snack on
Thursday you'll be helping our Senior Center meet their budget this year - one of the toughest years for fund raising in decades. See you there...





PRINT THIS FLIER OUT AND TAKE IT WITH YOU
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