Thursday, May 19, 2011

Homework For You

IT'S "SIMMER TIME" AGAIN
OK, campers, once again it's time to put the old Cauldron on simmer for a couple days. Because I will be otherwise occupied, any comments you fire at me will be slow in appearing, but I will eventually get to them. I know, I know - that delays the snappy repartee and the back-and-forth banter... such is life. In the meantime, here's something you can contemplate until I post again.

DOWNLOAD THE BUDGET INFORMATION
First, your assignment for the weekend is to go to the City of Costa Mesa web site, HERE, and download the 2011-2012 Preliminary Budget, (237 pages) the Preliminary Budget Summaries (67 pages) and Tom Hatch's memo on the budget. They are all easy to find - they're near the top of The Latest Headlines section of the home page. Take some time to review some of the numbers - start with Hatch's memo first. The "Summaries" are just the first section of the whole budget and might be easier to begin with. There are some handy definitions right at the beginning that will help you as you navigate through the subsequent pages.

NUMBERS ARE UP
You'll be able to see, in easy-to-understand graphics, where our money comes from and where it's going. Hatch's memo will tell you that the preliminary budget at this point is $117,705,201, up 7.5% from the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. In that memo you'll also learn that the Capital Budget being proposed (the big mantra for some on the City Council) is pegged at $10,449,122 - which represents a whopping 173.63% increase from the current year.

STAFFING NUMBERS

On page 51 of the budget you'll find that the authorized staffing numbers dropped from 611 in the FY 09-10 budget to 489 in this proposed budget. However, it's my understanding that our ACTUAL staff at this point is hovering just under 475, with more departures pending.

LOTS OF INFORMATION AVAILABLE
There's lots of good information available to you in these documents if you actually care to plow through them. The charts and graphs are great for us "image driven" folks... love those purty pitchurs! :-)



STUDY SESSION NEXT TUESDAY
Next Tuesday, May 24th, there will be a Study
Session in Council Chambers beginning at 4:30. Normally, a study session is expected to last a couple hours. Hatch, at the last council meeting, anticipated this meeting will last at least 3. That session will be the first of several necessary to hammer out the final product that must be balanced and approved before July 1st. Meetings are tentatively scheduled ever Tuesday from now until the end of June.

STUDY HARD...
There will be a pop
quiz when I post again.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Impact Of Monahan's Letter

FMW AND AB 35
Yesterday, while Richard Dick stood before the City Council to tell them of the evils of Jose Solorio's AB35, another part of the Facilities Management West team was dispatched to Sacramento to speak before the Assembly Appropriations Committee about the bill. Their PR folks were kind enough to send me a link to the text of the presentation their spokesman, Guy Lemmon, was planning to make before that committee Wednesday. You can read it in its entirety HERE.

MONAHAN'S LETTER
During the City Council meeting Tuesday evening several speakers
stepped up and criticized Mayor Gary Monahan for recently sending a letter on City letterhead, signed as Mayor, opposing AB35 and supporting the purchase of the Orange County Fair and Event Center by Facilities Management West. That letter, and his response to the criticism Tuesday evening, made it clear that he's a big supporter of Facilities Management West's bid. You can find his letter HERE.

"WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?"

Some of Monahan's supporters ask us "What's the
big deal? It's just his personal opinion." Well, a review of Lemmon's prepared text demonstrates for us EXACTLY what the problem is. Early in his text the following two paragraphs appear:

HERE'S THE "B
IG DEAL"
"We have recently distributed a letter to the committee regarding our opposition to AB35, the measure before you today. Our letter lays out in some detail the history of the transaction, and how the sale authorized by the state contains benefits far more lucrative and beneficial than what is vaguely promised in AB35.

In addition, the committee also received last week a letter of opposition from the city of Costa Mesa. The two letters combined express the details of the fiscal concerns of this bill."

COSTA MESA SUPPORT IMPLIED
Clearly, Lemmon's testimony is designed to imply that the City of Costa Mesa, based on Monahan's letter, officially opposes AB35 - which is absolutely not true. There has been NO official position taken on that bill in open meetings. However, the way this council operates, there may have been discussions in closed session and decisions made, but the law requires that such official positions be made in open session. No discussion of this issue has taken place and no vote of the council instructing Monahan, as mayor, to relay an official position has been taken.

TWO CONCLUSIONS
We are left with a couple conclusions to draw from this situation. First, Monahan went rogue - off on his own, without consultation or acquiescence of the majority on the council - and sent his letter to Sacramento. Or, second, his letter DOES represent the position of the majority on the City Council, but that it was arrived at secretly, in violation of The Brown Act. I see no other alternatives.

MONAHAN MUST RECANT

The voters of this city, with their overwhelming support of Measure C last year, made it clear that they oppose the sale of the Fairgrounds - to anyone. In my view Monahan should immediately send a letter of clarification to the Assembly Appropriations Committee informing them that his letter was his opinion ALONE and that it did NOT represent the official position of the majority of the City Council nor the residents of this city.

LATE BREAKING!
AB35 PASSES APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Late today Solorio's bill passed the Appropriations Committee on a 10-2 vote. Read about it HERE.

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Judge Denies TRO On Outsourcing


Costa Mesa Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell just issued the following press release:

Judge denies request for temporary restraining order
to stop Costa Mesa’s exploration of outsourcing


COSTA MESA, CALIF
.—Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann today denied a request by the Costa Mesa City Employees’ Assn. for a temporary restraining order to halt the City’s exploration of outsourcing many of its services.
The court also scheduled a hearing on July 5 at 3 p.m. to hear the association’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the City’s outsourcing process.

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Fireworks At Both Ends Of Council Meeting

SLEEP-DEPRIVED AND SHOWING IT
OK, I'm finally back... last night's council meeting was a long, long, long one - finally finishing up just after midnight. Ugh. For the most part it played to a packed house - standing room only in the beginning for the first few hours as many kids, large and small, patiently waited to address the Fireworks and ROCKS issues. You can view all 6+ hours of the streaming video HERE - bring a pillow.

BEVER AGAIN ABSENT
By the way, Eric Bever (Who?) was a no-show at this council meeting - again. Nobody missed him.


PASTOR MIKE PLEADS FOR DIVINE HELP
You knew it was going to b
e an interesting meeting when Pastor Mike Decker - pastor at Palm Harvest Church and the chaplain for the Costa Mesa Police Department - led the audience in his "moment of solemn expression". His prayer was long, passionate and pointed. I glanced up at the dais as he spoke, saw the "In God We Trust" sign behind the City Council and found myself thinking that I sure hoped Decker was well-connected "up there" - this city really needs the help.

GODDARD RECEIVES MAYOR'S AWARD
A high point for me was the awarding of the Mayor's Award for this month to community volunteer extraordinaire, Mary Ellen Goddard, for her more than three decades of service to the community. Her recognition was certainly appropriate and well-deserved.


HATCH INTRODUCED THE BUDGET

City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch introduced the preliminary 2011-2011 Municipal Budget. Copies of the document were handed out to the council and some staff members. It is now posted on the City web site, along with a Budget Summary and Hatch's cover letter. No discussion took place on the budget - it was not on the agenda - but the heavy lifting begins next Tuesday at the council study session. I will say that it's a bigger budget than last year, with more dollars allocated to Capitol projects. I'll dig into it later and report back.

MONAHAN AND MENSINGER IGNORE THE RULES
Then we got down
to business, but not before non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger leaned over to Mayor Gary Monahan and requested that the Fireworks issue be moved forward on the agenda. Normal practice would be for Monahan to ask the council to vote on that agenda shift, but he didn't. He and Mensinger just moved it. Why bother with the formalities of established protocol, right? I was not surprised - this is how they work - the rules are for others.

FOLSOM SETS MC CARTHY STRAIGHT
During Public Comments long time city mechanic Billy Folsom led off and hit it out of the park. He's been peeved at the cavalier attitude of Planning Commission Chairman and President of the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association, Colin McCarthy, who has been heard to disrespectfully shrug off the efforts of our maintenance staff, asking why Jiffy Lube can't change the oil on our fleet. Folsom told us all just what his job involves - the very least of which is changing oil. I cannot do justice to his presentation so I suggest you take three minutes to watch Folsom on the streaming video.

MORE MONAHAN RULE BENDING

The public comments segment was particularly interesting last night. One reason was that Monahan, again, ignored the rules and permitted speakers on the Fireworks issue speak during public comments instead of requiring them to wait until that agenda item was called. The first time it happened Wendy Leece tried to point it out - Monahan just waved her off and the flood gates were opened. I guess the rules are whatever he decides they are... more on that in a minute.

ABOUT LE TOURNEAU'S CONTRACT...
The issue of the exten
sion of the contract with Management Partners for Tammy LeTourneau's tour as Interim Administrative Services Director was plucked from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion. Speakers wondered why this was necessary and, in particular, if we're paying someone $145,000 for the rest of this calendar year, why are we also paying her a car allowance amounting to $500 per month? It was a great question that was NOT answered. At least nobody brought up the fact that LeTourneau had been fired from her job in Brea.

ADDERTON WANTS TO SAVE ABLE

One of the really
interesting events during public comments was the presentation by Peter Adderton, the businessman mentioned in an earlier post, who has a plan to salvage the ABLE helicopter program. He didn't give details of his plan, but indicated that he'd been working with the City of Newport Beach and asked the council to extend the ABLE program for two months so he could put his plan together. Only Wendy Leece picked up on that - see below.

FIREWORKS "ONLY" THREE DAYS...
The fireworks issue was discussed for a long time, with many more speakers addressing t
he issue. In the end, it was decided to continue to permit the sale of fireworks for 5 days, but the council changed the dates on which they may be legally discharged to July 2nd - July 4th - Saturday, Sunday and Monday. They dropped Friday as a legal date of discharge. Thanks for small favors - the weekend is still going to be a war zone.

BLOCK PARTIES ONLY ON THE 4TH
A speaker asked ab
out block parties, pointing out that the application process is underway now and wondering if neighborhoods will be permitted to hold block parties - and close their streets to do so - over the entire weekend. The council dodged this issue and, as it stands right now, block parties will be permitted ONLY on Monday, July 4th. So, if Aunt Mable and the cousins are driving down from Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday and want to participate in your neighborhood block party they're going to have to hang around until Monday. Lucky you.

ROCKS PROGRAM ROCKS ON

The council decided to continue to fund the ROCKS after school program following a good presentation by the staff and hearing from many members of the public - mostly mothers and kids that would be negatively affected by the cancellation. The motion made by Righeimer was curious - he moved a 25% subsidy, but conditioned it on the program being budgeted for 40%... too strange.

OWNER'S SCREW-UP OK'D
The council a
pproved the request by a resident on Gleneagles Terrace to forgive his construction mistakes on an expansion of his home. It took a long time to hear this issue - I'd previously watched the owner's pitch before a much less sympathetic Planning Commission.

I-405 IMP
ROVEMENT PROJECT HEARD
The council heard a long, long presentation by staff and a project manager from the Orange County Transportation Authority on the proposed I-405 Improvement project, which begins in Costa Mesa and stretches to the Los Angeles County Line. No decision was made.

BIA RE-AUTHORIZED
The clock ticked off at 11:20 before the representatives of the Business Improvement Area (BIA) had a chance to make their pitch for re-authorization, but the council appr
oved it and the issue will be heard again on June 7th.

BEER GARDEN AT C
ONCERTS IN THE PARK APPROVED
At just before midnight the staff and members of the Costa Mesa Community Foundation made their pitch for the sale of wine and beer - a Beer Garden - at the "Concerts in the Park" this year. After surprisingly little discussion the council approved it 4-0, so those who wish to drink legally at the concerts this year will have a little penned-off area in which to do so. Expect some of our homeless to take advantage of this opportunity.

COUNCIL "WHINE-FEST"

Are you tired of reading this? Well,
now you know how I felt as the clock struck 12 and the "council member comments" segment had yet to be heard. However, it was worth waiting for - at least for the three of us non-staff members left in the auditorium at that hour. I can't remember when there has been such a "whine fest" in the chambers before!

MENSINGER DEMANDS DECORUM
Steve Mensinger kicked off the moaning by complaining to Monahan about the "number of people that are clapping and jeering and yelling and making comments and innuendos". He went on to say he gets emails from people who complain that they can't hear what's going on because "so and so was sitting behind me making comments". He asked Monahan to review the decorum of council meetings. I had to chuckle when he said that, especially considering how he and Monahan violated the procedures in the beginning and also considering how he frequently berates fellow council member Wendy Leece on the dais. Yes, Steve, some review of the decorum is CERTAINLY necessary.

RIGHEIMER PREDICTS RECALL
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer started by saying he was going to keep his comments short, then didn't. He started with this comment: "Just for a
heads-up for everybody in the community. If you haven't figured it out already, the labor unions have decided to do a recall of at least two or four of us. Um, that's, polling's been done in this city, it's been three polls now. The State Democrat convention, um, the three words they use constantly, constantly, constantly were Wisconsin, Costa Mesa and Tea Party. They're going to do everything they can to stop it. Ah, we had Nick Berardino here, who also represents our people, telling people that Costa Mesa is Ground Zero for this across the country. They had Mr. Pulaski - whose the, what is he, the treasurer, secretary, secretary- treasurer of the California Confederation of Labor saying that this is Ground Zero for it. If you haven't figured it out, all the craziness that's going on here with the ads and all these things that are being bought are because a recall is going to happen in this city. It's probably going be seven figures. It will be in the millions of dollars spent to remove this city council and, ah, I'll talk about it at some other time, I think it's a little late to talk about it. That's why it's getting crazy. That why every time you turn on your computer you see ads. They're not reporting because they've not started that process yet. They're looking to make sure the recall does not hit if Jerry Brown is going for a tax increase. They don't want to do a recall at the same time as a tax increase because they would obviously lose."

AND MUCH MORE
He went on to complain about people addressing the political ambitions and accusations of the council trying to make a profit on outsourcing. He talked about the Working Groups, too. Go to the streaming video, scroll d
own to the link with his name under "Council Member Reports, Comments and Suggestions" and click on it to hear his entire rant.

WENDY - WORK WITH ADDERTON TO SAVE ABLE

Wendy Leece asked Hatch to move forward with Peter Adderton to try to
save ABLE.

SHE WANTS SUMMARY ON FAIRGROUNDS
She asked for a summary on the Fairgrounds because she
"can't get all my information from blogs and out of the newspaper". She complained about having been removed as liaison and said she's "out of the loop".






SHE WANTS DOCUMENTS FROM BUDGET WORKING GROUP

During a comment about the Budget Working Group, she asked, as a formal public records request, for "all documents, minutes, notes from those twelve meetings of the Budget Working Group. I believe the public is owed an explanatio
n and the reason and justification for the massive outsourcing which are still unclear as they were in March. And, there were a lot of exaggerations and the numbers as far as five million, fifteen million and yet there was no justification or detail as far as public discussion or discussion in public of where that that money was, in other words, what the shortfall was. And to make the decision based on a two-member working group to outsource, have the massive outsourcing I think was reckless and I think that, down the road, that we'll have unintended consequences. So, whatever public records are available I would like to formally request those."

MONAHAN BACKHANDS LEECE

Monahan curtly tossed Leece's complaint about not knowing about the Fairgrounds
information and having been restricted from attending the meetings because they would have been a Brown Act violation, "as I'm sure you bring up all the time." He also justified the Working Groups as a concept, pointing out that they are widely used by other elected bodies. Watch the video...

BUDGET DISCUSSIONS NEXT WEEK

The next council meeting will be Tuesday, May 24th at 4:30 for a Study Session, which will likely be devoted entirely to the budget.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Another "Duarteism" & A Peek At The Budget

INCOMING!
Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell fired off another couple press releases this afternoon in the ongoing quest for Transparency.

ANOTHER DUARTEISM

The first on told us of City Attorney Tom Duarte's opinion in response to the lawsuit filed by the Orange County Employees' Association. Here's the text:

Costa Mesa City Attorney responds to employees’ association lawsuit over outsourcing

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—Costa Mesa City Attorney Tom Duarte issued a statement today after reviewing the lawsuit filed Monday by the Costa Mesa City Employees’ Assn.:

“The law allows for outsourcing of city services, the City’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Costa Mesa City Employees’ Assn. specifically contemplates outsourcing, and we are proceeding in compliance with the MOU and the law.”

PRELIMINARY BUDGET TO BE RELEASED THIS EVENING
The second one advises us that the preliminary 2011-2012 budget will be released this evening. No discussion will take place since this is not on the agenda tonight, as I mentioned in an earlier post last Friday. However, this will give the council and residents a chance to go over the document in preparation for next week's Study Session. Here is the text of that press release:

City of Costa Mesa to release preliminary 2011-2012 budget tonight

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—The preliminary 2011-2012 Costa Mesa budget will be distributed at tonight's City Council meeting and also will be available on the City's website.

The public is encouraged to provide input and ask questions related to the budget at a series of public meetings that will highlight various aspects of the city’s finances, including revenue projections, a five-year capital reinvestment plan, proposed reductions, an organizational restructuring of the police department and CalPERS pension costs.

The City Council meetings and Study Sessions will be on Tuesdays and are expected to run through June 28.

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Businessman To Speak About ABLE Tonight

PRIVATIZING ABLE?
One more reason to attend the Costa Mesa City Council meeting tonight! Read Barbara Venezia's column HERE.

BUILD A STATUE TO HIM
If Peter Adderton is successful in helping cobble together a workabl
e solution to retaining the ABLE helicopter program a statue should be erected of him on the front lawn of City Hall!

LET'S HEAR WHAT HE HAS TO SAY
So, get to the council meeting early to hear what Adderton may have to say during public comments. Maybe he can convince the council to participate in the resuscitation of the ABLE program.

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What About Block Parties?

IT'S "COUNCIL MEETING DAY" - OH, BOY!
Well, today is the most recent City Council meeting here in Costa Mesa. I wrote a volume about the agenda last weekend so won't repeat myself here. You can scroll down and read it if you wish.

WAR ZONE PLANNING
That being said
, I must comment on an issue that is relevant to the misguided plan to sell fireworks for five days and permit them to be discharged for four - July 1 - July 4. I know I won't win that argument because too many of the council members are "boosters", eager to have the public fund their kid's play time by buying and discharging fireworks over the entire holiday weekend and turning our city into something akin to an Afghanistan battle field for that period.

WHAT ABOUT BLOCK PARTIES?
Nope, my concern this morning is the block parties that normally accompany the Independence Day celebrations. The City, via Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell, issued a press
release yesterday announcing the availability of applications for block parties for July 4th. He referred us to the City web site for the applications, but they were not yet posted. So, I called him.

BLOCK PARTIES ONLY ON 4TH?
During my conversation I asked if block parties will be
permitted, both literally and figuratively, on all four days that shooting off fireworks will be authorized. He said no... which I told him was curiously inconsistent.

WHO WILL ASK?
So, I hop
e one of you will jump up at the council meeting tonight and ask the question of the council. Seems like a reasonable question. Many people I know would MUCH prefer to have their neighborhood block parties on the weekend - Saturday or Sunday - instead of Monday
.

THE COST OF A "ME FIRST' MENTALITY

A major downside of permitting block parties the entire weekend,
of course, is the cost of public safety staff necessary to patrol the city during those events. This is the kind of thing that happens when city officials let their own personal interests drive the agenda instead of considering what is best for the city as a whole.

PRESS RELEASE AND APPLICATION ON CITY WE
B SITE
The press release and the link to the application are now available on the City Home Page at http://www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us.

Look for this block on the home page.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Brown's Budget & The Fairgrounds

GOVERNOR MOONBEAM'S BUDGET
Retread Governor Jerry Brown presented his revised 2011/2012 budget today. You can read Brian Joseph's article from the Orange County Register HERE.

OVERVIEW AND THE REAL DEAL

You can read the Governor's overview, HERE. Or, you can do the equivalent of pulling your fingernails out with pliers and read the full budget HERE.

WHAT'S THIS?
One thing I was concerned about was the possible impact on the status of the Orange
County Fairgrounds. A clue was the final paragraph in that overview, which reads as follows:

Sell underutilized state properties. The revised budget proposes the sale of state-owned properties like the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Montclair Golf Course in Oakland, the Capital Area Development Authority in Sacramento and the Ramirez Canyon property in Southern California. These properties serve no state function and should be sold off to pay debt.

"REDUCING STATE GOVERNMENT"
I saw that and it got my juices flowing. So, with a little help from my friends, we located "Reducing State Government", HERE. Once there, go to page 120 and find the last paragraph which states:

Develop a Comprehensive Policy for Fairgrounds - Individual legislative initiatives have been introduced to sell fairgrounds over the years. These proposals should be evaluated in the context of a statewide policy and a property by property review of fairgrounds. The Secretary of Food and Agriculture will develop a plan to be included in the Governor's 2012-13 Budget, addressing the future operation, maintenance and oversight of the Network of California Fairs, including real and personal property and the feasibility to restructure the governance of the fairs within this network.

IS THIS GOOD NEWS? LOOKS LIKE IT...

We can assume that this little bit of prose, combined with what appeared to be a less-than-sympathetic grilling of Fairgrounds sale proponents by the appeals panel last weekend in Santa Ana, might give some hope to those who feel the Fairgrounds should stay as-is, under the control of the 32nd Agriculture District Board (The Fair Board). Yeah, I know - there's that whole smelly situation from a couple years ago when it appeared that the then-Fair Board was intent on snatching up the Fairgrounds at garage sale prices and feather their retirement nests. That's over and, with the amount of attention paid to the current Board these days, it's unlikely they will try that again.

MARKING TIME...
Now we just wait for that appeals panel to digest what they heard and eventually let the world know. Tick, tick, tick...

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