Monday, June 06, 2011

Brown Act To Become Constitutional?

WORKING GROUPS TO DISBAND, BUT... UH-OH!
Just as the Costa Mesa City Council is about to disband its 2-person City Council "Working Groups" - entities that some felt were created to avoid the nasty inconvenience of having to let the public know what they were up to - our friends over at the Voice of OC blog provided us with a very interesting bit of information.

BROWN ACT GETS NEW, SHARPER DENTURES
According to Tracy Wood on that site, HERE, last week the California State Senate UNANIMOUSLY approved a bill that would make the Ralph M. Brown Act a part of the state constitution and thereby give it sharper legal teeth. The bill apparently was sent to the Assembly where a two-thirds vote of the 80 members is required to put this bill before the voters in 2012.

NO MORE POLICIES ON BAR NAPKINS
If this bill passes it will be BAD NEWS for those elected leaders who choose to do business in the proverbial "smoke-filled rooms" - or perched on a stool in a local pub, scratching out policy on the back of soggy cocktail napkins.

SHINING LIGHT ON LAWMAKERS
If this bill passes it is GOOD NEWS for the voters and other residents of this state, who expect their leaders to follow the law and conduct public business in public.

VOTE NO, SAY ADIOS!
The Assembly v
ote on this bill should be interesting. If ANY member votes NO, then one might rightly assume that he or she would prefer NOT to have the light of day shown on the way they do business. A "No" vote on this bill will, correctly, effectively be political suicide for any member who votes that way.

DID WE "REALLY" NEED THE WORKING GROUPS?
This might make for an interesting discussion Tuesday at the Costa Mesa City Council
meeting, where the disbanding of the "Working Groups" will take place. You can read the brief staff report HERE.

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A Bigger Magnifying Glass And Losing ABLE

CITY LAUNCHES YET ANOTHER WEB SITE
Today Costa Mesa's Interim Communication Director, Bill Lobdell, sent out another press release announcing the most attempt to provide greater transparency to the budget process. Here's the text of his announcement:


City of Costa Mesa launches ‘Behind the Budget Numbers’ website page

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—The City of Costa Mesa launched a “Behind the Budget Numbers” page on its website today that offers citizens easy-to-access information on the proposed 2011-2012 budget.

The page features videos, memos, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets on expenditures, revenues, cash reserves, pension and retirement health care costs, and equipment replacement funds for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

“Behind the Budget Numbers” will be updated as new information on the City’s proposed budget becomes public, including an organizational restructuring plan for the Costa Mesa Police Department and CEO Tom Hatch’s final recommendations for the 2011-2012 budget (both scheduled to be presented at the June 14 Council study session).

THIS IS A GOOD MOVE
Per
sonally, I think this is another good move on the City's part to make it easier for those folks who are actually interested to find relevant information on the budget process. We've only got four weeks left before the City Council must come up with a balanced budget and City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch has promised it will be done without the use of Fund Balance.

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ALTERNATIVES TO DISBANDING ABLE
On the agenda of tomorrow's City Council meeting there will be an item that addresses alternatives to grounding the ABLE helicopter program. You can read the staff report HERE that recommends some alternatives - none of which include extending ABLE for another year using the surplus funds available in their accounts. Apparently Police Chief Steve Staveley suggested extending the program until October to provide more time to flesh-out alternatives, but Newport Beach was not interested. This should make for some very interesting discussion tomorrow night.

HOW WENDY FEELS...
In case you're
interested, councilwoman Wendy Leece, on her OC Public Square blog, tells you just how she feels about this plan. You can read that entry HERE.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Add Lopez To The Mix

MICKADEIT'S TAKE ON COSTA MESA MEDIA COVERAGE
I'm sure many of your read Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit's column on Wednesday, June 1st, HERE, in which he commented on the media firestorm that has overtaken Costa Mesa in recent months. Of course, he's played his own part in throwing fuel on that fire, but that's his job.

STEVE LOPEZ HOPS ABOARD
Well, here's an assignment for you. On Sunday find a copy of the Los Angeles Times and l
ook for their uber-columnist, Steve Lopez' byline. He's jumping onto the bus with a special column on Costa Mesa, too! Over the past couple days he's made the rounds in our city, talking with the movers and shakers - and the moved and shaken, too. I include myself in that latter group.

HE OF "THE SOLOIST' FAME
Most of you know of Lopez, if for no other reason than he was played by Robert Downey, Jr., in "The Soloist", a hit movie made from his Los Angeles Times series on homeless musician Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, (portrayed by Jamie Fox in the film). You can see the "60 Minutes" clip with host Morley Safer about that story HERE.



WITH TREPIDATION, LOOKING FORWARD TO IT

Personally, I'm eager to see just what Lopez comes up with that has not already been
said dozens of times over the past six months. He's a terrific writer, but there's always some trepidation when ANY journalist gets his hooks into you because the danger of a mis-quotation is always a very real possibility. So, while I'm away at the wedding this weekend your assignment is to find Lopez' column - it's probably going to be posted online late Saturday night - and report back.

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Leadership Tomorrow Graduation

SOME GOOD NEWS FOR YOU
Before I forget and this information gets lost in all the political morass next week, here's some very positive news for you to consider.

THE FUTURE IS THEIRS...
Next Wednesday Leadership Tomorrow will celebrate the graduation of their class of 2011 with a reception and at the Back Bay Bistro. The keynote speaker will be Newport Beach icon Evelyn Hart. You can read about the event, and Hart's achievements, HERE. You'll find a handy link on that site with which you can make reservations to attend this event.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC...
This event is open to the public, the price is reasonable and it should be a wonderful evening. Congratulations to all those in the Class of 2011.

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CMTV 24 Wins Again


LOBDELL ANNOUNCES CMTV 24 AWARDS
Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell just sent out the following Press Release announcing yet another basket of awards for Costa Mesa Television - CMTV 24.

Kudos to Dane Bora and Brad Long for their continuing excellence and outstanding service to our community.

CMTV 24 wins three awards for excellence in programming

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—Costa Mesa Television Channel 24 (CMTV 24) earned three top place awards this week at the 15th Annual STAR Awards presented by the California and Nevada chapter of the National Assn. of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors.

“City Talk” received the first place Talk Show STAR Award for the fourth time in the past five years. “The Community Report” was recognized as the best magazine show for the second time, and CMTV 24 was honored for the third time for overall excellence.

“The well-deserved awards confirm what Costa Mesa residents already know—that CMTV 24 is a community treasure that keeps us informed on a wide variety of City matters,” Mayor Gary Monahan said. “And I personally congratulate the dynamic duo who run CMTV 24—Dane Bora and Brad Long—for all their hard work and dedication to Costa Mesa.”

The City-run television channel has now received 13 first place STAR Awards since 1997, including 10 in the past six years. Additionally, CMTV 24 has earned numerous second and third place honors in a variety of categories over the years.

The STAR Awards recognize excellence in government programming by facilities serving California and Nevada communities. Entries are judged on the basis of creativity in achieving stated objectives, technical proficiency and diversity of programming.

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City Council Agenda Posted

COUNCIL MEETING NEXT TUESDAY
The agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting next Tuesday, June 7th, has been released and, while some staff reports are still pending, it looks like this thing could get wrapped up by 9 p.m. The meeting starts at 6:00 in the City Council chambers.

WARRANT REVIEW IS FUN
Since the council decided to make available all the inform
ation regarding the Warrants in the Consent Calendar it's become a kind of fun practice to scroll down through them to see what little tidbits of interesting information we might find. This time was no exception.

#2370
In Warrant 2370 we find all kinds of consulting fees having been paid on 5/13/11.
Michael Ballet was paid $3,27
2.50 for professional services
Management Partners was paid $4,682.00 for management consulting
Command Strategies Consultants was paid $7,333.36 for "legal advice, CM investigation" Wonder what that's all about?
Civil Source was paid a whopping $13,270.00, with no explanation
AAA Animal Hospital was paid $8710.00 for "tranquilizer drugs". What did we tranquilize - a herd of elephants?
And Jones & Mayer w
as paid $106,266.29 for their legal services. Yikes!

LEGAL BUDGET NEEDS ATTENTION
You may recall that the City is tentatively budgeting $703,000 for legal services in the upcoming budget year, but as was pointed out at the recent Study Session by vigilant community budget watchdog Judi Berry, we're spending over $100,000 per month. I think, based on recent closed session agendas - including Tuesday's - that we may be prudent to budget a larger number for legal fees rather than be surprised in February when we've run out of budget dollars for that line item.

#2371

In Warra
nt 2371, which generated checks on 5/20/11, there were more interesting items.
Management P
artners was cut another check - this one for $5,637.40. That's over $10,000 in two weeks.
GrowthPort Partners received $12,500.00 for "E
mployment Support Services". Hmmm, I didn't realize we were doing that much "employment" these days.

I'D REALLY LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT THESE
There were two REA
LLY interesting entries on this Warrant. Back-to-back we cut checks to the U.S. Marshalls Service in the amounts of $300,000.00 and $428,730.00 for "money seized NARC". I sure would like to know that's all about.

#2372
In Warrant 2372, with checks being cut on 5/27/11, we find even more fun.
Peter Merritt
was paid $11,850.00 for professional construction inspection services
Management Partners was, again, cut a check. This time for $11,423.20, for organizational review for the police department and interim management assistance. So, on three checks in three consecutive weeks, we've paid them almost $22,000.00.
Intelligent Products was paid $4,760.00 for the "Dog Waste Bag Program". Come again?
Four Boys New Media (Bill Lobdell) was paid $9,000.00 for three weeks work - 4/22 to 5/12.
Enterprise Rent A Car was paid $7,745.47 for 8 undercover police cars.
California Forensic Phlebotomy was paid $4,936.20 for Blood Tests.
Carl Warre
n & Co was paid $3,627.41 for professional services.

OUCH!
I can't do this every time the warrants appear - makes my head hurt - but it gives you something to contemplate over the weekend.

PUBLIC HEARINGS
Under Public Hearings - which is not supposed to start until 7:00 p.m. - the council will address the allocation of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and funding priorities for the CDBG and Home Investment Partnership Program.


SPECIAL E
VENTS FEES TO BE "CONTINUED"
Although
it's on the agenda, staff is recommending "continuing until 6/21/11" the establishment of rates, fees and charges for services provided by the Costa Mesa Police Department for special/community events.

BIA TO BE RE-AUTHORIZED
And, the Business Improvement Area (BIA) will have its assessment of 3% for certain hotels and motels re-authorized for the new
fiscal year.

OLD BUSINESS
Under Old
Business, CEO Tom Hatch will provide an update on the Budget and how the RFP process for outsourcing is progressing. That should be very interesting and will likely generate some inquiries from the audience.

NEW BUSINESS

Under New Business we will apparently hear alternatives for the operation of the ABLE helicopter law enforcement program.


WORKING GROUPS TO GO AWAY
And, apparently the Working Groups will be discontinued. No surprise there, since only one actually met - the Budget and Capital Improvements group - and they did that in secret, or so it seems. Wendy Leece has been asking for minutes, notes, records of any kind dealing with those deliberatio
ns. I doubt we'll ever hear anything about those meetings between Jim Righeimer and Gary Monahan - the cocktail napkins were probably too soggy to place in a file somewhere.

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FISH FRY WEEKEND
Don't forget the Fish Fry this weekend. The weather is supposed to be perfect, the rides will be fun, the fish will be yummy as usual and on Sunday between 2 and 3 you'll see some of the most beautiful babies anywhere! Join my friend Mike Scheafer and his Lions Club pals and have a fun time and help the Costa Mesa Newport Harbor Lions Club raise money for many worthy community causes.

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ANNOUNCEMENT
I'm going to be in a wedding this weekend, so the Cauldron will go dark tonight. No comments will be posted until I return and it's unlikely that any new entries will be posted until very late Sunday, if then. The Pot Stirrer actually does have a real life and this event is going to be a very special part of it. I might tell you about it later, so be patient. You can send your comments in if you wish, but they are likely to ferment for a couple days until I approve them for posting.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Budget Meeting Schedule Released

LOBDELL ISSUES SCHEDULE

Late this afternoon Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell issued a Press Release with the following information related to future budget-related meetings scheduled this month. The following is that schedule, plus my observations.

Six meetings in June scheduled to address City’s 2011-2012 budget


FIVE PUBLIC MEETINGS AND A Q&A SESSION
This month, the City of Costa Mesa will hold five public meetings and a question-and-answer session with City employees that will focus on the proposed budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

PREVIOUS PRESENTATIONS AVAILABLE ON CITY WEBSITE
The City has already held several meetings in May that focused on various aspects of the 2011-2012 budget. Citizens can view the presentations on the city’s website.

JUNE MEETING SCHEDULE
The meeting schedule for June is below. Unless otherwise indicated, all meetings will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall and will broadcast live on CMTV and the Internet. The meetings can also be watched via streaming video anytime on the city website.

* June 7, 2011, City Council meeting, 6 p.m. City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch will provide an update on the 2011-2012 budget along with any other relevant information. Although not directly related to the 2011-2012 budget process, an update on the Request for Proposal (RFP), or outsourcing, process will be provided.

* June 14, 2011, City Council study session, 4:30 p.m. City directors will give an overview of their department’s goals for 2011-2012 and be available for questions. City CEO Tom Hatch will present an organizational restructuring plan for the Costa Mesa Police Department. He also will make his final recommendations for the 2011-2012 budget.

* June 16, 2011, budget question-and-answer session with City employees, time and place to be determined. CEO Hatch and Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young will provide a budget overview and answer budget questions from City employees. The meeting is expected to last 90 minutes.

* June 16, 2011, budget question-and-answer session with the public, 6 p.m. City Hall conference room 1A. In an informal setting, CEO Tom Hatch and finance staff will answer budget questions from the public. The meeting is expected to last two hours.

* June 21, 2011, City Council meeting, 6 p.m. This date is reserved for resolving any outstanding issues arising from the two months of public meetings about the budget. The City Council may vote to adopt the 2011-2012 budget.

* June 28, 2011, special City Council meeting, 6 p.m. (if necessary) This date is reserved for resolving any final issues. The City Council may vote to adopt the 2011-2012 budget.


***


UNPRECEDENTED OPENNESS
I must observe that this series of meetings, combined with those in May, are unprecedented in the history of this city. In years past only a very few residents took the time to attend the few study sessions that were held and even fewer attended the public question and answer session. Last year 12 attended, but in the immediate three previous years only three or four of us took advantage of the opportunity.

LIKE WATCHING A TRAIN WRECK
In my view, this has been a mixed blessing because, while all the previous meetings this cycle have been well-attended, it has been because so many jobs are on the line. In some ways this is like watching a train wreck occur before your eyes. You don't want to watch the carnage, but can't take your eyes off it.

HOPING, BUT...
Personally, I'm continuing to hope that the four men on the city council will push political dogma aside and do what is really right for the future of this city. I continue to hope that they, and the bargaining units, will find a way to come together and resolve what is clearly a disaster unfolding. I hope, knowing just how unlikely this is to happen, particularly in light of the comments made by Jim Righeimer at Tuesday's Study Session. When he called for the staff to just give him the head count so we can get on with it - meaning how many bodies must we sacrifice so he can pretend he's solving the "pension crisis" in our city - it made me shudder.

RABBITS FROM HATS
In two weeks we will know if this council will approve a balanced budget without the use of Fund Balance, as assured by CEO Tom Hatch. As I type this the budget is just under $1 million short of making that goal. I'm not quite sure what kind of a rabbit Hatch intends to pull out of his hat, but I fear it might be in the form of a dozen employees. That would be a real shame.

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It's Fish Fry Time Again


Well, it's that time of the year again. This weekend, June 4th and 5th, is the 64th annual Costa Mesa Newport Harbor Lions Club Fish Fry. The carnival rides open on Friday, June 3rd, from 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. The Fish Fry opens on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. For more information visit the web site HERE.

BABY CONTEST SUNDAY
The Baby Contest will be held from 2 p.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday. Rules for entry can be found HERE.


Have fun!

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