Friday, October 14, 2011

Another Minute About The "Costa Mesa Minute"

SO FAR, SO GOOD
One day in and I'm REALLY liking this Costa Mesa Minute link over there on the right side of this page! It actually worked for the second day in a row.

HOMELESS TASK FORCE WORKSHOP TOMORROW
For exampl
e, today dapper Dane Bora tells us about the Homeless Task Force workshop being held at the Police Department Emergency Operations Center (EOC) tomorrow, Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. until noon. Now I don't have to write about that event, except to say that anyone seriously interested in what our city may end up doing about the homeless issue will probably find this community workshop a valuable resource.

BANNING RANCH THURSDAY

He also mentions the joint City Council, Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission session planned for next Thursday, October 20th - also at the EOC from 4:30 -6:00 p.m. - in which major players in the Banning Ranch issue will make presentations. This is a HUGE issue for our city because of the impact ANY development will have on our Westside. It also resurrected the controversy about a bridge across the Santa Ana River at 19th Street. I'll write more about Banning Ranch later, but Dane's little blurb here today will get you thinking more about it right now. I suspect that EOC is going to be a very cozy place next Thursday afternoon.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I'm interested in what you think of this Costa Mesa Minute feature. Will you use it? Does it provide you with information you
can use? Are you having any trouble viewing it? I ask that one because the first time I ran it this morning it buffered a couple times before completing the run. I checked it a second time and it ran straight through. I suspect it's a problem of my computer trying to do too many things at once - darn overachieving machine! Anyhow, let me know what you think.

SMILES GUARANTEED

Because we all deserve a little chuckle now and then, and, in light of Dane's mention of the Dog Agility Competition at the Dog Park at TeWinkle Park this weekend, I thought I'd leave you with something that will almost certainly brighten your day. My sweet and patient wife - a serious ballroom dancer - sent me this link of a Golden Retriever doing the Merengue. I challenge you to watch it and NOT smile. Have a great weekend. Click HERE for the dancing dog.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Costa Mesa Minute Link

COSTA MESA MINUTE NOW AVAILABLE HERE
In a Press Release this afternoon, Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell announced the availability of a link to provide the Costa Mesa Minute directly on my home page. Assuming this feature continues to work, each morning you should be able to view this snippet of "what's going on in the city" as presented by Dane Bora and Christine Cordon.

This is just one more reason to make this site your first stop in the morning, so, just slide your cursor over to the right side of my home page and click on the start button and enjoy.

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OC Weekly "Best Of" Awards Announced

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING
File this under the "for what it's worth" tab...





"BEST OF"....

Over at The OC Weekly, the
provocative alternative news source in these parts that still does some of the best investigative reporting in our area, Editor Gustavo Arellano and his band of merry minions have announced their "Best Of" awards this week. I always find these selections of interest, mostly because they continue a tradition of being controversial and fun. I began paying attention to them three years ago, when they named A Bubbling Cauldron the Best Blog for 2008. As I said, file this under "for what it's worth"... :-)

NOTABLE 2011 RECIPIENTS
The following are a fe
w of the awards of local interest from the People and Places section, including links to the individual comments in the OC Weekly online.

Best Voice For The Little Guy, Nick Berardino

Best Political Coup - 2011 - Repair Costa Mesa

Best Protesting Group - Orange County Fairground Preservation Society

LAST YEAR
Last year they recognized the following familiar faces:

Best City to Live In - Costa Mesa

Best Charity - Someone Cares Soup Kitchen

Best Political Protester - Sandy Genis

KICK BACK, CHILL OUT AND ENJOY
So, relax and enjoy. If you want to see all the lists, go to the OC Weekly Best Of 2011 site, HERE, and choose your category. And, above all, don't get your shorts in a knot - this is intended to be fun.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CalPERS Study Session Wrap-Up

PERS EXPERT
I attended the Costa Mesa City Council Study Session yesterday afternoon/evening at City Hall. Actuary and CalPERS expert John Bartel had the whole show to himself and managed to guide the council and the 20 or so people in the audience through the morass that is our pension system with much skill - and a slide show presentation that involved 64 slides. You can read the brief staff report HERE and Bartel's PowerPoint presentation HERE.

BEVER MADE IT - RIGHEIMER WAS AWOL

First, I'm pleased to announce that part-time, part-time city councilman Eric Bever actually made it to this meeting. And, more than that, he actually managed one or two semi-intelligent comments and questions, too. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was reported to be out of state, so the
initiator of all the pension dust-up was absent and unable to participate.

MEETING WAS TELEVISED LIVE AND TAPED
The meeting began at around 4:30 and ended just before 8:00 p.m., so the promised (threatened?) four hour meeting didn't materialize. It was conducted in council chambers televised live and taped, so it will be available for viewing on Channel 24, CMTV - Channel 99 on ATT U-verse and via streaming video - maybe sometime tomorrow. You may wish to watch it to double-check my facts. NOTE: Streaming video is now available for viewing, HERE.

2-TIER SYSTEM IS LONG TERM STRATEGY

Bartel told us that implementing a 2-tier pension system - where new-hires after a certain date receive a severely reduced benefit - won't generate any appreciable immediate savings. He said it's a long-term strategy, and quantified some of the options available. There were too many variables to cover here.

EMPLOYEES MUST PAY THEIR FULL CONTRIBUTION
He said the only real short-term strategy for finding cash is for the employees to pick-up all their contributions to the pensions. From where I sit, that seems very unlikely. The City sent letters to the six employee associations, requesting they re-open their Memorandums of Understanding. It is my understanding that none of the associations are willing to do that because that opens EVERYTHING up for negotiation and this council has already demonstrated its willingness to get rid of the bargaining units. I'm told, however, that some of the associations might be willing to sit down and discuss side letters to the existing MOUs. It's all a matter of trust. We know the City Council majority doesn't trust the employees and it certainly seems like the employees have every reason not to trust the council.

AN IMPASSE SOON....
It seems likely that we will soon be at an impasse, with heels dug in on both sides. I found
it interesting that the only bargaining unit officer present was Helen Nenadal of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association. I did not see representatives from the Police or Fire Associations, but they may have been watching on television. Nothing I saw or heard last night would have made any of them very comfortable.

IMPATIENCE ON DISPLAY
Clearly, the most agitated and animated of the council members last night was Steve Mensinger. He asked most of the questions - some, apparently, because he hadn't read the staff report. Others he asked gave me a clear idea of what he's planning - a full-frontal assault on the associations at the next council meeting.


TWO SUGGESTIONS

At the end of the evening Bartel left a couple suggestions. First, the co
uncil should try to quickly pay off the Fire organization's Side Fund. Second, the employees should pay their entire portion of the pension cost to help reduce the prodigious unfunded liability. When pressed by Mensinger he told us that, of the 40-50 organizations he's working with, only about 4-5 are developing a plan to deal with similar problems.

WHAT ABOUT OUTSOURCED UNITS?

I followed Bartel out of the a
uditorium following his presentation and asked him what happens if, for example, the Fire organization joins up with the Orange County Fire Authority? What happens to the pension liability? He told me that NOTHING happens to it - we, the city, remain on the hook for it all up to that point. The same is true about any other units that are "outsourced" - our obligation remains.

WE'LL SEE THE DIRECTION WE'RE GOING NEXT WEEK

This issue will appear on the agenda of the next council meeting, on Tuesday, Octo
ber 18th, at which time the staff will be looking for direction from the council on how to proceed. That's going to be very interesting, since Mensinger has already requested a hiring freeze across the board until a 2-tier pension system is implemented. He may have to wait until 2014, when the last of the contracts expire, for that to happen. I guess we'll see. If we do have a hiring freeze public services and safety will certainly suffer.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

The Week Ahead - and More

PLANNING COMMISSION TODAY
Today, Monday, October 10th, the Planning Commission holds a regularly-scheduled monthly meeting in council chambers at City Hall beginning at 6:00 p.m. The commission has a packed agenda which is always a good thing. A busy Planning Commission means building is happening in our city. The full agenda is available at the City web site. One interesting item is at the end of the agenda. Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman provides an excellent report on the current status of the SR-55 Access Study, the staff report for which you can read HERE.

PERS STUDY SESSION TOMORROW

On Tuesday, October 11th, the City Council
will hold a study session at which pension consultant John Bartel will present an update on the PERS retirement system and give the council his view on the future of OUR pension situation, including the under-funded liability question. This presentation is a re-start from a recent council meeting, when his presentation was cut short because he had to fly home to northern California. Tuesday plenty of time has been allocated - maybe 3-4 hours. NOTE: This meeting was to have been held in Conference Room 1A, but early this morning it was re-scheduled for the City Council chambers, apparently in anticipation of a larger-than-normal crowd of interested observers. This meeting begins at 4:30, will run as long as Bartel needs and will be followed immediately by a closed session meeting to discuss labor negotiations.

OCTOBER 20TH - BANNING RANCH

The remai
nder of the month also holds some interesting meetings. On Thursday, October 20th, a joint session will be held with the City Council, Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission at which the Banning Ranch will be discussed by both sides of the issue. This meeting will, inexplicably, be held in the Police Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Police Headquarters - a venue that may be much too small, considering the number of participants and potential interested residents and other parties. It begins at 4:30 p.m.

OCTOBER 25TH - WORKERS COMPENSATION STUDY SESSION
On October 25th the council will hold a special study session in Conference Room 1A to discuss the City's Workers Compensation situation. That meeting also begins at 4:30.


NEW "OLD FAITHFUL" IN NEWPORT MESA?
To find out, read the most recent E-Briefing, HERE. It includes lots of great, timely information, including comments about some of the things I mentioned above. Sign up to receive this excellent communication device each week.

Photo credit: Costa Mesa Interim Assistant CEO Peter Naghavi via E-Briefing

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