Saturday, November 05, 2011

What's Going On At City Hall? *(AMENDED)

"TRANSPARENCY" IS A LITTLE BIT OPAQUE
Despite all this "transparency" stuff, it's getting harder and harder to figure out what's going on at Costa Mesa City Hall these days.

*NOTE: In response to my inquiry last week, CEO Tom Hatch informed me early Monday morning that the change in the Tuesday schedule was his idea. Apparently the issues he had planned to present were not quite ready due to the volume of work at City Hall. Rather than attempt to present incomplete data he chose to cancel the Study Session and only hold the Special Council meeting on labor issues - a Closed Session meeting.

ANTICIPATING A STUDY SESSION
In the Friday edition of the Costa Mesa
Minute, Christine Cordone told us that the council was going to have a Study Session Tuesday, November 8th at which revamped budget policies, the 5-year plan for capital improvements and, if it is finally ready, a discussion of the City's Worker's Comp program.

ADJUSTING MY NAP SCHEDULE

Well, I thou
ght those were three pretty interesting subjects and was juggling my schedule to attend. Christine also mentioned that the Study Session would be preceded by a closed session at 4:00 p.m., with the Study Session to follow at 5.


WRONG!

Then, out of the blue Friday afternoon we find out that the Study Session has been abruptly canceled and that the City Council
will hold a Special City Council meeting on the 8th, beginning at 4:30 p.m in City Council Chambers. The klinker here is that this meeting is a closed session - which means none of us will be permitted to attend. The agenda indicates it's a conference with CEO Tom Hatch in his role as lead labor negotiator. So, the council will meet in council chambers, take roll, read the item into the record, take public comments - how do you comment when you have no clue about the content of the item to be discussed? - then move into the closed session in a different venue - most likely Conference Room 1A.

WATCHING FOR HIRED GUNS
So, we're wondering just what happened to cause this dramatic change of plans. Do we suspect that hired gun, Richard Kreisler, will surface at the Special Meeting? I suppose it might be worth a trip to City Hall Tuesday afternoon to see if there are any limos on the premises.


A CURIOUSLY SLOW WEEK

So, unless we get another change of plans, the only "event"
that will be happening next week, besides the Battle of the Bell Friday night at Jim Scott Stadium on the grounds of Estancia High School, will be Wendy Leece's Westside Town Hall meeting at Pomona Elementary School on Wednesday, the 9th. I'll re-publish the flier for that event early in the week.

BUSY AS BEES THE NEXT WEEK, THOUGH
They will make up for it the following week, though, because there is a Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Monday, the 14th, a City Council meeting on Tuesday, the 15th and a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Wednesday, the 16th - the last one of the year for that group.



DID YOU FORGET?

I hope you remembered to set your clocks back last night before you hit the sack.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

More "Me", Park Peril And Wendy's Town Hall

MORE OF ME ON THE "CHARTER CITY" ISSUE
OK, by the time most of you locals read this on Friday you may already know that the Daily Pilot published a commentary of mine on their pages. You've already seen this issue discussed here earlier, HERE, but I thought - since you just can't get enough of what I write - you may wish to read this essay, too. HERE.
HYPERTENSION ALERT
: All you Righeimer fans, please be advised to be sure your blood pressure medications are up to date before you read this essay!
*****
SUNSET RIDGE PARK UPDATE
Late Thursday night we received notice that the proposed c
ontroversial Sunset Ridge Park, located near Superior and Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach, came to a screeching halt at the meeting in Oceanside Wednesday of the California Coastal Commission. According to reports from the Banning Ranch Conservancy, HERE, following lengthy presentations and debate and proposals that included abandoning the most controversial part - the access road off PCH that would have certainly been the precursor to the Bluff Road element of the even more controversial Banning Ranch development - the City of Newport Beach yanked it's application before what appeared to be a certain losing vote could be taken. That saved them having to wait another year before presenting the proposal again. Newport Beach will now be required to submit a new application and, according to the report, no hearing is anticipated until early in 2012.

*****
PAVING OVER FAIRVIEW PARK?
It is rumored that the November 16th meeting of the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission will include a request to pave over part of the vernal pools at Fairview Park - a protected habitat for the San Diego fairy shrimp. Apparently this desecration of what has been described by many as the "Jewel of Costa Mesa" would occur near the section of the park near Jim Scott Stadium and the Waldorf School - to accommodate more spectator parking for events at the stadium. I suspect those of you who really care about preserving Fairview Park will want to attend that meeting and make your views known to Chairman Jeff R. Mathews and his fellow commissioners. I'll remind you once the agenda is available for review - probably next week.

SMELLS OF MENSINGER
If true, this has the stench of Steve Mensinger all over it. And, if tr
ue, this won't surprise me at. After all, Mensinger - seen here on the right - is Mr. Football here in town. He is also a developer and those folks just can't stand to see even a sliver of open land without a building or a parking lot on it. The loss of precious local open space doesn't bother him. He can just jump on an airplane and fly off to the wide-open spaces of Montana or Alaska to catch fish or kill critters any old time he wants. In the meantime, those less affluent folks here in our town are given the proverbial finger. I've lost track of how many times I've warned you about these guys. If your rights have not yet been trampled by them, it's only a matter of time...

*****
ANOTHER WESTSIDE TOWN HALL
A reminder for you. Next Wednesday, November 9th
, councilwoman Wendy Leece and Mika Development Corporation will host a Town Hall at Pomona School from 7:00 p.m - 8:30 p.m. You can read all about it on the flier below.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Who Is Running Next Year (Part 1)

THE CLOCK IS TICKING...
Flipping my calendar over yesterday jogged my recollection that in 53 short weeks we will be voting to elect a majority on the Costa Mesa City Council. Oh, yeah, we'll be electing a President, too, but that's a subject for another time.


3 SEATS AVAILABLE

Nex
t year there will be three seats up for grabs in Costa Mesa - those presently occupied by Eric Bever, Gary Monahan and Steve Mensinger. Jim Righeimer and Wendy Leece have two more years on their current terms.

WHO WILL RUN?
Over the next few months there will be much speculation about who might run for those seats and what it might cost to secure one, both in terms of personal and donated treasure and loss of personal privacy and reputations.


"ANYONE" IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER

Bever, our termed-out, part-time, part-time councilman, holds
the only seat guaranteed to not have the same fanny in the chair on the dais following the election. Since he seems to have been distracted most of the past year and has been absent from several important meetings and has said from the dais, "This is not what I signed up for!", it is assumed that almost anyone replacing him would be an improvement. Not necessarily so, grasshopper. It is possible to replace him with a more rabid member of the current power elite (using that phrase seems somehow very wrong) in our city.

MONAHAN HAS A LOT TO LOSE...
Monahan, in my view, has sold out to that very same group and, based on his despicable actions on St. Patrick's Day, and his apparent abdication of the real power on the dais to Righeimer, has worn out his welcome on the council. Running and winning again would fill out his pension game card, so this will be an important race for him. Heck, he's already begun raising campaign funds by holding an event at his gin mill - a double-header of sorts.... get folks slightly sloshed and they fork over campaign contributions. Heck, some of them might just think they were paying their bar tabs. Confusion about campaign contributions is not new in Monahan's life, as the Surat Singh episode revealed a couple campaigns ago.

WILL NON-ELECTED MENSINGER RUN?

Mensinger planted his posterior in Katrina Foley's abandoned chair after receiving a whopping three (3) votes - exactly 12,994 fewer than his pal, Righeimer, did in the last election. As an aside, Righeimer received three fewer votes the last time than he did two years earlier when he ran and finished fourth. I guess a couple people had already figured him out by then.

MAYBE "SPORTS CZAR" INSTEAD...

Back to Mensinger. I don't know if he's going to run for election - not "re-election" - next year. He seems not particularly temperamentally disposed to going to all that trouble and spending all that money - someone else's money, but money, nonetheless. I doubt he would put up with all the grief that young Chris McEvoy endured late in the last election, when the full force of the OC GOP landed on him. And, since he's demonstrated that he's not intellectually and emotionally suited for any job that includes the word "service" - as in "public service" - I could see him NOT running. That's OK with me. I'm tired of seeing him snidely berating speakers, chiding Wendy Leece from the dais and texting to his pals during meetings. He could return to being the Grand Poona of all youth sports in the city - maybe the council could create a "czar" position for him - where he can call the shots without criticism and have his supporters line up to kiss the hem of his robe. He likes that kind of attention.

SMARMY MC CARTHY?

Who, then, might run for those three seats? Well, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Planning Commission Chair Colin McCarthy - another of the power elite jockeying to take over the town - will run. Just watch the commission meetings to see him in action. Heck, as President of the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association, he may have already hit you up for a few bucks for that organization via the US Mail lately. Get used to it - that won't be the last time he comes knocking on your door, looking for bucks.

MOORLACH? WHAT?!
Who else? He
re's one that you probably have not considered... termed-out County Supervisor John Moorlach. Yeah, a City Council seat means taking a pay cut, but Moorlach lives in Costa Mesa and has been part of "that group" mentioned above a couple times. And, he's fancied himself as another pension warrior - although his most recent battle ended up in a very expensive loss for the taxpayers of this county - so I could see him locked, arm-in-arm with Righeimer in Jim's ongoing attempt to destroy the public employee associations in our city.

JIMMYFITZY?
Who else? Well, I'll stifle a chuckle as I write this one - Planning Commissioner, Sanitary District Board Member, moustache-grower and job seeker Jim Fitzpatrick. Yep, old JimmyFitzy seems poised to make the jump by gluing himself to the hip of Mensinger - you'll recall my Don Quixote/Sancho Panza reference from a few months ago.

MATHEWS?

Will Parks and Recreation Chairman Jeff Mathews toss his hat in the ring this time around? He's part of the OC GOP hierarchy - a member of the Central Committee - and seems eager enough. He certainly has been financially supportive of Righeimer and Allan Mansoor in the past, throwing lots of personal dollars at their campaigns.

TEMIANKA?

And, what about young Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ethan Temianka? Is Righeimer's favorite little friend ready to step up, or will he be satisfie
d with a seat on the Planning Commission? He presented himself before the City Council Tuesday night to praise them for their "good" work. It was fanny-smooching at it's best - straight out of the JimmyFitzy play book.

MANSOOR A
GAIN? ARRRGGGHHH!
And what about Allan Mansoor? "Are you nuts?" you ask. Well, maybe, but consider this. Mansoor has demonstrated NO skill in Sacramento. (No surprise to me) As a member of the minority party - and it ain't gonna get any better next time around - he has shown NO leadership. And, with the new Assembly District boundaries, he's going to face some VERY serious competition from other, much more well-heeled Republicans now that Newport Beach is part of his district. So, why not "come home", make another run for a council seat and, after four more years, retire on his nice, lucrative pension?

WHAT ABOUT THE "OTHER SIDE"?
You'll note that I've not mentioned any other folks who might run opposing the power elite. That's the subject for another entry. Quite honestly, we have MANY wonderful, concerned folks who would make GREAT council members - working for all the residents of the city, not just placating masters further up the GOP food chain. However, I'm not sure any of them will be willing to do battle with the folks in power, who have already demonstrated that character assassination and deeply personal attacks are part of their game plan. That being said, I'll address my "wish list" for the other side of the equation in the near future.

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Righeimer Wants A "Charter City"

RIGHEIMER DROPS THE BOMB
At the very tail end of a much-longer-than-expected Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night - after all but a handful of observers had departed and local reporters had already filed their stories - Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer detonated what amounted to a nuclear device in the council chambers - he called for contract City Attorney Tom Duarte to bring back "in writing" the process it would take to convert Costa Mesa from a General Law City to a Charter City in time for that measure to be placed on the June ballot.

TRYING TO CIRCU
MVENT THE JUDGE
In his preamble to this demand it
was clear that he was frustrated by the lawsuit that has produced a temporary injunction which ties the City's hands with regard to outsourcing certain city functions to private companies and wants to use the "Charter City" scheme to circumvent the legal process. Righeimer griped that the opposition "was trying to run out the clock, get to another city council and see what we can do." He whined about not being able to do "what every other city can do" with regard to outsourcing because, as he said, "We didn't do anything wrong." Well, apparently Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann feels otherwise, since it was she - after reviewing the case - who issued the injunction. As it stands right now, a court date of April 9, 2012 has been set for the lawsuit.

SOME REFERENCES
So, what does this "Charter City" thing mean to us? Well, there are lots of informative sites available to us on the internet to answer most of the questions - some of which I expect Tom Duarte will use in his response to the council. You can visit the State of California site, HERE, for the nuts and bolts. You can also visit the League of California Cities site, HERE, for an easy-to-use reference.

SOME LOCAL CHARTER CITIES
Among the interesting things you'll find out is that about one quarter of all California cities - 120 - are Charter cities, including our neighbors in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana and Anaheim. Perhaps the most infamous Charter city is Bell, where officials, including City Manager Robert Rizzo, used the flexibility of their charter to basically gut the city financially.

SOME FACTS
Here are a few interesting - and scary - facts about Charter Cities vs. General Law Cities provided by the California League of Cit
ies: (The emphasis is mine.)

"SUPREME AUTH
ORITY"
The California Constitution gives cities the power to become charter cities. The benefit of becoming a charter city is that
charter cities have supreme authority over "municipal affairs". In other words, a charter city's law concerning a municipal affair will trump a state law governing the same topic.

OPEN-ENDED
A city charter
, in effect a city's constitution, need not set out every municipal affair the city would like to govern. So long as the charter contains the declaration that the city intends to avail itself of the full power provided by the California Constitution, any city ordinance that regulates a municipal affair will govern over a general law of the state.

A "MUNICIPAL AFFAIR"
Determining
what is and is not a "municipal affair" is not always straightforward. The California Constitution does not define "municipal affair". It does, however, set out a nonexclusive list of four "core" categories that are, by definition, municipal affairs.

1) Regulation of the "city police force"
2) Subgovernment in all or part of a city
3) Conduct of city elections
4) The manner in which municipal officers are elected

SOME COURT DECISIONS
Beyond that list it is
up to the courts to determine what is and is not a municipal affair. The concept of "municipal affairs" is fluid and may change over time. Issues that are municipal affairs today could become areas of statewide concern in the future. Nonetheless, there are some areas that courts have consistently classified as municipal affairs. These include:

1) Municipal election matters
2) Land use and zon
ing decisions (with some exceptions)
3) How a city spends its tax dollars
4) Municipal contracts, provided the charter or a city ordinance exempts the city from the Public Contract Code, and the subject matter of the bid constitutes a municipal affair. Thus, a charter may exempt a city from the State's co
mpetitive bidding statutes.

YOU CAN ALMO
ST SEE THEM DROOL...
So, can you see why Righeimer and his cronies are salivating to convert our city from a General Law City to a Charter City? It gives them the ability to exercise absolute control over almost every single element of our municipal government - and how it affects each of us.

THE FIRST CHOICE

There are
two ways for a city to become a Charter City. The first, which seems to be much more cumbersome, is for the electorate to vote on whether it wants to establish a "charter commission". That can be done by the city council deciding to elect a charter commission or by a petition signed by at least 15% of registered voters. Candidates must be nominated and then the vote is taken, deciding first IF a charter commission shall be elected. If that passes, the top 15 vote-getters become the commission and will be responsible for developing the city's charter.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN
The alternative - which is obviously the way this particular power-hungry council will go - is for the council to develop and draft the charter, then
place it on the ballot, where a majority of the voters must vote in favor for it to become effective. The council could call a special election or have it appear on the ballot of a regularly scheduled election.

IT MAY BE TIME TO MOVE ON...
Just when you thought things couldn't possibly get any worse... If this council, with it's disregard for the rules and willingness to make up "facts" as they go, successfully converts our city to a Charter City and has the power during that process to codify their run-and-gun style as the rule of law in our city, the potential for abuse and corruption is undeniable.

NO STOPPING THEM!
Currently the council must follow the state laws that apply to ru
nning a city. If they form a Charter City - and write the charter on which all municipal governance is based - our city and the contracts which form much of the foundation for our operations will be at great risk. If they are able to circumvent the legal orders by a Superior Court judge, then what we thought was heavy-handedness on their part before will become codified governance by sledgehammer.

IT'S A MATTER OF TRUST

Yes, over 100 cities in this state successfully operate as Charter cities, but they're not presently governed by this mob. This all boils down to a matter of trust and I just don't trust this city council to do what is best for our city.

GUTTED RFPS AUTHORIZED FOR RELEASE
What about the rest of the meeting? Yes, they authorized the issuance of the four
RFPs on the agenda, but only after disemboweling the Fleet Maintenance item to the point where we were left wondering just who would end up doing the work they extracted from the proposal. Righeimer led that charge, too, chopping out page after page of content. He seemed not the least bit concerned about how that work would get done.

RE-HEARING NEXT MONTH
After 90 m
inutes of discussion they also shoved off for a month the issue of the renovation of the apartment complex on Country Club Drive, responding to very significant resident outcry at the loss of the lake and major safety concerns. That item will be re-visited by the staff and the developer using many of the concerns expressed last night as guidelines to see what kind of compromises might be found.

NO SMOKING...

And, they passed the ordinance prohibiting smoking at athletic facilities and within
50 feet of public parks. Steve Mensinger requested that the use of smokeless tobacco not be included, so I guess we can expect to see him and his cronies and their kids spitting tobacco juice without fear of reprisal by law enforcement.

MONAHAN OVERLOOKED HATCH
Mayor Gary Monahan, once again, got so disoriented by his juggling of the schedule that he completely forgot to have CEO Tom Hatch present his report to the city. That's too bad, because there are many issues pending that he likely would have addressed for us last night. I guess we'll just have to wait for his E-Briefing Friday.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Important Transportation Grants

OOPS - MY BAD
Lost in the shuffle from the last council meeting was the fact that the City of Costa Mesa, through the hard work and grant-writing skill of our folks in the Transportation Services side of City Hall, has received a couple grants totaling more than $1.6 million.

SUCCESSFUL BIDDING BY STAFF
According to Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman, the State of California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) issued a Call for Projects for the SRTS program in the Spring of 2011 which would provide approximately $66 million in federal funding statewide for transportation projects. The City of Costa Mesa competed for a total of three projects under this "Call for Projects" and was successful in securing funding for two projects, described below.

KIDS WILL BE SAFER
School Zone Tra
ffic Calming City-wide ($796,200) - The project will result in school zone traffic calming, with the installation of 21 radar speed feedback signs, 204 pedestrian countdown timers, 10 school zone warning beacons, and minor signing and striping improvements citywide.

EASY DOES IT
East 19th Street Traffic Calming ($855,850) -
This project provides for implementation of “traffic calming” on East 19th Street between Newport Boulevard and Irvine Avenue. The project includes construction of chokers at intersections and chokers/medians at selected mid-block locations. Landscaping will be incorporated into the traffic calming devices to provide vertical features and provide the visual effect of a narrower street. Entry monument signs are also proposed at Fullerton Avenue and Irvine Avenue to enhance the identification of the “Eastside Costa Mesa” neighborhood.

KUDOS

Kudos to the folks in Transportation Services for, once again, diving into the money pot and coming up with two hands-full of cash with which our streets will become safer. I find myself wondering just who will be doing this kind of great work when everyone at City Hall is outsourced.


WATCH FOR THE KIDS TONIGHT!

On that note, please be careful driving around this evening. There will be lots of little hobgoblins, witches, ghosts and little folks made up like other scary folks wandering the streets, sea
rching for treasure troves of candy. They won't be looking for you, so take it easy, drive with a little more caution and watch out for the kids. Happy Halloween to you all.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

A New Month, Another Council Meeting Tuesday

A SCARY WEEK
After Halloween greets us Monday, we have a chance to shift gears on Tuesday, begin a new month and prepare ourselves for another Costa Mesa City Council meeting. Based on a peek at the agenda published late last Friday, it looks like this one may be brief... it all depends on what kind of shenanigans the council has up it's collective sleeve during Council Member comments. But, first some potential highlights Tuesday evening, beginning at 6:00 p.m. in council chambers.

I-405 FREEWAY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT UPDATE
Early in the meeting we're supposed to get an update on the I-405 Freeway Improvement Project,
but no details are available now. I suspect this will be worth hearing.

TWO WARRANTS FOR NEARLY $5 MILLION

As usual, the Consent Calendar provides us with some interesting issues - some of which might not get any discussion at all. There are two warrants for the council to approve that authorize the expenditure of nearly $5 million in city cash. You can view #2392 HERE and #2393 HERE.

FOUR MORE RFPS FOR RELEASE

Further on down the Consent Calendar we find four (4) more Requests for Proposals which the staff will ask the council to release. Those are Fleet Maintenance Services, HERE; Reprographics, HERE; Graphic Design Services, HERE and Dispatch Services, HERE. None of these will receive any discussion unless a member of the public or the council requests them to be pulled for a separate vote.

HELIPADS, OUT OF SCALE APARTMENTS AND SMOKING
There are three (3) Public Hearings, normally scheduled by council rule to commence at 7:00. The first, involving a proposed helipad near the airport, is a request for continuance until March, 2012. The second is a review of a recent Planning Commission unanimous decision to approve a modification for apartment communities that significantly exceed residential guidelines. Wendy Leece requested this review. The third, which you can read HERE, is a new ordinance banning smoking in city parks, sports facilities and community gardens.

NO OLD OR NEW BUSINESS

There are no items of Old Business nor any New Business, so this meeting might end up being the shortest of the year. Then, again, this council may just surprise us again with their co
mments at the end of the meeting. We'll see... and report.

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