Wednesday, December 07, 2011

70 Years Later...

I cannot let this day fade without recalling that this day, December 7, 2011, is the 70th anniversary of the attack by the Japanese Empire on our Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - the attack that launched us into World War II. That conflict, both in Europe and in the Pacific, eventually took more than 400,000 American lives during the slightly more than three and a half years of conflict.


Some have said that World War II unified this country to the point that it became THE dominate power in the world from the end of the war in 1945 until, barely, the present date. The late writer and commentator on "60 Minute
s", Andy Rooney (he passed away November 14th) covered World War II as a writer for the Stars and Stripes and reminded us of that time in his life frequently with his commentaries and his books.

I've written extensively about this anniversary for several years - 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. I hope you'll take the time to visit those entries to help you remember this date and what it meant to this nation - what we fought to defeat on two continents simultaneously.


As the members of my parents generation - Tom
Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" - continue to die off I hope you will take a moment to thank those you know for their sacrifice. Every member of American society sucked it up and did their part to help win the war, not just those brave men and women in the military service. My father, for example, was ineligible for military service because of a leg injury, but he worked two full-time jobs for the duration - his regular job and then at least one defense-related job. His brother served in the SeaBees and two uncles on my mother's side served with distinction as officers in the Army. They, and their peers, returned from doing their duty in the war to help build this nation following the war.

In five days my grandnephew, Nathan Harrison, will deploy to Afghanistan for his first tour. He joined the Army right out of high school last year specifically to help win that conflict. In less than two week, at the age of 19, he will find himself in harm's way in a far-off land doing his duty for this country. He is the kind of young man that formed the cadre of the soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II - ready to defend our country's interests, wherever it took them.


Never forget the lessons of Pearl Harbor and never stop supporting our troops. They deserve it.

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Now I Understand! (Updated*)

I had a good feeling about last night's City Council meeting when it started - before a standing-room-only crowd - with a presentation to a Pop Warner Flag Football team - a group of tykes coached by a city employee who had an outstanding year. Members of the League Champion Estancia High School Eagle football team - all dressed up in their traveling blazers - were there to support these little guys and two of the stars from THAT team stepped up to praise them, extol the virtues of football and encouraged them to stay together. Senior Ozzy Magana reminded them that it didn't matter whether they went to Estancia or Costa Mesa. What mattered was that they were Costa Mesans. It was one of those "I'm-glad-I-live-in-Costa-Mesa" moments that we don't see often enough these days. Unfortunately, that was just about the last "good feeling" I had last night.

Remember how I've told you that our city council makes bad decisions when they let the meetings stretch into the next day? Well, their record is intact. The council meeting that began at 6:05 Tuesday evening finally ended at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday - today! And, it began short-handed as Mayor Gary Monahan failed to attend due to a serious family emergency.

I knew we were in trouble when the only Public Hearing to be held - the change in holiday hours for the Target Store on Harbor Blvd. - stretched an hour and a half, only to end up being continued until January 17, 2012 because both votes taken on the issue resulted in 2-2 ties, which means each vote failed - the result of Monahan being absent.

The big item of the evening/morning was the discussion of the Cha
rter City proposal put forward by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer. That discussion began at 11:05 p.m. and stretched until 1:15 a.m. This issue never should have been on the agenda in the first place. Such a significant issue should have been scheduled for a Study Session, where a thorough vetting by the council could take place. That, however, wouldn't fit Righeimer's plans. Like almost every other initiative he's launched since taking office last January, this one was going to be on a fast track, one way or the other.

As it turns out, Righeimer created the draft Charter included in the staff report all by himself, by cutting and pasting segments from several other city charters. He's in such a hurry to get this issue before the voters that he couldn't wait to have the City Attorney cobble something together, nor could he wait to have a vote taken by the people to authorize the creation of a charter commission. Nope, this is his baby and he is doing it, period!

One of the reasons for his haste became very clear as we read through the Charter draft. Actually, he read it to us, just like my folks used to read the Sund
ay funnies to me many, many moons ago. You can read it in the staff report, HERE. When he got near the end and came to Section 603, Voluntary Municipal Employee Political Contributions, I understood what this is all about. Here's the verbiage of that section: (click on image to enlarge)

As some may recall, Righeimer has been on a nearly two decade crusade against organized labor. He and a couple other pals, Frank Ury and Righeimer's lawyer/brother-in-law, Mark Bucher, burst into national prominence with their ill-advised "paycheck protection". You can read about that HERE and HERE. The text above is only the most recent attempt by Righeimer to de-fang organized labor's fund raising resources. Clearly, it's the cornerstone of his efforts to rush this Charter initiative onto the June ballot.

In my previous post on this subject I provided a schedule - a time table - for the
processing of this issue in order to get it on the June ballot. Well, the first thing I noticed Tuesday night was that there's a new schedule, not the one in the staff report. This one shifts the timing out a week, which may eliminate an opportunity for at least one of the Town Halls anticipated in the previous schedule. Here's how the new schedule looks, taken directly from the agenda addition last night:

Dec. 6 - City Council Meeting: Report on possible City charter, including introduction to what's a charter, pros and cons of b
ecoming a charter city, and procedure for being a charter city (including proposed time line); first draft of the charter will be presented and discussed; public comment will be taken.

Dec. 20 - Deadline for notice posted for the mandatory First Hearing of proposed charter on Jan. 10, 2012.

Jan. 5, 2012 - An informational Town Hall has been added to the schedule at 7:00 p.m. - location to be determined.

Jan. 10, 2012 - Special City Council Meeting (First Hearing);
The City Counc
il will look at potential provisions to include in a charter for Costa Mesa, take public comment and may vote on a first draft of a charter, which can be edited by the council throughout the process.

Jan. 23, 2012 - Deadline f
or notice posted for the mandatory Second Hearing of proposed charter on Feb. 14, 2012.

Jan. 24, 2012 and/or Jan. 31, 2012 - Potential town hall meetings on charter;
If needed, the City of Costa Mesa will present information on the charter and charter process. (During the meeting Righeimer added a Town Hall on the 24th for sure and kept the option open for another on the 31st.)

Feb. 14, 2012 - Special City Council Meeting (Second Hearing); City Council will receive public comment and may continue to hone the draft charter toward completion.

March 6, 2012 - SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING to vote upon resolution directing that the Charter be submitted to the Voters; This is the earliest date in which Council may adopt a resolution directing the charter to be submitted to the voters.

Once the vote is taken and the paperwork is submitted to place the issue on the June ballot there will be three months of politicking from both sides of this issue. Righeimer speculated that "the unions" would be throwing money at this issue to defeat it.


The meeting ended with council member comments - which has devolved in recent m
onths into whine-fests, in which some of the male members of the council take pot-shots at Wendy Leece. Last night both Eric Bever - our part-time, part-time council member took his turn at bat, throwing zingers at her across the dais. And then, like the bitter after-taste from a bottle of cheap wine, Steve Mensinger launched off into another of his woe-is-me tirades, telling us that his wife and kids were all home in bed and yet here he is, serving the public. I wonder if he ever gets a cramp in his arm from patting himself on the back for his "sacrifices". Maybe he should just do what he said he REALLY wanted to do during his acceptance speech last January - quit the council and coach. He should listen to Ozzy Magana...

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Charlie Brown Rescued!

In a press release this morning, Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell advised the world that Charlie Brown has been saved! Here's the text of that announcement:

COSTA MESA, CALIF. - There will be a Charlie Brown Christmas in Costa Mesa after all this year, thanks to a deal struck today by the City and Jim Jordan, whose family for 44 years has put up an elaborate holiday display at their Eastside home using Peanuts cartoon characters.

Jordan’s residential property had been recently foreclosed on, leaving the future of the Peanuts gang in jeopardy. Jordan said the attraction draws more than 80,000 visitors each year.

The Peanuts display—including a stage for Santa—will be moved to the lawn outside of City Hall, allowing Costa Mesans and others throughout Orange County to enjoy the popular holiday tradition.

Jordan and his crew of volunteers will begin setting up the series of holiday scenes on Friday, with the display scheduled to be officially open on Tuesday, Dec. 13. City Council members will throw the ceremonial switch at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 to light up the display.

“I’m so humbled and overwhelmed at the support from the community and City Hall that I can’t even express it,” Jordan said.

Santa will be making nightly visits from Dec. 18 through Dec. 23.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to save a beloved Costa Mesa tradition, and allow residents to come out and visit their City Hall,” said Tom Hatch, the City’s chief executive officer. “We were please we could help.”

Jordan said he needs volunteers to help set up the display and also to work as elves each night that display is open. Financial donations from individuals, families, companies and nonprofits are also welcome. Those interested should call City staff member Sylvia Chalmers at (714) 754-5099.

So, great news for all you Snoopy fans. It's going to be a "Charlie Brown Christmas" after all! Now, Linus, please tell us what Christmas is all about...


The Week Ahead

December promises to be a slow month for City business, but it hasn't screeched to a halt just yet. Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, December 6th, the City Council will meet in what should be their final scheduled meeting of the year. The agenda has been published and there likely will be some interesting discussions before they adjourn for 2011. Wednesday there is a Special Meeting of the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach Parks Commissions to discuss the re-landscaping of Irvine Avenue.

For example, the regular meeting will be preceded by what has been announced as a "Special Meeting", beginning at 4:00. In fact, this is
a closed session in which there are five (5) separate items to be discussed by the council. One of those, item #4, also involves "Arnell Management Company, Inc.", so I find myself wondering whether councilman Steve Mensinger will participate since he used to work for Arnel...

The regular meeting begins in Council Chambers at 6:00 and, as usual, the Consent Calendar has some items of interest that may be pulled for separate discussion. The first warrant, #2396, HERE, includes a line item for Jones & Mayer, the law firm that provides City Attorney services, in the amount of $126,427.61. Since the City budget just over $800,000 for legal services, an average of around $68,000 per month, it looks like we are going to be way, way over budget for legal services this year. The spreadsheet the city maintains on the web site is not current - it only shows payments through September - so it's hard to get a handle on this.

There is also a resolution generated by Mayor Gary Monah
an to change the order of business at council meetings, HERE. This codifies what has become the council's practice and is not a big deal. It does place the closed session BEFORE the regular meeting, which forces the council to work briskly and keeps them from making those important decisions - usually involving litigation - in the wee hours of the next day. It also clarifies what happens to items on the agenda that are not finished before the magic "witching hour" of 7:00, when they plan to begin Public Hearings. This resolution says that anything listed prior to Public Hearings - like Public Comments, for example - will be finished AFTER Old Business, but before New Business. This arbitrary rule about Public Hearings starting at 7:00 has always been a problem. It has made for herky-jerky meetings and, quite honestly, has not been uniformly enforced. At the last meeting, for example, the folks from Sakioka had to hang around until 10:30 before their brief item was heard by the council. In my view, the Public Hearings should remain where they are in the agenda schedule of events, but NOT be forced to begin at 7:00, which stifles the Public Comment segment. In fact, if they pass this resolution Tuesday it becomes effective immediately - with that meeting.

Also in the Consent Calendar are two more outsourcing Requests for Proposals (RFPs). They are for Payroll, HERE, and Information Technology, HERE. As a sidebar on this subject, last week, on Thursday, December 1st, all the employees who had previously received layoff notices received notification that those notices were extended - again. This time they are extended until March 10th - 51 weeks after the original debacle in which they were originally issued and Huy Pham leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall.

Following the Public Hearings Old Business #1 is the appointme
nts to the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex Task Force, HERE. This was continued from a previous meeting because, apparently, there were insufficient quality candidates who applied - at least in the eyes of some council members. This astounded me at the time, since they really only had to appoint one member and an alternate and had five candidates - each of whom applied on time - from which to choose. Among those was Gordon Bowley - a man who is deeply immersed in most youth sports programs in town. It's going to be VERY interesting to see who gets appointed to this task force.


The very last item on the agenda is the discussion of Jim Righeimer's scheme to turn Costa Mesa into a Charter City. The staff report includes a pretty benign draft Charter - which appears to be designed to stifle criticism rather than to reshape city government. The conversation on this one should be VERY interesting. The report includes a schedule of meetings to provide public input on this issue. In my opinion, this is the WRONG way to be going about this change. I'm NOT saying we should not convert to being a Charter City, but we SHOULD NOT rush the process. We should, as every credible source available tells us, select a Charter Commission, who would calmly deliberate and create a Charter for Costa Mesa. What will happen, though, is that the City Council, driven by the political ambitions of one man, will cobble together a Charter that will permit way, way too much opportunity for mischief. Yes, Righeimer predicted some might conjure up the specter of another Bell - appropriately so. Bell converted to a Charter City and then was pillaged by unscrupulous administrators and council members. Only 400 people voted in the election to convert Bell to a Charter City, for goodness sake!

The staff report
, HERE, includes some excellent background information, including easy-to-use charts comparing General Law cities to Charter cities. The proposed time line of events is VERY aggressive. It begins with the council meeting Tuesday where the initial discussion and public comments will be heard.
  • On December 6th the report on possible City Charter will be discussed and public comment will be taken
  • On December 13th a notice will be posted for the mandatory First Hearing, on January 3rd.
  • On the 3rd - the first council meeting of the year and following City Hall being closed for a week for the holidays - the council will look at potential provisions to include in a Charter, take more public comment and may vote on a first draft!
  • On January 10th a Town Hall meeting will be held to present charter information.
  • On January 17th the notice for the second mandatory hearing on February 7th will be posted.
  • On January 24th and/or 31st more Town Hall meetings MAY be held.
  • On February 2nd the Second Hearing on the charter will be held.
  • On February 14th another Town Hall meeting MAY be held.
  • On February 28th a SPECIAL MEETING will be held to vote on the resolution directing that the Charter be submitted to the Voters.
As I've said many times, this process is being rushed by this council to the detriment of the future of our city and all the residents, current and future. IF converting Costa Mesa to a Charter City is a good idea, then it's an idea that SHOULD NOT BE RUSHED.

Wednesday the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission and the
Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission will hold a special joint meeting in Costa Mesa Conference Room 1A at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the plans for the re-landscaping of Irvine Avenue between 17th Street and 19th Street. You can read the agenda item HERE. This, as you are aware, is a result of the removal of 104 eucalyptus trees following the death of a driver when one of the trees fell on her car a few months ago. The hour of the meeting is unusual for any meeting in Costa Mesa, so make a note.

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Journey's End

At noon on Saturday a couple dozen of Kent Treptow's friends and family members, including his "five readers" (running inside joke), met him along the shore at Huntington Beach as he finished his solo trek across the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

(Greeting Friends)

(Maybe more)

BREATH-TAKING! (Tracking the journey)
(The Friends)
As one who was among those "five readers" - I've followed his adventure on the blog he created using his cell phone, HERE, from day one - I must say that it takes my breath away as I contemplate some of the events of his 175 day, 3400 mile, 10 pair-of-shoes journey. Suspicions were confirmed when he told us that, although he wrote about many of the "interesting" situations in which he found himself on his journey, he did not include ALL of them for fear of causing his parents distress. The dose of poison Oak he received during his perilous climb through a local canyon in the last couple days may be the very least of it. Perhaps we'll hear about them later. (A Little Poison Oak )

(The proud parents)

The day was perfect for his arrival - bright, sunny and temperatures just warm enough for him to strip down and take a climactic running jump into the ocean as the exclamation point on his trip.
(The Run)

(The Dive)

(The trophy)

He was presented with a trophy by his long-time girl friend, Alicia Robinson (former Daily Pilot ace reporter, now working for the Riverside Press-Enterprise) for the completion of the trip. The inscription says, "Kent Treptow. Walked from Maine To California Except For A Few Miles East of St. Louis. June 12 to Dec. 3, 2011". (The "other" reward)

(The last few steps)
Some of us wondered if Kent might just pull a "Forrest Gump" on us and, once he stuck his toes in the Pacific, just turn right around and re-trace his steps back to Maine. Not a chance!


He's not talking about what the future holds right now. Although prodded by the crowd about writing a book chronicling this journey, Kent didn't make a commitment. I hope he does write the book - he's already done most of the heavy lifting with his blog. Mention was made of grad school, but I suspect he's going to find a job and re-stock his pantry before too long.

Congratulations to Kent Treptow on the completion of this wonderful adventure. Along the way he made many new friends and gained a perspective on this country few of us will ever have. I'm happy he allowed us to follow along each day as h
e posted entries on his blog and live just a little bit of his adventures vicariously. What a guy!

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Friday, December 02, 2011

City Confirms Hiring Francis as Assistant CEO

In a press release late today, Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell confirmed what we reported HERE yesterday - that Supervisor John Moorlach's Chief of Staff, Rick Francis, has been hired as Costa Mesa's Assistant Chief Executive Officer. According to Lobdell, Francis will be paid $144,048 in annual salary. The complete text of Lobdell's press release follows:

COSTA MESA, CALIF. - The City of Costa Mesa has hired Rick Francis—the chief of staff for Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach—as its assistant chief executive officer.

Francis, a Costa Mesa resident, has spent 22 years in government, the majority of the time working in the County of Orange and U.S. District Court probation departments as a counselor, officer and division director.

In December 2006, Francis was hired as Supervisor Moorlach’s deputy chief of staff, and in 2009, he was promoted to chief of staff. In that nonpartisan role, Francis was the lead policy advisor for the supervisor’s office, working with county, city and special district officials and Orange County residents on a variety of issues.

“As both a veteran of government and a Costa Mesa homeowner, I view as essential the difficult steps the City’s taking to create a sustainable fiscal model for the long-term benefit of everyone,” Francis said. “I’m excited to bring my expertise and passion to the effort.”

In addition to his government work, Francis, 49, was administrative pastor at Newport Mesa Church in Costa Mesa for four years beginning in 2003.

“Costa Mesa is fortunate to get Rick, whose government expertise, effective management style, record of integrity and Costa Mesa residency make him the perfect fit for our City,” said Tom Hatch, the City’s chief executive officer.
Francis will begin working for the City as soon as the standard background check is completed. His annual salary will be $144,048. He and Dina, his wife of 23 years, have three children in college.

Hatch also commended Public Services Director Peter Naghavi for his outstanding work while serving as interim assistant chief executive officer since September.

“Peter stepped up when we really needed him and did an exceptional job,” Hatch said. “We’re not surprised because Peter is such a dedicated professional, but we are thankful.”

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The Weekend Starts Tonight!

First, tonight the hapless UCLA Bruins, under the guidance of lame duck coach Rick Neuheisel, travel to Eugene, Oregon to play the vaunted Oregon Ducks in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game. If the Bruins' performance against USC last weekend is any indication - I think it is - the 50 points the Trojans scored on them will be nothing compared to the thrashing the Ducks will put on them tonight. The game starts at 5:00 and will be televised on Fox.

Then, for a bit of local football, Costa Mesa's Estancia High School Eagles battle Beckman High School in the league semifinal game beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Jim Scott Stadium. This should be a terrific game - both teams are 10-2. Good l
uck to those Eagles.

For those of you who prefer a different kind of entertainment, the Estancia Drama Department will present their version of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", with the first performance tonight at 7:00 at the Barbara Van Holt Theater at Estancia High School. Performances will also be shown Saturday and also on December 9th and 10th.

Tomorrow, at noon, our friend, Kent Treptow, will wrap up his nearly
3500 mile solo trek from Maine to California when he puts his feet in the Pacific Ocean at the Huntington Beach side of the mouth of the Santa Ana River - the place where he learned to surf. I've provided a link to his blog for your reading pleasure. It's been quite a trip, to say the very least. Hopefully, more than a few of Kent's friends will be on-hand to greet him.

The rest of the weekend is up to you... I suspect Christmas shopping will occupy most of your time. Have fun. I leave you, once again, with Stan Freberg's classic, GREEN CHRI$TMA$, to get you into the old spirit.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Voice of OC - New Assistant CEO Named For Costa Mesa

In an entry today, HERE, Voice of OC Managing Editor Norberto Santana, Jr., announced that Supervisor John Moorlach's chief of staff, Rick Francis, has been selected as the new Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the City of Costa Mesa.

This is an interesting turn of events since this move can only be viewed as a step backward in Francis' career path. Santana's report gives you his history, which is pretty darn impressive. However, if you stand on your tippy-toes and look a year into the future this move makes some sense.

You will recall that, a month ago, I speculated, HERE, that Moorlach might be a candidate for City Council in Costa Mesa. He's a resident of the city and is termed-out of his supervisorial job. He could run for Assembly in an already-crowded field that includes incumbent Allan Mansoor and Newport Beach councilwoman Leslie Daigle. His near-term future might, in fact, be in Costa Mesa.


Continuing the speculation, if Jim Righeimer and his cronies decid
e to push this Charter city initiative and are successful, it's very likely that it would appear on the June ballot with some VERY significant changes in our municipal government. For example, no term limits for council members and - get ready for this - a directly-elected mayor, also without term limits. That means that Moorlach might actually run for that slot and be on track to becoming king for life in our city. And wouldn't such a king need a strong, reliable right hand-man? You betcha! Hence, Rick Francis.

I don't know Ric
k Francis - wouldn't know him if I tripped over him. His reputation is solid according to all available reports. Santana tells us he's a pastor - was "Moorlach's personal pastor", is the way he put it. Nothing wrong with that - the way this city is going, a whole lot of divine intervention is going to be required in the years ahead.

According to Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell this morning, Francis i
s still undergoing the background checking process. He did tell me that an announcement from the city is forthcoming a little later today. He didn't indicate what Francis will be paid, but it's likely going to be in the $180,000 range, plus benefits.

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