Another Marathon Meeting Anticipated Tuesday
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 the Costa Mesa City Council will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall. The meeting will be preceded by a Closed Session starting at 5:00 p.m.
Ahead in this edition you'll read about, not necessarily in order:
- The potential approval of the Fiscal Year 2012/2013 Municipal Budget
- The potential resolution by the City Council about the proposed I-405 Improvement Project
- The extension of the helicopter services Memorandum of Understanding with Huntington Beach for 3 more years
- The legal bills keep on stacking up
- The RFP for Facilities Maintenance to be modified and re-issued
- A contract with five (5) separate companies to provide building safety and fire prevention plan review and inspection services
- The renewed Measure M (M2) Eligibility
- Public hearings on Federally-funded programs
- The re-naming of the Redevelopment and Residential Rehabilitation (3R) Committee
- The possible termination of the annual independent financial audit services with Mayer, Hoffman, McCann, P.C.
- RFPs for Graphic Design Services and Reprographics
Right off the bat, the Consent Calendar is chock full of items that are ripe for picking. Council members or residents can pull any item for separate discussion and vote.
- Among those of special interest might be Warrant #2424, HERE, which includes a payment to Jones and Mayer of more than $112,000 for legal services.
- An agreement, HERE, with five companies to provide building safety and fire prevention plan review and inspection services for more than $500,000.
- Extension for 3 years of the Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Huntington Beach for helicopter services, not to exceed $300,000 annually, HERE. We paid that city just under $24,000 for those services for April, 2012 based on the warrants attached to the staff report.
- Measure M (M2) Renewal and 7-year Capital Improvement Plan, HERE
There are five (5) Public Hearings on the agenda Tuesday, although #1, a helipad on a roof near John Wayne Airport, has apparently subsequently been withdrawn.
Items 2, 3 and 4 deal with Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funding.
Item #2, the 2012/2013 CDBG Public Service Grant Allocations, HERE, informs us that there has been a reduction in funds available for this program of more than 15%, so this year we will have only $157,502 available to distribute to those organizations who apply. A review of the proposed grant recommendations by the 3R Committee, HERE, provide an interesting picture for your consideration. EVERY organization will receive less than they requested and less than the current year's allocation with two exceptions. Mercy House - Homeless Prevention (Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer is on the board of this organization) will receive $19,002 - double the allocation for the current year and less than half what they requested even though they were among the lowest ranked by the 3R Committee. The City of Costa Mesa HCD - Homeless Outreach will receive $35,000 - the full amount requested.
Item #3 , Funding Priorities for the CDBG and HOME programs, HERE, is an interesting story. Basically, the program has been gutted of staff as you can clearly read in the staff report. I won't go over them - you can read about them if you wish - but another big part of this item is the staff recommendation to completely reconfigure the 3R committee and make it an ad hoc committee instead of a standing committee. This is very big deal because that committee has arguably been the most powerful committee in the city in recent years. The city will have $1,344,664 in CDBG funds and $461,320 in HOME funds to use in FY 2012/2013.
Item #4, Approval of an amendment to the 2011/2012 Action Plan, HERE, is a discussion and possible resolution on the use of the funds mentioned above.
Item #5 is the 2012/2013 Municipal Budget, HERE. This one may take you some time to digest, especially when the staff report jumps right in with the elimination of four (4) positions as the preamble to the remainder of the discussion. In fact, the four individuals who occupied those jobs until last Thursday, when they were unceremoniously shown the door at City Hall, are officially on paid leave until the budget passes. At that point they will be given 30 day notice of their jobs being eliminated and will be off the payroll at the end of a month. And, the choices of individual positions to be eliminated is curious, to say the least. For example, at the busiest time of any year for the City Clerk's office - the run-up to and through a municipal election - somebody decided to dump an Office Specialist II slot. And this happens when the City Clerk is on paid administrative leave while a "clerical error" is being investigated and a temporary, Interim City Clerk has been hired.
I.T. MANAGER GONE!
Even stranger is the elimination of the Information Technology Manager position. That organization, which has been burdened with an antiquated system for years, is apparently scheduled for multi-million dollar upgrades to everything - every computer, wire, connection, etc. soon. One would think that the IT Manager would be our de facto Project Manager on this kind of a undertaking. Bobby Young, Director of Finance and Information Technology has a platter that is already overflowing, so he can't take on that job. What I expect to see is another consultant hired to ramrod this project - sound familiar? - leaving NO CITY EMPLOYEE in the loop.
The other two sliced positions are in the Building Division of the Development Services Department, where two Office Specialists were axed on the assumption that the addition of two new Code Enforcement Officers will pick up the slack - even though one of them will be assigned full time to the Police Department. Funny, we're ramping-up a huge effort to attract businesses to our city and to encourage folks to buy and upgrade their homes yet we slice two persons with very significant experience and institutional knowledge from the very staff that would be needed to provide services to that effort. Will somebody explain that to me, please?
Back to the budget. This year the "conservative" council is proposing a $132,676,130 All Funds budget - up 15.45%! The General Fund budget is proposed for $101,119,710, up "only" 6.84%. The Capital Budget - roads, streets, parks and other infrastructure - is $20,796,936, a whopping 98.17% increase!
In the General Fund budget we actually have a $55,225 surplus, but in the All Funds budget - the whole enchilada - we must use almost $8 million in Fund Balances to make the numbers work. Does this sound "conservative" to you? Of course not! No, these guys have gutted the staff, refused to permit filling of vacancies in public safety areas (Even though Chief Tom Gazsi has taken the initiative to begin a three-pronged recruitment effort for police officers because of the long lead time necessary to fill those jobs) and still nearly double the Capital budget! Read Attachment A from the budget proposal HERE.
A GUTTED STAFF
As of last week the actually city head count was hovering just below 430 individuals. This is down from a high of 611 before the economy kicked us and everyone else in the teeth beginning in 2008. Virtually every department in our city government has realized very significant staff cuts - except one. That would be the CEO's office, which has increased the headcount by more than 50%. Note Jennifer Muir's recent commentary on that subject HERE.
It's clear to me that this council, with the actions they have and are taking, have absolutely no idea what "service to the public" is all about. They are gutting the staff and building an upside-down pyramid, with large numbers of managers at the top and very few workers at the bottom. Eighteen months ago, when Righeimer and his crew first initiated their "outsourcing plan" I joked that their idea of a perfect city staff would be Tom Hatch and a half dozen contract administrators to manage the outsourced operations. Well, that was funny at the time... not so funny now.
Under Old Business on the agenda the first item is the discussion of councilman Steve Mensinger's demand that the City divorce itself from the audit firm of Mayer, Hoffman, McCann, P.C., whom we just hired to perform those services for us, because of their role in the City of Bell debacle. The staff is recommending that we NOT terminate the contract and the staff report, HERE, provides the reasoning behind it. This should make for an interesting discussion.
Item #2 under New Business is a discussion of a resolution by the City Council to support Alternatives 1 and 2 and opposing #3 in the I-405 Improvement Project, HERE. It is anticipated that there will be a LARGE crowd on hand to hear this item, and there is some thought that it might be moved forward on the agenda for that reason, so I suggest you arrive early if you expect to have a seat. It has become apparent to me as I attended two of the four community meetings on this subject conducted by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and Cal Trans that they seem locked into Alternative #3, the one that establishes a High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane for the 14 mile length of the project. The only reason I can see for doing that is to generate revenue. Some folks in town suspect those revenues might be used to help pay down the debt for other toll roads in the county - like the 73 Toll Road, for example. I've also heard a few minutes ago that the period for public review on this issue has been extended until July 17, 2012 and that OCTA Regional Planning and Highways Committee will consider a locally preferred alternative on August 6th and the item goes to the full board on August 13th. You'll find this essay from the Orange Juice Blog by Major Quimby of interest on this subject, HERE. He tells us we, the people, are entitled to vote again on this issue because a toll road was not anticipated in the Measure M 2 dialogue.
Item #2 is the RFP for Graphic Design Services, HERE. The City is going to try to figure a way to immediately implement this proposal because, except for the retirement of an individual, other staff reductions are anticipated under this contract. It should be interesting to hear what the Costa Mesa City Employees Association has to say about this.
Item #3 is the RFP for Reprographics, HERE. The proposal is from the Orange County Publishing Services - a government entity. As a result, the City plans to immediately implement this contract, close the print shop and eliminate the Offset Press Operator position when the incumbent retires soon.
It's going to be a full evening tomorrow... I'll be very surprised if we get out of City Hall before midnight. And, as I've said many times before, these guys don't make good decisions after midnight.