Righeimer's Charter, And More
Last night - Election Night - while dozens of residents took time from their busy schedules to attend the Costa Mesa City Council meeting at which Jim Righeimer's Charter would, once again, be discussed in the first of two mandatory public hearings that are required before it can be placed on the November 6th ballot, former mayor and now councilman Gary Monahan spent HIS evening serving drinks and schmoozing with the OC GOP power elite at his gin mill. Since abdicating his throne to Eric Bever earlier this year - citing the need to spend more time at his business and with his family - it seems like he's missed as many meetings as he's attended. Maybe not, but it seems like it. Although he's stated that he's running again in November, it is time for him step aside. Clearly, his mind is elsewhere these days and the residents of this city deserve more.
AN "EARLY" MEETING, WITH SOME HIGH POINTS, TOO
The council meeting itself had some interesting moments. You can watch it online HERE. For one thing, it ended just before 11:00 p.m.! That was good news for those of us who take the time to attend and participate in the governance process. And, as has been the case in recent months, a couple dozen high school students from Newport Harbor High School sat patiently and observed the proceedings. And, it began with a real high point - the presentation of the Employee of the Month award to Hilda Veturis, a stalwart in the Development Services Department, which included a very clever video clip that is also now being shown on the Costa Mesa Minute.
GOOD FOR US!
The City was also given a check for more than $27,000 by Southern California Edison in recognition of recent energy-saving efforts - the installation of two new "chillers" at City Hall and the Police Department, which apparently resulted in energy savings equivalent to powering hundreds of homes. Good for us.
The Public Comments, as usual, had some interesting moments. Resident Jay Litvak stepped up and read into the record a letter from the United States Department of Interior National Parks Service - the agency charged with administering public lands - that addressed Litvak's concern for a possible violation of the deed that transferred the chunk of property that is now TeWinkle Park to The City decades ago. It seems, based on the content of that letter, that the city may have jumped the gun when it moved ahead with Monahan's plan to privatize the Sports Complex at that park. Litvak was a member of the now-dormant TeWinkle Park Task Force and had expressed concern about this issue previously. Later, resident Eleanor Egan also addressed this issue - as she has done in the past. Sadly, this is just one more example of how this current council does not listen to its constituents on very important issues. This gaffe may be very costly if the City moves forward with the plan to turn the TeWinkle Parks Sports Complex over to a private, for-profit company to operate.
FEENEY GIVES OCTA HECK
Resident John Feeney gave the council his take on the OCTA informational meeting from the previous night, describing the folks at the OCTA as "tin badge dictators" and reiterating his belief that the choice of Alternative #3 would only help "the swells from Newport Beach".
FISH FRY SUCCESS
Lions Club President Bob Ooten gave a preliminary report from the Fish Fry weekend and gave kudos to all who made it come together, particularly Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce for his efforts. He mentioned some infrastructure improvements that will be necessary for a smooth operation in future years and some tweaking of the parking plans.
There was a covey of Westside children who spoke, requesting the council consider a way to provide financial assistance for sports programs for underprivileged youth. Several subsequent speakers praised them for their efforts. They did a great job.
WHAT ABOUT FITZY'S VACANCY?
Sue Lester why the City had not participated in the recent county-wide emergency drill and also asked when the council was going to discuss the replacement of Jim Fitzpatrick on the Planning Commission. She postulated that they might be waiting to see if he is, in fact, ousted from the Sanitary District Board, so they could then re-appoint him to the Planning Commission. That's a question that needs answering.
BEVER'S LETTER TO THE OCTA BOARD
During Council Member Comments, Mayor Bever announced that he had sent a letter to the OCTA Board opposing Alternative #3 and asked CEO Tom Hatch to prepare a resolution for the council to consider officially opposing that choice and supporting either Alternatives 1 or 2. He expressed concern that south county folks using the proposed toll lane would be precluded from hopping off the freeway to reach South Coast Plaza.
FISH AND MOTELS
Righeimer talked about the Fish Fry and the "Motel Problem".
SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS
Wendy Leece spoke about Bever's letter and addressed the activities of the Military Affairs Team. She showed a slide show of CMPD officer Jon Smith, currently deployed in Afghanistan, to whom boxes of goodies are being sent as the first step in the re-activation of the effort to support our adopted Marine unit, the 1/5 from Camp Pendleton.
DUMPING THE AUDITOR
Steve Mensinger demanded that the City find another auditor, since our current auditor is embroiled in the City of Bell fiasco. He also suggested that the Investment Oversight Committee play an active role in the selection of an auditor. He also threw some budget numbers around as if the preliminary budget had actually been passed. He needs to pay more attention. More on that in a minute.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS...
During his CEO Report, Hatch gave a report from the recent Las Vegas business development trip that he and four other staffers attended. He quantified contacts made and follow-up meetings that have been held. The trip cost $7,000, of which half was paid by the Costa Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau. Based on his report, it seems like having a presence at the trade show may have been a good investment.
BUDGET MEETING ON THE 12TH
He also announced that the budget will be the subject at the next study session on June 12th. It is hoped that the council will be able to wrap up the final version by the meeting of the 19th. It is required to have a finished budget before July 1st.
DUARTE WORKING ON LITVAK'S LETTER
He also acknowledged the receipt of Litvak's letter and that contract City Attorney Tom Duarte is working on it.
As the council plowed through the Consent Calendar they, and members of the public, pulled several items for separate conversation and votes. One of the high, or low, points depending on your viewpoint, was when Mensinger pulled "#8", then it turned out he actually meant #7, an item discussing the renovation of an alley. Obviously, he wasn't paying attention to the business at hand - he may have been swapping emails with Jim Fitzpatrick, who was plopped down in the audience, madly tapping out messages on his phone. Regardless, when it came time for that item to be discussed the council had already voted on it as part of one single vote on items not pulled. Still, Mensinger just HAD to discuss it and used what will likely be one of his platforms for his council campaign this summer and fall - the condition of alleys in our city. Somebody needs to take that darn Ipad away from him so he can actually pay attention to the business at hand!
GENERAL PLAN UPDATE
Addressing #6, the contract with a Pasadena consultant for the General Plan update, Leece expressed concern that it appeared that the contract proposed does not include significant community outreach. Resident Marshall Krupp - an announced candidate for City Council in the fall - observed that we could expect additional charges of more than $100,000 if the consultant is asked to do community outreach beyond the terms of this contract. There seemed to be little concern about this among the other council members. Perhaps they will treat this project as they are treating Jim Righeimer's Charter - they'll just do what they want and not care one bit about public input.
Public Hearing #1, the re-authorization of the BIA funding, passed on a 4-0 vote after some discussion about taking a more "global approach" - to support more businesses than just the 10 hotels that participate.
Following a "10 minute break" that turned out to be 20 minutes, they tackled Public Hearing #2, the mandatory public hearing dealing with the bonds required for the sale and renovation of Bethel Towers, the senior housing high-rise on the Westside of town where 268 seniors reside. This was a VERY interesting discussion, during which Righeimer attempted to throw his weight around as a former Chair of the Orange County Housing Commission. Phrases directed at the applicant like, "Before I ask any questions just know that I was a housing commissioner for the county for the last 14 years." And, when interrogating the applicant about where they will get rent subsidies, Righeimer cautioned him to "Remember who I am." Geez! The short version of the discussion is, that the council wants assurances that will protect the current residents and were unwilling to approve this issue until they had them in hand. The item was shoved off to the June 19th meeting - at which time Righeimer will probably attempt to muscle the applicants again.
JIM RIGHEIMER'S CHARTER
Finally, at 9:35, we finally got to the meat of the evening, Public Hearing #3, the discussion of Jim Righeimer's Charter. It was interesting that, during his preamble to the discussion, contract City Attorney Tom Duarte mentioned that, "due to a clerical error" the issue failed to reach the June ballot. I smiled for a couple reasons. First, yesterday would have been the day the voters would have considered it. And, his acknowledgment - for the second time at recent meetings - that it was only a "clerical error" that kept the item off the ballot encourages me that City Clerk Julie Folcik - presently on Administrative Leave pending the completion of the investigation into why the item missed the deadline earlier this year - may actually have a future with The City. (As a side note, Hatch earlier introduced Brenda Green, former City Clerk for the City of Stanton, as Interim City Clerk. The workload in the City Clerk's office due to the upcoming election, including three council positions, Jim Righeimer's Charter and a possible increase in the Business License fees, apparently requires additional skilled manpower to manage it all.)
According to Duarte, this is the first of two public hearings on this issue. The second will be July 10th and the council will be asked to adopt the Charter at a meeting on July 31st. Both of those meetings will be Special Meetings. He also stated that the initial information - the resolutions, impartial analysis and arguments for and against - are due at the Registrar of Voters by August 10th. He wants the impartial analysis and arguments to the City Clerk by close of business (5:00 p.m.) August 7th. Rebuttal arguments will be due to the City Clerk by close of business (5:00 p.m.) on August 17th. Of course, the folks in the City Clerk's office would prefer they arrive before that time so they can perform the administrative functions required - counting the words, etc.
During the Public Comments portion of this discussion many familiar faces stepped up to ask many of the same questions they posed to the council months ago, when this really bad idea first surfaced. It was clear that there is less patience on both sides of the dais on this issue now. I was concerned with what appears to be a new tactic on the part of council proponents of this scheme. As residents stepped up to the podium to pose questions or to make comments, both Righeimer and Bever would interrupt them, breaking the speaker's train of thought, to either ask a question or to rebut something that had been said. Not only is it rude, but it is unconscionable behavior, but it may be a demonstration of the desperation they're feeling about this issue. Regardless, speakers should be allowed to say their piece without interruption by members of the council. If council members have questions they can be asked following each speaker's presentation.
INCOMPLETE CHARTER ON THE WEB SITE!
Speaker Charlie Mooney - a gentleman who has recently written to the Daily Pilot with cogent observations on this issue - stepped up and pointed out to the council and audience that the version of Jim Righeimer's Charter posted on the City web site is NOT the version handed out as part of the staff report last night. The version on the web site has many omissions, which puts anyone trying to use it to compose comments to the council at a definite disadvantage. Mooney gave several examples - including some VERY IMPORTANT segments that were missing. Members of the council glared down at Communications Director Bill Lobdell, who was seated in the well next to the City Clerk, and the looks were clear - FIX IT! I'm sure those missing segments were something simple - like a "clerical error" - and certainly not done intentionally. However, the consequences of those deletions are significant if you're a concerned resident attempting to communicate with your leaders
LEFFLER - WHO IS "WE"?
Many of the comments made by the fifteen speakers were re-hashes of old issues. Righeimer gave a lame response to Robin Leffler's question about who the "we" is that he constantly referred to when addressing how his charter was conceived. He actually invoked the "royal we"! Leffler wanted to know just WHO influenced his decision while composing his charter. She didn't get an answer.
Candidate Marshall Krupp, who will very likely be a regular visitor to council meetings, attempted to deliver into the record his 20 page letter sent earlier to the council. He had NO CHANCE on this issue - even if he hadn't antagonized the council. He did express concern that there had not yet been any reason WHY we need a Charter - a good point, for sure, and he's not the first to express that question in public. Perry Valantine may have been the first at a council meeting months ago.
BEVER BULLIES AGAIN
Speaker Tamar Goldmann, who followed Krupp, attempted to offer Krupp her time. Bever rejected that request. She then asked to have Krupp's letter so she could read it and, as it was being passed to her, Bever made this comment: "Boy, you sure outsmarted us, Tamar", with sarcasm dripping from his lips. The poor guy just doesn't know when to shut-the-heck-up!
MOSER BRINGS PERSPECTIVE
One new speaker was Newport Beach resident Jim Mosher, who provided the council and audience some perspective as a resident of a city with a Charter. He pointed out some of the many flaws in that form of government - something Righeimer NEVER mentions - in a very calm, analytical manner.
LEECE - "LIPSTICK ON A PIG"
As council members addressed this issue Leece said this exercise was like putting lipstick on a pig. She said, "You can't keep word-smithing this and make it right." She said the process was flawed and this whole exercise was damaging Costa Mesa's brand. She said we need to work together on something this important, that "one person doesn't get to decide"
BEVER'S ATTEMPT AT DEFLECTION
Bever, during his comments, attempted to deflect the concern about the Charter by pointing out that the Municipal Code, Zoning Code and General Plan are the documents that shape what this city is. He ignored the tremendous power that Jim Righeimer's Charter provides to those on the dais.
MENSINGER CONFIRMS SUSPICIONS
Mensinger, during his comments, again sounded like he was warming up his stump speech for the council campaign ahead this summer and fall. He may have just inadvertently confirmed something many of us suspected - where his real loyalties fall. He said, "The reality is, whether it's the state legislature or its this council, the elected officials have to be responsible to those people who that elected them. Or put them in office. Or in my case, appointed them." Thanks, Steve, for confirming that your responsibilities as a council member are to those who appointed you, not the residents of this city. We'll remind you of that statement as your campaign evolves.
LEECE IS CORRECT
As the council was about to wrap up this segment Leece observed that we didn't see a single person rise to speak in favor of Jim Righeimer's Charter. Of course, it could be that those folks were over at Monahan's pub, sloshing beer and rubbing elbows with the OC GOP power elite. She went on to say that she's not opposed to the idea of a charter, but this one is flawed and does not represent the wishes of the people of this city. And she's right...
The final item on the agenda was the long-delayed and much-manipulated appointments to various city committees. By this time - roughly 10:45 p.m. - the council was clearly not interested in spending too much time on the issue. Maybe they were in a hurry to get over to Monahan's. They slap-dashed together the appointments, including adding to the number of members on the Investment Oversight Committee without that issue having been part of the agenda, and may have inadvertently messed up those appointments. We'll find out soon enough. If so, their haste may have, again, made waste and they'll have to undo their mistake at a future meeting.
BUDGET STUDY SESSION NEXT WEEK
The next scheduled meeting of this mob is on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, when they meet at 4:30 in a study session devoted entirely to the budget. This will be where the rubber meets the road and we find out whether fixing potholes are more important than police and fire protection in this city.