Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bever's Legacy? Hushed Community Voices

The Costa Mesa City Council will hold a regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday, July 17, 2012 in Council Chambers at City Hall beginning at 6:30 p.m.  It will be preceded by a Closed Session at 5:00.  You can read the entire agenda, including the details of the Closed Session, HERE.

Under ordinary circumstances I'd try to just wade through the agenda, giving you links as they appear in order and offering my observations.  Today there is an issue on the agenda near the end that requires star billing.  This is New Business #4, Mayor Eric Bever's attempt to quash the appeal process that has served this community well for decades.  You can read that staff report HERE.

Presently, if a party presents an issue before the Planning Commission or the Parks and Recreation Commission and is rejected it can be appealed to the City Council within 7 days.  That happens one of two ways - the appellant pays the fees (perhaps several hundred dollars) and files the appeal.  Or, the appellant could receive assistance from ONE council member, who would - using his or her authority - bring the item before the council for its consideration and no fees would be charged.

However, Bever doesn't like that very much.  He apparently thinks that Wendy Leece - you know, that council member who represents ALL the people of this city - abuses that authority, so he wants to cut her off at the knees and change the municipal ordinance to require TWO council members to approve such an appeal.  And, since she has virtually NO support from the four male members of the council, that means that those folks who find a need to appeal an issue will have to pay MORE money to do so.

So, Joe Blow who has already spent several thousands of dollars on plans and fees to renovate his Westside home, but has it rejected by the Planning Commission, will now have to find TWO sympathetic council members or end up paying even more money to appeal the decision.
In addition to this being a flat-out slap at Leece personally, it creates a process with almost guaranteed Brown Act violations built-in.  Say, for example, Joe Blow contacts Bever about an appeal.  Bever agrees, then makes contact with Jim Righeimer seeking his "second", who declines.  If Bever then contacts Gary Monahan on this issue we have an automatic Brown Act violation - a "serial conversation" on an issue that will come before them.

This is an unnecessary, capricious and mean-spirited move that certainly will not serve the public well.  Whether Bever "signed up for this" or not, he should withdraw it from the agenda and chalk it up as just another of his many boneheaded moves.  He should find another issue to be his legacy - not quashed public participation.

Now, on to the rest of the agenda for Tuesday.

The aforementioned Closed Session has three items on it - labor negotiations, conference with legal council in anticipation of significant litigation (sound familiar) and a request by a Public Employee for a special leave of absence.  We'll never know about this stuff until it actually hits the fan.


As always, the Consent Calendar is filled with little goodies just waiting to be discovered.  These items are theoretically things that can be voted upon in one vote, without separate discussion.  Lately, though, many items have been pulled by council members and members of the public for separate discussion, explanation and vote.

For example, there are two more Warrants on this agenda, #2428 and #2429. Click on those numbers to read them, if you wish.  #2428 contains a couple interesting legal payments.  One, to our contract City Attorney firm, Jones and Mayer, is for $111,170.64, which means we've spent more than $775,000 on that legal firm alone in the last fiscal year - with another month to go.  There's also a payment of $14,425.49 to Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, which means we've paid them more than $46,000 since March, when they began "helping" us with labor negotiations.  On #2429 there's a very interesting entry - a payment of $25,000 to Talon Executive Services for "IT Consulting".  I sure wonder what that was all about and whether the recent departure of former IT Manager Rick Kirkbride, whose position was canceled as part of the recent budget approval process, was somehow involved.


Down at #5 is an interesting item - Traffic Mitigation Agreement with Newport Banning Ranch, LLC. As you read the staff report, HERE, you'll see that this is an agreement that facilitates The City of Costa Mesa being paid more than $4 million by the proposed developers to mitigate traffic impacts on our city as the project is built.  Funny, you'd have thought somebody on the council might want to let the voters know that they were looking out for their interests in this election year.  Late tonight, Saturday, the folks at the Banning Ranch Conservancy fired off a misleading email about this item, neglecting to mention that the City of Costa Mesa has NO authority to interfere with this project and that the agreement, if signed, provides for funding of improvements necessary to handle the 15,000 cars per day that are expected to pour onto Costa Mesa streets.

The final item on the Consent Calendar, #8, is a resolution to raise the pay of Police Reserve Officers.  You can read about it HERE.  Part of the scheme by this council majority is to more fully staff the Costa Mesa Police Department with Reserve Officers - those who don't get any benefits, including those nasty pensions.  To do so they've decided to raise the hourly rate by just under $6.00 per hour, to $33.00 per hour.

There is only one public hearing scheduled, a resolution certifying special assessments for collection of delinquent civil fines for municipal code violations.  The staff report, HERE, includes a list of all those violators who will have action taken against them for non-compliance.

The only Old Business item is the second reading of the new ordinance against locking up your bicycles to posts, poles and any other "non-bike rack" fixture, and it outlines the fees that will be charged, HERE.  I scoured the ordinance and didn't find anything about the disposition of impounded bikes that are not claimed.  One must assume that, after a specified period of time, those bikes would be disposed of - auctioned off or crushed as scrap.  This item, which was initiated to discourage homeless folks from leaving their bicycles chained to fixtures all over town, but particularly in Lions Park, will very likely become an unpleasant fact of life for those who ride their bikes to public parks - where there are woefully insufficient bike racks - and to other public and private locations that also lack the approved devices for securing their bikes.  It feels pretty heavy-handed to me, particularly in a city that appears to be trying to encourage bicycle use.

There are 5 items under New Business.  I've already dispatched with #4, Bever's bonehead move, above.  Item #1 Steve Mensinger's scheme to have an annual performance audit.  This item, HERE, describes how that should work.

Item #2 is a plan to waive fees for a "Go Green Program", for solar systems and electric automobile charging sites.  You can read about it HERE.

Item #3 is the Request for Proposals for the Telecommunication Technical Services.  The staff report, HERE, recommends simply receiving and filing and continue to attempt to partner-up with another municipality.  We'll see how that goes Tuesday.


The final item on the agenda is the discussion of possibly placing an increase in the Business License Tax on the November ballot.  You can read the staff report HERE.   As almost everyone who pays the slightest bit of attention knows, Costa Mesa has an abysmally low Business License Tax, ranging from "0" to $200 dollars for the maximum charge.  To say this is "business friendly" is beyond laughable.  Our tax, which brings in about $850,000 annually, has not changed since 1985, for goodness sake.

The original staff report at the study session last week had a couple proposals, designed as starting places for discussion.  However, the council - apparently pre-occupied with the Charter Public Hearing that immediately followed the study session - didn't take the bait.  Instead of tinkering with the numbers Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young presented them, they sent the Finance staff back to the drawing boards.  One of the proposals put a minimum amount of $50.00 per year and stretched all the way to $10,000 per year and would have theoretically generated a potential INCREASE in revenue of $2.7 million.  Those numbers were too severe for the council.  The council could have simply said to double or triple the existing fee structure - I seriously doubt ANY business owner would have balked.

The staff report includes a very thorough analysis prepared by a consulting firm.  However, the staff did NOT have time to do what Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer asked them to do - return Tuesday with a proposal to calculate our Business License Tax on a per-employee basis, as Newport Beach does.  The staff suggests that if the council isn't able to arrive at a good solution with the data available to them right now, then perhaps the thought of putting this issue on the November ballot should be abandoned so a more thorough study can be done between now and 2014 - the next time it could be placed on the ballot.  Actually, that would take those lock-step "NO TAX" lemmings off the hook.  They can tell their handlers at the OC GOP that they didn't propose any new taxes, and - for the voters - blame it on insufficient staff work.  It will be the staff's fault that we don't have more revenue.  Ya gotta love it.

Tuesday promises to be a long, and potentially raucous meeting.  Business leaders have said they will fill the house with unhappy business owners to address the Business License Tax issue.  Hope they bring a pillow, since it's the final item on the agenda.  We'll attend and report back next week.

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Anonymous puppetroll2chins said...

wow, that is a long time since a business license fee increase. imagine not putting the trash hauling contract at CM Sanitary District out to bid since World War Two. That bother you? It bothered Jim Fitzpatrick and that caused the Board there to spend "whatever it takes" to unseat Jim. That is your ratepayer monies being spent yet not much being said by you concerning it. But u spend a lot of time on small consent calendar items and spin them against ocgop. Well ocgop trying to save $$ at Sanitary. How about a thumbs up? Thanks in advance. Good job on police reserve pay also, without the nasty pensions. wonder how many want the jobs? hundreds most likely. (of course, not the "bestest" that wendy wants)

7/15/2012 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Thank God Bever will be gone soon.

7/15/2012 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Sackrates said...

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a moron keeps posting the same things about himself and nobody answers him, is he licking Riggy's boots well enough?

7/15/2012 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous plato said...

Plato sez:
A man who calls someone a moron is he himself one; as to the peculularities of the human species it is known it takes one to know one; the fascination of bootlicking is primarily a bodies need of an earthly element or in extreme circumstances brought on by eros where a cigar is not just a cigar. my fiend sokrates is just such a subspecies.

7/15/2012 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

People should get the facts about the San Board issue. People -Mr. Fitzpatrick included- should present the whole story, not a narrow self-serving version. The district policy is to audit rates available from other companies each time that the contract with the current vendor is up for renewal. The rates continue to be favorable to Costa Mesa, among the lowest rates of comparable cities, with more services. This year, the rates were lowered!

If the San District put the contract out to bid, they would have to exercise a “Sunset Clause” with the current vendor. That would end the low rate CM gets as longstanding repeat customers and cancel the guarantee they would renew at that rate. The contracts have been in place a long time, the rate reflects that. It’s sort of a vintage rate, much lower than it would be on today’s rate schedule! Anyone concerned about this issue should verify the facts for themselves, including a Sanitary Board member who knows better but is distorting the story.

The reasons the Board wants to replace Jim have little to do with who has the trash contract. There is a whole lot more to that story, as Jim knows. Call the San Board and find out how to get a copy of the legal filing, look at the causes of action. Just a guess, Jim’s real motive is he wants to get Athens, the same company vying for Costa Mesa’s street sweeping, in there. They donate big to council members and special district members that help them get contracts.

Oh yeah, what was Geoff’s topic? Tuesday’s council meeting? New Business Item #4? Two council members need to agree to appeal or rehear a decision? Absolutely the perfect set up for Brown act violations! Absolutely would strip the public of an important right! This rogue council is bent on taking away as many residents rights as they can! Come Tuesday night and talk to them. Like Geoff said, bring a pillow.

7/15/2012 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Loser patrol said...

Well Fitzy, if your puppetroll2chins post doesn't make my point, I don't know what does. You are a broken record dude! Why don't you mix it up a little bit once in a while. The WWII thing is getting really old.

7/15/2012 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

OK. Where to begin on this one?

First, I plan to bring the original Banging Wrench to the podium, to illustrate the noise it's gonna cause if NBR gets its way with our city council. Schmitz, Rosansky, and all the good folks who intend to bring us 1375 homes on that small parcel south of Fairview Park, are openly offering Council a bribe to shut up and knuckle under and let these fatcats shunt thousands of cars a day through our city streets -- in particular, those streets which are already beat-up and in need of work -- without getting any promise from them to pay for the damage their construction vehicles, and the subsequent traffic, cause. If we read the NBR proposal at all, we see that they are talking about moving MILLIONS of cubic yards of material to clean up the pollution left by half a century of oilfield operations. At five yards per dump, that's hundreds of thousands of heavy trucks on Costa Mesa streets. Nor do we get compensated for noise, dust, exhaust, trash, and just downright undesirable elements involved in this developement. Homeless are now considered a problem here in Costa Mesa; they will be one only until we see the effect thirteen hundred HOMES create; then we'll wish all these non-residents (the ones they intend to dump into Banning Ranch) were homeless.

NBR makes the point that they're going to generously leave two hundred acres of open space/wetland/parks and only develop just two hundred acres. Of course, they neglect to mention that state law requires that they leave alone the wetlands, sensitive habitat, and vernal pools, which account for, yes indeed, the two hundred acres. With a resort hotel, shopping centers, and concrete paths, we can pretty much expect ten or so dwellings per acre... Folks, this proposed developement is gonna make Newport Crest look like open space. And they want to pay the city four million measly bucks to dump all that traffic and density on us. These are the people who let our six-foot drains empty into a single four-foot one at the Newport boundary, and won't even talk to us about expanding them. When the hundred-year flood comes, we'll be sorry. Hell, we were sorry fourteen years ago when the water on Kenwood/18th rose to four feet.

Bet on it, I'll ask that this item on the consent calendar be pulled.

7/16/2012 01:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Next, Bonehead beaver's bitch-bashing bungle: He's not a really nice guy. I've tended to go easy on him in the past, because he now and again apologizes to me for his blunders and his out-and-out ignoring of protocol, but this is one too many. Also it requires one too many councilpersons. We've refrained thus far from recalling him, but this may push me and the other citizens over the line, if adopted. I would recall to Mr. Bever's attention the single vote HE cast in opposition to Mr. Mansoor's proposal to have mayors directly elected, which vote made the difference between passage of the measure and its failure. Were it not for the vote of one man, we would still be contending with Mansoor as mayor, probably. This proposal is simply Dee Oh Em dumb. It insulates our elected officials from having ever to listen to the electorate. No one has a chance to "Cry Harold" if he must gain the ear of two councilpersons...

Also, as an amendment to my last comment, NONE of the citizens' questions about Banning Ranch have been addressed or answered. Isn't that a bit strange? "I'll hear your three minutes, but I'M NOT LISTENING! So don't expect an answer!"

7/16/2012 02:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Themosticles said...

It's rare that you get something so wrong, but you apparently don't get what's happening with the Banning ranch development proposal.

The Coastal Commission has made it quite clear that they will not approve a new road from PCH to this development, and the 19th St/Banning bridge will never get built.

Newport Beach is still pretending that they will somehow get the right to build a road to PCH, and appealing the paper bridge at 19thm whose sole purpose is allowing higher density of development.

This means that ALL of the traffic will be dumped into Costa Mesa.

Much better to wait until there is a new plan and traffic model that shows the real impacts once Newport Beach accepts the fact that they will not be allowed to build what is included in their current plans.

7/16/2012 05:53:00 AM  
Anonymous puppetroll2chins said...

Loser Patrol: you say I made your point, well good. Please tell me what it is? I don't see any other comments from you here under "loser patrol" Please specify which other name you posted your comment under . Yes , WWII is REAlly OLD, a long long time ago. Thanks for making MY point.

7/16/2012 06:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Bever is right said...

Bever’s idea is a good one to thwart Weather Vane Wendy’s history of calling up a ham sandwich for review. Leece always comes across as someone who listens and is concerned with safety. If you want a money, you got one. But you do not have a leader in Wendy Leece.

To consistently disrupt the flow of City business, costing the City, Residents and Business money, is a bad idea. To consistently utilize precious City Staff resources, time and time again, to end up in a 4-1 vote is a Council Member without leadership or working relationships to get her job done.

To be asked to garner at least one vote going into an item that a Council Members wishes to overturn a decision is a reasonable process. Considering the crazy behavior of Wendy Leece, this action is also necessary.

I am remembering the words of Moorlach “Leece not fit for Council”. Yup, that about sums it up.

Haters cry, “But Wendy is the only one listening”

7/16/2012 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Loser patrol catches a loser said...

You are so welcome puppetroll2chins! Anything I can do to point out the monotony of your message is my sincere pleasure. Since you are a frequent author on the Cauldron, not just this post, it no surprise to see you mention WWII yet again. And, more importantly, thanks for including your signature move…the Jim Fitzpatrick thumbs up!

7/16/2012 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous The Time Is Near said...

The good ole boys over at the trash company recently put a process in place to make sure Fitzy never gets to talk or vote on the trash contract again. This is different than requesting an appeal like Leece. This is to get any item on an agenda.

What the other good ole boys tried to do was put in place a thing where Fitzy had to go ask permission from both the President and Vice President to get an item on the agenda. Even Geoff West would recognize this as a Brown Act Violation. But that is what the good ole boys voted to do.

Imagine if Council tried this. West would Hater all over that. But when someone behaves badly against one of the Haters in focus, that is no problem. The double Hater standard is legendary on this bubbling commode.

You can see somone from that Board posting here. Fitzy has got them scared. They know Perry and Ferryman are out and that Fitzy will soon have a majority. Ooooouch.

7/16/2012 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Same type of problem at CMSD said...

Bever is right:

Seriously, if you think Leece is bad, try sitting through a Sanitary District meeting! Your friend, Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick has the same problem with constant disruption. For example, Fitzy stopped the flow of business over an extremely important matter…the type of clothing the other Directors were wearing! After a 15 minute diatribe, Fitzy then requested the same item be placed on a future agenda so he could “officially” discuss it all over AGAIN. Of course, let’s not forget, this action also requires the General Manager (who is HIGHLY paid by your tax dollars) to spend his extremely valuable time writing a staff report about it! But, then again, who really cares about disruption or for that matter, double standards?

7/16/2012 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Seriously? said...

Time is Near:
Oh Fitzy, pahleez stop your incessant whining! It is very unbecoming for a grown man. No one is running scared in this race except you! Look at all your careless missteps with these posts. Same ole crap, different day…trash contract, ad nauseam. Why don’t you just calm down already!

7/16/2012 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Onan said...

Loser Patrol said in part..
"thanks for including your signature move…the Jim Fitzpatrick thumbs up!"

We already know up WHERE..

7/16/2012 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Need Brains Not Hearts said...

Dear Heart for Costa Mesa,

We would rather leaders in our City have a brain for Costa Mesa. Hearts are too emotional for leadership positions.

You have accused Fitzpatrick of a relationship with Athens. I have asked him about it. He has a major concern about the distance from Costa Mesa to the Athens location. But keep up you Hater comments with insider information. Clearly you are a Board Member, former employee, or just lucky to be so informed.

You have accused Fitzpatrick of having his legal bills paid for by Athens. Great example of the Hater emotions coming through. Fitzpatrick is having fund raisers for his legal bills. Why would he do that if Athens is cutting a check?

We think a better question is to watch Art Perry and Jim Ferryman run for election. Ferryman has already said his steak dinners and golf paid for by CR&R are ok because he works so hard and gets paid so little. Why would Ferryman accept those premium gifts and support the trash contract. Are Ferryman and Art Perry getting something more than steak dinners and golf from CR&R? Have they already?

If you really have a heart, and we are wrong about you being a Hater, shouldn’t you be more concerned where Perry and Ferryman will be getting campaign contributions from if they decide in a futile effort to run again for election?

7/16/2012 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous This just in said...

Revised agenda for July 17, 2012 Council meeting published
Posted Date: 7/16/2012 .New Business item 4 pulled from Tuesday evening's meeting: "An ordinance of the City Council of the City of Costa Mesa, California, amending sections 2-301(9), 2 2-302, and 2-304(1) of the Chapter IX of Title 2 of the Costa Mesa Municipal Code relating to appeal, rehearing and review procedure.

7/16/2012 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Fed up resident said...

How about heart AND brains. This whole "debate" has become so childish. Each side is convinced they are right. One side (and I suspect it's the same person time and again) keeps saying we need to make decisions with the emotion taken out of it etc. Well, I disagree that emotion needs to be out of it completely. Sometimes decisions do need to take the heart into account. We are all human beings, dealing with human beings and emotion is part of the human condition.

This city, it's politics and these factions have become a joke. I used to be proud to be a part of this city. Not so much anymore.

7/16/2012 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Looking for punch line to joke said...

Fed up, I agree. Should we protest and move to Stanton? Oops, they might hand over keys to the County.

No, let's move to Westminster. But they are laying off so Mich staff and about to fire the City Manager.

Where should we move?

Wait. Costa Mesa is better off with me than without.

My street is getting paved. I am going to stick around to see it.

7/16/2012 09:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Long time resident said...

"looking for..." Please, look no further. Your rhetorical sarcasm is it. You need not move, I need not move. What needs to happen is to bring some actual civility to the debate. Pointing out the foibles of other cities to create some contrast/comparison to our city is a red herring. Many cities have a number of issues financially. How the debate and solutions are arrived at is what is telling. We have had a lot of shots fired across bows in our town, but what actual solutions have been derived? If our goal is factionalism, is our goal, we have achieved it. However factionalism solves nothing. And, by the way; your street got paved and wold have been paved regardless of the ridiculous fighting we have going on. Those projects were in place and ready to happen in spite of the events of the last year and a half.

7/17/2012 06:19:00 AM  

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