Monday, February 06, 2012

City Council Agenda For Tuesday

STILL GOING STRONG - YAWN
Bet you thought I'd be too tuckered-out to post anything else tonight after all that stuff about KOCI, huh? Ha! I'm just getting started!

FIRST
MEETING OF MANY THIS MONTH
Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 7th, at 6:00 p.m. in City Council chambers the Costa Mesa City Council will hold its first meeting of February. This regular meeting will be of four meetings held by the council this month - a record for what would normally be a short month.

PLEASE READ AFTER ME....
On the agenda tomorrow are more than a few interesting items, some of which will certainly evoke community response. Let's go over the agenda, shall we?


CONSENT CALENDAR = BIG BUCKS

The Consent Calendar, which include three separate Warrants outlining expenditures last month that wil
l be approved, probably without much controversy. No significant legal fees are shown on these three - they will come later, at the meeting of the 21st. As it is, the three Warrants on this list total over $5 million in spending.

EXTENDING TAMMY?

However, one item that might get pulled for conversation is the request to extend the contract with Management Partners for interim management assistance, HERE. This would be Tammy LeTourneau, who seems to have been here forever, but it's really only been since last year. However, with all the recent management additions to CEO Tom Hatch's staff, I find myself wondering why this consultant continues to be needed. Hatch has added Peter Naghavi and Rick Francis to his senior team, plus Bill Lobdell and Dan Joyce in their public affairs roles. Just HOW big is the executive staff going to be and still require the services of a very expensive consultant?

HIKING HOEING FEES
Next comes the only Public Hearing on the agenda, the resolution adoptin
g fee increases for the community gardens, HERE.

WALGREEN'S
New Business #1 is a General Plan Screening Request for a Walgreen's to be located at the current site of the old Tower Records store on Newport Blvd., near 17th Street, HERE. It will be nice to finally get a new, thriving business at that very busy location.



RESOLUTION ON THE 19TH STREET BRIDGE
Next comes an interesting item - the resolution to re-affirm the
Costa Mesa City Council's resolve to have the 19th Street Bridge removed from the county Master Plan of Arterial Highways, HERE. I really want to hear the discussion on this one, because, although this has been the official policy of the city for almost two decades - Sandra Genis signed the original resolution as mayor back in 1993 - not all the members of THIS council want the bridge removed from the plans.

2%@60 RETIREMENT PLAN

Number 3 is the amendment of the contract between CalPERS and the city permitting the implementation of the 2%@60 second tier retirement plan for the Miscellaneous group, HERE. This has been in the works for months and has finally percolated to the top of the pile this month. Although I suspect we'll hear a lot of palaver, I doubt any member will vote No on this one.

EXECUTIVE PENSIONS

Number 4 is the resolution approving the "voluntary" employee CalPERS retirement contributions
for full-time unrepresented Executive city employees, HERE. We saw a press release on this recently. This is a high-visibility, low impact move. I'm not criticizing it, just observing that the fiscal impact is almost insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Of course, if we keep hiring executives at our current rate, this might actually be big bucks.

ILLEGAL
GARAGE USE
Number 5 is a request for staff time to study illegal garages used as habitable space or excessive storage, HERE.





ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT USE ON THE DAIS

Number 6 is guaranteed to generate some rancor on the dais. This is Wendy Leece's request for staff time to evaluate a policy regulating electronic communications during City Council meeting
s, HERE. Watch for Steve Mensinger's head to explode. Seriously, regardless whether Mensinger is a serial texter on the dais or not - he is - because the council is migrating toward using electronic tablets instead of the mountain of paper normally required at each meeting, this issue really needs to be given some careful thought. Because council members will be able to access the internet - council chambers is a WiFi hotspot - that means they will be able to do research, surf the web, send and receive emails, etc., while council is in session. Some kind of policy seems to be needed to define proper and improper behavior using electronic devices during meetings. Still, watch for the exploding cranium...

WHAT FUN AWAITS US?
And, of cours
e, way, way, way down at the end of the agenda we have what is usually a very fun part of the meeting - council member comments, suggestions, etc. This is the time where individual council members spring their surprises on us - you know, things like Charters, Outsourcing - that kind of stuff. You have to stay awake for the goodies.

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Setting The Record Straight, Almost

I JUMPED ON IT!
My previous post, which I exuberantly titled, "Marijuana Advocacy Program Forced Off Local Radio", quoted, verbatim, a "press release" apparently from officials at local radio station KOCI-FM 101.5 outlining the reasons for abruptly terminating one of their regularly-scheduled programs, "Cannabis Community".

FREEDOM OF SPEECH, NOT POT
I wrote that post not because I'm sympathetic to the operators of so-called medical marijuana dispensaries, but because the circumstances as described in the press release reeked of government - federal and local - interference in this matter. To me, this was a freedom of speech issue, pure and simple. Well, it turns out that it was neither pure nor simple.

CLOSING THE LOOP

I spent much of the day trying to contact the parties involved in this fiasco. I spoke with the manager of the station, Brent Kahlen, their General Counsel, Barry Jorgensen, Cannabis Community host Robert Martinez, community activist, former city council candidate and former medical marijuana dispensary owner Sue Lester and Costa Mesa Director of Communications, Bill Lobdell. I also exchanged many emails with the person, who will remain anonymous for the time being, who authored the press release. Eventually, this evening, I had finally made enough contacts, asked enough questions and received enough answers to feel comfortable about trying to close the loop. While viewpoints differ as to what, precisely, was said at the radio station studios Sunday morning, here are the "facts" as I now know them.

THOUGHT MARTINEZ COULDN'T AFFORD THE AIR TIME

Sometime last week Kahlen had a conversation with Martinez in which concern was made
about Martinez' ability to come up with the fee the station charges to put the show on the air. This was because Martinez had shut down his medical marijuana dispensary following receipt of a cease and desist letter from the U.S Attorney's office. Kahlen was under the impression that Martinez wouldn't be able to come up with the cash, so removed the program from the roster.

DIFFERENT VIEWS O
F EVENTS
Sunday morning
Martinez showed up with Sue Lester, who was to be a guest on the show, and another unidentified guest, ready to broadcast. He brought with him a check and presented it to Barry Jorgensen, who at first accepted it. At that point another employee of the station expressed surprise that the show would go on, so a discussion took place during which Jorgensen at one point attempted to negotiate a lesser time slot. Views of the conversation differ, but Martinez, Lester and another KOCI employee heard the version portrayed in the press release - which implied FBI, chamber of commerce and city council involvement. Jorgensen denies ever mentioning those entities, but did admit that station management had concerns about the program because of all the controversy swirling around the dispensaries in Costa Mesa and other local cities. With their license up for renewal, they didn't want any controversy. Kahlen was called and, on a speaker phone for all to hear, told Jorgensen to cancel the program. That happened just minutes before the scheduled air time. Jorgensen returned Martinez' check to him and Martinez and his party left the station.

NO GOVERNMENT CONTACT
When I spoke with Jorgensen this evening I asked him twice, point blank, if there had been ANY contact by the FBI, chamber of commerce or representatives of Costa Mesa government on this subject. He flatly denied ANY such contact. Their decision was purely a business decision - to avoid placing their continued operation in jeopardy.

BUSINESS DECISION

During my conversation earlier to day with Brent Kahlen he also denied any governmental involvement, emphasizing confusion about whether Martinez would come up with the money and the business decision to take him off the air.

BOGUS PRE
SS RELEASE
As to the "press release" that launched this controversy, here's what happene
d...
Following the event described above at which a surprised Martinez had his show canceled, he was departing with Lester and others when that unnamed employee mentioned above, feeling sympathy for his plight, offered to construct a template of a press release for him to issue - assuming it would be issued under Martinez' name. He did so, and emailed it to Martinez.

TWO HUGE MISTAKES

Martinez looked it over and forwarded the email on to Sue Lester, who tidied it up by correcting a mistake and deleting superfluous information. She then extracted Martinez' email address, to protect it from the public. She then posted it exactly as it appeared in my blog entry, including the KOCI "From" line, which made it appear to have been issued by the radio station. (For some reason, when I copied and pasted the Facebook post the actual email "from" address was dropped, leaving only "KOCI"). The employee who wrote it is not authorized to issue press releases. He wrote the document as a "draft" to help a friend compose his own. He didn't expect it to be used verbatim. So, we have TWO BIG MISTAKES. The first was the original composition of the "draft" press release. The second was Sue Lester's deletion of the Martinez address line, which resulted in the confusion about who issued it.

SNOOKERED BY AN UNINTENDED MANIPULATION
Lester then posted the "press release" several places, including on my Facebook page. That's where I
saw it and reacted by posting my blog entry. I trusted the identity of the author of the press release because I recognized the sending address. I didn't think it had been manipulated - but it had.

ANGRY LOBDELL DENIES ANY CITY INVOLVEMENT
This morni
ng, while I was out, I received an angry message on my answer machine from Bill Lobdell. He, correctly so, was fuming about the implications of my blog entry. He vehemently denied, in the message and during our subsequent conversation, that ANY person from the City had made contact with KOCI to influence them regarding the radio program. Based on his protestations and my subsequent conversations today, I must only conclude that he is correct.

TWO VERSIONS OF SAME CONVERSATION

Although my investigation resulted in two different versions of the conversation at the station Sunday morning - it amounts to a "they said/they said" kind of situation - wit
h all things considered, it doesn't seem likely that there has been any governmental attempt to influence KOCI - at least not overtly. I'm not accusing either side of lying. I think that, in the heat of the moment, each "heard" a different version of the event. Certainly, the management of the station has a very heightened sensitivity to their position in the community, their pending license renewal and the controversy around marijuana in general these days. They made the business decision they felt was best for their station.

WHY DID I BELIEVE IT?
For me, though, there's a bigger question at play here. As I waded through the morass of this situation today I kept asking myself why I was so ready to believe the conspiracy element of this event. Here's what I've come up with... First, because the laws governing marijuana use differ widely from the federal to the state, local jurisdictions are between that literal "rock and hard place". As a result, it is my understanding that the only way federal authorities will act in a local jurisdiction is if they are invited in by local authorities. It is also my understanding that this has happened in the case of Costa Mesa recently, where most - if not all - so-called medical marijuana dispensaries have been forced out of business by the feds.

AND...
Because of that attitude, and because our current City Council has demonstrated a willing
ness to play fast and loose with the rules on many other issues, it was - unfortunately - easy for me to contemplate municipal interference in this issue. I've been told there was none, so I will accept that unless facts later prove otherwise. However, I've grown to distrust this council because they've demonstrated, time after time, their untrustworthiness. Sorry, but that's the way it is...

THAT'S MY VIEW, BUT...
You can read Sean Greene's account of the story from the Orange County Register HERE and Joe Serna's report from the Daily Pilot HERE. I'm not the only citizen/journalist to pursue this issue. I've given you my summary and conclusion, but others may arrive at a different outcome. I guess we'll see...





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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Marijuana Advocacy Program Forced Off Local Radio (Updated)**

FBI FORCES POT PROGRAM OFF THE AIR
This afternoon former medical marijuana dispensary operator Susan Lester - also a former candidate for Costa Mesa City Council - alerted us to a press release issued by community radio station KOCI LP-FM, 101.5 FM announcing that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has forced the station to remove the "Cannabis Connection" radio program from it's programming schedule. The press release follows:
From: KOCI news
Sent: Sun, Feb 5, 2012 19:35:12 GMT+00:00
Subject: press release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Costa Mesa, February 5, 2012 -- The popular "Cannabis Community" radio show, hosted by Robert Martinez, on KOCI LP-FM, Newport Beach, was canceled without warning by station manager Brent Kahlen at the request of the FBI.

The FBI has been investigating the radio station because of the medical marijuana radio show and at the end of this week told the community radio station to remove the show from the air, according to Barry Jorgensen, attorney for the radio station. Jorgensen claimed that the federal involvement was the result of requests from the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce and the Costa Mesa city council.

Martinez was not informed of the decision until seven minutes before the scheduled 11 a.m. Sunday start of his radio show.


Jorgensen initially claimed that the show could continue at an early morning time slot, but without any on-air or web site publicity, but Kahlen completely canceled the show.
Martinez was president of the recently closed Newport Mesa Patients Association, Costa Mesa, which was shut down along with all other Costa Mesa medical marijuana dispensaries late January 2012 in response to a letter from the U. S Attorney's Office.
DISTURBING...
If true, this is very disturbing, for several reasons.

NOT A MARI JUANA FAN, BUT...
As you readers know, I'm NOT a fan of medical marijuana use. That being said, I'm appalled at what appears to be a clear violation of free speech . To the best of my knowledge, it's not against the law to speak about medical marijuana, and yet this local radio station has been forced to remove this prog ram.

WHERE AND WHEN?
Also, the press release indicates that this move was requested by the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce and the Costa Mesa City Council. I'd like to know exactly when the city council made this decision, because I recall NO incidence of this issue bein g discussed in open session and h ave seen nothing on the agendas of closed sessions, either.

WHERE IS MONAHAN ON THIS ISSUE?
This is especially curious since Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan recently hosted this very program at his pub. The following week several dispensaries were shut down by federal officials. It was only a couple years ago that Monahan appeared on KOCI. What's the story, Gary?

FREE SPEECH QUASHED
This heavy-handed abridgment of free speech simply cannot go uncha llenged. This is precisely the kind of actions by this council that should make every resident nervous as they consider just what kind of personal abuses they may undertake once they jam Jim Righeimer's Charter down our throats. They obviously make decisions that affect every one of us in secret and, because they presently have four votes, are not worried one bit about repercussions. If the Costa Mesa City Council did, indeed, reque st that the radio program be shut down, this is perfectly in synch with their attitude over the past year, when they've treated speakers before them with disdain and out-right aggression. This MUST STOP!

**THE BACKPEDDLING BEGINS
Late this evening both the Orange County Register, through its reporter, Sean Greene, HERE and the Orange Juice Blog, via its editor Vern Nelson, HERE, have amplified this story. Now it seems that station management at KOCI is back-peddling as fast as it can, apparently stating there was no law enforcement or city pressure placed on them to cancel the radio show. We'll try to get to the bottom of this story Monday.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Costa Mesa Meeting Schedule For February

MEETINGS FOR FEBRUARY
It took some arm-wrestling this week, but the City of Costa Mesa finally got ALL the meetings scheduled for the remainder of the month posted on the web site. Here's the list just as it appears:




COUNCIL MEETING TUESDAY

I'll write more about the February 7th council meeting in a separate post over the weekend.

IN THIS CORNER...

On the 9th you'll note the TeWinkle Sports Complex Task Force is meeting in the Emergency Operations Center at the Police He
adquarters. I'm eager to attend that one and see just what's happening with that VERY controversial plan. Rumor has it that there is bad blood between some members and the vendor selected to provide input.

ANOTHER SHOT AT RIGHEIMER'S CHARTER

On Monday, the 13th the council will hold the second and FINAL public hearing on Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme. At that time it is assumed that the final version of the Charter will be drafted. The final vote will be taken at the council meeting on March 6th.

HOMELESS TASK FORCE AND BUDGET REVIEW

Rounding out the month will be a special study session
at which, if previous notes about the agenda hold up, the council will finally receive the report from the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force. This meeting will also include the Mid-year Budget Review, which should provide plenty of good information.

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY
So, plan your schedule for the month... it's going to be a busy one again.

*****

MY PICK FOR SUNDAY...
Oh, yes.... in case you're not going to watch the taped replay of the last Study Session Sunday afternoon and will watch that "little" football game instead.... Giants 31, Patriots 24. (Eat your heart out, Jimmy Fitzy!)

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Davis Field Improvements Dedication


A GREAT DAY FOR A SPECIAL EVENT
At the end of a bright, sunny day today a handful of residents and a gaggle of officials and city staff sat on chairs placed in the perfectly manicured infield of the beautifully refurbished Luke Davis Field at Lions Park to enjoy the dedication ceremony. The sun had dropped behind the bleachers, so we each experienced an occasional shiver, but the chill didn't dampen the enthusiasm for this wonderful facility.

START TIME CONF
USION
I arrived early to beat the crowd. Because someone communicated a start time of 4:30 and the event actually began at 5:00 I had time to w
ander around the facility and admire the pristine condition and the new amenities. I also had a chance to observe the 40 or so homeless people congregating in Lions Park adjacent to the field. From my vantage point they all looked surprisingly young, but then, everyone looks young to me these days.

ERNESTO IN CHARGE
Public Services Interim Director Ernesto Munoz was the master of ceremonies and he, appropriately, stood on the pitcher's mound, welcomed the crowd and acknowledged the dignitaries present. He also gave credit to previous councils for their tenacity that permitted the now-defunct Costa Mesa Redevelopment Agency to spend $520,000 on these improvements - all of which were covered in my earlier post.

RIGHEIMER'S GOPHER BALL
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer spoke, as did councilman Steve Mensin
ger. Council members Eric Bever and Wendy Leece were not present and neither was Mayor Gary Monahan. Leece was on her way home from her youngest daughter's graduation from Marine boot camp. We assume Monahan was pulling beer taps at his pub a half-mile away and it's anybody's guess where Bever was. At the end of the brief ceremony Righeimer actually attempted, twice, to throw out the proverbial "first ball". He shanked the first toss, but actually came close to home plate with the second. I was going to suggest we draft one of the young girls in the audience as a relief pitcher if he continued to have trouble.

IT LOOKS BRAND NEW...

This facility - I almost wrote "new" facility - because it looks like it was started from scratch although it is actually almost four decades old, is truly a gem. The new fences and netting are great and the grass, both in the infield and beyond, is in perfect shape. I agree with Mensinger and Righeimer - I doubt you can find a finer baseball field in Orange County. And, the state-of-the-art lighting system permits using only those lights necessary for the game being played. The infield lights, for example, can be snuffed if a soccer game is played in the outfield.

EASY TO BE PROUD

It's easy to be proud of this city when you see this kind of a facility - the results of years of planning by staff and councils. Kudos to everyone involved over the years. As I read the plaque on the front of the facility listing the names of the council members at the original dedication - Mayor Alvin Pinkley, Vice Mayor Jack Hammett, and council members Robert Wilson, Dom Raciti and Norma Hertzog - I had the feeling that they all would be VERY proud of these improvements. I was surprised that Hammett was not present today.

WHAT ABOUT THE FISH FRY?
As I stood there, listening to
the folks speak and admiring the facility I found myself wondering about the future of the Lions Club Fish Fry - a tradition in our city for 65 years. Clearly, the carnival rides previously located on Davis Field will not be permitted to defile this pristine facility now. I guess that's a story for another time.

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En"light"enment And Replays


DAVIS FIELD IMPROVEMENTS DEDICATED TODAY
This afternoon, at 4:30 p.m., the City of Costa Mesa will dedicate the new, $520,000 improvements at Davis Field, adjacent to Lions Park.

REDEVELOPMENT
AGENCY FUNDS USED
According to the press release, funds from the now-defunct Costa Mesa Redevelopment Agency were used for those improvements, which include:
  • A new energy-saving state-of-the-art lighting system
  • The ability to turn lights on/off individually or as groups by phone or online
  • Capability to be used as either baseball or soccer fields
  • New vinyl-coated perimeter fencing
  • New 50-foot high baseball netting along the firs and third base lines
The public is invited to this dedication ceremony.


*****

REPLAY SCHEDULE FOR THE LAST STUDY SESSION
You will recall my recent post discussing the January 31, 2012 council study session that dealt with financial planning for this city. That meeting, attended by very few of your neighbors, was both illuminating and frustrating because it demonstrated the true intent of the current council majority.

WATCH THE REPLAY!
Because this issue is so important to the future of this city, I highly recommend that residents take the opportunity provided by CMTV to view the replays on television or via the streaming video at the city web site.

STREAMING VIDEO
The streaming video can be viewed HERE.

TELEVISED REPLAYS

The replays on CMTV, Channel 24 (Time Warner Cable) or Channel 99 (ATT U-Verse) will follow the schedule listed below. You non-football fans will note that one of the replays is scheduled for 4 p.m. this Sunday - the same time the Super Bowl will be televised.

THANKS TO DANE AND BRAD
Thanks to our award-winning team at CMTV, Dane Bora and Brad Long, for continuing to provide important information to the residents of this city.

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