POSITIVE BREAKFAST MEETING
Last Thursday Costa Mesa Police Chief Tom Gazsi addressed a group
of civic and business leaders at the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce
breakfast and, according to several reports from the event (I did not
attend), left the audience with a generally positive view of the
future. The following observations are a paraphrased homogenization of
several reports from the scene.
CRIME RATE IS UP
Gazsi discussed the rising crime rate, indicating that certain types of
crimes are going up - property crimes, in particular are up 14% over
last year - but that our overall crime rate is still lower than in the
early and mid 1990s.
SHRUNKEN FORCE - MORE CRIMINALS
He told the group that the department has been diminished by 20% and
that our city, along with virtually every other in the state, has been
impacted by what he referred to as "AB109 releases" -
criminals released from California prisons due to overcrowding. He told
the crowd that last year at this time we had 60 officers on patrol and
that number is down to 50 this year. The scheduling change he
implemented in February, blending four 10-hour days and three 12-hour
days, has helped.
SRO PROGRAM WILL RETURN... SOMETIME
He told the group that the School Resource Officer (SRO) program - Officer Jess Gilman shown here - that
was suspended near the end of the school year will be reinstated when
staffing levels permit. He apparently didn't give any specific date
when that would occur. Presently there are 11 officers out with
"on-duty injuries" and my sources elsewhere tell me that the actual
total number of officers nor presently on duty for any reason may be 14
or higher. The SRO program is a critical element in the programs to
head-off gang activities in the city, so we can't be without it for very
long. (photo credit to the Orange County Register)
As an aside, Chief Gazsi had authorized three separate recruitment
efforts - as was reported here in an earlier post. The City is
currently looking for experienced officers for lateral transfers,
Reserve officers who have completed the required academy training and -
until very recently - brand new recruits who would be hired, attend the
police academy then be assigned to a training officer. That particular
recruitment effort has been suspended. It had generated over 1,000
applicants - many more than it is possible to properly screen,
particularly since the CMPD is not authorized to hire ANY
full-time officers until the issue of a second pension tier is
resolved. However, the hopper is full if and when that situation
changes. Keep in mind that, in the case of new recruits, we're looking
at more than a year before any of them hit the streets as
fully-qualified officers and that the CMPD anticipates as many as 20
retirements within the next 18 months.
Back to the breakfast...
GRATEFUL FOR THE HELICOPTER
Chief Gazsi expressed gratitude for the use of the Huntington Beach
helicopter, even though it's in a limited capacity. He explained to the
audience that, because he has spent virtually all his law enforcement
life working in Newport Beach before becoming Chief of Police in Costa
Mesa, the A.B.L.E. program was always part of his professional
experience so he clearly understood the value of that program and was
sorry to see it be disbanded. He apparently mentioned visionary chiefs
before him - Roger Neth, Dave Snowden and Bob McDonnell of Newport Beach - who created, nurtured and understood the value of that program.
Gazsi apparently was very complimentary to his boss, City CEO Tom Hatch and for the support he gets from the City Council. He mentioned how valuable it is to have men like Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold - also a Newport Beach veteran with whom he had a long working relationship - as peers on the job.
He apparently also spoke of new technological advances that will soon be
launched to help provide the community with more information more
rapidly. Some of those were a "crime mapping" tool to show crime hot
spots in real time and a tool that displays crime statistics by
geographic area, both of which will be available to residents for online
access. He also mentioned something about software called NIXEL
that provides an application for smart phones that will permit receipt
of alerts by the public. I may be getting this garbled since it's
coming from a few sources, but it all sounds pretty exciting and
WE'RE LUCKY TO HAVE HIM
Personally, I think Costa Mesa is very lucky to have Tom Gazsi as our
police chief. Since taking the job a year ago he has become a calming
influence on the department, has implemented structural changes that
seem to more effectively utilize the available manpower and has shown
the mature, strong leadership so necessary during this stressful time.
DAILY PILOT PROVIDES THE PLATFORM
These days, when all traditional media outlets are struggling to remain
timely, relevant and solvent, we here in the Newport-Mesa are fortunate
to have the Daily Pilot as our local newspaper of record. The past
decade has been very difficult for all local newspapers and the Daily
Pilot is no exception. That period has seen tremendous pressure on the
management of the Times Community Newspapers - the umbrella under which
the Daily Pilot operates - by the parent, The Los Angeles Times and its
parent, The Tribune Companies. Management at the Daily Pilot has
undergone frequent upheavals and reporters have moved on, being
back-filled by others who must learn the turf to become proficient in
providing us with the important news of our area. Today it operates
under the steady hand of John Canalis.
A LONG, LONG LIST
One constant during this time of transition, however, has been a cadre
of local columnists, each of whom has had an up-close and personal
perspective to their slice of our area and they reported on that slice
with their own style and flair. Names like Joe Bell, Peter Buffa, Fred Martin, Byron de Arakal, Steve Smith, the long-winded Judge Jim Gray and others have given us the value of their insights - some better than others.
HARLAN HITS THE MARK
This weekend one of the most recent of these local columnists, Jeffrey Harlan,
presented to his readers what may be one of the most finely crafted
essays on an important issue as any seen on those pages. Those of you
who do not read the Daily Pilot can find this essay, Process is king in city government, HERE.
SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING
I'm not going to rehash Harlan's column - it really needs to be read
start to finish for the full impact of it. I must say, though, that
this particular essay should be required reading as we head into this
political campaign season, and particularly for those who have even the
slightest interest in Jim Righeimer's Charter.
TRYING TO REEL YOU IN...
I will attempt to lure you into reading this column by giving you just a few
phrases from it - to pique your interest. These phrases may seem curt
and crass out of context. Trust me, you'll feel differently after you
read the entire essay. So, here are just three snippets from the essay
to provoke you: "First, the councilmen are afraid."
"Second, the councilmen are driven by control and ego."
"Third, the councilmen are just plain lazy."
SOUND INTERESTING? READ IT!
OK, got the picture? It sounds like something I would write, right? Believe me when I tell you that it is MUCH better written than I could ever do. Enjoy it.
GENIS HITS THE MARK, TOO
The Daily Pilot also provides an excellent forum for community input in
the form of their Mailbag and Commentary segments. This weekend, former
Mayor Sandra Genis presented a commentary on those pages that
deals with the ill-advised agreement the council signed with the
proposed developer of the Banning Ranch. That essay is titled, Council sold Costa Mesa short on Banning Ranch project, and can be found HERE.
STELLAR CIVIC CONTRIBUTOR
Genis, who recently announced her candidacy for a seat on the city
council in November, served this city with distinction for two terms on
the council - including a stint as mayor - beginning in 1988 and has
remained an activist in municipal affairs ever since. A
Stanford-educated land use planning consultant by profession, she may be
the smartest person in the room when it comes to those kinds of issues
and is certainly one of the hardest-working, most detail-oriented you'll
find when it comes to issues involving this city. She was, for
example, the president of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation
Society and a driving force behind getting the bogus sale of that
READ IT FOR YOURSELVES
Her essay this weekend asks some very thought-provoking questions - I'll
let you read them in context. She speaks of "an Orwellian twist", gag
orders and such. Take a few minutes and read her views.
THESE ESSAYS SET THE TONE
These two essays by Harlan and Genis will give you a very good idea of
what this council campaign may be like. It's going to be the three
lock-step lemmings, Steve Mensinger, Colin McCarthy and Gary Monahan,
spouting the OC GOP party line versus those within the city - long-time
residents with impeccable credentials - who don't want to see our
community become a fiefdom controlled by a political ideology directed
by others outside our city.
Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group Hosts Safety Meeting
My friends in the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Groupare
hosting a Neighborhood Watch meeting on Monday, July 23, 2012 beginning
at 7:00 at the Lighthouse Church, 301 Magnolia Street. The flier for
this event is below. Just click on the image to enlarge it for easier
reading. I've also provided a map to help you locate the venue.
RISING CRIME RATE
The reason for this event is the rising crime rate in the city and, on
the Eastside in particular. Representatives of the Costa Mesa Police
Department will attend to provide current statistics and helpful
information for us all. Diane Hill of United Neighbors will also attend
to advise us about her group activities. EVERYONE IS WELCOME
While targeted at the Eastside, anyone is welcome to attend. Please
tell your neighbors because in these days of limited law enforcement
resources we all need to be more alert to things going on in our
neighborhoods. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS...
If you have questions there is a number at the end of the flier that you can call. See you there.
PROVIDING "CLARITY".. ?
Today the City of Costa Mesa posted a page on the City web site,HERE,
in an attempt to respond to the firestorm of criticism leveled at the
City Council for their action last Tuesday night in which they ignored
the comments of 35 residents and other interested parties and proceeded
to accept the $4.4 million dollar "mitigation" fee from the developers
of Banning Ranch. You'll recall that a petulant and frustrated Mayor Eric Bever
muttered his now-infamous bovine excrement comment half-way through the
comment section of that issue Tuesday night. I've presented that
little segment for you here again. Turn your volume all the way up and
you'll hear him say, "I'm going home", then the other comment.
HOW DO YOU FEEL, MR. MAYOR?
OBLIGATED TO HEAR - AND LISTEN
No matter how crass, crude and disrespectful the mayor and other council
members are to those folks who take the time to study the issues,
interrupt their lives to attend the meetings and brave the chides from
the dais to speak their mind, the council is obligated BY LAW to
hear public comments on these issues. If they don't like it - and
clearly they do not - in the words of our potty-mouthed Mayor Bever, "Tough Luck!"
DID THEY REPRESENT YOU WELL?
Take a few minutes to read over their response and tell me if you're
satisfied that Costa Mesa's interests were well-represented by them in
this matter. I know how I feel...
AGAIN! As I've said many times before, when the Costa Mesa City Council
keeps on talking after midnight nothing good comes from it. Last
night was no exception. When the final item was completed I
dragged my old body out of my chair at 12:40 a.m. and headed home
- exhausted! Even after the controversial change in the appeal process was dropped and the equally controversial bicycle ordinance was removed at the last minute and re-scheduled for two weeks hence, it was a long, long meeting.
BORA AND LONG NAMED EMPLOYEES OF THE MONTH
At their council meeting last night they arrived late - a
longer-than-anticipated Closed Session delayed them - it took them
a few minutes to get into the meat of the meeting. The
Presentations segment included Dane Bora and Brad Long
of Costa Mesa Television being named Employees of the Month, and
rightfully so. Those two hard-working guys put a positive face on
Costa Mesa with their professionalism, good spirit and quality
product. They are creative, reliable and excellent ambassadors
for our city. Now, if we could just get them some good equipment
- that hamster's getting tired!
CANDIDATES ON DISPLAY
One interesting element of the meeting last night was the fact that, in
addition to two council members who are running for election in November
- Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan - the audience also included many of the announced candidates, too. Sue Lester, Marshall Krupp, Harold Weitzberg, John Stephens and Sandy Genis
all attended and each spoke on important issues - in some cases, many
issues. At one point Monahan angrily chided some of them for
"politicizing" issues and told them to leave that for the campaign trail
and not in council chambers - then turned around and did precisely the
same thing. Politics... ya gotta love it!
CINDY SETS THEM STRAIGHT!
They finally got around to Public Comments at 6:30 and that
stretched until 7:30, as 21 people rose to speak their piece - or
tried to. Mayor Eric Bever had another hissy fit and
tried to stop a speaker because he thought what he said wasn't
relevant. The final speaker, Cindy Brenneman, set him
straight, though. She told him and the rest of the council that
they should just let the speakers say their piece and not have to
have the last word. Several members of the council constantly
toss comments at speakers as they leave the podium - Bever is one
of the worst offenders. Brenneman told them to just stop it, then
turned to depart. Bever - in a perfect example of the problem -
muttered something like, "I guess we'll hear about the Solar
System at the next meeting." All that was missing was
a drum rim shot! The crowd cheered. PRAISE FOR I-405 POSITION
Many of the speakers heaped high praise on the council for their
courageous and strong stance against Alternative #3 in the OCTA
plan for widening the I-405 Freeway, and correctly so. For them
to take such a strong position against the favored option may cost
us down the road in our relationship with the OCTA. KOKEN'S "HONOR"
Perhaps the highlight of Public Comments - until Brenneman lit
into the council at the end, that is - may have been long-time
resident Terry Koken's little story about his friend, Raja
and his difficulties with the English language. It was all a
segue to announce the formation of "Politicians For
Irresponsible Government" - P.I.G.! He gave the
council this sheet in honor of their induction into the
organizations. Smiles filled the auditorium. Little did we know
that the subsequent events that evening would validate this "honor". (Click on image to enlarge)
RIGHEIMER SETS THE TONE
Before we even got to the real meat of the evening, during Council Member Comments, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer
got off one of many lines last night that still ring in my ears this
morning. Speaking of the announcement of much lower returns than
expected by CalPERS said, "We need to start off-loading employees that have these pensions that are unsustainable." It's like he was in the melon business, deciding to dump a crop before it begins to rot! That set the tone for the evening.
TAMAR'S INADVERTENT WISDOM
In an evening of memorable moments, resident Tamar Goldmann may
have delivered one of the best by accident. While chiding the council
for out-of-control legal expenditures - we paid Jones and Mayer more
than $111,000 last month - she was talking about using "in-house"
attorneys and inadvertently referred to our contract attorneys as "outhouse"
attorneys. Guffaws erupted throughout the chambers as she realized her
malapropism, chuckled, then recovered her train of thought. More than
a few of us thought she might be onto something...
SHUFFLING THE CONSENT CALENDAR DECK
It was well after 8:00 p.m. before they even got to the Consent
Calendar, those items that are expected to be voted upon in one vote.
Not last night. Only 3 of the eight items on the Consent Calendar went
without discussion. They sifted through the issues and shoved #5 - the
Banning Ranch Traffic Mitigation issue - out until the end, figuring it
might take awhile. Boy, were they right!
PAYING POLICE RESERVES MORE
However, #8, the proposal to raise the pay level of Reserve Police
Officers to $33.00 per hour, generated more heat than light. Nine
speakers addressed this issue, including a couple council candidates who
accused the current council of using this scheme to dismantle the
CMPD. Of course, those comments generated angry comments from the
council. In fact, Gary Monahan went ballistic at the end - a rant worth
watching. Righeimer got off a couple more memorable comments. He
said, "The police have never been told no once in their life." He then emphasized his philosophy by saying, "This council will not have more officers with the pension plan we have today."
It was at that point that he accused commenters of "politicizing" the
issue. The issue passed, 5-0. You can read Joe Serna's Daily Pilot
MORE RULES VIOLATIONS?
An interesting sidebar on that discussion - Righeimer may have violated
the rules for Closed Sessions when he told the audience about the offer
the City had on the table in very specific terms. Negotiations are
supposed to be private between the two parties. We'll see how that
35-1 AGAINST BANNING RANCH FEES
Finally, at 9:15, they got to the final item on the Consent Calendar -
#5, the Traffic Mitigation Fee for the Banning Ranch. You can read Thy Vo's piece in the Orange County Register, HERE. There were still
well over 100 people in the auditorium at that time. After a brief
description of the issue by Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman,
the parade to the speaker's podium began. When it stopped more than 90
minutes later 36 people had spoken - only one in favor of accepting the
fee. That was restaurateur John Ursini, a terrific guy whose
family owns the Newport Rib Company and is a huge supporter of municipal
issues, primarily youth sports-related events. Based on his comments,
I'm not sure he really understood what the actual issue was last night.
MORE BEVER BONEHEADEDNESS
Speakers from Costa Mesa and Newport Beach clogged the lines in the
aisles at the sides of the auditorium. That's Bever's edict. No more
calling folks up to speak based on their completion of speaker's cards.
Nope, if you're going to speak in Eric's court, er, meeting, you just
have to drag yourself to a line and wait your turn - like prisoners in a
chow line. And, he demands that you wait until he acknowledges your
existence before speaking. And, since he doesn't require speaker cards
to be completed and didn't require speakers to identify themselves, the
minutes are laced with misspelled speaker names. This is yet another
curious facet of the Bever regime. He's a fanatic about the accuracy of
the minutes of meetings, sending them back time after time for
revisions, and yet he institutionalizes failure by his actions. But I
KOKEN AND RIDGE
The speakers ranged from concerned to emotional to frustrated to angry to downright mad. The aforementioned Terry Koken,
for example, got the council's attention by slamming a slab of wood
with a wrench, making a loud "crack", then proceeded to read them the
riot act with his personal volume turned to HIGH. Greg Ridge
told the council it was too soon for this deal and used a Winston
Churchill story to imply that we, the city, were prostitutes who had
just negotiated our "price".
Several speakers carried the theme that it was too soon for this deal
because the project had not yet been approved in Newport Beach or by the
Coastal Commission. Every council candidate present addressed this
issue, including lawyer John Stephens who pointed out deficiencies in the agreement and advised the council NOT to approve it. Robin Leffler told the council this was a good deal - for Newport Beach and the developer. Newport resident Jim Mosher pointed out what a bad deal it was for Costa Mesa by describing the kind of arrangements being made in Newport.
FEE ACCEPTED - BEVER, "GO HOME"
Finally, after much discussion by the council and staff, just before
11:00 p.m. the council voted, 4-1 - Leece voted NO - to accept the fee
agreement, but to clean up some of the "mistakes" and add a CPI
escalator in it. As the crowd filed out, many of them loudly calling
for a recall, Bever was heard to mutter, "Go home!" Ever the class act. And now we had the rest of the agenda ahead of us and it was almost Wednesday!
The only Public Hearing item went fast and was completed at 11:15 with
staff directed to work with two of the folks present to sort out the
apparent differences with the fines involved.
PERFORMANCE AUDIT TO RETURN IN AUGUST
New Business #1, the issue of the "performance audit" requested by
Mensinger some time ago, probably should have been an item for a Study
Session. That's how this discussion went, with Assistant City Manager
Rick Francis fielding the questions and guiding the discussion. The
issue will be "tightened up" and returned for further consideration the
first meeting of August.
"GO GREEN" FEE WAIVER GETS GREEN LIGHT
The issue of providing fee waivers for certain "Green" issues - solar
systems and charging stations for electric vehicles - went smoothly but
Bever said he couldn't support waiving fees in a time of fiscal
distress. They accepted the staff recommendation, selecting the
alternative that provided for a 50% fee waiver but extended the program
through the end of the next fiscal year instead of December. Bever vote
NO, citing his unwillingness to waive fees in these difficult financial times. (Remember that at the end of this post)
Next up was the Request for Proposals for the Telecommunications
Technical Services for Emergency Equipment. This should have been
pretty straightforward, but it ended up being bizarre. The staff
recommended rejecting the RFP response as insufficient and to pursue
shared coverage with other agencies. Apparently, with the departure of a
staff member to Tustin recently, we have only one person qualified to
install the plethora of emergency electronics in our vehicles.
According to Lieutenant Bryan Glass we're looking for a replacement for
him now. After much discussion, Righeimer moved that the RFP response
be rejected, that we continue to seek other municipal partners for this
service and to maintain the layoff notice. Part of the staff report was
to rescind the layoff notice. The motion was later amended to instruct
staff to seek a replacement for the departed staff member. So, we have
one guy doing this work, we need to have him continue to do it, we are
not going to outsource the job but Righeimer demanded that the layoff
notice remained in place! The vote was 4-1 with Monahan voting NO.
A WEIRD MOVE...
Think that was strange? Even stranger was the fact that Bever, noticing
the clock had struck midnight during the middle of the discussion,
called for a vote to either continue or not. The vote was 4-1 to
continue - Bever voted NO. So, he was apparently all set to cease the
discussion midstream, forgo the discussion of the business license tax -
which has a tight time line - and go home! Unbelievable!
IT GETS WORSE!
The final item on the agenda - which began at 12:05 - was the continued
discussion of the proposal to place an increase in the Business License
Tax on the November ballot for the voters to continue. This fee
structure - which has not been significantly changed since 1985 - was
actually implemented in 1961. Only the fee levels were tinkered with
during that two-dozen year period and NOTHING has been done since.
SQUANDERING STAFF TIME
Righeimer had sent Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young
back to the drawing board after a previous meeting to come up with a
plan similar to that used in Newport Beach, where their tax is based on
employee headcount. There was insufficient time for that to happen, so
the staff recommended that the item be removed from the track to put it
on the November ballot and that they gather the data to provide a proper
report so the council can make an informed decision. That sounded
logical, but in the alternate universe that Righeimer operates in, that
was not to be.
PLUCKING NUMBERS FROM THE AIR
He insisted that Young just pull numbers out of the air - call a couple
companies, get some numbers and base a staff report on that. This is
another of his Fire-Ready-Aim moves that always bites us in the
posterior. He said we need to get this on the ballot in November, so the
discussion went round and round.
Finally, at 12:30, we got an inkling of the real truth of this issue.
One of the final speakers on this long, long night was former Planning
Department executive Perry Valantine. During his comments he asked if
any of the council members had signed a pledge against any new taxes.
If so, then they'd already made their decision before hearing any of the
discussions and the public has a right to know that. He received no
response, but the issue became clear in a few minutes
THE PUNCH IN THE GUT
Mensinger said he'd rather see us focus on collecting the taxes already
due from folks who don't pay them and the handwriting - graffiti, in
this case - was clearly on the wall. Monahan continued by saying, "I have no interest in moving forward with this - never really have." He went on to list the taxes which he, as a businessman, paid. He looked over at Righeimer and said, "Sorry, Jim, but I wouldn't be supporting this no matter which one of the proposals you bring forward." You got the impression that he really wasn't sorry. Bever chimed in and said, "Thanks for sharing that, member Monahan, I feel the same way. There you have it, Mr. Hatch. No special meeting necessary." And with that he adjourned the meeting!
A QUIET DEATH
And, as jaws dropped among the remaining few attendees, we all realized
that we'd been snookered all along. Since it takes 4 votes to place an
item on the ballot, this item died a quick death - as though someone had
deftly and quietly slit its throat.
As a taxpayer and a resident of this city for nearly four decades, I'm
really steamed about this. Your city council - driven by the agenda of
the Orange County Republican Party and its "no new taxes"
mantra - has chosen to forgo picking up gold nuggets in the bottom of
the stream to please their political masters. When not one of the
council members responded to Valantine's inquiry we suspected what was
about to happen. When there was not a single member of the business
community present for this meeting after Chamber of Commerce President Larry Weichman
promised a packed house last week, I knew something was up. I wouldn't
be at all surprised if this wasn't just orchestrated purely for the
theatrics of it.
ABUSE OF POWER
This is the most egregious abuse of power I've seen since the Charter
fiasco began. Our city has been described by Righeimer and his minions like Colin McCarthy as being in dire
financial condition - tottering toward bankruptcy - and this council
refuses to give the voters of this city a chance to help steer it back
on course by demanding a change in the way business license taxes are
calculated, knowing full well the staff couldn't pull together the
numbers. And also knowing full well that they didn't have the votes
A SIMPLE SOLUTION
This could have been simple. They didn't have to demand hundreds of
staff hours be used, and many consultant dollars spent, to come up with
an elaborate formula. The current structure has a maximum business
license tax of $200. Each year we receive around $800,000 from this
revenue source. If the structure was just quadrupled across the board -
with a maximum of $800 - the city could have received revenue of $3.2
million! That's enough to fill a lot of potholes and hire more police
and firefighters to keep us safe. Or, to apply to that unfunded pension
liability they keep yapping about. I doubt you could find a single
businessman in the city who would seriously balk at that change.
SHAME ON THEM
This meeting, with the incivility displayed by Bever and the dishonesty
by the other council members on this particular issue and their
unwillingness to seriously negotiate the pressing labor issues based
purely on political dogma, may be the low water mark for such meetings
in my personal memory. I'm ashamed of them. Only Wendy Leece seems to
be trying to serve the people of this city - the others serve a
ONE LAST THING...
Several folks have told me they heard Bever mutter the words "That's Bulls**t"
during the meeting. Between phone calls and my attempt to finally get
this posted I've not been able to find it. Let's have a contest to see
who can find that point in the meeting. First person with the answer -
and specific site on the web feed - gets to say something nasty about
Bever here. WE HAVE A WINNER! CONGRATS TO READER JERRY GARCIA OF COSTA MESA WHO FOUND THE CLIP. TURN YOUR VOLUME UP, LISTEN CLOSELY AT ABOUT 10 SECONDS IN.
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