City Council Wrap-up
The Costa Mesa council meeting last night had some very interesting moments and, despite Mayor Jim Righeimer's goal to shorten them, it dragged on until 11:30. Yeah, I know - earlier than many, so why didn't I post last night? Honestly, I was exhausted, but I'm here now, so stop complaining. ;-) Players on the dais changed a little. Former City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow stood (sat?) in for Tom Duarte and Wendy Leece was home, sick.
COSTA MESA COMMUNITY RUN
As has been the case lately, the meeting began with a couple nice acknowledgements. First, Karen Barloon from the Costa Mesa Community Run stepped up to announce this year's schedule and the fact that it will be combined with the Lions Club Fish Fry for the first time. This is a good move, placing two very popular and well-attended events together. The run(s) will be held on the final day of the Fish Fry, Sunday, June 2, 2013.
SISTER MARY VIANNEY
Then, the reason for the standing-room-only crowd last night - the presentation of the Mayor's Award to Sister Mary Vianney Ennis, Principal at St. John the Baptist School. This award, which Righeimer proudly presented, recognized Sister Mary Vianney for her 51 years of service at the school and for the positive impact she's apparently had on thousands of lives in our community. Righeimer's daughters attend that school. When the presentation was over I was practically swept out of the auditorium by the suction created by all those young families departing. There must have been fifty small children in attendance for the ceremony. You can read Bradley Zint's coverage of the ceremony in the Daily Pilot HERE.
PUBLIC COMMENTS POTPOURRI
Public Comments produced a dozen people who rose to address specific grievances with the council. Several residents of the soon-to-be-defunct Anchor Trailer Port stepped up to complain about the way they are being treated by the folks purchasing the park. One speaker discussed conversations held with city staff and members of other mobile home parks in the city about the need for a municipal mobile home park closure ordinance to protect Costa Mesa residents from the kind of abuse the folks at Anchor have received. Another speaker complained about an "illegal" drug rehab home being opened in his neighborhood. Another complained about Eastside Streets. Perry Valantine told the council that the recently-released document, Fiscal Impact Analysis for COIN Ordinance, HERE, was confusing and far from transparent. And, finally, James Procter stepped up once again to tell us that the FBI and FCC filmed his recent meeting with the Secret Service. Yep, you hear it all during Public Comments.
In response to those complaints we were told that the Eastside repaving was underway and that it should be finished in a month - by summer at the latest. That's good news for us who travel those streets regularly. CEO Tom Hatch explained that the drug and alcohol rehab homes are governed by state law and that, as long as there are six or fewer residents in a home, the city has NO SAY, except to encourage them to be "good neighbors". Hatch tasked the soon-to-be-finally-departing Peter Naghavi to contact the parties in the Anchor dispute to resolve them. Hatch also tried - not very successfully - to explain the COIN analysis spread sheet.
During Council Member Comments Righeimer announced the creation of the Mayor's Dinner - a self-aggrandizing event if I've ever seen one! This is a pure case of neighbor envy - Newport Beach has one, so he wants one, too. He told us the proceeds would go to support school arts programs in Costa Mesa - certainly a worthy cause. Righeimer has been basking in the spotlight of being mayor ever since the council elected him. He's been tossing out Mayor's Awards like candy from a parade float and now the Mayor's Dinner.
THE SPIRIT OF THE RULE?
During his little segment Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger told us the recent Costa Mesa Classic golf tournament produced over $165,000 for Costa Mesa United, then showed us a video about that group. That was his way of participating in the item later in the agenda in which Costa Mesa United would be provided $100,000. He, because he's on the board, had to recuse himself from that discussion, but this allowed him to get his oar in, anyhow.
Next up was the ever-popular Consent Calendar, in which Righeimer prefers to have NOTHING pulled for separate discussion. This time around many items got their own discussion and one - Item #10, the Freebie Ticket issue - was yanked from the agenda at the last second. Tamar Goldmann stepped up to address the ongoing large legal fees reflected on the two Warrants this time around. Item 11, the "Performance Audit" for the Costa Mesa Golf Course, generated some interesting conversation and, although nobody brought the issue up, Righeimer denied having anybody in the wings to take over the golf course operations. I wonder where he got that idea?
SUCCESSOR AGENCY STUFF - QUICK AND EASY
The three items on the calendar dealing with the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency were promptly dispatched and it was on to the main calendar, which Mensinger juggled to move some of his pals forward on the agenda. Instead of staying in order he asked to jump over Old Business #1 - Planning Commission appointments - and New Business #1 - a General Plan screening request - and move New Business #2, the Costa Mesa United issue, and New Business #8, the Fireworks changes - to the front of the pack.
COSTA MESA UNITED FUNDING
The Costa Mesa United issue, which authorized the contribution of $100,000 to that organization for use on Costa Mesa schools, generated a lot of very positive comments from many residents and it passed on a 3-0 vote. Mensinger was out of the room for this one.
FIREWORKS CHANGES APPROVED
New Business #8, the changes to the Fireworks policy, took about 40 minutes of discussion and explanation. Mensinger was the father of this issue, too. You can read the staff report HERE. Several speakers supported the plan, but others asked some very good questions - some of which didn't get answered. For example, what kind of analysis had been done to determine the impact of the plan to reduce the number of permitted stands from 40 to 25? No real answer was given to questions about requiring the school principals to certify the groups wishing to sell fireworks. And, perhaps the biggest unanswered question - what have the fireworks vendors said about the segment of this change that requires a "rent cap" being placed of $1,000. The organization selling the fireworks cannot be forced to pay more than $1,000 for the site rent, even though it might cost the fireworks vendor ten times that much. Nobody had an answer for that, but they passed the changes, anyhow. It's another case of "Ready, Fire, Aim" by Mensinger. No matter - it's for the kids, so it can't be wrong! Geez!
PLANNING COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS
We then finally got to Old Business #1, the appointment of three members to the Costa Mesa Planning Commission. You will recall this item has been delayed twice, so the council did a "do over" and decided to "unappoint" Jim Fitzpatrick and Tim Sesler - appointed previously to 4-year terms - and deal with all three positions together - last night. The results were predictable, but not without some intrigue. Mensinger, when addressing the roster of candidates, said, "All were qualified - eminently." Baloney! Did he even read the resumes? Does he understand the word "eminently'? I doubt it. Anyhow, the same procedure to select candidates was used as previously - council members drew numbers and made a choice in order. Gary Monahan had the first choice for a 4-year term seat and selected current Planning Commission Chairman, Colin McCarthy, who was chosen on a 4-0 vote. Righeimer had the second choice, also for a 4-year term seat, and nominated Sesler, who was also chosen on a 4-0 vote. Next came Sandra Genis, who nominated Dan Hoffman but received no second. Big surprise there! Finally Mensinger nominated Fitzpatrick for the remaining seat - a 2-year term - and he was chosen on a 3-1 vote. Genis voted NO. And Fitzpatrick hobbled out of the auditorium not a happy camper, having been "demoted" from a 4-year seat to a 2-year seat.
SCREENING REQUEST APPROVED
A little after 9:00 p.m. we got to New Business #1, a General Plan Screening Request for a 236 unit apartment complex in a commercial/industrial area on the far east side of town. Several business owners in close proximity to this project stepped up to complain about the impact of this development on their business and vice versa. One owner of a heavy manufacturing business worried that residents would complain about late-night noise because he runs two shifts at his plant. The council approved the request - only the first of many steps the developers must face.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY UPGRADES
The next items, New Business #3, 4, 5 and 6, were discussed individually but are all linked philosophically, so there was a lot of cross-talk. It took a surprising amount of time, but we were talking about spending over $2 million. At the end, the discussion of #3, the rebuilding of the IT infrastructure throughout the city, was divided into sections for separate votes at the request of Monahan. The first segment, the creation of an IT Fund, passed, 4-0. The second, the "loan" plan to fund the first item, passed ona 3-1 vote - Monahan voted NO. The third segment passed, 4-0.
#4 PASSED, #5 PULLED
After a lively discussion on why to use Hewlett-Packard and GovPlace as vendors, #4 passed 4-0. Because it passed, #5 - the service contract with HP - was pulled from the agenda.
THE LAST TIME...
The discussion of #6, the more than $200,000 contract with Oracle/PeopleSoft for support generated some brief, but pithy discussions. Righeimer said, "I will never vote for this again! I will never give Larry Ellison two hundred grand again!" Tell me, Jim... How do you feel?
Finally, the last item on the agenda was addressed - Mensinger's scheme to create a "committee to evaluate annual pension oversight issues". As the discussion moved forward it became clear that there was not uniform understanding on the dais about what this "committee" was supposed to be doing, and what it would cost. Again, another "Ready, Fire, Aim" move by Mensinger. Ah, but that's OK, right? That's just Steve being "Steve". Holy Cow!
"PEOPLE WITH SKILLS"
Mensinger wanted a 12-person committee made up of community members and employees to review and evaluate pension issues and report to to the council twice a year. Read the brief staff report HERE for his list. There were some memorable comments made by him during the discussion. When addressing the fact that nobody on the dais were "experts" on pensions, he said, "We're experts on what doesn't work." He told us that during his campaign last year "I've run into people that have skills." Several times during the discussion he implied that he just didn't get the pension stuff.
CANNIBALIZING OTHER COMMITTEES?
When the discussion turned to providing staff time for this new venture - CEO Hatch speculated that it might take 5-10 hours of staff time each week, minimum, do help the committee with research, etc. Mensinger's solution to that little dilemma was to suggest that we shut down "other committees that we don't necessarily need." Yep, that's what he said.
SHOULD EMPLOYEES BE ON THE COMMITTEE?
Questions arose about the propriety of having employees on the committee. Barlow opined that one other city does it that way, but Hatch and other council members expressed concern about it. A member of one of the employee associations stepped up and said they wanted to be part of the process.
DOWN TO NINE, NO EMPLOYEES
In the end, just before 11:30 p.m., Monahan moved to approve the creation of the committee with only 9 members - none from the employee groups - and that their charter would include assessing the unfunded medical liability, too. It passed, 4-0, and I was left with the strong feeling that nobody really understood just what this committee will be doing. Hatch will launch a recruitment - which will almost certainly result in many of Mensinger's cronies being placed on it. We'll see.
PROBABLY ELECTED THE WRONG GUY
I also was left thinking that if Mensinger is having such difficulty with these issues - despite the fact that we have an excellent staff and hire expensive experts to provide knowledge and perspective - then we probably elected the wrong guy last November. Maybe we should require council candidates to take some kind of a basic intelligence test before they run.
PENSION STUDY SESSION NEXT TUESDAY NIGHT
The next meeting of the city council will be a Special Study Session on Tuesday, February 26th at 6:00 when Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research expert Joe Nation will discuss Pensions. Should be interesting.