Of Sports Fields and Fairview Park
Well, I almost got it right. The Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night didn't end at 10:00, as I predicted - it ended at 10:25. Close but no cigar.
CONSENT CALENDAR APPROVED!
Among the highlights was the passage of the Consent Calendar without any of the 11 items on it being pulled for separate discussion! So, the council agreed to spend over $1.3 million on a variety of things without any discussion with staff. Whew!
TWO ITEMS - LOTS OF TALK
The discussions that DID take up some time were the ones involving Fairview Park projects and the Costa Mesa High School field renovation.
In the case of the Fairview Park Projects, after lengthy discussion and public comments, the council voted on each of the individual elements separately. Council members Sandra Genis and Wendy Leece suggested that all times except the formation of the citizen's advisory committee be tabled, to be passed on to that committee for consideration. That suggestion was rejected.
CITIZEN'S ADVISORY COMMITTEE
First was the re-formation of the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee, which councilman Gary Monahan proposed to be made up of seven members from the community, one council liaison and a city staffer, It passed on a 5-0 vote. Recruitment will begin immediately.
GRAHAM'S CANARY STAIRCASE
New/old Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Graham's decade-long crusade to get stairs installed to facilitate entry into Fairview Park from Canary Drive was passed on a 3-2 vote, with Sandra Genis and Wendy Leece voting no. It wasn't as easy as it sounded. Many residents stood to protest the stairs and the intrusion of unwanted traffic into their neighborhood. Monahan suggested the motion include an evaluation of resident-only parking requirements at the site.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's request for stairs down the bluff into Fairview Park's south end was passed on a 4-1 vote (Leece voted no) with the proviso that the staff will look into Genis' suggestion for a ramp instead of stairs.
ACQUISITION TO BE EXPLORED
Mensinger's request to consider the acquisition of the Talbert Nature Preserve - which abuts Fairview Park - from the County of Orange met with some resistance, but the council did approve the staff to move forward to make inquiries of county officials to determine if there is any interest before spending consultant dollars on this plan. The vote was 4-1, Leece voting no.
STUDY CMHS TRACK/FIELD
The final item on the agenda, the plan to spend $15,000 on a design feasibility study on the renovation/relocation of the running track and field within at Costa Mesa High School. Many speakers addressed the long-term abysmal condition of the field and track. After a good deal of public discussion about the wisdom of spending the money/increased school district participation, the council approved the Memorandum of Understanding, 5-0.
RIGHEIMER ON PENSION PAYMENTS
We learned a couple more things about our mayor, Jovial Jim Righeimer. First, he's REALLY serious about not sending CalPERS any extra money to pay down the presumed unfunded pension liability, which he referred to a couple times as a "Rat Hole". He, again, mentioned the configuration of the CalPERS board, implying that they were mostly elected by "the unions", and therefore were incapable of making decisions necessary to control the pension issue. At least he didn't mention that the president of the board is a glazier for a school district. He did say, though, that pension reform is going to have to involve existing and current retirees taking less. I guess that's how he's run his businesses in the past - only fulfilling contracts that were convenient for him and stiffing the rest.
CMPD "HIGHEST PAID"?
We also learned - because he told us so in rebuttal to comments Leece made about not spending our money on things that were less important when we are still under recommended staffing levels in the Police Department - that the CMPD is the "highest paid". We don't know if he meant the world, state or just in Orange County. Sometimes he just seems to speak in tongues up there. Of course, he is incorrect. The CMPD is somewhere in the middle of the pack among county law enforcement agencies. They, like the rest of city employees, have not received a general pay increase since 2008. They are, however racking up the overtime because of this council's stubborn reluctance to hire enough officers.
CHIEF ARNOLD'S PLAN - AGAIN
We also learned, this time from CEO Tom Hatch, that Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's plan for the reorganization of the Fire Department will be heard in a study session soon - maybe on March 12th. Funny, we thought this was all set to go. Guess we'll find out in a week. In the meantime, the firefighters are also working lots of overtime to keep us safe.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, TOM
Hatch also reminded us that tonight marked his second anniversary as CEO. Many in the crowd stood and applauded, recognizing that ANYONE who could tolerate what he has for the past two years deserves a hand - at least!
CLOSED SESSION THURSDAY
The council adjourned to yet another special meeting. This one, on Thursday, March 7th, will be held at 4:30 and is anticipated to be 2-3 hours. It will be a closed session to discuss labor negotiations. According to Hatch, no "report out" is anticipated. The next open meeting will be that study session on the 12th.