Early Meeting? Not A Chance!
Silly me! I thought, after looking at the agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, that it was going to be a cake walk and that we'd be out of there before 10:00 p.m. Wrong! Well, actually, I was partially correct - I was exhausted and starving so I bugged out at precisely 10:00 and went home to watch the rest of the meeting - that finally wrapped up at 11:35.
In fact, if it had not been for the contentious Public Hearing on a 17-unit development on the far west end of Victoria Street that lasted for three hours we'd have all gone home really early.
MESA VERDE FOUNDER
The meeting began on a couple positive notes when Mayor Jim Righeimer bestowed his latest Mayor's Award on Walter Gaynor - the man behind the development of the Mesa Verde section of Costa Mesa, including the Mesa Verde Country Club.
The second positive item was the recognition of the team that saved a gentleman's life at the 24 Hour Fitness shop at The Triangle not too long ago. Members of the staff of that club and the Fire Department first responders were honored and received official "thanks" from the man himself, who credited their fast action and the competence of the staff at Hoag Hospital for saving his life. It was a wonderful, uplifting moment.
MORE ANCHOR GRIEF
Public Comments brought more than a dozen speakers, many of whom spoke on the closure of the Anchor Trailer Port. The main theme was the apparent capriciousness of the application of "moving bonuses" - speakers gave examples of the inconsistency of the administration of those dollars.
As has been the case in recent council meetings, a small cadre of Newport Harbor High School students stepped to the podium and pleaded with the council to pass an ordinance against the use of Styrofoam cups and plates in restaurants in Costa Mesa.
Council Member Comments began just after 7:00 and I thought we were on our way to an early night. Ha! Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger again regaled us with his "Costa Mayberry Walks", oblivious to the fact that many Costa Mesa residents find it extremely offensive when he compares their town to Mayberry - the hick town of Andy Griffith fame. Like many men who never outgrew their frat boy days, he's clueless about that kind of stuff.
GENIS TAX PRIMER
Sandra Genis reminded us that the second installment of our property tax is due next week, and gave us a primer on how little of those taxes are actually returned to the city - she used 17% as a number and suggested we all look at those tax bills before paying them.
LEECE COVERS A LOT
Wendy Leece had a large bag of things to discuss, including the 60th Anniversary celebration; trash along the freeways; darkened car windows; the Bark Park; Anchor Trailer Port; the need for a Veterans Hall to replace the one demolished two decades ago; AQMD issues; the upcoming presentation at the Historical Society on Sunday, April 14th and her concerns about massage parlors around town. Whew!
MORE PENSION GLOOM
Mayor Righeimer, once again, painted a gloomy picture of our pension situation, telling us that the CalPERS board recently voted to increase the pension rates by 50% over the next 6 years, indicating that our pension costs - presently around 20% of our budget - will rise to 30% by that time. That, of course, presumes no increase in revenue beyond what we receive now. He referred to the City of Stockton, which was permitted to move forward with its bankruptcy this week and told us that Costa Mesa is in good shape so he doesn't anticipate the need for bankruptcy. It's curious, because when he first took office he was constantly dredging up that specter to frighten residents.
"COIN", CHARTER AND STATE THEFT
CEO Tom Hatch told us about a Study Session next Tuesday that will include a discussion of CDBG funds and labor negotiations. He turned the conversation over to Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young and lawyer and labor negotiator Richard Kreisler for a quick primer on Mensinger's COIN scheme. You can find it all laid out in detail on the City web site, HERE. He also told us there will be a special Charter study session on April 23rd. He also told us that The State of California sent The City a letter dealing with a loan between The City and the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency implying that they want it - all $10 million of it! He, Young, lawyer Celeste Brady and Assistant Finance Director Colleen O'Donahue are flying to Sacramento on Thursday to meet with State officials to explain the situation to them. That would be a huge kick in the pocket book for our city!
60th ANNIVERSARY UPDATE
The Consent Calendar brought a brief discussion by Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce of the current plans for the launch of the 60th Anniversary celebration after Wendy Leece pulled it for discussion. The staff report includes plans for road closures, which will certainly require some serious coordination. We also saw a nifty 3D graphic presentation - a virtual "walk through" of the proposed venue for the launch event that will be held on June 28, 29 and 30th in front of City Hall on Fair Drive. It sure sounds like this is going to be a terrific celebration.
Righeimer juggled the agenda and they spent five minutes discussing the second reading of the Camping and Personal Belonging Storage ordinance - and passed it, 5-0.
Finally, at 8:15, they got to that public hearing mentioned briefly above. Staff made a thorough presentation and the applicant also made a lengthy pitch. Council members peppered both with questions throughout. Several residents of homes nearby stood to oppose the project for one reason or another. In fact, by that time Righeimer was beginning to morph back into his intolerant self and almost refused to let Robin Leffler - the final speaker - say her piece just because he could. He gets that way near the end of meetings. He lets his guard down and the new Jovial Jim kind of just disappears. The upshot of all the conversation was that the two developers - Righeimer and Mensinger - and a compliant Gary Monahan voted for the project and Genis and Leece - both of whom made solid, fact-based arguments for denial - voted against it. Once again we are seeing that old, "Any project is better than no project" attitude coming through. Just wait... it's going to get worse.
At 11:20 Righeimer excused himself because the final item - the selection of the team to identify supportive housing for the homeless - involved Mercy House, where he is on the board of directors. The discussion of this important issue took less than 15 minutes and was approved on a 4-0 vote. It seemed quite anticlimactic for such an important issue involving so many people and, potentially, so many City dollars, to be given such short shrift.
THAT'S A WRAP!
So, that's it until the next Study Session on Tuesday, April 9th.