Charter, Fire Dept. Reorg. Top Council Agenda Tuesday
The agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting next Tuesday, May 7th, has been posted and it has all the earmarks for another long, long meeting. A closed session begins at 5:00 p.m. with what appears to be a full bucket of important issues to consider. The regular meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:00, and it, too, has some pretty meaty stuff on it.
For example, the Consent Calendar alone has 13 entries on it. Mayor Jim Righeimer constantly reminds his council colleagues that he'd prefer items not to be pulled for separate discussion, but that's a request, not a demand. Any member of the council or of the public can pull any item for separate discussion and vote. Otherwise, they all will be considered as a package and be voted upon accordingly.
There are three Warrants on this agenda. Two of them have items of special note. Item #4, Warrant 2470, HERE, has legal charges from Jones Day for $33,041.25 and Liebert Cassidy and Whitmore for $2,905.50.
"LISTENING GROUPS"? SAY, WHAT?
Item #5, Warrant 2471, HERE, shows a payment of $14,000 to somebody named Chip Espinosa for "28 Listening Groups". I sure hope someone asks about that entry. What the heck are "listening groups", and why did we pay for them? Is there a report as a result of those "listening groups"? If so, will the public be made aware of the results?
MANAGING OUR INVESTMENTS
Item #7 is a 3-year contract with provisions for an extension to an outfit called Chandler Asset Management, Inc., HERE. Apparently, due to an increase in the workload for the Finance and Information Technology staff, it is now necessary to hire a "professionally managed investment firm" to help manage the City's resources. The staff report outlines the methodology of selecting Chandler from other firms, and the formula for compensating them for their work. What is NOT mentioned is just how much of our investment dollars this outfit will be managing, so I called Bobby Young, Director of Finance and Information Technology. He told me that the City presently has about $80 million to invest and that Chandler would be handling half of it - about $40 million!
Apparently this idea came from the Finance Advisory Committee, several of whom also are associated with the Mesa Water District - and are pushing for the same kind of arrangement for its investment dollars.
SPLIT I.T. OFF?
Personally, I think, if the workload in the Finance and Information Technology Department is too great for Young and his team to do a good job managing our investment dollars, maybe some consideration should be given to separating the I.T. functions from the Finance Department and hiring an experienced IT Manager/Director. This is especially important now, since the entire Information Technology operation is being significantly upgraded. There's an item on part of that further down in this report.
DEFERRED COMP. PLAN?
Item #8 on the Consent Calendar deals with a Deferred Compensation Plan for city executives, HERE. This is the first I've heard of this plan, so I'd be interested in hearing a little more about it before they approve it.
HARBOR SOARING SOCIETY RENEWAL
HERE. It's curious to me that the city only wants a one-year renewal with this organization - who has been an excellent steward of this program for decades. You'd think this council would have better things to do that have to consider this item every year.
NEW COMPUTERS - FINALLY!
Item #12 is the purchase of 435 new desktop computers for use throughout the city, HERE. There is no doubt that this upgrade is necessary - most of the equipment has been in place for ten years! This is part of that previously-mentioned upgrade to the entire Information Technology system.
ADDING VOTERS TO THE FAIRVIEW PARK ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The final item on the Consent Calendar, #13, is a change in the voting members of the new Fairview Park Advisory Committee, HERE. This proposal by Councilman Gary Monahan is to change two alternate members of that committee to full voting members. It's very curious that this issue didn't get resolved when the committee was approved and the original slate of members were appointed. I don't disagree that there should be 9 voting members and will observe that one of the alternates, Dennis Popp, publishes a pandering blog that seems much like a cow chewing its cud. He's a strong supporter of the current council majority, so there is seldom an original thought published on his blog. He just regurgitates what he hears them say, swallows for awhile, then brings it up and chews on it some more.
REVIEW OF PLANNING COMMISSION ACTION
There's only one Public Hearing scheduled for Tuesday, a review of a Planning Commission decision on a 14-unit common interest development at 2157 and 2159 Tustin Avenue. You can read the long staff report HERE. This is a "de novo" hearing, which means the council is starting all over, so this one might take awhile. I watched the Planning Commission hearing on this item and it generated a lot of community interest.
There is no Old Business on the agenda, but there are 3 items of interest under New Business. #1 is the reauthorization of the Business Improvement Area (BIA), HERE. This is fairly routine in nature and shouldn't take too long - but you never know.
Item #2 is the Proposed Charter, HERE, and this one might take awhile since nobody has yet told us WHY a charter should be considered. You will recall that the last charter scheme was thumped soundly at the ballot box last November. This issue is being handled as though it's a done deal - that there is strong support in the community for a charter. The only measurement we have of whatever community support there might be is that last election - only a few months ago - and it SCREAMED NO! I suspect there may be one or two people step up and address this issue. The issue at hand is the formation of a committee to draft a charter, the selection of 13 members of that committee and the authorization of the CEO to select facilitators for the committee. Again, we've got the cart before the horse. Nobody has yet demonstrated the need for a charter. Shame on Jim Righeimer for ignoring the will of the people by trying to jam yet another bogus charter scheme down our throats.
FIRE DEPARTMENT REORGANIZATION
The final item on the agenda is New Business #3, Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's most recent iteration of his reorganization plan for the Costa Mesa Fire Department, HERE. Much of this will sound very familiar to those following it over the past couple years. Chief Arnold, who came out of retirement to work part-time to fill a leadership vacuum in the CMFD and to fine-tune his plan to cut costs and improve service, has presented one version or another of his plan several times. There are millions of dollars in overtime alone that could be saved immediately!
WHY NOT JUST DO IT?
I've gone over this version in the staff report several times and, quite honestly, am not convinced that this is the way to go. This version "phases in" the plan instead of making the cost-saving changes all at once. This version retains CARE Ambulance to transport injured folks to the hospital instead of having CMFD personnel transport them. They are still required to follow the ambulance to the hospital, which takes their unit out of service. Without accusing anyone of anything, CARE has been a big political supporter for certain politicians in town. Could it be that this decision is, at least in part, a political move that puts someones political future ahead of the City's fiscal well-being and the safety of the public? Just asking... somebody has to.
ANOTHER LONG NIGHT
It looks like another long night Tuesday. I may have to pack a lunch! I think there is a slim chance the meeting will end much before midnight, but we'll see.