Sunday, May 05, 2013

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Item #10 is the renewal of the agreement with the Harbor Soaring Society for use and maintenance of an area within Fairview Park, 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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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.


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.

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Blogger just wondering... said...

What do you want to bet the city finds itself investing in Dewayne's company?

5/05/2013 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Wikipedia article on Chip Espinoza can be found here. LinkedIn public profile can be found here. Interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about the Bonita Bay Group can be found here. Espinoza worked there from 2003-08.

5/05/2013 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous hire a pro said...

very good that the city is going to make some extra bucks at no cost by hiring professional investors with our money. right now the returns are dismal and it takes a firm specialinzing in investments with fast computers to make quick trades to maximize returns. good job!
and don't hire an IT employee, privatize it. last one was a joke.

5/05/2013 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Eddie Brown said...

Geoff--The part of the fire department reorg. that i question and worry about is the closing of a fire station. This is never a good thing for a city or a community and something that the council and community need to really look at.

5/05/2013 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

5/05/2013 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Mesa Verde said...

RE the Charter: If at first you don't succeed, stack the deck and FAIL AGAIN! The residents spoke resoundingly last election, so why waste the time, money and resources to push through a second failed charter? The appointments will be an absolute joke, as we all know. Let's just split the town again...yay!

5/05/2013 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Troll Tracker said...

troll 'hire a pro':
"very good that the city is going to make some extra bucks at no cost by hiring professional investors"

LOL! Just how pathetic ARE you? If Riggy told you to, you'd jump off the Faiview Ave. bridge onto the 405 and call it a "professional lane change."
Stick to bootlicking and EB5 visas, leave advocacy to the adults.

5/05/2013 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan, the scam whisperer said...

“hire a pro” writes … “very good that the city is going to make some extra bucks at no cost by hiring professional investors with our money. right now the returns are dismal and it takes a firm specialinzing [sic] in investments with fast computers to make quick trades to maximize returns.”

This rings a bell from the old Bob Citron days. He’s the infamous Orange County Treasurer whose investment choices to “maximize returns” drove the County into bankruptcy in December 1994. Here’s what Wikipedia says … “As controller of the various Orange County funds, Citron had taken a highly leveraged position using repurchase agreements (repos) and floating rate notes(FRNs). The loss incurred by the use of these financial instruments reached the amount of $2 billion and was caused by being too highly leveraged for rising federal interest rates. In other words, if federal interest rates had not risen, the massive trading position would have been a substantially profitable position; if interest rates did rise, the trading position would result in substantial losses. In fact, rates rose.”

In campaigning to unseat Citron for the Treasurer position, John Moorlach had warned the public about the too-risky Citron investments. He was right. After Citron self-destructed, the OC Board of Supervisors gave Moorlach the job.

So, where is Moorlach’s voice in this risky-sounding move by the C.M. City Council? He is a citizen of C.M. and thus has a duty to weigh in as a citizen, and not a politician.

On the other hand, this move to privatize yet another part of City Hall is of a piece with the GOP plan – being realized locally by Jim Righeimer, aided and abetted by the OCGOP – to strip away government functions and give them to for-profit enterprises. For this reason, we might find Moorlach will keep his politician hat on. I hope not.

5/05/2013 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous hire a pro, make money without taxes said...

jw: the city is not having dewaynes company do the investing. read the report for the company's name. idiot.

egan: citron's investments are not allowed. study the issue instead of slinging arrows. (or slingshooting at crows)

5/05/2013 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Why is the item about hiring a private investment company a consent calendar item and not a public hearing? If this was a reccomendation of the "Investment Advisory Committee", and the Council wants to do something about it, there should be full public disclosure about the process, the reasoning, the options considered, the risk, the fees, the relationships any Committee members or Council members or Staff may have with the company selected...There should be a fully informative, TRANSPARENT Public Hearing process, and plenty of opportunity for the Public to comment. It's our money!

5/05/2013 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous all in on red said...

Oh Robin, why don't YOU study the issue. Did YOU go to the Financial Advisory Committee? (uh, NO U didn't).
Why is everything so suspect to you? You always come unprepared to speak. You just go to the mic and sort of read the agenda item (looks like for the first ime too), stumbling over the words as you try to think of something to complain about, and then say you don't like it. No depth. A waste. It is a consent calender item because it has been vetted with many discussions, an RFP, a vote of a committee with input from Young. Normal. Pull it, cast stones at the voluteer committee members, and lose on the vote anyway.

5/06/2013 07:00:00 AM  
Anonymous worm said...

"rings a bell" Get it? Hilarious reference to crooks that is thrown out.
Robin, this WAS studied at length. Just because you chose not to participate is on you. You were not considered vital enough to the process to the 12 people who did the work to send you the minutes. But you could have asked for them. Not as fun as being on TV thought is it? Just pull the item and whine. It will pass 5-0.

5/06/2013 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

all in on red,
This issue may have been "vetted with many discussions", but none of them in an announced public forum where the PUBLIC gets to hear the reasoning behind this plan. A "vote of a committee" isn't good enough when we're talking about an outside entity handling HALF of our investment dollars. Your "we know what's good for you" attitude is so typical of the current power elite in this city, led by the current council majority. You expect the residents to just sit quietly while YOU decide what's best for the city. Guess again!

5/06/2013 07:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Rage against the Change said...

I think Robin gets her talking points from Wendy. That would explain why neither make any sense when speaking.

5/06/2013 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

For $14,000 the city could have purchased 765 copies of Mt.Espinoza's book - more than enough for every one in city hall to read. Doesn't the council trust the intelligence of staff to read and comprehend? If Espinoza is any good, the book should tell us what to do. If not, there are countless other experts as this topic has been in the business discussion for at least 15 years.

As to investment management: Watch PBS' Front Line from two weeks ago to realize how much of the investment gains are lost to us and paid to the "pros"in fees. We would probably do just as well on our own. I like your idea of splitting the departments to increase efficiencies rather than the redundancy (and expense) of outside investors.

5/06/2013 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Hire a Pro: Never said it was. I said the city will "find" itself investing...Do we really need to explain this to you? You certainly are the minutia king. Idiot back atcha!

5/06/2013 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Interesting that the "O" word -- outsourcing -- hasn't been mentioned. Yet, strip away the soft, smooth words and you get that the black hats are trying to outsource yet another city function.

The black hats might be getting wise to political realities: They kept this particular outsourcing quiet; they quietly didn't hire people to help Bobby Young's department keep up with the work; then they quietly decided they won't/can't get the work done in house, thus "justifying" going out of house.

But put a $40,000,000 item on the Consent Calendar? This stinks. It stinks so much that the entire process comes across as yet another untrustworthy move by proven untrustworthy politicians.

I hope that our businesslike Councilmen who want to run our city like a business did the due diligence of seeing if in house wouldn't be more cost effective than out of house.

Chandler will be paid approximately $37,000 every year. Did our folks spend that many tax dollars in prudently investing the $40m?

And is Chandler all that much better than city employees? The staff report posits a situation where if Chandler earns us 0.25% MORE than what we otherwise would have earned, we’ll come out way ahead. Earning 0.25% sounds easy, and it is. But earning it on top of what we are already earning? And keeping us in safe investments? Not so easy.

btw, "hire ..."
When you wrote "... with fast computers to make quick trades to maximize returns," red flags waved and alarm bells rang. Sounds like you are anticipating a wild west kind of investing that might have appealed to Bob Citron, but is not appropriate for any city's tax revenues.

It will be prudent for voters to keep in mind the bind we’re all in because CalPERS was too heavily into investments that were sensitive to the Great Recession. Do we want to run any risk like that with our $40m?

5/06/2013 05:29:00 PM  
Anonymous hire a pro said...

crow hunter: fast computers to grab a good offering. you are paranoid. the investment guidelines are set. nothing too risky. this item has been vetted over and over and then came to fac and vetted again. that is why it is on consent. due diligence has been performed. no, they didn't draw a family tree for Leffler as to who may have a second cousin twice removed who knew a members aunt but still a fairly good job.

5/07/2013 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Things must be slow in the estate business.

5/07/2013 02:03:00 PM  

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