Planning And Pensions And Charters, Oh My!
There's plenty of good stuff going on in Costa Mesa this week, beginning with the Jim Fitzpatrick-led Planning Commission meeting on Monday, July 8th at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.
THE FIRST OF TWO MEETINGS THIS MONTH
This will be the first of two scheduled meetings by this body since they decided they were too overworked with only one meeting each month. Ever since they made that decision the agendas for subsequent meetings have been pretty darn thin.
This meeting, for example has only 3 items on it. You can read the full agenda HERE. The Consent Calendar has a Code Enforcement update, HERE. Public Hearing #1, HERE is the revocation of a Conditional Use Permit for a tattoo parlor that has relocated.
TOO MANY CHANGES REQUESTED
The only controversial item is Public Hearing #2, HERE. This one, a proposed development in the 2500 block of Santa Ana Avenue, involves an 8-unit two-story detached residential development and has a load of modifications requested. There are four (4) variances, three (3) administrative adjustments, two (2) minor modifications and two (2) deviations from residential guidelines being requested by the developer. The developer recently met with city staff and community members concerned about this development to hash over issues. This should make for some interesting viewing, either live or on CMTV, Channel 3 on Time Warner Cable or Channel 99 on ATT U-Verse.
A LITTLE REVIEW...
By the way, I took a peek at the length of time Planning Commission meetings have been taking over the past few years. Here's some information you may find of interest:
Year Number of Meetings Average Length
2006 23 1:46
2007 23 1:58
2008 21 2:10
2009 15 1:34
2010 15 3:12
2011 15 2:43
2012 13 2:44
2013 9 2:35
WHAT JUSTIFIES TWO MEETINGS A MONTH?
As you can see, the meetings for the last two full years plus the nine meetings so far this year have been under 3 hours long. It's curious to me that the Planning Commission finds it necessary to double the meetings - and thereby double the number of meetings staff members must attend after normal business hours. If they had been running long - five or six hours, for example - I could understand the interest in more meetings. It's hard to justify two meetings a month with such a light schedule.
WHY SO MANY PENSION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETINGS?
Speaking of too many meetings, the Pension Oversight Committee meets again on Wednesday, July 10th at 4:30 p.m. in Conference Room 1A in City Hall. You can read the agenda for that meeting HERE. This committee has been meeting WEEKLY since it was created and, for the life of me, I can't understand why. There is NOTHING they can do about our municipal pension situation except join the chorus led by Mayor Jim Righeimer bemoaning the unfunded liability situation. Yes, I know - that $230 million plus number is staggering, but we're not being presented with a bill tomorrow. Righeimer has stated many times that he's unwilling to pay another cent to CalPERS toward reducing the debt, fearing that it is going to go under. Currently the City of Costa Mesa has budgeted around $18 million to CalPERS for our obligations. If he's not willing to pay down the debt, what IS his plan?
While I don't necessarily disagree with Righeimer's reluctance to dump money down a rat hole, I don't hear any other solutions being offered. However, we may have a clue about what he's planning when you realize that committee member Rick Kapko, a CPA who works with bankruptcy cases, presented a 2-part primer on Municipal Bankruptcy to the Pension Oversight Committee over the past two meetings. Unfortunately, there are several cities throughout the state that either are in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings or are seriously considering them.
CHARTER COMMITTEE MEETING
Also on Wednesday, at 6:00 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the recently-formed Charter Committee will hold its second meeting. They plan to meet the second and fourth Wednesday's of each month at that time and place. You can read their agenda HERE. This should be very interesting, since at the previous meeting there was question raised about the purpose of the committee. Member Harold Weitzberg - the last person selected for the committee - posited that the group should FIRST determine IF a Charter is necessary for Costa Mesa, and why, before plowing ahead to create one. Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow advised that the council had earlier charged this committee with creating a charter and copies of various staff reports and meeting minutes are included HERE to support that claim. Facilitator Kirk Bauermeister stated emphatically that he was charged with facilitating the creation of a charter. They also plan to discuss Roles and Responsibilities, HERE.
FIRST, DO WE NEED ONE?
However, as I reported HERE following that first meeting, Mayor Jim Righeimer made it very clear in unambiguous terminology that the committee's task was to decide whether we want a charter. His exact quote, viewable at 03:04:45 on the streaming video tape of the meeting during which the committee was selected, was as follows:
"I want to thank everybody so far whose made it on the committee. These are gonna be the last final people that will be on the committee. I think it's going to be a committee made in heaven for Costa Mesa and to decide whether we want to do a charter or not in the city." This issue MUST be resolved before the committee moves forward to create a charter.
AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY
And, I must state that, even though many of the volunteers on this committee have their hearts in the right place and, so far, seem willing to be "facilitated" toward the creation of a proper charter for Costa Mesa, this whole exercise is one of futility. Regardless what this committee presents to the City Council, it is the council, or, rather, the majority on the council, that will decide WHETHER we should have a charter presented to the voters next year and EXACTLY what will be in that charter.
THIS WILL END UP "JIM RIGHEIMER'S CHARTER" AGAIN
I doubt there is any person who has followed Costa Mesa municipal government affairs over the past few years who actually believes the charter that results from this exercise will make it past the council without Righeimer's pet projects included. For example, he has tried for most of two decades to find some segment of the electorate willing to pass his Paycheck Protection scheme - an issue that has been soundly rebuffed every time it has been presented to voters anywhere - including last November when Costa Mesans crushed his charter scheme, 60% - 40%. I expect him and his council majority to give lip service about what a great job the committee is doing, but when push comes to shove - or chest bump - I fully expect him to go through another cut-and-paste exercise and convince his majority to place THAT charter on the ballot. We'll see...