Of Parks, Paths, Potential Corruption And More
The Costa Mesa City Council surprised even me last night when it managed to drag what probably could have been an hour-long meeting until 9:15 - more than three hours! Geez!
It began with some very nice presentations. Mayor Jim Righeimer recognized Bob Robins, owner of Theodore Robins Ford, and his family with the Mayor's award. The dealership has been a fixture in the Newport/Mesa area for nearly a century and in Costa Mesa since 1966.
Then he acknowledged the team of volunteers, headed by CMPD Sergeant Vic Bakkila, who recently refurbished and repainted the airplane at Lions Park.
LITTLE LEAGUE CHAMPS
He then recognized the Costa Mesa American Little League organization for their championship season.
Finally, he asked concessionaire Hank Lloyd to tell us about the upcoming professional tennis event that will be held in the Costa Mesa Tennis Center soon.
Thirteen residents stepped up to express their concerns on a variety of issues. Six spoke with concern about the planned funding of the improvements in Fairview Park near Pacific Avenue. A couple more expressed concern about the difficulty receiving documents dealing with the brewing scandal about the 60th Anniversary celebration and the bootleg decomposed granite trail in Fairview Park.
What does it cost? It costs what it costs!" So, I guess we're supposed to be satisfied that our mayor is willing to expose us to MORE legal entanglements. His casual attitude about racking up legal costs continues to be very distressing.
He spoke briefly about the problems with the 60th Anniversary, acknowledging that we can't do much right now because it's a personnel matter.
I spend a good majority of my time with my family in Fairview Park." Really, Steve? You spend more than half of your time with your family in Fairview Park? I doubt it. Then, in a not-too-subtle attempt to justify his recent call for lights in the park, he said that the Concerts in the Park don't end until dark, which makes it unsafe to depart the park.
MUNOZ ON THE PATH
Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz, took some time to explain that we had hired a biologist from LSA Associates to assess the damage the bootleg DG path has done to Vernal Pool #6. All the vernal pools will be delineated, potential mitigation plans will be formed, probably by the end of this week, and the results of the assessment will be sent to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife - the department now responsible for the vernal pools. It will take a couple weeks for Fish and Wildlife to evaluate that information and respond with their demands for mitigation. Munoz indicated that, so far, no discussion has occurred about punitive damages for the incursion on Vernal Pool #6. He DID NOT explain who did the installation of the decomposed granite on the path.
Sandy Genis expressed concern about the funding for a boardwalk in Fairview Park that is part of the Consent Calendar. She explained at great length about the details of the Conservation Easement that is supposed to govern our actions in Fairview Park. This easement apparently contains an extensive list of banned uses and she's concerned that the boardwalk may violate that easement. She made no bones about how the Vernal Pool #6 encroachment may create long term consequences with our ability manage Fairview Park, indicating that what happened there is not just something to be shrugged off as a "mistake" - it violates an agreement with the federal government.
As Wendy Leece began her comments I had to smile as she paused, not saying anything. When Righeimer asked is she was finished she said, "No, I'm just waiting for everyone up here to pay attention." She was referring to Mensinger, who was engrossed in playing Angry Birds or some other distraction, on an electronic device. He continues to demonstrate the attention span of a pre-pubescent teenager.
Leece also expressed concern about the boardwalk, and the DG path. She's concerned that we have insufficient park ranger time in Fairview Park. She is also concerned about the potential unintended consequences of the proposed Nuisance Ordinance - the high probability of more legal costs. And, she expressed concern about up-coming police department retirements and our ability to back-fill those vacancies with sufficiently trained officers to keep the city safe. She mentioned the up-coming Citizen's Police Academy that begins in a week. And, she expressed concern about the length of the proposed performance audit for the Costa Mesa Country Club - the item on the Consent Calendar says it will take 13 weeks but the contract is for a year, at a cost of $34,280.
Gary Monahan had nothing to offer - big surprise.
CEO Tom Hatch, probably still reeling following his return from vacation during which the wheels came off at City Hall - the 60th Anniversary scandal and the DG path - explained the reasoning behind the "year" in the agreement for the CM Country Club audit. He also explained that the staff is, and has been, very successful in identifying and acquiring grant funds for improvements throughout the city, and in our parks in particular.
DUNIVENT, THE NEW GUY
He introduced the new Interim Finance Director, Steve Dunivent, and briefly outlined his extensive background in Orange County government. Based on that background, he sounds like the right guy to fill-in while a replacement for recently-departed Bobby Young. We'll see...
FRANCIS ON HOMELESSNESS
Hatch then tossed the ball to Assistant CEO Rick Francis for an update on the Lions Park homelessness situation. Francis was assisted in his presentation by Muriel Ullman, who manages this activity for the city, and CMPD Lieutenant Mark Manley and Sergeant Vic Bakkila. The news was not good.
NUMBERS ARE UP!
According to the team, despite very significant efforts by the CMPD, the Homeless Task Force and the Churches Consortium to manage the Costa Mesa Homeless, the numbers of homeless folks in our city has actually increased - from 130 to 190, based on a recent census. We heard, for example, that rehab operator Morningside, recently unloaded a failed client to Lions Park. This is the outfit that is leaving Newport Beach for the friendlier confines of Costa Mesa with at least three dozen "clients".
During the discussion we learned that, in an attempt to more effectively manage the Lions Park infestation, ALL four of our Park Rangers have been spending significant time at the park - providing dawn-to-dusk coverage - and it seems to have been effective. Citations have more than doubled recently. This pilot program is fairly new. My last pass at Lions Park a couple weeks ago showed more than 20 homeless folks all over the area. The phrase, "carrot and stick" approach was mentioned by Bakkila, who indicated that it's time to use more of the "stick" part of that equation.
SOME SUCCESS, BUT...
Despite the increase in homeless folks in our city, there have been some successes by the Homeless Task Force and Becks Hayhoe and her Churches Consortium, and Ullman outlined them for us. While those numbers represented a lot of effort by staffers, social workers and police, they seemed inadequate when viewing this problem as a whole. This is not an easy issue to resolve, particularly when neighboring communities actually send their homeless folks to us because we have an effective infrastructure to manage it. THAT is frustrating.
RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SHORTAGE
While commenting on this issue Mensinger acknowledged that we have "limited resources' - but neglected to tell us that HE and Righeimer are directly, specifically, responsible for that resource shortage! They refuse to staff the CMPD at levels that will permit effective policing and, for months, refused to let the CMPD hire replacements for anticipated retirements. So, we are far, far, far behind the curve on filling those slots - a fact that will come home to roost the first of the year.
A CURIOUS EVENT
Hatch ended his segment by addressing the 60th Anniversary celebration scandal by READING a prepared statement, which the city has posted on the web site and can be viewed HERE. I understand the need to be accurate, but I was a little uncomfortable that our CEO felt the need to read his statement. It was as though someone else had written it for him... very bizarre. HERE's Bradly Zint's coverage of the issue from the Daily Pilot this morning.
When it finally came time to address the Consent Calendar only items 3, 8 and 14 were pulled for separate discussion. Resident Ken Nyquist - a recent frequent commenter here - expressed concern for the mounting legal fees demonstrated on the four warrants.
PERFORMANCE AUDIT ON FOUNDATIONS?
Mensinger pulled #8, the performance audits, because he didn't see any reference to an audit of the two foundations established a few years ago and wanted the staff to look into the agreements.
BOARDWALK GRANT REQUEST
Leece pulled #14, the Fairview Park parking and playground funding. She was concerned about the impact on the neighbors and wondered why we just didn't hold off until the meeting Righeimer planned with the residents that he scheduled off the cuff, from the dais, earlier. Monahan awoke to contribute that this was just a request for permission to seek grant money. It was passed, 4-0, with Leece voting no.