COIN, CalPERS And Then Good News - Kinda
Where to begin? I guess we'll start with the bad news first and, unfortunately, there was plenty of that at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night.
CMCEA/CITY STILL FAR APART
Right off the bat, in a meeting that began fifteen minutes late, contract negotiator Richard Kreisler gave us a little "COIN" report, as required by Steve Mensinger's COIN ordinance. Speaking of the negotiations with the "general employees", the members of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA), he briefly - and kind of condescendingly - gave us the "facts" about the negotiations. He told us that if no negotiations were underway the employee costs would go from $20.1 million to $23.5 million. He said the CMCEA opened with an offer that would have cost $26.3 million and the city countered with $21.5 million. He said the CMCEA came back on October 28th with $22.9 million, which he described as technically, not in reality, would have reduced the costs. He said their number, while portrayed as a full fiscal year savings, would be smaller because they represent only 6 months.
PLUS THE NEW CALPERS NUMBER!
He also announced that CalPERS has announced what the city will have to pay for retirement for this group. He told us that presently, for the 2013/2014 fiscal year the employer rate is 24.9%, but that it will go up to 29.7% for FY 2014/2015 and to 31.5 for FY 2015/2016. How's that for starting a meeting?
PARKS AND RECREATION GOALS
Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Byron de Arakal gave a presentation on the status of its progress on the goals established last May. In a curious bit of administrative scheduling, his exact same report also appeared as Consent Calendar Item #10, which you can read HERE. The only thing not on the written report that he discussed was his observation that the commission and the CMPD are continuing to look for solutions for the complications at the Volcom Skate Park. Instead of permitting questions dealing with the report at that time they held them until it was time to discuss the Consent Calendar. However, Mayor Jim Righeimer decided to "trail" to the end of the meeting any item pulled from the Consent Calendar, which meant that it was well after 11:00 p.m. and de Arakal and most of the audience was long gone.
RIGHEIMER, THE SILENCER
While we're talking about it, Righeimer played fast and loose with the schedule again. First the bizarre decision with the Consent Calendar items - many folks attended to speak on specific items but just couldn't stay another four hours until Righeimer finally got around to it. In addition, he once again decided to split the speakers during Public Comments. He accepted cards, then had Sandra Genis shuffle them and picked the first ten who got to speak immediately. The remainder were also trailed to the end of the meeting. That tactic, obviously a ploy to stifle discussion by opposing viewpoints, worked like a charm. None of the half-dozen speakers who had submitted cards remained at 11:45 and Righeimer refused to let Anna Vrska, who arrived at the meeting late and hadn't completed a speaker card, to speak. It's very clear that these tactics are targeting folks who would speak against positions the council takes. By splitting the comments time by four or five hours he out waits dissenters - and steals the opportunity for constituents to be heard.
DISSENTING VIEWS NOT WELCOME
When you combine this behavior, plus the decision generated by Righeimer later in the meeting to remove the opportunity for re-hearing an issue from the municipal code and you get a very clear idea of where this Righeimer-led council is going. They don't like to hear opposing views, so they're creating an environment making those opportunities more difficult for speakers. It's now only a year until the next election and we'll do our part to remind the voters of this behavior during that time.
WHAT ABOUT CMPD RAISES?
The Public Comments segment was interesting. Among the speakers Sue Lester wondered why the recently-announced raise for the CMPD had not been approved by the council yet. It is retroactive, so represents a significant amount of money NOT being paid to the officers that is due them. CEO Tom Hatch later advised that it would come before the council at the next meeting and the checks should be cut early in December. Righeimer smiled and said something like, "Just in time for Christmas!"
Robin Leffler took her opportunity to speak to remind the council majority that, based on the results of the last election, the majority DOES NOT have a clear mandate, particularly when combined with the thrashing Jim Righeimer's Charter got at the ballot box, so they should not forget they represent ALL the residents of the city.
During Councilmember Comments Righeimer affirmed the timing of the CMPD pay raises, then said, "The bottom line is that Costa Mesa is doing well." He then rattled off information about streets being fixed and drainage problems being fixed, but neglected to mention the millions his decisions have caused the city to spend on legal fees. Nor did he mention the dark cloud of possible corruption hanging over the 60th Anniversary Celebration. He did mention the I405 Toll scheme, and said the OCTA Board may vote Friday to slow things down a little.
VETS DAY PLUS POSEIDON
Genis reminded us of the many Veterans Day celebrations coming up and that the California Coastal Commission is meeting on November 13th at Newport Beach City Hall and on the agenda is the controversial Poseidon desal plan for Huntington Beach. She encouraged interested parties to attend and speak against the plan. She also told Righeimer that she didn't think it was a good idea to split the public comments, stating that it was disrespectful to those folks who cared enough to come and speak, and quoted Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS?
Wendy Leece, easing back into her council saddle for about half the meeting as she recuperates from hip replacement surgery, encouraged Righeimer to reconsider his decision on the public comments, then asked why public records requests dealing with the 60th Anniversary issue were still not being fulfilled. Contract City Attorney Tom Duarte told her that it was because they were part of an ongoing investigation, which is strange because bills that are part of those requested items are being paid
REFUND, TARGET AND TRAINING
CEO Hatch confirmed what had been reported earlier that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District had decided to go it alone on a plan for sports fields at Costa Mesa High School, and had returned the $15,000 the city provided for a study of the issue. He also told us that, in response to inquiries, city staff will be monitoring the Target Store during the holiday shopping season to be sure they complied with hour restrictions. He also said the council will have a study session next Tuesday. From 3:30-4:30 they will have ethics and leadership training and from 4:30 - 6:30 will discuss the Capital Improvement Budget.
CONSTRUCTION CODES AND ANNEXATION
After a very brief discussion of Public Hearing #1, the new Model California Construction Codes, it was 7:45 when we finally got around to the second Public Hearing, the annexation of what is referred to as the Santa Ana/Colleen Island, HERE. After much discussion and hearing from a handful of concerned residents of the affected area, the council agreed to proceed with the process but delay the Planning Commission considerations of it for a month, providing time for more public outreach.
DEFINING SINGLE HOUSEKEEPING UNITS
Public Hearing #3, the change in the definition of Single Houskeeping Units in the Municipal Code took a half hour, HERE, during which three residents spoke about the growing problem of group homes on the Eastside. This definition change is, in theory, going to be another tool with which unlicensed group homes can be addressed. I had the feeling that nobody was really satisfied with this new language, but it passed on a 4-0 vote - Leece had departed for the evening by this time.
After a short break Public Hearing #4, the Hookah Parlor issue was discussed for about twenty minutes. It was decided to follow the Planning Commission recommendation and impose a moritorium 45 days on such businesses until the commission has time to come up with a workable solution. That passed 4-0, with Genis voting with the majority.
New Business #1, the 14 unit Live/Work units on Placentia, received a 20 minute discussion and was moved on its way.
New Business #2 was the re-hearing issue, which was discussed briefly above. A half-dozen speaker told the council it was a bad idea, but they went ahead with it anyhow. During the discussion Righeimer went off the deep end with comments about this issue being "political jujitsu", whatever the heck that is, then prattled on about how we need to make more jobs - totally irrelevant stuff. Sometimes it appears that somebody gave him the wrong songbook up there.
EXCESSIVE USE OF SERVICES
New Business #3 was the proposed ordinance for the reimbursement for "excessive use of services" for motels throughout the city. You can read that staff report HERE. It was decided to focus on Police calls only, not calls for fire or Code Enforcement, and, after extensive discussion, they decided to include ALL hotels and motels even though the hotels in our city seem NOT to be a problem. The staff will return with a more fully fleshed out ordinance at the next meeting.
CONSENT CALENDAR AND PUBLIC COMMENTS
After that discussion the council went through the "pulled" items from the Consent Calendar and called for the folks who want to speak at Public Comments - none stepped up, having been worn out by Righeimer's tactics.
FAIRVIEW PARK COMMITTEE MEETING TONIGHT
Wednesday evening is the next Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at the Neighborhood Community Center beginning at 6:00 p.m.