Friday, April 05, 2013

Planning, Grants, Labor Negotiations and Party Planning

A FULL WEEK...
It's going to be an interesting week at City Hall in Costa Mesa next week.

PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING ON MONDAY
First, the Planning Commission will hold its meeting on Monday at 6:00 in council chambers.  They have a pretty heavy agenda, HERE - always a good sign that the economy may, in fact, be coming around after way, way too many years in the tank.

CONSENT CALENDAR
The Consent Calendar has two items: the Code Enforcement update, HERE, and the Development Phasing and Performance Monitoring Program for the 2011 year, HERE.  There's a good chance neither will be pulled for discussion, so the staff reports might be helpful to you.  The Code Enforcement report will tell which of your neighbors have let their lawns get too long, have too many weeds in their yards and how many junk cars they're storing.

PUBLIC HEARINGS
There are five (5) Public Hearings that will take up the bulk of the evening.  The are:

 1 - A conditional use permit to move a Tattoo parlor at 2204 Newport Blvd. HERE.

2 - The two-year review of the development agreement with Roy K. Sakioka and Sons, HERE.

3 - The conversion of a 3-unit parcel at 1992 Anaheim Avenue, HERE.

4 - Design review to construct a 14-unit, two-story detached single-family residential development at 2157-2159 Tustin Avenue, HERE.

5 - Design review to construct five two-story residential units at 2573 Elden Avenue, HERE.

It will be interesting to see how Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick directs his new commission through these issues.

COUNCIL MEETINGS ON TUESDAY
Tuesday brings a couple unusual City Council meetings.

CDBG FUNDS
First, at 4:30, there will be a special study session in Council Chambers to discuss the distribution of Community Development Block Grant funds.  You can read the agenda HERE and the specific agenda report HERE.
CLOSED SESSION - LABOR NEGOTIATIONS
Second, scheduled at 5:00, but will realistically immediately follow the study session, there is a special closed session at which the council will discuss labor negotiations, HERE.  It's unlikely they will have anything to "report out", but one never knows.  This is the first pass at negotiations using Steve Mensinger's COIN scheme, so we're in uncharted territory.  We'll just have to rock along and see what happens.

60TH ANNIVERSARY COMMITTEE
Thursday afternoon, at 5:30, the 60th Anniversary Committee will meet again to keep things moving toward the launch event the last weekend of June.

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60th Anniversary Plans On Track

PLANNING CONTINUES
Yesterday evening I attended the most recent planning meeting of the 60th Anniversary Celebration Committee at the Emergency Operations Center near the Costa Mesa Police Department.



LOTS OF GREAT STUFF COMING
Committee Chairman Mike Scheafer and Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce ran the show and provided updates on the current status of the plans for this months-long event which will be officially kicked-off on the weekend of June 28 - 30.

3D GRAPHIC PRESENTATION
Joyce played the 3-D graphic presentation that was shown at the council meeting Tuesday that provided an overview of what the venue will look like.  You can see it by going to the video of the council meeting, HERE, then scroll down to the 60th anniversary celebration and click there to "jump" to the presentation.  The excellent graphic was done by an Orange Coast College student Chai Phanao
DETAILS AND VOLUNTEERS
The team has finished much of the broad planning and are now dealing with those darn details that will make this event a success.  That includes a call for volunteers to help with the various venues and activities.  You can find information on the celebration, including the application form for volunteers, at the city web site, HERE.
MUSIC FOR THE AGES
According to Joyce, there will be two music venues for that celebratory weekend - one in the corner of the Orange County Fair and Event Center parking lot near Fair Drive and Fairview - and groups that span the six decades since Costa Mesa was founded will be represented.
FOOD, FOOD, FOOD
There will be a "Tastefest", with dozens of restaurants participating, which will probably have much greater participation since Newport Beach cancelled their "Taste of Newport" festival this year.

A DUNK TANK!
There will be a car show, special senior events, fireworks and - something I'm really looking foward to - a "dunk tank".  That one's going to be fun because Joyce announced he'd already signed-up a couple of council members to be "tanked".  Hearing that, councilwoman Wendy Leece - a part of the planning group - threw up her hand and shouted, "I'm in!"  Joyce also indicated he's recruiting other community members to be tank participants.  Oh, this is going to be fun!

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
Joyce and his team are actively looking for sponsorship participants, with several levels of participation available.  Those include a chance for anyone to be a "banner sponsor" - businesses, groups, families, individuals - for only $400.
SIGN UP!
So, check out the web site, think about how you might help with this milestone celebration and fill out the online application.

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

First Friday's Roadshow Tomorrow

ANOTHER CHAPTER OF NOSTALGIA FOR YOU
A reminder for you that the First Friday's Roadshow will take place in the Costa Mesa City Hall parking lot Friday, April 5th beginning at 6:00 p.m. and running until around 8:30.

CLASSICS AND CHOW
There will be many classic and not-so-classic cars there, plus a food truck to provide a little chow for you as you wander down memory lane.

KUDOS
Thanks for those community volunteers who continue to make this event a success every month.

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Kyndall Jack Rescued!

FINALLY!
Kyndall Jack, the second missing hiker, was rescued just before noon today and is being flown to UCI Medical Center for treatment of her injured foot and general dehydration.

SECOND RESCUE UNDERWAY
A rescue worker is also being evacuated after suffering a head injury during the search.

KUDOS!
Great news for Costa Mesa.  Kudos to ALL the rescue workers who participated in this dramatic event.  A press conference is scheduled for approximately 2:00 p.m. today.

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Hikers, Flyers, Fish And Fund Raising

A COLLECTION OF INTERESTING ITEMS
Attempting to do some tidying-up here at The Cauldron, I offer you some snippets of current and fairly recent events.

ONE OF TWO LOST HIKERS FOUND
First, in the on-going saga of the two young Costa Mesa residents who became lost while hiking in the Trabuco Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest on Easter Sunday, reports tonight are that one of them, Nicholas Cendoyo, has been found barely clothed and not very lucid and is being treated at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo tonight.  Hopefully, when he's able to, he can help searchers locate his hiking partner, Kyndall Jack.  You can read Lauren Williams' most recent version of this story HERE.

FORMER A.B.L.E PILOTS FLY SUPPORT
An interesting sidebar to this story is that several former members of the now-defunct A.B.L.E. helicopter program volunteered Wednesday to provide air support for the search operation.  Very generous Newport Beach businessman Peter Adderton - you may recall his name from his attempt to help save A.B.L.E. a couple years ago when the Costa Mesa City Council arbitrarily decided to shut it down - offered the use of his helicopter for this mission.  Former A.B.L.E. pilot Rob Dimel reports that his crew spent more than 3 hours in the air Wednesday in a support role and are ready to launch again tomorrow if needed.  Kudos to Adderton and the pilots for their spirit of volunteerism in support of our community.

60TH ANNIVERSARY COMMITTEE MEETING
Today, Thursday, the 60th Anniversary Committee meets at 5:30 in the Costa Mesa Police Department Emergency Operations Center to discuss the progress being made for the various events that will make up the celebration.  You can read the agenda HERE.  The pubic is welcome to these meetings.

FISH FRY NEWS
On a semi-related note, last week Daily Pilot columnist Jim de Boom wrote in his column, HERE, about the generous contributions made by the Costa Mesa Newport Harbor Lions Club as a result of last year's very successful Fish Fry.  Lions Club President Mike Scheafer - who also heads up the 60th Anniversary Committee - announced that more than $28,000 was distributed to three dozen organizations in our community.  Kudos to the Lions Club for their efforts.  This year the 66th Annual Fish Fry will be held, again at Fairview Park, on the weekend of May 31 - June 2nd and will include the Community Run as one of the events for the first time.  You can read about it HERE.

MAYOR'S DINNER
Finally, the City of Costa Mesa, HERE, continues to pitch the up-coming Mayor's Dinner and encourages you to open your checkbooks and fork over $125 for a ticket - $5,000 for a table of ten.  We're told there are still some space available.  You can read more about it at the official website, HERE.  I don't want to put a damper on this event, but it seems to me that Mayor Righeimer is just trying to pretend he's in Newport Beach.  And, I'm sorry, but I can't stifle a smirk when I think of the theme of this event - "The Art Of Leadership".  Yeah, I know - the proceeds of the event will go to local arts programs for high schools and other worthy art organizations.  I know this is going to be a wonderful, very worthwhile event, but I sure hope they import someone to speak on the subject, because the past two years have demonstrated to me that our mayor has no clue.  Anyhow, pony up, get out your party clothes and have a good time.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Early Meeting? Not A Chance!

DREAMIN'...
Silly me!  I thought, after looking at the agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, that it was going to be a cake walk and that we'd be out of there before 10:00 p.m.  Wrong!  Well, actually, I was partially correct - I was exhausted and starving so I bugged out at precisely 10:00 and went home to watch the rest of the meeting - that finally wrapped up at 11:35.
IF ONLY...
In fact, if it had not been for the contentious Public Hearing on a 17-unit development on the far west end of Victoria Street that lasted for three hours we'd have all gone home really early.

MESA VERDE FOUNDER
The meeting began on a couple positive notes when Mayor Jim Righeimer bestowed his latest Mayor's Award on Walter Gaynor - the man behind the development of the Mesa Verde section of Costa Mesa, including the Mesa Verde Country Club.

LIFE-SAVERS
The second positive item was the recognition of the team that saved a gentleman's life at the 24 Hour Fitness shop at The Triangle not too long ago.  Members of the staff of that club and the Fire Department first responders were honored and received official "thanks" from the man himself, who credited their fast action and the competence of the staff at Hoag Hospital for saving his life.  It was a wonderful, uplifting moment.

MORE ANCHOR GRIEF
Public Comments brought more than a dozen speakers, many of whom spoke on the closure of the Anchor Trailer Port.  The main theme was the apparent capriciousness of the application of "moving bonuses" - speakers gave examples of the inconsistency of the administration of those dollars.

STYROFOAM WARRIORS
As has been the case in recent council meetings, a small cadre of Newport Harbor High School students stepped to the podium and pleaded with the council to pass an ordinance against the use of Styrofoam cups and plates in restaurants in Costa Mesa.

REALLY, BARNEY?
Council Member Comments began just after 7:00 and I thought we were on our way to an early night.  Ha!  Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger again regaled us with his "Costa Mayberry Walks", oblivious to the fact that many Costa Mesa residents find it extremely offensive when he compares their town to Mayberry - the hick town of Andy Griffith fame.  Like many men who never outgrew their frat boy days, he's clueless about that kind of stuff.

GENIS TAX PRIMER 
Sandra Genis reminded us that the second installment of our property tax is due next week, and gave us a primer on how little of those taxes are actually returned to the city - she used 17% as a number and suggested we all look at those tax bills before paying them.

LEECE COVERS A LOT 
Wendy Leece had a large bag of things to discuss, including the 60th Anniversary celebration; trash along the freeways; darkened car windows; the Bark Park; Anchor Trailer Port; the need for a Veterans Hall to replace the one demolished two decades ago; AQMD issues; the upcoming presentation at the Historical Society on Sunday, April 14th and her concerns about massage parlors around town.  Whew!

THAT'S IT?
Gary Monahan thanked Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz for the excellent street work presently underway on the Eastside.

MORE PENSION GLOOM
Mayor Righeimer, once again, painted a gloomy picture of our pension situation, telling us that the CalPERS board recently voted to increase the pension rates by 50% over the next 6 years, indicating that our pension costs - presently around 20% of our budget - will rise to 30% by that time.  That, of course, presumes no increase in revenue beyond what we receive now.  He referred to the City of Stockton, which was permitted to move forward with its bankruptcy this week and told us that Costa Mesa is in good shape so he doesn't anticipate the need for bankruptcy.  It's curious, because when he first took office he was constantly dredging up that specter to frighten residents.

"COIN", CHARTER AND STATE THEFT
CEO Tom Hatch told us about a Study Session next Tuesday that will include a discussion of CDBG funds and labor negotiations.  He turned the conversation over to Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young and lawyer and labor negotiator Richard Kreisler for a quick primer on Mensinger's COIN scheme.  You can find it all laid out in detail on the City web site, HERE.  He also told us there will be a special Charter study session on April 23rd.  He also told us that The State of California sent The City a letter dealing with a loan between The City and the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency implying that they want it - all $10 million of it!  He, Young, lawyer Celeste Brady and Assistant Finance Director Colleen O'Donahue are flying to Sacramento on Thursday to meet with State officials to explain the situation to them.  That would be a huge kick in the pocket book for our city!

60th ANNIVERSARY UPDATE
The Consent Calendar brought a brief discussion by Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce of the current plans for the launch of the 60th Anniversary celebration after Wendy Leece pulled it for discussion.  The staff report includes plans for road closures, which will certainly require some serious coordination.  We also saw a nifty 3D graphic presentation - a virtual "walk through" of the proposed venue for the launch event that will be held on June 28, 29 and 30th in front of City Hall on Fair Drive.  It sure sounds like this is going to be a terrific celebration.

DON'T BLINK!
Righeimer juggled the agenda and they spent five minutes discussing the second reading of the Camping and Personal Belonging Storage ordinance - and passed it, 5-0.

PUBLIC HEARING
Finally, at 8:15, they got to that public hearing mentioned briefly above.  Staff made a thorough presentation and the applicant also made a lengthy pitch.  Council members peppered both with questions throughout.  Several residents of homes nearby stood to oppose the project for one reason or another.  In fact, by that time Righeimer was beginning to morph back into his intolerant self and almost refused to let Robin Leffler - the final speaker - say her piece just because he could.  He gets that way near the end of meetings.  He lets his guard down and the new Jovial Jim kind of just disappears.  The upshot of all the conversation was that the two developers - Righeimer and Mensinger - and a compliant Gary Monahan voted for the project and Genis and Leece - both of whom made solid, fact-based arguments for denial - voted against it.  Once again we are seeing that old, "Any project is better than no project" attitude coming through.  Just wait... it's going to get worse.

SUPPORTIVE HOUSING
At 11:20 Righeimer excused himself because the final item - the selection of the team to identify supportive housing for the homeless - involved Mercy House, where he is on the board of directors.  The discussion of this important issue took less than 15 minutes and was approved on a 4-0 vote.  It seemed quite anticlimactic for such an important issue involving so many people and, potentially, so many City dollars, to be given such short shrift.


THAT'S A WRAP!
So, that's it until the next Study Session on Tuesday, April 9th.

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Monday, April 01, 2013

Swaim and Greenhut and Righeimer, Too

THIS IS FOR REAL
OK, this is NOT an April Fool's Day entry, although some might think so when they finish reading it.  I've already had my fun for the day and was happy to give some of you a chuckle.

RIGHEIMER WITH SHILLS ON KFI
Today Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer - who has never met a microphone he doesn't love - was interviewed by stand-in shills, Will Swaim and Steven Greenhut, on the John and Ken Show on KFI640AM.

SMARMY SWAIM
Swaim - founding publisher of the OC Weekly - and Greenhut - former columnist for the Orange County Register - were standing in for acerbic hosts, John and Ken.  They both are associated with a "news organization" out of Sacramento - CalWatchdog, HERE - and provide their followers with a decidedly right-leaning view of issues.  It's ironic, since Swaim self-identified as "The Orange County Socialist" on the show today.  Some will recall that Swaim published a feeble blog - The Republic of Costa Mesa - which aimed directly at things I wrote about Costa Mesa.  I was always curious why he authored that thing, since he doesn't live in Costa Mesa and had no skin in the game.  One might speculate that he was being compensated for it, but I don't know that as a fact.  I admit that I don't much care for him.

STOCKTON DECISION
So, back to the issue.  Today Swaim and Greenhut began their first hour with a rant about the decision by a Sacramento judge to permit the City of Stockton to go forward with their bankruptcy plan.  Bond holders have opposed that plan because they likely will suffer greatly as the bankruptcy moves forward.  There are many articles throughout the internet now about this decision available for your reading pleasure.  You can read one from the Sacramento Bee HERE

BAITING RIGHEIMER
In an attempt to demonstrate just how egregious this decision is to local communities, Swaim and Greenhut interviewed Righeimer for about 20 minutes, trying to get him to tell the audience just how adversely this decision would affect Costa Mesa - and he didn't, much to their chagrin.  Righeimer acknowledged that it might be a problem for some cities, but Costa Mesa is in pretty good shape financially, so it doesn't really apply to our city.  I had to smile, since Swaim apparently thought he had a slam-dunk with that line of questioning.  He apparently is pretty close to Righeimer, referring to him as "buddy" at least once during their time on the air.

THE "LANZILLO" AFFAIR
Swaim and Greenhut used the cornerstone of their argument the influence by public employee unions in Stockton and elsewhere so, following a commercial break and using the term "police thuggery",  attempted to rope Righeimer into that rant by encouraging him to recount the events last year when a private investigator - Chris Lanzillo - followed him home and reported him as a potential drunk driver.  Righeimer gave his account of the event in a very straightforward manner and not critical of the Costa Mesa Police Department nor the officer who asked him to step outside for a little field sobriety test - which Righeimer passed.

RIGHEIMER WOULDN'T TAKE THE BAIT
Swaim and Greenhut persisted, trying to get Righeimer to jump into the discussion, but it didn't work.  He did regurgitate his mantra that our pensions are unsustainable and did talk about a "police lieutenant - a great guy - who retired recently with a $164,000 annual pension that will be $197,000 in five years."

WHAT NEXT, JIM?
It's going to be very interesting to watch how this plays out now.  Righeimer acknowledged that Costa Mesa is not in bad shape financially and has openly expressed his opinion that The City should NOT do anything to pay CalPERS more toward the unfunded liability than is required - citing his view that it is doomed and that we shouldn't be throwing more money on its funeral pire.

"COIN" IMPACT WILL SOON BE KNOWN
We'll know soon enough how things are going to shake out as the contract negotiations between The City and the members of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) move forward.  Their existing contract expired yesterday and the negotiations are the first such exercise being controlled by Steve Mensinger's COIN ordinance.  We'll see if that process facilitates negotiations or acts as an anchor, slowing it down.

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Big Changes Announced At Costa Mesa City Hall

HISTORIC CHANGES
In what will certainly go down in the history of this city as one of the most memorable days since the founding of the city - at least politics-wise - several announcements were made today.  Please read EVERY announcement, right to the end.


RIGHEIMER SAYS ADIOS
First, Mayor Jim Righeimer, apparently exhausted from all the criticism and abuse he's taken over
the past few years because of his bad ideas and even worse implementation plans, held a press conference to announce that he's had enough.  Righeimer will be abandoning his position on the City Council and will be moving back to Fountain Valley.  He said he hopes to spend more time with his family, making more money and working more closely with Representative Dana Rohrabacher and OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh helping to refine their plans build a wall around Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to keep any more undesirable liberal folks from crossing the borders.

MENSINGER ON THE PAYROLL

At the same press conference Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, apparently wanting to be adequately
compensated for all the hours he spends prowling City Hall, accepted the position of Economic and Development Director - the job being vacated by Peter Naghavi.  He negotiated a hefty salary in the $200,000 range plus medical and pension benefits.  He mentioned that he will immediately recruit an Assistant Director, and expects Jim Fitzpatrick may be the perfect fit.  CEO Tom Hatch announced that he is excited about the challenge of working with two such fine men on his staff and looks forward to their first performance reviews at the end of 90 days.  Mensinger also announced that he will try to gain eligibility to play on the Estancia High School football team this fall, to try to recapture some of his misspent youth.

MONAHAN CONFIRMS SUSPICIONS
Separately, but also early this morning, long, long, long time councilman Gary Monahan confirmed the fact that he just doesn't have time to do the job as a city councilman, so he will officially only attend every third meeting for the next three years, when his current term expires.  He will continue to receive pay and benefits as though he was a serious council member, and thanked the voters of Costa Mesa for electing him last November again and invited everyone to his pub.
THE WOMEN TAKE CHARGE 

 In light of this news, council women Wendy Leece and Sandra Genis - who now make up the majority on the council and will undoubtedly be elected Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem respectively - announced their plans for an emergency ordinance to appoint former candidates John Stephens and Harold Weitzberg to fill Righeimer and Mensinger's positions, citing the urgency of the new Budget and the General Plan update as the reason for the haste.  They also announced plans to drop the lawsuit against the Costa Mesa employees and will seek a refund of part of the more than $1 million in fees charged by Jones Day in their feeble efforts on our behalf.  They also promised to bring a renewed spirit of harmony, teamwork and trust back to City Hall.

GOODBYE, CRONIES
They also announced their intent to disband the Finance Advisory Committee, citing its general uselessness.  They also plan to abandon plans for a Pension Advisory committee and, instead, will rely on solid staff work to help make their decisions. 

HELLO, MORE PUBLIC SAFETY FOLKS

They also authorized the immediate implementation of Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's new organizational plans for the department and the immediate recruitment for the staff necessary for that implementation.  They will also authorize Police Chief Tom Gazsi to immediately begin recruitment for an additional ten officers, taking the authorized strength to 141 sworn officers - a number much more in line with recommendations made by consultants and senior law enforcement officials in the recent past.


ABANDONING "COIN"
Leece and Genis also indicated they will immediately remove Mensinger's  COIN scheme from the Municipal Code, citing the unnecessary, costly and divisive delays it creates in negotiating contracts with employee groups.

THIS IS THE DATE...

All of these changes will become effective on this date, April 1, 2013.....  GOTCHA!

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