Whopper Of A City Council Meeting On Tap Tuesday!
OK, troops, take a deep breath, go grab a cold drink, get comfy in your chair, because I don't want you nodding off while reading this entry. We're going to talk about The Charter Committee; Privatizing the Jail Operations; Banning Ranch Traffic Mitigation Agreement; Business License Fees; The Senior Center (twice) and much more.
BRING A PILLOW AND BLANKET
The agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in council chambers - was released earlier Friday afternoon. This one is HUGE - you can read it HERE - and, short of some kind of divine intervention, will keep us up until well after midnight. So, let me just take it from the top and work our way through the entire agenda, one step at a time.
CLOSED SESSION WORKLOAD
You know we're in trouble when the Closed Session, which begins a 5:00 - contains 5 items! Good luck starting the regular meeting at 6:00! The third item is a "labor negotiation" involving CEO Tom Hatch. The fifth item involves the Benito Acosta existing litigation. It just never goes away!
The "Presentations" segment should be interesting. First, we'll see the Mayor's Award to the All American Boys Choir. Then we'll have an "In Honor Of Paul" Project presentation in which Diane Hill will tell us about her plan to have every Costa Mesa resident proficient in "Hands Only CPR". Finally, the Orange County Transportation Authority will make a presentation, the content of which is apparently secret. If it's about their resurrection of the plan to put toll lanes on the 405 Freeway I'll understand why they're keeping it a secret!
The Consent Calendar alone contains a dozen items, and I'm told several were removed.
Warrants, Items 3 and 4
Fairgrounds Traffic Agreements
Three Dozen New Units
Item 7, HERE, is the final map for a live/work development on West 18th Street.
Item 9, HERE, is a cooperative agreement with CalTrans on the SR-55 Gateway Improvement project.
Item 10, HERE, is a consulting agreement in the environmental impact of a 236 unit apartment development at 125 East Baker Street.
Business License Fee Study
Item 11, HERE, directs the Finance Advisory Committee to study the current business license structure.
Senior Center Operational Audit
Item 12, HERE, extends the consulting contract with Management Partners and authorizes that organization to perform an organizational and operational audit of the Costa Mesa Senior Center. This is VERY interesting, particularly considering New Business Item #1 below - the appointment of new members of the Senior Center Board. Since the Senior Center is a private organization, it's unclear to me how the city has authority to perform ANY kind of an audit of its operations.
And that's just the Consent Calendar, folks! Whew!
There are three (3) Public Hearings scheduled for Tuesday night.
CDBG and HOME Funding Priorities
The first Public Hearing, HERE, deals with the 2013-2014 Funding Priorities for Community Development Block Grand (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME).
CDBG Grant Allocations
The second, HERE, involves the CDBG Public Service Grant Allocations. This one might generate some interesting conversation because the CEO recommendations differ dramatically from the recommendations of the committee charged with this process. In fact, the recommendation is to only authorize spending 67% of the money available and to allocate the remainder for such activities as the improvement of public infrastructure. When you check the staff report you'll see organizations like Colette's Children Home, City of Costa Mesa Social Worker, Churches Consortium, Fair Housing Council of Orange County and Mercy House-Transportation (all of which serve the Homeless) left out in the cold with NO funding recommended. We'll see what the council decides to do on this one.
Business Improvement Area (BIA) Reauthorization and Resolution To Levy Annual Assessment
This item, HERE, is usually a short piece of business to reauthorize the BIA and to approve the annual levy for their activities.
Senior Corporation Board Appointments
New Business #1, HERE, is the Appointments to the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation Board of Directors. You may recall that the council was apparently dissatisfied with the recent slate of three people who applied for the three open positions, so asked for another recruitment effort to take place. That recruitment resulted in six (6) applicants, including two incumbents, to fill the positions.
38 New Westside Units
#2, HERE, is a Master Plan screening request for a 38-unit live/work development in the 2000 block of Placentia Avenue.
Banning Ranch Traffic Deal Is Back!
#3, quietly placed on the agenda, is the Newport Banning Ranch Traffic Mitigation Agreement, HERE. Retired Economic and Development Director/Deputy CEO Peter Naghavi, will return to make this presentation. When this was first presented to the council last year it generated many negative comments from the public. Reviewing the staff report, it appears most of those concerns have been addresses. Take some time to review it yourselves.
Fire Pit Rules
Item #4 is a resolution opposing the South Coast Air Quality Management District's proposed rule 444 prohibiting open burning on beaches, HERE. This looks like an interesting dilemma for our council. If they oppose the rule - as is proposed - they spit in the eye of the elected leaders in Newport Beach. If they don't, they do the same to Huntington Beach. Tough call - for a city without a beach. Don't you just love politics?
HERE, is, in my view, the BIGGEST issue on the agenda Tuesday night. This one deals with the Charter Committee appointments, the ratification of Facilitators and the proposed meeting schedules. The composition of the Charter Committee will go a very long way determining whether the work-product they finish will have the credibility necessary to have a chance of passing in the next election for which it is eligible. It's not clear yet whether pending legislation restricting such items to General Elections will pass in time to impact this process.
There are 37 applicants listed in the staff report, HERE, for the 13 positions available for this committee. Of those, only six or seven can be identified as having opposed Jim Righeimer's Charter last year. The remainder are either clearly identified with the pro-charter majority or are unknowns. The current recommended process provides for each council member to appoint one member. The next step would be to select the next 5 by the nomination process - which guarantees that the council pro-charter majority will have an 8-2 majority before the remaining positions are filled. Those, using the proposed system, involve each council member selecting one person, the names of which would be placed in a hat and selected randomly. The first three names selected would complete the committee. This could result in an 11-2 or 8-5 majority for the pro-charter majority - not a fair solution at all.
A Better, Fairer Solution
I suggest they select the first five as mentioned above, giving the pro-charter majority a 3-2 edge. Then, from the remaining 32 applicants, each council member would, in rotation, select four (4) names to be placed in a hat. From those 20 names the remaining eight (8) committee members would be selected lottery-style. The result could be that 11-2 majority mentioned above. Or, it could be 10-3 the other direction, or any of several combinations in between. It is a much fairer method of attempting to get some balance in the charter committee. And, after all, this time around Mayor Righeimer has told us he's not going to be involved in it at all, and that he wants it to come from "the community". This is one way to demonstrate some statesmanship and show that he's serious about providing the broader community a chance to help craft a proper charter and not just stack the deck with his sycophants. I guess we'll find out Tuesday night - late Tuesday night.
Kirk Bauermeister Is A Great Guy, but...
I'm going to make some folks very angry with this next observation. I think it's a mistake to select any of the three people identified in the staff report as "facilitators" of the Charter Process. The primary facilitator, Estancia High School Principal Kirk Bauermeister, is a GREAT guy, an outstanding educator and leader and is fully immersed in community activities. Much the same could be said for Mike Decker and Kim Barlow is a proven commodity. However, in my opinion, anyone selected - and paid - to facilitate this process should have NO previous Costa Mesa involvement, except, perhaps, as a consultant. If this process is supposed to result in a true community-crafted charter - free of the political bias and rancor that we all experienced last time around last year - then the person(s) charged with facilitating the process simply MUST be outsiders, with no axe to grind on this issue. They should be paid consultants without political affiliations that would taint their role. It's going to be hard enough to get a balanced committee. Having an insider as the facilitator will just further muddy the water. Find a person with Bauermeister's credentials from another city and I'll probably be happy.
Meeting twice a month on Wednesdays
The meeting schedule proposed, 6:00 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, seems ambitious, but is probably necessary if this committee is going to involve any community input in the process. It's going to make for some very busy weeks for those of us who try to pay attention to this stuff.
Privatization of the Costa Mesa Jail Operations
The final item on the agenda will be no less controversial. This is the privatization of the city Jail operations. I've read through the staff report, HERE, and came away with some serious concerns. The City says it will save $636,800 out of an anticipated $1,380,129 Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget by making this change, then backpedals to $436,616 by assuming a full-time police sergeant would be used to supervise operations the first year. Assuming the first number, the city says it will save $3.2 million over a five year period.
Did CMCEA Agree?
Although the staff report goes to great lengths to tell us that the employee organization, the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) was heavily involved in conversations about this change, nowhere do they say that the CMCEA agreed to it. Read this paragraph from the staff report and decide for yourself:
"While Costa Mesa, for some time, has believed that contracting out jail services was likely to be the best option—particularly inasmuch as it could result in over $3 million in savings to Costa Mesa and its residents—Costa Mesa, with the input of the CMCEA, has given due consideration to all of its options regarding the on-going operation of its jail. After considering CMCEA’s input and weighing it options, the CEO has concluded that it is in the best interests of the residents of Costa Mesa to contract out the operation of Costa Mesa’s jail including, of significance, the real fiscal benefit this approach will return to Costa Mesa in these difficult economic times."
No layoffs, but...
The staff report also tells us "At this time, the CEO does not recommend that Council layoff any employee currently working in Costa Mesa’s jail. Costa Mesa remains open to the possibility of allowing any employee currently working in Costa Mesa’s jail to transfer into other Y-Rated positions (if they so desire), and Costa Mesa will continue to work with the employee- representatives of such employees to achieve those transfers (if requested)." "At this time"? OK.. I guess.
"Transition" to G4S?
The staff report also tells us that the contract with G4S, the proposed contractor, includes a section, "dedicated to hiring and retention of current City employees into their private service model. The plan will be to do whatever is reasonable and possible to help employees transition either by holding positions with G4S, through utilizing an attrition model or retraining city personnel to work in other areas of the City organization." I don't find any reference in the contract language that talks about the pay for those employees who might "transition" to G4S.
It also mentions the immediate implementation of three new high-tech systems, but doesn't indicate that these could or could not be implemented if the city retains the Jail Operations. That would be good to know.
Just The Beginning...
This is just the beginning... expect more of this kind of stuff as the current majority tries to outsource every job in the city over a period of time. Well, not EVERY job - I suspect all the jobs on the 5th floor are safe - somebody has to oversee the contractors, don't they?
I WARNED YOU...
OK, don't say I didn't warn you way back at the beginning... I know it took a long time for you to plow through all this, but there are very important issues to be decided on Tuesday - issues that will directly affect every one of us.