Friday, July 19, 2013

Moorlach's Pension Dance

ANOTHER "PENSION" WHACK IN THE HEAD
Almost everyone who opens their eyes in the morning these days is aware of the difficulties most governmental entities face with the looming pension crisis.  In Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer has used it as a cudgel to bludgeon us during almost every meeting.

BANKRUPTCY PENDING?
The Pension Oversight Committee, stacked with several of Righeimer's pals, continues their exercise in futility - they can do NOTHING about municipal pensions except worry about them like the rest of us.  They have, though, recently heard a primer on Municipal Bankruptcy, conducted by one of their members - Rick Kapko - who apparently has expertise in bankruptcies.  One could probably accurately assume that our Mayor is laying the groundwork for a bankruptcy action for Costa Mesa - the ONLY real way to resolve the unfunded pension liability obligation that exists in a timely manner.

MOORLACH'S PENSION WALTZ
Then, today, Norberto Santana, Jr., over at the Voice Of OC presents us with an interesting essay regarding our termed-out supervisor, John Moorlach, and his personal waltz with pensions as a county employee.  Read it HERE.

DOES IT SQUARE?
In my view, although I'm not happy he's so tightly snuggled up to the OC GOP power elite, Moorlach has done a pretty good job as a public servant.  However, he seems now to be  trapped in that quagmire and is looking for another seat when the music stops in November, 2014.  Read the Voice of OC piece and see if you think Moorlach's pension situation squares with the position of his other OC GOP pals.

MAKES ME SMILE...
You know, you just couldn't make this stuff up!

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

General Plan Workshop Fun, And More!

THE GENERAL PLAN AND FUN, TOO!
The City of Costa Mesa announced that the next in the series of General Plan workshops - this one a "Visioning Workshop" - will be held next Tuesday, July 23rd on the City Hall lawn.

A FAMILY OPPORTUNITY
This one is special because it's designed to encourage families to participate and provide their input into the revision of the City's General Plan that is underway now.  Costa Mesa residents who attend this particular workshop, which runs from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. will receive four free tickets to a family movie that will be screened immediately after the meeting.

KIDS PLAY WHILE PARENTS PROVIDE INPUT
While a parent or adult attends the General Plan Update Workshop, children will be entertained making cardboard-box cars on the nearby lawn.

SPONGEBOB....
During the screening of "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie", which will be projected on a giant inflatable screen, free corn dogs from Sonic, fresh popcorn and other snacks will be available.
YOUR INPUT IS IMPORTANT
The workshop is a critical part of the General Plan Update process.  This particular event is designed to provide residents with children to carve out some time to provide their input on what they think the city should look like into the future.  This update opportunity only comes around about once every decade, so it's very important that concerned residents share their vision for our city at this time.

PLEASE HELP WITH HEADCOUNT
Registration is not required for this workshop, but please call in advance for movie/food tickets.   Contact Martha Rosales by July 22nd at 714-754-5270 or email her at martha.rosales@costamesaca.gov.   See the flyer below for more information.  Click on the image to enlarge it.


*****


DISCOUNT COUPONS FOR ORANGE COUNTY FAIR ADMISSION
And since you're here, The City has coupons for reduced admission to the Orange County Fair available in the City Clerk's office at City Hall.  Each coupon is good for $2.00 off for up to four (4) admissions and may not be combined with any other offers.

HAVE FUN
The Orange County Fair runs Wednesday through Sunday from now until August 11, 2013.  These coupons can help buy a deep-fried, bacon-wrapped pickle or other culinary delights at the Fair.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fairview Park Advisory Committee Lists Priorities

PICKING SIDES
Wednesday evening the Costa Mesa Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee met in their second formal meeting - they had a walkabout in the park a couple weeks ago - and presented each individual's ideas for things they'd like to see in the park in the future.  You can read Bradley Zint's coverage of the meeting in the Daily Pilot HERE.

LONGER THAN ANTICIPATED
The meeting, conducted by Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren, started a little late due to a previous meeting in the venue and ran even later because of the spirited discussion on certain parts of the agenda.  City Clerk Brenda Green provided an overview of the procedures to be followed and The Brown Act.
Observers

MOST SPEAKERS WANTED IT KEPT AS-IS
For example, eleven people stepped to the microphone during Public Comments and expressed THEIR views about the park, what they hoped to see and why.  Comments ranged from Gordon Bowley of Costa Mesa United requesting his group be given the opportunity to present its views to the committee to a mother explaining the value of the model trains to her Autistic son.  By far, most speakers requested the committee to keep Fairview Park as-is - a natural resource and a "jewel of the city".
 Speaker addresses the committee

WORKING THE WORK PLAN
Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia guided the group through the Work Plan, HERE,  a document intended to provide structure and a rough timeline for the committees task.

SETTING PRIORITIES
Mehren conducted a poll of the committee members, who had been requested to bring five (5) things they would like to see in Fairview Park, through the process of chronicling those items.  They went around the table several times as each member had a chance to list a preference.  I began to get dizzy(er) as they went round and round.  This exercise gave observers a pretty clear idea of how the discussions may go in the future.
 Terry Cummings shows potential new model train route

Here are some examples of some of the preferences expressed by members:

Ron Amburgey said he wanted to see football and soccer fields, baseball and softball facilities, basketball and handball courts, a roller hockey surface, bocci ball venue, Dog Park and a Skate Park.

Terry Cummings, a model train advocate, said he would like to see a coastal redwood forest in part of the park.  He also wanted to see a cultural center, including a native American village.  He also wanted to see the model trains routed over the steel bridge over Placentia Avenue and a couple of track loops on the westside of the park.

Lee Ramos wanted an Interpretive Center with an outdoor theater, relocating the railroad tracks to the perimeter of the Eastside of the park to facilitate placing other venues within that loop.  He also wanted to  see more informational kiosks and an area for senior Lawn Bowling.

Brett Eckles wanted to see multi-use athletic fields, expanded train routes, marked running courses, improved bike paths and a nature center with bird-watching venue.

Richard Mehren wanted additional picnic structures, repair of the sprinkler systems and replacement of some dead grass areas, a safety barrier surrounding the parking area on the Eastside of Placentia Avenue to protect folks from wandering into traffic from the parking lot.

Mehren and Anna Vrska wanted the eroding bluffs repaired and barriers established to keep errant folks from eroded area.  Vrska wanted to stay with the existing Master Plan, improve information kiosks throughout the park and plant native plants in those grassy area mentioned above.

Dennis Popp wanted a wildlife viewing area in the Northeast and Southeast quadrants.  He also wanted to use part of the Northwest quadrant for a community garden and have exercise stations - ladders, etc., - located along the paths.

Steve Smith and David Stiller wanted better handicapped access to the park.

CRITTER OVERVIEW
Biologist Barry Nerhus, Jr. provided an overview of the habitat for the committee members.
 Biologist Barry Nerhus,Jr., with Bart Mejia

The next meeting will be August 21st.

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Crime Mapping Now Available

A GREAT NEW PUBLIC INFORMATION TOOL
In a press release today the Costa Mesa Police Department announced the availability of online Crime Mapping.  This is a fantastic feature and a great service to the residents of our city.  Here's the announcement. (click on images to enlarge)
 CRIME INCIDENTS
When you begin navigating through this system you'll be taken to several different types of displays.  For example, if you click HERE you'll be taken to a page that looks like this one, that displays calls for service within the last 24 hours.
CALLS FOR SERVICE LIST
If you go to THIS link you'll go to a page that shows Calls For Service that were dispatched within the last 24 hours.
CRIME MAP
And, if you go HERE you'll be taken to a Crime Map with markers at the locations of crimes dispatched within 24 hours.
 A GREAT TOOL
This is a wonderful service.  Take some time to read the press release, then follow the instructions or my links to this great new public information tool.  If you have questions contact Crime Prevention Specialist Kelly Vucinic at 714-754-4876.

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Never Too Old To Learn...

HOW TO BEGIN?...
I learned several things at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night.  Let me begin this post by simply listing some of them for you... (You can read Bradley Zint's coverage in the Daily Pilot HERE and watch the streaming video of the meeting HERE)

 GARY RUNS OUT OF GAS
I learned that "stayed-too-long-at-the-dance" council member Gary Monahan can still arrive at a council meeting with something to say - he told me that, by name, from the dais last night as he began his "council member comments" - but that he no longer has the stamina or interest to stick it out for an entire meeting.  He left early last night when he had to recuse himself from an item on the agenda and probably went back to his bar to pull beer taps for the crowd gathered to watch the MLB All Star game.  And, no, it wasn't the last item to be considered - there was still business to be conducted.

TOO LAZY TO DO THE HOMEWORK
I learned that Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger doesn't like it when other members of the council have more information on an issue than he does because those council members actually took the time to do their homework on the issue and he didn't.

PERFECTION STILL A GOAL
I learned that, while the city staff generally does a terrific job carrying out their tasks, they are not perfect and occasionally make a mistake.

POTENTIAL HOMELESSNESS A MOTIVATOR
I learned that the specter of losing one's home can motivate folks who would never otherwise even consider speaking up in public to present their concerns to the council, looking for relief.


D.U.M.B. WITH A CAPITAL "D"
I learned that, while we like to assume the developers trying to do projects in our city are really smart guys, that's not always the case.

A VINDICTIVE MAYOR
And I learned that Mayor Jim Righeimer is such a vindictive man that he may have slandered a former employee last night while defending his position on his latest effort to turn Costa Mesa into a Charter City.

HE HAD ME FUMING...
That last item got me so angry at Righeimer that it impaired my ability to post my summary of the meeting last night... so, here we are this morning, still angry but ready to rumble...  So let's get that last one out of the way first so we can focus on other things later.

ROBIN REMINDS US
Last night frequent speaker Robin Leffler used her three minutes to play a short video clip of Righeimer from council meeting at which the Charter Committee members were selected stating that their task was to determine IF the city needed a charter.  I provided the text of his statement in an earlier post.  This issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of the facilitators of the process and the committee is moving forward, but Leffler apparently felt it was necessary to remind us that we should not trust what Righeimer says from the dais.  In fact, she showed the clip twice - a nice touch, I thought.

DEFENDING HIMSELF HE MAKES A GAFFE
Then, during his Council Member Comments segment, Righeimer chose to defend the current process and when speculating about how it might be slowed down he included the following statement in his little riff:

"I remember last time, we had a city employee, a City Clerk, who for whatever reason decided not to file it with the county so it didn't get on the ballot, okay?   Now, in the end, you know, she wasn't criminally charged.  She didn't go to jail, she just resigned.  But it was put on by the council, the elected officials to say 'Do you want to vote on this or not?' and an employee just decided to not turn it in."

REALLY?
Well, that's a whole lot of revisionist history.  Practically up until the day she left her job with the City Folcik's action that prevented Jim Righeimer's Charter from being placed on the June Primary ballot was being actively defended in court by The City as "a clerical error".  Then they threw her under the bus...

SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD IDEA
A little later, when speaking about actions the council has taken, Righeimer said:
"If you don't like people on the council just vote them out.  We've all got other things to do."

Those seem like words to remember next fall.

ARRIVED LATE, LEFT EARLY
I was amused when Monahan, who was not in attendance when the council adjourned to the closed session at 5:00 p.m., came scampering into the chambers shortly after 6:00, just after the roll was called.  I was further amused when he made a big deal of telling me that he had something to say last night - he and I smiled at each other.  Then he began...

WORRIED ABOUT HIS BUSINESS?
He wondered about the status of yet another restaurant that is supposed to open at The Triangle (which he referred to as Triangle Square).  Since that would mean another competitor for the community booze dollar only a block away from his gin mill, I guess I understand his concern.

FIREWORKS AND NOT ENOUGH COPS
He agreed with others who complained about the fireworks over the long, long, long Independence Day celebration.  He thanked the CMPD and the CMFD for their efforts over that time.  (As an aside, HERE is an excellent "after action" report prepared by Captain Rob Sharpnack of the CMPD for that holiday).  He went on to talk about the difficulty working a fire works booth, and about the difficulty trying to police the evening's events.  He said, "There's only so many officers to go around".  Really?  No kidding!  He suggested that Costa Mesa "always has been a fireworks city" and that the only way to get rid of them is to ban them via the ballot box.

REALLY, GARY?
He talked about the lights at Harper School - Wendy Leece has appealed the Parks and Recreation Commission decision to deploy lights there for another year.  He defended the Parks and Recreation Commission decision and ranted on and on, including a segment where, in response to the suggestion that the fields at the Fairview Developmental Center be used more, he wondered why Fairview was a target - "because they are handicapped or because they are low income?"   By this time I realized that Monahan had forgotten that you're supposed to engage your brain before opening your mouth.  He closed his rant by observing that the street beside his restaurant - part of the GREAT EASTSIDE RE-PAVING that has been going on for months - cost him a ton of money.

EARLY BAIL OUT
He did not return to the meeting after he recused himself from the consideration of the 208 apartment unit project discussion - the project is within 500 feet of his gin mill, across the freeway.  So, he failed to participate in the discussion of the last item covered - the other General Plan Screening issue at the corner of 17th Street and Superior Avenue.

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, STEVE!
One of the low points was Mensinger attempting to criticize Leece, and later Genis, because they actually did their homework on the Code Enforcement issue.  He ranted about "not having all the information they had", so he wanted to not consider the item.  I, and others, wanted to stand up and shout, "Do your homework, dummy!", but we didn't.  Instead both Leece and Genis calmly explained just why they  choose to dig deeper into the issue.  As a result, at least a couple parties listed to have a lien placed on their property were removed from the list.  It's a good thing at least a couple council members think doing their homework is a good idea for the residents of the city.

IMPROVING THE SYSTEM
As a result of Genis' and Leece's action the Code Enforcement and Finance staffs will investigate ways to tighten up the system.  That's a good thing.

SURPRISED AND ANXIOUS RESIDENTS
During the presentation of New Business #2, the 208 apartments proposed near the intersection of Ford Road and Newport Boulevard, more than 20 people stood to express concern that the residents had NOT been told of this project, nor "noticed" for the meeting.  They only heard about it when one of the residents saw an article about it in the Daily Pilot and sounded the alarm.  They were, and probably still are, concerned about losing their homes in the Rolling Hills Mobile Home Park - the site of the project.  Twenty-five people spoke - actually, 24, but one guy spoke twice - and most had the same theme.  They said the ownership of the park had "promised them" that they would be able to live there until they died!  They had no idea the property was up for sale!  Many residents are infirm/elderly and don't have another move in them.  (If this sounds familiar, it should.  We heard the same thing about the recent closure of the Anchor Trailer Port earlier this year).

DEVELOPER SCREWS UP!
In the end, after an hour and three-quarters of discussion, it turned out that the developer didn't really have ALL the property tied up.  Seems he neglected to acquire the key piece of property - where Orange Coast Trailer Supply is located - that would be the main entrance!  The owner of that property, Larry Sutton, (shown here) stepped up and told the council that his property is NOT for sale - the crowd cheered.  So, the council voted, 4-0, to deny the General Plan change for this project.
WAKE UP CALL
Righeimer, however, gave a wake up call to the euphoric crowd when he reminded them that the property is "in play", and that it's likely that "something" will be happening to it soon.  Either the current developer will be back with a plan that actually works, or someone will buy it and put a commercial building on it - no council approval would be required for that use, or someone might buy the park and probably raise the rent.  None of those choices will be good for the current residents.

29 UNITS TURNS INTO 49
New Business #1, heard last and minus Monahan, was not as controversial, but interesting because that developer had worked hard and, at the last minute, acquired the property at the corner of 17th Street and Superior Avenue that made his project much more attractive - to some.  Unfortunately, the "noticed" item only had the original 29 units.  The modified plan now had 49!  He will be back with a new plan, including potential mitigation measures for traffic at one of the busiest intersections in Costa Mesa.  It will be interesting to see how this one goes, since it would add hundreds of trips each day to that site.

SUMMERTIME
The meeting, which could have ended at 8, finally drew to a close at 10:40 p.m.!  August 6th is the next meeting - the only one until after Labor Day since the council decided last time to cancel the August 20th meeting.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee Meets Wednesday

FAIRVIEW PARK'S FUTURE
The Costa Mesa Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee will meet again tomorrow, Wednesday, July 17th from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in Conference Room 1A at City Hall.  The agenda, HERE, states that it will be in council chambers, but that has been changed.  The conference room is a more appropriate venue because, while more intimate than council chambers, it's more conducive to a free flow of information between the members.
COMPREHENSIVE "WORK PLAN"
When you visit that agenda you'll notice an item called "Committee Work Plan".  You can read that document HERE.  It's a fascinating, aggressive plan for the activities of this committee and should be required reading for anyone interested and/or concerned about the future of Fairview Park - described by many as the "Jewel of Costa Mesa".
WILL MENSINGER BE QUIET?
It will be interesting to see how this meeting - the third for this group if you count the mass walkabout they did of the park a few weeks ago - will go.  Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger is the council liaison and tried to hijack the first meeting with his personal agenda.  It will be interesting to see if he can restrain himself and allow the Chairman, Dr. Richard Mehrin, (shown below on the left with Vice Chair Steve Smith) conduct the meeting.  Mensinger has several surrogates on the committee all chomping at the bit to deliver his message, anyhow.
BE THERE OR....
All these meetings are open to the public, so if you have an interest in Fairview Park's future, please plan on attending.  Seating is limited in Conference Room 1A.

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CalPERS Investments Up 12.5% In Latest 12 Months

BIG NEWS FROM CALPERS
Reuters and other news sources announced late last night, HERE, that the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the biggest U.S. public pension fund, reported a 12.5% return on assets over the 12 months ending June 30th.

GOOD NEWS, FOR SURE
This is great news for most California municipalities, including Costa Mesa, since the pension burden has driven several cities to declare bankruptcy in recent months.  In fact, Costa Mesa's Pension Oversight Committee recently had a two-part Municipal Bankruptcy primer presented by member Rick Kapko to familiarize that group with the process.

LOOKING FOR FISCAL LEADERSHIP, NOT RHETORIC
Hopefully, our elected leaders will ramp down the rhetoric about our unfunded liability just a little and move forward with fiscally sound and prudent policies to manage our city finances. 

HOW WILL THIS BE SPUN?
I suspect this announcement might get some play at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting tonight.. we'll see.

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