Saturday, August 17, 2013

REGISTRATION NOW REQUIRED TO "COMMENT"


EARLY, SHAKY DAYS
As a few of you who have read this blog from the very beginning already know, my first blog host - I referred to it as a "bargain basement host" - offered few frills, like the ability to use images or publish comments.  I rode along with that one for about eighteen months before bailing out and creating this blog, hosted by Google's Blogger.

IMAGES ENHANCE THE MESSAGE

This arrangement has been much more satisfying.  I can use images that emphasize my points.  I tease folks when they ask about those images by telling them that my readers are the comic book crowd, so they like funny pictures.  Actually, I think those images make the blog better... but, then, I would.  I suspect most of you agree.

MY GOAL

The "Comments" feature, however, is a whole different story.  When I first began publishing A BUBBLING CAULDRON my goal was to draw more folks into the discussion of what I thought were important community issues.  I know, for a fact, that I've been able to do that simply from the number of comments sent to the blog, and by personal anecdotes provided to me privately by readers who have become active in the community because they read something here that either provoked or inspired them. 

LOVE AND HATE

Some of you like what you read here, and some of you hate it.  I'm OK with both polar views.  I'd rather have everyone who reads this blog agree with me 100%, but I know that's not going to happen.  We all have opinions, no matter how wrong some may be.  OK, that's another tease...

MY HOPE FOR "COMMENTS"

My hope was that the "Comments" feature would enhance the discussion of issues raised here - that opposing views could be articulated with passion and clarity in an attempt to convince each other of the wisdom of our respective opinions.  Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes it doesn't. To those of you who have participated in those discussions and kept the debate at a high level, thank you.  I REALLY DO want a broad discussion of issues and, as I've demonstrated in the past, I do my best to post both sides.  I really do want your participation because, quite honestly, many of your comments are much better than mine and explain issues much more thoroughly.

BIG CHANGES!  A NEW DAY...

However, way, way, way too often more than a few of you - on both sides of issues - use the anonymity afforded by this comments feature to just be plain nasty and rude  Your snide, caustic innuendo and flat out crude remarks contribute absolutely nothing to the discussion.  You wouldn't speak that way to your mother, but you do here assuming nobody will know who you are.  Well, those days are over.  I'm just tired of having to read all the crap that comes through, many of which I just automatically delete now because they are just unacceptable.  If you read through some of the recent comment threads you'll probably be saying, "Really?  You've received worse comments than these?"  Yeah, sadly, I have and still do.

...BEGINS NOW

So, I've decided to treat the comments on this blog like the old "letters to the editor" submitted to newspapers.  You had to sign those and the result was a fairly civil discourse.  I DO NOT want to shut off the comments completely, but BEGINNING IMMEDIATELY I will post no comments if I have not received registration by the author and verified it.  I understand the need for anonymity for some of you.  Fear of retribution is a very real fact of life these days.  I also understand that many of you are so gutless, such cowards, that you will never even consider posting if I know who you are.  To those folks I bid a not-so-fond adieu... don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.

HERE'S THE DEAL...
For the rest of you, I'm looking for a solution that will work without making too much more work for me at this end.  I thought at first that I'd require every commenter to register with Blogger in order to post, but that's not good enough.  I need to know who you are, and to be able to verify your identity if I feel it's necessary to confirm that you actually submitted the comment in question.  So, here are the new rules, which will mean a whole lot of work on my part, but may be worth it in the long run.  If not, and if I can't come up with a better solution - "Facebook Comments" is not an option - I'll just disable the comments feature.  I don't want to do that.  As I said earlier, I value your participation.

THE NEW RULES - MY TWELVE COMMANDMENTS
1 - Every person who posts comments on A BUBBLING CAULDRON MUST register BEFORE posting their first comment, even if they are registered on Blogger.  NO EXCEPTIONS!

2 - You MAY use your own name (my preference) and/or a pen name, but NOT the name "Anonymous". 

3 - Pen names MAY NOT be offensive, either in fact or by innuendo.  If the pen name you chose is taken or unacceptable I'll advise you by return email so you can pick another.

4 - You MAY NOT use another person's name.

5 - Only ONE person may use a specific pen name.

6 - You may NOT register under more than ONE pen name.  Pick one and make it work. 

7 - You MAY register a pen name AND your proper name.  Each requires separate registration.

8 - Foul language, flaming and other offensive language will NOT be posted.  If you have strong negative feelings on an issue, find a creative way to express yourself that demonstrates your cleverness, not your nastiness.  I'm the sole arbiter of what gets posted, but with a registration policy we can discuss it "off line", if necessary. That does not mean that I'm going to give you a call if I don't like your comment.  It either makes the cut or doesn't.  If you're anticipating rejection, send me an email.

9 -
I will still not be able to edit comment submissions.  It's a go or no-go situation.

10 - To REGISTER you MUST send me an email with the word "Registration" in the subject line to
thepotstirer@earthlink.net BEFORE submitting your first comment.  If you don't - if you are not registered - your comment will be rejected without notification to you.  Once registered your comments MAY be posted if you remain civil and focused on the issue at hand.  Of course, none of you will send nasty comments if you're registered, so I'm not really concerned about that.

11 - Your registration email MUST include a VERIFIABLE email address AND A TELEPHONE NUMBER where you can be reached to verify your information.

12 - I GUARANTEE TO YOU that your identity,  email address and telephone number will be held with complete confidentiality.  NOBODY else will have access to that information.

TIME TO REGISTER IS NOW

OK, those are the new rules.  I hope those of you who choose to continue to participate in the discussions here will take a couple minutes to send me an email with the information required to register.  Please don't wait until you've got a head of steam up on a subject, spend a lot of time telling me and the readers your views, only to have it summarily rejected because you're not registered.  Register now.  There is NO grace period

PRETEND IT'S YOUR MOTHER... 
It's not a rule, but when you submit a comment I hope you'll pretend you're making your case to someone you respect greatly - it doesn't have to be your mother - and try to keep the personal attacks and vitriol out of it.  Remember, I still decide what appears.  In the past some otherwise excellent, relevant comments have been rejected because of some unnecessary nasty, over-the-line slam about someone.
 

LOOKING FOR QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
I expect the number of comments on this blog will drop like a rock, at least for awhile.  I know we will never again see those 100+ comment threads because many of you just like to shout at each other and I'm eliminating most of that opportunity.  I do expect, though, that the threads will be more thoughtful, of higher quality and much more worth reading.  And, of course, the number of page views will also plummet.  I'm OK with that, too.  If I was trying to attract advertisers that would be a different matter.  I'd probably just let the free-for-all continue and let the hit counter spin away.  I'm going to write what I choose, the way I choose whether the readership drops or not.

HERE WE GO....

So, let's try this.  I know it might cramp your style in the beginning, but it will be worth it.  It requires a ONE-TIME STEP on your part - the registration.  And, of course, you have to remember that name you chose.  I will have to begin keeping records of registrants and contacting them to verify their identity.  Oh, yes.  I'm going to DISABLE THE "WORD VERIFICATION" FEATURE to make it just a little easier for you to post a comment.  The robots can try all they want, but nothing gets through unless they're registered.  Please tell your friends.  Thanks for your cooperation.  NOTE: The "Word Verification" feature has been turned back on.  Too many robo-comments.  Sorry about that.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

A BIG Week Ahead

 BACK TO WORK...
After what felt like a vacation last week, with only one big meeting - the Charter Committee - held during that five-day span, next week is going to make up for it - in spades!

Here's the schedule of events that face us next week

MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2013

The Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee will meet again in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) adjacent to the Police Department from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.  You can read the agenda for that meeting HERE.  Following presentations by representatives from the Harbor Soaring Society and the Waldorf School there will be a discussion of roles and responsibilities of the Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission, which have appeared to be slightly out of sync recently.

The committee will then review the Park Master Plan, focusing on the Southwest Quadrant this time.

This meeting, as all are, is open to the public, so anyone interested in the future of Fairview Park is encouraged to attend and address the committee at the appropriate time.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2013
A General Plan Roadshow will travel no farther than Conference Room 1A on the first floor of City Hall, when members of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group will be given an opportunity to express their collective and individual views on issues they feel should be considered in the pending General Plan update.  This meeting is scheduled from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.  The public is welcome at this meeting, too.  You can visit the city web page dedicated to the General Plan meeting/roadshow schedules HERE for information about this meeting and others in the future.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2013
In an effort to schedule General Plan meetings at times, and with amenities, that meet the needs of busy families so their input can be taken for this very important update process a "Live Puppet Theater Show and General Plan Land Use Alternatives Workshop" will be held beginning on the lawn adjacent to City Hall at 6:00 p.m.  The puppet show will also begin at that time.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY MEETING
At 7:00 those interested can adjourn to the Emergency Operations Center, right next door, for further information on the Land Use Element of the General Plan.  Refreshments from Starbucks will be served for both the puppet show and the meeting.  See the flyer below for information. (click image to enlarge)

THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2013
The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission, led by Chairman Byron de Arakal,  will meet beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  You can read the agenda HERE.  The meeting will have a presentation on  the Costa Mesa Country Club Entryway Improvement and deal with several requests for tree removal.

FAIRVIEW PARK ENTRYWAY PLANS
The big item on the agenda, though, is the only Old Business item on the agenda, the Fairview Park Entryway Concept Plans, HERE.  This one is a return visit due to the controversy about the number of parking spots planned for the original idea.  This one has been modified with what looks like the same parking lot footprint, but fewer actual spaces indicated.  From what I read in the staff report, this seems like a good solution and provides for future possible needs. (click on image to enlarge)
BIG NEWS COMING
Unless there is something of a breaking news nature, this will be the only post for this weekend, except for, perhaps, one more late Sunday.  This one will contain big news about A BUBBLING CAULDRON, so please look for it later in the weekend.  That's it for now.. have a great weekend.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

City FINALLY Confirms Employee Leaves

IT'S ABOUT TIME!
In correspondence released to local media outlets today, Costa Mesa Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Rick Francis, confirmed that two employees have been placed on administrative leave.  Here is the text of his statement, including the note that follows as part of it:

I will confirm that the two city employees have been placed on paid administrative leave (NOT SUSPENSION) pending the completion of an internal investigation the city is conducting relative to allegations that have surfaced concerning fiscal policies and procedures that may not have been followed in connection with the city’s 60th Anniversary celebration.

Note: [In general terms, suspensions are reserved for employees who have had allegations of wrongdoing sustained against them and are typically for a fixed duration of time. This is NOT the case in this particular matter.]

LONG OVERDUE
In my opinion, this acknowledgement is more than a week overdue and that tardiness has only added fuel to the fires of speculation that have been burning throughout the city since word first leaked out last week.


A PERSONNEL ISSUE 
I suspect we won't hear much more from the City on this issue.  History shows us that they will keep everything very close to the vest as what is essentially a personnel matter gets sorted out.

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Sharing A Chuckle

A "GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS" SITUATION
As you know, I blew off celebrating my birthday yesterday to attend the most recent Charter Committee meeting.  The good part of that decision was I got to see Ernesto Munoz at his best.  The worst part was I got to share watching Tea Party Tom Pollitt try to keep up with the proceedings and articulate something coming straight from his own head and not from a prepared script by the leaders of my Republican Party!  Talk about painful!


CHECKING THE MAIL
However, just before I departed for City Hall yesterday afternoon I collected our mail and found a wonderful birthday card from a couple who have been life-long friends - she caught the bouquet at our wedding and they married a year later.

SMILE ALERT!
I won't share the inscriptions they each wrote, but I cannot help myself with the cover of the card.  It's a nearly decade-old New Yorker cartoon by Alex Gregory and my friends just couldn't wait to mail it to me.  You'll understand as I share it with you below.  I know all of you will smile, too. (Click on the image to enlarge for the full effect) 
Happy Birthday To Me...


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Charter Committee Slogs Forward - Barely

 LIKE WALKING IN MUD...
It was an exercise in frustration Wednesday night as I sat for three hours and watched the Costa Mesa Charter Committee continue it's relentless slog toward the creation of a new form of government - whether we need a change or not.  Facilitators Kirk Bauermeister and Mike Decker let the committee guide itself for much of the evening.

MUNOZ' PRESENTATION WAS SUPERIOR
The high point - and it was really a high point when compared to the rest of the meeting - was the more than one-hour long presentation by Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz.  The committee, which is immersed in discussing the Transparency in Public Contracts portion of their deliberations, asked questions at an earlier meeting the needed to be answered by Munoz, so he presented himself to them last night and, armed with an excellent PowerPoint presentation showing our current process for awarding public contracts.  By the time he finished even I understood his message.

NO NO-BID CONTRACTS, EVER!
Without regurgitating every word he uttered, I'll give you some of the high points.  He pointed out, for example, that there are NEVER any no-bid public works contracts in Costa Mesa.  That doesn't mean there are no no-bid contracts in other areas at City Hall - like for computer consulting, management consulting, etc.

A MORE FORMAL BIDDING PROCESS USED
As he went through the process of awarding public contracts - his staff report is HERE - He frequently reminded the committee that much of the public works contracts are funded by grants, and that he and his staff are VERY good at what they do.  He described to the committee just why his organization chooses to use a more formal bid process than others might use.  He spoke of significant protections for the City's position on the more formal bidding process.  He spoke of the over $18 million in public works projects budgeted for this fiscal year, and described in great detail how every project his handled, from start to finish.

EMPHASIZING SUCCESS
Munoz also stressed how successful his organization is at finding grant funds for city projects, emphasizing - in response to a question - that every member of his staff is a skilled grant writer.


DOESN'T WANT TO CHANGE ANYTHING
At the end of his presentation and the question and answer period that followed, it seemed like many on the committee didn't want to see that part of the operations changed significantly.  They left a list of "changes" they wanted to discuss next time.  Munoz, for his part, left them with this thought.  He told them, "The system works.  Whatever you do with a charter, don't change it.  We're good at what we do."  He told them that if they plan to create a charter that changes this process, "I want to be there".  It was clear that he thinks his process works well and, based on my observations, most of the committee members agreed.

STUDY HABITS AND PRE-DETERMINED BIAS
There are some committee members who clearly did their homework assignments in preparation for the meeting.  And, there were a few who probably did not.  And others continue to get stuck on wanting to use Jim Righeimer's (failed) Charter as the foundation for a new one.  I had to smile, because it seems, after listening to them through several meetings now, that the very segments they want to cannibalize from that document are some of the elements that caused it to go down in defeat last November.

TRANSPARENCY AND OPENNESS
The committee will return at the next meeting to continue the discussion of Transparency where they left off, and also hope to begin the discussion of "Openness".  The process is moving slowly - hampered by those who seemed to be locked into a predetermination of issues - like the defunct Measure V.  The way this process is going, I certainly don't expect to see anything resembling a final product until the spring - if then.

AND MORE...
At the next meeting they will also discuss whether or not to elect a Chairman and Vice Chair.  That should be interesting.  I think many of the 20 or so residents and other visitors to this meeting shared a level of frustration at the process, and the fact that some of the committee members just don't seem to grasp some of the most basic of terms and concepts.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Charter Committee Meeting Tonight, And More

BACK AT IT AGAIN
The Costa Mesa Charter Committee will meet again tonight at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) adjacent to the Police Headquarters on Fair Drive at 6:00 p.m.  As has been the case in past such meetings, the proceedings will be facilitated by Dr. Kirk Bauermeister and Dr. Mike Decker.

WILL HE OR WON'T HE?
The agenda for this meeting can be found HERE.  Since that pesky "moment of silence" is on the agenda again, I'm going to be interested in seeing if Tea Party Tom Pollitt still insists on having an invocation.  As I've said many times, no other committee or commission for that matter, has an invocation.  None of the committees even say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

CONTRACTS AND PREVAILING WAGE
The committee is still working its way through the Public Contracts segment of the agenda elements they agreed upon at an earlier meeting.  This time they will have in their hands a letter from Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz, which answers many of the questions asked earlier, primarily about how our current bidding process works and the prevailing wage issue.  You can read that staff report HERE.  This is an interesting, brief yet thorough, summary of how contracts are handled by the City currently and is especially interesting and timely considering the rumors swirling around town over the past several days regarding expenses for the 60th Anniversary Celebration.

IF YOU CARE, COME TO THE MEETING
These meetings usually last until around 9:00 p.m., with a break or two, depending on the agenda.  For those seriously interested in the evolution of a possible charter for this city, attendance at these meetings can be very informative.  And, if you wish to address the committee, each speaker will be given two minutes to present a view to them.  Each of the volunteers seem sincere about their participation and, in a few cases,  the personal bias they brought with them into this process is beginning to coagulate into impatient requests.  It's going to be very interesting to see how Bauermeister and Decker "facilitate" this issue.

A HECK OF A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
So, I'll spend my birthday evening plunked down on a fairly uncomfortable chair, listening to a group of folks being facilitated.  Then I'll write to you about my impressions of the evening.  Sound like fun?  Nah, I don't think so, either.  Assuming we get the fire permit for all those candles, my cake will come Thursday, when my sweet and very patient wife will drag me to a favorite restaurant to celebrate six dozen years.  Happy Birthday to me... again.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Last Week Plus A Note From Allen Huggins

 MEMORABLE!
Well, the past week was certainly one for the books!

FIRST, MY ANNIVERSARY!
Last Monday I celebrated my 46th wedding anniversary, which turned out to be the high point of the week by far, HERE.

CRAPPY CONTRACT
Then, on Tuesday, the Costa Mesa General Employees (CMCEA) was sucker-punched with an offensive contract offer, which we wrote about HERE and again, with the text of the offer, HERE.

 STAFFERS PLACED ON LEAVE
That same afternoon, just before the City Council meeting began, Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce and his assistant, Christine Cordon, were placed on administrative leave, HERE.

POLICE RECRUITMENT
Then the Daily Pilot published an excellent article outlining the difficulties the Costa Mesa Police Department has been having recruiting new officers, HERE, which I wrote about HERE.

MOVING BOXES
And, finally, on Friday around noon a group of men were seen removing carts full of files, computers and other stuff from City Hall to the Costa Mesa Police Department headquarters, HERE.

JUST A LITTLE TENSE, YOU SAY?
Word has it today, Monday, that things were particularly tense around City Hall today.  Gee, I can't understand why! ;-)

A VIEW FROM THE TRENCHES
In my post about the Police Recruitment I asked for responses from police officers.  So far, nothing.  However, today recently retired Captain Allen Huggins posted a multi-paragraph comment on the Daily Pilot article.  I wrote to him for his permission to reproduce it here because it provides us with a special perspective of a man who served our community with pride and distinction for 27 years and was here through the beginnings of these difficult times.  Here is his comment just as he wrote it:

Allen Huggins · Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
I have refrained from commenting on the inner workings of the City and the Police Department for many months since I retired. To be honest, I didn’t want to subject my family to the mudslinging that is all too common in Costa Mesa today. With that said, and in my opinion, the latest comments from Righeimer and Mensinger are misleading and I think the record needs to at least be accurate.

There is a significant issue with attracting quality personnel to the Department, and there has been shortly since the Righeimer and Mensinger were elected and appointed, respectfully. The Department has also been experiencing an exodus that is unprecedented. While there are a variety of reasons, it would be unreasonable to believe there isn’t a connection between the tenor the City Council has set, under the tutelage of the current majority, and the personnel difficulties the Police Department has been and is facing.

To provide some basic background, I have been a life-long Republican, and I recently retired after over 27 years of service to the City. I also am a realist and recognize that the economic issues have necessitated changes in the salaries and benefit packages. It is not the changes in the salaries and benefits that is causing such a huge exodus of experienced personnel and the lack of quality lateral officers and applicants, it is the rhetoric filled comments by members of the City Council that many times are lacking the veracity expected of elected officials. The employees are not the enemy of the City or the people who live, work and play in Costa Mesa. They are, for the most part, dedicated, hard working people who are doing what they were hired to do. Rhetoric calling them “union thugs” and worst is uncalled for and unproductive.

In my former life, I had direct knowledge of the quality of people who were applying to be officers. While there were some good applicants, there were many more that had too many questions to hire in a position of a police officer, which requires significant community trust. The hiring standards are and were not too high, as alleged. If anything, the standards were relaxed as much as is reasonable. I don’t believe that the Police Department should ever deviate from insisting that integrity, honesty and proper values be a cornerstone of what makes up a new officer. The rigors of the job can be challenging enough, even with the proper cornerstone. Does the Costa Mesa community really want the police department to reduce the standards of the police officers it hires?

As I indicated previously, the economic environment dictates that all expenditures be reviewed, including salary and benefit packages. What isn’t necessary is the rhetoric the City Council majority likes to inject into discussions. Other cities, like Newport Beach for example, have been able to accomplish salary savings without all the “union thug” accusations and demeaning, unproductive comments. The frequent accusations accomplish nothing but resentment. Now I know that the Council majority will say they like the employees and they are good people, but that is not how they treat them. Watch closely what they do.

Costa Mesa used to be a place of destination. It may be again, in the future, but it is not one today. Facts are facts and the significant exodus of police officers is just a glimpse of the personnel issues facing the City. With the cost to hire and train a new officer well into the six figures, doesn’t it make sense to figure out the “why” and fix the problem?

The community doesn’t need divisive leadership; they need leadership with integrity so they can begin to once again make Costa Mesa a place of destination. One important trait that all good leaders know is to have the integrity to admit what they don’t know, and to reach out for assistance from those who do. While I don’t know how to be a successful developer, and freely admit that, I do know what good city leadership looks like, and what it doesn’t look like, and it doesn’t look like the current majority is providing. The Costa Mesa community deserves better than they have been receiving.

I’m not bitter, nor did I leave on any terms but my own. In fact, I was truly honored to serve the Costa Mesa community for most of my adult life. I want the best for the community and City departments. In my opinion, the various misstatements from the Council majority are beneath what the people of Costa Mesa deserve.


Thanks to Huggins for his comments.  Much appreciated.

GRIPES INSTEAD OF CAKE!
So, with only one meeting this week - the Charter Committee meeting on Wednesday, at which Tea Party Tom Pollitt will probably whine again about not being able to pray - it's almost like a vacation.  In fact, if it wasn't for that meeting my sweet and very patient wife would be taking me out to dinner for my birthday.  Instead, I'll spend three hours listening to gripes about the way the government runs and watch folks being facilitated.

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