What should have, and could have, been a short Costa Mesa City Council meeting stretched out until almost midnight Tuesday. I guess we should be grateful that it actually ended the same day it began.
RALLY FOR HOMELESS HOUSING
As a preamble to the meeting around 50 people assembled on the porch outside council chambers at 5:30 in a rally for Supportive Homeless Housing - a subject that has been much in the news lately. Among those attending were Churches Consortium's Becks Heyhoe
, shown here with Daily Pilot reporter Bradley Zint
. Many other familiar names in the affordable housing world locally attended and chanted for housing for the homeless until the council meeting began.
SPEAKERS TOOK IT UP...
The actual meeting began on time to a fairly full auditorium and, following three short presentations, ten speakers address the council during the Public Comments segment. Half of those, including Larry Haynes
, Executive Director of Mercy House, spoke on the Supportive Housing issue. Frequent commenter Tamar Goldmann
addressed the upcoming General Plan Visioning meeting coming up next week and reminded the council that, during the previous General Plan meetings, most members of the public made it very clear that they wanted less density in new projects.
OLD GRUMPY HAS LOST IT...
In an amusing moment, one old fella - a guy I occasionally refer to as The Mouth From Mesa North
- stepped up and praised those anonymous people who defiled the federally-protected vernal pools at Fairview Park last year! He went on to say that he thought they should receive an award - and dinner at a local Irish Pub - for their innovation. Chuckles were heard throughout the auditorium as this sad human being demonstrated just how out of touch with reality he has become. It's very apparent that not all the synapses in his his alleged Mensa Mind are firing properly and now reduces his value to the community to be the only source of information on black-on-white crime and racial purity.
RIGHEIMER FABRICATES... AGAIN
Activist Sue Lester
complimented the Costa Mesa Police Department on the success of its 60th Birthday Party, and the Fire Department on its successful Santa Letter program. She also mentioned that the Costa Mesa Classic - the golf tournament fund-raiser hosted by Costa Mesa United - was to be held on the 20th, but she couldn't find anywhere to sign up as a volunteer on the website. She also suggested that while the police department is understaffed as it is, perhaps only one officer should be detailed to the council meetings. Mayor Jim Righeimer
jumped right in to say the police department is NOT
understaffed! Of course, it IS
understaffed and has been for most of his tenure on the council. Just saying it's not so doesn't mean that's true. But then, that's his M.O. - he blurts things out on the dais that sometimes have no resemblance to the truth and figures nobody will notice. Wrong, Jimbo!
WENDY APOLOGIZES - RIGHEIMER DUCKS BLAME
During Council Member Comments Wendy Leece
apologized for the City not vetting the controversial Civic Center Park site more thoroughly, and for not doing outreach to the contiguous community first. Righeimer blathered on about not voting on the Civic Center Park site because he's on the board of Mercy House - one of the organizations that would build the Supportive Housing units. You know, the old "It's not my fault
" song and dance. He told us it was the New Year and time to start with a clean slate. I guess that meant he'd be more civil - but that pledge didn't even last through this meeting. No surprise.
IT'S "MARINES", DUMMY!
Another amusing moment came as he pointed out that 40 Costa Mesa homes hosted 83 Marines for Christmas this year - but he kept referring to them as "soldiers
" and had to be corrected several times. Of course, every Marine in the audience cringed.
During his time Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger
spouted off about his waddling, er, walking group which he refers to as the Costa Mayberry Walking Group, had covered every street in the city - over 600 miles. He ignored Lester's inquiry about volunteering when he also talked about the Costa Mesa Classic, which he said is "full". I guess that's good.
HATCH ON STAFFING - AND NEEDS
The clock showed 7:07 when CEO Tom Hatch
took his turn to address issues. He mentioned the success of the Snoopy House event and that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District has indicated an interest in partnering with the city in summer sports and arts and crafts programs. Addressing the staffing issue, he told us that the city now had 410 active employees, down from a high of 611 and that Human Resources were actively recruiting for 40 open positions. This is what he told us at the last meeting. He also told us again that he will be coming to the City Council for increases in staffing levels in several departments, including the Police Department and Public Services. He talked about the upcoming two General Plan meetings on 1/14 and 1/28.
SENIOR CENTER CRISIS
Then Hatch sprung the news on us that the Operational and Financial Audit of the Costa Mesa Senior Center had been completed and that he'd met with officials of the Senior Center to discuss it. He said it was bad news, and that it was available for review on the City web site. You'll find the summary HERE
and the 50 page report HERE
. At that point Righeimer jumped in with both feet, stating that the report was atrocious and unacceptable. He said, "This council is not going to let it (the Senior Center) go down!
" Indeed, according to the report from Management Partners
, who did the $26,500 audit, the Senior Center is teetering on the brink of financial insolvency. Read Bradley Zint's report in the Daily Pilot, HERE
. I've scanned the report briefly tonight - the Senior Center is in big trouble. It's going to be VERY
interesting to see how this plays out.
Next came the Consent Calendar and 11 of the 17 items were pulled for separate discussion, meaning they would be addressed at the end of the meeting, so anyone even vaguely interested in them would have to wait, and wait, and wait.. again.
METRO POINT LIGHTS AND SIGNS
At shortly after 7 p.m. they got to Public Hearing #1, the LED lights and signage issue for Metro Point. Mensinger recused himself. Ten people rose to speak on both sides of the issue and the light provider, Milton Solomon
, made a presentation and answered questions. I'm not exactly sure what he's trying to explain or demonstrate to Righeimer in this photo... Retired employee Peter Naghavi
represented the applicant, Arnel, in this process. His expertise on this project when it was being designed and built gave him special institutional knowledge. After 90 minutes of discussion and micromanaging by Righeimer the council finally approved a modified version of the plan on a 4-0 vote and the council took a short break.
EXCESSIVE USE OF SERVICES ORDINANCE
When they reconvened at just before 9:00 they took on the controversial Excessive Use of Services Ordinances that was before them for a second reading. This is the ordinance that will permit charging "lodging establishments
" - hotels and motels - a fee when certain thresholds of calls for service are exceeded. This, of course, is just the latest club Righeimer intends to use to beat the operators of "problem motels
" into submission - or out of town. It surprises nobody who has been watching this process, particularly when Righeimer has previously openly said he wanted to help the owners to reach a more realistic idea of the value of their properties so they would be receptive to selling them at a reasonable price! You may recall that he told folks at one council meeting that we might have to buy up some of those properties then sell them at a loss on the open market. That means his developer-buddies could snatch them up at below market prices and build high-density housing units!
NOBODY SPOKE IN SUPPORT OF IT
Nineteen (19) people spoke to this issue during the public comments segment, many of whom were owners, operators or aligned with some of the "problem motels
". From the comments they made it was clear that they understood exactly what was happening to them and a couple lawyers in their group, including Winston Wang
of the Taiwan Hotel and Motel Association, made it clear that there were legal options ahead. Not a single person rose to speak in favor of this scheme. I found it interesting that a lawyer from the ACLU stepped up and expressed concern.
Several residents addressed this plan, including Jean Forbath
- a legend in Costa Mesa charitable circles. She expressed concern that some of these motels under siege were, in fact, homes to families that might be forced out on the streets. Others were concerned about what appeared to be the discriminatory nature of the ordinance and predicted more legal troubles for The City. The public comments segment ended more than an hour later.
SO MUCH FOR THE NEW RIGHEIMER!
Then the council members began their debate, and it went round and round. Some members told stories of their ride-alongs with inspectors, indicating they were "appalled
" (Righeimer) at what they found. During one little rant Righeimer looked squarely at some of the operators in the audience and told them, "We will not tell you how to run your properties, but we will charge you the fee for excessive service!
" He then went on to say, "If you're getting 400-500 calls for service I really do want you out of business!
" Can't get much clearer than that, can you?
DISCOURAGING CALLS AND STONE WALLS
Leece and Genis echoed some of the concerns expressed by other speakers - that this ordinance would discourage legitimate calls for police or fire service and could result in someone being hurt - or worse. Genis complained about not getting information she needed from staff. She said she'd been "stonewalled
" and told by "the 5th floor
" that she didn't need that information for more than a week. This is more than a little distressing, since she probably does the best analysis of complex issues of anyone currently on the dais.
MARGINAL LEGAL STAFF WORK
, peeved at the way things were going, read the definition of "nuisance
" into the record. I'm not sure why, because that didn't seem to be the issue. Eventually, the male majority carried the day on a 3-2 vote. I was disappointed, once again, by what appeared to be shoddy staff work by the city attorney, Elena Gerli
. She seemed ill-prepared to answer some obvious questions.
LEGAL FEES QUESTIONED
Finally, at 10:50 p.m., we began to hear the Consent Calendar items! Each of the five Warrants had been pulled and each was discussed individually. Each time the legal fees were a main point of concern by one or more speakers. Tamar Goldmann
, Greg Thunnel
and Anna Vrska
asked many relevant questions and made pointed comments. Each was passed on 5-0 votes.
Items 8, 9 and 10 - all tract maps for new developments - were heard as a group and passed, 5-0.
CONTRACT PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Item 13, the use of contract project management for a major construction project, was briefly discussed and passed, 5-0.
EXTENDING IT LEADERSHIP
Item 14, the extension of Interim Information Director and Consultant Contracts were also briefly discussed and passed, 5-0.
ONLY FIVE SPEAKERS REMAINED
At 11:25 we finally got to hear from those five people who were carried over in Public Comments. We don't know the actual number who got shuffled to the end because Righeimer didn't tell us. I know of at least one who, once again, had to leave before he had a chance to speak because he uses public transportation. Chris McEvoy
wondered about the threshold for vandalism prosecution and alluded to probable Brown Act violations by council members while on the Planning Commission. Suzanne Shaw
spoke about a city tree that needed to be replaced but she would be charged $700 to do it. And, she was VERY
angry about the splitting of the Public Comments and waited all that time to tell the council just how she felt. Can't blame her. Robin Leffler
also complained about the split comments and challenged Righeimer's comment about the CMPD being fully staffed. Greg Thunnel questioned our use of Jones Day as a law firm, mentioning that they took Detroit into bankruptcy.
IT'S GOING TO BE A LONG, LONG YEAR....
Finally, at 11:40 p.m., we adjourned! If the first meeting of the year is any indication of things to come, it's going to be a very, very long year.
Labels: CMPD, Costa Mesa Homeless, Costa Mesa Senior Center, Excessive Use Of Services, Jim Righeimer, Metro Point, Sandra Genis, Steve Mensinger, Tom Hatch, Wendy Leece