WHERE TO BEGIN...?
I'm not quite sure how to begin this report from the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night, but I guess I'll just state at the beginning that the relatively short meeting last night - we left at 11 - left me feeling more than a little disappointed and more than a little aghast at what I observed. Let me take it from the top...
Labor negotiator Richard Kreisler
reported that, during a closed session, the council approved a settlement with departed Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce
of $170,225 in exchange for him releasing all claims against the City. You'll recall that he was placed on Administrative Leave in the wake of the now-infamous 60th Anniversary debacle.
CALLING OUT RIGHEIMER
Eleven people spoke during Public Comments (Cindy Black
spoke but hadn't had her name called, so Mayor Jim Righeimer
slammed the door on her comments as she read a list of his developer-oriented campaign contributors) Among the "legal" speakers were: Greg Thunnel
, who lectured the council on manners; James Bridges
spoke against The Charter; Harold Weitzberg
stepped up and addressed in uncharacteristic vague terms the issue covered in Barbara Venezia
's recent column, HERE
. I was disappointed that he chose to address this issue before the City Council, although it was certainly his right.
once again told the council that there needs to be a forensic audit of the 60th Anniversary Celebration issue; Tamar Goldmann
used the "Costa Mayberry" term to describe parking issues around the city; J. Paul Wilson
and Noel Perkins
both expressed concern about the proliferation of sober living homes in the city and, specifically, new ones that are about to open in their Church Street neighborhood. Robin Leffler
attempted to rebut allegations made by Weitzberg, then read Tom Egan's recent letter from the Daily Pilot regarding The Charter. Anna Vrska
read a partial list of legal services and told the council her questions would become part of a Public Records Request and Joy Williams
observed about the water crisis.
During Councilmember comments Sandy Genis
' thoughts included an observation that the City erred by deciding NOT
to televise the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group's candidate forum on October 2nd, HERE
. She agreed with Vrska's thoughts on the legal costs - which have doubled in the past few years - and indicated that our contract with Jones and Mayer calls for an annual review of the performance of our contract legal organization, and suggested such an audit should be done before the election.
LEECE - FINALLY! CMPA NEGOTIATIONS TO BEGIN
said that she, Genis and Gary Monahan
would finally meet on September 19th to begin discussing the labor contract with the Costa Mesa Police Association. She expressed concern about Fireworks and hopes to have available on the meeting scheduled for 9/16 a suggestion for the revision of the Fireworks policy. She also addressed the Group Home issue and suggested that the City was dragging it's feet by not even considering the successful ordinance passed in Orange. She also reminded us of the West Nile Virus problem - a mosquito-born disease that has killed two Orange County Residents. She alerted us to the possible presence of the Asian Tiger Mosquito, too. She also addressed the small turnout at the recent "Great Reach" General Plan meeting, and suggested that all the items intended to be covered at that meeting were not covered at all. And, she mentioned a meeting on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 222 Hanover
to discuss the planned enhancements to Orange Coast College.
MONAHAN ON WEITZBERG
Monahan observed that school is back in session, then complained about Venezia's article on Weitzberg, citing it as the most important thing and was "surprised that nobody had an apology for him.
" That was aimed directly at Genis.
Righeimer muttered about the 60th Celebration and Teresa Drain's comment about a forensic audit, suggesting there was a hole in the process. He then defended the decision to not televise the Eastside forum, but reiterated that he'd pay half the cost to have it covered privately. He alluded to the Ku Klux Klan and the Tea Party. He acknowledged that more than half his campaign contributions come from developers and didn't see anything wrong with it. He addressed the Group Home issue, citing Newport Beach's problems with them to the tune of $3.6 million in legal fees. He said it is the biggest issue in the City today, citing the "concentration" of the homes. Regarding the "legal fees" issue Vrska brought up he said, "If you want lower legal fees you just settle and write checks.
" He then proceeded to tell us that a group home ordinance would generate "the mother of all legal fees
", and that we would be attacked by a "multi-billion dollar industry which wants to keep the honey pot going.
Then it was Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger
's turn. He engaged CEO Tom Hatch
in a discussion about fireworks, telling us that youth sports depends on the revenue from safe and sane fireworks. He said, "I'm one of those guys that love kids.
", implying, I guess, that if you don't support fireworks sales you hate kids. He said, "We get saddled for everything outside the classroom
." Funny, I thought that was part of the whole "parenting" thing. He told us he lives across the street from a Group Home, so he understands about them. He also commented on Weitzberg's comment, stating that he was "horrified
" by the article, stating that it was "the most despicable thing I've ever seen in 30 years in Costa Mesa.
" He said that if the comment attributed to Genis in the article had come from Righeimer the Daily Pilot would be all over it for 6 weeks. Then he looked down at Weitzberg in the audience and said, "Tonight we're all Weitzbergs
". What a vacuous, self-serving buffoon he is!
MICHAEL, CLAIRE AND JERRY
Next up was Hatch and he promptly introduced new Deputy City Clerk Michael Dunn
, who comes to us from Glendale and will be the facilitator of the digitization of records. Hatch also announced that Assistant Director of Development Services Claire Flynn
has returned to duty after a long illness and that contractor Jerry Guarancino
will be staying on and moving to the 5th floor to manage the Group Home part of the code enforcement organization. Guess that plan to move all the code enforcement folks downstairs isn't going to happen. Hard to let go of your own little enforcement group. Hatch told us calls for service at motels are down, but didn't mention that the new ordinance that hammers motel owners if they call for service too many times might have something to do with it.
ONE DISBANDED, FOUR CREATED!
Hatch mentioned the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force and told it he had "blown it up" and replaced it with four individual groups involving 10 or more staffers each. He said the Group Home issue is a high priority and that "the public needs to help them identify problem homes.
" and suggested using the smart phone app, Costa Mesa Connect. He also gave a number to report Group Home issues - 714-754-5328. He mentioned the outsourcing of the jail and, specifically, that all the G4S employees have been hired and most are trained.
LAME, LAME, LAME
Regarding the Eastside Forum, he gave a VERY
lame excuse about why he didn't want to cover it. He said that during the Mesa Verde Community, Inc., forum recently CMTV staffer Dane Bora
was asked by moderator Darnell Wyrick
to assess the appropriateness of a question submitted by an audience member and Bora responded that he didn't think it was an appropriate question. That's an easy issue to solve - just tell the CMTV staff that their role is NOT
to participate in the process, just capture it on television! He used THAT
as an example of why he didn't want to televise the Eastside forum! It's clear that the decision to forego that forum came from elsewhere and he was just grasping at straws for a reason. Shoot, all he had to say was we were not doing it on advice from lawyers. Yet another disappointing experience. Hatch also mentioned a public workshop at the Neighborhood Community Center regarding the future of Talbert Park
, scheduled for September 10th from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
PULLED AND PUSHED
Items 33,7 and 8 were pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion at the end of the meeting.
Public Hearing #1 was the so-called TEFRA hearing on expansion financing for Whittier College of Law in The City. It took less than two minutes - and no staff presentation - for the council to approve it, 5-0.
SANTA ANA/COLLEEN ANNEXATION
Not the case on Public Hearing #2, the second reading of the annexation of the Santa Ana/Colleen island of county land. After a brief staff report - about a minute - Monahan stated that nobody was happy about his compromise of minimum 6,600 square foot lots - a deviation from the city standard of 6,000. He said everybody was beating him up - residents and developers alike - so he was changing his vote to a 6,000 foot minimum. We understood why shortly.
Sixteen (16) people spoke to this issue, including 4 people representing the developer of a chunk of bare land in the
middle of this area. Those included two representatives and the
architect plus former Costa Mesa Director of Economic and Development
Services, including former Senior staffer, Peter Naghavi
, who now consults with developers. The first representative told us he needed the city standard of 6,000 square feet to make his 13-home project work. When asked if ALL the lots would meet the 6,000 square foot standard he paused, then said "most". Uh, huh.... NONE
of the half-dozen residents of the area in question supported the smaller lot size choice. Anna Vrska stepped up and told Righeimer he should get his head out of his developer-buddies' rear ends and look around at the people and hear what they're saying.
NO PROJECT - YET
Righeimer reminded us that there was going to be NO vote on a project last night - only on the annexation and the Property Tax agreement.
PANDERING TO DEVELOPERS?
Wendy Leece said this looked a little like a "Bait and Switch" deal, where the developer tells us one thing, then comes back with an entirely different project that would maximize that 6,000 square foot minimum lot size. There ensued a long discussion about "spot-zoning", "site-specific zoning" and other methods of getting around the complications. At one point Righeimer said, "The problem we have with the reading is that we have to let people know what we're doing.
" There you go! Eventually the Property Tax segment passed, 5-0 and the annexation - with the 6,000 foot lot minimum - passed 3-2, with Genis and Leece voting NO. Afterwards I heard mumblings of lawsuits from the disgruntled about-to-be new Costa Mesans. We took at 10 minute break.
KREISLER AND COIN
When we returned we heard Kreisler discuss the COIN process and then outlined the tentative agreement between The City and the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA) - the so-called miscellaneous employees who answer the phones, type reports, fix the fleet, crunch numbers, review plans, issue permits, program systems, mop the floors, etc. This was the group that included those two hundred who, within the first few weeks of Righeimer's tenure on the council, received layoff notices. Huy Pham
, who took his life by jumping off the City Hall roof, was one of those folks.
You can read the summary of Kreisler's report HERE
. I have, and I listened to his report. In my opinion, the employees were disemboweled with this contract. I get too angry when I write about no raises for the term of the contract, reduced vacation and sick leave plans, more costly benefits, etc., from a group that suffered long and hard through the economic downturn, but hung in there and continued to provide excellent service. Only four residents spoke to this issue and none of them addressed the contract specifically.
disgusting part of this segment was a comment Righeimer made following the presentation. He looked out into the audience and addressed Association President Kelly Vucinic
and the OCEA lawyer and negotiator Don Drozd
and told them that he accepts some responsibility for the past hard feelings - he used the word animous, but he was willing to consider it a "clean slate going forward
". Well, why wouldn't you, Mr. Mayor?! You're getting what you want! You've gutted the contract and demoralized the ENTIRE
city staff. A "clean slate" may ease your conscience, but it won't absolve you from the damage you've done to the city. This was part of the "dismay" last night! Mensinger was equally self-serving when he said, "Without sounding gratuitous, I also want to thank Kelly and Don.
" Well, you schmuck, you ARE
gratuitous! And clueless, to boot!
SECOND REQUIRED HEARING ON 9/16
This item will be heard by the council for the second mandatory time on September 16th, at which time the residents and other interested parties may, once again, address it and the council will likely vote on the issue. At that time I expect we'll be hearing from employees and their representatives about how they feel about the contract.
CART BEFORE THE HORSE
Following that circus we then heard Steve Mensinger's scheme to fund an architect to do something about Fire Stations #1 and #2. No question that both need attention - serious attention. However, as Wendy Leece tried to tell them, this scheme puts the cart before the horse. FIRST
there should be a professional assessment of how many stations we need and where they best might be located. THEN
identify land that might be available and/or plan on how to use existing land for new facilities. How can you expect an architect to plan something without knowing where it will go, for goodness sake. However, logic escaped this process and the council voted, 5-0, to move forward with whatever this plan is.
Then the trailed Consent Calendar items were addressed. Item #3, the Warrant, passed on a 5-0 vote.
Item #7 was the increase in the salary ranges for Reserve Police Officers., including an increase in the starting pay to $35.64 per hour. Captain Rob Sharpnack
represented the CMPD in the discussion. After some discussion about how many vacancies the CMPD has - 26 - and how many candidates we have - 7 currently in the Academy and 4 scheduled for December - out of the blue Monahan said something like, "We just outta bump it up to $38.00
" and, quick as a wink, the council voted on it with that change! A stunned Sharpnack said "we've got a conflict
", but Righeimer just waved him off with some incomprehensible gibberish. It turns out that Monahan's number creates a HUGE
problem with the full-time Police Officer pay scale. I could not help but recall the words written by former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley
when he abruptly left a little over two years ago. Referring to the council majority, he said, in part, "They are in my opinion incompetent, unskilled and unethical."
You can read the post that includes the text of his farewell letter to the men and women of the CMPD HERE
TRAILED PUBLIC COMMENTS
At the end we had a few more Public Comments folks. Jay Humphrey
suggested that the City should televise the Eastside forum, but maybe have a disclaimer at the beginning and end of the tape stating something like "This group does not represent the views of the city." or words to that effect. He also addressed the bogus City Charter.
finished reading her list of Righeimer's developer/appointee campaign contributors.
discussed the "dress donate/swap" for our adopted Marine battalion.
SEE YOU IN A COUPLE HOURS...
Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know this was another long post. Couldn't do it more briefly. See you tonight at the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at 6:00 p.m.
at the Neighborhood Community Center.
Labels: CMCEA, COIN, Dan Joyce, Gary Monahan, Huy Pham, Jim Righeimer, Richard Kreisler, Sandy Genis, Steve Mensinger, Steve Staveley, Wendy Leece