Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Old Guard Leads New Senior Commission

At the first meeting of the brand new Costa Mesa Senior Commission this morning, two long time Senior Center activists were selected by their peers to head the commission.  Ernie Feeney was elected as Chair of the commission and Stella Adkins was chosen as Vice-Chair.
Chair Ernie Feeney
Vice Chair Stella Adkins
Without judging these choices, I will tell you that I found myself intrigued that none of the other three commissioners, Janet Lee Krochman, Kirk Bauermeister and John McGlinn - each of whom has very significant leadership experience in their backgrounds - were even nominated.  It's going to be very interesting to see how this shakes out, particularly since the commission now MUST be guided by the Brown Act rules of decorum.  Experience in the management of complicated programs and processes would certainly have been helpful.  We'll see...
 Member Janet Lee Krochman
 Member Dr. Kirk Bauermeister
 Member John McGlinn
City Clerk Brenda Green swore-in the five members of the commission - which will probably end up being seven by the time the next meeting rolls around in May, then Feeney and Adkins were elected.
Two members of the public spoke during the Public Comment segment of the meeting.  Sue Healy expressed concern about the availability of the Albert Dixon Foundation funds for senior programs.   Corrine Stover spoke about the sense of "belonging", and mentioned the Senior Roundtable.
Recreation Manager Travis Karlen gave a thumbnail presentation on The Brown Act, discussing the complications of a quorum being accidentally formed if three or more of the commissioners show up at the same event.  If that's the case, only two may speak on the issue, otherwise the Brown Act is violated.  He also explained that, while the public may address an issue NOT on the published agenda during Public Comments, the commission may NOT vote or debate the issue.  It must be officially placed on the agenda of a future meeting.  He explained that all meetings must be officially posted 72 hours in advance.  He also emphasized that NO member may speak "on behalf" of the commission - EVER!
The Commission agreed to agendize a discussion of the Senior Serv program for a future meeting.  They also agreed that a discussion of the Senior Advisory Committee should take place next time, to lay out the ground rules for the relationship between the Commission and that Committee.  There was also a discussion of  the Senior Roundtable, which was described as a long-standing "discussion group", where folks gather to chat about issues, sometimes over a meal.

Karlen gave a short PowerPoint presentation (now available for viewing online HERE) on the organization structure so folks would know where the Senior Commission fell in that organization, and the relationship of the Recreation staff that operates the Senior Center. (click on the image to enlarge)

He also introduced Yvette Aguilar, Senior Center and Program Administrator, who is on her second day on the job.  She reports to Karlen and will be in charge of all operations, programs and staff at the Senior Center.
Yvette Aguilar
During his report to the Commission Karlen discussed the Albert Dixon Foundation.  He reminded us that the City CANNOT accept funds from the Foundation, so he's been in touch with the Costa Mesa Foundation, which may act as a conduit for funds requested from the Albert Dixon Foundation.  He has apparently spoken with Mike Scheafer, the President of the Albert Dixon Foundation Board, who wants to work with The City to find a way to fund Senior Programs in the City.  A brief discussion of that process - something the Commission will have to flesh out in the future, took place.  Apparently, seniors seeking funding for a program from the Albert Dixon Foundation will have to have that issue vetted by City Staff, then approved for request by the Commission.  This seems to be a cumbersome process, particularly since the Commission only meets every other month.  It will take some baby steps in this process to see how it's actually going to work.  And, Feeney wanted to know exactly how much money is left in the Foundation coffers.  Karlen did not have that number immediately available.

During Commissioner Comments, most had very little left to talk about, having discussed specific issues during the meeting.  Feeney was the exception, as she presented a laundry list of issues.
  • She was concerned that, after six months since the hand-off from the previous corporation, the same old telephone greeting was still on the system.  It turns out that the old Senior Corporation has, for some reason, refused to provide a code to enable the new organization to modify the message until the entirely new phone system is installed.  
  • She asked Karlen for a hard-copy of his Power Point presentation.
  • She wondered about how The Chronicle - the monthly Senior Center newsletter - is being distributed, and could additional copies be produced and place in doctors offices, etc.
  • She was concerned that Senior Center employees don't yet have extension numbers.
  • And, finally, she expressed concern that the Bus Driver was driving on the Freeway, which she says upsets some members.
The meeting was adjourned to the next one on May 12th at 9:00 a.m.

A few thoughts about this meeting.
  • I'm glad I attended this first meeting and expect to attend others in the future.
  • There were only 13 members of the public in the audience - a much smaller group than was hoped-for.
  • This is going to be a BIG adjustment for members of the Commission and members of the Senior Center.  The process required to be followed as a City Commission will sometimes seem like watching sap run and I wonder if some of the folks will have the patience necessary to work within this process.
  • It's going to be interesting to see how the interrelationship of the Commission, the Senior Advisory Committee and the Roundtable are blended.  I have my fingers crossed for that process.
  • It's going to be a real test for the City Staff, headed up by Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau and Karlen, to provide sufficient direction for the Commission to keep it from running amok.
  • It's going to be VERY interesting to see how the coordination of the Senior Commission, the Albert Dixon Foundation Board and the Costa Mesa Foundation shakes out.
Steve Smith wanted me to remind you all that there is a meeting of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees at 6:00 p.m. at District Headquarters, 2985 Bear Street, Costa Mesa, 92626.  He's got a burr under his blanket about what he feels is inappropriate spending and hopes folks will turn out for the meeting.  You can read his latest blog entry on it HERE.

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Anonymous Steve Smith said...

Geoff: Thanks for posting the notice of the meeting tonight. It is much appreciated.

Someone needs to keep public officials honest. You do it, I do it and so do several others. The burr under my blanket is not about spending. As I noted in my post, though there were some small spending issues, but there were also some deliberate attempts to save taxpayer dollars, such as one trustee who ate breakfast at a Target store for about half of what her colleagues spent.

The review was conducted to keep public servants honest - to ensure that travel tax dollars are not spent frivolously as has happened in the past.

The review is a small part of a larger issue, one that I have been raising for years, that is, a lack of consistency in spending. There is no written travel spending policy - no guidelines whatsoever. That may be fine for the private sector, but these are hard-earned tax dollars and property owners deserve better. And if anyone has made the connection between these smaller spending issues and the big bucks for, say, construction, congratulations.

Finally, it was perhaps fortuitous that I conducted the review because I discovered that, according to public expense receipts, the supt., whose compensation is about $300,000 per year, does not live in the district. He lives in Long Beach.

Again, thanks for the notice.

3/10/2015 05:57:00 PM  

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