Saturday, September 05, 2015

Community Leader Frank Forbath Passes Away

AN ICON PASSES
It is with great sadness that I write tonight to let you know that the family of community activist Frank Forbath has advised me that he passed away this week at 90 years of age.  He was surrounded by his family, including Jean, his loving wife of 58 years, his seven children and most of his 15 grand children, when he died at home in the early afternoon on Wednesday, September 2nd from prostate cancer.  According to family sources, a proper obituary will appear in the Daily Pilot soon and no services have been scheduled at this time.  In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made in his name to:
National Far​m Workers Ministry, P.O Box 10645, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27605


AN INDELIBLE IMPRINT
Through their outstanding compassionate activism  - most notably through the creation of Share Our Selves 45 years ago -  Frank and his wife, Jean, have left an indelible imprint on our community and all of Orange County.  Despite his illness Frank continued to influence issues in the city - most recently speaking out against the current plans to demolish the Neighborhood Community Center and create a new library in its place.

AN OUTSTANDING CAREER
Frank Forbath was an engineer by training and profession.  He held a B.A degree in physics and math from UCLA and a Master's Degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University.  Frank served as a shipboard Naval Officer in World War II.  He held management positions in many of the iconic companies in Southern California, including Hughes Aircraft and Northrop and held engineering positions at the Instrument Division of American Optical and the RAND Corporation.  He has been the President of FJFCo and Harbor Scientific and holds several US and International patents.  And those were just his day jobs!

A FULL LIFE
Frank and Jean have lived in Costa Mesa for more than 53 years, raised seven successful, well-educated children,  have been loving grandparents to fifteen grandchildren and still found time to perform a level of community service that would be hard to match.  This short video clip will give you an idea of that dedication to the community.


CONDOLENCES
We at A Bubbling Cauldron extend our deepest condolences to the Forbath family, to the staff and those served by Share Our Selves, and to the community as well, on the loss of this fine man.  His was certainly a life well-lived and he will be missed.

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I Agree With The Mayor... But...

MENSINGER ON PROP. 47
Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger has a commentary published in the Daily Pilot this evening which they titled, "Repeal initiative that is putting criminals back on our streets", HERE, and refers to Proposition 47, the ill-conceived measure camouflaged as the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act".

LOOK OUT BELOW!
Hold onto your seats, dear readers... I actually agree with Mayor Mensinger on this issue!  Check the sky... you may see pigs flying!

A TERRIBLE BIT OF LAW
Prop. 47 has been a disaster.  The result of this calamitous bit of legislation is more crime, reduced sentences and reduced sentences for already-incarcerated crooks.  Crime is up over 40% in Costa Mesa and most California cities are experiencing similar increases.

OOPS... SHOULDA STOPPED SOONER
Mensinger was rocking along in his commentary, with me nodding in agreement, until he wrote this:
"As someone who regularly walks the streets of our great city, I know there is no such thing as victimless crimes."  He should have quit while he was ahead.  Most legal authorities acknowledge that several forms of crime can accurately described as "victimless" - prostitution, sodomy and gambling, for example.  See HERE.  The fact that he walks our streets is completely irrelevant to the important issue being discussed in his commentary and his opinion that there are "no victimless crimes" is not only irrelevant, but incorrect.

WHAT A CROCK!
As I continued to read his commentary I was now a little more on guard for curious statements, so when I came across this one a couple paragraphs later, I was prepared.  He said: "I fully support our rank-and-file police officers and want them to have the tools they need to get criminals off the streets and keep our communities safe."  I was prepared, but not prepared to be as angry as I am for that self-serving, manipulative bit of bilge!

SUPPORTS?  REALLY?
If Steve Mensinger "fully supports" the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department, he:

(1) Would not have conspired with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer to concoct a bogus staffing level that resulted in the gutting of the once-proud department.  The result was the elimination of the Narcotics Squad - a profit center and major crime deterrent, the diminishing of the Detective Bureau and Gang Squad and elimination of the K-9 unit.

(2) Would not have participated in creating such a toxic atmosphere for police officers that more than 50 departed in a very short time to other venues or earlier than anticipated retirements.

(3) Would not have concurred with the policy of not recruiting officers to back fill vacancies on a timely basis - the process was delayed for months - which has put us so far behind the curve that it will take years to be back to strength with experienced officers.

(4) Would not have supported the dismantling of the A.B.L.E. helicopter program - a valuable force multiplier and the benchmark program other municipalities emulated.

(5) Would not perpetuate the demoralizing of the men and woman of the CMPD by continuing the bogus lawsuit against them.

(6) Would not have put potholes before public safety during his tenure on the City Council.

A STRANGE SITUATION
Mayor Mensinger pontificates about how he "meets with people" as he wanders the streets in the early morning hours, or congregates with them at City Hall one Sunday afternoon each month, hearing their problems and seeking solutions, so it's interesting to note that the nexus of his concern about Prop. 47 and the damage it is causing in our communities appears to be a contact he had with a woman who recently moved to our city from Colorado and who contacted him to complain about the homeless folks being fed in Wilson Park.  This was not one of the long-term residents who have, for years, brought public safety issues to him at the proper forum - the City Council meetings.  It's just very strange...

GIVE THE CMPD MORE TOOLS
I agree with Mayor Mensinger that we need to do more to reduce crime in our city.  We need to give new Police Chief Rob Sharpnack and his team more manpower and tools - like the ones he took away from them - so they can do the job we expect of them.

PROP. 47 MUST GO
I also agree that Prop. 47 needs to be repealed, even though that would mean more criminals back in jail - where they belong - and not prowling our neighborhoods.

PURE POLITICAL POSTURING
We are fourteen months from an election that can change the atmosphere in our city - where neighborhoods are not sold out to developer buddies and where public safety receives proper support from the elected leaders in this city.  Mayor Mensinger knows that - his council seat is up for grabs - so we can expect to see much more of his political posturing like the commentary in question before the polls close in November, 2016.
 

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Friday, September 04, 2015

A Short, Busy Week Ahead

MAKES MY HEAD HURT!
Next week will be a busy one in Costa Mesa.  Following the Labor Day holiday Monday we will have several very important meetings facing us.  Here's a quick rundown on those meetings for your schedule-planning.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2015
The Costa Mesa Senior Commission meets at the Costa Mesa Senior Center beginning at 9:00 a.m.  You can read the agenda for that meeting HERE.  Among the items to be discussed are:
Chronicle Contest Selection
Computer Classes
Bus Reservations
Senior Advisory Committee.
Click on those titles for the staff reports.
The Costa Mesa City Council and the Costa Mesa Planning Commission will hold a Joint Study Session beginning a 5:00 p.m. at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park).  This venue is different in anticipation of a larger crowd.  Two items are on the agenda, HEREThey are:

(1) Proposed Land Use Alternative For the Year 2015-2025 General Plan Update, Including The Fairview Developmental Center (2501 Harbor Boulevard) and the Los Angeles Times (1375 Sunflower Avenue) Sites.

(2) Proposed Amendments To The Westside And SOBECA Urban Plans.

If you plan to attend, a peek at those staff reports will be helpful to you.  The Fairview Developmental Center and Los Angeles Times properties have been added to this discussion.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2015
Orange Coast College Expansion Meeting
The Coast Community College District will hold a public meeting on September 9, 2015 on the modified Orange Coast College Vision 2020 Facilities Master Plan (proposed project). This meeting will include a presentation of the project by staff and an opportunity for the public to make comments.  The meeting will be held at the OCC campus at the Library Classroom 112 at 6:00 p.m.  Free parking will be available in Lots D & E off of Merrimac.

You can read the eleven (11) page revised Vision 2020 Facilities Master Plan (revision 1) July 2015 document HERE

If you REALLY want to get into this issue, the entire Vision 2020 Facilities Master Plan Recirculated Program EIR - all 550 pages of it - can be viewed HERE.

And, if you REALLY, REALLY love numbers, the entire EIR Apendices - 4,754 pages - can be viewed HERE

The PDF does not provide a table of contents but I have listed the Appendices and there starting and ending pages which are as Follows:

Appendix A – NOP/Initial Study (page 1 – 91) and Comment Letters (pages 97-126)

Appendix B – Air Quality and GHG Emissions Calculations (pages 127 – 1378)

Appendix C – Biological Resources Letter Report (pages 1379 – 1434)

Appendix D – Cultural Reports – Part 1 (pages 1435 – 1580)

Dudek letter on:  Negative Phase I Findings for the CCCD Vision 2020 Plan, Orange Coast College Project, Orange County, CA (Pages 1437 – 1446)
Historic Resources Technical Report – Jan Ostashay, Principal, Ostashay & Associates Consulting, Long Beach, CA (Pages 1447 – 1555)

Paleontological Resource Survey – Paleo Solutions, Monrovia, CA (Pages 1557 – 1580)

Appendix D – Cultural Reports Part 2 (pages 1581 – 3457)

            Historic Resource Report – Page & Turnbull, Los Angeles, CA (pages 1583 – 3457)
Appendix E – Hazards Assessment – (pages 3459 – 4180)

Appendix F – Noise Calculations – (pages 4181 – 4188)

Appendix G – Traffic Impact Analysis, Linscott, Law & Greenspan, Irvine, CA – (pages 4189 – 4754)

Just so you know, I DO NOT plan to read those documents over the weekend, but I plan to attend to hear the presentations and concerns by residents and city staffers. (click on map to expand)
HAPPY HOLIDAY TO YOU ALL
Have a wonderful end-of-summer Labor Day holiday.  We'll be back next week, ready to go on your behalf.

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Thursday, September 03, 2015

Costa Mesa Now In The Affordable Housing Business

FORECLOSED ON CIVIC CENTER BARRIO HOUSING CORP. PROPERTIES...
By now most of you have read the Daily Pilot article, HERE, or the City of Costa Mesa press release HERE, announcing the fact that The City has gone into the affordable housing business by foreclosing on 22 units on the Westside developed and managed - or mismanaged - by the Civic Center Barrio Housing Corporation.

...FOR THE OUTSTANDING DEBT
The City acquired these properties for the amount of the loan and fees outstanding on this project, $2.38 million, and we are told that the Public Services department will take over maintenance of the units until a property management company can be identified.  Read a recent staff report on this issue HERE.

SHOULD THE CITY BE A LANDLORD?
Unanswered are a few questions that are bouncing around in my skull.  For example, is it really a good idea for The City to be a landlord for affordable housing?  I understand why this money was loaned to Civic Center Barrio way back then and I understand why it was necessary to foreclose on the properties, but I'm not sure I want the city to be a landlord.  Perhaps a better path is to sell then to an organization with experience managing affordable housing.  Then, again, that's what we thought we were getting with Civic Center Barrio.

HOW LONG?
How long will we, The City, be managing these properties?  We presume that Mesa Management - Mayor Mensinger's employer - will NOT be the management company.  I wonder if Arnel will be a bidder for that job - because of the mayors close association with that company?

REPLACE WITH HIGH-DENSITY HOUSING?
Is there a plan afoot, now that we own the properties, to scrub those lots and sell them to the highest bidder for more high-density housing, similarly to the approach being taken with so-called "problem motels" in the city?

WE'LL BE WATCHING...
It's going to be interesting to watch this play out over the next couple years.  And, yes, we WILL be watching.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

It Began Positive, But Ended Negative

SHORT, BUT MEMORABLE, MEETING
The Costa Mesa City Council met again last night in a meeting that lasted uncharacteristically briefly - we were out of there at 9:30.  However, it was not without its moments, so let us begin...

ANOTHER LAWSUIT SETTLEMENT
Right out of the chute Contract City Attorney Tom Duarte told us that, during the closed session that preceded the council meeting, the council agreed to settle a claim with Myra Bailey for $150,000 to settle a lawsuit.  The vote was 4-1, with Gary Monahan voting no.

DEVELOPMENT HEARING CONTINUED
We then were told, as we had heard earlier in the afternoon, that the developer involved in the plan to replace a commercial building at 440 Fair Drive with 28 residential units - New Business #1 - had asked for the item to be continued to September 15th.  It seems he wants to engage the community in some outreach efforts to assuage the angst that was obvious and palpable in the College Park community.  Although provided the opportunity to speak to this issue during Public Comments, nobody did.

A WORTHY RECIPIENT!
A highlight of the meeting for me was the presentation of the Mayor's Award to Costa Mesa icon, Hank PanianBrad Long of CMTV prepared an excellent summary of Hanks life in Costa Mesa - narrated by Hank himself.  I sat there, hearing about his life and his outstanding contributions to our community - a life-long teacher at Orange Coast College; was part of the original creation of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District; was instrumental in the establishment of what is now the Mesa Water District; was a member of TWO Charter committees a generation apart.. and on and on.

GRACIOUS, AS ALWAYS
Following the presentation Hank took great pains to thank all those folks along the way who helped him in his community service and, in particular, his wife Barbara, with whom he will celebrate 62 years of married life in November.  Hank Panian is certainly a man who has made a difference in our community.

PUBLIC COMMENTS
The Public Comments segment included presentations by fourteen (14) people and the subjects were wide-ranging.

RUSSELL
Richard Russell went on a three minute rant about the recent newspaper articles concerning the Chris Lanzillo affair, misrepresenting the facts and demanding answers.  Funny, he didn't get around to asking Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer if, since the judge threw out the charges involving him, will he and his wife drop their civil lawsuit against the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department.  Must have been an oversight.

RAMOS
Once and maybe future council candidate Lee Ramos made a brief showing at the council meeting and spoke about the brand new Car Wash on East 17th Street and thanked the council for permitting it to exist.(!)  He then complimented councilman Monahan for a recent fundraiser at his bar.  Yep, it was pandering time for Old Lee.  He left shortly thereafter.

LAVERE
John LaVere, a 30 year resident who works at Lions Park complained about the locked bathrooms at that park, and the lack of picnic tables because he's involved with children in the park and they need restrooms.

LEFFLER
Robin Leffler observed that the 5:45 start time for council meetings is inconvenient for many residents and requested the start time be moved back to 6:00.  Mayor Mensinger blurted out that the meeting starts at 6:00 - which is NOT true.. the posted time for commencement of the regular meeting is - at his request - 5:45.

KOKEN
Terry Koken returned after a few months off to regale the council with another of his pithy observations.  He punctuated them by presenting to the three men on the council a booklet, which he told us was entitled, "How to extract your head from your butt".  I think the council got his drift.

PARKER
Ann Parker stepped up to, once again, express concern for the sober living situation in the city.  She spoke about the recent problems at Heller Park and the many sober living residents terrorizing parts of the Eastside.  She described having had a lighted cigarette butt flung at her during an encounter.  She also expressed concern that Solid Landings on West 19th Street is operating as before.

MOONEY
Margaret Mooney expressed concern about the City not having Supportive Housing and about the locked Lions Park bathrooms.

REFAKES
Beth Refakes told us - and showed us images - of the results of the recent ball gown drive for the 1/5 Marine Battalion at Camp Pendleton.  She said the contributions by Costa Mesa residents were really appreciated.

PERRY
Chuck Perry rose to praise the council for the recent pavement on Red Hill and for the residential development on the corner of Tustin and Ogle on the Eastside.

HUMPHREY
Jay Humphrey complained about the misinformation about the initiative petition being circulated and asked that it stop.

SPADONI
Mary Spadoni bemoaned the loss of 8 police officers in 9 days nationwide and criticized the first speaker - Russell.  She encouraged everyone to get behind our police department.

AHLF
Karl Ahlf spoke of upcoming meetings on the Poseidon desal plan, and also complained about the unsafe conditions at Lions Park because of the homeless folks.

LESTER
Sue Lester spoke strongly about the growing homeless problem, explaining first-person experiences with "tweekers" recently.  She observed that Prop. 47 is causing all kinds of problems because the dopers know they will not be incarcerated, only cited.  She said she's afraid to ride her bicycle in certain areas of town because of this infestation. (my word)

GRAHAM
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Graham spoke about the impending dismantlement of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant and suggested something be done about it.  Of course, there is NOTHING our city council can do about it.  He suggested that, rather than have Southern California Edison pass along the estimated $4-5 billion cost of dismantlement, they should pay someone to take it off their hands and refurbish it.  Sounds naive...

COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS
FOLEY
Katrina Foley, during Council Member Comments, spoke of upcoming fundraising events and of the generosity of the Segerstrom Family for their contributions to our community.  She asked for a report on summer recreation activities, including participation.  She acknowledged the presence of new Public Information Officer, Tony Dodero, in the audience.
GENIS
Sandra Genis asked for an update on Group Homes and spoke of the upcoming meeting at Orange Coast College at which their modified Vision 2020 plan will be address on Wednesday, September 9th.  I'll write more about that later in the week.  She also mentioned the passing of Russell Yamaga, the man responsible for the entry garden at City Hall and asked the Mayor to close the meeting in his honor - he didn't.

MONAHAN
Gary Monahan almost had nothing to say, but got riled-up by earlier speakers.  He addressed what he called the "Red Light or Stop Light Initiative" brought up by Jay Humphrey, and instructed Jay to "stick to the facts", which, of course, Jay had done.  It's VERY obvious that the male majority on the council is REALLY angry about the initiative and seem willing to participate in spreading misinformation about it.  He then went off on a rant about homeless, citing all the hard work the Homeless Task Force has done.  Of course, that organization doesn't exist any longer - somebody should remind him of that.

RIGHEIMER
Jim Righeimer said he was going to speak on only one subject - San Onofre - and began by saying, "I do a lot of development around the country", then complained that nobody will bring business to California.  His exact words were, "Nobody will bring employees to this state, period!"  He then continued with "People have to take personal responsibility"... somehow he thought that was related to the closing of a nuclear power plant!

MENSINGER
Steve Mensinger used most of his time to rant about the homeless situation, telling us that "a month and a half ago a resident called me about Wilson Park - she had recently moved from out of state into a condo next to the park and was concerned about the transients in the park".  He got in a little promo for the Costa Mesa Not-So-Public-Square Facebook site - you know, the one that says everyone is welcome, but blocks many residents and ousts those who don't toe the party line.  Mensinger is a frequent participant on the site.

BEING PROPOSITIONED
He complained about Prop. 47, indicating it created a revolving door  among criminals.  He said the Homeless fall into three categories - (1) those in need; (2) criminals and (3) mentally ill.  He described a recent meeting with county officials at which he and his entourage expressed the need for more "resources".  He said, "We can't police ourselves out of this."  He told us that the about-to-be- defunct Costa Mesa Motor Inn and another nearby problem motel are "incubators for crime".  In an amusing story, he described having received a complaint about the Vagabond Inn, calling Assistant CEO Rick Francis to meet him there and, upon arrival, being propositioned by a prostitute.  He then called Police Chief Rob Sharpnack to the podium to address the issue.

SHARPNACK
Sharpnack echoed Mensinger by saying, "We can't arrest ourselves out of this".  He spoke of the mentally ill and the social workers that accompany officers occasionally.  He spoke of the new bike patrols that will make a difference and, vaguely, about undercover operations.  He told us the Patrol Force is at capacity and that, later this month, they will promote several officers and begin to re-staff specialty units as the staffing levels rise.  He also spoke of the impact of Prop. 47, which needs to be fixed at the state level.

STUPID MENSINGER QUOTES
Mensinger took the ball back and said, " All of us have to be part of the solution.", which might be OK in a football huddle, but didn't tell us just what our part might be.  Are we all supposed to start packing guns and helping the cops enforce the laws?  He then said something that might have been the stupidest thing he uttered all night, "You can't expect 200 police officers to solve it."  What a crock!  This city has NEVER had 200 cops and, right now, the command staff would just be happy to have half that number ready and able to report to work!  One must wonder if the mayor ever thinks before he speaks - most of the time it appears not to be the case!  You get the impression that he's not really paying attention most of the time.

LETOURNEAU
Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau, standing in for absent CEO Tom Hatch, told us that the Dog Park is out of commission and undergoing renovation this week; the Crime Map Feature is back operating and Fire Station #4 has had the ground breaking for the renovations there.

CONSENT CALENDAR
Items 9 and 11 were pulled from the Consent Calendar, so the rest passed without discussion.

SMOKING LOUNGES AND VAPING
Public Hearing #1, the amendments to the Municipal Code regarding Vaping and Smoking Lounges, was up next.  After a brief staff report Genis asked about the health issues with e-vaping.  Amy Buck from the Orange County Health Care Agency stepped up and gave a short, quick briefing on the dangers of vaping and hookah, after which Mensinger observed "Well, that answers the health issue."  The presentation was so quick, and the slides used for information purposes were on the screen for such a short time that I couldn't capture any of the images.  Foley expressed concern about locations of smoking lounges and vaping sites regarding schools.  Only one person stepped up to speak on this issue - Ann Parker.  She wondered why we just cannot ban them, period.  She observed that the only hookah parlor in town now - the others closed down - is adjacent to the Tower On 19th - the senior living facility formerly known as Bethel Towers.  Not a single supporter of vaping or hookah spoke.  In fact, there were few folks in the audience for this issue.  The staff will bring back more details about school locations for the second reading.  The first reading passed, 5-0.

CAPITAL ASSET NEEDS ORDINANCE
Public Hearing #2, the first reading of the Capital Asset Needs Ordinance, which codifies the current policy of earmarking 6.5% of the General Fund budget for capital expenditures in two segments - 5% and 1.5% - generated some heated discussion.  In a nutshell, Foley and Genis seemed concerned about the need to codify this into the Municipal Code, which would then require a 4/5 majority to overturn part of it.  Genis was concerned about the fact that, for the past several years, we have not had a balanced budget, yet we would require this money to be used ONLY for these purposes.

STUPID RIGHEIMER QUOTES
Mensinger and Righeimer strongly supported it.  Righeimer got off some great lines during the discussion.  He said,"It's six and a half percent of the budget.  It's not a big deal!"  Well, that would be more than $7 million this time around, so it really IS a big deal!  In response to Genis' observation that this seemed not very conservative, he said, "We have money gushing into this city like a fire hose.", totally ignoring what happened in 2008 and 2009, when that fire hose went limp when sales tax revenue dropped like a rock!  He went on to blame any fiscal problems on the fact that we had more employees back then.  In response to Genis observation that by tying up this money we would lose flexibility in municipal management, he said, "Too much flexibility is not what we need."  He made my head hurt!

YEP...
Foley, during her comments, described this as simply a political ploy, and that the ordinance is unnecessary, but she supports the concept and would prefer it remain as a policy.

SPLIT VOTE - WHAT A SURPRISE!
When the vote was taken it passed the first reading, 3-2, with Foley and Genis voting NO.  We took a 10 minute break and began again at 8:15.

VACATION OF RIGHTS-OF-WAY
Public Hearings #3 and #4, which involved vacation of road right-of-way and flowage right-of-way were quickly dispatched on 5-0 votes, taking only 20 minutes between them.

PARK FEES ON NEW APARTMENTS
Old Business #1, which was the second reading of the changes to the Municipal Code regarding the imposition of Park Fees on Apartment developments for the first time, also got a quick hearing and passed, 5-0.

LEINART CASH STAYS IN GENERAL FUND
New Business #2 - #1 had been continued - was the question of what to do with the nearly $25,000 in fees paid to the City by Matt Leinart Flag Football for field use last year.  Katrina Foley brought this forward for discussion, feeling that the money should be split between the two high schools for uniforms or equipment instead of going into the General Fund.  By this time Monahan had disappeared...  After a short discussion two speakers addressed this issue.  Teresa Drain reminded the council that Matt Leinart Flag Football had recently been caught in a similar "misunderstanding" in Irvine and had to pay the full amount - something like $60,000.  She opined that the "misunderstanding" was really just flat-out lying.  Wendy Leece suggested this whole thing reeked from the beginning and smacked of a back-room deal.  In the end, Foley withdrew her request and the money will remain in the General Fund.  No vote was taken, but Genis asked for a copy of a letter mentioned by Foley that had been circulated among booster groups during that time frame.

VOTING DELEGATES NAMED
New Business #3, the appointment of voting delegates to the Annual California League of Cities Conference was quickly dispatched, with Mensinger being designated as the voting delegate and Genis being the alternate, on a 4-0 vote.

APPEAL FEE REIMBURSEMENT REQUESTS
The final bit of agendized business was New Business #4, the request for reimbursement of appeal fees by Ann Parker and Carrie Renfro for two successful appeals recently.  Parker's was an appeal to the Planning Commission of a decision by the Zoning Administrator on the Solid Landings facility on West 19th Street.  The Planning Commission upheld the appeal and the City Council confirmed it when the applicant appealed that decision.  Renfro's was for the proposed Farmer's Market at a church parking lot at the corner of Orange Avenue and Bay Street.  She appealed the Planning Commission decision to the City Council and they found in her favor.

IGNORING PRECEDENT
Because there is precedent for returning the fees for similar appeals, it seemed like a slam dunk, right?  Wrong!  From the very beginning it was clear that Righeimer and Mensinger were NOT in favor of returning fees.  In fact, he was so adamant about it that Righeimer actually misrepresented the facts of Parker's issue, claiming she could have asked "any council member" to bring the appeal forward without paying fees.  In her case, that was NOT true!  When Parker presented her facts to Planning Commissioner Stephan Adranian he said he would appeal the issue, but then backed out at the VERY last minute, which seemed curious at the time.  Parker, having NO alternative, dashed to City Hall and filed her appeal paperwork with barely minutes to spare - and paid the $690 fee.  Her appeal presentation was powerful and factual and was upheld - twice.

DUG DEEP AND GOT NEW INFORMATION
In Renfro's case, she dug and dug and got information from archives the city staff apparently didn't even know existed regarding land use restrictions on the church property, which formed the lynch pin of here argument.  Her appeal of the Planning Commission decision was upheld by the City Council.

COMPROMISE FAILS
After all the discussion - which included the idea of preparing a Municipal Code section to address how to handle successful appeals - and it was clear that Righeimer and Mensinger were NOT voting for full reimbursement,  Foley finally offered a compromise solution - to pay half the fees.  Genis seconded her motion, but the resultant vote was 2-2, which means it failed.  Foley offered to pay each of the women $50.00 toward their fees - in my view a symbolic and pathetic gesture.

VINDICTIVE PAYBACK
Here's my opinion on this subject.  The mayor and mayor pro tem don't much like being told they're making mistakes and, in the case of Parker, she tells them that frequently.  Similarly, Renfro has been a vocal critic on the sober living home issue which infests her neighborhood.  She held a meeting on her lawn many months ago when then-mayor Righeimer spoke to the issue.  I think both men approached this with their minds already made up.  This is just another way to stifle dissent and they used it to make that point.  A couple times Righeimer mentioned that "it's not much money".  Really?  Maybe it's not much to him, but to someone on a fixed income, relying on Social Security, it's a LOT of money.  Of course, it's not surprising that both men have that attitude, since one is presently building a new home and the other, according to reports, is contemplating the same thing.  And, interesting to note, that one of the two recent appeals for which the fee was refunded was a pal of theirs.  Uh, huh...  This was one of the most disgusting displays of vindictiveness and misuse of their power that I've ever seen... and that's saying something!

ANOTHER WAY TO STIFLE DISSENT
And, after the vote was taken and Foley asked staff to come back with some kind of policy/code amendment to make this kind of issue equitable, Righeimer asked that they include an analysis of what our appeal fees actually are.  Earlier he suggested raising them, which would "price out" some potential appellants - another way to stifle dissent.

WE WON'T FORGET, STEVE...
Well, Righeimer is termed out next year, (Oops!  No, he's not - wishful thinking on my part!) but Mensinger is going to be wearing this on his shoulders during his campaign and there will be more than a few of us there to remind him of it.

DELMAR ENTRANCE IMPROVEMENTS
The final two items discussed were Consent Calendar items 9 and 11.  #9 was a discussion of the street improvements at Newport Boulevard and Del Mar.  It took ten minutes - nine minutes longer than necessary, but the council approved it, 4-0.

SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS - AGAIN
Number 11 was the Memorandum of Understanding with the Newport Mesa Unified School District

for the placement of two (2) School Resource Officers in several campuses beginning this school year.  The School District pays for half the cost.  It's been three years since we've been able to provide SROs because of staffing issues.  The issue passed, 4-0.  And we were done...  The Mayor adjourned the meeting, ignoring Genis' request earlier.


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