Cops, Critters, Growth And More
AGENDA ADJUSTED FOR TIME
The Costa Mesa City Council met beginning Tuesday night and, as anticipated, stretched into Wednesday morning, even though several items were not discussed. You can read the full agenda HERE. Appointments to Committees was dropped earlier and the final two items on the agenda - Feasibility Study for Lighting and Synthetic Turf and Fingerprinting for Appointees - were shoved off to a future meeting. Gary Monahan was a half-hour late. So, from the top...
MAYOR'S AWARD TO BAUERMEISTER
The meeting opened with yet another Mayor's Award. This time to Dr. Kirk Bauermeister, a long time Costa Mesa resident and bulwark of the Newport Mesa Unified School District. His contributions to our community go well beyond the school district, though. He helped facilitate the last Charter Committee, is currently a member of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee and is on the Senior Commission. His list of accomplishments exceeds the space here to chronicle them.
Public Comments drew sixteen (16) speakers despite Mayor Steve Mensinger's stern warning that that segment of the meeting would stop promptly at 6:40 and the remainder would be trailed to the end of the meeting because we had a full agenda. As it turned out, the last speaker finished at 6:43.
Former Council Candidate Chris McEvoy led off by chiding the council majority, telling them they could avoid criticism if they would just stop making "stupid decisions", citing specifically the recent decision to not use the $1.6 million worth of rescue ambulances for patient transport. He accused Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer of being a political opportunist and closed by cautioning the council about Brown Act violations by using cell phones on the dais.
JAY AND FAIRVIEW PARK
Jay Humphrey mentioned that he expected to hear something from US Fish and Wildlife shortly regarding our stewardship of Fairview Park, then segued into a promo for the petition to protect that park that's being circulated.
TERRY FIGHTS BACK
Terry Koken used his three minutes to retort Righeimer's caustic comments to and about him at the last meeting, observing that he was probably far better educated than Righeimer since he'd finished 3rd grade. He emphasized that comment with "at least I'm smart enough to pour piss out of a boot." He observed that Righeimer's problem is that he doesn't represent the people of Costa Mesa.
Kim Hendricks, commenting on the dust-up about Anna Vrska's "nazi" comment, observed that Dennis Popp, a member of the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee, had used that term to criticize folks that spoke before the committee - and nobody on the dais got excited about it. She also criticized Righeimer for discussing the pay level of Captain Rob Gagne after he spoke before the council, observing "You wouldn't last a day doing his job!" She observed that she didn't "like this kind of leadership that was trying to divide the community.'
A PRIVATE MATTER
Former Council candidate Marshall Krupp appeared and addressed a problem of disappearing trees in the Providence Park neighborhood. It turns out that it's apparently really a problem between him and his Homeowner's Association Board, who had the trees removed by a private contractor.
Karl Ahlf spoke about the need for a Homeless Shelter.
TROUBLE AT BRENTWOOD PARK
John Crawford and his wife, Katie, both spoke about their concerns for safety near their home at Brentwood Park. They cited drug paraphernalia, prowlers late at night, the need for nighttime illumination in the park and the very slow police response times - 2-3 hours.
Doug Vogel (or Vogle, depending on what day it is) started by saying he was "concerned about these meetings every week". Of course, the meetings are NOT every week but, like his Facebook posts, facts seem irrelevant to him. He ranted about unfunded pension liabilities and some guy in a "fancy Hawaiian shirt" circulating petitions just trying to get elected. Obviously, he meant Jay Humphrey. Vogel/Vogle is just the most recent denizen of the Costa Mesa Public Square to surface to cause disruption and distraction. In fact, there was a minor infestation of those folks in the auditorium for awhile last night.
EGGS, MUSEUM AND THE SIGN
Beth Refakes reminded us again about the 1/5 Marines Eggstravaganza - the toy and plastic Easter egg drive that ends Friday, March 18th. She also reminded us that at 9:00 a.m. today, Wednesday, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Heroes Hall Veterans Museum takes place at the Orange County Fair and Event Center. And, she spoke about the new monument sign at the end of the 55 Freeway, which is almost complete.
MARY READS HER LETTER
Mary Spadoni addressed the Crawford's comments, reinforcing their concerns. She then read her letter to CEO Tom Hatch that was delivered to his office that morning regarding the behavior of Planning Commissioners Colin McCarthy and Tim Sesler and demanded a written apology.
Cindy Brenneman addressed Righeimer's rant about the firefighters at length.
Al Melone told a Bark Park story - what a surprise!
CORRECTING THE NAME AND ANONYMITY
Anna Vrska spoke of a letter from the Chamber of Commerce which captioned the "no growth initiative", and demanded that public officials cease from misrepresenting the initiative and henceforth refer to it by the name given to it by the City Attorney. She also complained when Mensinger referred to her by name - she prefers to speak anonymously.
ANGRY ABOUT THE PROCESS
An unidentified person praised the firefighters for their support of the St. Baldrick's Foundation, then observed that she had arrived at 4:30 to speak on issues on the Closed Session agenda but found nobody in the chambers. She encouraged the City to fight the lawsuits, not settle.
"GOD BLESS AMERICA" - AND ME
Another unidentified person complained about the acrimonious atmosphere on the Costa Mesa Public Square and observed that city officials that post there are responsible for that tone. She then read the lyrics to "God Bless America", then expressed gratitude for certain community groups - CM4RG, Costa Mesa First, Fairview Park Preservation Alliance and.... ME! I smiled.
COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS
Righeimer led off the Council Member Comments segment attempting to justify his behavior regarding Captain Gagne and firefighter overtime. He only made it worse, but that's no surprise. He shrugged off the suggestion that more cops would help with things like the Brentwood Park situation, then spoke briefly about two items on the Consent Calendar - the Harbor Blvd. Bike Trail and the Smallwood Park issue. As it turned out, both were pulled from the Consent Calendar anyhow.
Ed Baume, legendary youth sports icon who passed away a few days ago.
During his CEO Report, Hatch spoke of the trip he, Mensinger and Kelly Shelton took last week to Washington, D.C. for the National League of Cities Conference. He told us their three top topics were the Economy; Infrastructure and Public Safety.
Items 2,4,6,7 and 8 were pulled from the Consent Calendar and trailed to later in the meeting.
LONG OVERDUE POLICE CONTRACT
This brought us to Public Hearing #1, the proposed contract between the City and the Costa Mesa Police Association, who have been working without a contract for going on two full years. Mensinger and Righeimer left the room because they have a conflict due to their bogus lawsuit against the men and women of the CMPD. Monahan led the discussion on this item.
During Public Comments on this item fifteen (15) people spoke to the issue.
Ralph Taboada, a member of the Pension Committee, spoke because his committee had not been given a chance to review and advise on this issue - something he felt fell within the purview of his committee.
Richard Riva, another committee member, observed that the pension costs were unsustainable.
Phil Morello complained about the benefits the police get, and complained about his personal situation - as if that was somehow relevant to the issue. He told us the economy sucks, that he's only earning 65% of what he made in the past and his boss told him there would be no Cost of Living increases and no merit raises.
Wendy Leece spoke to the pension issue, advising that we need to get a plan, like Newport Beach and Irvine have. She also observed that our situation is hampering hiring lateral officers.
NO VOTE YET
Monahan affirmed that nothing would be voted on last night. COIN requires two public hearings and the second one will occur on April 19th. He then defended himself against accusations of him stalling the negotiations, citing the fact that he missed "a couple meetings", blaming it on a busy schedule and a business to run. He said, "Don't blame me", saying that the association also missed some meetings.
CONFIRMATION OF PROCESS
Letourneau affirmed some of the requirements of the COIN process, and that this has met all those requirements.
Monahan inquired of City Attorney Tom Duarte of "options". He asked, "What if we flat-out reject it?" Duarte offered that he would come back with a report after consultation with the Labor Attorney before the next meeting.
Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent was consulted on some particulars - the numbers part. He affirmed that the raises included in the contract would go directly into the PERS contribution, which will now be 14% - the maximum permitted by law.
NO ACTUARY NEEDED
The question was raised about the possible need for an actuary to evaluate the contract. Dunivent dismissed that idea, citing the use of his staff and an outside auditing firm.
CORRECTING THE FALSEHOODS
Foley methodically shredded Pollitt's fabrications. When pressed by Foley on where the CMPD falls in the pay scale in the county, Human Resources Director Lance Nakamoto advised that we are certainly in the top five, and mentioned departments that are probably above us as the OC Sheriff's Department, Irvine, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and maybe Santa Ana and Anaheim.
MOVING ON TO APRIL 19TH
At the end, following nearly 90 minutes of presentation and speakers, the item was moved forward and will return for the second required public hearing on April 19th. By that time Duarte will have prepared the reports asked for by council members. We took a break.
APPEAL OVERTURNS DENIAL
At 8:30 Mensinger and Righeimer returned and Public Hearing #2, the appeal of a Planning Commission denial for a religious and cultural center in an industrial park near John Wayne Airport was discussed. This was a de novo hearing, meaning they started all over. Ten members of the public spoke on the issue, including neighboring business owners and a representative of another church nearby - like almost next door. Parking is the issue and, as it turned out, it seemed unresolvable to the satisfaction of the council. Righeimer moved to uphold the Planning Commission denial and Mensinger seconded it. However, Genis offered a substitute motion which Foley seconded and, during the discussion Monahan agreed with the women. When the vote was taken - just before 10:00 p.m. - it was 3-2 to overturn the denial.
I'M SORRY, BUT I SMILED...
Perhaps the most amusing moment in this discussion came when Anna Vrska stepped up to speak on the issue and Mensinger again addressed her by name. She firmly protested and asked if she had to file a lawsuit to get him to follow the rules? At one point she blamed his actions on "your impotent leadership style." I'm sorry, but I chuckled about that the rest of the night every time I thought about it.
ANIMAL SHELTER SERVICES
Next came the issue of the Animal Shelter Services, currently being provided by the Orange County Humane Society in Huntington Beach. This facility has been in the news of late because the City of Newport Beach, which also used the facility, decided to break their contract with it for an accumulation of reasons. CMPD Lieutenant Greg Scott was the staff presenter on this issue. Amazingly, this discussion, including comments by five members of the public, took more than an hour, with Genis leading the way, offering her seemingly endless views and personal observations of the place.
At the end Righeimer moved to pass the staff recommendations, but that seemed to vague to other council members, so it was tightened up by listing specifics of the recommendation which included $50,000 to help improve the facility, software improvement to make reporting and tracking better, a part-time staffer at the site, an evaluation in the near future. It passed, 5-0.
TRAILED CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS
The trailed Consent Calendar items were then considered. Items 2, 4 and 6 passed on 5-0 votes. #7 passed on a 4-0 vote because Righeimer had a conflict. #8, the Harbor Blvd Bike Trail, generated a good amount of discussion and four people spoke on it. Foley moved to send it back to the Bike Committee for discussion and recommendation and Genis seconded it. Righeimer made a substitute motion to move the staff recommendations, and Mensinger seconded it. That passed on a 3-2 vote, with Foley and Genis voting no. And it was now 11:40 p.m.
FINALLY, THE INITIATIVE
The council agreed to push the final two items out to a future meeting, as mentioned above, so this left us with New Business #3, the Initiative Petition Qualifying For Ballot; Consideration of Adopting New Ordinance or Ordering Report.
IT WILL BE ON THE BALLOT
Keep in mind, this initiative - referred to as the "Smart Growth Initiative" if you're a supporter or the "No Growth Initiative" if you're an opponent, WILL be on the November 8, 2016 ballot. That was not the issue last night. The council had two duties. First, accept the Certificate of Sufficiency and, Second, do one of three things: Adopt the ordinance OR Order the placement on the November ballot OR order a report pursuant to the Election Code. There was NO way this council majority was going to adopt the ordinance without a vote of the people. And, there was NO way they were just going to put it on the ballot without a report.
RIGHEIMER MADE IT COMPLICATED
What should have happened was a simple discussion about what kind of information they wanted in that report, for which a consultant has already been retained, by the way. That's what should have happened, and we eventually got there, but not without some heavy politicking by Righeimer. You know, I think he must get some kind of erotic satisfaction by hearing himself talk.
McDONALD - SEE WHAT OTHER CITIES DID
After City Clerk Brenda Green read the issue into the record and did a brief staff report which basically said what I just told you, members of the public spoke on the issue. Not surprisingly, two members of the Chamber of Commerce spoke against the issue and suggested the report be ordered. Cynthia McDonald of Costa Mesa First - the sponsoring organization for the initiative - suggested we avoid the report and just vote to put it on the ballot, but realized that's not going to happen. So, she recommended the consultants include in their evaluation input from other California cities and other governmental agencies who have adopted similar ordinances - then read a long, long, long list of them into the record. I lost track counting, but I suspect there may have been forty entities on her list.
AND MORE COMMENTS
Jay Humphrey thanked all the volunteers who walked the streets to get nearly 7,000 signatures. Cindy Brenneman suggested to just not waste the time and money and simply vote to put it on the ballot. Robin Leffler suggested a report and offered that it should be comprehensive and compare current General Plan guidelines, the new General Plan and the impact if the initiative passes.
ACCEPTED THE CERTIFICATION
Monahan reminded the council that they needed to vote to accept the certification, which they did, 5-0. And the clock begins on the report...
HE'S OFF AND RUNNING (OFF AT THE MOUTH)
Then, just before midnight, Righeimer went off on one of his patented rants. He misrepresented the facts of the initiative at length, feebly attempting to dissect the document line by line. However, his alleged brain just cannot seem to do something like that in an orderly fashion so he just makes things up as he goes along. On and on he went, interrupted only by a vote to continue past midnight.
THE BOMBSHELL - A COMPETING INITIATIVE!
At the end of his rant he casually dropped a bombshell - that he wanted to put a "competing initiative" on the ballot in November, which generated a new discussion about who would write it, what it would contain, etc. He was more than vague about it and, clearly, this was another one of his "I'll blow it up" moments.
FOLEY STARTS THE LIST
Eventually, Foley grabbed the reins and began to list some of the things she wanted to see in the consultant's report. She listed 10 issues she felt should be included, which I'm NOT going to attempt to list for you because that list swelled to 14 after Righeimer and Genis contributed. Monahan suggested simply using the seven items suggested as part of the staff report, so it was agreed that all the suggestions, including Foley's, those in the staff report and the rest, would be massaged into a list for the consultants by staff. It was also agreed, more or less, that Duarte would bring back to them at their next meeting a process by which a competing initiative could be crafted. The report was ordered on a 5-0 vote and, at 12:27 a.m. today the meeting was adjourned in memory of Ed Baume.