Mosquitoes, Sandbagged & More
The short-handed Costa Mesa City Council - Mayor Steve Mensinger and lamest of lame ducks Gary Monahan were absent - conducted their only meeting this month and, although the agenda was small, we had some interesting moments.
SANDBAGGED BY SCHOENBERGER
Early in the meeting Paul Shoenberger, General Manager of the Mesa Water District, made a "presentation" of three items to the council and led off with a summary of the current condition of the drought. Mesa Water has recently told us that we can water all we want on any day of the week. Shoenberger tried to temper that by saying he hoped we would continue to conserve. He also told us that Mesa Water has achieved 3 years in a row without a lost-day accident - certainly an admirable achievement. We want everyone to be safe.
"PRESENTATION" ACTUALLY CAMPAIGNING
However, sandwiched in between those two items was his presentation of the "survey" recently contracted for unilaterally by the Mesa Water Board, the results of which apparently leads that organization to presume that the combination of Mesa Water and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District would serve the residents better. So, the Mesa Board has chosen to place an "advisory measure" on the November ballot - I guess to test the community mindset on this issue. Unfortunately, this decision was made without consultation with the Costa Mesa Sanitary District and, based on recent newpaper articles, the CMSD Board is considering legal action. It seems, based on rebuttal correspondence I've seen, that the consultants chosen by Mesa Water used old data and misguided assumptions. That kind of stuff happens when you don't consult with the other agency when barging forward with a study designed to support your planned hostile takeover of that agency.
SHOENBERGER AS FRED ASTAIRE
During the discussion Council Member Katrina Foley asked Shoenberger some very pointed questions on this issue. For example, he acknowledged that if the measure passes "with a significant number", then it would probably be submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for consideration. Foley asked if the Mesa Water organization had consulted with LAFCO BEFORE the survey was contracted. He did a pretty nifty tap dance, avoiding the answer several times, before she finally boxed him into a corner when he said "Yes".
WHY NOT INCLUDE THE CITY?
She also wondered if the consolidation of agencies was such a good idea, why folding both Mesa Water and the CMSD under The City was not considered. He had no answer for that except to acknowledge it was something to consider.
DEBT? MESA, $20 MILLION - CMSD, ZERO
She asked him about Mesa Water's current bond debt. Again, doing his best Fred Astaire imitation, he toe-danced around an answer, stating that Mesa was Triple A rated. She persisted and he finally told us that Mesa Water currently has $20 million in debt. She asked him about the CMSD, and he said he believed it had no debt. Uh, huh...
A STEALTH PRESENTATION
It was clear by the end of this "presentation" that Shoenberger was using this opportunity to influence the public to think positively about their ballot measure. No mention was made about the cost to ratepayers to place the issue on the ballot and to advertise it - estimated by some informed sources to be a combined total of $150,000! Foley and Sandra Genis both suggested that Mesa Water should be given an opportunity to respond on this issue at a subsequent meeting.
During Public Comments Charlene Cass complained about the construction at the Santa Ana Country Club and was advised by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer that the City has no jurisdiction over that location, but staff would contact them about being a good neighbor.
Jay Humphrey complimented City Clerk Brenda Green and her staff for the outstanding work they have done with all the initiatives this year.
Beth Refakes reminded us of the dress drive for the women of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton. Donated dresses are being collected to help them for the Marine Corps Ball, coming up in October. She also told the council that the Military Affairs Team recently helped freshen up the paint on the airplane at Lions Park.
A person calling herself Sharknado used a shark-oriented graphic to make a point about how the sharks (developers and others) were circling the city.
Wendy Leece told us the District Attorney rejected her request for an investigation of what she perceived as a Brown Act violation during the approval of the district voting measure, and implied she's not done with this issue.
Mary Hanna complained about the mosquitoes.
An unidentified speaker complained about Mensinger's behavior on the dais and urged folks to consider it when voting.
An unidentified man complained about parking in the Coolidge/Paularino area. He was advised to speak with city staff about resident-only parking.
Robin Leffler addressed Shoenberger's presentation and suggested The City invite a member from CMSD to speak to it, too.
GENIS ON MOSQUITOES AND MORE
During Council Member Comments Genis led off with a lengthy presentation about the mosquito issue. She is the city representative on the Vector Control Board and provided a good summary of the actions being taken by that organization to abate the problems. The ponds at Fairview Park are a particular issue. The following slides will be helpful to you, especially the important telephone numbers. Remember, NO standing water and report dead birds. She also observed about Shoenberger's presentation and suggested the CMSD be given equal time.
RIGHEIMER WHINED ABOUT BEING ATTACKED
Righeimer was up next, told us he just returned from vacation and said he was disappointed people continue to attack council members. He said, "Let's just get through November." Well, yeah! He wants his pals elected so he can continue to run roughshod over the City. A note: He was more mellow, more jovial, last night. Perhaps because he was outnumbered for a change.
FOLEY WAS NOT HAPPY
Foley reminded folks about the OC Fair and thanked Mrs. Hanna for opening her home for a neighborhood meeting on the mosquito issue. She agreed with Genis on the Mesa Water issue. She asked CEO Tom Hatch if that issue had been discussed in the liaison meetings with the Special Districts? He said, "Not yet". She also spoke on the "impartial analysis" presented for certain ballot measures, observing that at least one of them was far from impartial. City Attorney Tom Duarte indicated that the City Attorney's officer prepared them and nobody had input in that analysis.
CEO Hatch, spoke at length about the mosquito problem, the meeting held and the plans in place to attack the issue. Information will be posted on the City website soon. We also learned that a full-time staffer will be hired to oversee those kind of issues at Fairview Park.
PLOW THEM AND FILL THEM!
Righeimer observed that the ponds were not "natural", and that he'd be interested in having them plowed and filled if the current measures don't resolve the mosquito issue. That's right... sounds like a perfect excuse to place some playing fields down there, doesn't it?
IF YOU LISTEN LONG ENOUGH...
He then said something, while addressing the federal grants used to accomplish the pools, that I also thought was very telling. He was complaining that when we use federal money we lose control of the area - that they require us to fence it off and can't even build bridges over the ponds to bird-watch - mentioning that his wife is a bird-watcher. Then he said, "Always be aware that when someone brings you money there's something attached to it." Really, Jimbo! You mean like campaign contributions, for example?
Seven items were pulled by the public from the Consent Calendar. The rest were passed on one vote and those seven were trailed to the end. All of those passed with very little substantive discussion. One person pulled most of them, usually because she didn't understand the issues.
BIKE COMMITTEE GETS A SHOT AT THIS ONE
Public Hearing #1, the vacation of right-of-way near a project bordered by Pomona Street, 17th Street and Superior Avenue. What should have been a short, pretty routine issue, evolved into a long discussion about the policy and sequence in which these things - there have been MANY such vacations of rights-of-way in recent years - should happen. Eventually, when the vote was called it failed, 2-1. Such issues require a majority council vote, which meant a 3-0 vote last night. Because these kind of things should be heard by the Bicycle and Walkability Committee first, it was decided - on a 3-0 vote - to bring it back on September 20th and the committee will have it on their agenda on September 7th.
LITIGATION FORCES CONTINUANCE
Next was Public Hearing #2, the appeal of the Planning Commission approval of a permit for a Conservatory at property at 3184 Airway, near John Wayne Airport, in an industrial park. This one got very interesting very quickly when the lawyer representing the Koll-Irvine Center Association told the council that it could not vote on this because the two issues were the jurisdiction of the Association, not the council. The Association OWNS the common areas, including the parking, so the council COULD NOT require or approve any shared parking plan. The discussion went on for an hour before Foley requested a break to consult with Duarte due to pending litigation. When they returned they voted to continue the item to September 20th to give the attorneys time to evaluate the issue - apparently a huge packet of information had been provided to the council that evening. The folks from the Berean Church - who planned to sell the property to the Conservatory folks - were there in large numbers again, just as they were when the Planning Commission heard the item , and were not happy about not being able to address the Council on the issue.
NEW SIGN RULES STILL CONFUSING
Old Business #1, the new rules for campaign signs, was back for a second reading and, again, this should have been a no-brainer, but it wasn't. They ended up voting twice, and that was after hearing reasoning from staff about why banners could not be considered this time around. Once again, just as it was the first time around, this issue was very confusing. So much so that I still don't know exactly what they approved. I'll research it later and tell you. We DO know that campaign signs may be up to 5 feet square and a maximum 6 feet height above grade. And, we do know that they may be displayed for six weeks before an election and must be removed 10 days after. I think...
CHARLE STREET SMALL LOT DEVELOPMENT
Next came New Business #1, the General Plan Screening for the small lot development at 1974 Charle Street. This project reduces traffic by 90% and does a flip-flop on the parking requirements. Instead of one car in a garage and two outside spaces, this plan reverses that, with two in the garage and one outside. The council voted to move it forward.
IT SEEMED LONGER
Following the consideration of the trailed Consent Calendar items Righeimer adjourned the meeting at 10:10. The next meeting will be on September 6th.