Thursday, January 21, 2016

Foley Asks For City Attorney Investigation


MENSINGER/RIGHEIMER ON FIRE STATION #6
At the very tail end of the recent Costa Mesa City Council meeting - the one that began Tuesday night and ended at 1:20 Wednesday morning - Councilwoman Katrina Foley interrupted Mayor Steve Mensinger as he was about to adjourn the meeting to make a request of contract City Attorney Thomas Duarte to analyze the issue of whether Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer should be recused from discussions and votes dealing with the closure or operations of Fire Station #6 since they wrote - or at least a commentary appeared in the Daily Pilot over their signatures - opining that Station #6 should not be closed.  She referred to the "Woody's Wharf" case.  You can watch her question to Duarte on the video clip of the meeting, HERE.  Just scroll down to "City Attorney Report" at the very end and listen to her inquiry.
REGISTER COVERED IT
For those unfamiliar with that case - I remembered it, but didn't recall the details that would make it relevant to this issue - HERE is a link to an Orange County Register article that does a good job of summarizing it.
READ TO THE END...
What makes it relevant is way down at the end of the article.  The Appellate Court determined that then-councilman Mike Henn had addressed his opposition openly and tried to influence his fellow council members to deny the approval previously given by Newport Beach's Planning Commission.
RECUSAL SEEMS OBVIOUS
It's easy to see the relevance to this issue.  Mensinger and Righeimer have already "voted" on this issue by publishing that commentary.  Whether it influenced other members of the city council is an unknown, but recent history shows us that Gary Monahan would likely just nod his head in acquiescence and vote with them.  Of course, it is against the law to do that kind of stuff.
WAITING FOR DUARTE...
So, it will be interesting to see what Duarte comes back with.  It would appear that this will be an easy call for him based on the  circumstances of the Woody's Wharf case.  Then, again, he does have a job to protect, so we'll see.

*****
A REMINDER - THE FIRST OF MANY
From time to time we're going to remind you of what former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley said in his departure letter to his troops in June, 2011.  His lengthy letter covered the circumstances of his departure in great detail, but one of the more memorable comments he made was aimed directly at the City Council majority at the time.  He said:

"They are, in my opinion, incompetent, unskilled and unethical."  

In the more than four years since he made that comment his words have proven to be precisely accurate.  The council male majority has demonstrated each of those elements over and over again.  Something to ponder as we move forward.  We will mention it from time to time.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bikes, Speed Bumps, Freeway Aesthetics And More...

THE REST OF THE STORY...
Well, there was a lot more happening at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting besides Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer demonstrating that he's a liar.  We covered that part in my earlier post, so let's address the rest of the meeting - the parts that occurred while it was still Tuesday.

PAY ATTENTION, STEVE!
The meeting began on a pleasant note, with three presentations, although I was a little concerned when Mayor Steve Mensinger - not the sharpest knife in the drawer - prepared to call everyone to order, but observed that they didn't have to hurry because they still had a few minutes.  This was at 5:52 p.m. - past the new starting time of 5:45 he imposed.  He must have had a brain burp - which was kind of an omen of things to come.

PRESENTATIONS
Anyhow, back to the presentations.  First the City recognized a handful of Orange Coast College soccer players for their outstanding play this year.  Then a herd of young Aussies from our sister city of Wyndham were welcomed and presented with goodies.  Their local hosts, the principals from Newport Harbor High School and Estancia High School spoke.  And then a nice woman from Cal Trans told us about the upcoming renovation of the I-405/Red Hill overpass.  That project will begin "soon" - a date uncertain, but probably this month.
PUBLIC COMMENTS
During Public Comments nine individuals rose to address the council on a variety of issues.
  • Tamar Goldmann stepped up to criticize the council for their recent decision to not permit Costa Mesa Television to record candidate forums for replay.  She spoke of the Smart Growth Initiative and even gave a promo for this site - thanks to Tamar for that.
  • Robin Leffler spoke on a recent survey, which she described as a "push poll" that posed very specific questions about Fairview Park.  
  • Al Melone, former (and maybe future) city council candidate stepped up to speak on his only issue - the Dog Park.
  • Tea Party Tom Pollitt apparently slipped his leash and spoke on the World Economy, a comment that managed to morph into a criticism of the pension issue.
  • Mary Spadoni told the council about the practice by the Coastal Commission of permitting folks in the audience to show support or lack thereof by quietly using hand signals.  She also rebutted some of Pollitt's comments.
  • Kim Hendricks spoke about the new initiative for which petitions are being circulated for placement on the November ballot to protect Fairview Park from development.
  • Ann Parker, referring to the passing of the Eagles Glenn Fry, told the council about the sober living outfit, Hotel California, on the Eastside.  She also tried to segue into another entertainment reference when she complained about the lack of Code Enforcement by saying "May the Code Enforcement be with you."  Mensinger suggested she share her information with the staff, to which she replied that she'd already done that - many times.
  • Former Councilwoman Wendy Leece bemoaned the failure of this council to hold study sessions, meetings during which a few items would be vetted in a casual atmosphere. 
    She also criticized the council for beginning the "silly season" - the campaign season - by using new Public Information Officer Tony Dodero to write a recent commentary for Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.
  • Businessman Tim Lewis told the council about property ownership issues with a piece of property that's in development near his business on Harbor Blvd. 
COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS
During Council Member Comments Righeimer, indicating he wasn't going to speak, then launched off on a mini-rant about some of the public comments.  Addressing concerns about possible development at Fairview Park, he said, "Nothing's happening - nobody wants to develop it."  On Sober Living homes, he referred to a "stay" placed on enforcement by legal action.  He spoke about Fire Station #6 - the one he and Mensinger co-authored a commentary about recently - indicating that it didn't "have the calls", which is why it was considered for closure.  He then complained about some of the comments, stating, "We don't want to have more divisive issues in the city."  Curious, since he's usually the source of those issues.  He spoke about the Costa Mesa United Golf Tournament and just casually mentioned that his sidekick, Mensinger, received the Costa Mesa United Leadership Award (my eyes rolled back in my head!).

Mensinger spoke about the golf tournament, indicating it was a nice event with "no politics".  I nearly choked when he said that.

Katrina Foley, addressing the recent survey that was conducted as part of the update of the Master Plan of Parks and Open Space, asked for a copy of the questions that had been asked because of complaints made about it being a "push poll".  She also asked City Attorney Thomas Duarte for a clarification of an issue about the Sober Living R-2 zone ordinance dealing with the density of such facilities because there is apparently confusion among staff members.  She also cited recent turmoil at the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and encouraged us all to pay attention to what's going on over there because, as she said, "Something's not right."

Sandy Genis mentioned a recent Economic Summit she and Dan Baker attended.  She said it was a good news/bad news situation.  She said jobs are coming back, but they are lower-paying jobs.  She spoke of recent information from the California League of Cities on group homes, indicating that Orange County has the highest number, and within Orange County, Costa Mesa has the highest concentration.  She also said Fairview Park should be "kept off the table" for development.

In a rare instance, Gary Monahan actually had something to say.
He expressed concern about lack of handicapped access to areas of Fairview Park... muffled murmurs were heard in the crowd.  He also acknowledged Wendy Leece's concerns for free speech - but I'm not sure if he said that tongue-in-cheek or not.


HATCH

During his time CEO Tom Hatch spoke of recent hires in the Costa Mesa Police Department - three from the recent Academy class and one lateral from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.  He told us that "our" Academy graduates are excellent - at or near the top of the class.  He also told us that all Code Enforcement slots are now filled, giving us nine (9) Code Enforcement officers.  He also spoke briefly about the recent survey of parks.

CONSENT CALENDAR
Only one item was pulled from the Consent Calendar - #2, the Warrant.  This should have been heard at that time instead of making Tamar Goldmann sit through the entire meeting until 1:10 a.m. to present her concerns about the $3,000 rocker/recliner we apparently purchased.  Bad judgment on Mensinger's part on that one.  Add it to the list.

MARIJUANA CULTIVATION
Old Business #1, the second reading of the marijuana cultivation ordinance, took less than one minute to pass on a 5-0 vote.

RESIDENT-ONLY PARKING
Old Business #2, the new Residents-Only parking ordinance, took a little longer.  Following a very brief discussion and comments by a couple residents, it passed, 5-0.

I-405 AESTHETICS
New Business #1, the I-405 Improvement Project Aesthetics discussion took longer.  Jeff Mills from the OCTA provided a history of the project, which will add lanes to the I-405 from the 73 Toll Road to the I-605 at the Los Angeles County Line and was not viewed favorably by residents and elected officials in Costa Mesa.  It will require the demolition of our new Fairview Road Bridge to accommodate the greater width of the new freeway lanes.  This discussion involved the "look" of the roadway as it passes through our city and focused on decorative walls.  Four people stepped up to express opinions on issues like the proximity to Moon Park, the intrusive Fountain Valley Freeway sign, the fact that we were ignored in the planning process and that the decorative walls would be a distraction to drivers.

PICKING THE BIRD
Concerns were expressed by council members about the potential for graffiti damage to the walls and as to which graphics to be used.  In the end they agreed to reject the opinion of the Cultural Arts Committee to use the "Least Terns" graphic because it represented Newport Beach and voted to recommend the White-tailed Kite because those birds are often seen in Costa Mesa.

CDBG GRANT CHANGES
Next up was New Business #2, the revisions to the Community Development Block Grant Public Service Grants rating criteria and related policies and procedures.  One of the big changes is the number of agencies to be considered.  It was reduced from a maximum of 20 to 10, and the minimum amount was increased from $5,000 to $15,000.  Several changes were made to the grading criteria, too.  During the public comments Wendy Leece expressed concern that this committee had changed from a standing committee to an ad hoc committee and was curious about how one might apply to be part of it.

SPEED HUMPS APPROVED!
New Business #3 was the request for Speed Humps on Saint Clair Street.  The staff recommendation was to deny the request.  However, after Jay Litvak and several other members of the neighborhood involved spoke describing the situation the council voted, 4-1, with Righeimer voting NO, to direct the staff to install the speed humps bring back an evaluation of the process by which speed humps may be requested.

BIKEWAYS AND WALKABILITY COMMITTEE REPORT
New Business #4 was the report by the Bikeways and Walkability Committee on their Goals, Objectives and Policies, which were prepared to be included in the General Plan update.  Chairman Ralph Taboada and Vice Chair Cynthia McDonald made the presentation to the council, describing the process they followed since the committee was created in April.  They had their first meeting in June and, in September, decided to double-up the number of meetings to meet the deadline.  I attended most of those meetings and have frequently written about how effectively they worked together.  I saw the sometimes tedious process work as they carefully crafted the document they presented to the council last night.  I observed the give-and-take and the collaborative process in action.

TOO MANY WORDS AND "POLICIES"
So, when Righeimer reacted negatively about the work product - he basically thought there were too many words - I was surprised and disappointed.  That feeling was shared by the many members of the committee in attendance last night.  Righeimer was concerned about the "policies", even though he was told several times that the format used followed the General Plan format intentionally.  Despite the explanations by staff and liaison Katrina Foley - this committee was her idea - Righeimer had it stuck in his craw.  Four people spoke to this issue, including members of the committee and regular attendees to the meetings.  At the end, after a significant discussion about "policies" and the General Plan, the council voted to approve the document with the proviso Righeimer demanded that the "policies" be re-titled as "recommendations".  They took a break, then returned at 9:37 to commence New Business #5, the subject of my angry earlier post.

I'M STILL TICKED-OFF!
Let me close this by stating, once again, that the meeting Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was one of the most disappointing I can recall.  I don't know what the future holds for the Costa Mesa Fire Department, but I suspect there were few happy firefighters in our city today.  That's a shame.  We'll talk more about that as time goes on.

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Marathon Council Meeting Ends In A Fiasco!


DISAPPOINTMENT
Remember how I've mentioned in the past that nothing good happens at Costa Mesa City Council meetings after midnight?  Well, the council proved that point once again as their latest meeting ended with a very dull thud.

TOO LATE AGAIN
Because the meeting ended at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday morning and because I'm still dealing with the aftermath of this darn cold and because I'm just too exhausted to give you more right now, let me attempt to summarize how the final item on the agenda was handled.  I'll cover the rest of the agenda later today sometime.
AMBULANCE TRANSPORT
The issue at hand - the reorganization of the Costa Mesa Fire Department and, specifically, the Ambulance Transport segment of that project.  The council began hearing this item at 9:37 p.m. Tuesday evening following a 10 minute break.  CEO Tom Hatch kicked it off, then turned the presentation over to Fire Chief Dan Stefano, who took us through a "brief" history of the planning of this process dating back to the middle of 2011, through the tenure of Interim Chief Tom Arnold and the various approvals given by the council at critical mileposts in the evolution of the plan.
CONSULTANTS
The consultants who were hired to prepare the feasibility study that's available on the city web site for review made a presentation, explaining their process and their backgrounds.  They refuted information in the letter from CARE Ambulance received that day.
SPEAKERS
Seventeen speakers addressed this issue, most of whom concurred with the staff recommendation to select Option #3, a public/private partnership, although more than a few thought other options were more appropriate.  Some thought #2, which would generate the most cash for the city and put the full responsibility for medical transport in the hands of the Costa Mesa Fire Department, was the better choice.
CARE DIGS IN HEELS
Of those seventeen speakers, the final one was Troy Hagen, the owner of CARE Ambulance, who refuted claims made by the consultants.  Hagen had earlier sent a letter to Mayor Steve Mensinger - three pages of petulant rhetoric which ended by him stating that his company would NOT participate in Option #3, the staff recommended option, because it would cost them money to do so.
AFTER 3.5 HOURS - NOTHING!
Three hours and thirty-two minutes later, when the final vote was cast - after Councilwoman Sandra Genis made a motion to approve the staff recommendation and go with Option 3 with Katrina Foley seconding that motion, Jim Righeimer offered a substitute motion, seconded by lamest of lame ducks, Gary Monahan.  That motion was to adopt Option #1 - which is to do NOTHING!  Zero, nada, no change!  After much wailing and gnashing of teeth and with Foley calling him out for what he is, the motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with Genis and Foley voting no.
FOLEY RAKES RIGHEIMER
That thud I mentioned above was actually a thud muffled by Foley yelling at Righeimer for his subterfuge.  It was not a pretty sight.  So, after more than three years since the discussions began, thousands of staff hours assessing the organization and evaluating the results of the consultants report, there will be NO CHANGE in the way Emergency Medical Services are handled in the city.
WE'VE GOT THE EQUIPMENT, BUT..
After the council previously approved the purchase of six medical vans worth $1.6 million and after putting half of them in service anticipating the next step - to use them to perform patient transport and reaping the financial windfall that goes along with it - nothing will happen.
NO RETORT - SHE WAS CORRECT!
It was interesting to note that when Foley was calling Righeimer out last night, describing in great detail how he had joined the other council members over several years in voting to move forward with elements of this plan, including buying the medical vans, by quoting the reports from those meetings, he just sat there with a kind of vacuous expression on his face.  He did NOT even attempt to rebut her claims.
MISSTEP WITH COMMENTARY
The meeting ended with Foley demanding that City Attorney Thomas Duarte investigate and report back to the council whether Righeimer and Mensinger should be barred from any consideration about the future of Fire Station #6 - the subject of their recent Daily Pilot commentary in which they said it should be kept open - and she referred Duarte specifically to what she called the "Woody's Wharf" case.
VERY DISAPPOINTING
This was one of the most disppointing council meetings in my memory.  It's hard to describe the frustration one feels after watching all the staff time, hard work, overtime being worked because staffing has been delayed all for naught.  Watching that drama play out it became quite clear that there's something more at play with the Righeimer/CARE Ambulance relationship.  We will find out what that is and report back.
STAFF WORK IGNORED
In the meantime, your council majority just voted to deny all the years of staff work - the careful consideration given to this issue - and ignore the millions of dollars left on the table for CARE Ambulance to continue to pocket.  The next time Righeimer, Mensinger or Monahan complain about not being able to fund something, please do remind them that they just left a big chunk of change on the table.

MORE LATER
More on the rest of the council meeting later today.  Suffice it to say, this was not the only disappointment of the evening.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

City Council Agenda Preview

COULD BE ANOTHER LONG NIGHT
The Costa Mesa City Council meets again at 5:45 p.m., Tuesday January 19, 2016 in City Council Chambers at City Hall for what promises to be a very interesting meeting.  The full agenda is HERE.

PRESENTATIONS
Early in the meeting there are three presentations scheduled:
  • Mayor's Award - OCC Soccer: All Orange Empire Conference Team Players
  • Delegates from Wyndham, Australia
  • Cal Trans - I-405 Red Hill Avenue Overcrossing
COMMENTS
Then comes Public Comments - always an adventure, since folks can exercise their right to address the council for three minutes on ANY issue important to them that IS NOT on the agenda for this meeting.  That's followed by Council Member Comments and the CEO's report - if they actually let him speak, that is.

CONSENT CALENDAR
Next comes the Consent Calendar - those items deemed to be "routine" and can be considered in one vote without separate discussion.  This time there are nine (9) items listed.  I won't cover them all, but will comment on the Warrant.

THE WARRANT
Item #2,  Warrant Resolution #2549, HERE, which lists items paid.  This is always a fun exercise to scroll down through the list to see what makes up the disbursement of nearly $5 million dollars on our behalf.  Here are a few that caught my eye.
  • Civil Source - $96,180.00 - Temp Support (various)
  • Jones & Mayer - $116,952.24 - Legal Services (many)
  • Moore Iacofano Goltsman Inc - $66,536.38 - GP Update & Environ. Report
  • ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems - $14,761.00 - Sr. Center Installation
  • CSG Consultants, Inc - $13,733,73 - Bldg. Inspct Svcs
  • Government Staffing Services - $6,865.00 - Temp Svcs
  • Melad & Associates - $4,716.04 - Building Plan Check Svcs
  • Scientia Consulting Group Inc - $6,880.00 - Prof. Svcs Agreement
  • City of Huntington Beach - $21,210.00 - Helicopter Svcs - Nov 2015
  • G4S Secure Solutions - $55,912.55 - Jail Facilities - Nov. 2015
  • KOA Corporation - $16,952.38 - 19th Bike Fac. 11-15, School Zone ClngProj-11-15
  • Kabbara Engineering - $20,585.95 - Fairview Bike Trail, 6/1-7/15/15
  • Liebert Cassidy Whitmore - $35,695.02 - Legal Svcs (various)
  • Graphic Solutions Ltd - $4,772.00 - CM Wayfinding Signage  Oct2015
  • Orange County Humane Society - $8,250.00 - Kennel Fees, Nov. 2015 
  • Sears Commercial One - $3,132.86 - Gray Paralance Reclina-Rocker
So, that's a sample.  More than $150,000 for legal services; more than $122,000 for temporary services and much, much more.

NO PUBLIC HEARINGS - 2 OLD BUSINESS ITEMS
There are no Public Hearings scheduled.  Normally those would be heard beginning at 7:00 p.m.  There are a couple Old Business items on the agenda, though.

GROWING "WEED" IN THE CITY
Old Business #1, HERE, is the second reading of the new ordinance regarding the prohibition of cultivation of marijuana in the city.  You may recall that this is required unless we want to let the State of California control that activity.  Any such ordinance must be in force before March 1.  This one won't take long - five minutes, max.

RESIDENT-ONLY PARKING
Old Business #2, HERE, is another second reading - this time the ordinance regarding parking prohibitions and resident-only parking permits.  Again, this one shouldn't take long since it was thoroughly vetted during the first hearing.  There is a revised "Guidelines for Consideration of Installation or Removal of Resident Only Permit Parking", HERE.

I-405 AESTHETICS
There are several New Business items on the agenda.  #1, HERE, which is titled "I-405 Improvement Project - Aesthetics Plan", and deals with the aesthetics of the proposed expansion of the I-405 Freeway between the 73 Toll Road and the I-605 at the Los Angeles County line.  You'll recall the turmoil over that project, which will add one mixed-flow lane and one express lane and convert the HOV lane into an express lane.  This item addresses the "look" of the project.  There are several attachments dealing with sound walls, and other design elements.

CDBG GRANT CRITERIA CHANGES
New Business #2, HERE,  deals with revisions to the Community Development Block Grant Public Service Grants rating criteria.  This is a big deal.  The ad hoc city committee responsible for the review and recommendation for receipt of such grants has recommended a modification of the requirements. Those are summarized here:
1. A maximum of ten grants may be awarded per year. (Revised from maximum of 20 grants per year.)
2. Minimum grant amount is $15,000. (Revised from $5,000.)
3. Staff will obtain copies of police incident reports for all applicants with Costa Mesa-based facilities that provide direct services to the public. (Added emphasis in review process.)
4. A maximum of five points will be awarded to applicants that are based in Costa Mesa. (Previously no points were provided for Costa Mesa-based programs.)
5. Award rating points for grant applicants that partner with other service providers. Note: partner does not need to be a grant applicant. (Previously only bonus points were awarded for collaborative applications.)

In my view, the biggie here is the halving of the number of grants to be given each year.

SPEED HUMPS ON SAINT CLAIR STREET
New Business #3, HERE, is the request for speed humps on Saint Clair Street by resident Jay Litvak.  The staff has analyzed this situation and recommends NO speed humps be installed.  For you speed hump fans, this staff report and included chart will be of interest.

BIKE COMMITTEE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
New Business #4, HERE, is near and dear to my heart.  This is the presentation to the City Council of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan - Goals, Objectives and Policies by the Bikeways and Walkability Committee.  I've sat through almost all of the meetings of this dedicated group, who worked tirelessly to carefully craft the document they will present to the City Council Tuesday night.  The staff report provides the information you need, and you can read the entire document - the product of more than four (4) months labor by this group - HERE.

AMBULANCE TRANSPORT
New Business #5, HERE, Ambulance Transportation for the City of Costa Mesa, is the final item on the list.  I wrote about this earlier, so will not flog it further.  You can read what I wrote HERE.  I'm just disappointed this item is so late in the agenda.  History shows us that many council members lose their focus as the evening wears on and sometimes exercise poor judgment when dealing with complicated issues like this one.  We'll see.

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Emergency Medical Services A Hot Topic Tuesday



SAVING THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL FOR LAST
The final item on the agenda of the City Council meeting scheduled to begin at 5:45 on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in City Council Chambers at City Hall is titled, "Ambulance Transportation For The City Of Costa Mesa" and the staff report for that item may be found HERE.

CONSULTANT'S FEASIBILITY STUDY
The staff report refers to the recently-completed Feasibility Study conducted by an outside consultant, A.P. Triton, LLC, the 51 page report of which may be found HERE.  If you are at all interested in the future of Emergency Response Service in Costa Mesa, I highly encourage you to read that report, then read the staff report for the recommendations being made to the City Council by CEO Tom Hatch and Fire Chief Dan Stefano.
FOR EXAMPLE...
In the study you will find this chart, which summarizes the costs and other advantages of the three options presented (in addition to the current status).
STAFF REPORT NUMBERS ARE DIFFERENT
However, before you get all excited, the staff has massaged those numbers, so each of those categories except for the current, Model #1, are significantly different.  It appears they show the difference between #1 and each of the others, making the bottom line on each smaller.  Still, significant cost recovery numbers are available with each of the other choices.
OPTION #3 RECOMMENDED
Hatch and Stefano have chosen to recommend to the City Council option #3, the so-called Public/Private Option.  Here's the text of that proposal as presented in the staff report (I have not figured out the significance of the stars * in the text):

Model #3 – Public / Private Partnership 
* Fire department engages in a partnership with a private contractor and provides ALS ambulance transportation while the private contractor provides BLS transportation and back up support service for ALS transportation.

Pros 
• Requires limited changes in current deployment
• Provides increased level of service
• Consistent with the redeployment plan
• Provides for increased cost recovery
• Provides the highest level of flexibility and opportunities to concurrently explore in an evolving local, regional and statewide EMS landscape

Cons
• Could impact the current contractor
• Could create a two tier billing system

Total (Annual) Realized Cost Recovery
$2,504,725*
*$2,304,725 – additional overhead related costs estimated at $200,000
**$1,659,353 – total new net cost recovery/revenue


OPTION #2 HAS A BIGGER RETURN
However, Model #2 as presented in the staff report, in which the CMFD assumes ALL ambulance transport, using a private company only as back-up, seems to represent the greatest net annual cost recovery - $3,250,084 - nearly double that of Model #3.  So, it's going to be interesting to hear the discussion on Tuesday to see the rationale behind choosing #3 instead.

LOTS OF COMMUNITY INTEREST!
Adding to the fun will be several articles and commentaries published over the past couple days on this subject.   
  • Hannah Fry published an article in the Daily Pilot, HERE, discussing the entire issue.  
  • Former City Council candidate John Stephens - he lost to now-lame duck councilman Gary Monahan by only 155 votes three years ago - published an opinion supporting Option #2, HERE.  
  • Today former Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold - a Costa Mesa resident with more than three decades of Fire Service experience and the father of this entire redeployment model during his tour as interim chief - published a commentary HERE, which supports the Hatch/Stefano decision for Option #3.
WHAT'S UP WITH STEVE AND JIM?
However, muddying up the issue is another commentary, HERE, apparently jointly-authored by Mayor Steve Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, although most likely penned by Public Information Officer Tony Dodero.  This commentary addresses the future of Fire Station #6, our newest station which presently serves the part of town north of the I-405 Freeway.  They tell us that things have changed since closing #6 was a primary part of Chief Arnold's reorganization plan, and that it should remain open.  It's a very nice commentary, but this paragraph - the next-to-last paragraph - needs to be considered carefully:
"We are willing to work with Chief Stefano and give him the leverage to redeploy his fire department personnel in different ways that still maintains the efficiencies and staffing numbers we all agreed to but also keeps Fire Station 6 open at the same time."

READ IT CAREFULLY
You see, this refers to "staffing numbers we all agreed to", which, if followed despite those changes mentioned in the commentary, seems to guarantee the need for a continued reliance on the private ambulance service - CARE Ambulance - which has served the city for eight years.  And, not so coincidentally,  it has been a significant campaign contributor to Righeimer's campaigns in the past.  Am I suspicious about this?  You betcha!  Especially since I'm told by folks looking into this subject that the Righeimer/CARE Ambulance relationship may go much, much deeper than a few hundred dollars in campaign contributions.  But that's for another time.
HERE'S MY TAKE
Here's my opinion on this issue.  The City Council has already bought off on a change in the way Emergency Medical Services are delivered to this community.  The study they requested seems to give a solid foundation for making an informed decision.  In fact, prior to that study, they were so committed to Chief Arnold's plan that they already authorized the purchase of six (6) Rescue Ambulances for a cost of over $1.6 million.  Those pieces of equipment are now being placed in service, although in a reduced role until this issue gets fully resolved.  Three (3) are currently being used.  That's another good reason to move forward with one of the plans outlined in the report.
SORTING OUT THE "STATION #6" ISSUE
Currently the Costa Mesa Fire Department is operating with eleven (11) vacancies, due in great part to the uncertainty of the future of Fire Station #6.  If station #6 is to remain open - and there seems to be plenty of reasons to do so - those positions must be filled ASAP.  However, that changes the financial issues, since we will not receive compensation anticipated for the sale of that site - which was donated to us for the fire station by the Sakioka family many years ago.
I'M WITH JOHN STEPHENS...
My preference coincides with that expressed by Stephens in his commentary - go with option #2 - the full Monty.  Have members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department do ALL transport and receive ALL the revenue from that activity, depending on a private firm only for emergency back-up.  That one makes the most sense to me and results in a more than $3 million annual revenue stream we presently do not have.
...BUT CAN SUPPORT THE STAFF REPORT, IF...
However, if Hatch, Stefano and Arnold - for whatever reasons, political or otherwise - are willing to take an interim step and recommend the adoption of Option #3 as the "next step" in EMS service to the community, I can support that choice.  It still results in a significant revenue stream to the city and can be made to work almost immediately.
WAITING FOR THE PREDICTABLE RIGHEIMER RANT
If, though, Righeimer attempts to leverage his support for maintaining Station #6 with the previously agreed-to staffing levels (which anticipated closing #6) - which would require greater use of CARE Ambulance - it will be clear to all watching that his concern is not for the residents of this city and their emergency medical needs, but is only for the well-being of his campaign contributors.  And, quite honestly, it won't surprise me one bit if that's the approach he takes Tuesday night.  I really want to hear his rationale on this issue at that meeting.  I fully expect him to go into one of his apoplectic rants, interrupting speakers and destroying their train of thought.  You know - same old Righeimer.
NOT SURE THEY CAN DISCUSS #6
And, it's unclear to me whether they can get into a discussion about the future of Station #6 Tuesday, since the staff report specifically refers ONLY to the Ambulance service as posted.  It's very possible that the Station #6 discussion will have to wait for another day, when it has been properly posted and agendized.

MORE ON THE REST OF THE MEETING LATER
More about the rest of the council meeting on another post later.

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