Saturday, June 04, 2016

Ballot Measures & New Parks Commissioner On Council Agenda

MIGHT BE A SHORT ONE...
The Costa Mesa City Council will meet again on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 in City Council Chambers beginning at 5:45 p.m. for its regularly scheduled meeting.  You can read the agenda HERE.  There are two items on the Close Session agenda that will precede this meeting, one of which deals with labor negotiations with the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA).

MAYOR'S AWARD
There will be a presentation of the Mayor's Award to Kirk McIntosh for the Daily Pilot Cup youth soccer tournament.

COMMENTS, COMMENTS AND THE CEO
Following the Public Comments segment, the Council Members reports and the CEO report the Consent Calendar will be considered.  These items, as you know, are considered "routine" and therefore will be considered in one vote unless someone pulls one for separate discussion.  If that's the case it will be trailed to the very end of the meeting, forcing folks to stay to the bitter end.

CONSENT CALENDAR
Here's a quick review of some of the fourteen (14) items on the Consent Calendar.

THE WARRANT - LOTS OF FUN
Item #2, Warrant 2558, HERE, gives us details about the disbursement of more than $3 million of our tax dollars.  Click on that link and scroll down to see how your money was spent.  Lots of consultants.  Lots of temporary employees to back fill the horrendous number of vacancies. 

ELECTION DETAILS
Item #11, HERE, are resolutions dealing with the technicalities of managing the municipal election on November 8, 2016.

PERMANENTLY CANCELING 2ND AUGUST MEETING
Item #14, HERE, is interesting.  This is a request to cancel the regular City Council meeting of August 16, 2016 and PERMANENTLY cancel the 2nd regular meeting of August each year to accommodate vacations of city staff.

BIA REAUTHORIZATION... WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
Public Hearing #1, HERE, is the Reauthorization and Annual Assessment Levy of the Business Improvement Area (BIA).  Now, don't get me wrong here.  I think this concept is great to generate business for Costa Mesa and it appears the BIA is doing well.  But, this staff report tells us it will receive $2.57 million in revenue and plan to budget expenditures on activities of $164,000 next fiscal year.  I find myself wondering where the rest of that money goes.  Just askin'....

NEW PARKS & RECREATION COMMISSIONER APPOINTMENT
New Business #1, HERE, should be interesting.  This is the appointment of a new Parks and Recreation Commissioner to replace Don Harper, who resigned earlier this year.  The term expires early next year, so this will be a short appointment.  There are a dozen applicants - you can read all their applications HERE.  As you scroll down the list of applicants a few familiar names jump out at you - folks who have participated on other committees and have been active in the community for years.  And others, with names not so familiar, certainly seem to have strong credentials to give them consideration for the position.  And then there are a couple others.

UH, HUH... REALLY?
First there is Krissie Bogner, who has a long resume outlining precisely nothing that qualifies her for the position except that she was responsible for making Wilson Park unusable to most residents because she's responsible for the restrooms being locked up.

THE LEAST QUALIFIED...
However, I fully expect the least qualified person - Julie Mercurio - to get the job.  Her "qualifications" read thus: "I would like to get more involved in the city.  I have two children and am dedicated to preserving our open space.  Thank you."  That's it!  No strong academic credentials like many of the others.  No long history of community volunteer work or other committee participation.  She has only two "qualifications" that I know about.  She's the heavy-handed moderator of the inaccurately named "Costa Mesa Public Square" Facebook page that pretends to welcome one and all, but doesn't.  That site, which offers inducement to folks to sign up and purports to have thousands of members, is the repository of some of the nastiest, most vile and mean-spirited comment threads I have ever seen.  And I only see a few because I've been barred from participating, so I depend on friends to provide me with screen grabs of threads.  No, her only real "qualification" is that she's a strong supporter of the current power elite and is running for City Council in November.  A slot on the Parks & Recreation Commission will give her visibility in the community.  Even though there at least a half-dozen highly qualified people who have applied, honestly, I kind of hope she IS appointed, because - even though she would likely be the least competent candidate - her appointment will officially anoint her as a "public official" in a job where her shortcomings will very quickly become evident - and I will just as quickly point them out to you.  So, please DO appoint her.. I can hardly wait!

PUTTING MARY JANE ON THE BALLOT - TWICE
New Business #2, HERE, is the series of actions necessary to place the two competing Medical Marijuana issues that qualified for the ballot last year on the November 8th ballot.  It's my understanding that the City Attorney is working hard to create another city-sponsored measure to compete with these two to be able to adequately managed how those businesses will operate in our city.  That's not on this agenda.

SMART GROWTH INITIATIVE
New Business #3, HERE, is a similar set of resolutions to place the so-called Smart Growth Initiative on the November 8th ballot.  The actual title of the ordinance is, "An Initiative To Require Voter Approval On Certain Development Projects".  The City Council has no choice on this one, just as it has no choice on the Medical Marijuana issues - it MUST place them on the ballot so the voters can make a choice.  It's my understanding that there is also a competing, city-sponsored, measure being hammered out by the legal department to offer the voters a choice.  It seems like an unnecessary expense - they can either vote Yes or No on this one.

FINGERS CROSSED FOR NO BLOODBATH
So, that's it for the agenda.  It's my understanding that the Public Comments segment may turn out to be very interesting, and not in a good way.  We'll have to see.

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Second Voting District Formation Meeting


WE ATTENDED THE SECOND MEETING
My sweet and very patient wife and I spent a few minutes at the second community meeting designed to inform the public and gather input for the process of creating voting districts as required by a lawsuit apparently filed to enforce a perceived violation of the California Voting Rights Act.
SMALLER TURNOUT, SAME INFORMATION
This meeting, held for a couple hours at the Halecrest Park meeting facility this morning, was billed as a duplicate of the one we reported on last Thursday.  We, along with a smaller crowd of fewer than 24 residents,  sat through the beginning presentations by consultants hired to facilitate this process.  Demographer David Ely presented the information again and responded to questions, again.  We left as they were about to break into smaller groups for the exercise of creating maps that represented the preferences of the smaller groups.

NOT MANY LATINOS
I noted that there were only three Latino people attending this meeting that required translation assistance, and they left early.  At the earlier meeting there was grumbling from social service organizations that there had been virtually no time to organize folks to attend the meetings.
GATHERING AND COMPILING
Ely will now homogenize the information he received at these two meetings and compile new maps that take into account not only the information gathered at these two meetings, but the earlier mini-meetings, billed as "Meet The Expert" meetings.

NEXT ROUND OF MEETINGS ARE CRITICAL
On June 15th and June 18th there will be two more meetings where that information is presented and members of the public will be encouraged to add further input and discussion into this process.  After THOSE meetings Ely will present information during a public hearing on July 5th.  The council is scheduled to make a decision on which map to place on the November ballot at their only meeting in August.
SOME APPARENT OPTIONS
A couple things came up during this meeting.  First, it is possible for the council to arbitrarily decide to NOT place the issue before the voters and just select one of the maps and adopt that change.  I had the impression from the way Ely discussed that issue that he thought such a move could/would result in legal action.  Also, if the public votes to NOT choose to change the way we elect council members in November the lawsuit that is driving this action will likely move forward and a judge will ultimately decide how districts will be formed.
2018 WOULD BE FIRST DISTRICT ELECTIONS
Assuming this issue will appear on the November ballot, the earliest the City will begin selecting council members by district would be in the General Election of 2018, when two positions will be open.  In 2020 the three remaining seats will be up for grabs.  It's still unclear how this process will actually shake out.
ANOTHER LOOK AT DISTRICTS AFTER 2020
Also, because there will be a new census in 2020, and because the sensitive Westside area that seems to be the primary focus of this activity is morphing as we write this with hundreds of high-end housing developments being built in the heart of that area, it's possible the demographics of voting age people in that area will change - which will require this process to be tackled again.  That's pretty discouraging, to say the least.
NEED MORE PUBLICITY
These meetings have been poorly advertised, hence the turnout of only around 50 people at both of them.  I certainly hope the City does a better job of advertising the remaining two meetings and the two public hearings in July and August when this monumental change to the way our city is governed takes place.  Assistant CEO Rick Francis and City Clerk Brenda Green both attended this second meeting.  I certainly hope they took notice of the sparse attendance and will do something about it for the future meetings.
INFO AVAILABLE ON CITY WEB SITE
Information on this process, including links to displays and an email address to which members of the public may send their own ideas about voting districts can be found at the City Website, HERE.

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Friday, June 03, 2016

First Voter District Formation Meeting Report

SPARSE TURNOUT FOR VOTER DISTRICT MEETING
Three dozen of your friends and neighbors - fewer than expected -  attended the consultant-led Voter District Formation meeting last night at the Neighborhood Community Center from 7-9 p.m.  An identical meeting will be held Saturday, June 4th, at the Halecrest Park, 3107 Killybrooke Lane from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon.  This meeting and the one Saturday were not well-publicized.  If you missed this first one, plan to make the second one on Saturday.
A SECOND ROUND LATER THIS MONTH
Additionally, there will be a second round of community meetings later this month at St. Joachim's Catholic Church, 1964 Orange Avenue on Wednesday, June 15th from 7-9 p.m. and on Saturday, June 18th at Balearic Community Center, 1975 Balearic Drive from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon.  At these two meetings the results of the data gathered at the first two meetings plus the recently-completed series of "Meet The Expert" mini-meetings will be discussed and more public input will be gathered.
CONSULTANTS RAN THE SHOW
Although Assistant CEO Rick Francis and City Clerk Brenda Green were present,  Consultant Yesenia Arias and her team from Arellano Associates and Demographer David Ely (with arms folded in these photos) provided information and displayed four sample maps - three (3) with five (5) disticts and one with seven (7).  Those were just sample maps to illustrate much of the data Ely had been working with.  Interpreters for Spanish and Vietnamese speakers were provided.  Pay close attention to the slide with the anticipated schedule.  There's not much time to complete this process and get the item ready for the November ballot.
SOME INTERESTING SAMPLE MAPS
I think you'll be able to make out the slides he presented.  You'll probably notice that section 4 on each is the critical link.  That one represents the section with the greatest number of minority (Latino) voters.  I was especially amused to see how, on Sample B, District 3 completely surrounds District 4.  It's an interesting exercise.  Click on the image to enlarge.
 BUILD-YOUR-OWN-DISTRICT EXERCISE
After a break the assembled crowd self-selected into three groups and proceeded to craft their own suggested district maps, using whatever criteria they chose, then explained their reasoning to the rest of the folks in attendance.


THE PRESS WELL-REPRESENTED
Luke Money from the Daily Pilot and Louis Casiano, Jr. from the Orange County Register attended and will write about the event, too.  Look for their stories.  I plan to attend the second meeting Saturday, just to see what kind of crowd turns out.


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Thursday, June 02, 2016

Senior Commission Tackles Goals In Special Meeting



ONLY FIVE COMMISSIONERS AVAILABLE
A short-handed Costa Mesa Senior Commission (no replacement has been named for departed Stella Adkins and Sue Healey was absent) met before a very small crowd - 8 people eventually showed up to observe and/or speak -  in a special meeting this morning with a single item on the agenda - the establishment of goals and objectives, something Commissioner John McGlinn has been pushing for since the very first meeting of this group a year ago.
OVERLY-OPTIMISTIC AGENDA
Interim Recreation Manager Justin Martin and Senior Center Program Administrator Yvette Aguilar guided the discussion by providing some history and some statistics, but it was clear early-on that some of the commissioners felt the proposal to craft and adopt the goals and objectives at this meeting was overly-optimistic. 
(CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO ENLARGE)
GOOD FLOW OF INFORMATION
Each commissioner had been asked to come prepared to offer suggestions for goals and objectives for their peers to consider, and each of them did.  The discussion was more free-form than past meetings - more like a study session - so the conversations many times overlapped, but in a good, constructive way.  Sometimes it was difficult to tell whether a commissioner was describing a goal or just providing background.  In my opinion, this was - by far - the most productive meeting of this group so far.

KROCHMAN GOT TO THE CORE... WHO DO THEY SERVE?
While each of the commissioners offered good suggestions, the core of the issue this morning revolved around Commissioner Janet Krochman's suggestion that they didn't have enough data to actually accomplish this task - yet.  For example, she suggested that they didn't really know who the Senior Center was supposed to be serving.  She cited the fact that, based on the numbers currently available, they are trying to design programs and services for a very broad age demographic - ages 50 through 100.  The membership at the Senior Center has dropped by 50% since the initial push last year for free membership.  Of those 832 remaining, we don't even know the ages of of 53 (6%) of them.   In fact, the Senior Center is currently providing services and programming for only 2.8% of the Costa Mesa seniors - if you begin to count those ages 50 and older.

COSTLY ACTIVITY
McGlinn at one point observed that it was costing somewhere in the area of $900 per member to provide services - a questionable return on the investment.

WHAT ABOUT THE 50-59 GROUP?
It was generally agreed that it was important to attract more seniors to the center, but some wondered whether there would ever be programming and scheduled hours to attract the largest segment - the 50-59 age group, most of whom are still working and raising families.  At one point it was suggested that the definition of "senior" may need to be amended to exclude that particular group.  This suggestion was serious, since grant funding depends on providing services to a specific percentage of the group to be served.

MCGLINN'S THOUGHTS
McGlinn led off with a series of questions/observations, some of which appeared to morph into "goals".  He suggested, for example, that many times seniors go through a traumatic loss of identity, so some kind of "job training" could be valuable.  He further suggested the following:
1 - Increase the participation of the 55-65 age group.
2 - Expand the hours of operation to accommodate a broader age group.
3 - Explore a different method of access control and use the data collected to further define those being served, and how.
There were other suggestions buried in the discussions.
KIRK'S LIST
Commissioner Kirk Bauermeister provided a clear, concise list of goals:
1 - Increase 2-way communication with Seniors
2 - Increase Senior Center membership by 10%
3 - Expand health and wellness programming by 10%
4 - Increase volunteer opportunities by 10%
5 - Each Costa Mesa high school sponsor an event at the Senior Center next year.
ANN PERRY'S IDEAS
Vice Chair Ann Perry opined that "we're here to serve the seniors, but if some don't need us, that's OK."  She observed that those in their 50's don't see themselves as "seniors".  She suggested that membership sign up sheets should be included inside every issue of The Chronicle.  She suggested greater outreach at venues like the Fish Fry, Concerts in the Park and the Car Show.  She thought there could be transportation to City Council meetings and that City Staffers could make presentations to the seniors on operations within City government.  She also suggested high school groups could do dress rehearsals or abbreviated versions of upcoming productions at the Senior Center. She also suggested more weekend and evening programming be created to serve the younger demographic.
FEENEY - ANOTHER BUS, AND MORE
Chair Ernie Feeney suggested that it would do little good to attract more seniors to the center if we were unable to provide transportation, so she suggested a goal of adding another bus and driver to facilitate better transport.  She further suggested expanding special programming from Friday nights to other evenings of the week.  She suggested mailing The Chronicle to the mailing list of the city Recreation Guide twice a year, to expand the readership and potential membership.  She also mentioned a "volunteer greeter", but it was unclear if that was to be considered a goal or not.  She also suggested an annual survey of all attendees to the Senior Center, using simple "yes or no" questions.
PROGRAM OVERLAP?
Krochman wondered if the programming outlined in the Recreation Guide may overlap some of the Senior programming.

PUBLIC COMMENTS
During Public Comments two people rose to address this issue.

ASHENDORF
Long time activist and volunteer Charlene Ashendorf suggested, using her own, personal experience, that we shouldn't leave the 50-59 group behind - that they can be valuable assets to the center and learn from the more senior members.  She opined that we need to remain relevant in this digital age and the Senior Center should be a one-stop destination for many services.  She suggested that we need to "cultivate the Senior Center" and adhere to the core values.  She also indicated that The Friends Of The Center could be a valuable resource.
HUMPHREY
Former councilman and current candidate Jay Humphrey thanked the commissioners for serving, then observed that the two minutes alloted per person for speaking with such a small group was "preposterous".  He observed that the commission didn't seem to have enough information to make proper decisions yet.  He also suggested folks who declined to return be polled to find out why.  He also suggested a series of "invite a friend" events, where members would be asked to bring a non-member as a method to expand membership.

STAFF WILL COMPILE DATA
The information discussed will be compiled by the staff and presented to the commission, along with answers to their many questions, at their July 12 meeting where this process will continue and - with luck - goals and objectives will be established.

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