Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How To Spend The Budget Surplus?

READ LUKE'S ARTICLE
Take a few minutes to read Luke Money's article from the Daily Pilot, HERE, which outlines what some elected officials think should be done with the anticipated $11 million budget surplus.
MENSINGER SHOVELS THE MANURE
A big chunk of that surplus came from not hiring enough staff.  Mayor Steve Mensinger is quoted as saying, "Between outsourcing and being smart about hiring, we have maintained our service level with less people while doing more with technology."  What a load of manure!  By delaying hiring in public safety organizations, and by dragging their feet on contract negotiations for those groups, not only have response times increased, but the staff that remains is being worked to exhaustion with overtime.
ANTI-EMPLOYEE ENVIRONMENT
After their fiasco five years ago when they sent out illegal layoff notices to more than 200 employees, spent years in litigation and lost, it looks like the council majority - including the lamest of lame ducks, Gary Monahan (who shows you how he feels about the city in this image) - have figured out that they can get the same result by simply creating such a toxic work environment that people will leave - in droves - and they can be backfilled by consultants with no sense of ownership to what happens in our city.  Witness, for example, the recent approval of spending more than $900,000 for temporary staff in the Engineering Department and the $200,000 authorized to fill Claire Flynn's vacancy with a consultant!  The list goes on and on.
FALSE SAVINGS
Katrina Foley is quoted as stating that on a typical day in the last fiscal year we had 73 open positions!  She is correct when she opines that it would be a bad idea to put the vacancy savings into any kind of a project.
REBUILD THE RESERVES
In the past Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer have criticized previous councils for "blowing through reserves" during the economic downturn - ignoring the fact that sound financial management permitted those reserves to be there when needed in the first place.   We are still more than $20 million short of that reserve level that kept the city afloat in those tough times.
UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY SMOKE SCREEN
And, this council majority has yapped about the Unfunded Pension Liability, using it as campaign fodder, since they took office more than 5 years ago and created a special committee to study and advise it on solutions.  So far - ZIP - NOTHING - NADA.  Not a thing has been done to chip into that pension liability.  It's all political rhetoric, aimed directly at the employees, whom they've painted as greedy union thugs and malcontents.  Shortly after being created that committee did have an extensive workshop on Municipal Bankruptcy - the only real solution to the unfunded pension liability problem short of a some kind of a miracle in the investment returns at Cal PERS.
PAVING, POTHOLES BEFORE PUBLIC SAFETY
No, this council majority goes merrily along, paving streets, ripping out new median plantings and re-planting and overbuilding so their developer-buddies profit while public safety suffers.  And, by "public safety" I don't mean the organizations that provide it - I mean those of us who expect it to be at a level where we feel safe in our city.  Today we don't - for lots of reasons.
CLUELESS ON THE GOLF COURSE
It's hard to understand how the two main drivers of this decline in our city, Righeimer and Mensinger, can actually grasp how their policies actually impact the residents as they go about building new Country Club mansions.  Their idea of "affordable housing" seems to be $800,000 "starter homes" popping up like clusters of mushrooms on the Westside of town.
WHAT ABOUT SOBER LIVING HOME ENFORCEMENT?
And what about the whole Sober Living Homes issue?  We have two ordinances which are NOT being enforced.  Is it because we don't have adequate Code Enforcement staffing?
 HOMELESSNESS?
And what about our Homelessness problem?  This is conjoined with the Sober Living Home issue and, while we're told efforts are being made to reduce the number of homeless in our city, a drive around town past almost any public park will show you that we are failing on this issue.  Should we be spending some cash on that issue?
DEPLETED SELF-INSURANCE FUND
Oh, yes.. how about replenishing the Self Insurance Fund, which has been depleted by the lawsuits that Righeimer and Mensinger have inflicted on our city as a result of their boneheaded schemes?  That seems to be a good idea - particularly if they continue on the path they've followed for the last half-decade.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
So, how do you feel about spending the budget surplus?  Should we stash some of it away in our reserves?  Should we pay down some of our pension liability?  Should we hire more public safety personnel?  Both Fire and Police are down significantly.  What should be do with that cash?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

No Surprises At Planning Commission Meeting


IT SEEMED LONGER
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission - with all members present for the first time in awhile - met again Monday night and it took them almost three hours to wade through two agenda items.  It wasn't a long night - it just seemed that way.

MILITARY AFFAIRS COLLECTIONS
During Public Comments, Beth Refakes reminded us that there's still time to donate ball gowns and cocktail dresses to the women of the 1/5 Marines for the Marine Ball.  The cutoff date is September 15th.  She also reminded us that next week the Military Affairs Team will begin collecting individually-wrapped candy for the children of the 1/5 Marines for the "Trunk or Treat" event.
UPCOMING TOWN HALL
Mary Spadoni told us that there's going to be a town hall on September 22nd covering Public Safety and Sober Living Homes.
KUDOS ON BANNING RANCH.... AND SOBER LIVING HOMES
An unidentified person complimented Cindy Black for her photo in the Daily Pilot when the Banning Ranch decision was made last week, stating that it was a victory for the people.  She also told the commissioners that eight of the 15 sober living homes theoretically closed as part of the Solid Landings settlement have reopened.

None of the commissioners had comments.

UFC GYM APPROVED
Public Hearing #1, the request for a UFC Gym replacing a Mitusbishi auto dealership on Harbor Blvd. began just after 6:10 and the vote was taken just over an hour later.  During the discussions the only real sticking points seemed to be the potential for noise for the closest neighbors - more than 250 feet away - as a result of the loud music being played 24 hours a day - and the curious 900 square feet the applicant planned to abandon so they could make the parking spaces work.  Applicant Bill Fancher didn't really have a good answer about the space.  Even during lengthy discussions I don't think we ever had an adequate explanation of what was going to happen to that space.  I guess it's presumed that if the applicant says he won't be using it, then it will just sit empty.  Uh, huh...
WHAT ABOUT NOISE?
Six people spoke on this issue, most of whom were concerned about the noise spillage.  Chairman Rob Dickson seemed concerned about the "bass" (as in sea bass) sound in the music.  Seems he was referring to bass - as in second base - the deepest tones in the music.  He later corrected himself after another speaker used the word properly.  Made me smile.  In any event, after 65 minutes Dickson managed to fumble and stumble through a motion and they voted to approve the project, 5-0.
SPOTLIGHT ON "HOLIDAY"
Then came Public Hearing #2, the request for the new Holiday night club - which sits in place of the old Lion's Den/Maison that generated so much flack last year.  I suspected this one might take awhile, and also suspected it might generate some significant community input.  It did, and it did.

MEL GAVE US THE HISTORY
Senior Planner Mel Lee provided us with the staff report and the background of this property.
ROLAND WHO?
Consultant Karen Martin then presented the applicants side of the story, complete with a fancy set of slides, most of which are shown below and are fairly self-explanatory.  I must note that she couldn't distance their project from the now-infamous Roland Barrera quickly enough, as you can see in the third slide below. (click on the images if you have a hard time reading them)
EXPERT - CAN'T GET RID OF ALL THE SOUND
Another of their speakers was Landon Brown, the acoustic expert hired to help them with the noise issues.  I'll not attempt to cover everything he said, but at the end he acknowledged that it was probably not possible to contain ALL the musical noise coming from the night club, despite significant improvements to the place.  He observed that they needed a number against which to measure performance toward meeting the goals in the application.
CHEN SPOKE HIS PIECE
Ten people spoke on this issue, several of whom were not from Costa Mesa, but were in favor of the venue.  The pros and cons were evenly mixed.  Steve Chen, a resident immediately behind this site, had the proxy to speak for four other people, so Chairman Rob Dickson allowed him fifteen minutes to speak.  He addressed what he said was the overarching authority of the State agency to control this noise issue, and went on at length discussing specific sections of the state regulations - which were obliquely referred to in the conditions of approval - that he said acknowledged this fact.
CHO SAYS NO
Lawyer Michael Cho, retained by the applicant as their ABC expert to address this issue, disputed Chen's position strongly.
OWNER LOVES THE GUYS
Property Owner Larry Smith spoke in favor of the venue, stating that this ownership group was his best tenant in 44 years.
MARGINAL COMMUNITY REPLYS
Managing Partner Marty Kish spoke about the outreach engaged in with the local neighbors, indicating only one had replied so far.  They offered to place sound measuring devices at each propery.
COLIN CRITICIZED CHEN
During the discussion Colin McCarthy criticized Chen's presentation and said he was willing to support the applicant.
YOLANDA MASSAGES THE LANGUAGE
Much discussion ensued as Chairman Dickson consulted with Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill on some of the language in the resolution.  The motion that was made included a requirement for sound measuring to begin immediately and be reported back within a month instead of the 6 months in the staff report.  The commissioners voted, 5-0, to approve this project.  However, history of this site makes me think this is certainly not the end of this issue.  Without a firm sound measurement line there's too much fuzziness.  It's going to be interesting to watch this play out.
THREE HOURS - SEEMED LIKE SIX
The meeting ended just a couple minutes before 9 p.m., having spend an hour and three quarters on this issue.

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Short-handed Senior Commission Meets Tomorrow Morning

SHORT AGENDA FOR THE MEETING TOMORROW
The Costa Mesa Senior Commission, short one member since the resignation of Chair Ernie Feeney, meets Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th Street beginning at 9:00 a.m.  You can read the full agenda HERE.
ELECTION OF NEW CHAIRPERSON
Right off the bat they must elect a new Chairperson and, if necessary, a new Vice Chairperson.  We presume Vice Chair Ann Perry will officiate that process. According to city sources there were plenty of applicants to fill Feeney's vacancy on the commission, but that spot won't be filled until the next regular City Council meeting and won't actually be seated until the commission's November meeting.
ALL ABOUT GOOGLE
Also on the short agenda is a proposal for a Senior Instructional Class - All About Google - HERE.
PROGRAM ADMINISTRATOR REPORT
The final item is Yvette Aguilar's Senior Center Program Administrator Report, HERE, which is full of very interesting statistics.  For example, active membership in the Senior Center is up more than 25% from the two previous months and, of the 1,089 members, 814 (75%) are Costa Mesa residents.
YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN
I will not be attending this meeting - choosing not to infect the entire Senior Center with my lingering cold - so if you want to know what happened you're going to have to attend yourselves.  Usually there are plenty of seats.
CHANGING THE NEXT DATE?
There will apparently also be a discussion about possibly changing the date of the next scheduled meeting, which falls on November 8th - Election Day.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Another Short Planning Commission Meeting Monday


SHORT, BUT PROBABLY LIVELY
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission will meet again on  Monday, September 12, 2016 beginning at 6:00 in City Council Chambers for what should be a fairly short meeting.  You can read the agenda HERE.  Even though the main part of the agenda has only two items on it, that doesn't mean it won't be lively - maybe even contentious.
A 24-HOUR GYM REPLACING A CAR DEALERSHIP?
For example, Public Hearing #1, HERE, is a planning application for a conditional use permit (CUP) to place a physical fitness facility (UFC GYM) at 2860 Harbor Boulevard - the site of the former Mitsubishi car dealership.  This gym would operate 24 hours a day.  The staff report recommends approval and seems to have taken into account most of the possible noise issues for adjacent apartments.  This has me wondering if this is the beginning of the demise of our Harbor Blvd. Of Cars?  Just asking...
LIVE, LOUD MUSIC UNTIL 2:00 A.M.!
Public Hearing #2, HERE, should generate some community interest.  This is a planning application for Holiday (formerly Lion's Den and Maison) at 719 West 19th Street.  Some will recall the chaos revolving about the Maison opening - codes violated or ignored and on and on.  This request asks for a CUP to permit live entertainment including, but not limited to, music, dancing and open microphones, within 200 feet of residentially-zoned properties and on-site valet parking.  Currently their public entertainment permit allows dis jockey entertainment and dancing.  The proposed hours of operation are from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., seven days a week; proposed hours for live entertainment are 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., seven days a week.  The staff report includes the sordid history of this venue.  We know this plan is not viewed favorably by contiguous neighbors, so I expect to see more than a few of them presenting their case Monday night.
WHAT ABOUT THE SOBER LIVING APPLICATIONS?
This is the second short meeting in a row.  We're still waiting to hear from the Development Services Department about when the avalanche of Sober Living applications will be presented to the Planning Commission.  We understand there are upwards of 50 pending consideration.  Director Gary Armstrong warned the commission a couple months ago to expect to put in extra time on those issues - referring to additional meetings necessary to handle the workload.  And, of course, the Development Services Department is working with a depleted staff and a consultant acting as the Assistant Director since Claire Flynn left for the private sector a couple months ago.  It's going to be an interesting remainder of the year for that organization.

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91101 Remembered - Again, And Again, And Again



A TERRIBLE ANNIVERSARY
Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and wherever Flight 93 was headed before Todd Beamer and the other heroes aboard foiled the hijacking by crashing it in a field near Shanksville, PA at the cost of their lives and all aboard.



I'VE WRITTEN ABOUT THIS BEFORE
I've written about this terrible event many times, most recently a year ago, HERE.  In that short essay I gave you links to many others that I've written.  I know most of us have been inundated with remembrances of that terrible day over the past few days.  In fact, I've recently watched a television  series on the event and the aftermath which only dredged up my anger again.
THEY WERE PEOPLE
If you remember no other person, remember Christine Hanson, the youngest person to die in those tragic events that day.  Remember how Christine's life was snuffed out when the airplane she and her parents were flying in crashed into the World Trade Center.  Remember how they, along with nearly 3,000 other victims of those attacks, were pulverized - shredded like meat through a grinder - as the towers imploded.  Remember that those horrific clouds of dust and debris carried chunks of humans as they rolled up Manhattan that day.  Remember those poor people who chose to leap to their deaths from 80 floors in the air rather than be incinerated by the heat of those fires estimated to be 2,000 degrees.  Remember those brave first responders - more than 300 of them - who entered those burning buildings to try to help others escape, only to be trapped as the buildings collapsed.
REMEMBER
Remember that day....  Teach those too young to remember just what happened, and why it's important to remember.  I think it's critical that all Americans remember what happened that day, and what it has meant to our country and the world ever since.  To learn more about the victims of 91101, CNN has maintained a site for that purpose.  It will reside on my home page for future reference, but for now you can reach it HERE.  Clearly, we must remain vigilant, as demonstrated by the recent attack close to home in San Bernardino.  We must NEVER let our guard down... and we must NEVER FORGET.

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