Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Candidate Forum Video Links

A SECOND BITE OF THE APPLE
Well, we've finished with all the City Council candidate forums for this cycle.  Now it's just about how many signs are placed and stolen and how much political stuff jams into your mailboxes.  So, if you're interested, I'm providing the links to all three of the candidate forums for your viewing pleasure.  I suspect you'll be able to form some pretty solid opinions about the individual candidates as you view them.

EASTSIDE COSTA MESA NEIGHBORS GROUP FORUM
Let's begin with the most recent forum - the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors' Group forum conducted on October 6th at the Neighborhood Community Center.  Terry Wall produced this recording for us to view.  Only three candidates, Sandy Genis, John Stephens and Jay Humphrey, showed up for this meeting but moderator Harold Weitzberg managed to drive right on through the planned agenda and get answers to most of the questions.  In my view, this was the most informative of the three.  Watch it HERE.
 MESA VERDE COMMUNITY, INC
Next we have the forum hosted by Mesa Verde Community, Inc on August 24th.  Four of the seven candidates showed up for this one.  Al Melone, plus the three listed above.  Terry Wall also produced this video, which you can view HERE.  Former Mayor Mary Hornbuckle was the moderator for this event.
FEET TO THE FIRE
Finally, the first forum, the Feet To The Fire Forum, which was held early in the cycle, on August 18th.  Columnist Barbara Venezia and former Daily Pilot Publisher Tom Johnson were the moderators of this event.  The crew from Newport Beach Television did the video recording because the Costa Mesa City Council refused to let Costa Mesa Television televise any candidate forums.  Al Melone attended in the audience, but did not participate.  Mayor Steve Mensinger, former mayor Allan Mansoor and Lee Ramos joined Genis, Stephens and Humphrey on the stage.  It gives you a chance to see those three men early in the election cycle.  You can watch this nearly 2 hour event HERE.
LET THEM KEEP ON TALKING!
I must say that it's very disappointing that some of the candidates chose to avoid some of the forums.  The voters deserve to see and hear their views and compare them to their competition.  Then, again, the slate of Mensinger, Mansoor and Ramos seem to be running a campaign based on lies and misrepresentations, so it's easy to understand why they wouldn't want to have their views stacked against the others.  We have less than a month to go before we cast our votes - plenty of time to sort out the lies from the truth.  Fortunately, the more "Team Costa Mesa" - Dave Ellis' trio of lie-spewers - talk the more they lie.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Planning Commission Meeting Wrap...



LATE, BUT MOST FOLKS DON'T CARE...
Yeah, I know... I'm tardy with this report, but I seriously doubt if too many people are worried much about it.  There were fewer than a dozen folks in the auditorium Monday night for the 90 minute meeting, and nearly all of those were involved in one of the two items on the agenda.  But, let's get with it.

PUBLIC COMMENTS
All the commissioners were present at the meeting and they started right on time.  During the Public Comments segment three people spoke on issues important to them.

LICENSING CONFLICT
Steve Chan, who has been up to his ears in hassles with the new night club, Holiday, near his Center Street home, stepped up to remind the commission and Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill of the complications of issuing an entertainment permit to an establishment that is already encumbered with a beverage permit from the State that includes language affecting noice issues.  He's hoping for a clarification of the issue soon.
SUCCESSFUL GOWN DRIVE
Beth Refakes, representing the Military Affairs Team, told the commission about the successful gown collection/distribution event for the wives of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.  She and her cohorts did a great job again of gathering gently-used gowns, prepping them and delivering them to Camp Pendleton for distribution.  Kudos to all involved again.  She also reminded us of the collection of individually wrapped candies for the "Trunk or Treat" event.  Residents are encouraged to deliver candies to City Hall for that distribution in a week or so.
SOBER LIVING HOMES
An unidentified person spoke to the commissioners on the Sober Living Home issue.  She's a member of TBON, a grass-roots organization created a few years ago to help get a handle on the proliferating Sober Living Home issues.  For more information on the group click on their name.

INTRODUCING NEW CONSULTANTS
Before turning to Commissioner Comments Chairman Rob Dickson introduced Jay Trevino, Interim Development Services Director, replacing the departed Gary Armstrong.  Trevino has a long and illustrious career in planning, both in Los Angeles and Orange County.  He held the top Development position in Santa Ana most recently.  He, in turn, introduced another consultant, Peggy Schneble, who is the Interim Assistant Director of Development Services - the position Claire Flynn held until she left for a private sector position earlier this year.  Both these individuals bring decades of relevant public and private sector experience to our city and should be helpful at a time when the workload is up and staffing is down.
During Commissioner Comments Colin McCarthy noted the departure of Fire Protection Analyst, Dave Hollister, who retired last week after decades of service to the City.  He suggested a proclamation be prepared to acknowledge his contributions.
Tim Sesler, once again, refuted comments made by that unidentified person, above.  He does that each time she speaks.

Neither Vice Chair Jeff Mathews nor Commissioner Stephan Andranian had any comments.

Dickson also addressed Hollister's contribution and spoke to Chan's concerns about the ABC license and asked the staff for a brief presentation on the process.

CLARIFICATION ON THE MINUTES OF 9/12/16
Chan asked for one of the items on the Consent Calendar - the minutes of 9/12/16 - be pulled for separate discussion.  He reminded the commission that they were being considered this time is because he challenged them at the last meeting as being inaccurate.  He is concerned that they may not meet the legal test because they are "action minutes".  When he finished it was explained by Dickson that if there were to be any legal challenge parties could refer to the video for a precise record of the event.
OLD LOS ANGELES TIMES SITE
At 6:25 Principal Planner Minoo Ashabi began hearing Public Hearing #1, the Re-zone of the old Los Angeles Times property and an adjacent chunk that currently contains a ball field - a total of just over 23 acres.  One speaker addressed this issue, reminding the commission that the "evil twin mayors" - Steve Mensinger and Jim Righeimer - had long ago commanded that there would be no residential uses north of the 405 Freeway and questioned their authority to unilaterally make such judgments.  She also told the commission that the Pat Moore Foundation - a 78 bed sober living facility - had recently moved out of their facility and, apparently, nobody at the City knew about it.  She wondered what was moving in there.  After almost no discussion the commissioners voted, 5-0, to approve the staff recommendation for the re-zoning of the property.  The entire discussion took less than 10 minutes.

SELF-STORAGE AT 375 BRISTOL STREET
Next came Public Hearing #2, the second pass at a modification of the property at 375 Bristol Street presented by Senior Planner Mel Lee.  The commission denied an earlier plan for this property in June.  This time around consultant Paul Freeman presented a different plan which abandoned the earlier proposed food court, retained some of the existing businesses and reduced the number of self-storage units to 719.
 A half dozen people spoke to this issue.  The previous time many more spoke - mostly business owners that would be forced to move with the old plan.  This time it was equally split between supporters and opponents, including existing business owners on both sides of the issue.

Following the speakers and other discussion Freeman reminded the commission that the current use is very constricted by the location and the airport and that the existing business model is not sustainable. 
Dickson told us he asked for a report from the Costa Mesa Police Department on typical calls for service to public storage places verses calls at the existing auto repair mall.  The self storage facilities had fewer calls for service.
McCarthy recalled the earlier presentation and described it as a "potato only half-baked".  He supported the new plan.
Sesler seemed on the fence about it and interrogated Freeman on some issues.  An amusing sidebar - Freeman had to ask Sesler to speak into the microphone because he couldn't make out what he was asking.  Welcome to my world, Paul!  Sesler is nearly impossible to understand when you're in the auditorium - he usually sounds like he's talking with a mouth full of marbles.
Andranian acknowledged that it is a difficult piece of property to work with, but felt he could support the current plan. 
The commission voted to approve the plan, 5-0, at 7:24 p.m.

ADDITIONAL MEETINGS... MAYBE
Trevino told the commission that they were working on a plan for possibly having extra meetings this month and, maybe, again in December.  He mentioned that they might have back-to-back meetings on October 24th and 25th to accommodate the avalanche of Sober Living Home appeals, and said the staff was working with the commissioners to coordinate their schedules.  As it turns out, as of this afternoon, there will only be one meeting - at the regularly-scheduled time and date - Monday, October 24, 2016.

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Sunday, October 09, 2016

Campaign Lies And Some Perspective



THE LIES ARE ARRIVING IN YOUR MAILBOXES
The end of last week, in many mailboxes around town, there arrived a campaign mailer that clearly indicates it came from Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger.  I've reproduced it in this entry for you.  You can read it at the top of the page that includes the mailing address.  It says, "Paid for by Steve Mensinger for Costa Mesa City Council 2016," and includes the return address for what apparently is his campaign office in Santa Ana.  That was the last time the reader would see the truth.
When you begin unfolding this piece of malicious falsehood the lies come rolling out at you.  You'll see this page:
It says the average Costa Mesa firefighter works 10.1 days per month.  Well, maybe, but those are 24 hour days!  It says "you work an average of 20 days a month", but those are 8 hour days... catching on yet?  And, it tells you that the top 15 firefighters make an average of $295,000 a year.  Another lie!

EDITED FOR A FALSE IMPACT
Then you'll come to this page: (Click on it to read the numbers more clearly if need be)
LIARS WITH NO ATTENTION TO DETAIL
OK, let's dispel the lies on this one.  First, the liars who put this thing together couldn't even read the Employee Compensation Report from the City website accurately.  You'll find the page from which they extracted this data HERE, on page 2 of the 2015 Employee Compensation Report.  If you carefully examine that page you'll see that they managed to overlook one firefighter while scavaging data with which they are trying to pillory Costa Mesa firefighters.  That's beside the point.
DELETIONS ARE A LIE, TOO
As they put this bit of misinformation together they conveniently left out the columns that show how many overtime hours and how much each firefighter was paid for that overtime and they left out of the equation the city contribution towards health benefits.  And, no mention is made of the employee's contribution to his retirement - all of which was available, but inconvenient for them to show.

REMOVE FRED FROM THE EQUATION
Let's talk about the numbers, but first, remove retired Battalion Chief Fred Seguin - as dedicated firefighter as we've ever had, who literally wore every hat available in the department during his career -  because he was in an administrative job working a different kind of shift -  8-5, five days a week - worked almost no overtime and his numbers are skewed by the fact that he received more than $50,000 in vacation/sick leave payout when he retired.

OVERTIME IS STAGGERING, BUT REQUIRED
That leaves the fourteen others shown on this chart.  Those men worked an average of 1,166 hours of overtime for the year, which averaged $71,368.72 per man.  It was nearly a million dollars in overtime pay for just those fourteen for calendar year 2015.  The second man on the list, Fire Captain Mike Hurd, worked 1,662 hours of overtime and was paid $99,106.36 for those hours!  He worked nearly an equivalent of another full job in overtime hours.  Do you REALLY think he wanted to do that?  Preposterous!
 
FINAL COLUMN IS THERE TO MAKE YOU ANGRY, NOTHING MORE
That final column, Total Pay And Benefits, combines the total of all pay categories PLUS the employers pension contribution towards retirement.  In Hurd's case, that was $ 78,389.09.  It's NOT cash in his pocket.  To reach that number you must take the total in the final column and subtract that $78,389.09 AND the city's contribution to his health benefits - $6,672.12 - and any state and federal withholding taxes.

SOME MORE INFORMATION
So, let's take a look at another couple charts.  The first takes those 15 men and includes the scheduled hours and overtime hours each worked.  This one will knock your socks off.  Regularly scheduled hours for Costa Mesa Firefighters is 2912 hours. (click on the image to enlarge it)

LOOK AT THE TOTAL HOURS WORKED!
The second isolates the section of the chart showing hours and overtime hours plus the TOTAL hours each worked.  Most folks working a 5-day a week job, 8 hours each day, will work 2080 hours in a year.  You'll notice these 15 men work much more than that - some well over 4,000 hours in a year!  That's two jobs worth of hours!

INSUFFICIENT STAFFING
Much of the overtime they worked was required due to the insufficient staffing of the department.  Some of that is predictable and is scheduled a month in advance.  Much of it, though, is NOT predictable - a colleague calls in sick so a firefighter will be held over to work another 24 hour shift. The only choice they had was either work the overtime and help keep us safe, or NOT work the overtime.  And, in actuality, they don't have that last option... they MUST work the overtime - sometimes a thousand hours per year or more away from their families.  Could, or would, you do that?  I think not.
CALLS UP, STAFFING DOWN
In 2009 the Costa Mesa Fire Department had 96 firefighters budgeted to protect our neighborhoods.  That year they responded to 9.100 calls.  In 2015 they responded to nearly 13,000 calls with only 66 firefighters available to fill 72 budgeted positions!  Calls were up 42% while the number of firefighters available to respond to them dropped 25%.

DEBUNKING ANOTHER LIE
Let's talk about that "10.1" days worked a month.  Costa Mesa Firefighters have a work schedule common in the firefighting business.  They work one day on, one day off, one day on, one day off, one day on, then four days off.  It begins all over again after that.  Their shifts typically begin at 7:30 a.m. and ends 24 hours later.  In October of this year a firefighter might "work" 11 twenty-four hour shifts.  However, that's not how it typically goes.  I scrolled down that list I linked to above - all 766 line entries of employees, Active, Retired or Terminated, at the end of 2015.  EVERY single firefighter worked some overtime, except Chief Dan Stefano, and I suspect his actual work hours would stagger most of us, but he's not eligible for overtime.
PENSIONS
Let's talk about those "greedy" firefighter's pensions, shall we?  Here's some numbers provided to me for your reading pleasure.  It compares the Police, which work a fairly normal work week - you could probably compare to most of your jobs, too - to the Costa Mesa Firefighters.  I think you'll find them interesting.
That's right... because of the way their schedules are designed - without any overtime considered - your typical firefighter will work 12 more years worth of time to qualify for his pension than a member of the police department.  Those are hours away from families, protecting ours.

BUT, BUT, BUT... THEY SLEEP, TOO!
"Well", you huff, "Even though they're "on duty" for 24 hours at a stretch, not all that time is spent fighting fires or rescuing cats!"  You're correct - some of it is spent doing fire inspections, training, polishing the equipment, visiting schools, cooking and sleeping.  However, when that bell goes off they must respond instantly!  We're told the response time to emergencies in our city is supposed to be 5 minutes or less.  Imagine bouncing out of bed from a sound sleep and staring into a roaring blaze five minutes later!  Imagine trying to read a map after jumping out of bed a minute earlier.  Imagine the paramedic trying to insure he gives you the correct dosage of medicine 10 minutes after rolling out of bed.  These are VERY SPECIAL people, performing VERY SPECIAL jobs.
POOR JUDGMENT... AND MAYBE MORE
Because of the poor judgment of the current council majority we are running six fire stations but are staffed for only five.  Because of the poor judgment of the current council majority we bought six Rescue Ambulance for around $1.6 million a couple years ago, but that majority refuses to let us deploy all of them, choosing to continue the contract with CARE Ambulance instead.  That decision not only adversely affects the efficiency of the department and the safety of the public, we are leaving more than $3 million in transport fees on the table for CARE Ambulance to scoop up and take home.  Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer even lied about approving the purchase!
AND MORE LIES...
On the page with the chart above Mensinger lies about the firefighters spending $400,000 to defeat his slate.  That's a lie.

...ON TOP OF LIES
Finally, on this page of the flyer Mensinger begins with a lie - that previous councils "squandered" our $35 million surplus.  That surplus - the reserves squirreled away by wise administrations to get us through tough times - did just that.  They got us through the economic downturn that began in 2007.  He says "Today we're stronger than ever without raising taxes!"  Well, yeah!  If you budget to fill your full compliment of staff, then intentionally fail to fill those slots, you'll certainly have some money left at the end of the fiscal year.  In the meantime, public safety - both police and fire - are operating well below even marginally satisfactory levels of staffing!  Another lie!

POTHOLES BEFORE PUBLIC SAFETY
He raves about paving roads, fixing alleys and curbs and gutters while public safety - and the safety of the public - suffers. Poor priorities, at the very least.
NO... THEY DIDN'T!
He says he "established pension reform to guarantee our employees' retirement will be funded, and are paying down our unfunded liabilities".  Well, they didn't and they are not.  His pal, Jim Righeimer, has stated many times that he's not sending another cent to Sacramento on the pension debt.
MOTELS ARE A SMOKESCREEN FOR DEVELOPER PROFITS
He bleats about working hard to shut down the sleazy motels, but that's all smoke and mirrors to feather the nests of his developer-buddies who want to buy the land on the cheap after Mensinger and his pals squeeze the owners with code enforcement, fire and police calls and penalize them if the calls for service are made.  Heck, Righeimer told us a couple years ago that was his plan - to cause the motel owners to take a "more realistic" look at the value of their properties.
DEVELOPER BUCKS PAY FOR LIES
While we're on that subject, a person who looked into that issue found that one of the main sources of money behind the anti-Measure Y (the Smart Growth Initiative) movement is a law firm in Los Angeles with no ties - except cash - to our city.  And we've also seen quantified developer contributions in excess of $100,000 to defeat that issue.
LIES HAVE BECOME A WAY OF LIFE FOR THEM
Lies, lies and more lies.  Mensinger is following in the footsteps of Righeimer and has become a spontaneous liar.  Righeimer has been deemed by the courts to be a liar - maybe Mensinger wants that mantle, too.
MENSINGER WILL LIE ABOUT ANYTHING TO GET RE-ELECTED
It's very clear to me, and it should be to every voter in this city, that Steve Mensinger will do ANYTHING to retain his seat on the city council - including publishing such scurrilous flyers as this one.  The only way to hold him accountable is to boot him out on his butt.
WHO GAVE PERMISSION FOR THE IMAGE?
And, by the way, who gave him permission to use that image on his flyer?  That photo was paid for with city funds.  You can find it on his page on the city website.

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Small Agenda For Planning Commission Meeting Monday


ONLY TWO ITEMS, STILL COULD RUN LONG
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission meets again Monday, October 10, 2016 beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  The full agenda for this short meeting may be found HERE.
REZONE OF OLD LA TIMES SITE
The staff report for the first of two public hearings scheduled for the evening may be found HERE.  This is a request to rezone 23.4 acres located at 1375 Sunflower Avenue and 3370 Harbor Blvd. from Industrial Park (MP) to Planned Development Commercial (PDC).  This site includes the location of the old Los Angeles Times site.  No residential development will be permitted within this site.  The staff recommends approval.
SECOND PASS AT SELF-STORAGE ON BRISTOL STREET
Public Hearing #2, HERE,  is the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration and Planning Application for a Self-Storage Facility and Retail Building at 375 Bristol Street.  This is the second time around for this project.  In June the Planning Commission denied, 4-1, with Chairman Rob Dickson voting NO, the previous project, which was to completely demolish the existing facility and replace it with a self-storage facility and a food court.

FEWER STORAGE UNITS, RETAINING SOME BUSINESSES
This new, revised project reduces the size of the buildings to be demolished to retain some of the existing tenants and reduces the number of self-storage units from 774 to 719.  To accomplish this project it requires rezoning the 3.18 acres from Planned Development Commercial (PDC) to General Business District (C2).  The last time around most of the existing tenants spoke.  I suspect we'll see a big turnout again this time.


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