Saturday, December 24, 2016

We Wish You All A Very Merry Christmas


 VIEWING 2017 WITH TREPIDATION...
Here we are, on Christmas Eve, 2016, and the world is all a'flutter with the election of our new President.  As if there was not enough uncertainty before his election, now we REALLY have something to think about.
...BUT NOT SO MUCH IN COSTA MESA
On the other hand, our local election gave many of us Costa Mesans a lot to be happy and thankful about.  So, my faithful friends and readers - that may be redundant in some cases - tonight I post a little something that may actually get you in the old holiday spirit.  We appreciate your loyalty and comments just as we have for the dozen years we've been posting this blog.  Below we've provided for you some very special video clips with some of our favorite Christmas music.  Please enjoy the songs, snuggle up to those you love and have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

A Special Christmas Greeting To Costa Mesa Employees


As I type this it's the last work day of the year for most of the Costa Mesa City employees, although some will work the weekend and even Christmas Day.  So, before all of them take off for the week and enjoy a much-deserved holiday hiatus, I just wanted to send them a little message.

TO ALL COSTA MESA CITY EMPLOYEES
I know many of you personally.  Some of you have become good friends, others just casual acquaintances and many of you probably wouldn't know me if you drove over me in the City Hall parking lot.  I don't recommend that, by the way - thank you very much.
I NEEDED TO WRITE THIS...
Regardless, I wanted to write this to you this evening to remind you that I, and many, many other Costa Mesa residents, are very grateful to those of you who have hung in there these past six years.  We understand what you've been going through.  We understand how difficult it has been for you to feel not only un-appreciated by some of the elected leaders of our city but, in fact, actually despised for the compensation and retirement benefits you earn every day.
FROM THAT FATEFUL DAY...
From the low watermark in our city -  the day those 200+ illegal layoff notices were issued and poor Huy Pham jumped to his death on St. Patrick's Day of 2011 - until the final numbers were counted in this most recent election, you've dealt with more trauma and drama than most could endure.  You've seen many of your senior compatriots depart, either for an earlier-than-planned retirement or for greener pastures at other cities or in the private sector.
LEADERSHIP BY THE WHIP
You've seen the elected leadership of this city treat some of you as chattel, chopping your labor contracts to 1980s levels.  Others have seen the negotiations on contracts stalled for years - some are still stalled.
A FAILURE TO PRIORITIZE...
You've seen the filling of potholes placed before public safety in our city.  You've seen recruitment efforts curtailed for most of a year, causing the Police Department, for example, to fall so far behind in filling holes in the organization that it will take at least another year to get back to proper staffing levels, all the while crime is on the rise due to many circumstances beyond our control.
SHORT-SIGHTED, POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED LEADERSHIP
You've seen elected leaders stall the deployment of the Rescue Ambulances, causing the loss of millions in revenue to our city and stalling the implementation of the new staff deployment model.
YOU'VE SEEN ARROGANT DISREGARD FOR RULES...
You've seen lawsuit after lawsuit drain the city coffers due to the arrogant disregard for the rules by certain elected leaders.  And you've seen your staff leaders hamstrung by micromanagement by those same elected leaders.
YOU'VE SEEN COMPATRIOTS DEPART...
Today you're operating with a third fewer fellow staff members than you were just a decade ago, and most of those cuts have come in the past six years.  And, many of those departures were senior staffers, who took with them not only their institutional knowledge, but their intellectual courage and  leadership, as well.
YOU HAVE STAYED AND PERSEVERED
And, through all that you have stayed and persevered.  You've hunkered down and done your jobs, usually getting faint praise for those efforts.  You've worked overtime beyond normal limits to keep the wheels of city government rolling and the residents, businesses and visitors served.  Many of you have found yourselves being led by contractors with no real attachment to the City except a contract, and, while many of them have been good folks, it's not the same as having solid, vested city employees at your side, providing guidance, is it?
YOU ARE APPRECIATED...
Well, on the cusp of the Christmas holiday I wanted to write to you tonight to tell you that many of the residents out here DO appreciate your ongoing efforts to keep our city running.  We DO understand what you've been facing, trying to do jobs that are challenging enough without unnecessary impediments being placed in front of you.
THERE IS LIGHT...
Following the election last month there is light at the end of the tunnel.  It's clear to me, a resident for more than 43 years and long-time council-watcher, that the new council majority is fully aware of the problems you've faced and is going to work quickly to resolve many of those.  It will take some time to undo some of the issues involved, so I hope you will continue to work hard, knowing that your efforts are appreciated and that things will be getting better for you soon.
THANK YOU...
So, speaking only for my sweet and very patient wife and myself, we want to thank you for your efforts on our behalf.  We want you to know we appreciate every one of you.  As we wish you all a Very Merry Christmas, I think I'll let Mariah Carey tell you how we feel about you.  Happy New Year to you all.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Blockbuster Council Meeting Begins The New Year!


WOW!  THIS IS GOING TO BE INTERESTING
If the agenda for the January 3, 2017 Costa Mesa City Council meeting, HERE, is any indication, it's going to be a VERY interesting first few months for this new council.
SPECIAL CLOSED SESSION
Right off the top, this council will hold a Special Closed Study Session commencing at 3:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.  Following the opportunity for Public Comments of the ten (10)! items on the closed session agenda the council will recess to Conference Room 5A to complete the closed session.

TEN (10) ITEMS IN CLOSED SESSION!
This is an extraordinary closed session.  I cannot recall ten items being discussed in any past closed session.  As you scroll down through the agenda for that closed session you'll find the full gamut of legal actions, including so-called "problem motels", individuals, Sober Living Homes, and an ambulance service.  Plus, there are a couple unidentified potential legal actions at the end.  This is part of the legacy of the outgoing City Council and their arrogant heavy-handedness - something we, the taxpayers, will be paying for in the years to come and issues the incoming council will have to deal with for months - at least.

REGULAR MEETING AT 5:45 - MAYBE
The regular City Council meeting is scheduled to commence at 5:45 p.m. in Council Chambers, presuming that two hours for that special closed session is enough time to deal with all those issues.  Following Public Comments, Council Member Comments and the City Manager Report there will be the Consent Calendar - items that, in theory, are of such a routine nature that they can be considered on one vote.  However, council members, staff members or members of the public may "pull" an item for separate discussion and vote.  There is no mention of trailing items pulled for discussion as has been the practice in the past, so one presumes that any pulled items will be discussed immediately and not trailed to the end of the meeting.

THE WARRANT
Item #2, HERE, is the Warrant number 2568, which represents the expenditure of more than $7 million in city funds for various items.  I won't attempt to comment on all the items - you can scroll down and find all the consultant charges and legal fees.  I will observe that Jones & Mayer were paid $,153,634.66 on this warrant for a long list of legal activities.  PLUS, there is an additional charge further down on the Warrant $64,452.09 for Yellowstone - there was also a Yellowstone charge in the first one.  That means this Warrant contains legal charges to Jones & Mayer of more than $244,000!  We also paid Kimley Horn & Associates, Inc $36,244.56 for Community Improvement Consulting through October.

BOGUS MAILERS
One thing that caught my eye was a charge for $24,741.71 to Westminster Press, Inc. for mailers for the various city-initiated  issues on the November 8th ballot.  You know, the Marijuana Initiative, the Voting District Mailer, the Anti-Smart Growth Initiative and the Anti-Save Fairview Park Initiative.  I must confess that these charges just ripped the scab off a festering wound.  This was a bogus expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

AND MORE INTERESTING STUFF
We also forked over $253,065.68 to Travel Costa Mesa, which represents their cut of the BIA receipts for October, 2016.  We paid Jim Jordan $8,250.00 for consulting fees for December and Management Partners $6,130.75 for one week service for our contract Assistant Development Services Director, Sheri Vander Dussen.  You can read the remaining four items on the consent calendar by clicking on my link above and scrolling down.

URGENCY MARIJUANA ORDINANCE
Public Hearing #1, HERE, is an Urgency Ordinance to the Municipal Code areas dealing with the cultivation of Marijuana and/or Medical Marijuana.  Read the staff report, but the key phrase in it seems to be the following:
The proposed amendment to the Zoning Code is intended to preserve the status quo and prohibit all marijuana related uses within the City to the extent allowable under state law. 

I suspect we'll see a pretty good turnout from the folks in the Marijuana business at this meeting to address this urgency ordinance.
REVIEWING "HOLIDAY"
Public Hearing #2, HERE, is a review of the Planning Application for HOLIDAY, the club formerly known as Lion's Den and Maison, at 719 West 19th Street.  This establishment has been an ongoing source of controversy for the past couple years and, most recently, the concerns about noise coming from the establishment expressed by neighbors has been significant.
TRAFFIC IMPACT FEES
Public Hearing #3, HERE, is the Annual Review of the Citywide Traffic Impact Fee program.  The Traffic Impact Fee Ad Hoc committee, following an analysis, recommended a continuation of the current fee, $181.00 ADT (Average Daily Trips).  The staff recommends approval of that recommendation.
CHANGE CEO BACK TO CITY MANAGER
New Business #1, HERE, is the amendment to the Municipal Code changing the title of Chief Executive Officer back to City Manager, and the title of Assistant Chief Executive Officer back to Assistant City Manager.  This is a barnacle from the past administration that needs to be scraped from the hull of our city government.
COUNCIL MEETING CHANGES
New Business #2, HERE, deals with modifications to the Order of Business, Public Comments and Consent Calendar on the City Council Agenda and setting the Commencement Time for Closed Session and City Council Meetings.  Mayor Katrina Foley has suggested the following changes to the order of business and related issues:
(a)        Closed Session - 4:00 p.m. (as needed)
(b)        Call to Order Regular City Council Meeting - 6:00 p.m.
(c)        Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag
(d)       Moment of Solemn Expression
(e)       Roll Call
(f)       Closed Session Report
(g)      Announcements
(h)      Special Presentations
(i)       Public Comments
(j)       Consent Calendar
(k)      Items Removed from the Consent Calendar
(l)       Public Hearings
(m)    Old Business
(n)     New Business
(o)     Council Member's Reports, Comments and Suggestions
(p)     City Manager's Report
(q)     City Attorney's Report
(r)     Adjournment

SPEAKER CARDS...
And, speaker cards are only required if a person pulls an item from the Consent Calendar for further discussion.  All other speaker cards are purely voluntary.
 STARTING ANEW WITH ALL COMMISSIONS
New Business #3, HERE, is a biggie!  Foley has requested that ALL commissioners be released from their appointment and every position on the three commissions, Parks & Recreation, Planning and Senior, be advertised for recruitment.

SPECIAL MEETINGS IN JANUARY
She also requests special meetings be held on Tuesday, January 24th to interview the applicants and on Tuesday, January 31st to complete the interviews and make the appointments.

NEED FOR CONTINUITY
Here's my take on this... I understand the interest in starting afresh in each of the commissions.  However, I hope any current commissioner who chooses to apply again will be given consideration.  It is important, for the purpose of continuity and transfer of institutional knowledge, that some consideration be given to placement of current commissioners on the new commissions.  If it's up to me, I'd probably want Rob Dickson and Stephan Andranian on the Planning Commission again.  And, I'd want to have Byron de Arakal's leadership and Kim Pederson's steady hand on the Parks and Recreation Commission.


NO SENIOR COMMISSION
As I've said before, I see NO need for a Senior Commission.  We should thank those folks who have served and disband the commission.  That's just my opinion and doesn't reflect in any way on the contributions the commissioners have made and their dedication to their assignment.  I just think we have a thoroughly competent city staff who can manage the Senior Center affairs of this City.


ABANDON CLOSURE OF FIRE STATION #6 AND FULLY STAFF WITHOUT OVERTIME
New Business #4, HERE,  deals with Fire Station #6 and Related Staffing issues.  Times have changed since the old council recommended closure of this site - our newest Fire Station.  The staff report goes into great detail about the reasoning behind this new recommendation.  The staff recommends abandoning the plan to close Fire Station #6 and to immediately commence full operation without using overtime, which will require the addition of 3 Fire Captains and 3 Firefighter positions.


IT'S GOING TO BE VERY INTERESTING 
 If this agenda is any indication, the next few months are going to be humdingers!  To say that "change is in the air" dramatically understates the obvious.  It's going to be interesting to watch.



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Monday, December 19, 2016

A Sad Remembrance, Again....

THIRTEEN YEARS...
Today, December 19, 2016, marks another sad anniversary for me.  On this date in 2003, at 6:37 p.m., my best friend for 57 years, Larry Moore, passed away in a hospital in Las Vegas following six weeks in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit after a motorcycle accident on a remote desert road.


WE TRIED TO BRING HIM BACK, BUT...
As some know, I spent those six weeks at his side, exercising my durable power of health care he bestowed upon me a decade earlier, trying to help the staff return our friend to us.  Sadly, it was not to be.
FROM THE BEGINNING...
I've written about my friend every year on this date to commemorate the huge part of my life he represented from the very first time I ever saw him when we were about 5 years old.  My mother and I were walking down to the local shopping area when we passed his house.  We heard this little voice yell, "Hey!  Look at me!"  We looked back the driveway we were passing and there, standing on top of his garage roof, was this little guy with a smile  beaming from ear to ear.  And with that he jumped off the roof onto the grassy patch between two concrete strips that formed the driveway.  That was the beginning of a wonderful, lifelong friendship.  I wrote about him a year ago HERE.
HE WAS A FRIEND AND MENTOR TO MANY
Today, as I think of my friend, I will remember all the wonderful times we shared.  I'll remember his 31 years of service as a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, the last half of which he performed as the Athletic Director at the Police Academy.  I will remember the impact he had on every single officer during his tenure in that role, especially those who competed in the Baker-to-Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, which he and his partner on the job, Chuck Foote, created.
SO MANY MEMORIES...
I will remember all the wonderful family times - the holidays, the vacations and just hanging out as young guys.
TO THE END...
With those last few hours burned in my brain, remembering how the staff worked and worked and worked to bring him back from that last crisis when I finally had to tell them to stop and let him go, I leave you with this bit of advice, made even more relevant after my own little health event earlier this year.... Do not wait to tell those you love how you feel about them.  Larry and I knew how we felt about each other - we were best friends in every sense of the word.  So, today - use the holiday as a reason if you need one - make sure those you hold dear KNOW it.  Give them a big hug and tell them you love them.  Life is short.


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