Friday, February 10, 2017

Stephens' Fireworks Confab A Success



THE ROOKIE HOSTED THE EVENT AND BARRY RECORDED IT
Last night rookie Costa Mesa City Councilman John Stephens hosted a meeting in City Council Chambers at City Hall for a couple hours of conversation about Fireworks in our city.  He seemed to be in his element, meandering around the crowd, keeping the pace moving.  This meeting was not recorded by City staff, but Barry Friedland from Costa Mesa Brief was on hand and recorded the event for viewing on his YouTube Channel.  (NOTE: Barry is very quick!  His video is available now!  Click HERE.)
A GOOD TURNOUT
For decades safe and sane fireworks have been approved for sale and discharge in Costa Mesa.  After Stephens kicked this meeting off before around 5 dozen people - it varied through the evening - Staffer Dan Baker took over and provided a slide show showing the recent history of this issue.  Those slides follow.
CHIEF SHARPNACK
Then Police Chief Rob Sharpnack provided us with a history of enforcement, or attempts at enforcement, of our fireworks laws.  He compared the enforcement numbers from 2015 and 2016 and in all categories there were very significant increases.  Among those numbers was the number of citations issued - 79, which represented a more than 200% increase from the previous year.
EMPLOY ADDITIONAL OFFICERS
The Chief told us that they put many extra staffers to work trying to police the city and snag folks firing off illegal fireworks.  At one point last year he had nearly 30 officers on patrol, responding to calls.  I couldn't help but think about what an aid to enforcement the old A.B.L.E. helicopter program would have been, but that, too, is gone - thanks to Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger.
CHIEF STEFANO
Then Fire Chief Dan Stefano stepped up and affirmed much of what Sharpnack had told us, indicating that they team up and use undercover staff to try to apprehend lawbreakers.  He described it as a cat-and-mouse game.  He also affirmed that the grade and quality of the illegal fireworks for the past few years has been, in his words, "incredible".  He stressed their goal of safety for the populace and asked for the help of the public in that effort.

STEPHENS AGAIN
Stephens jumped in and thanked him for the information and observed that the calls for service for both the Police and Fire organizations is significantly higher than a year ago.
A LITTLE POLL
He then did a brief, informal poll.  He asked how many in the audience - at that time over 50 people were in attendance - wanted NO fireworks in the City.  The response was very small - me and a few others raised our hands.  He then asked how many wanted to retain safe and sane fireworks.  That response was basically everyone else.  His third question was how many wanted illegal fireworks... few raised their hands.
COMMUNITY EVENT?
He then postulated his thought about some kind of community fireworks event - perhaps at the Fairgrounds or OCC, at which a small professional show would be held and food trucks and bands would be available.  He also wondered about the duration of fireworks, postulating that it may be better to have them only on the 4th - not many days on both sides of the holiday.
THE PUBLIC SPOKE
Then he invited members of the public to step to the microphone - or have him deliver his wireless mic to them - to express their views, regardless what they were.  There was no time limit imposed other than Stephens himself deciding if a speaker was running too long.  That only happened once.  Nearly two dozen speakers participated.  I won't try to quote every one, but will give you a flavor of the discussion.  Most of the speakers had some tie to youth sports or other organizations which benefited from the sale of fireworks, but some were simply concerned residents.  You can watch the Costa Mesa Brief video, probably later this weekend, for the details of the discussions.
LARGE PERCENTAGE OF BUDGETS
Stephens asked what percentage of their operating expenses were covered by fireworks sales.  The answers varied from a high of 100% for the Youth Service Association to a low of around 25%.  Several members mentioned percentages in the 70% - 90% range.  My take from that subject was that youth sports and the others depend very much on fireworks sales for their operations.

REVENUE VARIES
When asked by Stephens about specific dollars a few volunteered numbers like $8,000 to $30,000 a season.  Others played it closer to the vest.
COVERS ALL KINDS OF THINGS
The types of expenses these Fireworks revenues cover ranged from uniforms, travel costs, banquets, equipment, scholarships for kids unable to meet those costs and, according to one speaker, filling the refrigerators of families of kids unable to otherwise properly feed them.
FLO'S FEAR
Flo Martin may have represented the apprehension of many in the audience when she spoke of her concern for the safety of her home due to illegal fireworks.  She brought with her a box full of fireworks residue removed from her roof after last July 4th holiday.  It was frightening, particularly since we've experienced exactly the same thing here on the other side of town.
ILLEGAL FIREWORKS THE REAL PROBLEM
If there was consensus I would say it was the problem of the illegal fireworks, which piggyback the use of safe and sane fireworks in most neighborhoods around town.  Unfortunately, catching a person actually setting them off is nearly impossible.  That's why the public safety folks need our help. 
INTERROGATING THE CHIEF
Stephens grilled Sharpnack at one point about the wisdom of residents using their cell phone cameras to video record miscreants exploding illegal fireworks, postulating that the video would be sufficient evidence to prosecute the violators.  Sharpnack said no, and gave reasons.
PETS, VETS AND GEEZERS
Other participants expressed concern for pets, seniors and veterans during the Fireworks season.  It's become a season because the last city administration allowed the explosions for several days, not just one.
CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE
One speaker, Helen Evers, said she simply leaves Costa Mesa over the summer and spends times in other nearby cities - Laguna Beach, etc., - where fireworks are not permitted.
ARE THE FINES ENOUGH?
Speakers wondered if the fines for violation of our laws are large enough.  Nobody had an answer for that.  However, at one point Stephens asked Sharpnack how much money the city received for those 79 citations last year.  He didn't have an answer because the CMPD does not do the collection.
EASIER THAN PEDDLING COOKIES, CANDY AND CALENDARS
One speaker observed that it's much easier for the boosters to spend a week or two in the preparation, sale and clean up of a fireworks stand than it is to sell cookies, candy, calendars and the like 365 days a year. 
HOW ABOUT USING HATCH'S SLUSH FUND?
Robin Mensinger - yes, the wife of the recently-deposed mayor who is responsible in great part for the multiple days of fireworks - expressed the view that it's a lot of hard work operating a fireworks stand for relatively small payout.  She had done a little math and decided that the 36 authorized organizations (see chart above) that can operate fireworks stands probably generate about $350,000 for their efforts.  Well, here's an idea - City Manager Tom Hatch has a slush fund of $1 million each year - how about carving off a third of that and parcel it out to the youth sports groups and kiss off the fireworks?  Other cities find ways for this to happen.
TNT FIREWORKS VP SPEAKS
John Kelly, VP of TNT, the primary supplier of all the safe and sane fireworks in our city, spoke with great polish - he's done this many times.  He told us nearly 250 California cities now permit fireworks.  He called those who sell illegal fireworks criminals and described a few categories of vendors of that stuff, starting with a guy who rents a truck and motors over to Pahrump, Nevada and spends $10,000 to load up with illegal fireworks, then trucks it back home to Southern California and peddles it for 5 or 6 times that much.

ORGANIZED CRIME
He also described the 53 foot containers full of fireworks coming off ships in the Port of Long Beach which are then delivered to sites around our area by what he described as organized crime.
THE CASH...
He told us that the money raised by selling his product will be going directly back into our community.  Stephens DID NOT ask him how much his company makes on Costa Mesa fireworks sales.  It would be good to know that number, but there is no prayer of getting it.
A SUCCESSFUL NIGHT
All in all I'd say the evening was a success.  Stephens allowed each speaker to vent and encouraged everyone to speak.  We heard the full range of concerns and experiences.  We know how much the organizations depend on these dollars.  We know the public safety organizations are not equipped to monitor and enforce our laws on those days each year.  We know we need more cops and firefighters, as several speakers opined.  We know they need our help, but are unlikely to get it because, as Kelly observed, those folks firing off the illegal fireworks are our neighbors - the guy next door or his cousin Charlie from Tustin.  The illegal fireworks will continue until the community decides to actually aid in the enforcement.
STEPHENS - A YOUTHFUL FIREBUG
Stephens closed by telling us a story about his youth, in which he accidentally set a neighbor's roof afire with illegal bottle rockets.  Most chuckled, but it was an uneasy chuckle.
THANKS FOR THIS, JOHN
Thanks to John Stephens for this effort.  It's not clear what he will do with the information he gathered - perhaps try to influence his fellow council members to make adjustments to our fireworks rules.  Many of the complaints revolved around the multiple days permitted for setting off fireworks.
THANKS TO THE RESIDENTS, TOO
And thanks for those who turned out for this event.  The participation was excellent, with most factions and viewpoints represented and their positions and concerns were clearly articulated.
AN EXTRAVAGANZA?
From my standpoint, I'm still against fireworks.  I fear the danger to kids - no child's eyesight or lost limb is worth it.  I think we should find a way to have a community fireworks extravaganza - perhaps at the Fairgrounds - where sections of the community could rope off a parcel ( a "booth" as it were) and have their community fireworks on July 4th at that site, supplemented by a real, professional show for all to see.  Stephens suggested something like this, involving bringing chairs and blankets, listening to bands and picnicking before shooting off the fireworks after dark.  Seems worth discussing.  Perhaps it could involve a competition between neighborhoods - much like the Newport Beach Boat Parades - and award prizes for merit.  Youth groups still sell safe and sane fireworks, which would be detonated at the Fairgrounds and illegal fireworks would be more easily policed.  Almost anything to keep bottle rocket residue off my roof, thank you very much.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Perspective On Public Safety Pensions

 A PROBLEM WITHOUT A VISIBLE SOLUTION
Public Employee Pensions, and the unfunded liability involved, continues to resonate around Costa Mesa.  The past council majority did virtually nothing about it.  They appointed a committee to "oversee" the issue.  They met frequently but offered no viable solution.  That committee will now be blended with the Finance Advisory Committee and the joint group will have a new, as-yet undefined, charter.
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE
In the meantime, public employee pensions continue to be the topic of conversation nationwide.  I present to you this link, HERE, to an entry recently published by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs that discusses recent events in San Jose and Dallas.
CONSEQUENCES
Tinkering with pensions previously promised has consequences.  We saw that in a smaller scale with the CMPD when it wasn't really the pension issue alone that cause more than 50 officers depart - either through earlier-than-anticipated retirements of off to greener pastures at other jurisdictions - an event that was compounded when Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger refused to let then-chief Tom Gazsi recruit to fill those vacancies for most of a year.  That placed us in a hole we are still trying to dig out of.  And our crime rate continues to climb...
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I offer no solution to the pension unfunded liability issue.  I do offer this article for you as perspective - food for thought. 
THANKS...
And, I offer my thanks to the men and women of the public safety organizations that serve our city - the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Costa Mesa Fire Department - for their unwavering service and dedication to the residents of this city.

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Stephens Holds Fireworks Discussion Tonight


LET THE ROOKIE KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS
Just a quick reminder that rookie councilman John Stephens is holding a discussion on Fireworks in the City of Costa Mesa tonight beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers.  He's looking for input from the community on their thoughts about Independence Day fireworks in the city - a controversial subject, for sure.
CITY PRETTY EVENLY SPLIT
The last time the residents were asked to sign in officially on this issue was a couple decades ago, when the vote was nearly a dead tie, for and against.
OUT OF CONTROL
Youth sports groups have lobbied long and hard for the continuation of this "tradition" in our community.  It allows boosters to gather plenty of funding over a very short period of time to support the activities of their youth groups.  Of course, in recent years, this tradition has gotten out of control, with Fireworks being permitted, not just on Independence Day, but for many days and nights before the actual holiday.  That practice - approved by the previous City Council - has caused pet owners throughout the city to become angry because of the trauma it causes their pets.  Seniors and Veterans have also registered their complaints.
MASKING ILLEGAL FIREWORKS
And, of course, the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks often mask the use of illegal fireworks - those that make our city sound like a war zone for several nights.  And there's no denying the potential danger of misuse of fireworks, both legal and illegal.
Y'ALL COME!
So, come one, come all to express your views to a new council member, eager to take the pulse of the community on this issue.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Never A Dull Moment At Council Meetings - Even Short Ones

ANOTHER ONE FOR THE AGES
Well, last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting was interesting, to say the very least.  Even with Steve Mensinger's COIN discussion pulled from the agenda earlier in the day, there was plenty of fun stuff to keep us interested.  And, for the first time in a very long time I actually attended the meeting and made it through the entire night - until just after 10:00 p.m., when Mayor closed the meeting in memory of Dennis Barton.  More on that in a minute
THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
A new wrinkle was added to the beginning of the meeting when members of the Costa Mesa High School Band - wind instruments - played the National Anthem before the Pledge of Allegiance.  It's our understanding that this kind of event will begin all future council meetings.

PUBLIC COMMENTS
Nineteen (19) people spoke during Public Comments.
 Former Parks and Recreation Commission Vice Chair Bob Graham offered up a slide show to support his assertion that concrete paths should be used in Fairview Park instead of dirt and decomposed granite.  He showed several images of park paths in the rain.
Eastside Neighbor and realtor Jeff McConville spoke in support of the planned traffic calming project on East 19th Street from the city boundary at Irvine Avenue to Fullerton Avenue, near the terminus of the 55 Freeway.
Matt Holzmann was one of the many people who spoke with passion about the need for a Mental Health Service Center at the Fairview Developmental Center.  He was quoted in a recent article in the Voice of OC on this issue, HERE.
Mike Lingle stepped to the podium to tell the council of the sudden, unexpected passing of Dennis Barton, the owner and moderator of the Costa Mesa Facebook page - not the official city page, but one he named "Costa Mesa".  Barton passed away last Saturday and threads throughout Facebook praised him as a kind, gentle man who moderated his page with a very light touch and had the ability to bring folks together.  No services are yet planned for him.
Cindy Brenneman was among those who expressed concern about Mental Health.  She also praised the cadre of commission candidates and wondered when we would begin seeing "Welcome Chargers" banners around town.
Reggie Mundekis spoke about the Orange Country Fair Board and how their Master Plan will greatly expand the scope of operations at the Fairgrounds.  She strongly urged the City Council to pay close attention to their actions and offer "gentle" reminders of their obligations to the community.
Businessman Tim Lewis told the council the way to stop dangerous Eastside traffic is to complete the 55 Freeway.  He then offered criticism about the way the homeless issue is being handled in our city.
Kim Hendricks provided a slide show featuring images of vernal pools at Fairview Park, and of dogs off leash in areas that are supposed to be protected.  She then looked right at councilman Jim Righeimer and stated "We are not environmental kooks" - a epithet leveled at environmental activists recently by him, apparently because their actions create development problems for his pals.
Katherine Smith, representing the Orange County Alzheimer's Association, spoke about the rising numbers of Orange County residents - 34,000 -  experiencing dementia - a number she indicated is expected to triple by 2025.
A resident who closely monitors the Sober Living Home situation in our city, mentioned the recent absence of discussion of this issue - the Elephant in the Room -  by the City Council.  She also mentioned that she's being threatened with a lawsuit by one of the biggest Sober Living operators in the city because she continues to raise red flags about the issue.  She also mentioned that many rehab rejects - folks who fail - are simply bumped to the curb and turn to a life of crime to exist.  She said the girls frequently become part of the human trafficking problem.
Beth Refakes reported on the recent FAA Metroplex workshop, indicating that it was marginally helpful.  She said the numbers at her Eastside house will change only slightly once this plan is implemented.  I wrote about that workshop in an earlier post, HERE.
An unidentified woman spoke about printing postcards which she handed out to homeless folks providing them with a list of services available to them locally.
Cindy Black also spoke about the homeless and folks with mental health issues.  She pointed out that materials being used at the Fairview Park workshops area branded with the logo of the company trying to develop the Banning Ranch and felt that is a conflict of interest.  She asked that the upcoming Orange County Marathon route NOT include what she described as the "illegal canyon" in Fairview Park.  She also offered kudos to Costa Mesa Fire and Rescue Division Chief Jason Pyle and Fire Engineer Steve Cathey for their recent intervention with an ill man on a flight back from the midwest.  You can read more about their heroics HERE.
Richard Russell addressed the COIN ordinance and the problem we have with our unfunded pension liability issue.  He suggested that COIN was a good ordinance that addressed the issue.

COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS
During Council Member Comments (each one had four (4) minutes), they said the following:
RIGHEIMER
Righeimer addressed the Fairview Developmental Center issue, stating that the City has little control over what happens while it is in state hands, but that they can prescribe zoning of the area for other uses in the future, which they have done, locking in 25% for institutional uses - like a Mental Health Service Center.
MANSOOR
Allan Mansoor told us that his absence from the meeting last Tuesday was due to the passing of his father.  He asked City Manager Tom Hatch to take a look at Graham's suggestion about the flooded sections of Fairview Park and the planned trails.
FOLEY
Mayor Katrina Foley affirmed the plan for the National Anthem to be presented at each future council meeting by youth groups.  She mentioned that tourism is up in Costa Mesa.  She also thanked the firefighters for their actions aboard that airplane.  She mentioned that March is Woman's History Month and that there will be an event marking the seven (7) former female mayors in our city.
GENIS
Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Genis mentioned her Infrastructure Workshop, scheduled for the evening of February 16th in Conference Room 1A and invited the public to attend and tell her what they thought were priorities in the City infrastructure.  She also mentioned Dennis Barton's passing.  She mentioned the meeting of the Coastal Commission today at the Newport Civic Center where the future of Banning Ranch will be, once again, discussed.  She reinforced the need to remind the folks at the Orange County Fairgrounds of their responsibility to the community.  She also mentioned the Metroplex workshop, observing that despite the changes being implemented, it all comes down to the individual pilot and air traffic controller.
STEPHENS
Councilman John Stephens mentioned his upcoming "T it up with John" event tomorrow at City Hall where he will host residents who want to provide input on Fireworks in Costa Mesa.  That should be interesting.  He also mentioned Dennis Barton, whom he described as a kind and dear man.

CONSENT CALENDAR
No items - ZERO - were pulled from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion and vote, so the council quickly passed it on a  5-0 vote - one of the rare unanimous votes last night.
BANNING MARIJUANA EXTENDED
Public Hearing #1, the extension of the Emergency Ordinance banning any marijuana - medical or otherwise - in the City for another ten (10) months and fifteen (15) days was very briefly discussed and passed on a 5-0 vote.
COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS
Old Business #1, the appointments of candidates to the Planning, Parks and Recreation and Senior Commissions, was up next.  You can read the staff report, including the attachments with applications, HERE. City Clerk Brenda Green explained the process and, following a very brief discussion, the public was invited to address this issue.  Seven people spoke to the issues.  Among them was Ann Parker, who reminded them that the commissioners should be following the rules.  Cindy Black, after a short comment, ended by saying, "We're watching you".
THE PROCESS
Foley then explained the interview process, wherein each Planning Commission candidate was interviewed by council members for eleven minutes.  I've written about those two interview sessions, for the Parks and Recreation and Senior Commissions HERE and for the Planning Commission HERE.  She said her goal was to be inclusive and to have balance on the commissions.
MANSOOR - "I'LL GO ALONG"
During Council Comments on this issue Mansoor said he disagreed with firing all the previous commissioners, but that he was going to go along with the process.
STEPHENS - GREAT FEEDBACK SO FAR
Stephens said the response to the recruitment was beyond his expectations and he was very impressed with the applicants for all commissions.  He indicated he had received great feedback from folks who had observed the interviews and that he was very pleased with the process.
GENIS - "GOOD AND SUPERGOOD"
Genis was also impressed with the applicants, stating that "Everybody was good and some were Super Good."  She mentioned a variety of skill sets and diversity of the candidates.
RIGHEIMER - HE'S ANGRY AND INCONSIDERATE
Righeimer thanked all the applicants, then said he vehemently opposes the firing of the previous commissioners.  He said it was a slap in the face to the people who had worked hard.  He then, observing about the candidates, said "These people don't have a clue" about the important issues facing them... ever the class act, isn't he?  He then invoked "the unions", somehow indicating this was political payback.  Geez, it never stops!  He then said "This whole process is wrong!"
FOLEY - VOTING FOR BALANCE
Foley indicated she will be voting for balance and Righeimer launched into another rant.
FINALLY, THE VOTES
Finally they got around to marking their nominations forms.  This meant that they would rank their, in the case of the Planning Commission, top five candidates on a scale from 5-1, 5 being highest.  After submitting those forms to Green, there would be a  brief recess while she tallied the numbers.  The total for each candidate would be calculated, then multiplied by the number of nomination forms on which that person appeared.  You can see the blank nomination forms HERE.

PLANNING COMMISSION
The highest scores - 5 for the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, 7 for the Senior Commission - would be the successful applicants.  The highest scored would occupy the 4-year appointments and the remainder would be 2-year appointees.

So, after a short break during which Green did the calculations, she announced the successful candidates for the five Planning Commission seats.  The are, in order of most votes as a result of that calculation:
Jeffrey Harlan - 36 (4 years)
Byron de Arakal - 32 (4 years)
Isabell Mayer Kerins - 20 (2 years)
Carla Navarro Woods - 18 (2 years)
Stephan Andranian - 16 (2 years)

Others:
Teresa Callo Drain - 15 
Jenna Tourje - 12
Rob Dickson - 8
Jonathan Zich - 5
Daniel Hoffman - 4
Jeff Mathews - 4
Jay Humphrey - 2. 
Sarah Bortz, Mark Buchanan, Susan Gonzales, Dan Worthington received no votes.


AN EXCELLENT GROUP
In my view, this is an excellent commission, with a varied background of technology, business and education.  My opinion is that it likely will have a slight tilt towards the Righeimer/Mansoor side of the equation, but only time will tell.  I'm not quite sure how to interpret the fact that neither Chairman Rob Dickson nor Vice Chair Jeff Mathews were selected, nor was Jay Humphrey.  And, I don't recall two women on any Planning Commission in recent memory.

PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
The council then submitted their nomination forms for the Parks and Recreation Commission and, after a short break again during which Green tallied the numbers, they were presented with the following results:
Kim Pederson - 70 (4 years)
Liz McNabb - 33 (4 years)
Leah Ersoylu - 27 (2 years)
Arlis Reynolds - 24 (2 years)
Kristina Bogner - 20 (2 years)

Others:
Shannon Crossen - 18
Gary Parkin - 12
Steve Smith - 8
Jeff Mathews - 4
Barbara Morihiro - 2
Mark Buchanan - 0
Carla Navarro Woods - 0

ANOTHER GOOD GROUP - KIM AND HIS HAREM
Again, another excellent group was chosen and, again, Jeff Mathews was rejected.  Kim Pederson, who has been the Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission in the past, is a good choice from a continuity standpoint.  It will be interesting to watch Kim and his harem - four women, for goodness sake! - in action later this month. (NOTE:  My "harem" reference was not intended to offend anyone.  It was just an attempt to demonstrate how rare it is in our city to have a commission dominated by women.  Kim Pederson will be one lucky man to be seated on the dais with such a group of dedicated, skilled women.)

SENIOR COMMISSION
Finally the council submitted their nomination forms for the Senior Commission and, again, after a short break Green presented the following results for the seven seats:
Gary Parkin - 130 (4 years)
Charlene Ashendorf - 115 (4 years)
Alexa Merchant - 48 (4 years)
Darrell Neft - 39 (2 years)
Barbara Steck - 27 (2 years)
Lee Ramos - 24 (2 years)
Olga Reynolds - 16 (2 years)

Others:
Joeliza Jones - 16 (lost in a vote to Reynolds)
Lucia Holt - 10
Randy Briggs - 0


ANOTHER GOOD GROUP
And, once again, this commission has some real strength to it.  Gary Parkin and Lee Ramos - the two most junior former commissioners, will return.  And, again, this is a commission with a majority of women.


CHICKS RULE! (SORRY, LADIES)
So, of the seventeen commissioners selected last night, ten (10) are women.  This must be some kind of a landmark moment in our city's history.  Congratulation to all the new commissioners.

WIND SPEED ORDINANCE
Next came the second reading of the Wind Speed ordinance.  As predicted, it took just about 2 minutes for the council to approve it on a 5-0 vote.
RESCUE AMBULANCE REDUX - AGAIN
Next came New Business #2, Fire Chief Dan Stefano's presentation - one more time - of a plan to fully implement the Rescue Ambulances.  This was rejected by the last Righeimer-dominated council majority and has been sitting on the shelf for a year despite having purchased $1.6 million worth of vehicles to facilitate implementing this plan.
 
THE CHIEF'S GOAL LAST NIGHT
Following a short presentation by Chief Stefano, who asked for the council to approve a part-time Emergency Medical Services Coordinator to assist the department in the transition; schedule an April Study Session where the council could reassess the medical transportation options and schedule a hearing in May to review the updated recommendations.

Four members of the public spoke to this issue, all of whom supported this long-simmering proposal.
RIGHEIMER - ANGRY AND TRUTH-CHALLENGED
During the council member discussion Righeimer said he's adamantly opposed to this plan, and said this is just union payback for having supported the new council majority in the last election.  He, again, said he didn't vote for ambulance transport.  A lie.  He, inaccurately, said the firefighters average $200,000 per year and accused firefighters of using scare tactics when they went door-to-door campaigning last year.  Funny, he didn't mention his connection to our current contract ambulance service, C.A.R.E. Ambulance.
UH, REMEMBER THIS, JIM?
Foley refreshed Righeimer's memory on the history of the votes taken when the Rescue Ambulances were authorized - and yet he denied it.

Stephens supported this proposal.

Genis cited personal experience between C.A.R.E. and the Costa Mesa paramedics.

PASSED, WITHOUT A STUDY SESSION
Foley said she's ready to move forward and the council eventually, on a 3-2 vote, with Mansoor and Righeimer voting no, decided to direct Stefano to abandon the Study Session idea and return in April with a current plan for the implementation of this program, including all budgetary considerations.
CONTROVERSIAL COMMITTEE ISSUES
Next came New Business #3,  the discussion of a re-populating of most City Committees, dissolving some and creating some new ones.  This was really fun.  You can read the staff report, which contains a list of all the committees and board involved, along with the roster of current members, HERE.
COMBINING PENSION AND FINANCE COMMITTEES
During public comments the following individuals spoke to these issues:
Ralph Taboada, a member of both the Finance Advisory Committee and Pension Oversight Committee, addressed the issue posed of combining both into one committee.  He didn't want to see the Pension side of things shoved aside, though, and spoke about a Pension Sub-committee.  He also suggested the Finance Committee discuss this proposal and come back to the council with suggestions about the reorganization, including the possibility of increasing the size of the combined committee.
YOUTH SPORTS COMMITTEE
Dustin Woods spoke about the proposal to create a Youth Sports Committee, and wondered how that would work with the existing Youth Sports Council, which operates under the umbrella of Costa Mesa United.
CONFLICT/COMPETE WITH YOUTH SPORTS COUNCIL?
Former Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Brett Eckles also addressed that issue, speaking in glowing terms about how effective the Youth Sports Council has been in the nearly ten years of it's existence.  Council members interrogated him at length about the Youth Sports Council, it's organization, size, etc.
MILITARY AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Righeimer again vented about being angry at "firing" all the committee members.  He indicated that he saw no reason for a Military Affairs Committee - presently there is a Military Affairs Team, a loosely configured group of volunteers who have involved themselves in very tangible ways supporting veterans and others.  Staffer Dan Baker has been the City point man with that group.
THE DECISIONS
Eventually, with much rancorous discussion, the council decided the following:
  • Form a Military Affairs Committee, with the staff to return with details of size, scope, etc.  The vote was 3-2, with Mansoor and Righeimer voting no.
  • Form a Fairview Park Steering Committee, with the same staff requirements, on a 3-2 vote.
  • Form a Youth Sports Committee, also on a 3-2 vote.  Staff will return with potential member organizations, liaisons, ect.
  • Dissolve the Charter, 60th Anniversary Committees on a 5-0 vote.
  • Dissolve the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee on a 3-2 vote.
  • Merge the Finance Advisory and Pension Oversight Committees, with the new name of Finance/Pension Advisory Committee.  Staff will create the scope and recommendations about the size following the discussion with the existing Finance Advisory Committee. The vote was 3-2.
  • Change the terms on the Access, Fire and Housing Board of Appeals to expire 3/31/17 and have the staff create new requirements that assure highly qualified individuals with the right kind of backgrounds for this infrequently used, but essential and required Board.
  • Make no changes to the Cultural Arts Committee at this time.
  • Change all the other terms of the committees not otherwise addressed to 3/31/17.
  • Authorize recruitment for all expiring committees, on a 3-2 vote.
Righeimer was perpetually angry last night.  For example, in a fit of rage, he announced that he would recommend that every youth sports team and school representative avoid the new Youth Sports Committee.  Never the class act!
FOLEY TO HATCH
Foley then asked Hatch to arrange a meeting with Fairgrounds Management for a liaison meeting to discuss plans for that site.  She also asked the status of the Fairview Park Manager position.  Apparently we're going to have a full time staffer in charge of overseeing all elements of the park.  She also, in response to a resident concern, asked for a report on the branding on literature being distributed at the park.  And, she asked that there be a formal point in the agendas for staffers and council members who attend meetings to report back to the council on those activities.
ADJOURNED IN MEMORY OF DENNIS BARTON
She adjourned the meeting in memory of Dennis Barton just after 10:05 p.m.

A THOUGHT...
Jim Righeimer continues to demonstrate his hatred of union employees.  Meeting after meeting, on issue after issue, he attempts to blame any perceived ill on "unions".  It's an interesting sidebar from last night to note that twice during the meeting two of those "darn union thugs" - members of the Costa Mesa Fire and Rescue Department - responded to a resident who seemed to be in physical distress.  Yeah, they're bad folks, alright!


SORRY... THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE
Oh, yes... you may wonder where the heck this entry has been.  As I type this we are now more than 20 hours since the meeting ended.  Well, y'all are spoiled!  That little old embolism last summer has caused me to adjust my work schedule - no more typing until dawn.  That, plus an early morning dentist appointment, gave me a late start.  And, today there was much drama around the community about the votes on the commission appointments.  Those generated many, many telephone calls while I was trying to put this thing together.  Thanks for your patience.

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