Thursday, June 28, 2007

The "Direct Election of Mayor" Stampede Begins

As we head toward the celebration of Independence Day, July 4th, the agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting to be held on Tuesday, July 3rd, became available on the city web site. Of special interest on this particular agenda is the next-to-last item, the debate of whether or not to directly elect the position of mayor at some point in the future. This will certainly provide us with some pre-4th fireworks. I thought it was curious to place such an important issue on the agenda at a meeting almost certain to be sparsely attended because of the holiday. However, former mayor Gary Monahan was very specific about it when he proposed the change.


I scrolled down through the staff report prepared by City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow for the council to consider on Tuesday. That report, which can be reached by clicking here, provides some very interesting food for thought. As usual, Ms. Barlow has provided plenty of information for the council to con
sider. For example, she goes into an exhaustive analysis of the balancing of terms of council members and a mayor, depending on the circumstances of the election which approves the position.

Paraphrasing Ms. Barlow, here are a few pearls gleaned from her report (the emphasis is mine):

1- Ge
nerally, an "elected" mayor has the same powers as an "appointed" mayor. However, an elected mayor, "with the approval of the city council, shall make appointments to boards, commissions and committees unless otherwise specifically provided by statute." This means that an elected mayor selects individuals for appointments, but subject to the City Council's "right to reject mayoral appointments''. These appointments include "regional boards, commissions, and committees" and all "appointments to city council subcommittees." She goes on to tell us that the City Council may withhold approval of an appointment submitted to it by the mayor, but may not dictate to the mayor who the appointee must be. She also tells us an elected Mayor's power extends to the power to appoint members of the City's Planning Commission, but subject to the approval of the City Council. In my mind, that's a lot of power to place in the hands of one individual.

2- The term of such an elected mayor could be two or four years, depending on what the voters choose.

3- On the subject of salary of a directly elected mayor, Ms. Barlow indicates that an elected may
or may receive a salary in addition to the salary established for members of the council. She goes on to tell us that any such additional compensation is unlimited if it is established by the voters. Yikes!

4- On the subject of timing of such an election, Ms. Barlow provides extensive analysis and cost figures. She states that, "The estimated cost for our City to conduce a 'stand-alone election' is about $199,000". Later she further states that, "The cost of a consolidation election is estimated to be about $90,000 to $105,000."

5- There is no budget for a municipal election in the 2007-2008 budget, so an appropriate budget adjustment would have to be made, depending on the type of election anticipated.

If you're interested in the other details of Ms. Barlow's report I invite you to click on the link I provided in the second paragraph of this entry and review it in it's entirety.

I'm left with many questions about this subject but, in my view, the two most important to me are the following:
1 - Why is this change necessary?
2 - How will the direct election of the position of mayor improve the way the city is managed?

I need to be convinced that changing the system that has worked for more than a half century is ess
ential and will make a significant improvement in how things are managed. Former Mayor Gary Monahan mumbled something about this position giving Costa Mesa more stature among the other cities in Orange County. Well, when I look at the list of the six cities in Orange County who have directly elected mayors - Anaheim, Irvine, Garden Grove, Orange, Santa Ana and Westminster - nothing jumps out at me as those cities having any particular elevated stature among the others simply because they directly elect the mayor. Anaheim gets a disproportionate amount of attention because of the recreation venues within it's borders. Irvine has gotten much attention because of it's growth, The Great Boondoggle, er, Park and because it had an egomaniac at the helm as mayor for a long time - the Emperor Agran. Miguel Pulido in Santa Ana is certainly not a good example of why an elected mayor is a great idea.


It's interesting that former Mayor Monahan is the moving force behind this initiative. A cynical gu
y might suspect that he got very comfortable at the municipal trough during his twelve years on the City Council and misses the significant benefits that come with a council position. I'm suspect he wouldn't be pursuing this change if he didn't think he had a lock on the position. And, if memory serves me correctly, didn't Monahan step down from the position of mayor not too long ago because his schedule was too busy? I wonder what's changed.

Not addr
essed in Barlow's missive to the council is the question of a sitting council member running successfully for the office of elected mayor. If a council member with two years remaining on his or her term decides to run for mayor, must he or she abandon that seat first? How would that vacant position be filled? Would another special election be necessary to fill the unexpired term? Would one of the vote-getters from the election be automatically appointed? What about term limits for this position?

At this point, I'm not inclined to think favorably about this change. Even though the council is currently controlled by people I think are taking it in the wrong direction, I don't see how the direct election of the mayor would improve things. Quite the contrary, I see the real opportunity for corruption with such a change.
The opportunities for cronyism and control of the city agenda by one person - a dictator, as it were - makes this a bad idea. And besides, I'm not sure I want to make such a change in this city just to provide health care benefits to a former mayor's brood and to pad his city pension.

This issue is very important to every resident of this city because it will fundamentally change the way the city does business. I suggest those residents with an opinion or questions communicate with the city council and/or present themselves before the council Tuesday night to express their views. I have the impression that the council majority will attempt to stampede this through the process to have it placed on the next state-wide election, the primary in February. To make that happen, even though it's more than a half a year away, many things need to happen fast to meet statutory requirements - see Ms. Barlow's report for the details.

Tuesday's council meeting should make for some very interesting viewing.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sewer Charge Increase Reeks

So, did you overlook the little card from the Costa Mesa Sanitary District you received in your mail this week? I almost did. It came in the same mail delivery with their little newsletter.

This inconspicuous little card announced a public hearing to be held on August 6th at 6:00 P.M. at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center on Park Avenue - beside Lion's Park - the purpose of which is "to consider any protests to the proposed increase in the Sanitary District's sewer collections rates charged at your property and receive comments on the unchanged trash collection rate."

As I looked over this little card I scanned down to the chart which showed the existing rates and the proposed rates and just kind of rocked back in my chair and contemplated the information. The goo
d news is that no increase in the trash fees is being recommended. That's where the good news stops. It seems the good folks who run the Sanitary District think it's necessary to increase the sewer rates by a whopping 50%!

I went to the Sanitary District web site and found the most current financial information - which is two years old, almost to the day. I called the office to get more current information, which brought me 12 months closer. It seems that The District received revenue from sewer charges for the year endin
g June 30, 2006 of $2,279,091, up just under 20% from the previous year. Information for the year just about to end will, apparently, not be available until October!

I guess it behooves us to attend the public hearing in August to find out just why the current leadership of the Sanitary District, including former Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan, feel it's necessary to kick the residents of this city in the teeth with a 50% increase in sewer charges. I understand the need to "notice" the public about this proposed rate increase, but I kind of expected more information about it in their newsletter since it was delivered at the same time. Obviously, the Sanitary District needs to work on their communication skills.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Daily Pilot Blogs and Right Wing Ideologues

Once again we turn our attention to the "wonderful world" of blogmania. Those of you reading this are already attuned to this process and will undoubtedly have an opinion on what follows. As always, I'm interested in your views as long as you don't use the name "Anonymous". My preference is for you to use your own name, but if you can't, then show us your creativity and make up something clever.

This whole blog thing is fascinating, particularly when I consider what's been happening on the Daily Pilot blog over the past few months. As many of your know, I've been a very active participant on that blog. Most of the articles covered by that fine local newspaper are of interest to me and, as a result, I usually have an opinion or two - or three - to share.

The editors of the Daily Pilot have imposed a 100 word limit to each entry, which gave some of us pause until we figured out we can just submit chain entries to complete a thought - or lack thereof. Once we figured this out the dialogue threads tended to present a greater number of carefully crafted views on the issue at hand. Not always, though. There are still plenty of those folks posting comments who seem more than willing to display their ignorance for all to see. Usually, these folks post anonymously by selecting any number of pen names. In fact, it's likely that a few people post under multiple names and end up having debates with themselves.

One very disconcerting element of the Daily Pilot blog is the eagerness with which many anonymous bloggers defame and ridicule others who post their views. It's not unusual at all for the first couple comments posted on any article, column, editorial or commentary to be relevant to the subject of the piece. From that point, though, the comment threads typically devolve into spitting matches, not at all unlike elementary school squabbles. In one recent comment thread of over 100 entries attached to an article about the performance of a couple local schools, fully two thirds of the comments criticized other posters - usually those who attempted to keep the debate on point. There are a few folks who seem to try to keep the debate of issues at a high level despite the jibes and cat-calls by others. As hard as they try to keep the debate on course, the yapping hyenas, whose only goal is ridicule and invective, keep trying to shout them down.

One particularly pathetic fellow - he will likely recognize my description - boldly posts comments using his own name despite the fact that he has a very hard time completing a thought. I guess his anger at his neighbor, a female city council member, clouds his judgment and gives him a brain freeze. He's now transferred some of that anger and frustration to me as he makes feeble efforts to provoke comments from me. Sorry, my friend - you lose. When you dither away saying nothing of relevance it's difficult not to be sorry for you. Just keep it up, though - practice makes perfect or, in your case, mediocre.

Recently, as part of the comment thread dangling from Byron de Arakal's commentary published last Thursday in the Daily Pilot, a person posted a two-part entry that advocated a race war in this country to resolve the issue of illegal aliens. He was quite specific about how his ideas would work - it was a clear, unequivocal, call to war. This kind of comment, in my view, has no place in the online version of a respected newspaper. The editors of the Daily Pilot certainly would not have published his comments as a letter to the editor - why should they publish them online? This person is entitled to his opinion, but he should create his own forum for them - as I did with this blog - if he wants to foment the violent overthrow of our government. I don't know how many comments the editors of the Pilot reject, but those two never should have made the cut. Based on some of the subsequent comments posted, I'm not the only person around here who feels this way.

In another part of town an insidious guy, who very much resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor, continues to rant on his own blog. Based on the comments posted on the Daily Pilot, he has many sycophants in this town - those without the mental acuity to develop their own train of thought, so they just read from his songbook. Among those are a couple of our elected "leaders" who seem unable to frame an issue without his specific guidance. They, and others, continue posting entries straight from this guy's far-right wing manifestos. Of interest is the fact that one of his recent blog entries appeared, within a day, almost verbatim in not one, but two far right-wing online sites. This poor guy posted an entry recently whining about attention recently bestowed on him by a Daily Pilot blog commentor and went on denying any kind of influence over our municipal court jester, Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever, and praised him for the "great Councilperson he has become". Give me a break! Bever is a joke and continues to display his ineptitude and disregard for proper decorum practically every time he opens his mouth.

So, we'll just keep going along, providing a forum for rational debate on important issues and invite those who choose to do so to join us here.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Herding Jackasses with Joe Bell and Byron de Arakal

The elected majority on the Costa Mesa City Council continues their display of ineptitude, most recently with their decision to write an inconsequential missive to President Bush deriding his support for the current potential solution for the illegal immigration situation in this country. This is typical of this trio, who see things only in black and white and fail to consider the broader views of their constituents when they make decisions like this one.

Today our local newspaper of record, The Daily Pilot, published a couple columns of great interest to those of us who live in Costa Mesa. Each of them addresses this issue one way or another.

The first of these, published on the front page, is the regular column by octogenarian writer Joseph N. Bell in his The Bell Curve. His is an open letter to our mayor, Allan Mansoor, and demonstrates what more than a half century of observing and writing about celebrities and near-celebrities can produce. You can read Joe's most recent contribution to the enlightenment and entertainment of our populace here. Bell, who will celebrate his 86th birthday on July 4th, continues to pump out prescient, provocative prose at an age when most of his peers are bemoaning the departure of Bob Barker from "The Price Is Right" and waiting impatiently for the Meals-on-Wheels truck to arrive.

The secon
d is a commentary by Byron de Arakal in the every-other-Thursday rotation that he shares with Newport Beach's Barbara Venezia. Byron is a fourth generation American, business owner and dedicated community activist, who put his blog into suspended animation recently when he, once again, agreed to produce a commentary for the Daily Pilot a couple times a month. Today's effort, which can be read here, takes the entire illegal immigration issue to task and points out, as only he can do, the folly of the actions of most of our politicians, including those local leaders who seem to have lost sight of their real job - to manage the well being of their constituents by focusing on things over which they actually have authority.

Those of us who scribble the occasional thought for your consideration can only sit and marvel at the skill and insight these two talented men display at every at-bat. Oh, to have that skill...

So, when you visit those links above, take the time to read the accumulating comments taking each of them to task. Many of those will be written anonymously by cowards who don't have enough courage to put their names to their rants. Such is life in the wonderful world of blogging - where the courageous present a position and the cowards hide behind anonymity and throw mud without any attempt to enhance or amplify the debate of important issues.

This event, and other perpetrated by our ruling troika in recent months, reminds me of a particularly relevant quote with which I will close this entry.

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.
-George Jean Nathan

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stable Bucks, Cart Retrieval Schmucks and More Stooge Yuck, Yuck, Yucks

Well, the June 19th city council meeting is behind us and we have a budget. As anticipated, the council agreed with most of the budget and passed it unanimously. That didn't surprise me, because the staff has consistently done an excellent job of translating the wishes of the council into a workable, balanced budget year after year.

The evening was not without it's noteworthy moments. During the debate of
the Great Shopping Cart issue, pulled from the consent calendar for discussion by avid Mansoor supporter, Phil Morello, who was joined in his condemnation of the current program by a man who very much resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor. No surprise there - it was predicted here in an earlier post. The council moved to continue with the program as-is.

During the debate our young jailer/mayor proposed that a letter be written pointing out the offending markets - a suggestion/direction offered by Your Neighbor. As you might suspect, he was cautioned about doing that by council member Katrina Foley, citing the potential for law suits. The mayor, in his own, special way, replied that, "I simply want to bring attention to the fact of what's going on in our city." Yes sir, our "Great Communicator" in action.

Later in the meeting, during the budget discussions, the subject of a City Manager Newsletter, similar to the one distributed by Homer Bludau, City Manager of Newport Beach, came up. The mayor voted "no" on this issue,
and stated during the debate that he felt we had plenty of communications with our residents now. Talk about inconsistent! Of course, he must feel he has plenty of communications with his "improver" buddies, so why bother with the rest of us? Fortunately, the rest of the council saw that it's a good idea and directed the City Manager to move forward with it.

The big topic, THE LETTER, was the last item on the agenda. After some heated discussion and public comments where all but one speaker spoke against Bever's epistle chiding President Bush for his stance on the current i
mmigration bill, the council, to no one's surprise, agreed to send it off to The President over Mansoor's signature. Since it was clear that there were at least three votes, Mansoor included in his motion a condition to permit all those council members who voted for it to be included as signatories. So, all three of our municipal stooges, Mansoor, Bever and Wendy Leece, will sign the letter. Boy, that will sure get the President's attention! Linda Dixon and Katrina Foley voted "no".

So, as far as we know, the following is the text of the letter proposed to be sent to President Bush. The signatures are a little bit of literary license applied under the circumstances:

"Dear President Bush,

On behalf of the Costa Mesa City Council, I wish to convey our position on illegal immigration. We feel it is vital that local governments such as ours communicate our concerns in this area. Our community suffers significant social, civil and law enforcement impacts, which appear to be the result of unfettered illegal immigration.

Promoting the deeply flawed SB 1348 is an affront to all law-abiding Americans. Passage of such legislation would be a disaster for our community and nation. We strongly oppose amnesty by any other name; just making something legal does not set things right, and will not address the impacts Americans suffer.

Since December 2006, we have had an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent assigned to work in our city jail. In the last six months, an astounding 262 arrestees have been flagged as probable illegal aliens from points around the globe who will be subject to deportation after their jail time is served. This demonstrates at a local level that existing laws can work if they are applied.

The immigration system is not "broken," the only thing that is broken is the will to uphold the law. Your administration's lack of will to meet its obligations regarding immigration enforcement is disrespectful toward all American citizens and legal immigrants.

Please uphold the existing federal immigration laws. Please provide all federal, state and local agencies the necessary resources and training to assist where they can. Federal funding is also needed to reimburse local governments' social, civil, and incarceration costs of illegal immigration.

Mr. President, we are weary of the massive local impacts of unfettered illegal immigration. We do not want amnesty for tens of millions of illegal aliens; we do want strong enforcement of our existing immigration laws.


Moe, Larry and Curly"

I've seen it suggested recently in the Daily Pilot blogs that the council majority should quit trying to concern themselves with the national immigration debate and tend to their municipal knitting - the job they were elected to do. However, since at least one of them apparently sees a bright - if I can use that term in his case - future in the broader political arena for himself, I suspect we'll continue to see them poking their noses in places where they don't belong.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Budget - Does Anybody Care?

Last Thursday night I attended a workshop on the 2007-2008 Costa Mesa municipal budget, conducted by City Manager Allan Roeder, Finance Director Marc Puckett and his new associate, Bobby Young. The staff had printed information available for virtually every level of interest, beginning with their Budget At A Glance booklet, the first of four progressively more detailed documents available to interested residents.

Hello, Is Anybody There?
As has been the case for the past three years that I've attended this event, it was sparsely attended. Sparsely? At the beginning there were only three residents in attendance, but one left early-on to attend another meeting - that left two of us. Two and half hours later three more residents arrived, but one left shortly thereafter. Despite the valuable information we received, I kept feeling that this just wasn't a good return on investment.

So, at a meeting designed to inform residents about how the city proposes to spend nearly $130,000,000 in the next fiscal year, virtually nobody showed up. That's an amazing fact, when you think about it. In fact, fewer than a dozen people total have showed up over the past three years.

The city staff does a remarkable job of preparing and presenting the budget each year. Their presentations have won
awards many times over. It's just too bad that so few residents seem to care about how their tax dollars are spent.

Some Interesting Numbers and Questions

In the 2007-2008 the City of Costa Mesa will spend $128,080,367 - around $1,100 per resident. The Operating Budget is $120,890,367, up just under 9% from the year ending June
30th. Due to the spike in the use of Measure M funds last year, the Capital Improvement Budget will drop 52.28%, to $7,190,000.

Did you know that just about 49% of the budget will go to Protection of Persons and Property, which includes Police, Fire, Code Enforcement, Emergency Medical Care, Building Safety and Animal Control?

Did you know that just about 66% of the budget is allocated to the payment of Salaries and Benefits?

Did you know that the Residential Renovation Improvement Program (RRIP), implemented in 2005 and 2006, that waived the payment of permit fees for residential property improvements, cost the city around $700,000 in revenue?

Did you know that our Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), which some folks refer to as the "Bed Ta
x", is the lowest in the county by a large margin? At 6%, it's less than half that of most neighboring communities. Do you realize that for each 1% increase in the TOT the city would receive around $1,000,000 in revenue - most of which would be coming from folks just passing through town?

Do you understand what the term "Fund Balance" means? Nah, I didn't think so.

Your Neighbor and Cart Retrieval
On the subje
ct of the budget, over at the CM Press The-Brain-Who-Ate-Costa-Mesa continues his drum beat, ranting about the money the city pays to have shopping carts retrieved around the city. The contract is for $4,000 per month - a total of $48,000 per year. He rants and raves about this expenditure as though it's going to break the bank. The truth is that the city has never spent $48,000 a year on cart retrieval. They have a contract with the markets in the area for reimbursement for each cart returned by the service. So, the net expenditure by the city has been significantly less than the contract amount. Of course, acknowledging that fact takes the edge of the CM Presses argument, so he won't tell you that. The issue here is not whether we should be paying for cart retrieval or not - that subject was debated and resolved several years ago. The issue here is that the city negotiated a good contract and found a way to get some of that money back, too.

At the council meeting tonight our elected leaders will likely approve much of what was proposed by the city staff. If they get into the debate, once again, about the shopping cart retrieval cost you will know that our old buddy at the CM Press still has his hands on the reins of the majority and gives them a not-too-gentle yank every now and again to remind them that he's still there.

Any Ideas?
I'd be very interested in how you feel about the budget and the dissemination of the information in it.

Do you, for example, think there is value in a presentation such as the one I attended before the f
inal budget is approved?

Do you have an interest in some kind of a Budget Town Hall Meeting, to be held after the fact, in which residents could be briefed on how their leaders and the city staff plan to spend their tax dollars in the next year?

Would you like to receive something like the Budget At A Glance booklet at home, perhaps distributed with the Recreation Guide?

Any other ideas?

I'd appreciate your views. If you want to post a comment about it, please do so. If you prefer to simply email me your ideas and not have them posted here please use the email address on my Profile page.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Bever Trades Veracity for Mendacity

At the end of last week the agenda for Tuesday night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting appeared on the city web site. I scanned down through the agenda items to the very end and found an interesting entry. It seems the council will consider sending a letter to President Bush decrying the "amnesty" bill that has been resurrected and may be passed by the time you read these words. That's not really the point of this entry.

Attached to t
hat agenda item was a draft of the letter proposed to go out over Mayor Mansoor's signature, theoretically representing the views of the City Council. In the letter it made the following outrageous comment, "Our community suffers significant impacts as a direct result of unfettered illegal immigration, including hundreds of hit-and-run accidents every year in our small city alone."

Well, not only did this comment catch my eye, but two Orange County Register reporters, Jeff Overley and Tony Saavedra, saw it and investigated the claim. Apparently this piece of fiction was fabricated by the actual author of the letter, our municipal court jester, Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever. This is not atypical for him. He's been known to shoot from the hip and bend the rules with regularity.

According to
an entry by Overley on The Total Buzz, the Register's political blog authored by reporters Martin Wisckol and Peggy Lowe, CMPD Police Lt. Dave Anderson, who told Overley that the cops don't keep such figures, was quoted as saying, "We're a little taken back by that, because we have (found) no correlation on hit-and-runs and illegal immigration."

According to Overley, Bever says there were 728 hit-and-runs in Costa Mesa in 2006, of which 284 were solved. Of those, 186 involved unlicensed drivers. Bever, without proof, infers that most of those people were illegal immigrants. He is quoted by Overley as saying, "We didn't have a rash of 14-year-old kids stealing mom's car and playing bumper cars through the city." That's a typical glib, smart-aleck response from him.

Subsequently, investigative reporter Saavedra reported,
"A look at Costa Mesa arrest data compiled by the Register shows that only seven undocumented immigrants were picked up for hit-and-run between Dec. 5, 2006 and May 31. That is a far cry from the "hundreds" every year reported by Councilman Eric Bever. Even when you consider the number of illegal immigrants arrested for driving without a license -- 26 in the six-month period -- Bever's numbers don't add up. "

Prior to reading these reports I contacted the Costa Mesa Police Department myself, but no return call was received. I'm sure they were very busy trying to figure out how Bever came up his numbers. They needn't have bothered - he just makes up his "facts" as he goes along.

A check of the city web site on Saturday found a new, revised version of the letter to be considered by the council on Tuesday. Yep, you guessed it - the reference to hit-and-running illegals is gone.

This would be comical if it were not so darn important. This is precisely the kind of things I've commented on for years. Bever, Mansoor and their cronies really don't care if they have to play fast and loose with the truth as long as they get their way. Even though Bever continues to act the clown, this should deeply concern every resident of this city. It's clear from watching him that veracity is an "alien" concept to him (pun fully intended).

One more time... you just cannot turn your back on these guys or they will stomp on your rights eventually, too. Consider yourselves warned - again.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Father's Day Memoir

On the banner at the top of this page I warned the readers that, from time to time, the content of this blog will go off on a tangent. This entry is one of those times. If you're looking for political observations today, just click your cursor and move on.

Father's Day is a tough holiday for me. My own father, Robert J. West, died more than 27 years ago, two years after he retired from a career in which he worked sixty plus hours a week for more than thirty years to make a good life for his family.

y father was an uncomplicated man. One of five siblings being raised by a single mother - his own father passed away at a very young age - he left school early to help support the family. With only an eighth grade education, his options were limited. He even spent some time with a circus, but ended up working as a floor covering installer - carpet and vinyl tile. Ineligible for military service in World War II because of a childhood knee injury, he worked two full time jobs for the duration of the war - one as a carpet installer and one as a defense plant worker.

At the end of the war my father joined thousands of others in a migration from the mid-west to C
alifornia, to find a job where he could work without the possibility of freezing to death in his truck, as almost happened in the winter of 1945 in Ohio. He began his own carpet installation business and found a modest home to buy before sending for his family. From that time, in 1946, until he retired in 1977, he worked twelve hours a day, five days a week, plus a half day on Saturday, to make a good life for us.

I learned much from my father. Following his example, I learned to treat everyone fairly a
nd honestly. You could trust my father. As I said, he was an uncomplicated man. It frustrated him when business associates tried to cheat him, since cheating was not in his lexicon. The business he operated with my uncle was small potatoes, employing only 20 men at it's peak. He had a core of men - maybe 10 - who worked for him for more than 20 years. When business expanded he would split up his two-man teams and hire helpers to fill the spots. When it slowed down he would lay off the helpers and re-combine the teams. When work got really slow, which happened from time to time, he would spread what little work there was among his crews so each would be able to make it through the difficult times and feed their families.

He ran his business the way he conducted the rest of his life - with great integrity. He trusted everyone until he was given a reason to do otherwise. He stood behind his work and that of his employees and that reputation for reliability and quality kept him in business for those many decades.

My father was a m
an so revered by his acquaintances and employees that he was referred to by many as "father". That caused confusion from time to time, because strangers overhearing that term of endearment from men his own age assumed he was a priest. He wasn't, of course, but he was a deacon in our church and Scout Master of our Boy Scout troop. He was an honest, hard-working leader of men. My father didn't tell you how to live your life - he gave you the example by the way he lived his.

Several of my high school friends worked for my father - some longer than others. A few used their jobs with him as simply a way to earn money during the pursuit of their education. Others made that tough job a career and spent more than 20 years - with smashed and cut fingers, swollen knees and aching backs - lifting those rolls of pad and carpet, moving the heavy furniture in and out of houses and crawling around homes throughout southern California installing floor coverings.

Here's a story that may help illustrate the kind of man my father was. A few years ago - at that
time my father had been gone for a decade - a friend and I were having lunch a few blocks from my home at an outdoor eating area when I noticed a fellow and a younger guy sitting about ten yards away, eating and talking. I thought I recognized the older one, and mentioned it to my friend. We sat and talked and ate and, every once in awhile, I'd glance over at those two men and was sure I recognized the older fellow. Finally, as we finished and were about to depart, I excused myself and went over to the table where the two men were also preparing to leave. I walked up and said to the older one, "Excuse me, but can you tell me your name?" He said, "Cliff", to which I said his last name. I had gone to high school with him and his twin brother and he, as luck would have it, was in town from his home in Utah for his daughter's wedding and was having lunch with his son. After a astonished greeting by us both, the next words out of his mouth were, "Your father was the best man I've ever known."

Cliff had worked for my father right out of high school, earning money for college. He hated every day as a carpet layer's helper - he felt the job was beneath him - and it used to really make me angry when he complained about it. He eventually quit, completed his education, began working as a civil engineer, got married and started raising a family. I'd lost track of him for more than 25 years. However, life
threw him some curve balls, his marriage broke up and the wife moved to Utah with their youngest son. My friend, disenchanted with engineering work, followed along and began working at the trade he learned from my father - installing carpet and vinyl tile for a living.

We visited for a couple minutes, then he agreed to join me at my home, where we spent four hours talking about old times. Through it all there was one theme - his admiration for my father and the life-lessons he learned while being around him.

This story is only one of many I've heard over the years from men and women who knew and loved my father like he was their very own.

When we moved to our present home more than three decades ago I was lucky enough to inherit a neighbor, Wayne Stanfield, who, although more like an older brother age-wise, conducted himself like a father. In fact, he, too, is referred to by many friends as "father". He, too, is a God-fearing, uncomplicated man who has made his living much like my father did - through honesty, hard work and long hours. When my father died a generation ago, Wayne's presence helped fill that tremendous void. To this day he remains a source of unflagging love and support for me and all his friends and family. He's one of the finest men I've ever known.

I'm a very lucky man, because I've had many friends in my life who have helped shape the person I've become. I've had friends and mentors throughout my career
who have pounded out a dent here and there and applied a buffer to the rough spots. They've reined me in where necessary and given me my head - to find my own speed - at other times. These are men I've admired, learned from and tried to emulate throughout my life.

On this Father's Day, I want to express just how grateful I am for these two special men in my life. I'm grateful for my father, whose example helped form the foundation of who I became for the first half of my life. I'm also grateful for my friend, Wayne, who has participated, through his example, patience, wise counsel and faith, in the constant renovation of my life over the last half of it. One taught me from the very beginning the virtue of honesty, integrity, loyalty and hard work. The other reinforced those virtues and demonstrated, by the way he lives his life every day, that kindness, understanding and love still have a place in our society today.

On this holiday I hope each of you fathers out there who might read this will do the very best you can to mold those young lives you've created. A gentle hand and a kind, encouraging word will do more to motivate than a swat on the behind and a threat. Don't tell your children how to conduct themselves - show them by your example.

Remember, time is fleeting. If you teach your children kindness and compassion today, perhaps those kids - whose drool you wiped and diapers you changed - will return those favors in the not-too-distant future.



Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fields of Screams

Just a reminder, today the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission will meet in a Study Session to discuss proposed changes in the Field Use and Allocation Policy. The meeting will be held at City Hall, in Conference Room 1A at 5:30 p.m.

Since this has been a very contentious issue over the past few years, pitting AYSO against Pop Wa
rner Football and neighbor against neighbor on the lighting of fields, I recommend that any interested party attend to get a feel for the way the city is planning to go on this subject. No votes will be made in this meeting - it's a study session - but the whole subject should be pretty thoroughly fleshed out in anticipation of the next public hearing on the subject, probably at their meeting on the 27th.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Smooth Sailing, Riggy Railing and Carmax Prevailing

One down, two to go. It was mostly smooth sailing at the Planning Commission meeting Monday night because much of the anticipated fireworks did not occur. The commission made fairly quick work of the new condo conversion guidelines by continuing the item to a future study session where, in a more "casual" atmosphere, the more controversial segments of the proposal can be discussed. This was a good move.

We then came to the request from developer Barry Saywitz for a re-hearing on his condo conversion on Victo
ria Street. The last time this was heard - and approved, by the way - was the date rookie commissioner Jim Righeimer sliced and diced Saywitz mercilessly. During all the turmoil of that meeting conditions were placed on the project which Saywitz was not given the opportunity to address before the the vote was taken. Those conditions, which reduced the number of units from 12 to 9, will make a significant hit to Saywitz' ability to complete the project profitably. The debate on this subject was very interesting. Saywitz made his case for a re-hearing, but old Riggy - like a pit bull with the smell of blood in the air - resisted the proposal with such vigor that Chairman Donn Hall, crusty curmudgeon that he can sometimes be, might have reached over and given Riggy a swat with a newspaper if he could have reached him. The end result, driven by a very logical summary of the actual issues of the situation by Commissioner Eleanor Egan, was that the commission voted 3-2 to give Saywitz the chance to present his views on the conditions at the July 9th meeting. Righeimer and Vice Chair Jim (I'm-a-realtor-here-in-town) Fisler voted no. I don't know what's going on between Saywitz and Riggy, but the commissioner treats him like a chunk of dog poo he can't get off his shoe. Maybe the best solution is to simply put some boxing gloves on these two, lock them in a room and let them sort it out. The meeting on July 9th promises to be more fun.

The long and thorough hearing on the application by the Segerstroms for the placement of a Carmax Auto Superstore at the location of the old Wickes Furniture Store resulted in approval of the project unanimously. Typical of most Segerstrom projects, this one was presented well and defended we
ll by their silver-tongued representative, Paul Freeman and others. The only rocky spot came when Commissioner Sam Clark cockily requested, out of the blue, that the developer pony up to repair the surface of Gisler Avenue adjacent to the site to the tune of $300,000-$500,000. It was obvious that this demand came out of left field and Freeman, smooth as butter, rejected it. It looks to me as though Clark is beginning to take some pages from Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever's court jester handbook. He's beginning to take his attempts at glib humor much too seriously. My advice to him is to forget the yucks and just do the job you were appointed to do. With the approval it's likely that we'll see this sales tax generator in business some time next year.

This afternoon we find out during the City Council Study Session just how much money our city will be able to spend beginning the fiscal year starting July 1st. Since there have been meetings going on with some of the bargaining units, I suspect there will be some very interesting numbers thrown around. Stay tuned.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Government In Action

This is going to be a very interesting week at City Hall in Costa Mesa. Disregarding the probability of controversial and/or boneheaded comments by some members of the council, the scheduled events alone are going to make for some fascinating observation.

Today, Monday, the Planning Commission has an interesting schedule of events for their meeting tonight. First out of the blocks will be the review of the new standards for residential and commercial common interest developments (condo conversions) that have been rushed into preparation because of the recently-imposed moratoria. You will recall that the council, in it's haste to "change things" in our city, went off half-cocked and finally had to be reined in before they approved conversions that were shoddy and haphazardly conceived. The debate of this subject should prove to be interesting.

Then, ma
sochist developer Barry Saywitz throws himself back under the wheels of the train as he presents his request for reconsideration of a condo conversion project on Victoria Street. This is significant for many reasons. The last time this item was heard by the Planning Commission rookie commissioner Jim Righeimer shredded Saywitz like a carrot going through a Veg-O-Matic. Now Saywitz brings this item back for a re-hearing, saying that he was not given a chance to address the changes in the project as it was approved, 3-2, the last time. He states in his paperwork that he's not interested in pursuing this project as previously approved because he can't make any money on it. This should really be fun to watch. I have this image of Righeimer pounding himself on the shoulder pads in preparation for the confrontation.

They're also going to consider a request to put a Carmax Auto Superstore at the site of the old
Wickes furniture store - another huge sales tax generator for our city. I find myself wondering whether, because of this locations proximity to the 405 freeway, might this not finally result in a huge sign advertising the Harbor Boulevard of Cars? It seems to me that most folks who actually go to a dealership to buy cars these days prefer those auto malls, where you can park your car and walk around, shopping for new wheels. I think the dealers along Harbor Boulevard can probably use all the advertising help they can get.

On Tuesday the City Council will be briefed on the 2007-2008 budget by staff. We expect that Finance Director Marc Puckett and his staff have, as always, put together a solid, workable budget for the council to consider. For those who don't follow this process, Puckett and his team consistently win awards for their budget presentations and Costa Mesa has been recognized for it's solid financial position for many years.

Then, on Wednesday, the Parks and Recreation Commission will hold a rare study session to consider the new proposed changes to the Field Use and Allocation Policy. This one has the potential for some very interesting speaker comments and dialogue, since there has been some very contentious debate on this issue recently. You can get a feel for this by reading Byron de Arakal's commentary in the Daily Pilot last week, here.

All in all, it looks like a fun week here in Costa Mesa.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Directly Elect a Mayor? Why?

Seldom is there a time when I agree with our old buddy over at the CM Press. This time, though, The-Brain-Who-Ate-Costa-Mesa asks some pretty darn good questions - some of which I had posed in an earlier entry. Based on his blog comments, it looks to me he's really more concerned about losing influence over the council than anything else. Still, his questions are good ones and I've provided a link to his posting here.

At issue is the apparent fast-tracking of the proposal voiced by former mayor Gary Monahan at the city council meeting on Jun
e 5th to move forward with a plan to directly elect the position of mayor of Costa Mesa.

Now, bey
ond the fact that Monahan obviously thinks he's got a lock on the job, the whole subject presents some interesting questions that should be asked and answered before this change is rammed down the throats of the voters in this city. Since it was obvious that the mayor and city manager were not surprised by the request on the 5th, one can only assume that there's been a whole lot of dialogue going on behind the scenes on this issue for some time. It's going to be very interesting to see how this shakes out.

I've thought some more about this and have many of the same questions the CM Press addressed in his post.

1 - Will this be an additional position or replace one of the council positions?

2 - If it's an additional position, will i
t be a voting position?

3 - What will the tenure be - 2 or 4 years?

4 - How much will we pay this position?

5 - Will the compensation package include retirement credits?

6 - What about medical?

7 - Will it be a full-time job, or part-time, like the council positions?

8 - Will there be term limits applied to this position?

9 - If the dire
ctly-elected mayor gets hit by a truck - or falls off a bar stool - and cannot fulfill his responsibilities, how will he be replaced?

10 - Will this position have greater powers and authority than the present position of mayor? If so, it seems to me that there is a huge opportunity for abuse of that power and for corruption.

After watching the council meeting when Monahan requested this change, it sure looked like Mansoor was all for it. If he's for it, you can be sure Bever and Leece will vote to put it on the ballot, too, regardless the
public input.

In the Daily Pilot article that addressed this issue, here, our young jailer/mayor is quoted as saying,
"It does give a little more clout on regional issues, and it gives us more of a mandate regarding the direction of the city. And so that can be beneficial." I read that and found myself wondering just how the directly-elected mayor gives our city more clout on regional issues? I mean, a mayor is a mayor, right? Does that mean Mansoor is less a mayor than one who might be directly-elected? I'm sorry, I know that question is a set up, but I couldn't resist. And what's this "more of a mandate" stuff? Mansoor and his cronies have been crowing like those darn birds that infest my neighborhood ever since the election about their "mandate", for goodness sake.

The last segment of his quote is very interesting, too. What do you mean, "beneficial", Mr. Mayor? Do you mean beneficial to you, who has been padding his war chest recently under the guise of raising funds for the Veteran's Memorial Project? Does it mean the person who occupies the directly-elected mayor slot would have more visibility than you've had the past few years? How is that even possible? I mean, your mug has been all over the media ever since you decided to become a Minuteman and save our country from the brown hoards.

It's too early for me to express an opinion on this question - there are too many unanswered questions right now. However, it sure looks like this was contrived to benefit one person - former mayor Gary Monahan. I may be wrong, but he sure acted like he was back in control Tuesday night and had every confidence that his idea would fly.

I noticed that Monahan handled this one just as so many other important issues have been handled - he requested it be agendized for a council meeting, not a study session. This is precisely what happened with the Immigration Cross-designation fiasco. You'll also recall the way he slid the closure of the Job Center into the agenda
with a similar, low-key, almost whispered, request.

An issue of this importance should be agendized for a study session, where potentially contentious elements can be discussed, before being placed on the council agenda. This sure looks like another quick pitch by this council majority to implement something extremely important to all residents of this city without giving them sufficient time to voice their views.

I wrote a satirical piece about a fictional (?) land of Mansooria, in which a person resembling our young jailer/mayor becomes Emperor. It's a long one and you can find it in the archives of this blog. I found myself thinking, tongue firmly planted in my cheek, that I wonder why we should bother with the position of directly-elected mayor? Why not just withdraw from the union and appoint an emperor to govern?

Before I express an opinion on the direct-election of the Mayor of Costa Mesa I want to know why it is necessary. Wh
at changes will this make to the governance of our city? Why now? What was the event that pushed us over the edge to this decision? Why will this move make Costa Mesa a better city for all it's residents?

Another interesting element is the date that this subject will be discussed by the Costa Mesa City Council - July 3, 2007. Yep, they've managed to get it placed on the agenda on a date when many regular attendees will likely be vacationing and the more casual observers will be otherwise occupied. Pretty clever, don't you think? I guess that means we'll be having fireworks two nights in a row next month.

The direct election of the mayor may turn out to be a terrific idea. However, the circumstances under which it has been proposed makes one suspicious. Baring any new information that changes my mind, I'm willing to wait to hear more about this new position, and how it affects the way this city is governed. It's going to be a very interesting month...

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Snapping Fingers, Monahan Lingers, Anti-Airport Wrath and A New Bike Path

You know, sometimes watching a Costa Mesa City Council meeting can be a little like watching someone riding the Tea Cups ride at Disneyland. The way some members of the council change their minds, you almost half expect them to dizzily stumble off the dais from all that spinning.


As predicted, the Mansoor Majority on the Costa Mesa City Council decided Tuesday night to discard the Neighbor
hood Traffic Calming Program, previously discussed here. Instead of taking a proactive position and proceeding with the plan staffer Peter Naghavi had proposed to establish guidelines for implementation of traffic solutions when residents bring them to their attention, the council majority - using it's obviously limited grasp of management principles - decided to require the staff to just keep on chugging away, handling one problem at a time.

I'm not surprised at this outcome at all. It just demonstrated for us all exactly how much control our young jailer/mayor has over his two lackeys on the dais with him. Both Eric Bever and Wendy Leece were enthusiastic supporters of Naghavi's plan when it was presented at the study session in January. All it took was for Mansoor to snap his fingers and they did a 180 on this issue. No good reasons were given for this turnabout by either of them. I guess they want to be sure their pal, the mayor, doesn't forget them when campaign time comes around. After all, he's still going around building his war chest, so he'll have plenty of bucks to pass around.

There was a moment of humor in this discussion, though. At the end - once the mayor moved to stop further action on the plan and to receive and file the report and it passed 3-2 - he asked the City Manager, Allan Roeder, to have a report prepared briefly discussing potential solutions for Eastside streets Flower, Raymond and Westminster. Others chimed in stating that all those Eastside streets, including Broadway - much beleaguered by speeders in the recent past - Magnolia and 19th Street should be included. Because the staff had already wasted lots of time, money and energy on the Traffic Calming issue
, Roeder responded that he'd like to have that in the form of a motion, so they were sure of the direction the council was giving this time. After some hemming and hawing the whole idea was dropped because Mansoor apparently realized that he was asking for exactly the kind of information Naghavi's plan would have provided! Hoisted on his own petard! Ya gotta love it!

Another int
eresting event occurred at the council meeting Tuesday night. You may recall that in an entry at the end of March this year, here, I speculated about the probability of there being a movement afoot to propose the direct election of the position of mayor. Well, Tuesday night former council member and mayor Gary Monahan peeked over the speaker's podium and formally asked for the council to consider putting on the ballot a measure to provide a mechanism to do exactly that - directly elect the position of mayor of our fair city. This comes as no surprise to me - I've heard rumors about this for months. What surprised me is that the request came from Monahan and not the mayor. Of course, Monahan wants his old job back. I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks it could end up being a lifetime gig for him.

That whole idea brings with it many questions. For example, presently the mayor is selected from his peers on the council for a two-year term. I assume the directly elected mayor would have an automatic four year term. Also, would our current term limits regulations apply to that position? Maybe we should elect the mayor for only a two-year term... that would be fun.

Would this position be a full time job or a part time position like the current council seats? Monahan is already the only council member to qualify for a pension, which would be padded by his elected for, say, two terms of four-years each.

Also, even though the present position of mayor is largely ceremonial, the person on that throne does control the flow of debate to a very large extent and is in a disproportionately powerful position relative to his fellow council members. To put that much power in the hands of one person for as much as eight consecutive years creates a situation ripe for abuse and corruption.

This is going to be one issue that gets thoroughly vetted before it hits the ballot - maybe as early as the primary election early next year.

On a more positive note, among the other items considered Tuesday night, the council did pass a resolution opposing the use of the back nine holes of the Newport Beach Golf Course for parking and recommending using the current Bristol Street Mini Storage site as much-needed lighted playing fields.

They also agreed to fund a study to consider using the route along a couple flood control channels as a bike path across the city. This is another good move.

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