Thursday, February 19, 2009

Council Meeting Musings and Budget Abusing

Watching the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last Tuesday was
very interesting.

First, we watched their recent appointee to the Planning Commission, Steve Mensinger, receive the "Mayor's
Award" as part of the group that has made the Costa Mesa Pop Warner Football program so successful. Certainly, that recognition of Mensinger and his cadre of associates was well-deserved. I'm glad Mensinger made it back from his exotic vacation so he can finally be installed on the commission next week. His absence from his very first meeting kept the commission from electing officers. Now that he's back I expect to see Vice Chair Jim Fisler unceremoniously shoved aside and Jim Righeimer chosen as Chairman and one of the two new guys - Mensinger or Colin McCarthy - named Vice Chair. See what a little campaign contribution can buy you...

Then, later in the meeting, we saw the Schones
family once again - for the umteenth time - stand before the council and plead their case to have their nearly half-century old, illegal secondary residence on the back of their property be permitted to remain. This issue has been heard and re-heard several times. The Planning Commission has denied their request more than once and the council has heard it numerous times. Still, they persist.


Finally, the council h
as told them once and for all that they must demolish this unit and remove it from the site. They still have the option to "make it legal" by either moving it on the site so it conforms with the rules, or chop big hunks of it away to accomplish that conformity. According to the story in the Daily Pilot, the family now plans legal action - great! One more law suit!


Later the council heard the issue of what to do with Brentwood Park. Many speakers stood and told the council that they didn't want interlopers entering their park -
that tennis courts, basketball hoops and other amenities would attract undesirables and disturb their peace and quiet. Only a couple people made the case for using this rare opportunity to provide all residents of this city with a new, more broadly usable facility - Jim Righeimer and Jeff Harlan. Harlan had recently written an opinion piece in the Daily Pilot outlining his views, which he reiterated from the speaker's podium. Righeimer was similarly forceful in his presentation, citing that the city will have almost $6 million invested in this park which amounts to a very expensive greenbelt for a dozen homes. He pointed out that, any way you measure it, this is a bad investment of city funds - particularly in these difficult times. And yet, the NIMBYs win again. As is their practice, the council refuses to take the long view on almost any issue before them.


And, of course, the clown on the dais, Eric Bever, took advantage of his lofty position to fire a shot directly at Righeimer for daring to speak against the prevailing view. So infan
tile is his behavior on the dais that I fully expect him to show up one evening in a diaper, sucking on a milk bottle nipple.


Of course, the biggest news in town these days is the pending financial disaster. P
resently our staff is able to juggle the good old fund balance to dredge up enough money to make it through this fiscal year. However, the year that begins July 1st is another matter. Although no hard numbers are yet available, it looks very much as though our biggest sources of revenue - Sales and Property Taxes - will be down dramatically. I covered this in an earlier post.


Now the representatives of the two public safety unions have spoken out on this subject, indicating that they are not interested in re-opening their contracts for re-negotiatio
n until they see hard evidence in the form of audited year end results. That means that they are not willing to discuss this issue until September or October.


The problem here, of course, is that the new budget must be completed well before that time. If they are unwilling to at least begin talking with city management representatives very soon, they will box the management team and city council into a corner and the only way out will be lay-offs.


I admire and respect the men and women who serve this city in public safety roles. I think they do an excellent job and I'm grateful that they are willing to, literally, put their lives on the line for us. However, it will be very interesting to see if they will take the short, me-first view and refuse to help with solutions that would spread the cost-cutting burden among many and, instead, sacrifice the jobs of some of their comrades. I hope their elected leaders change their minds and decide to meet with city management to begin working together on this very difficult subject. This situation is bad and the passage of time without action will only exacerbate it.

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Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Shocked that you didn't mention the 4 council members willing to take a pay cut, except for Monahan... thought that was a nice softball for you to take a whack at.

2/20/2009 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

mesa verde madman - You're right.. I dropped the ball on that one. I did, however, post the following comment on the Daily Pilot blog attached to the original news piece about the other four council members volunteering to take a pay cut: "I'm not surprised that Monahan is reluctant to take a pay cut. Even double-dipping as he is with his other "day job" at the Sanitary District, with a shaky restaurant and six hungry kids to feed and educate, I don't really blame him. If the others are really sincere, how about offering to work for $1 per month for the duration of this economic crisis?"

You are correct, I should have flogged all of them about this and may do so in the future. I've been out of town or I might have been a little more attentive... the DP editors addressed this again today.

2/22/2009 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chris McEvoy said...

I disagree with how the whole Schone's situation happened. I don't really see the big deal of letting them keep that detached unit. I really only remember maybe two people that spoke up against keeping the unit. Even so the building had been there so long that a valid consideration would be that anyone who moved in after the its construction and establishment would have accepted the neighborhood as is. I think the only people who would have a legitimate grievance would be those that were there when it was built. Further that extra residence could help financially if needed. I think a good compromise would have been to leave everything as is. I really see that extra residence as a selling point to the house.

I forget, did the city staff approve the building?

2/27/2009 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Chris McEvoy said...

I don't how the Schone's situation ended. Personally I think that the city should have allowed that building to become legal. Maybe two people spoke out against it? I know that not many more spoke in favor of it, but still feel it should have stayed because of how old it was. It's been there so long that for some neighbors that's how the neighborhood has always been. Further it can help that family financially and finally for me personally (being the target market of the current planning commission) that extra unit would be a selling point.

2/27/2009 10:40:00 PM  

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