Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Fees On Council Agenda

The agenda for Tuesday's Costa Mesa City Council meeting is now available for viewing, HERE. It's full of stuff that could generate some significant resident interest - if they're paying attention.


For example, there are three items submitted by the Fire Department that are revenue-generators at a time when we certainly do need new sources of income. However, each of these items reach directly into the pockets of Costa Mesa residents for "fees" at a time when most ca
n probably not afford them.

Emergency Medical Services - This fee, which will now charge residents and non-residents alike, is supposed to generate $543,900 in additional revenue to the city by charging fees for services provided when a person receives medical attention and is transported by an ambulance. Currently, residents don't pay these fees. This fee is kind of like picking your pocket as you lay bloodied and battered on the gurney.

Fire Department Fire Prevention Fees - These fees, to be assessed against businesses who receive fire prevention visits by members of the Fire Department, are supposed to generate an additional $500,000 in revenue to the city. Theoretically, these fees will represent 100% cost recovery for providing these services - which businesses don't have an option to accept or decline. The firefighters just wander in, check out your business, then send you a bill.

Fire Department Costs Recovery Program - These nifty new fees will supposedly generate more than $180,000 in new revenues for the city. They cover the costs of responding to an automobile accident within our city and could really mount up if, for example, the scene of the accident isn't promptly cleared by the police in attendance. They are based in great part by the kind of vehicle that responds, and are charged for increments of an hour, with 15 minutes being the shortest time. The proposal says we will contract with an outfit called EF Recovery, who has apparently convinced our staff that, for 14% of the fees collected, can recover 98.5% of such insured fees. I went to the web site for this company and there is absolutely nothing there that indicates they are even in this business. On their site they appear to be marketers of consumables used at accident sites and otherwise by public safety organizations. It makes me curious about their claim of 98.5% success rate when they don't even mention being in this business on their site.

So, these new ordinances - with which the Fire Department will stick their hands directly into the pockets of residents - are projected to generate around $1.2 million in additional revenues for the city beginning July 1, 2009.

Last July 15th, during their deliberations of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and Business License Fees, the city council decided to "receive and file" the proposal to put those two items on the ballot for the residents to consider. As a result, we missed the boat for another two years before either item can be considered again. The short-sighted council missed the chance to increase the TOT by a couple points - which would still have left Costa Mesa among the lowest in the state - and thereby probably cost us an estimated $2 million in increased revenue. Had the voters approved that modest change we would not be looking at having our pockets picked with these new fees. The TOT affects only visitors to our city, not the residents. And, there was no one from the hospitality community that spoke against a possible increase in the TOT last year.

Our Business License Fees are laughably low. As councilwoman Katrina Foley mentioned during a recent meeting, her small law firm in Newport Beach pays more for it's business license than Nordstrom does at South Coast Plaza! Even a modest adjustment to those fees would have generated significant increases in revenue for our city. Again, no one from the business community spoke on this subject last year.


So, once again the narrow-minded, lame-brained knee-jerk majority on the city council has demonstrated clearly why it's important to elect people to the council that have more than half a brain between them. By digging in their heels in their anti-tax posture they have caused great harm to the residents of our city.

Also coming before the council Tuesday are some items that generated a lot of interest within the community. It will be interesting to see who shows up Tuesday to speak on them this time around. Those items are:

Off-street Parking Standards
Residential Driveway Widths
Modifications to our Fireworks Ordinance making offenses administrative citations
The bogus and inconsequential 5% pay reduction for the city council members - which cannot take effect until after the 2010 elections.

I wonder how many passionate residents will show up Tuesday night to discuss these issues.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2009 OC Marathon This Weekend!

Well, folks, the 2009 Avia Orange County Marathon is upon us! You can read all about it HERE.

This fun-pac
ked three-day event occurs this weekend, beginning Friday, May 1, with a Health, Fitness & Nutrition Expo, Event Registration and merchandise sales.

Saturday there will be more of the same but will also include the Kids Run the OC event at the Orange County Fair and Event Center.

Sunday is the big day, with races scheduled to begin in the early hours - around 6:30 a.m.. You can read the complete Schedule of Events HERE.

Parking and Directions information can be found HERE.

Maps and descriptions of the courses can be seen HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions will be found HERE.

This promises to be an outstanding, world-class event and I encourage residents to find a special viewing place along the course, bring some sun screen and make a day of it.

Take some time to review the course layout because this event promises to make a snarl of traffic in our cities for a big part of Sunday. Plan your trips ahead of time and be patient.


I would be very remiss if I didn't thank my favorite carpetbagger, Jim Righeimer, for playing a huge role in getting the OC Marathon to Costa Mesa. Even though the big races begin at Fashion Island in Newport Beach and wind their way through Newport, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, the races end at the Orange County Fair and Events Center in Costa Mesa. This is quite an accomplishment and we owe much of this to the efforts expended by Riggy. Thanks, Jim.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Riggy And Power

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night was an interesting event.


First, The Mouth From Mesa North stood at the speaker's podium and gave the commissioners a pep talk - God save us all! Among other things, he encouraged them to "call in some chits" with their development buddies and en
courage them to come to Costa Mesa to do projects. I have to agree with one thing he said, though, when he told the Planning Commissioners that they were not getting good communication from the City Council. That fact was painfully obvious during the city council meeting last week.

In the "commissioner comments" section, Chairman Jim Righeimer spent a long time ad
dressing what happened at that meeting, when the council rejected the commission's proposals on neighborhood parking and related ordinances.

During his long speech he mentioned that someone had asked him why none of the commissioners were
at the council meeting to address the issues in question. He told the audience that "these people work very hard up here", meaning his fellow commissioners, and that they all have full time jobs and have to work their schedules around to make the commission meetings. Yeah, OK, Riggy, but that's what you all signed on for.


Personally, I don't think it's appropriate for a sitting commissioner to come before the council and plead his case on an issue that has been appealed to it. The commission had it's chance to make it's views known during their deliberations. They've had the opportunity to compose their "findings" on the issues. Those deliberations are clearly recorded and the staff presents to the council their su
mmary of the circumstances.

I think what's happening is that Righeimer likes the taste of power he has as Chairman of the Planning Commission. I think he's trying to show us that he's a "mayor-in-training". Now that he's in control of his little
domain he's showing even less patience than in those days when former Chair Donn Hall would take him to the woodshed for his antics. Now there is no one to rein him in, so he just continues to go off on whatever tangent he feels is appropriate.


Young Chris McEvoy, who ran for city council last fall, recently wrote in the Daily Pilot t
hat he thought Riggy is bad for Costa Mesa. Even though I voted for Righeimer in the last election, I must agree with McEvoy. Riggy demonstrates a tendency to just charge ahead like a bull in a china shop. As each meeting passes it becomes much more clear that his vision for Costa Mesa is not shared by a large portion of the population, including many of the council members.


I think it's time for the council and the Righeimer-led planning commission to hold a joint study session to be sure they all are on the same page. If they don't, Riggy is going to continue to try to form city policy and direction on his own.


Of course, there is always the alternative - alluded to by Righeimer during his speech - for a majority on the council to ask him to step aside and appoint someone else to the commission. That's not going to happen, though. Riggy is too tight with the Orange County Republican Party hierarchy and members of our council majority are beholden to the OC GOP for their political fortunes.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Sign Spinning, Skosh Singing & Wendy Self-Serving

Tonight the Costa Mesa Planning Commission will address a couple interesting issues.

First, they will consider a complete ban of "commercial mascots", including those obnoxious "sign spinners" who annoy and distract drivers as they try to attract buyers to their locations. This might make for an interesting discussion. Previously, such bans
had been viewed as perhaps infringing on first amendment rights, but several other Orange County cities have recently passed ordinances either completely banning such signs or significantly limiting their use.


Then former mayor, current Daily Pilot columnist and current Orange County Transportation Board President, Peter Buffa, will shill for the property owners at the location of councilman Gary Monahan's restaurant (Skosh Monahan's) for permission to allow live entertainment consisting of singers with acoustic guitars and a
karaoke machine. What's next - Michael Flatley and his Irish dancers?

Buffa is no stranger to Skosh Monahan's. He narrated at least one of Gary's cable television commercials in recent years.


Speaking of the Planning Commission, Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece wrote a long, self-serving commentary in the Daily Pilot Sunday, HERE, and former council candidate Chris McEvoy wrote a piece condemning Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer, HERE. I find myself wondering if Riggy and his band of merry compatriots will mention the
summary rejection they received by the City Council at last week's meeting.

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