Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tough Time In Costa Mesa Today (Revised)

Today promises to be a very interesting day in Costa Mesa.

First, Mona Shadia, writing in the Daily Pilot, reports that Mayor Allan Mansoor - Republican candidate for the 68th Assembly seat being vacated by Van Tran - has returned nearly $8,000 in campaign contributions. You can read Mona's article HERE. Seems Mansoor apparently didn't think anything was wrong with accepting thousands of dollars from folks with whom he was in negotiations for the purchase of the Orange County Fairgrounds until "someone" mentioned it to him.


Now, I ask you, is he really that stupid? There was a time when I might have said no, but I'm not so sure now. I don't know just who's handling his campaign, but he's either not getting very good advice or he's ignoring it. I suspect the latter, since he's demonstrated a pattern over the past several years of ignoring expert advice.

I've known about the potential conflicts of interest for a couple months, but chose not to make a fuss about it yet. Now this incident has saved me the trouble, although the entries on his campaign finance log mentioned in Mona's article are certainly not the only curious ones. You can view his list HERE. Just scroll down and look for familiar names among the more than 260 entries, among them Steve Mensinger, Colin McCarthy and Jeff Mathews - all appointees to city commissions. Mathews alone seems to have contributed a real pile of dough to Mansoor's campaign.

Tonight the City Council is going to have a very full platter. At a special meeting scheduled to begin at 5:30 they will finally come to grips with the 2010/2011 budget after shoving it off a week and try to find some way to balance it without disemboweling city services. About the only way for that to happen is for them to consider new or increased fees - the Transient Occupancy Tax and Business License Fees, for example. Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young has prepared a long list of potential new or increased funding sources for the council to consider.

However, they will be asked to find $8 million dollars in savings somewhere since most new revenue sources would become effective in January if approved by the voters. It's highly unlikely that the budget will be balanced without major concessions from the employee bargaining units. The 76 jobs that are on the block will likely remain so - that $8 million is calculated after the layoffs.

And, although some consideration will be given to use Fund Balance, there's not much left in that bucket. The city has drawn down it's reserves by almost $35 million over the past three years. Most of the money left in the reserves now are designated funds - emergency reserves, etc. - and not available for use balancing the budget.

Following the budget meeting the council will re-convene as the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (OCFA), review and approve the bylaws of the organization and immediately go into a closed session meeting in which they will hear from the negotiators on the purchase of the Fairgrounds. The agenda then calls for them to have an open session meeting. We can speculate about those two events - I suspect we will hear about the offer and watch the authority board either vote to approve it - or not.

NOTE: The city distributed a revised agenda report late Tuesday morning which includes staff reports for the purchase terms of the Fairgrounds and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the OCFA and Facilities Management West for the ground lease for the Fairgrounds. You can find them by clicking HERE, then selecting the link for the 6/22/10 meeting of the OFCA board.


All in all, it's going to be a very, very stressful evening. The budget session is sure to leave nobody happy - we are too deep in the hole. It certainly will not be a boring night. And, it's entirely possible that the deal hammered out by the negotiators will not get the approval of the authority board (council). That would be a shame.

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