Wednesday, August 04, 2010

More Fairgrounds Drama & Council Meeting Wrap-up

As promised, City Manager Allan Roeder issued a press release late yesterday afternoon regarding the trip he took to Sacramento with Katrina Foley on Monday. Unfortunately, it didn't really tell us much.

Foley is quoted as follows: “The meetings were helpful in better understanding some of the legislative challenges ahead and the process required for authorization of the legislation,” stated Council member Foley. “I am pleased with the support the City has received from the Assembly member as we move forward on this phase of our effort to keep the Fairgrounds under public ownership.”

Beyond that, we were told that Assemblyman Jose Solorio scheduled the meeting.. that's it.

Bigger news, however, came in an article in the Daily Pilot late last night online and in the print edition this morning. That article, HERE, announced that former Fairgrounds CEO and current consultant to Costa Mesa in the Fairgrounds negotiations, Becky Bailey-Findley, has been tapped by Facilities Management West as the interim leader of their Fairgrounds operations if their bid is successful. Findley, who has apparently spent virtually her entire adult life working in or around the Fairgrounds, agreed to accept that interim position until FMW finds a permanent leader. She is not interested in the permanent job.

This news has got to be making the Fair Board and current CEO Steve Beazley apoplectic! This news will certainly put a damper on their "revenue sharing" proposal announced Monday at the Board meeting. One of the big criticisms of the FMW pitch by the most vocal of critics has been their lack of experience in this kind of an operation. Findley resolves that issue right out of the gate.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday night they passed the Advanced Life Support Cost Recovery Program and, as a result, save the position of EMS Coordinator that was lost due to the recent budget cuts. Fire Chief Mike Morgan emphasized that under this program Costa Mesa residents will not be required to pay anything additional over what they are paying under our current EMS system. Here are the terms and conditions as presented by Chief Morgan last night:

1. Costa Mesa residents will not be required to pay any costs for EMS that are in addition to whatever they would be paying under the current EMS billing system (i.e., Costa Mesa residents will not be subject to any additional costs due to implementation of this program).

2. Costa Mesa residents will continue to be exempt from paying the $275 first responder charge (only non-residents are billed for this).

3. Care Ambulance Service, which performs all EMS billing for the City per contract, will be authorized to begin billing the private insurance companies, Medicare, or Medi-Cal, of all resident and non-resident patients, a $300 ALS transport charge.

4. Care Ambulance Services will waive all patient co-pay and deductible charges of Costa Mesa residents that are specific to the ALS Cost Recovery Program.

5. Care Ambulance Service will waive the $300 ALS transport charge for all Costa Mesa residents who do not have any form of medical insurance or coverage.

6. Residents will not have to do anything to obtain a waiver: All waivers will be automatically reflected in the billing statement mailed by Care Ambulance Service, which will be an amount reduced according to the amount waived.

This is terrific news all around for Costa Mesa residents and provides a financial mechanism to assure that Costa Mesa continues to receive Emergency Medical Services of the highest level. The council approved this item, with only our municipal lamebrain, Eric Bever, voting NO.

Next up was Wendy Leece's request for a re-hearing of the previously-approved plan for a low cost senior housing facility, Harper's Pointe, at 845 Baker Street in the SoBECA District and beside the Shark Club. The purpose of this agenda item was to determine if there was sufficient reason to schedule a re-hearing, not to conduct the re-hearing last night. In fact, that's basically what happened.

After much discussion the applicant trotted out it's big gun, former mayor Peter Buffa, who identified himself as the authorized agent for the developer, took the podium and methodically shredded Leece's arguments one by one. One can only admire his skill set when he's in action. I had to chuckle when Buffa, while rebutting the concern Leece had about the facility being "5 feet from the 73 Freeway", corrected the record. He told us that, in fact, the building was actually 50 feet from the roadway of the 73 Freeway! And he said it with a straight face! As I write this, across the street - roughly 50 feet from my window - a gardener is mowing my neighbor's lawn and I can barely hear myself think! Very smooth, Peter...

The council voted 3-2, with Leece and Foley dissenting, to deny the request for a re-hearing. So, now it looks like our city will get some more much-needed affordable senior housing. I know the owners of the Shark Club will wait with great trepidation for the first noise complaint by residents of that facility, and wonder just how the City will manage that issue. My suggestion would be to restrict residency in that facility to only folks with hearing impairments. It will cut down on the noise complaints.

Next came two items generated by our activist Planning Commission dealing with Zoning Code Amendments and Code Enforcement activities. The Planning Commission, led by developers Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger and Colin McCarthy, seem determined to convert Costa Mesa into a pseudo-Irvine and choose to do so by creating a heavy-handed Code Enforcement organization - much like the operate in their own business lives.

Based on the tone of the Planning Commission's suggestions, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they decided to do a Google Earth flyover of the city and methodically note those residences that MIGHT have ancillary units on their lots, then unleash the Code Enforcement folks to go pound on doors to determine compliance. Leece expressed concern that we might be having Code Enforcement go knock on doors of homes with approved granny units to determine if only age-appropriate residents lived there! Sounds like Nazi Germany to me! Show me your papers!

One of their truly stupid ideas, proposed by Mensinger and his sidekick, Jim Fitzpatrick, was to have the Code Enforcement staff report directly to the City Manager's office - to Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch, specifically. This suggestion comes at a time when every member of the City Manager's office is struggling just to tread water due to staff reductions and the increased work demands due to the budget issues and the Fairgrounds Sale. Roeder reminded the council of the facts and, eventually, this idea was rejected. Not only would this scheme overload the City Manager's office, but it was a direct slap in the face of the Chief of Code Enforcement, Willa Bowens-Killeen, and the rest of Kimberly Brandt's staff. If Righeimer or Mensinger - or any elected or appointed official - has a problem with the competence of a staff member they need to take that directly to Allan Roeder - not make a huge issue of it in public. Talk about heavy-handed! It was absolutely clear from the comments he made that Roeder was NOT happy with the suggestion.

We did learn something important during that little exercise, though. We got a glimpse of what life will be like if Mensinger gets appointed to Katrina Foley's seat should she successfully run for the School Board and resign her council seat in January. Mensinger, who is making quite a positive name for himself in the arena of youth athletics here in town, is used to having people immediately levitate when he says "jump!" He still has not learned that this won't work in city government. He still thinks that bullying is OK. The scary thing is, if Riggy and Wendy are elected in November it is almost a foregone conclusion that they, along with Bever and Monahan, would appoint Mensinger to Foley's slot. Why else would Mensinger have drafted Foley for the School Board? That would give a probable 10-year term on the council - the remaining two years on Foley's term plus the opportunity to run for two consecutive four-year terms as an incumbent. Sweet deal for him - not so sweet for us.

Finally, the council agreed to reinstate our previous method of managing our street sweeping program. They voted to accept the staff proposal, which will involve hiring two new street sweeping drivers - three had recently retired due to the sweetened retirement pot - and re-hire two laid-off part-time civilian Police Department employees to patrol and write tickets on cars not moved on street-sweeping day. Apparently, when sweeping the streets on a weekly basis, parking fines generate over $600,000 annually! Yikes! The staff report clearly demonstrated the wisdom of returning to a weekly schedule and justified the staff increases mentioned.

So goes life here in our little slice of heaven. If the recent events in the City of Bell tell us anything at all, it is that if the residents of a city do not pay attention to what their leaders are doing they deserve what they get. In our case, we could likely get a developer-oriented dictatorship as a result of the November election. It's time to start paying attention.

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Anonymous ImRighthere said...

Worst case scenario is Steve Mesinger getting the city council appointment.

8/04/2010 05:47:00 PM  

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