Thursday, August 05, 2010

Chris Bunyan Drops Out!

Just received a note from Christopher Bunyan informing me that he's not going to run for a city council seat this time around. That leaves only one "Chris" left - Chris McEvoy. Bunyan will be missed in this race - his mature, reasoned viewpoints have enhanced the debate in the past. And, Banning Ranch loses a champion.


As it stands right now, to the best of my knowledge, the remaining candidates for the two seats being contested are incumbent Wendy Leece; Planning Commission Chairman and municipal carpetbagger Jim Righeimer; Chris McEvoy; newcomer to Costa Mesa Susan Lester; Jeffrey Chapman and someone named Chad Petschl, who apparently just pulled papers today!

The deadline for turning in the completed packages is tomorrow, August 6th, so this roster may change if we have others change their minds.

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How Do You Measure Marital Bliss?

How do you measure 43 years of marital bliss? Here are a few of the ways I measure it....

I remember that day so long ago when she walked down the aisle with her father, who handed her off to me to begin a wonderful life together.

I count the number of relocations my sweet wife and I have made during our marriage - 5 - but all those took place in the first 7 years of our marriage as we zigzagged across the country coast to coast, north to south and back again like a couple of gypsies, following my career and loving every second of it!

I count the number of cities in which we worked - 7 - all in those same 7 years.

I'd like to measure it by the number of times she's told me she loves me, but that number spun the dial right off the meter many years ago. I don't count them, I just smile when she says it. In that regard, it's like a little "I love you" tennis match we play, batting that phrase back and forth and meaning it more every time we say it.

I measure it by the lovely home we've built together - a place where family and friends feel welcome and we can sit and watch the birds and squirrels fight over feeding rights in our bird feeder and hummingbirds strafe us if we get too close to their feeder.

I measure it by recalling the more than 20 years and thousands of miles we spent chugging across desert roads in our dune buggy with groups of friends, sleeping in an Indian cave that had not been occupied for 700 years, or camping at Murphy Hogback on Utah's White Rim Trail, eating steaks while looking down the Colorado River at the San Francisco Peaks almost 200 miles away. Or sitting on Hunt Mesa looking north into Monument Valley on a brisk, glorious, cloudless Thanksgiving Day when the overnight temperature had been 10 degrees below zero and we had to scrape both sides of our windshield to see to drive.

I measure it by the hundreds of miles of water we covered in our boats for more than 15 years, shuttling back and forth to Catalina Island, cruising along the coast and touring the lakes of the Colorado River. I measure it by the hundreds of smiles on her face as she hooked a turn on her water ski, throwing spray 50 feet in the air.

I measure it in the aches in my legs from having driven a jet ski 150 miles in one day on Lake Powell, barely able to climb the stairs to our room that night, with her patiently massaging those aches away, knowing full well that we had to return the next day.

I measure it by seeing the little-girl-thrill in her eyes as we search the beaches and tide pools of our favorite Central Coast getaway for treasures - shells, bits of stone and other flotsam - to be hoarded away in a special place.

I measure it by the love she shares with our flock of nieces and nephews at family gatherings or those special one-on-one times she manages to carve out with each of them.

I measure it by recalling her decision, after 40 years of marriage, to get braces on her teeth and take ballroom dance lessons - it was like being married to a teenager! I measure it by watching her even more radiant smile as she spins and twirls around the dance floor like a vision from "Dancing With The Stars".


And, I measure it by the countless hours she patiently reads the stuff that appears here and encourages me to keep on writing. I guess she figures I may finally get it right one of these days.

Those are just some of the ways I measure my marriage...

I love it when folks think I'm just another old geezer who went out and snagged himself a trophy wife. Of course, I did - 43 years ago today!

Happy Anniversary, my Sweet Sue, and many more, too.
This one's for you. Sing it, Bobby!


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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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Fairground Quagmire

I sat here late last night, knowing I needed to write about the Fairgrounds drama following the Fair Board meeting yesterday and the hasty Sacramento trip by City Manager Allan Roeder and Councilwoman Katrina Foley at the same time. I knew I owed you some kind of observation based on all the turmoil that is swirling around this issue. But, every time I began to type I found myself getting angry, frustrated and plain old depressed. So, I thought I'd get a good night's sleep and start today. Didn't work - I'm still angry, frustrated and depressed!

I was unable to attend the Fair Board meeting yesterday due to a prior commitment, but I'm told by reliable sources, and local media coverage, that the Board voted nearly unanimously to forward the profit sharing proposal to Sacramento for it's consideration. Member David Padilla voted no and, based on reports from the front, was quite angry with the whole situation. Rumors have it that he and other Board members had not even seen the document before being asked to ratify it.

you will recall from my previous entry, Chair Kristina Dodge penned a letter to the Governor dated 7/31/10 that was a transmittal document for the proposal. My conversation with Steve Beazley, CEO of the Fairgrounds, on Saturday led me to believe that the proposal was already in Governor Scharzenegger's hands on that date - more than 48 hours BEFORE the Board had even seen it! Some have speculated that this was a clear violation of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Law.

This kind of stealth governance has marked the Fair Board's role in the whole process for more than a year. From the time they unleashed Dick Ackerman to gin up support in Sacramento for a bill to sell the Fairgrounds last year right on through the events yesterday, they have been less than forthcoming. "Transparency" is a word with which they have no familiarity, it seems.

Beazley promised to give me a call yesterday following the meeting so he could answer any questions I might have. Instead, he bailed out right after the meeting and has still not returned my repeated messages to him.

In the meantime, Roeder and Foley were apparently summoned to Sacramento with short notice and no word is yet forthcoming from either of them about the reason and any results of the trip. A Press Release is promised today sometime. I'll report on that when I see it.

One source, who refused attribution, but is in a position to know, tells me that Assemblyman Jose Solorio is still supporting the current deal, is satisfied that Facilities Management West can perform and will have a draft of his bill available for circulation soon. He apparently is concerned that the budget gridlock may delay passage of this bill, to maybe as late as November! Every day that passes now without a signed and sealed deal delays lining up contracts for events at the Fairgrounds next year. It's my understanding that, based on previous direction from the Department of General Services, NO contracts may be authorized past the end of October until a deal is done.

It will come as no surprise that many of the interested parties and stakeholders in the Fairgrounds have been melting the wires with emails, peppering their Facebook walls with comments and writing commentaries in local media and on blogs.

For example, yesterday Vern Nelson over at the Orange Juice Blog, wrote the third of his essays on the current Fairgrounds deal between the City of Costa Mesa and Facilities Management West. Yesterday's presentation is a scathing indictment of the process and the deal. You can read it HERE. Give yourself plenty of time.

Former Daily Pilot columnist and current Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia has written two highly critical essays recently, which you can read HERE and HERE. The last one, dated yesterday, has the provocative title, "OC Fair Board like killer in a bad horror flick". Her take on this seems to be pretty darn valid.

Other activists have flooded the social media with links to, for example, the text of the American Fairs and Festivals proposal for a partnership with the City of Costa Mesa for the purchase and operation of the Fairgrounds that, for an unexplained and curious reason, was abruptly rejected and Facilities Management West was invited to the table as a last-minute replacement. You can read that long pdf. file HERE. Some have speculated that nearly $8,000 in contributions to Mayor Allan Mansoor's Assembly campaign by individuals and organizations affiliated with Facilities Management West may have had something to do with that, but I seriously doubt it. Mansoor was not part of the negotiating team and, even if he had been, although he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he's not that stupid. However, many inquiring minds want to know what happened with that deal, but nobody's talking. Supposedly, all those contributions have been returned.

This whole Fairgrounds Sale deal has been a disaster from the very beginning, with the intrigue surrounding the Fair Board's creation of a foundation to purchase the property, Dick Ackerman's role in this whole thing, the haste with which the State has required the City of Costa Mesa to cobble together an offer that they MIGHT accept and the various factions attempting to "blow up" the deal - including threats by Costa Mesa Planning Commission Chairman and candidate for City Council, Jim Righeimer, to do just that if not given a seat at the table.

The City of Costa Mesa is not without fault in this process. For an organization that has historically conducted the business of the city with candor and openness, this has been an unexpected and unpleasant aberration. I suspect the pace with which they had to put together a deal due to the unrealistic and unreasonable deadlines imposed by The State has caused our elected leaders and the staff to give public awareness short shrift. I imagine some of them must have felt like they were in an old Keystone Kops movie at times. Yeah, I know I'm dating myself - so be it.

Tonight there will be a City Council meeting, but there is no agenda item in either the open or closed session that deal with the Fairgrounds. We can only hope that Foley and/or Roeder will take a few minutes to let the public know what that dash to Sacramento was all about, and give us an update on the status of the Fairgrounds deal.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

A Busy Day Ahead

Today promises to be a very interesting day.

First off the bat, Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder and Councilwoman Katrina Foley are winging off to the state capitol again to meet with State officials regarding the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center.

And, as that meeting is commencing, almost 500 miles south the Fair Board will be holding it's meeting at the Fairgrounds in which it's "revenue sharing" scheme will be discussed and voted upon.

As one might expect, ever since the agenda report for the Fair Board meeting was published this past weekend the natives have been restless. Emails flew and Facebook almost overheated with comments and speculation about the plan.


Unrelated to that agenda item, but perfectly timed, former Costa Mesa mayor and present President of the Orange County Fair Preservation Society, Sandra Genis, published a lengthy essay in the Orange County Register, which you can read HERE. As you'll see, Genis is against the sale of the Fairgrounds to anyone, and specifically dislikes the current agreement with Facilities Management West. You can find the Fair Preservation Society web site HERE.

I'm not exactly sure what to expect from the events today, but I hope Foley and Roeder get some insight into exactly what the Fair Board hopes to accomplish with this end run. Although it's not published as part of the agenda, I suspect this shenanigan will get a lot of discussion in the closed session segment of the City Council meeting Tuesday. We'll see..

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