Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cans, Banners, Walls And Scary Budget Ideas

OK, I was wrong. The Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday wasn't particularly
short, but it did have it's painful moments, and provided some uncomfortable clues to the future of the city.

I was correct about the scheduling - after announcements, presentations, the consent calendar and public comments they were still a long, long way from 7:00 o'clock, so they slid New Business #2, Masonry walls, ahead of the Public Hearing item.

Several residents spoke against this plan - to require a building permit for any Masonry wall over 3 feet in height, which will require a fee based on value, but likely $350 or more. Most residents who spoke felt it was over-regulation, one referring to it as a "nanny city" approach. The main proponent, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, said he worried about improperly installed walls by unlicensed contractors that wouldn't be around to face the music if problems occurred. Wendy Leece felt such issues were best left to the neighbors to sort out for themselves. In the end, though, the council voted in favor of requiring permits, 4-1, with Leece voting NO.

By this time it was 7:15 and back
they went to Public Hearing #1, the request for an extension on the order to vacate it's current premises by Garcia Recycling. You could see the result on this one coming a mile away. Despite the fact that Garcia has been working diligently to locate new quarters close to it's current location on East 19th Street, has identified a space, has tentative plans made by a local architect and filed for a conditional use permit for that space that very evening the council was unsympathetic. Garcia, who has run a wildly successful recycling business on his current site for more than two decades and clearly meets a need in the community, was given a stiff arm by the council. They voted 4-1, with Leece voting no, to uphold the eviction notice. Garcia must vacate his premises by February 14th.

This is apparently how this council is going to treat applicants. They are using the "no mercy" rule - do it, or else! We assume Mr. Garcia - who sat quietly during this brief, unsatisfactory, hearing without changing his expression - will continue to try to open a new state of the art facility at the new site only a couple blocks away, despite his shabby treatment by the council.

Then came the third item on the agenda - street-wide banners. A few people spoke, wondering why these were necess
ary - the very question I asked in my earlier post. Among those were Councilman Eric Bever. Neither he nor Leece saw the burning need, especially since every location would require at least $20,000 in infrastructure (poles, wires, etc.) at a time when we can ill-afford any new expenditures. Steve Mensinger moved to approve it, but with an open page where the sites are to be located. Staff was directed to look for alternate sites around town. Leece made a substitute motion to receive and file the report. No second was heard. Bever then made a substitute motion, also to receive and file, but instructed the staff to investigate using existing poles. (that was shot down by staff because existing poles belong to someone else - utilities - and wouldn't handle the stress of signage, too.) Leece seconded it. They were voted down, 2-3. The original motion was then passed 3-2, Leece and Bever voting NO. So, whether we need them or not, we're going to have street-wide banners somewhere in our city in the near future.

Then c
ame the council member comments. You will recall that I observed earlier that we must pay close attention to them in this segment, which now comes at the end of the meeting.


Bever suggested we investigate reducing fees
for developers in the overlay zones. This is typical of him - we can barely balance our budget and he wants to reduce income! Yes, he is that stupid!

Leece and Mensinger had nothing to say.

Mayor Gary Monahan had a bundle of stuff: 1) he wanted to investigate increasing the foul ball netting at Lions Park ballfield; 2) he thanked Allan Roeder for the organization charts (more on that later); 3) he wanted an update on Chief Chris Shawkey and Captain Ron Smith. Roeder told him Smith is retiring this month and then said something only an insider would understand about Shawkey giving permission about something soon. In any event, Shawkey remains on paid leave of absence; 4) he then mentioned the upcoming (on February 8th) study session that will include a budget discussion. He said he wanted to finish the current budget year without any further use of Fund Balance, and that he wants to look into reorganizing the city to make it stronger and more efficient. (remember those org. charts?).


Monahan then went on to throw out some issues being discussed as a result of the budget sub-committee work in recent weeks - consolidation of police functions; possible elimination of the ABLE helicopter program; the Orange County Fire Authority Proposal; joint regional arrangement with Newport Beach Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley and changing the daily shifts to five 8-hour days.

Righeimer went on with his contribution to the results of the sub-committee discussions: Outsourcing, both of work and staff; communication systems outsourcing; use of the jail; Maintenance services outsourcing; Information Technology outsourcing; Planning outsourcing. In fact, one had the clear indication that he was looking to investigate outsourcing every function in city government possible.

The council affirmed the authorization given to Tom Hatch, as City Manager-in-waiting, to hire whatever expert consultants he feels necessary to assess the entire organization and make recommendations for improved efficiencies, including staff reductions and outsourcing.


It was c
rystal clear from the comments Monahan and Righeimer made that the structure of the entire organization is on the table, and that this council will be impatient when it comes to delays in finding solutions to the budget crisis. This got even more clear when reference was made to Laguna Niguel, which has a population of 65,000 people and a city staff of only 50. We're talking about turning over practically every municipal function to someone else - Sheriff's Department, Orange County Fire Authority, contract maintenance and street repair - the works.

As each meeting passes I see growing signs of impatience in this
new council, led by Righeimer and Mensinger. Those two have been the top dogs in their own businesses and could simply call the shots as they chose. They'd tell folks to jump and expect them to be levitating as they spoke the words. Things don't - and can't - work that way in municipal government. There are too many rules in place to safeguard individual rights. This is obviously an alien concept to Righeimer and Mensinger. I see lawsuits ahead caused by their impatience and disregard for the rules of conduct designed to guide their actions as city officials. As I've said many times in the past and will continue to do so in the future - you can't take your eyes off these guys for a minute!

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Anonymous OCLonghair said...

B. Hassan Obama jumped into passing health care and is now looking at a legal battle in the Supreme Court; he knew it would end up there, it was a calculated move. Now that he has been able to place a couple of “his” judges on the high court he is hoping that he will win a 5-4 vote… screw State’s Rights.

This is the same strategy Mutt and Jeff are attempting on our council; “Who needs permission, we’ll just ask for forgiveness later”.

And what’s up with Monohand? Leece asks for a 30 day extension for Garcia Recycle quoting the council’s suggestion that, “if they {Garcia} keep moving forward council would allow for some type of extension”. Leece gets shot down due to a lack of a second {again}; then Monohand goes into a “bla bla” chastisement with Garcia’s lawyer, who was being extremely patient and helpful, then he says “I would support a 30 or 60 day extension but no way a 9 month one”… Do these guys even listen to what they say? Leece just got stuffed with a 30 day extension!

If I were Garcia, I would move to the 1500 block of Placentia instead and tell CM to “beso mi culo”.

2/02/2011 02:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Shaw said...

Geoff, you've been observing long enough. When are you going to learn that what appears to be a short meeting can morph into a life of its own. ;^)
re council's closing comments, i can't help but wonder if Jeanette, who ended up getting a standing ovation for employee of the month, will be outsourced?

2/02/2011 06:58:00 AM  
Anonymous mike m said...

I'd venture to say we're going to see a lot of those 4-1 votes, with Leece being the 1. It's almost like the decisions are made in advance, but that's not legal...cough cough.

2/02/2011 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Sissy Casper said...

Sounds like Righeimer and Mensinger have kick-backs in their future. They are suggesting out-sourcing? Attempting to privatize governments opens up a giant can of corruption, dishonesty and free flowing money. Governments are established to keep checks and balances. Righeimer has done such a great job at his own finances (NOT), what would stop him from running the budget of Costa Mesa into the ground with his inane ideas. Righeimer and Mensinger have their own agenda’s and it is not for the good of Costa Mesa. Citizens need to do their due diligence. Educate yourself on what would happen if you give this power to Righeimer and Mensinger to destroy an entire employee base.

2/02/2011 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Peace and quiet said...

Garcia's has done nothing at all to improve conditions on 19th St., and has continued to operate in the same manner that brought about the revocation. They have not made any diligent efforts to mitigate the quality of life issues at all.

2/02/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...


You have a business, let's say an Airport, that flies over a house for 20 plus years. One day the owner decides to sell that house and move because he is fed up with the noise and smells from the jets overhead. He hires a Realtor and sicks a sign in his yard.

A young couple comes to the open house and falls in love with the quaint cottage and puts in a bid. SOLD!

On Friday evening they start the move and finish up late Sunday night, awhhhh.

Monday morning comes, 6:45 AM, the windows start to shake and a faint aroma of jet fuel flows into the bedroom window that was left ajar to allow the sea-breeze in during the night...

Now, is it the Airports fault that the young couple didn't pay attention to their surroundings? Didn't they ask their neighbors why this cute little cottage was such a "bargain" or why the owner JUMPED at the first (and only) offer?

I know, let's go to city hall and get them to move the Airport into someone else's backyard.

2/02/2011 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Trust me... said...

Excuse me, but since when did an open examination of all city functions to see where we can save money constitute a "storm" or any kind of a problem? I enthusiastically endorse turning over every rock to see where money can be saved and I support the position that there are no sacred cows. You have no factual basis for predicting lawsuits - none - just your hunch. Please stick to facts or precedents that you can cite. That said, their treatment of Garcia is terrible.

2/02/2011 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Paulie said...

The Council's action on Garcia's was right-on. They are moving to a better location, modernizing their operation and improving environmental efficiencies. I shouldn't have to put up with that eye-sore on 19th while this happens. To those of you naysayers, I bet you don't live near Garcia's like I do. This will be a win-win for everyone when all is said and done. Have a little optimism!

2/02/2011 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

"Trust me", I'll excuse you - because you're incorrect. Those "lawsuit" words are not mine, they came straight from Jim Righeimer's mouth last night at the council meeting. Talk to him, not me... I was just reporting what he said! How about you doing some fact checking of your own before you rip me for reporting? Seems fair...

2/02/2011 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Can we outsource the council? I really hope the whole city goes to crap, we loose all employees, get deputies instead of our own police, then we really will be the laughing stock of Orange County. Way to go boyz!

2/02/2011 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

antoine, they actually talked about "insourcing", too - sharing things like street sweeping and other functions. Maybe they could outsource the City Council to Newport Beach... sounds workable to me.:-)

2/02/2011 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Sissy Casper said...

Outsourcing is the "buzz word" right now.. but.. has anyone done their homework on cities that oursourced? Did they really save money in the long run? What happens when problems occur - the employee's (which are outsourced) do not belong to the City their boss is the Outsource Company. Realistically you think governments entities have bureaucratic red tape now Think about a future with outsourced employees. It is simply not black and white. Why don’t we talk about the monies spent on City Council members with insurance benefit packages that dwarf what the employee’s take home? I have seen the figures? It is astounding what City Council members are paid to attend TWO meetigs a month.

2/02/2011 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Seriously said...

Sissy Casper agreed the health care is stupid, but the pay is nothing for the work that goes into that job. The whole council for the whole year makes less than one cop. There was a reason PD/FD pushed so hard to get those contracts signed before Righeimer was seated, and now dozens will lose their jobs, and perhaps most city employees. Bever called it 100% and now it is happening.

2/02/2011 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

I think they are hiring comsultants because it's easier to pay someone to agree with you. This city has had a Finance Dept. that for years and years has been making recommendations the these City Councils, but they stiil refuse to take heed. It's just easier for them to use our taxpayer money to hire people that think like them.No fuss, no bother.

2/02/2011 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

gericault, you may have hit it! Yep, it's easier to hire consultants because you pay them to make you feel good. They know what you want from the beginning so they'll figure out a way to make their results track with your desires. Excuse me while I go puke now!

2/02/2011 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Sissy Casper said...

Wait.. I am confused.. doesn't the City of Costa Mesa have budget issues; however, they now want to spend money for "banners"... (to the tune of $20K for just poles) Really...People.. when you have a City Council talking about blowing money on one hand and outsourcing on another.. it doesn't add up.

2/02/2011 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous OCLongerHair said...

OClonghair in your analogy the buyers could sue the Realtor for not disclosing that fact.

Typical... talking about things you know NOTHING about.

2/02/2011 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

Longer, but not smarter.

Disclosing what fact, the fact that the couple didn't research their surroundings? Or the fact that the realtor made sure that all information was their; open and honest, but the couple chose to ignore those facts; (it’s my analogy and I only use honorable professionals).

I see... you are the type that thinks it OK to blame others for your own ignorance and then tie up the courts with lawsuits; placing blame on the shoulders of others.

When I purchased my CM home in ‘93 I knew exactly why I chose the neighborhood I did. I could have purchased in the Eastside or Westside (heck, at that time probably two homes), but opted to save a little while longer and move a bit further north, not having to deal with what already existed in other neighborhoods. I also did my research when looking for my first business in CM, in ’85.

2/02/2011 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Trust me... said...

Mr. West, here is the lawsuit reference YOU wrote: I see lawsuits ahead caused by their impatience and disregard for the rules of conduct designed to guide their actions as city officials.

There are no quotation marks around this comment or the sentences surrounding it. So if you are quoting someone, you wrote this up incorrectly, leaving a reader to believe that this is your thought, which it clearly appears to be. So, I stand by my earlier comment. It is you who need to check facts - your own. Now, are YOU going to apologize?

Lastly, you do a good job here but please don't have such a thin skin. What I wrote was hardly "rip[ping] you one." I did not use any foul language or call you any names. Take it easy.

2/02/2011 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Trust me... you're correct. I do apologize... Thin skin got me this time. Righeimer's quote was a prediction of a lawsuit because of the way they've mishandled the Garcia Recycling issue. In fact he, personally, has "heard" this issue way too many times as a Planning Commissioner and Council Member. I fear he may be right - legal action is coming on that one.

My prediction of lawsuits is based on my observations of these guys in action for some time now. Righeimer and Mensinger are way, way too impatient to sit on the city council. There are legal requirements that MUST be met, including following the letter and spirit of the Brown Act. Those requirements are in place to protect us, as citizens of this country and residents of our city, from being bamboozled like those poor folks in Bell.

I DO NOT want to be right about this, but will be very surprised if, within a year, we don't have legal action against the city for the way they conduct themselves as council members. Righeimer, for example, plays fast and loose with facts - like his comment from the dais at the first council meeting of the year that the Chrysler dealership was closing it's doors. We suspect he meant the Lincoln dealership, which did fold shortly after his comment. I wonder how John Gray feels about Righeimer predicting the demise of his business from the dais?

Thanks for posting and for slapping upside the head when needed. :-)

Also, some of you continue to submit comments as "Anonymous". Those are not going to be posted... Pick a name and re-post... it's not hard at all!

2/02/2011 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sissy is correct "outsourcing" is the buzz word, however it was the buzz word more than a decade ago with Al Gore and the New Public Management movement. Outsourcing has its problems, major problems, which is why it isn't more popular in areas other than those where basic skills are required.

Let's take IT outsourcing for instance. The problem with outsourcing IT is that those people, with no loyalty to Costa Mesa or public service, will have access to police files of say jane doe victims of rape, domestic violence, child abuse etc. and that information is toxic if released.
There is also a major issue with elected officials receiving full time medical benefits. This position should be non-paid and a perdiem should be given for miles travelled to the meeting. Nobody forced these council members to run for office.
For some reason these council members seem to be in a race to the bottom where they are trying to take the city, employees, residents, (everyone but themselves and busines) down the gutter. They are arrogant, believe they have some higher calling?!?!? or something, and unwilling to listen to any opposing view. We were warned but remained oblivious.

2/02/2011 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Jim, right on all counts. Guess I should have gotten a bigger soap box, huh? Well, as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but...

2/02/2011 07:49:00 PM  

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