Monday, May 02, 2011

Irony, The Council Meeting & The Budget

The world is full of ironies. I planned to post much of what will follow here over the weekend, but fate conspired against me. The City of Costa Mesa web site was down the entire weekend. I'd planned to tell you about a couple new features on the site, but couldn't give you links because they didn't work. Irony...

The city has been tinkering with the web site, HERE, trying to add features to the existing struc
ture until they can completely re-design the site to make it more user-friendly. One of the things they've done is provide a box in the center of the home page captioned "The Latest Headlines", with frequently-updated items. The following is a screen snatch of how that looked this morning:
Now, after you've looked at that box take a gander at the white list of links above "The Latest Headlines" title. Way over on the right you'll find the wor
d "Transparency". If you click there it will take you to a scrollable box that looked like the one below this morning. Both of these new features make this site much more user-friendly.
You've probably read my post about the fireworks issue, HERE, so I won't
talk about that. However, there are a few other issues on the agenda for the City Council meeting Tuesday evening beginning in Council Chambers at 6:00 that need to be addressed.

First, for the first time EVER, there is now detail available for the warrants that will be approved as part of the Consent Calendar. This is an initiative by non-elected council member Steve Mensinger and it's possible he'll be sorry he opened his mouth on this one.

For example, on warrant 2366, HERE, you can learn that we apparently paid Catherine Corvi $40,000 as a settlement of a claim against the city. How do we know that? Well, her name is also listed as one of the line items under the bill from Jo
nes & Mayer, our contract City Attorney. We paid them $137,566.18 on this warrant, too. And, since they list many names, I guess it will be possible now to figure out some of the details of lawsuits we're involved in that previously have been guarded like Fort Knox.

We paid an outfit called "1st Jon Inc." $244.51 for the rental of a couple portable toilets. We paid "Growth Partners", one of the consultants brought in to help "fix" our city, $12,500. We paid "Larry's Building Materials" $96.14 for soil amendments and $1,838.73 to Enterprise Rent A Car for undercover police cars.


On warrant 2367, HERE, we paid Air BP Aviation Services $8,821.02, probably for fuel for the ABLE helicopters. We
paid $3,060.00 to Management Partners - another consultant. We paid $895.50 to Metro Car Wash for washing and detailing of police department and city vehicles. We paid $1,000 to San Pham as a donation for the Huy Pham Family. We paid Home Depot $431.72 for graffiti removal supplies. We paid Enterprise Rent A Car another $8347.53 for nine more undercover police cars. (Wonder if any of those were for the officers detailed to guard the homes of Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger after the Huy Pham suicide event?) And, we paid $9,000.00 to Four Boys New Media for three weeks consulting services. That's Bill Lobdell's outfit.

So, what's the point here? Well, do we REALLY need to know all this detail? Do you really want to know we paid Orange Coast Trailer Supply $10.00 for a bolt, for goodness sake? How many of you are going to go over these warrants with a fine-toothed comb, looking for curious or unauthorized payments? C'mon, now... be honest...

At their meeting Tuesday, under Public Hearings, the council will probably continue the CDBG funds authorizations
until June 7th. They will consider the Fireworks proposal by Righeimer.

Under Old Business they will finally complete the appointment process for several city committees.

Under New Business they will consider potential revisions to the Sign Code, including loosening up the restrictions on LED signs; technological efficiencies as recommended by the Planning Commission; a General Plan screening request to place 33 homes at the former site of the now-defunct Lincoln-Mercury automobile dealership at the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Merrimac; and may authorize staff time to research a Sex Offender Ordinance.


This should be an interesting evening, and that doesn't even account for the anticipated parade of sp
eakers before the council during Public Comments chiding them for their misguided plans to outsource half the city staff.


The council will wrap up the evening with what will almost certainly be a long closed session meeting in which they will consider five (5) items: 1) negotiations with employee associations; 2) a law suit involving Assistant Finance Director Colleen O'Donohue; 3) a lawsuit with Orange County Director's Association; 4)a lawsuit with James, et al; and 5) a conference with legal counsel about anticipated litigation - whatever that might be.

Interim Director of Communications, Bill Lobdell, issued yet
another Press Release today with the schedule of events for budget meetings for the next two months. You can read that .pdf file by going to the city web site and click on the link under "The Latest Headlines". It's going to be a very busy 60 days. I've provided a glimpse of the actual schedule from the .pdf file for your reading pleasure:

BUDGET SCHEDULE - 5/3/11 - 6/28/11

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Anonymous Jeff said...

More transparency is a good thing. No one says you have to analyze all the data...

There's just no pleasing you Geoff.

5/02/2011 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous CM Watacher said...

What doesn't appear on the warrant register are ALL the charges on procurement cards that most if not all of the executives and management have at their disposal. These "additional" expenditures can be requested, but of course if you don't know what to ask for, you won't see them posted in any "transparency" link on the city's website. Just like all the expenses paid for the debacle of the fairgrounds - none of that showed up in any warrant register but you can believe the city paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars, but if you don't know where to look, you won't see how they are spending their money!

5/02/2011 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Barry said...

long-time City employee CM Watcher is giving us a preview of the results from the OCEA union audit. You don't need a crystal ball. They'll sell you a bunch of waste, largely in the City Manager's office--we pay Hatch too much, we pay the Councilmembers too much, yadda, yadda. Great smoke and mirrors to deflect from the real costs that are draining our budget-police and fire salary and pensions. I'll bet you a dollar the audit will say nothing about cost savings in public safety. Hmmmm, could that be because the union audit agency would never get another assignment from the union if they did. Same with their sham poll. It's outcome determined. Whatever the union wants, the union gets.

5/02/2011 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Barry is a Sheeple said...

Hey Barry-OCEA and the Costa Mesa POA are unaffiliated. Costa MEsa POA has nothing to do with said audit either. Your ilk are bringing about a new kind of McCarthyism (fitting since the CMTPA leader is Colon McCarthy), where every employee is a union shill, evil unions are hiding behind every tree waiting to bludgeon and defile the average Joe.

You are ridiculous sir. Listen to yourself bristling about public safety; the one indispensable function of local government. Get a grip, get a life and most of all check into reality.

To be clear, the people on the extreme other side are ridiculous too. Watching everyone lob rounds across each others bow, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

5/02/2011 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Agree with Jeff said...

Geoff: Gotta agree with "Jeff"... Mensinger did a good thing here by requesting warrant details - a very good thing, because so much slips through.

5/02/2011 05:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Agree with Jeff said...

P.S. In answer to your question, it's not a matter of wanting to go through warrants with a fine tooth comb, it's a matter of letting city hall know that every penny they spend will now be easily visible to the public. There is more accountability there and this is a good thing.

5/02/2011 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Pentagon Hexagram said...

Wow, $137,566.18 seems like an amazingly large legal bill for one payment, given that the annual budget for legal service is only $530,000

Looks like the new Council is burning through money on legal bills far above budget.

But I guess it's OK to spend money on lawyers and consultants. Funny but I don't remember Riggy saying that he wanted to spend less on things people wanted, and more on lawyers.

5/02/2011 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous take cm back said...

Any of the same lawyers that handled Riggys problems from before or maybe sun cals? Duate can't wait for these billings to come in. pay back ??

5/02/2011 11:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Circle said...

Pentagon, before you lay all the legal bills at the feet of Righeimer or anyone else, it may help to remember that Mansoor led the expenditure of $500,000-plus to fight the ACLU when he threw out a speaker from a council meeting. That case could have been settled for a lot less, perhaps even zero. So you see, frivolous spending of taxpayer dollars is everywhere.

5/03/2011 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger feral390 said...

I'd really like soome details on this Corvi lawsuit. Our city pays over $137,000 in fees to settle a case for $40,000. I just want to know what this was for.

5/03/2011 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

feral390, that $137,000 was the whole bill, which included time spent on the Corvi case. Lots of other stuff covered, too.

5/03/2011 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Heavy on the 5th said...

If the City contracts anyone else they will need to reinforce the 5the floor. Oh thats right with everyone leaving there is plenty of room. Bye the way has anyone else but me noticed that the Bell 4are the ones wanting to extending hell night (July 4th) for shooting off fire works to the 2nd, 3rd and the 4th.??????? Estancia Boosters??

5/03/2011 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry T. said...

I love the new transparency page. I just spent a few minutes reviewing the compensation. Shocking what we pay our employees, just shocking. Police and fire are enough to give you a heart attack. No one in the public sector should make that kind of money. They are literally stealing from the residents pockets. Hopefully, this new effort will be a wake-up call to the residents to demand that we get our financial house in order.

5/03/2011 03:51:00 PM  
Anonymous ttularc said...

I grew up in Costa Mesa with fireworks and I am happy that my kids will get to grow up lighting their own fireworks. We have bigger things to worry about than this. It's actually disheartening that this many people are complaining when the benefit to the community is so great. Maybe nobody here was a kid in Costa Mesa or is raising kids in Costa Mesa.

5/03/2011 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous get her off the monkey's back said...

Terry is an ignorant buffoon. She adds nothing to the discussion and fakes angst. Further, she obviously doesn't understand what she reads which means she is either uneducated, brainwashed, or the chart is deliberately misleading. In this case I believe all three to be true.

5/04/2011 03:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Terry T-

I am both a Police Officer her in Costa Mesa and a long time resident of the city. Please explain to me how I am "literally stealing" from anyone. I have said here before, and I will say it again, the numbers on the website ans as previously published by others are misleading at best. I offer to you or anyone else, that I will meet with you and show you my W-2. Yes we make a decent living, but not as it has been published. That's just a fact.

5/04/2011 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Jimmy Fitzy said...

I have met Rob Dimmel and think he is a nice guy. Appreciate seeing him at a couple community events.

I don't hate Geoff West nor Greg Ridge, but I do often hate their policies. I hope the difference is clear.

So, I don't hate Rob Dimmel, but I do have some major concerns about the all in cost and continued cost of public safety, with a 3% @ 50, and some other elements.

I made Council Public Comments to this effect ... "Why can't I be for both Pension Reform, and Public Safety"?

5/05/2011 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Jim, first, thanks for the kind words. You can certainly be for both, and I respect that position. I'm just tired of those who throw out the pejoaratives "stealing", "thugs", "greedy", etc. It takes away from any reasonable discussion.

I'm neither a liberal, a "lefty", a socialist, or any other oft used description as assigned to "union" folks. But, I also do not have any particular ideology when it comes to being a taxpayer or a "tax user".

All levels of governement have waste. We should control it, trim it and make our governement as stramlined as we can. However, we need to make sure that our essential services are our priority. Those that ensure what our Constitution lays out in its Preamble. It lays the very basic premise of our Constitution; Specifically: To Establish Justice, insure Domestic Traquility,Provide for the Common defense, and Promote the General Welfare.

It is governement's basic functions to do these things. They are not private or corporate functions. If done correctly, government establishes an environment that allows business to flourish. It provides for those with enterpereneurial spirit and vision to pursue those visions without interference, so long as the nature of that business does not run counter to the basic principles of our constituion and infringe upon the rights of others.

I see it as pretty basic concept.

5/05/2011 01:56:00 PM  

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