Friday, July 15, 2011

Tuesday's Council Meeting Agenda Reviewed (Amended)*

The agenda for next Tuesday's City Council meeting is out and available for public scrutiny. So, since that's what we do here, I present to you some observations for your weekend mulling-over.

In the past the Consent Calendar of the agenda would barely get a notice. These items are, to use the City's term, "...considered to be routine and will be acted upon in one motion." Uh-huh... maybe a long time ago, but not these days. For example...

Item #4, Warrant Resolution 2378, HERE, contains the bill for Jones & Mayer. This month it is $117,783.34, which if projected out for a year would mean we're going to be paying our contract legal staff more than $1.4 million in this fiscal year. "But", you say, " this is just one month!" OK, except the past two months have shown the same rate. Even more interesting is that this council REDUCED the budget for Jones & Mayer to $800,000 from $1 million originally planned. Nothing in my observations of this council since they took office in January leads me to believe they will incur smaller legal bills for the city - quite the contrary.

Item #5, Vision Internet Providers, Inc., contains a lengthy analysis of various vendors and the rationale behind selecting this one to re-design the city web site. You can read the entire staff report HERE. My friend and fellow observer of issues at City Hall, Tom Egan, jumped the gun on this one and sent me his critique of this issue before I could even get this post prepared. Rather than post his comment later, (I'm not sure my blog host will accommodate such a lengthy comment) I've decided to simply give you his words of wisdom and insight as part of this post. Here's his take on this issue as he sent it to me early this morning, verbatim:

Speaking of something to be skeptical about … here’s something from city hall that smells fishy. (Don’t blame me; we report, you decide!)

Consider staff’s recommendation for the new, improved web site (Tuesday’s Consent Calendar, item number 5). True, the winner’s bid, recommended 9 – 0 by our evaluation committee, was nicely under the allocated $50,000 (as were several others of the nine bidders).

And true, staff negotiated some additional work that modestly bumped the “final” number for Vision Internet Providers, of Santa Monica, to just over the allocated $50 K ($50,320). And true, the city manager states that he’s got the extra $350 in his budget. So far, so good.

But now it gets sticky. Very sticky. Staff also recommends that Council authorize 40% for contingency! And there is literally no justification given for this huge amount. Nada. Zip.

Now, in anybody’s book, forty percent is an incredibly high amount to request for contingency. 5 or 10% is not unheard of, but 40%?

Perhaps this contingency amount is for uncertainty, but that’s hard to believe. Consider how little the following facts leave for uncertainty on the part of either the city or the vendor:
• The RFP was quite detailed – 12 pages.
• The RFP was copied almost word for word from another city’s similar procurement. How many surprises could our staff run into when another city has done the same work already and knew the actual costs?
• The contract is exhaustively detailed – 10 pages.
• The vendor’s proposal is 15 pages, indicating they knew enough to go beyond just parroting back the words of the RFP.
• Staff answered 57 questions from potential bidders. While some questions were duplicates, the large number implies that nobody held back from finding out what they needed to know (excepting, of course, any strategic holding back).

A further indication of fish, according to the Agenda Report, “The CEO will review all contingency items and report to the City Council related to any expenditure above $50,350.” Sounds reassuring, maybe, but he’s only promising to tell the council that he’s already spent the money; he isn’t promising to get council approval for each change-order use of the “contingency” fund.

The final poke in the eye, one especially painful for anybody who has believed the councilmen’s claim that the sky is falling and the city is broke, is the city manager stating, “If necessary, staff will move existing appropriations to implement any contingency needs.” So there’s so much money squirreled away that Mr. Hatch can easily come up with $20,000? Does that imply that the past few months of fiscal agony have simply been Kabuki Theater?

A skeptical take on this staff recommendation says that the real contract will be for at least $70,350, meaning that Vision I. P. will not have been the actual low bidder … by 40%. City hall, for some unknown reason, isn’t letting the public know why this particular vendor is favored with a contract 40% bigger than all his competitors thought it would be.
Shades of Tammany Hall! Is this a foretaste of future wheelings and dealings?

And you thought I was long-winded!

Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell saw Tom Egan's take on this issue and sent me the following information:
The much-needed redesign and re-launch of the city’s website was originally budget for $50,000. City staff was able to get the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitors Bureau to pick up $40,000 of that cost. In other words, the City is getting a state-of-the-art website that will greatly enhance transparency and citizen interaction at a cost to local taxpayers of $10,000.

The City is asking for a contingency NOT for cost overruns for the original scope of work, but for additional features the City may want to quickly add—specifically, interactive features that will allow residents and companies to do more business with Costa Mesa online (and eliminate a trip to City Hall). By making the transactions as easy as possible, the City will likely attract more revenue.

We had always planned the website rollout in two phases. With the contribution from the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitors Bureau, we wanted to have the flexibility to move more quickly if funds become available instead of having to go through another RFP process.

The next item on the Consent Calendar, #6, is the extension of the contract with Lobdell as Four Boys New Media for the remainder of the year for a total contract value of $120,000. You will recall he was hired quite rapidly just as the new council majority decided to outsource half the city staff back in March for $3,000 per week for 12 weeks. That subsequently got extended for another quarter plus. This extension will take him to the end of the year. Before you get all hot and bothered about this move, read the staff report, HERE. There can be no doubt that his presence at City Hall has been quite positive. Following his arrival the City has generated more usable information in a short period of time than I can remember happening in the past.

Item #7 is the extension of the contract with GrowthPort Partners for "employment-related professional support services" and extends the term to run through June, 2012 and an amount not to exceed $100,000. You can read that staff report HERE. Quite honestly, this one makes me a little uneasy since it's going to place a lot of authority in the hands of folks with no long-term commitment to the City. In particular is the portion that talks about their role in assessing the results of the outsourcing RFP's - if they are ever sent out and returned. I understand that CEO Tom Hatch may be overwhelmed with the volume of work laid on him by the City Council, but his organization chart shows no permanent staffers, only consultants or "interim" folks.

And that is just part of the Consent Calendar!

Under Public Hearings we have two interesting items to be discussed.

The first is the establishment of a fee for certification of correction of vehicle code violations. You can read the staff report HERE, but the nutshell version is that we don't charge to perform these certifications and most of our neighboring cities do, so we get lots of folks from other cities coming to our Police Department to get the certification done free. The proposal is to charge $10.00, which is about the middle of what other cities charge. We would NOT charge a fee for Costa Mesa residents who were cited by Costa Mesa police officers.

Public Hearing Item #2 will authorize the city to go after folks who have refused to pay civil fines for code enforcement violations. The total here is about $32,000. You can read the staff report, including the names and addresses of your neighbors in violation, HERE.

Under Old Business, the council will approve the new ordinance regulating Massage Parlors.

They will also consider two requests from youth sports groups. The first, from Newport Mesa Girls Softball, asks for a two year grace period. The second, from Friday Night Lights Flag Football asks for Group 1 Field User status.

Under New Business, the second item on the agenda is the discussion - and decision - regarding options for Fire Service Delivery. This lengthy staff report by Interim Assistant Chief Executive Officer Terry Matz, including the four attachments, can be viewed HERE. Cutting to the chase, Matz tells us there are significant savings to be had by picking one of the three options the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) has proposed despite the fact that shifting to that organization for Fire Protection will have some significant start-up costs. The discussion of this item should be VERY interesting. I'm going to be very interested in the take the leadership of the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association has on this report.

Next comes the report on the study underway on the next phase of the State Route 55 extension. You can read Public Services Director Peter Naghavi's staff report HERE. A consultant has been chosen to shepherd this next phase of the study.


Finally, the council will discuss canceling the scheduled City Council meeting of August 16th, citing limited activity anticipated at that time. You can read the rationale for that move HERE. Funny, with all the RFPs that still have not been released, you'd think there will be things for the council to consider. That would make the next meeting following the August 2nd meeting September 6th - the day after the Labor Day holiday weekend. That meeting will be the last one before the 6-month notices of layoffs expire. I can tell you that there will be a lot of very nervous city employees as we approach Labor Day without resolution of the outsourcing issues.

This should give you something to chew on while you're housebound this weekend due to the anticipated "Carmageddon" caused by the 53 hour closure of the 405 Freeway in West Los Angeles. Just hunker down with your computer and study these staff reports. Yeah, that sounds like fun, huh? Or, you could just go to the Orange County Fair, which opens officially today.

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Anonymous Truth Speaks said...

Observation Number One- Rumor has that Mensinger and Riggy have vacations planned thus the reason for the cancellation of August meeting. Not very professional.

7/15/2011 05:07:00 AM  
Anonymous RickandJenn said...

Funny. You're awfully silent on the RDA story in the Pilot. One where Riggy and Mensi were right. All the negative comments in here were wrong. Those guys got trashed but they voted the right way.

7/15/2011 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day....

7/15/2011 08:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike 1 said...

Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while...

7/15/2011 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Truth Speaks said:
"..Rumor has that Mensinger and Riggy have vacations planned.."

Lemme guess- Berlin again.

7/15/2011 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

Here's the link for those who are too young, not political science majors, not history buffs or don't have all the extra time to sit in front of this d*^% computer like I do:

It would be interesting if enough people showed up an each request an item be pulled from the CC so these guys would have to comment/justify their position. It would also allow an individual to make numerous 3 minute comments instead of only getting the usual 3 minute allowed during "Public Comment". If they get paid to be there, make them earn it.

Also, if Mesiahinger thinks these items are going to just slide thru, he won't prepare. Then he will again amuse the audience with his ignorance of an issue when he starts asking questions, that with a minimum amount of review and research, the answers would be obvious... I do love that part of the show; that and when he gets up during public comment and walks around while a speaker is at the microphone.

No arrogance in that display.

7/15/2011 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Are you upset by the current city council? The unprecedented cuts in public safety and services?The exhorbitant rising consultant and attorney fees?
Residents of all political persuasions are meeting tomorrow to walk the neighborhoods.
Volunteers will walk neighborhoods in Costa Mesa on from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday (July 16) to inform residents of the council's bad priorities
We will meet before walking on Saturday morning at Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers offices, 2900 Bristol St., Suite C107, Costa Mesa, 92626 (on the 73 Freeway side of the Waters at Creekside office complex at Randolph and Bristol). Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

7/15/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Greg Ridge, let me get this straight. You and the teachers union are walking precincts to continue your lies about the right financial priorities that our Council is setting. Priorities like a balanced budget, increased spending on much needed infrastructure and maintaining public safety--i.e. keeping helicopter service. Shouldn't the teachers be more worried about the crook Hubbard who is ruining our Schools and improving the reputation of our schools.

Your priorities are so screwed up, it saddens me. The residents have always rejected a union takeover of this City and they will continue to do so. Just bunch of union BS.

7/15/2011 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

U N B E L I E V A B L E!

On one side, we’re stuck with a Council attempting to stabilize the run-a-way spending/costs left by previous Councils without a "F"ing clue how to accomplish the task professionally or even with a hint of class.

Then we have the “Bothers Unit” group that are so blinded by their hatred for the Republican Party, they are unwilling and/or unable to admit that the Unions have as much, and in my oh… so humble opinion more, of the blame for the shape CM is in today.

Soooo… You four horsemen of the Apocalypse keep blowing your horns and wheedling your swords of doom. And you near sighted, self serving, “for the people” Union (an oxymoron if there was one) sympathizers pick up your crosses, stapled with hate speak; going door to door dragging your barefoot, tattered closed children looking for that sympathetic ear… while the rest of us in CM look for a glimpse of light at the end of this tunnel which BOTH sides share equal blame.

I for one am sick of this!

7/15/2011 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous surgrit said...

Danny (jackass) get a grip.

7/15/2011 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Oh......the budget "suddenly" became balanced....well, when it always WAS balanced that's NOT too hard.
Funny how when we scream there is no budget crisis, we are told that we must be insane ,the city is "falling off a cliff", now miraculously, Righeimer has saved us all balancing the budget. Now they are finding money for all kinds of things........Unfortunately, the residents still haven't been shown where are our services coming from. Who is getting the sweet heart deals?
Where are the cost savings?
How can we control spiraling costs in the future?
Gutting public saftey , sworn officers, and yes, our helicopters that were fully funded for an additional two years , all the while padding outside consultants , not providing any RFPs, no meterics to compare service standards,
How much have the consultants been paid?
Why did they say they reduced attornies fees when they have been increasing every month?
Mensinger sure didn't have any problems funding his non-profit for the next five years using this cities taxpayers money.
What about the Motel business every taxpayer in this city is about to, unwillingly, become an investor in?
Saw your buddy Riggy and Stevie taking credit for the Fairview park Riparian projects, they did that too.
Give me a 'f'"n break........

7/15/2011 02:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

I wonder how much it will cost to maintain the new website? Will Vision Internet do the daily updates? Or will a city employee? I would think a city employee would be doing that but there will probably be times when something goes wrong and they will need someone to fix it. Plus, they will no doubt need to make changes outside the scope of the original contract (online bill payments services, etc.).

7/15/2011 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Seems like we should have been charging out of towners for vehicle certifications a long time ago.

As far as code enforcement goes, some of the homes they mentioned in the delinquent list didn't look all that bad. Ever since Righeimer and his communist views on HOA style laws came to town, we now have less freedom as to how we can live our lives. Righeimer is for less government in that he wants fewer cops and firemen. However, he is for more government when it comes to our personal lives and forcing the city to be into things like the hotel business.

7/15/2011 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous unanimous said...

I am with OC longhair. Let it rest. no more of this. even liberal cities are having to cut back, Gericault; this is the sad situation America is in. Not many jobs, slow revenue, unsustainable pay/benefits for union gov't employees. You know this I believe but are so consumed-you went "all in" too early-you apparently have to play this out. Time to fold and pick another battle. Glad to see your signs out of the medians and on fences, thanks for that.

7/15/2011 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger valan2 said...

The Pot Stirrer is anxious to hear what the leadership of the Firefighters Association has to say about the OCFA proposal. Me, too. But, more importantly, I'm anxious to hear (wonder if we will?) what the leadership of the Fire Department thinks.

There are a number of issues in the proposal that warrant analysis and response from fire service professionals (reduction in the number of fire stations, elimination of the aerial ladder truck and USAR unit, increased response times for businesses near the airport, etc.). We know what OCFA thinks about these, and we have an idea of what the Interim Assistant CEO thinks, but we don't have any input from the interim Fire Chief or even a consultant with expertise in fire protection.

Further, the analysis of two of the options compares the cost of a City Fire Department with 6 fire stations to the cost of an OCFA contract with 5 stations. Guess which is cheaper?

Even the City's analysis suggests further study, in terms of a City Fire Department with 5 stations. I hope the Council agrees that we need a fair comparison if those options are to be considered. (Maybe they're not interested in the "fewer fire stations" options. In that case, no sense spending money studying it.)

I don't know what's the right solution, but I know we can make a better decision if we have better input. Just to be different, let's ask the people who's business it is to know.

7/15/2011 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...


I am not a union member or card carrying member

Simple fact is........I know the people who provide the services,.....and those who used to manage them

I would be fine ..if the politics were not running this.
Unfotunately, we are not being given a choice.
It's "Trust" Righeimer and his lies ....or nothing.
Wheres the studies, staff reports or RFPs?
We never had a budget crisis........
Now lets talk.......
How hard is that?......Cancel the Layoffs ! This has never served anyone except Righeimer getting press and you know it.

We aren't the tip of the spear......we're the PETRI dish and the black ass mold growing here is not worthy of the experiment.

7/15/2011 09:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Response to Mr. Lobdell’s response to Tom Egan’s critique of website contract authorization

It’s nice to get the request for $50,000 fleshed out a bit more, but The Bubbling Cauldron is not the right place to do it, even though the B.C. seems to be the most evenhanded reporter of things Costa Mesa.

The right way to do something is, well, to do it right. In this case, an Agenda Report (AR) signed by the City Manager should contain all the pertinent info that council needs and that the public needs in order to decide whether staff’s request should be approved/authorized. An informal addendum by a temporary PR person just doesn’t cut it.

The published AR is not complete, even with Mr. Lobdell’s informal expansion. Two remaining problems:
1. The funding is still not understandable:
• Staff requests $50K with a $20K contingency.
• Mr. Lobdell claims the Convention etc marketers will kick in $40K.
• So will the city pay $70K ultimately, or $30K?
2. If the city manager doesn’t have to come back to the council to get approval to spend the $20K “contingency” funds, why isn’t the AR upfront about it instead of burying it in a one-liner without any justification? It matters that this job has been touted as costing $50K, but now has grown to be, probably, $70K.

If this is how “cities as businesses” are run, as fervently wished for by the four councilmen, give me back my city with its reliable and transparent rules for funding authorization requests!

It’s not right for city hall to pull the “salami slicing” trick on us, where they lowball the start, then slide in, “Oh, by the way, we need to do a little bit more,” when our attention has drifted on to other salamis.

7/15/2011 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger whatashame said...

If they add an additional 40% to all the future RFB's & RFP's. The contractors win and the citizens and employees lose. Mr. Hatch has already stated we will see severe service cuts in all areas of city services. Does this mean we will pay much more for much less??? Will Costa Mesa suffer long term service and finacial issues just to allow Riggy to move forward with the GOP mantra?

7/16/2011 10:10:00 AM  

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