Thursday, January 20, 2011

Coast College District Chancellor To Retire

In a very poignant letter to the Board of Trustees, Faculty and Staff Chancellor Ding-Jo H. Currie announced that she will retire as of the end of this current academic year, June 30, 2011.

Dr. Currie will end a three-decade career in education and devote more time to family issues. Her announcement contains this very moving comment:

"I am debt ridden with all the blessings that have been given to me freely by friends, colleagues, and a community of giants upon whose shoulders I stand. I have longed for the time when I can double the speed in which I pay it forward. I would like to start this payment plan before my own time runs out."

You can read her impressive Biographical Summary HERE.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Foley On City Talk & Homeless Task Force

As mentioned in an earlier post, new Newport Mesa Unified School District Trustee Katrina Foley is featured in a new edition of City Talk on Costa Mesa TV. Foley, who wrapped up twelve years service to the City of Costa Mesa - six on the Planning Commission and six on the City Council - was elected to the School Board in November, 2010 and subsequently resigned her seat on the City Council in December.

I think you'll find the half-hour it takes to watch this presentation will be time well-spent. Foley is still engaged in city issues, particularly as they relate to the schoo
ls and children. I think some of you will find, as I did as I watched it, that her energy and intellect will be sorely missed on the dais in the months to come.

You can watch this editi
on of City Talk via streaming video on the city web site HERE or view it on CMTV, Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT UVerse on the following schedule:


Today the City issued a press release announcing the formation of the Homeless Task Force and soliciting interested folks who may wish to serve as a member of that Task Force to apply soon. Application forms can be found at the city web site HERE or contact Muriel Ullman, Neighborhood Improvement Manager at 714-754-5167 or by email, The deadline for submission is 5:00 p.m., Friday, February 18. 2011.

According to the Press Release, the proposed Task Force scope of work is as follows:

Evaluation of current actions;

Legal review of park policies and procedures, review of new ordinances designed to address long term municipal code violators, proposed legal/law enforcement strategies, and a review of current state and local laws which deal with problem individuals;

Review of best practices of other cities with the goal of developing data driven solutions;

Examination of homeless population characteristics and development of appropriate short term and long term strategies to best serve these individuals.

It is estimated that the work of the Task Force will be between 6-9 months.

This effort on the part
of our city leaders, headed up by soon-to-be City Manager Tom Hatch, to address and resolve the problem of the proliferation of homeless people in our town - primarily in and around Lions Park and the municipal buildings contiguous to the park - is commendable. It will not be an easy job. If it was it would have been resolved a long time ago. I only hope our new, impatient council members will give this task force a chance to do it's job.


I don't feel, as was alluded to specifically by one misguided speaker before the council last Tuesday evening, that the "four men on the council are cavemen" when it comes to this issue. It was a curious comment, apparently based on a very cursory peek at this blog sometime in the past. I knew he was serious when he turned, twice, and looked directly at me while addressing the council with his "caveman" remark. It's always fun to meet a fan... :-) I reserve the right to characterize the council in ways I feel appropriate under the circumstances - even though I've never referred to any of them as "cavemen" - Neanderthal, perhaps, but not "cavemen". We'll see how this goes for the next few months.

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Enough about me... back to business.

At Tuesday's Costa Mesa City Council meeting we got a little taste of what's in store for the residents and the staff in the near future. More on that later. Assistant City Manager (and City Manager-in-waiting) Tom Hatch sat on he dais. City Manager Allan Roeder has apparently removed the training wheels and will help Hatch with the transition to his new job by turning more and more of the day-to-day operations over to him. Sounds good to me... Hatch did a fine job last night.

Also, the seatin
g was rearranged to place Steve Mensinger on the far end of the dais, next to Hatch and beside Wendy Leece. Leece previously had been shoved to the far side. Now she sits between Mensinger and Mayor Gary Monahan. To Monahan's right - left as you face the council - is Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, with Eric Bever on his right side, next to City Attorney Kim Barlow. The boys on the dais may exclude Leece from participation with their votes, but at least she won't be physically shoved off to the side.


This was the first meeting that followed Monahan's new agenda and it seemed to run smoothly. Monahan read the new "Announcements" segment in which he listed events coming up in our city. I'm still wrestling with the need for this new segment, but it seems harmless enough.

They pushe
d the Closed Session to the end. Tonight there was no closed session, so we still don't know how that change is actually going to work. They also pushed the Council Member Comments segment to the end and I think we got a glimpse into the future. By the end of the meeting most members of the audience had long-since departed so they missed some pretty interesting stuff.

For example, Righeimer told his peers that he didn't want to wait for more up-to-date budget numbers before making some changes. He told them that he wanted the city to finish the year as though revenues were going to be flat, wanted an explanation of where the current budget shortfall of around $1.5 million is going to come from and that he also wanted the staff to find $15 million in this fiscal year's budget. He said "No department is sacred". He didn't explain why he wanted to do that, and no vote was taken on it, but this move sure doesn't surprise me at all. Both he and Steve Mensinger gave us a clear indication of how they want to run this city - like it's a private company, where they can call the shots and folks will jump without questioning their directives.

Mensinger, for example, told City Attorney Barlow that he wanted to chan
ge the title of the City Manager to CEO - Chief Executive Officer. She'll investigate and report back.

Back to the agenda items...

The council did approve New Business #1, which dealt with the authorization of a change in our agreement with CalPERS for the "cost sharing" issue previously negotiated with certain employee groups. This item will save the city slightly over $1 million in this fiscal year and more than $6 million over the next three. This was part of the give and take of the recent negotiations. During the discussion it seemed clear that some members of the council were inclined to NOT approve this based on political dogma. When it came time to vote only Eric Bever voted NO - the other members realized to turn this item down would be simply cutting off our municipal nose to spite our face. Bever's explanation for his vote was that he didn't vote for the agreements in the first place so he wouldn't vote in favor of this item either. What a schmuck!

After some discussion the council voted to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Orange for the use of AlertOC, a co
untywide public mass notification system. Again, bonehead Bever voted NO.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion of the evening was that about the formation of a Homeless Task Force to address what is a serious and growing problem in our city, primarily around Lions Park. Hatch led the discussion, quantifying the depth of the problem via his staff report.


One of the most
interesting moments for me came when a "Mr. Brown" - I didn't catch his first nane - addressed the council and identified himself as being from Elsinore. He apparently moved to Costa Mesa as a self-imposed homeless person because he wanted to see what it was like and our city has such great resources for the homeless! I glanced down the aisle to see the reaction to this statement by a guy I've referred to from time to time who has been a very, very vocal opponent of the social service entities on the Westside of our city, describing them in his blog as magnets for undesirables. When he heard Mr. Brown's statement he rolled his eyes back in his head and I could just see the lede for his next blog entry! This, of course, is an example of the stumbling blocks the Homeless Task Force is going to face as it moves forward.


In the end the council agreed to form the Homeless Task Force as defined in the staff report, w
ith representatives from the council, Planning and Parks Commissions, the 3R Committee, social service agencies, members of the community, etc., for a total of 18 members who will form, select leaders and begin assessing the homeless situation in our city and report back to the council in nine months or less. It's a start.

The council then discussed and agreed to form "Working Groups" - two-member sub-committees of council members charged with doing the initial review and solution-finding on several important issues. The Working Groups
and their council member assignments are:

Economic Development & Development: Righeimer and Mensinger
Sports & Recreation: Leece and Mensinger
Policies/Procedures & General Plan/Circulation: Bever and Monahan
Budget & Capital Improvements: Monahan and Righeimer
Public Safety & Motel Issues: Bever and Righeimer*

*On this issue it was originally proposed that Bever and Leece be the representatives. The c
ouncil had agreed to split the Homeless issue from this one due to the formation of the Homeless Task Force. Bever balked at being teamed with Leece and proposed a substitute motion replacing her with Righeimer. Monahan agreed to go along with it, then voted NO, along with Leece. It carried, 3-2.


As I said earlier, it became clear to me during the Council Member Comments segment at the end of the meeting that the new guys on the dais, Righeimer and Mensinger, seem determined to re-invent city government to look more like a corporation - like the ones they've headed up in the past. The problem with that idea is municipal governments have specific rules of conduct that MUST be followed. Those two are going to take a heap of watching in the months ahead. It looks to me as though their tack will be to act first, then apologize later if the have to. It's certainly time to be vigilant.


I did enjoy Righeimer being criticized by speakers last night. Both Sandra Genis and Robin Leffler rose to chew him out for mis-quoting Genis during his mini-tirade at the las
t meeting. To his credit, he kind of apologized to them both later, although it was unclear that he really thought he'd made a mistake. This is going to be fun...

The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, February 1, 2011, followed by a Study Session on February 8, 2011.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

And Now A Few Words About.... Me!

The past couple years or so has been very interesting here at A Bubbling Cauldron, and especially so over the past couple weeks.

I've written a lot of words since I launched this blog over five years ago, and particularly the last 18 months - and some of them are actually worth reading, or so the many new readers apparently think. The editors of The Daily Pilot chose to select me to be among their DP 103 again for the second year in a row - this time nearly in the middle of the pack instead of riding the caboose. I'm honored to be mentioned with the others on that list - folks who actually DO stuff in our communities, not just write opinions. You can read that list HERE - look for me at #65, comfortably snuggled between the irrepressible Barbara Venezia and the wonderful Crissy Brooks.


Then Venezia, a former Newport Beach City Council candidate, former colum
nist for the Daily Pilot and current columnist for the Orange County Register, did a profile of me last week, which you can read HERE. It was fun to chat with her. She pretty much got things right in her piece, for which I'm grateful. Quite honestly, all this ego stroking is a little embarrassing for an old guy with too much time on his hands.


I've been a prolific letter writer since 2002 - I wrote my first ever "letter to the editor" in response to a commentary then-Daily Pilot columnist Byron de Arakal wrote criticizing Costa Mesa elected leaders. You can blame Byron if you don't like what you read here - it's all his fault. I've been blogging since the middle of 2005, starting with what I've frequently referred to as a "bargain basement" blog tool supplied by my internet service provider, Earthlink. After about 18 months I made the shift to Blogger, the Google blogging tool, and welcomed comments on my blog. That's been fun - sort of.

The municipal budget crisis and the Orange County Fair and Event Center fiasco has created opportunities for me to make new "friends", and to get to know some folks who are not so friendly. Such is life in the wonderful world of blogging.

One of the interesting by-products of writing about local issues has been the attention paid to me by public relations types. Those fine folks get paid lots of money by their clients to influence public opinion in their favor and, somewhere along the line, some of them apparently decided that my ego was in desperate need of massaging. Now, I like a good shiatsu as much as the next guy and I always do appreciate hearing a pitch made by pros, but I've found it curious that when I publish an opinion that doesn't track with their views, some of those very nice folks can get very edgy and snippy. That seems like a curious reaction when you're attempting to influence an opinion. Regardless who's making the pitch, I always try to hear and understand both sides of the issue before writing about it. The operative word there is "try".


Throughout my blogging career I've focused on s
ome of the capriciousness and folly of more than a few of our local politicians. For example, I've written, here and elsewhere, about the perpetually incompetent Chris Steel, who ran for city council unsuccessfully nine times before finally managing to get elected with the help of a few frustrated folks on the Westside of our town. His four years on the council set a low water mark for council member competence and were marked by an increased emphasis on partisanship in local politics - a negative factor that has only been amplified by the subsequent elections of Allan Mansoor, Eric Bever, Wendy Leece and Jim Righeimer.


And, I've spent a lot of time and words on some specific influences here in our little slice of paradise - especially one very bright and very misguided old fellow who has tried to use his prodigious intellect to change the complexion, literally, of our city. For the past decade he has been the most vocal of the self-named "improvers" - a disgruntled group, unhappy with the presence of our large Latino population. It seemed that many of their overtures to "improve" our city were poorly-disguised attempts to oust the Latinos from our borders. So far, all they've done is divide the city and make the Latinos a little uneasy. I've not written much about "Your Neighbor" lately, but he's still there, beating his drum of racial intolerance and force-feeding his readers his mantra about racial purity.

Since there are so many relatively new readers stopping in to take a peek lately, I thoug
ht I'd provide you with a link to explain just what prompted me to start this trip in the first place. The link, HERE, will take you to a dedicated page at my old blog site that explains the reason I started doing this, and my goal at the time. Nothing has changed since then except I've generated tens of thousands of words for my readers to consider. I fear I will never master brevity - such is life.

Thanks to all of you for visiting this site, and especially to those of you who have chosen to post comments and/or write to me privately at the email address attached to this site. I hope you'll continue to do so, whether you agree with me or not. I don't mind compliments, but I especially enjoy a well-crafted opposing viewpoint, so keep them coming. My purpose, after all, was to provoke and enhance the debate of important issues in our communities. That's still my goal...


So, with the continued encouragement of my lovely and patient wife of more than 43 yea
rs, off we go for more fun and games. I'm going to try to continue to provide you with some facts and lots of opinion as we move forward. Please fasten your seat belts and place your tray tables in the full upright position...

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