Saturday, April 16, 2011

Stupidity On Display In Costa Mesa

Just when you start wondering what else is going to happen in Costa Mesa some idiot throws a brick through the door of Mayor Gary Monahan's pub in the wee hours of the morning Saturday!


According to local news reports - Frank Mickadeit of the Orange Cou
nty Register may have been the first one on the scene and reported HERE, Monahan's employee said the event happened around 2:30 but the police report the first alert of it happened at 3:26. Regardless, reports indicate that it took 40 minutes for the police to arrive at the scene because there was a major disturbance elsewhere in town.


And, according to Mickadeit's report, Monahan is peeved because this event is being handled as vandalism instead of something more serious. The text on the note taped to the brick was not available to Mickadeit, and Monahan was vague about it.


In my opinion, whomever chucked that brick throu
gh Monahan's door is a real bonehead! If the police are able to identify the person who did it I hope they toss him in jail and let him ferment there for awhile.

Regardless how insensitive Monahan was on St. Patrick's Day and in the weeks subsequent, there is no reason to
do something so stupid. All this does is further inflame an already incendiary situation.

What about the security for the Feet To The Fire Forum Monday and the council meeting Tuesday? You have to think that the CMPD leadership will pay very close attention to those events now.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

An Exciting Week Ahead

The week beginning Monday, April 18, 2011 is going to be a very interesting week in the City of Costa Mesa.


First, on Monday, the 18th, we have the Feet To The Fire Forum, hosted by the irrepre
ssible Barbara Venezia at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (at Lions Park) which begins at 7:00 and is scheduled to run until 9:00. The topic of the evening is: "Should the City of Costa Mesa be run more like a business?"

Venezia will lead a team of inquisitors consisting of Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit, Daily Pilot Managing Editor John Canalis, Newport Beach Independent Editor Roger Bloom and Voice of OC Managing Editor Norberto Santana, Jr. Panelists scheduled to be grilled are Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Planning Commission Chairman and President of the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association Colin McCarthy on one side facing off against Councilwoman Wendy Leece and General Manager of the Orange County Employee's Association Nick Berardino on the other. According to Venezia, it is not anticipated that questions will be taken from the public. I suspect that seating will be at a premium that night.


Tuesday, April 19th, there will be a regularly-scheduled Costa Mesa City Council Meeting in the Council Chambers at City Hall beginning at the normal time - 6:30 p.m. Looking at the current agenda one might assume this will be a fairly short meeting. However, the last meeting had a similarly short agenda and nearly 3 hours of public comments stretched it much longer than anticipated. I see no reason to assume the public will be absent from this meeting - quite the contrary. There have been many events since the last meeting that will almost certainly guarantee many speakers Tuesday night.


Wednesday, April 20th, will be the meeting of the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force at the Neighborhood Community Center beginning at 5:30 in the Adams Room. Public comments will be permitted. Chair Steve Smith and Facilitator Larry Haynes will lead the discussion. Among the issues to be discussed are: Brown Act; Community Outreach and Legal/Enforcement; 3-year Law Enforcement overview at Lions Park; Physical and Mental Health Homeless Perspective; Faith based perspective; homeless census

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Operation Transparency" Continues

City Chief Executive Officer, Tom Hatch, sent a message to all employees today, briefing them on the current condition of certain issues in the city and advising them of the near-term actions that are being taken.


Hatch discusses the current state of city finances - grim - and advises that further information will be given at the April 26, 2011 special Budget Briefing beginning at 4:30 p.m. in City Council chambers.


He also announced that the video production staff will be transferred to the CEO's office from Administrative Services. No mention of whether their 6-month layoff notices will be rescinded as a result of this move.


Hatch mentioned that the RFPs for possible outsourcing are still being developed and should be distributed soon.


He also mentioned that plans are in the works for a permanent memorial plaque and planting a tree to celebrate the work Huy Pham did for the city. We can only assume this in response to the ongoing outpouring of grief since Pham leaped to his death.

The complete text of Hatch's message is published below.

CEO Message Sent Today to City Employees

Fellow City Staff,

I will try to be as brief as possible with this update but there are many updates that need to be communicated. I want to start by thanking the many groups of employees that I have had the opportunity to personally meet with over the last two weeks. I appreciated the many tough questions and I gave frank and honest answers to those questions. I look forward to craving out more time in the near future to continue as many of these meetings as possible.

On the issue of the budget several points need clarification. First, the current year budget (FY 2010-2011 ending June 30, 2011) has a $1.6 million dollar gap. It is impossible to predict exactly where the year will end but this is our latest estimate (based on projections from January). With the discontinuation of the ABLE Program effective July 1, 2011, the City reduced its on-going expenditures by approximately $800,000 per year and upon the dissolution of the ABLE Program, funding of approximately $2,000,000 in ABLE fund balance will come back to the General Fund. Because of this structural change to the budget, the City Council is not looking for any additional changes for the current year budget.

For next budget year, we are focused on the development of the FY 2011-2012 Preliminary Budget. Based on the submittals from Departments, we have a $5 million problem. This is a very significant and difficult problem that must be resolved by July 1, 2011. The following is occurring:

  • The City Council Budget Working Group and I discussed the concept of focusing on the $5 million dollar problem now but also developing a longer-term real solution and financing plan for our many other needs. This list of financial needs is being developed by our staff and will include issues like the PERS under-funded liability, retiree health liability, numerous financial needs for capital projects like roads, technology improvements, allies and facility improvements, etc. There are issues that need
  • attention and a plan to fund the improvements. The value of these deficiencies is in the tens of millions of dollars. We will develop a 5-year projection list that will include a comparison of future revenue and expenditures and a detailed plan for funding as many of the issues on our list of financial needs as possible. In addition, the preliminary budget for next year must have a plan to balance the $5 million dollar gap now. Over the next few weeks the plan will be develop and it will involve significant cuts to our operations and significant service level reductions. We cannot afford the service levels we are currently providing to the community. I will provide more information on these issues in the near future as well as at the April 26 Budget Briefing. I have also provided a briefing to most of the association boards. You can also discuss these issues or ask questions of your department director. More information to follow.
  • On April 26, 2011 at 4:30 we will be holding a Budget Briefing for the City Council, employees and the community in the Council Chambers. The focus of this meeting will be an overview of where we are going with the budget for next year but also a briefing on our current fund balance situation as well as an independent perspective on our future PERS rates and underfunded PERS liability. The goal is to help get all of us on the same page about where we are at with these important issues. I don’t know if we will ever get everyone to agree but the interest is to work together to find solutions and not spend valuable time disagreeing about what the problem is. I have high expectations that this meeting will help clarify and build agreement about the details of our financial problems.
  • The video production team of Dane Bora and Brad Long are being transferred from the Administrative Services Department to the CEO’s Office. We need their focus and assistance on helping to increase communication related to the details of the budget. They will be designing informational videos that record members of the City staff including Interim Finance Director Larry Hurst, as we seek to clarify financial issues and provide an understanding of how we project various revenues sources for the City.
  • The RFP’s for possible outsourcing continue to be developed and no detailed update is available at this time. I will provide a detailed update on the status of this work in a few days.

Peter Naghavi and Public Services Staff are working on creating a memorial plaque and planting a tree for Huy Pham. The memorial to celebrate his work for the City is planned for the south side of City Hall and/or the Estancia Adobe location. More information will be available shortly.

Finally, as we continue to work through this very difficult time, please continue to be supportive of one another and sensitive to the needs of our fellow employees. The organization has long been recognized for its quality customer service and professionalism and never before has our need for our best skills been called into service. Thank you for all you do for our organization and community.


Thomas R. Hatch. Chief Executive Officer

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Mensinger's Lament

This morning the Daily Pilot carries a commentary by non-elected City Councilman Steve Mensinger, "setting the record straight", in his words. You can read the commentary HERE.

He tells us that a group - Mensinger and his wife; some
of their kids; ABLE Commander Tim Starn and his wife; City CEO Tom Hatch and his wife; Costa Mesa booster Frank Albers and Mensinger's boot-licker, Sanitary District Board member and Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick - all gathered together at City Hall on a Sunday to give Hatch's new office a general cleaning-up before he moved into it. From the sound of it one would think retired City Manager Allan Roeder left the office looking like a a scene from the movie, Animal House, for goodness sake.


According to his report, Mensinger spent $452.64 out of his own pocket on a new toilet, paint, cleaning supplies, etc. They apparently had what we used to call in the Army a good, old-fashioned G.I. Party.

Mensinger fe
lt it was important to tell the world about his efforts that day because "rumors started swirling immediately." Those rumors involved massive remodeling being done and thousands of dollars of city money being spent. I heard some of those. In fact, one of the rumors was that the new toilet installation was so botched that a city maintenance crew had to fix it the next day.

I really don't have a problem with Mensinger and his work crew helping Hatc
h "freshen-up" his new office. I've done the same thing myself in the past when I was beginning a new assignment. I understand...

However, what we have here is a perception problem and, in this highly-charged atmosphere created by Mensinger and his cronies on the City Council, perception means a lot.

There is the perception, amplified by this particular event, that Hatch and Starn - two highly-skilled and hard-working public servants - are in Mensinger's pocket. There is the perception that Hatch was appointed by the city council, led by Jim Righeimer and Mensinger, because he would simply be a "yes man" - and do the bidding of the council without question. There is the perception that Starn has the inside track to become the next Chief of Police in our city not because he has the resume and command experience required, but because he's in tight with Mensinger, etal. We know those perceptions exist because they are plastered all over the Daily Pilot blog comments and here, too.

Personally, I don't believe either of them are dancing to Mensinger and Righeimer's tu
nes. I think they both are running hard just trying to keep up with unreasonable demands and a bogus policy. Unfortunately, there are more than a few folks here in town that don't share my view of this situation.


We can thank Mensinger and Righeimer for that situation. They, through their actions, have created a hostile work environment at City Hall. Stories of Mensinger prowling the halls and sitting, watching people work resonate throughout City Hall. His mere presence apparently intimidates city employees. The council's avowed plan to oust at least half of the city staff just poured fuel on that fire. It is that atmosphere that fosters the kind of rumors Mensinger complains about in his commentary.

From what I've seen of the first three months of Mensinger's tenure on the City Council, his actions speak much louder than his words. Beginning last year about this time - when he sweet-talk
ed Katrina Foley to abandon her council seat to run for the school board, all the while denying he had any designs on her council seat - it was clear to some of us that he was just trying to move her aside so he could be appointed. And that's exactly what happened.

We see him so busy texting on the dais that he doesn't even bother to pay attention to speakers before the City Council. Not only is it unseemly, but he may, in fact, be violating the Brown Act if he's texting back and forth with other council members on the dais. He's like a little kid passing notes back and forth in elementary school. Somebody needs to rap him on the knuckles with a ruler and tell him to stop. Even better, someone needs to intercept those little love notes and read them to the public.


Steve Mensinger may be a great guy - most of the youth football crowd appare
ntly thinks he can walk on water - but he's just too used to commanding people to do things, or simply writing a check to get it accomplished. He's impatient with the rules in place for the protection of the residents and taxpayers of this city and seems more than willing to simply brush them aside when they present an inconvenient impediment to his plans. He needs to throttle back just a little bit and stop trying to bully his way through our government.

And, he needs to quit whining about people complaining about his actions. That's straight out of the Eric Bever song book. Is he, too, going to go home and pout when he doesn't get his way, or chide a member of the audience because she's shaking her head at his comments? He's brought this on himself.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lobdell "Checks The Facts"

Costa Mesa's Interim Communication Director, Bill Lobdell, seems to be earning his keep today. Following his earlier Press Release regarding the Special Budget Study Session on April 26th he fired off another one this afternoon and is posted verbatim below.


The second video ad released by Repair Costa Mesa is completel
y inappropriate, for the reasons indicated in the Press Release. I've spoken with some of the folks who accept responsibility for this ad and they are unrepentant about the lies contained therein. For me, this is very problematic.

As anyone who even casually reads this blog certainly knows, I'm sympathetic with those who oppose the current City Council and their tactics, but I fail to see how matching them lie for lie does anything but alienate residents and taxpayers in this battle. Instead of using the many reasons available to criticize Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger, Gary Monahan and Eric Bever for things they have done and the programs they are trying to implement, they now present their own chins for that quartet to take a swing at. It's a stupid, counterproductive strategy, in my view.

Here's Lobdell's Press Release.



April 12, 2011


Bill Lobdell, (949) 887-2541

Twitter @CityofCostaMesa

Costa Mesa Fact Check: Repair Costa Mesa ad #2

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—In its continued effort to increase openness and clarity on city budget matters, the City of Costa Mesa has initiated Fact Check to correct factual errors that have been published in various media.

In the latest 33-second Repair Costa Mesa video ad, two false assertions are made. To insure the public receives accurate information on the budget debate, the city asks Repair Costa Mesa to promptly correct the mistakes.

Repair Costa Mesa Statement: Costa Mesa City Council has laid off half its workers, including firefighters and paramedics.

Fact Check: No workers have been laid off, including firefighters and paramedics. Two hundred thirteen employees (about 42% of the workforce, not half) were given six-month notices that their jobs would be outsourced, a half-year warning dictated by employee association contracts. The council currently is studying the viability of outsourcing those city services, and decisions aren’t expected until summer.

The city’s 90-plus firefighters, who asked the city to consider outsourcing the Costa Mesa Fire Department to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), have already been promised a job with the OCFA if the deal goes through. If other jobs are outsourced, the city will have provisions in the contracts with the companies it uses for interview and hiring preferences for city employees.

Repair Costa Mesa Statement: The city manager earns a $10,000 per year car allowance.

Fact Check: City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch receives a $477 per month ($5,724 per year) car allowance. This is the same rate as other Costa Mesa department heads.

Bill Lobdell I Interim Director of Communications I 949.887.2541

Twitter @ CityofCostaMesa

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Special Budget Study Session Announced

The City of Costa Mesa, through its Interim Communications Director, Bill Lobdell, issued the following press release this morning:



City Council to hold special Budget Briefing study session on April 26

COSTA MESA, CALIF.The Costa Mesa City Council will hold a special Budget Briefing study session on April 26 to provide information, clarity and increase transparency on several fiscal issues.

The session, which will begin at 4:30 p.m., will provide a detailed overview of the state of the city’s fund balance or reserves; a presentation by an independent CalPERS expert who will explain Costa Mesa’s $130 million unfunded liability, its current PERS costs and future projections; and a look at how the city is making revenue projections for next fiscal year.

In a break from past tradition at council study sessions, the public will be able to ask questions at the end of each presentation, and city staff and its experts will provide answers.

The Budget Briefing study session is scheduled a few weeks before the city’s preliminary 2011-2012 budget will be made public.

“We want to provide the public with a foundation upon which we can have a vigorous and informed discussion about the 2011-2012 budget,” said City Chief Executive Office Tom Hatch. “We think this briefing will help to enhance transparency and clarify the city’s financial condition.”


This looks like a good step in pulling the veil of confusion back from the budgeting process and may go a long way to helping the public understand the complexity of the process and the actual facts of the City's financial condition. It won't surprise me if, because if the high level of public interest in this subject, this particular study session is moved from Conference Room 1A to the council chambers.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Sign" Of The Times, Pot Mongers & More

Monday, April 11, 2001 finds us with another Planning Commission meeting here in good old Costa Mesa. At the meeting in City Council chambers that begins at 6:00 p.m. there are four Public Hearing items on the, including a discussion of plans for a Chick-Fil-A restaurant and a Fresh and Easy market in that stretch of Harbor Blvd. near McDonald's.

The interesting part of the evening, though, will be under "Business Items", where the three items are:

1 - Technological Efficiencies for Consideration in Preparation of the Upc
oming Budget
2 - Potential Revisions to City Sign Regulations
3- Mandatory self-Certification Program Regarding the Legal Use of Apartment Garages

Item 2, which was requested by Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick (who apparently will be absent from the meeting) would seem to be the one with the potential for the most public outcry, since it includes section F - Removal of electronic changeable copy LED signs a prohibited sign and create development standards. You can read that staff report HERE. Currently electronic changeable copy LED signs are prohibited, but can be allowed through a planned signing program. You will recall the public outcry when the new owners of Triangle Square - our municipal oxymoron - attempted to have a couple LED signs placed on their building, including one 10 ft. X 96 ft. that would cast Las Vegas-style illumination into surrounding residential neighborhoods. They withdrew their request following public outcry. This item, based only on the skimpy staff report, looks to open up this issue for city-wide application. Do we really want Costa Mesa to look like the Westminster Mall, with its eyeball-searing sign along the freeway?

Tuesday the City Council will hold a Study Session in Conference Room 1A in City Hall
at 4:30 p.m. The agenda includes three items:

1 - Medical Marijuana Management Presentation

2 - I-405 Improvement Project

3 - 2011-2012 Community Development Block Grant Public Service Grant Recommendations

The first item has no staff report - a presentation will be made by local pot merchant Jeff Byrne and a northern California lawyer for marijuana interests, Max Del Real.

The second item, which involves a discussion of widening the I-405 Freeway from basically Costa Mesa north to the I-605, has a long staff report, HERE. Two of the alternatives discussed involve no additional lanes in Costa Mesa, but two others do. The conversation should be interesting.

The third item has a staff report which includes an interesting PowerPoint presentation
, HERE. Basically, the city's Redevelopment and Residential Rehabilitation (3R) Committee takes requests for CDBG funds, applies a qualification matrix to them, then recommends distribution to the City Council. The council is not obligated to stick to the recommendations and, in fact, we don't even know precisely how much money will be available yet for distribution.

As an aside, I've asked City CEO Tom Hatch to address the fact that Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer is a member of the Board of Directors of Mercy House, one of the applicants. It seems to me that he has a very significant conflict of interest and should be prohibited from any discussions or votes on any issue involving Mercy House. I just sent the question to Hatch and have no reply yet.

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The Wit & Wisdom Of Allan Roeder

ROEDER'S FINAL "CITY TALK"Dane Bora and Brad Long of Costa Mesa Television have provided us with a very special piece of video featuring now-retired City Manager Allan Roeder that provides not only a glimpse into the history of this remarkable, caring, exceptionally competent man, but also shows us some of the reasons he has been considered by many the consummate City Manager in our region - perhaps anywhere.

This hour-long video homage to Roeder w
ill just zip past as you listen to his portrayal of highlights of his career. Some of the archival photos included in this presentation will certainly jog memories of those of us who've been watching city activities for awhile. Images include then much younger council members - like Mary Hornbuckle, Peter Buffa, Jay Humphrey, Orville Amburgey, Joe Erickson, Norma Herzog and Sandra Genis. Local characters like Sid Soffer and the truly memorable Will B. Free are shown.

You'll see images of the you
ng Allan Roeder that will make you chuckle and hear of just how he managed to land in Costa Mesa in the first place. You'll hear his views about his most memorable characters and important accomplishments on his watch.

This wonderful piece of Cost
a Mesa history, moderated by Dane Bora, is available for viewing on streaming video, HERE, and on Costa Mesa Television - Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT Uverse - all this month on the following schedule:


Allan Roeder was as good as there is in his job. He served this city for 36 years
and for 25 years as the City Manager he kept his steady hand on the tiller and helped many city councils stay focused on what was best for the city. He built an exceptional city staff, led them by example and left an indelible footprint on our city.

I'll leave you with some of Roeder's final words in this wonderful
video clip. We hope those in power today will read them and heed the message.
"We've all gotta work together. We need to listen to each others opinions, take those carefully into consideration and find ways to work together and n
ot focus on our differences."


Thanks, again, to Allan Roeder for all his years of dedicated service to the City of Costa Mesa. We wish him well in his much-deserved retirement.

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