Friday, December 02, 2011

City Confirms Hiring Francis as Assistant CEO

In a press release late today, Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell confirmed what we reported HERE yesterday - that Supervisor John Moorlach's Chief of Staff, Rick Francis, has been hired as Costa Mesa's Assistant Chief Executive Officer. According to Lobdell, Francis will be paid $144,048 in annual salary. The complete text of Lobdell's press release follows:

COSTA MESA, CALIF. - The City of Costa Mesa has hired Rick Francis—the chief of staff for Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach—as its assistant chief executive officer.

Francis, a Costa Mesa resident, has spent 22 years in government, the majority of the time working in the County of Orange and U.S. District Court probation departments as a counselor, officer and division director.

In December 2006, Francis was hired as Supervisor Moorlach’s deputy chief of staff, and in 2009, he was promoted to chief of staff. In that nonpartisan role, Francis was the lead policy advisor for the supervisor’s office, working with county, city and special district officials and Orange County residents on a variety of issues.

“As both a veteran of government and a Costa Mesa homeowner, I view as essential the difficult steps the City’s taking to create a sustainable fiscal model for the long-term benefit of everyone,” Francis said. “I’m excited to bring my expertise and passion to the effort.”

In addition to his government work, Francis, 49, was administrative pastor at Newport Mesa Church in Costa Mesa for four years beginning in 2003.

“Costa Mesa is fortunate to get Rick, whose government expertise, effective management style, record of integrity and Costa Mesa residency make him the perfect fit for our City,” said Tom Hatch, the City’s chief executive officer.
Francis will begin working for the City as soon as the standard background check is completed. His annual salary will be $144,048. He and Dina, his wife of 23 years, have three children in college.

Hatch also commended Public Services Director Peter Naghavi for his outstanding work while serving as interim assistant chief executive officer since September.

“Peter stepped up when we really needed him and did an exceptional job,” Hatch said. “We’re not surprised because Peter is such a dedicated professional, but we are thankful.”

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The Weekend Starts Tonight!

First, tonight the hapless UCLA Bruins, under the guidance of lame duck coach Rick Neuheisel, travel to Eugene, Oregon to play the vaunted Oregon Ducks in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game. If the Bruins' performance against USC last weekend is any indication - I think it is - the 50 points the Trojans scored on them will be nothing compared to the thrashing the Ducks will put on them tonight. The game starts at 5:00 and will be televised on Fox.

Then, for a bit of local football, Costa Mesa's Estancia High School Eagles battle Beckman High School in the league semifinal game beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Jim Scott Stadium. This should be a terrific game - both teams are 10-2. Good l
uck to those Eagles.

For those of you who prefer a different kind of entertainment, the Estancia Drama Department will present their version of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", with the first performance tonight at 7:00 at the Barbara Van Holt Theater at Estancia High School. Performances will also be shown Saturday and also on December 9th and 10th.

Tomorrow, at noon, our friend, Kent Treptow, will wrap up his nearly
3500 mile solo trek from Maine to California when he puts his feet in the Pacific Ocean at the Huntington Beach side of the mouth of the Santa Ana River - the place where he learned to surf. I've provided a link to his blog for your reading pleasure. It's been quite a trip, to say the very least. Hopefully, more than a few of Kent's friends will be on-hand to greet him.

The rest of the weekend is up to you... I suspect Christmas shopping will occupy most of your time. Have fun. I leave you, once again, with Stan Freberg's classic, GREEN CHRI$TMA$, to get you into the old spirit.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Voice of OC - New Assistant CEO Named For Costa Mesa

In an entry today, HERE, Voice of OC Managing Editor Norberto Santana, Jr., announced that Supervisor John Moorlach's chief of staff, Rick Francis, has been selected as the new Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the City of Costa Mesa.

This is an interesting turn of events since this move can only be viewed as a step backward in Francis' career path. Santana's report gives you his history, which is pretty darn impressive. However, if you stand on your tippy-toes and look a year into the future this move makes some sense.

You will recall that, a month ago, I speculated, HERE, that Moorlach might be a candidate for City Council in Costa Mesa. He's a resident of the city and is termed-out of his supervisorial job. He could run for Assembly in an already-crowded field that includes incumbent Allan Mansoor and Newport Beach councilwoman Leslie Daigle. His near-term future might, in fact, be in Costa Mesa.


Continuing the speculation, if Jim Righeimer and his cronies decid
e to push this Charter city initiative and are successful, it's very likely that it would appear on the June ballot with some VERY significant changes in our municipal government. For example, no term limits for council members and - get ready for this - a directly-elected mayor, also without term limits. That means that Moorlach might actually run for that slot and be on track to becoming king for life in our city. And wouldn't such a king need a strong, reliable right hand-man? You betcha! Hence, Rick Francis.

I don't know Ric
k Francis - wouldn't know him if I tripped over him. His reputation is solid according to all available reports. Santana tells us he's a pastor - was "Moorlach's personal pastor", is the way he put it. Nothing wrong with that - the way this city is going, a whole lot of divine intervention is going to be required in the years ahead.

According to Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell this morning, Francis i
s still undergoing the background checking process. He did tell me that an announcement from the city is forthcoming a little later today. He didn't indicate what Francis will be paid, but it's likely going to be in the $180,000 range, plus benefits.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Another Grass Roots Organization Pops Up

Yoo Hoo, City Council! Are you paying attention? Remember these names - Michelle Simpson and Bonnie Copeland. They've provided the womb for yet another group of concerned residents to meet, talk and strategize about issues important to them. It will be interesting to see what happens to this embryo of concern.

Based on reports from the scene, last night an angry, frustrated group of resident
s met at Simpson's home in the heart of the Westside to address their concern about a possible 19th Street Bridge across the Santa Ana River. According to Joe Serna's Daily Pilot article this evening, HERE, more than five dozen people met to vent their collective spleens, apparently in response to out-of-touch carpetbagging Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's position that he was in favor of such a bridge. Other reports from the scene indicate numbers greater than the 60 or so Serna reported - 100 and 200 were mentioned. The number really is not as relevant as the fact that, again, from reports from the scene, most were "new" faces - folks not normally in attendance at council and commission meetings.

Of course, the Banning Ranch and Sunset Ridge Park issues in Newport Beach have many Westside residents very anxious about the future of that side of town. The traffic that would result from the current proposal for the development of Banning Ranch is very significant - thousands of NEW car trips each day would be generated by Banning Ranch and most would flow along Costa Mesa streets. And, there is a perception that the development will also increase the demand for that 19th Street Bridge.


What we're seeing here is yet another group of residents made ve
ry nervous about the way our city is being governed these days. The current city council majority has demonstrated, month after month, that they are not concerned so much about the future of the city as they are about the political future of some of their members.

It appears to me that we are finally seeing that silent majority - that group of residents that Righeimer assumes support him because they've not said they don't - awakening from their hibernation and are looking around and seeing things they don't much like. Are you grumpy when you first wake up? I know I am, and I suspect these folks are not going to get any happier as they learn more about just what's going on.

It's going to be very interesting to see what kind of activism emanates from this group.
Will some of their number step up to the speaker's podium and tell the council of their concerns? If so, will the council take them seriously or simply brush them off as a bunch of kooks and give them the cold shoulder, as they do many others who take the time to air their grievances before them? I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

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Righeimer To Propose Charter City Tuesday

In a Daily Pilot commentary online HERE, Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer tells us that he's going to propose to the City Council that they immediately begin the process of converting Costa Mesa from a General Law city to a Charter City. We reported on his plan to do this HERE and in a commentary in the Daily Pilot HERE.

This move comes as no surprise, but, like most everything else Righeimer and his cohorts have proposed since taking office this year, is being done with undue haste. It's almost as though he's in a feeding frenzy, trying to quick pitch major government changes before the residents of this city figure out what he's up to - the ill-conceived "outsourcing" scheme is a perfect example.

In his commentary Righeimer asks himself, "How does it work?", then tells himself, "It is very simple". If only that was true. There are two methods for a city to convert from a General Law city to a Charter city. The first, and most appropriate considering the complexity and impact of the change, is for the City Council to propose to the voters that a change be made to become a Charter city and place that issue on the ballot. AT THAT TIME candidates for a "charter commission" would put themselves forward on the ballot - fifteen people would be elected to the commission IF the voters choose to move forward with the proposal. Once elected that charter commission would proceed with the creation of a city charter, which would subsequently eventually be placed on another ballot for the voters to consider. This is the preferred process.

The alternate process is to do what Righeimer will propose. He will propose that the City Council create the charter - in his piece he says, "We will have more than three months of public meetings and community gatherings to tailor the charter to Costa Mesa needs and to put proper checks and balances into the system to insure we have the best and most transparent local government possible." Well, that's all well and good, but the final decision on what is in this charter under this method is COMPLETELY UP TO THE CITY COUNCIL - the four-member majority of which has already shown an impatience with rules and controls in place to protect the residents of this city. Quite honestly, I just don't trust these guys to do what is right for our city in this matter.


When this issue first came up
I began contacting folks who had intimate knowledge of the process of creating a city charter. Some had been elected leaders during the process, others had been part of the process of creating and/or modifying a charter. WITHOUT EXCEPTION they shared the opinion that the creation of a charter commission is, by far, the preferred method of proceeding. This would be the second most important event in the history of Costa Mesa - the first being the original decision to incorporate. This kind of a decision DEMANDS calm deliberation by a charter commission selected by the voters who represent a broad cross-section of constituencies in the city and who will place the future of the city - not personal political gain - first.

Although I knew this from the beginning, as you read through Righeimer's commentary his motivation is crystal clear. He uses terms like, " has become clear to me that in order for our town to thrive in the 21st century, we free ourselves from the way union-backed politicians..." and "...unsustainable pension costs and byzantine work rules..." and "When a general law city puts a charter up to a vote — the only way the change in governance can occur — the unions rush in with huge amounts of money and misinformation campaigns to defeat the measure." to misdirect the readers.

Righeimer is intent on busting the Costa Mesa employee associations and apparently views the creation of a Charter city as the method du jour to do it. He complains about "dubious lawsuits", ignoring completely the fact that it was the illegally-implemented outsourcing scheme that caused the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association. Righeimer and his cohorts on the council - by not following their own policies - caused the lawsuit. I mentioned earlier that he doesn't like to follow the rules - this is an example.


In his commentary Righeimer suggests readers visit the California League of Cities website for information, but doesn't give a link to do so. Well, you can find that information HERE - I suggest you read it for yourself before jumping aboard this runaway train. Take some time to navigate through the various pages, paying particular attention to the chart that compares General Law cities to Charter cities. Also take a few minutes to read the California Constitution section dealing with Charter cities, HERE.

I am NOT saying that Costa Mesa shouldn't consider becoming a Charter city. It is very possible that the advantages of such a form of government would, indeed, benefit the city. However, every resident should be asking themselves this question: What's the rush? If converting Costa Mesa to a Charter city is such an important issue, why should this process be rushed through? If it's so important why is Righeimer treating it like he's a sixteen-year-old boy trying to get to third base with a girl in the back seat of his father's Buick? Could it be that the voters of this city may actually be waking up to what this council majority is doing to their city and are ready to make a change next November? Three seats are available next year - enough to bring reason back to the deliberations being conducted on the dais. Three seats are enough to, once again, make the future of Costa Mesa - not the political future of one hack, carpetbagging politician - the primary concern of the City Council.

I suspect there will be more than one or two speakers addressing this issue before the City Council Tuesday - the last meeting of the year. If history is any guide, the council will show impatience with opposing views, shrug them off and do as they please. They will vote to move forward with this plan, create opportunities for residents to address this issue in workshops and public hearings - then ignore the cautions proposed and do as they darn well please. They will put THEIR version of a Charter on the June ballot, rolling the dice that low voter turnout will carry the day for them.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sanitary District To Discuss "Incompatibility Of Office"

In an earlier post I mentioned that this was a slow week for City business, but it's not completely devoid of activity.


For example, on Wednesday, November 30th, the Costa
Mesa Sanitary District - those wonderful folks who pick up our trash and make sure our sewers work - will hold their regular meeting at District Headquarters at 628 W. 19th Street, Costa Mesa beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Most of the agenda seems to be pretty routine, with reports from various committees - Recycling, Sewer, etc. However, buried way, way, way down at the end of the agenda report, Item XVII, A. appears. The title of this item is, "Incompatibility of Office between Costa Mesa Sanitary District and Mesa Consolidated Water District", and is on the agenda for "discussion".

Now, based on the title of the item alone, there would seem to be a need to discuss this issue if, for example, a Director of the Sanitary District planned to run for a similar seat on the Mesa Consolidated Water District Board. I don't know what brings this issue up, since there is no staff report available to review.

However, one wonders if this discussion might take a broader approach - to deal with the question of Sanitary District Board members also serving on other elected or appointed government bodies. You will recall that current Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan, during served on both the City Council AND the Sanitary District Board recently. And, of course, Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick currently serves on the Sanitary District board while a planning commissioner. I wonder if the District Board will address this apparent "incompatibility"? And, if so, what the outcome of that discussion might be?


I don't have any plans to attend the meeting Wednesday. It's a cozy room, with a conference table way, way too large for the venue and seating for only a few guests - maybe a half-dozen, at most.

I will, however, do my best to provide a summary of how this issue plays out. It seems to me that Jimmy Fitzy might just find himself in a very uncomfortable situation because I recall that, if it is determined that he cannot hold both seats simultaneously, he would be required to give up the Sanitary District seat because he accepted the Planning Commission position AFTER he was seated on the Sanitary District Board. I guess we'll see...

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Costa Mesa Announces Photo Contest

Late this afternoon Interim Communication Director, Bill Lobdell, announced the inaugural Celebrate Costa Mesa photo contest. The text of his announcement is below.

OH, BOY!...

This could be a lot of fun, especially if you decide to enter the "Altered images" category. That presents so many opportunities that it already has me salivating.

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—Amateur, professional and youth photographers are encouraged to enter the inaugural “Celebrate Costa Mesa” photo contest that features cash and prizes worth more than $1,000.

The finalists’ photos will appear on the City’s revamped website scheduled to be unveiled early next year.

Photographers can enter six categories:

  1. Costa Mesa Characters (photos of local people)
  2. Costa Mesa Environment (open spaces, parks, wildlife, skylines, landmarks)
  3. Costa Mesa Life (education, sports, nightlife, events)
  4. Costa Mesa Pets
  5. OC Fair (photos taken at the fairgrounds)
  6. Altered Images (artistically manipulated photos)

The winners will be selected by a panel consisting of professional photographers and representatives from the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau and City of Costa Mesa, including members of the Cultural Arts Committee.

Winners of the six categories will be posted online for public voting, and the photo with the most online votes will be awarded the grand prize.

The contest is free, and entrants may submit up to six photos per category. The deadline for entries is Jan. 9 at 5 p.m. Photos must be taken in Costa Mesa. Interested photographers can find contest details here (

Winning photographers will receive recognition by the Costa Mesa City Council and the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau. Their winning entries will be published on the City’s website and annual calendar; featured in the City’s CEO E-Briefing digital newsletter and “Costa Mesa Minute” video broadcast; and may also be used in other City publications.

Cash prizes will be awarded as follows: Grand Prize: $250; First Place: $100; Honorable Mention: $25.

Photos must be taken within Costa Mesa city limits. Judging will be in January and all participants are invited to a City Hall gallery exhibit of winners in February 2012.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Easing Back Into It...

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you're like me, you are still suffering from the tryptophan stupor that gorging on too much turkey creates. You have my sympathy...

My solution was full-immersion football-watching for two, going on three, days straight. It might not help the stupor, but the football was great - especially the USC-UCLA debacle. It the same Bruin teams shows up in Eugene to play the Oregon Ducks in the much-touted inaugural Pac-12 Championship game, the quackers might explode the scoreboard! If that 50-0 Trojan drubbing of the hapless Bruins was, in fact, junior quarterback Matt Barkley's final game for USC, he sure went out on a high note! And, yes, he should be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony... And, yes, Rick Neuheisel should begin packing up his office...

And, congrats to the Estancia High School Eagles for winning their playoff game Friday. Lots of hard work and skill plus some pretty good coaching paid off for those young men.


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I invite you, once again, to visit the blog o
f my friend and former Daily Pilot photographer, Kent Treptow - - which chronicles his amazing solo walk across the country - from Maine to southern California. If all goes well he should be dipping his toes in the Pacific Ocean sometime in the next few days. His adventure, which has covered the past 170 days, has been fascinating to follow. This photo, courtesy of his blog, shows him "on the road" not too far from home.

That's all for this one. It's a slow week at City Hall next week, but I'm sure there will be news to cover. Stay tuned.

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