Saturday, December 10, 2011

Snoopy's Progress

Although we had a prior social engagement out of town, my wife and I made a stop at City Hall this morning around 10:30 and found a veritable beehive of activity, with many volunteers working hard to get the various components of the Snoopy House display placed on the lawn.
Among the hardworkers I saw Steve Mensinger, Jim Righeimer, Bill Lobdell, Tom Hatch, Terry Shaw and Larry Weichmann and head elf Jim Fitzpatrick - and many others I couldn't identify.
We stopped again on our way home around 4 p.m., just as the crew was wrapping things up for the evening. Clearly, much progress had been made. Kudos to all those volunteers who contributed time and, in a few cases, money and chow, to help make this wonderful event come true.

As I understand it, the Grand Unveiling (turning on the lights and other moving parts) will take place on Tuesday, December 13th, at 5:30 p.m. Since the weather report calls for rain Sunday night through, maybe, Tuesday, everyone is hoping that forecast is wrong.
Tomorrow, Sunday, will be another full day of final preparations and testing for the grand event Tuesday. Good luck to all involved as you work hard to beat the storm.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Snoopy House Construction Begins Saturday

I took a quick trip to City Hall this afternoon to see what progress was being made with the placement of the Snoopy House displays on the front lawn. If all goes well, the construction will be completed over this weekend and the grand lighting ceremony will take place on Tuesday.NOT ALONE SNOOPING AROUND
I found the various c
omponents - or, at least, most of them, scattered around the parking lot and on the lawn waiting expert guidance on Saturday to help place them properly. If you look closely you'll see an ABC Channel 7 television crew skulking around inside the display. (See Video Clip Below)MEMORIES
It was quite a trip down Memory Lane for me as I wandered among the components. Many of them evoked grand memories from years past when we would trek a few blocks over to the Jordan home each Christmas season to see their handiwork on display.

I found segments jus
t kind of "hanging out", waiting for someone to lovingly place them in exactly the right space.PLANNING THE DISPLAY
I saw Jim Jordan consulting with volunteers, trying to stage the display properly tomorrow.KUDOS TO ALL
Personally, I think this is a
wonderful move on the part of The City. Whether this is a one-time event or this display appears on the City Hall lawn for years to come, those responsible for salvaging this 45 year-old tradition are to be commended.VOLUNTEERS AND FUNDS STILL NEEDED
Volunteers are still needed to help put the display together and to help with the crowds anticipated when it opens Tuesday evening through the end of the following week. Call Sylvia Chalmers in the CEO's office at 714-754-5099.HERE'S A LITTLE CLIP FROM CHANNEL 7, KABC NEWS
(Sorry about the commercial)


Thursday, December 08, 2011

He's Running - Already?

While Costa Mesa - the city he's trying to take over - is in turmoil, with illegal outsourcing and a complete re-vamp of the city municipal government structure by the imposition of a Charter, carpetbagging Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer is on the campaign trail!


Yep, even though his term does not end until 2014, Righeimer is having a fund raiser next week. Here's the announcement: (Click on the image to enlarge it) Check out some of the names at the top... no surprises there.
I think he may be
hoping the salvation of the Snoopy House display on the front lawn of City Hall and that the building itself will be awash in holiday lighting will be a sufficient "feel good" smoke screen to keep folks from realizing that he's trying to quick pitch the process and jam a charter that HE PERSONALLY WROTE down the throats of the voters in June. He's trying to force-feed a charter on the city that includes a segment that no other charter I can find includes - an anti-union rule called "Voluntary Municipal Employee Political Contributions" - which appears to be the resurrection of his long-dormant "Paycheck Protection" scheme that was rejected by voters many years ago.

And, since he frequently complains about the cost of running for office and that he was outspent by "outside interests" and "unions" last year, I guess this is a preemptive strike on the campaign process for three-years from now. Yes, sir - it's t
ime to be collecting other people's money to spend trying to get re-elected. Just thought you'd like to know...

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Lost That Lovin' Feelin'?

OK, boys and girls... looking for a way to REALLY get into the old holiday spirit AND dredge up some wonderful memories from your youth? Well, have I got a deal for you!

Next week, on Thursday, December 15, 2011, Santa Ana High School presents 1958 alumnus and American music icon, Bill Medley, in concert one night only to benefit the "Dollars for Scholars" program. Here's the flier announcing this wonder opportunity for a trip down Memory Lane: (click on the image to enlarge for easier reading)SPONSOR A STUDENT INSTEAD...
For those who may wish to sponsor a student rather than attend the concert or for more information, contact Bobbie Rooker at 714-542-7802.


If you need just a little more encouragement before picking up the phone and ordering your tickets, here's a reminder of those magic days. Sing it, boys...

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Volunteers Needed and City Hall To Be "Lit"

In a press release this afternoon, the text of which is below, Interim Communications Director announced that volunteers are needed for a variety of activities related to the set-up, operation and tear-down of the Snoopy House display on the City Hall front lawn. Here's the text:

The Jordan family—whose Eastside home was the site of the famous Snoopy House Christmas display for more than four decades—has made a Santa wish list for items that will make the event’s 45th year at its new City Hall location the best ever.

Earlier this month, the future of the beloved Southern California tradition was in jeopardy after the Jordans’ property had been foreclosed upon. The City of Costa Mesa agreed on this week to allow the display to be put on the City Hall lawn and is helping in a variety of areas in order to get the Snoopy House open by 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The display will be turned on nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. through New Year’s Eve.

Here is the Jordans’ wish list that they hope will be fulfilled by some of Santa’s helpers in the community.

  1. Volunteers to set up the display (9 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. Monday) and to help during the event’s 19-night run (you can even work as an elf).
  2. 10 cases of hot apple cider concentrate.
  3. 5 cases of 6-ounce Styrofoam cups.
  4. 1 case each of red, green and blue tinsel.
  5. 5 boxes of 4x6 photo paper.
  6. 4,000 candy canes.
  7. 100 gallons of water
  8. 10x10 tent with four sides
  9. Financial donations for color printer ink, artificial snow, and other items.

Those interested in volunteering or contributing a needed item or money can contact City staff member Sylvia Chalmers at (714) 754-5099 or e-mail her here.


This evening I was invited over to City Hall to see the test of a lighting system being planned for the building coincident with the Snoopy House display. Although the final details are still being hammered out, the plan is to have at least a portion of City Hall lighted each evening as a backdrop for the Snoopy House display. This photo shows a preliminary pass at that lighting. My suggestion to Lobdell was they may wish to re-think all-red lighting lest visitors think the building is a bordello. I was assured that the colors will be variable and quite festive. And, before someone blows a gasket about the cost, according to Lobdell, no municipal funds will be used for this lighting project - the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitors Bureau is covering the cost.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

70 Years Later...

I cannot let this day fade without recalling that this day, December 7, 2011, is the 70th anniversary of the attack by the Japanese Empire on our Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - the attack that launched us into World War II. That conflict, both in Europe and in the Pacific, eventually took more than 400,000 American lives during the slightly more than three and a half years of conflict.


Some have said that World War II unified this country to the point that it became THE dominate power in the world from the end of the war in 1945 until, barely, the present date. The late writer and commentator on "60 Minute
s", Andy Rooney (he passed away November 14th) covered World War II as a writer for the Stars and Stripes and reminded us of that time in his life frequently with his commentaries and his books.

I've written extensively about this anniversary for several years - 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. I hope you'll take the time to visit those entries to help you remember this date and what it meant to this nation - what we fought to defeat on two continents simultaneously.


As the members of my parents generation - Tom
Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" - continue to die off I hope you will take a moment to thank those you know for their sacrifice. Every member of American society sucked it up and did their part to help win the war, not just those brave men and women in the military service. My father, for example, was ineligible for military service because of a leg injury, but he worked two full-time jobs for the duration - his regular job and then at least one defense-related job. His brother served in the SeaBees and two uncles on my mother's side served with distinction as officers in the Army. They, and their peers, returned from doing their duty in the war to help build this nation following the war.

In five days my grandnephew, Nathan Harrison, will deploy to Afghanistan for his first tour. He joined the Army right out of high school last year specifically to help win that conflict. In less than two week, at the age of 19, he will find himself in harm's way in a far-off land doing his duty for this country. He is the kind of young man that formed the cadre of the soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II - ready to defend our country's interests, wherever it took them.


Never forget the lessons of Pearl Harbor and never stop supporting our troops. They deserve it.

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Now I Understand! (Updated*)

I had a good feeling about last night's City Council meeting when it started - before a standing-room-only crowd - with a presentation to a Pop Warner Flag Football team - a group of tykes coached by a city employee who had an outstanding year. Members of the League Champion Estancia High School Eagle football team - all dressed up in their traveling blazers - were there to support these little guys and two of the stars from THAT team stepped up to praise them, extol the virtues of football and encouraged them to stay together. Senior Ozzy Magana reminded them that it didn't matter whether they went to Estancia or Costa Mesa. What mattered was that they were Costa Mesans. It was one of those "I'm-glad-I-live-in-Costa-Mesa" moments that we don't see often enough these days. Unfortunately, that was just about the last "good feeling" I had last night.

Remember how I've told you that our city council makes bad decisions when they let the meetings stretch into the next day? Well, their record is intact. The council meeting that began at 6:05 Tuesday evening finally ended at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday - today! And, it began short-handed as Mayor Gary Monahan failed to attend due to a serious family emergency.

I knew we were in trouble when the only Public Hearing to be held - the change in holiday hours for the Target Store on Harbor Blvd. - stretched an hour and a half, only to end up being continued until January 17, 2012 because both votes taken on the issue resulted in 2-2 ties, which means each vote failed - the result of Monahan being absent.

The big item of the evening/morning was the discussion of the Cha
rter City proposal put forward by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer. That discussion began at 11:05 p.m. and stretched until 1:15 a.m. This issue never should have been on the agenda in the first place. Such a significant issue should have been scheduled for a Study Session, where a thorough vetting by the council could take place. That, however, wouldn't fit Righeimer's plans. Like almost every other initiative he's launched since taking office last January, this one was going to be on a fast track, one way or the other.

As it turns out, Righeimer created the draft Charter included in the staff report all by himself, by cutting and pasting segments from several other city charters. He's in such a hurry to get this issue before the voters that he couldn't wait to have the City Attorney cobble something together, nor could he wait to have a vote taken by the people to authorize the creation of a charter commission. Nope, this is his baby and he is doing it, period!

One of the reasons for his haste became very clear as we read through the Charter draft. Actually, he read it to us, just like my folks used to read the Sund
ay funnies to me many, many moons ago. You can read it in the staff report, HERE. When he got near the end and came to Section 603, Voluntary Municipal Employee Political Contributions, I understood what this is all about. Here's the verbiage of that section: (click on image to enlarge)

As some may recall, Righeimer has been on a nearly two decade crusade against organized labor. He and a couple other pals, Frank Ury and Righeimer's lawyer/brother-in-law, Mark Bucher, burst into national prominence with their ill-advised "paycheck protection". You can read about that HERE and HERE. The text above is only the most recent attempt by Righeimer to de-fang organized labor's fund raising resources. Clearly, it's the cornerstone of his efforts to rush this Charter initiative onto the June ballot.

In my previous post on this subject I provided a schedule - a time table - for the
processing of this issue in order to get it on the June ballot. Well, the first thing I noticed Tuesday night was that there's a new schedule, not the one in the staff report. This one shifts the timing out a week, which may eliminate an opportunity for at least one of the Town Halls anticipated in the previous schedule. Here's how the new schedule looks, taken directly from the agenda addition last night:

Dec. 6 - City Council Meeting: Report on possible City charter, including introduction to what's a charter, pros and cons of b
ecoming a charter city, and procedure for being a charter city (including proposed time line); first draft of the charter will be presented and discussed; public comment will be taken.

Dec. 20 - Deadline for notice posted for the mandatory First Hearing of proposed charter on Jan. 10, 2012.

Jan. 5, 2012 - An informational Town Hall has been added to the schedule at 7:00 p.m. - location to be determined.

Jan. 10, 2012 - Special City Council Meeting (First Hearing);
The City Counc
il will look at potential provisions to include in a charter for Costa Mesa, take public comment and may vote on a first draft of a charter, which can be edited by the council throughout the process.

Jan. 23, 2012 - Deadline f
or notice posted for the mandatory Second Hearing of proposed charter on Feb. 14, 2012.

Jan. 24, 2012 and/or Jan. 31, 2012 - Potential town hall meetings on charter;
If needed, the City of Costa Mesa will present information on the charter and charter process. (During the meeting Righeimer added a Town Hall on the 24th for sure and kept the option open for another on the 31st.)

Feb. 14, 2012 - Special City Council Meeting (Second Hearing); City Council will receive public comment and may continue to hone the draft charter toward completion.

March 6, 2012 - SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING to vote upon resolution directing that the Charter be submitted to the Voters; This is the earliest date in which Council may adopt a resolution directing the charter to be submitted to the voters.

Once the vote is taken and the paperwork is submitted to place the issue on the June ballot there will be three months of politicking from both sides of this issue. Righeimer speculated that "the unions" would be throwing money at this issue to defeat it.


The meeting ended with council member comments - which has devolved in recent m
onths into whine-fests, in which some of the male members of the council take pot-shots at Wendy Leece. Last night both Eric Bever - our part-time, part-time council member took his turn at bat, throwing zingers at her across the dais. And then, like the bitter after-taste from a bottle of cheap wine, Steve Mensinger launched off into another of his woe-is-me tirades, telling us that his wife and kids were all home in bed and yet here he is, serving the public. I wonder if he ever gets a cramp in his arm from patting himself on the back for his "sacrifices". Maybe he should just do what he said he REALLY wanted to do during his acceptance speech last January - quit the council and coach. He should listen to Ozzy Magana...

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Charlie Brown Rescued!

In a press release this morning, Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell advised the world that Charlie Brown has been saved! Here's the text of that announcement:

COSTA MESA, CALIF. - There will be a Charlie Brown Christmas in Costa Mesa after all this year, thanks to a deal struck today by the City and Jim Jordan, whose family for 44 years has put up an elaborate holiday display at their Eastside home using Peanuts cartoon characters.

Jordan’s residential property had been recently foreclosed on, leaving the future of the Peanuts gang in jeopardy. Jordan said the attraction draws more than 80,000 visitors each year.

The Peanuts display—including a stage for Santa—will be moved to the lawn outside of City Hall, allowing Costa Mesans and others throughout Orange County to enjoy the popular holiday tradition.

Jordan and his crew of volunteers will begin setting up the series of holiday scenes on Friday, with the display scheduled to be officially open on Tuesday, Dec. 13. City Council members will throw the ceremonial switch at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 to light up the display.

“I’m so humbled and overwhelmed at the support from the community and City Hall that I can’t even express it,” Jordan said.

Santa will be making nightly visits from Dec. 18 through Dec. 23.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to save a beloved Costa Mesa tradition, and allow residents to come out and visit their City Hall,” said Tom Hatch, the City’s chief executive officer. “We were please we could help.”

Jordan said he needs volunteers to help set up the display and also to work as elves each night that display is open. Financial donations from individuals, families, companies and nonprofits are also welcome. Those interested should call City staff member Sylvia Chalmers at (714) 754-5099.

So, great news for all you Snoopy fans. It's going to be a "Charlie Brown Christmas" after all! Now, Linus, please tell us what Christmas is all about...


The Week Ahead

December promises to be a slow month for City business, but it hasn't screeched to a halt just yet. Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, December 6th, the City Council will meet in what should be their final scheduled meeting of the year. The agenda has been published and there likely will be some interesting discussions before they adjourn for 2011. Wednesday there is a Special Meeting of the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach Parks Commissions to discuss the re-landscaping of Irvine Avenue.

For example, the regular meeting will be preceded by what has been announced as a "Special Meeting", beginning at 4:00. In fact, this is
a closed session in which there are five (5) separate items to be discussed by the council. One of those, item #4, also involves "Arnell Management Company, Inc.", so I find myself wondering whether councilman Steve Mensinger will participate since he used to work for Arnel...

The regular meeting begins in Council Chambers at 6:00 and, as usual, the Consent Calendar has some items of interest that may be pulled for separate discussion. The first warrant, #2396, HERE, includes a line item for Jones & Mayer, the law firm that provides City Attorney services, in the amount of $126,427.61. Since the City budget just over $800,000 for legal services, an average of around $68,000 per month, it looks like we are going to be way, way over budget for legal services this year. The spreadsheet the city maintains on the web site is not current - it only shows payments through September - so it's hard to get a handle on this.

There is also a resolution generated by Mayor Gary Monah
an to change the order of business at council meetings, HERE. This codifies what has become the council's practice and is not a big deal. It does place the closed session BEFORE the regular meeting, which forces the council to work briskly and keeps them from making those important decisions - usually involving litigation - in the wee hours of the next day. It also clarifies what happens to items on the agenda that are not finished before the magic "witching hour" of 7:00, when they plan to begin Public Hearings. This resolution says that anything listed prior to Public Hearings - like Public Comments, for example - will be finished AFTER Old Business, but before New Business. This arbitrary rule about Public Hearings starting at 7:00 has always been a problem. It has made for herky-jerky meetings and, quite honestly, has not been uniformly enforced. At the last meeting, for example, the folks from Sakioka had to hang around until 10:30 before their brief item was heard by the council. In my view, the Public Hearings should remain where they are in the agenda schedule of events, but NOT be forced to begin at 7:00, which stifles the Public Comment segment. In fact, if they pass this resolution Tuesday it becomes effective immediately - with that meeting.

Also in the Consent Calendar are two more outsourcing Requests for Proposals (RFPs). They are for Payroll, HERE, and Information Technology, HERE. As a sidebar on this subject, last week, on Thursday, December 1st, all the employees who had previously received layoff notices received notification that those notices were extended - again. This time they are extended until March 10th - 51 weeks after the original debacle in which they were originally issued and Huy Pham leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall.

Following the Public Hearings Old Business #1 is the appointme
nts to the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex Task Force, HERE. This was continued from a previous meeting because, apparently, there were insufficient quality candidates who applied - at least in the eyes of some council members. This astounded me at the time, since they really only had to appoint one member and an alternate and had five candidates - each of whom applied on time - from which to choose. Among those was Gordon Bowley - a man who is deeply immersed in most youth sports programs in town. It's going to be VERY interesting to see who gets appointed to this task force.


The very last item on the agenda is the discussion of Jim Righeimer's scheme to turn Costa Mesa into a Charter City. The staff report includes a pretty benign draft Charter - which appears to be designed to stifle criticism rather than to reshape city government. The conversation on this one should be VERY interesting. The report includes a schedule of meetings to provide public input on this issue. In my opinion, this is the WRONG way to be going about this change. I'm NOT saying we should not convert to being a Charter City, but we SHOULD NOT rush the process. We should, as every credible source available tells us, select a Charter Commission, who would calmly deliberate and create a Charter for Costa Mesa. What will happen, though, is that the City Council, driven by the political ambitions of one man, will cobble together a Charter that will permit way, way too much opportunity for mischief. Yes, Righeimer predicted some might conjure up the specter of another Bell - appropriately so. Bell converted to a Charter City and then was pillaged by unscrupulous administrators and council members. Only 400 people voted in the election to convert Bell to a Charter City, for goodness sake!

The staff report
, HERE, includes some excellent background information, including easy-to-use charts comparing General Law cities to Charter cities. The proposed time line of events is VERY aggressive. It begins with the council meeting Tuesday where the initial discussion and public comments will be heard.
  • On December 6th the report on possible City Charter will be discussed and public comment will be taken
  • On December 13th a notice will be posted for the mandatory First Hearing, on January 3rd.
  • On the 3rd - the first council meeting of the year and following City Hall being closed for a week for the holidays - the council will look at potential provisions to include in a Charter, take more public comment and may vote on a first draft!
  • On January 10th a Town Hall meeting will be held to present charter information.
  • On January 17th the notice for the second mandatory hearing on February 7th will be posted.
  • On January 24th and/or 31st more Town Hall meetings MAY be held.
  • On February 2nd the Second Hearing on the charter will be held.
  • On February 14th another Town Hall meeting MAY be held.
  • On February 28th a SPECIAL MEETING will be held to vote on the resolution directing that the Charter be submitted to the Voters.
As I've said many times, this process is being rushed by this council to the detriment of the future of our city and all the residents, current and future. IF converting Costa Mesa to a Charter City is a good idea, then it's an idea that SHOULD NOT BE RUSHED.

Wednesday the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission and the
Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission will hold a special joint meeting in Costa Mesa Conference Room 1A at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the plans for the re-landscaping of Irvine Avenue between 17th Street and 19th Street. You can read the agenda item HERE. This, as you are aware, is a result of the removal of 104 eucalyptus trees following the death of a driver when one of the trees fell on her car a few months ago. The hour of the meeting is unusual for any meeting in Costa Mesa, so make a note.

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