Saturday, December 17, 2011

Santa's Getting Ready...

With just 8 days to go until Christmas I'm feeling more like The Grinch than one of Santa's elves these days, so I find myself in need of some "perking up". After all, I don't want that jolly old fella to leave me a lump of coal in my stocking, do I?


So, here's a little early Christmas cheer for you. I gave you this "gift" a couple years
ago, so you might consider this a kind of "re-gifting" event.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Snoopy Euphoria Over - Enter "The Grinch"

Well, nobody is going to mistake Orange County Employee Association (OCEA) General Manager Nick Berardino for "Old Saint Nick"! Less than 48 hours after the euphoric launch of the Snoopy House display, which brought together hundreds of Costa Mesans on the City Hall lawn to sing Christmas carols and praise The City for salvaging that important piece of Costa Mesa's history and tradition, Berardino's comments as reported in the Daily Pilot by Joe Serna, HERE, were like being doused with a bucket of ice water (and not in a celebratory way) - a reminder of the on-going rancor between the OCEA and The City.

During a segment of the Fair Board meeting yesterday in which they were discu
ssing extending the relationship with classic car auctioneer Barrett-Jackson, Berardino reportedly balked at The City of Costa Mesa having any involvement in the negotiations. Serna quotes him as saying, "I'm not comfortable doing business with the city under any circumstances, and anyone who is has their eyes closed."

City CEO Tom Hatch apparently spoke Thursday, indicating that The City could partner with the Board and Barrett-Jackson to facilitate a smooth community outreach. You may recall that Hatch was The City point man during the original negotiations that first brought the auctioneer to Costa Mesa in the first place. Based, at least in part, on Berardino's opposition, Serna reports that the Board voted unanimously to stiff arm The City from a seat at the negotiating table while agreeing to "keep it in the loop".

While I'm not happy that the Fair Board has taken this direction to block Costa Mesa's involve
ment in this negotiation - and the plans to expand the Pacific Amphitheater, as well - I understand his position. After having watched this new City Council in action for the past nine months, I don't trust them, either. The council majority, driven by the actions and agenda of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, has demonstrated a willingness to play fast and loose with the rules, ignoring the damage such actions are doing to the very fabric of our city.

One amusing curiosity which resulted from Thursday's meeting was that this issue placed Berardino and his nemesis, former Board Chairman Dave Ellis, on the same side of an issue. Considering their strained relationship since Berardino was appointed to the Fair Board by Governor (Again) Jerry Brown, both must find this to be uncharted territory. And, Serna's article closes with a very unfortunate quote from Ellis when referring to the probability of legal action from the expansion plans for the Pacific Amphitheater. Here's the final sentence of that article, "'This is headed for an EIR lawsuit,' Ellis told the Fair Board's attorney, 'so make us as bullet-proof as possible'." Yikes!

Just when you thought the holiday season was bringing with it the spirit of goodwill and a throttling-back of hostilities...

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snoopy House Launch Video Available

Yeah, you're right. I just can't get enough of this Snoopy House Christmas spirit. Sor
ry, it's infectious.
The City of Costa Mesa has produced a 23 minute video clip of the festivitie
s Tuesday evening when the Snoopy House display was officially launched. You can view that clip HERE.

You can also watch it on Costa Mesa TV, Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT U-verse. Here's the replay schedule for the next week:KUDOS TO ALL, AGAIN
Kudos again to Jim and Linda Jordan and all those volunteers and city staffers who managed to pull this all together. Tuesday night was a wonderful event and demonstrates, once again, why Costa Mesa is such a terrific place to live.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CalPERS Responds To Stanford Pension Study

At the risk of ripping off the scab that has been trying to form on this open wound here in Costa Mesa, today I present to you - without editorial comment - the response CalPERS issued yesterday to a recent Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research study. According to news reports HERE and HERE, this study, released yesterday, studied California's three largest pension systems - CalPERS, the state teachers' retirement system and the University of California retirement system - and concluded that the funds cannot earn enough to cover growing pension obligations. According to the real media, Treasurer Bill Lockyer was so upset by the Stanford report that he resigned from the advisory panel in protest.

CalPERS Issues Response to Stanford Pension Study

Below is the statement which CalPERS issued today in response to the
Stanford Pension Study. It can also be found on our CalPERS Responds
website at:

CalPERS today responded to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy
Research (SIEPR) report examining CalPERS, the California State Teachers'
Retirement System (Casts) and the University of California Retirement Plan

"The study is written from a perspective that is intended to exaggerate
perceived costs and the instability of pension systems," said Ann Boynton,
Deputy Executive Officer of CalPERS Benefit Programs Policy and Planning.
"The report's findings were based on low discount rates to artificially
magnify unfunded liabilities. It is important to remember that CalPERS
invests in a highly diversified portfolio that includes stocks, real estate,
and other assets that have historically earned significantly higher returns
than the rates assumed in the study."

The health of the CalPERS fund has improved in the last two fiscal years as
noted below:

Over the past 20 years through June 30, 2011, CalPERS has earned an
average annual investment return of 8.4 percent in excess of the pension
fund's actuarial rate of return assumption of 7.75 percent needed to pay
long-term benefits. The Fund has achieved this rate by investing in a
diversified portfolio with an acceptable level of risk. This historical
average includes steep losses experienced in 2008-09.

As of the most recent fiscal year end, the Fund earned a 21.7 rate of
return and gained back $60.8 billion from the recent 2009 low of $181
billion. CalPERS assets currently stand at more than $224 billion.

CalPERS has maintained good levels of funding and delivered promised
benefits for 80 years. Currently we are near a 75 percent funded status,
with an unfunded liability of $85-90 billion.

For every dollar paid in pension benefits over the last 20 years the vast
majority came from investments:

Investment earnings 66 cents
Employer contributions 21 cents
Member contributions 13 cents

More information on CalPERS pensions is available in our Guide to CalPERS
Pension Facts.

For additional CalPERS news and information, visit our Press Room at:


And so, round and round we go, looking for the truth about the pension situation in our state and, by extension, in our city. There's nothing like more conversation about unfunded liabilities to get you out of the old Christmas spirit.


What A Great Evening!

In a year which has seen the City of Costa Mesa in turmoil - with budget concerns causing new council members to initiate ill-advised and illegal schemes to outsource most city services and issue premature layoff notices to nearly half the staff and political opportunists attempting to re-const
ruct city government - it looks like it might draw to a close with positive vibrations. No city needed an event like Tuesday night's launch of the Snoopy House more than Costa Mesa.

The weather cooperated by dispersing the clouds that had dropped a quarter inch of rain over the past couple days, leaving a crisp, cool and nearly perfect evening for the Grand Lighting of the City Hall and the launch of the Snoopy House - a 45-year-old tradition in Costa Mesa th
at seemed destined for the scrap heap only ten days ago.

A couple hundred people attended the 5:30 ceremony orchestrated by City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch, who gave us his imitation of the dialogue from a Charlie Brown Christmas at one point. Christmas songs were sung, Costa Mesa High School Cheerleaders gave us pep.
Jim J
ordan and his wife tugged at our collective heartstrings as they expressed their gratitude to Hatch and other city officials for saving the Snoopy House display - a fixture on the lawn of their Eastside Costa Mesa home for more than four decades until the house got mired in financial distress and is in foreclosure.
There were many other highlights last night. Snoopy was in attendance, thrilling the children who snuggled up to him.
The arrival of Santa for the first of a dozen visits between now and December 23rd was a real treat. Kids with their parents lined up to perch on Santa's lap and tell him what they want for Christmas and to receive free photographs. And photographers squeezed together to capture those moments.

One young fella found the perfect vantage point for viewing the ceremonies.
City staffers and other volunteers manned the booths to offer hot apple cider and peddle commemorative t-shirts.
There was a ceremonial "flip of the switch", when the colorful illumination of City Hall itself created a breath-taking backdrop and all the lights and animation on the displays themselves jumped to life.

The future of the Snoopy House display is unclear at this time, but for the next couple of weeks it will be on the lawn of City Hall for visitors to enjoy from 5-10 p.m. every evening from now through New Year's Eve.
This event has received nationwide notoriety - I saw the Associated Press story in the Washington Post, for example. Print and electronic news media were on the scene last night, capturing the moment and interviewing folks.
Thanks to Hatch, Bill Lobdell, Dan Joyce and all the tireless volunteers who managed to get the Snoopy House moved from the Eastside to City Hall and put it all together and get it running in time for the festivities last night. We, the residents of this city, needed that.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sanitary District Fireworks (Amended*)

Except for the great community "coming together" event - the placement of the Snoopy House on the lawn at City Hall - it's been a pretty slow news week so far. (Grand Lighting event at 5:30 today) That gives us a chance to look around and see what's happening in other arenas of local interest.

On Thursday, December 15th, the Costa Mesa Sanitary District will hold its
final regular meeting of the year, and this one promises to be a doozy. You can click HERE, then on "Dec. 2011" to reach the agenda report for this meeting. That 179 page (!) pdf document is FULL of interesting stuff.


For example, if you scroll dow
n to page 20 you'll find yourself in the middle of the minutes from the previous meeting on November 30, 2011. On that page, which is page 9 of the minutes, begins a discussion of an agenda item titled, "Incompatibility of Office between Costa Mesa Sanitary District and Mesa Consolidated Water District", which apparently was placed on the agenda by Director Art Perry. If you read the summary of the discussion you'll find an account of what reportedly was a very rancorous debate. Apparently Director Jim Fitzpatrick felt this was an attack on him for holding both the Sanitary District seat and his Costa Mesa Planning Commission seat simultaneously.

The discussi
on went round and round and resulted in the broader issue being placed on the agenda for Thursday's meeting. The rancor also apparently spread through the Directors Comments section, which immediately follows this item in the agenda. It makes for fun reading.

Then, if you scroll further down the pdf file to page 176 you will find a y
ear-old memo from District Legal Counsel Alan Burns to the Board addressing this question in detail. As I read that memo it seems clear to me that Fitzpatrick may, in fact, be violating the rules by holding both seats simultaneously. And, as I read the memo, if he is challenged the Sanitary District seat would have to be forfeited. It seems clear that Fitzpatrick had this memo last year - before he accepted the appointment to the Planning Commission.

I'd suggest we all convene at the Board Room at the Sanitary District offices on Thursday to see how this plays out, but that room is way, way too small for any kind of public turnout. They have space for only a half-dozen visitors in that room. I guess we'll just have to wait for reports from the scene to see how this is going to shake out.

Some will recall that then-termed-out councilman Gary Monahan held sea
ts on the Sanitary District and City Council simultaneously for a couple years. Based on the memo from Burns, he WAS permitted by state law to hold both simultaneously. (This is corrected from the original text.)

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 12, 2011

Snoopy House Ready - City Calls For Volunteers

In a press release this morning Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell a
nnounced that the Snoopy House display on the front lawn of the Costa Mesa City Hall will have a Grand unveiling and lighting ceremony tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13th at 5:30 p.m.
Volunteers worked tirelessly over the weekend to construct the various components o
f this traditional display and should have all the subtle nuances of the operations finished before the ceremony.

However, more volunteers are needed to help with the operation of
this display over the holidays, from December 13th through New Year's Eve. Santa Claus will be visiting nightly from December 13th through December 23rd. Service clubs, youth groups and any other available volunteers who wish to help should contact Sylvia Chalmers at 714-754-5099.

Here's the text of the press release:

The community is invited to the opening night celebration of the Snoopy House holiday display at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at its new home at Costa Mesa City Hall.

The elaborate display of Peanuts characters has been an Orange County holiday tradition for 45 years, attracting an estimated 80,000 visitors annually. But this year, due to a home foreclosure, the future of the Snoopy House had been in jeopardy until the City of Costa Mesa stepped forward last week and agreed to host the display and provide other assistance.

The Snoopy House will be available for viewing from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly through New Year’s Eve. And Santa will be visiting from Dec. 13 to Dec. 23. Children and their families can get free photos with Santa.

In addition to the Snoopy House, the City of Costa Mesa is putting on its first Holiday Lights Spectacular, which will involve more than 100 spotlights that will change colors with the help of a computer program and be shown against the mid-century modern, exposed white beams of City Hall.

The opening night ceremony will be hosted by City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch and feature carols sung by a local choir, short speeches by City council members, special Snoopy cheers from Costa Mesa High School cheerleaders, and a heartfelt thanks to the community from Jim Jordan, whose family has put on the Snoopy House for more than four decades.

Because of this year’s unusual circumstances, the 45th annual Snoopy House has been put together in little more than one week. The City and the Jordan family are still looking for volunteers, community groups (for both nightly entertainment and for volunteers), and donations. 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.

Labels: ,