Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Apples, Apples And More Apples...

The Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night was another interesting adventure in municipal governance.

The proceedings began on time, but without Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer in attendance. No mention was made about his absence, but that's OK. As it turned out, considering his penchant for long-windedness, had he been there the meeting would have almost certainly stretched into Wednesday.

This forced Mayor Gary
Monahan to actually run the meeting - something he's apparently losing experience with, since Righeimer has been taking the reins recently. Watching Monahan last night from my vantage point in the audience I found myself wondering if he is in good health. He seemed to be well off his game, maybe due to the strains of running a bar over the holidays.

Early on in the meeting it was decided to shove the discussion of the new Financial Policies off to an undetermined meeting in the future. You'll recall that I raised concerns about them in a previous post. Finance Director Bobby Young, after the meeting, answered many of my questions. I'll cover that in another post later.


This should have been a short meeting - but it wasn't. The agenda was light, but Steve Mensinger picked up the slack by demonstrating his ignorance of actual management practices by attempting to micro-manage several issues with tedious inane questions. He REALLY needs to find something to do during the day. Maybe it was because he turned 50 today.. who knows?


I'm sure he began with his shorts in a wad because Wendy Leece asked for an explanation of the $335 charge on one of the Warrants incurred when Mensinger's cell phone had to be retrieved from the City Hall elevator shaft. Word around City Hall yesterday was that he was fuming that the issue came up. That was reason enough to post about it.

Early in the Public Comments segment former councilman Jay Humphrey chided the council for comments made about long time Planning employee Perry Valantine by Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy in a recent Daily Pilot commentary. McCarthy, designated yapper for the current OC GOP driven junta, had criticized Valantine for his commentary in the Pilot, accusing him of trying to protect his pension. Humphrey reminded the council that Valantine's pension is not in jeopardy - that he was among those who speak frequently before the council to question their actions and tactics simply because they think it's bad for the city. Humphrey implied that the council should rein-in McCarthy.

The question of
the exorbitant legal fees being tallied by contract attorneys - Jones Day, in particular. Contract City Attorney Tom Duarte, in a lame attempt to explain the fees, acknowledged that there is NO cap on the Jones Day contract and that the fees we saw in December - over $133,000 - could be expected to continue at least through April, when the trial with the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA) is scheduled to begin. At this rate we will exceed the annual budget for legal services by four times!


The final Request for Proposal (RFP) for Facility
Maintenance was authorized for release on a 3-1 vote - Wendy Leece voted NO - but only after Mensinger harangued senior staffers about the content of the document. As I said above, he REALLY needs to find a day job. The discussion went back and forth and the term "comparing apples to apples" was thrown around so much I thought I was at a Farmer's Market!

The Public Hearin
g on increasing the Official Tow Rate schedule was another interesting adventure in micromanaging. There were only two bidders - the current providers of the services to the city - and Mensinger was flummoxed about that. Although he's managed failed businesses in the past, he seemed unable or unwilling to grasp the fact that both these companies are just hanging on by a thread. Both are operating at less than 50% of their previous capacity. Eventually the vote was taken and passed 3-0 - Monahan had to recuse himself because of a conflict.

The Public Hearing on increasing the fees for the community gardens was curious, too. Even though the fees proposed would double current fees - an apparent attempt to guaran
tee that gardeners who decided to give up their little plots would leave them in good condition - testimony by staff and current gardeners suggested that would not be the case. Several stories were told about folks who signed up for a plot, then abandoned them shortly thereafter because they apparently underestimated the amount of work involved. At one point Eric Bever - in attendance for the first meeting of the year - seemed to be steering the dialogue toward abandoning the gardens and selling the lots for development. Eventually this group "kicked the can down the road" by asking staff to return with a proposal that might include a plan for volunteer management of the gardens, a "30-day and your done" provision for those who don't work the garden for a month and a plan to restrict use to only Costa Mesa residents and to ease out the non-residents.


The new Athletic Field Use and Allocation poli
cy changes breezed through with very little discussion.

The dis
cussion of the creation of a new position of Economic Development Director/Deputy CEO got a lot of discussion. Speakers expressed concern that the city was getting top-heavy - with too many "chiefs" on the fifth floor of City Hall when extravagant plans for laying off folks further down the food chain (outsourcing) are in full swing. CEO Tom Hatch explained the need for this position and acknowledged that it was earmarked for Peter Naghavi, former Public Services Director and most recently Interim Assistant CEO. Eventually it was decided, based on a request from Bever and Mensinger, to change the position to Economic/Community Improvement Director-Deputy CEO - a bad idea in my book. I think the title dilutes what the original intent of the job was supposed to be - economic development. Now it sounds like a guy who's going to be heading up street sweeping and fence painting. Regardless, the position was approved and Naghavi was named to it - a good move for our city, in my view.


It was during this segment when Eric Bever got off another of his infamous
"Beverisms". Demonstrating one of the reasons Duct Tape was invented, in response to concerns about this job expressed by many speakers he said this:

And, here's a little reminder from Dane Bora of CMTV about the informational meeting being held AT 7:00 p.m. this evening at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue regarding Jim Righeimer's bogus Charter City initiative. See you there. Dane...

NOTE: There are two (2) video clips immediately above this note. They were extracted from the City of Costa Mesa streaming video (Granicus) feed. If you cannot view them you'll have to download and install Microsoft Silverlight software, HERE.

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