Friday, January 06, 2012

Charter Suggestions, Timetable Correction And RDA Meeting

This morning Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell issued a press release, the text of which will be found below, that presents us with links to 66 suggestions and proposed amendments to Jim Righeimer's Charter. The link also includes the text of that first draft - the cut and paste version that he's trying to foist off on the voters of this city as the only logical step to Nirvana - his view of a perfect municipal world. Hmmm, now that I think a little more about it, Righeimer does have a kind of Buddaesque quality about him. Anybody want to rub his tummy for luck?


In the press release Lobdell also finally clears up the murkiness of just exactly when t
he amendments and suggestions may be submitted. Previously, several city officials have implied that no substantive changes would be accepted after the Special Council Meeting next Tuesday, January 10th. He clears this up by telling us that the City will continue to solicit input leading up to the second required public hearing on February 14th. Additions and suggestions will be continuously posted between the two hearings. This is good news and, in my opinion, turns a terrible, inconsiderate attempt to jam Righeimer's Charter down the throats of the voters into a slightly less onerous attempt to manipulate the situation for Righeimer's personal political gain. It's still a bad idea, but now slightly less-bad.

Tuesday will be
a very interesting day. It is my understanding that there will be a meeting of the Redevelopment Agency - the City Council in a different dress - at 6:00 p.m. to discuss the disastrous recent decision by the California Supreme Court that effectively shuts down redevelopment agencies state-wide and permits the State to siphon off funds from the agencies. In our case, the question of the $10 million loan the City made to the RDA at it's inception as seed funds remains up in the air. We hope some light will be cast on this on Tuesday - we would not want to have the State snag those dollars.

The Special City Council meeting - the first of the two mandatory public hearings o
n Righeimer's Charter scheme - will be held at 7:00. Both meetings will be held in City Council Chambers. By the end of the evening we should have a pretty good idea of 1) the future of our redevelopment agency and the $10 million loan and 2) the attitude of the City Council about the recommendations for changes in the Righeimer Charter.


Here's the text of Lobdell's press release, including links to the amendments received so far.

COSTA MESA, CALIF - The City of Costa Mesa has posted on its website ( today 66 suggestions from residents for additions, deletions or edits to a proposed city charter, or local constitution, that will be discussed at a special City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The suggestions are attached and also can be found here.

“We’re pleased with such a great response from our residents,” said Mayor Gary Monahan. “Each suggestion will get careful consideration, and I look forward to Tuesday’s first public hearing on the charter.”

The City will continue to solicit input leading up to the second required charter public hearing on Feb. 14. (Previously, it was mistakenly reported that no new additions to the charter could be considered after the Jan. 10 meeting.) Between the two public hearings, the City will post the charter suggestions on its website on a regular basis.

Charters, which have been adopted by 120 California cities, give cities a greater degree of local control than that provided by the California Legislature. A charter for Costa Mesa would have to be approved by the majority of local voters.

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19th Street Bridge Meeting Wrap-up

If you thought some of the "outsourcing" City Council meetings in Costa Mesa last year were raucous, you should have been at the meeting about the 19th Street Bridge at Eader Elementary School in Huntington Beach last night! Holy Cow! Once the meeting got underway the crowd was noi
sy and impatient, alternately cheering and jeering and shouting out at speakers. It was a lot of fun!
I arrived very early - before 6:00 p.m. - for the 7:00 meeting because I wanted a chance to get the lay of the land before the festivities began. Even at that early hour opponents of The Bridge were busily setting up tables outside the meeting room and handing out anti-bridge literature.
Members of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) staff were present with hand-outs, sign-in rosters and stickers to be used to express preferences.
The room, which has a capacity rating of 460 people, was set up to accommodate 200 in chairs, with standing room behind the rows of chairs. As it turned out, the facility wasn
't even close to being able to handle the crowd. Five minutes before the schedule starting time all the chairs were occupied and there was a growing standing-room-only crowd in the rear. I estimated that a few minutes into the meeting there were nearly 500 people in the room PLUS another 300 or so outside. And no one in the crowd was happy. By the time the meeting ended the crowd had thinned, but there remained at least 200 concerned residents who stayed to the bitter end.A SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING
Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen kicked things off by taking roll of the members of the City Council present - the meeting had been agendized as a special council meeting. At one time or another throughout the evening six of the seven Huntington Beach city council members were present. He also, tongue-in-cheek, expressed gratitude for there being no torches and pitch forks in the crowd.MOORLACH THROWS ROSANSKY UNDER THE BUS
He handed off the early part of the meeting briefly to Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, who promptly answered the #1 question on everyone's mind - why are we here? He told us that lame duck Newport Beach City Councilman Steve Rosansky - who was present - had approached Moorlach earlier last year to get some help with "a few things" that he had hoped to accomplish before he left office - he's termed-out the end of this year. One of those things was getting the 19th Street Bridge approved. The reaction by the crowd was noisy and very unhappy. Still, to his credit, Rosansky stuck it out to the very end of the meeting and was still lingering, answering questions from residents and members of the media at 10 p.m. Moorlach also stayed until the very end.OPTIONS
Hansen then took a few minutes to give the fidgety audience the options they could consider, but also emphasized that the official position of the Huntington Beach City Council is in opposition to a bridge. He stressed that many times over the evening. He gave a PowerPoint presentation of the options - the most popular, by far, was to do nothing at all. Huntington Beach councilman Joe Shaw remarked that he would press his fellow council members to re-assert their official opposition to the bridge at the next meeting on January 17th.

Hansen emphasized that it will take unanimous consent by the city councils of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa to get the bridge removed from the County Master Plan of Arterial Highways (MPAH) permanently, and that didn't seem likely since it appeared the Newport Beach City Council was in favor of the bridge to enhance traffic flow coincident with the proposed Banning Ranch Development.


Wendy Leece, the only Costa Mesa council member present, told the group that our city's official position was in opposition to the bridge. The crowd cheered.
(Leece with Rosansky on the right)
After an overview of the options Hansen gave the crowd a half hour to mingle and look at the displays made available by the Orange County Transportation Authority staff, then re-convened the formal part of the meeting for Public Comments. Eighty-five minutes and 52 speakers later he called the meeting to a halt. The number of speakers from Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa was about evenly split, with a few others from Newport Beach filling it out.TWO DOZEN COSTA MESANS SPOKE
While I don't have nearly enough space to list all the Costa Mesans who crossed the border to express their concern on this issue, those familiar with Costa Mesa council meetings would have recognized many of the speakers from our city, including former council members Jay Humphrey and Sandra Genis. However, several Costa Mesans that spoke were not "regulars", just very concerned residents who became energized by this particular issue. Not a single person spoke in favor of the bridge, including Rosansky, who had been blindsided by Moorlach earlier.COSTA MESA STAFF WELL-REPRESENTED
Several Costa Mesa staffers were in attendance, led by CEO Tom Hatch. I saw recently appointed Director of Economic Development/Community Improvement, Peter Naghavi, Interim Public Services Director,Ernesto Munoz and Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman all huddled at the side of the room, listening intently to the questions and comments. Planning Commissioner and Westside resident Rob Dickson was also present.
The upshot of the meeting was a clear statement that, while Huntington Beach does not support the bridge, it will also take unanimous support from the leaders of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to remove the bridge from the MPAH forever. So, it's likely that this issue will just never go away and another group of very concerned residents will be re-visiting it again sometime in the next decade or two. That's a very depressing fact of life.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

19th Street Bridge Meeting Tonight

As previously mentioned, tonight, Thursday, January 5, 2912, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach will conduct a town hall-type meeting in Huntington Beach at which the possibility of the construction of a bridge over the Santa Ana River between 19th Street in Costa Mesa and Banning Avenue in Huntington Beach will be discussed.


The meeting has been advertised to begin at 7:00 p.m. at Eader Elementary School, 9291 Banning Avenue, Huntington Beach. The map below should be helpful to you if you plan to attend.

The City of Costa Mesa has consistently opposed a 19th Street Bridge since the
early 1990s and the only elected official who has expressed support for a bridge there is our carpet-bagging political opportunist, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer - a close buddy of Moorlach. It's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out this evening. I plan to attend and will report back later tonight.

This meeting has been widely advertised in Huntington Beach, so I expect there will be a packed house. If you do plan to attend I recommend you arrive early. See you there.

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Apathy Equals Surrender

If the turnout at the informational meeting on the proposed City Charter at the Neighborhood Community Center last night is any indication, Jim Righeimer's plot to takeover the city is a slam dunk. Wednesday night fewer than 100 residents showed up to gather information on this scheme and to leave comments. The City staff members counted 90 heads that were not staffers or invited experts. So, depending on what you think our population is - I use the official census number of 109,500 - only 8/1000th of 1% cared enough to show up. And, many of those were folks who had already been engaged in this issue through attendance at council meetings. As I gazed around the room I saw fewer than 50 unfamiliar faces. I find it curious that there is such a low turnout on an issue so important to every resident of the city - the second most important issue since the city was formed more than a half-century ago.WAKE UP, OR ELSE...
So, dear neighbors, it looks like you are going to get this Charter jammed down your throats if you don't wake up pretty soon. I say that, knowing full well that virtually everyone reading this on my blog has already formed an opinion on the issue, one way or another.

(Bill Lobdell, Tom Gazsi, Mark Manley,
Jason Chamness and Sue Lester)

The City Staff was prepared with handouts - including a copy of the Charter Righeimer drafted by himself, a timetable of events and comparisons of Charter vs. Non-charter cities provided by the League of California Cities - and "booths" where attendees could hear from a variety of "experts" on important segments of this issue. There were plenty of lawyers - Contract City Attorney, Tom Duarte, who addressed issues specific to the Draft Charter; Contract Deputy City Attorney Robert Khuu from Jones and Mayer, a Charter expert and Michael Houston, an attorney from the Association of California Cities, Orange County and also a Charter expert. City Clerk Julie Folcik also had a "booth" at which she answered questions dealing with the timing of the election and costs. Following his opening remarks City CEO Tom Hatch also stationed himself at a "booth" to answer general questions.

(Julie Folcik answers questions for Daily Pilot reporter Joseph Serna)


Information, including a button that takes you to the form with which you can easily submit questions and suggestions, are on the City web site.

(Resident Katie Arthur learns of Peter Naghavi's promotion)

Hatch kicked the meeting off with a very brief overview of the issue, then tried for all he was worth to NOT answer questions from the crowd, preferring the attendees seek out the "experts" for answers. He was cornered into answering one nagging question, though. When MUST additions to the Charter be submitted to be considered? This is a question that was vague at Tuesday's council meeting, too. Finally, when cornered, he told us that they, the staff, preferred that all the suggestions for additions and/or deletions to the Charter be submitted BEFORE the next meeting on this subject - the first mandatory Public Hearing at a Special Council meeting on Tuesday, January 10th at 7:00 p.m. When pressed further he acknowledged that more suggestions could be submitted before the second mandatory official public hearing at another Special Meeting on Tuesday, February 14th. The final vote by the City Council on whether to place the Charter on the June Ballot - and specifically what that Charter will look like - will take place at the meeting of March 6th. So, basically, if you want to provide input into this process - runaway train barreling down the tracks - you'd better get cracking!

(Lobdell sets Serna straight while Tom Duarte referees)

Earlier I had written to Hatch and Duarte about the possible impact of Senate Bill 202, which went into effect January 1, 2012, on the timing of the Charter placement on a ballot. It was unclear whether SB 202, which requires initiatives to be placed ONLY on the General Election ballot, applied to this issue. According to Duarte and, second hand, from Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelly, local issues are NOT subject to that restriction, so this train can continue at break-neck speed toward the June, 2012 ballot.

(Soon-to-be Assistant CEO Rick Francis and Jason Chamness)

There were plenty of officials at the meeting. Apologies to those I missed, but I did see
Wendy Leece and Steve Mensinger from the City Council and Jim Fitzpatrick and Rob Dickson from the Planning Commission. Former Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate and current Mesa Consolidated Water District Director Jim Fisler showed up. Among the City Staff present, in addition to those mentioned above, were new Economic/Community Improvement Director/Deputy CEO Peter Naghavi, Interim Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz, Police Chief Tom Gazsi, Costa Mesa Police Officer's Association President Jason Chamness, Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell, Interim Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce and soon-to-be Assistant CEO Rick Francis.

(Lobdell with friend and mentor, former Daily Pilot Columnist Joe Bell)

Hatch's presentation plus other vignettes of activities last night were taped by Brad Long of CMTV and will be placed in the CMTV rotation for viewing on Channel 24 (Time Warner Cable) and Channel 99 (ATT u-verse), plus will be available for viewing on streaming video, too. I'll let you know the play schedule when it's available.

(Staffers Christine Cordon and Chris Goldsworthy)

I'll leave you with this message. If you and I and other residents don't do our parts
to present alternatives to the present Charter being proposed by the City - a document created by one man to suit his own personal political ambitions - then we have decided to give over control of our lives and those of our neighbors to a carpet-bagging political opportunist with no long-term ties to our city. It's up to us...

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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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