Friday, February 10, 2012

Tardy City Charter Mailer Due *(Amended)

The City of Costa Mesa has distributed thousands of informational mailers about Jim Righeimer's Charter to all Costa Mesa residences over the past couple days. I just checked my mail today and it's not there yet. So, I, and many of you, will probably receive it Saturday or Monday. However, the City has also posted it online on the City web site, so you can read the whole thing HERE. You're welcome.

I have strong mixed feelings about this mailer. First, it's way, way, way ove
rdue. This should have been distributed to all residents at least a month ago - probably the first week of the year. Although those of us who actually pay attention to this stuff have known about it, how to find information about it and how to suggest modifications to it, the other 99.9% of the residents of the city have not.

This mailer, with good infor
mation, will arrive in your homes only hours before the City Council holds the second Public Hearing on this issue on Monday, February 13, 2012. That meeting, which begins in City Council chambers at 7:00 p.m., is the LAST time the council will accept ANYTHING that you wish to add to the document. Between that date and March 6, 2012, when the council takes the vote that will either place the document on the June ballot or not, only deletions will be permitted. Those few of us watching this process realize that Jim Righeimer's Charter - flawed as it is - WILL be on the June ballot, regardless the public outcry. That's a shame.


If you had been watching this process you would realize that this bogus
scheme is virtually a one-man show. It's Jim Righeimer's baby. He concocted this scheme as a way to bust union agreements, quash lawsuits, avoid paying prevailing wages and to finally get some electorate to swallow his Paycheck Protection scheme that has gone down in flames before. I guess he figures Costa Mesa's electorate is so ignorant and ill-informed that they can be lured into passing this disastrous ballot measure. He may be right - they elected him, didn't they?

I AM NOT against Costa Mesa becoming a Charter City - I've said that many times. However, I AM AGAINST Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme. The document that Righeimer has cobbled together serves ONLY his personal purposes. It includes insufficient safeguards to prevent abuse and corruption and would open the door to even more divisive, destructive actions like we've seen over the past year from this council. EVERY competent authority interviewed on this issue tells us that the creation of a Charter should be a deliberative process - not one forced through the process at warp speed. The document is too important to the future of the city to be jammed down the voter's throats the way this one has been.

During the first required Public Hearing the council went through the
numerous suggestions crafted by concerned residents and, with only a handful of exceptions, rejected them without comment. You can read most of those suggestions HERE. You can also read the Second Draft - the current version of Jim Righeimer's Charter - HERE. And, you can read the agenda report for the Public Hearing HERE*. You can read the redline version of the amended Charter HERE*.

The City held an "informational meeting" on January 4th that was anything BUT informational. City Chief Executive Officer, Tom Hatch, kicked it off, then refused to answer any questions from the 80 or so interested parties in attendance. Instead, he shrugged them off to a group of "experts" scattered around the room at the Neighborhood Community Center, where questions of import to ALL attendees would only be answered one-at-a-time to individuals. And several of those so-called experts didn't have answers. It was a huge waste of time, but it did fulfill the requirement to have a "community meeting". Just as the distribution of this very tardy mailer will permit the City and the Charters advocates to say, "Look, we had a meeting and we sent everyone information."


In my opinion, the City has fast-tracked this bogus scheme to the detriment of all residents. It's like we're being chased by a hungry pack of wolves straight to the
ballot box in June. To hold the FINAL meeting at which suggestions for additions to Jim Righeimer's Charter can be made, then forbid further contributions from residents who may find out about this only hours before that meeting, is unconscionable. I suggest you read the mailer, visit the City web site and click on the button marked "City Charter Info" and educate yourselves - then show up at 7:00 Monday with your questions, suggestions and complaints. This is no way to run a city and certainly no way to craft a document that will be the cornerstone of all municipal governance in our city in the future. As one regular attendee to these meetings said - "It Stinks!"

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TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex Task Force

I paid a visit to the February meeting of the TeWinkle Park Sports Complex Task Force last night. It started on time, ran crisply and finished on time. It seemed very productive. Chairman of the group, Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commissioner Dean Abernathy, ran a good meeting. I was a little worried when Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Jeff Mathews showed up
a little late, because we already had Abernathy, plus commissioners Ethan Temianka and Kim Pederson in attendance - which already made a quorum. I'm not sure if we had a Brown Act violation or not. Only Abernathy and Temianka participated in the discussions. Mathews stayed a few minutes and left. Mayor Gary Monahan, who had the idea for this concept originally, is the liaison from the City Council and was in attendance. He helped Abernathy guide the discussion.

Representatives from various user groups with vested interests in this project formed part of the Task Force and were active participants, as were the many community members, too. Interim Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz headed the city staff team that included Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia and Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson.


The focus of the meeting was a presentation by Jeff Hopkins, a
representative from Big League Dreams, one of the vendors who bid on taking over the TeWinkle Sports Complex. The precise nature of this relationship is just a little murky. Hopkins operated like their bid was in the bag, but as far as I know the City Council has not officially selected a bidder to run the complex. I know they chose Big League Dreams to be part of the Task Force, to have a representative of that industry aboard to help guide the discussion.

The im
age at the top of the page is from Google Earth today, the TeWinkle Park Sports Complex has four ball fields - three smaller ones and one large, major-league size field.

Looking at this image, taken from the PowerPoint presentation last night, the fields are numbered 1-4, with #1 being the smaller one at the lower left and moving clockwise, with #4 being the big field at the lower right. Hopkins plan would remove #1 completely to make way for a total of over 200 parking spaces, including the existing spaces shown at the bottom. At the right field line area of that field there would be batting cages. In the center, where all four fields intersect, there would be a concession stand. The current stand is 1200 square feet. The new one would be 4200 square feet, and would overlay the existing stand. At approximately where the infield of #1 is located would be a tot lot or some similar amenity.


A significant amount of ti
me was spent addressing concerns about trading an active, relatively new, field for more parking spaces. Hopkins assured the Task Force that the complex would be much more efficiently utilized with his plan. Several members seemed unconvinced, but patiently listened and asked good questions. Personally, I need to hear more of the specifics of their scheduling schemes to be convinced that, in a city where we've been told for years that we are very short of playing fields for our youth, reducing the actual playing surfaces by 25% makes sense.

The concession stand would serve the
usual baseball fare - hot dogs, pizza, peanuts, soft drinks, etc. It would also serve beer and wine when appropriate. That element generated a lot of discussion by the members of the Task Force and other guests. They were assured that alcoholic beverages would only be served when children were not playing at the complex. That claim was met with skepticism by more than one participant. One guest expressed concern about alcohol being served in such close proximity to a school - the Davis Magnet School is immediately adjacent to the left on the photo - and wondered if it is legal. City staff will research that issue.

Hopkins assured the gr
oup that this was not a "privatization" of a City facility. He told us that, except for times when the gates would be closed during actual scheduled events, the sports complex would be open and available for residents to walk through, play catch and bat some balls on the fields and generally enjoy it as they would any other city park.


His company specializes in making each field a "theme" field. One might be a replica of Fenway Park in Boston, another like Wrigley Field in Chicago and another like Angel's Stadium. It
would be a "for profit" venue, with them making the profit. He told us that at most of their other municipal venues they pay the city a "rights fee". He wouldn't be more specific.

At the end it was decided that Hopkins will come back at the next meeting with Plans B, C and maybe D. Some of those would include using all four of the existing fields, which will require resolving the parking issues. Options that might be investigated include an agreement to use parking at Davis School and Presidio, at the top of the photo, and, perhaps, working out an arrangement with the folks at the Fairgrounds to utilize some of their parking during non-Fair times of the year.


I'm both encouraged and a little concerned. The Task Force seems focused and able to do the job. I'm concerned about the relationship with Big League Dreams versus the other two ve
ndors. And, I'm very concerned about the lack of public noticing of these meetings. It took a lot of arm-wrestling to finally get the City to place it on the web site in the roster of upcoming meetings last week. Last night, beyond the city staff and members of the Task Force and alternates, there were only a handful of members of the public in attendance. This is a very important issue, particularly to residents of Mesa Del Mar, so I expected there to be a bigger turnout of residents from that neighborhood. The next meeting is in a month, on March 8th, so maybe we'll see more members of the community at that one.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Righeimer Stiffs His Own Lawyer?

As I was finally finishing my entry about last night's council meeting and hitting the "publish" button two friends forwarded me the link to R. Scott Moxley's article in the OC Weekly today about our self-appointed fiscal watchdog and pontificater-in-chief, Jim Righeimer, stiffing his own lawyers! You can read it HERE.


Moxley, arguably the best investigative reporter working in Orange County these
days, has given us a lot to chew on in his piece. I'll let you read it yourselves instead of trying to paraphrase it inaccurately. Heck, I don't want Righeimer's lawyer buddy, Mark Bucher, to send me another letter, now do I?

This is astounding news, but quite honestly, it doesn't surprise me at all. Anyone who has been reading here for the past few years knows I don't hold Righeimer in high regard. As I've said many times, I just don't trust the guy. This story will give every resident of Costa Mesa a reason to take pause when you hear him speak. It should make you question every action he takes.

How can we, the residents of this city, be expected to trust this man and his judg
ment with this kind of a situation hanging over his head? How can we be expected to follow his lead with the bogus outsourcing scheme he and Gary Monahan cobbled together at Monahan's gin mill? How can we trust this man with the responsibility of creating, single-handedly, the Charter he plans to put before the voters in June that will be the cornerstone of municipal governance henceforth?

How can we not ask ourselves, "What's in it for him?", every time he proposes something in our city? When he tells us, as he did a week ago, that we're going to have to solve our "motel" problem by buying them and selling them at a loss (of municipal funds) to developers, how do we not ask that question above? How can we trust this guy?


Thanks to Scott Moxley and the OC Weekly for this enlightening story.
I'm sorry, but I just have to post that little video clip from my previous entry again - it's too perfect!

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City Council Meeting Wrap...

Yes, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night was another long one. While it began a little late, at 6:15, because of an extended Closed Session, it actually ended before midnight, 11:40, for a change. It was still a very long evening. You can view the streaming video of the meeting HERE.

One of the reasons for the length of this particular meeting was the attendance of several proponents of Medical Marijuana, angry and frustrated by the recent closure of so-called dispensaries throughout our city and by the abrupt removal of a marijuana advocacy radio program, Cannabis Community, from local radio station KOCI-LPFM, 101.5 FM last Sunday morning. I'm not going to talk about that event again here - I covered it at length in my earlier entries.

Of the 31 people
who spoke in the Public Comments segment of the meeting, 14 spoke on the medical marijuana issue. The first speaker, Sue Lester - a former operator of a dispensary in Costa Mesa and also a former city council candidate - tried to explain her version of events around the removal of the program from KOCI last Sunday. The second speaker, who identified herself as Joyce Weitzberg, tested Mayor Gary Monahan's patience as she passionately used her three minutes, then refused to stop talking until she passed the five minute mark. As Monahan continued to remind her that her time was up I watched as the security officer behind her began to pace. I was fearful that, if she didn't stop talking, Monahan would have her removed from the dais. Visions of Benito Acosta being dragged from council chambers a few years ago flashed before my eyes.

As I said, more than a dozen s
peakers presented impassioned pleas to the council, many worried that they would have to either go to Santa Ana to buy their "medicine" or buy it "from a gang member outside the 7-11". Of the many memorable speakers on this issue, the video clip below may have been the most memorable. In all the years I've watched council meetings, I can tell you this is the first time I've heard that word spoken from the podium.


After the Public Comm
ents segment, which stretched until 8:00, CEO Tom Hatch made his presentation. He told us that the Front Desk at the Police Station at 99 Fair Drive will now be open from 9-5 on Saturdays to better serve the public. He also mentioned a new schedule for the Police Department that will provide more efficient coverage with the reduced staffing levels that have been imposed by this council. That's good news for us all.

Hatch also mentioned the second public hearing on Righeimer's Charter, which is scheduled for next Monday, February 13, 2012 in City Council chambers beginning at 7:00 p.m. He also mentioned that there will be an informational mailer to all city residents about Righeimer's Charter this week. Monday will be the LAST chance for items to be added to the Charter before the final vote is taken to place it on the June ballot on March 6th. Items can be deleted from the proposed language following next Monday's meeting, but not added.


He also mentioned the special study session on February 28th that will
include discussions on the Mid-year Budget Review and the final report from the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force.


The only Public Hearing on the agenda, that of the new policies, fees and bylaws for the two community gardens, was approved as written. The gardens will, henceforth, be only available to Costa Mesa residents. I gave you the link to the staff report in my earlier entry.


The General Plan Screening Request for a Walgreen's Pharmacy at the site of the now-defunct Tower Records site along Newport Boulevard breezed through. This is just the very beginning of a process that will, hopefully, finally place a viable business at that very visible, busy location in our city. The process now moves forward through the Planning Commission.

The elephant in the room, the resolution to, once again, affirm the City's rejection of a bridge over the Santa Ana River at 19th Street, generated a lot of discussion. Fourteen people spoke against the bridge and one person, Mesa Verde resident Phil Morello, spoke in favor of it. He's also a property owner on the Westside and apparently feels the need for more traffic down 19th Street to maximize the potential of the revitalization plans for that part of town - and the enhancement of his property values in the process. Mesa Verde resident and activist Cindy Brenneman, when speaking about the bridge, made her point (s) in a very special way. You can watch it in this short clip.

Many of the speakers wer
e critical of the council and suspicious of their motives in meeting with county officials. It has been rumored that Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was at the meeting in which Newport Beach councilman Steve Rosansky met with Supervisor John Moorlach to request his help in securing a 19th Street Bridge. He acknowledged being at that meeting during the discussion. Righeimer, during his campaign for council, told a group of folks at a candidate forum that he was in favor of the bridge. At the end of this discussion, before the council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution, Righeimer had a minor meltdown, apparently because of the criticism he's been getting on this and other issues. You can watch the short video below.

The council approved the two pension-related issues, the 2%@60 program for new hires in the so-called "miscellaneous employees" group - basically the non-management, non-safety employees, and the voluntary contributions by certain Executive employees, but not without some distressing discussion.


Righeimer pointed his cross-hairs directly at former City Manager Allan Roed
er as he criticized the pension adjustments that were negotiated in 2008 as part of the City's effort to weather the storm of the nationwide financial collapse. He referred to benefits that were "handed out to people", and criticized the council at the time of not knowing what they were approving. He basically accused Roeder of feathering his own retirement nest - an allegation later also leveled by non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger during council member comments. Not only is that despicable, but it's also ironic, since Righeimer had earlier griped about speakers before them "not knowing what they're talking about". Well, those guys were not involved at that time and don't know what they are talking about. It really torques my jaws when those two, a carpetbagging political opportunist and his unemployed bully sidekick, criticize a man who devoted his entire working life to this city - three dozen years - and was renowned as the best city manager in the county - at least. They've demonstrated to me that they certainly do not have the strength of character necessary to effectively represent this city. They make me want to puke!

It was absolutely no surprise that the council rejected Wendy Leece's request for staff time to review and recommend a policy/ordinance guiding the use of electronic communications devices while council members are on the dais. This issue arose from Mensinger's penchant for communicating via cell phone or, now Ipad, with other members of the council or outsiders during deliberations on the dais. Even if you discard Mensinger's egregious behavior, it's important to consider this issue because the council is moving forward toward having a paperless agenda - perhaps providing electronic tablets to each of them with which they would access the staff reports. A policy should be in place to define proper use of those devices during council meetings. One of the sad ironies of this segment was that Righeimer was on his cell phone, apparently texting someone or reading emails, while Leece was making her pitch. Following a discussion she made a motion and there was no second to it, so the issue died.


During her comments segment Leece asked Hatch about the Fish F
ry. A resident had brought the question up in Public Comments. Hatch told us that the City had been meeting with representatives of the Lions Club to try to find an alternate site. The current site, Lions Park, won't work because the recently-renovated Luke Davis Field is no longer available for the carnival rides. Fairview Park was mentioned as a possible alternative. However, hot off the presses, representatives of the Lions Club met today with City officials, including Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce, and advised them that it is their hope to produce a scaled-down Fish Fry this year at Lions Park - an event without the carnival rides. It is hoped that this event - the 65th - will still attract many residents. I guess we'll find out.

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Monday, February 06, 2012

City Council Agenda For Tuesday

Bet you thought I'd be too tuckered-out to post anything else tonight after all that stuff about KOCI, huh? Ha! I'm just getting started!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 7th, at 6:00 p.m. in City Council chambers the Costa Mesa City Council will hold its first meeting of February. This regular meeting will be of four meetings held by the council this month - a record for what would normally be a short month.

On the agenda tomorrow are more than a few interesting items, some of which will certainly evoke community response. Let's go over the agenda, shall we?


The Consent Calendar, which include three separate Warrants outlining expenditures last month that wil
l be approved, probably without much controversy. No significant legal fees are shown on these three - they will come later, at the meeting of the 21st. As it is, the three Warrants on this list total over $5 million in spending.


However, one item that might get pulled for conversation is the request to extend the contract with Management Partners for interim management assistance, HERE. This would be Tammy LeTourneau, who seems to have been here forever, but it's really only been since last year. However, with all the recent management additions to CEO Tom Hatch's staff, I find myself wondering why this consultant continues to be needed. Hatch has added Peter Naghavi and Rick Francis to his senior team, plus Bill Lobdell and Dan Joyce in their public affairs roles. Just HOW big is the executive staff going to be and still require the services of a very expensive consultant?

Next comes the only Public Hearing on the agenda, the resolution adoptin
g fee increases for the community gardens, HERE.

New Business #1 is a General Plan Screening Request for a Walgreen's to be located at the current site of the old Tower Records store on Newport Blvd., near 17th Street, HERE. It will be nice to finally get a new, thriving business at that very busy location.

Next comes an interesting item - the resolution to re-affirm the
Costa Mesa City Council's resolve to have the 19th Street Bridge removed from the county Master Plan of Arterial Highways, HERE. I really want to hear the discussion on this one, because, although this has been the official policy of the city for almost two decades - Sandra Genis signed the original resolution as mayor back in 1993 - not all the members of THIS council want the bridge removed from the plans.


Number 3 is the amendment of the contract between CalPERS and the city permitting the implementation of the 2%@60 second tier retirement plan for the Miscellaneous group, HERE. This has been in the works for months and has finally percolated to the top of the pile this month. Although I suspect we'll hear a lot of palaver, I doubt any member will vote No on this one.


Number 4 is the resolution approving the "voluntary" employee CalPERS retirement contributions
for full-time unrepresented Executive city employees, HERE. We saw a press release on this recently. This is a high-visibility, low impact move. I'm not criticizing it, just observing that the fiscal impact is almost insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Of course, if we keep hiring executives at our current rate, this might actually be big bucks.

Number 5 is a request for staff time to study illegal garages used as habitable space or excessive storage, HERE.


Number 6 is guaranteed to generate some rancor on the dais. This is Wendy Leece's request for staff time to evaluate a policy regulating electronic communications during City Council meeting
s, HERE. Watch for Steve Mensinger's head to explode. Seriously, regardless whether Mensinger is a serial texter on the dais or not - he is - because the council is migrating toward using electronic tablets instead of the mountain of paper normally required at each meeting, this issue really needs to be given some careful thought. Because council members will be able to access the internet - council chambers is a WiFi hotspot - that means they will be able to do research, surf the web, send and receive emails, etc., while council is in session. Some kind of policy seems to be needed to define proper and improper behavior using electronic devices during meetings. Still, watch for the exploding cranium...

And, of cours
e, way, way, way down at the end of the agenda we have what is usually a very fun part of the meeting - council member comments, suggestions, etc. This is the time where individual council members spring their surprises on us - you know, things like Charters, Outsourcing - that kind of stuff. You have to stay awake for the goodies.

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