Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meeting The Mayor - I Tried!

Well, you can't say I didn't give it the old college try.  Tonight, beginning just a few minutes ago at 6:00 p.m. Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer held his inaugural "Meet the Mayor" event at the Pitfire Artisan Pizza store on 17th Street - about a mile from my home.

I arrived just before 6 and found every parking spot occupied!  On the way in I noticed several of the "usual suspects" - folks who spend a lot of their time snuggled-up to Righeimer and his buddy, Steve Mensinger - entering the store.  In the parking lot, as I circled looking for a slot, I thought I saw Mensinger's vehicle, too.

Since I know the venue - a small room at the back of the restaurant which you reach by walking past the kitchen - it seemed futile to attempt to find a parking spot across the street somewhere and take my life in my hands crossing 17th Street to reach what would most likely turn out to be a strained situation.  So, I left.

I assume - nasty word, that one - that this event will be viewed as a success.  I just hope that some of the Costa Mesa residents who don't normally interact with Righeimer were able to find a parking spot so they can ask questions and get answers.  Perhaps some enterprising reporter will show up and provide us with a view of the event.  For those of you just getting home from work, there's still time for you to attend - the event is scheduled to run until 7:30.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Joe Nation Is The Bearer Of Bad News

The Grim Reaper showed up at the Costa Mesa City Council Special Study Session Tuesday night, but he was disguised as former Democratic politician now Stanford University professor Joe Nation.

In what turned out to be a more than two-hour long presentation to the council on the current state of Costa Mesa's pension obligation situation, he painted a bleak picture.  His slick, informative slide show can be viewed HERE.  When the whole presentation is available on the city web site I'll return and post that link here, too. (As promised, you can view the streaming video of the study session HERE.)  You can read Bradley Zint's take on the presentation in the Daily Pilot HERE, and Mike Reicher's coverage in the Orange County Register, HERE.

According to Nation, who has become the go-to guy on the pension crisis since he was drafted by his Stanford department chairman to fully-immerse himself in this issue, Costa Mesa's relationship with the CalPERS pension system is unsustainable and, unless dramatic, drastic steps are taken, it will saddle the current taxpayer's children with the debt.

He tells us that for our city, and most others around California, to dig themselves out of their pension difficulties it will require pension reform - changes in the pension formulas and two tiers with lower benefits for newer employees - and increase in revenues.  In the latter case, he suggested that a one-quarter cent sales tax increase would raise $5.5 million annually, which would close the gap less than one-third of the way.  He also suggested a parcel tax of $370 per household for every household in the city for the next twenty years.  He said that would resolve the shortfall.  He described that kind of approach as "uncommon, but not unheard of".  He told us that Oakland assesses such a fee - $1,200 - and "they are a lot worse off than you are!", which didn't give me any comfort at all.

Among the many interesting comments Nation made during his presentation went like this:
"A lot of people consider me a progressive or liberal.  I think that this is a progressive or liberal issue.  And I think it's a progressive or liberal issue because, if you don't deal with this, you as a city, not only will you not have police officers and fire at the levels that you need, you won't have a library, you won't have potholes filled, you won't have parks, you won't have anything you care about."

I left the meeting before Bobby Young presented his discussion of the "Fiscal Impacts of the 2.5%@55 Enhancement for Miscellaneous Group. I'm going to review his presentation on tape, but you can see his slide show HERE.

I did fast forward to the end of the meeting and watched Mayor Jim Righeimer's summation.  It didn't leave me feeling particularly good about the future.  He called for collaboration between the City and Employees to try to resolve the problem.  He said in no uncertain terms that this state-wide problem will not be fixed until it crashes, blaming it primarily on the unwillingness of the legislature and the CalPERS Board to come to grips with the true financial reality of the situation.  He did state unequivocally, "There's no way this is going to get paid off. It can't be paid off. That's another 15-18 million dollars a year.  There's going to have to be some movement from the state legislature and PERS to go ahead and change benefits going forward for existing employees.  That will not happen in the State of California until it crashes." He went on to say, "The situation is 'Where is Costa Mesa going to be when that happens?' and I, for one, am not interested in giving additional payments to PERS.  I don't mind putting it aside somewhere else, but I can't imagine sending them an additional 10-15 million dollars a year when it can just disappear tomorrow and we'll be tossed into the same category with everyone else."

So, are you feeling good about this now?  I'm not.  I encourage each of you to try to carve out the time to watch Nation's presentation, Young's presentation and, especially, Righeimer's summation.  The play schedule for this event on Costa Mesa Television - Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT U-Verse is below. Click on image to enlarge.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fitzpatrick To "Lead" the Planning Commission

Sorry, I must confess that I couldn't stifle a smile when I wrote that title.  But, yes, former and current Costa Mesa planning commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick - he of the contentious, costly, short tour on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board of Directors - was elected as Chairman of the commission at their special meeting last night.  His sidekick, Rob Dickson, was chosen as Vice Chairman.  There were no other nominations for either position.  Make of that what you will...
Before we get to the meat of the meeting, let me express personal reservations about just what kind of leadership Fitzpatrick will provide.  His tour on the Sanitary District board was marked with anything but leadership.  Quite the contrary, his tenure in that job was marked with divisiveness and forced the rate-payers to absorb thousands of dollars in legal fees to force him to follow the law.  I wonder just what kind of leadership a man so obviously willing to ignore solid legal opinions will bring to the Planning Commission?  It's going to make for some interesting watching.  Keep reading to understand why...

The most contentious item on the agenda of that special meeting was the consideration of a project near the west end of Victoria Street that calls for replacing the present church facilites with 17 detached, single-family homes on 1.4 acres.  The developer referred to the look as a "contemporary beach shack".  The development will have 63 parking spaces, which meets the current code, some of which will be underground parking spaces.  He also plans to excavate the property so the three-story units will look like two-story units from adjacent properties.  Whether you like the "look" - extremely vertical with flat roofs -  or not is a matter of personal taste.

A half-dozen speakers - I thought there would be more - stepped up and addressed concerns about traffic, the recommended exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the view being lost by one existing resident.  The commission and staff resolved all those issues with a clear discussion.  They can't, for example, rule on the "view" issue.

So, it then came time for Chairman Fitzpatrick to lead his group into their first vote and he demonstrated his "leadership" by asking the City Attorney, Christian Bettenhausen, if he could abstain!  His quote was, "I don't have any specific concerns, but I do have just some general concerns that I'd like a little more time on and I'd prefer not to vote no because I am in general support of this project.  Do I have the opportunity to abstain?"  Bettenhausen, after a long pause, told him he could abstain anytime he wanted.  So, in his first vote as chairman Jim Fitzpatrick decided to take a little vacation.  The commission voted to approve, 4-0.

Checking the Costa Mesa Municipal Code, Section 2-69 - Failure to vote says as follows:
Every councilman should vote unless disqualified by reason of a conflict of interest.  A councilman who abstains from voting acknowledges that a majority of the quorum may decide the question voted upon.  A councilman who is silent or inattentive and fails to vote without stating his abstention or without being disqualified shall be deemed to have cast a "yes" vote. Keep in mind that the code equates commissioners with council members in this context.

So, because he was too lazy in his first week after being appointed to do his homework or unable to articulate whatever concerns he had on the only item of substance on this special meeting agenda, Fitzpatrick just blew off his responsibility to vote on this issue.  It's going to be a very long couple of years if that's the kind of leadership we can expect to see from him.  Maybe we should withhold his $400 for February since he basically didn't do the job. 

It gets better.  The only other item on the agenda last night was the nominations for the Mesa Green Design Award.  Here's the definition of that award taken from the city web site.

"Purpose of Mesa Green Award:
To encourage green design and practice, in 2010, the Planning Commission added the Mesa Green Design Award to recognize exceptional “green” projects. The Mesa Green Design Award is presented as projects are nominated throughout the year."


That seems pretty straight forward, right?  Nominate a project that is exceptionally "green".  Good idea - and a concept that Fitzpatrick has championed for years since he considers himself a "Green Expert".  He used to write a column for the Newport Beach Independent online newspaper on those subjects.  So, which project did he nominate?  None!  Nope, he nominated a city staff member - Building Official Khanh Nguyen, whose name he mispronounced at least twice!  Now, Mr. Nguyen is a great guy, who reportedly does a great job, but he's not a "green project" by any definition of the word.  If Mr. Nguyen has made an exceptional contribution in the performance of his job and some sort of recognition is appropriate, let's find one that is correct, for goodness sake!

Watching Fitzpatrick during the meeting last night, and based on his only two decisions - both of which were bogus - I found myself wondering if he was distracted... or something else.  I don't know, but I do know that his first performance as Chairman of the Costa Mesa Planning Commission was a big FAIL!  I also have more than a little better understanding of what the members of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District had been dealing with.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Inaugural Mayor's Dinner Details

Today the City of Costa Mesa provided more information about the inaugural Mayor's Dinner that Mayor Jim Righeimer has been talking about for a few weeks.


This event, with the ironic theme "Costa Mesa Mayor's Celebration: The Art Of Leadership", will be held at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts' Samueli Theatre on April 25th and includes a hosted reception, dinner and a Beatles tribute show.  Two Costa Mesans will be honored that evening with a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Mayor's Award.  Pre-dining entertainment will be provided by music students from Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools.

According to the press release, HERE, this event is presented by the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce and the South Coast Metro Alliance in collaboration with PBS SoCal.  Organizers hope to raise more than $30,000 for local arts programs: $10,000 each for the arts programs at Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools, and $5,000 for PBS SoCal and Segerstrom Center for the Arts educational programs.  They have a nifty web site available with plenty of important informtion, HERE.

Personally, I think this is a GREAT idea to demonstrate that Costa Mesa is a town where the leadership actually supports more than just high school football.  I looked at the participation opportunities on the web site and hope each of you will pony up for this great event.  Sorry, but you'll have to attend without me - my Levi's and Reyn-Spooner shirts would be just a little out of place.

Those of you who think this is just another self-aggrandizement opportunity for Righeimer as he positions himself for higher office... well....

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Very Busy Week Ahead

It's going to be a very busy week ahead in Costa Mesa, so here's some information that may help you plan your activities.

Monday is a big day in our town.  The first event you may care to know about is the next meeting of the Financial Advisory Committee.  They meet at 3:30 in Conference Room 1A at City Hall.  This meeting will include a presentation by Robert Porr, Senior Vice President of Fieldman, Rolapp and Associates, but the agenda - HERE - doesn't tell us what he's going to talk about.

Next on the Monday agenda is the special meeting of the Costa Mesa Planning Commission.  This one takes place in council chambers beginning at 6:00 and will be marked by the swearing-in of recently-appointed commissioners, retreads Colin McCarthy, Jim Fitzpatrick and new guy Timothy Sesler.  There's only two items on the agenda, HERE, but the first one promises to generate some controversy.  This is the planning application for a 17-unit common interest development at 1259 Victoria Street - the site of an existing church facility.  You can read the long staff report HERE.  The meeting will be televised live on CMTV, Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT U-Verse.  It will also be streamed live on the city's web site.


 (Click images to enlarge)
Next on Monday's agenda is the public safety town hall hosted by councilwoman Wendy Leece at the Harbor Christian Fellowship, 740 W. Wilson Street.  That event will run from 6:30 - 9:00.

And, also on Monday evening, Principal Kirk Bauermeister informs me that there will be a parents meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the choir room of Estancia High School at which the Newport-Mesa Unified School District's program, "Run, Hide, Act!" will be discussed.  I suspect the heroic event that occurred on Friday, February 15th in which Bauermeister and Assistant Principal Mike Sciacca subdued an armed, distraught father will also get some conversation.

Tuesday will see a special study session of the Costa Mesa City Council beginning at 6:00 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, HERE.  This much-touted event will have two items on the agenda.  The first is a presentation by Joe Nation, Ph.D of Stanford University entitled "Unfunded Public Pension and Retiree Health Care Liabilities".  You can see the slide presentation HERE.  Nation is a highly-respected former northern California Democrat politician who has become the go-to guy for information on public employee pensions.  The second item on the agenda, HERE, is a presentation titled "Fiscal Impacts of 2.5%@55 Enhancement for Miscellaneous Group".  Both of these items - if they get to both of them - should be very interesting.  This meeting will also be televised and streamed live.

Thursday is the first in what we are told will be a series of "Meet the Mayor" gatherings at which Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer will rub elbows with community members in a casual setting.  It's a chance for you to chat with the mayor about any item of concern you may have - streets, police, fire - whatever.  This one will be held at the Pitfire Artisan Pizza restaurant (site of former Marie Callendar's), 353 East 17th Street and will run from 6:00 - 7:30.  This should be interesting.

Finally, on since it's the first Friday of the month, it's time for the latest edition of the First Friday Car Show in the City Hall parking lot from 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.  If you're a hot rod or other old car fan you may find this event of interest.  Dozens of classic and sometimes not-so-classic cars will be on hand for your viewing pleasure.  Food trucks are usually present so you can grab a snack while you meander among the old cars on a little trip down Memory Lane.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

"Mayberry"? Really?

I saw this article, HERE, in the Daily Pilot online Friday night - it will appear in print Saturday - and had to chuckle at the specter of Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger padding around the Westside of Costa Mesa before dawn for their exercise routine, followed by a posse of admirers.  Among the many things I found myself wondering about was whether they were packing firearms to "harvest" the coyote population - that's Mensinger's word, by the way.

I admire them for the effort, but I'm suspicious that this is really a publicity stunt - another way to make them seem kinder and gentler - at a time when they both need better PR.

And, I'm not sure when they refer to Costa Mesa as "Costa Mayberry" they necessarily mean it as a compliment.  More likely they mean it as a term of denigration - like as in a "hick town".  Judge for yourself as you read the definition of "Mayberry" HERE.   If that's actually the way they view our city it explains a lot of things they've been trying to do for the past couple years.

Anyhow, I saw this, HERE, cartoon tonight and thought it might make a perfect exclamation point to the article.  Enjoy.v

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Schafer Returned To Sanitary District Board

In a move that will likely surprise very few people who have been following the drama at the Costa Mesa Sanitary District for the past couple years, today the Board of Directors selected former director and former Costa Mesa Mayor Arlene Schafer to replace Jim Fitzpatrick for the remaining two years of his term.  You can read the Daily Pilot coverage of the meeting and results HERE.

At a special meeting today the four members of the board interviewed the six finalists in their process to determine a successor to Fitzpatrick - Schafer, former Costa Mesa Mayor Linda Dixon, former Sanitary District Board member Dan Worthington, Planning Consultant Jeffrey Harlan, Executive Search Consultant Al Morelli and Assistant General Manager of the West Basin Municipal Water District in Carson, Shivaji Desmukh.

Following the interviews, where each Director asked a couple questions of each applicant, the directors began the process of nominating candidates.  Dixon was first nominated, but received no second.  Schafer was nominated by President Jim Ferryman and was seconded by Director Art Perry.  When directors Mike Scheafer and Bob Ooten cast their votes for her she was chosen unanimously to fill the job that she held before Fitzpatrick defeated her in the election two years ago.

This will certainly generate a lot of negative comments from those in the community who felt Fitzpatrick was ousted from the Sanitary District Board.  Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick created his own problem when he intentionally, and against solid legal advice, stubbornly held to incompatible positions simultaneously.  And, he compounded that offense by doing it twice.

If you just read resumes Schafer was clearly the most highly qualified. She has served in this role before - for years - is well-known and highly respected in the sanitation management community.  For that reason alone her choice should be no surprise.  She will have virtually no "start up time" - she knows the business and how the Sanitary District operates.

Some will say this is a missed opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective to the Board - a thought with which I agree.  However, that what happened with Fitzpatrick and that went very, very badly.  I don't know whether that played any part in the selection the Directors made this morning, but wouldn't be surprised if it did.

Schafer will be sworn in to her new/old job at the regular meeting of the Sanitary District Board on Wednesday, February 27th.  Her term will expire in 2014.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Westside Safety Town Hall Monday Night

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece will host another in her series of public safety town halls next Monday evening, February 25, 2013.  The event will run from 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. at the Harbor Christian Fellowship, 740 W. Wilson Street.  The flyer below has the details.  Click on the image to enlarge.
Previous events last year proved to be well-attended and very informative.  Here's a map showing the location:

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City Council Wrap-up

The Costa Mesa council meeting last night had some very interesting moments and, despite Mayor Jim Righeimer's goal to shorten them, it dragged on until 11:30.  Yeah, I know - earlier than many, so why didn't I post last night?  Honestly, I was exhausted, but I'm here now, so stop complaining. ;-)  Players on the dais changed a little.  Former City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow stood (sat?) in for Tom Duarte and Wendy Leece was home, sick.

As has been the case lately, the meeting began with a couple nice acknowledgements.  First, Karen Barloon from the Costa Mesa Community Run stepped up to announce this year's schedule and the fact that it will be combined with the Lions Club Fish Fry for the first time.  This is a good move, placing two very popular and well-attended events together.  The run(s) will be held on the final day of the Fish Fry, Sunday, June 2, 2013.

Then, the reason for the standing-room-only crowd last night - the presentation of the Mayor's Award to Sister Mary Vianney Ennis, Principal at St. John the Baptist School.  This award, which Righeimer proudly presented, recognized Sister Mary Vianney for her 51 years of service at the school and for the positive impact she's apparently had on thousands of lives in our community.  Righeimer's daughters attend that school.  When the presentation was over I was practically swept out of the auditorium by the suction created by all those young families departing.  There must have been fifty small children in attendance for the ceremony.  You can read Bradley Zint's coverage of the ceremony in the Daily Pilot HERE.

Public Comments produced a dozen people who rose to address specific grievances with the council.  Several residents of the soon-to-be-defunct Anchor Trailer Port stepped up to complain about the way they are being treated by the folks purchasing the park.  One speaker discussed conversations held with city staff and members of other mobile home parks in the city about the need for a municipal mobile home park closure ordinance to protect Costa Mesa residents from the kind of abuse the folks at Anchor have received.  Another speaker complained about an "illegal" drug rehab home being opened in his neighborhood.  Another complained about Eastside Streets.  Perry Valantine told the council that the recently-released document, Fiscal Impact Analysis for COIN Ordinance, HERE, was confusing and far from transparent.  And, finally, James Procter stepped up once again to tell us that the FBI and FCC filmed his recent meeting with the Secret Service.  Yep, you hear it all during Public Comments.

In response to those complaints we were told that the Eastside repaving was underway and that it should be finished in a month - by summer at the latest.  That's good news for us who travel those streets regularly.  CEO Tom Hatch explained that the drug and alcohol rehab homes are governed by state law and that, as long as there are six or fewer residents in a home, the city has NO SAY, except to encourage them to be "good neighbors".  Hatch tasked the soon-to-be-finally-departing Peter Naghavi to contact the parties in the Anchor dispute to resolve them.  Hatch also tried - not very successfully - to explain the COIN analysis spread sheet.

During Council Member Comments Righeimer announced the creation of the Mayor's Dinner - a self-aggrandizing event if I've ever seen one!  This is a pure case of neighbor envy - Newport Beach has one, so he wants one, too.  He told us the proceeds would go to support school arts programs in Costa Mesa - certainly a worthy cause.  Righeimer has been basking in the spotlight of being mayor ever since the council elected him.  He's been tossing out Mayor's Awards like candy from a parade float and now the Mayor's Dinner.

During his little segment Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger told us the recent Costa Mesa Classic golf tournament produced over $165,000 for Costa Mesa United, then showed us a video about that group.  That was his way of participating in the item later in the agenda in which Costa Mesa United would be provided $100,000.  He, because he's on the board, had to recuse himself from that discussion, but this allowed him to get his oar in, anyhow.

Next up was the ever-popular Consent Calendar, in which Righeimer prefers to have NOTHING pulled for separate discussion.  This time around many items got their own discussion and one - Item #10, the Freebie Ticket issue - was yanked from the agenda at the last second.  Tamar Goldmann stepped up to address the ongoing large legal fees reflected on the two Warrants this time around.  Item 11, the "Performance Audit" for the Costa Mesa Golf Course, generated some interesting conversation and, although nobody brought the issue up, Righeimer denied having anybody in the wings to take over the golf course operations.  I wonder where he got that idea?

The three items on the calendar dealing with the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency were promptly dispatched and it was on to the main calendar, which Mensinger juggled to move some of his pals forward on the agenda.  Instead of staying in order he asked to jump over Old Business #1 - Planning Commission appointments - and New Business #1 - a General Plan screening request - and move New Business #2, the Costa Mesa United issue, and New Business #8, the Fireworks changes - to the front of the pack.

The Costa Mesa United issue, which authorized the contribution of $100,000 to that organization for use on Costa Mesa schools, generated a lot of very positive comments from many residents and it passed on a 3-0 vote.  Mensinger was out of the room for this one.

New Business #8, the changes to the Fireworks policy, took about 40 minutes of discussion and explanation.  Mensinger was the father of this issue, too.  You can read the staff report HERE.  Several speakers supported the plan, but others asked some very good questions - some of which didn't get answered.  For example, what kind of analysis had been done to determine the impact of the plan to reduce the number of permitted stands from 40 to 25?  No real answer was given to questions about requiring the school principals to certify the groups wishing to sell fireworks. And, perhaps the biggest unanswered question - what have the fireworks vendors said about the segment of this change that requires a "rent cap" being placed of $1,000.  The organization selling the fireworks cannot be forced to pay more than $1,000 for the site rent, even though it might cost the fireworks vendor ten times that much.  Nobody had an answer for that, but they passed the changes, anyhow.  It's another case of "Ready, Fire, Aim" by Mensinger.  No matter - it's for the kids, so it can't be wrong!  Geez!

We then finally got to Old Business #1, the appointment of three members to the Costa Mesa Planning Commission.  You will recall this item has been delayed twice, so the council did a "do over" and decided to "unappoint" Jim Fitzpatrick and Tim Sesler - appointed previously to 4-year terms - and deal with all three positions together - last night.  The results were predictable, but not without some intrigue.  Mensinger, when addressing the roster of candidates, said, "All were qualified - eminently."  Baloney!  Did he even read the resumes?  Does he understand the word "eminently'?  I doubt it.  Anyhow, the same procedure to select candidates was used as previously - council members drew numbers and made a choice in order.  Gary Monahan had the first choice for a 4-year term seat  and selected current Planning Commission Chairman, Colin McCarthy, who was chosen on a 4-0 vote.  Righeimer had the second choice, also for a 4-year term seat, and nominated Sesler, who was also chosen on a 4-0 vote.  Next came Sandra Genis, who nominated Dan Hoffman but received no second.  Big surprise there!  Finally Mensinger nominated Fitzpatrick for the remaining seat - a 2-year term - and he was chosen on a 3-1 vote.  Genis voted NO.  And Fitzpatrick hobbled out of the auditorium not a happy camper, having been "demoted" from a 4-year seat to a 2-year seat.

A little after 9:00 p.m. we got to New Business #1, a General Plan Screening Request for a 236 unit apartment complex in a commercial/industrial area on the far east side of town.  Several business owners in close proximity to this project stepped up to complain about the impact of this development on their business and vice versa.  One owner of a heavy manufacturing business worried that residents would complain about late-night noise because he runs two shifts at his plant.  The council approved the request - only the first of many steps the developers must face.

The next items, New Business #3, 4, 5 and 6, were discussed individually but are all linked philosophically, so there was a lot of cross-talk.  It took a surprising amount of time, but we were talking about spending over $2 million.  At the end, the discussion of #3, the rebuilding of the IT infrastructure throughout the city, was divided into sections for separate votes at the request of Monahan.  The first segment, the creation of an IT Fund, passed, 4-0.  The second, the "loan" plan to fund the first item, passed ona  3-1 vote - Monahan voted NO.  The third segment passed, 4-0.

After a lively discussion on why to use Hewlett-Packard and GovPlace as vendors, #4 passed 4-0.  Because it passed, #5 - the service contract with HP - was pulled from the agenda.
The discussion of #6, the more than $200,000 contract with Oracle/PeopleSoft for support generated some brief, but pithy discussions.  Righeimer said, "I will never vote for this again!  I will never give Larry Ellison two hundred grand again!"  Tell me, Jim... How do you feel?

Finally, the last item on the agenda was addressed - Mensinger's scheme to create a "committee to evaluate annual pension oversight issues".  As the discussion moved forward it became clear that there was not uniform understanding on the dais about what this "committee" was supposed to be doing, and what it would cost.  Again, another "Ready, Fire, Aim" move by Mensinger.  Ah, but that's OK, right?   That's just Steve being "Steve".  Holy Cow!

Mensinger wanted a 12-person committee made up of community members and employees to review and evaluate pension issues and report to to the council twice a year.  Read the brief staff report HERE for his list.  There were some memorable comments made by him during the discussion.  When addressing the fact that nobody on the dais were "experts" on pensions, he said, "We're experts on what doesn't work."  He told us that during his campaign last year "I've run into people that have skills."  Several times during the discussion he implied that he just didn't get the pension stuff.

When the discussion turned to providing staff time for this new venture - CEO Hatch speculated that it might take 5-10 hours of staff time each week, minimum, do help the committee with research, etc.  Mensinger's solution to that little dilemma was to suggest that we shut down "other committees that we don't necessarily need."  Yep, that's what he said.

Questions arose about the propriety of having employees on the committee.  Barlow opined that one other city does it that way, but Hatch and other council members expressed concern about it.  A member of one of the employee associations stepped up and said they wanted to be part of the process.

In the end, just before 11:30 p.m., Monahan moved to approve the creation of the committee with only 9 members - none from the employee groups - and that their charter would include assessing the unfunded medical liability, too.  It passed, 4-0, and I was left with the strong feeling that nobody really understood just what this committee will be doing.  Hatch will launch a recruitment - which will almost certainly result in many of Mensinger's cronies being placed on it.  We'll see.

I also was left thinking that if Mensinger is having such difficulty with these issues - despite the fact that we have an excellent staff and hire expensive experts to provide knowledge and perspective - then we probably elected the wrong guy last November.  Maybe we should require council candidates to take some kind of a basic intelligence test before they run.

The next meeting of the city council will be a Special Study Session on Tuesday, February 26th at 6:00 when Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research expert Joe Nation will discuss Pensions.  Should be interesting.

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