Sunday, March 31, 2013

Short Council Agenda Tuesday

It looks like the Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 2nd, may be a short one.  The agenda is small and (knock on wood) none of the items appear to be terribly controversial.  You can read the agenda HERE.

The Consent Calendar has three items - two warrants and a report on the plans for the city's 60th Anniversary celebration.  Unless someone "pulls" an item for separate discussion they will be voted upon as a whole.  Actually, the 60th Anniversary report is pretty interesting, HERE.  In it there's a discussion of conceptual plans, a resolution designating street closures for the kick-off event, approval of sale and consumption of alcohol and fireworks permits.

The only Public Hearing on the agenda is the appeal of a planning application for a project at 1259 Victoria Street, which replaces an existing church with a 17-unit detached residential common interest development. HERE.  Some of the units have only 6 inches between them!

There is one Old Business item - the second reading of the new ordinance on Camping and Storage of Personal Property, HERE.  The staff report outlines eleven (11) significant changes to the municipal code as it pertains to this issue.  Click on the link to read those changes.

The final item on the agenda is New Business #1, Selection of Supportive Housing Team, HERE.  The staff report provides a comprehensive analysis of each entity that was considered to be part of this operation.  The upshot is that the "staff recommends that the City Council select the development team comprised of Wakeland Housing and Mercy House Living Centers to assist the City and Housing Authority in providing permanent supportive housing to the Costa Mesa homeless population."  It's going to be interesting to see where this "team" goes with this assignment.  For example, where will they propose permanent supportive housing for homeless folks be located?  Might it be at the location of one or more "problem motels"?  You know - those places that might be subject to "node zoning" - a special, specific set of zoning rules for each of the nearly one dozen of those places.  Might the council try to use eminent domain to run some of those places out of business under the guise that "supportive housing" qualifies as a municipal use for the greater good?  And, you recall that Mayor Jim Righeimer was on the board of Mercy House for years... not that it necessarily means anything now.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

A Special Day...

Long ago, and not so far away, the sweetest little girl in the world was born on this date.  I won't tell you how many years ago, but just know that to properly celebrate her birthday today we needed to get a fire permit for the cake!
In our neck of the woods a lot of guys my age start looking around for a "trophy wife".  I'm lucky - I found mine 46 years ago! 

So, a BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sweet, loving and VERY patient wife, Susan.  She can click HERE to hear my wish for her sung by Lee Ann Womack.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Distracted Driving Crack Down In April

The Costa Mesa Police Department issued a press release today announcing that, as part of the Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the CMPD will be actively ticketing those texting or operating hand-held cell phones during the month of April.  Drivers will be cited without warning and will receive tickets costing $159 for the first offense and at least $279 for each subsequent ticket.

This focused enforcement is in response to what has been described as a "serious traffic safety concern".  The press release tells us that "In recent years, hundreds have been killed and thousands seriously injured in California as a result of collisions that involved at least one driver who was distracted."  Due to the seriousness of the problem, more than 225 local agencies plus the CHP will be conducting zero tolerance enforcement during April.

CMPD Chief Tom Gazsi is quoted as saying, "We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn't stop some people from continuing to do it.  This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use while driving.  We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families and others on the road."

According to the press release, younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.  It goes on to say that texting while driving can delay a driver's reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver.

The release also quotes studies that show there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in 'inattention blindness" which occurs when the brain isn't seeing what is clearly visible because of the drivers' focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.  The phrase "cell phone zombie" is used to describe that situation.

The CMPD suggests the following tips:
  • Turn off your phone and/or put it out of reach while driving
  • Include in your outgoing message that you can't answer while you are driving
  • Don't call or text anyone at the time when you think they may be driving

In a separate release the CMPD tells us that another DUI checkpoint will be conducted somewhere in the city beginning Friday night at 8:00 p.m. and extending into Saturday morning at 3:00 a.m.  Historically, these events have proven to be excellent educational tools - unless you're Mayor Jim Righeimer, who just doesn't like the inconvenience when he's in a hurry.  That's another story.

So, be careful out there.  No drinking and driving.  No texting while driving.  You've been warned.

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Byron de Arakal Leads Parks & Rec. Commission

Well, after a hiatus of six months the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission met for their first meeting of the year Wednesday night and it didn't take long for us to realize that this is NOT "your father's Oldsmobile" - as the old saying goes.

In the absence of new City Clerk Brenda Green Recreation Manager Bob Knapp handled the swearing-in of the new/old members of the commission.  Only Dean Abernathy was not required to take the oath of office.  Carry-over Kim Pederson and former commissioners Byron de Arakal and Bob Graham were joined by the only real newbie, Don Harper.

Then the new commission elected  de Arakal as Chairman and Pederson as Vice Chair and we were off and running.  de Arakal, who had served on the commission previously as Chairman, wasted no time exercising his control and kept things moving at a brisk clip.

After a brief discussion of the first item on the agenda - a tree removal request that had been postponed from September - the commission voted to deny removing an obviously healthy, mature tree.  Good move.

Next up was the discussion of the renewal of the user agreement with the Harbor Soaring Society (HSS).  The society requested an extension of 5 years to enable them to do more long-term planning.  After a previous 5-year term, last year the commission recommended just a one-year extension.  Following an acknowledgment of the contributions of the HSS to Costa Mesa for decades and the public service they provided, the commission followed de Arakal's reasoning - that because the Fairview Park Master Plan will soon be reviewed and it's not possible to predict just what changes for that park might result - in fairness to the HSS it would be better for them to be extended for another one-year term, then reassess the situation after the Fairview Plan is completed.  That passed, 5-0.

At 7:00 the commission began dealing with the item that brought most of the attendees to the chambers last night - the amendment of the Letter Of Understanding (LOU) with the Costa Mesa Bark Park Foundation.  That conversation went on for more than an hour, with several supporters of the Bark Park Foundation stepping up to express their views.  The commissioners went back and forth, negotiating a proper course of action.  The result was a vote on the motion by de Arakal in which directed the staff to gather whatever archival information it needed and do an assessment of how much it will cost, and how long it will take, for the city to refurbish the Bark Park and maintain it henceforth.  He also directed them to meet with members of the foundation and a sub-committee of the commission - de Arakal and Pederson - to determine whether, if the city takes over the maintanence of the Bark Park, there is a need for the Letter Of Understanding at all.  These issues will be returned to the commission at the May meeting.  No mention in the motion was made of the demand by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger at the last council meeting that the top positions on the Bark Park Foundation Board be occupied by Costa Mesa residents - a bogus and unnecessary petty demand in my view.  It may be a moot point in May.

I found it very interesting that Mayor Jim Righeimer found it necessary to step to the speaker's podium during Public Comments to give the new commissioners a pep talk.  I don't recall that happening before - ever.

And, I also thought it was interesting that Mensinger showed up and stayed through the entire meeting.  One had the impression he was there to monitor the proceedings to be sure he didn't make a mistake when he nominated some of them.  It smacks of micro-management.  His lapdog, Jim Fitzpatrick, mosied in and out of the chambers for awhile, then left early for good.

One thing is clear to me after last night's meeting.  Byron de Arakal brings leadership not seen lately on the Parks and Recreation Commission - perhaps not since he last held that chair several years ago.  Based on the bucket of tasks ahead of them, this is good news.  He presented a vision that gave the commissioners an idea of where he thinks they should be headed.  He mentioned the update of the city's General Plan and the need to update the Parks and Open Space Master Plan and the Fairview Park Master Plan - all of which will require significant attention by this commission as the city moves forward.  He also slipped into his discussion a mention of moving forward with plans to fold Talbert Park into Costa Mesa - to "show the county we're serious".  This is right out of Mensinger's playbook, so we'll see how that goes.

Regardless, this will NOT be a moribund commission that sleep-walks through tree removal requests.  Based on what I saw last night, this will be an energized, focused commission with diverse views on issues, which - with a meeting scheduled every month for the rest of the year (except December) - will likely tax the staff with requests for support and information.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Brenda Green Hired As City Clerk

 (Brenda Green, shown swearing-in Sandra Genis earlier this year)
In a press release today the City of Costa Mesa announced that Interim City Clerk Brenda Green has been hired as City Clerk.  You can read the information HERE.

This is a good move for the City.  Green has done a good job in the wake of the abrupt and controversial departure of popular former City Clerk Julie Folcik - a casualty of ham-handed management by members of the City Council and staff as they attempted to jam Jim Righeimer's Charter down the voters throats last spring.

Green came in and provided stability to that office and has worked efficiently during her tenure.  Congratulations to Brenda Green and kudos to Tom Hatch and his staff for making this selection.

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Stockton Bankruptcy Case Begins

Monday the City of Stockton went to court in Sacramento to ask permission to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  Opponents say the City did not cut enough spending nor did it seek a tax increase to avoid this move.  You can read a report from and view a news clip HERE.  You can also read a Reuters news account HEREThere is also a Huffington Post entry from last July to provide some perspective HERE.  There is also an excellent essay titled "How would Stockton bankruptcy cut pensions?" by Ed Mendel dated 1/17/13 HEREAnd, there is a summary of the bankruptcy timeline from the Stockton web site HERE.


So, what's the big deal, you ask?  After all, Stockton got itself into this trouble by, according to that Huffington Post report, a spending binge.  Why should we Costa Mesans care about what happens up there?  Well, I'll tell you why.

For the past two years plus now-mayor Jim Righeimer and his loyal band of OC GOP sycophants have been screaming about Costa Mesa's terrible fiscal condition and using that misrepresentation to attempt to completely destroy the very fabric of our city.

They used that bogus argument as the cornerstone of their scheme to outsource nearly half of the city staff two years ago, going so far as to completely ignore their own policies.  That arrogant disregard for the rules of the game led to a lawsuit that is still in play today.

In their haste to disenfranchise employees represented by associations - Righeimer has fought "unions" most of his adult life - they tried to demonize the employees and turn public opinion against them.  That backfired.

They used the bogus fiscal calamity as their platform for Measure V, Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme - the one that went down to a resounding defeat last November when the voters finally had a chance to opine on the issue.  And that only happened when a diverse core of residents banded together to form  Costa Mesans For Responsible Government and mount a concerted opposition to the scheme.  And, of course, it helped that Righeimer and his cadre were so arrogant that they misplayed their hand a couple times as they tried to rush his charter onto the primary ballot in June.

The mantra now is "unfunded pension liability" - not a small issue, to be sure.  OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh told the world that Costa Mesa is "ground zero" for pension reform in California.  However, after leading the chorus on this issue for two years, Righeimer has recently stated that he's not going to send another penny to CalPERS to reduce that liability, citing the makeup of the CalPERS board as a bunch of union hacks and unqualified partisans - mocking the current President of the CalPERS board as a "glazier".

Righiemer now offers NO solution to the "elephant in the room" - as described in one of the reports above - the CalPERS debt.  He has stated more than once recently that he fully expects CalPERS to implode and that he doesn't want another cent of Costa Mesa money to be part of that crisis.

Short of CalPERS crashing, there is only one way for Costa Mesa to get out of that debt - municipal bankruptcy.  So, that leaves me wondering just what Righeimer has in mind.  Is he setting our city up to fail?  He seemed to try very hard to keep the city from balancing the budget the past couple years by adding some of his pet projects to the mix.  That failed when the folks who actually do the work - the excellent city staff - found ways to make it work.

Righeimer and his cronies have cut the public safety staffing to near-calamitous levels.  Just a few short years ago the Costa Mesa Police Department had 164 sworn officers, including some who were part of the AirBorne Law Enforcement Program (A.B.L.E.) - the model for all other municipal helicopter programs around the country.  They unilaterally decided to disband A.B.L.E., leaving our partner, Newport Beach, and our contract city, Santa Ana, to scramble for air support.  Now those cities and Costa Mesa are being provided marginal air support by Huntington Beach - and that program is on shaky ground.

Today the authorized strength of the Costa Mesa Police Department is 131 sworn officers, and includes 5 "grant officer positions" that will disappear in a couple years.  Righeimer and his supporters will say, "Yeah, but we've got more non-sworn officers today."  OK, but we had THOSE positions before, but they were sacrificed due to budget problems during the economic downturn that began late in 2007.  The impact of those cuts is a dramatic increase in crime in our city, as reflected on this crime report comparing year end numbers for 2012 to 2011, HERE.

The Fire Department - which has huge voids in senior leadership positions - has not been able to hire replacement staff because the council seems unwilling to approve and adopt Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's restructuring plan.  I'm told we will hear yet another iteration of it soon.  In the meantime, the clock ticks and thousands of hours of overtime by exhausted firefighters have been required to cover essential shifts.  And then the Righeimer and his cohorts shamelessly criticize the firefighters for the money they earned working those hours.

I think Righeimer may be trying to maneuver our city into bankruptcy - the only way he can bust the "unions" and avoid the CalPERS debt.  That is unacceptable.  He and his anti-tax pals are unwilling to even consider an increase in the Business License fees - Costa Mesa has the lowest in Orange County.  Even a modest increase would help, but a 50% increase would still place us near the bottom of the heap.  They claim a fee increase would chase businesses out of the City.   Really?  Would Nordstorm's close their South Coast Plaza store if they had to pay $300 per year instead of $200?  Give me a break!

So, we watch the proceedings in Sacramento to see if Stockton will be permitted to, in fact, enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  If so, watch the reaction to that event here in our town.  For most of us paying our bills is just the way things should be done.  However, that attitude is not universal on the City Council dais, where some members have a history of letting somebody else pay the bills.  We should not let that happen in our city - not when there are options that have not even been discussed.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Paul's Legacy - Saving Lives

Diane Hill, Editor of the United Neighbors community outreach organization which she has operated with her husband, Paul, for years, has come up with a terrific way to honor the memory of her husband and, at the same time, provide a critical public safety service to the City of Costa Mesa.
Her ultimate goal is to train every single resident of Costa Mesa in Hands Only CPR, a life-saving process that ANYONE can learn in two minutes.  She has launched this project and is looking for groups to participate and donors to fund the purchase of the kits.  Here's the description of the project in her words:
     The project is called

“In Honor of Paul”

who died as a result of a heart attack 11/17/2012.

The project goal is to give the opportunity to learn Hands-Only CPR to all residents and workers in Costa Mesa within a year.
This would be accomplished by having manikin tables at public events where you can learn or review Hands-Only CPR in 2 minutes combined with using and sharing bilingual Adult/Child CPR Anytime kits which include an inflatable manikin and an instructional DVD, so they are self-training.

You can help make this happen. Just:

·       Order one or a few Adult/Child CPR Anytime kits for $34.95 each, train your office staff or organization and then take it (or let associates take them) home and train the neighbors. Contact Diane to get the special participation roster.
You can order these kits online at . The direct link is

·       If you order 100 or more the kits are only $27. Send a check made out to AHA – CPR Anytime Costa Mesa Restricted Program and addressed to Sylvia Beanes, CPR Anytime, 816 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017-2400. Contact Diane to get the special participation roster.

·       Help with funding kits for high school students and other groups in Costa Mesa who would train their neighbors and community members. Send a check made out to AHA – CPR Anytime Costa Mesa Restricted Program and addressed to Sylvia Beanes, CPR Anytime, 816 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017-2400

·       If you are a business or an organization, like a church, have your own Hands-Only CPR event and train all your people. Register the event beforehand with Diane, so you can use the special participation rosters and be counted as part of the project. If you do not have knowledgeable instructors and manikins, there are volunteers available. See next paragraph.

·       Tell Diane if you have an event at which you would like to have a manikin table. Our Training Center Coordinator has offered the volunteer assistance of her several hundred instructors to man these tables and be available to answer questions about Hands-Only CPR.

To be counted as part of this project, all the people who get trained need to sign a special participation roster for the In Honor of Paul project. If you have had CPR training, you are welcome to stop by one of the manikin tables, practice your compressions, ask any questions you may have about Hands-Only CPR and sign the participation roster.

A message from Diane:

Just to be clear, Paul did not die from lack of attention. I watched him go down not more than 8 feet away from me in our home. I had my iPhone in hand and was at his side as he hit the ground. Because of our involvement in disaster preparation, we had become American Heart Association Instructors. I followed what we taught; only pausing after I found no pulse to open the front door and turn on the light to help the responders get in. I had an open line to 911 as I worked and I heard a rib crack, so I knew I was getting some compression depth. Our responders were on scene within minutes and transported Paul to Hoag as soon as they got him ready.

I share this to encourage you not to be afraid to try because you are afraid you might fail and don’t feel like a failure if the patient does not survive. I am at peace with Paul’s decision and do not feel I am responsible for his not still being here. I encourage everyone to know Hands-Only CPR for their own peace of mind, because then you have an opportunity to try to give an adult victim a chance to make a choice rather than have no choice at all.

Diane Hill, Editor
United Neighbors Communications

Activity update: Sylvia Beanes of the AHA (American Heart Association) has already found funding for 100 kits for Boy Scouts in Costa Mesa who will commit to using the kits to train at least 10 people.

If you have skills or ideas to help this project move forward, please contact Diane. There are a few print materials to be designed. There is printing to be done or funded.

One of the AHA goals is to train all students before they graduate from high school. In 2009 2027 kits were given to 9th graders in the LAUSD who were trained and took the kits home and trained 14,901 more.  

There are 1221 students at Estancia High School and 1100 at the high school level on the Costa Mesa campus. It would be special to fund these 2321 students quickly, so they can choose if they would like to have a friendly competition to see which school could train the most people in CPR.

There are also 600 middle school students on the Costa Mesa campus and more at Tewinkle. The older grades might be ready to learn CPR. Anyone in Boy Scouts is old enough to learn. If children are old enough to understand and strong enough to do compressions, they are welcome to learn. Indeed, two 9 year olds in Florida recently saved a baby because they knew CPR.

“Neighbors Helping Neighbors”
Diane Hill: (714) 546-4252 Voice (714) 540-1288 FAX; United Neighbors Website

Think about how you or any organization of which you are a part - church group, homeowners association, etc.,  might be able to participate in this very worthwhile project.  The information above, including the two links to the American Heart Association websites are very informative and the videos are entertaining.

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Parks, Mutts, Money And The Mayor

It looks like a pretty slow week ahead in Costa Mesa.  Here's what's on the schedule this week.

Tuesday, March 26th, the Finance Advisory Committee meets in Conference Room 3A at City Hall beginning at 3:30 p.m.  You can read the agenda HERE.

Wednesday, March 27th, the new Parks and Recreation Commission meets in City Council Chambers beginning at 6:00.  That agenda is HERE.   Following the swearing-in of the new and re-appointed commissioners and the election of a new Chair and Vice Chair, the commission will vote on a new fee schedule for certain adult recreation classes, HERE; the renewal of the permit for the Harbor Soaring Society, HERE, and an amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding with the Costa Mesa Bark Park Foundation, HERE.  This will be the final meeting on Wednesdays this year except for November.  The city council approved moving the meetings to Thursdays and holding them EVERY month henceforth.

And, on Thursday evening, March 28th, Mayor Jovial Jim Righeimer will hold the second in his monthly series of "Meet The Mayor" schmooze-fests, where residents can snuggle up to the mayor in a casual setting - a local business - and ask questions without a 3-minute time limit.  The first of these events last month was a virtual love-in, with the small venue packed with sycophants and other hangers-on and a few actual concerned residents there to get information - and free pizza.  This event is scheduled to be held at Fixtures Living, 3303 Hyland Avenue - in the SOCO Collection - from 6:00 - 7:30.  Here's a map:

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