Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Unanticipated Result And More

At the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, the agenda was long, the house was packed and an unanticipated hero was the star of the evening.  The meeting began thirty minutes late and stretched until nearly 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.  First the BIG story...

Following a long discussion of the extension of the expiring 25-year  agreement with the Orange County Model Engineers, during which eight members of the public pleaded with the council to extend the contract beyond the fourteen months proposed by the Parks and Recreation Commission, it was clear that Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Righeimer wanted the recommended short extension passed.  Mensinger moved to do so, with Righeimer seconded it.  Councilwoman Sandra Genis moved a substitute motion to extend the contract five years and Wendy Leece seconded it.  Following a VERY short discussion Righeimer smirked and called for the vote on the substitute motion... and it passed on a 3-2 vote!  Genis and Leece voted yes, as did former mayor Gary Monahan!   As the crowd erupted into cheers and clapping and Leece did her "V for Victory" pose from the dais, Righeimer and Mensinger looked dumbstruck and, after a long pause, looked over at Monahan as if to say, "What did you do?!"  He could be heard to say above the cheering, "Five years seemed like a good compromise."  And, indeed, it was!  Righeimer called for a fifteen minute break and the cheering crowd of model train supporters carried their celebration out onto the council chambers porch.  Shown here are a few of the happy train supporters, including spokesman Hank Castignetti in the foreground and model train buff Police Chief Tom Gazsi in the rear.


This is a terrific result for everyone in the community - except maybe those who covet the space the train tracks presently occupy on the eastside of Fairview Park.  In the recent past members of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee have been heard to say the location would be perfect for playing fields, bocce ball courts and baseball diamonds.  The OCME folks have provided tremendous public service and deserved a longer extension than the slap-in-the-face 14 months proposed.  Kudos to Gary Monahan on this one.  You can read Bradley Zint's account of this story in the Daily Pilot  HERE.


As I mentioned earlier, the meeting began late because the council stayed 30 minutes longer than anticipated in the Closed Session meeting.  The meeting included Richard Kreisler, the labor negotiator for the city, who - for the first time - reported the results of that meeting.  He told us that Steve Mensinger's COIN scheme required a report on negotiations, so he told us that the city spent $21.2 million in pay and benefits to the CMCEA employees in the last fiscal year.  He said that if nothing had been done it would have been $23.5 million this year.  He said the city's offer produced a cost of $21.5 million, but he didn't mention a word about the offer the employees made, so the COIN process has not demonstrated any value yet.

  Later, during his comments, Righeimer dismissed the fact that the employees had offered to "partner" with the city with a sneer.  Of course, at the time he was fuming because several speakers called for him, along with Mensinger, to cancel their lawsuit against the police.  He was so angry you could practically see smoke coming out of his ears as he angrily stated that he would do whatever it took to protect his family.  And, amusingly, he mentioned that it was campaign time - referring to those requests as campaign rhetoric when, in fact, this whole scheme is a campaign tool to distract from the abysmal decisions they've made and the multiple scandals brewing in our city.


It was an interesting evening from many standpoints.  For example, it's the first time since Benito Acosta was dragged, struggling, from council chambers several years ago, we saw a resident removed from the chambers for disrupting the meeting.  Soft-spoken Sandy Johnson was escorted from the auditorium by an officer after demanding from her seat near the rear of the chambers that Righeimer answer whether his scheme to squeeze the Costa Mesa Motor Inn and the Sandpiper for code enforcement violations negatively impacts our affordable housing numbers.  It was an excellent question, which Righeimer acknowledged as Johnson was removed.  This the effect he has on otherwise mild-mannered long-time residents.


Another part of his rant included a response to criticism of police staffing.  He went into another of his knee-jerk reactions and demanded from the dais that Chief Tom Gazsi, CEO Tom Hatch and senior staffers meet with him every Thursday at 3:00 p.m. from now until the police staffing levels are resolved.  This is just grandstanding on his part, since the process of hiring new police officers is necessarily a very deliberate process.  If you cut corners in the screening and testing process you end up with folks you don't really want as part of the CMPD.  This was just a guilty reaction on his part, since he is personally responsible for the current shortfall in staffing levels in the CMPD.  Shame on him!

We finally got to the Consent Calendar at 8:15!  We knew then it was going to be a long, long night.  Criticisms were offered for charges on the Warrants, including large legal charges again.  Nobody really satisfactorily answered those criticisms.  Most items passed on a mass vote with the exception of the following.

The discussed the proposed Housing Element Update to the 2000 General Plan at length and, even though there are some significant holes in it, passed it with the assumption that it can be revised later.  To not pass it would have created huge administrative problems and probable loss of funding.

The also passed Item 7, the signal improvements near the former Bethel Towers and moved on to the aforementioned Model Train agreement.  We'll pick it up after that decision.


At 10:00 they finally began the presentation of Public Hearing #1,  the new Public Nuisance Ordinance, with Assistant CEO Rick Francis taking the lead.  Eight members of the public spoke on this issue and most welcomed it as a way to solve significant problems, although a few expressed concern about possible abuses and the breadth of the ordinance.  There were still 65 people left in the auditorium as the council voted, 5-0, to approve the first reading.  It will be brought back for the second reading and some tidying-up of some of the language at a future council meeting.


Shortly after 11:00 p.m. the council began hearing Public Hearing #2, the appeal by councilwoman Sandra Genis of the proposed "improvements" in Fairview Park near the Pacific Avenue entrance to the park.  Two dozen members of the public spoke on this very contentious issue and not one of them spoke in favor of the proposed changes.  Many had previously spoken to Righeimer at his "meet the mayor" event last Thursday night.  Concerns were expressed for the stability of the nearby bluffs, the actual need for such a large turnaround area and the need for the tot lot when a similar facility is located at Vista Park, a few hundred yards up Pacific Avenue.  Residents were also concerned about safety, implying that a proper entrance to the park at the end of Pacific would result in more, faster-traveling cars in the neighborhood along a street with incomplete sidewalks on both sides.  Those comments stretched until around 12:20 a.m. and the subsequent discussion stretched until 12:50 a.m., when Righeimer called for the vote to only install a turnaround at the end of Pacific with NO parking spaces, a proper entrance marking for the park at that location AND the installation of the tot lot as presently prescribed.  He also instructed staff to include the necessary improvements to Pacific Avenue after Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz told him that improvements are already scheduled for that street early next year.  He also told them to investigate a different location for the tot lot.  It passed on a 3-2 vote, with Genis and Leece voting no.
It was clear as the crowd shouted out threats of political retribution and other expressions of displeasure, that not a single person who then left the chambers were happy with the vote.  As I've said many times in the past, decisions made past midnight are seldom good ones.  This was a perfect example.  Righeimer blew any goodwill that he might have gained last Thursday night.

At 12:55 we still had three items to go!  And there were still 20 people in the auditorium in addition to the staff!  The first two, screening requests, went OK.  The third, not so much.

New Business #3 was the request for authorization of an overage already paid to Cognify, a consulting firm that has been doing Information Technology stuff for the city for a year.  We watched CEO Hatch dance cautiously around this issue, of course, it could have been the early hour.  Regardless, one speaker listed more than $136,000 in payments to this outfit and also expressed concern that we somehow managed to pay them without following the proper approvals.  Wendy Leece speculated about the coincidence that the president of the company is a major contributor to Mayor Righeimer's campaign - which had Righeimer fuming.  Still, it's a good question.  This is either very sloppy staff work or something else.  Neither makes me particularly comfortable.  The council voted to pass this one, 4-1, with Leece voting NO.


That's it, folks.  Don't forget the General Plan Circulation Workshop at the Emergency Operations Center beginning at 6:00 tonight.  I'll try to drag my bleary-eyed old body to that one, too.  See you there.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Thank you Gary. I knew you had it in you somewhere. You saved our trains for awhile. I am so very glad you stood up for the residents this time.

Looks like the rally worked. Riggy's temper tantrum was hysterical. Thank you CM4RG for thinking of CMPD and CMFD and the employees in general. After tonight's meeting, you should gain even more members. People are tired of these antics and lies.

9/18/2013 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Perfect! Remember, not all people that show up to meetings are representative of what the Costa Mesans want. I don't want to show up to a meeting to only find crazy yelling people making a scene, no matter what side. Those of us who want to avoid drama calmly speak/email to our officials before these decisions are made.

I love the Fairview Park resolution as voted last night and would be fine with moving the tot lot. That current end to Pacific is an eyesore.

Kudos to Monahan for his compromise.

And the 1st reading of the Public Nuisance ordinance passed, 5-0!

Costa Mesa is moving in the right direction! (I'm ignoring the removal of the municipal ordinance that had to happen as a result of Redondo Beach's case - it's not our fault our larger government doesn't want to consider safety and harassment).

9/18/2013 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

AND Righeimer wants to examine the CUPs for scum motels!

9/18/2013 06:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Ten layers down, under the fog, the destructive alliances, and the bad decisions, is a Gary Monahan that knows what's right for Costa Mesa. It's good to see him once every few years than not at all.

9/18/2013 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Wow. Riggy's developer buddies were all set to start ripping those railroad tracks up...

Who remembers Costa Mesa before Righeimer came and started all this trouble?

9/18/2013 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

The intrusive parking lot being planned inside the park is going to open a whole new can of worms. I suggested that they just use the recommended Master Plan model of capping off Pacific with a rounded 10 spaces and include a monument style pedestrian entrance,.....BUT noooo!
These guys just have to try and stick more and more stuff inside the parks footprint. They should have let that archeologist speak a little more. He wasn't just blowing smoke. This site has been recognized as a major Southern California Archeological site since 1972. The areas that are pinpointed on the map are more for informational , "they are somewhere around there", types of demarcation. Sandy was right, as usual, in that you do not want to pinpoint exact areas.Archeological sites are different than ESHA. A shell site centers an area and identifies it's Archeological significance, once that is done then a radius goes out from there.And we have capped this area off but never explored whats beneath the surface. We put a lid on it for safekeeping. Human activity didn't just occur where there was the a proper water swale and perfect conditions to develop an ecosystem to promote Fairy Shrimp. Human activity is all throughout the park. Cog stones, pottery shards and yes, even human burial remains are in the park. These areas are considered sacred.The Federal/State Government recognizes it as such. Deviating from the Master Plan and developing deeper into the park is going to crack open another hornets nest. They start grading and paving over these areas with asphalt and I guarantee you, there is a very good chance , we as Costa Mesans , will lose any and all local control. They are jeopardizing everything, by rushing through their petty little schemes.They have stacked the Advisory committee with people who have as little possible knowledge about environmental protection as possible. The City Staff wrote in the Parks Minutes several references about the California Environmental Quality Act. Each time they called it SEQUA.They don't even know how to spell it.They are charging in like Custer and the 7th Calvary,.....the Indians are going to show up...and , yes, they might"take it back".

9/18/2013 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous seedling said...

THANK YOU GARY! Tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee (riggy and steve) looked as though they wanted to punch him. Best moment of the night.

Riggy also said he wanted to move the 10 spaces, so the people for the park lost big time.

I overheard someone from the OC Register approach the archaeologist who spoke about the area being a site. Hopefully soon the feds will just take fairview park away from that council entirely.

9/18/2013 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Hold em Accountable said...

Wow !! Gary did the right thing! That's REALLY gonna piss Riggy off....

Where is Riggy going to go for his Diet Cokes now?

Understand, ALL of the train antics and the Bluffs is about Mensinger and parking for youth football.

No need to pave paradise to put up a parking lot!
(thanks, Joni)

9/18/2013 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you, Gary for voting for the five year extension with the Model Engineers.
The residents of Costa Mesa and all who enjoy that wonderful train are grateful to you.

I'm sure Righeimer's tantrum was not appreciated by his attorney!

9/18/2013 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

I watched Jim and Steve stop for fully five seconds and give Gary the "stink eye". Never knew what it looked like before, but having seen it, I can say it's unforgettable. If that's what Chris Eric was talking about, I can see why he was just a little upset.

Gary held his ground, held his cool, and stayed as centered as I've ever seen any bartender stay in the face of a belligerent drunk, which Jim and Steve somewhat resembled. Good for you, Mr. Monahan. You and I have had some differences in the past, but all I have is admiration for you at the present. Thanks for having the testicular fortitude to vote your conscience! --Glad I never met you in a dark alley!

9/18/2013 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous now is the time said...

Thank you Councilman Monahan for listening to and honoring the passion of those who spoke at Tuesday's meeting. Your one vote went a long way in preserving a part of Costa Mesa's history...even if only for a bit longer.
And, listening to what the archeologist had to say, how cool would it be to think outside the box reference the area listed on the National Registry as possibly containing American Indian history in the form of artifacts. Why not, instead of an entrance to the park with a turn about and tot lot, create an entrance to a controlled and protected dig site where young and old alike could be a part of (or at least watch) the process of unveiling native artifacts.
Sports are great for kids but think about the educational value such a dig would provide. One of the vacations I remember most clearly as a child included visiting a site in Utah where we watched archeologists digging for and uncovering dinosaur bones.
I admittedly know nothing about what it would take to create such an area...legally or environmentally....but see the value in protecting the history Costa Mesa has been entrusted with.

9/18/2013 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

I was amazed (and thankful) that Gary had guts the to actually vote differently than his two handlers.

Maybe by the time they got around to the park issues the brain trust on the board was checked out for the night? Why did king jim (and the little prince stevie) vote to place a tot lot with no parking spaces for users? Not that either is/was a good idea, it just seems rather strange to put it in w/o a place to park nearby.

Again, another fine example of a CC that has a totally deaf ear to the needs and wants of the people.

9/18/2013 09:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

I love how the person that posted the "CM4RG Union Rally" on Youtube disabled the like/dislike buttons as well as the comment section. Way to stand behind your P.O.S. video you gutless puke.

9/19/2013 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Muffin: that gutless puke is Kent Mora

9/19/2013 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Atlas Shrunk said...

Good job Gary.

9/20/2013 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Atlas Shrunk said...

Why did Leece and Genis support the Nuisance Ordinance (which is a self referring title)?

9/20/2013 11:06:00 PM  

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