Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Of Parks, Paths, Potential Corruption And More


The Costa Mesa City Council surprised even me last night when it managed to drag what probably could have been an hour-long meeting until 9:15 - more than three hours!  Geez!

It began with some very nice presentations.  Mayor Jim Righeimer recognized Bob Robins, owner of Theodore Robins Ford, and his family with the Mayor's award.  The dealership has been a fixture in the Newport/Mesa area for nearly a century and in Costa Mesa since 1966.

Then he acknowledged the team of volunteers, headed by CMPD Sergeant Vic Bakkila, who recently refurbished and repainted the airplane at Lions Park.

He then recognized the Costa Mesa American Little League organization for their championship season.

Finally, he asked concessionaire Hank Lloyd to tell us about the upcoming professional tennis event that will be held in the Costa Mesa Tennis Center soon.

Thirteen residents stepped up to express their concerns on a variety of issues.  Six spoke with concern about the planned funding of the improvements in Fairview Park near Pacific Avenue.  A couple more expressed concern about the difficulty receiving documents dealing with the brewing scandal about the 60th Anniversary celebration and the bootleg decomposed granite trail in Fairview Park.

Righeimer kicked off this segment with a monologue about the Group Home issue.  He briefly discussed the Morningside situation in Newport Beach, in which that organization violated their agreement with the City.  Recent news reports tell us that Morningside has shifted three dozen "clients" to Costa Mesa.  Our city now has 24% of all rehab facilities in the county.  As Righeimer discussed measures that will be taken to mitigate the impact of these facilities in our neighborhoods he acknowledged that when the proposed municipal ordinances are in place they will certainly result in law suits.  It's funny how he just shrugs off litigation as a cost of doing business.  He stated, "What does it cost?  It costs what it costs!"  So, I guess we're supposed to be satisfied that our mayor is willing to expose us to MORE legal entanglements.  His casual attitude about racking up legal costs continues to be very distressing.

He spoke briefly about the problems with the 60th Anniversary, acknowledging that we can't do much right now because it's a personnel matter.

Steve Mensinger opened up his segment with an observation that we're spending a lot of time worrying about a kids pathway - referring, of course, to the bootleg DG path that has recently defiled Vernal Pool #6 and angered the federal agency responsible for it.  He said, "I spend a good majority of my time with my family in Fairview Park."  Really, Steve?  You spend more than half of your time with your family in Fairview Park?  I doubt it.  Then, in a not-too-subtle attempt to justify his recent call for lights in the park, he said that the Concerts in the Park don't end until dark, which makes it unsafe to depart the park.

Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz, took some time to explain that we had hired a biologist from LSA Associates to assess the damage the bootleg DG path has done to Vernal Pool #6.  All the vernal pools will be delineated, potential mitigation plans will be formed, probably by the end of this week,  and the results of the assessment will be sent to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife - the department now responsible for the vernal pools.  It will take a couple weeks for Fish and Wildlife to evaluate that information and respond with their demands for mitigation.  Munoz indicated that, so far, no discussion has occurred about punitive damages for the incursion on Vernal Pool #6.  He DID NOT explain who did the installation of the decomposed granite on the path.

Sandy Genis expressed concern about the funding for a boardwalk in Fairview Park that is part of the Consent Calendar.  She explained at great length about the details of the Conservation Easement that is supposed to govern our actions in Fairview Park.  This easement apparently contains an extensive list of banned uses and she's concerned that the boardwalk may violate that easement.  She made no bones about how the Vernal Pool #6 encroachment may create long term consequences with our ability manage Fairview Park, indicating that what happened there is not just something to be shrugged off as a "mistake" - it violates an agreement with the federal government.

As Wendy Leece began her comments I had to smile as she paused, not saying anything.  When Righeimer asked is she was finished she said, "No, I'm just waiting for everyone up here to pay attention."  She was referring to Mensinger, who was engrossed in playing Angry Birds or some other distraction, on an electronic device.   He continues to demonstrate the attention span of a pre-pubescent teenager.

Leece also expressed concern about the boardwalk, and the DG path.  She's concerned that we have insufficient park ranger time in Fairview Park.  She is also concerned about the potential unintended consequences of the proposed Nuisance Ordinance - the high probability of more legal costs.  And, she expressed concern about up-coming police department retirements and our ability to back-fill those vacancies with sufficiently trained officers to keep the city safe.  She mentioned the up-coming Citizen's Police Academy that begins in a week.  And, she expressed concern about the length of the proposed performance audit for the Costa Mesa Country Club - the item on the Consent Calendar says it will take 13 weeks but the contract is for a year, at a cost of $34,280.

Gary Monahan had nothing to offer - big surprise.


CEO Tom Hatch, probably still reeling following his return from vacation during which the wheels came off at City Hall - the 60th Anniversary scandal and the DG path - explained the reasoning behind the "year" in the agreement for the CM Country Club audit.  He also explained that the staff is, and has been, very successful in identifying and acquiring grant funds for improvements throughout the city, and in our parks in particular.

He introduced the new Interim Finance Director, Steve Dunivent, and briefly outlined his extensive background in Orange County government.  Based on that background, he sounds like the right guy to fill-in while a replacement for recently-departed Bobby Young.  We'll see...

Hatch then tossed the ball to Assistant CEO Rick Francis for an update on the Lions Park homelessness situation.  Francis was assisted in his presentation by Muriel Ullman, who manages this activity for the city, and CMPD Lieutenant Mark Manley and Sergeant Vic Bakkila.  The news was not good.

According to the team, despite very significant efforts by the CMPD, the Homeless Task Force and the Churches Consortium to manage the Costa Mesa Homeless, the numbers of homeless folks in our city has actually increased - from 130 to 190, based on a recent census.  We heard, for example, that rehab operator Morningside, recently unloaded a failed client to Lions Park.  This is the outfit that is leaving Newport Beach for the friendlier confines of Costa Mesa with at least three dozen "clients".

During the discussion we learned that, in an attempt to more effectively manage the Lions Park infestation, ALL four of our Park Rangers have been spending significant time at the park - providing dawn-to-dusk coverage - and it seems to have been effective.  Citations have more than doubled recently.  This pilot program is fairly new.  My last pass at Lions Park a couple weeks ago showed more than 20 homeless folks all over the area.  The phrase, "carrot and stick" approach was mentioned by Bakkila, who indicated that it's time to use more of the "stick" part of that equation.

Despite the increase in homeless folks in our city, there have been some successes by the Homeless Task Force and Becks Hayhoe and her Churches Consortium, and Ullman outlined them for us.  While those numbers represented a lot of effort by staffers, social workers and police, they seemed inadequate when viewing this problem as a whole.  This is not an easy issue to resolve, particularly when neighboring communities actually send their homeless folks to us because we have an effective infrastructure to manage it.  THAT is frustrating.

While commenting on this issue Mensinger acknowledged that we have "limited resources' - but neglected to tell us that HE and Righeimer are directly, specifically, responsible for that resource shortage!  They refuse to staff the CMPD at levels that will permit effective policing and, for months, refused to let the CMPD hire replacements for anticipated retirements. So, we are far, far, far behind the curve on filling those slots - a fact that will come home to roost the first of the year.

Hatch ended his segment by addressing the 60th Anniversary celebration scandal by READING a prepared statement, which the city has posted on the web site and can be viewed HERE.  I understand the need to be accurate, but I was a little uncomfortable that our CEO felt the need to read his statement.  It was as though someone else had written it for him... very bizarre.  HERE's Bradly Zint's coverage of the issue from the Daily Pilot this morning.

When it finally came time to address the Consent Calendar only items 3, 8 and 14 were pulled for separate discussion.  Resident Ken Nyquist - a recent frequent commenter here - expressed concern for the mounting legal fees demonstrated on the four warrants.

Mensinger pulled #8, the performance audits, because he didn't see any reference to an audit of the two foundations established a few years ago and wanted the staff to look into the agreements.

Leece pulled #14, the Fairview Park parking and playground funding. She was concerned about the impact on the neighbors and wondered why we just didn't hold off until the meeting Righeimer planned with the residents that he scheduled off the cuff, from the dais, earlier.  Monahan awoke to contribute that this was just a request for permission to seek grant money.  It was passed, 4-0, with Leece voting no.

And finally, after 9:00 p.m., they got to the only other item on the agenda - Public Hearing #1, a request for vacation of some city property along Fullerton Avenue.  As anticipated, this discussion took only moments, but Mensinger went on one of his walk-abouts and was not in the auditorium when the council took the vote to approve the measure, which passed 4-0.  Mensinger came wandering back into the chambers after Righeimer had adjourned the meeting to a special study session on September 10th.  Mensinger really is obtuse.

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Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

The comment about the lights in Fairview was absurd. There are 4 (maybe 5) concerts a year, they are done by 8:00, sunset is between 8:01 and 7:56 in July leaving at least an hour of dusk in which to leave, and for this we are installing lights? Is anyone buying this load of malarkey?

Sandy Genis was, as always, thinking clearly and offering rational alternatives. The best was teh suggestion to change the master plan back to where it was originally and stop the push for the tot lot, parking and more.

I would love to see the emails Sue Lester got from her PRA request!

9/04/2013 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Hold em Accountable said...

Someone should ask Steve if he had ANYTHING to do with the pathway.

He will have to say "no" or no comment. Either way, he's done, because the truth WILL come out.

Transparency in this city is a joke!

BUT, they will get another made up/bought award for transparency soon enough.


9/04/2013 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Hold Em...yeah he did.

9/04/2013 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

We have never left a Concert in the Park in the dark. Steve is a liar.

9/04/2013 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

I had to think on my feet last night at the council meeting and change my entire approach…My two minute and 58 minute timed, rehearsed ambush had a problem…From the first minute I talked to the city clerk before the meeting while I filled out my two confession cards, I was told discussing any of the agenized items on the Consent Calendar that I wanted to address during the first phase of public comments would probably get me cut off by the mayor…I wanted to discuss….2485…2486…2487 and 2488 regarding legal fees and IT costs…

I did manage to mention the council compensation transparency webpage is not so transparent after all…It was opaque...You know, as in nothing there…

I digressed to 2485 alone at the suggestion of the City Clerk, since it had the City Attorney’s $135,000.00 paycheck on it, but had to supposedly wait until the second public comment session…

Meaning I only got #3 pulled…

I figured if we are going to spend $3.00 for every man woman and child who lives in Costa Mesa on legal fees in 21 days, we need to have in house council at a fixed cost…

As the Mayor said, we are going to get sued anyway…He is correct…I am considering filing a motion in either State or Federal court for this headache I have..

I had to consult my wife, who was not feeling well at all, if I should actually continue with my original tactics after I realized Bob Robins and the whole clan were there…The Little League kids who will watch the council video 50 times, and all the folks who worked on the jet I played on during my years going to Lions Park will watch the video…I felt so bad while Mr. Robins had to stand at the lectern, barely able to stay up at his age, while we had a photo op setup to give him a little blue plaque …Mrs. Robins declined the Mayors offer of a baseball cap and a T-Shirt…My wife just called me a wimp and wanted me to have at it…

If I had actually realized everybody else in the place would be able to talk about what appeared to me to be Consent Calendar stuff, I would have gone for my original approach…Next time around…..Draw them in with praise and hit em in the head…

I have listened to thousands of hours of courtroom testimony in my life, and Mensinger appeared to be admitting that he ordered the DG pathway to be installed, although he was unsure how to do admit to it, as he believes he did the right thing during an emotional crisis he was going through…Then of course there is no cross examination, up there, as there is in a courtroom…

Doublespeak and Doublethink came to mind while deciphering Mensinger’s almost confessional message last night….So did.. direct…cross…redirect…recross…
rebuttal…I’m gonna puke, call my shrink…I am having another episode…Maybe I won’t have to testify…It worked for Michael Jackson once….

Reminded me of Clinton not having sexual relations with that woman…

Skoch was silent almost the entire evening, possibly from having a skoch more of something, before squinting at an enemy in the crowd…

9/04/2013 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

The Bootleg Fairview Park trail shows the typical "Bull in a China Shop" mentality we've seen so much of these last couple years.

If a councilmember was involved, they need to come clean ASAP. Does anyone remember Watergate and how the cover-up was worse than the break-in?

9/04/2013 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous seedling said...

It was obvious from the earlier video stunt steve is trying to mislead us with the lights. Hello, our cheapo video recording decives (including phones) dont have anything to compensate for the lack of a rod photoreceptor system. We can see in dim conditions, bad recording devices cannot. Cheap tactics from a man whose thoughts arent worth two cents. Now he proceeds to LIE, great.

I run fairview park just after sunset often, (its the prettiest/coolest time of day) there is light for a good 30 minutes after sunset, giving us AN HOUR AND A HALF to leave post concert during july. Maybe he just cant find his car because he is going blind.

Silly boy, installing lights when all he obviously needs is a trip to the optometrists office. New glasses may be in order, but then hed have to look at himself.

9/04/2013 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Stephen Mensinger needs to tell the people of Costa Mesa whether or not he was involved in the paving of that bootleg trail.

9/04/2013 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

So Mensinger thinks we spend too much time worrying about a kid's pathway, really? Does he even know what Federally protected means and the ramifications of violating an agreement with the Feds. to be good stewards of the protected land?
THAT is something he can spend time on learning, as it directly pertains to his job, instead of shadowing and harassing our city employees and incorrectly telling them how to do their jobs.
I never want to hear that dude claim that he's an environmentalist ever again. It's a sad, sick joke.
Mr. blow 'em up with gunpowder, smirk, snide remark, smirk," harvest" coyotes, let's blow up more things more days, smirk,we can't see fairy shrimp, walkout of the meeting, snide remark, smirk is many things, an environmentalist is not one of them.

9/04/2013 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Interesting story in the Pilot about the city being advised by attorneys to withhold documents regarding the 60th. Just more time to cover up whatever it was that was wrong, and throw the two employees under the bus.

And I can't wait to find out/confirm who was behind the building of that path.

I don't think the Costa Mesa 'brand' is quite so strong as others seem to believe.

9/04/2013 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous seedling said...

I wonder if the sudden surge of more homeless has to do with the work they are doing along the riverbed. I noticed some of the camps behind the bushes are now gone as they are working on whatever projects they are doing. They gotta go somewhere :-/

on my earlier comment i meant to say half an hour not hour and a half-- oops. But the point still stands, its not dark when the concerts end! If he cant manage to drive out of there safely at dusk, maybe he shouldnt be driving.

9/04/2013 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Bingo...The Council Compensation page is back online and working as advertised.....

9/04/2013 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Judy Lindsay said...

Homeless being addressed at Lion's Park, hmmm the homeless have moved on to the Costa Mesa Senior Center. We had 6 removed this last Thursday due to drunkenness and passing out on our lawns. Our seniors are afraid, we lost a long time volunteer, due to the influx of homeless who are more belligerent and disrespect then before. They panhandle, bathe in our restrooms, soil our furniture, and try to infringe on member benefit activities.

9/04/2013 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Dark Moon said...

I went over to “the path” earlier today to see exactly where it is, then trekked over to the other side to the proposed playground. Maybe after a third lobotomy you’d take your child to a playground in that location. Scary. I saw how close the bluffs are to the area. Reminded me of a button I had that said, “Go Lemmings! Go!” Can you say, lawsuit? The term “attractive nuisance” comes to mind. Where is the shade? Hey, let’s fry the kids rear ends and watch their skin peel off as they go down the slide. Will there be drinking water nearby? Or a bathroom? If so, who installs the water system needed for them? Or guards them from the freaks in the area? Did they really plan for this? Maybe for someone who lives in a Gumbyland world but not in a real one. I’d scratch that plan and save the money.

The Vernal Pool #6 and nearby path. Really? Who uses it? Are the kids so lazy that they can’t go around? Why is it even there? Children are destructive by nature and those poor little creatures that have survived this long are pretty much doomed now. Is society so entitled that they have a right to walk everywhere? I read there was a comment about moving the pool over. In what new world order should this happen? They probably think fracking is a good idea too.

The 60th Anniversary fiasco is a pretty good one too. I can’t really comment since we aren’t allowed to see the financial records on it. Haha, good one. Can a person order a copy of the City Financial Report for the fiscal year of 2012 -2013? Does one exist? Those kinds of things are supposedly public knowledge but I’ve learned that a lot of things in Costa Mesa aren’t, or don’t exist. More like, “we didn’t really see that, did we?” I can understand going over budget, but I also do know the word “no” exists. As in “no” you cannot see those records.

In trying to understand the concept of Costa Mesa city government, Holy Cow. One sat up there during the council meeting as if in a self induced catatonic state, it was truly mesmerizing. Another council member held an expression as if smelling a really bad fart all night and another showed an interest of, well, no interest. These people are too old to build their resume, why are they even there? Their reason for such drive must be unfathomable but their presence of mind seemed pretty much non-existent to me.

Is there a City Attorney department for the City of Costa Mesa? Whelp, I looked, it’s under “Departments” but called an “Office”. I just chuckled, my understanding of this description is he’s not really a City employee but a contracted one. What kind of benefits does a contracted lawyer get aside from their fees? If the City had a team of attorneys there to represent them eight hours a day, five days a week, imagine the possibilities! The attorneys that represent the city now, how is the contracting process done? Who decides? Is there an oral board comprised of people with non conflicting interests deciding? Or do they have RFP bids? Seriously. Except thinking about, from what I understand those people need more training in what they do. Ever hear the expression when you point a finger, you have three pointing back at you?

While reading the amounts listed on the agenda being paid out another stood out, Finger Printing Services. For whom and why? Being an official finger print roller, print and live scan, I am well aware of the time it takes; plus keeping records of the reports that come in from DOJ. New hires were soon told to get finger printed elsewhere and here’s an idea; they paid for the service. The hiring department could reimburse the new employee from their departmental budget. I’m sure most anyone would gladly pay for the service for a job. The drug testing and physicals cost more but that wasn’t listed. Weird.

9/05/2013 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

OK, Dark Moon, taking it from the top:

Yep, among the biggest complaints about the planned infrastructure near Pacific Avenue in Fairview Park is the lack of a toilet anywhere close to the playground area. Funny, nobody brought up a water fountain.

The damage to Vernal Pool #6 is probably so severe that it will be "moved". We'll find out after the Fish and Game folks review the options we sent them.

The annual budget is available online - all 290 pages of it. The Consolidated Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is usually produced this month.

About the council members... you're observations are pretty darn close.

The decision was made several years ago to abandon an in-house City Attorney Department - one of the biggest reasons was that we didn't have sufficient litigation strength in the then-staff. So, it was contracted out and Jones & Mayer was the successful bidder. In theory, we pay them a specific fee for their services - it's in the budget under City Attorney - and get a full service firm, able to work on everything. Ha! For almost every big issue - and this council crew has produced some BIG ones - Jones & Mayer becomes mostly a bill processing department, approving the bills from other firms.

Glad you're going over the Warrants.. it's an interesting, and sometimes very frustrating, exercise.

9/05/2013 06:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Hold em Accountable said...



If Jones & Meyer gives bad advice, Do they get paid to defend the idiots in their lawsuits?

Wake up Costa Mesa...The City is getting worse under Riggy's control.

9/05/2013 07:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Dark Moon said...

Dear Pot Stirrer, thank you for your information! My apologies too, I thought this one would be short. I will be reading up on whatever I can find. I know that the end of June is a big deal in municipal codes. When July 1st rolls around all kinds of things change or are due to be published. I’ll also be doing some self imposed research with the League of Cities for comparison or help.

Too bad about the City Attorney’s department. They should have created more job classifications and job descriptions and moved forward with recruitments instead of scraping a City department. It just hit me; Costa Mesa doesn’t have a Personnel Commission or do they? I’d still like to see the contract. The way its being done the City has no control over the quality of service the people are receiving. Just like you can’t force a contracted worker to be imposed upon for a drug test or physical, you have no idea who is really working for you. Make them compete for the position instead of being assigned to a file. People pay a little bit more attention when their job is on the line.

Now, something I wanted to say last night. The problem with the homeless. I have been told by a motel worker that people walk into their lobby and tell them that they are told to come to Costa Mesa because they have laws to protect the homeless. Whether this is true or not, it seems so. I’ve had a taxi stop right outside my front yard gate and the driver began dumping bags right in front of it. Then I watched a girl, unknown to me, get out and talk to the driver with a look on her face as if to say, “Where am I?” That’s when I ran outside and said, nope, pack it all back up and leave. The girl pleaded with me to let her put her belongings in my back yard. I have enough problems with people around here. Prostitutes plopping down gallon sized Clorox bottles down next to our truck, with her jacket and oddly enough a Bible then hoof it on over to the motel office next door. I can always tell when a new bus load of homeless come into town. I can tell the rehab people. There have been times in my life when I’ve needed help but jeez people, when does it end? It used to be you couldn’t enter our country without a sponsor now it’s become a free for all.

I think first they should put up a ten foot high chain link fence up around Lions Park, with lights and security cameras. Too much? Okay, keep the fence and lights and enforce hours of operation. Being gracious is one thing, being an idiot is another. The Senior Center, the seniors and its employees should be protected. I hear there’s plenty of room at Fairview Park. Set up some outdoor shower stalls over there with picnic tables. There is no good answer to the problem except quit being so darn nice. Sandy Genis mentioned having the churches in the city adopt a homeless person or persons. Start with the lady living over by Home Depot on Harbor, or the guy who monopolizes the bus stop on 17th & Orange or the one legged lady who sits at night up over at Bank of America on 19th harassing people. My idea would go along the lines of forcing the rehab houses to take them in much like assigned risks in the insurance field. If you want to run this business, then here are the rules. I am tired of finding crack pipes in my marigolds or opening my window for fresh air and have stale cigarette smoke waft in or go outside to tend to my tomato plant and listen to some chick yack over the drugs she took the night before then have some guy tell her to sleep it off.

The quality of life has gone way down in Costa Mesa. Closing our eyes to the problem will not help nor will a mayor telling us that we’re asking for a lawsuit. I’d say go for it, we pay handsomely for attorney service; why not give them something with some meat to it? It was almost as if he was threatening us not to rock the boat when I think it needs to be flipped over. Create a reality show, Down and Out in Costa Mesa. It is a sad state of affairs.

9/05/2013 01:09:00 PM  

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