Friday, January 11, 2013

A Fun Time Ahead On Tuesday

Next Tuesday, January 15, 2013, the Costa Mesa City Council will meet at its regularly scheduled meeting - the final one of the month - at 6:00 p.m. in council chambers.  A closed session will precede it at 5:00.

This meeting promises to be short, but potentially very entertaining.  As I prepare to post this at 2:00 p.m. Friday the agenda has not yet been posted, but I got a sneak peek at it, so will whet your appetite for what's ahead. Agenda now available HERE.

The big item on the agenda, HERE,  is the appointment of new Planning and Parks and Recreation commissioners.  Originally there were to be five (5) appointments, but now there are six (6) because Parks and Recreation Commissioner Dan Vozenilek resigned suddenly Thursday, creating four (4) slots open on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The Planning Commission presently consists of the following individuals (the termination of their appointments is shown in parenthesis):
  • Colin McCarthy, Chair (Feb. 2013)
  • Sam Clark, Vice Chair (Feb. 2013)
  • Rob Dickson (Feb. 2015)
  • Ed Salcedo (Feb. 2015)
  • Jeff Mathews (Feb. 2015)  He's filling out the unexpired term of Jim  Fitzpatrick, who resigned last year.
This produces two (2) positions for the council to fill.

The Parks and Recreation Commission presently consists of the following individuals.
  • Kim Pederson (Feb. 2013)
  • Dean Abernathy (Feb. 2015)
  • Vacant (Feb. 2015) - Ethan Temianka's position, who resigned following his election to the Mesa Consolidated Water District Board in November.
  • Vacant (Feb. 2013) - Jeff Mathews position, who was appointed to the Planning Commission
  • Vacant (Feb. 2015) - Dan Vozenilek position.  He resigned Thursday.
This produces four (4) positions for the council to fill.


Here's the roster of applicants for the positions on both the Planning and Parks and Recreation Commissions.  Three people, Byron de Arakal, Devin Lucas and Tim Sesler,  have applied for a seat on both commissions and are noted by the asterisk (*) beside their names. (click on the image to enlarge)
There are so many potentially interesting stories in this roster of folks, but the only place to begin is with the re-emergence of Jim Fitzpatrick as a candidate for a Planning Commission seat.  Anyone following Costa Mesa politics lately know most of the story of Fitzpatrick thumbing his nose at solid legal opinion and holding seats on both the Planning Commission and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board of Directors.  It has been reported that he was advised by lawyers that he was forbidden to hold both seats simultaneously.  Eventually, the middle of last year and following legal action initiated by the remaining four members of the Sanitary District Board, he resigned from the Planning Commission.  The legal action remains and the State Attorney General, Kamala Harris, recently advised the Sanitary District that the lawsuit could continue.

And yet, here we are, with Fitzpatrick effectively giving the Attorney General the finger by re-applying for the Planning Commission seat!  One can only assume that he intends to resign from the Sanitary District Board - or else he's willing to go through with the legal action and potentially lose all he owns to legal fees.  I'm trying to figure out whether he's getting bad legal advice or is just plain stupid.  Could be a little of both.

So, the question then is whether the council majority will re-appoint Fitzpatrick knowing all the drama that surrounds him in this matter.  Of course, Fitzpatrick could resolve the issue by resigning from the Sanitary District Board BEFORE the appointment process on Tuesday.  Stay tuned!

Under more normal circumstances the top question here would be whether the council is willing to dump either Sam Clark or Colin McCarthy - or both - from the Planning Commission.  Clark has been a loyal GOP foot soldier and has not done a bad job on the commission.  McCarthy managed to irritate a lot of people around town during his failed City Council campaign last year, so I'm wondering if they will cast him aside.

The roster of applicants has other provocative names on it.  Marshall Krupp, for example, became the invisible man once he terminated his campaign last fall.  His background includes significant planning-related experience.

Long time activist and former city employee, Eleanor Egan has directly related experience, having been a member of the Planning Commission in the recent past.  She served with distinction during her tour and was always a voice of reason on the commission.

Columnist Steve Smith is on the list.  That's interesting, since he has zero background for this kind of an assignment.

Byron de Arakal applied for either commission, has been on the Parks and Recreation Commission in the past - including a tour as Chairman - and did a great job.

Two recently-active young lawyers, Devin Lucas and Tim Sesler, have applied for both, too.  Personally, it might be fun to have them on the Parks and Recreation Commission.  Sesler has proven to be pretty thin-skinned when it comes to criticism of his views as expressed in commentaries in the local media and in the comment threads online.

Sue Lester applied for the Planning Commission.  She has demonstrated that she's far from being the one-trick pony most assumed she would be when she became active in local issues primarily to protect her business.  She has become a tireless activist on a variety of issues and is currently on the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee.

Other items on the agenda include the re-naming and re-tasking of the Investment Oversight Committee, HERE,  and Mayor Jim Righeimer's appointments to the Conference and Visitor's Bureau Board, the Transportation Corridor Agency and the Orange County Vector Control District, HERE. At this point the agenda is not posted on the City web site.  When that occurs the applications for all the individuals will be available online for our review.  I'll comment more at that time.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

60th Anniversary Team On The Move

The Costa Mesa 60th Anniversary Committee met again Thursday evening to begin getting serious about the planning necessary to make this event a rousing success.


Chairman Mike Scheafer began the meeting promptly at 5:30, outlined the plans for the evening and, with a little support by Costa Mesa Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce, dispatched the group to locations around the room to meet as sub-committees.  Joyce, whom I teased about the last meeting when he attended electronically while at a special family event out of town, and Scheafer moved from group to group to offer guidance and see what kind of help they might need.
The Kick-Off Event sub-committee, chaired by Planning Commissioner Rob Dickson, made good progress on what they hope will be a weekend-long event, probably beginning on Friday, June 28th and covering the entire weekend.  The City's official anniversary date is June 29, 2013.

The Education and History sub-committee, chaired by Costa Mesa's poet laureate Charlene Ashendorf in the plaid skirt,  discussed plans for a dance party, coordination with Orange Coast College, Vanguard University and the Newport Mesa Unified School District and other issues.

The Marketing, Advertising and Branding sub-committee, chaired by Kim Glen, spent their time discussing preliminary ideas for logos and advertising opportunities.

The Sustainability team worked on how to interface with all the other groups to insure sustainability (think green) is included in all activities.  Chair Bob Ooten - past president of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board - presented their ideas.

The Outreach sub-committee, chaired by Sue Lester, (shown with Vice Chair Cindy Brenneman) spoke of incorporating awareness of the 60th Anniversary in every other event currently planned throughout the city during the year.  They mentioned the Military Banner program and discussed ways to utilize those for the anniversary, too.

Charlie Markel, chair of the Youth Programs sub-committee, spoke of blending anniversary celebration events into things like AYSO programs, a booth at the Community Run (which will be conducted coincident with the Fish Fry this year) and the Pumpkin Patch at the Goat Hill Depot at Fairview Park.

The teams will meet independently during the week, then go through a similar exercise next Thursday, also at the Emergency Operations Center at 5:30 to finalize their ideas and attempt to determine what kind of a budget might be necessary to accomplish their goals.  They will continue to meet throughout the month and their plans and request for budget dollars will be presented to the City Council at its meeting on February 5th.

Volunteers will be needed to support all of these teams.  Those interested are encouraged to contact Special Events Coordinator Christine Cordon at City Hall by email at or by telephone at 714-754-5121.


You can find more information on the 60th Anniversary Celebration plans at the City web site, HERE.

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Lobbying Firm Hired To Help With I-405 Project (Amended!)

Now that I'm not wasting my time prowling through Facebook any more I spend more time browsing through some of the web sites I have linked and I found a very interesting entry on the OC Political Blog site.  That site, a communication portal that has replaced the old financially distressed  Red County site, provides a "conservative" view of issues in our neck of the woods.

The piece I refer to is titled, "Westminster Hiring Lobbyist to Revive 405 Freeway Fight", and may be found in total HERE.  In that article the author - an unidentified writer using the pen name "OC Insider", tells us that last night - January 9th - the Westminster City Council was to consider paying lobbying firm Townsend Public Affairs $5,000 per month for six months to try to get the recent decision by the OCTA to use Alternative #1 on their plans to widen the I-405 beginning in Costa Mesa.

They quote the Westminster City Council meeting agenda report with these paragraphs:
 "The City of Costa Mesa has asked the cities of Westminster, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach to volunteer to share in the cost for the professional services of Townsend Public Affairs to date in the amount of $5,000 each.  

The City of Costa Mesa has also informed the corridor cities coalition that they have retained Townsend Public Affairs for future services related to the I-405 Improvement Project. The work includes the following objectives: prevent the reconsideration, adoption and implementation of Alternative 3; stop the implementation of Alternative 1; and promote the adoption and implementation of Alternative 2 as the locally preferred alternative for the I-405 Improvement Project.

The future services are expected to be completed in approximately six months, or when Caltrans adopts the locally preferred alternative. At that time, the City of Costa Mesa will ask the cities of Westminster, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach to volunteer to share in the cost for these services for an amount not to exceed $5,000 each.

I contacted the City of Westminster and was told that the issue in question, which appeared on their Consent Calendar Tuesday night, authorized Westminster to pay the City of Costa Mesa $5,000 and was approved by the city council unanimously.

It looks like we have already jumped off this cliff by apparently retaining Townsend Public Affairs, HERE, and are now trying to find someone to throw us a financial aid parachute before we hit the ground.  It's apparent that some of the cities in question have not yet signed on to help defray the costs.  I find myself wondering if we're going to be on the hook for all of the Townsend costs next summer.  By the way, in case that name sounds familiar, Townsend has been in the news this week because Tuesday the new Irvine City Council, in their haste to take control of the Great Park fiasco, apparently fired the firm from their lobbying efforts for the Great Park Board.

I contacted Costa Mesa Communication Director Bill Lobdell on this issue earlier today.  He confirmed that the City did, in fact, earlier retain Townsend Public Affairs to "assist with advocacy efforts" (lobbying) with the OCTA Board, the County Board of Supervisors and other corridor cities.  He tells me that they are now considering renewing that contract so Townsend can do as indicated above.  He did not mention any numbers.  The Townsend web site identifies the cities in question  - the "I-405 Coalition" are "current clients".  Here's the image from that part of their web site.

So, I called Townsend Public Affairs in Irvine to get the straight scoop.  I spoke the President, Christopher Townsend, who confirmed that his firm had been retained by the coalition, above, but that he could not discuss the details and terms of that arrangement.  In my view, this is a good thing for all of the cities involved.  If Townsend is somehow successful in getting CalTrans to select Alternative 2, not 1 and certainly not 3, then these consulting dollars will be well-spent.

NOTE:  After I posted this entry, and despite the fact that other cities apparently believe the contrary and the consultant shows the coalition as current clients on their web page and the President of the company confirmed they were onboard, I was contacted by Bill Lobdell - twice - to inform me that THERE IS NO CURRENT AGREEMENT WITH TOWNSEND PUBLIC AFFAIRS to represent the City's interests in the I-405 issue at this time.  The check issued above was for reimbursement for past services.  This is an odd situation, but I'm going with the last word from Lobdell.

In case you need a little refresher on this subject, you can read an overview of the project on the OCTA web site, HERE.  There are two video clips that provide some background for the need for expansion of this part of the I-405.  You will recall that Costa Mesa and all the other corriedor cities wanted Alternate #2, shown above, to be the preferred alternative.  Instead, the OCTA Board selected #1, which is better than #3, but not the best choice overall. The image below is the timetable of events as of today:

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Applicant Avalanche!

The agenda for next Tuesday's Costa Mesa City Council meeting will contain the consideration of applicants for both the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission.

It's my understanding that more than two dozen applications have been received for the five (5) seats available on the two commissions, two (2) on the Planning Commission and three (3) on the Parks and Recreation Commission.  Yikes!

 So, stay tuned for more information.  The agenda for the meeting may be out as early as Thursday evening, Friday for sure.  When it's available I'll post about it and provide you with a link to this very interesting issue.  Will this new, "kinder, gentler" council cast aside incumbents and appoint new folks to these very important commissions?  I think we will get a pretty good idea of how this council will attempt to manage our city for the next two years by the appointments they make next week.

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Kinder, Gentler - But Still Long - Council Meeting

Well, the first Costa Mesa city council meeting of the new year proved to, indeed, be a kinder, gentler event than many in the recent past.  New Mayor Jim Righeimer ran the meeting crisply, with almost the perfect mix of business and humor.  He enlisted the help of his fellow council members and the public to keep things moving briskly.  I don't want to heap too much praise on him or he might get a big head... oh, wait... too late.

The evening began with three VERY special presentations.  Costa Mesa Police Officer Jon Smith - who had been honored on the lawn of the Police Headquarters earlier in the day when the yellow ribbon that had wrapped the trunk of a large ficus tree on the lawn was removed after Smith safely returned from a year-long deployment in Afghanistan - presented Righeimer with an American Flag that had flown over Afghanistan.

Then Righeimer honored two young maintenance workers from the South Point Apartments who saved the lives of two women who had been trapped in a burning apartment building.  Arturo Hernandez and Gerald Rodriquez broke in a door and literally carried the two women to safety.

And then Righiemer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger presented awards to members and coaches of the Estancia High School Eagle football team for their victory in the annual Battle Of The Bell - the cross-town rivalry with the Costa Mesa High School Mustangs.  Coach Mike Bargas spoke briefly about his team and their accomplishments.

Fewer than a dozen folks rose to speak during Public Comments on issues as diverse as improving an entrance to Fairview Park; the successful Snoopy House event; the concern of residents of Bethel Towers about the pending renovations; the proposed new Fairview Park parking lot; the pending recall of Mayor Righeimer and the new, more civil attitude, which was punctuated by a word - or maybe it's two words - left hanging in the air by former mayor Eric Bever having to do with bovine excrement.  Apparently some things will never change.

During his segment CEO Tom Hatch brought a full bag of tricks that had accumulated for a month, since the last meeting.  He updated us on the progress of the consultant for the city General Plan update.  He told us that they plan to provide even more specific information on the Warrants that presently appear as part of the Consent Calendar.  He also mentioned that in the special study session on January 29th two important issues will be discussed - the unfunded liability issue and the 2.5@55 benefit enhancement, and invited the public to attend.  I'll remind you.  He then invited Chief Tom Gazsi to make a short presentation on the status of our School Resource Officer (SRO) program.

Gazsi told us that the CMPD aggressively trains for protection of probable targets - schools, shopping centers, athletic events, etc.  He told us that recently retired SRO Jess Gilman returned on a part-time basis in a reserve officer role.  He also told us that on Monday he hired four (4) new police officers - the first hired since 2008 - and that four more will be hired this month.  He's working closely with Dr. Fred Navarro, Superintendent of Schools for the Newport Mesa Unified School District on SRO plans.

Then, after a little pep talk by Righeimer about what items on the Consent Calendar are supposed to be, members of the council promptly pulled half of the items for separate discussion.  During a discussion of the Warrants Mensinger said, paraphrasing him, that when he requested the Warrants be included in the Consent Calendar he didn't expect them to be pulled for separate discussion.  Gee, I guess that means we want transparency, just don't dare ask any questions about little things like how much we're spending on legal fees.  He mentioned those specifically.  Too late, Steve - you opened that particular Pandora's Box and you're just going to have to live with the consequences.

By the time we finished the Consent Calendar it was 7:55 p.m., nearly an hour after we should have been discussing Public Hearing #1, the item for which most of the remaining crowd was patiently waiting.  But, instead, he jumped to New Business #2, the discussion of the SR-55 Improvement Study - apparently so the half dozen OCTA folks in attendance could get on their way.

Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman made a brief presentation of the history of this project, then turned it over to a representative from OCTA, who explained the remaining process.  From this point forward a detailed technical analysis will be performed, then the process will return to the city to arrive at the "preferred local alternative".  Cost estimates for the four remaining options ranged from $9-14 million for Alternative #2, the Transportation System Management option that included signal synchronization and adding a couple partial lanes to $9-25 million for option #3, Vertical Terminal Enhancement and a whopping $306 - 373 million for the Cut and Cover choice.  And, of all the options, that final one would have the greatest business impact by far.

After a nearly 20 minute break at 8:35 we finally got to the Public Hearing on the proposed closure of the Anchor Trailer Port.  It is proposed to remove the existing mobile homes and trailers and build 40 live/work units ranging is size from 1952 to 2000 square feet.  Representatives of the proposed new owner were present to present their plan for the relocation of the existing residents, more than half of whom showed up for the meeting.  Nineteen (19) people stood to express their concern about the process and their apprehension - distrust, actually - of the plans being proposed.

Many of us who have been observing council activities for more than a short time remembered back nearly a decade ago when two trailer parks - El Nido and Snug Harbor - were closed by the owner to build a medical office building.  That process was long, late and rancorus over many months.  The presentation by the proposed owners and by Celeste Brady representing The City in this matter as a member of the law firm of Stradling, Yocca Carlson & Rauth was thorough.  Brady made it very clear early on that the council has NO discretion in this matter.  They can only find that the applicant did or did not follow the state law in this matter - which she told us they did and even exceeded the requirements, too.  In fact, they were working with the 24th version of the Closure Impact Report (CIR), each of which were prepared after input by residents and city staff.

Still, the conversation went on and on and on and was finally passed after the council squeezed concessions out of the applicant and Mensinger wondered what the penalty would be if they DID NOT pass the action.  I could see Brady flinch when he asked the question.  Well, gee, Steve - I guess that would get us saddled with yet another law suit because of a boneheaded council action!  The guy really is obtuse.  And, as it turns out, he has a friend who is a resident of the trailer park who he apparently is now moved to "help" - whatever that means.  The applicant will offer significant financial incentives and assistance to the residents, including relocation counseling.  The council finally took their vote - 5-0 - at just before 11 p.m., then took a short break while all the interested parties filed out.  The meeting commenced at 11:05.

Now we were on New Business #1, the Fairview Park Wetlands Boardwalk Project.  In a nutshell, we have just about finished creating a wetlands area of Fairview Park but most of it would not be visible to visitors from the trails around the perimeter.  So, the staff wants authorization to move forward to plan a series of boardwalks that will enable visitors to walk above the wetlands and safely see the wildlife and plants included therein.  The cost for the planning and design phases is $100,000 and the total project may cost $1 million.  The seven remaining residents in the chambers heard the council approve moving forward with the plan.

Finally, at 11:25, the final item on the agenda, New Business #3, Council Authorization for the Implementation of Security Camera System Upgrade and Expansion For City Hall and Lion's Park, was heard.  Among the questions asked were just who the "authorized staff members" are that will be permitted to view these video recordings.  Apparently, in the case of the Lions Park tapes, that would be police personnel.  Some conversation suggested that members of "city management" will be permitted to view the City Hall tapes.  We were assured that none of the cameras will be trained on working areas, only common areas like hallways, parking lots and entrances to the building. 

Finally, at 11:47 p.m., we were done.  So, despite his best efforts, Righeimer was still not able to get us on the road home early last night.
The next meeting will be next Tuesday, January 15th.  That's going to be a tough one for the staff, since it only gives them a couple days in which to prepare the necessary staff reports.  Such is life in the new, kinder, gentler City of Costa Mesa.

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