Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Very Busy Week Ahead

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 22, 2013

"Mayberry"? Really?

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

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

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

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

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Schafer Returned To Sanitary District Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Westside Safety Town Hall Monday Night

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

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City Council Wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sanitary District Directors Thins The Herd

At a special meeting at 11:00 a.m. this morning the four remaining directors of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board thinned the herd of nineteen applicants for the vacancy created by the resignation of disgruntled director Jim Fitzpatrick to six candidates.  Those six will be asked to present themselves for interviews at another special meeting on Friday, February 22, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. at District headquarters.  The meeting was attended by five visitors - candidates Mark Harris and Al Morelli, activist Jim Mosher, former Water District Director Trudy Ohlig-Hall and your humble correspondent.

Guided by President Jim Ferryman, the directors - Art Perry, Bob Ooten and Mike Scheafer - arrived at what they felt was a fair way to winnow down the candidates.  Each said they had spent the past weekend reading through the resumes and other application paperwork for all of the candidates and all were impressed with the quality of applicants.  They acknowledged knowing some of the candidates and not knowing others.

Their solution to "thinning the herd" was for each director to present a list of their five top candidates.  Those four lists would be compiled by General Manager Scott Carroll.  The candidates who appeared on the most lists - the "highest vote-getters" - would be invited for personal interviews by the board Friday.  The maximum number invited would be five (5).

Here are the lists that were presented in no particular order:
Art Perry - Jeffrey Harlan, Dan Worthington, Arlene Schafer, Richard Kapko and Mark Harris
Bob Ooten - Shivaji Deshmukh, Linda Dixon, Mike Harmanos, Al Morelli and Arlene Schafer
Mike Scheafer - Tamara Allee, Shivaji Deshmukh, Jeffrey Harlan, Al Morelli and Arlene Schafer
Jim Ferryman - Dan Worthington, Shivaji Deshmukh, Linda Dixon, Al Morelli and Arlene Schafer

The tally completed showed the following results:
Arlene Schafer - 4
Shivaji Desmukh - 3
Al Morelli - 3
Linda Dixon - 2
Jeffrey Harlan - 2
Dan Worthington - 2
Mike Harmanos - 1
Richard Kapko - 1
Mark Harris - 1
Tamara Allee - 1

The board decided to invite six (6) candidates back - Schafer, Desmukh, Morelli, Dixon, Harlan and Worthington - rather than arbitrarily attempt to select two of the three candidates who received 2 votes each.  The directors will compile a list of questions to be asked.  Each director will ask two questions of each candidate, for a total of eight (8) questions per candidate.  The order of interviewing will be decided by drawing numbers from a hat or similar device.  Candidates will be sequestered outside the conference room  during the interviewing - but may stay once their interview is completed - to prevent any unfair advantage for those interviewed late in the process.

Once the interviews are completed on Friday the board will select one to fill the Fitzpatrick vacancy.  It will be subject to a background investigation.  It is anticipated that the person selected will be sworn-in and seated at the next regular meeting, on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

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