Saturday, June 01, 2013

Whopper Of A City Council Meeting On Tap Tuesday!

OK, troops, take a deep breath, go grab a cold drink, get comfy in your chair, because I don't want you nodding off while reading this entry.  We're going to talk about The Charter Committee; Privatizing the Jail Operations; Banning Ranch Traffic Mitigation Agreement; Business License Fees; The Senior Center (twice) and much more.

The agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in council chambers - was released earlier Friday afternoon.  This one is HUGE - you can read it HERE -  and, short of some kind of divine intervention, will keep us up until well after midnight.  So, let me just take it from the top and work our way through the entire agenda, one step at a time.

You know we're in trouble when the Closed Session, which begins a 5:00 - contains 5 items!  Good luck starting the regular meeting at 6:00!  The third item is a "labor negotiation" involving CEO Tom Hatch.  The fifth item involves the Benito Acosta existing litigation.  It just never goes away!

The "Presentations" segment should be interesting.  First, we'll see the Mayor's Award to the All American Boys Choir.  Then we'll have an "In Honor Of Paul" Project presentation in which Diane Hill will tell us about her plan to have every Costa Mesa resident proficient in "Hands Only CPR".  Finally, the Orange County Transportation Authority will make a presentation, the content of which is apparently secret.  If it's about their resurrection of the plan to put toll lanes on the 405 Freeway I'll understand why they're keeping it a secret!

The Consent Calendar alone contains a dozen items, and I'm told several were removed.
Warrants, Items 3 and 4
As usual, the Warrants that are now available for review, provide some interesting reading.  For example, on Item 3, Warrant 2474, HERE,we see charges for $19,194.00 to the City of Huntington Beach for helicopter support.  I guess they didn't support us much during March.  Also on that same Warrant we see a charge of more than $200,000 to something called "Govplace" for 'installation, shipping and tax" for something - not described.  On Item 4, Warrant 2475, HERE, we find a payment to Stradling Yocca Carlson and Rauth for $20,209.10 for legal services - mostly for housing-related issues.  And, we find a petty cash entry for $2,452.15 that includes several entries for the staff members who traveled to Vegas for the most recent boondoggle.

Fairgrounds Traffic Agreements
Items 5, HERE and 6, HERE, are agreements with the 32 Agricultural Board (Fair Board) for traffic management services for the year and the Fair specifically.

Three Dozen New Units
Item 7, HERE, is the final map for a live/work development on West 18th Street.

Professional/Cooperative Agreements
Item 8, HERE,  is an engineering services agreement for improvement of the intersection of Fairview and Wilson.
Item 9, HERE, is a cooperative agreement with CalTrans on the SR-55 Gateway Improvement project.
Item 10, HERE, is a consulting agreement in the environmental impact of a 236 unit apartment development at 125 East Baker Street.

Business License Fee Study
Item 11, HERE, directs the Finance Advisory Committee to study the current business license structure.

Senior Center Operational Audit
Item 12, HERE, extends the consulting contract with Management Partners and authorizes that organization to perform an organizational and operational audit of the Costa Mesa Senior Center.  This is VERY interesting, particularly considering New Business Item #1 below - the appointment of new members of the Senior Center Board.  Since the Senior Center is a private organization, it's unclear to me how the city has authority to perform ANY kind of an audit of its operations.

And that's just the Consent Calendar, folks!  Whew!

There are three (3) Public Hearings scheduled for Tuesday night.

CDBG and HOME Funding Priorities
The first Public Hearing, HERE, deals with the 2013-2014 Funding Priorities for Community Development Block Grand (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME).

CDBG Grant Allocations
The second, HERE, involves the CDBG Public Service Grant Allocations.  This one might generate some interesting conversation because the CEO recommendations differ dramatically from the recommendations of the committee charged with this process.  In fact, the recommendation is to only authorize spending 67% of the money available and to allocate the remainder for such activities as the improvement of public infrastructure.  When you check the staff report you'll see organizations like Colette's Children Home, City of Costa Mesa Social Worker, Churches Consortium, Fair Housing Council of Orange County and Mercy House-Transportation (all of which serve the Homeless) left out in the cold with NO funding recommended.  We'll see what the council decides to do on this one.

Business Improvement Area (BIA) Reauthorization and Resolution To Levy Annual Assessment
This item, HERE, is usually a short piece of business to reauthorize the BIA and to approve the annual levy for their activities.

Senior Corporation Board Appointments
New Business #1, HERE,  is the Appointments to the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation Board of Directors.  You may recall that the council was apparently dissatisfied with the recent slate of three people who applied for the three open positions, so asked for another recruitment effort to take place.  That recruitment resulted in six (6) applicants, including two incumbents, to fill the positions.

38 New Westside Units
#2, HERE,  is a Master Plan screening request for a 38-unit live/work development in the 2000 block of Placentia Avenue.

Banning Ranch Traffic Deal Is Back!
#3, quietly placed on the agenda, is the Newport Banning Ranch Traffic Mitigation Agreement, HERE.  Retired Economic and Development Director/Deputy CEO Peter Naghavi, will return to make this presentation.  When this was first presented to the council last year it generated many negative comments from the public.  Reviewing the staff report, it appears most of those concerns have been addresses.  Take some time to review it yourselves.

Fire Pit Rules
Item #4 is a resolution opposing the South Coast Air Quality Management District's proposed rule 444 prohibiting open burning on beaches, HERE.  This looks like an interesting dilemma for our council.  If they oppose the rule - as is proposed - they spit in the eye of the elected leaders in Newport Beach.  If they don't, they do the same to Huntington Beach.  Tough call - for a city without a beach.  Don't you just love politics?

Charter Committee
Item #5, HERE, is, in my view, the BIGGEST issue on the agenda Tuesday night.  This one deals with the Charter Committee appointments, the ratification of Facilitators and the proposed meeting schedules.  The composition of the Charter Committee will go a very long way determining whether the work-product they finish will have the credibility necessary to have a chance of passing in the next election for which it is eligible.  It's not clear yet whether pending legislation restricting such items to General Elections will pass in time to impact this process.

37 Applicants!
There are 37 applicants listed in the staff report, HERE,  for the 13 positions available for this committee.  Of those, only six or seven can be identified as having opposed Jim Righeimer's Charter last year.  The remainder are either clearly identified with the pro-charter majority or are unknowns.  The current recommended process provides for each council member to appoint one member.  The next step would be to select the next 5 by the nomination process - which guarantees that the council pro-charter majority will have an 8-2 majority before the remaining positions are filled.  Those, using the proposed system, involve each council member selecting one person, the names of which would be placed in a hat and selected randomly.  The first three names selected would complete the committee.  This could result in an 11-2 or 8-5 majority for the pro-charter majority - not a fair solution at all.

A Better, Fairer Solution
I suggest they select the first five as mentioned above, giving the pro-charter majority a 3-2 edge.  Then, from the remaining 32 applicants, each council member would, in rotation, select four (4) names to be placed in a hat.  From those 20 names the remaining eight (8) committee members would be selected lottery-style.  The result could be that 11-2 majority mentioned above.  Or, it could be 10-3 the other direction, or any of several combinations in between.  It is a much fairer method of attempting to get some balance in the charter committee.  And, after all, this time around Mayor Righeimer has told us he's not going to be involved in it at all, and that he wants it to come from "the community".  This is one way to demonstrate some statesmanship and show that he's serious about providing the broader community a chance to help craft a proper charter and not just stack the deck with his sycophants.  I guess we'll find out Tuesday night - late Tuesday night.

Kirk Bauermeister Is A Great Guy, but...
I'm going to make some folks very angry with this next observation.  I think it's a mistake to select any of the three people identified in the staff report as "facilitators" of the Charter Process.  The primary facilitator, Estancia High School Principal Kirk Bauermeister, is a GREAT guy, an outstanding educator and leader and is fully immersed in community activities.   Much the same could be said for Mike Decker and Kim Barlow is a proven commodity.  However, in my opinion, anyone selected - and paid - to facilitate this process should have NO previous Costa Mesa involvement, except, perhaps, as a consultant.  If this process is supposed to result in a true community-crafted charter - free of the political bias and rancor that we all experienced last time around last year - then the person(s) charged with facilitating the process simply MUST be outsiders, with no axe to grind on this issue.  They should be paid consultants without political affiliations that would taint their role.  It's going to be hard enough to get a balanced committee.  Having an insider as the facilitator will just further muddy the water.  Find a person with Bauermeister's credentials from another city and I'll probably be happy.

Meeting twice a month on Wednesdays
The meeting schedule proposed, 6:00 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, seems ambitious, but is probably necessary if this committee is going to involve any community input in the process.  It's going to make for some very busy weeks for those of us who try to pay attention to this stuff.

Privatization of the Costa Mesa Jail Operations
The final item on the agenda will be no less controversial.  This is the privatization of the city Jail operations.  I've read through the staff report, HERE, and came away with some serious concerns.  The City says it will save $636,800 out of an anticipated $1,380,129 Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget by making this change, then backpedals to $436,616 by assuming a full-time police sergeant would be used to supervise operations the first year.  Assuming the first number, the city says it will save $3.2 million over a five year period.

Did CMCEA Agree?
Although the staff report goes to great lengths to tell us that the employee organization, the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) was heavily involved in conversations about this change, nowhere do they say that the CMCEA agreed to it.  Read this paragraph from the staff report and decide for yourself:
"While Costa Mesa, for some time, has believed that contracting out jail services was likely to be the best option—particularly inasmuch as it could result in over $3 million in savings to Costa Mesa and its residents—Costa Mesa, with the input of the CMCEA, has given due consideration to all of its options regarding the on-going operation of its jail. After considering CMCEA’s input and weighing it options, the CEO has concluded that it is in the best interests of the residents of Costa Mesa to contract out the operation of Costa Mesa’s jail including, of significance, the real fiscal benefit this approach will return to Costa Mesa in these difficult economic times."

No layoffs, but...
The staff report also tells us "At this time, the CEO does not recommend that Council layoff any employee currently working in Costa Mesa’s jail. Costa Mesa remains open to the possibility of allowing any employee currently working in Costa Mesa’s jail to transfer into other Y-Rated positions (if they so desire), and Costa Mesa will continue to work with the employee- representatives of such employees to achieve those transfers (if requested)."  "At this time"?  OK.. I guess.

"Transition" to G4S?
The staff report also tells us that the contract with G4S, the proposed contractor, includes a section, "dedicated to hiring and retention of current City employees into their private service model. The plan will be to do whatever is reasonable and possible to help employees transition either by holding positions with G4S, through utilizing an attrition model or retraining city personnel to work in other areas of the City organization."  I don't find any reference in the contract language that talks about the pay for those employees who might "transition" to G4S.

New Systems?
It also mentions the immediate implementation of three new high-tech systems, but doesn't indicate that these could or could not be implemented if the city retains the Jail Operations.  That would be good to know.

Just The Beginning...
This is just the beginning... expect more of this kind of stuff as the current majority tries to outsource every job in the city over a period of time.  Well, not EVERY job - I suspect all the jobs on the 5th floor are safe - somebody has to oversee the contractors, don't they?

OK, don't say I didn't warn you way back at the beginning... I know it took a long time for you to plow through all this, but there are very important issues to be decided on Tuesday - issues that will directly affect every one of us.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's Fish Fry Weekend!

The 66th annual Costa Mesa Newport Harbor Lions Club Fish Fry launches Friday and runs through the weekend at Fairview Park, and this year it includes the Costa Mesa Community Run on Sunday.  President Mike Scheafer invites one and all to enjoy this event.
Friday the carnival will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. and the yummy fish will be fried on Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:30 a.m.  Read all about it below and/or go to the Lions Club website, HERE:

For more information about the Community Run, read the following or go to the website HERE.

It's going to be a perfect weekend for these events, so drag your family over to Fairview Park and have a great time for a great cause.  With any luck you'll be able to rub elbows (or bump chests) with local dignitaries - if you really want to, that is.


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Motorcycle Safety Enforcement and DUI Results

Today the Costa Mesa Police Department announced that for three weeks in June - June 1-22 - it will conduct a "specialized Motorcycle Safety Enforcement Operation" in an attempt to lower deaths and injuries.  Extra officers will be on duty patrolling areas frequented by motorcyclists and where motorcycle crashes occur.  They will be focusing on speeding, making illegal turns and driving under the influence.

According to the press release, motorcycle fatalities saw a drop of 37% from 2008 to 2010, but rose nearly 18% in 2011.  Since January 2010 there have been 97 traffic collisions involving motorcyclists in which 91 people were injured and one was killed.

Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Earlier this week the Costa Mesa Police Department announced the results of the most recent DUI/Drivers License checkpoint conducted Friday, May 24th along northbound Newport Boulevard at Flower Street between 8:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. Saturday.

According to the announcement, 2,941 vehicles passed through the checkpoint.  618 were screened.  23 Field Sobriety Tests were administered and 8 DUI-alcohol suspects were arrested.  Additionally, 1 DUI-Drug impaired suspect was arrested; 1 drug suspect was arrested; 6 drivers were cited/arrested for operating a vehicle unlicensed; 2 drivers were cited/arrested for operating a vehicle while suspended/revoked and 9 vehicles were stored or impounded.

The announcement tells us that these enforcement/education efforts have demonstrable positive results and yield cost savings of $6 for every $1 spent.  And, of course, these checkpoints are conducted using grant funds, not general fund budget dollars.

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Meet The Mayor Tonight

Just a reminder for you... Tonight you can "Meet The Mayor" at the latest of Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer's monthly gatherings at different venues around town.  Tonight your chance to meet and chat with the mayor is at the Tower on 19th (formerly Bethel Towers), 678 West 19th Street from 6-7:30 p.m.

This is a great opportunity for you to ask Righeimer questions that might be rattling around in your head.  For example, the preliminary budget shows a $12 million deficit.  You might ask Righeimer what his solution for this problem might be.

Or, you might ask him how many solid leads were developed during the recent Las Vegas visit by Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, CEO Tom Hatch and other staffers.  What was our "return on investment" on that little trip?

Or, you might ask him about our rising crime rate, particularly in light of his decision to close down the A.B.L.E helicopter program and his unwillingness to staff the Costa Mesa Police Department back to levels appropriate for effective policing based on experts in the field.

Or, you might ask him why Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's original reorganization proposal was modified to retain C.A.R.E Ambulance - one of his campaign contributors - despite evidence that Arnold's original plan would represent significant cost savings and better coverage?

Or, you might ask him about his attitude toward the Senior Center Corporation Board of Directors and the operations of the Senior Center.

Or, you might ask him why he insists on bringing back a Charter scheme after it was resoundingly defeated by the voters last year.

Have fun...

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BIA Opines On The Costa Mesa General Plan

Wednesday morning I joined a handful of interested residents, a few city staffers, one council member and some honchos from the Orange County chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California (BIA) at a 90 minute meeting that is part of the community outreach on the update of Costa Mesa's General Plan. 

This meeting was billed as one of the three "Road Show" events at which selected organizations are invited to provide input on elements they'd like to see as the General Plan is updated.  The remaining two "Road Shows" are on Wednesday, June 5th from 3-4:30 p.m. in Conference Room 1A with the Chamber of Commerce and on Wednesday, June 26th from 9-11 a.m. with the Newport Beach Association of Realtors (Includes Costa Mesa and Newport Beach).  You can read the full schedule of events regarding the General Plan update HERE.

The BIA was represented by Mike Balsamo, Chief Executive Officer of the Orange County Chapter and Victor Cao, Government Affairs Manager.  Their organization represents over 1,000 companies or organizations involved in development and peripheral businesses.  Wendy Leece was the only council member present at the meeting conducted by Minoo Ashabi, Principal Planner.

Balsamo, in describing why Costa Mesa is an appealing venue for his member companies to consider for possible development, cited the solid financial condition, using South Coast Plaza and Metro Point as examples of Sales Tax generators; the quality of life found in Costa Mesa; the Fairgrounds, Hoag Hospital and the proximity of beach recreation in Newport Beach as favorable elements.  He also mentioned good weather and good schools. 
Leece asked his opinion of the Westside overlays, citing the fact that those plans have been slow to evolve due to the recent economic downturn, and wondered if he and his member companies thought those plans are viable today.  Balsamo deftly avoided directly answering that question, indicating it was a matter of timing in the marketplace.  Leece was concerned that the so-called "live/work" units planned would devolve into rental units, further exacerbating the renter vs. owner housing in the city.

A discussion ensued about the changing views in our society, emphasizing that the "Generation Y" group seem to be much more willing to consider renting as a way of live as opposed to the white picket fence suburban homes many have grown up seeking.  The only resident in attendance that fit into that group acknowledged that perception, but also indicated that she much preferred a home with a front and back yard and some peace and quiet not typically found in large rental buildings.

Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman inquired about any special challenges the BIA sees ahead.  Balsamo spoke of the Banning Ranch development - not a Costa Mesa project, but one that will severely impact our city -  and the environmental hurdles involved.  He said his members are looking for predictable processes and a pro-business orientation so the development process can move smoothly.  He mentioned development fees, specifically the Parks fee, as issues that cause some developers to pause when considering Costa Mesa projects.  He also indicated that they'd like to see some "flexibility" with density, parking and setbacks on projects that are basically infill projects, usually constrained on all sides by adjacent uses.  That made me more than a little nervous, since our city has a long history of underparking projects all over the city.

We spoke briefly about the impact of transitions happening on the Eastside, where large lots with small homes are either being converted to large homes or common interest developments with multiple units that put stress on the existing infrastructure and significantly impact traffic in neighborhoods.  I expressed a view that such developments are inevitable, but that we don't want shoddy developments anywhere in our city.  I suggested they consider fewer units, so adequate parking could be provided onsite, and built to a quality level where a higher price could be charged per unit.

Cao expressed a view that their members are looking for the General Plan update to create clear goals and unambiguous "rules of the game".

Former Planning Commissioner Eleanor Egan expressed concern about the renter/owner ratio, indicating that the transient nature of renters as a whole adversely affects the sense of "community" sought by many and, as a result, the quality of life in our neighborhoods.  The discussion of the "Gen Y" group was covered again.

Former councilman Jay Humphrey expressed concern about parking, which generated a significant discussion about that issue, including a mention of subterranean parking as an option.  Several projects throughout the city already require permit-only on-street parking in neighborhoods impacted by underparked apartments.

The meeting was not videotaped - a major shortfall in the grand transparency plans for these kind of things - although an audio recording was made.  I thought there was a good exchange of information among the participants and I think the staff now has a clearer idea of what the BIA is looking in the General Plan.  I'm glad I attended, but was disappointed so few of my neighbors took this opportunity to become informed.

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