Saturday, July 06, 2013

A Typical Independence Day In The Newport/Mesa


The Costa Mesa Police Department issued a report late Thursday night informing us of their activities yesterday as they attempted to keep us safe - from ourselves, mostly.  Technological glitches prevented me from posting this earlier.  Since this report was delayed Lauren Williams published a report for the entire Newport/Mesa area, including the very significant police presence in Newport Beach, HERE.

They deployed between 14-26 officers throughout the city, depending on the time of day, a very significant increase over normal staffing levels.

Here's their summary of events from 7:00 a.m. through 11:00 p.m. last night.

Calls For Service
224 fireworks related calls were received
40 fireworks calls were directly handled by officers dispatched to related locations
47 fight or disturbance-type calls (non-fireworks) were received and handled by officers

Arrests Made
1 drug possession arrest
1 drunk in public arrest
4 DUI arrests
1 warrant arrest
1 fireworks related arrest (refusal to sign citation)
1 "failure to register as an arsonist" arrest

I don't know about you, but that last one got my attention!  Yikes!

The CMPD reminds us that, even though it was legal to discharge so-called "safe and sane" fireworks on the evenings of July 2nd, 3rd and 4th, it is NOT legal to discharge them at any time, on any other day, throughout the year.  That means tonight or the rest of this weekend.  They will be patrolling and they will bust you if they catch you.


We here at A Bubbling Cauldron hope you had a great Independence Day holiday.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Brevity To Start The New Fiscal Year

The Costa Mesa City Council met for the first meeting of the new fiscal year Tuesday night.  You can read the agenda HERE.  I thought, because of that brief agenda, this meeting might finish very early.  Well, they didn't even get started until 6:45!  The closed session took a lot longer than anticipated.

Big news from the closed session... the council has authorized a law suit against the County of Orange Department of Finance to attempt to get back the more than $10 million they took as a result of the closure of the Redevelopment Agency.  Watch those legal meters begin to spin again!  Good grief!

Under the Council Members Comments section Sandy Genis emphasized the update of the Emergency Operations Plan, HERE.  She stressed the importance of this document.

Wendy Leece addressed the concern about the Poseidon Desalination Plan in Huntington Beach and the plan to run pipes through our city.  She also addressed the problems at the Volcom Skate Park.  Asked for consistent application of the law.  She also reinforced resident's concerns about the renewed plan for the I-405 expansion.  What's the plan?  She emphasized the need for community involvement on the General Plan Update.  The next meeting, on the 17th in the Emergency Operations Center, is on "circulation" within the city.  She addressed the Banning Ranch Conservancy proposal that Costa Mesa partner with them to save Banning Ranch.  She covered the fireworks issue for this long, long holiday explosion season.  She asked for an update on the Jones Day payment on the CMCEA lawsuit - we paid them over $17,000 last month.  She talked about the recent awards bestowed upon the city for the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force and for the Environmental Quality and Sustainability Award for the Fairview Park Wetlands project.  Good for us.

Mayor Jim Righeimer complains about criticism of its financial management.  He told us that most of the council members run their own businesses, hire and fire, etc.  He told us that "we may not be sexy, but we've got a lot of pavement and roads." He criticized people for "bringing up old issues."
He talked about the money on the Consent Calendar for a new dispatch system and the new equipment for the Fire Department to provide better coverage in the city.  He stressed this new plan will reduce four (4) firefighters per shift.  Addressing the Anniversary celebration, he said "Sometimes you just have to do what is good for the community."  He told us the council has done a good job of increasing our reserves and, predictably, again brought up a "quarter million dollars of unfunded pension liability".

At 8:00 Steve Mensinger addressed the 60th Anniversary Celebration and gave kudos to the organizers.  He wants to have a scaled-down version next year!  Good grief!  We lost our fannies on this one, so I guess we'll "make it up on volume"!  He attempted to remind us of the meaning of Independence Day.

CEO Tom Hatch addressed enforcement at Volcom Skate Park, described as "things we wrestle with on a daily basis."  Some critics say we're too heavy handed, others say we're too lenient.   He stressed that staff is ready for the 4th - ready to enforce illegal fireworks prohibitions.   He complimented the Planning Staff for their booth at the 60th Anniversary Celebration, doing polling for the General Plan.

When it came time to address the Consent Calendar - which EVERYBODY hoped would blow through without anything being pulled - Gary Monahan decided to pull the item on the Third Party Liability Claims Administration, HERE.  Curiously, Monahan used this to permit the second bidder on the proposal, Keenan, to make a pitch to the council.  Seldom does this happen and makes one wonder what brought this up?  This is not the first time Monahan has inserted him into the process of selecting an insurance vendor for the City.  The spokesman, a former politician representing Keenan, was pretty darn glib.  Wendy Leece asked staff how they arrived at their recommendation.  Lance Nakamoto emphasized that their more than two dozen years experience with the current vendor, Carl Warren and Company, has been excellent.  The President of Carl Warren, Mike Reed, addressed their partnership with the city and emphasized their charges.  He provided background on their experience with the City and responded to intense interrogation by Righeimer, Monahan and Mensinger.  Sandy Genis wondered why a flat fee was requested for this proposal.  The response was for ease of budgeting.  The CEO of Carl Warren added emphasis to their qualifications and stressed their goal to bringing down the total cost of risk.  Wendy Leece reinforced that Carl Warren is the low bidder by double.  She moved to approve Carl Warren and Genis seconded.  Monahan jumped in and practically accused this vendor of being "lazy".  He said we're missing the big picture if we focus on the contract amount.  Monahan offered a substitute motion for Keenan and Mensinger seconded it.  Righeimer said he won't support that motion.  That vote was defeated, 2-3.  Carl Warren was selected on a 4-1, with Monahan voting now.  Very curious.

Steve Ray, now representing KOCI radio, pulled the Emergency Operations Plan, to announce that they are hoping to have a show about the plan - an hour long show to inform the residents.  He hoped to kick-off the community awareness of this document.  No date has been determined.  The item passed, 5-0.

Sandy Genis pulled the item about cancelling the August 20th council meeting.  She's concerned about balancing the content of the meetings.  She said she's not concerned about cancelling the meeting as long as the meeting before or after doesn't turn out to be "the meeting from hell".  A way, way too long discussion ensued about the length of meetings.  Genis and Leece said we should keep the consistency.  The motion passed, 3-2, with Leece and Genis voting no.

A resident who is embroiled in a lawsuit with the city pulled Item 11, the computer aided dispatch system, HERE.  He was concerned about sales tax and warrantees.  He's worried about records destruction.  It passed, 5-0

So, that's it from this short, pre-Independence Day holiday council meeting.  They shut down at 8:50 - longer than I expected, but at least it's not midnight!  We here at A Bubbling Cauldron hope you all have a very enjoyable and safe holiday.  As the three days of fireworks begins tonight, and your pets require medication to make it through it all until Friday, please don't forget - "It's all about the kids."  Please be sure to drop Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger a little note after the holiday to thank him for his consideration for the rest of us.

We're turning the old cauldron down to simmer again for awhile.  Although there's always a chance we might post something the rest of the week, we're actually looking forward to some Independence from it.  Thanks to all my friends who work at City Hall for making it through another fiscal year.  There are many of us out here who really DO appreciate what you do for us.  Over this holiday weekend I want to especially thank the members of the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Costa Mesa Fire Department for the long hours they will put in over the next few days, trying to keep us safe in spite of ourselves.
Click HERE for a little something to get you into the old Independence Day holiday spirit.

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Of Lights And Trains

Last week I chose to cover the Skate Park issue extensively instead of attempting to cover all the issues discussed at the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation meeting on Thursday, June 27th.  My plan was to followup shortly with the balance of the meeting.  I'm finally getting back to it tonight.

There were two other very significant issues on the agenda.  I'm not going to talk about tree removal requests.

AYSO District 97 has requested the commission to extend the permit for temporary lights to be used for practices on the Harper School fields.  Many beleaguered neighbors contiguous to the property asked that the lights NOT be permitted, citing noise, odors from the generators (they are portable lights) and spillover lights onto their property.

Chairman Byron de Arakal led the discussion and, after thoroughly vetting the issue with the help of the other commissioners and stakeholders, he made a motion to extend the use of the lights at Harper School for one more year - the only other unacceptable choice would be to turn the kids away - to revisit the option of using Kaiser School in the future on a rotation basis, to investigate the availability and cost of sound-deadening blankets to wrap the units to cut noise and to guarantee that the lights will be turned off no later than 7:30 p.m. every night.  That motion passed, 4-0.  Commissioner Don Harper was absent from the meeting.

In my view, this solution works for now.  The city is woefully short of fields, particularly lighted fields and especially on the Eastside of our city.  AYSO District 97 is 51% Costa Mesa kids - the remainder come from Newport Beach.  de Arakal promised to come to the homes of folks impacted by the lights on Cabrillo and elsewhere to see and hear the impacts in person.  He also said he would set up meetings with Newport Beach officials to see what can be done to possibly include Mariners School in the "lighted" rotation.

The other big issue on the agenda last Thursday was the expiring agreement between the City and the Orange County Model Engineers - the folks who operate and maintain the model trains in Fairview Park.  The organization has had a permit for 25 years and were requesting a renewal/extension for another 25.

Their presentation of the contributions they have made, and continue to make, to the community brought into very sharp focus the value that facility has had in our city for decades.  de Arakal stated emphatically that he, personally, didn't want to see the trains leave the park.

However, there are those in the community who covet that chunk of land for more playing fields.  The trains occupy 22 acres, roughly in the middle of a 40 acre chunk of the park on the east side of Placentia Avenue.  It is likely that those who lust after that land may make overtures about some kind of re-configuration to "better" utilize the space.  I'm not naming names here, but we all know "it's all about the kids", if you get my drift.

de Arakal proposed that the current agreement be extended through the end of 2014.  In the interim the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee will be going about doing its job of assessing the park, the current uses and the needs of the community in the future.  It is certain that the OCME and the Harbor Soaring Society activities will be discussed at length by that body.

Once the committee finishes its assignment - hopefully within the next 12 months - de Arakal proposed that the OCME issue be revisited based on the findings of the committee, with the eye toward creating a NEW agreement taking into consideration all the complex factors involved.  Again, he stressed that he doesn't want to see the OCME out of the park.

Certainly the good folks of the OCME were not happy with that decision, just as the Harbor Soaring Society was disappointed by their recent one-year extension.  Both organizations have enjoyed much success and have played a big part in the recreational opportunities at Fairview Park and hope to continue to do so out into the future, too.  The specter of parking lots and playing fields being located in areas they presently use make them very nervous.  Personally, I think they have every reason to be nervous about it.

So, the Parks and Recreation Commission will recommend to the City Council that it extend the current agreement with the OCME for 18 months and base any future agreement on recommendations by the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee.  It's not a great solution for the train folks, but it seems to be a reasonable option under the circumstances.

That being said, it's going to be interesting to see how this, in fact, does shake out.  I attended the first meeting of the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee and there were some clear lines drawn that evening when Ron Amburgey and Brett Eckles - who spoke with passion about the need for fields during the Harper School lights issue - both gave strong impressions that they felt the model train area could be used better.  They meant more playing fields.

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Monday, July 01, 2013

Another Parolee Arrested In Costa Mesa

According to the Costa Mesa Police Department, shortly after noon on Saturday - as my wife and I were preparing to head on over to the 60th Anniversary Celebration - a 34-year old parolee named Osvaldo Castro walked into the Metro PCS store at 1175 Baker Street holding what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun.  He approached the service counter, pointed the gun into the face of an employee and attempted to fire it.  The weapon malfunctioned and he fled the scene.

Quick work by the CMPD, with a big assist from the Orange County Sheriff's Department helicopter "Duke" coordinating the search Castro was located near Mission Drive and Mendoza Drive and was arrested.  A replica handgun was found nearby.

According to the press release, Castro was booked and later transported to the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana.  Here are the final words from the press release:
"Costa Mesa police embrace a zero-tolerance approach towards all acts and threatened acts of violence.  Costa Mesa Police Department works with neighboring agencies and the District Attorney's Office to hold suspects accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Great job by the CMPD and the Sheriff's helicopter.  You remember what a police helicopter is, right?  We used to have THE BEST municipal law enforcement helicopter program in the country until our Mayor got peeved at the CMPD because they opposed his candidacy for office, so he spear-headed the movement to close down the A.B.L.E. program.  So, while the mayor and the rest of us were partying Saturday, the CMPD, with the help of another entity's helicopter, snatched up a parolee intent on committing a serious crime in our city and aimed him back to prison.

Sometimes listening to Righeimer is kind of like watching one of those Holiday Inn Express commercials on television.  He's not a police officer, but he's related to one!  Under his short-sighted "leadership" the CMPD has been intentionally gutted and one of the most effective law enforcement tools, the A.B.L.E. program - which served our REGION, not just our city, with distinction for four decades - was cast aside like a basket of rotting fruit.

Righeimer has vindictively forced staffing levels to fall below where they were twenty years ago and refused for more than a year to permit the Chief of Police to hire replacements for departing officers while crime is on the rise.  He ignored the staffing recommendations of his own consultants and those of then-Interim Chief Steve Staveley - a man with decades of law enforcement leadership experience who proudly served us as Interim Chief twice in recent years.

Under his "leadership" the Costa Mesa Fire Department was forced to operate significantly understaffed, including at the highest leadership levels in the department, for two years.  This created mandatory overtime for most of the fire department staff, for which members were criticized by Righeimer from his bully pulpit on the council dais.  His "leadership" stalled the implementation of Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's plan to redeploy the available staff for a more efficient operation, which conveniently kept one of his major campaign contributors in business in the city.

Righeimer crows about saving money by shuttering the A.B.L.E. program, yet spends that money on parties to distract the residents from what is really happening in our city.  Sure, we all have fun at Christmas with the Snoopy House  on the City Hall lawn.  But it costs money.  Sure, we all had a great time with the 60th Anniversary Celebration - but the City spent maybe $200,000 on it, and that doesn't even count thousands of staff hours spent on it.  (By the way, a big chunk of that money went to a company operated by his pal, Scott Baugh)  We're going to spend tens of thousands of dollars sprucing up the City Hall lobby - a completely unnecessary expense, but another "feel good" shiny object to distract us from the fact that crime is on the rise.

We're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year now on public relations staff!  You only hire PR people when your organization needs public relations help - somebody to spin the facts to distract the public and deflect criticism.  You hire party planners to make the residents feel good.  The phrase, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" keeps rattling around in my head.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather feel safe.  We should be putting more public safety boots on the ground instead of throwing feel good events every few months.  But then, that paragon of law enforcement knowledge, Mayor Righeimer, tells us frequently that more cops doesn't mean we'll have less crime.  I've never seen a man so willing to demonstrate such a combination of arrogance and ignorance before!

So, while you're shooting off fireworks for three nights, not one, this year - it's "all about the kids", right, Steve? - contemplate your public safety and what Righeimer on the council has REALLY meant in this city over the past few years.

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Wow! What A Party!

I don't know what Sunday was like as Costa Mesa's 60th Anniversary Party wrapped up, but I don't think there's any way to top Saturday!  Wow and double Wow!!

My wife and I arrived in the early afternoon and wandered around, chatting and eating, chatting and eating... well, you get the idea.  The food was terrific - something for everyone - and the crowds were very significant and growing as we departed at sundown.  That was before the REAL party began, as it turns out.  We didn't stay for what we're told is among the rarest of rare concert events - the guts of the Foo Fighters (whoever they are) together.  You can read all about it in the Daily Pilot coverage HERE, and HERE.  And the exclamation point on our day was the fireworks that we could hear all the way over on the Eastside of town - the whole house rattled and shook!  I love it!

Here are some images from the day Saturday.  Enjoy.

CMPD/CMFD color guard at the salute to veterans
A "fan" of crime prevention visits the booth
Emergency responders answering questions
Look for more of these around town!
One view of the crowds
Volunteers hawking their wares
Actor and local artist Pepe Serna was one of many demonstrating their skills
Crowds taking a break in the shade
CMTV team capturing the magic
CEO Tom Hatch kicks things off at 6:00 p.m.
Hands the ball off to Mayor Jim Righeimer...
Who laterals it to Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger...
Who then flips it to Councilwoman Sandy Genis...
And the senior member of the council, Wendy Leece, scores!
And the crowd roared!
And some snored...
 While others had to explain the game to their spouses
And other special volunteers enjoyed the moment
60th Anniversary Committee Chairman Mike Scheafer doing stand-up
And former Mayor Peter Buffa getting cheers without telling a single joke!
 Current and former council members hear the cheers
And volunteers sang Happy Birthday To Us
As Righeimer sliced into that beautiful, huge cake
Prepared by the Orange Coast College Culinary Kids
Later Brad Long interviewed Scheafer as Dane Bora recorded the event
And crowds continued to pass through Security
As we made our way through the crowded parking lot as the sun set
Did I mention it was a GREAT DAY?  Kudos to all the hardworking city staff and community volunteers for a job well-done.

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