Thursday, December 19, 2013


What would we do without our holiday traditions?  Yeah I don't know, either.

So, in keeping with the spirit of the season, once again I invite you to listen to a true Christmas Classic - Stan Freberg's Green Christmas!  Enjoy!

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A Sad Decade For Me

Each year for the past decade the run up to Christmas has been especially difficult for me.  At a time when we usually get into that old Christmas spirit and look forward to joyous times with our loved ones I'm reminded of the day my best friend, Larry Moore, died - December 19, 2003 - ten years ago today.  As I sit here at this keyboard, contemplating my life with my friend, it is hard to comprehend that he's been gone for a decade.

I've written often about my friend, as you long-time readers recall.  The first time I laid eyes on him at the age of five when my mother and I were walking down the street past his house a couple blocks from ours and we heard this little voice cry out, "Hi!  Look at me!"  We turned and saw this little kid on the roof of his garage, back at the end of a long driveway.  He had climbed up the backyard incinerator - yes, we burned most of our trash in those days - and was standing poised at the edge of the flat roof directly over the grass strip that was between the two concrete driveway ribbons.  Then we watched as he jumped from the roof and landed safely on that grass strip and bounced up, laughing.
From that moment until fifty-seven years later, at 6:37 p.m., in a room in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit of the University Hospital in Las Vegas, he and I had been best friends - closer than most brothers.  At that moment, in that room where - for six weeks -  he had fought a valiant fight to recover from injuries incurred in a motorcycle accident alone on a desert road, I had to tell the staff working feverishly over him to stop trying to bring him back from the cardiac arrest he suffered - the latest of a long list of difficulties he had that month and a half.  It was the worst moment of my life and I relive it in my mind as I type this tonight.
I've written about him often, as I said.  You can find most of those essays by doing a search on this site using his name in the box at the top left corner of the page.  I think you might enjoy what I wrote on December 18, 2006, HERE, and on December 18, 2011, HERE.
Even now I think about our lives together - elementary school; Cub Scouts; church; basketball teams; the girls we dated; the songs he wrote about them; sitting in his little bedroom as he wrote the music which he and his band played at sock hops; his success as a singer and songwriter - he sang and played his guitar on a television program with The Righteous Brothers; as water polo teammates in college where he was an All-American; the vacations with his family; sharing his successes as a 31-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department, including his athletic achievements; his leadership as the Athletic Director at the Police Academy for the last half of his career; his pride in the Baker-to-Vegas Challenge Cup Relay that he and his partner, Chuck Foote, created and conducted for nearly two decades and the thousands of friends he made in his life.
As Christmas approaches next week please tell the ones you love how you feel.  At my age it seems like each year brings with it the loss of more close friends and family members.  Don't squander a single second - make every one count.
I leave you with a recording of one of his songs, recorded more than 50 years ago.  Enjoy.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Corona Del Mar Students Apparently Hack Computers

The following is a press release from Laura Boss, Director of Communications of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District regarding the apparent incident of hacking performed by students at Corona Del Mar High School for the purpose of changing grades and accessing tests.

(Click on image to enlarge)
I offer no editorial comment at this time.

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Decomposed Granite Removal About Half-Way Complete

While running holiday errands I made a quick stop at Fairview Park this afternoon to check on the progress of the removal of the decomposed granite (DG) from the trails that encroach on the Federally-protected vernal pools.  You will recall that last week, HERE, it was estimated the job would be completed by the end of this week.
It looks like a little more than half of the DG has been removed - all of it from the section of the trail that runs parallel with the fence line that separates the Parsons Field/Waldorf School area from the park.
The other section - the leg that runs parallel with the fence line separating Jim Scott Stadium from the park - is still covered with DG, although the logs that bordered the trail on the vernal pool side have been removed.  However, it looks like some test holes have been dug that revealed the DG is much thicker on that trail than the segment that has already been scraped clean.

And, there's clearly signs of activity because the grass at the entrance to that trail has been significantly torn-up by heavy equipment hauling the DG from the other leg.

I spoke with Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz from the park and was told that, because the remaining DG is so thick - and the removal of all of it would result in a very low spot where any rain water would certainly pool instead of flowing into the adjacent vernal pools - they are awaiting a consultation with Christine Medak of the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife before proceeding.  It's possible that some additional remediation - the installation of native soil to raise the level after the DG is removed - will be considered.
So, progress is slow and, as far as I know, nobody has turned up to claim the reward that leads to the apprehension of those responsible for the installation of the DG earlier this year.  It seems curious that nobody has come forward.  That task was HUGE, requiring lots of product and either lots of man-hours or the use of motorized equipment.  Somebody should ask Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger if he has any ideas, since it was his insistence that the path be improved that launched this whole debacle in the first place.

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Big Turnout At Sanitary District Town Hall

Tuesday night more than five dozen of your friends and neighbors, including 80% of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board members, turned out to hear the presentation on the proposed changes the board will consider sometime early next year.  There were several familiar faces, but most of the attendees were not regulars at other city meetings.  I'm not going to attempt a verbatim dissection of the presentations, but will give you some highlights.
District General Manager Scott Carroll led off with a presentation about why we were there.  In fact, several slides in his presentation were titled "Why are we here?"  Several of those slides gave different quotes about "Zero Waste" - theoretically the goal of managing trash.  Perhaps the most relevant was the first one, from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, which stated, "Zero waste efforts, just like recycling efforts before, will change the face of solid waste management in the future.  Instead of managing wastes, we will manage resources and strive to eliminate waste."  Then, later on, he had another slide that said, "Zero waste is NOT about getting to zero.  It is about being on the path to zero."  Got that?  Further we saw one that said, "Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them."
We learned that the State has mandated that 75% of all waste be diverted from landfills by 2020.  The Sanitary District Board, at a meeting in April, established a goal of achieving 75% diversion by 2015 and 90% by 2020.

In a nutshell, the Sanitary District will provide us with new "carts" - those cans on wheels that we presently load all our trash into for weekly pickup - for the "organics" and will hope we do some self-sorting those new cans to separate "Organics" from the rest of our trash.  We will have two types of cans - Organics and Other Trash, including recyclables.

Green Waste
Grass clippings,tree branches, twigs, stumps, leaves, weeds, bushes and shrubs

Food Waste
Fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, eggshells, rice, beans, cheese, bones, frozen/refrigerated food, tea bags, coffee grounds, pasta, FOG (fats, oil, grease)

Some of the details about precisely how this system will work still need to be ironed out, but here are  the basics as it stands today.
Households will receive one 64 or 32 gallon organic cart.

Standard service: 2-64 gallon mixed waste carts and 1-64 gallon organic cart. 
Households can request one additional organic cart with no additional monthly fee.  

Households may have 2 mixed waste arts and 2 organic carts with no additional monthly fee.  

A 3rd mixed waste and/or 3rd organic cart will cost $8.00 a month per additional container.

Households that generate no green waste
   A. Replace organic cart with 32 gallon food waste cart or
   B. Opt out of Organics Recycling Program and keep both existing mixed waste carts.  

Household that generates neither food scraps OR green waste.
  A. Opt out of Organics Recycling Program and keep both existing mixed waste carts.  

Households with limited storage space can also opt out.

Keep in mind that the goal here is to have EVERYONE participate in this program to maximize its effectiveness.  However, it was clear that if you choose to opt out, whether you meet any of those criteria above or not, there would be no "trash police" in your neighborhoods nor would there be fines imposed.

There will be small kitchen pails made available in which participants can collect food waste, which would be dumped into the Organics cart.  Several members of the audience expressed concern about odors, both in the house and outside, as the food waste is mixed - unbagged - with the green waste.  Carroll and the other speakers expressed the opinion that it should not be a problem.  Many observers were skeptical.

Carroll also talked about the costs of this program.  He told us that it currently costs $2,297,593 @ $8.9054 per property owner.  By adding the organic carts those numbers change to $2,527.213 @$9.7954 per property owner for an increase of $229,620.

Under the CRT Recycling/Disposal Plan:
Currently we spend $2,137,266 @ $51.97 per ton for 41,125 tons.  Approximately 33% of that trash would be "organic" under the new program, so the numbers would work out as follows:
$1,431,981 @ $51.97 per ton for 27,554 tons (67%)
$   970,344 @ $71.50 per ton for 13,571 organic tons (33%)
-2,137,266 Current Cost
$  265,059

Hauler Rate                               $229,620
CRT Recycling/Disposal Rate: $265,059
Kitchen pails                                   8,000
Community Outreach                     2,000
                                   TOTAL: $504,679


Carroll went into lengthy explanation of possible payment methods, including using reserves to pay the difference or spreading the increase cost over several years.  The Board will address those choices following more community input.

Then representatives from CR&R Environmental Services, our trash hauler, told us about the technology that will be used for this Anaerobic Digestion Project, using German technology at a facility they are building in Perris, California.  Basically, solid and liquid organic waste is placed in something called a Main Digester, which separates solids and gas.  Through proven, patented processes the gas is turned into the cleanest CNG fuel available and the other materials become liquid and solid fertilizer.  You can learn more about how this process works HERE and HERE.

According to Mike Silva, CR&R Project Manager for this new facility, the site will be ready to accept delivery of waste for processing in roughly a year.  And, we were told, that CR&R chose the Costa Mesa Sanitary District to team-up with on this project because of their great history with us - we were the first to go with the all-in-one-cart program many years ago.  And, they guarantee us low rates because we will be in this game early.
Although the hauler says it will only have to add one truck to it's Costa Mesa fleet, if this program is implemented our neighborhoods will have two trucks driving our streets each week instead of one, as is the case now.  Some residents expressed concern about doubling the negative impact of those huge trash trucks on our streets, both from a traffic and damage standpoint.  We understand the City may have misgivings about those impacts, too.

I came away from the meeting feeling a little more comfortable with this process, although there seems to be a little bit of a rush right now.  According to CMSD Board members and staff, this evaluation process has been ongoing for many years, but this is really the first public outreach, but will not be the last.  The second of these meetings will be held at the same venue, the Downtown Neighborhood Community Center at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 11, 2014.  I encourage you to attend that meeting if at all possible and to hear the details of the presentation for yourselves.

Board members Arlene Schafer, Jim Ferryman, Art Perry and Mike Scheafer sat quietly near the back of the room, hearing the presentation and measuring the community responses.  Only member Bob Ooten was absent.
 (Ferryman, Scheafer and Schafer)
After all is said and done, based on what we're told about the State mandates, this train is coming down the track with no way to stop it.  It seems prudent for us to carefully consider this proposal and, perhaps, jump aboard early in the process, before it gains much more momentum.  The Board will make a decision sometime in January, so express your opinion soon.  You can send an email to General Manager Scott Carroll HERE.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Decking Costa Mesa City Hall

In the spirit of the season James Bridges, our friend and occasional columnist for The Current, the Orange County Register's local newspaper, published this little poem recently.  It is reproduced here with his permission - and to make you all smile just a little bit wider as we approach Christmas.

By James Bridges 

'Twas the holiday season, at ol' City Hall;
Closed sessions aplenty, council meetings to stall.

Council pics are hung in the lobby; we stare –
In hopes that next year, new ones'll be there.

When all of a sudden, very few were to chatter,
Public comments postponed – free speech doesn't matter!

Pot holes and streets in need of repair;
Alleged budget surplus, may not be there.

On police, on fire, on miscellaneous – our unions;
On pensions, on liabilities – with funding delusions.

With councilors paid very well for part time;
Cafeteria-style benefits, their own care is prime.

New vehicles, computers – upgrades selected –
Priorities vary by whom is elected.

Charters and parks – prevailing wages we're guessing;
Commissions, committees, seem hardly the blessing;

But we will prevail, over politicians' blight –
Happy holidays, Costa Mesans!
And hold your wallets tight!

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New Trash Collection Proposal Town Hall Tonight

Here's a friendly reminder for your trash fans...  Tuesday evening, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park), the Costa Mesa Sanitary District will hold the first of two planned Town Hall meetings for all ratepayers/residents at which the proposal to change the way residential trash is collected in our community.  I also wrote about it HERE.  If you miss this meeting, a second one will be held on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at the same venue.

This is no small deal - it will change the way each of us will be required to handle our trash in our homes, will double the number of trash trucks on our streets each week and will cost the Sanitary District more than $500,000 per year.  Of course, that means it will cost US more.

I'm eager to hear why the Directors of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board and our hauler, CR&R, feel this change is necessary and why it is necessary to implement NOW.  I understand that many venues separate their trash into separate containers, but I need to understand why this is happening now.  It all may make lots of sense, so I'm looking forward to hearing directly from the Directors and Staff Tuesday evening.  See you there.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

A Glorious Day For A Birthday Party!

Temperatures in the mid-80s greeted visitors Sunday, December 15, 2013 the Costa Mesa Police Department, as part of the city-wide 60th Anniversary Celebration, celebrated its 60th Birthday with a community party at Police Headquarters on Fair Drive.
 (More than 3 dozen proud retirees attended the party)
Several hundred visitors enjoyed the warm weather and the festivities for five hours in the middle of the day.  I stayed for about half of that time and was very impressed with the preparations.  Food and drink was available, a raffle for helicopter rides was held in exchange for toys for children and tours of the police facilities were conducted throughout the afternoon.
 (Chiefs Dave Snowden, Roger Neth and Tom Gazsi)
Police Chief Tom Gazsi kicked off the official program and introduced several former Chiefs of Police of the department who were in attendance.  Before that part of the program, though, CMPD staffer Jeanette Chervony sang the National Anthem as the color guard presented the colors for the event.
 (Jeanette Chervony belts out the National Anthem)
Former Police Chief Roger Neth - the first officer hired and our second chief - gave us a fascinating history lesson about the CMPD.  We learned that, over the years, the CMPD has been an innovative and highly-regarded law enforcement agency.  Neth ticked off the many accomplishments - among them Community-Oriented Policing and the A.B.L.E. helicopter program, which was the benchmark after which all other municipal helicopter programs were modeled.  It was great to see Chief Neth again, and to hear those inspirational stories.
His successor, former Chief Dave Snowden - who spent more than seventeen years in that role before moving to Beverly Hills a decade ago - stepped up and expanded on some of the stories Neth told us.  He still considers himself part of the CMPD family and attends many events in our city when possible.  He rejoiced in the time he spent as our Police Chief, and bemoaned the difficult times the CMPD now faces, with the loss of A.B.L.E. and the diminished staffing levels.
Former Interim Chief Steve Staveley, a man who has led many law enforcement agencies over a more than 40 year career, was also on the stage and spoke briefly.  He was the interim Chief twice, filling in the gaps created by the departure of former Chiefs John Hensley and Chris Shawkey, neither of whom were in attendance yesterday.  Staveley held things together during some very difficult times.
Chief Gazsi spoke of the current condition of the CMPD, expressing his gratitude to the men and women of the department for their tireless efforts and spoke of the fact that they are recruiting as fast as is possible and still maintain the high standards established during the tours of the previous chiefs.  There are some members of the City Council who seem to think hiring police officers should be just like finding a gardener.  Such is the condition of the elected leadership in our city these days.
 (New recruits, eager to complete their training)
(Serving with a smile)
 (Kelly Vucinic and Valerie Sorenson keeping things rolling) 
There were many interesting displays available for the public to inspect.  There were two of our newest police cars plus the car used in the television program Adam-12.
Members of the SWAT team were present, along with many of their weapons.  After I left they gave a demonstration of tactics for the crowd at that time.
There was a helicopter on display on the helipad - a former CMPD Hughes 500D model that we sold to the Hawthorne Police Department when A.B.L.E. upgraded to the Eurocopters.  Former A.B.L.E. pilot Ryan Walker flew it here for the event and is shown chatting with retired CMPD Captain, current CMPD Chaplain and trustee of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Dave Brooks.  
An amusing side note - the donut truck from Sidecar Donuts on East 17th Street was at the event providing free donuts to visitors (and officers, too.)  Shown here is former councilman, current Costa Mesa Sanitary District Director and Chairman of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, Mike Scheafer, with retired legendary CMPD School Resource Officer, Jess Gilman.
The Costa Mesa Police Department has a proud, 60-year-old tradition of law enforcement innovation and excellence.  As I spoke with several of the men and women who protect and serve us today I'm convinced that Chief Gazsi and his team will continue this tradition if provided the resources.  I was very proud to be a Costa Mesan today.
(Kelly Vucinic, Captain Rob Sharpnack and Lt. Mark Manley)
(Captain Les Gogerty and Sergeant Phil Myers)
(Chief Tom Gazsi)

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