Saturday, January 04, 2014

A Busy Beginning To The New Year

OK, boys and girls, it looks like this year is going to be VERY much like last year if the agenda for meetings for January is any indication.  You can view the City activities on the calendar, HERE, but I'm going to give you a little detail below.

At 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers the council will hold their first meeting of the new calendar year.  The agenda is HERE, but I'm going to dedicate a separate entry to that meeting.  You can wade through that agenda on your own if you wish, but my entry will be coming soon.

The next meeting of the Charter Committee will be held in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) beginning at 6:00 p.m.  The entire agenda can be seen HERE.  The committee will discuss the following issues:
  • Response to Charter Committee Questions, HERE.
  • Council Compensation, HERE.
  • Budget Reserves, HERE.
  • Property Tax Inequity, HERE.
  • Charter Review, HERE.
 At 5:30 p.m. the Cultural Arts Committee meets in Conference Room 1A.  No agenda is available for this meeting.

At 6:45 p.m. the Historical Preservation Committee meets in Conference Room 1A.  No agenda is available for this meeting.

In Political News, the Newport-Mesa Tea Party is hosting a forum on this date from 6:30 - 8:30 for candidates for Allan Mansoor's 74th Assembly Seat.  The meeting will be held at the Halecrest Swim and Tennis Club, 3107 Killybrooke Lane, Costa Mesa.  According to the Daily Pilot article, HERE, candidates expected to attend are Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry; Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper; Irvine resident and former Santa Ana City Council candidate Karina Onofre and Emanuel Patrascu, district director for 72nd District state Assemblyman Travis Allen.  This should be an interesting evening.

Very early on Saturday the Costa Mesa Sanitary District will hold an Organics Recycling Workshop for all interested ratepayers.  It will be held at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue. (Lions Park) beginning at 9:00 a.m.  This is the second of these workshops.  The announcement can be viewed HERE.  There are also two links from the CMSD website with agenda items, HERE and HERE.  If implemented this new plan will cost more than $500,000 and will require significant changes in the way we handle our waste at home.  It will also mean twice as many truck-trips each week to our homes. 

The City Council and Planning Commission will hold a joint study session  on the General Plan Update - Visioning Statements beginning at 4:30 in City Council Chambers.  That's a change, since most such meetings are held in Conference Room 1A.  I'll double check and confirm the location.  You can read the agenda HERE.  There is a more detailed agenda HERE.

Theoretically, there will be a Housing Authority Meeting immediately following that study session at 6:00, but no agenda is available for it at this date.

The Pension Oversight Committee will meet beginning at 4:30 in Conference Room 1A.  You can read the agenda HERE.
From 6:00 - 8:00 there will be a Workshop on Supportive Housing For Homeless In Costa Mesa in City Council Chambers.  You can read about that program HERE.

At 2:00 there will be a meeting of the Finance Oversight Board in Conference Room 1A.  No agenda is yet available for this meeting.

Again, From 6:00 - 8:00 there will be a Workshop on Supportive Housing For Homeless In Costa Mesa in City Council Chambers.  You can read about that program HERE.

Beginning at 6:00 p.m. the Costa Mesa Historical Society holds its Annual Installation Dinner.  Featured speaker is Douglas Westfall, who will speak on "The Bluffs Of Costa Mesa".  For more information click HERE.

That's it for the first couple of week this year - unless somebody calls an emergency meeting.  If that happens I'll let you know.  Check back for more details on Tuesday's council meeting.

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Thursday, January 02, 2014

A Look Back At 2013

I took a day off to fully immerse myself in family time and college football and will continue to enjoy the remaining bowl games over the next several days, but I thought I'd provide you a little reminder of what the last twelve months have been like in our neck of the woods as viewed from my perch on the far Eastside of Costa Mesa.  So much happened in our city last year that it makes one's head spin just trying to contemplate it all.  But first, some perspective...

I began writing this blog in July of 2005 using a different host, which I've described as a "bare bones" host - no photos, no comments... just me writing and one or two of you reading.  Then, in November 2006, I switched to my current host, Blogger, which permitted me to use images and also gave me the mixed blessing of receiving comments.  In February, 2013 I told you, HERE, that by the end of January - roughly five and a half years since beginning to use this host - the page views on this blog finally surpassed 1,000,000 - 1,000,970, to be precise.  And, at that time, we'd posted 1748 entries.  Well, as of December 31, 2013 here's how those numbers look.
Whew!  More than a half-million page views in 11 months and more than one post per day for that time period!  It's no wonder I ended up the year completely thrashed!  But, it's a new year and there's going to be plenty going on, so onward and upward...  Thanks to you loyal readers... But first, a look back...

A year ago I announced HERE that I was bailing out of Facebook for a variety of reasons.  It was my intent to stay out of that mosh pit, but after three months, without fanfare, I decided to  rejoin and sit quietly in a corner and watch.  HA!  Not a chance!  I missed the opportunity to comment on the Daily Pilot and Orange County Register articles, even though some thin-skinned wimps had been offended by my previous comments.  I must admit that I really enjoyed the additional time being away from Facebook provided to me for a quarter of last year.

January of 2013 saw the creation of the 60th Anniversary Celebration Committee and the election of Mike Scheafer as Chairman and Melinda Lowery as Vice Chair.  I wrote about it HERE and HERE.  Dozens of volunteers went to work with a very short head-start to prepare to celebrate the City's 60th birthday party and did a fine job.  By most reports - including mine, HERE - the celebration that took place the weekend before Independence Day was a rousing success.  However,  despite the euphoria, all was apparently not well in River City.  In August, HERE, we were told that Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce and his assistant, Christine Cordon, were placed on administrative leave.  A few days later official-looking men were observed transporting boxes of papers and computers from the 5th Floor of City Hall to the Police Headquarters next door, HERE, and a couple days later the city finally confirmed the leaves of Joyce and Cordon, HERE.  The mystery surrounding the finances of this event continue to swirl and the City continues to drag its feet on Public Records requests, denying the public information about how it managed to allow spending on this event exceed their estimates by more than 20% - and counting.

Ah, but there's more...
About the time the 60th Celebration was coming together somebody defiled federally-protected habitat in Fairview Park by installing a decomposed granite (DG) path, HERE.  This process, based on correspondence in the public record, was initiated by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's request (demand?) of Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz to improve a user-defined trail - basically a cow path - that ran from the end of Canyon Drive along the fence that separates the park and Parsons Field that Mensinger claims was used by kids walking to Estancia High School.  It's all about the kids, after all.  Munoz and his staff graded the area and encroached on vernal pool #6 - a federally-protected habitat of the San Diego Fairy Shrimp.  The staff apparently also applied an herbicide to kill off those nasty weeds.  Then, somebody spread tons of DG over that graded area and nobody will come forward to admit it, although in public comments Mensinger implied "people knew" who did it.  Now the federal government is involved and, as I type this, the offending DG is being removed and the vernal pools affected are being restored, HERE.  We still don't know the long-range impact of this inexcusable incursion - perhaps the Feds will forbid us to do ANYTHING in Fairview Park because of our poor stewardship of this site.

In January Jim Fitzpatrick resigned from the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board, HERE.  He had earlier resigned from his seat on the Costa Mesa Planning Commission.  The two seats were found to be incompatible.  However, since he accepted the appointment to the Planning Commission seat after he was elected to the Sanitary District Board, he should have resigned the Sanitary District Board seat.  He and the board went round and round for months before he finally did what he should have done in the first place.  Nineteen people tossed their hats in the ring for Fitzpatrick's slot, HERE, the Board thinned out the candidate pool, HERE, and former Director Arlene Schafer - who had lost her seat to Fitzpatrick - was placed on the Board, HERE.

Then Planning Commissioner Ed Salcedo resigned his seat, HERE, and the City Council made a mistake by attempting to appoint his replacement too quickly, HERE.  Eventually they seated a group of supporters, including Fitzpatrick, who was named Chairman, HERE.

One of the biggest stories during the early part of the year was the rampage by Christopher Dorner.  I wrote about it HERE, HERE and HERE.  How does one begin to understand his actions?
And, the incursion of coyotes into Costa Mesa neighborhoods where they killed family pets continued, HERE.
Michael McHugh, a parent of an Estancia High School student, was apprehended when he threatened school officials with what turned out to be a replica gun, HERE.  Nobody was harmed.  And a Costa Mesa man blew himself up, HERE.

In a sad bit of irony, Costa Mesa police officers were, once again, honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for their diligence in removing impaired drivers from our streets, HERE, virtually simultaneously with the tragic death of CMPD detective Mike Delgadillo, who crashed his car while impaired, HERE.

Mayor Jim Righeimer, apparently frustrated by the overwhelming statement by the voters in the then-recent election to defeat his Charter scheme, demanded - and got - another bite of the apple, HERE and HERE.  He had a Charter Committee formed - stacked with his cronies - and they are meeting with regularity to try to cobble together a document that will change the way Costa Mesa is governed that the voters will buy into.  Despite the diligence of facilitators Kirk Bauermeister and Mike Decker, progress is slowed by Tea Party Tom Pollitt's insistence is squandering valuable time debating whether to pray at the beginning of the meetings, HERE.  The process moves forward, HERE, although Righeimer got a big kick in the teeth from the State Legislature when Governor Jerry Brown signed SB311, which changed the way "Prevailing Wages" are handled.  That knocked the foundation of Righeimer's argument for a Charter out the window, HERE.

The continuing problem of how to deal with the homeless population in Costa Mesa continued to bubble.  Near the end of the year a site was identified for possible use as a venue for homes for previously homeless folks - Civic Center Park, across the street from the Police Headquarters, HERE.  Meetings to provide the community a chance to address this issue were scheduled, HERE.  Then, inexplicably, it was announced that the site was no longer under consideration! HERE.

The toxic atomosphere created by the current elected majority on the City Council has drawn more than a few critics.  Former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley once again addressed it HERE.  Former Police Chief - and current Beverly Hills Police Chief Dave Snowden - addressed it HERE.  The relationship between the council majority and employees continued to deteriorate and long-time employees like Billy Folsom, HERE, and Helen Nenadal, HERE, chose to retire earlier than expected due to the stress placed on them.  They were not alone.  Overworked Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young announced his departure for private industry in July, HERE.  In an attempt to get a handle on the steady loss of experienced, skilled employees the City commissioned Chip Espinosa to do a "Listening Survey", HERE.  However, I don't think they were ready for the result.  Espinosa apparently had to go back several times and massage his final report - we assume because folks in power just didn't like what they were being told.  And the bleeding continues, with - especially in the case of the Police Department, departures are far outstripping our ability to back fill with qualified candidates.

Where have you heard of a city where the employees found it necessary to sue the City to force it to follow its own rules?, HERE.  Where has the mayor and mayor pro tem sued the men and women of its police department? HERE and HERE.  Where have you heard of a mayor, so upset with criticism of his actions during City Council meetings that he changes the rules and forces speakers to stay until the end of meetings - sometimes well past midnight - to air their grievances? HERE.

There were many positive things that happened last year, although some were just shiny objects designed to distract from what was really happening, like the "Mayors Dinner", HERE, and the 60th Anniversary Celebration.  And, of course, there was the Snoopy House event on City Hall lawn.

We did finally hire a new Fire Chief, Dan Stefano, HERE, after years of instability in that position.  And Police Chief Tom Gazsi was honored by the Daily Pilot as #1 on their DP 103 list of influential people in our cities, HERE - an acknowledgement of his outstanding contribution to our city as he attempts to hold the Police Department together despite roadblocks placed in his way by the council majority.  And, yes, I'm #19 on that list, for which I'm very grateful and humbled to be included again.

There was much, much more going on in our city last year.  This year, an election year, promises to be even more interesting and, probably, contentious as candidates for public office jockey for position.  It is presumed that Righeimer will run to retain his seat on the city council, but we're told that Katrina Foley will also run for one of the two seats available.  And, announced candidates Lee Ramos and Tony Capitelli will fragment support for Righeimer - always a good thing.  And Assemblyman Allan Mansoor has announced he will run for Supervisor John Moorlach's seat, but is getting no Republican Party support.  Looks like he may have no place to sit down when the music stops this year.  One thing is certain... it's NOT going to be boring in Costa Mesa this year.  Even without elections, those in power continue to find ways to make themselves look silly and incompetent.  It will be fun reporting about it.

Happy New Year to you all.  Thanks for reading. 

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Civic Center Park May Be OUT as Homeless Site

In a very interesting development, this morning the City of Costa Mesa issued a press release announcing that the Civic Center Park site originally earmarked as the location for Supportive Housing for Costa Mesa Homeless folks, is NO LONGER the primary venue under consideration.  You can read the entirety of the brief press release HERE.
This is a curious change of direction.  I sat through the study session in which this issue was discussed earlier this month and, based on what we were told at that time, the ONLY option in the city for such a facility WAS the Civic Center Park location.  I wonder what's changed?

In any event, the City will still hold two back-to-back community workshops on January 15th and 16th from 6 - 8 p.m. in City Council Chambers to present the issue to the public and to receive input FROM the public.

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A Happy Milestone For Me

Today, as we celebrate the passing of yet another year and await the dropping of that Waterford Crystal ball at Times Square, my lovely and patient wife and I will celebrate another milestone.  Today, or rather, tonight marks the 47th anniversary of our very first date!

How we arrived at that date is a long, convoluted story, but the point is that we danced all night and, eight months later, got married and launched a fantastic life together.

This photo shows us on that date.

This one shows us at Thanksgiving - no change at all, right? ;-)

Happy New Year, everyone.  Fasten your seatbelts....


Meetings on Supportive Housing For Homeless Scheduled

Few issues have evoked as much public outcry and angst lately as the recent announcement of the possibility of placing so-called "supportive housing for homeless" at the site of the Civic Center Park on Fair Drive, across the street from the Costa Mesa Police Station.  Since this issue was first brought up earlier this month much inaccurate information has been swirling around the community that needs clarification.  For example, some folks got the idea that the City was planning to build an emergency shelter for the mentally ill and/or a one-stop mental health center for the entire homeless community.  Those ideas are false.

As a result of that intense interest, particularly by residents of homes nearby that location, and because of the misinformation being circulated - and because time is of the essence if funding is to be acquired for the project by the end of February - two meetings have been scheduled in two weeks to provide ACCURATE information to members of the public.  These meetings, described as community workshops, will be held back-to-back in City Council Chambers at 77 Fair Drive from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 and Thursday, January 16, 2014.  You can read the lengthy announcement released yesterday about these meetings HERE.  Mark your calendars...

The City Council held a study session on December 10, 2013 on this subject which included some excellent information.  You can read the staff report from that meeting HERE and view the PowerPoint presentation HERE.  I strongly recommend that those who are seriously interested in this issue take a few minutes to review those two documents as well as the announcement BEFORE attending the workshops.

I will remind you at least once more of these meetings, but am doing so very early to help you clear your calendars for one or the other (or both) of these important meetings.  You can get more information by contacting the City's Neighborhood Improvement Task Force hotline at 714-754-4977.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Mooney Demands Identity of Trail Violators - From Mensinger

Those of you who subscribe to the Orange County Register probably have already seen the commentary published on those pages Saturday, December 27, 2013 written by Costa Mesa resident Charles Mooney titled, "Official owes public an end to trail mystery".  You can read it HERE, if you've paid the price to sneak behind their pay wall, that is.

In a nutshell, Mooney aims an incriminating finger directly at Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger on the issue of the illegal application of decomposed granite on a trail that encroached on federally-protected vernal pools, suggesting through the use of direct quotations by Mensinger, that he knows who installed the decomposed granite.

Mooney also gives us a very brief summary of activity by federal officials regarding the trail and the vernal pools and suggests that the $14,000 the city is paying to have the offending materials removed should be reimbursed by those responsible for it.  And, we still don't know what kind of sanctions, if any, will be imposed on the City regarding our poor stewardship of Fairview Park - that shoe is waiting to drop.

His final two paragraphs says the following:

"I can somewhat understand why the person or persons who installed the trail are afraid to confess and pay for the trail's removal.

However, it seems that Mayor Pro Tem Mensinger knows who installed the trail and, as a public official, has the responsibility to Costa Mesa taxpayers to identify those responsible."

I agree with Mooney... if Mensinger does know who is responsible for the installation of the decomposed granite on the trail that may have harmed an endangered species - the San Diego Fairy Shrimp -  he is violating his responsibility as a sworn council member if he does not come forward with that information.  Of course, there's always the small chance that he might incriminate himself, in which case he is protected by law from doing so.  It's a very sticky wicket.  Perhaps the reward that was announced a few weeks ago will  produce verifiable leads so this mess can be cleared up once and for all.

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