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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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Gee GW, unlike the Pilot you didn't do 10 pieces on the Mayberry walkers.

In Pamplona, Spain they have the annual "Running with the Bulls." With Stevie in Costa Mesa we have "Walking with the Bully.."

1/02/2014 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Actually, looking at the DP photo, it probably should be "Waddling With The Whiner"...

1/02/2014 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Geoff --
Happy New Year, and may you be the recipient of at least fifty more!

I just got back from a trip to Arcata to visit kinfolk there, in San Francisco, Oakland, and Ojai. While I missed no council meetings during my sojourn, I felt on return that things had changed somewhat, though that feeling may be a snapback from the tremendously calming effect a long road trip with my wife always has on me.

But speaking of calming effects -- you know all those potholes (both of them) that the city has been fixing instead of hiring new cops? Well, my brother-in-law in Arcata put forth the idea that the potholes in our streets are exactly what the city tried to do on the eastside with the islands -- they are TRAFFIC CALMING DEVICES! Far more effective than islands, or so-called "speed bumps" (NOBODY speeds over them!), they serve to slow and tranquilize traffic while interfering with the vertebrae, teeth, kidneys, and pelvic bones of the drivers whose trafficking is tranquilized by them. So I might suggest we form a committee to promote them, calling it Costa Mesa Citizens for the Preservation of Potholes, or CMCFTPOP for short. We could even invite Steve and Jim to a pothole-building party, to bolster their political reputations.

It would certainly be more effective than the Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanies that they do not use.

1/02/2014 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

I guess they'll just keep kicking the can down the road regarding the DG path, because that dog just ain't gonna hunt.

But our brand is strong!

(Insert over-used cliche here).

Happy New Year - it's gonna be a real barn burner!

1/03/2014 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous xyn bohemia said...

and we are soooooooooooo lucky to have you geoff! and what the hell is this "o.c. register" of which you speak?? ;)

1/03/2014 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

What Xyn said!
Thank you for being our go-to man for accurate reporting, information and events in our community. We are lucky to have you!

1/04/2014 11:30:00 PM  

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