Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Council Meeting Wrap Up

Last night the Costa Mesa greeted Australian exchange students, approved the 2013-2021 General Plan Housing Element, heard plans for 89 dwelling units on the Westside of town, approved a fee for Excessive Use Of Resources and approved the addition to a dozen new employees to a critically depleted staff.  Read Jill Cowan's Daily Pilot article HERE.

I attended the first hour of the meeting before departing for a memorial service for my dear friend, former Daily Pilot columnist Joe Bell.  By the time it ended the council meeting was over, so I'm gleaning my observations from the replay available online, HERE.

Before I left, during Public Comments resident Sue Lester stepped to the speaker's podium and asked, actually demanded, that the city release the information dealing with the 60th Anniversary celebration, which had been promised by January 15th.  In response, CEO Tom Hatch said they hope to release the information by Friday, but then did a serious tap-dance, indicating that if they missed that date they would provide regular updates.  What?!  That sounds very much like he expects to miss the date, and not by a little bit.  I agree with Mayor Jim Righeimer's comment - it's time to get this overwith and behind us.  I don't agree that we should rush release the documents IF they are still part of an ongoing investigation.  Getting to the bottom of this mess is more important than early release of documents.

The Excessive Use of Resources fine of $360 per call over the pre-determined number by the formula the staff created was approved on a 3-1 vote -  voted no.  It was amusing to watch Genis try to get specifics on just HOW this fee was reached.  Righeimer sparred with her on the dais - a completely inappropriate action on his part.  Her discussion was directed at Assistant CEO Rick Francis, but Righeimer hijacked the discussion.  One motel owner - a Costa Mesa resident and long-time operator - decried the fee and predicted a diminished number of calls for service by motel operators.  He feared a very serious event as a result.

Around 8:30 CEO Hatch presented the request for a dozen additional staff members.  He told us that four years ago we had 611 authorized positions.  The current budget included 466 authorized slots, twelve of which were eliminated by the Fire Department redeployment model.  He indicated that technology and other efficiencies will allow a cut of another six slots, taking the total today to 454 authorized positions.  He indicated that we are currently at a bare minimum of staff to provide good services.  Also in his preamble on this item he said, "We're going to continue as we move forward to look at each position as it comes open to see whether or not we absolutely need to fill it.  We're going to look at restructuring at times if necessary.  And we're going to look at contracting, and using temporary help and consultant whenever needed help to fill in the gaps."  He also indicated that they'll be coming back to the council for more possible additions in Development Services.  He wants $600,000 in General Funds to meet the need for the 12 positions in this fiscal year.  In response to a question by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, concerned about getting back to the 611, Hatch told him that, with the approval of these 12 slots, we would still be 145 positions short of the 611 with a similar mission.

Mensinger threw Hatch a couple curve balls when he asked about specific populations in specific police department slots - Park Rangers and Community Services Specialists.  Hatch dove into his budget book and gave him partial answers, which the impatient Mensinger seemed satisfied with... strange.

Righeimer alluded to a conversations he has recently had with Chief Tom Gazsi - one of which apparently took more than 3 hours over breakfast one morning - to resolve issues.  Seems peculiar, since Gazsi works for Hatch, not the mayor.  Anyhow, the council passed the issue with very little discussion of other positions or the new department being proposed, 4-0.  It will be interesting to see who fills that brand new Assistant CEO/Administrative Services Director slot.

By the way, sources tell me that the Buyer position is a critical addition.  Apparently, we ran with nobody at the wheel in Purchasing for a couple years except a well-intentioned and over-worked part time clerk.  I find myself wondering if that may have contributed to whatever problems there may have been with the 60th Anniversary Celebration costs - no oversight!  I wonder what the investigation will reveal on that subject?

So, off we go to the Charter Committee meeting this evening at the Emergency Operations Center at 6:00 to hear, among other things, what Pension Oversight Committee Chairman Jeff Arthur has to say about possible solutions to our alleged pension crisis.  More on that later.

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Blogger Cindy Lou Who said...

Thank you Sue Lester for asking the questions that we all want answers to and for holding the City accountable. We are all anxiously awaiting the information on the 60th. As a fellow committee member I agree that I feel like we've been twisting in the wind waiting for direction and a wrap up from the event. Someday....

1/22/2014 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

I would like to see the answers too. The sooner the better, but of course not if the investigation is not finished.

The longer the delay though, the more I wonder if there will be a cover-up or some misdirection. I’m not alone, its part of the neighborhood gossip…in a lot of neighborhoods. I keep thinking about the Chip Espinosa “Listening Report” and how it sat on someone’s desk for months, It was amended before it was released because someone or sometwo did not like the results. The longer they wait the more suspicion that the results are not being released until they have the right “spin” on them.

1/22/2014 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous CMTaxpayer said...

I could of thrown a heckuva better party for $400K. Just look at the figures we already have. Proves what I said for the last 3 years. The current council leadership ARE NOT fiscal conservatives.

1/22/2014 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

At least there weren't nearly fully clothed women in paper mache cages...apparently, that's the end all, be all of offensiveness.

We've got big problems to solve. People need to keep their eyes on the ball.

Now about the lie about the Foo Fighters ...

1/22/2014 11:44:00 PM  

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