Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Council Meeting Wrap-Up

OK, now that the drama of last night is behind us, kind of, HERE, let's talk about the real business of the city and what was, or was not, accomplished at the City Council meeting last night.

It's important to note that the meeting ran less than three hours, due in great part to the fact that two of the items on the agenda - the long-awaited and, in my view, much-overdue Ethics Policy and the proposed development of 240 apartment units at 125 East Baker Street - were pulled from the agenda.  Each of those items, when they finally appear before the council, will likely suck up a lot of time with discussion and public comments.  I suspect by pulling them from the agenda last night we saved ourselves a couple hours - at least.

There were three "presentations" last night.  First, Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff spoke to tell us of the current status of the John Wayne Airport agreement extension, and asked for the support by the City of the upcoming Environmental Impact Report.  This chart (click on it to enlarge it) shows the modifications to the agreement that have been proposed.

Next up was Lisa Telles from the Transportation Corridor Authority (TCA), which operates the Orange County Toll Roads.  She told us that the 51 miles of Orange County Toll Roads will no longer accept cash payments as of May 14, 2014, and we will have three options as of that date:
  1. Continue to use the FasTrak transponder, which provides the least costly toll charges.
  2. Establish an ExpressAccount with the TCA, which reads your license plate and either deducts from a prepaid account (like the FasTrack) or sends an invoice.
  3.  Use One-Time-Toll, which permits the billing ONE TIME of a toll charge using information taken from the auto license record.
You can learn all about the options at the TCA website, HERE.

The third was a presentation to Code Enforcement Officer Mike Tucker and members of the Grace Fellowship Church for their proactive assistance to an elderly resident who was in danger of incurring significant fines due to the condition of her property.  Tucker contacted the church and volunteers cleaned up the place.

Ten speakers stepped up to the podium for Public Comments, causing Mayor Jim Righeimer to remark that he "didn't even have to shuffle the cards".  Few smiled at the remark.

Former City Council candidate Chris McEvoy covered a range of issues, including questioning the need for a Charter; stifled public participation; rehab homes; the DG Trail and observing that, following a little rain, Fairview Park has burst into color.

Council majority supporter and long, long, long time resident Chuck Perry praised the council for recent street work, then suggested attention be given to parking issues adjacent to the new soccer fields at Vanguard University.

Flo Martin intended to present a PowerPoint presentation regarding the life-saving event for her son, but didn't get the information to the City Clerk in time, so just gave us a - to use a Chick Hearnism - "words-eye view" of the event.  It was very moving.

Beth Refakes reminded us of the collection of goods for the City's adopted Marine battalion, the 1/5, which has deployed to Australia, HERE.  The Military Affairs Team, of which she is a member, will collect the stuff and deliver it to Camp Pendleton, which will then have it transported to the 1/5.  She also spoke of the recent 60th Anniversary Committee meeting and looked forward to resolution of pending issues.

Sue Lester mentioned employee Lorna Lyttle, who is about to be deployed to Afghanistan and CMPD Sergeant Vic Bakkila, who recently was promoted to Full Colonel in the Army Reserves.  She also mentioned the Ethics Policy, and the fact that a 2011 Management Audit called for the establishment of such a policy and, here we are, three years later, and it still has not been produced.  She also mentioned the periodic Ethics Training conducted by our contract law firm and noted that neither Mayor Righeimer nor councilman Gary Monahan have yet received that training.  I'm not surprised...

Kathy Esfahani, representing the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition, spoke about the decision the previous night by the Planning Commission to reduce the number of long-term stay units at the Sandpiper Motel.  She cited the great need for such housing and bemoaned the fact that we will lose such units when there is no other option available in the city.

Cindy Brenneman, who identified herself as one of the "Dirty Dozen" - the dozen people who regularly speak before the council that Righeimer derided recently - spoke of the "Pump In" at Goat Hill Junction at Fairview Park this weekend, the Community Run on the 25th, car show on the 26th, the Relay For Life on the 31st and the fact that CMPD Officer Kha Bao is "kicking butt" in the current "distracted driving" campaign.

Allan Katz asked for a crosswalk on Victoria near Victoria Health Care - timely, since the new pavement is just about to be striped.

Robin Leffler spoke about the 60th Anniversary meeting and hoped that some light will eventually be shined on the financial morass.  She cited improprieties in the way checks were authorized and asked the City to get to the bottom of it.

During this segment Gary Monahan - he actually spoke during this meeting! - observed that the Medical Marijuana issue was alive again and that he would be staying on top of it to "see what we can do".  He cited Oregon and Colorado.  Funny - he remains virtually mute for months, then a drug issue perks him up, so to speak.  Interesting, no?

Righeimer addressed the Affordable Housing issue, citing that it's not an easy problem to solve.  Duh!  Responding to criticism, he said, "Just because they don't agree with you doesn't mean they don't listen to you."  Really?  He spoke about the motels, indicating that they were "never intended to be long-term stay places."  He said "Nobody's going to get kicked out!"  He mentioned being a speaker at the "graduation" at the Orange County Rescue Mission and almost teared-up talking about it.  He said, "There's a little God going on here, but I can't talk about it."  Then he did his melt down as mentioned in my earlier post.

Mensinger didn't contribute much, except to agree with Righeimer's meltdown comments.

Sandy Genis commented on the Pump-In.

Wendy Leece agreed with McEvoy about the stifling of speech, defended my rights and got interrupted by Righeimer on the issue.  She observed that the Ethics Policy is overdue and that we should be following Roberts Rules of Order - timely, since Righeimer had just violated them.  She spoke about the motel issue and the Costa Mesa Senior Center, indicating that a sub-committee of the Senior Board will be studying how to work effectively with the City.  She also mentioned the Freedom Committee and former mayor Jack Hammett and his involvement in it.

CEO Tom Hatch, during his segment, told us:
  • The Ethics Policy needed some fine tuning.  
  • He told us there would be the first Public Hearing on the Charter in City Council Chambers at 7:00 on April 22nd.  
  • There will be a Study Session on April 29th on General Plan Land Use Element and some Library concepts.  
  • On May 13th there will be the first Budget Study Session of this year.
  • The 60th Anniversary Meeting went well.  He and Chairman Mike Scheafer are going to prepare a report.
  • A video clip introducing the Costa Mesa Connect Application for smart phones was shown.
  • Another video clip showing the reunion of Costa Mesa Firefighters and paramedics with the little girl whose life they helped save not too long ago was also shown.
  • He mentioned that the Preserve Our Neighborhood Task Force will meet soon.  I'm told that meeting is Thursday.  He commented on the very costly legal battle Newport Beach is involved in regarding rehab homes in that city.
Because Public Hearing #2, the 240-unit apartment complex planned for 125 East Baker Street in an industrial zone, was pulled and continued to May 6th, three members of the public were permitted to speak on it with the proviso that they could NOT speak on it again.  We'll see how that works out.

Public Hearing #1, the vacation of a sliver of city property on Fullerton Street was handled in short order.

New Business #1, the Appointments to Committees was up next.  This was VERY interesting.  Two of the three committees with appointees were not at all controversial.  The Finance Advisory Committee is another story, though.

The council voted, on 5-0 votes, to appoint Frank Davern to the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, replacing David Stiller, who passed away recently.  They also voted, 5-0 to place John McQueen as an alternate on the Historical Preservation Committee.

When it came to the 8 positions on the Finance Advisory Committee, liaison Mensinger recommended the following people:
Jeff Arthur
James R. Fisler
Christopher Graham
Robert Juneman
Tom Pollitt
Richard A. Riva, Jr.
Terry Shaw
Colin P. Smith
Howard Hull

You'll note that there are 9 names on that list.  Hull did not get his application in on time, so Sandy Genis questioned why he should be considered at all.  When Mensinger was asked to read the names again before the vote he DID NOT include Hull's name, but something Righeimer said led folks to believe Hull was among those selected.  You may recall that Hull was a lightning rod for controversy in the 60th Anniversary Celebration Kick-Off event.  A call late this afternoon to Brenda Green, City Clerk, confirmed that Hull was on her list of nine (9) people selected.  Curious, indeed.

Some may recall that Righeimer was the beneficiary of similar largess.  A few months after he dragged his carpetbag to town from Fountain Valley he applied - very late and well past the deadline - for an opening on the Planning Commission.  Allan Mansoor stiff-armed his loyal foot soldier, Paul Bunney, not once, not twice but three times and, instead, appointed Righeimer.  We presume it was political payback for help Dana Rohrabacher gave to Mansoor during his re-election campaign.  Righeimer was Rohrabacher's campaign manager for that one.  Now we have the rules ignored for Hull.  Then, again, that's how they roll...

New Business #2, HERE, the Master Plan screening of a plan for a live/work project at 2026 Placentia moved through briskly, although there was conversation about parking - nothing new about that - and open space.   During a conversation about the parking vs. open space Monahan stated that he'd rather have the parking than open space.  The developer will move forward and this project will likely next appear before the Planning Commission sometime soon.

The two "trailed" items from the Consent Calendar were next.  Item #6, HERE, the request for "resident only parking" on Center Street between Placentia Avenue and Wallace Avenue, turned out to be more interesting than anticipated.  Legendary restaurateur Wing Lam, who's original Wahoo's Fish Taco restaurant is across the street, attended the meeting and spoke with some consternation about the prospect of eliminating the parking along Center Street during his normal hours of operation.  After a good deal of conversation the decision was to support a modified version - with resident-only parking authorized from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 a.m. and the staff will monitor it and bring it back to the council in 3-4 months with a report.  It passed 5-0.

The remaining item was #10, HERE, the participation by Righeimer, Mensinger, Hatch, Economic Development Director Gary Armstrong and an undetermined number of other city staffers at the annual International Conference of Shopping Centers (ICSC) in Las Vegas, May 18-20 this year.  So far, nobody has presented any evidence that the participation the last two years has resulted in ANY new businesses coming to Costa Mesa.  No good answers were given to the question and no definition of who and how many other staffers will be attending was given, but the council voted, 5-0 to authorize the participation.  No firm costs were provided, either.  Seems like a curious way to run a city, er, business, er, city... whatever.

The most entertaining part of the meeting came at the very tail end, when Anna Vrska stepped to the speaker's podium for the continued segment of Public Comments.  During her presentation, in which she asked about a leaked memo regarding the Friday Night Lights Football controversy and the Ethics Policy,  she came to my defense and Righeimer attempted to quash her comments as he did with Leece earlier.  Vrska, however, was having none of it.  She refused to yield her time to him, telling him, "No, you don't!" as he tried to interrupt her.  It made me smile as she finished her comments and stepped away before the meeting was adjourned just before 9:00 p.m.

In case you wish to view the streaming video of the meeting, rants and all, you can click HERE.  You'll find Righeimer's initial rant about me at 1:03:20.  It runs for about three minutes.  You'll find his interruption of Leece at 1:09:32.  You'll find the exchange between Righeimer and Vrska way down at the end at 2:45:30.

Oh, yes... in case anyone ELSE has the question... NO, I am NOT going to apologize to Righeimer.  Thanks for asking.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I'm curious as to why anyone would appoint Howard Hull to anything. That man is a dangerous liability, in more ways than one. What are these guys thinking?

4/16/2014 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Outstanding job this week Geoff West. You're one of Costa Mesa's greatest defenders.

4/16/2014 10:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Moving Forward - the title at the top of the column, can only mean that you are moving forward with your reporting. It certainly isn't the direction of the council majority. If they are moving forward, I shudder to think what they are moving forward to. Thanks for taking the time to keep us informed.

4/17/2014 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Interesting note: Righeimer indicated rather self righteously that he didn't have time to "do" Facebook. Right. He is following CM4RG on Twitter though. Guess he forgot to mention that.

A little nervous are we, Jim?

4/18/2014 01:51:00 PM  

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