Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Budget, Development, Late Hours And "F" Bombs

As I begin to write this the sun has not yet begun to rise, but it's not far off.  It took me awhile to clear my head after the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night/Wednesday morning before I felt composed enough to begin hammering this out.  The meeting, which began promptly at 6, didn't end until 12:59 a.m. today, Wednesday.

There's no easy way to begin this except to start at the beginning and just plow my way through it.  I'll give you the short version of events this time.  Each element had its own little dramatic moment.

Mayor Jim Righeimer announced that he had 23 Public Comment cards, which meant the first 10 - after he shuffled them - would speak early and the remainder would speak at the VERY end of the meeting if they had the fortitude to stick it out.  Al Melone spoke about the Dog Park.  Someone named Pamela Wilson griped about receiving a "union" mailer against the Charter and sounded for all the world like a Tea Partier.  Two teenage girls spoke about alcohol awareness programs.  Jeff Arthur echoed Wilson and expressed dismay about dishonesty and propaganda.  James Bridges thanked CEO Tom Hatch and Police Chief Tom Gazsi for visiting his neighborhood to offer condolences to the family of Kyle Johnson, who died in a traffic accident in Arizona Sunday.   

Beth Refakes reported on the Military Affairs Team's visit to the headquarters of our adopted Marine unit, the 1/5.  Harold Weitzberg spoke about development and the lack of affordable housing. Cindy Brenneman asked for the meeting to be adjourned in honor of Kyle Johnson.  Teresa Drain expressed concern about the lingering questions surrounding the 60th Anniversary Celebration scandal.  Cindy Black told the mayor he should quit trying to run Costa Mesa like a Charter city, and used a box prop to make a point.  At the end an unidentified woman walking with a cane attempted to speak but Righeimer shut her down because only 10 people could speak.  The woman and her husband then left, not being able to wait until what would have been well after midnight.  The crowd boo'd the mayor.

During Councilmember Comments Wendy Leece spoke about Save Our Youth (SOY), the Relay for Life event last weekend, Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, the 1/5 Marines and Lorna Lyttle, our deployed Park Ranger.  Gary Monahan had nothing to say.  Righeimer whined about having to run his meeting in defense of his rejection of the earlier speaker.  Steve Mensinger spoke of infrastructure improvements.  Sandy Genis spoke about Middle Class Taxpayers in response to earlier speaker's criticism of the anti-Charter mailers.

During his segment Hatch spoke about the $4.4 million in Capital Improvement projects, including streets and alleys, which he described as great community assets.  He and Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz talked about successes with street and alley paving, indicating that our current status on the Pavement Condition Index is now 84.9 compared to  a much lower number a couple years ago.

Because it was not yet 7:00, Righeimer permitted two more Public Comment speakers - Gay Royer spoke of unacceptable traffic on the "Victoria Freeway" on the Westside and Tamar Goldmann spoke of the mandatory alcohol service training.

The first Public Hearing was the Annexation of the so-called Santa Ana/Colleen tract - 14 acres of county land that is about to be annexed from the county into Costa Mesa, which already provides most essential services.  Eight (8) people spoke on this issue, including many residents.  Most were enthusiastic about the annexation, but were very concerned density, lot size and losing the character and quality of life that exists in their little enclave now.  During the subsequent discussion spot zoning came up.  When Righeimer said the newly-annexed parcels would be subject to our current R-1 zoning, which meant 6,000 square foot minimum lot sizes and smaller setbacks a discussion ensued in which Genis reminded the mayor of the inconsistency being followed applying the rules and cited 125 East Baker Street and other recent developments.   Righeimer moved to approve the item.  Genis offered a substitute motion to have staff study the various questions and bring it back because there really is no rush.  That went down in flames on a 3-2 vote - she and Leece voted yes.  Monahan offered another substitute motion to expand the lot size to 6,600 square feet and it passed, 3-2.

After a 15 minute break - during which Righeimer found himself in intense conversation with residents of the annexation community, the council tackled the next two items on the agenda, both of which dealt with the budget.  The first one, the Appropriation Limit, passed, 5-0 after almost no discussion.

The Budget discussion lasted longer and would have passed in short order except that Mensinger wanted medians and other work completed in his neighborhood, Mesa Verde, so he asked for over $600,000 be shifted from the $1 million earmarked for library issues and shoved aside Genis comments about needing to fix the air conditioning at the Royal Palm fire station and other maintenance items there for less than $100,000.  Talk about screwed-up priorities.  During the public comments City Council candidate Lee Ramos stepped up for one of his very infrequent trips to the speaker's podium to thank the council for its hard work, recited what sounded very much like a stump speech.  He and his conjoined twin, Dennis Popp, departed immediately after this segment of the meeting.  Must have been bed time for them both.  In any event, the budget passed with Mensinger's amendments, 3-2, with Leece and Genis voting no.  So, off we go with a $140,000,000 budget, including another $1,000,000 slush, er, contingency fund.

At 9:20 the council began discussing Public Hearing #4, the 28-unit development on Harbor Boulevard and Hamilton Street which backs up to noisy, dirty, loud industrial uses.  Thirteen (13) people spoke on the issue - all against it.  However, the high (or low, depending on you viewpoint) came when long time businessman Tim Lewis spoke.  He tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the council that this was a bad project at that location.  In frustration, at the end of his time, twice he hurled the "F" Bomb at Righeimer, wadded up some of his papers and threw them toward the dais and said, "Go to hell, you bastards!  I'll see you at the polls!" Police officers in attendance calmed him down as other speakers stepped up.

After the applicant made his presentation the council debated the value of the project.  Righeimer used the current buzz phrase, "Moving Forward" and the "Brand is Strong" as he forced the vote, which ended up passing, 3-2.  Leece and Genis voted no.

At just before 11:00 the discussion turned to New Business #1, the extension and amplification of the contract for the consultant working with the City on the General Plan Update.  It passed, 5-0.

New Business #2 was a screening request for a project on West 19th Street at Wallace Avenue replacing a home and pawn shop with five condominium units.  After a half-hour discussion it was moved forward in the process.

At 11:20 discussion began on New Business #3, the screening request for the 176 ownership units  on 9 acres bordered 17th Street, Pomona Avenue and Superior Avenue.  Fifteen (15) people spoke on the project, including a steady stream of like-minded young people, all in their late 20's to early 30's, who sounded very much like they were reading the same playbook.  In fact, one other speaker made a similar observation.  These guys all arrived together and were hanging out together during the meeting.  And, some of their names were included in the letters supporting the project that looked very much like canned responses.  Eventually, at 12:45 a.m., the project- which Righeimer described as the "tipping point" of Westside development - was moved along.

This provided time for the "leftover" speakers from Public Comments to address the council.  Flo Martin raked the council over the coals for recent actions and whining about a Democratic-controlled state legislature, then pointed to the dais where only Republicans reside.

Jay Humphrey, a former councilman and announced candidate for that office this year, apologized for an earlier outburst against Righeimer, whom he chided for misrepresenting facts about development throughout the city.  I've never seen Humphrey angry before, but he was last night on this issue - and correctly so.  Righeimer had earlier described, while defending the 28 units on Harbor and Hamilton, that the only development we're seeing along there is car washes and storage lots.  Humphrey jammed those "facts" right back at him, and defined at least 590 housing units that had, or are being, approved along that stretch of road.

Anna Vrska, at 12:50 a.m., questioned the activities of Jones & Mayer, our contract law firm that provides City Attorney services.  She began totaling up numbers that implied that we're being billed for 5 full-time attorneys every day of the year!  Seemed like a good question.

At the very end of the meeting, just before 1:00 a.m., Wendy Leece told the council that the Senior Corportation had voted to begin dissolving itself at their meeting Tuesday morning, and that everything was going just fine and dandy at the Senior Center.  Based on my conversations Tuesday, I don't think we're getting the whole story.  More on that later.

The next meeting is on July 1st, just in time for a discussion of who gets how many fireworks stands, and why.  Another time...

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Blogger Gericault said...

I can remember previous councils working hard to even out wrinkles in our hodge podge zoning. I don't know how many others recall this. Ironically , the area in question was towards the end of 19th where there were numerous single family homes being turned into commercial properties,, and had been operating that way for years. It brought down the whole area and was a major concern . Last night I watched this Developer owned Council add more wrinkles and add more incompatability that will haunt us forever. Righeimer has to go....this city can't survive another fours years.

6/18/2014 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I'm glad to see someone else is concerned about the "various legal" issues we are paying, and not knowing what for. Thank you Ana Vrska.

Last night was indeed, horrible. One speaker is right when she said that the city is now being run like a charter city anyway. Dictatorship.

Sounds like the mailer from the Middle Class Taxpayers really hit some nerves. Good. That charter is horrible. Most are wising up. A couple of rubes are still falling for the power grab obviously, but their arguments were not just weak, but very strange.

That poor woman with the cane last night was so sad. That assoholic couldn't give her just 3 minutes?

What a freakin' bunch of morons sitting on that dias. Gary is so strange he may as well never show up, Steve is so dumb he may as well never show up. Medians? Really? Selfish bastid. And Rig the Pig is just mean, vindictive and rude. He's a power hungry dictator. Period.


6/18/2014 07:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

".. Politicians know better than private citizens what should be done. “Government alone,” Mussolini insisted, “is in the right position to see things from the point of view of the general welfare.” The government’s responsibility is to determine how much money is invested, how and where it should be invested and how the results will be judged. In Italy after 1925, all this was done through government-controlled cartels, such as the National Fascist Confederation of Industry, the National Fascist Confederation of Agriculture, the National Fascist Confederation of Commerce and the National Fascist Confederation of Banking...
With so much at stake, a strong man must not be hampered by an archaic constitution that unreasonably limits his power. If a constitution makes it difficult for a strong man to appoint his cronies to high positions, he should disregard the constitution and appoint them anyway — challenge adversaries to stop him! Similarly, a strong man should disregard laws or judicial decisions that interfere with his ability to carry out his program. A strong man must follow the command of his conscience to make a power grab."

6/18/2014 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

It's getting harder and harder to watch the meetings. Citizens get up and express their concerns, raise logical and reasonable objections to a progress and are totally ignored. Jim can say "Thank you," after each speaker finishes because he knows that nothing they say will change the outcome.

Geoff - I have a good cartoon for you. any way I can send it?

6/18/2014 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

To Arthur Nern:

Dictators have been alluded to in the Bubbling Cauldron (e.g., "jack-booted dictators"). The link you included in your comment contains this jewel (emphasis is mine):

"Mussolini seems to have been the New York Times’ favorite dictator. For example, in 1923 the Times quoted magazine writer Isaac Marcosson as saying, “Mussolini is a Latin [Teddy] Roosevelt who first acts and then inquires if it is legal. He has been of great service to Italy.”

It's a mere coincidence that the “black hats” (the Righeimer cohort) use of the "Fire, Aim, Ready" strategy to keep Moving Forward in an effort to keep the Brand Strong is so similar to the magazine writer’s assertion that “Mussolini … first acts and then inquires if it is legal.”

It’s not even a full coincidence, in part, because Righeimer has never appeared to be curious whether his actions have been legal, while Mussolini apparently was.

Another difference: Mussolini reputedly made the trains run on time. However, according to Wikipedia, “Italian dictator Benito Mussolini did not "make the trains run on time". Much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the Fascists came to power in 1922. Accounts from the era also suggest that the Italian railways' legendary adherence to timetables was more propaganda than reality.”

This is similar to, but different from, the black hats bragging that they paved a lot of streets and alleys, the implication being that it was their efforts that made the paving possible. The fact is, however, most of the paving was paid for by grants that had been in the works before the black hats took over the city.

6/18/2014 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Sad, but true, Casual Observer. If it's not the petulance, or the awful behavior toward the disabled, or the big, fat "NO" for keeping neighborhoods the way they are, it's the utterly predictable 3-2 votes mixed in with smirks and chuckles.

I can't stand listening to demagogues, either. We tried it their way for four years.

6/18/2014 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Why did Riggy sell our city?
Why does he hate Costa Mesa so much?

6/18/2014 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

@Tom Egan:
Great points!
Have you ever seen such blatant arrogance and disparagement in Costa Mesa? The low point last night was Riggy putting down that poor elderly woman with the cane and refusing to let her speak.

Someday he'll be old and sick. Maybe his support people will just give him a fake microphone and tell him he's still "Mr. Mayor."

6/18/2014 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

Last night was a farce. Why the Mayor thinks he is qualified to “represent” the residents again is beyond me. This has become a city of the developer, by the developer and (most importantly for Righeimer) for the developer. Mr. Lamm apparently sent out a casting call to bring in all the shills for that project on 17th/Superior/Pomona who, for the most part, read their scripts off of iPads.

Current residents and businesses don’t belong here in Righeimer’s eyes. Nothing would make him happier than all of us packing our bags and moving out. He could allow his developer friends to tear down all the homes (except the ones along the golf course in Mesa Verde) and the small businesses in the city and put up apartments.

Those poor people on Colleen Street certainly got a taste of what is coming to them. Developer-in-chief Righeimer was already negotiating on behalf of the owner of the undeveloped lots.

Tim Lewis expressed what many of us have wanted to say to the Mayor for a long time. I’m glad you reminded me of Ramos because I found his pandering repetitive, inarticulate and boring and I promptly forgot about him.

But the lowest point of all was turning away the disabled woman who had taken the time to prepare comments, then made her way to the podium only to be silenced. The Mayor’s policy of stifling public comments has been bad from the get-go, but last night was cruel and downright un-American.

6/18/2014 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Gay Favour Royer said...

Joe, because he is not from here! He just wanted into politics and couldn't win in his own city! So I drove through Mesa Verde on my way to Target and I wanted to check out those medians that need so much work! Well the young trees are growing well and the grass is green, even though we have a water shortage! $444,000 to fix those! We all know two of the live in that neighborhood! Are you kidding me! Two city workers working on them as I drove by. The really funny (not so much) thing as I was driving down Harbor to go get my car washed at the new Car Wash,(nice) was that the grass on Harbor medians is dying for lack of water. I know the Mayor hates for anyone to come and talk but guess what Mr. Mayor we are not going to stop! We love our city! Many of us are not against progress, but no one I know is for dense housing, so not so much! I am sad for you that you have so much disdain for your fellow Costa Mesans. It was obvious that those young men who spoke for the last project were together. I do know that many young people especially from big cities don't want yards and do work from home, but in reality the thread from them was that they would be close to the beach as many of them stated! Let's get real shall we?

6/18/2014 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Art, I only hope I'm around to kick his cane out from under him.

6/18/2014 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

It was interesting to see how many times speakers had to remind the councildudes to listen/pay attention during Public Comments. They aren't interested in listening, nor have they been.
Yes, the lowest point of the evening was when Righeimer denied the disabled lady her three minutes at the podium during Public Comments.
She has difficulty walking, it took everything she had to get up there. He could have easily made an
exception for her and it would have helped him in the process.
Nooo! No way!
As I have stated before, the disabled are one of the groups that don't matter in Righeimer's world.
He proved that to all of us beyond a shadow of a doubt last night. He showed us why we need to get rid of him in November.
Remember in November.

6/18/2014 07:04:00 PM  

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