Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An Early Evening, But Not Without Some Drama

The Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night went about as anticipated, including some drama from an unexpected source... more on that a little later.

The meeting started right on time, although without councilwoman Sandra Genis, who was ill.  The very beginning of the meeting turned out to be the highlight as Costa Mesa Adventurer Bill Burke was recognized for his accomplishments including climbing Mt. Everest - twice!  The most recent time was last May, when he reached the peak again.  We're told the 72 year-old Burke has climbed every major peak in the world!
Burke spent a few minutes showing a slide show of his latest climb, providing us with great detail of the travails of that effort.  Mayor Jim Righeimer presented him with a plaque acknowledging his accomplishments.  I suggest you find some time to watch the video of that portion of the evening - you will be amazed, as was the small audience last night.

Eleven people completed speaker cards for Public Comments, so Righeimer agreed to let all of them speak instead of the remaining one (1) being required to remain to the end of the meeting.  There was a small murmur of sarcastic cheers when he made that announcement.

Ann Parker grilled Righeimer on the rehab homes issue, and wanted to know why the City had waited so long to put together an ordinance, citing the City of Orange ordinance.

Chuck Perry - a Riganista and candidate for the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board - stepped up again to praise the council for their golf course improvements, the new development at Newport Boulevard and Industrial Way and the general street improvements.  Sue Lester demanded action on the 60th Anniversary debacle, indicating that if the District Attorney isn't going to do something The City should release the CMPD report.  She also opined that the medical marijuana petitions are being circulated and that councilman Gary Monahan should keep the pressure on the council to produce an ordinance to control it.  Jeffrey Hall invited all to the Project Independence event.

Beth Refakes reported on the recent I-405 Toll Road Town Hall.  Robin Leffler complained that Righeimer's recent "Promises Made, Promises Kept" email blast was inaccurate and misleading.  Funny, whenever I think of that document I cannot help but think he meant promises he'd made to his developer buddies... Cindy Brenneman echoed Lester's comments on the 60th.  Teresa Drain renewed her demand for a forensic audit of the 60th and used a graphic to depict the cash flow of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) dollars through the City.  Greg Thunnel used quotations from Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln to chide the council on issues of integrity.

Looking like death warmed-over, Costa Mesa's racist laureate, M.H. Millard, (n)ever the class act, stepped up and told us the City is on the right track and is now attracting the "right kind of people".  We presume he doesn't mean Latinos, since his body of work vilifies any race except white.  He referred to opposition voices as "hen-pecking blowhards", told us that "liberals tried to turn the Westside into a permanent ethnic ghetto" and that we should be careful not to elect the "wrong people".  He then made a curious - even for him - comment about some folks being "la-de-da", and that we don't want Costa Mesa to become Santa Ana, which he described as" a zoo every night".  I chuckled, since that city does, in fact, have a zoo.  Such a sad man and a tragic waste of an intellect - he's a Mensa member, don'tcha know?

Former city council candidate Karl Ahlf was the final speaker complained about illegal fireworks and he addressed the need for compassion for our veterans and cited some suicide statistics.  He also acknowledged the Mexican Independence Day - yesterday was that day.

During Council Member Comments Wendy Leece addressed the Fireworks issue and indicated that she would be studying a way to eliminate them.  She referred to a "median meeting" today in the Emergency Operations Center that nobody seemed to know anything about.  Earlier in the day I asked Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz, about the meeting and he had no knowledge of it.  Before the council meeting began he told me that there was, indeed, such a meeting at which the presentation made to the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee recently would be duplicated.  It's unclear whether the meeting begins at 5:30 or 6:30 tonight.  It theoretically runs until 7:00 p.m.  Leece also complimented Mesa Water for the good work it does keeping us in drinking water and closed her comments by telling us that she, Sandy Genis and Gary Monahan would be meeting in a closed session to begin discussions about the Costa Mesa Police Association contract negotiations this Friday at 10:00 a.m.  Finally!

Monahan, bless his distracted little heart, told us that because it was campaign season there was a lot of inaccurate information going around and parroted Millard's "la-de-da-de-da" blather.  You know he's in trouble when the best he can do is echo an incomprehensible inanity from a racist.  Good grief!

Righeimer addressed the complaints about the 60th Anniversary investigation and asked Police Chief Tom Gazsi to step up and address it.  He asked Gazsi if we should release his - the CMPD's - report?  Gazsi told him that he was not inclined to release the contents of the report until there is a conclusion to the issue, and thought the District Attorney's office would feel the same way about their information.

Righeimer then tried to deflect earlier criticism of the city's financial situation, indicating that the way a municipality balances the budget is different than the way a business balances a budget, and launched into his campaign chant about previous councils "blowing through $35 million in reserves".  We're going to hear that at every opportunity for the next couple months, even though he knows it's inaccurate and misleading.  Previous councils used reserves for the reason they were accumulated - to bail us out of emergencies, like the economic downturn of the late 2000's.

He told us there's a rehab home ordinance that will be coming to the Planning Commission at their next meeting, and he solicited the public's input.  And, he mentioned the I-405 Town Hall, and how CalTrans representatives seemed more willing to listen.  Funny, that doesn't track with any other report I've seen or heard about that meeting.  What does he know that he's not telling us?

Steve Mensinger took credit for the infrastructure improvements mentioned by Perry earlier - big surprise!  He then launched into the usual tirade about the value and tradition of fireworks in the city.  He then complimented CEO Tom Hatch for the success of Camp Costa Mesa - the summer program for youth in the city.

During his comments Hatch spoke about the recent recognition of the Costa Mesa CERT program by FEMA.  He had Munoz give a brief update on the "Big Dig" - the water treatment project underway at Lions Park.  He also spoke of the recent criticism of monies paid to our new insurance broker.

Several items were pulled from the 16-item Consent Calendar for later discussion.

Public Hearing #1, the 2nd hearing on the contract between The City and the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) was conducted by negotiator Richard Kreisler - the $300 per hour lawyer from Liebert Cassidy Whitmore.  He spoke of the success of the COIN process, citing a nearly $1 million ongoing savings and a one-time savings of about that same amount due to the outsourcing of the Street Sweeping activities.  (Hatch told us they expected the contractor - Athens Services - to take over in October since the contract had already been negotiated.  Did we mention that they are big campaign contributors to Righeimer?

During public comments on this issue Jay Humphrey complained that this process, COIN, is used ONLY for labor negotiations, not other commercial contract activities.  Robin Leffler reminded the council of it's ham-handed handling of the layoffs a few years ago that caused Huy Pham to leap to his death and postulated that the punitive nature of this contract will hurt those employees who make the least the most - and it will hurt their families.

Monahan observed that the average compensation package for the employees under this contract is $105,000 - but neglected to mention how many employees fell well under that number.  One had the idea that he was a little envious of the pay of some city employees.  It was clear from the tone of his question that he didn't have ANY sympathy for them in this matter.

Righeimer observed that, with the Street Sweeping outsourcing, not a single employee was laid off.  He said that 80% of the budget is in salaries and benefits, so that's where COIN is focused.  He went on to praise Mensinger effusively for the COIN scheme - something he said will spread like wildfire now that there has been a negotiation completed using it.  He thanked the negotiators on both sides for their efforts.  The motion to approve it and the resolutions passed, 4-0.

I tried to get a comment from CMCEA negotiator Don Drozd after the vote, but he referred me to his associate, Jennifer Muir later today.  I'm thinking they are not that happy with the results...

At 8:00 the council began the second hearing on the Santa Ana/Colleen annexation issue.  There was virtually no discussion before public comments were opened.  The first two speakers represented the ownership of the strange-shaped parcel of land that is going to be developed once annexation is complete.  Both cited relief that the "long haul" is over.

Two residents spoke about this process with great passion.  To summarize their thoughts, both felt the council was "disinterested" in the plight of the property owners in this annexation island.  They felt - probably appropriately so - that this annexation was developer-driven - that the owner of the vacant land wanted the parcel to become part of Costa Mesa so more homes could be built on it.  The way this has played out, it certainly seems that way.  One of the speakers mentioned learning that the developers had been working with the City on this project for a couple years!  Later, as Righeimer attempted to rebut comments, both men yelled out from the audience, calling Righeimer a liar.  He cautioned them that they were disrupting the meeting - the code word for "if you don't shut up I'm going to have you removed from the auditorium". 
Both men left in a huff, shouting back over their shoulders.  Can't blame them.  This thing appears to have been rigged (pun intended) from the beginning.

Among the other speakers, Leffler suggested this was "annexation without representation" - an appropriate and clever turn of phrase.  Long time resident Mary Spadoni scolded the council for their shabby treatment of the newest Costa Mesa residents and suggested that the council's behavior will be remembered in future elections.  When the vote was taken it passed, 3-1 - Leece voted no.

The Consent Calendar items were discussed - Greg Thunnel pulled the Warrant to discuss the legal costs.  Item 11, the extension of the contract with CARE Ambulance, had been pulled so Righeimer stepped out of the auditorium because that firm had contributed more than the permitted $249 to him.  Fire Chief Dan Stefano explained why the extension was necessary - in a nutshell, the city is not quite ready to take over the transportation of injured in our new medic vans.  He explained that his preference is to take that over sooner than later, but the extension with CARE is essential right now and can be cancelled immediately whenever the city chooses to do so.  A lot of extraneous conversation about Fire Department staffing and deployment models sidetracked this issue briefly.  Eventually it passed, 3-0, after a half-dozen speakers expressed concern and impatience with the pace of the conversion to the Medic Van system and the revenue generation that will accompany it.

At the very end of the meeting one woman who didn't identify herself and I didn't recognize her, stepped up to tell the council that she was very disappointed with the male majority on the council... that was it.

So, the short night ended just after 9:00 p.m., but it was not without it's magic moments.  It's going to be a very long campaign season...

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

One takeaway from the meeting was the new mantra mouthed by the Little Dictator, the Little Tap Puller, and the Big Lunkhead: "This is campaign season so none of the bad things you hear about us are true."

Au contraire: This is when all the cards are on the table. I know, true transparency is alien to these trolls. Rig-nocchio is freaking out. His Richard Simmons voice gets higher and higher as he reaches for more lies and half-truths in a desperate attempt to retain his seat.

Go back to Fountain Valley you little creep. Everyone in Costa Mesa is wise to you.

9/17/2014 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I wonder if Jimbo has reached a point where he knows he'll lose the election, but is just trying to collect as much in contributions as he can, so he can use the money for something else..

9/17/2014 06:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Just curious - does COIN apply to management contracts, or just the rank and file employees? Have the benefits packages for council members been reduced at all?

9/17/2014 06:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Is there really a person named Chuck Perry, or is that actually Mensy in a "Big" suit and mask?

9/17/2014 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

When economic downturns happen, sales tax revenue dries up. There are then three options for the Council to do:

1. Support a plan to raise taxes. Only the voters have the power to do this anyway, and they won't.

2. Cut 75% of the city's workforce. Illegal.

3. Use reserves.

As Mr. Righeimer would never do something illegal, and he opposes using reserves, I can only conclude that Righeimer would have raised taxes in 2009. Very odd, with his pledge and all...

9/17/2014 08:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

The meeting last night was ridiculous. Gary, right off the bat, was acting like he was out of his mind with the silly remarks. He is a total embarrassment. Could even hear the response from the audience on the tv. Has he finally “checked out?” La-de-da-de-dah.

Couldn’t believe Rig lied straight to the face of the Colleen residents. He did it again last night with a straight face. The term “sociopath” comes to mind. I feel bad that the new annexed residents are welcomed to our city with such behavior from our councilmen. Very sad commentary for the councilmen that this city voted for.

You ever notice Millard only picks on the women? What a coward.

So, Ramos has all but quit campaigning. What do you suppose he’s going to do with all that out of state developer campaign money he collected? Inquiring minds want to know. I can take a wild guess.

9/17/2014 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

For transparency, the MEDIAN salary is $65,448. Half of our employees are BELOW that.

I wonder what the median would be if we took out the 5th floor salaries for the slew of assistant CEO's?

9/17/2014 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

To Where's my coffee? Re Ramos has all but quit campaigning.

As I recall from the 2012 election, Skosh Monahan had a very low profile campaign towards the end. Yet, he got enough votes to win (barely).

Maybe the people funding Ramos have done polling that shows their candidate already winning.

Could happen. This might help explain why Ramos doesn't feel it is important to show up at city-wide candidate forums.

9/17/2014 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

You really got Millard goin' with this one, Geoff....touché! His white sheet appears to really be in a bunch.

The whole Weitzberg "controversy must just kill him. You know he really wants to let Sandy have it, but being the biggest Jew-hater in town, he can't.

BTW, how stupid is Fitzpatrick? He keeps linking posts of the racist Millard to his CMTAX Facebook and Twitter pages. That'll really help the 'cause Jim....keep up the good work.

9/17/2014 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Yeah, Honeyman, The Mouth From Mesa North is not a happy guy. He showed up at the meeting last night, said his piece, then left - not giving a rat's patoot about the guts of the issues discussed. He knows it all! He's a Mensa guy, don'tcha know? ;-) I'm always amused when he uses that old photo he took of me a few years ago at the Halecrest picnic. Since he took that shot I've lost about 50 pounds and he remains the face of intolerance in our city. Yes, I'm amused that our village idiot, Jimmy Fitzy, continues to link to his bilge. You're known by the company you keep...

9/17/2014 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Tom, I believe Ramos' supporters already know he isn't going to win. But, used him as a bank account to rack up money (out of town money). Remember, Ramos doesn't need to win. They only need one seat. Where will that money go now? Do you think he will make a large surge at the end? Rig will. I'm betting we see some large donations from Ramos to Rig in the future.

9/17/2014 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thanks Geoff for a great writeup.
The councildudes' apathy for our residents has reached a new low, as has their atrocious behavior on the dais.
Where do these guys think they are- at a frat party?
Snark, smirk, zinger, hissy fit, more zingers- snark, smirk, deer in the headlights gaze-zinger.
Good lord- it's embarrassing to watch them!

The latest buzzphrase from the Righeimer camp in
regards to anything their opponents say or do is,
" It's an election year gimmick, trick, etc".
No it's NOT.
Whether it's loss of privacy or excessive fireworks, we've been talking about these things for a long, long time in non election years also.
Steve Mensinger tried to completely discount everything Karl and others shared at last
Tuesday's CM CC meeting.
Veterans with PTSD are NOT OK with fireworks, Steve and you know it!
Prove what you claim- you never have so far.
Way to not act like a councilman, but an OC GOP shill! :-(

9/18/2014 08:05:00 PM  

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