Wednesday, September 03, 2014

An Evening of Disappointment and Dismay

I'm not quite sure how to begin this report from the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night, but I guess I'll just state at the beginning that the relatively short meeting last night - we left at 11 - left me feeling more than a little disappointed and more than a little aghast at what I observed.  Let me take it from the top...

Labor negotiator Richard Kreisler reported that, during a closed session, the council approved a settlement with departed Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce of $170,225 in exchange for him releasing all claims against the City.  You'll recall that he was placed on Administrative Leave in the wake of the now-infamous 60th Anniversary debacle.

Eleven people spoke during Public Comments (Cindy Black spoke but hadn't had her name called, so Mayor Jim Righeimer slammed the door on her comments as she read a list of his developer-oriented campaign contributors)  Among the "legal" speakers were: Greg Thunnel, who lectured the council on manners; James Bridges spoke against The Charter; Harold Weitzberg stepped up and addressed in uncharacteristic vague terms the issue covered in Barbara Venezia's recent column, HERE.  I was disappointed that he chose to address this issue before the City Council, although it was certainly his right.

AND MORE Teresa Drain once again told the council that there needs to be a forensic audit of the 60th Anniversary Celebration issue; Tamar Goldmann used the "Costa Mayberry" term to describe parking issues around the city;  J. Paul Wilson and Noel Perkins both expressed concern about the proliferation of sober living homes in the city and, specifically, new ones that are about to open in their Church Street neighborhood.  Robin Leffler attempted to rebut allegations made by Weitzberg, then read Tom Egan's recent letter from the Daily Pilot regarding The Charter.  Anna Vrska read a partial list of legal services and told the council her questions would become part of a Public Records Request and Joy Williams observed about the water crisis.

During Councilmember comments Sandy Genis' thoughts included an observation that the City erred by deciding NOT to televise the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group's candidate forum on October 2nd, HERE.  She agreed with Vrska's thoughts on the legal costs - which have doubled in the past few years - and indicated that our contract with Jones and Mayer calls for an annual review of the performance of our contract legal organization, and suggested such an audit should be done before the election.

Wendy Leece said that she, Genis and Gary Monahan would finally meet on September 19th to begin discussing the labor contract with the Costa Mesa Police Association.  She expressed concern about Fireworks and hopes to have available on the meeting scheduled for 9/16 a suggestion for the revision of the Fireworks policy.  She also addressed the Group Home issue and suggested that the City was dragging it's feet by not even considering the successful ordinance passed in Orange.  She also reminded us of the West Nile Virus problem - a mosquito-born disease that has killed two Orange County Residents.  She alerted us to the possible presence of the Asian Tiger Mosquito, too.  She also addressed the small turnout at the recent "Great Reach" General Plan meeting, and suggested that all the items intended to be covered at that meeting were not covered at all.  And, she mentioned a meeting on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 222 Hanover to discuss the planned enhancements to Orange Coast College.

Monahan observed that school is back in session, then complained about Venezia's article on Weitzberg, citing it as the most important thing and was "surprised that nobody had an apology for him."  That was aimed directly at Genis.

Righeimer muttered about the 60th Celebration and Teresa Drain's comment about a forensic audit, suggesting there was a hole in the process.  He then defended the decision to not televise the Eastside forum, but reiterated that he'd pay half the cost to have it covered privately.  He alluded to the Ku Klux Klan and the Tea Party.  He acknowledged that more than half his campaign contributions come from developers and didn't see anything wrong with it.  He addressed the Group Home issue, citing Newport Beach's problems with them to the tune of $3.6 million in legal fees.  He said it is the biggest issue in the City today, citing the "concentration" of the homes.  Regarding the "legal fees" issue Vrska brought up he said, "If you want lower legal fees you just settle and write checks."  He then proceeded to tell us that a group home ordinance would generate "the mother of all legal fees", and that we would be attacked by a "multi-billion dollar industry which wants to keep the honey pot going."

Then it was Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's turn.  He engaged CEO Tom Hatch in a discussion about fireworks, telling us that youth sports depends on the revenue from safe and sane fireworks.    He said, "I'm one of those guys that love kids.", implying, I guess, that if you don't support fireworks sales you hate kids.  He said, "We get saddled for everything outside the classroom."  Funny, I thought that was part of the whole "parenting" thing.    He told us he lives across the street from a Group Home, so he understands about them.  He also commented on Weitzberg's comment, stating that he was "horrified" by the article, stating that it was "the most despicable thing I've ever seen in 30 years in Costa Mesa."  He said that if the comment attributed to Genis in the article had come from Righeimer the Daily Pilot would be all over it for 6 weeks.  Then he looked down at Weitzberg in the audience and said, "Tonight we're all Weitzbergs".  What a vacuous, self-serving buffoon he is!

Next up was Hatch and he promptly introduced new Deputy City Clerk Michael Dunn, who comes to us from Glendale and will be the facilitator of the digitization of records.  Hatch also announced that Assistant Director of Development Services Claire Flynn has returned to duty after a long illness and that contractor Jerry Guarancino will be staying on and moving to the 5th floor to manage the Group Home part of the code enforcement organization.  Guess that plan to move all the code enforcement folks downstairs isn't going to happen.  Hard to let go of your own little enforcement group.  Hatch told us calls for service at motels are down, but didn't mention that the new ordinance that hammers motel owners if they call for service too many times might have something to do with it.

Hatch mentioned the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force and told it he had "blown it up" and replaced it with four individual groups involving 10 or more staffers each.  He said the Group Home issue is a high priority and that "the public needs to help them identify problem homes." and suggested using the smart phone app, Costa Mesa Connect.  He also gave a number to report Group Home issues - 714-754-5328.  He mentioned the outsourcing of the jail and, specifically, that all the G4S employees have been hired and most are trained.

Regarding the Eastside Forum, he gave a VERY lame excuse about why he didn't want to cover it.  He said that during the Mesa Verde Community, Inc., forum recently CMTV staffer Dane Bora was asked by moderator Darnell Wyrick to assess the appropriateness of a question submitted by an audience member and Bora responded that he didn't think it was an appropriate question.  That's an easy issue to solve - just tell the CMTV staff that their role is NOT to participate in the process, just capture it on television!  He used THAT as an example of why he didn't want to televise the Eastside forum!  It's clear that the decision to forego that forum came from elsewhere and he was just grasping at straws for a reason.  Shoot, all he had to say was we were not doing it on advice from lawyers.  Yet another disappointing experience.  Hatch also mentioned a public workshop at the Neighborhood Community Center regarding the future of Talbert Park, scheduled for September 10th from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Items 33,7 and 8 were pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion at the end of the meeting.

Public Hearing #1 was the so-called TEFRA hearing on expansion financing for Whittier College of Law in The City.  It took less than two minutes - and no staff presentation - for the council to approve it, 5-0.

Not the case on Public Hearing #2, the second reading of the annexation of the Santa Ana/Colleen island of county land.  After a brief staff report - about a minute - Monahan stated that nobody was happy about his compromise of minimum 6,600 square foot lots - a deviation from the city standard of 6,000.  He said everybody was beating him up - residents and developers alike - so he was changing his vote to a 6,000 foot minimum.  We understood why shortly.

Sixteen (16) people spoke to this issue, including 4 people representing the developer of a chunk of bare land in the middle of this area.  Those included two representatives and the architect plus former Costa Mesa Director of Economic and Development Services, including former Senior staffer, Peter Naghavi, who now consults with developers.  The first representative told us he needed the city standard of 6,000 square feet to make his 13-home project work.  When asked if ALL the lots would meet the 6,000 square foot standard he paused, then said "most".  Uh, huh....  NONE of the half-dozen residents of the area in question supported the smaller lot size choice.  Anna Vrska stepped up and told Righeimer he should get his head out of his developer-buddies' rear ends and look around at the people and hear what they're saying.

Righeimer reminded us that there was going to be NO vote on a project last night - only on the annexation and the Property Tax agreement.

Wendy Leece said this looked a little like a "Bait and Switch" deal, where the developer tells us one thing, then comes back with an entirely different project that would maximize that 6,000 square foot minimum lot size.  There ensued a long discussion about "spot-zoning", "site-specific zoning" and other methods of getting around the complications.  At one point Righeimer said, "The problem we have with the reading is that we have to let people know what we're doing."  There you go!  Eventually the Property Tax segment passed, 5-0 and the annexation - with the 6,000 foot lot minimum - passed 3-2, with Genis and Leece voting NO.  Afterwards I heard mumblings of lawsuits from the disgruntled about-to-be new Costa Mesans.  We took at 10 minute break.

When we returned we heard Kreisler discuss the COIN process and then outlined the tentative agreement between The City and the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA) - the so-called miscellaneous employees who answer the phones, type reports, fix the fleet, crunch numbers, review plans, issue permits, program systems, mop the floors, etc.  This was the group that included those two hundred who, within the first few weeks of Righeimer's tenure on the council, received layoff notices.  Huy Pham, who took his life by jumping off the City Hall roof, was one of those folks.

You can read the summary of Kreisler's report HERE.  I have, and I listened to his report.  In my opinion, the employees were disemboweled with this contract.  I get too angry when I write about no raises for the term of the contract, reduced vacation and sick leave plans, more costly benefits, etc., from a group that suffered long and hard through the economic downturn, but hung in there and continued to provide excellent service.  Only four residents spoke to this issue and none of them addressed the contract specifically.

The MOST disgusting part of this segment was a comment Righeimer made following the presentation.  He looked out into the audience and addressed Association President Kelly Vucinic and the OCEA lawyer and negotiator Don Drozd and  told them that he accepts some responsibility for the past hard feelings - he used the word animous, but he was willing to consider it a "clean slate going forward".  Well, why wouldn't you, Mr. Mayor?!  You're getting what you want!  You've gutted the contract and demoralized the ENTIRE city staff.  A "clean slate" may ease your conscience, but it won't absolve you from the damage you've done to the city.  This was part of the "dismay" last night!  Mensinger was equally self-serving when he said, "Without sounding gratuitous, I also want to thank Kelly and Don."  Well, you schmuck, you ARE gratuitous!  And clueless, to boot! 

This item will be heard by the council for the second mandatory time on September 16th, at which time the residents and other interested parties may, once again, address it and the council will likely vote on the issue.  At that time I expect we'll be hearing from employees and their representatives about how they feel about the contract.

Following that circus we then heard Steve Mensinger's scheme to fund an architect to do something about Fire Stations #1 and #2.  No question that both need attention - serious attention.  However, as Wendy Leece tried to tell them, this scheme puts the cart before the horse.  FIRST there should be a professional assessment of how many stations we need and where they best might be located.  THEN identify land that might be available and/or plan on how to use existing land for new facilities.  How can you expect an architect to plan something without knowing where it will go, for goodness sake.  However, logic escaped this process and the council voted, 5-0, to move forward with whatever this plan is.

Then the trailed Consent Calendar items were addressed.  Item #3, the Warrant, passed on a 5-0 vote.

 Item #7 was the increase in the salary ranges for Reserve Police Officers., including an increase in the starting pay to $35.64 per hour.  Captain Rob Sharpnack represented the CMPD in the discussion.  After some discussion about how many vacancies the CMPD has - 26 - and how many candidates we have - 7 currently in the Academy and 4 scheduled for December - out of the blue Monahan said something like, "We just outta bump it up to $38.00" and, quick as a wink, the council voted on it with that change!  A stunned Sharpnack said "we've got a conflict", but Righeimer just waved him off with some incomprehensible gibberish.  It turns out that Monahan's number creates a HUGE problem with the full-time Police Officer pay scale. I could not help but recall the words written by former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley when he abruptly left a little over two years ago.  Referring to the council majority, he said, in part, "They are in my opinion incompetent, unskilled and unethical." You can read the post that includes the text of his farewell letter to the men and women of the CMPD HERE.

At the end we had a few more Public Comments folks.  Jay Humphrey suggested that the City should televise the Eastside forum, but maybe have a disclaimer at the beginning and end of the tape stating something like "This group does not represent the views of the city." or words to that effect.  He also addressed the bogus City Charter.

Cindy Black finished reading her list of Righeimer's developer/appointee campaign contributors.

Beth Refakes discussed the "dress donate/swap" for our adopted Marine battalion.


Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know this was another long post.  Couldn't do it more briefly.  See you tonight at the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at 6:00 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center.

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Anonymous xyn bohemia said...

thanks geoff as always--- sounds like this one was tough to cover... and watch for all of us. it's terrible that a political rift was stirred up by an to attempt keep us from our goal-- to get rid of righeimer and deconstruct the council majority. things have been said, feelings have been hurt, but we need to pull together so we don't have 4 MORE YEARS of this horrible council majority.


9/03/2014 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Amen, Xyn!

This is very telling,
' Righeimer said, "The problem we have with the reading is that we have to let people know what we're doing." '

That's it in a nutshell.
"Transparency" my foot!
Thanks for a great writeup ,Geoff.
We appreciate all the time and work you put in to keep us informed.

9/03/2014 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

It was a typical cc meeting: the residents spoke and the CCM ignored them. I wish the lady who spoke about the fireworks problem during the public comments and/or Cindy Black had brought up the contributions to Mensinger and Monahan 2 years ago and now to the RIGmeister from the Fireworks company that supplies those stands with fireworks. Mensinger's whining about "the kids" was pathetic. And, of course, he NEVER, EVER acknowledges that there are PLENTY of other ways to raise money for these groups. And his gratuitous whining over Harold was another disgusting display by him. The CCM cannot stand Harold (go back and look at the tape of the cc mtg where they hand picked the bogus charter committee: Harold was nominated by Wendy or Sandy and the CCM voted him down; then when Harold's name was drawn as one of the last random 2 or 3, look at the faces of each of the CCM and you can clearly see their disgust at Harold having been selected to be on the charter committee - and now suddenly they are all one with Harold?!?! ) Sick opportunists.

9/03/2014 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

Another glaring omission last night was when the RIGmeister was whining about how much the lawsuits we will face when taking a standing against the proliferation of rehab/SLHs will cost the city: think of the millions of dollars the city would have now to pay for a legitimate legal fight if the RIGmeister had listened to our (then) city attorney and not sent out those 200 pinkslips to city employees!! He literally squandered away millions on legal fees on a mission dictated to him by the outsider OCGOP to destroy our city "unions". (Remember the Petri dish?) With just that money alone, not including the other 100s of 1,000 of $$$ this CCM has incurred in legal fees and WE again have paid for (DG pathway, 60th anniversary, Monahan's failed marijuana ordinance, both bogus charter attempts to name but a few legal expenses we've had to pay for on behalf of this CCM), we'd have a good foundation of legal funds to fight this truly crucial community issue. The RIGmeister's "clean slate" proclamation is disingenuous BS, at best, in an election year. Didn't he say something to the affect of "I get it!" after the last election? Look how long that lasted? ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Wake up, Costa Mesa! Remember in NOvember!

9/03/2014 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Disgusted Republican,

Do you remember when Feeney ( spelling?)and Millard both attacked Harold during Public Comments at two separate CC meetings?
They were trying to discredit him before the 2012 vote. The ammo they used was Harold telling that hysterical shill, Kevin Dayton to shut up and sit down when Bever, Righeimer & Co wouldn't.
With the exception of Wendy Leece, no one on the council came to Harold's defense.
It's as if they welcomed the attacks on him.
Now he's their best friend?

9/03/2014 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Disgusted Rep: With regard to the rehab homes and why Rig won't adopt an ordinance and gives us excuses about it causing a lawsuit. Just follow the money. Then you need not ask why.

9/03/2014 08:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

WMC - yes, but all the same, think of the millions (literally) of dollars in legal fees the CCM has cost the CM taxpayers since Righeimer joined the cc in 2010! Why does the word "bankruptcy" come to mind?

9/03/2014 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous CMTaxpayer said...

Disgusted Republican, re 'bancruptcy" either you are psychic or you know some of the same stuff I know. The mayor and his "power elite" have discussed it as a strategy to use in what he considers his personal "Petri dish", but what we call Costa Mesa.

It's part of Scott Baugh & company vision to turn this city into "Ground Zero" for his " Grand Experiment". Ground zero at Hiroshima was devasted, radioactive, and inhabitable. Chariman Scott says The revolution in Costa Mesa is the "tip of the bloody spear".

I don't hang out with them much any more. They are bitter, negative , cynical, misogynistic people. It made me sick. and people of Costa Mesa, if they stay in power, you will see one of the most incredible land-grabs in history. Without a charter, they are proceeding on that plan but if they get a charter, Costa Mesa won't even resemble the nice small city it is now. That is why they want that charter so bad. For them, Home Rule means "Me and my homies RULE!"

They are not the politcal conservatives they say they are, There Grand Experiment is not about small government and fiscal conservancy. They are all about power, real estate, and money.
Fellow Republicans, don't be mindless sheep who bleat 'Baugh baugh baugh".

9/04/2014 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

So it only takes $170,000 to keep the skeletons in the closet from rattling?

Disgusted: Yes. Its sickening. The taxpayers pay out...somewhere else it comes in. Sad concept.


9/04/2014 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Re the Joyce "settlement:" The PS writes:
Labor negotiator Richard Kreisler reported that, during a closed session, the council approved a settlement with departed Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce of $170,225 in exchange for him releasing all claims against the City. You'll recall that he was placed on Administrative Leave in the wake of the now-infamous 60th Anniversary debacle.

I'm surprised Joyce had any legitimate claims against the city. If he did, I wonder if it had anything to do with him agreeing to take the fall for the disaster instead of his superiors in City Hall (including council members).

Will we learn what the deal was? Of course. This council's commitment to transparency will automatically lay out for us all the negotiations ... just like they force in COIN (you know, Civic Openness In Negotiation). Ha! In your dreams, scum citizens!

9/04/2014 04:50:00 PM  

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