Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Medical Marijuana And More

The Costa Mesa City Council met for the final time in its current configuration Tuesday evening.  Councilwoman Wendy Leece is termed out and will be replaced by recently-elected returning councilwoman Katrina Foley, who was the highest vote-getter in the election two weeks ago.  You can read the agenda for the meeting HERE.  And, you can watch the streaming video HERE.  Be sure you use the "jump to" feature - click on the agenda item listed below the video to move quickly through the presentation. 

The meeting began with a the presentation of a proclamation to Dannie Watkins, Commander of Chapter 752 of the Military Order Of The Purple Heart.  Mayor Jim Righeimer choked up as he presented the plaque named November as Purple Heart Month in Costa Mesa.  Watkins, during his speech, told us that every other city in the county has made similar proclamations, and that henceforth November will be Purple Heart Month in Orange County.

Eleven (11) people turned in cards for Public Comment so Righeimer decided, arbitrarily, to violate his own rule and allow all eleven to speak without "trailing" anyone to the end.  This, apparently, is the kinder gentler mayor.  More on that later.   

Tamar Goldmann observed that the election demonstrated that Righeimer has no mandate, mentioned the recent Daily Pilot article about the loss of the DUI team and said something needs to be done about our diminishing police force.

Beth Refakes narrated a short slide show of her recent trip to Camp Pendleton with other members of the Military Affairs Team to participate in Halloween festivities with the families of the 1/5 Marine battalion.

Chuck Perry mentioned the Brian Kapko golf tournament and complained about the new medians being installed along East 17th Street.   

Sue Lester thanked Leece for her service; hoped the council would put aside political posturing and return to their "normal duties"; suggested that Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger would abandon their lawsuit against the men and women of the CMPD - which she referred to as a political stunt - so serious negotiations on the new contract could take place; she wondered if the District Attorney would ever come to a resolution of the 60th Anniversary scandal; she complimented Costa Mesa Police Lieutenant Vic Bakkila for his recent promotion and did the same for staffer Dan Baker on his apparent new job.

Susan Shaw bemoaned the low turnout in the election - she quoted 33%, observed that the voters DON'T WANT a Charter City and suggested that, even though Mesa Water does a good job for us, we need to take more proactive water reduction positions in the City.

A cadaverous old coot stepped up and praised Righeimer for his re-election.  This misguided old fella (who writes a pathetic, vile and race-baiting blog in town) stated that even a one-vote victory would be a "mandate".  As he went on and on and on about Righeimer one could infer that he has a huge man-crush on the mayor.  How lucky for the mayor.  The old fella immediately departed the chambers - how lucky for us.

Resident Teresa Drain, once again, stepped up and demanded a forensic audit on the 60th Anniversary celebration and observed that links on the city website involving this event have disappeared and others seem not to be functioning.  She wondered if it was a coincidence.  She reminded the council that she's been there before and that her requests have been ignored.  She also thanked Leece for her service.  Righeimer briefly directed CEO Tom Hatch to address Mrs. Drain's concerns in his comments.  More on that shortly.
Long time resident Gay Royer expressed concern for the increasing traffic on Victoria, specifically at the intersection with National.

Mary Spadoni said she wept for Costa Mesa when the election results were announced.  She expressed concern about the high renter-to-ownership ratio in the city.  She expressed concern about the future of public safety, citing critically low staffing, group homes, prison realignment and Prop. 47.  She also expressed concern about the return of Medical Marijuana to our city and expressed pleasure that the Charter was defeated.

Ann Parker cited concern about group homes and then recounted a story of what she described as a falsehood by Righeimer in an email distributed to several people.  Righeimer didn't respond.

Frances Wood expressed concern about Code Enforcement activities.  Righeimer directed staff to be in touch with her.

All eleven speakers took a total of 25 minutes to express their concerns.  That segment ended at 6:45 p.m.

Under Council Member Comments, Mensinger congratulated all the candidates, then immediately launched into a praise-fest for Estancia High School Football and also thanked the Public Services Department for their hard work.

Sandra Genis spoke briefly of Thanksgiving and the people who care enough about the city to be involved.  She addressed Sales Tax revenue, and how it fluctuates as the economy gyrates.  She cited a number of $45 million before the last recession, dipping to $35 million during it and now rebounding to what may be $50 million this calendar year.  She also gave a short oral history of the Municipal Reserves and speculated that they should be raised from $14.125 million to $20 million or so.  She suggested the Capital Projects should be separated from formal budget discussions initially and a study session or workshop should be conducted to gather public comment.  Addressing the Purple Heart program, she mentioned her father, who was a WWII veteran.  He, apparently in a response to a question from his wife about "Why did you do it?", said, "Somebody had to do it."  Genis compared that phrase to the cadre of residents who get involved, and to the folks who run for office.

Leece took plenty of time during her segment since this will be her final council meeting.  She addressed the Purple Heart Program; the Military Affairs Team of which she is an active member; candidate Tony Capitelli's involvement in the homelessness issue; the Working Wardrobe program and the Vanguard University Veterans Program.  She spoke about the recent Estancia Adobe meeting; the CMPOA donations; the Charter - she's glad it was defeated; Measure P and how little it meant because of the gaffe on the ballot and legal costs on the Warrant.  She then said it has been an honor to serve the community and that she always did what she thought was right for the residents.  She received a standing ovation by the audience, staff and council members.
Gary Monahan actually had something to say again.  He also thanked all the candidates and said he was looking forward to working with the new council, specifically mentioning Righeimer and Foley.  He addressed Ann Parker's concern about sober living homes, and although confused about the dates, mentioned that the deadline for application by existing and potential homes is coming up.  They have 90 days in which to comply - or else.  That "or else" is likely to result in more legal fees.  Costa Mesa is like Christmas all year long for Orange County law firms.  He whined about people complaining about group homes recently, saying he's been dealing with it for 20 years.  Well, Gary - if it's too much of a burden for you, pardner, just step aside and let someone with a little more focus take your place.


Righeimer then thanked the candidates and mentioned that Foley was the clear front runner.  He said he's going to meet with her soon to attempt to find common ground.  He then praised Jay Humphrey - the man he barely beat by 47 votes - for the clean campaign he ran.  The crowd applauded Humphrey.  Righeimer then spoke of that 50/50 number - presuming that half the people support him.  The numbers don't tell that story, but he doesn't let inconvenient facts get in the way of his dogma.  He spoke of Foley's expressed concern about CMPD staffing and said the staff will have to "double down" and "do what they have to do" to get the CMPD staffed-up.  Of course, that's exactly what they HAVE been doing once he finally permitted the CMPD to begin recruiting again.  He did mention the quality of CMPD recruits, relayed to him by third parties.

On the subject of the Charter, he said the public made it very clear that "we're not gonna have it".  He said "Don't expect to see it in my lifetime."  We'll see.  He then mentioned that he had been appointed to the Orange County Transportation Authority Board, replacing former Huntington Beach mayor Matt Harper, who was just elected to the Assembly.

Then came Hatch's turn.  He mentioned that City Hall would be closed between December 25th and January 2nd.  He spoke of the Estancia Adobe, and that it's the second oldest building in Orange County - the oldest being the Mission at San Juan Capistrano.  He said they are working to reduce the impact of group homes in Costa Mesa, and cited an example of a recent violation - a residence with 18 beds.  He encouraged more community awareness and involvement.  In response to Genis' earlier comments he announced that the Finance Advisory Committee will be reviewing a "Budget and Financial Policy" document.  Then, at Righeimer's request, he presented a very lame response to Teresa Drain's call for a forensic audit of the 60th Anniversary celebration.  He regurgitated a year-old report, acknowledging that it was in need of updating.  He made NO MENTION of the District Attorney's investigation.  Drain was not satisfied with the response.

At 7:30 the Consent Calendar was then addressed and only two items were pulled for later discussion, #4 and #7. 

Public Hearing #1 - the Traffic Impact Fee structure - was presented by Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz.  After about twenty-five minutes of discussion/staff reporting the council vote 5-0 to retain the current formula.

Public Hearing #2, the 393-unit mid-rise development proposed by the Sakioka family turned out to be more interesting than I anticipated.  The project is a good one - much smaller than has already been approved for that site before the recession - with lots of amenities and open space.  After a brief staff report - the Planning Commission recommended approval on a 4-0 vote (Rob Dickson had a conflict) - seven members of the public addressed it.  Most expressed praise for the quality of the project, but several were concerned that an apartment project doesn't generate Park Fees and were concerned about the shallow setback from the street.

After nearly an hour at that point issues like parking - the project has plenty of it - bikeability - it's designed for that - and the setback - it's just fine - the council voted on the first of the two elements (Righeimer separated the project from the "park fee" question), following Mensinger describing it as a "cruise ship" project because of all the amenities, the council approved it at 9:10 on a 5-0 vote.

Then came the question of Park Fees.  The city has no method or requirement for park fees to be extracted from an apartment development.  This developer, though, originally proposed a much larger, high-rise ownership development which would have included significant park fees.  Apparently the city is presently working on a new method of requiring park fees from apartment developments, but it's a work in progress.  So, this council was going to create a "one-off" proposal for this particular development.  And this is where the myth of a "new, kinder, gentler" mayor Righeimer was laid to rest.  I suggest you view the video - drag the scroll bar across to 03:10:35 to begin this segment.  It's not very long, but VERY instructive.

If this was to be an ownership project each unit would generate $13,800 in Park Fees.  Because it's an apartment project it would generate ZERO park fees.  The developer suggested some kind of park fee.  Righeimer, feigning the fact that he "listened to the public", suggested the whole enchilada - $13,800.  Monahan looked over at him like he had finally lost his mind.  Righeimer, wearing his smart-ass outfit for all to see, kept on arrogantly jousting with the council on this issue - apparently trying to make a point that if he actually listened to the speakers he would make bad decisions.  Mensinger joined in, expressing amazement that he was now "tough on developers" and that he'd have to change his image.  It was clear they were making light of the need to listen to speakers.

The end result, after much back and forth, with motions and substitute motions was that - at 9:25 -  the council approved - for this project - a $3,000 per unit park fee, which could be lowered if the study underway results in a recommendation for a lower number AND that if the project eventually requires a tract map for conversion to ownership units the existing $13,800 would apply.  It's going to be a very long, long couple years because Righeimer has NOT changed his attitude one bit.

The council took less than five minutes to approve the second reading of the creation of a Senior Commission on a 4-1 vote - Leece did not support it.

It took only ten minutes to discuss and approve the participation in the Host Town program for the upcoming Special Olympics, although Righeimer attempted to micro-manage other entities involvement - the Fairgrounds, specifically.  I find it interesting that he just cannot avoid sticking his nose where it doesn't belong.  As I said, it's going to be a long couple years.

Shortly after 10:00 p.m. the council began hearing the biggie on the agenda - the two initiatives involving Medical Marijuana sales in the city.  You can read that staff report HERE.  For a list of attachments, including various options, click HERE.  Deputy City Attorney Chris Neumeyer ran point on this item.  In a nutshell, we are faced with competing laws - the proverbial Rock and a Hard Place.

Because both of the initiatives, which the council voted to certify last night, contained taxation elements, Proposition 218 requires that they be on a General Election at which members of the council would be chosen.  That means the election of November, 2016.  However, another element of the law requires that initiatives be placed before the voters in a special election with a short lead time - 88 - 103 days - from the date of certification.  Since these initiatives provide elements that make it virtually impossible to follow all the laws, lawsuits are sure to follow.

The option the council eventually chose was to order a report from staff that analyzes and compares both initiatives, the ordinance Monahan proposed last summer, Santa Ana's recently approved inititative and comparing neighboring jurisdictions.  Following the receipt and review of that report the council would then decide how to proceed - a special election or General Election. The clinker in this plan is that the report must be returned to the council within 30 days.  The last meeting of the year is scheduled for December 2nd, which gives the staff only two weeks in which to perform all that work in a period that includes the Thanksgiving holiday!  It is possible for the council to schedule a special meeting on a subsequent date - December 16th, for example - to consider the report.

Righeimer read communications he exchanged with Jon Coupal, the head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, on this issue since it was the lead organization on Prop. 218.  He confirmed the dilemma we are in, and that a lawsuit would certainly follow if a taxation measure was placed on a Special Election.  Additionally, there's a really good chance that the Board of Equalization, which is charged with collecting and distributing sales tax, would refuse to collect ANY taxes as a result of that act.  That means it is possible the City could be precluded from receiving ANY sales tax dollars - estimated to be nearly $50 million this calendar year - if we screw this up.

Several members of the public stepped up to address this issue.  Among those speaking was Santa Ana councilman Sal Tinajero, who's been involved in that city's on-going battle with this issue.  He strongly suggested we create our OWN ordinance.  Flo Martin fessed up to occasionally using marijuana to offset the ravages of being a handicapped senior citizen.  She used empty alcohol bottles as props during her presentation.  Harold Weitzberg and Sue Lester - who both previously operated Medical Marijuana collectives in the city - offered their views, including praise for Monahan's earlier attempt at an ordinance.  Both offered to make themselves available for professional viewpoints on the issue.

The council voted unanimously to request the report and will make a decision when it's complete.  No word from the initiative proponents on this problem right now.  There was a predominient theme during the discussion that IF we're going to have marijuana sales in the city it's better for the city to establish the ground rules ahead of time.  So, Monahan's stealth ordinance from last summer will be resurrected and massaged toward that end.

The council then considered the Consent Calendar items with little discussion.

Three people stepped up to speak in Public Comments at the end of the meeting.

Cindy Brenneman suggested a return to having all public comments at the beginning of the meeting, chided Monahan because he "used to listen to people", praised the promotion of Dan Baker and thanked Leece.

Robin Leffler thanked Leece, suggested the comments be moved back forward and pointed out that, once again, James Bridges was denied a chance to address the council because he depends on public transportation.  She suggested a show of good faith with the CMPD would be for Righeimer and Mensinger to drop the bogus lawsuit and expressed concern that both men are actually able to function considering the statements made in the text of the lawsuit about their physical and emotional trauma as a result of their experience.  She suggested they drop the lawsuit or resign to tend to their health, both physical and mental.  Seemed like a good idea to me. 

Anna Vrska thanked Hatch for the Public Record Request information she received, but it was incomplete, so she asked for the remainder of it.

And that, finally, was it.  Shortly after 11:20 p.m. we adjourned to the meeting on December 2, 2014, when a new council will be sworn-in and seated.  There is much speculation about the possibility of Mensinger becoming mayor.  That would be both tragic and comic, since he continues to have a hard time focusing on the issues before them, and many times seems unable to grasp the complexities of them.  It will make for some great theater.

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Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Isn't it curious that the Colleen Island annexation didn't happen until after the election? I don't think Jim would have picked up any votes there.

11/19/2014 06:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

Well, color me naive. I thought Mr. Righeimer was listening to the residents. Huh.

Then again, I thought Mr. Hatch was going to answer my questions. Instead, he regurgitated an 11 month old excuse. The one I had just asked to be updated!

We just met the new boss.

11/19/2014 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Oh, but Teresa... "voting doesn't matter." And "why should I knock on doors and talk to voters? Someone else will do it."

As a sitting planning commissioner told me this week... "Scoreboard!"

11/19/2014 08:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Why is Marty interested in whether the mayor has a "man date?" What consenting adults do is basically none of our business...

11/19/2014 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Geoff, you were being generous giving Rig until February to return to his nasty old habits and behavior. I have him 2 weeks. It was actually more like 2 hours.

11/19/2014 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

"Righeimer, wearing his smart-ass outfit for all to see..."

At least there is something smart about him.

11/20/2014 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Now is the time said...

And so it continues with the "50/50" mandate. I stand by my observation that the real numbers don't lie, but the people who translate them do. Not sure if using the new core math skills would help or hurt the mayor in understanding how numbers work?

I commend those members of the council and public who seek to represent the state of the city by using factual data. You will be missed Wendy.

11/21/2014 09:21:00 AM  

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