Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mensinger's Heavy Hand Will Mark First Meeting of 2015

In the very first meeting of the Costa Mesa City Council of the New Year, rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger will attempt to mark his turf by convincing his fellow-council members to make some serious changes in the way council meetings are conducted in the future.  Since it is the last item on the agenda for the meeting on January 6, 2015, that's how I'll play it here, too.  We'll discuss it last...  You can read the complete agenda HERE.

This meeting will follow the old agenda rules and will be preceded by a Closed Session beginning at 5:00 p.m.  They will discuss the lawsuit between the City and the Costa Mesa City Employees Association.  The regular meeting begins at 6:00 in City Council Chambers at City Hall.

I note with great interest that this meeting will have not one, but two (2) Mayor's Awards!  I understand the first one - to Harland Anderson for his decades of service at the Boys and Girls Club - but don't have a clue about the second - to Boathouse Collective.  And I sure don't know why it was necessary to have TWO of these awards in a single meeting.  Seems to kind of dilute the idea, doesn't it?  It's kind of like befouling a good glass of bourbon with some Diet Coke.  I thought it was strange when former Mayor Jim Righeimer was tossing them out to everyone he knew like beads at a Mardi Gras parade - or so it seemed - but now Mensinger continues what is becoming a tradition with those guys - screwing up and diluting important recognition by the City.

The Consent Calendar has more than a few interesting items.  Item #3, Warrant 2527, HERE, contains a list of recent payments.  I know those of you who actually care will follow that link and dig out information that interests you.  (By the way, they didn't make easy for us to find stuff because they published the roster sideways, so you might get a crick in your neck reviewing all 84 of those pages.)  Here are just a few entries that caught my eye:

Dougherty + Dougherty - $31,289.03 - for Interior Design.
Jones & Mayer - $148,402.70 - for a long list of legal work.
Lilley Planning Group - $23,025.00 - for planning consulting services.
Liebert Cassidy Whitmore - $6,246.95 - several legal items.
Scientia Consulting Group, Inc - $6,901.50 - IT Consultant.
City of Huntington Beach - $21,490.00 - Helicopter Svc, 10/14.
Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (again) - $20,382.16 - labor negotiations, etc.
Meyers Nave - $7,176.50 - Legal, Fairview Park.
Costa Mesa Conference & Visitor Bureau - $194,831.86 - BIA receipts, 10/14.
Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (again) - $7,150.00 - Training.
Scientia Consulting Group, Inc. (again) - $3,504.50 - IT Consulting.
Westminster Press, Inc. - $10,627.20 - Printing Toll Road and Charter Mailers.
Best Best & Krieger - $2,277.50 - Special Council Legal Services.
CSG Consultants - $12,705.00 - Bldg Inspection Services.
Interwest Consulting Group - $12,501.00 - Sr. Bldg. Inspec. Svcs.
Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (again) - $405.00 - 1 yr. basic library membership.
Tacos Chihuahua, Inc. - $2,388.18 - Catering Services, 12/11/14.

So, that's a taste of how we spent your money over the last month or so.  Still spinning the counter on legal costs and consulting fees throughout City Hall to backfill the manpower shortage that exists.  I once joked four years ago that Righeimer's idea of a perfect city government would be Tom Hatch and a bunch of contract administrators to manage all the outsourced functions.  We continue to head in that direction.

Item #4 is a contract for $88,475 for annual updates on the City's Pavement Management Program.  The staff report, HERE, explains the need.  Under the "Alternatives Considered" section we find this statement -     "However, due to the current manpower capacity, level of effort, and lack of expertise in the use of the required pavement management software, a significant delay in implementing this project would be experienced, and having these professional services performed by a highly qualified outside consultant is recommended." Yep, can't run a business without the staff and/or expertise.

Items #6 and 7, HERE and HERE, are approvals of final tract maps for projects on Meyer Street and Miner Street, respectively.

New Business #1, HERE,  is a modification to the Business Improvement Area (BIA) to add the new BLVD Hotel, for a total of eleven (11) participating hotels in the city.

New Business #2, HERE,  is the Urban Master Plan Screening Request for a 4-unit detached common interest development at 2068 Maple Avenue.  This appears to be similar to other projects sprouting up on the Westside of town - three stories plus a rooftop patio.
Finally, the final item on the agenda, New Business #3, HERE, is the item I mentioned right at the top of this page - Mayor Mensinger's attempt to leave his personal footprint squarely on the neck of concerned residents by tinkering with an already-flawed public commenting system to potentially make it even more onerous.  Briefly, here's what he wants to do:
  • Change the regular council meeting start time to 5:45 p.m. from 6:00 p.m. (closed sessions would begin at 5:00 and end at 5:45).  This will, of course, make it more difficult for working folks with an interest in City issues to get to the meeting on time.
  • Conclude "Special Presentations" by 6:00 p.m.  Yeah, good luck with that!  Like this meeting, with 2 Mayor's Awards, for example.  We'll put a clock on it...
  • Public Comments would occur from 6:00 p.m. - 6:40 p.m. to "allow for a 33 percent increase in scheduled Public Comment time near the start of the meeting."  OK, so, instead of maybe 10 speakers having time to address the council, this scheme will provide for another three, maybe!  And...
  • Require that all speaker cards for "Public Comments" be submitted at the beginning of the regular meeting prior to the first speaker.  That means that if you wish to rebut an earlier speaker or amplify someone else's comment, but did not fill out a card BEFORE they spoke, you're out of luck.
  • Fear not!  If you submitted a speaker card in a "timely fashion", but did not get to speak during the Public Comments section, you will be given the "opportunity to address" the council at the end of the meeting.  (It's interesting to note that the revised order of business, below, doesn't show time for that activity.)
  • Remove the "Continued Public Comments" and "Council Member Comments" sections of the agenda.
  • Require that those wishing to address an item on the Consent Calendar fill out a speaker card prior to the start of the Consent Calendar.  Again, if you wish to rebut or amplify a comment and had not filled out a card you're out of luck.
  • Items "pulled" from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion will continue to be "trailed" to the end of the meeting, just as Dictator Righeimer did in his regime.
  • Perhaps the most interesting change is the requirement of all council members to limit their "Council Member's Reports, Comments and Suggestions" to 3 minutes!  I can hardly wait for THIS discussion!  And, this rule can be waived by THE MAYOR or by majority vote of the council.  Well, we all can count to 3, so we know what will be happening up there if THIS draconian rule is applied.  

Here's the proposed revised order of business:

(a) Closed Session (as required)
(b) Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag
(c) Moment of Solemn Expression
(d) Roll Call and Call to Order
(e) Closed Session Report
(f) Announcements
(g) Special Presentations
(h) Public Comments (Up to 6:40 p.m., may be extended by the Mayor or a
majority vote of the City Council)
(i) Council Member’s Reports, Comments and Suggestions (3 minutes each,
may be extended by the Mayor or majority vote of the City Council)
(j) CEO Report
(k) Consent Calendar
(l) Public Hearings
(m) Old Business
(n) New Business
(o) Items Removed from the Consent calendar
(p) City Attorney’s Report
(q) Adjournment

So, the new mayor, in his first managerial act, moved decisively to further restrict dissenting opinions by moving the meeting to an earlier time and placing a tighter stranglehold on opposing viewpoints.  Any thought that this was going to be a "kinder, gentler" adminsitration is now fully erased.  What we will now see is a tighter restriction of free speech by a guy who can barely follow the agenda when he's NOT in charge.  And, I suspect we'll see him wield that gavel Righeimer gave him in the first meeting to attempt to maintain control - somthing I've not seen before in a dozen years watching council meetings.  This is NOT going to be a pretty picture.  Stay tuned, folks.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Mr. West,

Whether he's flashing a fake badge at the airport, getting into an altercation with a teacher, or being involved with the wrongful paving of a park, a bully is a bully.

Except that this is a bully with a questionable intellect.

A) Trying to stifle fellow council members sounds unlawful;
B) Trying the stifle the likes of Genis and Foley is just plain dumb.

Did he ever actually get his degree from USC or any other college, or were those years somehow squandered being a frat boy?

12/30/2014 08:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

I suggest if he wants cards to address any and all topics, people should put one (or more) in for ALL items just in case?

12/30/2014 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

"I once joked four years ago that Righeimer's idea of a perfect city government would be Tom Hatch and a bunch of contract administrators to manage all the outsourced functions. We continue to head in that direction."
That is the essence of what Righeimer said in a speech to the Newport Beach City Council a couple of years ago -- I watched it on YouTube. He saw no point in having city employees do anything that could possibly be outsourced.

12/30/2014 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I don't believe Steve is the one at the helm. These actions are exactly what Righeimer would do. Steve isn't bright enough to manage anything on his own.

One more instance of bullying is Vakili v. Arnel, where the bully was named as a defendant by a female employee, and Arnel for employing him. You can imagine the rest.

Since they seem to want to stifle the public, I think the public should take their concerns to the streets in front of city hall. Since Rig got a minority of the votes, I believe the rest of the city will rally also. Rig isn't the only one that can call a press conference. He may find out the hard way how sick of him the residents are.

12/30/2014 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

I have to admit we put in many cards with many names just in case someone comes late and doesn't have time.. guess we will have to put some in for every agenda item.. that will be many, many cards but a resident has to do what a resident has to do, to get a little justice. And as a USC graduate with a diploma and everything, I have my doubts he is a bonified alumni, unless you count walking around campus and a couple of classes as an alumni. Fight On! USC and Costa Mesa

12/30/2014 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

So as you describe it, Steve can limit Sandy and Katrina to 3 minutes but waive the time limit for himself and Jim? I don't know if Gary ever speaks more than 3 minutes, except on marijuana dispensaries.

12/30/2014 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

That's how I read it...

12/30/2014 11:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Sounds like a violation of civil rights?

12/31/2014 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Just put WEED on every agenda and watch Monahan go off like Chatty Cathy!


12/31/2014 12:04:00 PM  

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