Thursday, April 03, 2014

Seven And Counting...

Well, my friends, this has been a very interesting week in Costa Mesa.  Tonight I'm just going to talk about the candidates for City Council that have emerged this week and those they will be joining on the run-up to the November election.

On Monday, April 1st, former candidate Chris Bunyan announced that, once again, he will attempt to capture one of the two seats being contested in November.  He ran twice unsuccessfully previously, then moved to Corona del Mar for several years.  I was unaware that he'd moved back to Costa Mesa, but knew he remained active in Banning Ranch issues.  Brad Zint wrote about his announcement HERE.

The next day former candidate Harold Weitzberg announced HIS candidacy.  Zint wrote about it HERE.  Weitzberg has remained very active since his failed attempt to land a seat two years ago, including participating in the ill-advised Charter Committee.

Then, late this afternoon, former councilman Jay Humphrey announced that he, also, will challenge the field for one of the seats in November.  Humphrey has been the respectful voice of calm reason at the speaker's podium for years.   HERE is Zint's coverage of that announcement.

Lee Ramos announced HIS candidacy late last year and Zint covered it HERE.
These men join Tony Capitelli - Dana Rohrabacher's aide - was the first candidate to announce his run last year, which Zint wrote about  HERE.

Katrina Foley, announced HER candidacy last month, and Hannah Fry covered it HERE.

It is also widely presumed that Mayor Jim Righeimer will run for re-election, but I don't recall any official announcement.  His term is up and Wendy Leece is termed out and has chosen to challenge perennial congressman Dana Rohrabacher for his seat in the House of Representatives.

That gives us seven (7) candidates for two (2) seats, with several months to go before those intentions have to become final.  They must officially register after July 14, 2014 and before August 8, 2014.  If they register to run, then change their mind after August 8th it will be too late to remove their names from the ballot in November.  You may recall that in the last election two years ago James Rader decided he made a mistake the day after the deadline.  He didn't campaign one little bit and still received 2,449 votes!   And Al Melone chose to run without a prayer of gaining one of the three seats, but still gathered 3,658 votes. Those 6,000 plus votes might have made the difference in the razor-thin margin Gary Monahan held over John Stephens  and even the final numbers of Colin McCarthy and Weitzberg - which could have changed the face of Costa Mesa politics dramatically over the past couple years.  Here's what those results looked like:
Just in case you've forgotten how I felt about Righeimer's candidacy way back in 2010, HERE is what I wrote at the time.

So, off we go - seven months and seven candidates - so far - for the Costa Mesa City Council races.  It's going to be a VERY long campaign season.

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Grateful Model Engineers Say Thanks...

In a letter distributed this afternoon the Orange County Model Engineers thanked the Costa Mesa community for its tremendous response to their needs in the wake of a wave of vandalism and theft that has happened recently at the OCME facility at Fairview Park.  Here's the letter.  Click on the image to enlarge it.
I want to add my thanks to you all for your outstanding community spirit and support of this wonderful organization.  And, as Dixon Sheldon said, express my gratitude to Diane Hill for her tireless efforts honoring the memory of her husband, Paul with her United Neighbors effort to inform the community of important events throughout the city.

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Lethargy Prevails At Fairview Committee Meeting

Guided by Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren and Vice Chair Steve Smith, and moving at a pace that would make a snail appear to be a Forumula 1 race car by comparison, the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee crawled through the agenda, HERE, of their meeting Wednesday night.

The diminished committee - member Brett Eckles was absent and member David Stiller passed away recently and has not yet been replaced - began by hearing a presentation on Field Use Allocation by members of the Costa Mesa Recreation Department.  Assistant Recreation Supervisor Cecily Renteria led the discussion, assisted by Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson.

The discussion was fairly straightforward, with clear descriptions of the various user group designations and headcounts from the previous years players.  Member Anna Vrska inquired about the recent dislocation of long-time group 1 users from the TeWinkle Park Sports Complex in favor of Matt Leinart's Flag Football program.  The response was that the decision was made by the "administrative staff" and the existing party line - they were not displaced, just given other fields and times - was played back for them.  Member Ron Amburgey attempted to somehow defend the Leinart football program, indicating that they didn't even know they would be given a field this year.  Lame excuse.

Questions were asked about the departure of Recreation Manager Bob Knapp earlier this year.  McPherson dodged that one, as she should.  This is a very sticky wicket (sorry for the pun) and it was not her place to answer.  More on a related story at the end*.

A half-dozen members of the small - 30 people - crowd spoke.  Kim Hendricks wondered why the meeting began with a discussion of youth sports fields;  A local mother and daughter praised the tranquility of nature at Fairview Park; two young men from out-of-town (Fountain Valley and Westminster) spoke about the value of the open space at Fairview Park.  Several of them also spoke during the discussions of the items below, too.  (Member Lee Ramos could be seen texting away during this segment, obviously more interested in messages on his phone than what the speakers had to say.)

At 6:45 the committee began discussing the dozen remaining items to be potentially considered for the Southwest Quadrant of the park.  At the previous meeting they discussed the first dozen.  After an hour of discussion only two items were given a "yes" vote, to have the staff analyze and return at the next meeting with possible solutions.  Those two were #4 on the list, "Improve/Designate Bike Paths" and #6, "Plant Native Drought Resistant Plants Center of SW Quadrant".  The second one was actually an extension of the work recently performed by Eagle Scout Christian Redman last month.  All the remaining 10 items on the list for consideration were rejected by the committee as inappropriate for this particular quadrant of the park.

During the Committee Member Comments segment at the end member Terry Cummings told the group of the ongoing damage and theft at the Orange County Model Engineers location on the East side of Placentia within Fairview Park.  He was very grateful for the huge public support following the first wave of damage.  The police have been notified and, we were told, more incidents of vandalism occurred Tuesday Night.  Cummings attributed at least some of the damage on kids, mentioning that it seems to increase near the end of the school year.

Ron Amburgey commented on the Field Allocation information and observed that most of the playing fields being used belonged to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.  Only six of the 27 are actually City sites and he opined that we needed more and hoped to find support from his colleagues for fields on the East side of Placentia when that section is discussed.

Member Dennis Popp, grumpy most of the evening to this point, said he received several telephone calls - it turned out to be three - from people with suggestions but - he said - refused to come to the meetings because of the "hostile atmosphere".  Well, I've been to all but one of these meetings and Mr. Popp is just plain full of manure on this issue.  This reeks of stuff Steve Mensinger and Jim Righeimer used to pull at council meetings a couple years ago when angry residents spoke out about some of the things they were doing.  Yes, people are passionate about retaining open space, and speak out accordingly, but there has never been any hostility.  Popp also alluded to the packet of letters distributed with the information available that evening, saying that there were 50 letters and they should be considered.  Well, I read through those letters and most look nearly identical.  They look like someone in a parent group told their fellow rugby parents to send off form letters to the city about the shortage of fields.  In fact, one letter in the mix appeared to include a guidance sentence about preparing the letters.  It appeared that this was simply an attempt to stack the deck - roboletters, as it were.

Member, and council candidate, Lee Ramos was next, following his campaign manager, Popp, and he promptly went into a defensive mode, alluding to having been referred to as "one of the guys" - whatever that means - then did a revised version of his stump speech, talking about growing up on the Eastside and emphasized that he enjoyed hearing from the public.  Thank goodness he didn't talk about his coffees at Panera!  He said something confusing about the committee shouldn't feel short-changed, but then, we were moving closer to his bed time, so I shouldn't really expect him to make sense.

Dr. Mehren, who had a pretty shaky evening as Chairman, addressed the information provided by the Recreation Department team, opining that it was important for the committee because it had previously asked for that information but was not provided with it.  The meeting adjourned very near 8:00 p.m., with the next meeting scheduled in May.

Unfortunately, Barry Friedland and his Costa Mesa Brief cameras were not at this meeting.  Apparently he told the City Staff that he cannot continue providing a video record of the meetings - they don't get enough views to justify his time and expense producing them.  That's a shame, since he did a good job with it.  I tried to do my part by plugging his productions - the hit counter jumped when I did so - but he apparently only has a very few regular viewers for his YouTube Channel.

As mentioned above, there was big news in the Daily Pilot last night, HEREBradley Zint broke the story that Gordon Bowley, former President of Costa Mesa United and Chairman of the Costa Mesa Youth Sports Foundation, had resigned both those positions last month in the wake of his son-in-law, Bob Knapp, resigning and following the whole Leinart Football mess.  In Zint's article Bowley makes some pretty scathing comments about City of Costa Mesa leadership.  This is a VERY BIG story - one that will likely resonate throughout the community, and particularly in the youth sports community, where his family has been an integral part of improving sports opportunities for many years.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Council Meeting Wrap-up

Well, even relatively short City Council meetings in Costa Mesa can be full of drama.  We saw that last night in a meeting that lasted just a hair over three hours, yet left many attendees feeling unfulfilled and frustrated.

Public Comments saw only 9 members of the public step up.  Among them was Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Graham, who wanted the council to consider undergrounding the utilities throughout the city, suggesting that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District used bonds to make major infrastructure improvements, so the City should consider this process, as well.  Later, in response to the question, Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz gave us the facts.  Southern California Edison does the work.  The most recent estimates - be sure you're sitting down for this - were that it would cost $850 million just to do the arterial streets and another $320 million for the residential streets!  That's probably going to pencil out to $2 BILLION today, since those numbers are a few years old!  Munoz told us last night that just the engineering design work would cost more than $8 million.  And, that just gets the utilities to the curb... residents have to cover the cost to get them to their homes.  The last time this came up - during the Allan Mansoor regime - I had a contractor friend give me an estimate for my house.  It would have cost at least $15,000 to do the work! 

Another speaker was concerned about the proliferation of Group Homes throughout the city and also expressed concern about the configuration of Mayor Jim Righeimer's Preserve Our Neighborhoods Task Force, citing the need to balance the membership with actual people impacted by the problem.  She mentioned that one member operates a group home.  In his response Righeimer indicated a willingness to expand the numbers once the staff gets their process figured out.  He also moaned about what a big problem it is, using the term "trifecta", meaning that group homes are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), some Fair Housing issues and it is a multimillion dollar industry.  He emphasized, again, that dealing with the group home issue is going to involve costly legal challenges.  Swell!  More lawyers!  Geez!

Other speakers expressed concern about the shortage of police officers and the number of hours they are being required to work to keep the city safe.

Chris McEvoy questioned why we need a Charter; the controversy around the Friday Night Lights Football program; where was Monahan last meeting and wondered if the private investigator hired by Mensinger to video campaign sign destruction - referring to the Steven White case - was a "campaign expense".

Sue Lester reminded the audience that there will finally be a meeting of the 60th Anniversary volunteer group in the Emergency Operations Center on April 9th at which they will have a chance to express their views on how it went.  Seems strange, doesn't it, that it's taken three quarters of a year for this meeting - that should have been held within a couple weeks of the event.  Lester also told us of the drilling being done in Fairview Park.  We'll likely hear more about that at the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting tonight at the Neighborhood Community Center beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Just after 7 p.m. we began hearing the marquee event of the evening -  Old Business #1, the delayed second reading of the proposed Small Lot Ordinance, HERE.  Some refer to it as "Christmas For Developers", since it sweeps aside those darn codes put in place to protect our neighborhoods by requiring open space, parking, set backs and the like to keep our neighborhoods livable.  One speaker, Developer Joe Flanagan, spoke in favor of it... big surprise, huh?  You can read Bradley Zint's coverage of this issue in the Daily Pilot, HERE.

The diminished city planning staff has had trouble dealing with projects being thrown at them over the past many months which have required dozens of variances, adjustments, etc., in order to be approved.  Former Director of Economic and Development Services, Peter Naghavi - now retired -  was one of the four persons who spoke in favor of this ordinance of the thirteen who addressed the council on the issue.  He spoke in favor of the ordinance because it will streamline the processing.

Well, as Councilwoman Wendy Leece later said, "I don't think we should be in a hurry to make things easier for developers at the expense of residents."  I agree with her.  Even though I respect Naghavi and his decades of service to the community in a variety of senior staff positions, implementing an ordinance to solve a staffing problem is the wrong way to go.  The staffing shortages, contributed to in great part by the toxic workplace atmosphere created by the current council majority, can be managed via the use of contractors until permanent employees are hired.  We should not be changing the rules that are in place to protect our neighborhoods to make it easier for developers to make a bigger profit in our city.

As part of the discussion resident Greg Thunell used his three minutes to show some examples of projects currently underway in the city.  This image is of one being built at 15th Street and Industrial Way, and shows the massing adjacent to a storage facility.

I was amused when Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick wandered to the speaker podium and proclaimed, "I rise to speak in favor of this ordinance."  Gee, no kidding, Jimbo!  It's very unusual for the chairman of the commission to step up to speak in favor of an ordinance that his commission has passed on up the food chain.  Then, again, Fitzpatrick seldom misses a chance to do some serious fanny-smooching.

Speaker Cynthia McDonald quoted from a Shakespeare soliloquy to make a point, and speculated about what the epitaphs might read on certain council members headstones considering their positions on this ordinance.

Most of those who "rose" to speak against the issue stressed the density, parking, traffic and bowing down to developer wishes instead of doing what was right for the residents.

Councilwoman Sandra Genis presented compelling views about why this was NOT the right ordinance, and suggested we go back to the drawing boards if the council actually felt such an ordinance was essential.  She was given a deaf ear by the majority.

In an interesting turn of events, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger moved to approve the second reading - Gary Monahan (who actually came to this meeting) seconded it.  Then Mensinger said he wanted to make a couple changes - eliminating the requirement for guest parking for developments of 5 or more units and to change the setback requirements.  Both of these changes would have made a bad situation even worse and there was a wave of grumbling that spread through the auditorium when he made the proposal.  However, contract City Attorney Tom Duarte reminded the council that, if those changes were made, it would require yet ANOTHER second reading.  Monahan withdrew his second and Righeimer muttered something about "just getting this done and we can come back with changes later."  The message I took from that comment is that there are developers poised, waiting to pounce, so we should pass this thing quickly.  Very telling, especially when you consider that this kind of behavior will become even easier if a Charter is passed next November.  The item passed as written on a 3-2 vote, with Genis and Leece voting no.  It may be interesting to note that the final line of that soliloquy McDonald was quoting earlier was, "And men have lost their reason."

In other business, the request from the Police Department to authorize a reward to facilitate the solution of the murder of Gary Smola was amended to read "up to $10,000" and passed, 5-0, after less than a 1 minute discussion.

The appointments to committees also breezed right on through.  You can read the list of candidates and their applications in the staff report, HERE.  The liaison council members made recommendations and the council voted unanimously to accept those recommendations without comment.  There were also no public comments.  The lucky winners were:

Cultural Arts Committee
Irene P. Engard - 2 year
Anthony S. Manrique - 2 year
Tina Wlasick - 2 year.

Historical Preservation Committee
Christopher Ganeire - 2 year
Mary Ellen Goddard - 2 year
Margaret Johnston - 2 year
Terry Shaw - 2 year
Melinda Lowery - 2 year
Karen McKenna Juergens - 1 year
George Nakai - alternate

Housing & Public Service Grant Committee
Leah Ersoylu - 1 year
Philip Morello - 1 year
Bob Wakeham - 1 year

Costa Mesa Senior Corporation Board of Directors
James R. Fisler - 1 year
Susan (Sue) Healy - 1 year
Leece suggested that the remaining applicants for this slot contact the Senior Corporation Board directly, since they will be soon replacing member David Stiller, who recently passed away.

Only two items had been pulled from the Consent Calendar, #4 and #6.  Resident Eleanor Egan suggested that, in the case of #4, the contract for Bus Shelter Advertising, some stipulation be made about just who decides about what kind of advertising can appear.  Right now the vendor decides.  It passed as is on a 4-1 vote - Leece voting no.

Since the person who pulled #6, the swapping of Business License information between the City and the State, was no longer in the auditorium it passed on a 5-0 vote after a very brief comment by Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent and the meeting adjourned at 9:10 p.m.

Unfortunately, earlier in the meeting Righeimer found it necessary to rant about the speakers who take the time out of their busy lives to study issues and present their views to the council.  He, apparently, would just as soon they stayed home and not bother him with their complaints/observations/suggestions.  After all, he and the council were elected to represent the people!  This guy continues to confuse public service with dictatorship.  We'll do what we can to remind him as the campaign season moves forward.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Fairview Park and Annexation - Meeting Conflicts

Tomorrow there just won't be enough of me to go around.  Yeah, I know - that sets me up for some nasty comments... such is life.
Wednesday, April 2nd, the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee will meet again from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. in the Victoria Room of the Costa Mesa Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue, to discuss the potential used for the Southwest Quadrant of the park.  You will recall that they already fleshed out the first dozen potential uses at the last meeting.  This time they take on the remaining dozen from the original list prepared last July.  The agenda for that meeting is HERE.

The potential uses to be discussed are:
  1. Trail Exercise Stations
  2. Roller Hockey Surface
  3. Expand OCME Tracks Across Bridge
  4. Improve/Designate Bike Paths
  5. Plant Native Drought Resistant Plants Center of SW Quadrant
  6. Dog Park
  7. Expand Concert Area
  8. Skate Park
  9. Build Train Track Around SW Quadrant
  10. Nature Center-Bird Watching Platforms
  11. Archery Area
  12. Marked Running Courses
They will also hear a presentation on Field Allocation and Current Facility Outline by City Staff.

However, there is another important meeting in town at the same time that I will NOT be attending, even though it affects a section of town not too far from my home.  This one, a "stealth meeting', with almost no notice to the general public, is a "Community Meeting" to discuss the possibility of annexation of the little island of county property near Santa Ana Avenue and Colleen Lane.  People within 500 feet of the area theoretically were invited.

This meeting will be held at Kaiser Elementary School,  2130 Santa Ana Avenue and begins at 5:30 p.m.  The agenda for the meeting is HERE.

As you will see, City CEO Tom Hatch is the moderator of this event, which includes presentations by Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) Executive Officer Carolyn Emery and Jerry Guarracino, a contractor working with the Development Services Department.

This was originally posted as a Special Joint Meeting of the City Council and the Planning Commission, apparently in response to the interest by members of both bodies in attending the event.  If not posted only two members of each body could participate.  However, Monday the decision was made to NOT make this an official meeting.  So, if you attend and more than two members of the Planning Commission or the City Council speak, please let me know.  That will represent a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Open Meeting Law and will be subject to penalties by the offending individuals.

I guess one or more folks who attend will let me know how it went.  I'll follow up with the City Staff Thursday, in any event, to see what happened.

Never a dull moment in our fair city.

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