Friday, February 27, 2015

Budgets, Bogus Surveys And More, Ahead

OK, I apologize in advance for this long, long report.  Just grab a cup of coffee or a Diet Coke, take a deep breath and limber-up your fingers.  Here we go...  In what will be a very busy week for those of us who actually pay attention to municipal goings-on, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 will be an appropriate kick-off.  The meeting, which begins at 5:45 p.m. following a closed session at 5:00 in which labor negotiations involving the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA) will be discussed.  That's the group that recently approved a contract that basically took them back to the dark ages.  Because this is in a closed session we have no clue what this discussion is about.

Anyhow, the regular meeting - the agenda is HERE - starts at 5:45 and has a presentation by the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) updating the San Joaquin Hills refinancing.  Then comes Public Comments and Council Member Comments and the CEO Report.

Next up is the Consent Calendar, where all nine (9) of the items are considered to be routine and can be voted on in one motion, without separate discussion.  However, if a council member, staff member or member of the public decides to "pull" one, it will be trailed to the very end of the meeting for discussion.  Well, there are a few items worth at least considering...

As has been my practice in the past, I'm going to give you a few examples from Item #3, Warrant #2531, HERE.  You can plow through the entire warrant if you wish, but here are some interesting numbers that appear which just caught my eye:
  • Civil Source - $88,765.00 - Staff support, Nov. and Dec. 2014
  • Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau - $236,056.92 - BIA Receipts for Dec. 2014
  • LSA Associates - $22,106.09 - Initial Studies/Mitigated Negative Declaration
  • Steadfast Contracting, Inc. - $29,809.58 - WiFi Installation Senior Center
  • Accountemps - $1,210.80 - Temp Svcs - Budget, 1/26-1/30/15
  • CSG Consultants, Inc. - $3,080.00 - Building plan Check, 11/29-12/26
  • Employment Development Department - $6,683.00 - Unemployment, 10/1 -12/31/14
  • Government Staffing Services, Inc $5,302.50 - Temp Svcs, Cont. Mgt and Eng
  • Interwest Consulting Group, Inc. - $12,154.50 - Sr. Bldg Insp. Svcs. Dec. 14
  • PSOMAS - $4,558.75 - Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration
  • Safe Moves - $3,293.76 - Bicycle Education Services
  • Urs Corporation - $7,305.50 - Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration
  • Apple One Employment Services - $1,622.87 - Temp Svcs, Admin and Cntrl Svcs
  • City of Huntington Beach - $20,440.00 - Helicopter Svcs, Dec. 2014 
  • G4S Secure Solutions, Inc. - $60,283.74 - Jail Facilities Svcs. Dec. 2014
  • Orange County Humane Society - $18,289.50 - Kennel Fees - 3 months
  • Orange County Tax Collector - $44,248.50 - Prkg Cit Proc and OCSD/Comm
  • Accounttemps - $1,210.80 - Temp Svs, Budget, 2/2-2/6/15
  • Government Staffing Services, Inc. - $8,215.00 - Temp Svcs - Mgt Analys and Prog Mgr
  • Tonys Locksmith & Safe - $11,625.56 - Wilson Park and Fairview Park Door Lock
  • White Nelson Diehl Evans LLP - $1,000 - Final Audit Bill FY 13/14
OK, lots of temporary staff support again.  And, I'd sure like to know what kind of locks Tony put on the park restroom doors...

Item #5, approval of minutes from several meetings, HERE, is fascinating because the council is being asked to approve them minutes from, among others, a meeting on October 4, 2011!!  Really?  What giant crack did THAT one fall through?  Good grief!

Item #8, HERE, is the resolution authorizing street closures for the 2015 Orange County Marathon on May 3, 2015.  This staff report contains eight (8) attachments, including route maps and major intersections affected.  Yep, we're going to pass this one without any conversation, even though it involves the deployment of roughly half of the CMPD and CMFD staff plus another 100 civilian and Explorers.  Yeah, nothing going on here.. no need to talk about it.

The final item on the Consent Calendar, #9, HERE, is the request for authorization to request a 24-month time extension from the Orange County Transportation Authority for the Arlington Drive Bioswale and Dry Weather Diversion Project.  The City had secured a nearly $1.7 million grant last year and the deadline for the award of the construction contract is June 30, 2015.  While all the technical stuff has been done, no community meetings have been held yet.  According to the staff report, meetings are planned as follows: OC Fairgrounds Board in March; Newport Mesa Unified School District representatives in April; Mesa del Mar Neighborhood in May and the Parks and Recreation Commission in June.  The City is allowed a one-time delay request of up to 24 months.  Yep, nothing to talk about here, right?

Public Hearing #1, HERE, is the COIN discussion of the Costa Mesa Police Management Association Side Letter.  Because negotiations are on-going, and terms of the side letter regarding employee contributions to PERS has expired, this is a request to extend the agreement for 26 more pay periods while negotiations continue.

Public Hearing #2, HERE, is a change to the Small Lot Ordinance to clarify requirements for side yard setbacks and parking requirements.  Read the staff report and see if YOU can figure it out!

Old Business #1, HERE, is the ordinance amending the number of members of the new Senior Commission from five (5) to seven (7).  Katrina Foley wanted the number expanded to nine (9) to provide broader community representation.  The council majority seemed uninterested in that number.  By the way, the first meeting of the Senior Commission will be held on March 10th at 9 a.m. at the Senior Center.

New Business #1, HERE, is the adoption of Financial & Budget Policies.  You can read the "marked-up" version of the new policy HERE.

New Business #2 is the General Fund Reserves Study, HERE.   The staff recommendations are:
1 - Approve a recommended reserves goal of $63,671,535
2 - Approve a plan to add up to $2,000,000 per year to reserves until the City reaches the reserves goal of $63,671,535.

The staff report also includes some excellent charts showing Sales Tax, Property Tax and Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) volatility.  Click on the title of each to see those charts.

New Business #3, HERE, is the Fiscal Year 2014-2105 Mid-Year Budget Report.  That staff report includes links to seven (7) attachments that support and further quantify the numbers used.  One of the most interesting is #6, HERE, which is titled "2014-15 Allocation of General Fund Contingency Account as of 01-27-15".  This is an accounting of how CEO Tom Hatch's slush fund bestowed upon him by the council majority several years ago is being spent.  As you scroll down through those numbers you'll find some interesting entries.  Like, for example printing costs for the bogus Charter scheme.  At the Study Session when this subject was discussed, Foley wondered if the proponents of that ill-advises scheme might hold a fund-raiser to reimburse the City for those costs.  I think she asked that tongue-in-cheek, but it's a good question.  I've never been comfortable with Hatch - or any City Manager - having such a large pot of cash to play with as he chooses - or as he's directed to do by the guys who hold his job in their hands.  Just take a look at those entries and ask yourself, "What did law firm Best Best & Krieger do for that $25,000?"  "Why wasn't that $25,000 for city-wide chair replacement included in department budgets?"  And what the heck is "Council support for after election initiatives, photos, conferences, Ipad, etc." for $10,000?  I'm not too concerned about Hatch misusing municipal funds, but I AM concerned about him being TOLD to spend city cash on things without any kind of open discussion or specific council approval or at least awareness.

Finally, at the tail-end of the meeting, when all but the most dedicated, concerned residents will have long-since departed to their warm beds and late night television comes the final item on the agenda, New Business #4, HERE.  This is titled "Fairview Park Use Survey" and is Rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger's last gasp at trying to get some kind of a community consensus to plow under parts of Fairview Park to add playing fields - even though his head will explode as he denies it.  It's been clear as he sat as the liaison for the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee (FPCAC) for most of the meetings over the past 20 months that he was NOT happy with the clear opposition expressed by the vast majority of folks who took the time out of their own busy lives to address park uses at those meetings.  Upwards of 90% of the speakers over all those months basically said, "No Way!" to playing fields ANYWHERE in the park.  That included Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren, who finally resigned in disgust at the last meeting.

Now, Mensinger proposes a tactic that will almost certainly take many more months to complete, while the FPCAC cools it's heels because their meeting next week cancelled so certain elected politicians can attend a community meeting on rehab homes scheduled at the same time.  The next FPCAC meeting will be in April - if then at all - even though the staff reports are ready to go for next week.

Back to Mensinger's pipe dream - "The Survey".  The staff report outlines how it would work and, guess what?  It involves forming yet another "Committee"!  Yep, the "Consultant Selection Committee"!  That's right, folks - another committee, which will almost certainly be stacked with cronies - history shows us that's their tactic.  And, mark my words, it's a waste of time, because the consultant selected to do the survey is very likely to be Adam Probolsky, an OC GOP insider and go-to guy when you want a survey that gives you the answers you're looking for.  No, I'm not saying old Adam would ever rig the numbers, but he has a very special way of framing the questions.  You know, some of those "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" kind of questions.

I think there is ZERO chance the council will reject Mensinger's survey scheme - he already has the votes, because Councilman Gary Monahan - who seems to have basically just checked out these days - has told us flat out from the dais that he thinks the mayor should be able to do whatever he wants to do.  That doesn't mean, however, that concerned residents shouldn't step up and speak up late next Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning.

Oh, yes... in case you're wondering how we will pay for this bogus survey, the staff report tells us it will come from the Contingency Fund - Hatch's slush fund!  Yep, he still has more than $370,000 to play with between now and the end of the fiscal year!  Good Grief!

See you next Tuesday night... bring a pillow..

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Blogger zennymoon said...

As a regular council attendee, this one sounds like a long and frustrating night. I may set the alarm so I can comment on that dumbass survey idea..sounds like a repeat of dumbass ideas, i,e. Charter 1 & 2; 405 informational statement; $25,000 for Monahan marijuana fiasco and so many more...Fairview Survey #areyoukidding? #listentoresidents #nowaystevie

2/27/2015 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I'd like to know who is the recipients of the $10,000 worth if iPads that we paid for. You don't think that is a misuse of funds?

2/28/2015 08:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

Chicken Little squeeked that we blew through $30 Million in 3 years, ($74M in 2007 down to $41M in 2010) and we needed THEIR fiscal conservatives to stop the bleeding.

This study shows we now have a reserve of $21 Million LESS THAN the recommended $63.7 Million.

Their plan? Save a paltry $2M per year for the next 10 years to get back to a savings for LESS THAN we had in 2007. And that does not account for cost of living increases.

So, good thing we have had an increase in tax revenues! I predict a 3-2 push to $PEND that increase in revenue - and not to replenish the reserves for another 10 years.

Squeek: we need to blow through these revenues with capital improvements - such as the re-do of Mesa Verde medians... paving and lighting Fairview Park...

3/01/2015 11:23:00 AM  

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