Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I Was Right - And Wrong

Sunday I wrote about the Costa Mesa City Council meeting, HERE, and included my thoughts on some of the agenda items.  Way, way down at the end I predicted the meeting would end at 9:32 p.m.  Well, I blew it!  I underestimated the impact of a Jim Righeimer-less meeting.  After all was said and done, the meeting closed at 8:17 p.m. when Councilwoman Sandy Genis closed it in memory of long-time City Finance Department employee Sheri Sanders - a lovely, sweet woman who passed away recently after a short illness.  I knew Sheri a little bit - she was always upbeat and helpful.  I miss her special laugh.  I borrowed this image - created by her friend, Bill Bricker, a few years ago - from her Facebook page.  It just seemed to capture the essence of Sheri.

The meeting began with barely a quorum.  Both Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan were absent.  Mayor Steve Mensinger began the meeting with a presentation to Pete Carolan, a local guy and an American Hero in many ways.  The staff had prepared a video presentation showing clips of his life - as a OCC water polo player, Navy Seal with a tour that included being the lead swimmer that retrieved the distressed Apollo 13 capsule.  You can read a little more about that HERE.  He returned to OCC, became part of a champion rowing crew.  He matriculated to USC - his entourage last night included several of his cronies - and has subsequently become an artist of international repute.  Recently he helped restore the airplane at Lions Park.  While he was the recipient of the Mayor's Award last night, he also bestowed an award on Fire Chief Dan Stefano to commemorate his life being saved recently by members of Fire Station #3.  The presentations were a good way to start the meeting.
During Public Comments eight (8) people rose to address issues with the council.  Tamar Goldmann stepped up and spoke about the Meet The Mayor event, held  Sunday at City Hall.  From all reports, it was the most heavily-attended of this series of meetings.  Tamar was pleased with the conversation she had with Mensinger and soon-to-be-sworn-in Police Chief Rob Sharpnack, who gave up part of his Sunday to be at the meeting.  She expressed hope that Mensinger and his majority will be of a more open mind when it comes to public safety.

Former councilwoman Wendy Leece expressed concern about the budget, citing as an example of unnecessary spending the plan to replace all the bus benches in the city for around $50,000 after quoting a bible verse regarding our responsibilities to care for those among us.  The replacement of the benches will be a hardship on the homeless among us.

Steven Chan complimented the Planning Commission on its decision to keep the proposed Maison night club on West 19th Street closed and used his time to encourage the city legal staff to fully investigate the issue before the appeal - filed by Monahan - is heard.

Former councilman Jay Humphrey drew the council's attention to a recent news article about the California Supreme Courts decision regarding affordable housing in San Jose - and pointed out that, although Mensinger recently received an award from a builders group for the 2,000 housing units built, none were affordable.

Beth Refakes reminded us that there is a ball gown collection drive going on for the 1/5 Marine Battalion from Camp Pendleton, which is scheduled for deployment later this year.  Gowns and gear  may be deposited in the foot locker in the lobby of City Hall.  She and Teresa Drain then presented a short slide show of the recent 1st Marine Division awards luncheon at Camp Pendleton, which they and Drain's husband, Jim, attended to represent Costa Mesa as members of our Military Affairs Team.  She presented a plaque to Mensinger.
Karl Ahlf spoke of the need for bike racks throughout the city.

Other comments were made by members of the public addressing the recent Budget meeting with CEO Tom Hatch and other staffers that didn't include input from council members.  Other issues included the need for rent control by one long-term renter who has seen his rent triple in 8 years.

During Council member Comments, Sandra Genis reported on the recent Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) conference, which included discussions of Mass Transit and forming cooperatives to buy electricity.  She also discussed a meeting that was held with several senior staff members and state officials about the future of Fairview Developmental Center, which is rumored to be closing.  She cited the need to get out ahead of this issue with our own plan.  She also mentioned the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, and referred to several byproducts of that document that exist today, including the concept that nobody is above the law.  She also mentioned Sheri Sanders (above)

Mensinger thanked Beth Refakes, Teresa and Jim Drain for their work on the Military Affairs Team.  he then mentioned that Costa Mesan Jake Knapp will be playing in the U.S. Open Golf Tournament this weekend at Chambers Bay - a truly challenging course if there ever was one.

He then tried to pull a fast one... he told us that he wasn't going to pull Item #12  - the rehabilitation of the Greenville-Banning Channel - from the consent calendar, but wanted to talk about it. He then turned it over to Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz for a slide presentation.  At that point Councilwoman Katrina Foley interrupted and, correctly, pointed out that his tactic would block members of the public from addressing this issue if they wished to do so.  She said this should be handled as part of the Consent Calendar.  Mensinger proceeded, but agreed - after a vote - to permit public comments.  There were none, but the point had been made.  It was amusing, in part, as he discussed how the channel had become "degredaded".  Of course, he meant "degraded"...

Foley also addressed the need to get out ahead of the Fairview Developmental Center issue and asked the CEO for a report.  She then thanked outgoing Interim Police Chief Ron Lowenberg for his service to the community and "helping to stay the ship".  She thanked Sharpnack and officers Dimel and Johnson for their service at a recent Costa Mesa Spring Football game.  She also mentioned, as part of her comments about it being Graduation Week in the Newport-Mesa Schools, that Costa Mesa High School will have five (5) valedictorians and that all are young women and all are heading off to outstanding schools in the state.

During his time Hatch also discussed the Fairview Developmental Center and the meetings that have been held and will be held.  It is planned to include that venue as part of the General Plan update that's underway, citing some kind of an overlay zone for the development of that site.  He also thanked Lowenberg, mentioned we have two new firefighters - and fumbled around finding their names - Austin Krie and Corey Brean, HERE.  He also mentioned that the Budget will be the only subject on a Special City Council Meeting Agenda for next Tuesday, June 23, 2015, and that the meeting will start at a special time - 7:00 p.m.

The Consent saw only 3 items pulled for later consideration - numbers 7, 14 and 16.  As it turned out, there was still time before the magic witching hour of 7:00 p.m. when Public Hearings can commence, so they just finished the Consent Calendar.  Genis asked that 14, the renewal of a contract for Keyser Marston be continued because she has a conflict and her removal would lose the quorum.  She also asked that consideration be given on #16, the request to cancel the August 18th council meeting, to be adjusted so the City could participate in the National Night Out.  Hatch will look into a way to do that, but the cancellation stands.  Item #7, dealing with a completed alley job, was pulled in error by a resident.  All except 14 passed, 3-0.

Public Hearing #1, the Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) hearing on the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA) contract and side letter went quickly.  Tamar Goldmann used the opportunity to discuss the need for a similar process to manage "expensive outsourcing", using one particular vendor, Lilley, who provides Temporary Management Services, as an example.  Foley asked Hatch if ALL employees were included in this contract.  He responded that all non-sworn employees were included except 20 "confidential" employees, but that their arrangement would follow this contract.  Human Resources Director Lance Nakamoto acknowledged that the numbers for those employees were included in the presentation.  The item passed, 3-0, and the second hearing will be on July 7th.

Public Hearing #2, the discussion led by Building Official Khanh Nguyen of the state requirement for Expedited Permitting Procedures for Small Residential Rooftop Solar Systems as required by AB 2188.  He presented a short slide show and told us, among other things, that the new law allows only ONE inspection of solar installations!  We've been doing two, so he and his staff are working on procedures with installers to meet this diminished requirement.  Very strange, indeed.  The slides show the requirements of the law and some additional language that has been added to our new Ordinance.
Public Hearing #3 was the very short discussion of the Appropriations Limit for this year's budget led by Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent.  This usually is done with the budget approval process, but that's not going to happen until next week.  This is a state requirement.  Based on the formula we are required to use, the Appropriation Limit for the 2015-2016 budget year is $201,264,174.  Our budget will be around $147 million, so we're in good shape.  This passed, 3-0.

Public Hearing #4, the so-called Clean-up measure regarding the Land Use Matrix which is part of the Municipal Code dealing with Group Homes.  Consultant Jerry Guarrancino led this discussion.  One public speaker, Ann Parker, expressed concern about the progress being made with group homes despite this ordinance - which wasn't the subject of the issue.  Guarrancino gave some current statistics indicating that, contrary to Parker's assertion, there have been 28-29 citations given for violations; that 24 operations did not meet the filing deadline for permits, but many are expected to be submitted by the end of this week.  He also indicated that the much-anticipated ordinance for multi-family areas is pending soon - within a couple weeks.  This passed, 3-0.

New Business #1 was the Fireworks Letter and Flyer, presented by Fire Chief Dan Stefano and new Police Chief Rob Sharpnack.  They discussed their "Zero Tolerance" plans for the three days of chaos this year, July 2nd, 3rd and 4th, and spent time on the flyer shown below.  Council members expressed ideas for some changes - like showing the hours permitted for the discharge of safe and sane fireworks.  Foley expressed a concern about whether this activity is really worth the time and trouble.  She asked Hatch for a report this year listing how much each booster group made in net profit from the sale of Fireworks, and how much the vendor made.  The clear implication was that the vendor - a major campaign contributor - may be the big winner in this whole thing.  Foley is NOT a supporter of fireworks.  Sharpnack told us he will have an enhanced force available for those three days, including several undercover officers out in the neighborhoods to catch folks using illegal fireworks in the act.  He and Stefano are working closely together to keep the city safe on those evenings.  Foley expressed disappointment that NOTHING had been done earlier this year to spread the word before school was out.
The final item on the agenda was the request for the City to match a $25,000 grant to assist with the creation of the so-called "Hero's Hall", a Veteran's Museum at the Orange County Fairgrounds.  Outgoing official of the Orange County Employee Association, Nick Berardino, asked for this support recently.    Bobby McDonald, Chairman of an Orange County Veteran's organization, told us that Orange County has 133,000 veterans - the second highest number of any county in the state and 6th nationwide.  He spoke about the remembrance next week of the 50th anniversary of the tragic crash at El Toro Marine Airbase that took the lives of 84 soldiers headed for Vietnam.  Beth Refakes asked for their support and said this was a no-brainer.  Teresa Drain and Karl Ahlf also asked for the support.  The council voted, 3-0 to support it and Hatch said the money would come from his contingency fund for this budget year.

The meeting was closed in honor of Sheri Sanders at 8:17 p.m.

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Anonymous Westside4ever said...

You're kidding me - Monahan filed the appeal on the Maison decision?? Was that to save Barrera the $690 he would have had to put up if he filed the appeal himself? This is exactly why so many citizens of CM feel cronyism and corruption are rampant in the city. You may remember Ann Parker begging the council and commission for help with the Solid Landings problems and finally had to put up her own money to have the appeal heard. How does Barrera rate council intervention? Who decreed Roland Barrera to be more deserving of help than Ann Parker? Talk about blatant bias!

6/17/2015 08:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Dear Westside4ever,

Don't you know that Roland Barrera was a major vendor for the 6oth Celebration?
Who else but old Roland deserves a giant break?
I think we should strongly consider Roland for a giant medical pot license if he wants to open a shop in Costa Mesa in the future!

6/17/2015 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Friendly Neighbor said...

Thank you for the summary of the meeting. Sorry to hear about the fireworks issue, it is really getting out of control. A bit ironic that after the fireworks discussion there was a presentation about a "Hero's Hall" for veterans, considering a lot of veterans suffer from post traumatic stress that could be aggravated by: FIREWORKS! All the explosions on the 4th of July (and now 2or more nights?) make our city literally look like a war zone which is not fun or safe (or sane) and not considerate to our veterans and many of our residents.

6/17/2015 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Never let it be said that our council majority ever cared about veterans, disabled or homeless. What they do care about is the money paid to them by the vendors. And I suspect its way more money than has ever been reported via campaign contributions. Same with the developers paying the requisite campaign contributions, but behind the scenes, you know there is more going on or these bozos wouldn't be hanging around.

Westside, I agree. I'm sick that Gary stood up for that sleazeball Barrera, but it wouldn't be the first time he took the interest of a criminal. Remember the pedophile incident? If that little troll ever sobers up and looks in a mirror, he'd start drinking again.

And thank you Anne Parker, for having the balls that our planning commission doesn't.

6/17/2015 09:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

FN - community or neighborly consideration is not part of CCM's plans or mandates! Their plans and mandates come from their out of town campaign contributors which translates into "you make sure we make as much money as possible on the backs of the residents of CM"!

6/17/2015 09:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Westside4ever said...

Does anyone know how much money the school athletic programs actually get from the sale of fireworks? I keep hearing it's so important to the programs but how much do they actually get out of every dollar spent on fireworks? Just curious. . .

6/18/2015 04:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

The fireworks companies do not put a percentage profit on their websites, but I did find one blog that said the profit was 20%. The fireworks we see in the sky and the ones that are extremely loud are illegal fireworks, which unfortunately, are easy to buy locally.

6/18/2015 02:05:00 PM  

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