Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Lawsuit Settled, Drought Info And More

OK, let's get right to it... I was right on the money last night!  The Costa Mesa City Council meeting lasted until 9:52 p.m., so we got out of there before 10!  And, to demonstrate the precision with which I called the evenings events, Public Hearing #1, the re-authorization of the Business Improvement Area, took less than 60 seconds from completion of the reading of the item until the vote was taken.  I told you not to blink!  Sorry, the euphoria of an early meeting got the best of me, so I just couldn't resist that little bit of gloating.

To serious matters now.  At the beginning of the meeting contract City Attorney Tom Duarte reported out from the earlier Closed Session that item #3, the lawsuit between the Costa Mesa City Employee Association (CMCEA) had finally been settled and the council accepted the settlement on a 3-1 vote.  Gary Monahan voted NO, but didn't tell us why.  Katrina Foley was absent.

Then Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer took it upon himself to do what should have been CEO Tom Hatch's assignment - he tried to explain the terms of the settlement.  Conveniently, he forgot to mention that HE was the reason the whole thing existed in the first place!  He explained that the settlement was a result of what he described as a "marathon session" between the parties - never a good idea, by the way.  His capsulization of the terms were, as I understood them:

1 - The CMCEA dropped their opposition to the outsourcing of Jail operations.  Nobody had been layed off.  All employees involved were placed in other jobs and, if necessary, "Y" rated - kept their old pay rate.
2 - It was agreed that Street Sweeping could be outsourced, due in great part for the need to purchase very expensive equipment.
3 - Park Maintenance would be outsourced in the future, but won't start for 2 years.  A minimum of 6 employees will remain to oversee elements of that contract.  No employees will be layed off, but the placement in alternate positions will commence soon.
4 - The City agreed to no more outsourcing for 4 years and agreed to pay $375,000 in CMCEA legal fees.
5 - The CMCEA employees will receive a 4% raise in July.

Righeimer said this is all subject to the COIN ordinance, which could take at least a month to get sorted out because of the requirements of independent fiscal review and hearing by the council in two consecutive meetings.  He mentioned the emotional battles that had been involved and said it's time to put this issue behind us.  I wonder how the family of Huy Pham feels about that.

What he didn't tell us was that this fiasco HE started with HIS bogus attempt to lay off half the CMCEA staff more than 4 years ago has cost the taxpayers of this city more than $1.96 million in legal costs to law firm Jones Day alone, plus the aforementioned $375,000, for a total of $2.33 million.  And that does not account for Jones Day fees since March - the last date information is available - nor does it account for the costs associated with Jones & Mayer for their part in managing this process.  I'm guessing this mess will end up costing us more than $2.5 million in UNNECESSARY legal costs before it's all done.  But then, that's just a cost of doing business when you try to run a municipal government like a business, I guess.

Following the Costa Mesa Minute, shortly after 6 p.m. Costa Mesa High School Principal, Dr. Jacob Haley, gave a presentation on the Signature Academies at the four Newport-Mesa Unified School District high schools.  I'm not going to try to give an in-depth recap of his presentation - information about the various academies is available at each of the school web sites.  Suffice it to say that there are forward-thinking advanced academic opportunities for all students in the Newport Mesa schools.

Next up were presentations by the general managers of the two water districts which serve Costa Mesa - the Irvine Ranch Water District and the Mesa Water District.  Paul Cook of the IRWD gave his presentation first, and spoke of the demands by State government to reduce water use significantly.  IRWD's goal is a 16% reduction district-wide, and he gave some information about how that might be accomplished.  He told us that 50% of their water is used outdoors and that the allocation for indoor use is 50 gallons per resident per day.  He spoke of the use of drought-tolerant plants and mentioned tiered pricing to discourage excessive use.  In response to council member questions he acknowledged that they will work with rate-payers on potential problems.

Paul Schoenberger, from Mesa Water, gave a similar presentation.  He mentioned their recent board meeting at which more than 100 people showed up to get information before the vote was taken.  You will recall that I didn't attend that meeting because of the traffic jam in the parking lot.  He told us that, even though Mesa Water is 100% locally self-sufficient, they are still required to demonstrate conservation district-wide.  He spoke about the cards mailed to all rate-payers outlining the issue, and that the district's goal is a 20% reduction in the distribution of potable water district-wide.  He said they had budgeted for that level of reduction, so no rate increases were anticipated due to the reduction of water use.  Mensinger told him that "some people" were saying that there will be fines for excessive water use (that would be me), and it sounded like he wanted Shoenberger to deny it.  Instead, he affirmed that fines were, indeed, possible after a couple warnings - EXACTLY as I stated earlier.  He also confirmed that they had hired more people to monitor water use and provide citations where necessary.  He also affirmed that the last time there was a similar water emergency the community responded by reducing use by 20%.  He stressed the rules apply to everyone.

Then Bruce Hartley, Maintenance Services Manager for the City of Costa Mesa, stepped up to address what actions The City is taking in light of the drought.  He mentioned that The City was Mesa Water's #2 user and spoke of the various recently completed water-saving projects throughout the City.  He plans for a 20% reduction overall.  Although the City has 160 individual meters, Mesa will consider us ONE user.  Water use will be diminished in all areas except those using non-potable water.  Signage will be placed in large public areas describing either why the areas are going brown or why they remain green.  In response to a question by councilwoman Sandra Genis, he said, No, we won't get "credit" for the recently completed percolation project at Lions Park.  Based on Hartley's report, it appears that The City is on top of this issue and brown lawns around town will demonstrate that fact.  Interestingly, NO mention was made about whether Code Enforcement is going to be cutting residents slack on their brown lawns - right now you are required to keep them green or be fined.

Next was a non-agendized presentation by Nick Beraradino, retired Marine, former General Manager of the Orange County Employees Association and a member of the Fair Board.  He explained the creation of Heroes Hall at the Fairgrounds, to honor United States Veterans and mentioned that the Fair Board had donated $1 million to the effort.  He also mentioned that the OCEA donated $25,000.  He was looking for a donation by the City.  Mensinger and others on the dais expressed support for the idea and asked Hatch to bring back a staff report soon.

Finally, at 7:10 -  ten minutes past the time when Public Comments are supposed to cease - they began.  There were 30 speakers cards, so a time limit of 45 minutes was given for the first batch and the remainder were trailed to the end.  Seventeen (17) speakers squeezed their comments in before the door was slammed at 8:00 p.m.

Dan Worthington suggested a special parking sign be created for veterans.
Chuck Perry liked the improvements on Pacific Avenue, suggested moving the airplane at Lions Park and creating a soccer field and again asked for more bus benches on 17th Street.
Barrie Fisher complained about the landscaping along Victoria Street.
Gay Royer expressed concern that elderly folks - like one of her neighbors - may not get the word about water conservation.
Diane (didn't get her last name) spoke about Alzheimer's Disease.
Karl Ahlf spoke of tagging.
Lee Ramos gave a slide show of areas of the City - I'm not sure why.
Laurene Keane lectured the council on leadership.
Rick Huffman gave a slide show of "Out Of Scale Development".
Mary Spadoni complained about homeless folks being referred to as vagrants and complained that we're not doing enough for homeless folks.
Beth Refakes gave us a slide show of the Military Affairs Team at Camp Pendleton, going through exercises.
 the team
 the eMPTy
 Leece, Genis and Drains
 Cindy Brenneman
 the group
Greg Thunnel stressed public safety budget priorities.
Robin Leffler complained about the lack of a forensic audit for the 60th celebration.  She described it as a "Packet of Pus" - a great image!
Ann Parker read a Mensinger quote from a Daily Pilot article.  Mensinger interrupted her, then later chided her.
Joan (I didn't get her last name) addressed the budget workshop, and stressed priorities.
Wendy Leece suggested we return to the days of "Living Room Dialogues), stressed the need for a strategic plan and also suggested that the Fire Department 17 Point plan needs attention.  She was the final speaker at this time.
This segment stopped at 8:00.  Foley had arrived at the end of this segment.

Genis led off with her take on the 1/5 Marines generous offer of that outing.  She thanked the Freedom Committee for the Memorial Day festivities and the Lions Club for the Fish Fry.  She observed about the fatal stabbing in her neighborhood last weekend.  She also expressed concern about pesticides on City property.

Gary Monahan echoed her concern about pesticides, then spoke about
the Daily Pilot cup, which has grown to 2,200 kids and told us that on Thursday, June 4th, there will be a meeting on the future of Talbert Park at the Neighborhood Community Center at 6:30 p.m.

Righeimer said he watched all 3 1/2 hours of the Budget Workshop and complained that people who spoke there and got answers from staff then came to the council meeting with the same complaints.  He said this is "not a 3-piece band - It's an orchestra." and told us we just don't understand.  Really?  Well, we DO understand, Jimbo, and we don't like what we're understanding about how you operate.

Mensinger thanked Berardino and Chief Ron Lowenberg for his service to our city.  He observed the new Police Chief, Rob Sharpnack and mentioned that he was the first internally promoted Chief since Roger Neth.  He then tossed a grenade in Sharpnack's lap when he announced that he, Sharpnack, would be attending next Sunday's edition of "Meet the Mayor" at City Hall.  He acknowledged that Sharpnack had no notice about that announcement.  Yep... he snaps his fingers and expects everyone to immediately jump!  He also told us he watched the Budget Workshop Video, which can be viewed HERE.

Then Mensinger turned it over to Hatch, although he almost forgot again.  It tells me something when he consistently forgets he has a CEO... you can draw your own conclusions.  Hatch spoke about that Budget Workshop, describing it as a meeting of about 25 residents and a large cadre of staff who engaged in "spirited discussions" and will provide a follow-up report on the meeting.

He also observed that folks had asked about the status of Vacancies, so a Vacancy Report will be prepared later this week and will be produced on a regular schedule in the future.  He spoke about the recent boondoggle to Las Vegas the ICSC meeting, telling us there had been 190 contacts, 14 follow-up meetings and 3 tours and post-conference meetings with interested parties.

He thanked Chief Lowenberg and announced there will be a little good-bye party for him soon.  The last Interim Chief - Steve Staveley - didn't have one.  He also announced that there will soon be an offical badge pinning event for new Chief Sharpnack.  We presume that won't happen during the Meet The Mayor event on Sunday.

He then had Fire Chief Dan Stefano introduce a new video regarding Hands Only CPR.  It was a very clever piece put together by the talented folks at Costa Mesa Television.  We were told it will be available for viewing on the City website.

Katrina Foley then gave us HER take on the Vegas trip, which she also attended.  She suggested that there was not enough value to the trip since most of the people who expressed interest were from the local area.  She suggested an Open House instead of traveling hundreds of miles.  She was highly complimentary of the performance of the City staff who attended - Gary Armstrong, Dan Baker and Kelly Shelton.

Genis also commented on the CPR video, and suggested that first one should check for a pulse before starting those chest compressions.

At 8:30, after a "three minute break" called by Mensinger, the meeting re-convened to begin the actual "Business" part.  As mentioned above, Public Hearing #1 took about a minute, passing, 5-0.

Public Hearing #2, the vacating of a strip of land on Fullerton Avenue took about twenty minutes - longer than I anticipated - because of questions from residents and Foley about the process.  It passed, 5-0.

Old Business #1, the Second Reading of the development proposal at 1239 Victoria took only five minutes, with resident Gay Royer expressing extreme concern about traffic on Victoria at that location.  The result of the vote, 3-2, with Foley and Genis voting No, was the same as the first time around.  Genis expressed that the project was too dense for the location.

At 8:55 we arrived at New Business #1, the appointments to three committees.  Three people spoke during the Public Comments segment.  Andrew Barnes - a new speaker - expressed concern about the petulant behavior by council members at previous meetings.  Wendy Leece suggested that ONLY residents be considered for the committees.  Cynthia McDonald spoke with eloquence about the value of residents on committees, and told the council that candidates shouldn't be considered for the skills and expertise of family members.  My short-hand version of her three-minute presentation doesn't begin to do it justice.

Then the selections began.  Righeimer nominated Bret Rosol for the Traffic Impact Fee Ad Hoc Committee and he was selected on a 4-1 vote.  Foley voted No.

Next up was Foley's nominations for the Bikeway and Walkability Committee.  They took the votes in two steps, first voting, 5-0, to increase the committee to 17 members from 15 and the two additional members would be appointed by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and the Chamber of Commerce.  Then she nominated two individuals for two open slots on the committee.  She first nominated Brian Valles, who was chosen on a 5-0 vote.  She then nominated Cynthia McDonald, who was also selected on a 5-0 vote.  There was NO move to try to appoint Brent Stoll, the young man from Santa Monica who had been erroneously appointed the first time around.

Then came the items pulled from the Consent Calendar, #6, #7 and #9.  6 and 7 were considered together.  Genis had pulled them.  Item #6 was a quick vote, 5-0.  #7 generated more discussion.  The controversy dealt with the costs of providing Police coverage for events at the OC Fairgrounds throughout the year.  Foley wanted more information.  Righeimer didn't see the need and expressed concern that our fees would be too high and we would chase events away.  He referred to a couple years ago when the fees were actually lowered.  Foley wondered about the OC Marathon... Righeimer's buddy, Scott Baugh, is involved in that event - a for-profit event.  The suggestion was made that we shouldn't be subsidizing for-profit events so they can make more money.  A motion was made to pass it.  She made a substitute motion which was defeated, 2-3, boys against the girls.  The original motion eventually passed.

At 9:35 we resumed Public Comments.  Andrew Barnes again spoke, complaining about three young men smoking marijuana while parked the wrong direction at his home.  Police were called and apparently found they had medical marijuana cards, so turned them loose.

Stephen Chan spoke on the Roland Barrera night club item that will appear on the next Planning Commission agenda and was concerned about the precedent it might set for bars converting to nightclubs too close to residential areas.  He suggested it be shoved out until the issue could be studied.

Reggie Mundakis listed reasons why the planned
pathway/bioswale along Arlington Drive adjacent to the Fairgrounds is a bad idea from a traffic standpoint and potential for injury and/or death to people using that area.

Jay Humphrey expressed concern about the Veterans Center problem, then addressed the budget, citing the need for different priorities.  He suggested, contrary to what Mensinger had said earlier, that the budget was not all that complex and that he had similar documents when he was on the council earlier.  He expressed the need to re-evaluate the police staffing levels.

Flo Martin expressed the need to re-prioritize CDBG funds to better support homeless folks.

Teresa Drain, once again, expressed her demand for a Forensic Audit of the 60th Anniversary Celebration and cited Bid Rigging as one example of the issues that needed to be studied.  She gave a specific example and reminded the council that this issue was a Federal crime.  Foley, in response to her, said a Forensic Audit wouldn't get her where she wanted to go.  She suggested her information be turned over to the proper authorities for handling.  She then observed that Drain had already done a better job than any forensic auditor would do.

The meeting ended at 9:52.

An observation... Righeimer demonstrated a couple times during the evening that he's a bully.  Twice he cut Foley off in mid-sentence, which did not set well with her.  Of course, Mensinger just sat there like a lump, reluctant to shut his pal up.   We've learned from watching Righeimer over the years that when he reacts like that there is usually someone he knows involved and he's trying to head off a discussion about that person.  Watch the tape...  His behavior is inexcusable, but not unexpected anymore.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...


It looks like the honeymoon between Marty and the denizens of propaganda palace Public Square is coming to an end:

I always say, "JEANS are us," and it looks like McGlinn pantsed old Marty.

6/03/2015 08:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

2.5 million dollars for legal fees and a lawsuit all because Righeimer couldn't keep his horse in the barn and do things correctly. Sadly, its been downhill ever since. No wonder this city has financial issues.

I hear Steve got called out calling one resident a liar. When evidence was produced moments later, he refused to look at it. Ignored it. What a guy.

I got a laugh out of watching on TV, as Righeimer attempted to lecture everyone about their knowledge of the budget. Geoff, I believe you are right. Its an attempt at deflection. We have looked at the budget, and it doesn't add up. Residents should be very alarmed about this and how and what is being done to show reserves. The councilmen think people will not look past that. We do.

Kudos to may great speakers. I agree with two of them that the word "vagrant" leaves a less than tasteful image, and should not be painted with a wide brush to all homeless. Many of these people are vets, the same vets that we salute in other manners, however, these simply cannot get the help they need for PTSD and a variety of issues that most likely could be addressed. Its heartbreaking to see this city remove benches for fear of the sleeping on them, but rather making them sleep on the ground around them. Putting spikes on parking lot borders, etc. They will not leave, so they go to peoples' yards now. Great. You lock down bathrooms, so they now use shrubbery. Great. What a heartless bunch we have in charge.

6/03/2015 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

And that reminds me: will one of you guys that is friends with Rig please encourage him to do something about that silly hairdo? My wife bursts out laughing every time that comb over falls over his face and exposes the bald spot. Its embarrassing.

6/03/2015 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Papa Smurf said...

WMC - unfortunately most of the homeless veterans I have encountered have, like a lot of the homeless population, freely chosen the lifestyle instead of getting help. The ones I have encountered have freely chosen to not take advantage of their earned benefits because it means they have to give up whatever substance they are abusing, typically alcohol. We have a lot of resources in our city to help those who want help - Veterans included. I have seen many people get off the streets once they have decided they have had enough and are willing to take positive steps in their lives.

As for the benches. Have you truly looked at some of the bus benches after a group of homeless alcoholics have been sitting on them all day drinking. I have. The river of human excrement flowing from the bench to the street is sickening. Then, some poor unsuspecting citizen sits down on the same bench later. Ugh!! No thank you. I will never sit down on a bus bench again after seeing and smelling the ones frequented by our homeless drunks.

For the record. I do not think poorly of the homeless. I have and will continue to help any of them if they are sincere with wanting to better themselves and put in the work. I will not however be a part of enabling them to continue with their self-destructive life style.

6/03/2015 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Papa, I do understand the sentiment. And, its true. What you say about the vets you have encountered is in part due to the illness they suffer. They seem to be thinking clearly, but not always. Nor is it always a matter of money, as many have money. They just don't know what to do with it. And yes, the benches are a mess after they sleep on them. So we cause them to suffer because of it? Again, its an illness. They have to sleep somewhere. They have to "evac" somewhere.

I do understand what you are saying, but I just can't hold someone responsible for a mental illness (of any sort) and the preceding abuse. Its a vicious circle. And then there is those that are simply short on money and living in cars. Or have sold their car, and now have none.

Its just a very bad scenario on all levels.

6/03/2015 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

One of the most annoying features of Righeimer's boring,
endless lectures is when he prefaces with " This is the way
it is" etc, No, Righeimer that is your take on it- or the propaganda
you're spreading around about said subject.
He talks down to us which is infuriating. If Righeimer truly had
it wired as he wants us to believe, we wouldn't be dealing with
the aftermath of his bad decisions. They include losing good,
experienced long time city employees to the death of Huy Pham.

6/03/2015 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

After Huy's death I remember the grief and shock felt by my family
and I, other residents, former council members, current councilwomen,
and Huy's coworkers. I spoke with quite a few of them.
He was very well liked and an excellent worker.
I don't remember any words of condolence to his family from the
councilguys. If there were any it was so hidden it was
unremarkable. I do remember a fund to help his family.

What I do remember was a huge rush to get the results
of a second autopsy ordered by the councilguys. Questionable chain
of custody of samples, possible contamination by second sampling
and reading etc, could have lead to the very improbable results.
They were questioned by everyone who knew Huy and could have
been triggered by an innocuous substance like Ben-Gay.
Huy was on medical leave with a broken foot.
Instead, Huy's name and reputation were dragged through the mud,
all in an attempt by the councilguys to cover their rear ends.
That was the extent of their compassion for Huy's family.
Huy and his family deserve better.

6/03/2015 08:29:00 PM  

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