Wednesday, July 08, 2015

FUAP (And Leinart) Passed - Painfully

Remember that Parks and Recreation Commission meeting the last week of June in which the new Field Use And Allocation Policy (FUAP) was discussed in what could only be described as a confused and disjointed event?  I wrote about it HERE.  Well, the Costa Mesa City Council did them one better (worse?) last night as the same issue came before them for ratification/enhancement.  The former happened, but I'm not so sure about the latter.  More on that in a minute.

The final item on the agenda - the appointment of Planning Commissioner Stephan Andranian to the Vector Control District - had been pulled.  We're not sure why, but later councilwoman Sandra Genis spoke about it, and the fact that she had been the alternate, but that nobody spoke with her about taking over for Gary Monahan.  As it turned out, Monahan apparently missed more meetings than he attended, but didn't alert anyone about it, so Costa Mesa had no representation on that board for several months.  I'm not surprised - he has showed up late or not at all to several meetings this year.

But now, taking it from the top, the meeting began promptly at 5:45 with both councilman Gary Monahan and councilwoman Katrina Foley absent.  Monahan showed up fifteen minutes later and Foley made it by 6:30.

Mayor Steve Mensinger presented the Mayor's Award to Project Independence - a nice and fitting recognition for an excellent organization.
Fourteen people spoke during Public Comments - which was NOT bifurcated again.  Mensinger has tried to keep all the speakers up front for the past few meetings, which is always a good idea.  Many of those speaking addressed Fireworks, with a couple speaking favorably and others very critical of this year's event.  Among those speaking against Fireworks was Flo Martin - long time resident who was in town for this year's Independence Day holiday.  She told the council that the Zero Tolerance policy was a joke, and gave an example of one of her neighbors only receiving a warning when shooting off fireworks earlier than the prescribed time - a warning which he promptly ignored.

Chuck Perry was one of the two speakers who praised the Fireworks and speculated that the various groups selling them made $250,000.  He also praised the council majority for ongoing street repairs.

Cindy Black wore a "Save The Banning Ranch" t-shirt and spoke briefly on that issue before taking on the costs and performance of Cognify - the vendor who installed the abysmal CAD-RMS system that is still not performing and to whom we paid significantly higher charges than bid.  Did we mention that the honcho of that company is a campaign supporter of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer?

Robin Leffler criticized the recent budget, describing it as a "spendthrift budget", which was presented as a balanced budget but used significant amounts of reserves to achieve that level.

Jay Humphrey brought up the Orange County Register article on
the City of Tustin's recent wrestling with density issues, and compared them to Costa Mesa.
Mary Spadoni criticized the CAD RMS system, suggesting "the people" have a right to know what's
going on crime-wise in the city.  She then rattled off some recent crime statistics which showed dramatic increases in so-called Part 2 crimes.  She blamed it directly on the staff shortage and the inability to enforce our laws.
Beth Refakes reminded all that the Military Affairs Team continues to collect gowns for the 1/5 Marines upcoming pre-deployment ball at Camp Pendleton.  She also addressed the fireworks, which she described as a war zone.
Ann Parker discussed crime and mentioned that she'd seen a recent article which ranked California cities over 100,000 people from a crime standpoint.  The higher a city is on the list, the worse their crime situation.  Number 1 was Oakland.  Number 3 was Compton and snuggled between them - at Number 2 - was Costa Mesa.  Certainly, this is NOT a list you want to appear on...

Cindy Brenneman thanked staffers Dan Baker and Kelly Shelton for their support of the First Friday Road Show and mentioned the most recent one, on July 3rd.
Tamar Goldmann observed all the plaudits for new Police Chief Rob Sharpnack, and the praise he was receiving as a "home grown" product.  She spoke about all the various opportunities he had with the CMPD during his 20 year career, then wondered if new officers would have similar opportunities now that the staff is diminished and specialty units are depleted, providing fewer opportunities to broaden a career without leaving the department.  She suggested that the council was not doing it's job with a new contract for the CMPD, which has been working without a contract for more than a year.

During Council Comments Monahan discussed the PD negotiations, mentioned the difficulty scheduling all parties for negotiations and said that to state they were not doing their job was a "Bold Faced Lie".  Nice.  Of course, he's been busy pulling beer taps and playing softball - much more important than doing the job the people hired him to do.

Righeimer observed that people had called him to tell him that this year's July 4th celebrations were better, and mentioned that 10 Orange County cities sold fireworks this year.  He said we have to clamp down on the illegal fireworks or we could lose it all.  He said it's OK to turn in your neighbor.

He disputed the claims by a speaker that the budget was faulty - implying that she didn't know what she was talking about.  He said, "You just don't understand it."

He spoke about crime, blamed AB 109 for the increase, indicating that criminals were being released and they didn't have jobs and they have to eat, so they commit crimes.  He, once again, dredged up his old phrase, "Crime is caused by the people who live in our city."  He went on to blame motels, and cited an upcoming General Plan amendment that will slap an overlay on certain motels to "help them" decide if they want to stay in that business.  This is not the first time he's issued that not-very-veiled threat to businesses in this city.  Of course, he likely has developer-buddies salivating over the opportunity to snatch some of those prime pieces of property at bargain basement prices.

Mensinger spoke about a variety of things, including the fact that Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz will be joining him on Sunday for his latest "Meet The Mayor" event from 2-4 p.m. at City Hall.  I'm sure Munoz - who already attends practically every late night meeting in the city - will really enjoy blowing off his entire Sunday with the Mayor and another campaign photo opp.

Mensinger also mentioned his "Walk with the Mayor event this Friday and said it will be his 322nd walk.  He also told us of a "private" version of the old Neighbors-to-Neighbors rehab event on 7/18 where two homes will receive freshening.

He spoke about the Fireworks in glowing terms and, at one time, said, "I haven't met anyone that doesn't like fireworks."  (Geez, right on cue at 2:18 Wednesday morning as I type this, another M80 was fired off in my neighborhood!  Perfect!)  Anyhow, when he said that I was waiving my arms in the back row and pointing to myself, because he HAS met me and I DON'T like fireworks.  Oh, well.

He then praised new Chief Sharpnack for his rapid replies to emails.  OK, but let's get those crime stats down, first.

Katrina Foley addressed the negotiations, indicating that they were making very deliberate progress - that they were not close yet, but getting there.

She also reiterated her request from CEO Tom Hatch for a report about the July 4th Fireworks sales.  She wants to know how much money each booth made, and how much each vendor made and she also wanted to know how much booths may have lost due to counterfeit bills being passed.

She discussed her request for  a review of the Westside Overlays and requested a joint study session with the Planning Commission to discuss it.

She also discussed the motel issues, observing that putting pressure on the motels would result in higher density dwelling units being built on those sites.

And, she reminded folks that if they're going to the Orange County Fair they might wish to park at Costa Mesa High School and provide financial support to youth groups at the same time.

Sandra Genis addressed the Fireworks and the stress on pets.  She suggested that next year consideration be given to waiving pound fees for those recovering pets who ran during the July 4th event.  She also mentioned the Vector Control issue.

Hatch, during his comments, told us that the City had recently received two awards for excellence in municipal issues by the Association of California Cities Orange County.  One was for our Small Lot Ordinance and the other was for Police activities at South Coast Plaza.  Kudos.

Three items were pulled from the Consent Calendar and were trailed to the end of the meeting.

Public Hearing #1 was the second reading of the amendment to the contract with the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA).  Foley asked if, because the county COIN ordinance is now invalid, does it affect us?  Laura Kalty of the law firm handling our negotiations will provide a report.  Jay Humphrey was the only speaker to address this, and observed that the public would also like to know the results of that report.  Righeimer retorted, "You don't know what you're talking about.", to Humphrey - a former council member and regular observer of municipal affairs - then proceeded to chide him about the issue.  Sadly, it was not the most rude behavior we've seen from Righeimer - but close.  The issue passed on a surprising 4-1 vote.  Monahan voted NO.

Old Business #1, which dealt with expedited processing for residential rooftop solar installations which is required by the state, took only 30 seconds to deal with on a 5-0 vote.

Old Business #2, which was a clean-up of an ordinance dealing with Group Homes, also didn't take long.  Ann Parker spoke to the issue, observing that it was pretty shoddy staff work that required this change.  It passed, 5-0.

New Business #1, the exception to the waiting period to rehire a retired employee, took three minutes, flat and passed on a 5-0 vote.

New Business #2, the issue of closing pedestrian openings from cul de sacs bordering Victoria Street, took 30 minutes but passed on a 5-0 vote.

That brought us to the big event of the evening, New Business #3, the consideration of the new Field Use and Allocation Policy (FUAP) and consideration of certain status for some user groups.  This one DID NOT go quietly into the night.  In fact, watching this process must be kind of like trying to pass a kidney stone.... painful.

The discussion, which Mensinger failed to control, was all over the place, with micro-managing of phrases and practically reinventing the wheel.  Of course, the Matt Leinart Flag Football issue was a core part of the discussion and it took some interesting twists.  For example, one of the exhibits in the staff report - added at the last minute - described a repayment schedule of dollars the Leinart organization owed the city for being given fields at an improper cost based on information they provided last year.  Foley suggested that money be passed through and split between athletic programs at both Estancia and Costa Mesa High Schools, to be used for equipment.  That later was NOT acted upon because it was not on the agenda.

The discussion went on and on for 45 minutes before Public Comments began.  Nine people spoke, most of whom commended the staff for the good job they had done on the new policy.  Leece was critical of the appearance of rewarding groups for wrong-doing - the Leinart organization and Friday Night Lights.  Once again, Frank Albers spoke in favor of the Leinart designation as a Group 3 user, although this time he didn't really make it clear that he was actually an official spokesman for the group.  Nobody else from the Leinart organization was in the room - again. Very curious, to say the least.

One thread that persisted through the discussions was Righeimer's demand that we have a way to positively verify the eligibility of individual players to meet the requirements of participation.  That discussion took on a life of it's own several times.  At one point Foley suggested we just let the School District verify the names.  Monahan pulled that one up short, citing the massive amount of work that would entail.  At the end, it was left to the staff to demand the ability to audit the records anytime to determine proper classification.

It was just a couple ticks of the clock short of two hours on this issue when Righeimer began making motions to codify the many, many changes to the policy that the council agreed upon during their discussions.  At 9:52 they voted to grant permanent Group 1 user status to three organizations - AYSO 97; Newport Harbor Baseball Association and Newport Mesa Girls Softball.  That vote included granting a one year extension of Group 3 status to Matt Leinart Flag FootballChecked the tape.. Righeimer's motion DID NOT include Leinart.  He said the change to Group 3 rules would take care of Leinart.

Then began what can only be described as rapid fire motions, all happening so fast - with members speaking over each other - that it was virtually impossible to keep up with them.  It was like watching a Rugby scrum.  The first, made by Righeimer, was by far the most important.  It replaced the references to "Costa Mesa residents" with "Local residents" and defined it as follows: Local residents are defined as players that live inside the Newport Mesa School District boundaries or go to public or private schools inside those boundaries."  That, combined with a couple other motions, seems to have opened up Costa Mesa fields to youth groups from Corona del Mar and the Sage Hill High School.

Changes were also made in the percentage of "local residents" as defined above required for Group 3 status - 90%.  Group 6 - adult teams - were given a minimum number of "local residents" to be maintained - 25% - and it will include those who work in the city.

Other changes were also made, but my head was spinning at that time.  Watch the tape near the end to try to catch them all.

At the end of that process Genis expressed extreme disappointment in the behavior of some of the groups - organizations that were supposed to be providing positive role models for the kids, yet apparently attempted to game the system, as Parks and Recreation Commissioner Byron de Arakal had put it at their meeting.  It was because of that lack of confidence in some of the group leaders that such a big deal was made about verifying eligibility - and understandably so.

The three Consent Calendar items were heard.  Robin Leffler pulled #6 and suggested that we pause and take a look at the impact of developments completed and currently underway before proceeding with others.  Sandra Genis pulled #8, the storm drain at the end of Pacific Avenue at Fairview Park.  Flo Martin pulled #12, the Mercy House  housing issue, and said Costa Mesa needs transitional housing for homeless people.  All passed on 5-0 votes and we left the chambers at 10:20 p.m., missing my mark by almost an hour.  Darn!

Wednesday - today - is the next meeting of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee, at 6:30 in Conference Room 1A at City Hall.  HERE is the agenda for that meeting.  See you there.

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Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Jim's motion to define local residents opens the door for continued shortage of fields (if there is a real shortage). I don't see Newport Beach lighting up their playgrounds if their kids can play on Costa Mesa fields. The school district may cover both cities, but the expenses and inconvenience related to field use will be borne only by Costa Mesa.

7/08/2015 07:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Obviously, there is no real shortage of playing fields, if Righeimer can increase the number of kids from other schools to use them. That is a joke. If they can afford to rent out fields for profit, then there is no shortage. Between this and the fireworks, our childrens' sports programs are all about money. Period. Its not even about teaching children good ethics and behavior, from the fighting and crap that goes on between "Lights" and Leinert's group.

Mensinger sure has a selective problem with deafness, or he has only 3 friends. 3/4 of this city has been complaining about fireworks. What a dolt.

I was appalled by Righeimer last night, telling Mr. Humphrey he doesn't know what he's talking about. Righeimer was extremely rude. Mr. Humphrey DOES know what he's talking about. Mr. Humphrey has never been anything but respectful, kind and quite knowledgeable. For Righeimer to behave like he did is out of line. Another reason to get Mensinger out of office and minimize Righeimer to a minority and silenced seat.

Ms. Leffler is correct about the budget. Its been said since the day they released it, that they robbed Peter to pay Paul. Emptied accounts and robbed reserves to balance this budget. And to say people don't understand it? I say that its Righeimer that doesn't get it. People aren't stupid. Once again, trying to pull the wool over peoples' eyes. Where is the money from the self insurance fund, which is now I believe in the red by a substantial amount?

7/08/2015 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Sandy Genis said...

What's with the Leinart group magically included in motions that were not so stated? First it's Parks and Rec, now Council?

There was a motion re Group 1 status for a few groups with longstanding presence. The discussion noted that under the new definition of "local resident", i.e. no longer just CM residents but anyone in the NMUSD area, Leinart would qualify and would therefore not need any special dispensation. Designation of Leinart's status was NOT part of the motion.

7/08/2015 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

The CCM will do or say anything to help their bosses in Newport continue the colonization of Costa Mesa.
The little troublemaker has a lot of nerve insulting Mr. Humphrey. Jay helps, Righeimer does damage.

7/08/2015 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Councilwoman Genis is 100% correct. I re-checked the recording of the meeting. Righeimer did not include Leinart in his motion... he indicated that the changes in Group 3 eligibility would "take care of Leinart".

7/08/2015 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

So then this should end the discussion/debate over new fields? We don't need them. They rented them out to "for profit" businesses. Mensinger and ilk tried to foist this illusion on the residents, that we were out of playing space. Residents didn't buy it. Now we see what's really up. Don't want to give up the money "for the kids" to have a place to play.

7/08/2015 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I seriously thought this was their tactic all along.... to show that there was such a shortage of fields that the kids were being hurt. Instead they took two steps backwards in their quest to build fields on any available open space left in Costa Mesa. But logic or common sense has never mattered to these folks, so I won't hold my breadth that their next argument will be all about the poor kids who just need space to play (On lighted, professional quality fields manufactured and installed by campaign contributors).

7/08/2015 07:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

At least Gary is consistent. He accused Jay of picking on him when he was Jay was a councilman and there were a lot of citizen complaints about behavior at Goat Hill Tavern, where Gary worked. He accused Katrina of picking on him when one of her clients sued Gary for keeping his tips. He backs Roland Barrera. He thinks people are picking on Matt Leinart's football group (DP). Apparently rules don't mean anything, whether they involve nighttime neighborhood disturbances by a bar, keeping another person's tips, having permits for a business, or representing a for-profit football league as a non-profit. We all know what Steve thinks of rules.

7/08/2015 08:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

btw, the Matt Leinart Flag Football League website ( ) is not in operation. I don't know when it was last operational.

7/08/2015 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

I heard Mensinger brought a USC football and sharpie to the Council meeting hoping that the washed up footballer would show up and sign it for his collection, and talk about how he took a class or two at USC. ( He never graduated from USC, did he?)

7/08/2015 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

I beg to differ with Mr. Righeimer. I do know what I'm talking about regarding the 2015-2016 budget. He doesn't. Or maybe he thinks we'll all believe what he says and never look closely at what he does.

I guess "She/He doesn't know what they are talking about" was his fall-back phrase for the night every time he felt cornered.

7/08/2015 11:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

What's with changing "local" to "all Newport Mesa School district residents"? That wasn't on the Agenda either so no member of the public was able to speak about it, no member of the council was able to get analysis of the consequences or think it over, unless they knew it was going to be changed ahead of time. How was it OK for Jim to add that enormous change on the spot, but not OK for Katina to make a motion to allocate money that everyone already agreed Leinart would repay the city? I think there should be a do over because there was no public notice such a far-reaching change was under consideration. It should be re-agendized with the required public notice.

7/09/2015 12:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Sounds like a Brown Act violation to me if it wasn’t agendized.

Also, shouldn’t a major, major policy change like that get vetted in the Parks and Recreation Commission first?

To appreciate how huge a violation it is, just picture if Righeimer had suggested expanding the definition of “local” to mean “all of Orange County.” One doesn’t have to do any math to intuitively know that it wouldn’t be fair to Costa Mesa taxpayers and their kids.

It’s not fair to open our playing fields to all of Newport Beach. Are Costa Mesans now made of money? Does Costa Mesa have more vacant land for sports fields than Newport?

Shouldn’t each city provide sufficient playing space for its own residents?

7/09/2015 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Ocpublicsquare said...

I totally agree Tom. Abuse of power. Should have gone back to staff, parks, maybe planning, and then study session. Should have been vetted before sports team leaders. To arbitrarily change the definition. to include all kids in NMUSD boundary is a gift of public funds by the council. Surely Newport is happy! Jim doesn't know good government processes and doesn't care. From Day 1 Jim has circumvented residents' rights (think Rich Schones' granny unit demolition in 2007) . We need to pursue a legal remedy here and ask for a redo to argue it is a Brown Act violation. Otherwise he will keep doing it to make this city into what he wants it to be. We certainly could write a letter to the DA and ask for an investigation. Was this solution to Matt Leinart fiasco already concocted before the meeting? I wonder.

7/12/2015 09:00:00 AM  

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