Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Few Surprises At Last Council Meeting Of The Year

The Costa Mesa City Council met Tuesday night for the last meeting of the year under the "leadership" of a sniffling Mayor Steve Mensinger, who was obviously fighting a cold.  He was hacking and barking like a sea lion show at Sea World.

Right off the top, though, I apologize for the crappy quality of the photos this time around.  I had my big whoop-dee-doo camera with me and was firing away when I heard a little chirp.  My camera - which is obviously much smarter than I am - was reminding me quietly that I'd forgotten to load a memory card!  Arrgghh!  So, most of the images shown here were taken with my Iphone - not the best choice for a low-light, distance kind of situation.  So, I used what I could and dug back into my archives for others.  Sorry about that...
Anyhow, back to the sparsely-attended meeting.  While most items ON THE AGENDA went about as expected, the meeting was not without some interesting moments.

During Public Comments Tea Party Tom Pollitt stepped up to criticize the council for their funding plans for the posed new library.  Then he soundly criticized Councilwoman Katrina Foley for her behavior at the last meeting - you will recall that she sparred with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer because he was commenting on the Police Association contract, which she felt was inappropriate considering the fact that he and Mensinger are suing the men and women of the department.  Pollitt, who never ceases to amaze me with his vacuousness, demanded an apology from her on behalf of all residents of the city.  Well, Tom, you DON'T speak for me, pardner!  Keep your demands to yourself!  He then ranted about the police contract.

Dylan Worth (sp?), a Canyon Drive resident pleaded with the council to do something about the reconfiguration of that street due to recent sidewalk installations.  Seems rain water from the entire length of the street now routes directly into his driveway, which is below grade of the street.  Mensinger directed Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz to fix it.

Cindy Brenneman spoke about the Toy Drive for the 1/5 Marines and told folks they could drop toys off at the First Friday Roadshow, this Friday in the City Hall parking lot.  She also complimented Foley for her comments at the last meeting.
Greg Thunell accused the council of playing a "political shell game" when it comes to affordable housing.

Chuck Perry apologized for spreading an unsubstantiated rumor at the last meeting about the demise of the Boys and Girls Club.

An unidentified speaker provided her Christmas Wish List - Wisdom for the council; a full staffing complement for the Fire Department and continued operation of Station #6; a fair contract for the CMPA; council support for the CMPA and CMFA; Keep paramedics, not outsourced to Falk - the company that owns CARE Ambulance and G4S Secure Solutions, the outfit who provides outsourced Jail Services to us.  She also reminded folks that Costa Mesa First is still collecting signatures for the so-called Smart Growth Initiative and will be at Harper School and also at the corner of Bay and Orange this weekend, plus folks will be walking the Eastside with petitions this weekend.  She also complimented Foley for her comments last time.

Beth Refakes made her final pitch for the Toy Drive for the children of the 1/5 Marines.  Collection box is in the City Hall lobby for unwrapped, age-appropriate gifts.
Tamar Goldmann observed that the meetings involving the General Plan update - the so-called Great Reach - provided choices from bad to worse.

At that point Mensinger turned the meeting over to CEO Tom Hatch, who apparently had scheduled some non-agendized presentations.  This caused Councilwoman Sandra Genis to caution Hatch about this practice because it usually generated many comments by the council members and sometimes resulted in direction being given.  He contention was that these things should at least be listed as discussion items under his comment time.

Then Fire Chief Dan Stefano provided a short summary of what is coming up regarding the much-awaited 17 point plan.  He told us they had just - that day - received the final report from the consultants and had not yet digested it, but would do so and he and Hatch would have a report to the council this week, so they all could mull it over before the next time it is discussed, sometime in January.
That launched Righeimer into low earth orbit, demanding that the report include consideration of EMTs on private ambulances.  Most folks who have been paying attention to this realized this was an overt attempt to protect one of his major campaign contributors - CARE Ambulance. Genis pointed out that this was precisely what she cautioned about, but he just kept on yapping.  Sound familiar?  It should... that's what he did with Foley at the last meeting.  Stefano attempted to side-step the demands, indicating their focus was the consultant's report, but that they would try to fold in information he was asking for, but Righeimer just kept on firing away.  At one point he demanded Hatch provide that information and, when Stefano attempted to provide a response, he curtly said, "I'm talking to the CEO!"  The back-and-forth continued, with Genis, again, pointing out what was happening and Councilman Gary Monahan coming to Righeimer's aid, indicating he had asked for this information in the past.  Mensinger also sniffed a similar message.

Then Pension Oversight Committee Chairman Jeff Arthur made yet another non-agendized presentation on the status of the City's pension situation, none of which is apparently available on the City web site.  He told us the City pension obligation is 65.1% funded and attempted to explain how we got there and what it will take to fix the problem.  Because of the variables - like CalPERS recently announcing a reduced return projection - there is no solution, yet.

And then Information Technology Director Steve Ely made yet another unagendized presentation on the new online Capital Improvement Projects website, HERE.  This issue, like the other three, SHOULD have been placed on the agenda so residents would know they would be discussed and attend the meeting to hear about it.  This "stealth" scheduling is getting to be a very nasty habit, and it's hard to understand.

During her segment Genis observed Item #4 on the Consent Calendar - the consulting contract with Lilley Consulting, and asked about staffing issues.  She invited the public to "tell us what you want" in the Envirnmental Impact Report for the General Plan update.  She also mentioned that the Vector Control District will be doing some spraying around the county.  She also expressed strong concern about the Humane Society - the organization Newport Beach recently decided to drop as a source for animal control - and opined that the City should keep an eye on it.

Monahan concurred with Genis about the notification of presentations under Hatch's segment, and suggested to Hatch that the agenda should at least show a line item of such presentations so the public would know about them.  He mentioned the Snoopy House, wished everyone a Merry Christmas, confirmed the need to do something about the Canyon Drive drainage problem, briefly discussed the 17 point plan and Righeimer's request and told us the contract negotiation information for public safety units is available online.

Righeimer was uncharacteristicly brief, and only spoke about driving his girls around town to see the new "product" available to homebuyers.

Mensinger, said he'd keep it brief, too, but thanked Refakes for the Toy Drive, said outsourcing paramedics is not up for discussion and directed Munoz to follow-up with the Canyon Drive issue.

Foley expressed concern about the filthy condition of the bus stops around town and asked Munoz to follow up with the contractor and demand they do their job.  She also asked for a copy of the contract.  Among other things she spoke of her 7th annual coat drive.

Items 1,4 and 9 were pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion and trailed to the end of the meeting.

Public Hearing #1, the trip fees issue, took much longer than I expected - 30 minutes.  One sticking point was the incentives included in the formula.  Foley and Genis thought that was problematic because it certainly appears that developers don't need to be incentivized.  And, Genis expressed concern that these fees are a decade old and probably not keeping up with the actual costs.  After long discussions and a substitute motion made by Foley and Genis failed, the item passed on a 4-1 vote - Genis voted no.

Public Hearing #2, which dealt with the impact of Assembly Bill 1826, which requires Organic Recycling by commercial businesses as of January 1, 2017 - it will be enforced in April - generated only a brief discussion and passed the first reading of the new ordinance, 5-0.  It cannot receive the second reading until January, so it will go into effect in February.  Still, according to Munoz, we have a system in place - the requirement that all carriers in the city comply with the state law - so we meet the requirements.

New Business #1, the 10-unit development at Charle and Bernard Streets, had received some massaging by the developer and the result was a much better project than originally proposed.  This was a screening request, which required no vote, so the developer will move forward.
The trailed items from the Consent Calendar were next.  The person who pulled #1 had left, so that was promptly dispatched on a 5-0 vote.

Item #4, the Lilley Contract, prompted questions by Foley of staff about our hiring process.  Hatch made a feeble attempt to respond, observing that we hire people, then they leave.  Geez, no kidding!  Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau responded that we have between 57 and 60 openings presently, and that the two Planning positions in question would have to be re-prioritized.  She told Foley she would get back to her Tuesday (today, as it turns out).  She mentioned that we're constantly re-prioritizing.  An observation... I've heard from several sources within City Hall that ever since the so-called General Employees had a contract approved that effectively took them back three decades from a wage and benefit standpoint, Costa Mesa has become a revolving door for folks in that group.  New folks are hired, stay a short time, then leave for much greener pastures with a little experience under their belts.  You can thank the council majority for that loss of experience and the costly process of replacing them.

Item #9, pulled by an absent person, was promptly dispatched on a 5-0 vote and Mensinger coughed out Christmas greetings and closed the meeting at 8:25 p.m.!  That it now until January 5th.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Why does Righeimer hate Costa Mesa so much and only love his contributors?

12/02/2015 01:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Gotta agree Geoff. If I want some idiotic Tea Party representative speaking for me, I will let Tom know. He at no time speaks for me, and dare I say the majority of the residents. I am very glad that Katrina has our backs. I just wish we could follow through with these Brown Act violations.

So, we keep losing employees, huh? Now there is a revelation. Those that move on are the smart ones. One more year, and we can vote this guy out and get this city back on track, in more ways than one.

We need to start several new projects, such as building our Fireside Fund, and making payments to the under funded pension debt. As it is now, we are paying the minimum, which is causing us to merely kick the can down the road. Something Rig said he would not do, and guess what. True to form, that's exactly what he's doing.

12/02/2015 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

The three-headed ostrich apparently believes that ignoring the pension underfunding will magically make it go away. Or do they really want the city to go bankrupt in hopes of wiping out all contracts with city employees? Costa Mesa has done less than any other city to deal with the problem, which is why Costa Mesa has one of the largest underfunded pension liabilities in the county.

In the last two elections, Jim and Gary barely squeaked in. We have to turn it around this year! Sandy and Katrina were both the top vote-getters in the last two elections, but without a third vote, they are completely marginalized.

12/02/2015 07:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Xyn Bohemia said...

pot stirrer, just wanted to say, aside from all the "stuff" going on in the city... i can't tell you how much i appreciated what you (and your lovely patient wife) do for us in costa mesa. your experience and knowledge are invaluable. your "real guy" reporting on issues that effect us in costa mesa has sparked many of us to be involved and watch what is going on. putting yourself on the line and giving us your view of issues and reporting them. some may disagree with you sometimes but i can not think of another person here who has devoted more time and energy to costa mesa and keeping us informed. i wish you a wonderful holiday and a hopeful new year! proud to call you my friend.. :)

12/02/2015 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous sandy genis said...

To clarify: The Vector Control issue: Aerial spraying for mosquitoes remains part of the overall strategy of Orange County Vector Control, but none is currently scheduled. OCVCD will be doing additional studies as to the effect of spraying. Studies should be completed this spring, before the next mosquito breeding season. Those who are interested on both sides of the issue may want to put up their antennae next March.

12/02/2015 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

It's funny that they would bring up the retainment of employees on the same night our A-hole Junior Mayor is rude and cuts off our Fire Chief, because word around the campfire is that there are a few Fire Chiefs positions opening up around Orange County and we shouldn't be surprised if our Chief soon leaves for a better opportunity.

12/02/2015 10:51:00 AM  

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