Friday, July 24, 2015

Costa Mesa Named Playful City

Well, there's some good news for your weekend.  Last night at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting - I didn't write anything else about it because the only things on the agenda were a couple tree removal items - it was announced that Costa Mesa has been named a Playful City by the organization KaBOOM! and the Humana Foundation.  Read the city announcement HERE.

From the website: Playful City USA is a national recognition program sponsored by the Humana Foundation, honoring cities and towns that champion efforts to make play a priority through establishing policy initiatives, infrastructure investments and innovative programming. The program strives to recognize communities that demonstrate a commitment to ensuring all kids get the balance of active play they need to thrive.

And you can read more about this program HERE.  And, you can read a list of the other 240 cities throughout the country on the list HERE.  Among the cities NOT on the list are Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana and Fountain Valley.

So, kudos to all involved in this honor...

Last night, during the Commissioner Comments segment at the end of the short Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, a couple of the commissioners - with Vice Chair Brett Eckles being the most vocal - expressed chagrin and anger about the vote taken at their last meeting that apparently bestowed another year of Group 3 status to Matt Leinart Flag Football.  I wrote about it at the time, telling you that they got it WRONG at the time, but the ruling stood.  Eckles is looking for a significant tightening up of the process as they vote on issues in the future... Indeed!

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Crime In Costa Mesa Continues To Climb


This afternoon Jeremiah Dobruck published an article in the Daily Pilot, HERE, outlining the continued upward climb of serious crime in Costa Mesa.

I'm not going to try to paraphrase the content of this distressing article, except to note that Katrina Foley seems to have it right - too few cops on the street result in increased crime.

For your enlightenment, below I've captured the last three months of crime stats as released by the Costa Mesa Police Department, including the June numbers which were released today.  Take a couple minutes to glance down the three charts and see if you feel comfortable... I sure don't.  Click on the image to enlarge it.

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Remembering Mother

This is a special year for me, and this entry will be another non-political rumination for your consideration.

Some will recall that I recently wrote about my father, Robert J. West, on what would have been his 100th birthday on May 6th, HERE.  Well, today, July 23, 2015, my mother, Dorothy M. West, would have celebrated her 100th birthday, too.  Today I'll tell you a little bit about her.

I am a blessed man to have had two such wonderful parents, who loved each other and stayed together through thick and thin, for more than four decades.  Their lives together would have been much, much longer. but my father passed away too early.

My mother was a special person.  She was born and raised in rural Ohio, one of five children who grew up in a loving, supportive family.  Along with her three brothers and her sister, she had the great advantage of growing up in a small town in the heart of the Amish country in the middle of the state.  She got her math skills from her father, an accountant in a granary who could add a column of numbers by just passing his finger down the line.  That small town atmosphere created a strong "family" feel to my mother's life and she remained close to many of her classmates.  Her high school graduating class - the Class of 1933 - had 33 kids in it and when she returned for her 60th reunion nineteen of her classmates were still alive and 16 attended the gathering!

She and her peers were part of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation", who grew up during the Great Depression, so they learned the hard lessons of self-reliance and frugality.  My mother became a hair dresser and met and married my father just as World War II was beginning to boil in Europe.  I was born just before Pearl Harbor and my first sister was born a couple years later.  During that time my mother and father worked hard to provide for the family - I mentioned in my earlier post that my father worked at least two jobs for the duration of the war since he was physically unable to serve.

At the end of the war my family migrated to California, with my father preceding us, finding work and a home.  My mother and our Aunt Myrna drove my sister and me from Ohio to California in an old Plymouth business coupe with no back seat, but a very large trunk.  So, all our belongings were in the car with a mattress spread on top, which is where my sister and I perched and shared that great adventure - seeing Indians and Wild Horses and all manner of other delights on the trip.

As the eldest child I had the great advantage of getting most of the early attention.  My mother would sit patiently with me on her lap as a young child and read to me - no television or video games in those days.  I would read along with her and was a very proficient reader before I started to school.  That leg up was foundational to my entire life.

My mother worked off and on as we were growing up in Los Angeles.  While my father worked hard to keep his small business afloat, she was a pretty typical stay-at-home mother, raising the three of us - our youngest sister was born before the last century was half over.  She was my Den Mother in Cub Scouts and was a Scout leader for my sister's Girl Scout group.  She was the go-to person in time of distress, whether it was one of us kids or a family member or a friend - she was always there. 

She was a fantastic cook, who made everything from scratch - including the bread we ate.  Our home was always filled with the fragrance of some hearty meal.  It was not unusual for my friends to invite themselves to our house around meal time, knowing full well that there was always plenty of good food on the table.  We used to laugh at the timing of some of my Father's employees, who would manage to arrive at our house to drop off a work truck just in time for dinner.  I don't recall many meals when there were just the five of us sitting around that big, round table in the kitchen.  I can taste some of that food now - enchiladas, chicken and noodles (home-made noodles), fried chicken, roast beef and pork... yum.

As I recall my mother there are many snapshots of her that flash through my mind.  I recall snuggled in their bed when I was sick with a cold and Mother bringing me Campbell's chicken noodle soup.   I recall her in the basement of our house, canning peaches and cherries for future consumption.  I remember her hanging the laundry on the back yard line to dry.  I remember her hiking across the desert in Death Valley, picking up stones - treasures for a future use.  I remember her with fish - lots of them - on a stringer as a result of a day of relaxation and fishing.  I remember her sitting in our kitchen, cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, patiently listening to a tale of woe from a friend or family member.

Our family was not wealthy, but we kids didn't know that.  Many years my Mother would take a job in the fall so there would be money for Christmas presents for us.  She worked at the Post Office for the holiday rush, or for a friend who had a Christmas-oriented direct sales business.  And yet, she was always there for us.

I recall the evenings when she and my father would take a rare night out "on the town", and she would wrap herself in her cloth coat and off they would go for a night of dancing while my aunt would stay with us.
I remember the many family outings - my father's eldest sister and her family lived nearby, as did his brother and his family.  Plus, his mother and sister and her children lived across the street, so we spent many a weekend day at places like Cabrillo Beach or Sunset Beach chasing grunion or Pops Willow Lake in the San Fernando Valley.

Our family were campers.  We would trek off to places like Death Valley and other sites of interest in California, pitch a tent or two and rough it.  We usually invited friends to go with us, so my sisters and I had pals along for the trips.  And, as always, with a boiling pot and frying pan my Mother would prepare some of the most delicious, simple, yet filling meals over an open fire that you could imagine.

My mother was an avid fisherwoman... she loved just sitting in a small boat, trying to lure bass, blue gill or cat fish to her line.  It was a restful, much-deserved break from her busy life.  We began vacationing with relatives at Clear Lake above San Francisco in the mid-1950s and ended up having a series of small boats with which we water skied.  Mother would take her obligatory spin around the lake once or twice, then just relaxed and enjoyed fishing.  As you can see from this photo, she was very successful.

Later in our lives - after my sisters and I were grown - my parents would frequently enjoy a few days in Las Vegas, playing Blackjack and Keno and making friends with the casino staff.  They were never high-rollers, but enjoyed the companionship and time together.  Sometimes they would win, but most of the time they didn't, but they always stashed $20 in the glove compartment for fuel for the trip home.  The friends they made in Las Vegas lasted a lifetime.

My Mother was a safe haven in our lives.  My sisters and I, as well as dozens of friends, knew she was there for us.  She was the loving grandmother to my nephew and nieces and to dozens of pseudo grandkids who roamed through her life.

I mentioned in my entry about my Father how friends would refer to him as such - "Father".  Well, it was the same with my Mother.  Although over the years she was referred to as Dorothy, Dot or Dottie,  in addition to young people - my sisters and our friends - adults called her "Mother", too.  That was the relationship she had with folks - she was the mother to us all.

As I said, my parents were lifelong campers and really enjoyed the hills in the Gold Country above Sacramento, where they would explore the back roads and sit with their feet in a creek, panning for gold.  After my Father retired at age 62 they spent a couple summers living in their travel trailer in that Mother Lode Country of northern California as campground hosts - staying in a campground and making sure it was habitable for the steady stream of visitors.  And, they would pan for gold in the many streams in the region.  Then my Father passed away before his 65th birthday.

That following spring my Mother contacted the government officials who managed the campground where they had been hosts and asked if she could return on her own.  They welcomed her with open arms, and that began the next phase of her life.  She spent the first summer on her own in that campground, tending to the business of keeping it ship shape.  That fall she returned home, but quickly realized that my Father had been the link to all their friends, so she remained in the area of the campground the following winter and eventually bought a new home in an adults-only mobile home park, where she lived for most of the last fifteen years of her life.

She created a whole new life for herself, spending the summer at the campground along the creek on Highway 49 and the winter living in that mobile home park, joining the Fire Department Auxiliary and helping to run the Thrift Shop.  She was active in her church and would also "call the numbers" on Bingo Night at the park for, as she termed it, the "old people" in the park - she was 75 at that time.

Always the responsible person - she was the rock of our extended family - during her time as a campground host she would take that job very seriously.  She would arrive at the campground early in May - before any tourists arrived.  She would rake up the winter's worth of pine needles from each of the 17 campsites and put them in bags for the Forest Service staff to pick up.  Then she would go to each site and rebuild the stone fire rings that had been filled with debris the previous year.  She would shovel that stuff - bottles, cans, and ashes - into bags for the Forest Service to pick up.  Then, she would take her trusty broom and sweep every inch of the paved roads in the campground so no debris awaited the campers as they arrived.

She had no responsibilities to collect money at the campground, just to be a presence there a couple hours a day, five days a week and to be sure the pit toilets were clean and had the necessary supplies.  But, she really enjoyed the folks who visited the campground, so she would fish camp chairs out of the dumpster that folks had tossed away because they had broken webbing and she would re-web the chairs and set them around her own campfire, where they would await visitors drawn to her roaring fire like so many moths to a flame.  She made many, many friends that way.

When she got a little bored she would just jump in her four-wheel drive truck and drive a half mile to a local general store/restaurant/bar where she had become friends with the owners.  She would "work" - pro bono - helping the owners in the kitchen, wait tables and make friends.

My sisters and our families joined her at the campground each year and saw the wonderful life she had created for herself.  We would pick blackberries from the wild bushes nearby and she would use an old family recipe to make cobbler out of them.  I'm salivating as I write this.

In the later years of her tenure as a campground host the powers-that-be honored her at a luncheon as the Tahoe National Forest Campground Host Of The Year - an award that had not previously been given and, to my knowledge, stopped after she retired from that gig.  They had no other way to recognize her contributions as a volunteer for more than a dozen years.

As she approached 80 my mother realized that she could no longer deal with the rigors of being a campground host, nor living on her own the rest of the year, so she moved to Reno to live with my sister.  A lifelong smoker - that's what folks of that generation did - the cumulative effects of that nasty habit finally took her after a year in a convalescent home, just a few days after her 81st birthday.

The family gathered a few weeks later to spread her ashes in the hills of the Mother Lode Country, along a creek on a mining claim where she and our father had spent so many happy years late in their lives.  We sat on the boulders along a little creek where they had panned for gold, spoke of our lives with Mother and left her there in that part of the country she loved so much.  We miss her every day for the love she gave us, for her soft touch on our fevered-brow, for her wisdom and steady hand in our lives and the life lessons we learned just being around her.


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tears, Tolls And Anger Mark This Meeting

It was an unusual evening, even by Costa Mesa City Council standards.  Last night, Tuesday, the Costa Mesa City Council met again for what I hoped might be a fairly short meeting.  I was hoping for a departure by around 10:45.  As it turned out, it was a little past 11:00 p.m. when Mayor Steve Mensinger finally adjourned to "the next meeting".  Still, at least we got out of there on the same day we began.

I said it was unusual because we saw emotions run the gamut.  Mensinger was near tears as he attempted to preside over the presentation of his Mayor's Award to Frank Gavel, a man who has dedicated his life to feeding the needy in our community.
And Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed because he was angry the entire meeting, which I'll talk about as we go along.
Mensinger announced at the beginning that New Business #1, the issue of allocating the Field Use fees being collected from Matt Leinart Flag Football for their transgressions last season, had been pulled because Councilwoman Katrina Foley would be absent from the meeting for a family emergency.  About that time I thought we had a chance to bail out early.  Nope, it was not to be.

Following the presentation to Gavel, Jeffrey Mills from the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) made a presentation on the status of the I-405 Project - the one that will transform just over 16 miles of the I-405 Freeway into a roadway that will include two High Occupancy Toll lanes in each direction from the terminus of the 73 Toll Road to the Los Angeles/Orange County line.  The following slides gives you the flavor of the project.  Righeimer was persistent in his concern about where any "excess" revenue from the toll lanes might be spent.  We were told they would be spent on the I-405, but it was not particularly clear whether than actually meant the specific area of the planned construction or the entire length of the I-405.  Councilwoman Sandra Genis suggested that it should be spent on things like sound attenuation walls for the affected neighborhoods along the route.
Mills told us the project would take about 5.5 years and cost $1.7 billion.  Eighteen (18) bridges will have to be re-built, including our fairly new Fairview Road bridge.
Ten (10) people spoke during the Public Comments segment.  Cindy Black was first up and she commented on how nice it was that Frank Gavel received the Mayor's Award, and how paradoxical it was because there had been a concerted effort by this current council majority to block folks from feeding homeless around town for a few years.  She then mentioned the Initiative petitions that were  being circulated for signatures.  The fact that she and others mentioned this may have contributed to Righeimer's foul mood last night.

Barrie Fisher addressed the plans to fill holes in the walls along Victoria Street to stop illicit activities.

Several residents of Dorset Lane complained about similar situations in their neighborhood, where pedestrian pass-throughs in the wall had contributed to illicit actions, drug deals, etc.  The neighbors were trying to pay to have the hole closed themselves, but had been frustrated by the expense and delay.

Beth Refakes reminded all that there is still a collection of ball gowns for the women of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton, and expressed gratitude for those already contributed.  She also expressed gratitude for the plans to rebuild Fire Station #4.

Tamar Goldmann chastised Righeimer for his recent comments about former councilman Jay Humphrey and also addressed the petitions being circulated.  Chuck Perry praised the Mayor for his Neighbors to Neighbors activity recently, observed about the success of the recent Golf Tournament and also praised Frank Gavel.  Robin Leffler complained about the I-405 project.

During Council Member comments Righeimer told the residents of Dorset Lane that they shouldn't have to pay for the closure of the wall opening - that the City should be doing that.  He asked Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz, to look into it.  He also told us that he and the mayor sometimes just get in the car and drive around.  This time they did it in the recent rains, to see how the infrastructure is holding up.  He also praised the Mayor for his roll in the recently privatized Neighbors to Neighbors event.  He observed, for the first of many times, that government involvement in that program was problematic - he said it's just "not the real deal"... whatever that was supposed to mean.
Mensinger patted himself on the back for the Neighbors to Neighbors event, citing that "having government involved is time consuming."  Well, duh, Mr. Mayor.  It was clear from those comments and several others later that neither Righeimer nor Mensinger have the patience to follow the processes necessary in government.
Genis also addressed the cul de sac issue, observing that by filling them in the plans being forumulated by the new Bikeways and Walkability Committee might be complicated by such closures.
Gary Monahan had nothing to say... again.

CEO Tom Hatch spoke about the Special Olympics and that Costa Mesa is a host town for 700 Special Olympics participants.  He also told us about the recent Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament and that the Fireworks After Action Report is available on the City Web site.  I found it HERE for you.  He also told us that they have "almost" sealed the deal on four new employees - a lateral police officer; a new firefighter; a management analyst and a reserve officer.  He was very excited about those possible acquistions.
Items 7,9,12 and 16 were pulled from the Consent Calendar, and the remainder were passed unanimously with one vote.  Among those were Item #8, the acceptance of grants for Selective Traffic Enforcement; #13, the authorization for the creation of a new job - Assistant Director, Community Improvement Division and #17, the appointment of Sandra Genis to the Orange County Vector Control District.
Shortly after 7:00 p.m. we began the Public Hearings with #1, the review of the Parks and Recreation Commission's action on the Mesa Verde Drive and California Street Median Landscape Plant Palette.  Surprisingly, this one evoked some surprising dialogue because it devolved into a discussion of the city notification procedures, since apparently several members of the public nearby these locations didn't receive notitications of the meetings held on this issue.  It was at this point where Righeimer gave us a view of things to come as he became very irritated and agitated on this issue.  He ranted and raved about the cost of mailings, how little return on that investment was received because so few residents showed up to address this subject at prior meetings and, again, ranted about how expensive it was for government to get involved in things... a thread that ran throughout his conversations all night.  "Glitches" in our mailing system were discussed and Righeimer became more irritated.  He described this as "government gone amok" and said "after 6 years up here it's getting frustrating".  I thought to myself, "Well, you should be sitting out here watching you for those 6 years!"
Righeimer went on and on.  He said we should quit wasting money and time just so people can have a political rally.  I guess that's what he calls it when residents expect to be informed about how their tax dollars will be spent, particularly when it affects their specific neighborhood.  Mensinger chimed in with an irrelevant statement - "The political season has started early."  The council finally voted unanimously to accept the palette as recommended by the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Next up was, as expected, the most contentious item on the agenda - Public Hearing #2, the appeal by a lawyer for Solid Landings of the Planning Commission's denial of a deviation from parking requirements for a group counseling use at 657 W. 19th Street.  You may recall that resident Ann Parker had appealed the Zoning Administrator's original approval and she and a few associates presented a strong case to the Planning Commission and persuaded them to reverse that decision and deny the deviation.  Now the entire process started over and the staff report for this item was more than 2 inches thick!

Attorney John Peterson represented Solid Landings on this issue, accompanied by a small entourage of Solid Landings staffers and lawyers.
Although testimony was made about unpermitted modifications made to the building involving electrical, plumbing and other constructions items, including a brand new stairway, those eventually proved to be irrelevant to the real issue - inadequate parking and a disregard by the applicant's staff to enforce the rules about onsite parking ever since the Planning Commission meeting.  The use requires 67 parking spaces and this plan provides for 24 - not even close.

Nine members of the public spoke, including Teresa Drain, who was part of the team who spoke before the Planning Commission.  She gave a quick recap of the Planning Commission presentation.  Others provided first-person observations about the violations that exist regarding parking.  Others described the "commercialization" of their residential neighborhood as a result of this business.

During the discussion it was pointed out that this building is actually owned by John Morehart - a man who has done much business in Costa Mesa.  He was responsible for the relocation and renovation of the Huscroft House, which now resides on Bernard Street and, we are told, has become a group home.

At the end of the discussions, nearly 90 minutes later, Righeimer observed that this was like "10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag.".  He said, "It's not the tenant's fault.", and blamed it on Morehart.  Speaking of Solid Landings, he said, "There are great people, doing good things."  He told the Solid Landings folks that they probably "have grounds to get out of this building and take legal action against Morehart."  That was very strange - to have the Mayor Pro Tem of our city advising a rejected applicant to seek legal action from his landlord - even though the deficiencies in the building were NOT part of this decision.  Anyhow, the council voted to uphold the Planning Commission's decision and the crowd cheered.
After a short break, a little after 9:00 we began hearing Public Hearing #3, a resident's appeal of the planning application for a 6-unit, detached residential development at 2366 Orange Avenue.  And this one was not without its curiousity, either.  At the very beginning of the discussion, before the appellant had a chance to present his case and before senior staffer Mel Lee had a chance to even present the case, Mensinger implied that we might be wasting our time because he "had met with the residents and we can probably put this to bed quickly."  That thought was echoed by Righeimer, but it was just another example of how they were micro-managing every item on the agenda last night.

Appellant Doug Gorrie gave his presentation following Lee's orientation to the issue.  The developer, baseball star Doug DeCinces, was not present but was represented by his son, Tim and their architect.  The shortest version of this issue I can give you will emphasize that Righeimer and Mensinger manipulated this whole process and wheedled cooperation by the developer on the installation of a 7 foot block wall, use of celestory windows on certain walls, providing some kind of "green screen" on the neighbor's side of the wall and possibly lowering the site.  I don't ever recall a City Council taking on this activist role and the bullying that they did of the developer to get their way was troubling.

Seven people spoke to this issue, most of whom were concerned about traffic on Norse Street, adjacent to this project.  The way this is designed, there is a strong possibility of increased traffic into their cul de sac where children and pets play.  Others expressed concern for the property values of the homes in that cul de sac.  In the end, Righeimer and Mensinger got the developer to agree to the terms they created and the appellant seemed satisfied, too.  They approved it on a 4-0 vote at 10:25 p.m.

That brought us to Public Hearing #4, the 10-unit development at 2880 Mesa Verde Drive East.  Because the developer took the time to meet with neighbors a couple times and modified his project following another Righeimer intervention from 13 units to 10, the unanimous approval was quickly given.  The developer was not even asked to speak.

That brought us to the "pulled" Consent Calendar items.  Wendy Leece pulled #7, the beginnings of rebuilding Fire Station #1.  She used this as a forum to complain about the fire deployment model specifically.  She wondered what was happening to that model.  The council approved this one, 4-0.

Next was #9, which Leece also pulled for the same reason as the earlier item.  She observed that the renovations for Fire Station #4 were to accommodate the longer equipment currently assigned to our newest station, #6.  Again, she demanded information about the deployment model and expressed her view that #6 should remain open.  This also passed, 4-0.

Next came Item #12, the creation of the West 19th Street Bicycle Trail Project.  Speaker Cindy Black played a video with sights and sounds of a protected bird that inhabits the area where the trail is planned to be established and cautioned Mayor Mensinger about getting involved in "another" of these situations - referring, of course, to the now-infamous Decomposed Granite Road that he had constructed through vernal pools in Fairview Park that hold protected San Diego Fairy Shrimp.  The council passed it on a 4-0 vote.

Finally we came to #16, the extension of the ambulance contract with CARE Ambulance.  A half-dozen speakers addressed this issue, most of whom expressed concern that we were delaying the implementation of former Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's deployment model - he was in the audience last night, too.  Some speakers expressed admiration for Huntington Beach's model, which apparently results in over $4 million in revenue each year.  Eventually Monahan moved the item and Righeimer seconded it, but before the vote could be taken he chose to launch into another of his rants.  He began by saying, "I hate to rewrite history, but"... then he went about doing exactly that!  He told us that the new deployment model had "nothing to do with the transportation business.", and yet I and others attended Chief Arnold's briefings on the new deployment model and it DID include a discussion of generating revenue by transporting patients.  Righeimer blamed this discussion on the fact that "we're in negotiations" and the Labor Unions want everything they can get, regardless what it costs.  His rant seemed SO out of place that it only affirmed for me that what this really is all about is his campaign contributions from CARE Ambulance.  He continued to rant and said we should form a committee - sound familiar - and not "have this garbage talk".  Funny, he was the only one doing any "garbage talking".  I had to smile when Mensinger chimed in with this: "There is revisionist history going on here."  Yep, and it was being done by his pal.
Before the vote was taken Genis asked for the status of the deployment model and was told by Fire Chief Dan Stefano that a consultant was working on their plan and would have something in the fall.  The council passed the item, 4-0, and Mensinger adjourned the meeting until the next one.

An observation... Righeimer seemed very, very tightly wound last night.  I'm not sure what was on his mind - maybe he's angry about the initiative petitions being circulated.  Whatever it was, he was much more animated and angry than usual - and that's saying something!  When he gets like this you just can't take your eyes off him because he's going to blurt out something controversial or stupid - or both.  He did that a couple times last night.
The next meeting is scheduled for  August 4th, then they are off until September 8th - plenty of time for mischief for them.

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