Friday, September 18, 2015

"Coffee With A Cop" On Tuesday

On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, the Costa Mesa Police Department will hold another in their popular series of "Coffee With A Cop" events at the Starbucks store, 2300 Harbor Blvd.  That's on the corner of Harbor and Wilson.  This is a great chance to meet members of the CMPD in a very informal setting, chug some free coffee and to ask questions of them about law enforcement in our city.

In an interesting bit of timing, this location is just down the street from Wilson Park, the subject of much discussion over the past couple of weeks.  I'll be surprised if some of the local neighbors don't show up to hear the latest information about law enforcement efforts in the park and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Here's a flyer explaining about the event and a map showing the location.  Click on either to enlarge for easier viewing.  See you next Tuesday.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bikeways and Walkability Committee Moves Forward

The Costa Mesa Bikeways and Walkability Committee, led by Chairman Ralph Taboada, met again Wednesday evening - at least some of them did.  As it turns out, only a dozen of the seventeen members showed up.  One member has apparently resigned, a couple were known to be out of town and the whereabouts of the others is unknown.  At the end of the meeting I asked if they had any kind of replacement plan - they don't.

The meeting moved briskly for the two hour duration.  Vice Chair Cynthia McDonald gave a brief PowerPoint presentation of some local bikeway facilities she and her husband had accumulated during a recent drive to the venues, ranging from Santa Monica to Santa Ana.  It was enlightening to see what other municipalities have done with their bike routes.

The main thrust of the evening was to plow through the data each of them had supplied to the staff since the last meeting.  The staff had compiled it into a format to make it easier to define the Goals for the group.  The conversation on this topic took more than an hour, but they've got the skeleton of a plan which will be fine-tuned by the staff before the next meeting.  Once their goals and objectives are completed they can begin to move forward with their mission.

Speaking of moving forward... the group decided to meet twice a month instead of once because they may run out of time before work product can be considered for inclusion in the General Plan, which the City Council majority has decided to fast track.

The next meeting will be September 30, tentatively at the same place - the Costa Mesa Senior Center.  The next two meetings will be October 14th and 28th.  From that point forward, beginning in November and depending on the results of the staff research, meetings will be held the first and third Wednesdays, probably at the Senior Center.

I'm impressed with the diligence of most of the committee members.  They've been doing their homework, staying focused and benefiting from some good staff work.  They treat each other with patience and respect and are beginning to jell into a cohesive unit.  Council liaison Katrina Foley has taken a more active role in getting this group moving than we normally see in these kind of committees, but it seems to be working out.  Chamber of Commerce member Brent Stoll - the fella from Santa Monica - is making a positive impact on the group with solid suggestions.

Sometimes watching these kind of committees work is like sausage being made. That's the case with this one, too. At the peak there were 8 members of the public in the audience.  Visitors wandered in and out. At the end there were two of us.  That's all until after their next meeting in two weeks.

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A Great Way To Start The Day!

This morning I joined many others in a packed City Council chambers for the promotion ceremony for three of the Costa Mesa Police Department's finest.  Bryan Glass was promoted to Captain.  Joyce LaPointe was promoted to Lieutenant - the first woman ever to rise to that rank in the CMPD.  Dan Miles was promoted to Sergeant.  Read the City-issued press release with biographies HERE.
In a room full of family, friends and other dignitaries, Sergeant Clint Dieball ran the show.  The proceedings began with the Presentation of the Colors by the CMPD Honor Guard.
Chaplains Johnson and Decker then presented separate invocations.
Chief Rob Sharpnack stepped to the podium and addressed the audience and those being promoted, his words obviously filled with pride.  He spoke about the future of the CMPD and the quality of the men and women serving in his organization.  It was clear that he viewed these three promotions as very significant in the history of the department and a great stride into what he plans to be an outstanding future, where the department will return to it's once-lofty place among the best departments in the country.
First up was Sergeant Dan Miles. who was pinned by his father, a retired police officer.
Then came Lieutenant Joyce LaPointe, who was pinned by her partner, Linzi.
And then came Captain Bryan Glass, who was pinned by his wife, Irene.
Glass then spoke for the three of them, addressing the challenges that are ahead and how proud they all are to be part of the Costa Mesa Police Department.
Representatives from other police jurisdictions were in the room to help mark this day as well as many old familiar faces from the CMPD family.  Former Chief Dave Snowden and former Interim Chief Ron Lowenberg attended.
Mayor Steve Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer attended, as did CEO Tom Hatch and Assistant CEO Rick Francis and many other city staffers.
So, the future is bright for the Costa Mesa Police Department.  The City Council has budgeted for new equipment and we are beginning to hire more officers and, according to all reports, we're getting the cream of the crop.  That's all good news because we need more and we need the best because of all the challenges facing the department in the near term.  Specialty units will begin to be staffed once again, which offers encouragement to all the members of the CMPD.  Chief Sharpnack has aggressive, forward-thinking plans which will soon begin to bear fruit.  Kudos to all the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department.

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Rudeness Dominates The Council Meeting

In what we hoped, and kind of expected, might be a short council meeting last night we were disappointed, amused and angered all in one not-so-tidy package.

The evening began with the awarding of the Mayor's Cup to one of the two Costa Mesa Little League Teams.  It was a fun family event with more than 100 people in the audience... so many that I couldn't get a decent photo of them.  Instead, you get the Mayor Steve Mensinger and CDO Tom Hatch with the trophy.

During Public Comments a Baker's Dozen speakers stepped to the podiums to address issues not on the agenda for the evening, but important to them.

Rick Huffman told us of the professional tennis tournament at the Costa Mesa Tennis Center this weekend.
 (Rick Huffman)
Beth Refakes reminded us of the candy drive for the children of our adopted Marine Battalion, the 1/5, to help them celebrate Halloween again this year.  The collection point is the foot locker in the lobby of City Hall.  All candy pieces MUST be individually wrapped.
(Beth Refakes)
Barrie Fisher thanked the council and staff for their attention to her neighborhood.

Wendy Leece demanded to know why it's taken more than two years to implement the Fire Department reorganization plan, including transporting patients.
 (Wendy Leece)

Karl Ahlf requested the return of the recently-removed bus benches and shelters.

Tamar Goldmann took the council to task for their ongoing attempts to force businesses out of business
(Tamar Goldmann)
Carol Williams bemoaned the July 4th "war zone" and expressed fear for her safety due to the sober living homes.

Mary Spadoni argued that the two women who successfully appealed issues should have had their fees returned.  She told us she had sent a note to contract City Attorney, Tom Duarte, asking if it was legal to have combined those two separate issues - hers and Carrie Renfro's - as one agenda item.  She observed that they were successful because they worked hard and discovered issues the city staff had missed.

Ann Parker was up next and amplified what Spadoni said.  She said their action was not fair and demanded an apology from Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer because he mischaracterized her actions.
(Ann Parker)
Robin Leffler pointed out that council members MAY NOT require a speaker to identify him or herself and extended that to mean that they MUST NOT vindictively identify the speaker, either.  She then supported the refund of appeal fees.  She said the recent Joint Study Session on the General Plan provided inaccurate information - that the segments of town that will be impacted by the plans within the General Plan update will be far more than 4% as presented.  Mayor Mensinger interrupted her when the audience cheered her initial comments and threatened to call a break if further outbreaks occurred.
 (Robin Leffler)
Another speaker - Chris - complained about the removal of benches in parks and the locking of the bathrooms.

Jay Humphrey observed that the Solid Landings facility on 19th Street is still in full operation despite sanctions by the city.  He also supported a change in policy regarding successful appeals and refunding of fees.
(Jay Humphrey)
Laurene Keane angrily complained about the away folks who wished to remain anonymous at the speaker's podium had been treated, citing a Brown Act violation.  She told Mensinger to "get that smile off" his face as she spoke.  He does that all the time.  She also supported a revision to the fee reimbursement policy, and described the hours she, personally, spent helping the two appellants.  At the end Righeimer leaned over toward Duarte and asked him to come back with information about this issue from the Brown Act.
(Laurene Keane)
Sandra Genis, who sits on the Vector Control Board, advised us of the dangers of West Nile Virus this year, and told us to avoid having any standing water around our properties.  She told us planned spraying for mosquitoes had been canceled because small planes may not fly over Disneyland.

She also concurred that anonymity should be respected by those speakers who choose it.

She referred to the refund of appeal fees and reminded us that the vote was 2-2 - councilman Gary Monahan had conveniently slipped quietly out of the chambers before that vote was taken.

She asked that the meeting be adjourned in the memory of Frank Forbath.
Righeimer reiterated his view that we have an appeal process that should be followed.  However, HIS view of that process is not accurate.  Residents ARE permitted to appeal an item, despite his admonition to Parker and Renfro at the last meeting that they should have gotten a council member to appeal it.  His reasoning - if you can actually call it that - was that if you couldn't get at least one member of the council to appeal it, then it would be unlikely that the appeal would pass.  As it turned out, BOTH appeals were successful without a council member being the appellant.  He just makes the rules up as he goes along and figures nobody will notice.

He then complained that people ask him, "How do you take it up there", meaning being criticized at council meetings.  He said he goes to church every week and he prays.  Well, maybe, but he failed to mention that the criticism is well-deserved, and that he brings most of it on himself for his arrogant disregard for the rules - which he has demonstrated almost from the first second he took office.

He chided Robin Leffler for not doing her homework on the General Plan and reiterated the inaccuracy of the 4% number.

He complained about the so-called problem motels and the people who defended their existence.  He acknowledged that not all residents are bad people, but the "pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers" hide behind them.
Mensinger addressed the Fire Department reorganization and asked Chief Dan Stefano to step up in a few minutes to brief us.  He also announced the ceremony for the CMPD Wednesday morning (today) where "three guys" are getting promoted.  Actually, that's two guys and a gal.  What a buffoon!  Just when you think it's not possible, he takes cluelessness to a new low!
He then promoted his "walk with the mayor" event, telling folks "you don't have to come down here and speak to all five of us" - that you can walk and talk with him.  Oh, yeah... we sure don't want EVERYONE to hear about important issues in the city, do we?  Oh, no... not that!  And then he made one of those stupid statements he's so famous for - citing council critics, he observed it's "political season" - as if much of what he's been doing lately is not pure political posturing - like his muscle-flexing from the dais last evening.

Stefano stepped up and presented a brief overview of the Fire Department plans for the implementation of the 17 point plan crafted by former Interim Chief Tom Arnold.  He spoke about the redeployment model and said they are 80-90% complete, but that full re-deployment depends on the rebuilding and remodeling of a couple fire stations.  He said they are working with a consultant on the cost recovery element of the plan to have our medical ambulances transport victims, who should have data available shortly.  Katrina Foley asked for it soon - like October.  She also asked if any council members or senior staff had been working with them on this.  Later Mensinger also asked, and Stefano replied yes, council members had been involved.
During her turn Foley began by quoting the section of the government code - Section 54953.3 - that clearly spells out that speakers may NOT be required to identify themselves.  Regarding the 17 point plan, she reiterated that it's been over two years and we should have been finished by now.  She observed that we have quarter-million dollar medical ambulances just sitting around except for being taken on the occasional ride like a Prius, and asked Hatch to bring this issue forward in October.
She spoke of the unfortunate school flooding during the current rain storms.  She also acknowledged Frank Forbath and cited a Memorial Service at the Neighborhood Community Center on September 26th.  She also observed the tragic traffic deaths of young Costa Mesa residents in Oregon.

She asked for a policy on the appeal process and refunding of appeal fees at the next meeting.

She observed that one of "the guys" being promoted this morning was a gal - Joyce LaPoint - the first female Lieutenant in Costa Mesa PD history.

She asked for a discussion of a Master Plan of Golf Carts Ways for November, acknowledging that she asked for a specific date because other things she's asked about in the past have just managed to never appear on the agenda.

Righeimer inserted himself into the discussion, saying that he didn't agree to force a date.

Mensinger wondered from Hatch if a council member could make demands and asked him how we handle that.  Hatch spoke briefly about it and eventually stated he would prefer to just rely on him and his staff to bring things forward on a timely basis.

Genis observed that they'd been talking about items not on the agenda, but "That horse is well out of the barn", so she offered her opinion that asking for a date-specific on the Fire Department report is appropriate since it's taken so long.

Hatch observed that the recent rains have caused some havoc in town and that free sandbags are available at Fire Station #4, 2300 Placentia.  He also observed that work has begun on that station.  He focused on the Fire Department, indicating that $1.6 million had been budgeted this year for new staff.  They've created a new Captain position focusing on EMS.  They've budgeted for two new engines at nearly $700,000 a piece.  They've converted on Battalion Chief to a Division Chief and have several new firefighters coming on board - two already have and three more are pending.  And, Chief Stefano is working on a 5-year Strategic Plan.
Hatch then introduced an award-winning video regarding the PAAC monitoring via streaming video.

Three items were pulled from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion, #8, #10 and #12.  They were trailed to the end of the meeting.

Old Business #1, the Smoking Lounge/vaping ordinance took a very short time to deliberate.  During that fifteen minutes three speakers addressed the issue.  Wendy Leece observed that we have a responsibility to the community to control the vaping and compared it to cigarettes.  Karl Ahlf reminded us of the Surgeon General's warning stickers on cigarettes.  Ann Parker asked for Chief Sharpnack's input on the subject, citing illicit activities that go on in vape shops - she described it like a bar for 18 year-olds.  The council passed the ordinance, 5-0.

Old Business #2, the Asset allocation issue, took less time and passed with a 3-2 vote, with Genis and Foley voting NO again, citing fiscal irresponsibility for handcuffing future councils and removing flexibility in money management.

We were rocking right along at 7:50 when we began New Business #1, the screening process for a development on Hamilton.  Deviations had been requested, shown on this chart, and four speakers addressed the project.   Wendy Leece thought it was a great project - only two story and no rooftop decks, but she suggested that we should ask developers to just follow the rules and not ask for deviations.  Jay Humphrey echoed Leece and worried about the cumulative effect of all this new development around town on traffic and other infrastructure.  Tamar Goldmann opined that we have become a city where it is government by the developers, for the developers.  Robin Leffler began to speak but Mensinger interrupted her - again - with one of his peevish displays of bravado.  When she began she addressed the peculiar parking situation with this project and suggested developers should stay within the code.
Righeimer, in full "smart ass" mode, aimed comments at the audience, indicating that he was angry because, "when this person comes up here with a dream project and you have to nit-pick it."  He praised the developer.
Developer Nick Louis address the project and tried to explain the peculiar parking situation, indicating that they COULD have gone up to three floors, but chose not to.
 (Nick Louis)
Genis addressed the parking - which has three-car garages for two-bedroom units - and said she didn't understand it.  Mensinger sniped at her, "You're not a man."  He then thanked the developer and apologized for the criticism his project had received by members of the public, stating that it was "just political".  Of course, it was NOT just political - it was a group of concerned residents expressing their views that, basically, it's not unrealistic to expect developers to follow the established rules.
Foley said it was a "lovely project", and that she was NOT going to apologize for residents speaking up - "that's what makes America great!"  The project will now move forward.
New Business #2, Sandy Genis' review of the proposed realigned trail in Fairview Park, recently passed by the Parks and Recreation Commission, began at 8:15 and I thought we'd be out of there before 9.  Ha!  Not the case.  She did a PowerPoint presentation, showing the history of the site in question covering a dozen years.  Then Monahan asked questions of Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz, who ended up showing a brief presentation of his own - the one showed to the Parks and Recreation commissioners.  Back and forth the conversations went, including a presentation by a consultant, Tony Bomkamp, who has extensive knowledge of Fairview Park - he apparently discovered the San Diego Fairy Shrimp.  It turns out that neither the Army Corps of Engineers nor the US Department of Fish and Wildlife have jurisdiction on this particular site.
 (Tony Bomkamp)
Ten (10) speakers addressed this issue, including Dr. Richard Mehren, who was instrumental in the City acquiring Fairview Park.  Nine of the ten opined, for a variety of reasons, that nothing should be done except maintaining the existing asphalt pathway.  Those who spoke against the approve plan to re-align this path were Devon Bradley, Mehren, Karl Ahlf, Andy Campbell, Kim Hendricks, Jay Humphrey, Wendy Leece, Robin Leffler and Cindy Black.  Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Graham supported the plan as approved by his commission.
(Dr. Richard Mehren)
Finally, at 9:25, the discussion resumed and Genis observed that the plan does NOT conform with the Fairview Park Master Plan.  Foley wondered why none of the potentially interested entities - Corps of Engineers nor the USFWL had been contacted, particularly since we've had recent, unpleasant interaction with them regarding the now-infamous decomposed granite trail.

During the discussion Foley observed that we don't need to overdevelop everything - that a concrete road is unnecessary.  She said we should just repair the existing trail, even if it means walking away from the $800,000 grant.

Righeimer, during his piece, was critical of folks who attended and participated in the deliberations of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee - stating that they "just didn't want to do anything."  Well, that's almost right, because the vast majority of speakers at those meetings did, indeed, express the interest in keeping Fairview Park natural.  He didn't like that fact, but it is a fact.  Then he said, "It's my come from that I want people to see the gnatcatcher", then he said something strange about wanting things "slower, faster, quicker"... What?  Sometimes he just speaks in tongues.
He told us "I've been up it 100 times and I walk it."  He complained about someone's observation that concrete is toxic, and ended up saying "It's just a path!"   That last one is a demonstration of just how clueless he is.

Monahan affirmed with Munoz the extent of the excavation necessary if the existing path is rehabilitated, and that the new road would be ADA compliant.

Genis reminded us that the new road is not in compliance with the Master Plan, a fact confirmed by Foley, who also observed that the creation of this new road would severely hamper cross country training and competitions for local schools.

Then Mensinger leaped into the mess and said, "For God's Sake, I understand Cross Country."  He muttered something about "There's all this kind of things flying around here.", apparently meaning disagreement and facts.  When the vote was taken at 9:50 it was 3-2 to support the Parks and Recreation Commission recommendation to go forward with the new road.   Genis and Foley voted NO.

Trailed Consent Calendar items were next.  Item 8 was passed in 15 seconds, 5-0. Nobody took responsibility for pulling it.

Item 10, the discussion of vacation of a piece of roadway, was pulled by Foley.  She was concerned that, since no development was immediately planned, why we were doing this when 19th Street is in need of bicycle capacity.  The discussion moved to adjacent properties, where no easement existed and either purchase or use of eminent domain would be necessary to use space off the roadway.  A motion was made to approve.  Genis made a substitute motion to at least delay it until the Bikeways Committee got farther along with their work - Foley seconded.  That motion failed, 2-3 and the earlier motion passed, 3-2.  Foley and Genis were on the short side of both votes.
At 10:00 p.m. Mary Spadoni discussed Item 12, the extension of the contract for a consultant who has been working on the CAD/RMS system for a couple years.  She demanded to know why it's taking so long to get back to a functioning reporting system for the CMPD.  Both Police Chief Rob Sharpnack and IT Director Steve Ely addressed the issue.  In response to Foley's question, Sharpnack admitted that we do NOT have a satisfactory system working now.  Foley wanted a timeline from Ely on how long it was going to take and he admitted he didn't know.  He also confirmed to her that this contract would be perpetual because we didn't have anyone on staff skilled to do the work the consultant is doing.  In response to Righeimer's quesiton, Ely confirmed a staff of 12 in IT, including the consultant and three existing vacancies.  Righeimer asked for a report on everything everybody does in IT.  The vote was taken to approve the contract extension on a 5-0 vote.

 (Steve Ely)
Mensinger actually did remember to adjourn the meeting in honor of Frank Forbath and the young people who died in the car crash in Oregon.  We now have three weeks until the next meeting on October 6th. 

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