Thursday, November 12, 2015

Saddened, Disappointed... And Really Angry!

In the last hour of this Veterans Day holiday I write with a heavy heart.  Veterans Day is usually not a day of celebration for me, but rather one of somber contemplation about the sacrifice my friends and relatives made for our country.  I'm usually more than a little melancholy on this holiday and spend a good part of this day contemplating my military service a half-century ago and the fine men I served with during the Vietnam Conflict.  Many of my flight school classmates did tours in that country and more than a few didn't return, losing their lives in the steaming jungles and rice paddies of that country, leaving behind families and an unfulfilled future in the service of our country.

And, I usually contemplate my cousin, Gary, who migrated from his Ohio home while I was away in the Army to live with my parents and attend a junior college in California, to get a running start on his education.  When I returned home he still had six months to go to finish his two years, so he kept my bedroom and I got the couch until I got a job that eventually took me to Orange County.  When he returned home to Ohio he enrolled at Kent State University and was promptly drafted.  Did you see the movie "Platoon"?  Well, then you have an idea of how Gary's tour in Vietnam as a rifleman turned out.  He basically lived the life depicted by Charlie Sheen in that movie.  He made it home with three (3) Purple Hearts pinned to his uniform and with stories that would shake you to your core that he shared with very few.

I think of my uncles - two on my mother's side who served in the Army in World War II and my father's younger brother who served in the Navy.
I think of my friend, Joe Bell, who served as a pilot in the Navy during that war and of my friend, Sparks McClellan, who turns 94 later this month and also served as a Naval combat aviator, flying Hellcats off carriers in the Pacific.  I think of my ex-boss, Dwain Lengel, who flew Corsairs in both World War II and Korea.  These men were part of Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation" - those who saw their duty and did it, then returned home to help re-start our nation.

But this year I end this day very angry.  I'm angry with some of our elected leaders, who apparently have such a hard place in their hearts for organized labor - and such ignorant disregard for what military service means - that they officially ignored the county-wide celebration held at the Orange County Fair and Event Center today.  Although this event was widely publicized and, from all reports - like Bradley Zint's coverage in the Daily Pilot HERE - was very well attended, the only reference to this day by any "official" city source was a nice, brief piece by Dane Bora on the Costa Mesa Minute Monday.  And, the Costa Mesa Police Department, which has many men and women who serve in Reserve units, published a nice piece on its Facebook page which included a comment by Chief Rob Sharpnack.  I've reproduced it below.
I'm angry that there was no official pronouncement by any of our elected leaders about this holiday.  I suspect that was because they couldn't comment on it without observing the event across the street - the one sponsored by organized labor and veterans groups.  So deep is their apparent hatred of labor groups that it has clouded their official judgment.  Shame on them!  Nor was there any official pronouncement by our City Chief Executive Officer, Tom Hatch, that I could find.  He apparently has been muzzled by the council majority.

What kind of a City have they turned Costa Mesa into, when the veterans of our area are ignored on this day?  What kind of shallow, vindictive, mean-spirited men do we have leading this city that let their personal animus about organized labor prohibit them from acknowledging the men and women who proudly served our country in the military?  I get it that none of the members of the City Council, men or women, have seen military service, but for this kind of shunning of veterans is unconscionable!  It's my understanding that councilwomen Katrina Foley and Sandra Genis attended the event at the Fairgrounds - good for them!  However, there were no sightings reported of Mayor Steve Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer nor councilman Gary Monahan, who was probably busy yanking beer taps at his pub.

And, the City of Costa Mesa missed a great recruitment opportunity, too!  It's my understanding that other law enforcement agencies had booths at the Fairgrounds, ready to provide information to potential law enforcement officers.

Tonight I am saddened and disgusted with the male members of our City Council.  Those of us who served this country - who willingly put our futures on hold and our lives on the line -  deserve better.  This heartless disregard for our veterans will not be forgotten.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans Day - 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 is Veterans Day - a day to stop and remember the men and women who have served, and are serving, in the armed forces of this wonderful country.  In case you're a little confused about what this day represents, click HERE for a site that will tell you what this day is all about.

Today I will pause to think about my many fellow veterans - my war was the Viet Nam conflict - and will pay special attention to our great-nephew, Nathan Harrison.  Nate joined the United States Army following high school to become an infantry soldier and serve in Afghanistan, which is exactly what happened.  Nate was a member of the 25th Infantry Division and served a tour in Afghanistan as a rifleman in an infantry squad.  He carried a "SAW" - a Squad Automatic Weapon - and was the one with the most fire power in the eight-man squad.
Nate mustered out of the Army after his 4-year tour ended and is now home in Northern Nevada where he's working and enrolled in college utilizing the GI Bill and, at last report, plans to use his education to support returning veterans.  We're VERY proud of Nate for his enthusiastic willingness to serve his country and wish him well as he moves on in his life.  Today we remember him fondly.

There will be a FREE celebration of this day at the Orange County Fair and Event Center.  Here's the information provided about that event:

More than 7,000 expected at Veterans Day community celebration
Event at OC Fairgrounds is part of statewide “Veterans + Labor – Partners in Service” project sponsored by California’s unions

COSTA MESA – Southern California’s labor unions invite veterans, their families and the entire community to the OC Fair & Event Center Nov. 11 for a FREE community celebration to honor our nation’s heroes.

GREAT AUDIO AND VISUALS: Military vehicles and gear; live music from the Swing Cats (10-piece band), the Bob Seger tribute band “Turn the Page” and more; kids making “Thank you” cards for veterans.

SPECIAL PRESENTATION: At 2 p.m., the US Postal Service will host its West Coast unveiling ceremony of a special postage stamp commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War – one of America’s longest conflicts. Vietnam veterans will be in attendance.

FOOD: Free hot dogs, chips and water for all plus discounted concessions from OC Market Place and Ovations. Veterans get one (1) free beer.

The celebration is part of the “Veterans + Labor – Partners in Service” project. Union members statewide will participate in volunteer projects and activities culminating with this special FREE Veterans Day community celebration. Kids can enjoy face painting, bounce houses and games. This is our third year of hosting the event. In 2014, we more than doubled our attendance and are expecting a turnout of 7,000 attendees on November 11.

WHO: Union members, local leaders, other coalition partners and the entire community
WHAT: FREE community celebration to honor veterans
WHEN: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 11, 2015
WHERE: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
SERVICES FOR VETERANS: Union members, community groups and veterans organizations will be on site to provide resources to veterans, including information about family-supporting jobs, health insurance benefits, counseling, college and legal assistance, health screenings and free clothing.

FOOD DRIVE: Please bring you non-perishable food donations to the event! Last year, we collected four tons of food for our former military men and women. Last year, four tons of food  were donated.

Other activities include:

November 11th, 2015
10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Join veterans and union members in a motorcycle ride from the Orange County Labor Federation, 309 N. Rampart St, Orange, CA 92868 to the Veterans Day community celebration at the O.C. Fair & Event Center! For more information, contact: Gilbert Castillo at

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Senior Commission Meeting Wrap Up

The Costa Mesa Senior Commission met this morning before a sparse crowd (7 of us) at the Costa Mesa Senior Center for their final meeting of the year.  Vice Chair Stella Atkins was absent and the crowd was small, apparently because of a field trip to a casino today.

As mentioned in a previous post, they discussed Mission/Vision statements - HERE, and their 2014/2015 accomplishments and 2015/2016 goals - HERE.

The vision statement the commissioners approved reads as follows:
"Enriching lives and communities through health, wellness, volunteerism, and socialization."

The mission statement approved reads as follows:
"The Costa Mesa Senior Center is dedicated to the improvement of the lives of older adults by creating a place that offers opportunity to become more educated about health and wellness, share skills and talents with peers, interact and develop communication with friends, family, and others, and be advocates for older adults."

Take a few minutes to review the accomplishments and their goals on the other link, above.

Senior Center Program Administrator Yvette Aguilar presented her report, which apparently is not available online.  The highlights included:
  • Recent staff promotion and addition
  • A new sign-in policy is now in place.  Each patron is being asked to sign in and out to help validate attendance numbers.
  • The Senior Center will be closed November 11th (Veteran's Day); Thursday, November 25th and Friday, November 26th (Thanksgiving Holiday); Friday, December 25th (Christmas) and Friday, January 1, 2016 (New Year's Day).
  • Additionally, December 28-31 the Senior Center will operate on limited hours, from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
  • New Transportation information will be mailed out in the winter edition of the Recreation Guide.
  • The Center has new, updated telephone numbers.  All members were mailed a postcard with the numbers and they were also included in the November issue of The Chronicle.
  • WiFi is now available in the Senior Center.  The passcode is !@cmsc99
  • Golden West College will collaborate with the staff with nursing students and programs.
  • An Emergency Action Plan/Fire Drill will be held on December 4, 2015.  Details will be in the December newsletter.
  • The Albert Dixon Memorial Foundation donated an additional $25,000 to the Senior Serv program specifically for Costa Mesa Seniors.  The total donated to the Costa Mesa Seniors to date is $6,7,000 ($50,000 to Senior Serv, $15,000 for tablets/technology and $2,000 to MELT)
  • Membership is now 1,676 registered members, of which 1119 are Costa Mesa residents.
  • A total of 845.5 volunteer service hours were recorded for September and October.
  • A total of 769.0 hours were programmed for September and 801.25 for October.
  • There were a total of 6,467 visitors at the Senior Center during September and 5,439 in October.
There were several free-flowing discussions among the commissioners and the staff throughout the meeting.  They included:

John McGlinn continued to express his view that there should be a strategic plan for the future operations of the Senior Center.  He also expressed concern about the budget for the Senior Center, wondering how they can plan for activities when there is no real solid number of actual participants, as opposed to folks who are just members.  He also expressed concern that membership was free. In response Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau advised him that the City Council has determined that membership would continue to be free for the next year or so.  She will bring to the commission budget information for the remainder of the fiscal year at their meeting in January.

McGlinn's concerns generated a discussion about methods of keeping track of member participation, Commissioner Janet Krochman suggested identity cards with card readers as a pricey option.  Chair Ernie Feeney suggested a sign near the new sign-in location in the lobby to help remind members they are required to sign in.

Dr. Kirk Bauermeister suggested a 3-5 year plan to facilitate budgeting.

Several commissioners expressed the view that things are better and, from the nodding of heads in the small audience, it appeared that they agreed.

Commissioner Anne Perry commented positively on recent coverage of the Senior Center in the news media and on CMTV, but expressed concern about the Senior Center web site and Facebook page.  Recreation Manager Travis Karlen advised her that the old web site was owned by a member of the former Senior Center staff, who has refused to release it, so Karlen is working around the issue by acquiring all the other domain names similar to it and will be building a new web site.  Lawyers have been involved, but the individual - not a former director - actually owns the domain name and cannot be forced to relinquish it.

Feeney generated a discussion about what the process might be if an individual wishes to donate to the Senior Center.  Letourneau advised that folks could donate through the Costa Mesa Foundation, with earmarks for the Senior Center.  The Foundation would route the funds to the city for use at the Senior Center.

There was a complaint by Feeney about the tardy receipt of The Chronicle and Letourneau advised it was a complication with the printer that was being resolved.

The meeting wrapped up at 10:00 a.m. with a reminder that the next meeting will be January 12, 2016 at 9:00 a.m.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Planning Commission Does The Right Thing - Twice

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met Monday night with a short agenda, but they managed to stretch it out for two and half hours anyhow.  However, they made up for it by getting it right on both public hearings they considered.

During the Public Comments segment, Beth Refakes
- fresh from the successful candy drive for the children of our adopted Marine battalion at Camp Pendleton - advised us of a holiday toy drive for those children.  The Military Affairs Team will be collecting unwrapped toys for children, most of whom are age seven or under, for the next month and will deliver them down to the Marine base in December.  There will be information posted on the city web site soon.
Westside businessman John Hawley expressed concern about how the development of the Westside
is unfolding, indicating that the original plans were for more owner-occupied units but more than
2,000 rentals have been built so far.  He expressed concern for the high density being approved.

Jay Humphrey expressed concern for the lack of enforcement of the Group Home Ordinances.

An unidentified resident opined that "planning" means thinking ahead, then expressed concern about the Boathouse Collective - an agenda item - being located across the street from planned 176 homes.   She then expressed concern about the Group Home situation in our city, and the impact it was having on Hoag Hospital.

During Commissioner Comments Colin McCarthy praised the City Council for their decision on the Costa Mesa Motor Inn and praised the new restaurant, Raising Cane's.

Tim Sesler announced that the meeting of the Pension Oversight Committee, of which he is a member, has been cancelled.  He then responded to the question about the Sober Living homes, citing that, as much as some might like it, they just cannot be prohibited.

Vice Chair Jeff Mathews and member Stephan Andranian had no comments.

Chairman Rob Dickson addressed the Sober Living issue and asked Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn when the Frequently Asked Question sheet will be available.  The answer was "soon".

Before they got to the meat of the meeting they pulled the "Comparison Matrix For Orange County Cities" Matrix for discussion, albeit a short one.  If you go to the agenda item, HERE, and click on through to the very interesting exhibits I suspect you'll end up much more knowledgeable about development-related issues.  For example, you'll find that - as developers have been telling us for the past few years - Costa Mesa has very tough parking standards.  And yet, we still have underparked projects all over town.  Go figure.

Public Hearing #1, the five-unit small lot development at 261 Mesa Drive didn't take long.  The project has no variances or any kind of deviations.  The ONLY issue was the staff requirement for undergrounding the utilities.  After a lengthy discussion of this issue in general, the commissioners agreed with the applicant, Kerry Smith of Harbinger Homes, that in this case undergrounding the utilities would be ill-advised.  It would actually INCREASE the visual blight of the location!  So, the commission approved the project with the deletion of the requirement for undergrounding utilities on a 5-0 vote.

At 6:40 the commission began hearing the request from the Boathouse Collective for an extension of its Conditional Use Permit involving parking.  Recently they lost their parking venue across the street and have been putting together an effective plan to manage the issue.

The concerns revolved around the utilization of pay Valet Parking, which the owner, Clayton Petrerson, had been experimenting with for nearly two months, since they lost their other parking.

Nine people spoke on the issue, including several nearby property owners, who universally expressed concern for the parking issue.  In addition, more than 20 letters were included in the packet, most of which supported the CUP.  Peterson stressed how effectively their current operations are running now, and the very significant impact UBER has had on their parking situation.  He said that 40% of his customers use UBER!

After nearly an hour of comments and discussion - I'm really giving you the shorthand version here - on a 5-0 vote, the commissioners agreed to allow Peterson to continue with his current plan utilizing pay Valet Parking during normal operations during the week and have the hosts pay for it during special events, of which they apparently have many.  The staff will bring this back after a review in three months to measure the effectiveness of the plan.  One of the options at that time MIGHT be to require the valet parking be free instead of the nominal $5.00 per car.

The meeting ended at 8:35 p.m. with Chair Dickson closing it until the next meeting on Monday, November 23rd.

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Brandon Jacques And Costa Mesa Recovery Homes

Over the past couple days the sad story Brandon Jacques as told on has been floated around Facebook.  I "shared" it with folks on my timeline... then I took the time to read the full text and watch the two embedded video clips - total time, about 15 minutes - from the story.

Brandon's story has been covered by the local media in the past couple years.  You can read about it HERE, HERE and HERE.  In that last one, Hannah Fry's Daily Pilot piece from August 26, 2013, it mentions "Mary Helen Beatificato, Morningside's chief executive".  Well, she spoke at the recent marathon council meeting, so they're still here, defiling our neighborhoods and devaluing our properties.

If you go to the story, HERE, you'll find a very frightening story about what is so very, very wrong with the recovery business that has infested our city.  Watch the video clips and read the full text.  Learn about the incestuousness of this business - how they bounce clients from one facility to another - many without the skills to properly manage the person's addictions.

Listen to both embedded tapes, in which one operator talks about it costing $75,000 per month for his Malibu facility and says, "If you go to the Four Seasons for a month it will cost you, what, $40,000 and what do you get?"

We in Costa Mesa better darn well wise up, because this "industry" is taking over our city.   We're told that, although city officials know where a few of these homes are, they're not acting.  In fact, the above mentioned Ms. Beatificato told us flat out that "You don't know where we are!" during that council meeting.   It's a $35 BILLION dollar a year business!  Do you suppose there's any "palm greasing" money in that big pot?  Just wondering...

Take a half hour... read the article and watch the two clips - they're not together in the text.  You owe it to yourselves and your families.  After you do, perhaps you'll understand why the City and residents are being sued for challenging them.  And, maybe, you'll decide this issue is important enough for you to get involved and contact the members of the City Council to demand they enforce the new laws they've passed.  Get angry that Newport Beach shuffled their recovery home problem across the border to Costa Mesa.  Just get angry, for goodness sake!

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Costa Mesa Senior Commission Meets Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. the Costa Mesa Senior Commission meets again at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 West 19th Street for the last meeting of the year.  You can read the agenda report HERE.  These meetings are usually well-attended, although sometimes some of the attendees will nod off.  Such is life among us seniors.

Tomorrow they will discuss the Mission/Vision Statements for the Costa Mesa Senior Center, HERE, and the Fiscal Year 2014/2015 Accomplishments and the Fiscal Year 2015/2016 Goals, HERE.

On a personal note, I've had the opportunity to visit the Senior Center several times since the City took over operations a year ago and things seem to be going well.  From anecdotal comments by many of the members over the past few months, there seems to be more positive energy in the building - much of it apparently generated by the City Staff under the direction of Recreation Manager, Travis Karlen and Senior Center Program Administrator Yvette Aguilar.  This is good news for all Costa Mesa Seniors, yours truly included.

If you find yourself with a couple hours available in the morning, stop in and observe the commission and staff in action.

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