Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Council Meeting Starts Slow, Ends With A Bang!

The Costa Mesa City Council met Tuesday night again.  You can read the full agenda HERE.  It's always kind of tricky to predict how long these meetings will last and last night was no exception.  Only four (4) members of the City Council were present - Katrina Foley was AWOL at some exotic ski resort.  Too bad for her - she missed a lot of fun.

The Mayor's Award was cancelled without explanation, so the Public Comments segment began earlier than usual, even though the meeting began fifteen minutes late.   Fourteen members of the public stepped up to speak on issues important to them that were not on the agenda last night.

A cadaverous old geezer, dressed in his Sunday Best - taking time out from his Trump-touting on his blog - stepped up first and told us how wonderful the new developments on the Westside were.  Seems he takes credit for them since he was on the original city committee that created the overlays that are now being applied - some say misapplied - throughout the Westside to maximize density, increase traffic and otherwise make life miserable for long-time residents.  He told us the Trader Joe's on 17th Street is the highest grossing store in the chain and attributed that to the new development across the street.  Well, I cannot imagine a single resident of Superior Point walking across the street to that store - and the traffic is only going to get worse when the 177 units are built at 17th and Pomona - in the same block.
Flo Martin showed slides of extremely dangerous portions of Fair Drive and asked for greater police presence.  Good luck with that, Flo.
Kim Hendricks amused us by putting Mayor Steve Mensinger on the spot with a slide quoting him from a newspaper article referring to the now-infamous Fairview Park Decomposed Granite trail - a road, actually.  He ignored her.  She also reminded us of the new initiative for which petitions are being circulated for signatures to put it on the ballot.  This one will protect Fairview Park from development.
Reggie Mundakis spoke about Fairgrounds issues, including unenforceable noise contracts and the importation of a Canadian guy to help run the fair.  She wondered why qualified Americans were bypassed and a Canadian imported from a teeny rural fair in that country.  Seems like a good question.
Beth Refakes again reminded us of the Eggstravaganza for the kids of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.  The Military Affairs Team is collecting plastic eggs and small toys and individually wrapped candies to be placed in them for delivery to the children the middle of March.  The footlocker for collection is in the lobby of City Hall.
Mary Spadoni reported much activity on Nextdoor dealing with crime throughout the city.  She also bemoaned the lack of a Nixle presence in Costa Mesa, indicating that Costa Mesa residents - unlike folks in neighboring cities where Nixle is used to communicate with the public - have to use "jungle drums" to get the word out about crime.  She observed that the IT staff was insufficient to do the job.
An unidentified gent complained about speeding on Victoria Street.

An unidentified woman spoke about the recent meeting at Hoag Hospital with the Air Quality Management District to update the public on the testing at the Hixson Metal Finishing company in Newport Beach.  Some may recall that last year it was determined that the company was spewing toxic levels of Chromium 6 into the air - much of which traveled into Costa Mesa - which is one block away.  She wondered why no member of the City Government or staff was present?  I, too, had the same question.  Several residents of Costa Mesa DID attend the meeting and heard the folks from the AQMD tell them that the releases were MUCH better - near or at "background" levels, but that more testing will continue with new processes being moved through the approval cycle in Newport Beach.
Jay Humphrey, who also attended that meeting, also addressed it and said much of what I just mentioned.

Tea Party Tom Pollitt stepped up to tell us that Jeff Arthur, Chairman of the Pension Oversight Committee, has been hospitalized with a very serious ailment - Wegener's Disease - and is in the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital.  Then Pollitt told us that he's been trying to evaluate our labor contracts and admitted that he didn't understand them, but he still showed an illegible spreadsheet on the screen and talked, and talked and talked - well beyond his 3 minutes, but the mayor let him jabber along, even though he cut other speakers off quickly when their time expired.
Al Melone again complained about issues with the Dog Park and was thrown off his pace when the slides he said he emailed to the City Clerk were not available to be shown.  Many breathed a sigh of relief.  Melone, a former candidate for City Council, complained about "mentally-retarded people from Tustin" coming to the Dog Park and not being able to read signs.  He's not a happy guy.
Another unidentified speaker complained about the arbitrary extension of Pollitt's time, then congratulated Fire Chief Dan Stefano for the fine work his staff did attending to her recent injury.

Ralph Taboada observed issues from the last meeting in which dollars were authorized to be spent for engineering work at Costa Mesa High School but the school district can't seem to find enough cash for academic issues.
Tim Lewis again stepped up to address the Red Mountain development near his business on Harbor Blvd.  He has pointed out before - to the council and Planning Commission - that staff messed up with the title of the property in question and wanted answers.
During Council Member Comments  Sandra Genis observed Kim Hendricks presentation and Flo Martins concern for safety on the streets.  She then commented on Reggie Mundakis' complaints about the Fairgrounds and mentioned the fight to keep the Fairgrounds from being sold, and that it was important for the City to keep an eye on that situation.  She also commented on the Nixle situation, observing we needed more police.
Gary Monahan had nothing to say....
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, in a backhand at Genis, said he was not going to make any political comments because he's not running for office this year, to which Genis took umbrage.  She demanded a point of personal privilege to retort Righeimer's jab, indicating that as long as she's up there she's going to do the job to which she was elected and highly objected to Righeimer's remark.  Good for her... but the best was yet to come... stay tuned.
Mensinger made a more veiled criticism of Genis - he IS running for office this year, and told us AGAIN that he walks the streets for the people.  Funny.. there's a name for that, isn't there?
It was then CEO Hatch's time to report, but Mensinger said, "You're going to have a short one, right?" because it's his wife's 51st birthday and he wanted to get home.  What a jackass!

Hatch said only that he would follow-up on the concerns expressed by the public last night.  and they were finished at 6:58, but, because of the stupid rule established by Monahan while mayor, they couldn't begin Public Hearings until 7:00.  That meant the applicant under New Business #1 had to cool his heels for 90 minutes instead of fifteen.  More great management by our "stellar" elected leadership.
Anyhow, Old Business #1, the discussion by Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman of the possible closure of openings in several sound barriers along Victoria Street and one along Fair Drive were discussed.  This slide shows the areas in question.
During Public Comments on this issue seventeen (17) members of the public stepped up and addressed their own particular issue, including the president of the Victoria Street Elementary PTA.  Most, but not all, of the comments regarding the Victoria Street closures were against it.  One used a slide show to show his views on the closures, including one featuring his child snoozing in a cart.  Observations were mostly about safety concerns and the prevalence of vagrants and thieves in that area.  The City conducted a recent survey - which it turned out to be less than thorough based on comments by speakers - to determine the public pulse on this issue.
In the end, the council broke the considerations into three pieces.  They first voted to close items 1, 2, 4 and 7 on the list above on a 4-0 vote.  They then considered #3, Miner Place, separately and eventually voted to close it, too, on a 4-0 vote.  Then they voted 4-0 to do nothing on items 5 and 6, the Victoria Street frontages.

At 8:05 they began to hear Public Hearing #1, Senior Planner Minoo Ashabi guided the first reading of the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance demanded by state law.  After a short discussion - there were no public comments - they  took two 4-0 votes necessary to move this forward to the second reading early in March.
At 8:15 they began New Business #1, the proposed development at 1979 Anaheim Street, where an existing single family home and detached two-car garage will be replaced by three dwelling units, all to be build under the Small Lot Ordinance.
During the brief Public Comments segment an unidentified woman spoke of the bad parking situation along that street, and reminded the council that there is a multi-unit sober living home just a couple doors away from this site.  Speaker Rick Huffman quoted from the original Westside Overlay which requires specific issues - which this project seems not to meet.

The applicant told us these are for sale units, not rentals, and that he wants to "be part of the solution" to Costa Mesa's  affordable housing shortage.  No mention was made about the target price on these units.  When Genis expressed concern about the parking Mensinger spit back at her, "Shall we just abandon garage parking altogether?"  Anyhow, at 8:40 they moved this item on without a vote.  He'll be back with his project before the Planning Commission.
Next came New Business #2, the Financial Reports, HERE.  I gave you that link because there's a whole lot of information to be absorbed in the three segments of Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent's presentation.  Most of the details are in the three attachments on that link.  Those segments are the June 30, 2015 CAFR report; the FY15/16 Mid-year Budget Report and the Five-year financial plan.
This chart shows the thumbnail version of the CAFR.  We ended the fiscal year last June with a $3.6 million surplus, due to revenues being 3% over budget and expenses were 8% below.  The staff report shows the detail, but much of the $8.56 million expense savings was due to vacant positions not being filled.
We now show the pension debt - $214,555,366 - on the balance sheet instead of as a footnote.  This reduced the over all "net position" to $67,402,811, down from more than $270 million the year before.

We currently earmark 6.5% of the budget for Capital projects.  It was mentioned that we have 84 active projects - a huge workload for the staff, which has had to resort to spending nearly $1 million for contract engineers to help manage the projects.

During Public Comments Ralph Taboada asked why the city didn't budget for actual staff dollars instead of budgeting as though every one of the 478 positions were filled as of July 1.  There was a lot of tap-dancing on this issue, but it boils down to the fact that those dollars make it easier to shuffle funds to , for example, justify hiring consultants and other temporary workers.  This is very much like outsourcing without all the nastiness of actually having to lay a bunch of folks off.  We spend thousands of dollars every month on temps and consultants instead of actually hiring new staff.  During his recent speech on Costa Mesa Brief Hatch told the audience that we have 478 authorized positions and only 407 filled.  A nearly 15% vacancy rate is not healthy, no matter how you want to play games with those dollars.
During the Mid-year Budget review we learned that revenues are just about as projected.  The chart below gives you an indication of this trend.
The expenses are another issue, though.  General Fund expenditures are just under $2 million below budget and it is anticipated they will remain below budget for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Of interest is the fact that 90% of Hatch's Contingency Fund has been spent through the end of the year.  That means he has just over 100,000 left for whatever "contingency" might occur between now and the end of June.   This chart shows the expenditures trend.
This chart shows the Employee Salary and Benefits trend for this fiscal year.
This is the first time the Council has seen the Five-year plan.  Read the staff report on this subject if you're interested.  The following is the Conclusion presented to the Council:
(Click to enlarge if necessary)
So, during the discussion Righeimer stated flat out again that he didn't want to spend another extra cent on Pension costs - meaning he didn't want to continue to add an additional $500,000 in the budget to pay down the pension costs.  He ranted and raved about it at length.  This series of images will give you an idea, but you'll actually have more fun if you watch the streaming video - it's near the end.
The best part of the evening, however, was near the end, during the budget discussion.  Genis tried to ask Hatch or Dunivent about the Fire Side Fund - the loan the City has for the Fire Pension obligation on which we pay 7.5% interest.  There has been an amount set aside to pay ahead on that debt.  As she began to ask the question Righeimer said "I can tell you...", but she interrupted his interruption of her and told him - actually, screamed (some would say bellowed) at him - that he should behave and act like an adult.  He just kept jabbering.  She was GREAT!  Righeimer is a bully on the dais and these images show it.  Genis apparently had finally had enough of his antics.  Note that Monahan seems to be trying to find a place to hide as the shouting match ensues...  When it ended he had a look on his face that I've seen on 4-year olds who have gotten away with something....
When the votes came Righeimer tried to get the extra $500,000 removed -  his motion received no second!  Take that!
The meeting ended without further comment from City Attorney Tom Duarte or any other staffers, and Genis never did get her question answered - how did the Fire Side Fund balance increase when it's a simple note, with interest payable each year?  Dunivent said he would investigate.  That's all folks... it was fun, and worth the wait until 9:30.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

"Mensheimer" sets aside money in the budget for people they never intend to hire. That way the budget has extra money for them to shift somewhere else. Since Hatch's contingency fund (the money that "Mensheimer" use for their purposes) is now 90% gone already, they will need to do some fund shifting. They can't do without their personal play fund.

Very glad to see Sandy stand up to the two bullies on the pulpit. Righeimer isn't the mayor, yet he completely acts as if he is. Another reason not to vote for Mensinger in November. He's not up to the job. Never was, and never will be. Interesting though that as mayor pro team, Righeimer decides that HE is not going to pay a cent into the pension liability. As far as that is happening he has no right to complain about it. If he is not part of the solution, which is to start to pay it down, then HE IS PART OF THE PROBLEM. Other cities have figured out ways to pay theirs down, such as Newport, but not us. Why is it always us that have issues that cannot be solved? Sober living homes, pension liability, high crime rates, too much traffic on under developed streets, money going in places we cannot determine, etc. The list just continues.

Had to laugh, that he says he isn't running for office so he won't make any political statements, and then proceeds to do just that. He is a tyrant.

Let's vote Mensheimer out in November and get some real council persons in office this time. We are long overdue for some responsible government.

2/17/2016 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Oh yeah, and one more thing. The lack of a decent reporting system for the CMPD, such as Nixle reporting to residents, even an online reporting system for the crime issues. Every other city has it. But we have "problems". That excuse has been going on for years. Its become a joke. Its evident that our little czar, and the big czar wannabe, have declared that no reporting system will come to fruition. I mean, come on, its been YEARS.

2/17/2016 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Aww.. Poor little Jimbo had to get schooled by Aunt Sandy!

2/17/2016 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Wow, sounds like a bad night for "Mensheimer."
Did the mayor have any original thoughts, or did he simply parrot his emotional twin?

2/17/2016 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Marty Millard looks WHITE as a ghost. His face needs much more COLOR.

2/17/2016 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Thanks for reporting on Jeff Arthur. Jeff and I don't agree on a lot of issues but it's always good conversation.

2/17/2016 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

An interesting recent development, the mayor has almost no comments these days. He seems to have been told to zip his lip. When he makes a comment he is reading something or it seems rehearsed. Maybe I'm wrong, just what it looks like to me. Maybe Jim gets to be the bad guy, and Steve can look more reasonable because as everyone knows the public has a short memory and will forget his rants and insults last year. Hoping that people just now tuning in see him as more electable?

2/17/2016 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

Nobody has bothered to make a comment on the ghoul Millards blog in at least a month. He seems to have even lost the 1 or 2 racist readers he has...maybe they are Rubio supporters.
Yet he continues to submit an entry daily. I would say it's because the writing must keep him alive, but looking at that recent picture, I am not so sure.

2/18/2016 05:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Heart, yes, they are attempting to make him look like a viable candidate. Epic FAIL!

2/18/2016 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I am curious, Hatch mentions that they are attempting to fill the budgeted positions as soon as possible. Don't you think it would be easier to call the temp agency and have them send someone over? Or perhaps do something like, oh I don't know...POST A JOB OPENING?

This tells us that the money is planned for something other than what it is budgeted for. Soon it will be somewhere else.

2/18/2016 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

A few of Riggys standard comments from the most recent CC meeting:

"I'm not running for office"
"The fact of the matter is..."
"The reality of it is..."
"Lets just cut to the chase"
"So the bottom line is"
"The pension model that retire people as young as 50 years of age at 90% of pay"

What a broken record of stupidity, I wonder how many of these are said from past CC meetings and lets see how many will keep showing up at future CC meetings.

2/18/2016 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Jim will keep on having his illogical rants because as he said, he's not running. Steve will keep his mouth shut to avoid saying something stupid. That's how they play the game; to them, it is a game.

2/18/2016 07:24:00 PM  

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