Monday, September 05, 2016

Small Agenda Faces City Council Tuesday

The Costa Mesa City Staff, apparently not eager to overwork the City Council after their nearly month-long hiatus, has prepared a very small agenda for their meeting Tuesday, September 6, 2016.  The agenda for that meeting, which begins at 5:45 p.m. in City Council Chambers, may be viewed HERE.

As is usually the case, the regular meeting will be preceded by a Closed Session commencing at 5:00 p.m.  This one has three items on the agenda, the most interesting of which is the third item, which says: Threat To Public Services of Facilities.  Security Briefing by Rob Sharpnack, Chief of Police.  I don't ever recall this item having been on previous agendas, so perhaps when the regular session convenes someone will "report out" that information - or at least the reason for it.

Following the Costa Mesa Minute, the Mayor's Award, Public Comments, Council Members' Reports, Comments and Suggestions and CEO Tom Hatch's Report, if any, comes the Consent Calendar.

As has been the case over the past couple years, the Consent Calendar this time - items which are supposed to be "routine in nature" and would be considered with one vote - is packed with interesting stuff that you'll probably not hear about unless someone pulls them for separate discussion.  If that happens those items will be trailed to the end of the meeting to meet the Mayor's intent to stifle discussion of issues.  I won't comment on every item on the Consent Calendar, but I will give you my thoughts on a few of them.

Item #2, Warrant 2562, HERE, represents the expenditure of over $8.6 million of your tax dollars.  Because this warrant is so huge, with so many entries, I'm not going to attempt to list items, but  I will summarize some issues.  You can go to that link and just scroll down through the payments and seek out pearls for yourself if you wish.

Legal Fees!
Legal fees continue to spin the meter.  This time around we paid nearly $420,000, most of which went to our contract City Attorney, Jones & Mayer - something just under $200,000.

Trying To Fill Empty Slots
Consulting services and contract employees also continue to be a large part of our monthly expenditures.  We're spending at least tens of thousands of dollars each month on consultants and contract employees filling holes in the organization due to unfilled vacancies.  More on that later.

Jail and Streets
We spent outsourcing companies more than $110,000.00 to have our Jail staffed and our streets swept.

Two Hundred Grand in BIA Receipts
We wrote a check to Travel Costa Mesa for $213,369.36 which represented the VIA Receipts for June, 2016.

More New Library/NCC Fees
We also paid Johnson Favaro LLP $170,748.00 for their consultative support on the new Library/Community Center project.

Saving Money On Undercover Cop Cars
On the other hand, we spent only about half as much as usual to Enterprise Rental Cars for Undercover Police cars.  I guess we don't have enough cops to go undercover these days, so we're saving a few bucks on that line item.

Helicopter Services from NEWPORT BEACH?
I did notice a funny entry.  Apparently we cut a check to the City of Newport Beach for helicopter services  for June, 2016, in the amount of $26,385.50.  That's interesting, since I didn't know Newport Beach had any helicopters and also thought we had a contract with Huntington Beach for helicopter services.  Wonder what's up with that?

Which brings me to one final observation on the Warrant.  In recent months, unlike in previous years, we've seen several entries correcting previous errors.  This entry for helicopter service may be a similar situation.  This is NOT a place where sloppiness can be tolerated, so it makes me wonder just who's paying attention in the process.
Item #5, HERE, is the resolution for the application of $1 million in grant funds to help replace grass with artificial turf on a couple fields at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex.  It will still cost the City an additional $3.5 million.
Item #7, HERE, contains amendments to the Field Use and Allocation Policy (FUAP) as recommended by the Parks and Recreation Commission at its July meeting.  It includes a Field Use Code Of Conduct.
Item #8, HERE,  is an amendment to the professional services agreement with Management Partners to retain Jay Trevino to temporarily (I think) replace departed Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn, who left to join the private sector.  This amendment presently has a $200,000 cap on it - but we've all seen how those caps manage to disappear.

Item #9, HERE, is a similar situation with Interwest Consulting Group for Building Official services, apparently to fill the hole left by the recent departure of Khanh Nguyen, our Building Official, and other vacancies in that department.  This one is for $150,000.  You may recall that recently we also saw an approval to spend $900,000 for engineering consulting support.  Hmmm, wonder why we can't retain people?  Could it be the crappy contract the Miscellaneous employees were forced to swallow?  Smart money says it is.
Item #10, HERE,  is the Biennial Review of City's Conflict Of Interest Code.  This one changes - adds and deletes - positions and groups that are subject to the Conflict of Interest Code.  Appendix A, HERE, shows those positions/groups.  I guess I understand it all with this exception.  At the end, under Commissions, it shows only the Parks and Recreation Commission.  What about the Planning Commission and Senior Commission?  And no mention of the City Council, either.  Maybe I'm missing something, but...?

Item #12, HERE, is the Annual Review of the Current Housing Element and Final Review of the Previous General Plan.  Interesting that they will likely just sign this without comment.
Public Hearing #1, HERE, is the city-initiated amendment to the North Costa Mesa Specific Plan related to the Segerstrom Home Ranch Site, 3350 Avenue of the Arts and Sakioka Lot 2 bringing them into conformance with the recently-approved General Plan.  The Planning Commission recently reviewed these items and moved them forward.

Public Hearing #2, HERE, is the Fourth Amendment to the development agreement for the Home Ranch.  Similarly, this brings this project into conformity with the new General Plan.
The final item on the agenda is New Business #1, HERE.  this is a fairly routine item, designating a Voting Delegate and Voting Delegate Alternate(s) for the 2016 League of California Cities Annual Conference in Long Beach, October 5-7, 2016.  Presently Mayor Steve Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Council Member Sandy Genis are registered to attend, so this should be a no-brainer, huh?  Not so fast!  It seems that the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group Candidate Forum is scheduled for October 6th.  And, if that's not enough fun, I understand there may also be some kind of a fundraiser at Monahan's gin mill on the same evening.  This item should be worth waiting for at the tail end of the meeting.

We'll be watching and will report on the festivities following the meeting.  This one should not take long, but one just never knows these days.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I'm a little curious about why we are sending money to Newport Beach. Do remember that Dave Ellis is campaign manager for not only a few of their council candidates, but for Mensinger also. I'd watch this very closely. Do you suppose we are paying for campaign services for Mensinger?

It appears they don't have enough things to throw money at, so they have to lock down the city hall. Oh brother!

I'd like to see a public record request for a breakdown of the legal fees. Probably should have to ask 3 or 4 times, which is the norm, but I'd be curious about what we are paying those legal fees for.

Getting really tired of how our money is being spent without anyone's knowledge.

9/05/2016 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Threat to public services -- what? Are they finally getting the emergency generator fixed that they would never admit didn't work? Paying NB for helicopter services? Probably a careless type since the council MEN don't bother to read this stuff.

9/05/2016 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

ABC: You wonder why the city is spending so much money on consultants and other temp workers. You write …

Item #9, HERE, is a similar situation with Interwest Consulting Group for Building Official services, apparently to fill the hole left by the recent departure of Khanh Nguyen, our Building Official, and other vacancies in that department. This one is for $150,000. You may recall that recently we also saw an approval to spend $900,000 for engineering consulting support. Hmmm, wonder why we can't retain people? Could it be the crappy contract the Miscellaneous employees were forced to swallow? Smart money says it is.

Consider this as an alternative explanation for why we apparently can’t retain people:

Just suppose you held all the power in town, you hated unions, and you hated municipal employees.

And just suppose you wanted to make your mark in the political party of your choice by breaking unions and stripping away benefits such as pensions that employees can retire on. And just suppose it excited you to know that with money you don’t spend on employee paychecks you could buy votes by constructing rock-strewn medians and slurry sealing streets so that voters would think you care for them because you’re trying to improve their quality of life.

Finally, do you think you just might want to use your absolute power by funneling city money to private companies, including ones that understand the concept of pay to play?

I ask you, wouldn’t you do exactly what the Mensinger/Righeimer-led majority has been doing for six years? Wouldn’t you have found ways to drive away all employees, including forcing a crappy contract on them? And then wouldn’t you have forced the city administration to hire consultants and temporary help from private companies rather than hire regular employees who get pensions? And might you have sparked lawsuits aplenty so you could let high-priced law firms suck at the teat of the city treasury?

Of course you would have. After all, you’re not stupid, you’re the sharpest politician in California!

9/05/2016 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Tom, I think you are absolutely correct. Why else would every consultant contract be ignored? They aren't really needed. Just the movement of money.

9/06/2016 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

~~~> Just suppose you held all the power in town, you hated unions, and you hated municipal employees. <~~~

I would end up in prison without a doubt...

9/06/2016 02:36:00 PM  

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