Saturday, June 18, 2016

Good Turnout For Final Voter District Workshop

Today, Saturday, the final Voter District Workshop was held at the Balearic Center and the turnout was good, although smaller than some others.  Around 30 residents showed up to listen to the consultants and participate in a discussion of examples of proposed voter district boundaries that may be presented to the City Council on July 5th.
The event was, once again, moderated by Yesenia Arias from Arellano Associates and the program was conducted by Demographer David Ely.  City Clerk Brenda Green was also present, overseeing the staff and monitoring the proceedings.
Ely provided an overview of how we reached this point, explaining the process that had been followed.  He also briefly explained why we are in the middle of this process - a threatened lawsuit that caused the City of Costa Mesa to sign a settlement agreement that required this process.
Again, there was a good turnout by the Latino community - about a third of the attendees were Latinos, several of whom utilized the simultaneous translation of Albert Garcia. I spoke with a few of those folks after the meeting and was told they got a lot out of the presentation.
There were a few familiar faces in the crowd, including council candidate Jay Humphrey.  Also in attendance were Mike Scheafer and Art Perry, President and Director of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, respectively.
Nearly half the attendees rose to speak on the various maps, citing their concerns and preferences.  Ely has, in previous meetings, used community input and demographics to craft these various choices.  They had not changed from the previous meeting earlier in the week.
Among the concerns expressed were the placement of the College Park community in a district that seemed to be predominently a Westside orientation.  Westside speakers were concerned that they didn't have a voice on the council - someone who actually lives in their district.  The goal of this process is to have at least one district with 50% Latino voters.  As it stands now, District 4 on most of the maps is that district.
Ely presented two maps with five (5) districts; one with six (6) districts (which would also include the necessity for a directly-elected mayor) and one with seven (7) districts.
Near the end of the meeting the consultants did a straw poll, asking the attendees which district maps they prefered.  It was possible to choose more than one.  The results were:
Map 1 (5 districts) - 9
Map 2 (5 districts) - 18
Map 3 (6 districts) - 0
Map 4 (7 districts) - 1

Additionally, during the discussion Ely, guided by members of the public, tinkered with Map 1, adjusting some of the lines to make Harbor Blvd. the right border and took another vote.  14 people liked that one.
Ely will now take all the information gathered from the public - and from input gleaned from folks who utilized the mapping tool on the City website - and prepare his presentation for the City Council, to be delivered to them at the meeting on July 5th.  You can find that, and almost any other information you need on this issue, HERE.  The council will hold a public hearing and accept comments from the public on this issue on that date - right after the Independence Day holiday.
It was interesting to note that, with the exception of Humphrey, no other council candidate except Lee Ramos has taken the time to attend any of these meetings.  One would think that it might be a good way to take the pulse of the community on this critical issue - one that will affect city governance as we move forward.  I expecially wondered why Julie Mercurio chose to miss this opportunity to get information?  I guess she's too busy 'moderating'...
I've written about each of the three previous meetings.  You can find those entries HERE, HERE and HERE.  Fewer than 140 individuals attended these meetings, but those who did attend were enthusiastic and focused.

I look forward to seeing how this process is managed on July 5th.  I get the sense that there are members on the council - perhaps a majority - that will prefer the 6-districts plus directly-elected mayor option.  This, despite the fact that at every meeting this option was not just rejected, but heartily rejected!  It's likely that if they choose to put that option on the ballot the voters will reject it, forcing this issue back into the legal system, where a judge will decide what our voting districts will look like.  Then, again, that shouldn't surprise anyone - our city council majority has become an annuity for lawyers for the past five years.
See you at City Hall on the 5th for this subject.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Mercurio To Be Seated On Thursday

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission meets again on Thursday, June 23, 2016 in City Council Chambers at City Hall beginning at 6:00.  You can read the brief agenda HERE.

This meeting is noteworthy because, even though the agenda is small - a tree removal request and the plant palette for Fire Station #1 - a new member will be seated on the dais to replace Don Harper, who resigned after not making several meetings in a row.

Julie Mercurio, the Queen of the Costa Mesa Public Square - that inaccurately-named Facebook page - will be sworn-in by City Clerk Brenda Green and seated on the dais to join Chairman Brett Eckles, Vice Chair Bob Graham and commissioners Kim Pederson and Byron de Arakal.  I'm sure those gentlemen - and they all ARE gentlemen - will welcome Ms. Mercurio with open arms.
I expect there will be a large turnout for this event since her Facebook page boasts more than 6,600 members.  We'll see.
As I've said before, Ms. Mercurio was the least-qualified of the dozen candidates who threw their hats in the ring for this job, but it came of no surprise to me that the council majority chose her.  She's running for City Council and needs all the positive exposure she can get since she otherwise brings ZERO qualifications to that job - or this one, for that matter.  I'm looking forward to seeing what she does to earn the pay for participating on this commission.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

3rd Voting District Workshop A Great Success

The third Voting By District Workshop is now behind us and it was a big success.  More than 40 people showed up at St. Joachim Catholic Church Wednesday evening and more than half that group were Latinos - the demographic group intended to be positively impacted by making the change in the way Costa Mesa elects city leaders from an "at-large" model to voting by districts.  This was the best turnout of Latino members of our community by far.
The format for this meeting was different than the two previous events.  This time instead of breaking into groups to design district maps consultant demographer David Ely explained his process briefly and explained the evolution of the sample maps on display around the room.  He explained how the districts were created and that each configuration had plenty of wiggle room to tinker with the boundaries without placing the process in danger of violating state or federal law.  The most current versions include two with five (5) voting districts; one with six (6) districts that would be used in concert with a Directly-Elected Mayor and one map showing seven (7) voting districts.  I've displayed those below. (click on them to enlarge)  They are also on the city website.
Number 1 (5 districts)
Number 2 (5 Districts)
 6 Districts (w/Directly-Elected Mayor)
 7 Districts
Each of these are the products of the two previous workshops, the earlier "meet the expert" small group events and submissions by members of the public of their own personal ideas of maps.  The city has available on the web site all the information you need to know to understand this process and actually create your own district voting map using a "kit" provided online.  You can view the appropriate page HERE and follow the links and create your own version if you wish.  Remember, each district must be approximately the same size population-wise.  Each of the sample maps shown are very close - plus or minus 2% (5% is acceptable).  Follow the instructions on the site and have fun.
The group last night was very participative.  Several members stepped up to identify their own personal preference and to ask excellent questions dealing with issues like the statistics being used and why certain characteristics of individual districts existed.  One hot topic was Fairview Park, which can be included in either of a couple of the sample districts.
A straw poll was taken of the participants to see how many preferred one of the four options presented.  Here are the results:
District 7 (seven individual voting districts) - 2
District 6 (six districts and directly elected mayor) - 0
District 2 (one of the 5 district options) - 0
District 1 (the other 5 district option) - basically everyone else
  A sub-vote was taken on District 1.
     Those who chose to leave it as shown - 9
     Those who wanted a change - 29
Most seemed to want a reassignment of Fairview Park, to split it so one district wouldn't "control" it.  Of course, that's a bogus fear because any decision about the park would be made by a council majority vote.
Among the participants at the meeting were former councilwoman Wendy Leece and current council candidate Lee Ramos, although Lee did not identify himself as a candidate to the group.  He was just another member of the community interested in this process.  There were also a generous sprinkling of folks active in community affairs, but the majority of the folks at this meeting were unfamiliar faces - just plain, old normal folks interested in this issue - you know, the kind of folks Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer wants to see at these events.  They ranged in age from very senior to children and every age group in between.  It was a good mix no matter how you sliced it.
Assistant CEO Rick Francis and City Clerk Brenda Green were also in the room, monitoring the proceedings, just as they have at other meetings.
On July 5th the first of two public hearings will be held during the regularly scheduled council meeting at City Hall in City Council Chambers beginning at 5:45 p.m.  Ely will present at least one map for the council members to consider placing on the November ballot for the voters to consider.  The second meeting will be early in August, when the final decision will be made.
The transition from all at-large members to election by districts will take place over two election cycles, presuming the voters approve the choice presented to them.  Two seats will be open in 2018 and the remaining seats will open up in 2020.  The details of how this will work will likely wait until after the election.  And, complicating things, there will be a new census taken in 2020, which means our voting districts will almost certainly have to be re-assessed following the availability of those numbers.
The question was asked about term limits for a directly-elected mayor should that option be selected.  Ely opined that since our term limits rules were in place before there was a directly elected mayor they would likely not apply to that position, unless the ballot measure includes language defining term limits for the directly-elected mayor.

The next meeting - the final one in this part of the process - will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Balearic Center, 1975 Balearic Drive from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  The format will be the same and the consultants are hoping for another well-attended event.  Hope to see you there.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

OCC Planetarium Groundbreaking Tomorrow

Tomorrow at noon on the campus of Orange Coast College there will be a groundbreaking ceremony for their brand new Planetarium.  This special event is part of their Vision 2020 program for expansion and enhancement of many campus facilities. 

Read more about this amazing new facility HERE.  The attached flyer has the particulars.  The public is welcome.  A light lunch will be served.

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General Plan Moves To Final Step

The Costa Mesa City Council met for a Special Council Meeting Tuesday night with a single subject on the agenda - the 2015-2035 General Plan and Environmental Impact Report.  Well, MOST of the council was there.  Lamest of lame ducks, Gary Monahan, was a no-show again.
Director of Development Services Gary Armstrong kicked things off with a short introduction, then handed off to consultant Laura Stetson from MIG to get things rolling.  She has been the point person in this process for the nearly four (4) years it has taken us to reach this point.  I'm not going to attempt to paraphrase her - I'll just let her slides do the talking.
Armstrong then took the ball back and went through segments of the staff report, HERE.  This document, and the attachments, makes for some formidible reading, but many answers are there.
Next up was consultant Daryl Zerfass of Stantec, who helped with the transportation elements of the General Plan.  His charts were too numerous and too difficult to read in this format, but can be found in the staff report.
Then came Roger Dale with a refresher of the Financial Impacts.
Up next were Public Comments.  To his credit, Mayor Steve Mensinger had a change of heart and decided to allow speakers three (3) minutes instead of two that was announced.  Good for him.  Twenty-six (26) people spoke over the next sixty-five (65) minutes, but I'm not even going to attempt to cover all of them.  Please watch the video of this meeting for all the details.  Here are some samples, though.

Beth Refakes questioned the overlay zone on Harbor Boulevard and wondered about the revenue generated by public storage units.  Because mention was made of comments to the EIR being lost - at least temporarily - she suggested a more refined system be used to manage comments in this process.  An interesting sidebar - Councilwoman Katrina Foley asked her as she left the podium what would her druthers be for Harbor Blvd.  The question caught her off guard, so she danced around it.
Jay Humphrey provided a little slide show using several of the images projecting what certain specific sites throughout the city may look like if development plans presently in the works are completed.  These two slides show the site of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn before the proposed project and after.  He had several similar comparisons and, just as they did in the recent Town Hall, they evoked murmurs from the audience.
Steve Lamott (sp?) representing the Building Industry Association spoke, telling us that the rate of growth in California has slowed and that the population is aging, with one in five 65 years of age or older.
Dr. Richard Mehren observed that the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance initiative to protect the park from development has qualified for the November ballot.
Jim Kerins - a member of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee -  used his three minutes to speak of the life-style preferences of GenXers and Millenials and eventually alienated every person in the audience over 50 with this statement - which had a very familiar ring to it as he carefully read from a piece of note paper after winging the earlier part of his presentation. "So, let's not let allow a vocal, selfish minority who won the genetic lottery and was born first to speak for all future generations who desire to live here in Costa Mesa."  Well, I'll just assume for the purpose of discussion that he was including me in that group and tell you that I'm pretty darn offended by it!   Is he saying us old folks - many senior citizens DO take the time to study issues and speak about them at council meetings - are not entitled to a voice on the future of our city?  He's telling us that his parents generation, who worked hard, raised families and created a good life for themselves, are no longer entitled to an opinion on important municipal issues!  Well, Jim, here's a message for you.  Us geezers pay attention to issues and we VOTE in the highest percentages of any other age group, so don't bother running for office in Costa Mesa - any political aspirations you might have had are toast!
Margaret Mooney observed that there were a lot of dwellings going up with no additional park space and wondered about the council's committment to parks.
Cindy Black challenged Kerins comments and corrected his math, since he got the percentage of the city affected by the General Plan as proposed by half.  She also suggested that the council watch the recent Town Hall on the Costa Mesa Brief YouTube channel.
Anna Vrska was the final speaker and she agreed with the majority of the speakers who preceeded her.  Among the observations she made were about the large number of innacuracies and mistakes in the document - a fact that was mentioned by others, including council members, during the meeting.
During the public comments Righeimer told a couple speakers who addressed the lack of affordable housing that he wanted to get together with them, so call him.  At least he didn't say he wanted a cup of coffee with them this time.

Then, for the next 90 minutes the council discussed and dissected the documents.  Sandra Genis used some time to plow through the staff report and attached documents, dredging up important details that were problematic.  She was concerned about the quality of the analysis in some areas and conflicting legends on some of the maps provided.  At one point Foley suggested that she just present the list in order so the staff could compile them for correction. While this was going on both Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer seemed amused and bored at the same time.
During the discussion Righeimer said he had watched the Town Hall and found it to be biased and inaccurate.  Uh, huh... didn't expect more from him.  He then went off on a rant about the changes being proposed are "deminimus" - one of his favorite words - and couldn't understand why folks were getting so excited about it.  The traffic projections from the previous General Plan have not been met, so he chided the consultant for getting THAT one wrong, and wondered if he's wrong on this one, too.  In fact, during that interrogation of the traffic consultant he suggested that, since the traffic projections from the PREVIOUS General Plan update in 2002 had not been met, we should just take that document, stamp it and send it on it's way and not mess with this process!  I'm confident that the staff and consultants - who have spent thousands of hours and at least a million dollars on this process - were quite happy with that bloviating observation.
Adding to the cluelessness of the evening, Mensinger went off on a riff about his home town, Modesto, California.  You may know that it's located in the north part of the Central Valley and was supposedly the scene of the classic coming-of-age movie, American Grafitti.  Well, Mensinger told us that his Aunt was a politician in Modesto and she fought development so now Modesto is a mess!  Well, I can practically hear Aunt Peggy spinning in her grave.  I'm not going to go into this in detail, except to observe that Mensinger's Aunt Peggy is legendary in Modesto - there's a trail in a local park named for her and more.  If you're interested, read about her impact on that town HERE and in her obituary, HERE.  She was warning about situations exactly like those her nephew is facilitating here!
Foley got the floor and began making motion after motion on the items listed on the first page of the staff report and driving Mensinger and Righeimer nuts.  It was actually kind of fun to watch.  At one point one of her motions was based on a number in the staff report that turned out to be a typo - which made her VERY angry, since there were way, way too many of those gaffes in this document.
She told us that the city was completely out of balance.  No, she didn't mean the people being off-balance, although...  she meant the homeownership vs. renter ratio is way off.  We have well over 60% of our residents renting shelter.  She wants to create situations where that gets reversed because she thinks owners behave for the long haul and renters tend to just live in the moment.

She was not completely successful in the motions she made.  She wanted to "re-order" the ratios of open space and other uses on the Fairview Developmental Center but the council didn't support it.  She wanted to remove the residential overlay from Newport and Harbor Boulevards but it also failed.  Quite honestly, these motions were coming so fast and furious, and the yapping among the council members - who didn't turn on their microphones - was so distracting, that I didn't get all the votes accurately.  Perhaps Daily Pilot stalwart Brad Zint did and will report it for us.  Perhaps I can piece it together when the video is available.  Sorry about that.
The council will hold another public hearing on this issue next Tuesday the regular council meeting.  That probably won't take too long, since it will just be a clean up of some of these issues and they plan to vote to accept the General Plan at that meeting.  We'll see.

At Genis' suggestion Mensinger adjoured the meeting in memory of those who lost their lives in Orlando recently.

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