Wednesday, January 04, 2017

First Council Meeting Of The Year is Memorable

The first Costa Mesa City Council meeting of the year was memorable for many reasons.  To read more about what I anticipated about this meeting earlier go HERE.  You can watch the streaming video of the meeting HERE Be sure to use the "jump to" feature below the screen to jump to subjects you may be interested in if you don't want to sit through almost six and a half hours.

Before we launch off on the details of the meeting(s), let me cut right to the chase.  If you expected this new council configuration to produce harmony on the dais, you were wrong, wrong, wrong.  It didn't take long for Jim Righeimer to further demonstrate that he's a lying, maniuplative, conniving, carpetbagging, public employee-hating political hack.  We'll talk about that later as we go through this post.
And, if you thought Allan Mansoor's return would present us with a more mature,  more polished from his time in Sacramento, less combative and more intelligent presence on the dais, you were wrong again.  What we have is an older, but not any smarter, version of what he was before.  And, he showed us a willingness to engage in disrespectful sparring - an honest-to-God shouting match, for goodness sake - with Mayor Katrina Foley in a return to years past when the two of them jousted on the dais at almost every meeting.  So, as the proliferation of 3-2 votes last night demonstrated, it's going to be a very contentious couple of years.

At 3:30 p.m. three of the council members - Mayor Katrina Foley and members John Stephens and Allan Mansoor - met to launch the extraordinary closed session in which an astounding ten (10) items would be addressed.  Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Genis arrived 10 minutes later.
During Public Comments for the Closed Session a member of the public stepped up and encouraged the council to NOT settle anything with Yellowstone Recovery, one of the issues on the agenda. This member of the public is a long-time recovery home watcher and may be the most knowledgeable person in town on this issue.  She described the operator of this organization, Dr. Honey, as the "worst operator in the city", and described many examples of why she feels that way, dealing with "curbing" - tossing failed clients out onto the streets with their belongings in plastic bags - was only one example.

Genis arrived as City Clerk Brenda Green read the ten items into the agenda, then the four members attending - Jim Righeimer was absent - adjourned to Conference Room 5A for the closed session.
When the council finally surfaced following the Closed Session it was late - the meeting was called to order just after 6:00 p.m. instead of the scheduled time of 5:45.  Contract City Attorney Tom Duarte reported out from the Closed Session on only one of the ten items - Item #6, existing litigation between the City of Costa Mesa and the Kennedy Commission -
indicating that the City Council provided direction authorizing dismissal of Costa Mesa's pending appeal.  The main legal action remains active and will proceed in Superior Court.

During Public Comments fourteen (14) people spoke to the council on a variety of issues.
Cindy Black expressed pleasure on the seating of the new council, then reminded everyone that the Banning Ranch issue will be heard today, Wednesday, by the California Supreme Court and will be live streamed beginning at 8:45 a.m.  The Banning Ranch issue was to be the first item on the agenda.

Gary Parkin reminded the council of the $229 million unfunded pension liability that exists and urges caution when planning on spending money.
Sue Lester asked for the council to bring back the idea of an Ethics Policy, which was rejected by previous councils.  She cited the need for standards to be established.

Georgette Quinn spoke to the problem of the incessant dredging in the Santa Ana River near the Westside.  It has been interfering with sleep by residents on both sides of the river. 

Susan Shaw asked that consideration be given to implementing the Rescue Ambulance program, getting rid of CARE Ambulance Service.
Wendy Leece reitereated the problem with the the dredging in the Santa Ana River and provided contact numbers.

Jay Humphrey addressed John Stephens' plan for illegal fireworks and also told the council about a problem with car carriers blocking sidewalks and bike lanes on Merrimac unloading vehicles during peak "to school" traffic times.  He also complained about the lack of the promised "green wall" at the same car dealership - part of the condition of approval given to the dealership for their recent renovation.
Mary Spadoni thanked all for their contributions to the custom dog cookies to fund Standing Rock Health Programs.  More fundraiser efforts are coming.
Robin Leffler thanked the council, observed that speaker cards are valuable to the staff for creation of minutes.  She asked for consideration to bring back the ABLE helicopter program and also the acquisition of K9 teams for the CMPD.
Tamar Goldmann thanked the new council and Foley in particular.  She observed that her absence at future meetings should be interpreted as a vote of confidence in their ability to handle the job.  She observed a need for an objective study of real parking needs in the city.  She cited "resident only" parking plans that are damaging the fabric of the community.  She also asked for a moratorium on variances, citing the impact of the Small Lot Ordinance.
Kark Ahlf spoke on illegal fireworks.

An unidentified person also talked about New Years Resolutions -  getting rid of the Small Lot Ordinance, the bogus voting district plan and the need for a moratorium on Sober Living Homes - a legal pause - because she didn't think we knew what we're doing.  She also asked to have Dr. Phil stop advertising Costa Mesa as a Sober Living haven?  She also referred to Leffler's comment about the K9 Units, citing - with a playful glance at Righeimer - that dogs don't get pensions.
Ralph Taboada also addressed finances - the budget surplus and suggested more being allocated to paying down the unfunded pension liability.  Recent CalPERS decisions will dramatically increase the City's contribution.  He also recommended re-direction of funds from the library fund to Fire Station #1 so it might be totally self-funded.

An unidentified person asked for some help for the residents to learn to navigate through the city web site, suggesting coordination with the Senior Center publication, The Chronicle.  She cited the need for inclusiveness.

Sandy Genis led off the Councilmembers Comments segment.  She began by calling for inclusiveness, then addressed Jay Humphrey's concern about car carriers.  She also told us that she's planning a workshop on infrastructure - to gather input from the public on what they want to see in the way of needed infrastructure improvements.
Rookie councilman John Stephens was up next and opened with an observation of the recent article in the Los Angeles Times on the City of El Monte and their pension situation, which was exacerbated and facilitated by a lack of public participation and awareness.  He thanked the audience for their participation, observing that it could never happen that way in Costa Mesa today.  He also addressed the illegal fireworks issue, stating that there will soon be a meeting - a public outreach event - to address that very subject.  He observed that Snoopy House was awesome, thanked the staff for their efforts.  He also asked Hatch about the costs involved in putting that event together.  He also spoke about working with our various attorneys to provide more information on on-going and pending litigation.  He also expressed interest in a Rose Parade Float.
He said he's glad to be here and glad to be working with this new council, but threw cold water on the idea that all the problems will be solved.  He mentioned the El Monte article, then launched off onto a screed about our retirees.  He observed that our top five retirees get more than $200,000 per year, but his list included some under that number.  That's OK... facts don't count with him... only his opinion counts.  He told us we have 100 people getting more than $100,000 a year in pensions, and that we have more retirees than we have employees on the payroll.  Gee, how odd that a 60 year-old city would have more retirees than employees - especially since he and his gang of marauders have systematically chopped the city staff for the past almost 6 years!  What a hypocrite!  He then said this city council got elected because the union did a lot of their work to get elected.  That drew murmurs from the crowd.  He quoted people who "told him" about encounters with firefighters at their doors during the campaign who "basically said you're not safe".  In response to the comment above about the K9 unit not getting a pension, he launched into a screed about the handler getting more money for managing the dog and that money is pensionable.  He then told us that libraries are not a problem because we have a big budget and we can afford those kind of things.  No, he told us, the problem is full time employees that have pensions we cannot afford.  He said it won't get solved by throwing a few million here and a few million there at the problem.  He said we need to get everybody in a room, including the people getting the checks, to discuss it, otherwise it won't get solved.  He said, "I will say this uncategorically, nobody, nobody who works in government should have a $200.000 pension check - period!" He reminds me of those kids in junior high school who would look around the shower room enviously thinking, "Gee, I wish mine was like that!"  The man has a serious case of pension envy!
Mansoor was up next.  He thanked everyone for coming out.  He asked Hatch to check on the dredging issue brought up earlier and the car carrier issue.  He offered to meet with anybody if they have problems navigating City Hall.  He also addressed the Pension issue.  He told folks they can do their own research.  He said he's glad he's able to respond directly to your comments right after you make them instead of you having to wait three or four hours.

Foley welcomed everyone, addressed the speaker cards - optional use.  She also said they're going to try to reserve the front row for folks who wish to speak during Public Comments.  She thanked the speakers for their respectful communication and looked forward to more.  She thanked the staff involved for the Snoopy House effort again this year.  She asked for suggestions for how to make Snoopy House better in the future.  She mentioned that we're going to be seeing a record year at South Coast Plaza this year - great for the city because of the sales tax revenue generated by that venue.  She also mentioned the recent announcement that the San Diego Chargers may be relocating to Costa Mesa.  We may know about that in a couple weeks.   She also commented that the "Transport Model" - the full utilization of the Rescue Ambulances - will be coming back to the council for consideration in the near future.  She apologized for the late start, indicating the large volume of items before the council now and during the rest of January.  She said "We'll be here every Tuesday night for the month of January."
Hatch had no particular items to discuss during his time on the agenda, except to observe that his office has been working closely with the council members to determine their goals and dreams.  He also mentioned a new "tracking sheet", to help coordinate things that will take significant amounts of staff time.

Foley also mentioned that she will be having "office hours" at City Hall from 10 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. beginning Friday the 13th.  Uh, oh!

Two items were pulled from the Consent Calendar - Items 3 and 4.  The remainder were passed on a 5-0 vote.
Public Hearing #1 is an Urgency Ordinance dealing with Marijuana.  Interim Development Services Director Jay Trevino presented this to the council.  The request will, if passed, give the staff time to determine how best to implement Prop. 64, passed on November 8th.  It requires a 4/5ths approval.  The council passed it, 5-0.  The staff will return on the February 8th meeting to ask for an extension so the issue can be fully vetted and proper procedures for the implementation of Prop. 64 can be created.

At 7:11 p.m. the council began hearing Public Hearing #2, the de novo hearing about Holiday, the lounge/club on the Westside of town.  Much controversy has existed regarding noise bleeding into the neighborhoods adjacent to this location.  I mention the start time because it took until 9:54 p.m. for the discussion and considerations to finish and a vote taken on the issue.  I'll give you the shorthand version.  Following a staff report by Principal Planner Minoo Ashabi the applicant's representative, Karen Martin, and her team made a long, very detailed presentation.  They spoke about having had two sound firms dealing with the issue, the most recent of whom was Gary Hardesty, the man who worked the noise issues at the Pacific Amphitheater.
Twenty-eight people spoke on this issue - a dozen in support and the remainder against.  Among those speaking in favor of this operation was Tom Johnson, former Daily Pilot Publisher, current radio host and President of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.  The main opponent of this operation was resident Steve Chan, who lives closest. Following a long negotiation with the applicant, using Hardesty's expertise, the council finally voted to approve the request for live music with certain conditions - modification of hours of operation and a review in 6 months.  The vote was 4-1, with Righeimer voting no.  An interesting sidebar - during this nearly 3 hour discussion he said not a single word.  Methinks he may have been playing Angry Birds on his smart phone.  Foley called for a break and they reconvened at 10:06.
Public Hearing #3 is the consideration of the current Citywide Traffic Impact Fees, which have not changed for eleven years.  Interim Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman guided the discussion, which included public input from resident Rick Huffman, who wondered why we've never seen comparisons on what other cities charge, the council approved the measure - to retain the current rate of $181 per Average Daily Trip, but asked for a study to be done to include other cities programs.  The whole thing took four minutes.
New Business #1, a new ordinance amending the city codes to change the title of CEO and Assistant CEO to City Manager and Assistant City Manager.  Ashley Garcia of the City Manager's office made the presentation.  Four members of the public spoke on this.  Jay Humphrey thanked Foley from bringing it forward.  Beth Refakes wondered how much it will cost.  Robin Leffler applauded the change, citing that it was appropriate and that returning the title to City Manager more clearly describes the job.  Karl Ahlf also supported the move.  Foley asked Garcia about the costs.. the number was nebulous - she said less than $5,000.  Further discussion determined it was probably closer to $2,000.  Jim Righeimer spoke against it - no surprise there, since this stupid "CEO" idea was his in the first place.  He gave a "little history", which was a rehash of his philosophy that got us this mistake in the first place.  The poor, pathetic guy just doesn't know how to operate when he doesn't have guaranteed votes on his side.  The council passed the resolution on a 3-2 vote - Mansoor joined Righeimer voting no.
Next came New Business #2, which changes the order of the way business is handled during City Council meetings.  This change is overdue and corrects the onerous policies of the previous administration which effectively stifles public comments.  It changes the start times for Closed Sessions to 4:00 p.m. and the regular council meetings at 6:00 p.m.  Five members of the public spoke to this issue, all of whom supported it.  There were no public speakers against the change.
Karl Ahlf, Steve Chan, Beth Refakes, Jay Humphrey and an unidentified woman all supported it.  Chan asked if, and when, it is appropriate for a member of the public to present a challenge to a council member being recused from the discussion of an issue.  Refakes was concerned about having residents wait until the end to hear a response from the council to their earlier comments.

Mansoor moved that the item be approved except that the Council Comments should immediately follow Public Comments - like is it now. 
Righeimer seconded Mansoor's motion, then gave "a little history" - blaming the change to place the Consent Calendar items at the end on - ta, da! - the unions!  He said they pulled every single item during negotiations so he - his majority - retaliated by moving all pulled items to the end of the meeting.  What a petty, vindictive jerk he is!  And, of course, what he said is NOT TRUE!  He then went on to say "That's not gonna happen any more because this majority will give the public employees whatever they want."  Then he went on about the Public Comments, indicating that it was changed to trail commentors to the end after 6:40 p.m. because all people did was stand there and give critical comments.  He then said, "That's not gonna happen anymore.  I'm not worried.  People in TV Land can't see this right now, but it's pretty sparse in here already tonight.. But, clearly, and the mayor's basically said it, she wants to silence the minority here.  She's saying that I want you to speak at midnight."  Well, the plan was for ALL council members to speak at the end of the meeting - not just this whiny buffoon and his not-too-bright sidekick.  He went on to read a letter for loser Al Melone - the guy who finished dead last in the most recent election.  It was pathetic!

Eventually a compromise was reached.  Council Comments will continue to follow Public Comments at the beginning of the meeting, but individual council members will be limited to four (4) minutes at that time.  They will also have a time at the end of the meeting to expound at length on any subject they wish.  CEO and City Attorney comments will be trailed to the end of the meeting.  It passed, 5-0.
At 10:45 they began to discuss New Business #3, the Release of Commissioners from the Planning, Parks and Recreation and Senior Commissions and a recruitment will be conducted to fill those positions from January 4th to January 18th.  A special meetings on January 24 and January 31st to interview and appoint new commissioners.  Sandy Genis asked Trevino if there were any items on the Planning Commission agenda that would be deemed approved if not heard soon.  The answer was no.

Nine members of the public spoke to this issue.

Steve Chan asked that the new districting scheme be considered during this process.

Rick Huffman suggested that it's an opportunity to get new blood from different parts of the city, while acknowledging that having some experience on the commissions is valuable.
Flo Martin disagreed with cleaning house, suggesting that the normal process should continue.

Beth Refakes had concerns about wiping the slate clean.  She presumed there would be staggered terms.  She said just let the ones expire in 2017.  She also questioned the need for a Senior Commission.

Gary Parkin, a member of the Senior Commission for two months, is concerned about "losing his job".
Robin Leffler thought a sweep of the commissions is a good idea.  She said it is traditional.  Current members can re-apply.  She observed that the last couple of cycles have been brutal, when the council majority made it clear that they were chosing sycophants.

Elaine Chan suggested that balance is best.
Cindy Brenneman agreed with the idea of starting over with the commissions.  She jousted with Righeimer, observing that he hand-picked his commissioners.  It's time to clean house.

Arlis Reynolds, a relative newcomer to council members, thought it was interesting.  She encouraged more engagement by residents.  She suggested an evaluation criteria.
Ralph Taboada agreed with Reynolds.  Get qualified people... a diversity of people, both in location and thought.

Mansoor said it's important to have experienced people.  He said every council has a right to choose its commissioners.  He said it's unprecedented.  He moved to let the terms expire naturally.  Righeimer seconded.

Righeimer said that we're firing people.  He said he and Steve Mensinger met with everybody they didn't already know in the process.  He said there's no reason to wipe everybody off.

Stephens said he won't support the motion.  He said let's "get the right people on the bus."  He said "I want the most qualified people."  He said we owe it to the community to open it up.  He wants a qualified, diverse group of commissioners.  He offered a substitute motion, to release the commissioners and council members can nominate up to 3 people from the pool of applicants, including current commissioners who wish to apply.  As mentioned above, there will be two special council meetings - on January 24th and January 31st - at which candidates will be interviewed and selected.  There will be NO commission meetings this month.  The item passed on a 3-2 vote, with Righeimer and Mansoor voting no.
New Business #4, Fire Station #6 and related staffing issues, was next up - at 11:35 p.m.!  Fire Chief Dan Stefano presented this issue.  The plan is to keep our newest, most modern, fire station - #6 - the Metro Station - open and operating without overtime.  The plan calls to staff it with three Fire Captains and three Firefighters.  Currently the CMFD has eight (8) openings.  This would create six more, for a total of 14.  Recruitment is a slow process today because of the demand for firefighters throughout the state and our region.  The three Fire Captain positions would be filled by internal promotions, leaving vacancies for three firefighters.  Much discussion revolved around hiring new firefighters under the PEPRA program - less lucrative than the classic program.  Stefano told the council it is unlikely there would be any recruitment of "classic" firefighters - that all the new ones would fall under PEPRA.
Not surprisingly, Righeimer fought this proposal, saying that it was "political payback" to the firefighters for supporting the new majority in the last election.  If I was Chief Stefano I'd be fuming right about now.  Once again, Righeimer demonstrates his hatred for public employees of any ilk.  Mansoor joined him in opposing the item, saying it should have been part of a Study Session.  Ah, but we haven't had a study session in years because Righeimer controlled all political thought in the city - until the last election.  Righeimer suggested that the Orange County Fire Authority should take over Fire Station #6.  He told Stefano it was a good thing he wasn't asking for 12 positions!  Again, we saw a pure jackass at work.  The council approved the proposal on a 3-2 vote - Righeimer and Mansoor voting no.  That vote was taken at 12:15 a.m. this morning!

The trailed Consent Calendar items were heard at this time.  Item #3, the minutes, were sent back to the City Clerk to clarify the language in the minutes.  Resident Robin Leffler pulled it and suggested the language did not actually reflect what happened.  The minutes will be reviewed and returned.  Mansoor and Stephens abstained from the vote since they were not on the dais at the meeting.

The person who pulled Item #4 had left so the council passed it on a 5-0 vote.
In his report Contract City Attorney Duarte said there is a litigation log being prepared to help with transparency on legal issues currently being handled in the City.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:19 a.m. to January 17th.

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Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

For years Katrina and Sandy have been marginalized, ignored and ridiculed. They are being much nicer to Jim than he was to them. This was only his first meeting being on the minority side. How will he fare in the long term?

1/04/2017 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I've never seen anyone sound so stupid as Righeimer did last night. Now that he's in the minority, his old, worn out and pathetic rants just sound sad. I almost felt sorry for him trying to make himself sound relevant. Epic fail.

Same with Mansoor. Someone should tell him he's not in charge anymore. He's just a nasty irrelevant little man. His attack on Katrina trying to convince anyone that she made a racist remark was pathetic coming from him. He needs to get a grip on himself. He's in the minority and will remain there. Better get used to it.

Very glad to see the council majority putting residents and public safety first. Its about time we have a responsive and responsible council.

Looking forward to sigh of relief with intelligent people in control.

1/04/2017 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

The picture is clear- the little dicktator is back to square one now that he's in the minority.

He started his time on council by attacking public employees and he's back at it again with full force. He sees this as his path to getting control again. His submissive, Minuteman Mansoor, will do and say whatever he and the Newport bosses demand of him.

In 2011 this insidious agenda helped trigger the death of city employee Huy Pham. Hopefully no more lives will be lost to the twisted manipulations of this small group of self-serving punks.

Foley, Genis, and Stephens are much smarter than these puppets. Das Rigmarshal cannot and will not regain power in Costa Mesa.

1/04/2017 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Beyond 25,550 Days said...

An improvement - Council Comments will be limited to four (4) minutes!

1/04/2017 08:07:00 PM  
Anonymous zennymoon said...

Happy New Year, the hope of a cohesive, engaged council went out the door after Riggy's worn out union, yawn, rant. I was hoping there was enough love of the city to form a working council made up of all elected's. So much for 2017 New Year's wish, out the flippin door. The Holiday hearing was stacked with so many residents that hailed the Holiday as if it was the Hollywood Bowl. Bar baby, bar. Some of the fawning speakers should have announced they were investors. One speaker supporting
Holiday, once fought for the safety and peaceful enjoyment of "her" neighborhood only to throw another neighborhood under the bus for the love of $$$. So much for love thy neighbor, unless it interfere's with their investment and profits. Disappointing for families that have had their ability to sleep, in their own homes, denied. Karma is a beotch..

1/05/2017 01:08:00 AM  
Anonymous CMTaxpayer said...

Dictator of one dictatee now, of course that didn't stop him. Anyone else notice how he made sure he spoke up first and made everything nice and clear for Mansoor to follow up?

Later I got a laugh out of how he explained to Mansoor and Stephens that they could vote on items even if they weren't there when the discussion took place and didn't know anything about it. He instructed them that they didn't have to excuse themselves. I can't believe anyone ethical would want to vote on an item from a past meeting that they knew nothing about. Uh, okay, I just said it: ethical. I guess I just explained to myself why such advice came from Righeimer.

1/05/2017 01:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

I wonder if Mensinger watched the City Council meeting the other night or was he just sitting in a dark room still trying to figure out how he lost out to Mansoor?

1/05/2017 01:29:00 PM  

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