Sunday, May 07, 2017

It's Time To Say Adios

One of the certainties of life is change.  Most of us go through phases in our lives when things change - childhood, school, young adulthood, career(s), kids, empty nesters, retirement and... well, you get the picture.  Today I find myself at another one of those change points. 
When I wrote my very first commentary to the Daily Pilot fifteen years ago it began a change in my life that has proven to be both positive and negative,  simultaneously - just as are most things in life.  From that embryo - and several dozen letters to the editor and commentaries in local newspapers -  this blog has emerged in a couple different iterations.  I wrote my first blog entry using a different blog host - I've referred to it as a "bare bones" blog - on July 9, 2005, cautioning us about the possibility of the use of eminent domain to facilitate change on the Westside of town.  I shifted to this site, where comments are permitted and images are accommodated,  on November 1, 2006.  Now - more than 3400 entries later, with tens of thousands of page views each month (3 million total and counting), several acknowledgements as a top blogger in the area and many new friends (and more than a few enemies) - it’s time for another change.  Although I know my efforts have made a difference in our community, it’s time for me to stop blogging.
As some of you know, last year threw me a very significant curveball health-wise.  Last June a pulmonary embolism, apparently caused by a tumble I took a couple months earlier,  nearly cost me my life.  When the emergency room doctor told me I was lucky, because there were four things that could have happened and the other three would have killed me immediately, it got my attention.  Ever since that time I’ve been dealing with the after effects of that event and other little nuisances that happen during the course of this steady march to geezerdom and it’s slowed me down significantly.  Changes had to be made - including how I did this blog.
No longer can I attend a meeting until midnight, then come home and write until dawn to meet the expectations of a few thousand people who have grown accustomed to my views awaiting them when they dragged themselves out of bed.  Now I go home, hit the sack and begin putting things together in the morning, with the end result being posted sometime after noon.  It takes longer because I must interrupt my composition to pry myself out of my chair to give this old body some exercise, lest another nasty blood clot manifest itself in a way that would have a very unhappy ending.
Last month my sweet and very patient wife - and caretaker of my new health protocols - decided to retire from the business she and her two younger brothers have successfully operated for more than four decades.  When she stopped going to the office it marked the first time in our forty-nine years of marriage that we both were out of a job - unless you count this as “a job” - and it’s been very interesting.
Now we are planning this next phase of our lives together, which will include the celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary in August and much more travel to many venues we’ve wanted to visit, but just couldn’t carve out the time to do so.  And, it will certainly include many more frequent visits to our favorite getaway on the Central California Coast.  We’re getting very excited about planning these adventures.  And, after many weeks of contemplation and consultation, I just don’t see a way to fold into those adventures the time it takes to continue writing this blog.  It’s not practical and not fair to her, even if I was up to it.  And, of course, there are these nagging health issues which have forced me to abandon my personal mantra - “You only have a certain number of heart beats and none should be wasted on exercise.” - and have caused me to contemplate an exercise program that will also cut into my day.  And, so, we move on...
I’ve enjoyed nearly every single second of the time I’ve spent presenting my thoughts for you, my loyal readers.  Some of you have become more informed, others have been entertained and more than a few have been angered.  I smile when I think of all those reactions to what I write.  Perfection remains an elusive goal.  I acknowledge that I’ve not always been correct in my views, but I’ve always tried to do my homework, study the issues, attend the meetings and provide my best assessment of what I’ve seen and heard.  Some of you have agreed with me and some certainly have not, but I’ve always appreciated your thoughts and have considered them carefully as I tackled the pithy issues facing our community.  I have always appreciated the kind words from those of you who have chosen to write to me. 
I’ve also appreciated the praise and encouragement from professionals in the local media.  Former Publisher Tom Johnson and editors, Bill Lobdell, S.J. Cahn, Brady Rhoades, Tony Dodero and John Canalis of the Daily Pilot, for example, have encouraged me, tolerated me, edited and published my too-wordy submissions to make them better, and have chosen me to be part of the DP 103 list of those folks they considered to be influential in our community several times.  Obviously, despite their best efforts, I have still not mastered brevity.  I have abandoned that as a goal.  Many of those editors also offered me a regular column in that fine newspaper - a dozen times, in fact - and I thanked them, but gratefully turned them down.  I’m not geared to be “edited”, nor could I write “on assignment” - I write about what interests me.  I’m also grateful to other local publications and blogs who have offered similar opportunities, and to Gustavo Arellano and the editors of the OC Weekly, who selected my blog as the Best in OC a couple times.  And, of course, I’m grateful to my friend, Byron de Arakal, whose Daily Pilot commentaries many years ago provoked my very first efforts to influence the populace.  This has all been pretty heady stuff for an old guy with marginal writing skills,  a skull full of opinion and too much time on his hands.
When I began this effort - that word really doesn’t seem right, since this has been less an “effort” than a pursuit of a passion - my goal was to encourage more folks to pay attention and get involved in local issues.  I take great pride in the fact that I’ve met that goal, and then some.  More people have become engaged in local issues due, at least in part, to some of the things I’ve written.
I’ve recently tested the waters about stopping this blog with a couple very wise close friends who have asked me to consider simply just cutting back - attend fewer meetings, write fewer words, post fewer entries.  I appreciate that advice and have given it a lot of thought.  However, in my opinion, a big part of the value of what I’ve been doing has to do with continuity.  Attending most important meetings, hearing the comments and seeing the players in action has given me a perspective unlike most others.  If I were to curtail those activities it wouldn’t be long before I would lose the continuity of events and the quality of this product would decline.  I’m not eager for that to happen.  I guess I’d rather stop somewhere near the peak instead of sliding slowly downhill toward the abyss of insignificance.
Others have suggested I find someone else to either share the writing or to take over A Bubbling Cauldron completely.  That is not an option.  What you’ve read on these pages has been my work product, based on my observations and my opinions.  No, I will retain the domain, toss some water on the flames that keeps this pot boiling and simply let it cool.  I might occasionally resurrect this site from time-to-time, so I suggest you go to image shown above on my Home Page and click on it to use one of the readers available to be alerted when a new entry pops up.  And, I will continue to post any future entries on my Facebook page and on my Twitter feed, too... but those will be few and far between.  And, because things continue to happen in this city, I suspect I’ll be reacting to events on both those platforms, too - just not via the blog.
Before I douse the fire under the old Cauldron I do want to leave you with a few thoughts - for whatever they are worth.
First, I want to express my gratitude to every single employee of the City of Costa Mesa.  Much of what I've written has been about them.  I’ve gotten to know many of them quite well over the years.  The trauma many have endured, particularly over the past decade, has been very difficult for them, but they have persevered.  I’ve watched as previous council majorities tried to eviscerate the organization, leaving only anxious, beleaguered employees in the wake of that activity.  I’ve seen new folks come and go. I’ve seen many long term employees retire or simply seek a different pasture - I hesitate to call them “greener” - for a variety of reasons.  During all my contacts with City employees I’ve ALWAYS found them to be helpful, professional and eager to do a good job.  I will always be grateful for that.
Second, to those of you have become loyal readers - thank you.  Those two little words hardly seem enough.  I have appreciated your participation in the issues of our times.  I know some of you balked when I was forced to require commentors to register, but many simply did the necessary confidential registration and continued to provide us with their insights.  As I’ve said many times, I’m very disappointed that folks with differing viewpoints refused to participate - comments that echo what I write are always welcome, but I much prefer a spirited, intelligent debate, with differing views provided.  Alas, that seldom happens.  On that note, I’ve ceased the registration requirement.  Anybody can now post a comment, but I still have to view each comment before approving it for publication.  If I think someone has attempted to use another’s identity I simply will not post it.  If someone posts language that will offend others, I will not post it.  I will post opposing viewpoints.  It really won’t be much of an issue, since there will be few entries on which to post comments.  In many cases I suspect our relationships will cease because I’ve stopped publishing this blog, since we have been bound together in our common interests on city issues and I’m walking away.  That will sadden me, but I do understand...
Third, while I’m generally happy with the present configuration of the new City Council and the commissions and committees they have appointed, I’m not particularly pleased with how things have been going.  I agree with many of their plans for the direction this city will be taking for the next couple of years.  But, in my opinion, the strained relationships on the dais need to be resolved quickly.  The core of City Council - Mayor Katrina Foley, Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Genis and Councilman John Stephens - make up a group of dedicated, intelligent, clear thinkers who know how to frame arguments and persuade others.  I’m not unhappy that Jim Righeimer and Allan Mansoor are in the minority and I suspect we’ll see many 3-2 votes as the months progress... such is life.
There are several major issues that the new council majority will be working on that will effect all of us.  For example:
The Lions Park Project, which replaces the existing Neighborhood Community Center with a new, state-of-the-art two-story library and converts the existing Donald Dungan Branch Library into a new, smaller community center.  The project also creates a new acre of public parkland.  Ever since this project was proposed the costs have escalated.  You all need to pay attention to that because there’s no doubt that trend will continue.

The Directly-elected mayor/District Voting scheme will begin implementation for the 2018 election cycle.  Candidates for that mayor slot are already jockeying for positions and folks are trying to figure out how they might run for the other vacancies.  It will take the next cycle, in 2020, to complete this metamorphosis.  Watch how this is managed by the City Council, and watch Jim Righeimer - who hijacked this process at the last minute and forced this new method onto the ballot - scramble for that mayor slot since he’s termed out of his council seat in 2018.

Undoing the Harbor and Newport Boulevard Overlays that were passed by the last regime as part of the General Plan update.  Those were developer-driven and tax our infrastructure, add horrendous amounts of traffic to our streets and are bad ideas for Costa Mesans.
Revisiting the Small Lot Ordinance - another developer-driven change that has codified the dilution of protections for our neighborhoods to facilitate rampant growth throughout the city.
Keep an eye on how the City deals with the whole Sober Living Home issue.  The most recent changes to our two ordinances might help, but there will certainly be lawsuits that will spring from our attempts to enforce our rules and that industry - a $35 billion business - will certainly test our resolve and our treasury.
How effectively will our City Council and staff deal with Homelessness in our city.  We’re told we have the greatest number of homeless individuals per capita than any other Orange County city.  Progress has been made, but there are no easy solutions to this issue.
Public Safety is a top priority for the City Council.  Hold their feet to the fire on the staffing issues - the CMPD continues to be understaffed by about 20%, and that’s based on the bogus staffing level imposed by the previous administration.  We currently have no staff Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs), so patrol officers are forced to perform those duties.  We may not reach that staffing level until the end of next year, and that will still put us about 10% below the proper staffing level necessary to properly protect our residents, businesses and visitors.  Costa Mesa Fire and Rescue seems to be on the right track now, which is encouraging.
Outsourcing continues to plague our city.  Right now our entire senior management level in Development Services is made up of very expensive - and very competent - contract employees.  Most of the engineering done in the city is done by contractors, as is much of the inspection and plan check services.  Contractors operate our jail and street sweeping services and, as of the end of June, will do all park and landscape maintenance, too.  It’s important to manage those resources carefully, to be sure the residents are being properly served.
As I fold this tent up now I will remind you that there are plenty of things that should require your immediate attention over the next few weeks. 
Monday there is a Planning Commission meeting, which I’ve already written about. 
Tuesday, however, is a Special Study Session beginning at 5:00 p.m. in Conference Room 1A at which the City Council will dig into a proposed budget that increases spending by more than 7%, to a total of over $155 million.  Read the staff report HERE.
Tuesday morning there will be a meeting of the unnecessary (in my opinion) Senior Commission meeting at the Senior Center at 9:00 a.m. HERE.
The following Tuesday - the 16th - there will likely be another council meeting.  
On Thursday, the 18th, there will be a Community Budget meeting at 5:30 in Conference Room 1A - a time for residents to hear about the budget in a casual, participative atmosphere.  These have been sparsely-attended in past years, but represent an opportunity for residents to get up close and personal with the budget process, ask questions and take away a much clearer understanding of how spending our tax money is prioritized.
Since I will no longer be reporting about these meetings for you in the future, I suggest you visit the City website, HERE,  frequently and check the Calendar to see what’s happening.  And, click on the Costa Mesa Minute on the left side of the page for the latest information, presented by Dane Bora and the CMTV team.  Also, click HERE to be taken to the “e-notification” page (there’s also a link at the top of the City Home Page) where you can sign up for any and all city communications and meeting announcements.  I suggest you just check the box at the bottom to subscribe to them all.  Public Information Officer Tony Dodero is doing a good job of pumping out information - particularly in his Costa Mesa Snapshot each week.  If you can’t make it to meetings, be sure you watch them on live CMTV or live streamed on the City web site or view them later.  Another GREAT community resource is Diane Hill’s United Neighbors Newsletter.  To subscribe, write to her at and include a telephone number so she can contact you before including you on one of her subscription lists.
And please do avail yourselves of the excellent Costa Mesa reporting being done by Luke Money in the Daily Pilot and Louis Casiano, Jr. in the Orange County Register.  Both do a fine job of covering the most important issues, and do so without the burden of having to provide an opinion - just the facts.
Don’t be swayed by the bogus social media sites that have evolved in our city over the past couple years.  The Costa Mesa Public Square (CMPS), for example, was created by a resident, then was taken over by out-of-towners  intent on influencing the last election.  They failed, despite the fact that several elected officials and their appointed surrogates commented long and loud.  Some of the same folks swept in and snatched one site of reason and civilized discussion - Dennis Barton’s Costa Mesa site - when he passed away, and have turned it into a kind of Costa Mesa Public Square Annex.  Tom Johnson, mentioned above, opined when I was a guest on his radio show a year ago that the CMPS site was specifically created to counter the influence this blog was having on city issues.  I have no idea if that’s true or not, but others have attempted to defame the efforts that appeared here by creating blogs to compete - and they are long gone.
It is with very strong mixed emotions, and a lot of consultation and contemplation, that I’ve decided to stop blogging.  The site will remain open for your reference and, maybe, the occasional entry.  It has not been an easy decision, but is one I felt was necessary at this point in my life for the reasons mentioned above.  I wish you all well.  I will miss our interaction.  You probably have not heard the last of me, but - at least for awhile - this is adios.  Thanks, one more time, for your loyalty, friendship and your enthusiastic willingness to joust on issues.  You will always occupy a warm spot in my heart.  It’s been one of the great joys of my life to serve you.

Labels: , , , , , ,

And Now A Few Thoughts About Jim Righeimer

We're a few months into the new council terms and there are a few things on my mind that just need to be said.
The balance of power has shifted from one controlled with a dictatorial hand by Jim Righeimer over the past half-dozen years, where anti-employee initiatives, developer-friendly ordinances and personal political considerations drove the decisions made by the City Council to one where a more reasonable form of governance has taken over.
Righeimer and his buddy, Steve Mensinger - unceremoniously dumped by the electorate last November - formed the core of that manipulative cabal.  They were supported by Eric Bever, then the lamest of lame ducks, Gary Monahan, in their quest to reinvent city government - to try to operate it like a business.  This resulted in some epic failures and have cost the city in millions of legal expenses and settlements.  And now there is Allan Mansoor - again.
Mansoor has demonstrated - both during his previous tour on the City Council and as an Assemblyman - that he is an incompetent, completely ineffective politician.  He lacks the ability to articulate complex issues and build a consensus.  He is personally responsible for Righeimer's existence in Costa Mesa politics.

Righeimer has proven to be a cunning, conniving, political weasel and, in my humble opinion, is the single worst thing to happen to this city over the more than four decades I’ve lived here.  He waltzed into town more than a decade ago and was immediately placed on the Planning Commission by Mansoor, in what certainly looked like political payback for his and Dana Rohrabacher’s support in the 2006 election.  Since that time he has run roughshod over the rules of procedure, attempted to remake City Government with two failed charter attempts, gutted the finest police department in the county in a fit of anti-police malice and made our city less safe by putting potholes ahead of public safety.  The list of his missteps goes on and on.  With an unbreakable majority that included Mensinger and Monahan they sold out our town to developers and sober living interests.  Their actions have depleted our self-insurance fund due to the numerous lawsuits they’ve evoked.  They turned City Hall into a toxic work environment.  Righeimer’s actions resulted in poor Huy Pham leaping to his death as more than 200 illegal layoff notices were distributed. Former Interim Police Chief (twice) Steve Staveley, in his letter to the staff upon his departure, described the Righeimer-led council as, “..incompetent, unskilled and unethical.”  As it turned out, he was being much too kind to them.  The list of Righeimer’s misdeeds goes on and on...

Righeimer’s legacy will include all of the above, but the worst may be his hijacking of the process of turning Costa Mesa into a vote-by-district city.  The original legal challenge that caused that process to be put into motion was supposed to result in a greater opportunity for political representation of the Latino community that makes up roughly 37% of our population.  That could have happened with a 5-district configuration, with one of them being predominantly Latino.  At the last second Righeimer commandeered the process and inserted a 6-district plus directly-elected mayor scheme onto the ballot.  I attended all the public meetings on this issue and not a single person - not one - expressed a favorable view of that particular configuration.  Righeimer demanded that the consultant demographer include that configuration in the deliberations, then forced it onto the ballot.  I will forever regret not writing an opposing ballot discussion - nobody did.  The result of that theft will be that the Latino population of this city will have a much-diminished opportunity for representation from within their community than with the 5-district option.  Watch for Righeimer to try to manipulate the process of the integration of the new district voting scheme at the election two years from now.  It will take two election cycles to fully integrate the new system.  And, of course, Righeimer will be termed-out of his council seat in 2018, just in time to run for directly-elected mayor.  What a coincidence.

Speaking of coincidences, with the influx of developer and sober living money into our city over the past several years, I find it noteworthy that both Righeimer and Mensinger have decided to completely remodel/rebuild their country club mansions.  It’s particularly interesting since Mensinger was out of work for a couple years recently.  I’m not trying to tie them to any kind of corruption - just observing the curious coincidence.  You can weigh that for what it’s worth.
I'm confident the new council majority will return the city to a more appropriate direction and undo some of the more onerous effects of the Righeimer Regime.  I caution you all to keep on an eye on him as he jockeys for position for a run for that directly-elected mayor position that will become available next year.  He's a hack politician out for whatever is in it for him, with a demonstrable hatred for public employees and is not a factor for good in Costa Mesa.  Just assume that every time he opens his mouth a lie is about to be heard.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 06, 2017

A Very Proud Costa Mesa Event

The Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue Department held a pinning ceremony Friday, May 5th in City Council Chambers at 10:00 a.m. and it was a truly wonderful event!
Chief Dan Stefano, aided by Division Chief Jason Pyle and Battalion Chiefs Kevin Diamond, Bill Kershaw and Tim Vasin, made the presentations.  Captain Chris Coates guided the special presentation to the thirteen (13) new firefighters who were introduced to the audience with one day left on their training schedule.  By the time you read this they will be folded into the deployment schedule and will be out there saving our lives.
So, without many more words, here are my visual memories of that wonderful day - one EVERY single Costa Mesan should view with great pride.
13 rookies chillin' before the ceremony
Retired Deputy Chief Fred Seguin Arrives For The Ceremony
Honor Guard
 Chief Dan Stefano
Division Chief Jason Pyle
 Chaplain Mike Decker presented the invocation
 Mayor Katrina Foley Addresses the Crowd
 The crowd
Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue Video Presentation
 Captain Chris Coates Addresses The Cadre of Trainers
The Cadre 
The Rookies and Cadre
Chief Stefano Presents Firefighter Corey Brean

Firefighter Corey Brean Pinned By His Mother
Chief Pyle Presents Engineer Dan Bangle
Engineer Bangle Pinned By His Wife
Chief Pile Presents Engineer Kevin Reddy 
 Engineer Reddy Pinned By His Wife
Chief Pyle Presents Engineer Travis Johnson (absent)
Chief Diamond Presents Captain Justin Horner
 Captain Horner Is Pinned By His Wife
Chief Kershaw Presents Captain Gary Lilly
Captain Lilly Is Pinned By His Daughter
Chief Vasin Presented Captain Chuck Torres
Captain Torres Is Pinned By His Wife With Children Attending
City Clerk Brenda Green Swears-in All Members
Following the ceremonies photos were taken in council chambers and the crowd and participants adjourned to the porch where refreshments and camaraderie awaited.  Here are a few images of those few minutes.
The Mayor And Chiefs With New Captains And Engineers
Rookies chillin' after the ceremony
Former Interim Chief Tom Arnold Schmoozing (above and below)
I must say that this was one of the most inspiring events I've attended in our city.  To see brave men moving forward in their careers, and more than a dozen rookies ready to put their lives on the line for us as they begin their careers was very moving.  At least a couple of the men receiving recognition Friday were second-generation firefighters, carrying on a family tradition.
As each person being promoted was presented their life story was explained.  We learned how long and hard they had worked to achieve this step in their career, and learned much more about the public service orientation it takes to fill these roles.  We learned they all focused on their target and, despite some very formidable obstacles, just kept on plugging away.  Each story had a wonderful life lesson for us all.  And, oh, yes... Captain Chuck Torres has a smile that could light up the City!
Thanks to Chief Dan Stefano and his remarkable team for presenting this terrific community event.  I'm grateful to be able to share it with you.

Labels: , , , , , , ,