The Costa Mesa City Council talks about transparency and running the city like a business, yet it appears to lack even the most basic business practices. Two members asked to have a subsidy to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) convention in Las Vegas. Attending a developer conference to promote our city makes sense.
Let's put aside that this convention provides business opportunities for developers and these two councilmen (also in real estate) would probably be attending whether or not the city subsidized them. Let's put aside that this convention is a historically proven opportunity to accrue political donations if someone is running for office. And, let's put aside that as successful business people, I would think that they could both afford the $750 each they have requested from the city.
They said they are going to conduct city business, and I take them at their word. These are not the issues here.
The questions here are simple: What will you accomplish, and what did you accomplish, on your trip to Las Vegas?
Surprisingly, there was a sarcastic, negative reaction from two of the other council members when a request was made to provide a detailed report on the conventioneers' meetings.
As a business person for the last 30-plus years, I have attended hundreds of conventions. As an executive, as a consultant, as an exhibitor and as an attendee. I have shared costs with multiple clients. In each and every case there was a simple requirement for myself and my executives: Provide a comprehensive, detailed report on who you met, what you discussed, what you learned walking the show, what are the next steps, what is the opportunity.
The form of this report varied, but at a minimum it consisted of stapling business cards to a contact sheet and writing up a meeting re-cap so we could convert a meeting into an opportunity. We summarize all of this information in a report to my client, my company and myself. We would then be able to follow up on all of the meetings to convert them to business. Everyone would have all of the information they needed for a cogent, comprehensive series of next steps. In many cases, reimbursement for expenses was contingent upon receiving a report of business conducted. It is not just an oral debriefing.
Why would Mayor Eric Bever and Councilman Gary Monahan object to such having a report submitted by their councilmen? Why wouldn't they want such a detailed report? Why wouldn't they want to share this information with others in the city? Why wouldn't the mayor want to hold his councilman responsible for their activities?
Here is even a great idea for Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Steve Mensinger: While driving back from Las Vegas, the passenger can open their laptop and together they can write up the report using notes and business cards and submit it to the city upon their return.
It's what any good business person would do for their company or clients, why not for our city?
Affordable housing should augment motels
I read with concern the recent front-page article on the Costa Mesa City Council's desire to clean up the motels on Newport and Harbor boulevards ("Council moves to clean up motels," May 3).
What was most distressing was the statement from city staff that "... the city relies on [the motels] to fulfill the state's affordable housing requirement."
What a sad commentary. In my experience, this comment is indicative of Costa Mesa's lack of concern for decent housing for the poor in our community. If motels are the best we can do, then we're really in trouble.
The city has provided some federal Community Development Block Grant funds to providers such as Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter, Serving People in Need and other nonprofits, but it has never seriously attempted to provide affordable housing to very low-income families, which would prevent homelessness. Nor has the city set aside funds or identified appropriate sites for a homeless shelter, as required by the state to be included in the city's Housing Element.
In more than 25 years working with Share Our Selves, the most heart-rending thing I had to do was take a homeless family to a motel, which I knew was an unfit place for them to stay. When faced with the choice of an over-crowded, shabby room with a questionably clean bathroom and kitchenette or sleeping in a park or under a bridge, the difficult decision became easier.
Assistant City CEO Rick Francis stated after inspecting the motels, "It should not be something humans even come in contact with."
That is certainly a more humane message than Councilman Steve Mensinger's comment: "This is a resource drain, no question at all," or that "taxing occupants more than at other properties" was a just solution to the problem.
What is the solution? Certainly the motels need to clean up their act and provide clean and safe rooms and attempt to provide adequate security. Ideally they should provide temporary shelter, not longterm housing.
The Homeless Task Force report made some commendable recommendations, but none of them really addressed the basic cause: the lack of affordable housing for our poorest families.
Unfortunately, there will always be some dysfunctional individuals and families who seem to be chronically homeless. There are many more, however, who become homeless no matter how hard they try to keep it all together.
The present recession has created many such homeless families. Other cities in Orange County are finding ways to provide low-income and even very low-income housing. (See the Kennedy Commission website). We need to insist that Costa Mesa more seriously attack the problem. Then maybe we wouldn't need to worry about our "motel problem."
The writer co-founded Share Our Selves and helped founded Save Our Youth.
Loyalty undervalued in C.M.
It's been difficult to put into words why many Costa Mesans are unhappy over the city's reinvention by the City Council. But two recent Daily Pilot stories help.
The stories illustrate the soft side of complaints, those dealing with hard-to-quantify things like feelings and values and experience. In particular, the stories are about two acts of positive behavior that may be small by themselves, but are extremely important to preserve and promote.
The new Costa Mesa will likely not have any longtime maintenance workers who would risk their lives as a Newport-Mesa Unified School District employee recently did ("Just the guy to put out car fire," May 3).
First, if maintenance work is outsourced to private businesses as planned, their typically transient workforce will assure there won't be any 32-year employees. Second, outsourced workers are not likely to be so emotionally attached to the people of the area that they would try to save a resident's home from burning down.
Another article in the same edition ("City reopens comments for Banning Ranch") tells how Newport Beach City Hall properly responded to its stakeholders. It's a responsiveness that's already missing in Costa Mesa.
This article reports that the city of Newport Beach, even though under no legal pressure to do so, decided to continue taking comments about the proposed Banning Ranch development. Why? According to the article, the city chose to allow environmental impact report-related comments again because of ample interest from the public.
"We … take public comment and public perception about this and other matters that the city handles very seriously," said city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan.
That kind of response from the city would have been music to Costa Mesa citizens' ears this past year. All we got, though, was a council that ignored virtually every comment and suggestion from the public and actually disparaged some speakers.
These stories from NMUSD and the city of Newport Beach show two behaviors we want preserved in our city. In a nutshell, we insist on government that acts responsibly and responds to the will of the people.
Why cover UC Irvine?
I don't know about you, but I'm really happy to learn about UC Irvine's recent victory in men's volleyball ("Irvine earns third title," May 8). It's nice to hear about the happenings in neighboring cities. And Irvine is kind of like a neighbor, right? They have news too. And we of the "Newport-Coast," you know, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, should hear about it.
If you agree, then I have a suggestion. Costa Mesa bumps up against a little town to the north called Santa Ana. They have people, and they have news. And we, presumably, should be made aware of the doings up there also, right? Then there's Huntington Beach, with which we share a nice long border. I mean, you could throw a rock across the Santa Ana River Channel which separates us by only a little bit. So shouldn't we hear about H.B.'s goings-on, also?
And let's not forget Fountain Valley. By some assessments we're even closer to F.V. than we are to H.B., and certainly much closer than to Irvine. So what do we have against those nice people in Fountain Valley? Why should our daily paper refuse to report to our Newport-Coast citizenry the ebbs and flows of F.V. life? A case could even be made to expand the coverage to many more of our (nearly) neighboring cities. Seal Beach? Westminster? Laguna? Lake Forest? The list could go on and on.
And for those who might opine that the mentioned front page, above-the-fold piece of news was due to the fact that some of our offspring matriculate at UCI, and therefore news of their academic and sporting feats should be offered up for all to see, I might say that there are a few other nearby schools where the identical case for inclusion might also reasonably be made. Cal State Fullerton? Chapman? Golden West? Anaheim University? Santiago College? Why not?
Oh, wait a minute. Each of the aforementioned cities has its own community newspaper. And I'm guessing they don't choose to include the news of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach in their reportage. So why, I might ask, are we choosing to include the events of a city that in no way butts up against either of our two core communities? Why, indeed?
Remembering Richard Diebenkorn
Recently, I went down to the Orange County Museum of Art to see the Richard Diebenkorn show.
I was a student of Richard Diebenkorn at UCLA in 1966-67 when he came down from the San Francisco Bay area to teach painting.
At that time, he was held in reverence at the university, and it was considered a privilege to be in his class of only 18 students. In order for me to hold that seat, I remember, I had to be there at the first meeting or else my place would be given to another student.
I had driven to the campus in my car and had not yet obtained a parking permit, as the semester had just started. I was forced to park in a no-parking area (got a ticket, but no tow) in order to get to class on time.
Once there, I was mesmerized by Diebenkorn. His manner was quiet, mannerly and very courteous in laying out the structure of the class.
He maintained an individualistic style of teaching, going from student to student, offering suggestions.
I must mention one other teacher at UCLA with whom I studied, William Brice. When I first entered UCLA I had formerly studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois, downstate Champaign-Urbana and was full of myself. When I was told I would have to take figure drawing again I rebelled, thinking they should just give me the credit but I learned so much from this class (Brice) that I petitioned to take it a third time.
Visiting this show brought back so many wonderful memories, seeing Diebenkorn on video and his wonderful paintings was just great.
I am still painting. I won Best of Show with one recent work at the Off Track Gallery in Encinitas.