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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Water, Trash, and Crime

Monday’s meeting of Mesa Water District’s Board of Directors seemed benign, and even comforting. The Board met to study financial matters, including a report on the Department’s unfunded liability for pensions. (They’re in far better shape than our City, or other OC cities, for that matter, but that’s comparing apples with chickens.)

Some notes on the sense of financial responsibility that was demonstrated: The first question asked was, “Is he on an hourly fee or by the task?” about Joe Nation, who was commissioned by the board for the study. They wanted him to present first if he was paid by the hour.

Next, the results weren't comparisons with other water departments, because, “No point in paying for their studies with (Costa Mesa) money.”

Finally, directors expressed concern about the rate of return on their “savings.” The board is accumulating money, in effect as a trust fund for pipes and other infrastructure that will have to be replaced. Three directors expressed disapproval for taking money from today’s rate payers to fund future maintenance while letting the funds decline in value. (If the rate of return is less than the rate of inflation, the value of the fund declines.)  They were all interested in responsible stewardship of my money. Refreshing.

The body of the meeting was pretty boring. It seemed like responsible adults conducting business responsibly. We won’t be examining the board’s operations in more detail until something new or suspicious develops. Pretty much any question of interest can be answered from online files or upon request from their communications officer.

New criminals in Costa Mesa

On to the sweep of Costa Mesa’s released-criminal population. Criminals were released from jail to Costa Mesa early under the PCS (Post-release Community Supervision) sparked by Assembly Bill 109 (to reduce State prison overcrowding).  Twenty one were found and investigated. Eleven of these were arrested again. Most of them were involved in other crimes, and possessed drugs and/or paraphernalia. And most were found in the vicinity of the problem motels.

Perhaps this is a call for more probation officers; more likely it is a criticism of the selection of early release prisoners. You may wonder why they can’t be kept in prison and off of Costa Mesa’s streets. One reason is that the powerful union supporting the prison guards blocked any use of private enterprise detainment facilities. It’s also exerting a lot of influence to prevent criminals from being transferred to other states. 

Prisons alleviate crowding by sending criminals to county jails, which clear crowding by releasing prisoners under PCS.

Apparently the issue of crimes threatened against Costa Mesa’s (and all of California’s cities’) residents is less important than preventing competition to State-employee-run prisons. I guess it’s OK to have threats of rape, assault and murder increase as long as jobs and pensions are secure.

Trash, the board

More “I’m too special to concern myself with mere citizens” attitude: the oft-criticized trash board (called the Costa Mesa Sanitation District Board of Directors) will look at a new audit report. The report mentioned that 25 of the 31 questions asked by the auditors were answered satisfactorily by CR&R Environmental Services headquartered in Stanton. (Yes, the “no-bid-contract” trash company.)

One of the issues is the amount of money the company recovers from recycling. Costa Mesa pays extra to have our garbage screened for recyclables, which CR&R then sells. We know how much they’re billing Costa Mesans for picking up our garbage, and how much for sorting it, but we don’t know how much the company makes selling the aluminum, plastic and paper that they recover. Perhaps it should offset some billing.

There’s a lot more important information not available to the public. How important? Well, one board member who questioned the board decisions’ propriety was forced off the board though a lawsuit by board members. The lawsuit doesn't concern integrity or factual matters. It concerns an unclear State law; if that law was violated the violation didn't affect any board decisions or operations. It’s unclear if the law was violated, anyway.

Legal assaults and batteries

Will a private citizen be forced to acquiesce if you beat him up with enough legal assaults? Probably.

Fortunately, the City of Costa Mesa, faced with similar legal harassment has stood up to a union lawsuit about using an incorrect procedure. What is amusing, though, is that the nay-sayers are so upset that the City is spending money defending against the harassment suit.

Even though the initial question, albeit arcane, is now moot, the unions are continuing the suit. The whiners complain about the City spending money to defend itself against a union suit (intended double entendre) about a moot point.

Legal harassment is common in clashes between behemoth corporations, but isn't often seen between groups trying to make a city work more efficiently. Perhaps we aren't all interested in improving the city; some groups may be more interested in trying to intimidate the City Council. Others hold criticizing the Council for resisting the legal harassment as a high priority.

Summary; what can we do?

So we have more convicted criminals prowling Costa Mesa streets, a trash board that allows impropriety and opaqueness from its sole-source provider, and a water board that seems above-board (pun intended).

Some of our City’s trouble stems from Sacramento’s decisions and some from State-level influence-buying. There’s little we can do about that right now. Barring recall, the same goes for the BOD of the Sanitation District; anyway, they have a chance to do penance and amend their ways. They’ll meet soon to receive the audit report and decide what – if anything – to do about it.

On a local level, if we rid the city of the niduses of crime we’ll reduce our crime rate and make citizens safer. That will compensate somewhat for the State’s and OC’s “Send ‘em to Costa Mesa” release programs. It will also allow citizens to utilize City infrastructure like Lion’s Park.

We can do a lot as citizens of the City of the Arts to fix what’s wrong, and to applaud what’s right.

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