Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Got Rats?

This Saturday, August 23, the Orange County Animal Shelter will be having a special cat adoption day they are calling Catopia . Between 10 am and 3 pm they will be giving a free cat carrier, free spay/neuter and other special incentives to anyone who adopts a cat from the shelter.

The shelter is located at 561 The City Drive in Orange. They have a variety of cats, not just the proverbial alley cats, but some pretty fancy ones, too. There will also be special children's activities.

You may find the purrfect addition to your household.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nonpartisan My Aunt Fanny

Nearly one hundred years ago California voters, sick of government corruption and ineptitude at all levels, enacted a series of reforms intended to make government more responsive and less corrupt. These included provisions for intiative, referenda, and recall, as well as nonpartisan election of judicial, school, county, and municipal offices, a provision still in the California Elections Code .

But that doesn’t matter to powers that be in the local GOP. Monday night, August 18, the Orange County Republican Central Committee voted on their first round of endorsements for local races in the county.

They endorsed all Republican incumbents seeking re-election, something they have done pretty routinely in the past. Hey, weren’t the Republicans the ones who were so hot on term limits a few years back?

But that was different. That was to get rid of Democrat Willie Brown. No sauce for the gander here.

“Early endorsements” were also bestowed on a few anointed non-incumbent candidates: Gary Monahan and Jim Righeimer in Costa Mesa, Don Hansen protégée Devin Dwyer in Huntington Beach, and John Campbell staffer Lou Penrose nee Luigi Rossetti, Jr. in Dana Point.

This was outside the normal vetting process, basically rubber stamping the directive of county chair Scott Baugh and the big boys with the big bucks via the endorsing committee. Presumably qualifications include close alliances developed with Mr. Baugh over drinks and cigars at Gulfstream.

Look for the Orange County party and Lincoln Club to pony up for the Chosen Ones. Be aware that funds you may contribute to the GOP at large may or may not go to electing a Republican president, governor, or senator, but may be spent right in your own back yard on a candidate you may or may not support. If you like the candidates that’s fine; if not, give directly to the candidates of your choice.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fields On Mesa Council

Tuesday evening, August 19, the Costa Mesa City Council will vote on a new animal control ordinance imposing penalties on dog owners whose pets make any sound audible at the property line. At the last Council meeting, city staff indicated that they received pretty many calls regarding barking dogs, over seven hundred last year. Of those, ten escalated to formal complaints, three went to mediation and three citations were issued. Guess we need a new ordinance for those three.

While some council members suggested that the ordinance be worded to clearly address sounds normally associated with nuisance animals, such as barking or howling for long periods, Mayor Bever disagreed. He was adamant that the ordinance address any noise made by a dog, including knocking around toys, digging, or pushing his bowl around since those could also “drive you nuts”.

Make Your List

Now that the city is in the business of eliminating anything that could irritate anyone, they can start on my list: People driving 25 miles per hour in the 35 mph zone, and 35 in the 45 zone; people who walk two or three abreast at a snail’s pace down a sidewalk or store aisle; people who park across two parking spaces; power mowers; power edgers grinding and screeching against the pavement; fluorescent lights that flicker or hum; anyone playing Marco Polo for more than six and a half minutes; squealing roof turbines; kids kicking the back of the seat in front of them on an airplane or at the movies; their parents…

I’m just getting warmed up. The problem is, I’m sure I do lots of things that annoy other people. Heck, I even do things that annoy me when I realize I’m doing them.

Is the city going to regulate anything that irritates anyone? Will they make rules limiting how many minutes a day kids can bounce around a basketball in the front yard? Or play ping pong on the patio? What about constant gurgling from backyard fountains? Or pool cleaners? Or noisy skateboard wheels?

Next thing you know, they’ll be making rules against ball games in public parks. Oh, wait. They’re already doing that.

Maybe it depends on who finds what annoying.

Better be careful

If you live near Mr. Bever, be really careful. Don’t let your dog have any squeaky toys, any clunky toys, or anything that might possibly make any audible sound while playing. Stick moleskin on the dog tags so they don’t jingle, though if the city’s so concerned about eliminating any audible sound, they shouldn’t issue metal tags. Eliminate potential crunching noises by feeding only soft food--no Nylabones for your buddy. Get Fido a set of Ugg boots so his toenails won’t click on the pavement, wrap his tail in foam, and don't forget to glue bubble wrap to the sides and bottom of the dog dishes.

Still, just to be on the safe side, get a half a dozen sets of wind chimes in various pitches and timbers to drown out the sound of your dog’s breathing, lest anyone hear it at the property line. Better yet, just leave the leaf blower running.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Set free????

Reading recent headlines about self-identified Christian bikers arrested after a brawl at Blackie’s which culminated in a fatal stabbing, my reaction was probably not atypical: “Christian? I don’t think so.”

It’s easy to dismiss the individuals involved as “not real Christians”. Bar brawls, gang rivalry, weapons caches. Now those are “real” sins. You or I would never be involved in that.

But then, what is the standard for “real Christians”? Do real Christians fudge on their taxes? Indulge in predatory business practices? Disguise defects in a house or car for sale? Ignore the hungry and hurting? Surf the web all day when they're being paid to work? What about the demolition derbies taking place in many a church parking lot every Sunday?

As a reminder, Paul made a list of things he labels “wicked” There’s murder and depravity. So far so good, but there’s more, including envy, greed, malice, gossip, strife, insolence, arrogance, heartlessness, ruthlessness, and disobedience to parents.

Some of these are even valued in Orange County's culture of success. But they’re a far cry from the perfection to which we should aspire.

The economy has gone south, and times are hard. Temptations are many. We’re entering the active political campaign season, when questionable means may be justified in light of a hoped for end. Let our behavior be such that no one would be prompted to think “Christian? I don’t think so.”

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Off and Running--Sort of

As of 5 pm Friday, August 8, 2008 Eric Bever, Chris Bunyan, Katrina Foley, Gary Monahan Nick Moss, Lisa Reedy, Jim Righeimer, and Bill Sneen had filed papers to fun for the Costa Mesa City Council this fall. Because incumbent Linda Dixon did not file, the deadline to file has been extended to August 13.

Look for Bever, Monahan, and Righeimer to share resources, if they don’t run as a formal slate. Look for a sizeable chunk of those resources to come from the ostensibly conservative Orange County GOP establishment.

Mesa Verde Homeowners will be sponsoring a forum at the Neighborhood Community Center on Thursday August 21, 2008. This will one of our earliest chances to see the candidates together responding to residents’ questions.

See you there.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Creative Financing in Costa Mesa

Recently, spending by the City of Costa has been outstripping revenues, but on July 15, the City Council declined to place any measure on the ballot to increase either the hotel tax or business licenses fees, both among the lowest in Orange County.

But don’t worry. They’ve thought of a new way to raise revenue.

Tonight August 5, the City Council will consider a new animal control ordinance which would result in a first time fine of $250 for a dog that barks for more than a half hour. Fines would escalate for subsequent offenses.

Of course no one wants to listen to a dog that barks for hours on end. Just as no one wants to listen to yowling cats, squawking parrots, or power tools for an extended period either.

But how do they define “barking dog”? Any dog that “barks, bays, howls or makes any noise audible beyond the boundaries of the property on which the dog is situated.” Any noise audible? That could include panting, slurping from the water dish, or even thumping a happy tail against a wall or flower pot.

And why just dogs? The City would retain a part of the existing Code regarding animal noise “to ensure that any noisy animal which creates a nuisance can be addressed”. How is it that the existing code can “ensure” that “any noisy animal…can be addressed”, but cannot adequately address noisy dogs?

In eight years on the City Council I received complaints about noise from boom boxes, dive bars, dance clubs, party houses, leaf blowers, garage bands, the police helicopter, squawking birds, and even kids bouncing a basketball, but I don’t recall barking dogs as an issue. Watching council meetings, this does not seem to have changed much. Apparently our Animal Control officers are doing a good job using the existing ordinance.

It’s Not the Noise

Where noise is an issue, the City’s existing Codes address noise in terms of decibel (dB) levels and time of day. Under the existing Codes, noise over an extended time is limited to 55 dB during the day and 50 dB at night, a level 100,000 times the lowest level audible for people with good hearing. Leaf blowers may only be used during the day and are restricted to a maximum of 65 dB (incidentally a level normally exceeded by all but electric or battery powered leaf blowers).

The proposed ordnance makes no distinctions when the noise is created by dogs. Whether 2 pm or 2 am; 1 dB or 100 dB; it would all be the same. It wouldn’t matter if you kept your dogs inside or even had them de-barked (please don’t), since noise could still be audible.

And let’s face it, if this City Council were really concerned about noise, would we have at least six hours of whistles, pops and house-rattling booms every Fourth of July?

It’s the Economy

On the other hand, assuming that Costa Mesa follows national trends, there are at least 20,000 to 25,000 dogs in town. If even ten percent make “audible noise” for a half hour, that’s at least a half million bucks into city coffers. You’ve gotta admire their creativity, if not their common sense

Disputes between neighbors often play out at City Hall, usually through the venues of Code Enforcement and Animal Control. Often complaints regarding pets have little or nothing to do with the animals themselves and everything to do with problems between neighbors over some other issue. Would this become another hammer with which to beat up a neighbor?

Who Cares

But hey, who cares if the City makes money off the deal? I do. My current canine buddy is pretty quiet, but one can’t predict the future. My greater concern, though, is dog owners subject to draconian fines for even minimal noise, several orders of magnitude lower than noise levels acceptable for any other source.

We already have too many dogs at the shelters, a problem exacerbated by a rise in home foreclosures. It would be tragic if any dog owner felt forced to surrender a dog to the shelter as a result of this ordinance.

That’s sad. I think I’ll go pet my dog. Not too much, though. The thumping of that waggly tail might be audible.

Just Stamp It Out

Tuesday, August 5, the Costa Mesa City Council will consider whether to initiate a general plan amendment to allow L.A. Fitness to build a 45,000 square foot health club in an area designated for industrial use along Harbor Boulevard north of the 405. Under the city’s general plan, the area should be developed with large site research, manufacturing, office, and industrial development. Commercial uses are to be ancillary and supportive of the industrial use. Commercial recreation is permitted, but only if complementary to the industrial area.

When allowed, commercial uses in the industrial park are limited to a lower floor area ratio, which is the amount of building allowed per lot area. The floor area is restricted because commercial uses generate more traffic. L.A. Fitness wants a general plan amendment to allow a higher floor area ratio, i.e. a larger building and additional traffic.

It’s not as if there are no vacant commercial sites in the area. Along just the short stretch of Harbor between Gisler and Merrimac, there’s a fenced-off former motel site, the old La-Z-Boy site, the fenced-off (see a trend here?) Kona Lanes site, and the abandoned auto dealer next to Ace. Wouldn’t it make sense to encourage commercial developers to use one of these vacant locations, instead of amending our general plan to accommodate conversion of our industrial base to commercial use on demand?

Why does L.A. Fitness need to build in the industrial park? Why do they need the extra large building? Costa Mesa already has more than a dozen health clubs. Is there some enormous demand for another in the northwest industrial area?

According to the L.A. Fitness representative, “the reason is that L.A. Fitness has a model that they stamp out.” Golly, can’t have some local yahoos and their silly general plan get in the way of the model they “stamp out”, not even if the general plan was developed with input from hundreds of residents.

As detailed in the City’s staff report the project fails to meet any of the City’s criteria for amending the general plan. Staff recommends denial of the request, and they’re making the right call.

Let’s hope the City Council agrees. Contrary to the assertion of a Council Member who appears to be living in some strange parallel universe, peak hour traffic on Harbor Boulevard does NOT “move pretty quickly”. We do not need the additional traffic on Harbor Boulevard.

And Costa Mesa deserves better than a “model they stamp out”.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Earmarks for Gas Guzzlers

Tired of spending a fortune for gas every week? Thinking maybe you don’t really need a full size Subcontinent or Exhibition to commute by yourself every day? Considering downsizing or carpooling?

Wait a minute! Hold that Hummer! July 30, Congressman John “Don’t-Expect-Me-To-Help-My-District-It-Would-Be-Fiscally-Irresponsible” Campbell introduced HR 6667 which would provide a tax deduction for the cost of fuel utilized to commute to work, whether or not you otherwise itemize deductions.

Other work-related expenses, such as the cost of tools, uniforms, or professional licenses, must still add up to at least two percent of your income before you can take a tax deduction. But fossil fuel is special.

On his web page Campbell states, “I will be working hard to encourage greater energy efficiency by offering conservation tax incentives to Americans who make their home, car, and business more energy efficient.” And what better tax incentive for Americans to make their cars more energy efficient than increased tax deductions for gas guzzlers? Instead of the carbon tax proposed by some, Campbell’s proposing a carbon tax deduction.

Sure, you may have chosen to live forty miles from your job, opting for an Inland Empire McMansion over a smaller house and shorter commute. You chose that 4WD Grand Cherokee as an essential accessory for your never-get-off-the-pavement suburban lifestyle.

Keep driving that pollution spewing dually for the sixty mile commute to your office job. And don’t even think of buying a bus pass. No tax deduction there.

Thanks to the panderers in Congress, you won’t have to bear the cost of unwise personal choices by yourself. Whether it’s a lone commute in a ten passenger cargo van or a re-fied mortgage for a trip to Tahiti and a plasma TV, Congress is there to help, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.