Archive | November, 2010

New City Council: Priorities and infrastructure

New City Council: Priorities and infrastructure

By John Earl
Surf City Voice 

The Surf City Voice recently asked the new and continuing members of the Huntington Beach City Council what their priorities will be in the next year and how they will handle the issue of infrastructure funding for the city. Keith Bohr, Don Hansen, Matt Harper, and Joe Carchio did not respond.

Question 1: As a new, reelected or continuing city council representative, what will your top priorities be in the coming year?

Joe Shaw: Obviously, making sure we stabilize our city’s budget is the most important thing we can do in the short term. We need to make sure we can continue to provide the best services we can at the level we can afford during this recession. We need wise planning to ensure that short term cuts do not jeopardize our future.

Devin Dwyer: A recession can be a great opportunity for government to evaluate what services are absolutely necessary and what services we can no longer afford to provide in a declining economy. I see our most basic needs as Public Safety and Infrastructure. Public Safety is 51% of our General Fund budget. Since this is the largest use of public funds we need to surgically remove any waste without compromise to our citizen’s safety. The first item that comes to mind is our pension system. The idea that any person should be retiring at 50 is ridicules. Airline pilots are mandated to retire at 60 and now they allow 65 if there is an accompanying pilot aboard less then 60. Second is the idea of defined benefit. The public sector no longer provides a defined benefit in there compensation package. They provide some sort of 401K that both the employee and the employer contribute too. I propose a second tier for new hire benefits. This would help secure those employees with the more generous benefits that currently work for us at the same time new employees would contribute more towards the new 401k program and the city would contribute as well. And those on the more generous benefits need to contribute more towards their pension.

There was a time when public employees were not compensated well so to make up for it the city used benefits to compete with the private sector for staff. Today that is not true. You will find that compensation at our city for Public Safety employees when measured with private sector jobs is not only competitive but many out side government feel excessive.

Infrastructure had no champion until I came along. Each Council Member has an appointee to the Finance Board. Our Finance board has been complaining for a decade that our infrastructure was in decline and if we did not spend more in the near future we are headed for trouble. This has fallen on deaf ears until I and the Charter Reform Committee pointed out that we have greater than a billion dollar need with less than half that we can pay for. I was saddened by the Public Union’s spending more than $ 100,000 to defeat Measure O. There inability to see our citizens needs over there own was atrocious. I will rally my fellow Councilmember’s to support budgeting more every year towards infrastructure for the next few years I am on council.

One of the ways out of our plight is to bring more businesses to Huntington Beach. These new businesses will help generate tax dollars that could help pay for items that we have grown accustomed to our city providing. I will continue to work hard through all my business connections to fulfill this priority.

And as I have shown as one of my priorities is to talk straight to the public. If there is one thing I hate about politics its spin! If I think something is “Horse Shit”. Then that’s the way I’m going to characterize it!

Connie Boardman: My first priority will be to make wise budget decisions to arrive at a balanced budget while preserving important city services. I will work to continue the search for funding sources for infrastructure projects to solve water quality issues, repair streets and sidewalks, and to provide public safety needs such as traffic lights.

Question 2: Given the defeat of Measure O, how should the city council decide its budget priorities, including infrastructure, and what steps should be taken to deal with public employee pensions?

Devin Dwyer: See above.

Connie Boardman: Devoting 15% of the general fund revenue to infrastructure and not counting debt service toward the 15% did not become part of the City’s Charter. However, there remains in place a policy of allocating 15% of the general fund money toward infrastructure projects. We have a huge back log of infrastructure needs, and I am sure funding infrastructure projects will be a high priority with the new council.

There is a need for pension reform, I think everyone on the council realizes this. We can certainly learn from the experiences of other cities. I am interested in working with representatives of the unions, the public, and the city administration in developing a workable plan to make sure we can continue to offer sustainable, and affordable retirement benefits to the employees.

Joe Shaw: I believe we must still prioritize infrastructure given the enormous backlog we have. I believe we can work with our public employee unions and city employees to find solutions to the pension crisis.

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Carchio’s Plateless Venzas/T-shirt Delivery Service – Will Devin Dwyer be Mayor?

Carchio’s Plateless Venzas/T-shirt Delivery Service – Will Devin Dwyer be Mayor?

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Huntington Beach City Council member Joe Carchio has driven a brand new Toyota Venza for the past year without license plates. The car shows dealership plates that advertise Huntington Beach Toyota, where Carchio “has bought lots of cars for his family,” according to a salesperson there.

Carchio's car

Carchio's Venza, parked at City Hall without license plates. Photo: SCV

A car windshield sticker that is supposed to show ownership information is completely blank.

Planning commissioner Blair Farley, Councilmember Jill Hardy, and another City Hall official who asked not to be named, told the Voice that they have seen Carchio’s unlicensed car parked in its official space at City Hall various times during the past year. The Voice photographed Carchio’s unlicensed car there on two recent occasions.

The Voice left a message for Carchio at City Hall asking him to call about his car, but he didn’t respond.

The sales agent said that state budget cuts have created waits of 6 -8 months before the DMV delivers plates and that the dealer is not responsible for customers who don’t comply with the law after buying or leasing a car.

But Toyota HB’s General Manager, Bob Miller, told the Voice that Carchio has leased two different white Venzas from from his car lot in the past year and that it takes 8 -12 weeks for plates to arrive in the mail.

Agents for two major insurance carriers, however, say that license plates usually arrive within 4 – 6 weeks; if not, the dealer probably waited too long to send in the paper work to the DMV, one agent said.

Toyota of HB generously allows the city to use a fleet of 17 lifeguard vehicles in exchange for allowing it to advertise on those vehicles, the Voice of OC (no relation to the SCV) reported last summer.

Was a similar deal extended to Carchio? A 2009 Venza runs at about $28,000. A lease would probably be $500 – 600 a month. No such deal exists, Miller told the Voice, laughing politely.

City officials must report gifts and cannot take over $420 in gifts from any one source within a year. Violators can receive a $5,000 fine from the State.

Maybe Carchio just wants to plow through red lights and toll roads without being caught on camera.

Or maybe he just made on “honest mistake,” like he claimed to have done before the Voice exposed his six-month-long attempt to avoid returning $6,600 in health insurance payments by the City for his ineligible “wife.”

That would be the same wife who (as the Voice was first to report) divorced Carchio several years ago, when he had over $50,000 in tax liens filed against him by the IRS, and then collected the money from the sale of a downtown restaurant—that Carchio claims he owned but that she claimed (at that time) he was trying to steal from her—as part of a divorce settlement that he did not lift a finger to contest.

Delivering T-Shirts
In 2001, according to County records, Carchio was doing business as Carhio’s Imprinted Sportswear on Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach. That business folded and Carchio went into the restaurant business.

His restaurant business was gone as of 2008. As of 2009, according to his latest 700 form, Carchio was unemployed, and according to a knowledgeable City Hall source Carchio was still unemployed as of last August.

But Carchio’s former appointee to the Investment Advisory Board, Angela Rainsberger, wonders if he hasn’t gone back into the T-shirt business.

While talking to Carchio a year ago about the problems with downtown bars and revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan (DTSP) that Carchio had voted for a month earlier, they were joined by two of Mike Ali’s sons. Ali owns Zack’s Pier Plaza, a shop that rents surf boards and sells T-shirts, located on the beach next to the pier.

Joe Carchio. Jill Hardy in the background. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for the SCV

About mid-way into the conversation, Rainsberger wrote in an e-mail to a friend a few weeks later, “Joe gave his car keys to the boys and asked them to unload the boxes of tee (sic) shirts from his car for their dad. They pulled a few t-shirts out of the boxes and held them up for inspection. Joe was, and I guess is, in the tee (sic) shirt printing business…It didn’t dawn on me until today that Joe is doing business downtown because he is printing t-shirts for Zacks. Shouldn’t this require he recuses himself from the vote on the DTSP? The more tourist (sic) come to HB, the more t-shirts are sold, the more money Joe makes.”

Mike Ali did not respond to requests by the Voice for comment.

Carchio did not recuse himself from consideration of the DTSP the first time and voted for the revised plan. In January, when the required second reading and vote occurred, he did recuse himself, but not because of his alleged T-shirt business.

“In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been in negotiations with a restaurant to try to fill the vacancy that’s been left by Luggatti’s. So that might, according to the City Attorney, that might constitute a conflict of interest so I will be refraining from voting on this item,” Carchio told the City Council.

The restaurant ended up under the ownership of another party.

But if Carchio was doing business downtown, why didn’t he report it on his 700 form and why didn’t he recuse himself for that reason on both DTSP votes?

This time the Voice managed to speak to Carchio by phone. Unfortunately, however, he was in the middle of an Orange County Vector Control meeting and said he couldn’t talk just then. Those meetings must be boring, though, because a glance online at the same time revealed that he was also busy adding friends to his Facebook account.

Carchio did not call back after the meeting.

Who Will be the Honorable Mayor?
Interesting rumors abound about who will be crowned as the next mayor of Huntington Beach at the Dec. 6 meeting of the City Council.

As the Voice first reported last August, it looked like Huntington Beach City Council members Joe Carchio and Don Hansen were openly and secretly negotiating a deal so that Carchio would become the new mayor, out of turn, instead of Hansen.

The city council can vote for any one of its members to be mayor, but traditionally its members have gone in order based on their previous time served. It would normally be Hansen’s turn to be mayor starting in December with Carchio following him the next year. But if the two of them switched places, Hansen, who is termed out of office in 2012, would be well poised to run for higher office as mayor instead of a mere city councilman.

Since August, however, a series of revelations, most of them first reported by the Voice, have made it less likely that a council majority will take a chance of embarrassing the city by electing Carchio mayor this year-or any year.

But well-placed City Hall sources have spread the following titillating rumors about who will be the next Surf City mayor:

  • That Hansen knew about Carchio’s tax problems, fake marriage, insurance scam, etc., before they were revealed in the Voice, and threatened that he would reveal that information if Carchio did not agree to swap their mayoral terms;
  • Carchio doesn’t want to be mayor, but Hansen offered that if he agreed to switch places for mayor he (Carchio) would be allowed to appoint himself as the council’s liaison to the Orange County Sanitation District, which pays $170 per meeting;
  • That Councilmember Devin Dwyer will be the next mayor.

Hansen told the Voice that “none of these [rumors] are even close to true,” and added that we “forgot the rumor that I was going to move to City Treasurer. That was one of my favorites to date.”

But Dwyer indicated that there might be some truth to the rumor that he would become the next mayor:

“I don’t know. I was asked by a businessman in the downtown area if I would be willing. That there was talk of shuffling the order. I said I would consider it.”

Tune in on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m.

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‘Sierra Wave’ Revealed

‘Sierra Wave’ Revealed

From Wikipedia: 
 
 
 
The Sierra Wave  is a type of lenticular cloud created by winds that lift off the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. Known as lee waves, Sierra Waves form as winds hit the Sierra Nevada and are forced to rise, causing water vapor to condense as it cools and forming lenticular clouds on the leeward side of the mountain range. These clouds can remain stationary for many hours. The formation of a Sierra Wave is dependent upon many factors, including wind speed and direction, leeward wind patterns, and water vapor. Given that Sierra Waves are dependent upon many variables their formation is unpredictable. (Wikipedia)  

This photo was taken recently by former Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook from somewhere in the Sierras. Nothing can surpass Nature’s beauty.  Click the photo to see the larger version. You can use your mouse button to maginfy the photo more after that. (Surf City Voice)

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‘Concilman’ Joe Carchio Returns, as Good as Ever

‘Concilman’ Joe Carchio Returns, as Good as Ever

By John Earl
Surf City Voice 

Victorious city council incumbent Joe Carchio won’t be officially sworn in again until December, but he has already started to “finish the job he started” as he promised to do in his campaign literature. 

So far, after four years in office, Carchio has managed to define himself at best as a barely competent acolyte to Mayor Cathy Green, who cowers in fear of councilmembers Devin Dwyer and Don Hansen, to an outright con man and thief at worst (see our series of pre-election exposes).

At the Nov. 15 post-election meeting of the Huntington Beach City Council, Carchio got back in the swing of things with a bumbling performance as the Grand Inquisitor, a poor imitation of Hansen’s trademark habit of humiliating contrary public speakers with a blend of McCarthyism and the Socratic method. 

His targeted victim this time was an unsuspecting businessman—the co-owner of Alpha Omega Christmas Trees, Inc., who was offering $8,000 to rent a vacant city-owned lot at Edinger and Parkside Lane for two months so he could sell Christmas trees and other holiday merchandise. 

About five weeks earlier Omega reached a tentative licensing agreement with city staff. That agreement was up for routine approval by the council at its Nov. 15 meeting. Omega’s trees and other supplies would be delivered only days later. Time was of the essence and Omega’s owners thought they had a deal in hand. 

The only problem was that some council members have a soft spot for another Christmas tree company, owned by the “Johnson brothers,” that had done business with the city at the same location in years past. 

The Johnsons made plans about a year ago to sell trees elsewhere this year because the city had indicated that the Edinger site would be under redevelopment and unavailable for rent. 

Councilmember Devin Dwyer had asked Stanley Smalewitz, Deputy Director of Economic Development, to help the Johnsons find an alternative Surf City site, but as of a year ago the brothers reported that they were happy with a new site they had already found in Irvine. 

Unexpectedly, however, the Edinger site was still available when Omega approached the city several weeks ago, so staff jumped at the last minute opportunity to make some extra money on the vacant property after all. 

Knowing that the Johnson’s were happy, Smalewitz and his staff didn’t bother to offer the Johnsons a chance to bid on the Edinger site. But Dwyer was ticked off at Smalewitz for not following through as asked. 

“That opportunity should have been open to him (sic),” Dwyer snapped at Smalewitz. “I mean, if we can competitively bid for something, we want to get our best dollar for the city. Don’t we?” 

But what to do now? 

Councilmember Keith Bohr suggested reopening the bid process to allow the Johnson brothers another chance to rent. Staff said that it could process everything within a few days, but member Jill Hardy preferred to leave things as they were rather than risk not getting any business at all, considering that the Johnson brothers might decline and Omega needed to find a site a.s.a.p. for its incoming merchandise and might have to go elsewhere rather than wait for a potentially unfavorable decision. 

In fact, Omega’s owner told the council, if the city of Redondo Beach came through on a potential rental deal the next morning, as he expected it would, he would have to go there rather than take the chance of ending up without a place to do his holiday season business. 

By that time it should have been obvious that the only fair and practical thing to do was to go with the original motion—to accept the agreement with Omega—and make sure the bidding process was better coordinated next year. 

Carchio the Bully
But Carchio, after agreeing with Hardy’s analysis, decided to bully the Omega owner before accepting staff’s recommended action. 

“So, in other words, you’re telling me…that if the City of Redondo Beach tells you yes tomorrow, then you don’t want to enter into an agreement with us, period. You’d rather have the deal in Redondo Beach,” Carchio asked, twisting the applicant’s words.

“I just need to facilitate my time frame right now. That’s my only consideration sir,” the Omega owner answered. But Carchio got tougher.

“[Y]ou’re telling me if the Redondo Beach guy tells you yes tomorrow that you’re going to Redondo Beach, no matter what.”

Reexplaining the obvious, the applicant said he had to be prepared to go to Redondo Beach, if necessary, and that he could conceivably end up doing business in both cities.

“Then I think you need to make a decision as well as us. I mean, do you really want to be here or do you want to be in Redondo Beach,” Carchio lectured.

“I would like to be here. However, I could lose this if that vote goes that way. And so that doesn’t make good business sense to me,” the applicant replied.

“Well, it seems to me that you’re trying to put our backs to the wall here,” Carchio accused.

Justifiably irritated by Carchio’s off-the-wall assertion, the applicant tried to maintain a polite demeanor. “Well, I’m sorry, I think you understand I lost my [previous tree] lot of 22 years, so my back is against the wall too, sir. And I’m not-”

“And I understand you’re a businessman, and you’ve got to look out for the best deal that you can make and the quickest deal that you can make, because you do have trees and they have to start selling,” Carchio interrupted, with unconvincing sympathy.

“Yes, sir.”

“The only thing is I have to clarify in my own mind is whether you’re more interested in being here or you’re playing Redondo Beach against us.

“No.”

“Or you’re playing us against Redondo Beach.”

“Sir, I just found out about Redondo Beach yesterday as a back up only because I wasn’t sure what was going to go on here.”

“So this is your – ”

“That was a good choice on my part because you’re telling me that I have to wait till tomorrow night now, after I have waited almost five or six weeks already. So I think it’s just a good business choice for me. You’re making a business choice too. If you can get this other gentleman in and he can bid more you’re making a business choice on me. That’s all I’m saying.”

Then Carchio brought his interrogation to a crescendo.

“So, what I want to clarify in my own mind: are we your number one choice or is Redondo Beach your number one choice?”

Oblivious, Carchio acted surprised when Mayor Green gasped and all of his colleagues broke out with nervous laughter.

“I’m not going to make that choice,” was the applicant’s final answer.

Councilmember Don Hansen scornfully mocked Carchio. “Wow! First of all, to the representative of Alpha Omega, we just put him in a ridiculously uncomfortable position,” he said, recommending that the council take a more responsible course.

Bohr withdrew his motion and the entire council, including Carchio, voted to rent the land to Omega after all.

In the future, Carchio will continue, no doubt, to finish the job he started four years ago.

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