Wednesday, March 04, 2009

An Omen Of Things To Come


At the very beginning of last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting there occurred an event that may be an omen of things to come.

AWARD WELL-DESERVED
Mayor Allan Mansoor made the presentation of the Employee of the Month to Reserve P
olice Officer Rene Meng for an example of exemplary behavior during a recent event at the Orange County Fairgrounds. As I listened to Mansoor read from the citation of Officer Meng's performance I found myself agreeing that this young woman was certainly deserving of this recognition.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

At the end of his
presentation Mansoor handed Officer Meng her citation and some gifts and then, in what turned out to be one of those "Be careful what you ask for" moments, he offered Officer Meng the speaker's podium to say a few words.



UNEXPECTED CANDOR
She stepped to the podium, citation clutched closely to her chest and spoke
with great composure to the council and audience: "This award means two things. First of all, I appreciate it very much, from all of you. I've been a 20 year officer and, uh, it's semi-bittersweet because there is a chance I will be losing my job due to layoffs. Myself and seven other officers with over 150 years experience, uh, who love our job, we may be getting laid off. And I would ask the city council and the city manager to please consider keeping us. We are valuable to you and you are valuable to me. Thank you very much for this award. I really appreciate it."

HARD TO GET THE WORDS OUT

During her speech the words came with difficulty, as she became choked up as she addressed the council and City Manager Allan Roeder.


TOUGH TIMES AHEAD
In the weeks ahead our elected leaders and the city staff will face some difficult, painful decisions as they attempt to balance the municipal budget in these uncertain times. Among the things that will be considered is the issue of staffing. Officer Meng, who fea
rs losing her job after 20 years of outstanding service, may be correct - reserve officers may be among the first to go if the city and the employee unions are not successful in finding ways to spread the pain of the cost-cutting that will be necessary. If they don't find common ground and open serious discussions within the next month or so the staff managers will have no options except to prepare layoff lists.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"Operation Local News" Looks Like A "GO!"

LATEST VIEWS ON "OPERATION LOCAL NEWS"
Last night I attended a meeting of the Board of Advisors for Operation Local News, the brain-child of Tom Johnson and Bill Lobdell. Roughly half of the roster of advisors made it to this meeting and many had excellent observations/comments.

FILLING A PERCEIVED VOID
You will recall that a few months ago Johnson, former publisher of the Daily Pilot, and Lobdell, former editor of the Daily Pilot and Los Angeles Times reporter, announced their plan to launch a new, prima
rily online newspaper recently. Over the past few months they've massaged and molded their business model, spoken with others who've started similar efforts in other locations and have worked with a legal team to dot every "i" and cross every "t".

LINING UP INVESTORS
The reason for this meeting was to tell us that they plan to move forward on this great adventure and, as soon as the proper prospectus can be created, begin to actively solicit investors. Based on informal conversations they've had with local business
leaders, they feel that funding will be available. The first four contacts they made affirmed that they are willing to come onboard and help with the initial funding.

"FOR PROFIT" MODEL

Unlike other recent online-first publications in our region which have used a "not for profit" model - The Voice Of San Diego, for example - Lobdell and Johnson's effort will be a "for profit" model, so investors will be looking for a return on their investment.

$2,000,000!
The way it looks right now, their original estimate of the seed money necessary to launch this new effort was one zero short. Johnson and Lobdell are now looking for investors to help them to their new goal of $2 million to kick it off. Their objective is to attract top talent to launch what will be a
news product produced by seasoned, skilled journalism professionals.

MIXED FEELINGS
When I first heard about this plan - and announced it to the world HERE - my initial reaction was something like, "Wow! Great! These are two smart, talented guys who can probably pull this off!" Then I stepped back a little and thought about it and realized that if Johnson and Lobdell are actually successful in launching a new news source for the Newport-Mesa area it may well sound the death knell for the Daily Pilot.

I DON'T WANT THE DAILY PILOT TO DIE

As a reader of the Daily Pilot for more than three decades and a contributor for most of this decade, I do not want to see the Daily Pilot die. For a century it has been our newspaper of record and p
rimary source of local news and events. It has been the glue that kept our communities together by presenting us with coverage of important events affecting our lives every day. Faded Daily Pilot clippings marking engagements, weddings, obituaries and athletic achievement fill scrapbooks in many households in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, mine included.

IT'S UNDER-APPRECIATED BY THE TOP BRASS

Today's realities in the newspaper business are such that, even though the Daily Pilot remains a profitable part of the Times Community Newspaper group of the Los Angeles Times, it apparently is viewed by the top brass of the Times and it's parent, The Tribune Company, as insignificant. This is what happens when the bean-counters take over and newsmen stop running newspapers. As a result, the Pilot has had it's staff chopped, chopped and chopped again over the past 15 months - eve
r since Sam Zell bought The Tribune Company. Tom Johnson resigned rather than officiate at the funeral of the newspaper he spent nearly two decades rebuilding.

SO...
It seems clear that the handwriting, er, graffiti, is on the wall and the Daily Pilots days are numbered. If that's the case, then our communities would be left without a credible, local news source. I don't want the Daily Pilot to fail, but it almost seems inevitable.

MY FIRST CHOICE - BUY THE PILOT
I hope Johnson and Lobdell are successful with this new venture, but it's unlikely that there will be enough advertising dollars to support both their new venture and the Daily Pilot. I've told them that my
preference would be for them to find a way to acquire the Daily Pilot and then morph it into the model they feel will be the most viable. Johnson told me he's tried several times to do just that, but was rebuffed by the brass at The Times.

CREATING A COMPETING PRODUCT

So, they are left with no choice except to try to find investors who believe in their vision and launch their own, competing publication to serve the needs of the readers in the Newport-Mesa area. That's where they are headed, full steam ahead. Round up your wealthy pals and dir
ect them to Johnson and Lobdell. They can be in on the ground floor of an exciting, new venture and help provide fast, accurate news with a Newport-Mesa focus to our communities. They will be happy to sit down and chat about this opportunity.

You can read my previous entries on this venture HERE and HERE. Look for updates on the Operation Local News blog, too.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Potpourri

Here's just a little bit of what's going on here in the Newport-Mesa this week.

PLANNING COMMISSION STUDY SESSION TONIGHT
Tonight the Costa Mesa Planning Commission will hold a rare study session to discuss adjustments to the Mesa West Bluffs Urban Plan SP-05-08. I don't know all the details of this subject, but no action will be taken at the study session - just talk.


CITY COUNCIL MEETING TOMORROW

Tomorrow, Tuesday, the City Council has a full agenda. Among the items of interest are the annual review of the General Plan; a resolution supporting keeping the Equestrian Center at the Fairgrounds; a letter of support for appropriation of Economic Stimulus Program and stop signs at a couple intersections on the Eastside. I won't be surprised if public comments include concerns by residents about the current state of our municipal budget.

WAY TO GO, SONORA!
Sunday the Orange County Register did a front page feature on Orange County Public Schools. Included in that series of articles is a terrific piece on Sonora Elementary School. You can read it HERE. The parents, teachers and students of that school have demonstrated that a neighborhood doesn't have to be wealthy to produce excellent academic results. Kudos to all involved. Sonora School is just one more reason to be a proud resident of Costa Mesa.

JOHNNY "ACE" PALMER ON THE TUBE AT 8

Don't forget to tune in to KCOP, Channel 13 at 8 p.m. tonight to see my pal, Johnny "Ace" Palmer perform on Masters of Illusion. He's a World Champion Magician and lots of fun to watch perform.

NEW BLOG - SUNNY D

Yesterday my young friend, Claudio Gallegos, re-emerged from a year-long hiatus to launch his own new blog - Sunny D. Claudio was a mainstay on the Orange Juice! Blog before taking some time off. He's a young man full of passion and, although he and I disagree on many issues, I welcome him back to Orange County Blogdom.

OPERATION LOCAL NEWS

Finally, this evening former Daily Pilot publisher Tom Johnson and former Daily Pilot editor Bill Lobdell will meet with their board of advisors to discuss the progress they have made toward finding financial support for their plan to launch a brand new news source in the Newport Mesa. I'm looking forward to hearing how their plans are going and will report what I can, when I can, following the meeting.

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