Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Watershed Moment Coming Tuesday Night

ADDING INJURY TO ILLNESS
As if returning home from a short vacation with a whopper of a cold isn't bad enough, I actually got sicker when I heard last Wednesday about the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center to Facilities Management West and, the same afternoon, the pending retirement of Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder. Ugh!


OF GREATER SIG
NIFICANCE
But late Friday we received some news that may rival those two events in significance, not only for our city, but the State as well. Friday evening, well after closing time at City Hall, the City distributed an announcement of a special City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 26th at a new time - 6:30 p.m. The single issue on the agenda is consideration of "side letter agreements" for the three remaining employee bargaining units and a resolution for the unrepresented employees. You can read the staff report on that agenda item HERE.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? IT'S NOT ENOUGH!
"Why is
this meeting so important?", you ask. Well, it's important because, as you can see in the staff report, although the agreements represent more than $3.6 million in annual savings, it doesn't get close to resolving what was a more than $9 million budget shortfall going into the long, long negotiations with the bargaining units. The staff report does not address how the City plans to come up with the remaining nearly $6 million required to balance the budget and, because of the timing of the announcement, there were no staffers available to answer any questions.

SIGNIFICANT CONCESSIONS, BUT...
The agreements in question represent very significant concessions by the individual em
ployee units. For example, in the case of the Costa Mesa Employee's Association (CMCEA), among the items to which they will agree is the establishment of a two-tier retirement program, with newly hired employees working under a 2%@60 formula and will pay 7% of the employee contribution. None of the other bargaining units have agreed to such a change at this point, even though they have made major concessions in other areas. The staff report clearly spells these out, so I won't echo them here.

MORE STAFF REDUCTIONS ALMOST GUARANTEED
Two things have m
e worried about these agreements. First, they don't get us far enough with the budget dilemma. Since all expendable programs have already been slashed, the only place there are dollars left to cut is in the staff costs. If more dollars cannot be saved through the negotiations then the City has no choice but to lay more employees off - and severely hamper service at all levels in our city. We are already at 1980's staffing levels in most areas.

TOEHOLD TO PENSION REFORM
Although that is bad enough, of greater concern is my suspicion that this may just be
the toehold that members of the Orange County Republican Party are looking for to make Costa Mesa Ground Zero for state-wide pension reform. In a recent candidate forum Jim Righeimer practically said as much when, while addressing our budget problems and his view that the pensions were the problem, he said this was not a Costa Mesa problem, it was a state problem.

NO TIME TO RE-NEGOTIATE BEFORE THE ELECTION
If three members of the City Council do not vote affirmatively on this issue Tuesday night it will require negotiations to re-open with the bargaining units and will certainly kill any chance of a resolution before the November 2nd election. There will be only a week in which to meet, negotiate, agree and re-convene for the council to hear another version. While not impossible, it is highly unlikely that the necessary steps could happen before November 2nd. And, you will recall, the council meeting that would normally fall on that date has been canceled. The next meeting will be on November 16th.

IF NO LONGER COMPETITIVE - GOOD-BYE, STAFFERS

I have it on good authority that, if deeper cuts in the pension plans are demanded by the city and the employee unions are forced to agree to them, that will mark the beginning of an exodus of senior staffers across the board, not only in public safety positions. For our city to remain competitive in this labor market our salaries and benefits MUST keep pace with the marketplace. Currently we are at or near the median. Any changes to lower our position relative to our fellow Orange County cities will certainly cause us to lose good employees and hamper recruitment efforts to replace them.

BEVER A WILLING ACCOMPLICE
Eric Bever has become a
willing accomplice in the manipulation of municipal governance to further Righeimer's political career by boycotting negotiations with the employee bargaining units. Believe me, it's pretty darn unusual for an elected municipal leader to announce from the dais that he's going to intentionally NOT do the job he was elected to do - and then to follow through with his commitment and fail to appear at those sessions. His plan to drag out the negotiations until after the elections so Righeimer can come riding in on his white horse like some pension savior is so obvious - and despicable - it would be almost laughable if it wasn't so darn tragic.

CM PRESS AND BULLET VOTING
Righeimer and his minions, and through his mouthpiece over at the CM Press, have been harping about public employees salaries for weeks and Righeimer has posted a 2008 list of city employee compensation on his campaign website. The CM Press has become a repository of anti-cop rhetoric as it touts Righeimer's election by bullet voting - voting only for him and no other. It takes some nerve to ask you, the voters, to give up half your choices to perpetuate the political dreams of a carpetbagging hack political operative. You will recall that it was that tactic, instigated by the CM Press-led Westside Improvers, that gave our city Chris Steel in 2000 - arguably the worst city councilman in our history. The lack of wisdom of giving up one of your votes just because our municipal racist-laureate at the CM Press tells you to do so is clearly demonstrated by Steel's wasted four years on the council. Don't let The Mouth talk you out of your vote.

LIKE LOCUSTS, THEY WILL LEAVE DESTRUCTION
Much as Allan Mansoor has used illegal aliens as a springboard into office, Righeimer is using the public employees as his "illegal aliens", hoping his denigration of them and their compensation will grease the skids for him in this election. The tactics of both are driven by the leadership of the Orange County Republican Party and it's honcho, Scott Baugh. The OC GOP doesn't care what happens to Costa Mesa. They don't care if they leave in their wake a city laid waste. They are like locusts who land temporarily in our city, devour every living plant, then move on to greener pastures.

PENSION REFORM MUST START IN SACRAMENTO
Trying to use Costa Mesa to solve a state-wide employee pension issue is the wrong w
ay to go. Those initiatives must start in Sacramento, but the political realities of the day are that the Democrats set the agenda up there and there is virtually no chance of pension reform happening under that party's leadership. The OC GOP seems to think that if it can force Costa Mesa to take drastic steps with it's pension issues, other cities will follow along. That's just plain stupid! Do you really think Fullerton, Irvine or Yorba Linda will shoot themselves in the foot just because Costa Mesa does? Give me a break! They'll just smile and hire our employees away from us.

POSITIONING HIMSELF FOR HIGHER OFFICE
All the OC GOP cares about is crushing the employee unions by diluting their salaries and pensions, and going back on the deals that were made with them when they were hired. If that sounds familiar, remember that this is precisely what Righeimer did in his personal and business life - he left contractors holding the bag for years waiting for payment while he thumps his chest and tells us, "At least I didn't file for bankruptcy!" Similarly, he would leave the residents of Costa Mesa holding the bag by gutting the salaries and benefits of the city's employees so he can demonstrate to his party bosses that he's their guy. He would have Costa Mesa become a city unable to compete in the marketplace for staffers at every level and never look back on the destruction of our city he caused as he positions himself for higher office.

WILL THEY DO THE RIGHT THING FOR OUR CITY?
We can only hope that, come Tuesday, our elected leaders will realize the importance of their vote on these contracts and not put our city in a position of mediocrity simply to benefit the political ambitions of one high-ranking member of the Orange County Republican Party. They should do what they were elected to do - make the right choice for Costa Mesa. I don't know whether a large turnout at the meeting Tuesday will influence their decision, but it promises to be a watershed event in the history of our city - one worth seeing in person. You'll have three minutes to express your views to the council Tuesday, if you're the least bit interested.

Labels: , , ,

26 Comments:

Blogger PeterMeuter said...

1st you wheel them in and when the budget is tied,
you reduce their pay and benefits and soon you will be without
valuable staff and have to start all over again.

Try to come to a compromise.
www.VoteforPeter.US
www.petermeuter.com

10/23/2010 09:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

How ironic that the Mansoor 'Rule of Law' nonsense relied on the PD to enforce his anti-illegal immigration mandate, and now Bever/Riggy/Mansoor/Monahan and all the other clowns (Bever especially) have turned against those they charged with enforcing that lunacy... My hometown of 44 years is really starting to suck!

Go McEvoy...rock this town inside out!

10/23/2010 10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous hammertime said...

Geoff,

You say that next Tuesday is an important meeting –“it promises to be a watershed event in the history of our city - one worth seeing in person. You'll have three minutes to express your views to the council Tuesday, if you're the least bit interested.”

Does this mean you are “the least bit interested” and will be in attendance, and most importantly -- planning to use your three minutes to express your own views at the podium, to the City Council? If so, I’ll see you there as I intend to do the same.

10/24/2010 02:00:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

hammertime, if my cold subsides to the point where I feel OK attending the meeting I will be there. It's highly unlikely that I will speak during public comments. We each do what we do... this is what I do. I'll look forward to your presentation to the council.

10/24/2010 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

If you and your readers will take a waltz over to CM PRESS for a moment, you may want to speak at the city council meeting after all.

Martin has posted the link to the 2009 city employee salaries. If you can't see the city of Bell in process, you must be blind.

This kind of out of control spending has GOT to stop!!!

10/24/2010 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Vern said...

Would be fun to hear the Pot Stirrer speak though. There was a comic book episode once where "The Watcher" = who never did anything but watch humanity's foolishness - finally said, " I can't sit here and just watch this any more" ... and got physically involved. Is this the time for Geoff?

10/24/2010 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Vicki, visiting the CM Press is never a "waltz" for me. Viewing those salaries may upset some folks because they don't have the context of how they compare to other cities with whom we must compete for folks. Just keep on drinking that CM Press Kool-Aid, kiddo.

Vern, not the crooner you are, my friend. We each do what we do... yours includes howling at the moon. If I thought the current council actually cared about what I had to say I MIGHT consider speaking to them - but they don't.

10/24/2010 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

I have reviewed the side letter agreements and each employee association stepped up and offered up significant savings. Thank you!

After reviewing the 2009 employee compensation figures posted here: http://www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us/CMheadlines.htm, I must say that I am disappointed that they didn't agree to take over the FULL "employee's share" of the pension contributions.

Would someone please explain to me why, in this economic environment, the associations believe that the city should pick up both the employer and any portion of the employee share of the pension contributions? The employer picking that up is a good economy perk, right?

For a police officer making approximately $100K, the city is contributing $33.7K towrds their pension, of which $7.9K is the "employee's share." The association's offer tp pick up 5% is very much appreciated, but that still leaves the City picking up 4% of the "employee's share."

I understand that the associations do not want to get stuck shouldering the burden of closing the budget gap - the employees are not responsible for our budget problems, and their compensation was agreed to and approved by the City Council. They show up for work, do a great job and fulfill their end of the bargain. Looking at the salaries, shows that our police and fire folks are well paid, as they should be, but they should be funding their portion of the retirement plan.

I know that Officer Dimel reads this, and I hope that others do as well. I welcome their comments and hope that if they disagree, they let me know why. I want to have a realistic conversation about this. In my opinion, it is totally inappropriate for the City to be picking up any portion of the employee share when we our police and fire departments are understaffed and when vital employees are being laid off. How many positions could be filled or jobs saved if every city employee paid the full amount of THEIR share of their own retirement?

Lets be honest and fair about this - the city already picks up the lions share of the pension contributions - these sorts of plans are virtually non-existent in the private sector.

And, while we're talking about pensions, why are we paying anything towards city council pensions, and what is the justification for offering health care to city council members? They are part time elected officials.

10/24/2010 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob, as always, you present a reasoned comment... plenty of good questions for which I have no answers. I, too, hope members of the employee associations sign in and comment... Sounds like good questions to be asked of the council on Tuesday, for those of you planning to attend.

10/24/2010 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Humberto Caspa said...

Vicki,

Do you really know who runs the CMPress. If you don't, and you're new in Costa Mesa, google the New Nation News Website, and you'll read Martin H. Millard's real point of view about Costa Mesa, our community, and our political system. I recommend to have a plastic bag and a glass of water on your side, just in case you don't have enough time to run to restroom to throw up.

10/24/2010 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

Geoff, somebody has to make a reality check, from time to time. Maybe that's become my job.

For instance, what difference does it make whether our salaries are competitive? We have no money to pay them. We have to learn to live within our means. Considering we probably have a larger revenue base than our surrounding cities (what with South Coast Plaza, the hotels, the fairgrounds, the Performing Arts Center, etc.) where is the money going? If it's all going to employee salaries, that means one of two things: Either (a) our employee salaries are too high, or (b) we have too many employees. Simple as that!

Something obviously has to give if we are going to survive. That's known as "survival of the fittest".

10/24/2010 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Bob from Costa Mesa said...

I am no expert in municipal salaries/compensation, but I have looked at positions in city/county government in the past and they pay no where near to the numbers that are being reported. Private sector jobs have paid much better.

I realize the benefits of pensions etc are not calculated, but I would like to see cash compensation numbers for these positions, not this "accounting total" compensation. One should look into what your employer lists as your total compensation for comparison.

I know we need pension reform, but that has to happen at the state level, not the individual city level...the free market will just make Costa Mesa suffer by losing our top talent. We will always have demand for our positions, but we will lose out on the best people (I am sure Irvine, Newport and all the other surrounding cities are just salavating at the thought of being able to pick off our best talent)

10/24/2010 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Rob Dickson:

I hear you, and I totally understand your point of view. If I may: remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

There are a lot of variables here. Almost all agencies are picking up most, if not all of the employee's PERS share. Right, wrong or indifferent, most did it that way to remain competitive and attract quality candidates. Way back when, few were doing it. The best candidates were going to the agencies that offered that benefit. Now, it seems that all are picking up at least a portion of the employee portion.

Will this concession be enough to help? We believe so. It helps create some equilibrium. The city still offers the benefit of partial coverage of the employee's portion, while the employee picks up just over half of the employee's contribution. It's not totally unheard of in the private sector as you assert. Many employers who want to be competitive offer "matching" on 401k plans. Some dollar for dollar, others less.

It would be difficult to overnight have the employee pick up the entire contribution in any case. Financially, it would really hurt a lot of our families (myself included). We are in fact just working families. Contrary to what has been published, we are not "rolling in dough". I'm still trying to dig my way out after my wife was laid off and unemployed for more than a year. It really hurt us. Thankfully, she was re-employed in July.

I appreciate your reasonable discussion and your thoughtful questions on the issues.

10/24/2010 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Frank Scheafer said...

WOW, Rob you go. Being involved in an employees association, I would like to leave it up to my ELECTED officials to present to me a fair and reasonable contract. Which I feel they have done for me and my family for the last 23 years of my career. I've promised myself that I will never pickit/strike whatever, to risk my employment and to do a disservice to our customers. I consider my association only as a middle person towards management. As I am a worker, not a negotiator. I chose not to chase those big dollars, working for a contractor, years ago. I do beleive in change, though I will leave that up to my ELECTED officials. Vicki, your so-called out of control spending starts at the top. Who Has held majority for the last how many years? Good luck Peter!!!

10/24/2010 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous likes police AND Righeimer said...

I'm no fan of Millard and his hate messages but you have incorrectly categorized him as anti-cop. He is not anti-cop, he is anti-cop union as long as they continue to hold the city hostage. Big difference.

10/24/2010 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Likes Police AND Righeimer:
The CMPA has never held the city hostage. We have always had reasonable discussion and negotiations. The last contract we had was voted on and approved by: Mansoor, Monahan, Bever, Foley and Dixon. Don't you think it's a little disingenuous to come back now, and say we are overpaid or over compensated, when they themselves inked the deal?

in these current negotiations, it was not CMPA that is holding up the deal. Our elected officials have stymied the process. They either don't vote, or walk out on study sessions, thereby missing out on valuable information that could help them reach a decision. We have been at the table in good faith since June. I don't see that as holding anyone hostage. Let's be fair to the facts of the case.

I have covered this in other threads ad nauseum, but the CMPA is not a union. 1. Membership is optional (not so in a union, at a union shop). 2. We can not strike, and we have not, nor would we. 3. Unions set a prevailing wage for a particular job. They are part of a greater national organization and that wage is paid wherever you go as a journeyman laborer. Not so with CMPA. We represent our officers and our officers only. We don't set a prevailing wage. We negotiate with our elected officials for our pay/benefits. I am no fan of unions, so it is important to know the difference.

10/24/2010 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob Dimel, thanks, again, for trying to set the record straight. However, I doubt some of the folks on this thread care what you say.

likes police AND Righeimer, you are not paying attention. The CM Press is peppered with anti-cop references - has been for the past couple weeks. As far as the Costa Mesa PD is concerned, well, let's just say he has a history with them that is stuck in his craw. Every time he's mentioned in these comment threads I feel the need to swab them down with disinfectant.

10/24/2010 10:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

Rob Dimel: I guess it will be OK then if the city council says NO to any further negotiations. Right? If so, please let the CMPA know the negotiating is now over.

Likes Police and Righeimer: You are quite correct. Martin Millard has never said he doesn't like the police. In fact, he goes out of his way to express his dislike of the pressure being applied by the unions.

Geoff: Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall Martin Millard ever calling you names, or making derogatory remarks about your posters. With all due respect, it's really very childish for anyone to do that. Keep in mind that Jim Righeimer seems to be stuck in your craw, that's for sure!

Incidentally, Millard has lived in Costa Mesa for many years, and like myself, has watched the city deteriorate. I can certainly understand his consternation. Like it, or not, he is also entitled to his opinion.

10/24/2010 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Humberto Caspa,
How’s your fear peddling going in the "barrios" of Costa mesa? Make you rich yet?

10/25/2010 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Vicki,

You are either a VERY recent convert to the poison spewed at the CM Press or just don't pay attention. In either case, you've clearly become a convert. That's too bad. You'll find that, as long as you agree with him, he may post your comments. Any opposing comments NEVER appear on his site. (Do you think, for example, that anything like your last comment here would have been posted there if you were critical of him?) Why? Because he thinks his view, as the self-anointed smartest man in Costa Mesa, is the only view that counts on any issue. Do me a favor... please occasionally turn your brain back on so you can view issues through your own prism, not his.

10/25/2010 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

Where is it written that I can't enjoy both Geoff West and Martin Millard's blogs?

Let's face it, you two are polar opposites. Sometimes I agree with you, and sometimes I agree with Martin. I've been reading both of your blogs for years and have only recently starting posting comments.

I have a tremendous respect for each of you and hope that you can continue to exist without feeling the need to decimate one another.

Both of you appear to be highly intelligent, which has caused me to wonder what your professions are (when you are not blogging).

In case you haven't noticed, the two of you have so much in common you should be the best of friends! Both of you are highly opinionated, and passionate, which is exactly what makes you so interesting to read.

10/25/2010 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Lumpy said...

Hey Vicki, let me know when Millard and West become friends. I guarantee that at that very moment hell will freeze over!

10/25/2010 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Vicki, please describe for me how our racist laureate over at the CM Press and I are so similar. I give you that we are both old and sometimes pretty cranky, but what else do you think we have in common? He thinks he's the smartest man in town - that's why former Daily Pilot publisher Tom Johnson calls him "Mensa Marty". I, on the other hand, know that I'm not.

You asked about professions - well, he professes to have been, at one time or another, a Marine, actor, lawyer, real estate salesman, newsman (he did play one for 19 seconds in a pathetic movie back in the 1970s), but he's never talked about success in any of those roles. We know he's a prolific writer, apparently concentrating on spreading his view that the white race as we know it is doomed. He occasionally hustles his three books from the speaker's podium and you can find them at REALLY bargain prices on Amazon.com. Most are used and I suspect folks would probably pay you to take them to get the stench off their bookshelves. He has no visible signs of income today.

I won't attempt to bore you with my work history except to say that I had successful assignments at several national companies and ended my career as a consultant for two decades. That went well enough that I retired early - more than 10 years ago.

Actually, I'm quite offended that you'd think that he and I could be "best friends". I find his personal philosophy despicable and am offended that he's tried to overlay it on our local politics for the last decade. His "if it ain't white, it ain't right" mantra is a throwback to the worst times in this country. If you read his body of work you know he won't be happy unless our entire country is lily-white - and he's been trying to start that in Costa Mesa for a long, long time.

10/25/2010 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous connect the dots said...

Geoff, look at the company you keep before you cast stones..

10/26/2010 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous octellthetruth said...

Rob Dimel,in answer to your question, no, I don't think it is disingenuous, I think it is practical. In fact, it is exactly what would go on in the private sector. Everyone posting to this thread knows someone who has been laid off due to the recession or who has had their compensation cut. The average private sector employee is paying at least three times more for their healthcare than they did less than five years ago. Public employees, however (not just police), expect
the city to act like they're flush. THE CITY IS BROKE and filing for bankruptcy protection is possible. If the private sector offers a better package, we'll be sorry to see anyone leave but we'll certainly understand why. BTW, even though we disagree, I'd vote for you for Chief if it were a public vote.

10/26/2010 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

OCtell:

I appreciate your point of view. All of our employees do understand that we need to do our part to help out. Getting there and getting a consensus to what amount is the difficulty. There are a number of things I would like to see done differently. The truth is, we probably have a lot more common ground than you might believe.

I somewhat agree on the cost of health care issue. When my wife was with her former company (prior to lay off), her health benefits blew what we get at CMPD away. I was able to waive my health care bennies and get them through my wife's employer. Not so now. Our cost of benefits is unbelievable. The PD negotiated a lower stipend for health care benefits than other employee groups did (several years ago). Primarily, because the actual base salary is "PERSable", and the stipend for bennies is not. That said, at one negotiated raise, we got a lower medical stipend to get a higher COLA increase.

Even with the city contribution toward medical, my cost out of pocket is $1,100 per month. This by the way is not for a "Cadillac" plan. It's a typical Blue Shield HMO. It's about twice what we paid for benefits from my wife's employer. Now, if we could get that cost down to a manageable level (say $300 for family coverage), do away with the stipend all together, and it's a win-win. I just don't see that happening.

Trust me, I don't want to be chief. But thanks for the vote!

10/26/2010 11:34:00 PM  

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