The Beginning Of The Tom Hatch Era
Sunday new CEO Tom Hatch sent out a memo to the city staff updating them on the state of things right now and his plans for the immediate future. Here is how that memo began:
Fellow City Staff,It is been a difficult week for the entire City organization. It is hard to image a time when more change was happening all at the same time. The massive change includes: Allan Roeder retiring, the beginning of a complete organizational review of all functions, a serious budget situation, outsourcing decisions by the City Council, the need to develop and release Request For Proposals (RFP) for services, leadership/staffing voids in almost every department, new City Council Members wanting to learn about the organization and tour facilities, potential state raids on our redevelopment funds, investigations of various issues, new work expectations by City Council, new projects needing funding, City Council Working Groups, part-time and consultant assistance in the organization, public anger at local government pensions, PERS rate increases, many press agencies wanting information on our organization and focusing their attention on our operations, new City Attorney, letters on new service delivery options, dissolution of ABLE, need to hire a consultant to design a new website, posting of our 2010 total compensation on website (soon), our unfunded PERS liability, significant Banning Ranch development project needing review, and on and on. Even with all of these issues, my feeling is that the community continues to receive quality public services and your professional focus and effort is appreciated.
My immediate reaction to that paragraph was Yikes! With 23 individual issues being addressed, that is one HUGE bucket of stuff to deal with right off the bat! He went on to discuss some issues in greater detail, but the memo is long, so I'll just paraphrase him in some of the more important points.
He discussed the process and timing of the generation of the Request for Proposals (RFPs) for those areas previously identified for possible outsourcing and gave Department Directors the responsibility for taking the lead on the generation of those RFPs, with a goal of releasing them by Friday, March 18, 2011. We have no way of knowing how Wendy Leece's request to review that issue for possible re-hearing will affect the timing.
He told the staff that the six month noticing process is in the works and that it is anticipated that the noticing will begin before Friday, March 11, 2011. There's a lot to be considered - bumping rights, meeting with the employee associations, legal review, etc.
CHANGING WORKING HOURS
Hatch also said that some members of the City Council have expressed a desire to have the staff work a more traditional 8 a.m.-5 p.m. schedule. I have no idea where that came from, but I wonder how that will affect the service levels as the staff is reduced.
He is apparently concerned about internal and external communications so he wants to centralize the effort of improving communications in the CEO's Office. He talked about creating a Communications and Marketing Division within the CEO's Office.
PART-TIME INTERIM ASSISTANT CITY MANAGERS
Hatch announced that Tamara (Tammy) Letourneau as a lead consultant for the organizational review of the Police Department. She apparently has been a former City Manager in both Sierra Madre and Yorba Linda and will be working a couple days per week out of Hatch's office as an Interim Assistant City Manager. He also affirmed that Terry Matz will also be a part-time Interim Assistant City Manager and will serve as his second in command.
BUDGET HEARINGS BEGINNING
He also announced that the Finance Department is scheduling Budget Hearings for individual departments over the next three weeks. It's that time of the year again.
A HUGE JOB AHEAD
In my view, Tom Hatch is a personable, smart, highly skilled and very experienced guy, but he is going to have his hands full. If you read his first paragraph you'll understand the enormity of his job today. Even with a full staff it would be difficult to get all those things done in a timely fashion.
BIGGER JOB - CONTROLLING THE COUNCIL
However, again in my view, all these individual challenges pale when compared to his biggest job - keeping this new, impatient City Council from driving us into ruin through their blind allegiance to political dogma sent down from the OC GOP. If Hatch is not able to keep these guys in check - to keep them from violating the Brown Act as they may have done over this past weekend, for example - then our city is in a world of hurt. This council, which is being driven by the agenda of Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger, must understand that they CANNOT try to run this city like a private business, where they have the final word. There are laws that are in place to protect resident's rights, but these guys seem more than willing to ignore them.
COSTA MESA NOT BELL, BUT...
Costa Mesa will NOT become another "Bell", as some folks speculate. That won't happen here because there are too many concerned residents paying attention and speaking out. However, it is entirely possible that mischief with an even more significant impact could be perpetrated on our city by these guys if we're not careful.
DISCARDING POLICIES WILLY-NILLY?
For example, they are going to review "all policies and procedures", but it's not clear whether this means that Eric Bever - the lead person on this "working group" is simply going through the manuals and tear out offending pages, or whether this will be a transparent activity where residents have a chance to see what's happening and voice their opinions.
RIGHEIMER HAS NO "MANDATE"
As mentioned before here, Righeimer seems to feel that if "only" a couple hundred people jam the council chambers to speak on an issue, then the remainder of the 116,000 or so people living in our city either agree with him or must not care because they're not in attendance! That's a political expedient and very self-serving, but very obtuse, view of things. I wonder if it's going to take thousands of people standing in the parking lot with burning torches and pitchforks when controversial issues are discussed to get Righeimer to understand that his recent election DID NOT give him a mandate to destroy our city.
BE ALERT, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!
I suppose I don't really have to continue to say it, but I think we cannot take our eyes off these guys for a second! It certainly appears that they arrive at meetings with their minds already made up on very critical issues. Certainly, in their first couple months of governance they've demonstrated no interest at all in hearing from the public. At least one of them seems quite content to read and send text messages while on the dais and takes no interest in public opinion while doing so. And, this is all compounded by the change putting council member comments and suggestions at the very end of the meetings, insuring that very few folks will be in the auditorium to hear them.