First The Fun, Then The Bad News
This evening, following the 5:00 p.m. reception for retiring City Manager Allan Roeder and resigning City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow in the City Hall Lobby, the City Council will hold what may be the most rancorous City Council meeting of this young year. It is anticipated that the auditorium will be packed to overflowing, most likely with employees anxious about their future with the city and residents worried about their safety and services being provided to them.
The meeting will open up at 6:00 p.m. with Mayor Gary Monahan doing his "feel good" routine by making announcements of upcoming events - in this case it will be youth baseball, a presentation Wednesday by the Costa Mesa Green Task Force and Saturday's re-opening ceremony for the Diego Sepulveda Adobe.
Employee of the Month, Tim Sun, will be honored. Officer Oscar Reyes will receive the MADD Deuce Award and presentations will be made to Roeder and Barlow. Roeder will provide an update on the Orange County Fairgrounds in what will likely be one of his final official pronouncements in the City Council chambers. His retirement date is Friday, March 4th.
NEW FEES FOR "ROCKS"
There will be a Public Hearing on the new fee schedule for the Recreation On Campus For Kids (ROCKS) program.
Under Old Business Steve Mensinger's pipe dream of changing the title of the City Manager to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the City will be adopted. What a colossal waste of energy just so a guy with an inflated ego can say, "Hey, look what I did!"
SUB-COMMITTEE REPORTS - LISTEN CLOSELY
The five council sub-committees will then present reports. Those are:
Economic Development and Development
Sports and Recreation
Policies, Procedures and General Plan/Circulation
Budget and Capital Improvements
DUARTE IN FOR BARLOW
Under New Business, current Assistant City Attorney Tom Duarte of the firm of Jones & Mayer will be appointed City Attorney. Duarte has functioned as the City Attorney for the Planning Commission. He will replace Kim Barlow, who abruptly and unexpectedly resigned as City Attorney recently, citing personal and business reasons. More than a few folks around this town wonder if she was shoved out by the new city council because she kept telling them "NO" when their plans violated the law or city regulations. We'll probably never know - yet another top city official departing without reason being given.
PERMITTING REQUIREMENT FOR MASONRY WALLS
The council will then approve an amendment to our Municipal Code related to building permits for Masonry Walls.
Then, under New Business #3, the council will discuss Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's most recent scheme, HERE - to privatize our Emergency Medical Service. This one is to transmit a letter to the Medical Director of the Orange County Emergency Medical Services requesting that he determine the feasibility and requirements to evaluate he addition of the City's ambulance provider, Care Ambulance, as added capacity to the current Costa Mesa Emergency Medical Service-Paramedic delivery system.
KICK OFF - THEN WHAT?
This is a big deal. Once we kick this ball off the "T" we're not exactly sure where this process goes next. In the staff report, HERE, there is not yet any discussion of the potential increase in costs to the city AND RESIDENTS if this scheme is adopted. I know this is only to get the ball rolling, but this City Council has demonstrated in only two short months that these things take on a life of their own and decisions are made well in advance of public input. Some folks knowledgeable on this subject tell me that costs for the use of a private EMS service provider could very significantly increase to those who need the service - perhaps as much as $2,000 per trip, if not more.
ENHANCING = ADDING = MORE $
The staff report talks about "enhancing" our EMS service. That means "adding" to me. What about the costs to the city? How does this affect the proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority to replace our Fire Department? Again, this is happening much too quickly.
OUTSOURCING OF CITY SERVICES
The last item under New Business will be the biggie - Outsourcing of City Services. You can read the staff report HERE, which lists the functions the sub-committee - Monahan and Righeimer - think can be successfully outsourced. You will notice at the top of the list is the entire Fire Department - nearly 90 employees. Nobody has yet calculated the actual total number of employees covered by this plan, but some estimate it to be around 150 employees - nearly a third of the current staff.
NO CLUE ON COSTS
One interesting comment made in the staff report is found under FISCAL REVIEW. The comment is "The fiscal impact for outsourcing the identified City services is unknown at this time." Of course, because six months notice is required for any employee and bargaining unit for operations being outsourced, the council will almost certainly approve this issue and employees will be provided official notice immediately.
In the separate staff report on Noticing Requirements, HERE, I found an interesting statement in Item 2. The question posed in that item asks, "Is the City required to be specific as to the service/program being considered for contracting out? In other words, can the City Council issue a blanket notice to all employees of its intent to contract out all services to keep all options open?" The answer provided is, "NO". We assume that answer is to the second question, not the first.
THEY'VE GOT IT BACKWARDS
The explanation to that answer is as follows (EMPHASIS IS MINE):
"The Council MUST FIRST consider and determine which specific services would be contracted for AND THEN give the required six months' notice to affected employees and bargaining units. Article 19.2 with the CMCEA states that 'once a decision is made by the City to contract out for a specific service' the required notice is given. Staff believes this REQUIRES that notice be given out AFTER the decision to contract out, NOT BEFORE."
"BUMPING RIGHTS" CHAOS
Further down in the staff report the issue of "bumping rights" is addressed. It indicates that part-time positions will be eliminated first. It then says, "In addition, employees who are notified of layoffs are required to exercise their 'bumping' rights WITHIN FIVE WORKING DAYS of receiving layoff notifications. Thus, whether thirty days' notice or six months' notice is given to specific employees, the notified employees will have to notify management of any position which they elect to displace into, which would in turn trigger layoff notices to those effected who otherwise would not have been laid off." Yikes! That's not much time for an employee to make a life-changing decision, is it?
THE CART'S BEFORE THE HORSE
So, the way I interpret this information is that the council will determine, based on the information provided to them in the staff report and testimony at THIS council meeting, which specific units will be contracted out. The big question I have, though, is how will they determine whether there are cost savings to be had BEFORE any bids for the contracting is taken. They've got the cart before the horse. They should FIRST decide which functions MIGHT be contracted out, then get bids for that contracting and compare them to the current costs for service by employees, THEN make the decision and start the noticing process. That logical sequence of events, though, doesn't play well with their pre-disposition to outsource everything, as articulated so clearly by Righeimer in the first council meeting of the year.
"BUT, WE CAN ALWAYS CANCEL"
They will tell us that they can cancel this noticing any time, so they are providing it now "just in case" we actually decide to outsource some of these functions. Swell - throw the ENTIRE city staff into chaos while they play God! This is looking more and more like a scene straight out of "Through The Looking Glass", with Righeimer cross-dressing as the Queen of Hearts - "Off with their heads!"
THEY'RE TOO IMPATIENT!
They will reply that the logical sequence will take too long - that we'll be well into the new budget year before any action could be taken. OK, so what? We still don't know exactly what our fiscal condition is for THIS fiscal year, much less the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The last we heard from our friends in Finance was that revenues were trending upward. It's entirely possible that we will have a balanced 2010-2011 budget by the end of June, for goodness sake.
AGAIN, NO COSTS KNOWN
And, again, under FISCAL REVIEW, there is this statement: "The potential financial impact of eliminating, reducing or contracting out specific services CANNOT BE DETERMINED until the specific positions/services are identified." Again, the cart before the horse. Again, this council won't give a rat's rear end about this. They want to dump the unions and their pensions and are taking the easy way (for them) to accomplish that goal. No negotiating, just slashing, then smiles all around with their buddies at the OC GOP for a "job well done". It's truly disgusting!
COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS - A DANGEROUS TIME
The meeting will end, at who-knows-what-hour, with council member comments and suggestions. You will recall that I've reminded you frequently that this segment - when almost everyone is tired and has departed - is when the mischief begins. This is the time when they will request this or that from the staff - issues that end up like this "outsourcing" debacle. Time for some "No Doze", my friends. You just cannot blink around these guys - but then, I've said that before, haven't I?