Of Loving, Lameness and Losers
The past two days have tested the emotional capacity of the employees of the City of Costa Mesa and many of it's residents, as well. When young Huy Pham took his life by leaping from the roof of City Hall Thursday afternoon a chain of events started that has left many completely wrung out - this writer included.
Early in the day Friday resident Greg Ridge, wanting to "do something" to honor the memory of Pham, launched a Facebook solicitation for interested folks to join him on the East steps of City Hall for a candlelight vigil. As a result more than 100 people began arriving shortly before 7 p.m. and many remained when I finally left just before 10:00. Greg offered a prayer at the beginning of this very informal event. That was the only "formal" part of the evening.
ROEDER AND OTHERS
Among those making this short pilgrimage to pay their respects was recently-retired City Manager Allan Roeder and his wife, Christie, shown here exchanging condolences from city staffers. I simply cannot imagine the thoughts that must be going through Roeder's mind these days. I also saw former mayor Mary Hornbuckle and former police chief Dave Snowden and his wife taking time to visit with old friends to offer some solace.
LEECE - A COMPASSIONATE "OFFICIAL" PRESENCE
Councilwoman Wendy Leece - the only current council member to attend - was on the site again after spending much of the previous evening at City Hall consoling employees and friends. As was the case yesterday, she also took time to speak with members of the media present. I saw coverage on KCAL, FOX, CBS and NBC, but missed the ABC coverage last night.
GENIS BACK AGAIN
Former mayor Sandra Genis was back again, having shared much of yesterday evening with Leece and others trying to do what they could to help employees deal with this tragedy. This evening she roamed from group to group to offer her best wishes.
NAGHAVI AND MANDOKI
Public Services Director Peter Naghavi, who was omnipresent yesterday, was at the gathering tonight, too. He calmly took the time to talk with folks, as did Administrative Services Director Steve Mandoki. This tragedy has been particularly hard on Naghavi because it was his duty to present the 6-month layoff notices to more than 50 employees in his Maintenance Services organization - including Huy Pham - on Thursday.
OFFICERS PAY THEIR RESPECTS
As the evening progressed people came and went. These three young Costa Mesa police officers spent a good portion of their dinner break paying their respects. Several other officers came by during the evening to quietly show their support for those assembled to honor Pham.
SHARING THE LOVE
Folks seemed to cluster in small groups, the configuration of which morphed like small segments of quicksilver, as friends slipped from one group to another to share stories and hugs in equal quantities. Many moved forward to observe the dozens of flower displays and lighted candles placed at the site where Huy Pham's life ended yesterday afternoon.
Around 8:30, although it was not planned, a group of Pham's friends who had been lingering a few yards away found their way to the candle and floral display, stood for a few moments, quietly said a prayer, then slowly melted away in reverence for their friend.
BRAD LONG - THE ROCK
CMTV's Brad Long, shown here on the far left of a group of employees and friends near the end of the evening, had not gotten much sleep in the past 48 hours as he calmly and quietly "got things done" that needed to be done, including setting up the conference room on the 5th floor for a press conference earlier in the day. More on that later. Long has been a rock for his fellow employees during this tragedy.
ANOTHER MEMORIAL TO PHAM ON MONDAY
This gathering seemed to provide a much-needed opportunity for friends and co-workers to gather, share their grief and offer what consolation they could. Thanks to Greg Ridge for taking the initiative for this effort. Monday, weather permitting, there is another gathering scheduled for the same place. As announced earlier, this was to be an "Employees Only" gathering at 3:00 p.m. That has changed. Naghavi announced it to the press and now anticipates several hundred more attendees beyond the employees who will be encouraged to attend. Personally, I think this could be good for the employees and the community at large that has responded with such compassion.
POOR PRESS CONFERENCE
On a much less pleasant note, earlier in the day members of the City Council and Chief Executive of the City, Tom Hatch, held a hastily-contrived press conference in a small conference room on the 5th floor of City Hall. It was restricted to credentialed members of the press only, which locked me out. It was taped by Brad Long of CMTV and is now available for viewing on the city web site. You'll see the flashing notice at the bottom of the home page. It requires Windows Media Player and it takes a few minutes to download the 8 minute event. NOTE: Thanks to Gericault for providing a link, HERE, which shows the entire press conference. The final minute +, which was deleted from the city version, clearly demonstrates the unresponsiveness of the city council.
MEDIA COVERAGE SHOWS MORE...
I've subsequently seen part of the coverage on media outlets, including the segments at the end where the assembled reporters expressed anger at not being allowed to ask any questions. That part has been edited out of the city tape.
That's correct - our "leaders" held a press conference but only permitted Hatch to deliver a prepared text without any comments by the council members present nor any questions being asked of them!
MORE UNBUDGETED CONSULTANTS
Among the things Hatch discussed was that the city has hired yet more consultants - none of the cost for which has been included in the current budget! They hired an outfit called "Growth Partners", which apparently brings significant expertise in Employment Law and Human Resources. Sounds a little like closing the barn door after the horse escaped to me.
LOBDELL'S IMPOSSIBLE TASK
Hatch also announced that he'd signed Bill Lobdell, current columnist and former editor of the Daily Pilot, to a 90 day contract to, "create a communication structure that will put Costa Mesa on a path to being the nation's most transparent government." I really like Bill Lobdell and admire his prodigious writing skills, but if this press conference was Lobdell's first step it was going in the wrong direction. At a time when our city and the entire region is crying out for clarity on this tragic event our elected leaders chose to stonewall reporters. I doubt very much if Lobdell had a hand in this one. I sure hope not.
IN HIS HEART...
During the end of his presentation - before he and the council members present slammed the door on the reporters - as Hatch was discussing the "noticing process", he said, "In my heart I know that that noticing process was conducted by our department heads and by our key management staff with care, with detail and with compassion." Maybe, but...
As you can certainly tell, I was very disappointed in this press conference, as was every person who viewed it that subsequently communicated with me about it. From where I sit, it's going to take a lot longer than three months for Lobdell to polish our city's image and to create that "communication structure" mentioned above. We'll see.
I've written in an earlier post my view of Mayor Gary Monahan's attempt to justify his lack of presence at City Hall Thursday. It was a lame, bogus attempt to deflect much-deserved criticism from him. Then I saw a clip on Fox 11 News Friday night that only further confirmed my opinion.
FOX 11 NEWS CLIP
In the clip reporter Al Naipo discussed the silent vigil held last night and the press conference. He then speculated about why Monahan didn't show up yesterday and showed us part of the tape he shot Thursday in front of Monahan's pub. Since it is not yet available on streaming video, I'm going to quote the mayor exactly from that segment.
OUT OF HIS OWN MOUTH...
Monahan is shown walking out of his pub in his garb for the day - a cute little Irish cap and a kilt - and then says: "I've got the biggest day of my life here. I have a business and I'm trying to survive my business. I just got the word like an hour ago. How do I just jump into something else and go down there? My heart goes out for what happened today, but I can't fix it."
TOO BUSY TO BE MAYOR
So, there you have it. Monahan states in the clearest possible terms that he couldn't "fix it", so going to City Hall to help guide the response to this tragedy and to help console the employees - to provide much-needed leadership at a time of crisis - just wasn't worth his time. Nope, pulling beer taps on the "biggest day of my life" took precedence over leading a grieving city staff and assuring a concerned community.
TWO DEATHS ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY
I sure hope it was worth it, and that he made a lot of money Thursday, because - along with young Huy Pham - Gary Monahan's political career committed suicide on St. Patrick's Day, 2011.