"Outsourcing" Polarizes Community
As mentioned previously, the hit counter at the Daily Pilot has been spinning like a top at record pace recently. The motivator is "outsourcing" and all the ugly tentacles that subject seems to have sprouted.
IRRITATING BUZZ WORDS
Since the new City Council was seated in January "outsourcing" has become yet another irritating buzz word thrown around by the new power elite in our city, along with equally irritating "new normal" and "kick the can down the road".
THE "MEAT CLEAVER"
But, more than a simple buzz word, the philosophy of outsourcing - replacing municipal jobs with theoretically less costly private contractors - has been the meat cleaver wielded by Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger that has divided this city almost exactly in half. This festering wound came to a head on St. Patrick's Day, Thursday, March 17th, when the first round of more than two hundred 6-month layoff notices were handed out to employees all over the city and maintenance worker Huy Pham leaped off the roof of City Hall. That act turned what was probably one of the darkest days in the city's history into one that guaranteed that status and received unwanted national notoriety.
DAMAGE CONTROL & POLITICAL PUFFERY
Since then there has been much rhetoric on both sides of the issue, with St. Patrick's Day AWOL Mayor Gary Monahan attempting damage control for his unwillingness to leave his gin mill on "the biggest day of my life" to do his job as mayor. Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer's bloated face seems to have been everywhere on local and national media, bleating his misinformation about the fiscal condition of our city to drum up support for the Orange County Republican Party's plan to make Costa Mesa the tip of the lance in their effort to effect state-wide pension reform. Righeimer is using this issue to garner national recognition for what some feel is a possible run for his buddy, Dana Rohrabacher's congressional seat in the near future.
ODD COUPLING, SO TO SPEAK
As I mentioned before, last week Mensinger and I, unbeknown to each other, both submitted our views in commentaries to the Daily Pilot, which cleverly chose to run them Wednesday and Thursday, HERE and HERE, and paired them up in the online editions. The hit counters began spinning with those two.
FANNING "FEET TO THE FIRE"
On Wednesday Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis wrote a column titled "Let's talk about Costa Mesa's future", HERE, which hyped the up-coming Feet To The Fire forum hosted by the Orange County Register's Barbara Venezia on April 18th also began tallying up hits and cranking out comments.
A VOICE OF REASON
On Friday, April 1st, Eastside resident, land planner and really smart fella Jeff Harlan had published his commentary which eventually carried the title, "Long-term growth, value of city is important", HERE, which gave us a less emotional, more thoughtful view of this situation.
Then, on Saturday afternoon Joe Serna wrote an article in the Daily Pilot about a poll recently conducted by Tulchin Research, titled, "Poll: Most voters don't want Costa Mesa to outsource", HERE, in which nearly 60% of the polled residents opposed the outsourcing scheme and the dam seemed to break. Before it could make print this morning the hit counter was burning up and, as I type this Sunday afternoon, there are over 180 comments posted on it. The "conclusion" of the poll, a copy of which is in my hands, states the following:
"In conclusion, this poll clearly demonstrates that Costa Mesa voters are solidly opposed to the City Council's approach to balancing the budget and object strongly to the proposed lay-offs of nearly half the city workforce and to outsourcing most city services. This opposition transcends ideological lines and should serve as guidance to the city's elected officials that their actions defy the will of Costa Mesa voters."
DAILY PILOT POLL, TOO
In a separate, non-scientific poll, the Daily Pilot asked readers to respond to a question relevant to the outsourcing issue. Here are the results:As you can clearly see, the responses indicate a community split right down the middle.
While all this is going on, around town there have been small knots of residents trying to meet and form groups to present opposing views of our current "financial crisis" that the current council majority is attempting to use as a wedge to bust the unions that carry the "unsustainable" pensions and salaries.
One of these groups included former mayor Sandra Genis and Westside activist Greg Ridge. Based on reports from those who attended, their first meeting resulted in very little in the way of goal-setting and officer-electing. They were unable to identify a name for the group, but planned to meet later to continue to plan.
However, an impatient Ridge put the pedal to the metal and took off on his own without consultation with his associates. He apparently created a name on his own - REPAIR COSTA MESA - set up a web site and, apparently with the help of the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA) and it's president, Nick Beradino, was complicit in the creation and distribution of the now-infamous ad, HERE, denouncing Monahan for his shameful acts on St. Patrick's Day and then at the bogus press conference the next day. This poured gasoline on an already out-of-control situation and generated a huge backlash within the community and nationally, too.
JUST WHO IS PAYING FOR WHAT - AND WHY?
At a subsequent meeting of the group-that-isn't-a-group Ridge took full responsibility for that act, but shrugged it off as inconsequential. It was during that meeting that copies of the poll mentioned in Serna's article, above, were distributed. Serna tells us that the poll was funded by the OCEA, but in the last sentence of the poll document itself it clearly states that it was paid for "by Repair Costa Mesa, a non-partisan coalition of community members, city workers and business leaders united to repair Costa Mesa." The problem here is no such organization exists! That was the name Ridge pulled out of thin air when "the ad" was distributed.
"GRASS ROOTS"- NOT!
All the while, Planning Commission Chairman and Righeimer/Mensinger sycophant, Colin McCarthy is the front man for a group called Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association, which professes to be "grassroots, non-partisan taxpayer advocacy group" and yet their mantra is straight from the OC GOP playbook. As is the case with Righeimer and Mensinger, this group's leadership already has it's mind made up, is using the same fabricated numbers that the council majority is attempting to sell the public and apparently made it clear to the assembled group at the first meeting at Monahan's pub that divergent views would be unwelcome.
DANA PROVIDED THE "RED MEAT"
An amusing sidebar of that event was the red-meat rant by my new Eastside neighbor, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, attempting to whip the crowd into a frenzy with an anti-Barack Obama screed that seemed completely inappropriate to the event. I've seen the video clip of his "speech" and, as a lifelong Republican, can only say that I was completely embarrassed by it.
FIRST MEETING SINCE ST. PATRICK'S DAY
On Tuesday, April 5th, the Costa Mesa City Council will have its first "official" council meeting since the St. Patrick's Day debacle and the bogus press conference. I say "official" because I don't know how many unofficial meetings they've had since that time. We do know that a quorum was present at the above-mentioned Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association meeting, so it's likely that a Brown Act violation occurred that evening. The agenda is thin for Tuesday's meeting, but we do look forward to the reports from the 2-member sub-committees - "working groups" - to find out just what decisions have already been made without the inconvenient need to include public input. And, there is always the much-anticipated "council member comments", which usually give us huge clues to just how this group plans to further violate our rights and disassemble our city in the name of "pension reform". I wouldn't be surprised if there is a pretty good crowd at Tuesday's meeting. I wouldn't be surprised if a few members of the public rise to ask about all the consultants that have been hired in the past couple weeks - to see how the council justifies those very significant expenses, yet move forward at warp speed to dump more than 200 employees - and that's just the beginning. I also wouldn't be surprised if members of the public ask the council about their reported plan to add an additional $15 million to an already-projected $5 million deficit for the next budget and yet move forward with their plans to flush employees down the sewer. I wouldn't be surprised at all...
WHAT ABOUT COUNCIL COMPENSATION CONCESSIONS?
There have been many interesting questions asked on this blog and on others. One of those is, "With all the angst this council has about out-of-control pension and benefits costs - and with all the disclosures of employee pay packages by Righeimer and his buddies - why has the council not stepped up to offer concessions on their compensation packages?" Of course, it's quite possible that they have no clue as to precisely what their packages include. We did see Righeimer tell a television interviewer, when asked what the Mayor Pro Tem of Costa Mesa makes, say "...around $760 a month and I've got a 401K". Well, Mr. Righeimer, you were only off a little. Council members earn $904.40 per month and DO NOT have a 401K - they participate in the same CalPERS program other employees have. We know, in the game of horseshoes you call your life, close is good enough.
APPLYING THOSE "SKILLS"
We're also eager to hear how Righeimer and Mensinger - who both rode divisions of SunCal Corporation straight into bankruptcy - plan to apply those management skills in Costa Mesa. We already know, because he's told us several times during his campaign, that Righeimer never filed for personal bankruptcy - that he took 9 years, but paid off all his debts. What he didn't tell us was what happened to all those vendors he stiffed, and whether they somehow avoided their own bankruptcies while waiting for nearly a decade for him to pay his debts. Nope, we don't hear about that.
AND WHAT ABOUT MENSINGER'S LEGAL SCRAPES?
And we don't hear much from our non-elected council member, Mr. Mensinger, about his own little jousts with the legal process. He's not talking about his abuse of authority documented by the Los Angeles Times in 2006 when he flashed his "Mike Carona" bogus badge and threatened to have a airline employee fired. And we don't hear about the lawsuit filed against him while a honcho at Arnel. We don't hear about that stuff because he managed to sweet-talk Katrina Foley into abandoning her seat for the school board run so he could avoid all the inconvenience of an election and simply be appointed to her empty seat by his pal, Righeimer, and his cronies. Nope, we don't hear about that stuff.
MAYBE, OR MAYBE NOT...
Maybe we'll hear about some of that stuff, including the whereabouts of Eric Bever during the past few weeks, at Tuesday's council meeting. Or, maybe not...