"Waste", "Badges", Politics & Mom
Today I, along with "real" media outlets, received a little love note from Jennifer Muir - former Orange County Register ace reporter turned union spokesperson - announcing the creation of what the Orange County Employee Association (her employer) calls "Waste Watchers". She describes this effort as "our way of offering the City Council, especially Jim Righeimer, Gary Monahan, Eric Bever and Steve Mensinger, even more ways to save."
Among the subjects of this, the first of what is probably going to be a series of similar efforts, she asks why it should cost more for a spokesman for the city of Costa Mesa (Bill Lobdell) than it costs for the Governor's spokesman, mentioning that the Governor's person makes $2,844.23 a week and Lobdell makes $3,000.00.
She also mentioned the fact that, on the day of the St. Patrick's catastrophe at City Hall, an invoice was issued by vendor Entenmann-Rovin Company for two "badges" costing nearly $450.00, including carrying cases. These badges were apparently ordered in February for new council members Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger - all council members have them. The Daily Pilot, HERE, and the Orange County Register, HERE, immediately picked up on this "story" and published about it.
"MAYOR PRO TEAM" - AND I LAUGHED...
When I read Jennifer's submission I contacted her and she forwarded copies of the invoice. I noted at the time that the face of the badge for Righeimer was to read "Mayor Pro Team", and chuckled about what I thought was a typo on the invoice. Then I read Jon Cassidy's coverage in the Register and found that, indeed, the badge does read that way. I couldn't help but smile and chuckle a little harder.
NO BIG DEAL
Personally, I think this "badge" thing is much ado about nothing. I have no problem with our City Council members receiving these badges - as long as they don't attempt to abuse the fact that they're carrying them. Yes, that's directed at Mensinger, who has shown us in the past that he's capable of doing just that.
"OUTSIDERS" MAKE ME ANGRY
I understand what the OCEA is trying to do here, and it makes me just as angry that they've inserted themselves in our local politics as does the involvement of the Orange County Republican Party. In my opinion, both should butt the heck out and let the city, its residents and employees sort things out for themselves. Of course, I realize that's not going to happen. There's too much at stake for both sides.
IF IT DOESN'T WORK, OH, WELL...
It's bad enough that Scott Baugh is writing the script for Righeimer - with, we understand, some recent help from Republican Party strategist Karl Rove - in an attempt to make Costa Mesa the tip of the lance in state-wide (and maybe national) pension reform. They're willing and eager to let the battle be fought here and not worry too much about the collateral damage that's being done to the fabric of our city. It's very much like Righeimer's attitude about the fireworks issue - we'll give it a try and if it doesn't work out we'll revisit it later. Except in the case of our city, they may not be much left to "revisit" when the battle over pensions, etc., finally finishes.
Add to this the insertion of the OCEA, with their pricey television ads and obnoxious internet ads and the whole issue gets messier by a factor of ten - at least. I've met a few of the people appearing in the ads and like them very much. They are sincere in their concern for the future of our city and are trying to help. However, they've become pawns in this battle - the carriers of the pikes that get mowed down in the beginning of the battle. They are the ones who will step to the speaker's podium and tell the council members how they feel about things, sometimes being summarily dismissed as "an outsider" or "union thug". They are neither. However, even though I'm sympathetic with their side of the issue, I find myself getting irritated at them whenever one of their faces pops up on my computer screen lately.
HEAVY "RECON" GOING ON
As an aside, I didn't realize the full scale of the involvement of the union until I went to their page to "borrow" the photo of Muir, above. As I scrolled down the page I saw many familiar faces, including their General Manager, Nick Berardino, who has been their front man in this battle since the St. Patrick's Day catastrophe. But, I also saw faces of people I didn't know were union folks. For example, their General Counsel, Donald Drozd, who has been sitting in front of me at many recent council meetings, taking notes and scampering in and out of the chambers to make telephone calls, I guess. He is always accompanied by an entourage of, I think, other union staffers. It is, after all, a battle and every little bit of reconnaissance counts.
MESSY DISASSEMBLING CONTINUES
I fear it's going to be a long, messy next several weeks as the budget is hammered-out and both sides jockey for position in an attempt to win over the residents of our city. The sad fact is that most residents are just too darn busy trying to make a living in these very challenging times to pay attention to what's going on. As a result, our city is being disassembled, one important piece at a time and we will not be the better for it when the dust finally settles.
STUDY SESSION ON TUESDAY
Next Tuesday the City Council will hold another Study Session in City Council Chambers in anticipation of a large turnout. The agenda for that meeting has been posted on the city web site. Now, before you dash off to read the staff reports, there is only one available - for item #2 (below) and I've provided a link to it HERE. The rest will apparently be presentations by individuals who provided no advance information. Here's the agenda as listed:
1. Budget Update
2. Retiree Medical Benefit Program Presentation
3. Marketing and communication Initiatives Update
4. Consultants Update
FOLLOWED BY VERY BRIEF RDA/COUNCIL MEETING
The session begins at 4:30, Tuesday, May 10th and will be followed at 6:30 (or whenever the session ends) by a joint meeting of the Costa Mesa Redevelopment Agency/City Council. Based on the staff report, it should be a VERY short meeting.