Is Hatch Pushing Back?
Has Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch drawn a line in the sand with the City Council? I think it's possible to interpret the staff report for his budget presentation at Tuesday's City Council meeting, HERE, that way.
DEALING WITH CAPRICIOUS GOP DOGMA
At the Study Session last Tuesday Hatch gave the council a balanced budget, which was promptly destroyed by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's addition of nearly $3 million in costs. Many of us in attendance at that meeting were pretty darn upset at that move because the items Righeimer wanted to add seemed capricious and unnecessary. I don't know how Hatch felt about it... but I can speculate.
RABBITS FROM HATS
At the sparsely-attended Community Budget Workshop on Thursday evening this issue was brought up by one of the attendees. Hatch held up a draft of what apparently turned out to be his staff report and told us he was working on a response to Righeimer's demands. And that he did!
A BALANCED BUDGET - AGAIN
In the staff report Hatch recommends the council adopt the SAME balanced budget he presented at the June 14th Study Session. He then addresses the impact of Righeimer's demands and provides a methodology by which they could be included in the budget. That methodology includes slashing funding of a couple of the council's pet issues - a Business License Tax consultant from $40,000 to $20,000 and an Economic Development consultant from $100,000 to $50,000. He also proposed reducing the legal services budget from $1,003,000 to $803,000; (This will be interesting because one of the Warrants they will approve Tuesday includes over $120,000 for Jones & Mayer - an annualized rate of $1.4 million!) requested authorization to budget for (1) anticipated salary savings on vacant positions - which might yield over $1,050,000 - and (2) eliminating vacant positions, restructuring the organization as new vacancies occur or savings generated from outsourcing - or any combination thereof, which he projects a budget savings of $1,500,000. It's going to be very interesting to see the City Council's reaction to Hatch's proposal. I suspect they, too, will push back and load even more stuff into the budget and expect him to magically find a way to balance it. This is going to boil down to how many people will Righeimer and his mob force Hatch and his team to layoff, period.
"BIFF" DOESN'T GET IT
During recent meetings non-elected councilman Steve (Biff) Mensinger frequently mentions that "this is Tom's first budget", and bemoans the fact that Hatch had been cut out of the process by former City Manager Allan Roeder while his assistant. I'm getting pretty tired of that mantra because it's just not true. Hatch has done PLENTY of budgets in the past in his professional life before Costa Mesa. As I've said before, this is not his first rodeo. However, this IS THE FIRST municipal budget for Mensinger and Righeimer - and it shows. They lack the essential grasp of municipal finances and money management - and the rules cities are required by law to follow. Unlike in the private sector - where they both came from - you can't just shoot from the hip and expect to get away with it. Council members are accountable to the voters and must follow the rules. That seems to be the sticking point - they don't like the rules.
CMPD RESTRUCTURING, TOO
Don't forget that the official presentation of the Costa Mesa Police Department restructuring is also on the agenda Tuesday. And, Hatch's proposal for THAT change forms the cornerstone of the new budget proposal, too. And, the council didn't like what it heard when this proposal was introduced last Tuesday... more intrigue.
EPPERSON'S ESSAY A "MUST READ"
Retired Costa Mesa Police Lieutenant Clay Epperson wrote an excellent commentary in the Daily Pilot this weekend. In case you missed it, you can find his thoughts HERE. This is a must-read essay for every resident to consider.
KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED FOR A BALANCED BUDGET
So, dear friends and neighbors, the City Council meeting Tuesday should be another interesting event. I suspect that it will play to a packed house again and I suspect more than a few folks will stand to let the council know their feelings about their budget and the outsourcing issue. The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. and will be televised live on award-winning CMTV, Channel 24 on Time-Warner Cable and 99 on ATT U-Verse. You can also watch the live streaming video from the city web site, if you wish.