Watch Them Like A Hawk
One of the things I've learned as I've watched meetings of the Costa Mesa City Council over the past decade is that, to quote baseball legend Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over". Last night those words of wisdom held true once again. More on that in a minute.
LARGE CROWD, INCLUDING BEVER FOR AWHILE
A crowd of more than 80 residents, employees and staffers gathered at the Study Session yesterday afternoon to hear, among other things, the recommendations the consultants and CEO Tom Hatch had for the restructuring of the Costa Mesa Police Department, and what changes had been made to the pending budget as a result of that restructuring. Heck, even Eric Bever showed up for the second meeting in a row, which might be a record this year. However, he made up for showing up by leaving early. I guess three and a half hours was all he could take because, when the meeting re-convened at 8:00 following a short break, he was nowhere to be seen.
HATCH GUIDED CMPD RESTRUCTURING PLAN
Hatch guided the presentation of the restructuring scheme proposed by the consultants he hired, Management Partners, and expanded on that with his own version of the restructuring. The staff report also included the April 12, 2011 report by Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley, which - as was noted by at least one speaker - was not mentioned except in passing. All of those items have been mentioned here before on previous posts. Nothing changed - Hatch proposed a Police Department of 131 sworn officers, using as a starting point the mythical "125" officer number we've discussed before, plus the 5 officers to be paid for by the C.O.P.S. grant and the Lieutenant position to be added back into the mix.
NO ANSWER TO THE "125" QUESTION
Several people, including councilwoman Wendy Leece, again asked where that 125 number came from - nobody answered that question. So much for transparency. Of course, I've told you before where it came from - two council members pulled it out of the air (or elsewhere) during a day-one coffee with Staveley. It's been the cornerstone of any restructuring plan ever since, regardless what consultants, expert in the field, have to say.
YOUR FRIENDLY PROPHET WAS RIGHT!
When the conversation turned to the current budget recommendations in which Hatch has managed to provide the council with a balanced budget, things got pretty interesting. You may recall when I published THIS entry, I said the following:
Again, it will be interesting to see if this city council will set aside dogma and do what is right for the city when it comes to the budget. Quite honestly, I don't think they will be satisfied with a balanced budget. I think they're going to want to throw a mountain of cash into the Reserves and will sacrifice bodies to do it. I really do expect them to direct Hatch to return on June 21st with a new, revised budget proposal that will give them at least $1 million to put in the cookie jar. That will mean, in all likelihood, another eight staffers will be lost. Since Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer is intent on having a 125 sworn member police department, that's where six of those bodies will come from.
RIGHEIMER WANTS ANOTHER $3 MILLION!
Guess what? I was right! After most of the folks left in the auditorium - around 30 remained - Righeimer told Hatch that he's looking for nearly $3 million in additional savings in this year's budget! He figures we're over-estimating revenues by $400,000 and wants $1.5 million more in the form of the equipment replacement fund and another million in a contingency fund, all of which totals $2.9 million. You could hear the life being sucked out of the audience and the staff.
USING UNFILLED VACANCIES
Then, as the discussion turned to just how those savings might be accomplished the conversation turned to a supplemental sheet of unfilled vacancies presented to the council last night. There were 28 positions on that list with a total annual cost of just over $4.1 million. Both Mayor Gary Monahan and Righeimer speculated about how some of those positions might be canceled or delayed to help come up with Righeimer's new target. One speaker, Perry Valantine, pointed out to them that none of those positions will be filled by July 1 and probably not even by September 1, which automatically provides $1 million in contingency dollars.
RIGHEIMER WILL HOLD FIRE VACANCIES HOSTAGE
Much has been made about Righeimer's position on pension reform. It formed the platform for his council campaign last year. We've speculated that he can't really implement "pension reform" in Costa Mesa because the labor contracts run past the end of his term. Well, he gave us a very clear look at what's in his mind last night. Right at the end of the meeting, in a little re-hash of how those vacant positions might play in the budget balancing act, when referring to the Fire Department positions, he told us that he wasn't interested in filling any of the Fire positions until we've got a second tier in place for new hires. Even though the fire contracts are not up for re-negotiation for several years, Righeimer's willing to hold eight (8) currently vacant positions hostage unless the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association negotiates a new tier of pensions. This cavalier attitude dramatically negatively affects public safety in our city.
MONAHAN WILL BE WATCHING
As if that was not enough, with his actions last night Monahan affirmed Hatch's statement last week that the council doesn't trust the employees who work for the city. In two breaths he asked Hatch to come back with a proposal for a computerized time-clock system for all employees - suggesting that the folks at the Corporate Yard could use laptops to clock in - AND suggested we put GPS units on all city vehicles. A pint-sized version of Big Brother is alive and well in Costa Mesa today.
COMMUNITY BUDGET WORKSHOP THURSDAY
At 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 16th in Conference Room 1A Hatch and the Finance staff will hold a community budget workshop, to answer questions members of the community might have. Last year this event drew 12 people, quadruple the previous 3 years. Because this year has been extraordinary from a budget communication standpoint, I wonder about the value of this workshop. But, it's scheduled and will be held.
FINAL BUDGET DUE TO BE CONSIDERED ON THE 21ST
The actual, final budget is scheduled to be considered on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers. Based on the meeting last night, that should be a very interesting meeting. Those of us who watch this stuff closely are wondering just what kind of stuff the council will drop on Hatch at the last minute on that date.