P.I.s, RFPs, E-Verify, Pillow Talk And More
Jon Cassidy in the Orange County Register, HERE, had a story on Thursday indicating that a private investigator has been tracking down high school students at their homes and interrogating them regarding the removal of "Cancel The Layoffs" signs around town. This has, as might be anticipated, caused a good deal of discussion around town since it appeared.
MURTHA, SR.-" P.I. HIRED BY UNION"
In the article Cassidy quotes Robert Murtha, Sr., father of Estancia football star Robert Murtha, Jr., when discussing the investigator, as saying, "The funny thing is that he actually told me that he was hired by the employees association." The investigator, identified as George Rowell, declined comment for Cassidy.
MENSINGER APPARENTLY DENIES THE CHARGES
I've heard a rumor around town for a couple weeks that councilman Steve Mensinger, head of the Estancia boosters group, had offered $1.00 for each sign removed, but could not verify that information, so didn't report it. In the comment thread of Cassidy's story mention is made of that bounty - still not verified. Mensinger is quoted without attribution or verification, however, in another local blog of ill-repute as denying the bounty on the signs. Did Mensinger actually offer a buck a sign? I don't know. However, it sure wouldn't surprise me if, in passing, he made some flip comment about a bounty within earshot of some of those kids - who worship the ground on which he walks.
SIGNS ARE RECEIVING SPECIAL TREATMENT
I do know that all the "Cancel The Layoffs" signs that Code Enforcement have removed from public property were not taken to the corporate yard like other signs. They are all stored in a room at City Hall, awaiting owners to come in and pay the $15.00 fee for their retrieval. Since the signs cost about $5.00 to make, I doubt if many will be retrieved.
DON'T LIKE THE SIGNS OR TACTICS
Personally, I don't like seeing all those signs around town, nor do I like the pervasive and obnoxious pop-up adds that appear constantly on my computer with the same message. One portrays a combined image of the four male members of the city council and I'm REALLY getting tired of seeing their faces before me - a comment you may take literally and/or metaphorically.
RFP'S BEGIN TO TRICKLE OUT
As promised late last week, The City of Costa Mesa has released three of the Requests for Proposals for units they are studying for possible outsourcing over the past couple days. Those units or functions are Video Production, Animal Control and Building Inspection. Those RFPs are available for review on the City web site in the "The Latest Headlines" block in the center of the page. The RFP for Jail Operations was previously distributed and will be discussed at the council meeting on Tuesday, August 2nd.
WHAT THIS ACTUALLY MEANS NOW
Now that these documents are beginning to flow from City Hall I've spent a little more time just thinking about what this initiative actually represents. For months there has been turmoil in the city and a lot of screaming back and forth between employees and council members, with hundreds of speakers standing before the council, expressing their views. During that interval, with volume on the rhetoric turned up, it was difficult to focus on the personal impact these RFPs will have on individual employees.
PUTTING A FACE ON THE FUNCTION
When I read the RFP for the Video Production operations - basically Dane Bora and Brad Long - I found myself thinking about those two talented men, who devote so much of their lives performing their duties at a consistently high level. Because I've been paying close attention to city operations for nearly a decade both of them have been primary contacts. They helped me understand how to access streaming video, for example. I began to pay more attention to the "other stuff" they do - the Community Reports; City Talk; the youth sports coverage; the dozens of other special events that kept them from their friends and families. To me, they represent the best of what we've become accustomed to when interacting with city employees. They, along with many other employees, consistently perform "above and beyond". Every one of those RFPs carry with it the faces of many loyal, hard-working employees. I worry that we will lose that dedication if municipal operations are turned over to mercenaries.
TUESDAY'S COUNCIL MEETING MAY BE BRIEF - OR NOT...
Speaking of Tuesday's council meeting, which begins at 6:00 p.m. in City Council chambers, the agenda was released yesterday and included some provocative items. You can find the agenda on the City web site. There are no Public Hearings and no Old Business items, but there is fun awaiting the review of items under New Business.
WILL MENSINGER FOLLOW THE RULES?
For example, Item #1 is a request, HERE, from Costa Mesa Pop Warner to include the use of Jim Scott Stadium at Estancia High School as part of the Joint Use Agreement with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, and includes a request for the City to pay up to $10,000 in fees, including a large chunk of unpaid fees from last year. As most know, Mensinger was "Mr. Pop Warner Football" in Costa Mesa, but the current roster of officials does not show him listed. His wife, Robin Mensinger, though, is listed as "League Ambassador". That relationship should disqualify Mensinger from participating in this discussion - we'll see if he follows the rules.
Regardless, it takes pretty large cojones to ask a city in "big financial trouble" to fork over fees for the use of a field that is not within its purview - and retroactively, at that! I'm really looking forward to the rationale for this one - other than the fact that Mensinger wants it, that is.
Item #3 is titled "Approval of Request for Proposal (RFP) Evaluation Process, HERE, which presents to the City Council the staff proposal for a methodology by which proposals submitted for potential outsourcing of operations will be evaluated. While certainly necessary, this seems just a little bit tardy, since the proposals for operating our Jail have already been received and screened using some criteria and methodology already. In fact, that's the very next item on the agenda.
JAIL PROPOSALS INCOMPLETE
As mentioned, the next item on the agenda, HERE, are the two proposals in response to the RFP issued several weeks ago for the operations of the Costa Mesa Jail. Quite frankly, I'm baffled why this item is even on the agenda since neither of the proposals fully addressed the scope of work prescribed in the RFP. It seems to me that the staff should have gone back to the proposers and gotten sufficient information BEFORE presenting this to the council. These RFPs will take forever if the council is presented with incomplete information.
ANTI-BUSINESS E-VERIFY STUDY
Item #5 is a request by Mayor Gary Monahan, HERE, for staff time to research E-Verify, the federal program used to verify employment status. Apparently he wants to know how it can be used in the City employment process; including clauses in future contracts and sub-contracts with the city; requiring employers seeking new business licenses and renewals of business licenses to use E-Verify and any other potential alternatives the staff may discover during research. Yes sir, this is another business-unfriendly initiative that will cause potential business operators to pause when they think about Costa Mesa as a place to settle down.
REDUCING COUNCIL PAY AND BENEFITS
Item #6 is one of two bombshells councilwoman Wendy Leece has on the agenda Tuesday. This one, HERE, requests the staff to prepare documents to potentially reduce City Council members salary and benefits. While I think this is worth a conversation, nothing can be done with this council, even if they did approve a pay change. Pay changes for the city council may only take place following an election in which council members are selected. The next election - assuming there is no recall before then - is the General Election next year.
TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY REFORM ACT
Item #7 is another request from Leece, HERE, this time to authorize staff time to research the viability of a Costa Mesa Transparency and Accountability Reform Act, a draft of which, HERE, is included in the staff report. The discussion on this one is going to be VERY interesting. I found the section regarding Ex Parte Communications fascinating. Harkening back to the Pop Warner discussion, above, this ordinance would potentially require Mensinger to share all ex parte communications with his wife - this could be FUN!