Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Look Back In Time....

BACK THEN...
Four years ago, February 22, 2006, I wrote the following long-winded essay. At that time I was using a different blog host and it didn't accommodate "comments". And, at that time, only a handful of folks were reading the blog.

A LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR OF LIFE
With the events of yesterday still making me wince I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take a look in the rear view mirror and re-visit those days of yore. So, today I present it to you unedited for the passage of time, without any cute images to entertain you, to let you contemplate how little things have changed in our city in four years. For your reading pleasure... "What Is Costa Mesa?"

*****

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
What Is Costa Mesa?

What kind of a community is Costa Mesa? This simple question is a real enigma for me.

There was a time not to very long ago when our city seemed like a pretty nice, peaceful, comfortable place in which to live and raise our families. That was before we elected leaders who pander to the vocal, disgruntled few among us to the detriment of the broader community. Today Costa Mesa is a city in turmoil.

We have nearly thirty public parks, yet seem to be determined to limit their use by people who don't meet our demographic preferences. No longer can kids just go to the park and play a pick-up game of touch football or soccer or bat a baseball around without fear of being cited by a Park Ranger.

We have elected leaders who seem determined to expel hardworking, peaceful residents - the Latino folks - from our city while welcoming an over abundance of half-way houses and recovery facilities.

We try to force charities from our borders by reducing funding for their efforts, yet we are home to nearly 100 registered sex offenders.

We tout ourselves as the "City of the Arts" and proudly wear the assumed mantle of sophistication that title implies and yet, in some parts of our city, we have six times the number of bars and liquor stores than our zoning should permit.

We say we take pride in the diversity of this city, yet our leaders have encouraged the participation of racists among us on influential city committees.

Our mayor says he only wants to remove criminals from our streets with his plan to have our local police become trained to enforce federal immigration screening, but his plan has polarized this community. He says there will be no sweeps, yet revels in the embrace of the leaders of the radical Minuteman Project and was recently made an honorary member. He, in just a couple short months, has managed to undo the trust and faith in government among the Latino community that has taken decades to build.

Our streets are crumbling beneath our tires and major intersections suffer from gridlock, yet we continue to approve projects which triple or quadruple the density in our neighborhoods.

We have people in the community who decry the many industrial businesses on the Westside and their supposed negative health affects on local residents, yet our leaders approve the construction of condominiums across the street from a foundry.

Our leaders ignore the recommendations of the committee appointed to hammer out a workable, acceptable solution to the perceived decay on the Westside and, instead, implement a plan that will certainly result in all industrial uses being squeezed out, taking with them the jobs and tax base on which this city was built.

The beginning of that process can be seen as approvals are currently being sought for a residential development which will be virtually surrounded by industrial businesses. This is the crack in the dike.

Our leaders squabble over nickel and dime issues on the budget, yet seem more than willing to burden our residents with over a billion dollars to place utility wires underground.

We share a big hunk of our infrastructure and a school district with Newport Beach, yet our leaders seemed determined to spit in their eye any chance they get.

Nearly two decades ago our leaders used the sledgehammer of eminent domain to redevelop what became Triangle Square and now the current group seems more than willing to watch that white elephant wither and decline - a monument to failed vision at the gateway to our downtown.

In my opinion, all this and more is a result of failed leadership. We elected people to our City Council who are just too small for the job. We elected people as our "leaders" who bring no leadership experience to their positions. We elected leaders who don't understand the concept of leadership. Some of our elected officials seem overwhelmed with arrogance - they seem to feel they know it all and shouldn't have to take the time to consult with their constituents on major issues. We elected "leaders" who jeer and taunt concerned speakers from the dais and trade epithets with demonstrators outside their business.

In my opinion, these are signs of small people in big jobs. We, the voters in this city, are responsible for this mess - we elected the City Council. It's up to us to fix this problem in November, when we have the chance to return this city to the hands of mature, seasoned leaders - those who will work hard to do what is right for the community as a whole, not just the vocal, angry few.
3:57 pm pst

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Costa Mesa To Discuss Outsourcing Nearly EVERY Job


THE EXCREMENT HAS HIT THE OSCILLATING UNIT!
Just after 1:30 p.m. today almost CEO Tom Hatch announced that the Budget Working Group (Gary Monahan and Jim Righeimer) are placing an item on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting in which they will basically recommend the council to consider outsourcing almost EVERY job within the city. To avoid misinterpretation of the memo I've provided the entire text below.

*****

From: HATCH, THOMAS
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 1:39 PM
To: CITY-ALL

Subject: Organizational Update
Importance: High

Fellow City Staff,

This will be a short update for now but I wanted to immediately inform you of a Report that is being added to the City Council Agenda for Tuesday, March 1, 2011. The title of the report is “Outsourcing of City Services” and the item was requested by the City Council Budget Working Group. At the Study Session of February 8, 2011 the City Attorney provided a report on “Noticing Requirements for Outsourcing or Layoffs.” The report determined that the City Council needs to make a decision about which particular services are going to be outsourced before any six month noticing requirement starts. The Budget Working Group wants the City Council to consider making the decision on outsourcing some services on March 1, 2011 and therefore a report is being presented on Tuesday. Below is the language of the Report and the Report is just being finalized and will be added to the Agenda and posted to the website this afternoon. The leadership of the associations is being informed of this item and the likely impacts from the issues. In short, if this report is approved, then for the services identified below, a process will begin to fully investigate which employees are impacted and how exactly employees will be noticed. Bumping right issues will also need to be addressed. There are important details related to the noticing issues and need further discussion by Department Heads and this will occur on Monday.

Below is the language of the Report and the final Report will be posted to the website this afternoon. As more information is available, we will share it as soon as we can.

Respectfully,

Tom Hatch

RECOMMENDATION:

The City Council Budget Working Group is recommending that the City Council outsource the City services listed in this staff report and direct the Assistant City Manager to begin the process of noticing employees of this action.

DISCUSSION:

At the City Council Study Session of February 8, 2011, the City Attorney presented a staff report (Attachment A) that outlined the requirements for noticing employees for outsourcing or layoffs. This report was requested by the City Council Budget Working Group in an effort to understand the process for appropriately notifying employees of future outsourcing. The report states, “For layoffs which would result from contracting out a specific service, each affected employee would be entitled to at least six months’ notice pursuant to Administrative Regulation 2.26 and the City is also required to meet and consult with the applicable bargaining units (or employees if not part of a bargaining unit) to identify the specific employees/positions which would be subject to layoff as well as the impact of such layoffs/contracting out on the remaining members of the unit.”

The City Council Budget Working Group is concerned that a six month noticing requirement per applicable Memorandum Of Understandings and/or Administrative Regulations will not allow for implementation of changes until several months into the next fiscal year. Any decision to outsource services by the City Council on March 1, 2011, would not become effective until September 1, 2011 or later date. The financial concern is that with the noticing requirements any budgetary savings from a change in the system for delivering services would not be realized at the beginning of the next fiscal year and likely would not be effective until well into the new fiscal year.

Given the constraints identified above for a six month noticing process and given the successful outsourcing of similar services by other cities, the Budget Working Group is recommending that the City Council act now to decide on outsourcing these identified City services:

  • The entire Fire Department operations;
  • Street Sweeping services;
  • Graffiti Abatement services;
  • Park Maintenance services;
  • Parkway and Median Maintenance services;
  • Fleet Maintenance services;
  • Street Maintenance services;
  • Facility Maintenance services;
  • Animal Control services;
  • City Jail services;
  • Special Event Safety services;
  • Information Technology services;
  • Telecommunications services;
  • Building Inspection services;
  • Reprographic services;
  • Graphic Design services;
  • Payroll services; and
  • Employee Benefit Administration services.

Per the City Council’s direction, the City has commenced a complete organizational review of the structure of how municipal services are provided to the community. This process is expected to take up to six months or more to complete. As portions of this comprehensive review are completed, the detailed analysis and alternatives for service delivery will be provided to the public and employees for review and input prior to the City Council deliberating and determining the new structure for service delivery of each identified service. The options for new service delivery could include the following: a private vendor, another public agency or joint powers agreement, a non-profit agency, restructured City staff operations, or another method still to be determined. As this process moves forward, the formation of recommendations about new service delivery systems will be based on the thorough evaluation of the best and most efficient method for delivering a particular service to the community and may likely require formal bidding processes.

ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED:

The City Council may decide not to outsource all or some of the services identified.

FISCAL REVIEW:

The fiscal impact for outsourcing the identified City services is unknown at this time.

CONCLUSION:

After discussing alternatives and the timing constraints for outsourcing, the Budget Working Group is recommending that the City Council outsource the City services listed in this staff report and direct management staff take the appropriate legal steps to notice employees of this action.

Thomas R. Hatch

Assistant City Manager

City of Costa Mesa

77 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, 92626

Ph. (714) 754-5288 Fax. 754-5330

thatch@ci.costa-mesa.ca.us

*****
THE PERFECT ORGANIZATION - ONE BOSS AND NO MINNIONS

It's
clear from Hatch's memo that there are NO jobs that are not on the table for elimination. In a previous entry I postulated that Righeimer and his buddies idea of a "perfect" organization would be one with only the CEO and a bunch of contract analysts to manage the outsources functions. You thought I was being ridiculous... OK, now what?


MORE TO FOLLOW

This is breaking news and I'm sure there will be much, much more to follow - perhaps
later today. I'll let you know when I know. Have a nice weekend!

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Runaway Train Continues...

WHAT DID I TELL YOU?
At the end of my last post I warned you not to blink. The news this morning only affirms that admonition.



MICKADEIT QUOTES RIGHEIMER - PRIVATE PARAMEDICS

First, there is Orange County Register columnist Fra
nk Mickadeit's piece this morning, HERE, in which he tells us of Jim Righeimer's plan to have Costa Mesa become the first city in Orange County to utilize PRIVATE paramedics - which effectively dramatically impacts the members of the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association. And, Mickadeit quotes Costa Mesa Firefighters Association President Tim Vasin as being unaware of this new issue - it was the first he'd heard of it.

IT'S ALREADY ON THE COUNCIL AGENDA
Then, almost simultaneously, I received the agenda for the next Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 1, which contained this little entry under New Business:
LinkThere is no staff report attached to this item yet.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE OCFA PROPOSAL?
This follows on the heels of the receipt of the proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority late last week which, it is my understanding, will be discussed at the council study session on Tuesday, March 8. Certainly, any serious consideration of the use of private paramedics will affect how that proposal is going to be viewed and, in fact, it may be a deal-breaker with the county.


FULL ASSESSMENT IS ESSENTIAL

Don't get me wrong. Having spent more than a little time going over the OCFA proposal and discussing it with folks knowledgeable about the intricacies of emergency services, I think some serious consideration should be given to the way we presently deliver those services. I don't have solutions, but there certainly are lots of questions that need to be asked.

DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?
For example, one of the weaknesses in our emergency response system is the fact that, in the case of medical aid that requires the transportation of the patient to a hospital, the paramedic from the fire truck accompanies the patient in the ambulance and the truck and remainder of the team follow along, putting them out of service. This certainly should be evaluated when considering all these new proposals.


RIGHEIMER'S CORE - DUMP UNION WORKERS

Of course, the core of Righeimer's plan is to remove as many union members as he can in whatever way he can. This plan for private paramedics is another "easy way out", which doesn't require negotiating with city union members.

BARBARA VENEZIA SIGNS IN...
Also, this morning, the irrepressible Register columnist, Barbara Venezia, takes on the issue of the probable lost of the ABLE helicopter program from the vantage point of a Newport Beach resident, HERE. She also throws into the mix the weakened position Costa Mesa will find itself in the annexation wars if it decides to shift to the OCFA. Her last paragraph says it all:

"Costa Mesa residents need to fully understand the long-term, real-life ramifications of what giving up control over fire and emergency services means to their city. This could very well be another cobblestone in that road of good intentions paved to hell."

TOLD YA...

As I said before, don't take your eyes off this Costa Mesa City Council. They're taking a page from Barack Obama's playbook and moving at light speed to re-structure Costa Mesa before the residents wake up and see what they're doing. DO NOT BLINK!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Appointee Bully Vents His Spleen

MENSINGER'S MANIFESTO
Non-elected City Councilman, Steve Mensinger, presented us with his view of our municipal situation in a Community Commentary in the Daily Pilot tonight (in print tomorrow) titled, "When it comes to spending, 'enough is enough'". You can read it HERE.

SO, THAT'S WHY HE'S A BULLY!
Right off the bat, in his very first paragraph, he gives us all a crystal clear view into the genesis of who he is today. In that paragraph he describes an event when he, in his term, "lost my innocence" - he attacked a schoolmate who was taunting a friend. Those of us who have watched him on the City Council, and Planning Commission before that, will only nod in understanding. We've seen that "Steve" before, as he berates and bullies those standing before him trying to do city business. Now we understand where that fellow came from.

BLAMING HIS PEERS
In his third parag
raph, as he lays blame for Costa Mesa's current fiscal situation, he says, "One need not be a detective to identify the fingerprints of the culprit. Our current budget crisis is the responsibility of those we elected." I'm sure that indictment will be welcomed by some of his current council colleagues. Gary Monahan, for example, has been on the dais 14 of the last 16 years, including several tours as Mayor. Eric Bever has six years as a councilman and Wendy Leece is beginning her fifth year. The only people he didn't point a finger at were himself and his runnin' buddy, Jim Righeimer.

POT CALLING A KETTLE...
Later, as he describes Costa Mesa's public employees, he says, "Many were dismayed by out-of-town police officers driving an Escalade with campaign signs in tow. However, this was the fringe in the department and lessons have hopefully been learned." This, of course, implies that some of the members of the Costa Mesa police force are greedy spendthrifts (the Escalade) who don't live in our community. He fails to mention, however, that his buddy, Righeimer, also drives an Escalade. Does that make him greedy, too? And what "lessons" does he assume have been learned? Certainly, the police officers who opposed Righeimer's candidacy learned that orchestrated confrontations with the police can be used to sway public opinion. They also learned that political expediency permitted Righeimer and his crew to paint those men and women sworn to protect and serve us as villains and criminals. Yes, I guess some lessons were learned.

TOSSING GRENADES AT HISTORY
He goes on to describe his view of our problems - that we've elected leaders who don't know how to say "no". Well, it's easy for him to say, since he was comfortably making millions in private industry while those leaders he berates struggled with the realities of the day running this city. They struggled with the loss of police officers who moved on to more lucrative jobs in other cities when our pay scales were woefully inadequate. That problem was fixed by those leaders and the result was a stable police force, renowned for it's effectiveness.

DISRESPECTING LOYAL EMPLOYEES
Recently he smirked down from the dais at retiring City Manager Allan Roeder as he critic
ized the way the city has been managed. Not only was it inappropriate, since Roeder can only advise his council on their actions, but it was a slap in the face given to a man who has served our city for more than 3 dozen years - 25 as City Manager. What's next? Will he spit in Roeder's face as he walks out the door for the last time? Will he kick him down the City Hall steps? That behavior, and his commentary, only demonstrate Mensinger's cluelessness about what municipal governance is all about.

HE DOESN'T LIKE RULES - OR BEING TOLD "NO"

As a semi-successful businessman (he and Righeimer both were presidents of divisions of SunCal Companies that went bankrupt), he's used to running the show - used to having people jump when he tells them to. History shows us that he has very little patience with the rules governments must follow. In fact, he seems to dislike any rules at all. After only a few short weeks on the council he's already clearly demonstrating disdain for the process that permits residents to stand before him and air their complaints. Some wonder if the recent abrupt departure of City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow may have been a direct result of her warning this council, Mensinger included, about the dangers of Brown Act violations. He's not a guy who likes to be told "no" about anything. Barlow may have been right on the money, too. Their scheme to divide into two-member "working groups" - sub-committees of the council - on specific projects is showing signs of final decisions being made BEFORE ANY public comment is presented. It won't surprise me if the city finds itself in nasty legal entanglements because of these guys.

MAKING A LESS-SAFE CITY
In his commentary he says, "... our success will be defined by the qual
ity of residents we attract." Well, if he and his pals successfully disassemble our law enforcement organization, including disbanding the ABLE helicopter program and threatening to outsource "every job in the city that can be done by other than city employees", as was Righeimer's avowed goal earlier this year, just what kind of residents will we attract? Will a city that is less-safe attract young families? Will businesses choose to move their operations to a city that is less-safe? What do you think?

PERFECTION - EVERYBODY IS A "CONTRACT EMPLOYEE"
As Mensinger and Righeimer take their machetes to the city staff in an effort to accomplish "meaningful reform", just what kind of service can the residents expect once that massacre is complete? Righeimer campaigned on a platform to reform municipal wages and pensions. Early indications are that he and Mensinger plan to do that, not by negotiating with the bargaining units, but by simply getting rid of those employees who would be entitled to pensions and replace them with contract labor - like the Orange County Fire Authority, for example. It wouldn't surprise me if their idea of the perfect "city government" would be one Chief Executive Officer (used to be City Manager until Mensinger's ego got the better of the council) and a handful of contract contract analysts to manage all those "outsourced" contracts - kind of like when he worked for Arnel Development. In his mind's eye, without all those messy "employee" issues, running a city would be a snap!

MANAGEMENT BY MASSACRE
Mensinger says, "I am optimistic that the majority of the citizens in our community now understand why their leaders must hav
e the courage to do what is right and make tough decisions with respect to how we use your tax dollars." I'm not so sure the voters in this city - who have not been given a chance to voice their opinion on Mensinger at the ballot box, by the way - will cozy up to the idea of "management by massacre". I'm not so sure they will appreciate a "management team" who handles tough issues with a billy club and berates and belittles loyal employees as they retire. I'm not so sure they will appreciate the "off with their heads!" attitude, where they find it more convenient for them to simply toss loyal employees aside in blind allegiance to a political dogma passed down from the Orange County Republican Party.

CM, INC. - A TRULY BAD IDEA

There are those in town who feel this city should be run like a private business, not a public entity. To paraphrase my friend, Gericault, who so succinctly put it in a comment today when he speculated that under a Righeimer/Mensinger regime we would see signs at the gateways to our city saying, "Welcome to Costa Mesa, Inc. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." I'd smile about that if it wasn't so darn serious.

YOU'RE NEXT...

So, now that Righeimer has told us that he's coming after EVERY city job and Mensinger has told us "enough is enough", I caution you to not take your eye off these guys - do not blink. The next rights they violate will be yours...

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mansoor's Hot Air Balloon & Wendy's Blog

GONE, BUT NOT OUT OF OUR HAIR
Remember when Allan Mansoor was elected to the State Assembly last November? Some of us muttered to ourselves, "Well, at least he'll be out of our hair and what harm can he do up there with a legislature dominated by Democrats?" Silly us..


NO SUBSTANCE, JUST NOISE

Since his arrival in Sacramento Mansoor has been more visible in the media than ever before. His most recent adventure, today, was to announce his bill, AB961, which is intended to eliminate collective bargaining for pension benefits by California's public employees. According to some reports the bill contains no specific language, stating merely that it's the Legislature's intent to enact a law "that would reform the public retirement system."

TYPICAL OF HIM
This is very, very typical of Mansoor - toss up a balloon full of hot air with nothing else going for it. This is exactly like his "rule of law city" resolution pa
ssed in Costa Mesa last year.

MUGGING FOR THE CAMERAS, ETC.
What it did, though, was get his face and voice plastered all over the media, just like the good old days here in Costa Mesa. For example, he was on John and Ken on KFI radio this afternoon, shilling his vacuous idea, and also appeared on several television news shows. This thing has zero chance of passing the Assembly.

*****

WENDY'S BLOG
Speaking of politicians, some may know that Wendy Leece has launched a blog recently called the OC Public Square in which she posts her thoughts on issues from time to time. I linked to it a couple weeks ago. Her most recent entry, Do We Value Life In Costa Mesa?, HERE, may be of interest to you all.

A GOOD SOURCE OF INFORMATION

Although I don't know for sure, but I suspect this will be a place where we can get some real information from our City Council. The rest of the guys on the dais seem uninterested in
communicating with their constituents, instead they make decisions based on opinions they carry to the dais without the darn interference of public input. In any event, I recommend that you give Wendy's blog a peek now and again.

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Fairgrounds Festering Wounds...

IN CASE YOU WERE DOZING...
Just in case anyone is trying to forget about the future of the Orange County Fair and Event Center, some local bloggers just keep on picking on the scab and the results are festering wounds that just will not go away.

VOICE OF OC STILL ON THE CASE
For example, the Voice of OC blog, an investigativ
e site edited by Norberto Santana, Jr., has been on top of this issue since the beginning. Santana and his amigos at that site have done a pretty good job of providing us with timely information. You can read his most recent entry, "State Political Watchdog Launches Investigation into Ackerman's Fairgrounds Dealings" HERE. He tells us that the state Fair Political Practices Commission has now inserted itself into this quagmire, trying to determine if former State Senator Dick Ackerman violated the law when he represented the Fair Board in their attempt to get the Fairgrounds put on the sale block, then buy it for themselves.

VOICE OF OC LIST OF ARTICLES
Additionally, there is also a list of other Fairgrounds-related articles from that site HERE. If you scroll down the list you'll get a pretty good idea of the history of this mess over the past few years.

GIDDY UP, DAVE!
Then, over at the Orange Juice Blog, Vern Nelson has jumped astride Fair Board President David Ellis and is putting the spurs to him in an entry titled, "Who is Dave Ellis? NOW UPDATED with Inland Empire dirt!", HERE. After you read this one and the attached comments you'll ask yourself if it's safe to go out at night!

THE BEAT GOES ON...
So, the drama continues. Recently the Fair Board wrote to
new Governor Jerry Brown's office, presenting it's proposal for a revenue sharing scheme. No word from Sacramento that I know of on that subject. Still pending is the court case - we won't know anything about that until next month - and the up-coming Fair Board meeting on Thursday, February 24th. You can find the agenda for that meeting and links to the staff reports HERE. I suspect many of the local activists opposed to the sale of the Fairgrounds, including former Costa Mesa Mayor Sandra Genis - President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society - will appear and present views on some of the more important issues on the agenda.

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