Saturday, March 05, 2011

Leece Asks Council To Review Private EMS and Outsourcing

ANGER GUARANTEED
In a move guaranteed to give an emotional wedgie to her peers on the dais, Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece has formally requested a "Review" of two controversial items that were approved by the council at it's March 1st meeting.



OUTSOURCING
She asked for the "Outsourcing Of City Services" to be reviewed for possible re-hearing be
cause:

1) Insufficient notice was given to the public;

2) The report was not sufficient to include financial data to identify cost savings;

3) Many residents have complained that they could not understand the complexities and outcomes due to insufficient information;


4) That the decision to move forward may be in violation of employee contracts and


5) Because the legal opin
ion was given to the council only one hour before the meeting there was insufficient time to review and consult with the City Attorney.

PRIVATE EMS SERVICE
The second item is the decision to explore the possible Privatizing of Emergency Medical Services - Paramedic in our city. She cites as the reasons for her request to Review this item as:

1) Insufficient public notice - the report did not come out until Friday afternoon before the Tuesday council meeting;

2) Many residents have complained to her that they had insufficient time to review the report and to arrange to attend the meeting;

3) She had insuffic
ient time to review and discuss the legal opinion with the City Attorney since it was received only a few minutes before the meeting;

4) Taking the approved action may be in violation of anti-trust statutes and employment contracts and may increase the City's
liability.

NEW BUSINESS ON 3/15/11
Both of these items will appear under New Business at the City Council meeting that begins at 6:00 p.m. on March 15, 2011. The council will hear Leece's reasoning behind requesting a re-hearing and there will be an opportunity for the public comment on the request for re-hearings only, not the substan
ce of the issues, before they vote to either conduct a re-hearing or not.

***


OCFA TO PRESENT PROPOSAL AT STUDY SESSION TUESDAY
At its S
tudy Session at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, 2011, the City Council will hear the presentation by members of the Orange County Fire Authority of their proposal to take over providing Fire and Paramedic services for Costa Mesa. As we've discussed before, while there appears to be some savings involved by contracting with the OCFA, the proposal has HUGE holes in it that could make the financial considerations much less desirable for the city.

TURN
OUT?
We don't know what kind of a turnout to expect, but it sure wouldn't
surprise me to have this session shifted to the council chambers - as was the case of the last one - to accommodate all the interested residents and employees eager to hear first hand just what this plan will mean to them. If the study session is held in Conference Room 1A as planned there will be NO live television coverage - only a taped delay later in the week. In Study Sessions public comments are very limited - only a few minutes TOTAL are set aside - so this will be more of a "sit and listen" event. I also don't know if members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department will participate, even though many of them have much to lose if this plan is implemented as proposed.

OCFA PENSION SHORTFALL IMPACT UNKNOWN

Another unknown is the impact on this proposal of the recent disclosure that pension contributions for the OCFA have been dramatically under-funded, and that the organization will be required to pony up tens of millions of dollars to make the deficit whole.



PAVEMENT MANAGEMENT OVERVIEW?

The council will also hear about the "Pavement Management Overview", but we have absolutely no clue what that's all about because no staff report is available for revie
w at this time.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Allan Roeder's Retirement Dinner

ROEDER'S FINAL SEND-OFF BASH WAS A BLAST!
Well, that was fun! Last night, as a guest of our friends at the Orange Coast College Foundation, I attended what Master of Ceremonies Peter Buffa jokingly referred to as the "4th Allan Roeder Farewell" event this week at the Westin Hotel and it was a blast! I don't know the exact headcount, but I'm guessing well over 250 people came to wish retiring City Manager Allan Roeder a fond farewell and a happy retirement.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS - AND MOVED AND SHAKEN, TOO
The ballroom was packed with movers and shaker
s - and some of the moved and shaken - from all over Orange County. Former mayor Buffa tried to name all the dignitaries - a process that took a long, long time - and still missed a few, including a couple sitting at his own table! I'm certainly not going to try to list them all, but I may mention them in context as it strikes me as I write this. As he went on and on naming the "Honorable Council Member so and so" and the Honorable City Manager so and so", I was feeling just a little unworthy - kind of like a serf in a room full of barons. Knowing many of the players and their egos, I found myself grateful for the tall ceilings in the ballroom.

FLOCKS OF OFFICIALS
There were city managers from all over the county; former Costa Mesa council members and mayors; the entire current Costa Mesa city council(except Eric Bever);current and past state legislators; columnists and other members of the media and on and on and on. Those folks who like to work a room during this kind of an event almost didn't know where to start!

FLITTING, KIND OF...
I had to chuc
kle, for example, as representatives from Facilities Management West and the current Fair Board flitted from table to table like slightly pudgy butterflies, looking for nectar among the influential.




STRANGE TABLE-MATES

As I looked around the room from my perfect vantage point near the back wall I smiled as I saw the pairings of attendees conjured up by the magic seating chart in the sky. I tried to imagine some of the table talk that was going on during dinner - a fine feed, by the way.

SCRIBES SCRIBBLING
Since Register columnists Barbara Venezia and Frank Mickadeit both were up front and close to the action I suspect they will provide us with their own special brand of reportage on this event. I look forward to those efforts.

BUFFA WAS ON HIS GAME
There were several highlights for me last evening. Buffa, of course, really knows how to rock a room and did his usual masterful job of keeping things moving. As always, his schtick was laced with irreverent zingers about officials present and not present. He and Mayor Gary Monahan ran a little tag team routine that seemed to work. By the way, Buffa's Italian, so if you ever want to shut him up, just grab his hands.

BARK PARK RE-NAMED
Monahan presented Roeder with a special sign which signified the re-naming of the Costa Mesa Bark Park the "Roeder Ruff Park". Roeder is well known for his love of his - and all - dogs. Tears flowed at that moment.

FAMILY
Many members of Roeder's family were present and were introduced to the assembled throng. I'm sure there were more than a few damp ey
es as Roeder bounced from the dais to go hug each and every one.

LEVITY REIGNED SUPREME
Brad Long of Costa Mesa TV prepared a terrific Powerpoint presentation with hysterically funny Photoshopped pictures of Roeder, each of which was hilariously narrated by Buffa. This photo was among the tamest of the bunch.



S
TEVE HAYMAN CHECKS IN, KIND OF

Former Assistant City Manager and curr
ent City Manager in Rancho Santa Margarita, Steve Hayman, was a co-conspirator in a very amusing video clip put together by Long and Dane Bora of CMTV. In it he mentioned that Roeder had trained and mentored several current city managers in Orange County and elsewhere.

COUNCIL MEMBERS REMEMBRANCES
Former mayor Mary Hornbuckle presented a summary of comments and stories provided by many of her fellow council members and mayors a
bout Roeder, including some very amusing anecdotes about how he was hired and his management style.

ROEDER'S SPEECH
THE highlight for me, thou
gh, was Roeder's speech. He stood there with no notes and poured his heart out, mixing poignant historical references with big dollops of his personal management philosophy. No person in that room could doubt that his more than three dozen years as an employee of the city was anything short of a labor of love. No, I didn't record the speech, nor did I take a single note. I just sat there like the rest of the crowd and enjoyed and appreciated the moment.

SAYING THANKS TO ALL...

At
the end of the evening Roeder managed to make his way around the room, trying to connect with every person there. Of course, that's his style. He's a man who has made his mark on Costa Mesa by simply going about doing his job with integrity, dignity, professionalism and dedication. He leaves giant shoes to fill.

THANKS TO THE OCC FOUNDATON

I again want to thank my friend, Doug Bennett from the OCC Foundation for inviting me to be part of their group. I had a chance to sit and visit with Dr. Dennis R. Harkins, the President of Orange Coast College during the evening. Dr. Harkins came from Atlanta a little over a year ago and is still getting the lay of the land here. I liked what he had to say about his plans for OCC and it's future as a major part of the continuing evolution of Orange County.

END OF AN ERA
So, this was the end of the "Roeder Era" in the history of Costa Mesa. Today he will work his last day on the payroll - right up to the end, he told me. He will finally clean out his office over the weekend and make room for his successor, Chief Executive Officer of the City, Thomas Hatch, to take over on Monday.




ONE LAST TIME - THANK YOU

Once again, I thank Allan Roeder for his tireless dedication to
Costa Mesa, for his professionalism and skill and for building an organization that has arguably been the finest municipal staff in the county. He has set the bar high, for which we are all grateful. Now he deserves to relax with his wife, Christie, and enjoy his retirement, wherever it takes him.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

More Views Of Outsourcing Decision

BLEARY-EYED REPORT
Still sleep-deprived, but now semi-functioning, this evening I present for you a roster of articles published locally and not-so locally on the decision the four members of the Costa Mesa City Council made last night to outsource a sizable segment of the jobs currently being done by city employees.

Joe Serna in the Daily Pilot, "Almost half of city work force gets pink slips" and Jon Cassidy in the Orange County Register, "Costa Mesa votes to lay off 203 workers", updated their reports from last night and now report that 203 employees will receive pink slips. According to Serna, that's 43% of the current employees.

Norberto Santana, Jr., at he Voice of OC presents, "Costa Mesa Becomes Ground Zero in the Ideological Budget Battle".

Chris Prevatt at the TheLiberalOC Blog gives us, "Costa Mesa Votes to Layoff First, Ask Questions Later."


Chasen Marshall at the OC Weekly covers it with, "Costa Mesa Council Votes In Favor of Outsourcing One-Third of City Services"

HolyCoast.com, down in Mission Viejo, gives us this entry, "Costa Mesa Moves To Outsource Half of Its Services"

Tip of the hat to reader Rich for this link to the San Jose Mercury News coverage, "Costa Mesa Council votes to outsource city services"

Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit gives us his view with, "Costa Mesa workers nailed by perfect storm"

In a related article Daily Pilot reporter Mike Reicher solicited reader input when he asked, "Will outsourcing hurt or help Costa Mesa?"

STORY NOT GOING AWAY
Clearly, this is not a story that's going away soon. And, in a predictable turn of events, some of the comment threads on these articles contain some troubling posts - or did if they've been removed by now. When you mess with the lives and futures of families strong emotions are bound to surface.

ROEDER SEND-OFF DINNER TONIGHT A HUGE SUCCESS
On a much happier note, tonight's employee send-off for Allan Roeder at the Costa Mesa Country Club was a rousing success. Reports from the event say that laughs and tears were evenly
mixed as more than two hundred employees and family members said good-bye to the only boss many of them have had.

TOMORROW IS THE FINALE

Thursday night I'll be attending the final event of "Allan Roeder Week" here in Costa Mesa as the Segerstrom Family and the Costa Mesa Chamber of Co
mmerce host a dinner honoring Roeder at the Westin Hotel. More on that Friday.




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Adios To Roeder & The Snowball's Moving

TOO POOPED TO WRITE
I came home from the City Council meeting at midnight last night completely wrung out from the emotion of the evening and sat here trying to capture my thoughts for you but, quite honestly, it turned out to be one of those situations where I just had to "sleep on it". Now, with a bright sun blaring in my window and the thought that "it's a new day" in my head, I'm giving it another shot. (NOTE: My telephones have not stopped ringing this morning with comments and complaints about the meeting, so this thing has taken me all morning to finish.. sorry about that.)

MEDIA WA
S EVERYWHERE!
You can read
Joe Serna's take in the Daily Pilot HERE and Jon Cassidy in the Register HERE. Each has a little different perspective on the story. In fact, there will be lots of stories on this event - the media was everywhere, including two television news vans, photojournalists from the OC Weekly and the ubiquitous Register columnist, Frank Mickadeit, who arrived late and left early.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND...
OK, I guess we should just cut to the chase.... The meeting last night was both wonderful and terrible. It brought tears of joy and just plain old tears of frustration and pain. It played to a packed house, with every seat filled until the clock headed past 11p.m. More than a hundred brave souls hung in until the end of the discussion of the Outsourcing issue. One person commented that we hadn't seen this kind of media attention since then-mayor Allan Mansoor tried to solve his "illegal immigrant" problem by attempting to make every Costa Mesa cop an immigration screener four years ago.

THE BEGINN
ING OF "ROEDER WEEK"
As anticipated, the recognition given to retiring City Manager Allan Roeder and resigned City Attorney Kim Barlow was terrific. All the tear-filled kudos given to Roeder by speakers were certainly well-deserved. It began an hour earlier in the lobby of City Hall where friends and current and former colleagues toasted him with cookies and punch and had a chance to wish him well. It was a nice beginning to what will be a whirlwind week of celebrations for him.

MARCH 1ST - "ALLAN ROEDER DAY" IN COSTA MESA
While I hated to see him go, I could see the weight lift off his shoulders as he walked up the center aisle of council chambers, shaking hands with well-wishers as he carried out the proclamations, placards and gifts presented to him - including one hand-delivered and personally presented by now-Assemblyman Mansoor. I hope he and his lovely wife drove to some exotic venue for dinner and never turned on the television again last night.

AND THEN THERE WAS THE BUSINE
SS...
The council meeting itself was another matter all together. Some of the early items went well, including the official swearing-in of Thomas Duarte as the new contract City Attorney. Roeder, before he waltzed off into the sunset, provided an update on the current situation with the Orange County Fairgrounds. At this point nothing is happening until after the next court date near the end of this month.

OF "ROCKS", WALLS AND EGO BOOSTS
Steve Mensinger requested the ROCKS program issue be continued so he can get together with staff and former council woman Katrina Foley to study the issue more. The change of the name of the City Manager to Chief Executive Officer of the City was approved - an unnecessary bit of fluff designed so Mensinger can show his mark on our city to his grandkids, I guess. The council also approved the new ordinance requiring a permit for certain masonry walls.


"ENHANCED" EMS SCHEME DISCUSSED

The evening really
started popping, though, when the discussion turned to Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's latest scheme - to send a letter to the head of the County EMS program asking for an assessment of possibly adding "enhanced" EMS service in Costa Mesa to supplement - not replace - our current ambulance program. Several residents stood to question the need for this initiative, most expressing concern about the costs - both to the city and to the residents who would use a private ambulance service. Costa Mesa EMS Coordinator Larry Grihalva spoke a couple times with knowledge and passion. He told the council that he was surprised that neither he nor acting Fire Chief Kirk Dominic had been contacted about this plan, since he - Grihalva - was the repository of information that would have been valuable to the council (Righeimer) BEFORE he launched this effort. The council voted 4-1 (Wendy Leece voting NO) to send the letter that will start this particular snowball rolling down hill.

DON'T CONFUSE THE COUNCIL WITH FACTS
Let me pause here and state that throughout the evening, on the EMS issue and the Outsourcing later, it appeared that most members of the council already had their minds made up on the issues and didn't really want to be bothered with the FACTS. Speaker after speaker - including many highly respected former senior staff members and elected officials - and urged the council to slow down a little before they dismantled a city that has taken more than 60 years to build. Those warnings were barely acknowledged and uniformly ignored.

TWO HOURS ON "OUTSOURCING"
Finally, at 9:40 with the auditorium still packed, the council got around to the discussion of the plan proposed by Mayor Gary Monahan and Righeimer, as the Budget Work Group, to outsource the jobs of eighteen city functions (so far). Estimates vary about the number of staffers that will be affected. The Register says "half the staff". The Pilot says 150. The truth is, NOBODY knows today exactly how many staffer's jobs are in jeopardy, although it's pretty easy to count heads in certain departments - especially when part of this equation is, for example, dumping the entire Fire Department and support staff. Based on my conversations with folks Tom Hatch, Assistant City Manager until Saturday when he becomes CEO, led the discussion with a refresher on the fiscal condition of the city, then Monahan and Righeimer gave us their reasons for throwing the entire city staff into turmoil.

"DON'T ASK IF..."
I'm not going to try to quote every single speaker in this discussion, but a few comments were especially noteworthy. For example, Helen Evers - who told us she'd lived in Costa Mesa since 1958 - was one of several speakers who spoke with passion about the possibility of outsourcing the Animal Control operations. At one point, in response to statements made earlier by council members that they wanted community input, she cautioned the council with this admonition, "You don't ask for ideas if you have no intention of using them." Her opinion was based on prior experience with councils in the past.

"WAS A STUDY DONE?
"
Perry Valantine, who retired after an illustrious career in the Planning Department, wore his "funeral suit" because he feared he was seeing the death of the city as we know it. He encouraged the council to look beyond "the bottom line", to look at both sides of the issue and asked whether there had been a study done to get to the list of probable outsourced departments. (The answer, not given, is NO) He expressed concern about bumping rights - which must be exercised by staffers WITHIN FIVE DAYS of receiving a layoff notice and was very concerned that the council seems unwilling to wait for answers before making decisions.

"OUTSOURCING IS AMPUTATION"
Eleanor Egan
, a former attorney in the City Attorney's office and planning commissioner following her retirement, reminded the council that "City government is it's people". She went on to say, "Outsourcing is an amputation - replacing a living limb with a wooden leg." She ended by looking squarely at the council and said, "Yes, I'm angry! And if you go ahead with this you should be ashamed!"


"PART OF THE SOLUTION.."

Tim Vasin, president of the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association, stepped up and clarified the genesis of the Request for Proposals for the Orange County Fire Authority presentation. Righeimer had earlier waved a copy of the proposal in the air, stating that "We didn't ask for this, you did!" Vasin reminded the council that his organization agreed to pay for the RFP as a data-gathering tool with which city and fire department management could analyze city fire operations, looking for efficiencies. He emphasized that the OCFA proposal has huge holes in it and, at the end of the day, his organization could still reject it. Throughout his presentation Vasin told the council that he and his firefighters want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

"MET EVERY DEMAND..."
At the end long time employee Billy Folsom reminded the council that employees had presented a list of 120 suggestions early in the process of trying to identify potential budget savings, and that they were rejected in total. He reminded the council that the bargaining unit asked what they could do to help and the city gave them a list - and that the employees did EVERY ONE - met every request, every concession. He, as much as any speaker before him, reflected the frustration being experienced by city employees since the announcement of this outsourcing list last Friday. He reminded the council that a study was done recently of the graffiti removal operations that showed the city staff does it cheaper than other options - and yet it appears on the list. Same with the street sweepers. The predominant opinion among those with whom I spoke was that this is a done deal and that they really have no voice in the outcome, regardless of the facts presented.

RIGHEIMER - ARROGANC
E PERSONIFIED
Righeimer only added fuel to that fire when he said, "...it's disappointing when people make insinuations about what people's motives are. And I think the first step to working forward is not to do that." That's an indication of the arrogance this man brings to the party. He wants you to blindly accept his ideas even though there is no evidence of any kind of an analysis that brought him to his conclusions. Earlier he looked out at the packed auditorium and commented that Costa Mesa is a city of 116,000 people and yet only around 200 are here tonight, and most of them are employees, implying that the remainder of the population of the city fully supported what the council was doing, or they'd be here to comment, too. Give me a break! He feels that, because he received 31% of the votes cast in the last election, he has a "mandate" to run roughshod over the city. He conveniently ignores the fact that 69% of the votes cast DID NOT go for him.

HIS "MOTIVES" HAVE BEEN CLEAR ALL ALONG
Those of us who pay attention saw Righeimer campaign on a platform of "pension reform" - the mantra handed down from the Orange County Republican Party which he blindly follows. We heard him, in the very first meeting at which he was a council member, tell us that he wanted to look at "every job" in the city that could be done by someone other than city employees - outsourcing. Since he won't be able to effect "pension reform" the old fashioned way - by negotiating with the employees - he's taking the easy way out and is going to simply just dump them in favor of low-bid contractors. All this to polish his political resume to grease the skids to his next jump to higher office. The man has no shame! Sadly, it was no surprise when the council voted 4-1 to approve the motion, which will result in layoff notices being presented to roughly a third of the city staff in the next couple days. That will trigger the chaos of 'bumping" for the next week and turn City Hall into a game of dodge ball as employees jockey for position to stay employed.

THANKS, GARY... I THIN
K
I had to smile when Monahan, trying to justify his concern for our budget situation and to provide some perspective, referred to me by name from the dais, indicating that I had been critical of him inserting himself into budget deliberations before he was actually sworn-in when he was elected the last time. You can read what I wrote at that time HERE. I guess he does read this stuff - and remembers, too.

OK, BUT WHERE'S THE MONEY COMING FROM?

Once that issue was put to bed the chambers emptied as if someone had pushed the plunger on a toilet and the angry discussions spilled out onto the council chambers porch. Those few of us who remained for "council member comments" heard Bever use his bully pulpit to bad-mouth former mayor Sandra Genis for her vocal positions expressed that evening. We also heard Steve Mensinger ask Hatch to "find a consultant to score our pensions once and for all." Bever asked Hatch "to get some bids for doing a transition audit. I'd like us to bring in one of the Big 8 firms and basically do an audit of our entire operation financially. That would also include a payroll audit." Funny, I didn't hear any discussion of where, in this time of financial crisis in our city, the money for the consultant and audit will come from.

WHAT'S BEVER UP TO NOW?

Bever also asked for "all documents that were pertinent to the PERS increase for general employees." Since he has demonstrated no skills with complex financial issues and has, in fact, engaged in a personal boycott of many of his duties in a fit of pique, it makes one wonder just what mischief he's up to with this request since that ship has sailed.

THE JUN
TA RULES
I think it's safe to say that every city employee, and most of the rest of us, too, in attendance last night left feeling very frustrated by this process. It was clear to us that this council has little regard for community input. They barely tolerate it and, in the case of Bever, openly criticize speakers who take the time to present their views. You could almost feel the civility, transparency and professionalism being sucked out the door as Allan Roeder left the chambers. We have entered an era when what is good for the city becomes subordinate to the political dogma of regional and national parties and the political future of council members. We are being "led" by men who think that, because there are not 116,000 people in the streets with pitchforks and burning torches opposing their actions, they have an unquestionable mandate to impose their collective will on the populace. We don't have a city council any longer - we are being governed by a junta.

WATCH ROEDER BOW OUT
You can watch the streaming video of the meeting HERE. Or, you can watch the replay on Channel 24 (99 on ATT UVerse) beginning tonight at 5:30 for the next week based on this schedule:

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

First The Fun, Then The Bad News

ROEDER AND BARLOW FETED FIRST
This evening, following the 5:00 p.m. reception for retiring City Manager Allan Roeder and resigning City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow in the City Hall Lobby, the City Council will hold what may be the most rancorous City Council meeting of this young year. It is anticipated that the auditorium will be packed to overflowing, most likely with employees anxious about their future with the city and residents worried about their safety and services being provided to them.

MONAHAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
The meeting will op
en up at 6:00 p.m. with Mayor Gary Monahan doing his "feel good" routine by making announcements of upcoming events - in this case it will be youth baseball, a presentation Wednesday by the Costa Mesa Green Task Force and Saturday's re-opening ceremony for the Diego Sepulveda Adobe.

RECOGNITION
Employee of the Month, Tim Sun, will be honored. Officer Oscar Reyes will receive the MADD Deuce Award and presentations will be made to Roeder and Barlow. Roeder will provide an update on the Orange County Fairgrounds in what will likely be one of his final official pronouncements in the City Council chambers. His retirement date is Friday, March 4th.

NEW FEES FOR "ROCKS"
There will be a Public Hearing on the new fee schedule for the Recreation On Campus For Kids (ROCKS) program.

UNNECESSARY CHEST-THUMPING
Under Old Business Steve Mensinger's pipe dream of changing the title of the City Manager to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the City will be adopted. What a colossal waste of energy just so a guy with an inflated ego can say, "Hey, look what I did!"

SUB-COMMITTEE REPORTS - LISTEN CLOSELY
The five council sub-committees will then present reports. Those are:

Economic Development and Development
Sports and Recreation
Policies, Procedures and General Plan/Circulation
Budget and Capital Improvements
Motel Issues

DUARTE IN FOR BARLOW
Under New Business, current Assistant City Attorney Tom Duarte of the firm of Jones & Mayer will be appointed City Attorney. Duarte has functioned as the City Attorney for the Planning Commission. He will replace Kim Barlow, who abruptly and unexpectedly resigned as City Attorney recently, citing personal and business reasons. More than a few folks around this town wonder if she was shoved out by the new city council because she kept telling them "NO" when their plans violated the law or city regulations. We'll probably never know - yet another top city official departing without reason being given.

PERMITTING REQUIREMEN
T FOR MASONRY WALLS
The council will then approve an amendment to our Municipal Code related to building permits for Masonry Walls.

PRIVATIZING EMS
Then, under New Business #3, the council will discuss Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's most recent scheme, HERE - to privatize our Emergency Medical Service. This one is to transmit a letter to the Medical Director of the Orange County Emergency Medical Services requesting that he determine the feasibility and requirements to evaluate he addition of the City's ambulance provider, Care Ambulance, as added capacity to the current Costa Mesa Emergency Medical Service-Paramedic delivery system.

KICK OFF - THEN WHAT?
This is a big d
eal. Once we kick this ball off the "T" we're not exactly sure where this process goes next. In the staff report, HERE, there is not yet any discussion of the potential increase in costs to the city AND RESIDENTS if this scheme is adopted. I know this is only to get the ball rolling, but this City Council has demonstrated in only two short months that these things take on a life of their own and decisions are made well in advance of public input. Some folks knowledgeable on this subject tell me that costs for the use of a private EMS service provider could very significantly increase to those who need the service - perhaps as much as $2,000 per trip, if not more.

ENHAN
CING = ADDING = MORE $
The staff report talks about "enhancing" our EMS service. That means "adding" to me. What about the costs to the city? How does this affect the proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority to replace our Fire Department? Again, this is happening much too quickly.

OUTSOURCING OF CITY SERVICES

The last item under New Business will be the biggie - Outsourcing of City Services. You can read the staff report HERE, which lists the functions the sub-committee - Monahan and Righeimer - think can be successfully outsourced. You will notice at the top of the list is the entire Fire Department - nearly 90 employees. Nobody has yet calculated the actual total number of employees covered by this plan, but some estimate it to be around 150 employees - nearly a third of the current staff.

NO CLUE ON COSTS
One interesting comment made in the staff report is found under FISCAL REVIEW. The comment is "The fiscal impact for outsourcing the identified City services is unknown at this time." Of course, because six months notice is required for any employee and bargaining unit for operations being outsourced, the council will almost certainly approve this issue and employees will be provided official notice immediately.

NOTICING REQUIREMENTS

In the separate staff report on Noticing Requirements, HERE, I found an interesting statemen
t in Item 2. The question posed in that item asks, "Is the City required to be specific as to the service/program being considered for contracting out? In other words, can the City Council issue a blanket notice to all employees of its intent to contract out all services to keep all options open?" The answer provided is, "NO". We assume that answer is to the second question, not the first.

THEY'VE GOT IT BACKWARDS
The explanatio
n to that answer is as follows (EMPHASIS IS MINE):
"The Council MUST FIRST consider and determine which specific services would be contracted for AND THEN give the required six months' notice to affected employees and bargainin
g units. Article 19.2 with the CMCEA states that 'once a decision is made by the City to contract out for a specific service' the required notice is given. Staff believes this REQUIRES that notice be given out AFTER the decision to contract out, NOT BEFORE."

"BUMPING RIGHTS" CHAOS
Further down in the staff report the issue of "bumping rights" is addressed. It indicates
that part-time positions will be eliminated first. It then says, "In addition, employees who are notified of layoffs are required to exercise their 'bumping' rights WITHIN FIVE WORKING DAYS of receiving layoff notifications. Thus, whether thirty days' notice or six months' notice is given to specific employees, the notified employees will have to notify management of any position which they elect to displace into, which would in turn trigger layoff notices to those effected who otherwise would not have been laid off." Yikes! That's not much time for an employee to make a life-changing decision, is it?

THE CART'S BEFORE THE HORSE

So, the way I
interpret this information is that the council will determine, based on the information provided to them in the staff report and testimony at THIS council meeting, which specific units will be contracted out. The big question I have, though, is how will they determine whether there are cost savings to be had BEFORE any bids for the contracting is taken. They've got the cart before the horse. They should FIRST decide which functions MIGHT be contracted out, then get bids for that contracting and compare them to the current costs for service by employees, THEN make the decision and start the noticing process. That logical sequence of events, though, doesn't play well with their pre-disposition to outsource everything, as articulated so clearly by Righeimer in the first council meeting of the year.

"BUT, WE CAN ALWAYS CANCEL"
They will tell us that they can cancel this noticing any time, so they are providing it now "just in case" we actually decide to outsource some of these functions. Swell - throw the ENTIRE city staff into chaos while they play God! This is looking more and more like a scene straight out
of "Through The Looking Glass", with Righeimer cross-dressing as the Queen of Hearts - "Off with their heads!"

THEY'RE TOO IMPATIENT!
They will reply that the logical sequence will take too long - that we'll be well into the new budget year before any action could be taken. OK, so what? We still don't know exactly what our fiscal condition is for THIS fiscal year, much less the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The last we heard from our friends in Finance was that revenues were trending upward. It's entirely possible that we will have a balanced 2010-2011 budget by the end of June, for goodness sake.

AGAIN, NO COSTS KNOWN

And, again, under FISCAL REVIEW, there is this statement: "The potential financial impact of eliminating, reducing or contracting out specific services CANNOT
BE DETERMINED until the specific positions/services are identified." Again, the cart before the horse. Again, this council won't give a rat's rear end about this. They want to dump the unions and their pensions and are taking the easy way (for them) to accomplish that goal. No negotiating, just slashing, then smiles all around with their buddies at the OC GOP for a "job well done". It's truly disgusting!

COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS - A DANGEROUS TIME
The meet
ing will end, at who-knows-what-hour, with council member comments and suggestions. You will recall that I've reminded you frequently that this segment - when almost everyone is tired and has departed - is when the mischief begins. This is the time when they will request this or that from the staff - issues that end up like this "outsourcing" debacle. Time for some "No Doze", my friends. You just cannot blink around these guys - but then, I've said that before, haven't I?

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