Saturday, March 19, 2011

Costa Mesa DMV Threatened


MULTI-AGENCY RESPONSE
Several law enforcement agencies including the Costa Mesa Police Department, the California Highway, Newport Beach Police Department and the Santa Ana bomb squad (above) are at the site of the California Department of Motor Vehicles office on West 19th Street in Costa Mesa.

ONE SUSPECT IN CUSTODY
According to reports from the scene, one person, described by witnesses as a "white person", has been taken into custody and the DMV offices are being searched. The sex of the individual in custody is not known at this time. In the background of this photo, over the officers in the foreground, you can see police officers around the suspect vehicle. A K-9 unit was also used in this operation.

DMV UNDER SIEGE FOR TWO HOURS
Preliminary reports from the CMPD indicate that this incident started around 5:45 p.m. today, Saturday, and was brought to a conclusion shortly after 7:30. Several blocks surrounding the DMV office in all directions were cordoned off for public safety. It is unknown at this time when the travel restrictions in that area will be lifted. You can see the nightsun light from the police helicopter in the upper left corner.

REASON FOR THE INCIDENT UNKNOWN
It is still early in the investigation, so it is unknown what prompted this threat to the DMV. It is unknown whether any individuals were in the DMV office during this time. This latest photo, which was provided by our friend A Bubbling Tipster with all the others here, shows the doors of the DMV ajar - apparently knocked off the tracks by the suspect's car.

MORE LATER
I'll report more on this strange, dangerous event when information is available. At this time it appears to be under control. Reports from the scene by our stringer on this story, A Bubbling Tipster, tell us that when the suspect was arrested crowds of mostly Latino folks gathered in the area erupted in applause and cheers for the CMPD. Good job to all the agencies involved. Thanks for being there for us.

SUSPECT A FEMALE?
A report by "Anonymous" indicates that the suspect may have been a woman. The reporter said female screams were heard when the K-9 unit attacked. That's it on this story for tonight. Hopefully, one of the "real" news outlets will provide us with more information Sunday. We'll see. Thanks to our alert tipster and a reader for giving us the straight scoop on this story.

THE LAST WORD
Last entry on this story. Here's the Register's Jon Cassidy's take on it. That story is just too funny for words! Take a second and scroll through the Register photos... you'll see one of a police officer with his dog slung over his shoulder... love it.

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Of Loving, Lameness and Losers

A DIFFICULT TIME FOR ALL
The past two days have tested the emotional capacity of the employees of the City of Costa Mesa and many of it's residents, as well. When young Huy Pham took his life by leaping from the roof of City Hall Thursday afternoon a chain of events started that has left many completely wrung out - this writer included.



RIDGE'S INITIATIVE
Early in the day Friday resident Greg Ridge, wanting to "do something" to honor the memory of Pham, launched a Facebook solicitation for interested folks to join him on the East steps of City Hall for a candlelight vigil. As a result more than 100 people began arriving shortly before 7 p.m. and many remained when I finally left just before 10:00. Greg offered a prayer at the beginning of this very informal event. That was the only "formal" part of the evening.


ROEDER AND OTHERS

Among those making this short pilgrimage to pay their respects was recently-retired City Manager Allan Roeder and his wife, Christie, shown here exchanging condolences from city staffers. I simply cannot imagine the thoughts that must be going through Roeder's mind these days. I also saw former mayor Mary Hornbuckle and former police chief Dave Snowden and his wife taking time to visit with old friends to offer some solace.

LEECE - A COMPASSIONATE "OFFICIAL" PRESENCE
Councilwoman Wendy Leece - the only current council mem
ber to attend - was on the site again after spending much of the previous evening at City Hall consoling employees and friends. As was the case yesterday, she also took time to speak with members of the media present. I saw coverage on KCAL, FOX, CBS and NBC, but missed the ABC coverage last night.

GENIS BACK AGAIN
Former mayor Sandra Genis was back again, having shared much
of yesterday evening with Leece and others trying to do what they could to help employees deal with this tragedy. This evening she roamed from group to group to offer her best wishes.

NAGHAVI AND MANDOKI
Public Services Director Peter Naghavi, who was omnipresent yesterday, was at the gathering tonight, too. He calmly took the time to talk with folks, as did Administrative Services Director Steve Mandoki. This tragedy has been particularly hard on Naghavi because it was his duty to present the 6-month layoff notices to more than 50 employees in his Maintenance Services organization - including Huy Pham - on Thursday.

OFFICERS PAY THEIR RESPECTS

As the eveni
ng progressed people came and went. These three young Costa Mesa police officers spent a good portion of their dinner break paying their respects. Several other officers came by during the evening to quietly show their support for those assembled to honor Pham.

SHARING THE LOVE
Folks seemed to cluster in small groups, the configuration of which morphed like small segments of quicksilver, as friends slipped from one group to another to share stories and hugs in equal quantities. Many moved forward to observe the dozens of flower displays and lighted candles placed at the site where Huy Pham's life ended yesterday afternoon.

QUIET REVERENCE

Around 8:30, although it was not planned, a group of Pham's friends who had been lingering a few yards away found their way to the candle and floral display, stood for a few moments, quietly said a prayer, then slowly melted away in reverence for their friend.

BRAD LONG - THE ROCK
CMTV's Brad Long, shown here on the far left of a group of employees and friends near the end of the evening, had not gotten much sleep in the past 48 hours as he calmly and quietly "got things done" that needed to be done, including setting up the conference room on the 5th floor for a press conference earlier in the day. More on that later. Long has been a rock for his fellow employees during this tragedy.

ANOTHER MEMORIAL TO PHAM ON MONDAY
This gathering seemed to provide a much-needed opportunity for friends and co-workers to gather, share their grief and offer what consolation they could. Thanks to Greg Ridge for taking the initiative for this effort. Monday, weather permitting, there is another gathering scheduled for the same place. As announced earlier, this was to be an "Employees Only" gathering at 3:00 p.m. That has changed. Naghavi announced it to the press and now anticipates several hundred more attendees beyond the employees who will be encouraged to attend. Personally, I think this could be good for the employees and the community at large that has responded with such compassion.

***

POOR PRESS CONFERENCE
On a much less pleasant note, earlier in the day members of the City Council and Chief Executive of the City, Tom Hatch, held a hastily-contrived press conference in a small conference room on the 5th floor of City Hall. It was restricted to credentialed members of the press only, which locked me out. It was taped by Brad Long of CMTV and is now available for viewing on the city web site. You'll see the flashing notice at the bottom of the home page. It requires Windows Media Player and it takes a few minutes to download the 8 minute event. NOTE: Thanks to Gericault for providing a link, HERE, which shows the entire press conference. The final minute +, which was deleted from the city version, clearly demonstrates the unresponsiveness of the city council.

MEDIA COVERAGE SHOWS MORE...
I've subsequently seen part of the coverage on media outlets, including the segments at the end where the assembled reporters expressed anger at not being allowed to ask any questions. That part has been edited out of the city tape.

NO QUESTIONS!
That's correct - our "leaders" held a press conference but only permitted Hatch to deliver a prepared text without any comments by the council members present nor any questions being asked of them!



MORE UNBUDGETED CONSULTANTS

Among the things Hatch discussed was that the city has hired yet more consultants - none of the cost for which has been included in the current budget! They hired an outfit called "Growth Partners", which apparently brings significant expertise in Employment Law and Human Resources. Sounds a little like closing the barn door after the horse escaped to me.

LOBDELL'S IMPOSSIBLE TASK
Hatch also announced that he'd signed Bill Lobdell, current columnist and former editor of the Daily Pilot, to a 90 day contract to, "create a communication structure that will put Costa Mesa on a path to being the nation's most transparent government." I really like Bill Lobdell and admire his prodigious writing skills, but if this press conference was Lobdell's first step it was going in the wrong direction. At a time when our city and the entire region is crying out for clarity on this tragic event our elected leaders chose to stonewall reporters. I doubt very much if Lobdell had a hand in this one. I sure hope not.

IN HIS HEART...
During the end of his presentation - before he and the council members present slammed the door on the reporters - as Hatch was discussing the "noticing process", he said, "In my heart I know that that noticing process was conducted by our department heads and by our key management staff with care, with detail and with compassion." Maybe, but...

VERY DISAPPOINTING
As you can certainly tell, I was very disappointed in this press conference, as was every person who viewed it that subsequently communicated with me about it. From where I sit, it's going to take a lot longer than three months for Lobdell to polish our city's image and to create that "communication structure" mentioned above. We'll see.
***

MONAHAN'S MISTAKE
I've written in an earlier post my view of Mayor Gary Monahan's attempt to justify his lack of presence at City Hall Thursday. It was a lame, bogus attempt to deflect much-deserved criticism from him. Then I saw a clip on Fox 11 News Friday night that only further confirmed my opinion.

FOX 11 NEWS CLIP
In the clip reporter Al Naipo discussed the silent vigil held last night and the press conference. He then speculated about why Monahan didn't show up yesterday and showed us part of the tape he shot Thursday in front of Monahan's pub. Since it is not yet available on streaming video, I'm going to quote the mayor exactly from that segment.

OUT OF HIS OWN MOUTH...
Monahan is shown walking out of his pub in his garb for the day - a cute little Irish cap and a kilt - and then says: "I've got the biggest day of my life here. I have a business and I'm trying to survive my business. I just got the word like an hour ago. How do I just jump into something else and go down there? My heart goes out for what happened today, but I can't fix it."

TOO BUSY TO BE MAYOR
So, there you have it. Monahan states in the clearest possible terms that he couldn't "fix it", so going to City Hall to help guide the response to this tragedy and to help console the employees - to provide much-needed leadership at a time of crisis - just wasn't worth his time. Nope, pulling beer taps on the "biggest day of my life" took precedence over leading a grieving city staff and assuring a concerned community.

TWO DEATHS ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY

I sure hope it was worth it, and that he made a lot of money Thursday, because - along with young Huy Pham - Gary Monahan's political career committed suicide on St. Patrick's Day, 2011.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Monahan's Prepared Statement Released

MONAHAN'S EXCUSE
Late this afternoon the City of Costa Mesa issued yet another press release. This one contained the text of a prepared statement by Mayor Gary Monahan that attempts to explain why he chose to stay at his pub, mugging for cameras and pulling beer pump handles on his busiest day of the year instead of going to City Hall to oversee the biggest tragedy in the history of the city. He failed.

NO MENTION OF THE COPS OR HATCH
In his feeble excuse, the full text of which is below, he makes no mention of discussions with the police officials at the scene, nor any discussions with Tom Hatch at that time. He mentions only discussions with "two fellow councilmen" - that would be Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger.

TIMELINE
Mensinger arrived on the scene at 4:12 p.m., consulted with Righeimer, Hatch and the police, then adjourned into City Hall at 4:30. Nick Beradino showed the cell phone photo of Monahan a
t his pub in his kilt mugging for the camera at 5:36 p.m., more than 2 hours after Huy Pham leaped to his death and more than an hour after Mensinger arrived on the scene.

WHAT'S "GOOD FOR GARY"...
Monahan had plenty of time to leave his pub, change his clothes and get to City Hall to take charge of this unfolding tragedy. Instead, he left it in the hands of two lightning rods, Righeimer and Mensinger. He made a management decision to do what he's done his entire political career - put what is "good for Gary" ahead of what is good for the city.

NO WORD FROM PRESSER YET

No word yet from the 4:00 p.m. press conference... I'll keep checking the city web site, but I expect Joe Serna will provide us with some information in the Daily Pilot.

***

March 18, 2011 STATEMENT FROM COSTA MESA MAYOR GARY MONAHAN

Yesterday was a heartbreaking day for all of us call Costa Mesa home.


What is lost in all of the rhetoric is the fact that this is a tragic incident in the midst of a very
difficult situation. our city lost one of it's brethren, and it certainly will take some time for it to heal.

Before I was informed of yesterday's incident, the union decided to take despicable advantage
of this tragic situation to advance their agenda.

Had I known what transpired, I never would have agreed to pose for photos or engage in any
revelry.

I became informed of the situation and contacted two of my fellow council members, who were
on the scene, and quickly brought me up to speed with the details of the situation.

After learning of the volatility of the situation, I realized that my presence could further inflame
and escalate the situation, and decided not to visit City Hall.

I remained in constant communication with my council colleagues, and was kept informed as
the rest of the day transpired.

I understand the anger and hurt surrounding these potential layoffs. I- and my council colleagues - have not made these decisions lightly, and we realize that our decisions are impacting families.

As Tom explained, we are working with staff to work through this very difficult situation, and I am
hopeful that we can eliminate the politicization of this tragic incident, and work together to heal our great city.

Gary Monahan
Mayor

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Press Conference Pending On Thursday's Tragedy


PRESS CONFERENCE SCHEDULED AT 4:00
Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch sent out yet another press release this afternoon announcing a press conference to begin at 4:00 to address yesterday's tragedy. The full text of that press release is below.

ONLY CREDENTIALED NEWS FOLKS ALLOWED
It apparently is open ONLY to credentialed media, so I will have to wait reports and/or the availability of the news conference on the city web site. Apparently Gary Monahan and other council members will address the press. Hope he got rid of his kilt.

***

March 18, 2011
Costa Mesa, California – City of Costa Mesa Call Press Conference at 4:00 p.m. at City
Hall

Costa Mesa's Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch has scheduled a press conference for 4:00
p.m. today in the 5th floor conference room at City Hall to discuss Thursday’s tragedy at the
Civic Center. Mayor Gary Monahan and other Council members will be in attendance. Due to
limited space, only working media with credentials will be able to attend. The City will
videotape the press conference and make it available on its website.

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Costa Mesa Issues Press Release About Huy Pham

PRESS RELEASE
The City of Costa Mesa, through the office of Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch, has issued a press release regarding the death of employee Huy Pham.

HOW TO CONTRIBUTE?
Several readers have asked about how to donate to Pham's family. This press release includes information on that subject. We offer our thanks to the Costa Mesa Community Foundation for their part.

***


PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT: THOMAS R. HATCH
Chief Executive Officer
PHONE: (714) 754-5328


March 18, 2011

Costa Mesa, California – City Focuses on the Family of Huy Pham and the Support of Employees

On Thursday, March 17, 2011, the City of Costa Mesa lost a member of its family, Huy Pham,
who was a City maintenance worker and employee for 4 ½ years. Mr. Pham was 29 years old and a resident of Fountain Valley. He also attended classes at Orange Coast College.

The City has reached out to the Pham family and is making efforts to assist them during this
tragic time. The Costa Mesa Community Foundation has established an “Employee Memorial Donation” fund for the Pham family. Individual donations can be made to the fund via mail to Costa Mesa Community Foundation, P.O. Box 10268, Costa Mesa, CA 92627, in care of Huy Pham.

This tragedy has affected the entire City of Costa Mesa family. Staff is reaching out to all City
employees during this time. Crisis counselors are at City Hall to meet with employees and will be available at City Hall as long as needed. Counselors are also available via phone for employees desiring to talk about the incident away from work.

On Monday, March 21, at 3 p.m., the City will be holding an “
Employee Only” gathering of remembrance in recognition of Mr. Pham. The gathering will be held on the east side of City Hall which will include the observance of a moment of silence.

***

TIME FOR CONTEMPLATION

This weekend will certainly be one of contemplation for all city employees and many of the residents of this city concerned about this tragedy and what it represents to us all. We here at A Bubbling Cauldron offer our sincere condolences to Huy Pham's family, his friends and co-workers at the City of Costa Mesa and to all of you who have been touched by this tragedy.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Suicide At City Hall

HOW TO START?
How do I begin this one.... there's no easy way to start what I have to say, so I'll just take a deep breath, give you the facts and my views and let you sort it out.

YOUNG EMPLOYEE COMMITS SUICIDE
Early this afternoon a 29 year-old maintenance worker, identified this evening as Huy Pham of Fountain Valley, who had reportedly been with the City of Costa Mesa for a little over 4 years, leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall. He apparently had been called into work from home, where he had been recuperating from an injured foot, to receive a 6-month outsourcing layoff notice. He never received the notice, choosing to take his life instead.

URGENT CALL
A friend called me shortly after this happened and told me something terrible had happened at City Hall and that I needed to come over immediately. I had no idea what awaited me when I pulled into the parking lot.

HUGE POLICE PRESENCE

When I arrived I found the entire east side of the building taped off and no fewer than fifteen police officers stationed at strategic points. Near the rear of the east side of the building was a makeshift shelter and a tent covering the site where the young man landed when he jumped from the roof. He was still there and his body would not be removed by the coroner until more than two hours later.

NAGHAVI
Shortly after I arrived Public Services Director Peter Naghavi, who had been at the Maintenance Yard delivering the layoff notices, came to a screeching stop beside me and sprinted under the tape to the site. He had not yet delivered the layoff notice to the young man - his was the last one in Naghavi's stack when he received a call from City Hall. I spoke with Peter several times over the next couple hours as he sought out his staff and did his best to console them.

FROM GRIEF TO ANGER
I went into City H
all to console some of my many friends who work there. As I spoke with different people their moods shifted from extreme grief and despair at this tragic situation to almost uncontrollable anger at what they felt was the reason. This attitude grew as the afternoon passed. Without exception, the employees I spoke with blamed the death of their friend on the current elected leadership of our city for the pace at which they seem to be trying to deconstruct the city.

COMMAND PRESENCE
I walked around outside to a vant
age point where I could view the scene. I saw Les Gogerty - who recently stepped away from his temporary job as interim police chief - with Steve Staveley - who was just named to that position this week - along with Tim Starn, the commander of the about-to-be-defunct ABLE helicopter program, all providing leadership on this tragedy.

HATCH
I saw new Chief Executive of the City Tom Hatch being consoled and later spoke with him briefly. There really are no words for this kind of a situation. Hatch was trying to manage this situation the best he could.



MENSINGER AND RIGHEIMER
Later I saw Councilman Steve Mensinger arrive, followed shortly by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer. They stood with the command staff and were apparently briefed - we were 30 yards away. As they left and tried to enter City Hall they were accosted by an angry city employee and the taunts of at least one other. The angry employee had to be restrained from attacking Righeimer and Mensinger. That was the last I saw of them for the afternoon. The word floating around outside was that they were going to be given a police escort home later in the evening.

LEECE
Councilwoman Wendy Leece arrived and immediately began consoling distraught employees. She remained outside with them for quite awhile - at least an hour before I finally left just before 6 p.m. She also gave interviews to the media.

FOLEY
Former councilwoman Katrina Foley arrived in
tears and also consoled employees outside.

BEVER
Councilman Eric Bever was nowh
ere in sight.

MEDIA MADNESS
The media was everywhere. There were at least 4 television crews plus radio and print re
presentatives. Fox News dispatched it's helicopter for an aerial view of the scene.

OPPORTUNIST
Nick Beradino, head of the Orange County Employees Association, was on the scene with some of his associates. Sadly, he chose to politicize this tragedy. Taking a page right from Rahm Emanuel's playbook, he found himself in the midst of a crisis too good to waste. When he heard that Mayor Gary Monahan was at his pub dressed as a leprechaun he apparently dispatched someone to snap a photo of him in that regalia, then shared the cell phone photo with the assembled media. I just saw it on KCAL 9 news.

"MONAHAN'S" STATEMENT
Monahan had not shown up at the scene during the time I was there, but a very brief press release was issued shortly before 7 p.m. tonight with this statement attributed to him.

"Our hearts and prayers are with the family, friends and co-workers during this tragic time. In addition, crisis counselors have been brought in immediately to provide support to the City Hall family and will continue to be on-site for as long as needed."

I have no illusions that he actually wrote that message and understand why he didn't show up at City Hall. Today is the biggest day of the year at his pub and the last thing anyone in the city needed was a guy dressed in a leprechaun suit wandering around the scene of this tragedy - even if he was sober.

A BAD DAY GONE WORSE
Several times earlier in the day I thought about my many friends at City Hall because today was the day of the distribution of the layoff notices. I worried for them and the impact of simply receiving these slips of paper. Even though there is a lot of analysis to be done before outsourcing would actually happen, the pace with which this process was jammed through has made every city employee anxious - understandably so. This would have gone down as one of the darkest days in the history of this city. Now it will stand alone.



FOCUSED ANGER

I understand the anger and despair I saw at City Hall today. Employees, and many of us obse
rving recent events, thought the new City Council majority was moving much too fast in their attempts to re-organize the city. The focus of most of the anger was at Righeimer and his pal, Mensinger. I cannot repeat some of the epithets I heard about those two men today, when emotions were highest. There was also anger reserved for Monahan, too, because he has been a willing accomplice in this new re-structuring - and because he failed to show up at City Hall today. He's shown the employees very clearly where his priorities lay.

WHAT'S AHEAD?

I don't know what lays ahead for our city in light of this tragedy. How CEO Tom Hatch handles this situation and how he guides the city through it will tell us much about the man. Today he was clearly distraught. As mentioned in Monahan's memo, crisis counselors are on site and were working hard with staff members all afternoon. I suspect they will be at City Hall tomorrow, too.


WHAT OF RIGHEIMER AND MENSINGER?
I wonder, too, how this event will affect Righeimer, and Mensinger. I watched both of them today for the half hour or so they were outside. I saw no signs of emotion from either of them. Mensinger was preoccupied with his cell phone, texting most of the time before they went inside. For some people this kind of an event is life-changing. It causes some to step back and re-assess their priorities. I know that Righeimer lost a young daughter, so he knows the pain the employees are
feeling right now. My question is, how will he and Mensinger react to this tragedy.

MONAHAN'S CAREER IS DOOMED
In my view, Gary M
onahan has doomed his political future in this city with his callous disregard for for the feelings of the employees of our city at their time of need. You find out about leaders when the chips are down. We found out about Monahan today.

A TIME FOR GR
IEVING AND SUPPORT
I feel tremend
ous sadness for the employees of the City of Costa Mesa. The double-whammy they received today of the layoff notices followed by the suicide of their friend and co-worker is going to be difficult to handle. I encourage them to use this time to grieve for their friend and to try to push the anger they are feeling aside - at least for the time being. One never knows what is in a person's mind when they take their own life. From all reports this young man had a bright future, was a hard worker with many friends and a loving family. I hope his friends will take the time now to console each other for his loss and reach out to his family to give them the support they certainly need at this time. As I type this the news on television behind me shows images of employees gathered at City Hall for a candlelight vigil.

FRIENDS WISDOM GUIDES ME
As I drove home from City H
all today many thoughts swirled through my head. I worried for the future of our city. I wondered what I would write when I got home, filled with the emotion of the past couple hours. I arrived to find dozens of emails and many voice mail messages from friends and strangers, wanting to be sure that I'd heard the bad news and to offer their condolences. I answered the emails and returned the calls, hearing the wisdom I've become accustomed to with my friends and sat down here to capture my thoughts.

ANOTHER TOUGH DAY TOMORROW
Tomorrow will be another difficult day for my friends at City Hall. I hope they all know that the residents
of this city feel the pain they are all sharing right now. I hope they know we want to support them at this time. Short of giving every one of them a big hug, those hollow words are the best I can do under the circumstances.

IS THIS THE FINAL STRAW?
I close this tonight wondering if this terrible tragedy will be the trigger to finally get some complacent residents off their collective couches and begin to pay attention to what's going on in this city. Will those more than 100,000 people Jim Righeimer thinks support his plans finally step up and say STOP!? Will he and his majority step back and realize that their actions have consequences? And, most of all, will cooler heads prevail in the wake of this horrendous event? Time will tell.


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Greg Ridge's Take On The Homeless Task Force

MY "WESTSIDE STRINGER" REPORTS
In response to my solicitation of input from the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force launch meeting yesterday, Westsider Greg Ridge gave me his take on the meeting. He was one of the many interested attendees, each of whom had a chance to speak during their "introductions". I tinkered with the spelling and some of the names and added some formatting features (The titles are mine), but this is Greg's take on the meeting as he sent it to me this morning. His note to me was too long for a "comment" on my previous entry. His observations track very closely with other telephone calls I received about the meeting.

***


A START
It was a start. Talk about a mix of oil and water.

TASK FORCE MEMBERS
The task force members are as follows. Sorry If I miss anyone.
18 members:
Larry Haynes (Facilitator)- Director of Mercy House
Steve Smith -Elected Chair- Daily Pilot/ Freelance writer
Judi Berry - Vice Chair- Resident
Muriel Ullman- CM Housing Coordinator
Kim Pederson-Parks and Recs Commissioner
Christian Eric- Westside Resident
Colin McCarthy-CM Planning Commissioner
Jeff Mathews- CM Parks and Recs. Commissioner
Cambria Briggs- 3R Committee
Lisa Locke- Teacher @ Access, Friends of the Library, Mesa Verde Resident
Mike Brumbaugh- Halecrest Association( Former, sadly) Parks and Recs. Chairman
Wendy Leece- City Council Member, County Library Board
Ed Salcedo- Planning Commissioner
Russell Carter- Saddleback Church
Beck Heghoe- Representing, Lighthouse, Rock Harbor, The Crossing, Churchs
Jean Wegener-S.P.I.N.
Karen McGlinn- S.O.S.
Ken Babcock- Public Law Center.

OTHERS

Also in attendance were the police in charge of the Lions Park area and our new interim Chief of Police, Steve Staveley, many members from Illumination Foundation and a smattering of residents. Oh, and Jim Fitzpatrick made a little speech at the beginning of the meeting about how we shouldn't be afraid of getting sued. This was during an awkward period where Larry Haynes had the audience introduce themselves.

LEGAL QUAGMIRE

I didn't recognize the City Attorney, but she was very cognizant of the minefield we are attempting to walk through. In fact she addressed, Fitzpatrick's comments, (he had already skedaddled out), saying that there is only so much you can use the courts. Courts will not solve this cities homeless problem. It makes judges really angry. She gets threatened to be sued three times a day, and her job is to know when they will lose. That created a great dialogue with the Public Law Center attorney, Ken Babcock. They addressed the value of "Homeless Court" and it's uses that can be applied to our situation. http://voiceofoc.org/countywide/county_government/article_239b9baa-49f7-11e0-a1b5-001cc4c002e0.html

SUB-COMMITTEES AND THE BROWN ACT

After discussing Brown Act rules they set up three subcommittees:
Community Impact
Services
Data

Each one has about 7 members to safely stay below a quorum. They were warned about chain e-mails, and telephone calls.

COMPETING FACTIONS
& "TRUST"
There was a telling back-and-forth between Cambria Briggs from the 3R committee and Karen McGlinn from S.O.S. At one point, while members were joining sub-committees, Ms. Briggs complained that she didn't think the services board shouldn't be stacked with just service providers. She then went on further to complain that we all know there are two sides here. Karen McGlinn, from S.O.S., made some great comments, about how first the task force must work together in a "trust". They are fact finding, looking for solutions, and must then come together for recommendations that are workable. The first thing this group must do is have "trust". Not so sure it sat well with the "handpicked citizens" on the Force.

WHAT ABOUT THE DATA?

Larry Haynes (Mercy House) immediately jumped in to control the Data sub-committee. Steve Smith was jumping at that bone also. I have some concerns because from listening to Larry speak about this issue, I disagree with his Data. Seems to me he is controlling the actual facts to fit a more streamlined agenda that addresses Mercy House's ability to be the one to fix it. Time will tell where this goes.

EGOS AND APPREHENSIONS

The group is large with many egos, and many set-in-stone viewpoints and opinions.
One staggering exchange was with the people who feared holding the next meeting at the Downtown Community Center. Tim Peterson suggested Balearic as an alternative to assuage some of their fears.

GREG'S COMMENTS
At the end of the meeting in public comments, I spoke out.
I told them they would need "courage" if they plan on moving forward with this. The Estancia Girls Water Polo team just held their Awards Dinner at the Downtown Rec. Center. It was a beautiful evening and a great event. If you are afraid to even go down there to see the problem or explore the need, you might not be the right person to sit on this task force.

HIS SUMMARY
The issue of homelessness has many moving parts. It's messy, complicated, emotionally charged, takes long term commitment. There are no "quick fixes". The longest journey begins with the first step. We'll just have to wait a see if this "herd of cats" can move in the same general direction and actually go anywhere.

***

THANKS TO GREG RIDGE FOR HIS VIEWS

My thanks to Greg for taking the time to attend the launch and for providing us with his viewpoint. If there are other opinions please just send them as comments. If they are too long send me an email.


HERE'S MY VIEW...

This issue is a tough one or it would have been addressed long ago. In my view, it begins with how we define the "problem". My definition of it is, "The City of Costa Mesa is infested with homeless people who, by their presence, render valuable public assets - parks, libraries, community centers - less usable by the residents of the city. They are attracted to our city by a number of factors, including weather, availability of services to them and an unwillingness of local officials to address the problem." That last part has changed, so we'll just have to see if this esteemed group can pool their intellectual resources and come up with workable solutions that please folks on both sides of this subject. I'm not holding my breath...

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Homeless Task Force Launched

I DID NOT ATTEND
I confess... I did not attend the first meeting of the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force held Wednesday evening at City Hall. I chose, instead, to stay home and tend to my sweet wife, who is under the weather. However, some reliable sources did attend and have reported some of the nuts and bolts of the meeting.

Warning: Second-hand knowledge coming at you...

NEARLY A FULL HOUSE
It's my understanding that Conference Room 1A was near capacity this evening - a good
thing. No one mentioned whether any actual homeless folks were in attendance or not. You may recall that at a council meeting not too long ago when this whole idea was launched there was, in fact, a homeless fellow who spoke about what a wonderful place Costa Mesa is for the homeless - plenty of services, nice parks, etc. In fact, he told us he intentionally moved from Lake Elsinore to Costa Mesa for all the benefits.

SMITH AND BERRY LEAD THE EFFORT
I'm not privy to the actual flow of the agenda for this meeting, but I'm told that PR flack and Daily Pilot columnist (and nanny to us all for so many years) Steve Smith was elected Chairman of the Task Force and the irrepressible Judi Berry is Vice Chair. Among the "city" representatives present were Chief Executive Officer of the City, Tom Hatch, councilwoman Wendy Leece, Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy, commissioner Ed Salcedo and our housing maven, Neighborhood Improvement Manager Muriel Ullman. Sorry if I missed others - my reports are sketchy.

SERVICE PROVIDERS I
N ATTENDANCE
I also understand that several of the organizations who provide support for our homeless provided representation in the meeting, including Saddleback Church.

"SPIRITED" DISCUSSIONS
The meeting lasted a couple hours and included spirited discussions - no surprise
there. If this issue was an easy one to resolve it would have been done a long, long time ago.

NEXT MEETING APRIL 20TH

It's my understan
ding that future meetings - which are open to the public - will be held at the Neighborhood Community Center at Lions Park on the third Wednesday of each month. Actually, that's a perfect venue because many of the folks we're trying to "solve" with this task force will be right outside the door, sleeping on the grass or, perhaps, using the restrooms in the Center for bathing in the sinks, or dozing in the library.

PLEASE EXPAND MY COVERAGE IF YOU WERE THERE

If you were in attendance and wish to expand or correct my report, please
just fire away in the comments section. I want to hear from you.

6-MONTH "OUTSOURCING" NOTICES TO BE DELIVERED TODAY
In closing, I wonder if anyone else sees the terrible irony in the fact that in less than 24 hours after launching the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force the city will issue 6-month "outsourcing" notices to 213 city employees. By the end of the day today all such notices will have been delivered. For some of those folks receiving the notices it is possible they may be viewing the "homeless" issue from a much more up-close-and-personal perspective before year's end. It's a very sad commentary on the elected leadership of this city that they put the cart before the horse on this issue and made their decision before ANY analysis had been done. They keep talking about running the city like a business, but if they'd pulled this kind of a stunt in a company their boss would have fired them for incompetence.

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