Geoff & Steve - Conjoined Twins
Last weekend, frustrated by recent events in Costa Mesa - the low-point of which was the St. Patrick's Day suicide by Huy Pham on the day he had been called in to work to receive a 6-month layoff notice along with more than 200 of his peers - I sat down and wrote a long - too long - commentary and sent it off to the Daily Pilot editors for their consideration. I received word later that they planned to publish it on Wednesday. You can read it HERE.
I did not know that non-elected city councilman Steve Mensinger had submitted a commentary with what amounted to an opposing view at about the same time. I was advised by the editors of the Daily Pilot that mine would appear Wednesday in print and Mensinger's would appear Thursday and that they would be paired in the online editions, which is just what happened. You can read Mensinger's piece HERE.
DID HE ACTUALLY WRITE IT?
When I read Mensinger's contribution I found myself wondering if he had actually written it, or did recently-hired PR consultant Bill Lobdell create it for him as part of his assignment to "create a communication structure that will make Costa Mesa the most transparent government in the nation"? I've read some of Mensinger's work in the past and this one was much more polished, even though not without gaffes. For example, he referred to "RFPs" as "Reports for Proposal". I'd expect a guy who, although an appointee to both the planning commission and the city council, to know that acronym is for "Requests for Proposals". However, history has demonstrated that "close is good enough" for him and his cronies.
HIT COUNTERS ARE A'SPINNIN'
Both of our commentaries have spun the old Daily Pilot hit counter like slot machines gone berserk. At this writing each has well over 50 comments posted although in the case of my commentary, a dozen of those comments are by one lunatic so in love with his "skill" that he just kept blathering on and on, serially posting drivel that meant nothing at all.
GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY
I really don't have a problem with being conjoined with Mensinger's commentary - I think it's good for the community to have a chance to view and consider opposing views of the same issue in real time.
RIGHEIMER TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CRISIS
Since the tragedy on St. Patrick's Day, when Mayor Gary Monahan was appropriately criticized for not showing up at City Hall to evaluate the situation and to console staffers, the media attention on Costa Mesa has been white-hot. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer has been omnipresent on local and national television and on the radio in a campaign reminiscent of Allan Mansoor's "anti-illegal alien" media blitz a few years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if the same strategists planned both campaigns. Some of that attention has painted this issue as a "unions vs. politicians" event, the perception of which was exacerbated by Orange County Employee Association President Nick Beradino's display of cell phone photos of Monahan in his kilt, having a rousing good time while the folks at City Hall were in shock.
And that was further exacerbated by a professionally-created video ad, using clips of Monahan and the bogus press conference called the day after the tragedy, being distributed locally on cable TV this week. The media has, once again, covered this like a blanket and have tried to find the group responsible for its creation - a group called "Repair Costa Mesa". The ad is available on the group's web site, HERE.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS?
About that "group"... I used quotation marks because it is my understanding that this a group of residents from neighborhoods all over the city who were concerned about the method and pace of the changes the current city council were trying to impose on the city and wanted to "do something" about it. The only names associated with the group that have been made public are former mayor Sandra Genis and outspoken activist Greg Ridge. Former Fountain Valley councilman Gus Ayer's name was connected to the video by a union representative, but he has adamantly denied any involvement in its production or distribution. It is my understanding that the launch of the video ad was made by Ridge, operating on his own without consultation nor approval by the rest of the group. The media and members of the opposition are frothing to get the names of the others in the group.
AD WAS A BAD IDEA
In my opinion, the ad - while powerful and accurate in the presentation - was a bad idea. Clearly, there has been a huge backlash - not only by those you might expect to hear from in the Monahan/Righeimer/Mensinger camp, but by members of the broader community, as well. Enthusiasm apparently dulls memories, because this is similar to the backlash that occurred when the Costa Mesa Police Association began hauling the anti-Righeimer ad trailer around town last fall.
MONAHAN WAS WRONG, AT LEAST TWICE
Don't get me wrong. I think Monahan made a couple huge mistakes two weeks ago. First, when he chose to stay at his pub pulling beer taps and celebrating what he told a television crew was, "the biggest day of my life" instead of going to City Hall to evaluate the situation and console the staff - as any good mayor would have done - and second, when he approved and participated in the press conference-that-wasn't-a-press conference the next day. That one could have, and should have, simply been done with a press release. Instead, they gathered a small gaggle of "credentialed media" in a cramped, hastily-created press room in a conference room on the 5th floor of City Hall and had CEO Tom Hatch read a prepared statement. The four council members in attendance then filed out before the cameras, ignoring the requests and demands of the media members for comments.
In attendance at that press conference was new PR guy, Bill Lobdell, so one must assume he had some part of this fiasco. Perhaps this was a way of setting the low water mark for transparency - a spot from which things can only get better. I guess we'll see.
As I watch the current elected leaders push their agenda, bully the staff, manipulate the "facts" to accommodate their dogma and ignore the advice of their professional staff as they go about destroying our city, I cannot help but think of my friend, Bruce Garlich. Tomorrow, at 2:00 at Pacific View Memorial Park, many of his friends and family will meet at a memorial service to remember our friend and to offer words about his selfless volunteerism and true leadership in our community. I will miss my friend's wise counsel and compassion and find myself wondering what his views would have been about what is happening in his city today. Rest in Peace, my friend.