Saturday, May 28, 2011

MEMORIAL DAY - 2011

REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THIS HOLIDAY
As you celebrate this long holiday weekend with loved ones please take at least a few minutes to remember what this holiday is actually all about. Remember the men and women who have given their lives to preserve and protect the freedoms we all enjoy today.

SOME PERSPECTIVE FOR YOU

It may be helpful for you to understand the scope of that sacrifice. The following chart represents a listing of all the American lives lost in ALL the wars and other conflicts in which we've been engaged since the founding of this country 235 years ago. If you want even more detail you can find virtually everything you ever wanted to know on this subject HERE.

AMERICAN WAR CASUALTIES

I've written about this subject each Memorial Day weekend for several years. You can read what I wrote about it last year HERE.

THANKS TO ALL OUR SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN

Now, let Sarah McLachlan help you gain some perspective as you watch this video and look over that chart above. Thanks to all our young men and women currently serving our country in the armed services around the world.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

More On Pham's "Cocaine Use"

MORE BAD NEWS
Sometimes when bad news happens it just keeps on coming. That is the case with the story that appeared Thursday in local newspapers online and in print Friday morning announcing that the toxicology report for Huy Pham, the young man who leaped to his death from the roof of Costa Mesa City Hall on St. Patrick's Day after he was called in to work from a medical absence to receive one of the 213 6-month layoff notices that day, showed that he had traces of cocaine in his blood. The amount was .44 milligrams per liter of blood.

MY EARLIER POST
The articles in both the Daily Pilot and the Orange County Registe
r produced blistering comment threads and I wrote about it in my earlier post, HERE.

"EXPERT" ANALYSIS OF THE REPORT
This afternoon the Register produced two more articles on this subject. Jaimee
Fletcher, tells us HERE that a doctor specializing in drug detoxification is apparently convinced that the results of the toxicology report make it clear that Pham had been using cocaine. He dismissed the possibility that the number shown on the report might be the result of pain medication being taken due to his broken ankle. He is further quoted as saying, "Cocaine gets you excited, agitated and some people even go into hallucinations, but eventually it drops you down. People can get suicide depression when they use any type of drug, especially cocaine." If his assessment of this situation proves to be valid, it's a very disappointing finding.

VENEZIA'S FOLLOW-UP
In another article, columnist Barbara Venezia did a follow-up on her article yesterday, HERE, describing in greater detail her calls for comments to several Costa Mesa officials, some of whom she re-contacted again this morning.

STAVELEY CONCERNED FOR THE FAM
ILY
Among those with whom she spoke was Costa Mesa Interim Polic
e Chief Steve Staveley, who described the substance shown on the report and referred her to Wikipedia for a more thorough understanding. She quotes Staveley as saying, "Someone needs to get this information out for this man's family."

THE "LEAK" SPECULATION
Throughout the comment threads in both the Daily Pilot and Orange County Register writers complained that this information was "leaked" to the press in response to the favorable Register column published by Frank Mickadeit on Billy Folsom earlier in the week. That seemed callous, even for those who might have had a hand in doing it. So I did some checking.

THE REPORT WAS GETTING STALE
The story I have
is that the toxicology report was completed earlier this month and a copy was mailed to Pham's family on May 11th and was accompanied by a message left on a family member's voice mail alerting them to the results. It's my understanding that the Daily Pilot's Joe Serna, reading the Mickadeit column, was jogged to followup on the toxicology report and called the coroner's office. He was told that it had been available to the public for two weeks, so he drove up to Santa Ana, paid $1.50, got the report and wrote his article.

THE FACTS AS WE KNOW THEM

At this point we have the fact that a substance was found in Pham's blood that is a byproduct of cocaine use and an "expert" opinion confirming that it likely did not come from some other substance Pham had ingested. I don't know if there are any "official" evaluations in the works for the results of the report. If not, we are left only to conclude that Pham, indeed, used cocaine sometime prior to jumping to his death on March 17th this year. If this is the end of it - if no other experts are called upon to evaluate and comment on this report - it makes an already-tragic event even more so and leaves an indelible stain on the collective memory of this young man.

BUDGET ALMOST LOST IN THE DRAMA

And the caustic comments continue to be posted in both local newspapers and I ful
ly expect to see letters to the editor in print within a few days, too. Almost lost in all this drama is the fact that, on Tuesday, the Costa Mesa City Council will hold another study session in which the Expenditure side of the budget will be discussed. This will be the meeting at which cuts necessary to squeeze out at least $3.3 million from the 2011/2012 budget will be hammered out. It's not going to be a pretty sight and the revelations of Pham's alleged cocaine use will certainly make nerves raw on both sides.

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Hatch-No Staff Increases On His Watch!

HATCH'S SPEECH IN MESA VERDE
Shortly after I finished writing the previous post about cocaine being found in Huy Pham's system - a tough one for me to compose - I discovered Joe Serna's piece in the Daily Pilot about Costa Mesa City CEO Tom Hatch's speech before the meeting of Mesa Verde Community, Inc. Wednesday evening. I confess I missed that meeting. Now I'm very sorry I did.


HATCH - "NEVER EXPAND THE STAFF"
According to Serna's coverage, HERE, Hatch pledged to the assembled group - includin
g Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger - that as long as he's the leader of city he will not expand the municipal workforce. Apparently it is his plan to fill any necessary staffing requirements using contractors.

UGH!
Maybe it's because of the late hour or because I spent a lot of emotional energy on the previous entry - or a combination of both - but reading that comment just took the wind out of my sails.

NEVER SAY NEVER
Although I've been retired for a few years, I do know just a little about managing. One of the things I've learned from years managing groups lar
ge and small is that is usually a very bad idea to say you're NEVER going to do something in the future. We don't know what the future will bring, but what Hatch's comment has done is lock out an option that he may well find he needs down stream to effectively manage our city as it gets back on it's feet.

A BODY BLOW TO THE STAFF
Even more disappointing to me is the message it will send to the current city staff. It is a diminishing group, pummeled by events in our city for the past three months and Hatch's comment will likely be received like one more punch in the gut to those loyal workers who are trying hard to continue to do their jobs in these difficult times. This is a group that has seen their numbers reduced by 25% over the past couple years, and who have been asked - and have responded - to do more while receiving less salary. They have done more than requested to help the city balance the budget.

I DO UNDERST
AND...
I do understand the economics of our times. I do understand that we're having a difficult time balancing our budget - a fact exacerbated by the irrational demands of certain council members to
cast aside employees so a pot hole can be filled. I do understand that Hatch - a man I like very much and who I feel is giving this job his very best under extraordinarily difficult circumstances - works for this city council and only has his job as long as they want him in that slot. I understand all that, but reading his comments tonight made me very disappointed in him.

"CHARACTER"
Perhaps the most ironic comment I read in Serna's article is that, when asked what characteristic he was looking for most in a department head Hatch's response was "character". He was quoted as saying he values that "more so than expertise or skills". I think it's ironic because some of the people he works for come up very short
on that scale.

WHAT ABOUT THE REMAINING EMPLOYEES?

So, before I go hit the sack tonight, I find myself wondering just how the remaining loyal city staffers will feel when they read Hatch's comments in the Daily Pilot tomorrow. I suspect that many who had not received layoff notices within the past couple months and who had planned to hang in there and continue to do their jobs will now start to consider other options. I suspect they may be looking fo
r a new job - perhaps in a new city - where their contributions are acknowledged and appreciated. No one could blame them...

WHAT ABOUT FUTURE RESIDENTS?
And how w
ill this position be perceived by potential future residents of our city? Will those "upwardly-mobile" young families that seem to be a highly sought-after commodity feel that such an inflexible position may result in diminished services provided by our city? Will they worry about there being enough police officers and firefighters to provide adequate public safety? Will they worry about our parks and streets being properly maintained? I think they might.

MORE BAD NEWS
H
atch's line in the sand is just one more dark cloud hanging over our city and it's just too darn bad for us all.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cocaine Found In Pham's System

HUY PHAM HAD COCAINE IN HIS SYSTEM
This afternoon both the Daily Pilot, HERE, and the Orange County Register, HERE, posted stories that tell us the coroners report in the tragic death of Costa Mesa employee Huy Pham shows that he had traces of cocaine in his system when he threw himself off the roof of City Hall on March 17, 2011.

I NEED MORE INFORMATION
I was shocked and surprised - as I suspect most of you readers were - to hear this news and my reaction was that I need more information. Nothing in the public record implied that this young man had been a drug user - no previous record of arrests for even the most innocuous use of drugs exists in his background. I've been unable to find a credible authority online to define what that amount, .44 mg per liter of blood, tells us about his possible impairment.

PRESCRIBED MEDICATION?
We do know that Pham was off work with a broken foot and I'm going to assume that he either was, or had recently been, taking something for pain relief. I want to know more about the possibility of any pain medications he might have been taking being the reason for this cocaine in his system. I'm troubled that we don't know more.

COMMENTS ARE MUCH MORE TROUBLIN
G
But, what troubles me much, much more is the reaction to this story as ref
lected by the comments on the Daily Pilot and Register blogs - and here, too, for that matter. As I begin typing this entry both the Pilot and Register stories have tallied nearly 100 comments. Many, if not most, of those commenters are quick to assume that Pham was a drug user and that his leap from the roof was a result of that drug use. The callousness of the comments has left my head spinning. I was offended by them and, quite honestly, ashamed of those anonymous cowards who wrote them. They are very sad reflections of the decline of civility in our society today.

MASKING THE BLAME
There is also a prevailing opinion in those threads that this information should take the heat off the current Costa Mesa City Council majority for their ill-conceived 6-month layoff notices last March - which is preposterous. While Pham's death was a horrible exclamation point to the events of St. Patrick's Day, it was only one element of what will certainly be remembered as the darkest day at the beginning of the darkest chapter in our city's history.

HOPING FOR THE TRUTH
I have no idea how this story will play out. I hope further information will become available to us that explains the amount of cocaine apparently found in Pham's system. I hope it turns out to be residue of prescribed or over
the counter pain medication, but even if it is not, I hope we eventually know the truth.

LIKE A BUNCH OF HYENAS!
In the meantime, shame on all of you who are so ready to jump on Pham's memory like hyenas attacking a kill. Your comments only pour salt in the festering wound that our municipal government has become since the first of the year.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mickadeit's View Of Billy Folsom

FRANK GOT IT RIGHT...
By now many of you who are regular readers of Frank Mickadeit's column in the Orange County Register have seen his most recent essay on Costa Mesa fleet mechanic Billy Folsom. If you've not read it you can do so HERE. I occasionally take issue with Mickadeit's presentation on some of his subjects, but this time he got it right.

LONG TIME EMPLOYEE AND SPOKESMAN
Folsom, a city employee for three decades, has long been a strong voice
for his peers and since the chaos of the outsourcing and budget-related issues have become white-hot in our city beginning earlier this year he has become one of the most visible, and vocal, spokespersons for the employee's side of the issues. He also has a clear grasp of the larger issues at play, so takes those into account as he presents his views. In every case of his public pronouncements, whether speaking to the City Council or to members of the media, his comments are calm, reasoned and articulate.

ROCK-SOLID ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY
On St. Patrick's Day this year, that dark day when 213 employee's received their 6-month outsourcing layoff notices and Huy Pham leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall, Folsom was one of those employees who received his notice. Following the Pham tragedy he was omnipresent at City Hall, calming and consoling fellow employees and speaking with members of the media. At a time when he could have used his access to this bully pulpit to fan the flames of discontent he chose, instead, to speak calmly and clearly as he presented the employee view of this tragedy.

WATCH HIM SPEAK

Most recently he was the first speaker to the City Council in "public comments" at the meeting of May 17, 2011. You can see his three minute presentation by clicking HERE. I was at that meeting and was very impressed with Folsom's presentation, but was very disappointed by the apparent lack of attention given to him by members of the City Council.

THANKS, FRANK - AND TO BILLY, TOO
Thanks to Frank Mickadeit for his accurate presentation of Billy Folsom in his column. I'm confident Folsom will continue to be a voice of reason during these very difficult times.

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Wednesday Choices

A REMINDER
Just a little late reminder for you. You have a couple choices this evening in case you're not watching the finale of American Idol.




PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION MEETING

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission meets tonight at 6:00 in the City Council chambers at City Hall for their last meeting of this fiscal year.
In addition to a consideration for the donation of two (2) trees and memorial plaques, it will also discuss Field User Rentals Fees for Group 1 Organizations; Field Maintenance Fees for All Group Field Users; a request for Group 1 Field User status for Newport Mesa Friday Night Lights Flag Football; Newport Mesa Girls Softball Request for Grace Period; a Review of Proposed Capital Improvement Program for FY 2011-2012 through 2017-2018 and Smoking Prohibition at City Athletic Fields and Community Gardens.

HATCH TO SPEAK AT MESA VERDE COMMUNITY MEETING
Our friends at Mesa Verde Community, Inc., the homeowners association for that part of town, has asked me to mention that tonight they will hold their General Meeting and the Keynote Speaker that evening will be Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer, Tom Hatch. This meeting is open to the public and the sponsors are very excited about having Hatch give them his views on the state of the city at this time. Details can be found on page 2 of their April newsletter, HERE.

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Revenues & Probolsky's Poll

MORE FOLKS ATTENDED THIS YEAR
Unlike in past years, this session was held in council chambers to accommodate the growing number of residents and others actually interested in these proceedings. Last night slightly more than 50 people attended the meeting, of which about half were residents. That's a good sign. The remainder were staffers, journalists, union observers and security personnel. Also, the change in format which permitted public comments after each segment made for a much more useful and informative agenda. The comments made by residents were, for the most part, respectful and thoughtful. The responses from the council and staff were generally helpful and informative.

BEVER A NO-SHOW - AGAIN
One person who DID NOT show up was part-time, part-time council member Eric Bever, who was absent again from the second consecutive meeting. Once again, nobody missed him except, perhaps, stand-in City Attorney Harold Potter, who was left dangling out there on the end of the dais by himself all night.

MONAHAN STIFF-ARMS MENSINGER
I was impressed when Mayor Gary Monahan rebuffed councilman Steve Mensinger's overture to move the presentation by pollster Adam Probolsky forward on the agenda. (Apparently Mensinger invited Probolsky to make the presentation) Monahan, appropriately, stiff-armed that suggestion, much to Mensinger's chagrin. Monahan left at 6:15 p.m., so Mensinger apologized to Probolsky when he finally had a chance to make his presentation just after 7:00 p.m.. One could only assume that he thought he could convince Monahan that Probolsky's time was more important than that of those actual residents who came to hear the budget discussions. He couldn't, because it's not. Sometimes Monahan actually does the right thing.

JUDI FINDS AN ERROR - AS USUAL

Long-time bu
dget watchdog and community activist Judi Berry - as some of us anticipated - had gone over the entire preliminary budget document with a fine-tooth comb and popped up to ask about an error in the document. To his credit, Budget and Research Officer Bobby Young acknowledged the error and had corrected pages ready and waiting.

SALES TAX CONSULTANT WAS EXCELLENT
As in y
ears past, the presentation by Lloyd deLlamas of The HdL Companies, Sales Tax consultants who have supported Costa Mesa and many other entities over the years, was fascinating. His mixture of facts and opinion based on decades of experience provided a clear understanding to the audience of the Sales Tax issue in general and Costa Mesa's situation specifically. Our city, apparently, is an aberration to the norm, since our funding is heavily tilted toward Sales Tax and those dollars are primarily generated by what he referred to as consumer goods and "luxury purchases" - high-end items that tend to rebound more quickly from an economic downturn like we've been experiencing for the past couple years. You can view their PowerPoint presentation HERE.

REVENUE INFORMATION

Young's presentation last night dealt with the Revenue side of the budget - the Expenditure side will be covered next Tuesday - and provided excellent information to the council and audience. His charts and graphs showed us clearly where we stand today, the trends in our revenue streams and comparisons to surrounding cities to provide perspective. He told us, for example, that 91% of all revenues comes to the City through the General Fund; that 78% of all General Fund revenue comes from taxes and franchise fees and that, unlike other cities, Costa Mesa is more heavily weighted to Sales Tax revenue - 44% of all General Fund revenue.

COMPARISONS
We learned that, while Sales Tax dollars represent 44% of the General Fund in Co
sta Mesa, that funding source represented only 34% in Irvine; 16% in Santa Ana; 17% in Newport Beach and 11% in Huntington Beach.

SALES TAXES REBOUNDING
We also leaned that Sales and Use Taxes dropped from a high of $46 million in FY06-07 to a low of $34.5 million in FY 09-10 and is on the rebound with $41.7 million projected for FY 11-12.

PROPERTY TAX FLAT
We learned that the less-volatile Property Tax revenue has remained fairly level, from a high of $21.3 million in FY 0
9-10, down to $20.1 in FY 10-11 and back up to a projected $20.9 in FY 11-12.

COMPARISONS

Property Tax revenue re
presents 22% of the General Fund in Costa Mesa, 48% in Newport Beach; 38% in Huntington Beach; 31% in Irvine and 14% in Santa Ana.

TOT INCREASE HELPED
The Transient
Occupancy Tax (TOT), which represents 8% of our General Fund, has benefited from the 2% increase approved by the voters last November. It has rebounded from a low of $4 million in adopted FY 10-11 budget back up to a projected $5.9 million projected for FY 11-12 thanks to a recovering economy and that voter-approved increase. It makes one consider the stubbornness of Monahan last fall, when he rejected the staff-recommended 3% increase and the additional million dollars it would have brought to our coffers.

BUSINESS LICENSE FEES
The lack of a reason
able Business License Fee structure was discussed, including our inability to do anything about it until the 2012 elections. Had a modest adjustment to our Business License Fee structure been proposed and approved by the voters last November we would have begun to see an increase in that revenue stream already - it has been stable at around $850,000 each year since the current structure was adopted in 1985! That's right - we've had NO change to our current Business License Fee structure for the past 26 years!

COMPARISONS ILLUSTRATE SHORT-SIGHTED MANAGEMENT
While Costa Mesa generates only $850,000 each year on Business Licenses, Santa Ana has $10 million, Huntington Beach $2.2 million and Newport Beach generates $3.9 million. When you consider that we have arguably the most successful retail center in the country - South Coast Plaza - it makes you realize what a short-sighted lost opportunity we have had. If an increase in this fee were to be approved by the voters in 2012 we won't receive any impact of it until 2013.

PROBOLSK
Y'S POLL
When we finally got around to the presentation by Probolsky we learned a few new
things thanks to the excellent questions by some in attendance. We learned, for example, that "nobody" paid for this poll - it was done "pro bono" by Probolsky Research for the Association of California Cities - Orange County (ACC-OC) as an "in kind" contribution to their operations. Unfortunately, nobody asked the second part of that question - "Who asked for the survey to be done?" Since Probolsky is joined at the hip with many of the Orange County Republican movers and shakers - including Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer - one might speculate that one or more of those folks put the bug in his ear. I can almost hear Scott Baugh whispering in his ear.

SMALL SAMPLE SEEMS PROBLEMATIC
Several speakers took exception to the validity of a poll with such a small sample - 325 respondents in a pool of 3.2 million residents does seem a wee bit thin. Probolsky defended it, saying it was perfectly valid to measure the tendencies of Orange County residents, including all demographics. He did say the survey was conducted in English, though, so that certainly cut out a significant segment of the county population. In Costa Mesa it would have eliminated more than a third of the residents, for example.

"PUSH POLL" OR NOT?
Both Righeimer and Mensinger seemed extremely sensitive to the characterization by some (me) of this poll as a "push poll", so they asked Probolsky to address that issue. He, of cou
rse, denied that it was a "push poll", since it wasn't designed to influence public opinion during the process of conducting it. He cited, and Righeimer emphasized, that the small sample kept it from being a "push poll" - that thousands of individuals would have had to been polled. Of course, the way the questions were framed DID influence those taking the poll and the summary of the results touted that fact. I guess these guys really DO think the public is stupid - that we don't actually see through the facade and understand the intent of this poll.

READ THE POLL YOURSELF AND DECIDE

I encourage
you to read the poll results yourself, HERE, concentrating on the actual questions as asked by the pollsters. Bring a magnifying glass because the type used for the questions at the bottom of each page on the report is teeny. Judge for yourself whether those questions were geared to influence the answers. I know what I think...

RIGHEIMER
- "PENSIONS NOT PART OF THE BUDGET DISCUSSION"
Righeimer, during his council member comments segment, told us that "pensions were not part of the budget discussion tonight", and yet there stood Adam Probolsky - invited to be at the podium of a study session dedicated to the discussion of our municipal budget - with his poll that was clearly aimed at influencing public opinion toward major pension reform. Righeimer acknowledged that, because our association contracts last for the next 3 or 4
years, nothing can be done about Costa Mesa pensions now. As I've said before, his only choice then, is to dump the employees who would get the pensions. To my knowledge no representative of city management has asked the bargaining units to sit down and discuss concessions that might save jobs - yet. Instead, the draconian and mis-applied outsourcing stampede continues.

REALLY, JIM? C'MON!

During his comments Righeimer said we need to decide wh
at pensions are supposed to be. He made a clever statement to the effect that we don't want to "kick them onto the streets" but do we "want to kick them to the beach?" - alluding to his opinion that the current pensions are much too rich and take effect too early. After this mini-rant, are we REALLY supposed to believe that "pensions are not part of the budget discussions tonight"? Clearly, that issue is in the forefront of his considerations as he hears and contemplates our current budget dilemma. Again, he apparently REALLY DOES think the residents of this city are stupid.

"LET'S HAVE COFFEE"
I was amused when, at the end of the meeting, Righeimer suggested that if people REALLY wanted to discuss issues they should call him and make an appointment to have a cup of coffee and discuss them instead of griping at the podium of public meetings. I chuckled out loud because that is SO typical of him and his pals - "let's discuss public issues in private"! Well, I can tell you from personal experience, "having coffee" with Righeimer doesn't resolve issues - unless you agree with him. So, good luck with that, folks. You'll end up with a half-caf decaf frappachino with an order of baloney on the side.

NEXT WEEK THE "FUN" PART - EXPENDITURES

Next Tuesday, the day following the Memorial Day holiday, the considerations of the Preliminary Budget will continue with the presentation of the "expenditure" side of the equation. This
meeting - again at 4:30 in the council chambers - promises to be even more interesting because it will dig into just what parts of our budget will have to be cut to find that elusive $3.3 million necessary to balance it. Since much discussion took place about "rebuilding our reserves", don't be surprised that simply balancing the budget is enough for these guys. I expect that there will be strong support for building the reserves by ousting more staff members. See you there...



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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Legal Costs Outlined

BEFORE & AFTER JONES & MAYER
In response to an inquiry at a recent City Council meeting, today Costa Mesa Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell issued a Press Release outlining the "before" and "after" of our legal expenditures. The "before" is prior to the hiring of Jones & Mayer as our contract City Attorney. The "after", logically, quantifies the costs following Jones & Mayer's hiring. The year in which that transition took place , the 2004/2005 fiscal year, is NOT included in their calculations for the average costs. You can read the press release and the attachment spread sheet HERE.

SAVED A HALF-MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR

So, according to Lobdell, using Jones & Mayer has been a real deal for the city, which app
arently saved, on average, more than a half million dollars each year. Keep in mind, too, that a couple of those years included the ill-conceived Benito Acosta lawsuits.

WHAT ABOUT THE RESULTS?
What is missing is any indication of judgments and settlements for those years. After all is said and done, the proof of the value of an attorney is the job he does for you in court - or keeping you out of court. One of the rationale's used for outsourcing our legal department was the perceived need for litigation strength - which Jones & Mayer and the other bidding law firms said they possessed. I'd like to know what our legal actions cost the city - or earned for the city - before and after Jones & Mayer. That would complete the picture for me.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Push Pollin' With Adam...

STOP WORKING OF THE QUIZ NOW...
As mentioned in my last post, Tuesday the Costa Mesa City Council will begin their serious consideration of the 2011-2012 municipal budget. For those of you still working on my quiz, you can stop now and just go to City Hall at 4:30 or tune in to Costa Mesa TV and have much of the information explained to you.

ACC-OC PENSION REFORM POLL
The second item on the agenda is a brand new poll conducted for the Associ
ation of California Cities-Orange County, HERE, that recently gathered data in Orange County on the public's views on pension reform. You can read the PowerPoint presentation we will see tomorrow evening HERE.

TOO MANY POLLS LATELY
It seems Costa Mesa has been awash in polls lately - even my pal, Chuck Cassity at the Chuckmeister Unleashed blog chimed in with his views of push polling to which he had recently been exposed. This one, while not Costa Mesa-specific, certainly addresses one of the current hot button issue in our town.

THE POLLSTER

The polling organization, Probolsky Research, HERE, is operated by Adam
Probolsky, a major player in Orange County Republican circles. I've read some of his work product in the past and found it interesting how the results were exactly what his clients were looking for. Funny how that happens, isn't it? Perhaps we'll get a clue if we read the final sentence on their "About" page, which says, "Principal, Adam D. Probolsky always works closely with our clients - on every project - to deliver the right results."

RIGHEIMER WAS A CLIENT
For example, on his web site you'll find an entry dated January 1, 2010, which recaps the performance of clients in recent elections. Near the bottom of that little essay is a paragraph which includes this segment... "And, while Jim Righeimer’s campaign for Costa Mesa City Council fell short of victory, his near-win as a first-time candidate demonstrates broad community support and all but assures his success in obtaining a council seat in 2010.

TAKE IT WITH A GRAIN OF SALT
I've read through the poll and if
you do the same, including reading the teeny little print on the bottom of each slide in the PowerPoint presentation which gives you each question that was asked. For example, one question was: "When many local government employees retire they can receive nearly 100% of their salary in retirement benefits. Do you support or oppose pension reform for local government employees that would cap the amount of benefits they receive when they are no longer working?" It won't surprise you that 72.6% of the respondents said "Support". I suspect this information has some value if you take it with a grain of salt. Considering the way the questions were asked, this is a classic "push poll". Still, I'm a little leery about giving too much weight to a poll that sampled only 325 people in a county of more than 3 million. Heck, Adam Probolsky may have just meandered through his cell phone contacts list for folks to poll.

STRAPPIN'
IN FOR THE PRESENTATION
Still, I'm looking forward to how this will be presented tomorrow. I'm going to look for a seat in the council chambers with a seat belt, because I have this feeling that there's going to be a whole lot of spinnin' going on. See you there...

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