Friday, July 01, 2011

The Pit Bull's Back!

THE REASON WE CELEBRATE
Here's a little something for you to consider as we approach the long, long Independence Day holiday. Most of you will probably be too busy with family fun, fireworks and frivolity to actually think about the reason we celebrate this weekend. One of the things that our founding fathers fought for and won for us was the freedom of speech. Contemplate the following.

REMEMBER THE PIT BULL?
Do you remember back about 10 months ago, when, during the heated City Council campaign being waged by Jim Righeimer, I reported receiving a little "love note" from his lawyer and brother-in-law, Mark Bucher? I characterized it at the time, HERE, as Righeimer unleashing his pit bull. He sent a similar letter to the Costa Mesa Police Association.

THE ORIGINAL THREAT
In
that letter Bucher, who in addition to being related to Righeimer by marriage was and is his political sidekick and is a major mover and shaker within the leadership of the Orange County Republican Party, made not-very-veiled threats to me if I published anything having to do with his client on three issues. Because he forbade me from discussing those issues I didn't identify them in that original post. Subsequently, Righeimer discussed at least one of them in a public forum, so I figured all bets were off and I told my readers that those issues were bankruptcy, drunk in public and foreclosure.

CAMP
AIGN TACTIC
I had mentio
ned Righeimer and bankruptcy many months before, had a subsequent conversation with him and was satisfied that there was no such issue in his past and never wrote about it again. I had no reason to even think about writing about the other two issues - and have not. I've heard not another word from either Bucher or his client/brother-in-law on that subject since. I concluded that Bucher's letter was simply a campaign tactic - an attempt to violate my right of free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution - in order to quiet a critic during the campaign.

BUCHER'S BACK - FOR MENSINGER
However, Tuesday I received yet another little tome from Bucher, this time in his role as attorney for Righeimer's buddy, non-elected Costa Mesa City Councilman, Steve Mensinger. Apparently Mensinger thinks I've inaccurately characterized him and Bucher wants me to correct the record and stop whatever he thinks it is I'm doing.

HE SAYS...
He states i
n his letter to me, "Recently we became aware that you have written on your blog, "A Bubbling Cauldron" that Mr Mensinger's "...division of SunCal ended up in bankruptcy!" He went on to say, "This statement is demonstrably false and defamatory. No company Mr. Mensinger has been an employee of, including the division of SunCal that he managed, has ever gone bankrupt."

OOPS, VERIFIED

Although I already knew t
hat his accusations were specious, I spent a little time browsing the internet and in a very short time I found more than 20 articles that verified the facts.

SU
NCAL COMPANIES - BANKRUPT
Regarding the first statement - a sentence fragment, taken out of context - SunCal companies has been mired in bankruptcy proceedings for several years, and those proceedings include the Multifamily Division of which Mensinger had been President.

THE BETHANY GROUP - BANKRUPT
In addition, Mensinger was also a Division President with The
Bethany Group before he went to SunCal, and that company also filed for bankruptcy.

SHOW ME WHERE I'M WRONG..
I wrote back to Bucher informing him of those facts and invited him to e
ither provide me with more information to support his allegation that I've inaccurately characterized his client or to stop harassing me. Clearly, this is just one more attempt to silence a critic and, as I've said many, many times before, neither Mensinger nor Righeimer likes criticism.

POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON YOUTH SPORTS
I have written many times about the positive influence Mensinger has had on youth sports in our city. For that he is certainly to be commended. I've also been critical of actions he's taken both as an appointed Planning Commissioner and a non-elected City Councilman when I felt it was warranted. I will continue to do so.

HIS WORK HISTORY IS CLEAR
I don't have personal knowledge about Mensinger's management style or capabilities. The record shows, as chronicled in a recent Daily Pilot article, HERE, that he worked for former Ambassador George L. Argryos at Arnel Development twice for total o
f nearly two decades, that he left to start a business called "Smart Cart Services" then returned to Arnel as President of a division before moving on to The Bethany Group as a President of a division. From that assignment he moved to SunCal as President of its Multifamily Division and, when he left SunCal, he apparently established some kind of real estate consulting firm using the names of his sons in the title.

WAS HE A
GOOD MANAGER, OR NOT?
The record does demonstrate that two companies in which he served as President subsequently filed for bankruptcy. I don't know how much his presence at either of them contributed to those situations, but I imagine there are folks around who worked with him in those companies who could offer opinions. In my business experience, the President of an organization typically sets the course for the company and, in many cases, takes the helm and steers the organization on that course, making whatever corrections are necessary. I don't know if he set the course to take them over the bankruptcy falls or not. Nor do I know if his hands were still at the wheel when they went over the brink.

IMPATIENT AND
VINDICTIVE
What I DO know, from watching him operate as a planning commissioner and council member, is that he's an impatient m
an who appears to have his opinion locked down before public comments are presented. He's demonstrated a short fuse in both those assignments and has shown us a vindictive side that does not lend itself to good governance. On the Planning Commission he would attempt to micromanage projects before him, berating project managers in the process.

AN AUTHORITARIAN STYLE
During his brief tenure on the City Council - much too long for me - we've seen Mensinger criticize speakers from the dais, demonstrate an impatience with speakers and staff members and, at times seemed so bored with the proceedings that he'd spend much of the time texting. His management style that's on
display for the public to see is that of an impatient authoritarian and, sometimes, a bully. And, of course, there was that difficulty adding 2+5=7 at the last council meeting.

BUCHER'S THREAT
In his threat letter to me, Mr. Bucher, regarding the statement he captioned above - a false statement on his part, by the way - said, "The above statement is enormously damaging to Mr. Mensinger professionally because he makes a living as a manager in the real estate industry. In addition, such a statement is also damaging to Mr. Mensinger's reputation and standing in the community." I can't do anything about that. Mensinger is who he is, with a history all of his own making. I, and other observers, can only report what we know and see. Sometimes the truth does hurt. I don't like people to observe that I'm fat, but it's the truth. If he doesn't like criticism he should stay the heck out of politics, where you're almost guaranteed to make at least half the people mad at you all the time.

A PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR THAT HURTS OUR CITY
Sadly, this pattern of behavior with both Mensinger and Righeimer, only further demonstrates their willingness to intimidate and threaten those who disagree with them. Heck, this might be a systemic genetic flaw within the leadership of the Orange County Republican Party. Cost
a Mesa City Hall is stark evidence of their heavy-handedness and threatening style, as several of the senior staff members who have disagreed with them have now departed. This new city council, with its heavy-handedness and irrational preconceived "solutions" to municipal problems, has created a hostile work environment that has chased many outstanding employees out and has many of those who remain looking for a new position elsewhere. If they continue on this path, by the end of the year they will have succeeded in destroying an award-winning, efficient, exemplary city government and will have replaced it with uncaring hired guns in the form of consultants and "outsourcing firms" who have no real concern for the city and its residents. As one speaker before them recently said, this is very much like a hostile takeover of a business.

WHOSE RIG
HTS ARE NEXT?
The residents of this city should be very concerned about this kind of behavior by members of the city council. That they would unleash a lawyer with threatening behavior does not bode well for anyone expressing dissent in our city. It's only a matter of time until they attempt to trample your rights, too.

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City Analysis Of OCFA Proposal Released Today

FINALLY
The long-awaited City analysis of the Orange County Fire Authority proposal has finally been released, HERE.





WHY NO STUDY SESSION?

According to the press release that transmitted this information, the analysis and the OCFA proposal will be discussed at the Costa Mesa City Council
meeting on July 19, 2011. That's more than disappointing because there is a Study Session scheduled for July 12th and an issue this complex clearly should be vetted in a more user-friendly environment, just as has been done in recent months with the Police Department restructuring and the Budget. Then, again, perhaps the City Council has decided that they didn't like all that inconvenient resident involvement after all. Regardless, the analysis will be discussed on the 19th and will likely play to a large crowd that evening.

FIRST PASS, NO OPINION YET
I've only made a first pass through Interim Assistant Chief Executive Officer Terry Matz analysis and, due to the many ways this issue can be sliced, I'm not prepared to offer an opinion yet. There's more to this than strictly numbers - politics come into play, too. I suggest you go to the link, read the report and form your own views. I'll get around to plowing through it in detail after the Independence Day holiday, when I'll be busy with a couple fully-charged hoses, ready to protect my property from the fireworks all weekend.

HAVE A SAFE HOLIDAY

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A.B.L.E.'s Wake

AN HONOR FOR ME...
Thursday afternoon I was honored to be invited to the decommissioning ceremonies for the AirBorne Law Enforcement Unit (A.B.L.E.) at its headquarters at John Wayne Airport. It was a warm, cloudless day - a perfect day for such an event.



NO DRY EYE DURING FINAL FLY-B
Y
Among the many high
lights of the day was a fly-by conducted by two of the three Eagle helicopters, each of which then landed for their final time. They were then towed to the hangar and parked adjacent to the festivities. There were many tears visible as those two magnificent blue machines touched down for the final time and ended more than forty years of service.

A LARGE CROWD ATTENDED
More than one hundred people attended the ceremonies, including family, friends and co-workers from the police and fire organizations that A.B.L.E. has supported for more than four decades. Current and former law enforcement leaders from both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach were in attendance.

ADDERTON STILL HOPING...
Newport Beach resident Peter Adderton, who is still trying to put together a public/private partnership for local airborne law enforcement, brought his personal helicopter to the site and gave rides to any in attendance who wished to fly. I had a chance to meet him and his family. He's a nice guy with great intentions.


DIDN'T MISS THEM...
The only public official I recognized at this event was former Costa Mesa Councilwoman and current School Board Member, Katrina Foley. There may have been Newport Beach officials in attendance, but I didn't know them.

GOOD CHOW - GREAT PEOPLE
A nice Mexican lunch was served to all. Many police and fire teams showed up for the meal and to offer their condolences to the members of the A.B.L.E. team, then went back to the business of protecting and serving us. I teased many of the police folks that it was too bad no donuts were available... they smiled and kept eating. Despite all they've been going through, I saw pride and enthusiasm on display as they headed back into the trenches. Without A.B.L.E. in the air this weekend, they're all going to have their hands full. As I type this late Thursday evening the illegal fireworks are already beginning - with two days to go before ANY fireworks may be legally discharged in our city. It's going to be a very long weekend for Costa Mesa public safety folks.

FORMER CHIEF'S SPEAK OUT
Former Costa Mesa Police Chief Dave Snowden and former Newport Beach Chief Bob McDonnell stepped up and honored the men who have served our communities all these years with distinction. It was the foresight and collaboration of these two men back in the 1990s that was instrumental in creating the A.B.L.E. program as we know it today. Snowden, in particular, was very angry at the current Costa Mesa City Council for their short-sightedness in shutting down this program - the model for all other municipal helicopter programs throughout the country. He was particularly peeved that the council chose not to extend A.B.L.E. for a couple years when funds are available to do so without asking either sponsoring city for a penny. Nobody in that hangar disagreed with him. Politics is a nasty business, especially as it's practiced by guys like Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger, Eric Bever and Gary Monahan.

STARN WILL BE A LONELY GUY
A.B.L.E. Commander Tim Starn - who will be the ONLY employee of A.B.L.E. by the time you read this - did a fine job of introducing the A.B.L.E. team, including many former members in attendance. He put a face and personality on each and almost made it through the program with a dry eye - almost. Beginning July 1st Starn will be in a caretaker role as plans are made to sell off the assets and vacate the premises. A.B.L.E. still has almost a year on the hangar contract at $13,000 per month. The Costa Mesa City Council has instructed him to NOT sell the helicopters for 90 days, just in case some kind of private arrangement can be made that will utilize those valuable assets.

MOVING ON...

All the other A.B.L.E. members - pilots and mechanics - will begin new lives on July 1st. Most will return to their respective departments to assume more traditional law enforcement roles. Some will not. Here's the roster of A.B.L.E. as it is shoveled into the dust bin of time.

Tim Starn - Commander
Tom Fischbacher - Pilot/Lt. NBPD
Jeff VanEs - Pilot SAPD
Kent Eischen - Pilot NBPD
Ryan Walker - Pilot CMPD
Rob Dimel - Pilot CMPD
Paul McCarthy - Pilot CMPD
Russ Eastman - Dir. of Maint. NBPD
Chris Freeman - Mechanic NBPD
Steve Wooten - Mechanic NBPD

THANKS, AGAIN, TO THEM ALL

Thanks to all of them, and to those who flew before them, for their efforts to keep our communities safe. They will be missed.




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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Union Chief Appointed To Fair Board

JUST WHEN I NEEDED A SMILE
Just when you think there's not going to be anything to provide you with a little chuckle, something pops up that puts a BIG smile on your face.




BERARDINO ON THE FAIR BOARD?!
For example, today it was announced that Orange County Employee's Association General Manager Nick Berardino has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Orange County Fair and Event Center by Governor Jerry Brown.

OH, BOY!
To say that this appointment changes the political demographic on the Fair Board would be the understatement of
this new century in Orange County.

FAIR BOARD MEETINGS WILL BE FUN
With a smile on my face, I will say nothing more, except the Fair Board meetings have just become "must attend" events in the future. I also wonder what's going through the mind of Fair Board President David Ellis right about now. More smiles.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Independence Day Holiday Weekend Safety

A "NEW" HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE
This year the Independence Day Holiday will be a very different event than in previous years. This year we may have the perfect storm for calamity in our city.


I'M NOT A "SAFE AND SANE" FIREWORKS FAN...
Let's get this part out of the way first. While I love a good professional
fireworks show, I am not a fan of so-called "safe and sane" fireworks. I've written about it for several years and my opinion has not changed. However, I realize I may be a minority of one in our city, and, with that in mind, I wanted to remind you of some facts about this holiday.

COSTA MESA PRESENTS A RARE OPPORTUNITY
Costa Mesa is one of the very few cities in Orange County that permits the sale and discharge of "safe and sane" fireworks. In years past that typically meant that you could purchase fireworks in the city and families could put an exclamation point on their neighborhood holiday celebrations by shooting off an array of fireworks - most of which were acquired at booths throughout the city that sold them to provide funding for a variety of organizations. Usually it was youth sports groups that were the beneficiaries.

EXTENDED CHAOS
This year, however, our city council changed the rules. Not surprisingly, they've decided to put the funding of youth groups before public safety
- in a variety of ways. This year you can purchase fireworks from booths in Costa Mesa from Thursday, June 30th through Monday, July 4th. AND, you can also legally discharge them from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on July 2nd, 3rd and the 4th, which means an entire weekend of traumatized pets and sleepless nights.

IT'S GOING TO BE A WAR ZO
NE!
It also means that those folks who journe
yed over to Pahrump, Nevada and other venues to purchase ILLEGAL fireworks are going to put their neighborhoods in jeopardy over the entire weekend. Heck, it's already started on the Eastside of town where I live.

SAFETY PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
The City has made available to you a Public Service Announcement on the city web site via streaming video, HERE, and on Costa Mesa TV, Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT U-Verse, that will be instructive for those of you even thinking about possibly firing off illegal fireworks. It will also be useful for you to view if you and your neighbors are just going to shoot off those "safe and sane" products you bought to support your favorite youth sports program. Here's the play schedule for the CMTV presentation:



REDUCED PUBLIC SAFETY PRESENCE & NO A.B.L.E CHOPPER

Adding to the potential for chaos this weekend is the fact that 1) the Police
Department is working with a severely reduced staff; 2) the Fire Department staff is stretched thin and 3) the A.B.L.E helicopters will make their last flights on Thursday, June 30th and will not be available to support our diminished public safety organizations over the weekend. Some of you planning to fire off ILLEGAL fireworks may cheer this situation, but if your actions cause the loss of life or property or the injury to anyone, I think you'll change your tune.

AN INJURED CHILD IS A BIG PRICE TO PAY
I hope you all will exercis
e good judgment when discharging fireworks this weekend. Even the "safe and sane" fireworks can be dangerous if mishandled. An injury to a child is a stiff price to pay for a little carelessness or inattentiveness. Please be safe this holiday. And, oh, yes...

AND NOW A FEW WORDS FROM "THE DUKE"

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Monday, June 27, 2011

"Transparency" Times Two

Slow news day in the land of Newport-Mesa. Good thing, too.. I needed a rest from last week.



FIRST EDITION OF WEEKLY "E-BRIEFING"

Costa Mesa CEO Tom
Hatch introduced another new feature of the "transparency" he promised us last March when he hired Bill Lobdell as Interim Communication Director. This is the "E-Briefing" - a feature that is supposed to appear each week and will discuss things going on in City Hall and elsewhere in Costa Mesa. You can read the first edition HERE and subscribe to it via the City Web Site under the "Email Notification" section on the lower right side of the Home Page. It looks to me as though this is going to be yet another helpful feature for any residents actually interested in current events and plans afoot.CITY COUNCIL COMPENSATION
Lobdell also sent out an announcement, also under the sub-title of "transparency", providing a copy of the City Council compensation in an easy-to-review format.
I can't find a link to it on the City Web Site, so reproduced it below for those of you with eagle-eyes. One thing you'll notice is that they misspelled Gary Monahan's name... Just click on the image and it will increase in size so you can read it.REMINDER
I intend to use more video clips from city meetings in the future. In order to view them you need to download and install Silverlight software from Microsoft. Go to the Silverlight site, HERE, and download it and follow the instructions for your particular computer to install it. You'll be glad you did.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

A.B.L.E. - End Of Watch

THE "EAGLE" HAS LANDED - PERMANENTLY
On Thursday, June 30, the final official flight of the AirBorne Law Enforcement (A.B.L.E.) helicopter, Eagle, will take place. On that date the Eagle will have its wings clipped and will be grounded forever. Effective July 1st the helicopter program that, in one form or another, has served the Newport-Mesa communities for more than four decades will simply cease to exist, de-funded by an ignorant City Council "Working Group" - Gary Monahan and Jim Righeimer - that hatched the scheme in private and convinced the other two members of the majority to go along with it.

MORE THAN FOUR DECADES OF SERVICE ENDS
The original local helicopter patrol program was founded by Costa Mesa in 1971. More than two decades later, following a tragic mid-air collision in 1987 between two helicopters - one from Costa Mesa and one from Newport Beach - that might have ended the helicopter program, A.B.L.E. was formed by Costa Mesa and Newport Beach in 1997 to provide a coordinated effort for air support of local public safety agencies. It became the model for all other local airborne law enforcement entities throughout the country.

24/7/365
A.B.L.E. has provided air-support service to the cities of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. A.B.L.E. patrolled a diverse area which included commercial and residential areas, a state park, one of the nations busiest small craft harbors and 10 miles of coastline.

PATROL, FIRE SUPPRESSION AND RESCUE
In addition to provi
ding patrol oversight and responding to calls for service. It trained annually, deploying lifeguards into the water from the helicopter and providing rapid transport for victims. It was equipped with a "Bambi Bucket", a 108 gallon fire suppression tool used to rapidly quench small fires before they became bigger ones. They've been essential tools in locating lost hikers and mountain bikers in the state park and other back-country areas.

THE MISSION STATEMENT
A.B.L.E.'s mission statement reads as follows: "The mission of Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE) is to provide air support to our member public safety personnel and neighboring agencies. We will enhance the protection of public safety personnel and the security of our citizens with efficient, proactive air support. we are dedicated to accomplishing our mission in a safe and professional manner." Anyone paying attention for the past few decades will have to agree that, right up to the end, they've continued to meet that goal with courage, skill and professionalism.

DIMEL'S EXPLANATION OF A.B.L.E.
In March of 2011 Costa Mesa Police Officer and one of the senior A.B.L.E. pilots, Rob Dimel, wrote a commentary about the possible dissolution of A.B.L.E. in the Daily Pilot, HERE.

BARBARA'S BITS ON A.B.L.E.

In case you need another reminder of just what A.B.L.E. does, sit back for a couple minutes and enjoy this little recent video clip from Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia's "Barbara's Bits" archives. This will help you understand just what's been taken away from us by a guy intent on getting a boost up the political ladder.



NO LOGIC IN THE FABRICATED "BUDGET CRISIS"

The current Costa Mesa City Council, led by Righeimer, used their fabricated
budget "crisis" as a sledgehammer to shut down the A.B.L.E. program and decided to do so effective the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1st, even though the July 4th holiday is typically one of the times when the helicopters are called upon the most by police and fire agencies for support. This year, also demonstrating their lack of wisdom, the Costa Mesa City Council has chosen to pander to the youth sports community and is permitting the discharge of fireworks not just on the 4th, but on the 2nd and 3rd, as well. That would typically mean a greater demand for A.B.L.E. support over the entire holiday weekend.

PLENTY OF MONEY TO KEEP FLYING
Even though there is enough money - estimated at nearly $5 million - in the A.B.L.E. reserve accounts to fully fund all operations for at least two years, the council stubbornly refused to even consider extending this outstanding public safety service. In fact, Righeimer pointedly refused to even extend it four days, until July 5th - giving his pal, Steve Mensinger, a stern "NO!" when he asked him to do that at a recent council meeting. It is that kind of heels-dug-in thinking that is presently tearing this city apart and placing all residents and visitors in jeopardy.

FITZPATRICK TELLS YOU HOW IT IS

As each day passes it becomes more and more clear to me that there's much
more at play here than simply trying to balance a budget. Righeimer very obviously has a very hard place in his heart for the Costa Mesa Police Department and any entity, like A.B.L.E., that's closely associated with it. He's apparently willing to put the public safety of all residents and visitors in jeopardy to satisfy whatever grudge he's carrying around with him. I assume it's because the CMPD actively campaigned against him last year. In fact, if you have any doubt about it, just listen to his lapdog, Planning Commissioner and member of the Sanitary District Board Jim Fitzpatrick, at the last council meeting. This pathetic man is still "hearing voices", and has not had an original thought pass his lips in the past couple years - ever since he became Sancho Panza to Steve Mensinger's Don Quixote. When he returned to his seat after this little speech I wanted to offer him a tissue to remove that brown stuff from his nose. NOTE: After much contemplation I decided to switch images. The other one offended too many readers. Such is life...













ADIOS, A.B.L.E.

So, defying all logic and good judgment, the A.B.L.E. program will soon
be only a memory - part of the rich history of the City of Costa Mesa and a proud element of the public safety organizations that has protected us for more than four decades. Barring some miracle in the form of a private/public partnership or a regional helicopter program that will utilize our team intact, A.B.L.E. is done on Thursday. There are no words to adequately tell those folks who supported and protected us in that fine program all these years how I feel, so I'll just let Mariah Carey do it for me... hit it, girl.

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