Friday, August 26, 2011

City Responds To Appeal Denial

CITY'S RESPONSE TO APPELLATE COURT RULING
Not unexpectedly, earlier this afternoon Costa Mesa's Interim Communication Director, Bill Lobdell, issued a press release addressing the denial by the 4th Appellate District Court of the City's writ of mandate petition.


DUARTE: "I
T'S DIFFICULT"
In his press release Lobdell quotes Contract City Attorney, Tom Duarte, as saying, " Obtaining writ relief is difficult. It is even more difficult still where there is a right to appeal the original ruling, which is the case here. The City will now proceed with a formal appeal of the trial court's preliminary injunction ruling."

LIKE A NIGHT AT THE BELLAGIO
So, I guess we
just continue to chug along, having Contracting Committees evaluate RFPs and wait for the litigation on this issue to finally come to an end. I can almost hear the billing process for Jones & Mayer and the lawyers for the OCEA spinning like slot machines gone wild.

Labels: , ,

Appellate Court Rejects Costa Mesa Petition

OCEA ISSUES PRESS RELEASE
Jennifer Muir, Communications Director for the Orange County Employees Association, issued the following press release late this morning.




Appellate Court rejects Costa Mesa petition

SANTA ANA The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Thursday summarily denied the City of Costa Mesa’s Petition for a Writ of Mandate, which sought to dissolve a preliminary injunction halting the layoffs of more than 200 City employees.

Nearly half the City workforce received layoff notices on March 17 after the City Council majority voted to outsource their jobs. The Orange County Employees Association, on behalf of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association, commenced litigation in May that resulted the issuance of a preliminary injunction halting the layoffs and prohibiting the City from outsourcing to private contractors.

“Courts continue to reject any justification for the City Council majority’s outsourcing scheme,” said OCEA Communications Director Jennifer Muir. “We sincerely hope this latest rebuke by the Courts will motivate the Council to abandon its needless campaign against its employees and all the residents who have urged them to stop dismantling the City.”

“This is yet another outcome welcomed by City employees and the thousands of residents who have rallied to their support,” Muir said. “The City Council has shown its willingness to disregard both the law and it own policies. It’s time for them to stop wasting the City’s valuable resources pursuing this political agenda.”

The City’s request is attached. You can review and print the Court's "Disposition" from the following link: http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/disposition.cfm?dist=43&doc_id=1988987&doc_no=G045666

NO OUTSOURCING TO PRIVATE COMPANIES UNTIL CASE HEARD
One can assume that the injunction issued by Superior Court Judge Barbara Tam Nom
oto Schumann remains in force, and that the City of Costa Mesa MAY NOT proceed with layoffs as a result of their outsourcing plan until the case is heard in court.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Transparency "Conspiracy"?

LOBDELL'S ANNOUNCEMENT
You'll recall that I recently wrote, HERE, about the revelation announced by Costa Mesa Interim Communication Director, Bill Lobdell, that the City's web site had been evaluated by an industry "watchdog" as an "A+" - up from an "F". I was pretty excited to share that news with you because I'd observed many times in recent weeks that the city site was, in fact, much more easily-used and was packed with timely, useful information. Sometimes we didn't like some of the news presented in the flurry of press releases, but we were getting information, for sure.

SHARED ENTHUSIASM
I was not alone in that enthusiasm, as the Daily Pilot editors took the time to praise The City for this new accolade
, HERE. We - they and I - were almost giddy about this news.

GRUMBLING

Then came a grumbling... a comment was posted on the Daily
Pilot editorial and, almost simultaneously, on my blog, alerting us to the fact that the "watchdog" web site referred to was, in fact, a "wiki" site - one on which content could be provided by almost anyone, and that Lobdell may have been the provider of the information that subsequently garnered that lofty rating.


FACTS CON
FIRMED
I followed the link and found that, sure enough, Lobdell HAD been the person who input the data on the site that changed the rating from an "F" to an "A+". However, I didn't see a problem here - as far as I could tell, there was no attempt to hide the fact that he did the input and, quite honestly, I thought this was a perfectly appropriate activity for a PR guy - as long as the information provided was accurate. It was a "non-issue" and I hadn't planned to comment on it.

GLAZER'S THE GUY
Then, yesterday, I received an email from a guy named Andrew Glazer, a former Daily Pilot reporter who covered Costa Mesa in the 1990s - when Lobdell was the editor - and who apparently now is a producer for what's left of Dan Rather's career on HDNET. It turned out that he was the author of the blog comments on both the Daily Pilot and my blog alerting us to this fact. Separately, he had written to the Daily Pilot, chiding them for sloppy reporting. He said, in part, "It's a disservice to your readers to not have looked into the Web site you cited -- and the apparent impetus for your editorial. In your crusade for transparency, will you disclose this oversight and point out Lobdell's far-from-transparent attempts to burnish his town's image?" He provided me with a copy of that correspondence and we, he and I, exchanged comments back and forth.

BUT THE INFORMATION IS ACCURATE
And, still, I planned to not write anything about this because the information Lobdell provided to the Sunshine Review was accurate - he took an empty te
mplate (the reason for the "F") and filled in the blanks with accurate information. It seemed to me that Glazer's intrusion into this issue might be tinged with some personal animus from his time working at the Daily Pilot - maybe not, but I had a little whiff of that from the correspondence.

MEDIA CHANGED MY MIND
Then came a piece by Chasen Marshall in the OC Weekly today, HERE, in which he postulates that "Lobdell failed to include in the announcement was that Sunshine Review and its transparency grades lack any actual credibility", which changed my mind about commenting. That was followed shortly by a piece by Joe Serna in the Daily Pilot, HERE, addressing this subject. I knew that one was probably coming - I was quoted in it.

HERE'S MY TAKE...

So, after all that preamble, here's my take on this. First, I see NOTHING wrong wi
th what Lobdell did. He's a PR guy, charged with "burnishing the image", to use Glazer's pejorative, of his client - the City of Costa Mesa. And, we all know that the image has needed a lot of burnishing lately - more than ever before in its history. Lobdell found a site that showed our city to be an "F" in "transparency", discovered it was because there was NO information in its data base, so did what he should have done - fixed that problem - he filled in the blanks.

SHOULD HE HAVE MENTIONED IT?
Should he have
mentioned it in his press release? Probably. He could have said something like, "I found this watchdog site that inaccurately assessed Costa Mesa because there was no information in its data base, so I submitted accurate information, which resulted in this outstanding grade." - or words to that effect. But he didn't. And, following a lengthy conversation with him about this, I'm convinced that there was no "conspiracy". If there had been, he would have used another name to submit the information.

THIS IS A NON-STORY

I know there will be an outcry from members of the public on this, but, in my opinion, it's a non-story. Quite the contrary, it's one more reason to compliment Lobdell and the rest of the city team for the efforts they are making toward CEO Tom Hatch's goal of "being the most transparent city in the country".

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Life or Death For Redevelopment Agency?

SPECIAL RDA MEETING FRIDAY AFTERNOON
In a press release from Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell this evening - too late to field questions - the Costa Mesa Redevelopment Agency announced that it will hold a special meeting this Friday, August 26th, at 4:30 in City Council Chambers at Costa Mesa City Hall.



LIFE OR DEATH?
According to the press release, this meeting is to determine whether to agree to pa
y the state about $1.4 million to keep the agency alive.

EXTORTION BY THE STATE

Legislation passed earlier this year to help close California's budget gap forces redevelopment agencies to pay the state if they want to continue to operate. The new state laws are being challenged in court, and the state Supreme Court agreed last week to hear the case.



DECISION TIME

This special meeting is needed because the legislation requires agencies , by Sunday, to adopt an "enforceable obligation payment schedule" for the rest of 2011.

LIVE AND IN LIVING COLOR ON CMTV
Because this meeting is being held in council chambers during the normal workday we assume it will be televised live on CMTV beginning at 4:30.

Labels:

Homeless Suicide In Fairview Park


STRANGE FAIRVIEW PARK TRAGEDY
In a curious event that occurred early in the afternoon yesterday, an apparently homeless man shot and killed himself while being detained by a Costa Mesa police officer on routine patrol of Fairview Park.


SHOT HIMSELF WHILE BEING DETAINED

The 50 year-old
man, identified in an Orange County Register article, HERE, as David Gardner, was observed seated in the driver's seat of a 1990 blue Honda. The officer confirmed through a license check that there was an outstanding warrant for him. Gardner, while being detained outside the Honda, apparently bolted to the car, entered the passenger seat and displayed a handgun. Fearing for his safety the officer fired one shot, which missed, and Gardner then took his own life.

THREATENED SUICIDE EARLIER

According to the police report, Gardner left a suicide note threatening to take his own life in Fairview Park in May of this year, but the police were unable to locate him because he was living in his car.



EXCLAMATION POINT

This sad and strange event is an exclamation point on the Costa Mesa homeless issue and may add even more urgency to the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force as it goes about it's charter to "solve" the homeless problem in our city.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Outsourcing Jousting

BATTLE OF WORDS
It is with great interest that I read the recent exchanges of correspondence between City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch and Helen Nenadal, President of the Costa Mesa City Employee's Association on the subject of outsourcing and City Council Policy 100-6. Most of that correspondence is available on the City web site, HERE, in "The Latest Headlines" block in the center of the home page. The relevant entries are listed as:

City to add employee association representatives to outsourcing process

Costa Mesa's response to employees' association 2nd letter regarding outsourcing process

CEO Hatch responds to latest association letter about outsourcing process

Latest exchange of letters bet
ween city, association regarding outsourcing (Aug. 19/Aug. 20)

It will be helpful for you
to read them in that order, but if you want to speed read to the end, read the latest letters.

WE HAVE A "DO OVER"

My opinion, in a nutshell, is that now that City Council policy 100-6 has finally been unearthed and the City has agreed to stop the outsourcing process, recall the Requests for Proposals (RFPs), back up and begin anew following the guidelines provided by policy 100-6, all this arm-wrestling that's going on about who and how many representatives should be allowed to be on the Contracting Committees is counterproductive to resolving the issues at hand.

DEMANDS AND CONCESSIONS
The bargaining
unit, through correspondence signed by Nenadal, demanded that outsiders be permitted to be members of the Contracting Committees. The City said "NO!" - correctly so, in my view. The bargaining unit, through Nenadal, demanded that she be a part of every Contracting Committee. Even though her participation is not prescribed by the policy, Hatch agreed to that demand. Again, I think this was a constructive step - one that should facilitate progress being made.

ASSOCIATION DRAGGING ITS FEET
The City requested that parti
cipants on each of the first four Contracting Committees be identified by August 16th, the bargaining unit had not done so by August 20th. They need to understand that the ship is sailing and that the City is fulfilling its responsibilities under policy 100-6. If they don't jump aboard they will be left standing on the dock.

IT'S NOT
WHO WROTE THEM, IT'S THE CONTENT
I know that Helen Nenadal did not write any of the correspondence in question. One must assume, since it's written on the letterhead of the Orange County Employees Association, that members of that organization composed the letters for her signature. That is even more clear when you realize they misspelled her name on the first couple of letters. I don't have any problem with someone else writing those letters for Nenadal. I have a problem with the obstinance in the letters.

COUNCIL ACTIONS BROUGHT INFAMY TO OUR CITY
Anyone watching this drama for the past six months understands that the
current City Council messed this up big time. They - led by the impatient political opportunist, Jim Righeimer and his non-elected pal, Steve Mensinger - went off half-cocked on the outsourcing issue and the results were turmoil among the employee ranks - rightfully so, in my view - a young man leaping to his death from the roof of City Hall and a tsunami of local, regional, national and international media attention that has brought only shame and infamy to our city.

PUSHING A POLITICAL AGENDA
As w
e now know, it didn't have to be this way. If the council majority had not been trying to force-feed a political agenda and augment a political resume this issue could, and should, have been managed in a more business-like manner. The City - inexplicably - didn't turn up Council Policy 100-6 until this majority had already incurred more legal difficulties for The City. Those difficulties are far from over.

BACK TO SQUARE ONE

Whether Righeimer, Mensinger and the rest of the council majority messed up now is alm
ost moot. We are now back at square one and the employees should recognize this as an opportunity and, hard as it might be, to try to put all the bad feelings aside for a moment and work in good faith on each of these Contracting Committees. Those discussions may result in decisions they are not happy with, but that can be dealt with downstream. Right now, in my opinion, it is important to participate in good faith - to bring the best authoritative perspective to the deliberations that is possible - and move forward from there. To do less will cost them dearly in the hearts and minds of the residents of this city - in my opinion.

THE TACTICS ON BOTH SIDES SUCK
Let me be clear. I think the tactics employed by both sides on this issue left much to be desired. Certainly, the haste with which this council majority has tried to disassemble this city is unforgivable. However, the tactics employed by the OCEA and their shell front organization, Repair Costa Mesa, irritate the heck out of me. I'm so sick of seeing those pervasive pop-up adds on my computer and on cable television... And the whole "sign" drama is getting very old, too. And the distasteful manipulation of children in this process should give any parent watching some pause about the men who would permit and encourage these actions.

A CHANCE FOR HEALING
In my opinion, it's time to wipe the blood off the knives, let some of the woun
ds heal and for both sides to meet in good faith to assess the RFPs as prescribed by policy 100-6. It's time to make this process work, and to tone down the rhetoric, if possible. As I write those words I know that I will NOT stop writing about malfeasance, vindictiveness and stupidity as I perceive it. However, public urinating contests from the dais and the speaker's podium are not helping get the issues resolved. I do understand the passion of the issue - livelihoods are at stake - but there is now an opportunity in hand to potentially create a better outcome.

LET THE PROCESS WORK
So, let's see if this process can work. We're going to know soon enough - it won't take too many meetings before the employees and The City have a sense of how things are going. Since the rules of conduct of the meetings preclude any outsiders - like me, for example - from being there and, according to Hatch's most recent letter, disclosure of confidential information from the meetings is discouraged, we'll just have to sit patiently and wait for progress reports from the inner sanctum. I'm willing to do that, keeping my fingers crossed that progress can be made. Now, let's get on with it...

Labels: , , , ,