Monday, April 16, 2012

Mickadeit Misses The Mark

This evening Orange County Register columnist, law student and good old boy Frank Mickadeit published a column titled, "Costa Mesa keeps its Fire Department", HERE. Now, old Frank is an interesting guy who writes some pretty good stuff and this one is OK as far as it goes, but he only tells part of the story. And it raises some interesting questions, too.

The moti
vation for this column, apparently, is the final agenda item for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday, April 17th. You can read it HERE. As I've mentioned in an earlier post, the council apparently plans to rescind all the bogus layoff notices issued more than a year ago to the entire Costa Mesa Fire Department, sworn and non-sworn.

He says, "The City Council is poised to rescind the notice of possible layoffs it had sent to 87 Fire Department employees. It has determined that keeping the jobs in-house will ultimately save money and provide more local control." Well, it LOOKS like the council is ready to rescind the layoffs based on the staff report, but how does Mickadeit know "that keeping the jobs in-house will ultimately save money and provide more local control."?

There have been NO public pronouncements to that effect. We do know that Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold has been working hard on a plan that has not yet been presented to the City Council - certainly not in a public forum of any kind - that MIGHT accomplish some of those goals. How does Mickadeit know? Has someone inside City Hall leaked this still-private and confidential information to him before the entire council has heard it? If so, who? And what laws does this violate, if any?

Mickadeit mentions the Orange County Fire Authority proposal(s) - there were two of them - presented to the City Council last year as a result of a request by the Costa Mesa Firefighter's Association. Although each of the several permutations of the OCFA proposal theoretically would have saved The City money and the firefighters were in favor of the shift, the City Council majority stiff-armed the OCFA - twice.

The OCFA could have affected cost savings - according to Mickadeit, $6.6 million - by closing one fire station and providing coverage from other OCFA stations nearby. Mickadeit quotes the city as assuming it could save more than double what he presents the OCFA proposal saved - $15 million a year - by having the firefighters agree to reduce contractually obligated minimum manning staff level. This reeks of Jim Righeimer's hand - he's been complaining about the minimum manning aspect of the current contract and his shills posting here have been yapping about it too. And what would the cost be in response times?

Not only that, but in recent weeks Righeimer has tried to characterize the OCFA as a marauding hoard, intent on taking over every fire department in the county. He lied about the recent contract signed by the City of Santa Ana with the OCFA - a fabrication which he must have felt served his political purposes because any rational man would know that people would see right through the falsehood.

Mickadeit asks, "
Doesn't the council's behavior regarding the largest department on the potential chopping block indicate that it will act similarly sanely when it comes to evaluating the other city services?", to which I answer "Not only NO, but HELL NO!" His assumption that this council has acted "sanely" in the matter of the fire department is, well, insane! If they'd have gotten away with violating their own rules half the city staff might have been laid-off by the end of last year, for goodness sake.

Not only has this council NOT acted rationally with the OCFA proposal, they have been capricious and irresponsible throughout this whole "outsourcing" calamity. They DID NOT generate the proposal - the firefighters did. They rejected the OCFA not once, but twice and left the Fire Department dangling, short-handed because Righeimer had one of his hissy fits and refused to authorize hiring any more firefighters until a second pension tier was in place.

The department has been operating with at least nine (9) fewer staffers than required for months. So, that forced the firefighters and their leadership to rack up thousands of hours of overtime - for which Righeimer and his sycophants roundly criticized them. It's been clear from the beginning - with the irresponsible reduction of Police Department staffing levels far below the minimum recommended by their own consultants and former chief Steve Staveley, HERE, and their ham-handed handling of the Fire Department situation - that political posturing is much more important to a few of the council members than is the safety of the public in this city.

I fear that Mickadeit has been spending too much time leaning against the bar of a certain local gin mill, having his ear bent by members of our city council. While his column is his opinion and what information he includes is his prerogative, he doesn't serve his readers well by presenting only a portion of the facts. I guess I expect better from him.

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Anonymous Mike M said...

I love Frank Mickadeit, but I do side with you. Like others at the OCR, he seems a bit too chummy with the Fab Four. I know he can operate under different rules as a columnist, so now I can only hope Steve Lopez from the Times gets back in the fray with an update from his POV.

4/17/2012 06:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

Not that it really matters with the unfab four, but has anyone bothered to ask if 23 firefighters per shift is appropriate to meet the service needs of the city given its' size population, etc.? I suspect it would not matter anyway given how the unfab four ignored their paid consultants and police chief last year when it came to appropriate police department staffing.

4/17/2012 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I'm not a Mickadeit fan, and believe he's become another shill for the OCGOP. I think his goal in life is to become an admin or ADA for Rackauckas.

These days, A Bubbling Cauldron is a more thorough, truthful outlet for news about Costa Mesa than the OCR, LAT, or DP. Don't stop!

4/17/2012 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous almostdone said...

This comes from the pages of the OC Register. Anybody who thinks that you're going to get anything but a OC GOP spin piece from them doesn't know what the Registers mission is all about. He works for the Register... and there it is.

As far as the truth about this goes.... the bulk of the savings that would be seen from going to OCFA is mostly due to a reduction in firefighter coverage. Period.

That means fewer fire stations and that means longer response times for those near the ones that are closed.

OCFA says they can do that without a down side because they have equipment that they can bring in from other stations near the city to cover when necessary.

I got news for you... cities have been doing that for years under mutual aid agreements.

On occasion you will find a Newport, Huntington or OCFA engine covering in a Costa Mesa fire station or vice versa. There's nothing new about that.

The main upside to keeping the CMFD intact is... in the future when these agenda driven politicians are gone, there will still be local control over how FIRE and EMS is managed.

Once control is turned over to County, that option would be gone. They would be calling the shots and there would never be any going back... like it or not.

On another subject.... this guy also just wrote another piece in todays Register on how much money going to private medics would save "cities like Costa Mesa". Sound familure? Where do you think that's comming from?

It's presented with Riggy type numbers comparing the average salary of a private ambulance medic at $60k to that of a average fire fighter medic at $160k (at least he didn't use the $350k number).

Of course he conveniently forgot to include that the ff medic is also filling the job of firefighter (which is still going to be done anyway) and the additional 'medic' part of his salary is next to nothing when compared to the cost of a private ambulance medic.

Anyway... this is a never ending war between the private sector who wants to expand into these services to make a profit and the public sector who wants to control the quality of these services for public safety. Guess which side Riggy is on.

Last thing.... In the upcomming FD restructering presentation, don't be surprised if we see Newport Beach's example shown as a model that helps pay for continuing FIRE/EMS under city control.

Most people don't know it but Newport took over ambulance service years ago and added a ambulance transport componet as a part of their FIRE and EMS response.

They offer a very low cost subscrition (something like $40 pr year) for $0 out of pocket coverage for residents and charge non-residents the same fees as the private ambulance services.

They bank several million dollars a year (money that would be going to one of the private ambulance providers) and put it right in the general fund.

Chief Arnold was a player in this program in Newport and if you asked anyone in city hall over there if they think going private medics would be a good idea, they would look at you like you're crazy.

One thing though.... public takeover of private enterprise type stuff (like ambulance services) is counter to what the OC GOP is ever going to support, so it will be interesting to see what this council will have to say about all the dollars that kind of thing would put on the table for Costa Mesa.

4/17/2012 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Over at the Register , I think they are down to using Mickadeit. He's the only one left willing to carry the water. I think Barbara got burned when her editor made her write that story giving Righeimers side of why he wouldn't pay his lawyers.Gustavo shredded her for that one. Sean Greene is too smart and has actual integrity, you can't make him sign his name to a story like this.That young man is destined for bigger things. Jon Cassidy was fired and now free lances for the DP. He would have been the "go to guy" for this type of story, he just writes what they tell him.The Dp is busy with Serna and Riecher holed up writing their piece,(hopefully they are researching all sides). So that leaves Frank....whose only claim to fame is that he likes to go and rub elbows and drink with the likes of Mike Carona, and Dave Ellis. Frank is always at the right bar, at the right time for when a story needs to be pushed. As usual , Mickadeit has researched nothing, uncovered no facts, and is shilling insider information , only he is being fed. The reason he is being fed...? They know it will come out his other end and he'll write about it.

4/17/2012 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous N.I.M.B.Y said...

Of course the City could save more money, they think they can run a Fire Department with 6 people on duty a day.
If the OCFA offer was going to save 5-6 million a year, what makes you think that the City could cave almost three times that amount? I'm sure it means cutting positions and closing Fire Stations. Everybody is OK with closing a Fire Station until it's the ones closest to their house.

4/17/2012 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Barry said...

More lies and misinformation from the Pot Stirrer. It was OCFA that provided honest assessments of staffing levels. The stupid MOU the City bought into let the union set staffing levels. That dictates dollars. To blame our Council for the firemen stealing from our City by abusing overtime is absurd. Unions should never set staffing levels. Duh! Glad guys like Mickadeit are shining some light on this scam and exposing the truth that our Council is fixing a mess the greedy firemen created. About time!! No more $300k firemen!!

4/17/2012 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Poor Barry,

I hope you're soon able to pry your lips off Righeimer's posterior long enough to step back, see what is ACTUALLY happening and form an original thought for yourself.

In the meantime, we welcome your inane rants here as a demonstration of how easily led some people can be...

4/17/2012 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous N.I.M.B.Y said...

To Barry the Red Ass: Is Costa Mesa the only City in Orange County to have minimum staffing levels? ANSWER--NO, just about every City that has it's own F.D. has a set staffing level. Look it up, and yes even HB & NB two golden charter Cities have those dreaded minimum staffing levels. Chew on that for awhile and let us know what you think.

What would you be comfortable with for a safe Fire Department? How many engines/trucks, how many stations, how many firefighters working everyday?

4/17/2012 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Sam Grady said...

While I think Barry and his kissing cousin Phil are total jerks, I have to say I agree with him somewhat. This whole minimum staffing is a joke. I also can't stomach that a Battalion Chief, who should be a management employee, was able to pocket $300,000 is salary because of overtime. Because of mutual aid, less fire fighters will not result in increased response time. I truly believe that in-house police and fire are better then the county because of local control,however, the union needs to quit pushing their agenda and come up with more cost saving proposals.

On another note, I believe the city council should give the other groups slated for outsourcing the opportunity to propose ways to to their jobs more efficiently, just like with fire. When employees are given the opportunity, many times they have come up with solutions that have saved cities more money than with going with a private company. Here is an article about San Diego employees who did just that.,0,710553.story

4/17/2012 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous N.I.M.B.Y said...

Barry--how about you check out the OCFA website, about half way down there is a tab for employee compensation. It lists all the "greedy firemen" that OCFA had for 2010 (2011 isn't available yet). An interesting area is the "annual maximum salary" box and the "total wages" box. Big difference between the two, and all this with an "honest assessment of staffing levels".

So your OK with OCFA firefighters making all that money but not Costa Mesa.

4/17/2012 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Abe Lincoln said...

Re Barry:

Whistling "Dixie," as always. I thought I saw him walking down Harbor the other day:

4/17/2012 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Diogenes said...

Barry is a heckler.

Webster defines "heckler" as one who baits.

In other words, a baiter.

Barry is a master.

4/17/2012 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Baaa said...

Barry, Barry, Barry...

It's obviously true that stupid people don't know that they're stupid. It's because, well... they're stupid.

The GOP identified a certain group of supporters, who typically were unsucessful in accomplishing anything in their own lives and (although they didn't represent their interests) would follow like sheep in trying to take down those who have done better.

You are clearly one of those.

While you have said some pretty stupid stuff here, this little rant is about as simple minded in it's content as anyone could pack into one paragraph.

Keep up the good work.

4/17/2012 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous almost took the bait said...

Diogenes.... I have to admit to being tempted. But... I decided to just hang back and laugh to myself.
You're right though. He is what he is.

4/17/2012 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous cm scumbag councilmen said...

Here's the scoop folks. Piggy is waiting for cmfd contract to expire. Then, HE WILL SCREW THEM ALL!!!

Piggy will simply get a spineless leader like Hatch and MAKE the spineless puke make all kinds of cuts. If piggy cant find it in-house, he'll find someone outside the city. Perhaps a lazy lt from newport that lives in the city. Ha!!!

Oh how I love the drama of costa mesa!

4/17/2012 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

I agree with Joe ( the real one). Mickadeit has joined Teri Sforza and the other OCR "Watchdog" crew in not reporting and exposing the lies, law breaking corruption and taxpayer dollar waste of the Fab Four.
They are in the pocket of the OC GOP who calls the shots for the CM Councilmen. Hence, accurate and objective reporting of our city council will not be available from any of them.
You are the most objective, thorough reporter, Geoff.
Many of us rely on you for the news in our community.
Tusen Tack! ( a thousand thanks)

4/18/2012 11:52:00 AM  

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