Saturday, July 28, 2012

Read Along And Watch His Nose Grow

Did you ever have one of those projects that seemed so overwhelming that you just didn't know where to begin?  Well, tonight I'm facing that challenge as I contemplate how to respond to non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger's commentary presently appearing online in the Daily Pilot and will likely be in print over this weekend.  You can read it HERE.

There is SO much in this commentary that cries out for rebuttal that it just makes my head spin.  But, even though this has already been a long day, I'm going to give it my best shot.

Right off the bat Mensinger, in his attempt to criticize Jeff Harlan's most recent column, HERE, basically agrees with him that he and his council-majority buddies don't follow the traditional governmental process!  That admission alone validates much of what has been said here over the past 18 months and should certainly provoke folks to investigate further.  To him, though, it's no big deal.

He justifies that behavior by beginning with, "...past councils neglected Costa Mesa's infrastructure needs to feed the public employee pension beast they created.That's a lie!  Past councils directed the staff to do assessments of the roadway infrastructure and come up with a plan to improve the conditions.  That was done and progress was being made toward that goal.  However, the economic downturn that began in 2008 and included the failure of Lehman Brothers - costing Costa Mesa $5 million in invested dollars - cause the council and staff to re-trench and re-prioritize.

He says, "...past councils burned through more than $30 million in reserves because they refused to properly right-size City Hall given current economic realities.Lie #2.  Previous councils and senior staff, in their skillful management of resources, built up those reserves specifically for the kind of catastrophic financial situation in which we've found ourselves.  And, before Mensinger was appointed, those folks began - to use his term - to "right-size" City Hall by offering retirement incentives, using furlough days, freezing any pay increases and, eventually, downsizing the staff by approximately 30% while attempting to maintain service to the residents of the city.

He says, "...past council policies have led to more than $250 million in unfunded pension and retire health benefits.Lie #3.  It's the economy, stupid!  The kick in the teeth we all felt when the economy went south was also felt by the CalPERS program.  Their management model failed to produce the returns necessary to maintain funding of the programs, so the City - along with EVERY other city participating in the CalPERS system - had to fork over lots of dollars.

He says, "So yes, this Costa Mesa council has been different.  We have put residents first.Lie #4.  Far from putting the residents first, this council - the one that only took 3 votes to place him on - has done exactly the opposite of his claim.  They have refused to negotiate in good faith with the public safety organizations and, as a result of their "no hiring without a second pension tier" mandate, have required them to work long, long hours to keep our streets safe.  They violated their own rules and arbitrarily attempted to impose 6-month layoff notices on half the city staff - which resulted in the tragic death of Huy Pham and has caused chaos and millions of dollars in legal bills in this city for the past 18 months.

They arbitrarily imposed a police staffing level that reduced the manpower levels to those not seen since the 1980s, ignoring the solid advice of their highly-qualified consultants on the issue AND the best advice from Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley, who finally resigned in disgust.  Through their ignorance, incompetence and stubbornness they attempted to impose a work schedule on the police that caused chaos in the ranks and service levels to suffer.  It was finally overturned by Chief Tom Gazsi.

A year ago they arbitrarily shut down the AirBorne Law Enforcement Program (A.B.L.E.), which served our community and neighboring communities for more than 4 decades and had become the model on which all other municipal airborne organizations were based.  Despite the fact that A.B.L.E had enough money in the bank to operate for two more years without taking a cent from either Costa Mesa or Newport Beach, Mensinger's council forced the closure of operations and the sale of all the equipment.  We ended up paying $13,000 per month for almost a year for a hangar we didn't use and got fire-sale prices for the helicopters.  Now we're paying $700 per hour for less-than-reliable service from Huntington Beach and the council crows about it.

Their intransigence about that second pension tier has prohibited Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold from implementing his revolutionary restructuring plan that will save the city millions annually when it's finally installed.  And, that same intransigence has prohibited us from hiring replacements and has caused hundreds of hours of overtime to be worked by the fire staff - something that the council has  used as an example of "greedy public employees".

Despite their demands for a second pension tier and draconian belt-tightening via their outsourcing scheme, they authorized the hiring of several senior level managers - some jobs given to people who had no background in that kind of work and in positions that didn't previously exist - in the Chief Executive's Office without any formal recruitment effort and before the second tier could be implemented.  That kind of cronyism has continued to the present time.  While every other part of the organization has contracted in size, the CEO's office has doubled.  Of course, 18 months ago I joked that their perfect organization model would be CEO Tom Hatch and a half-dozen contract administrators.  Maybe that's where we're heading after all.


The list goes on and on and on.  If that's their definition of "putting the residents first" you know we're all in big trouble.

Mensinger goes on to list, with bullet points, other issues he feels rebut Harlan's characterization of this councils actions.  He says that, "while sticking to the best governmental processes..."  Well, remember in the beginning he admits they didn't do that!

His bullet points are that his council:

"Passed the first two balanced budgets (without the use of reserves) in recent memory."  He conveniently forgets to mention that they gutted several organizations and programs to do that.

"Hired and promoted seven new executive level leaders, remarkable for the fact that they live in the city they manage.
And this, in his alternate-universe kind of thinking, is a badge of accomplishment?  He neglects to mention that we didn't NEED many of those jobs and that most of them went to people with no appropriate backgrounds without a competitive recruitment effort.

"Poured more than $20 million in infrastructure for the 2012-2013 fiscal year alone."  He conveniently neglects to mention that much of that work was already on the schedule, that they sacrificed public safety staffing to accomplish it and then dismantled the city street crew that would have done much of the work in a more cost-effective manner.

"Has taken a stand against the unsustainable demands of public employee unions, bringing sanity back to the city's fiscal policies."  First of all, we DON'T have any employee unions in this city.  We have employee associations, which do NOT have the authority to perform job actions - strikes, for example.   When you start from a foundation of ignorance, everything else you say is suspect.  "Taking a stand" is one thing, but the failure to negotiate in good faith because the OC GOP leaders don't want you to is entirely another story.

"Explored the viability of outsourcing various city services, identifying millions of dollars in annual savings by both privatizing services and delivering in-house services more effectively."  That term, "explored", is much too benign.  What he means is, "We took a meat ax to the established procedures, prematurely issued more than 200 layoff notices, caused a kid to take his own life, had the then-mayor demonstrate his callousness by not attending to our business - he attended to HIS.  We had wave after wave of layoff notices issued, which tore the scab off that wound a half-dozen times for hundreds of staffers as the council actions caused millions in legal bills to be racked up by one of the most expensive law firms in the country, working with an open-ended contract."  His little exploration has now potentially saddled us with an international firm to run our jail that has recently become notorious by failing in their $60 million assignment at the London Olympics.  Oh, yeah, this foray into outsourcing has turned out to be just dandy.

"Has made Costa Mesa one of the most transparent cities in the country and nation, according to the Orange County Register, Orange County Grand Jury and the national Sunshine Review."  Well, maybe.  Some of the "transparency" initiatives have improved information flow and some have not.  For example, the new website - a $50,000 expense that may or may not have been necessary - is a long way from being easy to use.  And, where the rubber meets the road, in those areas that are important, like the timely distribution of agendas for city meetings, it seems like those are slower and slower being revealed.  Friday, for example, the agenda notification about next Tuesday's special council meeting on Jim Righeimer's Charter didn't get sent until almost 8:00 p.m.  That's well short of the mark for timeliness.  And, the new telephone system is not customer-friendly at all!  With the reduced staffing we've become accustomed to delays in call-backs, but the new system seems to stiff-arm you every step of the way.  Of course, we recently tossed aside the Information Technology Manager position and the person who had held it for a decade.  How does that make any sense at all?

"Has developed a charter that, if put on the ballot and passed by the voters in November, would take back local control from Sacramento politicians (the current charter was developed after seven months of public input and literally hundreds of suggestions by Costa Mesa residents)."  I'm glad he saved that load of manure until last.  First of all, the way Jim Righeimer's Charter reads today, the only ones having "local control" will be him and his cronies.  It is packed with his pet projects and is devoid of effective controls to prevent abuse, corruption and misbehavior by those in charge.  Mensinger lies when he says  that it was developed with public input.  Anyone paying attention knows that nearly EVERY suggestion from the public for modification of the charter document Jim Righeimer personally crafted by cutting and pasting random phrases from a variety of sources was ignored.  Not only ignored, but ignored accompanied by snide, derisive comments from the dais, as well.  No, the document they will vote to place on the ballot
Tuesday is Righeimer's baby, designed to satisfy his masters in the OC GOP and to finally get some of his vindictive, anti-employee schemes codified somewhere after decades of failure.  Don't let Mensinger or anyone else try to convince you that this charter is good for our city - it's not.

As I've said MANY times, I'm not against considering a charter for our city.  While three-quarters of California cities DO NOT have charters and enjoy the considerable protections provided by the state as General Law cities,  25% do work under the Charter form of government.  However, because they can permit mischief - as witnessed by Bell and Vernon - it is essential that charters be carefully created using the full intellectual and moral resources available in the community. That means a commission or committee charged with the creation of the document using significant public input so the final product actually meets the city's needs.  It does NOT mean a skimpy, inadequately safe-guarded, self-serving document created by one man.

Over the next few months the voters of this city will have several opportunities to observe the candidates for city council.  There are presently nine people in the race and Mensinger is part of a slate that has been touted by the OC GOP for months - even before any of them had announced their candidacies.  Mensinger, Colin McCarthy and Gary Monahan will almost certainly be teamed to run against all comers and will likely be the recipients of lots of outside financial support.  As you consider the candidates remember Mensinger's commentary and how he played fast and loose with the truth.  When he received three votes from the council and accepted his appointment to replace Katrina Foley on the dais he told the audience that what he really wanted to do was be a coach.  Well, I hope the voters will help him reach that goal in November by providing him with plenty of spare time to pursue it.

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Anonymous puppetroll2chins said...

Steve is fantastic, tells it like it is. No Stavely meltdown can change that. Shared services between cities, infrastructure renewal and replacement, outsourcing, and pension reform need to be implemented. Government has grown too big, taking on more and more areas it need not be involved in or do "in house". I like his platform. The voters will too.

7/28/2012 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Let me put this in terms that everyone can understand.

The number of comments supporting Mensinger's commentary: 3.

The number of comments opposing Mensinger's commentary: 17.

You're down two touchdowns, "Coach."

7/28/2012 07:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike M said...

That's rich. Wanna know how these new high-level executives operate while collecting their six-figure salary and pension? One of them (I won't name names, but it rhymes with Schmick Krancis) doesn't have the cojones to answer a specific question posed him, via letter multiple times, regarding certain conditions of approval on a project that never should have been approved. As background, a planning commissioner failed to recuse himself from approving a project where he turned out to be an investor - wow, shocking, I know, but I guess he figured he could keep that a secret).

The reason 'Krancis' won't reply - well, it's either because the city is going to be in hot water when the dust settles, or as he said, 'he won't reply because he doesn't like the tone of the letter' - which, by the way, was written by a 70-something year old woman.

What a bunch of standup guys this council and their 'executive team' are. They won't answer a question because they don't like the tone. Put on your big boy pants, tough guys. Unbelievable!

7/28/2012 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger feral390 said...

If pension reform is such a high priority than please tell us all how can you and the council justify the hiring of those 7 executive level managers ($150,000 a year range) at the 2.5% pension and just days later finally implement the 2.0% for new hires. We all await yours and the councils response.

7/28/2012 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Great rebuttal Geoff. I couldn't agree more. How can anyone lie through their teeth like he does, and still think people are going to put up with it?

Mensinger lies with an absolute straight face.

7/28/2012 08:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Bottom Line said...

Mensy's a bully who gets into altercations with teachers and airport baggage clerks. He is not fit for public office. How annoying that we even have to talk about the "ideas" this dolt gets printed under his byline, which are probably written out by someone else.

30-40 years ago, a guy like this would be relegated to the Whacko Club and not taken seriously. Nowadays political friends hold him up as "normal."

7/28/2012 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger valan2 said...

An interesting note - and you have to read carefully to spot it - is Mensinger's claim that, "...the council:...Hired and promoted seven new executive-level leaders, remarkable for the fact that they live in the city they manage."

All hires and fires in the City are done by the City Manager or his subordinates - not by the City Council. The one exception, of course, is the City Manager himself.

So, when Mensinger says "the council....hired and promoted" did he mean the Council somehow influenced the City Manager in his personnel decisions? Such interference would be strictly prohibited by Section 205 of the Council's proposed charter.

So, either they're they're ignoring the "process" and doing things they say they shouldn't be doing, or "the Council" is trying to take credit for things they didn't do. The answer is probably "all of the above."

Mensinger's point about executives living in the city they manage is an interesting one, too. When I worked for - and lived in - the City, the company Mensinger worked for tried to get me disqualified from reviewing a project of theirs because - are you ready for this? - I lived too close to it and couldn't be objective! But I guess we can't fault anyone for wanting to have it both ways!

7/28/2012 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Kim Marie said...

You nailed it Geoff!!! I, and many others, so appreciate all your hard work.

7/28/2012 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous keep writing! said...

I think Mensinger should write more articles.
He's his own worst enemy.

7/28/2012 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Kim Marie, thanks, sweet girl. Appreciate your kindness.

Valan2, your eagle eye strikes again! Yep, he apparently has gotten so comfortable with micromanaging City Hall that it never occurred to him that he's violating the rules - and taking credit for it! Again, with him, the rules are for somebody else. Imagine him as part of the junta with Jim Righeimer's Charter to use to invade privacy and control every breath you take. No, thank you.

7/28/2012 02:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Front Page Stavely like Meltdown said...

Anyone see the Stavely meltdown on the cover of the Daily Pilot today.

Bob Ooten quoted as saying " ... Screw him. I don't care what happens to him."

Wow. Use tax payer money to sue the twinkie guy.

I also heard Ooten is a poster child for pension reform. Ooten takes him a whopping $18,000 a month on his pension.

No need to recall. Say what you want about Fitzy, his are brass. Looks like he is getting to them. They are ready to crash.

7/28/2012 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Front Page Stavely like Meltdown said...

Not him ... Then who?

For all those thinking Fitzy is behind every post, looks like he was at a fundraiser with a congressman and a member of British parliament yesterday

Thank you for calling him out on twinkies. He does need to lose some weight.

7/28/2012 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Hypocrits about pension reform! Two weeks before the employee pensions changed, Messy and Riggy hired their buddies, Bill Lobdell and Rob Dickson, so they would have the benefit of the old pensions and higher benefits. To hell with the employees, who don't get those benefits now. Only the best for their friends, huh?

7/28/2012 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous sk said...

Another blog highjacked by Fitzy...

Fitzy is desperate, he will do anything to try and make it appear he is right regarding any issue. The voices he hears are in his own head.

Is it illegal to receive a pension after working and paying into it for your whole life? Receiving a lifelong pension is much nobler than the wealthy thieves getting millions in payoffs and severance packages from the banking, mortgage, stock market frauds. What resident with any sense would be against having an engineer experienced in sewer, such as Director Ooten, as a Board member giving his time and expertise to the residents of Costa Mesa?

7/28/2012 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous I do not live on wall st said...

Love it. sk ignores the fact that one guy says screw you and he goes right to defend pensions.

I did not cause Wall St, so I don't buy it as an excuse.

Pension Bob is not the only double dipper. Pension Perry is in the $100,000 pension club. Tripple dipper. Pension, on this city board and also coaches.

How much does he get to coach? Anyone audit his program? Maybe that's where he stashes the trash cash ...

7/28/2012 07:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Loser Patrol said...

Fitz, do you really think we believe a word you say or are concerned about your whereabouts yesterday? Once again, you’re an idiot. We all know you can post your ridiculous comments from your phone. And, it’s not like you are the most respectful person in the room since you also text during CMSD Board meetings.

Actually, the greatest part in your two “Front Page Stavely” posts today is that maybe the British Parliament will let you move to England!!! One can only hope. And yes, we all agree, you do need to lose some weight.

7/28/2012 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous 5150 said...

Fyi, Fitzy says he always posts using his own name. Isn't that a crack up? Geez, if it's not Fitzpadick constantly referring to the San District, I wonder who it is? Get over yourself Fitz.

7/28/2012 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Troll Tracker said...

Shrek or his buddy jealously defaming other men:

"Pension Bob is not the only double How much does he get to coach? Anyone audit his program? Maybe that's where he stashes the trash cash ..."

It's an amazing thing, you POS: when you work at a J-O-B instead of living off your spouse, you can earn a retirement.

7/28/2012 09:32:00 PM  

Geez Fitzpatrick, you are making a complete ass out of yourself. I am voting for Perry and Ferryman because no matter what you say, they are highly qualified, well respected, and all around awesome human beings. Clearly, they have worked hard to make a good life for themselves and their families which is more than I can say for you. To me, that is something to be proud of,and the fact that you keep bringing it up makes me want to vote for them more. I would rather keep you and all of your buddies far away from any positions in this town.

7/28/2012 10:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Just Curious said...

Question: Fitzy if you're so great, why didn't your friends on the Council offer you one of those $150K jobs with a big fat pension?

Answer: Because deep down inside they think you are an idiot like we do.

7/28/2012 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Happy said...

I'm so glad Ooten had the nerve to say "screw you" to Fitzy. It's what we all would say if given the opportunity. Even better that it was written in the Daily Pilot! Fitz thinks it makes Ooten look bad, but really, it's great to see folks taking a stand against Fitz and his insanity.

Also interesting that only 100 people showed up to Monahan’s and donated a meager $2000. What happened to the 11,000+ supporters Fitz used to brag about? I guess they were all busy on that night. More than likely, they've figured out what we all know...Fitz is a tool.

7/29/2012 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Today's update on the Comment Score over at the Daily Pilot, a neutral venue:

Comments against Mensinger: 33
Comments favoring Mensinger (including his own): 5

Down four touchdowns, Coach. Try something like "76 Union Y Sail" or even "65 Power Toss Trap" for old times sake...

7/29/2012 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Sam Grady said...

Hey Geoff, any guess who is behind the CMSanity moniker posting against everything you say on the Daily Pilot. My guess it is McCarthy because it is the same mindless dribble that is on the Costa Mesa Taxpayer Facebook page.

7/29/2012 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

No, but it certainly is a misnomer. ;-) Your guess may be correct. They've got a cadre of lemmings that "speak" when their master commands.

7/29/2012 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous NoLemming said...

Thanks for laying it out so clearly for me: Let’s see, Mensinger and Righeimer are bad and have evil intentions, and they mis-speak, and an employee who has worked for the city for a long time should get a big pension, and the award-winning transparency of the city government shows up on a web site that’s difficult to access. Last time I read the charter I didn’t see the grotesque, R-centered power grab, just boilerplate, acceptance of state laws about most subjects, and City Council assumption of control of contracting. A fact or two would be welcome – beyond counting the “votes” of editorial and blog responders – as opposed to labeling and frothing diatribe.

7/29/2012 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger feral390 said...

Since Mensinger has such a low opinion of the "union thug" police, fire and general employee public sector overpaid, over benefitted parasitic economy crashing, city and state bankrupting public servants. Does he have the same disdain for the teachers that coach his beloved Estancia high football team ?
Aren't those teachers members of a union ?(STRS) and get (gasp!) a pension?

7/29/2012 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

NoLemming.....before you run off the cliff, have you read this?
"The City Council shall hold a public hearing during the second meeting of every TENTH YEAR after this Charter is adopted to determine if a Charter Review Commission is NEEDED to review the City Charter,....."
Have you REALLY read the entire charter and fully understand all the implications it could expose us to?
Are you fully aware that another more " liberal " council, might possibly be elected over the next decade, to decide what and what not defines a "municipal concern".
This is a Bad charter, whatever your political leanings, it has no business being passed. This city is made up of much more talented people than this charter gives us credit for. Those people should have been included. in it's creation and application that will affect all the residents.
This Charter is woefully inadequate, badly written, and solely goes to fulfill a misguided council that is only trying to further a political game-plan.
If that suits your criteria for an on going city constitution, than I completely disagree with your stance.
I can do the math.....I don't want to be walking precincts to get a fix on the charter in ten years from now, and only then if the council deems it's "needed".....I'd rather get it killed right now.

7/29/2012 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Tamar said...

“No lemming,”…no, probably not. More likely one of the inner circle. You ask for “a fact or two.” REREAD Geoff’s blog; it’s chock full of facts. If you didn’t notice a power grab in the charter, REREAD it and notice the wide openings for the councilmen to override state protections as they see fit. Pensions? We all know the expensive stunt the councilmen pulled for some of their supporters.

There’s no sense refuting all your points. It’s been done over and over. REREAD.

7/30/2012 08:04:00 AM  
Anonymous NoLemming said...

Thanks Gericault -- I'll certainly re-check. So far, most of the charter seems to refer to state law, except the section on contracting. So, I'll check again.

Don't think I'll reread (I don't need to shout the term) a list of judgements. Past blogs have been provocative and informative; this blog lists the blogger's judgements. Everyone can have a judgement -- but the term "diatribe" was deliberate.

I'd like to see some facts, not labels. That is, paragraph six gives unlimited power instead of Liar Liar. Or, instead of REREAD!!!

No Lemming

7/30/2012 08:56:00 AM  

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