Makes Your Head Spin...
Where to begin? For a meeting that was supposed to be short and painless, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night turned out to be neither.
NOTHING TO LOSE...
Some general impressions. First, There's nothing more unpredictable than a politician who is termed out with nothing to lose. Eric Bever demonstrated that last night... more later.
Second, one just never knows what will come out of a politician's mouth when he doesn't have a clue about decorum and the rules of procedure. Bever and Steve Mensinger demonstrated that.
Third, lock-step allegiance to a political agenda sometimes blinds politicians so they cannot adequately consider what is best for the community they serve. Mensinger and Jim Righeimer showed us that last night.
WHO CALLED THE PRESS?
Not unexpectedly, the subject of stolen political signs was a thread that stretched throughout the meeting last night. Several speakers during Public Comments mentioned it and Gary Monahan, who says he had several large banners defiled or stolen, said there is a $1,100 reward for information leading to an arrest of sign vandals. Curiously, Stacey Butler of Channels 2 and 9 and her cameraman were in the audience last night, apparently expecting to record some kind of major dust-up about signs. I found myself wondering just why they were there - and whether perhaps the City PR apparatus alerted them. Since nothing like that happened, I guess they left disappointed. I do know they interviewed residents outside the council chambers.
RIGHEIMER TOUTS "OUTSOURCING NUMBERS"
During his "comments" time Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer took some of his time to gloat about the "great" numbers on the outsourcing spreadsheet being displayed on the City web site. See my previous post. He perpetuated the myth that actual dollars are being saved when nothing could be further from the truth. It's amazing how these guys just fabricate "facts" to suit themselves and then deliver them to an unsuspecting audience like they were actually telling the truth. Amazing!
Bever, our main man on the planned I-405 expansion, discussed his recent presentation before the Orange County Transportation Authority. The OCTA Board was unable to reach consensus at the last meeting, so the issue will be taken up this month. Bever, in his own, special, immature way, took the opportunity to bad-mouth the Board - a strange tactic, since he's supposed to be trying to persuade them to go with Alternate #2. We all can be VERY happy he's termed out this year.
BEVER POLITICS FROM THE DAIS - AND LAUGHS ABOUT IT!
Speaking of which, during the discussion of the political signs, he violated the rules by talking about his candidacy for a seat on the Mesa Consolidated Water District Board, then joked about it. He's running for the seat held by current president, Fred Bockmiller - a real engineer and expert in water issues. One can only hope the voters understand that by electing Bever to that seat they will be getting a petulant, arrogant divisive man with poor work habits and only a political agenda guiding his candidacy.
HATCH'S FULL PLATTER
After all council members had their chance to speak CEO Tom Hatch gave his report, responding to many of the concerns expressed by members of the public on Sign Theft, Homelessness, the new Fire reorganization and the current infestation of coyotes city-wide.
BEVER - SHUT DOWN SOUP KITCHEN AND S.O.S.!
Then, in a violation of procedure, Bever launched into another stream of consciousness commentary addressing many of the issues Hatch had just covered. It was during this little rant that he dropped his bombshell for the evening - his request for the staff to investigate ways to put the Soup Kitchen and S.O.S. out of business. He compared those social service entities to a rowdy bar that was closed in years past as a public nuisance, indicating that the negative impact of those two entities is much more wide-reaching than a simple, noisy neighborhood bar. He had everyone's attention when he stopped talking.
HOME FREE! NOT!
After that, I kind of thought we might be home free. The evening was still early - a little after 7:00 p.m. - and we only had a couple fairly uncomplicated issues remaining. Wrong again!
READY TO STIFF-ARM THE GRANTS!
They launched into the Consent Calendar and reached #5, the consideration of accepting $160,000 in grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety for DUI and Special enforcement activities for the year beginning October 1st. As several speakers opined, this seemed like a no-brainer, but never underestimate how lock-step allegiance to a political dogma will impact events in our city. Sergeant Greg Scott made his presentation and, to the surprise of many in the audience, he was grilled by Mensinger and, later, Righeimer. All of a sudden it became clear that Mensinger and Righeimer were willing to reject this grant - money we had already qualified for - because Mensinger didn't want to be in debt to the Chinese! This from a guy who has had difficulty adding 5+2 on the dais! Righeimer inquired of Hatch how much "contingency" money we had left and was told that we'd only committed to spending about $100,000 of the $1 million - Righeimer wanted to use that money for this program. It took the calm demeanor and steady hand of Police Chief Tom Gazsi to prevent a calamity. This fiasco demonstrated very clearly why you cannot trust these guys with our city, and especially if Jim Righeimer's Charter is passed in 5 weeks. Since Monahan had to recuse himself because he's a bar owner, a 2-2 vote would have killed the issue. Eventually the council voted 4-0 to accept the money, but only after extorting from Gazsi an agreement to look at ways to do the same work without "Chinese" money. What schmucks!
A WASTED 18 MONTHS
The evening eventually wrapped up with a clear presentation by Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz on why the staff was recommending a "receive and file" on the report on the Street and Storm Drain Services RFP. A reorganization and complete lack of respondents to the RFP proved it was preferable to keep this activity "in-house". One speaker, former councilman Jay Humphrey, stood and chided the council for wasting time and creating angst on the part of the employees - who have had layoffs hanging over their heads for nearly 18 months - when a series of simple telephone calls over a year ago could have resolved this back then. He, of course, was right. So, the council voted to receive and file and to rescind five layoff notices to the remaining staff in that group.
WALL STREET JOURNAL WISDOM
Before I went to the meeting last night I had lunch and read my Wall Street Journal. I found an article on the Opinion pages by Alan S. Blinder, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University titled, "The Case Against a CEO in the White House". His thesis was that a successful top officer in business or industry does not necessarily make for a superior performer in government, and particularly not as President of the United States. I found the following paragraphs from that article to be especially interesting:
Nolan Bushnell, the highly successful entrepreneur who founded both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, once observed that "Business is a good game—lots of competition and a minimum of rules. You keep score with money." That's virtually the opposite of being president of the United States: The president has no direct competitors (though he does have opponents), must abide by numerous rules and certainly doesn't keep score with money.
The differences between business and government are manifold. Start with democracy, the preservation and strengthening of which may be a president's first duty. Not many successful companies are run as democracies; benign dictatorship works far better. All the checks and balances that characterize American democracy would drive a hard-charging CEO, accustomed to getting his own way, crazy....
....Which brings us back to keeping score. Top business executives focus single-mindedly on "the bottom line," meaning profits. Among the reasons why so many smart business people fail in politics and government is that there is no bottom line—or perhaps I should say there are so many bottom lines that the search for a single one is futile.
PRETTY DARN CLOSE TO HOME!
I sat there, munching a taco, and read and re-read those lines and couldn't help think how much they applied to our current situation in Costa Mesa. As I've said MANY times before, we have members of the current City Council that just DO NOT LIKE RULES, PERIOD! And, they seem bound and determined to "keep score" with money. Please take a minute to re-read those three paragraphs again.