Thursday, March 21, 2013

Costa Mesa Employee Compensation Report

 NUMBERS NOW AVAILABLE
As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, the 2012 Costa Mesa City Employee Compensation Report is now available for viewing on the city web site, HERE.  And, if you want to compare it to the 2011 report you can view that one HERE.



MISLEADING USE OF "FACTS"
Some will recall that certain members of the City Council went berserk when this listing was first produced last year.  They and many of their sycophants - in an election year - misrepresented the numbers to pillory "greedy union employees", always failing to mention that the reason many of the persons they criticized were members of public safety organizations and the council at that time refused to permit the leaders of the Police and Fire organizations to staff at reasonable levels.  That refusal led to mandatory overtime in those organizations to provide adequate staffing for our safety, which pushed individuals up the compensation list.  Many times now-mayor Jim Righeimer referred to a "firefighter earning $350,000" - a lie of the first magnitude.  He was referring to Fire Battalion Chief Bill Kershaw, who was at the top of the 2011 list because he worked more than 4000 hours during that year.  And, that "$350,000" number included almost $70,000 in pension costs - not dollars he put into his pocket.  And, Righeimer conveniently rounded the numbers up - Kershaw's number, including the pension costs, was actually $346,167.60.  Kershaw is #2 on this year's list, at $296,733.97 but you can be sure it will come out as "$300,000" as critics flap their jaws on this issue.

FORGOTTEN REIMBURSEMENT
Another fact conveniently neglected was that much of the overtime that shows up in the public safety staff numbers overtime attributed to instances where firefighters were sent to wildfire locations as part of our mutual aid agreements and we are reimbursed for that cost.  Similarly, when members of the police department work overtime to provide contracted support for the Orange County Fair those costs are also reimbursed to the city.

NEW FIRE STRUCTURE WILL SAVE MONEY
The much-delayed Fire Department restructuring plan proposed by Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold, based on the presentations made months ago, will save a lot of dollars.  We hope that plan, one we're told is being fine-tuned for presentation at yet another study session, will finally be approved and implemented.

FOLKS AT THE TOP
As you scroll down the list you'll find Police Chief Tom Gazsi at the top - a bargain by anybodys estimation.  You'll also see outgoing Interim Director of Economic and Development Services and Deputy CEO Peter Naghavi, who's numbers include almost $50,000 cash out for unused leave and vacation in anticipation of his departure this year.  He was supposed to depart at the end of the year, but agreed to stay to help select his replacement and aid in the transition.

LOOK AT "OVERTIME HOURS"
Here's an interesting exercise for you.  This year the report includes an "Overtime Hours" column.  As you scroll down the list you'll find fourteen (14) of the first 22 persons listed show more than 1,000 overtime hours.  Continue to scroll and you'll see that nearly half of the top 41 persons listed - 20 - show overtime hours greater than 1,000 hours.  Those hours represent time spent on the job that most would prefer to spend with their families.  The overtime is necessary to keep us safe.

NON-SWORN STAFF
CEO Tom Hatch, during his comments last Tuesday at the council meeting, addressed the reduced staffing levels by observing we have more non-sworn staff today than we did previously.  Well, most of those positions were ones that had been canceled during the budget crunch, then re-filled recently.  Those folks, as wonderful and dedicated as they are, cannot go out and snatch up criminals like the shotgun bandit earlier this week. They can't go out and work effectively with the multiple gangs in our city.  They can't jump into a patrol car or onto a motorcycle to snag DUI offenders.  They won't be out patrolling the illicit massage parlors mentioned at the last council meeting or working the "problem motels" in our city.

POLICE STAFFING
The Police Department had, just a few years ago, 164 sworn positions.  Today the authorized strength is 131, which includes 5 "grant officers", the funding for which was from federal grants for only 5 years.  The last City Council - the core of which is still in control - ignored their own consultants and former Interim Chief Steve Staveley, both of whom said the bare minimum staffing level should be 136 - 140 would be better - and slashed the budget to its current level.  And, of course, they disbanded the A.B.L.E. helicopter program - the model for municipal airborne law enforcement organizations throughout the country.  Are we safer today?  Of course not!  The year end crime statistics, HERE, clearly demonstrate that fact.

OUR "JIFFY LUBE GUY"
So, as you scroll down the Employee Compensation List and questions arise, just take a deep breath and think about what those numbers really represent.  Before you force your blood pressure off the charts because Billy Folsom - #315 on the list - earned $82,000 last year before he retired, understand that you're looking at 30 years of service and a man who could keep every vehicle in the fleet running.  This is the man referred to derisively by Righeimer and his sycophants as a "Jiffy Lube Guy."  Of course, that derision has nothing to do with the fact that Folsom was an articulate outspoken critic of the council's outsourcing scheme (he says, tongue in cheek).

COUNCIL MEMBERS
In case you're interested, you can find the City Council members listed way, way down the list.  Wendy Leece is #461, with a total comp. number of $32,386.28.  Gary Monahan is just below her at #462 with the same dollars.  Steve Mensinger is at #464 with at total comp. of $31,590.63 and departed Eric Bever is at 466 and $31,106.78.  Mayor Jim Righeimer is at #530 with a total comp. number of $1,322.07.

COIN - TRANSPARENCY OR A CLUB?
The City is about to launch negotiations with the General Employees - the members of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) - immediately.  Their contract expires in a week.  We'll find out very soon just how Mayor Pro Tem Mensinger's COIN ordinance, HERE,  is going to work and whether it will facilitate openness and timely negotiations or become an anchor and a club used to flog employee organizations into submission.  I'm hoping for the former.

HAVE FUN
Have a great weekend as you peruse the Compensation report.  I'll look forward to your observations.


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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homeless Debris, General Plan And More

LONG MEETING AGAIN
The Costa Mesa City Council meeting went longer than I expected last night - a couple hours longer.  But, at least we ended in the same day we started - 11:30 p.m. when Mayor Jim Righeimer finally adjourned to the next council meeting on April 2nd.  You can read the entire agenda HERE.

A LIFE WELL-LIVED
The evening began with yet another presentation of the Mayor's Award - Righeimer's tossing them out like candy - to Hank Hornsveld.  As the mayor listed Hank's many accomplishments and contributions to our community and, as a younger man, to society in general we got the strong feeling that his has been a life well-spent.  Watch the video of the meeting, HERE, for this presentation alone.

VECTORS... EWWWW!
Then Jared Dever from Orange County Vector Control gave a presentation to encourage us to be alert about things like standing water (mosquitos) and food sources (rats, raccoons, possoms, etc.)




POOCHES, PERPS AND MORE
Public Comments yielded some gems, as usual.  Failed council candidate Al Melone stepped up one more time to bemoan the situation with the Costa Mesa Dog Park and what he perceives is short shrift being given to the owners of small dogs.  Flo Martin complained about the proliferation of massage parlors within a short distance of her home and asked the council to do something about it.  A couple speakers promoted the Relay For Life, attempting to recruit more teams from City Hall.  Mesa North residents John Feeney and Martin Millard complained, once again, about the armed robbery that occurred at an ATM last weekend.  I covered Millard's comments on my earlier entry.  Others spoke about the recent construction near Golf Course Drive and demanded repairs be completed to renovate the street.

RIGHEIMER AS CARNACK
During Council Member Comments Righeimer led off to dispel what he referred to as an urban myth - that we don't pay our public safety folks well.  He said, "We're spending more money on police and fire.", but didn't provide more detail.  As usual, he's just blowing smoke.  He did reaffirm that he didn't want to send more money than we absolutely have to to CalPERS, explaining that it will finally crash and he didn't want our money lost.  He rang the "unsustainable pensions" bell again, stating that we will spend 20% of our budget on pensions next year.  Wonder how he knows that, since the budgeting process is just beginning now?  He also spoke about "motels", indicating that we're going to re-zone them to help take care of the problem.  That was an interesting comment since the item on the agenda that would address that issue had not yet been heard.  His comments only affirmed observations by others that he and his pals have their minds already made up before they "officially" consider issues.

MENSINGER
During his comments Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger spoke about the dog park and asked CEO Tom Hatch to address it.  He also stated that the membership of the Bark Park Board should be Costa Mesa residents - there are outsiders on the board now.

GENIS
Sandra Genis mentioned the March 26th "Art Walk" at SOBECA, the dog park and massage parlors.

SERVICE, WATER, FIRE
Wendy Leece suggested a moratorium on massage parlor licenses until we get a better handle on this issue, the 59th annual employee service award ceremony last week, the Mesa Water Reliability presentation last week and wondered where the city stands on the Airport issues.  The current agreement will expire in 2015.  She also mentioned the much-delayed Fire Department improvement plan being created by Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold.  She bemoaned the delay, but indicated it's better to do it right.
WAKE UP, GARY!
Gary Monahan sleep-walked through yet another meeting and had nothing to say during his comments segment.

SENIOR CENTER, EMPLOYEE COMP
CEO Hatch addressed many issues.  Among them were a program by Southern California Edison to help businesses better manage their energy issues and the current financial difficulties at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, which has lost some of its revenue stream.  He also mentioned that the 2012 Employee Compensation Report is now available online, HERE.  I suspect more than a few people - including some council members and their sycophants - will attempt to use this information for their own purposes.  As you'll see, Police Chief Tom Gazsi is at the top of the list - a bargain, if you ask me.

SLUMS AND PD STAFFING
Hatch also spoke briefly about the Parks and Recreation Commission, massage parlors, the alleged "Fillmore" and "Mendoza" slums, indicating that new Code Enforcement officers are focusing a big portion of their time on those areas.  He also talked about the recent budget surpluses, indicating that those extra dollars were applied to the dwindled reserves and also talked about new police hires and the increase in non-sworn PD members in response to complaints about low staffing levels by citizens.

PARKS AND REC. MEETINGS CHANGED WITHOUT COMMENT
The Consent Calendar had items that were pulled for separate discussion, despite Righeimer's often-stated preference that he'd rather not do that.  Again, we're not a dictatorship - yet - so some of them were pulled.  Among those that were passed without discussion was the item that changed the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting day - Thursdays instead of Wednesdays - and the fact that it will now meet EVERY month instead of every other month.  The commissioners are paid $100 per meeting, so they will get 9 paychecks this year - they missed January and February and will not meet in December.  You will recall I expressed concern about the need for doubling the number of meetings, but a conversation with a commissioner gave me better insight about what may be coming down the pike.  Things like a review of the Fairview Park Master Plan and the entire Parks and Recreation Program are apparently on the agenda.  That issue and the others not pulled passed, 5-0.

MORE ALCOHOL
Leece pulled the item that listed the 6 alcohol licenses just to point out the proliferation of such items.  Peter Naghavi, Director of Economic and Developement, indicated a representative from the ABC will present information at a study session soon.  The item passed 4-0 - Mensinger was on a walkabout somewhere.

MORE LEGAL FEES
Tamar Goldmann, once again, pulled the two warrants on the Consent Calendar to point out our rising legal costs which, following a short discussion, passed, 5-0.

CITY HALL FRESHENING
The last item on the Consent Calendar dealt with design services for the redesign of the City Hall lobby, Police Department lobby, directional signage and design concept for the City Clerk's office, Council Chambers and the utilization of the closed print shop space on the first floor of City Hall.  Communication Director Bill Lobdell led the discussion and the consultant architect from Doughery+Dougherty gave a presentation on the kind of work they've done for other cities recently.

RESIDENTS ASK "WHY?"
A lengthy discussion, including many comments by the public questioning why this expenditure is necessary at this time when members of the council continue to complain about a budget "crisis".  Hatch told us the dollars for this design phase and assessment was budgeted this year.  City Hall security was mentioned as one reason for considering changes - Righeimer told us "sometimes we have crazy people coming in here."  Geez.

COSTA MESA COFFEE SHOP
The issue of the abandoned Print Shop was interesting.  Council members mentioned what I heard as "copy shop" a couple times but, based on a comment by Mensinger indicating that there would be a Starbucks at that site, I guess they actually were saying "coffee shop".  It seems that certain people at City Hall are absolutely salivating about that 1300 square feet of "prime space".  Mention was made about using it as a community meeting room, to which Genis opined that was what the Neighborhood Community Center was used for.  Eventually the item passed, 3-2, with Leece and Genis voting no.

QUICK 2ND READING
At 8:40 we finally heard Old Business #1, the second reading of a recent ordinance dealing with Emergency Shelters and transitional living, which passed unanimously after a very short discussion.

HOMELESS STORAGE AND CAMPING
We then heard New Business #1, the change in the municipal code on confiscation and storage of abandoned personal items and camping in public places - an issue aimed squarely at the burgeoning homeless population that currently infests many public areas in the city - mainly Lions Park and environs.  The discussion ended an hour later with a 5-0 vote.  Genis indicated she will NOT vote affirmatively on the second reading unless more specific progress is made on our ability to store the belongings.  You can read the staff report HERE.  You can read Lauren Williams' coverage in the Daily Pilot HERE.

COMPASSION ON DISPLAY
The discussion reflected to me a council that is compassionate about the issue and who has worked hard with the community and faith-based organizations to manage the problem.  The Homeless Task Force was mentioned several times and community activists immersed in this issue spoke, including Larry Haynes, the Executive Director of Mercy House, and Becks Hayhoe, who heads up the Churches Consortium which presently provides storage facilities for homeless folks.  That group is apparently at 85% capacity at their facility at The Crossings Church.


LEGAL PITFALLS?
Genis was concerned about legal pitfalls in the confiscation, fines and fees to retrieve belongings, and what we will do with those things not claimed after 90 days.  Deputy City Attorney Elena Gerhli explained that the recent 9th Appellate Court decision in a Los Angeles case gave them a clear path and that she anticipated no legal problems.  We've heard that line before.

MEDIA HOG
Righeimer was all over the media yesterday on this issue - I heard him on the Bill Carroll Show on KFI just after noon.  He was so omnipresent yesterday that at least one local television outlet - NBC - sent a cameraman to cover the issue.  In that presentation he proclaimed what we are going to be doing to solve it - before the issue was vetted by the council and before ANY public comments had been heard.  That fact was pointed out during the meeting and Righeimer took exception, stating that he's always going to speak his piece to the media if he felt like it - he apparently feels unilateral decisions are part of his job description as Mayor.  No surprise to me...

WHERE TO STORE THE STUFF?
One of the stumbling blocks in this proposal is finding locations for storage of the items.  It is unreasonable, for example, to snatch up the belongings of homeless folks and store them at the Corporate Yard - miles away from Lions Park, for example.  This plan needs lots of fine tuning before it is actually implemented.  Much concern was expressed by council members, and Righeimer, specifically, about Costa Mesa becoming what he described as "Storage Heaven" for homeless folks.  He wants to fix the problem without becoming a haven for homeless.  Interestingly, one of the homeless people in the audience - a man named David Mason - stood and spoke on the issue, complaining about the distance he had to go to the current storage facility. 

FINALLY, THE GENERAL PLAN
At 9:55 we finally got to the very important discussion of the General Plan Update, Public Engagement and Land Use and Circulation Strategies, HERE.  By that time only a few residents were still present in the auditorium - maybe 15, at most.  The staff presentation, led by Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn and Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman, gave some history and requested direction from the council on several items.

PUBLIC OUTREACH PLANS
The most important, in my view, was the method to be used for public outreach.  The choices were the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) approach or the Greater Community Outreach Approach (GreatReach).  After much discussion with the consultant hired on a $600,000 contract to facilitate the General Plan Update and input from the community members still present the council decided to go with the GreatReach plan, which includes many workshops and public meetings that will give every member of the community a chance to provide input in real time.  Some concern was expressed that those meetings might turn out to resemble the ill-fated Charter meeting last year at which the attendees were directed to "experts" at locations around the room and no general questions were answered.  Assurances were given that the format for the General Plan meeting will allow every attendee to ask questions and hear all the answers.

WESTSIDE OVERLAY PLANS
The staff was directed to return with a tighter presentation on their proposal to abandon the three Westside overlay plans and fold the elements of each into a broader, more all-encompassing plan.  That received a lot of push back by council members and members of the public who reminded everyone of the hard work put in by residents many years ago coming up with those three distinct plans.

NODE OVERLAYS FOR PROBLEM MOTELS
There was also a discussion of the "node overlay" plans for every motel in the city.  Much push back was received on that plan, too, because not ALL the motels in the city are "problem motels".  The staff will fine-tune this plan, too.  All three segments were individually passed on 5-0 votes.

READ THE REPORT, CHECK THE TIMELINE
This is going to be a VERY interesting process.  I encourage you to read the staff report, look at the timeline provided and begin to make plans to attend the meetings and/or provide your input to the council on this VERY important document - our "constitution for development" for the next decade and beyond.

CONDOLENCES TO RIGHEIMER AND FAMILY
I can't close today without offering condolences to Mayor Jim Righeimer and his family on the passing of his father earlier this week.  He spoke of him often in public settings and I, for one, understand the loss of a parent.

CMPD Grabs Shotgun-toting Bandit Promptly

BANDIT CAPTURED
The Costa Mesa Police Department announced last night that they captured a shotgun-wielding bandit last Saturday night after he had robbed a man at an ATM machine on Baker Street in the Mesa North part of town.

QUICK THINKING
According to the report, the 18-year old robber - identified as Brian Gonzalez from Fontana - approached the 29-year old victim as he attempted to make a deposit and demanded he withdraw cash from the ATM.  The victim entered his PIN number and, while Gonzalez attempted to finish his withdrawal, dashed to his car, retrieved a can of mace and sprayed him.  The suspect turned and ran onto Coolidge and disappeared.

QUICK RESPONSE = QUICK ARREST
The victim called the police and the CMPD responded and was assisted by the Orange County Sheriff's Department helicopter and K9 units from Newport Beach and Cypress police departments.  While the search continued the CMPD received a call from a family member who was in touch with Gonzalez.  Eventually, after conversation with the CMPD via cell phone, Gonzalez turned himself in at the Carls, Jr. restaurant at 15th Street and Newport Blvd.  The shotgun was retrieved from a dumpster not far from the crime scene and the CMPD also secured the money Gonzalez had stolen - $20.  He is now in the Orange County jail with a $50,000 bail and is suspected of having committed similar crimes.

KUDOS TO THE CMPD
Great work by the CMPD and their law enforcement partners from local jurisdictions for the excellent police work and the prompt apprehension of this dangerous,  stupid, criminal.

OLD GRUMPY HOWLS INTO THE NIGHT
In an ironic twist, last night - at precisely the moment the CMPD issued the press release on this event - a grumpy old fella who lives in Mesa North and speaks frequently before the City Council - was in the midst of a tirade directed at the council about this very event.  He chided the council for not cleaning up the slums, from whence he presumed this bandit had sprung, and speculated that he was still at large, roaming the Mesa North neighborhood with his shotgun, waiting to rob someone else.  Apparently, when he heard the OCSD helicopter orbiting his neighborhood late Saturday night, old grumpy jumped into his car to see what was happening, but was stopped by police officers who were searching for the bandit.  This old fella, a racist who has attempted to use his prodigious communication skills for more than a decade to rid Costa Mesa of every face that's not white, left the meeting early, apparently satisfied that hearing his own voice was quite enough for him.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

City Needs Three Dozen Volunteers

SIX COMMITTEES NEED HELP
A reminder for you again that the City of Costa Mesa is actively recruiting community volunteers to serve on six (6) committees covering a variety of interests.

36 SLOTS AVAILABLE
The page on the city website, HERE, that announced this recruitment says 33 positions are available, but that was before they added three positions on the Costa Mesa Senior Center Corporation Board.

The positions available, by committee, are as follows:

  • Cultural Arts Committee - 6

  • Historical Preservation Committee - 5

  • Housing and Public Service Grant Committee - 6

  • Pension Oversight Committee - 9

  • Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee - 7

  • Costa Mesa Senior Center Corporation Board - 3
NINE DAYS LEFT
The page on the web site has contact numbers and application information.  The deadline for submission is 5:00 p.m., Thursday, March 28th.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Sad Day Of Remembrance

NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN
Today, Sunday, March 17, 2013 - St. Patrick's Day - marks a very sad anniversary for many Costa Mesans.  This is the second anniversary of what is arguably the darkest day in City government history - the day young maintenance worker Huy Pham leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall just prior to being handed a six-month layoff notice just as more than 200 of his fellow-workers had received that day.

AN EXCLAMATION POINT
Pham's death was not the beginning of difficult times for city employees, but it certainly was the exclamation  point on the events that day, so I feel it is appropriate to re-visit some of the events that occurred just before and subsequent to that day, so we don't forget what's been going on in our city for the past couple years.  I'm going to provide you with links back to some of the things I wrote during that time, and to some news reports, too.

A PRECURSOR OF EVENTS TO COME
On February 6, 2011 I wrote an entry, HERE, that discussed items on Study Session on February 8th included, among other things, the Mid-year budget review, the dissolution of the A.B.L.E. program, abandoning two vacant police officer positions, unfunded pension liabilities and outsourcing.  I was concerned - appropriately so.  I subsequently wrote on February 9th, HERE, my observations from that long, painful meeting.  As it turned out, that meeting was a wake-up call for those of us that watch city events closely.  But nobody could have predicted what happened next.

THE DEATH OF HUY PHAM
Late in the evening of Thursday, March 17, 2011, I wrote one of the most difficult entries on this blog in all the years I've been publishing it, HERE.  After more than six hours of trauma and angst, including three at City Hall where I spoke with many friends who worked in the building as they grieved at the death of Huy Pham, I gave you my account of events that day.

PRESS CONFERENCE AND BACKLASH
The next day I presented entries about the City-issued press release, HERE, and then-mayor Gary Monahan's prepared statement on the tragedy, HERE in which he tried to excuse his despicable behavior the day before when he refused to leave his pub on what he was quoted as saying was, "The biggest day of my life" to travel one mile to City Hall to comfort the employees and oversee the emergency response That same afternoon City officials held what may well be the lamest press conference in history, which you can watch in it's entirety HERE.  Local news media covered the tragedy and press conference HERE and HERE.  That night there was a spontaneous gathering of employees and residents at a candle-lit vigil at the parking lot of City Hall where Pham took his life.  I covered it HERE.
HEALING?  NOT REALLY
The following Monday, March 21st, I published an entry titled, "Today The Healing Began - Or Did It?", HERE, in which I covered the prayer vigil held by more than 100 residents that circled City Hall in a cold drizzle in honor of Huy Pham and the official City remembrance of Pham later that evening, after the skies had cleared.  Unfortunately, much as we hoped that healing was beginning that day, it didn't.  

LOBDELL

In the wake of the tragedy of St. Patrick's Day two years ago the City hired former Daily Pilot editor, Bill Lobdell, as a PR consultant and CEO Tom Hatch charged him with making Costa Mesa the most transparent city in the country.  I wrote about that HERE, mentioning that he had become the lightning rod for criticism.  That has not changed.  Lobdell had his contract extended a couple times, then was hired as an employee - one of many new positions in the Executive Offices on the 5th Floor of City Hall that caused many to speculate that the building might topple from being too top-heavy.  It was compounded by the departure of many, many senior staffers to other cities.  They took with them not only their expertise, but decades of institutional knowledge.  That trend continues to this day.

BRICKS AND BONEHEADS

A couple weeks later some idiot tossed a brick through Monahan's door, HERE, and the nation-wide media began to pay close attention to what was going on in our city.  An entry I wrote a few days later, HERE, chronicled the attitude of then-appointed councilman Steve Mensinger seemed to have about the people who spoke - many times angrily - before the councilOn May 5th I provided several quotes from the most recent council meeting that showed the growing anger in the community, HERE.  On May 12th The City issued even more layoff notices and the Orange County Employees Association demanded they be rescinded.  I wrote about it HERE.

A DIFFICULT MONTH
June turned out to be an even more contentious month.  As I observed HERE, Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit signed in and Los Angeles Times award-winning columnist Steve Lopez also began paying attention with the first of several columns on what was happening in our city.  On the 16th I reported the second investigation of Pham's death being launched, HERE.  On the 20th Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley - a man with more than 4 decades of police command experience - abruptly resigned in a huff, leaving behind a scathing indictment of the Costa Mesa elected leadership, HERE, and CEO Tom Hatch fired back at Staveley's accusations, HERE.  History has validated Staveley's criticism.  On the 21st I reported that an auditor the OCEA hired to assess Costa Mesa's financial situation reported that there was no "crisis", HERE and on the 26th I reported that the AirBorne Law Enforcement (A.B.L.E.) organization - the prototype for all civilian law enforcement helicopter programs - was shut down by the Costa Mesa City Council as a cost-cutting measure, HERE.  It was a VERY difficult month.

INJUNCTION
In July Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann affirmed the Preliminary Injunction on outsourcing, HERE.  She retired and the injunction was recently lifted by the successor judge.

PAINFUL AUGUST
August brought more pain.  I wrote HERE and HERE about the events of the most recent council meeting, where the tenor of the community as measured by the parade of angry comments to the council gave us a measure of feeling in our city.  On the 4th I reported, HERE, that the second investigation in to Huy Pham's death confirmed the first one - he jumped to his death.  On the 15th I told you about how the council, in their haste to purge employees from the roster, ignored Council Policy 100-6, which prescribed EXACTLY the procedure to be followed for shuttering of departments and laying off employees as a result, HERE.  And, on the 29th I reported that The New Yorker Magazine had dispatched one of their ace writers, Tad Friend, to Costa Mesa and that his report was available for reading, HERE.

ANGRY CROWDS

And the beat went on and on, with council chambers regularly being filled by anxious employees as the lawsuit lingered and the council continued to find ways around the rules.  A year ago I wrote a piece recognizing the first anniversary of that sad day, HERE and HERE and the City planted a tree in Pham's honor.

RIGHEIMER'S BOGUS CHARTER SCHEME
Righeimer, in a rush to change the very fabric of Costa Mesa Govenment, pushed too hard to get his self-serving Charter scheme before the voters on the June ballot.  Due to a series of gaffes that effort failed and, when the larger electorate was given the chance to consider it in November it was resoundingly defeated.


SO MANY WORDS...
Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about what has happened in Costa Mesa over the past couple of years in all forms of media.  An election happened last year that affirmed Mensinger's position on the council, but also gave us former mayor Sandra Genis - a hard-working person who does her homework on issues and shows up prepared to make good decisions based on facts, not dogma.  And Righeimer was elected mayor and the atmosphere at City Hall has not improved.  It remains a hostile workplace for many, despite the recent observation by Righeimer at a police department celebration that "this council supports the police 100%".

MAN OF FEW WORDS...
Activist Tom Egan provided a recent observation of our situation in a commentary in the Daily Pilot, HERE, which has generated much kickback in the forms of comments.

THE BEAT GOES ON AND ON
So, as we mark this sad anniversary, we expect Monahan will have booming business selling green beer without worrying about another employee leaping to his death.  Many of the rest of us will mark it with a moment of silence in honor of Huy Pham and for the beleaguered employees of the City of Costa Mesa.  Labor negotiations are about to begin using Mensinger's curious "COIN" ordinance for the first time - an ordinance which seems destined to bog-down negotiations.

REMEMBER
I think it's appropriate to close this much-too-long entry with a link to a song by the amazing Amanda Marshall that articulates how I feel about my friends who work for the City.  Thanks to them for continuing to soldier on, doing their jobs in a professional manner despite the hostile atmosphere in the building.  Click HERE and listen to the words as you contemplate the future of our city.   

Remember - I Believe In You.



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