Friday, August 09, 2013

Daily Pilot Describes CMPD Recruiting Problems

AN EXCELLENT REPORT
Today the Daily Pilot published online an article that will appear in print on Sunday titled, "Police: Politics harming recruitment", which drills down into the core problem Costa Mesa is having trying to recruit, test and hire new police officers.  You can read the article by Jeremiah Dobruck and Lauren Williams HERE.

HOW IT IS...
The first paragraph sets the tone - a reduced number of applicants and a tough political climate is hampering recruitment of police officers in The City.  Following the text of the article the authors provide statistical information to illustrate some of those facts.  In between we find some interesting rhetoric.

FORMER OFFICER SPEAKS OUT
The article, which does a very good job of explaining the issue, quotes an officer who left the department for another describing the city as, "a social experiment in overly radical political reform."  Sounds right to me.
  

THE MAYOR'S WARPED VIEW OF THE WORLD
Mayor Jim Righeimer, who has demonstrated his animosity against the CMPD over and over again, brushes off the supposition that the toxic political climate plays a part in recruitment difficulties.  He is quoted as saying, "The reality is there's a lot of great officers in really great departments who would love to work at Costa Mesa."  He goes on to say, "The idea is that there's only so many good officers available is self-inflicted."  Will someone please tell me what alternate universe Righeimer lives in, because he sure isn't living here!  I guess he thinks everyone makes up "facts" because that's how he operates.

THE CHIEF DISAGREES
Police Chief Tom Gazsi is quoted, in part, as saying, "It's proving to be a challenge, not only for us, but for other agencies as well to find qualified, suitable candidates.  It is a very competitive market right now."  Are you listening, Mayor?  Probably not.

OUTSIDE EXPERT CONCURS
If the word of our chief isn't good enough the Pilot reporters quote Mario Casas, president of the Orange County Training Managers Association, which represents more than 40 law enforcement agencies in Southern California, who agreed the market is competitive.

THE EXODUS CONTINUES
The article quantifies the numbers and ranks of officers who have left the department recently - 38 - and Gazsi expands on the problem by indicating with a quote from him last December indicating that he expected to lose "20 officers in an 18-month period".  We're half way there and his prediction is coming true.

RIGHEIMER WANTS BUMS AND DERELICTS FOR COPS
Later, during a discussion of the difficulty finding qualified applicants that can make it through the qualification process, Righeimer - questioning the standards that are used - is quoted as saying, "Who decides what's eligible?  I've asked before.  Some are good reasons, some aren't.  For someone to say, 'We're going to make the standard so high that anyone that is 27, 28 years old with a blemish in their life' is too high. ...I just think in general the standards need to be looked at and what's the reality."  So, I guess the mayor may want us to kill two birds with one stone - just go down to Lions Park, grab some of those 20-40 homeless guys that hang out there all day, every day, throw a blue uniform on them, hand them a gun and badge and turn them loose as Costa Mesa police officers.  Does the mayor REALLY want his family protected by marginally qualified glorified security guards?  There are plenty of examples of marginal officers in other jurisdictions that create major problems for their cities.

REALLY, STEVE?
There is a statement in the article that almost made me choke on my mashed potatoes.  The authors state, referring to Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, "Mensinger said he believes that he and Righeimer have the support of most of the CMPD's members, who undestand that pension benefits must be trimmed if they are to remain sustainable, but that a vocal minority is working behind the scenes to discredit proposed reforms."  Really, Steve?  Are you actually THAT out of touch?  If there is ONE member of the CMPD that supports these two guys and their plans I'll be VERY surprised.  If there are ANY members of the sworn force on the CMPD that DO support Righeimer and Mensinger's initiatives I want you to write to me privately using a verifiable email account to this address - thepotstirer@earthlink.net.  I won't publish what you say unless you give me your permission and will keep your correspondence confidential.  I really do want to hear from you.

STAVELEY WAS CORRECT
There is a discussion of the staffing levels being used today, which you can read in the article.  Mention is made of former interim chief (twice) Steve Staveley, who resigned in June of 2011, leaving behind a scathing letter criticizing the then-council.  You can read the text of that letter in this blog entry I posted at the time, HERE.  Staveley was right on the money then and is still correct.

SNOWDEN IS HEARD, TOO
The article also quotes former CMPD Chief Dave Snowden, now chief of the Beverly Hills Police Department, extensively.

THANKS TO THE PILOT...
Congratulations to Daily Pilot editor John Canalis and his staff for producing this excellent fact-filled piece.  It is refreshing to find such a thoroughly-vetted piece for our consideration.

...AND RASPBERRIES TO THE MAYOR AND PAL
And thanks to Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger for demonstrating, one more time, just how out of touch they are with the realities of the day, and how unwilling they are to consider any other view - regardless how factually supported, nor the qualifications of those who present it - except their own ignorant, biased view of the world.

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Important Meeting Schedule Conflicts Resolved

 PROBLEM SOLVED
An email this morning from the Costa Mesa Public Services Department announced the resolution of a meeting scheduling conflict that was brought up at the recent City Council meeting.  Both the General Plan Workshops and the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meetings were scheduled to occur at the same time, on the same day of the week.  According to the email that conflict has been resolves as follows:

FAIRVIEW PARK COMMITTEE MEETING MOVED
The next Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting has been moved to Monday, August 19, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 99 Fair Drive - adjacent to the Police Department.

NEW SCHEDULE STARTING IN SEPTEMBER
Beginning in September the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meetings will be held on the third Thursday of each month at 6:00 in Conference Room 1A - on the first floor of City Hall.

CALENDAR CHANGES FORTHCOMING
These changes have not yet been posted on the Community Calendar on the City web site, but that should happen soon.

PUPPET SHOW AND GENERAL PLAN MEETING
According to the City Calendar, the next General Plan meeting will be the Land Use Alternatives Workshop which will be held on the grass area on the lawn at City Hall near the EOC on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  There will be a live puppet show for children on the lawn adjacent to the meeting location so adults with children can attend.  Milk, cookies, hot chocolate and Starbucks coffee will be served.  Read about it HERE.  Kudos to The City for trying to find a way for busy families to participate in this VERY important process.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

City's "Offer" Released By The CMCEA

EMPLOYEES "SUCKER-PUNCHED" BY CITY OFFER
The Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) released the contents of the contract presented by The City at a meeting Tuesday.  To call it a sucker punch would be putting it mildly.  You can read about it HERE.



AGREEMENT GUTTED LIKE A FLOUNDER
In a nutshell, The City basically gutted the existing agreement with the employees.  The low points of the proposal are as follows:
  • Two year contract.
  • An immediate 5 percent pay cut for existing employees, and a 10 percent reduction in pay scale for newly-hired employees.
  • An additional 5 percent pay cut for top-step employees who do not receive an “outstanding” performance evaluation.
  • Increase retirement contributions immediately by more than 5 percent the first year, and more for the second year.
  • Employees pay all future health care cost increases.
  • Eliminate salary benchmarking with other public sector agencies. The City’s proposal purports to adopt a private sector approach, but admits that no comprehensive surveys of comparable private sector compensation exist.
  • Eliminate requirement that employees be given any advanced notice if they are going to be laid off, as well as any hire-back rights.
 SPITTING IN THEIR FACES
As you read that list, keep in mind that the employees have not had a pay increase for several years and have participated in furlough days to help The City through the rough patch.  Not only does this proposal NOT recognize the contributions and cooperation of the employees over the past 5-6 years of economic hardship, but it spits in their faces.


NOW ADVERSARIES, NOT PARTNERS

Clearly, The City has chosen to abandon the long-standing collaborative approach experienced in past years.  The City leadership has chosen to take an adversarial approach, which will very likely result in a failed negotiation and the imposition of "impasse" in the process.

WE'LL SEE
The next meeting is scheduled for September 10th, at which time the CMCEA will respond to the proposal.  I'm not encouraged...

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More Trouble Brewing At City Hall?

SENIOR STAFFERS PLACED ON LEAVE
Sources have confirmed that Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce and his assistant, Christine Cordon, were placed on administrative leave late Tuesday afternoon. No information was given about the reason for these actions.


NO MORE INFORMATION AVAILABLE NOW
Because this is a personnel matter, no further information is available at this time and all questions have been referred to Assistant Chief Executive Officer Rick Francis, acting on behalf of the vacationing CEO Tom Hatch.

CURIOUS COINCIDENTAL TIMING

The timing of this situation is interesting, because at about the same time Joyce and Cordon received the word, resident and 60th Anniversary Committee member Sue Lester was speaking out during Public Comments at the council meeting last night, expressing concerns about possible violation of City rules, requesting contract and other financial information about the 3-day 60th Anniversary event and addressing other failings she perceived during that event involving treatment of volunteers.


THE CHAIRMAN WAS SURPRISED

I've spoken with 60th Anniversary Celebration Chairman Mike Scheafer about this issue.  He was surprised to hear of the personnel actions and said he had not been contacted about it.


WILL WE EVER KNOW?

So, more drama at Costa Mesa City Hall.  We can now all speculate about what went on, whether there is a financial scandal brewing and how far up the food chain at City Hall it might reach, but will likely not know all the facts, even if there is an investigation.  That's a shame, particularly if the issue involves use of public funds.

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A "Short" Meeting Goes Long...

TERRIBLE TIME MANAGEMENT
Tuesday night what should have been a very short Costa Mesa City Council meeting stretched out to nearly double the length of time it should have taken.  It began a half-hour late because the council was delayed in their closed session - probably talking about the negotiations that took place with the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) earlier in the day. Read Brad Zint's coverage HERE.

WELL-DESERVED AWARD
When it finally got started Mayor Jim Righeimer presented his Mayor's Award to Randy Garell, President of The Grant Boys store on Newport Blvd.  The store has served the community for decades and is one of the oldest remaining businesses in the old Downtown area.  Garell is shown here with the award given to him by Righeimer.

MORE ANNIVERSARY FUN COMING UP
Then 60th Anniversary Committee member Charlene Ashendorf made a pitch for the upcoming Scarecrow Festival on October 12th and 13th.  The community is invited to participate in the creation of scarecrows, which will be displayed at Goathill Junction - the model train venue at Fairview Park.  Classes will be held to train folks on how to create scarecrows.   See the following flyer (click on the image to enlarge) on the event and/or visit their website at http://www.costamesahistory.org/scarecrow.htm


CONCERN ABOUT ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION FINANCES
During Public Comments, along about 7:30, several people rose to speak on a variety of issues, but the first one out of the chute was Sue Lester, a member of the 60th Anniversary Committee, who expressed concern that city policies may have been violated and no accounting of the finances of the 3-day celebration in June has yet been made.  She also was concerned about the survey form distributed to the volunteers, indicating that it was much to complicated.

FAIRVIEW PARK AND BUSINESS LICENSE TAX
Other speakers expressed concern for the future of Fairview Park, including the model trains, and Robin Leffler complained that the Finance Advisory Committee had recently given short shrift to the consideration of a modification of the Business License Tax.

NEW EMPLOYEE WEB SITE
Jennifer Muir, representing the CMCEA, mentioned the current negotiations and introduced the council and audience to the new web site recently created to keep the public informed about the negotiations, HERE.

GARY'S OLD BUDGET
During Council Member Comments Gary Monahan actually participated again for the second meeting in a row.  He brought with him a "show and tell" item - a tri-fold document that looked from the audience vantage point like a restaurant menu, but was, in fact, the City of Costa Mesa budget for the 1965-1966 year.  He read some of the entries.

HUBRIS ON DISPLAY
Righeimer went to great lengths to compliment himself for two successful "Meet the Mayor" events within the past couple weeks.  He indicated that he hoped to hold more of them in residents homes, so folks could just walk a couple blocks to hear him speak.  Humility has never been one of his strengths.

"REGISTRATION" REEKS
As he told us about the concern expressed by some Eastside neighbors about the proliferation of rehab homes around town, he mentioned that the previously-discussed Nuisance Ordinance was being re-vamped and a streamlined version would be presented to the council at the September 3rd meeting.  He also mentioned a "Registration" policy, that theoretically would permit city officials to do a headcount at unlicensed group homes, so we could keep track of who lived there.  When I heard that I got just a little nervous, since unlicensed group homes - those with six or fewer "clients" - are treated just as any other family home in our city.  I found myself wondering if this "Registration" scheme might unleash Code Enforcement staffers who may begin pounding on doors throughout the city.  It smelled very much like the Gestapo to me.  I hope the contract legal firm does a good job of vetting this situation before we find ourselves in yet another legal quagmire.


MENSINGER'S MUTTERINGS
Steve Mensinger complimented the Costa Mesa Foundation, a member of which spoke earlier to report on the success of the Concerts In The Park series this summer, and asked Assistant CEO Rick Francis - substituting for the vacationing CEO Tom Hatch - to ask two other community organizations to present before the council on September 3rd, too.  He also addressed the concern one speaker had about Lions Park and a specific event there recently when a city staffer was attacked by a deranged homeless person.  Mensinger said he drives by the park every day - he's just got to get a job one of these days.

MEETING SCHEDULING
Sandra Genis also thanked the Costa Mesa Foundation and then expressed concern for the conflicting schedules for upcoming important meetings.  It seems that the next General Plan meeting and the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee are both scheduled to meet at the same time.  She was also concerned about "steps" that had been carved out of a hill at Fairview Park.


PARKS, HOMELESS AND BOBBY YOUNG
Wendy Leece had a long laundry list of items, including the Concerts In The Park; the conditions at Lions Park (she suggested consideration be given to providing "greeters" at the park to manage the homeless folks); the meeting schedule conflict (she suggested moving the Fairview Park Committee meeting); the broader homelessness problem and the role the folks of the Churches Consortium are playing and, finally, she recognized outgoing Finance and Information Technology Director, Bobby Young, for his dedication and professionalism and service to the City as he departs for the private sector on August 23rd.  Last night was his final City Council meeting - and it will be one to remember.  More on that later.

NEW FIRE CHIEF RECRUITMENT
Francis, standing in for Hatch, reported that the recruitment process for a new permanent Fire Chief is moving along and that Hatch will very likely make his decision upon his return from vacation later this month.  He also expanded on the issue of the Lions Park attack by the homeless person.  He told us Vanguard University - next door neighbors at City Hall - has a new President.


SPLITTING UP YOUNG'S JOB
Francis also mentioned the General Plan Workshop coming up, and indicated this one will include a puppet show for the children and refreshments by Starbucks.  And, he also acknowledged Bobby Young and mentioned that they will be splitting off the Information Technology segment of his job and will be looking for two people to replace him - one in Finance and one in IT.  I thought that was VERY interesting.

APPEAL FEE RETURNED
They finally got to the Consent Calendar and three items were pulled for separate discussion.  Gary Monahan pulled item #6, the reimbursement of the appeal fee for the Catalina Shores Homeowners Association.  After a short discussion it was approved, 4-1, with Monahan voting NO.

SLOWING 19TH STREET
Wendy Leece pulled Item #7, the request for the use of grant funds to design traffic calming measures for East 19th Street similar to those installed last year on Broadway.  There was significant discussion on this issue, ranging from the lack of data on the Broadway project to measure its effectiveness to our ability to install such measures on 19th Street because it's on the Master Plan of Highways.

DICEY NAVIGATION PROBLEMS
During the discussion comments were made about the narrowness of the streets at the corners, with some speakers concerned about the safety of navigating around them.  Righeimer, in fact, admitted he had scuffed a planter or two while driving around the area.

EASTSIDERS LIKE BROADWAY
Several Eastside residents rose to speak favorably about the Broadway project, including Syndy Neyland, a member of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group, who praised the new beauty of the street, the quiet they now experience due to the rubberized pavement and the safety of the street.  Realtor Jeff McConville, President of that group and a resident of East 19th Street, also spoke in favor of the plan, but expressed concern that there should be something planned to preclude the traffic form squeezing over into neighboring streets - like Magnolia, Flower and 18th Street.   Eventually the item passed, 5-0.

NEW COMPUTERS, AGAIN
Then came the most interesting, and frustrating, item of the evening - Item #9, the purchase of 435 new computers for use throughout the city.  Keep in mind that this council had previously approved this item back in May and the only reason it was back before them is because the successful vendor back then had neglected to include sales tax in his bid.  He refused to work with the city on the issue, so staff brought the item back with a different successful bidders numbers - slightly more than the previous bid.

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
What happened then was like something out of Alice in Wonderland.  It was though we'd had a time warp and the council was re-hashing the entire concept again, not just the new bid.  Monahan said he didn't understand why we should replace all the computers at one time, even though this whole thing was explained back in May.  Mensinger suggested that we go back and get computers that included touch screen technology, even though Young explained to the council that the use of touch screens is much less efficient than the standard keyboards.

THEY JUST DON'T GET IT!
And round and round it went, even discussing which operating system should be used, even though the staff had used a consultant to help identify the specific systems that would work best for the City.  Council members were concerned about buying "obsolete" equipment, even though most of the computers being replaced are 10 years old - that's several lifetimes in computer years.

EVEN FRANCIS COULDN'T HELP
Francis intervened, attempting to help the council to understand the methodology that went into making the decision and the hours of staff and consultant time that was spent sorting this all out.  Again, this was all discussed in May.  The council has previously budgeted a complete overhaul of the network backbone throughout all city operations and this new batch of computers will facilitate the installation of that infrastructure.

RIGHEIMER KILLED THE DEAL
There seemed to be a major disconnect with the male members of the council on this issue.  The deal was doomed when Righeimer said he'd had some misgivings over the past couple weeks, but he didn't articulate what those misgivings were.  That was straight out of the old Allan Mansoor playbook and it seemed VERY peculiar.  It made me wonder if he might have a buddy in the computer business that needs a job.  Sorry, but his performance in the past makes me suspicious of his motives.


A PARTING SHOT
So, after all that micro-managing discussion - and in a final slap in the face to Bobby Young on his way out the door - the council voted, 2-3, to not move forward with the purchase.  I don't have to tell you who voted which way.  So, it's back to the old drawing board for whomever is left on the staff to worry about it.  The meeting finally adjourned at 9:00, making it too late for any of us who wished to dash over to the National Night Out celebration at the Target parking lot.

OFF-ROAD WITH THE MAYOR
I did end my evening at City Hall with a chuckle, though.  As I sat in my car getting ready to depart I noticed Righeimer driving out of the parking lot and bounce his car over one of the curbs marking a parking spot.  And I didn't even see him with a Diet Coke all evening!  It just seemed somehow appropriate for the evening.  The next council meeting is September 3rd - the day following the long Labor Day holiday weekend.


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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Negotiations Start - City Offer "Draconian"

FINALLY, NEGOTIATIONS BEGIN
Today the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA), led by President Helen Nenadal, and the City of Costa Mesa began negotiations on a new contract.  The existing contract expired the end of March, 2013.



"DRACONIAN AND UNPRECEDENTED"
In a press release today the association spokeswoman Jennifer Muir announced that, "During the first session of negotiations today, the City presented CMCEA with a draconian and unprecedented initial proposal that attempts to completely destroy the relationship that the City has built with its employees over the last 60 years."

NEW WEB SITE
The association also announced the creation of a new web site, Costa Mesa Works, that can be reached HERE.  They plan to keep their membership and residents appraised of any progress in the negotiations on this site.  When you click on that link you'll find today's press release for your reading pleasure.

ANTICIPATED ANIMOSITY

I'm not surprised that the City's offer - which will be discussed in detail later, once the employees have been briefed on it later this week - was found to be lacking.  From what I understand at this point, and the details of which I hope to share later, not only is this less than was hoped for, but it is an in-your-face rejection of the collaborative efforts made by both the City and the CMCEA over the past years.  This pit bull approach by City negotiator Richard Kreisler is consistent with his reputation and certainly is supported by the current anti-employee council majority.

NEXT SESSION IN SEPTEMBER
We'll do our best to keep you informed as negotiations continue and as Steve Mensinger's COIN ordinance kicks in.  The next negotiating session is on September 10, 2013.

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