Campaign Lies And Some Perspective
THE LIES ARE ARRIVING IN YOUR MAILBOXES
The end of last week, in many mailboxes around town, there arrived a campaign mailer that clearly indicates it came from Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger. I've reproduced it in this entry for you. You can read it at the top of the page that includes the mailing address. It says, "Paid for by Steve Mensinger for Costa Mesa City Council 2016," and includes the return address for what apparently is his campaign office in Santa Ana. That was the last time the reader would see the truth.
EDITED FOR A FALSE IMPACT
Then you'll come to this page: (Click on it to read the numbers more clearly if need be)
OK, let's dispel the lies on this one. First, the liars who put this thing together couldn't even read the Employee Compensation Report from the City website accurately. You'll find the page from which they extracted this data HERE, on page 2 of the 2015 Employee Compensation Report. If you carefully examine that page you'll see that they managed to overlook one firefighter while scavaging data with which they are trying to pillory Costa Mesa firefighters. That's beside the point.
DELETIONS ARE A LIE, TOO
As they put this bit of misinformation together they conveniently left out the columns that show how many overtime hours and how much each firefighter was paid for that overtime and they left out of the equation the city contribution towards health benefits. And, no mention is made of the employee's contribution to his retirement - all of which was available, but inconvenient for them to show.
REMOVE FRED FROM THE EQUATION
Let's talk about the numbers, but first, remove retired Battalion Chief Fred Seguin - as dedicated firefighter as we've ever had, who literally wore every hat available in the department during his career - because he was in an administrative job working a different kind of shift - 8-5, five days a week - worked almost no overtime and his numbers are skewed by the fact that he received more than $50,000 in vacation/sick leave payout when he retired.
OVERTIME IS STAGGERING, BUT REQUIRED
That leaves the fourteen others shown on this chart. Those men worked an average of 1,166 hours of overtime for the year, which averaged $71,368.72 per man. It was nearly a million dollars in overtime pay for just those fourteen for calendar year 2015. The second man on the list, Fire Captain Mike Hurd, worked 1,662 hours of overtime and was paid $99,106.36 for those hours! He worked nearly an equivalent of another full job in overtime hours. Do you REALLY think he wanted to do that? Preposterous!
FINAL COLUMN IS THERE TO MAKE YOU ANGRY, NOTHING MORE
That final column, Total Pay And Benefits, combines the total of all pay categories PLUS the employers pension contribution towards retirement. In Hurd's case, that was $ 78,389.09. It's NOT cash in his pocket. To reach that number you must take the total in the final column and subtract that $78,389.09 AND the city's contribution to his health benefits - $6,672.12 - and any state and federal withholding taxes.
SOME MORE INFORMATION
So, let's take a look at another couple charts. The first takes those 15 men and includes the scheduled hours and overtime hours each worked. This one will knock your socks off. Regularly scheduled hours for Costa Mesa Firefighters is 2912 hours. (click on the image to enlarge it)
LOOK AT THE TOTAL HOURS WORKED!
The second isolates the section of the chart showing hours and overtime hours plus the TOTAL hours each worked. Most folks working a 5-day a week job, 8 hours each day, will work 2080 hours in a year. You'll notice these 15 men work much more than that - some well over 4,000 hours in a year! That's two jobs worth of hours!
Much of the overtime they worked was required due to the insufficient staffing of the department. Some of that is predictable and is scheduled a month in advance. Much of it, though, is NOT predictable - a colleague calls in sick so a firefighter will be held over to work another 24 hour shift. The only choice they had was either work the overtime and help keep us safe, or NOT work the overtime. And, in actuality, they don't have that last option... they MUST work the overtime - sometimes a thousand hours per year or more away from their families. Could, or would, you do that? I think not.
CALLS UP, STAFFING DOWN
In 2009 the Costa Mesa Fire Department had 96 firefighters budgeted to protect our neighborhoods. That year they responded to 9.100 calls. In 2015 they responded to nearly 13,000 calls with only 66 firefighters available to fill 72 budgeted positions! Calls were up 42% while the number of firefighters available to respond to them dropped 25%.
DEBUNKING ANOTHER LIE
Let's talk about that "10.1" days worked a month. Costa Mesa Firefighters have a work schedule common in the firefighting business. They work one day on, one day off, one day on, one day off, one day on, then four days off. It begins all over again after that. Their shifts typically begin at 7:30 a.m. and ends 24 hours later. In October of this year a firefighter might "work" 11 twenty-four hour shifts. However, that's not how it typically goes. I scrolled down that list I linked to above - all 766 line entries of employees, Active, Retired or Terminated, at the end of 2015. EVERY single firefighter worked some overtime, except Chief Dan Stefano, and I suspect his actual work hours would stagger most of us, but he's not eligible for overtime.
Let's talk about those "greedy" firefighter's pensions, shall we? Here's some numbers provided to me for your reading pleasure. It compares the Police, which work a fairly normal work week - you could probably compare to most of your jobs, too - to the Costa Mesa Firefighters. I think you'll find them interesting.
BUT, BUT, BUT... THEY SLEEP, TOO!
"Well", you huff, "Even though they're "on duty" for 24 hours at a stretch, not all that time is spent fighting fires or rescuing cats!" You're correct - some of it is spent doing fire inspections, training, polishing the equipment, visiting schools, cooking and sleeping. However, when that bell goes off they must respond instantly! We're told the response time to emergencies in our city is supposed to be 5 minutes or less. Imagine bouncing out of bed from a sound sleep and staring into a roaring blaze five minutes later! Imagine trying to read a map after jumping out of bed a minute earlier. Imagine the paramedic trying to insure he gives you the correct dosage of medicine 10 minutes after rolling out of bed. These are VERY SPECIAL people, performing VERY SPECIAL jobs.
POOR JUDGMENT... AND MAYBE MORE
Because of the poor judgment of the current council majority we are running six fire stations but are staffed for only five. Because of the poor judgment of the current council majority we bought six Rescue Ambulance for around $1.6 million a couple years ago, but that majority refuses to let us deploy all of them, choosing to continue the contract with CARE Ambulance instead. That decision not only adversely affects the efficiency of the department and the safety of the public, we are leaving more than $3 million in transport fees on the table for CARE Ambulance to scoop up and take home. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer even lied about approving the purchase!
AND MORE LIES...
On the page with the chart above Mensinger lies about the firefighters spending $400,000 to defeat his slate. That's a lie.
...ON TOP OF LIES
Finally, on this page of the flyer Mensinger begins with a lie - that previous councils "squandered" our $35 million surplus. That surplus - the reserves squirreled away by wise administrations to get us through tough times - did just that. They got us through the economic downturn that began in 2007. He says "Today we're stronger than ever without raising taxes!" Well, yeah! If you budget to fill your full compliment of staff, then intentionally fail to fill those slots, you'll certainly have some money left at the end of the fiscal year. In the meantime, public safety - both police and fire - are operating well below even marginally satisfactory levels of staffing! Another lie!
POTHOLES BEFORE PUBLIC SAFETY
He raves about paving roads, fixing alleys and curbs and gutters while public safety - and the safety of the public - suffers. Poor priorities, at the very least.
NO... THEY DIDN'T!
He says he "established pension reform to guarantee our employees' retirement will be funded, and are paying down our unfunded liabilities". Well, they didn't and they are not. His pal, Jim Righeimer, has stated many times that he's not sending another cent to Sacramento on the pension debt.
MOTELS ARE A SMOKESCREEN FOR DEVELOPER PROFITS
He bleats about working hard to shut down the sleazy motels, but that's all smoke and mirrors to feather the nests of his developer-buddies who want to buy the land on the cheap after Mensinger and his pals squeeze the owners with code enforcement, fire and police calls and penalize them if the calls for service are made. Heck, Righeimer told us a couple years ago that was his plan - to cause the motel owners to take a "more realistic" look at the value of their properties.
DEVELOPER BUCKS PAY FOR LIES
While we're on that subject, a person who looked into that issue found that one of the main sources of money behind the anti-Measure Y (the Smart Growth Initiative) movement is a law firm in Los Angeles with no ties - except cash - to our city. And we've also seen quantified developer contributions in excess of $100,000 to defeat that issue.
LIES HAVE BECOME A WAY OF LIFE FOR THEM
Lies, lies and more lies. Mensinger is following in the footsteps of Righeimer and has become a spontaneous liar. Righeimer has been deemed by the courts to be a liar - maybe Mensinger wants that mantle, too.
MENSINGER WILL LIE ABOUT ANYTHING TO GET RE-ELECTED
It's very clear to me, and it should be to every voter in this city, that Steve Mensinger will do ANYTHING to retain his seat on the city council - including publishing such scurrilous flyers as this one. The only way to hold him accountable is to boot him out on his butt.
WHO GAVE PERMISSION FOR THE IMAGE?
And, by the way, who gave him permission to use that image on his flyer? That photo was paid for with city funds. You can find it on his page on the city website.