Friday, April 17, 2009

Mansoor To Run For 68th Assembly Seat - Big Whoop!

Here in Costa Mesa our young jailer/mayor announced recently that he's going to be a candidate for the California State Assembly seat currently occupied by Van Tran. That seat, which represents the 68th District, will be vacated
because Tran is termed out in 2010. Mansoor is termed out of his Costa Mesa city council seat at the same time.

Those of us who keep an eye on Mansoor are not surprised by this announcement. He actually made it in a taped interview on Costa Me
sa Television, Channel 24, last month. There had been much speculation over the past couple years about Mansoor's political future at the end of his term in Costa Mesa. Some of us who have watched him closely ever since he was first elected to the city council hoped he would pack it in and not infest yet another political position with his presence. Alas, it is not to be.


is no slam dunk for the 68th Assembly seat. Even though he's been the darling of the Orange County Republican Party hierarchy ever since he decided to mount an anti-immigrant campaign in Costa Mesa, the constituency he would represent in the 68th has a much broader ethnic diversity. He will almost certainly be opposed by at least one strong candidate from within the Vietnamese-American community in the district. It also has a significant population of Latino voters, which will cause him some trouble.


An Orange County Deputy Sh
eriff in his "day job", Mansoor has demonstrated an inflexibility and cultural bias through his actions over the past almost 7 years. He became a national poster boy for the anti-immigrant sentiment that swept across the country a couple years ago. His smiling face was all over the media, where his mantra gave folks all over the country the impression that Costa Mesa was a haven of redneck bigots, intent on running every brown face out of town.

So strong
was his presence in that movement that he was anointed an honorary "Minuteman" by the Grand Pooba of the Minuteman Project organization, Jim Gilchrist, who also became a major player in Mansoor's run for re-election. He, and other frothing Minuteman activists stood before the Costa Mesa City Council meeting after meeting, praising Mansoor's "brave" stand. Wackos from Alta Loma, Upland and other parts of the hinterland trekked to Costa Mesa to support Mansoor's philosophy.

That festering boil came to a head at the City Council meeting on January 3, 2
006, when Mansoor violated the rights of Latino activist Benito Acosta by cutting his time short of the normal 3 minutes, not permitting him to finish his comments and by refusing to permit his followers to stand and be recognized - a courtesy he had afforded Gilchrist just a brief 30 minutes earlier. The meeting deteriorated as Mansoor called a recess and then-police chief John Hensley directed that Acosta be dragged from the podium and out of the auditorium. Criminal charges were filed against Acosta, but were subsequently dismissed when the city attorney botched his job. The civil trial ACLU filed on Acosta's behalf is pending, scheduled now to begin in July. That case could end up costing the city a judgment in 6 or 7 figures.

Mansoor has demonstrated a stubborn, irresponsible anti-tax stre
ak which, while admired by some, has put the city into a terrible financial condition. Last year he led the majority on the council as they chose not to present to the voters on the ballot a chance to increase the city's Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Presently, at 6%, Costa Mesa is far and away the lowest in Orange County and the state. The average TOT charge in Orange County is just over 10%. By bumping the tax to that level the city could have realized an increase in revenue of around $4 million annually. That number would have made our current budget crises a little easier to manage.

He also brushed aside discussions of increasing the city's business license tax, currently also among the lowest in the county. Right now the business license fee is capped at $200 - a laughable number when compared to neighboring cities.
Even local business owners chuckle when they think about it.


His short-sightedness has greased the skids of financial instability for our city and certainly raises questions about his worthiness for even higher office.


Mansoor has shown signs of intolerance for years, beginning when he, as a member of the city's Human Relations Committee, posted controversial anti-gay entries on a local web-based bulletin board. So vile were some of the posts on that site that the Orange County Human Relations Commission got wind of it and stuck it's nose under the tent. They began monitoring the posts on that site and, when comb
ined with a three-part series about the site by the Daily Pilot, the operators of the site couldn't take the light of day and decided to shut down.

Subsequently, as a member of the city council, Mansoor spearheaded the disbanding of the Human Relations Committee - a group of volunteers who had served the city with distinction for nearly two decades. The
council first de-funded the committee, then - without notice or a simple "thank you" for the service provided - disbanded the committee.


Each year the Orange County Human Relations Commission reports to
the City Council on the status of intolerance within the city. This is simply an advisory presentation, usually made to the council at the beginning a meeting. Following the most recent presentation Mansoor stated emphatically from the dais that he wasn't interested in hearing any more of those reports. Such is the mindset of our young jailer/mayor.


Today the City of Costa Mesa sent out a press release telling us that Mayor Mansoor has proclaimed May 1st as Loyalty Day in Costa Mesa. This is a day when residents are encouraged to reaffirm their loyalty to the United States and recognize the heritage of American freedom. I'm sorry, but I just couldn't help but smirk as
I read Mansoor's name in the same sentence with "loyalty". This is the same guy who, following his re-election, turned his back on loyal "improver" foot soldier Paul Bunney who had applied for a seat on the Planning Commission. Instead of appointing Bunney - a long-time supporter - he rejected his candidacy not once, but three times and then appointed carpetbagger Jim Righeimer instead. Righeimer, some will recall, had only moved to Costa Mesa a few months earlier and was a good buddy of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher - a huge supporter of Mansoor's re-election campaign. It was a profound act of political pay back and a clear act of disloyalty to a long-time friend and supporter.


I, for one, think Mansoor's candidacy for the 68th Assembly seat will be an interesting race to watch. Will the OC GOP -
assuming they've got a malleable, not-too-bright guy that they can manipulate whenever they choose - overlook his limited education, lack of intellectual horsepower, questionable judgment and poor political instincts and still lavish him with support? It will be interesting to see. I suppose there will be things to write about on this race over the next couple of years.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Budget Direction Provided - The Clock Is Ticking

I'm experiencing one of those "chicken or egg" moments... I don't know which came first - this darn cold I've been fighting several days or plowing through the staff report for Tuesday's council meeting over the weekend. In any event, digging through all the details of that report and it's numerous attachments is enough to make anyone ill, so that's where I'll place the blame.

I did, indeed, spend a big part of my weekend trying to make sense of the proposals presented. I al
so spent some time chatting with a senior member of the city finance staff late in the week, clarifying some of the questions I had. You can plow through the agenda yourself if you wish, HERE.

Tuesday's meeting was not a surprise - except for the fact that that Eric Bever wasn't in attendance. It didn't make any difference, though. In the case of split votes, Katrina Foley was alone against the other three. With Bever there it would have been four.


The counc
il meeting played to nearly a packed house with, according to trusted sources in attendance, a large number of city employees. This, of course, is understandable - some of their jobs are on the line. As the evening progressed and speakers stood to voice their views it was clear that the firefighters are going to be a tough sell. Current and former leaders of the firefighter's association stood and spoke with passion and implied that the city was not acting honorably - that it had given it's word on which firefighters had based major life plans, a new home, marriage, etc. - and now was trying to back out of the deal.

Foley clearly struck a chord with a majority of the attendees as several of her suggestions and comments brought raucous clapping.

Early in the proceedings our young jailer/mayor Allan Mansoor - who affirmed the ru
mor of his run for Van Tran's Assembly seat today - asked City Attorney Kim Barlow whether his suggestion of the reduction of council members salaries would be considered tonight. He was told that it's on the agenda next week, but wouldn't make any difference anyhow, since any change in council salary can only be considered at the time new council members are seated - in this case 2010. He knows that, but I guess he thinks he needs to make some kind of a meaningless statement. What a grandstanding hypocrite!


During his presentation City Manager Allan Roeder told the council and the rest present in the auditorium that, assuming their budget recommendations are put into place, the city will be at staffing levels he had not seen for more than 20 years. At the beginning of the FY 08/09 city staffing was at 611. The head count if the proposed 10-point plan is adopted will be 545. Those 66 positions lost were the accumulation of the 18 eliminated or held vacant in 11/08; 23 laid off via the 5% budget cuts and an estimated 25 eliminated due to early retirement incentive program.

The upshot of the meeting was that the council directed staff to move forward with the 10-point plan they presented to the council for it's consideration. That was fine and a good place to start. However, it got more complicated after that.

Katrina Foley adamantly insisted that she wanted to come out of this process with a balanced budget that took no jobs. She said she felt it was possible to do that by digging through the details of the attachments for cost reduction opportunities and through greater use of the fund balance. Well, in prior years, she might have been right, but this is a whole new ballgame. The city staff has spent weeks attempting to find ways to come up with a balanced budget without the necessity of cutting jobs. I don't think Foley will find something they've missed. The fund balance will be utilized to fund the 08/09 budget to the tune of more than $15 million, despite very significant adjustments accomplished at the end of December. The current proposal by City Manager Allan Roeder and his staff includes the use of almost $3 million in fund balance, which will leave very little left in the kitty.

As other council members began to cherry-pick specific issues from the various attachments it looked as though the staff will be in for a lot more work than they anticipated, attempting to negotiate with unions where appropriate and blending the individual choices selected by council members into something resembling a viable budget. Time is of the essence, since City Manager Allan Roeder was quite clear - that they WOULD have a balanced budget by the due date of July 1, 2009.

So, here's what the council approved Tuesday night:

1. Reduce department operating budget by an additional 5.0% (resulting in an average reduction of 10% from the prior fiscal year which will require elimination of approximately 23 full-time positions) Est. $6,318,134.

2. Negotiated reduction in employee compensation equating to approximately 5.0% of salary. Est. $3,623,663.

3. Reduction of $1 million dollars in non-reimbursable overtime for Police and Fire Departments. Est. $1,000,000.

4. Negotiated suspension of minimum manning requirements in the Fire department in order to accomplish the aforementioned reduction in overtime.

5. Seek Federal Stimulus funding for ten police officer positions to be eliminated due to Police department budget reductions. Est. $1,052,010.

6. Offer PERS Retirement incentive to create vacancies to (a) reduce the number of per
sonnel that may be laid off as a result of reductions in departmental operating budgets and (b) create additional vacancies needed for budgetary purposes (assumes total of 50 employees opting to retire of which 25 positions would be eliminated). Est. $3,485,000.

7. Suspension or termination of the Retiree Health Savings Plan (Contributions are comprised of 1% by Employer and 1% by Employee). Est. $508,764.

8. Implement various cost recovery programs including resident EMS fees, inspection fees, and Police and Fire Cost Reimbursement Fees. Est. $959,700.

9. Renegotiate/extend the Golf Course Operator's agreement for a greater share of revenues and institute formula adjustments to the greens fees. Est. $244,850.

10. Utilization of undesignated unreserved General Fund fund balance. Est. $2,900,000.

Total estimated budgetary reductions and new revenues amount to $20,092,121.


There's a whole lot of negotiating involved in some of these items. If any of these prove to be unworkable, then cost savings must come from somewhere else. For example, if the employee unions balk at re-opening talks then they effectively shove the city into a corner. They will be left with very few alternatives, and none that come close to meeting budget requirements, except to lay off significant numbers of staff members.

The clock is ticking of this budget mess. The city must have a balanced budget by July 1st. That means a lot of work by the staff to massage and mold the choices presented to them by the council.

One thing is sure - there will be more than a few unhappy city employees by the end of June.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Revisiting Memory Lane

Today I find myself immersed in thoughts about the budget crisis
our city faces and the decisions our elected leaders will face at their council meeting tomorrow. Quite honestly, culling through all the numbers in the staff report for that meeting makes my head hurt. So, I thought it was time for a little change of pace today.

Three yea
rs ago, on April 13, 2006, when I was publishing this blog on another site, I wrote the following entry. I've tinkered a little with it today to improve the clarity, added some images and thought it might make for some interesting reading for you new readers. Sit back and enjoy...

Recently a neighbor presented me with a gift - a passport down Memory Lane, as it were. She's planning to do some renovations in her home and her contractor discovered, hidden inside a brick room divider, some pages from the November 1, 1956 Los Ang
eles Examiner. This treasure included the sports section, plus several pages of classified advertisements. The newspapers held no value for her, but when she showed them to me my eyes lit up and I began to wax nostalgic, so she gave them to me.

It's hard to find the words to describe the wave of nostalgia that swept over me as I read the names of sports writers Mel Dursl
ag, Bob Hunter, Morton Moss and Bob Oates. Those were the men who helped shape my interest in sports back when I was a whippersnapper. These pages were published when I was a sophomore in high school and the memories are golden.

As I scanned these yellowed sports pages I found that the Los Angeles Angels (the real Los Angeles Angels, o
f the Pacific Coast League) were being run by a guy named Clarence (Pants) Rowland - what a great nickname! - and managed by Gene Handley. The Rams, featuring Harlan Hill and Elroy (Crazylegs) Hirsch, were to play the Chicago Bears with league leading passer Ed Brown and runner Rick Casares. The Rams were in the midst of a quarterback controversy - aren't they always? - with Billy Wade, Norm Van Brocklin and Rudy Bukich sharing the duties. Coach Sid Gillman was under fire for that arrangement. Some things just never change!

Another article spoke of a tune-up track meet for the United States track and field
team that was headed for the Melbourne Olympics in November. Names of athletes scheduled to participate rang some bells for me. Pole vaulter Bob Gutowski, shot-putter Parry O'Brien, hurdler Lee Calhoun and high jumper Charlie Dumas all were mentioned in the article. I grew up watching those men compete.

A small article not
ed that Ed Price, the football coach at the University of Texas resigned as of the end of 1956. Price apparently had one year left on his contract which paid him the whopping sum of $12,500 per year.


I even found a game summary for my high school basketball team! They were crushed by Reseda High School, as that school won its very first basketball game.

Even more fun wa
s reading the ads in the sports section. I found advertisements for Crown Russe Vodka (only $3.66 for 4/5 quart), Four Roses bourbon and Lejon Extra-dry Vermouth. Those days are long gone!


I also saw an ad for Coberly Mercury-Continental-Lincoln-English Ford, which offered a new, 1957 English-built Ford (which promised "over 30 miles p
er gallon in traffic") for $1295 full price. Tired of paying a couple hundred dollars for a tire? Back on November 1, 1956 Shull & Phillips on Olympic Blvd. would provide you with a retread for only $8.95, exchange.

My favorite advertisement on the sports page, though, was a large ad on page two, near the top of the page, for an outfit called "Executives Unlimited Schools for Men". Beneath a photograph of suave actor Adolphe Menjou, the ad promised "Every man can increase his business & social position through training at EXECUTIVES UNLIMITED. Let professional business men help you reach your goal." It goes on to offer training in the areas of Personal Public Relations, Business & Social Comportment, Executive Guidance, Voice Dynamics, Physical Fitness and Wardrobing. It closed by offering "Budget Terms and Evening or Sat. Classes". Ah, how times have changed.


This packet of memories also included the comic pages. There, snuggled aroun
d the Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not feature - which tells of such wonders as an oak tree which grew through a steel rim in South Kingston, Rhode Island and that every horse owned by notorious English miser Daniel Dancer was shod only on it's two front legs - were some very familiar comic strips. Blondie was there, looking as sexy then as she does now. I also found The Lone Ranger, Buz Sawyer, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Beetle Bailey, Steve Canyon, Bringing Up Father, Hi and Lois and Mandrake the Magician.

On to the cl
assified ads, where I found that you could purchase a new 3 bedroom home in Puente for $7895, full price. You could occupy that little beauty for only $129, including closing costs, and pay $59.95 per month. Or, if you wanted to step up a little, you could have a 3 bedroom, 1 3/4 bath house "ideal for small family" in Brentwood/Bel Air for only $22,500.

If renting was your gam
e, you could get a room with private bath, parking, TV, meals and maid service for $18.50 per week.


I kept on flip
ping pages past the section marked Automobiles - New, where Bacon Ford in Hermosa Beach promised that they were "trading like crazy" and guaranteed "to beat any legitimate deal by many $$$$$", on to the Automobiles - Used section to see what bargains were available to me back then. I found a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible for $1999, no money down. I found a 1955 Ford Victoria , complete with Fordomatic, Radio and Heater for only $1899. Digging deeper for bargains, I found an ad for a place called Burton Sales, Inc., where I could buy a 1948 Oldsmobile convertible for $99 or a 1947 Cadillac sedan for $299. I even found an ad for a 1951 Chevrolet 4-door sedan - just like my very first car - for $395.


As I scanne
d the pages I saw many familiar brands - Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac, Lincoln and Mercury. I also saw names of brands now long departed - DeSoto, Packard, Nash, Plymouth, Rambler, Studebaker, Willys and Oldsmobile. What I didn't find was even more interesting. There was no reference to Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Acura, Lexus, Hyundai and Kia, although there were a few Mercedes, Triumph, Volkswagen and Rover automobiles listed under "Imported Cars". Heck, back then you could even buy a Simca or a Sunbeam Talbot.

I then flipped over to Secti
on 3, page 9 - the first page of what might be called the Help Wanted advertising. As a recruiter of sorts all my working life, I was curious about how things have changed in half century. I found the answer to that question as my eyes stopped at section 61, SITUATION WANTED, FEMALE. The first ad in that section reads as follows: COLORED girls. Call Ladies Employment Aid Agency. 3226 S. Central ave. AD-29505, AD-13244". In that same vein, another ad read: "MIDDLE aged colored woman to care for 2 sm. children. Live in or not". Another, for an agency, solicited candidates for aids, maids and cooks and made a point of saying, "Plenty time off. No cash required. Colored only."

I continu
ed on to Section 69, HELP WANTED, FEMALE, where opportunities were available for Beauty Operators, Car Hops, Clerk Typists, File Clerks and a "Forelady-Asst", where "experience on ladies knit underwear" was required. I spent some time thinking about that one.

A local savings and loan association offered an opportunity for a "Young Woman
" with fire insurance experience. There were lots of opportunities for ladies as receptionists, secretaries, typists and waitresses. My personal favorite in this section was a little ad paid for by a doctor that read as follows: "WOMEN - girls (5). Must speak good English & Spanish. No experience necessary to give colonics. I teach you. $1 per hr. to start. Rapid advancement". Sounds like a great career opportunity to me! Another less-specific ad offered the following opportunities: WOMEN. want to make good money in dignified & pleasant way? Full or pt. time." I've thought about that one, too.


I saw several ads f
or "GROCERY CHECKERS at $86 - $125 per week".


When I read tha
t Beaudry Bros. Candy Co. was looking for experienced "CHOCOLATE DIPPERS" I had a flashback to that classic "I Love Lucy" skit in which Lucille Ball was working on the chocolate assembly line.

I found sev
eral ads for "GIRLS", the definition of which varied from "18-25", "18-24" or, from a more enlightened employer, "18-57".

An ad for an employment agency called out for FACTORY GIRLS, to perform jobs like Electronic Inspectors and Egg Candelers for wages beginning at $1.60 per hour.

Another ad ran the following:

"FACTORY help, male......$1.90 per hour.
FACTORY help, female....$1.55 per hour."

I then moved on to Section 79, HELP WANTED, MALE. In that section I found advertisements for all manner of workers in the then-growing aircraft industry, plus ads for Auto Salesmen, Credit Man, Bus Boy, Designers, Electricians, Engineers for the aerospace industry, IBM tab machine operators, Inspectors, Machinists and Salesmen of all types. One little ad caught my eye. It read as follows: "KITCHEN MAN. white, under 60, ROOM, BOARD AND SALARY."


I found an ad for a "BUSHELMAN" at a clothier in downtown Los Angeles. After spending a few minutes digging through several dictionaries I found
the definition in an old one. A "bushelman" works repairing garments - who would have guessed?

As you ca
n probably tell, I'm having a great old time perusing these old pages, plucking gems from the tattered and yellowed pages. These ads and stories represent a much simpler time - a time when political correctness was an alien concept. It was a time when we worried more about the education our children were receiving than bruising their fragile egos. Those were the days when a high school graduating class had one valedictorian, not forty, as was the case at a local school recently. Those were the days of Costa Mesa's infancy, when small homes on big lots provided room for kids to play and enjoy the ocean breezes that floated across our coastal table land.


It was a time when technology didn't isolate us from those around us, when kids chattered among themselves instead of texting each other or seeking refuge in their Ipods, Gameboys and the like. T
hey were the days of pickup football, baseball and basketball games during which kids honed their skills instead of wasting hours of glorious sunshine hunkered down in front of a 60 inch plasma display, playing video games that splatter opponents all over the screen in life-like animation.


Back in 1956 one could not even contemplate the experience of a lunch partn
er interrupting your conversation to take a half dozen cell calls, and to make another half dozen of his own. Technology is turning us into a productive, yet boorish, society where instant personal gratification has become an art form.


So, I'll clutch these old, yellowed pages close and continue to glean some fond memories from them. I'll enjoy those memories while I can and share them as I feel moved. I'm grateful to my neighbor for providing the catalyst for my trip to the past.