Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The City Wins - Lemmings Lose

First the good news... On 3-2 votes, with lame duck Mayor Allan Mansoor and his lame brain sidekick, Eric Bever voting NO on each of them, the council voted to accept the agreements presented to them this evening. When the first of the three votes were taken - the one involving Item #1 on the agenda for most of the bargaining units - a standing ovation was given by most of the members of the audience still remaining. The other two items moved quickly and played to a much-reduced crowd, but were passed, as well. You can watch the meeting on streaming video HERE.

This was one strange meeting. It began almost on time - at 6:40 p.m. - but Councilman Gary Monahan was absent. That would have been problematic if he had not shown up because in council matters a 2-2 vote is a NO vote. Fortunately - VERY fortunately, as it turned out - he was just a few minutes late. Without his presence we might have been there until Thursday! I have to give him credit - his speech before he voted with Foley and Leece to approve the agreements demonstrated the angst felt by many others tonight. These were probably not the best deals, but they are the only ones on the table and are the results of many, many months of negotiations.

Because of the format of this special meeting, public comments were heard before the items were discussed by staff and the council. Most of the comments from more than a dozen speakers were in favor of the agreements, but a couple urged caution and a few were, predictably, flat-out negative. Retired Costa Mesa officer Clay Epperson stood to encourage the approval of the agreements with a passionate appeal.

During public comments several speakers referred to the intimidating contacts Wendy Leece reported in the Daily Pilot yesterday, HERE. They uniformly were angry about the interference by outside political forces. All the while, in the second row with an unobstructed line of site to Leece, sat Jon Fleishman, publisher of the FlashReport. He used to work for discredited and deposed former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona, is part of the Orange County Republican hierarchy and was observed throughout the night taking photographs and video clips with his cell phone camera and glaring at Leece when she tried to defend her positions. The term "stink eye" came to mind. During the long closed session break he was seen making many telephone calls - probably reporting to his buddies at the OC GOP. When the meeting finally concluded he was seen walking out with just the tiniest smirk on his face. I suspect Leece is going to find herself on the wrong end of the wrath of the OC GOP in the very near future.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the public comments was the final speaker, police union president Allen Rieckhof. He was in full swing when his 3 minutes expired. Katrina Foley requested an extension of time, but Mansoor balked, unable to comprehend the need for the president of the union to be given just a little slack. Finally, he bowed to the majority and Rieckhof finished his thoughts. Eric Bever immediately piped up, accusing Reickhof of calling Bever a liar, then calling him a liar. Nobody will ever accuse Bever of being a class act.

Then Foley stunned Mansoor with a request for an immediate closed session to discuss possible litigation, apparently based on information provided to the council late that afternoon by City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow. Mansoor balked - again - but the council eventually voted on the closed session and disappeared and didn't return for an hour and forty minutes!

As a sidebar, that break was very interesting as folks on opposite sides of the issues had a chance to chat. In fact, one speaker was seen nose-to-nose with a couple of officers in heated discussion. He couldn't understand why they, the officers, were reluctant to take a bigger pay cut! Talk about theater!


Following the closed session the Staff provided a brief report on the first item, the three side letters and the resolution for the executive staff. Then Bever launched into a prepared text in which he used fabricated numbers to sway the council and concluded with a motion to vote NO on the issues before them. He received no second.

Foley quietly moved to approve the agreements, but also received no second.

Leece then moved to continue the discussion to a subsequent meeting and Mansoor seconded it. Foley then pushed Leece to explain why this continuance was necessary. Back and forth we went, with Leece seeming to not understand the cost - $250,000 per month for each month we delay. Eventually City Manager Allan Roeder came to the rescue and pointed out in unambiguous terms that we simply could not go back to square one with the unions and that further negotiations would take time. Leece withdrew her motion and Foley moved to approved the agreements. Leece seconded it.

In her explanation before the vote Leece pointed out, among other things, that Costa Mesa cannot become ground zero for pension reform in the state. I couldn't see Fleishman's face, but I guarantee you he was not smiling.

Foley suggested that, in an effort to find new revenue sources, the city form an Economic Development Commission and suggested that Steve Mensinger - sitting next to Fleishman - be part of it.

Roeder, in response to a question by Leece about the probability of more layoffs in the future, advised the council that they may, indeed, be necessary. He mentioned that the city staff has dropped from 611 to 489 in about a year, and those reductions have dramatically affected the level of service available to residents. He reminded the council that the use of Fund Balance and/or layoffs are not budget strategies, they are consequences of the council's inability to effectively manage our resources by making the hard decisions involved. Once the vote was taken, the other two were also promptly taken and the meeting finally adjourned.

I was left with the feeling that, while the city and staff received approval of the agreements and there was applause and cheers when the vote was announced, nobody really won last night. The depth of our municipal fiscal distress is such - we're still about $6 million in the hole - that it's going to take some real work to end our fiscal year with a balanced budget. The mid-year budget review will occur in January and the staff doesn't seem encouraged by what it sees coming down the pike in the economy. It's hard to see how we make it through the year without more layoffs.

I also was pleased to see Wendy Leece eventually come around last night. The stress she's been under since the weekend of messages from Orange County Republican honchos about her vote was quite apparent. Her attempt to "continue" the issue to a future date may have been one last gasp to dodge their wrath before finally doing the right thing. In the end, with Fleishman staring directly at her, she placed the city before any potential political future gain. She stood up to those bullies and I don't know if the GOP hierarchy will be vindictive enough to campaign against her in the last week before the election. I guess the next day or two will tell us that answer.

Oh, yes - someone asked me if Jim Righeimer was in the audience last night. I sure didn't see him, but his pal, Mensinger was and will probably report back to him. Candidates Chris McEvoy and Susan Lester were there until the bitter end. Chad Petschl, as usual, was not.

With one week to go until the elections and a comment was made that Measure "L" is apparently trailing in the polls, so it's time to turn up the gain on the effort to encourage the good people of Costa Mesa to vote YES on that issue. More to come on that...

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Blogger PeterMeuter said...

Congratulations, one step forward
to an agreeable, better future. Well done.

10/27/2010 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

I think Gary Monahan summed it up nicely. Labor negotiations rarely come out with something that makes both side happy, usually it is just what both side can live with.

now on with the job of cutting other costs to get us within our means.

10/27/2010 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Amen Bruce.

I like Rob Dickson's analysis in another thread, wherein he calculated that if the entire burden of the budget sort fall were to be borne by the police and fire employees, it would cost each employee 38k per year. If it were to be spread among all city employees, it would be about $15,800 per employee. In either case, not a "doable" figure.

There is just no way to fix the entire budget off the backs of the employees. To even consider doing so (which it appeared to me was Mr. Bever's intention), is to assume this is the employee's fault.

I had a discussion Fleishman about the repeated failure to address revenue issues. He seemed to want to discuss the issue intelligently, but he was completely uninformed on the topic. I asked him pointed questions as to the TOT and he was clueless. All he could repeat was that it shouldn't be pushed off to the taxpayers of the city. I told him I'm a resident of the city, and the TOT would not affect me a bit. I asked him if he had ever called to book a room and questioned their TOT rate as a consideration. He admitted he had not. It was an interesting conversation, and way too much to type here (I use up too much of Geoff's space already).

Most interesting of that exchange, was when Mr. Fleishman handed our Association VP his card. Our VP looked at it and realized it was the same address (and suite I think) as Mr. Righeimer's offices. Go figure.

10/27/2010 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous lexmo said...

Congratulations on securing layoffs. After all you short sided thinkers are done patting yourselves on the back prepare your looks of confusion for when the real shit hits the fan.

10/27/2010 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob Dimel, Don't worry about the space.. you and Rob Dickson are always welcome here to joust. Your presentations always enhance the debate.

10/27/2010 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

lexmo, there was no perfect solution, as explained in Rob Dimel's comment above. You may not like what he said, but at least he kept HIS comment out of the gutter. Tough financial times continue in our city. The mid-year budget review in January should be very interesting.

10/27/2010 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Honeyman said...

Is Monahan an oompaloompah?

10/27/2010 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

As I sat in the Council meeting last night, behind all of the out of town cops I thought to myself, will we hear anything from these guys after their contract is voted on? Will they stay involved? Do they care at all about Costa Mesa other than their money? I got my answer quickly when the vote was counted, they all got up, got in their cars and drove home to South County where the roads are properly paved and they still have after school youth programs. We'll see them again in 4 years, complaining again about their money. Last night was a pathetic display of greed from those with little connection to our community. I'm saddened as a Costa Mesan. Officer Dimel, why don't more of our public safety officials live here. Our Chief lives in Cota De Caza. Why do our cops only care about their money.

10/27/2010 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's sad to see elected leaders in your community not understand the simple concept of math. You see, math doesn't lie. Sooner or later you guys in CM will realize this. Until then, enjoy the Pyrrhic victory.

10/27/2010 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Lexmo: If lay-offs were/are going to happen, nothing last night would change that. We have already had lay-offs (26 people from the PD alone). Again, there is no way to fix this problem in it's entirety off the backs of the employees.

Thomas: Yes the officers all waited to see what was going to happen, then went home. Most had been at work all day and were there after their shift. Please don't fault them for wanting to get home to their families. It's not unreasonable.

Why don't they live in town? Primarily, personal/family security. Most officers have issues running into "frequent flier" arrestees, when they go hit their local Starbucks etc. The Gang Officers for instance don't really want their kids to be running into the kids they are arresting from the same middle/high schools. It is a real concern. I could cite several anecdotal incidents over the years, where officers had had drive-by shootings on their homes, because gang members found out where they lived etc. It is a consideration all officers must look at with regard to the safety of their families. When was the last time you had to worry about people intending to do you or your family harm, simply because of your career?

Another reason they don't live here? Most simply could not afford it. I was lucky enough to buy a home here after renting here. It was a stretch at first, but we made it work.

I don't think it's fair to say our cops only "care about their money". We have to earn a living. Our officers are out in the community, solving everyone's problems for 40+ hours a week. They know all the "regulars", they are involved with this community in ways no one else knows. They can drive down any given street and tell you who does what. We usually only get invited into folks lives when they are at their worst. When they have been victims, and they are looking for help, solutions an assurance. In short, we get to see everyone's "dirty laundry". It can be a depressing, unsavory dirty job at times. It can also be very fulfilling. Cut our officer some slack please. We are professional peace officers, not community volunteers.

10/27/2010 03:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

Officer Dimel: Seriously, "most can't afford" to live here?? The average salary of a police officer is close to $150,000 based on the newly released 2009 numbers. I ran them myself. The average salary of a Costa Mesa resident is close to $45,000. You make nearly 4TIMES as much as the average Costa Mesan. I find your statement about living here ABSURD. Being a Police officer in Costa Mesa is the best paid job around!! They live in South County because the services, roads, schools are better. Give me your money but no way would I ever live in your City. Do you now see how your unreasonable salaries and benefits hit those of us that live here.

10/27/2010 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

Over the years, Wendy Leece and I have been on opposite sides of many issues. Time has changed us both. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think Wendy would have my vote. But, she has!

10/27/2010 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Flo, why would anyone want our police officers to be laid off?

When Wendy made the decision to approve those side agreements, she simultaneously gave the go ahead to let the layoffs begin. I'm sorry, but I really resent her doing that. One person should never have that much power.

A lot more families will be hurt by her yes vote than would have been hurt by her no vote.

10/27/2010 08:25:00 PM  
Anonymous 44 Blue said...

(Part 1 of 2) Thomas, I'd like to also answer your question as to why more of our police officers do not live in the city. The very nature of police work gives us insight into sides of our city that a majority of the citizens of Costa Mesa just do not know about. For instance, Costa Mesa happens to be home to well over a hundred sober/transitional living houses that are scattered all over the city (chances are you live within walking distance of one and don't even know it). A majority of these homes cater to people who suffer from drug/alcohol addictions. Anyone who has been around an addict knows that most addicts will relapse which also means they will be in possession of drugs and/or drug paraphernalia and be under the influence of drugs at some point. Many addicts go to extreme measures to feed their addiction (theft, burglary, robbery, prostitution, assault, battery, etc) which has a direct impact on the neighborhood theses homes occupy. Also, one condition often stipulated to many parolees and probationers upon release is that they must live in a sober/transitional living home. Most probationers and parolees continue to partake in a life of crime which again, has a direct impact on the surrounding neighborhood. CM happens to have a large amount of parolees and probationers who call this city home. Many of the motels up and down Harbor and Newport Blvd. also cater (some almost exclusively) to these same type of people. The south end of the city is home to a large transient population (many of whom are frequently arrested for alcohol, drug, theft and violence related crimes). And as most are well aware Costa Mesa is home to several active gangs.

10/27/2010 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous 44 Blue said...

(part 2 of 2) Please do not misunderstand what I say. There are great neighborhoods in Costa Mesa that are relatively crime free and do not suffer from any of the quality of life issues mentioned above. However, these tend to be the more expensive neighborhoods. One reason some officers choose not to live in the city is that many of these neighborhoods can not be afforded by officers. Before you ask how is it that officers can not afford these neighborhoods when you have seen how much they make please keep one thing in mind. Many officers lay their roots (buy a home, raise a family) early on in their career when their income is in the lower spectrum of the pay scale. As their income rises and they are able to afford more they often choose to remain in the area where they have already settled, which sometimes is not Costa Mesa. Also as Officer Dimel already stated, many officers prefers to keep their work life and home life separate for safety reasons. Also some officers like a little breathing room between the office and home. For police officers the "office" just happens to be the entire city of Costa Mesa. When I first started I lived in an apartment in the city, however after a few months on I quickly learned some of the dirty secrets of the complex that I, like most of residents of the complex, was naive to. The only affordable choice for me was to move out of the city. I hope this helps and if you have any more questions please do ask.

10/27/2010 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous 44 Blue said...

One last thing. I think much of the general animosity and friction between the two sides here is due to a lack of understanding and knowledge on everyone's parts. This can be a great forum for citizens and employees (both sworn and non-sworn) to talk freely and openly about their concerns about the city and voice their opinions on issues. As an officer, I encourage the citizens of Costa Mesa to ask any questions they may have; either here on this blog or stop an officer you see on the street (please keep in mind that officers cannot talk politics on duty...but feel free to ask them anything else) Also, as citizens of Costa Mesa you are entitled to go on ride alongs with a police officer. I encourage you to do this, as I am sure you will walk away with a new understanding and appreciation of just what police officers do. But if at the least, please ask any questions you have about public safety or the city and I'm sure at least one of the many officers or fire fighters who view this blog will answer it. I feel the sooner and more we bridge the gap between our differing views the better off the city will be in the future.

10/27/2010 08:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Thomas, you are looking at total comp figures. I'm sorry, but that is not money in my pocket. Money in my pocket is what pays my bills. Not theoretical values placed on my unused vacation, sick time etc. The reality is, my take home pay is less than 90k per year. I would be happy to meet with you and show you my pay stub.

I understand that it is still quite a bit of money to a lot of folks. However, I have been at this game about 18 years. I'm not a "newbie". I think my actual salary is commensurate with my developed expertise and time on the job.

I'm not that versed in the median income of the rest of the residents in the city, but I can assure you that anyone making 45k per year does not own a home in this city. My statement is not absurd. It's fact. I'm sorry it does not match your obvious bias.

I can't speak for everyone on the PD, but many do not live in South OC. They live well out on the 91 and points east. Not because they dig a long commute to work. It's where they could afford to live. It's just reality my friend.

since you are so hung up on officers living in the city, let me ask this? Why does it matter? Do you work in Costa Mesa? You say you live here, so logic must follow you must work here too. That is, if it is your firm belief that one should work and live in the same city.

When my wife was working her last job, she had to commute to El Segundo. Should we have maintained a residence in each community to be "fair"? That would take your flawed logic a step further. Or perhaps, she too should have just looked for a job in Costa Mesa. Or maybe, I should have worked for El Segundo PD.

The bottom line: most officers in fact can not afford to live here. Especially with what home values were doing before the economy tanked.

Again, personal security is a primary consideration, but that was completely lost on you. the only thing you focused on was affordability.

10/27/2010 09:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...


If Lay-offs are/were going to happen, that freight train was coming and nothing was going to stop it. If you have some insight as to how a better deal could have come about, do share. I said in a previous post, there is absolutely no way for the budget to be balanced on the backs of the employees. It is a complete impossibility.

The employees did not cause this mess. Why should they alone be responsible to fix it?

The city has not raised the TOT since 1974. We have the lowest TOT in the county. By about half. It has been a long time in the making. We have failed to posture this city to maintain appropriate revenue, even in the face of the rising costs of doing the city's business. We are charging 1980's prices for services in 2010. If we were in private industry, we probably would have been out of business a long time ago.

10/27/2010 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Geoff - Two great blogs of the CC meeting, I learned more from these than I did the OCR and DP combined. Plus the great posts by our men in blue.

@Thomas, your jealousy wreaks of back bay scum. I own a modest home and a business in CM. I pay a lot of taxes, and I am happy that my money goes into the hopper for the services provided in this city. Do I care that they live here or not. NO!!! They are still buying breakfast, lunch and dinner in the city, their cars are probably filled at the inexpensive ARCO station on Fair and Fairview, they might buy some flowers or a gift card in CM stores. Maybe visit the local dentist or other health care facility. So get off your high horse. Honestly... I do not want to live by a cop after reading that gang members may do a drive by, what if that house is mistaken and they hit mine with my family inside. With the stress of their job, do you not see it reasonable that they get compensated enough to take a relaxing vacation.
Since you know south county so well, then sell here and move there!!!

10/28/2010 11:36:00 AM  

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