Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Watershed Moment Coming Tuesday Night

As if returning home from a short vacation with a whopper of a cold isn't bad enough, I actually got sicker when I heard last Wednesday about the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center to Facilities Management West and, the same afternoon, the pending retirement of Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder. Ugh!

But late Friday we received some news that may rival those two events in significance, not only for our city, but the State as well. Friday evening, well after closing time at City Hall, the City distributed an announcement of a special City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 26th at a new time - 6:30 p.m. The single issue on the agenda is consideration of "side letter agreements" for the three remaining employee bargaining units and a resolution for the unrepresented employees. You can read the staff report on that agenda item HERE.

"Why is
this meeting so important?", you ask. Well, it's important because, as you can see in the staff report, although the agreements represent more than $3.6 million in annual savings, it doesn't get close to resolving what was a more than $9 million budget shortfall going into the long, long negotiations with the bargaining units. The staff report does not address how the City plans to come up with the remaining nearly $6 million required to balance the budget and, because of the timing of the announcement, there were no staffers available to answer any questions.

The agreements in question represent very significant concessions by the individual em
ployee units. For example, in the case of the Costa Mesa Employee's Association (CMCEA), among the items to which they will agree is the establishment of a two-tier retirement program, with newly hired employees working under a 2%@60 formula and will pay 7% of the employee contribution. None of the other bargaining units have agreed to such a change at this point, even though they have made major concessions in other areas. The staff report clearly spells these out, so I won't echo them here.

Two things have m
e worried about these agreements. First, they don't get us far enough with the budget dilemma. Since all expendable programs have already been slashed, the only place there are dollars left to cut is in the staff costs. If more dollars cannot be saved through the negotiations then the City has no choice but to lay more employees off - and severely hamper service at all levels in our city. We are already at 1980's staffing levels in most areas.

Although that is bad enough, of greater concern is my suspicion that this may just be
the toehold that members of the Orange County Republican Party are looking for to make Costa Mesa Ground Zero for state-wide pension reform. In a recent candidate forum Jim Righeimer practically said as much when, while addressing our budget problems and his view that the pensions were the problem, he said this was not a Costa Mesa problem, it was a state problem.

If three members of the City Council do not vote affirmatively on this issue Tuesday night it will require negotiations to re-open with the bargaining units and will certainly kill any chance of a resolution before the November 2nd election. There will be only a week in which to meet, negotiate, agree and re-convene for the council to hear another version. While not impossible, it is highly unlikely that the necessary steps could happen before November 2nd. And, you will recall, the council meeting that would normally fall on that date has been canceled. The next meeting will be on November 16th.


I have it on good authority that, if deeper cuts in the pension plans are demanded by the city and the employee unions are forced to agree to them, that will mark the beginning of an exodus of senior staffers across the board, not only in public safety positions. For our city to remain competitive in this labor market our salaries and benefits MUST keep pace with the marketplace. Currently we are at or near the median. Any changes to lower our position relative to our fellow Orange County cities will certainly cause us to lose good employees and hamper recruitment efforts to replace them.

Eric Bever has become a
willing accomplice in the manipulation of municipal governance to further Righeimer's political career by boycotting negotiations with the employee bargaining units. Believe me, it's pretty darn unusual for an elected municipal leader to announce from the dais that he's going to intentionally NOT do the job he was elected to do - and then to follow through with his commitment and fail to appear at those sessions. His plan to drag out the negotiations until after the elections so Righeimer can come riding in on his white horse like some pension savior is so obvious - and despicable - it would be almost laughable if it wasn't so darn tragic.

Righeimer and his minions, and through his mouthpiece over at the CM Press, have been harping about public employees salaries for weeks and Righeimer has posted a 2008 list of city employee compensation on his campaign website. The CM Press has become a repository of anti-cop rhetoric as it touts Righeimer's election by bullet voting - voting only for him and no other. It takes some nerve to ask you, the voters, to give up half your choices to perpetuate the political dreams of a carpetbagging hack political operative. You will recall that it was that tactic, instigated by the CM Press-led Westside Improvers, that gave our city Chris Steel in 2000 - arguably the worst city councilman in our history. The lack of wisdom of giving up one of your votes just because our municipal racist-laureate at the CM Press tells you to do so is clearly demonstrated by Steel's wasted four years on the council. Don't let The Mouth talk you out of your vote.

Much as Allan Mansoor has used illegal aliens as a springboard into office, Righeimer is using the public employees as his "illegal aliens", hoping his denigration of them and their compensation will grease the skids for him in this election. The tactics of both are driven by the leadership of the Orange County Republican Party and it's honcho, Scott Baugh. The OC GOP doesn't care what happens to Costa Mesa. They don't care if they leave in their wake a city laid waste. They are like locusts who land temporarily in our city, devour every living plant, then move on to greener pastures.

Trying to use Costa Mesa to solve a state-wide employee pension issue is the wrong w
ay to go. Those initiatives must start in Sacramento, but the political realities of the day are that the Democrats set the agenda up there and there is virtually no chance of pension reform happening under that party's leadership. The OC GOP seems to think that if it can force Costa Mesa to take drastic steps with it's pension issues, other cities will follow along. That's just plain stupid! Do you really think Fullerton, Irvine or Yorba Linda will shoot themselves in the foot just because Costa Mesa does? Give me a break! They'll just smile and hire our employees away from us.

All the OC GOP cares about is crushing the employee unions by diluting their salaries and pensions, and going back on the deals that were made with them when they were hired. If that sounds familiar, remember that this is precisely what Righeimer did in his personal and business life - he left contractors holding the bag for years waiting for payment while he thumps his chest and tells us, "At least I didn't file for bankruptcy!" Similarly, he would leave the residents of Costa Mesa holding the bag by gutting the salaries and benefits of the city's employees so he can demonstrate to his party bosses that he's their guy. He would have Costa Mesa become a city unable to compete in the marketplace for staffers at every level and never look back on the destruction of our city he caused as he positions himself for higher office.

We can only hope that, come Tuesday, our elected leaders will realize the importance of their vote on these contracts and not put our city in a position of mediocrity simply to benefit the political ambitions of one high-ranking member of the Orange County Republican Party. They should do what they were elected to do - make the right choice for Costa Mesa. I don't know whether a large turnout at the meeting Tuesday will influence their decision, but it promises to be a watershed event in the history of our city - one worth seeing in person. You'll have three minutes to express your views to the council Tuesday, if you're the least bit interested.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bever's Dereliction Of His Duties

In the midst of a very heated and contentious campaign, Costa Mesa City Councilman Eric Bever - who is not running this time around because he still has two years left on his second term - has become a major player in this year's elections.

Bever, who has been described here many times as a clown, municipal court jester and buffoon, continues to demonstrate for the readers here and elsewhere just why those terms of endearment are so accurate as he elbowed his way into the political spotlight.

In recent weeks, while the city is trying to negotiate it's way to a balanced budget with the employee bargaining units, Bever has been obstructionist, at the very least, and guilty of dereliction of duty, for sure. For those of you dictionarily-challenged, here's a current definition of the word, "dereliction" - deliberate or conscious neglect; negligence; delinquency.

Despite the fact that balancing our municipal budget is by far the most important issue facing our city council, several weeks ago Bever announced from the dais that he was boycotting any future negotiations with the bargaining units, apparently feeling that such serious issues should wait until the new council is seated - several months away! Even worse than his threat - he actually did it! He simply either does not show up for the meetings or leaves when the issue comes up on the agenda.

In the meantime, the budget crisis continues to fester like a boil in need of lancing. His obstructionist playmate, carpetbagging Planning Commission Chairman and council candidate Jim Righeimer, has conjured up a vendetta with the Costa Mesa Police Department for his own political gain. First Righeimer took on the bargaining units at the first candidate forum when he looked their representatives straight in the eye and told them he was coming after their salaries and benefits because THEY were the cause of the city's fiscal distress. He emphasized his attack at each subsequent forum and during interviews with local media.

Then, some think, he orchestrated a confrontation between himself and the police at a DUI checkpoint that delayed his arrival at a local high school football game. An interesting point not previously made, though, is that the location of the checkpoint was not on any route from his Mesa Verde home to the high school - it was in the other direction. And, he couldn't have been in that much of a hurry because he, alone among more than 3200 other drivers in that traffic snarl, chose to leap from his car, strut across the McDonald's parking lot and confront the officers conducting the checkpoint. That dust-up caused an "investigation", conducted by the Costa Mesa City Attorney, Kim Barlow. When she finally gave her "report" it was incomplete. She had not even seen witness statements delivered to her that afternoon and which were relevant to the incident. She determined that Righeimer had not committed a criminal act. Swell, but did he misuse his authority as a planning commissioner? There was certainly not enough transparency in that little fiasco.

Perhaps the worst part of this tactic of Righeimer's, in which Bever is an active accomplice, is that it may do irreparable damage to the relationship between the leadership of our city and our public employees, particularly the public safety staff. That rift may be best exemplified by what occurred at the last council meeting. Costa Mesa Firefighters Association President Tim Vasin looked Bever straight in the eye and used three minutes of public comments time to demand an apology from Bever for his public statements about the employee organizations. I didn't attend the meeting due to illness, but watched it on television. I stood and cheered at home when he stepped away from the podium. You can watch Vasin's comments by clicking HERE, then sliding the track bar to about 29:00 on the timer.

In the next step of this campaign, Bever and his long-time Westside Improver buddy, Christian Eric - he of the Colonel Sanders beard - said they felt "intimidated" by a couple Costa Mesa police officers when they were observed putting up Righeimer campaign signs on a fence surrounding an empty lot on the Westside of town a week ago. They accused those officers of giving them the "stink eye", for goodness sake. It's like a couple little kids running to their mother saying, "Mommy, mommy - Jimmy frowned at me! Make him stop!" What infantile behavior! In case you have not seen the press conference they held recently, you can view Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia's clip of it below. Invest six minutes of your time to watch this piece.

I thought it was astounding that they somehow managed to convince Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach to participate in this farce. He recently co-authored with Bever a scathing indictment of the municipal salaries published in the Daily Pilot. I was surprised to see him lined up at the press conference with Righeimer, Bever, Eric, their lawyer Mark Bucher (Righeimer's brother-in-law) and their current acolyte, Jim Fitzpatrick - apparently a bully-in-training. It was also interesting to observe another of Righeimer's running buddies, attorney and planning commissioner Colin McCarthy, adding his two cents worth of advice from the assembled few observers about how an investigation should be conducted.

I thought it was ironic, too, that Bucher could actually utter the word "intimidation" and keep a straight face. You will recall that he recently sent a letter to me and members of the police association warning us not to mention three forbidden topics when writing about Righeimer. He told me that to do so would be defamatory and subject to legal penalties. Does that sound just a little bit like "intimidation" to you? Yeah, me, too. Then Righeimer goes right ahead and discusses those issues shortly thereafter. I took that to mean that all bets are off - that it's OK for me to mention those issues because he has already done so. Bucher and Righeimer can't have it both ways. They can't forbid me from discussing those issues, then go do it themselves.

Back to Bever. It's hard for me to imagine how any voter who has actually cast a ballot for him can feel any comfort knowing that the future of this city is, at least partially, in his hands. Since his early days on the Planning Commission he has demonstrated a tendency to fancy himself a comedian, attempting pathetic quips that invariably fell flat. He seldom does his homework and frequently attempts to quick-pitch the procedures by calling for votes before a discussion and public comments have been taken. I suppose you could attribute those traits to simple boredom or stupidity - maybe both. However, his overt boycotting of his duties is dereliction, pure and simple.

I've begin to hear rumblings about a recall effort to remove Bever from office, but I doubt it will happen. Such an election would be very costly. So, for two more years we will be subjected to his petulance, capriciousness and his unfounded smug arrogance on the dais. We will continue to suffer the embarrassment of having such an irresponsible buffoon on our city council. In 2012 he will be able to retire from public life and and no longer infest city hall with his erratic and obstructionist behavior.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Roeder Announces Retirement!

The City of Costa Mesa sent out a press release this afternoon announcing the retirement of City Manager Allan Roeder. The text of that press release follows:

October 20, 2010

Costa Mesa, California

City Manager Allan Roeder Announces Retirement
City Manager Allan Roeder has informed the City Council that he plans to retire from the City of Costa Mesa in March of 2011. This will provide sufficient time for a smooth transition for the City Council, the organization and the community. His official last day of service will be determined in the next few months.

City Manager Roeder has had an incredibly productive and rewarding career, culminating with his devoted service as City Manager in Costa Mesa for the past 25 years. He served in several different capacities for the City prior to becoming City Manager including four years in the City’s Public Services Department - a total of over thirty five years of service to the community of Costa Mesa.

“It is humbling to have been part of such a dedicated and talented team of employees over the many years.” “With the guidance and leadership of the current Council and the many former City Councils, we have together worked with the community to achieve numerous successes that are now a part of the fabric of Costa Mesa.” “I am honored to have served the people of Costa Mesa and with my wife Christie, we hope to remain a member of the community for many years to come.” “I have so many people to thank for their support and friendship.”
Mayor Allan Mansoor, stated that “Allan has been the corner stone for the foundation that is our city government in Costa Mesa. His leadership, knowledge and truly dedicated service is appreciated so deeply by all of Costa Mesa.” “On behalf of the entire City Council we thank him for all that he has done for our community.”

For further information, please contact the City Manager’s Office at (714) 754-5328.

In my view, this is one of those good news/bad news situations. The good news is that our city has benefited by Roeder's steady hand at the helm for three decades. The bad news is that he's going to turn loose that grip in a few months.


I'm sure there will be much more to say about this in the next few months. Personally, I admire Roeder as a manager and a human being almost more than I can state here. Imagine trying to keep the city on an even keel while training a new crop of council members ever couple years! Imagine trying to deal with the capriciousness of the Eric Bever's of the world. Or managing Chris Steel for four years!

The past couple years have been very stressful for everyone in city government but I suspect Roeder felt it more strongly than anyone else. In addition to the ongoing budget crisis he's also had to deal with the Fairgrounds sale debacle.

I'm grateful for the time we've had with him and for the dedicated service he has provided to the City and all it's residents. We wish him all the best in the future.


Facilities Management West Wins OC Fairgrounds Race (UPDATED)

The following is the text of a press release issued at noon today announcing that Facilities Management West is the successful bidder for the Orange County Fair and Event Center.

California Names Buyer for Orange County Fairgrounds

Sacramento, Calif. – Today, the Department of General Services announced that it intends to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa to Facilities Management West (FMW) of Orange County for $100 million. FMW and other entities submitted offers in response to the DGS’ Request for Proposals dated August 24. The property will be sold “as is” and FMW will make an initial $20 million payment this year. The State will carry a promissory note in the amount of $80 million that requires FMW to make annual payments, beginning in two years and lasting for 35 years.

“This sale creates a new revenue stream to help shore up the state budget and prevent further cuts to programs or the need to raise taxes.” said DGS Acting Director Ron Diedrich. “I’m pleased that through our patience and perseverance we’ve truly earned the highest and most certain return for California taxpayers.”

Under the terms of the promissory note, FMW will make annual payments on the following schedule:

Ø $0 in year 1;

Ø $666,667 in years 2-4;

Ø $6,762, 591 in years 5-10; and

Ø $7,281,806 in years 11-35..

DGS expects to close the sale and transfer ownership to FMW by December 2010.

Last year, the Governor and the Legislature authorized the sale of the 150-acre property as part of a sweeping plan to change how the state manages real estate and create opportunities to raise revenue. The initial high bid of $56.5 million was rejected by DGS in March after it was determined that offer would not obtain the highest, most certain return for the state. In June, the State reached a tentative deal to sell the property to the City of Costa Mesa for $96 million; however, legislation was never enacted authorizing the department to move forward with that sale.

The Department of General Services acts as the business manager for the State of California, with more than 4,000 employees and a budget in excess of $1 billion. DGS helps state government better serve the public by providing services to state agencies including innovative procurement and acquisition solutions, creative real estate management, leasing and design services, environmentally friendly transportation, and architectural oversight and innovative funding for the construction of safe schools.



According to DGS officials, it is anticipated that the sale will be completed by December. My source says that multiple bids were submitted and that the State could have gone with any of them, but the FMW offer and terms of the sale was the best deal for the State. The names and bids of the other bidders will be made public once the deal is completed.


While this is theoretically good news for the State in it's quest to balance the budget, it's not good news for the City of Costa Mesa. All the hard work - nearly 18 months of effort - and drama that has been involved in attempting to acquire the property and retain some semblance of local control has gone for naught.


Previously other bidders and interested parties have announced that there will almost certainly be litigation regardless how this bid was finally resolved.


In a related matter, Assemblyman Jose Solorio announced via a press release later today that, on December 6th, he will introduce legislation to stop the sale. He indicated that in the RFP for this sale there is wording as follows: " Subject to Department and legislative approval, the Department intends to execute a Purchase and Sale Agreement with the bidder deemed to have offered a bid that best complies with the State's objective of obtaining the highest and most certain return for the Property." It will be very interesting to see how this plays out if the DGS does, in fact, complete the sale BEFORE Solorio can introduce the legislation.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is The Circus In Town?

If I had known the circus was coming to town I wouldn't have planned a vacation this weekend! "What circus?", you ask. Well, the circus must be in town because a car-load of clowns held a press conference in an empty lot yesterday morning!


At the time Jim Righeimer and John Moorlach held their presser in the weed patch at the corner of Superior and 17th Street Saturday I was a couple hundred miles away, heading north for what I thought would be a nice, relaxing, peaceful vacation. Wrong! My cell phone has been ringing it's little bell off and my email in box is clogging up.

I read the Daily Pilot article on the event and got more than a little upset. So, Eric Bever and Christian Eric felt "intimidated" by members of the CMPD when they were observed placing signs on the fence at that very same lot, huh? Bever said they were given the "stink eye" by the cops. Geez!

Among those clowns at the press conference was Righeimer's pit bull/lawyer/brother-in-law, Mark Bucher. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He's the guy who sent me, and some members of the CMPD, a letter recently demanding that I not mention three forbidden topics about his client/relative. I was threatened with legal action if I did. You will also recall that Righeimer, just a few hours later, mentioned one of them during a candidate forum. He has subsequently mentioned the other two, too.

"Intimidation"? I can tell you about that word. Intimidation is being told that if I exercise my right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution I will be sued... that's "intimidation".

Now that the candidate forums are over and Righeimer will not have a formal venue from which to spout his anti-union venom, he and his strategists apparently have decided to create these opportunities with bogus claims like this one. I guess it doesn't surprise me - that's what a bully does, after all.

So, now we have Righeimer involved in yet another "investigation" involving the Costa Mesa Police Department. I find myself wondering just how many of the voters are being fooled by these tactics? This kind of mud-slinging maneuvering are the acts of a desperate man - one who sees his almost-guaranteed seat on the city council slipping away. One can almost hear his thoughts, "How can I, after spending all this cash and laying the groundwork for this victory, lose to THAT guy?"

"That guy", of course, would be Chris McEvoy - Costa Mesa's Everyman - who seems to be gaining steam in his campaign despite being defamed with bogus reports of a DUI conviction. Righeimer and his supporters continue to spread that false story, but no lawyer has yet braced them with threats of a lawsuit, even though those false claims are every bit as egregious as those Righeimer seems so worried about. No, McEvoy continues taking the high road, addressing only Righeimer's points on issues, not his behavior, family or tactics. Sounds "statesman-like" to me.

It will be very interesting, indeed, to see just what kind of an investigation Chief Chris Shawkey completes with this complaint. And, when will we hear about it, since the clock is ticking and absentee ballots will be mailed during the next week or so. I certainly hope the voters can see through this smoke screen and consider just what kind of a man you'll be placing in a seat of power in our city if they vote for Jim Righeimer. As has been said many times, Character Counts...


Just a little reminder... the Costa Mesa City Council will hold their regularly schedule meeting on Tuesday, October 19th. This one promises to be full of fireworks and might be a long one. Besides having a half-dozen items to be discussed in Closed Session (including several law suits), they will address the Garcia Recycling issue that was pushed out a few meetings ago. The staff report on that one alone is formidable.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., but the Closed Session will likely push that out at least a half-hour - probably more.

So, I'm still on vacation, so the responses to comments will be slow... be patient and your thoughts will eventually be posted.

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