Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Allan Roeder's Big Week

This is a big week for retiring Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder. As you probably know, he completes more than 36 years of dedicated service to our city on March 4th, when he walks off into the sunset after guiding Costa Mesa through the storm-tossed seas of redevelopment and extraordinary growth and through the shoals of egotistical, opportunistic and incompetent elected leaders.

On Tuesday, from 5 - 6 p.m. there will be a reception fo
r him in the City Hall lobby. All residents and other interested individuals who wish to pay their respects to him, and to City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow, who recently abruptly resigned recently, are welcome to attend. Parking will likely be at a premium, especially with the agenda recently posted for the Council Meeting that immediately follows the reception.

Wednesday there is a dinner at the Costa Mesa Country Club - site of many of Roeder's "fabled" rounds of golf - for the city staff to say good-bye to him. With the events of the past couple weeks, and particularly last Friday, this one will likely be filled with mixed emotions.


Thursday the C. J. Segerstrom & Sons and Costa Mesa C
hamber of Commerce hosts a dinner at the Westin Hotel. Tickets are $90.00 per head. The event begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m., with dinner following from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. For information about availability of Event Sponsorship and Table Sponsorship contact Ed Fawcett at the Chamber at 714-855-9090 or email at

Under almost any other circumstances these events would be happy, rousing affairs in which grateful residents and staffers can cheer Allan Roeder for his years of loyal service to this city, from his days as an intern through his illustrious career in which he became widely acknowledged as THE BEST City Manager in Orange County - at least. However, the current City Council, led by Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger, Eric Bever and Gary Monahan have managed to not only rain on his parade, but dump bags of crap on it! Perhaps the biggest load was dumped Friday when it was announced that roughly a third of the city staff will receive notices that they will not have jobs in September. This comes after having had to reduce the staff 20% over the past two years. I suspect Allan Roeder is finding very little to celebrate these days.

Still, the events will go on and I hope you'll find a way to thank Roeder for his service to the city. I plan to attend at least one of them, but have already told him many times how much I've appreciated and admired the way he kept a steady hand on the tiller as council after council tried to run us over the falls.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Look Back In Time....

Four years ago, February 22, 2006, I wrote the following long-winded essay. At that time I was using a different blog host and it didn't accommodate "comments". And, at that time, only a handful of folks were reading the blog.

With the events of yesterday still making me wince I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take a look in the rear view mirror and re-visit those days of yore. So, today I present it to you unedited for the passage of time, without any cute images to entertain you, to let you contemplate how little things have changed in our city in four years. For your reading pleasure... "What Is Costa Mesa?"


Wednesday, February 22, 2006
What Is Costa Mesa?

What kind of a community is Costa Mesa? This simple question is a real enigma for me.

There was a time not to very long ago when our city seemed like a pretty nice, peaceful, comfortable place in which to live and raise our families. That was before we elected leaders who pander to the vocal, disgruntled few among us to the detriment of the broader community. Today Costa Mesa is a city in turmoil.

We have nearly thirty public parks, yet seem to be determined to limit their use by people who don't meet our demographic preferences. No longer can kids just go to the park and play a pick-up game of touch football or soccer or bat a baseball around without fear of being cited by a Park Ranger.

We have elected leaders who seem determined to expel hardworking, peaceful residents - the Latino folks - from our city while welcoming an over abundance of half-way houses and recovery facilities.

We try to force charities from our borders by reducing funding for their efforts, yet we are home to nearly 100 registered sex offenders.

We tout ourselves as the "City of the Arts" and proudly wear the assumed mantle of sophistication that title implies and yet, in some parts of our city, we have six times the number of bars and liquor stores than our zoning should permit.

We say we take pride in the diversity of this city, yet our leaders have encouraged the participation of racists among us on influential city committees.

Our mayor says he only wants to remove criminals from our streets with his plan to have our local police become trained to enforce federal immigration screening, but his plan has polarized this community. He says there will be no sweeps, yet revels in the embrace of the leaders of the radical Minuteman Project and was recently made an honorary member. He, in just a couple short months, has managed to undo the trust and faith in government among the Latino community that has taken decades to build.

Our streets are crumbling beneath our tires and major intersections suffer from gridlock, yet we continue to approve projects which triple or quadruple the density in our neighborhoods.

We have people in the community who decry the many industrial businesses on the Westside and their supposed negative health affects on local residents, yet our leaders approve the construction of condominiums across the street from a foundry.

Our leaders ignore the recommendations of the committee appointed to hammer out a workable, acceptable solution to the perceived decay on the Westside and, instead, implement a plan that will certainly result in all industrial uses being squeezed out, taking with them the jobs and tax base on which this city was built.

The beginning of that process can be seen as approvals are currently being sought for a residential development which will be virtually surrounded by industrial businesses. This is the crack in the dike.

Our leaders squabble over nickel and dime issues on the budget, yet seem more than willing to burden our residents with over a billion dollars to place utility wires underground.

We share a big hunk of our infrastructure and a school district with Newport Beach, yet our leaders seemed determined to spit in their eye any chance they get.

Nearly two decades ago our leaders used the sledgehammer of eminent domain to redevelop what became Triangle Square and now the current group seems more than willing to watch that white elephant wither and decline - a monument to failed vision at the gateway to our downtown.

In my opinion, all this and more is a result of failed leadership. We elected people to our City Council who are just too small for the job. We elected people as our "leaders" who bring no leadership experience to their positions. We elected leaders who don't understand the concept of leadership. Some of our elected officials seem overwhelmed with arrogance - they seem to feel they know it all and shouldn't have to take the time to consult with their constituents on major issues. We elected "leaders" who jeer and taunt concerned speakers from the dais and trade epithets with demonstrators outside their business.

In my opinion, these are signs of small people in big jobs. We, the voters in this city, are responsible for this mess - we elected the City Council. It's up to us to fix this problem in November, when we have the chance to return this city to the hands of mature, seasoned leaders - those who will work hard to do what is right for the community as a whole, not just the vocal, angry few.
3:57 pm pst


Friday, February 25, 2011

Costa Mesa To Discuss Outsourcing Nearly EVERY Job

Just after 1:30 p.m. today almost CEO Tom Hatch announced that the Budget Working Group (Gary Monahan and Jim Righeimer) are placing an item on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting in which they will basically recommend the council to consider outsourcing almost EVERY job within the city. To avoid misinterpretation of the memo I've provided the entire text below.


Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 1:39 PM

Subject: Organizational Update
Importance: High

Fellow City Staff,

This will be a short update for now but I wanted to immediately inform you of a Report that is being added to the City Council Agenda for Tuesday, March 1, 2011. The title of the report is “Outsourcing of City Services” and the item was requested by the City Council Budget Working Group. At the Study Session of February 8, 2011 the City Attorney provided a report on “Noticing Requirements for Outsourcing or Layoffs.” The report determined that the City Council needs to make a decision about which particular services are going to be outsourced before any six month noticing requirement starts. The Budget Working Group wants the City Council to consider making the decision on outsourcing some services on March 1, 2011 and therefore a report is being presented on Tuesday. Below is the language of the Report and the Report is just being finalized and will be added to the Agenda and posted to the website this afternoon. The leadership of the associations is being informed of this item and the likely impacts from the issues. In short, if this report is approved, then for the services identified below, a process will begin to fully investigate which employees are impacted and how exactly employees will be noticed. Bumping right issues will also need to be addressed. There are important details related to the noticing issues and need further discussion by Department Heads and this will occur on Monday.

Below is the language of the Report and the final Report will be posted to the website this afternoon. As more information is available, we will share it as soon as we can.


Tom Hatch


The City Council Budget Working Group is recommending that the City Council outsource the City services listed in this staff report and direct the Assistant City Manager to begin the process of noticing employees of this action.


At the City Council Study Session of February 8, 2011, the City Attorney presented a staff report (Attachment A) that outlined the requirements for noticing employees for outsourcing or layoffs. This report was requested by the City Council Budget Working Group in an effort to understand the process for appropriately notifying employees of future outsourcing. The report states, “For layoffs which would result from contracting out a specific service, each affected employee would be entitled to at least six months’ notice pursuant to Administrative Regulation 2.26 and the City is also required to meet and consult with the applicable bargaining units (or employees if not part of a bargaining unit) to identify the specific employees/positions which would be subject to layoff as well as the impact of such layoffs/contracting out on the remaining members of the unit.”

The City Council Budget Working Group is concerned that a six month noticing requirement per applicable Memorandum Of Understandings and/or Administrative Regulations will not allow for implementation of changes until several months into the next fiscal year. Any decision to outsource services by the City Council on March 1, 2011, would not become effective until September 1, 2011 or later date. The financial concern is that with the noticing requirements any budgetary savings from a change in the system for delivering services would not be realized at the beginning of the next fiscal year and likely would not be effective until well into the new fiscal year.

Given the constraints identified above for a six month noticing process and given the successful outsourcing of similar services by other cities, the Budget Working Group is recommending that the City Council act now to decide on outsourcing these identified City services:

  • The entire Fire Department operations;
  • Street Sweeping services;
  • Graffiti Abatement services;
  • Park Maintenance services;
  • Parkway and Median Maintenance services;
  • Fleet Maintenance services;
  • Street Maintenance services;
  • Facility Maintenance services;
  • Animal Control services;
  • City Jail services;
  • Special Event Safety services;
  • Information Technology services;
  • Telecommunications services;
  • Building Inspection services;
  • Reprographic services;
  • Graphic Design services;
  • Payroll services; and
  • Employee Benefit Administration services.

Per the City Council’s direction, the City has commenced a complete organizational review of the structure of how municipal services are provided to the community. This process is expected to take up to six months or more to complete. As portions of this comprehensive review are completed, the detailed analysis and alternatives for service delivery will be provided to the public and employees for review and input prior to the City Council deliberating and determining the new structure for service delivery of each identified service. The options for new service delivery could include the following: a private vendor, another public agency or joint powers agreement, a non-profit agency, restructured City staff operations, or another method still to be determined. As this process moves forward, the formation of recommendations about new service delivery systems will be based on the thorough evaluation of the best and most efficient method for delivering a particular service to the community and may likely require formal bidding processes.


The City Council may decide not to outsource all or some of the services identified.


The fiscal impact for outsourcing the identified City services is unknown at this time.


After discussing alternatives and the timing constraints for outsourcing, the Budget Working Group is recommending that the City Council outsource the City services listed in this staff report and direct management staff take the appropriate legal steps to notice employees of this action.

Thomas R. Hatch

Assistant City Manager

City of Costa Mesa

77 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, 92626

Ph. (714) 754-5288 Fax. 754-5330


clear from Hatch's memo that there are NO jobs that are not on the table for elimination. In a previous entry I postulated that Righeimer and his buddies idea of a "perfect" organization would be one with only the CEO and a bunch of contract analysts to manage the outsources functions. You thought I was being ridiculous... OK, now what?


This is breaking news and I'm sure there will be much, much more to follow - perhaps
later today. I'll let you know when I know. Have a nice weekend!

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Runaway Train Continues...

At the end of my last post I warned you not to blink. The news this morning only affirms that admonition.


First, there is Orange County Register columnist Fra
nk Mickadeit's piece this morning, HERE, in which he tells us of Jim Righeimer's plan to have Costa Mesa become the first city in Orange County to utilize PRIVATE paramedics - which effectively dramatically impacts the members of the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association. And, Mickadeit quotes Costa Mesa Firefighters Association President Tim Vasin as being unaware of this new issue - it was the first he'd heard of it.

Then, almost simultaneously, I received the agenda for the next Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 1, which contained this little entry under New Business:
LinkThere is no staff report attached to this item yet.

This follows on the heels of the receipt of the proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority late last week which, it is my understanding, will be discussed at the council study session on Tuesday, March 8. Certainly, any serious consideration of the use of private paramedics will affect how that proposal is going to be viewed and, in fact, it may be a deal-breaker with the county.


Don't get me wrong. Having spent more than a little time going over the OCFA proposal and discussing it with folks knowledgeable about the intricacies of emergency services, I think some serious consideration should be given to the way we presently deliver those services. I don't have solutions, but there certainly are lots of questions that need to be asked.

For example, one of the weaknesses in our emergency response system is the fact that, in the case of medical aid that requires the transportation of the patient to a hospital, the paramedic from the fire truck accompanies the patient in the ambulance and the truck and remainder of the team follow along, putting them out of service. This certainly should be evaluated when considering all these new proposals.


Of course, the core of Righeimer's plan is to remove as many union members as he can in whatever way he can. This plan for private paramedics is another "easy way out", which doesn't require negotiating with city union members.

Also, this morning, the irrepressible Register columnist, Barbara Venezia, takes on the issue of the probable lost of the ABLE helicopter program from the vantage point of a Newport Beach resident, HERE. She also throws into the mix the weakened position Costa Mesa will find itself in the annexation wars if it decides to shift to the OCFA. Her last paragraph says it all:

"Costa Mesa residents need to fully understand the long-term, real-life ramifications of what giving up control over fire and emergency services means to their city. This could very well be another cobblestone in that road of good intentions paved to hell."


As I said before, don't take your eyes off this Costa Mesa City Council. They're taking a page from Barack Obama's playbook and moving at light speed to re-structure Costa Mesa before the residents wake up and see what they're doing. DO NOT BLINK!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Appointee Bully Vents His Spleen

Non-elected City Councilman, Steve Mensinger, presented us with his view of our municipal situation in a Community Commentary in the Daily Pilot tonight (in print tomorrow) titled, "When it comes to spending, 'enough is enough'". You can read it HERE.

Right off the bat, in his very first paragraph, he gives us all a crystal clear view into the genesis of who he is today. In that paragraph he describes an event when he, in his term, "lost my innocence" - he attacked a schoolmate who was taunting a friend. Those of us who have watched him on the City Council, and Planning Commission before that, will only nod in understanding. We've seen that "Steve" before, as he berates and bullies those standing before him trying to do city business. Now we understand where that fellow came from.

In his third parag
raph, as he lays blame for Costa Mesa's current fiscal situation, he says, "One need not be a detective to identify the fingerprints of the culprit. Our current budget crisis is the responsibility of those we elected." I'm sure that indictment will be welcomed by some of his current council colleagues. Gary Monahan, for example, has been on the dais 14 of the last 16 years, including several tours as Mayor. Eric Bever has six years as a councilman and Wendy Leece is beginning her fifth year. The only people he didn't point a finger at were himself and his runnin' buddy, Jim Righeimer.

Later, as he describes Costa Mesa's public employees, he says, "Many were dismayed by out-of-town police officers driving an Escalade with campaign signs in tow. However, this was the fringe in the department and lessons have hopefully been learned." This, of course, implies that some of the members of the Costa Mesa police force are greedy spendthrifts (the Escalade) who don't live in our community. He fails to mention, however, that his buddy, Righeimer, also drives an Escalade. Does that make him greedy, too? And what "lessons" does he assume have been learned? Certainly, the police officers who opposed Righeimer's candidacy learned that orchestrated confrontations with the police can be used to sway public opinion. They also learned that political expediency permitted Righeimer and his crew to paint those men and women sworn to protect and serve us as villains and criminals. Yes, I guess some lessons were learned.

He goes on to describe his view of our problems - that we've elected leaders who don't know how to say "no". Well, it's easy for him to say, since he was comfortably making millions in private industry while those leaders he berates struggled with the realities of the day running this city. They struggled with the loss of police officers who moved on to more lucrative jobs in other cities when our pay scales were woefully inadequate. That problem was fixed by those leaders and the result was a stable police force, renowned for it's effectiveness.

Recently he smirked down from the dais at retiring City Manager Allan Roeder as he critic
ized the way the city has been managed. Not only was it inappropriate, since Roeder can only advise his council on their actions, but it was a slap in the face given to a man who has served our city for more than 3 dozen years - 25 as City Manager. What's next? Will he spit in Roeder's face as he walks out the door for the last time? Will he kick him down the City Hall steps? That behavior, and his commentary, only demonstrate Mensinger's cluelessness about what municipal governance is all about.


As a semi-successful businessman (he and Righeimer both were presidents of divisions of SunCal Companies that went bankrupt), he's used to running the show - used to having people jump when he tells them to. History shows us that he has very little patience with the rules governments must follow. In fact, he seems to dislike any rules at all. After only a few short weeks on the council he's already clearly demonstrating disdain for the process that permits residents to stand before him and air their complaints. Some wonder if the recent abrupt departure of City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow may have been a direct result of her warning this council, Mensinger included, about the dangers of Brown Act violations. He's not a guy who likes to be told "no" about anything. Barlow may have been right on the money, too. Their scheme to divide into two-member "working groups" - sub-committees of the council - on specific projects is showing signs of final decisions being made BEFORE ANY public comment is presented. It won't surprise me if the city finds itself in nasty legal entanglements because of these guys.

In his commentary he says, "... our success will be defined by the qual
ity of residents we attract." Well, if he and his pals successfully disassemble our law enforcement organization, including disbanding the ABLE helicopter program and threatening to outsource "every job in the city that can be done by other than city employees", as was Righeimer's avowed goal earlier this year, just what kind of residents will we attract? Will a city that is less-safe attract young families? Will businesses choose to move their operations to a city that is less-safe? What do you think?

As Mensinger and Righeimer take their machetes to the city staff in an effort to accomplish "meaningful reform", just what kind of service can the residents expect once that massacre is complete? Righeimer campaigned on a platform to reform municipal wages and pensions. Early indications are that he and Mensinger plan to do that, not by negotiating with the bargaining units, but by simply getting rid of those employees who would be entitled to pensions and replace them with contract labor - like the Orange County Fire Authority, for example. It wouldn't surprise me if their idea of the perfect "city government" would be one Chief Executive Officer (used to be City Manager until Mensinger's ego got the better of the council) and a handful of contract contract analysts to manage all those "outsourced" contracts - kind of like when he worked for Arnel Development. In his mind's eye, without all those messy "employee" issues, running a city would be a snap!

Mensinger says, "I am optimistic that the majority of the citizens in our community now understand why their leaders must hav
e the courage to do what is right and make tough decisions with respect to how we use your tax dollars." I'm not so sure the voters in this city - who have not been given a chance to voice their opinion on Mensinger at the ballot box, by the way - will cozy up to the idea of "management by massacre". I'm not so sure they will appreciate a "management team" who handles tough issues with a billy club and berates and belittles loyal employees as they retire. I'm not so sure they will appreciate the "off with their heads!" attitude, where they find it more convenient for them to simply toss loyal employees aside in blind allegiance to a political dogma passed down from the Orange County Republican Party.


There are those in town who feel this city should be run like a private business, not a public entity. To paraphrase my friend, Gericault, who so succinctly put it in a comment today when he speculated that under a Righeimer/Mensinger regime we would see signs at the gateways to our city saying, "Welcome to Costa Mesa, Inc. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." I'd smile about that if it wasn't so darn serious.


So, now that Righeimer has told us that he's coming after EVERY city job and Mensinger has told us "enough is enough", I caution you to not take your eye off these guys - do not blink. The next rights they violate will be yours...

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mansoor's Hot Air Balloon & Wendy's Blog

Remember when Allan Mansoor was elected to the State Assembly last November? Some of us muttered to ourselves, "Well, at least he'll be out of our hair and what harm can he do up there with a legislature dominated by Democrats?" Silly us..


Since his arrival in Sacramento Mansoor has been more visible in the media than ever before. His most recent adventure, today, was to announce his bill, AB961, which is intended to eliminate collective bargaining for pension benefits by California's public employees. According to some reports the bill contains no specific language, stating merely that it's the Legislature's intent to enact a law "that would reform the public retirement system."

This is very, very typical of Mansoor - toss up a balloon full of hot air with nothing else going for it. This is exactly like his "rule of law city" resolution pa
ssed in Costa Mesa last year.

What it did, though, was get his face and voice plastered all over the media, just like the good old days here in Costa Mesa. For example, he was on John and Ken on KFI radio this afternoon, shilling his vacuous idea, and also appeared on several television news shows. This thing has zero chance of passing the Assembly.


Speaking of politicians, some may know that Wendy Leece has launched a blog recently called the OC Public Square in which she posts her thoughts on issues from time to time. I linked to it a couple weeks ago. Her most recent entry, Do We Value Life In Costa Mesa?, HERE, may be of interest to you all.


Although I don't know for sure, but I suspect this will be a place where we can get some real information from our City Council. The rest of the guys on the dais seem uninterested in
communicating with their constituents, instead they make decisions based on opinions they carry to the dais without the darn interference of public input. In any event, I recommend that you give Wendy's blog a peek now and again.

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Fairgrounds Festering Wounds...

Just in case anyone is trying to forget about the future of the Orange County Fair and Event Center, some local bloggers just keep on picking on the scab and the results are festering wounds that just will not go away.

For example, the Voice of OC blog, an investigativ
e site edited by Norberto Santana, Jr., has been on top of this issue since the beginning. Santana and his amigos at that site have done a pretty good job of providing us with timely information. You can read his most recent entry, "State Political Watchdog Launches Investigation into Ackerman's Fairgrounds Dealings" HERE. He tells us that the state Fair Political Practices Commission has now inserted itself into this quagmire, trying to determine if former State Senator Dick Ackerman violated the law when he represented the Fair Board in their attempt to get the Fairgrounds put on the sale block, then buy it for themselves.

Additionally, there is also a list of other Fairgrounds-related articles from that site HERE. If you scroll down the list you'll get a pretty good idea of the history of this mess over the past few years.

Then, over at the Orange Juice Blog, Vern Nelson has jumped astride Fair Board President David Ellis and is putting the spurs to him in an entry titled, "Who is Dave Ellis? NOW UPDATED with Inland Empire dirt!", HERE. After you read this one and the attached comments you'll ask yourself if it's safe to go out at night!

So, the drama continues. Recently the Fair Board wrote to
new Governor Jerry Brown's office, presenting it's proposal for a revenue sharing scheme. No word from Sacramento that I know of on that subject. Still pending is the court case - we won't know anything about that until next month - and the up-coming Fair Board meeting on Thursday, February 24th. You can find the agenda for that meeting and links to the staff reports HERE. I suspect many of the local activists opposed to the sale of the Fairgrounds, including former Costa Mesa Mayor Sandra Genis - President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society - will appear and present views on some of the more important issues on the agenda.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Orange County Fire Authority Proposal

This afternoon the City of Costa Mesa sent out a press release announcing that the proposal from the Orange County Fire Authority to provide fire and related services to the city is now available for viewing on the city web site. I could not find it, but have since seen a copy and will give you a quick summary here. The proposal should be available to you soon.


First, let me say that I'm not a fire safety expert by any stretch of the imagination. And, despite some interesting numbers on the proposal, there are still some expensive issues to be negotiated between the OCFA and The City - like the required improvements to the fire stations, for example.


The OCFA proposal presents three options. They also presented the current costs of our fire operations for comparison. That number is $20,255,086 with a staff deployment of 29 personnel.

The three options and their costs are:

Option #1 - $18,157,231 - 25 personnel

Option #2 - $17,186,860 - 24 personnel - close Station #6

Option #3 - $16,483, 219 - 23 personnel - close Station #2

The proposal will include one-time start-up costs of either $729,444 or $816,106, depending on the option chosen.


Regardless which option considered the proposal transfers 81 sworn and 2 non-sworn personnel.

Annual savings are projected as:

Option #1 - $2,097,855

Option#2 - $3,068,116

Option #3 - $3,771,867

Projected savings over the first 5 years of the 20 year agreement are $26,279,844

Increases are capped at 4.5% annually.

Facilities will be leased to the CFO for $1.00 per year.

That's the quick version of the 52 page report. I suggest you check the city web site for the actual report and do your own analysis. In my view, much still needs to be done before anyone can make the best decision for our city in this matter. As the old saying goes, "The devil is in the details". It's going to take some serious analysis beyond simply the numbers to determine if this a good deal for our city. Most cities in Orange County receive their fire protection from the Orange County Fire Authority.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Of An Eagle And Senior Fund Raiser

(photo courtesy of the Daily Pilot)
In case you've missed it, a group of eleven intrepid local mariners have launched themselves on the adventure of a lifetime. Earlier this month these hearty souls joined the Alaska Eagle, Orange Coast College's 65 foot aluminum sail training vessel, for one of seven legs of a trip that began last October and will end back home in Newport Harbor in June. On this leg the crew will head for the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.


You can follow the adventures as chronicled by Brad Avery, director of OCC's School of Sailing & Seamanship, in his week
ly reports in the Daily Pilot. The first three can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.


Just a little reminder. Thursday (today or tomorrow, depending on when you're reading this) the Costa Mesa Senior Center will be holding a fund raiser at Ruby's Diner on East 17th Street from 7:00 a.m. -9:00 p.m. Print and take this flier with you and present it to your server and the Senior Center will receive 20% of your bill as a much-needed contribution.



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Eagle Shot Down - And That's Not All

To the surprise of nobody in the auditorium, last night the Costa Mesa City Council voted, 4-1(Wendy Leece voted NO), to dissolve the Airborne Law Enforcement Program (ABLE) despite broad public support for the program and the presentation by Commander Tim Starn which outlined several alternatives to grounding the helicopters.

Before a cr
owd of more than 100 concerned residents the council listened patiently as eighteen of their number presented their views. Most spoke with passion in favor of ABLE, describing personal anecdotes, quantifying the value of the helicopters, quoting statistics and expressing fear for their safety should ABLE be folded up. A few spoke in favor of ending ABLE, citing the noise created by the "Ghetto Bird" as it flew over their mostly Westside neighborhoods. I found myself smiling because it's very likely they will be among those to first suffer from the absence of the helicopter program.

Officer Jason Chamness, the new President of the Costa Mesa Police Association, introduced the four officers who would be cut loose if ABLE is shut down. Each were highly trained men, all of whom had three years or more with the city. None of that made any difference - the majority on the council already had it's mind made up. ABLE, which has served our community and those of our neighboring cities for more than four decades, is now history. If nothing happens between now and the end of June to change things, the helicopters and equipment used to maintain them will be sold, the four staffers who are Costa Mesa employees will be absorbed back into the CMPD and layoffs will occur.

According to the city staff, when the four pilots return to the CMP
D they will exercise bumping rights - which will ripple down through the organization. We were told that before the four officers mentioned above are bounced the city would first dump the six reserve officers currently working in the department. Later Mayor Gary Monahan asked the City Attorney - Harold Potter sitting in for the resigned Kim Barlow - to investigate a way for the reserve officers to be spared. While I understand the emotion of his question, I found it curious that the council majority is willing to cut loose four highly trained sworn officers and retain the reservists.


In an effort to possibly save ABLE, the staff was directed to continue the overtures already begun with the county and other cities to investigate a regional airborne law enforcement entity. According to Starn, the current joint powers authority is designed to be the framework for such an effort - it has the capability to fold in other cities. Unfortunately, for any such organization to be formed in time to save ABLE actions would have to take place with almost light speed - something that almost never happens in government at any level. If progress is not made, ABLE will be shuttered the end of June.


The council then voted
to abandon the two police officer positions that have remained open for four months. It was not a good evening to be a Costa Mesa police officer last night. And, during all this anti-police rhetoric absolutely no mention was made of the fact that we're still paying Police Chief Chris Shawkey while he's on Administrative Leave. His package is worth over $300,000 per year - enough for a couple police officers.

The council also voted to significantly increase the rental of utility and ball fields and, in a subsequent, separate item, agreed to "rest" some fields, which will result in a loss of revenue in excess of $18,000 per year.

The council gave second reading to the ordina
nces that authorized the amendment to certain contracts with employee associations that provided for "Cost Sharing", which had been previously negotiated. One was an "urgency ordinance", which permits this issue to become effective today.

Three items involving City Manager-in-waiting Thomas Hatch were heard last night. The first was the approval of his contract - the first of such for a City Manager in Costa Mesa's history. However, most other cities in the county follow this practice. Hatch will get a nice raise and benefit package and enough severance, should that ever become necessary, to keep his nose firmly planted on the grindstone. As a result of his compensation package negotiation there will be a modification of the city council policy 300-2 regarding Executive Severance.

And, finally, there was unelected co
uncilman Steve Mensinger's proposal to change Hatch's title to Chief Executive Officer (CEO). This is an unnecessary bit of grandstanding on the part of Mensinger, which he acknowledged was purely symbolic. When Wendy Leece inquired about the amount of legal staff time necessary for this item, Potter responded that it was a "no-brainer" - it probably took less than an hour. In his typical flippant, in-you-face style, Mensinger asked what it cost and said he'd write a check for it. We're only a couple months into his term and this attitude is already getting mighty old. And, even worse, history shows us that, based on his tour on the Planning Commission, he's going to get even more cocky and condescending as time goes on.

The council approved a
n adjustment in this year's budget of $200,000 for consultant services for a city-wide organizational review. Hatch laid out just how that money was earmarked:

$34,000 - Police Department - ($24,000 + add'l expertise $10,000)
$15,000 - Finance Department for 5-year plan
$30,000 - Economic Developm
ent Plan
$20,000 - Enhanced Communication
$50,000 - Redesign of Web Site
$50,000 - Additional consulting (OCFA RFP, etc.)

Total - $199,000

, in light of the staff reductions in several departments, including the City Manager's Office, this kind of expertise is essential to craft timely plans in response to the impatient city council's objectives and timetables. If no other cuts are made to the budget, or if the revenue stream is not greater than anticipated, the city will end the fiscal year with a deficit of $1.6 million.


The council also passed another "Mensinger Resolution" - this one to proclaim that Costa Mesa encourages local businesses to hire Costa Mesa Youth. This is just another merit badge on his "Hey, look at me!" sash - nice, but not necessary

I cam
e away from the meeting last night unsettled for several reasons. The first, of course, is the demise of the ABLE program and the impact its loss will have on the Costa Mesa Police Department. This program has been the model after which all other municipal helicopter programs have been designed. If one believes, as I do, that helicopters are "force multipliers" in local law enforcement, then - as former mayor Sandra Genis said last night - the closure of ABLE will likely mean more than simply the loss of four airborne officers... it will mean a SIGNIFICANT diminishing of public safety in our city.

I'm also co
ncerned about the cavalier way some members of this council, including Monahan, seem willing to ignore or abandon council policies and/or practices when they're inconvenient. Each of those issues were hashed out and refined over long periods of time. This council - and you will recall that I predicted this - is willing to run roughshod over us all. Righeimer and Mensinger are impatient guys, used to answering to no one. It's clear now that they intend to overlay their management style on our city regardless the damage it will do. If they had not already pre-judged ABLE they might have read the staff report, which gave them a way to balance this year's budget AND still retain ABLE.


I'm concerned about the implementation of the so-called "working groups" - two-person teams of council members charged with investigating several issue in the city. This is the first meeting where the results of those groups can be seen and it raises concerns in my mind - and others with whom I've discussed it - about Brown Act violations. Clearly, some on this council are not going to be swayed by the voices of the residents of this city - they already have their minds made up and they are not going to let facts nor residents opinions get in the way.

Finally, I was very distressed by the implication expressed by Mensinger and Righeimer r
egarding the previous - and current - management of this city. I heard Mensinger quite overtly criticize the management several times, indicating that he "had to sit four years" and watch the previous council make mistakes. He implied that retiring City Manager Allan Roeder was a culprit in this problem while smiling down at him from the dais and saying "no offense". He's proving to be a guy who will smile and shake your hand with one hand and stab you in the back with the other.

I know from having watched Roeder in action that he did all he could to advise previous councils about their budgeting practices. Every year he'd tell them that the use of fund balance to balance the budget was not a solution, it was the result of them not making the hard choices - doing their jobs. I don't know how Roeder feels about this, but I suspect these next couple weeks - he retires as of March 4th - will be mighty long and painful. It's truly sad that his long and illustrious career and his tireless dedication to this city for three dozen years will be tainted by egomanical political hacks on the council as he departs. He probably should have retired in December...

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