Sunday, February 06, 2011

Tuesday's Study Session A Bellwether Of The Future?

Tuesday, February 8th, the Costa Mesa City Council will hold a Study Session in Conference Room 1A at City Hall beginning at 4:30 p.m. Normally these meetings last an hour or so. This one promises to be much, much longer because of the nature and number of items to be discussed.

As you may know, the council can take no votes on items discussed in a Study Session. They hear
staff reports and discuss the issues on an informal basis. They also hear very limited public comments due to the normal time constraints. If any of the issues discussed on Tuesday are to be officially acted upon they must be agendized for an open City Council meeting - the next one is the 15th - at which time a public hearing will be held and full public participation is permitted.

There are seven (7) items on the agenda for Tuesday. They are, in order:

1 - Overview of the
FY 2010-2011 Budget at Mid Year
2 - Consider the Dissolution of the Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE) Program
3 - Consider the El
imination of Two Vacant Police Officer Positions
4 - Presentation of Future Rate
s and City's Unfunded Liability for CalPERS
5 - Discussion of Noticing Requirements for Outsourcing City Servi
ces or Layoffs
6 - Redevelo
pment Agency Update
7 - Employee of the Month

There are no staff reports available for Nos. 1, 4 and 7.


As you look down that list you'll certainly realize the significance of each of them. In previous years this particular session would just be a discussion of the budget. Not this year - not with the new council. This year this session will amount to a "machete-sharpening" event, in which our impatient council members appear ready to begin thinning the city staff with something well-short of surgical precision.


Take #2, for example. Although, according to the staff report, HERE, Costa Mesa has had helicopters for more than forty years and has been operating the joint venture - Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE) - with Newport Beach for more than fifteen of those. It also contracts with the City of Santa Ana to provide helicopter coverage for a fee. I think it is safe to say that most folks in local law enforcement view ABLE as a tremendous asset to the cities it serves. It is a "force multiplier" that has enhanced law enforcement operations since its inception. However, the benefits notwithstanding, the City Council Budget Working Group (Mayor Gary Monahan and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer) have decided that it must go and are recommending to the full council the dissolution of the program.

If the council decides to proceed with the dissolution of ABLE, and thereby lessening the effe
ctiveness of three police agencies in the process, it will incur some significant costs. Among those are the lease on the hanger for which there is a $13,000 per month obligation with no early termination clause. This could cost over $190,000. There is also a contract with the Santa Ana Police Department, which requires a termination notice by March 1, 2011. Costa Mesa would transfer four officers from ABLE - one commander and 3 pilots - each of whom will have bumping rights that would likely result in the layoffs of 4 junior officers. The three mechanics that are part of ABLE are Newport Beach employees and their futures are unclear should ABLE be dissolved.

While one would hope such a very significant move would be the result of calm, reasoned consideration by our elected leaders, it sure seems like this is a done deal - without public comment. You will recall I warned you about this crew from the very beginning. This is just the beginning.

Item #3 deals w
ith the potential deletion of two (2) open Police Officer positions that have been kept open for four (4) months. IF the City Manager and Acting Police Chief Les Gogerty can agree on a restructuring of the department as a result of the permanent loss of those two positions and IF there is a satisfactory result in the statutorily-required "meet and confer" with the police bargaining unit, the abandonment of those positions would represent a savings in this fiscal year of around $200,000 according to the staff report, HERE. Of course, if they decide to outsource our police activities (see below) it won't make much difference, will it?


Let's talk about #5, the "noticing requirements" if the city decides to outsource services or in the case of layoffs. In her staff report, HERE, Contract City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow provides answers to three questions:

1 - Is the City required to give notice to each bargaining unit before issuing layoff notices to its members?
YES, and she cites the reasoning behind that answer.

2 - Is the City required to be specific as to the service/program being considered for contracting out? In other words, can the City Council issue a blanket notice to all employees of its intent to contract out all services to keep all options open?
NO, followed by a lengthy explanation.

3 - May the City withdraw its notice at any time over the 6 months' notice period?

YES, but... (see staff report)

Dumping the "pension problem" by outsourcing services seems to be a ham-handed
way to solve that problem. As yet unaddressed is how The City will assure quality services to the residents following any outsourcing efforts. I'm especially concerned about what will happen with public safety - Police and Fire - if those functions are outsourced. If the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the Orange County Fire Authority were to take over servicing Costa Mesa we lose any semblance of control. We would be subject to staffing decisions made by county officials with their priorities in mind, not ours.

Item #6, the Redevelopment Agency Update, is being presented because old/new Governor Jerry Brown has been making big noises about folding up Redevelopment Agencies state-wide, and sucking up that cash into the state's coffers in an attempt to balance the budget.

The staff report, HERE, responds to three questions posed by the City Council:

1 - What is the Status of Governor Brown's Recent Proposal to Eliminate Redevelopment Agencies in California?

2 - What is the Status of the City of Costa Mesa Loan to the Costa Mesa Redevelopment Agency (RDA)?

3 - How Much Money is Unencumbered in the Redevelopment Agency's Budget for the Downtown Fund?

Please refer to the staff
report for the detail in the responses. While there are specifics as to the numbers in items 2 and 3, number 1 is the great unknown.


I fear the impatience of a majority on the City Council may drive us into significant legal entanglements as they rush to "do something" about the budget - and serve their own personal political
agenda at the same time. As each day passes it's becoming clear to me that the impatient majority has already decided a very specific course of action - to resolve the "pension problem" by disposing of the employees who carry that obligation.


There are many facets of these issues that have NOT been thoroughly aired and made available for public comment. With four members of the council clearly operating in lock-step - and with the strong possibility of Brown Act violations as a result of their mismanagement of their "sub-committee" scheme - there is every likelihood that many of these major decisions are going to be a fait accompli before any resident has a chance to address them with the council. Personally, I'm not too happy with the idea of our municipal fiscal future being decided by the mayor and mayor pro tem and a bunch of their cronies over a few beers at the mayor's gin mill.


I urge the City Council to throttle-back their self-serving agenda a little and take
the time required for reasoned discourse on these issues before charging off like the Sooners in the Oklahoma land rush. Effective management of our city demands resident involvement and mature, calm deliberation. They simply cannot run around like the Queen of Hearts, shouting "Off With Their Heads!" and properly serve the needs of the people who elected them.

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Anonymous ConcernedforCM said...

They have no idea the damage to a lot of peoples families and lively hood they are causing. Or maybe they do and they just do not care because they themselves have job security. I hope all this bites them all in the behind.

2/07/2011 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

The County pushed for cities to annex county held land over the past few years, what a great way to get control back, at hire rates I'm sure.

Once all CM services are contracted out, under short term contracts (3 years at most... this will keep the renewals within control of the new 4 year term elected); then we will see old services/departments reorganized under new contracts and we will then have costs and payrolls back in line, where this council thinks they should be.

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead...

Ooooowh ya... great call on the game, points were dead on.

2/07/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, you have hit the nail on the head when it comes to control should this council decide to place police services in the hands of the County. Example, the county employs only two deputies to handle vice (prostitution). CM has a tremendous problem with street walkers at HRB/Gisler (near Rig's house) and internet girls in the hotels. Is it really a stretch to say there will be delays in addressing these issues should the county take over? OCSD has two narcs teams, north and south, to deal with drug dealers. CMPD employs 9 cops to deal with vice and dope. Any idea which would gives the better service? The 9 cops working a minimum 40 hours per week in town? Or the Deputies that may hit our town once or twice per month? The answer is clear. And we have not even began to discuss how many fewer deputies will patrol the streets and how long they will be out of service to book prisoners at county jail. OCSD has a history of promising vast resources, having a honeymoon period of approximately one year, then downsizing the number of deputies patrolling the streets (See Stanton and San Clemente) . CM can ill afford to go to OCSD for police services.

2/07/2011 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Anonymous.. good message, but can't you puh-leeze pick a name?

2/07/2011 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Ted said...

Why does everyone of your posts sound the the sky is falling? U need a reality check.

2/07/2011 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To The Pot Stirrer, I intend to do just that. Unfortunately my kids are driving me nuts today and i haven't had the time to think of anything without four letter words.

2/07/2011 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Anonymous... lame, dude! How about "harried dad"... see, it's easy!

2/07/2011 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Gee, Ted, I don't know.. maybe because it appears that the new regime is intent on dismantling the city. The sky may not be falling, but a hardhat wouldn't be a bad idea.

2/07/2011 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous ConcernedforCM said...

So a good question would be how do we get the message out to the residents just how damaging these council members actions will be? And Ted....nobody wins here. People with faimlys lose and the residents are inconvienced and possibly even put in danger....this new council is making the sky fall.

2/07/2011 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

ConcernedforCM, I suppose those who see this as a problem could write to their council members expressing their concerns AND they could write to the local media - the Daily Pilot and the Orange County Register - outlining their concerns. AND they could stand before the council during meetings and use the three minutes to articulate their concerns. AND/OR they could post comments on blogs that some of the council members read - like this one. That, however, is probably the least effective way to reach them because the council members are already ticked-off when they reach this page. :-)

2/07/2011 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous ConcernedforCM said...

Writing to the various media I can do. I dont have any faith that voicing my concerns to the members themselves will do any good. They have their own political agenda and they see Costa Mesa, residents and public servants, as nothing but colateral damage.

2/07/2011 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

I understand your view...

2/07/2011 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Simple math said...

The private sector has made massive sacrifices and lost millions of jobs and homes in this recession. Retirement accounts have been decimated or lost entirely. CM has lost millions in revenue and savings just to keep employee pay and retirement going. The employees make nominal concessions, retain their retirement and propose dozens of new fees on residents and buisinesses. Cops and firefighters takes days off and give up a little while still demanding that CM pick up part of the employee payment to retirement.

Yea, it is the council's fault, they made the economy crash.

Simple math - 80%+ of expenditures are for salary/benefits/retirement, and that is where at least 80%+ of the savings must come from.

2/07/2011 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

simple math, your oversimplification of this issue demonstrates very clearly your bias. For the past 3 years city management has tried to balance the budget based on the priorities established by the city council. For ALL of Allan Mansoor's term there was a heels-dug-in mindset when it came to even talking about new revenue sources. Previous councils established the compensation practices that we live with today. ALL the bargaining units stepped up during this financial crisis to participate in the resolution of our budget dilemma. We're operating today with 20% fewer city staffers than was the case in 2008.

Based on what we've recently heard from city finance staffers, there's a good chance we will come very, very close to ending this fiscal year without using ANY fund balance to balance the budget. We should know more from tomorrow's study session. EVERY department is trying to function at a high level with less staff, and generally accomplishing that goal.

And yet the new council has given them marching orders that are unreasonable at best and Draconian, at least. Righeimer's insistence that they find $15 million in next year's budget for road repairs without a clue about the remainder of the budget requirements shows us that he's in this for himself, not for the city. All he wants are headlines and sound bites to use as the rungs of his political ladder. If he was serious about his role as a council member he would be asking questions instead of imposing his will before he has the facts. He's just an opportunistic carpetbagger using this city as a stepping stone and doesn't care what carnage he leaves in his wake.

2/07/2011 09:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Max said...

More than likely the city isn't going to save any money in the long run with this political ideology experiment. Consultants are notorious for running up huge bills. Plus, it puts the city in the hands of a corporation, not the people. Next time you call the city it will be no different than trying to get tech support for your computer. They'll outsource the office jobs to India and hire illegal immigrants for physical labor jobs. That's what corporate greed is all about.

2/07/2011 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dimel said...

Simple Math, am I to understand that you believe anyone is saying the council made the economy crash? I have never heard that. By the same token, the employees didn't make the economy crash either.

Yes, everyone is hurting in this economy. Do you honestly believe that what is happening in the private sector doesn't have some effect on even our cops and firefighters? That somehow we have no connection to the private sector because we ourselves don't work in it? My wife did until she was laid off. The homes you mention being lost; mine could be one. I am hoping not.

I would suppose to your line of thinking, I would deserve that for being a public employee.

Can the city pare down its overall personnel expenditure? Absolutely. To what extent is the question. The "product" any government body provides is service. Service comes from people. The city does not turn a profit like a business. If it did, some of those profits from the sale of our product would certainly need to be reinvested back into the business for expansion and purchase of more raw materials to produce the goods we manufacture.

But since we don't make a product, we provide a service, we invest in the people that provide that service. Now, let's agree that the employees can help keep those costs down by sharing in the cost of the retirement plan. I have heard very few of my colleagues complain about that. Perhaps you should talk to some of us and get our perspective, and the facts, rather than believe all the rhetoric you read.

2/08/2011 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Brumbaugh said...

Anonymous has it right. Contracting with the OCSD will put fewer deputies on our streets which equal longer (if any) response time. Forget about community policing that will disappear. I have to believe there is something creative to be done to keep ABLE. What a powerful tool. We don't have community safety programs anymore and now possibly less police with the possible elimination of the helicopter. This doesn't make sense to me. The people of this city better open their eyes and stand to be heard.

2/08/2011 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

I understand that we have real people working for the city that have real families and real living expenses. Having said that, I am not opposed to looking for other economic models to provide city services.

I do think the taxpayers in the city deserve cost effective service delivery. Part of being cost effective includes delivering value. For example, patrol officers that know the neighborhood are of more value than someone who is cycled in and out of several communities. I am not say OCSD does that, this is just an example.

Outsourcing can be very effective for private businesses as well as government agencies. I don't think it is rational to ignore this method of service delivery, regardless of the state of the economy.

Is it possible this council could take that plan too far? Sure, just like previous councils got too generous with our tax dollars.

2/08/2011 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Change is happening said...

Good riddance to a decent program run into the grown by bloated spending, lack of management and complete structural ineffeciences. For years the City has hid the true cost of ABLE by stashing the upkeep and other admin charges in other budget items. It's an absurdly expensive program whose only justification for survival was crime fear-mongoring. The only way we should keep this is if the other cities pay their fair share-which they won't. I'd like to see the pilots get private sector jobs paying $180k a year. Good luck with that!

2/08/2011 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous wyattearp said...

I might also add that not one management position has been eliminated and only one position has been held vacant due to retirement. That means CMPD has virtually the same amount of supervision and management (at higher salaries and benefits) supervising and managing less subordinates. How smart is this? Managers should have been the first to go and the remaining should have had to supervise and manage more personnel, just like the line personnel have taken on more duties with the loss of personnel.

2/08/2011 08:54:00 PM  

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