Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Toes Only Moderately Toasted

"What did I think of the Feet to the Fire forum last night?" That was the question several people, including Barbara Venezia, the "Energizer Bunny" behind it all, asked me after it was over. Well, I thought it was pretty good, although nobody actually answered the theme question, "Should Costa Mesa be run more like a business?" They answered lots of other questions, but not that one. Basically, it ended up being a discussion of outsourcing and not much else. I would have preferred a little tighter rein on the proceedings.

Judging by the reaction from the nearly 300 people gathered at the Neighborhood Community Center last night, I'd say each side will think they "won" the evening. It was a well-mannered group except for one loud-mouthed knucklehead who heckled Jim Righeimer very early on in the proceedings. He was promptly escorted out of the building without incident.

While the crowd was behaving itself, the folks on the stage got a little rowdy during the evening. At times, from several vantage points in the room, it was difficult to hear the dialogue because the participants were trying to out-shout each other. Those on the stage and some in the first few rows of the audience apparently didn't have any trouble hearing the discussion, but those of us in the cheap seats - half-way back and beyond - just got a blast of noise from time to time. I joked with Venezia at the end that she should have had a cattle prod to keep the participants inline. "Quiet! Zap!"


Wendy Leece frequently interrupted Righeimer's comments, trying to correct misinformation he was providing. Righeimer frequently interrupted Leece and Orange County Employee Association General Manager Nick Berardino, trying to deflect their comments. At one point Voice of OC Managing Editor Norberto Santana, Jr., and Righeimer got into a heated debate/shouting match, with Righeimer attempting to deflect Santana's questions by challenging his funding - pointing to Berardino and referring to him as "your boss". The OCEA does provide some funding for the Voice of OC.

From my standpoint, it seemed to me that Righeimer and Colin McCarthy were self-assured to the point of cocky arrogance. Righeimer continued to preach the "party line", using fabricated numbers to emphasize his statement that The City is in serious fiscal trouble. He continues to not let pesky facts change his opinion. Several times during the night he said, "We're done with the politics of fear.", which seems to be the latest buzz phrase provided to him by his handlers in the OC GOP. I guess threatening half the city staff with layoffs doesn't qualify as "politics of fear". I guess inflating the budget deficit numbers so it seems as though the sky is falling doesn't qualify as "politics of fear."

And, he continued the annoying practice of summarily dismissing audience
as not being representative of the community as a whole, just as he's done at recent council meetings. He used anecdotal "evidence" of discussions he's had with folks at Home Depot as an indicator of the true feelings of the community. It was a curious position to take, since the crowd last night seemed to be about equally split. As I looked around last night I saw many familiar faces - employees and residents who have attended council meetings in recent month - but I also saw many new faces, too.

Not much new information
was provided by either side, which didn't really surprise me. The biggest news for me was the offer by Berardino to re-open negotiations with The City to try to help balance the budget. That's the first time we've heard that either side is actually willing to engage in the "meet and confer" process this time around.


Before the meeting began representatives of McCarthy's Costa Mesa Taxpayer's
Association worked the crowd, jamming into their hands copies of a recent poll they conducted - a push poll, with questions akin to "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?", and a very misleading "Compensation Report" which purported to show 2010 compensation of employees who "earned" over $190,000 last year. The problem with that "report" was that it's not accurate! It is distorted by lump-sum payouts of vacation pay for retirees and those who otherwise left the city. Both documents were clearly designed to inflame the crowd, just as Righeimer and McCarthy's inaccurate statements from the stage were intended to do.

All in all I'd say the Feet To The Fire Forum was a success. Yes, it would have been better without the shouting matches, but it turned out OK. Soon you'll be able to judge for yourself. Dane Bora and Brad Long of CMTV tell me they hope to have the tape placed into the rotation by Thursday and the streaming video up before that. I'll let you know and provide a replay schedule as soon as it's available.

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Anonymous Stayed home to wash my hair said...

It was a stupid question to ask and the result was predictable.

4/19/2011 07:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Sammy The Bull Costa said...

Hey Geoff-
Since we know the GOP Groupies (Barry etc) follow this blog: How about an open challenge for Riggy and the others to disclose for all to see their private emails. It is public information. Easy to do.. if they have nothing to hide.
BUT, that is the big question: Do they have anything to hide??

4/19/2011 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous "irrepressible" said...

I have been outsourced/laidoff for "energizer bunny". How dare you..

4/19/2011 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Sando said...

I thought the best question of the night was how can two people from the same council be so far apart in their views? "We are facing an economic crisis" per Righeimer. "No we're not" per Leece. Neither Righeimer or Leece are very effective speakers. They both make claims that are short on specifics.

4/19/2011 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Sammy, that's a very good question, since Nick was unsuccessful getting a pledge from Righeimer, etal, last night.

Sando, you may be right.... it was a great question. It actually was more telling than that because the inquisitor mentioned the both are conservatives, too. Since numbers are what they are, the only answer is that one of them is pushing dogma, not fiscal well-being. Gee, wonder which one? :-)

4/19/2011 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous reality said...

Berardino did not ofer to meet and confer unless the 6-month notices were rescinded. The 6-month notices are a contractual provision that he refuses to waive. His offer is nothing more than political theater.

Sando, the fact that Costa Mesa keeps running a deficit and have laid off or eliminated 139 city positions - and their related services to residents and businesses - is irrefutable proof that we are facing an extreme fiscal crisis.

It is clear from the CMCEA handout distributed last night that they have no desire to negotiate. The associations, through pushing contracts have already sacrificed 139 of the people (with families, mortgages, etc.) they allegedly represent, why should they stop now?

The Democratic Club handout referenced the 139 jobs lost, with no outrage, just as an example of necessary cost-saving measures. The 139 jobs lost didn't get 6-months notice. Those jobs are gone. The same handout calls the 6-month notices hasty and irresponsible. Why do you suppose that is?

Screw it, the reality is too troubling and connecting the dots is too difficult - lets make videos about guys in kilts and blame Riggy and Mensy!

4/19/2011 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Taxpayer Mama said...

Let me challenge you because you have an answer for everything:

I challenge you to offer or get an offer to release private emails between Riggy and his compadres. Simple isn't it when you have nothing hide. CAN YOU MEET THAT CHALLENGE?? Or is honesty something you can "write away" in a blog??

4/19/2011 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Sando said...

reality- I can believe there's a problem. There's no getting around the fact that the economy is down. But one side says $15M deficit, the other says $5M. So what is it?

4/19/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Barry said...

Didn't realize until last night that Mr. Santana and the "Voice of OC" are funded by Bernardino and the OC Employees Union. Seems like a conflict of interest on that. It was pretty clear what Santana's bias' were.

I thought Wendy came across as Wendy usually does-stupid. She just uses lots of nice catch-phrases. Bernardino is a smooth operator who can sell our City into bankruptcy. I heard last night he makes $208,000 per year. Is that true?

It did seem to me that everyone needs to work closer together. The union should stop politicizing all of this with their hate attacks against our Mayor. Bernardino didn't even mention that. Funny.

4/19/2011 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Sando, Hatch says $5 million. Wendy said the remainder of that $15 million is a "wish list". Sounds like a fabricated crisis to me.

4/19/2011 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Sando said...

It definitely smells when the people on the inside can't even agree on the amount. Numbers this far apart don't inspire confidence.

4/19/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Everything I've seen first hand, and everything I've read, point to one thing:

Riggy and Menssy,their henchmen Monahan, Bever, and Pony Boy Fitzpatrick,will NOT be deviating from The Agenda anytime soon.

Appeals to common sense, "what's right," and even to neogtiate, seem to be a waste of effort.

Maybe it'll all change at tonight's council meeting.

Mayor Kilt will offer a sincere apology, not only for his actions on 3/17, but for disparaging our police over the response time to his suspicious brick drama. Riggy and Menssy will tell us they've decided to be real men and stop listening to out of towners; Bever will show up a second time and apologize for being an angry punk. Fitzpatrick will proclaim that he's found a mind of his own.

A rainbow will appear, and unicorns will be seen heading east on Fair.

4/19/2011 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous MDM Resident said...

Holy crud!!! I can't believe how big my bald spot is getting. Thank you Geoff for ruining my day.

4/19/2011 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous LongTime Maggie said...

As long-time, "generic" residents, not aligned with any particular group, my husband and I didn't find the forum very useful, with the protocol deteriorating very quickly.

One thing is for sure, Mr. Righeimer annoyed us greatly with his statement that he spoke for the community. He sure seems dismissive of those who may not agree with him and his positions; we found that arrogant.

Concerns about losing quality services after years of satisfaction is a legitimate worry. Are we to be dismissed because we question the Council and their proposed changes?

Righeimer and associates NEVER talk about maintaining quality in this City, only cutting, cutting, cutting. What happened to problem solving and working collabortively?

4/19/2011 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

Would have like to be there, but parking was limited and I didn't feel comfortable parking in the surrounding businesses parking lots... so I will have to wait for the replay. Limited parking and seating is a great way to control a group that MAY or MAY NOT support your side of an issue.

I will be interesting to read comments from those who would have liked to have been there... but couldn't.

4/19/2011 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Jax Fam said...

A city isn't a business. A business is a business. You have a choice to patronize a business. You don't have a choice to give money to a city. A city should be run in the most efficient way possible. That should be the goal. I think that whole CEO thing was a mistake and rather confusing. It also makes it sound like how the federal government was trying to run General Motors. As a general rule, governments and businesses should be separate.

4/19/2011 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous unionquiltersforleece said...

we believe it comes down to this:

A)there is no crisis, just use ALL the money for pay and benefits and raise some fees and taxes and we can keep everybody for awhile, even 160K 911 dispatchers. Please realize there can be no helicopter though, we need the $$ for employee pay and there will be no repaving, park upgrades, etc.; OR,

B)there is a fundamental $$ problem, we blew through 30K in reserves just to keep pay benefits up and now we have to get union concessions or we have to layoff employees; in fact, we would like to spend some money on city upgrades and maintenance, not all on pay and pension benefits. Public safety needs to take the biggest hit since they get the most, let's say a 20% haircut in total package.

4/19/2011 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous unicorn said...

"What happened to problem solving and working collaboratively?"

That is what the Council was trying to do in October when they were forced to vote on contracts despite being told by Roeder that it would mean 50-100 layoffs. The associations threatened to sue the City if they didn't approve those contracts then. Go back and watch the video of that meeting and then talk to us about problem solving and working collaboratively.

Whichever journalist used the pie analogy last night hit the nail on the head - everyone needs to get together and figure out how to make the City work with the amount of pie we have. That means that some will get less pie. Those who don't want less pie have used their seniority or bargaining prowess to ensure that 139 members of the Costa Mesa family got no pie. Looks like that trend is continuing.

Keep blaming Righeimer.

4/19/2011 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous almostdone said...

Some people talking like this whole thing is actually about costs and savings and that discussions like this 'feet to the fire' thing might change the councils direction.
It's not and they won't. Their only focus is the agenda that is being promoted by the GOP.
That agenda is to eliminate the public sector and replace it with private enterprise.
The GOP supports unrestricted private business, without any government oversight or control. That's what they're all about and Costa Mesa has become one of the first cities to try to do that.
That's what those guys are here for. Period! They don't work for the voters. They work for the 'replace public with private' arm of the GOP which in turn works with their corporate supporters to do just that.
The voters let them in the door and now they're going to go about their business as quickly as possible.
That business will be to replace the city employees with low cost workers that are employeed by the private companys that get the contracts.
In reality there won't be any actual savings to the tax payer because the difference in the cost between the old city employee and the new private employee is going to go for what the private sector calls... profit.
That 'for profit' aspect of this circus is what this is all about. It's what the GOP is all about and it has nothing to do with quality or savings.
People who hate that public employees make good money will be happy that the "workers" will make peanuts just like them and won't care that the privately owned corporations, who are sometimes not even US owned (like in EMS), pocket the difference.
Anybody who thinks that replacement workers making less is going to mean that the cost to the tax payers is going to go down is just clueless.

4/19/2011 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger ERIC said...

Geoff- this needs to be posted

Quarterly sales tax numbers just came out.

Costa Mesa had a 10+% increase for the quarter and THE LARGEST PER CAPITA INCREASE against other juristictions.


Guess "The Sky is falling" screaming from Righeimer/Mensinger/Bever/Monahan is a whole lot of hot air.

More money coming into city and that is without a TOT tax that will bring in millions too.

4/19/2011 03:50:00 PM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

Running Costa Mesa as a Business, a Company or a Corporation?

First we will need to decide which category will best serve Costa Mesa.

A. Sole Proprietorship - All you need to have is a Social Security Number. No doubt, you will also be required to get the necessary permits and licenses as applicable in your state, but since getting those is usually quite easy, you can always consider starting your business as a sole proprietorship. The only drawback of sole proprietorships is that you do not have adequate protection against business liabilities. For example, if you have taken out a business loan and are unable to pay the installments, your creditors can get a court order to attach your personal assets and sell them at an auction.

B. Partnership - Partnerships are composed of two or more individuals and are given preference when it is just not possible for a single individual to shoulder all the responsibilities of the proposed business plan. Partnerships can also be created between two business entities as well as between an individual and a business enterprise. The obvious benefit of partnerships is the shared liability.

C. General Partnership - In these types of businesses, all partners have equal rights related to management control and day-to-day business decisions.

D. Limited Partnership - In a Limited Partnership, only a few partners have management authority, and the rest just play a supporting role. The exact ratio of active and supportive partners varies, depending on what exactly is stated in the partnership contract.

E. Limited Liability Partnerships – In these types of businesses, the liabilities of each individual partner is predetermined. Thus, each partner has adequate protection against business liabilities that might arise due to the actions of other partners or employees working for the organization.

However, this is not something that is perfect - because a partner will still be asked to pay his share as stated in the predetermined ratio, even though they may not be responsible for the business liability.

F. Corporation – These types of businesses are formed according to the laws of the state they are formed in. They have their own distinctive legal identity, independent from its promoters, board of directors, and shareholders.

G. Limited Liability Company (LLC) – These types of business enterprises have access to conventional benefits such as limited liability, without the heavy reporting burdens that corporate entities are normally required to meet. These businesses also share some characteristics with that of sole proprietorships and partnerships.

Another great benefit of LLCs is pass-through taxation. This means that the revenues of the business are passed through to the owners’ personal income tax returns.

H. Not-for-profit Corporation – This is an incorporated organization created by statute, government or judicial authority and registered at the Registry of Commerce that is not intended to provide a profit to the owners or members. It differs from a for-profit corporation substantially as this is organized to provide profits to its owners or members. A non-profit corporation is always organized as a non-stock corporation.

I. Public-Benefit Corporation - A public corporation chartered by a State designed to perform public benefit. A public authority is a type of public-benefit corporation that takes on a more bureaucratic role, such as the maintenance of public infrastructure, that often has broad powers to regulate or maintain public property.

Once we have decided our company structure type, we will then need to decide what we will do

•Combination of listed

When this decision is complete, we will need employees; management; board members; consultants to the consultants.

WAIT… isn’t this what we do now?

4/19/2011 04:42:00 PM  

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