Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Late Night Costa Mesa Hijinks

"So, where ya been Pot Stirrer?", you ask. Well, last night's council meeting just flat wrung me out and by the time I finally left City Hall at 1:20 a.m. I was so disappointed and angry about the events of the evening/morning and so physically thrashed that I just couldn't sit down and write... so I took a mini-hiatus for a few hours. I'm back.

By the tim
e that meeting ended in the wee hours of Wednesday it seemed to me that we'd had an entire week's activities jammed into two days. With Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley's abrupt departure and the letter he left in his wake; Tom Hatch's angry response to that departure; the last-minute presentation by the OCEA of the results of their audit and then the events of the meeting itself, I found myself getting a giant brain cramp. Some might say it couldn't have been too big, considering what was involved...

The shortest shorthand version of last night's meeting - we have a budget, we barely have a Police Department left and a couple members of the city council majority have demonstrated again that they don't really care what the residents - those fine folks they are supposed to serve - have to say. In fact, they are more than willing to spit back at folks who criticize them - a totally unacceptable behavior for a municipal leader. That's all you need to know, but there are those nasty details to deal with.

I thought we might be in for an interesting evening when I found five (5) television news vans parked outside the council chambers more than an hour before the event was scheduled to begin. I was right. By the time I dragged my weary old body to my car more than seven hours later I'd had about all the political rhetoric and staged sound bites that I could take. You can watch the entire painful proceeding via streaming video HERE. To navigate the site be sure you use the "jump to" feature, then drag the scroll bar to the specific point of interest.

The auditorium was packed, with the overflow crowd watching and listening to the proceedings from the porch. They could be heard clapping and cheering occasionally following more than a few of the speakers before the council. There were many employees in the building, including a large contingent of police officers, eager for a last minute reprieve to the destruction of their organization. They went home disappointed.

Early on, when the crowd clapped and cheered
for a couple of the early speakers during Public Comments, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer blew a gasket and scolded the crowd for their boisterousness. He told them that folks were afraid to speak for fear of jeering and that school children who came to the meetings were ashamed of the adults acting like children. Later he gave us a demonstration of what he meant when he and non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger chided and berated members of the OCEA from the dais. Talk about lack of professionalism! The hypocrisy was so deep you almost needed hip boots in the chambers! More on that later.

The Public Comments segment took almost 90 minutes, with 33 speakers stepping up to address the council on a variety of issues. I'm not going to try to comment on every one, but Helen Nenadal led off with a passionate thank you to the residents of the city for their support in these troubled times.

g city mechanic, Gant Corum - one of those "Jiffy Lube Guys" that Colin McCarthy vilifies - stepped up and hit one out of the park, also thanking the residents of the city for their support. He's one of those waiting to hear the results of the RFP process to unfold - and the clock's ticking.

Retired police lieutenant Clay Epperson, who recently had a long commentary published in the Daily Pilot, stood to speak on behalf of recently-departed Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley, and to beg the council to not destroy our excellent police organization. As it turned out, the council was wearing ear plugs.

The council, with relatively little
debate, approved CEO Tom Hatch's plan to gut the Costa Mesa Police Department, ignoring the best professional advice available. He, and the council, chose to use as the cornerstone of their decision the pulled-from-the-air number of 125 sworn officers imposed on the process by "two members of the city council". We know that's the genesis of the number because Staveley told his troops that fact during his meeting with them a week ago. April 12, 2011, Staveley wrote a report to him defining his views on the staffing of the police department - he felt 160+ was a good number, but that 140 would be the barest minimum number that should be considered. Hatch's hand-picked consultants, Management Partners - which included in its stable of experts the former Police Chief in Brea, Mike Messina, a veteran cop with more than 35 years in law enforcement under his belt - suggested a minimum number of 136 sworn. And yet, here we are, with 125, to which will be added 5 positions via federal grant for 3 years and one restored Lieutenant slot for a total of 131. The department has not seen staffing numbers that low since the mid-1980s - when the population was nearly 40% smaller.

The discussion of how this reduction was to be executed was wishy-washy at best. Hatch seemed either unwilling or unable to describe how this plan will be executed, so they just moved on, apparently assuming it would just happen. I was seated near many members of the CMPD, who had a very troubled, confused look on many of their faces. It's bad enough to have their lives so affected by the decisions made at that moment, but to see the indecisiveness at the end of it certainly must have been frustrating for them.

Again, with relatively little discussion on the budget - especially considering t
he magnitude of the issue and the lengthy multiple-meetings that have been held on it in the recent past - the council voted to approve Hatch's plan, but with the alternatives offered up to meet the capricious demands made by Righeimer at the Study Session last week. We now have a General Fund budget of just over $95 million - a number that is almost certainly going to get massaged with a sledgehammer in the second quarter of the fiscal year once the whole outsourcing debacle begins to kick in.


There seems to be absolutely no doubt about just who's running the show on the dais these days - regardless who signs the paperwork. Yep, the carpetbagger has taken over and, as resident and former council candidate Lisa Reedy stated so clearly, is running wild. Mayor Gary Monahan appears to have abdicated the power seat, if not officially, at least in practice, to Righeimer. There must be some OC GOP marching orders at play here. Righeimer may not have snatched the crown off Monahan's head yet, but he certainly is messing with it.


Here's an irony for you. They approved the version of the budge
t that reduced the allocation for the legal fees from $1 million to just over $800,000, but earlier approved the Warrant in the Consent Calendar that showed the most recent bill to Jones & Mayer to be just over $120,000 - an annualized rate of $1.4 million. I doubt anyone in the room expects the legal fees to go down any time soon. Do these guys actually think nobody is watching this? Geez!

An amusing, and pa
thetic, sidebar occurred last night as Mensinger got into a discussion with Hatch about Park Rangers and Community Service Specialists (CSS). Over the past couple years, in an effort to balance earlier budgets, several of the non-sworn CSS positions were vacated and the incumbents laid off. Mensinger wanted to know how many were in the new budget and how they can be used. Hatch told him there was one Park Ranger slot filled and one vacant, plus 5 CSS slots approved. Mensinger wanted to know how many could be used as Park Rangers. There is no "Park Ranger" job - they are CSS slots filled to be Park Rangers and the pay grade and requirements are the same. For some reason, Mensinger just could not grasp the concept that there were 7 position and would remain 7 no matter how you sliced them. I wanted to stand up and yell for him to take off his shoes and count the toes, for goodness sake! And we wonder how his division of SunCal ended up in bankruptcy!

After midnight (!), before the budget was approved, the rem
aining 60 or so observers in the audience were forced to endure two irrelevant and unnecessary presentations. The first, by the smarmy Colin McCarthy in his role as the president of the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association - the vocal chords for the OC GOP in Costa Mesa - was a PowerPoint presentation showing a bundle of inaccurate and biased numbers with which they've been attempting to whip confused residents into a fiscal frenzy. There was NO reason for this presentation, particularly since it interfered with the real business of the council - to discuss and approve a budget!

The second was a lame presentation by a representative of the Orange County Employee's Association of the Executive Summary of their recently-completed audit. There was no good reason for this to have been presented since it was only released the day before and the final audit was only made available to the City Tuesday morning. Yes, it should have been acknowledged and, yes, the announcement of a study session to discuss it should have been made, but the presentation should not have been approved. As is turned out, it was disastrous for the OCEA. In yet another tactical blunder, in my view, they chose not to fly down the author from San Francisco for the presentation and the nice young woman who made the pitch was shredded by Righeimer in an aggressive, unprofessional attack. He was joined, like a second mutt in a brace of pit bulls, by his pal, Mensinger, who took the opportunity to castigate OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir. And, in an interesting bit of piling on, McCarthy stood to further denigrate the OCEA presentation when public comments were invited. It was like a bully convention, for goodness sake.

So, dear readers, we've got a budget, but at the expense of the police depart
ment and public safety in our city. I know the men and women of the CMPD are going to continue to do their best to provide safe streets for all residents and visitors. I hope Hatch does, as he said was his plan, hire a new Police Chief shortly so the troops will not be operating with a leadership vacuum much longer. I have no idea how the latest Interim Police Chief, Dennis Kies, will do for the short time he will be around. Certainly, he will not try to implement any new initiatives during his short tenure. He'll be like a substitute teacher - here today, gone tomorrow. We'll see.

On the positive side, I no longer have to plan my every waking moment around Tuesday meetings at City Hall. With the budget approved, that requirement gets reduced to every other Tuesday. Ah, like a vacation...

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Blogger valan2 said...

Pot Stirrer: Great summary, but at the end you forgot your own advice: "Don't take your eyes off these guys." Yes, there won't be a meeting on the 28th, but there will still be study sessions, and there's a lot more to come, even with an adopted budget. More consultants, more studies, outsourcing proposals, and on and on.

And, of even greater concern are the days when there are no public meetings, providing more opportunities for individual Council members to "direct" or "order" the City Manager to carry out their wishes. It may be "like a vacation" but don't nap too long!

Thanks for your continued vigilance and informative updates.

6/22/2011 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Sadly, you're probably correct! Thanks to you for YOUR activism and wisdom. Too bad it's not appreciated by people in "high" places - if you can call the dais a "high place". :-)

6/22/2011 08:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike O'Reilly said...

McCarthy looks like the first one eaten in the lifeboat.

6/22/2011 08:17:00 PM  
Anonymous barewire said...

so it's a bully convention when one side speaks and it's something entirely different when the other side does? When they (union greedies) speak, they should be listened too and policy enacted on what they said? It's fine to listen to them but do we really want Genis, Leffler, Ridge, and Brenneman calling the shots and influencing policy? Maybe some do. In the recall election put them up as the replacement candidates and see what happens. I am prepared to accept what a majority of RESIDENT VOTERS want.

6/22/2011 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said... forgot, Dimel,Ahlf, Martin, Claytor, Thunell,Epperson,Humphries, Foley ,Brooks , Garcia, Evers , Valantine, Reedy, and many others I don't know all their names, ALL RESIDENTS .........It's not just a few of the same residents. We're not even organized.....we don't receive marching orders , or talking points. Sometimes there might be an e-mail reminding people that a city council meeting is that evening but that is sporadic at best. Fact is , all those residents are showing up because they care and are disgusted. It's not just a few gadfkys......and we aren't going away.

6/22/2011 08:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Adam Henry said...

Barewire: I think one person who might run as replacement candidate DURING THE RECALL may send shock waves through the Improver Ranks. He will start our city on the road to repair the damage the current council majority has caused. He was a very highly respected police chief here for many years and many believe he will consider a run against these egotists if asked to do so. Many on your list could viable candidates as well.
STAND BY. May be a great reason to start gathering signatures.

6/22/2011 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous MONGO said...

Pot Stirrer: Awesome summary (much appreciated). I watched the meeting on T. V. and was worn out myself. Great turn out of speakers. Perry Valentine said it best, "In God we trust" as I too agree that those on the Dais can't be trusted (except for Wendy Leece). I was amazed (but should not have been) when Riggy said we have a serious motel problem, and the City should just write a check and demolish the motel's. The last I heard IF there are "problem motels" so long as they are properly zoned to be there, which I am sure they are you can't just "force them out" by writing a check. On the one hand he say's the City is broke, and on the other he's ready to write a check. My question is with what money? That aside IF there is a motel problem there is a system in place to address these types of complaints. It's called the Motel/Hotel task force comprised of various members of City Staff I.E Police Dept., Code Enforcement, Fire Dept. Health Dept. City Atty. Office. The last I heard this task force has not met in many year's as a result of PROACTIVE involement with the Police and Code Enforcement staying on top of the situation. Of course if the task force gets involved there is a procedure and Rules of Law must be followed. Then again apparently the Law does not apply to this council(minus Wendy) and in all probability they would not follow the rules anyway. In the end if everyone is outsourced/layed off/short staffed etc. it won't matter and we are stuck with crack heads & prostitues potentially getting out of hand. And that's just the beginning...And we the residents will be left with a city devastated by these guy's after they are gone from office.

Than you for your blog.. If you (or anyone else) could attach any future staff reports, memo's etc as they become availeable it would be appreciated. For whatever reason Hatch/Lobdell keep the general public in the dark. So much for transparency. Truly a said state of affair's for the residents, business owners and ALL City Employees..

6/22/2011 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Thanks... yes, Perry was on his game last night - and it cost him re-appointment to a city committee.

Actually, the city has done a much better job of providing access to information. Staff report are readily available on the city web site and they're easier than ever to find these days. I do link to the ones that are pertinent to the subject at hand to make it easier for you to locate.

Thanks for reading - and for writing, too.

6/22/2011 11:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Never Happen said...

Keep dreaming Adam Henry/Car44

6/23/2011 12:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Adam Henry said...

Never happen: I think the current actions are so destructive to our city and its reputation that it will bring out many qualified and QUALIFIED candidates. The chief for one as well as some former council members and, hopefully, Perry Valantine. Maybe even our former City Manager.
Let the recall begin!!!!!

6/23/2011 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Q. If the "Motel Problem" is solved Riggy/Menssy style, who do you think would benefit?

A. The people of Costa Mesa with "pocket parks!"


Correct Answer:
The developer friends of the above-mentioned POS.

6/23/2011 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for a great post about this cluster-meeting. Yours truly only made it till the vote gutting our excellent police force; then I was too disgusted and tired to stay.

Of course Riggy's running the show. Mayor Kilt's been ordered to stand down. (As if he could get any smaller).

The Bever HAD to have another outburst, this time whining about "revisionist city history." (Last time it was by attacking Wendy Leece's daughter in the infamous "I didn't sign on for this" rant).

Yea, right, Baby Eric. It's much easier to talk tough every couple of months than to stand up to your masters and do the right thing, as several long-time residents ASKED you to do.

"Colon" McCarthy and Riggy pony-boy Fitzpatrick were practically dancing in the aisles. What's up with "commissioner" Fitzpatrick- he looked like he'd spent the last week sleeping with the homeless in Lions Park. Is he there trying to find solutions to the homeless problem?

6/23/2011 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Thank you Genis, Leffler, Ridge, Brenneman,Dimel, Ahlf, Martin, Claytor,Thunell,Epperson,Humphries,Foley,Brooks,Garcia,Evers, Valantine, Reedy, Flores, and many other of my fellow Costa Mesans for your activism in trying to keep our city on the right path.

In the last 21 years I've not been able to participate as much as I should have in city government, but when the Recall starts I'll be there with my checkbook.

6/23/2011 07:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Is a recall realistic, or more importantly, on the drawing board? It sure would be interesting to find out where the citizens of Costa Mesa truly stand amid all the back and forth, because it's hard to get a read on which side the majority stands among the shouting.

And I'm guessing the chatter about the Attorney General and all that is merely chatter at this point, but it's hard to believe the shenanigans in Costa Mesa aren't on her radar, or the Governor's, considering other outstanding issues like the Fairgrounds. Stay tuned is really all the hope I have at this point.

6/23/2011 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Katie Flores said...

I have been checking your blog since 8 AM on Wednesday morning - thank you for your great summary, Pot Stirrer! You rock - although I was hoping you were going to post the lyrics to the scathing "song" that was sung to the CC - classic Costa Mesa moment right there! Where are we at with a Recall? Is it in the works - what do we need to do?

6/23/2011 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Katie Flores,
Thanks for reading... I am planning to post the lyrics of Terry Koken's great song from Tuesday night. You're correct, it was a true "Costa Mesa" moment.

I don't, personally, have any knowledge of a recall effort. I just reviewed the requirements to launch such an effort and will be getting a clarification on some segments of it today. I'll post about it when I have more information.

6/23/2011 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

I was passed over for a city committee, also, several times, actually...sigh...

6/23/2011 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

I was there Tuesday night and had to leave after the police vote for work the next day. From what I saw, it's time to start recalls, with some boycotts of businesses thrown in. In listening to these CC people, the only thing they care about is money and power, not actual people. So it's time that they started feeling the eceonmic pressure others are feeling, and the only way to do that is to hit their pocketbook.

6/23/2011 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Karma says.... said...

Pam H. the Telecommunications Manager position was cut due to reorganization of the Police Department. Has nothing to do with your blogging on here and your war you have waged since leaving the City of Costa Mesa employ.

Your type of behavior is why you no longer work for the City.

Seriously, get over yourself and get back to work!

6/23/2011 01:34:00 PM  

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