Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Watch Them Like A Hawk

One of the things I've learned as I've watched meetings of the Costa Mesa City Council over the past decade is that, to quote baseball legend Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over". Last night those words of wisdom held true once again. More on that in a minute.


A crowd of more than 80 residents, employees and staffers gathered a
t the Study Session yesterday afternoon to hear, among other things, the recommendations the consultants and CEO Tom Hatch had for the restructuring of the Costa Mesa Police Department, and what changes had been made to the pending budget as a result of that restructuring. Heck, even Eric Bever showed up for the second meeting in a row, which might be a record this year. However, he made up for showing up by leaving early. I guess three and a half hours was all he could take because, when the meeting re-convened at 8:00 following a short break, he was nowhere to be seen.

Hatch guided the
presentation of the restructuring scheme proposed by the consultants he hired, Management Partners, and expanded on that with his own version of the restructuring. The staff report also included the April 12, 2011 report by Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley, which - as was noted by at least one speaker - was not mentioned except in passing. All of those items have been mentioned here before on previous posts. Nothing changed - Hatch proposed a Police Department of 131 sworn officers, using as a starting point the mythical "125" officer number we've discussed before, plus the 5 officers to be paid for by the C.O.P.S. grant and the Lieutenant position to be added back into the mix.

Several people, including councilwoman Wendy Leece, again asked where
that 125 number came from - nobody answered that question. So much for transparency. Of course, I've told you before where it came from - two council members pulled it out of the air (or elsewhere) during a day-one coffee with Staveley. It's been the cornerstone of any restructuring plan ever since, regardless what consultants, expert in the field, have to say.

When the conversation turned to the current budget recommendations in which Hatch has managed to provide the council with a balanced budget, things got pretty interesting. You may recall when I published THIS entry, I said the following:

Again, it will be interesting to see if this city council will set aside dogma and do what is right for the city when it comes to the budget. Quite honestly, I don't think they will be satisfied with a balanced budget. I think they're going to want to throw a mountain of cash into the Reserves and will sacrifice bodies to do it. I really do expect them to direct Hatch to return on June 21st with a new, revised budget proposal that will give them at least $1 million to put in the cookie jar. That will mean, in all likelihood, another eight staffers will be lost. Since Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer is intent on having a 125 sworn member police department, that's where six of those bodies will come from.


Guess what? I was right! After most of the folks left in the auditorium - around 30 remained - Righeimer told Hatch that he's looking for nearly $3 million in additional savings in this year's budget! He figures we're over-estimating revenues by $400,000 and wants $1.5 million more in the form of the equipment replacement fund and another million in a contingency fund, all of which totals $2.9 million. You could hear the life being sucked out of the audience and the staff.


Then, as the discu
ssion turned to just how those savings might be accomplished the conversation turned to a supplemental sheet of unfilled vacancies presented to the council last night. There were 28 positions on that list with a total annual cost of just over $4.1 million. Both Mayor Gary Monahan and Righeimer speculated about how some of those positions might be canceled or delayed to help come up with Righeimer's new target. One speaker, Perry Valantine, pointed out to them that none of those positions will be filled by July 1 and probably not even by September 1, which automatically provides $1 million in contingency dollars.

Much has been made about Righeimer's position on pension reform. It formed
the platform for his council campaign last year. We've speculated that he can't really implement "pension reform" in Costa Mesa because the labor contracts run past the end of his term. Well, he gave us a very clear look at what's in his mind last night. Right at the end of the meeting, in a little re-hash of how those vacant positions might play in the budget balancing act, when referring to the Fire Department positions, he told us that he wasn't interested in filling any of the Fire positions until we've got a second tier in place for new hires. Even though the fire contracts are not up for re-negotiation for several years, Righeimer's willing to hold eight (8) currently vacant positions hostage unless the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association negotiates a new tier of pensions. This cavalier attitude dramatically negatively affects public safety in our city.

As if that was not enough, with his actions last night Monahan affirmed Hatch's statement last week that the council doesn't trust the employees who work for the city. In two breaths he asked Hatch to come back with a proposal for a computerized time-clock system for all employees - suggesting that the folks at the Corporate Yard could use laptops to clock in - AND suggested we put GPS units on all city vehicles. A pint-sized version of Big Brother is alive and well in Costa Mesa today.


At 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 16th in Conference Room 1A Hatch and the
Finance staff will hold a community budget workshop, to answer questions members of the community might have. Last year this event drew 12 people, quadruple the previous 3 years. Because this year has been extraordinary from a budget communication standpoint, I wonder about the value of this workshop. But, it's scheduled and will be held.

The actual, final budget is scheduled to be considered on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers. Based on the meeting last night, that should be a very interesting meeting. Those of us who watch this stuff closely are wondering just what kind of stuff the council will drop on Hatch at the last minute on that date.

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger feral390 said...

Does this really surprise anyone? More consultants,more distrust and more spending. Does anyone remember what it was like to live in a normal city?

6/15/2011 06:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Sick of it All said...

Yeah, for all the talk about deficits, etc., these guys spend like the Real Housewives of OC on a bender at South Coast Plaza...

6/15/2011 07:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I love what this Council is doing and so do my friends and family. I watched last year as we burned through reserves under a promise that 2010-2011 would be brighter. It wasn't. We broke the law by tapping into our reserves (without a declared emergency) and now Council is fixing that. The cuts are tough, but needed and largely supported by the community. I expect the Council will balance the budget and the residents will respond positively. I'm not as pessimistic as those who blog on here. I'm crossing my fingers!

6/15/2011 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

Ok, time clocks I can kinda see, but GPS on vehicles ? That's pretty expensive, a monthly reaccuring cost, and what purpose would that serve other then tracking milage and knowing where the employees are at any given moment ? For emergency vehciles, maybe, I know in towing they need to have these to route calls better, but for plumbing or parking tickets ? Come on, what a waste of cash. If there's such an enviroment where you can't trust your employees, then management's the problems, since they put that enviroment in place, or failed to change it.

6/15/2011 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Daisy Mae said...

Why would they need time clocks at the maintenance yard. Isn't this the group that is going to be laid off in September anyway? Where did all this hate and mistrust come from Monahan? He has been on the Council quite a few years and now he says he doesn't trust employees? Why isn't he leading the City instead of Righeimer? Jennifer-how did the City break the law by tapping into reserves? Don't you think the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression is an emergency? What is exactly is a reserve fund for? The City has made major staffing reductions the last few years. Hatch has delivered a balanced budget. It is your lovely City Council that is spending money they supposedly do not have and creating more of a crisis then their actually is.

6/15/2011 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Clear as Mud said...

Monahans comment last night about the council not trusting employees is appauling. all employees have gone thru background checks before employement. Does the council go thru the same process? Of the employees left, most have been with the city longer than the entire council.

The employees in no way trust the council. More scrutiny should be on Monahan due to the fact he usually looks intoxicated at the council meetings. His possible intoxication will affect his judgment and decision's that affect this entire city. Perhaps the PD could conduct a breathalyzer before he and his buddies destroy our city.

6/15/2011 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous The Fake Gus Ayer said...

If they do this, Eric Bever should be required to punch in and GPS'd.

6/15/2011 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous TRANSPARENCY said...

Anyone notice Hatch asked for an additional $400,000. in next years budget for legal expenses! For what? Bet the City could go out to bid and find competitive prices from some highly rated recognized law firms for the same ... or even less ... money than is being paid to the current ... musical chairs ... attorney group. Any answers (breakdown case by case) regarding what the litigation costs have been for the past five years? Has the City REALLY saved money with a contract law firm?

6/15/2011 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Kay said...

The cops are the ones that should be GPS'd. You can never find one when you need one! They hang out somewhere other than in public, where they should be.

6/15/2011 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Diogenes said...

"You stand behind me with a watch in your hand,
And I can't get nothin' done;
They tell me that you're a punctual man,
But come on,... Come on!"
I propose a new motto for the city council's soviet four: "Semper crescat stercum pullorum". Stercus pullorum is what we saw when Gary hung out at his bar while the whole town mourned Huy Pham; stercus pullorum is what Mensinger pulled on the poor guy he chest-bumped; stercus pullorum is what Bever and Righeimer set out for us when they accused the cops of giving them the "stink eye". Stercus pullorum is what I class Monahan's comment about legal action against Coyotl Tezcatlipoca's being a "no-brainer". The only council member to eschew good old stercus pullorum is Wendy Leece; she had no qualms about telling OCGOP to go peddle their stercus pullorum elsewhere.
Indeed, with the current supreme soviet of CM, Semper crescat stercum pullorum.

6/15/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Having no Latin fluency I took your phrase, Semper crescat stercum pullorum and ran it through Google Translate. What came back was "Always grow to the dung of the chicks'". I think I understand what you're getting at. :-) ;-)

6/15/2011 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Yes, I work for Costa Mesa and NO I don't live here said...

We balanced the budget for this fiscal year. However; it wasn't good enough for the council. We have one member who wants to make a name for himself in the ground zero debate and he wants another $1.2 million in cuts. This will mean 8 more employee cuts. 8 more families destroyed by the inane aspirations of one man in the political circus of Costa Mesa. Let's have a punchclock! Good, finally get paid for all the over-time I work. I for one will finally get paid for coming in early and working late without compensation.

6/15/2011 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Original Max said...

feral390, Just wait until Righeimer is able to control who gets the contracts in this city. I think it's only the tip of the iceberg. Judging by his past performance, he won't be choosing what's best for the Costa Mesa, just what's best for him and his friends.

6/15/2011 05:54:00 PM  
Anonymous i hope your husband doesnt hit you said...

Kay your police officers are busy handling more calls than officers which is why they aren't available. I'm sure by your logic you think this problem will get better when more officers leave. Keep drinking the Rig kool-aid, I hear it is poop flavored.

6/15/2011 06:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Ptred said...

I'm totally for the time clock!! Now I can get paid for all the time I put in before and after work - typically 15 minutes to get ready for briefing and usually 15-20 minutes after work because of late calls or doing the required work before going off duty. Thank you city council for the extra money!!

6/15/2011 09:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Ptred said...

Hey Kay - where do you think we are? Guess what, we are out there, taking reports that used to be taken by non-sworn personnel that were fired. Give me a break, if I cannot be everywhere all the time. Minimum staffing for day shift fri-mon is only 7 officers total for patrol and even then we recently are having to draft or work below that level of staffing. So sorry if you have to wait, let your city council know since they are running the show.

6/15/2011 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Jennifer, your boys have spent over a half a million in the first half of the year. Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute (a conservative think tank) contends it is a mistake to focus on the deficit while continuing to spend. The city councilmen’s entitlement non-revenue producing expenditures will reach over a million dollars by the end the year if they continue their present trajectory. They have spent approximately $536,000 in the first quarter, alone: Private Consultants approximately $300,000 plus additional $100,000 for another proposed consultant, Attorney fees approximately $100,000, Four Boys Media = $36,000. This does not even address the penalties the city will dole out for their shenanigans in the form of attorney’s fees and law suits against the city for wrongful employee dismissals; nor does it address the cities obligation to pension payouts for employees who no longer are contributing to the cost of these payouts; nor does it consider cost of privatizing city jobs (one outsourcing expert testified that outsourcing usually results in increased, not decreased, payroll expenditures); nor does it consider the cost that will result from dismantling of the city police and ABLE. Crime is very expensive to a city in both increased costs and decreased revenue. Anyone who knows crime control policy will rightfully predict high spike in crime as a result of the councilmen’s resent actions. There is not a business person with a right mind who would move their business to CM once the crime spikes. Moreover, many of the small businesses are sure to exit the city rather than suffer the criminal element and high insurance premiums.

6/15/2011 10:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Re comment by "Dave"

Thanks for your recital of the approx half-million dollars the council spent in the first quarter alone, smack in the midst of their self-described “crisis.”

These expenditures follow the recipe developed by the Republican Party think tanks going back to at least Pres. Reagan’s era. Briefly, the recipe says to first manufacture a “crisis,” knowing that public opinion is then easier to move because there then seems to be a compelling reason.

Earlier this year, for example, the governor of Wisconsin – a handsome, rising star, young Republican – and the newly Republican-dominated legislature manufactured a fiscal crisis that they used to justify union-busting laws.

How did they manufacture their crisis? They first handed out tax breaks to rich people and businesses (either or both, I don’t remember the details.) (I do know the middle class didn’t get any tax breaks, though!)

Then they pleaded poverty and claimed the only way out of the now-crisis was to cut the high benefits of public employees. (Sound familiar, Costa Mesans?)

This, in turn, “justified” the union-busting laws that greatly restricted the unions’ ability to negotiate.

Now, why would a nice bunch of cheese heads do such a underhanded thing? Here’s a clue:

"Wisconsin Senate leader admits union-busting bill is about defeating Obama
By Megan Carpentier
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 -- 3:36 pm
State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R), the Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader, must have forgotten his talking points while appearing on Megyn Kelly's Fox News show. This afternoon he admitted on-air what many liberals have long-suspected: rescinding collective bargaining rights from state workers is Wisconsin is as much about the 2012 presidential election as Wisconsin's 2011 budget shortage.

As first reported by ThinkProgress, Fitzgerald told Kelly: "If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin."

Watch Fitzgerald as first seen on Fox News on March 9, 2011"

Do you think the councilmen, all Republicans and all businessmen, led by rising star Jim Righeimer, would stoop to such tactics given that any nonpolitical businessman would know better than to fire half his people before he had figured out how to replace them?

And do you think Mr. Righeimer would want to keep the "crisis" alive by weekly adding in new expenditures in the face of a balanced budget proposal from staff?

One guess is all you get!

6/15/2011 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger valan2 said...

Tom Egan, you're too cynical! (SIN-i-kuhl. adjective. Drawing accurate conclusions based on observation of the evidence.)

6/16/2011 09:52:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home