Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lopez Ventures Back To Costa Mesa - Almost

Well, our old buddy, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, ventured back into Costa Mesa last week to get his mind squared away by our two purveyor's of truth, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger. Apparently they thought he got it wrong HERE when he wrote previously about their attempt to make up for not being able to implement real pension reform by getting rid of many of those employees who are eligible for those darn pensions. That first column generated over 400 comments and the old hit counter is still spinning.


presents his view, HERE, of having coffee with the two of them - he refers to them a couple times as "Frick and Frack" - and that reference made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt! Yes, sir - our two wannabe saviors of our city certainly have performed like those two buffoons on ice from yesteryear - except without the skills.


I suspect R
igheimer and Mensinger will be less than happy with their attempt to set the record straight by enticing Lopez to have coffee across the border in Newport Beach - a rock-throw from my house, by the way. Yes, Kean's coffee is wonderful, but it doesn't help you choke down the kind of stuff they were feeding him - obviously.


So, now we w
ait until Tuesday, when an extended Study Session will present CEO Tom Hatch's balanced budget and a full explanation of the plan to restructure the Police Department. I don't think the council, headed by the aforementioned "Frick and Frack", (chuckle) will go along with Hatch's plan in either case. I think they are going to continue on with their own plan to gut our once-proud Police Department, ignoring the best professional advice they could find, and leave the residents of our city at the mercy of the criminals among us.

And I think they will demand more cuts by Hatch and his dwindling staff of managers to provide a much larger cash reserve so they can buy up motels throughout the city and make it easier for their developer buddies to make big bucks on them.


It's really hard to imagine that they really think the public is so blind and stupid
that they don't see through what they're doing here. They're taking the mantra handed down by the GOP - MY GOP - and use those skills that they used to ride two divisions of SunCal Companies into the ground to do the same for Costa Mesa. I'm not sure what it's going to take for the voters of this city to wise-up.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, June 10, 2011

CMPD Restructuring Plan Announced+ Budget Info

In a press release today (text of which is included below) Costa Mesa Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell announced the plans for the reorganization of the Costa Mesa Police Department that City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch will present to the City Council at the Study Session next Tuesday, June 14th in council chambers beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Although links
to the plan were attached to the press release, the Study Session Staff Report was also released today and it's much easier to navigate through. You will find that report HERE. There are links to the various elements mentioned in the press release, as well.



Costa Mesa CEO proposes plan to restructure police department

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch released today a preliminary
organizational re
structuring plan for the Costa Mesa Police Department to City Council members for their review. The plan would save the City $1.35 million annually while maintaining comparable levels of service hours.

The proposal—which includes 23 recommendations—would add 10 additional sworn reserve officers (7,382 hours annually), two K-9 units to patrol, four helicopter pilots to ground-based duties, two park rangers, a crime scene specialist and four support jobs. In exchange, positions for 12 sworn officers and one non-sworn commander would be eliminated, likely through attrition.

The reorganization of the police department was prompted by recent budget deficits that have forced the City to spend more than $33.5 million of its reserves in the past four fiscal years. The police department expenses—at 35%—represent the largest share of the general fund. “Through months of study and analysis, we’ve found a way to reorganize the police department that significantly reduces expenses but gives residents and businesses a similar level of service hours,” Hatch said. “A key to the plan is the additional sworn reserve officers. We are fortunate that our community has many retired police officers in their 50s with a wealth of experience who still want to serve.”

The reorganization would also create a regional Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teamand fold the telecommunications department (9-1-1 center) into the police department (92% of the 9-1-1 call volume is for police services). A police lieutenant would replace a civilian manager of the telecommunications department.

The net reduction to the police department would be the equivalent of four full-time positions.

Other suggestions include outsourcing of animal control services, expanding the police department’s volunteer program, implementing a succession plan for department personnel and reviewing the department’s traffic bureau.

Under the plan, the number of sworn police officers would be 131, with five of those positions funded by a federal grant the City has already received for $1.8 million over three years. The analysis and initial recommendations for the police restructuring was part of a three-and-a-half-month-long study by Management Partners, a consulting company that used Mike Messina, the former police chief in Brea, for the report. Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley also provided analysis and recommendations for consideration. The reports are attached, along with details on the fiscal impact.

Hatch will give a presentation of the proposed organizational restructuring at the City Council Study Session at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers.


The Study Session is going to be very interesting because we're going to find o
ut once and for all whether this city council will take the advice of the professionals in the field - their hand-picked CEO, Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley and the consulting firm to whom they paid tens of thousands of dollars for their assessment and recommendations for the most cost effective and efficient Police Department - or if they will ignore all or major portions of the recommendations and follow their preconceived opinions about staffing levels.

Also on t
he agenda is one more pass at the 2011-2012 budget. The staff report, HERE, shows in detail how Hatch has managed to present a balanced budget for the council to consider. The changes that accomplish that objective include those he is recommending for the restructuring of the Police Department. Any modifications the council makes to that plan will certainly alter Hatch's balanced budget.

Among the positions proposed to be deleted in this pass are an Animal Control Officer. This particular position was salvaged last year after a
tremendous outcry by members of the public. I doubt a similar outcry this year will be effective - these guys just don't care.

Also to be eliminated is the civilian Emergency Medical Services Coordinator position. This is the job held by the outspoken Larry Grihalva, who you may recall stepped to the speaker's podium several months ago to educate the council. I'm assuming the deletion of his job is merely a coincidence - or is it? You'll recall that I've told you over and over again that this council DOES NOT LIKE an opposing opinion. This may be the consequence of being outspoken - or not.

Another job sacrificed to the Po
lice Reorg/Balanced Budget is that of the Telecommunication Manager. That organization will be assigned to the Police Department and a new Lieutenant position will be filled to manage that function.

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.

I'm left, once again, with concern for the future of our city and for the safety of i
ts residents. With the slashing of the Police Department staff and the dissolution of the ABLE program the residents and visitors to our city will never be safer than they are as you read this. This city council, with its blind allegiance to the GOP party line, seems more than willing to place every one of us at risk to advance their political agendas and futures.

We are operating today in an environment where the city council apparently distrusts its appointed CEO, its Interim Police Chief and the city staff in general. We're in a time where at least a few members of the city council are angry at the staff and seem more than willing to make the public pay for the grudge they hold. I've written in the recent past that they have created a hostile work environment, but it's gone way, way past that definition now. No, the actions they're taking are turning an efficient, competent, motivated workforce into a group of people looking over their collective shoulders all the time. Gone are the days when a simple request could get them all leaning into the harness at the same time, pulling hard for the good of the city. Now they expect to feel the whip across their haunches and are spooked at the slightest sound. I suspect they'd be happy for something as simple as hostility about now.

Tuesday's Study Session - which I expect to be another long one - will give us a c
lear idea of just how extreme this council is going to be. It ain't gonna be pretty...

Labels: , , , ,

CMPD Restructuring Report Due Today

Sometime this afternoon Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch will release the results and recommendations of the consultants evaluating the Costa Mesa Police Department. Word has it that the results are going to be brutal, with very significant cuts in staffing levels and very significant organizational changes - all of which will cause much angst among the rank and file of the CMPD and other city units.

I've had the
opportunity to get a little sneak peek at the final report to Hatch from Management Partners, the consulting firm given the assignment earlier this year to assess the Costa Mesa Police Department and come up with recommendations for a trimmer, more efficient organization. This report, and Hatch's adjustment of the recommendations, will be presented formally to the City Council at the extended Study Session on Tuesday, June 14th.

Their report prod
uced eight (8) recommendations, listed below:

1 - Implement a regional SWAT t
eam with neighboring jurisdictions.
2 - Increase the ratio
of non-sworn to sworn personnel to reduce expenditures and maintain a high level of customer service.
3 - Analyze the K-9 calls for service data to determine if staffing changes can be made to include these positions as part of a regular patrol beat.

4 - Identify a provider and contract animal control services.
5 - Develop and implement a succession plan in the Police Department.
6 - Implement both an internal and external training program for the Police Department Staff.
7 - Eliminate one commander position, three lieutenant positions, one sergeant positio
n and three officer positions.
8 - Add one non-sworn logisti
cal support manager position and one non-sworn special events coordinator position.

Theoretically, these changes would result in around $1.2 million in annual savings and would reduce the head count in the department to 136.


Wednesday Hatch and the consultants met with members of the CMPD to give them a preview of the recommendations and Hatch's massaging of the numbers. It is my understanding that during this 2-hour meeting several things were said by Hatch and the consultants that might be considered incendiary. Mention has been made of those comments as part of a comment thread on the Daily Pilot blog attached to their article on the restructuring.

Here's part of what I know of that meeting.

Hatch went through the recommendations provided by Management Partners one-by-one, commenting editorially with some background on each. You've already read those recommendations, above, so you might imagine how this news was received.

However, the news immediately got worse as Hatch provided HIS massaged version that he'll be presenting to the City Council today. In it the head count is dropped to 125, with 5 added via a recently-received COPS grant. That covers 5 officers for 3 years, with the city required to pick up the costs in the 4th year. The attendees, I'm told, were already reeling from the 136 number - this one was a gut-punch. This reduces the head count to mid-1980s levels. In recent years the CMPD had a high staffing number of 164.

To soften the impact of his changes Hatch said it was his plan to phase them in, with none taking place until October 1st this year. He then said he wasn't sure that the City Council would go for that plan - that they might simply require the changes effective July 1st, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Hatch talked about the demise of ABLE, but told the group the council had approved $150,000 to be used for the remainder of the calendar year for contract helicopter assistance by Huntington Beach.

When asked about the RFP for the outsourcing of the Jail functions - why was it not part of this study BEFORE the decision was made to produce the RFP - he had no answer except that the council felt that was the way to go.

About a half hour into the presentation he cautioned the audience to not assume the City Council will go along with the report. They might just decide to do something entirely different.

Hatch was asked why police management was not consulted FIRST about possible restructuring instead of choosing to use expensive outside consultants. His response was, "Because there is distrust. There is distrust about us. There is anger about public employees." He went on to say that the council apparently didn't trust the staff to generate RFPs that would fairly provide an opportunity for others to bid on potential outsourced operations. At one point he specifically mentioned that he thought the City Council didn't fully trust him. This is an astounding admission, and a very troubling one.

During the conversation Hatch told the officers that his goal was to reach 132 staffing level by October 1st. (He later said his number was actually 131) One of the officers challenged Hatch about the 125 staffing number, which to him seemed arbitrary. Hatch said something about it being a number that had been out in the community when Interim Chief Steve Staveley interrupted him and said, "I can tell you exactly where that number came from."

Staveley told the group that, on his very first day on the job this time around, he was invited to coffee by "two city council members" - he didn't name them - and during that coffee they told him in no uncertain terms that they wanted to see a police force of 125 sworn members, period. He asked them where they got that number and they pointed to a formula in a book that was clearly NOT intended to be used arbitrarily for staffing purposes because it didn't take into consideration special circumstances and demographic information on reporting cities.

The council members were trying to compare Irvine and Costa Mesa, which Staveley said was like trying to compare a tangerine and a watermelon. He then said, "There is no scientific data in the staffing of a police department that justifies that number." In my opinion, that's information that every resident of this city should know because that capricious, arbitrary number now forms the cornerstone of the future of the CMPD.

During this discussion Hatch, several times, mentioned that he wasn't sure the City Council fully trusted him, and also mentioned that he wasn't sure they trusted Staveley, either.

Attendees asked about the use of the Narcotics Seizure funds and were told that those dollars were strictly controlled by the Federal Government rules. Staveley did say, pointing to himself, that the only person who controls those funds is the person wearing this badge. He was adamant about it. He also said there's a long lead time before those funds actually reach our city.

The plan involved greater use of Reserve officers, but also includes layoffs for full time officers. When told by one officer that it was their understanding that full time officers would only be laid off AFTER all Reserve officers were terminated, Hatch didn't have an answer to that issue. This was one of several questions Hatch couldn't - or wouldn't - answer. I found myself thinking that if he had a permanent Administrative Services Director instead of an Interim person in that slot the answers might have been available to him.

More than once Hatch referred to the challenging "political environment", and how it stifles trust and good communications. My jaw dropped at the candor he expressed to these officers because his bosses, the city council, include at least a couple of men who have demonstrated a very vindictive streak. I feared that Hatch was potentially placing his job in jeopardy by simply acknowledging what EVERY observer of local politics has seen over the past few months.


Management Partners staffer, Mike Messina - former Police Chief in Brea with more than four decades of law enforcement experience - told the group that "You guys have a really tough political environment here - it's brutal!" He went on to acknowledge what a great heritage and reputation the CMPD has in the law enforcement community and commended them for retaining at least a semblance of community-oriented policing.

Police association President Jason Chamness closed the meeting with a few questions. His final one really defined the message that was delivered over the previous two hours. He asked Hatch, "Do you think the politics are detrimental to public safety in Costa Mesa?" Hatch replied, "I think the politics are the reality that we have to deal with."


Quite honestly, I'm very concerned about how this city council might react to Hatch's proposal for the restructuring of the CMPD. I suspect they might simply ignore the recommendations of the consultants and Hatch's adjustments and demand even more draconian, immediate cuts. Clearly, as articulated earlier by Messina, they are not about to let the facts get in the way of their plans.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Council Meeting Wrap-up

Did you ever have one of "those days"? Well, today has been one of them for me. I've been trying to get this posted since early this morning but an avalanche of stuff just kept piling on. So, finally, this is my take on last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting.

After all the exultation from the quashed Fairgrounds sale subsided the City Council actually did get down to business, and before yet another large crowd, too. This is getting to be a habit - a good habit. In fact, the entire City Council was actually in attendance. Thanks to Eric Bever for gracing us with his presence for a change. If you wish, you can watch all four hours and thirty-eight minutes of the meeting HERE.

Public Comments yielded some interesting observations. As mentioned in my previous post, former mayor Sandra Genis informed the council that the Fairgrounds sale was quashed, as did Katrina Foley. I had the distinct impression that both of these women would have liked to rub the noses of certain council members in this announcement. You know, kind of a "bad boy!" thing.

Perry Valantine, who spoke several times last night with articulate wisdom, suggested to the City Council that the link to the recent Adam Probolsky poll on the city web site is inappropriate because it makes the city appear to be taking sides on an issue instead of just presenting facts. He's right, of course. The Probolsky poll is clearly a "push poll" designed to herd the respondent in a certain direction.

Eleanor Egan, once again, asked about historical legal costs.

Non-elected council
man Steve Mensinger's pal Howard Hull told us all that the new Police Chief should be someone who lives in the city and knows its problems.. this was a not-very-veiled boost for the candidacy of ABLE Commander Tim Starn, who later got major kudos from Mensinger. More on that later.

Sue Lester wondered about the status of the searches for Police Chief, Finance Director and Fire Chief. She also, again, wondered why the council didn't consider a tax on the sale of medical marijuana (her business) as an enhancement to the city's revenue stream.

Katrina Foley celebrated the end of the Fairgrounds sale then bemoaned what looked like the dissolution of ABLE and the pending loss of School Resource Officers.

Long time council watcher Beth Refakes expressed concern about the potential release of state prisoners to local jails and chided the council for their uneven treatment of speakers before them and issues that favor their supporters..

The first Public Hearing of the evening - that started right on schedule at 7:00 p.m. - was about the distribution of the Community Development Block Grant funds. This year the pool available to Costa Mesa for this distribution is down 17%, which meant that slightly over $180,000 was to be distributed. This issue had the potential for some major fireworks.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer sits on the board of two of the recommended recipients, Mercy House and Youth Employment Services, so he left the dais and the auditorium so those two items could be deliberated and voted upon separately. This could have been a huge problem because, in years past, it was not unusual for one or more council members to want to massage the recommended distributions - taking from one or two and giving to others. Had that happened this time around, after Righeimer's organizations had already been approved, it would have been viewed as preferential treatment. As it turned out, all the organizations were given the amounts recommended by the staff and the 3R Committee. Next year Righeimer - or any other council member who sits on the boards of any of the potential recipients - should excuse themselves from ANY discussions on the distributions, period.

The council approved the funding for the Business Improvem
ent Association (BIA) and authorized the signing of the agreement that specifies how some of the funds will be spent. The ten hotels that form the organization will each collect 3% on top of the Transient Occupancy Tax of 8% and use the difference to promote business in Costa Mesa.

CEO Tom Hatch outlined upcoming budget meetings, including three next week. On Tuesday, the 14th, there will be another Budget Study Session at which some of the city department heads will provide a short overview of their budgets. At this meeting Hatch hopes to close the gap on a balanced budget. On the 16th there will be an employee meeting to discuss the budget and also a community workshop in a smaller venue - probably Conference Room 1A - where staff members will answer questions about the budget. On the following Tuesday, the 21st, it is anticipated that Hatch will present the final budget for council approval. The 28th remains a fall-back date, in case a final budget can't be approved on the 21st.

Hatch told us that the Police Department restructuring study will be available for review later this week and will be discussed during the extended Study Session on the 14th. Rumors are that the plan will call for a dramatic down-sizing of the staff which, due to recent departures, is already operating way below its authorized staff levels.


Also on t
hat date there will be a presentation of new fiscal policies for the council to consider. According to Hatch, these are in response to requests from several council members and will be crafted to improve the budgeting process.

Hatch also told us
that the recruitment for Police Chief has reached the point where candidates will be interviewed by three separate screening groups - one representing senior law enforcement officials, one group from the community and one of city representatives. This process will take place this week. No date was given for the final selection, nor was any indication given about how many candidates remain in the hunt, nor was the identities of members of any of the screening groups. One thing is certain - our city cannot make yet another mistake in the selection of our top cop. Too bad we can't convince Interim Chief Steve Staveley to sign on for a few years... Oh, well.

The recruitment for a new
Finance Director is also underway. Applications have been received and are being screened. Interviews will begin soon.

Hatch advised us that m
ost of the outsourcing RFPs will be out by Friday and that responses will be anticipated in 30 days. That pushes this process out into July, following which each of the replies must be analyzed. At some point it is hoped that the internal operations will be fairly analyzed so they can be accurately compared to the outsourcing submissions.

At about 8:45 Jim Righeimer launched into a sound bite for the media in attendance, most of which subsequently appeared on Fox 11 television later that night. He just regurgitated the same old mantra that most have gotten tired of hearing since January. He keeps telling us that we're running out of money - we're not - and that our situation is not sustainable so dramatic cuts must be made. He did acknowledge that no overtures to the employee bargaining units have been made so "cuts will have to be made to balance the budget".

The council voted to, in fact dissolve the ABLE helicopter program, but
at Righeimer's insistence, delay the actual sale of the three helicopters for three months in case a private/public option can be cobbled together soon. They also voted to authorize $150,000 (Hatch requested $100,000) to contract with Huntington Beach for helicopter support for the remainder of the year. Apparently Newport Beach is working on a similar arrangement with Huntington Beach.

There are some very interesting aspects of this issue. First, the ABLE Commander dollars remain in the new budget. ABLE still has a lease on the hangar at John Wayne Airport through April - at $13,000 per month if memory serves. Nobody said what's going to happen to the helicopters, which must be operated frequently to remain in good working order. Nor has anyone said what happens to the mechanics - they are paid for by Newport Beach. It sounds like Commander Tim Starn is going to be a very expensive watchman over at the airport.


Also, when asked by councilwoman Wendy Leece, Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley and Starn confirmed that ABLE has $5 million in its reserve
s! That's enough to fully fund the operations for at least a year - probably two - without tapping any General Fund money from either Costa Mesa or Newport Beach. Nobody on the council was interested in extending the protection of this program beyond the end of the month. When Mensinger asked Righeimer, who made the motion to dissolve ABLE, if he was willing to extend the date until immediately after the July 4th holiday weekend (the fireworks-filled weekend), he bluntly said, "NO". Mensinger subsequently voted with Leece against the motion.


I came a
way from the meeting last night as frustrated as ever. It's clear that this council will view a balanced budget as an impediment to their grand plan for "pension reform". If the staff finds a way to balance the budget without the use of our dwindling Fund Balance that puts a real crimp in the council majority's plans. So, they just keep adding requirements to the budget - like the additional $50,000 for the helicopter deal with Huntington Beach. Hatch has no prayer against these guys - something that Mensinger practically admitted last night as he heaped praise on Hatch. I've learned from watching Mensinger that when he starts showering you with praise you'd darn well better be watching your back.


He wrapped up his evening last night with a petulant, infantile complaint about criticism he and other council members have been receiving from the audiences in recent meetings. Last night's audience was attentive, but quiet and respectful. Stil
l, Mensinger griped about being hissed and feet being stomped and folks clapping - none of which happened last night. As I've said MANY times before, he doesn't like ANYONE to tell him NO, and will pout and spit back if it happens - just ask Wendy Leece. He complained about the lack of professionalism of the audience - I didn't realize there was a requirement for "professionalism" to be a concerned resident and observer. He said it was rude of people to jeer when others were talking, yet he sits there and texts during presentations to the council. Now THAT'S rude!


Mensinger continues to demonstrate that, while he's a charismatic character, he is not worthy of the job he's been APPOINTED to. He has neither the patience nor tolerance required to follow the rules in a municipal government role. He demonstrated that while on the Planning Commission and it's only gotten worse now that he's on the City Council. He treats City Hall like his own little private fiefdom, wandering the halls and intimidating the remaining staff. He remains a bully and I doubt if anything will ever change him.


I also came away with the feeling that Mayor Gary Monahan has abdicated control of the council to Righeimer. My gut tells me that this is not a good thing, but Monahan has grown almost bored with the process - probably because he's had more criticism in the last six months than his previous 14 years combined. If things continue the way they're going I'd be very surprised if he chooses to run for re-election in 2012.


So, next week the beat goes on. More meetings - at least 3 - with the goal of getting close to a balanced budget. Tuesday we'll hear what the few remaining department heads have to say about the budget and by then we'll know what the future of the Costa Mesa Police Department is. I fear the week will end with more clouds of doom and despair hovering over our city. And what will make it worse is that we'll continue to see Righeimer's mug all over the television, telling the world what a disaster our city is to pad his resume as a savior of the city. It makes me want to barf!

Labels: , , ,