Saturday, June 25, 2011

Time For Some Contemplation

Now that we have a budget and that drama is behind us for the time being, it's time to take a deep breath, pause for a few days and contemplate where this city goes from this point forward. We don't have another scheduled council meeting until July 5th - the day after the three-day orgy of fireworks promoted by a couple members of the city council to the detriment of the rest of us. Oops, there I go again.

My friend, Bruce Krochman, operates a blog called "Civil Thinking" on which he occasionall
y posts his views of our community. He doesn't post nearly frequently enough, but when he does, those entries are always worth a careful reading. On April 12th of this year - the same date, by the way, that recently-departed Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley presented CEO Tom Hatch with his ideas about how to structure the Police Department - Bruce published a little essay he titled, "My Little Corner of Paradise is Feeling More Like a War-Zone", which you can read HERE. I encourage you to do so, because it provides a pretty concise summary of events in the recent political history of our city from the last campaign until that date.

Some members of our City Council have been dismissive and condescending with folks who rise to speak before them. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, in particular, apparently feels that those folks - who take the time to study issues and regularly attend council meetings - don't really represent the views of the majority of the residents of the city. He apparently feels that the absence of the other 110,000 residents means that he and this council must be doing a good job. He, of course, is wrong.

Lest you think that all of those who rise to speak to the council are a bunch of l
unatics or partisan political hacks - yes, there are a few of those - from time to time I'm going to give you a peek at what some of your neighbors have said to the council. Late last week I provided you with four video clips in one post to show you some of the concerned voices pleading with the council for the exercise of wisdom on the police department restructuring and the budget. If you had difficulty viewing those clips you may wish to update your browser and you may have to download Microsoft Silverlight, HERE. It's free and makes viewing those clips possible.

Today, I present a couple more voices that spoke before the council on June 22nd. Both of these women, Robin Leffler and Lisa Reedy, are respected members of their individual communities - Leffler in Mesa Verde and Reedy in Mesa del Mar. Each have been officers in their respective homeowner's associations and Reedy has been a candidate for City Council in the recent past. Both study the issues and present their views with clarity and passion. These women are representative of the best among us. They are also among those voices consistently ignored by this current City Council as it doggedly slogs forward, attempting to re-make our city into the image held in the minds of politicians living outside our community. Take a few minutes to view their presentations before the city council and ask yourselves why these uncomplicated , respectful and sincere requests for consideration and moderation are being ignored.



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Friday, June 24, 2011

For Your Viewing Pleasure...

Ok, it's been a long week. Heck, the first two days would be a long week in anyone's book! So, rather than go on and on about the budget or the bogus police department restructuring and totally mess up your weekend, I'm going to leave you with a chuckle in the person of Costa Mesa resident Terry Koken. Here's his little tune, crooned to the City Council last Tuesday evening. There were lots of smiles in the auditorium when he finished - none of them from the dais. Enjoy...

by Terry Koken


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jones & Mayer Bounces Staveley

In what must have been a case of the contractor bowing to pressure from the client, Jones & Mayer - the firm that provides contract legal services to the tune of at least $1 million annually based on recent numbers - tossed aside former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley today.

In an article by Mike Reicher in the Daily Pilot today, HERE, Richard D. Jones -
a partner at Jones & Mayer - was extremely critical of Staveley for his letter sent to the CMPD troops when he stepped away from his job on Monday. Staveley has been a long-time consultant with Jones & Mayer, which is how he ended up serving Costa Mesa twice as Interim Police Chief. They now apparently have severed all ties with Staveley

We don't know exactly what kind of pressure was brought on Jones & Mayer in this situation, but I suspect officials from our city wanted his scalp for the way he characterized members of the council and their actions and likely made that point in terms any contractor would understand - dollars.

Just to make things a little clearer, please know that there were many speakers at
Tuesday's council meeting who were supportive of the Chief. Let's set the tone for that meeting. Here's the level-headed and persuasive Perry Valantine delivering a message to the council during public comments. Jim Righeimer rips the crowd, Monahan demands "professionalism" - oh, really?

Very shortly thereafter former mayor Sandra Genis - who has never stopped being involved in civic issues and brings a tenacity and expertise that's rare in council chambers - felt moved to read the text of Staveley's letter to the troops:


Then Costa Mesa Police Association President Jason Chamness, apparently move
d by Genis' recitation, stepped up to deliver what might have been a eulogy for Staveley - at least a eulogy for his professional career:

Then retired Costa Mesa Police lieutenant Clay Epperson stepped to the microphone and provided further support for Staveley and asked the council to take the time to calmly deliberate their actions on the budget and the police restructuring:

I could go on and on, but I'd burn your bandwidth with more video messages. Suffice i
t to say that Steve Staveley had it exactly right and the quicker the residents of this city realize that fact, the greater the chance we have of reining these clowns in before they totally destroy this city to enhance Righeimer's political profile.

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New Chief Will Be An Outsider

City CEO Tom Hatch told the public last Tuesday evening that the herd had been thinned in the process of selecting a new Chief of Police, and that he would be conducting what will amount to the final round of interviews with the remaining few candidates. No number of candidates nor the identities were given of those who remain.

Today sources close to the process confirmed that none of the four candidates from the Costa Mesa Police Department remain in the running. The four candidates from the CMPD who tossed their hats into the ring are Captain Les Gogerty, in charge of Field Operations; ABLE Commander Sergeant Tim Starn; Lieutenant Allen Huggins, in charge of Professional Standards and Lieutenant Tim Schennum, in charge of Logistical Services.

From what I know of the four men, G
ogerty's resume and experience seemed like a pretty darn good fit for the opening. His education and training have prepared him for this position at this time and he was acting police chief during the "Where's Chris Shawkey?" fiasco.

While I'm personally saddened that someone from within the department will not be chosen, I hope Hatch uses this opportunity to select an outstanding law enforcement leader - one who will place the public safety of Costa Mesa residents and visitors over the political demands of members of the City Council. Considering the political climate and the diminished resources available to the new chief, this is going to be quite a task.


Quite honestly, Hatch cannot afford to make a mistake with this critical position. Ever since Dave Snowden retired and moved on to Beverly Hills, Costa Mesa has managed to shoot itself in the foot when it came to choosing men to run the department, at least on a permanent basis. With so many eyes on our city in recent months, this selection may be the most important Hatch will have made to date in his brief tenure as CEO. This one must be right.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Foley & Righeimer on "Which Way, LA"

In case you missed it, Katrina Foley and Jim Righeimer appeared with venerable Los Angeles newsman Warren Olney on KCRW, 89.9 FM on Olney's program, "Which Way, LA". Here's a link that will take you to the archived video. See the image above. Drag the scroll bar across to that point adjacent to the line separating "Nuclear" and "City", as shown - that's where their segment starts. They're on for about 10 minutes. Late in the discussion listen for a familiar name. :-)

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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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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

OCEA Auditor - "No Financial Crisis"

This afternoon I was one of the participants in a telep
honic press conference held by Jennifer Muir, spokesperson for the Orange County Employee's Association at which the auditor they hired, Steve Foti of the auditing firm of Harvey M. Rose Associates, LLC, answered questions about the recently-completed audit he performed of the City of Costa Mesa's financial condition.

He provided the OCEA with an 8 page Executive Summary and a 27 page audit report. I'm not going to try to cover every number provided and every comment he made during the press conference. However, during his audit he found more than $26 million that COULD be used to help balance the municipal budget and preclude the draconian measures currently being proposed by the majority on the City Council. The chart below is extracted from the cover letter to the final audit report, issued today.

According to Muir, she has met with City CEO Tom Hatch this morning and provided a copy of the audit and, apparently, will be given 10 minutes to present a summary of this information to the City Council at their meeting tonight.


Based on the comments made in the press conference, Foti opined that Costa Mesa is doing a good job of managing it's finances. When pressed by reporters he would not state that city officials have "hidden" money in the bowels of the municipal finances and would not address anything about "ulterior motives". When pressed by one
reporter to give an opinion about how Costa Mesa is doing when compared to other cities, he said our city is doing "better than average".

One reporter wondered wh
y Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was talking about having "only $1million in reserves" when this report states $26 million available. Foti couldn't understand where Righeimer got that number, but didn't attribute an ulterior motive to it.

As if the council meeting tonight wasn't going to be enough f
un, adding this report into the mix makes me think there may be no chance for a budget to be approved this evening. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't want to see them approve a draconian budget without giving this new information a chance to percolate and be considered carefully. We'll see.

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One For The Books (UPDATED)

Monday, June 20, 2011, will go down in the annals of Costa Mesa government as one of the most bizarre and contentious days in city history - a date not soon to be forgotten. It was on this date that Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley - a highly respected member of the law enforcement community with more than four decades of experience under his belt - stormed off into the sunset, lobbing a hand grenade back over his shoulder as he left in the form of a four-page letter to the troops outlining his reasons for the abrupt departure. That memo, published first on this blog, HERE, has gone viral and has been reproduced and addressed in most local and regional media outlets.

It was a day when - according to some reports - mild-mannered Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch interrupted a press interview Staveley was giving and immediately ordered him to leave the premises. Later in the day a press release was issued by Interim Communications Director Bill Lobdell quoting Hatch, HERE, and refuting much of what Staveley had to say in his memo to the troops. There are many in our town that believe few of the words in that press release are actually Hatch's.

And, in an interesting bit of timing, following the release of that press release I received a telephone call from Lobdell, asking me to send him a copy of Staveley's letter. It seems they didn't have a copy. One can only assume that they generated their scathing press release without the benefit of seeing Staveley's words first-hand. I don't know if they used my transcription of the memo - which was verbatim and left out only the Chief's telephone number and email address - as the basis for their diatribe, or not. One might suppose so. If they were expecting to find that my transcription was different from the original, they were surprised when I sent it to them. Funny - you'd have thought they might have asked for the memo BEFORE they jumped off the end of the pier with their press release. But then, that's the way things have been happening at City Hall the past few months - doing things backwards.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 2:20 p.m. - I've heard from Bill Lobdell this afternoon about my characterization of the events that led him to ask me for a copy of Staveley's memo AFTER he issued the press release. Apparently they, he and Hatch, had a copy of it, but Hatch had departed with it and Lobdell was still being inundated by telephone calls and needed to refer to it.. so he asked me for a copy. See what happens when you ASS-U-ME things? Good thing I'm not a reporter, huh? I jumped off the pier without a life jacket... bad form and I apologize for mischaracterizing Lobdell's intent. I'll try to do better...


One of the curious parts of Hatch's press release was the fact that he already had a new Interim Chief of Police ready to start to work almost before Staveley's do
or closed behind him Monday afternoon. Dennis Kies, former chief of police in La Habra, will take over until a new, hopefully-permanent, chief is selected and starts to work. I've heard mid-August as a possible start date. That seems optimistic, but we'll see.

The event
s of Monday are the culmination of events leading up to the consideration of the 2011-2012 budget Tuesday evening. Within the past few days commentaries from retired Costa Mesa Police Lieutenant Clay Epperson appeared in the Daily Pilot. You can read that HERE. That was followed-up with a rebuttal by Planning Commission Chairman and President of the Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association, Colin McCarthy in the same publication, HERE. McCarthy and his group are simply the vocal front organization for the Orange County GOP in its efforts to turn Costa Mesa into the tip of the lance in pension reform nationwide. He has been the main purveyor of fabricated "facts" since the inception of the group, A practice he perpetuates with his most recent drivel.


McCarthy flat-out lies in this piece of garbage when he says the
following: "Costa Mesa is not dismantling the helicopter program." There may be no bigger, blatant lie uttered by a Costa Mesa official in decades! In fact, the ABLE helicopter program is breathing fumes and WILL BE DISMANTLED as of June 30th. His buddy and puppet master, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer - who was all over local television again Monday night, waving Staveley's memo around and expressing disbelief that he wrote it - acknowledged as much when he rejected his buddy, Steve Mensinger's request to extend ABLE through the July 4th holiday weekend at a recent council meeting. I won't attempt to quantify all the fabrications in McCarthy's commentary. Suffice it to say that every time he gets that Cheshire Cat grin on his face he's about to lie through his teeth. Consider yourselves warned.

As if those presentations were not incendiary enough, Monday's correspondence by Staveley and Hatch have turned a crackling campfire of controversy into a roaring bonfire invective and reprisal. I wonder what impact all this rhetoric will have on the attempt to produce a balanced budget Tuesday evening? I expect the proceedings to play to a full house - probably an overflow crowd - and will very likely produce many 'motivated' speakers, eager to share their views with the council before they take their vote.

The council meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. in City Council chambers at City Hal
l. I'm thinking I wish I had the valet parking concession for this event.

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