Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Fears Manifested... (Amended)***

I'll give them this much. This current council majority never ceases to surprise me. I have learned, though, that it's always worth the wait if you stick around until the very end of any meeting because something VERY important is going to be said by one of them. Usually, as was the case last night, it was by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer. You can watch the entire proceeding on the streaming video feed HERE.

The special study session held in council chambers began shortly after 4:30 and we
nt nearly twice as long as anticipated. It finally was adjourned at a little after 8:00 p.m. Mayor Gary Monahan never made it to the meeting, but Eric Bever did. He's batting .500 for meetings this year so far. Wendy Leece bailed out half-way through the meeting, heading for the red-eye flight east to attend her daughter's graduation from Marine boot camp, leaving a quorum of Righeimer, Bever and non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger to flesh out the most important part of the meeting.

Approximately 30 people were in attendance, about half of which were staff. Several of the "usual suspects", concerned residents who actually take the time to study the issues and address them with the council, stepped up to offer suggestions. One particularly grumpy old fella with a prison release haircut - a guy who operates a blog in town - left after speaking to the council during public comments, apparently feeling that there would be nothing else important to be heard. The remainder of us residents stuck around for most of the meeting, but there were only a half-dozen left at the end. The rest missed the punchline. (See below)

The first half of the meeting was taken up by Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young's presentation of the draft Financial and Budget Policies Document. The staff report is HERE. Young made it clear that the creation of this document was to provide a "record of accountability" as the city moved forward.

The subsequent discu
ssion wrestled with various fund balance issues and how to plan for essential capital improvements. Since this is only a study session and the council can only give direction to staff, few "hard" numbers were agreed upon. The staff will take the data provided and cobble together a final version of this document, including the specific numbers, for the council to approve at a near-future meeting.

Then they tackled the second, and most interesting, segment, the Five Year Financial Forecast and Capita
l Reinvestment Strategy. You can read that staff report HERE. This is when my worst fears about these guys were clearly demonstrated.

Righeimer continued to run the meeting - Monahan's absence put him in charge - and he clearly had his own ideas about what the outcome was going to be.

Much time was spent discussing the fact that some "assumptions" must be made to work through the 5-year planning process. This was obviously very frustrating for some of them, Mensinger in particular. He wanted hard numbers when it is, literally, impossible to provide them. There are too many unknowns - revenues, for example, tend to fluctuate over a 5-year span. And, of course, we have the element of the employee contracts, each of which will come up for renewal during this period.

Finally, they tried to navigate through Attachment #2, which was a spread sheet showing 22 separate line items with some projected numbers included for the next five fiscal years. This was a fascinating exercise because they just pulled numbers out of the air to fill in some of the blanks and, in the process, added tens of millions of dollars to the eventual totals on that sheet. This is very important to know, as you will soon see.

As they moved through this process I could see the scenario unfol
ding. For example, following on with Righeimer's suggestion that, in the case of employee pension contributions, because we really don't know what kind of pension contribution will be in place following the next contract expiration, we shouldn't assume any number, Mensinger said: "I think what Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer is saying is if we're going to show it, and we don't know what's going to happen, then let's just show the maximum as opposed to what it is. 'Cause, let's assume the best. If we're going to look at the goodness of the hearts in the negotiation process, let's make sure we look at the maximum." That "goodness of the hearts" crack was clearly a stab at the employees, implying that they might not negotiate in good faith and pay the maximum permitted by CalPERS, and would then have a number "imposed" on them.

So, after orchestrating the addition of tens of millions of dollars to the five-year plan, Righeimer wrapped up this segment with the following statement: (quoted verbatim)
"We've got a pension cost that's about 18 million a year about 3 million, or two and half million, picked up by employees. The goal that Governor Brown talks about is to get 50% of that paid for by employees. And so, if it's 18 million, that would be 9 million and we can find a lot of the dollars that we need in there. Can we get there? Is that feasible? Will it work? I have no clue if it will happen or not. But we need to figure out what that number is and by continually putting in numbers that make no sense it doesn't work, so we have to, we have contracted for, and then if we can't get contracted, what we can impose, or whatever, but some how we've got to close that gap. And in the end this number's going to come out negative. We have to find it somewhere. It's going to come out of salaries and benefits. So, we've got to figure that out. And if that means outsourcing or whatever else we have to get those costs down, we'll get those costs down."
***(Video clip added 2/1/12)

Bingo! Any employee representative viewing that performance would get the message loud and clear. They're saying that potholes, alleys and other infrastructure improvements are much more important than employees, and that they're going to load up the budget beginning next year with things THEY WANT, then pay for it using salaries and benefits reductions or staff reductions using their bogus outsourcing scheme.

And, there was no sign of any interest in a conciliatory resolution to this issue. No, this is going to be hand-to-hand combat with this group. To look conciliatory would demonstrate weakness to their pals in the OC GOP hierarchy, so they're in full frontal assault mode.

The mid-year budget review, that would normally take place in January, will occur in February. That will be very interesting, since it's my understanding that we're in pretty darn good shape budget-wise this year, too. You'll recall that, although this council cried poverty from the rooftops, we actually had a nearly $4 million budget surplus at the end of the last fiscal year.

I was left feeling very apprehensive and frustrated. Apprehensive because their performance at this meeting gave me a clear indication of what life will be like if they manage to get the current version of Righeimer's Charter passed this June. It has woefully insufficient safeguards built into it to protect the City from corruption. For example, I could see Righeimer and Mensinger salivating about the prospect of buying our "problem" motels and selling off the property - to developers, at a loss! What a surprise, huh?

Passing Righeimer's Charter would be like handing the keys to the castle to a bunch of burglars. Without pr
oper safeguards built in they won't have to worry about playing by the rules - they'll make up the rules as they go along.


And, I was frustrated because I don't see anyone yet willing to step up to challenge Mensinger and Monahan for their seats, nor to run for Bever's open slot. That probably means OC GOP shill Colin McCarthy will win that one, which would result in an even more developer-dominated, untrustworthy council tha
n we have right now.


So, I guess the only thing to do right now is to stop the Charter in June, then deal with the council.

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Anonymous RickandJenn said...

Yes! About time we strated investing and spending money on this aging town with money from bloated salaries and outrageous retirement packages instead of more taxes. Did anyone see what's happening to LA for neglecting their sidewalks--they're getting sued and it will cost them DEARLY. Looks like these guys are ahead of the curve.

2/01/2012 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

RickandJenn/That Guy with the Prison Release Haircut wrote:

"About time we started... investing and spending money.... Looks like these guys are ahead of the curve."


No, Slappy, these guys are throwing the city another curve. As you've been told a thousand times, BY THEM, this is about being "Ground Zero" for extremism, not "improving."

And guess what- they can't politically afford to reward weirdos and racists who help them.

2/01/2012 08:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Safe Sidewalker said...

RickandJenn--you're 100% correct, we need to fix all the sidewalks so people stop making claims against this Unsafe City. Maybe we should make all the sidewalks out of that soft spongey material that you find at the playgrounds. That will show everybody that this City Council is dedicated to safety.

2/01/2012 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Wasted $$$ said...

Lets forget about the sidewalks, parks, trees, streets, & pensions, and talk about the real highlight of the meeting---THE LIBRARY!!! We as a City need a new library and we need it fast. 35 million sounds like a steal for this. Lets get this rolling ASAP. A new state of the art library would really brighten up this City.

2/01/2012 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Sam Grady said...

What is frustrating about Righeimer is that he knows the biggest amount of the unfunded PERS liability comes from public safety, yet public safety pays the least amount towards their pensions and yet get the most benefit. If police and fire would just step up, without this whole negotiation crap, and pay their entire employee contribution, the savings would be substantial. The little pittance that is saved by having the executive managers, the division managers and the general employees paying the difference between 31% and 39% is chump change. I greatly value the service of our police and fire personnel, however they are compensated at such a greater amount, especially with their pensions, they should pay their entire employee amount. This council should also quit hiring unneeded, over compensated executives. I never hear from RickandJenn, X, Barry, Phil, ever complain about that. Creating a position for Nhagavi and hiring an Asst. CEO is a total waste of money. So is having their spin doctors Lobdell and Joyce on the payroll. If Hatch can't do his job, then hire someone who can.

2/01/2012 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous OCGOP Controls Gov. Brown? said...


What Righeimer wants is what the ultra-liberal CA Governor wants. It is what most experts on pensions is recommending to ensure that public employee pensions do not destroy local governments across the state.

Employees picking up half of the cost of their own pensions. The private sector picks up 100%, except for those fortunate enough to have employers provide some matching funds - up to 15%.

$18 million - almost 20% of our total expenses - devoted to pensions alone is outrageous, Righeimer is right on.

Characterize this as combat all you want, keep blaming Righeimer and the local GOP all you want - the public is not stupid, we all know that you and a few others are the minority opinion on this issue.

To be clear - Gov. Brown is proposing the same thing as Jim Rigeheimer is. Is the OCGOP controlling Gov. Brown now?

- the message is loud and clear state-wide

2/01/2012 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Hopeful said...

Sam Grady - you hit the nail on the head, but if history is any indication, public safety will never step up and pay their full load - they will hide behind their MOU, point to other cities and fight every step of the way. Just look at what they did to try and keep Righeimer out of office!

I hope I am wrong and they see the writing on the wall.

2/01/2012 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous RickandJenn said...

Sam, I fully agree. Stop spending money on executives and reign in the legal fees.I agree those things need to be fixed.

2/01/2012 01:13:00 PM  
Anonymous X said...

Too many executives? Hard to tell at this point. If we go to a lot of outsourcing there would be a need for the executives to manage the contracts like many south county cities do. The rank and file employees pensions are not where the bulk of the savings are going to be found though every little bit helps. It must come from the public safety association contracts. I am aware they have offered more but with strings attached, thus the council turned that down. We will most likely have to wait until the contracts come up again. I see that our finest and fittest safety folks may not be able to function on three 12 hour days, with four off , according to a news article. Surprising since many nurses work this kind of shift and perform some very delicate work continually without breaks filling out reports or watching for speeders while sitting in a car. 3 x 12 is something they should be able to handle, especially with four days off to recuperate. And filling potholes with employees pensions is not really accurate. It is filling potholes with taxpayers monies. The unions and their supporters somehow feel all the tax monies are theirs and we are stealing from them to do anything else in this city. This attitude needs to change.

2/01/2012 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous repairthehurt said...

"Filling potholes with employee pensions". The headline tells it all: our tax money belongs to the employees pholks, wake up and realize that. Righeimer must go if he thinks our tax money is for capital improvements over pensions! Has he not listened to berardino?

2/01/2012 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Wow, Wow, Wow said...

Let me see if I have this straight? Steve Mandoaki negotiates in 2008 to go from 2% to 2.5% @ 5?

And that benefit includes the same benefit for Madoaki and Allan Roeder?

I have heard people here praise both individuals. And see the rants against current council.

Isn’t it backwards?

Is it true that Roeder, with 32 years of service paid only 1% into this new benefit windfall for only 2 years, TWO YEARS, then retired at $190 k something instead of $140 k something? Did I get that right?

Should Lawndale have hired the Pot Stinker to do a better background check on Mandoaki, as he is now responsible for protecting a City, as Roeder once was?

Great points made last night by Council that were revealing. I appreciate their bold actions.

Why do the Public Safety Unions get to keep the negotiated golden pension of 3% @ 50, obligating the City to the payments, yet at certain times shed their obligations to pay? Thank you Council for doing your homework and asking the tough questions.

Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered comes to mind.

2/01/2012 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Jefferson said...

To OCGOP controls Gov. brown: Your information and assumptions are just false.

CalPers is a city employees alternative to Social Security. And last time I checked my employer paid half of my Social Security. So when you said in the private sector the employee pays 100% you are making a false claim.

Social Security is also more closely related to a defined benefit pension just like CalPers. Many people seem to not get this either.

True there are some differences and one of those is the amounts paid by SS are lower. But there is a huge reason for that. SS is limited to what it can invest in. CalPers can invest in better return securities thereof making much more in good times.

In fact I hear times were so good previously that the city didn't have to make any payments. They called it SuperFunded. Maybe that is partly how the city built those huge reserves it had. And yours and my employer didn't get that gift from the economy previously as my employer and I paid my full share of my SS.

However as we have seen recently if times go bad then the city get hurts more.

I agree city employees should be picking up half if they want to continue with these higher benefits. But people like you should stop making up claims to support your ignorant based opinion.

Lastly do you really think they only want the same as the Governor for employees to simply pay more. Have you been watching the meetings and reading the Pilot. I had a good laugh at that comment you made.

2/02/2012 01:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Thomas Jefferson said...

Wow wow wow... Please provide proof of what you say. The date and the implication of something sinister was afoot via Roeder and Mandoki.

The city webpage has the MOU's with it's groups. If you read the general city employees MOU it looks like it was estimated that the cost to go to 2.5@ 55 would cost about 3.52% of their salaries and my reading looks like they paid for that fully.

Did the crashing economy change that? Maybe... But your claim seems to be false just like OCGOP dude.

And reading that document I am not sure it was negotiated in 2008. Can you provide proof of that claim? Or was this really negotiated during the good times but took effect just after the economy took a dive?

So is everyone who is anti city employee just focused on making up things to support their opinions. SAD! Very Sad!

2/02/2012 02:17:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Wow wrote:

"Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered comes to mind."

Are you making threats?

2/02/2012 05:57:00 AM  
Anonymous X said...

Joe is desperate, plays the race card.

2/02/2012 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said... call Joe a racist?

You do understand to whom he's referring?

Joe's just calling, excuse the term, "a spade , a spade".
He's not playing the card, he's just calling them.

2/02/2012 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous X said...

thought Joe used the plural "racists", not singular "racist". checking back, sho nuff he did play the race card. Where do you think i called Joe a racist Gericault, just because the two words were in the same sentence? Produce a video on this please.

2/02/2012 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous We're not stupid said...


Are you just ignorant, or are you lying through your teeth on purpose?

Guess what, amigo, Costa Mesa's "Ground Zero" is Berardino's. He chose to sacrifice the good employees of Costa Mesa to further his own political career and make a stand for the Democratic Party.

When Baugh referred to "Ground Zero" one month later, he was referencing Berardino's war on Costa Mesa.

The unions are fighting for statewide labor power and Democratic party campaign finance, Berardino's words, not mine.

You and other union shills, paid or otherwise, keep trying to blame the OCGOP for turning Costa Mesa into a battleground. You are wrong. The associations and Berardino did that all by themselves.

You have been proven wrong time and time again. You are either ignorant or a liar. Which is it?

The public gets it. We're not stupid.

"Orange County Employees Assn. General Manager Nick Berardino described Costa Mesa as "ground zero for working men and women in California" and said the actions there "represent a direct threat to the Democratic Party and democracy itself."

He said Republicans are seeking to reduce union power, diminishing their ability to help elect Democrats. Even reduced from their historic strength, unions remain a bulwark of the party, key to gaining both money and foot soldiers.

"We are all under attack," he said. "The enemies of working-class Americans are at our gate."

2/02/2012 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous We're not stupid said...

Thomas Jefferson,

Comparing Social Security to CalPERS! WOW!

Desperate times require desperate rhetoric, I guess.

Please explain how the up to 40+% of salary paid by Costa Mesa to CalPERS compares in any way to the 6.20% private sector employers pay in Social Security taxes?

Also omitted from your fascinating analysis is the fact that individual employers are not subject to fluctuating rate hikes based on market conditions. The Social Security tax rate is set by statute in the Internal Revenue Code.

Currently, Costa Mesa is paying (employer contribution - DOES NOT INCLUDE employee contributuion , up to 9% per the MOUs, PAID FOR BY COSTA MESA) between 16.53% for miscellaneous and 32.404% for firefighters.

You correctly state that under Social Security, the employer and employee pay an equal amount - 6.20% - still far, far short of the percentages paid into CalPERS. That is not the case with 401(k) plans and other IRAs.

Regarding the superfunded status a long time ago, that was before the 3%@50 scheme hit and forever changed th landscape. It is literally irrelevant.

The public gets this, we're not stupid.

2/02/2012 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

To: Anybody who thinks Nick Barardino labelled Costa Mesa "ground zero" before Scott Baugh did

Some commentors have been asserting that Baugh resorted to the phrase only after Bernardino broke the ice on it. The implication is that Bernardino is a bad guy for inventing the concept. As in, "He started it, Mom!" Wrong! Baugh used the phrase a month BEFORE Barardino did. Here is the inconvenient truth:

From the transcript of an NPR report "All Things Cosidered: City Tries To Manage Bad Press Over Budget Issues" April 5, 2011

[NARRATOR]: "Costa Mesa is like many cities across the country with large financial commitments to public pension funds. Republican leaders see the city's dramatic attempt to reduce public costs as part of a larger national movement.

"This is Scott Baugh, head of the Orange County Republican Party, speaking to local Tea Party activists..."

Mr. SCOTT BAUGH (Chairman, Orange County Republican Party): "Ground Zero is right here in Costa Mesa for this revolution."

Compare this with the month later LA Times article of May 1, 2011 reporting on the previous day's proceedings of the annual Democratic Party convention referenced by "We're not stupid"

'Orange County Employees Assn. General Manager Nick Berardino described Costa Mesa as "ground zero for working men and women in California" and said the actions there "represent a direct threat to the Democratic Party and democracy itself."'

In fact, Baugh said it well before Berardino!

We report; you decide.

2/02/2012 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Tom Egan,
Thanks for clearing that up. I knew Baugh said it first, but was waiting for someone to give us chapter and verse.

2/02/2012 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous We're not stupid said...

Tom Egan,

Thanks for that catch, you are right. We're not stupid, but we were wrong about Berardino saying it first, a month before Baugh.

Your sleuthing and correction caused me to do some fact-checking, and it turns out that the earliest instance of Costa Mesa being called "Ground Zero" was on March 2, 2011, from The Voice of OC! The Voice of OC is funded by, drumroll please, the OCEA, headed by Nick Berardino!

Sorry to deflate your scoop, Tom Egan.

But there is more. On March 26, 2011, a blogger called OC Progressive posted that "Costa Mesa is ground zero for the California war against public employees, the bloody tip of the spear."

It is undertsandable that you are trying to divert blame for the "ground Zero" designation away from the union (and its proxies), especially since you've used Baugh's statement to claim that the council's efforts are designed to leave Costa Mesa "radioactive" and "uninhabitable."

So, to recap.

Yes, Baugh said "ground zero" in April, 2011 - before Berardino's May, 2011 statement.

Thanks to your sleuthing, it has now been established that, in fact, The Voice of OC, funded almost entirely by Berardino's OCEA, was first to put the "ground zero" term out there.

Thank you for the clarification.

2/02/2012 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Fact check said...

Geoff, you should have done your research. Tom Egan is wrong again.

The Voice of OC and another Blogger were first. Pretty damning rhetoric.

2/02/2012 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous We're not stupid said...

A reminder about where this "Ground Zero" who-said-it- first issue came from:

Tom Egan's post on 1/30/12 at 11:08pm:

"And there’s the tape of OCGOP’s own Scott Baugh, bragging to a Tea Party meeting about Righeimer and Mensinger, and how they were making Costa Mesa “ground zero.” If you watch it, starting at 5:33 of the video at, you’ll see and hear Scott Baugh declaiming “Ground zero is right here in Costa Mesa for this revolution.” And you know what’s there after an area has served as Ground Zero, right? Desolate, radioactive and uninhabitable."

This was the same post where former NMUSD Trustee Egan stated that Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer and Councilmember Mensinger were "raping and pillaging" at City Hall.

This type of rhetoric is inexcusable, plain and simple. It is disgusting and totally unprecedented in Costa Mesa. It must stop.

2/02/2012 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous fact said...

CALPERS had a nearly 9% return on investment over the past 3 decades, that is including the current economic downturn. FYI

2/02/2012 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Tom Egan, thanks for saving me the research time re the Ground Zero label. Surprise! Our little extremists are lying AGAIN.

Thank God we have unions in America. They'll be here long after the boyz are back mowing Rohrabacher's lawn.

And is there a debate here whether the "other blogger" is a racist??

2/02/2012 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Jefferson said...

we're not stupid...well apparently you might be and you seem to not be able to read and comprehend to boot!

I clearly said CalPers was the alternative to SS. I also said there were some differences too and spelled one out.

Further my comment was showing the false claims made by another commentor that his employer doesn't paying anything toward his retirement which is false and you know that.

But since CalPers replaced SS as our city employees retirement a comparison is certainly warranted in the discussion. Did you get that. CalPers replaced city employees SS.

In answer to your false question, I did state that SS pays a lot less than CalPers so your implying question is just false. Why do you have to lie about these things? I also gave you one reason why CalPers pays more because they can by law invest differently to SS reaping more rewards for their investments. I guess you conveniently glossed over that.

To address another lie by you you stated I didn't mention about fluctuating rate hikes and I spent 2 paragraphs on that issue. I even made one line where I claimed "However as we have seen recently if times go bad then the city get hurts more. " That sure covers fluctuation but as I stated I also touched on that in the previous paragraph in the original comment.

But I am sure you will just come back with more lies and false claims about what was actually said and discussed.

2/02/2012 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous The Beginning said...

Next target of the unions = Gov. Brown.

"Unions howl at details of Jerry Brown's pension overhaul"

2/03/2012 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous unanimous said...

who said "ground zero" first? Beautiful!! Keep focusing on another shiny object while council moves forward. It's like catching fish with just a shiny hook, no bait needed and they all come swimming to it and put it in their mouths before you can blink. Hilarious.

2/03/2012 07:43:00 PM  

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