Saturday, March 17, 2012

To The Employees Of The City Of Costa Mesa

evening, St. Patrick's Day, 2012, I find myself thinking about the events of this date a year ago with great sadness. Yes, I've written about it already, and, yes, I briefly said Thank You, but it wasn't enough.


I want to say Thank You to all the employees of the City of
Costa Mesa who, despite being forced to work in what has become a toxic, hostile work environment that has made you constantly look over your shoulders as you try to do your jobs, kept on doing your best. The actions of some of the leaders of our city have tried to pit employee against employee and cause distrust of the folks who occupy the fifth floor of City Hall. You are asked to do the same amount of work that you and the 25% of the staff now departed had done in the past. And yet you soldier on.


In the past year, since that first mountain of layoff notices were handed to 203 of your compatriots and young Huy Pham took his life by leaping off the roof, circumstances have seemed to just get worse each month. Your contributions to this city have been belittled and your spokespersons chided. In many cases you've been required to prepare Requests for Proposals that may result in you losing your jobs. And yet you soldier on.

Some of your leaders prowl the halls creating chaos and discontent. They vi
olate established rules with arrogant disregard for the consequences. And yet you soldier on.

VILIFICATIONThe City has chosen to publicize your compensation, apparently in an attempt to make you seem like greedy laggards, and has subjected you to region-wide vilification. All this despite the fact that you've received no pay increases for a couple years now. And yet you soldier on.


You have been accused of being the reason for budget problems and many of your peers have chosen to take early retirements or just leave for another job in another city, even though each bargaining unit has stepped up to the plate and offered concessions to help the City through tough financial times. And yet you s
oldier on.
Whether you've worked at the cit
y for three years or thirty - whether you sweep our streets, maintain our parks, keep our vehicles running, maintain our buildings, remove the graffiti that stains our walls, fight our fires, rescue those of us who need medical aid, police our streets and keep us safe, pay our bills, manage our planning, or help spin the City position on issues - whatever the job you do for me and the rest of the nearly 110,000 residents of this wonderful town - Thank You for hanging in there through these tough times.
I feel this message is still inadequate, so I'm going to ask the amazing Amanda Marshall to help me tell you how I feel about you all. Whatever the challenges that are placed in your paths in the future, Thank You for all you do - I Believe In You.

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Anonymous Chris Prevatt said...

Well said Geoff. Thanks.

3/18/2012 01:15:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Thanks, Chris...

3/18/2012 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you so much, Geoff.
You speak for me and thousands of
other grateful residents.
Our city workers are outstanding!

3/18/2012 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Judy Lindsay said...

Such touching words, warms my heart, thank you city employees and Geoff for writing this article. Ever since this all started, whenever I see a city worker I thank them for their service to our city. The look in their eyes of gratefulness is my reward.

3/18/2012 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Emotion over facts said...

Not true. Employees have seen pay increase. Many through "steps", others with promotion.

The City, as you say, published pay so that we could all get informed. The issue is not rank and file employees but the public safety.

I love it when Pot Belly receives a compliment from a poster child bleeding heart liberal. Classic validation for an angry man.

More fear , doubt & misinformation from Captain Kangaroo for all the Haters.

3/18/2012 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous ocgopfan said...

Yes, thank to our City workers. If public safety personnel will just step up it will have been worth it to the taxpayers and employees. We must reign in pension costs and quit bad mouthing private workers. The compensation costs are what they are, in plain view. Too much cost for cops and firemen obviously but the regular employees seem in line.

3/18/2012 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Costa Mesa Would Be 10X Better.. said...

...If Riggy and suck-ups Mensy, Eric, Ethan, Colon, Gary, & Fitzy would move to Imperial County or Iran where they'd fit in better.

Funny how they accuse West.

3/18/2012 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Finally The True Agenda said...

"... but the regular employees seem in line."

Yes, you and your master want everyone, not just city workers, to be in line with what you say. Today garages and yards, tomorrow bedrooms.

3/18/2012 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous CM Taxpayer said...

More hate mongoring by those without facts. No connection has ever been made to layoffs and Pham's death. You and others continue make that up. In the past year not a single layoff. Just pay increases and growing unfunded pension obligation. I cannot wait for residents reaction to $300k firemen. The fight to take back our City from greedy employees is only beginning. In the end you are only 1 side- employees or residents. Choice is simple.

3/18/2012 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous ocgopfan said...

I told you my master knows what is best for everyone. geoff west is a hater, unions are bad, only what king jim wants is right because he is smarter than everyone and has lots of money behind him and maybe gary and eric will get some for being good little boys like me. go fitzy! go charter!

3/18/2012 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Redhead said..... It is really getting bad living in this city. The men on the City Council need to really grow up. They aren't showing their kids how to be respectful to others. The City employees are great and they work hard all the time. Thanks Geoff for all the great input.

3/18/2012 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

ocgopfan...You guys always seem to criticize the cops and ff's pay but you never tell us what you think they are worth. Here is your chance. Tell us all what their service is worth to you.

3/18/2012 04:56:00 PM  
Anonymous chessman said...

CM Taxpayer:
Really? There's really no evidence that his suicide was connected to layoffs?

He received the layoff notice and jumped off HOURS later. You've got to be a troll (I hope).

Interested to see that you're calling others out for not having the facts.

3/18/2012 05:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Not Anonymous said...

Wyatt. 3 on a truck. Lower minimum staffing. Add 2nd tier pension. Pay employee share of pension costs.

Get FF to take going to OCFA off the table.

Cops. Pay employee share of pension. Introduce 2nd tier. Outsource jail.

Get City Council to state they will never support going to OC Sheriff.

Get the FF & PD out of politics & elections.

Then and only then are they worth what they are getting paid.

I like many of them. In a group, they are an issue for our City.

Wyatt, can you tell them that change is required? That they need to step up. And this is not a negotiation. They should not expect anything in return.

All this will be negotiated out in the public view.

3/18/2012 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

Not Anonymous...I couldn't agree with you more about the jail. The problem is it apparently creates more work for the officers in that a private company, such as Wackenhut, can't have access to certain internal and external systems to complete the booking process. This then leads to longer times out of the field, more paperwork for the officers, etc. Add this to the already lessened staffing and you are talking about even reduced PD service levels. So be it if you are ok with that.

The FD staffing levels would obviously impact their ability to deliver service to you and I. Again, so be it if you are ok with that. I am certain both sides have good arguments for or against this.

Why the need to get PD and FD out of politics. Sounds like 4 out of 5 council members hates them anyway so what is the difference?

The two tiered pension will arrive eventually. The manner in which your council has dealt with employees and continues to deal with employees will no doubt continue to stall its' arrival. Case in point is the council rejecting the FF's offer to continue to pay the 5% towards PERS saving the city $500,000 in the short term while continuing to negotiate larger savings. Would you negotiate under these circumstances knowing full well the council continues to spend like drunken sailors on executive level positions and private law firms?

Further, negotiating in good faith is the law of the land (BTW, becoming a charter city will not change this). Negotiating in public view is fine. How has it worked so far? Sounds like it cost CM taxpayers at least that $500,000 the FF's were offering.

Also, change has occurred all the way back to 2008 when all city employees stepped up and made concessions to save the city money. The public safety paying anything towards PERS is a change in and of itself. Just because it is not enough for you does not mean it is not change. The majority of these concessions occurred without anything in return.

The only entity that loses by going to the OC Sheriff's Department is the citizens. Those CMPD cops that would be absorbed into OCSD would see a pay raise as Sheriff's Deputies earn more in pay and benefits. If history is any indicator of future events, and it almost always is, those CMPD cops not hired by the Sheriff's Department will have no trouble finding employment at other police agencies. The reason being is it costs a city at least $100,000 to hire and train a new recruit. Hiring already trained personnel saves boat loads of money and every CMPD cop that has applied elsewhere has been hired. And yes, many OC agencies are still hiring.

So, the only way for OCSD to save you any money is to give you less service. They will do the same thing OCFA does, less personnel actually on duty in Costa Mesa with others that work in other contract cities. Well, I'd hate to be that person that has to wait for a Deputy and his or her follow up Deputy to arrive from Lake Forest, Stanton, El Toro or wherever.

Speaking of OCFA, why has the city not gone to OCFA? They clearly showed how they can save millions for the city each year and CMFD FF's support the move? Why has the council not done this? Why indeed?

3/18/2012 08:59:00 PM  
Anonymous political reform? said...

not annonymous, your comments are almost funny. One of the major issues in every community is PUBLIC SAFETY. What politician doesn't want to be known as tough on crime in a campaign? Now you want to take the most knowledegable people in this area out of the political process.

I am curious then do we take corporations,developers and wallstreet out? What other groups should get out? If you called for a ban of them all then I could understand eliminating police and fire associations too. I wouldn't support your idiotic notion as I believe it's a fundamental right of every person or group but I could at least understand your desire.

But, if we do take police and fire out, maybe we also take PUBLIC SAFETY issues out of the entire campaign process. No longer can a candidate claim to be tough on crime etc. Oh wait isn't that usually a Republican claim? Don't police and fire usually support the more conservative candidates?
Except of course when they feel a rogue candidate comes along.

3/18/2012 10:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Proud of our city employees said...

emotion over facts...Really!
Where do you people come from or what are you listening too?

You said the issue is not rank and file employees.

Yet 18-19 departments (is that all or most of the rank and file) receieved layoff notices.

A rank and file employee committed suicide one year ago. Rank and file employees have been demeaned by Council in public. Called tone deaf, chastized and had their words twisted. Called uncaring toward the residents they served. Called greedy, thugs and more.

I wonder if you asked a rank and file worker if they felt they were targets or not by this council and some of their cohorts. I wonder what the rank and file would say about that?

By the way. Rank and file general employees offered numerous revenue ideas years ago. They voted to 2 tier for new hires in 2010. Every year they made concessions to help with the budget. I hear they even offered to pay more of their share back in 2010 and it was turned down.

I thank our city employees for working under these conditions.

3/18/2012 11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Other Mike said...

Not Anonymous:

Why would the PD seek a commitment from the council to not contract to OCSD? That would be a win for the cops. They would work for a larger agency with more specialty units to work in and have the opportunity to transfer to other cities if they choose.

Of course, we the residents would get the shaft on service. Perhaps if they were as greedy as council portrays them, and only in it for themselves, wouldn't they be pushing for this?

Another upside? Council paints this big evil union of our PD, wouldn't it be fun to watch them deal with a really big union like the sheriff's association that handed Moorlach his arse multiple times? Heck if I were them I would be running a "bring it" campaign.

3/18/2012 11:15:00 PM  
Anonymous 1st CMTaxpayer said...

Huy Pham might have been a troubled young man. He might have taken the final action somewhere else. It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that he did what he did, where he did, and how he did it to send a strong message and draw attention to the circumstances at City Hall. Not saying it was the best choice he could have made. I was one of the early commenters on that trajedy, using my original moniker CMTaxpayer, and a year later I say, rest in peace. All of you yappers, let him rest in peace now.

I will also refer you shrill shills and anyone who is interested in information over rhetoric to . The article adds balance to Fire and Safety compensation discussion. Not saying you got the whole answer here, but when a man’s doing two jobs because that’s what he’s gotta do, not necessarily what he wants to do, should he do one of the jobs for free?

Also would like to point out that overtime does not create pension spiking, as overtime does not count toward pay elegible for benefits. I heard a councilman say all that overtime caused pension spiking. I sure hope the boy was ignorant cause I’d hate to think he was a liar.

3/19/2012 01:01:00 AM  
Anonymous 1st CMTaxpayer said...

Everytime I get sucked into one of these blogs I have to say these boys aren’t fiscal conservatives at all. Their mouths move the right way, but their hands are doing something else. Fiscal conservatives are tight with the money. These guys are loose with the money. $500K left on the table because their hubris wont allow them to accept the Fire folks offer to keep paying extra for their pensions and extend a side letter agreement while negotiations continue? $3000 a week for a mouthpiece? And now 900K has to be added to the self-insurance fund, taken from some more important stuff , just because these guys love their lawsuits. I heard at that CM4RG meeting that they let open ended contracts with some law firms. Crazy way to do business. Crafty for the lawyers, crazy for the council. How much is it going to cost to fix their ballot misfire? Some lucky lawyer just hit the jackpot again. I am a taxpayer. I am mad as h*ll at what they are doing with my money.

3/19/2012 01:06:00 AM  
Anonymous ocgopfan(original one) said...

yep, the unions are too powerful , think all tax money is theirs, and just want more and more. let's see how that plays out to the voters.

3/19/2012 08:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Taxpayet wants change said...

1st CM Tax whiner,

The FD rant in OCReg was a typical union whine.

They should do something now. If they let the contract expire, whoa, that will be fun and sad to watch.

I understand their argument. Some of the members might not be able to afford their boat payments at the river.

3/19/2012 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous real reformer said...

Moorlachs pension he could have opted out from utter chose not to is better than our regular city employees. Moorlachs pension formula is 2.7 at 55. That's right Mr Pension reform is receiving a higher pension rate than your regular city employee. What's worse he could have shown real leadership and opted out. I guess John is really agreed thug. Plus he wanted to amend term limits for himself so he could get 4 more years added to that pension. Gee I wonder if this was obama's 2 term he would be asking to remove the term limits for the presidency? These people are all fake and deceitful.

3/19/2012 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous overtime ordered by council said...

Won't the beavers city council schedule require more overtime for CMPD to stay until the end of public comments.
Cha ching
Maybe thats why the chairs were rearranged. look for the sign, "watching from home, I didn't sign up for this." as the members slide out early.

3/19/2012 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

Taxpayer wants change...I love you guys. Sforza finally writes a somewhat balanced article allowing Vasin to refute everything Righeimer said and the best you can do is call it a "rant". The problem for you is Vasin supplied exactly what happened which made Righeimer look like more of a baffoon than he already is. In case anyone missed it, Vasin supplied information showing the staffing levels were put forth by the Fire Chief in consultation with city staff and council, not the FF association as Righeimer would have you believe. Further, it was councils' decision to not fill vacant positions creating overtime for existing FF's. Righeimer then had the gall to attempt to blame the FF's for it.

3/19/2012 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Facts said...

Wyatt, the FF MOU created the overtime with minimum staffing levels.

Wyatt, change is hard for you and your buddies. Change is hard. One thing is for sure. Change is coming

3/19/2012 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Numbers don't lie said...

Wyatt Earp,

The fire OT issue precedes Righeimer and even the fiscal problems we now face. Saying the the staffing levels were put forth by the Fire Chief in consultation with city staff and council, not the FF association, may be technically accurate but everyone knows that the association heavily influenced the decision in order to ensure maximum OT spread across the ranks. In the past, no Costa Mesa councilmember who wanted to be seen as pro-public safety ever questioned staff, much less a fire chief, about staffing levels. Thankfully, we now have a council that is doing so. The compensation reports also indicate that some of the largest beneficiaries of excessive OT are CMFD leadership.

In 2008 - long before Righeimer and even before the bottom fell out, CMFD total salaries were $7.9 million and total OT was $3.2 million.

This isn't total compensation - just straight salaries and and OT. The average OT for a member of the CMFD was $34,329 in 2008. The average salary was $90,000.

Those numbers don't lie, and spin all you want, but that OT was generally a direct result of minimum staffing provisions and the related mechanisms for covering shifts outlined in the MOU - NOT calls for service that kept firefighters and engineers in the field past the normal end of their shifts.

It is gaming the system, and in my opinion, that is a clear abuse of taxpayer dollars.

3/19/2012 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Storyteller said...

At least Wyatt has not annoyed is with the union speak about how a unfunded pension liability is like a home mortgage.

Or that Wall St is to blame.

We need to be thankful of that

3/19/2012 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Central Valley Farm Animals said...

Little Steve:
"Wyatt, change is hard for you and your buddies. Change is hard. One thing is for sure. Change is coming"

Come back to the Valley, Steve- we need you for planting season. Forget the big city. Stop bullying.

3/19/2012 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Storyteller Colon said...

Yum! Riggy's boot tastes GOOD!

3/19/2012 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

Numbers Don't Lie...You don't seem to want to accept the fact fire service is a 24 hour a day job. If a FF is sick, at training, on vacation or whatever, the choice is to run short or fill the spot. Please prove, not with your words, but with real proof your assertion that the association had any influence over staffing levels.

Further, your boy Righeimer decided to stick his nose in this ff staffing/OT issue and Vasin basically stuck it up his you know what and broke it off. Righeimer came off looking like a total fool. I am frankly shocked Sforza actually printed both sides.

Facts....Again, prove what you say. Vasin seems to be able to prove those decisions were made by the Fire Chief in consultation with city staff and council. So don't give us what you would like it be, prove it.

Storyteller...Try as you might to paint some gargantuan monster for pensions, the simple fact is the costs are paid over time very similar to a mortgage. The fact is the city met its' obligations and still had a balanced budget the last 2 years. Those are facts. Wishing for something else does not make it so.

3/19/2012 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous MOU doesn't lie said...

Wyatt Earp:

Page 11. If staffing levels were actually up to Council and management, even the fire chief, it wouldn't be set in stone in the MOU.

3/19/2012 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Come back to reality said...

And there you have it. Proves Wyatt is a Union guy. Could not resist the Mortgage analogy.

Wyatt, I agree with the mortgage analogy as this whole economic recession was a result of toxic assets generated by people who bought a house they could not afford.

Get it? Like in your mortgage analogy, people and unions have mortgages where the ability to pay does not match the obligation.

Tahnks for the union talking point. I got this the other day from a FF. Union has taught wrong talking points.

Lastly, see how Wyatt ignores the MOU. MOU dictates minimum staffing levels. The MOU is creating the overtime.

With vacancies that we would not support hiring. We cannot support a new hire because there is not a second tier pension in place. Nor are the FF paying employee share of pension costs. Talk about unfunded pensions.

3/20/2012 06:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

MOU doesn't lie....Again, ask Vasin to prove it was up to the Fire Chief, city staff and council. I guarantee you he can prove it. But you have ask yourself a question. If the council and chief agree on staffing levels for the department, is it not a good idea to place those in the MOU to guarantee that level for the safety of the FF's and public? Seems reasonable.

BTW, you guys are missing the point, I've never said the levels were not in the MOU, I have only called Righeimer on his BS for blaming the FF's for the OT issue. Any plain look at the situation shows it was not the FF's who left the spots vacant. That was a council decision. And again, make an apples to apples comparison. Is 1/2 the number of FF's sufficient for Costa Mesa at any given time? Is 2/3? Is 1/3? Instead of wasting time arguing over this, why not explore that issue?

3/20/2012 07:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Tick Tock on the MOU clock said...

Wyatt, good. The MOU dictates staffing levels. The MOU is the trigger for overtime to meet minimum staffing levels in the union contract.

The union refuses to pay the employee share of pension payments. That is not in dispute.

The FF union refuses to put a 2nd tier pension in place. We, the tax payers , your bosses, do not want anyone hired without a 2nd tier.

Therefore, it is the Union's MOU that is at issue.

And only the FF Union can change that. Until of course the contract is up.

3/20/2012 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

Oh boy, where to start. First fact, I am not in a union, certainly not in the FF union. I simply come on here to call BS on BS.
Fact, the Fire Chief chose minimum staffing in consultation with city staff and council. That means high ranking city officials decided for the safety and protection of the city that certain levels of FF's must be on duty at all times to meet those needs. If high ranking city officials agree on minimum staffing levels, who wouldn't want to hold them to that (by placing it in the MOU) in order to make the job as safe as possible? Seems like common sense.

Lest we forget what an MOU is, it is an agreement of understanding (Memorandum of Understand, hence MOU) between two parties. The city and FF's in this case. The FF's can't force the city to do anything in spite of how you guys try paint a picture to the contrary. The city refusing the FF's offer to continue to pay that 5% towards PERS is a perfect example of this.

Fact, your FF's were paying more than 50% of the employee portion until your unfab four council shut it down. The FF's offered to continue to make that payment in the short time resulting in a $500,000 savings to the city while the continued to talk about longer term savings. Your council shut that down and now, apparently, refuses to talk with the FF's about anything. So yes, it is in dispute.

Fact, the comparison to a mortgage is the closest analogy to how PERS works. You can call it a "union" line or tactic all you want but it still fits.

Fact, when you city ends the fiscal year with a surplus, as it did last year and appears it is on its way this year, that means your city has met all pension obligations. Hence, no "unfunded liability". This is in spite of the unfab four council spending like drunken sailors on outside law firms and executive level positions the city survived without for 50+ years.

Why is no one asking why the council has not switched to OCFA? Did not each proposal save at least $1,000,000 per year. The FF's supported it. So what is the hold up?

This was certainly something Righeimer did not have to stick his nose into. But, he chose to do so in the hopes of scoring political points off the FF's. I'm still shocked Sforza actually printed a somewhat balanced article. I'm certain Righeimer did not expect that and it probably caused him to blow his top. Don't forger to bet on black.

3/21/2012 08:14:00 AM  

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