Monday, October 21, 2013

Chip Espinosa's "Listening Report"

One of the interesting facets of taking a long vacation when you normally spend most of your waking hours following city activities and reporting on them, is that all kinds of stuff happens when you are away that, for a variety of reasons, you just cannot respond to until you return.  Such is the case of the much-delayed Chip Espinosa "Listening Report".  So, here's my take on it...

A couple minutes before the close of business on Wednesday, October 9th,  - about the time my wife and I found ourselves finally extricated from the blizzard that killed more than 100,000 cows, closed over 300 miles of Interstate Highway and knocked power out over a multi-state area for much of a week - City CEO Tom Hatch transmitted the final report to the entire city staff via an email transmittal.  You can read the text of the document HERE

In his transmittal email Hatch acknowledged that most of what is in that report - which apparently gathered dust on his desk for four months while it received a little massaging -  will not be news to most city employees and council members, but he says it identifies areas where "we can improve".  He also says he would be forming a team of "managers and employees to discuss the next steps we need to take as an organization to build on this report".

He acknowledged that "not every concern that was raised can be accommodated or addressed specifically to everyone's satisfaction".  Near the end of his transmittal he wrote this paragraph:
"My hope is that this process will serve to promote a better sense of unity in our organization.  I strongly encourage those who read this report to challenge themselves to use the report to improve upon our current circumstances and move forward and focus on our legacy of top notch public service we have embodied for generations. This will mean, as Mr. Espinoza pointed out, that we lay aside self-protecting behaviors and embrace self-giving behaviors that consider varying points of view, encourage vulnerability and promote accountability.  I also want to highlight what Mr. Espinoza stated on page one of the report – 'The report’s power will be severely compromised if turned into a tool for creating discord or greater polarization.'"  That emphasis is mine.

The Daily Pilot reported on this publication HERE.

As you might expect, the reaction from employees was less than enthusiastic.  The Costa Mesa City Employee Association (OMCEA) published entry in their "Costa Mesa Works" web site on the Listening Report, HERE, and CMCEA President Helen Nenadal published a commentary in the Daily Pilot this weekend, HERE.

I must say that this is familiar territory for me.  During my working life I've participated in more than a few of these exercises, both as an employee and manager.  Based on my personal experience on both sides of the equation, these kinds of programs can be very valuable tools, but should not be undertaken lightly.  In every case, when one of these exercises is undertaken it creates an anticipation - and expectation - in the minds of the employees that something positive is going to come from it... that their working lives will become substantially better as a result.  Unfortunately, that's not always the case.  I fear that this will be the case with the City of Costa Mesa.

In order for their things to get "better" there needs to be "buy in" at every level - management, employees and at the executive level - in our case, the City Council.  Based on recent past history with this council, I just don't see that happening.  Read that sentence above I highlighted in red.  Do you see this council participating in that part of the exercise?  Nah, neither do I, particularly since I understand that one of them didn't bother to take part in the exercise at all.

Why do I say that?  Well, this exercise was completed before the council presented its offensive contract offer to the CMCEA - certainly not a conciliatory move on its part, for sure.  Neither was their rejection of the CMCEA offer to partner with The City in new processes to help make things work better.  I fear that the toxic, divisive nature of the relationship between the employees and the City Council majority is so pervasive that significant change is not possible without a change in the council make-up.  When it comes to employee relations, the council majority - in just about three years - has done almost everything wrong.  They violated their own rules when they issued layoff notices to more than 200 employees, forcing them to sue The City to protect their rights.  Two of them have actually sued all the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department, for goodness sake!

I hope I'm very wrong about this.  The City certainly needs some healing to take place, but it's a two-way street.  Nothing good will happen if this council majority continues to run roughshod over their own rules and make unreasonable demands of the employees.  I just don't see a couple of them "laying aside self-protecting behaviors and embracing self-giving behaviors", do you?  It won't take long for us to find out.  Hatch will form his committee, they will meet and we'll see.


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Anonymous Squad 51 said...

One of the things that everybody seems to keep loosing track of in their hopes to "work together" with this council is the reason Righeimer 'just happened' to come to Costa Mesa in the first place.

He came here to implement an agenda. A far right "conservative" agenda that is the plan of the ruling faction of the OCGOP and why Costa Mesa was declared "ground zero" at that time. Remember that? Why does anybody think that's changed?

That's who sent him here. That's who he stands for and that's still the reason he's here.

While Mensinger does actually live in CM (give him credit for that), he's just a helper who stands to benifit personally for assisting his "business partner" and wouldn't be on the council if he wasn't given the position by Righeimer in the first place.

The ugly reality is that Righeimer is looking beyond Costa Mesa and dosen't give a damn about it's citizens, let alone it's employees.

When he's done here (however that happens) he'll leave the city and never return. That's what you do with stepping stones.

Anything that happens that is good for the city, it's tax payers or it's employees, just happens because it's necessary to keep the bigger agenda alive and anything that looks or sounds like that might change is actually just a change in tactics.

10/21/2013 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee said...

Squad 51, you are so right. Spot on! We are merely a means to an end. LET'S VOTE THEM OUT.

10/21/2013 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Eileen Truxton said...

Squad 51,do you happen to have a copy of the list of good things that have happened? I seem to have misplaced mine.

10/21/2013 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Squad 51 said...

Eileen.... I think some of the "good things" are the fact that many of the bad things that Righeimer would have liked to pull off have been stopped. Much of that has been as a result of the amateurish and sometimes just flat out stupid way he's gone about it. Much more bad could have happened if he actually knew what he was doing.

I think a good thing that happened is the restructuring of the FD. The good being that it is still intact and ready to move forward when this cloud has passed. If the county had come in then that would not be the case.

What happens with the cops is still yet to be seen. That could be the story of the year next year and might result in Righeimer being shown the door if he's not careful.

I have noticed that he has restricted his finger pointing to the "union leaders" and has nothing but praise for "our fine officers". He's appointed bad mouthing them to minions like Sesler.

10/21/2013 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Thank you, Squad 51. We need to be reminded occasionally of the truth of the matter. There's so much propaganda being thrown at us, it tends to obscure what we already know.

10/21/2013 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous now is the time said...

Taking baby steps with small changes would be huge for building bridges between the Council, Executives and Employees. During listening sessions the reinstituting of modified work schedules was discussed as a no brainer as the 5-8 work week was an old business model that no longer fits the needs of today's residents. It costs the city nothing and actually provides more hours of coverage for residents. The modified work week was one of the things instituted by the city when they were required by the AQMD to show measures taken to help with improving air quality. Employees working a 4-10 cut down on 4 trips a month to and from work.
Having employees work a 5-8 was strictly a control move as no benefit to the city was ever given. It actually took away the ability of Department heads to schedule their employees to work hours which best suit the needs of their departments and residents. It seems that during the time the report sat, it was something that could have easily been done....a positive for Department Heads and their employees. What is the hold up?

10/21/2013 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous CMTaxpayer said...

Now is the time, you asked “what is the hold up?”

Control freaks. Freakin fake fiscal conservative, micro managing, maximum spending, litigation lovin clueless wanna be dictators, amateur hour crony quid pro quo operators, disingenuous disgraces to the GOP. Not a stand-up guy among them. Good luck to you and your co-workers. You are not alone. These mini-men are screwing the taxpayers harder than they are the employees

10/21/2013 09:57:00 PM  

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