Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Breaking News! - Chief Tom Gazsi Weighs Anchor...

In a blockbuster announcement, today we learned that Chief Tom Gazsi is leaving the Costa Mesa Police Department and will move on to a recently-created position as Deputy Chief of Operations with the Los Angeles Port Police, which is charged with the safety and security of the Port of Los Angeles He will report through Assistant Chief Mike Hillmann, a law enforcement leader of international acclaim, to  Chief Ronald Boyd, who currently acts as Interim Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles.  To see what kind of an operation Gazsi's moving to you can watch a short video of the recent dedication of the new Los Angeles Port Police Headquarters HERE.  Another link, HERE, will give you a little better idea of the operations at the Port of Los Angeles with which Gazsi will be dealing.


The Port of Los Angeles is the largest port in the Western Hemisphere, the 16th largest container port in the world, and, based on the most recent data available, handles more than 2,100 vessel arrivals each year.  More than 165 million tons of cargo, nearly 8 million containers and over 430,000 passengers passed through the port last year.  The value of the cargo last year was  more than $285 billion and the annual revenue of the port was just over $397 million.


Chief Gazsi, a Costa Mesa resident who has spent more than three dozen years in law enforcement in

both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, expressed strong mixed feelings about leaving the men and women of the CMPD.  During his three-year tenure as the Chief of the Costa Mesa Police Department Gazsi continued the tradition established by other outstanding Costa Mesa chiefs like Roger Neth and Dave Snowden, shown here, and has led the department to significant accomplishments while dealing with political and economic circumstances that hobbled their efforts.  Due to retirements - both scheduled and unanticipated - plus departures for other jurisdictions, Gazsi managed a complete replacement of the command staff.  During the past two years the CMPD has hired more officers than at any similar time in its 60 year history.  He was forced to oversee the dismantling of the A.B.L.E. helicopter program - the model for all municipal airborne law enforcement programs in the country.  On his watch the CMPD saw many of its officers recognized for significant DUI arrests, although that performance has recently diminished due to staffing constraints.  The list goes on and on.

He expressed to me great affection for the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department and his admiration for their professionalism, skill, dedication and tenacity.  The opportunity to lead those men and women, particularly in such stressful and tumultuous times, has been the high point of his law enforcement career.

According to Gazsi, he wasn't looking for a job, but was sought out and selected for this position from a field of 60 candidates from around the country.  When he was contacted about the chance to create a new position with such regional and national security ramifications it was too great  a professional opportunity to pass up.  He cited the opportunity to work with highly-respected law enforcement leaders in a dynamic environment in a century-old, revered law enforcement organization as part of the reason he considered this position.  In this new position he will be responsible for more than 220 men and women, including 125 sworn officers, 15 patrol boats, plus dive operations to fulfill the department's mission to maintain the free flow of commerce and produce a safe, secure environment that promotes uninterrupted Port operations.


 Gazsi will begin his new job on December 8th.  He has been working with CEO Tom Hatch to develop a plan for interim leadership for the CMPD before he departs.  The future of the leadership of the Costa Mesa Police Department is now in the hands of Hatch and the City Council.  While Hatch is responsible for the Costa Mesa Police Department and the person who heads it up, he works for the City Council.


Here's my take on this situation.  I, personally, don't think Tom Gazsi would have considered making any change, including this one, if the environment at City Hall was better.  Jim Righeimer, with his dictatorial style, has created such a toxic work environment, particularly for the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department, that it is extremely difficult to recruit for any of the more than fifty openings, including the twenty-five open positions in the CMPD.  You can lay the departure of more than four dozen officers - including Gazsi - representing hundreds of years of experience, directly at Righeimer's feet.  Gazsi's departure is a giant exclamation point on this entire situation and it's importance and impact simply cannot be overstated.  I've written about it in the recent past, HERE, and Katrina Foley addressed it, too, HERE.

More than three years ago then-interim Police Chief Steve Staveley - a man with more than four decades of law enforcement leadership under his belt at the time who had been asked to lead the CMPD - twice - resigned, leaving behind a long, long letter describing his reasons.  You can read the entire letter HERE.  Perhaps the most telling segment is this one:
"Over the years, I have had city councils I thought were smart and thoughtful and ones who were less skilled. In every case, I know they were trying to do the right thing - I did not always agree, but clearly they were trying hard to improve the communities we all served.  I have never, however, seen a council such as this one. They lack skill, training, education, knowledge, they fail to study (or at least learn).  The majority either lies or are so lacking in the necessary skills that they actually believe the junk they say.  They act as if they are owners of the business that is the municipal government of the City of Costa Mesa, but they are not, they are merely trustees of these public assets both human and physical and they fail in that role completely.  They are, in my opinion, incompetent, unskilled and unethical."


Do I wish Gazsi was staying?  Of course! He is a man of faith, great character and integrity with three decades of experience and outstanding leadership and interpersonal skills.  Do I understand why he's leaving?  Yep!  Am I worried about how the men and women of the CMPD will react to his departure?  You bet!  I hope they will understand that this professional opportunity represents a chance for him to use his considerable skills in an arena with broad regional and national scope and impact.  I also hope they realize how hard he has tried to be a buffer between them and the hostility toward them by some elected leaders.  I hope they realize how he has tried to hold the department together with one hand while fending off the hostility and ignorant micromanaging with the other.  And, I hope they will realize how proud he is of them.


We want to thank the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department for their professionalism and devotion to our community.  We hope they will continue to serve this community with distinction and realize that, even though some of our elected leaders treat them with disdain, the residents of this community value and appreciate their dedication and skills.  We do understand the circumstances they face each day as they try to keep us safe although their numbers have dwindled.

While we are deeply saddened to see him go, we thank Chief Tom Gazsi for his service to our community and wish him well in this new endeavor.  This seems to be a good move for him, professionally, and for his family in the future.  While his strength of character and leadership will be sorely missed by the CMPD and the City of Costa Mesa, I have no doubt that the region and the country will be safer because of his leadership in that new job.  We thank Chief Gazsi for his devotion to this city, for his steady hand on the helm of the CMPD at a time when it certainly was needed and wish him all the best in this new assignment.  He will be missed. 

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving...

As has become a tradition here at A Bubbling Cauldron, before we turn the fire down to simmer for the holiday, today I write to you with thoughts about Thanksgiving, and what it means to me.

Since I began writing this blog the first week of July, 2005 hundreds of thousands of words have come sputtering out of my skull and found their way to this site.  I've worn out two computers and changed blog hosts along the way.  Some of you have been loyal readers since day one, and for that I'm VERY thankful.

When I changed platforms the new technology afforded me the chance to observe the traffic on this blog.  While we were in the midst of the election wrap up last week we blasted right past the 2,500-post milestone on this site.  And, we also passed 2,000,000 page views on this site about the same time.  While those numbers are small potatos compared to big web sites, they still make my head hurt.  The number of page views on this site is increasing and I'm thankful to those several thousand of you who read the thoughts presented here each month.

I've gone from a site that didn't permit comments to one that did - much to my chagrin.  A while back, after dealing with some of the unpleasantness associated with the comments, I decided to try to rein-in the vitriol and require anyone who wishes to comment to register, confidentially, before posting their thoughts.  That little bit of accountability seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm not so sure now.  Too many folks with opposing viewpoints refuse to register, so the comment threads here have become distilled into mostly opinions that agree with mine.  That was never my goal.  I'm thankful for those who still choose to participate, but miss the others very much.

Last year I wrote about a couple weddings we attended and our adventure getting snowed-in on our vacation and subsequently missing our first chance to see Yellowstone National Park.  This year we attended yet another family wedding, when nephew Evan and the lovely Vanessa tied the knot this fall.  As I type this they are honeymooning in the South Pacific.  And, this year we managed to finish that vacation adventure which included not only Yellowstone, but the Grand Tetons and Glacier National Park, too.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to have seen those very special places, although being ten feet from a 2,500 pound moose did manage to tighten up the old sphincter a little.

And, as always, by my side in these adventures is my lovely and very patient wife of more than 47 years, Susie.  As each year passes I'm more and more thankful for her presence in my life - for the love she brings to our life together and the gentle nudge she applies to the tiller of our lives when necessary.

I'm thankful for my friends, past and present.  In 2007 I wrote about my friend, Larry Moore, and how each Thanksgiving since 2003 I recall being at his bedside in the hospital in Las Vegas as he tried to recover from injuries caused by a motorcycle accident.  You can read about it HERE.

This year has seen an unusual turnover of homes in our neighborhood, which makes me even more thankful for those neighbors who have shared our lives here for more than four decades and those who have either moved on or passed on.  Each of them have made our lives rich and full, for which we are very grateful.  And, we're looking forward to our new neighbors as they fill the spots along our lovely streets.


The recent election has reminded me of how many wonderful people contribute positively to the lives of all our residents through their tireless activism and volunteerism.  Groups like Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG), the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group, the grass-roots group Take Back Our Neighborhoods (TBON), which formed to battle rehab homes in our community, and so many other individuals unaffiliated with a specific group, all of whom took time out of busy lives to focus on issues in the city and present their opinions to officials when they thought it was appropriate. 

This past campaign season is unlike any in my memory and I have no idea what the future holds for my city as a result.  While we hold out hope for a more conciliatory, positive governance, early results lead me to believe it's going to be more of the same kind of divisive, polarizing experience we've endured the past four years.


Although I don't contribute as much to them as I once did, I'm still VERY thankful to the fine local newspapers that serve our community.  Our newspaper of record for more than a century, The Daily Pilot, continues to provide accurate and timely news for us.  The Orange County Register, struggling to stay alive, covers the broader region - for now.  I'm thankful for them and their contributions to the community.  And, I'm thankful when they consider something I submit to them worthy of publication. 

As always, I'm very thankful to the fantastic employees of my city, who protect us and serve us.  Their numbers have diminished and their spirit has grown slightly dimmer because of the events of the past four years, but their service to the community has never wavered.  They continue to try to provide the best service possible, and for that I am very thankful.  I chose this image of award-winning Brad Long and Dane Bora of Costa Mesa Television to represent all the rest.


I'm always thankful to the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces, for their patriotism and dedication as they defend the freedom that permits us to celebrate this day.

And, I'm thankful for my family, who tolerate me and support me as we trundle down this road together.  They are the best...

And, finally, I'm thankful to all of you who take the time to read this blog and, hopefully, find value in what appears here.  Yes, even those who disagree with me... I'm thankful for your attention, too.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Grinch's Even More Evil Twin

Well, it certainly didn't take long for recently re-elected Mayor Jim Righeimer to rip off that uncomfortable, ill-fitting facade of the conciliator, did it?  It only took a few minutes at the last council meeting for us to see the seams beginning to burst on that outfit.  Then comes today...

As described in a Facebook message to her "friends", recently re-elected council woman Katrina Foley - who will officially take the dais on December 2nd - told us the following:

"On 11/13/14 in the OC Register Righeimer pledged: "You want to find out what issues are important to them [me, the new council member] and see how you can get those things done.” First attempt: Kill Katrina's Annual Kids Coat Drive! BaHumbug! Due to his complaint, after 5 years, we can no longer place a collection bin in the lobby of the CMPD. I wish we could move beyond petty politics! Please let me know if your business or organization will host a bin."

That's correct!  This week Righeimer - who barely retained a place on the dais by 47 votes and who told us from the dais last Tuesday evening that he was meeting with Foley soon to find common ground - complained to CEO Tom Hatch that the collection barrels for the 6th annual Kids Coat Drive were political statements and should be banned from City buildings.  So - poof! - no more collection barrels!  

As several commentors have observed on the thread that accompanied Foley's Facebook post, there are many other "collections" done on city sites and wondered if they, too, will be banned as "political statements".  I'm told that the official city position on the Kids Coat Drive collection was that it was not an official city-endorsed program.  What a steaming pile of manure!

This is what we have to look forward to under the regime of now-lame duck Mayor Jim Righeimer!  He's termed out in 2018, so has nothing to lose by letting us see the real guy behind that pudgy, poorly-coiffed facade.  Now we'll see him at his worst - something that's pretty hard to imagine when we reflect on his first four years on the dais, when, among other things, we saw him attempt to layoff half the miscellaneous employees (Remember Huy Pham?); disembowel the police department; create such a hostile work environment that many staffers have departed and recruitment becomes very difficult; turn the city into a virtual dictatorship by changing the core form of government - twice! - to make it easier for him to rule;  take such capricious actions that our city has become a retirement annuity for many local law firms and on and on and on.  Now he puts a roadblock in front of one of the very positive events that has happened each year for half a decade and leave needy children shivering in the night!

If he thought for one second that his Cheshire Cat grin and phony attempt to convince us that he's turned over a new leaf and has become a conciliatory member of a council team had us fooled, he's sorely mistaken.  Those of us who pay attention recognize what a dictatorial, self-serving political opportunist he really is and will continue to speak out.  This latest move is beyhond despicable and will be long-remembered.

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Humphrey Concedes - No Recount Planned

Confirming news announced by Bradley Zint of the Daily Pilot on his Facebook site a short time ago, in a telephone conversation with me former Costa Mesa councilman Jay Humphrey told me he has decided NOT to ask for a recount of the recent city council election in which he finished third, 47 votes behind incumbent mayor Jim Righeimer.

Humphrey cited not only the cost, but the turmoil involved in a recount and the fact that chances are quite slim that he would pick up even a few votes as a result.  He has prepared a press release on this issue and will release it later this evening.  HERE is the Daily Pilot article on the concession.

Humphrey expressed to me his extreme gratitude to those Costa Mesa voters who cast their ballots in his favor and, especially, to all those tireless workers who walked precincts, sent out fliers, made telephone calls on his behalf and otherwise worked tirelessly to support his candidacy.  He assured to me that he will continue to be actively engaged in municipal affairs and, as is quoted in Zint's Facebook entry, "be part of this community and continue to share the word of people who are not being heard."

From a personal standpoint, I admire Jay Humphrey for the high road he took on his campaign.  There was plenty of controversy, particularly swirling around the endorsement he and Katrina Foley received from Costa Mesans For Responsible Government and the angry reaction by potential candidate Harold Weitzberg.  Through all that and the negative campaigning by his opposition, he held his head high, addressed important issues, answered every question, attended every meeting and continued to demonstrate what good citizenship is all about.  I'm sorry Jay didn't win a seat on the council, but know he will continue to be involved and be a voice of maturity and reason as he addresses important issues in the city.

This has been an exciting but challenging election and the time has come to bring it to an end.  My supporters and I watched the excruciating closeness of the ballot count between Jim Righeimer and myself, with Tuesday’s certification showing Mr. Righeimer leading by 47 votes—less than one-tenth of one percent of all the votes cast in Costa Mesa on November 4th. This count show the importance of "Every vote counts"

Since then, I have thoroughly reviewed the vote count as well as data on the history of recounts to consider whether to request a recount.  I owed a thoughtful review to the wonderful people supporting my campaign and the people of Costa Mesa I hoped to serve.  After consultation with the County Registrar, my supporters, and election experts and attorneys, I have decided to work for tomorrow and the future of all in Costa Mesa.

Accordingly, I have called Mr. Righeimer to congratulate him on his re-election to the Council, and to wish him well in his next term.

I also want to thank so much all the people who worked so hard and gave so much to support my campaign, as well as everybody who voted for me.  I especially thank the members of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, who put heart and soul into this election.  They and I are committed in the future and We are not going to stop working for the values we fought for in this campaign.

I will continue to share the voice of the people of Costa Mesa who need to be heard.  I will continue working on issues critical to the future of this city—not just public safety, development, and City Council process, but the health of our economy and livability of the city and issues that affect them like the minimum wage, support for small business development, preservation of open space and the like.  I will work always to support the needs of the people of the city of Costa Mesa, to respect their voices, and to raise my voice whenever it can make a difference.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Official Election Results Plus Recount Info

So, baring any recount requests, what follows is the "official" result of the November 2014 election.  I spoke with Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley earlier today about the recount deadline.  Any person who wishes to request, and pay for, a recount of any Orange County race must do so by midnight, Sunday, November 23, 2014.  Any request received after that time will be too late.  He provided a contact email address to be used by anyone requesting a recount - rovwebmaster@rov.ocgov.com.  I'm told that address will be attended throughout the weekend until midnight Sunday.

So, in no particular order except my personal preference, here's how several races that are of interest to me and a few others shake out at this point in time:

Katrina Foley is the clear winner.  Jay Humphrey trails Jim Righeimer by 47 votes.
Measure O, the latest iteration of a Charter scheme, was thoroughly thrashed at the polls.
Measure P, the unnecessary advisory measure with the messed-up ballot language is basically unusable.

Incumbents Mike Scheafer, Bob Ooten and Arlene Schafer retained their seats, thoroughly thumping two candidates supported by the Riganistas, Peotter and Perry.
Jim Atkinson beat Ron Amburgey - another Riganista who lost.
Incumbent, former OCC President and OCC coaching legend David Grant soundly defeated Joel Flores.
Charlene Metoyer thumped former trustee Michael Collier to fill the seat being vacated by Foley.
Incumbents Walt Davenport and Vicki Snell had strong showings to hold their seats.

Political king maker Dave Ellis failed to win a seat on the MWDOC board
Incumbents Steve Sheldon and Shawn Dewane beat termed-out councilwomen Leslie Daigle and Wendy Leece, respectively.
Huntington Beach Mayor Matt Harper beat former Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry in the race to fill Allan Mansoor's Assembly seat.
Carpetbagger Michelle Steel, with the overwhelming support of the OCGOP hierarchy, crushed Mansoor in the race to fill termed-out John Moorlach's Supervisorial seat.
Perenniel candidate Dana Rohrabacher crushed challenger Suzanne Savary.
In Huntington Beach, long time City Attorney Jennifer McGrath was convincingly ousted by Michael Gates.
The Huntington Beach council race resulted in both incumbents - Connie Boardman and Joe Shaw -  being tossed out in races that were not even close.
In Irvine, Mayor Steven Choi held his seat.
The BIG news from that city is the rejection of Larry Agran by the voters in the City Council race.
Both Villa Park and Huntington Beach approved so-called Safe and Sane Fireworks.
The voters in Santa Ana passed both Medical Marijuana measures on the ballot.

Yorba Linda voters overwhelmingly voted to eliminate pension and health care benefits for future councilmembers.
Over in Westminster a couple familiar names appear on the ballot.  Former Interim Recreation Manager Penny Loomer and current Costa Mesa Building Official Khanh Nguyen both secured seats on the Westminster School District Board.
So, that's it for now, folks.  Now we wait for decisions regarding possible recounts in races important to us.  Elsewhere in Orange County there appear to be some very close races that just scream for recounts.  When I know I'll let you know.