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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