Friday, June 12, 2015

Chief Dave Snowden Calls It A Career

By the time most of you read this it will already be Saturday, June 13, 2015 and our great friend, Dave Snowden, will offically be retired as the Chief of Police for the Beverly Hills Police Department, ending - to the precise day - a 49-year law enforcement career.  He hoped to stick it out to a nice round "50", but life intervened and his recent back surgery accelerated his decision.

With his permission, I've posted the letter he wrote earlier today on Facebook describing his career and his feelings upon retirement.  Please take a minute to read it.

Tomorrow, June 13th, I will be retired. 49 years to the day from when I was sworn in as a police officer in my home town of Montebello. I wanted to make it an even 50 years, but my doctor had a different opinion after my recent back surgery. Well, I have had quite a run, having served with four great agencies (Montebello-1966-1977, Baldwin Park-1977-1986, Costa Mesa-1986-2003 and Beverly Hills-2004-2015). I was first appointed chief (Baldwin Park) on November 1, 1980. 

All of this time my beautiful wife Ellyn has been by my side and supported both me and the communities we have served. I met her when I was, an officer in Montebello, which is also Ellyn's home town, 44 years ago. Ellyn is amazing and has received volunteer awards every year for her work with various causes in BH. 

I wish we could do it all to do over again. 

I have served with the finest and most dedicated people in the business during my career. I feel very proud of the great protection we have provided to the communities in which I have been privileged to serve. I am also proud to have watched many people that I have hired over the years succeed in their careers.. Some have even become chiefs themselves. I salute them all and thank them for their service.

Sadly and most regrettably, I have lost three great officers in the line of duty on my watch: Dave Ketchum, Mike Libolt and Gabe Coyoca. They will never be forgotten and I think of their sacrifice daily. I am proud to say I hired Gabe twice. First at CMPD and later BHPD.

I am very proud of BHPD. Among so many accomplishments, we have the lowest crime rate in the region, a consistent response time for the past 11 years of under 3 minutes and some of the best technology available is now operational. All of this in a city with 127 sworn officers and daily population estimated at 295,000. BHPD does a fantastic job of keeping our city safe!

There will be a City Council recognition for me Tuesday evening at 7:00 PM at the Beverly Hills City Hall and a retirement party is being planned for early August. I hope to see you all there. More info to follow.

Thank you for your support and your friendship.
God bless.

During his tenure as Chief of Police for Costa Mesa Dave was an extremely effective leader.  Many of the men and women he hired are still with the department and form the solid core of the organization.  He took the organization that Roger Neth, shown here with Dave and former Chief Tom Gazsi, built with such care and expanded and refined it and helped make it one of the premiere law enforcement organizations in the state.  For that, the residents of this city should be eternally thankful. 
I, personally, want to thank Dave Snowden, not only for his dedication to my city and his steadfast leadership, but also for his friendship and wisdom.  I value his patient encouragement and his enthusiastic support.   Our friend will now ride off into the sunset.  Well, maybe "hobble into the sunset" is a more accurate term, until he fully recovers from his back situation.  Susie and I wish Dave and Ellyn the very best in his retirement.  Happy Trails, my friend....

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Feelin' Safer In Costa Mesa? You Shouldn't!(Amended)

Over the past several years - ever since Jim Righeimer came to town - things have not gone especially well for the Costa Mesa Police Department and the community it serves.

We've seen a steady stream of police chiefs, both permanent and interim, come and go.  Each situation was different for those men, but with each departure came more unrest and angst within the ranks of the CMPD.

When Interim Chief Steve Staveley left in frustration four years ago he did so while tossing a grenade over his shoulder - his best professional opinion, based on four decades of law enforcement leadership, that the elected leadership of our city was "incompetent, unskilled and unethical".  And, it turns out he was exactly right.

Your mayor and mayor pro tem have sued the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department.  Gary Monahan has dragged his feet in negotiations on a new contract for that group although they've been working without one for a year.  The negotiators for the City have not responded to the offer placed on the table by the Costa Mesa Police Association last October!  And we've had cops leave in droves to earlier-than-planned retirements or to other venues because of the toxic environment created by the current council majority.

When Chief Tom Gazsi, an outstanding law enforcement leader and a man of impeccable character with more than three decades of law enforcement behind him in our neighboring city of Newport Beach, retired as Costa Mesa Police Chief to accept the position of Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Port Police, he did so having done his very best to rebuild the department that was decimated by early retirements and lateral moves to other jurisdictions.  He left never having had as much as an acknowledgement from his boss, CEO Tom Hatch, that a comprehensive document - the Attrition Report -  he submitted to Hatch nine months earlier had even been read, much less acted upon.  That document provided a very specific road map to get the CMPD out of the doldrums and back to the once lofty status it held as a "destination" police department.

The results of the short-sighted management of public safety resources in this city has now come home to roost.  The April, 2015 Part 1 Crime Overview chart is now posted on the City website.  You can read it at this link, HERE, along with several years of similar information.  Let me save you some time.  Below is a chart I cut and pasted showing April, 2015, February, 2015 (the next most recent chart available) and December, 2014.  You will notice that Part 1 Crimes - the biggies - are up nearly 50% in April.  They were up nearly 40% in February! (Click on the image to enlarge it)
These are tough times to be a cop anywhere, but in California in particular.  The impact of AB 109 - the prison "realignment" legislation that put criminals back out on the street earlier than they should be - and Prop. 47, which reduced the designation of certain crimes which resulted in shorter penalties, if any, for some of them - have dramatically impacted law enforcement policies and practices throughout the state.  Combine that with what certainly appears to be, in some segments of our broader society, a "hardening" against law enforcement in general, and you have a tough job made even tougher.  And, of course, here in Costa Mesa where our police staffing is running at least 30% below what is necessary to effectively protect the community, the situation is amplified.

Folks, there's just no way to sugar-coat this situation.  The City of Costa Mesa is demonstrably less safe today because of three men - Mayor Steve Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and lame-duck Councilman Gary Monahan.  Their animosity toward the men and women of the CMPD and the policies they've implemented that reflect that vindictive, short-sighted attitude have directly affected the safety of every single resident and visitor to our city.  Today we operate with a diminished Detective Bureau, no Narcotics Squad, a Gang Detail that's nearly non-existent, no K-9 support, a half-dozen motorcycles sitting dormant because we don't have the staff to put them in the field and, of course, no A.B.L.E helicopter support.  This comes at a time when we have more transients in our city, more parolees and probationers and an exploding number of rehab homes.  Look at those crime stats....


The 2015-2016 Municipal Budget will be voted on next Tuesday, June 16, June 23, 2015 during a special council meeting at City Hall.  It's time for the members of the public to step up and tell your elected leaders that you've had enough!  It's time for the council to follow the best advice available -  from former chiefs Roger Neth, Dave Snowden, Steve Staveley and Tom Gazsi AND from the consultants hired four years ago to assess the CMPD and make recommendations.  If YOU don't speak up they're going to assume that you think their policies are just fine and dandy.  They are not!  If you can't make it to the council meeting Tuesday evening, call Tom Hatch's office or send an email to the council letting them know how you feel.  There's cash in the budget to fund more cops - we're down to fewer than 100 officers available for duty today and are hiring as fast as the system can accommodate - it just needs to be prioritized. (NOTE: The budget adoption meeting has been scheduled for a SPECIAL meeting on June 23rd.  It seems the Mayor Pro Tem will NOT be at this Tuesday's regular meeting, so the budget will have it's own special event the following week!)

Or, even better, on Sunday, June 14, 2015, from 2-4 p.m. your mayor - shown here strolling past the makeshift memorial for Huy Pham outside City Hall last March - is holding another of his "Meet The Mayor" events, HERE, and this time, fortuitously, he's going to be joined by new Police Chief Rob Sharpnack on the 5th Floor of City Hall.  This seems like a PERFECT opportunity for you and a few dozen of your friends and neighbors to take advantage of his hospitality to ask him and the new chief how they plan to address crime in our city.  You can ask about the parolees and probationers, or the sober living homes, or the gangs, or the graffiti, or why we have lost so many cops... all that important stuff.

Stand up and Speak up!  Now is the time!

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Bikeways & Walkability Committee Off And... Peddling

The new Costa Mesa Bikeways & Walkability Committee held it's first meeting - delayed a week - last night, Wednesday, and it was a terrific start.

All 15 of the appointed members, whose names appear on the agenda for the meeting, HERE, showed up for duty right on time.  There were no members filling the two additional slots recently approved by the City Council from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District nor the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, although Kyle Woosley from the Chamber was present.  The Chamber Board will designate a future member.  Unfortunately, the Pension Oversight Committee meeting that occupied the same venue ran long, so the new committee didn't get started until about 6:10 p.m.
Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz took the lead for the meeting and the new (they're all new) members of the committee introduced themselves and gave a little history about why they wished to be part of this group.  I must admit that we have a pretty darn good cross-section of the community.  We have engineers, parents, grandparents, folks who are active on other committees, politicians and more.  Clearly, all bring a special expertise to the mix that should produce some very good analysis and discussions on the issues that will face them.

Ralph Taboada was chosen as Chairman of the committee.  He is currently Vice-Chair of the Pension Oversight Committee. Activist  Cynthia McDonald was chosen as Vice-Chair (Her husband, Rick Huffman, is also a member of the committee), so the leadership of the group seems to be in solid hands.  Katrina Foley is the Council Liaison for this group and seems to be providing direction to it early-on.  We'll see if that changes as the meetings progress... I hope so.  This committee, like all other committees, should be given their head to fulfill their charter once that is clear in their minds without micro-managing by council members.

Fortunately, there was a very brief discussion of The Ralph M. Brown Act and a short informational piece was distributed to keep the members out of trouble until the next meeting, at which time there will be a full orientation on this important issue.

During Public Comments one of the speakers was Pete Van Nuys, who represents the Orange County Bicycle Coalition, a group headquartered in San Clemente apparently devoted to making bicycling safer in Orange County.
Raja Sethuraman, Transportation Services Manager, presented an overview of Bicycle Master Plan, which was last updated in 2002 and is expected to be updated within the next 6 months.  Helping in that process is one of the reasons this committee was created.  The following images capture his presentation visually.
Then Sethuraman's associate, Pritnam Deshmukh, led the discussion of the Active Transportation Grant Applications that might apply to issues this committee will consider.  They are shown in the images below.  I've shown the amount of the grants in approximate numbers being requested for each beneath the image.
 ($2.8 million)
 ($2.2 million)
So, there you have it.. nearly $7 million in grants applied for to improve transportation that will affect the bikeability in Costa Mesa.  It is assumed that we will know about those grants early in the fall.

During the presentation several committee members expressed concern for some of the features and asked some excellent questions.  Several members expressed concern about not having input on these projects, but it was explained that these were already in the pipeline.  Chairman Taboada emphasized his opinion, and those apparently of many other committee members, that they signed up so they would have a voice - that they would be able to provide influence to the City Council.

Member Flo Martin provided a brief Power Point presentation for the group showing the bad condition of the Tanager Bike Trail and her concerns for the safety of that route.
Both Foley and Munoz suggested that the committee take a couple meetings to get acclimated to the current status of issues to get the sense of where things are already headed.  The next meeting apparently will be held the 2nd Monday of each month at the same venue, but will start later - at 6:30 p.m.  That should provide the Pension Oversight Committee time to finish it's business.

A couple observations... Again, I was very impressed with the backgrounds of many of the members of the group and their eagerness to begin the process.  And, their specific interests began to show through during the discussions in this 90 minute meeting.

Interestingly, there was virtually NO discussion on the "Walkability" side of the equation.  In fact, there seems to be no champion for that subject on the committee based on the short discussions we heard last night.  In my minds-eye, "Walkability" includes not only our ability to hoof it around the city streets safely and efficiently, but also should probably include a discussion of our mobility through areas that are not as precisely delineated - like Fairview Park, for example.  We'll see how that shakes out in the future.

And, I was impressed that Brent Stoll, the young man from Santa Monica who was first appointed (in error), then un-appointed, showed up last night to observe and make notes.  His wife is fully immersed in bicycle issues in Santa Monica and he has business interests in Costa Mesa.  I suspect he may have insights to share as these meetings progress and hope he will continue to attend.  He was one of 8 members of the public attending the meeting last night.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Water, Brown Lawns And Such...

So, we're a couple weeks into the conservation rules with Mesa Water and I was curious about a couple things.

First, how are we - the collective "we" - Mesa Water customers doing with our conservation efforts?  I have not received my water bill yet, so I don't know the impact of our recent replanting of our front yard.  You will recall that the rules were provided to us on a postcard, shown here.
The answer, according to Mesa Water sources today, is that we're doing pretty well.  The Mesa Water staff has been out and about, observing and citing users where appropriate.  We're so early into this process that, to my knowledge, nobody has yet been fined - but that is very possible.

The staff reminded me that we ARE allowed to HAND WATER our fragile plants ANY day of the week as long as we use a device that automatically shuts off when you release pressure.  I bought one for $10.00 at Home Depot. You can find more information from the Mesa Water web site HERE.

Also, the Turf Removal Rebate Program was recently re-funded, so the good folks at Mesa Water can help you with that.  Call them at 949-631-1200.
I also wondered just what the City of Costa Mesa's position is on their rules about brown lawns, because the current code requires us all to keep our lawns green and tidy.  Several people have asked me about that, so I wrote to the City and asked the question.  Here's the response I received in the form of a communication from Fidel Gamboa, Chief of Code Enforcement:

Due to Governor Brown’s statewide mandatory water reductions, the Code Enforcement Division has modified its enforcement approach regarding brown landscape/lawns throughout the City.  Staff has been instructed when addressing landscaping complaints to advise residents of the following temporary changes in the City’s landscape maintenance requirements: 

  • All landscape/lawns do not need to be green.
  • All landscape/lawns must be kept in a trimmed and neat manner.
  • If the landscape/lawns deteriorates to bare dirt, alternative landscape should be considered.
Additionally, an informational flyer will be included when addressing any landscape complaint.  This flyer lists the City’s approved landscape ground cover and alternative landscape materials as well as contact information for the Costa Mesa Water District in regards to their list of low water tolerate plants and their Turf Removal Rebate Program.  

In addition, he provided a link to a flyer that explains in greater detail the City's position.  I've provided an image of that flyer below.  Click on it to enlarge it. 

Basically, they want you to replace grass with bark and mulch; decomposed granite or gravel and all of the above must be combined with vegetation.  The flyer also addresses the subject of Artifical Turf, which we're told is only allowed in single family zoning (R-1) when incorporated into a landscape design and does not exceed 50% of the total landscape.  Call the Planning Division if you have questions at 714-754-5254.


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