Thursday, March 17, 2016

No Day Of Celebration For Me

While many of you are probably out celebrating St. Patrick's Day today - I know one Costa Mesa Councilman who is giddy about this day of the year and is probably raking in the bucks selling libations at his gin mill today - this stopped being a day of celebration for me five years ago.

In the afternoon on March 17, 2011, young City of Costa Mesa maintenance worker, Huy Pham, leaped to his death, apparently in response to being called to work to receive a 6-month layoff notice, along with 212 of his fellow workers.  This was the handiwork of Jim Righeimer - at the time Mayor Pro Tem - and his council majority that included the above-mentioned Mayor, Gary Monahan.  That photo above is from that fateful day, when Monahan chose to stay at his pub and pull beer taps on what he described to one reporter as, "the biggest day of my life".  It makes me almost puke even five years later when I type those words!

So, to help you remember what it was like back then I've gathered some links to entries I wrote, and one other, that may help you put what's happening today into perspective - this is how it started.  Let me take you through a few my blog entries beginning with my final one in 2010, to give you a flavor of what happened in our city back then during 2011.  Just click on the title to travel back to that entry.

12/31/10 - The "DP 103" Announced.  This was a fun issue and I was included in this list.  It was a nice way to end the year.

1/3/11 - Contemplating Steve Mensinger.  I wrote this in anticipating of Mensinger being appointed to the City Council to replace Katrina Foley, who was elected to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board.
1/5/11 - Mensinger Appointed To City Council.  This appointment changed EVERYTHING in our city from that date forward.

2/10/11 - Barlow Bails Out!.  Contract City Attorney, through Jones & Mayer, Kimberly Hall Barlow left her appointment as City Attorney.  Some speculated if it was because she pushed back... we'll never know.

2/16/11 - Eagle Shot Down - And That's Not All.  The decision was made to shut down the A.B.L.E. helicopter program, and more.

2/24/11 - Runaway Train Continues...  Righeimer's plan to privatize paramedics gets sprung on us.

2/25/11 - Costa Mesa To Discuss Outsourcing Nearly EVERY Job. Tom Hatch - not yet City Manager/CEO - announced this draconian plan, listing practically every organization that would be outsourced.
2/26/11 - A Look Back In Time. I reprised an essay I wrote on 2/22/06, speculating about what was to come.  You'll find this one interesting.

3/8/11 - Shawkey Finally Out & Hispanic Population Grows.  This one is self-explanatory.

3/1/11 - First The Fun, Then The Bad News. In this one I speak about the reception prior to the City Council meeting for retiring City Manager Allan Roeder and departing City Attorney Kim Barlow, and then talk about the appointment of Tom Duarte to replace Barlow.  This council meeting was where the groundwork was laid for what would follow on March 17th.

3/2/11 - Adios To Roeder & The Snowball's Moving. This summarizes what happened at that council meeting.  You'll find some interesting quotes in this one.

3/7/11 - The Beginning Of The Tom Hatch Era - Self-explanatory

3/15/11 - Staveley Appointed Interim Police Chief - Again.  Steve Staveley, a law enforcement icon, was appointed as Interim Police Chief for the second time.  As it turned out, never did we need his leadership more.
3/17/11 - Suicide At City Hall.  Shortly after 3 p.m. on that fateful day I received a call from a friend telling me to grab my camera and head to City Hall - but wouldn't tell me why.  He was insistent, so off I went.
3/18/11 - Costa Mesa Issues Press Release About Huy Pham. The verbatim text of Tom Hatch's press release.

3/19/11 - Of Loving, Lameness and Losers.  Here we discuss the candle-light vigil in memory of Huy Pham and the lamest of lame press conferences every held.
3/21/11 - Today The Healing Began - Or Did It?  This one discusses the memorial service held for Huy Pham at City Hall that day.   More than 100 people circled City Hall in a drizzle, paying their respects to Huy Pham.
3/24/11 - Lobdell As A Lightning Rod - This discusses the rapid hiring of Bill Lobdell as a consultant to manage the damage.
4/7/11 - The News - Righeimer, Bad - The City, Good.  Spin on the EMS issue

4/29/11 - Yes, Costa Mesa, The Sky Is Falling. We talk about departed senior staffers and the future.

5/27/11 - Hatch-No Staff Increases On His Watch.  Yes, he DID say that.

6/20/11 - Chief Staveley Resigns Effective Today! This was a seminal event of this year because Steve Staveley left a letter outlining EXACTLY why he was leaving.  This is a "must read".
6/23/11 - Jones & Mayer Bounces Staveley.

6/26/11 - A.B.L.E. - End Of Watch.  The demise of the finest Airborne Law Enforcement organization in California, maybe the country.  The model after which all others were created.
7/1/11 - The Pit Bull's Back!  My report of an attempt to intimidate me, for the second time, by OC GOP insider and one-time brother-in-law to Righeimer, Mark Bucher.  Didn't work the first time and didn't work this time, either.

7/11/11 - Gazsi Named Costa Mesa Police Chief!  A positive note, finally.
7/18/11 - Judge Affirms 'Outsourcing" Premilminary Injunction (Amended)*.  The beginning of the end, but not without millions in legal fees, to Jim Righeimer's bogus layoff plan.

7/22/11 - What Is Talon Up To?  The hiring of a high-priced investigative organization to investigate Huy Pham's death.

8/3/11 - If You Thought It Was Bad Before. A report on resident frustration and anger on the situation.  Tamar Goldmann, Perry Valantine and others chime in.  Worth a look.

8/4/11 - It's Official (Again) - Huy Pham Jumped.  Talon concludes what we already knew.

8/22/11 - Outsourcing Jousting. Sparring between the City and the Employees Association

*8/19/11 - Tad Friend's Great Costa Mesa Adventure**. New Yorker magazine writer Tad Friend journeyed to Costa Mesa and wrote a great piece on the turmoil.  I quoted him extensively here.
9/1/11 - Labor Day In Costa Mesa . My summary of events of the year to that point.

*9/1/11 - It's Gotten Messy In Costa Mesa. Chasen Marshall's great piece in the OC Weekly discussing the chaos in our city.
10/20/11 - Costa Mesa PR Jobs Announced.  Bill Lobdell and Dan Joyce hired.

10/21/11 - Tom Arnold Named Costa Mesa Interim Fire Chief.  Another positive bit of news.
11/2/11 - Righeimer Wants A "Charter City".  Righeimer's Bombshell announcement.

12/2/11 - City Confirms Hiring Francis As Assistant CEO.  The staff additions continue in the Executive Suite.

12/14/11 - What A Great Evening! Snoopy House saved from the trash heap - and provides a convenient distraction from the chaos in the city.

*Read these if you don't read the rest.

So, here we are, five years later and it's been five years of rancor, turmoil and lawsuits.  Outsourcing HAS occurred - Jail Services, Street Sweeping and, soon, Landscape Maintenance.  Many of the essential functions in City Hall are being performed by outside contractors and consultants.  Engineering is being done by consultants.  Building Inspections and Plan Checking are being done by consultants.
Of course, the police staffing is down and the crime rate is up.  Senior, experienced officers have left by the dozens and the replacement of them was delayed for most of a year and now we cannot catch up.  The current council majority, led by the warped vision of Jim Righeimer, is filling potholes at a record pace but our city is not safe.  We purchased $1.6 million worth of rescue ambulances, but Righeimer refuses to permit them to be properly utilized to keep his campaign contributors at the trough.
If Jim Righeimer was not such a ham-handed manager he probably could have accomplished his evil goals without the death of Huy Pham, but we'll never know.

So, on this normally festive day, take a few minutes while sloshing back green beer to remember that young man who leaped to his death five years ago.  Despite all the attempts by officials and their hired guns and minions to defame him as some kind of drug-addled loser, he was a wonderful young man, early in his career, who worked hard to support his family and make a future for himself.... just the kind of person Righeimer says he wants to attract to our city.

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Blogger kwahlf said...

Thank you, Geoff.
March 17th ceased being a day of celebration
for me also five years ago.
Everytime Gary mentions St. Patrick's Day
at his pub, I am reminded to attend Huy's memorial.

Our city employees still work under a cloud
of surveillance and fear. Without the residents'
support they would be fearful of having a
memorial for Huy.
That is an awful climate to work under!
We appreciate our city employees so much.
Huy was an outstanding worker, a great son
and a good man.
May he rest in eternal peace.
We will never forget him.

3/17/2016 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Ocpublicsquare said...

Always will be a somber day for me, reflecting on the tragedy and loss of a young life and gradual demise of our city by greedy developers and a bar owner and their Kool aid drinking minions. Thank you for the recap. Yes ground zero we are. How's that working for us Costa Mesa? We haven't given up trying to take back our city. I appreciate all you do. God bless you and Susie too. We're all in this fight together.

3/17/2016 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous zennymoon said...

RIP Pham...the symbol of everything that went wrong with this city and the beginning of Mensinger-Righeimer cabal, with our city being ground zero. How can so much go so wrong? Medians and developers getting more consideration than our police department, fire department, city employees and residents. I weep for Huy's family, I weep for our city.

3/17/2016 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Great post Mr. West!

The five darkest years in Costa Mesa history started with the needless loss of a young life, triggered by those who put greed and politics first.

Let's make sure that the dumber half of "Mensheimer," the faux mayor Stevie, is not returned to Council this November.
Monahan must never hold office again. His bar should be boycotted forever.

3/18/2016 06:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

What a shame that there was no one that Mr. Pham could turn to for help, before making that tough decision to end his life. I wish I could have been there to talk him down, or anyone for that matter. I am sure today he would be still be working for the residents, as he did then. Janet and I said some Prayers for him that day.
I had three close friends who tried to commit suicide at different times in my life. One I found in the bathtub with slit wrists, and I found her 3 year old daughter, full of blood, running around outside trying to find help and trying to pull mommy out of the tub. The paramedics were able to revive just in time. Another was was a call from Hoag asking me if they could release a friend of mine had OD'd on 100 Valium and just barely pulled through. If this friend had been found 3 minutes later, it would have been over. Another I sat in his bedroom for some time and talked him into giving me his Colt 45 that he was going to shoot himself in the head with. Nam really messed up his head. These friends are healthy, vibrant people today, long past those dark days, although they all have a scar of one form or another.
I did learn from them that having a friend to talk to, can make a difference.
Monahan showed us the ass that he was and is to this day. The object tossed through the window at his dump did do one thing though, it peeled back the layers of the onion and got Monahan to shut up....I probably know who did the toss. Probably the same one who did the Ramos church stained glass window, although I doubt that Ramos has gotten the message yet.

I hope that Mr. Pham is resting in peace.

3/18/2016 04:02:00 PM  

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