Costa Mesa: Sometimes little things reveal hidden truths

On Friday the Orange County Employees Association, the union that represents the Costa Mesa Employee’s Association, released the first in what will likely be a series of memos highlighting waste in Costa Mesa. In the memo headlined WasteWatchers, OCEA Communications Director Jennifer Muir says;

“Waste Watchers is our way of offering the City Council, especially Jim Righeimer, Gary Monahan, Eric Bever and Steve Mensinger, even more ways to save.”

Muir leads off by targeting the purchase of ceremonial badges, like the flat badges police detectives carry, ordered for the self described budget watchdogs Jim Righeimer and Stephen Mensinger. Muir elaborated on the purchase stating;

“For example, why spend $425 on jewel-encrusted nameplates for City Council members when a large selection is available online starting under $10.” 

Costa Mesa’s spokesman Bill Lobdellresponded in an email to LiberalOC that:

These are not “nameplates” but council badges that cost $175 a piece. For decades, the City has given badges to all council members as ceremonial gifts when they first take office. I suppose the badges can used to identify oneself as a council member but I imagine they are rarely, if ever, used that way.

Another error: The badges weren’t ordered on St. Patrick’s Day. They were ordered on Feb. 9, 2011 and shipped on March 17, 2011.

There are no badges available from the city’s vendor that cost $10.

And finally, they aren’t “jewel-encrusted.” The badges have a single tiny fleck of what the vendor calls a “ruby” for the eagle’s eye.

Funny explanation really when you consider that Council members Righeimer and Mensinger have made a big show of bucking the trend of past City Councils throughout Costa Mesa’s history who negotiated with their workforce to address budget shortfalls by deciding, along with Council members Monahan and Bever to issue layoff notices and seek to contract out virtually all city services except for police and management.

I guess there are some things they do believe should be done the way they’ve always been done.

Lobdell then fired off the type of statement I’d expect from a highly paid flak (making more in salary than the Governor’s spokesman) trying to distract people from a criticism of his employer.

In a city that faces $222 million (current market value, according to CalPERS) in unfunded pension liabilities, $35.4 million in unfunded retirement health benefit liabilities, recent depletion of its reserves by more than $30 million and is working to close a multi-million dollar budget gap for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, questioning the purchase for two council badges for $175 each is a diversion from the real budget challenges.  

Really? The projected unfunded liabilities for pensions and retiree medical expenses are not related to the current budget shortfall. None of the proposed actions to outsource city services have even been shown to be cost effective, much less reduce unfunded liabilities. In fact, CalPERS has pointed out that if employees are laid off in the numbers proposed, the city would face more than $31 million in additional costs over the next ten years to pay off those liabilities. That will hardly help close a multi-million dollar budget gap.

Councilman Steve Mensinger (Appointed) - Costa Mesa, Photo: Chris Prevatt

I’m not sure that pointing out the entitlement excess of ceremonial badges is a distraction from any of the budget issues facing Costa Mesa. Rather, it seems to focus a “ruby” red laser on the arrogance and privileged attitude of these so called budget eagles. And given Mensinger’s personal record of allegedly throwing his weight and Reserve Sheriff’s Badge around, I’m not convinced that he wouldn’t use his badge to identify himself as a council member. I hope this guy, who clearly needs to attend an anger management class or two, doesn’t have a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

My question, silly as it may be, is why would two guys so focused on saving the city money, not suggest that maybe this would be a good time to stop issuing such badges? Or at least pay for them out of their own pockets? And why put a ceremonial title on the badge? That just means the city will have to buy a new one for Riggie when his title changes.

Shouldn’t their Drivers Liscenses and business cards be sufficient to identify who they are? Maybe we can issue them green cards so they don’t get picked up by the Costa Mesa police and shipped off to ICE. Their ideas of city governance are certainly illegal and alien to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

Angry Birds

I guess it could be worse. At least we don’t have an “Angry Birdchest bumping folks while carrying a badge. Oops!

  2 comments for “Costa Mesa: Sometimes little things reveal hidden truths

  1. Mosto
    May 9, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Wow. Investigative journalism at its best.

  2. David Martin
    May 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    This “badge-gate” is a non-issue. I mean, if this is what you’re going to rest you case on, then maybe some layoffs *were* needed.

    What would you do if they send the badges back?

Comments are closed.