Geoff West at A Bubbling Cauldron has found another nugget of gold in the agenda for Tuesday night’s Costa Mesa City Council meeting. Apparently, the staff is recommending that the Council rescind the layoffs announced 13 months ago for the Costa Mesa Fire Department personnel.
RESCINDING CMFD LAYOFF NOTICES!
The final item on the agenda will make a lot of people in this city happy. The brief staff report, HERE, explains with insufficient detail that the staff recommends the rescission of all layoff notices given to members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department – both sworn and non-sworn. This will be around 100 staffers who will have that dark cloud removed from above their heads.
It’s been a little more than a year since Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer led his Costa Mesa City Council majority on a cost cutting charade that has cost the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars, without any measurable progress resulting from his games.
His major agenda item was to cut costs by contracting out city services. To that end he pushed for and got the distribution of layoff notices to hundreds of city workers including the entire fire department. Costa Mesa Municipal Employees Association was able to get an injunction to stop the contracting out of jobs to non-public agencies pending trial regarding their lawsuit scheduled for later this year.
The injunction however did not cover the fire department since the proposal was for those jobs to be contracted out to the Orange County Fire Authority. A proposal was submitted by OCFA. In contrast, negotiations between the City of Santa Ana and OCFA to contract out their much larger department, proceeded at a rapid pace, with the Orange County Fire Authority absorbing the Santa Ana Fire Department on April 20th.
For those of you wondering what happened, the city had to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) for Fire Services because their consideration of the bid presented by the Orange County Fire Authority violated existing city policy and contracting rules. The issue of contracting out Fire Services needed to be passed through a Fire Services Contracting Committee tasked with identifying the duties and responsibilities of the Fire program and determining “the available alternatives for service delivery.” On November 10, 2011 the Council approved the release of an RFP for Fire Services.
Until now, we’ve heard nothing.
Just as the Bush administration’s hunt for Osama bin Laden was forgotten, it seems that Righeimer and his sycophants on the council didn’t really give the contracting out of the Fire Department to OCFA any thought. Since the release of the RFP, negotiations between the city and OCFA ground to a halt, with the city having little interest in moving forward on the proposal.
This may have been the result of the distraction caused by Righeimer’s knee-jerk proposal to make Costa Mesa a charter city giving the council unrestricted power to contract any city job without the restrictions of state law. With such power, Righeimer’s Raiders would not even need to consider the OCFA proposal and could contract out the duties of the Costa Mesa Fire Department to private ambulance companies and other private contractors that do not use professional fire fighters.
The proposal from staff would not be moving forward without support from the council majority, since CEO Hatch isn’t likely to stick his neck out very far. The proposal to rescind the layoffs is nothing more than a face-saving way for the council majority to say “never-mind.”
On April 4, 2012, Geoff West cleared things up regarding the OCFA proposal.
Righeimer characterized the recent agreement between the Santa Ana government and the Orange County Fire Authority to provide fire and emergency medical service to that city as a “takeover” by the OCFA. He amplified that lie by saying it was just like the OCFA tried to do with Costa Mesa! You could almost see his nose growing as he spewed those words.
HERE’S THE TRUTH
First, as is chronicled in the Orange County Register article about the contract, HERE, the OCFA did not “take over” Santa Ana. At the request of the City they made an offer to provide fire service to the city and it was accepted. According to the reports, it will save Santa Ana millions of dollars each year with no reduction in services. Both sides, including the rank and file firefighters of the SAFD apparently are happy with the deal.
WE INVITED THE OCFA IN
In our case, in an effort to provide an “expert” assessment of Costa Mesa’s fire operations, the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association approached the city with an offer to pay for the OCFA to come in, do an assessment and make a bid to take over the fire and emergency medical responsibilities for our city. If the City chose to accept the proposal it would reimburse the CMFA half the cost.
COUNCIL HEARD, AND IGNORED, THE OCFA PROPOSAL
Upon hearing the OCFA proposal – twice, over a period of months – the council chose to just ignore it and pass up the millions of dollars in annual savings, so the Costa Mesa Fire Department continued to operate as usual, except with fewer people because this council refused to let the staff recruit new firefighters until they agreed to a second pension tier. So, in order to provide coverage at the levels necessary, thousands of hours of overtime have been logged by firefighters and fire leadership.
So much for achieving the goal of cost reduction. Mr. Righeimer continues to demonstrate his true agenda and it has nothing to do with city finances, and everything to do with personal power.