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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leadership and Management

The Council meeting last night was busy and productive. It invited revisiting a “leadership vs. management” discussion.

Leading or managing: they're different

Management involves skills like projection, and practices like planning. For our purpose leadership is “inspiring willing and enthusiastic cooperation in the accomplishment of a goal.”

Righeimer announced early this year that he wanted Council meetings to proceed smoothly and efficiently to save time for important issues. He said he wanted to get “consent” items – those accepted by batch vote – processed without pulling and discussing each one.

That’s what the “Consent Calendar” is intended to accomplish. Controversial items should be moved to the regular agenda to allow research and preparation by the Council members, City staff and speakers.

The smooth meeting and efficiency last night spoke of both good leadership and good planning by the Mayor. And thanks are due to the Council members and speakers who thoroughly researched their issues.

Some understood what they discussed 

We enjoyed examples of well-prepared speakers providing considered input to the Council. We also saw folks, on the Council and not, who didn't understand the question but were ready and willing to enthusiastically argue for their answer.

Award to our Historians

The Mayor’s Award was to the Goddards, pillars of the Costa Mesa Historical effort. They have fueled, pushed, dominated, persisted, and professionally documented Costa Mesa’s history. Art gave a great outline of our history from “Big Bang to Present (Council)” as he described it. He gave an educational and entertaining talk. It's worth viewing on the City site.  Council video

Logic commentary not a rehash of news 

The meeting was documented in news media, and the video of it is online or will be imminently. This blog will comment on the logic in selected discussions.

Prepared speakers

The frequent speaker who focuses on Dog Park issues was prepared, arguing for raking up the grass clippings because they become a foul mess when lots of dogs are in the area and their feces and urine mix with the decomposing grass.

A regular speaker presented a clear analysis of a City problem, which he amplified in subsequent three minute expositions.  He argued that Costa Mesa cannot attract good businesses or productive, upwardly-mobile homeowners to the Westside slums

He amplified his premise by painting a picture of how major enterprise researches new locations. They visit the area; graffiti, trash and slums drive them away. Upwardly-mobile homeowners and good infrastructure signal “customers here” and attract them.

Not well-thought out

He also discussed what would seem to be obvious: he said that major businesses being invited to Costa Mesa should not be publicly identified early because other cities would focus on “taking them away from us.” This was to refute a demand from a speaker that the Mayor and Pro Tem report on the results of their trip to the Las Vegas conference.

The speaker wanted Righeimer and Mensinger to report who they talked to and who seemed interested. She was clearly focused on insuring that they didn't get off easy after taking a trip to Vegas. She hadn't thought through the consequences to her demand. 

That’s not unusual in Council commentary. She was expounding on her blogger’s post about the “Vegas Boondoggle.” More below and at Las Vegas envy.

Don't play their game

The Mayor used poor judgment, in our opinion, by addressing speaker criticism of dropping the ABLE project. (ABLE supplied the City with helicopter policing. The program was evaluated last year by Costa Mesa and abolished. It was replaced with a contract service providing many more hours of availability at much less cost.)

Taking time to explain the decision again was unnecessary. Note that a common manipulation technique, espoused by Allinsky, is to distract your opponents by demanding that they keep defending their decisions, good or bad. The idea is to deflect from real issues. The chronic complainers succeeded briefly last night.

Short and effective efforts

A planned development on the Westside was presented to the Council in much shorter order than the last one. Part of the time savings was the attenuated explanation by the developer. It was also shorter because this time Ms. Genis didn't belabor a six-inch elevation discrepancy between views in the early documentation.

Members were selected for the City’s advisory committees. (Full disclosure; this blog’s author was selected for an alternate position on one of the committees.) The procedure was clunky but worked.

More silliness again

More foolishness was noteworthy during the meeting and beyond. We previously mentioned the likelihood of false outrage about a trip to Las Vegas to promote the City. Las Vegas envy  Nay-sayers spoke and emoted in their blog, as predicted.

This item was pulled from the “Consent” agenda for discussion – said discussion involving over half an hour. Since our cost represented ~$5000 in a $20,000,000 budget, or less than a quarter of a percent . . .  it was “much ado about nothing.”

Also pulled for discussion, this one by a frequent – or constant – speaker was the item about distribution of tickets to City officials. This ordinance was required by a recent California law; just an update to avoid thievery that was prompted by the Bell debacle. Costa Mesa’s transparency awards suggest the issue may not be of great importance to us.

However, this speaker apparently didn't understand the issue. She wanted to address how much the City spends on charitable donations, such as by buying a table at money-raising events. (This is common among business and government entities that use the tables to help develop support for the City – and to increase donations to the charity.) The speaker apparently thought we should save our money to use on pensions that are presently unfunded.

So, overall we saw effective leadership and good management by the Mayor. We saw generally well-considered presentations by several speakers and by most Council members. And we noticed that some people still insist on presenting their solutions and criticisms to the Council before they understand the issue. And a local blogger still insists on attacking Mensinger and Righeimer -- regardless.

That’s democracy at work; messy, sometimes appallingly-silly, but it’s made us the greatest nation in history.

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