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Sunday, July 28, 2013

We can't buy crime protection

We have to care enough to engage

We still hear demands from well-meaning people to “hire more police to drive the crime down.” We've mentioned that what is proven to work in diminishing crime comes under the “Broken Window Theory.” 

Crime reduction requires that the community cares. Notice that the term is “cares,” not whines and complains. Knee jerk demands for solutions that don’t work are not “caring.”

Instead of 130 officers

If we could increase our police force to 22,000 sworn officers we’d have a police-to-population ratio of 1:5, like the state prisons. If we could afford only 7,850 officers we’d have a ratio of 1:14 similar to the average for county jails throughout the country. Or if we were so parsimonious that we only hired 3,235 officers we’d have a ratio of 1 officer to 34 residents, like Orange County’s jail.

Even 1:5 isn't crime free

Reports from California state prisons show that a ratio of one-to-five doesn’t stop rape, murder, extortion, or terrorism. A department spokesman, Jeffrey Callison, said in an interview that there is no evidence that a larger staff could have prevented the recent violence. “I don’t think it’s possible to connect the two,” he said. Callison said the recent violence is not a trend, it’s just a flare-up.

So, violence and rioting are expected as “flare-ups” when the ratio of law enforcement to population is one to five. Note, though, that these populations can’t leave because they don’t like the neighbors or abhor the neighborhood. There is zero community pride and caring, in fact the opposite is in effect. Crime -- and attempted crime -- is rampant.

And, at OC Jail there is no shortage of larceny and violent crime. They have a much higher officer-to-resident radio than Costa Mesa, but, again, the residents don't want decreased crime or increased beautification.

Knee jerks solutions -- aren't

There are no easy solutions to crime; we can’t buy crime protection. The City has to care, and that caring is reflected when citizens participate in making Costa Mesa safer.If someone is prowling the cars in a church parking lot and a citizen calls, the police investigate, and crime decreases. If we hire another cop we get a slightly-improved chance of catching the car prowler.

Residents participate and the City gets safer

Our Neighborhood Watch groups learn how to call, and when. Neighbors watch out for each other. The graffiti is covered promptly. Property owners are encouraged -- and now forced by wallet-assault -- to clean and maintain their property.

Our Police Department is doing effective, proactive police work. It is operating efficiently. It is using advanced technology. And, more and more officers have been moved to the street. (Their administrative and technical assignments were transferred to non-sworn employees.)

Just the facts

We can look at selected numbers and scream “the sky is falling.” Or we can embrace reality and feel pride in Costa Mesa’s Police Department, civilian staff, and City Council (the City’s “Board of Directors”).
As Sergeant Joe Friday said so often on a TV show, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Charter: Corruption unlikely, production necessary

Impossible to be like Bell

Bell officials assumed jobs that raised their pay to outrageous levels and stole $6.7 million from the city. The mayor defended himself as an ignorant and uneducated man (he didn't finish grade school, much less high school or college) who didn't know his thievery was illegal. (Bell Mayor)

The election that gave him so much power was mostly absentee votes; many voters arrived at the polls to find absentee ballots in their names had already been cast. And, he paid a street gang to promote support for him as mayor.

He’s been sentenced to prison for some of his crimes. Other Bell City Council members performed and fared about the same.

Different cities

Bell has a low-income ($37K), largely (93%) Hispanic populace that keeps a low profile.  Citizens don't get involved in government; English isn't normally used in the home for 90% of the population. Their education includes 42% high school graduates and 5% with bachelor’s degrees or higher.

Costa Mesa’s most-criticized Council members, the Mayor and Pro tem, bring far different resumes to their positions. And, the citizens of Costa Mesa present a very different picture from Bell’s.

In Costa Mesa

Mayor Righeimer’s college education and success as a business and Real Estate executive are in stark contrast to Bell’s mayor’s background and education. Pro-tem Mensinger’s college and business success are very different from that of Bell’s mayor or Pro tem, as well. His executive assignments prior to becoming a principle in a real estate advisory firm have been lauded. (Correcting lies in print)

In Costa Mesa English isn't the primary language in the home for 38%, 86% are high school graduates and 34% hold bachelor’s degrees or higher.

So, our Council members have far different backgrounds from Bell’s council members, and the demographics of the two cities are very different. In addition, the citizens of Costa Mesa have a large faction of interested folks, with some persistently-critical clusters that observe everything that the Council does with a critical, even jaundiced, eye.*

Candidate charter wasn't risky

The charter that was beaten by the influx of three quarters of a million dollars from unions didn't have Bell-like provisions that would have allowed chicanery, anyway. Becoming another Bell was never, and still isn't, a realistic risk.

So what’s holding up a clear, effective charter for the voters to consider? It’s not the uninformed CM4OE, complaining before committee meetings. They’re easy to discount as uninformed and irrelevant. Instead, the holdup is the committee’s inertia.
The committee is making lists. It’s time to produce charter pieces to debate and refine.

*As a Newport Beach Councilman said, “I can guarantee that in the next breath I will get a message that makes me wince; an insult from someone with less than the facts, shouting vitriol in a reactionary and vulgar tone. So be it.”

Think directly about the charter

Two ways to evaluate decisions

We use two processes to form opinions and make decisions: “below conscious” thinking and direct thinking. (Thinking Fast and Slow) They are each best for different types of decisions.

Our brains are very effective at acquiring information about our immediate environment – often called situational awareness – and processing it subconsciously. We “sense” or “feel” that a decision to change lanes to avoid a collision is the best choice and apply it instantly, saving our life. The “feelingsmethod of forming an opinion works great in this situation. 

Fast answers but may be distorted

If we use below consciousness thinking proximity may color our opinions. For example, if something bad happened when a friend took a medicine, we (emotionally) overrate its dangers. Decisions about medical care are better made with deliberate, direct thinking.

Another example, used by Alex Lickerman  M.D. in a July 18 post, is seeing the story about an airplane crash and “sensing” the risk of riding in the plane we’re boarding as much higher than it really is.

Our emotions, coming from subconscious processing, aren't too useful for evaluating the safety of a cardiac catheterization procedure or a plane ride. They aren't helpful for choosing a city, a house, or even an insurance policy. Those decisions call for deliberate, or direct thinking.

Their situation isn't what we're facing

Similarly, we can think about Newport Beach growing its infrastructure while remaining solvent as they operate under their charter. Or we can remember the hysterical warning by organized labor – “Bell had a Charter and its City Council was corrupt.” Such thinking may make us feel enthusiastic or fearful.  Neither situation is relevant to Costa Mesa, though. Our charter requires direct, logical thinking -- about Costa Mesa's needs.

Make it good, make it bad . . .

The City’s charter will be as good or bad as the Charter Committee chooses. If it follows its charge from the City Council, it will be the best charter thirteen Costa Mesa citizens can write. If the committee expends its time thwarting rational debate, it will be a debacle.

Dishonest and sneaky -- them and us

Bell had dishonest and sneaky Council members and an uninvolved population. Does that make it likely that involved Costa Mesans, under our transparency laws, will allow Council members to give our money to their friends? If CM4OE sends us a postcard showing some Mafioso-looking actors sitting around a table holding unlighted cigars, will that make the folks we elected to Council dishonest and sneaky?  Of course not.

But sneaky and dishonest CM4OE can prevent the Citizens from having a good charter to choose or reject. They just have to encourage “feeling” instead of thinkingexactly the wrong way to use our brains in this decision.

Sneaky and dishonorable should not trump the rights of Costa Mesa citizens to the best charter the committee can write. Regardless of how many feelings and concerns the committee identifies, discusses and processes, they’re charged to write the best charter they can

But start making it real

They need to start doing that.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Charter committee to do something soon

Same-old, same-old plus Delphi

Re: last night’s Charter Committee meeting. (Pilot article)

The visitors were the same folks we see at most government meetings. They seem to be a group, with rotating lectern assignments – to complain or protest. Those not assigned to speak, write and compare notes. TV coverage at Council meetings encourages more of them to speak, but it’s unclear if that’s the plan or just spontaneous responses to the cameras. Unsurprisingly, they spoke against writing a charter.

A union representative read a speech advocating “must use prevailing wage” in the charter. He cited unspecified studies that showed better quality of work with lower overall costs for some type(s) of union work compared to work by “imported” laborers and craftsmen.

Prevailing wage

This argument would suggest that business owners, contractors, laborers and craftsmen exhibit higher levels of skill, integrity, and pride in their work if they belong to a union. Under most prevailing wage rules, though, a contractor hiring non-union craftsmen would have to pay union wages and benefits and contributions to the union. This would presumably raise the skill, pride and integrity of the non-union workers.

The “prevailing wageruns up the bill 20-40% to cover higher wages and benefits, generous pensions, union-workforce training programs, and union organizational expenses. It’s using tax money to finance a union business. Compare paying prevailing wage to paying a hospital marketing fee and an “association” fee, as well as your doctor’s fee, for your office visit.

Consensus building

Then a debate – no, sorry, this group doesn't debate. It achieves consensus. Oops, does this sound like the education “debates” that have helped guide California from near the top to near the bottom in public education? Or like some past U.S. administrations that sought consensus and developed manipulation to a fine art? (Delphi technique)

Manipulation by consensus building is codified in the Delphi technique, which is sometimes credited for the ongoing conversion of the United States from a Republic to a Participatory Democracy. It guides groups to an executive-defined conclusion.  Some educators believe it is the technique being used to drive education by bureaucratic rather than educational interests.

Is the group being “led” by a Delphi team, and more importantly, are they aware?

One meeting isn't enough to see if the technique is being used, but some processes last night suggest it is. As far as the members go, most seem benignly unaware. However, a few seem to deliberately use techniques designed for dealing with and overcoming the technique.

So, time will tell if the technique is used to force the committee toward a preconceived result, and if enough members will resolutely resist the manipulation – if it’s there.

Analysis paralysis

Another and perhaps more acute problem was clear. The committee is making lots of lists (they have cutesy names like “parking lots”). Its members defer to each other. Members ask “soft” questions. Members voice positive thoughts.

So far, that’s all they’re doing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blog Comments

Whether you agree or are outraged:

Please note that all comments to this blog will be answered. If you want your comments published, say so. If you want your remarks to remain anonymous to readers, just say so.

However, if you haven't enough courage of your convictions to identify yourself to me when you are communicating through the blog, your remarks will be ignored and deleted.

Intelligent argument is preferred, especially if you disagree with the point of the post. The key used to decide what is published is, "will it add something to the post?" So, thanks for "I agree" and "good post;" they are appreciated but they don't usually appear as comments.

The author of something to the effect of, "Your just in Riggys' back pocketbook and you guys should be real guilty when you back up to the troff and get paid off by those developers," didn't identify him or herself, for example. The viewpoint would have been worth discussing.

As an aside, I'll edit your remarks for grammar before publishing if you ask.

Thanks for your interest and comments; lively debate is fun.


Young athletes learn -- and set examples for all of us

Footballers on the firing line
They exhibited mature, respectful, and supportive behavior while they felt excited and even when they didn't like the ideas being presented? Wouldn't it be nice to say that about a City Council meeting?

But this was a group of Estancia football players, their coaches, and some family and friends who provided rides. The group visited Artemis Defense Institute in Lake Forest to train on the simulators used by military and law enforcement groups. The training is available to civilians at this particular facility.

Not being drafted for SWAT

They weren't training to be adjuncts to the Costa Mesa Police Swat Team, although about a third indicated that they were interested in a law enforcement career, and over half indicated they were considering military service after finishing school.

They learned about firearms safety and developed marksmanship skill, but that wasn't the main point, either. The primary reason for the training was fun. And they had lots.

Self knowledge too

Another reason for training at the facility was to practice facing stress. The young men faced simulations of crisis situations to which they had to respond.

We have four basic responses to a crisis; fight, flee, posture (or bluff), and freeze. The training at Artemis helped them avoid the last response; they learned to remain aware of the situation and respond. Each trainee got a full evaluation and was helped to explore their perceptions under the stress and better ways to deal with the crisis – for each scenario.

Leaders set the example

Adults who transported the students observed or participated as they wished. One noteworthy observation: a parent whose son wasn't present today had transported students anyway. She said, “I won’t allow a gun in my house,” early in the training, yet she had transported students and was supporting the training. She modeled leadership principles of loyalty and keeping her commitments.

Two coaches faced an unfamiliar scenario while wearing a “shocker” that stings a trainee to simulate being injured; that is, being shot, when he fails to notice a sudden attack. They got shocked, to the delight of the students, one of whom commented, “Well, we’re probably going to run ten stair laps for this but it’s worth it” as he hooted at his coach’s “80,000 volt dance.”

Two senior coaches wore the shockers as they faced a more intricate scenario; they were playing the role of responding officers in a school shooting. The pre-event briefing by the Coach was instructive; “I’ll take right, you take left and shut up.” They exhibited sufficient teamwork and situational awareness to avoid shocks; no threat was missed in the stress of the situation. That was better than many police officers according to Artemis' Chief Instructor for the day.

Lessons Learned

The young men learned a little about firearms safety and marksmanship. They learned more about themselves and their feelings and reactions in highly stressful situations. And they were exposed to excellent adult leadership by the coaches, parents, friends and staff at Artemis.

That is, they got a lot more than a couple of pieces of pizza from their field trip to Artemis Defense Institute Monday.

It would be great if we could get CM4OE to sign up for football practice!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Brats and more brats

Murderous Brats

Zimmerman was acquitted, and a Black Panthers group “declared war” on whites. 

The Twitter account, managed by the group’s national chairman, Malik Zulu Shabazz, urged followers to “take to the streets [and] stay there. . . Were (sic) at war,” Shabbazz Tweeted. “Its (sic) silly and immoral to call for peace when war has been declared.”

Whatever YOU want trumps the law? That’s hubris, and unjustified hubris at that. Your individual desires aren't preeminent in the United States.

More self-absorbed arrogance

How about “. . . officials at the IRS usurping the rights of the American public . . .? Or the NSA invasion on the privacy of millions of unsuspecting citizens?” Or, the women throwing their feces and tampons at people to protest abortion laws in Texas?

Law applies to all

This country was founded on the principle that the law applies to all. Murdering people because they are different from you is murder. Spying on citizens because you can is spying. Assaulting people with your feces (like monkeys in a zoo) because society won’t fund your abortion is – assault.

The murderous and the rude wouldn't do it if they didn't think it worked. If it works it’s because we, as a society, pander to them. We treat them as a sub class that needs our help and approval.

Childish tantrums 

When a child screams and has a tantrum because parents won't let her eat a quart of ice cream for dinner, appropriate discipline is in order. There’s no need for upheaval, it’s just a child behaving childishly. If you don’t give in to the child it’s not because you hate them, it’s because they're behaving childishly and you're the adult.

The same applies to the tasteless, attention seeking behavior of the females in Texas. Punishing them doesn't mean that the sheriff hates women; it means that they are breaking the law by assaulting others.

To pander to people with such poor manners and acute hubris is silly. To do so because of cowardice is abominable (“Oh, dear, they’ll call me racist – or homophobic -- or chauvinistic.”).

They're criminals -- and brats

It looks like a lot of people need the adult equivalent of a spanking and being sent to their room without dinner. A child testing boundaries is understandable and tolerable; by the time a person reaches the Senate, Presidency, or adulthood such temperamental, self-centered behavior is NOT acceptable.

We believe it’s time for responsible citizens to “suck it up” and take responsibility for changing our society by changing what is acceptable -- for everyone. Pandering to the arrogant but noisy minority is counterproductive. The ill-mannered and evil should not be coddled. They won’t like being held responsible for what they do, but maybe they’ll learn a useful lesson.

Expect childish people to criticize you. It’s good for their health; while they are attacking you they aren't eating chips and watching sitcoms.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Guest Blog: Code Enforcement is flexing its muscle

Code Enforcement coming down hard 

Guest Blog

At the last City Council meeting a commenter noted, “Code Enforcement Is Heavy Handed” and is becoming known as the NHBNeighborhood Harassment Bureau”. Ms. Genis said she was responsible for coining the NHB term.

After decades of inaction and years of accumulated blight citywide, I'm surprised that the commenter, who is a frequent critic of the blight, wouldn't be elated that Code Enforcement is finally doing something. I wonder if he expects code enforcement to spare the feelings of some while “draining the swamp” for others.

They didn't used to do anything to us

People are so used to being negligent in maintaining their property that the slightest pain causes an outcry.  And outcry they did. Unfortunately, some of the loudest outcry concerned errors; the city staff had failed to remove the names of property owners who had cleared their deficiencies, paid their fines, etc. In other words, Code Enforcement did their job, city staff failed.

In the past, Code Enforcement took the easy route first.  Instead of dealing with the glaring issues, they dealt with the small annoying things that had zero impact on the aesthetics of a property and neighborhood. They took pride in the number of cases they generated and closed.  It all amounted to very little change and an ever-worsening blight

Now we have a new direction and priorities.  We have Code Enforcement officers who are highly motivated to get results spearheading the attack on many very difficult problems.

Remember: Comments and guest blogs will be published anonymously if requested, and all comments will be answered; however, all comments must identify the sender in order to be answered or considered for publishing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Delaying the Charter, North Korea style

Honest delays or chicanery?

Shakespeare titled one play, “Much Ado about Nothing,” and another “Tempest in a Teapot.” He could have been prescient about Costa Mesa’s Charter development. Let’s build a paradigm to illustrate.

Pretend that

An Explorer troop is planning a camping trip. They've been to a lake in the area before, but that campground is getting expensive and setting onerous rules. So, they decide to check a map, pencil in some routes to places they think they’ll want to go, and plan their trip.

One Explorer, though, is adamant: “Why do we need a map if we've been in that area before? Besides, a hiker’s body was just recovered from the desert; he had a map, and look what happened to him. Just name one lake and one peak you think we should visit and can reach in a day’s hike – if you can’t then why are we buying a map? I want a cost effectiveness study of buying a map versus just hiking in a direction that looks right – since we've all been there before.”

From paradigm to Costa Mesa 

Sounds pretty sillydoesn't it? But if you substitute “charter” for map, and “Bell” for the hiker who died in the desert, the nonsense starts to sound familiar. Add “effectiveness study” for a charter in place of the “cost effectiveness” of a map, and the Costa Mesa (charter-related) foolishness appears in all its glory.

Delay under any other name takes as long

One member of the Charter Committee is still striving for a “needs study,” perhaps to be made by his business. A frequent complainer brought the issue to the last City Council meeting, complete with video clips of an informal remark by the Mayor. Their premise; the Mayor’s casual remark indicated that he wanted them to study whether a Charter is needed before they started to write one.
The Committee was formed by a Council Resolution specifying that their job is to write a charter. So, why the foot dragging?

Delay until you have what you want

This delaying tactic sounds like what was used by a couple of (elected) Charter Commissions; they debated and argued until their time ran out, then dissolved. These commissions were dominated by public employee unions (associations). They got what they wanted: no charter.

The tactic was also used by North Korea to negotiate nuclear weapons. They insisted on debating schedules, formats, and even seating; they debated anything to add to the delay. After they built and tested their nukes they thumbed their noses at the na├»ve west: “we got what we wanted, go home.”

Stupid or dishonest

It seems specious, at best, and maybe even duplicitous. Would an honest Costa Mesan accept responsibility to write a charter if they wanted to prevent writing a charter? 

That certainly raises questions of integrity and honor. One would think that finding work with a different committee would be better than compromising their honor.

Or maybe they adopted the North Koreans’ tactics and ethics: the only thing that matters is getting your way. That’s the philosophy of rogues worldwide. There is no honor among scoundrels.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Costa Mesa "rules of order?"

Rules to encourage decorum

City Council meetings proceed more efficiently if they follow procedural rules. One set of rules is “Robert’s Rules of Order” often referred to as “parliamentary procedure.”

Robert’s Rules specify that some procedural concerns are so critical that they can stop debate to be immediately considered. An example would be “point of order” if the discussion veered off the subject. This demands that the chair direct discussion back to the issue. “Point of order” is used to correct deviation from good procedure.

Made, sustained and ignored

We heard a “Point of Order” from Mr. Monahan, which was sustained – another Council member was digressing from the issue to defend what she perceived to be personal criticism. Once the Mayor sustained the point and reminded her, she went back to explaining why she did what she did – still off the point. And, the Mayor didn’t enforce the rule, he just let her finish.

One subject at a time

Robert’s Rules also specify that comments, once a subject is under discussion, must pertain to that subject until it is acted on. This forces progress, item by item.

Concerns about matters that aren't on the agenda can be brought to the Council’s attention at the beginning of Council meetings. This opens the Council and audience to some useful three-minute appeals – and to some three-minute, most often pointless, harangues. (For example, a complaint about a decision made at a previous Council meeting.) During discussion of agenda items, though, comments are limited to the item at hand.

City Council meetings were characterized by yelling and demands in the past, both from and to the dais. That has abated, but it reappears; later in Tuesday's meeting an escalating argument between the Mayor and a frequent commenter arose about whether she could discuss
whatever she wanted. It took a fair amount of yelling back and forth, but the Mayor eventually applied Roberts’ Rules and the commenter was constrained to the subject.

Why not just make our own 

If yelling and ignoring Roberts’ Rules are how we are going to do business, maybe we need new rules. Remember the Council candidate who asserted last fall that he did and will continue to “shout down” people he thinks are wrong, bad or misguided?* Perhaps Costa Mesa can codify his ideas into a new set of rules; the “Costa Mesa Rules;” “whoever shouts loudest and longest wins.”
Until the new rules are adopted it would be nice if the people complaining about their neighbors not following the fireworks rules would also insist that the frequent complainers follow Roberts’ Rules. It’s only fair.

*From a letter in the Daily Pilot: “And I will shout him down wherever he appears in Costa Mesa to spew his divisive rhetoric.” His remarks concerned shouting and singing to drown out a speaker at the public lectern during a Council meeting. (Letter in Pilot)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Progeny of Liberty

Guest Blog 15 Jul

Today’s post is from Steven Lieberman, an attorney, firearms training expert, and co-owner of Artemis Defense Institute in Lake Forest. (Artemis)

The Progeny of Liberty

One of the more interesting aspects of being a weapons trainer is listening to clients talk about the Second Amendment. Contrary to what many people may think there is not really a flat out consensus on what it means….even among gun owners. 

Like religion there are fundamentalists … and others that see nuances and a need for limitations. I suspect most of the deviation in opinion surrounds itself around what exactly the
Second Amendment exists for in the first place.

Some of our clients see it as a means of protecting us from the Government. Others see it as a backfill for the military in case of foreign attack. Some see it as a codification of a right to self-defense. Others as a recognition of our ancestral hunting heritageI tend to see it a little bit more broadly:

To oppose tyranny 

The Second Amendment exists to allow us to protect ourselves against tyrannyTyranny comes in many forms. A foreign army forcing themselves upon us. A corrupt federal government that seeks to expand through force unjust laws beyond their chartered responsibilities. Tyrannical local authorities that have violated their responsibilities to their citizens. Criminals, that seek to use force or intimidation to profit from their victims.

Yes…Tyranny is not relegated exclusively to government misbehaviorTyranny is the use of force rather than persuasion to compel an individual to surrender their status as a sovereign being to the will of another.

The robber, rapist, arsonist, abusive spouse, sexual predator….they are all first and foremost tyrants. They may have underlying issues that make them who they are…and that is potentially interesting…but from the immediacy of the victim… largely irrelevant.

Tyrant prophylaxis

Our Framers way back in 1787 recognized this…and they recognized a right, to protect ourselves against tyrants…regardless of where they manifested.

To ensure that that tyrants for the most part remained in the shadows they recognized a right for the people to keep and bear arms. This right…this responsibility…created a deterrent to would be tyrants, and continues to this day.

If all were angels 

If all of our brothers and sisters were angels there would be no need for a Second Amendment. Actually…there would be no need for a Constitution at all. But not all of those we encounter are in fact angels. We as a species exist on a continuum of human behavior, and even within our own existence we rise and fall on times and circumstances. 

Reliance on the assumption that those that seek to control us…regardless of their motivations … will always result in a benign result is folly. Just as we see the dynamics in our own social encounters we must assume that the same spectrum exists among those that potentially could do us harm.

Our defense against this is the realization among those same individuals that tyranny will be met with fierce resistance. That as a nation of sovereign individuals we WILL fight back against tyranny.
Our Framers recognized this…and gave us the tools to fight tyranny back in the 18th century…and God willing…through the centuries that lie ahead.