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Monday, February 21, 2011

Do We Value Life in Costa Mesa?

Bear with me. Talking about all these proposed changes to the way the City delivers services has everyone thinking, which is a good thing for all of us.  We Costa Mesans are used to a certain level of  emergency services-(and many other services too)-we expect the police and firefighters to arrive in a certain amount of time. Life is at stake!

Often we've called because we are in a life threatening situation, even if it is a cat up a tree. In 1999 I called pd in the middle of the night because I believed a prowler was in my living room (when I lived on Meyer).  It was my eldest daughter who came home for some TLC from mom but she neglected to tell me she was going to spend the night on my living room couch. The police arrived right away and with their flashlights-- and behold there she was on the couch and I was very embarrassed! The officers assured me it was not a big deal. Thankful it was NOT a prowler!

Another time, there was a life threatening emergency with another daughter while I was not home. Someone called and the firefighters were here when I got home. Thankful again.

When I voted in August of 09 on the firefighter's contract, I voted to maintain close to the same level of emergency services to which we had been accustomed.  Going to minimum manning (fewer firefighters on the truck basically) saved us some big bucks,($3 million over 3 years), but it did increase our response times slightly.  But NOT signing the agreement, saying "NO" after weeks of negotiations, going to impasse, and possibly imposing an agreement would have definitely put our residents at risk of receiving a lesser quality of emergency services. And frankly, then, and now, I  am not willing to put our residents at a greater risk when a life being saved is at stake.

Same thing when I voted (agonized) last October to approve special agreements to save money.  I could not risk an all out battle-- this time with ALL of our employees--and be ground zero to solve a nationwide pension problem.  I knew our RESIDENTS' safety would be at stake.  We had been negotiating with all groups for MONTHS according to the rules that govern negotiations. We did have pension reform. Not signing the agreements would have lead to chaos, legal battles and more--morale issues and employees leaving the city.

Of course we need more pension reform. But it needs to be reasonable and fair and it did begin in Costa Mesa, contrary to what others are saying. Public employees know this and in the last two years Costa Mesa employees HAVE cooperated and are paying towards their retirements saving the city millions of dollars over several years. It's a start. One lone city cannot bear the burden for all cities without residents being affected.  Asking too much will only backfire and we will be the losers in the long run if we don't truly "count the cost" and understand the consequences of our actions before we vote to make certain changes or outsource anything.

 There are some who are indignant over public employee salaries, benefits and pensions. They are entitled to their opinions and I am entitled to disagree with their tactics and proposals.   But demonizing employees is unfair and only serves to inflame. Reform at all levels cannot happen immediately. I will continue to work with our employees on a plan that keeps us as safe as we can afford to be. We will balance our budget and stop using fund balance.

Finally, to say we want to take the money away from public safety and put it towards our infrastructure to balance our 11-12 budget is a red herring. Our streets are not falling apart.  Costa Mesa has a fact-based PLAN for street repair based on scientific analysis of concrete or asphalt.  In the meantime, if your street, or a street you see needs repair, please email me and it will be fixed!

Do we want to save LIVES?  What does that cost?

Are we willing to be PATIENT while it takes a little longer to repair our streets? (and wait for Measure M, gas tax or grant money). Everyone has to be patient while we work out of this. What's the hurry? 

Do we remake our city overnight and and wake up and decide we don't like the new Costa Mesa?

Do we want even want to remake our city?  That's really what this all about you know.  Curb appeal. A sanitized Costa Mesa.  No more RVs, granny units, but senior housing next to bars, LED at Triangle.

I vote for LIFE over street repair.  Every minute does matter and there is a cost to those seconds. I value our employees and I don't want them to go to other cities. Making rash decisions right now could cost a life and I don't want to live with that guilt on my watch.

Cities across the country are beginning to face the enormous cost of our employee pension systems.  We made progress last year in finding a common ground with a modest step forward to these same issues in Costa Mesa.  Mass union riots are not a path we want to go down.  We must continued to work together with our employee unions to find a cost reduction solution that works for Costa Mesa over the long term.


Rob Dimel said...

I certainly wish the rest of the council had your reasoned thinking. It is disheartening for me as an employee to continue to be demonized and held up as the crux of our city's financial problems. I have spent my entire adult life in service to my country and my community.

I ask the residents this: Were you happy with the service you received prior to any of this rhetoric based debate began? Did you have an overall favorable opinion of our employees? If so, has that changed and why?

I submit that the level of service our citizens receive has not changed. If their opinions of our employees have changed, it is simply a psychological ploy on the part of council activists to turn this community against employees in furtherance of their agenda.

While I agree that reform is required, how we can best accomplish that for what is best four our city has never been discussed. No one has ever come to the employee groups and said "hey how about this". They might be surprised if they had.

Wendy, thank you for your reasoned approach. As an employee and a resident of Costa Mesa, I appreciate it.

Judy Lindsay said...

It seems once Personnel became recognized as Human Resources, employees became less valued Try doing without trash pickup, street cleaning, emergency services, flooding control and damage clean up, copies of current board meetings agends and minutes, television coverage of mtgs., city council reports, police coverage, storm clean up, street repairs etc... We may have outside money to pay for supplies but how about the labor involved, how about timeliness, and dedication, loyality, city involvement and desire to positively affect city residents. Taking aways monies, benefits, and collective bargaring from our city emloyees will not satisfy our budget issues.

Flo Martin said...

Two firefighters/paramedics saved my son's life, literally! He had been dead for about 4 minutes when they arrived at his side. They struggled with several attempts to revive him, all to no avail, until one of them ran for the portable defibrillator, which did the trick. My son was in the 5 percent who suffer sudden cardiac death and are revived. Firefighters are my heroes!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Please Wendy. You voted for the contract in October because you wanted the support and dollars of the unions.

And don't be surprised if the question of why you delete most critical comments on this site is asked in public comment.

No Hope said...

Well the outsource notices are out. Now what?

Max said...

Great article!

I can't imagine why anyone would think street repair should be our biggest priority. Maybe someone from out of town that doesn't quite understand our priorities or what the city is going through financially. Or maybe someone outside of our city that doesn't believe in local control or have our best interest at hand.

As far as all of that outsourcing talk goes, I took a pledge of allegiance to America, not some corporation or business. Not only will public safety suffer, but we lose all kinds of pride and identity by not having our own Police or Fire Department anymore.

Corporations are driven by forces like greed. If they can run a 911 call center from India, they will. If they can get away with hiring illegal immigrants to install a light post, they will. Out of town corporations DO NOT have Costa Mesas best interest at hand. They answer to the dollar, not the people. No doubt the same thing certain city officials will be answering to when awarding these taxpayer handouts to their friends.

Gma L said...

Do you wonder who is really running this city? It looks like some Party bosses are telling our Council members what to do, and they are doing it in hope of becoming career politicians and being elevated to higher office like Allan Mansour. Surely they don't imagine it is good for Costa Mesa to be taken apart and carved up like a roast chicken!

Rich said...

Great piece Wendy. I just want to know what is going to happen to all the money when all the outsourcing has taken effect. What is the future financial plan for the city when all this money is "saved". Is the city going to modernize the auto dealers? are they going to rebuild Harbor Center, build a shelter at Lions Park, build a sound barrier for the eastside to eliminate SNA noise. What is the 5, 10, 20 and 100 year plan for when the money gets real good again?

Barry Peterson said...

Wendy, glad your blogging. Are you going to propose any policies, programs or initiatives for the Costa Mesa residents or are you going to spend the next 4 years simply pandering to the unions. We voted for you with the expectation you would have some ideas and a plan. All we've seen from you is voting no on things. I get you don't agree with the budget stuff and can respect your convictions, but do you have any plans of your own?

antoine said...

Ha Barry the men of council have made it quite clear they have no intention on listening to what wendy says. Why should she bother? And my question for you is are you going to spend the next four years being happy when everything the "unions" said would happen does? Because you sound like that type of guy, happy to see things fail. Congrats

Jackson said...

It's not about unions. It's about what's best for Costa Mesa. At least, that's how it should be. I want the best cops to keep my family safe from violent crime and the best fire fighters to protect my home from burning down. I don't want some yahoos on our council with shady ulterior motives. You either put Costa Mesa first or you shouldn't be on council.

Thank you Wendy for putting Costa Mesa first.