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.