Now that more outsiders have come to Costa Mesa to make our city ground zero for local government reform, it is all starting to make sense. First it was the OCGOP who insisted we should have our employees contribute more to their retirements. Now it is "others" representing special interests, as they did in Oceanside, who don't want the City to pay prevailing wages on municipal projects.
What a slap in the face to Costa Mesans who work in construction trades, who live in our clean, safe city and depend on those established wages to make a living.
Monday's meeting was another epiphany for me. I honestly thought that we would sift through many of the submitted suggestions to the Charter. Why did we ask for public input if we were not sincere in reading the hundreds of emails or listening to resident comments and discussing additions to the charter? All those hours spent by staff to organize the emails was a waste.
What a monumental waste of time for those who have taken the time to send in their ideas. I think some people thought their ideas might be considered.
Reviewing the ideas should have been done at a series of study sessions where we could have deliberated and wordsmithed each of them since we opted not to have a citizens committee write the charter.
At the very least, on Monday night I thought I would start with improvements to the proposed preamble, which has bothered me from the beginning. It just isn't right to copy and paste from Oceanside and Vista. We are Costa Mesa.
I made an exception to copy and paste from Huntington Beach's preamble because I like the part about ethics. As an elected, these words do hold me accountable and remind me to behave ethically.
We had a hard time agreeing on where to put the sentences, (and thanks to Perry Valantine who helped with his suggestion). We should have spent as much on time on the hundreds of other suggestions. Oh well.
At least we were able to include "that ethics and integrity are the foundation of public trust and that just governance is built upon these values" and "It is incumbent upon those who govern and make decisions for and on behalf of the City of Costa Mesa to legally, as well as morally, abide by the provisions of this Charter,
However, I did NOT vote for the changes since "in its strictest sense" was deleted by the mayor pro tem. You will have to ask him why he didn't want "in the strictest sense" included.
Further motions of mine died for lack of seconds. I could see we were going nowhere so rather take up more time to achieve nothing, as it was nearly midnight, I agreed to end the meeting.
We've wasted a year--spinning, racking up more than half a million dollars in extra legal expenses, postponing layoffs, paying exorbitant salaries to consultants and what have we accomplished but to divide our city and create strife? Municipal finance is not rocket science. Residents can see through the exaggerations. Week after week residents have spoken to us about their ideas for cost savings. We had a $3.5 million surplus from the previous council's decisions. We aren't saving money now, that's for sure. We're spending!
By now, we could have met in good faith with all of our employee groups to achieve savings as we did before this council came into being. We've lost experienced and faithful employees, police and fire too, to other cities. We're losing our ability to retain and recruit the best.
All for pension reform. We're the tip of the spear you know. And now we also know that people are not as important as fixing potholes and alleys. We're taking a great risk to make all these changes so fast when we don't need to move so quickly.
The sky has never been falling. The unfunded liability bogeyman is something every city struggles with. In fact, pension expert John Bartell told us in October that we should "set up an affordable and reasonable time frame of not less than 20 years to payoff the unfunded pension liability." He also said that we would save money by establishing a second tier for new employees (we did with general employees in Oct. 2010) and having employees pay "some or all of their pension costs."
But this contentious environment has not been conducive to achieving those savings with employees.
I am not opposed to a charter, but I am opposed to this one because of the process, or lack of process, that the city council council has devised to pretend to take public input. It's really a sham.
I intend to work hard to oppose the charter assuming it will be approved on March 6. Wake up Costa Mesa!