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Friday, June 22, 2012

Just the facts, please

Costa Mesa council OKs $132.7 million budget (click here to read Register article for more details)

Cops or colored sidewalks?
I contend some projects can wait and are not "must haves."

I believe our service levels are going down, our response times are getting longer. People are telling me it's difficult to find a person to answer the phone at city hall.

However with this budget, we will have pretty sidewalks to brag about and welcome those to Costa Mesa looking for "curb appeal" and of course fast food restaurants--if they want to move here.

Are we focused on the "potential" newcomers or on those who live here NOW? Seems to me all this reform is for what folks can "see" but doesn't address the underlying quality of services we are all used to receiving, especially public safety services.  Since we are doing all of this at break neck speed, it is impossible to analyze how all these massive changes will impact our quality of life in our great city. Only time will tell if these were good decisions. I've said before, we are moving recklessly to re-image our city.

Since I was cut off  on Tuesday night by the Mayor from explaining why I oppose this budget, I wanted to share the details.
See  (I begin my explanation at 6:07.05 and I am shut down at 6:09:23 when the mayor "calls for the question" and says my comment is a "ramble.")

Instead of the items in yellow below--which definitely can wait,  I suggested we instead fund  6 cops (@$160,000 per officer including benefits, which would total approximately $960.000. 

Previously a consultant recommended that Costa Mesa, with its population and other factors, needed 137 police officers.  We have 131 officers funded. (And, we have many retirements coming up. But that is another we are working with our police and fire associations on new agreements so we can begin hiring and have those new hires pay more into their own medical and retirement funds and lower our unfunded liability).

Here are the details: (pages in Preliminary Budget noted for more info)

All these expenses will be from the "Capital Outlay Fund" otherwise known as "General Fund" unless otherwise noted:
$500,000 -Fairview Park-Placentia Ave. Connector Trail-in need of rehab to "correct drainage problems and to repair old asphalt concrete trail . . .replace with color concrete" (page 185). (City has applied for a grant, so possible city will only contributre $250,000.

$250,000-Westside Improvements-19th street from Harbor to westerly city limits: "decorative crosswalks, decorative sidewalks, parkway landscaping including planting trees, street furnishings such as benches, trash resceptablces, news racks, etc." (page 160).

$360,000 Harbor Blvd. Bike Trail Improvements--safety lighting for bike trail. Will utilize same low-level lighting to maintain uniformity, increase safety and beautify this very important efficient." (page 159)

$540,000 Harbor Blvd. Improvements--"installation of decorative crosswalks at intersections of Harbor Blvd. at Baker and Date Place. of a colored concrete intersection at Harbor and Baker." (page 163).
$300,000 for "legal costs related civil and criminal litigation" This is $400,000 more than in 09-10 budget. (pages 79, 81, 82).
From the "Summary of Proposed Capital Improvement Projects" spreadsheet
$300,000 for Sports Fields Master Plan (work with NMUSD to upgrade CMHS football field/track
$500,000 for set aside for "Problem Properties" (motels).
Total costs for above: $2,750.000
Plus  $1 million for contingency fund--
Let's hire six more cops, not fire the four who were recently fired and put the rest towards the unfunded liability debt.  That's being more fiscally responsible.
Other employee related decisions which may affect quality of services eventually: (see 6/19/12 Agenda Report PH-5 page 1) Savings for firing 3 office specialists and one information technology manager: $401,000.
(Also, we eliminated 4 custody officers for the jail, a mechanic, maintenance worker, a planner, and suspended the in-house street rehab program, all of which the city manager acknowledges "may result in delays in service delivery but the financial savings is needed to balance the budget and move the City into a better financial position." He added staff will continually evaluate...and make adjustments to ensure appropriate service is provided to the community." (page 3 June 12 Study session report, CEO recommended changes) Total savings of these cuts are approximately $1million however, some money will be set aside for overtime and hiring 3 more code enforcement officers so it's hard to deermine actual projected savings. Fixing potholes in a timely manner is now another issue.) or