Since announcing my candidacy for the Costa Mesa City Council, I have visited some 1,500 households and attended 46 neighborhood coffees over the course of this campaign. The vast majority of people I have met and with whom I have spoken to care deeply about Costa Mesa and are utterly repulsed by the ugliness, the name-calling, sign stealing and the vitriol that has poisoned this campaign.
Candidly, many have told me they're not sure which of the City Council candidates they can trust because of the terribly negative tone of the campaign. Here's what I've asked them to do in response.
I've asked them to consider who is behind the name-calling. It is the candidates and their union backers who want you to continue paying for an oversized public employee pension system, we cannot afford. Rather than moving aggressively to rein in pension costs that are mortgaging this community's future and the future of its children, they want to take a "go-slow" approach.
Well, in the union rulebook "go slow" means "no go." Costa Mesa taxpayers want solutions now. They do not want empty promises to fix the problem later when it is too late.
I've asked them to consider what the other candidates — most recently candidate John Stephens — and their union backers want you to believe: that I am against public safety, that I want fewer police officers and firefighters protecting you, and that I want Costa Mesa to be a less safe city. If that were true, I would not vote for myself. But that they would openly solicit as true such an absurd notion simply means they think you are stupid.
Here is what I do believe. Costa Mesa police officers and firefighters are often heroes. They put their lives on the line for us every day. Am I for public safety? Absolutely! Am I for public safety at any cost? Absolutely not! Moreover, I will dare to say that most of the people I have spoken with in their homes and on their front porches agree with me.
They agree with me because they're anxious. They're worried that tomorrow they might lose their job, maybe even for the second or third time since this damnable recession descended upon them and the rest of us. However, they still have mortgages and rents to pay, youngsters to support, health insurance premiums to fork over, tuition checks to write and cars to repair.
They agree with me because they are resentful. They're having a hard enough time saving for their own retirements, and yet they learn they and their kids are on the hook for more than $231 million in future public employee pension liabilities in Costa Mesa alone — pensions that grant many retired public servants 90% of their last salary for life, beginning as early as 50 years of age. And yet they can only hope that the shaky Social Security system will share with them maybe 30% of their last salary when they retire — if they are ever able to.
My job as a representative of Costa Mesa's taxpayers is to ensure that their city government protects them with outstanding public safety; meets their basic living needs with functional roads, parks, sewer, water and storm drain systems; and supports them with outstanding municipal services. I also believe my job is to make sure those services are provided in ways that do not break the backs of Costa Mesa taxpayers.
My pledge to you is the very same I have shared with the thousand of good people I have spoken to over the last several months: I will look after your needs, not the needs of unions. I will make sure you get the very best public safety at the very best price. Moreover, I pledge that I will continue to put the policies and practices in place to do that as quickly as possible. Hope is not a strategy and "status quo" is code for capitulation.
Costa Mesa's taxpayers cannot afford to wait. I hope to have the honor of your vote on Tuesday, and that you will vote for Councilman Gary Monahan and council candidate Colin McCarthy.
Let us keep moving forward together to improve Costa Mesa.
STEVE MENSINGER serves on the Costa Mesa City Council.