Tough Decisions for Garden Grove

Several times during the past month, we have seen an ongoing attack on the majority of the City Council by those who choose to stick their heads in the sand and criticize without bringing forth solutions to our financial difficulties.

Constantly there are references that city employees are overpaid. This is far from the truth. We have nine department heads who are doing the work of 12 people in other cities and are paid at least $650 a month less than their counterparts. Middle managers are worse off, and we are losing good, hard-working managers to other cities where they see a stable environment.

Despite the raise given through negotiation, our Fire Department personnel still rank 11th out of the 16 fire departments in the county. Twelve of the 24 paramedics are actively seeking positions in a more stable environment.

Police employees are in the same category. Prior to our last settlement, they ranked at the bottom in salaries. They now rank 11th in the county. It is not surprising that there are 15 vacancies within the department.

Keeping quality personnel has been the only way to provide a minimum level of service in Garden Grove. We do not have the personnel other cities have to provide services to the community. In the 10 most populated cities in Orange County, the average number of employees per 1,000 population is 7.1. In Garden Grove, it is 4.8 and that is if all positions are kept filled. Forty-eight positions are kept vacant by design because there are not enough funds to pay for these positions.

Just to come up to the average of the 10 cities, we would need 365 more employees. Under the circumstances, I think the small number of employees do a great job in their service to the citizens of Garden Grove.

Garden Grove is suffering from many service-level problems, none of which is more critical than those that affect quality of life.

We now must make a choice. It does no good to scream at the state legislators who this year have taken about $2 million of our local revenue, plus hundreds of thousands the past few years. What they have taken weakens our local quality of life and has, over the years, forced us to cut services to the citizens of Garden Grove. These cuts have had an impact on the value of the most precious asset each of us owns, our property.

It is a fact that once a city comes into being, its continued existence as a good place to live, work and play depends upon whether it is an economic success. As elected officials we are charged with ensuring that our community does not deteriorate.

Hard decisions must be made, and these decisions must ensure that property values do not suffer because of our actions or lack of actions.

FRANK KESSLER

Mayor Pro Tem

Garden Grove

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