Mailbag: City addresses long-standing problems

Recent columns, commentary and article comments on the current outsourcing debate in Costa Mesa have left out one key detail — the fact that the city has long considered contracting out city services (outsourcing) a "…viable, realistic alternative to providing … services with city staff.” The reality is that outsourcing is an established policy and practice in Costa Mesa. In fact, consideration of outsourcing is a required element of the annual budget process.

Twelve years ago, the Costa Mesa City Council adopted Council Policy 100-6, effective May 17, 1999, because "...[t]he financial instability of the state of California and the lingering effects of the economic recession have significantly impacted Costa Mesa’s general fund resources.”

The policy provided the council with the tools needed to weather future economic crisis by considering outsourcing, reorganizing or downsizing where appropriate. Today, economic conditions are far worse, and the City Council is considering outsourcing some city services.

Unfortunately, the process has turned into a costly union battle. Caught in the middle are hundreds of talented Costa Mesa city employees and the residents, homeowners and businesses who interact with and pay the taxes that support them.

Council Policy 100-6 states in relevant part: "[T]his continuous analysis of departmental operations is essential to providing the highest quality of city services at the lowest cost. This policy emphasizes council’s desire to rethink service delivery to achieve optimum effectiveness and efficiency.”

The policy has not been consistently followed by past councils. Instead of taking actions to provide the highest efficiency and quality at the lowest cost, past councils have continued to approve contracts that impede operational flexibility and impose unnecessary costs.

Successful lobbying and hefty political contributions by the employee associations and the union have paid off. Their influence is clear — one former council member went so far as to state from the dais that she would go through the budget line by line and cut every service to residents necessary to ensure that not one employee lost their job.

A noble stand to some, but hardly in conformance with Council Policy 100-6 or her duty to residents and businesses.

Costa Mesa is locked in a legal battle over its outsourcing plans. The City Council has been vilified by a vocal group of residents who accuse it of destroying the city. In fact, the opposite is true — the City Council is finally addressing structural fiscal problems that have long been ignored.

The associations and union that represent Costa Mesa employees did not create our budget problems, a bad economy and actions of past City Councils got us here. Unfortunately, however, the associations and union are not helping to solve the problems.

Comments by union leaders at the state Democratic convention and in the media have made it clear that they have chosen to make their stand against outsourcing and pension reform in Costa Mesa and that no compromise is forthcoming, no matter how harmful it may be to Costa Mesa employees or what is happening in other California municipalities.

This is truly disturbing, as I believe that many city employees want to work toward a solution, but the union controls the message. Harsh rhetoric, disinformation and legal action do not begot compromise — everyone loses in this race to the bottom.

Robert Dickson

Costa Mesa


A bad pitch for TeWinkle Park

Re. the privatized sports complex proposal for TeWinkle Park: The City Council appears bent on destroying the current social fabric of our neighborhoods. It does not care about the Costa Mesa residents’ quality of life.

They have written off neighbors and families that have been here for close to 50 years. It seems as though the council is taking advantage of the economic crisis to privatize each and every municipal service possible before recovery and the reappearance of adequate tax revenue. The time is ripe for contracts. Residents may be fearful enough to let it slide.

This is private takeover of publicly funded projects. It is time to follow the money. The news reports that the city will derive an annual income from this deal equaling $300,000. The projected annual revenue is estimated at $5 million.

This number suggests many things. First, would be the paltry return to the city. Why is the city settling for such a small sum? This is more about business and less about city maintenance.

Second, based on descriptions like a proposed restaurant, a probable-themed facade, and likely expansion of the seating facilities and a schedule that can generate the projected revenue, it would seem that this project will have a major impact on nearby residents and the adjacent schools.

Mesa del Mar, in particular, will bear the brunt.

Parking will be difficult. There is inadequate parking for such an endeavor at the current location. This implies that there will be an enormous impact on the residential streets surrounding the site unless additional parking is constructed.

This problem has been worsening in recent years as the Orange County Fair has extended its schedule and become more popular, but that is another issue.

An extensive traffic study and a parking study will be required. Environmental impact report(s) will be necessary to mitigate noise, light and the additional capacity needed for our infrastructure.

As you can see, this is no small adjustment meant to save the budget. This is a substantial business being inserted into our neighborhood — without our agreement.

Elena Mueller

Costa Mesa