COSTA MESA — Phu Nguyen, the Democratic Assembly candidate for the 68th District, is blasting his opponent, Mayor Allan Mansoor, for voting against amendments to an employee contract that will save the city more than $600,000.
"It's very disappointing to see, in these tough times, that Mr. Mansoor chose politics over compromise when his city is facing $16 million of red ink and had $600,000 fall in his lap," Nguyen said.
Mansoor, a Republican who's hoping to replace 68th District Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Westminster), said that while he's grateful for the firefighters' offer, he didn't want to see Costa Mesa pay any portion of an analysis that would help the city determine if it were cheaper to use the Orange County Fire Authority's services. The amendment requires the city to pay for half of the analysis if it enters into an agreement with the Fire Authority.
"I appreciate what the firefighters brought to the table and in trying to solve some of our fiscal concerns," Mansoor said. "My concern was simply paying for any part of the analysis from the Fire Authority, and I question whether there will be public support to go forward with that."
Mansoor said most communities would rather have their own fire departments, although he wasn't specific on whether he's aware of Costa Mesa residents' position on the Fire Authority.
One of Mansoor's fellow council members disagreed with his position.
"This is another example of short-sighted government by Mayor Mansoor in terms of not appreciating the substantial cost savings, and taking a position that is based on some kind of a philosophical or political ideology as opposed to a responsible, pragmatic approach to governing," Councilwoman Katrina Foley said.
Foley, who supports Nguyen, added that even if the city pays for half of the analysis, Costa Mesa will benefit from the results.
"It's a win-win for the city," she said. "We're getting value for that $12,500. Even if we end up having to pay it, the analysis and the inventory of the Fire Department that the Orange County Fire Authority will be conducting will be a valuable tool for councils in the future to use."
Mansoor fired back, saying Nguyen is not objective.
"Mr. Nguyen has zero experience at the city level, and I question his neutrality on issues like this when he's getting maximum contributions from public employee unions," Mansoor said.
Nguyen said he's not a math whiz, but forgoing the option doesn't make sense.
"$633,400 versus $12,500? That's unbelievable," Nguyen said. "I don't know what to say about that. You have $600,000 that the city can save in a year. I don't understand what he's thinking. This was compromise at its finest.
"All sides came together when the firefighters didn't have to do this, but they did because they understand the need of the city. Everybody has got to do their part and help the city through these tough times."
The City Council voted Tuesday to suspend a salary increase for its firefighters scheduled to take effect in September. Mansoor and Councilman Eric Bever dissented.
The Costa Mesa Firefighters Assn., which opened negotiations with the city under no obligation to help close the remaining $9.5-million gap in this year's budget, also agreed to contribute 5% in addition to the 1% that goes toward the group's pension account. The savings from that additional pension contribution, set to start Oct. 24 and go on for a year, is $485,000.
The association also offered to pay for an analysis that would compare the city's costs of running its own fire department to that of contracting with the Orange County Fire Authority for services.
An analysis would cost about $25,000, said Tim Vasin, president of the association.
The results of the analysis does not obligate the city to enter into an agreement with the Fire Authority. If in the future, and after the analysis is complete, Costa Mesa chooses to enter into an agreement with the Fire Authority, the city would reimburse the firefighters' association for half of the cost of the analysis, or $12,500.
In all, and with the possibility of reimbursing the association, Costa Mesa will still save $633,400 in the next 12 months.