Residents call for transparency, dialogue over layoffs

COSTA MESA — The Costa Mesa City Council needs to take its foot off the gas and rescind its layoff notices until it thoroughly researches what outsourcing city services could do to the budget, residents said at a press conference Tuesday.

"Costa Mesa City Council's idea of outsourcing was made hastily, harshly and without substantial study," said Judy Lindsay, a local resident for more than 50 years who joined others outside City Hall for the press conference condemning the city's pace at restructuring the city. "Communication in our city is lacking one important element: listening. I hear a lot of talking. We deserve honesty, transparency and encouragement of community input."

Officials issued layoff notices six months in advance last week. The council approved the austerity measures earlier, saying contracting out was the best way to deal with an "unsustainable" financial obligation to pensions.

Lindsay was joined by Fairview Community Church Pastor Sarah Halverson and resident Greg Ridge, who said now should be a time of healing, not layoffs, because a city employee jumped to his death from the top of City Hall last week when notices were being handed out.

"Lives were changed in an instant," Halverson said. "Desperation feeds desperation. We cannot forget it or deny it, even as we may want to push it from our minds."

On Thursday afternoon, 29-year-old Huy Pham, a city maintenance worker, committed suicide at about the same time he would have received his layoff notice, one of 209 issued last week.

"He took his life because he saw no other way out," Halverson said.

The city can rescind the notices anytime between now and mid-September if it cannot find a suitable replacement for city services.

Since the layoff notices, opposition to the council's plan has gained momentum. Many link Pham's death to the looming layoffs, with the majority saying the city should slow until a full study of the costs of outsourcing are calculated.

The Orange County Employees Assn. last week threatened legal action if the city doesn't reverse its course.

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