Commentary: Candidate is wrong about charter cities


City Council candidate John Stephens, who, with Newport-Mesa Unified School District Trustee Katrina Foley, initiated legal action against the city of Costa Mesa to prevent voters from voting on a proposed city charter in June, now advises Costa Mesa residents not to adopt a charter because it may lead to litigation. Huh?

According to Stephens (Re. “Commentary: Court decision illustrates charter dangers,” July 6), Costa Mesa shouldn’t become a charter city (like its neighbors Newport Beach, Irvine and Huntington Beach) for fear of lawsuits from employee associations and unions! This is the very definition of rule by fear.

This sentiment comes even after the California Supreme Court clearly ruled that charter cities, not Sacramento, can determine whether a charter city pays union, or “prevailing” wages.


In reality, the decision was a landslide victory for charter cities — championed by 122 cities, conservative and liberal, that want to take control from the politicians in Sacramento and put it into the hands of their local cities.

The decision represents the exact opposite of what Stephens claims: emancipation from the union-dominated Legislature in Sacramento. It’s the same Legislature that continues to drive businesses from our state, refuses to move forward on pension reform, yet just voted to spend billions on a mythical bullet train through Central California.

Costa Mesa should be governed by them?

Stephens has opposed the proposed charter from the beginning, and his commentary is just his latest scare tactic. But fear and threats of litigation won’t work any longer.

His claim that public safety will be compromised by utilizing nonunion contractors is absurd and implies that only union contractors perform quality work. The reality is that, in 2011, less than 15% of U.S. construction workers were union members.

Our city will not be any less safe simply because we pay less for goods and services.

Shouldn’t our city be looking to save money? Why should we pay more for the same services that Huntington Beach, Irvine and Newport Beach get for less?

Residents are tired of being held hostage by employee unions whose generous compensation and pension plans have cities, counties and states on the verge of bankruptcy. Costa Mesa will not become another Stockton, which recently filed for bankruptcy.

For taking a stand for residents, the city has been sued by its employees for trying to outsource services that a significant number of other Orange County cities have already outsourced. Again, fear will not dictate how this city moves forward and improves.

I appreciate Mr. Stephens’ passion, but he is on the wrong side of history. Costa Mesa, and other cities, counties and states across the nation, will eventually have to put residents first and just say no to union demands that have threatened to bankrupt governments of all sizes. It’s simple math.

Residents want services delivered and infrastructure fixed. They do not want to pay to support pensions that the both liberals and conservatives have proclaimed are completely unsustainable. We need to remember that at the ballot box in November.

COLIN MCCARTHY, a City Council candidate and the Planning Commission chairman, is president of the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn.