Commentary: My ‘Contract with Costa Mesa’

After a recent Costa Mesa candidates’ forum, I received many calls from residents who indicated they did not learn enough from the candidates and what they stand for.

I would like to be the first to publicly state my views and opinions. I refer to this as my “Contract with Costa Mesa.”

1.) Reform the unsustainable local public-employee pension system. As a councilman, I helped successfully implement a sustainable second tier of employee pensions for our city employees and firefighters. I’ll continue to work hard to implement a second tier for police officers and have city employees pay more toward their own pensions.

2.) Bring transparency to labor negotiations. I authored the groundbreaking Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance that will take negotiations with public employee labor unions out of the back room and into the public light. As a councilman, I’ll make sure my ordinance is followed to the spirit and letter of the law, giving taxpayers access to the process for the first time.

3.) Invest more in city infrastructure. In recent years, so much taxpayer money has been used to fund employee compensation and pensions that Costa Mesa’s infrastructure had been neglected. I envision a Costa Mesa with pristine sports fields, first-class libraries and freshly paved roads. This kind of investment will retain and attract families that will make our city thrive. As a councilman, I’ve already helped steer more than $20 million into infrastructure. This is more than double the funding in place when I was appointed to the council.

4.) Bring a holistic approach to public safety. To make Costa Mesa even safer, we need a holistic approach that includes our top-quality police force, second-to-none infrastructure and a willingness to tackle long-standing problems, such as problem motels, rehab homes and homelessness. We’ve started the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force to deal aggressively with these very issues, and the initial results have been extraordinary. We are as safe as the people we attract to Costa Mesa. We need to attract the best.

5.) Restructure the Fire Department to mirror today’s needs. We have a great Fire Department, but it’s operating on a decades-old model built around fire suppression. Less than 3% of the firefighters’ emergency calls are for actual fires. The vast majority of 911 calls are for emergency medical services. With the help of interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold, the city is working to restructure the Fire Department to deliver medical services more quickly and efficiently while still being ready for any fire call. When elected, I’ll make sure this cutting-edge model — which undoubtedly will save many lives — will be enacted as quickly as possible.

6.) Bring transparency to Costa Mesa government. As a councilman, I requested that our city check register be made public. Our city has launched a new website that focuses on giving residents more information about city business. The result has been transparency awards from the Orange County Grand Jury and the national Sunshine Review. I will continue to push to make every public document as easily accessible as possible.

7.) Outsourcing city services when appropriate. In the past 18 months, the city has explored the viability to outsourcing 19 city services. To date, the city has found more than $3 million in annual savings from either outsourcing or having more efficient ways to deliver those services in-house. When elected, I will continue to aggressively look at ways to deliver better services to the public for a lesser cost.

8.) Partner with the school district to provide better educations for our children. Traditionally, cooperation between the city and Newport-Mesa Unified School District has been minimal. We have two great organizations, and I believe we should be working more closely together to create better schools and more conducive educational environments. When elected, I will work hard to create a more formal partnership that would work together on mutually beneficial projects. One example would be a campaign to keep Mesa Verde children in local schools instead of exporting those students elsewhere.

9.) Practice fiscal conservatism. I was part of the City Council that passed the first balanced budget (without using reserves) in memory. And we did it again this year. I practice fiscal conservatism: balance the budget, pay down unfunded liabilities and invest in infrastructure. For too long budget surpluses went directly into the pockets of our city employees at the expense of infrastructure. Did you know that city employees work on decade-old computers with decade-old software? This is no way to run a city.

10.) Listen to you. As a councilman, I’m known for having coffee with any constituent who asks. I’ve gained many new friends among residents I’ve met with, due to a disagreement on an issue. I always take time to listen and understand the concerns of people who want to discuss and issue that is important to them.

If there is anything you want to discuss, call me at (714) 754-5285.

Councilman STEVE MENSINGER is running for election in November.