Commentary: Average Costa Mesa salary is too high


The average total compensation for Costa Mesa city employees in 2011 was $146,863. A substantial portion of that amount was for pension contributions.

For those of you who are average taxpayers, let that sink it. The median Costa Mesa household (more than one earner) makes a total of $65,000. While we do not begrudge the success of others, we think that many would object to their average civil servant alone making $146,863.

Does this make sense? Taxpayers working hard every day, saving for their own retirement, with no say whatsoever in decisions that result in city employees making significantly more than they do and getting gold-plated lifetime pensions? Thankfully, a vote for Measure V, Costa Mesa’s charter, would help put a stop to this inequity and excess by requiring that all actions increasing employee retirement benefits be approved by a vote of the people.


Recently, Hank Panian, one of Costa Mesa’s true gentlemen, gave Daily Pilot readers some interesting insights into Costa Mesa’s 1971 charter commission that determined that the city should remain under general law (Sacramento’s rule).

That made sense 41 years ago, a time when public employee unions didn’t dominate politics and strip cities of their ability to provide residents with the basics they were used to: well-maintained roads, parks, libraries and sports fields.

Since then, public employee unions have taken such control of local governments that many municipalities are either bankrupt or considering bankruptcy because of unsustainable pension plans (even union bosses agree with this basic fact) and way-too-generous pay. California itself would be considering bankruptcy today if that were allowed under law.

Look at Costa Mesa’s balance sheet. More than 75% of its general fund goes to employee salary and pension obligations and the city has racked up more than $250 million in unfunded liabilities while neglecting critical infrastructure needs. And that number is only going up!

Costa Mesa needs to declare its independence from union-controlled Sacramento so that it may put its financial house in order: outsource where needed, stop paying inflated union wages, have voters approve any increases in pension benefits and stop the city from being forced to take union political contributions out of employee paychecks.

Unions are pouring more money into defeating Measure V than any measure in city history.

Wonder why? This isn’t 1971 anymore. Please join us in voting Yes on Measure V and declaring independence from the union-controlled Sacramento legislature.

ROBERT DICKSON lives on the Westside of Costa Mesa. JIM FITZPATRICK is president of the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. and a Sanitary District board member.