There are 34 cities in Orange County. Using data from their audited basic financial statements, one can obtain the net unrestricted assets for governmental activities and divide it by the city’s population. The result is a benchmark that can be used for comparing the relative fiscal health of different municipalities.
Due to recent headlines, some have wondered, “Where does Costa Mesa fall?” For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, it placed 20th out of 34. If the city’s unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities for its pension and other post-employment benefits are added in, it drops to 31st place! The same metric shows Newport Beach in 32nd place. Regretfully, the unfunded liabilities have put the Newport-Mesa area in a precarious fiscal position.
The residents of Newport Beach are making good progress with two incumbents who are working diligently to reverse the trend. They are facing no challengers and are advocating modifications to their city’s charter.
Costa Mesa has a new team of council members who are also attempting to reverse the fiscal condition of the city and have proposed a charter for its residents to adopt.
Cities and counties can be either general law (rely on state laws for municipalities) or charter (self- governing constitution). A charter provides more flexibility, with voter approval, for elected officials to better run a municipality.
Accordingly, a charter proposal on the Costa Mesa ballot, Measure V, shows that the council majority is seeking greater latitude in addressing the financial challenges manifested in their financial statements. These council members are simply communicating that things are not as good as they should be in Costa Mesa and that a solution is available with your yes vote.
In 1998, I opposed the county’s charter effort, Measure S, because it attempted to convert certain elected positions to appointed ones. The voters were not in a mood to eliminate elected positions, a sentiment that I was recently reminded of when Supervisor Bill Campbell and I put forth Measure A, with the goal of making the county’s public administrator an appointed position this past June.
In 2002, I again opposed the county’s charter effort, Measure V, because it only had one provision: have the electorate fill vacant supervisorial seats through a special election. General law counties have vacancies filled by a gubernatorial appointment. The measure succeeded, but Orange County is still in need of a formalized, comprehensive charter, like the city of Costa Mesa is pursuing.
This year I am supporting Costa Mesa’s Measure V. It is a time for action. The city is certainly at a major inflection point, and we are seeing it in the council race. Do we want a group that is focused on improving the city’s poor fiscal condition? Or do we want a group that is happy with the status quo?
To determine who is opposed to the charter measure, one only needs to read the fine print of anti-charter propaganda: “Paid for by Orange County Employees Assn. Issues Committee.”
Roughly translated: Public employee unions don’t want to relinquish the control they have historically had over the management of the city of Costa Mesa. The city of Vallejo was also a union town. How did this work for that city? Vallejo filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection four years ago.
Put simply, Measure V is a solution to the systemic financial problems that the city of Costa Mesa is facing. It provides a solution to the current quagmire. It’s up to you. Are you happy with the efforts that the current council has recently been pursuing to provide leadership? Or are you content with the employee associations calling the shots?
I’m not. That is why I am a signatory for this ballot measure and will be voting yes on Measure V. I want Costa Mesa to avoid being the next Vallejo. It’s that simple.
Orange County Supervisor JOHN MOORLACH lives in Costa Mesa.