Mailbag: A few things contributed to city's problems

Who's to blame for Costa Mesa's woes? The bloggers are out in full force, blaming the current City Council for all of the problems with the budget. They are vilifying the current City Council, but there are numerous parties at fault in this scenario.

Union contracts. If the union contracts did not require a six-month layoff notice before outsourcing, all of the outsourcing decisions could have been made before the layoff notices were issued. Many would probably not have been issued at all.

Prior city councils. The union negotiators, when CalPERS was making 11% a year in returns, used the naiveté of the previous council members to convince them to give generous benefits by saying, "You will never have to pay for them." Now, they are saying, "You didn't pay anything for 10 years, so why are you complaining?" Of course they do not mention that the city was paying the employees' share of the pension expense, so the city was paying. When things started going downhill, they made the city wait nine months for audited numbers before any changes could be made to existing contracts.

Inflexibility of union reps. If in 2008, the union and City Council had agreed to a 10% reduction in salary and benefits, we would not have to lay off any employees. I understand not wanting to give up 10% of your salary, but many of the rank and file would have gladly done that, if it meant everyone would keep their jobs, but the union reps never want to give up salary.

Not knowing or caring about the actual facts, many of the bloggers have contended that the numbers are guesses or made-up numbers. Whether the unfunded pension liability is $130 million or $310 million is not the real problem. Our current problem is that the city is running out of cash.

In September 2007, we had general fund cash of $44 million. In February of 2011, we had $16 million. Of that, $14 million of the $16 million is for emergencies (fires, earthquakes, floods), not salary expenses. Even if you add in the equipment replacement fund that many bloggers feel should be counted as available cash, you still only have $8 million left. That is not a lot of money when the total budget is $112 million and you are budgeted to run a deficit of more than $1 million a month.

These are not guesses, estimates, or outright lies. We had a budget deficit of $16 million last year. If we do not do something, there will be no money left.

Judith Berry

Costa Mesa


Apodaca on Twain a great read

Thanks for the excellent article on Mark Twain and the autobiography just published (Apodaca: Twain still has much to teach us," April 1). Very refreshing.

Steve Weaver

Via e-mail


Survey partial to union

In Costa Mesa, a survey funded by the Orange County Employees Assn. has asked residents, "Should employees be laid off and contractors hired in their place?" Guess how it turned out?

Juli Hayden

Newport Beach

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