Community Commentary: Be part of the solution, not the problem

In the past few months, Costa Mesa residents have been forced to endure lie after lie from the Orange County Employees Assn. in its sordid effort to stop fiscal reform in our great city.

First, it was the negative attack ads against the mayor that preyed on the tragic suicide at City Hall. Then it was the union's covert attempt to funnel money through the sham group, Repair Costa Mesa, to draw opposition to the City Council's outsourcing plan. That effort backfired when the Daily Pilot connected the two organizations, and the union was forced to come clean.

Over the last couple of months, many residents have been getting a union-funded telephone poll asking about recalling our City Council. The poll is fraught with misinformation and incorrect facts about everything from imaginary city car allowances to lavish furniture at City Hall. A few weeks back, the union launched its so-called "Waste Watchers" campaign, where it takes issue with things like $175 ceremonial badges, or so-called "jewel-encrusted nameplates", that every council member has received. They have even helped file a frivolous lawsuit against the city that will no doubt cost us taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to defend.

Perhaps most shockingly, $200,000 a year union boss Nick Berardino told the crowd at the recent state Democratic Party convention that he has been "intercepting" City Council emails. You can see the video for yourself on our website,

This smoke-and-mirrors campaign by the union reeks of desperation and downright thuggery. Representatives from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) recently delivered a scathing presentation to the city revealing that Costa Mesa has an estimated unfunded pension obligation of $221 million. This figure does not include an additional estimated $35 million in unfunded healthcare costs.

Our City Council is racing to try and find $1.6 million by June 30th to keep the lights on and they must come up with an additional $5 to $15 million for next year's budget. Where is the union's ad campaign on that?

The most disappointing part about the Union's efforts is that they have offered no solutions. They have no plan to get this city back into the black, choosing instead to attack trivial things like ceremonial council badges and trying to bring their big labor war to our city.

We should not be surprised. The union bosses don't live here. We are the ones who will suffer the long-term damage if we do not begin getting our financial house in order. The union seems only to care about maintaining the status quo.

We will never know how much money the union is wasting with their constant pillage of our city, nor will we ever know where their money is coming from. Because this is an off-election year, they are not legally required to report the origin or amounts they are spending trying to destroy our city. It is their dirty little secret and I'm certain they will keep it that way.

It's time to tell the union, enough! Start becoming part of the solution, not the problem. If you are unhappy with the City's financial reforms, provide alternative ideas. Tell us how we can control skyrocketing pension and healthcare costs. Tell us how we can begin to put money back into the bank instead of bleeding out every fiscal year. I'm certain the city leaders would be interested in your ideas. I know I am.

COLIN MCCARTHY is president of the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn.

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