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Commentary: Mensinger mixes up his David, Goliath

I just read Steve Mensinger’s commentary (“In this scenario, Goliath is the unions”) in Sunday’s Daily Pilot.

Mensinger and others continue to try to characterize the issue as “them” vs. “us” — “unions” vs. “the people.” This is a convenient red herring to draw attention away from the real issue, which is whether to approve a proposed charter that gives power to the City Council, not to the voters.

First, if the “unions … have been so successful in electing council members,” as Mensinger claims, how did the four anti-union council members get their seats? The answer is three of them were elected by the city’s voters. So maybe the “unions” don’t call all the shots, after all.

Second, it’s not just the “unions” who are opposed to the charter. Mensinger and his friends complain about all the time taken at council meetings by members of the public speaking against the charter and other actions of this council. A review of the speaker list will reveal that the vast majority of those speakers are Costa Mesa residents, most of whom have no union affiliation.


The speakers, like Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, are a diverse collection of conservatives, liberals, libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers and retired people who are concerned about the future of their city.

If, as their ballot argument claims, the council really wanted to “transfer … power … from the politicians in Sacramento to the citizens of Costa Mesa,” why would they propose a charter that strips the citizens of many of the protections provided by state law?

Why would they say the charter provides an election process that follows state law, when the proposed charter gives the council the power to adopt ordinances that change that process?

Why would they claim to “save millions in tax dollars by competitive bidding” when the proposed charter specifically gives them the power to avoid competitive bidding?


If we want to talk about Goliath, let’s examine just two of the proposed charter provisions that would apply to the city’s employees, the employees Mensinger says “are not to blame” for the city’s problems.

The proposed charter would require a majority (more than 50%) of the city’s registered voters — not just those voting — to approve any increase in employee retirement benefits. In the last general election, about 52% of registered voters in Costa Mesa actually voted. At that rate, it would be nearly impossible to ever approve an enhancement to employee retirement benefits, no matter how small. By the way, benefits could be decreased by a vote of only three council members.

That’s a Goliath of an unfair advantage to the council.

The proposed charter says that employees associations, in which membership is voluntary, by the way, may not use dues collected by payroll deduction for political purposes. That may not sound so bad, but it goes on to say the associations may only ask their members for political contributions twice a year, and these must be mailed to the members’ homes — they can’t use e-mail, and they can’t ask three times a year.

These are the tactics, not of poor David, but of a Goliath who thinks he’s bigger and more powerful than “the little people.” A Goliath who thinks the rules (state law) shouldn’t apply to him, so he wants to make his own rules (city charter). This is the Goliath (City Council) who is in court because he didn’t follow the rules in attempting to lay off half the city’s workforce. And now, he wants us to save him by approving a charter that will give him even more power.

PERRY VALANTINE is a Costa Mesa resident.