Commentary: Costa Mesa needs to find realistic solutions

The fifth floor staffs at Costa Mesa City Hall, including our elected leaders, are struggling regarding what actions to do next and how to improve the city.

So, let's put on our thinking hats concerning what's next and how to evaluate their success. In my opinion, the leadership at the City Hall has been far less than pleasing. It has been apparent that the City Council leadership has been inefficient and ineffective.

The simple reality is that the welfare of the city should not be about them. Remembering leadership is not about how orderly things are, but how victorious you are at scaling effectiveness while will focusing on the right goals.

Efficiency is often about cost while effectiveness is about economic growth, development and strategy. Perhaps efficiency increases only as our effectiveness does. Leadership is not about how many speeches are broadcast during the council meeting; it's about building consensus, service and engagement.

I hear the buzz talks about pension reform, staff reductions, budget cuts and labor union warfare. Wow, a lot of political spin with all these strategies. The wishlist of capital improvements, as claimed, does ask for more money to operate the city.

Costa Mesa as a city needs to be more realistic, especially these days, and be willing to acknowledge that more money is not the answer. Realistic objectives need to be established for the next years; the real hard work is to bring forward the probable strategies to ensure the desired success.

For example, let's say, the city of Costa Mesa needs to increase sales revenues in the upcoming years. The truth is that the economic data have indicated that we are now in economic recession thus consumers are not spending. Therefore, this wishful thinking is not a realistic goal. Thus, the city should establish alternative strategies relative to the sales revenue goal:

1.) Pray for economic recovery to get more sales revenue from existing retailers.

2.) Investigate how local business owners are coping. Assist local business owners in expanding their business and building growth.

3.) Focus on promoting the city as a hub to bring new business to the city.

Praying for economic recovery may help, but is not relevant in this strategy. Also, brainstorming for strategies is difficult. Even more difficult is coming up with realistic approaches of evaluating whether the strategies are optimal.

Asking local business owners for advice is a good strategy if it is done with good intentions. Typically in government, deciding on strategy is often more an exercise in self-serving politics than logic and reason.

Regardless of how the decision-making is done for picking strategy, it is always sensible to get the advice of citizens at large. Costa Mesa, with 110,000 people, must have a select few residents who are strategic experts and also who are willing to help.

Many cities have a handful of committees serving as advisors whom they can call upon for honest advice. The city can take the time to hear outside opinions before voting on solutions.

The key to coming up with a reasonable strategic approach is to make sure it includes the following: inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes.

The input and process are the principle indicators that can tell if the strategy is an optimal one, but the ultimate success of any given strategy is resolute by the outputs and outcomes, which are casting indicators. In addition, waiting until the year end for the election to see if the charter strategy will become a success is doom for the city failure. We need to act today and develop realistic strategies.

I remember when I helped start, along with the Chamber of Commerce, the "Costa Mesa: A Great Place To Shop!" promotion. This was a good strategic program. The sales tax revenue collected by Costa Mesa businesses fund nearly 44% the city's budget. The size of this contribution is significant to encourage all residents to frequent Costa Mesa businesses whenever possible rather than make their purchases in other cities. With this in mind, the continuation of "Costa Mesa: A Great Place To Shop!" makes a lot of sense from a strategic approach — both to encourage patronage of all city businesses and to highlight the contribution of all our businesses to the well-being of Costa Mesa. The city can and could revive this program.

Promoting the city as a hub to bring new business to the city is an excellent strategy. It requires the right ambassadors to reach to corporate America. Also, this need to include business incentives to bring them here.

The 2011 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. The components include job, wage and salary, and technology growth. In most years, these give a good indication of the underlying structural performance of regional economics.

Call the city of San Antonio, Texas, and find out what they are doing right regarding the achievement of job growth and how they are sustaining their economic success.

Ask real estate investor George Argyros for help; ask him to become the Costa Mesa pride ambassador. After all, he is a former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and president of Arnel, a successful local Costa Mesa business.

AL MORELLI is a USC professor with a consulting practice in Costa Mesa.

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