Commentary: A few things we can all agree on for Costa Mesa

Over the past decade, we've witnessed many ideological disagreements within our own community of Costa Mesa.

With the city's current council, critics appear to object to practically everything the council does. They attribute impure motives to council members who are longtime residents, raise families and are regularly involved in our community.

The introduction of reform measures — like COIN (a transparency law) and Measure V, which would create a city charter and potentially save money and provide citizens more information and control over the 70% of our ever-increasing budget dealing with labor costs — are sharply and constantly criticized as "inviting fraud, favoritism and corruption."

Accomplishments like balancing the budget after four years of red ink, reaching a very favorable deal with the firefighters' union or winning transparency awards from good-government groups are met with silence or criticized as having been accomplished with an improper tone.

Even with such sharply competing ideologies, there should be issues on which we can all agree. Here are three.

•First, our residents deserve to have the best city that we can afford with the resources that we have. Of course, this requires making hard decisions as to how we spend our resources.

We can debate whether this should involve continuing very generous pension benefits and job security for public employees — that no one in the private sector can receive — or reducing their growth so that we can continue to balance our budget and invest more toward parks, streets, alleys, potholes and other capital improvements. These benefit not just a select few, but all residents.

All sides should have this debate in an open and honest manner without resorting to aspersions on other's character.

•Second, our citizens are entitled to transparency as to their city's operations. An informed and active citizenry is the best deterrent against self-dealing and corruption. All sides should advocate for more information for our residents.

•Finally, our citizens deserve integrity of their representative form of government. Elected officials should not have to fear retribution and illegal targeting from public servants.

The fact that the city's police union has used a law firm for negotiations that engages in strong-arm tactics of falsely alarming citizens of potential crimes, and targeting and isolating public officials in order to intimidate them into capitulating to union demands, among others, should be condemned by all groups, even those receiving support from such unions.

The fact that a person associated with this firm would allegedly stalk a sitting council member — and allegedly set him up with a false police report to intimidate him — strikes at the heart of our democratic process. All sides should be able to condemn such behavior.

Our community's disagreements will not cease with the election of one slate of council candidates or the other, despite promises to "heal" the city from several of those running. Still, we should be able to agree that by spending public money wisely, being transparent and advocating for integrity in government that all of Costa Mesa benefits.

TIMOTHY SESLER, an attorney, lives in Costa Mesa.

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