Wednesday, March 04, 2009

An Omen Of Things To Come


At the very beginning of last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting there occurred an event that may be an omen of things to come.

AWARD WELL-DESERVED
Mayor Allan Mansoor made the presentation of the Employee of the Month to Reserve P
olice Officer Rene Meng for an example of exemplary behavior during a recent event at the Orange County Fairgrounds. As I listened to Mansoor read from the citation of Officer Meng's performance I found myself agreeing that this young woman was certainly deserving of this recognition.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

At the end of his
presentation Mansoor handed Officer Meng her citation and some gifts and then, in what turned out to be one of those "Be careful what you ask for" moments, he offered Officer Meng the speaker's podium to say a few words.



UNEXPECTED CANDOR
She stepped to the podium, citation clutched closely to her chest and spoke
with great composure to the council and audience: "This award means two things. First of all, I appreciate it very much, from all of you. I've been a 20 year officer and, uh, it's semi-bittersweet because there is a chance I will be losing my job due to layoffs. Myself and seven other officers with over 150 years experience, uh, who love our job, we may be getting laid off. And I would ask the city council and the city manager to please consider keeping us. We are valuable to you and you are valuable to me. Thank you very much for this award. I really appreciate it."

HARD TO GET THE WORDS OUT

During her speech the words came with difficulty, as she became choked up as she addressed the council and City Manager Allan Roeder.


TOUGH TIMES AHEAD
In the weeks ahead our elected leaders and the city staff will face some difficult, painful decisions as they attempt to balance the municipal budget in these uncertain times. Among the things that will be considered is the issue of staffing. Officer Meng, who fea
rs losing her job after 20 years of outstanding service, may be correct - reserve officers may be among the first to go if the city and the employee unions are not successful in finding ways to spread the pain of the cost-cutting that will be necessary. If they don't find common ground and open serious discussions within the next month or so the staff managers will have no options except to prepare layoff lists.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Kudos to Officer Meng for taking the most opportune time to make a statement that needed to be made.

3/05/2009 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous M Scheafer said...

Congrats to the Officer. The last thing we need to cut is public safety. Maybe the Council should consider a raise in the Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) to help fund public safety issues. Oh wait, I think they did consider it and passed on it! Be careful what you ask for.

3/05/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Nick Moss said...

The latest predicted budget shortfall of $11 million is likely an unrealistically hopeful forecast. Remember just a few months ago when they were throwing around a number of about $3 million? I will speculate that the city’s budget shortfall will be much worse than our city officials are admitting at this time. Economic conditions continue to deteriorate, especially in the market sectors that generate the majority of our tax revenue.

Even after city service employee unions come to the table and ultimately agree to contract concessions, city expenditures will continue at an unsustainable level. It is unfortunate but layoffs are probably the only realistic way to shrink Costa Mesa’s budget and overall size of government to a level that is within our current and future means. To provide employment is not a responsibility of our government (taxpayers), to maintain a responsible budget is.

City leadership has had sufficient opportunity over the last 6 or 7 years to grow a more substantial emergency fund and increase services at a more responsible pace. Instead what we witnessed was a reckless years-long spending spree. We residents own much of the responsibility as well. We want it all and demand it now has been our message to the council.

3/06/2009 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Nick, I fear you may be correct. We still don't have the sales tax numbers for December, so it's hard to predict. If they have to dip deeper into the fund balance account to balance FY 08/09 that will make it just more painful as they struggle with the FY 09/10 budget in a couple months. This is going to be painful for many city employees.

3/06/2009 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Kent Morrow said...

What is Costa Mesa's share of the federal stimulus? Could we use that for these courageous servants? I hope Katrina is looking into this because I know the 4 majority members aren't.

3/07/2009 08:27:00 AM  
Anonymous rob dickson said...

It will be painful, but the City must reflect the community it exists to serve. I'd liek a realistic accounting of employee pensions, for one. It is absolutely ludicrous that many public employees are entitled to lucrative defined-benefit pensions while the people they "serve" are left to fend for themselves with self-funded individual retirement accounts and social security. That practice MUST stop. If CM has such a deal, it should be grandfathered in for those who were given that benefit, and the practice should cease immediately for new hires.

3/07/2009 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Rob,

That might work in a future employment marketplace (maybe the near future), but as you know, when competing for labor talent, offering competitive benefits is essential. Now, if we really don’t need anyone, then we can set the benefits to whatever level we want.

Additionally, the unions are not going to stand by for that kind of cut either. We can't replace the entire union workforce and they know it. They will counter with threats of labor actions.

I like the sentiment, but I am afraid that from where I sit, your plan is unworkable.

On a similar note, I think this is a great point in time to bookmark and remind our city leaders of the next time they get overly generous with our tax dollars. That goes for the county, the state and the federal government as well.

3/09/2009 09:49:00 AM  

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