Sunday, March 08, 2009

It's Time To Talk!

Last week, in the pre
vious entry here, I wrote about Reserve Police Officer Rene Meng's poignant comments before the City Council at their most recent meeting. To read that entry click HERE. The Daily Pilot published a similar essay which ran in print last Friday. You can read it online HERE.

I continue to be very concerned about the fiscal well-being of our city in light of the national economic climate and the b
oneheaded moves made by our state government. It's my opinion that, unless our public employee unions decide to sit down with our city leaders very soon to discuss modification of their current labor agreements, the city will be forced into laying off many of those brave folks who serve us in public safety jobs and keep the wheels of city government working.

This morning, as my wife and I were finishing breakfast at one of our
favorite places, I noticed four members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department also finishing theirs. As they left and passed my table I spoke out to them, thanked them for their service and asked what they thought about the current budget situation.


The two more senior men stopped at our table and began to talk about it to me. One said that, and I'm paraphrasing him here, "We've been telling them for years that they have to do something." Turns out he meant the city, and that they have been telling "them" to find new sources of revenue. One mentioned the Transient Occupancy Tax and I told him that ship has sailed. We cannot address that issue again until 2010.


Then, curiously, the other fellow told his friend that they were not supposed to be talking about this subject. He acknowledged that admonition, then agreed that they'd been told not to discuss it an
d left the restaurant. I was just a little disappointed, because it's important to know how the men and women who will be directly affected by the decisions of their union leaders feel about this situation.


I had the s
trong impression that, based on what they said and the way they said it, the employee unions are not eager at all to re-open discussions of their current contracts. Instead, they will be pointing the finger at city management for falling down on their job of raising revenue for the city. This does not bode well for the near-term problem of balancing this year's budget nor does it hold out much hope for a good solution for the Fiscal Year 09/10 budget, either.

In an interesting bit of timing, the agenda for next Tuesday's City Council Study Session includes an item that was on the last council meeting agenda but was pushed off because of time constraints. This item is a presentation
to them by an organization that specializes in training folks in leadership roles on the nuances of negotiating with employee groups.

I wonder if any members of the employee unions will be present at this study session?


The economic news over the weekend continued t
o be bleak. The talking heads on the weekend news shows continued to provide us no good news. Quite the contrary. Our trainee President seems determined to completely re-make our country within his first 100 days and to saddle the next two generations of Americans with a debt load that will be virtually impossible to carry.


I hope our local leaders find ways to lessen the impact of stupid, destructive decisions being ma
de at the state and national level. I keep looking for a silver lining in the storm clouds that surround us these days. So far, there are only dark clouds.


One more time... I'm NOT against the public employee unions! I don't want them to shoulder all the burden of balancing our municipal budget. What I DO want them to do is to sit with our elected leaders and the city staff and negotiate, or at least listen.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, good post. I posted a comment on your Daily Pilot column, stating that officers could essentially make up some potential pay cuts by not paying union dues, and I got a blast from an obviously pro-union poster - which is fine. I think some unions are very vaulable organizations that have helped American workers tremendously in our history, but there have unquestionably been unions that have hurt those they represent as well. I'm not suggesting that any CM public safety unions are bad unions, and public safety employees should be able to unionize IF THEY CHOOSE. I don't know whether union membership is mandatory for CMPD officers or CMFD firefighters, but if it is, I have a problem withb that. Just my opinion, for what its worth.

3/09/2009 10:06:00 AM  

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