Sounding Off:

Police need the city’s help now

March 05, 2009|By Geoff West

Tuesday evening, at the very beginning of the Costa Mesa City Council meeting, 20-year reserve police Officer Rene Meng was recognized by Mayor Allan Mansoor and the rest of the council as the Employee of the Month.

Mansoor stood at the speaker’s podium and told the audience in very laudatory terms of the act of extraordinary service performed by Meng that prompted her nomination for this award, then presented a certificate and gifts to her as part of this recognition. He then had what may well be remembered as a “be careful what you ask for” moment.

He turned to Meng, offered her his position at the podium and asked if she had anything she’d like to say. She did, and I hope many people were listening. The following is the verbatim quote from Officer Meng:


“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.”

Her voice choked up as she spoke directly to the council and City Manager Allan Roeder.

Sadly, Officer Meng may be correct. It’s highly unlikely that Roeder and Finance Director Marc Puckett will be able to pull that magic “fund balance” rabbit out of the hat to balance the budget this time around. If our elected leaders and the city staff do not find a way to persuade the leaders of the four employee unions to sit down and try to find a way to sort out our budget problems very soon the council and staff will have no choice but to order layoffs — lots of layoffs.

The last report I saw indicated that the union leadership preferred to wait until an audited report on this year’s budget is available for review. That would be September or October, and the new fiscal year budget would already be at least three months old. I understand their position, but circumstances are so dire that the city cannot afford to wait. The time for action is now.

GEOFF WEST lives in Costa Mesa.

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