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Lobdell: Poor execution of an idea worth considering

March 07, 2011|By William Lobdell

So let's call a false start — the city is only a few steps into this marathon — and do it right this time. Have the staff produce detailed reports on each issue. Provide residents with well-publicized hearings to air out the issues. Ask employee unions to present an alternative plan that would have the city in good financial health 10 years from now.

It's true on both issues that the council has voted for nothing permanent. Approval of the layoff notices only started the six-month clock ticking as dictated by law. In theory, none of the layoffs has to happen.

And the council also voted merely to ask for an opinion on whether it makes sense to allow private paramedics to operate in the city.

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But the perception around town is that the fix is in, that the council has gone rogue and railroading through an agenda that the residents never bought into — or even had a chance to debate.

For now, I'm in the minority. I think the council majority's intentions are good. It sees a budget emergency and has thrown all its energy into rescuing the city's finances on behalf of the residents. I like that the council hasn't, to use the most overworked phrase at its last meeting, "kicked the can down the road." It wants to deal squarely with budget problems that will cripple our country.

I wish our elected representatives in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., had as much political courage.

But the Costa Mesa council's execution has been all wrong. When considering a radical change to local government, residents and city employees need to feel they've been listened to, their input valued.

They need to see all options have been thoroughly explored.

And then, when the tough — and undoubtedly unpopular — decisions need to be made (a few months later than the council's current timetable), residents will at least feel they've been part of a democratic process and not a banana republic.

That will stop the madness.

WILLIAM LOBDELL — a former editor of the Daily Pilot and Los Angeles Times journalist — is a Costa Mesa resident who runs a boutique public relations firm. His column runs Tuesday and Friday. His e-mail is williamlobdell@gmail.com.

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