From the viewpoint of a policy wonk, Costa Mesa could be the most interesting city in Orange County right now. The old "Hub of the Harbor" is now on the cutting edge of an ambitious plan to reshape how a municipality delivers services.
And, if the council majority is correct, there may be no other choice than to do what it suggests: lay off up to 50% of the workforce and outsource their jobs to the private sector. The city, the majority argues, is headed toward a financial iceberg formed not of frozen water, but of dangerously jagged employee pensions. Plenty of folks whom we respect disagree, saying the predictions of doom and gloom are nothing but a canard so that an idealistic council can push through its smaller-government agenda.
As often is the case, we think the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle, and we trust that the city's management team and council will due their diligence in the coming months before deciding how much of the work force needs to stay and how much needs to go. Costa Mesa has been indeed struggling to pay for services and the current path is likely too risky, but at the same time axing up to half of an able municipal staff seems like an overreaction to a serious but surmountable problem.