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Attendees voice outrage at City Council

Meeting in Costa Mesa turns into hooting and hollering session against the council's layoff efforts.

April 05, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com
  • Former mayor Sandy Genis leaves the podium after speaking against the layoffs of Costa Mesa city workers at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Genis presented a slideshow of workers who recently cleared felled trees and graffitti from city property.
Former mayor Sandy Genis leaves the podium after speaking… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — When the council chamber doors were opened, voices from the outside burst in.

From the outside, applause and hoots from inside the chamber echoed out.

At City Hall, no matter where you were for Tuesday night's City Council meeting, attendees were making their voices heard about Costa Mesa's plan to outsource nearly half of its city workforce.

"I'm here to say that your publicity stunt isn't going to work," said Joel Flores, a longtime city resident, to the council. "It isn't going to work because the citizens of Costa Mesa are on to you and your schemes!"

Over applause, Flores continued, "We know that the majority of the citizens of Costa Mesa do not support the outsourcing plan. These attacks on city workers are political, self-serving examples of shameless opportunism."

Tuesday night operated more like a rally than a council meeting, with citywide tensions not felt since the public debate over illegal immigration enforcement in 2006.

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Members of the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. distributed fliers outside the chambers that listed the 100 city employees with the highest total compensation. The fliers were apparently in support of the City Council, which aims to reinvest in capital improvements.

A few steps away, Repair Costa Mesa, a community group that opposes the council's direction, had a sign-up table with its own literature.

Attendees who navigated past those still had to avoid the numerous TV cameras and broadcast reporters conducting interviews near the entryway, and the several uniformed police officers inside. Plain-clothes officers were also among the audience members.

It was home-court advantage for layoff opponents, who received unmitigated applause for their comments. The few who supported the council's layoff efforts, like 20-year resident Richard Riva, received sarcastic laughter, boos or whispered criticisms. Only a handful of applause could be heard for him.

"Ultimately, somebody's got to make some very tough decisions," Riva told the council. "I respect that you're trying to make those. If you can communicate, be transparent, balance a budget and get us out of some hot water, maybe I can live for another 20 years."

It's been a long three weeks for city employees and residents. It started on St. Patrick's Day, when more than 200 city employees were issued layoff notices. That same afternoon one city employee, Huy Pham, jumped to his death from the top of City Hall.

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