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Voices organize against Costa Mesa layoff efforts

Councilman Jim Righeimer says ads are 'a union-financed strategy' before unions start a 'recall action.'

April 08, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — A community campaign to halt potential layoffs to nearly half of the city's workforce shows no sign of slowing, as organized labor continues to pump money into an effort that spans TV, print and online media.

"We're just making sure that the people of Costa Mesa hear the message and know where to voice their frustration," said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn. "It's to educate the public about the [Costa Mesa] City Council and what's happening there. It's to give the populace a voice."

Funded with OCEA money, the Repair Costa Mesa campaign has bought airtime on Facebook, Costa Mesa TV and Fox 11, along with print and online ads in the Daily Pilot and Orange County Register.

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OCEA officials would not divulge how much they've spent on behalf of Repair Costa Mesa. Muir said the advertisements — heavily critical of Mayor Gary Monahan and of the City Council, excluding Wendy Leece, who voted against the layoffs — shouldn't be considered political mudslinging.

"I don't see it that way," Muir said. "Obviously, the community has spoken … they're against issuing layoff notices. So of course we're going to stand up and do something about it. Of course we are.

"Our employees are on the line."

OCEA represents about 200 Costa Mesa workers, many of whom received layoff notices as part of the city's austerity program to cut pension costs they project to climb over the next five years. The city issued the notices ahead of outsourcing up to 18 city services. If the council cannot find suitable replacements for city workers by September, the employees will keep their jobs.

In only a matter of months, the council has managed to capture the attention of hundreds of residents who typically stay out of the political fray.

Repair Costa Mesa is a rallying cry, not an organized movement, said resident Jay Humphrey.

Humphrey said there are countless citizen groups slowly coalescing around the Repair Costa Mesa idea, but how to put that idea into action and what the end result would be remains to be seen.

"Repair Costa Mesa is acting like a government," quipped Councilman Steve Mensinger. "They're spending money on something that none of us know why they're doing what they do."

Councilman Jim Righeimer, a popular target for council critics on the political left, considers Repair Costa Mesa a front for labor unions.

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