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Community Commentary: Pothole or police not a real ultimatum

April 11, 2011|By Jim Righeimer

I keep hearing this false choice being offered around Costa Mesa. Which do you want, potholes or police officers?

Repairing Costa Mesa's neglected infrastructure, which means a whole lot more than fixing potholes, and keeping the city safe aren't mutually exclusive goals, even in these economically challenging times.

By the way, a city's infrastructure spending has a direct impact on public safety. We are only as safe as the people who we attract to our city. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani knew this when he made fixing up the Big Apple — even a broken window — a cornerstone to his initiative to make Manhattan safe again.

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The bottom line: We can't have our budget ruled by fear. Especially irrational fear.

Let's look at firefighting in our city. The Costa Mesa Fire Department is one of the city's finest institutions, filled with dedicated professionals. At first glance, it would seem unlikely that it could be restructured to find meaningful efficiencies.

But the Orange County Fire Authority — another respected firefighting organization which has made a bid, at the request of our firefighters who would all be hired by OCFA, to take over our fire operations — is proposing to maintain our levels of service with 15 less firefighters. If OCFA wins the contract — and that's far from decided — Costa Mesa will remain safe, no matter how much the fear drum is beaten.

We are not looking to outsource our Police Department, but we are looking into structural changes that could result in efficiencies and cost savings. Whatever is decided, Costa Mesa will remain a safe city, with police staffing on par with cities of similar size and crime problems. I, along with other council members, have spouses and children who live in the city. We wouldn't jeopardize them or any other resident.

"Costa Mesa will no longer be safe!" is an easy, fear-based tactic that's worked well in the past. So it will be tried again — especially by the unions that want to keep the status quo — no matter what kind of financial mess it creates for residents.

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