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City Life: City, unions should examine other cities' solutions, mistakes

June 21, 2011|By Steve Smith

One of the more dismaying elements of the loud, ugly feud between Costa Mesa's City Council majority and the city's public employee unions is the failure of either side to recognize that many other cities are also having trouble making ends meet.

By acknowledging that fact, both sides will valuably reduce the need to experiment with ways to remain solvent, while maintaining current levels of safety, sanitation and maintenance.

To find the best solutions for Costa Mesa, in other words, both sides should look at what other cities have done. This is commonly known as adopting "best practices." This examination has another benefit; that is, leaders may also learn what mistakes to avoid.

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The research required is neither complex nor time-consuming.

Costa Mesa's population is 117,000. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 16 U.S. cities with populations ranging from 115,000 to 119,000. Some of those cities, such as Independence, Mo., and Santa Clara, are well-known. Others, such as Surprise, Ariz., and Thornton, Colo., are not yet on the national radar.

In Evansville, Ind., residents saw the loss of 1,100 jobs when appliance manufacturer Whirlpool closed its refrigerator factory in June 2010. Workers were given an official notice of nine months but, thanks to rumors, they were able to prepare for the job losses for more than a year.

An interesting story in the Evansville Courier-Press newspaper reported that this June, the former Whirlpool workers had gotten on with their lives. Some had retired, some had taken lower-paying local jobs and some had moved away to find work at wages similar to what they made at Whirlpool.

Though there was one rally, and some sharp comments by bitter employees, there was nothing even close to retaliation or violence.

Some of the layoff news reports out of Springfield, Mo., read like they could have jumped off the pages of this newspaper.

In the Feb. 8, 2011 edition of the Springfield State Journal-Register, there are the following quotes regarding the pending layoffs of several public employees:

"City workers who could be without jobs at the end of the month pleaded to Springfield aldermen Tuesday to find other ways to cut costs."

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