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Costa Mesa City Council OKs cuts, approves budget

Hours of public comments keep the meeting lasting long into the early morning, with some hissing at the council and cheers for its critics.

June 22, 2011|By Mike Reicher, Lauren Williams and Mona Shadia, mike.reicher@latimes.com

"There's a point in time where I reached an ethical dilemma: stay and take their money and be quiet about the foolish council decision-making, or reject their money and call them on it," Staveley said Monday.

Many audience members said they were concerned that Police Department changes would make the city less safe. Leece warned it would jeopardize gains the city had made in recent years reducing crime.

"We're going to leave ourselves vulnerable for many crimes to happen, and I think it's it is foolhardy," Leece said.

Other cuts included the elimination of an animal control officer. A worker from a local animal shelter, Tiffany Kaufmann, waved a sign in support of animal control officer Yolanda Macias.

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"If they take away Costa Mesa animal control, then they're basically giving a death sentence to a lot of animals," she said.

To achieve some last-minute cuts, City Chief Executive Tom Hatch proposed leaving some of the 29 vacant city positions unfilled, or eliminating some of those empty positions. He also said the city could spend half of the $100,000 budgeted to hire an economic development consultant; economic development is one of the priorities identified by this business-minded council. The council approved all of his ideas.

Most of the public comments came in the beginning of the meeting, while the actual budget wasn't adopted until past 1 a.m. Only a handful of people spoke in favor of the council majority's plans.

In February, the city announced the potential layoffs of 213 city employees — nearly half the city's workforce — across 18 departments. Tuesday's budget, however, assumes most of those employees will still be working for the city, as companies are still responding to the outsourcing proposals.

Not until the fall will the council be able to decide which outsourcing plans are cost-effective, city spokesman William Lobdell said before the meeting.

The financial debate took a tragic turn in March when city maintenance worker Huy Pham, 29, jumped to his death from the roof of City Hall. He was to receive a layoff notice later that day.

Since that time, council members have reported threats of violence and vandalism of their property. More than 10 police officers stood sentry at the meeting Tuesday.

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