One of the underpinnings for cuts, the conservative council majority argues, is that the city is facing rising pension costs. Costa Mesa spends about $15 million per year on employee pensions, and the city forecasts that number reaching $25 million in about four years. That number, though, assumes that the employee unions don't agree to pay some of their retirement costs.
During the recession, the city withdrew more than $30 million from its reserves.
Leece said the city doesn't have a budget crisis that would justify firing public employees, especially police officers. About 20 police officers have applied to work in other municipalities, union representatives say, in advance of the restructuring proposal.
"One city cannot accomplish pension reform without severely damaging that city," Leece said.
Other opponents of the council majority, led by the Orange County Employees Assn., have conducted a PR campaign attacking the conservative philosophy of outsourcing, and have tried to engender sympathy for city employees.