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Community Commentary: Actually, city should work with union

September 20, 2011|By Jay Litvak

Re. "Unions should work with city," Community Commentary (Sept. 15): Why not have the title read, "City should work with unions"?

When the City Council starts ruling with an iron fist from the very beginning — the 206 layoff notices — how does that set up a proper environment for negotiation? We will never know what might have happened had the City Council, which negotiated these agreements, been more open in the beginning.

Why do you think the city CEO needs PR people? It certainly is not because they did not anticipate this pushback.

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The author of the piece, Colin McCarthy, accuses union people of name-calling, and then he states that anyone who has "Cancel the Layoffs" signs is trashing the community. He also calls these signs illegal. They are not illegal, even if they are in a parkway. You may remove them, but they are not illegal any more than the political signs we see in November of election years. I have two signs in my front yard — on my property.

Are these illegal simply because you don't like the message? I carry a pocket U.S. Constitution, do you? If so, read it.

I would also like to know how union dues are my "taxpayer money." The money is taken from the wages the workers earn. We pay them for a service, and they provide it.

This entire union discourse is disingenuous as it has little to do with budget deficits. McCarthy will not admit that. Obviously, we have a budget problem — worldwide. The problem is not simply that pensions cost too much to maintain. While that is part of it, and pensions need to be restructured, we do not need to lay off union workers and replace them with outsourced workers from other parts of the county or even, as is sometimes the case, out of the state.

People fail to look at the revenue side. Consider that at South Coast Plaza, Nordstrom pays only $200 for an annual business license. At Fashion Island, Nordstrom pays $77,000. There are numerous examples of this that would generate tremendous revenue.

Does Costa Mesa have some sort of inferiority complex? I am a Costa Mesan, and I am proud to live here. I chose Costa Mesa over Newport Beach. So, if we assume we are all proud of our city, why don't we charge what it is worth?

It was like pulling teeth to get the bed tax raised, and we are still relatively low compared to other cities. We can deal with both the spending and revenue sides of the equation. But politics gets in the way. It is easier to ride the current austerity tide to go after unions, or to charge more for poor people for after school care — what recourse do they have? — than to break it to businesses that they must pay their fair share — that is, compared with other cities, including Newport Beach, Santa Ana and Orange.

If none of this resonates with you, McCarthy, then you are the type of conservative I have difficulty understanding. If, on the other hand, the family that cannot afford the ROCKS after-school program elicits some feeling of compassion, there is some hope of a middle ground. I hope that is the case. Until then: the "Cancel the Layoff" signs stay put.

JAY LITVAK lives in Costa Mesa.

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