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Community Commentary: I'm thankful for our wronged city employees

November 22, 2011|By Geoff West

There are many things for which I'm thankful, as we approach Thanksgiving Day this year.

As always, my wonderful and patient wife of more than 44 years is right at the top of my list. She makes my life special with her love and support in all that we do.

Of course, I'm very thankful for my family and our cadre of dear friends who stay in touch with us and offer encouragement when we most need it.

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And, I'm thankful for the opportunity to present my views of the world around us to the readers of my blog. I'm thankful for their support and comments — even those who disagree with me — because they usually enhance the debate of important issues.

This year, though, I'm especially thankful for a very special group of people, many of whom have become friends. I'm speaking of the Costa Mesa city employees.

For the past couple years, they've had to endure the uncertainty of this terrible economy. Some have lost their jobs, and all have had their wages frozen. They've watched the staff size shrink to levels not seen for more than two decades.

This year, however, has been a real test of their fortitude and loyalty, beginning with more than 200 of their compatriots receiving layoff notices on St. Patrick's Day, which may have been the darkest day in the history of our city. Hundreds gathered that sad night to pay their respects to a fallen fellow employee. A few days later, more than a hundred residents encircled City Hall on a rainy day to stand in a silent vigil of support for the employees.

The employees have endured the chaos that has swirled around the actions of a City Council majority apparently determined, through outsourcing, to reduce the city staff to a handful of contract administrators charged with managing the contract employees who will eventually perform every job in the city — or so it seems.

The employees of Costa Mesa have seen and heard some of the elected leaders of our city and their appointees chide, vilify, demonize and belittle many of their friends and co-workers.

They've seen their revered long-time leader, City Manager Allan Roeder, retire and be replaced — if that is actually possible — by his loyal assistant, Tom Hatch. They then heard Hatch tell a group of their fellow-employees that "they" — meaning the City Council — don't trust us — meaning the employees.

It must be difficult to stay focused on your job with that cloud of disrespect and uncertainty hanging over your head.

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