Commentary: In this scenario, Goliath is the unions

March 10, 2012|By Steve Mensinger

Wendy Leece, my City Council colleague, recently wrote about the "grassroots movement" that's formed to oppose the proposed city charter and improvement it brings.

Let me take her assertions one by one.

"It is truly a David vs. Goliath battle about principles over politics in Costa Mesa."

In a way, Wendy is actually correct.

The "David" is the Costa Mesa residents. The "Goliath" is the unions that have been so successful in electing council members and securing unsustainable pensions that they nearly bleed our city dry.


"Goliath" (unions and their supporters) will do anything to stop the proposed charter, which will transfer local power from union-run Sacramento to our community.

"Also, we're tired of the council majority bashing the employees, past councils and a former city manager who have helped to make Costa Mesa a great, safe and clean city."

The council majority hasn't bashed employees. I have always contended the employees are not to blame. We have criticized past councils that voted again and again for unsustainable salaries and benefits for employees that have caused our city to stop adequate investment in infrastructure, slash critical programs, rack up hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities and make the first priority funding the pension beast and not serving the Costa Mesa residents.

"Costa Mesa has made progress in pension reform, but the majority doesn't want to talk about the savings because it's never enough for their campaign against the unions."

A small amount of progress has been made, but the city needs systemic improvement and structural reform if it's going to deliver the services needed to become one of Southern California's best places to live. Taxpayers — many of them personally affected by the Great Recession and, even if employed, without a company pension — should be outraged at the system in place for many employees.

Firefighters and police officers can retire after 30 years with 90% of their very healthy salaries for life. Regular employees can retire after 30 years with 75% of their salary for life. This last year we had 65 retirees who each collected over $100,000 a year in pensions. Next year we will add another 20 to the $100,000 pension club. All this is occurring with an unfunded liability in excess of $220 million!

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