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Commentary: McCarthy put politics ahead of pension facts

March 31, 2012|By Tim Vassin

The most interesting feature of Colin McCarthy's commentary, "Can Costa Mesa affords $300k firefighters?" isn't that he gets so much wrong, but that he describes himself with such humility.

At the end of his essay, published in Sunday's Daily Pilot, McCarthy identifies himself only as "president of the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn." He is, of course, much, much more than that: a council appointee to the Costa Mesa Planning Commission and a likely candidate for a seat on the council itself.

Knowing all that — that McCarthy is, in fact, a politician and a kind of alter ego for the council members leading the charge against the city's employees — you'd expect him to get his facts straight. You'd expect him to be better informed.

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That he isn't — that he gets so much so wrong in so little space — suggests just two possibilities: either he doesn't really understand the complex issues facing Costa Mesa or he's purposefully misrepresenting the facts in order to mislead the public.

Let's take his errors in order:

1.) McCarthy says the city's 2010 "much-maligned firefighter contract" allows "the fire union, not the fire chief and city manager, to dictate minimum staffing levels for our Fire Department." That's simply, flatly wrong. First, the 2010 agreement doesn't address staffing issues at all, so we'll assume he means the 2009 agreement. Second, that 2009 agreement came about because the city (not "the fire union") asked for a reduction in staffing levels established by the previous council, a council led by then-Mayor Allan Mansoor, a man who was no friend of public employees. The fire chief — who is not a member of the Costa Mesa Firefighter Assn. (CMFA) — made a recommendation to the council after thoughtful and expert analysis; those of us who were there will recall his very public presentation. The council listened and then approved the chief's recommendation. The CMFA subsequently — for McCarthy, "subsequently" means "afterward" — voted to approve those levels. The council and the chief dictated the numbers, and the CMFA approved them. You can find these staff reports at http://www.cmfd.com.

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