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Wu: Charter gives 'men of action' right tools

October 06, 2012|By Jack Wu

Almost 20 years ago, my business mentor taught me that I have to make things happen.

If I wait for things to happen, then I'll watch opportunities go right by.

He also taught me that he'd rather watch me make mistakes by trying and failing then by fear, indecision and uncertainty. The only catch: Don't make the same mistake twice. Trust my instincts and experience, he advised, and I'd do fine.

From my safe perch a mile away in Newport Beach, I look at the Costa Mesa City Council election in the same way. On one side we have the "establishment," who has aggressively been trying to save Costa Mesa from fiscal disaster. On the other side, we have a group who would rather study the problems, then study them some more, until the problems, they hope, go away by themselves.

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So on one side of the council we have the doers; on the other, the watchers.

Let's look at some numbers first. According to the Orange County Register's editorial board, Costa Mesa has an estimated $221.7 million in unfunded pension liability, and the median compensation for a city worker is $140,000 a year, including benefits, which is nearly double that of the comparable private-sector worker in Costa Mesa, where salaries and benefits account for 75% of the operating budget.

These numbers mean that Costa Mesa's path is fiscally unsustainable.

So, if you were a doer on the council, what would your approach be? Fix the problem, right? And start with changing the city from being a general law city to a charter city so the council can more effectively right the ship.

Uproar, explosions, utter chaos ensues.

Why? Is it because Irvine is a charter city and seems to do just fine as the nation's safest city, or is it because Newport Beach is a charter city and seems to be a nice place to live? Is it because Huntington Beach is a charter city not in fiscal ruin?

Do people even take the charter city-general law city issue into consideration when deciding where to live? Is that what Kobe Bryant did before moving to Newport Coast, or Mark McGuire did before moving to Irvine?

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