Cities like Costa Mesa going bankrupt due to public employees? What a load of Hooey!




Costa Mesa Councilman Jim Righeimer, driving force behing the city's anti-worker policies and propaganda.

Have you heard this whopper before?  “Public sector pay, especially retirement benefits, is driving cities into bankruptcy.” That’s the mantra coming from politicians, right wing think tanks, so-called anti-tax crusaders, Libertarians and other less-than-honest demagogues from across the nation. Stop and think about it – where has a bankruptcy actually occurred? The only instance I am aware of is the ill-advised and bungled bankruptcy filing of the City of Vallejo that did not result in the Holy Grail these demagogues sought – a court ordered dissolution of labor contracts and retirement plans. The federal bankruptcy court did not buy it.

The latest salvo of this political hysteria is our own City of Costa Mesa. A new council majority has implemented a slash and burn philosophy of cutting back – including issuing layoff notices to nearly half the city staff, while stating that the dire financial situation of the city makes such action necessary. Others, however, say this action is nothing but a takeover of the city by a far-right political philosophy and the so-called financial crisis is a myth – that what is working here is a combination of anti-government philosophy and greed that seeks to create opportunities for political hacks to profit from a restructuring of city services.

A telling development in Costa Mesa is the sudden resignation of Police Chief Steve Staveley on Monday. In a memo to his staff announcing his departure he lays out two core reasons for his decision to leave. One is his strong belief that the City Council has purposely created budget gaps to create the appearance of a fiscal crisis where one does not really exist. Bingo – looks like at least one high level city official has decided to spill the beans.

Meanwhile, in city, county and state governments around the nation where better management is found among electeds, pay and benefit reductions to deal with the financial stresses being felt are being implemented with little fanfare.   For instance, the State of Nevada Legislature (a part time legislature that meets only once every two years, by the way) has just approved a budget that suspends merit raises, implements furlough days, restructures health insurance for its employees and retirees, and increases employee and retiree deductibles and health insurance premiums. Yes, there is some gnashing of teeth over the changes that mean significantly less take home pay for Nevada employees, but the need to reduce costs was laid out without any smoke-and-mirror misrepresentations, and that need is being managed without massive layoffs or political upheaval.

So, when you hear people and organizations known to have an anti-government agenda saying the sky is falling and drastic action is needed, be skeptical. In all probability what is working here is an anti-government philosophy coupled in some cases with an agenda of helping friends and political supporters pick the pocket of the taxpayers.

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.