Today’s edition of the New York Times includes this story on the Costa Mesa outsourcing controversy. The writer, Jennifer Medina, talked to most of the key players involved and offered up a decent summary of what has been going on.
Medina described the happenings here as “the Wisconsin labor battle in miniature.”
Here is an excerpt:
Unlike the drama that played out over the last two months in Madison, Wis. the battle over public workers in this bustling suburb and upscale shopping mecca in the heart of Orange County is happening at lightning speed.
Layoff letters went out last week to more than 200 of the city’s roughly 450 workers, sending many of them into a panic as they scurried to look for new jobs. The move will, in one great swoop, reinvent municipal government here, and perhaps lead the way for other cities.
Emotions in Costa Mesa, already running high, grew more intense after one city worker, summoned to receive his pink slip, instead climbed five stories to the roof of City Hall and jumped to his death. A small side entrance to the building is now decorated with supermarket-bought bouquets and tall, white candles, a memorial to the 29-year-old man, who had worked for the city’s maintenance department for four years.
The layoffs have deeply divided this small city, just a few miles inland from Newport Beach. While Costa Mesa has long been a politically conservative enclave, much like the other wealthy suburbs that surround it, the move to privatize city services strikes many residents as a harsh political tactic that is meant to remake their community into a national model in the battle over public employee unions.
But the City Council, which moved quickly to approve the outsourcing and layoff plans, says the moves are the only way to solve a budget gap of as much as $15 million next year and to handle pension costs that grow exponentially each year, eating away at the city’s $93 million budget.
— DAVID WASHBURN