Friday, January 31, 2014

Who Is Making All That Racket and Why??

I would like to report that Silly Season has started early here in Costa Mesa. I would like to, but I can’t because it seems to be never ending now.
Silly Season here is that time during which some in and out of our community take every possible opportunity to accuse, berate and generally harass our local elected officials.
The motivation for such behavior may seem diverse. That is exactly the illusion this pack of wanna-be political assassins would like to fool you with. Don’t be fooled. It is simple paycheck politics being brought to you by unions and associations.
It started when Jim Righeimer first ran for city council here. He made no secret of the fact that he was opposed to the burgeoning costs associated with public employee compensation and pensions. In fact, he has made that a staple of his political career.
Not wanting to deal with someone on the council that would stop playing ball in labor negotiations, the employee organizations pulled out all the stops. Leading the way was our own Costa Mesa Police Officers' Association. From their facebook page, they state very clearly the following: “The Costa Mesa Police Officers' Association is the union body of the sworn men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department in Southern California”
Many of the noisemakers are not at all shy about professing their preference for wealth redistribution. They couch this sentiment in terms that are intended to make it sound like they are pro-middle class. Promoting higher wages and lifelong pensions and healthcare benefits as something good for our economy. But someone has to pay the bill when the party is over. These higher wages and lifelong benefits come straight out of the pockets of us taxpayers.
Some are even bold enough to state that our very economic model, capitalism, is a failed and corrupt system! They make statements like: “Capitalism has failed the middle class and become an onerous word.” Are we seriously thinking that slipping further toward socialism than we already have is the answer to our problems? Only someone who wants to pick your taxpaying pocket would suggest that!
So when you hear the droning criticisms and faux outrage, remember that the whole point of this great expenditure of energy on their part has one simple conclusion. You, my taxpaying neighbors, will pay more.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

3(M) + V = Vision

Let's get compensation reform in place so we can regain our focus on long term city issues. In the near term, the plans laid out by these candidates will do just that:

Then give them the foundation they have asked us for to make their plans work:
Yes on Measure V

Without the whole package, we don't get were we need to be.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I am “All In” for reform in Costa Mesa

UPDATE: Geoff West over at the Bubbling Cauldron (link to the right) corrected my assertion that the candidates are running as a slate. None of the candidates has announced any form of coalition with any other candidate.  He also pointed out that Sandy Genis is a registered Republican. A fact I did know, but had forgotten about. Sorry about that Sandy! I still see the groupings as I refer to them as ideologically simpatico. I may adjust that as the campaign matures. We shall see.

If you have followed any of my posts on the subject of politics here in Costa Mesa, you should have come away with two general themes. First, I have a reasonably conservative view of how public funds should be raised and spent. Second, I am really not in favor of ideological dogma driving decisions in local government.

What I have come to accept over the years is that the major political parties are using local office as a farm team for their nominees for partisan office. Now, I don’t know if this is a result of term limits or not. Term limits reduce the political “shelf life” of a politician. That means the parties have to have new talent on the bench ready to go. Regardless of the driving factors, it is a reality. Because of this, voters, like me are presented with ever more stark choices for local candidates. Even though the local offices are “non-partisan” we frequently see a battle between Republicans and Democrats. Sure the occasional altruistic candidate comes along, but they are rarely prepared for political battle and are generally underfunded to the point of being almost irrelevant.

In this environment, I really feel as if I have little choice but to start aligning with candidates from the party that most closely reflects my views of government. In local offices, that alignment is clearly with Republican candidates. Now, I may not agree completely with their national platform or even their state and local initiatives. Non-the-less, if I am to see the types of decision made that I can endorse, I find no other alternative.

This brings me to the current Costa Mesa city council race. The lines of division in this race are clearly Democrats vs. Republicans. On the one hand we have the public employee association backed slate, the Democrats, running against the slate not endorsed by the public employee associations, the Republicans. Sure, there are other money players in this fight, but from my position as a taxpayer, this is the bottom line. Do I want a council majority that will continue with the status quo when it comes to how services are delivered and paid for or do I want change? I want change. It is past time to make service delivery paramount and employment driven by that priority. If we need employees to provide services as efficiently as possible, great, hire them. If we can do a job more efficiently contracting it out, then contract away.

On top of that, I believe our community needs to change the long term cost of employment. When we pay an employee for their labors, they should be paid. Final. Period. The system we have now pays an employee for their labor and then the taxpayer is on the hook for the rest of that employee’s life if their retirement plan investments don’t pan out. That is a great perk if you can get it, but one I am no longer willing to fund.

So there are my high level priorities for my community. These sit on top of safety and infrastructure. Within the above priorities, I want reasonable services provided for my tax dollars.

This leads me to my choices for this election. As the title of this post states, I am “All In” for reform. I have been pretty vocal that some of the decisions made by the current council majority could have been handled with more tact and finesse. Still, I am not willing to see a council majority that is inclined to roll back their reform plans, including outsourcing and pension reform.

To that end, I am endorsing Gary Monahan, Steve Mensinger and Colin McCarthy for city council. I am also supporting Measure “V”, the city charter and Allan Mansoor for Assembly.

 I plan to post more about these candidates and Measure V in the future.

Friday, May 25, 2012

In Assembly District 74, Should it be Daigle, Mansoor or Rush?

I have been fielding a lot of question about my choice for the 74th Assembly District. I am going to first tell you that, in my opinion, you have to take a larger view of our state before you decide who you are going to support.

To put some context around this, issues that concern me in the State of California are:

  • Taxes – too high
  • Regulations – too many
  • Spending – too much
  • Education – insufficient
  • Entitlements – too generous

You can agree with me or not on my list of issues, after all, it is MY list, not yours.

When I look at the state legislature, I see a group of Democrats that seem to have no ability to tell unions and lobbyists for special programs NO. I also see a group of Republicans, my party, who have been incapable of developing any type of dynamic leadership and a vision that would captivate voters and win their support.

My inclination is to follow Nathan Fletcher and become an independent. As a matter of fact, I have come very close to doing just that. What always stops me though, is the thought that the Democrats are just a few seats away from having unfettered access to my wallet!

Now, I don’t agree with the Republican’s “No Tax” pledge. It should really be a “No Tax unless we all go as a group” pledge. I say that because there really may be a good reason to remove a tax deduction and as we all know, removing a deduction is raising someone’s taxes. In general, however, this state has a serious spending problem. Giving the Democrats cart blanch will only make matters worse.

This brings me to the 74th district’s candidates.

Ms. Daigle has stated: "The way to get things done is not to vote no," she said. "The way to get things done is to work together to find true solutions."

In general, I agree that reasonable people should be able to find a way to say yes to each other. The problem Sacramento has is that the Democrats do not have “reasonable” people lobbying them for more tax money. They have people that feel Californian’s don’t pay enough taxes and can afford more.  Now, I do not agree. CNN, not Fox News, but CNN, points out that California has the 6th highest taxes in the nation!

My conclusion is that Ms. Daigle is far too likely to leave the door open to the Dems getting deeper into my pocket. So I can clearly not choose her.

Mr. Rush is, in his own words is a “moderate Democrat.” I don’t see Mr. Rush being capable of voting against his party on fiscal train wrecks like tax increases. That one issue is enough to make it clear I can not choose Mr. Rush.

Then we have Mr. Mansoor. Assemblyman Mansoor has not accomplished much, even by his own account, in Sacramento in his first year. Steve Smith points out that expecting anything miraculous from a first year Assembly member is wishful thinking. I agree, but I also have not seen evidence of Mr. Mansoor developing key allies and working to build his political capital in Sacramento either. I would hope that our representative would be dynamic and show he or she is in the fight to lead our state. Mr. Mansoor really needs to show his constituents that he is working to develop his leadership and ability to bring key pieces of legislation forward. That is what I want to see.

What Mr. Mansoor does bring, is the ability to stay in line with party leadership. In the broader scheme of things, of this group of candidates, that is the one quality that above all else makes Assemblyman Mansoor the one to vote for.

I know that there are other controversial aspects to Mr. Mansoor’s political background that many of you know I don’t agree with. I can live with that to support the big picture issues that face California.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Election misinformation

I find that the amount of misinformation about the proposed charter election in Costa Mess is amazing. The most bizarre claim that is being made is that by having the charter election in June somehow reduces the ability for all voters in the city to participate in the election. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every registered voter in the city has the same opportunity to vote in June as they do in November. Just because they may be less motivated to go to the polls in June than November is really immaterial.
It is time that the voters in Costa Mess start taking responsibility for the direction of thier city and stop blaming others because they are unwilling to make the tiny effort it takes to vote in an election.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Local control is just that, Local!

Should NMUSD micro-manage school sites or is local control best?

Tonight, the Newport Mesa Unified School District will consider a plan to fund 6th grade science camp district wide. This proposal is brought forward by School Board Member Katrina Foley. The issue at hand appears to be the lack of local funding at each campus for this program. The Daily Pilot has reported on this issue here.

Reading the story, we learn that each school came up with funding to pay the way for the students. In some cases it is completely parent funded and in other cases a combination of parent and local fundraising efforts. Board Member Foley proposes re-purposing funds from other activities to pay for this program.

As my friends and neighbors know, I am a strong proponent of improving the performance of the students in NMUSD. I have actively campaigned for bond measures, served on site committees, booster clubs and school foundations. Both of my sons are graduates of NMUSD schools.

Local School Site Control

I recently sent the members of the NMUSD board a letter outlining two primary concerns that I have for this proposal.

First, this program is a perfect example of local control. If the school site values this program, they will find funding for it. If, on the other hand, they would rather fund some other activity, that should be their choice. On top of that, the local school site may see little if any value to this program and decide not to fund it at all and reduce out of pocket expenses for the local parents and community. If the school board re-purposes funds solely for this program, then the school will no doubt spend those funds even if the program is not valued by the local site. After all, why give up the money?

Poor Governance

My second concern relates to the poor governance this choice represents. If the school board decides that extracurricular activities need alternative funding, then the entire issue should be studied and addressed. Taking these projects on one at a time in a piecemeal fashion will simply nickle and dime the taxpayers of this district to death. The precedent set by this action will move forward to every school board member's pet project or concern. The taxpayers of this district deserve better planning than this proposal represents.

Everyone Wants to Feel Good!

Sure, this seems like a great program to fund on the surface, but let's be real here. If the local school does not value this program, we should not be spending money on it. Yes, it is a "feel good" proposal. That does not make it a good proposal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Costa Mesa's fiscal house needs some repair

Costa Mesa heard from two ‘experts’ on our pension liability issue. The news, from either of them, is not rosy. They have their own opinions of what our financial liability is, as is the case with any projections, they have likely developed those opinions based on their own selection of assumptions.

The bottom line continues to be that we, as a democracy, in our nation, states, counties and cities have been far too generous in the good times and unwilling to face the facts that our economy is subject to downturns.

Costa Mesa has been working to remain competitive with other agencies when it comes to salaries and benefits. Unfortunately, we have not taken the prudent approach to squirreling away enough money when it was plentiful in anticipation of the day that it would not be; sort of a municipal version of the ant and the grasshopper.

So we all accept that we have this liability. There is still a great division of attitudes when it comes to a solution. What we do know is that regardless of any current actions we may take, that what we have previously committed to is substantial and will take a long time to dig out from under.

Will this problem solve itself over time if we just continue our city austerity program? That is one approach. I am sure the city employees and their association would like this to be the overriding viewpoint. The problem is that we can not be sure this alone will pull us out of a financial burden that is projected to last us decades even with continued economic growth.

There are some in our community that believe continued cutting of infrastructure support is diminishing our quality of life and will raise costs down the road.

Deferred maintenance bit our local school district in the bottom line. Their solution was to go to the voters for permission to float bonds. One of the promises made to gain voter approval is that they would guarantee minimum funding levels for maintenance to avoid getting into the same position again in the future.

The city council majority has floated a plan to outsource some functions in the city. This is certainly worth studying and I believe that a majority of the voters in Costa Mesa support this type of analysis. However, much to the dismay of many, the council decided to move ahead with layoff notices before they had any real evidence that this approach will in any way save any taxpayer dollars.

This is defended by the majority as necessary because of the six month layoff notice requirements that our employment agreements require in the case of outsourcing. The party line is that they needed to get the clock ticking or we would still be six month out when the outsourcing studies were done. Others in the community question the savings a six month lag would have cost us versus the negative reaction engendered by doing this before the facts were in.

The underlying motives of the council majority have been called into question as well. It is well known that the Republican Party, especially here in California, chafes at the control public employee unions have over legislative issue.

This control is a product of the massive political support the unions can bring to bear in the form of finances and boots on the ground. The unions have also done a great job of positioning their organizations favorably with the public. After all, who doesn’t like teacher, firefighters and cops? Who doesn’t want them to be happy and productive? I certainly do! That has translated into phenomenal success at the ballot box for union supported candidates.

So, why wouldn’t the Republican Party support any efforts to weaken the unions? Wouldn’t outsourcing services to companies that are not union organizations help accomplish that? You bet. Unfortunately, the 800 pound gorilla unions are not going away any time soon, even with outsourcing. The teacher and public safety unions will maintain their strength no matter how many janitors and mechanics you outsource out of union membership.

I would suggest that the real issue here is long term reform. Unfortunately, politicians with short sighted political goals never seem to be able to focus that far into the future. Couple that nearsightedness with the single-mindedness of purpose unions maintain that does allow them to strategize decades into the future and we the taxpayers just end up with inadequate defenses against run-away employee benefits.

I believe that the ship has sailed on the issue of past pension obligations. Short of some sort of legislative relief by the state or federal government, we are on the hook for what we have promised. I focus more on moving forward.

Our city needs to establish benefit packages that do not require the city to guarantee investment returns and funding for extended life spans. We need to be realistic with what we are paying. At the end of the year, we should have paid every employee what they have earned and contributed to their pension based on a mutually agreed upon schedule. We should only be on the hook for a finite amount.

How those funds are invested and how long they will meet the financial needs of those employees after retirement should not be the concern of the taxpayers. Let the unions manage those funds if that is what the employees wish. Alternatively, let the employees manage their own investments in 401K style accounts.

The bottom line is that all of these defined benefits programs, including those for public utility employees, and anyone else that reaches into our pockets need to be eliminated on a go forward basis. Yes, we will have to suck it up and deal with our past political leaders largess on our behalf, but at least we head into a future on more sustainable footing.