dailypilot.com/opinion/tn-dpt-1216-commentary2-20121213,0,7837865.story

Daily Pilot

Commentary: There is hope this season for C.M. employees

By Nick Berardino

12:08 PM PST, December 13, 2012

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It's been a long time since the holidays looked so hopeful in Costa Mesa.

Last year at this time, more than 200 city employees were still reeling from receiving their fourth pink slips. The city had already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers and private contractors in an effort to hand over control of city services to private companies. Community members were spending their Tuesday nights at City Hall, waiting hours for a chance to speak out about a charter proposal that had just been introduced.

Nobody was thinking about Christmas. The future — just like the news reports that echoed across the nation chronicling Costa Mesa's ideological strife — was bleak and uncertain.

This December is different. This December, there is hope.

The City Council has signaled that it intends to rescind the remaining pink slips with no strings attached. The city's lawyers have contacted our lawyers. And city employees are approaching the holiday season with some hope that soon, the layoff notices will be removed and the cloud of uncertainty over their futures will be lifted.

Meanwhile, Costa Mesa's employees remain committed to working collaboratively with the council and the community to build a shared vision for Costa Mesa. We truly believe we have a unique opportunity to change the nation's perception of Costa Mesa from being an ideological battleground to a place where labor, the council and the community can rise above our differences and begin working collaboratively to overcome the challenges that face us all.

We are excited about sharing some of our ideas about the great opportunities ahead, including:

•A government efficiency model called LEAN, which was born in the private sector and adopted by businesses like Toyota and Boeing. Last year, representatives from the Orange County Employees Assn. traveled to King County, Wash., to watch LEAN in action. What we saw was exciting: public employees and management working collaboratively to streamline government functions, reduce bureaucracy and save millions of taxpayer dollars. We would like to help Costa Mesa become the next LEAN success story.

•A customer-service initiative to that would elevate Costa Mesa services. We envision a program that solicits resident feedback and ensures the highest possible marks for resident satisfaction.

•A community engagement program that would provide more opportunities for city employees to volunteer in the community and adopt initiatives that help make Costa Mesa an even better place to live.

Costa Mesa employees have a long history of working collaboratively with the city to address real challenges. When we were working together, we created a lower pension tier and agreed to contribute more toward our retirement. Employees stepped up by accepting furloughs and providing lists of other creative cost-savings ideas to the city.

We would like to get back to that place and to forge an even brighter future fueled by collaboration and creative solutions.

The nation has been watching Costa Mesa and unfortunately, what they've seen these past two years has been devastating.

Now that we have their attention, my hope is that we can show everyone that collaborating together, respecting each other, and working in a way that promotes peace and harmony is much more effective than fighting.

And isn't that what the holidays are all about?

NICK BERARDINO is general manager of the Orange County Employees Assn.