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Daily Pilot

Mailbag: Council should forgo stipends, benefits

9:41 AM PDT, July 8, 2014

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During the last election, Tustin voted to eliminate all compensation for its City Council members. The responsible voters understood that their part-time civil servants should not receive salaries, free healthcare and other benefits.

It is also ridiculous to ask taxpayers to pay for retirement benefits for these part-time servants. Such benefits are arguably the biggest unfunded public sector liability, threatening the very financial life breath of the community.

I have suggested that the Costa Mesa council follow the lead of Tustin by refusing to accept any compensation. This would have been the perfect goodwill gesture as the Costa Mesa council continues to negotiate city employee compensation. Costa Mesa currently has a multimillion-dollar unfunded pension liability, and yet year after year, officials falsely brag about achieving a budget surplus, most recently in excess of $7 million.

It does not take a dais of power brokers to figure out that this is mathematically impossible. That $7 million in the face of more than $200 million in unfunded pension liabilities does not a surplus make.

Also, voters in 2012 defeated a proposed charter for Costa Mesa, known on the ballot as Measure V. Absent from this proposed charter was any hint of reducing council compensation. However, there was plenty of language regarding not paying prevailing wages on local projects.

After washing most of the egg off their faces, the council members decided voters should pay for yet another proposed charter, this one misrepresented as community-prepared. But the council primarily cherry-picked the 13 members of the Charter Committee.

By calling this group a "committee" instead of a "commission," absolutely no input from the "community" was tolerated. And guess what? The council member compensation remains unchanged.

Be sure to read this charter proposal carefully. You may well find yourselves voting on the "son of Measure V."

James H. Bridges

Costa Mesa