Sunday, May 1, 2011

California Democrats Glimpse Their Own Mortality; Oddly, It's in Costa Mesa

One of the few interesting stories to emerge out of the California Democrats' convention this week in Sacramento concerns labor unions' panic over municipal outsourcing in Costa Mesa. This piece in the Ventura Star focused on the California Labor Federation's attempts to overturn Costa Mesa's effort to lay off a large portion of its public employees and outsource a variety of city services. And according to the LA Times, the political hacks they keep in office support them wholeheartedly. Attorney General Kamala Harris told attendees that Orange County conservatives are "intent on dismantling the very economic ladder that lifted our middle class and made California the richest and greatest state in the greatest nation in the world". The general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, Nick Berardino, said that Costa Mesa is "ground zero for working men and women in California", and municipal outsourcing there "represent[s] a direct threat to the Democratic Party and democracy itself." Sayeth Berardino: "If there are no jobs, there's no union".

Costa Mesa's City Council looks very jaunty today.
While Democrats in the state are right to worry about their political viability in Costa Mesa if government workers become a thing of the past there, they run a risk in focusing too closely on Republicans and Orange County. Because the problem Berardino identifies is a lot bigger than Costa Mesa, and is not confined to cities dominated by the GOP. Layoffs, furloughs, and outsourcing are happening all over California these days. Here are just some of the examples we're aware of:

  • Right in Costa Mesa's back yard, the city of Newport Beach is eliminating 55 positions and outsourcing its parking-meter enforcement, beach trash collection, and the maintenance of parks, public bathrooms, streets, and streetlights.
  • The city of San Bernardino's crippling pension obligations have forced it to cut police officers, and to scale back on park and roadway maintenance.
  • As we've noted this week, Los Angeles has imposed 42 unpaid furlough days on half its public workforce.
  • Elsewhere in LA County, tiny Maywood gained national attention for outsourcing all its public services, either by handing them over to other agencies in the county or dropping them altogether.
  • Budget woes have led California's third-largest city, San Jose, to lay off over 600 city employees, including over 100 police officers. If the employee unions don't agree to pay and benefit cuts, an additional 300 workers (including 150 cops) could be let go.
  • The city of Half Moon Bay has eliminated its entire police department.
  • The Madera County town of Chowchilla has cut a third of its public workforce in the past year and a half, and may end up disincorporating itself after years of mismanagement.
  • The budget proposed by the city of Sacramento this week calls for cutting 80 police jobs, eliminating several police divisions altogether, cutting back fire services, and closing all but three community centers.

There's something happening here, and what it is is becoming clear.


  1. Hugh AkstonMay 1, 2011 03:19 PM
    It's a shame that these bankrupt municipalities can't just will more money into existence like the Federal government can.
  2. GSLMay 1, 2011 04:39 PM
    The day they can will be the day I make myself a millionaire by shorting their debt. (Note: Comments at Golden State Liberty do not constitute investment advice.)