Thursday, July 28, 2011

Extremism on the Move: Will Huntington Beach Follow Costa Mesa's Lead on Pension Reform?

Someone better get Steve Lopez on the phone and clue him in to the "extremism" that may be on the rise in the Orange County city of Huntington Beach. The Orange County Register reports that the town may soon become known for something besides surfing and drunken mobs on Main Street: emulating the aggressive cost-control measures of its neighbor, Costa Mesa.

According to the Register report, there are growing divisions on Huntington's city council regarding how to approach coming negotiations with police and other unions. While some council members advocate taking the unions up on offers of concessions before their contracts expire, another faction, led by Councilman Don Hansen, note that doing so extends these contracts by another year and kicks the can on meaningful reforms. Hansen would prefer to allow the contracts to expire before negotiating, and attempt to extract deeper concessions at that point, including "a timeline for union members to fully fund their share of their retirement expenses." The first group, in contrast, seems almost desperate to avoid association with Costa Mesa. Its leader, Joe Shaw, had this to say in a newsletter to supporters: "A few of our council members want to reject these immediate savings and demand more, following the aggressive tactics that have turned Costa Mesa into a battleground. Our employees have been more than generous in meeting with us and willing to give back." Shaw seems reluctant to involve Huntington with Costa Mesa in other areas, such as partnership agreements to share services like SWAT, emergency dispatch, and animal control.

Either way, the council will begin discussing these issues next week. Stay tuned.

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