City rejects employee transparency reform proposal

The City of Costa Mesa on Monday rejected transparency and lobbying reforms proposed by city employees during its third round of contract negotiations.

The City employees’ proposal would have required City Council members to disclose discussions with lobbyists and donations by campaign contributors before voting on contracts that could benefit those lobbyists and contributors.

“We are disappointed that the City Council majority once again rejected transparency reforms designed to protect taxpayers from corruption in public contracting,” CMCEA President Helen Nenadal said.

The City also changed its initial proposal to cut City employee salaries. Under the City’s amended proposal, approximately 65 percent of current employees would see a salary cut of 7.5%. Newly hired employees would start their jobs at the City at an approximately 7.5% lower wage. And about 35% of current employees would see an immediate salary cut of 2.5%.

“City employees are committed to partnering with the City to deliver the most effecient and high quality services for the public,” Nenadal said. “Unfortunately, the City’s proposal to unnecessarily slash salaries only shows the Council is more interested in continuing its political attacks on employees than working together to deliver the best services at the best value to Costa Mesa residents.”

Click here to read the City’s full amended proposal.

Why won’t the City Council majority expand transparency and accountability measures?

costamesaworks_lobbyistWhen government is transparent, it is more accountable.

That’s why CMCEA supports the intent behind the City Counci’s COIN ordinance. And it’s also why we have never understood why last year, when adopting COIN, the Council majority at the same time rejected additional transparency reforms that would protect how taxpayer dollars are spent and shine a light on how lobbyists and campaign contributors leverage influence at City Hall.

So, during bargaining this year, we proposed a measure that’s similar to an initiative Councilwoman Wendy Leece championed in 2012. Simply put, the Transparency, Disclosure and Accountability article would require City Council members to disclose communications and campaign contributions from potential contractors and lobbyists BEFORE they vote to award a contract with those contractors and lobbyists.

That just makes common sense: The public should know what is happening behind the scenes that influences the decisions elected officials make.

Current law does not require the Council to disclose conversations with lobbyists. And even though they do ultimately report campaign contributions, those reports often don’t surface for months after a vote, leaving the public in the dark at the time decisions are actually made.

Transparency can only help build faith in government—something the City Council and City employees both support. And by shining a light on how lobbying works, it will be more difficult for special interests to manipulate politicians to receive contracts that may not be the best deal for taxpayers.

If you would like to read more about the specific provisions of our proposal, click here.

How the economic collapse is still affecting families in Costa Mesa and beyond

As the Costa Mesa City Council goes into closed session tomorrow to discuss their thoughts on our bargaining proposal to partner with the City, we wanted to  share this important story that ran in the LA Times on Sunday about how families are faring five years after the massively destructive 2008 Wall Street crash.

At the table last week, the City’s lead negotiator told City employees that as much as a 20 percent pay cut and massive reduction in sick leave would not have a significant impact to their families.

The story in the LA Times illustrates why those statements are so wrong. Increasingly, families across this Country are struggling as the economy struggles to recover. Many of our members are now taking care of elderly parents who lost their savings in the crash or supporting children who have graduated from college but who have still not found adequate work. Some are now the sole breadwinners in their households as the State’s jobless rate continues to remain high.

A deep pay cut would force some to make impossible choices: Do we buy groceries or medicine? Pay tuition or the mortgage?

Slashing sick pay so deeply could spell the difference between financial ruin or a recoverable hurdle for a family who has a sick child, parent or breadwinner.

The family in this story is just like many of the families who work for the City of Costa Mesa. The sole breadwinner in this household is a teacher who, just like the Costa Mesa employees, has a modest salary, retirement benefits, sick leave and health care plan.

The City’s employees believe there is a better way than the slash and burn attack the Council has proposed. We want to partner with the City to deliver the highest quality, most efficient services in Orange County. We will continue to pay increasingly more toward our retirements and help the City make common-sense changes to sick pay. Most importantly, we want to partner with the City to make it more transparent and accountable to the residents we serve.

The Mayor has said he does not want to partner with the City’s employees. It’s hard for us to understand why engaging with employees, treating them with respect and dignity, and partnering with them to make an efficient and accountable government could be anything but extremely positive for the residents of Costa Mesa. We hope you agree.

City cancels next negotiations meeting, Council to meet instead

This morning CMCEA’s negotiator received a communication from the City’s chief negotiator cancelling the previously scheduled September 24 bargaining session. Instead, the City Council will meet on that date to review and discuss CMCEA’s initial proposal and provide further direction to its negotiator. The parties will next meet at the bargaining table on September 30, and we will provide a further update at the conclusion of that session.

Why we proposed the Lean efficiency program

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Corporations and municipal governments across the Country have realized that engaging front line employees—the folks who are actually doing the work—in a collaborative process to identify ways to streamline services truly pays dividends.

The Lean approach is aimed at doing just that. It fosters a collaborative environment between executives, managers and front line workers to figure out how to eliminate waste and improve efficiency in government. And implementing government efficiencies translates directly to taxpayer savings.

For example, when King County Seattle used Lean to examine and streamline the delivery in various service areas, taxpayers saved millions of dollars. And those services to residents dramatically improved. Employing Lean reduced the turnaround time for motor vehicle license renewals from three weeks to five days. Similarly, taxicab-licensing was streamlined to 10 days, down from two months.

We believe that Lean can be applied at most if not all levels of service throughout Costa Mesa. For example: How can we make getting a permit more easier and efficient? How can we address overtime or staffing shortage challenges? Lean helps organizations review processes from a resident point of view and consider what adds value, what can be improved, and what can be eliminated.

Lean was first developed by Toyota to improve its manufacturing process. In the private sector it soon spread beyond its manufacturing genesis and demonstrated its value across the entire spectrum of corporate operations. Over the past several years Lean has been enthusiastically championed in the public sector by elected officials across the political spectrum, from Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin to Governors Christine Gregoire and Jay Inslee in Washington.

In Seattle (King County), it actually united long-time political adversaries. (You can read about the success of King County’s Lean program on its website.) And in Orange County, several County departments have embarked upon and successfully implemented Lean initiatives, including the Sheriff’s Department and the Health Care Agency.

CMCEA wants to partner with the City to establish a Lean working group to develop internal Lean process expertise, identify service areas amenable to Lean initiatives, and guide the Lean process through to implementation.

We agree with the City Council that it’s prudent to find ways to reduce costs and increase value for residents—CMCEA has always led the way in those efforts. We just think there are smarter and more responsible ways to reduce costs and increase value than arbitrary and vindictive across the board cuts that erode morale and the financial security of members of the Costa Mesa family.

That’s why we’re proposing the Costa Mesa Lean Initiative.

Employee proposal promotes partnering with City

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The Costa Mesa City Employees Association met with the City of Costa Mesa this afternoon for the second session of contract negotiations. CMCEA made its initial proposal to the City during the meeting.

“The City’s employees have made a proposal that conveys our desire to work collaboratively with the City,” CMCEA President Helen Nenadal said. “Our proposal focuses on partnering to help make Costa Mesa work better, work more efficiently, and deliver the best service possible to the community. It also includes some common-sense reforms aimed at improving accountability and transparency for the public. We truly hope the City will consider our proposal in the same spirit of collaboration.”

 

September 12, 2013

COSTA MESA CITY EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION

INITIAL BARGAINING PROPOSAL

 All Costa Mesans can benefit from an approach to negotiations that seeks to restore trust and cooperation between the City Council and City employees by underscoring mutual respect, fairness, common sense, and accountability.

The initial CMCEA bargaining proposal has been deliberately crafted to convey the desire and willingness of employees to embark on a genuine collaborative effort with the City focused on making Costa Mesa work better, work more efficiently, and deliver the best possible service to the community.

 

PROPOSAL NO. 1            TERM – Two (2) years, commencing September 1, 2013, and ending August 31, 2015.

 

PROPOSAL NO. 2            PARTNERING ON EFFICIENCY – Establish a Citywide Lean program to facilitate the adoption and application of Lean process analysis and improvement methods to City government.

Lean is an approach to workplace improvement that provides proven principles, methods and tools for streamlining the delivery of services while at the same time developing a culture that encourages employee creativity and problem-solving skills. The central objective of Lean is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Lean can be applied at all levels of an organization to review processes from a resident point of view and consider what adds value and what can be eliminated.

Collaboration between all levels of City government is key to the success of any Lean initiative, and CMCEA makes this proposal with the hope that the City Council will step back from its more hostile approach to employee relations and instead dedicate itself to working together with employees to improve our community.

Lean was first developed by Toyota to improve its manufacturing process. In the private sector it soon spread beyond its manufacturing genesis and demonstrated its value across the entire spectrum of corporate operations. Over the past several years Lean has been enthusiastically championed in the public sector by elected officials across the political spectrum, from Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin to Governors Christine Gregoire and Jay Inslee in Washington.

Local governments have also reported dramatic Lean successes, including King County, Washington (Seattle), Coral Gables, Florida, and Denver, Colorado, saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Here in Orange County, several County departments have embarked upon and successfully implemented Lean initiatives, including the Sheriff’s Department and the Health Care Agency.

CMCEA would partner with the City to establish a Lean working group to develop internal Lean process expertise, identify service areas amenable to Lean initiatives, and guide the Lean process through to implementation.

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A call for greater transparency

In case you missed it, last week, the Orange County Register ran a news story about the COIN ordinance and how it may affect contract negotiations.

The Register also ran an editorial by Helen Nenadal describing how COIN should be expanded to infuse transparency into the City’s public contracting practices. For example, before voting on a contract, City officials should disclose who lobbied them and any campaign contributions they may have received from the bidders or their lobbyists.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece proposed an ordinance that would acheive these reforms, but the Council majority inexplicably voted it down. (The Mayor submitted an editorial as part of the Register’s coverage, but did not explain why he voted against expanding COIN to include public contracting.)

This morning, a Voice of OC story about more unanswered questions related to the City’s 60th Anniversary celebration illustrates why transparency in public contracting is so important. This is just one more example about why the City’s employees stand for true transparency at City Hall.

What a real return to “normal” looks like

In case you missed it, the Daily Pilot on Sunday ran a great editorial by CMCEA President Helen Nenadal addressing Mayor Jim Righeimer’s distorted concept of “normal,” and reiterating what real collaboration between City employees, the Council and the community has historically looked like.

Read Helen’s full commentary here.

The editorial was written in response to a piece published by the mayor mischaracterizing the City’s draconian bargaining proposal as an attempt to return Costa Mesa to “normal.”

But employees who have been with the City for decades know that what the mayor described is not normal at all — it’s a radical political attack based on ideology, not what’s best for the residents of our great community.

 

Celebrating 60 years of dedicated service

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Costa Mesa employees were proud to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our great community.

To help fund the celebration, CMCEA purchased an ad in the 60th Anniversary Magazine highlighting the contributions of the City workforce. The magazine is a beautiful chronicle that highlights Costa Mesa’s journey from the 1800s boomtown of “Fairview Springs” to the modern-day City of the Arts.

Costa Mesa employees look forward to celebrating dedicated service to the community for another 60 years and beyond!

Leading the way toward leaner benefits?

Last week, in a Daily Pilot story about the City of Costa Mesa’s contact negotiations with its rank-and-file employees, Mayor Jim Righeimer held up CEO Tom Hatch as an example of leading the way toward leaner benefits.

Since the dedicated employees of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association were the first to achieve pension reform – long before executives eventually followed suit – and since they do not receive many of the perks included in executive compensation packages, we thought it would be useful to show how Mr. Hatch’s compensation package compares to what the City has proposed for its lowest paid workers, the members of CMCEA.

For good measure, we also added the City’s executive benefit package. As you can see from the chart below, Mr. Hatch continues to enjoy much richer benefits than what the City is proposing for its rank and file employees, including 80-120 hours of executive leave in addition to his vacation and sick leave banks.

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