Battle over public employees rocks Orange County

Both liberals and conservatives say Costa Mesa could be the harbinger of what’s ahead for hundreds of California communities in an era of Tea Party politics, tough fiscal times and calls for pension reform.

City workers Bruce Lindemann (left), Juan Santos, Jon Neal and Pete Czenze read about the layoffs.

Billy Folsom moved to this sun-drenched mecca decades ago, raised four kids and loved his work as a city mechanic who kept police and city vehicles in top shape.

This year, after 30 years on the job, Folsom, 59, said his thanks came in the form of a pink slip.

He was one of nearly half of the city’s 450 employees who were served with notices saying they would be laid off on Sept. 15.

The layoffs are the result of a campaign by two newly elected conservative members of the City Council who vowed to get budget-crunched city finances into shape. Their plan: sweeping cost-cutting measures that called for outsourcing dozens of jobs, laying off firefighters, mechanics, gardeners, street cleaners and graffiti abatement workers.

Reactions from all sides underscore how Orange County, a region known for its sparkling beaches, glitzy shopping malls and renegade “real housewives,” has become what conservatives say is ground zero in the governmental fight against organized labor and out-of-control spending.


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