Newport Beach is So Trying to be the Next Costa Mesa: Considering Layoffs, Including Lifeguards

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Newport Beach sits just to the south/southeast west of the oh-so-troubled city of Costa Mesa. It's a city full of pretty people and prettier cars. It has 10 miles of coastline. Its population is 90-plus percent white and the median value of a home is said to exceed $1 million. And yet, just like Costa Mesa, it's considering layoffs as a means to help trim $9.4 million from the budget.

Nearly 60 employees received notices earlier this month that their job make be in jeopardy. Of the people who received notices, the city expects that 25 will end up being laid off. According to an OC Register story, the city plans to eliminate 50 positions, some of which are currently vacant, if a budget proposal presented by City Manager Dave Kiff is passed.

Are the Newport Beach council chambers about to see fireworks, similar to what's been on display in Costa Mesa?

It's possible, but unlikely. Costa Mesa sent layoff notices to one-third of its city employees, whereas Newport Beach sent notices to nearly one-sixteenth of its city workforce. Some of the NB positions may be outsourced (beach trash collection, parking meters)--a very unpopular term around these parts, lately--while others would be eliminated altogether.

What does have Newport Beach residents upset is that among those positions facing the financial ax are a number of full-time lifeguards. Though the lifeguard towers sit mostly unoccupied from mid-fall through mid-spring, there are lifeguards on duty. Some are at headquarters, at the base of the Newport Beach pier, while others are roaming the sand behind the wheel of a truck or in the water in one of the boats.

​Kiff doesn't think off-season lifeguards are necessary. His rationale?

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Chasen Marshall/OC Weekly
City Manager Dave Kiff doesn't think off-season lifeguards are necessary--this is NB in late October.
"I don't think the city's taxpayers should have to fund someone's choices to go swimming in January or December when the waves are rougher, there's more risk. We don't need to have a Cadillac program like that," Kiff told ABC-7

"I struggle with the idea that we have people in our city management structure who don't realize that people use the beach in Southern California year-round," said Brent Jacobsen, the president of the Lifeguard Management Association and a lifeguard for over 25 years. "I'm shocked. This is the city of Newport Beach, we're a beach city."

At the beginning of the year, the lifeguard organization had 17 permanent employees. There have been four retirements, positions which have been left vacant, according to Jacobsen. Kiff's prosposal would cut the number down to eight full-time lifeguards, who would be left to monitor all 10 miles of coastline.

Among the full-time lifeguards facing possible layoff is the Junior Lifeguard safety captain, who is responsible for overseeing the safety precautions for a program of 1,250 children and 40 instructors.

Jacobsen did point out that Kiff and members of his staff are attempting to work with the lifeguards to come up with suitable alternatives, but at this point, none has been found. Kiff's willingness to work with the lifeguards still doesn't satisfy Jacobsen's frustration about the city manager's belief that the city shouldn't be accountable for beachgoers from October through May. 

Two days ago, the lifeguards had a "horrific close call," according to Jacobsen. Two 7-year-olds had to be rescued near 56th Street. Fortunately, lifeguards arrived in time to save their lives.

The Weekly tried to contact Kiff for comment, but he was out of town.

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