It all started here, in the pages of the Newport Beach Indy. Now, it’s the talk of the nation and the world, and a blog and talk-radio cause du jour.
It’s the controversy surrounding the compensation of the 13 full-time Newport Beach city lifeguards.
As outlined by NB Indy columnist Jack Wu in last Friday’s print edition and on www.newportindy.com, the full-time, year-round lifeguards make an average of $154,000 annually in pay and benefits, including the city’s contributions to their pensions.
This is in contrast to the seasonal lifeguards that the city brings on each spring to serve through to the fall. They make $16-$22 per hour, with no benefits.
An OC Register blogger posted about it on Friday, quoting liberally from Wu’s column and including a link to the newportindy.com website.
Over the weekend, flashreport.org, a Republican insiders’ news site, noted the column.
From there, it was picked up and discussed on KFI 640AM and then other talk-radio outlets. The story gained momentum as cable news and other outlets, such as MSNBC and The Atlantic, also picked it up.
Late this week, the story of the Newport Beach lifeguards appeared in the Daily Mail in Great Britain and in the International Business Times.
And it really hit the big time on Thursday, when it made The Drudge Report.
While most of the comments online and on the radio have been highly negative toward the lifeguards, they also have their supporters.
Brent Jacobsen, president of the Lifeguard Management Association, was widely quoted as calling the compensation fair and in line with what other city employees and other cities’ lifeguards make.
Newport Beach Councilmember Ed Selich said he and his fellow councilmembers have received more emails supporting the lifeguards than condemning them, with many citing public safety concerns about the proposed staffing cut.
The matter will be hanging around for a while, as the city moves through it budget process. The City Council held a budget study session this week and asked for some clarifications from City Manager Dave Kiff on the lifeguard proposal. The budget will be up for final adoption in June.