Last week, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown offered stark comments and opinions on the subject of runaway public employee compensation and pensions. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Reed suggested that the “seeds” of the problem were planted almost 30 years ago.
“I look back at all the decisions made along the way to enhance retirement benefits, each one adding to this problem. We’ve reached the point where this is like a cancer. It started long ago and grew very slowly, but now it’s an aggressive, high-growth phase. We need to act now.”
Former California Assembly Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown offered this “confessional” in his weekly SF Chronicle column. “People constantly ask me how we wound up in this mess. The answer is, we are all to blame. We can start with the absence of intelligent collective bargaining by public decision makers. Myself included. There was no way we should have agreed to guaranteed fixed-amount pensions and health care packages without take backs that would have been triggered if the economy went bad.”
Brown continued: “California’s cops and firefighters are among the best-paid civil servants in the nation, but try telling them they may have to give up their snowmobiles, motor homes or fishing boats to pay more into their pensions and health care. Any union leader who delivers that message is instantly in peril of losing his job.”
How bad is it? San Jose city officials have decided to ground the police helicopter in an effort to save fuel and maintenance costs. And police horses may be put out to pasture in another cost cutting move.