Mayor Chuck Reed called an audit requested by local state legislators “politically motivated.”
He is correct. But calling a fake “fiscal emergency,” exaggerating the size of the problem and calling on voters to pass a pension reform ballot measure that most attorneys, including myself, believe won’t stand a court challenge is also “politically motivated.”
Worse, putting a ballot measure before the voters on a subject as complicated as pension reform for city workers is a terrible precedent, which is unfair to the public and those who work in the public sector. Why not ask the public to vote on redevelopment projects, executive salaries, and garbage contracts?
In fact, why have a City Council at all, let’s just have the masses vote on everything they know nothing about.
A democratic republic is often seen as a messy system. But pure democracy produces dangerous outcomes our forefathers recognized and tried to guard against.
Yet over time, the politicians have abdicated their responsibility and the people themselves have taken the initiative, literally, to give themselves more and more responsibility for major public decisions. A minority of people who vote are making the vast majority of these decisions—some by a very smaller minority, as measures like Proposition 13 eviscerate majority will.
Most of the people in this minority are persuaded by 30-second sound bites and legally protected misinformation. The voters are not necessarily ignorant, most are simply ill informed and many don’t have the time to educate themselves to the intricate policy matters—such as pension reform—required to make a sound decision. Hence the need for representative government.
Nobody disagrees that pension reform is necessary, but the professionals, experts and the process by which these issues are normally determined are being bypassed for a badly mismanaged, politically motivated agenda. How the mayor or city benefits from this agenda plainly escapes any reason.
Other jurisdictions, including the state and county, are dealing with these issues in appropriate, if imperfect, systems. But the lack of acrimony between labor and management is the biggest difference seen in those other governmental jurisdictions. The bad blood and lack respect for city workers has now reached a crescendo at City Hall. The lines are drawn, the war will take place and people will choose sides—with the voters determining the initial outcome with the courts potentially becoming the final arbiter. In this sense, from a political and policy level, this is a lose-lose situation.
There may be some political pundits who beat their chests and talk of political victory. But in the final analysis, government leadership has lost and public service has been diminished. Pension reform is destined to be litigated ad nauseum.
More importantly, the anger of public employees will not abate soon. There is no “politically motivated” advantage to any result, which is why the issue has been badly mismanaged. But the Mayor doesn’t always—or ever—take my advice.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant and author of “The Shadow Candidate”.