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April 21, 2009

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Didn't the school district just go through this?

The school board seems to have a good partnership with the union, and they agreed on a package of cuts to positions, and also to work together to get the parcel tax passed. It did, and the district and union are still working together belt-tightening, cutting positions at IBL just this week.

This isn't so hard if labor and management work together. Maybe the city should take some lessons from the school board. They seem to know how to be efficient, treat their employees well, and deliver good results to taxpayers at the same time.

"You say "we should blame the city government, not the municipal employees." I think your view is very naive. The municipal employees and their unions demanded those raises and pension enhancements (and far more, I'm sure). You seem to think the city gave them out of the goodness of their hearts."

No, Matthew, I said: "Responsibility should be placed squarely with our elected officials, past and present, who have run the city this way for years and let this huge liability get out of control."

In a labor negotiation, there are usually two sides, employer and employee, right? In this process I described, in which the contract is negotiated and voted on in secret (according to law) and then placed on the consent calendar for a quick vote with a staff report that reports none of the consequences of the proposed contract, who exactly is representing the supposed employer, that is, you and me—the taxpayers???

Pacifica is LUCKY it did not issue the bonds. The Pensions of Civil Servants are unaffordable NOT because they are underfunded, but because THE BENEFITS ARE TOO GENEROUS.

Funding should only be made (annually) to the extent funds are available and the burden on taxpayers is REASONABLE. Neither of these situations exist today, nor can they EVER exist when considering the RICH LEVEL and HIGH COST of these plans. Think of what little YOU get as a Private Sector worker.

Taxpayers are MUCH better off letting the underfunded liability grow ....... yes, to the point that Civil Servants agree to reduce benefits, or their plans simply run out of money and their benefits go unpaid. Greed must have its consequences.

The issuance of bonds in no way lessens the cost to taxpayers. It just shifts the obligation from one of the Civil Servant plans into a "general obligation" of TAXPAYERS ..... and puts them into a MUCH worse position. If nothing else, it COMPLETELY removes any incentive the Civil Servants have to bargain in good faith because the bond proceeds essentially "fully funded" their plans.

TAXPAYERS should wise up ...... stop letting the Civil Servant Unions (AND the enabling politicians) sucker you.

Key to survival is a REDUCTION in Pensions for CURRENT as well as new workers, and elimination of all retiree health care (short of a MODEST contribution to an HSA).

Hey Lionel,

When contracts covering city employees expire, the unions demand raises. Can you give me an example of a union contract where the city said, sorry, we just can't give you a raise this contract, and the union said, well, you know, you're right, we don't deserve one, do you have a pen? In fact, can we take a pay cut since things are so tight this year?

As has been reported, Redwood City's municipal unions have agreed to a one-year pay freeze. Before the freeze, those unions were scheduled to get raises of 2-4 percent, just like in Pacifica.

I don't see Pacifica's municipal unions volunteering to take a pay freeze so poor people in Pacifica don't have to pay more sales tax. And I'm not blaming them for not doing so, any more than I'm blaming the city government for signing their contracts. I'm a union member (NABET) and there are both good and bad aspects to what they do.

These contracts are typically multi-year because the negotiation process takes forever. Why do you think the contract signed in February is retroactive to last July?

You say "we should blame the city government, not the municipal employees." I think your view is very naive. The municipal employees and their unions demanded those raises and pension enhancements (and far more, I'm sure). You seem to think the city gave them out of the goodness of their hearts.

I'm all for getting spending under control, but I don't think it's practical to tell all the municipal unions you want them to work without a contract, take a pay cut and give up their pensions. I think that would probably result in total chaos.

Yes-- great reporting. I recommend the City reduce its promises to employees and renegotiate contracts (as businesses everywhere are doing) and that we all support Measure D for Pacifica.

Thank you, Lionel, for your investigation and for your report. It seems that many of the practices that seemed to work "just fine" in an ever-growing economy just don't cut it when the bubble breaks. Since this problem is not unique to Pacifica, ABAG, and San Mateo County, and the state and federal authorities, and, of course, the appropriate unions should all be involved in coming up with a solution to this problem.

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