Viewpoint - February 17, 2010

Guest opinion: Proposed initiative is real pension reform

by Roy Thiele-Sardina

Sometimes the first step is the hardest. The public employee retirement system is a state-wide problem — in fact the CalPERS system presents a menu of benefit options that cities can bestow on their employees, the most expensive of which are inevitable time bombs for any city. Several years ago, our city upgraded to the bomb.

If Menlo Park is to return to sustainable budgets, and dodge an upcoming crisis, we must start the process now. We can't honestly expect the state Legislature to save us.

The Menlo Park Pension Reform initiative will:

• Reduce the long-term liabilities the city has for underfunded pensions.

• Make any future increase to the pension system require voter approval, giving the City Council the footing to negotiate as real representatives of the citizens of Menlo Park.

• Allow the City Council to further reduce new commitments should it so decide.

• Assure the citizens of Menlo Park that there will never be another retroactive increase to pension benefits for current employees.

• Reduce Menlo Parks pension contribution costs per new employee by about 50 percent.

In effect, we will no longer make things worse no matter whose arm is twisted.

The Menlo Park Pension Reform initiative will: not step outside California law; not hamper the city's ability to hire good people — there are too many good, people who would truly appreciate job stability and benefits at this level; not abrogate promises to existing employees.

This ballot measure will make Menlo Park a stronger, more vibrant city that can use its valuable resources to improve our city — valuable resources that should go to our citizens and not to a pension system that significantly exceeds what average citizens receive.

The proposed Pension Reform Initiative is significant. Let's make it happen together, now, this year.

Roy Thiele-Sardina and Henry Riggs are co-chairmen of Citizens for Pension Reform.


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