In private sector America, the economy is tumbling, but in public-sector America things just get better and better.
"The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector's $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42%." Web Link
Witness Menlo Park. We have just given a raise to 8 police sergeants that will cost taxpayers a total of $1 million in 2 years, and last month we increased benefits for rank and file employees by 35%. And other cities in the county will adjust upward to compete with us.
We hear the argument that there is nothing we alone can do to stem the upward spiral of employee costs. Wrong. Once Menlo Park does something, other cities will follow suit. We can be a model.
However "doing something" will not be easy.
In our area, the Unions are hugely powerful and neither elected officials nor staff-- who are interested in politics or advancement, respectively--want to antagonize them. There is only one way to unwind the upward spiral in Menlo Park. Taxpayers must pass a local ballot initiative, as has been done in San Diego and Orange County. This "movement" is moving northward since Pacific Grove recently passed an advisory measure in hopes of getting its local electeds to stop the madness
To prime the pump, I will list 3 ballot initiative ideas that have been suggested to me:
1. Increase the retirement age for new Menlo Park employees from 55 to 60 or 65. (Other cities in San Mateo County have introduced 2-tier systems.)
2. Contract out services traditionally performed by City employees if doing so is determined to be more economical and efficient while maintaining the quality of services and protecting the public interest. (That was passed in San Diego)
3. Require voter approval before the City Council and staff are allowed to increase spending on aggregate employee salaries and benefits. (In other words, any individual increases must be offset by reductions in staff or other employee cost-saving measures.)
Let me know which, if any, of these ideas you think has merit and what other ideas you have. (Email email@example.com)
Thanks, Lee Duboc
Past emails are available at Web Link