Sunday, August 22, 2010

San Diego's Fiscal Crisis and... Hooray for Newspapers

Hooray for Newspapers

Three times in two weeks, Southern California newspapers show why they are a necessary part of the political landscape, doing the job that the framers envisioned. Dean has a great post on the L.A. Times pulling data together on teachers and another on how they exposed outrageous salaries and pensions in Bell, CA. Today, the San Diego U-T, in its new styling, lays out the history of the pensions issue and points out the inescapable conclusion in their headline that the current proposal for a sales tax increase is directly traceable to the cowardly actions of former mayors Susan Golding, Dick Murphy, City Manager Jack McGrory and the pension board members. If they worked at Enron, they would all be in jail. I had previously surmised that the U-T was pimping for the tax increase, now I am not so sure. I reiterate Dean's point that only news organizations have the necessary resources and legal clout to pull together the information needed to expose the wrong doing of elected officials and government employees.

The Roots of the Crisis

The U-T article is a must read for all Tea Party types. It lays out in stark detail the shenanigans and the cost to the taxpayer of allowing the ruling class to have its way unsupervised. Some quotes:

The push for a half-cent increase to San Diego’s sales tax has just begun, but it actually goes back to past decisions by city leaders who chose short-term political expediency over the long-term interests of taxpayers. . . . For example, the highest-paid retiree in the city’s pension system, former Assistant City Attorney Eugene Gordon, would have been due an annual benefit of roughly $64,600 after his 34 service years if city leaders hadn’t significantly increased retirement benefits. . . . The design of the city’s pension changed again in 2002, but things only got worse. Golding’s successor, Dick Murphy, and the City Council established a new underfunding plan that called for a second benefit increase for retirees. Their action instantly created a $1 billion-plus pension deficit. The increase helped win the favor of pension board members, many of whom were city workers, to let the city put far less money into the pension fund than was required. . . .

Currently, the payment is $232 million, or 21 percent of the operating budget.

By 2025, it’s projected to be $512 million, or nearly 47 percent of the operating budget, if no changes are made to pensions or budgets.

Exit question: What should we do now, given the strong legal standing that the current pensioners and employees have? B-Daddy is still noodling and researching the question, but I need some input. This may be the battle of the the century.


  1. B-Daddy, thanks for the kind words and the links.

    I hate the new U-T layout. Saying their new format is more "focused" is like Spinal Tap saying their shrinking concert crowds had become more "selective".

    I'm torn on the tax proposal. I'm naturally reflexive against any and all tax hikes but can I support one as a good faith compromise towards meaningful reform....?

  2. Dean,
    No you cannot. Here's why. They can take the meaningful steps towards reform without the tax hikes. The ruling class needs to show good faith first. Then I'll start listening, but not until a substantial number of city workers are converted to private contractor and we are off the hook for their pensions.