A GRAND JURY convened in San Francisco finds that "both unions and politicians are to blame for abusing the system by negotiating extraordinary pension and retirement benefits without considering the unfair burden on future generations."
The worst offenders, in San Francisco and elsewhere, are the public safety organizations, police and firefighters, who regularly practice a technique known as "spiking," giving an officer or firefighter a big promotion just before his or her retirement, so they collect a larger annual retirement benefit than their average annual salary in their last year of service.
The report said more than half of police and firefighters who have retired since 1998 receive a pension worth more than their highest pay.
There are 709 San Francisco City retirees knocking back $100,000 or more a year in city pensions. According to San Francisco Chronicle's Matier & Ross, "That's 229 more than last year. It's also 124 more than for all of Los Angeles — a city with more than four times the population of San Francisco"... the bulk of those appear to be retired police or firefighters."
It's bad enough that 71 city employees in Alameda, a town of some 73,000 people, make over $200,000 per year in salary and benefits, and that several others earn more than $335,000. What will they make when they retire? With numbers like that, it's no wonder that all levels of government are running huge deficits.
How does this come about? Well, until now, secrecy and a lack of transparency helps. But in any bureaucracy, managers tend to hire more employees, because the more people they "supervise," the greater their own salaries. In fat times, the public service agencies tend to negotiate the stunning sweetheart deals we're hearing about only now.
These are YOUR tax dollars, and mine, at work. Those property taxes, sales taxes, real estate transfer taxes, etc. The last Alameda city manager resigned amid rumors that she refused to interrupt the gravy train by laying off city employees. But not before she received a massive severance fee for herself.
What can we do about all this? Well, we can raise hell, protest, and mount another taxpayer revolt like the one that brought Prop. 13 into being. But this time, we will outlaw parcel taxes, and other "add-ons" approved by voters who are kept in the dark about where all those new layers of taxation are actually going.
I am not a paid lobbyist, but the citizen kind, and so is every one of you reading this piece. The only way we the people will have any power at all is if we insist that we have a voice and that the politicians we elect don't return the favor with a chain saw to our pocketbooks.
So before you vote in favor of increased staffing for the firefighters, ask their union leaders, and also the police union, what their retirement system record in Alameda is.
Dennis Green is a resident of Alameda.