For readers of my (now seriously outdated) Newportbeachvoices blog, you should recognize that headline.
During the four-year life of that blog, there are two topics that I constantly harped and complained about. How many hundreds of millions we were going to borrow for the new White Elephant/Taj Mahal/City Hall/Civic Center, and Newport Beach’s Fire and Police Unions (and their Pension Liabilities).
If you’ve been paying attention to our Costa Mesa neighbors’ City Council race there is a major battle brewing.
It’s not between Republican Party-Endorsed Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer and Republican Party-Endorsed Incumbent Wendy Leece. No, that’ll happen later.
It’s not between the “Pot Lady” and the Math Teacher.
It’s between Costa Mesa’s Police Union and the aforementioned Righeimer.
You got it; an entity of City Employees, most of whom don’t live in Costa Mesa, has “Gone Nuclear” on a Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate.
Why? Primarily because that candidate has already promised that Business will not be as usual when dealing with the Unions. The checkbooks will be closed, the well has run dry, the store is closed, and any other goofy cliché you want to put in there.
But this Union/Pension battle isn’t new news. Just Google “Pension Liability” and you will see.
In 2008, with over 74 percent of its operating budget going towards Police and Fire salaries, overtime, and Pension Obligations, the City of Vallejo had to declare bankruptcy.
The City of San Diego, with almost $2.2 Billion in unfunded Pension Liabilities is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, as is the City of Atlanta, with their $1.5 Billion in unfunded Pension Liabilities.
In Newport Beach, our situation is not nearly that dire, but still bleak.
According to Newport Beach City Council candidate Ed Reno’s recent column, almost 70 percent of Newport Beach’s $148 million general fund budget goes to our public employees, their salaries and benefits included. Newport Beach’s unfunded Pension Liability sits in the $40 million dollar range.
How does this happen? Why does the City owe soo much? Is it the Unions’ fault?
The Police and Fire Unions ask for as much as they can. The highest paid in the County, the best benefits, and the most generous Pensions after they retire. They inject themselves in the City Council Elections to get the most Union-Friendly Councilmembers.
It’s up to those Councilmembers to say no. But do they?
The better question is How Could They?
Consider this: In the 2006 Newport Beach elections, the Police and Fire Unions spent a total of $31,807.65 in support of their Endorsed Candidates, spending more than half of what the CANDIDATES themselves put up in that Election Year.
In 2008, the Police and Fire Unions spent $19,045.21 in support of their two candidates.
So, in two elections, the Newport Beach Police and Fire Unions spent $50,852.86 to build, shape, and help elect, all Seven of the current members of our Newport Beach City Council.
A UNION-Friendly City Council.
A UNION-Friendly City Council that talks tough and “Forced” the Firefighters and Lifeguards to “forgo” their 3.5 percent raise, instead having that money go towards their Pensions, which means the City picks up the other 96.5 percent.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your employer funded 96.5 percent of your 401k, while you only had to contribute 3.5 percent?
Oh wait, I’m self-employed, divorced, with 3½-year-old triplets. I have no pension. My only hope for a Union-like retirement are if my son plays shortstop for the Yankees…but that’s another story…
So, what am I getting at? Not sure…
But what I do know is that I’m not going to vote for anyone who the Police and Fire Unions donate money to, walk precincts for, send out mailers for, or ENDORSE.
How else will we afford the $120-$140 million dollar loan on the City Hall/Civic Center/White Elephant/Taj Mahal?