MAYORS, CITY COUNCILS AND UNIONS: THE REALITY FACES US ALL

After yesterday's city council meeting all of us were frustrated and mad as heck. As we stated yesterday, there are many complex parts to the issues at hand.

I may step on a few toes with this blog so bear with me for a moment.

While the City Council could have done a better job with the budget and cut more non-essential programs, their hands were tied where the real money could be found. The money that would have made a difference would be to cut salaries (like all of us in the private sector have done) and reduce some positions (as many in the private sector have done). They could not touch that because of the labor contracts they have in place.

The CATO Institute recently filed this report "State Needs More Flexibility to Deal with Unions" found at http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12171. The report starts off with:

"If you were running a failing business, would you hand out 7 percent pay raises, a two-year "no layoff" guarantee, a pledge to close no branches, and then another round of pay hikes topping 8 percent?

No private-sector business facing bankruptcy would countenance this scenario. Private-sector unions would think twice about making such demands for fear of killing the golden goose. It's another story if you live in Government Land."

As I sat in the City Council Chambers I felt as if I was in Government Land and it was so very different than the real world all of us sit in every day.

We must educate ourselves on these matters and fully understand what we are asking for. This does not give the Mayor or the City Council a pass on this budget. There was a lot of pork still left in it and they know it. However, we will give them a pass on the biggest cuts they could have made.

With that said - We ask the Mayor, the Unions, the City Council and anyone else who has a stake in healing our city, state and country to put aside their personal agendas and get to work to fix this mess. Just because something sounded good a long time ago, doesn't mean we have to fulfill all commitments. If a commitment was bad, we should not keep doing "bad" just because of a contract. The contract will be null and void anyway at some point down the road when it will be impossible to fulfill. It's happening all over the world and to think it will not happen here is to be out of touch with reality.

We appreciate the firemen and the police unions and we LOVE them for sticking their neck for us. We do not want them punished for bad policies of the past and we ask that everyone be willing to have the real conversation about this issue.

There is a train coming and its coming fast. How can the entire citizen body of Jacksonville stand together and keep it from derailing? We are counting on the Mayor, the City Council and the Unions to do their part and keep the train on the tracks without killing the city.

God Save the USA and may the great City of Jacksonville become the Bold New City of the South again.

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Comment by Daniel R. Carr on October 3, 2010 at 6:12pm
"LOOTING" and "PLUNDERING" - perfect descriptions of how our City Council and Mayor are acting.
Comment by Kurt D Wullenweber on October 2, 2010 at 1:36pm
In keeping with his thread, I am going to put in an article from Robert Tracinski, of The Intellectual Activist. This is a great subscription and some of the best money I spend every year:

I would like to wish my readers a happy Atlas Shrugged Day, an unofficial holiday marked on September 2, the date that keeps recurring as a literary device to help the reader keep track of the pacing of the plot in Ayn Rand's epic novel. (It is also, according to legend, the date in 1946 when she began writing it.)

Much of the novel has proved prophetic, and here is one other item: her use of the term "looters" to describe the government officials (and politically connected businessmen) who use government intervention to gorge themselves on unearned wealth.

Today, the excessive—in some cases, unbelievably lavish—pay given to government employees is fast becoming a major political issue. Below, the author of the delightfully named book Plunder! sketches out the full scale of this system of looting.



"How Severe Is US Pension Debt?" Steven Greenhut, Cal Watchdog, August 27

As the economy boomed, few people worried much about the debt that local and state governments were amassing to pay for increasingly generous pension and health-care benefits for public employees. Now that budgets are tight thanks to a down economy, the issue is big news—made even bigger by the outrageous pay and benefit plans received by officials of the small, working class city of Bell, Calif., where the now-ex-city manager stands to receive a pension valued at $30 million....
Even bigger news is the size of the pension debt—estimated in California alone at $500 billion, according to a recent Stanford study. The nationwide debt is more than $3 trillion....

But in recent weeks, I've noticed a counter-offensive from defenders of the status quo, especially from public-sector union officials who are trying to depict public concern as unfair attacks on public employees....

The retirement systems make investments and if the rate of return is high, then the debt is low and vice versa. But increasingly the systems are making riskier investments to cover up for all the enhanced pension promises made over the years. Politicians have repeatedly made the retirement formulas more generous, and often have done so on a retroactive basis. By "enhancing" the formulas mid-stream, the investment funds have additional pressure to take bigger risks, which explains in part why the California Public Employees' Retirement System invested in leveraged housing developments at the height of the housing bubble. If such "roll of the dice" investments pay off, then there's more money for public employees and less political pressure to reform the pension system, and if they don't, the taxpayers are on the hook. It's the ultimate privatization of gain and socialization of risk.

The unfunded liabilities have gotten so large, however, that it appears unlikely that a rebounding economy will provide high-enough rates to cover up the problem....

In the bankrupt city of Vallejo, Calif., approximately 75 percent of the city's budget went to police and fire, which left little room for anything else. Because the union-dominated City Council would not reduce current pensions even in the face of bankruptcy, the city was left with slashed police and fire budgets—even as police captains earned $300,000 compensation packages.... The [Sacramento] Bee...opined: "County government is becoming a pension provider that provides government services on the side."

Public safety and firefighter unions argue that they deserve their "3 percent at 50" (3 percent of their final year's pay times the number of years worked, available at age 50) pensions because they die shortly after retirement—some claim that the typical cop or firefighter only lives five to eight years after retiring. CalPERS has debunked this myth (as has the Oregon retirement system) and finds that the longest living categories of public sector employees are police, followed by firefighters. They live on average into the low- to mid-80s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, neither police nor firefighting are in the top-10 most-dangerous jobs. And the high disability rate is evidence mainly of abuses in the system. The Sacramento Bee reported a few years back that 82 percent of manager level officers in the California Highway Patrol retired on disability—a number that spiked after CHP shut down its fraud division.
Comment by Larry and Cheryl Tobin on October 1, 2010 at 2:47pm
In reply to Gary. . . We canceled the liberal rag of a paper a long time ago. We never eat out, never bought Jaguar tickets and never go to concerts, etc. All we do is work and all they want to do is take more from us. I think we should refuse to pay the property taxes. Stop giving them money and see what they do! We own a small business and also pay "commerical" rates on taxes and electric so we get hit three times as hard! The city destroyed the value of our property a couple of years ago with the rezoning (without telling anyone affected) of the property around the outlying cecil field air strip, then another hit with the downturn in the economy and our property taxes HAVE STILL gone up by hundreds of dollars each year! I've had enough!!
Comment by Kurt D Wullenweber on October 1, 2010 at 2:23pm
I'm a large electric user with a plastics forming company. My electric bills are already more than twice what they were 5 years ago. I watch JEA employees stand around and drive around in OUR trucks and it's not hard to figure out where the money goes.
I've stopped at the local sandwich shop to get a to go order to eat at the shop while I work and then go back more than an hour later to see the same JEA employees still sitting there with their trucks parked out in the lot.
Who is John Galt?
Comment by Gary L Caldwell on October 1, 2010 at 2:04pm
What to do? Cancel the liberal rag of a paper, Florida Times Union; cancel cable especially comcast and get basic dish or direct-tv; reduce youreatingoutto 1 time per week; use city parks and other free services; cancel Jaguar tickets; do not go to any concerts or other presentations at the Veterans Arena ,Florida Theatre or Prime Osborne. In other words, shut off the income from all sources: sales tax, florida forum, jaguars, etc. Lets force the city into bankruptcy. I moved my business off-shore
Comment by Larry and Cheryl Tobin on October 1, 2010 at 8:14am
And now the huge increase in electric, water and sewer rates! I wonder what the bonuses and pay raises at JEA will be this year?! I fear their will soon be riots in Jax! What will it take to make these people understand?
Comment by Larry and Cheryl Tobin on October 1, 2010 at 8:09am
We MUST come up with a way to rein in the government and unions (local, state & federal). As for property taxes and all the "hidden" taxes and fees, we must put immense pressure on the new governor and state legislature as well as the mayor and council, to replace all these taxes with a much simpler tax system that will adequately fund our cities and state (without all the pork and waste). NO ONE should have to lose their property over property taxes alone! We have a lot of work ahead of us!
Comment by Russell C. Snyder on October 1, 2010 at 3:51am
Comment by RCS. Agree, write down the yes votes and replace them. $45,000,000 in a contingency fund and we are saving it for a rainy day. Is it raining? Agree people are ignorant of what their government is doing. It is our money these people are playing with. When you are born with a golden spoon in your mouth and no money worries you can play Mayor and ignore real dollars and real work. He was a sorry mistake and only hope we do better next time.
Comment by jean alexander on September 30, 2010 at 4:11pm
Write down the names of the council members who voted to increase taxes and make sure that when they run for re-election or another office that you make it your business to fight them. This tax and spend attitude has got to go. I wrote them and reminded them that we fought the Jacksonville Journey as being mostly a waste of money and the mayor "found" $8.7 million( just lying around in an old sock apparently) to insure that the program would be in the budget and would be included forever for us to pay for. Funny how they "find" cash when they really want to isn't it?

If people can't take care of their kids and keep them off of the streets perhaps they should use birth control and save everyone a lot of grief. The Jacksonville Journey is mostly about baby-sitting children for parents who can't do it themselves.
Comment by Patricia M. McBride on September 30, 2010 at 2:44pm
The thing is with this sales tax, they put in 3 taxes last year and doubled one this year as well as raising property taxes. These things will not go down. He is just trying to find yet a new tax so they can get more money to spend. If they try this, we must form a unit and write letters to our state reps and say NO do not give them this. This isn't an either or this is both and one more thing they can raise every year for more money. It will drive business out, force people to raise the prices in restaurants and stores, and the combined taxes along with a sales tax, will drive buyers to other surrounding towns and states. Just that simple. It will drive business, businesses, and shoppers away from Jacksonville and lower our already hammered real estate values by making the city even less desireable than these fools have already made it.

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