There are several factors at work here. First of all the voters of Sierra Madre voted themselves a very large Utility Tax hike to cover a Police pay raise in 2008, which is the last time this matter came up. The assumption at City Hall could be that we have remained a soft touch. Secondly, 80% of the current City Council are doctrinaire Los Angeles County Democrats, and as such politicians closely aligned with public employee unions. Therefore not being very likely to take the taxpayer's side on this one.
Plus it seems fairly obvious that the Joe Mosca led Bobblehead Ticket had the support of all our professional public safety organizations in Sierra Madre during the most recent City Council elections. I'm certain those members up for raises now are fully expecting Mosca to reward them for their loyalty.
But can it be that things have changed here? Would the taxpayers be as eager to vote themselves a Utility Tax hike now as they were in April of 2008 with Measure U? Are residents going to want to award the SMPD their second substantial pay raise in 3 years? Along with a substantial improvement in benefits along with a pension package? I'm not that sure.
Local initiative election results from all over California last Tuesday could be an indication that perceptions on the needs of public safety employees have changed.
An article appearing today in the San Jose Mercury News sheds substantial light on this picture. And what can be deduced here is that taxpayers have grown tired of handing over to public safety organizations the kinds of raises and benefits they have in the past.
Here is how the article describes this:
Voters draw line on public safety pay and pensions - Support for police officers and firefighters once seemed boundless to a nation wounded by 9/11. But on Tuesday, voters throughout California declared there is a limit to their loyalty.
In a stinging revolt against six-figure public safety paychecks and pensions, voters in nine out of 10 communities solidly supported measures to limit public employee costs, especially the more generous benefits afforded to police officers and firefighters.
"The luster is definitely off of public safety," said Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a Sacramento-area group pushing for public employee pension reform. "It started with the $100,000 pension club. When you really look at what they are getting at such young ages, that gets people's attention and they start to see where their tax money is going. Voters are rising up and standing up in a big way.
Now to say that the Sierra Madre Police Department is in that $100,000 club would be a bit of a stretch. They certainly are not. But how much of a Utility Tax increase would the voters here be willing to take on this time around, if any? Will the changing mood on public safety pay raises and pensions elsewhere in California also show up here should Mayor Mosca put a Utility Tax hike on the ballot in order to pay for such a thing?
Here is the list of public safety employee defeats in last Tuesday's election:
- San Diego Proposition D: Half-cent sales tax tied to promises of pension reforms.
- San Jose Measure W: Allows city to offer future workers reduced retirement benefits.
- Bakersfield Measure D: Rolls back public safety retirement benefits for new hires.
- Carlsbad Measure G: Limits increases in public safety retirement benefits.
- Redding Measure A: Calls for phasing in employee CalPers contributions.
- Redding Measure B: Calls for 5-year vesting for retiree health care.
- Menlo Park Measure L: Limits retirement for new hires, voter consent to raise.
- Pacific Grove Measure R: Limits city contributions to employee retirement.
- Riverside Measure L: Voter approval to change county public safety retirement.
- Riverside Measure M: Voter approval to raise county public safety retirement.
- San Jose Measure V: Limits arbitration awards to police and firefighters.
- Palo Alto Measure R: Firefighter union measure to prevent staffing cuts failed.
With these kinds of public safety employee setbacks having taken place here in California this week, it certainly does not bode well for Sierra Madre once again voting itself a tax hike in order to accommodate another SMPD raise. No matter how their political allies on the City Council might attempt to sell it.
A blog calling itself Calpensions has an interesting take. Click here.