Of course, that was New Jersey in the 1970s. A much different time and place from California in the year 2012. Today government employment has become something more than the refuge of the unambitious. Instead it is now a place where you might consider going if you wanted to make not only more money, but retire in comfort once you hit the advanced age of, oh let's say, 50?
This from the High Desert Daily Press out there in cosmopolitan Victorville (click here):
Government employee pay soars past average Joe's: Salaries and pension benefits for California state workers grew three times as fast as the per capita personal income of all Californians, according to a new study released by the Center for Government Analysis and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation.
Estimated expenditures to state worker pension systems have increased more than 4 1/2 times, according tot he study that examined state compensation from 2005 to 2010.
"Given the importance of the topic of California's finances, the State's expenditures (and the lack of disclosure regarding them) further erodes public confidence in our State government," said Steven Frates, president of CGA.
(If) the state allowed State worker salaries and benefits to increase at the same rate as the general per capita income rate for the rest of Californians, the State could have saved more than $2.1 billion — enough to increase the number of California teachers by 8.2 percent, adding nearly 25,000 teachers. If the State had kept the State worker workforce from growing, they would have saved even more — nearly $3 billion.
"The findings in this study completely belie the excuses from Sacramento politicians that they need more money in state coffers," said Jon Coupal, Chairman of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation. "A rapidly escalating share of taxpayer dollars that is being spent in Sacramento today is going toward bloated salaries and pensions, not teachers and schools."
Now there are a number of theories as to why this may be. The one I favor is that for our de facto one party state government employees have become the political extension of a power that now controls many aspects of what goes down in California. And in order to maintain employee loyalty, and thereby completing their grip on power, these folks are rewarded with as much taxpayer money as possible. Which I believe is also how they do it in some of the third world republics we used to enjoy looking down our noses at.
In Sierra Madre, a truly mighty microcosm of the forces at play on both state and county levels, the struggle between a city government that clearly believes it is entitled to ever increasing amounts of our money, versus those who wish it would just dry up and blow away, is clearly evident. Our Police union has been quite aggressive in its belief that it is entitled to everything we can cough up, and then some. And three members of our City Council wouldn't dare dream of standing in their way.
The reason being that the party whose support a couple of them will need for their re-election efforts in 2014, which is also the one that has a complete monopoly on power in Los Angeles County, heavily favors government employee unions over the rights of taxpayers. Which means that this pair of encumbered elected officials are very unlikely to do anything but advocate for higher taxes and fees. Done in order to properly reward the SMPOA, our most obstreperous public employee union.
All of which is being done for purposes having a lot more to do with their political fortunes than anything this city needs. The result being that we as taxpayers have never paid so much to receive so very little.
How did the Chamber of Commerce miss out on this one?
I have long believed that Sierra Madre has some unused tourist appeal assets, potential attractions that far outstrip the allure of the World's Largest Flowering Plant, or even Frosty the Snowman. I've written before about Anais Nin, the celebrated 20th century author who lived a large part of her life here in town. Nin, controversial at the time for her bold depictions of female sexuality, sold tens of millions of books and is still taught at universities all over the world. A truly iconic figure in world literature.
Certainly the house where she lived here would be of great interest to those who continue to venerate her works and memory. Bring in some scholarly speakers on her birthday, put up a few downtown banners and rename the day in her honor, and you would have quite an intellectually uplifting and profitable occasion for this little town.
However, that idea was met with the sound of crickets. Perhaps because nobody at the Chamber of Commerce reads very much. Though I am certain they are all quite dedicated to our Library.
There was an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times yesterday that pointed out another potential roadside attraction, one that could bring many happy tourists to our town. Check this out:
"Saw," 'Body Snatchers,' and more: Tour L.A.'s spookiest movie locales: Los Angeles isn’t a city known to be particularly spooky. Sun, sand and movie stars, yes. Scary old castles, not as much.
Nevertheless the City of Angels has hosted plenty of demons in its time. L.A. has been the location for countless horror movies that have managed to take even the most picturesque parts of Southern California and turn them into something sinister.
Lovely downtown Sierra Madre has served as the backdrop for an alien invasion; a historic home in the West Adams district has housed a basement full of cannibals. Even a beautiful Malibu beach has welcomed a coven of witches performing an occult rite.
“Los Angeles is a unique mixture of aging buildings and bizarre natural settings,” said Harry Medved, author of “Hollywood Escapes,” a guide to film locations around Southern California. “Most people who live in Los Angeles don’t really explore Los Angeles, so there are a lot of locales unknown to most Angelenos.”
An array of creatures including the diving-helmeted “Robot Monster” and a giant creature from Venus in “It Conquered the World” have visited the cave at Bronson Canyon, a place that has “something mythical” about it, according to Medved: “Not only was it the Batcave [in the TV series starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter-ego], but it was the place where Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter hide from the pod people in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’”
The fictional California town of Santa Mira, setting of the 1956 paranoia classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was made up of locations from throughout Los Angeles, but the town square in Sierra Madre served as the Santa Mira town center, where the alien invaders went about their business while looking like everyone else.
It is comforting to know that things have not changed all that much in Sierra Madre.
Now that Halloween is almost upon us, maybe we should consider taking a good hard look at recreating the downtown scenes from Invasion of the Body Snatchers for happy trick-or-treaters? Complete with wandering Pod People armed with coupons for Mother Moo? And a continuous all night showing of the film itself at Kersting Court, of course.
I think that, properly publicized, this could become an enormous tourist event for our little town. Perhaps the empty half of Howie's could be turned into a kind of pop-up museum for the occasion? Complete with movie memorabilia and other Sierra Madre products for the out-of-towner set to squander some discretionary income on?
Of course, City fees alone would probably kill it. And how this was not included in the now nearly forgotten Buxton study is beyond me.