Contra Costa Times

Your Turn: Someone needs to be fired
By Craig Peterson
Contra Costa Times, Your Turn
© Copyright 2011, Bay Area News Group


"There is an implied "we" in Gioia's column. And, unless Gioia has a mouse in his pocket, "we" is the county taxpayer." [Actually County property and business owners - Save El Sobrante]

In his April 23 column, Contra Costa supervisor John Gioia says that the county's pension plan is underfunded, and that the county can't afford the $249 million per year in cash contributions necessary to maintain its integrity, which, by law, it must.

There is, according to Gioia, no other alternative than to consider cutting basic services such as fire and police protection, and health care services for children and senior citizens.

In past years, libraries were usually included here, but they've been rendered virtually irrelevant by the Internet.

So here we are, another county strapped for cash, unable to meet its pension plan obligations playing on the fears of its citizens by threatening to suspend basic fire and protective services.

Ever hopeful, Supervisor Gioia says that the opportunity exists to wring a little more out of the county's labor union contracts when they expire in June. Good luck.

In this circumstance, it might seem reasonable that the county's unions would agree to renegotiate the terms of their current contracts and bring them more in line with those of the private sector. It would, it seems, be the right thing to do. But don't bet on it.

Unions exist for the benefit of their union leaders and members, not for their employers, and certainly not for county taxpayers. Supervisor Gioia shouldn't expect much.

There is an implied "we" in Gioia's column. And, unless Gioia has a mouse in his pocket, "we" is the county taxpayer. And it will be the county's taxpayers who foot the bill for this mess. The same taxpayers who, as Gioia points out, have lost 53 percent of the equity in their homes since 2007.

The sad truth is that someone played fast and loose with taxpayers' money. Somebody promised county employees lucrative pensions, far more generous than those in the private sector. Somebody thought property values would never stop rising. Somebody thought their pension fund investments would earn year-over-year results of 8 percent or more, forever. Somebody made promises they could not keep. Somebody needs to go.

Craig Peterson is a resident of San Ramon