That last post didn’t please Scott Peters much. His spokeswoman Pam Hardy called. She said Peters has been as opposed to spending money on attorneys as anyone in city government.

She said Peters was the “loudest opponent” of using outside attorneys to represent city officials charged in pension litigation – the city attorney should have represented them.

“Every dollar that’s spent on outside attorneys is a dollar not spent on vital city services,” she said.

She said the city doesn’t feel it violated the law by underfunding its pension system and that’s why it wants to fight the McGuigan case.

McGuigan, of course, and his attorney Mike Conger argue the city should pay back what it shorted its pension system since 1996. Let’s remember, nobody denies that the city failed to invest in its pension system at the rate it should have since that year. McGuigan and Conger say it’s time to make things right.

The only problem with that, I argued yesterday, was that if successful, Conger would get a chunk of that settlement. He may be a great guy and all, but the city shouldn’t be in a position of giving him any money – especially the millions that he may get.

I said yesterday that the city – namely people like Scott Peters – should have just paid back the $175 million it owes its pension system so that McGuigan wouldn’t have had a case and Conger couldn’t take a chunk of the settlement.

But Hardy said the city simply can’t afford to pay $175 million into its pension system. That kind of payment would cause too many cuts to city services, too much pain. That would be money taken away from the police budget, the parks budget and all the other services we care about.

My argument is simple: That’s exactly right. It would be a lot of pain. That’s why Peters and others shouldn’t have approved the pension benefits the city couldn’t afford. And if city officials can’t raise enough taxes or sell enough land to pay back their debts, then I don’t see how they can say the city is anything but broke.

And my point below was that it doesn’t matter if they can find a way around it for now, they’re likely to lose McGuigan and it’s not just because City Attorney Mike Aguirre is in this bizarre position where he’s arguing against himself. It’s because the city underfunded its pension system.

Then I argued that we shouldn’t spend more money fighting that. It’s a waste. We should focus on making right the wrongs of the past with more taxes, a big real estate auction or massive service cuts. If we can’t, then we have to do what people do when they can’t pay for their dumb mistakes.

They declare bankruptcy.

“I guess we just disagree,” Hardy said.


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