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Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Re: Scott Lewis‘ “The Taxpayer Solution,” maybe it’s an age thing, expecting a 30-something editor to have even a little empathy (I’m not asking for sympathy) for the thousands of current and former city employees whose lives – and the lives of their families – will be ruined if the pensions they were promised and planned for are dramatically cut.

Scott Lewis‘ call for a decision is not only the cheap way out, it’s ill-informed. It’s cheap, because let’s face it, “bankruptcy” is the code word for a supposedly convenient way to renege on pledges to those city employees, although the court system may ultimately disagree with that perspective. It’s ill-informed because no one in this town has had the initiative to even ask how much would it cost taxpayers to close the “pension gap.” It’s further ill-informed because even that question is not sufficient to address the many other inconvenient complexities of future investment returns within the pension system, cash flow projections to pay out retirement obligations, etc. You know, all that boring financial management stuff.

What if some enterprising newsperson actually asked these questions and found out that fixing the funding gap would cost each taxpayer the equivalent of, say, a latte a day? What if my hypothetical newsperson turned off the emotion button and flipped on the research switch (and actually talked to some new folks outside the society pages with a little expertise!) and found out that many other public entities are facing the same problem, but in communities that have foregone headlines and instead pledged to fix the problem rather than attack public employees?

Apparently it’s better to foster outrage against the “them” that are city employees. Better to ignore the fact that the city withdrew from Social Security in the early 1980s, leaving many city employees without even Social Security as a backup. Better in our rage to blindly strike out and punish innocent employees rather than just those who are found to have broken the law. Better to take the easy way out and plead bankruptcy in what some would have you believe is an impoverished town, but whose freeways are filled with BMWs.

However, Scott is right in calling for Aguirre to be replaced. Attacking the city’s retirement system by means of a cross complaint only delays a resolution. Aguirre should step aside.

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