I like Pat Shea, even though he is often critical of me. But I can’t afford to hang out only with people who never criticize me, since I would be alone. So I could have a couple beers with Pat and really enjoy the conversation. He is really smart, funny, engaging and articulate. He’s a friend of the president of the United States. I’m guessing that after an enviable career in business and law, he’s put some money in the bank.
Pat Shea will just not let go of this bankruptcy idea. In the blog, he blames the elected officials, our most widely distributed daily newspaper and the powerful municipal union organizations for the idea not catching fire. But how did a quality guy like Pat run for mayor and get 2 percent of the vote? Because his plan was for the City to declare bankruptcy. In his only concession to politics, he always called it “Chapter 9,” but people caught on pretty fast.
It’s the public, Pat. San Diegans, being conservative, believe in principle that the city should pay its bills. They also haven’t seen the other cities and counties with enormous pension and health care deficits running across the street to bankruptcy court yelling “make it stop!” And Orange County, which went through bankruptcy a decade ago or so has a pension deficit today of $2.3 billion. Apparently bankruptcy wasn’t a cure.
Ultimately, the answer is just boring. Pay the full bill from the pension system (we are). Get the employees to devote more of their paychecks to the cost of their benefits (we did). Don’t give huge benefit increases (we won’t). And consider whether to issue pension debt, like San Diego County and other governments have, to pay down the deficit. Mayor Sanders will bring us that proposal in the fall.