Claremont Insider: Mailbag

Thursday, February 17, 2011


We received this note in response to our post from a couple days ago regarding the Claremont Police Officers Association and their preparations for contract negotiations with the City (to be filed under "Prepping the Battlefield"):

DATE: Wed, February 16, 2011 1:26:41 PM
SUBJECT: "crime scenes"
Claremont Buzz

Really smart post -- nice work connecting the dots, and a pleasure to see. I like Dieter Dammeier, and think highly of Claremont cops, and still thought you righteously nailed them to the wall on this one.

Yes, it's unfortunate that the CPD officers give residents the false choice of having to either support their contract demands or else fear for their collective safety. We don't doubt that our police work hard for their money, but let's face it, a Claremont officer doesn't face nearly the same daily challenges as, say, an officer working the LAPD's South Bureau. The CPOA needs to set aside its own selfish interests and start thinking about what sacrifices they can make rather than insisting that everyone else - their fellow non-safety employees, people who count on services provided by the City, and cash-strapped taxpayers - pay for the CPOA's every demand.

Driven by an Inland Empire unemployment rate of 13.9%, public sentiment is lurching away from support for the CPD officers refusal to pay their share of their CalPERS pension plans. Witness the Daily Bulletin's editorial on just this subject. The Bulletin noted that Claremont's Ad Hoc Committee on Economic Sustainability came to the conclusion that the status quo for the City's budget is no longer viable.

That committee report, which was released last week, recommended a 1.5% hike in the City's Utility Users Tax, from the present 5.5% to 7%. The report also called for all city employees, including police officers, to start picking up their share of the costs of their pensions. The Bulletin agreed that the employees need to pay their fair pension shares, but they disagreed with the committee's proposal to increase the utility tax:

We admire the committee's thoroughness, looking at all sorts of possible tax and fee hikes before settling on the utility users tax as the most feasible and effective. But we do not favor raising the tax in this economic climate, nor did the three council candidates we have endorsed - Sam Pedroza, Opanyi Nasiali and Jay Pocock. We doubt that voters would approve the hike.

Nasiali, one of nine members of the economic sustainability committee, was the only one to oppose any utility tax hike. He was one of two who wanted employees to pay their own share of pension costs as quickly as possible, rather than phasing the change in over four years as the majority favored. (The employee share for public safety employees is 9percent of salary, for other employees 8percent.)

Requiring employees to pay their share ASAP - or perhaps, to reduce the discomfort somewhat by requiring them to pay 4percent in 2012-13 and the full amount from the next year on - is a reasonable course of action. (Glendora has imposed such a change on its employees; Claremont sanitation workers have already agreed to pay their own full amount.)

Government agencies started picking up employees' share of pension obligations as well as paying their own employer share when times were good - but times are no longer good and, besides, such largesse never was sustainable in the long term. Better for employees to pay that share than for mounting pension costs to require more and more layoffs and reductions in service over the years.

There are two items worth noting here. First, according to the Bulletin, incumbent Sam Pedroza is opposed to a utility tax hike. So it seems unfair and hypocritical to us that Pedroza supporters, some of whom are working behind the scenes to elect a slate consisting of Pedroza, Robin Haulman, and Joseph Lyons, are lambasting Nasiali and Pocock for being similarly opposed to raising the utility tax. Second, the same Pedroza-Haulman-Lyons supporters are spreading false rumors that Nasiali wants take away employee pensions. As the Bulletin piece stated, Nasiali is simply advocating that employees pick up the eight- or nine-percent that they are supposed to be paying in the first place. And, by the way, the city would continue to pick up its share of the employee pension payments.

So any talk of a wholesale elimination of the pensions is a lie, and we urge readers to get the name of any campaign volunteer who makes such statements, along with the name of the candidate they're working for. Better yet, ask for them to commit such statements to paper or to a recording, and forward those to us for a future post.

With election day only a few weeks away, the gloves are coming off those Claremont 400 fists, and it's up to the rest of us to hold them accountable for their silly games.