Another Turn of the Spin Cycle

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My new term of endearment for the city manager is “spinmeister,” worthy of one who publicizes that closing City Hall two Fridays a month will actually result in “expanded public access” by adding 30 minutes to either end of the Monday-Thursday workweek.

I imagine all private employers will soon be jumping on the four-day workweek bandwagon as well, right?  Call it what it is, another unnecessary government give-away approved by the City Council for the exclusive benefit of public employees. How does this benefit our town?  Per the Spinmeister, not only expanded access but climate control and environmental protection too! All City Hall employees will apparently stay home and not drive cars on alternating Fridays.  No doubt there are hardworking people at City Hall, including the Spinmeister, and this letter isn’t a disparagement of any individual employee.  It’s about keeping government accountable to citizens who pay their salaries, and stopping the run away train of government perks and give-aways.

Please, City Council, rescind this approval, even on a trial basis.

The Spinmeister also said the city considered conversion to 401k-style plan, but found it not viable because of “regulations that levy significant financial penalties on” withdrawal.  I’d like to see the factual basis for that conclusion, the real numbers.  It doesn’t go without notice that the non-viable conclusion was found by those who don’t want the generous guaranteed pension status quo changed. If by penalties you mean “transition costs,” that argument has been debunked by more than a few pension scholars.  Although converting and paying down/amortizing the unfunded liabilities of the city’s defined benefits would increase short term payments, much larger savings are produced in the long term, and unfunded pension liabilities would be reduced and eventually eliminated.  The long-term savings far outweighs the short-term pain, and minimizes taxpayer risk going forward. It gets public employees off the government gravy train and allows more funds to be put to use for the citizens and town.

If turnover is the concern, would it not be better to have the best talent work for a few years, than to permanently have workers whose incentive is primarily to maximize their pension payouts? Danville, Orinda and Lafayette have defined contribution 401k-style plans.  I’m sure their taxpayers sleep well at night, and they don’t seem to have any problem recruiting and keeping good workers.

Time for some fact checking. I’ll be back.


Jennifer Zeiter, Laguna Beach

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