Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hermosa Beach Public Safety Unions (False) Alarm

The police and firefighters' unions in Hermosa Beach have issued a joint-statement criticizing city leaders for promoting a 27% cut to the employee salaries and benefits.

 The unions have framed their opposition in terms of the negative impact that these cuts will have on the community. Of course, public safety officers must place the well-being of their cities ahead of their own interests, or why would they be serving the city in the first place?

 Police and fire offer a crucial service -- public safety is central to the well-being of a municipality, the key element which determines whether a family settles in the area and whether businesses decide to invest or expand their operations in a community. A high crime rate and poor response time would understandably discourage anyone from setting up home and court anywhere.

 Reading over the claimed concerns over cuts in salary and benefits, one cannot help but think that the police and fire unions are engaging in some slippery-slop thinking:

If the city imposes its proposed cuts this year, Hermosa Beach would have the lowest overall compensation for police officers.

 The unions did not offer any comparison. Were they inferring the surrounding base pay in the Beach Cities, the entire country, or even the state?

 That might mean veteran officers would apply elsewhere, leaving inexperienced officers as the main applicants for jobs.

 This specious argument does not take into consideration that experienced police officers have been laid off in other cities throughout the state, including Chula Vista and San Jose, as well as Maywood and Bell and other harder-hit municipalities.  Chances are that there are plenty of experienced officers who would welcome the opportunity to work in the South Bay.

As a result, union leaders believe Los Angeles County would eventually have to take over emergency services in the city.

Would this really be so bad? Contracting out services would save more money for the city. Perhaps the city council will have no choice but to force the issue with the unions, which have taken their case to the voters, further politicizing the negotiations.

 Mayor Duclos was pertinent without being petty:
The City of Hermosa Beach values its employees and their said views, but the intent of this document [the unions' joint statement] is to provoke rather than be fair and factual. We will not conduct labor negotiations through the media.

 The union sent a small mailer to homes with its position, and said another is in the works.

 This is scandalous. I am now more convinced than ever that the power of public sector unions must be curbed. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did not have the forwardness to take on the public safety unions along with the other public sector works. Ohio Governor John Kasich enacted sweeping reforms to all public sector unions, and the result was a ballot initiative which rescinded all of the governor's efforts to curb public sector unions' collective bargaining rights. Walker was pragmatic and cautious, and he achieved noticeable decreases in government spending, closed the state's budget gap, and kept his promise not to raise taxes. However, after years of trading and discussing the terms and costs of legacy payments, perhaps Hermosa Beach will be the government to take on the public safety unions and assert that everyone has to pay a price in these difficult times, even the peace officers who give their lives in the service of their communities.

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