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L.A. Needs Pension Reform Now

LA has a clear choice in our March election. Continue electing people to prop up a broken budget system or pick someone new who isn't indebted to that broken system.

For far too long, our city has suffered under a secretive, closed culture in our local government– cronyism as some call it.  Well, the results of this system are in. We’re facing a one billion dollar budget shortfall in the next four years.  We also have $10 Billion in unfunded pension liabilities and active major lawsuits against the city, the largest of which (we know about) is $750 million.  Currently, 77% of our general fund goes to salaries and pensions for city employees and that number is expected to reach 100% within five years. 

The biggest piece of this problem comes from the public safety sector – police and firefighters. They can retire at age 50 with 90% of their salary paid out to them each year for the rest of their lives. 

They can even save their sick and vacation time up and cash it all in during their last year of work, count it as salary, and that artificially high number is what we base their pension on. 

Do they deserve it? Yes. Do I blame the police and fire unions? Not at all. This is not the fault of the unions. They did what they are supposed to do: get the best deal possible for their members.

The fault lies with city officials who sought to curry favor with those unions at taxpayer expense, writing checks today that won't be cashed until years after they leave office.

Can we afford it? Definitely not. But our politicians are more frightened of the political backlash they’re going to get from fixing the pension problem than they are of us not voting for them. The result is inaction on a growing unfunded pension liability that will very soon eclipse $10 billion.

So, just what are the answers our city is talking about?  They want to cut services.  Make us pay for sidewalk repairs.  Double the property taxes paid on homes selling above $500,000.  Double the taxes we pay to transfer the title of a house at a time when we are just beginning to see a housing recovery.  Create monopolies for trash collection because I guess companies charge less when they control the entire market, right?

Truth be told, the people in our city hall aren’t our biggest problem.  It’s us. Because we keep electing them, or their chief of staff, or someone who just spent 8 years wrecking havoc in the state assembly and now they’re licking their chops at the sight of LA’s seven billion dollar annual budget.

We have something rare in district 11, an open city council seat in the 2013 elections.  And I believe it’s vital to the success of our families and our local businesses that we cast aside the lifetime political players who brought us to our fiscal knees. 

The great thing is, the choice is  pretty clear.

You can vote for the guy who has closely served two different LA city council members over 20 years time.  He knows where all the back room deals go down and he knows the secret knocks.  Or, you could go for the guy who spent the last 25 years working as a lobbyist.

Then you have me.  I am a teacher, a father to three young girls, and a devoted husband to my wife.  My family has weathered this recession alongside our neighbors and though we’ve definitely seen better financial times, we’re proud to find ourselves in an LA that seems to have rediscovered its embrace of community. 

Over the last four years, I’ve been talking to friends and strangers alike and I’m heartened to find people springing forth in the face of adversity with new answers to painfully old questions and a knack for resourcefulness where we once had resources.  Perhaps we’re a little more humble, but we’ve persevered because of our ingenuity and our reliance on each other.  Those are the people to which I will answer when making the tough choices in city hall and yours is the door on which I will knock to determine what course will be best for our community. 

The families and businesses living and working in the 11th district deserve a new direction.  It’s time to focus on a new voice, one with the freedom to bring deep and long lasting pension reform and kitchen table sanity to our budgetary process. 

This isn't about unions.  I've been in teacher unions and I've actually been in one of LA's civilian unions for the Department of Parks and Recereation.  I have tremendous value for unions.  My wife and I would not have our house without the benefit of strong unions to protect our rights and speak up for us.  Unions are NOT the problem. 

The problem rests in the bad fiscal choices our politicans have made and whether we want to continue electing the champions of a broken pension system that relies on investment return projections that beat Warren Buffet’s best hopes.

I am Odysseus Bostick and I am running for the 11th City Council seat, currently occupied by retiring councilmember Bill Rosendahl.  Join me at www.Bostick4LA.com to build a stronger, financially secure plan for the city that is sustainable and provides our families and our businesses a better city to in which to live and thrive.

 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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