Thursday, January 3, 2013

Council Members: Take Responsibility for Past Actions

Published as a letter to the editor in the Crescenta Valley Weekly -

[Glendale City] Councilman Ara Najarian recently said the following: “As the city budget reaches its limit, the community many times steps in and helps with many of these programs.” In the past, former mayor Laura Freidman (April 2011-April 2012) expressed those same words. Both of these council members are very proud the city has so many volunteer organizations to “pick-up the slack” of previous expected city services.

We respect the daily service performed by our fire, police and general employees of the city. However, where is the “responsibility” from council members when they receive thousands of dollars in campaign money from the city unions and then approve salaries and pensions in the millions of dollars that are both unfunded and unsustainable?

“At some point, we’ll have more retirees than active (employees),” said Bob Elliot, finance director. What was not mentioned in [newspaper] articles was the following: besides pension spiking at retirement by safety personnel, their contracts call for an annual automatic gift from the taxpayers of a 5% Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) regardless of the economy.

According to the Social Security Administration, since 1998 social security recipients have averaged a 2.46% annual COLA and in 2009 and 2010 received no COLA from the congress of the United States.

In July 2008, council approved the city budget and over $8 million in pay raises for city employees. In December 2008, City Manager Jim Starbird said the budget was not balanced and slashed $10 million in city expenses. But why did city employees never have to give back their pay and benefits that year?

It seems we have council members who do not want to take responsibility for their past actions. Councilman Ara Najarian once said, “What’s done is done.”  Councilwoman Laura Freidman said Social Security was only meant to keep people (general public) from “abject poverty” but she and her colleagues have had no problems in approving millions of dollars in city employee pensions.

Where is the shame and disgrace to put city employees’ benefits before the needs of the public served by the city council?

Mike Mohill

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