Just as there are times that restore one's faith in human nature,
there also are times that make one so sickened that it's hard to
know what to say. Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting fits into
the latter category - an event so revolting I only wish that all
Orange County voters had been there to see and hear it with me.
I don't wish ill stomachs on my readers. But had every Orange Countian
attended the meeting, everyone would know exactly how the county
is run. They would have watched three supervisors - Chairman Tom
Wilson, Bill Campbell and Jim Silva - acting as union shills, granting
dramatic pension increases to government employees, in total disregard
of sound actuarial advice.
And in direct disregard to the interests of taxpayers, who will
have to work longer and harder to pay for the tax increases that
will be necessary once the union's phantasmagorical financial assumptions
are overcome by reality.
Somehow, I doubt Campbell, who once owned a franchise of fast-food
restaurants, was as generous with his company's pension dollars
as he is with the taxpayers' dollars entrusted to his care.
The meeting was a farce.
Campbell's faux-prosecutor shtick played well with the assembled
union crowd, but reminded me of a kid play-acting. Campbell was
carrying water for this pension spike, but needed to burnish his
He made it clear that he thought the increase was a great idea.
But he wanted to look tough and prove he is not the union patsy
his critics say he is. So he pretended to be a prosecutor in a courtroom,
and called up one union official after another to pepper them with
"hard" questions. In reality, the questions were lighter than air,
of the sort a lawyer might ask his star witness.
Campbell demanded to know from one union leader how much support
the plan had within the union. Then he called upon another union
rep and asked the same thing, and then another.
"That's darn near 90 percent," Campbell intoned, to the appreciation
of the smiling union crowd.
In my view, if 90 percent of the union is thrilled, it's a sign
the deal is extremely generous and might not be in the public's
interest. Clearly, the taxpayers' interest did not weigh heavily
on Campbell's mind.
Campbell also peppered the union reps with questions about whether
the plan would cost taxpayers anything. Predictably, one rep after
another said it wouldn't - and that was good enough for Campbell,
who ignored obvious evidence to the contrary. Campbell was trying
to establish that the union would continue paying for the benefit
beyond the contract's length, even though any such concession is
"So, the risk has been shifted to employees," Campbell said at
another point, pretending he had elicited some new and profound
information from the union mouthpiece.
"He's trying to justify something that time won't justify," said
one disgruntled audience member, laughing under his breath at Campbell's
silly tough-guy preening.
Chairman Wilson thanked Campbell for his "quite thorough" questions
and answers. Wilson argued that the Harvard-educated Campbell's
questioning was proof of how tough the supervisors were when they
negotiated with the union.
Actually, they got rolled. The contributions the union will make
to pay for the deal will not pay for the deal if the fanciful financial
assumptions don't hold up. And union promises only last for three
years, whereas the county obligations last for three decades.
This is indefensible, especially given that almost everyone involved
on both sides of the negotiations stands to gain a taxpayer-backed
windfall following implementation. No wonder Wilson offered ad hominem
attacks on critics, including Treasurer John Moorlach, instead of
engaging their arguments.
The three duped supes refused to even support Supervisors Chris
Norby and Chuck Smith's motion to delay the vote for two weeks to
allow more investigation of a plan that will create an immediate
$300 million liability in a system that already is $1 billion short
of fulfilling current obligations.
Silva's behavior was self-serving. He talked about his longtime
opposition to tax increases, conspicuously neglecting his support
for big-government programs that will lead to tax increases or busted
budgets (i.e., the billion-dollar-plus CenterLine light-rail boondoggle,
"3 percent at 50" retirements for public safety unions, the Project
Labor Agreement granting a price-inflating construction monopoly
to labor unions).
At some point, Silva should stop talking about being a conservative
and start voting like one.
I've heard some local Republicans lament that the board, now governed
by a 5-0 Republican majority, will have a Democratic member after
November because the runoff pits Democrat Lou Correa against Democrat
Who cares? How could any Democrat be more union-friendly than Silva,
Campbell or Wilson? We'll at least have truth in advertising when
a Democrat is on the board.
By the way, former Fullerton Mayor Jan Flory, a Democrat, spoke
at the meeting about her city's experiences after adopting a
retirement benefit spike for police officers and firefighters. CalPERS
officials promised that it would be decades before the city could
face any costs due to the increase, she said, but after two years
the pensions were consuming 14 percent of the city's general fund
- and the percentage is climbing higher.
Wilson, Campbell and Silva ignored that real-world warning, preferring
instead the union's rosy projections. I'll take a responsible Democrat
like Flory over these Republican chumps any day.
A few critics of the plan spoke early in the meeting, and then
one union member after another came to the podium and praised the
deal. They had the final say. Few supporters dealt with the financial
specifics. Most, including the union leaders, relied on emotional
All county residents can sleep well at night, said one speaker,
thanks to the sacrifices made by county workers. The union rep for
the district attorneys association told supervisors the reason Orange
County has such a low crime rate is because of his members' hard
work. If they are not given huge pension spikes, they will leave
their jobs and the county will become a cesspool of crime and degeneracy.
I overstate, but not by much.
The room was filled with workers wearing union name-tags. When
the deal was approved, many jumped up and clapped, hugged each other
and gave high-fives. It was like a football game, except that the
public will be paying for the tickets and refreshments.
Supervisor Norby wondered why public employees should be encouraged
to retire at age 55, in their prime, rather than wait until an older
age, as is common in the private sector. He asked other genuinely
tough questions, but was rebuffed by a crowd with dollar signs in
its sights and three union-label Republicans who were thinking more
about their political futures than the public good.
Where's a good recall when you need one?