Cut From the Top
By Willie L. Pelote, Sr.
The recent controversy over the intriguingly high salaries of three public officials in the City of Bell should serve as a template for all budget negotiations throughout the state going forward and into the future.
Every time a budget deficit appears, it is always the lowest paid and most vulnerable citizens who are asked to sacrifice.
The furor over the salaries that public officials in the City of Bell have been paying themselves shows that in all matters regarding city, county, and state budgets, we must cut from the top.
With a population of less than 40,000 residents, the Los Angeles Times recently revealed that Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo drew a paycheck of $787,637 a year, almost twice as much as President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia made $376,288 a year, while Bell Police Chief Randy Adams earned $457,000.
That is $150,000 more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
After the three officials step down, they will receive sizeable pensions.
Rizzo will collect a pension of $600,000 a year, and Adams will collect a pension of $411,300.
The American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) shares the public’s concern over how our tax dollars are being spent, especially in light of the billions given to bail out the financial institutions responsible for our current economic crisis.
With unemployment at 10% nationally and 12% in California alone, the consensus is that government can and should do more to help those who have lost their jobs and homes.
Unfortunately, this pattern of plundering the general fund and siphoning off taxpayer dollars for personal profit has been going on for a long time, and it occurs in many ways.
High administrative salaries are one way.
Outsourcing the work of civil servants and channeling tax subsidies to private businesses are another.
For example, in San Jose the city manager has proposed outsourcing municipal video production services to a private company named CreaTV at the recommendation of a department manager who previously sat on CreaTV’s board of directors, and who will now be tasked with managing San Jose’s video service contract with CreaTV.
This, despite the fact that private contractors generally cost 50 percent more than civil servants.
This same outrageous activity is repeated at the state level, where taxpayers shell out $34 billion a year paying private contractors to perform the same work as civil servants.
These acts of outright theft result in increased poverty and severe reductions in valuable public services such as health care and human services, education, and parks and recreation that a majority of voters support.
In the end, they serve to reduce our first class state to the status of a Third World nation.
We must make sure that our precious taxpayer dollars are spent only on programs that have been shown to advance the common good, and which enrich our commonwealth.
This can be done by ending high administrative salaries and tax subsidies to private businesses and eliminating the practice of contracting out civil service work.
Willie L. Pelote, Sr. is an Assistant Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO. AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.