Published On: Fri, Jul 6th, 2012

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY OR FISCAL ARMAGEDDON

An old proverb is that everything seems to change but often actually remains the same.

 After being away for the last few weeks and now returning to the on-going controversy raised by Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, an action item requiring a closer look at choices for our elected officials to consider is warranted.

 Mayor Whelchel made the recommendation to bring to the forefront the pension issues being demanded by this vocal citizens’ group, a righteous position.  However, rumor has it that the Mayor is actually the catalyst driving these issues with the firefighters in her crosshairs for their opposition during the last election cycle.  Regardless, the issue is important and, whether for right or wrong reasons, deserves a public hearing and conversation.  So the city manager will do just that at a public hearing on July 10th.  All are welcomed to attend…..

 In researching the pension issues from around the nation, one finds very interesting options, none of which are particularly appealing and all of which are litigious and costly.

What are the options…..

 To begin, there are existing agreements not subject to reopening at this time.  Therefore, from a contract point of view, elected officials have three available options:

 1)       Honor the current contracts and do nothing.  A result not acceptable to the fiscal responsibility group;

2)       Renegotiate the contracts.  However, that will require the unions to agree to voluntarily reopen negotiations, a result that is becoming more and more unlikely; and,

3)       Break the contracts and force litigation that the city will lose and spend a lot of the citizens’ tax dollars in the process.

 None of these are acceptable.  None of these will satisfy all parties concerned. 

 But these are not the only ugly options….

 Looking around the nation at other cities facing similar circumstances, one finds three other processes being used that are equally unacceptable with varying degrees of difficulty and costs. 

 These are as follows:

 1)    Referendum vote of the citizens to force renegotiation.  This is being done in cities like San Diego and San Jose, Ca. with both these municipalities having borne the cost of the referendum process and now having to absorb the cost of litigation to defend the voters’ action.

2)    Bankruptcy, the nuclear option for cities, which allows for local government to set aside contract obligations and enter into new talks under the supervision of a Federal Bankruptcy judge.  This opens up a Pandora’s box on many other issues beyond those raised by Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility and may result in many unintended consequences; and

3)    State receivership, another nuclear option which will take away the decision making powers from our elected officials and places them with a state appointee.  Certainly not an option favored by anyone currently involved in this argument.

 The Band-Aid approach….

 All of these beg the question of how we got here and how we get out of this fiscal mess.  Correcting the mess will take an adult conversation from all parties concerned; recognition that there are not the funds to continue on the current course; and, a realization that ultimately any financial resolution will have to be borne by current and future citizens of Boca Raton.

 So stay tuned, stay in touch with the upcoming action items and stay involved with the decisions of our elected officials.  Representative government is based upon the premise that the collective wisdom of the electorate results in a collective wisdom of the elected who are charged with voting the vote in the collective citizens’ best interest. 

 One can only hope that representative government actually works as designed.   We citizens deserve to have our leaders take on the hard issues.  It is our job to make sure they know how we feel…

 Thank you Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility for suggesting that all Boca citizens tell our elected officials their feelings by phone, by fax, and in person…..

 See you July 10th…..don’t be late….

 Al Zucaro  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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