For anyone still wondering why voters are so skeptical of political promises, look no further than the latest failure to enact reform by the City of San Diego. The San Diego County Taxpayers Association pointed out in a news release issued today that one of the ten reforms taxpayers were led to believe had been enacted prior to the November 2 General Election has not in fact taken place yet at all.
In October, the City Council voted 8-0 to to end the terminal leave benefit program. But the ordinance required a second reading and final vote. This is normally a formality, so the reform was considered checked off the list of ten reforms attached as conditions to Proposition D, the half-cent sales tax measure. Despite its resounding defeat by voters, Mayor Sanders and the City Council said they’d continue to pursue all the reforms on the conditions list.
But in a shocking turn of events (insert sarcasm here), the ordinance was pulled off the City Council docket without explanation at its meeting on November 9, 2010.
Voters were told this benefit had been ended before the election. Not so fast. Who knows when the item will be back on the docket? At worst, it’s got to come up for a vote before the implementation date of July 1, 2011.
Here’s how terminal leave works. Employees who resign or retire can stay on the payroll running out their accrued vacation time instead of getting paid off in cash. This means their benefits keep accruing, because technically speaking they are just “on vacation” until they run out of vacation hours. They keep getting health insurance, paid holidays if they occur during their terminal leave time, and even rack up MORE vacation hours. Plus the extra time is adding to their pension calculation. Consider a city employee with a few months of vacation time on the books. It’s a chunk of change – YOUR change and mine.
This is a sweet little boondoggle that should be a no-brainer to fix for a tidy bit of savings, perhaps $1 million a year according to SDCTA. Not huge, but this falls into the “so simple a caveman could do it” category of cost-cutting. Is there some sort of gameplaying here among union leaders and City Hall? Did someone want to avoid a fight over the issue and punt it until after two new City Councilmembers take office?
Anything I write here is pure speculation, but since no explanation was provided bloggers like me just end up filling in the blanks with whatever we’ve got. And voters do the same, and end up ticked off and believing less and less of what we’re told. The current screaming lack of trust by voters is a direct reflection of episodes like this one. Anybody downtown get that?