Politics At Ten Paces?

The Libertarian Lass, Gayle Falkenthal The Libertarian Lass, Gayle Falkenthal 15 Comments


People have told me several times recently how dismayed they are at a growing lack of civility in political discourse. They’ve said to me that it’s never seemed as bad as it is now.

This is my cue to remind them that 206 years ago in 1804, sitting Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr shot and killed former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in an honest-to-goodness duel with real guns over political insults which included Hamilton calling Burr “despicable” and too dangerous to be fit for office.  Let’s picture for a second Joe Biden shooting Timothy Geithner. Or perhaps more entertaining, Dick Cheney taking out Henry Paulson.

So I’m not buying it. But an episode Tuesday night proves there’s always an exception. I ran across a discussion between San Diego County Taxpayers Association President Lani Lutar and San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez on Lani’s Facebook page.  Earlier, an SDCTA staff member spoke in favor of a pension reform proposal before the city council in National City. After the meeting, this young woman was followed to her car and threatened by public employees angry about having their benefits reduced.  She reported it to her boss, Lani.  Lani expressed her outrage about the incident. Lorena posted a response that in essence said, “hey, what do you expect?” The exchange got heated enough that Lorena deleted her original post, apparently having thought the better of it. But Lani re-posted it herself.

People feeling the ground shift under their feet when the facts no longer support their position feel threatened and frustrated and are tempted to lash out. I get that. But people who are completely secure in the rightness of any belief don’t ever feel threatened. They don’t ever feel the need to go after someone personally, much less professionally. They simply make their case and find new ways to communicate the reasons why their position is the superior one.

Those who get angry and frustrated show their hand. They know they’re going down to defeat and it’s only a matter of time. But there is never any justification for threats. NONE. Whatever side you’re on, no matter what issue, sincere political activists need to call out those who engage in this behavior and condemn them. Their leaders need to rein them in fast or risk serious damage to their cause and their reputation. They end up doing themselves more harm that any of their so-called “enemies.”

The free and respectful exchange of ideas, negotiation and compromise are what lead to real solutions that everyone can live with. The late Wendell Cutting, former staff member to Congressman Duncan Hunter and an elected mayor and community college board member, was fond of saying “Good people can disagree without being disagreeable.” Perhaps having terminal cancer and outliving your fatal diagnosis for years longer than anyone expected has a way of making you focus on what’s important, and what’s right. Those are words to live by.

NOTE: You can read the dialogue here and judge for yourself.


Comments 15

  1. Good stuff! I like your writing style, and “Good people can disagree without being disagreeable.” =D

    Even on SD Rostra, I’ve seen people make compelling arguments in their comments, and then the response comments would be “oh, did you get that off the campaign site?” or “You’re just a political hack, use your real name!” without ever addressing the actual argument. >.>

    I guess it’s hard for some people to honestly and rationally debate on an issue or come to a compromise, especially when self-interest / an agenda / a ton of money is involved.

  2. Tom, you make a good point. With Lani Lutar’s permission, below is the excerpt from her Facebook page including the original response from Lorena Gonzalez that set things off::

    LANI LUTAR wrote: “I’m reposting Lorena’s public comment on my (Facebook) wall because the above four posts don’t make any sense without context and she is the President & CEO of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council. Her perspective on the matter is important.

    QUOTE: “These are real people who were promised a secure retirement and planned their lives based on those promises. I dont condone violence, ever, but it sounds like these were just workers who are frustrated that your staff spoke about them like they were numbers and not people. Real people, with real emotions. Despite the rhetoric, most rank and file workers DO not have outrageous benefits.” (Lorena Gonzalez)

    Note that after Gonzalez posted her comment and started getting heat for it, she deleted it. Lutar republished it. The exchange continued offline between Lutar and Gonzalez. Apparently it was ugly. The rest of the public comments are from the Facebook gallery.

  3. I appreciate the call for professional behavior on behalf of the public employees. At the same time the SDCTA is nothing more than a special interest group making a money grab. In the 90’s Pete Wilson tried to undermine the fiscal health of CalPERS and it took a ballot measure to stop the thievery. Now the SDCTA thinks they have the answers to California budget crisis through “pension reform”. I trust them less than I trusted Pete Wilson in the 90’s. Consider two points.
    Let me premise this by saying I can only speak from a firefighters perspective.
    The City of Carlsbad just imposed a two tiered retirement plan on firefighters. New firefighters will now be required to work 45 years to reach full retirement. That means a firefighter who gets hired at 30 years old will have to work until they are 75 years old to reach full retirement. That means 65 to 75 year old firefighters will be responding to your homes to fight fire, rescue family members or hiking up the hills of our community to put out brush fires. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want 65 year old firefighters trying to rescue my family. I want the young healthy firefighters responding to my emergency.
    Second point, the deficit that CalPERS is publishing is a paper deficit that will correct when their investments become profitable again in a few years. In the 90’s CalPERS was so heathy that many local gvt’s were not required to contribute their portion. This is the period of time that Pete Wilson was going for the money grab. The cycle will swing again and it will be too late because special interests like SDCTA will have encouraged underfunding of the CalPERS program. Public Employees know this and are encouraging people to settle down and wait until the economy becomes healthy again before making rash decisions.
    I think that if I entered a room of entrepreneurs and said “I think your retirement portfolios are too lucrative. My friends and I think your that retirement portfolio profits should be cut by 30%”. I guessing that there would be some upset people in the room. Those people might even follow me into the parking lot to give me a more personal perspective of what they thought of me and my ideas.
    One final point. Shouldn’t the SDCTA know that public employees are the best tax payers around. We all are paying our taxes and contribute to the big picture. All of this while greater than 40% of the population pays little or no income tax. The SDCTA should be looking for ways to get everyone paying taxes and reducing the burden on the people actually making our economy move forward.

  4. I can see where you’re coming from Andy, the ‘people’ side of things should also be taken in to account. I think Firefighters and Law Enforcement personnel should be given solid benefits, they make sacrifices and put their lives on the line similar to our military personnel. (45 years to retire as a firefighter sounds pretty ridiculous to me, compared to 20 years in the military.)

    But if you’re working for a less physically demanding government agency, such as the DMV (no offense to anyone reading this who works there) 45 years to retire could be somewhat more reasonable?

    Also, I think that even with a bad economy, the CalPERS program shouldn’t be in this much of a mess, that the government has to put additional money in to it. The program will benefit from some reform, at least in how they invest funds. (Investing in Enron back in 2001, for example. bad!) It’s not dissimilar to us bailing out GM, for failing as a company.

    CalPERS has billions of dollars to invest with, and with proper investments (unless the economy completely collapses) they should never have to ask the government to bail them out and assist with funding retirement plans. I think the same should go for our city pensions. Pension reform does not necessarily = Pension cuts.

    I would like Pension Reform to = holding the people in charge of pensions more accountable, to make sure they don’t risk people’s livelihood to make a profit or realize a political agenda.

  5. Timing, as they say, is everything. Just got this press release from SDCTA…

    Pension Reform Efforts Add Up to Real Savings for Taxpayers

    Carlsbad and National City the latest to rein in costs, preserving services and saving tax dollars

    The cities of Carlsbad and National City are the latest in San Diego County to take steps to bring employee pension costs under control.

    As a result of Tuesday’s meetings, two National City labor groups will increase their pension contributions. The Carlsbad City Council also approved an increase in pension contributions by firefighters, and imposed reduced pension benefits on firefighters hired after October 4, 2010. Representatives from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association testified in favor of these reforms at both council meetings, and the Association applauds the cities that have made efforts to rein in pension costs.

    The San Diego County Taxpayers association conservatively estimates a total of at least $5.65 million in savings to taxpayers from pension reform efforts County-wide since July 2009:

    In addition to Tuesday’s decision, the City of National City has reduced benefits for new police officers and requires all police employees to contribute toward their retirement. Previously they contributed nothing.

    The City of El Cajon will require both nonsafety employees and police management employees to contribute toward their retirement starting in July 2010. Previously, employees contributed nothing. The City of El Cajon has also reduced benefits for new police management hires.

    The City of Escondido now requires firefighters to contribute a share toward their pensions. Previously, firefighters contributed nothing.

    City of Imperial Beach non-safety employees now share in increased pension costs.

    City of La Mesa employees now contribute their full fair and required share toward their pension benefits. Previously, employees contributed nothing.Oceanside City Councilmembers and their staff now fully contribute toward their retirement, and members of the Western Council of Engineers labor union contribute more toward their pensions than in the past.

    The City of Poway has saved taxpayers nearly $2 million by paying off their pension liability early.

    The City of Santee now requires all employees to contribute toward their pensions. Their previous contribution: zero.

    In June 2009, SDCTA issued formal pension reform recommendations for the 17 cities in the County of San Diego participating in the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), and it enthusiastically supports the actions taken by these cities over the past year since its recommendations were published.

    “These modest, sensible measures make a huge difference to the taxpayers,” said Lani Lutar, SDCTA President & CEO. “Asking employees to contribute a small, reasonable amount to their own pensions along with trimming some benefits adds up. The savings can then be invested in services such as improved public safety protection, infrastructure repair and maintenance, and keeping libraries and parks open longer hours – all without raising taxes to do so.”

    “The San Diego County Taxpayers Association commends all of the elected officials and city management staff who have shown leadership in recognizing a need to make these changes. It’s smart fiscal management and we hope to see more of it in the future,” added Lutar.

    A copy of SDCTA’s pension reform recommendations and regional pension study can be downloaded at http://www.sdcta.org.

    The San Diego County Taxpayers Association is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to promoting accountable, cost-effective and efficient government and opposing unnecessary new taxes and fees. Founded in 1945, SDCTA has spent the past 65 years saving the region’s taxpayers millions of dollars, as well as generating information to help educate the public.

    # # #

  6. I completely agree with AJ.
    Mr Thor’s Assistant, You are incorrect when you say employee’s have paid nothing. Public employee’s contract with their employer to have the employer pay the fixed PERS contribution in exchange for a lower salary. I reality they are paying their portion because it’s part of their negotiated “total compensation”. For example, L.A.Country Firefighters earn nearly 30% more in salary than San Diego Firefighters. The difference is that the L.A. County Firefighters pay their own health insurance, dental insurance and retirement contributions from the extra 30%.

  7. There is a reason why you get over 100,000 hits when you Google the term “union thug,” sounds like they are living up to their reputation.

    These are people who are so childish that they require employers on constructions sites to have multiple entrances because the union workers try to physically intimidate non-union workers and therefore union and non-union construction workers have seperate entrances on many sites.

    Seriously, what possible explanation can a union goon (only 18,000 hits on Google for “union goon”) give for this sort of behavior?

  8. Didn’t “say” it…simply posted the press release that we had just rc’d. I have edited the comment to make that clear.

  9. Post

    Andy, don’t make the mistake of repeating unsubstantiated myths about public sector salaries lagging behind private sector salaries. The facts show it’s simply not true. This report posted a week ago by The Reason Foundation offers superb information about the realities of the current public sector vs. private industry job market: http://reason.org/news/show/public-sector-private-sector-salary

    What simple numbers don’t capture is the pervasive sense of job entitlement among so many public sector employees. I can’t fathom the sort of thinking behind the belief that anyone “owes” you a job. No one “owes” anyone a job. No one “owes” anyone a raise, either.

  10. Wow Gail. Really!?! I didn’t say anything you said I said. I especially never said anyone owes me a job. Now I recall why I don’t typically bother trying to share my perspective in this type of forum.

  11. Post

    Andy, I didn’t mean to imply that YOU as an individual feel this way. The use of the word “you” is the third party plural (as in “you people” which is now considered insulting, rude, and sometimes racist). Isn’t the English language tricky?

    I clearly state that “many” public sector employees believe this, not “all.” So only you know whether this may apply to you. I had no way of knowing and wouldn’t assume so. In this case you’ve asserted “not” which I applaud. Public safety employees must qualify for their jobs in a way most nonsafety public employee colleagues generally do not, so you understand a merit-based employment system. Therefore, let the Rostra record reflect you don’t fall in the unfortunate “I’m entitled because I breathe!” category.

    One last hint: you get more props when you spell the columnist’s name correctly.

  12. I believe what Gayle was communicating — not using the direct “you” — was “I can’t fathom the sort of thinking behind the belief that anyone owes anyone else a job.”

  13. If it did happen in this day and age…I got my money on Cheney to win. He’s already proven he’ll shoot a guy. And a head shot no less!

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