Fools and money are soon parted

Founding Father Ben Franklin said, “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while legislature is in session.” He recognized the threat of special interests and the self-serving nature of man. In his world the individual was responsible for protecting their rights. Franklin knew a public that fell asleep to the policies of elected officials would wake up and find they’d been robbed through mismanagement and malfeasance.
Across the state we are seeing the fallout from years of public complacency. We fell asleep. We relied on others to do what we should have done ourselves. Residents of Bell discovered the criminal actions of their officials too late. The state teeters on the brink of bankruptcy with a $26 billion deficit. San Diego may have a deficit of $130 million, twice the figure officials had previously disclosed.
In Oceanside groups warn that over the last five years pension costs have increased 40 percent while the money collected to pay those costs has risen only 17 percent. The SD County Taxpayers issued a report that North County cities should adopt lower pension benefits for new hires to pay for critical services without raising taxes. Only Carlsbad and Solana Beach have created two-tiered pension systems.
The Encinitas Taxpayers Association, or ETA, speaks up for responsible policy, exposing fiscal mismanagement and ranking council candidates. ETA warned against the pay package approved by the council in 2005 giving a 35 percent benefit increase to city workers. The council ignored ETA warnings claiming the city was on solid footing.
A year later, Mayor Bond and Deputy Mayor Stocks said the city was unable to pay for priority projects. Their solution was to bypass voters and approve more debt thru a $20 million lease revenue bond sticking taxpayers with the bill for their mismanagement. Then Councilman Dan Dalager said, “I am not a credit card kind of person” just before he voted to put another $20 million on the taxpayer Visa Card. ETA gave Dalager a D grade in the last election. Stocks and Bond supported Dalager. Last month the defeated Dalager pleaded guilty to the DA.
Recently ETA secured release of the city’s road improvement report. The report had been kept from the public through City Manager Phil Cotton’s use of a questionable tactic labeling the report a “draft.” Stocks and Bond gave Cotton an unearned extra paycheck allowing Cotton to spike his pension. The report showed the city’s road program is underfunded.
Elsewhere seniors lost shuttle services due to a lack of funding, city programs have increased fees and some families are paying more for bus service to get kids to school. The library was $11.8 million over budget and the purchase of the $9 million “turnkey” public works building ran $3.5 million over budget prompting Mayor Bond to say, “Now I guess we are in somewhat of a situation of buyer’s remorse.” Bond and his remorse got off easy. It is the taxpayers who are stuck with the bill.
Even with the $20 million bond the city doesn’t have the money to complete other approved projects like the Hall Property Sports Complex. The council’s use of the $20 million to plug holes in the budget is like the “in-over-his-head homeowner” who takes out a second mortgage to pay the first mortgage he can’t afford digging himself a deeper hole from which he can’t escape.
My dad says there is no free lunch. Franklin risked all and many of our Founding Fathers paid for our liberty with their lives. I’m pretty lucky that my involvement in paying the liberty price can be as simple as signing up at the encinitastaxpayers.org website to get free updates of city policies, attending a few meetings like the Citizens Initiative Project shown below and voting for City Council every two years.
Don’t play the role of the fool. Together we can educate Mayor Bond, Deputy Mayor Stocks and other elected officials to the first rule of financial holes. Stop digging.
The Citizens Initiative Workshop is at 5 p.m. March 21 at the San Diego Credit Union, 501 N. El Camino Real Encinitas to discuss pension reform, open government and fiscal management. All are welcome. Visit encinitastaxpayers.org for more information.
Contact Andrew Audet at aaudet@coastnewsgroup.com.

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