Problems and Solutions
I am a firm believer that if there is no problem, there is no need for a law and when there is a problem, the law or the solution should be designed to address the problem. When it was proposed to pass a law requiring that all residents contract for trash pick up, I voted in opposition to that proposal because it has never been the law and never been a problem and so I believed that no law was needed. A majority agreed and the law did not pass.
Recently there have been a few problems at our Dog Park. Most of those problems seem to stem from a lack of responsibility on the part of a few people who use the Park. In response, there was a proposal to make what had been a rule, the “three-dog limit”, into a law punishable as a civil misdemeanor. My problem with the law was not that there was not a problem with some people at the Dog Park, but that the law did not really address the problem and that in practicality it was not readily enforceable.
Despite the fact that my criticism of the proposed law was agreed with by a majority, I was the only one who did not vote in favor of the law and so it passed. What I have suggested that we do instead was that Foster City residents obtain a low cost license for each of their dogs that use the Dog Park and any problems could easily be handled by revoking the license. Anyone who did not have a license could be removed from the Park and, if appropriate, fined. I think that is a much better solution than the three-dog rule because it actually addresses the problem and provides an easily enforceable solution without punishing someone who for legitimate reasons brings more than three dogs to the dog park and actively supervises them.
Pension reform is a national hot button issue, with some states actually disbanding municipal unions to deal with it. While I do agree that there is a need for pension reform, it is important to understand what problems it deals with and what problems it does not deal with.
In California, the law is clear that cities cannot take away pension benefits from their employees. Thus, pension reform, for most cities, becomes the development of a two-tier system with the existing employees remaining under the old system and new employees coming under the new system. While this will provide some financial relief to cities in the long term, it does nothing for today’s problem whatsoever for the simple reason that most cities are not hiring, they are laying people off. Thus, there are no new employees on the new and less costly system. Thus, while there is a public clamor for pension reform, there must also be a clamor for dealing with today’s problems as well.
In Foster City our employees already contribute more than most other local cities do towards the current pension benefits. However, increasing the employee contributions is one of the ways in which today’s problems can be addressed. Another way, one that I have been advocating for some time, is to deal with the problems by reaching an agreement with the labor representatives to establish freezes, reductions or an increase in the employee contribution to benefits. I strongly believe that such a solution is in the best interest of all and addresses not only future problems, but the problems we are having right now. Layoffs are not the solution; they are the effect of not reaching an agreement that provides a solution.
March 28th and perhaps 29th as well, will be another budget study session for our Council. I urge as many of you as can come to those, to come and give us your feedback. If you cannot make it, please email us and let us know what you are thinking. We are all working hard at trying to find solutions to the economic problems facing us today and your help and suggestions are valuable to us.
Those are my thoughts. Tell me what you think. Share your ideas with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.
March 16, 2011
Problems and Solutions
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