By John Earl
Surf City Voice
The Surf City Voice recently asked the new and continuing members of the Huntington Beach City Council what their priorities will be in the next year and how they will handle the issue of infrastructure funding for the city. Keith Bohr, Don Hansen, Matt Harper, and Joe Carchio did not respond.
Question 1: As a new, reelected or continuing city council representative, what will your top priorities be in the coming year?
Joe Shaw: Obviously, making sure we stabilize our city’s budget is the most important thing we can do in the short term. We need to make sure we can continue to provide the best services we can at the level we can afford during this recession. We need wise planning to ensure that short term cuts do not jeopardize our future.
Devin Dwyer: A recession can be a great opportunity for government to evaluate what services are absolutely necessary and what services we can no longer afford to provide in a declining economy. I see our most basic needs as Public Safety and Infrastructure. Public Safety is 51% of our General Fund budget. Since this is the largest use of public funds we need to surgically remove any waste without compromise to our citizen’s safety. The first item that comes to mind is our pension system. The idea that any person should be retiring at 50 is ridicules. Airline pilots are mandated to retire at 60 and now they allow 65 if there is an accompanying pilot aboard less then 60. Second is the idea of defined benefit. The public sector no longer provides a defined benefit in there compensation package. They provide some sort of 401K that both the employee and the employer contribute too. I propose a second tier for new hire benefits. This would help secure those employees with the more generous benefits that currently work for us at the same time new employees would contribute more towards the new 401k program and the city would contribute as well. And those on the more generous benefits need to contribute more towards their pension.
There was a time when public employees were not compensated well so to make up for it the city used benefits to compete with the private sector for staff. Today that is not true. You will find that compensation at our city for Public Safety employees when measured with private sector jobs is not only competitive but many out side government feel excessive.
Infrastructure had no champion until I came along. Each Council Member has an appointee to the Finance Board. Our Finance board has been complaining for a decade that our infrastructure was in decline and if we did not spend more in the near future we are headed for trouble. This has fallen on deaf ears until I and the Charter Reform Committee pointed out that we have greater than a billion dollar need with less than half that we can pay for. I was saddened by the Public Union’s spending more than $ 100,000 to defeat Measure O. There inability to see our citizens needs over there own was atrocious. I will rally my fellow Councilmember’s to support budgeting more every year towards infrastructure for the next few years I am on council.
One of the ways out of our plight is to bring more businesses to Huntington Beach. These new businesses will help generate tax dollars that could help pay for items that we have grown accustomed to our city providing. I will continue to work hard through all my business connections to fulfill this priority.
And as I have shown as one of my priorities is to talk straight to the public. If there is one thing I hate about politics its spin! If I think something is “Horse Shit”. Then that’s the way I’m going to characterize it!
Connie Boardman: My first priority will be to make wise budget decisions to arrive at a balanced budget while preserving important city services. I will work to continue the search for funding sources for infrastructure projects to solve water quality issues, repair streets and sidewalks, and to provide public safety needs such as traffic lights.
Question 2: Given the defeat of Measure O, how should the city council decide its budget priorities, including infrastructure, and what steps should be taken to deal with public employee pensions?
Devin Dwyer: See above.
Connie Boardman: Devoting 15% of the general fund revenue to infrastructure and not counting debt service toward the 15% did not become part of the City’s Charter. However, there remains in place a policy of allocating 15% of the general fund money toward infrastructure projects. We have a huge back log of infrastructure needs, and I am sure funding infrastructure projects will be a high priority with the new council.
There is a need for pension reform, I think everyone on the council realizes this. We can certainly learn from the experiences of other cities. I am interested in working with representatives of the unions, the public, and the city administration in developing a workable plan to make sure we can continue to offer sustainable, and affordable retirement benefits to the employees.
Joe Shaw: I believe we must still prioritize infrastructure given the enormous backlog we have. I believe we can work with our public employee unions and city employees to find solutions to the pension crisis.