The Coast News Group

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Jerry Kern ‘Belled’ Oceanside taxpayers

We know now how the residents of Bell, Calif., got snookered. The omission of just a few facts in two City Council agenda reports “Belled” all of Oceanside’s many smart activists.
Want proof? I have it and the North County Times now has it too.
On Oct. 3, the North County Times, in making its endorsement for Oceanside City Council said, “It all comes down to pension reform.”
My stomach felt sick as I read that. I couldn’t believe the paper was endorsing the pension blustering incumbent Oceanside councilman who just last year voted to increase his own pension and the pensions of all top, highly paid, Oceanside city management including the city manager. First employees were laid off and then the reward was approved.
There were two city staff reports to the council regarding the proposed increase in pension benefits for the so called “unrepresented” employees, which is the group that has no actual union contract. Neither staff report said the pension increase from 2 percent at 55 to 2.7 percent at 55 included the council, mayor, or the city manager himself.
In August, a public record request was submitted with the question:
“When the council approved increasing the CalPERS pension from 2 percent at 55 to 2.7 percent at 55 for the unrepresented employees in February of 2009, did that increase apply to the council and mayor and city manager?”
The reply came from Brian J. Kammerer, human resources director.
“When the City Council approved the CalPERS pension enhancement for all non-safety employees, this increase was applicable to unrepresented employees including the Mayor, City Council members and the City Manager.”
Sometimes I can be pretty dense. It has taken me since August to figure out why no proposal for pension reform for the nonunion, no-contract “unrepresented” employees came about after the so-called pension fiscal conservative majority gained control of the council when Kern was elected in 2006. Without a union contract, a two-tier pension reform could have been imposed by council vote at any time on the “unrepresented” employees, which we now know includes the mayor, council and city manager. The answer seems so easy now.
How do you propose pension reform for an employee group at the same time that you are actually working and supporting pension “enhancement” for that same employee group which includes yourselves?
Of course Jerry Kern and the city manager would not make pension reform a council agenda item. The priority was getting their pension “enhancement” on the books, which once given by council approval cannot be taken away.
It took from boom times in 2007 till the Oceanside budget doom times of 2009 for the full process required for the CalPERS contract change to be completed. Kern and the city manager could have asked for their pension “enhancements” process to be officially stopped once the Great Recession and Oceanside’s fiscal problems began over two years ago. They didn’t and they don’t want you to know that.