Friday Feb 12 2010
Our View: Three words for Placer County: Stop the insanity
Insanity, as Albert Einstein once said, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Most people would agree with the famous physicist. Sanity, as defined by the Placer County Board of Supervisors, is giving large pay raises to six-figure administrators while asking for benefit concessions from deputies and furloughs for the rank-and-file. Insanity reared its ugly head Tuesday when supervisors approved 5 percent increases for the county dentist and Tamara Uhler, assistant director of child support services and wife of Supervisor Kirk Uhler. They also approved a 10 percent raise for the director of the Local Agency Formation Commission. Supervisors Rocky Rockholm, Robert Weygandt and Jim Holmes voted in favor of the raises, and Jennifer Montgomery voted against them. Kirk Uhler was absent from the vote. We have three words for supervisors: Stop the insanity. No explanations about step increases, or merit increases for someone who has been employed for six months (as Tamara Uhler has), or that these raises are necessary to keep the “best and brightest” from leaving. Enough. These actions don’t stand up to reason. Placer County is in a financial crisis, and the worst is still ahead. Projections include a $20 million budget shortfall in 2010-11 and $33 million in 2011-12. Reductions and reserves will be used to balance the budget, but wouldn’t it make sense to stop the bleeding before hacking off another limb? Why in the world are department directors proposing any salary increases, and why is county Chief Executive Officer Tom Miller sending those proposals on to supervisors for their vote? And why don’t supes have the courage to “just say no?” Insanity, insanity, insanity. At a time when every expense should be questioned and layoff scrutinized, a wage and salary freeze would be the first order of business for management. Austerity should start at the top and trickle all the way down. That seemed to be the theme of an op-ed piece penned by Rockholm in this space on Feb. 2. “It is a daunting task to maintain critical services and meet our goal of not laying off employees, keeping as many people, if not all our people, working,” Rockholm wrote. “At the same time, we need to find long-term solutions to our budget problems rather than a Band-Aid approach that tends to delay difficult decisions and make solutions more elusive. “It is clear we can’t tax and spend our way out of the current economic downturn. Nor can we get there through mandatory time off and pay reductions,” he wrote. No to Band-Aids? How about rejecting all management raises, starting today and lasting as long as deep budget cuts are expected? Saying no to the three management-level raises would have saved the county about $24,000 annually. That might not be enough to save a position, but it’s a start. And that’s what taxpayers are waiting for — a start by county leaders that such fiscal insanity has to end. Across the country, people are congregating on street corners and in arenas, saying they’re not going to take it anymore. Some call it the “tea party” movement, targeting President Obama and Congress for trillion-dollar deficits and multi-billion spending. Even Kirk Uhler’s father, Lew Uhler, has joined in. His National Tax Limitation Committee routinely skewers California and Washington, D.C. for liberal, tax-and-spend philosophies that are bankrupting the state and nation. What does Lew Uhler think of these raises? Are they too small and insignificant to be noticed in the sea of red ink flowing from Sacramento and the nation’s capital? Placer County’s unemployment stands at 11.3 percent, slightly better than the state rate, but bad nonetheless. Citizens understand that having a job is a precious commodity, and that getting a raise in this economy isn’t expected — at any level. It’s time for supervisors to hear the call of taxpayers, before it’s too late.