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February 16th, 2012 4:07 pm
Real Reform in California? It’s Not Too Good to be True
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Over at Ricochet, I have a post today on the inspired example being set by the city of San Diego, a rose among thorns in notoriously misgoverned California. Big labor is currently trying to impede an initiative set for the city’s June ballot that would completely overhaul public sector pensions, moving all new hires (sans police officers) into 401(k) style defined-contribution plans instead of the exorbitant defined-benefit systems that have left the city with a $2.1 billion pension deficit.

While that deserves a hearty commendation, it’s not necessarily evidence of a broader reformist bent. Public pensions, after all, have become the issue du jour in financially strapped cities and states throughout the nation.  What really proves the depth of San Diego’s commitment to good government is the lengths to which the city is going to improve the nuts and bolts of day to day public service. Consider this, from Governing Magazine:

The city also has implemented an effort that creates “managed competition” in which some city departments must offer the lowest bid in order to continue their operations, lest they be replaced with a third-party contractor who can do the job cheaper.

So far, employees who sweep the streets, maintain the vehicle fleet and work in the city publishing shop have all won those bids by pitching proposals that reduced expenses for the city. The next competition will involve the city’s landfill operations. “Employees know where the fat is,” [Mayor Jerry] Sanders said.

Meanwhile, under Sanders’ leadership, the city has shed about 1,800 positions, made pay cuts and freezes, and pushed huge reforms to the retiree health care system expected to save the city at least $700 million over 25 years.

Let’s hope San Diego keeps up the good work. Nothing will do more to undercut the case of California’s regnant liberals than an object lesson showing how successful an alternative model can be.

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