Public Safety Collective Bargaining Works

It was great to see the party line from the Alameda morning coffee gang on the Alameda Sun’s editorial page ("Let’s Be Clear on Union’s Influence," May 28). Eric Cross put to paper what he and his fellow caffeine fans have been muttering around Alameda’s finest coffee hangouts, and occasionally pontificating at City Council for years, now in one easy-to-read document.

For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure, it goes something like this: "Now don’t get me wrong I’m a Democrat and have always supported unions but these Alameda firefighters. They don’t play fair, they’re bullies and they use the fact that everyone likes them to their advantage. That’s not fair. The councilmembers who voted for the firefighters’ contract were bought off and the ones that voted against the contract did so despite threats, both political and personal. If it weren’t for the mayor and City Auditor Kevin Kearney and City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy, the city would be bankrupt and the lights would be off at city hall."

Whew! That’s a lot but it is after all the Alameda Coffee Party’s manifesto.

If it sounds slightly off kilter it’s because it is. Cross is a director at the Bank of Marin. He takes a conservative view of finances. That’s to be expected of a banker. Kearney and Kennedy likewise take a conservative view of finances as to be expected given their Libertarian and Republican Party orientation.

I was appointed by our current Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese to the Fiscal Sustainability Committee and served on it with the Kennedy and Cross. I was on a subcommittee on retiree medical with Kennedy. I have a pretty good idea of their outlook on employee benefits as they relate to the city’s budget. Given their fiscal orientation they feel retiree medical costs need to be prepaid so as to lessen the unfunded liability they create. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) is a giant Ponzi scheme, which will inevitably bankrupt California. So be it they’re not the first ones with those perspectives.

What transpired in bargaining between the city and the firefighters, the police officers and fire and police management and authorized by the City Council is illuminating and totally different than the narrative spun by Cross and his comrades. All bargaining units increased their contributions to CALPERS and agreed to prefund retiree medical obligations.

The parties agreed to these changes not because the city is running a deficit or is in financial trouble but to make sure the city can weather future economic storms. You would think this would be cause for celebration in conservative corners. The changes were not celebrated because they don’t meet with the treasurer, auditor and Coffee Party’s narrative. Public safety is supposed to be corrupt and self-serving not well reasoned and forward thinking.

After considering the above, keep in mind that three years ago our financial officers predicted bankruptcy for the city.

Kearney and Kennedy and their allies in the Alameda Coffee Party have been caught in a serious case of overreach. Our elected financial officers have seriously exceeded their job descriptions in the City Charter and the Coffee Party has been reduced to having their one Democratic member pen an editorial. If the "Kevins" want to continue to play politics they should run for City Council. The Alameda Coffee Party should change its name to the Alameda Tea Party to more accurately reflect its anti-working family positions.

Cross attacks respect for public safety as "hero worship." Maybe he should consider the reasons why kids aspire to be firemen and not bankers.

Mike Henneberry is a lifelong Alameda resident, the president of the Planning Board and the union representative for Alameda’s butchers and clerks.