Dustin Smith, acting president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, is responding to Marcos Breton's June 24 column "Feud with mayor has heavy cost." Breton wrote that the reaction to the City Council's vote to approve a costly charter review commission was that "the cops walked away from the bargaining table" in pension reform talks. "If the cops contributed 9 percent of their pay into their own pensions, 16 cop jobs could be saved," Breton said.
I am once again disheartened that Bee columnist Marcos Breton has chosen to misrepresent what the issues really are between the police union and the city. Many of Breton's columns portray my members as greedy and self-serving when in truth, Sacramento police officers and the SPOA want desperately to avoid layoffs and restore services to our community a community we have sworn to protect with our lives. To really understand the problem, we need more context than Breton provides.
I'll go on record stating that we are not immune from pension reform. SPOA presented a well-thought out three-year plan to the city that saved all of the jobs on the chopping block, restored services to the community and had the cops paying their 9 percent PERS contribution within 12 months. We hired a CPA to help create a plan that meets the city's goals of "ongoing structural change" and the union's goals of minimal impact to membership. It was rejected; not because the plan didn't work, but because as it was explained to us by City Manager John Shirey, "the other unions would be upset." And somehow, when we are talking about the public's safety, this politically motivated explanation is supposed to seem reasonable.
To complicate matters, last Tuesday while my team was working collaboratively to find solutions with the city manager, Councilman Kevin McCarty was five floors below launching a torpedo at our progress in a plot of political payback against the mayor.
This ill-timed, ego-driven revenge in the form of a costly and unnecessary charter review commission has now derailed talks between the union and the city. It is not the responsibility of police union members to fund such reckless spending. Breton and I agree on one thing: the blame rests solely with McCarty's lack of leadership and the five council members who followed him on impulse instead of using common sense.
Moving forward, there are still solutions that work for all the stakeholders. The community, the city and the cops still have an opportunity for a win-win outcome. The city overplayed its hand and has shown there is in fact money when they said there wasn't, and now everyone is watching to see what happens next. Perhaps, with time quickly running out, we should be asking how large a concession it would take to save the 16 police officers slated for layoffs this year and talk about full pension reform next year when the contract expires. If the council truly wants to avoid layoffs, there are still ways to succeed.