Thursday, June 3, 2010

Flint Meet Oakland...You Two Have So Much in Common

Flint, meet your long-lost cousin from the West Coast. Her name is Oakland. She lives in California.

Robert Gammon of The East Bay Express reports:

At times, Oakland feels like ground zero for the Great Recession. The city is grappling with alarmingly high rates of unemployment and foreclosure. The economic downturn also has crippled the city's budget. Since the housing bubble burst, Oakland has lost about 20 percent of its annual tax revenues, or about $100 million a year. The city council made huge cuts last year, but is now facing another $30 million budget hole, and is talking seriously about laying off 200 cops — or about one-quarter of Oakland's police force.

The one bright spot in Oakland has been the substantial drop in violent crime in the past eighteen months. But a massive layoff of police officers threatens to reverse that promising trend. Police Chief Anthony Batts told the Oakland Tribune that he has serious concerns about cutting so many officers and how it will affect crime fighting in Oakland. But the city council may have no choice — unless the well-paid members of Oakland's police officers' union agree to start contributing to their own pension plan.

Oakland awarded the union its generous benefits, which include the ability to retire at age fifty with nearly full pay for life, at a time of relative prosperity. The council figured that over-the-top pension benefits would help the city attract and retain quality officers when unemployment was low and the competition for cops was fierce. But in a time of record joblessness, it's clear that Cadillac pensions are not only unnecessary, they're foolish.

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Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at