An inability to compromise
January 12, 2011
To the editor,
It was both right and overdue that City Council act to protect Sanibel's financial future. The existing employees' pension contract is exorbitant, and reflects an economic climate that, alas, no longer exists.
But our council has over-reacted with draconian measures that would have been appropriate only if Sanibel were in immediate crisis.
Had the council compromised by voting to take that figure of 90 percent of existing top salaries, which is the current pension figure, down to 60 percent, as their Mediator recommended, and as their own Peter Pappas recommended — that action would have revealed prudence on their part. But council chose to take that percentage figure down to 44 percent, in effect, cutting the employees' pensions by more than 50 percent. I find that action to reveal a telling rigidity; their inability to compromise appears to me to reveal ideological bias, masked as prudence.
The attitudes and styles with which they turned this pension plan from the best one in the state into the worst one in the state, I think, added insult to injury, giving the appearance(at the very least) of insensitivity and disregard for the dignity of Mr. Roy Gibson and for the city employees for whom he spoke. Specifically, council failed to see to it that the employees' negotiator was present at this December meeting despite Mr. Gibson's request (and this is, ultimately, their responsibility regardless of who dropped the ball); spoke patronizingly to Mr Gibson; refused to allow the usual public comment at the meeting; and attempted to vote in secrecy from the employees and the citizenry.
Councilmens' comments, such as, "If you'd ever run a business you'd know that" or "You'd understand that" and variations on that old line, which I heard expressed to Mr. Gibson more than once, I found to be patronizing in the extreme. Council seemed unaware of the fact that running a profit-making company and running government are entirely different undertakings. They seemed to think that being businessmen, employers, unlike Mr. Gibson, gives them special superior wisdom.
I just don't know what it is with this new political fashion that's abroad these days that we need to be governed by business. If City Council's action on this employees' pension contract is an example of business owners in charge of government, I'll take those much maligned, hated lawyers any day.
Anne Gates Yarnall