Our local governments are failing to provide for the basic services needed by the taxpaying citizens of Sonoma County. They are becoming increasingly incapable of providing for the roads, the education, the social and mental health services, the public safety, and all the other services that were once provided for generations before.
Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa, the two main local governments responsible for most of our services, are in the midst of the worst fiscal disaster in history. This is because in 2003, the Board of Supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council (including newly arrived, former SR Councilwoman Noreen Evans), approved a 50% retroactive unfunded increase in pension benefits for the first wave of retiring Baby Boomers. Thousands of employees retiring before this increase received nothing; no increase, and most have not received a Cost of Living Adjustment since.
This decision is the worst breach of Sonoma County officials’ fiduciary obligations and responsibilities since the County was incorporated in 1850. It jeopardized future pensions of not only the 2000 employees retired before 2003, and the next generation of Millennials and GenExer’s who are contributing now, but also the retiring Boomers themselves.
We’ve seen a corresponding five-fold increase in retirement costs, with corresponding cuts in schools, social programs, roads and infrastructure. Without the resources needed to tend to the most vulnerable among us, our communities have become Zombielands, with homeless shuffling the streets.
There is a 25% reduction in the County’s work force, as most of the departments have been gutted, with retiring or rehiring. All the impact fees and many special assessments have increased dramatically becoming an impediment for business and job creation. As the more experienced employees retire, with a loss of the institutional memory of how to serve the people, we no longer have the funds to provide the next generations with jobs, and are no longer able to provide desperately needed essential services.
The next human rights movement, just like the Suffragettes and the Civil Rights movements of the 20th Century, is for Intergenerational Equity. This is the concept that one generation should not be allowed to burden the next generations unduly, for benefits they’ve given themselves, without funding them.
As Sonoma County’s Fifth District Planning Commissioner and former member of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, I’ve worked hard to protect diverse communities, improve health services & schools, and develop affordable housing and infrastructure with fiscally responsible and affordable solutions. I have been a leading advocate of sustainable pension reform and will continue to explore solutions. To be truly effective, I need your vote.