Letters for December 29, 2011

It’s getting colder—and deadlier

Re “Tent City 2 grows” by Nick Miller (SN&R Beats, December 15):

We just marked Homeless Memorial Day 2011 on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. There’s a 17 mile-per-hour north wind blowing as I write this at 2 a.m., with temperatures expected to drop to 29 degrees for 6 and 7 a.m. The homeless have been enduring bone-chilling fog for days.

Sacramento Housing Alliance and others would like you to remember those homeless who died in our community last year: Eden Arlene Lua, Lloyd Steven Hancock, Irwin Horn, Marcella Davis, Raymond “Razor” Villanueva, Alfred Barnes, Brian “Redwood” Ritchey, Deaondre Sullivan, Allen “Bratt” Bray, Donovan Hernandez, Lori (Lorraine) Green, Reed Haynes, Rick Terranova, Tracy Hall, Charles Koch, Ricky Greer, Richard Wright, David “Tweak” Ashford, Lawrence Daniel Smith, Natalie Jeanne Griffin, Stephen Dimas.

It does get fatal out there. We will lose more this coming year, if not before Christmas. If you can help, please do [at] https://sacloaves.org/donate.php. [It] is a wonderful and secure way to do it.

Frank L. Topping

State workers are customers

Re “An easier plan” (SN&R Letter of the Week, December 15):

To solve our state-budget problems, this letter writer proposes, among other things, that we deprive state employees of their right to join unions, get rid of their current guaranteed pensions, freeze their current salaries, and, further, cut those salaries by 10 percent across the board. Billions will be saved, the writer confidently states.

Why stop there? Since state workers are clearly our enemies, let’s just fire 90 percent of them! We know how lazy all of them are, so all of those agencies could get along just fine with 10 percent of their current staffing. As for their extravagant pensions, why not just take about 50 percent of the assets in that huge CalPERS investment portfolio and put it into the state general fund. Presto, our state’s budget problem would vanish, maybe forever.

No, I’m not a wrathful state worker, or government worker of any type. In fact, I spent my entire working career in private sector work here in the Sacramento area. That’s where I learned a key, bedrock fact about the local economy: It is highly dependent upon spending by government workers, certainly including state workers.

The statistical reality is that one quarter of all Sacramento County households have at least one government employee, active or retired. These many thousands regularly spend their paychecks or retirement checks here every month, stimulating our general economy. In short, those taxes that go to pay government workers come back, mostly in a quick fashion, to benefit all of us.

Want to see our general economy (and our tax receipts) continue to decline? Well then, just continue to punish state workers.

Still convinced that public-sector workers are your enemy? Well, Mr. Conservative Businessman, I invite you to openly state that. Just place a notice in and around your business to the effect that government workers disgust you and you don’t want their money! Once you do that, I’ll credit you with the courage of your convictions.

Ralph Cyfers
Rancho Cordova

Try it with real numbers

Re “An easier plan” (SN&R Letter of the Week, December 15):

Evan Jones lives in a fantasy world. Let’s see:

His plan to pay no state employee more than $100,000 will lose a lot of employees to other government agencies. I’m an attorney working for the state of California. If it’s a choice between working for the state and maxing out at $100,000, or working for just about every other government agency around and making significantly more than that, I think I’ll go elsewhere. Capping state wages won’t work unless you do it for all governmental agencies in the California.

And one wonders if he realizes that many state employees aren’t actually paid out of the general fund, so a lot of his proposed savings wouldn’t actually have an impact on the deficit-riddled general fund.

Jones wants to reduce top-heavy manager costs by capping administrative costs for all state agencies at 20 percent of each agency’s budget to save $15 billion a year.

I actually like this idea, but come on, Evan, $15 billion a year? You do realize that the entire amount spent on personnel costs in 2011-12 is estimated to be just short of $15 billion (www.ebudget.ca.gov/pdf/BudgetSummary/BS_SCH4.pdf)? Even if you include the [University of California] and [California State University] systems, as well as the Legislature and judiciary, the grand total is only $23 billion. Where exactly is that annual $15 billion in savings coming from?

Unfortunately, it appears that Jones made up these numbers, as there is no factual basis to back them up. The net result of all of his suggestions would be about a $50,000 per year pay cut for me, and a pension that is dramatically reduced from the modest one I would have received. Multiply that by the tens of thousands of other state employees who would be impacted, and guess what you have? The next California economic crisis.

Here’s a modest idea. State employees have already agreed through bargaining to pay more toward their retirement and have accepted pay cuts over the past year. Some of those concessions should continue, but how about if California joins all other oil-extracting states and imposes an oil-extraction tax? How about if income-tax rates go back to the level they were under [Govs. Ronald] Reagan and [Pete] Wilson, when those two anti-tax Republicans needed to solve budget deficits?

Would those two solutions completely plug the existing hole? I don’t know. I’m unwilling to make up numbers, but I’m betting they’d go a long way and have a much less onerous impact on the ability of middle-class state employees to provide for their families and, even more important, less of an impact on the economy.

Mark Paxson

Water belongs to the whole state

Re “Water grab, part II” by Burt Wilson (SN&R Essay, December 1):

It is typically regarded as sound advice to avoid discussing religion or politics at large holiday gatherings, lest unforeseen and regrettable outcomes might occur. In California that advice is acutely relevant in regards to water politics.

It is difficult to not have an opinion on what should or should not be done on any of a vast myriad of topics in water-related issues, but at least opinions should be based on facts.

It is not my intent to comment on the entirety of Mr. [Burt] Wilson’s essay; I will focus only on his second sentence, wherein he characterizes as “[Department of Water Resources] propaganda to get us to believe that Northern California water also belongs to Southern California.”

I am neither a lawyer nor special-interest activist; my intent is only to put this issue of water “ownership” into perspective. The California Water Code, Div. 1, Chap. 1, Sect. 102 states, “All water within the State is the property of the people of the State, but the right to the use of water may be acquired by appropriation in the manner provided by law.”

The important part of that section is that water is the property of the people of the state—not Southern California or Northern California, but the people. Now, that would appear to be exactly what this DWR employee was saying. It seems to me that the propaganda suggested by Mr. Wilson is confined to his own writing.

Ken Lentz