Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Needs Some Leadership in Struggle for Budget Sanity

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Needs Some Leadership in Struggle for Budget Sanity

Article excerpt

Byline: PHIL FRETZ

It's too bad that Dana Redd isn't running for mayor of Jacksonville. With all due respect to our current crop of candidates, I would rather vote for her.

Redd, you see, is mayor of Camden, N.J. - which has a substantial budget shortfall and a police union that doesn't want to share in the sacrifices being borne by everyone else.

Kind of like here.

The difference? She isn't exactly pussy-footing around.

Her city is laying off 25 percent of its workforce, Reuters reported last week. That includes 168 police officers - almost half the force.

Sixty-seven firefighters also are getting the ax, as are 100 other employees.

There's one caveat: About 100 of those laid-off officers might be rehired if the union agrees to pay and benefit concessions.

Hmmmmm. ...

Why hasn't anyone thought of that here?

ROLE MODEL IN MIAMI

And, by the way, why aren't any of our candidates a little more like Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado?

When faced with similar circumstances last fall, a Miami TV station's website reports, he said: "It's either that [pay cuts] or we lay off 1,000 employees or we raise taxes to the max - and we aren't raising taxes to the max."

That's what I call clarity.

Yeah, yeah. I know. We need police and firefighters (as if we couldn't find anybody to take their jobs at a little less pay and a lot less pension benefits).

But something has to give.

"OK," you say, "but why not cut non-safety employees?"

Because we've tried that.

'OUT OF KILTER'

Over the past five years, a time of mushrooming budget shortfalls, we've eliminated 726 non-safety jobs, the Mayor's Office says.

During that same period, we've created an additional 426 police and firefighter positions.

Isn't that a little out of kilter?

"But," you stammer, "we need a lot of police and firefighters to protect us."

Yes, on the job. Not sitting around, collecting a lucrative pension after as little as 20 years on the job. …

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