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  • Public Service Is Not What It Used to Be


    Managing the city of Bell, California, is apparently twice as challenging as being President of the United States. The Los Angeles Times reported on July 15, that Bell’s soon-to-be-former Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo earns $787,637 a year.

    Bell is not exactly a wealthy metropolis. It is a small, predominantly Hispanic city of 38,000 southeast of Los Angeles. It has a per-capita income of only half the national average—making it the poorest city in Los Angeles County. Yet its city manager makes nearly twice what President Obama does governing the whole country. Rizzo also makes 157 percent more than the Los Angeles County Chief Executive earns managing a city with 100 times more people.

    Equally shocking, Bell’s part-time city council members make nearly $100,000 a year. Typically, a city the size of Bell would compensate its council members $400 a month.

    Bell’s residents, whose taxes fund these salaries, do not find this amusing. Since this news broke, groups of hundreds of city residents have loudly protested this pay at city council meetings. The citizen pressure has already lead Rizzo to tender his resignation.

    Government salaries this lavish are the exception, not the rule. Few city managers make double the President’s salary. But government employees do make more than the private sector workers whose taxes fund their pay.

    State and local employees earn an average of $39.81 per hour in wages and benefits while private sector employees earn $27.73. The federal government pays its employees 30–40 percent greater total compensation than they would get in the private sector. Taking a job with the government has increasingly become the way to get ahead. This is neither fair nor sustainable as America struggles through the worst recession in a generation.

    Even some liberals recognize this. In the words of former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, “at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact that 80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs.

    Bell’s residents have forced their overpaid city manager out. They may succeed in removing the Mayor and city council that approved paying him so much. However, Rizzo will still get the last laugh. As a retiree, he will soon start collecting $652,252 a year in pension benefits and will immediately become the highest paid retiree in the California Public Retirement System. When he turns 62, his pension will jump to $976,771 a year. When he turns 64, his pension benefits will rise to over $1 million annually. He is part of the reason that California has $500 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Remember that the next time politicians insist that they have no other choice but to raise your taxes.

    Co-authored by Bethany Aronhalt. Aronhalt is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Public Service Is Not What It Used to Be

    1. Robert Wilson, Maric says:

      James, that is a disgusting article you have written. While this may be an example of excess and an outlier (not the norm), I would expect at some point to stop getting examples of government excess run amok. This type of greed and abuse reminds me of communism and the people in power.

    2. Rick says:

      If there is no legal avenue to rectify this, there needs to be one made.

      Now would suffice.

    3. Bill. Kansas City says:

      So, what were the citizens of Bell doing while all this was going on? Did not one citizen attend a city council meeting when the budget was discussed? Did they bury their heads in the sand and make the mistake of trusting the politicians? Wasn't there a citizen attending a city council meeting when pay and benefits for employees was being discussed? Did the citizens of Bell allow the city council to get away with not publishing or discussing a budget? Did not one citizen pay attention to where all the money was going?

      Seems to me that they didn't care enough to find out what was going on, until this story broke on the national scene.

    4. Richard, New Orleans says:

      Bill – The government typically refuses to publicly discuss public employee salaries in public.

      They tend to go into "Executive Session" (closed door meetings) to "discuss the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation or performance evaluation of appointees, employees, or officials over whom it has jurisdiction" to pull a quote from a government agenda.

      Granted they was likely a huge jump in the salary budget category, but perhaps is was not noticed until the new tax bills were mailed.

    5. John Bosch, Laguna H says:

      Mr. Sherk, Why isn't your message the lead story on the evening news? Why do we never seem to get anywhere when it comes to cutting the cost of governemnt? I'm a 62 year old unemployed Vietnam vet who has enough but here's the rub…if I don't voluntarily pay the taxes that go to pay the bloated salaries and retirement benifits of government workers I will go to jail.

      John Bosch

    6. hillsboro wisconsin says:

      I work in a treatment center which is like a prison. It is a state job. I know that if Scott Walker gets into office my job will probably be all but destroyed. Unlike what the public thinks, I do not make anywhere near even $20.00 an hour. I struggle every week to make ends meet. If I have to pay in anymore I will lose my home and all that I have right along with everyone else. Are there bloated paychecks going out of my place of employment?? Yes, there are, but it is not earned by me and my coworkers. In the comments on this sight, it talks about government workers making $27.00 per hour. I will never see that. I am just a peon like everyone else. I may be forced to work for minimum wage. Who can pay bills on that wage? I just wanted to be able to pay my bills. It may not happen.

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