Hollywood voters: Cut the pensions

Quand le peuple commence à prendre la situation en main.

Plutôt que de licencier du personnel de la ville  et se retrouver avec une possible augmentation de taxe de 23 pour cent, les résidents de Hollywood  (Floride) ont voté pour couper les pensions de ses pompiers, policiers et employés de la ville.

C’est fini, le chantage ont coupent !

Et dîtes-vous bien que ce n’est pas fini, si les politiciens n’ont pas assez de courage, le peuple va s’en mêler.

Extrait de: Hollywood voters: Cut the pensions, Carli Teproff, David Smiley and Christina Veiga, Hollywood, 09.13.11

Rather than face more employee layoffs and a possible 23 percent tax increase, Hollywood residents vote to cut the pensions of its firefighters, police and city employees.

Hollywood residents made it clear Tuesday:

The city can no longer afford its current employee pension plans.

With a low voter turnout — about 13 percent of the city’s 84,521 registered voters — residents cast ballots to strip police, firefighters and the city’s general employee’s of their current pension plans, allowing the city to save $8.5 million.

“This isn’t necessarily something where we look at it and say ‘yay’ we won,” said City Spokeswoman Raelin Storey. “This has been a very difficult time for the city.”

Facing a $38 million deficit and unable to come to an agreement with the city’s unions, Hollywood leaders took the risky move of putting the issue to a public referendum. Last year, the city said it had to put $36.6 million into the underfunded pension program.

Several cities throughout South Florida are also struggling with sharply increased pension costs, and have been eyeing the Hollywood case to see how it turned out.

“It could be a harbinger,’’ said Stephen Cypen, an attorney who represents more than a dozen South Florida municipal pension funds, including Hollywood’s.

Referendums carry a special significance because voters are getting the chance to weigh in, he said, adding that Tuesday’s “yes’’ vote could have implications for other cities.

Eh oui, il y a rien de mieux qu’une démocratie directe pour remettre les pendules à l’heure, la démocratie directe permet au peuple de se faire entendre, réduisant le magouillage entre les syndicats et les politiciens.

Coral Gables, Miami, Pembroke Pines and Miami Beach have also been struggling with rising pension costs.

But not all cities need to hold a referendum; in Hollywood’s case, the city charter requires a citywide vote when the unions and city officials can not come to an agreement.

Union leaders said Tuesday night they will challenge the election in court.

“They went about this wrong way,” said Firefighter Union President Dan Martinez. “They completely superseded our right to collectively bargain.”

The changes mean

1.      fire, police and general employees will have to work longer in order to retire,

2.      will receive a smaller percentage of their salary as pension

3.      and will no longer be able to include vacation and cost of living increases into the formula.

The changes take effect Oct. 1.

For firefighter Bill Huddleston, who has been with the Hollywood fire department for 22 years, the yes vote is “devastating.” Huddleston, 46, began working at age 24 and has been on the force for 22 years. He would be eligible to retire in a few months.

Dévastateur pour lui, d’autant plus qu’il a acquis une retraite pyramidale avec la connivence des politiciens pour satisfaire le chantage syndical.

“This city will be changed forever,” Huddleston said.

Police Union President Jeff Marano predicts with the change in the pension, many officers will leave the Hollywood department and join cities with better plans.

Tuesday’s vote means the city will avoid major cuts to its upcoming budget.

If voters had struck down the pension changes, the city was preparing to lay off 75 employees and consider raising the tax rate by 23 percent. Instead, the city will likely stick with an 11 percent tax increase.

“There’s really no good option here,” said Michelle Leonard, before voting at the Greater Hollywood YMCA Family Center, 3161 Taft St.

Leonard said although she doesn’t want to take away money from public servants, she, like many Hollywood residents, can’t afford a tax increase.

“Even the thought of a tax increase is scary,” she said.

City leaders said their backs were against a wall.

“It’s not a victory and not a cause for a celebration,” said Mayor Peter Bober. “It’s properly viewed as taking an important step toward changing the way we do business in Hollywood.”

The focus is now to “mend fences.”

“We have to come together to move the city forward,” Bober said.