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Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam threw down a fiscal gauntlet this week.

Paul Wellman

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam threw down a fiscal gauntlet this week.


Adam Walks the Walk

County Supervisor Makes Bold Budget Proposal


Thursday, April 4, 2013
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When Peter Adam came on the scene after a surprise election victory in November, he did so with no intention of going along to get along. The new 4th District supervisor had a mission of addressing what he saw as problems with county government and getting county government back to its mission ​— ​providing services the public counted on, like public safety and public works. On Tuesday he gave the first real glimpse of what he was talking about.

After the county’s Public Works department outlined for the Board of Supervisors how Santa Barbara’s deferred-maintenance backlog ​— ​that is, roads, bridges and other infrastructure that needs fixing ​— ​currently sits at $250 million, Adam said he wanted to come up with a solution to set aside $20 million a year and eliminate that deferred maintenance by 2027-2028. If untouched, the deferred-maintenance number could balloon to more than $700 million by 2025. He wanted CEO Chandra Wallar to come back with proposed cuts to other programs by May.

But figuring out those cuts would be tough. What Adam is asking for, essentially, is 10 percent of the discretionary money the supervisors have to work with each year. Paired with what is looking like at least a $10 million budget deficit next year, it would mean decimating departments. Wallar also said she didn’t believe she could return by next month with a “reasoned proposal” to put forward. She was already planning to deny a request for an additional $9 million from Public Works to keep the amount of deferred maintenance where it’s at now. “I don’t believe she can come up with the $22 million,” said 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, asking Adam where he would pull the money. “It’s all a matter of priorities,” he responded. “If you want to find the money for something, you find the money.”

After Adam’s proposal was shot down, the five supervisors agreed to at least look at and begin to formulate a plan to deal with the growing amount of aging infrastructure, which extends beyond just the Public Works department and also includes parks and county buildings.

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Oh, PLEASE do not make the mistake of lionizing this man.....walk the walk? When one Supervisor asked him what he would cut, he could only retort sarcastically about "finding the money". This was a tea party stunt designed to sharpen his and Colab's attacks on any public service function other than jails or roads. I would hope the Indy would dig a little deeper into this man's true motivations and how he truly "walks" before taking his sound-bite-laden rhetoric as meaningful.

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 12:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Deferred maintenance historically leads to tragedy.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 1:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Adam is Randy Rowse of county government.

All mustache, no cattle.

He did not "walk" anywhere as the gullible Indy headline writer pit it here.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 7:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah, I'll have some tea with my Pringles.
Agreed, a weird headline. Let's skip the editorial-type sloganeering. I suspect that snippet will be in his next campaign brochure.

zappa (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 9:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Find the money. Do the maintenance. Do not confuse a responsible approach to government with the devil's work. Do not continue to roll a big ball of debt or deferrals down the road for the next guy to deal with.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 9:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What's next? Carbajal in a contest saying he wants to cut $50 million for deferred maintenance AND for building up cash reserves?

Talk is cheap and so is writing with slogans like "find the money" with no reality-based solutions offered at the same time. Bonus points for any solutions that can get to 3 votes.

Everything else is tilting at aerogenerators.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 10:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Ken_Volok,

"Deferred maintenance historically leads to tragedy."

So true, its not Political its common sense that if your roof leaks, you fix it before dry-rot takes hold and the house comes down.

I think the collective approach is that you will die or move on before you have to pay the bill. "Reserve Accounting" is the only answer, oh and actually funding those Reserves, it rehabilitated
CID's (Common Interest Developments) and will work for Public Municipalities as well.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 10:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As I've stated before, and as some infer at the moment, there is no money without a major shift in priorities in spending. With a $10 million plus gap again this year, and no sign if it improving in the next 5, you HAVE to have some draconian cuts. Start small, say with reducing the number of staff the Sups have. Reducing their aides from 2 plus an office assistant to one full time and one part time office assistant, you could save over $200,000 in salaries and benefits. Guess what??? That's two cops on the streets, or repairs to the road up to Toro Canyon Park, or 3 social service counselors. But hey, not this group of fiscally challenged electeds.
God forbid they actually had to talk directly to constituents as opposed to sending their aides out. But they always have time to talk to their donors.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 4:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The supes could always forego their salaries, assuming they're not career politicians as they would have us believe.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 4:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@John_Adams: a "reality-based" solution would be to
1. reduce the size of government to that more in line with a county of our size and population, and
2. reduce pay, benefits, and pensions to a level comparable with similar jobs (based on job content, not job title) in the private sector,
3. hold any future budget changes to that of the cost of living index.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 5:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually the private sector often pays higher, but that is balanced out by benefits. You usually don't get the best people by offering rock bottom compensation and you certainly don't keep them. That's something the glorified CEO's that have destroyed this country don't seem to realize or care.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Depends on what survey one reads. In any case, the comparison that counts looks at total compensation, which is usual defined as salary plus benefits (including pension). The pension benefits in the public sector are huge compared to private, esp as private companies have dropped defined benefit plans while the govs have kept them, thanks to union vote-buying by elected officials. The future cost of inflation-protected pensions beginning at one's final salary combined with early retirement in many govs simply dwarfs the original salary cost, esp as life expectancy increases. As Obama is fond of saying: it's just math.

I agree that one does not get the best people at rock bottom compensation. But one also does not get the best people by hiring into jobs that are virtually guaranteed for life in spite of performance and protected by grotesque union rules (witness LA teachers). I have a brother-in-law, ex federal employee, that is a perfect example. Know-nothing do-nothing and it took them five years to get rid of him and then only by spiking his pension and lifetime medical care so he would "resign".

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 8:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One only needs to look in Montecito to find the money, duh. These guys collect a sallary? Pure joke business.

spacey (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 11:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Those corporations who have dropped defined pensions have broken their contracts and should be sued. When those employees signed on it was under an agreement to those benefits. these companies are not to be celebrated, they are to be vilified and their CEOs shunned. All that money went to the CEOs you realize?

But back to Peter Adam, it really does make me question his judgement. The longer you defer repairs to a house the more decrepit and sometimes dangerous it becomes. America's falling bridges are case in point.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 11:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It sounds to me that Adam's point indeed was to begin to think seriously and do something about the deferred maintenance. It will be interesting to see if he also stands up to reduce his Sup. salary and cut the office staff. No reason for them to have two full time assistants and one part-time. That would be a starter at showing the BOS is serious about doing something for the public good.

at_large (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 8:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hi, K_V. Unfortunately, the law does not consider a corporate promise of a pension, or any other compensation, to be a contract and in the case of a union contract, the corporation can legally renegotiate terms with the union leadership. I agree they should be shunned and vilified. My (now dead) uncle worked for A&P for 19 years and 11 months and was 'laid off' one month before his pension vested. That should be considered a criminal act.

But I'm confused - Peter Adams apparently wants to address the deferred maintenance, unlike the rest of the bunch who apparently want to ignore the issue - why does this cause you to question his judgment,m given your comment re deferring repairs?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 8:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Because I had the opposite impression, glad to be wrong.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 10:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Who cares what Adam wants to do. Just follow the 4-1 votes on the board and you'll see he's always the "1". Typical Teabilly behavior that garners no support from others and achieves nothing. Let's look back to November 2012 to see how that worked out for the Teatards.

Adam better learn to play in the sand box if he wants to be known for something more than a punchline in the history SB County politics.

Validated (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 4:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@ JL..."My (now dead) uncle worked for A&P for 19 years and 11 months and was 'laid off' one month before his pension vested."

You just made the perfect pitch to join a union. All this clamor that public employees pay/benefits should be lowered to the private sector is a bunch of cr@p from the greedy. The private sector should be raised.

Let's not forget that then Governor Ronald Reagan gave public unions collective bargaining to stop abuses by crooked politicians.

Validated (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 5:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

some say find the $ and just do the maintenance...yes, the maintenance, a government task, is critical and deferring it makes little sense. But then JL and others rail against the expense of government — "The pension benefits in the public sector are huge compared to private, esp as private companies have dropped defined benefit plans while the govs have kept them, thanks to union vote-buying by elected officials" — with some incorrect assumptions.
The issue is how "private companies without unions have managed to drop their defined benefit plans", NOT that public section pensions are wrong or are the main problem. Some unions aren't so good (am not in favor of teacher unions, as an e.g.), but in many cases they are crucial. Originally in the 1950s public governments were giving these deferred-type pensions in imitation of PRIVATE corporations, and the public works typically made much less money per hour in return for the certainty of that gov't defined-benefit pension. Now, in a robber baron capitalistic economy most private companies have gotten rid of their defined-benefit (required lifetime) pension... There was very little of JL's "union vote-buying by elected officials".
At the same time, I have argued strongly that we need to cap the public pensions in California, cap them at $90,000 per year (only a few at the very top), and of course oblige employees to contribute to their own pension.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 7:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Right, DrDan, the Democratic officials in SB were elected without union votes. That, of course, is why Janet Wolfe immediately voted in favor of compensation increases for unionized city employees once she was elected.

I'm not against unions, per se, because historically they have done much good. But I do think that Big Labor, just like Big Business and Big Government, abuses its power - LA teachers union is a great example. And I think that collective bargaining for compensation has no place in government. The logical and well-demonstrated path from union vote-getting to repayment for those votes is just too destructive.

Private corporations can drop their defined benefit pension plans because, unlike government, when they discover that these plans are not affordable they can't turn to the taxpayers for rescue. Governments could do the same if they weren't beholden to the employee unions that got them elected. The obvious answer is to convert to defined contribution plans and require employees to put up a significant part of the cost.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 9:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I can only go with your last segment, "require employees to put up a significant part of the cost" and in fact the more intelligent public government entities with public unions have obliged their workers to pay in or pay in more. UC pension plan is a good example of this. I continue to bug Das and HBJ to work on placing a cap on public pensions, no chance with Williams, however, and he is a tool of the unions for sure.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 11:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Keep it up Adams. You are 100% on the right track. You just need a new board majority to get you there.

Reduction of employee numbers, departments, salaries, perks, benefits and maximizing their output is the obvious place to start because that is the largest drain on county revenues. If the majority does not want oil, then they have to come up with the necessary revenue stream; not you.

The county budget never should have gotten this far out of whack. Pick a percentage of the budget for personnel costs and devote the rest of it to infrastructure and investment. Then stick to it. You cannot have an open-ended amount sitting on the table for personnel and social programs and let the real business of running the county go by the wayside.

The county like too many other branches of public employment has become job protection rackets and no longer serve a broader public mission. Review the county mission statement and make changes from the top down, no matter who sits on the board of supervisors.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 6:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The problem is not unions - they are supposed to get as good a deal as they can for their members. The problem is when unions get union-friendly people elected to the governing boards and they give away the farm. Union and management should be at arms length; not arm in arm.

Beware of the "bad morale" extortion trick employees always pull when things don't go their way.

This is always the deal killer with their progressive friends they get elected. Put this issue on the table - let employees know you are not in the business of buying or selling morale. If they don't like their jobs, they are free to go elsewhere because you job is to serve the voters; not just the employee's "morale".

Look objectively at what you are paying them, what you are asking them to accomplish in return for that payment, how their benefits, paid days off, job security and general lack of accountability and program audit compares to private industry.

Then tell them they are not exploited, they are not being victimized and if they can't be happy doing the job, step aside because there are plenty right in town that would be very happy to take their places.

This is what guaranteed job security does to a work force- they get an attitude they can't be replaced and really no longer have to earn their right to be there.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 7:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@ foofighter.... Great take on the Tea Party rant. The city councils of Stockton and San Jose used arguments a lot like yours, until the workers left and crime rates soared, now they're screaming for help. San Jose even issued emergency pay raises to keep cops from leaving the city.

Great logic huh?

Validated (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 10:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yep, and Stockton is now in bankruptcy because they didn't manage their finances well.

You're right on, foofighter, esp your comment about unions. Another vote for elimination of collective bargaining rights for compensation by govunion employees.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 9:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

There were public sector unions as far back as the middle of the 19th century.... see http://www.npr.org/2011/02/24/1340177...
but it is true they became enormous only in the late 1950s led by Robt. Wagner, Mayor of New York.
I agree they can get out of hand, and am on record that the pensions should be capped and employees (obviously) should be paying some for their own pensions. they are still a good idea. I don't think Stockton's bankruptcy is BECAUSE of their overwhelming public pension obligations, but those now make the city's position quite precarious.
JL, when you comment, as always, "for elimination of collective bargaining rights for compensation by govunion employees" you are consistent. This is not a left or even center-left position, as you should acknowledge.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 9:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Stockton's leaders went crazy, & even offered their regular public pension eligible employees the same deal as the police there, e.g. retiring at 50 etc. This is about people electing fiscally incompetent leaders, not necessarily the pension obligations, which are only part of their disaster. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/0...

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 10:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Deferred maintenance historically leads to tragedy."

Ken_Volok
April 4, 2013 at 1:03 a.m.

True. A good comparison is when you first see rust happening on your car; you can spend a small amount of money and get it fixed right away, or wait until it (inevitably) spreads and end up having to spend more money.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 6:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Photo caption: "Not right now, I'm on the phone, come back in about five minutes".

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 6:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It is about electing leaders who don't cave when employee whine their morale is bad if you don't keep giving them more and more of the city's till.

I am sure the police unions are making cities like Stockton and San Jose pay through the nose because they control the law enforcement market. They don't want no scabs crossing their lines. That is how bad it has gotten within our "professional" police force. They become shakedown artists as bad as the mob's protection rackets.

Well folks, you just have to behave yourself, protect yourself and finally get this government shake-down racket over with. Too bad it came to this, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Do you really like living in a city where the police actively sabotage your personal safety, if you don't pay them what they want? Who really are the crime perpetrators and victims in that case?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 8:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No wonder people feel their lives are out of control. They have become victims of the very people they hired to serve them.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 8:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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