In our November Reason magazine
“How to Break an American City,” we highlighted the
dysfunctional fiscal policies driving municipalities into the
poorhouse. I made note of a specific policy in the city charter for
San Bernardino, California, which was approved to enter bankruptcy
earlier this year.
San Bernardino’s charter requires that the city tie the wages of
its public safety employees to the averages of those paid in nearby
cities with similar population sizes. Unfortunately, San Bernardino
is the poorest of those cities, meaning it is legally bound to pay
its police and firefighters much more than its market can bear. As
a result, even while making its case for bankruptcy months ago, the
City Council voted to increase some police salaries.
They did so again just last week.
Courtesy of CalPensions and Public CEO:
Following the city charter, a reluctant San Bernardino city
council last week approved a police pay raise costing about $1
million, the second $1 million police salary increase since the
city filed for bankruptcy last year.
The four council members who voted for the 3 percent pay hike
all criticized a city charter provision linking San Bernardino to
the average police pay in 10 other cities, most much wealthier with
higher per-capita income.
When a pay hike was approved last March, the city
attorney, James Penman, and a councilman, Robert Jenkins, argued
competitive pay attracts quality officers to combat a high crime
rate. Penman was recalled last month, and Jenkins was not
“I think most residents are puzzled and outraged that we are
compelled during bankruptcy to provide substantial pay increases,”
a newly elected councilman, Jim Mulvihill, said last
week. “Not only that, it’s not any negotiation within
Several groups pushed to repeal the charter provision after the
bankruptcy. But the city council chose not to put a repeal measure
on the ballot last month, citing short timelines and ballot costs,
the San Bernardino Sun reported.
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from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/09/bankrupt-san-bernardino-spends-1-million