You and what army are going to make me pay?

Dec. 24, 2012

By Chris Reed

The city of San Bernardino’s defiance of CalPERS’ demands for payment will be remembered as the first in a very long line of defiant acts from local governments in California as budgets that don’t add up force local officials to make tough and often unprecedented decisions. For local officials, telling Sacramento to take a hike is a much easier call than taking on those who benefit from city compensation policies or who benefit from city services.

Given CalPERS’ central role in so many local governments’ pension nightmares, there is a perverse sense of karma at play in San Berdo’s using bankruptcy protection to avoid its overdue pension payment. The decision of a judge to side with the city in its maneuvering will absolutely prompt other cities to copy it.

But a new act of defiance is more complicated. The city of Santa Ana’s decision on Friday to stiff the state on the $56 million it owes for redevelopment funds that state grabbed in 2011 has no legal cover such as a bankruptcy filing.

Redevelopment is a farce that deserved killing. The city of Santa Ana is poorly run. So was its redevelopment agency. So it’s tough to side with Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, a very interesting fellow.

But the state government has been preying on local governments for so long when times are tough that it’s impossible to root for Jerry, Darrell, John A. and Monsieur Maviglio. And given that a redevelopment refund may help the state to keep the bullet-train fiasco alive, I’ve decided to root for Santa Ana.

There is also this: An era of local governments refusing to honor contracts will underscore what a disaster California has become since union power metastasized after Gov. Pete Wilson left Sacramento in January 1999.

Meanwhile, no one tell Politico’s crack staffers. They’ve bought Jerry Brown’s spin that his tax triumph means he’s a genius. Groan. Par for the course for East Coast saps.

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