By City Commissioner Dan Saltzman of Portland, Oregon. [Editor's note: This guest column is a response to "Dan's Plan" by City Commissioner Randy Leonard - a regular BlueOregon contributor.]
Greetings Blue Oregon readers! I'm not much of a blog dweller, but I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to by colleague Randy Leonard's recent post regarding reforms to Portland's Fire/Police Disability and Retirement System (FPD&R).
It is heartening to see that Randy supports reform. He is a commissioner who has spent a large majority of his professional life defending the rights of firefighters and making sure Portland did right by them. And he's been an excellent advocate for them. It is understandable that he has strong reservations about how changes will be implemented and how they will impact these vital public servants.
I'd like to explain why I believe action needs to occur now. Portland City Council has been studying and looking at the problems with FPD&R for over 20 years. As a result, the City Council has known about these problems and chosen to turn away.
With the passage of Measure 50 in 1997, the City realized it was time to craft a financial plan aimed at solving the FPD&R funding issue. Well what do you supposed happened? A committee was formed, they proposed recommendations in July of 1998, and City Council didn't feel enough time was available to inform voters and chose not to refer to that November ballot. Sound familiar?
Then in 1999, Council asked a citizen-based Charter Review Committee to review the system and recommend changes for the 2000 election. Any idea what happened? That's right, the Committee recommended that the City begin moving toward full funding of the FPD&R system, but City Council did not implement any of the recommendations. I had just come into office at the start of 1999 and am on record as supporting these changes. Unfortunately my colleagues chose not to join me and nothing was referred to the voters in 2000.
So here we are in 2006 and guess what? For the past 10 months the Council sanctioned Independent Review Committee has worked diligently to come up with recommendations. And that is exactly what they did. Everyone on City Council agrees that changes need to be made but when push comes to shove fears of political reprisal and threats of negative campaigns are tossed about.
Well, you Blue Oregon folks are savvy and know what us politicians do. We delay the tough choices and work on our pet projects. Well, I for one will not fall into this trap and want the voters of Portland to have a say this year about how they can start repairing this broken system and start saving money for the things I know all progressive Portlanders support: Small classes in a world class public school system. Clean and safe parks. Early childhood support and child abuse intervention. Programs that will receive increased revenues if FPD&R can be set on a rational and stable financial path. This effort is about showing leadership and doing the right thing for our citizens.
For too long these discussions of changes have been inside baseball, it's time for voters to have a swing at the plate.