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Nicole Gelinas
The Benefits Storm « Back to Story

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I cant hold on to workers because I cant compete with the excessive benefits the city pays to its workers. Then I am taxed and fined to pay for these benefits. It is not fair. This city is in a death spiral. Once they destroy the tax base by desstroying businesses it is all over. It is time to move out a more business friendly location
It is very interesting for me to read the article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

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It is certainly interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

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It is very interesting for me to read that article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

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"The mayor could try to privatize residential sanitation, for example—but that would require more public-sector competence, not less, than doing it the old-fashioned way."

Thank you for this statement! No one else seems to understand that privatization requires great existing public management, at a minimum, to even be considered. And if that already exists, then one must ask, why is privatizing services being considered? If a public agency should not be doing a task, they should stop doing it and turn it over to the private sector. In Indianapolis, Goldsmith and his cronies, engaged in self-dealing, transferring wealth to themselves by handling out contracts written to favor the contractors (bonuses for doing nothing and extra fees for doing nothing(of for doing things that should have been minimum requirements of the contract) and high-level officials, but definitely not the public or anyone served by the contract. This type of self-dealing continues today, with the future of Indianapolis being mortgaged to enrich the usual suspects.
I think Eileen is missing some details. It is impossible for a public employee in the state of NY to retire with only 15 years total service. That secretary mentioned worked in the Bd of Ed for 15 years, but must've had another position in another department. If you're in the State pension system, they count the total years you've worked as a public employee, not just how many years you were in one position.

That secretary retired at 55 w/ 15 yrs @ the Board of Education, which means she started their at the age of 40. Where did she work 20 years before that??
I don't have the expertise to comment on the sanitation mess. I do have personal knowledge of one retiree: a secretary at the NY Board of Ed who chose to retire at 55 after 15 years' work, and who has been collecting her city pension for the past 25 years.
I don't have the expertise to comment on the sanitation mess. I do have personal knowledge of one retiree: a secretary at the NY Board of Ed who chose to retire at 55 after 15 years, and who has been collecting her city pension for the past 25 years.
Ms. Gelinas, I enjoy your columns and agree with many of your ideas. But this article is total nonsense. There was no shortage of labor during the storm!! Obviously this article was written before the City Council's public hearing on the matter. The snow cleanup was a disaster because we have a Mayor and a bunch of bureaucratic suits who did nothing during the blizzard but text each other on their Blackberrys.

Instead of picking on unions & their pensions for causing the City's fiscal mess, maybe you should ask Mayor Bloomberg why he constantly has to hire six-figure, high level positions to do the job that his commissioners apparently are uncapable of. I was incensed to hear during the hearings that the Mayor has added another high level Communications Director to the Mayor's Office. And why was this post created? The citizens of NYC have discovered that the Commissioners of Sanitation, Transportation, OEM and the Deputy Mayors all can't make decisions during a blizzard. Also, as seen during the last storm, the Mayor himself might go missing. Therefore we need someone to coordinate all of them.
I think this analysis is interesting but I would say somehow simplistic.

New York is a city of talent, hard work and creativity, but those at the top must remember that the wealth-creating machine will not run without the people at the bottom: cleaners, hospital workers, teachers, etc. They collectively have the power, whether you like it or not, to grind the city to a halt. And why shouldn't they use this power to improve their lot? After all, if they look up the food chain, this is what everybody else is doing.

Privatise everything? It doesn't matter whether is public or private sector workers who grind the city to a halt. And if you want to know what you get with low paid and casual labour come to London.
NYC already has a privatized trash carting system for commercial users. It is entirely mafia run.

I the privatizers want the mafia to take over the whole city, like in Naples.
Figures please!
Re RTG - Here's a little education genius
"Gotham" - NYC nickname for over 200 years
Gotham City - Batman locale circa 1939
Subpar attempt at intelligent commentary
Gotham spent $1.3 billion annually on the Department of Sanitation???

What does a fictional city have to do with this?
New York should adopt the system that So.Cal. has for trash pickup. The trash trucks for residential service are 1 man operations,(automated arm grabbing wheeled carts), not 3 man units like they have now. Commercial pickup is by contract operators (using dumpsters), And they sort and recycle as much as feasible. Some County operations require pre-sorting recycleables prior to pigkup (separate bins).
@Susan

You stated: "the public worker (who is already at the bottom) gets the full weight of blame."

The public worker ... "at the bottom". Quite a nice bottom. The story you're commenting on stated: "Taxpayers now spend $144,000 on salary and benefits for each sanitation worker".

The public worker's Union has taken advantage of the taxpayer, and we have had enough.
"Where we are headed is a great unknown" actually where we are headed is predicatable and knowable.

Retired public sector workers will be at home waiting for the check to arrive from their busted-out pension plans.

Public sector workers who are not yet retired will patch up the clapped-out infrastructure, in vain, and elect politicans who promise more of the same.

Public sector managers will pull in astronimically wage, benefit, and retirement packages, in separate accounts from the workers. They will say they are competing against 5-10 unnamed but notorious hedge managers, who, somewhere, are pulling in 8 digiit or more wage and benefit packages.

Politicians, herd animals that they are, will see nothing, say nothing, and do nothing, until, all of a sudden, they will all realize at once that this is no way to run a government. And they will tell you how smart they are to cut future public sector workers pay and benefits to comparatively nothing.

It is unlikely that anything will be done. And if Bloomberg doesn't address this issue it is a certainty that his successor won't do a thing either. Once Bloomberg is gone, the next mayor will once again be part of the Democrat establishment. Where we are headed is a great unknown, and we will finally get the answer to what happens when there are no more one time or temporary measures available, when alternative sources of money are not there, when the federal gov't will not be willing to save the City from it's own mistakes, when the City will have no choice but to cut and cut and cut, and then cut some more.

I miss the time when New York could do and build great things. Now all the money has been siphoned off to pay worker's salaries and pensions. But when it comes time to make cuts what we will hear about is that the libraries will cut hours or close entirely, or the like.

It does indeed look like the post Dinkins era heralded by Guiliani's bringing the city back from the brink, is truly over, and New York is back on the path of decline.
I tripped onto this article. I am from Cincinnati, where we are experiencing the same problems. Upon light investigation this problem is a cancer.

I realize now that I should have taken a public sector job when I graduated. Just think: an easy job for twenty years and retire to an island in the sun.
"Bloomberg should direct his innovators to focus on where the money is, reducing taxpayers’ commitments to pay future retiree benefits before they consume even more of the budget."

Of course this is the obvious answer, but politicians, especially Democrats, want the easy solutions, which is to kick the can down the road by borrowing to pay the bills. I love your Bloomberg quote about addressing the problem, with the retort that the statement was made two years ago.

The answer is to emulate Gov. Chris Christy, not plan big PR campaigns. The unions are the stumbling block, and all the PR in the world won't give Bloomberg the backbone Cristy has shown.
Nicole - thank you again for providing astute, sharp, non-partisan, intelligent analysis.
Services must be privatized if there is ever to be any hope of handling disasters. Government run services always run just barely on the knife's edge of competency. Most of the money is always misdirected (stolen) and wasted. Therefore, whenever there is a larger than normal demand for any of those state run services, they buckle. No one should be surprised by this. It happens repeatedly in every service that states run; the big dig, Katrina, barely functioning roads and schools...on and on.

Essential services are too important to trust to government.
bloomberg suck and so do all the sanit jerks
Another attack on public workers and their pensions. What a surprise. One sentence about $80 million stolen and nothing about other Bloomberg programs that are running overbudget and are ineffective. Sadly, in the race to the bottom for scapegoats to our fiscal problems, the public worker (who is already at the bottom) gets the full weight of blame.
Patrick MacKinnon January 05, 2011 at 1:46 AM
My God. What a horror story! Has America gone completely bonkers?
It is very reassuring that Ms Gelinas, while alert to the aberration of present-day public pension plans, declines to bray with the privatization mob or generally to offer any silver bullets. That is why I read City Journal. Her intellectual probity seems lost on some of her more firebrand readers, though.
Cut the pensions and salaries. If they strike, fire them (remember the Air Traffic Controllers?). If they sue, let them.. The city can't pay what it doesn't have.
If they would just hire a team of assassins to bump off public sector workers as they retired, there wouldn't be a problem, surely?
No kidding!!!!
that is why I'm glad I live in NJ with Christie as our governor.
He does not give two hoots about popularity, just what needs to be done. Its time for a wake up call to all states to evaluate where and how much taxpayers are paying for each unionized state and city worker
I HATE it when another city is even worst than mine (San Diego). Takes away our bragging rights -- the only positive aspect of our runaway city compensation spending.
All of which goes to show you can't make a silk purse out of a boar's scrotum.