Pension Posturing

An article from Beth Duckett in the Scottsdale Republic this morning rehashes falsetto concerns from mayor Jim Lane and lame duck councilman Ron McCullagh about Scottsdale’s employee pension fund costs.

While pension fund costs (and their seemingly inevitable increase) are certainly an issue about which Scottsdale taxpayers and elected representatives should be concerned, they are far from the only fiscal issue or even the most important one.

As noted in the article, our pension fund issues are driven by state law. Ron McCullagh wants to sue the state to allow Scottsdale to opt out. However, where was Ron–who campaigned on a platform including opposition to political signs in Scottsdale–when the state legislature trumped our city sign ordinances and blighted us with visual garbage? Ditto the issue of hunting in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which city staffers have falsely claimed is the sole jurisdiction of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Enough about McCullagh. He’s almost gone so (hopefully) we’ll be rid of him.

However, neither McCullagh or Lane (or most of their council colleagues) seem to have any problem writing millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer checks to political allies and campaign contributors. Taxpayer-subsidized polo matches, a multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded golf clubhouse, and the $4 million annual taxpayer subsidy to the private Scottsdale Cultural Council are among my favorites.

Even better, Duckett’s article cites Jan Dolan and Neil Schearer among the top beneficiaries among city retirees. You may recall that Dolan was the city manager before John Little (who preceded David Richert). If memory serves, Lane and McCullagh were both party to hiring Dolan, approving her compensation, firing her, and negotiating her severance/retirement.

Shearer was one of the beneficiaries (and architects) of the infamous John Little “Retirement Incentive Program”–aka, Platinum Parachute–that was engineered to line the pockets of a few senior managers under the guise of shrinking the city’s payroll and saving money. Lane and McCullagh both approved that program. Where was their concern for pension costs then? They should have scrutinized the bottom line a little more closely before they took John Little’s word for it and signed off. I vaguely recall that Jim Lane was a CPA and McCullagh was a finance professor?

Lane and McCullagh are merely piling onto the popular neo-con (if anyone still uses that term) pension bandwagon. Look at what they do, not what they say, if you want to see the real character of these two politicians.

Ditto incumbent candidate Suzanne Klapp, for whom the Republic published a completely unchallenged “My Turn” column this morning full of political pablum. I have a little something special for Ms. Klapp later today. Stay tuned.

As a footnote let me add that Duckett’s article cites Dolan as having, “…served the city for 29 years…” Dolan may have gotten credit for 29 years of service, but this must have been a negotiated part of her compensation because she came to the Scottsdale post in July of 2000 from the same job in Menlo Park, California.


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