Other council comments

For our full story this week about the Stockton City Council’s vote to impose a variety of pay and benefit reductions on employees and retirees, we only had the space to include comments from the mayor. But several other council members made remarks before the vote, and I thought I would post excerpts of them here, in the order each spoke.

Dale Fritchen: “There is no city that could survive these types of agreements under the obligations and resources that this city is facing at this time. … Our task is to try to find a way to keep this city out of bankruptcy, and it’s a very difficult task. We don’t enjoy it, we’re not doing this for any kind of personal gain, that we want to inflect pain and misery on our employees or retirees. We’re doing this because it’s what needs to be done at this time in this city. … We don’t walk into this with our eyes shut and without feeling for everyone that our vote will effect. … I’m a God-fearing man, and before the meeting tonight I prayed for the strength to do what I knew I had to do. … We have a bigger picture that we need to look at: How to save this city. I want to apologize for those that are hurt by my vote tonight, but I see no other vote that I can take.”

Kathy Miller: “I don’t see another option for us. I understand our retirees feeling that this is not fair, that it’s beyond unexpected. But the reality of our situation is there are people all over the city who pay for the benefits and pay for the employees that are suffering. One in five people in this community is unemployed right now, and to expect us to put the full burden on our existing employees, some of whom are going to be seeing cuts in their salaries of 20 percent or more, people who have children at home, to expect them to take on this additional burden so our retirees would not have to share any of the pain … while I understand that it’s less than what was promised … we’re just coming off years of income that isn’t there. … If we are pushed into insolvency, nobody’s going to win – not our current employees, not our retirees and certainly not the residents in the city of Stockton.”

Diana Lowery: “We are not in a place that any of us want to be. I am aware of the mental anguish that this budget has caused for our employees, for our retirees. … It’s anguish that we’re all sharing, but it’s about saving this city. … The solvency of this city has to be the overriding concern. We are concerned about our employees … things are changing for our employees, things are changing for people who don’t work for City Hall, who have seen this enormous reduction in city services. … We are in a situation right now where we need everyone’s participation. Because minus it, we don’t want to go down that road. Ask yourselves, what would be the situation if this city had to declare bankruptcy? … What kind of benefits would you be receiving then? … Although there are no good answers, this is the best answer we have.”

Susan Eggman: “I don’t think you need to hear me say ‘I feel your pain,’ because I think those words could sound hollow to you. I think you’re all intelligent people who dedicated your lives to this city, and you know why we’re doing what we’re doing. You hate it as much as any of us do, but at some level you understand the position we find ourselves in. What I will do is I will commit to you, and I think this council commits to you, to continue open communication. Just like our labor groups, there’s still time for people to come to the table … there’s still time to do the best we can to make people come out of this feeling whole. … I personally apologize to all of you for the way this happened. Again, I respect your service, I respect your intelligence, and I commit that we will go forward with honesty and integrity that you deserve.”

Elbert Holman, Jr: “I didn’t come out of retirement to come to this council to deal with the things that we are dealing with. I was happily retired. But I dedicated my life to serving this city. … Don’t think that any one of us up here aren’t concerned about the decision we have to make. … There is a commitment to do whatever we have to do. … I got off the phone today with a police officer that actually cried on the phone, concerned about the cuts that we had to make that were going to affect her. I talked to her, I told her where the council was coming from, I tried to rationalize with her the things that were going on. And at the end of the day, she kind of understood where we were coming from, and she sucked it up, and she says ‘You know, I’m just going to move forward.’ But it told me how these decisions that we have to make are really and truly affecting peoples’ lives.”

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