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Thursday
May242012

SACRAMENTO: AB 1692, editorial, "Lawmaker saps trust with city bankruptcy bill"....

* Sacramento Bee (editorial):  "Lawmaker saps trust with city bankruptcy bill" - From the Bee:

   After years of wrangling in the Legislature, a compromise bill authored by Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski and approved late last session established a mediation process cities would have to go through before filing for bankruptcy protection.

   The bill was carefully negotiated between cities and public employee unions. The law has been in place just five months. Two cash-strapped cities, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes, are in the middle of the mediation process the law established. And now, even before there's been an opportunity to determine how the law is working, Wieckowski is reneging on the deal.

   Late last Month, Wieckowski gutted an innocuous measure, Assembly Bill 1692, and inserted amendments that allow interested parties – including most significantly, his public employees union buddies, mainly firefighters – to endlessly delay and thus effectively stop municipal bankrputcy filings. Under this new bill, as their fiscal conditions dangerously deteriorate, cities would have no power to cut off mediation and file for bankruptcy protection.

   The amendments inserted into AB 1692 impose on cities the very provisions which, after lengthy negotiations, Wieckowski agreed to strip from last year's compromise measure. . . . . .

   The two cities, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes, which have already entered into good-faith negotiations with their creditors to avoid bankruptcy filings under last year's compromise legislation, are left twisting in the wind. Both cities strongly oppose the new bill. So do the mayors of California's 10 largest cities, including Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Ashley Swearengin of Fresno.

   If the Legislature approves AB 1692. . . . it would not only break the deal the Legislature cut just five months ago, it would destroy trust. As the big 10 mayors expressed it in their letter of opposition, "Seeking to undo key parts of (last year's compromise bill) just months after it was passed does not foster trust or reliability and both are absolutely critical to effectively managing a city in this era of fluctuating revenues and uncertainty."

   If the Wieckowski measure makes it to the governor's desk, it will make it harder – in fact, impossible – to believe that an individual legislator's word or the collective word of the Legislature as a whole means anything. Why would anyone compromise in such an atmosphere?