The inevitable shape-of-things-to-come has finally arrived in a major California city. I am pleased to report Voters in bankrupt San Bernardino sweep old guard from power.
Residents of bankrupt San Bernardino, California on Tuesday voted to complete a rout of the city's pro-union old guard, electing business-friendly pragmatists who have pledged to try to reduce pension costs and take on vested interests.
As San Bernardino enters into a fourth month of mediation with its creditors, the biggest of which is Calpers, California's giant retirement system, voters on Tuesday elected Carey Davis as the crisis-hit city's new mayor.
Davis, a businessman and political novice, ran in part on a campaign to reduce the city's pension obligations. In an interview in November, when he became one of two mayoral candidates, he said the city had to cut spending on police and fire departments, currently more than 70 percent of the budget.
"You have to roll the pensions back," Davis said in November. Davis did not return calls on Wednesday.
Davis will play a big role in how the city approaches negotiations with its creditors. He will be part of a small team of elected officials who represent the city as the debtor in the bankruptcy.
Along with Detroit, the biggest U.S. city to seek Chapter 9 protection, San Bernardino is likely to set precedent on whether retirees or Wall Street bondholders suffer the most when a city goes broke.
Davis defeated a San Bernardino political veteran, Wendy McCammack. She ran for mayor despite having been ousted by voters from her own council seat in a recall election in November.
Also on Tuesday, another political novice, Henry Nickel, became a new council member, saying he wanted to take on special interests. Nickel's biggest challenger was Randy Wilson, a police sergeant endorsed by the police union, the only candidate for that seat who did not support pension reform efforts.
Tuesday's results follow elections in November, when the balance of power in San Bernardino's seven-member council shifted dramatically away from an old guard reluctant to take on unions and reduce pension obligations.
After Tuesday night, six of seven council members are now on record as saying they want to explore reducing San Bernardino's pensions, along with Davis, the new mayor, and a new city attorney, Gary Saenz.
Expect a Hard Line On CalPERS
This kind of broad sweep eventually had to happen. I am not sure why it took so long, but even Taxifornia is finally fed up with public unions and the damage they cause. One bankrupt city after another will go this route.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock