Pension reform

EDITOR: Whoa! Retired Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm plans to run for City Council ("Former SR chief joining council race", Friday)?

Schwedhelm is only 53 and drawing a city pension of $155,000 a year. That will add up to $4.2 million by the time he's 80. How is someone whose hand is so deep in the money bag going to protect the public interest in holding city employee wage/benefit costs within reasonable bounds?

His story underscores the need for a state constitutional amendment to remove public employee pensions — those for police, firefighters, clerks, teachers, judges, laborers — from their present untouchable status.

Too often, outrageous terms are negotiated behind closed doors by unions and city officials who are the beneficiaries in terms of money and/or political support. They're not disclosed in any detail. This has pushed public agencies to the verge of bankruptcy or to postponing or forcing cancellation of essential services.

No public pension should be sacred unless it's approved by voters — and then only if all terms and conditions are clear when the measure is on the ballot. Pension benefits should be limited to the terms in effect when a person is hired. To be fair, they should be sacred to a point — maybe four times minimum wage. But no games beyond that.