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Opinion: Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

20 July 2017   Jim Lamerson

Simply ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. 

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water; after all, it’s our baby.

Don’t cripple mom and dad because the baby has a "disease." The baby needs mom and dad and we can treat the disease. I wish the PSPRS liability issue was different, but it isn’t. I wish I didn’t have M.S., but I do. I choose dealing with problems ASAP. I’ve used medical professionals for potential M.S. treatments and listen to professional legal advice regarding the City’s pension problem. I do not ignore dirty bath water pretending it doesn’t exist or intentionally reduce Prescott’s quality of life by ignoring fiscal obligations. 

The Stand for Prescott event was a nice, positive gathering by some in the community coming to grips with our “disease” – PSPRS. Similar to the proposal for treatment from Barrow’s and local medical professionals to deal with my M.S., City residents and taxpayers have come up with a proposal to deal with the City’s public safety pension retirement system liability. These issues are not pleasurable, but dealing with them is necessary for a better quality of life. The thought of accumulating an estimated $300 million liability is obscene just like the cause and effect consequences of ignoring my M.S. 

I for one am thankful for the citizen taxpayers and fellow Councilmembers who worked laboriously to forward the Proposition 443 ballot proposal. If passed, it will generate the money necessary for Prescott to immediately deal with our mandated liability payment. Along with working with the Legislature, other communities throughout Arizona, and the PSPS Board, we may be able to solve the PSPRS liability issue going forward. 

Simply ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. I do not relish taking daily injections, multiple oral medications, regular MRI’s, etc. anymore than I enjoy supporting paying a bill beyond the City’s creation. It is my thought that if we pay our mandated annual contribution, invest some of our reserves, create an estimated $10 million dedicated annual revenue stream with a sunset, we can and will pay the pension liability into a manageable level within 5 years. I’ve never agreed we could totally eliminate the pension liability. We can change how it is, however. I submit that changes as to how the pension fund functions have to be made moving forward. Prescott cannot do it alone, nor should it.

Working with the Legislature, municipalities can develop remedies to prevent repeats of past failures. Past liabilities still have to be dealt with. I encourage every Prescott voter to fully examine our options and vote. If the issue fails at the ballot we will still have to deal with the liability. If the ballot measure succeeds we must stay the course of paying down the liability as quickly as possible using all the means available. The new Mayor and upcoming Council must work together. Choose wisely, Prescott.