Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Without Sal DiCiccio, Phoenix could become Detroit

James Keating: Rallying against unions will keep city vibrant

The decision that voters in Phoenix City Council District 6 make on Aug. 27 will determine whether we remain a great city for generations or embark on the path of decline already laid out by cities like Detroit.

Cities become and remain great when voters elect responsible, independent leaders. The opposite is also true. Great cities decline when voters elect candidates more beholden to public-sector unions than to the people they were elected to serve.

We will either vote for responsible fiscal management and opportunity under Councilman Sal DiCiccio, or we will choose union-dominated decisions and decline under Karlene Keogh Parks.

The recent recession has made it abundantly clear that union-driven spending commitments and poor planning, coupled with unreasonable investment expectations, also union driven, will wreak havoc on even the best managed city budgets. In those cities where public-sector unions have been left unchecked by leaders like Sal DiCiccio, the result has been disaster.

The story goes like this. Unions influence voters to elect their chosen candidates to public office (in this case, Keogh Parks). Those candidates, now in office, reward that support by voting to increase public-sector employee salary, health and pension benefits.

The city spends more and more on public-employee commitments and less and less on schools, vital infrastructure and other pro-growth investments. Eventually, tax rates are raised to fill the ever-deepening hole. Finally, industry and talent flee to better managed climates, employment rates drop and overall tax revenue declines.

The dominoes are already falling: Detroit, Harrisburg, Penn., and Stockton and San Bernadino, Calif., are just a few early examples of what happens to cities run by union-dominated officials.

Phoenix is no exception. According to the 2012 Phoenix Annual Financial Report the total unfunded liability for city pensions, including public safety, is more than $2.5 billion.

If the unions are successful in defeating Sal DiCiccio in this election, current and future council members will almost certainly be less willing to stand up to them. Over time, our liabilities will outpace our tax revenues, and Phoenix will begin its journey down the path of decline.

Phoenix needs Sal DiCiccio. He is committed to ensuring that the city your children inherit will be more vibrant and full of opportunity than the one we are fortunate to share today. He has shown both the foresight to recognize our challenges and the courage to speak out on them.

We all say we want honest politicians who are willing to do what is right even if it may not be easy or in their own best interest. We all know we must be able to trust our elected officials to responsibly manage our city's -- and our children's -- future.

The responsible District 6 vote is for Sal DiCiccio. If not, we will get what we deserve. Just ask Detroit.

James Keating is CEO of The Keating Group, which is based in Phoenix's District 6.

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