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California dreamin’

August 14, 2010 - John D'Agostino

One of my blog followers, "Captain," took issue with our newspaper’s lack of coverage regarding the outlandish Bell City, Calif., salaries last month. "Did I miss this story in the OBSERVER, or was covering the county fair more newsworthy?" he asked.

Yes Captain. We will always print local news from the fair, our school students or notices about strict enforcement of fireworks on July Fourth (yeah right) before covering events that occur in California, Russia or Alaska. Our niche is local news.

But Captain is correct. Bell City is worth chiming in on. My question: How could no media in California not known about these salaries when these officials were hired? Really, the print, TV and radio in that area must have been sleeping at the wheel.

Currently, the resigned Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo will collect $600,000 in pension for his overseeing of a town of 40,000 residents. Rizzo, unfortunately, is part of an out-of-control trend.

"According to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a nonprofit that advocates pension reform, Mr. Rizzo is hardly alone. The foundation lists 9,111 retired California government workers receiving pensions in excess of $100,000 a year," The Wall Street Journal noted on its editorial page Aug. 10. "The top earner, one Bruce Malkenhorst, receives $510,000 a year for his tenure as city administrator of Vernon, California (population, 91). Not including health benefits."

With numbers like these being thrown around in California, it is only a matter of time before our local trustees, officials and county legislators are telling us that these salaries and pensions in the Golden State prove they are underpaid for continuing to keep area taxes high.


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