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12.19.07

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Letters to the Editor


Salaries Must Be Public

The anonymous letter "Dome Defense" you received supporting local government's high salaries (Letters, Dec. 12) demonstrates how far we've moved away from our country's principles. America was founded to ensure that private citizens had freedom. To that end, the Constitution provided for a limited federal government, recognizing that large, non-transparent governments and the concept of freedom are incompatible. Indeed, any government salary (or new law, for that matter) saps resources from private citizens that could be spent on innovation and other, more productive activities, while also increasing a government official's power to exert influence and control over private lives. High government salaries are particularly problematic, because they are a form of fraud on the public, i.e. the taking of more funds than necessary from dispersed private citizens to support unionized government members.

Here, our local government wanted to hide how much its members were making, which prevents the discovery of corruption and fraud in the form of higher-than-normal salaries. Yet, almost any county position could be filled with qualified individuals if the county reduced its entry salaries to $75,000 dollars per year, recognizing that a pension and the possibility of lifetime medical benefits are more than enough to attract qualified workers. In fact, almost no one in the private sector receives pensions or lifetime medical benefits, and all the private companies who used to offer such benefits, such as General Motors and Ford, are changing their policies and are slowly going bankrupt.There is a lesson there for private citizens, who may eventually be forced to pay higher taxes to support the unusually generous benefits the government keeps giving itself. As an attorney, I have litigated against several government agencies and have been shocked at how much power individual citizens have granted to unqualified government members. In one case, the DFEH brought an action in a separate tribunal set up exclusively for employment claims, in front of an unelected judge who used to work for the DFEH. The DFEH was awarded no money in the case, but my client had to pay thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees for a case that almost no one in the private sector would have touched. Yet, we are all paying for a tribunal (the FEHC) with the power to award $150,000 against any small business or individual.

Many small businesses may also be surprised to know that there exists an agency with the power to award unlimited amounts of unpaid wages against them; that filing such claims is free; that none of these agency workers are elected; and none of them even have to go to law school, even though their job requires interpretation of complex laws. We have seen San Jose's independent police auditor having to fight tooth and nail to get a small measure of authority to review SJPD taser deaths. In other words, our police officers are demanding the power to shock us to death without the opportunity for substantial outside, independent review. To get an idea of how bold our officers have become, and what happens when government workers are strongly unionized and do not have to fear discipline, read the case of Grassilli v. Barr (2006).

Teachers' unions usually ask for more money, but the California State Teachers Retirement System is already worth around $125 billion. It has around 750,000 members and is the third largest public retirement fund in the country. Yet, after health care, education reform remains crucial, and the CTA continues to ask for more money.

California government is so large, I was shocked the first time I saw a list of just the state agencies.

As a result of government salaries and benefits spiraling out of control, California's bond ratings have gone from AAA to single A and are approaching status that is slightly above junk (see www.treasurer.ca.gov/ratings/current.asp). For the first time in years, California is experiencing negative population growth, which may decrease tax receipts. Meanwhile, government gets bigger and bigger. The high salaries and unusual benefits of local government workers are just one small part of a major fiscal problem that will not get better on its own. The lack of transparency in government salaries has been solved, but many other issues remain. I pray that this country's citizens will read its history and think harder about current Constitutional issues; otherwise, we will be seeing a great power slowly but inexorably degenerate into a bloated, inefficient police state.


Matthew Rafat, Esq.

San Jose


Don't Rail On Rail

As a Vietnamese-American, I was totally disappointed that both Councilwoman Madison Nguyen and the San Jose City Council have ignored the will of the Vietnamese community in District 7 and voted to name the Vietnamese business related retail area in District 7, Saigon Business District instead of highly popular, world famous and romantic name, Little Saigon.

Even more, there was survey conducted by the San Jose Redevelopment Agency on the Little Saigon name and the result is that Little Saigon won and it is the most popular and preferred name by the Vietnamese community!

Why did Councilwoman Nguyen and the San Jose City Council blatanly ignored the will of the Vietnamese community? Is this democratic? Is this America?

Ever since that song "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?," San Jose has always fought for recognition and developing a culture that rivals San Francisco.

By not having Little Saigon as part of San Jose's cultural identity, people and especially tourists will ask also: Do you know the way to Little Saigon?


James Nguyen

San Jose


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