Report by Richard Geno
The Conservative Forum continues to grow in members, and in attendance. 240 enthusiastic conservatives showed up to hear two very diverse presentations on July 13th.
First was our conservative San Jose city councilman, Pete Constant. Pete discussed the problems of dealing with an ongoing budget crisis, and the attitude of council members that cause the problem.
Pete started our by indicating that every government body - local, state and national - is dealing with budget crises that stem from too much government spending. In San Jose, the most recent fiscal problems represent the ninth consecutive year of budget deficits. The city has fourteen different unions to deal with. Some of the unions, and some of the city council members are in denial about the problem.
This year, San Jose was dealing with a $118 million deficit. While revenue has continued to go up, expenses are going up even faster. Pete referred to it as "self-inflicted wounds." Two past actions by the council have caused the problem: (1) past legislation that ties the hands of the current council, and (2) promises made that the city simply cannot afford.
There was a complete analysis of the entire cost structure of San Jose's 7,000 employees. So that no government employees would lose their jobs, Pete and a few of his colleagues offered a cross-the-board 10% cut in wages to solve the short-run problem. Many of the unions and several of the council members have rejected this proposal. That rejection is going to mean that hundreds of government employees will lose their jobs, and that services will need to be cut - libraries, parks, teachers, etc.
Pete pointed out that the biggest problem is the city has set up an unsustainable pension system. Previous councils have promised a "guaranteed 8% return" on the city pension plan. The city pension payments alone of $138 million last year are increasing to over $200 million this year. In addition to the 8% guarantee, there is a 250% match, which is more than 5 times the amount of match in a typical private 401k plan.
Pete did an outstanding job of fielding several questions following his presentation.
Our second speaker was Aryeh Green, who was making a record-setting thirdappearance before The Conservative Forum. Having presented his message from Israel in February, 2007, and March, 2009, previously, it was an overwhelming consensus that this was Aryeh's greatest presentation. He started by pointing out that there is a great deal of anxiety - even fear - in Israel from all of the threats it faces from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
Aryeh started by sharing with us some irrefutable facts. Iran's threatening the annihilation of a fellow state is a fundamental violation of the UN Charter. There are 40,000 rockets currently in Lebanon that are aimed at Israel; these are in the hands of Hezbollah, which is supported by Syria and Iran. Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, and has propelled over 10,000 rockets into Israel in less than five years since Israel pulled out. There is no humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip. The maritime blockade is a legitimate act, and is completely legal based on international law.
Aryeh pointed out that for political reasons, intellectuals, politicians, pundits and the media in Europe, and increasingly in the United States, communicate erroneous information about the region. Despite this, Israel continues to have a strong commitment to providing creative energy throughout the Middle East. There is one thing upon which the citizens of Israel are united, and that is that they will defend their right of survival, freedom and democracy.
He also pointed out the importance of the language used. Public pronouncements cannot be minimized. Accuracy in the language we use must reflect reality. Aryeh received three standing ovations during his talk, and at its conclusion.
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