By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"All women and men deserve the right to work, live and retire in dignity in this country," said Kerr, an instrumental player in keeping county GOP officials from inflicting massive layoffs on firefighters over the years. "President Kennedy once talked about a rising tide lifting all boats. Nobody ever prepared us for a receding tide and that once it ebbed, the middle class would be targets of political fire, labor attacks and daily persecution from the right."
With his son tightly gripping his award and looking up at him in awe, Kerr continued, "One moment you're working-class heroes doing your best to serve and protect America. The next moment you are to blame for everybody's lot in life. So, I ask: Since when is it acceptable in modern-day America to blame your child's kindergarten teacher, your neighborhood fireman, your family nurse or your local cop for the worst recession in American history?"
Fifty-eight tables—many loaded with union members, criminal-defense lawyers and other liberal activists—gave Kerr the most spontaneous applause of the night. For outsiders, the lines might not be potent, but this is a place where the local Republican Party passed a 2010 rule forbidding its candidates from aligning themselves with unions representing deputies, teachers, cops and firemen.
"If history tells us anything, [it's that] as goes organized labor, so goes democracy," he added. "End of story. So, we can't give up now—certainly not in Orange County."
You couldn't count the number of back pats and handshakes Kerr received. Yet there was a putrid elephant in the ballroom that nobody dared mention. Local taxpayers are on the hook for more than $10 billion in unfunded pension benefits to retired government employees, some of whom will ridiculously take $200,000 per year for the rest of their lives. At least on this night, in this room, with this crowd, that fact was a satisfying victory—not a dire, looming crisis.