Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another Clown on the Block

Did you catch the article on San Diego News Network (SDNN) titled "Pocket Change: a DROP in the bucket"
written by Steven Bartholow? It is another in a long list of false, misleading, slanted, caustic, pathetic examples of the lengths the Downtown Establishment, Republican Spin Machine, San Diego News Media and professed experts will go to convince the taxpaying public; City Employees are taking them for a ride.

Erik Bruvold is one of the professed "experts" quoted by Bartholow in his article. Bruvold is President of the National University System Institute for Policy Research (What?). If Bruvold is an "expert" in something I would be interested in knowing what that expertise is in; it is surely NOT the DROP or anything to do with San Diego City Employee Benefits.

In the article, "Pocket Change: a DROP in the bucket" Bruvold starts out saying; "The DROP program is a testament to the adage that one has to look at all the moving parts. Adopted by local and state governments throughout the U.S., on the surface it can – and I stress the word can – be an attractive program. Obligated to make the pension payout anyway, the employer can retain a valued and experienced employee and cap pension payouts." So as I read this first paragraph I am thinking someone finally gets it and understands the reasons for the DROP and how it works. I was curious to his emphasis on "can" and continued to read his analysis.

Bruvold continues; "The actuarial issues can give one a headache. But at their heart is the question of whether the specific DROP program works in concert with other benefits to encourage employees to retire at an earlier age and, if so, whether that earlier retirement age is balanced by reduced pension payouts so that the total lifetime payout to the employee remains generally the same. Well-constructed plans coordinate the various aspects of the retirement benefit plan so as to ensure that the plan remains cost-neutral." I'm now having my doubts Bruvold knows what he is talking about. The statements above gave me a headache. Bruvold is absolutely correct in his assertion well constructed plans are cost neutral. The rest of the babble is just that. Where these "experts" come up with this stuff is beyond me.

Then Bruvold throw the gauntlet down and says; "Then there is San Diego." Yes Erik, then there is San Diego and all the professed experts; professed "Investigative Reporters"; professed News Reporting Agencies and News Papers; professed "Editors" penning editorial after editorial on the Cadillac Benefits of City Employees; and the professed "expert" Eric Bruvold. Please excuse me while I go rinse my mouth out; the thoughts of all this caused a VERP (Vomit-Burp).

Here we go with the spin cycle, exaggerations, and completely false information being put out as fact to the taxpaying public by a professed expert. Bruvold writes; "Taxpayers in San Diego are presently burdened with a plan where nearly all the incentives encourage an earlier and earlier retirement but which do not also reduce benefit levels. The laundry list of features encouraging early retirement include allowing many employees in the past to buy extra pension credits at an artificially low price, lifetime retiree health benefits which are 100% protected against inflation, very generous guaranteed rates of return for the money employees put into their DROP accounts and caps on pension payouts after employees work a certain period of time. Together these can allow a public safety officer who started with the city at age 20 and who purchased five years of service time to enter DROP at age 45 and retire at 50 receiving a pension payout of 90% of his or her final salary, a DROP account comprised of 5 years of that pension payout guaranteed to earn 7.75% interest, and lifetime guaranteed healthcare." Please explain to me where these idiots come up with this crap?

Someone please call this dork and tell him his buddy the mayor took lifetime medical away from employees even though those hired before 1986 are NOT covered by Medicare and it was a promised benefit for which we agreed to leave Social Security to help save the City money. While you are talking to Erik tell him first there are 1 in 2000 safety employees hired at the age of 20 and if he or she was hired at age 20 they still could not retire at age 45 and would be foolish to purchase 5 years service credit since they would have over 30 years when they ARE eligible to retire. Be sure to tell this guy the purchase of service credit is cost neutral today and have been corrected for some time. Be sure to tell him NO ONE can retire and enter DROP at 45 and for him to write this is a distortion of reality and inflammatory and noting more than a way to rile the unknowing, gullible public into further directing their anger at City Employees. Ask Bruvold if he is interested in raising money for his favorite charity. If he is, tell him he just needs to last three rounds in a boxing match with a police officer (we will make it fair and let him box Binky) in the Battle of the Badges. I think we could raise a lot of money with this idea. I digress I know, sorry. I really want to box the mayor!!!!

Bruvold follows the last fairy tale with another; "The results are scary for taxpayers. By one estimate San Diego's DROP program costs has added hundreds of millions of dollars to the city' pension liability. Politically, it has set taxpayers and workers at each other's throats, reducing to nil the opportunities to have a constructive dialogue about taxes, benefits, and what the city needs to do to be a competitive employer providing high-quality services." The "estimate" this professed expert cites is a Voice of San Diego article written in 2006, by Evan McLaughlin. The information in this article has been cited in various circles to show cause for eliminating DROP. What all these experts fail to disclose is the information provided in the article and attributed to Actuary Joseph Esuchanko has been proved incorrect. Esuchanko was hired by the City and our mayor to assist the past City Attorney, Mike Aguirre in an attempt to eliminate DROP (Check out billing information). Aguirre was unsuccessful in his attempts in court and Esuchanko was of little help when his testimony was attacked.

The DROP has indeed been turned into a political football the City, mayor, city attorney, local media and press and the all mighty Downtown Establishment Money and Republican Party et al, keep kicking into the sun. EACH of these entities has refused to provide accurate information in their attacks of DROP. The reason; the facts do not support their argument against DROP and fearing a backlash now of honesty, it is easier and politically expedient to continue to perpetuate the lies. To assist in the fanning of this fire, if you did not notice, is a listing of all of the City Council Members and their e-mail addresses with the comment; "Want to offer your two cents? Contact your official." Think there is an agenda here?

It does not appear the attacks will end anytime soon. It is easier to make the employee and the unions out to be at fault than to admit their incompetence and lack of intelligence have created this mess and prevents them from doing what is necessary to meet their obligation and uphold their end of the agreement. Where is the evaluation promised by the mayor three years ago of DROP to determine if the plan is cost neutral? Why has it not been done in all this time? This is the question the public should be asking the mayor. Put up or shut up mayor.


Weary said...

As I read this article I think of a patrol officer I know, he is 47. He signed on to be a patrol officer, not a Chief who does not respond to emergencies, not a council member or lawyer who would not dare to respond to an emergencies of the Citizen they claim to be protecting by their monologs of how the officer, civilian employee or fire employee are scamming the system be being in drop, not a Mayor who probably does not remember responding to a child death where a boyfriend intentionally steps on a two year old, and the patrolman has to watch as the doctors take the child of lifesupport, to document the parent and boyfriends reactions because the detective can not take watching another child die and someone not care. The officer did not buy time as he would not earn 90% until 51.5 years of age, (over 30 years later, getting in and out of a car, twisting that knee, tweeking that back, watching those families continue the cycle of violence) academy time and you cannot be sworn until 21. He does not pay into medicare, it was not offered to him, it was okay, he thought he would be invicible...he is in pain now, hips, knees, on high blood pressure medication...too young to retire, wondering how he is going to pay his mortgage, he has not made up the pay from the last 7 % cut, now it is 6% pay plus medical, total of about 10% pay cut, how is he going to pay his mortgage, geez he bought a house far away to afford one at all....but he will take care of the citizen that calls, he cant help himself, foot pursuit of the bad guy, take the suspect abuser out of the house like luggage, he will, he will be in pain the next day but he will go to work....but who is taking care of him????

Anonymous said...

The truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth. This is the oath we give when testifying in a court of law. That is where the DROP issue will be resolved over the next 10 years. (Yes I said 10 years… with appeals it will take that long).

What I found disturbing with the SDNN piece is the number of omissions and misstatement of fact. Sparky's correct, this gives the reader false and misleading information, designed to sway public opinion further against honest city workers.

As others have commented in the post the misstatement make by the author about entry age into DROP before age 50 AND 20 years of city service are nonsense. But what was omitted was this only applies to public safety employees. General employees, that’s everyone else must wait until they reach the minimum age of 55.
Next is the interest rate returned. While the author is correct the rate of return is 7.75% today, effective July 1, 2009, the rate of return is 3.54% and adjustable after review each year in October.

However, as of Monday's TRO against the City, this is all subject to change.

The SDCERS Board will can and probably will set a new rate effective each January 1st. (The whole truth)

The author goes on about $1M benefits and says “some city workers”. Yes he’s correct, with over 15,000 active and retired city workers, less than 20 received that, what I call unusual sum. But who are these folks? All them were high ranking City Managers, City Attorneys, or in other words, City leaders. Most, if not all provided services to the Citizens of San Diego is excess of 30 years. One, who the media loves to pick on, a Deputy City Attorney, saved the taxpayers millions over his career. The knowledge experience he took with him can NEVER be replaced by youthful enthusiasm as the Mayor would have us all to believe. Remember, due to DROP the citizens benefited from five additional years of that incredible experience and knowledge. In my opinion, Mr. Goldsmith may not have embarrassed himself and his office if that Deputy City Attorney would have been there to weigh in with his corporate knowledge and experience. He certainly would not have allowed, what some believe to be a purposeful omissions from Mr. Goldsmiths analysis and opinion on Charter Section 143.1(a).

Then the author brings in the commentators… the only statement that contained the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth was, “Ultimately DROP is going to end up in court which will determine whether or not the program can be modified.”

So what’s my point of this rant? Simple, until we get the Truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, people who write about DROP have an agenda usually driven by factors they do not disclose. Over the next ten years the truth will come out, the spin cycles will end, and the truth will prevail.

One Adam 12 said...

When will all this garbage stop? I love what you wrote Weary. It was said with style and all so true. This is all a coordinated effort to ruin police officers. DROP was intended to be for SAFETY ONLY and yet it's the others who got it who have the million dollar DROP accounts who are used to turn the public against us. When is that story going to be told? I really liked all the study's you provided Sparky. It is a real education and clearly shows DROP works everywhere else. It works here also its just the press in San Diego that has a problem with it.

Anonymous said...

Sanders threatens 124 police layoffs IF the Governor takes $24M in gasoline taxes that he doesn't have to pay off. Sanders, of course, is attempting to deflect responsibilty for mismanaging the City and its budget by saying if Arnold takes this money he can't fix our broken down streets without layoff cops and fire fighters. So my question is, does this mean 124 officer in addition to the approximatley 150 who have already announced their retirements before July 1st? Or is Jerry just pulling some magical number out of his...er a hat in an attempt to scare folks and divert attention to the real issue, the complete failure of his administration to accomplish any of his goals of fiscal responsibility?

Anonymous said...

With the mayor it's "fecal responsibility," and just as soft as his credibility, integrity, truthfulness and dishonor.

Anonymous said...

The person who wrote the article you've linked to is so far removed from the truth that it puzzles me.

What on God's greenhouse gas contaminated earth is he talking about?

sparky.sandiego said...

Additional Information: The web site of www.sdnn.com (San Diego News Network) is a new site that was started and staffed with a large number of fired, laid off, retired Union Tribune writers. Need I say more? On Forbes.com an article addressed who and what SDNN is all about. It appears this site could care less about integrity, honesty and factual reporting. Just another sad example of what is going on in San Diego.