Sunday, June 14, 2009

How Did This Happen?

People say we are whiners because we expect promises made, to be fulfilled. Half of Americans are expecting a retirement based on Social Security. A good many of these people have also contributed to personal retirement plans (401(k) or Deferred Comp type plans) in hopes of having enough money to live a comfortable life in retirement. When we joined the Civil Service Ranks as Police Officers, we were promised a Defined Benefit Retirement for which we contributed a percentage of salary and the City was, in theory suppose to contribute a like amount. In the early part of the 1980's, the City pleaded with us to leave Medicare in exchange for a "City Sponsored" retiree medical program so THE CITY could save money. The City promised a better plan than would be provided by Medicare upon our retirement. We stopped contributing to Medicare and the City began providing retirees with medical insurance.

Over the years the City asked to take on portions of an employee's retirement contribution, in-lieu of salary increases. This was done for three reasons; One, the cost of taking on a percent of an employee's contribution was less than a similar salary increase; Two, the employee was able to increase his/her net salary by that percent; Three, the employees base salary did not rise, keeping the City's actual contribution into the retirement fund lower. To the uneducated this seems a fair deal. To those who understand these plans the City saves a ton of money and the employee loses in the end with a lower base for which retirement is calculated. The citizens screamed because they did not understand the motives of the City and believed employees were taking advantage of the city and taxpayers; hence the "Cadillac Benefits" moniker.

Problems began to surface when it was learned the City was not making their full contribution on the employee's behalf into the Retirement System. Money was being diverted for various reasons; Faberge Egg Exposition; Republican National Convention; Convention Center Expansion; Petco Park, to name just a few. Creative financing and Manager's Proposal One followed by Manager's Proposal Two created a mess which ultimately collapsed, bringing an end to the games being played with the Employee's Retirement System and the payments owed on their behalf. Managers Proposal One and Managers Proposal Two were developed to hide the City's creative financing policies. MP1 was actually done because the Retirement Fund was creeping up on 100% funding and IRS implications would kick in if that happened. With MP1, came an increase in contribution rate for the employee which resulted in a number of senior City Employees retiring; the reason, to not have to pay the increase. MP1 was the beginning if the City's underfunding the Retirement System.

MP2 brought increased benefits and the lure of even less payments by the City into the Retirement System. The City failed to make their required contribution on behalf of the employees as actuarially determined. The City also changed the method used to determine their actuarially required payment (ARC) that was first illegal and second provided for a much lower payment. It was said; "San Diego officials cultivated and accepted a culture of financial management and reporting premised upon non-transparency, obfuscation, and denial of fiscal reality. Under the pressure of short-term needs, City officials gave expedience a higher priority than fiscal responsibility and came to view the law as an impediment to be circumvented through artful manipulation."

Enter the Union Tribune; the assault began on employees, the unions and their benefits. The UT long known for their anti-union position and extreme right bent, began an all out attack of everything union and everything employee. Facts be damned; it's the employee's and their unions that were at fault in every story. Truth and fact be damned; the Union Tribune has a Pulitzer Prize in the making. DROP and other benefits became known as "Cadillac" benefits; a fleecing of the taxpayer; criminal acts. Try as we may; fighting a war of words with someone who buys paper by the truck load and ink by the barrel; we were in a no win situation.

Dick Murphy resigned over the UT created controversy and incompetence of past City Councils and Mayor. Enter the ex-chief of police as a candidate to "fix" these problems. An Internet Web Site is created to enable the candidate for mayor to put forth his platform of "change" as he begins his campaign to fill Dick Murphy's seat. Prominent on this site was the candidate for mayor pledging to reduce retirement benefits for City Employees and eliminate DROP. The candidate for mayor continues the rampage against employees, perpetuating the lies and spin surrounding employees and their "Cadillac" benefits. The sad part of this; of all people, he had the opportunity to kick that band wagon over and tell the truth; but no. When challenged, the candidate for mayor said; "It's politics; I would never get elected telling the truth." (A clear indication of who he is and what was to come.)

The candidate for mayor / ex-chief of police eventually snows the electorate and takes his position as mayor of San Diego. Since that first day; the mayor has made it his calling in life to eliminate the DROP, reduce the City's workforce, cut wages and benefits and carry the water for the Downtown Power Brokers, Republican Party and Union Tribune. When challenged on the legality of his actions, his often used comment is; "The courts will decide." When challenged on his ethics, his often used comment is; "That's politics." When caught in a lie or found to be providing false or miss-leading information he or his office places blame at the feet of someone else.

The facts are finally seeing the light of day; the lies and spin put forth to perpetuate the political agenda of the mayor are now being torn apart. The mayor fired the first shot that turned the heads of people who have begun to question his motives and ethics. The mayor wanted to take DROP to court in an attempt to eliminate it from employees. He has filed the necessary papers to start the process. The problems with his case are already starting to shine bright. In his blinded quest to eliminate a vested benefit from the City's Employees, the mayor uses made up numbers and false information in his pleadings. His team have grasped at air in an attempt at swaying public opinion by putting out false "Memorandum of Law" and press releases, and espousing legal theory that has no legal support in reality. The fight has just begun and as the truth is shown for all to see; the mayor and his minions will soon be seen for the incompetent, unethical lot they are. Patience, honesty and the rule of law will prevail. We will soon be able to focus on our responsibilities and service to the taxpayers.


Anonymous said...

In fairness, we need to investigate the; who,what,when,where,how and why of the "trigger" written into MP1.
Then investigate the issues surrounding it, why it was breeched, who decided, who benefitted, how and why it was then abandoned with the implemenation of MP2.

Sparky you've left DEEP scratches in the the surface of city politics in the late 90's and since. But we need more, most of the data is buired in shallow graves where the stench of greed and corruption now escapes the isolation by those who want it that way.

There's no way one man can unbury this corspe by himself.

If you have infomation about the inner workings of MP1, MP2 or other acts intended to obfuscate the truth post them here. The more we learn, the more we'll get the real story on Enron by the Sea and the ones who ran her aground.

Secretsalmon said...

Sparky, the secrets are finally coming out. The council-morons and the short-chubby mayor have tried to bury Lamont Ewell's 2005report, but it's rising from its grave. Even if Ewell's report on the 45 million dollar savings to the City is off by 30%, its still a 31.5 million dollar savings to the City; off by 50% is still a 22.5 million dollar savings to the City! So what's up with the council-morons and the short-chubby mayor? Time the taxpayers ask the questions and maybe get truthful answers. Is that possible in this city?

sparky.sandiego said...

I will work on more detailed posts detailing the minutia of MP1 and MP2. I have some of the information and details but to do it right I need some of the holes filled in of that which I do not know. Give me a few days. There is a lot there for sure....