Thursday, December 31, 2009

The End of 2009 – NOT the End of the Pain

The final hours of 2009 are ticking down and none too soon as far as I am concerned. Dwelling on the events of this past year will simply cause the removal of even more enamel from my teeth and renewed tension to my mandible. Many contemplate resolutions for a new year. By March, these resolutions will be gone from memory and people will revert to the comfort of the past. Politicians will use this time to pontificate and proselytize their agenda, disguised as "New Year's Resolutions." The first to hit the air waves is none other than the "little rube."

Disguised as an "Opinion" piece in the Union Tribune; "Resolutions for San Diego City Hall" the little rube continues his attempt to sell the taxpayer on his vision for policies, "that help create jobs, a truly balanced budget, reductions in unfunded pension and health obligations, and improvements in the water rate structure." The little rube said, "I'd like to suggest four self-improvement resolutions for my fellow city leaders and I to focus on in 2010."

The first of four resolutions; jobs friendly policies that promote putting San Diegans back to work. The little rube boasted of "holding a 'small-business' summit where he compiled a laundry list of examples where city government has been a hindrance rather than a help to job creation." Does the label "Hypocrite" ring true to anyone else? This carpet bagging, spin master, has gone out of his way to ensure the un-employment lines in San Diego continue to grow. His goal is to eliminate as many positions within the city as possible so he can grease the way for his cronies in the name of "Managed Competition." If you think for one second, his resolution of "jobs friendly policies" is altruistic, I would suggest you wake up and smell the coffee. The little rube continues to rail against raising revenue, demanding City leaders reject tax and fee increases, so he can ensure the city continues to face budget deficits. He can then continue to blame employees and sway the taxpayers to eliminate pension and retiree health benefits earned over the past thirty years.

The second resolution; a real balanced city budget, is the little rube's continued cry for managed competition in the name of "structural change." This is the where the spin machine kicks into high speed. The 15 percent to 25 percent cost savings the little rube says will be achieved through managed competition is simply; NOT REALISTIC. Government was not set up, nor is it in the business of "making" a profit. The only part of the little rube's continued diatribe related to this issue I will agree with is the need to conduct a performance audit and ensure the benchmark for performance meets private sector performances for all city services. This not only makes sense but is something good government does as a routine. Many of these audits have been completed and structural changes have already been implemented. When managed competition is employed, minimal savings is realized in the short term, and then experience has shown the companies providing the services realize the need to turn a profit and begin to make changes to meet this goal. The result of this selling of government services to the lowest bidder will be higher cost to the taxpayer and inadequate service in the long term.

The third of the little rube's New Year's resolutions; pension, health benefits reform, is buoyed by his playing loose and free with reality and facts. The numbers this pathetic politician uses to inflame taxpayers is nothing but short of criminal. His use of numbers, facts and spin have created a hysteria and hatred toward city employees and their wages and benefits that are all part of a larger scheme. The little rube uses facts and figures out of context to fit his argument and bolster his false claims. An example is his statement, "Over the years, city leaders granted employees generous pension packages and free taxpayer-funded health care coverage for life." His omission of how the retiree health care benefits came to be is egregious. He refuses to acknowledge the deal Pete Wilson put together to save the city money in 1981, to have employees withdraw from Social Security/Medicare with the agreement of providing city sponsored retiree health care insurance. The City saved money and in theory used the savings to provide these promised benefits.

2010 should be the year city leaders and employees join together and craft a solution to the pension and retiree health care insurance problem. Creating a tiered plan for retiree health care insurance for pre 1986 employees, honoring the decade's old agreement, is imperative to doing what is right. This should, at a minimum, include fully paid medical care insurance for those employees hired before 1986 who lack sufficient quarters to participate in Medicare. Workers who are eligible for Medicare should be provided retiree health care insurance until such time as eligible for this benefit. Working together to create solutions for long term retiree health care insurance, include implementing a shared retiree medical trust for funding adequate benefits is a must. Developing a sustainable Defined Benefit Retirement for Safety members and General members will require sacrifice. Recognizing the gains earned over the past decades, at this time, are not sustainable, we must roll back the retirement of workers. To do this fairly and with minimal impact on the quality of life for the city's employees; a tiered system need be explored for retirement. Participants with less than ten years of service (Safety and General hired after 2000) should be considered for a reduction to the benefit received at retirement which might include; an increase to the age of retirement (53 years for Safety; 62 years for General); a maximum benefit of 2.5% per year of service for the first 20 years and 2.75% for the remaining years of service, with a maximum benefit of 85 percent of the highest one year for Safety employees; and 2% per year of service for the first 25 years and 2.25% per year for the remaining years of service, with a maximum benefit of 85 percent of the highest three years for General employees. Employees and the City will contribute an additional one percent to retirement until the funding level rises above 90%; elected office holders will not be eligible to participate in the City's Retirement program but can participate in a City Matching 401K program up to a six percent match of contribution. DROP should be made available to ALL Safety Members who provide a minimum of 25 years of actual service upon retirement.

The suggestions above will no doubt be met with resistance from both sides. The City will say the changes do not go far enough and employees will say they go too far. I am not advocating these suggestions are the fix all, end all to the City's fiscal problems. I am simply offering suggestions to begin the dialog for obtaining sustainable and realistic retirement benefits for all employees that are acceptable to the taxpayer without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The forth of the little rube's resolutions; reform water rates, is one that lacks detail or vision. Simply showing resolve to create a new water rate structure to provide "financial incentives" to those who conserve is a shallow approach to a critical problem. Pursuing a secure long term water supply has been a dismal failure, due to a lack of vision and action by our elected officials. Suggesting the city expands hookups to recycled water for irrigation without the implementation of the "toilet to tap" program will not provide sufficient increases to meet the needs of our children. Working aggressively to move desalination forward and seeking federal support for this endeavor is paramount.

The little rube actually closes his piece with some truth; "As with any effort to keep faithful to a new year's resolution, city leaders will need someone to act as a constant coach and conscience – and that's where the public comes in." The taxpayer needs to become involved and hold city leaders accountable for their actions or lack thereof. To sit idly by while the city and its employees are decimated is not an option. With the New Year upon us, we need to make a resolution of our own to get involved and make a difference. We must educate the taxpayer to the realities of what we can safely provide and inform them of our true benefits. We can no longer allow the little rube and others to spin reality without providing context and honest, true facts disputing their lies.

I wish to thank all those who offered support to me and my family during 2009. Your prayers and words carried us through the days when we felt so helpless. To those who retired in 2009, after sacrificing countless years of your lives, to protect the citizens of San Diego, I want to thank you for all you gave. My hope is for a better year, filled with good health, joy and love. As we enter 2010, I will leave you with a quote I read this evening on Charles Kindred's Facebook;"We find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve" Maxwell Maltz.

We have many obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve in 2010. The real satisfaction and happiness in our lives are our responsibility and cannot be left to others to provide.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!


Just Wondering said...

No, it's true, the pain will not be over soon. But, on a positive note, however small, I note that Chris Reed, one of the SDUT opinion writers stated this in a recent column;

"Yo, Dave, the main (emphasis added) reason the city has such a pension nightmare is because of past decisions to intentionally underfund the pension system."

Reed who wrote in his America's Finest blog, was lambasting public servants, this time trashing David Wescoe, the former SDCERS Administrator along with four others.

What's important is Reed's acknowledgement that the underfunding of the pension system is the MAIN reason for the pension mess in San Diego. Not wages, not benefits, no, it was the City's mismanagement and intentional underfunding.
If you want to read the full column you can find it here.

Just Wondering said...

Hey there is a very interesting article in today's (Monday, Jan. 4, 2010) about our dissolving city, written by Scott Lewis...

It's a new way at looking HOW municipalities should be and can be run...Read it here!

Just Wondering said...

On Tuesday, Arnold announced a 23 BILLION, that's billions more billions in shortfalls in the State Budget. Of course this means the state will be taking more and more dollars from local and county governments.
There is a rapidly forming grass roots movement to pass a constitutional amendment on the Nov 2010 ballot to stop the state from raiding or “borrowing” local government monies. In the past, voters have passed similar measures such as Prop 42, Prop 1A (04) and Prop 1A(06) to protect or at least insulate them the state. Over one million (1.1 million) signatures are needed to get the 700,000 valid signatures necessary to qualify this initiative for the ballot.
All of the signatures must be submitted by April 14th. Only a simple majority
Go to Save Local Services! to learn more AND “request” a signature petition. Unfortunately, state law prohibits the downloading of petitions forms.

Compounding the problems of ongoing City of San Diego take-a-ways, Carl DeMaio, a.k.a. the "L'il Rube" and his lame duck colleague Donna Frye have decided the Mayor is not moving fast enough on the actuarial studies. He says we haven’t implemented the “elimination” of DROP. He says many the high-end salaries of Manager have not been eliminated …those million dollar DROP programs are costing us millions more.
He says we haven’t really reformed pensions. New hires for public safety member were not affected. He says we really don’t have a new pension plan for all city employees and the City is not being honest. The rhetoric doesn’t match reality. “L’il Rube” believes it is imperative the city rid itself of DROP and freeze Retiree Medical payments. Employees will have to make up the difference by paying for a defined contribution plan.
“L’il Rube” and Frye proposing a charter change alter pension benefits. It’s still not clear if they have the authority to do so. Obviously our “L’il Rube” and Frye believe the voters have the authority to alter pensions. I predict this one will end up in the court over constitutional issues specifically written to stop politicians, like the “L’il Rube” from tampering with them.
Of interest were the recommended principles from the IBA’s office for permanent elimination of the structural deficit. Seventh on the list of 11 suggestions: “reduce pension and retiree health care liability and annual city costs through the meet and confer process. “
On a sour note…the City’s first quarter revenues were down. Although the IBA would not officially commit, the deficit is still grow along with Jerry’s nose.

Just Wondering said...

Decisions Decsions....

Knowledge combined with an ability to see the future would an enviable skill. While I believe I do a good job educating myself. My ability to read the tea leaves, especially when it comes to our retirement benefits, is something less than stellar.

Everyone who pays attention to Sparky's blog should read and understand the information and the underlying message in a report published in today's (1/11/10) Voice of San Diego. Find it here!

If I had this information my decisions would have changed. There are a few disturbing components of the article: one is a link to a L.A. Times report where Orange County lowered retiree medical benefits in 2006. Another, is the link to our own IBA report calling for a reduction in benefits via the meet and confer process. Sadly, neither the IBA, nor the article's author, mention that meet and confer which implies negotiations is and really meet, confer and then impose.

Worse for retirees, benefits can be taken away as the article says with a "...snap of the mayor and City Council's fingers."

Allegedly there is negotiation going on with the MEA. Who knows what the POA is doing? They don't say much about this issue now-a-days. I suspect in today's economic climate they have their hands full just trying to maintain the status quo of wages and benefits for existing employees.

Nevertheless they would be wise to consider this; In a few short years they too will be among the growing number of baby boomer retirees. Those with longer careers, ones hired prior to 1986 have not accumulated the necessary credits to qualify for Medicare benefits. Pay close attention to this issue, if you plan on living into your golden years thinking you'll have a pension to support yourself. Instead you'll find your pension will be devoured by the ever growing cost of your health care insurance.

Just Wondering said...

Reading the Tea Leaves...

Has the tide of support for public safety employees gone out?
Many voice their support publicly but privately write letters such as this one by the Orange County Taxpayer Association. OC Tax Letter

While feigning support for the hard working Orange County Sheriffs, this group is working to reduce and undermine years of wage and benefit enhancements negotiated in good faith. Sound familiar?

Just Wondering said...

As Dysfunctional as Ever...

...OneSD, the City's $50 Million dollar software disaster is now being use as the scapegoat for the Comptroller office. You see they have been unable to get information necessary for the Auditor so we can all find out how the performance audits are being implemented. Read more here!

If the recent city paychecks are any indicator of how bad this software is, and time wasted just filling out a time card, we, the citizens of San Diego are in BIG trouble.

Just Wondering said...

Wait a Second... DeMaio is Spinning MORE LIES....

On January 11th during a City of San Diego Audit Committee meeting, our very own 5th District Councilman, Carl "L'il Rube" DeMaio, started up with more factually inaccurate statements.

Carl has a documented history of stretching the truth and is very adept at spinning the facts. Most regular folks call it lying, but he's a politician so I suppose he gets to lie a lot.

In response to a presentation about the 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, sometimes referred to as the CAFR (pronounced calf-fer), DeMaio protested a statement about San Diego's relatively low taxes and fees. He implied it was " ... just cut-and-paste from the Center on Policy Initiatives ..."

His statement is factually inaccurate, in plain language, a lie. He went on to say, "I cannot vote for the CAFR with that line in it."

Why Carl? Could it be that information that the City's revenues sources are not on par with other municipalities in the State? Or is it that information like this flies in the face of your agenda to become Mayor?

What about all the other reports documenting the City below average revenue? Ones like the the Council's own Independent Budget Analyst's report number "06-10", or the twenty million dollar KROLL Report, and its "Recommendation 25". The City paid a boatload full of taxpayer's money for that report, money, I should add we really need now.

What about the report just published last December from the Mayor's "Citizen Taskforce" of Business Leaders?

They said, "The City raises the least General Fund Revenues per household, measured as a percentage of household income, of any of the ten largest cities in California.

I guess our City's business leader have nothing better to do with their valuable time then to just make this stuff up?

The fact is were stuck with our L'il Rube and he has an agenda. It's to become the next Mayor of San Diego. He gonna do it by lying, and spinning facts to his advantage. He is counting on you remaining complacent and our local media not to challenge his statements. In other words, for you and them to remain the sheep getting ready to be sheered.

For more on this and the links to all the supporting documents read the the letter published in Voice of San Diego. Read it Here! That's right go read and get involved.

Just Wondering said...

All of you Public Safety Employees are E-V-I-L

It isn't enough to keep on fighting the endless attacks on your pay and benefits. Now they are after your personal safety and the safety of your family members.

That's right, it’s a vast conspiracy against the taxpayers by public safety employees.

I know, you're thinking what the heck is he talking about? Well friends, now, the conspiracy theorists believe and are attempting to convince others to believe your privilege to have your personal vehicle license plates and Drivers License information confidential is all a ploy to avoid high-tech law enforcement, like red light cameras, parking enforcement etc. etc.

The article says, "“Vehicles with protected license plates can run through dozens of intersections controlled by red light cameras with impunity,” the [Orange County] Register’s Jennifer Muir reported. “Parking citations issued to vehicles with protected plates are often dismissed because the process necessary to pierce the shield is too cumbersome. Some patrol officers let drivers with protected plates off with a warning because the plates signal that drivers are ‘one of their own’ or related to someone who is.”

Yep...that’s right read the story here! The first thing you should notice is the title… “Class War – How public servants became our masters”. While you’re at it take a look at the inflammatory cover art for the piece in their magazine HERE!.

Public Safety Groups have to get out into the public and send a message. The days where the public respected you and what you do a slipping away. We need to send a message loud and clear; WE ARE NOT THE BAD GUYS!

If not, and these attacks continue unabated, soon it won't be the criminals you'll to keep and eye with your F.I. stance, it will be the citizens who could turn on you without any waring whatsoever!