News


Pounding the pavement for pension reform

Menlo Park volunteers collect signatures for initiative drive

Click on pictures to enlarge and see captions.

By Sean Howell

Almanac Staff Writer

5:06 p.m., April 7, Sharon Heights

Introducing yourself to a stranger, especially a stranger you want something from, can be uncomfortable. But Lenny Ayyangar does it with poise as she canvasses Menlo Park's Sharon Heights neighborhood on this breezy, dust-mote-flecked day, locating the front doors (harder than it sounds) of house after house, marching up the steps and ringing the bell.

Usually, Ms. Ayyangar gathers signatures with a friend, but her friend's husband fell ill today, so it's just her out here with a photographer and a reporter whose presence probably makes it harder, not easier, to ring these doorbells, flanked by unaccountable figures with a long-lensed camera and a reporter's notebook.

"It's something other than feeding the homeless," she says in good humor as we walk up a steep block, explaining why she decided to volunteer with a Menlo Park group working to put a "pension reform" initiative on the November ballot. She's followed the issue for a while, and it seemed like a good cause. She gathers signatures whenever she can, going door to door in her neighborhood or posting up at the Sharon Heights Safeway; she's squeezing today's session in before an open house at M-A High, where her son is a senior.

On the whole, people are more receptive and less suspicious than you might expect. Ms. Ayyangar says that's pretty much been her experience so far. She's gathered 65 signatures, and only one person has turned her down.

There's a kindly man who signs, then says that it's a bad idea to ask whether he's a registered voter: "I tell people I was in the Navy during the war, but I don't tell them which Navy I was in," he says by way of explanation. A man in a wheelchair signs, though it takes Ms. Ayyangar and the man's caretaker several minutes to explain what the petition is for. "I'm all for reform," he says finally. One woman sitting on her front porch with a yippy dog signs the petition, though it's unclear whether she's just trying to get us off her porch so the dog will settle down.

Ms. Ayyangar wears a kind of laminated badge on a string around her neck, with her photo and big lettering that says "MENLO PARK RESIDENT." She starts her spiel by introducing herself, giving the name of a neighbor the homeowner might recognize, and reminding the homeowner that she's only asking whether they want to see the initiative on the ballot, not whether they will vote for it. When pressed, she says that the city is in a fiscal crisis, and services are being cut as a result of high public pensions. If pressed further, she says something along the lines of, "Public employees shouldn't be able to retire at 55; they should retire at 65, like the rest of us."

Roy and Henry

Roy Thiele-Sardina is outraged at the pensions public employees receive, and he thinks you should be, too. The group he has formed with longtime Planning Commissioner Henry Riggs to lead the initiative drive calls itself "Menlo Park Residents for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform." Talking to Mr. Thiele-Sardina, you get the sense that, on the group's stationery, the word "fair" should be capitalized, bolded and underlined twice.

"I have guaranteed not one of my employees $1.5 million in their 401K," the barrel-chested, cleft-chinned venture capitalist ("I have supervised organizations with hundreds of employees") says while eating soup on the patio outside Cafe Borrone, explaining that that's what a Menlo Park employee who makes $75,000 per year will receive if she retires as early as possible and lives until age 80. "It's absurd, that they think they deserve both that, and their pay."

The "coolest thing" he saw in a newspaper recently was a full list of city employees and the salaries they made in 2008.

"Eighty thousand dollars to a park worker? To a park worker? (audible scoff)?" he says, leaning forward with a how-are-you-not-stunned expression. "I don't have an admin paid anywhere near what this city pays, and all my admins have college degrees. Apparently it's really hard to work four-and-a-half days a week, and not have to answer the phones.

"Am I going to make this much in Social Security? I don't think so," he continues. "That's what's unfair: Who retires at 55, but a public employee? With Social Security, you have to be 67, 70 years old before you start collecting the full benefit."

With the state pension fund shrinking and the city's commitment to its retirees rising, the city is bound for financial trouble, Mr. Riggs says, despite its $26 million general fund reserve: "As the iceberg starts to surface, or we start to sink and see what's underneath us, there's no way to roll it back. We've already made the commitment."

Mr. Thiele-Sardina and Mr. Riggs think this initiative will be a very big deal indeed: the first step on the road to fixing a broken pension system on pace to bankrupt the state, and a possible catalyst for other cities in the region to change their own pension rules. The initiative would increase the retirement age for new non-police city employees from 55 to 60, and would decrease the annual pension payment to a 30-year worker from four-fifths of the worker's annual salary to three-fifths.

It would also force the City Council to send any future pension plan amendments to voters, a measure that Mr. Riggs and Mr. Thiele-Sardina say would ease the pressure on council members, from city management and politically powerful unions, to approve higher benefits. The current situation, with council members voting in closed session at the recommendation of managers who stand to indirectly benefit from the pension increases, is a "circular conversation, it's insidious," says Mr. Thiele-Sardina, who over the course of an hour-plus interview gives numerous examples of important, hard-working people who aren't paid as well as city employees and mentions that he has an MBA in data analysis, drives an early-model Prius, has started eight companies, and knows a thing or two about pension reform, having worked for GM when it was going through its own reorganization.

Mr. Riggs finds himself especially perplexed by the claims of union representatives who assert, despite much evidence to the contrary, that the state pension fund is not in fact headed for bankruptcy. A recent study by graduate students in the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research estimated that the fund has an unfunded liability of $425 billion.

"We're saying, 'If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,'" Mr. Riggs says. "(Union representatives) are saying, 'no, no, the Earth is actually rising. ...

"It's very much the American way," he said in a later interview. "The problem doesn't exist when the train is coming toward you at 100 miles per hour, only when the tracks are shaking and the first human bowling pin gets knocked over."

Different appeals

There are really two distinct issues involved when you're talking about changing public pensions: whether the city and state funds can support them, and whether employees deserve them.

While many people support "pension reform" on both grounds, they entail two fundamentally different forms of appeals. The first is a logical one: The city can't afford pensions at the current rate, and therefore we should change them. The second is an emotional appeal: City employees get better benefits than you, and that's not fair.

Recall Ms. Ayyangar's strategy. She begins her pitch with the logical appeal: The city will have to cut services if pensions aren't scaled back. Then, shifts to the emotional appeal that public employees should retire at 65, "like the rest of us."

The same shift is often apparent in the comments of speakers at City Council meetings, in the writings of people who support "pension reform," even in this reporter's conversation with Mr. Thiele-Sardina and Mr. Riggs. It all tends to get muddled; it can be easy to forget why you support the cause, or to be unclear on why you championed it from the beginning.

"What I talk about is that it's unsustainable," Mr. Riggs says. "If someone then says, 'They deserve it, so we'll have to raise more money,' I say, 'Well, let's talk about what your priorities are. Here's a short list of things the city can't do (because of pension commitments) that you wish it was doing."

Mr. Riggs acknowledges that the signature-gathering process would probably be easier, were he to simply lay out the city's pension plan, and ask people whether they're upset that they don't receive the same benefits.

Exploring the crawl spaces in municipal budgets and explaining the intricacies of annuity calculations are more daunting, and perhaps less effective, ways to get people to sign on. A signature is a signature, but the topic of whether the city can sustain the current system is "a much harder thing to explain and talk about," Mr. Riggs said. "I hope we will have the time from July to October to make that a more familiar subject," prior to the November election, when the group plans to put the initiative on the ballot.

INFORMATION

More than 80 Menlo Park residents are going door to door collecting signatures for an initiative drive aimed at scaling back pension benefits for future municipal, non-police employees.

The group leading the drive argues that the current system is unsustainable, and that changing the system for future employees will help stabilize the city's somewhat dour long-term budget forecast.

The initiative would:

-- Reduce pension payments from four-fifths of the highest annual salary to three-fifths of the average of the highest three consecutive years;

-- Increase retirement age from 55 to 60 years old; and

-- Require voter approval of any "enhancements" to pension benefits.

Henry Riggs, one of the leaders of the initiative drive, said the group is on track to meet its goal of 2,400 signatures by the end of April, when it must turn them in to the city.

Go to MenloParkPensionReform2010.org for more information, or e-mail info@MenloParkPensionReform2010.org.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Excellent!
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 14, 2010 at 8:03 pm

I am really glad that a group of citizens took up this effort, they are neither strong right wing, nor hardcore liberal, they're just an ordinary group of citizens trying to help council, and/or the unions, understand that we want our tax dollars treated in a much more fiscally responsible manner! Great job Roy and Henry, I've never met you, but thanks! I hope every tax paying citizen in our little town signs that petition!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I agree, Excellent!

We need accountability and reason.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Steve: Wasn't there accountability and reason?

I thought these contracts were approved by elected representatives.

Granted, during a booming economy, they had to offer competitive packages to attract police, fire, etc.. I'd like to the link to the 80k park worker, though.

So it looks like they are suggesting a two tier structure, and not trying to break existing contracts and promises.

The problem with the "race to the bottom" is that at some point down the road, folks ask why they don't get better quality candidates...


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Willy,

In local politics, the strongest single lobby is the employee union. Having the voter's approve significant changes to the pension formula is a good idea and good way to give the council a little more negotiating strength.

Menlo Park will not be the first city on the peninsula to move to a two tiered system nor will we be the last.

Every HR survey I have seen says that most employees choose an employer based on the reputation of the employer and the nature of the position and secondarily based on pay. Pension benefits are low down on the list except for employees near the end of their careers. If we are not getting enough talented applicants, perhaps we have other problems.


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Posted by orbiterone
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Classic Quote > Glen Kramer, the city's personnel director, said the city had not run the analysis, and that it's possible that going to a two-tier system would not save any money, even in 10 or 20 years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm

When the economy was booming and everyone had stock options and stock purchase plans, merit raises,signing bonuses, free lunches, coffee, sodas and worked in opulent buildings at their jobs as an incentive it was all good. People had new cars, etc from the proceeds of that money but the public worker didn't have any of that. Public money can't be spent that way. No they came to work for a far lower wadge than private workers and they did the job. Because they new that the future was the path they wanted so they took the City job for less money but good benefits. I would be interested to know how much money goes to these perk benefits in a start up? By the way most Cities and Districts didn't even have to fund the PERS plan for almost 7 or 8 years from the late 1990's to 2008. Can anyone name a private retirement fund that has done that? No because the rich took it. So now they want to take this incentive plan. Does that seem fair? How does a public agency attract and retain good employees? A start up gives all of the items mentioned about................


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Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 5:51 pm

In my opinion, conflict over this issue heralds the beginning of a coming war between our government and the private/non-government part of the electorate.

The utter outrage and unreasonableness of Government employees exploiting the surge in income during the bubble period to increase compensation, especially pension amounts and terms, by enormous percentages, based on the rationale that revenues will extrapolate without change, and then to refuse to even negotiate regarding reductions in times of privation is apparent to all, even them.
What would be so bad about having a Government employee strike? I personally think things would function fine. We need their services far less than people believe.

Roll backs to pre-bubble levels or lower as regards wages, benefits and pensions are reasonable and necessary.

This conflict will provide nothing less than the resolution of the relative merits of the best interest of the people versus government employees and will be expressed in the power struggle between the same in the coming years.

Reduction in the size of government and political empowerment of the private sector are the key elements in this conflict.

For the people to lose out in this process will ultimately result in unabashed totalitarian dominance and financial exploitation of the private sector by the government and its employees.

It may already be too late.

The key question that will be explored here, as well as in municipal, county, state and federal political environments, is whether the government can be held accountable to represent the interests of the people, or whether it is already powerful enough to represent itself in a conflict where those interests are clearly detrimental to public interest.

From my perspective, it doesn't look good.

JAT


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm

It looks like this thread has more coherent comments than the one relating to the union's challenge of the initiative drive.
I find it interesting that the union is working very hard to avoid the public actually having a say in this matter. I suppose in terms of influence, it's much easier to affect a few council members who get to vote in closed session as opposed to the actual population that pays the taxes that pay the salaries of government employees.

For the blue collar public worker above, it may be that you didn;t have access to stock options, and other POTENTIAL benefits of private sector workers, but you should know that the vast majority of stock options expire underwater and are not exercised. There is no company I know of that can guarantee you a benefit of $1.5 million dollars when you've contributed a small fraction of that. The reality is that the pensions consist of a way to markedly increase compensation to government workers without it being transparent and obvious.
What the private sector is awakening to is that the tradeoff of working for the government was lower salary for better job security is not true. It turns out that being a government worker means both better job security and higher payout all at taxpayer expense. And those in the working world, who retire at age 65 or older, do not get guaranteed pensions many-fold times what was paid into it, and do not see the value in paying for generous pensions rather than needed services.

Thanks to the ALmanac for writing this piece. It makes it rather clear what the issues and problems are. With regard to how government will attract good people, I thought people talked about going to work for the government as public service with job security as a trade for lower pay. If we are becoming a society where people go into government to make the most money, I fear for the conflict of interest as well as the stifling of creativity and so on. Somehow our President is able to attract very talented people with limits on compensation.


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Posted by Jerry Leugers
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Why age 60, not age 65? It really needs to change to a defined contribution plan, so that dissatisfied employees can leave when they choose and employees who want to stay beyond normal retirement age are not punished. My company changed and I am glad, just wish they had done it a long time ago. Current employees need to sacrifice also. This initiative does not go far enough and will need to be revisited in the near future.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2010 at 8:47 pm

To all,
Here are some facts yes it is ours we paid for it, do you know how PERS works? The goverment agency pays 7% to the fund and the employee pays 7% to the fund. Is that my money yes it is it came from my wadges and I earned it. Do private employers help fund 401K plans yes most match employee contribution. Did you know that in the late 90's until 2008 the PERS fund (investments did so well that goverment agencies did not have to fund the their 7%? We can't be fired no not true we can be fired for cause, laid off, down sized etc. Just ask all the teachers who got pink slips this month! So I ask is this just your tax dollars or is it our money we earned? Before you answer think and be fair.
BCPW


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Posted by Too Blue
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 16, 2010 at 11:35 pm

If we are comparing the public and private sectors, we should also look at the work schedule.

New employees in the Menlo Park city government can start right out of high school or college with:

11 days paid vacation (increasing with years of experience)
12 days paid sick leave (that can be carried over if not used)
11 paid holidays
4 1/2 paid "floating holidays"

for a total of 38.5 paid days (7.5 weeks) off per year.

On top of that, in return for working a theoretical 9 hour day, they get EVERY OTHER FRIDAY OFF!

That brings the total to 63.5 days (almost 13 weeks) vacation every year.

That's enough to take three weeks vacation and only work a 4 day week the rest of the year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a concerned taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 17, 2010 at 4:22 am

Sounds like a good place to work and live to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2010 at 6:49 am

Dear Greedy Tax Payers,
You are right it does sound like a great place to live, there is only one thing, I can't afford it on my Public salery. As is true with most of your Cities public servents. So I ask this question assuming most of you work or have worked in the Tech biz. Have you ever gotten a bounus, a stock option, a stock purchase plan, a signing bounus or any other kind of incentive like this? STOP don't answer because I am sure you have and you will. You need to understand the facts and the facts are Pubic money can't be spent on these incentives. So how do you attract a young engineer to the City of Menlo Park and still follow the goverment rules. BENIFITS! When I left the Private job to come to work in a Public job it was right there on the job posting. The Holidays, the sick time the retirement all of that. Just like the posting said when I applied for the private job. Matching 401K, Paid Holidays, Stock options, Stock Purchase plan, yearly bounus. I bought my first house with the money from a stock purchase plan, could that company come back now and say OK times are tough give us back your down payment? No but thats what you guys want is'nt it? If I would have stayed in the private sector and sold my stocks at the right time I would have seen $400,000 profit. But instead I took a cut in pay and traded all of that for a pension and good benifits. Do you still have the proceeds from any of your private sector incentives? Of course you do! The only difference is now you want mine too. GREED!
BCPW


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 17, 2010 at 8:49 am

BCPW, if you are unhappy with your compensation once it has been reduced to a lesser multiple of the compensation private workers receive, you may leave. Few will miss you, that is for sure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by private sector worker
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 17, 2010 at 9:15 am

BCPW, you are confusing public sector work with public SERVICE. We taxpayers don't owe you a home here just because you work here. Lots of people work here, but they don't get a home, they get a salary.

As for your accusation of GREED, well, you don't have $400,000 worth of stock today because, back then, you were hoping for MORE. What do you call that? We all have could've, should've, and would've stories. But let's not have a chip on our shoulder or throw accusations around.

You seem to resent silicon valley tech guys and their wildly large and by implication UNEARNed stock bonus. I am a former tech guy,
I got a salary and a small 401K, no stock bonus. At 50, I am absolutely unemployable as a tech guy. I've got thirty plus years ahead of me to figure out how to make a living. I know plenty of out of work tech guys.

Besides, you're already in the SYSTEM and the SYSTEM protects you. you will get your 2.7pct per year times years worked and you will retire at 55. (unless that incompetent CALPERS goes bust). You already have a gravy train that will secure your living until you breathe your last. It's the new guys who will get only 1/2 a gravy train.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blus Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2010 at 10:38 am

Correct the ESRA act protects retirements even public workers. You know why because of GREED so Joe you will not take away what we earned, even if you try. PCW in your whole career you never got a bounus, stock plan, options, beer busts, free coffee? Did you know we can't even buy coffee with public funds or a microwave for the break room. Sounds simple but a cup of coffee is 3 bucks at a coffee house, that $1,500 bucks a year if you drink 2 cups a day. I pay for mine your is a perk of your job. We all took our paths you took the wrong ones. I'm sorry I made a commitment(I left my stock plan for these benefits) and I think I'll stay, buy the way I need to work till I'm 67. And you will miss us when your sewer backs up, your house is on fire and some other thief is robbing you. So come and get it and bring a big stick!
BCPW


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm

BCPW, I agree with you that greed is the operative force here. There is no sense of entitlement greater than that of our public servants.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by not rich in the private sector
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 17, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I would take one of those city jobs. Where do I sign up? I agree with private sector worker, lots of us middle-aged tech types reeling from the bad economy, many of us unemployed and not knowing where/when we will get another job. Maybe we got a decent salary when we were employed, but very very few got rich, and no one can expect to retire at any age and receive 90% of their salaries forever.

Traditionally, people took jobs in the public sector because they liked the relaxed schedule (a full-time job is 40 hours a week, no more!) and weren't very ambitious. That's fine, and I have no problem paying city employees what they are worth during their employment with the city. The problem arises because they expect to continue to draw an amount very close to that salary when they are no longer working with the city. I fully expect that many of those retiring at age 55 now will live more than 30 more years. Therefore, they will draw a pension for longer than they worked!

When you ask public sector employees who should pay for their retirement, a common response is "tax the rich." Uh, right. People who work hard (full-time is not a 40 hour week and 60+ days of vacation a year) should be forking over most of the money they earn so that you can play golf, hang out on the beach, and take a second job? Seriously, a public sector job should not be the professional equivalent of hitting the lottery. You draw your paycheck like the rest of us and save for your retirement -- don't expect us to finance it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by not rich...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 17, 2010 at 11:43 pm

P.S. to Blue Collar -- I assume that employees are allowed to drink water for free? I suggest you bring your own ground coffee to work along with a drip filter. That's what I've done. Saves money and the coffee is better too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by private sector peon
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 18, 2010 at 8:02 am

BCPW: "And you will miss us when your sewer backs up, your house is on fire and some other thief is robbing you."

Our sewers are by West Bay Sanitary, not Menlo Park, our fire is handled by Menlo Park Fire Protection District, not Menlo Park, and this initiative explicitly EXCLUDES the police. What more can I say?

So, if those vital public functions are by others, what does Menlo Park do? well, good people can disagree what is vital, but at 240 employees on the payroll, Menlo Park appears to take a pretty expansive view. there are 30 plus employees running the childcare center when better and cheaper programs exist elsewhere. there is a "community engagement manager", recent hire for a position that did not exist before at $105,000 salary, there is the park worker who earned $80,000, there are the layers of management (AFSME, the union that filed the lawsuit represents 30 managers for a staff) Seems a bit top heavy with management to me. what more can be said?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

Blue Collar:




yes, I have put myself in harms way as a police officer. I left that profession and do not have the retirement that I could have had. The bottom line in this situation is that no one is asking for take backs. No one is talking about cutting your pension. They are talking about resetting the system so it will remain affordable. As it is now it is simply unsustainable.




It used to be that civil service employees took less in salary in exchange for better benefits and good retirement. Civil servants are now paid comparably with the private sector and still recieve great benefits and retirement. In addition, the original assumptions that the final cost of those retirements were based on were flawed. People live longer than originally assumed and the returns on the investment of the retirement monies is no where near what was assumed. This has created a situation that is sumply untenable. If you run the numbers you will find the cost of these retirements creates a huge shortfall which will need to be made up. Where do you think that will come from? That's right the tax payers.




I am now a builder. My pay has been cut about 40% in the last year and a half. How about yours? I don't get 7.5 weeks paid time off either. How about you? Most everyone I know in private industry doesn't get the kind of percs civil service employees get. You pay 7% of your pay into the pension plan? You don't have to pay into social security like the rest of us, so its a wash. I have to pay into social security for a retirement benefit that won't be anywhere near 80% of my final pay. If I want that type of retirement benefit I have to contribute additional portions of my income into a retirement plan. Do you?




So Blue Collar, it seems to me the only greedy one here is you. When you give up your massive percs, take a pay cut comparable to mine and contribute in a comparable fashion to retirement account like I do, I will start taking what you have to say seriously.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2010 at 9:32 am

PSP and Menlo Voter,
I would like to see the link and some proof for the $80,000 Park Worker. Along with an explination of how he made $80,000 in a year. Could it be that there were other workers out and this worker filled in, could it be rather than hire another employee because of short term work load increase this person worked overtime? BTW I have no dog in the Menlo Park City fight, but right now you guys are cherry picking and I know you will come for mine. But like everyone in this comunity you want the best and let me tell you if you change the day care you will squeal like little pigs when your not happy.To you Menlo Voter you should of stayed a Cop, too bad for you. Just pay your bills the ones you owe and stop trying to negotiate a lower rate when you see and opporunity to take advantage................


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2010 at 9:53 am

PSP,
By the way if no one is after the Fire Department than why post the saleries of the people retired in the other forum? We know how this works we have seen history and understand well how the rich take from their servants. We know your not stupid enough to take on Police, Fire, City Workers all at one time. Like any GREEDY Preditor you'll target the weakest. I can't wait to see you try to take on the Police and Fire Unions. Some one who has to fight every day for a living, your gonna loose that one!


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Posted by private sector peon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 18, 2010 at 10:32 am

here is the parks guy -
Mooney David A Parks And Trees Supervisor (Did Not Provide) $86,457 $0 $219 $86,676 Menlo Park

Contra Costa Times has a public pay database and its searchable. Menlo Park turns up 537 records some of which are part-time, but the city has about 240 full time equivalents.

So, BCPW, you have been selective responding to the pro-initiative posters. You have submitted emotional appeals to fairness and accused others of greed. Do you have any fact based responses to the runaway spending of this city on salaries and benefits? Okay you don't have a dog in this fight, perhaps you post here simply because it helps you unload the resentments you have over how unfair life has been to you. Perhaps you need therapy more than anything else?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

Blue Collar:

as I said, when you start operating the way the real world does instead of how civil service does, you will have something of interest to say. As of now, you have no facts, nothing to back up any of your arguments and nothing but emotion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by out of money taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 18, 2010 at 11:32 am

"Menlo Park may halt projects: City may delay sidewalk fixes, raise utility rates to wipe out budget deficit"
Web Link

"MENLO PARK SELECTS NEW COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT MANAGER"
Web Link

Not to pick specifically on Miss Brandell, she just dropped into a system she didn't create, but the juxtaposition of these two stories illustrates the out of balance character of the city budget. Salary and compensation are eating up the taxes that are suppose to pay for the services that we need.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by not rich...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm

>>here is the parks guy -

Mooney David A Parks And Trees Supervisor (Did Not Provide) $86,457 $0 $219 $86,676 Menlo Park<<

And here is the kicker: Dave Mooney lives in Fresno! He is notoriously hard to reach, and he often leaves for the weekend at noon on Thursday. Wonder how many hours he's actually on the job?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by private sector peon
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 18, 2010 at 5:34 pm

here's the link to the Contra Costa Times public pay database.
Web Link
select "Menlo Park" as the public entity.
BTW, the first 71 entries are all over $100,000. Remember, we have 240 employees. 30pct of the employees are in the six figure range!

As for BCPW excuses on how they got to the total pay package, it doesn't matter for the pension formula calculation. It's currently the employee's BEST year. That includes overtime, vacation days and sick days exchanged for pay, etc.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Peon......Overtime is not used to calculate PERS contributions


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2010 at 6:21 pm

To all,
Why am I not surprised that it is Dave Mooney you call a "Park Worker" you see you don't even know what his job is. And by the way he does not live in Fresno he is close to Menlo Park.I don't know the facts oh no I do and I know what Dave does better than all of you. He is a Supervisor and oversees all aspects of tree work, permits etc. He also is in charge of all the park and the sports fields. And I will say since Dave came from Saratoga the fields in Menlo Park have never been better. And I know for a fact that he does it within budget and is an excellent Supervisor his people like him. Bottom line he is prudent with tax dollars. I have seen Dave jump in a ditch and dig up broken water lines and really go the extra mile. $86,000 is a bargain. Again here is a guy who is taking less now in stead of of all the perks to get a better retirement. Private Sector Peon, I am very happy, I got a great Public Job with a great salary, great benefits and the best retirement in the nation. I go to work every day do a good job and feel good about it. Happy you bet! Resentment no, but how would you react to someone trying to rob you of what you have worked for, I don't think I'm out of line here at all. I think it's very ugly to call someone a "Park Worker" when that does not describe their position, expose them to this kind of ugly game then print his name and say negative things about them personally on the internet. I don't think anyone would like that but that's how people are when they get GREEDY they will do anything for $$$$$


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 18, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Blue Collar:
As far as there being nobody to put out fires or unclog sewer lines, etc, you overlook the obvious: There are limited amounts of funds with which to fund public services. These funds derive from taxes and they are not infinite, nor are they monies that unions have an perpetual right to. Public representatives have made comitments they are unable to keep and the result is that if public monies go to pay generous pensions (those rather untransparent open ended comitments), then there will be nobody to put out fires, unclog sewer lines, teach our kids, etc. anyway. So you see, even giving in to what might be described as low level blackmail, we'll still have the issues of how to maintain our communities. And the funny thing is, I have to believe that there are many people who would be willing to do those jobs, without the above market compensation you would argue is the only way to do it.
At some point, you will not be able to attract new people into what should be very desirable communities to pay for open ended unsustainable comittments and people will move elsewhere,perhaps even to out of state. Contrary to what you appear to believe, the vast majority of people are not multimillionaire's who cashed in on options, bonuses, and the like. There are some, but there are many people who have taken a real bath in this economy and may not have a job at all. To see the amazing amount of hubris in your posts is stunning and while greed appears to be a common theme, your posts reveal a self-centered, one could say greed-driven, approach to the unsustainablilty problem. You put yourself first and everyone else should fund you.
To say that government workers should get:
pay above market rates
generous and guaranteed benefits far above standard
monopoly power to conduct business
and demand external groups do the funding

is a recipe for the current disaster we have. And it will only get worse if the issue is not addressed head on. This is exactly the path that led the autoworkers and UAW to ruin. You can say they that management made bad decisions, but I would argue that municipal governments have also run into the same problems except here the law is set up to not allow bankruptcies to impact pensions. People will not put up with it. Unions are going to face a major split as there will be those like you who "got theirs" and a new group that will have dramatically reduced packages to fund the retirement of you and your cohort.


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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm

BCPW

Here is a complete list of ALL the park workers listed in the most recent salary/compensation survey (2009). If they all retired tomorrow they would draw $555,428 in retirement benefits, with cost of living increases and healthcare costs on top of that.

While David clearly is noted as a supervisor the rest of the employees are not. They cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars while working, and will cost hundreds more when they retire.

We are trying to make the city services the citizens deserve sustainable. As the pension costs for retirees escalates, EVERY dollar spent to fund underfunded pensions is a dollar that CANNOT be used to pave a street, build a park, build a pool, or provide a service to the taxpayers and residents of Menlo Park.

Your anti-greedy comments clearly show why the Reform Initiative needs to appear on the ballot. This simply cannot be sustained, and the Union doesn't see that, and won't be reformed.

We need everyone's help in gathering signatures to show our city council that the citizens of Menlo Park DEMAND a change. Please go to our website and look for a signature location: Web Link or send email to info@menloparkpensionreform2010.org and we will send someone to get your signature. We need volunteers to help gather signatures now!

Thanks
Roy Thiele-Sardina
Co-Chairman - Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform


Mooney,David Parks And Trees Supervisor $88,331
Perez,Juan Maintenance Worker II - Parks $82,452
Paya,Bruce Maintenance III - Parks $74,665
Kieffer,Edward Maintenance Worker II - Parks $71,644
Dowdell,Keith Maintenance Worker II - Parks $69,132
Hummel,Gordon Maintenance Worker III - Parks $68,485
Cipres,Hector Maintenance Worker II - Parks $62,433
Ynegas,John Maintenance Worker III - Parks $59,472
Alamo,Natividad Maintenance Worker I - Trees $58,174
Perez,Leno Maintenance Worker I - Parks $50,921

Total $685,713


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Posted by private sector peon
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 19, 2010 at 12:13 am

If the whole parks maintenance department were outsourced to a private company, we would have better work at MUCH lower cost to the taxpayer. As a taxpayer, I'm hopping mad as hell.

As for "someone trying to rob you of what you have worked for", you didn't work for that! You lucked out that in 2007, a new council came in and granted you a 35pct increase in your pension. You don't work any harder before or after that undeserved windfall.

As for Mr. Mooney, there are plenty of people who will jump into a ditch for $86K or a whole lot less. he doesn't prove himself a better employee or a hero for his ditch jumping.

Now, I'm the one that's resentful for your "great Public Job with a great salary, great benefits and the best retirement in the nation. I go to work every day do a good job and feel good about it."


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 19, 2010 at 4:56 am

Here's a link to an interesting piece on how we got to this mess:

Web Link

Blue collar and other union apologists, the internet and associated transparency is not your friend. As people are waking up to find out how our public servants have become our masters, they can recognize the scam for what it is. That is why the union would much rather deal with a few people they can threaten behind closed doors than the people who they are figuratively raping.


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Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 19, 2010 at 7:56 am

I support this initiative, I agree with the claim that employee costs have gotten way out of whack, but what makes me even more "hopping mad as hell" are statements like Private Sector Peon's. To say we'd get "better work" from the private sector is just garbage. Public workers and private sector workers are all human beings, and there are the good, the bad and the middling in both groups. The issue is compensation. Advocating replacing public workers with private is a feeble attempt to hide your anti-union beliefs. Let's talk about compensation. If this turns into an anti-union movement, I'm not signing up.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 19, 2010 at 8:44 am

I agree with Joan, I have hired several private tree companies and have gotten some really mixed results. Also, with all the trees and actual space/parks Menlo Park has I think we are getting a bargain with the tree guy. Maybe some of you haven't paid for private tree work recently.


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Posted by private sector peon
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 19, 2010 at 9:01 am


I read the initiative BEFORE I signed the petition, it's only a few paragraphs. How is it anti-union? Unions aren't mentioned anywhere. It attempts to dial back the absurd cost of pensions for new employees and begin to turn the tide back a little bit. If you have been paying attention, many of these employees will collect MORE in retirement than they were paid as employees! They will enjoy MORE years in retirement than they worked for the city!

The American labor movement has a noble history. There exist today people of in labor of good cause, good intention, and moral purpose. That's the big picture. Our little picture is trying to prevent some who would otherwise happily appropiate all of our future taxpayer funded goods and services.


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Posted by not rich...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 19, 2010 at 10:01 am

Before you start heaping accolades on our parks and tree guys, note that they don't do most of the heavy lifting in the parks or on our streets. The city hires contractors to take care of the trees. One of Mooney's main roles is to determine when people can use the fields. If there's rain in the forecast for the weekend, he often will order the fields closed on Thursday morning, before he leaves for the weekend. The rain may not materialize but we still have to cancel the kids' soccer, baseball, lacrosse, etc games. For the amount of money we pay him, we should get real-time service.

I don't see why the city needs to hire union workers. Unions originated as a way to protect uneducated laborers. People earning over $100,000 don't fall into that category. The unions have way too much power, resulting in these absurd salaries and benefits (to be fair to the council, they are volunteers who are dealing with professional union negotiators) as well as their insinuation in our political process.

Having said that, I agree with psp; the petition is about containing future costs, and says absolutely zip about the union. Let's not throw that red herring into the fray.


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Posted by Pro union
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 19, 2010 at 11:15 am

Not Rich ... and PSP say that the petition has nothing to do with unions. I haven't read it, though I will and may sign it, but I'll take your word for now. But what I think Joan was reacting to was PSP's comment: "If the whole parks maintenance department were outsourced to a private company, we would have better work at MUCH lower cost to the taxpayer." THAT reeks of anti-union feeling, and reacting against it is not throwing a red herring into the fray, it's trying to keep the discussion honest. I haven't made up my mind on this measure, but anti-union talk could turn me against it fast.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm

OK they don't do any heavy lifting go look I saw them this morning trimming the Amber trees on Oak Knoll lane. Some of the limbs were 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 10 feet long. Susan and Joan and others who have chimed in with support thank you. The truth is we are getting our moneys worth when it comes to trimming trees and the lies about "Heavy Lifting" Are just that. The work that gets sent outside is work that the crews don't have time to address but must be completed ASAP or other legitimate reasons. By the way is this not "The Tree City". And so tonight for all of you who have been following my posts I will have a very special treat. You will see why some of the leaders of this pension reform have a special interest here in Menlo Park. By the way R.T.S. I'm glad you popped your head up I will address you tonight so prepare to defend yourself, Sir! As for now my lunch is over and I must continue to diligently perform for the taxpayers of my community. Thank you for you support!


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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm

"If the whole parks maintenance department were outsourced to a private company, we would have better work at MUCH lower cost to the taxpayer."

It's never as much as one thinks it will be at first glance. There's always a cost to trying to save a buck with outsourcing. Look at the outsourcing issue the Pentagon is going through right now.

And that doesn't even take into account the contractor KBR electrocuting soldiers as they showered.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Having seen the unintended consequences of too many statewide initiatives (Props 13 and 98 for example) I'm very leery that we may be tying the hands of city council representatives down the road. Do we really want to have to have a city-wide vote whenever a contract with employees comes up for renewal?
Rather than jumping to an initiative, wouldn't a more measured action be to give the council a chance to correct what is now seen as an inequitable retirement plan for city employees? Why the extreme measure of resorting to an initiative without going through the standard channels first?
The fact that few objected at the time the contract was signed suggests that it wasn't a problem back when the economy was doing well and unemployment was low. Rewarding good-performing public employees seemed a fair thing to do when most everyone in the private sector was benefiting from the strong economy. From the Council's point of view, it may have even appeared necessary in order to be able to attract and retain qualified workers who could choose better paying jobs in other cities or in the private sector.
Now that the economy has soured these benefits seem overly generous - though few objected at the time - and it may be necessary to reopen contract negotiations to bring them back in line with those of the private sector. Why not give the city council the chance to do this on their own, rather than force their hands? It's kind of an antagonistic thing to do to folks who have volunteered their time and energy to take care of our community business.
And if it does come to pass the city employee benefits are reduced, are people in the community willing to revisit the contracts when the economy improves and public sector jobs once again become uncompetitive with the private sector? Seems only fair.


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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Steve

While your logic sounds reasonable in ANY circumstance (when times are good reward, when times get bad cut back). That is simply not how SEIU and AFSCME operate. Once those employees were granted that 35% increase in pensions (from 2% per year employed to 2.7% per year (that's an 81% of last years income)). They are owed that fixed check (with inflation increases and healthcare)until they breath their LAST breath. That increase (and the unfunded mandate that it creates for Menlo Park due to the downturn in CalPERS investments) will straddle the city with payments until those people who retire at 55 (yes 55!)no longer collect. So while the rest of the world operates as you would describe, municipal employee unions simply do not.

One of the most important aspects of the initiative is it prevents future city councils from granting retroactive retirement benefit increases (for new and current employees) like they did in 2007.

As to your comment about restricting the councils hands by requiring increases to be approved by voters. San Francisco has had this requirement in it's charter since 1889. Other cities have it too. Here is a Calpension article praising the rule and arguing for it's enclosure in other city charters. Web Link This law would give the council more negotiating power, and stop "middle of the night" costly decisions.

There are more facts about the initiative in the FAQS section at: Web Link we encourage all of you to read it. We have wide bi-partisan support for this initiative since it helps keep Menlo Park strong and our services sustainable. Managing costs for the city are a priority.

We need everyones support and help.

Thanks

Roy Thiele-Sardina

Co-Chairman - Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I'll agree that there are good and bad workers in the public and private sectors. That argues for having reasonable competition and neither having a monopoly. While I can't be sure which solution will get the job done better, if I hire a private contractor and the job isn't done well, they won't be hired again. If all the work is guaranteed to go to government workers and there is no competition, this is a recipe for not getting the best value.
Unions in this country do have a noble history, however in this setting, the natural give and take that occurs between union and management in the private sectors ends up pitting unions against the taxpayers. In the private sector, if I am unhappy with the product of union labor, I can vote with my feet. In this case, taxes are involuntary, hence the frustration with what does not appear to be the best value.


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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 19, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Roy:

Calpension, while a great sounding name, is hardly unbiased.

It's some guy's blog (granted, a former reporter.) He lays out his "axe to grind" in his About Us section:

"Most of the pension funds face the same basic issues. Are pension benefits negotiated by employer unions too generous? Will growing pension costs cut deeply into funding for other government programs?"


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm

To all,
Here are some facts from the late 90's to just recently the PERS pension fund did not have to be funded by the Public Agencies. The investments they made were so good and the market did so well in was not necessary. The Pension Reform web site warns that PERS could perform poorly. So where is all the money the City saved by not having to fund PERS during this period?
However RTS states the following.
"We are trying to make the city services the citizens deserve sustainable. As the pension costs for retirees escalates, EVERY dollar spent to fund underfunded pensions is a dollar that CANNOT be used to pave a street, build a park, build a pool, or provide a service to the taxpayers and residents of Menlo Park". So Roy my question for you is this, is it true that Measure T funds will be used to fund the field improvements at Kelly Park and not general fund money? Is it true that Measure T funds are to be used for the Burgess Gymnasium and not general fund money? Is it true that the projects below were not funded by general fund but by measure T.

Nealon Park complete $1,525,000
Burgess Fields complete $4,100,000
Pool complete $6,835,000
Oak Knoll School complete $210,000
Sharon Hills Park complete $63,000
Sharon Park complete $110,000
Stanford Hills Park complete $215,000
Fremont Park complete $100,000

These are Parks that have been refurbished with money the City had from Measure T funds and not money that would be used for retirement expense! So it looks like 10 park refurbished.

So the economy goes up and down and so does the stock market, pension funds etc. Will the City need to make up for the down turn today? Yes but remember all the years they did not have to fund it? So is it fair to reduce pensions now when we all know a pension is a long term investment?

Roy, Please tell us how you came up with this statement "If they all retired tomorrow they would draw $555,428 in retirement benefits" referring to all the Parks workers in Menlo Park. How many years of service do they have, have they purchased any added years of service. If you do not have access to their PERS account how can you make this calculation and call it accurate, please let me know I would be anxious to hear?

Finally have you, will you or do you stand to gain by your effort in this Pension Reform in Menlo Park. Do you have any businesses or have stock or future stock or investments in any businesses in Menlo Park that you could derive benefit from directly or indirectly today or in the future from the effort for pension reform in the City of Menlo Park?

Blue Collar Public Worker


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 19, 2010 at 11:41 pm

A definition of insanity is that if you keep doing what you have always done and expect a different outcome.

Cities and their current pension plans are a perfect example of insanity.

And here is another City of Menlo Park example from the InMenlo blog:"Liquid ambar trees provide Menlo Park with its terrific fall color. They also happen to be very messy. The trees' spiky round fruit, "popularly nicknamed a space bug, monkey ball, bommyknocker, bir ball, gumball, conkleberry, cukoo-bir or sticky ball" (says Wikipedia) can gum up sidewalks and cling to pets. It seems to fall from the trees month after month and long after the deciduous tree has shed its leaves. All this leads to many residents' vociferous dislike of the species. This particular liquid ambar was cut down today on Oak Knoll Lane; it's long seemed less than healthy. According the City of Menlo Park, when a heritage liquid ambar is removed, it must be replaced by – yep – a liquid ambar tree.

I suggest that change in pension plans (or tree planting requirements) will NOT come from the Council or the City but must come from enraged and committed citizens.



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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 19, 2010 at 11:58 pm

I will remind everyone that roy and pete both are fabulously wealthy and have no idea what blue collar means in today's world. Both are on record as feverishly right winged and they have no measure of moderation or neutrality in this debate.

Can someone really neutral stand up and be counted? Is there anyone left?

In some cases, you should shoot the messenger (not really shoot, these are our neighbors so i respect them but don't trust their motives).

We do need pension reform, not from ideologues.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2010 at 12:27 am

As usual Truth is anything but the truth. There is no record of my being 'feverishly right wing' and I am one of the persons who brings facts to these debates.

Do not confuse the person hiding behind the name Truth with FACTS. In fact, the person calling him/herself Truth has not contributed a single fact to this or any other thread - instead Truth only comes out to play in order to attack other posters.


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Posted by wha??
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 20, 2010 at 12:29 am


BCPW, are you suggesting that because PERS did so well that we could divert money that would have otherwise gone into employee pension obligations into park facilities?

And where did the measure T funds come from? They came from bonds issued specifically under measure T authority. These bonds will have to be paid back. where from? why from future taxes revenues. I quote - "To renovate and expand the City's parks and recreation facilities, shall the City of Menlo Park be authorized to issue $38,000,000 in General Obligation Bonds phased over several years for the construction, acquisition, and improvement of such facilities and all costs incident thereto..."

Why can't we have paid for the parks work from current revenue and not burden future taxpayers? because three quarters of the budget already goes to pay current salary, benefits and pensions. Instead, the city will get it parks renovated, the citizens are happy, but the bill WILL be due in future years, paid by either new taxes or reduce services for future citizens. makes sense to me.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2010 at 5:14 am

Peter
Is this statement by true, correct? "I will remind everyone that Roy and Pete both are fabulously wealthy and have no idea what blue collar means in today's world." So again I ask Roy. Will you or do you stand to gain by your effort in this Pension Reform in Menlo Park. Do you have any businesses or have stock or future stock or investments in any businesses in Menlo Park that you could derive benefit from directly or indirectly today or in the future from the effort for pension reform in the City of Menlo Park?Please let us know the ball is your court Sir? Peter for now we will leave you out of it.
Blue Collar Public Worker


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2010 at 5:21 am

Blue Collar Public Worker states:"Peter for now we will leave you out of it."

Your arrogance is unbelievable - what right does an anonymous poster have to ask any poster who has the courage to use their own name ANY questions about their personal affairs?
Who in the world do you think you are?
Who is the 'we' in 'for now WE will leave you out of it.?"
What is next, lynch mobs made up of anonymous posters, wearing hoods of course?

Do you have any appreciation for how your tactics are simply backfiring on your ostensible opposition to pension reform?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 7:23 am

No Peter, blue collar has no idea how his postings here are back firing on him. He has brought no real facts to the argument and continues to ignore that pesky fact that pensions as they are currently structured will bankrupt the cities and states that have to pay them.


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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

Isn't Blue Collar's question a fair one?

What, if anything, do the initiative backers stand to gain, either personally, or through related companies possibly bidding on outsourcing? (think prop 16 & PG&E.)

I assume the answer is zip, nada, nothing. But why not answer?

He also asked that of you, Peter. I understand your ignoring his other question.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2010 at 9:32 am

Willy asks:"Isn't Blue Collar's question a fair one? I assume the answer is zip, nada, nothing. But why not answer?"

Because I refuse to legitimize anonymous posters like Blue Collar - who may be a high paid labor lobbyist or a disgruntled former civil service employee who was fired for theft or whatever.

Blue Collar contributes NOTHING to this topic and I will simply and always ignore his posts.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 20, 2010 at 9:46 am

Fair enough Peter.

Roy's record should be separate from your record. Roy does have a bias and does have an ideology that feeds directly into this. The fact that he tries to use the greater good of our city as his play is cheap.

I will use crusader for you as you have shown to be on a campaign to break down the union contracts. This is all good, but analyze this potential referendum as you would other items you oppose.

You don't scrutinize anything in this "reform" petition? Seriously?

So after all your talk as a champion of the people, you selectively choose when to critique something?

Gimme a break.


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Posted by Anonymuse
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2010 at 9:50 am

This petition is ignoring the elephant in the room! If Menlo Park had developed a plan to bring more business and sales tax revenue, instead of dithering about pennies, the City would have the money. I lived in Menlo Park for 20 years and you couldn't pay me to move back. The place looks like a dump! So why not work together instead of fighting? And pretty nasty of you to publish the workers names and salaries. I don't care if it's public record. It's nasty.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2010 at 9:54 am

Truth asks:"You don't scrutinize anything in this "reform" petition? Seriously?"

Where in the world did Truth come up with that assertion? This is a perfect example of the irresponsibility and lack of accountability shown by anonymous posters.

The fact is that I was closely consulted during the development of this initiative and contributed a number of ideas to its framers. I believe that it should have included all of the city's employees and not exempted the public safety employees - who create the biggest retirement burden on a per employee basis.


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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 10:05 am

Okay, now that you brag about closely consulting, then Blue Collar's question sounds pretty legitimate.

But you instead sling mud, disguised under who knows who he is: "or a disgruntled former civil service employee who was fired for theft or whatever."

Wow. So fair of you to disingenuously claim that, just to avoid a simple question of conflict.

Wotta guy.

Time to trash me, too?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2010 at 10:13 am

Willy states:"you instead sling mud, disguised under who knows who he is: "or a disgruntled former civil service employee who was fired for theft or whatever."

Why is my question about who Blue Collar is slinging mud? IF he is a high paid labor lobbyist that is certainly relevant to assessing his comments and veracity. If he is a disgruntled former civil service employee who was fired for theft or whatever then that is also relevant.

If the shoe fits then wear it. If not, then come out of the closet and become a registered user of this site and identify yourself so that your statements can have or not have source credibility.


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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 10:31 am

Peter:

You are far too intelligent to not think folks don't recognize the mud you sling by saying: "If he is a disgruntled former civil service employee who was fired for theft or whatever then that is also relevant."

Casting aspersions on Blue Collar (who may have a strong reason not to post under his/her real name) is too desperate a tactic for you.

But a good way to avoid answering questions, asked of both you and Roy.



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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

Dear Anonymous

The salaries listed were actually in the Palo Alto Daily Post. SO a VERY public forum with more readers than Town Square Forum. Te reader implied that there were no workers in the parks department earning that. When in fact there were several. He asked, I answered.

I think this speaks to the problem we have here. People believe we under pay our staff, when in fact Menlo Park pays great wages (I would contend above the private sector comps) and has ABOVE market Pension and Healthcare benefits. These employee costs are unsustainable (according to CalPERS and the recent Stanford Pension Study) and we are trying to change it to make Menlo Park stronger.

That's it, no other motives. I don't consult to Menlo Park, I don't even sell services to Menlo Park. I've spent most of my life starting and building technology companies, creating jobs and raising a family. not sure how this makes me evil.....just a normal guy.

Roy


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

Willy states:"Casting aspersions on Blue Collar (who may have a strong reason not to post under his/her real name) is too desperate a tactic for you."


I am not casting aspersions, simply asking Blue Collar to come out of the closet so we can know how to evaluate his statements. If Blue Collar has such good reasons for hiding his identity then why not share those so we can assess his credibility and veracity?

Why is it legitimate for people to know everything they want about me and my personal history and qualifications and yet you anonymous folks just drift in and out of the weeds?



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Posted by not rich...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 11:01 am

I submit that labels like "right wing," "teabagger," "pro-union" should not even play into this argument. The issue is simply one of numbers.

If you're running a company, you are typically very prudent when determining employee benefits. You have to balance your company's best interests: what you need to attract good employees with what you can afford. After all, it's coming out of your pocket!

In a public sector union negotiation, there is no such balance because the people who are agreeing to the contract, being inexperienced volunteers, are induced to focus on the attract/retain employees part of the equation, and told to ignore the other half of the equation "don't worry; someone else will pay for it."

It's akin to those outrageous jury awards. Sure, we can give the lady who was burned by the hot coffee $70 million. It's not our money.

The problem is that when that contract was signed, no one on staff or council apparently had the foresight to consider the multiple scenarios in which that contract would be ruinous. There was no proper business analysis, possibly because the staff has a conflict of interest, and the council was simply ignorant of the potential problems.

Now we have a chance to rectify a small piece of that mistake. And let's hope the city has learned a lesson from this fiasco.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm

One other thing about council-union negotiations. It appears pretty clear that the union negotiators would like to limit the number of people they need to agree to terms (hence no vote, referendum, etc.)and avoid the true cost of their employment. I'm not in favor of publicizing people by name, but if an entity (private or public) has monopoly power (which government employees do), then there needs to be overtransparency with regard to what the costs are.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Here is what was just written about Los Angeles - looks like Menlo Park has exactly the same problem:
"
"The city's problems are the result of mismanagement, pensions, and high pay," he said. "We have the highest-paid municipal employees in the nation, and the highest-paid city council at $178,000 a year [per member]. Only two groups need apply for the ear of the city council—developers and public employee union reps—and the priority is not necessarily in that order. Mayor Villaraigosa was at one time a union organizer. Unions elect the council, so when they negotiate, they have reps on both sides of the table."


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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Peter:

You WERE casting aspersions, or perhaps a better choice is innuendo, when you brought up he MAY be a thief. Kind of like me asking: "WHEN did you quit BEATING YOUR WIFE?"

re your question: "Why is it legitimate for people to know everything they want about me and my personal history and qualifications and yet you anonymous folks just drift in and out of the weeds?"

Welcome to the web. ;-) Want to see faces? Let's set up something like Sunday's at Hyde Park with the soapboxes, at Burgess.

That would be a hoot.

Blue Collar simply asked Roy and you what you had to gain. Roy answered. You are the one who steadfastly changes the topic, applies innuendo, etc..

Same reason as to how helpful it is to know that PG&E is funding Prop 16., again, for self-interested gain.

Feel free not to answer, that's okay, but when your response to Blue Collar's "anti" position is to tar him as a "possible" thief, ouch, as I said before, that doesn't ring true to your usual well thought out arguments.

Did he strike a nerve?


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Posted by not rich
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Too easy not rich. You can't get off that easy with a business correlation. If that is the case, then let's look at a free market model. Let's say the market for city employees is 2.7 @ 55 and most of your competitors have taken that deal up. If you feel you need to compete for those positions, you may need to look at that same rate. If you feel confident that you can hire any bum off the street to do monkey work for cities then you disqualify from living in reality.

The market sets the rate. Now everyone is moving to 2 @ 60.

So our city council has an offer on the table for 2 @ 60.

But your argument is that we should not allow the city council to respond to the market. We should make it a city wide vote to react to the market.

I don't get the logic unless I take into account the politics, which you seem eager to toss out. It cannot be tossed out because Lee and Mickie are behind Roy and Henry. That is the truth. They lost the election last time and Roy and his mates think the union was the reason, not poor decisions.

This has been in Lee's emails and in comments from many folks I know.

This is their anwer to that threat.

Peter makes my point very well. This is a problem throughout the state and it is a problem that will not be fixed locally. We all agree with that, I just think this is a classic game of politics. I will wait for Roy to throw his fine silk hat into the ring since he now has time and money and a brand. Once that happens, it will all make sense to the moderates who are getting pulled into this.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm

that last post was mind. sorry.


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Posted by Dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Wow, if the "market" is a pension of 2% at 60, sign me up! Add my social security to the pay out I'll get from loyally putting 15% of my pay into my 401K and I don't come close. Oops, but I'm not a municipal worker so my "market" is real.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm

To use market and "city employee" in the same sentence is a joke. That would imply that anyone could apply for a city job and have a prayer of being hired. The mentality exhibited by "truth" is a major part of the problem. The "market" is paying this, therefore, that's what the council must pay. The implication being that the amount to pay is fixed and the next step is to find the money. How about looking at what the budget is and using that as a guide to what the council can afford? If you don't, then there are two possibilties: eventual insolvency or raise taxes, neither of which really works. Is it any wonder that trust in govenrment is at a near all time low?


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Too all,
Just to let everyone know I am not a thief a disgruntled X employee or any other negative label it might feel good to give me. I am a current public employee in good standing and I do not work for the City of Menlo Park. I am just someone who has felt the feeling of a wealthy person take away what I have earned in the past. I feel it is important to stand up and push back on bullies who try to take my marbles! Do I have something to gain here yes I do because someday my salary will be posted and these guys will be after me. It is the way it is and has been since time began. The richest are never rich enough and they continue to go after the weaker not for the riches but just to play the game and feel like a winner. OK no more about me and my experiences,is everybody ready, Roy you ready? Here we go…………..

Roy,
Enough smoke and mirrors and the old ah shucks "I'm just a regular guy routine". I asked you direct questions, here they are again and at the end I'll give you a few more just to keep everyone checking back in to see if you answer.
1. Did the City have to fund PERS when times were good?
2. Did you say funding the pension fund will take away from City projects like parks?
3. Did the City complete 10 parks without having to divert money to pension funds?
4. Will they do more parks and projects without diverting money to pension funds?
5. Do those completed park projects total over 10 million dollars today?
6. Explain the statement "If they all retired tomorrow they would draw $555,428 in retirement benefits" PLEASE SHOW YOUR MATH WORK.
7. VERY IMPORTANT READ CAREFULLY Have you, will you or do you stand to gain by your effort in this Pension Reform in Menlo Park. Do you have any businesses or have stock or future stock or investments in any businesses in Menlo Park that you could derive benefit from directly or indirectly today or in the future from the effort for pension reform in the City of Menlo Park?
8. Would you be willing to fill out FORM 700 the conflict of interest form and post it here on this forum?
9. Would you be willing to post your annual salary here on this forum (you posted public employees salaries)?
Any questions for me please feel free to ask I'll be here tonight waiting for direct answers. Sorry I was unavailable today during lunch we all worked cutting our budget and we went straight threw lunch. So much for the lazy public worker!
Blue Collar Public Worker

P.S. Peter would you also like to answer question #9? And by the way if the current City of Menlo Park workers pensions are "unsustainable" how come the Fire District can do it and their at system provides 3% at 50 years old?


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Posted by Blue Collar Please Stop
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 20, 2010 at 8:22 pm

BCW - please stop, you are pushing yourself into a corner, you don't get it, and you never will. You have been taught very well by your union, to the point where I believe you are brainwashed. You don't understand that WE are your revenue source, if WE feel that we are being taken advantage of, or are paying too much, or are wasting our money on a lousy return on investment we have every right to take it away, or scale it back. That is our right as taxpayers. Roy doesn't have to post his salary, YOU don't pay for it! Roy DOES stand to gain from this Pension Reform by not wasting his tax dollars! You continue to talk about this as though YOU were losing your pension. Roy, and majority of the citizens of Menlo Park are only signing a petition for NEW employees, so stop with the theatrics! Or, better yet, please, please, please go on strike, that way we could save some money, and redo this entire pension/benefit overfunding mess!


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Posted by not rich...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Moreover, Blue, you don't seem to understand: Menlo Park will not be creating vast sums of money where none exist. The union demands have escalated beyond any muncipality's ability to pay; the cities/state will be bankrupted and you and your union buds will get nothing. That's how it works when you're a little too greedy.

By the way, from my perspective, the bullies who are trying to take my marbles are you and your ilk. I have worked hard, I have very little in retirement money (not because I didn't save but because of a divorce...oh well!) and now you are asking me to fund the early retirement of your friends, most of whom earn more per year than I ever will? Tell me that's fair. I don't think so.

P.S. We are all paying extra taxes to support the park renovations, above and beyond our regular taxes. There is absolutely no relationship to pension funds. I trust you're not in a job that requires a logical mind.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 9:49 pm

POGO is a registered user.

BCW -

My understanding is that any proposed changes only apply to new employees. New employees would know their new benefits package. Why is that unacceptable to you?

Do you understand that if this system doesn't change, that your future pension payments may be in the form of IOUs? Would you rather have realistic benefits that are assured or a package that is truly unsustainable?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Pogo states: Do you understand that if this system doesn't change, that your future pension payments may be in the form of IOUs? Would you rather have realistic benefits that are assured or a package that is truly unsustainable?

Blue collar would rather have the latter.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2010 at 6:13 am

Blue Collar Please Stop and Roy

From one side of your mouth "we have every right to take it away, or scale it back". From the other side of your mouth "a petition for NEW employees" We know the minute you get traction it will be to take it away.
OK just answers please also Roy if I were to come forward and reveal my name would you be willing to add a link to your web site with some of the Public Worker facts? This would be in the spirit of Transparency.
BCPW


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Posted by not rich...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 21, 2010 at 8:40 am

The petition does just address new employees because it's easier to deal with that issue than to renegotiate the contract. It's a stopgap for the moment. If we are to stay out of bankruptcy, new terms must be negotiated.

Blue, you don't seem to get it. Read Menlo Voter's most recent post. The ship is going down BECAUSE OF YOU, and if you can't be reasonable and realistic, you will get zip.


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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:45 am

"Not Rich"

Your last post claims it will only effect new employees. And then you end with the threat: "...and if you can't be reasonable and realistic, you will get zip. "

Methinks you just reinforced BCPW's slippery slope argument.

Unions have a reason to be wary of these "minor" modifications: Arnold's attempted pension raids a few years ago set quite a tone.

I'm just jumping into this thread; maybe someone can help find some info:

Does the Almanac, or anyone, have a graph of MP revenues and expenditures over the last ten or twenty years? Anyone have a link? thanks.


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Posted by not rich...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Blue will get zip because there will be no money left! That's not a threat. That's not slippery slope anything. That's reality. The public workers can negotiate for a realistic amount, which they will get, or they can demand the contractual benefits, which will drive the cities/state into bankruptcy.

If the city is bankrupt, then the union retirees won't get any money. Not because of Arnold or petitions or minor modifications but because the pensioners have raided the candy jar and it's all gone.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Blue and his union colleagues should talk to their fellow union members in the automobile and airline industries. In both cases high personnel costs drove those industries into bankruptcy and the union members ended up with salaries and benefits that were about 50% of their pre-bankruptcy salary levels.

What we are all advocating is NOT anti-union or anti-public servant measures but pro sustainable local government reform.

Evolve or die.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm

All this talk of slippery slopes is silly. The current employees contracts CANNOT be renegotiated. Once a CalPers contract is entered into it is against THE LAW not to comply with it. The REAL issue is whether or not new employees should be oferred a different lower contract. In my opinion, they should, and all the name calling is a waste of time and diverts from the real issue. Can we afford to continue to offer new employees the same deal the current employees recieve. The answer, I believe, is NO.


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Posted by cornfused
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 21, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I am curious to know how this will save the City money? I believe the City was quoted as saying it had not run a comparison analysis, and that it's possible that going to a two-tier system would not save any money, even in 10 or 20 years. So I ask if it is not going to save money in the short term or even in long term (10 or 20 years) what is this really about ?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If you raise the age requirement for retirement and you lower the percentage of the last year's salary upon which retirement amount is based you WILL save money. And very small changes in either the retirement age or the percentage per year worked saves a LOT of money.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm

To Concerned Parent:

Your comment: "How about looking at what the budget is and using that as a guide to what the council can afford? If you don't, then there are two possibilties: eventual insolvency or raise taxes, neither of which really works. Is it any wonder that trust in govenrment is at a near all time low?"

Did you take time to read the staff report this week or watch the meeting last night? I did.

The city just cut my community programs without pause. To the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. YOu are trying to co-mingle budget management with this topic as if council has authority to change things on a whim.

That ignorance underscores the danger of ideology campaigns such that your people are running.

The very idea that you think a single city should thumb its nose at its neighbors and expect to have the same level of service is just laughable.

If we pay less than our neighbors then the good employees will go work for them. It is that easy and if you do not believe this, you need to take a few economic courses and figure it out.

Competitive wages and equal opportunities rule the day.

Just because you are a municipality does not mean you aren't in a market. That is scary clueless.

It is different sector but it has a market.

The market for wages is set by the market not by citizens of one city. Roy is one of the great exploiters of the free market and insider ball, he can tell you all about markets.

The next argument is ideology. This is our money not a private company, etc.

Your belief system does not mean the facts change. Fact is the market sets the wages and benefits and until we get control of the market, this is juvenile and political.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

POGO is a registered user.

Truth -

Even though we disagree, I always enjoy your posts.

You are correct that public employees operate in a free market and are certainly free to migrate to better paying jobs. Unfortunately, all of the other municipalities outside of Menlo Park are experiencing the same pressure so jobs with better benefits probably aren't available. Menlo Park and other towns enhanced their pension metrics to be competitive; those same market forces are now causing it to be lowered.

If another town can maintain its pension metrics and not go broke, they'll have a line of people applying for jobs. But we both know that's not happening here. Municipalities are cutting back on services, reducing benefits to employees and trying to enhance revenues. You may not like it, but the market doesn't play favorites. Menlo Park officials (and citizens) can try to buck this trend, but they'll very likely end up chasing larger deficits with more taxes.

Government spending has been way out of control for many years and both political parties bear responsibility. Unfortunately, when our economy took a breath two years ago, California lawmakers didn't. That's a bad combination and we're all going to pay for our lack of self-control dearly.

Regarding the recent cessation of your favorite local program, I've said it before - the reductions in services and increases in fees and taxes that we are seeing now are just the tip of the iceberg. I believe we're going to see massive layoffs in the public sector and draconian reductions in public services. Today, even Mr. Obama said that a value added sales tax is a real possibility! So much for sparing those of us who make under $200,000 from a tax increase.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Peter,
You may be interested to hear I am not a member of any union. That is an interesting comment you make "Evolve or Die". Would you care to answer one of my question from last night. Here it is again. "City of Menlo Park workers pensions are "unsustainable" how come the Fire District can do it and their at system provides 3% at 50 years old? You were on the board right please tell us how you did it?
BCPW


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm

POGO, we are in agreement. I think we have to go to a 2 @ 60 formula at the very least. I am not defending the union demands. My point is about politics in Menlo Park and how many of our infighting here seems to be about some broader greater good cause when it is just more of the same. In this case, the reformers are marching on city hall with a petition saying that they are just looking out for the city. The fact is the reformers are former council members who were buried in an election last year and this reform petition comes during an election year. The current council has asked for 2 @ 60 (they probably will have to fight for it), but the reformers say that isn't enough. They want to hardwire 2 @ 60 for eternity (or until we have city wide elections on the issue). What thay means is the market will not dictate in Menlo Park. We will not react to the market here if we have to. Apparently the reformers have been asked about this and they are just as passionate about tying the council's hands as they are about getting two tier.

In 2006, according to Henry Riggs, who apparently thinks of himself as the man with all the answers, claimed the junior council didn't know the system and were manipulated into a 2.7 @ 55 deal. I looked up the news articles around that time and more than 70% of our neighboring cities had 2.7 @ 55. So was this a free market response or a union bull dozing? We'll never know. But now the tide has changed and 2 @ 60 is the new norm. The market works! But look at what we have here, a little petition with supporters of former council members who want more than 2 @ 60. That is the reality.

This council has lots of challenges and their may be better candidates in the fall, but this is just too obvious.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 21, 2010 at 9:00 pm

POGO is a registered user.

Thank you, Truth.

I now understand and appreciate your perspective!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 21, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Blue Collar worker asks:""City of Menlo Park workers pensions are "unsustainable" how come the Fire District can do it and their at system provides 3% at 50 years old? You were on the board right please tell us how you did it? "

The Fire District's 3% at 50 is NOT sustainable and the Board will have to negotiate a new pension system for new employees. The decision to move to 3% at 50 was a fundamentally unsound one, for which I bear part of the responsibility. The 'everyone else is doing argument' was given far too much importance and the LONG TERM obligations on the Fire District were not as carefully examined as they should have been.


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Posted by number cruncher
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Willy asks - "Does the Almanac, or anyone, have a graph of MP revenues and expenditures over the last ten or twenty years? Anyone have a link?"

try - Web Link

Page 4 of the 2009-10 has a chart revelant to the current discussion. In 2001, personnel cost was $16.95 million. In the estimate for this current budget, it is $27.08 million.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Don't try to pare it down to fill your own agenda "number cruncher". Look at the request for revenues vs expenses and you will see years and years of revenue increase faster than expenses. Only in the last couple of years has that changed.

Now many have stated it is not sustainable and I don't disagree with that. But don't play with the numbers to focus on one item. The fact is, Menlo Park is still in a strong position compared to many other cities.


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Posted by Or Consequences
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 7:29 am

Truth,

Reserves are down $11 Million since the Tuesday Night Massacre when Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline sold out the Menlo Park residents for their Union buddies who coincidentally endorsed them in a closed door meeting on City property in 2006. At this rate Menlo Park will have no reserves in 6 years.

The fact is the trends indicate that Menlo Park will be in a precarious position in 6 years unless we oust those fiscal fools Robinson & Cline and elect people who will put the City's interests above those of the Union.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 22, 2010 at 11:29 am

"Truth" (Hardly!),

I am happy to engage in meaningful dialogue, however I would appreciate you avoid assumptions about me or "my people". For better or worse, you don't know about about my level of education, work experience, etc. The fact that you may not agree with my philosophically does not give you license to insult as assume. And no, I do not know or work with any of the people involved with the petition effort, don't know any of their grudges or past failings, but do think this issue needs lots of sunlight. Your post directed to me did not provide any.

For the record, I have done plenty of hiring and have worked in a wide variety of environments. I am not running any campaign, just stating my opinion.
So let's see, you tout your programs being cut, yet accuse me of mixing things together based on idealogy. Comingling budget management with pension issues. Please explain to me exactly how it works. Is employee compensation not part of the budget? If employee costs increase does that have no impact on what other moenis there are to spend? Are you trying to tell me that municipalities hire people and provides benefits, and yet someone else pays them? At some point, all the numbers need to fit into a budget, correct?

As far as a market and employment, again, I've done plenty of hiring in a variety of circumstances (different employers, different economic environment, etc.) and yes, there is a market, and based on what your budget is, you need to manage within it. If you want to hire a superstar, but the company up the road is paying more, and salary is all the person is concerned about, you can match it or hire someone else. If you are a private comapny, you have to live within your means. The same must be true for municipal governemtn employees. I find it hard to believe that with unemployment over 12% in California, that there are not people to fill jobs without going overboard on benefits. "Truth" would like to call union dominance a market, but in fact is is glorified blackmail. If you want real market conditions, get rid of government unions and let municipalities start over from scratch. Something tells me that "truth" wouldn't like that.

And as I've said in previous posts, the math is not difficult. If you provide much more in pension benefits than is paid in and don't save for it plus guarantee a return independent of market conditions, it will not be sustainable. Not sustainable is not an ideology, it is a recognition that if you are paying people more in retirement than the sum of what they have contributed plus returns on those monies, that over time what is left will not cover salaries for those who are not retired. And guess what, various communities will NOT have the same level of services. San Carlos will have a different level of police service than MP. Nobody is thumbing their noses, more like holding them as we are asked to pay for more, receive less, and be happy about it. If there is any nose thumbing, it would appear to be from government employees who were able to get great deals at public expense and apparently feel the right to demand the public pay an infinite amount, damn the consequences. I've seen this play out in the schools, you can see it play out in New Jersey, there are not infinite budgets and there are huge pension shortfalls. I agree that much of this is juvenile and clearly political, but I disagree about who is guilty of that. I am not a politician, but the attitude that there should be no accountability for tax dollars is government arrogance at its worst.

In the end, it is about markets and thought the tipping point is high, people will vote with their feet. Again, look at New Jersey and people who will live next door in Pennsylvania and commute to NJ to avoid the tax difference.


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Posted by BLue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Peter,
All along you and the supporters and the founders of Pension Reform have said oh no this initiative it's just the City Workers no Police or Fire. But all along I have said this is just the start and you will start with the weakest with the City and then go for the Fire and Police.
Would you please care to explain your comments now?
"The Fire District's 3% at 50 is NOT sustainable and the Board will have to negotiate a new pension system for new employees. The decision to move to 3% at 50 was a fundamentally unsound one, for which I bear part of the responsibility. The 'everyone else is doing argument' was given far too much importance and the LONG TERM obligations on the Fire District were not as carefully examined as they should have been".
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Blue Collar Public Worker - the proposed initiative would not affect firefighters for the very simple reason that the City of Menlo Park does dot have a fire department or any firefighters on its payroll.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which was established over 90 years ago before there even was a City of Menlo Park, serves the geographical area of Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and portion of the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Peter,
That's an explanation, Thank you. I would also like to thank you for your transparency, very transparent! Whats next our School District and the teachers, I see you asked if the Menlo Park School Districts pension fund obligations are being met. You also said the Districts financial issues could have been avoided if they would have pulled their money form the County Pool. I meant to tell you the other night but passed up on the chance. The School District and many other agencies are required to keep their money in the County. Anyway it does not matter they weathered that storm two budgets ago without a parcel tax. I heard it even effected the Bond Program and they weathered that too. Your comment "A family, faced with fixed or falling income, has to reduce its expenditures". I think they have done this. A question for you, how do you support a family that has had octuplets and I'm not talking about Octomom? Legitimate enrollment has caused the Districts financial issues. It would be nice given your standing in the community to have you make more informed statements and be considerate of public agency needs. This across the board draconian tax cut fanaticism really won't work. By the way I am not a union lobbyists and I for sure don't wear any hoods.
Thank you,
Blue Collar Public Worker


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm

BCPW states:"It would be nice given your standing in the community to have you make more informed statements and be considerate of public agency needs. This across the board draconian tax cut fanaticism really won't work."

I believe that all of my statements on this and the other topics on which I have posted are very factual and well documented - do you have any specific examples of my being uninformed?

Do you have any examples where I have called for any tax cuts, much less draconian ones? I have NOT ONCE argued for any tax cuts but I do believe that public agencies must live within their revenue means without constantly going back to the taxpayers with new or extended parcel taxes.

This dialogue would be much more productive if you didn't make such unfounded statements.


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Posted by More of the Same From Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Another classic case of evasion there by good old Peter Carpenter.

BCPW asked you a direct question - "A question for you, how do you support a family that has had octuplets and I'm not talking about Octomom? Legitimate enrollment has caused the Districts financial issues."

Try answering a hard question for once Peter, instead of just providing us with your infinite wisdom, followed by brow-beating anyone who dares question you.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Are you fox newsies serious with the stuff you toss out? I don't care about your management experience parent, and I don't care if you have friends or not from whatever political base. You throw out a single page of a 200 page budget as if that is the only relevant piece? How ignorant can you be? You only want to focus on one topic, unions and pensions. The budget is so much more than that. You have to consider revenues and future revenues. What do you have in mind? I see nothing but the same old tea party rhetoric.

Again, watch the last meeting. My community got chopped. And at the same time, the council elected to not increase the tax on utilities. That is a tea party moment. No words of positivity there? Of course not. This is about politics, that is why educated people like you cut out logic and only highlight one page of a city budget.

As for the other freak who posted to me. Well, you can go after Cline and Robinson all you want. I notice you left out Boyle. Of course you would, he is your Repub brethren and you have to make sure you bow down to your single representative.

Boyle voted to increase police salaries in a closed session without inviting you to the party, salaries that still rise even today. As I write this the price of police has risen more. I happen to agree with Boyle and the council given that I live around the corner from some pretty serious neighborhoods. But you probably want to take down the police too.

You can rant and get out your weird hats and your funny signs. I am sure it makes you feel better to have an enemy you can blame.

But making this all about 2 @ 60 is ridiculous and shows how little time you put into finding the correct answers and how much time you put into raging against "your enemies" and breathing fire into the political machinery.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 5:48 am

Truth asks:"Legitimate enrollment has caused the Districts financial issues."?

Data please - What have been the District enrollment over the last ten years vs District revenues (including bond revenues) over the last ten years?


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 23, 2010 at 7:21 am

City wide, Peter. Not the district.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 7:30 am

Truth is confusing - first it is ""Legitimate enrollment has caused the Districts financial issues."

then it is "City wide, Peter. Not the district."

is there a question here? What is the question and how does it relate to the Topic "Pounding the pavement for pension reform"?


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2010 at 9:07 am

Peter asks
"I believe that all of my statements on this and the other topics on which I have posted are very factual and well documented - do you have any specific examples of my being uninformed"?
Your statement
"The Sherson Lehman hit was totally avoidable if the district had practiced sound financial management and pulled its funds from the badly managed County pool".
WRONG AGAIN! I told you and so have others, School Districts and other public agencies by law must have their money in the County fund.
Here is the same info from another poster.
"In regards to your comment about the Lehman bankruptcy, the Menlo Park school district along with all the other public schools in San Mateo County were legally bound to invest their funds in the County pool. And, as a matter of fact, if you read through the time line on this you'll see that the district contacted the Treasurer's office prior to the collapse precisely because they were carefully managing the funds, but weren't able to legally pull the funds from the pool".
To say all your statements and true, well documented and factual is just not taking responsibility for your statements. Another thing you say, you are not for cutting taxes, what's this? "It is high time for the taxpayers to say NO"? You said it!
So again I will say to you, across the board draconian tax cut fanaticism really won't work. Why am I posting this in this string to keep it contiguous. I know you accused me of being arrogant and this may sound arrogant but it's really just an offer to help you. From now on why don't you run your comments by me before you post and I can tell you whats right and wrong? By the way in reference to question #9 have you thought about it, in the spirit of transparency please give me and others here an answer?
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 9:28 am

If, in all of my hundreds of postings, the only factual error that BCPW could find what that the school districts were not able to withdraw from the County investment pool, then I have an astonishingly high accuracy level.

And if my calling on taxpayers to say NO to any new taxes is "across the board draconian tax cut fanaticism " then I think have have a lot of very sound and rational company.

As for transparancy - I use my real name when posting on this Forum and I have 9 YEARS of Form 700s on file - there could be no more transparency than that. My annual salary consists of my Social Security payments (earned by 40 years of contributions) and my Veterans Administration disability payments (earned by my service in Vietnam and exposure there to Agent Orange which has resulted in having an incurable leukemia) - the total annual amount from both sources is less than $50,000, which is a fraction of what most of the public servants my taxes support get annually.

Now, can we PLEASE return to the topic - Pension Reform


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2010 at 9:49 am

Peter
Thanks for taking a knee, I must say that is very noble of you.... Your right how can we fix the issue of pension reform, do you have any ideas that would not include changing the current pension system? Perhaps some type or responsible financial ideas.
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 10:12 am

BCPW asks:"how can we fix the issue of pension reform, do you have any ideas that would not include changing the current pension system?"

NO, the current pension system is fatally flawed in two respects - First, it is a defined benefit system rather than a defined contribution system and, Second, it is set to give excessive payments after far too few years of service. True reform will require a defined contribution system so that the individuals will not receive dramatically more than they have contributed to the system. And under a defined contribution system I doubt that very many participants would elect to retire at age 50 because they would know how little they would receive annually based on their life expectancy and the fixed pool from which their annual retirement payments would have to be paid given their life expectancy.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2010 at 1:44 pm

To all,
Here are some interesting myths vs facts info from Cal-Pers retirement fund, please take a look and decide for your selves.
In the interest of transparency and fairness does anyone think this should be linked to the Pension Reform web site? Web Link
In short it addresses myths vs facts about the Cal-Pers pension fund.
BCBW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm

BCPW asks:"In the interest of transparency and fairness does anyone think this should be linked to the Pension Reform web site? "

No, I don't think that the Pension Reform web site should use its resources to host a link to this web site. This Forum has already provided you with the opportunity to post the link and anyone who wants to can use it.

Do you think that CalPers Responds would post a link to the Pension Reform web site? I doubt it.

I note with special interest one statement on the CalPers Responds site:"Our Chief Actuary has said the costs for employers are not affordable due to the market downturn, and unless markets come back, he is concerned about the ability of employers to pay. " How true.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Peter
Why not shouldn't people know the facts? Please take time to read the info you will see they have posted information about Pension Reform. In response to your special interest the rest of the story is that Cal-Pers is giving a smoothing period to agencies to pay their obligations. Also this statement is from 2008-2009 please note Cal-Pers return 2009-2010 46 billion and an over 11 percent return. Their actuaries say pensions are sustainable. Is there something you know that they down?
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm

BCPW states:"Their actuaries say pensions are sustainable. "

Of course CalPers says the pensions are sustainable - simply because CalPers can REQUIRE the cities to cover ANY shortfall. What their Chief Actuary said was "the costs for employers are not affordable due to the market downturn, and unless markets come back, he is concerned about the ability of employers to pay." How true and truthful.

I am not sure that you really do want others to do what I have done which is to read the CalPers Responds web site very carefully.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Here is an interesting 'fact' from the CalPers Responds web site:

"Twelve percent of all public safety members are subject to the 3 percent at age 55 formula. They would need 37.5 years of service at age 50 to get 90 percent, and would have had to start working at age 12.5 to earn 37.5 years. And 7 percent of all public agency safety members are subject to the 2 percent at age 50 formula. They would need to have 45 years of service at age 50 to get 90 percent, and would have had to start working at age 5 to earn 45 years."

Yes, read the information on the CalPers Responds web site very carefully and note what it does NOT tell you.

Guess what? That means that 81% of all public safety workers are subject to the 3% at age 50 formula. They would need 30 years of service at age 50 to get 90% and would have had to start working at age 20.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Peter
Again at the ricks of sounding arrogant please run your statements by me before you post. Tell the whole story. Fact:
The average CalPERS member receives 50 percent or less of their pay in retirement.


BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 4:24 pm

BCPW states:"Again at the ricks (sic) of sounding arrogant please run your statements by me before you post."

First BCPW tells us to go to his favorite web site, and then when I quote verbatim from that web site he now wants to pre-approve my postings.

Folks, if you ever needed confirmation that the public worker folks are out of control this is it. They can't even accept facts quoted verbatim from their own advocacy web site.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm

BCPW states:"The average CalPERS member receives 50 percent or less of their pay in retirement."

Why is that? Because the 3% at 50 years of age option was only adopted by CalPers in 1999, so many of the current retirees did not benefit from this overly generous and unsustainable retirement benefit. Moving forward almost every public safety employee WILL retire with 90% of their last year's salary plus inflation adjustments and that is simply not sustainable - nor is it justified by the marketplace.

Facts are beautiful things but you have to look at all the facts not just the cute snippets posted on CalPers Responds.

And no BCPW was not asked to review this statement before I posted it - nor will he be asked in the future. Facts that have been censored are no longer facts.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Peter
OK keep sticking your foot in your mouth, it's your foot and your mouth, I'm just trying to keep you from looking foolish. Here you go read this and by the way PERS is fine and the game you guys are playing again is take from the poor and give to the rich.......
Web Link
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 5:53 pm

The belief that PERS is fine is simply delusional. PERS will only survive because it can demand that local governments make up any shortfall in PERS's retirement obligations.

With spokespeople like BCPW the public employees' unions don't need enemies - read carefully what BCPW says and then do everything you can to encourage our elected officials to demand pension reform.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 25, 2010 at 4:21 pm

POGO is a registered user.

Peter -

This message board is proof that showing a fact to your adversaries is seldom pursuasive.

For that reason, every trivial point that someone makes does not require refutation.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 25, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Since when is it wrong for a person to make enough money to live on and have others begrudge him/ her the right to have a home to live in , feed their family, go to the doctor etc. Do you live in the bay area? If an average person pays rent, eats, owns a car, has to clothe and feed children and maybe in this climate provide for others in the family is $80,000 even enough? Forget the luxury of sending a child to college to help this country stay an educated competive workforce. Do you enjoy the standard of living in this area? How about the low crime rate and well manicured neighborhoods? Hey lets do like other areas and take way all the high paying middle class jobs away(Detroit, Cleveland etc.etc.etc.) and turn it into a giant ghetto with under and unemployment a high crime rate and real estate you can't give away. Have we really become that selfish like Wallstreet lets pilfer everything and everybody and screw everyone else. ME FIRST. It is that greed, selfishness and ignorance that will be and is the demise of this country. We should use our energy to make sure we all can eat, have a home, feel safe and secure, and send our children to college instead of pointing fingers at people just trying to make a living and feed their families. Really 80,000 in the Bay Area alot of money HARDLY!


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm

"Lies" (calling yourself truth doesn;t make you correct any more than Fox news calling themselves "Fair and Balanced" bestows upon them either of those attributes. Despite all of your insults and ranting, it is clear that you don't want to deal with what is an unsustainable system. Peter has summed things up in great detail and all I hear is that we need to be responsible as long as we don't touch what are unsustanable benefits. And Neighbor, nobody is saying people shouldn't make a good living, however, if one benefits from having a fixed market (let's get real everyone, while there may be a market in a sense that there are salaries and jobs, government workers have jobs without much competition), having a guaranteed retirement that increases independent of contributions is not sustainable. If you want examples of what happens when you have systems with different retirement ages, compare Germany (retirement age of 68) with Greece (retirement age of 58). Greece is unable to keep their financial commitments and is asking Germany to bail them out (now it looks like the IMF). The bottom line is that if you ask people to pay a large amount in taxes, they do expect to get something for it. What is clear is that Coucil representatives have not been prudent in managing taxpayers money and have made open-ended spends that limit what is left for actual services performed. At the time it may have looked good because obligations weren't coming due. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and despite the protestations of unions, you cannot continue to live of the teat of the taxpayer. If you look at New Jersey, they are in worse shape than we are as a state and the austerity measures necessary are going to be painful. This is what will end up happening here largely as a result of unsustainable pensions and an attitude that says "give me mine, I don't care what it costs."


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Hey,

I really really want to live in Atherton. I mean I really do. So if I get a job for the town of Atherton, does that mean that they will pay me enough to get by. By get by, I mean will I have at least a 5 Million dollar home with gardeners and all the fancy cars. I mean, its the standard of living in Atherton. Oh, did I tell you that I really want to live in Atherton.

The above poster is correct. This will all end badly, and I fear bankruptcy will face every town in CA. Unions know it and are currently attempting to ensure (by law) that their contracts cannot be broken, even in bankruptcy.

So here we are, and know where we are headed. All we ask is that someone attempt to fix this before it gets worse.

Good luck.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 25, 2010 at 8:36 pm

POGO is a registered user.

Neighbor -

The issue is PENSION reform, not salary reform. As Concerned Parent just said (somewhat caustically) and has been said many times on this thread, the current system is simply not sustainable. If we do not change the current system, our city, county and state workers are condemned to the same pension and healthcare benefits that auto workers, who took a similar entrenched position in the 1990's, now enjoy.

The pension liabilities that our governments now have is just too great a burden to bear. Government workers can be ostriches, say it isn't so, and pretend that change isn't necessary. Sadly, they'll end up trying to pay for their retirement with IOUs that they'll be getting in place of pension checks.

If I understand this proposal correctly, it only applies to newly hired workers, not existing employees. If current workers can't accept such a modest change, then they will deserve the illusion that is their pension plan.


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Posted by Blus Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2010 at 8:59 pm

If you want the real truth go to the web site and read it for your self.
Web Link the PERS system is fine and all of this is just hoopla!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 25, 2010 at 9:23 pm

BCPW states:"f you want the real truth go to the web site and read it for your self.

Web Link the PERS system is fine and all of this is just hoopla! "

Yes, go to the web site and read what it says and what is doesn't say very carefully.

CalPers is fine simply because it can demand that local governments, that is we the taxpayers, pick up the inevitable shortfall in its funding.

The CalPers web site shows that 19% of public safety workers have less than the outrageous 3% at age 50 retirement but does not then acknowledge that 81% do have that outrageous retirement benefit.

Yes read this web site very carefully.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 25, 2010 at 9:27 pm

There are 9,000 CalPERS retirees receiving more than $100,000 per yar and one retiree receives more than $500,000 per year from CalPERS.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 25, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I wouldn't bother going to the PERS web site. I can do the math for myself. The CURRENT retirement benefits are UNSUSTAINABLE without increases in taxes or cuts in services. It is really not complicated. The original assumptions on which 3% at 50 were based are seriously flawed. Return on investment is not what was assumed and life spans were incredibly underestimated. Do the math. Without tax increase or reductions in services the whole house of cards collapses. Honestly Blue Collar, can you do the math and make the CURRENT retirement benefits work without increasing taxes or cutting services? Bet you can't.


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Posted by cornfused
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

I have been told that only public safety employees qualify for the for the 3% at 50 formula mentioned above(Police and Fire). I was also lead to believe that Public Safety was not a component of this pension reform effort.


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Posted by not rich
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 26, 2010 at 9:25 am

Not true. *ALL* union employees (pretty much everyone who works for the city) can currently retire at 55 with 80% of their salary. As the article says:

The initiative would:

-- Reduce pension payments from four-fifths of the highest annual salary to three-fifths of the average of the highest three consecutive years;

-- Increase retirement age from 55 to 60 years old; and

-- Require voter approval of any "enhancements" to pension benefits.


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Posted by not rich
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 26, 2010 at 9:27 am

P.S. This initiative does not affect public safety employees despite the tangent taken by some of the posters here.


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Posted by clarification
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 26, 2010 at 10:49 am

Cornfused is correct: public safety workers are the only ones who qualify for the 3% at 50 formula, meaning they can retire at age 50 with 90% of their highest salary if they've worked for 30 years. Non safety workers have a less generous (but still VERY generous)retirement formula, which "not rich" summed up. The initiative doesn't address the far costlier pensions of public safety workers because, unlike other positions, it's much harder to find good candidates for a police officer position, and changing the formula for them would put the city in a real bind when looking for police officers.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Posted by not rich, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, 3 hours ago

Not true. *ALL* union employees (pretty much everyone who works for the city) can currently retire at 55 with 80% of their salary. As the article says:

Absolute Rubbish.................

Make no mistake I support Pension Reform, I do not support half truths and false statements. It does the cause no good.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2010 at 9:14 pm

To all,
From the PERS web site.
Myth: The average CalPERS pensioner gets 80 percent of their pay.
September 23, 2009
Fact:
The average CalPERS member receives 50 percent or less of their pay in retirement.

Myth: CalPERS is unsustainable
Fact:
As a percentage of payroll, employer contribution rates are returning to the levels of the 1980s. In fiscal years 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82, for example, pensions as a percent of payroll for miscellaneous State workers were 19 percent of payroll.

Fact:
Employer contribution rates have been very stable over the past six years, changing by less than 1 percent of payroll during the past six years, thanks to our rate-smoothing policy. The expected increase in employer rates due to the downturn will increase employer contributions by an average of 1 to 3.7 percent of payroll in 2011-12.

Myth: Prior to SB 400, the State paid $400 million in contributions. Ten years later, the State is paying $3 billion due to benefit enhancements.
September 23, 2009

Fact:
The $400 million paid in 1999 was the lowest the State had paid in generations and it was due to the fact that the investment returns in the mid-1990s were so high, little was needed from the State to cover the plans. Some years, the State paid zero contributions for schools. This was due to higher than normal investment returns. Using a starting point of $400 million is misleading, because the late 90s was an atypical period for investment returns. As of June 30, 2000, the State plan had $69.3 billion in assets, and liabilities of $55.5 billion. The State plan surplus at that time was $13.8 billion. The surplus used to fund SB 400 was $4.2 billion, leaving a remaining surplus of $9.6 billion. The $9.6 billion was used in subsequent years to make up for the effect of investment losses in 2001-02. Today, the State pays $3 billion in contributions. Compared to 10 years ago, half of that amount is due to payroll growth and pay raises, not benefit improvements. In fact, only one quarter of the $3 billion is due to benefit changes


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Every 'fact' from the quoted CalPers web site is simply a carefully crafted half truth.

For example, "The average CalPERS member receives 50 percent or less of their pay in retirement." is true only because many of the current members retired years ago before the current excessive and unsustainable 80-90% retirement rates went into effect.

CalPers is fine simply because it can demand that local governments, that is we the taxpayers, pick up the inevitable shortfall in its funding.

The CalPers web site shows that 19% of public safety workers have less than the outrageous 3% at age 50 retirement but does not then acknowledge that 81% do have that outrageous retirement benefit.

Yes read this web site very carefully.


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Posted by not rich either
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 26, 2010 at 10:06 pm


Nice that Blue Collar Public Worker seems to have PLENTY of time to monitor and respond to several of these forum topics. Note that the time stamps on his postings are in the middle of the business day. If his postings disappear on every other Friday, we can deduce that he must work for Menlo Park. I wonder if his job description includes the duty to defend public sector employees on Internet bulletin boards?


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Posted by psp
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 26, 2010 at 10:30 pm

I can't speak to whether CalPERS is smart, honest, objective, competent, etc. It clearly has an agenda to defend the status quo, escape regulation that may reform it's business model, etc. Basically, no matter how bad a job it may have been doing, it will defend itself. BCPW seems to want to avoid questioning any of the 'facts' presented by CalPERS. Meanwhile, for your enjoyment, here are a few selected headlines from around the web. I particularly like the last one with tips for juicing your pension. The second to last one from the late BUSINESS WEEK is sobering...

====

CalPERS reviewing tie with Apollo Management after steep losses

Calpers, Calstrs award big bonuses despite losses:...

CALPERS Pleads Stupidity On Subprime Mortgage Losses

CalPERS Private Equity Investment Returns on Course for Serious Deterioration

CalPERS resignations not connected - turmoil denied

CalPERS Rocked by Pay to Play Scandal

How CalPERS strategy backfired

Calpers Wears a Party, or Union, Label

Can CalPERS Afford to Throw Stones?

How to Spike Your CalPERS Pension Benefits


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Posted by A Living Example
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:01 am

Are you this Peter Carpenter? "Peter Carpenter serves as the Board's liaison to the Town of Atherton, the City of Palo Alto, the Veterans Administration, and is a member of the Board's Strategic Planning Committee". What and you live in a Mansion in Atherton? While me a Peon lives a less comfortable live in a 1000 sq. ft.three bedroom, one bath house in a nearby community with my wife and two adult children, drive a 2001 Toyota with 100,000 miles on it. Hey Peter how did you get to where you got? and your questioning what city employees make. You sit on your throne and look down upon us peon's. There was a time when the top wage earners in this country paid a 90% tax, back when Ike was our President. Maybe it's time to bring that tax rate back and our problems will be solved


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:15 am

Living,

Are you suggesting that nobody should question what city employees make? If the posters on this site are any indication, city employees must be demanding, rude, with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. The last time I checked, employment is voluntary. Nobody is forcing government employees to work under the conditions they do. In an environment where more than 10% of Californians have no job and a much higher number are underemployed, the arrogance and greed exhibited are stunning. Sure, raise the local tax rate to 50%, state tax rate to 30%, and so on. The result will be is that the "rich" will leave. Either to local communities or out of state. That will leave nobody to fund the unfunded liabilities. Good luck with that!


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Posted by A Living Example
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Concerned Parent,
No what I'm suggesting is that if I make to much then why am I not living in Menlo Park or Atherton or Portola Valley. What I make in income is public knowledge an open book. Is your life an open book for all to see. How bout's we expose all the people behind this initiative with there salaries and who they work for and what they do for a living. Maybe then we can see where and why this all came about. I bet most are staunch Republicans that have done some unscrupulous things to get where they got. Yeah let the good old boys keep running the show. The private sector did so well with the greed from the dot com bust to the Bernie Madoff's of the world. Hey vote for Meg and Goldman Sachs to be your next Governor and see where we are in 4 years. Dick Cheney and Haliburton appreciate your support.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm

A living Example (of what?) asks:"Are you this Peter Carpenter? "Peter Carpenter serves as the Board's liaison to the Town of Atherton, the City of Palo Alto, the Veterans Administration, and is a member of the Board's Strategic Planning Committee".

Yes, I am the Peter Carpenter who uses his real name, I am the Peter Carpenter who has 9 years of Form 700s on file, I am the Peter Carpenter who lives in Atherton - now what does any of that have to do with the subject of this topic?

And who in the heck are you?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Concerned Parent -

There's a basic rule of life - the people who pay you get to know what you are paid. If you are a public employee, your salary is public record. I'm guessing you knew that when you took the job.

The people who pay me get to know my salary too. But you don't. And similarly, you don't get to know Peter Carpenter's either. I would assume that Peter did some good things along the way to earn the things he has.


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm

POGO,

I think you meant to reply to "A Living Example". My response was going to be that used to be the difference between the public and private sector (i.e. if you work for the public, so is your salary). It appears now the difference is paying or being paid by tax dollars. And to go one step further, in working for a private company, if we don't make a profit, we are out of business. People can choose whether or not to do business with us. With regard to the majority of our public employees, (excepting those who hold elective office), we don't have a choice about who our public employees are, nor do we have much recourse about their performance. Should the public not have some way of limiting salaries?
California is a beautiful place, but if you tax too much, the people who are paying most of the taxes (and the businesses too) will go to more financially friendly places.
For "A Living Example", insulting everyone who disagrees with you will not win you support. Why are people mad at Goldman Sachs? Because independent of whether what they did was legal or not, it certainly looks like an unfair system.
When the vast majority of people lost tremendous amounts of money (either from real estate or 401K drops) and have to delay retirement to past 70 just to make ends meet, it is rightly seen as unfair for a group of people drawing a salary from taxes, who frequently have gamed the system (preretirement salary spikes and disability) , retiring at 50 and with the result being reduced services. This is why Germany doesn't want to bail out Greece.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 27, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Concerned Parent -

My apologies! I meant to direct my post to A Living Example. Sorry.

Your reply to A Living Example was well said.


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Posted by dude
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm


to "A Living Example"

There are some very good reasons for public employee salaries to be public knowledge. What if an elected official could hire his nitwit brother-in-law for a high paying manager's position and hide the salary? What if the pay was very high so that the nitwit could kick back funds to the official?

Pogo is right. The taxpayers are the bosses, they have every right to know. Considering what a sweet deal these public pay packages are, the fact that they are public knowledge is a pretty small price to pay. You want a comp deal that's secret, go work in the private sector


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2010 at 7:27 am

An new analysis of CalPers fiscal soundness showing an even larger shortfall than the Stanford study - and noting that the taxpayers are on the hook for whatever the shortfall is:

"Inquiring minds are digging into the Stanford Study Going For Broke: Reforming California's Public Employee Pension Systems.

Adjusting the discount rate used on liabilities to a risk-free rate, we estimate the combined funding shortfall of CalPERS, CalSTRS, and UCRS prior to the 2008/2009 recession at $425.2 billion.

At the time of this writing, the funds have not released more recent financial reports, but due to the previously mentioned $109.7 billion loss the three funds collectively sustained, we estimate the current shortfall at more than half a trillion dollars.

The American Enterprise Institute report and the Stanford Study independently arrived at similar values for California pension plan unfunded liabilities.

Note that the Stanford study has the unfunded liability of CalPERS $239.7 billion, the AEI report has it at $234 billion, while CalPERS claims the unfunded liability is only$38.6 billion

Similarly, the Stanford study has the unfunded liability of CalSTRS at $156.7, the AEI report has it at $165 Billion, while CalSTRS claims the unfunded liability is only $16.2 billion.

Even if Stanford and AEI are off by 50%, the discrepancy is enormous. Whatever the sad state of affairs is, taxpayers are on the hook for the difference.

The time to stop public defined benefit pension plans was 20 years ago. Unfortunately, it is too late for that now. Nonetheless, it is imperative for states to stop compounding the error by switching to defined contribution plans immediately.

–Mike Shedlock


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Posted by John P. Johns, CPA
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2010 at 8:31 am

Dear Peter and other proponents of pension reform:

FYI, there is not a single pension system in California. Rather, there is a patchwork of public pension systems. CALPERS is by far the largest, with the largest deficit. However San Mateo County's has its own pension system. This system is very small in comparison to to CALPERS however, it has an unfunded liability that is also enormous.

The full extent of the deficit is hidden on page 69 of the County's Comprehensive Annual Financial report in the link below:

Web Link

As indicated on page 69 the unfunded liability tops $1 billion. That's about $1,400 for every man, woman and child who resides in this county. What makes this shortfall worse is that it is based upon a very optimistic expected return of 7.75% on the County's pension investment portfolio.

If the County returns less than 7.75% the shortfall will be greater.

While one is pounding the pavement for pension reform, I would respectfully suggest that folks start pounding the pavement for Michael Stogner.

Mr. Stogner is the only candidate for County Supervisor who has called for pension reform.

Mr. Stogner is a leader. He is thinking globally and acting locally.


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Posted by Ex Government Employee
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:29 am

I live in Belle Haven and signed the petition for City Employee Pension reform. Having been an ex Federal Employee I was for good benefits because Government Employees used to make less money than those in the private sector. But this is no longer the case. City employees make far better wages than their counterparts in the private sector and their benefits are even much higher than Federal Government retirees not to mention private sector employees who are just grateful to have a job.

When I see how the newly proposed benefits for new City employees will still be far greater than what the Federal Government had ever given its retirees and the fact the the City is proposing to significantly cut City services to make up for this pension liability is shocking.

How could the City Council forsake its commitment to the community for the City Employees. If the City employees were being treated unfairly I would sympathize with their plight. But they are rolling in the clover. What the City Council is doing is not right.

We need pension reform now. And the fact the the City Council is unwilling to do anything about it is a clear indication to me that they are working for the employee unions and not for the people of Menlo Park.

I would give my name but I fear for the safety of my family. If it was just me I would not have a problem revealing my true identity; but when I read about the recent fires in Menlo Park I just can't take the chance. I have to keep my family safe.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 6:45 am

From today's Wall Street Journal:
"State and local government labor costs can be reduced in an orderly way. Following in the footsteps of bankrupt GM, two-tier wage structures would allow existing employees to continue at current salaries, but pay new hires much lower wages that are nevertheless adequate to attract and retain qualified people. And the new people can be enrolled in defined-contribution pension plans that require employee contributions instead of defined-benefit plans. Retirement ages can be increased.

While waiting for existing employees to retire, their pay can be frozen. Pension formulas can be reformed to avoid the system being gamed by heavy overtime in final years on the job, and double-dipping can be eliminated. Retirees in the public sector can be required, as they are in the private sector, to pay meaningful shares of their health-care costs.

These changes would be profound and shake up the high-paid, secure image of state and local government jobs. But essential services would still be delivered, only much more cost effectively. Push has come to shove.

Mr. Shilling, an economic consultant and investment adviser, is president of A. Gary Shilling & Co."


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Peter
I thought you weren't an advocate of union busting, how would you feel if social security and disability benefit was frozen until the end of your life? That would be draconian wouldn't it? Incredible...........


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:30 pm

BCPW states:"Peter

I thought you weren't an advocate of union busting, how would you feel if social security and disability benefit was frozen until the end of your life?"
What is the connection between union busting and freezing social security and disability benefits?

This is a logical non sequitur and a perfect example of consistently flawed thinking.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Peter
Questions
1. I thought you were not an advocate for union busting? This is the oldest trick in the playbook, freeze wadges until retirement.
2. How would you feel if your Social Security and your disability benefits were frozen for the rest of your life? We could base it on the fact that you have assets that are worth allot of money. Social Security and disability benefits are tax dollars right? That wouldn't be fair would it? I mean you earned it right you served your country, paid your taxes and paid into Social Security, you own your assets. You keep saying your not into union busting but then you site articles like this.
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I have great respect for unions and for some union leaders. I believe that many modern day union leaders are pursuing short sighted objectives aimed solely at enhancing their personal standing without regard to the long term, when they will have been long gone, impact on their members and their members employers. Wise union leaders should be taking a leadership position in developing new sustainable retirement programs for public sector employees - instead they are fighting to preserve that which cannot be sustained.

Freezing wages which have grown well ahead of the market is a rational and common practice in well managed institutions and has nothing to do with being for or against unions. Look what happened to airline pilots and automobile workers who insisted on being paid more than the market could support - bankruptcy, loss of jobs and loss of hard earned retirement benefits. Is that what wise public sector union leaders really want for their members?

And what has this topic got to do with anyone's social security or disability payments?


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