News


Court upholds Menlo Park pension reform

Measure L allows good faith negotiation, court rules

So far the court doesn't see a problem with pension reform initiative Measure L, according to a ruling issued on Monday (May 4).

Two unions had filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court after Measure L passed with 72 percent of the vote in 2010.

The initiative raised the minimum retirement age for new public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decreased their maximum pension benefits to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years. Finally, Measure L took benefit increases out of the hands of the City Council -- all increases now require a simple majority vote by the public, a key issue at the heart of the lawsuit.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) argued that not allowing the City Council to increase benefits would prevent the city from being able to negotiate in good faith.

In Monday's ruling, the court concluded that the unions haven't demonstrated that any wrongful action or damage has occurred because of Measure L. Pointing to recent AFSCME negotiations with Menlo Park as an example, the ruling stated that "the undisputed evidence before this court is that successful negotiations can take place with Measure L in place."

Even if violations happened "someday," the court said, regulations already in place would remedy the situation.

Union representatives issued a joint statement on the court's decision:

"We are disappointed in the ruling because Measure L was an unnecessary measure that wasted taxpayers money. SEIU and AFSCME stand by our opinion that workers rights that are protected by the state Constitution shouldn't be subject to the whims of political currents," the statement said.

"The fact is that it was through the proper bargaining process that allowed the City of Menlo Park and its workers to recently agree on a fair contract for all parties. Contract negotiations should be done at the table; in the end it's less costly and produces better results."

Henry Riggs, who helped lead the pension reform initiative to success at the ballot box, said he expects an appeal. "We have the right (and responsibility) to limit long-term debt that our children and grandchildren will bear," he commented in an email about the "take away" message of the ruling. "'Business as usual' doesn't have to be."

Comments

Posted by Measure L Supporter, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Fantastic! Thank you supporters, workers and creators of Measure L! Finally, restoring SOME sense in California's fiscal issues. It is my hope that Menlo Park's Measure L stands out as an example for other California cities to follow, and to implement. Thank you Henry and Roy for leading the charge!


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Awesome! Congratulations!

Please don't let this be the end of the movement to curb waste. There is so much more to do!


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Thanks you all for your continued support. Citizens for Responsible Pension Reform [CFRPR] (Measure L) are of course overjoyed at the court decision.

At the same time we are discouraged at the cost to the City to fight the Unions legal challenges. The money the city was forced to spend will deprive our community of vital resources and services.

We hope that this settles any lingering doubt that the citizens of Menlo Park have a legal right to control the costs of providing pensions to their employees (even when our elected official refuse to do so). Our children and grand-children will thank us......

Thanks again for all your support!

Roy Thiele-Sardiña
Co-Chairman -
Citizens for Responsible Pension Reform


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Yes, congrats!!! Why am I not surprised by the union response? The give me give me attitude can now be changed. The cost to the city should be subtracted from the unions in the next union contract. The citizens should not have to pay for the union mentality.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And now look at how far short CalPERS has fallen from of its declared 7.5% goal:

"The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension, earned less than 2 percent on investments in the first three quarters of its fiscal year, below its target rate after its stock portfolio faltered."


Web Link


Posted by Tough Love, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 9, 2012 at 6:07 am

Quoting ..."Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) argued that not allowing the City Council to increase benefits would prevent the city from being able to negotiate in good faith."

The perverted thinking of Public Unions never ceases to amaze me. I wonder if they would entertain negotiating pension DECREASES for current workers ? That's what's needed.

Public Sector Unions are a Cancer on society. They should be outlawed. Barring that, Collective Bargaining must end.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 9, 2012 at 7:53 am

Hey Blue Collar Public Worker you still around? What do you think of your wonderful PERS ROI? Not quite the 7 1/2% you insisted they were going to get, is it? Seems someone told you this would be the case.


Posted by Charles, a resident of another community
on May 9, 2012 at 8:25 am

TL

When did you move to Menlo Park?


Posted by Tough Love, a resident of another community
on May 9, 2012 at 8:45 am

Hi Charles,

I didn't see "Other" as a choice, so I had to pick a (random location). Now I see "another community" as an option, and will use that.

Thanks.


Posted by Jack Tachspeyr, a resident of another community
on May 9, 2012 at 9:54 am

Maybe the Menlo Park Almanac should publish the salaries (by job description and department, no need to name individuals) for all Menlo Park employees. Then they should publish the value of all current and future benefits. They should make certain to include the current year funding costs for future retirement health and pension benefits, and for these invested funds they should assume a lower risk rate of return than the current, totally unrealistic and highly risky 7.75%.

If the Menlo Park Almanac had the courage, the work ethic, the intellectual honesty, and the competence to do this analysis, it is likely they would demonstrate that the AVERAGE total compensation of a city employee (non safety) is around $125,000 per year, and the AVERAGE total compensation of a safety employee is well over $200,000 per year. I could be low-balling this.

Before they're finished, the Menlo Park Almanac might summarize the many programs of paid time off in place. It is likely, for example, that there are compensation time programs, such 9/80 program, common among government workers, whereby you skip a few breaks and a few lunches, and take every other Friday (or Monday) off with full pay, under the premise that you have worked 9 hour days for 9 days, and thus fulfilled your full time work requirement for the pay period. And of course the many holidays and generous vacation and sick leave packages.

Local government employees in California, including the safety classification, are the most overpaid workers in the history of the world. They are bankrupting the country. We are on track, for example, to pay more each year in pension benefits to the small minority of retired government workers, than we will pay in social security to everyone else. This is all a crime of historic proportions, and the reason is because of public sector unions, whose agenda is inherently opposed to the public interest.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

It is baffling that so many Californians continue to vote for public union supported candidates. It is quite obvious that public unions exist solely to loot the taxpayer in a corrupt bargain with paid-for politicians, and they have been extremely effective in doing so.

Congratulations to Menlo Park on making a step towards fiscal sanity and value for taxpayers' dollars. There are many more such steps that need to be taken.


Posted by S, a resident of another community
on May 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

""The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension, earned less than 2 percent on investments in the first three quarters of its fiscal year, below its target rate after its stock portfolio faltered.""

Terrible article. CalPERS began their current fiscal year, on July 1st, with 239.5 billion dollars in assets. As of yesterday's market close total assets were 232.5 billion. The 7.75% assumed rate of return is "NET" of administative costs and fees which average about three billion annually, so this claim of 1.9% returns probably hasn't factored those costs.

I do not trust anything that comes from CalPERS. When they come out with their CAFR (audited financial report), barring a miraculous run up in the markets over the next 53 days, you should expect to see CalPERS report another losing year that will require even higher employer/taxpayer contributuins beginning July 1, 2014 (on top of all the other already scheduled rate increases).


Posted by mrs., a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 3, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I guess then this would include firemen and police men as well? Since they take a big percentage of the tax contributions- and if the salaries do become public they should also include management positions who are paid the highest. I also believe Public Boards should be held accountable, they misuse public funds. While field workers are denied a salary increase some workers in Management in Menlo Park have received a "wage increase" of up to 10,000- from an elected Board- that is suppose to make proper use of our tax dollars!! I don't understand why we should deprive public employees from (benefits and retirement) if they offer our city good and quality services, I have been living in MP for 12 years and I have received excellent services, parks and neighborhoods are clean, police and firemen are always responsive, water and sewer services are great. I guess I just disagree with the "bourgeoisie" of MP !! Thank God I am moving from this town!!!


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:16 am

Congratulations, to Citizens for Responsible Pension Reform (CFRPR).


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