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Editorial: Defending the pension initiative

Original post made on Jul 6, 2010

A union-backed lawsuit is attempting to kick Menlo Park's pension reform initiative off the ballot, but we hope the judge who hears the case gives residents a chance to vote the measure up or down in November.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 7, 2010, 12:00 AM

Comments (65)

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 6, 2010 at 11:52 pm

It is ridiculous to ask the Citizens for Fair and Responsible pension reform to mount a defense for the initiative. The group has not been named as a defendant in the lawsuit and so should not have to defend against it. The city could have avoided the inevitable lawsuit by adopting the law when it was presented to them, and the burden of defending the law rests on the city. The lawsuit itself is a ham-fisted attempt buy the SEIU and AFSCME to crush a taxpayer's right to vote, and should be recognized as such. Major hypocrisy is running rampant throughout this whole affair- the unions are challenging the initiative on the grounds that it violates their rights, while at the same time they are trampling the citizen's right to vote. The unions are clearly taking an adversarial and controlling stance with the city and should not be allowed to continue to do so. They have been allowed to manipulate local governments into massive, ironclad contracts that are bankrupting not only Menlo Park, but the State as well. They feel the tide starting to shift away from huge golden parachutes and they don't like it (of course). This initiative is only a small first attempt at stopping the runaway pension train, and the unions have already gone to defcon 20.They aren't stupid- they sense that their golden days of unrepressed overuse of public funds are coming to an end, and that their members will no longer be able to leach off of the taxpayer's thinning wallet. They knew this time would come, and they prepared well for it. I am sad that the editor thinks that the citizens of this great city should be forced to pay more than they already have.


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Posted by I signed the petition
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 7, 2010 at 12:00 am

I find the city attorney's rationale bizzare, indefensible, and dangerous. I didn't vote for Bush, but I paid taxes to support his administration. Our soldiers don't start the wars, but they still fight on behalf of a leadership they did or didn't elect.

For the petition, the rules are very clear - more than the required ten percent of the electorate demanded that it be placed before the voters. The council has a LEGAL and a MORAL obligation to do so to the very best of their ability to do so. If they fail to do so, the precedent is hugely damaging to the democratic process. Any special interest can block the referendem process with a simple and cheap lawsuit. The particulars of the pension initiative are not the only things at stake. The voice of the people thru the initiative process is at stake too. Failure to defend would be despicable and shred any respect the public may have for this council.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 7, 2010 at 4:42 am

While it would be nice for the City of Menlo Park to defend this initiative, they won't. The reasoning of the city attorney is obvioulsy somewhat tortured and may set a precedent that the city council will ultimately regret.

The SEIU and AFSCME should know that the voters who signed the petition - and many of those who did not or could not - will support the legal costs to defend this initiative. Given the current citizen outrage, that's not going to be a problem.

There is very little chance that this issue will not be on the ballot. While there may be an issue if the initiative passes, courts are loathe to deny voters a chance to weigh in and have previously ruled there is no constitutional issue in holding an election.

I am quite confident that voters will have the last word on this issue... which is as it should be.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2010 at 8:41 am

I am not an attorney, but perhaps another forum reader who is could either confirm or correct what I am about to say. I have to believe this issue is "settled law". I recall several State propositions that were placed on the ballot in recent years that had groups on both sides of the issue just waiting for the result of the election to see who filed a challenging law suit. Prop 8 was the most recent example. My point is, these suits had to wait until the election was held to be a valid filing because the referendum process could not be challenged. At least that is what I think is the case. If this is correct, wouldn't the court have to refuse to even hear the suit that the Unions have filed, thus eliminating the need for a defense fund?


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Posted by not surprised
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2010 at 9:28 am

No one should be surprised that the city attorney has taken this position. This town is run by an unholy triumvirate, the council, city management, and staff. They pull together against the citizens and voters because it protects their perks, power and money. Disgusting!


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

I would like to see an answer to WhoRU's question if someone can help.

As for the other comments, just more of the same tea bagger threats and insults.


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Posted by Darn!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2010 at 10:34 am

I thought I was going to go thru a full day where Truth wouldn't mention "tea bagger", I was wrong. I guess you're a Tea Bagger if you are concerned about where your hard earned tax dollars go, or that they're being wasted on extremely overinflated city and state pensions.
I guess I'm a Tea bagger, I wish we had more Tea Baggers. Tea Baggers Unite! Poor, poor Truth......



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 7, 2010 at 10:58 am

The MP Council has a sworn duty to uphold the laws and the law says that this initiative must either be adopted as is or placed on the ballot. The Council voted to put it on the ballot and they now have a sworn duty to ensure that the voters have the opportunity to vote yes or no. If the Council does not fully defend the citizens right to vote on this matter then one can only conclude that the majority of the Council is acting in collusion with the unions to deny the citizens the right to vote on this matter.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Peter has officially moved from cutting and pasting to making his opinion seem like fact.

You are wrong, Peter.

My tax money does not have to go to supporting the pension reform against litigation and I and many residents have lots of legal options should we feel the city has misused our money to support a special interest campaign. I would say the same if the city decided to put money to helping the unions in their own case or any others.

You are sadly blinded by your ideology.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Truth states:'I and many residents have lots of legal options should we feel the city has misused our money to support a special interest campaign."

Put your money where you mouth is Truth - I look forward to you doing anything except talk.

The law is clear - the initiative either had to be adopted as is or put on the ballot. Once it was put on the ballot the City is obligated to defend the citizens right to vote on the issue. It is a very strange concept called DEMOCRACY.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 7, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Fallacy argument, Peter, based on your own logic. The city is not obligated to defend the litigation. You feel that may be so, but no one cares how you feel about it.

The fact is that the city council had an obligation to do one of two things, make it law or put it on the ballot. The city does not have to defend the pension reform ballot, just the claims against the city.

You need to spend more time reading about law and less time reading your own opinions.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm

In all fairness to every citizen of the City of Menlo Park I think it is only fair for the supporters of the initiative to pay for it's legal defense.
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Truth and BCPW - please cite a single court decision which denied citizens the right to vote on a duly authorized petition.

Good luck - you won't find one.


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Posted by Concerned PArent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm

It is truly amazing. Only in the alternative universe of "truth" and BCPW can the idea of putting something to the voters be seen as "special interest", whereas filing a lawsuit that is very clearly designed to benefit a specific group and prevent the general population from even voting on something be seen as deserving of anything other than contempt. You two are clearly smoking your own dope and perhaps should be working on national marijuana legalization rather than continuing the gravy train. Let's see what's next, perhaps a pronouncement that we all serve government workers and should be lucky to have anything left if they let us?
The sense of arrogant entitlement is unbelievable, is unsustainable, and will lead to one of two results: 1) public employees realize that they and unions have lost popular support (hey isn't that why they don't want people to weigh in on the matter), or 2) people over time vote with their feet. MP is nice, but it won't be manageable after a while.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Truth states:"The city does not have to defend the pension reform ballot, just the claims against the city."

Read the lawsuit - it IS a claim against the City. Who do you think that the unions are suing?????

And it is also a direct challenge to democratic institutions. Just imagine if all of the issues that local jurisdictions have put on the ballot over the years could have simply been swept away by disgruntled special interest groups who pay no taxes and who do not live within those jurisdictions.


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2010 at 6:31 pm

The lawsuit is desperate. Just plain desperate. Common sense shall prevail.


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Posted by Darn!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I agree with you Concerned Parent, WELL SAID! I love Truth's terminology of "special interest". Let's see, it's a "special interest group" and this reform group should pay for their attempt to help all of us save future tax dollars! How dare this group try to save me money and be fiscally responsible, that is just crazy! C'mon say it Truth: "Those Tea Baggers are just crazy!"
Truth your colors are so obvious, tax the living heck out of the tax payers and pay me and my union folks our overinflated entitled pensions, then onto legalization of my favorite drug!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 7, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Democracy - government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

Let's run the numbers - over 3000 citizens petitioned their local government to make a change in the pension system. The elected City Council then voted to put this matter on the ballot so that ALL of the voters could decide the issue. And the unions could find ONE, only ONE, citizen to join with them in their attempt to deny the voters the right to be heard.

Simply absurd.




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Posted by Karl
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2010 at 3:24 am

[Post removed: refrain from personal attacks.]


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 8, 2010 at 9:26 am

I am not in the unions and I am all for the 2@60 as I said. See, the tea baggers here want to lump me in with a union supporter to make it easier for them to name call.

Peter, I don't have to find any case to prove my point. It is proven. The city does not have an obligation to defend an initiative, and if they are wide, they won't put taxpayer money behind this. If they do, they will open themselves up to more litigation for misappropriation of my tax dollars. Roy and his buddies are hard right millionaires as are you Peter. Put up or shut up. My council, the one that will deny your ludicrous logic, will not bow down to unions or right wing freaks.

They imposed 2@60 and they will reject your demands for money.

Find another cause and go sell crazy somewhere else. You guys do know that the tea baggers are like disco right? As soon as you stock up on the crazy costumes, you will be the subject of a decade of jokes.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 8, 2010 at 9:32 am

Truth states:"I don't have to find any case to prove my point. It is proven."

Amazing and arrogant logic - "I said it is proven, therefore it is".

Just gives us the court case - it is time for the facts, not fantasy disguised as 'truth'.


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Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

First to WhoRU, we agree that the suit is basically posturing that should be thrown out quickly, but unfortunately it still requires the response.

Second, while we had hoped the city would command the defense of a voter initiated process, Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform started this and we will (and are) supporting the city with the legal help necessary to respond to the attack. Anyone who would like to help can contribute through the web site at MenloParkPensionReform2010.com or to Box W, Menlo Park 94026 (note the zip code).


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 8, 2010 at 11:46 am

Peter, here is a case in Nebraska where a litigant did what the unions did (I think wrongly so) and the city did step in and preemptively tried to defend its position, and it was told to wait until it had a reason since it was not a law. Basically the judge said, why are you both wasting time and tax dollars defending this now, when you should take action later?

"Trying to inject a judicial authority into the middle of the legislative process is like trying to inject oil into water," Kobach said. "This court should not step in before something has become law."

Kobach said there is a 30-day window between the time when an initiative would be approved by voters, and the time it would be enacted. That window is when the measure should be legally challenged, he said.
"It's not officially the law of the city until it takes effect," Kobach said, adding the city is not obligated to defend it until then.
"The separation of powers is not waivable by the Legislature, it is a constitutional doctrine … and it's that constitutional doctrine that the city is trying to ignore, and they cannot, they have jumped the gun. This measure should be decided later," he said.

The next thing you will say is who cares about Nebraska, right?

Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Thank you. Truth has cited a case which proves my point:""Trying to inject a judicial authority into the middle of the legislative process is like trying to inject oil into water," Kobach said. "This court should not step in before something has become law."

The union law suit to keep this off the ballot is totally inappropriate and there is no judicial precedent for denying the voters the right to be heard. When the initiative passes then, and only then, can its constitutionality be challenged.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Henry,
Good you started it you support it. Because you have 3000 in support (questionable tactics used to get signatures) of your initiative does not mean you have the entire community's support. It is also not fair in my opinion to try to force the tax payers to defend your opinion. You should of charged $100 to sign it and seen how many signatures you would have gotten.

BCPW


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Posted by Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Not all city employees covered b y the union are union members. This means that not all covered employees vote for the union and the contracts. I wonder what % of employees are full union members?


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Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 8, 2010 at 12:57 pm


Hey BCPW, how about we deduct $1000 a year from every city worker's paycheck, the money to be used to defend the city against punitive lawsuits involving city employees. That way, deep-pocket "special interests" can't subvert the electoral process and taxpayers aren't on the hook for defending anybody's legal "opinion." It's the fair and balanced thing to do.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 8, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Peter, if you want to try to play semantics you can, but that proves the point I have been making all along about you. You don't care about facts, you only care about how you can play the facts to readers who are trying to get the facts.

My point was backed up and I actually found the case you said did not exist.

You said the city was obligated to defend this initiative, you were wrong. The city is only obligated if it becomes law.

That is a fact. That is a judge ruling.

Move on with your cut and paste game now.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 8, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Truth needs to learn how to read - I challenged him/her as follows: Truth and BCPW - please cite a single court decision which denied citizens the right to vote on a duly authorized petition."

Truth actually cited a case which proved the opposite - that the courts will NOT intervene until proposed legislation becomes law.

Truth has proved my point - thank you.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Peter, I know you are rich, right-winged and retired, so you can blast garbage out all day, I cannot. This will be my last chance to try to show you where you fell of the logic wagon.

"Once it was put on the ballot the City is obligated to defend the citizens right to vote on the issue."

Your words, not mine.

The city is only obligated to defend it IF it becomes law.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 8, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Truth and I have agreed that the courts can and will only rule on a law once it has been enacted.

Truth and I disagree on the City's moral responsibility to defend the union's unbelievable attempt to deny the citizens the right to actually vote on the proposed ordinance. Truth evidently believes that the City can decide to put the issue on the ballot and then turn its back on the union's attempt to remove the proposed ordinance from the ballot. IF the City did that then the City would essentially be denying the legal rights of the petitioners since the City declined to enact the proposed ordinance in favor of putting it on the ballot.

I hope that Menlo Park and every other jurisdiction recognizes the threat to any local government's ability to seek the will of the people if those local governments allow non-residents special interest groups like the unions to use the courts to intervene in the democratic process.


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Posted by Petition Gatherer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm

BCPW you have used the following quote several times in your statements "questionable tactics used to get signatures". How do you know that? I guess if you say it a few times, people will start to believe you?? I was one of the ones standing in front of a few of the stores to get signatures, and BELIEVE ME, once a citizen knew why we were there, I didn't have to say one more word. When citizens heard, "fiscal responsibility" or "NEW city employees and only new" or "sustainable government" or "unsustainable pension plans", these people fell all over themselves to sign the petition. I had only ONE person say no to me, ONE. You are climbing up the wrong tree on this one my friend, if we had more time, and if government had not made it so hard to get and qualify signatures, I'm willing to bet we'd get 90% of this town signing off on a petition toward this cause.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Petition Gatherer -

Thank you for providing this first-hand information. It confirms what most of us believe about those who signed the petition.

For non-believers like BCPW, I suppose the election results will suffice.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 9, 2010 at 12:45 am

in the interest of openness:
here is the case cited by Truth Web Link

it is not a highly instructive for determining Menlo Park's proper stance since the city in that case was suing to seek clarification on the legality of petitioned initiative before any election could take place.

"Fremont filed the appeal after [Judge] Samson ruled in April the city should hold a public election on a proposed ordinance"

It is highly instructive for the status of the SEIU suit. Here is what the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled: Web Link
CONCLUSION
The district court correctly determined that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to determine the substantive constitutional challenge to the Measure unless and until it is approved by the voters.

Of course, mileage may vary with differences between Nebraska and California law. But the legal term appears to be "not ripe for determination" until there is an election.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2010 at 7:20 am

Gatherer and POGO,
I have had conversations with three people who were solicited for their signature at their homes here in Menlo Park. One public employee and two non public employees. I'm sure if or when it gets to court these "tactics" and misinformation I have described will come out.
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 9, 2010 at 7:32 am

BCPW states:"I'm sure if or when it gets to court these "tactics" and misinformation I have described will come out."

PLEASE read the lawsuit - the manner in which the signatures were obtained is NOT part of the suit. In fact, the suit doesn't even challenge the validity of the petition - it just challenges the right of the citizens to vote on the proposed ordinance.

The suit will lose even if no one defends it - the court has no basis for, or interest in, ruling on a proposed ordinance BEFORE it is adopted into law.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2010 at 11:08 am

Even though the unions are going to lose this one in court it has the unfortunate effect of forcing folks to pay lawyers to go to court until a judge rightly throws the case out of court.

Blue Collar: you keep mentioning "tactics" but, as usual you provide nothing factual to back up your allegations. In fact, you don't even provide any specifics about what "tactics" were used that were improper. Seems to me that if the union thought there was anything improper about how signatures were gathered they would have challenged the certification of the signatures. They didn't so, I'm guessing you're just blowing smoke. Again.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 9, 2010 at 12:20 pm

BCPW -

The SEIU and AFSCME's allegations about private citizens using strong-arm tactics has to be one of the most ironic legal complaints in history. Reminds me of the kid who killed his parents pleading for mercy because he's an orphan.

I'm not sure the judge will be able to keep a straight face long enough to dismiss the union's law suit.

The courts have consistently refused to rule on these matters until AFTER the election. The vote tally should be interesting - let's see how many of those signatures were really due to coercion.


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

Worth reading:

"The discussion by our political class regarding the State's budget crisis is woefully uninformed unless we all get a grasp on the realities of the tidal wave of debt swelling from public sector retirement. The Governor (amazingly) has the right end of the stick on this one.

By Katy Grimes, at Cal Watchdog, July 8, 2010

California's private sector employees are not only paying for their own pensions and retirement funds, they are paying for the pensions of public sector employees, according to Governor Schwarzenegger. In his pension fund roundtable meeting today Schwarzenegger said, "We don't have enough money," to continue funding the state's public pension fund liability.

California has $500 billion in unfunded pension debt – that's half a trillion dollars. Even if the state froze pensions today, California would still be upside down in pension debt by billions of dollars.

According to roundtable participant San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, "San Francisco pays $1.2 billion every year for the city employees' pensions and health care, but has cut summer school, gives out $80 parking tickets, and we charge people to come to our parks." Adachi said that when he was elected, he analyzed the budget and asked, "Where is all the money going?" He said that when no one could answer him, he started doing his own research and discovered that the city employee pensions cost 28 times more than what the city spends on street repairs and maintenance.

Adachi has introduced a ballot initiative that would require city workers to contribute 9 percent to 10 percent to their own pensions, and double their contributions to dependents health care coverage from 25 percent to 50 percent. Adachi, a self-described progressive, said his initiative gathered 75,000 signatures when only 3,000 were needed, demonstrating vast support for the change.

In 1999, the Legislature passed SB400, to retroactively increase pension benefits by 20 percent to 50percent, authored by Democrat Sen. Deborah Ortiz and coauthored by Democrat Sen. John Burton, and Assembly members Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, Anthony Pescetti, R-Sacramento, and Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. Gov. Gray Davis signed the bill. Some state political analysts said the bill was a gift to unions for putting Democrats back in charge of the state after 16 years of Republican rule.

Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing a roll back of pension benefits to pre-1999 benefit levels. He wants to require employees to contribute to their own pensions, base the retirement rate on the three highest years of wages of employment instead of the one-year calculation now used, and require full disclosure by state pension funds and "honest funding of pension promises when promises are made."

At the meeting, the governor's special jobs and economic adviser David Crane, said that SB400 was only supposed to cost $648 million in the 2010-11 budget year however, the actual cost will be nearly $4 billion, 2,000 percent higher than 10 years ago. The projections were based on assumptions that the stock market boom in the 1990s would continue indefinitely. Crane said that the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) believed it could cover any additional costs through "continued excess returns" and expected that contributions from the state would hold steady at $350 million. Crane explained that the actual pension costs began at $145 million in year 2000, and are $3.8 billion this year. He said however, that the increases started well before the stock market crash of 2008, and that the CalPERS Board signed off on the pension changes without ever asking questions about how it could possibly be sustained.

CalPERS Board member Tony Oliveira said the biggest problem was that SB400 passed without any scholarly analysis. "Now the pain train is still coming, and locals are going to take it on the chin." Oliveira said that his own county will be experiencing 35 percent increases.

Former Democratic Assemblyman Joe Nation (2000-06) and co-author of AB32, California's global warming act, said that he was not in the Legislature in 1999 and did not vote for SB400, "however had I been, I probably would have because every other Democrat did and most Republicans did – because they didn't even think about it." Nation said, "You cast votes because it's what the caucus recommends." Nation added, "We need to step back and think about things, look at the facts. Facts are pretty stubborn things."

Nation is correct – SB400 was supported by both parties, passed unanimously in the Senate, with only seven members of the state Assembly voting against it.

Crane was critical of the Legislature and questioned why not no one asked, "What happens if the stock market doesn't continue to go up?" Referring to the dot.com and stock market boom of the 1990s, and the assumption that it would continue, Crane said the assumptions were entirely based on the Dow Jones rising. However, according to Crane, if the stock market doesn't perform at the 1990s boom level, even with a rise, pension costs will still be higher, "even worse than these costs."

Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, tried to address the existing pension crisis by authoring SB919, however it was voted down along party lines. The measure would have increased the retirement age from 55 to 65, and required state employees to make higher contributions to their retirement accounts. The measure would also require retirement benefits be based on the three highest years of wages, instead of the using only the current highest single year.

Explaining that there once was a time when there were trade offs between higher paying private sector jobs and better benefits in public sector jobs, Hollingsworth said that today the public sector benefits are much greater than the private sector in both areas. But Hollingsworth stressed that the argument is that "pensions must be sustainable."

Northwestern University Professor Joshua Rauh, author of The Liabilities and Risks of State-Sponsored Pension Plans … explained the dire financial situation of the state's pension crisis, and how easily the pension funds got into trouble, because of lawmakers' and board CalPERS members' unrealistic assumptions about the stock market.

Rauh said that policy makers need to understand the facts and warned that with current pension promises, CalPERS and CalSTRS will run out of money by fiscal year 2026-27.

The governor told Rauh, "[G]ood luck making policy makers understand what you just said."


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Posted by Pros/Cons
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 10, 2010 at 8:38 am

Perhaps it would behoove a few of you to read this study. Web Link As voters we have a right to make informed decisions if all of those folks who signed the petition volunteered for the city perhaps they understand. I would rather see my tax dollars spent on programs then lawsuits.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2010 at 10:54 am

Pros and Cons

Your are right we should not be spending money on lawsuits. We should be able to expect that our elected officials will take care of this problem NOW.

I realize my fellow State retirees will not agree with me, but the system cannot be sustained. New employees must be enrolled in a new Defined Contribution system. Current employees (and their head-in-the-sand Unions) must come to understand that unless this happens OUR pensions are in jeopardy.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2010 at 11:59 am

Interested
Can you show me some facts outside of the Stanford study to back this up? At the end of the day please see this for what it is, this is a run at funds of public employees. At the end of the day it is perfect for all the Tea Baggers to get their hooks into. They lost all their retirement benys because they traded long ago for 01's to get more paycheck. Now they see a cash cow and they want it. Arnold has been after the plan for years. Did you know he commissioned the Staford study and those numbers are designed to a certain outcome? Do you really believe the PERS plan would keep staying on message if they thought they could not sustain the plan? Really that would be suicidal wouldn't it?

BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 10, 2010 at 12:10 pm

BCPW states:"Do you really believe the PERS plan would keep staying on message if they thought they could not sustain the plan? Really that would be suicidal wouldn't it?"

CalPers is only "sustainable" because they have infinite recourse to levy new assessments on their participating jurisdictions and their taxpayers. What is not sustainable is the ability of those jurisdictions and those taxpayers to keep coming up with more money to fund CalPers' shortfall.


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Posted by Gail Alinsky
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Power to the Unions! Workers of the world unite!


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Blue...

You have missed the point. CalPers is sustainable....but only if the State and contracting agencies are forced to add more and more money to the plan.....It is not sustainable by investments..

Listen if my pension was taken away I would be broke, but logic says you cannot keep going to the same watering hole...THE TAXPAYER....

They have had enough...either we as public employees (retired in my case) step up to the plate and accept the changes that must be made..OR THOSE CHANGES WILL BE MADE FOR US......

Defined Benefit plans are not sustainable. It is patently unfair to expect the taxpayers to continue to foot this bill.

I expect you have the feeling, "Well he got his and now wants to take it away from the next guy". I understand that feeling, but remember we are talking about NEW employees. Yes I have a contract that guarantees my pension. That's the agreement I made that I expect to be fulfilled....But changing the pension benefits for new employees MUST happen....

anything less is not fair to the people paying the bill


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 10, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Pros/Cons -

Of course we would rather spend money on programs than lawsuits.

But perhaps you missed the fact that the lawsuit was filed by the unions against the town.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 11, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Blue Collar:

can you provide one INDEPENDENT study that shows CalPERS is not in trouble or that their pensions are sustainable WITHOUT raising contributions from the municipalities? At least the Stanford study was independent. You keep pointing to PERS reports that say everything is hunky dorey. You think maybe they aren't exactly unbiased? Keep looking for that independent study saying things are OK - you won't find one.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm

MV
While it is true that each agency will make up the shortfall there was also a decade where they did not have to contribute. That money was spent by those agencies for the benefit of you the tax payer. If you were willing to return that money I could support your position. The facts are this is a plan much like an insurance policy and this is how it works. I find it interesting that there has not been much talk about the property tax review numbers. You may recall the County was predicting negative one percent reviews this year however it is now coming in closer to there to four percent. If this continues I think we will see this whole uproar stop.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Blue......

Do the rest of us a favor an stop now.....You have no idea what you are talking about.

First of all...Yes in the "Go-Go" years the "employers" (from here out, lets call it what it really is, the "taxpayers" contribution) made sufficient interest on the existing contributions that it covered that portion.

For you to suggest that somehow the taxpayers failed to meet that responsibility is outrageous. THEY DID CONTRIBUTE IN THOSE TEN YEARS.

Did CalPers send the money back and say now make your contribution? Of course they did not. They took the taxpayers money and used it to make the contribution......

Property Tax revenue numbers....what does that have to do with the question....NOTHING

You do not seem to understand that the party is over....and its time to leave


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 11, 2010 at 3:51 pm

BC:

the fact the municipalities didn't pay for 10 years is due to the stupidity of CalPERS. They were drinking the boom time koolaid thinking they would always be able to make plenty of money from investment; so much so that for 10 years in wasn't "necessary" for municialities to contribute. Well they were wrong. There were a number of economists at the time predicting they were wrong. PERS should never have stopped collecting funds. If they hadn't, perhaps we wouldn't be in this unsustainable mess.

The fact is we are in this mess and small increases in property tax income aren't going to get us out of it. There's a reason PERS has jacked up the required contributions. It's because they aren't making what they need from investments. They likely never will depending on which economist you listen to. Which means they'll be bleeding the municipalities for ever increasing amounts of money for quite some time. This whole uproar isn't going to stop until the problem is fixed.


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Posted by A skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 11, 2010 at 11:44 pm



From the report cited by "Pro/Cons", "Out of Balance - Comparing Punlic and Private Sector Compensation over 20 Years"

"Wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector workers with comparable earnings determinants (e.g., education). State employees typically earn 11 percent less; local workers earn 12 percent less."

The report was produced by the "Center for State and Local Government Excellence"

The Center's stated mission from their website -
"To help state and local governments become knowledgeable and competitive employers so they can attract and retain talented, committed, and well-prepared individuals to public service."

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence was created in 2007 with financial support from ICMA-RC to respond to the challenges facing state and local governments as they sought to attract and nurture the best workforce for the 21st century.

Since 1972, ICMA-RC has partnered with people like you—public employees—to help build retirement security. We are an independent not-for-profit financial services organization that provides retirement products and services including the Vantagepoint Funds, and a full range of other investment options to more than 900,000 public sector employees, in over 8,000 plans.

Do you think then that perhaps there may be an agenda behind the report?


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

Skeptic,
And the Stanford Study? Yes commissioned by Mr. Schwarzenegger with improper math and figures to support his goals.
BCPW


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

Blue Collar:

please identify the "improper math and figures."


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 12, 2010 at 11:19 am

BCPW,

Here is the June 2009 Compensation figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

State & Local Private Sector Ratio
Total Compensation: $39.66 $27.42 1.45
Benefits $13.65 $8.02 1.70

So according to the Obama Administration Public Sector employees get 45% more pay and 70% more benefits than the private sector. How bout dem apples! So why don't you cry me a river.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Hank
Please read
Web Link

Also Hank you fail to tell the whole truth and that is that many Public workers have far more education and advanced degrees than private workers. Take for example teachers, professors, it is also not uncommon for Police and Fire workers to have bachelor degrees. So how do you address this in a fair way?

MV
*They use bond return rates of 7.25 instead of the Calpers rate of 7.9
*The study was based on data when Pers had 50 billion less dollars in assets then it does today
*The study is based on a risk free rate something would be a big mistake for a fund of this type given the past record and assets


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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

2004-05 6.243%
2005-06 11.508%
1998-92006-07 10.037%
2007-08 9.670%
2008-09 10.965%
2009-10 14.597%
2010-11 14.500%
2011-12 15.85%
2012-13 17.90%
2013-14 20.05%
2014-15 20.30%


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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm

BCPW

As usual you have your facts all wrong, and based on your last statement about higher education for public employees, you are showing your lack of basic research skills. So I have done your homework for you, again.

In staff report 09-129 which you can find on the city's website (if you have trouble with that call me I'll have my 6th grader teach you how to use the search feature) on pages 6-7 and page 10 Glenn Kramer CLEARLY tells us EXACTLY how much the city has paid to CalPERS for it's employees in each and every year, and CalPERS estimates through 2014. I have posted the numbers below (to again save you hours of research). As you can CLEARLY see there was NO 10 year (that's how long a decade is in case you didn't know) period in which Menlo Park did not pay into PERS. In fact you can see that our costs keep rising (which is where the unsustainable part of the pension reform comments comes from)and based on CalPERS own estimates the cost to the city will have risen from 6.2% in 2004 to 20.3% in 2014. that is a 227% increase in costs to the city of Menlo Park just in pension costs (not county an equally STUNNING cost in health care premiums)

So apparently whether you use the bond rates, or CalPERS rates, these employees are costing us TOO MUCH!

On page 9 of the same report he shows that by going from 2.7%@55 to 2%@60 we can reduce the costs of pension for the new employees from 16.2% of their salary to 9.1%. That is a reduction of 43% in cost!!!

So please spare me any other comments with regards to CalPERS returns, we will assume that blank stare on your face is an apology, and that you'll at least TRY to back up your statements with a few facts going forward.

With respect to your comments about highly educated public workers with advanced degrees, please see the weblink below listing the 10 highest paid college graduates by degree. The HIGHEST paid graduate is Chemical Engineering at $59,218 which is pretty impressive until you consider that our LOWEST paid Maintenance Worker I - Trees employee only earned $58,174, plus had up to 38 paid days off to boot. I certainly hope he graduated from an ivy league school for that pay. So please spare us the dribble about equivalent jobs. I have employed hundreds of highly skilled and educated workers who do NOT earn the kind of money that our city employees earn in equivalent jobs, and certainly don't enjoy the benefits that our city workers have to "suffer" with.

Web Link

Again, please be more accurate, more articulate and more honest in your future postings [or try to anyway].

Thanks
Roy Thiele-Sardiña


PERS Contributions from MPK Staffreport
1998-9 6.532%
1999-00 0%
2000-01 0%
2001-02 0%
2002-03 0%
2003-04 0%
2004-05 6.243%
2005-06 11.508%
2006-07 10.037%
2007-08 9.670%
2008-09 10.965%
2009-10 14.597%
2010-11 14.500%
2011-12 15.85%
2012-13 17.90%
2013-14 20.05%
2014-15 20.30%


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Posted by Blue collar public worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Roy,
As usual not facts, just more hype. How can you say the City has paid 2011 to 2015 Pers contributions. Your own words "estimate". These are projections Roy, you know that, don't act as if they are facts! Also with Pers doing much better with income these numbers will go down. Remember the 50 Billion they made in 5 months? Oh no we left that out of the Stanford study to make the numbers look right. Another thing the tax revenue is coming back much higher for the County and will add millions to the budget by October.
Of course you choose the Maint Worker I with thirty years of service and at the top of the pay scale, vacation and sick time, to make your case and you compare him to a kid fresh out of collage!
I am sure your companies have employed many qualified workers and under paid them in wages and benefits to boost stock prices and returns for your investors.That's why they have unions, I know you hate them. However many collages , universities and schools are full of employees with advanced degrees. They are paid and on a pay scale that is directly tied to this pay scale and are compensated for their degrees. So please use proper facts not hype by design. By the way did you ever decide if you would fill out that 700 form and show the public if you do or do not have any conflict of interest here?
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

"The California Public Employees' Retirement System tracks changes across the state. According to a rough list CalPERS compiled, 75 cities, counties and public agencies are considering changes to employee pensions." Contra Costa Times


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

BCPW,

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not lie. However, your bogus study has so much bias and untruths that it should be disregarded. What part of Public Sector employees getting 45% more payt and 70% more pension benefits you don't understand. Are you incapable of comprehending facts?

[Portion deleted. Please avoid attacks on other posters. Discuss the issue.] It is not education that counts. It is what you do with your education. Currently we have two members of the Menlo Park City Council with PhDs from Stanford who are arguably the worst City Council members in a generation. And one is a registered Professional Engineer which is an embarrassment to me. Because PEs are supposed to be good with math. Fortunately for those two Council Members Stanford can not withdraw its degrees -- because their irresponsible and reckless actions have heaped much embarrassment upon that fine institution.

The State is bankrupt and Menlo Park will be bankrupt within a decade unless it reigns in the SEIU's and AFSME's rapacious appetite for egregious salaries and benefits. The City's workers are overpaid and their benefits are way out of alignment with what the private sector gets. And something will be done about it. Your days of extorting money from the taxpayers to support your profligate lifestyle are numbered.


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Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm


We seem to have drifted from the original point here: the union's suit to remove a ballot measure before it is voted on, and whether officials and the legal system should allow this to happen.

Here's a little thought experiment. Suppose an organization with considerable financial and legal resources (union, corporation, industry group, whatever) decides to oppose a legitimate political candidate whom they feel might be detrimental to their interests. They sue to remove that person from the ballot. The details of the suit don't really matter--a committed legal staff can always come up with a pretext. Anybody can sue anybody over anything, after all. Should the government "allow the law to take its course" in such a case? Should that candidate have to gather the resources to mount a legal defense of his or her right to stand for office?

Seems to me there's more at stake here than pensions.


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Posted by John Diaz
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 13, 2010 at 3:05 pm

[Post removed; unoriginal material from another publication]


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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

BCPW

Don't know what to say....I give you numbers from the city and CalPERS and you still don't like them? Sorry that the facts hurt, sorry that the "estimates" from CalPERS aren't to your liking. Would you rather I just made the numbers up? Those estimates are what the CITY uses to create it's budgets. Absent those numbers, they'd have to make up things (kind of like you do).

Further evidence that we pay people too much for a "simple" job in comparison to highly educated professions can be easily seen with what we pay our Building Custodian I (these are our lowest level custodians) we pay ours $64,210, $58,274, and $56,362 respectively. Again these salaries are higher than the "highest" paid college graduates. I am not talking about longevity in the job or skills (sic.) these are just a SMALL example of the employees paid HIGH salaries with respect to private sector jobs. Here is a link to the SJ Mercury story about how San Jose outsourced (to a union job paying less) the custodial work at SJC. Web Link
So we knew that there are "equivalent" private sector jobs in the bay area paying considerably less than public sector equivalents.

Judging from your intimate knowledge of the tenure of each of our city employees I'll assume you know these people well from you union activities......

As to defending the lawsuit (the original point of the piece). I will reiterate what Henry Riggs said. We will defend this if the council doesn't. Someone has to stand up for the people of Menlo Park and protect our tax money, and if council won't/can't, we will.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Roy,
STOP THE HYPE!
Again here are the facts from the Cities web site and like I said you took the top Maint. Worker I wage for the purpose of HYPE! It takes 15 years to get to the top of the scale.
Maint. Worker I starting pay is 48,492. Top pay is 58,626 here is the link
Web Link

The poverty threshold for California is 22,800 so you are saying making two times that to start for a skilled Maint. Worker is too much? Yes it's a good job with good pay but come on Roy do you want people to have to work two jobs to survive? The average salary in California is 68,000. I really don't think 48K is too much to pay. I know you want people to work for less but you know Roy again this is why there are unions. Anyway your right back to the subject. So hows the war chest coming along, how much have you taken in so far, I hope you'll have enough? By the way did you consider filling out and posting that 700 form? I would be willing to make a donation to the fund if you just filled it out to humor me and posted it here for all to see?
BCPW


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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm

BCPW

You were mad when I used names last time we discussed salaries.....then you called me a liar. so here it is from Glen Kramer's employee report [which you can request, he emailed it to me] (also from the Post) the format is Name Salary/OT/Special/Total

Harry Williams Jr. $57,790/$6323/$96/$64.210
Mil G Pascua $51,400/$2812/$4539/$58,752
Renato Nufable $55,382/$882/$96/$56,362

So I am not sure were you got the incorrect information you provided, but mine came from the city.

We continue to get lots of support for our efforts. People have been generous with their time and money. Thanks to the lawsuit by the Unions we will need more money to defend Menlo Park's right to vote on the ballot initiative this November. (please mail your check to P.O. Box "W" Menlo Park, CA 94026)

So BCPW, all that anger and still hiding behind that anonymous thing.....you should work on that.

Thanks everyone for your continued support.

Roy Thiele-Sardina






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