News

Menlo Park: Pension reform may be delayed a year or more

Mayor says he won't support hiring 'a bunch of new people' at higher benefit level

The celebratory buzz that followed the passage of Measure L by a whopping 72 percent of voters in November died down in Menlo Park after voters realized approval was only the first step in a pension reform process that could take years.

The quandary: How to fill the city's 15 vacant positions when Menlo Park can't legally implement Measure L's limits yet?

Measure L raised the minimum retirement age for new public employees by five years to 60, excluding police officers, and also decreased maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percentage points to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years.

Under this measure, a new hire who retired at age 60 after working for the city for 30 years would receive 60 percent of that average salary. Current employees can retire at age 55 and get 81 percent.

Henry Riggs, who helped bring Measure L to voters, said that state law requires the city to negotiate with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) before it can impose lower benefits. According to his research, if the bargaining ends in a stalemate, and a contract is imposed, as happened last May with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the limits won't take effect until March 2012.

Menlo Park appears to have three options: A hiring freeze. Outsourcing to contractors. Or continue hiring at the old pension rates, which the city can't afford to sustain.

Council members Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki asked staff to examine outsourcing in neighboring communities to gauge how well it might work in Menlo Park. Ms. Keith also questioned why the city interviewed arborists on Jan. 25, a position advertised at $7,000 per month, while the higher benefits were still in place.

Glen Rojas, city manager, responded that contractors are limited in what they can do before becoming public employees in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service. The city then runs the risk of owing back taxes. The position can't be eliminated, he said, because of the workload.

"Right now there's only one person supervising all tree crews," he said. "That's not sustainable."

Mr. Riggs sent an e-mail to the council in December suggesting a hiring freeze since the city expressed a firm commitment to the new benefit structure. "Put another way, when you realize you are in the most expensive widget store in town, why would you buy one more widget before crossing the street to the competitive store?"

Echoing that reasoning at the Jan. 27 budget meeting, Mayor Rich Cline said he was very sensitive to the 72 percent of voters who want the new pension structure implemented now and are not happy about the city advertising positions under the old structure.

"It seems like an affront to the movement that just happened," Mr. Cline said. "I'm not going to give you the answer, but I'll tell you I'm not going to support hiring and adding a bunch of new people to the mix."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 2, 2011 at 9:15 am

Can it be more obvious that this article is simply fishing for an online debate? C'mon everyone, be the sheep and insult each other and warn about doomsdays and blame unions and liberals!


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2011 at 10:39 am

Contracting temp help from an adjoining city with expertise in the area seems the logical answer. it is short term cost vs 60 years of paying higher pensions. Is it that hard for supposedly competent managers to figure this out? They teach that in Business 101......

Henry Riggs appeal to the City was well worded and succint. Until you have a contact enforceable at the lower rates NO MORE HIRING!

Roy Thiele-Sardina


Like this comment
Posted by drown it in the bathtub
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2011 at 1:04 pm

See - the real agenda here appears now to be nothing other than to shrink government (which provides us the services we take for granted) until it is small enough to drown it in the bathtub.

The City alredy has 30 fewer employees now than it did in the early 1990s. Unfilled positions? That means work that will not get done.

That is not what the Your City Your Voice process foudn people wanted at all.

Let's not let a small group of Republicans that are actually the minority in our City dictate some sort of ban on hiring that would affect the services we, our kids and our seniors take for granted. That is being penny wise and pound foolish.


Like this comment
Posted by Cry a river
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Drown it in a bathtub

Maybe the city was overstaffed in 1990. 30 less seems fine. What services have you been missing? Police and fire still seem to be in business, parks and rec is working. Streets are still in good condition and clean. The downtown is active. What city services do you need that you can't get because of these 30 fewer positions?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 2, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Fire services for the citizens of Menlo Park are provided by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District which serves Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Atherton and adjacent portions of unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. The Fire District was established before any of the cities which it serves, it has a balanced budget, reserves and the lowest unfunded pension liabilities of any local agency.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 2, 2011 at 6:18 pm

This whole thing is absurd!
I am sorry but for anyone to suggest the City of Menlo Park can't decide how to compensate new employees is ridiculous!
I am SICK of the sense of entitlement shown by public employees.
I may be naive but I am waiting for ONE just ONE public employee to step forward and DO THE RIGHT THING - acknowledge that the current system of compensating public employees is unfair to the taxpayers and every poor working stiff who works in privaye industry and who pays into social security and gets little soon to be less for it!
I go into the post office and the employees are moving like molasses. I go to my office and I see people hustling to get the work done!
Public employees I am warning you - the longer you hold onto to your sense of entitlement - the harder you fight needed reforms - the heavier the backlash will be.
I am sorry the 90% of the population that DOES NOT work for the govenrment is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the public employees.
Do the right thing! NOW.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

drown it in the bathtub,

The reason we have fewer employees in menlo park is that we got rid of the employees operating the pool. EVERY other department has more than they did in 1990......so your apology is accepted.

As to your assertion that a few republicans are making the decisions....I beg to differ. Measure L was passed by an overwhelming majority of the voters (almost 75%) So besides you, Kelly Fergusson and Heyward Robinson, there were VERY few people that thought the city was properly compensating it's employees. We ALL believe that not a SINGLE new employee should be hired under the old pension system. It requires a 60 year commitment to that employee (30 years of employment and 30 years living on that pension according to CalPERS. The RIGHT thing to do is to wait.

Thanks
Roy Thiele-Sardina


Like this comment
Posted by drown it
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm

The people who voted on Measure L are not the leaders now pushing this no hiring for two years insanity, nor was that something that was posed to the voters. So you can't claim that 75% of the people would say to do no hiring for 2 years. That is something a very small group of Republicans (and a Libertarian) who were behind Measure L are now pushing.

The relevant question is: what would be the effect on services if we pursue this new "no hiring" for 2 years approach. Compared to 1990, we already have fewer library hours and fewer services for the under 5 years olds and seniors in our City, among other things.

More recently, the evidence from the Your City, Your Voice citywide survey is that people didn't want cuts in levels of service and were willing to tax themselves to keep levels of service at or better than they were.

Leaving so many positions unfilled for 2 years seems would inevitably have some effect - which positions are we talking about not filling? For how long?

And what is the Council's proper role in this? Other than hiring and firing a City Manager and City Attorney, the Council can't legall make the hiring and firing decisions in teh City - that's the City Manager's job. And before thee were to consider venturing off toward a potential broad policy of "no hiring until Measure L is effective" (which seems tantamount to actually making a "not hire" decision without knowing the facts and need for each position, which seems irresponsible even for a City Manager to do -- I would hope our City leaders would find a way to ask the broader citizenry whether they want such a hiring freeze.

You do not speak for 75% of people for whatever you now interpret the vote to now mean. If you want to campaign to not fill 20 positions for 2 years, the Your City Your Voice results cousnel that the outcome would not be so lop-sided and would likely not go in your favor.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm

drown it asks "what would be the effect on services if we pursue this new "no hiring" for 2 years approach"?

No one has money - not cities, counties, states or the federal government. Service levels will be going down. No city is exempt - get used to it.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 3, 2011 at 5:50 pm

drown it states:" people didn't want cuts in levels of service and were willing to tax themselves to keep levels of service at or better than they were."

I predict that a vote on a parcel tax, which would be necessary to sustain the current level of services across the board, would overwhelmingly fail. It cost nothing to say Yes in a survey but actually voting for increased taxes simply will not happen.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 4, 2011 at 12:18 am

Drown it,

What union are you an employee of? Hiding behind an alias always makes people suspicious of your motives.

Nobody said they shouldn't fill the positins, we are suggesting that the positions be filled with non-permanent employees. The city needs to do what EVERY other business in the world does and hire temps....that is if the unions let them.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


Like this comment
Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 4, 2011 at 8:18 am

And what temp position - low pay/no benefits/lay you off at any time - will YOU be taking with the city, Mr. Roy "Richie-Rich" T-S?


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 4, 2011 at 11:10 am

Just Wondering,

That is exactly the position. I know it must be shocking to some of the public servants, but that is how the rest of the world runs.

Until we have a lower pension scale in place contractually, and we don't have to make a 60 year commitment (employment + pension) it is simply financially imprudent to do anything else.

Do I need to explaint the economics to you more simply?

And BTW insulting me via an anonymous login is both cowardly and shows incedibly bad manners and upbringing, which your parents should be ashamed of.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

As long as the Editors permit anonymous postings there is only one way that such posters will have any credibility - always post using the same 'tag', always post as if others actually know who you are, be willing to be accountable for what you post, and be prepared to establish yourself based on the wisdom and logic of your posts. If anonymous posters use different names, spend most of their time attacking others and/or just post rubbish then hopefully the rest of us will have the good sense to simply ignore their comments - as the saying goes "consider the source". If the source is unknown, unwise and disrespectful then the rest of us should just ignore them (and I need to follow my own advice when xxxxx engages in one of his incessant personal attacks on me - just consider the source and move on)


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Awww, Petey, still railing away at anonymous positings?

Noticed in the paper today that the fella who signed the law allowing public union collective bargaining in CA is celebrating a birthday.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Thanks Peter.

It really comes down to up-bringing. The Jesuits always said if you can't sign your name to it, don't publish it. Some of these comments are simply from people with low self esteem and they need to grow up or grow a pair.....

Cowards the world over never change.

Roy


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

A perfect example - just consider the source and move on.


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Wow, you both posted negative responses, within minutes of mine, at an almost identical time after being off this thread for 5 hours each! Scary conspiracy time.

That said, back to the subject: I think I'll hoist a rare one tonight to the gov that signed the law allowing public union collective bargaining in CA.

Great job, ol' fella.

Web Link

cheers!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Just consider the source and move on.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 4, 2011 at 8:08 pm

"This is why most Democrats once opposed public-sector unionism. Such 20th-century liberal heroes as New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia and Franklin Roosevelt believed fervently in industrial unions. But they believed public employees had a special social obligation and could too easily exploit their monopoly position. How right they were."

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm

POGO:

they were absolutely right. Unionization of public employees is one of the worst things that has happened to civil service. That is said by one who is a former civil servant.


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 5, 2011 at 9:44 am

"Such 20th-century liberal heroes as...."

And did ye hoist one to the California Governor that signed the law allowing public union collective bargaining in CA? Web Link His re-written history and mythology is being feted this week.

Quite the hero, as you say, Mr Pogo.

And Mr Voter:

"Unionization of public employees is one of the worst things that has happened to civil service."

Unless, perhaps, if you belong to one of the working families participating in, and being protected by the collective bargaining apparatus.

I guess ye shall take our unnamed hero governor's name in vain?


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 5, 2011 at 10:12 am

Alfred E Newman... an appropriate pseudonym for someone who's motto is "what, me worry?"

If you are a member of one of those public employee unions, I suspect you will be worrying A LOT as your unfunded pension liability house of cards collapses.

You appear to be a fan of history. Perhaps you remember what happened to airline pilot and Detroit auto worker pensions? How'd that work out?

I suspect that continuing to fund SEIU and AFSCME's very rich pensions will not be very popular with voters as they watch their essential services cut and their taxes increased.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 5, 2011 at 11:07 am

For better or for worse we have public employee unions. The issue is will their leadership be wise enough to recognize that the pay and benefits which the public employees now enjoy cannot be sustained. If they can use their leadership role to negotiate new long term, sustainable agreements then these unions will survive. If, instead, the union leaders insist on holding on to what they have then the ranks of public service employees will dwindled and many of them will fail to get much of their previously negotiated pension benefits.

As Pogo notes, the examples of the airline and automobile unions are worth looking at closely.


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 5, 2011 at 11:48 am

"...what happened to airline pilot... "

Ahhh, corporate underfunding of pension plans to benefit the shareholders along with executives, as opposed to the working families.

And after the rich get richer, they declare bankruptcy and leave the public with the costs, in this case, through the PBGC.

Privatize the profits, socialize the losses. A lesson well learned on Wall Street, repeated frequently under administrations of both parties.

How does this apply to working families in the public sector?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm

What, me worry? asks:"How does this apply to working families in the public sector?"

Local agencies have five choices (or combinations thereof):
1 - restructure their labor agreements
2 - reduce services
3 - reduce costs by contracting out and consolidation
4 - declare bankruptcy
5 - raise taxes

Choices 1,2,3 and 4 mean that working families in the public sector will receive less income in the future and or be unemployed.

Choice 5 is not going to happen.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Alfred:

I used to be a member of one of those unions so my opinion of them is not uninformed. I have a family and I work and I'm not protected by a collective bargaining agreement. Guess what? I manage to get by. Like everyone else, but public employees unions, when things got tough I tightened my belt and spent less as I had less income. The public employees didn't have to. And if they don't wise up and negotiate a sustainable wage and benefits packages a lot of them are going to really have to tighten their belts because they won't have jobs.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm

From The Militant Vol. 75/No. 6 February 14, 2011

"In Texas, the government plans to cut another 9,300 jobs this year; in Georgia, 14,000 more are on the chopping block. New York governor Andrew Cuomo projects laying off more than 10,000 workers and freezing wages. California’s and Nevada’s governors are demanding pay cuts of up to 10 percent and 5 percent respectively."

Are the public employee union leaders listening? Wouldn't it be better to get out in front of this wave of job reductions and pay cuts by negotiating sustainable pay scales and benefits now?


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Mr. Carpenter asks: "Are the public employee union leaders listening? Wouldn't it be better to get out in front of this wave of job reductions and pay cuts by negotiating sustainable pay scales and benefits now?"

We know Alfred E Newman's answer: "What, me worry?"

When even Jerry Brown tells the unions this can't continue, they'd better worry.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 6, 2011 at 7:36 am

Quote from former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

"You say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you."

Web Link

To the California governor who signed the law allowing public union collective bargaining in CA, coincidentally the same year the above song was written.

Happy birthday ol' fella!

May your (accurate) memory live long. Instead of the rewrite that is currently ongoing in the GOPerville.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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