Posted by LaMesaToday.com member Russell Buckley          

"Today's benefit structure for public employees is unrecognizable from the design, funding structure and goals of the original 1932 version. Instead of retirement security, the public pension became a wealth generator. Initially, state workers retiring at age 65 could expect retirement income at roughly half of their final compensation, based on an average salary earned during their last five years of employment. The retirement formulas and benefits began ratcheting up in the 1940's and never stopped."           

"California's pension plans are dangerously under funded, the result of overly generous pension promises, wishful thinking and an unwillingness to plan prudently. Unless aggressive reforms are implemented now, the problems will get far worse, forcing counties and cities to severely reduce services and layoff employees to meet pension obligations."

The words above are taken from the 50 or so pages of the Little Hoover Commission Report released last month. The report is about the State at large - but it's words apply so accurately to La Mesa that it seems to be talking about us. Our anticipated 2011/12 pension payments, including Social Security, are about $6.5 million - millions more than they were only recently. That represents about 13.5% of our entire General Fund - just for pensions! On top of that we have a roughly $32 million unfunded pension liability.

There can't be many left who doubt the major threat that out of control public sector pension costs pose to our City's (and our State's) finances. To me it is equally clear that there is neither a need or a moral justification for public employee pensions to be so much more generous than those that most in the private sector enjoy. The pension problem has been festering for several years now and we have yet to see a plan to avoid the dire consequences the Little Hoover Commission warns us about.

I don't sense urgency from our City Council members to aggressively confront this problem. I say that reluctantly because I am confident that each of them cares about our city. I say it because the actions they have taken over the past few years, since this problem became clear, have been slow and timid. We can't afford that approach.  We need to deal with the problem now. A good start would be a comprehensive plan to show exactly how La Mesa will pay back the $32 million unfunded pension liability.

Helix Water District has yet to do anything to curb their pension costs. Rate payers continue, to this day, to pay the employee portion of pension costs. HWD employees receive Social Security and, at no cost to them, an overly generous CalPers pension and a small 401(a) matching program. Like the City, HWD pension costs are rapidly rising and they have an unfunded pension liability. The outcome of ongoing MOU negotiations will be telling. I expect some pension reform - if for no other reason than to assuage public outcry. But I am not nearly as confident that the pension reform they make will be meaningful. Guess we will find out soon.

p.s. If you live in El Cajon, you might want to find out how much your city spends on pensions and how much your unfunded liability is. My guess is that they will also be disturbing numbers.  

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Comment by Russell Buckley on April 7, 2011 at 8:07pm
Hi Bill. I have been occupied and just got around to reading your April 1 posting. Aside from declaring yourself the smartest guy in the room, you never say anything. Give us some specifics about where we are off base. Anyone can engage in fact free ranting. Russell
Comment by Bill Slater on April 2, 2011 at 8:30pm
I must have hit a nerve with that one. I didn't say I was a water expert, I just said I know more than you which is apparently true. I am not mocking you for speaking out, I am just saying you are wrong. How long before your big brothers show up to protect you from my "professed massive intellect" and "pompous single issue oriented responses"? I am only failing to comprehend your mission of tearing down respectable local governments. I am capable to debate but you can't debate if you don't look at the bigger picture. Picking single items like benefits as the single cause and fix to all your problems doesn't leave much room for debate.  
Comment by David Stanley on April 2, 2011 at 7:57pm
There you go again. Cant debate. Must immediately defame, belittle and attempt to make everyone smaller than you and your professed massive intellect. Totally incapable of debate or discourse and I wonder now if you really CAN understand some of the things I say. You profess to be the expert on water issues and I respond, "Who gives a damn??!!!" The people who we are attempting to combat profess to be water experts also and again, "WHO GIVES A DAMN". You are so pompous and single issue oriented that you continually fail to comprehend what we are saying, what we are doing.  With you it is always YOU are the water expert. Mate, you would be surprised how little people think of "experts", particularly someone like you who rants and rants and says nothing apart from your jealousy of what you describe as my "poetic rhetoric". You seem to prowl this and probably other sites for those willing to speak out and mock their efforts, laugh, giggle and use words and phrases you undoubtedly know little of whilst remaining ignorant of political and community issues. Was a time I felt sorry, pity, for fools but I now refuse to suffer their ignorance and intolerance, and you, sir, could stand for their king. That then makes you part of the problem and certainly NOT part of the solution. So sit astride your rapidly tarnishing throne and waive you fool's septre, smile to your like minded and cheering fools and we shall, with your permission, attempt to continue our fight against those issues that so elude you. Oh, did you understand that?
Comment by Bill Slater on April 2, 2011 at 7:31pm

Stanley, I think you watch too much TV and have gotten sucked in way to far to the media circus shows judging your responses. I'm not sure what propoganda I was fed but I was merely pointing out that you know nothing about water issues in this state. To compare the soaring cost of imported water to southern CA to pension reform is misguided. The two issues are totally separate. To try and reduce the cost of water by taking from pensions is also misguided. Like I said go after the real issue of the environmentalists. By the way this is a blog site not a speech class so you can stop trying to impress everyone with your poetic rhetoric. At least Buckley tries to make a point and sticks to it. You should get some coaching from him. The Hoover report is not all it is portrayed to be. It is not a split committee from both sides of the house and not the representation of the CA government. The majority of the members are hardened republicans, while not bad, it does not represent two sides of the coin. While it does make some factual reresentation it is told from one side of the aisle. PERS has posted responses to the report. It is not the holy grail on pension reform, it is a report that fits your beliefs on the issue. Attempting to understand an agency by looking at a year or two of their accounting sheet is ridiculous. You can't possibly think that this narrow view lets you see the whole picture. You gripe at every little thing on it that costs money with no regard for the hundreds or thousands of facts and decisions that have gone into making those sheets. As I pointed out in my previous post you think local governments should curb spending on infrastructure to save a buck or two now. This is stupid shortsighted thinking. As the infrastructure deteriorates you will then complain that they didn't do enough. It seems they can't win with you regardless of what they cut or don't cut.   

Comment by Russell Buckley on April 2, 2011 at 3:56pm
Hi Bill. If you understand so much more than the rest of us, including the State of California Little Hoover Commission on Pension Reform, I wish that you would share the information with us. Right now all that I hear from you are rants that get us no where. Russell
Comment by DEXTER LEVY on April 2, 2011 at 12:27pm

Messer’s Slater & Stanley,

Your Posts are very interesting and in most cases informative, please let me add another thought to your discussions. You both have indicated that for one
reason or another the changing of HWD Directors might be a way to get the Board
to make some more appropriate decisions regarding the way HWD is run. As I have
discussed prior, in my opinion after witnessing & voting in the actual
process used in the Director Selection process is appears to be deeply FLAWED.
The five (5) Directors are selected and voted on by Districts, which means that
if you don't live/vote in the District in which a Director lives/represents,
you have no say so in the Directors selection and cannot vote for or against
that Director no matter the Job that Director is doing, Good or Bab. Which
leaves us as Rate-Payers/Voters/Owners of HWD in a situation where you only
have at most, a 20% say in how the Directors are doing their Job of
Representing the Entire District.

 

The Selection process is flawed in that every Rate-Payer/Voter should be able to have a Say in who is to represent them and run HWD, the Vote for Directors
needs to be on a “District Wide” basics so each Elector has the Ability to say
Yea or Nay on each Director (100%) not just on one (20%) as it is now.

 

Since it appears that the only way that this could be changed is by a change in the "Policy & Procedures" of the District, since any change in the “P
& P” must be brought to the Board by either Staff or a Director and passed
by a unanimous vote of the Directors, and since it appears that non of them
want this change and this does not seem to be at the top of any ones concerns
"IT PROBABLY WON'T HAPPEN" this change would go a long way in
assuring that the Directors were accountable to the entire District not just
their 20% of the District, and maybe allow for 5 best people, no matter what
part of the District they reside be HWD Directors.



Comment by David Stanley on April 1, 2011 at 11:02pm
Why do I hear echoes of Michael Moore, Che Quevarra and all the other lunatic fringe with each of your entries? You possess a rage bordering upon derangement with your written shrieks, screams and accusations. You fit perfectly into the Progressive Socialist mold wherein members routinely and regularly spew and regurgitate exactly what they are told and shape their responses and retorts into the party molds and forms. When one or a few stand against what you and your beloved cause espouse you immediately begin defamation, condescension, charactor assassination and, if nothing else works, comfortably shout lies and cry foul. You know nothing beyound what propaganda you are fed. You nothing about those of us attempting to slow the bleeding of the communities and the nation. You know nothing about us individually. Your "talking points" retorts label you as one of the lock step marchers in the Progressive, Politically Correct, Obama regime. You speak of "nice little packages". Well mate, read your responses to this blog. READ THEM! Not that you will understand them. Each of us stand accountable to what and whom we accuse. Each of US are willing to stand against the political self aggrandizement and greed wracking the entire country, but are YOU? Each of us confront and have the temerity to ask probing questions, to ask "WHY", demand! ARE YOU? I think not. You are far more comfortable sitting at your computer and trying to defame and belittle that few who dare to take a stand against what YOU and your Progressives see as the future of the country. Your future holds little or nothing we want, what the majority wants. But decades of rot and decay by your type have strangled and tattered what was once held dear, what was loved, what men and women died to preserve.  No. You play with your computer and vomit your party line whilst the adults try, TRY to recapture what YOU have stolen and destroyed!  David Stanley
Comment by Bill Slater on April 1, 2011 at 10:37pm
I may be repeating myself in response to your groups comments but it is definately not due to a lack of understanding. I am afraid I know and understand more than you ever will. I like how you compare all levels of government as the same thing. You tend to group everything into one nice little package and point to the workers that have destroyed everything. Well that simply is not the case. The really unfortunate thing is that the workers have to deal with the officials that you elected to run these organizations. If you are so concerned about these issues why don't you get elected or better yet get a job with one of the organizations and use your brilliance to fix things instead of shouting from the sidelines. I suspect that is just too much commitment for you and it is alot easier to shout from the sidelines and to not have to be held accountable for your actions. I am not the pompous one. It is you and your groupies who sit on here day after day regurgitating the same speech back and forth to one another and castrate anyone who dares to go against your opinions. How long are you guys going to quote the same material? You are not going to get your services for free. You actually have to pay people to perform jobs.
Comment by David Stanley on April 1, 2011 at 5:50am
Mr. Slater, I just completed reading and replying to your snide and "This is my government, right or wrong" comments regarding water rates, etc. And here I see you repeating yourself, again, about something your very apparently know NOTHING about! When one encounters one such as yourself it is a wonder. YOU are the very reason there are a few of us willing to take a stand and call a Fool a "Fool". The government, local, state and federal, are completely inundated by thinkers of your ilk and has been for decades. And this is the reason the entire nation if floundering. It really is a waste of my and our time even responding to ones such as yourself because for you and all your lemming legions it truly is a "My government, right or wrong" mental concept and set. You just accept what you are told, accept I suppose any report of woe handed to you by your government. Never ask yourself what would happen if THEY WOULD JUST STOP SPENDING WITH NO END IN SIGHT. However, even though it is casting pearls before swine,  I cannot allow people like you to just throw your bombs and walk pompously away. Now, go back to sleep whilst the adults attempt to correct the things you and your mates have done to us.  David Stanley
Comment by Bill Slater on March 31, 2011 at 9:06pm
I guess you guys never get tired of hearing yourselves repeat the same misguided and misleading information over and over again. I am beginning to think that you just like to hear yourselves talk and pat each other on the back for throwing zingers and one liners out to all public agencies. Last time I checked La Mesa wasa  pretty good city, in fact it was good enough for all of you to live in. Once you strip the city employees of everything they have legally earned will you then complain that the city does not service you enough? i have never seen a group with a bigger "if I don't have it then no one will" attitude. If the only thing you can come up with to support you argument is the Little Hoover commission then you have failed. That is one of the most one sided approach to laying out an issue I have seen in years. I notice you have not said anything that is posted by Calpers itself about their situation. I guess it doesn't bother you that you could be taking away from someone who did not game the system and dedicated many years of service to serve ingrateful people such as yourselves. I really wonder if anything would appease your discontent. If the private sector is so great then why don't they already run the cities and water districts. the answer is because you know that they will take you for everything you have and then come back asking for more. I read something the other day, probably posted by one you, about your water districts capital expenditures. Wow, you are complaining about an agency that is doing their due diligence to maintain the infrastucture! You should be applauding them for having such foresight. Maybe you should move to the City of SD and feel what is like to defer your infrastructure maintenance. You should take time to really understand the issues instead of sticking to a rehearsed broken record of rhetoric.   Good day.

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