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Should Public Employee Pensions be taken over by SSI ?

Original post made by East County Watch, another community, on Mar 6, 2012

In another blog a commenter named "Say What" complained that the public employees do not get the benefit of Social Security. Maybe this is salvation to correct unfunded liabilities.

Should we take Say Whats complaint and make the conversion from public employee pensions and medical to that of the private sector?

The public employees could pay into the SSI system and receive medical and social security benefits like most Americans.

Here is Say Whats comment;

They don't get SSI benefits, in most cases, so their pensions have to compensate for the loss.

What do you think ?

Comments (43)

Posted by SupportPublicEmployees
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

That is good common sense approach to the problem. Yes ! I support allowing public employees to receive the same SSI benefits as the rest of us taxpayers.

Support Public Employees Rights !
It's only fair !

Posted by Clair
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Just for clarificatin - SS = Social Security, SSI = Supplementary Security Income.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I know SSI is a supplement. I was being sarcastic because of the lame excuse by Say What for public pensions being high.

My point on unfunded liability is that the employee should pay into the plan exclusively and be responsible for the end result, not the tax payers. The SSI benefits we get in the private sector are based on what we each of us puts in. The same should go for public employees. Public entities should not be allowed to charge on credit future pensions. If they do then the payout should be based on what the plan makes. There should never be an unfunded liability more than an agencies current reserve balance.

An example would be that Contra Costa having over One Billion in unfunded liabilities should have at least over One Billion dollars in reserves in the bank.

Posted by Say What?
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Clair is correct on the acronyms. While SSI falls under the same agency, to be accurate it's the Social Security Adminstration(SSA) and Supplementary Security Income(SSI), more commonly known as Disability.

ECW, what's driving the underfunded retirement benefits is the runaway cost of healthcare. Look it up if you're not sure. If you're advocating for a reduction in those, then should I assume you're also approving of future rationing of programs like Medicare/MedicAid? Because the principle and cost drivers destroying both are one and the same. In fact our out of control healthcare costs are consuming all levels of government.

Eventually the public wakes up and stops making excuses for that and looks a real healthcare cost controls and reform. Something which will have trickle down benefit to all the issues raised here.

ECW, you practicing what you preach have the equivalent of your home mortgage balance in the bank and liquid, right?

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm

@Say What,
It's really none of your business since I'm not using your money like the government is using mine, but more than enough is your answer except I do not spike my pension, file frivolous claims to government agencies, nor steal toilet paper from the fire houses.

Government has a way of spending more than it has. In this case it's been more than selfish spending to a critical point without accountability. The taxpayers are financially starving. It is time to clean those spendthrifts out of office and replace them with politicians who put the taxpayer first instead of themselves and special interest.

Thus is the purpose of this blog.

Posted by Fireman
a resident of Danville
on Mar 7, 2012 at 7:16 am

You guys are just jealous now that you've lost your pensions. Leave the public employees alone and move on.

Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:54 am

I hear you Fireman, but it’s not jealousy; it’s recognition that your system can not be sustained. And we don’t want to continue shifting more of our money into an unsustainable system because it won't help in the long term and we can’t afford it. We, after all, are paying higher medical insurance costs and reducing what we can put into our retirements because our wages have been locked down for years. And we are the lucky ones.

Jealous? No, but protective of what we have left because we can't turn to our employers for more money. We need leaders who understand that and will hold their (our) ground with the public employee sector.

Posted by Public Employee
a resident of Danville
on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:29 am

If any of you believe that its the public employees who are draining the system, you are very much mistaken and have fallen slave to your corporate media outlets. Those large corporations, who's earnings make public employees pensions look like a piggy bank, are the ones who are getting the tax breaks and benefits while the rest of us have to do with what is left. Fight the government if you want but its the corporations who now have control over all our lives and fortunes.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Dear Public Employee,
You are so mistaken. Corporations must make a profit to pay any costs or the go out of business. Their profit comes from sales. You as a citizen have a choice not have to buy their product. The private sector takes risks and can lose everything. In fact many companies go bankrupt. On another note, the public sector does not need to be accountable yet we as the taxpayers must pay. A fee increase, a surcharge tax, a permit fee, etc. etc. must be paid and we have no choice. This is why our county is in debt well over one billion dollars. The country is in debt trillions of dollars. The county debt is only for pensions to you as a public employee. This does not include all the special districts such as water and garbage that can also just jack the price up whether we like it or not. Any corporation that digs itself a Billion dollar hole is going out of business. The same does not happen in the public sector. They just charge some more or buy a bond to pay off today and let the next generation worry about it. The sorry part you seem not to understand is my children (and your children) will be paying for you long after you’re gone while they get nothing in return. Would you do that to your children? I will not and vote accordingly to stop this government runaway debt train crash. Did you know that each Californian owes $30,000 of debt that the state has charged in credit? It does not take a mental giant to know collapse is on the way unless we change our ways now. So if you think your public employee job is so under paid go start a business or get a private sector job. Remember, right now you work for the taxpayers and we are losing money on you every day. Most politicians only care about themselves. I know of one right here in East County. It is time to change that before government goes broke.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm

@ East County Watch,

Actually it is “Say What’s” business. Are you claiming you haven’t made any ridiculous demands on local government? Because you and I both know those frivolous actions of do cost the taxpayer’s money. It looks pretty obvious from your statements above that you are the one making frivolous claims. At some point you are going to have to come to grips with what is clear to everyone reading your posts. Your hypocrisy is only overshadowed by your denial.

As usual your ideology on this topic is beyond ridiculous, and circles right back to the fact that you are out of touch and frustrated. I see others posting factual and responsible issues, but that doesn’t work for you because your issues run much deeper than that. You are not trying to solve problems; you are really trying to create them. This is a part of your pattern of throwing up ill-conceived ideas and the sole purpose of you posting on this website and others as well.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm


@ East County Watch,

What color is the sky in your world? You not only have an odd way of looking at everything but you seem to have your thoughts completely transposed from the way things are. I for one would hate to be in your shoes. No wonder you are so very frustrated with the reality of the way things are.
Comparing the private sector to public sector is unproductive and nonsensical. They don’t compare nor should they. Further what you tend to point out are completely out of context and perspective. We have already been through this regarding the County’s unfunded liability. Either you do not comprehend the reality or you are just simply in denial.
You wrote the public sector does not need to be accountable. Not only is that incorrect but quiet a blanket statement by you. Then you went on to why you think the county is in debt over a billion dollars and the country is in debt “Trillions” of dollars, none of which is not directly connected.

Plain and simple; I posted the official document which unequivocally stated that it took 47 years to accumulate the debt (2.6 billion), and within 3 short years that debt has been slashed to 1 Billion. It appears that now it is below that. Still not accountable enough for you, because at this current rate it will be at Zero in short order. But instead of wanting to acknowledge this effort you chose to ignore it or make silly statements like this; “Voodoo accounting just passes the debt to our children and grandchildren”. These are your words, not mine. Voodoo accounting? You mean the same accounting that acknowledge the original debt? The same accounting that have cut it down by almost 2/3rds? What kind of accounting do you do? How long has Dan Borenstein been an accountant? Maybe you could start there?

From there then maybe we could move onto your accountability? Why should I or anyone else take you seriously when the facts are presented (official documents) and you respond with; “I read the first couple of sentences of excuses from the theatrical Misinformed miniseries and stopped because the history propaganda Misinformed is selling is all a smoke screen”.

So let me get this straight; you have hours to blog your erroneous opinions but you can’t get through a one page documented history of the very issue that you have complained about in over a dozen postings? If you haven’t figured it out, you lost 100 percent of any credibility by posting that message.

You are actually suggested that the official accounting documentation was a “smoke screen” compared to what you came up with and what you were defending A commentary? An opinion on the report? You really should think things through before you post, because that is not helping your argument.

What you fail to acknowledge is that public agencies (unlike private ones) are not in business to make a profit. You also fail to properly acknowledge that private and public agencies all have their advantages and disadvantage…you simply want to paint an “unfair” picture.

You choose to quote all of your information from headlines (meant to sell papers) or paint a picture, as opposed to doing some actual research yourself. That is a shame for someone who is obviously so concerned about things.

What this all boils down to is that you don’t “get it” and what is worse is that you don’t really want to understand. Time and time again you provide unrealistic ideas and then bark on about your frustration through inept arguments loaded with innuendo and assumption. Oh I almost forgot you have a personal axe to grind and think that people don't know anything about that. (More denial on your part). This is why you can’t move on and continue your petty whining.

Posted by Public Employee
a resident of Danville
on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm

"Corporations must make a profit to pay any costs or the go out of business."

Really? Is that why we have continued, large scale subsidies for PRIVATE oil companies? Is that why the government bailed out the PRIVATE auto industry? Or how about the government paying for PRIVATE security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan? Oh, and we surely can't forget about the PRIVATE banks that got bailed out by Bush's TARP program.

ECW, don't believe for a second that you live in some fantasy free market country where there is no need for government or government employees. You have fallen slave to the anti-government propaganda machine powered by angry Tea party baby boomers. You believe that government is the problem, but the problem is that the corporations have been granted so much power that they now control our lives' because they now control the government.

Perhaps you are right, we need corporations to make record profits when the average citizen struggles. So let them continue to lay people off, hire part time, slash benefits, and move jobs overseas. That will get our people back to work. Oh, and in the meantime, they can sway elections and propaganize through their mass media outlets.

What do you tell the guy who has no house, no job, and no benefits because that coporation laid him off so they could make more profit?

Its a good thing the government can still provide these entitlements to their employees, or the economy would be racked even more. So, you are welcome for my services!

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Public Employee says,

What do you tell the guy who has no house, no job, and no benefits because that corporation laid him off so they could make more profit?

I tell them that overpaid public employees could care less and they still need to pay their taxes or go to jail.

The government is not bad, it's many of the current people running it that are. The current poor leaders need to stop mortgaging my children’s future so public employees can retire at 50 and spike their pensions.

It's wrong and there is nothing that will change my mind that major reform is the only way to save our children from this burden of a train wreck.

We need new leaders from the special district to the county to the country. What happened to true patriotism and loyalty to the common citizen? Government is changing to greed and self service. Your comments back the problem up. If we do not change our ways, we are headed straight for socialism. God help us if that happens.

Also remember that if corporations do not make a profit they pay no tax and your public employee job will have no way to pay you.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm

@ East County Watch,

You sound as confused as this guy (below). Since you are “East County Watch” I am sure you are familiar with his ramblings.

Just like you, he doesn’t think things through before posting. Using his comment and your complaint “The current poor leaders need to stop mortgaging my children’s future so public employees can retire at 50 and spike their pensions.” It is clear that neither of you really understand pensions.

• First, our (local) elected officials don’t get full pay retirement after serving one term.
• There is a multiplication factor from 2.0 to 3 which is how public retirement is calculated.
• Public Safety (Police and Fire) use a factor of “3” which is used to multiply their years of service to determine their final percentage of retirement pay all others fall into the 2.0-2.5 category.

So with that being said…

• A politician serving one term (2 years in the Assembly or 4 years in any other office) would only be eligible for as little as 4 percent of their pay or as much as 10 percent if serving a 4 year term. Hardly full pay retirement. Most if not all would not be vested and would not receive any “retirement”.

So now let’s apply it to both your statement, “The current poor leaders need to stop mortgaging my children’s future so public employees can retire at 50 and spike their pensions and that of posted by Mr. Gonzales;

(Since only public safety (Police & Fire) can retire at age 50 with the highest multiplier let’s see how it works shall we?)

• A public safety member with 20 years of service (3 x 20) would receive only be eligible for 60 percent of his/her pay. Pretty close to that 50 percent that Mr. Gonzales upset about.
• All other public employees (politicians) are NOT eligible for retirement at 50.

I recently read that the average hiring age for public safety is between 26-28. So it doesn’t really look like many of them are even able to retire at age 50 does it?

Web Link

3 Hours Ago

“…No one has been able to explain to me why young men and women serve in the U.S. Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50% of their pay. While Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full pay retirement after serving one term. It just does not make any sense.”

Posted by Say what?
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm

ECW, you should stop kidding yourself. Because I don't think you're fooling any thinking person reading here.

You don't want public employees to have pensions, period. You don't want them to have health benefits, period. I think you would even go so far as to not want them to make a living wage.

Your words imply a punitive intent with public employees. You have sipped the Borenstein kool-aid for too long.

When do we start the discussion on your personal compensation? What makes your earnings anymore special than public employees? One is paid through taxes and the other is paid through the cost of goods or services. Let's make sure you are not overcharging the public or living high off the hog and overcharging people for what you provide. Government services or widgets, it all comes out of the citizens pocket.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

I'll assume your alias implies you live in East County where there is a fire issue coming to the ballot. You are paying 1970s rates for services in 2012. How long were you figuring that should last? You seem to be speaking like indefinitely is what you are expecting.

Are you personally making or charging 1970s prices for your labor or product? If not, then why would you expect that from public safety?

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

p.s. @ East County Watch,

“The government is not bad, it's many of the current people running it that are. The current poor leaders need to stop mortgaging my children’s future so public employees can retire at 50 and spike their pensions.”

The facts of the situation are at complete odds with what you posted.

Does that bother you? It should.
The primary issue is that Contra Costa County has a very large potential opeb liability that is the result of 46 years of retiree health benefit accumulation, combined with the positive demographic of longer life expectancy, and the less positive reality of rapidly increasing health care costs.

Present Day

Four years after the initial report regarding the County’s opeb liability, the Board of Supervisors has achieved unprecedented results. Continual implementation of the strategic recommendations has allowed the Board of Supervisors to meet or exceed all of their goals.

The County’s Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability (UAAL) has declined by 60.3% (from $2.57 billion to $1.02 billion).

FACT: 46 years-almost 5 decades of accumulated debt, slashed by over 60 percent in under 5 years.

It is very clear that the CURRENT “people” are doing a MUCH better job than the past ones.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Dear Misinformed,
It is obvious you, Say What, and Public Employee are a threesome of some sort. I must have struck a nerve to get this much attention. I don't know where to start with all these sales pitches you have thrown out. First of all, I think everyone is entitled to a pension. Pension contributions should not be based on unrealistic returns nor on a bond or credit owed by the taxpayers as has been done in Contra Costa County. That is sending the problem to our children. As far as some elses comments or posts in other forums, each to his own. If I agree I will say so, If I don't agree I will say so too. I call em the way I see em. Claiming the debt pension problem took 46 years is an idiotic response and can't even justify a reply. I do live in East County and am aware of the fire situation. That is a whole other controversial issue that the voters will have their say one way or the other. It is refreshing to know other people care about our debts. I'm truly concerned about the county Billion dollar debt. I do not pay 1970's taxes. I wish I did. Taxes have increased every year since then except this last year. Those that were adjusted down will return and added to them through fees and bogus taxes like the clean water one. That is another idiotic statement claiming we pay 1970's taxes. Look at your tax bill and see how many taxes were added. I think some of the current people running our government are doing a good job. I think that more are doing a very poor job. This county needs to replace most of the Supervisors as they are not protecting the citizens as much as they are protecting themselves. If they or you want to blame others for the debt problem, it still falls on the Supervisors for waiting as you say 46 years to open their eyes. I have been here my entire life and only heard about the problem in the past eight to ten years. This is coincidentally the time Desaulnier started giving away money we didn’t have. The following supervisors ignored the problem to the tune of Billions of dollars.That is not something to be proud of as a County Supervisor. The recent attempts is too little too late.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

@ East County Watch,

Did you say a single thing that makes any sense to a reasonable person? I think not. I just see rambling, complaining, whining and a denial of reality. If that tin foil hat fits…..
I see that others here are trying to educate you as well, but apparently you are below that. You can’t even deal with fact and you are trying to blame everyone but yourself for your condition. You are now reduced to embarrassing yourself.

Cry me a river, then you can dry your eyes with that fictitious toilet paper you keep talking about.

Posted by GG
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

So tell us East County Watch how much money a firefighter, who is assigned a minimum of 240 hours of duty a month not including mandatory overtime, should be making. How do you want to handle the vacation and sick leave, make them use or lose, or allow capped payouts? Remember in minimum staffing if an employee is gone one needs to replace them at time and a half. Just wondering since all of these in one way or another figure into money that you feel is flying out of the taxpayers pocket and into the wallets of the worker.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm

This is not about firemen. But if you must, can I deduct couch time?
OK, that was uncalled for but you asked.
As far as sick leave is concerned, that in itself is a joke just like personal time. Vacation should be paid at the same rate as the wage in my opinion. Use vacation time for personal or sick leave like the rest of the private sector. While we are at that, do not allow sick leave, vacation, personal time,uniform allowance, and such for pension calculations because you would not need a vacation, personal time, uniform allowance, and such when you retire. My concern has nothing to do with focusing on firemen or that specific pay. Do you feel guilty? Are you a Fireman? Is that why you're asking?
This has to do with the debt that the county has racked up by not paying into the pensions as they go. If the County didn't have the money, they should have never offered it to not only firemen but policemen, road workers, administrators, etc. That is plain common sense. This has been done and is why we need new Supervisors.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Any public employee who does not think that his or her pension should be paid up with each payroll check by the employer is living in a fantasy world. They also are punishing their successors when correction time comes such as now.
Public employees should be furious with the Supervisors because new employees are going to get the brunt of their poor decisions. Current employees may have to renegotiate their pensions. It would be a real sad day for an employee who was expecting X dollars at retirement and end up with half that. Better yet what if the district or county file bankruptcy? Who is going to fund that retirement that is so underfunded?
Why do you think so many people have exited the county employment as soon as they could? They are just hoping the pension money will not run out while they are collecting.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

@ East County Watch or the angry 7 year old that might be using his computer,

You start this entire thread moments after “Say What” posts that public safety does not get Social security and then you have the stones to claim it has nothing to do with firemen? Classic example of the Dunning-Kruger effect!
Web Link

…then you go on to post some nonsense about Vacation being compensated at the “same rate as wage”. Do you even know what the former poster was saying? He or she was saying that constant staffing means someone has to fill in for the person (firefighter) when they are off on Vacation or Sick Leave and that person is paid at time and ½. Oh in case you were wondering, that time and one half thingy…FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) is a federal law meant to prevent people from working others beyond a 5 day 8 hour work week without fairly compensating them. I have no doubt you think that is either a smoke screen or some voodoo propaganda (your words, your tin foil hat).

Once again you finish up with a very confused perspective on how you think things should work. No Vacation, no Sick leave? I think you have public service confused with slavery? You certainly have let Borenstein fill your head with nonsense. Did he bother to point out that the two unique examples that he provided to the readership re; pension spiking were both done by Independent Special Districts-NOT part of the county! Yep, that is right, both San Ramon and Moraga-Orinda fire are Independent districts, which operated outside of the county’s preview, control or responsiblity. The county has NO connection to them aside from them operating inside the physical borders of the county. Oh and for the record, you should be very pleased to know that YOUR tax dollars do not go to them either-you would have to LIVE or own property in the district. Old Dannyboy conveniently left that little factoid out of his commentary didn’t he? Hmmmmm. In fact in the county there is a retirement board that sets the rules-I am sure it pains you to know that it is NOT the board of Supervisors. Yeah, more voodoo….

That pretty much makes all of the nonsense that you posted Null and Void, except to show us that your ignorance and firefighter envy is showing.

p.s. BTW, the only one living in a “fantasy world” is you. The firefighters are well aware of how pension, OPEB and actuaries work. I think your last ditch effort in suggesting that the firefighters should be furious is a joke. The reality is that they are more inclined to be “furious” at someone like YOU that suggests vacation, sick leave and uniform allowances should be eliminated and worked at straight time.

Your final statement demonstrates that you don’t have the smallest clue of how pensions or retirements work. Once a retirement benefit is contracted, it cannot be taken away at a later date. IRS rules for starters prohibit it completely. Only new hires could (and most likely) will be subject to differing retirement obligations. It is called a multi-tiered or two tiered system and it is already in play. I am pretty sure that most employees check into things before making rash exit stratagies…. I am thinking you might possibly be the only one that would be dumb enough to leave a job because you would actually believe your own paranoid theories. Just sayin’

You really need to pay closer attention if you are going to call yourself East County WATCH.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:03 am

Misinformed, you must be a wanna be fireman because your focus on firemen shows your limited ability to grasp the entire problem. It's unfunded public pension commitment by politicians controlled by public employee unions that is bankrupting the county. I like your two-tier comment. It sounds like a Mary Piepho idea.

In reality it means, screw the next guy in front of you because you were too greedy and selfish to be part of a team.

You need to go back and re-read my comment about uniforms. I said I do not think credit for retirement should include those dollars. You must be a moron to think a retired person needs uniform allowance so they keep wearing uniforms after they retire.

Your IRS comment is laughable. If a District or the County goes bankrupt, the IRS is not going to print you some Obama bucks for your retirement no matter what law they have.

Your public suckling entitlement at the pocket books of near broke taxpayers can only go on for so long. Maybe we will have one third the public employees at another lower pay tier so your greedy fingers can keep digging us a debt hole. It is so sad that you think of yourself before your employee brothers. You can't be any kind of real public employee being so heartless.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm

@ East County Watch,

Again with the name calling? Wow, a bully and a coward all wrapped up into one, all from behind the protection of your keyboard! You continue to demonstrate how completely out of touch with reality you are. Your responses are so far off base that I am sure anyone reading them has come to know your state of mind and why your perspectives put you at odds with the rest of the world.

Back on point;

First, You would be greatly mistaken if you think I am a wannabe fireman. I am many things, but a wannabe fireman is not one of them. Nice try at “deflection” of your own disposition.

Second, regarding the two tiered system…. The two or multi-tiered system is nothing new. It has been around and used across the nation, state and counties for decades. Obviously with your less than impressive insight and knowledge base you were unaware of it. You might wish to consider giving me fewer opportunities to point out your own shortcomings (less is more!) For the record a tiered system specifically refers to retirement and pension, NOT lower pay or compensation as you opined in your statement; “Maybe we will have one third the public employees at another lower pay tier…” Please, for the rest of us try to keep up.

Your hypocrisy is stunning, as now you want to act like you are concerned about the workforce/public safety/firefighters? Less than a few hours after you suggested that paying them “fairly” for Vacation, Sick leave and even uniform allowances was irresponsible? Amazing that you would think others share the same limited insight as you & so kind of you to keep reminding us all of yours!

Third, I am sorry to inform you but the IRS rule is law. Federal law. Good luck trying to dismiss it by suggesting that it is laughable. This just demonstrates your opinions are way beyond your personal skills. Why don’t you stop whining for a few moments and look it up? Knowledge is power. While you are at it you might want to check into what is known as ”regressive bargaining”. If you really want to know about how out of whack your suggestions are you might want to look into the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA). You see, in the real world you just cannot dream things up and abuse employees to save a buck.

Just remember, getting past denial is the first step/ Web Link

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Come on Misinformed Hypocrite really?

“Again with the name calling? Wow, a bully and a coward all wrapped up into one, all from behind the protection of your keyboard!”

You’re a piece of work or a politician with this comment.

Your twist of my words also shows your political deceit. “less than a few hours after you suggested that paying them “fairly” for Vacation, Sick leave and even uniform allowances was irresponsible?” That is not what was said.

Twisting my words has not changed the reality of debt to the tune of more than a Billion Dollars. The only thing I see here is your attempt to protect the broken golden goose and the special interest influenced politicians. Both cannot stop the pyramid scheme from collapsing. All you can do is delay it in hopes the public will dig deeper in their empty pockets to bail you out because you think you are owed something special. I believe you have a better chance of screwing over your new employees with your tier system rather than getting more money from taxpayers the way the economy is today.

It appears your philosophy is spend, charge, bond, spend, and then tax, while mine is spend only what you already have. I do not think we will ever agree because I will not support passing today’s debt to my children. I also do not think you will ever change your mind about how much you can squeeze and charge out of the taxpayers.

Believing there is no problem is your problem informed. Your entitlement attitude is an example of how this funding crisis was created. It surely was not created from 46 years ago. You are in denial if that is what you think.

We need true and real pension reform. If the current supervisors can’t do it, then we need new ones.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm

@ East County Watch;

Dude, you have some serious denial issues going on. You might want to get those checked, before you find yourself in a real bad situation.

In the meantime here is something for you to chew on….

I was not twisting your words at all-you should know that, but if you don’t let me post them again for you; “As far as sick leave is concerned, that in itself is a joke just like personal time. Vacation should be paid at the same rate as the wage in my opinion.”
ECW, You think that is fair??? I don’t know what farm you grew up on but in the real world Vacation is paid appropriately and lawfully at time and ½. …this is NOT the same rate as “wage”.

Before you fall off of your high horse, let me put you and your assumptions into perspective. I am a taxpayer in Contra Costa County-and do not think I am owed anything special. Just more of your baseless and incorrect assumptions. I’ll bet most people that are reading this are wondering if you are even capable of posting anything that resembles the truth. It might help you to rein it in a bit.
As for what you are passing on to your children, all I can say is may God help them. In your case let’s hope the apples fall very far from the tree. I do hope they have learned to stray away from your anger and frustration.

You are right, we will never agree, and that makes me very secure. What does make me happy is that my ideology is aligned with the majority and real world economics but unfortunately for you, you have isolated yourself from reason. You are angry and do not know where to turn. Sad really.

I find it pitiful that you would actually find yourself in a place where you are arguing with facts (reports) that I simply pulled up from the source. The analyst state unequivocally that the debt (funding crisis as you put it) started 46 years ago. Yet you post NOTHING to counter that, except that “it surely was not created 46 years ago”. Based on what facts or docs would you have us believe you? In case you didn’t get the memo, the burden of proof is on YOU. I did my part. YOU are in denial if you think that repeating incorrect assumptions and making up innuendo makes you right.
Lastly, Back to pension reform. The Supervisors are doing it right. The only problem is you don’t want to give them any credit for doing so. 47 years of debt now turned around, cut by 2/3rds in under 5 years, described as “unprecedented” but for some reason you can’t acknowledge that. Stunning.

Read it again for yourself;

Four years after the initial report regarding the County’s opeb liability, the Board of Supervisors has achieved unprecedented results. Continual implementation of the strategic recommendations has allowed the Board of Supervisors to meet or exceed all of their goals.

Safely assuming you are still buried in denial, why don’t you re-read gets better.

On March 4th you posted (above- 3rd comment down from the top) that you googled an article presumably written by Dan Borenstein. Web Link

You stated from a Borenstein article, and I quote; “Moreover, while the budget will be balanced, it includes only minimal payments on the credit card debt. The liability, for employee pension and retiree health care benefits, totals a staggering $2.4 billion. That's roughly equal to five years of base salary for county workers. It works out to about $2,300 for each county resident.”

But the devil is in the details because in that VERY SAME article, Borenstein went on to clarify and stated;
“By capping how much the county will pay, they have reduced the county's unfunded liability by more than half, leaving a balance of about $850 million.”

Wonder how you missed that?

Posted by PrivatesectorGuy
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Sorry, I'm from the same farm as ecw. What in the world would vacation be paid at time and a half. Where I cone from, you have to take it r lose it. Seriously IR, do you work in the private sector and get time and a half for vacation?

Not trying to be argumentative, I just don't think it's as normal as you think.

These are the kind of things that cause me to vote NO for any tax.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm

@ PrivatesectorGuy,

Provided you are not ECW posting under another pseudonym (he tends to do that when he is in a corner), I will attempt to clarify.

Sorry if I was not clear, but if you were following the post from the start or scroll up a bit you will see a post by “GG”; Posted by GG, a resident of another community, on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm-

In that post he/she commented to ECW; “So tell us East County Watch…” “… Remember in minimum staffing, if an employee is gone, someone needs to replace them at time and a half.”

So in short, I (and apparently GG) were trying to explain that in public safety, specifically the fire service, staffing is done with what is called “constant staffing”. That is to say, unlike many other jobs where an employee can be off work, WITHOUT a replacement worker, it doesn’t quite work that way in public safety/fire department. (think of it like a car that cannot operate with one wheel missing).

Therefore that position whether vacated by Sick leave or Vacation has to be filled. Since the firefighters already work a 56 hour work week (240+ hours a month) any additional personnel to be hired back to fill the slot by law, (FLSA) has to be paid at overtime which is time and one half. It is basically the same for a typical employee that would be called in to work O.T. for a weekend, Holiday or beyond their normal regular 40/hr schedule. This has been the law for quite some time (73 years and counting!).

So to be clear we were NOT talking about getting paid time and one half for taking (using) vacation or sick leave. Make more sense? I hope it does because not only is it the law, it is the “norm” in both private and public sector. Any employer trying to skirt that labor law will eventually find themselves on the losing end of a law suit.

For what it is worth, I often vote no on any new taxes. But at least I take the time to educate myself so that when I do vote, it is an educated vote.

Hopefully that gets you off the farm and away from ECW.

Posted by GG
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Let's tick off those who think vacation just should be tossed aside, even though it has been earned. If you pay an employee that works in a minimum staffing position for vacation that isn't taken, it is paid out at regular pay. If you make the employee use the vacation instead of banking it, you end up paying the employee on vacation regular pay and the replacement employee time and a half. Surprise! Making the employee take vacation ends up costing 2.5 times the amount. So if you are whining about employees getting payouts for vacation, this info should ramp up the volume. Ear Plugs anyone?

Posted by GG
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:44 pm


Sorry to not respond to your smarmy couch remark sooner, but here's my remark now.

You don't get to deduct "Couch Time" unless the firehouse gets to vote on whether they want to answer the call or not. I guess it pains you to think these employees get to actually sleep at night on their shifts, or do you expect them to stay awake for a 48 hour tour? Sometimes you really need to engage the brain before putting the mouth into gear, or in this case start the fingers typing.
BTW, you never answered the simple question of what you think the wage should be.

Posted by ECW
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 9:27 am

This answer will probably upset you because you have been spoiled.
It is very simple to have multiple shifts like the rest of America. There are actual labor laws that prevent the private sector from working 48 hours straight. This would minimize "Couch and TV time". Actually there is no reason to have TV's at fire stations, you’re getting paid to work not sleep or watch TV. They could polish the engines; shine the station like the real firemen did in the real firefighter days. As far as wages are concerned, today’s public employee wages are mostly above average for the big cities and a bit below for the smaller ones. If you are looking for a dollar amount, I would turn to an average middle class wage in the bay area. I would think about 75K plus overtime and incentives for education. What I think is wrong is the benefit packages. Today people are living longer and the retirement age keeps getting increased for SSI recipients. Now in the past few years retirement age has decreased with some public employee unions hold on politicians. As I told misinformed, counting a uniform allowance for retirement is an insult to taxpayers. So while senior citizens are getting less, you and your union are asking for more taxes. That just can't continue because people just do not have the extra money. This is not to say a fireman or policeman is not worth their weight in gold, but if you look at the armed forces who do exactly what firemen and policemen do plus risk their lives far more when in battle you will see their pay is a fraction of yours. The reason is the government can't afford to give them what you take for granted and expect. So when you think your job is the most dangerous I think your job is overpaid compared to the same men and women in the armed forces. Besides if a person takes a fire, police, nurse, doctor job for the money and not the calling to help people, they are shallow at best. Have fun twisting my words to feel better about yourself.

Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Mar 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm

There's a lot to comment on in the above, but just a few random comments.

- I understand why public employees are not happy with Daniel Borenstein's ongoing series of articles, but the facts he lays out are correct. I would urge all county residents/taxpayers to read his articles, to be better informed.
- No one is talking about eliminating public employee pensions. The primary focus is simply on eliminating the most egregious abuses, including such pension-spiking methods as getting to count accumulated unused vacation and sick pay in the calculation that determines lifetime pension benefits. (Also applies to using the value of car allowances, OT, etc. in the pension calculation.) When public employees and/or their union leadershio resist even these logical and (dare I say it) fair reforms, it is impossible to have further meaningful discussion.
- I have no fundamental problem with the 3% per year (times years of service) formula for fire and police, where there are both danger/risk factors to the job, as well as significant physical demands. That assumes that spiking is addressed in a real way. One very simple way to get rid of a lot of the "formula padding" that goes on is to just base the calculation on the average of the last three years of salary/pay, and not just the final year. This makes it harder to "load up" that last year. Note that using a 3-year or even 5-year average is what private companies do in THEIR pension calculations (if they even offer a traditional defined-benefit pension, that is). As a further aside, even the very best corporate defined-benefit pensions used a multiplier that was more like 1.5 or 1.6% per year of service. "Regular" county jobs (and other public-employee jobs) should use something similar.
- It used to be that the general trade-off you made, in working at a "government" job, was that you had better job security, good benefits, etc., but that you tended to be paid a bit less (compared to private-sector jobs). But now it is the case that public employees are paid more, AND have more security and better benefits. In the end, salaries and benefits for public employees shouldn't be any higher than what is needed to keep sufficient staff, with sufficient qualifications. Do we see large numbers of public employees quitting, to move to better jobs elsewhere? No, becuase they know full well that they now have a better deal than what is obtainable in private industry. The only public employees leaving the job are ones who are retiring a bit sooner than planned, to make sure that they get out before the opportunities for spiking are taken away.....

In the end, it is the taxpayers who are paying for public employee salary and benefits. And yes, I understand that public employees also pay taxes, just like everyone else. But they are still "net-takers" of public funds, whereas private-sector taxpayers are "net-givers". Obviously there are many hard-working public employees. But the rewards for that work have become out of line, with respect to the population at large.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm

C.R. Mudgeon, You are so very correct with your logic and comment. Can we draft you as the next County Supervisor? There is only an hour and a half left before we are forced to accept the bottom of the barrel leadership that lead us to this train wreck.

To comment on the G.G. response to my comment on the couch, as I said it was uncalled for but there is some truth in its negativity. As C.R. stated so well, there has been a change from public sector jobs that were paid moderately but very secure to surpassing the private sector in both wage and benefits.

I'm pretty sure G.G. is not only a firefighter but the steward for local 1230. His comments are a bit biased because of his position. I think if he was a homeowner ready to lose his house or a senior citizen on social security with a fixed income he would be more apt to agree with our logic.

Again, this is not about specific firefighters, deputies, or even corrections officers as I read a comment about them. This is about what can the system expend for these services while keeping the general public safe and staying within budget. So my answer as to what a firefighter should make in the public sector is easy, as much as the system will allow without going into debt. One hundred thousand or fifty thousand plus, it does not matter since we are in debt by a billion dollars the pay is too high. Nothing personal it's pretty straight forward.

Posted by PrivateSectorGuy
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm

CRM .... Thanks for your comments. Polite, clear and logical. And I completely agree with you. Who wouldn't?

Posted by Say what?
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm

ECW, your logic is lacking.

You keep harping on this senior citizens angle. The seniors experience more price increases in basic consumables, not the least of which is gasoline, that far outstrips a proposed parcel tax to keep fire service at current levels. There is also a very real chance that increases in insurance premiums will be several multiples of the $197 that's on the table.

Save a nickel, lose a dollar. Not real smart. That's just the fiscal side of it without touching on the increased risk to public safety.

If $75k is the wage you pick for fire fighters, then you'll need to write a check and give those starting fire fighters about a 50% wage increase tomorrow.

Another example by your own hand of how your logic is disconnected from reality. The false equivalences to farmers and now soldiers is more of the all over the map debating style.

What I haven't quite figured out is this chip on your shoulder for public employees? You never answered the question on why dollars for those wages are somehow sacred while dollars that pay your salary is off the table for discussion.

When did taking a public service job require a vow of poverty just for yours and Dan Borenstein's sake? Can we talk about the high cost escalation of newspapers? Since that's what pays his salary, why has his product outpaced public safety cost increases by several multiples in the last 20 years? Papers that were a quarter are now a buck? What's up with that?

What's your product or service and what does it cost today versus 1990?

Posted by GG
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Sorry to disappoint ECW but I'm not a firefighter, never have been. I'm retired from the financial world. I have many friends that are in the Fire Service and I know how it works. It's more than apparent that ECW has no idea how any of the Fire Service works and doesn't seem to want to find out, it's much easier to spew misinformation and assumptions. There are people who are ignorant and can be taught; then there are those that are stupid - and you just can't fix stupid. It's all up to ECW on which category to be in.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 11:01 am

@ CRMudgeon,
After reading your post, I don’t think ‘random’ quit describes your comments. I really have to question the ignorance behind them.
You lay out a blanket statement about Borenstein’s articles being factual. Based on what exactly? As many readers (both public and private sector know) they are certainly not factual. Worse, is that he is in a position of responsibility and should know better. He should be doing the research and “reporting” however he seems more wrapped up in trying to make a name for himself by substituting actual reporting for his own take on things.

I just read the Board of Supervisors agenda for today and if you are interested in the facts you might want to pay attention to items SD 5 and SD 6.
SD. 5
CONSIDER accepting the 2012 Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Valuation Report as of January 1, 2012 and Annual Required Contributions for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2012. (Lisa Driscoll, County Finance Director)

2012 OPEB Valuation

SD. 6
CONSIDER accepting actuarial valuation of future annual costs of proposed changes to Other Post-Employment Benefits, changing the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District health care premium subsidy for employees represented by or retired from classifications that were represented by the United Chief Officers’ Association, as provided by Buck Consultants in letter of March 2, 2012. (Lisa Driscoll, County Administrator's Office)

My guess is it is going to be a GREAT day for the taxpayers and a bad one for Mr. Borenstein.

Once again I point out that the 2 or so examples of benefit spiking were both done by individuals from within INDEPENDENT special districts. These districts make up 44 special districts that are completely separate from the County. So if you are unhappy with them-don’t blame the county, take it up with their board of directors…that is if you even live in either of those two districts (San Ramon or Orinda/Moraga). Oh and for the record, most public employee’s (including public safety) do not get to apply overtime or Car allowances towards retirement. The one point I do agree with is that spiking should be stopped-but this “spiking” that you comment on only applies to less than 1 percent of the public employees, yet with your blanket statements you want to go after all public employees.

Lastly, I am not sure why you are so hung up on comparing public to private employment. You certainly were not complaining when the private sector was making much more than public. Each sector has its pros and cons. Now that the economy is taking a hit you want to punish or take away what many have worked so long to attain? That just comes across as selfish.

@ ECW, Your comments are typical of what you redundantly post. As usual you are 100 percent off of the mark. It doesn’t look like you were able to foster up a candidate in the 11th hour, so I am afraid that you are once again doomed to 4 more years of your own frustration. For me to post more facts about how this current BOS administration has chopped down decades of accrued debt in just 5 short years only helps the normal people that read these posts. Because you are stuck in denial and frustration I know you won’t comprehend the reality of the situation so I will move on and enjoy the fact that good people are doing good work for us at the county level.

Your comments regarding Local 1230 have been noted. Your constant and despondent remarks about labor and the fire service just point to that of a certain east county individual. Your cheapness, frustration, and envy are showing through once again. I agree times are tough, but if you cannot afford to pay for the services provided-maybe you cannot afford to live where you do.

Posted by Brian Dawson
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Just thought I'd throw this out. A highlight from today's CoCo sup meeting. This hopefully will clear up certain numbers that are thrown about.

"A bit of good financial news: The county has cut its unfunded liability for retiree health care to $968 million. It was $2.6 billion in 2006. The number matters because the higher the figure, the higher the number of dollars the county must contribute each year out of its general purpose funds toward paying it off over a 30-year period. Six year ago, the county’s payment was $216 million. This fiscal year, it was $59.8 million. The drop is the result, among other things, of cuts in county employee benefits."

Web Link

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm

The 2.6 Billion debts has been hashed over and old news. The comments about today's BOS meeting is very well good news. Since we are blessed with another four years of the Queen and her subjects, the most important thing she can do is continue to take that debt to zero. A few of the same people have bragged on that debt being reduced from 2.6.billion to 1.2 billion in five years. I would think in four years it can be reduced to almost zero. If that does happen, make a copy of this comment because I will publically praise her and the rest of the board. Hopefully while this is going on the services we used to enjoy six years ago will also come back. Her success in this issue will be every citizen’s reward. Let’s see....... it would be a very positive accomplishment that would earn bragging rights to Borenstein. I would think even he too would publicize that achievement.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm

@ East County Watch,

I am sorry but why is it I can’t believe a single thing that you post?

• Could it be that just a week or so ago you wanted to debate the amount of the debt?
• Could it be that a week ago you wanted to deny the overall reduction?
• Could it be that today the undeniable reality is sinking in?
• Could it be that you refer to Supervisor Piepho as “Queen” and her supporters (which happen to be the majority of voters) her “subjects”?
• Could it be that you promise to praise the hard work if she reduces the final 968 million BUT can’t bring yourself to praising her, the board and CAO for the current work of reducing almost 2 billion from the debt? So a 2,000 million dollar reduction doesn’t deserve praise –but a 968 million dollar one does?
• Could it be that you fail to recognize the current success or the debt reduction?
• Or could it be that you claim you will “publically” praise her, while hiding behind your anonymity of your keyboard and a pseudonym?

Sorry, but I doubt if any of us will be holding our breath, for you or Mr. Borenstein to come around. Frankly it is not within the nature of either one of you.

Posted by East County Watch
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Misinformed, your words are so predictable because your h is up mp a or because we all know the debt will never be zero. I still will stand by my statement, but rest assured the zero debt is such a long shot because of the bought and paid for politicians by developers, oil, and public umions. I am even more confident that Borenstein will print the truth rather than you.

Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Really? That's it? Your anger issues are obviously getting the best of you...again.


Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

Apparently I am not the only one concerned about what Borenstein puts in print. Many others are exposing him as well. Be careful about buying into his hype and incorrect numbers.

Most recent example of Borenstein’s antics delivered today : Web Link

• Boycott the Contra Costa Times

More lies from the Borenstein Editorial Page today. First, the CalPERS fund is currently worth 236 billion or approximately 82-83% funded-not 75% as Mr. Borenstien states.
Secondly, there were two recommendations made to the CalPERS Board, not one. The first recommended a return rate of 7.25% and the SECOND (which they went with) recommended 7.5%. Ol' Dan is also getting quicker about deleting comments under his stories when they don't agree with his "facts". The Contra Costa Times must be taking their Free Speech lessons from China these days.

Web Link

• Your Turn: Paper's editorials and column wrong about fire district finances -
In the limited space allotted to me, I want to correct recent fictions printed about Moraga-Orinda Fire District finances. Fiction: $68 million of unfunded MOFD liabilities have built up since the district was formed.
Web Link

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