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City’s pensions soar as 55-year-old Palo Alto employees retire

Original post made by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Dec 19, 2007

Last year the retirement formula at Palo Alto City Hall was changed. As a result of that change, a city employee retiring at 55 with 30 years service making $100,000 a year will get $81,000 a year instead of the $60,000 he would have gotten two years ago or the $43,800 annual pension nine years ago. That is a huge jump.

And now we learn that two more Palo Alto city officials are retiring, bringing the total at city hall the last couple of months to four. All four are under 60. In fact, two are 55 (Carl Yeats, director of administrative services and Phil Plymale, head of the union's negotiating team) while Richard James, director of the Community Services Department is 57.City Manager Frank Benest will retire next June at age 59.

All of them will receive hefty pensions, thanks in large part to negotiations that three of them participated in – directly and indirectly.

Yeats and Plymale negotiated a contract last year that provided a 35 percent increase in pension benefits at age 55. Both retired this year at age 55. Benest presented the contract terms to the city council and they were approved; James is benefiting from the agreement.

That increase is astounding. I am amazed the council agreed to it.

The formula and numbers are a bit difficult to comprehend.

Prior to 1998, the "2 percent at 60" schedule was used. That meant that a retiree would get 2 percent of his highest annual salary times the number of years worked in city government as his annual lifetime pension. If he worked until age 64, he would get 2.4 percent.

In 1998, a "2 percent at 55 schedule" was approved. This schedule provided no additional benefits for employees who were 63 or older when they retired. Then-City Manager June Fleming and HR Director Jay Rounds, the city's negotiators, were over 63, so there was no conflict of interest in their negotiating the contract, since they would not personally benefit. For a 55-year-old employee earning $100,000 with 30 years the pension went from $43,800 to $60,000 a year.

Last year, the benefit was increased for a second time by adopting the"2.7 percent at 55 schedule." This means that a 55-year-old earning $100,000 with 30 years would now get a pension of $81,000.

The increase is almost double from what it was nine years ago. And we all know what the union gets, management at city hall also benefits from.

Not too shabby. Especially considering nothing in the job or job responsibilities have changed.

All this makes me feel uncomfortable. First, the "2.7 percent at 55" schedule encourages people to retire early, and once they retire we pay them lifetime pensions and health benefits. That doesn't happen in private industry. Second, I think there is an inherent conflict of interest when the negotiators stand to directly benefit. Obviously the city's negotiating team profited from this revised retirement benefit.

Some cities hire a team of outside lawyers to negotiate a contract with the union. That hasn't happened in Palo Alto.

It looks like there are a lot of winners in this new game of get-what-you-can-for-your-pension. And those winners are walking out the door.





Comments (169)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2007 at 1:27 pm

"That doesn't happen in private industry. "

But it should.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Mike, why should they?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Because it's the right thing to do. Or, do you support the gutting of pension plans and other benefits in the private sector, as a stop-gap to the pathetic private sector management skills displayed by Fortune-Magazine_Coverboys-and-Covergirls who hop from job to job on the backs of the workers whose pensions they strip to make their quarterly projections?

Anyone who thinks the private sector is a good model for helping someone ease into retirement needs to do a reality check.

What do you think the social cost is of putting the burden of retirees on the backs of our society, as an unfunded mandate?

I'd rather PLAN to keep *everyone* comfortable (within reason) rather than the current, blown, system.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jarred
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2007 at 7:50 pm

Mike, paying these absurdly generous retirement benefits is EXACTLY putting the burden of retirees on the backs of our society, with that society being restricted to residents of Palo Alto.

By your logic, everyone should be able to retire at 18 with a $1M a year pension paid by the government. That way, everyone could be rich, and no one would have to work! It would certainly be better than this dog-eat-dog free-market capitalism that has been such a failure in America.

This is just the latest example of the Palo Alto city workers abusing their positions to milk the citizenry for all they can get, feathering their own nests at our expense. It's sickening, but not surprising in any way other than being so much more extreme in Palo Alto than most other towns.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Hmmm, not a bad idea! Sign me up!

What does the private sector pay senior executives who run $400-500M operations? At least that much, wouldn't you think?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maslow
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 19, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Here we go again with Diana stating half truths. Did she mention how many employees retire with 30 years?????

Yeats 9 years, Benest 9 years, Plymale 10+, James 20+.....how does she get to 30??

Did she mention that 2.7@ 5 was put inplace to cap medical premiums??

Diana do the responsible reporting and tell the whole story!!

It is about time or is it about selling add space?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maslow
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 19, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Here we go again with Diana stating half truths. Did she mention how many employees retire with 30 years?????

Yeats 9 years, Benest 9 years, Plymale 10+, James 20+.....how does she get to 30??

Did she mention that 2.7@ 5 was put inplace to cap medical premiums??

Diana do the responsible reporting and tell the whole story!!

It is about time or is it about selling add space?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe Common
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2007 at 11:34 pm

The usual selective reporting from DD, with just enough spin in an effort to make it more interesting. Maslow called it just right. Readers might also be interested to know that such pension formulas in the public sector are essentially the industry standard. She makes it sound like Palo Alto is unique somehow. DD, forever looking for a conspiracy, with rarely any reflection of fairness or balance in your reporting. You not only lack those attributes, but credibility as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 5:04 am

To the extent that total employee expense exceeds that in private employment, management has failed in its obligation to the people.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe Common
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:30 am

In response to Walter in Midtown, those who seek public careers, especially the men and women working in the emergency servcies and teachers, are certainly not there to get wealthy. Quite evident by the fact that in Palo Alto, as well as most of the peninsula, our firefighters, police officers, and teachers cannot afford to live in the cities they serve. Never mind their critical role in the community. I'm believe you are very short-sighted in your assessment, and out of touch with certain realities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:49 am

Another DD half truth. Every 4-6 months DD "bashs" city employees with half truths. She never reports the "full story".
DD, if you think that the city employees have it so good- then why don't you get a job with the city?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:51 am

What does the union get?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:44 am

I was raised in Sacramento and most of my relatives are honorably employed in Civil Service positions. I have relatives currently in the military. I want them all to be adequately compensated for their efforts, but not at the expense of monopoly greed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 9:53 am

Walter: "To the extent that total employee expense exceeds that in private employment, management has failed in its obligation to the people."

This is a pretty weak benchmark, but just for kicks, you might want to go out and average the compensation for CEO's that run $400--500M organizations. While you're at it, you might consider benefits like stock options, expedited travel (private jets, etc.) and other perks, that senior executives enjoy in the private sector - none of this is available to public sector employees until we get to the national level.

"monopoly greed"???
Since when does any City Council not have the power of the purse, and the power to hire and fire senior executives.

And lest Diana, or others obsessed with the modicum of compensation received by public employees in this most wealthy of regions, forget - our citizens are happy with the way our city is run. Remember?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by 45-Tillion-Is-Too-Much!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:37 am

Perhaps if people took some time to look at the big picture here, the reasons that these obscene pensions are so very wrong is that we don't have the money to pay for them and will be taxing the future generations death or into revolt:

---
Web Link

$45 trillion gap seen in US benefits

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer Mon Dec 17, 6:49 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The government is promising $45 trillion more than it can deliver on Social Security, Medicare and other benefit programs.

That is the gap between the promises the government has made in benefits and the projected revenue stream for these programs over the next 75 years, the Bush administration estimated Monday.

The $45.1 trillion shortfall has increased by nearly $1 trillion in just one year, according to the administration's "Financial Report of the United States Government" for 2006. And, it's up 67.8 percent in just the past four years. In 2003, the shortfall between promised benefits and revenue sources over a 75-year period was put at $26.9 trillion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:42 am

now we're extrapolating from Palo Alto, to the National Debt. Nice way to change the subject...

What amuses me about this is that Social Security contributions have been used FOREVER to fund things like WAR, or pay for other shortfalls in revenue. Why weren't they invested? If they had been invested, we would all be in better shape.

Guess where all they money is, now? It's in the pockets of the war machine contractors, ,and local pork suppliers. That's Diana's precious private sector, remember?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 45-Tillion-Is-Too-Much!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:49 am

> now we're extrapolating from Palo Alto, to the
> National Debt. Nice way to change the subject..

Not at all, since the money to pay all of these obligations comes out of the tax payers' pockets. Sooner or later these obligations will result in higher taxes or lower services.

Government's "true believers" have been very effective in the past convincing people that "oh, that's in another account". Sadly, the bill is coming due, and it will take truck after truck just to deliver the statement.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 12:05 pm

45, gosh, you're missing the point. Where is the money that should have been invested in public pension funds. Where did it go. When you figure that out, get back to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Tax laws, including inheritance taxes, have encouraged aglomerization of businesses at the same time that SEC failed in suggesting independent directors. Just as Public employee unions support candidates that give them the most goodies, mamagement directors support management largess. On the other hand, look what happened to Apple when the board decided that a soft drink salesman woould make a splending boss. Compensation should not extend to looting and should bear some relationship to accomplishment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 1:10 pm

"Compensation should not extend to looting and should bear some relationship to accomplishment."

The populace is happy, except for the court jester. :) Hence, all is well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 20, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Lots of frantic posting on this issue today. Oh...that's right, it's Friday and City Employees have the day off.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Write On
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Anna,
It's actually Thursday and city employees are working.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 20, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Well, you're right about it being Thursday. My bad. Whether city employees are working or not is something open to debate I'd say.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave M
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2007 at 2:28 pm

I take issue with those of you trashing Diana Diamond's column. Her facts seem unarguable. Whether there are many employees getting the full benefit of the generous pension plan of the city is really beside the point. The fact seems to be that we had a very generous pension plan a couple of years ago, and it was made incredibly more generous under the recently negotiated contract. Moreover, the negotiators of the contract benefited from it to some degree. That seems wrong to me.

Moreover, despite the whining by Mike of College Terrace to the contrary, the benefits afforded Palo Alto workers are way out of scale compared to anyone on the private sector. In fact defined pension benefits of any size - let alone those permitting employees to retire at 55 with 70 or 80% of pre-retirement salary (inflated in many cases by allowing he affected workers a lot of overtime in the last year of employment - which is what is used for calculation purposes) - is pretty much unheard of in the private sector.

Moreover Palo Alto's average compensation is greater than the compensation average of all workers in the area - giving lie to the claim that the lavish pension benefits are compensation for lower wages.

When the city comes to us asking for money for libraries and a police station next year - pleading poverty as a reason to give it to them - ask them where all the money they take in has gone. If they're honest, they'll tell you they gave it away to relatively young retirees - many of whom have new jobs they take for long enough to qualify for social security benefits to add to their pensions - which is all most of us sucker palo alto taxpayers will have when we retire - not at 55, but at 62 or 65.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 2:34 pm

"In fact defined pension benefits of any size - let alone those permitting employees to retire at 55 with 70 or 80% of pre-retirement salary (inflated in many cases by allowing he affected workers a lot of overtime in the last year of employment - which is what is used for calculation purposes) - is pretty much unheard of in the private sector."

And isn't that a shame? Why aren't you out lobbying your legislator to change the pathetic situation in private sector pensions?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave M
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2007 at 2:40 pm

Do you really think our society can afford to pay EVERYBODY pensions that Palo Alto employees get? In case you haven't been keeping up with the news, there's great concern that even our promised relatively small Social Security benefits are unaffordable with our predicted economic growth. If you do think that everybody should be retiring at 55 with 80% of salary pensions and full health benefits, I suggest you get another screen name not containing the word "reality".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 4:23 pm

The price private industry charges for their product is limited by competition. Palo Alto has a monopoly marketplace, coerced union membership for employees and coerced contribution of dues money to politicians.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:52 pm

"Palo Alto has a monopoly marketplace"

Another false assumption. Palo Alto competes with other municipalities (which should be changed, somewhat, as to the provision of services).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave M
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2007 at 7:01 pm

"...competes with other municipalities (which should be changed, somewhat, as to the provision of services)."

This is right. Palo Alto workers should also compete via open bidding with private companies for the right to provide city services. This has been done successfully in other cities, and has resulted in significant cost savings.

(Ok, prepare for the outraged hostility to any sort of outsourcing of city services....)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2007 at 12:12 am

We do outsource, as appropriate. ...next...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2007 at 4:28 am

Market place - Palo Alto has an exclusive dealership for municipal services within her borders.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 45-Tillion-Is-Too-Much!,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2007 at 9:26 am

> Where is the money that should have been invested in
> public pension funds. Where did it go.

As usual, an incomplete thought posed as a question.

And what is a "public pension fund"? Are you talking about CALPERS/CALSTRS, or pension funds that have been inherited by the public through the collapse of private sector industries that the Congress has decided to fund? Would you clarify?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2007 at 10:19 am

public pension funds as in Social Security revenues. Do you know how those surpluses have been used for decades to fund defense, and other pork. I think you need to do your homework on this, and get back to us.

Again, what pockets did those SS funds end up in? Hint: the private sector.

Now it's time to do your homework


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 45-Tillion-Is-Too-Much!,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2007 at 10:33 am


> public pension funds as in Social Security revenues.

Sadly, the Social Security mess will be on the tombstone of this county. The Congress has failed at every level, as the original posting about the $45T liability indicates. The so-called Social Security fund (which is not a "pension fund" by the way), does not exist. All of these monies have disappeared into the US General Fund, and piddled way on wealth transfer programs (like "the great society") which has seen up to $5T transferred from working people to non-working people--creating what seems to be a permanent underclass, dependent on government for their daily bread!

> spent on national defense and other pork.

So, this poster equates "national defense" with "pork". It figures .. being safe and sound is not something that is paid for in sweat and tears for people like this poster--he sees national security as an entitlement, no doubt.

> homework ..

Sir, we have long ago done our homework.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2007 at 10:52 am

45, "All of these monies have disappeared into the US General Fund, and piddled way on wealth transfer programs"

Really?

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

now that you know where we spend our money, perhaps you can show me how many private $500M corporations pay their executives less than $240K, without golden parachutes and stock options...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 21, 2007 at 1:14 pm

What do you expect when Management does it's own negotiating with the Unions. There is a conflict of interest here with little or no supervision from Council. Council is willing to rubber stamp everything staff negotiates with the Unions because they're terrified of a strike.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maslow
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2007 at 7:53 pm

Walter,

You cannot make statements about how the public sector does not measure to the private sector without facts. You then become another half-thruth person. Do you have any idea what is included in the public sector budget? Do you know that PA includes admin services for all seven utilities, animal services to three other cities, water treatment, fire services to Stanford, and can you tell us what is the difference in level of services? Please don't make comments without factual back-up documentation that can be verified. You are an not qualified to make statements as you make because you do not supply information to back-up you statements with facts. You think you know, but you do not demonstrate it with numbers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2007 at 9:49 pm

City employees need a raise!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Erica
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2007 at 9:43 am

If I could live my life over again I'd go to work for a Government bureaucracy with tough Union representation instead of private industry.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Socrates
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Yeats and Benest resisted the push by the unions for the 2.7% (per year, based on slaary of last year of work) formula for years until just months before announcing their own retirements. The retirement formula for management staff, including them, was then - conveniently - changed with the change in the retirement formula to 2.7% for union employees. A coincidence? Give me a break. The fox in bed with hens in the hen house more like it ...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John Scelso
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 24, 2007 at 9:14 am

The problem with DD is that she's a bulldog on some of the right issues, but she's such a shoddy reporter, that she can never research and marshall enough facts to make a good case. Worse she manipulates the facts so badly that one has to be skeptical.

But here's an interesting observation written in classic DD journalistic style: "And we all know what the union gets, management at city hall also benefits from."

I presume that all the retiring benefits described in this article were those negotiated for UNIONS, and that City Staff managers who negotiated the deals for the City are themselves not members of the union with whom they negotiated.

First of all, DD could document the facts better and more clearly.

Second, DD could actually do some real work, research actual management contract changes that occurred over the last ten years, to prove or disprove whether or non-unionized manager contracts track union contracts.

But even if you assume it ("we all know that ...") DD could do some real analysis.

When she was at the Palo Alto Daily she was pleasantly surprised when PA city managers turned down an effort to unionize them. Figure it out.

IF they usually receive benefits that they "give" to those who are unionized, why should unionize and pay dues? And, for GOD sakes, if the managers did unionize, wouldn't that directly disqualify them from being city negotiators with other unions in the future.

DD mentioned neither of these two possibilities years ago working for the DAILY. Instead she cooked up some crazy story about how the unions feared that tough Larry Klein would get elected.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 25, 2007 at 8:21 am

These City Worker wages are sickening. No justification for these six figure or high five figure wages.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by City Employee
a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2007 at 9:43 am

I have been a city employee for over 25 years so I think I know a little about this subject.
First, the city does not use lawyers for the union contracts, they use negotiators. When the unions and the city negotiator sit now for "talks" about benefits and wages, they look at other cities (in the bayarea) that are like Palo Alto. They base a lot on this information (both sides) when they start negotiation.
I think the Palo Alto community would be sursprise to find out that we are just average when it comes to wages and benefits.
In fact in the last 5 to 6 years, I'm seeing Palo Alto employees leaving to go work for other cities in the bayarea because of wages.
Remember when the city spent 50,000 for a bill board on Hwy 101, advertising that they were in need of police officers?
In my department alone, 6 co-workers have left in the last 3 years due to better wages and benefits in other bayarea cities.
If an employee stay with the city for 30 years- I would say that the city got their "monies worth" out of that employee. No need to spend time hiring and training a new employee.
So every 6 months or so, we have MS. Diamond attacking city employees, not doing her homework on what she is writing about (she does this a lot).
Sometimes it seems that she would like us to be so underpay that we come knocking on her front door, looking to do yard work, to make ends meet.

Merry Christmas!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 26, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Let the other towns pay big money for slow gov pencil pushers. If the city ignores what the other towns pay for their workers and pays a fair wage, I'd like to see if there is a difference in quality or efficiency of output. I'd be willing to bet that there will be little to no difference.

Let 'em walk for inflated wages. Someone, somewhere will wake up and say, "WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON???????"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 26, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Joanna,

You know the old saying- "you get what you pay for". I'm very happy with the service of our city employees and I don't mind paying for it, as long as it is in line with other cities in the area. I bet it is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:39 pm

Wow, P.A. seems to be filled with a lot of know it alls that don't like each other


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2008 at 11:50 pm

This looting of the public coffers is sickening, and has really spiraled out of control in recent years. Diana Diamond is exactly on target. The compensation packages to government employees has become incredibly excessive, and way out of whack compared to the private sector. The unions have discovered that public employees are their bread and butter...now that they have broken the backs of so many industries...they're figured out that you don't have to worry about a thing such as solvency with the government...the government can just pass it on to the taxpayers. Unions are no different from mafia extortionists. It's so obvious who the rent-seeking union-card carrying beneficiaries of these out-of-control benefits are in this thread. It's so naive to claim we shouldn't complain since services are satisfactory...the reality is that we could be paying much less for the same service level. And it's the ridiculous claim that we just need to pay what other cities are paying that has caused all city compensaton plans to get so bloated across the state. Witness the spectacle when Oakland recently had an open cattle call for 24 firefighter positions and thousands of folks showed up...shows the compensation is much better than it needs to be. And when the assignments are so plum because the compensation is so much more than what the job should be worth...it's cronyism that determines who gets the jobs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2008 at 12:52 am

"The compensation packages to government employees has become incredibly excessive, and way out of whack compared to the private sector."

Why should the private sector be used as a yardstick? This is the sector that has *gutted* private pension promises, and ruined lives. You must be kidding me.

Thank god that Libertarians are a fringe group.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alyssa
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2008 at 8:00 am

Libertarians may be a fringe group, but Libertarian Mom makes a lot of sense. It is quite clear that employee compensation is excessive in the respect that we could get the same services for far less in the way of wages and increasingly unaffordable fringe benefits. There are no city jobs going begging because of lack of compensation packages.

I have a friend who worked (as a concrete worker) in the private sector who landed a job in PA about 10 years ago. He says he works "about half as hard" as he did before, and that there is a culture of not working "too hard" so as to keep expectations low. When he started, he says he got a lot of gaffe from fellow long time employees because he was putting in a full day rather than stretching every job out by dithering, reading, lunching, etc.

This isn't to say most PA employees aren't dedicated and capable. It's just that they work in a system that rewards indolence and sloth (and the cronyism that Libertarian Mom complains about.)

In any case, it's increasingly clear that local and state governments in California, including PA, won't be able to afford to keep making the lavish promises - where some employees can retire in their 50's with close to full salary levels and health benefits not available anywhere in the rest of the economy. The gravy train will end. The only question is whether state and local leaders can slow it down gradually, or whether we're heading for a train wreck.

Perhaps the appointment of a new City Manager will be the place to start reigning in Employee costs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 5, 2008 at 8:37 am

The new City Manager will NOT be able to do a thing! They will take the money and run. What kind of City Manager will come here if he/she doesn't get a "great package" like other cities give?
The last two Managers also worked half as hard to run the city. Side jobs and travel outside the city.
You can hire and train all you want- but if the pay and benifits are not there, then the worker will leave to go somewhere where they are.
The only way you can stop the "gravy train", is to get all cities in California to get off the train. NOT going to happen!! The "ride" goes from the bottom to the top(City Manger, Mayor).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2008 at 10:38 am

Mike,

The private industry should be used as a yardstick because the free market will tell you what the right compensation is based on supply and demand for similar work. The cities have been able to ratchet up compensation to unjust levels because they haven't had to worry about solvency like a business would...they figure they can forever pass increases onto the taxpayer (including future generations). And your initial comment that private industry should just match the compensation of private industry is so naive...it doesn't pencil...workers' pay/benefits need to reflect their productivity...otherwise the company goes out of business.

Tim,

You said you were happy with city services and their compensation level because it's comparable with other cities. But then you go on to agree that city managers work half as hard as the private sector and that all cities are on the gravy train. City Managers going from one city to the next is like a mob boss switching gang families to get a better cut of the loot.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2008 at 10:40 am

Correction:

And your initial comment that private industry should just match the compensation of THE PUBLIC SECTOR is so naive...it doesn't pencil...workers' pay/benefits need to reflect their productivity...otherwise the company goes out of business.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by I agree
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Yes, I am a retired employee of City of Palo Alto employee. I worked for the City of Palo Alto for 25+ years and I loved working for the City. I was a very dedicated employee and a hard worker. I went through many different management styles in the years that I worked for, but I can honestly say that I learned from all of them. Sure, it is so easy to say someone is not doing their job, but all of our jobs were different. I do know that it is so difficult for Palo Alto employees because the citizens of Palo Alto expect to damn much. I know there is only a handful out there that do comment on issues, but that handful needs to be replaced and like you all say, we need new blood in City services. I know I always felt the same, the City needs some new citizens! Good luck to you all and have a great 2008!


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Wow, a long-term city employee always felt the "city needs some new citizens"...what a great attitude from someone supposedly working for the city's citizens.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2008 at 12:30 am

Really poor understanding of how hard municipal workers work on this thread. I agree with the long-time employee. We could use less whining in this town, and replace that with a "can do' attitude.


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Posted by Another Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2008 at 8:59 am

Not all new citzens. Just put Diana, Libertarian Mom and the few cry babies on a "slow boat to China"!

Seriously, I have worked for this great city for 27 plus years and I know about 95% of the citizens love the work we do. Over the years my coworkers have received hundreds of letters of praise and thank yous. So the small vocal minority that dislike us (like ms. Diana), doesn't bother us. Let them vent, there not a happy bunch.
Wishing the fine citizens of Palo Alto and my coworkers a safe and happy new year!


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2008 at 9:36 am

You city employees are totally missing the point. You all could be awesome employees, and the city services might be stellar...and nobody is saying we don't like you. The city should not be making promises it can not keep and not afford - and defined benefit pension plans need to go the way of the dodo bird...especially plans that give up to 81% of salary for the rest of an employee's life (including their spouse I'm sure if they live longer) for 30 years of service as early as age 55. I'm sure there's probaby COLA added onto that as well. Ditto for providing for gold plated medical plans into retirement (that's an even scarier commitment!). Citizens need to realize how much these benefits really cost - they are potenially multi-million dollar commitments the city is making to every long-time employee that retires. The lower salaries that city employees supposedly get, is being way offset by this huge benefit. I'd say the benefit rate for city employees is conservatively 100% of salary (if one is funding the pension and retiree medical benefits adequately)...compared to the large corporation where I work where our benefit rate is less than 30% (and this is a company with very high benefits in the private sector). I don't know how well funded the pension plans and retiree medical plans are...but I suspect they are way underfunded. See this interesting document from The Reason Foundation: Web Link.


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Posted by Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2008 at 12:01 pm

No, your missing the point. You give us a 138 page document by some Libertarian who has NO idea how to run a city. Talk is cheap. Tell you what- you run for city council, get elected and then you can voice your change for city employees' benefits.

Ya, I didn't think so!




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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Sorry for the long document, Employee, but judging by your grammar, you probably don't read much.

By your logic, nobody should voice an opinion, including you, unless she runs for city council. We taxpayers should just keep forking over the money and not ask any questions about where it's going. Of course you don't want folks probing on this subject, you've got a sweet deal and you don't want it changed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2008 at 9:25 pm

I'm done. I love my job with city. Probe all you want- its' public record. Have a nice life.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 7, 2008 at 12:25 am

Libertarian Mom, There is a sense of undue paranoia about your accusations, and assumptions. There is also a tone of small-minded envy. Why not go after the private sector thieves that have been plundering the pension rights of workers? We should be happy that the public sector hasn't lost its sense of humanity towards its workers.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 7, 2008 at 6:39 am

"We should be happy that the public sector hasn't lost its sense of humanity towards its workers."

It is not a "sense of humanity" to pay a tiny, select group of still very capable workers to retire in their 50's at most of their pre-retirement income and with full health and benefit coverage when the people paying taxes for their lavish benefits are struggling to raise their children and fund their own retirements without these ridiculously unaffordable programs.

To say that the "private sector" should embark on a similar path of fiscal destruction is head-in-the-sand know-nothingism. The fact is that our society and economy cannot afford to pay everyone this kind of benefits - no matter how much people who are apparently ignorant of even the basic laws of economics might wish it. (Must be a product of the public school system...)

It's time to end this unfair treatment of a select few government workers. The state is finding it cannot afford the kind of largess its been irresponsibly handing out to its workers right now. Palo Alto and other cities will find out soon.


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Posted by TIm
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 6:54 am

Dave,

It won't happen. The Gov. tried two years ago.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 7, 2008 at 9:20 am

I fear you are right, Tim. It's sad that in Palo Alto, we aren't even trying (yet).

It would be much better to address this problem forthrightly and now before it gets out of hand. The quasi-bankruptcy of San Diego a few years ago - precisely because of this issue - should have been a warning. The state and city are heading for a train wreck trying to fund all these generous retirement programs without an obvious way to pay for them.

Tim's likely right that political realities will prevent us from taking action to slow the train before it crashes in a decade or two.

Such is the life I guess.


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:05 am

Mike,

I'd hardly say I'm paranoid about the unsustainable promises for rich pensions and retiree medical that have been made to city/county/state workers across California and the country. I suppose you'd say folks are paranoid to worry about Social Security and Medicare's solvency, too. But Dave is probably right that the problem is so widespread... that it won't come to head until a bunch of municipalities start going bankrupt in a few years.

I hardly have "small-minded envy"...I'm all about fairness. Why should taxpayers fund such lucrative benefits for government workers...benefits that are unheard of for anyone in the private sector? (And don't repeat your ignorance that private industry should match these benefits...your limited understanding of economics is embarrassing.)

And I believe firmly in fiscal responsibility. You need to match current employee costs with the current budget. You can't have a situation where a big chunk of the current budget is paying for employees long gone. So let's be very transparent about how much these obligations cost and fund them currently (of course when the citizenry realize how much these liabilities really cost hopefully they'll cry "foul!"). When an employee retires, they should walk away with the nest egg they've earned...but they should no longer by a liability to the employer.

You know you have an incredibly sweet retirement deal with the city, and you don't want anyone rocking the boat by questioning the largesse. You just want the taxpayers to keep forking over the money and not ask any questions. Speaking of envy, you seem to have a real problem with high paid corporate executives...you should realize that it's innovative corporations that spur on the economy...and pay your way.


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Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:27 am

Since there is so much negative thrown around on this site, I pose this question to you all...what do you think is fair? Remember, unlike those in the private sector, the opportunity for other benefits is not there. There are no bonuses, stock options and many government workers actually do not get raises yearly as many of you think. I am a government employee of a neighboring city and although I work very hard, I still have a hard time making a comfortable life in the Bay Area. You want good people in these positions, but what are you willing to give them? If you offer much less, not only would you attract a lesser employee, but what would be the benefit to working in the public sector if we do not get any of the other aforementioned perks many private sector employees get. This was extremely prevalent during the Dot-Boom, where our jobs became even less attractive since there was no possible potential for a comparable growth as others in our community.

I am one example, but my job is probably closely related to a project manager in the private sector. I think I am paid slightly less in salary (in comparison with the large SV companies) and have no stock options or bennies. I would like to also say that the folks I work with care so much about their jobs and many have advanced degrees and work beyond their usual work days to make sure the job gets done. I am sad that there is so much antimosity and name calling on this blog. I find it very useful and informative and if I were ever to come across something about the city I work for (Redwood City), I would definitely take it to heart. I also have wondered how the workers in Palo Alto can want to continue to work hard after hearing so much negative.

I do not dismiss your concerns one bit, but if you are worried and would like to see change, I would highly recommend making change by running for council or at least applying to serve on one of the many city commissions available. I know part of the fun in these sites is the anonymous debate aspect, but I encourage you to also take your concerns to the city itself. It is hard to find constructive criticisms on these sites when much of it is delivered so antagonistically and smothered by so much accusatory debate.

I fully agree that everyone should have an opinion, but there has to be a happy medium. Hopefully someday you can find one.


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Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:30 am

oops- should have proofed that one! At any rate, you get the picture. I meant to say I don't get stock options & bonuses (I wrote bennies)...of COURSE we know I get those ;-)


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Posted by TIm
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 1:28 pm

To L. Mom,

doesn't the prv sector have SS. The city workers do not get SS. This is their retirement. Get a Clue. Do some reshearch. Get off your rear and you get on the council.


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Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Tim- You are correct- no SS.


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Tim,
The maximum benefit from SS for an individual retiring at full retirement age (age 65 and 10 mos) paying the maximum each year since age 21 is only $2185/month or $26,220/year. A pittance compared to the pensions being offered to city workers...and for 40+ years of service. So you need to get a clue. Also, some cities have even managed to still get SS along with their pensions...so some cities have an even sweeter deal than PA.

I might run for council some day...but for now I have a full-time job in the private sector and young kids at home. I don't need to be on council to be a concerned taxpayer or to have an opinion.

To J's point, I agree that the public sector should offer something to offset the lack of stock options and bonuses. But 81% of salary after 30 years of service is too much. (And as Diana Diamond points out this is way higher than what was offered 10 years ago.) I used to work at a non-profit hospital in a non-union position which was similar to the city in the lack of options and bonuses...but they only offered a defined contribution plan (a 403B plan which is similar to 401K) - they discontinued the defined benefit plan in the year '90's (for obvious reasons, because these kinds of plans are too expensive and too risky for the employer). The did make a 2-to-1 match on 403B contributions and offered a lot of vacation days and provided pretty good job security. So, yes, let's discuss what's fair.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 7, 2008 at 2:40 pm

L. Mom is more right than the rest of you about this stuff. Many (if not most) government workers "double dip" qualifying for a pension AND Social Security by taking a job in the private sector for the minimum time necessary to qualify for SS benefits - easy to do when you're retiring in your 50's. Others qualify by working in the private sector before getting a city job, or under their spouse's benefits.

It's laughable to say that city workers don't get an unbelievably lavish retirement package - far outside what any in the private sector get, and those of you trying to argue otherwise only are fueling the (incorrect) idea that city workers are indolent out-of-touch spoiled union grifters.

And it's true that city workers don't get stock options, but most people in the Valley don't have option packages that secure a retirement for them despite what you hear about ex-Google secretaries with charitable foundations. Moreover, the risk of layoff for city workers is negligible, while most Valley jobs last less than 5 years.

I appreciate J's apparent open-mindedness on the issue. He seems to understand that there are a lot of trade-offs involved in the compensation issue - as well as that what we now are paying our workers is unsustainable. But I think the question he asks, "what is fair" isn't the right one. It's not what's fair that should be asked. Rather the managers of our city should be asking what's the minimum amount of our tax money that has to be spent to get our essential services performed in an acceptable way?

I never hear of any jobs in Palo Alto going begging - except for perhaps police officers for which there is a statewide shortage. And I know that in the tiny instance where we've let private contractors perform city work (some park maintenance), they do the same quality work as city workers for far less money (according to the city auditor). This suggests that we may be paying too much for what we get by having so much of our services performed by city employees. And the fact that private contractors can get competent workers for less than we pay our workers (when you factor in pensions) suggest we may be compensating our workers more generously than we need - at least for some positions.

It's not fair to the taxpayers of the city - many of whom are struggling to save for their own retirement - to overspend so crazily on wages and benefits if we can get the same work done at less cost.


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Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 2:52 pm

L-Mom,

My thoughts are we are paying for many changes made during the dot boom. The cost of living changed changed so dramatically and public sector employees fell way behind on the salary curve. In order to maintain employees and attract new ones, many salary surveys were conducted and raises were given- plus the COLA was much higher. When cities started hurting but the benefit levels were still up for negotiations that is when other give and take occurred. For instance, in order for us to receive the 2.7% equation that DD talks about, we gave up COLA increases for 3 years and obviously there were no salary increases during this time.

Most cities conduct salary surveys against comparable districts based mostly on population counts. In RWC we benchmark everything we do. We are usually more on the "cutting edge" side, but pretty even with equivalent cities. In a nutshell our decisions are not created, but emulated.

The lack or stock options and bonuses definitely plays a part and to be fair- devil's advocate can say that many companies don't make it big, so why should we be guaranteed something. I understand both sides. My husband has been through a gamut of start-ups, if at least ONE would go public, hallelujah!



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Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 2:57 pm

The one problem I have seen with contractors is the fact that we are mandated to hire the lowest bidder- which I am sure as many of you know with home renovation- can be tortuous! The other issue is that they are bound to the scope of work they were hired to do. Because of the different union involvement we have to be careful that positions are not replaced by contract in certain areas and not in others- than there is a conflict. Yes- a lot of red tape.

Anna- I guess i reiterated your comment about stock options...I posted before reloading. Ps- I am a "she" ;-)


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 3:13 pm

I agree with Anna.

J, thanks for your response. I agree that things got crazy during the stock boom. Folks wrongly thought the pension plans would continue to amass amazing returns. It seems like whoever agreed to the switch to 2.7% pension in exchange for no COLA for three years was very short-sighted and not very good at math. (Although it was a great deal from the employee's perspective.) They took on a much bigger liability than what they saved. I'm sure they ran the numbers with grandiose returns planned for the pension plan and unrealistic assumptions about who would retire when...thus gravely understating the true liability. The deal probably allowed them to meet that year's budget target...by keeping salaries flat and not putting enough into the pension plan. Plus it sounds like folks making the decisions also stood to benefit from the pension gains themselves.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:01 pm

libertarian Mom: "vy"...I'm all about fairness. Why should taxpayers fund such lucrative benefits for government workers...benefits that are unheard of for anyone in the private sector? (And don't repeat...that private industry should match these benefits...."

This is really a hoot. I would love to know who is going to pick up the tab for the many workers who have lost their pensions in the private sector, or who don't have one. The next time you look at your paycheck, think about that. How is it that other countries can manage stuff like this,, and we can't? As for economics, economics is more than zero sum addition and subtraction, with winners and losers. That's the poor picture you paint, and thus probably the reason why you're a Lib - you think more about constraint, and not enough about opportunity.

I am thinking about setting up a counseling program for Libertarians. The first assignment would be to read John Donne.

btw, Palo Alto's benefit profile is about average.


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:09 pm

And one more thing. Folks love to say that PA is just matching the compensation/benefit levels of other cities. Yes, this is true...but the comparison should be across private industry as well. This may not work for all jobs but many have private comparisons. You can quickly lose market reality when only comparing to other municipalities. If city A starts offering $1M salaries to their mailroom clerks, then employees at city B can say hey you need to match city A...and so the spiral begins. Another thing to look at is how many qualified applicants are there per position (to Anna's point that few positions go begging - this would help for positions that don't have private comparisons - like fire and police.) Look at the Oakland Fire Department. Their pay/benefits are apparently so good that 8000 people stood in line for days to submit an application for their 24 positions. The requirement was only that folks have a GED...no EMT or fire experience needed. They were going to accept the first 1000 applications but then pandemonium broke out and the fire chief walked around accepting applications from the sons/brothers/friends of OFD employees (who were proudly weaking their OFD hats/jackets) including his own son. Cronyism at its best. So I don't think just making cross-city comparisons are adequate.


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Mike, too bad the Soviet Union collapsed...you would have loved it there!

Believe me, I'm not happy that the goverment steps in when pension plans fail. Where's the plan's incentive to responsibly fund the pension plan? But guess what, if the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporate needs to step in for bankrupted pension funds, benefits will be cut. I read the max pension they'll pay is $45K for someone retiring at 65...kind of a bummer for those folks who thought they'd be getting a six figure pension! And when the PBGC goes bankrupt, do you think American citizens are going to want to come to the aid of these pensioners?


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Posted by Too Funny
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:34 pm

I think maybe you all envy people should look into employment at the City of Palo Alto and that way you can be an employee and receiving that 'lavish' retirement package. But Libertarian Mon, the City is quite Democratic, so you will have to change your tune.
Good Luck to You!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:36 pm

"You can quickly lose market reality when only comparing to other municipalities."

And you can quickly lose market reality when comparing the public and private sectors. Corporations don't have to go to general votes to approve investments, and they pay little attention to rogue whiners, or groups of rogue whiners.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm

I'm excited for my lavish retirement, since my current situation in the Bay Area is FAR from lavish ;-)!


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 5:00 pm

I just might seek city employment in the future. I would take a pay cut but the retirement benefits would more than offset this (assuming the pension fund doesn't go bankrupt). I've already about earned the max SS benefit, and 401K match is nothing to get excited about. Plus stock options aren't what they used to be. And my corp doesn't pay much towards retiree medical.

It's probably a pretty nice combo to have one spouse in the private sector and one in the public sector given the way benefits for pensions and SS work. Plus medical coverage is a real problem for most folks if they want to retire before age 65. So, yes, maybe, I should get on the gravy train. I agree that the lifestyle is not lavish pre-retirement, but it is post-retirement. It would be tough being around all the socialists though...hopefully they wouldn't discriminate against Libertarians as you suggest.


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Posted by City Employee Supporter
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 7, 2008 at 5:10 pm

mom - Honestly, with that attitude, I don't think you'd make it through the first round of interviewing. Palo Alto hires only the best.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Yeah, I can tell how great the employees are judging by the grammar and spelling and weak logic employed by the city employees on this thread...only the best.


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Posted by Arnold
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 7, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Yes, Mom. And we all know how and mighty you are,but you will have to play the game. Hey, the City Manager is leaving. That is a good start for you with all your knowledge.
Good Luck!


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Posted by Don
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 7, 2008 at 7:00 pm

I would hire Libertarian Mom as City Manager in a heartbeat. The the City Workers who would be laid off as she outsources about 90 percent of city work would have plenty of time to complain here about "fairness" and etc...making for some pretty entertaining threads I would think.


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Posted by The time is right
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 7, 2008 at 7:10 pm

As soon as the new council is in, the time is right. So get the resume polished and move forward.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 7, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Libertarian Mom,

You don't have to be nasty about it (grammer, spelling, ect.) you just lower yourself.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Eric,

You're right that I should not stoop to my opponents' level. My opponents have resorted to personal attacks since they cannot come up with substantive rebuttals. They've called me "small-minded" and "paranoid", accused me of being envious, having a bad attitude, and being clueless, and would ship me out on a slow boat to China. And I'm not worthy of being a PA Employee because they only hire the "best". But I'm a meanie for pointing out their poor grammar (not grammer) and spelling.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2008 at 9:44 pm

LM -

I think your last comment is actually true. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

Your substantive point has merit in my view - the benefit is too high and the incentives are misaligned. Keep the focus on that vs. getting in a pissing match. Hopefully you'll raise others up to your level.






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Posted by City Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2008 at 9:47 pm

I said I was done, but I ready do see your side. But, I would like someday to seat down with you "one on one" and show you the other side that your not aware of. Then if you still feel the same, that's fine.


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Posted by Brian Holtz, Libertarian for Congress
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 7, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Anna is absolutely right that the proper question is not fairness, but rather getting the most benefit out of the taxpayers' dollars. Those taxpayer dollars are collected at gunpoint, but not a single municipal employee was drafted or conscripted or otherwise forced to work for the city. Municipal employees have the right to seek as much compensation as they can get from prospective employers, whether government or private-sector. By the same token, municipalities have the obligation to taxpayers to set benefits at no more than the marginal level needed to get the jobs competently filled. When public-sector jobs have much lower turnover rates than the private sector, and job openings attract a far higher ratio of applicants than they do in the private sector, that's an obvious sign of successful rent-seeking by politically powerful municipal employees.

It's shameful for critics of Libertarian Mom to suggest that someone who objects to apparent graft should either move away or try to get in on the deal. She cited detailed research from a well-respected think tank, and it's bizarre for someone living off of taxpayers in a college town like Palo Alto to dismiss such research by sputtering in effect "those who can, do; those who can't, teach".


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 9:57 am

The Reason Foundation? Here, we're talking about a study that comes from an organization of people who think that government itself is mostly unnecessary.

You'll notice that this "study" conveniently fails to address what happens when millions of people are put out of work without sufficient pension resources.

What's even more disturbing is that the study fails to address the upcoming crisis that is sure to happen as baby boomers in the tens-of-millions find themselves without sufficient resources to carry on.

Libertarianism is a self-centered, selfish philosophy of personal action. It's Calvanist in the extreme. This is the Reason Foundation, in a nutshell.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Carney
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 8, 2008 at 10:11 am

When someone spends more time attacking the character and morals of the publishers of a study, rather than the study's substance, you have a pretty good idea about the merits of his or her own counter-argument.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 8, 2008 at 10:12 am

"As for Mr. Holtz dependence on aphorisms to do his thinking for him, one might also say that those who can think, argue, while those who can't, spout aphorisms to do their thinking for them."

Wow, this forum is getting more surreal everyday.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 8, 2008 at 10:20 am

Carney is right. The Reason Foundation may be peopled by some loopy individualists, but some of them are pretty smart.

I read most of the linked report. It makes a pretty convincing case that public pensions, as they're currently structured, are unaffordable and unsustainable. This corresponds to the opinion of almost everyone who's examined the matter - not just crazy (or sane) libertarians. Wishing the situation were otherwise won't make it so. Neither will pretending that all we have to do is to bring private sector benefits "up" to public sector levels. That can't happen. There isn't enough money even in our rich country to do that.

The real question isn't whether state and local govenments can afford to keep making these crazy pension promises, it's what can be done to fix the problem with the least amount of damage to the state, its economy and citizens.

At lease Lib. Mom, Holtz and others are addressing this substantively. What are the solutions of the name callers?

Ad hominem invective only weakens your case


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 10:39 am

"bring private sector benefits "up" to public sector levels. That can't happen. There isn't enough money even in our rich country to do that."

Really? Who says? What's the cost of not properly insuring the care and comfortable retirement of older workers. Again, we have a bunch of penny-wise and pound-foolish individuals attempting to define what's "right", by projecting the most inefficient dollar solutions onto their fellow human beings.

Why shouldn't someone who has worked for decades receive adequate compensation toward retirement?

This thread is driven by individuals who have a rather narrow view of the public good. That's OK, but all the whining about how overpaid public employees are isn't going to get you anywhere.

The absolute level of selfishness and unconcern for one's neighbor - as well as a wanting cogent long view of society - is all I see here, from Diana's short-sightedness, to those who depend on the illogic of Libertarian philosophy to drive public policy.

Note that not one person has answered what happens to our culture if the arguments in that stilted piece of faux-research (rubbish, really - is that all you've got?) were realized.


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Posted by Pensions For All
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 8, 2008 at 11:07 am

Mike is right.

I wonder why none of the presidential candidates are running on a platform mandating that all workers be able to retire at 55 with 80% of their pre-retirement salary. And health benefits too!

Sounds like a sure winning platform to me!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dilbert
a resident of University South
on Jan 8, 2008 at 11:13 am

"Note that not one person has answered what happens to our culture if the arguments in that stilted piece of faux-research (rubbish, really - is that all you've got?) were realized. "


What would happen to our culture if government workers were offered the same programs most other workers are instead of being able to retire in their 50's with most of their income? -- Not much I'd say. Taxes might be lower though.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 11:34 am

I would like someone to show me why we can't have retirement at age 55-60, with pensions that are able to sustain us into old age - including the right to work if the retiree so chooses.

The only reason that doesn't happen here is because we have been suffering from corporate greed, for decades. As well, we have been played with by legislators who should have known better.

Imagine where we would be if the Social Security fund had been invested, instead of raided to pay for war and other folly, for all the years of its existence.

I don't envy Cit Employees one bit; they work hard, and deserve their retirement. So do workers from the private sector, where more selfish interests have seen to it that Americans will be struggling as Baby Boomers begin to retire. It's a travesty of major proportions.


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Posted by Keynes
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 8, 2008 at 11:42 am

"I would like someone to show me why we can't have retirement at age 55-60, with pensions that are able to sustain us into old age ..."

Take a basic economics course. They should cover this in the first week. Good luck.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Keynes, I have already done that, and still find your argument wanting.

It's also funny that you use Keynes as your sig, as JMK would have been far more accepting of this idea than you might think. Have you gotten as far as "History of Economics" in your studies?

Here's a primer of what the "private system" is bringing the American worker. That anyone would insist that government workers share the same fate, is just plain madness. Spend your energy taking back what you think necessary to help the millinos that are going to face NO retirement, thanks to greed in the private sector, ignorantly lionized by those who know nothing about the ultimate impact of that greed.

Web Link

"The current federal policy of promoting an "ownership society" means shifting risks that were once spread out among many workers and employers to individuals, who are now expected to manage individual accounts: their 401(k) plans, their health savings accounts, and, if powerful forces get their way, Social Security individual accounts. None of this bodes well for working people. Twenty years of experience with 401(k) plans reveal that workers will never be able to accumulate enough assets in individual accounts and choose payout options that will provide a steady stream of income for life after retirement. This means that Americans will turn to the option that American adults have always relied on—contingent, low-paying jobs—and will lose one of the few remaining accomplishments of the American working class, retirement."


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Posted by Aristotle
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 8, 2008 at 1:59 pm

"Keynes, I have already done that, and still find your argument wanting. "

Sign up for a course in logic too. That should help you with some of your conceptual difficulties.


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Posted by Donnie
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 8, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Anybody check out the link in Mike's post yet? It's to the Monthly Review - an avowedly socialist publication. They don't even pretend objectivity.

From their site: ""Monthly Review can show an impressive record of committed left publishing. Through the thick and thin of American politics it has continued to carry the standard of thoughtful and critical radicalism. International in scope, it has combined the best of the old left wiht creative insoghts of new social movements."

Highly amusing given his crude criticism of the Reason Foundation's ideology as a reason to distrust anything it says.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Donnie, Moderate arguments like the ones made on the Monthly Review can be found even among conservatives. There is growing general concern among all coinstituencies about how retirees are going to manage in future. Certainly, the market-based approach touted by corporations who want to be free of responsibility for their worker's future (the very workers that make the corporation rich), is not leading to any earth-shattering gains.

byw, the political terms" left" and "right" mean little any more, except as a convenient shorthand for those who cannot think through an argument past those terms. You might consider this as you continue to debate, and realize that when tens-of-millions of people have a real concern, it precludes political labels, and requires political solutions that transcend labels.

You might think on that a bit, and help yourself climb to a higher level of thinking by inculcating this little object lesson.



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Posted by PA Worker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2008 at 3:40 pm

The "have not's" crying again. Get a job with the city and shut up. Here come the comments. Here comes my paycheck every two weeks. Here comes my retirement in two years. Bring on the comments. I want to see a least 100 plus crying, negative comments the next 24 hours. You can do it.


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Posted by Brian Holtz, Libertarian for Congress
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 8, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Mike, the use of name-calling and personal attacks against libertarians won't convince a single open mind on this forum. The Reason Foundation is hardly a bunch of anarchists. They simply believe in a couple of basic principles: 1) whenever possible, don't use force or the threat of force to make people do what you want; 2) government should be confined to just those functions where there are textbook economic arguments for the existence of market failure. By contrast, your principle seems to be: send men with guns to expropriate enough resources from taxpayers until a preferred group of people has a level of resources that you somehow deem "fair".

Your question about "millions of people put out of work without sufficient pension resources" is simply fear-mongering. Nobody here is saying there shouldn't be a safety net to ensure that victims of bad luck and poor planning don't go homeless or hungry or untreated. We're just saying that people who are not poor should not expect the rest of us -- or our grandchildren! -- to provide them a more comfortable retirement than what they worked to provide for themselves. Do you dare disagree with that?

You claim it's "penny wise and pound foolish" to not "properly insure the care and comfortable retirement of older workers". What's pound-foolish is to create hordes of comfortably-middle-class rent-seekers who believe that the proper way to arrange for one's care and retirement is to vote for whoever will promise to expropriate for them the most of their fellow citizens' -- or their grandchildren's -- resources. This isn't mere "aphorism"; this is instead a widely-accepted insight of the modern economic theory of public policy.

You ask "Why shouldn't someone who has worked for decades receive adequate compensation toward retirement?" I ask: why should someone who has worked for decades ask present and future taxpayers to provide him a more comfortable retirement than what he worked to provide for himself?

It's ironic that you can write about "individuals who have a rather narrow view of the public good." I'm not here asking that men with guns go out and forcibly extract more resources from people because I want a nicer retirement than what I'm working to provide myself. I indeed have "concern for my neighbor", because I know that when neighbors use politics to expropriate resources from each other, the inevitable result is envy and strife and a perversion of incentives that undermines society's productive potential and standard of living.

The global lessons of economic history over the last two centuries are by now obvious. To achieve the level of material well-being that socialist-minded progressives claim to desire for the poor and the middle class, one can either 1) do a massive one-time redistribution of wealth and income and derail society's progress toward ever-higher standards of living, or 2) wait two or three decades and let living standards reach (and surpass) those levels. As long as economic progress does not get derailed, then the poverty-line safety net of today will always be better than the middle-class living standard of a couple generations ago.

Your question about "what happens to our culture" is hand-waving. From the Asian tigers to America to Eurosclerosis to the world's many failed experiments in socialism, the verdict of comparative economic history is unequivocal. We already know what lies down the path of nanny-statism along which you urge us. The far more interesting question is: how much more prosperous could we be if we freed our minds from the failed and obsolete twentieth-century ideologies of communalism and nanny-statism?

The article you cite makes the fundamental mistake of assuming that increases in the compensation received by workers is primarily the result of "collective bargaining" that so often involves invoking the zero- and negative-sum coercive machinery of the state. But in fact, every macroeconomics student knows that levels of worker compensation are tightly coupled to marginal productivity. Any graph of the two over the last half-century or more shows them rising in near lockstep. It may feel romantic to believe that worker living standards are increased by mounting the barricades and challenging Big Corporations for a bigger slice of the pie, but that's simply not reality. And reality, ultimately, is not optional.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Brian, you lost me when you wrote "your principle seems to be: send men with guns to expropriate enough resources from taxpayers until a preferred group of people has a level of resources that you somehow deem "fair"." :) btw, I'm an ardent advocate against private gun ownership.

Also, without going into every one, in detail, every one of your questions reveals a concern more with the individual, than with the group. Americans (including Palo Altans) are about to find out, in a very short period of time (within the decade) just how much more they need each other than had been heretofore theorized by groups who have ridden the fluke fantasy world of post WWII American advantage.

Btw, you might look into some other graphs, the ones that show the returns to labor since 1949 at nearly a flat line, with the returns to capital rising at almost exponential levels. So please don't regale me with economic theory - I've been there and done that, enough to know that economic analysis can be used to support just about any position.

What I DO know, is that "community" is something that is rather antithetical to the individualistic and materialistic way of life that we have become accustomed to.

I love material comfort, but there comes a time when, venturing past one's front door, one begins to realize that a lot of other people contribute to that comfort, and if we're to maintain ours (comfort), it's in our rational self-interest to help others maintain happiness. That's all aside from any moral argument to do the same.

Large scenario macroeconomic projections, like the ones you make, are pure folly - given what we have seen in terms ofo economic disruption over the last 20 years. There will be more.

All that aside, it's about time we started honoring the kind of largesse that communities are providing to municipal workers, and that other governments provide to their workers, and start thinking of THAT as the template for going forward.

Congruent with the above, this implies near-revolutions in things like health care delivery, education, transportation, housing, industry, communications, and so on. We'd better get busy, because the rest of the world isn't going to wait for us to catch up.

Wishing all PA retirees, with their well-deserved pensions, well.



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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 4:39 pm

or,

"...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery or a borrowing of misery, as though we are not miserable enough of ourselves but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels as gold in a mine and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction digs out and applies that gold to me,...

John Donne


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Mike,

You state you value the community over the individual, and want to help others maintain happiness. You think it's fair that government workers work for 30 years and then receive almost full salary plus health care for another 20-30 years in retirement. You have no problem passing that expense on to all of your community who is not in government although they will not be getting anywhere near the same retirement benefits. But your solution is for folks in the private sector to demand it from their employers. Let's not get into the feasibility of that solution right now. But your solution will not help folks who have already retired from the private sector.

As an interim fix, how about if we put all the retirement funds into one pot, and allocate it equally to each retiree. You know, to each according to his needs. That would help "maintain happiness" throughout the community - if a government retiree is getting a $80K pension and their neighbor is only surviving on a $20K SS check, let's just pool the funds and let them each have $50K. Wouldn't that be the best community solution - or would you rather pit the government-employed individuals against the non-government-employed individuals?


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Posted by I'm Voting for Brian
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Brian makes perfect sense. All the disoriented argumentation by Mike on this issue is nothing but hand waving that attempts to distract from the reality of the situation with municipal pensions.

Mike's great at demanding "proof", when he's not cut and pasting John Donne quotations. Ok, Mike, let's see proof in the form of some back of the envelop calculations about how we can afford to pay everyone 80% of their pre-retirement income starting at age 55.

Here are some starting numbers for you: in a couple of years, our SS system, which pays max 20k benefits at age 65 will be consuming 5% of GDP. There are roughly 45 million people between 55 and 65. You can add these to the about 40 million already over 65 and figure out how you're going to come up with 80% of their pre-retirement incomes. Average personal income for people between 50 and 55 is 52,000. So in round numbers, you need to come up with around 40k for each of around 85 million people - which will be up to around 100 million people in 10 years. If you do the numbers, you will come up with around 20% of GDP to fund your scheme. This is around 30 percent of personal income. So to fund your scheme it will take 30 percent of everyone's paycheck. This doesn't include Medicare, or the income tax, or state taxes.
Have fun.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Brian, nice going. I haven't seen Mike so thoroughly slammed in a while.

The idea of that workers/taxpayers should pay the benefits for retirees is not "community" -- it is better known as "being a burden on your children." If you wouldn't do that in private life (and I hope we all try hard not to) it is pretty hard to justify doing it through tax transfer. And because govt GAAP didn't require these liabilities to be put on the balance sheet, it was a "free lunch" for entities to hand them out, with future taxpayers footing the bill.

The idea that any entity can/should guarantee unlimited future benefits to its workers (pension or healthcare) has gone the way of the dodo bird - except perhaps for the largest entities, such as nations.

Does anybody know what our ability is to change retiree benefits later? Does it require bankruptcy or are there are ways to cap retiree benefit exposure?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 9:40 pm

"So to fund your scheme it will take 30 percent of everyone's paycheck. This doesn't include Medicare, or the income tax, or state taxes."

Gee, I didn't know you were so good at distorting a point.

Of course, it would be nearly impossible to pay for everyone retiring at 55 *now*, *precisely* because the funds paid to Social Security since 1939 have been used to pay for wars and other folly - as **I have stated prior**.

In fact, SS is listed as an asset in the US budget, instead of a *debt*. Weird, huh? especially since SS is owed to subscribers. Oh, well. Current debt in the reserve is $1.7 trillion...a pittance compared to what would have been in there if we hadn't been raiding SS ever since its inception.

Let's do another back of the envelope estimate, where SS funds were invested, in toto, as most Americans believe they should have been. Go ahead and amortize the $10,048,168M, **since 1939**, invested in SS at normal rates of return, from an historical perspective I await, with delight, your calculation.
Web Link

Following that, include payments that scale with income for people making MORE than $68K, because as we all know, only the middle class pays SSI. Let's keep the wealthy as part of our community.

Then, let's ADD all the $$$ inefficiencies that corrupt and incompetent industry bosses lost from post WWI onwards - including the steel industry, the auto industry, the consumer electronics industry, the computer components industry.

Let's ADD all the corporate welfare, into the trillions, that have gone to bail out the large shareholders in the savings and loan crisis, the Chrysler crisis, the subprime crisis. How about the 100's of billions that have been spent on communications infrastructure, only to see those corporations, wildly rich, eliminate corporate pensions. How about the airline bailouts? How about the 100's of billions to fight needless wars, with profits going to criminal corporate warlords? How about the few trillion thrown away to the oil cartels, as corporate lobbyists collude to keep us in our cars. I can keep going, but you get my drift.

Calculate and amortize that, just for *starters*. There's lots more.

That's what happened to our pension money, as the people we entrusted with the fiscal sustainability of our nation and economy, frittered it away.

I love it when libertarians - who tout the inviolability of the "market"...or nitpicking fiscal conservatives, who wince when they see a regular Joe retire comfortably at 55, fail to see how the systems and fiscal philosophies they have been supporting for so long are the very systems and philosophies that have kept more average Joes from retiring at 55, with strong benefits.

Now they want to take what's left from those that were able to escape the jaws of greed.

The fact is that we are all connected, and that these fical


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Posted by PA Worker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Thanks Mike. Wish you and your family a great, safe and healthy new year!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Terry: "The idea that any entity can/should guarantee unlimited future benefits to its workers (pension or healthcare) has gone the way of the dodo bird - except perhaps for the largest entities, such as nations."

And look what's happening to companies that strip employees of benefits, and pay poor benefits - they're losing share, because the best employees are going where the benefits and positive corporate philosophies are. Google, anyone?

Terry, you need to get with the times, and stop thinking like Dick Nixon.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Mike, you are out of step on this one. From Google's Benefits page, here's their ENTIRE "Retirement & Savings" section: Web Link

• Google 401(k) Plan
Employees may contribute up to 60% and receive a Google match of up to the greater of (a) 100% of your contribution up to $2,500 or (b) 50% of your contribution per year with no vesting schedule! We offer a variety of investment options to choose from, through Vanguard, our 401(k) Plan Administrator. To help you with those tough investment decisions, employees can access Financial Engines to receive personalized investment advice.

• 529 College Savings Plan
This plan provides employees with a way to save money for post-secondary education.

Meanwhile, back on planet reality...


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 12:11 am

Terry, look at the perks Google offers, add to that a pension plan that's bolstered by stock options. Why is Google able to recruit the best? Same goes for any company, or municipal organization. You get what you pay for, or has that old adage gone by the wayside, too, as you struggle to figure out how to get a good employee on the cheap.

Name one municipality that offers Google-like perks...one.

Nobody is saying that some modification to public pension plans will not happen, but we need not strip those plans to resemble the sad shells that most of the private sector offers.


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Posted by PA Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2008 at 6:18 am

The majority of Palo Alo employees cannot afford to live in Palo Alto or the ones that could either choose not to or the one that d bought many years ago. So if you can live there on your SS check of $20k year, you are fortunate.

Good luck to all you fortunate Palo Alto residents.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 9, 2008 at 8:02 am

It's amusing to see Mike - who commonly rhapsodizes about innovation and vision and a *can do* approach to the future - fulminate at length about events in the distant past as a cause of the impossibliity of implementing his Utopian schemes when he's confronted with real numbers.

Facts are stubborn things. Brian stood Mike up and "voting for Mike" knocked him out.


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:08 am

Mike,

While any government raiding of the SS trust fund has surely not been a good thing...that is not the main problem with the solvency of the fund. The basic problem has been that since its inception SS has always operated as a pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme. It worked great when you had 10 workers for every 1 retiree like they did in the beginning... not so great when you have 3 workers for every 1 retiree like the situation is today. With the baby boomer retirement, that ratio becomes 2 workers for every 1 retiree - this is when the pyramid tumbles.

The term SS "insurance" is really a misnomer because there's not much about the structure of SS that is like insurance. Insurance uses contributions or premiums to pay for anticipated losses (which have a low risk) for a cohort of people usually in the same period. The disability and survivor parts of SS are somewhat insurance like - in that only a fraction of people will get these benefits - although I'm sure these programs even operate as pay-as-you-go.

The main part of SS is the pension plan - the monthly checks that everyone expects when they reach their 60's. This is not at all about managing "risk" like with insurance - since the chance that one will hit age 65 is very high (not like the chance your house will burn down.) The problem is that SS has never operated like a responsible pension plan - where the contributions plus interest pay for the benefits of a cohort of people. The earliest retirees barely paid anything into the system, and reaped huge returns. The first SS recipient, Ida May Fuller, paid a full $24.75 into the system (three years of contributions!) and collected $22,889 - not a bad return on her investment! The "Greatest Generation" has done very well with SS as their benefits have vastly exceeded their contributions + interest.
It was great being at the top of the pyramid, but now the pyramid is collapsing under its own weight.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:33 am

Libertarian Mom amuses with her technical explanation of why we can't do what every other civilized country in the world is doing: providing a secure retirement for its citizens at an early enough age for them to enjoy it.

L. Mom's extreme selfish and individualistic philosophy is not concealed by her veiled attempt to paint government as the villain in the collapse of SS and every other retirement program that has been gutted by corporate greed.

Let is note that this corporate greed is celebrated by those of L. Mom's ilk. Read Ayn Rand and see how *individualism*, *selfishness* and disdain of community and compassion are honored as virtues by the execrable libertarian ethos.

Then consider how in the 80's this self centered program corrupted everything that was good and honorable about this country in its concerns for older workers, the poor and the disabled in pursuit of greed, corruption and war.

We will be paying the price for this pied piper folly for decades to come. It will take major efforts by our policy makers and huge doses of compassion throughout society to rectify the criminal neglect of our future that the siren song of libertarian "freedom" wrought upon our poor.

With the immorality of the 80's still *trickling down* through our society, it will take strong leadership to coerce the essential attitudinal changes amongst the recalcitrant individualists who still pollute our midst as exemplified by L. Mom and the other extremist posters on this thread.

Fortunately the recent primary election returns show that this is coming, not a moment too soon. Community will no longer be a dirty word here.

The nightmare of the 80's is over at last. The greedy selfish interests who have picked clean the carcass of our once grand social safety net will get their comeuppance. It's time to get to work restoring what we have lost.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:37 am

Lib Mom: "The basic problem has been that since its inception SS has always operated as a pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme."

Go back to prior posts that talk about how SS benefit money is accounted for (as an asset! - bizarre!), and how the reserves have been manipulated to pay for everything but SS. THAT's why we don't have substantial SSI amounts. Who do we blame for that? ourselves, I hope, because we were all too busy grabbing the brass ring, without concern for the future. Maybe we've learned a thing or two.

Anna, In your dreams. The fact is that neither you or anyone else has been able to show how the things I mentioned earlier would not have led to the ability of all Americans to retire at age 55. It appears that you subscribe to the pilfering and tax-break preferences received by corporations, leading to our current constraints in private sector pension funding. How can any sane individual support what went on, and then rationalize those abuses as "that's the way the market works". I'm still waiting for a cogent response.

Also, it's a fact that the firms that pay the best benefits, and have the most perks, get the best employees. Terry conveniently ignores that fact. I'm still waiting for the name of ONE municipality that matches the Google perk array.

We *should* be working toward an improved pension system, with 55 the desired age of retirement - to the extent that individuals can enter the second half of life with sufficient resources to pursue additional dreams, and fulfillment. Why not?

It's a fact that the middle class is getting squeezed by legislation that favors the more wealthy class, and corporations. Instead of admitting that that is a serious problem, we have naysayers and grinches claiming that it's wrong for someone to receive a pension and retire at 55. From here, it looks like there are some people who still subscribe to the Calvinist approach to life. I thought we were over that.

Back to the topic at hand, we are going to continue to deal with our retirement *obligations*, and we will continue to maintain our service levels.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:39 am

Again, the second last post is not mine, but it's well put - thanks! Whoever you are!


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:58 am

Mike,

Rather than attacking me and Libertarians, why don't you go and do some actual research on SS so you'll have a better understanding of its history? What I presented is fact.

Do you agree that pensions for a cohort of people should represent the contributions + interest made by that cohort? That is not how SS has operated during its entire history, and that is why it has problems today.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 9, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Lots of fulmination, Mike. Not much substance. "I'm voting for Brian" laid out some numbers that you don't refute. Instead you keep saying that if we'd done things differently for the past 70 or so years, the country could have afforded your "everybody retire in comfort at 55" retirement scheme.

I'm voting's numbers appear to give lie to that unbelievable proposition. Could you illuminate (with numbers similar to I'm voting's) how we all could be relaxing in the beach - even before our golden years - if only we hadn't succumbed to corporate greed and individualism.

If you respond with more of your flim-flam invective, I think we will kind of have an idea about the substance of your claims.

Facts really are stubborn things.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2008 at 12:19 pm

I am still waiting for Mike to make a sensible argument... ;-)

Mike, please stop demanding info and then complaining when people don't deliver. It is a junior high debate club tactic and it is a little irritating.

Am I the only one who things the "two Mike" thing is kind of bizarre?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 1:35 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Lib Mom: "Do you agree that pensions for a cohort of people should represent the contributions + interest made by that cohort? That is not how SS has operated during its entire history, and that is why it has problems today."

That's what I said to begin with; that's why I put those numbers up; that's why I mentioned that the US shows $1.7T as an ASSET, instead of a debt (it's backwards) - do you get it now? We happen to agree on that.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Mike, read the above post please. It's rude to keep demanding data that you are the only one interested in. If you want that, please research yourself.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Mike,

You don't seem to be very comforable with numbers. You're pointing to one number - but the $1.7T balance sheet item doesn't tell anything. You need to look at what was paid out to a cohort of beneficiaries (by age group) vs. what was paid in by that cohort.

That's good that you agree that benefits should equal contributions + interest for a population cohort. You still seem to miss the point that this is not what's happened...not because the funds have been raided, but because benefits have traditionally exceeded contributions + interest. The system has always been a pyramid scheme. You seem to miss the point that the earliest beneficiaries got an astronomical return on their contributions (way in excess of market returns). Ida May Fuller is not the only one who got excessive returns from SS - her entire generation did.

And yes, I read your objections - but it's pretty much gibberish without a thread of real numbers and just a bunch of name-calling.

But thanks for the chuckle that you used to be a debate coach. Funny given that you never answer questions directly - always get on your soapbox and pontificate your world view instead. Look at how Brian Holtz decimated your feeble points - that's what a good debater does. And your prose is unique, but I wouldn't call it cogent - the only people it seems to win over are your alter-egos!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Terry, sorry that you see it that way. What data are you talking about? I've provided evidence to support every position taken.

Didn't you say that your dissertation was on Foucault? I'm not surprised, as the "subjective" stance was often used by Foucault and his merry group of deconstructors to invent things that existed only in their imaginations.

Really, you have to look beyond data points, and into the context that those data points come from. I'm serious about that. From there, maybe you and others here who rail about how we're getting ripped off by municpal employee benefits can get a clue and gain some perspective about what happened to the American Dream - including the guarantees for comfortable retirement - and how all that was squashed by corporate and legislative greed.

The only "proof" we need are the real millions of lives impacted by lost pensions, or pensions retracted, and a hard look at the *trillions* of dollars ripped away from working Americans in the post WWII years, right up to the present.

That Diana and others would vilify hard-working municipal employees for taking pensions that were *given* to them by OUR OWN policy group is pretty lame, and a sorry exhibition of the self-centered "me-ism" that continues to infect our generation.

Why doesn't Diana, or why don't you, complain about the massive payoffs made to corporate CEOs who FAIL at their jobs, and cost their charges pensions? And why do Diana and you (and others), knowing how American workers have been ripped off by this process, go on about comparing the "private sector" as the perfect model for retirement templates. Seriously, your combined arguments are so transparent, disingenuous, and completely absent the context of history on this matter that it's embarrassing to say that they come from someone(s) who claim residency in an intelligent community.

All you do is gripe, and put up data points.

Diana comes up with a worthy piece now and then, but if anything, she has become the Weekly's professional troll, harping on the same old things she used to harp when employed by the Daily. Hey, it sells newsprint, and generates page views/click throughs, so why not. It's a business, right? But at whose cost is stuff like this written.

You and others conveniently forget that we're talking about people who have families, and lives - and they work *hard* (in spite of your ignorant claims to the contrary, made only in the abstract as a casual observer and contributor to this little-viewed forum).

Perhaps a few weeks in the shoes of those who you think have it so easy, and deserve less of our collective largesse, might enlighten you - but I dount it.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 9, 2008 at 2:51 pm

Anna: "If you respond with more of your flim-flam invective, I think we will kind of have an idea about the substance of your claims."

Mike:

"Terry, sorry that you see it that way. What data are you talking about? I've provided evidence to support every position taken.
Didn't you say that your dissertation was on Foucault? I'm not surprised, as the "subjective" stance was often used by Foucault and his merry group of deconstructors to invent things that existed only in their imaginations.
Really, you have to look beyond data points, and into the context that those data points come from. I'm serious about that. From there, maybe you and others here who rail about how we're getting ripped off by municpal employee benefits can get a clue and gain some perspective about what happened to the American Dream - including the guarantees for comfortable retirement - and how all that was squashed by corporate and legislative greed.
The only "proof" we need are the real millions of lives impacted by lost pensions, or pensions retracted, and a hard look at the *trillions* of dollars ripped away from working Americans in the post WWII years, right up to the present.
That Diana and others would vilify hard-working municipal employees for taking pensions that were *given* to them by OUR OWN policy group is pretty lame, and a sorry exhibition of the self-centered "me-ism" that continues to infect our generation.
Why doesn't Diana, or why don't you, complain about the massive payoffs made to corporate CEOs who FAIL at their jobs, and cost their charges pensions? And why do Diana and you (and others), knowing how American workers have been ripped off by this process, go on about comparing the "private sector" as the perfect model for retirement templates. Seriously, your combined arguments are so transparent, disingenuous, and completely absent the context of history on this matter that it's embarrassing to say that they come from someone(s) who claim residency in an intelligent community.
All you do is gripe, and put up data points.
Diana comes up with a worthy piece now and then, but if anything, she has become the Weekly's professional troll, harping on the same old things she used to harp when employed by the Daily. Hey, it sells newsprint, and generates page views/click throughs, so why not. It's a business, right? But at whose cost is stuff like this written.
You and others conveniently forget that we're talking about people who have families, and lives - and they work *hard* (in spite of your ignorant claims to the contrary, made only in the abstract as a casual observer and contributor to this little-viewed forum).
Perhaps a few weeks in the shoes of those who you think have it so easy, and deserve less of our collective largesse, might enlighten you - but I dount it.
If there are trolls on these boards, it's the one-line trolls, like yourself, who half mean what you say, and project your pent up envy and dissociated anger at those who are defenseless - i.e. city workers who are not able to defend themselves in public. How convenient."



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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Lib Mom: " I read your objections - but it's pretty much gibberish without a thread of real numbers."

If you can't deduce what happened to the promise of stable employment and retirement from the examples I gave above (just take the UAL case, as one small example), then you're more challenged at deductive inferencing than I thought.

As stated above, there is more to the "truth" than the obsessive generation of out-of-context data points. You are lacking historical perspective. The latter is Diana's (and a few others) lack; I can understand how frustrating it can be to be called on that, as some carry a very narrow historical (and thus, contextual) perspective that attaches itself only to quantification, ignoring the qualitative, or the stuff that sits right inn front of their number-crunching eyes.

What's even more fun is when the latter perspective (one that you and a few others on this thread share) get called by putting metrics to the qualitative stuff. Then, all hell breaks loose, and the "quantifiers" get riled.

As for SS, so what that some people got a great return on their investment? I don't see that as a problem. Why should we be upset about that? These are the people who made it through the depression, and fought the Great War - the last war worth fighting; the last war that wasn't a political game, costing national treasure and lives in the untold thousands. Have you ever sat down to think how much pension money was siphoned off just from the cost of Vietnam, Iraq, etc. etc. I don't have the numbers, but surely you can make an intelligent deductive guess?

Surely, any intelligent person could easily make deductions and inferences from the examples I presented above, and how those examples of corporate and legislative excess has cost Americans a more comfortable and secure life.

btw, I'm still laughing that Brian Holtz - a crackly Libertarian if I ever saw one - created his *own* scenario, and then went on to prove it - as if he exists in a vacuum. And laughing harder (out loud, seriously! :) that *you're* seeing his "project" as a response to what I *didn't* claim. He made an argument against a point that I *didn't* make!! :) It would help if you read responses more carefully.

The bottom line here is that Diana denigrated some hard working people who have done a very good job during their term in Palo Alto. Making hay about water under the bridge, and then muddying water upstream with unfounded claims about the insincerity of municipal employees in salary negotiation is unfortunate. Our city employees deserve better treatment, and better words, and more kindness, than that.



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Posted by QED
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 9, 2008 at 3:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 8:28 pm

Mike,

Glad you finally admitted that you're more of a "qualitative" guy than "quantitative"...since we've all noticed your discomfort with numbers. Sort of hurts your credibility if you want to have a serious debate about the affordability of pension plan commitments but don't want to discuss numbers.

Also, it looks like you finally admitted that maybe a lot of past retirees got a lot more in SS benefits than they ever paid in + interest. So it looks like you don't refute that SS has operated as a pay-as-you-go pyramid scheme. Sounds like you're backing off your idea that all the SS funds were raided. It also sounds like you have no problem with inter-generational expropriation - at least you're being honest about that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Libertarian Mom, ON the contrary, I pay a lot of attention to numbers, but unlike you add the context of history to quantitative analysis. That way the numbers tend to have more depth, and range of meaning, than your usual collection of data points used to prove a point. Yuo know, there are "lies, damn lies, and statistics. Yu ocan prove almost anything with simple data points. My beef is that the pro-Diana stance on this thread uses the numbers as a subtext for a more mean-spirited agenda. you get my drift. Context adds depth, and quality. You should try it.

You keep knocking at the door, but you're at the wrong address.

SS is not a pyramid scheme; it's a social safety net that has been abused by irresponsible legislators. And yes, SS funds have been raided for years. As for "inter-generational expropriation" - as you put it, I suppose that's your pessimist's view of what happens when some people extend themselves to help another.

You really do need to read the Donne quote, above.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:29 am

Facts are stubborn things.

No wonder Mike keeps bringing up his "qualitative" analysis, berift of any actual substantive content, when he's challenged to show his 80percent of salary at 55 retirement scheme is financially viable. No wonder he can't seem to come up with actual facts to back up his assertion that corporate greed over the past 70 years is all that's standing between us and our cushy retirements.

Mike says "context adds depth", but when he doesn't seem to realize that zero plus zero is still zero.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2008 at 7:13 am

Anna and Libertarian Momma,

You know you both "long" to work for this great city we live in. Now stop this nonsense and go down to city hall and apply.
Good pay, great benefits. What more could you ask for. Maybe, once you both get hire, you could run for the union? You can do it!


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Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:20 am

I'm working on a Long Range Plan update for my corporation's Board of Directors - we were planning to show a bunch of boring numbers and charts about the fiscal situation - but I'm going to recommend we scrap that and replace it with a bunch of John Donne quotes!

Mike, your hypocrisy kills me. You claim that you're all about the community and "no man is an island" but your idea of community is putting your hand in each of your neighbor's wallets in order to generously feather your own nest. You're happy to leave society's children and grandchildren saddled with the debt and liabilities of today's irresponsible promises. What community spirit!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Libertarian Mom, First, I would suggest that you show the Donne quote to your Board, many businesses could use a dose of Donne's philosophy these days. Strage that you would mock Donne's sentiments in that quote, but not surprising, as its revelatory of the Libertarian myth of obsessive (and ultimately, dysfunctional) self-reliance.

It's also revealing how you see our residents, who receive great services, and in paying for those services in part with a good pension, are being "saddled" with debt. Again, it's consistent with your take on community, where "give and take" is reduced to "everybody for themselves". That's the Libertarian way; and that's exactly why Libertarians are a fringe group in our culture.

If there's any hypocrisy, it's the hypocrisy spouted by Libertarians about how horrendous government is, while those same Liberatrians bask in all the benefits provided by government. It's pretty weak stuff.


Anna, It's understandable to show frustration, especially when someone has just blown your argument to shreds by pointing out how wrong you are within historical context. And, if you want one example of how quality trumps linear quantity (with your preference being the latter), try putting a few mammals in the care of a robot - programmed to do everything "right, by the numbers" vs. their natural mother. See what happens.

To repeat, Diana and her supporters on this issue have always conveniently found ways to isolate a few data points, and build their case on those data points, without viewing the larger context, like the most obvious one here - i.e. that Palo Altans are quite satisfied with their local government.

That's a hard pill to swallow, as the context of that reality challenges the core of your assumptions. Breathe....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Mike,

Socialists are even more of a fringe group in our society! It must be lonely for you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Hey Mike,

It is a great relief knowing that a Libertarian will NEVER get the key to the Oval Office!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Tim,

Yes, no Libertarian as President is definitely a relief for the rent-seekers...not so much for the taxpayers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Get to work
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 11, 2008 at 9:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2008 at 11:42 am

Get to work, although it's none of your business, I work flexible hours - worked last night to 9 pm...my employer seems pretty happy with me. This is the first thread I've responded to in months...so I hardly spend all my time here. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Newcommer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Get to work, funny how you hadn't noticed how much space and time is taken up on this comment site, as well as many others by Mike. In fact, I'll bet he holds the record for the most posts on the entire Town Square forum.
I just found the Palo Alto Online website over the christmas holday. (By the way, Town Square is a terrific idea.) Mike's postings are virtually everywhere. He peddles his socialist nonsense under any topic he can, generating so much hot air that he may be the actual source of global warming.
I doubt that he even has a job. After all what can one do in the real world with an "education" in Deconstructionist philosophies and related twaddle?
In contrast, I found Libertarian Mom's comments to be well considered, concise, literate and great food for thought. She certainly doesn't spend too much time on comment sites.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 11, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Hey Mike,

Enjoy your posts too! Look forward to many more. Would love for you to consider a run for city council. Live in this city for 27 years and you are one of the few who has "the smarts" to know what it takes to run a city (with all its' services). Thanks again sir. You have earn the respect. Oh no- here come the comments.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Tim: thanks for your vote of confidence and for the compliments. You won't see me running for city council any time soon. I feel I can make many more contributions to our city by working on the outside, and through my inside connections. The dirty business of politics, as its being shaped by the tiny minority of vocal disenters from progress here, isn't something I'm interested in.

I have many other business pursuits that take up too much of my time to be nuts and bolts of partisan politics. I take time here from some of my important meetings with valley leaders to provide some intellectual direction and balance to the discussions about our city so that they aren't dominated by the anti-worker, anti-growth, NIMBYist Libertarians who dominate on this board but don't represent anyone but themselves.

Just the other night, I was talking to a VERY high profile VC who told me confidentially that business leaders are now very down on Palo Alto. Were not what we once were and we need leaders with vision more now than ever.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2008 at 3:03 pm

The latest post is not mine. However I really do thank Tim for his complimentary words.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Would the two Mikes please find some way to differentiate themselves? One could be Mike@ and the other Mike# or something.
Yes, Mike(whichever) would find it hard to get elected to the city council with his arrogant attitude about listening to what we the residents need, think or care about. Why bother with us when he can push his warped agenda through his buddies behind our backs? This way he can remain unaccountable to the people, while he wrecks the city.
Our job is just to provide the tax money. We're NOT to have a say in how it is used. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
People of Palo Alto take notice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm

LOL!! Looks like I'm making an impact, as some creative soul has taken the time to lampoon my great insights. :) This "new" Mike is edgy; I like it that s/he has taken my stuff "up a notch". Let's see more of this!

The last two posts, including the one that accepts Tim's very nice compliment, are not mine, but I do wish I could claim them as my own. This is inspired writing!

Back to business, we really do need to lighten up, point ourselves forward, and re-instill the gumption that we used to have, and seem to have lost as we've 'couch potatoed' our way through the last decade - figuring everything would just take c are of otself, "because we're Palo Alto.

We have GREAT public employees, who deserve every dime. Kudos to them - right, MIke?
:))


 +   Like this comment
Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2008 at 11:23 am

I agree...but I am biased ;-)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 15, 2008 at 1:20 pm

I don't know if this was already metioned in the thread as I really can't be bothered reading what has become personal attacks on other people. However, the vast majority of cities in California that particiate in the CALPERS system saw their classified employees attain the 2.7 at age 50 formula a few years ago. Palo Alto was one of the later cities to implement this. Palo Alto employees are not getting anything above and beyond what other cites offer except the medical on retirement benefits. Those do outweigh what most other cities offer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by "Fed"Up
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Most other cities offer inflated benefits too. - This is the problem everywhere in government. This will end maybe when the system is bankrupted?
Why wait?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Arnold
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 16, 2008 at 2:02 pm

It is 2.7 @ 55, not 50. That would of been much nicer!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Solon
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 17, 2008 at 11:36 am

What is the total, current or inflated dollar, total now owed, at the present time,for all current retirees, their spouses, future spouses, if applicable, medical, COLA?
is there a known figure? Should these figures be known to all, or uncalculated, or worse, secret?

Didn't our city hide employees figures for years, maybe in some years technically legally?
Somehow, I feel our acccountants and union leaders know things they are not telling us.
The annual, expected, and MAXIMUM due each retiree should be published in the paper at date of retirement. This is a public expense.
It looks like some will get more dollars for not working, than working. ANd certainly, the pension should not kick in if they are earning another income, at least proportionately.

Finally, if one starts a 30 year career today, retires at 55, this is on the average going to be a 50 -60 year committment and with spouse maybe 20 years younger with seven added life expectancy years, we are spending money on a 70 or 80 or even in some cases a 90 year horizon!

SO,what is the current maximum total per employee, and for all current and retired employees, over the next 60 years? $100,000,000? more?

ANd what is projected to be paid, for all current employees?
I suppose if you can start


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dallas
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 17, 2008 at 11:54 am

Solon,

Who are you to question the legitimate benefits earned by our hard working, dedicated city employees? These benefits - which were agreed to by many elected City Councils - are earned and are just compensation for the paltry salaries our hard working employees have to accept for working to serve the public rather than in the private sector.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Dallas,
WE the residents must pay their inflated salaries and benefits. And we should be getting much more for what we pay.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dallas
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Bob,

You get what you pay for. We have the BEST employees, so naturally we pay the most. That's natural, and fair. Moreover, our employees are so stressed from working hard hours and dealing with demanding citizens that we have in Palo Alto, that they NEED the salaries they get to relax in their rare downtime, when they don't have city business on their minds.

And they NEED the early retirements they get: anyone would be burned out after time working in the public sector - which those of you who have only private sector retirements cannot begin to understand. It is STRESSFUL to work in the hotwire environment of this city.

We should be lucky we can get the caliber of employee we do when we have only a 2.7 at 55 program for retirement. I wouldn't be surprised, and would support wholeheartedly, a move to retirement at more like 52 or even 50 over time with no loss in benefits. It's cruel to ask people to burn themselves out serving our interests, and then not support them in their golden years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2008 at 2:40 pm

If the Palo Alto City Council wastes any more time on things like banning UV protected signs, making resolutions on war with Iran or trying to regulate CO2 gases, they should be thrown out of office. Our city has real problems that need attention.
Meanwhile we pay to give city employees more in benefits than they would ever get in the private sector with less to show for it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dallas
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 17, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Bob,

Our Council is acting properly by taking a leadership role on the many important issues facing our world that also have big effects in Palo Alto. The Climate Change and Iran War issues are only two of these many things. I wholeheartedly support the Council expressing the will of the voters who put them there in these ways.

The second part of your quote only dovetails neatly into this. The reason the Council has the time and resources to put into important global issues is that the daily running of the city is handled so smoothly by our City Manager and his hardworking dedicated employees. We are paying for this kind of expertise and sacrifice when we expend funds on the wages and benefits you uncaringly complain about. Name a city better run than Palo ALto. You can't. That's because we pay for the best!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Dallas, Palo Alto is becomming a sewer just like San Francisco. It is losing businesses, falling into disrepair, filling up with homeless people and indulging in the same insane politics that has made San Francisco an unattractive place to live, work or raise a family. If Palo Alto keeps this up, the productive people will continue to leave and you and your friends will have zero revenue to play with for your silly "priorities".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Bob, Looks like you're on your way out. See ya! I hear that there are some underpriced homes in Patterson.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 29, 2008 at 9:29 pm

Dallas,
How did you determine that Palo Alto has the the BEST employees? That they are stressed from working hard hours?
Is 9 to 6 with lunch break is considered hard working hours? Perhaps in France:) I have been working 50 to 70 hour week in private sector for 15 years and have another 15 till I am 55, but I can't expect a pension anywhere close to 80% of my average yearly compensation. We are both engineers and we can not set aside in 401K more than 5% - 10% of our incomes, all the rest is spent on huge mortgage and property tax, as well as modest living expenses.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2008 at 4:59 pm

I believe Mike of College Terrace is a union member and probably a local gov employee, maybe even here. His attitude on every posting and topic is consistent. And somehow he has unlimited time to post. Hope its not on our nickle...but somehow I think it is.

The unions will loot pretty much all of the local governments and bankrupt them. Our city uses amateurs to negotiate with union professionals-who do you think wins? Remember the state negotiations with Enron under Gray Davis-same here on a smaller scale.

Private industry in Silicon Valley does not work this way. Work weeks for most are 50 hours and up.

And try to find Silicon Valley companies where the workers get off every other Friday!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2008 at 8:31 am

Hey Mike- go work for the city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2008 at 8:32 am

Mike, Forgot- HR is on the first floor, to the left.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Public Servant
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2008 at 8:44 am

Henry apparenty is upset that others have jobs they like that pay a living wage, while he's stuck paying the bills for what we have through his taxes. That's life, Henry. People upset about city worker benefits and salaries should have made better decisions when they were starting their careers. Now you'll be paying taxes for our pensions and nice retirements while struggling to retire on Social Security and a risky 401k well into your 60's, Meanwhile, we're enjoying life and retirement while we're still young enough to do so. I don't mean to rub it in, but choices have consequences. I'm sure glad I decided to work for the city. Maybe I earned a little less than I would have otherwise (though I'm not sure even that's so). But it sure is nice not to have to worry about retirement or medical expenses like most of the rest of you guys.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2008 at 12:06 am

This thread makes me very sad. It is one thing to argue that you are upset by city benefits to employees, but labeling them as lazy, pencil pushing, sub 40 hour per week workers, skipping out on Fridays, "jobs never changing", poor users of the English language, blood suckers is over the top. How many city employees do you know? In my city due to budget cuts over the past 5 years, all I have received is more work on my plate and less staff. I work into dinnertime, some weekends and have pulled all-nighters. Not too mention that all of these comparisons to private industry execs are interesting, considering most of the upper level managers, superintendents, etc. manage millions of dollars in their budgets. Just go with the facts and stop the name calling. I have one of those - as you say- "cush" city management jobs and I am looking at private industry since my option for financial growth is pretty next to nothing and my family can barely afford to live here (even on what you would say was my inflated salary). It is very hard to want to serve a community that bashes it's servants. For the most part, we feel a lot of pride in the work we do for our city. I just feel that some of you really should rethink your insults to those that are serving you. If you are all so unhappy with this issue, and comparing it to your situations, maybe you should look into city employment, run for council or join a commission. If you are arguing this point keep to the financial facts- since that was the original point, but stop labeling the vast majority that work hard for you. Every company has a few bad eggs!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2008 at 3:54 pm

To Public Servant,

I'm not upset. Read my post again. Do you think maybe I work for a city??!

I remember before the dot-com bust, friends in the private sector used to laugh at my salary. Now who is laughing!!


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