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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 4, 2006 10:57 AM. The previous post in this blog was Too late for today's paper. The next post in this blog is The rest of the story. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

One who keeps tearing around, one who can't move

One of the saddest times in the history of The Oregonian was when they switched to the fast-drying ink. Some marketing expert had told them that their circulation was declining because people didn't like getting ink on their hands reading the paper. And so they changed it. I believe it was the same time they made the pages smaller; the ink "improvement" was a tradeoff for less news to look at.

I call this sad because the new ink just doesn't work that well with Silly Putty. One of the traditional joys of Silly Putty was using it to lift an image off a newspaper and twisting and pulling the photo until it was funny. As kids, we used to spend hours goofing on Pope John XXIII and LBJ this way. Nowadays it's hard to do with the new, fast-drying ink.

We still get our laughs wherever we can, though, as we did today reading the O's story on the Portland City Council and its lack of consensus about the city's hideous police and fire retirement and disability system. The battle lines over the prospect of reforming that budget-buster are being drawn, and it looks like the status quo is coming out ahead.

The latest installment in the comedy was yesterday's council "work session," where Grampy Potter and Fireman Randy told Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman in no uncertain terms that they weren't going to let reform of the pension system go on the citywide ballot as a proposed charter amendment in May. Randy won't even let disability reform on the ballot, if it's up to him.

Big Pipe, who's looking for something to put on his resume besides skulking around trying to screw the Mount Tabor neighborhood, thinks the city has spent enough time "studying" and huffing and puffing about the bluecoat pension system. He wants a reform vote in the May primary.

Piping up with Potter and Leonard is Li'l Erik Sten, who has suddenly opined that he doesn't want the city to do anything rash. This is where the chuckles start, because it was Sten himself who, fresh from being laughed out of Enron's offices last summer when he tried to buy PGE, slapped together a truly hasty set of quick fixes that landed with a loud thud. Now he's all for caution.

Siding with Saltzman is Sam the Tram, who owes Big Pipe his vote on the pension and disability issue as a horse trade for Big Pipe's vote on the city's lobbyist registration system. But with Sten on the go-slow tip, it's 3 to 2 against a May vote on reform.

These guys crack me up. Grampy and the Fireman, of course, are two huge beneficiaries of the overpriced police and fire pension system -- hizzoner the mayor, being a former chief with lots of years on the force, has got to be in the top five of all ex-cops at the trough. Let's face it, these guys know on which side their bread is buttered, and they won't agree to allow any changes to go forward unless the unions are more or less on board. Which they certainly aren't with what Saltzman has in mind.

Danny Boy, meanwhile, probably doesn't care how the public referendum comes out, so long as it's on the same ballot as his hotly contested re-election bid. As long as he looks like the crusader on this one, the final outcome may not be all that important to him. But he's taking on some experienced hardball players in the police and fire labor organizations, and that's going to cost him some serious votes. It all makes for a sunny morning for Saltzman's main opponent, Amanda Fritz, who should try to stay out of the fray as long as she can.

The Stenmeister is also up for re-election -- 12 years of the guy isn't enough, we need 16 -- and it looks like he's, shall we say, cozying up to the unions on this one. You don't suppose, do you, that this has anything to do with the fact that he's currently trying to raise his 1,000 $5 contributions so that he can get "clean money" taxpayer financing for his campaign, which is also going to be a bear? One wonders how many men and women in blue are more inclined to flow a fivespot to Sten now that he's protecting their pork pot (at least for the moment).

As I say, if you follow these matters, it's all fairly amusing. But the funniest part of the whole thing is the file photo of Sten that the O used among the council head shots illustrating its article today. It's none other than the infamous "Opie shot the squirrel" pic from the day Sten got home from New York and his big PGE play with a shoeprint on his derriere:

Man, I thought I was rough on the guy. If the city's best daily newspaper is going to make that their stock shot of Sten, then this could be its funniest year ever, even without the Silly Putty.

Comments (44)

I gotta admit that I haven't been following this one much, living well outside stumptown and all. But does this really need a charter amendment to fix? If so, how'd the pension system get into the charter in the first place?

Am I naiive for thinking that Leonard and Potter should recuse themselves from the vote, as it is about as blatant a conflict of interest as I have ever seen?

(I know the answer is "yes," so count this as more rhetorical than anything else.)

The real problem is that any politician who votes to limit the pensions knows that his next opponent will get the cop endorsement, and thus he'll be tagged with the "soft on crime" label.

Some very simple changes could be made to the FPD&R without any vote, just administrative changes, that would save the taxpayers hugely. The easiest one would be to require safety officers to exhaust their accrued sick time before they go out on disability. Currently they do not have to. In some cases, safety officers that have been out on disability for a long time still receive fat checks for accrued sick time when they retire. According to one OMF employee, these checks are often five figures.

Well, how convenient the pro-biz Oregonian use this 'gotcha' shot of Sten. Why is this community so gleeful in the Enron snub for PGE? I work in the industry and I know firsthand that a PUD would benefit all ratepayers, especially business owners. The cynical and the Lars-lovers in this city are so frothed by Sten they don't even see how ironic their view is. Sometimes I wonder how much his appearance rubs conservatives the wrong way, much the way some 'uppity' women do (Diane Linn anyone?).

Your comment, Jack, that “Randy won't even let disability reform on the ballot, if it's up to him” could not be more wrong.

Not only do I want amendments to the fire and police pension and disability system to be put on the ballot, I actually want voters to approve them. However, I am becoming increasingly convinced that not all of my colleagues are as committed to the latter as they are the former.

Dan Saltzman’s goal is to place his ideas for changes to the disability system on the ballot in May to coincide with his re-election campaign for City Council. In doing so, Commissioner Saltzman is setting aside the City’s best interests in favor of his own political interests and he’s squandering a real opportunity to develop and fully vet a proposal that will truly fix the system and win at the polls.

To illustrate the haste and lightly considered nature of Commissioner Saltzman’s proposal, until yesterday’s hearing, the question of whether or not firefighters and police officers would be covered by Social Security, as their counterparts around the state are, was not answered. Additionally, it has not been resolved whether or not firefighters and police officers are covered if they contract Hepatitis C, HIV, or have a heart attack. These are major issues that dramatically affect the lives of firefighters and police and their families, and to even bring forward a proposal that has not thoroughly considered these items is irresponsible.
I believe that the system can be changed in a way that addresses every legitimate criticism that has been levied against it with both the fire and police unions supporting those changes.

It is Wednesday afternoon as I write this. Commissioner Saltzman is proposing to draft and present to the council a final product for us to vote on by next Wednesday morning--a complete rewrite of Portland’s firefighters, police officers and their survivors disability and retirement system written in the span of a week.

Anyone who truly wants to change this system should be offended by such obvious political grandstanding that is guaranteed to hand the opponents (the fire and police unions) all of the fodder they need to mount an effective campaign to defeat the measure before the voters in May. That will be an unfortunate squandering of a real political opportunity to change a system that needs to be fixed.

By contrast, anyone who wants to maintain the status quo should embrace Commissioners Saltzman’s approach…a strategy reminiscent of the same process he employed when he attempted to cover the reservoirs at Mt. Tabor.

Finally, I earned a retirement pension as a result of spending 25 years as a Portland firefighter. If the voters choose to modify or scrap the current system completely, no one is suggesting that current retiree’s benefits would change. If any of the changes proposed or contemplated were to have a direct or indirect impact on my pension, I would immediately recuse myself. That is not the case.

I actually personally have more at stake financially in the final outcome of the electricity rate setting process I have initiated with PGE than I would ever have with whatever changes happen to the fire and police pension and disability system.

It's the first Sten photo I've seen that makes him look old enough to drink.

Put some coke bottle glasses on him, and he could be Mr. Magoo (click on my URL to see a similar Magoo photo).

My mistake: here's the correct URL (click on my name or type: 2005/03/22/mr_magoo.jpg

I don't see why this issue has to be so complicated.

Why not just treat the firefighters and police officers just like the workers at McDonald's? Or construction workers? Or anyone in the private sector for that matter.

A lot of people in the private sector have dangerous and stressful employment and their benefits as far as disability and retirement should be good enough for public employees.

Please, do not put this issue on Sten's desk. He is nothing but a conduit for the city of Portland taxpayer to the nearest consultant. We can't afford Sten anymore (actually we never could, it's just that he's proved us right.)

Don't forget that the legislature and PERS want to have in independent look.

The pay-as-you-go Portland safety worker's pension system looks awfully juicing for a billion dollars in bonds, just at the outset, for delivery to the investment wizards (modern central planners and their oh-so-wholesome allocation of resources).

This is a wedge issue, behind the scenes, where the investment bankers might get to all the parties, to convert the system to a fund (an investment slush fund); but they want a hand in how it is invested (all as arbitrarily as the grandest of centrally planned economies) . . . just as with OIC/TPG's bid on PGE.

Terminate, in total . . . then settle up with annuities in future years, but without a dime put into the hands of the OIC. Then get a fresh start (perhaps) without any notion or whiff of dual tiers going forward.

Don't get distracted by the bouncing balls they have rolled our way.

Anyone who truly wants to change this system should be offended by such obvious political grandstanding (of Saltzman)..

Does this mean you'll be endorsing Amanda, Commissioner? (Sorry...I couldn't resist.)

I actually agree you need the police and fire fighter's buyoff on any dramatic change to the system. But when I hear the committe unanimously calling for a funded system, versus the pay-as-you-go system so many are attached to...where's the common ground for negotiating a way out of the impasse?

My bro is or was a fireman, and did need the retirement system, it is hard on those guys to do that type of work, and as the 9-11 fireman and police offices demonstrated they go in when most of us would run in the other direction. My brother developed smoke sensitivity and had breathing problems from his work, he had an inhaler, and I know as he approached the big 50 and retirement we were scared that he would have a heart attack with his breathing problems on a call out. We had summer neighbors at the lake from Jack's hometown of Newark, and I remember back in the 60's one of them telling a story that stuck with me about the neighborhood cop everyone loved being brought into the emergency room during the race riots, having been killed by being run over repeatedly by a shopping cart.

That being said, my brother who did not work in this state, got his pension but still works for a local lumber supply house, and with his fire retirement as a suppliment not a substitution, he is able to maintain his lifestyle.

You can't ask these guys to do this type of work and dedicate thier most productive younger years to this stressful type of career without offering them a way to retire early before they have a heart attack or their bodies give out on them, but I don't think they need to be totally put out to pasture either. I think the early retirement with some compensation that would make up for the status and senoirity they would have in another career that would take them to retirement age like my brother's department made sense.

The Stories that were in the Oregonian were clearly well beyond that. There are a lot of things that the City needs good solid people on, like a Youth CCC and urban wildfire prevention. These folks instead of sitting around on disability if they are able could be very productive supervising a jobs program.

Actually, there is no disagreement from the police or fire unions to fund the system.

Also, there is also no disagreement to dramatically redefine disability to cause recovering firefighters and police officers to return to light duty positions while they recover from their injuries.

It is exactly for the lack of disagreement on the biggest reasons that I am so frustrated we can't move ahead on the big agreements and get them passed and implemented.

As you may be aware, Dan is a tremendous advocate on a number of important issues, particularly dealing with children.

However, no one has ever accused him of being too quick to compromise.

Having said that, by and large, Dan and I agree far more often than we do not.

Randy: Is a cutback of benefits for old guys like you and the mayor so totally out of the question? And assuming that it isn't, what are the chances of you two saying, "You're right, the pension is too generous, and it needs to be cut back, for work performed starting today"?

Forgive us for thinking that your ability to approach this subject with an open mind is impaired. Needing to keep saying "I can still be objective" is one of the warning signs of an ethical lapse.

Tom Potter and I are but two of the approx two thousand retired firefighters and police officers who have done what they promised, provided a career service to the citizens of Portland, in exchange for what they were promised, a retirement.

In my case, after 25 years, I receive $48,000 and year and never was a member of social security due to my employment with the city.

Even though I have earned qualifying social security credits outside of my employment with the Fire Bureau, because I worked for a non social security employer, the social security benefit I receive will be substantially discounted. After I die, my wife's widow portion is substantially discounted as well.

All retired Portland firefighters and police officers are stuck with that fate.

So no, Jack, I do not think there is any public rationale, justification or fairness in me agreeing to -or even being asked- to take a smaller pension than what I agreed to when I entered into my contract with the city to provide them my services as a frontline firefighter for 25 years.

As far as reducing pension benefits for current members, of course that has to be on the table.

The fatal flaw, however, in accomplishing anything that challenging is the strategy Commissioner Saltzman is currently employing. Firefighters and police officers respond poorly if they think they are being bullied or rolled. They are trained to be aggressive when threatened and Dan's approach is causing them to revert to that instinct as opposed to reasoning with them and negotiating a more rationale, balanced package.

If Dan gets his third vote, you will observe loud and clear on the Portland political scene what I am predicting here leading up to the May vote.

And do not underestimate the good will both firefighters and police officers have with Portland voters when asked for help by their firefighters and police officers.

That is why the auditor and the citizen representative appointed by the entire city council to the FPD&R said yesterday, though the Oregonian failed to report it, that attempting to rush the language to make the May ballot is a mistake and will make it all but impossible to get voter approval.

That is really all I am saying as well. I have ideas as to what the fix could be, but in the final analysis I will support any proposal that is achieved as a result of a true compromise that all parties can agree on as long as it funds the retirement portion and substantially reduces the number of injured fire and police on disability.

"Forgive us for thinking that your ability to approach this subject with an open mind is impaired."

Maybe I missed something, Jack, but where does it say that an elected official needs to be objective on the issues we deal with.

I have said I did not have a conflict of interest, because I don't. I am not, however, I readily admit, objective about making sure injured firefighters and police officers are treated fairly when they are injured doing their jobs.

I lived and worked with men and women in the Portland Fire Bureau for 24 years and 10 months. While the good people of Portland were home safe and sound asleep, we worked all night long responding to every possible human situation you can imagine, Jack...and some you can't.

I have sat at the bedside of people I worked with -and loved- as they passed from this world to the next from diseases they contracted on the job. I have helped young families left fatherless, hopeless and in utter despair after their young firefighter, father, husband died suddenly and unexpectedly from job related heart disease.

I lived and breathed, more than most firefighters, my profession for just under 25 years. I have never said, implied or led anyone to think I am not biased when it comes to dealing with the benefits for injured firefighters and police officers. I am. And I am sorry if I led you to believe I am not.

But I know it and I am conscious of it. I will always give them the benefit of the doubt...but only when I have a doubt.

I would hope the fire and police bureaus would tell you that since I have been on the council they have never been able to take me for granted.

I have been very tough on them, such as both the fire and police budgets last year, where I identified cuts in both bureaus that had gone right over Commissioner Saltzman's head.

I will be fair, but I am biased towards supporting anyone's disability benefits who is willing to give their life in order to save an innocent.

Commissioner Leonard, I whole-heartedly support our public safety officers who every working day risk their lives to protect their fellow citizens. I thank them and you for your service.

I must ask however will you support a disability system that still offers protections that those officers deserve, BUT which is overseen by a fair, impartial body?

The current disability system is structured so that members of the police and fire departments control all decisions relating to disability approvals or denials, please see the City Charter section 5-201(a). This system has proven to have abuses, which I believe does more to taint the view of our public safety officers that actually serve those deserving of protections.

"I must ask however will you support a disability system that still offers protections that those officers deserve, BUT which is overseen by a fair, impartial body?"


Randy, as ever, thanks for the candid responses.

Pardon me for entering such an elevated discussion, but you incorrectly call the Erik Sten picture, the “Opie shot the squirrel” pic. A true follower of the Andy Griffith Show would know that Opie shot a mother bird, and then Andy had him raise the baby birds and release them into the wild to teach the youngster about taking responsibility. If we let this sort of thing slide, we’ll be looking squarely at the end of our civilization; that is if we aren’t already.

Randy -- "as long as it funds the retirement portion"

Oregon law contains parameters for regulating private insurance companies in their offering of annuities, with particular attention to the investment of the assets held to cover such future annuity obligations.

The issue in the bankruptcy court between the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and United Airlines was the assumption on earnings held to cover future annuity promises. That is, the measure of the promises is one question, and the amount of money held to cover it, and by whom, is an entirely different question.

If you drop the assumptions of grand returns in the stock market (and private equity market, etc.) then the need to "fund" the system becomes just a scheme to opportunistically treat an apparent liability for overpayment in future years into an excuse to convert such presumed liability into bond-proceed-assets to treat as play money. It exacerbates the risk.

Nothing prevents you, or any police officer or firefighter, to insist upon an annuity payment, either by retaining the present governmental pay-as-you-go system (an unchanged legal obligation) or through a payment to a private insurance company to cover future annuity payments. Such arrangements to assure payment of annuities by private companies that are dissolved, to honor retiree promises, are not uncommon.

Tell me why a private annuity contract is not OK, or that somehow fails to cover any legally compellable promise for work already performed. If the assumed returns are conservative, as is consistent with the decision of the bankruptcy judge in the United Airlines case, then the size of the fund to cover the annuities, upfront, would need to be LARGER, not smaller. The pay-as-you-go system is cheaper than a fully funded plan where the assumed returns, consistent with annuities, are lower than the cost to borrow. (Frank, I hope this clarifies the issue of full funding for you too, from an economics angle.)

The Portland Auditor deferred, in the last printed audit, as to Portland's PERS bonds, to others within the city bureaucracy that government borrowing to make private investments makes economic sense. This remains starkly in violation of the Oregon constitutional prohibition on the state (and governmental subdivisions) taking an interest in private enterprise. Your full-funding vision is equally unlawful, at the outset, even if it takes 20 years before folks and judges come to their senses on this matter.

Nevertheless, I would not likely be able to convince a judge that the "public policy" characterization of any decision you make is unlawful, as against my mere difference of opinion. Even the Oregon State Bar does not give a second thought to delivery of money for their staff to PERS for investment in private enterprise. I am swimming upstream in some rapids, I already know this. Is it your belief that it is wise to invest borrowed money, or to commit present tax resources, into private enterprise, in the name of the citizens of the City of Portland, as a purely "public policy" matter, as is consistent with a judge's likely characterization of such a decision?

(This, of course, is applicable equally to all the council members and the mayor, while only Randy dares to post thoughts here. Tom?)

There's no issue as to a conflict of interest in Randy's and the Mayor's participating in a vote on the system. Both of them are retired, and their retirement benefits are constitutionally protected under the law. In fact, the retirement benefits of every existing police officer and firefighter are constitutionally protected. The City couldn't change those benefits if it wanted to.

The decision the City Council faces on the retirement end is what the benefits will be for those after any charter change in approved. Randy and the Mayor are entirely unaffected by that decision from a personal financial perspective

Randy and Tom, do you have any data of comparing Portland's Police/Firemen retirement benefits (whole package less SS) and those of other US cities with similar cost-of-living/demographics? Do you have any data on city/counties or other government jurisdictions where decision making concerning disabilities approvals are almost/all "in-house" like Portland's?

Commissioner Randy wrongly puts the blame on Dan Saltzman about the Tabor reservoir covers plan. He should know better that it was Eric Sten who originally hatched the plan to cover rather than fence the reservoirs. He and the rest of the council went along willingly with Eric's plan (now used by Seattle), which if the EPA gets its way, Portland will have to do anyway. Seems Dan was trying to save the city money. Sooner or later the city may have to pay twice as much for the same covers that were a bargain on Ebay.

Wait a cotton-pickin' minute!!! Many PERS recipients are currently being challenged by the State and voters, who are getting themselves in a tizzy, over the amount public employees can expect to receive in their pension. What makes Leonard and fire department or police employees any more special than others? Why should their retroactive benefits be more secure than any other public employee? The same argument applies: "This is what I was promised, so I will not take anything less."

Furthermore, Mr. Fireman, that's exactly what employees at United Airlines, Delphi/General Motors, and an increasing number of private sector employees are having to face. For that matter, Veterans of the armed forces and just about every American who has ever paid into social security, is facing the same kind of pressure to restrain costs as Portland police and firemen. Yeah, you're job was dangerous, but so is falling logs in a forest or dynamiting quarries. The Veteran's Administration is being incredibily underfunded for people who took bullets in combat and have depleted uranium exposure.

In pure principal, Randy, I agree. However, if you are so much a matter of principal, why aren't you forcing City Council resolutions on the crap the Bush Admin is pulling on the VA? Would you support an ethics penalty for United terminals at PDX?

Also, Leonard has been very bullish and aggresive in his style on City Council, pushing measures in the bravado you need to tell other people what is right with them. Yet when you are discussing something that drops $48,000/year into your pocket, suddenly you are very go-slow and interested in building consensus.

While you're feeding at the public trough, Randy, at least have the decency to be consistent in your style. I'm smelling the other side of the pig pen.

"This is what I was promised, so anything else is a breach of contract" is not an unreasonable position to take. You can hardly blame 'em for not going down without a fight.

That's pretty funny Randy using the words "fair" and "impartial" while trying to defend yourself. Randy, the average person living in the metro area can always see that your fair and impartial in all your dealings.....

I have seen people rationalize the damndest things but Leonard has to be at the top of the list. If one looks back on his recent "public service", you will see a **** **** man who constantly runs around trying to "get" his perceived enemies.

With respect to his $48,000 a year pension and SS, how much he think he would receive from SS for working not 25 but 40 years. Nothing until he was 65 and around $1,000 a month then. Let's see, 25 years gets $48,000...hmmm that means 40 years would qualify Rabid Randy for $76,400 in pension per annum for a job that, believe it or not, does not require a Phd.

As far as the relative contributions of cops to society, they are necessary but too many of them don't have a clue about how to interact with the people they are supposed to be serving. Firemen, on the other hand, spend half of their "working" hours doing nothing. How many firemen do you know who have second jobs because of the hours they work?

Firemen and cops aren't any more useful to society than preachers, nurses, teachers, bankers, businessmen, doctors and damn less than a good thai restaurant. Have you ever had a cop make a good tomyum? Ever see a fireman make a decent plate of larb? No!! On the other hand, have you ever have some pimply faced cop write you or someone you know a ticket for some idiot offense such as going 5 miles over the limit at 9:00 on a Sunday morning? You get my drift....

I must be missing something.

I don't know why Randy Leonard would have any credibility on this issue with anyone.
He has been involved in creating the problem for years and has had ample opportunities to make the system affordable and sustainable. He did not for perfectly obvious reasons.

What gives here?
He should have acted as an elected public official long ago and fixed this problem.
Now he's acting like he just found out about it and wants everyone to follow his lead?

The pay-as-you-go system is cheaper than a fully funded plan where the assumed returns, consistent with annuities, are lower than the cost to borrow. (Frank, I hope this clarifies the issue of full funding for you too, from an economics angle.)

If the assumed returns are less than the cost of borrowing money, then, well, sure. But the City borrows money very cheaply...and there are good returns to be had out there, so I don't follow this logic at all, Ron.

According to figures that were presented to the city's Small Business Advisory Council Portland's safety officers are out on disability at a rate twenty times greater than the statewide average. Francesconi was advocating for reform in disability case management but he didn't get anywhere with it.


Capitalism places the risk of loss together with the opportunity for gain into the hands of each identifiable capitalist.

The obligations under the present system are not due and payable until a future date. If it is to be changed to a funded system then this accelerates such future payment obligations to today, for the current non-retired workers. (Leaving aside retired folks.)

The mechanism for such acceleration (for purposes of a judicially cognizable case that comports with finality) would be full termination of the entire pension system and reduction of the obligations to a set of fixed annuity payments, that are again not due until the beneficiaries reach retirement age.

If an individual beneficiary wants their money now, immediately, rather than upon reaching retirement age, then it must be a one time, and one time only, kind of thing in full and complete satisfaction of all obligations pertaining to claimed accrued rights thus far earned. The city must get a release from all further liability as to that particular claimant. Such claimants that would prefer to go play in the stock market can then go do so to their heart's content. I won't stop them, as long as it is on their own accounts.

More: The O's Trial Balloon, Multiple Tier Nightmare

Frank, capitalism places the risk of loss together with the opportunity for gain into the hands of each identifiable capitalist.

So all that money I lost in my PERS account, from investments I have no control over...I can recover from some "identifiable capitalist?"

Can I have his name please?...I have a few words to say to him.

I'm sure the retirees at PGE, Delta, Bethlehem Steel, and IBM would like to have similar conversations.

Well, so much for pension we wait till november thanks to rabid randy and peter potter...the dastardly double dippers.

Very alliterative, Mr. Wade, but (to my knowledge) neither accurate nor fair.

This is just too much. Jack may ban me for it, but you've earned what follows.

Apparently you are bereft of the capacity to make an actual rational argument. (But I suppose I can't hold that against you, since that is not such an uncommon failing on the internet.) In your last several posts you have resorted to base name-calling. Is your mind too vacant to be capable of more? I thought I saw a glimer of actual thought there for a post or two... did you accidentally sober up? Did the weed you keep in you gun safe briefly run out?

These guys worked for the City under contract. You're familiar with contracts, right? The contract promised them some specific benefits in exchange for their service. The are now collecting those benefits. That is not double-dipping.

The contracts may have been foolishly generous, but that would be the fault of the city. They each worked many years in non-leadership positions. But once they did lead their agencies, no city council should have let either of them negotiate in the midst of a conflict-of-interest. No one coming up through the ranks is going to be able to negotiate on the city's behalf without a conflicted interest, which should have been obvious to everyone. If that happened, that's the council's malfeasance, not theirs.

You, sirra, are a villain. You seem to think that winning the point for your side is more important that arriving at a fair and honest result. You have been seen to make up "facts" out of thin air to support your point, and you abuse your opponents no matter how polite they are to you. Such people are often called politicians... or worse. You should be ashamed of yourself, but I expect that (like Pat Robertson) you live in a dream-world where you can do no wrong. Well, I have a little news for you.


I'm ready for my time-out now, Mr. Bogdanski.

On further consideration, I realized that my remarks above were intemperate.

Mr. Wade may write as if he is having paranoid hallucinations, but I don't mean to claim that he actually keeps illegal substances at home. So please let me clarify that the bit about weed in the gun safe was rhetorical and speculative, not a claim of actual fact. I have no knowledge of such a thing, it is almost certainly not true, and I don't wish to besmirch whatever poor reputation he might retain. I apologize for any confusion.

(This follow-up brought to you by the fear of libel suits, a much more rational fear than the fear of terrorists.)

Dear Alan: Thank you for your delighful post. It is not often that one confronts such animosity about making fun of public figures, so I will try to explain the problem to you so that you can see why Potter and Leonard are such jerks.

Number one: The city of Portland pays out millions and millions of dollars to cops and firemen who are able to work and do not. As noted by one of the other posters, the city has many more times the percentage of cops and firemen on stress disability than surrounding or similar cities.

Number 2: The cops and firemen receive ungodly pensions that are not funded. This means that the city must raise more and more taxes every year to fund future pension payments. There is no fund or money in the bank as one would have in an IRA or other funded plan

As soon as you get over your snit, you should be able to understand what is going on. Rabid Randy of the cell phone tax would receive a pension of $76,000 a year if he worked as most of us do for 40 years at a job or jobs. Under the current system, he decided to retire after 25 years. If he had started work as a fireman for the city at 22, he would have retired at 47. His life expectancy at 47 would be around 78 years. Theis means the city must pay him for 21 years. Even without adjustment, this means the city must raise one million and eight thousand ($1,008,000) dollars in taxes to fund a single pension.

The city doesn't have a million dollars for every retired fireman. The only thing Leonard and Potter do to address this problem is stall and keep tryin to find more taxes to fund this insanity.

You may ask why does the city have so many cops drawing disability claims? The answer is pretty easy once one looks at the people who decide whether or not such claims are justified. As noted before the fox has been chosen to guard the henhouse.

With respect to your contract argument, the city is a municipal corporation. If the city council enters into a corrupt and foolish contract, it doesn't mean that the city is stuck with it forever.

Ask yourself what will happen if the city cannot raise the funds to to pay the pensions. Think about what happens to other retirees with unfunded pensions when the company or union goes bust? Remember Orange County and the payments of pensions to dead ex-employees? You may also want to check with a United employee or former employee.

If you want to make an arguement contra, give it a shot. In addition, you may want to move into the city so that you can help us residents to pay for this boondoggle.

Finally, point out anyone who I referred to in uncomplimentary terms who is not a politician. Unlike you, I try to limit disparagement to groups or public figures as do most of the posters in these blogs. If you are so damn upset about Rabid Randy and Peter Potter, what is your reaction to the barbs thrown at the the President? I am sure that this gets you frothing at the mouth and am waiting with baited breath for a coherent response to this post and a rant addressed to the detractors of the President.

"...waiting with baited breath..."

Been eating worms again?

But seriously.

I understand it's a bad deal for the city. I understand that it would be a Really Good Idea to get the heck out from under it to a fully-funded plan. (Honestly, if I had a pension plan I'd want my plan funded.) I have no argument against that. Go to it, boys and girls.

But what you describe is in no way an ethical lapse or any flavor of dastardly double dipping. If the chickens elect the foxes to lead them, the blame for the resulting debacle lies with the chickens.

That was a terrible thing to say. Shame on you. You make a habit of argument by ridicule, and you appear capable of doing better. It's pathetic that you're making such a poor effort.

"With respect to your contract argument, the city is a municipal corporation. If the city council enters into a corrupt and foolish contract, it doesn't mean that the city is stuck with it forever."

If the city has the authority to breach this contract with respect to past obligations, then it may choose to do so. But it's still a breach of contract... if they can breach this one, what else can they breach? Do you really want to let them breach any contract they want just because they think it is expedient to do so?

The law may allow that (although I doubt it) but it doesn't sound like a good idea.

As for the president, that situation is somewhat different than with Mr. Leonard. Here, I really have no interest. I haven't lived in PDX for years and I am unlikely to live there again. I actually do qualify as an impartial observer here. With the president, I am not impartial and I don't pretend to be. I think he has made some highly questionable choices. (Apparently, I'm not the only one.) You'll note that I rarely (if ever?) say anything personally disparaging of Mr. Bush... I try to only comment on his administration's policies. You, however, have been throwing unfounded accusations, spurious purported facts, and heaps of insults in every leftward direction.

It's not neccessary, it doesn't make your arguments any stronger, and it makes you sound like Jack P--k... but he at least had the virtue of being entertaining.

I hate to throw cold water on your vitriol, Ron, but your creation of facts is too much for me to ignore.

I was too young to retire at age 50 -and that is the minimum retirement age- and without 25 years of service a firefighter or police officer must work until age 55.

In any case, no firefighter or police officer can earn credits for retirement beyond 30 years worth of service though many work beyond 30 years anyway.

RR: Sorry Charlie...I will try it again. Whether one retires at 47 or, God Help Us, has to wait until they are the ripe old age of 50, the city is forced to pay outlandish sums. My addition was, however, erroneous I?t resulted in too low a burden on the home owners of this city.

If one retires at 50 and lives to be 78, that is 28 years. 28 x $48,000 (for 25 years at the job) equals $1,344,000.

My God, you have thrown not water but gasoline on the fire. (kinda reminds me of Bradbury's 4ll) So, you actually think that your 25 years as a fireman is worth the generous pay and benefits you recieved plus ONE MILLION, THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS in taxes from the citizens of this city? Why should the residents of this city add funding for such benefits to our already high real property taxes so that a skilled blue collar workers can work for 25 years for good wage and benefits and then root at the city's trough for the rest of his or her life. Let me know what private employer provides such benefits.

Has it ever occurred to you that you are simply ripping of the city and as long as you get your pound of flesh that you could care less about the taxpayers?

Is there anything that you don't want to tax? Remeber house bill 2550? Remember when you told us that you had the cell phone tax in the bag and were actually proud of coming up with another way to wrest more money from the taxpayer and moaned when the public rebelled and blamed it on out of state interests. You may also want to consider whether anyone with a shred of decency wouldn't recuse themselves from arm twisting and voting on their own pension.

What is really cool is if two firepersons marry or live together, retire at 50 and live till they are 85. Let's see....35x2x$48,000=$3,360,000. That is a heck of a lot of property taxes.

QUESTIONS: Have you ever worked for any length of time in the private sector? Did you ever serve in the Armed Forces? Have you ever paid the city business tax? Ever get a business license? How did you vote on Kohler's pet tram? Why did the developers and doctors get such tax breaks? You correctly pointed out the Pearl district tax breaks for the city's "elite" and the malfeasance of PDC for the millionaires, how about raising hell about the fiasco on Macadam? Why should a group of doctors get tax breaks on their office buildings? Why does PDC sell buildings to insiders for a small percentage of the city's cost?

Hey Ron,

It's actually $48,000 / (1+r)^t for each year, giving us roughly a current liability of about $800,000 to plan for Mr. Leonard, assuming he lives 25 years.

And you, Randy L,

Let us not forget that positions with the fire department in this town have always been easy to fill. The city has always paid firemen a significant premium to what private ambulance companies, for example, pay. Anytime in your career that you decided it wasn't worth it risking you butt so the rest of us could sleep safe and sound, you could have quit and there would have a stack of applications from people hoping to replace you. Flashback to '74 or '82... All the people sleeping safely so they could go stand in the unemployment line the next day with the other 10% of the workforce that was trying to find a job.

Fully 80% of City Council came off the public dole. They don't represent the majority of the citizens who live with at-will employment and the uncertainty of economic fluctuations.

Frank -- "I have no control over"

You have the right, a federal constitutionally provided liberty interest, to demand to individually opt out. Really. If you feel restricted in your choice then that is a feeling that is best characterized as a "cry for liberty."

Mr. Wade -- "rabid randy and peter potter"

The City does not need authority from a city charter to join PERS, as that authority is provided by state statutes that govern local governments. The only legal context for the charter vote is to repeal the current city provided pension system.

I can target the bonding issues (the cry for full funding) in court. Particularly the fixed annuity streams for the retired beneficiaries, which would neither go up or down based on funding or non-funding, or repeal or modification of the pension provisions in the charter. GASB is irrelevant too, BTW.


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

In Vino Veritas

Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
MarchigĂĽe, Cabernet 2013
Inazío Irruzola, Getariako Txakolina Rosé 2015
Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio 2015
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Avissi, Prosecco
Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
Pique Poul, Rosé 2016
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
GascĂłn, Colosal Red 2013
Cardwell Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
Tomassi, Valpolicella, Rafaél, 2014
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2013
Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2013
Locations, Spanish Red Wine
Locations, Argentinian Red Wine
La Antigua Clásico, Rioja 2011
Shatter, Grenache, Maury 2012
Argyle, Vintage Brut 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
Benton Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
Primarius, Pinot Gris 2015
Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
J. Bookwalter, Protagonist 2012
LAN, Rioja Edicion Limitada 2011
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2009
Denada Cellars, Cabernet, Maipo Valley 2014
MarchigĂĽe, Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2013
Oberon, Cabernet 2014
Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
Balboa, Rose of Grenache 2015
Ontañón, Rioja Reserva 2015
Three Horse Ranch, Pinot Gris 2014
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
Nelms Road, Merlot 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris 2014
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2013
Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
G3, Cabernet 2013
Chateau Smith, Cabernet, Washington State 2014
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16
Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
King Estate, Pinot Gris 2015
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2015
Trader Joe's, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2015
La Vite Lucente, Toscana Red 2013
St. Francis, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria DermoČ—t - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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