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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 20, 2008 3:12 AM. The previous post in this blog was ORslogs. The next post in this blog is This week's bozos. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

If we're going bankrupt, let's get there as soon as possible

Last week, the City of Portland revealed that its estimate of its unfunded pension and disability liability for police and firefighters had been underestimated by as much as $400 million -- bringing the current total to nearly $2.5 billion. Billion, with a B. And growing every year at an astounding clip.

Suffice it to say, debts of this magnitude are not sustainable, and it would be patently illegal for a private company to let that kind of retiree liability hang around without anything put aside to pay it off. Somewhere down the line, either essential municipal services are going to be severely cut, or else those expensive pension promises aren't going to be honored. You can't have it both ways.

At a time like this, you would think that the city fathers would be looking for ways to tighten up on pension and disability benefits, rather than expanding them. But you'd be forgetting that Mayor Grampy and the city's street toilet commissioner, Fireman Randy, both feed with great gusto at the police and fire pension trough themselves, and so such thoughts will never, ever enter their heads. Indeed, the entire City Council is scared to death of the police and firefighters' unions, and the commissioners know that if they cross the bureaucrat labor bosses, they'll wind up with a lot of free time to drink coffee with Greg Macpherson down at Papaccino's in the near future.

And so what do we read in the news this week? They're planning to change the disability rules so that any firefighter who gets cancer while employed by the city will automatically get to retire on job-related disability benefits. The employees won't have to prove that the cancer had anything to do with their job -- they could be exposing themselves to all manner of carcinogens in their personal habits and hobbies, and it wouldn't matter. Cigs, chew, nitrites, paint fumes -- irrelevant. They'd still get to collect, automatically.

Now that's overstating it, but only a little. The proposed change would presume conclusively that a long list of cancers (but not all) were job-related. As reported the other day by Maximum Maxine in the O:

Under the latest proposal, the following 12 forms of cancer would be assumed to be job-related when diagnosed in a firefighter: brain, colon, stomach, testicular, prostate, mouth, throat, breast, rectal, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia.

Oregon firefighters now have to prove such cancers are job-related to get workers' compensation or Portland disability benefits. The city's public safety disability fund considers occupational diseases to include heart disease, certain hernias, AIDS or AIDS-related diseases, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and pneumonia.

Linda Jefferson, director of the Portland Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund, and Yvonne Deckard, chairwoman of the fund's board, say the fund's costs could increase significantly if the 12 cancers are added, noting that the city's firefighting force is the largest in the state. They counter that medical studies found firefighting was a "probable" cause in only three of the cancers -- myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate.

Given that the police and fire pension fund is itself a kind of cancer -- on the city's financial future, that is -- I suppose that this change is deliciously appropriate. But the three commissioners who are all gung-ho about this -- Fireman Randy, Sam the Tram, and Nick "Sardine" Fish -- ought to have their heads examined. On the City Council, the main occupational disease seems to be financial irresponsibility.

Comments (15)

I agree that now in particular is the absolute worst time imaginable for them to be making the benefits trough bigger than it already is. You would think that politicians would know better, but then again maybe they think we're all stupid and won't remember by the time the next election rolls around. We need to do right by our firefighters, but this one just doesn't pass the smell test in my opinion.

DOn't forget also that to get a disability claim, a claimant only has to have his doctor say so. PFDR can't have another doctor look at the case for an opinion.

Maybe people will see Randy for the self-serving type he is when he created PFDR.

The unions bought and paid for all our city commissioners, with the possible exception of Tom Potter (union member). They have every right to except a return on their investment.

I saw the AFSMCE boss walking out of City Hall with two big briefcases yesterday: I wish I had the guts to ask him if they were stuffed full of cash.

"then again maybe they think we're all stupid"

How do you think they keep getting re-elected?

But none of that is real spending, because it's in the FUTURE, see?

SUV Salesman: "Ok, heres how your lease breaks down... this is your down payment, then here's your monthly, annnnnnnnnd there's your weekly."

Homer Simpson: "And that's it, right?"

SUV Salesman: "Yup... oh, then after your final monthly payment there's the routine CBP, or (mutters almost inaudibly) Crippling Balloon Payment."

Homer: "But that's not for a while, right?"

Salesman: "Right!"

Homer - "Sweet!"

Yeah, those Firemen are always “blowing smoke.”

During the course of their work, firefighters are exposed to harmful substances the fire scene as well as at the firehouse. At the fire scene, firefighters are potentially exposed to various mixtures of particulates, gases, mists, fumes of an organic and/or inorganic nature, and the resultant pyrolysis products. Specific potential exposures include metals such as lead, antimony, cadmium, uranium, chemical substances, including acrolein, benzene, methylene chloride, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, perchlorethylene, toluene, richloroethylene, trichlorophenol, xylene, formaldehydes, minerals such as asbestos, crystalline, and noncrystalline silica, silicates, and various gases that may have acute, toxic effects.

Here is one of many studies,
http://www.eh.uc.edu/news/pdfs/lockey-01-18-07.pdf

I hope the same fervor and distaste for these jokers shows up the next time they run for office. It is amusing, but also disappointing, how much we on this site bitch about Sam Adams and his gang, yet they keep getting our votes.

If getting Obama in office to get rid of one extreme (Bush), why can't we do the same in Portland to get rid of the other extreme (take your pick)?

yet they keep getting our votes.

Speak for yourself, please.

Why are not Leonard and Potter called on the absolute "conflict of interest" issue when discussions and votes are held on police and fire disability? There are state laws that prohibit this collusion.

I guess I'm confused. I thought Portland was so serious about sustainability. Guess that didn't apply to the actual operation of the city budget which isn't sustainable!

I've worked with a few folks like Sam, we call them useful idiots in the consulting world. They are useful since they are nice cash cows but they are idiots since, well, they aren't too bright. Always dreaming about shiny streetcars and green jobs and such but they can't deal with boring tasks such as balancing a budget or filling in potholes.

Andy, boring tasks like filling in potholes get put off because Oregon's flat gas tax hasn't increased in years to match super-inflated costs of maintenance.

I haven't voted for an incumbent for City / County / Metro since moving to Portland (Randy, Big Pipe, Tram, and the other guy all fall into that category). It doesn't take rocket science to prove I must be in the minority around here, yet you wouldn't know it from all the flak they get on this site and others.

During the course of their work, firefighters are exposed to harmful substances the fire scene as well as at the firehouse.

No doubt. And I think most reasonable people would agree that firefighters should get disability benefits for job-related illnesses, including cancer. But this is way beyond that. It's an effort to get disability benefits for any cancer, regardless of whether it was job-related or not. So if a firefighter smokes his entire life and gets lung cancer, he should get taxpayer-financed disability benefits? Come on.

If the evidence exists linking firefighting to certain cancers, why not just rely on that instead of trying to grab a huge new benefit at taxpayer expense?

Just to be clear. This is a proposed change to workers' comp statutes by the legislature that is being made applicable to the FPDR in the bill. It applies to all professional firefighters in the state.

Mr. Ngo,

True, the gasoline tax is based on volume, not price, but that doesn't seem to slow down the onslaught of trams, esplanades, bike bridges, light rail, trolleys, etc.

The tram and trolley (in particular) require generous operating subisidies paid by the City of Portland.

So we have French solar parking meters throughout downtown, next to potholed streets that lead to bridges that are poorly maintained and highway interchanges that are outdated and dangerous.

Remember, when Sam wanted to raise our taxes without the public's approval (on the water bill, no less) it was ALL ABOUT SAVING LIVES. Then oil spiked to $145/bbl and we couldn't afford to do ANY IMPROVEMENTS with rising cost of asphalt.

Now oil is back below $50/bbl and many construction related input prices(steel/cement/copper) have fallen even more dramatically. But not a peep out of "Peak Oil" Adams.


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If You See Kay, Red 2011
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Apaltagua, Reserva Camenere 2012
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Santa Rita, Reserva Cabernet 2009
Casone, Toscana 2008
Fonseca Porto, Bin No. 27
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Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto 2012
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14 Hands, Hot to Trot White 2012
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Silver Palm, North Coast Cabernet 2011
Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer 2008
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Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rose 2012
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Walter Scott, Pinot Noir, Holstein 2011
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Pol Roget Reserve Sparkling Wine
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Sara Varon - Bake Sale
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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
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Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
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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: 212
At this date last year: 60
Total run in 2013: 257
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In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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