This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 30, 2011 7:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was How to meet cops. The next post in this blog is Should school officials reimburse taxpayers for illegal mailers?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Government payroll as the new Pac-Man

It's eating everything, and major cutbacks in basic public services are on the horizon.

Comments (14)

The largest employer in stump town is government in one form or another. The government sector has done quite well over the last decade while economic performance for the private sector especially in Oregon has stunk. Local government has been feeding off the private sector (escalating water and sewer revenue take by stump town city hall & TriMet's ever rising payroll taxes). Then too, there's been billions in state and federal government subsidies to stump town for commuter rail projects, and more recently, federal stimulus bucks.

Stump town may be facing a grim future if state and federal government austerity kicks in; and as for feeding off the water and sewer franchise and TriMet feeding off payroll taxes, the rate of take looks to be leveling off because of growing citizen and business resistance. This is why city officials and agency managers should not be ignoring Stump town financial auditor (Griffin-Valade) who reported this last July, stump town's rate of spending and borrowing is unsustainable.

Of course, stump town city hall is currently on a kick to eliminate personal conveniences such as plastic bags and once a week garbage can pick up. Geez, what if Apple corporation had said: "personal convenience? Who needs it." Better we continue computing via punch cards and phoning via a hand cranked job.

Do the whack jobs at stump town city hall stop to think? Like plastic bags come from a byproduct of natural gas which would otherwise be flamed to the atmosphere. Besides this, paper bags require more energy to make than plastic bags. These same folks tell us to be energy efficient; and yet now turn around and do things to make us less energy efficient. Do they just make this stuff up on the run, motivated by the young folks over at PSU who are still in the learning mode and whose professors like to run social experiments on the rest of us?

Then there's the elimination of once per week garbage can pick up. Most folks were already satisfied with their garbage service; and just because a portion of these folks might remain satisfied with the reformulated service, shouldn't mean you are justified in adding them into the category of folks wanting the reformulated service as the city officials did. Then too, politicians seem to have no sense of history. One of the reasons for once a week garbage pick up is a thing called vector control (cutting down on the local residential food supply for rodents like rats and mice).

Violin playing fits well in stump town, where weird just isn't working (and actually never did except for government planner types).

it's way past time for the government to switch to 401ks like the private sector did more than 20 years ago. It's amazing that this is not more of an issue.

My biggest laugh in all of this is that back when Nike built their campus in unincorporated Washington County, the CoP howled about what a mistake it was. And how Nike was going to be missing a great urban experience and potentially losing out on employees by its location. Twenty years later, downtown Portland is a crappy environment. Public transportation to downtown (unless it's by train) is on the wane. And a lot more companies (Standard Insurance for one) have relocated all or parts of their offices to the Western burbs. The CoP has never been good at attracting real employers (as opposed to vaporware, need a tax break kind) within its boundaries.

The can just can't be kicked down the road no mo'

In fact that can is more like a flaming bag of poop sitting on our doorstep.

If people had been paying attention back when these ridiculous benefits were granted, such as the guaranteed 8% gain in the case of Oregon PERS, we wouldnt be in this situation today.

The problem is that the judges, the PERS board and all the politicians who consistently approved these benefits all had a vested interest in them. It was stunning to me then that nobody seemed to care, and now that the check is coming due its too late to do anything about it.

If a thing can't go on it wont.

Going back to Bob Clark's comment, there are too many government and quasi-government agencies. City Hall, Multnomah County, TriMet, Portland Public Schools, and let's not forget Metro.

Just a note that PERS has changed for newer hires, as has the retirement plan for Portland Police and Fire members.

And, let's not forget the composition of public entities' employees - how many supervisor/managers are there, how many PR types (Jack has covered this well), how much expansion in staff for mayors/commissioners? COP could probably cut 10% of its work force, and get the same, or more, "real work" done.

"The can just can't be kicked down the road no mo'"

You do realize that out of a $15B or so bi-ennial budget, they just took out another $1.1B for PERS contributions?

The kicking continues apace, the only thing that'll stop it will be when we get held hostage by the public services we do pay for and want - Then they think we'll roll over for anything.

"...have become dangerously unaffordable."


Troy, Don't forget the Port of Portland. The fact that these fools can't turn a genuine profit (see you property tax line items) selling our water and air port rights truly amazes me. Their legal malfeasance, at lease at the air ports, is also quite stunning. But then again, they are quite aware that their primary function is as a booster to the private interests in any and all manner that secures their own jobs, pensions, and free lunch/golf outings. Whew... had to get that rant out. I don't know why, but this public servant-cum-lobbyist type of gov org really gets to me more than the normal general govt incompetence.

The Port of Portland is the worst of the scourges. They are not elected so they have nothing to fear from taxpayers. I used to try to interact with them but it's clear they believe they are the servants of airlines and other port super users. And they believe their job is to make sure that the public caves into whatever is best for the businesses they are sucking up to. For example, the whole business of noise mitigation from commercial air. The port clearly is not interested in the means employed by other cities because the airlines don't like those strategies and the port lackeys are all about pleasing the airlines. And outside of severe Federal environmental violations, they know that no one in the state will touch them since they are appointed by the governor. And figuring out how to get them under home rule was utterly frustrating since every claims not to know exactly how many voters are in the Port's jurisdiction nor were they willing to give clear guidance on the boundaries. That made even figuring out how to get a ballot initiative nigh on to impossible because back in the 90s I was so angry with them that I personally would have led the charge to get a ballot initiative to get the Port under home rule (meaning they would face elections not political appointments).

In better times, it wasn't as noticeable but as private industry cuts down on benefits, retirement, etc. and government doesn't, the difference is glaring.

Everything from guaranteed retirement income to sexual reassignment surgery when those in the private sector, who don't work for government (but who pay for it) don't have these advantages.

Here's a link to the summary of a fine New Yorker piece about Costa Mesa and Orange County CA. City and county budgets face pension liabilities much like Portland plus conservative ideologues as elected officials who'd rather contract out for services. Not rare, of course. How can we hold candidates' feet to the fire next year as to how they'll act to deal with that red ink that Jack so helpfully updates?


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