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Will La Fond, who has been co-counsel with Steve Robinson on the district attorney's conflict of interest case against six former City employees and labor leaders, has taken a new job coordinating research lawyers in Superior Court. Deputy District Attorney Robinson, the main D.A. lawyer on the case, says that La Fond's new position represenrts "a great job opportunity" and doesn't indicate that there is any problem with the case. It is now before the state Supreme Court, and oral arguments have not been set. The six, including City Hall power broker Ron Saathoff, who recently stepped down as head of San Diego City Firefighters Local 145, are charged with breaking conflict-of interest laws in enhancing their own pension benefits.

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Comments

JF Aug. 14, 2008 @ 9:51 p.m.

Thanks for the tip, guess I'd better go vote.

And since I didn't know about it until you posted, I guess the firefighters' union is not stacking anything. Obviously, I can't comment on the other unions.

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 14, 2008 @ 12:15 p.m.

Ron Saathoff is the one who is most liable for conflict of interest and deserves time in the Joint for it.

Don, Mike Aguirre is doing a poll on the penion benefits;

http://docs.sandiego.gov/search/cityattorney/pensionlitigation.php

I am shocked that 89% are against the lawsuits to cancel them-you think the unions are skewing the numebrs (I could easily see the UNIONS RUNNING a campaign to rig it by getting all their members nad family to vote).

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 14, 2008 @ 11:23 p.m.

JF-where have you been hiding?????

I asked you a question about the "old" pensions you never answered....problem is it was so long ago I forgot what thread it was in.....

PS, vote yes you agree the pension benefits are illegal in the poll!!

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Don Bauder Aug. 14, 2008 @ 3:08 p.m.

Response to post #1: Polls like that are generally not meaningful, because the people with a stake in the matter stack the vote. I think you're right: the unions and other City employees are stacking this one. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2008 @ 6:41 a.m.

Response to post #3: I wouldn't expect anyone rigging a poll to reveal it publicly. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2008 @ 6:44 a.m.

Response to post #4: You raise an interesting point. Surreptitiously, some City employees will admit that the lavish benefits they receive are essentially illegal. That reminds me of the ballpark vote of 1998. One Union-Tribune editorial writer (no longer there) told me that the Chargers' pitch was pure blackmail, but he liked baseball, and the newspaper would benefit financially from a new stadium. So he wrote editorials in favor of the deal, now draining money from San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 15, 2008 @ 9:49 a.m.

Johnny, you may not have heard, but large portions of CA are/were on fire. Firefighters from SD have been working across the state for the past two months. So what was your question?

Oh, and sorry, I haven't voted in the poll as I haven't read the statements yet. So are we doing justice by popular vote now? Will Aguirre drop his suit if "the people" want him to? It seems as though the case is slowly fading away. The feds are waiting until the state case is done. The state case is just waiting...

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JF Aug. 15, 2008 @ 9:55 a.m.

Don, I'm thinking the results of a public poll on the city attorney's web site have a little less sway than an editorial writer from the U-T. Hopefully, anyway. I really don't see the point behind his poll, unless he's trying to track the IP addresses of those voting and bust city workers voting on duty.

In a side note, the makeup of almost the entire FF union board changed in the past two months. There is no plot by our union to skew the results.

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 15, 2008 @ 11:59 a.m.

Johnny, you may not have heard, but large portions of CA are/were on fire. Firefighters from SD have been working across the state for the past two months. So what was your question?

I thought the Yosemite fire was the only big fire......

So anyway. The old pension was 2%@55, you said it was like 2.99% or something, I beieve that is wrong.

Ths issue is what the 1996 lawsuit was over-cops and FF's retiring before 1996 wanted the 3% multiplier instea of 2%. They lost.

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2008 @ 12:59 p.m.

Response to post #7: I don't think that poll will affect what happens to that suit, now on appeal. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2008 @ 1:07 p.m.

Response to post #8: Yes, I don't know the point of the poll, either. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2008 @ 1:09 p.m.

Response to post #9: I believe he said the last two months. The Yosemite fire wasn't the only one in that period, I think. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 15, 2008 @ 2:53 p.m.

Get your head out of the sand, Johnny. http://cbs5.com/local/california.wildfires.battle.2.770995.html "Wildfire season now worst in California history"

Define "old pension". When I was hired - pre-MP1 and MP2, the pension ranged from 2.2% at 50 to 2.77% at 55. I believe that percentage was instituted in the early 80's. MP1 changed that to 2.5% at 50 to 2.9999% at 55. In other words, the net change at 55 was a less than 10% increase. (2.99-2.77=.22 increase) See the exhibits for Interim Report #6 if you don't believe me. MP1 also allowed POSC and created the DROP.

It wasn't until the city lost the Corbett case that the 3% at 50 was instituted. It was the city losing that case, not MP1 that caused the biggest increase in pensions. Quoting from the Corbett settlement "Your Retirement Calculation will increase from 2.5% at age 50 to 3% at age 50". Corbett also increased payments to previous retirees by 7%.

You want so badly to blame crooked unions and MP1, but it was the courts who instituted the biggest changes.

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2008 @ 5:20 p.m.

Response to post #13: MP1 and MP2 were critical in the pumping up of benefits, but Corbett was one other factor. Best, Don Bauder

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LeftistTraitor Aug. 16, 2008 @ 6 a.m.

Don,

I've said before I'm a big fan, but as a City employee sometimes I think you are way off. You write that:

"Surreptitiously, some City employees will admit that the lavish benefits they receive are essentially illegal"

Where do you get this? I've never met a City employee that thinks this way. I've seen before you characterize your blogs as opinion so you don't need to justify these types of statements, but that is very disingenuous. I've recently commented on some issues with the old Shames sewer billing rate case where I think you were stretching reality...but I consider your statement here untruthful.

On the other hand, I have been watching Bill Moyers Journal...where Bill was interviewing Andrew Bacevich. I look forward to the Journal each week...and I was wondering what you thought about his show... if at all?

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2008 @ 8:18 a.m.

Response to post #15: I have talked with City employees who know their benefits were granted illegally. They have a background in the law. Re Bill Moyers Journal: yes, I have seen it, but should watch it more. Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 16, 2008 @ 3:40 p.m.

the pension ranged from 2.2% at 50 to 2.77% at 55. I believe that percentage was instituted in the early 80's. MP1 changed that to 2.5% at 50 to 2.9999% at 55. In other words, the net change at 55 was a less than 10% increase. (2.99-2.77=.22 increase)

Quoting from the Corbett settlement "Your Retirement Calculation will increase from 2.5% at age 50 to 3% at age 50". Corbett also increased payments to previous retirees by 7%.

2.2%@50 to 3%@50 is a 40% increase-that is a huge increase. And the worst part-it was RETROACTIVE. Whi John Moorlach from OC County is sueing over right now.

I know the lawsuit, the first one (Corbett?), was over the pension increases, because some cops who retired BEFORE the increases felt the should also receive them and sued....andlost.

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2008 @ 4:42 p.m.

Response to post #17: I believe he said 3%@at 55, not 50. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 18, 2008 @ 8:20 a.m.

Don is correct, MP1 changed the formula from 2.77% @ 55 t0 2.9999% at 55. The formula at 50 changed from 2.2% to 2.5%.

Corbett was settled in 2000, well after the 1996 MP1 agreement. That's well after the initial pension increases. I believe you must be mistaken. Corbett did give a 7% boost to those already retired. Remember, the alternative was paying out retirements INCLUDING OT.

And in case you didn't pick up on it, the reason I pointed out that this fire season is so bad is so that when you whine about OT later, I can show you why. As many as 60 SD firefighters were on OT up north at a shot, which means another 60 were working OT here to replace them. And ALL of that was funded by the state or (mostly) the feds.

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2008 @ 9:30 a.m.

Response to post #19: Do your supervisors expect another bad fire season this year? Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 18, 2008 @ 10:03 a.m.

Don, as the article above states, it's already been the worst on history; in the number of fires, the amount spent, and the number of acres burned. The state has already spent more than in the 2007 fire season and the SoCal season is just about to begin.

Regardless of your politics on global warming, 8 of the biggest fire seasons on record have been in the past 10 years. That's why I preach that we need additional funding for the fire service. It has nothing to do with pay raises, it has to do with numbers of firefighters. We've seen over and over how thin SD for fire protection -- how we have not kept up with population growth. The state and the feds are the same.

Fuel moistures in SoCal got a bump in June when we got that freak 1/4" of rain. That postponed fire season down here a little. But now things have dried out. We are still in a major drought, but the early rain this season caused explosive growth of now-dead grasses. Those will cause explosive fire growth. The only question is how much wind we'll have.

At one point this season we had 20,000 firefighters on the line in NorCal. Imagine if that happened while Santa Anas were blowing down here.

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JF Aug. 18, 2008 @ 10:09 a.m.

Johnny, you speak of this 40% increase in retirement benefits as though it happened overnight. That 40% bridges time from 1981 to now -- almost 30 years. That's a whopping 1.x% per year.

That retirement increase was given to firefighters in lieu of pay raises. As numerous studies have shown, we are way behind the rest of the state in pay. We are roughly the same or slightly ahead in retirement. Given the "pay me now or pay me later" choice, the city decided to pay later.

Just as a matter of comparison, I recently spoke to a friend who works for Orange County. He's already made twice what I've made this year. And they turned down a pay raise and used the money to fund retiree health care instead.

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2008 @ 1:14 p.m.

Response to post #21: I don't think anyone argues that San Diego has kept up with firefighting needs. It lags other major metro areas. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2008 @ 1:16 p.m.

Response to post #22: I'll let Johnny answer this one. Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 19, 2008 @ 8:17 a.m.

That retirement increase was given to firefighters in lieu of pay raises. As numerous studies have shown, we are way behind the rest of the state in pay.

Let me state this again-I do not care what ANY other county or city are paying their FF's. It has no bearing on what San Diego can or should pay.

The question is not what others are payng, the question is how much does it take to get a qualifed applicant to do the FF job. I will tell you----->>> $50K and a 401K.

If Burger King pays their HS workers $$50K per year while McDonalds pays the market rate of $15K for the same education and experience levels then Burger King is going to go out of business. San Diego right now is Burger King, trying to become a McDonalds.

Put that another way, San Diego is more like McDonalds while Burger King is more like Vallejo. We know where Vallejo is right now, don't we.

There would be no problem getting quality FF's, FF's who could do the job of FF for $50K per year and a 401K or Socal Security.

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Don Bauder Aug. 19, 2008 @ 10:04 a.m.

Response to post #25: I agree with Johnny: San Diego is in perilous financial shape. City employees cannot compare their pay and fringes with those in other California cities. The only thing relevant is how much San Diego can afford to pay. And I think San Diego could recruit lots of firefighters for pay that is lower than what current ones are being paid. Remember: psychic income, sunshine tax. Most of all, remember: bankruptcy. San Diego is close to it. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 19, 2008 @ 10:31 a.m.

Really? San Diego ran out of applicants for the fire academy in the last two rounds of hiring. And, SD has had the highest ever failure rate in the academy. Yep, plenty of applicants to go around....

Johnny, I really find it funny how you say we should pay cops and firefighters less, yet every time one of us screws up you're the first to jump up and cry incompetence. Which is it going to be? Pay more and hire the best? Or reduce pay and hire those who will work for that pay? You really have no clue what our job entails, do you?

You forgot one thing in your BK/McD analogy. There is one poorly paying place it town... and dozens of well paying, well financed places.

Speaking of Vallejo, I'm sure you saw this article entitled, "Bankrupt Vallejo losing cops amid rising crime rates" http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/08/17/news/state/zb6fb5bbd3c5958b7882574a800771e43.txt

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Don Bauder Aug. 19, 2008 @ 12:44 p.m.

Response to post #27: Repeat: if San Diego aggressively went after firefighters, touting the area's perfect weather and lifestyle, it would get plenty of applicants. FFs in some big cities are working for peanuts. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 19, 2008 @ 3:30 p.m.

So let me get this straight, you want me to tell firefighters in other parts of the country that they should sell their house and come here where they can't buy a house? They may be working for peanuts, but they have a better lifestyle there than here.

Just how aggressively should we pursue firefighters from out of state? Off the top of your head, how much should we spend on that? Say ten recruiting trips of two Captains each? Four days in each place? That's 80 days worth of pay for a Captain. We can't afford that.

Further, why wouldn't those folks interested in coming look at SD then look at LA, or Orange County, or LA County, or Pasadena, or Anaheim and go there instead of here should they get the urge for the California lifestyle?

Heck, we can't even recruit Forest Service firefighters from here in California, and they're the lowest paid out there.

Sorry Don, this wasn't one of your best ideas ever.

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Don Bauder Aug. 19, 2008 @ 6:20 p.m.

Response to post #29: Private sector firms recruit plenty of people to San Diego. The in-migrants know their pay will keep them behind the cost of living. But still they come. If the private sector can do it, why can't the public sector? Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 19, 2008 @ 9:53 p.m.

So let me get this straight, you want me to tell firefighters in other parts of the country that they should sell their house and come here where they can't buy a house? They may be working for peanuts, but they have a better lifestyle there than here.

The invisible hand of the free market dictates to get labor and costs to the lowest point possible while still making a profit, or in the case of government break even.

Richard Rider said he could get thousands of people to apply for SDFD with pay at half what it is today-and I am sure he could.

We can get quality, competent FF's and cops for $50K per year, since there are basically no education or work experience needed before being hired-at least for PD-limited requirements for FD.

I know PLETNY of people, all PROFESSIONALS, who cannot buy a home in San Diego. I know lawyers working 60 hours per week for $50K-$60K with NO benefits-zero. They also have 6 figure student loans. That is a direct cost of the sunshine tax. If they can do it then so can GED and HS educated cops and FF's-who I might add have 100% job security and are not "at will" employees.

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 19, 2008 @ 10 p.m.

Most of all, remember: bankruptcy. San Diego is close to it. Best, Don Bauder

I hope I am wrong-but San Dieg is so far in the hole, I just cannot see us digging out. I also think it is only going to get worse as more and more PD/FD retire and drive up penions and healthcare costs even higher than they are right now.

Hope I am wrong, and it does not come to BK, but that is where I see San Diego sooner or later.

I think the state is at a crossroads also-the republicans will not do a tax increase. So I hope some fiscal caps are put on state spending. The prisons are going to be given a population cap very, very soon by federal judge Thelton Henderson.

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Don Bauder Aug. 20, 2008 @ 7:02 a.m.

Response to post #31: Home prices have come down 28 percent since the November 2005 peak, but prices are still high. However, there are bargain in the distressed areas such as Lemon Grove, Encanto, El Cajon, western and eastern Chula Vista, etc. And there is always renting. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 20, 2008 @ 7:05 a.m.

Response to post #32: Some things to watch for: continued real estate price declines (or a turnaround), continued weakness in the stock market that will erode the SDCERS portfolio, Sanders's inability to get City employees to settle for reasonable pay and fringes, etc. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 20, 2008 @ 10:56 a.m.

Don, you say that the private sector recruits people to San Diego all the time. OK, is there an equivalent private sector job an hour away that pays twice as much in a region where housing costs less? There's a public sector firefighter job that meets those requirements. How do we convince people to come here instead of LA or Orange county?

Are those private sector jobs basically high end blue collar? Or are they tech jobs paying $200K/year? Do you think firefighters would be leaving the city of San Diego and going north if it wasn't so much more profitable up there? The problem isn't necessarily recruiting folks to come to California. It's getting them to come to San Diego.

Johnny, you wrote that Rider claims he could get thousands of people to apply for half the pay. I have yet to see him volunteer to do that. We already have thousands of people apply. The vast majority are not qualified. He put ads in newspapers across the country, albeit tongue in cheek. How many recruits did he get? Don't you think he'd be crowing about that? Rider is basically full of crap about most everything. That shows in his vote counts.

You say you know "PLETNY (sic) of people who can't afford a house." OK, do they own a house elsewhere when they move here and give up that American dream just to live in SD?

Again, it's not unreasonable to recruit from out of state. I'm just waiting for you to tell me exactly how much we should spend to do that and for what return? What is the dollar value per candidate we should spend? $10,000? $20,000? Should we pay moving costs? Should we pay a full time fire captain to recruit out of state, or should we use that captain to staff an already stripped force in the field? Should we pay OT for people to recruit? You have all the answers, so let's hear them.

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JohnnyVegas Aug. 20, 2008 @ 12:51 p.m.

Response to post #31: Home prices have come down 28 percent since the November 2005 peak, but prices are still high.

I predicted a 30% decrease-max-so I think we are at rock bottom or close to it, and havestabilized.

I think we will not go down firther, but will be in a stagnant period with no appreciation for 1-3 more years.

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Don Bauder Aug. 21, 2008 @ 7:10 a.m.

Response to post #35: You ask how San Diego recruits people away from Orange County or LA. Answer: the quality of life is better, although, admittedly, it is getting more like OC and LA every day. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 21, 2008 @ 7:13 a.m.

Response to post #36: I think the ultimate decline will be more than 30 percent, but we won't know for awhile. Next year will be difficult for both the U.S. and San Diego. I am coming to believe that this is no ordinary cyclical decline. This may be secular -- repeat, MAY be. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Aug. 22, 2008 @ 10:50 a.m.

Don, Again, I recently talked to a friend who works for Orange County Fire. Although he's the same rank that I am here, he's made double what I've made this year just in salary and OT. Plus he pays $500 less a month for medical and about $500 less a month in retirement. Do you really think the quality of life is that much better here than in the OC? If so, why are you living in Colorado?

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Don Bauder Aug. 23, 2008 @ 9:45 p.m.

Response to post #39: I think the quality of life in Orange County is putrid. My mother and father retired there. After he died in 1978, I went up there very frequently to see her and take care of certain things. By the time she was in her mid to late 80s, I was driving up there once a week. (She had a stroke at age 95 and we brought her to San Diego.) The OC congestion is noisome, and not just on the expressways and streets. The cost of living is higher than it is in San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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