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The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today (Sept. 10) turned down San Diego Gas & Electric's plan to shut off power to backcountry residents during periods of high fire danger, and also to dodge liability for the consequences of the shutoff. However, the commission said that SDG&E can submit a new plan that would address some of the PUC's concerns. Commissioner Timothy Simon studied the matter, which was overwhelmingly opposed by residents of the area, hospitals, schools, and other institutions. Opponents said that in a power curtailment, residents would use lanterns, candles, portable generators and the like that would present as much of a fire risk as the utility lines. SDG&E wants no liability from the use of these alternatives. Opponents argue that it is SDG&E's responsibility to make sure that utility lines are not threatened by trees that could fall on them, sparking fires. By denying SDG&E's plan without prejudice, the PUC adopted the main points of Simon's study. In short, this means that rejoicing in the backcountry may be premature. SDG&E will be back. "This proposal will remain open," said Simon's report.

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Comments

JF Sept. 29, 2009 @ 1:49 p.m.

Doesn't make any sense because it is supplemental

Makes plenty of sense when you consider that SS is intended to be "supplemental" as well.

That's basically what I've been saying all along. You cannot compare the city's DB plan to SS. Is the city's plan better than most people get? Absolutely. But I argue that we should be trying to bring all people up to our level, not down to yours. When you argue that, you simply look jealous.

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Leonard Sept. 10, 2009 @ 2:03 p.m.

DON A couple questions: 1.What were the concerns listed by the PUC,that SDG&E may address in a revised filing? 2.Does this ruling have any affect on the ongoing processing for the Power Link project?

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 3:05 p.m.

Response to post #1: The PUC said that a new proposal by SDG&E must be based on a cost-benefit analysis and include detailed plans and timelines for mitigating averse impacts on customers and communities. There might also have to be an environmental assessment. I don't think this affects the Power Link proposal, but am not sure of that. Simon's opinion goes on forever. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Sept. 10, 2009 @ 3:11 p.m.

Who'da thunk it? I think SDG&E will use this turndown as a justification to deny further liability for power line-caused fires. After all, they were following the dictates of the PUC that turned down their "reasonable" plan to avoid such fires. That lets them off the hook, doesn't it? Doesn't it?

I'm sure they'll tell the insurance carrier that it does, with a finely crafted legal opinion that backs them up. Let's see if the insurance underwriter buys this pitch and reduces the cost of a policy.

I'm sure they'll be back with the plan once they need to show somebody they are "doing something" again.

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PistolPete Sept. 10, 2009 @ 3:30 p.m.

Here's an idea:Should SDG&E just take their ball and go home? What I mean by that is,if you live somewhere that's considered"backcounty",should SDG&E just come along,shut off ALL power,take their lines and poles back and go about their business? Seems good to me. No power-no threat of fire,right? I'm being facetious,of course. Or am I? Legally,they don't have to provide service to anyone. They're a private business. Let's see how the backcounty dorks like having ZERO power.

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Visduh Sept. 10, 2009 @ 3:34 p.m.

Wrongo! They do have an obligation to provide power in that area. And as to whether or not they're a private business, that's debatable. As a REGULATED utility they're not free to just pull up stakes and leave.

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Russ Lewis Sept. 10, 2009 @ 3:35 p.m.

Who you callin' a backcounty dork? One problem with this plan is that they can draw the line wherever they want...and redraw it as often as they want.

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Visduh Sept. 10, 2009 @ 4:42 p.m.

Not too long ago, various environmental authorities were making it very difficult to do even basic brush clearing. The reason: that removed critical sage scrub habitat for birds and small mammals. Since these two major firestorm years (2003 and 2007) that has been heard much less often. But it will be back. No, you cannot just mandate that all brush be removed from the fire prone areas. Fire prevention is not what we've been doing for a long time. Costs too much, all the pols claim. But then they have to spend millions on firefighting when the fires are so hot and wild they cannot be stopped by any sort of human effort. Massive inconsistencies still exist. Getting the folks to agree HOW to prevent fires is the toughest task.

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PistolPete Sept. 10, 2009 @ 4:49 p.m.

Here's a short video on the 60 minutes segment from this past sunday's show regarding forest fires. This should be MANDATORY viewing for anyone living or politicing in Sandy Eggo county. Very good segment. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5291115n&tag=contentMain;contentBody

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PistolPete Sept. 10, 2009 @ 3:46 p.m.

What's wrong with having the power shut off to possibly prevent a megafire? Seems halfway responsible to me. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts the majority of backcounty dorks that oppose SDG&E's shutoff plan also have a s***load of brush around their properties as well. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

Here's another idea:Since Sandy Eggo likes to pass nazi laws,why don't they cut down ALL trees and brush on county property in the backcounty AND pass a law stating that ALL residents must comply with cutting down all trees and brush on their property. Nothing to burn,no megafire,right? You guys live in the desert. Act accordingly... :-D

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 9:17 p.m.

Response to post #3: You may well be right on that. Macchiavellian. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 9:19 p.m.

Response to post #4: They are a regulated utility. They are guaranteed a certain right of return, and therefore they have to provide service throughout their assigned area. They cannot take their lines and go home. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 9:20 p.m.

Response to post #5: I agree with Visduh on this point. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 9:21 p.m.

Response to post #6: Under the plan, which will certainly come up again, they do have a lot of flexibility on where and when to shut off power. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 9:23 p.m.

Response to post #7: If all brush in the backcountry has to go, how about in the rest of the county? Your plan is discriminatory. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 9:25 p.m.

Response to post #8: Environmentalists do oppose brush removal programs in the main. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2009 @ 9:26 p.m.

Response to post #9: It does make a powerful argument. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Sept. 11, 2009 @ 5:17 a.m.

Sempra needs to do a lot more with their engineering design, construction and maintenance to prevent fires in the first place. It is way too expensive to put the lines underground, but there has to be a lot more that can be done to make the power more fireproof that cost a lot less.

Also, since lives are the highest priority, fire departments must have the responsibility to make the call on whether power lines must be shut down to prevent fires under firestorm conditions, not a regulated public utility with a corporate owner that is focused on maximizing their profits as their highest priority.

Interestingly, the Heidi Incident may have exposed one of Sempra’s cultural values and it most likely that Heidi reports directly to Felsinger for strategic planning and legislative action at least.

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JF Sept. 11, 2009 @ 7:21 a.m.

A point on the SDG&E plan. Some of the organizations complaining the loudest about the plan are also the same organizations who preach that we should be prepared to be without services for 72 hours. Apparently, that preparedness does not extend to the point of them buying generators to run their own pumps, etc.

Don, have you looked at the report that Bowman and Bruvold just released? Overall, it's pretty good. Of course, it was funded in part by SDG&E, so I have issues with that. The basic opening premise is that the City of San Diego was able to muster an "all hands on deck" response to the city's fiscal crisis; why not to the lack of firefighting resources?

http://www.nusinstitute.org/assets/resources/pageResources/Final-Fire-Report-2009.pdf

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paul Sept. 11, 2009 @ 9 a.m.

JF, if the city were to mount an "all hands on deck" effort for firefighting with the same level of effort and success as the effort to correct our finances, you ought to see the first new engines roll into their new stations sometime around 2030.

What do you think is more important, new stations, new engines and more firefighters, or connecting a bridge across Rose Canyon so more shoppers will drive by Evan's shopping mall? I ask the question, because THAT is the issue that the Council pushed and THAT is the issue that got chief Jarmin to testify (falsely) before the Council, not fire protection in outlying fire-prone areas.

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JF Sept. 11, 2009 @ 9:23 a.m.

Paul, Think that money would have been spent on new fire stations and firefighters? I don't. Not with the head in the sand mindset of this community.

The city has made some major changes in the way it does business. Maybe not enough, but it is generally headed in the right direction. Witness the audits finally being completed.

Meanwhile, the mayor has publicly acknowledged that SD needs many more fire stations, yet is willing to "brown out" neighborhoods to save a buck.

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Don Bauder Sept. 11, 2009 @ 9:36 a.m.

Response to post #17: Good point. It is SDG&E's responsibility to keep the trees clear of those power lines. The company would like to dodge that responsibility, and then have no liability when fires occur as a result of consumers' use of alternative methods such as candles, lanterns, etc. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 11, 2009 @ 9:38 a.m.

Response to post #18: If it was funded in part by SDG&E then it is probably not worth reading. Nonetheless, I will look at it. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 11, 2009 @ 9:40 a.m.

Response to post #19: To the city council and the mayor's office, subsidizing pro sports stadiums, bridges to shopping centers and entertainment venues, hotels and shopping centers is more important than rebuilding the rotting infrastructure. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 11, 2009 @ 9:42 a.m.

Response to post #20: The city has made "major changes?" Really? Best, Don Bauder

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paul Sept. 12, 2009 @ 8:24 a.m.

JF said: "Think that money would have been spent on new fire stations and firefighters? I don't. Not with the head in the sand mindset of this community."

So you don't have a problem with the fire chief using the fire department as a tool for politicians to help a well connected insider, because you don't think the money she is lobbying to help waste would have been used for a fire station?

Think about that, and you will have a good idea WHY taxpayers don't want to just throw money at the fire department and politicians when they claim there is a need. Its less head in the sand, and more experience with the true motives of the politicians and police and fire unions. There is a long history of crying wolf, and a long history of putting their own interests WAY before the interest of public safety or fiscal responsibility.

Police and fire are the routine reasons given for almost every new tax increase and bond measure. After the measures pass, money is shifted around so there isn't a real increase in police and fire, but uneeded bridges get built.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 12, 2009 @ 8:34 a.m.

Its less head in the sand, and more experience with the true motives of the politicians and police and fire unions.

Pretty much sums it up.

Taxpayers don't want to fund public unions/public union employees who make 5 times what the taxpayer makes.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 12, 2009 @ 8:37 a.m.

Police and fire are the routine reasons given for almost every new tax increase and bond measure.

Actually police and fire are 2nd and 3rd in reasons for new bond issues-education is #1.

And we get new education bond issues every 2 years-some as high as a billion dollars-because it's for the "children", while the "average" San Diego County teacher makes $65K in pay and $40K in benefits while working a 37 week work year.

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Don Bauder Sept. 12, 2009 @ 3:35 p.m.

Response to post #25: There has to be a better way for the county to respond to fires. This may or may not involve more stations. It probably involves better equipment. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 12, 2009 @ 3:36 p.m.

Response to post #26: Five times more? That's very high. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 12, 2009 @ 3:42 p.m.

Response to post #27: But education is critically important. Schools are rundown. I have never, ever voted against an education measure. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 12, 2009 @ 5:06 p.m.

Five times more? That's very high. Best, Don Bauder

By dbauder

What is the average pay with benefits in CA? $40K?

What is the average FF/cop pay with benefits in CA? Around $200K.

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paul Sept. 12, 2009 @ 9:56 p.m.

SurfPup said: "What is the average pay with benefits in CA? $40K?

What is the average FF/cop pay with benefits in CA? Around $200K."

To be fair, Don is right, and you are pretty far off.

The average wage in CA last year was $48,090. A typical employee costs about 1.4 times their base salary, so you are looking at roughly $67,326 a year average, quite a bit higher than $40K. That leaves you at 3 times, not 5 times to reach your $200K figure.

Trouble is that your $200K figure is also suspect and seems to be based on a small number of overcompensated firefighters, not the average. For 2010, the San Diego Fire Department personnel expenses are listed as $162,555,779 for 1,236.03 people, or an average of $136,500 (granted, that includes all employees, not just firefighters). That may still be considered too high, but it is closer to 2 times the state average not the 5 you claimed, which is a huge difference.

The problem is real enough that we don't need to overstate it for dramatic effect.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 13, 2009 @ 12:40 a.m.

The average wage in CA last year was $48,090. A typical employee costs about 1.4 times their base salary, so you are looking at roughly $67,326 a year average, quite a bit higher than $40K.

The average pay in CA is no where near $48K, and there is absolutely NO WAY the average employee is getting 40% of their salary in benefits in the private sector-in fact the last numbers I saw showed it below 20%. The vast majority of private sector jobs are part time and offer NO benefits of any kind whatsoever.

The average cop/ff in this state makes in the $80K-$120K range in cash salary alone, that is BEFORE any OT is calculated. Benefits for cops and FFs exceed their base pay, and probably exceed it by a good amount if you calculate their 2.41% ROI that Calpers has returned the last 10 years. I have calulated the pensions that "safety" is currently receiving would exceed their entire take home pay for their entire 30 year career, based on current tax rates and current pensions (3%@50).

And these are for line level safety employees, not anyone in management. You cannot use an entire Fire Dept (or PD) to calculate a FF's full compensation-because there are way too many other empoyees making 1/10th of what a FF makes.

The City of Vallejo was paying over 75% of their entire budget JUST to the PD and FD compensation-hence the reason they went BK.

Another mistake you have made is using a budget number that does not account for the full cost of the FF's cost of employment.

The City of SD has been UNDERFUNBDING their pensions for years, and by a substantial amount-so the $162,555,779 FD budget you have sited to back your costs is no where near the true costs to fund the FF's compensation.

I ran the numbers of the Orange County Sheriff's Office for 2008, they had 1,460 sworn Sheriffs and a $319 million budget for them, which swelled to over $360 with OT.

Do the math;

Average Deputy cost before OT= $220K per deputy

Aveage Deputy cost with OT= $247K per deputy

If anything my $200K is LESS than average.

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Don Bauder Sept. 13, 2009 @ 7:18 a.m.

Response to post #31: San Diego County's average pay WITHOUT benefits is a bit above $47,000 a year. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 13, 2009 @ 7:21 a.m.

Response to post #32: Yes, $200,000 retirement pay for firefighters and police is only available to a few. FF and police pay and fringes are too high, but they are not this high. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 13, 2009 @ 7:25 a.m.

Response to post #33: If you check Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, you will find that Paul is in the ballpark. And my $47,000-plus for San Diego is right on target. I know, because I checked. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 13, 2009 @ 4:19 p.m.

I am going to hunt down the stats for the median (not mean/average) wage in CA and San Deigo. I am sure it is not anywhere near $47K without benefits.

Make sure you are talking about the private sector-not the median wage for both the public and private sector combined because the public employees will skew the result higher.

I stand by my numbers of the average compensation for cops and FF's at $200K. I did not include the OPEB that gov employees get, free healthcare for life being the biggest-I was just using salary and benefits-so the $200K number will be low because of that, as well as the low ROI (2.41% rate of return from 1999-2009, yet basing their funding level on a 7.75% ROI)) that Calpers is posting.

So, I shall hunt and destroy these myths that have been put forward in this thread.

Will post after I find back up.

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paul Sept. 13, 2009 @ 5:46 p.m.

SurfPup said: "The average pay in CA is no where near $48K, and there is absolutely NO WAY the average employee is getting 40% of their salary in benefits in the private sector-in fact the last numbers I saw showed it below 20%."

Make sure we are talking apples to apples. The $48K figure comes from federal stats and is the average, not the median. I am sure that it applies to both government and non-government workers. The 40% value I listed is typical for the cost of an employee to an employer, not purely compensation to the employee, including various payroll, SS and workman's comp type taxes. For city workers, that would include pension payments in lieu of SS payments.

To save you the trouble, the feds also state that the California median is $36,441 for all employees, and the median for state workers is $66,006. I'm guessing that the median salary plus overtime for firefighters is going to be well south of $100K. Let us know what you find out.

Here is a story that lists the fed numbers: http://www.sacbee.com/737/v-print/story/1917289.html

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paul Sept. 13, 2009 @ 8:27 p.m.

City of San Diego FY 2010

Position---------Num Pos---Salary----Budget FireCaptain------238.25----$85,621----$20,399,231 FireEngineer-----220.36----$74,071----$16,322,260 FireFighterI-----20.00------$41,125----$822,494 FireFighterII----420.71-----$62,758 -- $26,402,817 Overtime------------------------------------$16,222,942

Median salary is $74K, but that is not terribly meaningful in this case. Much more meaningful is the average, after adding in the overtime, which is: $89459.

So now we need to know how accurate is the City's estimate of overtime?

It would also be nice to calculate exactly how much more the pension plus FSSP plan is worth than a standard 4% 401K match plus SS.

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Don Bauder Sept. 13, 2009 @ 9:32 p.m.

Response to post #38: Check May 2008 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Go to California, then San Diego, and you will find the $47,250 number. It is the mean, not the median. San Diego's median is $60,970. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 13, 2009 @ 9:38 p.m.

Response to post #38: I believe SurfPuppy will find that the SD $47K and state $48K apply to both private sector and public sector employees. I know it's true of the $47K SD number, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a large number of government jobs that go into that figure. It lists SD firefighters at $56,520 annually. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 13, 2009 @ 9:43 p.m.

Response to post $39: Your $89K and my $56K are widely different. One is for 2008 and another for 2010, but that wouldn't close such a wide gap. Neither would inclusion of overtime. I doubt if addition of private sector fire fighters would close the gap. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Sept. 13, 2009 @ 10:51 p.m.

Ironic that while you guys were arguing about firefighters online, I was at the memorial for two brother firefighters from LA County. Johnny seems to feel that firefighters aren't worth it. The governor and vice president seem to side with me.

I believe that Paul is posting the average for uniformed SDFD employees of the ranks listed. Meanwhile, the $56K listed by Don is for a Firefighter II. That FFII rate is also base, and does not include specialties such as Paramedic pay.

Nice to see that someone besides me thinks Johnny is like a longhorn steer. A point here, a point there, a whole lot of bull in between.

Going back a few posts, Don mentioned that the county needs to find a different way to fight fires. Actually, the county basically has no way to fight fires. There is no county fire department. The county must rely on the reflex time to bring city firefighters out into the county.

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paul Sept. 13, 2009 @ 11:01 p.m.

Don,

My numbers are from the proposed 2010 budget. If you only include the two firefighter categories, the average drops to $61K. I assume many in the firefighter I category moved to the firefighter II category between 2008 and 2010, which would explain the increase in the average from $56K to $61K. That leads me to believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics was just using the firefighter categories.

I included the Engineer and Captain categories as well, because there are slightly more of them in total (459) then there are firefighters (440), and it appears that is the common career path for firefighters. I did not include the Battalion Chief category. There are only 27 of them, but they make a little more ($99K).

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PistolPete Sept. 13, 2009 @ 11 p.m.

Bottom line-Until America's Finest(and I'm laughing right now as I type this)City gets it's collective heads out of it's collective asses,there will be more fires. That means more death and destruction. YAY!(I'm saying that sarcasticaly btw). I guess this God's way of saying:Don't live in a sub-tropical climate that is 1/3 mountain,a 1/3 desert and a 1/3 forest.....a**holes!

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mikeaf1534 Sept. 13, 2009 @ 11:48 p.m.

Not bad for working basically part time...

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paul Sept. 14, 2009 @ 1:17 a.m.

PP said: "Bottom line-Until America's Finest(and I'm laughing right now as I type this)City gets it's collective heads out of it's collective asses,there will be more fires."

For all the complaining about San Diego's lack of preparation for the 2003 and 2007 fires, the bottom line is that if we "got off our collective asses" by 2002, I don't see much difference in the outcome of either the Cedar or the Witch fires.

The Cedar fire was started by an illegal alien too close to dusk, and the CDF wouldn't fly and the CDF refused to let the San Diego helicopters fly. After that, we didn't have enough resources on the ground because they had already been sent to LA for a different fire. A) If we had more ground resources, we may have just sent more to LA, and B) Firefighters preserved some structures here and there, but mostly the fire burned itself out. Its not clear how more local assets would have helped. Only huge air assets would have helped, and they both weren't available and couldn't fly anyway because of high winds (and night).

The Witch fire (and others) started due to a combination of SDG&E's poor maintenance and bad weather. Once going it also pretty much went until it burned out. San Pasqual was ravaged by a second fire that started while the first was burning not too many miles away. It was at night and happened so quickly there was very little that more assets could have helped.

I am not against beefing up fire protection and see a big problem with housing going into high fire areas, but realistically the only thing that would have helped in both 2003 and 2007 would have been a massive aerial assault, which is almost entirely the domain of the CDF since we are talking largely about massive tracts of national forest land.

JF and others feel free to correct me where you think I have gone astray.

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 7:08 a.m.

Response to post #43: The inertia in getting the county to prepare a unified, coherent policy to fight forest fires is both amazing and depressing. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 7:51 a.m.

Response to post #44: Even if the county had a strong plan to fight fires, they would still sweep the backcountry from time to time. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 7:56 a.m.

Response to post #45: There is no doubt that firefighter pay and pensions are excessive in San Diego. The question is HOW excessive. It's important to have the correct numbers at hand. Maybe we are getting there in this colloquy. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 7:59 a.m.

Response to post #46: You have put your finger on a sensitive subject that needs exploration. How many hours do the FFs really spend on the job? Are they working in other jobs when technically they are on duty? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 8:01 a.m.

Response to post #47: Poor maintenance by SDG&E led to some of the fires. We all must keep that in mind. Best, Don Bauder

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paul Sept. 14, 2009 @ 8:13 a.m.

JF,

Condolences for the firefighters killed in action. This discussion walks a fine line because I don't think anybody (SurfPup included) fails to appreciate the job firefighters do and agree that they deserve some special compensation for hazard pay. I see the problem as the public seeing the unions using that fact as leverage to take more than they deserve, while firefighters see any push-back from the public as a sign that their work is not appreciated. I hope that you and other firefighters understand the difference and can separate the cold hard reality of economics of salary negotiations and realize that the public does appreciate what you do and does understand that it is a dangerous job.

From my peripheral experience with MEA, the union perpetually whips the members into a frenzy about not being properly paid or appreciated while the city constantly complains to the press about the workers being overpaid. That leads to a strong sense of job dissatisfaction over pay and appreciation that just shouldn't exist. I get the same feeling from the fire and police unions.

Can you shed some light on exactly what a Fire Captain and a Fire Engineer is and what they do relative to a Firefighter? Is it mostly just a category change based on experience and training, or is there something fundamentally different? I was surprised to see that there are more Captains and Engineers combined than there are firefighters. Also, I imagine that a new hire moves from level I to II within two years or so? The number of firefighter Is is extremely small relative to the total number of firefighters (just over 2%), which indicative of a huge problem somewhere.

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JF Sept. 14, 2009 @ 9:04 a.m.

Paul, Let me start with your first post. You have several misconceptions.

The Cedar Fire was not started by an illegal alien. It was started by a legal (though dumb) hunter.

CDF is not responsible for aerial assaults on Forest Service lands. They are completely separate entities with similar, though slightly different, rules. One reason copters could not fly at night then was a lack of night vision gear. One reason for the lack of night vision gear is money.

San Diego firefighters were not in LA, they were in San Bernardino. And they were here locally at Camp Pendleton trying to keep a fire there from pushing into Fallbrook. Obviously, that wasn't an issue when the winds changed, so the firefighters at Pendleton were immediately re-routed to San Diego County.

It is clear that local assets would have helped. A report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology showed that most homes that had firefighting action taken on them in The Trails (RB) were saved. NIST concluded that parking a fire engine in every driveway makes a difference. A big difference.

You're confusing day-to-day needs with the requirements of major fires. Several studies have shown that the SDFD is dramatically understaffed each and every day. Those extra assets would also provide additional coverage during a major fire.

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JF Sept. 14, 2009 @ 9:42 a.m.

Paul, Now let me address your second post. We absolutely understand the economics of our current times. Note that our local was the first to accept a contract from the mayor. That contract included a 6.3% cut in compensation. Overall, our compensation package is down around 10% over the past five years.

The Firefighter, Fire Engineer and Fire Captain roles are fundamentally different. All have different jobs on both fire and medical calls. At a fire, one Firefighter is responsible for connecting a hose to the hydrant, while the other Firefighter drags a hose to the involved building. The Captain sizes up the situation, conducting a lap around the building to find potential hazards or access points and directs other fire companies. The Engineer is responsible for hooking up the various hoses and pumping the correct pressure and then is responsible for logistical support. Both firefighters together advance a hoseline into the structure, as they must work in pairs for safety reasons. Obviously, this is a dramatic oversimplification.

If one of those people is not there do to their job, someone else must do it. That's why you see so many second alarm fires in more suburban areas. (Poway, El Cajon, Lakeside, Vista, etc.) They don't have the personnel to quickly supress fires. And response times are longer. Both of these allow the fire to grow (exponentially) so there is more damage.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 14, 2009 @ 11:46 a.m.

To save you the trouble, the feds also state that the California median is $36,441 for all employees, and the median for state workers is $66,006. I'm guessing that the median salary plus overtime for firefighters is going to be well south of $100K. Let us know what you find out.

Here is a story that lists the fed numbers: http://www.sacbee.com/737/v-print/story/...

By paul

I am still trying to find the median for private sector employes-and the feds do not break it out, this is from the US Census Bureau (2007);

California
Total: 67,484 +/-375 2-person families 62,690 +/-656 3-person families 68,070 +/-1,039 4-person families 77,014 +/-1,154 5-person families 66,176 +/-1,139 6-person families 65,090 +/-1,639 7-or-more-person families 71,162 +/-2,359

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/statemedfaminc.html

Again, there is no way that a private secotr employer, on average, is spending 40% of base salary on benefits.

I will continue to hun tmore infor down....but the $36K median private sector employee in CA is more in line with the truth.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 14, 2009 @ 11:48 a.m.

Ironic that while you guys were arguing about firefighters online, I was at the memorial for two brother firefighters from LA County. Johnny seems to feel that firefighters aren't worth it. The governor and vice president seem to side with me.

By JF

Wow, thanks "hero", you're such a hero. Can you toot your own horn any louder?

Or make up any more bogus misrepresentations? You're not worth $200K per year, and you're not worth $100K per year either.

Hope that helps JF.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 14, 2009 @ 11:53 a.m.

JF,

Condolences for the firefighters killed in action. This discussion walks a fine line because I don't think anybody (SurfPup included) fails to appreciate the job firefighters do and agree that they deserve some special compensation for hazard pay. I see the problem as the public seeing the unions using that fact as leverage to take more than they deserve, while firefighters see any push-back from the public as a sign that their work is not appreciated. I hope that you and other firefighters understand the difference and can separate the cold hard reality of economics of salary negotiations and realize that the public does appreciate what you do and does understand that it is a dangerous job.

By paul

Thank you. Your post covers my position.

The first thing out of any FF/cops mouth to ANYONE who disagrees with them is to label them "haters", "anti-FF", "anti-cop" "anti[insert gov psoition here]" and so forth.

I am sure JF knows this and I think his twisting of the statements is just a ploy to play his "hero" card once again.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 14, 2009 @ 11:54 a.m.

By the way JF-there are over 2K construction deaths per year in America-which is about 10-20 times that of FF deaths-did you go to any of THEIR funerals?

Didn't think so.

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 12:41 p.m.

Response to post #43: The FFs and police should compare their pay and pensions with people in the private sector, and realize they have a good deal. However, have you ever heard anybody complain that his/her pay is too high? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 12:56 p.m.

Response to post #54: There is definitely a need for more firefighting assets. Perhaps there could be more firefighters. But the pay and pensions that FFs enjoy have to be reduced. This is the issue under discussion. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 1:15 p.m.

Response to post #55: A cut of 10% in five years is not so impressive when you realize that the average American's pay has not increased in ten years, and FF employees went into the bargaining realizing that the public considered their compensation and benefits far too high. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 1:18 p.m.

Response to post $56: The $36K median pay for California sounds quite low. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 1:20 p.m.

Response to post #56: This is getting rough. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 1:23 p.m.

Response to post #58: Do the cops give more tickets to those they perceive as anti-cop? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 1:25 p.m.

Response to post #59: How many funerals a year can one attend? Best, Don Bauder

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paul Sept. 14, 2009 @ 3:03 p.m.

Response to JF #54: You seem intent on splitting hairs.

Yes, the CDF and the US Forest service are responsible for most of the backcountry, not just the CDF.

Yes, the fires to the north were in the hills outside LA, which are technically in San Bernardino.

Yes, some more structures could have been saved with more firefighters, I specifically said so.

No, I am specifically not confusing day to day with fighting big fires. I am arguing that big fires are being used to justify beefing up day to day.

The US Forest Service ordered the Sheriff's helicopter to stand down. It wasn' because the helicopter was deficient, as you suggested. In fact, the CDF pilots had already gone home for the night. No additional county assets would have changed either of those events, which were critical to the early moments of the Cedar fire.

The CDF in fact DOES operate in national forests. The state and the Forest Service have cooperation agreements which specifically apply to the Cleveland National Forest. The CDF did make drops in the Cleveland National Forest during the Cedar fire, and the CDF in Ramona would have responded to the Cedar fire which started in the National Forest, if they had still been there. That is also why the Us Forest Service had jurisdiction to chase off the Sheriff's helicopter.

Mea culpa: Yes the hunter was a complete idiot, and you are correct that he was not illegal. The fire believed started by illegal aliens was the Otay fire, not the Cedar fire.

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paul Sept. 14, 2009 @ 3:05 p.m.

Response to JF #55: Thanks for the explanation on job classifications. Based on job classifications, is there a good reason why there are more captains and engineers than there are firefighters? From your description it sound like too many chiefs and not enough indians.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 14, 2009 @ 4:52 p.m.

David Cay Johnston is on Lou Dobbs right now-he just STATED that the median AMERICAN income for 2008 (or 2007?)-pulled from IRS tax returns- was $30K.

OK, that is for the entire country, not just CA, so that would skew downward, but it does not break out private/public employment either, which would skew the number upward.

Still hunting for CA.

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JF Sept. 14, 2009 @ 8:17 p.m.

Paul, not really splitting hairs... just setting the story straight. Everyone wants to blame CDF, but it's a combination of factors and sometimes confusing rules.

Remember that the Sheriff's helo had to fly from Ramona to Gillespie, hook up his bucket, find a water source and fly back. And the 600 that they fly can only carry around 75 gallons of water. Frankly, I don't think he would have made a difference.

There are more Captains and Engineers because some of them are in staff positions. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any staff positions that Firefighters are in. Top heavy? Maybe, but several staffing studies have shown that the most effective number on a fire engine is five. SDFD carries four. Most agencies around here carry three, which is essentially useless at a working structure fire. In other words, there should be more indians, not less chiefs.

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JF Sept. 14, 2009 @ 8:24 p.m.

Johnny, you mean this guy? http://davidcayjohnstonwatch.blogspot.com/

Aren't you the one who claims that people without degrees aren't worth a squat?

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JF Sept. 14, 2009 @ 8:25 p.m.

Paul, one other misconception I noticed in one of your earlier posts. You wrote about pension + FSSP. Safety members are not eligible for the city's SPSP matching system.

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Don Bauder Sept. 14, 2009 @ 9:13 p.m.

Response to post #67: Your mea culpa is in response to the least important criticism by JF. Best, Don Bauder

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paul Sept. 14, 2009 @ 9:28 p.m.

JF said: "just setting the story straight. Everyone wants to blame CDF, but it's a combination of factors and sometimes confusing rules."

Trouble with that is you "set the story straight" by blaming the funding of the county helicopter and misstate that the CDF was not responsible for the first response, when in fact they were. I am not saying that the CDF did anything particularly wrong given the guidelines they were operating under, but to shift blame to the county for not having night vision equipment on their helicopter is ridiculous.

I don't disagree at all that there should be more indians.

The FSSP is an MEA thing, and I mentioned that (while at the same time mentioning my experience is mostly with MEA) to help defend you, so I am surprised you are harping on it. The point is that the various benefits that city employees get (pension and other benefits) are at least partially offset by benefits such as SS and 401Ks offered in the private sector, so the net advantage you enjoy in benefits is not as great as people like SurfPup sometimes try to claim. It would be nice to quantify how much the benefits you enjoy actually cost so an apples to apples comparison could be done. It is hard to get a true number because of accounting sleight of hand.

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JF Sept. 15, 2009 @ 6:33 a.m.

Paul, Sorry if my statement confused you. I meant that CDF did not have night vision on their helicopters. For that matter, they didn't (and still don't) have a helicopter in this county. Why not? The county helicopters had not yet been even thought of in 2003... at least not by the supervisors.

Likewise, my apologies for misinterpreting your comments about FSSP. Nonetheless, it does help set the record straight.

As far as chiefs vs indians on each individual fire engine? Well, each engine needs someone to be in charge, someone to drive it and some firefighters. At a fire, the most efficient staffing is five, allowing two teams of two and one to pump. However, we recognize that there aren't all that many fires. I'd prefer to see more engines opened for better response times, while maintaining a reasonable four per apparatus.

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 7:50 a.m.

Response to post #74: Getting an apples to apples comparison is going to be difficult in this case. I would go farther: economists talk about "apples to apples" comparisons, but because there are so many nuances and variables, they are seldom possible to achieve. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 7:55 a.m.

Response to post #75: No matter how you describe it, the FD appears to be top-heavy. The public perceives that and wonders if these topside jobs are created to boost salaries. If you can argue otherwise, do so. Best, Don Bauder

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paul Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:28 a.m.

JF said: "I meant that CDF did not have night vision on their helicopters. For that matter, they didn't (and still don't) have a helicopter in this county. Why not? The county helicopters had not yet been even thought of in 2003... at least not by the supervisors."

I'm still confused. If there were no CDF helicopters in San Diego I don't know why you were listing lack of funds for helicopter night vision as an issue, especially when the lack of funds argument here has routinely been used against the county and city. And if the CDF doesn't have adequate resources in San Diego, I don't see why you would go out of your way to absolve them while laying blame on the county and city.

When you say that county helicopters had not been thought of I think you are dealing with semantics again. The Sheriff is a county agency, and the Sheriff helicopter flew to the fire in 2003 and was turned back. In fact, it flew off from the SDPD Light the Night event in Balboa Park just as we arrived. My daughters were disappointed because it had been on display and they didn't get a chance to see it. We had no idea why it was leaving at the time.

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paul Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:48 a.m.

Reply to #77:

Don, from the little I have seen there appears to be an inherent problem with the salary structure in city jobs. I know that at least the MEA jobs I am familiar with and apparently the fire jobs speed through job categories fairly quickly, and within 3-5 years employees race through all the steps and max out. At that point the levels mostly stop, so you can spend 20-30 years in a career that you have essentially maxed out in 3-5 years. That often leads to complacency and job dissatisfaction. It also creates the situation that your only chance for any change in pay is strictly due to union negotiations and not anything to do with your ability or performance.

The fact that only 2% of fire employees are firefighter I and over half of fire fighters are in the two highest categories would imply the same thing happens in the fire department.

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investor1 Sept. 15, 2009 @ 10:16 a.m.

Your missing the big picture.

To fix the problem you need to address the problem. you need to give SDG & E options like for instance

  1. If a fire starts they need access to the facilities to put the fire out. This is the second lap people are fire departments do not have the capabilities of putting out large forest fires they are set up for small home fires.

  2. Let them have military access to equipment and personnel that fight fires in any weather conditions. Remmember the five c130's that would drop fire retartedent a 1/4 mile in on stroke sent from north carolina ? The politics prevented them from being used in the fire they where diverted to los angeles.

  3. We need to end the politics and old methods of forest fire fighting and get the taxpayers equipment out there fast. The military which is paid by the taxpayer defends the taxpayer can react alot faster and alot cheaper than the fire departments.

  4. Don't blame sdg&e for providing services what about lighting strikes going to sue the weather stations or airspace ?

  5. If the public knew the military would be called in to put out large fires. I predict most the fires would not happen in the first place. I see alot of companies that "depend" on yearly fires for income if this ends so will the fires.

  6. These fires showed a second time that politics to make everyone happy costs billions to the taxpayers its time for a change in methods. We don't need all these fire stations we already pay for the worlds largest everyday.

I saved forty homes with a garden hose lost one of the largest in the trails in rancho bernardo that fire cost me millions and to find out that politics & old procedurers prevented that fire from being put out in less than four hours irrates me to no end.

You can put solar on the homes in the less than ten percent nieghborhoods the cost of all this bickering probly would pay for it we are putting 5000 watt systems in for less than 1.67 a watt rightnow thats after rebates. Before the cost is 4.45 a watt before the rebates. Go green

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 12:07 p.m.

Response to post #78: I have not heard about the sheriff's helicopter being turned back in a 2003 fire. We need more on that topic. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 12:10 p.m.

Response to post #79: They may max out in 3 to 5 years (I don't know if that is true), but they max out at a pretty high pay and pension level. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 12:16 p.m.

Response to post #80: I agree that the ultimate answer is solar at residences. Better, more efficient solar technology is on its way. But SDG&E will fight solar to the bitter end. Best, Don Bauder

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paul Sept. 15, 2009 @ 12:46 p.m.

Reply to #83:

I love solar, but it won't solve the problem of transmission lines in the backcountry. Unless you have battery storage or a generator, you still have to be hooked up to the grid. It still gets dark about half the time (and even more when it is smokey!), so with solar you use net metering, where you pump excess electricity into the grid during the day (essentially running your meter backwards), and then use your banked credit to draw SDG&E power at night.

BTW: California passed a bill allowing cities to fund low-cost loans for solar that would be attached to your house and paid back through your property tax. If you sold your house, the loan would stay attached to the property. It is potentially a great way to get people into solar without a large up-front cost.

Sanders made an announcement back in early December that San Diego would create such a program. I have heard nothing since.

SDG&E will push solar just as soon as it can make sure that all solar power must be purchased from them. After all, people shouldn't expect to use the sun for free (heavy sarcasm).

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paul Sept. 15, 2009 @ 12:51 p.m.

Response to #82:

Absolutely. I think that there should be more steps between the entry level and the highest paid level, and I think it should take at least 20 years to get there, not 3-5.

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paul Sept. 15, 2009 @ 1:23 p.m.

Respone to #81:

That was very commonly reported at the time. The hunter who started the fire was rescued by a helicopter. That helicopter saw the fire and called in (about the same time as the first phone call) for the other helicopter with the bucket. The helicopter with the bucket was minutes away when the Forest Service called them off because no drops are permitted after sunset. The fire was reported shortly before sunset and they were straddling the cutoff time. The helicopter pilot thought he could get in 2 or 3 drops. The Forest Service (unbiased?) investigation determined the helicopter wouldn't have mattered.

The CDF pilots nearby in Ramona had already gone home for the day, so they weren't an option to respond. There was some controversy over exactly when the first call arrived and whether there was a delay and whether a drop could have been made before the cutoff. There was a lot frustration because it is still fairly light just after sunset, and the winds were very light. Overnight the winds kicked in, and the rest is history. The time cutoff was fairly conservative, because it is extremely dangerous to fly those missions in the dark, and I believe they had some accidents in the past.

There was a fire in Penasquitos Canyon last year and we were lucky enough to get a couple of fixed wing aircraft immediately diverted from the LA fires to put it out. Before they arrived, a helicopter with a bucket seemed to barely make a dent with several drops. The fixed wing bombers knocked the fire out in two drops. The drops were very impressive in the way the pilots had to circle and dive down a side-canyon while avoiding huge power lines while flying sideways very low to the ground. I've got nothing but respect and gratitude for the job those guys did. It was also plainly evident that the fixed_wing drops were night and day more effective than the helicopter with the small bucket.

I never did hear how that Penasquitos fire started....right below SDG&E power lines....

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:09 p.m.

Response to post #84: Solar isn't a complete solution -- not yet anyway. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:12 p.m.

Response to post #85: Those are quick ascents. They maximize income and benefits. Do they have anything to do with the early retirements? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:15 p.m.

Response to post #86: Why aren't those CDF pilots on call on a 24-hour basis? Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:21 p.m.

Johnny, you mean this guy? http://davidcayjohnstonwatch.blogspot.co...

Aren't you the one who claims that people without degrees aren't worth a squat?

By JF

Yep, David Cay Johnston is one smart dude!

BTW-he has taken NUMEROUS graduate level economic classes at the University of Chicago-one of the top 5 universities in America-how many FF's have been to grad school at Chicago JW?

But this is all beside the point JW, the fact is you (and JW) try to SLIME anyone who disagrees with your position.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:34 p.m.

Last;

I cannot find any stats on the median annual CA salary for CA private sector employees.

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JF Sept. 15, 2009 @ 9:32 p.m.

Paul, when I said that Sheriff's helicopters had not been thought of yet, I was referring to firefighting helicopters capable of carrying 350 gallons or so of water. You witnessed what they're capable of first hand in the PQ fire. Now imagine that instead of that big Bell (Huey) you were trying to drop on the fire with 75 gallons. Only 20% as much water. Think you'd do much good? There may be light that time of night, but not a lot and it creates shadows in the canyons. Very dangerous flying.

I don't wholesale defend CDF or local agencies. I think some huge mistakes were made during the Cedar Fire. But one of the biggest problems is a lack of funding. If investor saved 40 homes singlehandedly, what do you think an additional 20 engines could have accomplished?

Don, there's no need to keep pilots on for 24 hours when the aircraft they are given to fly are not capable of flying at night.

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JF Sept. 15, 2009 @ 9:57 p.m.

Johnny, my intent is not to discredit Mr. Johnston in the least. My intent is to discredit your numerous claims that people without degrees aren't worth as much money. What's your claim? GED educated welfare queens? Guess what. So is Mr. Johnston.

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paul Sept. 15, 2009 @ 11:54 p.m.

JF said: "If investor saved 40 homes singlehandedly, what do you think an additional 20 engines could have accomplished?"

That begs a whole different question. What is an appropriate standing force relative to the amount you need in the rare exceptional fire (the 100 year flood scenario)?

To me you answered the question by citing investor. You pose the question that if investor saved 40 homes single handedly with a garden hose, what would 20 additional engines have accomplished. I would turn that around and ask that if investor could do that with a garden hose, what could a couple of thousand volunteers have done with fire hoses.

The fire department may be understaffed, but it doesn't make sense to permanently staff to the level required to adequately fight the Cedar fire. What does make perfect sense is to train and equip volunteers to protect their own communities in areas like Rancho Bernardo and Scripps Ranch. The hydrants are already in the neighborhoods, there just weren't enough engines to get to them all. There are plenty of people, however, who would man them all in defense of their own homes and their neighbor's homes.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 15, 2009 @ 8:33 p.m.

The point is that the various benefits that city employees get (pension and other benefits) are at least partially offset by benefits such as SS and 401Ks offered in the private sector, so the net advantage you enjoy in benefits is not as great as people like SurfPup sometimes try to claim.

OK, you got me on the 6.25% employer conbtribution to SS. That is correct-it is an employer paid pension contribution.

As to the 401K, many firms USED to offer a match-usually UP to 3%, a very select few USED to offer more-BUT MANY MORE offered no match, nothing.

Today close to no one in the private sector is mathcing the 401K. Now compare that to the City of San Diego who has a 2.7% DB pension at age 55, AND a SPSP 401K with a whopping 6% match. TWO pensions, BOTH better than anything in the private sector standing alone-put them together and it is probably 20 times better than SS.

OK, this is the bottom line and why I go ape s*** over these gov pension plans-

Retirement plans were designed to provide economic security to people when they were no longer able to do their jobs, not so they could double their income at the public's expense, or retire as millionaires at age 50, to go double dipping somewhere else.

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:26 a.m.

Response to post #90: David Cay Johnston is a brilliant analyst and writer. I wish his works were better known. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:28 a.m.

Response to post #91: Many companies have dropped the 401(k) match, but many have not. The Union-Tribune dropped it and recently restored it. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:31 a.m.

Response to post #92: I can't believe that that number is unavailable. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:34 a.m.

Response to post #93: But there is a lot of daylight well into the evening during fire season. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:37 a.m.

Response to post #94: But when you are dealing with a large statistical universe, when you are when looking at FF remuneration, criticism on educational attainment/pay can be valid. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:40 a.m.

Response to post #95: Our original topic was shutting off power to the backcountry. And it doesn't make sense to shut off that power if fire hoses would have only limited use. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Sept. 16, 2009 @ 7:11 a.m.

Paul, The additional 20 engines I referred to are needed for day-to-day usage. I have no designs on staffing daily to meet the needs of a catastrophe. On the day of the Witch Fire, SDFD managed to put 60+ engines on the road up from the normal 46. Even to this day, we routinely have only 3-5 spares that we can put in service to boost the current 47 engines.

The fire service in California has been promoting a concept called, "Ready, Set, Go". The idea is that citizens can save their own homes -- if they have prepared themselves and their homes. Unfortunately, few have done either. I support the use of volunteers, but only if they have received the same initial basic wildland firefighting training that firefighters receive. People have to realize when they have to go and where they cannot stay. Witness what happened to the two very experienced LA County firefighters a couple of weeks ago. Further, witness what happened in Australia last winter. What was it? 200 dead? Remember, our first mission is to save lives. If we let people stay and one is killed, we have not done our job.

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paul Sept. 16, 2009 @ 9:32 a.m.

Reply to SurfPup:

I have heard some companies are rolling back the 401K match, but it has never happened to me personally. I thought there were laws in place that made it beneficial for companies to match (though I admit I don't know what they are). The thing that I DO know is that MEA employees were given the choice of a 3% pay cut or a 3% reduction in their FSSP match.

You can argue whether or not city workers are over paid and whether their benefits are too generous, but you can't argue that they have not been affected by the economy. MEA employees have seen their contribution for medical and other benefits raised substantially, their FSSP was cut, and most haven't received a pay raise (including no COLA) for about 5 years.

I'm not crying for public workers, but you have to be fair in your criticism, or you lose credibility and are just crying wolf. In my mind many public workers are a little over paid (not a lot), but the retirement benefits are way too high. Pension multipliers are too high and the retirement age is too low.

What I would like to see is a defined contribution retirement plan, because the city and unions have demonstrated that they can't be trusted with a defined benefit plan. Everyone should get out what they put in. No more, no less.

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paul Sept. 16, 2009 @ 9:42 a.m.

JF said: "The additional 20 engines I referred to are needed for day-to-day usage."

I have no problem with addressing the existing shortage of fire stations, equipment and crew.

I would be ecstatic if fire officials would support an official plan for communities to man their own hydrants. Such a plan would definitely require basic instruction including escape routes adn when to use them. In my case I am mostly talking about the communities like Scripps Ranch and Rancho Bernardo where there is defensible space, big streets for escape, lots of fire hydrants (but not nearly enough crews to man them) and the primary cause of homes burning down was flying embers. I have no intention of defending a single home off of a rural, windy, overgrown road with chaparral on all sides.

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paul Sept. 16, 2009 @ 9:46 a.m.

Response to #101: Back to the original topic, SDG&E should be made to maintain their lines, and they should have to do it out of their profit.

It is ridiculous that they fail to maintain the lines while making a fat profit, and then they can charge ratepayers to settle the claims from the fires they caused. Where is the incentive for SDG&E to do anything right?

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:49 p.m.

Response to post #102: Residents preparing their homes to guard against a fire costs money. Training volunteers costs money. That's why neither initiative has gone anywhere. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:52 p.m.

Response to post #103: You hit the nail on the head: pension multipliers are too high and retirement ages are too low. I would also argue that basic salaries are too high, but not as far out of line as the first two. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:56 p.m.

Response to post #104: Having communities manning their own hydrants is certainly something to think about. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:59 p.m.

Response to post #105: That's why Wall Street loves the PUC. The commission gives the utilities all the avenues to make money at the expense of consumers. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:14 p.m.

Johnny, my intent is not to discredit Mr. Johnston in the least. My intent is to discredit your numerous claims that people without degrees aren't worth as much money. What's your claim? GED educated welfare queens? Guess what. So is Mr. Johnston.

By JF

JF-if you knew ANYTHING about DCJ, you would know he has attended numerous course at teh University of Chicago's Graduate School of Economics-now what part of that do you NOT understand. To say he is not educated is, well, it is just pathetic.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 16, 2009 @ 7:22 p.m.

You can argue whether or not city workers are over paid and whether their benefits are too generous, but you can't argue that they have not been affected by the economy.

The economy has affected very FEW public employees since the economy went south in September 2008. The state itself has actually added serveral thousand jobs.

Public employees have for the most part not seen ANY pay cuts. San Diego may have given back more than some of the other muni's, but overall the public sector has seen very little, if any, of the economic pain that the private sector has seen.

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paul Sept. 17, 2009 @ 8:23 a.m.

SurfPupsaid: "Public employees have for the most part not seen ANY pay cuts. San Diego may have given back more than some of the other muni's, but overall the public sector has seen very little, if any, of the economic pain that the private sector has seen."

But we ARE talking about San Diego. San Diego HAS made substantial pay and benefit cuts, probably more than most private companies (for people who still have jobs). What the city has not done is restructure the pension, reduce the pension multiplier or have any meaningful layoffs. Those are legitimate for you to argue, as is whether pay rates are too high, retirement ages too young, etc. There is so much to argue, that you do yourself and your argument a huge disservice by continually making this false claim. It is flat out wrong, and it pisses off the employees who make less now in pay and benefits than they did 5 years ago.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 17, 2009 @ 8:39 a.m.

But we ARE talking about San Diego.

I am talking, in general terms, about all public sector employees, not just San Diego and CA (although they are my main focus).

As for San Diego City employees taking more in pay cuts than the private sector-that is just not true. The priate sector today is maikng LESS than it was 10 years ago-in actual dollars, not inflation factored dollars. San Diego City employees are NOT making less than they were 10 years ago.

I disagree that my claims are false. I think they are close to the mark-might not be a bulls eye everytime, but close enough.

. . . "and it pisses off the employees who make less now in pay and benefits than they did 5 years ago",

The PD and FD do not make less, and these two departments account for the vast majority of employee costs (over 75% in Vallejo), so I don't see City employees making less as a group.

To the extent that some of the LOWER paid employees make LESS-my comments are not, and never were, aimed at them. They are not aimed at the little guy pulling down $25K-$55K with a pension at age 60. Those people are not the problem.

So, to all the lower level employees in the San Diego City workforce-my apologies if you think I am attacking you or your pay/benefit structure. I am not. I am specifially attacking the pay/benefit structure of the PD and especially the FD.

The 3%@50 pensions are by far the biggest problem this City/County/State/Nation faces today. That pension plan only applies to PD/FD.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 17, 2009 @ 8:49 a.m.

It used to be that gov employment paid less because you had bullet proof job security and a better than average retirement plan (pension and healthcare).

Today you have BETTER pay, much better benefits than just 10 years ago and the bullet proof job security is still there.

BTW-the "property" interest in a gov job is legislatively created-the CA legislature could terminate the "property" interest in employment at any time they wanted to.

Paul-here is a link to the pay of certain cops in NY, where the AVERAGE pay for the private sector was under $50K, and the AVERAGE pay for PD, in at least two counties, was OVER $136K, not counting benefits, which we know basically doubles the compensation of a cop/FF. That would be over $260K with benefits.

Add in the paltry benefits of the private sector employee (maybe 25%, or $12.5K)to the equation and the cop is making 4-5 times more than the average private sector employee-as I stated earlier. So my statement about cops making 4-5 times more than the private sector is not off the mark.

CA pays their cops/public employees better than NY does.

http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/most-li-cops-earn-more-than-100-000-annually-1.1451151

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Don Bauder Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:19 p.m.

Response to post #110: We have an invidious comparison here. In criticizing FFs for having high pay, SurfPuppy compared FF pay with that of highly educated persons -- some doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc. He was not saying that brilliant writers such as Johnston do not deserve their remuneration because they don't happen to have a degree. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:22 p.m.

Response to post #111: Mayor Sanders brags all the time about the cuts he has made in government. Many say he is lying. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:25 p.m.

Response to post 112: Defend yourself, SurfPuppy. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:30 p.m.

Response to post #113: Agreed: 3%@50 is too generous. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:34 p.m.

Response to post #114: The total of government pay and fringes is more than the same total in the private sector. And the generous retirements come at a much earlier age -- much, much earlier -- in government. The bottom line is the governments can't afford it. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Sept. 19, 2009 @ 5:58 p.m.

Don, According to the Social Security Administration, the average SS recipient begins receiving benefits at age 62. I think we can safely call that "retirement age". According to SDCERS, the average retirement age of a safety member is 57. I didn't look up the age of a general member, but it's older. So safety members are retiring 10% earlier than the general population and general members less than that, if earlier at all. Not quite the "much, much earlier" that you claim.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 19, 2009 @ 7:11 p.m.

According to SDCERS, the average retirement age of a safety member is 57. I didn't look up the age of a general member, but it's older. So safety members are retiring 10% earlier than the general population

Wrong again JF. But hey, don't let facts, or the truth, or apples to apples comparisons get in the way of one of your whoppers.

A Safety member only works 30 years for a full retirement-so age 57 (or age 50) is a FULL retirement-not a PARTIAL retirement-so be sure to make that distiction. If you retire from SS at age 62 you get your SS lowered by over 40%. FULL retirement in SS is age 67. NOT age 62. Nice try-but the truth will shoot down that gov employee lie anyday of the week.

Next, if the safety member only works 30 years-and the SS memeber works 50 years, that is 66% longer-not your bogus 10%, which is off by a country mile.

JF-you and your others at the FD and PD are the reason the puiblic is feed up with this nonsense, from all your lies trying to rig the system and rip everyone off.

Oh, and do not forget, the retirement from a SS is about 20% that of a safety pension, and it take 66% longer to get.

OH, and BTW-the famous-or should I say infamous- whopper you always claim about saftey employees dying 5 years after retirement-Chris Reed checked that whopper out with Calpers-100% FALSE-FF and cops live longer by a few months, which proves up the european study I have posted several times showing FF's are actually living 2 years longer than the average male.

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Don Bauder Sept. 19, 2009 @ 9:42 p.m.

Response to post #120: That so-called "average" age of Social Security recipients, 62, sounds very low to me. I would like to know how it is calculated. I wonder if it includes all kinds of disability retirements that begin at very young ages. I do know that those who take SS at age 62 take a substantial financial hit. I also question that 57 age, but I won't call it untrue unless I see SDCERS figures. It appears to me that you are playing with numbers here. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 19, 2009 @ 9:46 p.m.

Response to post #121: SurfPuppy agrees: JF is playing with numbers here. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2009 @ 8:50 a.m.

That so-called "average" age of Social Security recipients, 62, sounds very low to me. I would like to know how it is calculated. I wonder if it includes all kinds of disability retirements that begin at very young ages. I do know that those who take SS at age 62 take a substantial financial hit.

By dbauder

Don, I have seen the age 62 on the SS website as the "average" age also (because I did not believe the stat).

The absolute earliest ANYONE can RETIRE with a SS pension is age 62-that is the earliest someone can retire, dictating it could never be the "average" age also (unless everyone retired at age 62, which we know is not true).

So SSI, or disability retiree's have to be included in the "average" age, which wouls skew the "average" downward. And if that is the case it cannot be used as a comparison.

I too would like to see just who exactly is included in this "average" calculation.

HERE IS THE BOTTOM LINE FOR ME, a mission statement I have developed on public and private pensions (yes, I authored this statement myself);

"Retirement plans were designed to provide economic security to people when they were no longer able to do their jobs, so they could live out their remaining years with dignity and self reliance, not so they could double their income at the public's expense, or retire as millionaires at age 50."

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Don Bauder Sept. 20, 2009 @ 5:34 p.m.

Response to post #124: I agree that 62 can't be a SS retirement average since it's the lowest age at which one can retire (not including disability retirees). If the 62 number includes disability retirements, then the safety employees' average retirement age would also have to include disability retirements. Best, Don Bauder

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JF Sept. 20, 2009 @ 8:31 p.m.

Hey, I didn't publish the stat, I'm just repeating it. It does include people receiving disability. So does the SDCERS stat. Apples and apples, right?

http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2001/10/art2full.pdf

Here's the other thing you don't seem to be admitting. Social Security was never intended as a "full retirement". SDCERS was. "The purpose of this article is to recognize a public obligation to City employees for their long service in public employment by making provision for retirement compensation and death benefits as additional elements of compensation for future services" SDMC 24.0100

401K's were never intended as a full retirement, but rather as a tax shelter for employers. SDCERS was intended as a full retirement.

Oh, one other thing. The Supreme Court ruled that individuals have no right to SS. Meanwhile SDCERS members have a vested right to their retirement.

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JF Sept. 20, 2009 @ 8:33 p.m.

Johnny, So what you are saying is that members of the military should not be allowed to retire at age 38 nor should they be allowed to hold other employment?

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Don Bauder Sept. 20, 2009 @ 9:14 p.m.

Response to post #126: That 57 average retirement age certainly sounds high if it includes those who retired with disabilities. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 20, 2009 @ 9:17 p.m.

Response to post #127: I don't know that SurfPuppy ever complained about the military retirement program. That's a completely different topic. We could start another discussion on that. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2009 @ 9:52 p.m.

Here's the other thing you don't seem to be admitting. Social Security was never intended as a "full retirement". SDCERS was.

And here is something you don't know JF-SDCERS was never meant to be a gold plated Cadillac pension scam allowing multi million dollar pensions at age 50 either.

At least you came clean on the "average" SS age. Funny how you ignored all the other holes I blew in your original post.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2009 @ 9:57 p.m.

So what you are saying is that members of the military should not be allowed to retire at age 38 nor should they be allowed to hold other employment?

By JF

Another bogus red herring brought out by one of the over paid, over pensioned, under educated public pension recepients.

When are you going to start using your "Pro Athlete" comparisons, or "Movie Star" comparisons, or "Entertainer" comparisons???????

Thank goodness the city, county and state are broke-and the money is not there to pay your pension scams JF. The lack of money is finally going to do what the politicians could not-put an end to your scams.

Here you go JF-this is for you;

"Retirement plans were designed to provide economic security to people when they were no longer able to do their jobs, so they could live out their remaining years with dignity and self reliance, not so they could double their income at the public's expense, or retire as millionaires at age 50."

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2009 @ 10:01 p.m.

401K's were never intended as a full retirement, but rather as a tax shelter for employers. SDCERS was intended as a full retirement.

Doesn't matter what they were "intended" for 40 years ago JF-today Defined Contribution pensions are recognized as the only retirement vehicle for private sector employees, usually with no match. So your notion that 401K's are nto intended for full retirement is once again shot down as being false-sort of like your whopper of claiming the "average" age for SS retirement is age 62.

So once again your red herring side issues come up a big dud.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2009 @ 10:03 p.m.

Once again JF-in case you missed it the first time;

"Retirement plans were designed to provide economic security to people when they were no longer able to do their jobs, so they could live out their remaining years with dignity and self reliance, not so they could double their income at the public's expense, or retire as millionaires at age 50."

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Don Bauder Sept. 21, 2009 @ 7:26 a.m.

Response to posts #130-133: I think there is general agreement among voters that the benefits -- and probably the pay -- of City workers are over-generous. Will anything be done about it? With a former City employee as mayor, I doubt it. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 21, 2009 @ 7:57 a.m.

Don, with the pension deficit still growing in San Diego, and no real solution at hand (notwithstanding Frye and DeMaio's recent votes), I just cannot see why BK has not been declared, or at least threatened to get some give back concessions with the public unions.

The pension costs are exploding from the 3%@50 and other abuses, yet we haven't even been able to make payments that meet the old plans costs. And there is no plan to cure the structural funding problem. We still have 3%@50, yet everyone knows it cannot be sustained-WHY? Why is it still here? Why can't the polititcans grow a backbone and end IT?

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Don Bauder Sept. 21, 2009 @ 9:47 a.m.

Response to post #135: The reason is that the current mayor wants to get out of office and try to climb the ladder without the stain of BK on his record. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 21, 2009 @ 11:27 a.m.

Here's the other thing you don't seem to be admitting. Social Security was never intended as a "full retirement". SDCERS was. "The purpose of this article is to recognize a public obligation to City employees for their long service in public employment by making provision for retirement compensation and death benefits as additional elements of compensation for future services" SDMC 24.0100

By JF

JF and Don-

I have a question. It was my understanding that San Diego opted out of social security, as allowed under federal law, in the early 1980's because they felt they could do better running their own retirement system (and the employees certainly have!).

Is that true?

If that is true then the San Diego retirement system is a substitute for SS and would technically be viewed as equals-not as a supplement (SS) or primary (City) retirement systems.

Please let me know your opinions on this.

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Don Bauder Sept. 21, 2009 @ 11:36 a.m.

Response to post #137: I will let JF give his answer on this. I haven't time to do homework on this right now. Best, Don Bauder

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or Sept. 22, 2009 @ 3:32 p.m.

The city opted out of social security in 1981 and adopted the SPSP in it's place. Of course, it excluded the PD and FD because they didn’t participate in Social Security prior to the City opting out. Originally all the assets were invested by the city treasurer. In 1996 the SPSP was restructured resemble a 401(k) plan by giving individuals more control over their investment selections.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 22, 2009 @ 4:11 p.m.

No, that is not how I understand it-the City supposedly opted out of SS for the DB plan, the SPSP was added later, and the SPSP was a supplemental pension, not a replacement for SS.

That would explain why the DB was in place for everyone, but because the PD/FD received a better DB they were not allowed the supplemental SPSP plan. If the city replaced SS with the SPSP then PD/FD would be entitled to the SPSP just like everyone else.

That is what I have read anyway-can you source any of your post occumsrazor?

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 22, 2009 @ 4:18 p.m.

The Supplemental Pension Savings Plan (SPSP) IS a replacement for SS.

Doesn't make any sense because it is supplemental, as it's name says

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/images/090216mayorletter.pdf

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or Sept. 22, 2009 @ 4:36 p.m.

re # 140 Here you go, straight from the City of San Diego Benefits Administrator herself:

http://www.ssa.gov/history/reports/pcsss/Valerie_Vanderweghe_Statement.pdf

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 22, 2009 @ 7:35 p.m.

Yes, it was meant to replace SS-I posted another source that said the same thing.

I want to know when the DB pension was established?

I can't believe it was established AFTER the SPSP, and it doesn't make sense to have a DB and the SPSP.

ON A NEW Note, the most connected dim wit in San Diego has been gifted yet another "appointed" high level government job;

Obama names Customs and Border Protection commissioner

Former California Education Secretary Alan Bersin has experience in law and border enforcement as well as education. If confirmed by the Senate, he'll take charge of about 57,000 employees.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-border-czar23-2009sep23,0,5167158.story

Clown Bersin has been gifted more high level gov jobs, undeserved I might add, than any person on the face of this earth.

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Don Bauder Sept. 22, 2009 @ 7:37 p.m.

Response to posts #139-142: Note in Vandeweghe's testimony that 49% of the money was in the very conservative fund made up of government paper, cash equivalents, etc. But Sept.6, 2001, when she gave the talk, was in the middle of a horrendous bear market (five days before 9/11, which sent the market down much further.) It looks like a lot of employees were smart enough to move out of stocks and into defensive paper. I wonder what that percentage was right after 9/11, and what it is now. Best, Don Bauder

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