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San Diego City Employees pension fund ailing

No more bragging rights

The San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System always likes to brag about its investment performance. It endlessly points out that among its peers (other municipal employees’ funds) and among benchmarks by which various funds are measured, it is in the top 5 percent, or 3 percent, or whatever.

Those bragging rights are going down the toilet. The city employees’ pension fund had an utterly dismal performance in the third quarter of 2008, ended September 30. Over the past quarter, the past year, and the past three years, it is now doing poorly when compared with benchmarks.

In the fall edition of Free Spirit, the pension system’s newsletter, the deputy chief investment officer boasted that through June 30 of this year, the fund had risen annually by 7.77 percent, 10.7 percent, and 7.95 percent over the past three, five, and ten years, respectively. The ten-year performance was in the upper 3 percent among peers, boasted the fund.

But that was for June 30. Its record for the third quarter of this year, ended three months later, changed the picture. The fund lost 10.10 percent in that third quarter; other municipal funds, on average, lost 7.28 percent. This put the San Diego fund’s performance in the lowest 14 percent that quarter.

These abysmal results then shifted all the numbers downward. Over the past year, the fund lost 15.62 percent, putting San Diego’s return in the lower 34 percent of comparable pension systems. For three years, the return is 2.47 percent a year — ranking in the lower 43 percent. Annual performance over five years is now 7.34 percent. Ten-year performance is still very good — 7.65 percent a year, in the top 6 percent. The losses will be worse after the fourth quarter, which is not yet finished; the overall stock market has suffered a monumental bloodbath in 2008.

The latest numbers can be found in the third-quarter report by Callan Associates, a consulting firm that does statistical analyses for the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS). “In a terrible quarter and year in the capital markets, the SDCERS portfolio underperformed peers,” says Callan’s Janet Becker-Wold, although pointing out that the ten-year returns remain outstanding.

In the third quarter, the various components of the San Diego fund — domestic stocks, international bonds, etc. — did worse than comparable funds. To put this in context, it’s necessary to look at the fund’s history. In the giddy days of the mid-1990s, the portfolio managers got gamier. Up until then, 55 percent of the fund was in U.S. fixed income securities (basically bonds). Just 35 percent was in U.S. stocks and 10 percent in real estate.

In late 1994, the bond portion was reduced to 36 percent (34 percent U.S. and 2 percent foreign). Stocks were raised to 54 percent (41 percent U.S. and 13 percent international). But the broad stock market, both domestic and foreign, has gone nowhere since 1998, and there have been two bad bear markets, 2000–2002 and the current one, in those ten years. So the pension fund boosted its pursuit of stocks just in time to get in on a dismal decade. Its ten-year record is quite good but probably could have been better if it had stayed more conservative.

But in the mid-1990s, the San Diego pension fund was merely following the herd: other pension and charitable portfolios loaded up on stocks at that time on the notion that they do better over the long haul than bonds. Reliable statistics show that has been true, but conservative investors warn that a heavy concentration in stocks can be dangerous. In 2006, the allocations were tweaked to stocks 55 percent (38 percent domestic and 17 percent international), bonds 34 percent (30 percent U.S. and 4 percent foreign), and real estate 11 percent.

In this year’s bleak third quarter, the pension fund underperformed in just about every category. U.S. stock plunged 10.8 percent versus the benchmark’s minus 7.4 percent, winding up in the bottom 12 percent among peers. International stocks plunged 22.9 percent, ranking in the bottom 10 percent among peers. Domestic bonds, dropping 5.3 percent, did twice as poorly as the average fund. Foreign bonds were down 6.29 percent and in the bottom 17 percent. So-called market-neutral funds, which take both long positions (betting on an upride) and short positions (gambling on a downride), dropped in value and collectively were deep in the bottom half. Returns on real estate (which are reported a quarter behind the other assets) were in the bottom 21 percent; one real estate investment trust portfolio fund, losing 9.52 percent for the quarter, was at or below the bottom 1 percent for both the quarter and year.

I asked San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System about the rancid third-quarter performance. A spokesperson said that the underperformance of U.S. stocks was “primarily due to unprecedented volatility.” Some categories of stocks, such as cosmetics makers, will perform well one day and the next day the steels will do well while cosmetics plunge, complained the pension system. Yeah, but all pension funds faced those same conditions. Response: “In the current market environment, fundamentals don’t seem to matter in the market, and investment managers with a focus on higher-quality stocks, like SDCERS, may underperform.”

But does the San Diego pension system really have higher-quality stocks? Callan, for one, has challenged the system’s stock allocation. There are large-capitalization stocks, those that the market values at $10 billion or more. There are mid caps, $2 billion to $10 billion. And small caps, $300 million to $2 billion. Callan told the City’s pension system in June that the overall market distribution was 84 percent large cap, 8 percent mid cap, and 8 percent small cap. But San Diego’s pension system has 60 percent large cap, 20 percent mid, and 20 percent small — a much heavier concentration in more speculative small- and mid-cap stocks. Callan conceded that these non–blue chips have a better record in recent years but warned that there have been “long historical periods during which mid- and small-cap stocks have underperformed large-cap stocks.” San Diego should consider shaving its allocations of these gamier small- and mid-cap stocks, lest it lock in some losses, said the consultant.

According to Russell Investments, which rides herd on investment performance, mid-cap stocks dropped 10.18 percent in November, while the broad market went down 7.89 percent. Mid caps have done worse than the broad market for the past three months, one year, and three years. Small caps have underperformed the broad market in November and in the past three months. In November, small caps dropped 11.8 percent while large caps dropped 7.6 percent — a significant difference. Small caps suffered “staggering losses” early in the month, said Russell.

But the San Diego pension system is not budging: “Given SDCERS’s belief that small and mid cap stocks will outperform large caps over long time horizons, there is no plan to change the allocation at this time,” says the pension system in a statement.

That could prove risky.

The fourth-quarter results won’t be reported until February. Small- and mid-cap stocks are looking more feeble than the overall market, which is plenty weak. It will be interesting to see if the fourth quarter’s performance justifies the pension system’s cockiness.

The board held various meetings in the December 17–20 period. It was told that as of October 31, the fund balance had dropped to $4.68 billion from $5.94 billion a year ago. The pension system’s actuary, Cheiron, reported that because of the investment climate, the coming year “will be most challenging and these extraordinary times mandate some discussion in coming months.” Hmmm.

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The San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System always likes to brag about its investment performance. It endlessly points out that among its peers (other municipal employees’ funds) and among benchmarks by which various funds are measured, it is in the top 5 percent, or 3 percent, or whatever.

Those bragging rights are going down the toilet. The city employees’ pension fund had an utterly dismal performance in the third quarter of 2008, ended September 30. Over the past quarter, the past year, and the past three years, it is now doing poorly when compared with benchmarks.

In the fall edition of Free Spirit, the pension system’s newsletter, the deputy chief investment officer boasted that through June 30 of this year, the fund had risen annually by 7.77 percent, 10.7 percent, and 7.95 percent over the past three, five, and ten years, respectively. The ten-year performance was in the upper 3 percent among peers, boasted the fund.

But that was for June 30. Its record for the third quarter of this year, ended three months later, changed the picture. The fund lost 10.10 percent in that third quarter; other municipal funds, on average, lost 7.28 percent. This put the San Diego fund’s performance in the lowest 14 percent that quarter.

These abysmal results then shifted all the numbers downward. Over the past year, the fund lost 15.62 percent, putting San Diego’s return in the lower 34 percent of comparable pension systems. For three years, the return is 2.47 percent a year — ranking in the lower 43 percent. Annual performance over five years is now 7.34 percent. Ten-year performance is still very good — 7.65 percent a year, in the top 6 percent. The losses will be worse after the fourth quarter, which is not yet finished; the overall stock market has suffered a monumental bloodbath in 2008.

The latest numbers can be found in the third-quarter report by Callan Associates, a consulting firm that does statistical analyses for the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS). “In a terrible quarter and year in the capital markets, the SDCERS portfolio underperformed peers,” says Callan’s Janet Becker-Wold, although pointing out that the ten-year returns remain outstanding.

In the third quarter, the various components of the San Diego fund — domestic stocks, international bonds, etc. — did worse than comparable funds. To put this in context, it’s necessary to look at the fund’s history. In the giddy days of the mid-1990s, the portfolio managers got gamier. Up until then, 55 percent of the fund was in U.S. fixed income securities (basically bonds). Just 35 percent was in U.S. stocks and 10 percent in real estate.

In late 1994, the bond portion was reduced to 36 percent (34 percent U.S. and 2 percent foreign). Stocks were raised to 54 percent (41 percent U.S. and 13 percent international). But the broad stock market, both domestic and foreign, has gone nowhere since 1998, and there have been two bad bear markets, 2000–2002 and the current one, in those ten years. So the pension fund boosted its pursuit of stocks just in time to get in on a dismal decade. Its ten-year record is quite good but probably could have been better if it had stayed more conservative.

But in the mid-1990s, the San Diego pension fund was merely following the herd: other pension and charitable portfolios loaded up on stocks at that time on the notion that they do better over the long haul than bonds. Reliable statistics show that has been true, but conservative investors warn that a heavy concentration in stocks can be dangerous. In 2006, the allocations were tweaked to stocks 55 percent (38 percent domestic and 17 percent international), bonds 34 percent (30 percent U.S. and 4 percent foreign), and real estate 11 percent.

In this year’s bleak third quarter, the pension fund underperformed in just about every category. U.S. stock plunged 10.8 percent versus the benchmark’s minus 7.4 percent, winding up in the bottom 12 percent among peers. International stocks plunged 22.9 percent, ranking in the bottom 10 percent among peers. Domestic bonds, dropping 5.3 percent, did twice as poorly as the average fund. Foreign bonds were down 6.29 percent and in the bottom 17 percent. So-called market-neutral funds, which take both long positions (betting on an upride) and short positions (gambling on a downride), dropped in value and collectively were deep in the bottom half. Returns on real estate (which are reported a quarter behind the other assets) were in the bottom 21 percent; one real estate investment trust portfolio fund, losing 9.52 percent for the quarter, was at or below the bottom 1 percent for both the quarter and year.

I asked San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System about the rancid third-quarter performance. A spokesperson said that the underperformance of U.S. stocks was “primarily due to unprecedented volatility.” Some categories of stocks, such as cosmetics makers, will perform well one day and the next day the steels will do well while cosmetics plunge, complained the pension system. Yeah, but all pension funds faced those same conditions. Response: “In the current market environment, fundamentals don’t seem to matter in the market, and investment managers with a focus on higher-quality stocks, like SDCERS, may underperform.”

But does the San Diego pension system really have higher-quality stocks? Callan, for one, has challenged the system’s stock allocation. There are large-capitalization stocks, those that the market values at $10 billion or more. There are mid caps, $2 billion to $10 billion. And small caps, $300 million to $2 billion. Callan told the City’s pension system in June that the overall market distribution was 84 percent large cap, 8 percent mid cap, and 8 percent small cap. But San Diego’s pension system has 60 percent large cap, 20 percent mid, and 20 percent small — a much heavier concentration in more speculative small- and mid-cap stocks. Callan conceded that these non–blue chips have a better record in recent years but warned that there have been “long historical periods during which mid- and small-cap stocks have underperformed large-cap stocks.” San Diego should consider shaving its allocations of these gamier small- and mid-cap stocks, lest it lock in some losses, said the consultant.

According to Russell Investments, which rides herd on investment performance, mid-cap stocks dropped 10.18 percent in November, while the broad market went down 7.89 percent. Mid caps have done worse than the broad market for the past three months, one year, and three years. Small caps have underperformed the broad market in November and in the past three months. In November, small caps dropped 11.8 percent while large caps dropped 7.6 percent — a significant difference. Small caps suffered “staggering losses” early in the month, said Russell.

But the San Diego pension system is not budging: “Given SDCERS’s belief that small and mid cap stocks will outperform large caps over long time horizons, there is no plan to change the allocation at this time,” says the pension system in a statement.

That could prove risky.

The fourth-quarter results won’t be reported until February. Small- and mid-cap stocks are looking more feeble than the overall market, which is plenty weak. It will be interesting to see if the fourth quarter’s performance justifies the pension system’s cockiness.

The board held various meetings in the December 17–20 period. It was told that as of October 31, the fund balance had dropped to $4.68 billion from $5.94 billion a year ago. The pension system’s actuary, Cheiron, reported that because of the investment climate, the coming year “will be most challenging and these extraordinary times mandate some discussion in coming months.” Hmmm.

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Comments
1310

SurffPuppy - I am most certainly NOT JF. Rest Assured. I'M Octomom's Sperm donor, by the way...so you taxpayers - PAY UP!

March 4, 2009

"Nyet" - Russian shorthand for "not yet"? (;>)

March 6, 2009

NO - I don't think that public safety people make $200K/yr (nor should max out pay at $50K), that they're all GED - educated, got their jobs by nepotism, did backroom deals with the city council, "stole" their overtime pay from the city's taxpayers, make much more in fringe benefits than other cities, eat donuts in the patrol cars, eat steaks in the recliners, and so on, ad nauseum. I ALSO think that this city is, as Andrea Tevlin says - "structurally underfunded". I've seen that report from the Center for Policy Initiatives (yeah, left wingers, I know) that shows the difference between SD's income and other cities. I ALSO know that we taxpayers will NEVER VOTE MORE TAXES ON OURSELVES even when SD burns down again. Too bad. So sad. Stuck with an income level from the 1980's. Close fire stations, lay off cops. Whatever. At least trash pickup is "free". (Included in property taxes I know).

March 4, 2009

Response to post #1060: Shorthand for not yet? Nyet. Nyet=no in Russian. Best, Don Bauder

March 6, 2009

Da, I was joking. Please to leave wall up, also.

March 6, 2009

Response to post #1042: Yes, Spanos and Moores were both feeding money to Golding for her attempted run for the U.S. Senate. Both got big subsidies from the city. Moores was also feeding money to Councilmember Valerie Stallings, and got away with it. City workers were told to jiggle the statistics to show that the ballpark project would pay for itself. (That backfired, and it's costing $11 million a year or more.) The unions wanted to get those construction jobs. There is plenty of blame to go around. Best, Don Bauder

March 5, 2009

Response to posts #1043 to 1045: Is someone talking to himself or is somebody else making it look that way? Mystery? Best, Don Bauder

March 5, 2009

Response to post #1046: The scenario you sketch is certainly a dismal one, especially if you factor in what you left out: the hopeless pension situation. You are saying San Diego can't dig itself out of the hole. Unfortunately, you may be right. Best, Don Bauder

March 5, 2009

Response to post #1062: I knew your were joking, Raisha. Best, Don Bauder

March 6, 2009

Touche, Thread Tsar!

March 6, 2009

Response to post #1080: This string of posts, the longest in history by far, has seldom dealt with the subject at hand: the dismal 3rd quarter performance of SDCERS. Best, Don Bauder

March 10, 2009

Response to post #1084: That dismal scenario may eventuate. Best, Don Bauder

March 10, 2009

Response to post #1106: It's certainly not a negative. How's that? Best, Don Bauder

March 11, 2009

Wow- very interesting thread with lots of good comments....can I join in??

My name is gofurry and I'm new around here :)

March 4, 2009

By the way - MY favorite opera is Bizet's "Carmen"

March 4, 2009

Response to post #1064: Ah, tsar. One of the common crossword puzzle words. Best, Don Bauder

March 6, 2009

Response to post #1104: Getting CEOs to take rational, civilized pay will almost require a revolution. But populism is building... Best, Don Bauder

March 11, 2009

Response to post #1020: Y'know, your comment is almost identical to one made by SurfPuppy619 a little bit ago. Could he sue you for plagiarism? Best, Don Bauder

March 4, 2009

My comment IS identical to Mr. Surfpuppy because I copied and pasted it. Mr. Surfpuppy is a very smart puppy.

March 4, 2009

Response to post #1021: Carmen is a great opera. Generally, the three biggest crowd-pleasers are called ABC -- Aida, Boheme and Carmen. I just saw Bizet's Pearl Fishers -- using the sets and production from the recent San Diego Opera performance. It was great. I had always thought Pearl Fishers had glorious music but was very difficult to stage. SDOpera figured it out; the staging was terrific. Best, Don Bauder

March 4, 2009

Mr. Bauder - IF the City of SD goes bankrupt, would the Feds take the employees into IT's Ponzi scheme, i.e. Social (and I use the next term laughingly) Security????

March 4, 2009

GoFurry is beginning to sound like Scott Lewis from VOSD who's been pointing out the stubbornness of both sides in the issues. Wonder if the predictions will come true?

March 10, 2009

No-Im not gofurry.

I only post under one handle (at one time).

Plus GF has a different position than I do.

But there is no doubt GF is someone's gimmick account who has been posting in this thread -who's gimmick I don't know.

GF-cough it up-who are you???

March 5, 2009

Also, for how many years did the City of San Diego NOT pay it's part into the pension system? Why not? What did it use the money for instead?

March 4, 2009

Response to post #1069: As it becomes increasingly clear that public sector wages and pensions are out of line with reality, public opinion will finally swing and something will have to be done. BK is one avenue. There may be others. Best, Don Bauder

March 9, 2009

I still believe Johnny Vegas, Billy Bob Henry, surf puppy and who knows how many others are the Sybil like persona's lurking in the recesses of the SD Readers' closet.

Hey surfdoggy what exactly were your reason(s) for the new moniker?

March 10, 2009

Response to post #1050: Sleuth needed. Best, Don Bauder

March 5, 2009

Also, for how many years did the City of San Diego NOT pay it's part into the pension system? Why not? What did it use the money for instead?

By gofurry

It doesn't really matter how many years the City did not contribute or what they used the contribution money for-the fact is the City could NOT legally withhold payments to the pension fund without the support, and approval, of the public unions who are beneficiaries of the fund.

So the public unions were complicit with the looting of their own pension fund and cannot now come to taxpayers with unclean hands and demand any money that they themselves allowed to be skipped over.

it really irks me when the public unions lay out this argument, that they allowed.

March 4, 2009

Que voulez-vous dire de mon ami?

March 10, 2009

So it's OK for the City to make promises it can't keep? How could the unions loot its own fund if it wasn't funded properly by the City in the first place. It's hard to spend IOU's.

March 4, 2009

"...the coming year “will be most challenging and these extraordinary times mandate some discussion in coming months.” Hmmm.

OMG is that a good one! Challenging is a code word for bankruptcy........

Dec. 30, 2008

Don, has the pension fund's funding level dropped below 50% yet?????

We need to impeacj KFC Sanders-he is causing more damage by not declaring BK 4 years ago or even right now.

Dec. 30, 2008

I see JF is nowhere to be found with his "the pension fund is sound" nonsense that he usually spills.

Dec. 30, 2008

Response to post #1: "Challenging" and "challenged" are euphemisms for lots of things. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 30, 2008

Response to post #2: The funding level was below 58 percent a bit ago, but it wouldn't be below 50 percent now. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 30, 2008

Response to post #3: JF will be back, rest assured. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 30, 2008

The sky is falling...the sky is falling.... I disagree but, what's your point? What is the relevance of this snapshot to a system that has investment time horizons of 20, 30 and 40 years? True SDCERS likes tooting its own horn. What company doesn't brag about its success? It’s comforting for participants to know/believe their funds are performing better than its peers. But anyone who invests knows "past performance is not a guarantee of future performance". Just ask all the folks who invested with Mr. Madeoff, right? The "DOW" is down 34% as of December 30, 2008, third worst performance in its history behind 1931 and 34 during the Depression. Who in 2005, 06 or 07 saw this coming? Who foresaw the so- called perfect storm of housing price collapse, financial meltdowns combined with regulatory incompetence, purposeful or not? As you pointed out, the 10 year performance "[i]s still very good — 7.65 percent a year, in the top 6 percent." Next the issue of asset allocation. You say Callan & Associates is concerned about the Fund's ratios. Yet "Callan conceded that these non–blue chips have a better record in recent years but warned that there have been long historical periods during which mid- and small-cap stocks have underperformed large-cap stocks. San Diego should consider shaving its allocations of these gamier small- and mid-cap stocks, lest it lock in some losses" This sounds like Callan & Associates is covering their posterior. The CYAing of American businesses is necessary these days in case thing go south. You see some people believe they should hire attorneys and litigate for malpractice, albeit an expensive and risky method, of “earning” investment returns on poor decisions. Don you believe SDCERS' asset allocation "...[c]ould prove risky. The pension system's actuary, Cheiron, reported investments in the coming year “will be most challenging.” Challenging? How about down right scary? But again, Cheiron mention the period of the next year. We know the fund's performance over a 10 year period hovers around 7% , not bad. The board acted in December, meeting its fiduciary responsibility, lowering its expected rate of return and interest crediting rates to 7.75%. Additionally, the board's agenda for January 2009 contains action items for further discussion, that’s code for lowering of interest crediting and return rates. I'd like to pose some final "What if" questions. I do it for of our prolific poster Johnny V and his mantra of bankruptcy. What if the City's underfunding turns out to be financial stroke of luck? I’d never call it genius! With many investment vehicles severely beaten down, SDCERS can purchase them during the period of amortization. Combine them with its long term horizons holds and we’ll ride out this perfect storm. (CONTINUED)

Dec. 31, 2008

Continued from above...

No one on this planet holds a financial crystal ball. Even Berkshire Hathaway and Mr. Buffet have, and will, work through periods of diminishing returns. Forty years ago Berkshire Hathaway was trading at about $150 a share. Today it's trading $90,500 a share off its highs of $148,800 a share in December of 07. If we keep the true context of SDCERS investments in mind, with time horizons of 20, 30 and 40 years, the probability are we'll be fine.

Dec. 31, 2008

I'd like to pose some final "What if" questions. I do it for of our prolific poster Johnny V and his mantra of bankruptcy. What if the City's underfunding turns out to be financial stroke of luck? I’d never call it genius! With many investment vehicles severely beaten down, SDCERS can purchase them during the period of amortization. Combine them with its long term horizons holds and we’ll ride out this perfect storm. ============================

Thanks for the support JW.

Here- why dont we do this with your "what if" question-lets give all the GED educated $200K per year government welfare queens all the money from their pension fund they want-and let them guarantee it.

You want to make high risk speculative investments like with Amaranth (sp??)-go for it-but you also take all the downside when your scams go elly up-no taxpayer to leech off of when your pie in the sky scams backfire.

How does that deal sound?????

You are no different than JF-you want to be gifted wealth you didn't earn-and that is all the current pension system does.

You did NOT earn your pension.

Dec. 31, 2008

BTW- no one wants to file BK-but if it is a choice between paying out billions to gov emloyees who did not earn their pension.. on the backs of the poor and middle class, then BK is the answer .....and yes, I will support that any day of the week as would 90% of taxpayers-the nly ones who wouldn't 9or who ask for tax increases) are the gov employees benefitting from the scam.

Dec. 31, 2008

Johnny here are a few questions for you.

Isn't is true bankruptcy will not change the obligations of SDCERS for current employees?

Hasn't the City already reduced the pension benefit promises for new employees?

Didn't the voter pass Proposition "B" which prevents the City from increasing pension benefits in the future WITHOUT approval from a majority of the electorate?

If the City does declare bankruptcy (I believe it will if the current economic condition continue for more than a year) won't the courts, not the taxpayers, restructure its debt rather than dispose of it?

Is it true the court can force several solutions while it works on resolving Municipal bankruptcies. Could those methods in a balanced approach be increasing taxes and fees while reducing wages and benefits to current employees at the same time?

Finally, what, or should I ask when, in your opinion, does a employee "earn" their pension?

Dec. 31, 2008

And a Happy Holidays to you too, Johnny.

Here's the thing you simply do not get, Johnny. It's not a function if whether or not YOU think we've earned our pensions or not. You can spout off all you want, but I have yet to see any actual action. If you truly feel that you as a taxpayer have been wronged, go ahead a file a lawsuit. Heck, team up with Richard Rider and his phantom cronies. Prove to me that the COURT thinks we didn't earn our pensions.

In the meantime, Just Wondering seems to have captured my thoughts fairly well. The UAAL assumes payment for the probationary firefighters who entered city employment last week and won't retire for many, many years.

The SDCERS funding ratio will come back as the market comes back. The bill to the city will likely be higher... in FY2011. We'll see how it goes between now and then.

Oh... and BTW, I'm trying to push the union to negotiate part of what you've proposed. We'll see how it goes. Could be very profitable for me in the long run. Thanks for the idea.

Dec. 31, 2008

Let me respond to these questions;

1-Isn't is true bankruptcy will not change the obligations of SDCERS for current employees?

BK will absoletely change the obligations and pensions for all employees, past and present (and future). The pension benefits will be lowered to an amount the City can pay and still provide for basic services. Airline pilots saw their pensions cut in half when American, Continental, and United all filed BK. Vallejo retirees are being represented as their own class in the Vallejo BK pending in sacramento and they will be getting a pension haircut.

2- Hasn't the City already reduced the pension benefit promises for new employees?

I do not know about all employees-but they did not lower the pubic safety 3%@50 at all-and that is by far the largest drain from pensions. I have not heard of any two tier pension plan being introduced for new employees. I follow the issue closely and am pretty sure the pensions have not changed for new employees.

3- If the City does declare bankruptcy (I believe it will if the current economic condition continue for more than a year) won't the courts, not the taxpayers, restructure its debt rather than dispose of it?

Yes, the court will declare what is appropriate after reviewing the financial condition. In Vallejo the Court has given the City and public unions several months to work out a new deal on their own or he will make the decision for them. so far the two sides have come up with zero-and I am positive the judge will be the one who comes up with the changes-currently set for hearing in early February 2009. He will void the contracts-including pension obligations-and declare what the new obligation to the city will be.

4- Is it true the court can force several solutions while it works on resolving Municipal bankruptcies. Could those methods in a balanced approach be increasing taxes and fees while reducing wages and benefits to current employees at the same time?

Can the judge make cuts and raise taxes to fix the mess...Hmmm.....I don't know, and the reason is because in order to raise taxes in CA there is a constitutional requirement of a 2/3's majority (Prop 13), but generally speaking judges have vast discretion in crafting a solution so I would guess they would have the power to raise taxes under the Supremacy Clause. Good question.

Dec. 31, 2008

Opps...Missed a question;

5- Finally, what, or should I ask when, in your opinion, does a employee "earn" their pension?

Retroactive pension spikes/increases are not earned, they are a gift of public funds. If you started working for the City under a specific pension, then that is the pension you should get. What happened throughout the nation the last 8-10 years is muni's retroactively raised pensions by as much as 50% (2%@55/60 to 3%@50)for ALL employees regardless of when they started (without the funds to pay for it) creating billions in unfunded pension obligations with the stroke of a pen.

So if you were 1, 2 3 years away from a 2%@55 pension and it is retroactively changed to 3%@50 you have been granted an increase of over 50%- that was the "not earned" I refer to, not the portion they were legitimately entitled to.

Certainly the employee has earned the original pension they came into the system with and paid into, but not a single cent from the retroactive pension spike.

Dec. 31, 2008

OK JF, here we go;

1- The SDCERS funding ratio will come back as the market comes back. The bill to the city will likely be higher... in FY2011. We'll see how it goes between now and then.

The system is underfunded by billions, and the notion that the market is "coming back" to the tune of the 80% funding ratio it needs to be considered safe would require curent funding to get returns of 50% for over 5 years, not counting new obligations. Sorry-not happening.

The system is not coming back, it is bankrupt from a legal funding ratio (80%), from an asset liability-ratio, and from a cash flow ratio.

2- Here's the thing you simply do not get, Johnny. It's not a function if whether or not YOU think we've earned our pensions or not. You can spout off all you want, but I have yet to see any actual action. If you truly feel that you as a taxpayer have been wronged, go ahead a file a lawsuit.

If the system cannot pay out the pension benefits because it is unfunded then the City has to file BK-has nothing to do with my position-that is just what will happen. If you think taxpayers are going to go along with spending 25%, 35%, 40% or more of the general fund to bailout the pension fund while the city falls apart I think you're wrong.

Guys like, Rider, Aguirre, Keith Richman in OC, we have all souded the alarms that these pensions cannot be sustaned and that has proven to be true. I told you and RW 1-2 years ago, when you both comlained about your pay at SDPD and FD and how much Chula Vista was paying, that Chula Vista would go BK with their pay and pensions-and they are now in far worse shape than San Diego is.

Last-what are you trying to get the union to negotiate??????

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to posts #7 and #8: The only really outstanding time frame in which SDCERS has performed relative to its peers is the ten-year one. The others range from poor to so-so. I do believe we are in a secular bear market that has been underway about ten years. I would say there are probably six more to go. I think SDCERS should think about dumping the market neutral managers, cutting back on small- and mid-cap stock allocation, concentrate on buying conservative stocks with good yields and well-covered dividends, and put a larger concentration in fixed income securities. The U.S. is going through a massive readjustment from excessive consumption and vastly excessive debt, far too little production, and too much borrowing abroad. The world is deleveraging. It is time to be very conservative. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Add response to #s 7 and 8: You use the term "perfect storm" as if a series of random events, impossible to predict, caused this problem. I disagree 100 percent. Anybody -- particularly trained economists -- should have seen this coming. Since the 1980s, the nation has consumed far more than it produced, borrowing the difference from abroad at the same time it was sending jobs there. What happened in 2008 was inevitable: debt and consumption were far too high, production too low, and wealth and income disparities too high. The only unpredictable thing was the timing -- WHEN it was going to happen. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #9: Municipal employees should ask themselves whether they have earned their fancy salaries and pension benefits, particularly in light of the parlous state of city finances. They will no doubt say yes. Ask a Wall Street nabob if he is worth $100 million a year. He will say he is, when in fact Wall Street exists on the unearned increment. Most of the top dogs should be paid janitors' wages. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #10: As far as we know, the city is paying its bills, so vendors can't put it in BK. But it is not providing the services it should provide, and the infrastructure is a disgrace. BK may be the answer. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #11: The city has reduced benefits for new hires. That's like spitting into the wind. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #13: A BK judge should have the ability to restructure the city's obligations, including pension obligations, in my judgment. If I am wrong, somebody please correct me. I think you will find that the pilots who got a pension haircut in the airline bankruptcies suffered when the pension plan was handed over to the federal government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, which itself is in bad financial condition. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #14: Thanks for the explanation. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #15: I do think there will be 20 percent rallies in the market during 2009, and people will start rejoicing that the pain is over - - but then reality will hit again. I think stocks will probably go up by 10 percent or so in 2009, but that's not much, given the 35-40 percent hit in 2008. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Johnny thanks for responding to my questions. I may not agree with all your answers but the dialog always interests me.

I have to agree with Don's statement regarding the airline pilots. Their private pension funds were taken over the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Under their rules it was allowed to "recalculate" pension payments. I believe SDCERS is in a different boat so to speak.

While it has many participants many are not vested this was not the case with the pilots. (Most vesting occurs after 10 years of service.) Should the City declare bankruptcy those not vested will probably be removed from the system and their contributions refunded or placed into a new tier of the pension system with reduced benefits thus reducing the liabilities.

This leaves the existing retirees and vested employees. Remember SDCERS actually manages three entities, the City of SD, the Port of San Diego and the Airport Authority. I believe the last official valuation show one with more than 100% funded, one with about 80+% and the City portion in trouble.

The point is the current balance of SDCERS system, even with the impacts of the current economic crisis is enough to pay benefits for many many years.

Dec. 31, 2008

One last comment; Sometime in the future I suspect the Courts will be the ultimate arbitrator in determining whether or not Pensions contain gifts of public funds or negotiated benefits in lieu of full pay raises. Mr. Aguirre's litigation is still pending in the courts and all of our banter in Don's blog isn't worth much.

For years the City said it could not afford pay increases, but it knew, or believed if it didn't offer competitive wages it could or would lose employees, who have valuable city operations knowledge. It was the City who offered minimal COLAs combined with pension enhancement in lieu of substantial pay increases. One can certainly argue the City, and in many cases the professional negotiators they hired, knew what they were doing. But one also notes, the City has incredibly bad timing in the sense of having bills come due during the nation is in the worst recession in 70 years.

Dec. 31, 2008

I have a 40, 50 page study from the old CEO of National Ship Building who sat on a San Diego government board, and it is a pretty in-depth review of the pension mess and how it got that way...Ill have to find that thing...what he said in the study was that in some years the employees pension contribtions were "picked up" by the City in leui of wage increases (very stupid move IMO), but that the following years afer this, pay raises were given that were basically much larger, to play catch up, yet the pension "pick up" remained.

Here s a draft of the report...still looking for the final report;

http://www.sandiego.gov/pensionreform/pdf/min040810.pdf

Dec. 31, 2008

Interesting -- the very report that Johnny swears by states that benefit increases, including retroactive increases, account for only 41% of the deficit. The first of those increases was enacted in 1996. That means that most of those retiring now have been paying increased rates for 1/3 to 1/2 of their career. It's a self-mitigating problem as time goes by. Your argument was very valid 5-10 years ago. Not now.

Incidentally, there are several "recommendations" in that report that are against state law. Maybe that's why the report states, "THIS DOCUMENT MAY CONTAIN PROJECTIONS, FORECASTS, ASSUMPTIONS, EXPRESSIONS OF OPINION, ESTIMATES AND OTHER BACKWARD-LOOKING RECONSTRUCTIONS OR FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS, ARE NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS REPRESENTATIONS OF FACT, AND ARE QUALIFIED IN THEIR ENTIRETY BY THIS CAUTIONARY STATEMENT." Poor English aside, it's interesting that they put that on each and every page.

Oh, and it's my understanding that in Chapter 9 a judge cannot order tax increases.

Dec. 31, 2008

The tax increase by a BK judge is an intersting question.

I don't have the answer, but I would speculate that once you have submitted yourself to the jurisdiction of the court that anything the court does- within reason - goes.

As for your comment about when the pensions were spiked I think the big increases came in 2000, but it doesn' really matter-the spikes caused severe financial damage, and they were not funded by the people who received them-even using yur numbers of 1/3 to 1/2 (which are low IMO) that means they received spiked pensions for 2/3's to 1/2 of their working years- where they did not contribute or pay for those extra pension spikes.

Last-if the spikes were not given, then the pension fund would be 41% higher-using the number you povided-and that would bring the fund to safe levels.

Dec. 31, 2008

Slowly now... we'll use your 2000 figure to tip the odds your way. That was 8 years ago. The average career is 25 years before retirement or DROP. 25 divided by 8 is 3 -- 1/3 a career. If we use the 1996 date we get 25 divided by 12 -- 1/2. Amazing.

The pension fund would not be 41% higher funded now. All the recent dips in funding level have been caused by market losses. That 41% was based on the 67% funding level of 2003. 41% of 33% is 13.5%. So if we assume that SDCERS is 50% funded now, we'd be at 63%... gee, Johnny... still underfunded. Plus... that 41% was based on the 2003 date of that report. As mentioned, that number goes down as those affected retire. It's maybe 30% now. Probably less, considering all the recent market loss. Nice try.

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #24: When a pension fund is taken over by the PBGC, there is a threshold on retirement pay. It's low. An airline pilot could take a 60 percent haircut in his or her retirement pay. I'm pretty sure the PBGC doesn't cover government employees at any level. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #25: Yes, but salaries of San Diego government employees were going up briskly, too -- not just pension benefits. The average City of San Diego employee makes considerably more in salary than his or her counterpart in the private sector. In pensions, the City employee has far more generous benefits. This has been going on in other cities, too. One reason is that, unlike so many private sector labor unions, the municipal unions don't have to worry about foreign competition. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #26: Vortmann knew the pension system was in trouble. He was reluctant to endorse the consensus view that it was in good shape. Others worked on him, and he appeared to cave. It's one of the scandals of this shameful episode. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #27: It's good to have a copy. Mine is buried somewhere. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #28: Suggest you enumerate the suggestions that are against state law. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #29: The spikes from MP1 and MP2 are greatly responsible for the deficit. Several factors are tied together. The City raided the pension fund to spend money on other things such as the Republican convention of 1996. Then the City appeased the labor unions with the increased benefits. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Response to post #30: Recent drops are the result of market losses. But the losses from MP1 and MP2 were not. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2008

Don you're right.... the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp will not take over another government entity as I mentioned in my comment about being in a different boat.

I believe the City will ultimately file bankruptcy if the current economic situation deepens dramatically or lasts for another six years as you have suggested.

I believe the courts will have their way and create a hybrid solution, a recalculation of benefits based on years of service and years of service credits tied to pension promises for those years actually worked. For those who purchased pension credits the courts will determine that greedy City Leaders violated and bastardized the spirit and intent of the ordinance. One originally designed for employees could not meet the city's 10 continuous years vesting requirement because of active duty commitments broke them up. The courts will set them aside also reducing the UAAL.

Combine that with suggestions pointed out by Johnny V earlier in this thread. In other words...if an employee worked 20 years under the 2.5% benefit rules then those 20 years should be calculated under them. With the remaining years computed under the newer rates and rules. This eliminates the retroactive portion and the "gift" of public funds Johnny vehemently objects to and reduces UAAL simultaneously.

Will employee groups who negotiated in good faith with the City for wages AND benefits be happy about it? I suspect the answer is NO!. Will litigation be initiated making law firms wealthier? We all know the answer to that one is YES.

The real question is how long will it take before its initiated and ultimately resolved. Mr. Aguirre was at it for four years and that litigation is not even close to conclusion with the appeals processes. I suspect it will be another 10 years minimum with a quarter to a third of retired employees no longer receiving benefits.

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to # 19 Don, There are some specific eligibility requirements for chapter 9 one of which is "the municipality must be insolvent, as defined in 11 U.S.C. § 101(32)": "Municipal insolvency is defined as "financial condition such that the municipality is-- (i) generally not paying its debts as they become due unless such debts are the subject of a bona fide dispute; or (ii) unable to pay its debts as they become due".

The city may not providing the services it should and the infrastructure may be a mess(it is), but if they are still "paying the bills" it doesn't appear as if bk is an option.....yet.

Jan. 1, 2009

response to #29 jv, I'm not a bk attorney but I don't think it's "anything the court does- within reason - goes" in a chapter 9 bk.

From the US courts chapter 9 bankruptcy section:

"Due to statutory limitations placed upon the power of the court in a municipal debt adjustment proceeding, the court is far less involved in the conduct of a municipal bankruptcy case (and in the operation of the municipal entity) while the debtor's financial affairs are undergoing reorganization."

"The functions of the bankruptcy court in chapter 9 cases are generally limited to approving the petition (if the debtor is eligible), confirming a plan of debt adjustment, and ensuring implementation of the plan. As a practical matter, however, the municipality may consent to have the court exercise jurisdiction in many of the traditional areas of court oversight in bankruptcy, in order to obtain the protection of court orders and eliminate the need for multiple forums to decide issues."

I read the 2nd section as saying that any court action beyond approval, confirmation and implementation is up to the city.

Here is another interesting section of the code, in particular the last line: "The municipal debtor has broad powers to use its property, raise taxes, and make expenditures as it sees fit. It is also permitted to adjust burdensome non-debt contractual relationships under the power to reject executory contracts and unexpired leases, subject to court approval, and it has the same avoiding powers as other debtors. Municipalities may also reject collective bargaining agreements and retiree benefit plans without going through the usual procedures required in chapter 11 cases." Here's the link, it makes interesting reading. http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/bankruptcybasics/chapter9.html

Jan. 1, 2009

I believe that when the City goes into bankruptcy, the City pension fund will be terminated. Existing pension fund assets will be distributed pro rata to City employees based on their respective contributions to the fund. Employees who are currently employed by the City will have the option of rolling over the payout into an IRA on a tax-deferred basis. Retired City workers will have the option of either accepting a cash payout, or accepting an annuity from a private insurer financed with pension fund assets. Once pension fund assets are fully liquidated, the pension fund will cease to exist and City (taxpayer) liability to workers will terminate. The plan will be replaced with social security and a government version of the 401(k). There will be City matching, but most of the cost (and risk) of the 401(k) will be borne by the City workers. There will be no City guarantee of retirement benefits. The City will no longer pay retiree health insurance costs and workers who want to retire with medical insurance will have to work until they are old enough to enroll in Medicare, just like everyone else. The era of the 40 year old retired firefighter collecting an $80,000 per year pension and raising horses on a ten acre ranch in Lakeside will be a thing of the past.

Jan. 1, 2009

The city may not providing the services it should and the infrastructure may be a mess(it is), but if they are still "paying the bills" it doesn't appear as if bk is an option.....yet.

By brianwilson

We are bankrupt right now on a cash flow basis-which is what a Ch 9 BK is for muni's.

We can not pay for existing maintenience of infrastructe, pension obligations, benefits or wages. 70% of the pension funding last year-$100 out of the $163 million contributed, came fom the tobacco money lawsuit settlement-and we were still short aout $500 million that Sanders promised the unions to shore up the fund (actually the $100 million tobacco settlement was being paid to San Diego over 20 years-so Sanders got a lump sum settlement from wall street-maybe .50 cents on the dollar).

From a cash flow BK we qualify. Your statement that wemay not be is one the unions will make to try to have the judge not declare the city bankrupt-which is what the Vallejo unions did. But they did not succeed-and I suspect a judge would find San Diego does indeed meet the Ch 9 definition of BK. It is ultimately a question of law for a judge to decide though.

Jan. 1, 2009

"The functions of the bankruptcy court in chapter 9 cases are generally limited to approving the petition (if the debtor is eligible), confirming a plan of debt adjustment, and ensuring implementation of the plan. As a practical matter, however, the municipality may consent to have the court exercise jurisdiction in many of the traditional areas of court oversight in bankruptcy, in order to obtain the protection of court orders and eliminate the need for multiple forums to decide issues."

I read the 2nd section as saying that any court action beyond approval, confirmation and implementation is up to the city.

The court apears to be able to void all contracts- and prepare a plan which the muni can afford-which is what is going on in Vallejo.

The last sentence states that the muni can allow the court to oversee it's management and operations-at the muni's request-appoint a receiver or some sort of oversight manager.

I don't see that happening for San Diego-the council won't give up their power to wreck the city all over again.

When OC filed BK in 94 they actually came back much faster than they thought they would. They tightened their belts up and really watched their expenses.

One thing I remember they did to save money, and this was typical of their approach, was the paving of streets. They used to repave every 4 years, and they changed that to every 5 years, cutting their expenses by 25%-they did things like that all through the county-really worked out good for them in the long run.

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #38: You make some good points. First, I don't believe I said that the current economic woes will last another six years. I think we will begin a painfully slow crawl out of the bottom at yearend 2009 or early 2010. That means the nation should avert a depression, which is defined as three years of difficult recession. (The recession started in the fourth quarter of '07, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the arbiter on such matters.) Stocks are in a cyclical bear market that probably won't end in six years. There will be bull markets within the secular bear (there might be right now), but stocks won't provide great returns for several years, in my opinion. This will hurt San Diego, because SDCERS remains heavily committed to equities (more than 50 percent of the portfolio). Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #39: I do not think that bankruptcy is right around the corner for the reasons you cite. However, tax receipts will come down sharply in 2009, and California will be picking off some money belonging to SD -- something to be concerned about. Best, Don Bauyder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #40: Yes, but the court would seem to have latitude in confirming the debt restructuring plan and ensuring its implementation. Best Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #41: These steps would be desirable for taxpayers. but I am not sure that a BK would work out that way. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #42: Obviously, you are correct that the City is neglecting infrastructure and services, and there are some, like you, who feel that is sufficient for a BK filing. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #43: Again, it appears that the court does have significant latitude in a municipal BK. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

(i) generally not paying its debts as they become due unless such debts are the subject of a bona fide dispute

Heck, by that definition, the city has been bankrupt for 20 years. The city has been cut off by many, many suppliers for non-timely payment. Makes me wonder just how well managed competition will work.

Jan. 1, 2009

Johnny makes some interesting comments about OC. Know the one thing that wasn't cut at all? Yep, employee benefits.

Here's an interesting thought. A couple of years ago the citizens passed a proposition requiring a vote before raising pension benefits. I wonder how the court would look at that when/if reducing benefits since benefits can no longer be raised by collective bargaining? Just one less option to consider...

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to 42, jv I didn't make a statement either way on whether I think the city would qualify for or have a bk petition approved. I was responding to Don's post in which he said " As far as we know, the city is paying its bills". I have no idea whether the city is paying it's bills or not or what it's cash flow is either. Don appears to believe the bills are still being paid and I'm sure he has better sources than eiither one of us. Do you have something other than anecdotal evidence that payments are not being made that you can share? Remember the code says not paying its debts as they become due. If employees are not receiving their pay when due or vendors are not receiving payment when due, that's one thing. But I don't know if not paving the streets,closing libraries reducing staff ect would be applicable in a bk. Unfortunately for San Diego, I think the OC board of supervisors is alot smarter than the San Diego city government.

Jan. 1, 2009

JohnnyVegas, I read the brief that the Vallejo PD,FF and electrical workers locals filed asking that the bk order of relief be reversed on the grounds that Vallejo hadn't satisfied all of the statutory requirements, especially proof of insolvency. I have been looking for the ruling but I thought I had read a ruling wouldn't come until this month. Do you have a link to it? It should be interesting reading. I'm sure the decision really chapped the butts of the unions.

Jan. 1, 2009

JF, You're right. OC didn't cut employee benefits while in bk. They did however get rid of a couple of thousand employees about 1/2 of which came from social services departments. The county also sued Merrill Lynch for more than $2 billion, contending that they the county inappropriate securities and misled the treasurer. ML ended up settling the suit for about $400 million which was about1/4 of what they lost.

Jan. 1, 2009

Johnny makes some interesting comments about OC. Know the one thing that wasn't cut at all? Yep, employee benefits.

JF-there were no pension problems in 1994-they didn't have the spiking until 2001 in OC-and after they spiked they added $500 million in unfunded pension costs and are once again facing BK.

So you are corrct-no pensions were cut in 1994-because no one was retiring at age 50 getting full pay and healthcare.

Lets compare apples to apples, not oranges.

Jan. 1, 2009

Do you have something other than anecdotal evidence that payments are not being made that you can share?

The pension bill is not being paid. Sanders stated he was going to put $600 million into it to shore it up, and he only put in $163 million-$100 million of which was a tobacco lawsuit windfall.

So that alone would be enough for BK IMHO-especially considering the fact that it is only going to get larger, not smaller..

I would also suggest when the infra structruture cannot be maintained, bills/debts cannot be paid.

As for the Vallejo decision, the judge has ruled they have met the standard of Ch 9, and I have a link, but my comuter is being worked on and cannt post it until it gets back next week.

The decision is under appeal to the BAP, which is going to uphold the BK judge IMHO (99% sure).

The next BK hearing is set for February-and that is the hearing that where the judge will decide if the labor/pension contracts get tossed-he has postponed it a number of times already to see if the city and the unions can work someting out-they cant.

Jan. 1, 2009

Johnny I understand the City has a seven (7) year paving cycle, which is really a process called slurry sealing. A Slurry Seal is a cold mixed asphalt. It consists of a graded aggregate, a binder , and additives. It is a hard wearing surfacing for pavement preservation. Or more simple put it's the cheapest, or should I be politically correct, the most cost effective method of preserving the underlying roadway surface or bed.

A true repaving or asphalt overlay is very expensive and required substantial roadway preparation, a lot more expense. This might be part of the explanation regarding the poor and deteriorating condition of San Diego's road network...

But I've digressed from the original intent of DON's story.

The bottom line in San Diego: It's expensive to live here. Taxes are much lower compared to similar cities across California and the nation. The politicians here are hacks and have no business running a multi-billion dollar municipal corporation. The electorate are sheep. And the people's watchdog, the media, has grown old and frail without any real teeth.

Jan. 1, 2009

JF, You're right. OC didn't cut employee benefits while in bk. They did however get rid of a couple of thousand employees about 1/2 of which came from social services departments. ============================

How many did OC lay off, or have plans to lay off, last week in at the SS department??

I think it was 2,000. Exactly as 1994 it appears.

I would suggest that anyone earning over $100K take a 10% pay cut, and increase the % as the pay goes up-that is something no gov official has suggested at the city, county or state level.

It is very fair and no one gets laid off to strain the already overburdened social services system. Full emloyment at a reduced wage is far superiour than retaining the 6 figure emoloyees and cutting $40K, $50K and $60K employees.

Jan. 1, 2009

Johnny, so by pension spiking, you mean the city losing a lawsuit which required it to increase benefits? Think maybe a BK judge might take that into account?

Sorry, but in 1994 there was no cap here. Most/many folks retired at 100%+ rather than the 90% we're capped at now.

Further, your own "evidence" shows that benefit increases were less than half of the deficit in 2003 and way less than half now.

Jan. 1, 2009

JV, perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying in post 42 when you said in San Diego "the unions will make to try to have the judge not declare the city bankrupt-which is what the Vallejo unions did. But they did not succeed". I took that to mean that they lost their appeal-"they did not succeed". the 3 unions were granted their leave to appeal in late October and filed their opening brief Dec 1st with Vallejo having until 01/05/09 to file their response. So I'm guessing you weren't actually refering to the union appeal, but to the initial filing and finding?? Also, according to the OC Register, the county informed labor leaders that all 4,218 workers at the SSAgency will each be required to take up to 80 hours of unpaid leave over the next six months. and that they were planning to lay off nearly 60 Probation Department employees and 210 social services employees beginning Monday. But they also said that if labor fights the mandatory furloughs, then 625 jobs will be eliminated by Feb. So somewhere between 270 and 675. Not quite the 2000 as in 1994.

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #50: I'm not surprised that the City has been cut off by suppliers for non-payment of bill, although no one has complained to me. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #51: Orange County's problem was bad investment strategy. I'm not surprised that employee pay and benefits weren't touched, if what you say is true. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #52: JF says the City has been dropped by vendors for late payment of bills for a couple of decades. I didn't know that. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #53: Yes, that angle on Vallejo is an interesting one. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #54: Giving the axe replaces axing benefits. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #55: Orange County's experience is a sober case for San Diegans to ponder. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #56: There is no question that the pension bill is not being paid and the infrastructure is being neglected. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #57: Back before the ballpark vote in 1998, the slurry sealing schedule was delayed as one of several ways to save money. Because of the upcoming vote, the mainstream press tried to bury these economies. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #58: Yes, but would the top-level bureaucrats take pay cuts? Doubt it. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #59: Yeah, but the deficit -- the true one -- is larger now. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Response to post #60: Every CA city is watching Vallejo. How many will go that route? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 1, 2009

Johnny, so by pension spiking, you mean the city losing a lawsuit which required it to increase benefits? Think maybe a BK judge might take that into account?

JF, SD has not lost any pesnion case, no case is won or lost until a FINAL ruling as been entered. There has beenno final ruling-everything is on appeal.

SD has pension chalenges based on conflict of interest laws, OC has challenges based on CA constitional requirements banning "gifts of public funds" by paying spiked pensins for work already performed-both cases are at least 2 years from a decision-minimum.

So your claim that the city has lost their penson lawsuit is not accurate.

Jan. 2, 2009

Also, according to the OC Register, the county informed labor leaders that all 4,218 workers at the SSAgency will each be required to take up to 80 hours of unpaid leave over the next six months.

OK, I goofed that one up. I thought a large number were getting canned.

Jan. 2, 2009

I took that to mean that they lost their appeal-"they did not succeed". the 3 unions were granted their leave to appeal in late October and filed their opening brief Dec 1st with Vallejo having until 01/05/09 to file their response. ========================

The trial/BK court found that Vallejo was BK. That was indeed appealed by the unions to the BAP-and that appeal is pending.

No one in the legal community expects it to succeed though-in fact the only ones who seem to think they have a chance are the unions- and that is wishful thinking.

The BK judge, in his 53 page opinion (which I have linked here before), laid out a very methodical, detailed and pretty much unimpeachable case that the city qualifys for the Ch 9 BK.

I can't post that link until I get my computer back.

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #58: Yes, but would the top-level bureaucrats take pay cuts? Doubt it. Best, Don Bauder

When the leaders do not take cuts-BIGGER cuts than those they want the peasant workers to take then there is no credibility and the plan is not going to fly.

We ar seeing this at the state level right now-the state legislature wants huge tax increases but refuses to make their own cuts-they have bought new cars, increased staff levels, given out huge raies to those at the top of many agencies....it just rubs people the wrong way-and by people I mean the little guy getting slammed with higher taxes and no benefit.

Carl DeMaio has reduced his staff and expense level and is asking for the entire SD City council to do the same-that is a good start.

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #72: Of course, the current city attorney could stop pursuing the appeal. He seems to be caving on everything else. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #73: Mea culpa accepted. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #74: Get that computer back, Johnny. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #75: The top bureaucrats may figure a way to make it appear that they are taking a pay/benefits haircut, but, as in the banking industry, there will be loopholes through which a tank could drive. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to 74 jv, I don't need that link. I have read all of the filings, responses and rulings in the case. As I said, I misread your comment to mean the appeal had been ruled on. According to a press release, the arguements should be scheduled in a couple of months with a ruling a month or two later. BTW, according to an email I recived from the Vallejo PIO, the hearings are scheduled for Feb. 3,5,and 10 which time Judge McManus will hear testimony regarding the City's motion to reject the Collective Bargaining Agreements. A ruling is not expected until a later date. BTW 2, are you at all familiar with the Vallejo PIO??

In reguards to the OC layoffs, a potential 675 layoffs is not as bad as 1994 but is still alot. . My personal opinion is that the SS depts serves the very people who need the most in times like this and it should not be the first dept to fall under the guillotine.

Jan. 2, 2009

JV Are you referring to the OC board of supervisors lawsuit challenging the OCSD pension plan?? I find it interesting that Jerry Brown filed or planned to file an amicus brief on behalf of the unions. Clearly a ploy to get union support in a run for governor

Jan. 2, 2009

So Johnny, when City Attorney Goldsmith decides to drop the appeals by former City Attorney Aguirre's litigation is the case concluded with the ruling of the trial court and thus over without a "Final" judgment?

Jan. 2, 2009

If Goldsmith drops the appeal the case is over.

He has not said yet if he will drop it or continue it.

By dropping the appeal the trial court's ruling becomes a final disposition.

Jan. 2, 2009

JF, SD has not lost any pesnion case, no case is won or lost until a FINAL ruling as been entered. There has beenno final ruling-everything is on appeal.

Really? So the city didn't lose the Corbett case? That's the one which granted 3% at 50, not MP1 or MP2. Corbett also validated DROP.

Again, do you think that a bankruptcy judge will take actual court cases granting benefits into account versus a contract. The judge may be able to reverse contracts. I'm not so sure a judge can reverse the ruling of another court.

Jan. 2, 2009

Really? So the city didn't lose the Corbett case? That's the one which granted 3% at 50, not MP1 or MP2. Corbett also validated DROP.

Again, do you think that a bankruptcy judge will take actual court cases granting benefits into account versus a contract. The judge may be able to reverse contracts. I'm not so sure a judge can reverse the ruling of another court.

JF, we were clearly referring to Aguirre's pension lawsuit-not lawsuits settled years ago.

Why do you always compare apples to oranges??? You did the same thing when you said the OC pensions were not touched in their BK-then when I point out they did not have the 3%@50 scam then you turn around and say SAN DIEGO had it.......yet we were clearly speaking about OC.

As for MP1, MP2 and Corbett stipulations, the BK judge most certainly can wipe those gains out-not by relitigating them, just by saying the benefits granted by them cannot be met. That's it.

If San Diego files BK, and a judge declares we qualify because bills cannot be paid, then the next move is to reduce pay, benefits, pensions, whatever else to get the city back to health-and that would include any gains made by the cases you listed.

Listen JF-you still do NOT get it. Payng HS educated entry level workers (workers that have no prior work experience or education for a PD or FD job) $200K per year with bene's is over. That cannot be sustained and it has pushed the city, the county and the state to bankruptcy. You are not going to be retiring at age 50 making more than when you worked for 30-40, even 50 years or more on the taxpayers dime. It is ending. The writing is on the wall, it ha been on the wall for sometime now. Youneed to accept that.

I have never met so many complainers who are being paid so much more than others with the same background and credentials, and yet continue bitch about their compensation.

There are law firms today advertising for lawyers (with 7 years of college under their belt) with 2 years minimum experience for $25 an hour with NO benefits, in the lagest metro area in America. You and all your buddies could be replaced in 24 hours, more than likely by more qualified employees at 1/4 your pay.

P/T Associate Attorney 15-20 hrs/week (Chappaqua)

Must be admitted in New York. Must have a minimum of 2 years of general practice civil experience. No criminal, bankruptcy, or immigration law. Westchester resident preferred. Must have own car. $25/hr Respond by email with resume only. Please do not respond if you do not have these credentials.

http://newyork.craigslist.org/wch/lgl/976650418.html

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #80: When faced with the prospect of a mass march to the guillotine or a voluntary slashing of salaries and benefits, some municipal labor unions might do the intelligent thing. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #81: Sounds like a political move. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #82: It's my understanding that if Goldsmith drops the appeal, the case is over. However, similar cases will come right back as this economy unwinds and voters realize they have been conned into paying excessive salaries and benefits to municipal workers. Actually, Aguirre's case may become a template for other cases. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #83: That's my understanding, too. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #84: The resolution of the Corbett case screwed San Diego taxpayers to the wall, and gave bureaucrats a sweet deal. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #85: That Chappaqua ad is really something. Yes, big law firms are liquidating and slicing payroll. Lawyers have been among the most overpaid people in the private sector. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

JF, we were clearly referring to Aguirre's pension lawsuit-not lawsuits settled years ago.

Why do you always compare apples to oranges?

Actually, at the time we weren't talking about any lawsuit, not about Aguirre's, not Corbett, not any of them. Go back and look for yourself.

You read "Aguirre's lawsuit" into my comments and completely forgot about Corbett.

Why do you always read into things and not look at the big picture?

What does what a lawyer in New York make have to do with what a firefighter here makes? Why are you always comparing apples and oranges?

Jan. 2, 2009

That Chappaqua ad is really something. Yes, big law firms are liquidating and slicing payroll. Lawyers have been among the most overpaid people in the private sector.

Boy you are not kidding it is really womething.

A legal education today is $4K per class, X 30 classes = $120K, plus living expenses for 36 months at 1,500/mo that is an additional $54K, total = $174K for a law degree today.

And that NY job required 2 years experience so it was not even entry level- so I think we can lower pay for all entry level cops and FF's and have nothing to worry about.

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #92: You guys have to get your apples and oranges sorted out. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Response to post #93: Yes, a legal education is expensive. But people in many other fields, notably medicine, spend a bundle on education, too. The amount spent on education should have nothing to do with eventual stipend. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 2, 2009

Har, Har, Har... typical Johnny Vegas answer. Deflect, change the subject, admit no fault.

In changing the subject, what you're saying is that living expenses are exclusive to a legal education -- people not in law school don't need to pay them, right? Or are you simply padding your supposed costs?

Oh, and Johnny, your own documents from Contra Costa County showed that your $200K/year bit is just so much more BS and exaggeration from you. Give it a rest. Sorry if your argument goes away with the real numbers.

Jan. 3, 2009

Response to post #96: Johnny admitted he was wrong on one point above. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 3, 2009

Oh, and Johnny, your own documents from Contra Costa County showed that your $200K/year bit is just so much more BS and exaggeration from you.

Actually that was not my document,but a government document, and it supported my claims of a $200K per year average compensation for PD and FD, with pension costs being equal to 60% of base pay for the cops and FFs.

As for living costs-you have to include them because you are not earning a living while you atend college-which is slightly harder than paying living expenses when you have a $200K per year job but only posess a GED.

Jan. 3, 2009

OK, who is going to have the honor of being poster #100 in this thread??????

Jan. 3, 2009

100!

Jan. 3, 2009

Response to post #98: A riposte from Johnny. Touche! Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 3, 2009

Response to posts #99 and #100: I would have been #100, but Fred stepped in and took the honors. Should we go for 200? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 3, 2009

Yes, I understand perfectly well that it was a government document. But... here's the rub... go look at the retirement figures. They're only about 25% for firefighters.

And... Contra Costa County is one of the highest paid departments in the state. San Diego is one of the lowest. Salary for a firefighter in CCC is more than salary for a captain here. Reduce the rates on your sheet by around 30% and you'll see a pretty good representation of costs here. Nowhere near an average of $200K.

That's my point. You throw out a document from another agency with a different pay scale, different benefits and a different contract and claim it proves your point about the pay and benefits here. As you put it, apples and oranges. Then when the document is adjusted to match the reality in San Diego, you stick your head in the sand and go about shouting, 'They all make 200K'. It simply isn't true. And yes, your claim was ALL make 200K, not an average of 200K.

Jan. 3, 2009

Response to post #103: You're up, Johnny. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 3, 2009

Incidentally, it looks like all that money wasted on law school was just for the dumb ones.

http://nctimes.com/articles/2009/01/03/news/inland/rb/zc8876cfec455f4e88825751b008364a1.txt

Maybe the pay disparity is due to good ole supply and demand. There are too many lawyer in many states, thus competition for rates. There are precious few qualified as firefighters and most places are understaffed, thus higher wagers.

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #105: I am not sure that there are "precious few" qualified to be firefighters, particularly at today's high salaries/benefits. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Im up but I have figured out this is an exercise in futility, JF thinks money grows on trees and the roads are paved with gold......I just simple state the truth, these pensions are not sustianable, even the 6 figure salary is not really sustainable.

Jan. 4, 2009

Just state the truth? Hardly.

In criticizing me, you forget that I'm also the one pushing the union to negotiate for items that will reduce pension and health care liability. You'll find that hard to believe, but I am. We'll see how it turns out.

Not even a no salary volunteer department is sustainable if the people refuse to fund it.

Jan. 4, 2009

JF,

I hope you'll succeed in pushing the Firefighters union to be better civic citizens. Under Saathof, you and your colleagues were used as a front to feather his own nest, along with other high union and city officials.

Nobody doubts that firefighters and police are vital.

What we're all beginning to resent is the fact that your work has been so over-glorified and over-paid for so long. Because of exclusionary policies, and an ingrained hostility against "civilians" in both police and fire ranks, many public spirited and capable people have been blocked from joining the ranks or assisting as volunteers.

This has to change.

Putting you fires is NOT as difficult or dangerous as the media and your union would have us believe. So the large salaries and pensions are really unjustified, and now completely unaffordable.

Public safety is a top priority, but it's not the ONLY priority, especially when there are others who are ready to step in and do the job nearly as well for a fraction of the current costs.

The union can recognize this, work to change the mentality of so-called "public servants", and do a lot to improve our immediate future in San Diego.

The first step is concessions like those you are working towards, and I applaud your efforts. I urge you to run for union office if you can, so that you'll have a seat at the table. After reading your posts for so long, I'm confident you would do a much better job than the current union bosses who seem to hold the rest of San Diego in contempt.

Best,

Fred

Jan. 4, 2009

JF just doesn't get it, and no matter what you say he will come back with the "we need $200k per year to get the 'best and brighest' applicants" which is absurd (yet I har this argument for every single job there is in the public sector-including judges who get over $200K per year with bene's for a pretty cushy 40 hour week job).

The private sector, which is far more productive and effecient than the public sector, has no problem finding good qualified employees ..........for a fraction of what gov pays.

I predict as long as special intersts can conribute to/bribe elected officials nothing will change-until we go BK or the funds just dry up-which is basically what is going on right now.

Jan. 4, 2009

Fred, First and foremost, the Saathoff era is over. Most of us are celebrating. The only members of the current board who served under Ron frequently spoke out against him. I thank you for your vote of confidence. I've thought many times about running for union office, but prefer to influence politics in my own way.

Let me give you a relatively recent background of why the union is so obstinate. Look at this article. http://www.flickr.com/photos/31313250...

Back in 1990, a similar funding crisis happened. We stepped up and took a 5% pay cut, being the 'good guys' as you suggest. We then went and begged the Port District for money to help keep the city afloat. No one but union firefighters helped to convince the port. The Port District ponied up and gave the city money. The city reneged on it's promise to give back our pay cut, and instead spent the money on the arts. The arts are NOT one the priorities you mentioned. Since then the union has taken a "never give back again" stance. Can you blame them?

You wrote, "What we're all beginning to resent..." Which "all" is this? A recent (successful) city council candidate wisely ran some polls before seeking our endorsement. She found that firefighters in this town have an approval rating in the mid-90th percentile. Firefighters are at the top of the most trusted profession polls. And for good measure, we're (present company excluded) always voted the "sexiest profession". You will never change public perception until the day when little boys cease to stop and wave every time a fire engine goes by. That sounds a lot more smug than I want it to, but I'll let the facts stand.

I'm a little curious about these "exclusionary policies" you speak of. Pretty much every minority group has representatives within the FD who conduct community outreach and recruiting -- for free, on their day off. The pool of candidates has shrunk drastically lately. That's due to competition from other departments, not exclusionary policies. Further, we've instituted a CERT program to enable community members to assist in their own safety. CERT classes are taught on an off-duty, volunteer basis by union firefighters.

Jan. 4, 2009

firefighters in this town have an approval rating in the mid-90th percentile. Firefighters are at the top of the most trusted profession polls. And for good measure, we're (present company excluded) always voted the "sexiest profession".

Oh brother..............................

Jan. 4, 2009

I'm a little curious about these "exclusionary policies" you speak of. Pretty much every minority group has representatives within the FD who conduct community outreach and recruiting -- for free, on their day off. The pool of candidates has shrunk drastically lately.

JF, the reason you ANY have minorities is because SDFD (and every other major PD and FD in this state) was sued for cronyism and nepotism hiring. That is very common all throughout government employment, with the higher the compensation the more cronyism. You in fact have defended this nepotism hiring on seveal occassions online.

I know the pool of FF applicants must have shrunk because there are so many other places that pay $200K per year to the GED educated in a depression. I don't know how an employer can keep staffed in this robust economic environment.

Seriously, there are 1,000 applicants for every 1 open FF job. The notion that there is a lack of applicants is beyond perposterous.

Jan. 4, 2009

Johnny, San Diego was under a consent decree 30 years ago. Since then the fire chiefs have included 2 black males, 1 white female and 1 white male. San Diego also has the highest percentage of female firefighters of any major department in the country. Sound like a racist organization? I believe your perception is tilted due to your failure to get hired by the PD.

Why do you persist with this GED thing? You know darn well that getting hired as a firefighter requires one to be either an EMT or paramedic, both of which require college. Sorry to spoil your delusions.

During the last test, less than 200 applicants passed the written exam and oral interview. The intent was to hire 60-90 from that list. Now do backgrounds and medicals on those folks... how many do you think were left? Think about what you just wrote -- 1000 applicants for 1 job. We were hiring up to 80. Did you see 80,000 people lined up at the Q?

Over and over the facts have been presented to you, yet you continue spouting the same old lies. I don't mind if you don't like my profession or my compensation, but at least try to be an adult about it. Act like the attorney you claim to be.

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #107: Any expenditure is clearly not sustainable if the institution is going broke trying to keep up with the payments. If you don't think San Diego is going broke, look at the sewer and water systems, streets, and other infrastructure. All you see is neglect. Then there are the long term problems, such as water, that are not being addressed. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #108: I wish you luck in fighting to reduce these liabilities. How are you doing in that effort? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #109: Well put, Fred. The local media have bought into the propaganda campaign to puff up the firefighters and police. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #110: In both salary and benefits, the public sector in San Diego rakes in more than those in comparable private sector jobs. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #111: I wish I believed that the Saathoff era was over. Keep up the fight, though, JF. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #112: Sexiest profession? Isn't that the oldest one? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #113: There aren't going to be many labor shortages in this recession. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

Response to post #114: How many SD FFs have college degrees? How many have some college? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 4, 2009

How many SD FFs have college degrees?

The question is not how many have college degrees, it is how many have college degrees at time of hire....... at PD it is 15-20%. I would think FD would be even less.

Jan. 4, 2009

San Diego was under a consent decree 30 years ago. Since then the fire chiefs have included 2 black males, 1 white female and 1 white male. San Diego also has the highest percentage of female firefighters of any major department in the country. Sound like a racist organization? I believe your perception is tilted due to your failure to get hired by the PD.

Almost every major PD and FD have dramatically increased the % of minorities, in many lagrer departments minorities are the majorities in hiring.

But that does not change the fact that these jobs were closed to the outside until the last 20,30, 35 years in virtually all major muni's........

I could never be hired at PD, I am too smart- and I also do not fit into the Family, Friends, Military and lawsuit consent decree hiring program. If you don't match in one of those 4 you're out of luck.

If the gov hired on an objective basis, instead of a subjective basis, I would be in the top 1%. How else do you account for the GED educated Mark Furman's getting hired (he fit into the Military workfare hiring program-see above- and he was a HS drop out).

Jan. 4, 2009

Sexiest profession? Isn't that the oldest one?

Do you see more calendars with prostitutes on them or with firefighters on them?

Besides, I think that's a pretty ridiculous statement -- but it goes to show the general feeling of the public towards firefighters.

Jan. 5, 2009

I could never be hired at PD, I am too smart.

But that does not change the fact that these jobs were closed to the outside until the last 20,30, 35 years in virtually all major muni's

As I said, much of your hyperbole is driven by your past rejection. Many PD officers earn JD degrees while employed. I guess you're smarter than them?

What does the hiring practice of 35 years ago have to do with today? Again, you're living in the past.

Here's an interesting fact. For years, the union pushed the city to have a degree as a pre-req to hiring. The city refused because it reduced the pool of candidates.

Here's another fact. The final hiring stages are done by city personnel... not members of the PD or FD. We don't have a choice in who gets hired. I know, shocking. How does that help your argument?

Again, your comments make it pretty easy to see that your vitriol is based largely on your rejection many years ago. Sorry.

Jan. 5, 2009

Response to post #123: Good point. JF might come back with his numbers. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 5, 2009

Response to post #124: If you're in the top 1 percent, you're a fish out of water in a lot of places. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 5, 2009

Response to post #125: If the City goes BK, those warm and fuzzy feelings toward FFs will disappear quickly. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 5, 2009

Response to post #126: Your turn, Johnny. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 5, 2009

Don, ALL San Diego firefighters have at least some college. Half the members are paramedics. Paramedic school takes about a year and a half of college.

I have no idea how many folks have degrees. Johnny asserts that having a degree at the time of hire is pertinent. Maybe, but apparently the city's personnel department didn't think so. The reality is that having a degree is more important the higher you promote. So I'm not sure that it really matters. As you said, it's not the cost of the education....

The other point is that every SD firefighter has a continuing education requirement. We're all keeping up with the latest in firefighting all the time... a minimum of two hours per shift of training. That's one important way in which we can never be replaced by community volunteers. They simply don't have the time to train. I know, I used to be one.

Jan. 5, 2009

Response to post #131: Johnny: do you want to challenge this? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 5, 2009

As I said, much of your hyperbole is driven by your past rejection. Many PD officers earn JD degrees while employed.

LOL..another JF WHOPPER.

NO cop has a JD at HIRE, and I doubt thre are even 5 who have earned a JD while employed as a cop. BTW-it is very easy to go to school when it is being paid for by the taxpayers and you're earning $200K per year.

Jan. 6, 2009

Here's another fact. The final hiring stages are done by city personnel... not members of the PD or FD. We don't have a choice in who gets hired. I know, shocking. How does that help your argument?

That is the biggest BS lie you have ever posted JF.....that applicants for the PD or FD are actually hired by personnel....

BALONEY!

Jan. 6, 2009

Don, ALL San Diego firefighters have at least some college. Half the members are paramedics. Paramedic school takes about a year and a half of college.

All cops have at least some college because the academy is equal to one semester of community college credit.

It does not change the fact that they are hired with GED's and HS diploma's. One course at a community college does not make a college graduate, or even a college education.

Jan. 6, 2009

The other point is that every SD firefighter has a continuing education requirement. We're all keeping up with the latest in firefighting all the time... a minimum of two hours per shift of training. That's one important way in which we can never be replaced by community volunteers. They simply don't have the time to train.

Your limited continuing education is employer paid on employer time, the notion that volunteers would be unable to do this PAID TRAINING is preposterous.

Jan. 6, 2009

Your limited continuing education is employer paid on employer time, the notion that volunteers would be unable to do this PAID TRAINING is preposterous.

Really? Look at the Department of Labor stats on volunteerism in America.

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.nr0.htm

The average person who does volunteer (which is only around 26% of the population) spends 1 hour per week volunteering. How are they to keep up with even the training, no less going on actual responses? Remember state law requires that volunteer firefighters receive the same exact training and equipment as paid firefighters.

So if I understand, you're now upset that we get paid while we're training to protect you?

Jan. 6, 2009

If the gov hired on an objective basis, instead of a subjective basis, I would be in the top 1%. How else do you account for the GED educated Mark Furman's getting hired

A large portion of the police officer position requires interaction with people. That is tested pre-hire by an interview. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing you failed in the ability to interact with people part.

Jan. 6, 2009

NO cop has a JD at HIRE

Would you like to show me where I said that any did? Or are you putting words in my mouth as usual?

Jan. 6, 2009

That is the biggest BS lie you have ever posted JF.....that applicants for the PD or FD are actually hired by personnel....

BALONEY!

Sorry, Johnny, but those with good test scores are interviewed by two Fire Captains. Those interviewers make notes and scores. They don't know how those interviewed scored on the written or their ranking. City personnel does the final tabulation and offers of employment. Again, I'm sorry you couldn't get hired, but that doesn't mean that they system isn't fair.

Jan. 6, 2009

No-Im not gofurry. I only post under one handle (at one time).


Johnny would you, or could you clarify the statement above?

One handle at a time on this blog, but other handles on other blogs at the same time when using one handle here, is that correct?

I only ask because (full disclosure) I've adopted your short-hand "JW" for my JustWondering moniker from time to time on some of my posts.

March 5, 2009

JV's statement "NO cop has a JD at HIRE", makes me scratch my head. Where did JF state that. He said "some officers obtain a JD while employed". Additionally, the City personnel department is the group charged with hiring based on recommendation from the agencies conducting the interview/testing. That's why is called a "personnel department". JV's rage has blinded him to rational debate. For his part, anything that is said that is favorable to the opinion he opposes is considered a fabrication. It's just too obvious. The sophomoric name calling is further evidence of his out and out detest. Which makes this all the more humorous. I love reading his responses as his augers in. On the topic of volunteers, are you serious to think that a major metropolitan city, in this case the 8th largest in the US, can support a public safety service based on a volunteers availability. More meat for the grinder. The point is moot on its face. The fact is it WILL NEVER HAPPEN. No matter how much you try to justify it, a volunteer department is a logistical, as well as, a political impossibility. But, just for entertainment value, how do you envision this volunteer program to run JV? Furthermore, what have you done, other than spew vitriol on blogs and forums to make this volunteer program happen? I thought so. Talk is cheap.

As for you Mr. Bauder, you are no better than the UT in your bias.

Response to post #123: Good point. JF might come back with his numbers. Best, Don Bauder

Where's your research in the hiring practices of the FD as you cast your dispersions as readily as the UT. Your transparent tennis match spectator and debate moderator followed up with single sentence replies as tired as JV's parroting. Do you own research. I'd expect better from the press.

Jan. 6, 2009

Fred, My apologies that this has sunken into the gutter. I usually try to focus on the "what" not the "who" but hearing the same crap again and again forced a shift.

You say that, "Putting you fires is NOT as difficult or dangerous as the media and your union would have us believe." OK, so put your money where your mouth is. The San Miguel Fire Protection District in the Rancho San Diego area hires reserve firefighters. Since you're a community-minded individual, why don't you go down and apply. It will give you a good taste of what being an urban firefighter is about. Remember, this job is EASY, right? Anyone can do it? If what we earn is so much... why not join us and make the easy money yourself? Johnny, you're invited to participate as well. We just hired a guy your age. If he can do it, you can too.

Here's my second proposal. For the next few nights, I want you to set an alarm clock at a random time between midnight and six AM. I'll leave a question for you to answer upon awakening. It'll all be common knowledge stuff, at least for a firefighter. I'll even let you use references. Let's see how you do. Are you game? Can you hack it? Again, Johnny, you're welcome to participate. Oh... some nights there may be 3, 4 or 5 questions. At different times. Remember, to earn the "big bucks" you need to work OT several nights in a row, so we'll simulate that.

Jan. 6, 2009

JF,

I was trained in shipboard firefighting and damage control when I was deployed on aircraft carriers. At sea, there is no one to call. You put out at-sea fires, or you die. They're considered the most dangerous fires of all to confront, especially when you add live ammunition to the mix.

So I've already met, and exceeded, what you suggest I must do before you'll generously grant that my opinion might be considered as valid.

While I was in the military, I often endured far worse conditions than any firefighter in San Diego. Yes, I went without sleep (not just for days, but weeks and months), worked very long hours at physically demanding jobs, all in a far more dangerous environment than you've ever experienced.

But years before any of that, when I was barely a teenager, a massive windblown wildfire threatened our home. I was out there on the line chopping firebreaks.

Yes, it was hard work, but I wasn't the only one out there and none of us died for our efforts. On the contrary, we saved not only our house, but built such an effective fire break that several other houses were also saved.

No, JF, fighting fires is NOT that difficult. What is difficult is navigating the system to ever be hired as a firefighter in the first place. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people in San Diego who could do this work -- especially Navy vets who underwent at-sea firefighting training. But the extraneous requirements and politicization of the work prevents them from joining the department.

Your union is a big reason for this.

JF, it's not at all necessary for me to become an official San Diego firefighter to have standing to criticize how your union and the city has actually worked to decrease our overall safety by squandering scarce resources, all the while claiming some sort of moral superiority by virtue of your job title.

Your job is honorable and important...yes.

But it doesn't make you some kind of superman who can whip out a firefighter's badge, and thereby be beyond all questioning. It doesn't work that way.

Since you claim not to focus on the who, then simply answer my arguments rather than attacking me for not being a firefighter and daring to have an opinion.

Again...firefighting is NOT that difficult a job. Many others can and will do it for far less pay, but your union, with the connivance of the city, has set up a lot of road blocks to protect your jobs, creating a false scarcity and driving up the price.

Do you agree, or not?

Jan. 6, 2009

Fred, i believe that the majority of Americans with disagree with your assessment. But please accept JF's challenge. Put you money were your mouth is. This, "i was in the navy and I know better " is a load of bull. Fred, there are a ton of ex-navy folks employed by fire departments, many still serving in a reserve capacity to boot. The devaluing is absurd. Just once, ONCE, would I like too see those that undercut a firefighters job simply take the challenge. BTW, FRED!, have you ever even submitted an application for a municipal fire or PD job? Or, is all your ranting, like this beauty below, just conjecture?

By Fred "What is difficult is navigating the system to ever be hired as a firefighter in the first place. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people in San Diego who could do this work -- especially Navy vets who underwent at-sea firefighting training. But the extraneous requirements and politicization of the work prevents them from joining the department."

I'm betting its the later.

Fred, you amaze me. Your denigrations are a shot across the bow, then you criticize those that disagree. Their reply to you, "if its so simple, go get a fire job". To which you provide a rebuttal that gives the appearance thats "its impossible because us navy folk are pushed out the door." Hmm.

Take the challenge! I'll ask my navy seal turned firefighter buddy what he thinks about the "getting hired by the FD difficulty.

My old man.. seems to think you exaggerate and over dramatize your claims about navy service. But hey, what does a vietnam vet and 30 year career master chief with 13 west-pacs on 6 ships including carriers, know?

Jan. 6, 2009

A large portion of the police officer position requires interaction with people. That is tested pre-hire by an interview.

Hey Einstein, millions of jobs require interaction with the public. Virtully ALL retail and sales jobs require interaction with the public- and these types of jobs produce a far more public service oriented employee than a cop does- and are 100 times better at it- but they are not making $200K per year now are they.

As for your line that this is tested pre-hire by an interview-thanks for pointing out another public union line of baloney. The people doing interviews for PD positions are the very same GED hires that produced the Mark Furmans and Mike Caronas in law enforcment. You have GED's hiring other GED's, no surprise there.

JF, your baloney won't work on me, maybe the average hero worshipping sap-but now me. I know how the system works, I know who are in the system, and it is not the best or the brightest.

Jan. 6, 2009

City personnel does the final tabulation and offers of employment.

Making an offer based on oral scores from the FD brass is NOT city personnel determining who gets hird.

The oral interview is when a public agency decides if they want you-and it is the ONLY part of the interview process that matters = where 85% of all applicants are FAILED, based on a a SUBJECTIVE oral interview, not because they failed an objective written test-and in the vast majroity of PD's the writen exam is pass/fail.

Here let me post what you wrote;

"The final hiring stages are done by city personnel... not members of the PD or FD."

False. City personnel may make the offer-but thye do not decide who gets hired, the dcision to hire comes from the ones who do the oral interview- FD personnel.

Jan. 6, 2009

JV's statement "NO cop has a JD at HIRE", makes me scratch my head. Where did JF state that. He said "some officers obtain a JD while employed". Additionally, the City personnel department is the group charged with hiring based on recommendation from the agencies conducting the interview/testing. That's why is called a "personnel department". JV's rage has blinded him to rational debate. For his part, anything that is said that is favorable to the opinion he opposes is considered a fabrication. It's just too obvious. The sophomoric name calling is further evidence of his out and out detest.

Hi welfare queen, welcome aboard.

Don't tell me, GED and military is how you were gifted your public job???? And your college education was from the "school of hard knocks".

More incompetents trying their best to justiy their scam.

Jigs up-deal with it.

Jan. 6, 2009

Hey JV

On this statement,

Hey Einstein, millions of jobs require interaction with the public. Virtully ALL retail and sales jobs require interaction with the public- and these types of jobs produce a far more public service oriented employee than a cop does- and are 100 times better at it- but they are not making $200K per year now are they.

those service folk you're referring to - they aren't asked to detain bad people now are they?

Cheesy Try JV

Jan. 6, 2009

JV, STOP. You're the guys that misquotes JF. YOU BUDDY! Your pathetic misdirection attempt at deriding my education is equally as embarrassing. Yet, you claim to be in the top 1 percent? Of what I wonder. Between your and Fred's claims of superiority, without any provocation, well, let me just say, it makes me wonder.

Jan. 6, 2009

No, JF, fighting fires is NOT that difficult. What is difficult is navigating the system to ever be hired as a firefighter in the first place. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people in San Diego who could do this work -- especially Navy vets who underwent at-sea firefighting training. But the extraneous requirements and politicization of the work prevents them from joining the department.

Your union is a big reason for this.

THANK YOU. This is on the money.

JF, I also know many ex-navy (who would have guessed in San Diego....lol), and I can confirm that I have been told when they are on the ship there are times when you will work 7 days a week, for 10-15 or more hours a day. One ex navy guy told me he worked 7 days a week for weeks on end- this is hearsay and I cannot vouch for it-but I have no reason to doubt it.

I would suggest this is far more difficult than your job-even on the nights when you get no sleep because you are running calls the entire night.

I agree with Fred 100% about FF jobs- the vast majority of the applicants could do the work. I feel the same way about PD work.

Jan. 6, 2009

JV, STOP. You're the guys that misquotes JF. YOU BUDDY! Your pathetic misdirection attempt at deriding my education is equally as embarrassing. Yet, you claim to be in the top 1 percent? Of what I wonder. Between your and Fred's claims of superiority, without any provocation, well, let me just say, it makes me wonder.

Relax welfare queen......Dont take this so seriously.

It's only the internet.

Jan. 6, 2009

By JV Hi welfare queen, welcome aboard.

Sophomoric and sad. The best you can do? Wow.

Silly sobriquet quite obviously some offensive projection to counter a weak position or some other insecurity. That sort of response diminishes any further comment put forward, even from a casual observers standpoint.

Jan. 6, 2009

How about you relax. You're the one with the overt antisocial flare. Introspection maybe helpful.

Jan. 6, 2009

Most of the welfare queens don't let me get under their skin so easily- take a chill pill, watch the game on TV tonight and call me in the morning, OK "jamesems".................lol~!!

Jan. 6, 2009

Seems i'm striking a nerve now. Now, your covering by transference. Trying to give the appearance that "I'm the one with the problem". clearly pathological. Seems you may be the one in need of the "pill".

LOL!

Jan. 6, 2009

Jamesems, welcome aboard.

My firefighting training is actually quite irrelevant to the question under discussion. That's the absurd levels of pay and pension the city has been duped into paying firefighters and police.

I only described my experience in rebuttal to JF's absurd and offensive notion that ONLY firefighters are qualified to have any opinion on their job.

In fact, if I were a disabled grandmother I'd still be very much able to describe how the firefighter's union has done a disservice to San Diego.

Although firefighting is dangerous and requires training, it is not SO dangerous and difficult that we should pay $200k a year for the job.

Don't you agree?

Best,

Fred

(P.s. On both the Kitty Hawk and Carl Vinson, the hours while at sea are 12 hours on, 12 hours off every day, plus watches, plus drills, plus extra-duties as assigned. There are no days off, and no excuses. You sleep in a rack, amidst the noise and smells with 40 other guys. You eat what you're served. The pay is crap. Firefighters are living a very luxurious life in comparison, JF and Jamesems...just to let you know.)

Jan. 6, 2009

I know how the system works, I know who are in the system, and it is not the best or the brightest.

Interesting English usage for someone in the "top 1%"

Jan. 6, 2009

Hey, here is a GREAT LINk that really puts the public union pension scam into perspective.

Amazing;

http://ibvallejo.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=318&Itemid=45

Jan. 6, 2009

Interesting English usage for someone in the "top 1%"

What????

No typos there.

Grammar looks good.......what is wrong with that post?

Jan. 6, 2009

Johnny would you, or could you clarify the statement above?

One handle at a time on this blog, but other handles on other blogs at the same time when using one handle here, is that correct?

I only post here as SurfPuppy.

I do not post at VoSD hardly at all anymore (maybe once a month/2 months), but my handle there is now the same as here.

March 5, 2009

As usual Johnny your wrong once again. An analog clock gets it right twice a day.

Errr...AM and PM, or did you not learn that in 3rd grade JW?

March 11, 2009

Fred, Apparently, you've misinterpreted my challenge. I'd never for an instant claim that we're the only ones qualified to have an opinion on our job. You're certainly entitled to your opinion.

I respect your long hours in the Navy. I've said for a long time that those in the service should be paid about double what they are. Consider how those hours at sea would affect you if you did it for 30 years -- no shore duty.

So you might have a good feel for the hours and stress I'm talking about. Let me ask a couple of questions. Were you involved in actual life and death situations? Or did you just train for it? Incidentally, you might want to change your Facebook page because it claims you were a "Personnelman". Sounds dangerous. ;)

You claim that anyone can do our job. Over 50% of adult Californians are obese. They can't make it through the academy. The 45% who are left need to pass EMT school, score over 90% on the test, have a decent interview and pass the background and medical. What percentage of the population do you think is left to employ? You'd think former sailors would do well, and many have. But we've also failed Navy SEALs out of the academy because they couldn't pass the exams. It's not quite so easy as you make it out to be.

Jan. 6, 2009

"I know how the system works, I know who are in the system, and it is not the best or the brightest."

Grammar looks good.......what is wrong with that post?

I know who ARE in the system? Yep... a genius all right. It should be, "I know who IS in the system". But you didn't pick that up, even after a second look.

Poking fun at your English skills is fairly petty, all things considered. It is kind of funny, however. Here you are a former teacher with an advanced degree. Someone who as a lawyer has to prepare written briefs and speak intelligently and a dumb, GED educated knuckle dragging firefighter can poke holes in your grammar and your logic.

Maybe it's time to reconsider your notion of superiority based on a college degree.

Jan. 6, 2009

JF, I never said firefighting is easy, only that the difficulties are exaggerated. Like when you seem to be claiming that you're working 12 on and 12 off seven days a week for 30 years without any break.

You're not.

Yet even this is really beside the main point.

The city cannot afford to continue paying such high salaries and pensions. It just can't. Since you're a bit too chicken to reveal your real name here (thanks for looking me up on facebook) I don't know what you're paid, but I'm confident it's not sustainable.

We all know this. We can come together and do something about it, or ignore the problem and make it worse.

Unfortunately, you're correct that the majority of people so lionize public safety workers like yourself, that you and your union have a very unfair advantage in the negotiations. In addition, the fact that your union is very active and generous in local political campaigns means you've got beholden members of the council who will do what the union says...not what's good for San Diego.

With all this propaganda and political weight unfairly tipping the scales in your favor, I'm bound to dispel the myth that your job is so dangerous and difficult that nobody else can do it.

In fact, according to most dangerous jobs surveys, being a taxi driver or store clerk is far more deadly than fighting fires or arresting criminals. Yet we don't pay them a risk premium in San Diego, bankrupting the rest of the city and robbing everyone of basic infrastructure.

Ron Saathoff, though you disavow him, remains under indictment for his role in bilking the city. He was the firefighter union boss for many years, and along with McGrory came up with MP-I, starting the fire that consumed our city finances.

You cannot disclaim him, while still claiming all the money, JF. Something's got to give.

Let's talk about that instead of how manly and admirable you are for fighting fires for a living. Okay?

Best,

Fred

Jan. 6, 2009

Johnny, Vallejo employees are the highest paid in the state, according to a PD salary survey. Comparing them to San Diego employees is ridiculous. According to the website, a Vallejo firefighter's full contract rate is $130K/year. A San Diego firefighter makes around half that. Even I think that their compensation is ludicrous. What was that about apples and oranges?

Obviously, the "retirement pickup" is much higher in Vallejo than it is here. Here we pay 50% of the normal cost of retirement. According to SDCERS, employer normal cost of retirement is around 14%. That would be around $16K, not $32K. Employee contributions would then also be around the same as someone in the private sector.

I don't disagree that our retirement is better. Heck, I think every American should have a retirement like ours. Realistically, we pay a little more than double the rate that those in Social Security only pay. We get a final percentage that is a little more than double what Social Security pays. Amazing.

Jan. 6, 2009

I know who ARE in the system? Yep... a genius all right. It should be, "I know who IS in the system". But you didn't pick that up, even after a second look.

OK Grammar king, I don't think I was technically wrong, or that it matters, but I iwill give that gift that one to you.

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #133: I find it hard to believe that NO cop has a JD at hire. Doesn't the PD hire lawyers? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

JF- why don't we cut the FD pay by 40, 50% abnd see how many applicanst we get- I know people who are very qualified to do that job who would love to do it for $40K-50K plus reasonable benefits.

Jan. 6, 2009

Fred, I don't post my name because the mayor has a strict policy against employees making public statements without his approval. Sorry.

Besides, it also doesn't matter what I make as long as you claim it's unsustainable. So let's talk about that.

There are two sides of the equation. One is income out. The other is income in. San Diego collects much less in taxes than any other major city in California. Even worse, San Diego gets back a smaller percentage of it's sales and property taxes than other major cities. Yet the citizens want the same services as in other major cities and the employees want to get paid the same as employees in other cities.

I do think that there are places to save money in payroll in the city. But I don't think that they're in the FD or PD. In fact, our payroll needs to be increased. The FD is 50% short in staffing, according to one study. So... the citizens are not getting the same services as in other cities. Not the same fire protection, not the same pothole repair, etc.

Again, it's a two sided equation. City employees have already taken cuts in salary. The FD recently received a 5% pay raise, but that was after giving up a 4% retirement pickup. Compare 4% pretax to 5% post tax. Prior to that, we received no pay raise for three years. We will receive no pay raise next year. So, our net pay increase over 5 years is likely negative given the tax disparity. We've also had our health care cut in that same time frame. I know, boo hoo.

In the meantime, what additional taxes have citizens paid? Sure there have been a few fee increases, but has the average citizen been hit in the pocketbook by a general tax increase? No. We've taken the pain, they have not. How exactly would a TOT increase hurt the average citizen here? How many new fire stations would that fund? I'm OK with freezing our wages for a while, but I want to see the shortage of firefighters go away.

I've been working on ways to save the city money on FD payroll. The union board members I've spoken with seem to like my ideas. We'll see if the city buys off on it. I know the union is spending money to conduct studies on how to make the retirement system and retiree healthcare sustainable.

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #133: I find it hard to believe that NO cop has a JD at hire. Doesn't the PD hire lawyers?

San Diego PD has 1800 (give or take) sworn cops, I would bet a C-note that NOT ONE had a JD at hire, and if there are any in the department they can probably be counted on one hand. Remember, less than 20% have 4 year college degrees at hire.

I also think PD is reluctant to hire anyone with a college degree, much less a graduate degree, of any kind. It intiidates the rank and file-as well as management.

There was actually a major case out of the midwest 10 years ago or so, where it was POLICY not to hire anyone with a college degree-this case was upheld as a reasonable use of gov authority to exclude more highly educated applicants because the court agreed with the muni that these people would not likely stay in the job because of the major amount of downtime in police work, such as report writing. They didnt have any proof to back that claim up-but the court rubber stamped it. I can't remember if it was a lawyer or not who filed that suit........

Jan. 6, 2009

Johnny, $40-50K is more than first year FD employees make currently. A top step firefighter (after 4 years) makes $57K/year.

You don't seem to get it. Even with the current salary and benefits, we had only 200 people to interview last time for 80 jobs. That's it. A roughly 2:1 ratio going in to the interview. What part of that don't you comprehend? It's not the 1000:1 ratio you claim.

Jan. 6, 2009

You cannot disclaim him, while still claiming all the money, JF.

Fred, I never purchased service credit at the lower rate, though I could have gotten in on the cheap. The major reason I never did is that I suspected greatly that it would backfire.

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to posts #134-165: This has become a contentious item, marked by pejoratives. I will let you folks throw mud at each other, and even throw mud at me, without adding my commentary. Go at it. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

I would bet a C-note that NOT ONE had a JD at hire

Want to make that bet for the FD?

I'll bet another C-note that we have a Harvard MBA working for us -- and yes, he had the degree before joining the dept.

I'll bet a third C-note that we have a guy who had a MFA and were published authors before hiring on with us.

Of course, I'm not going to name those folks and you wouldn't pay anyway.

Sorry, Johnny, but most firefighters have at least a 2 year degree and many have bachelors at the time of hire. It's not all that unusual for folks to have master's degrees. I can think of a dozen just off the top of my head.

Jan. 6, 2009

Thanks JF, for returning us to the topic.

You wrote that there is a 50% under staffing, and suggest that this can only be overcome with increased spending.

I suggest it could be overcome by recognizing that many of the jobs and functions assigned to very expensive union firefighters could easily and cheaply be performed by others. In fact, there'd be lines of applicants for those jobs. But the union won't allow this, and instead clings to their "entitlement" to as much money as they can get out of a city that is now broke.

It simply won't work. There's no money left.

But fire danger is increasing along with climate change and encroachment on wildfire prone habitats. So we need more fire protection...but we can't afford to pay you to do it anymore.

Well, when that happens an alternative must be found. The alternative is opening up the firefighting ranks to a lot more people, at substantially lower pay. In essence, we'll have to "do it ourselves".

If you think the future holds some other scenario...one where the city has lots of money any time soon...let us know. Otherwise, let's deal with how we're going to face this crisis so that we'll be neither bankrupt nor burnt out of our homes.

Oh yes, I agree that TOT should be raised (and the TOT that goes to the bogus hotel owners assessment needs to be repealed immediately!) and that water and sewer rates will inevitably rise further. I think we should pay for trash service like any other city. I'd support higher taxes on cars and fuel too, along with increasing the top rates of taxes, especially those who earn over $150k annually.

I'd additionally support furloughs for city staffers, as well as demanding that top managers take immediate pay cuts. It's scandalous that Sanders pays former UT political writer Braun over $140k to put out glowing press releases. Plus, who isn't angry that we're paying for Spanos and Moores' stadiums?

I'd support all these changes AND cut fire and police salaries and pensions so that they again reflect the true nature of the work. I'd also suggest that public employee unions be prohibited from influencing municipal elections, like yours so notoriously does to the detriment of us all.

So, really, JF, I think we've got a lot of common ground and are both wanting to help San Diego. The difference is that I'm not on the public payroll, and you are. I think that actually makes me a better judge of the value of your services.

Best,

Fred

Jan. 6, 2009

I'll bet another C-note that we have a Harvard MBA working for us -- and yes, he had the degree before joining the dept.

That woudn't surpriseme really, FF's make more than Harvard MBA's today.

Jan. 6, 2009

Fred, If we're so connected politically, why are we among the worst paid departments in the state? The city funded a survey of firefighter benefits. The mayor chose to include cities such as Phoenix and Houston where the cost of living is considerably lower. He also chose to not include municipalities such as San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Clara County. Even so, SD firefighters came in at the 40th percentile. If I recall, captains came it at the 30th percentile and Battalion Chiefs at to 10th percentile. Yep, we're really working the city over for higher pay!

I assume you've read the report "The Bottom Line" by the Center for Policy Initiative? http://www.onlinecpi.org/downloads/THE%20BOTTOM%20LINE.pdf If taxes in San Diego matched the average of the ten largest cities in CA, the city would have around $280 million more in income. We wouldn't be having this conversation because the FD would be fully funded, the pension system would be fully funded, potholes would be fixed, etc.

As I mentioned, FD employee pay is essentially unchanged over the past 5 years. Add in some of the taxes above, some of the staff changes you suggest, end funding of corporate welfare etc. and you'd have something. Everyone needs to share in the cure, not just city employees. There are 12000 of us and 1,200,000 citizens.

The basic view of the unions is that we've taken a hit already. The city could choose to not spend $25 million on the Balboa Theatre, not spend money on pedestrian bridges, libraries, corporate welfare, etc. and there would be plenty of money for salaries and the retirement system, as well as for infrastructure.

Go back and look at the article I posted about Mayor O'Connor. She chose to cut firefighter and police funding in favor of restoring funding for the arts. That is a simple lack of setting proper priorities.

Jan. 6, 2009

Sorry, JF...but your firefighter union was part of the conspiracy that landed us in this situation.

I agree that we should cut a lot of things, especially stadium subsidies, first...but you cannot worm your union out of responsibility for Ron Saathoff's corrupt deals.

I'd like to see EVERYONE make sacrifices in hard times, but Sanders has already declared that both fire and police are off limits. I suppose this is a quid pro-quo for being so helpful and generous to his re-election, and their help getting Sanders friendly council members elected too.

Looks like you'll continue to live high on the hog, while the rest of us are left with slops. Then we'll revolt and the whole thing comes crashing down.

Unless you're smart enough to get in front of this tsunami.

Now as soon as I see your union get out in public, admit its complicity in the corrupt deals in the past, and in atonement launch a campaign for reform in San Diego (starting with telling the voters they can chose to pay for firefighters or ballpark bonds, but not both) then I'll be back on board with you.

Until then, you're demanding special treatment that you simply don't deserve.

Convince your union to be a force for good (a huge change) and then you'll have earned San Diego's respect. Until then, you're just play-acting when it comes to reform.

Best,

Fred

(P.s. With all your terrible hardships and sacrifices in so generously being a poorly-paid and overworked firefighter, how can you afford to spend day after day posting so much on this blog? Aren't you actually a union representative? Real firefighters ought to be far too busy, according to you...)

(P.p.s. I can write on blogs like this because I work for myself, not the public, and make my own hours. I don't get paid by the city to whine away about how underpaid I am...)

Jan. 6, 2009

Fred, First, I'm on a day off today, so I can pretty much do what I please. Second, I'm not a union representative, though I do have the ear of a few of them.

You seem to like putting words in my mouth almost as much as Johnny Vegas. I fully accept that benefit increases are part of what put the pension system in the red. According to the document Johnny posted, 41%. Remember, however, that MP1 would never have happened if McGrory had not come to the union and asked for relief.

You seem to forget that we endorsed Sanders' opponent We also endorsed the opponents of Sanders' cronies in most races. Just not the one in your district. How exactly do we have quid pro quo with him? By the way, you forgot to answer my question regarding political power vs pay. Once again, if we're so politically powerful, why are we underpaid compared to other departments?

Remember, politics is a two way street. The people can make any decision they want in electing their representatives. You have chosen to be involved and I commend you for that. Regardless of their position, I respect people who actually care enough to become involved. Most do not. I'm still awaiting this uprising you speak of. It hasn't happened in local politics yet.

Jan. 6, 2009

Fred, You wrote, "I suggest it could be overcome by recognizing that many of the jobs and functions assigned to very expensive union firefighters could easily and cheaply be performed by others." Exactly which jobs do you recommend we replace? Remember, we are the leaders in the city in managed competition, which we've been doing successfully with paramedic care for 11 years now.

Then you wrote, "I think that actually makes me a better judge of the value of your services." Maybe. But the people in general are not good judges of how much fire protection is needed in this city. They always think, "It will happen to someone else". That's why I advocate so much for increased fire protection, even at the expense of my own pay.

Jan. 6, 2009

Hey, JF.

Thanks for your continued and persistent contributions to this forum. I do appreciate it. If I'm being more than usually offensive or putting false words in your mouth, I regret it and apologize. You're one of the good guys. I'm just a bit excitable when it comes to the situation in San Diego.

I applaud your willingness to engage here.

It's true, as you say, that the originator of this fraud was McGrory. I've elsewhere expressed my contempt and hostility for Jack, and said he belongs in jail for those deals.

It was right then and there (1996) that the firefighters and police could have done the honorable thing and spoken up. They could have said to San Diego, "Hey, these are bad deals and not in anyone's interest except corrupt politicians".

They didn't. In fact, Saathoff used it as extortion. "We'll keep quiet, but you've got to pad our benefits and pensions beyond belief."

I think you'll agree that this is what led us to today's situation.

You can't help that the system is corrupt. You're just working with what you've got.

Still, you need to recognize that you can get in front of this, or eventually suffer the consequences. One way or another this mess must be paid for. The smart thing would be to lead the reforms instead of being buried by them.

As for my prediction of an angry populace, I'll stand by it. I can't vouch for my accuracy when it comes to timing, but I'm confident in the eventual result. It took ten years for public sentiment to turn against stadium subsidies...but it will probably take less time for the public to turn against police and fire if they continue to act more in their own interest than in the interest of the public.

Best,

Fred

Jan. 6, 2009

Re: # 178

I agree we need more and better fire protection...that's why more volunteers should be actively welcomed (not the joke of a CERT program, but something serious) especially if they can be called up as reserves when the big fires come.

Enough for today. I've got to go eat dinner.

Best,

Fred

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #166: It seems to me if the pay and fringes of new hires were cut severely -- your 40 percent would not be out of line -- there would be plenty of qualified applicants. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #167: You are right that San Diego is undertaxed by comparison with other CA cities. And San Diegans demand commensurate services. There is room to raise the TOT tax substantially, but the hotel lobby will want most or all of the proceeds to go to tourism promotion. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #168: Here's a question for you: do you know any college or university that has a major, or even a course, in firefighting? Several universities have security majors featuring courses in police work. Fire? Never heard of it, but somebody speak up if there is such a course anywhere. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #168: Does the PD have an unstated policy against hiring college grads? That's a question that requires a truthful answer. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #172: I've known some Harvard MBAs that certainly couldn't put out a fire at a corporation in trouble. In fact, some of the damnedest crooks and crackpots I have known through the years were Harvard MBAs. I never knew George W. Bush, Harvard MBA, but he seems to fit into both categories. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #170: If you did not purchase service credits on the cheap because you thought the whole thing would implode, you are to be admired. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #173: One good thing about a deep recession is that the labor pool expands greatly. A lot of people will work for much less money and much lower fringes. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #175: Fred made some excellent points in post #173. FFs may have taken a bit of a haircut, but the City is out of money, and from the standpoint of equity, FFs will have to get trimmed more -- probably a lot more. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #176: Sanders is a feckless public official who is just putting off problems until he is out of office. That is the opposite of what he pledged to do. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #177: In his day, Saathoff was the most powerful operator in City government. Yes, he has been indicted. But the firefighters have not sufficiently denounced his legacy -- and that legacy is the excessive pay and fringes they enjoy. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #178: Everyone will HAVE to make sacrifices at some point. But San Diego voters are not at that stage yet. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #179: Fred, I have been waiting for that voter revolt for years now. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

Response to post #180: Agreed. We need more FF volunteers -- throughout the county, actually. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 6, 2009

We need more FF volunteers -- throughout the county, actually.

And that's the whole thing, Don. The fire service has taken on a lot of challenges lately. In days of yore, the volunteer fire service was largely a social club. We used to have a beer machine in my old volunteer fire hall. Today's fire service is responsible for paramedicine, haz mat, WMD, technical rescue, etc. It's virtually impossible for a volunteer to maintain their proficiency. Further, volunteerism in America is down in whole. As I posted earlier, the average person who does volunteer does so for only an hour a week. That's one training drill or one call per week in fire terms.

I do agree that we need some sort of reserve. But consider this, we'd be training those people to respond to the once every five years event. We'd be equipping them as well. Wildland gear alone costs well over $1000/person. In the meantime, we only have enough fire engines for 1/3 the department to use. Wouldn't we be better off slowly building our mothball fleet so that we could easily double (or triple) the size of the department with already fully trained and equipped firefighters?

Jan. 7, 2009

It was right then and there (1996) that the firefighters and police could have done the honorable thing and spoken up.

Look at the context of the political climate a dozen years ago. Our union received cuts in both 90 and 91. We took those cuts voluntarily to save jobs. Promises to repay the loss were broken. So when the opportunity came up to get some of that back, we did.

You've continually vilified our union. But you've completely forgotten (or are ignorant of) the help we've provided the city. We are the ones who designed the current EMS system, not the city. Our public/private partnership is unique in that we have a profit sharing agreement with our private partner whereby the city gets half of the profit -- as much as $5 million a year. That system was originally staffed with higher paid firefighter/paramedics. We voluntarily switched to lower paid single role paramedics to help with funding. Find another union that voluntarily gives up positions.

We also successfully lobbied to get increased Prop 172 money for San Diego. The city, not the county. The county still keeps most of the money, but we're the ones who got the half million a year that the city does get.

Those are only a couple of examples...

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post 194: But do ALL FFs need to be trained as paramedicals, for example? Aren't there simpler jobs that can be performed by volunteers that don't have this training? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

JF, you bring up an excellent point.

There ought to be tiers of firefighting.

At the top, you have the elite (perhaps such as yourself) who are not only paramedics, but bomb squad members, hazmat response crew, and trained parachutists who are ready for any type of emergency, anytime, anywhere. These are the special forces, if you will. They're highly paid, but we only need a handful for the entire region.

At the middle, you have the firefighter with some additional skills, but who is primarily working on day to day emergencies like small structure fires. They get a good wage, but less than what you are currently making. They make up the bulk of the career fire-fighters and managers who would earn a reasonable retirement for their service.

Then there's the bulk of what we truly need. Strong, trained, capable young people who do the grunt work that makes up the majority of firefighting work. Just like we use prison inmates on work-release as fireteams, these people are only going to fight fires for a few years, and then move on to other careers...just like enlisted folk in the military.

Under this layer, there should be a registry of able-bodied residents to get one week of intense training per year, but are otherwise on standby. They get called up in emergencies to augment the regular forces. Though not highly trained, they certainly know enough to join in and make a big difference in their limited scope of responsibilities. This is a sort of civilian defense force.

JF, I'm sure you recognize that not ALL firefighters have to be elite. That would be like having only SEALs in our military. It makes no sense. But that's the system you are describing in your posts as justification for the enormous amounts of pay and benefits you receive.

We can't afford that.

We could afford a tiered system that acknowledges the reality of firefighting...not the myths of your being some kind of supermen...and recognizes that many people are perfectly capable of doing the job quite well when given the opportunity.

As it is now, firefighters hold themselves above the community...just like our cops. They consider "civilians" to be little more than sheep, despised and helpless without the big manly hero to rescue them from the nasty world.

We've seen the results. Contempt for the very people who pay your salaries.

Perhaps if more firefighters lived in San Diego, they'd be more concerned about the city's insolvency. But when they're living out in Temecula, why should they care if San Diego goes down the tubes?

In the end, JF, no matter what you and I think, the system we have today must change. It's not effective when the really big fires come, and it costs too much for day to day needs. It doesn't fit our requirements.

With your leadership, perhaps the firefighters union can repudiate the corruption of the Saathoff era and work to make firefighting in San Diego something to be proud of.

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #195: Your union deserves credit for some of those initiatives. But giving such credit shouldn't divert attention away from the disastrous MP1 and MP2 programs, and your union's role in them. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #168: Here's a question for you: do you know any college or university that has a major, or even a course, in firefighting?

San Diego Community Colleges via the Regional Public Safety Training Institute at Miramar College (http://www.sdmiramar.edu/index.asp), Southwestern, Grossmont, Palomar and Mira Costa Colleges offer Administration of Justice (Law Enforcement), Fire Sciences or degree programs in both. San Diego State University offers degrees in "Public Administration" geared more toward the management of Public Safety organizations.

Jan. 7, 2009

Darn I thought I might have comment 200, oops guess I do...

Jan. 7, 2009

Cograts to JW for being poster #200!

If you told me I would be a critic of union misbehavior 10-15 years ago I would not have believed you.

I am a socially liberal, but fiscally conservative left leaning independant ( former Democrat). I have always considered unions to be critical and necessary to protect workers from exploitation. I still believe that to some degree, but the level of abuse in public unions is beyond anything I could have imagined. The public unions have become the exploiters and the public now needs protction from them-especially the PD and FD.

Jan. 7, 2009

I've known some Harvard MBAs that certainly couldn't put out a fire at a corporation in trouble. In fact, some of the damnedest crooks and crackpots I have known through the years were Harvard MBAs.

By dbauder 10:12 p.m., Jan 6, 2009

Funny you should say that, about 10 days ago CBS "60 Miniutes" did a 40 minute sement on Harvard Business School, and it was very interesting indeed.

They did mention the ethics of business school, and touched on the Harvard MBA's that went bad, like Jeff Skilling of Enron and others.............

Jan. 7, 2009

Johnny,

In light of the 60 minutes piece you cited, I think you will appreciate this:

"Ray Soifer, a top-rated banking analyst based in Arizona, has an explanation for the crisis gripping the stock market: Blame Harvard! Soifer has long studied the proportion of Harvard MBAs who pursue careers in finance; when more than 3 in 10 head for Wall Street, it's time for investors to sell, he says. The implication: Harvard MBAs, in aggregate, subtract value."

http://valleywag.gawker.com/5053618/harvard-mbas-the-most-toxic-investment-on-wall-street

Jan. 7, 2009

Don, Since you asked here is the link for Miramar's Fire Science Program

http://www.sdmiramar.edu/root/instruction/programs_template.asp?prgm=FIPT

Jan. 7, 2009

And the course outline for the Basic Firefighter Academy as a PDF document...

Don't you just love the Internet?

http://www.sdccdcurricu.net/SDCCD2/reports/course_outline_pdf.cfm?courses_id=11837

Jan. 7, 2009

"The implication: Harvard MBAs, in aggregate, subtract value."

Interesting indeed, goes to show these elite school need to do more than just look at GMAT (LSAT) and GPA #s when admitting people.

I interviewed lawyer Gerry Spence a number of years ago, and the thing that he said bothered him most about law schools like Harvard today is it is just a numbers game on who they admit-they do no interviews- and for that reason he stopped lecturing/speaking at those elite law schools.

I think he has a good point, Ray Soifer may be onto something.

Jan. 7, 2009

No wonder our world is upside down.... take a look at Executive Compensation in San Diego County Public Corporations by following this link:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20080612-9999-1b8tables.html

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #199: Sounds like in San Diego, it's the community colleges offering such courses. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #200: Congrats. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #197: Good ideas, Fred. A three- or five-tiered system could be much more cost-effective. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #201: I know a lot of conservative union-haters. I remind them that union membership is now under 10 percent of workers. Foreign competition has neutered the big private sector unions (UAW, URW, Steelworkers, Teamsters, etc.). But municipal unions are irresponsible. They have almost no foreign competition. However, society's worst offenders are top managements of large corporations that pay themselves outlandish salaries. An irresponsible union -- say, representing muni workers in San Diego -- can always point to abuses of top management in the private sector. Unfortunately, there is no argument to combat that. With the exception of government unions, top managements of private sector companies are society's biggest enemies Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #202: There are plenty of Harvard MBAs who belong in the slammer; others belong in the lunatic asylum. Sorry I missed that program. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #203: My guess is that in the last twenty years, when Wall Streeters went completely berserk and the money they raked in was worse than unconscionable, an even higher percentage of Harvard MBAs went into finance. Another school that cranks out crooks and crackpots is Yale Law School. Soifer should do a study on those grads. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #204: That will be useful. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #205: Yes, I love the Internet. I especially enjoy some of the links that readers put on this blog. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #206: Johnny, I wonder if you have the same suspicions about Yale Law School that I have. I have done no scientific study, obviously, but fragmentary and anecdotal evidence suggests that Yale teaches its law students how to follow the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

However, society's worst offenders are top managements of large corporations that pay themselves outlandish salaries. An irresponsible union -- say, representing muni workers in San Diego -- can always point to abuses of top management in the private sector. Unfortunately, there is no argument to combat that.

The problem is the number of CEO's in the private sector, even including upper level managers, are very small in number-where as government employment accounts for 20% of all employees. By far the biggest employer in America is government-local, county, state and federal.

But besides that is the fact that the vast majority of Americans also hate the self dealing corporate elite/scammers. So public employees who use the argument, that because a relatively few number of private sector employees scam the system it is therefore OK for them to do likewise, fails. It just does not validate anything about their pay and benefits.

Two wrongs never make a right.

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #207: Remember, too, that these top execs, particularly of biotechs, have made a bundle dumping founders' stock they got for pennies a share for many dollars a share -- ringing up profits of 100,000 or 1 million percent. That doesn't show up as compensation. On the whole, though, I think SD CEOs, COOs, and CFOs make a little less than counterparts in other cities around the country. San Diego nabobs pay a sunshine tax, too. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #217: Apologists for grossly excessive corporate top management pay use the argument that in the aggregate, it's really not so much money -- a small percentage of total compensation. I don't buy that. For one thing, upper middle management pay is also excessive. But most of all, the obscene remuneration of top corporate officials provides a cover for others in society, such as unions who have a monopoly, to plunder the system, too. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 7, 2009

Response to post #1102: Willingness to forego a 5 percent pay increase is hardly a major step. Best, Don Bauder

March 11, 2009

Then there's the bulk of what we truly need.

See, Fred, here's where the part about how you're a better judge of our worth than we are breaks down. There's a reason you pay us to be experts in the deployment of firefighting resources.

You suggest that the same few people become the "elites". That those same few people handle all the specialty calls. We currently have one Haz Mat team to cover the county. It's staffed by San Diego firefighters, but paid for by a Joint Powers Agreement. There is one Bomb Squad in San Diego. So what if they're the same folks? What if there is a bomb call at the same time as a Haz Mat call? It happens a lot more frequently than you'd imagine, especially as both types of calls typically take hours. Frequently, calls require the use of both sets of teams. That would be a bit of a problem if the same folks did both. Then there's the issue of maintaining competence. There's not enough time to be truly an expert at both.

Federal law requires ALL firefighters (paid or volunteer) to maintain a Haz Mat First Responder-Operational certification. This allows engine companies to take initial action and reduce calls for the county's single Haz Mat unit. You probably don't realize that there are around 20-30 calls/day for "unknown substance" in just the city.

Don said something about "paramedicals". The use of that term shows ignorance of how things really work. Every fire engine and fire truck in San Diego has a person being paid a bonus to be a paramedic. The rest are EMTs. The EMTs support the paramedic care, help move the patient, etc. The reason that each piece of apparatus has a paramedic is because, as with firefighting, time matters.

Let's look at your lower tiers. What you're talking about here is hand crews to cut fireline. The city has worked a sponsorship deal with the Sycuan tribe. During fire season we get a hand crew to staff from Sycuan. For free. We also have Sycuan's brush disposal crews available in the city for fires. We can also get their elite Hot Shot crew. All for free. We can also get hand crews from the state, again for free. And here, you wanted to pay them...

Volunteers aren't really needed, except as a feel-good for community members. Again 2/3 of the fire department is off duty at any given time. We could (and have tried to) buy cheaper pick-up based fire engines that could quickly be staffed by existing firefighters in the event of a major conflagration. We wouldn't have to pay for training, equipping or insuring volunteers who would only be used every few years.

It's interesting that you want to give volunteers a only one week of training a year. I assume that's in addition to their week of CERT training. And don't forget, they'd need to be Haz Mat trained. Imagine the liability if we allowed volunteers to mop up a burned out home and they got into some of the Hazmats that are in the typical garage. How much time off work are you willing to spend?

Jan. 8, 2009

Allright, JF. Let's assume I'm completely ignorant and all my suggestions are baseless.

What do you suggest?

Note: The one unacceptable answer is "maintain the status quo".

Best,

Fred

Jan. 8, 2009

Don also wondered about higher education in the fire service. Well, there are a lot less firefighters than lawyers, thus there are less colleges. However, as jamesems pointed out, Don seems to like to throw barbs without any research.

A five minute search on Google located the following list of colleges offering doctorate, masters, bachelors and associates degrees in Emergency Management. http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/edu/collegelist/ Several of those specialize in firefighting.

Off the top of my head, the CSU Sacramento, the University of Maryland, Oklahoma State all offer degrees in fire service management specifically. Texas A&M and ASU both offer programs. CSU Long Beach offers a Masters in Emergency Management. George Washington offers a Master's in EMS Management. The Naval Postgradaute School in Monterrey offers a Master's in Homeland Security. (For free!)

Let's see... all classes at the National Fire Academy are good for upper division credit, should one want to develop their own degree program. The NFA Executive Fire Officer program requires a bachelor's for acceptance and eight post-graduate level classes. It's required for a senior position in many FD's. At least one major university accepts those as part of their Master's program. And since you don't like Ivy League schools, I'll leave out the Harvard Senior Executive Fellowship seminar at the John F Kennedy School of Government.

As someone else mentioned, a Public Administration bachelors is available darn near anywhere. San Diego State has a decent program that they sometimes customize for the fire service. Any other questions about higher education in the fire service?

Once again, the union has requested that a degree (AS) be required pre-hire and a bachelor's for promotion. So far the city has resisted.

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #220: You say that 2/3rds of the crew is off-duty at any given time. How about cutting that back to half? Wouldn't that save some money? Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

What do you suggest?

========================== Do as Orange County has done. Split the fire service away from local government. Form a countywide fire authority with it's own taxing ability. Quit spending money on those stupid Superscoopers. Eliminate some of the redundant administrative chiefs and replace them with savvy field chiefs.

The model for deployment of firefighting resources has been developed over many years. You, the citizen, needs to decide what level of protection you want. From the protestations after major fires, it would seem that you want a very high level of service. Given that, you'll need to fund the additional 20+ engines and other equipment that this city needs. To do that you'll need to raise taxes.

You could cut one person from each engine and save about 15-20% on payroll. Several staffing studies have shown that cutting that one person caused a 50% drop in efficiency on the fireground. So you'd need to call double the number of engines to do what we currently do. Then your response time for medical emergencies would be unacceptably high. Also, time lost to worker's comp injuries skyrockets. Basically, you'd likely have a wash financially.

Fred, the fire service in San Diego is so stripped it's pathetic. The mayor paid a crony of DeMaio's to do a study of the department here. (Yes, on a typical DeMaio no bid contract) Even the hand-picked consultant couldn't believe how thin this city is. His report was never released. Maybe you can file a FOIA request for it.

We're already lower paid and lower staffed than any comparable major city in California. Sorry, but there's simply no more to cut. Again, we're already 50% understaffed. That is not a function of paying us too much... it's a function of decades of neglect by the city fathers in the interest of development.

My change to the status quo is simple. Raise the taxes needed to have the fire department that San Diego needs and deserves. Apply that increase to increasing staffing, not increasing benefits.

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #221: Right on. The City is broke. There have to be cuts in government, including the fire department. JF resists any suggestions. Presumably, so do the other FFs. But something has to happen. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

You say that 2/3rds of the crew is off-duty at any given time. How about cutting that back to half?

That does several things.

It increases our work week to 84 hours/week from the current 56. That would require a pretty healthy amount of overtime to accomplish. FLSA law provides for OT for firefighters after 52 hours, rather than the 40 hours of other professions. I'm thinking that we should lobby to change that back to 40 hours under the current labor friendly Congress. Instant pay raise! (Yes, I'm being tongue in cheek there)

Second, you decrease the reserve force by half. Remember, that's actually 2/3 who are scheduled to be off. Some are already working OT. Some have child care issues and cannot come back to work. Etc.

Third, you'd have zero applicants for new positions given that other department already get paid more and have better benefits. Increase hours by 50% and you'd remove any possible reason to come work here. You keep claiming that you know dozens who would work for less pay than we make. Where are they? Why can't you explain why we only had 200 folks make it through the academy?

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #222: You have named a lot of majors and courses in which firefighting appears to be a small part. But you have made the point that firefighting is taught in higher education. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

There have to be cuts in government, including the fire department.

Right now the SDFD is unable to meet response time contract compliance in every area north of I-8. Which community do you suggest that we strip coverage from? How about the areas with good coverage? Fred, will you volunteer to allow the station on Felton and Adams to be closed to save money? It's one of the slower engines south of 8. How about the engine in Oak Park? The engine in Mission Valley?

I tell ya what. Get 5000 people from Normal Heights to sign a petition requesting that the fire station there be closed. If the stations on Chamoune or 32nd Street (First and third busiest in the city) are available, they can send help.

See... no community is willing to give up it's level of service. Many want more service than they currently have.

You're not going to get major savings in labor without layoffs, yet the citizens want more firefighters. Bit of a Catch 22 there, isn't it.

I do have one more proposal. Cut the Fire Prevention Bureau. The response side of the dept. is already stripped, so go for the prevention side. Assume that developers will meet the codes of their own volition. Quit doing inspections of the Hazardous Materials facilities in the city. Quit doing brush inspections. That would save a few million.

Jan. 8, 2009

JF said: "Don also wondered about higher education in the fire service. Well, there are a lot less firefighters than lawyers, thus there are less colleges. However, as jamesems pointed out, Don seems to like to throw barbs without any research."

JF, you ought to do a little research of your own before you criticize others for not doing theirs.

According to the NFPA, in 2007 there were 1,148,800 firefighters in the US. According to the ABA there are currently 1,116,967 practicing lawyers in the US. Currently there are actually more firefighters than practicing lawyers.

To be fair, the number of full time career firefighters is only 28% of that total, or 323,350. The rest are varying degrees of part time. Even discounting all part time firefighters, that is still only 3.5 practicing lawyers for each full time professional firefighter, which is a much lower number than I would have guessed. Many if not most part time and volunteer firefighters take at least some classes too, so that still doesn't explain away the discrepancy in schools.

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #224: Are San Diego voters ready for a tax increase? Good question. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

Paul Not that I think JF needs my help in this arguement or that I am even agreeing with him, but I just did a little research of my own so let me add this. According to about a dozen differnt articles I read,there has been an average 35-40 percent failure rate for persons taking the bare exam in the last 8 years with the overall failure rate inceasing 28 percent since 1995. A couple of well known examples: Hillary Rodham Clinton failure on her first attempt to pass the Washington DC bar exam and Beau Biden, son of VP Elect Joe Biden, failing the Delaware bar exam 3 times before finally passing it. So while the percentage of lawers to FF is not what you may have expected, that extra percentage of people in law school who don't pass the bar does add something towards the discrepancy between law schools and those offering FF coursework.

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #226: It wouldn't raise your workweek if you had more people -- including volunteers -- on the force. You always assume that the current modus operandi CAN'T be changed. But it may have to be changed. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

Fred, I do have one idea I'm sure you'll agree with. Have CCDC and SEDC pay for all of the firefighters working within their respective areas. They seem to have no problem paying for security guards on Segways to run around downtown -- why not fire protection?

There are a few other places in the city that should be paying the city for fire and EMS protection. The city needs to collect on that.

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #231: I know several lawyers who can't pass a bar. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #233: It's a good idea to have others pay for police and fire services. CCDC and SEDC? Absolutely. How about the Padres and Chargers? The hotels? Etc. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

Don, One of the biggest crimes by councils past was not requiring developers to provide fire protection, be it downtown or elsewhere. The people of University City should be furious at their lack of fire protection.

There are less firefighters downtown today than there were in 1970. In 1976, there were 750,000 residents in San Diego and there were 36 fire stations. Today there are roughly double that number of residents and only 10 more fire station. Yes, some of that population increase is infill, but then those areas need additional fire protection.

The city needs to use Mello-Roos and developer fees to provide for fire protection.

Jan. 8, 2009

JF said: "Yes, some of that population increase is infill, but then those areas need additional fire protection."

===============================================================

That is not necessarily true. Response time is a major consideration in how many fire departments you need, and although the population has grown the geography has not. Infill does not increase response times except in consideration to traffic.

I'm not arguing that the current number of stations is adequate or that the increase since the seventies shouldn't have been greater, just that an increase in population alone is not a particularly pertinent argument.

Jan. 8, 2009

JF,

It looks like you're part of the problem. You don't have much creativity or flexibility. Boiled down, you just keep repeating the tired mantra that you deserve even more money from the City of San Diego. You refuse to consider any other possibility.

Maybe you need to go back to community college and take a course on logic.

You cannot recognize the simple fact that this city is broke. Your union is a big part of the reason we are broke. Our fire service is very expensive, and not particularly effective. Yet you want us to all pay even more.

It's not going to happen.

The firefighters will have to come to their senses. You can lead the way, or you can obstinately cry that we're all picking on you out of some sort of weird hostility to public safety. Wrong.

We're the ones trying to steer away from disaster, and you're shouting "full speed ahead".

Time to decide, JF...which side are you on? San Diego or your corrupt union? Your non-response to the questions so far are quite disappointing.

Best,

Fred

Jan. 8, 2009

brianwilson said: "Not that I think JF needs my help in this arguement or that I am even agreeing with him, but I just did a little research of my own..."

I don't disagree with you. The failure rate of the bar is pretty high, so there could be more graduates per practicing lawyer than there are for firefighters coming out of their schools. That would be one factor in explaining why there would be more schools offering law degrees, but I don't think saying it is very tough to pass the bar helps JFs arguments.

Of course what I don't have are numbers for the failure rate coming out of the firefighter programs. Even if we did know the failure rate it wouldn't necessarily be an apples to apples comparison with law schools unless we knew the qualifications of the people entering the programs. A school (or test) with a high failure rate may be very difficult to pass, or it may be indicative of poor quality candidates. Without more info it would be impossible to know where the truth lies.

My main point was to refute JFs assumption that "there are a lot less firefighters than lawyers, thus there are less colleges". He used that statement to chastize Don, but not only are that not "a lot less" firefighters than lawyers, there are actually more!

Jan. 8, 2009

JF said: "One of the biggest crimes by councils past was not requiring developers to provide fire protection, be it downtown or elsewhere. The people of University City should be furious at their lack of fire protection."

JF, what do you think of your fire chief being paraded in front of the city council to lie about response times to aid the argument for a new bridge over Rose Canyon (which would coincidentally greatly increase the land value of a huge political backer), rather than build the badly needed University City fire station? Your fire chief put pure politics above the safety of University City.

Jan. 8, 2009

There are less firefighters downtown today than there were in 1970. In 1976, there were 750,000 residents in San Diego and there were 36 fire stations. Today there are roughly double that number of residents and only 10 more fire station.

JF- In 1976 FF's were not in the top 3% of income earners either. They were not pulling down $200K per year in pay and benefits before OT was factored in.

If you have for instance $1 million dollars, you can hire 20 FF's at $50K per year, or hire 5 at $200K per year-whch is safeer??

And believe me, we would have people lined up for miles even at $50K.

Jan. 8, 2009

The city needs to use Mello-Roos and developer fees to provide for fire protection.

Mello Roos bonds are by law dedicated to infrastruture and schools, they cannot be used to fund day to day government expenses, such as FF compensaton.

Besides, even if we did use it for FF compensation, FF's would just keep getting more pay and beneit increases and we would eventually be back to square one.

The problem is out of control expenses (read employee compensation), not lack of income-from Mello Roos, property tax, sales tax or any other tax scheme.

Jan. 8, 2009

So while the percentage of lawers to FF is not what you may have expected, that extra percentage of people in law school who don't pass the bar does add something towards the discrepancy between law schools and those offering FF coursework.

The law school graduates who do not pass the bar are not lawyers. They are law school graduates.

You are not a lawyer until you have passed a state bar (any bar), have cleared backgroud and been sworn into the bar. So even if you have passed the bar you are not a lawyer util you have cleared backgroud, and even then if you refuse the bar oath you are still not a lawyer.

Jan. 8, 2009

Off the top of my head, the CSU Sacramento, the University of Maryland, Oklahoma State all offer degrees in fire service management specifically. Texas A&M and ASU both offer programs. CSU Long Beach offers a Masters in Emergency Management. George Washington offers a Master's in EMS Management. The Naval Postgradaute School in Monterrey offers a Master's in Homeland Security.

Very interesting. .. I would love to do a graduate degree in Emergency Management..... if I were rich and money was no issue.

I would suspect that even with a Masters degree in Fire Science, or related degree, you would not get you into any FD because of the cronyism and nepotism in gov employment (not just FD, but at all levels, especially the higher paying jobs).

Jan. 8, 2009

243

and your point is what exactly????

Jan. 8, 2009

Boiled down, you just keep repeating the tired mantra that you deserve even more money from the City of San Diego.

Fred, please point to my statement above where I said that any of that money would go into my pocket?

Instead, perhaps you should look at my statement from 11AM this morning, "Apply that increase to increasing staffing, not increasing benefits."

Perhaps a college level reading class would help with your comprehension skills.

Speaking of tired mantras....

Jan. 8, 2009

I thought you were stating that all law grads were lawyers, did you not use all LS grads for the comparison to FF's????

Jan. 8, 2009

Johnny, I'm still waiting for your answer on why there were only 200 applicants who made it to the interview. You keep talking about these thousands of people who would take the job... where are they?

Fred, how about you? You've got the intellegence, Navy background... you could still operate your business on your days off... why not take the job?

Also... I'm still waiting for your proof that San Diego firefighters make an average of $200K per year. That's BS and you know it. Go ahead and post a link proving your point. I already posted the link showing exactly what retirement costs are and that your 60% bit is BS, so prove me wrong or quit with your BS.

You are so full of crap... and everyone knows it.

Jan. 8, 2009

Paul, Johnny has argued against civil service protection for firefighters. You are showing exactly why we need civil service protection. The fire chief has a boss, i.e. the strong mayor. He needs no further reason other than "incompatible management style" to fire her. Does that answer your question? She cannot tell the truth of how pitiful fire protection is in this city.

Here's my question of you: Are you willing to pay more for that station? Maybe enact a Mello Roos tax to pay for the property, station and equipment so that the city has to pay only for personnel? Or the converse -- are you willing to close that station to save money?

Jan. 8, 2009

239,

I wasn't saying it is harder to pass the bar than it is to pass FF classes. I was showing that the amount of lawyers does not include those who didn't pass the bar, not even accounting for those who don't even finsh in the first place. I was addressing the disparity in the number of schools for the two professions, not the actual numbers in those professions. Of course the 2 professions and their educational requirements can't be compared apples for apples. How many lawyers have passed the bar without lawschool?? A few. How many people have become lawyers without paasing the bar. None. How many people have become FF without a degree? Johnnyvegas would say almost all of them. Because it's not a requirement. Each profession has completely different paths of entry and there really is no way to compare them from that perspective on equal ground Personally, and it's only my opinion, I would believe that there are more people in law school than taking FF courses in college. If you ask me why there are more law colleges than those offering FF classes, it boils down to money. Law schools pull in a whole lot more bucks than FF classes do. By the way, if you asked 10 people who they trusted more, what do think they would say?? In the immortal words Dick the Butcher "THE FIRST THING WE DO, LET'S KILL ALL THE LAWYERS."

Jan. 8, 2009

247

NO I wasn't making that comparison. I was comparing the number of people in school studying each profession and the disparity in the number of colleges offering eacj area of study. see #250.

Jan. 8, 2009

JF, you're ignoring my primary point...there are others who are eager and willing to do the job at lower pay. It does NOT require extensive education, contrary to your claims, and can be done by just about any able bodied adult with a few months training.

But by making the process cumbersome and difficult to protect existing jobs, the firefighters union has done a disservice to the community. In addition, taking advantage of this, the union negotiated crooked deals that are bankrupting the city.

Personally, I have talents and skills that are at my age, better directed elsewhere. Others can do the job of firefighting better and I am happy to pay the taxes to make sure the job is done.

Even more, I've been advocating for opening up firefighting opportunities to residents. This has been met with the inadequate CERT program. That just perpetuates the problems.

Recall my letter to VOSD, which also got a lot of comments. The residents of San Diego agree that on their own they can do a lot to prepare for fire emergencies. It was the "professionals" who immediately declared that "civilians" are incapable of doing the job.

I point out my own firefighting training, when I was much younger and much more fit, only to show that a computer geek and linguist like myself can also contribute in an emergency. It's not the exclusive domain of heroic firefighters.

I don't want to be a part-time firefighter. I do want, in the event of an emergency, to be allowed and encouraged to help as a citizen, rather than see what happened in Scripps Ranch. Homeowners saving their own residences had to hide away like suspected criminals, and couldn't coordinate their efforts because of "public safety" interference.

It all reminds me of Crassus and how he put out fires in ancient Rome. A rather cynical ploy to maintain exclusivity in your profession to so you can hide behind a fire badge and demand overpayment for the work you perform.

Jan. 8, 2009

I'm still waiting for your answer on why there were only 200 applicants who made it to the interview. You keep talking about these thousands of people who would take the job... where are they?

Are you saying only 200 applicants made it to the interview? If tht is the case then you need to advertise it more-if the reason is because the applicants lacked a certificate or training of some sort, then the FD should pay for that training using an employment contract.

Jan. 8, 2009

How many lawyers have passed the bar without lawschool?? A few.

The only state that allows a person to take the bar exam wihout formal law school is CA, and I think the number who have passd in the last 20 years is less than 50, or 2-3 per year.

45 of 50 states requires an ABA law school education to even sit for a bar exam- CA should be one of those but it is not.

Jan. 8, 2009

Response time is a major consideration in how many fire departments you need, and although the population has grown the geography has not. Infill does not increase response times except in consideration to traffic.

Paul, yes, you're correct that population alone in not justification for additional fire protection. The geography does not change. It could, though, with bridge over a canyon. ;)

One of the bigger considerations is the number of responses that come with additional population. Those additional responses cause engines to be unavailable. Then engines are sent from the next area over. And so on, and so on.

A structure fire or two really screw up engine availability. Recently, there have been several times when 40% of the city's resources have been tied up with only two structure fires. Luckily, they were on opposite ends of the city.

Jan. 8, 2009

In the immortal words Dick the Butcher "THE FIRST THING WE DO, LET'S KILL ALL THE LAWYERS."

Good old Bill Shakespear.........

Jan. 8, 2009

Fred, First, you're not that old. We recently had a 46 year old graduate the academy. I had three 41 year olds in my academy. But you help make my point. You can claim all you want that there are a ton of applicants. That isn't true for a variety of reasons. But the biggest is that people like yourself make excuses. "My talents are served elsewhere... I'm too old..." etc. How is the culture to change without outside influence?

The firefighter's union has NOT made the process more difficult. The union does not have any influence on the hiring process no matter how it has tried because pre-hires are NOT represented by the union. The hiring process is determined solely by the city. The only semi-difficult step to getting hired is passing EMT class. And you have to be well spoken enough to make it through the interview. Anyone at your local fire station will help you with that.

Jan. 8, 2009

Johnny wrote, "Are you saying only 200 applicants made it to the interview?"

This is a prime example of your hard headedness, Johnny. You hawen't noticed me saying that for a year now. You keep shouting about how you could find 1000 applicants for every job at half the price. It's simply not true. Maybe if you actually read what I wrote, you'd learn something.

That number is from the last test. That test replaces a test a year earlier when there were even less applicants.

You say we need to advertise more. I assume you're familiar with our community outreach program in which our members volunteer to go to local schools and colleges to recruit young people. Yes, I said volunteer -- as in free.

I assume you're familiar with "Public Safety High", a magnet school where our members volunteer to teach highschool age folks with an interest in the fire service. There they can get their EMT certificate for free.

I also assume you're familiar with our Cadet program, where our members volunteer their time to teach young people to become a firefighter.

We advertise in trade magazines and all over the place. All that and only 200 made it through the written test. Maybe there is something to my claims that competition from other agencies has hurt our recruiting.

Jan. 8, 2009

Someone asked what the failure rate in the fire academy is. It's currently around 30%. That number is up from around 20% a few years ago. And... we made the academy easier. There are three final exams in the academy. One written and two practical. It used to be that a failure of any of the three was cause for dismissal. Now, as long as you maintain an overall 70%, you pass. The increase in failure rate is directly related to the decrease in applicants available to choose from.

So... 200 applicants make it to the interview. Of those, a few won't pass the background or medical. 30% won't pass the academy... yep, thousands lining up for the job.

Jan. 8, 2009

In typical "I know more than you" fashion, Johnny declared, "The only state that allows a person to take the bar exam wihout formal law school is CA..."

Gee, just a couple of days ago, in this very thread, I posted a link to an article which gives the real stats for Johnny's claim.

http://nctimes.com/articles/2009/01/03/news/inland/rb/zc8876cfec455f4e88825751b008364a1.txt

Turns out that seven states allow people to take their bar exam without going to law school. Not one. Seven.

See now why I say that Johnny's stats are all fouled up?

Jan. 8, 2009

JF said: "Here's my question of you: Are you willing to pay more for that station?"

No, I am willing to pay less for that station. That was the whole point. A new fire station would cost a fraction of what the unneeded bridge would cost, yet Chief Jarman was there lobbying for the bridge.

The mayor can fire the Fire Chief, but the council can override him, and the council has to approve any appointment for a new Fire Chief, so it is not exactly like she serves at his whim. To the degree she does serve at his whim and dances in his dog and pony shows for his rich backers, illustrates that the strong mayor system is an abject failure for the average taxpayer.

Jan. 8, 2009

re # 254, You're average is pretty close. Since 1980, 64 people have passed the Ca bar

Jan. 8, 2009

The Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 The Act allows any county, city, special district, school district or joint powers authority to establish a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District (a “CFD”) which allows for financing of public improvements and services. The services and improvements that Mello-Roos CFDs can finance include streets, sewer systems and other basic infrastructure, police protection, fire protection, ambulance services, schools, parks, libraries, museums and other cultural facilities. By law, the CFD is also entitled to recover expenses needed to form the CFD and administer the annual special taxes and bonded debt.

Source: http://www.mello-roos.com/pdf/mrpdf.pdf

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to post #229: Johnny, do lawyers set fires or do they put out fires? Metaphorically, of course. There is a lot of debate on the point. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

Response to #s 228 through 263. I am going to let you folks fight it out. Incidentally, this colloquy has been filled with a lot of information -- pithy, not pissy. I congratulate all sides. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 8, 2009

You're average is pretty close. Since 1980, 64 people have passed the Ca bar.

That's the number the state bar uses, I even question that number.

Jan. 9, 2009

Johnny, do lawyers set fires or do they put out fires? Metaphorically, of course. There is a lot of debate on the point.

Some lawyers, like Sam Spital, Bill Lerach and Patrick Frega most definitley start fires.

But others who fight for a common cause to improve the lifes of those less fortunate certainly put out fires.

Jan. 9, 2009

Someone asked what the failure rate in the fire academy is. It's currently around 30%. That number is up from around 20% a few years ago. And... we made the academy easier. There are three final exams in the academy. One written and two practical. It used to be that a failure of any of the three was cause for dismissal. Now, as long as you maintain an overall 70%, you pass. The increase in failure rate is directly related to the decrease in applicants available to choose from.

100% baloney. Applicants for all occupations and professions have seen increases in test scores= ALL. The position that training programs are declining for $200K per year jobs that do not require a Bachelor or graduate degree is public employee union nonsense

That would be like saying the LSAT/GMAT/MCAT admit scores have gone down the last 20 years, where in reality they have gone up cosnistantly every single year.

The notion that it is easier, not harder, than in the past for entry into any job is pure baloney.

Jan. 9, 2009

Congratulation to Brian Wilson for keeping this discussion and the record correct. JF is correct regarding the ongoing, and what appears to be deliberate misstatements of fact by Mr. Vegas.

Don, I'm wondering if you, as the Blog moderator, should remove inaccuracies? When contributors make statements of facts in error, then others refute them with appropriate documentation, do you think you have an obligation to remove the incorrect information?

Jan. 9, 2009

The notion that it is easier, not harder, than in the past for entry into any job is pure baloney.

You're speaking about something you know absolutely nothing about.

We've also lowered the score needed to make it to the interview. When I was hired you had to get a 96% or better to be in Category 1. Now the cutoff is 90%. That's the only way there were even 200 people to interview -- lower the testing requirement.

You can keep your head in the sand all you want, Johnny. You have no proof other than, "Because I said so". We have lowered the hiring criteria AND we've lowered the academy passing criteria just to get enough folks through the door.

A Union Tribune article from 2007 (two tests ago) stated that there were 2078 applications. Of those, many did not have the required EMT certificate. Many did not pass the written test -- even with the lowered standard. I believe that around 350 interviewed. The last test had even lower numbers, hence the 200 number. Even if all 2000 passed the whole testing process, your notion that there are 1000 applicants for every job is pure crap.

Sorry, but other agencies just to the north of us are paying 30% more and have better benefits. The end result is that there are few applicants here.

Note that nowhere in this discussion have I said anything about paying us more money or increasing benefits. I don't feel that either is needed, given the current economic state. We'll see a few years down the road.

Jan. 9, 2009

JustWondering,

I believe that Don is a participant in the conversation, not the moderator. This is essentially an unmoderated discussion. This and past disagreements have stayed largely civil, and hopefully that can continue so formal active moderation is not required. If moderation ever is required, I would think it would be somebody else at the Reader, not Don.

Jan. 9, 2009

Response to post #266: 64? Really? I don't believe it either. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 9, 2009

Response to post #267: You've heard the old story: members of a liar's club were lined up to tell their annual whoppers. The first liar got up and said, "Last winter, it was so cold that I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets." The others all agreed that they couldn't top such a whopper. The show was called off. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 9, 2009

Response to post #269: We watch the blog for defamatory statements and remove them, other than, of course, JF and Johnny, or other opponents, calling each other prevaricators. But anyone is entitled to state his/her opinion on any topic. If another poster wants to refute it, so much the better. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 9, 2009

I never mentioned opinions I was wondering about information posted a fact.

Mr. Vegas, who has posted more than 1,000 comments to articles in the online version of the Reader, has a predilection of purveying information as fact when it suits his position. The problem comes when the information he posts as facts are WIDE of the actual true mark. In my opinion, when you choose to ignore them, the credibility of the discussion sinks. Isn't accuracy of facts important?

Jan. 9, 2009

Congratulation to Brian Wilson for keeping this discussion and the record correct. JF is correct regarding the ongoing, and what appears to be deliberate misstatements of fact by Mr. Vegas.

"deliberate misstatements of fact "!!!! ..... Please.

If you use that standard you would have to remove all of JF's welfare queen propaganda as "deliberate misstatements of fact".

Jan. 9, 2009

We've also lowered the score needed to make it to the interview. When I was hired you had to get a 96% or better to be in Category 1.

So you're saying that you have lowered the "pass score" to get an interview, an interview which is purely 100% subjective....OK.

You sound like the basic gov paper pusher claiming that only 1 person out fo a 1,000 could do the gov jobs which are basically HS education/GED jobs....I still have to say baloney JF.

BTW-that is my opinion, not a deliberate mistatement of fact!

Jan. 9, 2009

You've heard the old story: members of a liar's club were lined up to tell their annual whoppers. The first liar got up and said, "Last winter, it was so cold that I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets." The others all agreed that they couldn't top such a whopper. The show was called off.

LOL...that was the funny!

I bet JF could have topped that one though by claiming San Diego cannot fill $200K per year FF jobs.

Jan. 9, 2009

Mr. Vegas, who has posted more than 1,000 comments to articles in the online version of the Reader, has a predilection of purveying information as fact when it suits his position. The problem comes when the information he posts as facts are WIDE of the actual true mark. In my opinion, when you choose to ignore them, the credibility of the discussion sinks. Isn't accuracy of facts important? ========================

JW, my comments are not off the mark-what Brian Wilson has done is just gone to Google and googled anything I post-and comes back with a "copy and paste" version of a website he visited which have minor discreprencies to what I posted just to try to discredit me. He did that with teh Mello Roos topic, Jared Jussim, Leigh Steinberg, fire academy, lawyers without law school and a number of my other posts-I post everything from my memory-I don't google any info prior to posting, which is not what Brian Wilson is doing. I am not here to make a historical record of the facts- I'm just putting in my 2 cents.

The basic premise of my posts may not always be perfect, but they are 90% accurate and they convey facts that support my position.

Now stop whining like a 5th grader.

Since when do you try to get other peoples posts removed just because you don't agree with them????????

Besides, if I was not posting you would have no one to argue your welfare queen propganda to-and that would not make for a happy JW camper.

Jan. 9, 2009

If you use that standard you would have to remove all of JF's welfare queen propaganda as "deliberate misstatements of fact".

Propaganda, eh?

I've got a damn good history of backing up what I say with links and facts... as opposed to your crap.

Want to go back a day or so when you were claiming that California is the only state which allows one to take the bar exam without going to law school?

Basically Johnny is simply a troll -- posting the same crap over and over to get a rise out of people. He knows it's BS, we know it's BS, but he knows it irritates people so he does it anyway and we fall for it.

Jan. 9, 2009

Response to post #275: Johnny has contributed a great deal to this blog. There is a difference between opinion and facts. I think most of the objections regard his opinions. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 9, 2009

Response to post #271: I'm a combined moderator/participant. I am a moderate on few topics. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 9, 2009

Response to post #279: We're always interested in the nugget of the argument. If a statement or two is out of line, your enemies can respond. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 9, 2009

Propaganda, eh?

I've got a damn good history of backing up what I say with links and facts... as opposed to your crap.

LOL....... I post more links to the scams of the PD/FD, factual links, than you do JF.

You cannot deny that.

But at least you're not lobbying to have my posts removed.....!!

Jan. 9, 2009

Response to post #284: I can vouch for him: Johnny gives us some very valuable links. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 9, 2009

Now, boys...let's keep it civil.

I also get snarky, but remember this is one of the few places where such matters are discussed AT ALL.

No one passionate about current events who dares state opinions in real time about day to day issues is going to avoid making mistakes. Part of the fun is for the others to pounce on those mistakes and do a bit of crowing about it.

It's best to 'fess up. I made a boneheaded assumption that the stadium manager who's name matched a certain notorious republican operative was the same guy. In minutes, I knew I was an idiot, but someone had beat me to it. I had to grovel and take my lumps, requesting that the original post be removed while the apology remains.

If someone can point to a similar error I've made, and can convince me with real proof that I cannot refute or explain away, I'll do the same again.

Don is a greatly moderate participator in this forum, allowing even our good friend Fumber to give his kind words of appreciation to all.

As for me, on this topic, I'm not going to make it to 300. It's strayed far from the article, which is about where the city invested the money.

I urge Don or Matt to write on the subject of the firefighter union and its role in San Diego politics. That would be a bombshell cover story.

JF, got some juicy bits? Email Don...

Best,

Fred

Jan. 10, 2009

Response to post #286: Fred is right: this is one of the few forums in which people can challenge the conventional wisdom. Remember: the consensus is often dead wrong. 1. Vietnam; 2. Iraq; 3. The idea that the nation could consume far more than it produced, borrow the difference from abroad, and then keep sending jobs to those countries. Supposedly intelligent economists missed it; 4. The crazy idea that complicated derivatives were distributing risk, and should not be regulated. Actually, they were gambling chips and should have been regulated years ago. Now it may be too late; 5. The notion that top corporate management pay could escalate beyond anyone's wildest imaginings and there would be no social implications, even as middle class pay flattened or declined. The list goes on and on. Folks, keep writing, keep debunking the self-professed experts, who often don't know their asses from their elbows. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 10, 2009

According to Mr. Vegas in post #279 ...I post everything from my memory-I don't google any info prior to posting, which is not what Brian Wilson is doing. I am not here to make a historical record of the facts- I'm just putting in my 2 cents.

======================================================= All I was trying to point out was we're getting misstatements of fact. Mr. Vegas if your memory has faded how long does it take with Internet to check out something before you post it. Or is JF closer to the MARK, when he eluded you're doing this for your own personal, but somewhat warped, entertainment value?

If it is the latter, then I think it's Mr. Bauder's responsibility to keep the record correct as a matter of balance and fairness.

Jan. 10, 2009

JW- JF is not closer to the mark, and my posts may not be 100% accurate but they certainly are close enough to make a valid argument.

As for balance and fairness- the local blogs, like this one, Voice of San Diego, the UT-they all are dominated by special interest groups like the public employee unions, so it is sort of hard to claim I am throwing the topics out of balance.

As for the comment "how long does it take with Internet to check out something before you post it"...............;

Too long.

I am not here to set a historical factual record, just put my 2 cents in (and get some public employees with think skin to meltdown at the same time). I do this during my work, which is done for the most part on a computer drafting docs/ word processing....

I don't get why you and a few others get so bent out of shape over the internet....... to the point of trying to have other people's posts erased.

Jan. 10, 2009

Response to post #288: My editors and I do careful fact-checking on all my columns, and I do fact-checking on the blog items I post. However, it is not our responsibility to check facts of everyone who posts on a blog, particularly when people who complain about inaccuracies are so often really upset about opinions. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 10, 2009

I urge Don or Matt to write on the subject of the firefighter union and its role in San Diego politics. That would be a bombshell cover story.

X2.

I actually think Don should interview JF and a few SDFD Big Wigs, and really do a fact finding mission on why SDFD feels they should be able to "retire" at age 50 with almost a full salary and Cadillac benefits.

Then ask them if they think that is health for the City.

I would love to see a SDFD piece in the Reader.

Jan. 10, 2009

Response to post #289: We are not erasing posts of people who state a point of view, or even are inaccurate at times. It is up to the enemies of those posters to correct incorrect statements, if they find them. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 10, 2009

Response to post #291: I can't interview JF if he won't tell us who he is, and says he is not authorized to speak anyway. Your idea, however, is a good one. I'll mention it to Matt. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 10, 2009

Response to post #292: Damn! I just had a hot fudge sundae, fumber. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 10, 2009

I don't get why you and a few others get so bent out of shape over the internet

Because there are those out there who might actually believe you.

That's why almost everything I post correcting you has a link attached. So that other people can see how far off your "2 cents" is.

Jan. 11, 2009

I believe the testing standards for firefighters are set way too high, and new hires are grossly overqualified for their positions. The job of firefighter consists of a variety of blue collar type skills that applicants of average ability and intelligence could easily master if given the opportunity. The skills needed to drive a fire truck are consistent with the skills needed to drive and operate a cement mixer, drive a tractor trailer, or operate an army mechanized vehicle like a tank. The skills needed to operate an extension ladder on a fire truck is consistent with the skill a painter needs to operate a lift to paint a tall structure, or a roofer needs to lift shingles on a building. As regards to EMT training, the Navy is able to train Corpsmen of average or slightly below average intelligence to perform at a very high level. JF is grossly overqualified for his position as firefighter, and is not fully using his intellectual talents. He if wants to earn the salary of an electrical engineer at Qualcomm, he should obtain an electrical engineering degree from UCSD and find a new job. Firefighters should be hired to start at no more than $10 to $15 per hour consistent with what other new entrants to blue collar occupations receive, and their salaries should top out, after 30 years, at no more that $60,000 per year including overtime. Fire stations should be staffed three shifts per day, by firefighters who work 8 hour shifts, 40 hours per week. Paying firefighters to sleep is insane.

Jan. 11, 2009

Fire stations should be staffed three shifts per day, by firefighters who work 8 hour shifts, 40 hours per week. Paying firefighters to sleep is insane.

You do understand that firefighters currently work a 56 hour week, don't you? To switch to a 40 hour week would require hiring a entire fourth shift -- with all of their pay and benefits. Still think that's a good idea? I don't mind working 16 hours less/week if you don't mind paying a lot more in the long run.

Why do you care what we do when we're not responding to your emergency? Do you call your insurance company at 3AM just to make sure that they're awake? Or do you take comfort in the fact that they'll be there for you if you need them? That's all we are is an insurance policy. You can pay for the best, or you can get by on the cheap and hope nothing happens.

Jan. 11, 2009

You do understand that firefighters currently work a 56 hour week, don't you?

By JF 2:52 p.m., Jan 11, 2009

How many times do I have to debunk JF's falsehoods of a 56 hour work week???

NO, you do NOT "work" a 56 hour week, you are ON CALL.

Big differnce there JF. Unless you consider, sleeping, exercising, shopping, cooking, eating, washing the big red fire truck and other leisurely pursuits "work"......

Jan. 11, 2009

I don't get why you and a few others get so bent out of shape over the internet

Because there are those out there who might actually believe you.

That's why almost everything I post correcting you has a link attached. So that other people can see how far off your "2 cents" is.

By JF 8:05 a.m., Jan 11, 2009



Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............I see.........yes, we don't want anyone to believe things you post JF-like FFs "working" a 56 hour week now do we!

Burwell, I have said many times what you have stated, FFing is a blue collar "occupatin"/job that is no different mentally or physically from the contsruction trades, such as plumber, electrician, roofer, painter and so forth-and the pay should be on that level.

Jan. 11, 2009

NO, you do NOT "work" a 56 hour week, you are ON CALL.

Who cares, Johnny? I'm not at home, I can't have a beer, but most importantly, I'm getting paid.

How about, "I'm on duty 56 hours a week".

As you said, "I don't get why you and a few others get so bent out of shape over the internet......." It's just semantics and you're getting all bent out of shape.

Jan. 11, 2009

FFing is a blue collar "occupatin"/job that is no different mentally or physically from the contsruction trades, such as plumber, electrician, roofer, painter and so forth-and the pay should be on that level.

The difference is that we need to have a working knowledge of ALL the trades. Not journeyman level of each trade, but a working knowledge. Perhaps we should be paid the same as a general contractor, instead?

But wait... we also need to have the skills of a truck driver, understand weather conditions, understand at least the basics of medicine and more.

Incidentally, most firefighters would love to make what a journeyman electrician makes. That's $35 an hour, or almost $73,000 per year plus benefits. http://www.sdett.org/careerinsidewireman.asp Base wages, no OT. A firefighter has to promote at least once to get to that range without OT. Or become a paramedic. And we only make that while "on call" 40% more, or 56 hours/week.

I know, shocking. We make pretty much the same as our union brothers.

Jan. 11, 2009

Incidentally, the city is hiring firefighters right now. Go on down and put in an application. Oh, and I might draw your attention to this line from the job announcement. "CATEGORY 1: 90 and above" It used to be 96 and above.

Since "anyone can do it" and firefighters make more than attorneys, according to Johnny, I assume he'll be down there. Plenty of time to pursue a law career on his days off, since there are plenty, right?

Burwell? How about you? Fred? Anyone?

Jan. 11, 2009

No, I'm not SLOP. I do feel empathy for the City workers who actually believed that the City was ACTUALLY GOING TO LIVE UP TO ITS PROMISES OF REPAYMENT of it's loans from SDCERS and ended up getting the upraised middle finger instead. I also feel empathy for the taxpayers who keep getting promises from the City that it will maintain the same level of services when we all know that there is no money coming into the City to do so.

March 10, 2009

Response to post #296: Yes, but there are some who are not sure your links refute Johnny. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

How about, "I'm on duty 56 hours a week".

I think that is much more accurate.

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #297: You make excellent points. Because of the rigorous testing, FFs are probably overqualified. My guess is that the labor union is behind this. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #298: I'm not sure that the insurance company analogy is an apt one. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #299: You're up, JF. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Since "anyone can do it" and firefighters make more than attorneys, according to Johnny,

Not only d FF's make more than lawyers, they also make more than dentists, doctors and Harvard MBS's.

Even though starting pay for a Harvard lawyer right out of law school is in the $150K range-they also have to work an 80 hour week and do not have the pension/sick days/paid holidays a muni FF has. Take out school loans and it is much less.

So if an entry level FF were to work 80 hours per week, and I mean actually work, 40 hours would be at time and a half, add on the generous benefits and it would be more than even the $150K Harvard law school grad.

BTW-only about 2-3% of law school grads make $150K right out of law school, the average pay would be about $40K-$60K in a private sector job working 50 weeks per year, at 50-60 hours per week- take out school loans and it is basically a poverty wage.

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #300: Historically, how did FF pay get so high, and benefits so generous? When a union has no threat from jobs that can be exported, and is led by an extremely powerful figure locally (read: Saathoff), it can get a lot for its members. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #301: Shmegma? Explicate, please, fumber. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #302: "On duty" seems like a good compromise. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Incidentally, most firefighters would love to make what a journeyman electrician makes. That's $35 an hour, or almost $73,000 per year plus benefits.

The trades only make close to $35 an hour (I think it is closer to $29/$30 an hour) if they are in the union ( I did framing with a friend during college breaks and made 1/4 of what a union worker made-and yes-those union jobs were highly political because they were small in #), and they also do not work fulltime since the trades are seasonal, which accounts for part of the higher pay scale.

Union trades account for about 25% of construction projects today-and it is almost entirely on government projects.

JF, you're not fooling anyone-union construction trades are very hard, construction work is much more dangerous, and the jobs have far less security than a FF job-or any gov job for that matter.

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #303: Just be glad you're not making what real estate developers are making -- today, nothing, although they have been obscenely recompensed in the past. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #304: I wonder if many journalists getting laid off by the bushel will become FFs. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009

Response to post #310: The data on law pay should be available. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 11, 2009