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County Retail Sales Dropping Sharply; Tax Receipts Will Feel It

Inflation-adjusted taxable retail sales in the county dropped 2.4 percent in the second quarter of last year, according to figures compiled by the San Diego Institute for Policy Research. In the first quarter of 2007, they were down 0.9 percent. In 2003 and 2004, these quarterly figures were sometimes up more than 10 percent. In last year's second quarter, building materials sales were down 14.5 percent, and new cars were off 8.4 percent. Over the last three years, county taxable retail sales have dropped 2.9 percent; the number of businesses has dropped by 2,900 in the same period. This was happening while county population was rising 2.3 percent. "The slowdown of consumer spending in San Diego is clearly a result of the bursting housing bubble and global credit crunch," says Kelly Cunningham, economist for the institute. "Consumers who refinanced or took out equity loans on their homes to free up cash for spending are now mostly spent out and highly leveraged in debt."

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Tom Morey – the Boogie Board's early years

"I don't think it's just a fad"

Inflation-adjusted taxable retail sales in the county dropped 2.4 percent in the second quarter of last year, according to figures compiled by the San Diego Institute for Policy Research. In the first quarter of 2007, they were down 0.9 percent. In 2003 and 2004, these quarterly figures were sometimes up more than 10 percent. In last year's second quarter, building materials sales were down 14.5 percent, and new cars were off 8.4 percent. Over the last three years, county taxable retail sales have dropped 2.9 percent; the number of businesses has dropped by 2,900 in the same period. This was happening while county population was rising 2.3 percent. "The slowdown of consumer spending in San Diego is clearly a result of the bursting housing bubble and global credit crunch," says Kelly Cunningham, economist for the institute. "Consumers who refinanced or took out equity loans on their homes to free up cash for spending are now mostly spent out and highly leveraged in debt."

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Comments
78

BK is just around the corner for MANY cities in this county- and in this state.

I am still wondering how this state is going to dig its way out of a $15-20 BILLION dollar defecit.

When cops, FF and prison guards are getting 6 figure paydays and multi million dollar pensions at age 50, well something has to give. There is no way you can raise taxes on the poor and middle class who can barely eat and pay tgheir gas bills while these government employees are becoming millionaires.

And it is going to get worse before it gets better.

July 8, 2008

Response to post #1: Don't forget the prison guards. They have a powerful union and make big bucks. That's still another drain on the state. Best, Don Bauder

July 8, 2008

We all know Johnny exaggerates the facts. The “wage pea” under his mattress must give him endless sleepless nights tossing and turning. I’m just wondering about what it’s worth to keep felons locked up and under control?

There is no doubt our culture’s values are skewed. We pay 20 something-year-old $400K a year to play the kids game of baseball in the MLB. But when we want our children educated, our "starting" teachers, ones who can have tremendous impact on our kids, earn 45K a year.

“Johnny” spent a lot of money and invested a great deal of time on his education. He's a bright fellow and I'm sure Harvard and Berkley were as expensive then as they are today.

Nevertheless, I rather pay people who are willing to deal with felons, people who wouldn’t give a nanosecond of thought to killing you or me, a superior wage so we can be safe in our homes and they're behind bars where they belong.

It's time to keep and pay for essential services such as public safety. We must curtail waste, eliminating give-a-ways, and control spending and debt.

July 9, 2008

Response to post #3: How many hours a month are firefighters on duty? What percentage of them have second jobs? We need answers to these questions. Best, Don Bauder

July 9, 2008

OK, Don, firefighters (in the city of San Diego) are on duty a minimum of 212 hours per month. Essentially, that works out to a 7 hour work day each and every one of the 30 days in a month. Note that doesn't include OT.

I did a little research based on my 2006 work history and it added up to an average of 72 hours/week for the year. Very little of that was OT in the stations -- most was callback for major fires. After the fires of 2007, I'm sure that year was the same. And now 2008 is shaping up the same way.

(This is the part where Johnny whines that we're "not really working". OK then, change the city Administrative Regs to let me pursue another job while I'm at work. Or to let me have a beer. Or sleep with my wife.)

The reality is that many firefighters average about 4-6 hours/shift of sleep at work and that is interrupted. You try living on that.

Not too many firefighters work second jobs any more. There isn't time left. Are you suggesting that we work second jobs to make up what the city doesn't pay us? Or that the city pay us less because we (don't really) work second jobs? Can you see it now? "Sorry, I can't come back to work -- I can't afford to lose my second job"

July 9, 2008

Don, sales taxes may be slipping. You've been saying the same thing about property taxes. Yet an article from today's LA Times says just the opposite.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-me-assess9-2008jul09,0,3118341.story

It seems that Prop 13 helps stabilize the reduction in taxes from assessed values going down.

July 9, 2008

Response to post #5: Your numbers do not square with those that have been passed to me. But before I say you are wrong, I would like to hear from others. Best, Don Bauder

July 9, 2008

Response to post #6: I read that article earlier today and was amazed. I had favored Prop. 13 as a SD Union columnist back when it was passed. Now, viewing inadequacies in infrastructure, education, etc. I have had second thoughts. I find it hard to argue with the LA Times article's thesis, but I would take the view that one year is not enough to judge this phenomenon. Let's look at it a couple of years from now. Best, Don Bauder

July 9, 2008

Response to post #14: First, it's a suburb of Kansas City, not Kansas City. Yes, San Diego's cost of living is about 50 percent higher than the nation's. But salaries in San Diego are only 13 percent higher. Thus, most in San Diego are in a squeeze. I would say firefighters are not. Best, Don Bauder

July 9, 2008

Sorry Don by I have to agree with JF... if you look at the shift calendar at www.sdfire.org home webpage you'll see firefighters work between 9 and 12, 24 hour shifts, a month. This ranges from 216 to 288 hours a month. Assuming a typical 22 day working month for those not working shifts (22days x 8hrs) = 176 hours. Yes I've read the argument they're sleeping some of that time. Once again I have to agree with JF. There not home and are all on call at a moment’s notice. They are strategically, albeit thinly, stationed throughout the city. I suspect a careful analysis, by an uninterested party, of staffing would be the best way to settle the argument. Maybe some enterprising student will write a Master’s Thesis on it someday.

July 9, 2008

Don, you say that my numbers don't square... but don't say how or even which numbers don't square. Perhaps if you told me, I could help explain it to you.

July 9, 2008

Response to post #9: It would be a good topic for a student in human resources. Best, Don Bauder

July 9, 2008

Nevertheless, I rather pay people who are willing to deal with felons, people who wouldn’t give a nanosecond of thought to killing you or me, a superior wage so we can be safe in our homes and they're behind bars where they belong.

I don't mind cops, FF and prison guards a "superior" wage, but top 3% in the nation for a job that has an educational requirement of a GED is too much.

July 9, 2008

Response to post #10: They don't square with what I have been told on hours per month, and number of firefighters that have outside jobs. But I have to hear from my sources before I can compare and contrast. Another point: the safety unions always compare their salaries and fringes with those in other cities in California. How about comparing them with other safety employees in other states? I recently talked with a firefighter in a suburb of Kansas City who doesn't seem to make much over minimum wage. Best, Don Bauder

July 9, 2008

WOW! Well to badly quote a wonderful movie... Don we ain't in Kansas(City) anymore.

Doing a quick search on the Internet I found this site on following link: http://www.payscale.com/cost-of-living-calculator/Missouri-Kansas-City/California-San-Diego/Fire-Fighter

It shows the cost of living in Kansas City, MO. at 34% of San Diego's costs, or roughly one-third. Addtionally, it shows a wage range for firefighters between 32 and 52K a year. Using those statistics, San Diego Fire Fighters are underpaid.

Moreover, the recent (2006)salary survey ordered and paid for by the City (250K) shows both police and fire base wages are below the average of several cities both in and out of California. Remember that survey was conducted by an independent and respected contractor working for the Mayor, not the Unions. Seeing the discrepancy in wage and exodus of police officers the Mayor acted, first for the police, then the fire fighters.

As for Johnny objections to education or as he complains the lack of education for public safety employees. Once again this is apples and oranges. Scales are different all over, culture assigns value or not. Is it right that a 22 year old who can hit a 90MPH fastball earns a minumum of $400K a year. While your child's highschool physics teacher earns $45K. No, I don't think so.

July 9, 2008

Don, I've been regularly stationed with about 20 different individuals in the past year. Two of them had outside jobs. That 10% figure seems to be about average these days. But really... what does it matter? Again, are you saying that the city should pay less because we have the ability to work a second job? When we're already working more than the average person? Do you really want your firefighters working that much? Heck, if you really care, anyone with outside employment must file a conflict of interest statement with the city. Do a FOIA on the numbers.

Did you happen to discuss hours with that Kansas firefighter? Many firefighters back east work a 40 hours week just like "normal" people. However, here we work a 52 hour week... that's a big difference.

You say the numbers don't jive, but JustWondering posted a link to the schedule. You can look for yourself.

Oh, and one other thing... the city's salary survey included Phoenix and Houston. Those are two cities with lower costs of living and thus lower salaries. Yet we still ended up at or near the bottom of the barrel. Meanwhile, the survey left out San Francisco and San Jose which are both comparable California cities with firefighters who make a whole lot more. So the basis for saying we're underpaid is not in comparison to just California cities.

July 9, 2008

Response to post #15: The cost of living in San Francisco and San Jose is much higher than in San Diego, even though San Diego's is 50 percent above the nation's. Most salaries are higher in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Best, Don Bauder

July 9, 2008

Yep, and the cost of living in Phoenix and Houston is much lower than San Diego. So why did the mayor's office include Phoenix, Houston, Fresno, etc. in the report and leave out the more comparable cities such as San Francisco and San Jose? The point here, however, is that you claimed we compare ourselves exclusively to California cities and that isn't true. Nor are our salaries 50% higher than the rest of the nation to match the cost of living.

July 10, 2008

Regarding Post #16

So the cost of living in San Diego is 50% higher than most other places in the nation. But wages are only 13% above average. Sounds like folks in SD deserve an across the board raise to bring salaries in-line with the true cost of living in San Diego.

It also sounds like you've forgotten about Pete Wilson's “sunshine” dollars. Remember he used our weather, more specifically our days of sunshine to replace real dollars. For it's time it was a masterful piece of manipulation. But was it the catalyst that started us down the path we find ourselves walking today?

I bet the living in beautiful Colorado is nice and I suspect costs are lower too. How is the thinner air?

July 10, 2008

Response to post #18: I thought you -- or somebody -- extolled that that study was very objective. Which is it? The cost of living and salaries are so high in the Bay Area that I don't really think it is more comparable than Phoenix and Houston. But I would have to study more recent numbers to be sure of that.Best, Don Bauder

July 10, 2008

Response to post #19: Oh yes. In fact, I mentioned that recently on the blog. It was called the sunshine tax and psychic income, among other things. The gap between income and cost of living is just as wide today as then. Best, Don Bauder

July 10, 2008

JF / DON here is the link to the study on police pay from the Mayor's office: http://www.sandiego.gov/mayor/pdf/pdsurvey.pdf

as well as this from the PPW SDUT: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20061222-9999-7m22salary.html

And here is a link to the Mayor's press release and study on Fire pay in San Diego: http://www.sandiego.gov/mayor/pdf/fire_survey_2_15.pdf

July 11, 2008

Contra Costa County is going to start publishing ALL county employees pay AND benefit costs online-this infromation can be received right now by anyone who asks for it under a public records request.

It will show the base pay, the OT pay and the costs of benefits-including pensions and healthcare.

That is exactly what we need in San Diego-a transparency of the FULL cost of an employee-including all fringe benefit costs.

Contra Costa is also going to be using the employees name-that is legal, but I think using names **MAY be going too far, but it is the publics money that is being spent.

So JF and JW, I bet you two can't wait until that list pops up here in SD!

Here you go;

http://www.contracostatimes.com/opinion/ci_9823621

http://www.kcbs.com/Decision-to-Make-Salaries-Public-Upsets-Contra-Cos/2566007

July 10, 2008

DON your absolutely correct; you jogged my aged and sunburned memory cells... the "sunshine tax". No wonder San Diegans are tax adverse, with all that Sun the mirage of a healthy government was akin to finding water in the Sahara. Our delusion was thinking our leaders would do what’s right when no was watching.

July 10, 2008

Response to post #22: I agree that San Diego should follow Contra Costa's lead. I believe in full disclosure. Best, Don Bauder

July 10, 2008

Response to post #23: Remember when San Diego government used to win all those prizes for efficiency, productivity and full disclosure? What a laugh. Best, Don Bauder

July 10, 2008

Response to post #27: Thanks for the links. Best, Don Bauder

July 11, 2008

Remember "A City in Motion"?

Johnny, I don't mind making all the dollars public. It'll show your crap about firefighters making $200K is just that. Chiefs and a few captains maybe, but not the vast majority of employees. Maybe they'll also show what percentage of the OT is reimbursed by the state or the feds. Right now we have about fifty employees fighting fire throughout the state. Their OT and the OT for the folks filling their spots here (and protecting you) is all reimbursed.

Don, the study I'm referring to was done in 2006. I'm not sure how much more recent you want... if it helps, all the other agencies in the survey got raises in 2007. SDFD did not. The salary survey was pretty objective in that it took a look at all the different variables in pay -- salary, percent of retirement pickup, amount paid in health care, etc. It was biased in that they threw in agencies such as Phoenix and Houston while leaving out SF and SJ.

July 10, 2008

Response to post #26: Chiefs and a few captains raking in $200K is itself excessive. Notice I didn't say they were "making" $200K. My highest salary after 30 years as a columnist/financial editor at the U-T was $100K, and that was the level I reached a month or two before I retired. So I never actually received a salary that high. Best, Don Bauder

July 11, 2008

Hey Johnny and Don,

Here is an interesting link as well. It seems the employees of government agencies for the City/County of Houston, Texas have their salaries published by their local newspaper. Here is the link: http://www.chron.com/databases/publicemployeepay.html

It shows salaries from a high of $442K a year, down to a low of a couple hundred bucks for all sorts of positions.
The cost of living in Houston, Texas is about 30% lower than in San Diego. It's only then that WE ALL SHOULD realize just how much Pete Wilson's "sunshine tax" is killing us.

July 11, 2008

Response to post #30: We're coming up with a digital library here. This is good information. Best, Don Bauder

July 11, 2008

As I was posting comment#30 I was thinking similar thoughts. We truly are in the age of instant information. It would have been nearly impossible, just a few years ago, to gain this kind of access to information.

Nonetheless, events, just this week, revealed ongoing corruption within the City at SEDC, This shows us a lot of digging is necessary, especially when you're being stonewalled by greedy bureaucrats and insiders. They know they've been busted with their fingers in the taxpayers cookie jar.

Sadly once again, the City seems to be giving the leadership at SEDC plenty of time to cook the books and get their stories straight. I think Jerry should have called Ms. Smith to his office that afternoon and demanded answers ON THE RECORD. If she refused, termination.

July 11, 2008

Don, so you don't think fire chiefs or captains "make" their money? Why? Just because you didn't make that?

Just how many lives are you responsible for each and every day? You might reach thousands writing and Johnny might affect the same number litigating... but I'm talking making actual life and death decisions.

July 11, 2008

Response to post #32: That's the way it's done in San Diego: stall until the issue dies. Best, Don Bauder

July 11, 2008

Response to post #33: A lot of City of San Diego employees don't "make" their salaries or "earn" their retirement benefits. One has to watch one's verbs. Best, Don Bauder

July 11, 2008

Don, Sorry, apparently while you were being the grammar police you weren't editing for ambiguities in your statement. ;)

July 12, 2008

Johnny, I don't mind making all the dollars public. It'll show your crap about firefighters making $200K is just that. Chiefs and a few captains maybe, but not the vast majority of employees.

You cannot judge compensation unless the benefits are included, especially pension benefits.

Vallejo FF's receive over $200K including benefits-in fact if you divide the VFD budget by # of employees it is around $250K per employee. Now not all of that is compensation, but it does show how much money it is costing. . . . .... if it helps, all the other agencies in the survey got raises in 2007. SDFD did not. ================================

JF, the only raises given out as I recall, was SDPD. Everyone else had a pay freeze.

July 12, 2008

Watch out.....JF is getting mad...!!

JF, how much does your pension cost per year in REAL dollars????

Also, what is the value/cost of medical benefits for a family of 6 (Mom, Dad, 4 kids). I would bet $2K-$4K per month, or $24K-$48K per year.

Please respond to the question of family healthcare costs at least.

July 12, 2008

Johnny, Pension benefits are shown. You just have to know where to look for them. Again, the SDCERS CAFR is public information and posted on the web. If you look there, you'll see the percentage of salary that goes towards retirement. You keep throwing numbers out indicating that retirement is 100% of compensation. That simply isn't true. I can't recall the numbers off the top of my head, but it's around 16% on average for safety personnel.

Vallejo is not San Diego. Their tax base is smaller, their cost of living higher, their salaries higher. Plus a lot of the personnel budget you're seeing includes one time payouts for folks who are retiring. Heck, Don argues that we shouldn't compare salaries to the Bay Area.

And... as you mentioned you're failing to accommodate for fuel, insurance, electricity, new fire engines, hose and all of the other 'stuff' that comes out of a budget. Did the Vallejo budget have a one time boost to purchase new fire engines at $400K each?

If you want another interesting statistic, divide our budget by the number of runs the department does in a year. That's the approximate cost per run. I think we'd be pretty justified in charging business owners that amount for false alarms, etc.

The salary survey I'm referring to included only fire agencies. The survey was for 2006. Every fire agency in the survey except SDFD got a raise in 2007. That put SDFD even further behind.

July 12, 2008

That simply isn't true. I can't recall the numbers off the top of my head, but it's around 16% on average for safety personnel.

Benefits are NOT 16% of salary. It is at least 4-5 ties that, if not 7-8 times.

Indeed, if it was only 16% the claim that it is cheaper to pay O/T instead of hiring more people is completely blown out of the water.

July 12, 2008

Response to post #36: Somebody responsible -- not the City of San Diego, of course -- will have to do the definitive study on compensation. Best, Don Bauder

July 12, 2008

Response to post #37: Which statement? Best, Don Bauder

July 12, 2008

Response to post #38: JF, it's your turn. Best, Don Bauder

July 12, 2008

Response to post #39: Vallejo is not San Diego. Yet. Best,Don Bauder

July 12, 2008

Response to post #40: I don't have the percentage on that one. Best, Don Bauder

July 12, 2008

Well, let's see. Johnny Vegas says that pension costs are 7-8 x my estimate of 16% of salary. So 16% x 8 = 128%? You're saying that the pension costs more than salary? By 30%? Or are you exaggerating again?

Wait.. my mistake... the actual figure is 20%. That's based on the 2007 SDCERS CAFR page 51. Hey, I said I was working from memory.

That's the "normal" figure. The amortization is another 26% on top of that. Again, there would be no amortization if the politicians had actually paid the bill. So, the total for retirement is about 47% of salary. Add in health care and you're over the 50% mark. That's why OT is cheaper. But not by much. Also remember that retirement is based on base salary, not OT.

I don't know how much, if any, the city pays above what it gives employees as a health care allowance. I'm guessing it's not much. If it was, they'd make the incentive larger to not take city insurance. Instead they're doing everything they can to ensure that every employee is in their plan.

July 14, 2008

Wait.. my mistake... the actual figure is 20%. That's based on the 2007 SDCERS CAFR page 51.

The notion that 20% of your pay scale paid in over 30 years, while your pay increases 3-5% per year, could sustain a 90% pay out for 35 years at age 50 is pure unadulterated nonsense JF.

If that were true SS could, at 15.30%, pay out 68% at age 50 for 35 years, and we know that is impossible.

July 14, 2008

Well, Johnny, I don't know what to tell you. Don't get upset with me, get upset with whoever certified the CAFR. I have yet to quote anything here that didn't have a source you could verify yourself. Have you done the same?

In the meantime, Harvard has lauded SDCERS for having one of the highest rates of return of any municipal retirement system. Half of the money in the system is from investment returns. What percentage of the money in Social Security is from investment returns?

July 14, 2008

In the meantime, Harvard has lauded SDCERS for having one of the highest rates of return of any municipal retirement system.

Half of the money in the system is from investment returns.

They are getting good returns because they are making high leverage, high risk, high downside bets. Risking money they get to keep if they succeed and money the taxpayers have to cover if they lose.

As with what happened with the Ameranth (sp) hedge fund meltdown where $175 million went bye bye in 1 week (just SD's money-the hedge fund lost 6 billion in 1 week), leverage is a two way street.

July 16, 2008

Gentlemen,

These arguments are getting us nowhere. The City cannot afford the benefits that were granted behind the voters' backs. It doesn't matter whether or not they are high enough, we can't pay them! Bottom line is that one way or another, basic economics is going to force us to reduce those benefits, probably by not offering them to new hires. That's a real shame, but it's reality.

JimG

July 16, 2008

Jim, Behind the voter's backs? Each and every one of these benefits was discussed at several council sessions. Nothing was done in closed session.

The city cannot afford the benefits because they choose not to. The city dedicated $25 million of public money to the Balboa Theater. A noble cause, but perhaps not the best use of public funds in a cash strapped city. That's simply one example of the city choosing to spend money on something other than it's contractual obligations.

July 16, 2008

Unpublicized or underpublicized meetings that would have created at least some negative response if the voters had known about them. That fits my definition of "behind the voters' backs." We can split hairs, but it seems clear that if the voting public had known we were promising benefits to a small segment of the population (no matter how honorable and decent that segment) that could bankrupt the city, the voters would have stopped it. That's why they weren't alerted.

July 16, 2008

Jim is correct. There were few meetings, and those that were held obfuscated rather than explained what was going on. This was deliberate. It was orchestrated by the likes of McGrory and corrupt firefighters union boss Saathoff.

JF, you cannot seriously contend that this was not an underhanded deal conducted without meaningful disclosure or public input. It took Shipione to bravely come forward with the facts and she was attacked for it.

Unfortunately, funding the ballpork bonds was more important than revealing the truth about these deals, and even members of the so-called Blue Ribbon committee knowingly covered up the true financial status of our city.

Saathoff, your very own fire fighters union chief for all these years, is who you should be going after, JF...not those who are simply trying to save the city from insolvency.

The rank and file was misled and abused by the union bosses, and we have to renegotiate the corrupt deals of the past. It's that simple.

Remember what actually happened...

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/07/national/07diego.html

We need to find a way out of this mess, rather than bicker about its origins.

Best,

Fred

July 16, 2008

Fred, when you say, "Remember what actually happened" you do mean, "Remember what the DA has accused people of", don't you? The state case has stalled out and the fed case is awaiting the results of the state case. Why? Because the cases are pretty flimsy.

Let me ask a quick question. If I recall, city council meetings are typically on Tuesdays. What did they discuss yesterday? Was there anything that may have a large financial impact to the city? All of the big picture retirement "stuff" was docketed, discussed, etc. many, many, many times. Where was your outcry then? And no, I don't look at the docket every week either.

(As it turns out, the council discussed several retirement issues yesterday)

It's interesting that tax receipts are going up more than salaries, yet people keep pointing at the retirement system as the one thing that's breaking the city. That certainly isn't true. The retirement system is only about 5% of the city budget.

July 16, 2008

Tax receipts are not going up JF, they are flat and in some cases falling.

Wait until everyone has their property taxes lowered to reflect the current deflated market rate-then we will have more problems.

JF, the bottom line is very simple, government employees cannot "retire" at age 50 with a defined benefit of 90% of their highest salary-that is impossible to sustain and should never have been allowed to happen. For the person gettign that benefit/milking the system it is great-but you are taking from the many, most who are poor or fare less off, and giving to the few-who are already making well over $100K per year in regular pay and O/T.

I for one did NOT vote or want the Clowncil to put money into 1) Jack Murphy, 2) Balboa Park, 3) the Padres Ballpark. That was a scam, just as the 3%@50 is a scam. You're using these corporte welfare scams to try to justify your 3%@50 scam does not cut it-two wrongs do not make a right. So just because money was put into other scams does not justify your scam.

July 16, 2008

JF, I suspect the case is languishing because Carol Lam was ousted from the US Attorney's office for prosecuting this type of political corruption. Seems Saathoff has been indicted by just about everyone in law enforcement EXCEPT Mike Aguirre.

None of us normal citizens can go to every council meeting. We have jobs. So do journalists. Journalists, with the exception of Don Bauder and a very few others, DIDN'T do their job. They didn't tell the story as it was happening, instead boosting every cockamamie project Golding and her cohorts promoted.

The well known facts are that former City Manager McGrory notoriously shifted funds about in a fiscal slight of hand that no one else understands to this day. Ron Saathoff participated in these schemes instead of protecting the interests of his union membership. He was handsomely rewarded.

The money McGrory freed up went to boondoogles like the Chargers ticket guarantee, the GOP convention, and of course the downtown ballpork fiasco.

Ron Saathoff was one of the insiders who could have blown the whistle on how the pension and health for our city employees was being drained to fund these giveaways. Instead, he was a cheerleader for these deals, helping to sell them to the public.

Further, as the unquestioned boss of of the firefighters union, he has personally directed hundreds of thousands of dollars towards city council campaigns, ensuring the election of patsies.

Saathoff has a lot to answer for.

He took the good name of the firefighters and dragged it through the mud. His complicity in the repeated betrayals of public trust are behind many of our problems today.

Best,

Fred

July 16, 2008

I have said it before...many times.....IMO Jack McGrory is the person most responsible for tSD's financial meltdown. He is the one that came up with the under funding/raise the pension scams knows as MPI and MPII.

He said the pension would never get out of hand and if it did a $25 million dollar "ballon payment" would fix it......problem was the real amount to fix the problem was $500 million, not $25, off by a factor of 20.

July 16, 2008

Response to #46-48: This is for you folks to battle out. Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Response to post #49: Leverage is at the heart of the society's problems. Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Response to point #50. Good point. If the City cannot afford the benefits, they are excessive, no matter how they compare with benefits elsewhere. Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Response to #51 and #52. The city council was too economically ignorant to understand what it was committing the City to pay. It's not a matter of blame. It's a matter of fact. Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Response to post #53: Yes, the City's plight was covered up so that the ballpark could be financed. This has been buried and it will probably never be investigated. The Blue Ribbon committee should be probed. Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Response to post #54: Yes, the council discusses matters. Does that mean they are set in stone, even if they will break the City financially? Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Response to post #55: Right on. The benefits cannot be sustained at these levels. Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Response to post #56: Saathoff indeed has a lot to answer for. Will he ever have to answer, or will the system stealthily get him off the hook, a la John Moores, et al ad nauseam? Best, Don Bauder

July 17, 2008

Johnny, Not once have I ever said that I thought sinking money into either of the ballparks was a good idea. Balboa Park is a little different. You've seen me rail against corporate welfare here as much as you.

You say that a 90% retirement is unsustainable. Go to the Bloomberg retirement calculator online. Put in working years of 27 to 57 to meet the averages for firefighters. Put in a starting salary of $45K. Put in 20% of salary, which we've seen is what the percentage of retirement is. Use a 10% rate of return, which is less than the average S&P 500 return and less than the SDCERS return. Put in an average salary increase of 3% and a rate of inflation of 3.1%. Don't forget to uncheck the "To include Social Security" box. Oh, and run it out for 35 years of retirement.

Surprise! There's still money left at age 92, or about 10 years after the average death age.

It's perfectly sustainable. The only thing that's hurting the cash flow now is amortization... and even that's sustainable. Remember, the entire retirement bill is about 5% of the city budget.

July 17, 2008

Response to post #57: McGrory is at the heart of the problem. Again, don't expect him to take any responsibility. This is San Diego. Remember?

July 17, 2008

I am NOT defending McGrory but he did set a funding ratio floor in MP-1. When it was reached, it was our political leaders who chose to ignore it, if not cover it up. Unfortunately we will never know where we'd be today IF the funding floor had not been breeched by the city's political and managerial leaders.

July 17, 2008

I am NOT defending McGrory but he did set a funding ratio floor in MP-1.

Yes, McGrory set the floor at 80% by falsly stating that a $25 million ballon payment would fix the problem if the floor was hit-GUESS WHAT-that $25 million dollar number was off by a factor of at least 20- with $500 million being the estimate to clear the floor.

That is why good old Jack came up with MPII, because MPI was complete BS and could not be attained because the numbers were bogus.

It was a scam, a fraud, plain and simple and IMO McGrory could have been held both civily and CRIMINALLY liable.

McGrory is lucky he is not in the joint right now, because he could have been.

He is a thief, plain and simple. Ripping off the many>> the poor and middle class, the ones much less well off than him, to line his pocket and others.

July 17, 2008

And you do realize that the only reason MP1 and MP2 came along is that the city lost lawsuits and increased the retirement as a settlement?

JF, where do you come up with this nonsense???? Pure baloney-that is what your post is.

MP-I came in 1996, and it was NOT the result of a lawsuit. It was a way to lower pension contributions by the City so the City could put the money elsewhere but the pension board knew that was a SCAM. But INSTEAD of putting a STOP to that SCAM the pension board said "cut us in on the SCAM by increasing pensions and we'll play ball" thereby VIOLATING their FIDUCIARY DUTY to the pension fund-hence criminal charges for conflict of interest.

My understanding of MP-II is that is was just more of the same, allowing underfunding of the pension fund for more pension $$$, while violating fidcuiary duties-but I am less informed on MP II.

July 19, 2008

Sorry, it was early when I was typing this AM. The Corbett case essentially ratified MP1 when the settlement was reached in 2000. It increased benefits by creating the 3% at 50 that you so despise.

MP1 increased benefits by a whole 10% or less as I mentioned earlier. Hardly enough to break the bank. Plus... it also created the 90% cap. Prior to that, employees were retiring as high as 120%.

July 19, 2008

McGrory isn't 100% responsible for MP2. It was done in 2002, while he left to work for Price and the Padres in 1997.

However, his MP1 sham was the inspiration for the second much worse deal that followed. Was he consulted by his former underlings when they concocted the new brew known as MP2? Jack sure knew how to stew the books...and he's just a phone call or cozy dinner away in his swank La Jolla digs.

Who's to know? But as far as the public record goes, MP2 belongs to Jack's well-groomed successors.

Best,

Fred

July 18, 2008

Hey Johnny all I said was he set the floor and he did it in the CONTEXT of 1996. No one could foresee the depth of the dot-com bust combined with the ripples of financial havoc caused by the attacks on September 11th.

Let me reiterate, I am not defending McGrory’s actions, or the subsequent cover-ups associated MP-2 and bond offerings. All I was wondering was if we didn't breech the floor set in the MP-1 agreement where would be today?

And, as painful as it is to type this, were MP-1 and 2 the first steps albeit convoluted ones, in uncovering the deep seeded levels of mismanagement. Yes, I know it sounds a bit crazy, and I abhor revisionist history, but without them, this city, with its apathetic taxpayers might still be living in some sort of municipal fantasy of all is well.

July 18, 2008

McGrory isn't 100% responsible for MP2. It was done in 2002, while he left to work for Price and the Padres in 1997.

I didn't know that-I thought they were both JM's handy work. My bad.

But they have both turned out to be disaters-that's for sure.

July 18, 2008

You do realize, don't you, that this disaster you speak of was an almost negligible increase in benefits? From 2.9999% at 55 to 3% at 55? At age 50 it was a less than 10% increase.

And you do realize that the only reason MP1 and MP2 came along is that the city lost lawsuits and increased the retirement as a settlement? Otherwise, you'd be paying 2.9999% at 55 INCLUDING overtime.

I agree that McGrory is a thief, but look at why the increases happened.

July 19, 2008

Response to #s 68-75: McGrory's role will be debated forever. But one conclusion is obvious: he started tapping the till (probably on an order from Golding) and the practice kept getting worse after he was gone. The floor he established was not realistic. Best, Don Bauder

July 21, 2008

You do realize, don't you, that this disaster you speak of was an almost negligible increase in benefits? From 2.9999% at 55 to 3% at 55? At age 50 it was a less than 10% increase.

No it is not a 10% decrease.

Dropping 5 years off was a 17% gain.

And I want to know where you got the 2.9999% from???

Because according to a lawsuit filed against the pension system by former police officers-they were only getting 2% per year, not 2.9999% or 3%, so they sued to try to get more-they lost. I dont recall the case off the top of my head-I will hunt for it.

July 21, 2008

Response to post #78: Yes, I don't know where the 2.9999 came from either. Best, Don Bauder

July 21, 2008

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