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The City of San Diego is bleeding financially because of corporate welfare mendicants who suck money out of the coffers, and City workers who enjoy excessive salaries and benefits. The treatment given City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who is trying to curb both kinds of abuses, yesterday made the point. At noon, Aguirre, along with his reelection opponents, spoke before the Republican Party's Lincoln Club, the single biggest assemblage of corporate welfare recipients and cheerleaders in the area. Aguirre was jeered when he talked about the Chargers, who are still seeking welfare from a near-bankrupt city. That evening, Aguirre appeared before a meeting of the Democratic Party, seeking its endorsement. Members of the Municipal Employees Association jeered him loudly. These City employees average more than $65,000 a year in salary, more than $20,000 above average private sector pay. Also, they retire after 30 years with 120 percent of their pay in working years. Some retire in their mid-50s. Union members have raucously shouted down attempts to rein in their excessive remuneration, just as big business still lobbies for pro sports and real estate developer handouts. Aguirre got 59 percent of the Democratic vote, 1 percentage point short of the 60 percent needed. Scott Peters, although he is obsequious to labor, got 41 percent.

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JohnnyVegas March 12, 2008 @ 8:28 p.m.

Man..... Don... it amazes me how I think so much like you do.

I agree 100%, we have the twin sprials of death dragging us down;

1- Corporate welfare;

2- Public employee welfare.

I hope we can clean up the mess.

BTW-if you get a chance, take a look at Vallejo's top paid public workers. I warn you now-sit down when you hit the link, because you will be SHOCKED, don't pass out (I have NEVER seen abuses this bad, not even close);


Citywide rank Employee name Department Total wages

1 Joann West Police Department $435,638 2 Ivano G. Paoli Fire Department $350,212 3 Joseph M. Tanner Executive Department $316,688 4 Ronald W. Becker Police Department $299,143 5 James L. Higgins Fire Department $251,094 6 Lamonte K. Morris Fire Department $247,902 7 Russell S. Sherman Fire Department $238,725 8 Richard E. Mackenzie Fire Department $236,701 9 John A. Barbuzano Fire Department $236,467 10 Gordon C. Moncibais Fire Department $233,338 11 Michael Kirchner Fire Department $229,317 12 Gregory R. Falkenthal Fire Department $226,235 13 Alphonzo L. Love Fire Department $223,933 14 Michael Deroque Fire Department $222,755 15 Douglas T. Robertson Fire Department $221,458 16 Kurt P. Henke Fire Department $218,830 17 Raymand R. Dandridge Fire Department $217,920 18 David A. Urrutia Fire Department $215,060 19 Sean Fields Fire Department $214,219 20 William G. Donovan Police Department $213,768 21 Mansfield S. Simmons Fire Department $212,395 22 Herman E. Robinson Police Department $211,556 23 Kevin M. Kelley Police Department $211,382 24 John J. Ha Fire Department $209,547 25 Robert W. Nichelini Police Department $207,294

***24 out of the top 25 are from the PD or FD- all over $200K per year.


Don Bauder March 12, 2008 @ 10:19 p.m.

Response to post #1: Vallejo has escaped bankruptcy, at least for now. That's the last I heard, anyway. That salary list is shocking. That all but one are from fire and police departments is not shocking, unfortunately. Vallejo said it had to go into bankruptcy and then got concessions from unions, as I understand it. This is what San Diego should do: fill out bankruptcy papers, and then get the major unions in a room and tell them unless they agree to make concessions, the BK papers will be filed that day. That's the way to get concessions. Corporate welfare is difficult, because the lobbyists disburse so much money to the pols. Unfortunately, in San Diego there will be no help from the mainstream media. Best, Don Bauder


Ponzi March 12, 2008 @ 11:17 p.m.

WWSFD? (What would Steve Francis do?) If he can buy the lection, I'l bet he files bankruptcy for the city. This city has no choice. No choice! The idiots led by Scott Peters, head baffoon, and a lousy excuse for a leader, has put this place in a position with only one door to choose. Door number 1. Chapter 9.


Don Bauder March 13, 2008 @ 7:42 a.m.

Response to post #3: Bankruptcy is inevitable unless corporate welfare and excessive City worker remuneration can be curbed. Or, the City must raise income sharply. But even mention of a tax increase is a one-way ticket to perdition for a San Diego politician. One thing is certain: Sanders will try to get by with only modest measures, but lots of talk. The public seems to be buying this garbage, largely because of deliberate misinformation put out by mainstream media. But keep one thing in mind: the economy is collapsing fast. San Diego will be hit harder than the nation. This should help those who are talking realistically today. Best, Don Bauder


MarkScha March 13, 2008 @ 9:41 a.m.

I believe out-of-control public salaries are due in large part to the cost of housing, as a company can move to someplace cheaper, and a city can't. I hope California's cost of housing declines the point where outlandish salaries are unnecessary. By the way, the SF Chronicle reported Vallejo has not found a new economic engine to replace the naval shipyard that closed in 1996.


Don Bauder March 13, 2008 @ 10:13 a.m.

Response to post #5: Yours is an interesting point. It's not just California; public sector salaries and benefits all across the country have escalated sharply in recent years -- federal, state, local. One reason may be that while private sector entities ship jobs to cheap labor nations overseas, governments can only do so much of that. That's why municipal unions have become so powerful while the formerly potent unions such as UAW and steelworkers have faded in importance as their industries went overseas. While the City of San Diego has sent some jobs overseas (computer programming to India), the total has been very small. Back to your point: coastal California housing prices have escalated more crazily than prices almost anywhere. Now that the bubble has burst, those altitudinous prices are coming down quickly. But will lower housing prices lead to lower pay for City workers? Look at the fight the MEA is putting up here. It is screaming hysterically to keep excessive pay and benefits. Housing prices are already down about 20 percent in San Diego. I don't see the MEA easing up. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 13, 2008 @ 2:31 p.m.

Don, as you mention, there's actually a trifecta of issues here. Employee compensation, corporate welfare and city income. All three need to be addressed. The city currently has $3 billion in unfunded, deferred maintenance. The city's retirement bill last year was $167 million. If the entire retirement bill went away, how long would it take to fulfill that $3 billion, assuming that nothing new broke? That's right, about 18 years. We all know that the entire retirement bill isn't going to go away, no matter how much Johnny Vegas sputters. It's going to take a whole heck of a lot more that just that to fix the city.

Say we file for bankruptcy and reduce employee salaries by 20%. I'm not going to add up all of the departments, but that's about $100 million between fire and PD. So maybe we're talking $150 million between all departments. That and the $167 million pension tab will both take over ten years to pay off the $3 billion. Assuming that nothing new broke, no fire stations were added, etc. And... we know that we're not completely eliminating the retirement bill or reducing salaries 20%.

It's political death in this city, but income simply needs to be increased. Don't worry, though. The mayor says that service levels won't be hurt.


JohnnyVegas March 13, 2008 @ 2:49 p.m.

Hey JF, what did you think of the Vallejo "list"?

Sort of blows out of the water the notion that the average CA FF only makes $50K per year, don't you think?

And that did not include benefits.

And JF, if we file BK, salaries will to be changed at all, we do not have an operating cash flow problem, we have a long term debt problem with the pensions, long term debt that cannot be paid.


JF March 13, 2008 @ 3:12 p.m.

JV, you may find this hard to believe, but I think that that list is ridiculous. Now why don't you post Harry's outdated list of city employees here. The city of SD is roughly ten times the size of Vallejo and had ONE FD employee who made over $200K in 2006. That's it, ONE.

Here's one thing to consider, though. The city of Vallejo has a very small FD. And over 25 employees walked out the door. All at once. The city had to cover it's fire stations somehow, so it paid OT. What choice did it have?

It's basically the same thing that's going to happen here in 2013, should Sanders eliminate the DROP in this next contract. Everyone who's not in it and is eligible will all DROP June 30 this year. July 1, 2013 about 20% of the dept. will walk out the door. The city will pay OT to staff stations.

BTW, I know this will really blow you away, but I'm really incensed by some of the other activities of the FD union up there that I'm hearing about. Maybe rather than whining about them, you should be glad it's not that bad here.

Oh, and could you explain what you meant by, "salaries will to be changed at all"?


Don Bauder March 13, 2008 @ 4:41 p.m.

Response to post #7: I believe you are right: more income is needed. Maybe San Diego can start with a hefty hike in the transient occupancy tax, which is well below hotel taxes in comparable tourist destinations. Once people have swallowed that, there could be an increase in sales taxes. Of course, with a recession having begun already, this will probably have to be delayed. Economists agree that a tax increase (except on the very wealthy) is poisonous in a recession. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 13, 2008 @ 4:44 p.m.

Response to post #8: That Vallejo list is scary. I have seen similar San Diego lists, and they are not very pretty, either, particularly in light of the City's massive deficits. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 13, 2008 @ 4:49 p.m.

Response to post #9: Remember that other California cities are in a squeeze, too. By 2013, it may not be so easy to go elsewhere in the state and get a fat DROP program. Between the last quarter of 2007 and into 2009, the nation, and particularly California, will almost certainly be in recession, and it could be very deep. This will affect cities' ability to pay. You may be happy to stay in 2013, sans DROP. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 15, 2008 @ 7:26 p.m.

Well, first off, you're not going to see public safety workers retiring at 67. The city currently pays $25 million/year for worker's compensation insurance. Imagine what it would be if folks worked that long. Double? The age 50 retirement for public safety in San Diego goes back almost 100 years. It's not the cause of the city going broke.

DROP was originally designed for public safety workers. It turns out that it works better the younger folks retire. And yes, Billy, private employees retire later.

Private employees tend to move jobs more than public employees. There are also less and less defined benefit plans in the private realm, though there is now talk of using DROP in private defined contribution plans. Rembember, DROP is a fairly new tool. It's only been around for the past decade or so.

Why are there less DB plans? Well, the CEO's of private companies can't be making $100+ million/year if they pay all that into employee retirements, can they?


JF March 13, 2008 @ 9:02 p.m.

Don, I don't believe this posted earlier, so I'll try again. The folks leaving in 2013 won't be going anywhere else, they'll be retiring. Think about it; you're over 50, you're planning to DROP in a "few" years, the mayor says, "If you don't DROP by June 30th you can't DROP at all." What would you do? Stand in line at the retirement office? Or wait it out for a few years for 3% more/year? Darn right, you'd DROP. About 20% of the department is currently over 50 and not in DROP. A bunch more are in DROP, I believe about another 20%.

So, if the mayor gets his way, he'll start a "run on the bank". You'll see about 40% of the dept leave within 5 years. Nope, that won't cause any OT problems. All those 5 year wonders will really save the city during the next fire storm. (Tongue in cheek) Note that 5 years is after he's termed out, should he be reelected.

Meanwhile, even Joseph Esuchanko says that DROP can be beneficial for both parties. So why is the mayor unilaterally trying to eliminate DROP rather than finding the middle ground where DROP is beneficial to all? Sure, actuaries have stated that it's losing the city money. Others have stated that it's saving money.

So which is it? And if it's broken, how do we fix it?


Don Bauder March 13, 2008 @ 10:01 p.m.

Response to post #13: Some say it's draining the City of $200 million and some say $400 million. I don't hear actuaries saying it is revenue neutral. It just isn't. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 14, 2008 @ 8:23 a.m.

Don, you also hear actuaries saying that it could make the city money. So why isn't it? What's special about San Diego that makes it not work? (Besides the Republicans) Why does DROP work in Philly, Houston, LA and now San Fran and not here? That's the whole point of having in our contract that the city has to work with us to figure it out. Yet the city doesn't want to do that. The mayor just wants to walk away. And frankly, that's dumb.

Do we need to drop the percentage from 8% to 7%? Would that make the city money? How about shorten the time frame? See no one knows... why would you walk away from something that could make the city money without trying to fix it first?


Don Bauder March 14, 2008 @ 2:28 p.m.

Response to post #15: In June of 2002, Robert Blum, former attorney for SDCERS, discussed DROP, which was then used only in Fresno and San Diego. Said Blum, "The City of San Diego benefit is, let's call it a highly enhanced DROP benefit." He ended his speech saying, "I have a basic question: how in the world can a DROP benefit be cost neutral?"


JohnnyVegas March 14, 2008 @ 4:18 p.m.

The ONLY reason DROP (scam#1) even appears to "work" is because of the artificially low retirement age (scam#2).

I would like to see how many City workers would be using DROP if they worked to age 67, which is the age for FULL benefits in SS. Something tells me there would be no market for DROP then-call it a "hunch"......lol.

So you have scam#1 synergizing itself with scam#2, both of which should be terminated.

Hey JF, if DROP is such a great tool, how come NO ONE in the private sector uses it???????

Also, please show me a private sector employer that lets line, blue collar employees "retire" at age 50.


Don Bauder March 14, 2008 @ 4:46 p.m.

Response to post #17: Good points. Why don't you see DROP programs in the private sector? And retirements at ages 50 and 55 are very rare in the private sector, too. City workers are having their cake and eating it, too. They get hyper-generous salaries, civil service protection, and excessively munificent retirements that can be tapped at a young age. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 15, 2008 @ 8:16 p.m.

Response to post #19: I agree that one reason there are fewer defined benefit plans in the private sector is that CEOs want to bring home their obscene salaries, and to do so don't want to share much with employees. Few private sector companies have both defined benefit and defined contribution plans. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 15, 2008 @ 9:36 p.m.

Few private sector employees are not in Social Security. The SPSP defined contribution system is nothing more than a city run replacement for SS.


Don Bauder March 15, 2008 @ 10:46 p.m.

Response to post #21: Possibly SPSP should be replaced by SS. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 16, 2008 @ 8:30 a.m.

Don, oddly, the Libertarian think tank Cato Institute holds up SPSP as what a replacement for Social Security should look like.

In SS, the city MUST match 6.2%. From your column in January, "The City matches their annual contribution, which is between 3.05 and 6.1 percent of their pay." Pete Wilson didn't put in SPSP because it was more expensive for the city. It's cheaper.

Perhaps the rest of the country should switch to a system like SPSP.


Don Bauder March 16, 2008 @ 8:42 a.m.

Response to post #23: Of course, in the long run, SS is a Ponzi scheme. So if the City shifts to SS from SPSP, it may be shifting to a financial structure that San Diego knows all too well: the Ponzi scheme. You want the country to switch the other way. Good luck with politicians. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 16, 2008 @ 1:47 p.m.

So if SS is a Ponzi scheme, (and I don't argue that point) why would the city switch to it? Wouldn't it make more sense to leave the system that works and is cheaper, i.e. SPSP, in place?

Frankly, it doesn't affect me all that much, as I'm not eligible for either. However, that's one reason I get a better retirement -- because I'm not eligible for SPSP or SS.

You still haven't commented on the effect on the city's worker's comp insurance of having older public safety workers. I see the over 60 firefighters that we have -- folks who started late in life. They're hurting at real fires. They're not all that effective and get hurt often. Yep, it sure makes sense to keep them on the payroll.


Don Bauder March 16, 2008 @ 10:23 p.m.

Response to post #25: I haven't commented on the worker's comp angle because I haven't researched it, and really don't have time to do so now, with the world financial system reeling. But I personally doubt that worker's comp expense would be so high as to be that large a factor in the decision. As to firefighters who are more than 60 years old: many who do physical labor work into their 70s. Firefighting may be strenuous, but can't adjustments be made for older workers? You may say that such adjustments can't be made, but keep this always in mind: the alternative on all of our discussions is City of San Diego bankruptcy. You say cops and firefighters HAVE to retire early, etc., etc. But with the City in desperate shape, some adjustments may have to be made. I think you will find that these older workers could perform better than you now believe. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 17, 2008 @ 10:43 a.m.

Don, which adjustments should we make for older workers? Should they have to carry less hose up the hill or up the stairs? Only have to carry folks under 100 lbs down ladders? Many people do physical labor into their 70's. At their own pace. They don't work at 100% of capacity for long periods. Unfortunately, firefighting is a career which requires everyone to be able to perform at their peak... on the tenth run of the shift... in the middle of the night.

A MET, or metabolic equivalent, is defined as the amount of energy expended while in a resting state, just lying down. Wikipedia tells us that "intensive running (8 minutes/mile, or 12 km/h) or climbing can yield workouts of 12 or more METs." Now, let me share a little piece of knowledge from our wellness center. A firefighter wearing full turnouts and breathing apparatus uses 9 METS just standing still.

From a NIOSH fatality report: "Fire fighting tasks are strenuous and often require fire fighters to work at or near maximal heart rates for long periods. The increase in heart rate has been shown to begin with responding to the initial alarm and persist through the course of fire suppression activities. Even when energy costs are moderate (as measured by oxygen consumption) and work is performed in a thermoneutral environment, heart rates may be high (over 170 beats per minute) owing to the insulative properties of the personal protective clothing."

The federal fire agencies have a maximum age of 57 for firefighters. You MUST retire by then. They have no effective union driving that choice -- so why 57? Go back and read the above paragraph again.

You say older workers could perform better than I believe. I don't need to "believe" anything. I've seen folks in their early 60's try to perform on the fireground. Very, very few of them are performing at the high level the public deserves.


JohnnyVegas March 17, 2008 @ 12:07 p.m.

You say older workers could perform better than I believe. I don't need to "believe" anything. I've seen folks in their early 60's try to perform on the fireground. Very, very few of them are performing at the high level the public deserves.

They do not need to perform on the fireground JF, there are other jobs they can do. I could find MANY jobs for them to do, taking into consideration their age.

If nothing else I would send them to schools and give fire/safety seminars to the kids...... JF, don't try to tell me that there is a "shortage" of things to do/work in the government.


JF March 17, 2008 @ 12:16 p.m.

So since we have almost a thousand firefighters, you're willing to create an additional thousand jobs, basically doubling the size of the FD, just to keep folks employed an additional decade? Wouldn't we be better of financially by planning ahead for their retirement, letting them go and then using that money to increase the size of the active force?

Sure we could use those folks. We could find jobs in training for them, they could perform inspections, they could do outreach, etc. But... you'd have to pay them. And.. like the cops, straight day folks still have to be able to perform the job. They're part of the 'reserve force'.

Remember, presumptive illnesses for firefighters last until 5 years after leaving employment. Do you really want the city to be responsible for all cancer, lung and heart disease in firefighters until age 72 if they retire at 67?

Ah, that's right... you'll do anything to prove you're right and force the city into bankruptcy.


Don Bauder March 17, 2008 @ 1:17 p.m.

Response to post #27: You say federally-paid firefighters retire at 57. I'm not surprised. Retirements at the federal level are overgenerous, too. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 17, 2008 @ 1:20 p.m.

Response to post #28: What's needed is some creative thought given to the utilization of firefighters as they age. There is nothing like necessity (near bankruptcy) to spur innovation. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 17, 2008 @ 1:24 p.m.

Response to post #29: I don't think people who are trying to figure ways to cut costs are driving the City into bankruptcy. I would say those who are driving the City to the brink are the employees who are fighting fiercely for salaries and benefits the City demonstrably cannot afford. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 17, 2008 @ 4:17 p.m.

So creating an additional thousand city jobs is cutting costs? Those jobs don't exist now.

So what do you suggest we do with a thousand firefighters for a decade?

What the city cannot afford is to continue the corporate welfare of politician's benefactors. Nor can the city afford to walk away from income sources.


Don Bauder March 17, 2008 @ 4:32 p.m.

Response to post #33: I agree that getting rid of corporate welfare is a priority -- perhaps the top priority. It is revolting. You ask what we should do with a thousand firefighters for a decade. The corporate welfare group, using their inimitable logic, would probably suggest we start more fires. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas March 17, 2008 @ 8:30 p.m.


So since we have almost a thousand firefighters, you're willing to create an additional thousand jobs, basically doubling the size of the FD, just to keep folks employed an additional decade?

In two words JF;

YES, absolutely.


Don Bauder March 17, 2008 @ 9:35 p.m.

Response to post #35: Boy, if we keep 1,000 on another decade, we will really have to start more fires. With the price of real estate plummeting, we can expect more fires of residential and commercial buildings anyway. As insurance carriers know, the incidence of fires escalates with the decline of real estate values. Best, Don Bauder


JF March 18, 2008 @ 2:26 p.m.

Good thing we're 20 engines, several truck companies and chiefs short. The other thing that no one ever talks about is that SDFD engines and trucks are currently staffed with four people. National Fire Protection Ass'n standards call for five or six people in 'high hazard' areas -- including anyplace with apartments, schools, condos, hospitals, etc. In other words, anyplace in SD. So we're really a lot thinner than even the mayor admits.

And, I still don't think the city will save money by creating a thousand extra jobs. Wouldn't BBH call that 'workfare'?


Don Bauder March 18, 2008 @ 6:02 p.m.

Response to post #37: You are right. Firefighting equipment in San Diego is sorely inadequate. That is true of all kinds of equipment, along with infrastructure, services, etc. San Diego would much rather subsidize the Padres and Chargers than enjoy financial solvency, adequate sewer and water service, good streets, etc. People made their choices; of course, they were not given accurate information on which to vote. Best, Don Bauder


historymatters April 22, 2008 @ 3:09 p.m.

Wow, This salary list is amazing to me. These Firefighters are making more money than my dad who is a Cardiologist and works 16 hour days. Something isnt right and if anyone saw last nights meeting about it where the reps from the mayors office that brokered the deal were snickering at Donna Frey---that spoke volumes. She asked them if theyd like to share what was so funny and they said it was confidential info from the mayors office and they wouldnt share it.


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