Saturday, February 15, 2014 Comes To Sierra Madre

Goose: They want to close the Library. No, really.
Yesterday we received a pleasant surprise from a website called (link). The burning issue of their concern is the considerable pensions paid out to retired government employees in California, and how this represents a demonstrable threat to the financial stability of government agencies (and taxpayers) throughout the entire state. Their website really is quite an ambitious project, one that they have apparently had considerable success with. And as far as the pension crisis goes, PensionTsunami is today the major daily clearing house of information on this important matter. Here is how they describe their mission:

PensionTsunami's primary focus is on California's public employee pension crisis, but we also monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide -- public employees, corporations and social security -- since it is taxpayers who will ultimately be responsible for making up deficits incurred by any of them. We also try to monitor international trends. The site was launched in 2005 under the auspices of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers (link).

PensionTsumani generates a daily e-mail blast that goes out to over 1,400 media organizations worldwide, and they have been at it for nearly a decade. Given their focus they have naturally developed quite a following, and yesterday we were the beneficiary of their hard work. Two Tattler posts were picked up and sent out to their vast e-mail list. Both of these articles deal with the Sierra Madre's unfunded pension crisis, which in-the-know residents understand is the actual driving force behind Measure UUT.

The articles selected were:

Why Is Sierra Madre's Employee Benefits Report AWOL? (The Sierra Madre Tattler - link)

City of Sierra Madre: Why the 7.9% CalPERS Investment Was All Wrong (The Sierra Madre Tattler - link)

Oh happy day. We got a wave of interested traffic from this fortuitous hook-up, and being grateful and all we figured we should repay their kind interest and give them as good a plug as we can here.

Of course, our two posts were hardly the only articles PensionTsunami blasted out to the world yesterday. Here is a Sacramento Bee article they linked to through a blog post by's estimable Bruce Ross (link):

CalPERS poised to raise rates, but not on Brown’s timetable (Sacramento Bee - link): CalPERS and Gov. Jerry Brown agree the pension fund needs to significantly raise its contribution rates to keep up with ever-increasing life expectancies. They disagree on how quickly rates should rise.

The CalPERS staff, in a report to its board Wednesday, outlined a plan for raising rates starting in fiscal 2016-17. The increases, covering the state as well as several thousand local government agencies and school districts, would be phased in over five years under the staff recommendation.

The recommendation could meet with more friction from Brown. Responding to a preliminary CalPERS report issued in December, Brown last week labeled as “unacceptable” the plan to delay implementation until 2016.

Though you won't be hearing very much about this issue from Professor Goss or arriviste' Pasadena Attorney Noah Green this election season, it isn't really the Library that hangs in the balance should Measure UUT go down. It is the millions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities the City of Sierra Madre is now up against. And with CalPERS costs rising again (what other way would they ever go except up?), things are not going to improve anytime soon.

Here an older article from The New York Times (link):

Police Salaries and Pensions Push California City to Brink Emerging from Los Angeles’s vast eastern sprawl, the freeway glides over a narrow pass and slips gently into the scrubby, palm-flecked Coachella Valley.

Turn south, and you head into Palm Springs with its megaresorts, golf courses and bustling shops. Turn north, and you make your way up an arid stretch of road to a battered city where empty storefronts outnumber shops, the Fire Department has been closed, City Hall is on a four-day week and the dwindling coffers may be empty by spring.

The city, Desert Hot Springs, population 27,000, is slowly edging toward bankruptcy, largely because of police salaries and skyrocketing pension costs, but also because of years of spending and unrealistic revenue estimates. It is mostly the police, though, who have found themselves in the cross hairs recently.

“I would not venture to say they are overpaid,” said Robert Adams, the acting city manager since August. “What I would say is that we can’t pay them.”

Though few elected officials in America want to say it, police officers and other public-safety workers keep turning up at the center of the municipal bankruptcies and budget dramas plaguing many American cities — largely because their pensions tend to be significantly more costly than those of other city workers.

The real issues for this City Council election are pensions and taxes. Can a city of less than 11,000 souls really afford a City of Los Angeles style retirement program for its employees? Should we really want to support people who happened to have worked here at one time for the rest of their lives? And do we continue to pay constant rate, fee and tax increases in order to do this? Some of which, like our utility taxes, are today at the very highest levels in the State of California?

That is why Measure UUT is back on the ballot, and why those busy bees down at City Hall pushed so very hard to get themselves a do-over vote after their bruising UUT defeat in 2012. They want to write their retirement tickets, and for you to pay for them. It is just about all they've been doing these last few months.

But don't say it too loud. They're hoping it stays a secret.

Whose has a bigger pension? Gayle Bluemel or Edwin Diaz?

The Pasadena Unified School District might not be lighting up anybody's sky with academic brilliance these days, but that hardly means its management staff can't enjoy their golden years basking in the glow of six-figure yearly retirement payments.

The answer to today's question in red can be found by clicking here.


  1. A point to remember, city manager's have he ability to bring back over and over the same agenda item unit he or she gets the desired vote, unknown to the general public the reason or justification for this vote was "hand crafted" by the same people who wanted the desired vote in the first place. It's like watching city hall being stuck on making the square peg fit in the round hole.

    They only waste time and efforts to correct the problem, that's why they have life time jobs as doing it over and over again.

  2. Well, there is pay to play. But for city employees, there is play to make you pay.

  3. Goss reminds me of Buchanan and it gives me the hibbeejebbees

    It's scary that either he or Green will be elected by default

    1. A mellow phony mumble where the underlying message is that you are too ill-informed to understand anything.

    2. Goss came in last in 2012. The UUT Measure lost by a ton. The dirts are whistling past their political graveyard.

  4. how can pensions be almost higher than the salary?

    I really don't have much sympathy for pensions going bankrupt and being reduced

    it's welfare for the elite

    1. The thought of having to pay high taxes to support that bunch at City Hall for the rest of their lives while the rest of us struggle is terrible. What makes them so special?

    2. They bank their sick days and vacation time. Then they take it the last year. Fire and police do that everyday.

  5. Goss came in last place in 2012, and the UUT Measure was crushed by 60% of the vote. I don't get it. Are they nuts over there?

  6. Pensions for public employees are out of control and unfortunately, more often then not, its the public safety employees that take up most of the unfunded liability. They should not have been allowed to unionize in the first place because the public is so dependent upon them for vital, sometimes life and death services. It gives them too much leverage. Why do you think the prison guard union is one of the most powerful interest groups in California?
    Why should they be allowed to retire at 50 with such great benefits? Its unheard of. They don't have to be walking a beat then they reach 50 but certainly they go do an administative job of some sort within the police department. Its also unfortunate, that beause city councils were fast and loose with the purse strings in granting these lucrative pensions, that residents have to now speak up and appear to be "against the police" which could not be further from the truth. The fact is that we are paying too much to those who don't work any longer and it is squeezing out monies needed for other needs.

    1. The good news is once Measure UUT goes down the city will be in a much better bargaining place with its public employee unions. Plus it will prevent Mayor PD Patch Harabedian from giving away the store. Something that is expected of him by the political machine that owns him.

  7. For people who are serious about pension reform in California, this is a great site to start. It is run by a group California Mayors who do not want to see their cities destroyed.

    1. Bet our mayor and mayor pro tem* are not members

    2. Johnny Harabedian thinks he will have a big political career if he toes the LA County political machine line. Much of which is buying the support of government employee unions with taxpayer money. It is the same trap Joe Mosca fell into. They'll use him, dump him and throw him to the wolves.

  8. "This is not a conservative vs. liberal battle. It's not about rich vs. poor, Wall Street vs. Main Street. It's not even about ending public pensions in California -- no one is proposing that, despite what public employee unions may say.

    It is about restoring sanity to a pension system that has been so abused it has city councils making choices between hiring more police and paying the lifetime free health care and lush pensions of retired cops.

    It is about making sure that local governments can continue to have healthy workforces, to fix sidewalks and pick up the trash, and not just become agencies that collect taxes to pay retirement benefits."

    Bay Area News Group /
    Contra Costa Times Editorial


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