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City Council meets tonight to consider, possibly ratify new contract with firefighters' union

Original post made on Aug 23, 2012

The City Council will hold a special meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight to consider and possibly ratify a new labor contract with firefighters in the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 23, 2012, 8:00 AM


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Posted by Karl Wearlyman
a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm

The so called "concession" of changing the contract from 3% at 50 based on the highest single year, to the new 3% at 55 based on the highest 3 years, amounts to almost nothing.

Very few firement begin with department at such a age where they get 30 years by age 50. Most all retire at age 55 anyway. Additionally their salary for each of the last 3 years is usually steady in terms of base.
Thus, by making these changes, 90% of the employees are giving up nothing of significance.

What you aren't seeing is returning to the prior already generous pension system that existed for decades prior to the giant increases over in the past 12 years.
BTW, non-safety employees for Pleasanton got huge 35% boosts in pensions during that same period.
How much have those been adjusted?

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm

"The staff lied to the council because it also has the same pension benefits that are now leading to the downfall of the city," Ayala said.

So why are these staff members still employed? Lying or falsifying information is not only grounds for dismissal but could be grounds for criminal indictment.

Police and Firefighters are necessary for the community but the people I really have respect for is the city engineers and technicians who have to deal with main water and sewer line breaks. They have to respond immediately, come up with a plan to fix the problem before things really get nasty, they have to work until the problem is fixed, and then have to clean up the mess.

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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I have great respect for police and firefighters. The risks involved are great and they should be appreciated.

There are lots 'n of folks that complain and that's your right.

I admire the police and firefighters and I say VIVA!

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm

@Cholo - front line military personnel are involved in high risk jobs everyday. Even in operational "training" missions. Being a crew chief on an aircraft carrier deck is hands above the risk taken by a firefighter or policeman.

Just saying that police and firefighters are the celebrities of city workers. They do not necessarily have the "hardest" or "riskiest" jobs. They should be appreciated but at a reasonable pay that fits the job, not because they are "firefighters" or "policemen".

How many firefighters or policemen would be willing to handle a flooding sewer main with swimming rats and turds floating by? :-)

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Posted by Pensions not enough?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Bill, for your question "why are these staff members still employed?", some of those people have retired already (they god the increases, and had them done retroactively, and then retired on their cushy pensions.

I was at some of those meetings myself and the staff was saying the additional benefits, including make them retroactive, would not cost anything. That is how they sold the council. Unfortunately, the rest of the council members, except for Kay, did not question this at all. Remember however that some of those council members were supported by the unions (including Mayor Pico at the time who was just starting his run for assembly). But the major culprits were the staff members who benefited from that decision and therefor did not disclose correctly or even inform the council correctly. Most of those staff members who were at those meetings, selling to the council, now have pensions higher than $100,000 (some close to $200,000) plus have us taxpayer paying 100% of their medical insurance for life.

The main issue is employee negotiations in government do not have two sides at the bargaining table. You have the unions on one side demanding things. You then have management on the "other side" but since management will essentially receive the same increases as the unions, they are not bargaining in good faith for the taxpayers. Plus you then have the elected officials who want the endorsements and campaign money from the unions going along with it all. The taxpayers have no real representation in those negotiations. It is still this way. Need a "taxpayer union" I guess.

Just a couple of years ago during one of the negotiations, at the city council meeting, Mayor Hosterman said, in public, that she met with a union person and guaranteed to that person that she would get a 5-0 vote to get their requests met.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm

@Pensions not enough?- you mean the former city manager who started at 40K per year, worked up to 75K per year in ten years, then ballooned to over 200K in the final 10 years, and then retiring with over 200K in pension? All the while doing the same job.

What we have now is public entities that are paying $100K, $200K, $300K, and even $400K pensions which were promised but cannot be supported directly from the annuity fund. It is having to be funded directly from the entity as if this retiree was on the payroll. Pretty soon we will not have city/county/state workers, only city/county/state retirees.

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Posted by Karl Wearlyman
a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 23, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Look, for many years, even decades prior to the year 2000, police and fire, as well as regular miscellaneous employees were all respected and paid very well.
Police and fire personel all did dangerous work back then.

Because of that, they were given a higher rate of pension.
Everyone around prior to 2000 knew that police and fire got excellent pensions.

Then in 1999, the legislature, rolling in dot-com tax revenues, passed legislation taking the lid off the "rate" of pensions.
Every city worker union ran through that open door.

So all this talk about police and fire doing risky work and such, while true, has always been true.
Its just that in a fit of fiscal insanity, all those pension "rates" were boosted beyond sustainability.
Now, when the return to sanity is needed, every time responsible people discuss bringing the pensions back to anywhere near the prior excellent pension "rate", everyone starts crying about how fire and police risk their lives and do jobs we wouldn't do.

They always did those jobs. Its just that everything got thrown out of whack around the year 2000.

BTW, in some respects the miscellaneous employees, got a even bigger boost. They went from the excellent rate of 2.0% for each year of service, to 2.7% for each year of service.
That is a 35% instant boost in pension. Plus it was made retroactiave for all prior years, even if you only worked one extra month under the new deal. A 29.9 year employee scheduled to get a 60% pension, suddenly 1 month later, got a 81% pension.
Over their expected life, they get from $250,000 extra to over $600,000 and more during their retirement. Even though they put no extra money in.
Not every city did this, and some who did, went back to the old rates, but some have made only minor changes, still living in denial about the future costs.
Lots of municipal bankruptcies down the road. The math just does not work unless you make up false assumptions about future growth in investments.

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Posted by GX
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Please use the following facts from BLS (p5) and the relative danger of fire jobs. They don't make the top 10. Please keep this in mind when people try to use misinformation to justify the sky-high fire compensation and pensions.

Web Link

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Posted by GX
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

This new contract is inadequate.

- Fall 2011, City Council made public commitment to reduce $121M unfunded liability (AVA) by 10% within five years
- Since then, the unfunded liability has grown $16M (13%) to $137M
- Pleasanton’s portion of the benefits of this new contract discreases cost by $10M over 10 years

NET - even over 10 years, this contract will not cover the one year increase in our unfunded liability just in this past year.

AND IT WILL GET WORSE - CalPERS poor returns, its change in returns assumptions, etc. will hit in November this year.

I do wish the Pleasanton Weekly would provide more complete coverage on this issue so citizens are not fooled by the positive spin/imcomplete information the City Publishes on contracts like this.


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Posted by Walter
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Sky high pensions and salaries? Really? I wonder how many of GX's ilk -- toe pickers from Nebraska -- gave up their lives attempting to save people on 9-11?

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Posted by Pensions not enough?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Don't think any public safety personnel in Pleasanton gave up their lives on 9-11.

Our State had no trouble in getting qualified police and fire personnel before 2000 with the benefits and salaries at that time. Now the benefits are much higher and unsustainable. Salary increases starting in 2000 were over 40% in the following 8 years. In fact, many of our police and fire personnel started her with the pre-2000 benefits and salaries which they thought were fair. So what is the problem in reducing the benefits for all days worked from this day forward to the pre-2000 amounts? It was fair back then and we received as many qualified people as we needed, so why is it not fair now?

It is difficult to put a price or value on some things. We know the unions would say we can never pay too much. If they ask for a raise and anybody questions it, they will always say "you don't appreciate the work and danger we are involved in."

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Posted by Walter
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Good thinking. Land o'goshen, it hadn't occurred to me that 9-11 hadn't taken place in P-town. Kind of like Giuliani never having anticipated 9-11 before it took place. Point is, and I do hope I'm not being too oblique, fire fighters may not seem all that important to a Nebraska transplant toe-picker, until his meth lab out in the garage explodes in flames.

Roll back salaries and pensions to 2000 levels? Sure, but let's have the top 1% show their leadership and give back the 270% profit on their income they've made since wall street-caused recession. I'm sure they're all willing to stand eagerly in line to give back what they've taken from the community.

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Posted by hmmm
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

There was a survey out today that demontrated that the real middle class was getting poorer and poorer. However state and city employees are getting richer and richer. The income the fire and police officers make is higher than the top end of the middle class. They are the rich - officially. And then get even richer when they retire.

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Posted by justwondering
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm

All this discussion is good but is anyone concerned with the fact that one council member, Kook-Kallio had fire fighters parking cars, wearing union t-shirts, during her fundraiser in June? Remember this is going on while contract negotiations are taking place between the union and city council. This is the person talking about being for ethical government. (Maybe this is legal but it sure doesn't pass the smell test!) Further, the filing period for office hadn't even began yet, alone closed, so how can the firefighters have already decided who they were going to support? Guess they'd already decided who was going to support the union! It sure seems like she should recuse herself from the discussion/decision at the next council meeting!!

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Posted by Karl Wearlyman
a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Walter, I sorry but your phrase "Roll back salaries and pensions to 2000 levels?" is just absurd.

No one is suggesting that we roll back salaries OR pensions to the same as in 2000.

However the "rate" of pension is a different matter, especially when it comes to new hires. The pension "rate" is the service credit times certain percent for each year you've worked.
Going back to the year 2000 "rate" would be more than fair.

Example, using regular Pleasanton miscellaneous workers.
In 2000 their pension rate was 2.0% for each year of service.
That was boosted in a gigantic step instantly up to 2.7% for each year. That was a instant 35% increase in pension.

Example, a 30 year employee who had worked all along being promised and 60% pension, suddenly and instantly was given a 81% pension for life.
Example of reform. San Leandro which had boosted pensions from 2.0% to 2.5% realized the problem and in their reform, they took it back to 2.0% for new hires. They have also required a larger percent of the contribution to come from the workers.

If the world was fair, this is how the pension boosts would have been handled. If you had 15 years at 2.0% and in the pension madness they boosted it to 2.7%, then for subsquent years you'd get that 2.7%, but when everyone realized it was fiscal insanity, and reduced it back to 2.0%, you'd work the rest of your years at that rate.
Hence, you'd have something like 15 years credit at 2.0% plus 10 years at 2.7% and then 5 more years at 2.0%. So your pension in that case would end up at 67% for life, not 81% for life.
Higher than the old 60% but not the absurdly high 81% for 30 years.
Remember, the above rate example is for miscellaneous workers.
Fire and police are at higer rates.

However my above fair example will not happen because of the retro-active clauses and in fact, the most absurd and largely unknow fact it that a person hired even one week prior to reformed rates, will continue for perhaps 30 years or more to get the unsustainable rates even though they were JUST hired at age 25. Yet that guy they work side by side with, hired a month later, will get the new rates.

Its all so crazy and the taxpayers lose in both directions for 30 or more years. These crazy pension hikes of the past decade will end up affecting budgets for 60 years.
UNLESS some of these cities go bankrupt. Then all bets are off.

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Posted by GX
a resident of Foothill High School
on Aug 23, 2012 at 9:43 pm

GX is a registered user.

Walter - 9 11 was a tragedy for all involved - the thousands of regular folks who were just doing their jobs and the fire/police personnel who were part of the rescue effort.

Firemen provide a valued service to society as do many other professions. My issue is with the fire profession that tries to use ficticious statistics to justify its unsustainable compensation. Remember according to the government's own statistics, fire doesn't make the top ten most dangerous jobs.

Just think if all the more dangerous professions (fishers, loggers, farmers, roofers, etc.) got the same retirement benefits as fire. This economy would grind to a halt. There is no way for society to allow people to collect more money in retirement than they earned during their careers. The numbers just can't work. You'd have to turn one generation into slaves to support the benefits of the previous generation. And this is what we are asking our kids to do when we allow unfunded liabilities to continue to grow.

I suspect you think people like me disrespect the heroism of the fire profession when in reality it is the unions and fire professionals who game the system to maximimize their personal benefit who tarnish the profession.