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WatchSonoma Watch

GUEST OPINION: Keeping pension fury in perspective

Stephen Gale

By STEPHEN GALE
Stephen Gale is chairman of the Sonoma County Democratic Party

The focus of recent news stories about Sonoma County’s pension fund has been on the small number of retirees with outsize pensions of $100,000 or more. But a deeper look shows both that the size of most Sonoma County pensions is modest and the funding status of the system is solid.

It was concerning to see the revelation that the county’s top pension was more than 11 times the average annual county pension. But while they make for big news, the recipients of big pensions constitute small numbers — just 2.1 percent of the county’s total.

In reality, the average county pension is $22,500 a year, and about 64 percent of the retirees have pensions below that average. The county average is also on a par with the $22,000 average yearly pension for state workers.

Numbers released in its annual report last December show that Sonoma County’s pension fund is well-managed and profitable, with a healthy 9.7 percent annual return over the past 30 years. It is 88 percent funded, which is also very healthy by the standards of the major bond rating agencies. While outsized pensions deserve to be scaled down to fair size, and pension spiking needs to be ended, overall the condition of public pensions in California is not a crisis. The state’s yearly pension costs have actually fallen by $600 million over the past two years as collective bargaining has increased the share public workers contribute to their pensions and as CalPERS and CalSTRS have taken tougher lines in preventing pension spiking.

At the local level, a steadily increasing number of government and public worker organizations are negotiating similar changes. According to data kept by CalPERS, in more than 200 California cities, counties and local districts, public employees have agreed to increase their pension contributions, reduce formulas and lower public costs. City workers in Santa Rosa, Cotati and other jurisdictions have worked with their employers to make fair changes in retirement benefits that control costs and promote long-term sustainability.

Here in Sonoma County, employees already contribute 11.8 percent share of their salary to their pensions plus an additional 4 percent to offset the costs of benefit improvements, one of the highest levels in the state and much the same percentage as their employer contributes. Sonoma County’s public worker organizations have formed a study group with county officials to discuss ways to ensure pension fund remains strong, reliable and fair to workers and employers.

Public workers support tough action at the state level to curb pension spiking as well as legislation creating pension rainy day reserve funds and bringing an end to pension contribution holidays for employers.

Some foes of public pensions say the only way to ensure public pensions are fair to taxpayers is to do away with secure defined benefit pensions entirely — shifting those funds to insecure 401(k)-type savings — and end collective bargaining over pensions. But as with all American workers, people who devote their lives to public service deserve a fair and secure retirement when their working years are over. As anyone who has seen the crash of 401(k)-type defined contribution pensions in the market swings of the last two years knows, such insecure pensions can leave you out in the cold and without savings when you hit your retirement years.

Equally important, collective bargaining must remain central to the pension process. Public workers must continue to be able to sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate a wage and compensation structure including pensions that are fair to them and their employers.

We have already seen the huge erosion in retirement security among private sector workers who have mostly lost collective bargaining rights. A recent report by U.S. News & World Report shows how such workers have seen their pension security siphoned away to create higher corporate earnings. With only one in five private sector workers having a secure pension today, and with private sector companies continuing to slash pensions for their workers, it is understandable how much fury reports of large public sector pensions can arouse. But the real goal must be retirement security for all, rather than a race to the bottom where everybody loses.





41 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Keeping pension fury in perspective”

  1. jenny says:

    the cuts up till now have all been from the bottom.
    cutting our tiny salaries, while we are qualifying for Medi-Cal to cover our health insurance needs, is not going to net enough.
    How about this time we cut from the top?
    the yearly car bonuses of $6,000-$8,000, the deferred compensation that the county contributes
    all the fatties, getting the fat paycheck, the huge pensions, the perks and bonuses, none of us front line staff get, (all because they are classified as “Managers” even though they don’t supervise anyone, or manage one or two employees)who somehow keep managing to avoid getting cut, are sitting quietly hoping no one turns to look their way, loving the fact that the public view generalizes and assumes we are all in the same boat
    we aren’t
    this isn’t about whiny employees wanting more money, and unions strongarming the tax payers
    this is about the little guy, standing up for themselves
    calling out the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes
    the little guy has been cut, and laid off, and lost their health insurance, and had to go on gov’t Medi-Cal, and has to take their kids to free clinics, and working with less staff, in less hours, with less pay, and sat silently watching all their coworkers in a constant state of stress and worry and fear, while the higher ups, somehow skated through untouched, and now they are being threatened with more pay cuts and even higher insurance rates, and finally speaking up. (using fake names on the internet for fear of retribution)
    and saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
    cut the fat, not the meat

  2. James M says:

    @Juvenal

    Just like most people in the country it seems, you don’t seem to realize that borrowing money does not solve a problem, it just pushes it out in time.

    In this case, we will very likely pay more interest on the Pension Obligation bonds than the SCERA will make on the money invested. So we pay twice and the problem is still there.

    Only solution: defined contributions, not benefits. Limit the taxpayer to paying in to retirement, not carrying these obligations on our backs into future generations.

  3. Juvenal says:

    “Please explain to me the solidity of funding when we issued $290 million in pension obligation bonds last august?”

    Pension obligations bonds are issued when it is advantageous to do so…just like you might re-finance your mortgage when it is advantageous to do so. End of story.

  4. strange bedfellows or odd couple? says:

    dear gale is wrong,

    you raise an interesting point about the progressives.

    did you know that the california democratic party is thinking about decertifying the progressive caucus?

  5. Gale is Wrong says:

    What Gale doesn’t say is he and his girlfriend, SEIU lobbyist Maria Peluso helped create the problem.

    They put conditions on the local Democratic Party’s endorsements of Supervisor’s in the past…he should disclose those along with his sources of data.

    And when will the Press Democrat do a story on how the far far left wing has taken over the local party under Gale? The PDA is in charge and lining up candidates.

  6. James M says:

    @County Worker said “No one wants to go and check the earnings of SCERA… Up 22% this year.”

    Well for giggles I did check SCERA. Their published figuers as of 8/31/11

    Total Returns
    Year to date +1.5%
    1 year +16.2%
    3 years + 1.7%
    5 years + 2.5%
    10 years +5.0%

    I can see why the county makes such bad decisions when they don’t even know their own numbers. And no, a $200m bond at 6% is not going to save any money when the typical rate of return on investment is lower at SCERA, meaning we will be paying retirment contributions PLUS excess interest on Pension Obligation bonds. This is not what I call “very healthy” as Mr. Gale seems to think.
    Scrap defined benifits, Defined contributions now! Make your vote count and insist all future supervisors will vote for defined contributions only for retirement benifits.

  7. GAJ says:

    Oh, and one more thing, in private sector defined benefit plans the earliest you could start collecting was generally at age 65.

    Another thing to keep in mind in how insane public sector pension plans are, in the private sector the government penalizes you if you start withdrawing pension monies from your 401k plan before age 59 1/2.

    You have to ask yourself why the government puts those barriers in place for the public at large yet allows the for such things as cops and firefighters to start cashing in at age 50.

    Obviously discrimination is OK as long as the government and its employees profit from it.

  8. GAJ says:

    @Ken S.:

    In the private sector, even in the “good old days” when “guaranteed” pensions were common the maximum an employee could expect would be 50% of final year’s pay, (vesting at 2%/year was unheard of, for example).

    Vesting at 3%/year? Able to retire at 60%+ of final year’s pay? Not a chance.

    Able to retire at more than final year’s pay? Inconceivable and ludicrous.

    No one has any issue with pensions as they existed prior to the grandfathering in of obscene benefits for the highest tiers starting in 1999.

    Unfortunately those government employees in the lower tiers, just like the taxpayer, will get screwed in the end.

  9. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Ken S-just listened to a program on KRCB that was related to pension history. They discussed the demise of defined pensions in the corporate world. Most of these big corporations can pay a defined pension but decided years ago they wanted the profits instead. This is more of the wealth trickling up, no FLOODING UP, to the top 5% richest in the country. Workers are no longer assets to a company but liabilities and the rank and file workers seem to accept their new status of being at the bottom with nowhere to go. Just read the posts on this site. The propaganda that we are a bunch of freeloaders and lowlifes has been bought by the workers themselves. That we workers don’t deserve our fair share for the work we do to make people richer.

    Public employees aren’t the only workers that are unionized. We still have strong trades unions. Many members of the trades unions in the past when Republicans supported unions, endorsed and voted for Republicans. The fact that they know they are next to lose bargaining power and rights is moving them politically left. All they have to know happened in WI with, not only the public employees lost, but the trades have too. The law passed by the Republicans allows nobid government contracts and that contractors don’t have to use union labor or pay decent wages.

    A saying I borrowed from someone else:

    WEALTH DOESNT’T CREATE JOBS, JOBS CREATE WEALTH.

    If we value ourselves we should remember this and fight back.

  10. Ken S. says:

    What I find so interesting about all this, is that 50 years ago, working for a company forever, then getting a decent pension was seen as the American dream. But the posts here show people just have contempt for the American dream.

    Private industry has screwed its workforce, greed setting all new policies like sending jobs overseas where they pay a few dollars a day even as they rake in millions. No EPA laws, so they pollute the host country with glee. And rake in millions.

    So the only people left with a pension are public workers, and those in private industry are sore loozers. Instead of fighting for better pay and benefits, they want to take away from those who have them. Crabs in a bucket. Race to the bottom. God I love my fellow Americans.

    But, here, let me jump on the bandwagon. The first pensions that should go are the military. They were paid when putting their lives on the line (or warming a desk chair on some base), they’re not in harms way now. Screw ‘em.

  11. Ken S. says:

    @Steve

    You obviously missed the whole auto industry bailout and the Wall Street bailout.

  12. County Worker II says:

    The SCERA retirement fund is 88% funded IF they get an 8% return over the next 20 years over and above expenses AND IF the County continues to pay 43% of every dollar toward retirement benefits (including retiree medical) AND IF the County continues to retire 200+ workers/year without hiring younger employees to continue to provide services this County used to provide AND IF the County continues to lay off all the younger cops, social workers and mental health workers AND IF Sonoma County doesn’t go bankrupt to fund a benefit that is costing 10 times what the private sector contributes over and above Social Security (3.6% 401K).

    But what happens IF the County continues to get a rate of return like they have for the last decade of less than 4% that created $1.1 Billion shortfall in principal and interest on $600 Billion in Pension Obligation Bonds, plus another $400 Million current unfunded accrued actuarial liability, plus $2 Billion additional actuarial liability, plus $1 Billion unfunded liability for retiree medical?? You end up with a system that doesn’t have an 88% funded ratio but rather something around 20%.

    And who’s going to pay for this with lost jobs, lost opportunities, tremendous debt burden and a much lower quality of life than their parents? Great, the Democratic party has become a shill for the first wave of retiring boomers who have gamed the system…let’s continue the deceit with a younger generation as to how we’ve robbed them of their future through our own lack of paying the bills.

  13. John bly says:

    More rationalization that got us in this mess in the first place.

  14. Privateer says:

    Bear,
    The gov’t Special Forces Sgt makes $28,000 a year in Iraq. Private security for the same Sgt is over $100,000 …. Thank goodness the gov’t doesn’t pay that. The Sgt would get 50% retirement after 20 years service with lifetime medical.

    I can’t wait until they privatize cops. Think of it. Security guards with the power to pull you over or investigate major crimes. Cool.

  15. Bear says:

    Good. Maybe somebody is starting to realize that pension decisions have always started from the top down.

    What do you say to someone with sterling qualifications who traded higher salaries in the private sector for public service?

    The answer seems to be “you were idiots.” I’m truly beginning to believe that.

    Look at the AVERAGE pension benefits for long-term employees – the people who held the system together. Ignore this crap about retirement after five years. Not true for the County. Either way, you get next to nothing.

    Good luck on finding public employees in the future, including teachers. We can privaatize all government services? Wait until you see what that costs.

  16. Reality Check says:

    @LBR,

    In the interest of brevity I assumed retirement at the age in which maximum benefits accrue. Yes, early retirement reduces benefits.

    In your example, a 40% pension at age 50 (after 20 years) sounds generous to me.

  17. County worker says:

    Obviously most missed the earlier educational posts this year on this subject. It would have prevented so many ill-informed, silly comments. Oh well. All these financial experts, it’s a wonder everyone in the county isn’t a multi-millinaire.

  18. Brenda says:

    What are Mr. Gale’s qualifications to write this column?

    Did the whole Democratic Party approve it?

  19. Steve Bodarampe says:

    At the “County Worker”…. I would love to know what Private Sector job this person is getting $100k+ a year AND 12 weeks vacation? Wonder if they have a Pension? And the BIG Difference between private sector and public sector, is that these pensions that are too good to be true in the private sector will bankrupt the private company and NEVER get paid (See almost ALL steel companies that have gone out of business). Private sector makes bad choices, they pay for them with bankruptcies while a different private company will step up and provide the same service at a better price more efficiently. In the public sector, there is no other choice, no matter how bad the pension decisions were by prior politicians, we the Public will still need to pay for them while in private companies we don’t pay for management’s mistakes.

  20. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Reality – “Fact: Pension benefits accrue at the rate of 3% per year, based on final salary, for all employees.”
    .
    Actually, I believe that the County is using the same plan as SR – 3% @ 60 – that is, you get 3% for every year that you worked if you retire at or above 60 years of age. If someone retires at 50, then they would only get 2%. So, someone retiring at 50, who had worked 20 years, would get 40% of their salary.

  21. Steve Bodarampe says:

    What about the $300M Pension Bond the County approved last year? Where does that count into your Pension costs and funded percentage? And comparing Sonoma County to other places in CA is not fair because the ENTIRE State’s Pension systems are under scrutiny. Is like comparing a criminal that killed 1 person to a criminal that killed 2 people, they are both criminals!

  22. GAJ says:

    Mr. Gale, I see you are a business consultant who helps companies with profitability.

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/stephengale

    Please tell us you recommendations to those companies when setting up their retirement plan?

    Do you recommend that they pay 30cents on each dollar to fund their employees’ retirement…and any investment shortfalls are made up for out of the employer’s pocket?

    I’ll answer that for you.

    No freaking way; they’d be DOA and you know it.

    Hypocrisy.

  23. County worker says:

    Interesting beliefs here. “Some do, some don’t.” No, that is not so. I knew when I read the article Mr. Gale was walking into a shooting gallery. It does not matter what fact he spouts, too many have their mind made up. Nothing will change their beliefs. “Solutions” range from doing nothing, to abolishing retirements, unions and cutting everyones pay. As much as that might feel good, “nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around”…

    All county employees pay into retirement, ALL, by law. ALL MUST belong to a union, as a condition of employement. No choice. Of course, without the unions reminding the county not to break the law, the management would run down anyone and everyone in their way and the harrassment lawsuits would probably BK the county in the short term.
    Too many times in the last year the process was explained about the business sense of borrowing $290 at 6% to earn an average that is higher. No one wants to go and check the earnings of SCERA… Up 22% this year. DUH. Some just lull around, the sky is falling, all returns must be lower and falling still. Woe is me, the world in ending. Give me a break. I have relatives in the private sector making hundreds of thousands, 12 weeks of vacation and 100% medical… I don’t begrudge them their choices and they still smirk, behind my back of course, at the salaries and benefits of the public sector. I don’t mind, I enjoy what I do. What will happen if they drastically change the retirement system? Simple, no new jobs will come available because no one will retire. I know I wouldn’t. Why retire with nothing and no benefits when you can keep working and making money?

    facts don’t matter here, just get mad at others and take their stuff. I make good money, but I have friends who are carpenters who make more that I do.

    Was Bob Dole’s retirement out of lien? Yes. It will be forever the catalyts for changing everyones future retirement, not just the out of balance top. Oh well, the little guys are always stepped on while climbing to higher moral ground. Now, let’s hear from the Stanford Report Fantasy Cult. 4% Max, earnings don’t count!!! Keep up the chant.

  24. Reality Check says:

    ” . . . county employees to get a pension they must work at least 10 years.”

    Fact: All county employees become fully vested in the pension system after 5 years.

    Fact: Pension benefits accrue at the rate of 3% per year, based on final salary, for all employees.

    Fact: While management has some pension spiking opportunities not open to all employees which should be ended, the affect on the system’s financial solvency is trivial.

  25. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    You all need to know that for most county employees to get a pension they must work at least 10 years. I can’t say for management or the BOS. The amount you get is based on age, how much you put in, and your last years of income.

    County rank and file workers are also the target of layoffs, most can’t get overtime, have to take sick leave and vacation time and can’t flex their time to accumulate it for retirement like management does. Most county employees can’t pad their pensions.

    Management gets county paid deferred compensation every year which will add to the money they get upon retirement. County workers can CONTRIBUTE out of their paychecks to deferred compensation.

    I would direct your anger at the BOS and management, WHO ARE NOT UNION, since they are the ones with all kinds of perks, the ability to pad their pensions, and the high salaries. They are in cahoots with each other and there are just too many of them compared to frontline workers. They protect themselves.

  26. Terence Brennan says:

    Never have so many given so much to so few…

  27. Jim says:

    From Cherie Maria…”Enough of Wall Street gambling with security of someone’s retirement!”

    Ms. Maria, you have the terminology right but the concept is slightly off. It isn’t “someone’s” retirement, it is your retirement. “Your” retirement should be based on YOUR saving, YOUR investing and shouldn’t be guaranteed.

    The writer states “But as with all American workers, people who devote their lives to public service deserve a fair and secure retirement when their working years are over”…why are “public workers” deserving of a fair and secure retirement? Is this guy serious?? “Devote their lives”…give me a break. They work a job. Someone who works in the accounting department for the County isn’t any better than someone who works in the accounting department privately. The entitlement argument is a joke and insulting.

  28. Chris says:

    ” the funding status of the system is solid.”

    Please explain to me the solidity of funding when we issued $290 million in pension obligation bonds last august?

  29. Jim says:

    I don’t understand the concept that the government is required to pay someone AFTER they stop working. Logically, you work for a company, providing the company a benefit via your time/knowledge, etc. In return, you are paid for the service you provide. Once you stop working, they stop paying. Why do taxpayers continue to pay a salary for a benefit they no longer get?

    Again, if a private company wants to pay these benefits, like the auto industry does, so be it. Individuals can choose to buy vehicles from the US automakers, at prices higher than their competition, caused by the higher labor costs, or they can choose not to. The issue I, and many others have, is when we taxpayers don’t have a choice but to watch our money get squandered via excessive retirement benefits. People should take responsibility for their own retirement. They should save their own money from their wages. In the private sector, this is called a 401k, a Roth IRA, a SEP, etc. You save and invest your own money, based on the kind of retirement you want. It isn’t guaranteed. Personal responsibility has vanished. Something happens, people run to lawyers to sue because it HAS TO BE someone else’s fault. In terms of retirement, people should be responsible for their own savings.

    I know what I’m going to hear…government workers contribute XX% to their pension. Yes, some do, some don’t. Regardless, their savings rate, mathematically, does not equate to the guaranteed pension annuity. If that is the argument supporters want to make, then why not end pensions and have the workers contribute the same amount to a 401k? What’s the difference? I’ll tell you…the savings rate doesn’t support the level of pension annuity they get.

    One of the major issues noted in the pension article was that Mr. Dole was making MORE for not working than he did for working. This is the major issue I have. The system is gamed by these thieves and needs to be addressed.

  30. Another Look at Reality says:

    The public pension for Sonoma County employees, managers and supervisors can be decribed as outragious, underfunded, over the top, driving the county to bankruptcy and no healthy for the financial security for the people who pay for it, you and me.

    Bottom line, what do we the taxpayers get out of this system? Better public employees, better public service, better street maintenance? No, I think not.

    The fact is, public pensions in California are hundreds of millions in debt. The County pension is hundreds of millions in debt and as the number of county employees retire, this debt will continue to rise dramatically.

    Mr. Gale needs to continue his fine work trying to convince his democrat flock there is a tooth fairy and forget about entering into the world of public pension finance. He is out of his depth.

  31. Sarky Fish says:

    Note unmentioned in opinion piece: Stephan Gale is leading member of the Progressive Democrats of Sonoma County, an eco-pod pack of know-it-alls based in Sebastopol where the streets are paved with granola. Translation: if you belong to a union you always deserve more than other working stiffs.

  32. Reality Check says:

    Without knowing how many years the average county retiree worked, and the county refuses to divulge that information, knowing the average pension doesn’t tell us much.

    Is the average low because there are a large number of retirees who worked only 5-10 years? We don’t know. Mr. Gale’s use of averages obscures rather than illuminates the subject.

    The formula is simple: work 5 years and you qualify for a pension of 15% of final salary; 10 years gets you 30%, 35 years yields 105%. Time will tell whether taxpayers will long support a pension system that routinely pays full-career retirees a pension higher than their working salary.

    Saying the pension fund is 88% funded is like saying I paid off my VISA credit card bill by borrowing from Master Card. VISA may may send a statement that says “paid in full,” but am I any less in debt? The county issued almost $600m in bonds to reach that “88% funded” number.

    Lastly, the 30-year investment return record of 9.7% is based on 2 decades with high stock market returns. Will those returns repeat? Don’t know. But I can say what Mr. Gale sidestepped, if they don’t, county taxpayers will be facing a very large bill.

  33. MITCH says:

    FINALLY, A THOUGTFUL ANALYSIS OF A MUCH-OVERHYPED ISSUE. THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE WAS YET ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO VILIFY THOSE “EVIL UNIONS” AND THEIR “BIG GIVEAWAYS”. JUST ANOTHER BIT OF PIFFLE TO DIVERT ATTENTION FROM LARGER, MORE PRESSING ISSUES AND KEEP PEOPLE ENVIOUS AND DISTRUSTFUL OF ONE ANOTHER.

  34. Cherie Maria says:

    “But the real goal must be retirement security for all, rather than a race to the bottom where everybody loses.”

    Amen to that!

    Enough of Wall Street gambling with security of someone’s retirement!

    You want to get mad, get mad at Stock Brokers not Workers!

  35. The Pen(sion) Is Mightier Than The Sword says:

    “Numbers released in its annual report last December show that Sonoma County’s pension fund is well-managed and profitable, with a healthy 9.7 percent annual return over the past 30 years. It is 88 percent funded,…..”

    How much of the pension fund is funded with debt(pension obligation bonds)?

    If the pension fund has had “a healthy 9.7 percent annual return over the past 30 years” then why the need to issue hundreds of millions of dollars in debt?

    Considering the amount of debt issued, 9.7 percent doesn’t seem so healthy!

    (Note: debt needs to be paid back)

  36. James M says:

    The hubris evident in this article amazes me. Now that the truth of the outlandish pensions for managers and public safety workers is on the table, people like Mr. Gale are crying “the size of most Sonoma County pensions is modest” but where was his voice when the retirement association was refusing to make the pension data public? Well, I don’t call 98 people with pensions of over $100k, some more than their pay while working, modest. Where was the democratic party when the supervisors were giving away the keys to the farm with the 50% increase in pensions in 2002? They were the ones handing it over. Where was Mr. Gale when public workers were allowed to get last year promotions, cash in vacation banks, and other tricks to spike their lifetime pensions on the back of taxpayers? Because make no mistake, it is not the employees who have to pay back the $590 million in pension security bonds issued in the last 18 years, and it is not the employees who have to make up $2.3 billion in underfunding of SCERA, nor is it Mr. Gale, it is you and I the TAXPAYERS and we have had enough! This is not a “modest” problem. This is a huge societal issue that the private sector have no pension guarantees, and government workers have gold-plated ones that the taxpayers are entirely liable for. That just is not fair, or equitable, and won’t be tolerated. You can complain its all big business’ fault, but that doesn’t help me put food on the table. Go and ask big business to pay your system’s unfunded liabilities, and stop the bloodsucking off the taxpayers.

  37. Mystery Meat says:

    Absolutely right! There’s nothing to see here. It’s an overblown attempt to cripple the labor movement and punish public employees.

  38. John says:

    This last paragraph is HUGE!

    ” A recent report by U.S. News & World Report shows how such workers have seen their pension security siphoned away to create higher corporate earnings. ”

    Notice that while private sector workers are losing their pensions & benefits, prices of the products produced have NOT gone down. The savings are NOT being passed on to the consumer. The savings are going to the already RIDICULOUS salaries of CEO’s and upper management.

    The WORKING/MIDDLE CLASS is being destroyed.

    One day people will wake up and ask … Why are there no living wage jobs anymore? … Well, it will be because you all fought to bring down the other guy. Well,… the other guy will eventually be YOU.

  39. David Stubblebine says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Thank you Stephen Gale for putting a balanced and reasoned perspective on all the ranting rhetoric from all the anti-employee pension bashers over the past several weeks. Thank you also for stepping up as the Chairman of the Sonoma County Democratic Party. As a lifelong Democrat, I had been wondering where our party went off to during the recent anti-Labor tirade. I hope I am interpreting the party’s entry into the discussion correctly; that the Democratic Party in Sonoma County intends to remain the pro-Labor party.

    I read in this commentary that Labor is not being supported carte-blanche but is only being supported when they are right with acknowledgement that some adjustments are appropriate. This is exactly the right position.

  40. bill says:

    This is a welcome bit of news for a very hot issue that has inflamed most of us.

    But it does not deal with the basic issue of outrageous pensions given to those who were running the show.

    An overhaul is in order by people not affected or in charge of public business.

  41. Dogs Rule says:

    Retiring at 50 years old. You forgot about that part.