WatchSonoma Watch

Zane, Rabbitt join public forum on pensions


Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt are set to take part in a public forum Thursday focused on the rising cost of pensions for government workers.

Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, is also scheduled to participate in the event, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa.

Four other panelists will represent business, organized labor, taxpayer and pension overhaul interests.

Both Zane and Allen are up for re-election this year, and the event has prompted some grumbling from opponents who say its timing appears to be politically motivated.

Zane’s opponent in her re-election bid, former Rohnert Park Councilman Tim Smith, called the forum an “exercise in political cover.”

Smith has made pension reform a priority issue in his campaign, taking aim at county overhaul efforts that he says have shown few if any results.

“I’m glad this is being discussed, but I’m tired of this only being discussed,” Smith said.

Zane and Allen have enjoyed strong backing from public sector unions and have been active on committees studying options for pension reform, Zane at the county level and Allen at the state level.

Zane said the forum was an outgrowth of the county’s work on the issue, including a package of proposed benefit and pension system changes she has defended in the past. Rabbitt is set to discuss that overhaul plan Thursday.

Zane disputed claims that election-year politics figured in the forum’s timing, saying it had been planned, if not scheduled, since last fall.

“It’s not a campaign event,” she said. “It’s an educational forum given the fact there is so much interest on this issue.”

Staff aides for Zane and Rabbitt helped organize the forum. Comcast is covering a discounted $150 building rental fee.

Attendance is limited to 300, and written questions from the audience will be considered for a question-and-answer period after a round of 10-minute presentations from each of the panelists.

Zane is set to moderate the discussion.

The other four panelists are Jack Atkins, president of Sonoma County Taxpayers Association; Sonoma State University Economics professor Robert Eyler; Cynthia Murray, a former Marin County supervisor and head of the North Bay Leadership Council; and Bill Steck, former director of Service Employees International Union Local 1021.

11 Responses to “Zane, Rabbitt join public forum on pensions”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    There were questions asked that Supervisor Zane chose not to read last night. They were about compensation to management and the added new management positions in the last year. The fact that the ratio of management to rank and file employees is appallingly low. Very little lip service was given to the fact that the county is too top heavy with high paid management. That management gets county paid deferred compensation and car allowances and cell phones and cars and so on. All these perks also count toward their pensions as does their high salaries. That’s how they pad their pensions and come away with higher pension income than working income. The unions are after the board to look at layoffs of management since union members were hit hard in previous years. Management made the decisions and, if allowed, it will be rank and file members who provide services to the community who will be hit again. If the BOS want’s the county to receive adequate quality services then they need to preserve the rank and file and LAY OFF HIGH MAINTENANCE MANAGERS.

    I really resent the PD not doing stories about this. The information is out there. The above story is a poor product indeed.

  2. GAJ says:

    “Get Your Facts Straight” said:

    “There has been no change to the formulas and benefit structure since either one was elected.”

    Exactly, they have only paid lip service to the problem and are more than happy to collect their 6 figure salaries and 1/4 of a million dollar packages per year and vest their retirement at the outrageous rate of 3%/year.

    To my knowledge neither has suggested that significant County pay/benefit cuts start with them…you know…as in “the buck stops here”!

  3. Get your facts straight says:

    @ Jim – neither Supervisor has had any part in the pension formula other than to try to address the problem. There has been no change to the formulas and benefit structure since either one was elected! And Supervisor Rabbitt has only been in office a little over a year. Shame on you!

  4. Big Jim says:

    Zane and Rabbit chairing this discussion – they were prime actors in creating the mess, are they going to clean it up or fight to preserve what they created, and benefit directly from themselves?

    From the Legislative Analyst Office:
    “What Is the Problem With Public Retirement Benefits?
    California’s current structure of public employee pension and retiree health benefits has some
    substantial problems. There is a notable tendency in the current system for public employers and employees
    to defer retirement benefit costs—which should be paid for entirely during the careers of retirement system
    members—to future generations. This leads to unfunded liabilities that have spiraled higher in recent years
    and are producing cost pressures for the state and many local governments that will persist for years to
    come. Under the current system, governments have very little flexibility under case law to alter benefit and
    funding arrangements for current employees—even when public budgets are stretched, as they are today.
    Finally, there is a substantial disparity between retirement benefits that are offered to public workers and
    those off eredto other workers in the economy.”

    There is no easy solution, and those who benefit from the largesse today will fight tooth and nail to preserve the excesses. Is Zane going to tackle this problem, or just continue to pretent to solve it with unending analysis?

  5. GAJ says:

    Let’s start with eliminating the 3%/year Pension vesting for the Board of Supervisors who each make $135k/year.

  6. county employee says:

    @ follower that’s fine just give me back every cent that was taken out of my paycheck since I began employment and I will go put it somewhere else. My paychecks are probably smaller than yours anyway.

  7. John says:

    Sure John, I would love my wages, working conditions, contracts, and job security at the whim of elected city council ideals and the ever changing public opinion as often as the sun sets. First, we make too little, so give us more. Now we make too much so take some away. Ohh wait, the public wants more parks and better streets…, never mind, the cities have too many employees.
    Ok, I belong to a union. I am very lucky to have a Public Employee Union looking out for my job stability and security, otherwise I might as well have the public vote every 24 hrs on what “WE” (employees) should have as compensation for our jobs. Not too long ago I remember being scoffed at by the private sector because they were enjoying their “bonuses” when times were great. What did I get? A minor cost of living increase driven up by the private sector getting their FAT bonuses.

    So as I understand it, when your time is “great” our time should be “minimal” to keep you quiet. When your time is “tough” our conditions should be “less than yours”. As I see it our Union is simply providing a balance. We are the “Middle” class. It’s tough for the private sector right now, welcome to the world I lived in a few years ago when “public employees” were the bottom of the barrel.

  8. Steveguy says:

    We trust those that got us into this mess ?

    Oh my

  9. Follower says:

    Lets stop slowly pulling the band-aid off & just give it one good yank.


  10. It's Not Political? says:

    I wish Zane’s nose would grow every time she fibs. For Zane, everything is political.

  11. RICK JAMES says:

    What is the county sup’s retirement package?