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The Farsider

March 29, 2012

 

Bill Mattos, Editor and Publisher <bilmat@comcast.net>
Leroy Pyle, Webmaster <leroypyle@sjpba.net>

 

The Farsider is an independent publication that is not affiliated with the San Jose Police Benevolent
Assn. The SJPBA has allowed the Farsider to be included on its web site solely for the convenience
of the retired San Jose Police community. The content of this newsletter does not represent or reflect
the views of the San Jose Police Benevolent Association's Board of Directors or its membership.



 
 

RETIRED OFFICER MARIO STEFANINI
 

Badge 1207
Born Jan. 5, 1922
Appointed Sept. 16, 1944
Retired April 1, 1974
Died March 18, 2012


Following is Mario's obituary that first appeared in last Friday's, March 23, 2012, Mercury News.
 

Mario Peter Stefanini
Resident of San Jose


Mario lived a full and good life. He was born in San Jose, California to Pilade (Peter) and Esterina (Ester) Pelosi Stefanini, who immigrated to San Jose from Lucca, Italy. He is survived by his loving wife of almost 67 years, Martha. He is also survived by many cousins, nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by his parents and older brother, Gino.

Mario attended St. Joseph’s Grammar School as a young boy, and later went on to Bellarmine College Preparatory, where he graduated in the class of 1941. In 2008, he was inducted into the Bellarmine Athletic Hall of Fame, where he received recognition as a “solid standout for the Bellarmine Baseball Nine as he was a four-year Varsity starter at first base. He finished his high school career as a .378 career batting average topping out his time with a personal best .427 as a sophomore. He has the distinction of being the first recorded recipient of a white letterman sweater, only worn by four year varsity letter winners.”Mario was a great baseball player and was drafted into the professional league, but had to turn it down to work in the family dry-cleaning business. Mario continued his love of baseball by playing in semi-pro leagues throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Mario was an outstanding police officer for the City of San Jose. From 1959 to 1961, he was President of San Jose Police Union Local 170, and also served as a delegate to the Central Labor Council for Local 170 from 1959 to 1974. He retired in the mid 1970’s, and then went on to be a court bailiff for the County of Santa Clara, and later a guard for Bank of America in downtown San Jose.

Mario had a passion for following the stock market. Whenever asked, he would give advice to his nieces on what they should buy, and why they should buy it. He loved talking about the stock market and would follow all of its ups and downs. He was sharp as a tack and could recall all the stocks he ever owned, what year he bought them, and at what price.

Mario lived in San Jose his entire life. He could always be relied upon to tell his nieces and nephews the history of San Jose, and would often recount stories of what it was like to grow up here, noting how much things had changed over the years.

Mario was always very kind and generous to his family and friends, asking them how they were doing, even when he was very ill. He will be sorely missed.

Services to be held at Lima Family Mortuary at 10:30 a.m. Monday, March 26, 2012, 466 North Winchester Blvd., followed by interment at Santa Clara Catholic Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the charity of your choice.



 

ALMOST LIKE FALLING DOWN ALICE'S RABBIT HOLE


Conjecture by virtually all of the retirees with whom I associate has it that the Pension Reform measure on the June ballot will be a slam dunk for the City. But that may not be the case. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will be turned down by the voters.

Tom Macris called around noon yesterday (Wed.) and brought to my attention a poll that the Mercury News has been running on its website for at least a couple of days. When I pulled the poll up, it showed a total of 763 votes. Then, early yesterday evening while I was piecing the Farsider together, I checked it again and the vote count was up to 925. And at 7:30 a.m. this morning (a few hours prior to press time) I checked the results a third time and it looked like this...
 


Thinking that the numbers should be reversed, I stared at the results for half-a-minute. When they didn't change I felt I might have fallen down Alice's rabbit hole. If you want to check it out for yourself, click on the link below, then scroll down and look on the left side of the page. And since you are already there, why not cast your vote and see if we can spike the results?

<http://www.mercurynews.com/news>




 

MORE PENSION NEWS


Those of you who are POA members whose e-mail address are on file with the Association should have received numerous Membership Alerts this past week alerting you to another video in the on-going investigation by KNTV, the Bay Area's NBC affiliate. The report aired last Sunday evening. For the clearest video and audio, we're using a link from the TV station's website as it also includes a written transcription of the report under the video. The clip may take a few moments to load, so be patient. And yes, that's David "Baci" Bacigaluppi in the photo below.

(The video was removed from the KNTV website prior to press time. Refer to the link below.)

In the event NBC Bay Area news has removed the video from its website, you can view it here. Again, give the video a few moments to load.

<http://www.protectsanjose.com/content/pensiongate-pension-manipulation-san-jose>





 

A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE RETIREES' ASSOCIATION
(ARSJPOFF)

March 27, 2012


I went to last Wednesday's PBA to visit, eat and have a drink with those people who I worked with for so many years. As I walked about the room listening to the various conversations I heard the concerns about what the future held for all of us as retirees. During the business portion of the meeting I was asked to speak to the group about the impact of the measure B ballot measure. As I looked around the room the hundred or so attendees stopped their conversations and intently turned their attention to my remarks. There are three major issues involved with measure B (pension reform measure) that would affect retirees. They are:

* Higher deductible health-care option

• Possible change to the COLA amount if a fiscal emergency is declared by the City
 
• Loss of the SRBR monies

I assured everyone the total amount of their March retirement check would not be affected by the passage of Measure B. What could change would be the deductions from the total sum. The largest change could come in the form of a higher cost healthcare plan for all past and present city employees. Several people then had questions about healthcare. The healthcare issue is very complex because there are so many individual choices retirees can choose. The Association of Retired San Jose Police Officers & Firefighters (ARSJPOFF), Police Officers Association, and Firefighters Local 230 are all fighting to ensure the continuation of a health care plan which provides the coverage we all need. I know I can’t answer the many questions on this issue. The ARSJPOFF is looking for answers to the many questions we all have by utilizing our attorneys. When we have new information about this item you will all be informed.

After the meeting the many questions and concerns of all the members started me to try to put some sense to the current political and pension issues. The one major question that everyone was asking was how does this affect ME? On the surface this is a very reasonable question but overall our pension system is not about ME it's about US.

The ME pension person is the individual who is saying I don't have the benefit you have so you shouldn't have it either. The ME pensioner is part of the 60% of Americans who don't have a 401(k) or retirement account. The ME pensioner is the person who enjoyed the big money at the time but failed to account for or plan for their future. The ME pensioner has no plan on how not to work for the rest of their life. The ME pensioner is depending on themselves for investment funds and investment strategies to make it to the end of life.

Our retirement plan is very different. Our retirement plan is based on US. The US pensioner has generations of employees who all contributed to a financial plan which was to assure a healthy life after dedicated public service. The US pensioner gave up the cash for today for a future of specific retirement contract benefits. The US pensioner realized the physical and mental strain of their chosen profession would limit their worklife cycle. The US pensioner contributed to a system which utilized financial professionals and dedicated organization leaders to find a system which would grow and last.

By comparing the ME pensioner to the US pensioner I think the US pensioner has a better chance at a fulfilling retirement. This is the reason why I say we must fight the Measure B alongside the working US who are contributing to the retirement system. Many of the working US are taking tremendous cuts in pay because the City wants them to make up years of the city's failure to plan for the future. Many of the working US don't see themselves working and retiring from San Jose with a 30 year pension. Many of the working US are leaving San Jose for what they see are better benefits and working conditions in other communities. In order for our system to survive we must stand shoulder to shoulder retiree and active and fight for US.

Jim Spence
<js483@aol.com>
President, Association of Retired San Jose Police Officers & Firefighters





 

RANGE CLOSED FOR RETIREE QUALIFICATION DURING APRIL


Dan Bullock was asked to pass along a message advising that the Range will NOT be available to retirees for the purpose of qualifying during the entire month of April due to Department-wide qualifications.




 

WEEKLY POLL


Just when you thought the Birther Movement was taking a long winter's nap, along comes Sheriff Joe Arpaio and this newscast from a CBS affiliate in Phoenix to wake it up. It also provided us with fodder for this week's poll. Please consider watching this 5-minute clip prior to taking the poll.
 

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrQp6qSgX_I>
 

   


Results from last week's poll...





For the full scope of state and national polling by Scott Rasmussen, click on this link:
<http://www.rasmussenreports.com/>

For the most recent releases, click here:
<http://www.rasmussenreports.com/older_content/home/top_stories/most_recent_articles>


 

 

MAIL CALL
 

March 23rd

Bill,

Do you or anyone else remember Ted Sumner? He bills himself as ex-SJPD who has written a book and appears on radio talk shows saying that he worked deep undercover in the '70s and infiltrated various drug trafficking organizations. He was recently on the radio talk show "Coast to Coast" and has taken a position that the "War on Drugs" is making things worse. The book he has written and is promoting on the internet is entitled, "Deep Cover Cop." See
<http://www.deepcovercop.com/>  I could not remember the name so  I called Art Hilborn. He said that he thought there was a Ted Sumner that was on the P.D. for a short time and that he was assigned to work the schools when he was straight out of the academy because of his young appearance. Anyway maybe someone remembers him and would know if his background was the "real deal" or something less.

As always, thanks to you and Leroy for all your hard work.

Dennis McKenzie
<denpatti@sbcglobal.net>


If you have a copy of the 1983 SJPD Commemorative Album, look on page 117 and you will find a photo of Sumner. He was included in Russ Jones' book, "Honorable Intentions" that I highlighted in the Farsider on two recent occasions as the two worked together in the Narco unit back in the '70s.

I can confirm what Art said. Sumner did work undercover at one or more high schools when he first came on because he could pass as a teenager.
 

• • • • •

 

March 23rd

Hi Bill:

I found it somewhat ironic that the film clips of Rita Hayworth (Farsider - Mar. 22) exerting all her physical energies during those marvelous dance routines were accompanied by an advertisement for "exercising your brain to stay young." Rita Hayworth (real name Margarita Carmen Casino) died at the relatively young age (at least from my point view) of 68 from complications of Alzheimer's decease. Go figure (figuratively speaking, that is).

Ivan
(Comelli) <ivcomelli@ymail.com>


I have always been surprised how people from my generation (I was a "war baby") grew up stereotyping some actors and actresses who were very talented dancers, but are known today primarily for their acting skills. Lucille Ball is one example. While most know here as one of America's funniest comics, she was quite a hoofer before she rose to the top of her popularity with "I Love Lucy." Here's what I'm talking about. (4 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9QKN1F-ZYc>

 

• • • • •

 

March 26th

Hi Bill,
 
Since you said you may get other corrections to your list of SJPD people who went on to become chiefs elsewhere, I thought you might want to add a couple to my history: All total, they include Longmont, CO; Concord, CA; Mountain View, CA and then Sunnyvale, CA, which was a contract job after retirement.
 
You don't need to put this note in the Farsider. I'm only sending it in because you said you were looking for corrections.
 
However, there is one note that I would like you to share with others: Scott Seaman just took over the helm as President of the California Police Chiefs Association.  Quite an accomplishment for an outstanding law enforcement professional.
 
Thanks again for all you and Leroy do.
 
Mike
(Maehler) <MAEHLER@msn.com>


The list Mike is referring to has been updated, but I didn't see the need to publish it again as it was included in the last couple of newsletters. I did see a need, however, to include Mike's entire message, especially since it included the note about the former SJPD Capt. and current Los Gatos Police Chief's selection as head of the California Police Chiefs Association. That is indeed an accomplishment. Congrats, Scott.

 

• • • • •

 

March 28th

Greetings Bill,

I'm Mark Anderson, former SJPD #1285. Received a shout from Jimmie Wittenberg about your newsletter.

I would be interested in subscribing as I have lost touch with too many of those who policed the streets of San Jose and would enjoy seeing who is where now. I was the Chief of Airport Security at San Jose Airport after leaving the P.D. in 1978-1979, then left to become the Chief of Police in Lynden, Wash. from circa 1980-1982. Police work we all know, politics is another story. I retired after 28 years of service with the State of Washington, the last 15 of which was as a State Investigator with the Division of Fraud Investigations headquartered in Olympia. I still reside in Lynden about 5 miles from the Canadian Border. It would be great to hear from you guys. I am in Florida now until the middle of May.

Mark Anderson
<mark-pat@comcast.net>


Happy to have you with us, Mark. When you get to the bottom of this newsletter you should see plenty of names of other subscribers you will recognize. Welcome aboard.




 

LOCAL NEWS FOR YOU OUT-OF-TOWNERS


This item from last Sunday's paper isn't about pension reform, but it does cover something that was once near and dear to the hearts of many San Jose cops. We called them "pay jobs."
 

Cops’ Side Jobs Ripped

—Inquiry into program that lets off-duty officers provide security shows conflicts, lack of oversight—

By John Woolfolk
<jwoolfolk@mercurynews.com>
Mercury News — March 25, 2012


As a San Jose police officer, Gary W. Drake was among hundreds of city cops who took advantage of a long-standing program allowing uniformed officers to work off-duty security jobs for places ranging from shopping centers to schools to special events.

Too much advantage, prosecutors say. Now retired from the force, Drake faces theft charges and is accused of double-billing two school districts for outside work.

Drake’s case was among alleged improprieties uncovered in a new city audit of the San Jose Police Department’s outside pay job program, which the City Council is expected to consider April 3.

The audit argued that until a recent crackdown under Chief Chris Moore, the program was so loosely overseen that the department couldn’t track where and how long officers were doing outside work, or situations where on-duty assignments might conflict with secondary jobs. Supervisors allowed flexible hours to accommodate officers’ outside pay jobs and didn’t enforce rules against working them while on sick or disability leave.

“San Jose’s system for overseeing uniformed off-duty work to date has provided minimal accountability,” City Auditor Sharon Erickson told a council public safety committee this month, questioning whether the program should continue as structured. “It’s not as clear how the broad public interest is served by it.”

Assistant Chief Rikki Goede said Moore, who has been chief for a little over a year, had begun a crackdown even before the audit began and that the department has revised policies “addressing nearly all of the auditor’s concerns.”

But Goede defended the program overall, arguing that abuses were the exception and that the program benefits the city by effectively putting more cops out in the community — perhaps an additional 100 officers a day — even if they’re working for another employer.

Goede acknowledged that “there were some problems in oversight” and that “the audit did uncover a very small number of issues.” But, she said, “the vast majority of officers working secondary employment are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Officers’ outside pay jobs have come under fire before. The city’s police auditor criticized the program in 1995. Concerns then about potential conflicts from off-duty officers providing security at downtown nightclubs regulated by the department led the city to ban that practice in 1997.

But Councilman Pete Constant, an officer at the time who had worked outside pay jobs and has since retired from the force, said this audit suggests that some changes aimed at fixing problems highlighted in the 1990s seem to have since “disappeared.”

“I’m curious how things just disappear,” Constant said.

Among the audit’s findings:

• Evidence of overlap between hours billed for city and outside work, suggesting either city taxpayers or outside employers weren’t getting all the police work they paid for. In addition, records indicated travel time between city and outside jobs weren’t accounted for, indicating either taxpayers or the outside employer paid for the officer to drive from one job to the other. The timecard issues have spawned several disciplinary investigations and some criminal probes, including the Drake case.

• About 77 percent of the department’s nearly 1,200 sworn officers and reservists participated in outside work, earning more than $6million total last year. The audit noted the financial incentive has grown as the city has cut pay and is seeking pension reductions amid tight budgets.

• The city, struggling with chronic budget deficits, subsidizes outside work to the tune of more than $500,000 a year. Erickson said city leaders should first evaluate recent and pending changes the chief has in the works. But the audit suggests the city consider as an alternative having uniformed officers work overtime shifts for the city rather than off-duty hours for outside employers. That’s a model it says is used in Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Clara County.

Police said they are considering such changes but noted that they would affect not just officers but also schools and other employers that rely on the off-duty cops for security.

Officials at San Jose Unified School District and East Side Union High School District, the two involved in Drake’s alleged timecard fraud, said the off-duty police work program is extremely valuable to them.

“We know exactly the training they’ve gone through and the standards they have to meet,” said Don McCloskey, director of student services at San Jose Unified, where officers work daily at each of the district’s middle and high schools as well as for athletic events and dances. “They become part of our community, they mentor kids, they make a connection between families.” Officials at both districts were surprised by allegations Drake committed timecard fraud. East Side Union Superintendent Daniel Moser said that “in the many years that the district has used offduty SJPD officers, this is the first instance of alleged fraud brought to our attention.”

Drake’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. His next court date is April 18. According to police reports, Drake, who continued working off-duty jobs as a reserve officer after retiring in 2009, submitted timecards for simultaneous shifts at East Side’s Yerba Buena High School and San Jose Unified’s Gunderson High School on four days. The jobs paid $264 at Yerba Buena and $232.50 at Gunderson each day, totaling $930.

According to police reports, Drake, 56, of Union City, acknowledged the misdeed in a recorded police interview, telling a detective: “I don’t know why I did it. It was stupid. I knew better.”


 

• • • • •



The Mercury News had nothing this week about our pension reform issue that I could find, but Craig Shuey came up with two articles, one from the Sacramento Bee, the other one from the New York Times...
 

March 27, 2012

Bill,
 
Here are a couple of articles that might be of interest about San Jose's pensions.  The first one by Dan Walters specifically discusses San Jose's retirement fight. Again, because of his influence as a political writer, whether you like him or not, the article will be read by legislators up here in the Sacramento region and by other influential politicians throughout the state.

The second article is of interest, me thinks, because the NY Times thought it was important enough to talk about California cities and their pension issues.

Craig
(Shuey) <cvshuey1459@gmail.com>
 

Big Pension Conflicts Ahead in California



By Dan Walters <dwalters@sacbee.com>
The Sacramento Bee — March 26, 2012


California's great public pension battles are heating up, and may be headed for some kind of political explosion.

The Legislature's Democratic majority appears to be doing its best to ignore significant pension reform, even though Gov. Jerry Brown says the current system is "unsustainable" and an overhaul is needed to persuade voters to raise taxes this year.

Democrats are reluctant to do anything that public employee unions oppose – such as passing Brown's 12-point pension reform plan – in a year when they'll be running in much-changed districts and will need all the union help they can get.

With Brown's plan stuck in neutral and an outside pension initiative dead for lack of financing, the big action will be in the state's second- and third-largest cities, San Diego and San Jose, where unions are pulling out all the stops to prevent voters from even seeing pension reform on their ballots this year.

The mayors of both cities, Republican Jerry Sanders in San Diego and Democrat Chuck Reed in San Jose, are sponsoring pension overhaul measures, Sanders via initiative and Reed via City Council action. Unions are trying to keep them off the ballot.

San Diego union leaders filed a complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Board, whose lawyer then asked a judge to block the Sanders-sponsored initiative, contending that it circumvented state law requiring negotiations on compensation changes.

It was a novel legal theory and a judge didn't buy it, ruling that the proper time to challenge a ballot measure was after voters had acted, not before. And the unions left no doubt they'll do that if the Sanders measure passes in June.

Meanwhile, unions representing San Jose's city workers directly filed suit themselves, alleging that placing pension reform on the ballot also violates the state collective bargaining law that Brown signed three-plus decades ago.

Moreover, union-friendly legislators have sought a state audit of the city's finances, especially its pension costs, and unions have alleged that Mayor Reed's assertions about the impact of pensions may violate laws on bond disclosures.

The unions' drives to prevent pension reform plans from reaching the ballot indicate they are worried that given a chance, voters will endorse change because pension costs are hitting city budgets much harder than those of state and county governments.

Lurking in the wings, meanwhile, is Stockton, which may well file for bankruptcy protection if negotiations with its creditors falter.

Would federal bankruptcy law supersede state laws that say pension benefits cannot be lowered for current employees? Vallejo didn't ask that question when it filed for bankruptcy protection. But unions fear that Stockton might, opening another front in the pension war.

Read more here:
<http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/26/4366003/dan-walters-big-pension-conflicts.html#storylink=cpy>

 

• • • • •

 

Untouchable Pensions May Be Tested in California



By Mary William Walsh
The New York Times — March 16, 2012


When the city manager of troubled Stockton, Calif., had to tell city council members why it was on track to become the biggest American city yet to go bankrupt, it took hours to get through the list.

Stockton, Calif., which must pay $30 million in annual pension costs, which it is told it cannot cut even in bankruptcy.

There was the free health care for retirees, the unpaid parking tickets, the revenue bonds without enough revenue to pay them. On it went, a grim drumbeat of practically every fiscal malady imaginable, except an obvious one: municipal pensions. Stockton is spending some $30 million a year to pay for them, but it has less than 70 cents set aside for every dollar of benefits its workers expect.

Some public pension experts think they know why pensions were not on the city manager’s list. They see the hidden hand of California’s giant state pension system, known as Calpers, which administers hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement obligations for municipalities across the state.

Calpers does not want cities like Stockton going back on their promises, and it argues that the state Constitution bars any reduction in pensions — and not just for people who have already retired. State law also forbids cuts in the pensions that today’s public workers expect to earn in the future, Calpers says, even in cases of severe fiscal distress. Workers at companies have no comparable protection.

Stockton is in the midst of a mediation process with its creditors that will determine by the end of June whether it will file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which would allow the city to negotiate reductions in its debt in court.

For Calpers, the prospect of a California city in Federal Bankruptcy Court portends a potential test of the constitutional mandate that federal law trumps state laws — in particular, the state laws that protect public workers’ pensions in California. Such a challenge could blow a hole in what experts consider the most airtight pension protections anywhere.

“Obviously, what Calpers wants is that it doesn’t come up in the process, which I think is ridiculous,” said David A. Skeel Jr., a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who writes frequently on bankruptcy. “My view is that even the California Constitution is subsidiary to federal bankruptcy law.”

As the United States population ages and more and more public workers qualify for retirement, the cost of their pensions is growing fast, turning into a major drag on many local governments’ finances. The pension contributions that cities must make every year are rising, but their revenue, which often depends on property taxes, is not keeping up. Taxed-out residents, many of whom have lost their own pensions in the private sector, are unwilling to pay more. In tax-averse California in particular, where every tax increase must be put to a vote, officials are running out of options and some are considering bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy in America is a collective process, where creditors of a distressed company or municipality come together under court oversight and negotiate a plan to share the losses equitably, for the sake of the greater good. Some creditors may stand more toward the front of the line and others at the back, but there isn’t generally one big creditor that gets paid in full without having to get in line at all.

Yet that’s what Calpers appears to be doing.

“They will probably say it’s a statutory right and it can’t be changed by a bankruptcy court,” said James E. Spiotto, a Chapter 9 specialist with the firm of Chapman & Cutler. “I think it’s still subject to some question.”

A spokeswoman for Stockton’s city manager, Connie Cochran, said she could not discuss the city’s dealings with Calpers, citing the confidential mediation process.

When a company with a pension plan goes bankrupt in Chapter 11, it typically stops making most of its required pension contributions, just as it can stop paying many other bills. Some companies, like Northwest Airlines, even declare bankruptcy the day before a pension contribution is due, to save the cash.

Chapter 11 also permits companies to shed their pension obligations completely, if they can convince the bankruptcy judge that’s the only way they can restructure. The federal government, which insures traditional company pensions, then takes over the defunct plan and pays retirees their benefits, up to statutory limits.

There is no such backstop for state or municipal pensions. But cities, until recently, have managed to avoid bankruptcy, so there is almost no precedent for how public pensions will fare in Chapter 9.
 


The city manager, Bob Dies, in foreground, is focusing on cutting retiree health benefits.

Now that is starting to change.

Prichard, Ala., tried to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2009, after its pension fund ran out of money, but its case was thrown out by the judge, who cited a rule that Alabama cities must have bonds outstanding to qualify for Chapter 9. Prichard had no bonds at the time, just a big debt to its retirees. The city went for nearly two years without paying them their pensions, then reached an out-of-court settlement that gave them about one-third, on average, of what they had earned.

Central Falls, R.I., declared bankruptcy in 2011, after its pension fund for police officers and firefighters nearly ran out of money. The state withheld aid, and passed a law forbidding any effort to revive the pension plan by issuing bonds. Central Falls had little choice but to negotiate sharp cuts with the retirees.

In California, the only precedent is in the city of Vallejo, which declared bankruptcy in 2008. Unlike Prichard and Central Falls, which had their own pension plans, Vallejo is part of a state-run system. It kept making all of its contributions to Calpers throughout its three-year bankruptcy.

“We never shortchanged Calpers,” said Robert V. Stout, Vallejo’s finance director at the time.

Mr. Stout said he had expected to renegotiate the city’s retirement plans in bankruptcy, since everything else was on the table. At the time, Vallejo was in a fiscal tailspin with the mortgage debacle, which hit cities in California unusually hard.

But Calpers drew a line in the sand, warning Mr. Stout and his lawyers that in California, public pensions can be increased but never decreased, not just for retirees, but also for workers at midcareer.

What if the city is bankrupt and cannot afford it?

“They made it quite clear that they take that law very seriously,” Mr. Stout said. Calpers also warned that if the bankruptcy judge ruled that the state pension laws stopped at the federal courthouse door, Calpers would appeal, and make Vallejo pay its legal bills.

“We interpreted that as, ‘If we try, they’ll fight us through the courts forever,’ ” Mr. Stout said. He and Vallejo’s lawyers decided the city couldn’t afford it.

The city ended up cutting services sharply, gutting its retiree health plan, adding a 1 percent sales tax and cutting payments on its bonds. But its police officers and firefighters still qualify for full retirement at 50, and other city workers at 55.

Since Vallejo made no effort to cut pensions in bankruptcy, the legal issues remain untested, said Mr. Spiotto, the Chapter 9 lawyer.

“It’s something that’s in the process of being worked out, not only in California, but in every state,” he said. “It’s a global issue.”

A Calpers spokeswoman responded to questions by providing a 20-page position paper on the laws that protect public pensions in California. The report did not mention bankruptcy but acknowledged that some California cities were struggling.

“It will be vitally important for all interested parties to heed the legal rules protecting the vested rights of Calpers’s members,” the paper said. Challenges “may lead only to additional litigation and administrative costs.”

Critics in academic and legal circles say they believe Calpers wants to keep municipalities in its system because it needs to keep their contributions flowing in without interruption to cover the payouts it makes each month to retirees. Gov. Jerry Brown called that situation “a Ponzi scheme” last December, when he proposed a plan to lower public pension costs gradually, by offering smaller pensions to the workers that cities will hire in the future. The governor’s plan was strongly opposed by public employees’ unions, which have a strong voice in Calpers, and his fellow Democrats in the state Legislature have let it languish.

After Vallejo’s bankruptcy, Calpers’s board passed another rule that any municipality wanting to withdraw from its system would have to first pay off its shortfall, calculated in a way that makes the payment two to three times as big as in the past.

Stockton’s city manager, Robert Deis, is focusing on cutting retiree health benefits instead of pensions, because he said the retiree health plan was completely unfunded — as opposed to its pension being 70 percent funded — and the cost was growing at a faster rate.

Changing the pensions would also be complicated by the fact that some of Stockton’s retirees get both pensions and Social Security, and others get only their city pensions.

Still, the city’s annual contributions to Calpers for pensions, currently $30 million, are greater than its retiree health costs, $9 million this year. Even before the collapse of 2008, Stockton was struggling with its pension contributions. In 2007, it issued bonds to raise the cash it needed to send to Calpers. But then Calpers’s investments took a pounding in 2008, leaving Stockton with a new pension shortfall to cover — plus about $7 million of principal and interest to pay on the bonds every year.

Bankruptcy lawyers said that if such issues were not addressed in Stockton, they were likely to come up elsewhere soon.

“There are a bunch of cities in bad shape, and pensions are part of the problem,” said Mr. Skeel. “If you have a string of Chapter 9’s, I don’t think every one of them is going to say, ‘This enormous obligation can’t be touched.’ I think one of them is going to take the plunge.”




 

DON HALE'S WIFE — GLORIA — WHO HAS BEEN FIGHTING
ALS/LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE IS GOING SKY DIVING, READ WHY...
 

 





 

WEEKLY SNOPES URBAN LEGEND UPDATE AS OF MARCH 24, 2012

The facts behind the legends, information and
misinformation that has or may show up in your inbox

New Articles

• Screen capture purportedly shows errors in a Fox News report about the killings of seven people in Toulouse, France.
<http://www.snopes.com/media/goofs/toolooz.asp>

• Is Abercrombie & Fitch offering "ni**er brown" pants for sale?
<http://www.snopes.com/racial/business/abercrombie.asp>

• Video clip purportedly shows a man flying with human bird wings.
<http://www.snopes.com/photos/technology/humanbirdwings.asp>

• Is Toms Shoes giving away free merchandise to Facebook users?
<http://snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/tomsshoes.asp>

• Researchers have found a simple cure for cancer, but major pharmaceutical companies are not interested?
<http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/cancercure.asp>

• Is Pepsi using cells from aborted fetuses to create flavor enhancers?
<http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/pepsi.asp>

• Did President Obama mistake the Wisconsin state flag for a labor union banner?
<http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/quotes/wisconsin.asp>

• Did President Obama issue an executive order that gives the president unprecedented powers in time of national emergency?
<http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/ndrp.asp>

• Has the White House ordered a change to military funeral protocol to remove references to the President of the United States?
<http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/funeral.asp>

• Don't forget to visit our Daily Snopes page for a collection of odd news stories from around the world!
<http://www.snopes.com/daily/>


Worth a Second Look

• Photographs purportedly show a 17 pound, 3-foot German Giant rabbit.
<http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/giantrabbit.asp>


Still Haunting the Inbox

• Check out our 25 Hottest Urban Legends list to keep abreast of what's circulating in the on-line world.
<http://www.snopes.com/info/top25uls.asp>


Fraud Afoot

• Visit our Top Scams page for a list of schemes commonly used by crooks to separate the unwary from their money.
<http://www.snopes.com/fraud/topscams.asp>




 

THE LIGHTER SIDE & OTHER ODDS AND ENDS


Remember to click on the "Large Player" icon on the YouTube control panel in the lower right-hand corner of the video when you watch the first clip. If you do, all other YouTube videos should default to the same setting throughout the rest of your session at the computer.

 

• • • • •



Imagine for a moment that this Muslim extremist video received from Steve Postier had taken place in San Jose or another American city instead of London. If scenes like this are not a wake-up for the country, nothing is. (4 Mins)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hKEd6rzbeg>

 

• • • • •



In this era of the Internet and YouTube, one might think someone on the president's staff would caution him about the repeated us of certain cliches when he meets with foreign dignitaries. Could this clip prove a wee bit embarrassing for the White House? You'll have to decide after you see this Danish clip sent in by Lumpy. (4 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erYpXzE9Pxs>

 

• • • • •



I'm not normally comfortable using the word "adorable" (perhaps that's a guy thing), but there's no better way to describe this HP Printer commercial Tom Macris dropped in my inbox. (3 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=341rybZ42vA>

 

• • • • •



Don Hale (our Navy rep) has advised that the USS Iowa has been moved to a temporary birth at the Port of RIchmond and is open to the public for visits and tours until the end of April.


If you have a hankering to visit the Iowa, the first link below will provide you with all the info you will need while the second link will take you to an interesting article about the historical battleship.

<http://www.pacificbattleship.com/page/richmond>

<http://www.baycrossings.com/dispnews.php?id=2661>

 

• • • • •



Dean Janavice calls this one of the best hidden camera pranks he's ever seen. Watch it and you will see why he was once known as "Mean Dean." (4 Mins.)

<http://sorisomail.com/email/53346/um-babysitter-com-nervos-de-aco.html>

 

• • • • •



This is basically an ad for the $185,000 Y2K Super Bike powered by a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter turbine that makes it capable of 250 mph. After watching this clip sent in by Ron Mozley, I couldn't decide if it was its power or the cost that made me feel I was about to wet myself. You motor riders and owners might want to check out it out. (3 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol0q7cCPCZ0&feature=fvst>

 

• • • • •



The Mexican drug cartels don't stand a chance against the Mexican Army, and Bruce Morton has discovered video evidence that proves it. (1 Min.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNeKMUlnyh4>

 

• • • • •



Are up familiar with a double-barrel 1911? You will be if you click on this link sent in by Tom Cannell and watch the embedded video. (3 Mins.)

<http://tinyurl.com/7b94ozy>

 

• • • • •



Let's go back almost six years in time to the July 28, 2006 Farsider, and this item in particular...

Pete Graves says he's never seen so many sheep in one place at the same time. Some people have to stare at the photo for a few moments before they realize what they are looking at. And when they finally figure it out, some of them probably feel like a perfect ass...


Bruce Morton was so intrigued with the photo that he went on a six-year search to determine how it was made, but the best he could come up with was this footage of the dress (or undress) rehearsal.
(1 Min.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHwUIOaSsLs>

 

• • • • •



If you are looking to increase the mpg your ride gets due to the high cost of dead dinosaur juice, Lumpy suggests you try a porcelain carburetor. He says he was very impressed with this clip and is thinking of adapting one to his BMW motorcycle. (2 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IC_uPRb5b0>

 

• • • • •



Any of you brainiacs care to write in and explain to Dewey Moore (and us) how or why this phenomena of a bottle of water freezing instantly occurs? It doesn't look like a parlor trick. (2 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O47-QOWRTrk>

 

• • • • •



Last week we ran a short video clip showing a guy who appeared to be able to fly wearing a set of homebuilt wings and left it up to you to decide if it was real or fake. If you chose the latter, pat yourself on the back and click on the link below. (It's also covered in this week's Snopes update above.)

<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46822559/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.T2vdstVVX3A>

 

• • • • •



Sharon Lansdowne wasn't sure what a Living Bridge was until she watched this video that could prove useful to CalTrans now that California is out of dough and deeply in debt. (4 Mins.)

<http://www.snotr.com/video/7331/The_Living_Bridge>

 

• • • • •



Got a minute (actually one minute and 13 seconds)? Have a look at this short clip about a ridiculous traffic enforcement sign: (1:13 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2xnWYx8YK8>

 

• • • • •



Damn! Thanks to Sharon Lansdowne and her computer, every woman in the country will soon learn why we men like big tool boxes. (1 Min.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmX2NC5tAsQ>

 

• • • • •



Sharon's not satisfied with just letting the cat out of the bag regarding big tool boxes, she also wants to point out how violence on TV can bring out violence on the viewers. (20 Secs.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuLZ2Cl6YnU>

 

• • • • •



Ever wonder how much of what you see when you view a dramatic program is real or not? Watch this clip our Webmaster provided about HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and you'll likely come away saying not much was real at all. (4 Mins.)





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFHKwaW4Um8

 

• • • • •



Our final item this week came from Bruce Morton. Despite the fact that not a word is spoken in this short movie, it's as moving as it is poignant. Give it a try. (9 Mins.)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyZ9b4My6NU>

 

• • • • •


That's it. Thanks for joining us.

C'ya

Pic of the Week:

 

For sale: 2005 Volkswagen Golf, $8,500, excellent condition, low mileage, call 555-0123

 
   

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