Peter Adam

Paul Wellman

Peter Adam

Road Maintenance Proposal Punted

Peter Adam’s Ordinance Will be Examined in February

Thursday, January 9, 2014
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The fate of the deferred-maintenance ordinance proposed by 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam (pictured) was unanimously delayed to February, as the supervisors on Tuesday requested that county staff further analyze the proposal and compare what it would mean for the county’s finances if it becomes law versus if it doesn’t. The supervisors could have adopted the ordinance or placed it on the June ballot, but instead decided they needed more information before choosing between those two options.

Adam, who moved forward with his plan after he failed to garner enough support to tackle the county’s deferred-maintenance backlog ​— ​estimated at $250 million for county roads, $30 million for county buildings, and $20 million for parks ​— ​at the June budget talks, said, “We have to do our annual maintenance. We have to stop ignoring the maintenance.”

If Adam’s ordinance were to be either adopted by the county or approved by the voters, it would require the department heads of Public Works, Parks, and General Services to inform the CEO every year on how best to maintain the infrastructure’s current conditions. The CEO would have to likewise inform the supervisors, who would have to make sure those conditions are upheld or improved. The board would be prohibited from incurring debt to ease the backlog.

Although Adam’s colleagues congratulated him on getting nearly 16,000 valid signatures for the proposal to be eligible for consideration ​— ​13,201 were required ​— ​they also said they needed some questions answered before making a decision. Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr expressed concerns with how the baseline quality will be measured and whether the no-debt stipulation would simply shift debt to other services. Several supervisors have previously argued against prioritizing deferred maintenance, stressing the need to balance that with other services and hesitating to eat into the county’s $29 million rainy-day fund to help solve the problem. The board will receive the analysis, and also consider possible ballot language, at its February 4 meeting.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Keep it up Adams. You are on the right track.

You need more help on the BOS after the next election - one more vote and this county can get back on track. Third district is the obvious need for change, but no reason change can't come from the second district as well.

We all share the same problems: huge unfunded county pension liabilities and massive backlog of unfunded maintenance and repairs, let alone any hope for actual county infrastructure improvements.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 12:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So this proposal would include no new revenue, merely a mandate to shift unspecified amounts from unspecified current spending obligations to new engineering and pavement company contracts? Is this really a good idea? Is this really "... on the right track"? Not in my book.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 4:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yes, it's a good idea. our local gov is twice the size it was 10 years ago for the (approximately) same size population. Too much money goes to social causes and not enough to basics - like infrastructure. The local gov has given the store to the local gov employee unions and is now crying poormouth. I call BS on that...

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 6:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Too much present county revenues go to fund future county personnel promises tomorrow, and bloated county staffing and benefits today.

Sorry, but that's the truth. The loser of course is the county infrastructure. Adams is right.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 6:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BS. If you want facts about the county retirement system, go here: . The fund is flush, the system is sound, and the county's not going to go belly-up because of its contractual pension obligations.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 3:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If you read a bit further, you'll find that the county has $187 million in unfunded employee liabilities other than pension benefits. The pension fund has assets of $2B and liabilities of $2.8B, ie $800 million in unfunded liabilities. Add the two and the county has nearly $1B in unfunded liabilities for employee pensions and benefits. Hardly sound. Where do you think that $1B is going to come from?

Those are the facts. no BS.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 9:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It is coming from continuing employer & employee contributions, and investment returns.The fund is at its highest valuation ever, and is very well and professionally managed. Don't cherry-pick statistics that purport to back up your obvious bias, which is anti-government and anti-worker.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 9:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I read further in Greg's ref, , JL, and no BS he is right, the system is sound; you do seem to display an anti-government/anti-worker bias just like foo. Please study it further and remove your self-imposed blinders.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 10:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am curious as to how the two of you determined that "the system is sound"?

I'm also curious how you determined that the billion dollar unfunded liability will be funded. Investment return assumptions among gov retirement plans are highly optimistic just about everywhere and retirement payments will increase in the future -will they increase faster or slower than contributions? The amount of money in the fund today by itself is meaningless without a calculation of expected inflows and outflows. Where is that information? The answer: that is what "unfunded liability" means.

BTW, I am anti big government, big labor, big business, big education, big anything. Big becomes self-serving and self-perpetuating.

And I am particularly against workers electing the people that pay them. Inherently corrupt system. But I digress - my original point was that of the billion dollar unfunded liability in SB County.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 2:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The headline almost sounds medical.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 6:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One reason the county unfunded liability continues to grow, is with each raise the amount of the "defined benefit" at time of retirement also grows.

This makes the current public retirement plan doubly punishing and why there is less money for present services for the rest of us.

Defined-benefit public pension plans are ruinous and we need five county supervisors who will end this 100% unsustainable practice.

Pay present employees well with present dollars. Qualify for social security and Medicare and offer nothing more than a defined-contribution (401K type) additional retirement benefit.

Do not elect any supervisor who does not commit to full transition to defined-contribution pension plans immediately.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 6:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

-sigh- Where to start? First: "Investment return assumptions among gov retirement plans are highly optimistic just about everywhere and retirement payments will increase in the future -will they increase faster or slower than contributions?" The county retirement system (SBCERS--which also covers a large number of special districts) has reduced its long-term average expected rate of return from 8.16% to 7.5%, even though the higher number historically has been met. Every year an actuarial study is done and contribution rates are adjusted accordingly; every three years an "experience" study is done that looks at, among other things, changes in retiree life expectancy and many other criteria that go into the forecasting of fund health. The demonized "cost of living adjustments" (COLAs) for retirees are capped at 3% per year, even if overall inflation exceeds that amount, as it did in spades in the '80s and parts of the '90s.

Second: "One reason the county unfunded liability continues to grow, is with each raise the amount of the 'defined benefit' at time of retirement also grows." The unfunded liability does not "continue to grow," but in fact is getting smaller. The unfunded liability was zero within recent memory; it was created by a combination of both employers and employees foolishly under-contributing during the boom times in the late '90s (under-funding), and recession-depression investment losses in the '00s (under-performance). Contribution rates, from both employers and employees, are adjusted annually; both increase along with "each raise" in employee compensation. Let me repeat that for emphasis: contribution rates increase along with employee raises.

Third: "Defined-benefit public pension plans are ruinous..." As I began, -sigh- No, they are not--they are a lynchpin of a healthy economy and society. Fobbing off old people's existence on Social Security and Medicare isn't sound public policy. The money that goes into public pension plans is invested and becomes part of the worldwide economic engine, hence the investment returns that constitute most of the funds' continuing and healthy long-term average growth. As previously noted, annual cost-of-living increases in retiree benefits are capped at 3%, even for old-timers who saw double-digit inflation in the past. Is it all sustainable? My fact-based conclusion is, yes, as long as everyone keeps pulling their own weight. It also would be wise to keep an eagle eye on the jackals and vultures that nearly picked all of us clean in 2007-08 and continue to try to do so.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 11, 2014 at 4:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Excellent post, Mr. Mohr.

I would point out, however, that the 10 year return on the county pension fund is 6.7% and that does not include the disastrous market crash of 1999. Rather less than the 7.5% target, much less the ridiculous 8.16% number.

And I will continue to rail against defined benefit pension plans for public employees as they ultimately cost the taxpayer more. Defined contribution works just fine.

I do have one question. Are the public employee pension contributions adjusted annually? Even the union employees? Never heard that one b4.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 11, 2014 at 8:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Keep in mind there are several moving parts to the public pension Ponzi scam:

1. Rate of return
2. Growth of principal
3. Inherent unsustainability of promised payouts
4. Status of pension contracts in bankruptcy courts
5. Tipping point of taxpayer backlash
6. Vulnerability to public initiative process

If I were a public employee, I would start investing right now in a private pension Plan B.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 11, 2014 at 9:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You guys or gals, whoever you are, must work for brokerage firms. And I have no doubt that you'll both continue to rail against the totality of facts and objective reality in your pursuit of... whatever. Do you get paid for posting your stuff? Just curious; I don't.

Oh, one last thing to clarify, since I was imprecise above: employee contributions are a flat percentage of pay. If pay goes up x%, retirement contributions go up x%; if pay goes down x% through, let's say, a mandatory furlough, retirement contributions go down x%. It's a flat tax--even Steve Forbes should love that. Contribution RATES, as a percentage of pay, are subject to adjustment in contract negotiations or by legislative fiat, as happened recently when employee contribution rates went up substantially while pay stagnated or, through mandatory furloughs, decreased.

I'm done here--got better things to do at the moment.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 11, 2014 at 11:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Public compensation will be reformed. You are wasting your breath mincing any other out-dated details. Present pay for present services, and you fund the rest of what you want from your present salary. Done.

You get paid well because we want good people and we don't want to leave these public servant positions open to corruption. But that is all you get - present pay with present dollars. It will work. Don't panic.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 11, 2014 at 3:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't get paid to post . My only interest here is as a taxpayer. How about you Mr. Mohr? Government employee??

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 12, 2014 at 9:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

you get paid to post, foo: admit who your sponsors, eh? Sleuthing may be in order.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 12, 2014 at 1:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a taxpayer, I get more money taken away because of the recent decades of "progressive" malfeasance. That is why I post too.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 12, 2014 at 2:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I said I was done here but, like a car wreck scene, couldn't resist checking.

I'm a retired county employee, with over 28 years of very proud service, all very public. And I'm a proud taxpayer--we don't get any breaks, and pay property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, et al., the same as foo and locke. To paraphrase the bard: "If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tax us, do we not pay?"

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2014 at 7:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Greg, it is in everyone's best interests to convert all public pensions to defined contribution plans and phase out all defined-benefit pension plans. You slipped through the cracks so count yourself as inappropriately benefited.

Failure to account for the efficiency or validity of public services rendered make your claim of "proud service" a moot point.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2014 at 9:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Foo, -sigh-. You said, amazingly, " is in everyone's best interests to convert all public pensions to defined contribution plans and phase out all defined-benefit pension plans." -sigh-

There is no factual basis for your professorial, conclusive, ideology-based statement. Please--not just you, but anyone else who may read this--check out , in particular the two links on the left side for "Resource Database" and "Studies and Reports." Members of the CRCEA (CA Retired County Employees Assn.), including me, have collected a large body of facts that contradict, if not utterly disprove, your statement.

As for your personal insults, thanks very much for your comments. Have a great life.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 19, 2014 at 1:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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