On Tuesday night there were two big meetings, the City Council and the School Board meeting. Honestly though anyone with any kind of interest in City business, particularly budgets, should be required to watch the meeting from Tuesday night because a lot of information was laid out there and served to correct a lot of misinformation that has been floating around and based on that information folks have reached conclusions about the state of Alameda’s government and budget.
The meeting kicked off with Councilmember Doug deHaan’s appointee to the Open Government Commission doing a hit and run public comment saying that the City Council has done nothing to address post-retirement benefits in the City of Alameda and that they will have to moving forward. Which made me stop and say to myself, “Self, there really should be a requirement that members of the Open Government Commission really understand what the hell is going on in the Government that they will be tasked with watchdogging.”
This was the response to that by Mayor Marie Gilmore, which I thought was well done in light of the discussion on this blog around the subject of post-retirement benefits and in light of the San Jose and San Diego post-retirement benefits vote:
For those that don’t want to watch:
I’m really sorry that our speaker left because he brought up a really important point about pensions and benefits. The cities of San Diego and San Jose created their own pension plans and as such they created it and they can change it with simply a vote of their residents. Alameda, on the other hand, belongs to the state pension plan system called CalPers. And so in order for our pension plan system to change it has to be something that takes a vote of the citizens of California because it is not our pension system the way it is in San Jose and San Diego we cannot put a measure on the ballot unilaterally slashing pensions costs and benefits if a majority of the residents would vote for it.
Once again, for everybody following along at home, our pension plan is a plan that is a creature of the state and therefore the citizens in California would have to vote on it to change it unlike the cities of San Diego and San Jose who have their own pension plans and their citizens can vote to change that anytime they want.
Now that’s not to say that we’re not looking at the issue and we’re not thinking about options which is why the pension committee which is looking at this is coming back in September.
Just to reiterate for those who don’t want to read through a long narrative either.
- San Jose and San Diego have their own pension plans
- Alameda’s pension plan is CalPers
- San Jose and San Diego citizens can vote to adjust pension plans
- Any adjustment to CalPers (and therefore Alameda’s pension plan) would have to be done by a statewide vote and not a local vote
John Russo went on to explain that the pension committee will have a two-phase report. The first will outline the extent of the problem and gaps. The second will address the other post-retirement benefits (OPEB).
On the issue of pensions and things. City Manager John Russo also noted on Tuesday night that he plans on re-opening negotiations with bargaining units this summer. Yes, you read that right, this summer. I know some people thought that the new contracts that were signed last year were locked in as some sort of cushy kickback to the public safety unions and that the recent other bargaining unit contracts were locked in prior to the election, but John Russo was very clear that negotiations will begin again AND there will be an expectation of more concessions.
More on pensions and things tomorrow.