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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gotta Be Somebody

For PERS members and retirees, one of the toughest decisions in the upcoming election will be that for Oregon Treasurer. The two principal candidates are Ben Westlund (D) and Allen Alley (R). For different reasons, each would make a good Treasurer. On the PERS Oregon Discussion Group, I explained why I couldn't make a choice between these two and suggested that my wife and I would be splitting our votes. In the interim, several more informed members of POD persuaded me to look closely at Allen Alley's performance as CEO of PixelWorks, the high tech graphics company that Alley founded. I confess that I hadn't done so before Frank (in particular) made the suggestion. It was eye-opening to look at PixelWorks from the perspective of judging the CEO as a possible Oregon State Treasurer. In effect, the Oregon State Treasurer's job is to insure that all of the various funds under his/her management remain solvent, vibrant, and able to pay out promised benefits to all the various beneficiaries. From that perspective, Alley's tenure at Pixelworks has been dismal. Several years ago, the stock traded at about $10 per share. Since then, the stock has dropped to an eye-popping $0.94 per share (you read that right). It might be up or down depending on today's stock market crisis, but I think you get my drift here. While no one expected stellar performance in the volatile market of today (though look at Apple for a stark contrast), I think that a healthy company would have done better than to drop to one tenth its value in the span of only a few years, if that long.

Alley has been running on his business acumen and experience; Westlund has been running on his own business experience as well as his experience in the Legislature. He has reached across the aisle (when he was a Republican to Democrats, and as a Democrat to Republicans). All things considered now, I am convinced that Ben Westlund would be the best choice for State Treasurer. I endorse him wholeheartedly. I think he will be the best person to safeguard the PERS Fund. While Alley *might* do a good job, his experience at Pixelworks and their stock performance in the recent past do not give me a warm fuzzy feeling about how well he would do with a fund valued at $60 billion. To be sure, the fund is actually managed by the Oregon Investment Council, but the OIC is nominally headed by the Treasurer. I think I'd prefer someone who hasn't had the kind of experience Alley has. And, as for Alley's advisory role with Governor Kulongoski, I believe that was in Ted's first term - a term in which the PERS contract was broken repeatedly by Ted and his henchmen in the Legislature.

So, to reiterate, if you are still undecided in the Treasurer's race, I wholeheartedly endorse Ben Westlund.


MollyNCharlie said...

As someone who worked hard to get Ted the K elected as governor promising to 'protect' PERS benefits, only to see him turn around and shred the PERS system; when you mentioned earlier that Alley was part of Ted's early team I knew my mind was made up. I'm willing to try Westland, even if he has been a member of every major party.


mrfearless47 said...

A reader from the Eugene area sent me a note about a radio show in which both Alley and Westlund were interviewed. When the topic came to PERS, Westlund commented that he was satisfied with the way the PERS Fund was being managed and that he wanted to keep the investment team in tact. Alley was less satisfied, although not unsatisfied. His goal was to bring in a few of his own people to streamline the investments. This scares the hell out of me. This is a guy who is the CEO of a high tech company that has lost about 90% of its share value in about 18 months' time. No way do I want him tinkering with the PERS Fund. Vote Westlund.