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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beyond The Great Divide

Lies PERS. The PERB packet for this Friday's meeting contains an interesting (if pleasant) surprise. If you go to the PERS website and look at the 11/21/08 Board packet, you'll see Legislative Concept 332 near the end of the (relatively short) packet. It involves reemployment of retired PERS members. Although the concept is nuanced and would be technically more complex to implement than appears in the document, it contains some relatively good news for those interested in returning to work for a PERS employer. I won't reiterate the document here. It is clear enough to read at the web site. In short, if you've been retired for more than 6 months, this LC wouldn't require you to repay money PERS has already paid you since you first retired. Instead, it would cut off your benefits while you work, and restore them after you retire again. The only catch is that the money already paid would be deducted from your corpus for subsequent retirement. That only seems fair to me.

Do keep in mind that this is *only* a Legislative Concept (an idea). It will require this to be converted into an actual bill that makes it through the Legislature and gets signed into law. But it is nice to see something positive come from PERS for a change, instead of the typical punitive stuff that it (and the employers) have been responsible for in the past. Perhaps we're beyond the point of bashing employees and retirees, and employers have discovered that talented and experienced workers are hard to find these days. Maybe they'd like some of us back for awhile. Maybe some of us might like to come back for awhile. Who knows. If we dream a bit, maybe we can see across the great divide.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Changing of the Guards

America has awoken and it has spoken loud and clear. We have elected a new President at this critical crossroads in our history. I have hope again. I'm excited again. And I'm enthusiastic that if anyone can bring some sanity back to the United States, Barack Obama can do so. He crossed the partisan divide, the racial divide, and the gender divide to rack up an historic win in one of the ugliest political campaigns in my memory. Obama largely remained above the fray and let his opponents sully their own reputation by dragging up useless facts from Obama's past. But that is behind us now.

Regardless of how you voted yesterday, I hope that we all take the next two months to consider how this election will change the world's opinion of us, and our opinion of ourselves. We have made history. Let us all hope and pray to the deity of your choice, that President-Elect Obama can parlay this mandate he's been given into the massive transformation needed to restore our country to its greatness.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Life Short, Call Now

The saga of Kay Bell continues. As most are aware, Kay Bell received some pretty crummy advice from PERS, retired based on that advice, and subsequently sued PERS when she learned that the advice was wrong and that PERS wanted money back (This has nothing to do with the problems of window retirees. Bell's case is somewhat unique). The PERS Coalition represented Ms. Bell in a jury trial in Marion County this past year. The ruled ruled unanimously in her favor and awarded her damages in excess of $100,000. Subsequently, PERS filed a motion to reduce Ms. Bell's award to $100,000 to comply with the Oregon Tort Claims Act. The judge ruled in PERS' favor, agreeing to reduce the jury's award and also to deny Ms. Bell interest on the outstanding amount.

PERS has now announced its intention -- big surprise -- to appeal the verdict to the Oregon Court of Appeals. In the meantime, a Legislative task force is exploring ways to remedy the problem that the Bell case has exposed -- PERS' responsibility to provide reasonably accurate pre-retirement estimates, and to find some way to remedy the circumstances when such estimates turn out to be completely inaccurate through no fault of the retiree. It is likely that some of this will be solved legislatively during the 2009 session.

The saga of the White case also continues. Judge Kantor cancelled the hearings on White and advised the advocates that he will either rule in favor of the defendants for summary judgement, or allow the PERS Coalition to file cross-motions for summary judgement. This case has been going on since April 2004 and has yet to be heard formally before any jurisdiction. Depositions were taken last summer with the hope that the case could be resolved during 2007. It is unlikely now that the case will be resolved before 2009, assuming there are no appeals of Judge Kantor's ruling.

If you haven't voted, be sure to get your vote in no later than 8 pm tomorrow night. It is too late to mail your ballot. Find a local ballot drop-off site and carry your ballot there. This election has too many important decisions to shrug off. Regardless of who wins, the country is in for some major changes.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

After The Thrill Is Gone

I'm going to violate my rule about injecting politics (except about PERS) in this site. I am writing only to say that this has been the longest political silly season in my entire 61 years of existence. It is no longer fun, no longer inspiring, and just seems mean, nasty, and ugly. There has not been a single campaign whose approach I liked (after the first 15 minutes). I've been badgered for money, hectored for money, abused for money, and no matter how much you give, it isn't enough. All for the privilege of watching, hearing, or reading another savage attack on another politician. I no longer care at this point what happens on Tuesday (OK, hyperbole, I do care), but I am so sick of politics that I wish to be disconnected completely from it for about 2 years. Unfortunately, the way our system is structured, we'll be freed from politicking (not politics) only from about January 1, until after the first 100 days of Congress and the Presidency. After that, everyone starts thinking about and organizing the next election cycle. Yuck.

I'm spending this afternoon with some old friends and some new friends at the home of the children of one of Oregon's most beloved politicians, long-retired from the game. It will be a pleasure to have something else to talk about for a change.

For me the thrill ended about two months ago. What about you?