The blog look is getting a bit tired and so I'm going to be experimenting with some new Blogger features over the next week. I have to be sure that I can preserve all the posts before I start changing things around. In the meantime, I'm starting with a new posting engine to see whether there is anything useful or different to "Blogo" than with "MarsEdit", which is my former tool. I've been trying to extract some PERS news, but there simply is nothing to report. Even over on Oregon PERS Discussion Group the conversation has declined to a trickle. It is either nine in the afternoon, or it is the calm before the storm. You decide.
Please don't post your comments more than once. I moderate all comments and a delay between posting and appearing is part of the drill here. I get to all comments in due time. Please don't continually repost the same comment. Only one will be posted. Thank you.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
Speaking of taxes and government, I got my PERS 1099 statements yesterday. Note the plural. I got two tax statements from PERS. I had forgotten that the year between one's 59th and 60th birthday marks a special occasion in tax land. About half way through you turn 59.5 years old. That magic point marks the crossover point where you are no longer subject to the IRS's special hell for taking "early distributions" of retirement income. In PERS-land, this event is marked by getting two 1099 forms. One form has Box 7 marked with a "7", which means "normal distribution" (i.e. you've reached official IRS retirement age and you can withdraw without a penalty). The other 1099 has box 7 marked with a "2), which means that you were subject to "early distribution" rules. It hardly matters when one is taking a PERS pension plus an annuity, but the IRS keeps track of these sorts of things. So now I'm street legal; I am really old enough to retire. If you get two 1099R's from PERS this year, you might have turned 59.5 sometime during the year; otherwise, you may be getting a variable distribution. If you got two for any other reason, it might be that PERS just likes to play with your head. Have fun doing your taxes. I'm having a blast doing mine. The AMT has only cost me $7000 so far this year. If I'm lucky, I can keep it under $10,000. Way down in the hole.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Many of these problems could be classed under the heading - better and more modern communications. From all the different sources I have, I understand that some on the Board still do not use email as a principal means of communication. In this day of cell phones, instant messaging, emails, text messaging, high gasoline prices, it astonishes me that people can't grasp just how important immediate communication can be in this rapidly changing world. I don't see how anything productive comes from having to mail out agendas, or to pick them up by driving to a central locations. I don't see how timely issues can be put on meeting agendas when communication is limited in this way. This was an issue Martha Sartain complained about, and was one of the reasons that Greg Scott volunteered to redo the OPRI web site. From my observations over the past year or so, not many of these things have changed dramatically. Few of us use OPRI as an information source. It's information is "so yesterday" by the time it gets posted on the OPRI website. And this is the point I don't get. OPRI is often the last to communicate this information to its members. Why shouldn't it be out front? You can't do this living in the 19th century. Queen Victoria's mail system and Henry Ford's transportation system no longer cut it. We're all living in Tim Berners-Lee's world and we expect and seek information instantaneously. OPRI needs to move way forward on this front if it expects to sustain itself over the next 10 - 15 years or longer.
I'm willing to cut the new Board some slack, give it time to get its act together, and start acting like it is in the latter part of the 20th century. There is no excuse for not modernizing this end of the organization. A majority of the Board *must* grasp this. Hopefully they can gently nudge the others on the Board to the modern world The new Board *must* emphasize that they want to connect with newer retirees by starting to act like they understand the wants and needs of more recent retirees. Most of us are willing to wait - a little while - to see whether the new board is falling or flying. Hopefully, we'll see some flying. We don't need any more falling. The other side is too sophisticated to afford us the luxury of terminal anachronism.
Note added later today: I actually had occasion to want to email OPRI today. I discovered that there is no email contact on their web site. I *can* email their lobbyist, but why is OPRI paying a lobbying firm to handle email? This is what I mean by an organization that just isn't nimble, that just isn't with it, and that actively seems to be trying to disengage with its own membership. They've got to try a whole lot harder than they're doing. A post office box and a lobbyist email address just aren't sufficient these days. Worse still, the lobbyist email address is a dead letter box. My emails just bounce back. Thus, except by sending snail mail, there seems to be no way to contact OPRI. This sucks.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
As I said this morning, I have a local attorney experienced in these matters who volunteered to take my case pro bono. I still haven't decided whether it is worth the time or effort. I suspect that once the attorney finds out how many stun guns PERS throws up in his face, he might rethink his offer. My guess is that he needs paying clients far worse than he needs this grief. It is probably better to wait for the horse to Kantor. Perhaps then the house of cards will finally start falling down.
While I tend to share relatively little personal information on *this* site, I've been trying to reduce my carbon footprint a bit. I drive a big SUV that gets crummy gas mileage. We can't afford to get rid of the car because we still need it for travel and for hauling the dog around. But I've decided to buy a new toy that gets far better gas mileage - 32 combined MPG - without purchasing an ugly hybrid (sorry Prius owners, but those cars have no style and I'm a stylin' kind of guy). So, yesterday I took the plunge and bought myself a new Mini Cooper. If I can figure out how to use the MiniUSA site to capture the image of *my* car, as configured, I'll post it. Like any fuel-efficient car, Mini's are not exactly plentiful on the lots these days. Mine is on order and won't be here until late March. I drove one for hours yesterday and I've never been in a 118 hp car with so much power and is so much fun to drive. Of course, it will be an utter pain in the rear on the Sunset Highway (26) at about 5 pm, but while I'm creeping along, I'll take comfort in the fact that the miles per gallon is an underestimate and that I won't be spewing out hydrocarbons costing me $3.25 or more per gallon for 15 miles per gallon. I'll try to figure out how to post a picture in case anyone cares. My daughter - 16 in April - is already pissed at me because I bought a manual transmission and I'm not going to teach her how to drive it right away. She can drive the car we've saved for her, poor mistreated child. Here's my soon-to-be gas-sipper
Friday, January 11, 2008
Think of it this way. If Kroger defeats Macpherson in the May primary, Macpherson not only doesn't get the AG's job, but he's also out of the Legislative pictures. It isn't too often that you get to kill two birds with one vote. Go Kroger.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
I could maunder on all day about the distant past, but my post today is really a followup on a post a few weeks back entitled "Last of the True Believers". In that, I reported that Steve Delaney, who had been Associate Director of PERS, was leaving to become the Director of Orange County's Public Employee Retirement System. As we crossed over into the New Year I began to think about all of the past PERS luminaries who've left since the reform legislation, and the unfortunates left to carry out the task of being waterboys (and girls) for the current group of Gubernatorial lackeys (the PERS Board). I won't name all names, in part because I've lost track and in part because I don't want to reveal my own ignorance. But, it appears that the list of departures not only left a gigantic hole in the PERS institutional memory, it wiped out a gigantic swatch of intellectual firepower. We have David Bailey, who had been the Associate Director from the late 1990's to 2003, who is now the Director of the PERS System in San Mateo County (San Francisco and environs), Craig Stroud, who went back to his position with DAS, Steve Delaney who is the new Director in Orange County, Jim Voytko, who is now the president of a consulting group in Portland that helps Public Employee retirement systems in, at last count, 20 different states and hundreds of municipalities, and Marsha Bacon, former director of customer service at PERS, who was, at last sighting, working with Jim Voytko at his current employer. In addition, dozens of former customer services and second tier analysts have left PERS for other positions, or have retired and taken positions in the private sector.
So, I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate the Legislature and the Governor, and Greg Macpherson, for achieving a number of things. First, they managed to drive out the largest wave of talent in the public sector at any time in history between early 2003 and the end of 2004. While all the agencies and districts have limped on, anyone visiting a public agency today will see the consequence of this exodus. Way to go Leg and Gov. Second, they managed to piss off the largest wave of retirees in Oregon history. And the anger is only building as the courts continue to drag their feet and PERS, in its current incarnation, continues its reckless and willful disregard of the law. They say that the lord works in mysterious ways. I suspect that the mystery will be cleared up during 2008 as a large number of incumbents in the legislature get their walking papers. I also suspect that their will be a very unpleasant backlash if the PERS Coalition wins at the Circuit Court level and the PERB continues to press for "summary judgement." Retirees aren't going to take all of this quietly, kindly, or lying down. This one certainly won't. And finally, the Legislature and Governor managed to drive away the largest collection of talent and experience INSIDE PERS itself, leaving the only the hardened, the inexperienced, the talentless, and the immobile group that today acts so maliciously and ruthlessly towards retirees. One often wonders whether this group behaves the way it does because they *can't* retire and are stuck in deadend jobs, or whether they are too stupid to realize the damage they're doing. I guess time will tell.
Where have all the flowers gone? Laughing all the way to the bank. Welcome to 2008 - a year of hope, of opportunity, and most of all, of justice.