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Monday, March 29, 2010

Sleight of Hand

The PERS Board and PERS Staff continue to fall all over themselves trying to weasel their way out of implementing SB 897, which was enacted during last month's special legislative session. This bill requires PERS to verify all information within 2 years of retirement if a member requests it. A member would be absolutely foolish to NOT request this verification. At today's PERB meeting, my reliable informants reported that the PERB voted to request that the 2011 Legislature reconsider this bill because it would enshine potential errors permanently in the process. My response is that if PERS wants to avoid this, they will take the time and apply the effort to making sure they don't make mistakes such as those that affected Kay Bell and others over the past 10 or so years. God knows how many others have been ensnared by PERS' laxity in preparing estimates and Notices of Entitlement. I'm sick and tired of PERS complaining that we are responsible for their errors but that they ARE NOT responsible for their errors. I'm really sorry but the volume of errors PERS makes is simply unacceptable. The only thing that will force them to clean up their act is the point of a very loaded gun.

Of course, the next step in the process is for PERS to complain of staff shortages and computer problems that make it hard for them to meet the deadline. This has been a recurrent theme of every piece of legislation implemented over the past decade. PERS simply does not want to take ownership of the system it is responsible for administering. It wants to have it both ways - it gets to make all the rules and it wants no responsibility for any mistakes that arise from its making the rules. Tough shit. PERS complains that it will need 13 additional FTE to handle these "verification" requests, on the assumption that 25% of potential PERS retirees will request them; if more than 25% request verification then more than 13 FTE will be required.

In typical PERS fashion, they allow that "estimates are not legally required", and that they might suspend formal written estimates if they have to make choices about what to do with limited resources. People will then be expected to rely on the, thusfar, almost worthless online calculator available on the PERS website. Of course, PERS promises to make it more accurate, if they have staff time and money to do it.

I am so sick and tired of this pile of horseshit from PERS. They have only one reason to exist - to manage OUR money, and to compute and pay our retirement benefits to us. They continue to act like retirees are inconveniences that they have to put up with and that their only responsibility is to try to KEEP retirees money, rather than pay it to them. It is long past due when PERS members can get a reliable and accurate benefit verification before making that life-changing decision to retire. We're awfully sorry that this troubles you PERS, but frankly we don't give a damn about your inability to do the work you're paid to do. This is just another attempt at sleight of hand - now you see it, now you don't.

My advice to members planning to retire within the next four years. As soon as PERS implements the verification method, apply for a verification. This will be the ONLY way you can be assured of getting something close to being accurate before you retire. Request it early because PERS will be swamped.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Must Be The Ganja

Today's Salem Statesman Journal has a full front page spread article on the sustainability of PERS. I have read every article in their series and I can tell you that there is not ONE SHRED of new information in this "tell all" story. It is just a bunch of rearranged paragraphs and rehashes of old articles appearing in the various news sources around the state since about mid-2009. It just goes to show you how desperate for news the dead-tree papers are. When there is nothing new to report, lets recycle some old news and make it appear as though some new, earth-shaking revelations can be drawn from rearranging electrons on a screen. Anything to sell ads; anything to keep the tea-partyer's partying.

I can only conclude that they got some bad ganja and ran out of newsworthy information today.

Boring. Again. Still.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Still Standing

Sorry to have dropped off the radar for awhile. Things have been pretty quiet on the PERS front, and I'm certain that nothing will change for awhile. I'm still waiting to determine the revised hearing date for the combined Arken and Robinson cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals. When I find out, I will post a note here and on POD.

On an unrelated note, I've received some emails from readers asking if the snowmobile accident up on the Three Sisters area was my wife and daughter. To have divined that from the newspaper accounts required that you know a lot more about me than is publically available. Nevertheless, it is correct that my wife and daughter were injured in a very freak snowmobile accident this past Monday. My wife was bruised up pretty severely but is otherwise OK. My daughter had to have stitches in her knee and she has multiple facial fractures that will require surgery relatively soon. We have snowmobiled for the past five years and both I and my wife are experienced snowmobilers. We always go in a guided tour and we don't own our own equipment. We were an on unfamiliar route with a new guide when my wife lost control of her dual going around a banked curve. The right "ski" on the snowmobile got entrapped on a snow shoe mogul and made it hard to steer out. My wife's glove got caught between the thumb-throttle and handle bar and the snowmobile wouldn't slow down. In desperation, she hit the brakes and the vehicle went into a slide ending up in some brush. Both my wife and daughter were thrown from the snowmobile. My wife ended up flat on her back, pinned under the left ski of the snowmobile. We were able to lift the snowmobile free and get her out and upright. My daughter took a fall from the snowmobile and hit a tree, suffering a deep laceration in her knee, and multiple fractures of the small bones around her right eye. The Deschutes County sheriff's search and rescue teams were able to ambu-sled them out and then they were transported to St Charles Hospital in Bend. They were kept under observation until about 8:30 Monday night and then both were released. We stayed at our house in Sunriver until yesterday when both seemed stable enough to return home. Both are resting comfortably at home. My daughter has an appointment with a facial surgeon on Monday to discuss surgical plans. She will probably have some wiring done to hold all the small bones together while they heal.

Thanks to those of you who were able to figure out that this was my family. The first I knew this was a news item was Wednesday morning when a family friend called me to find out if this was really my wife and daughter. That's when we discovered that the articles had added nearly 10 years to my wife's age - she was really insulted - and had some details incorrect. In any case, I suspect we'll not be snowmobiling again anytime soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Little Lion Man

Phil Keisling will be giving a presentation at PSU today, entitled "The 'Other Two' Oregons: Dimnensions and Implications of our Growing Generational Divide". Of course, Phil manages to work PERS into the discussion as he argues that non-discretionary spending at the federal and state level consume more and more of tight budgets.

Keisling isn't giving this presentation just to enhance his reputation; he is a candidate for the Director of Public Services in the Mark Hatfield School of Government. So, Phil appears to be wanting to leave his cloistered world of the private sector and looking to join in the PERS or ORP program of the Oregon University System. I don't know what the candidate field looks like at PSU, but I'd say that Phil probably has a lock on this position.

Soon he will be able to issue his reports with a group of graduate students helping him do his research. Not a bad job if you can get one.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Bye, Bye, Love

One of PERS members least favorite Board members, Brenda Rocklin, seems to have been replaced by Laurie Warner. Laurie, if I recall correctly, was the acting director of PERS for a period of time after Jim Voytko resigned and before Paul Cleary became Executive Director. That position was also filled by Brenda Rocklin. It appears that our Governor has a revolving door of two people who serve on the PERB in the position of managerial representative among PERS employers. We have Brenda Rocklin (SAIF) and Laurie Warner (DAS) who seem to exchange places as acting directors and Board members. Maybe they are just clones of each other and Ted can't tell them apart. Anyway, Brenda appears to be off the Board, and Laurie seems to be the new Board members. Thanks, Paul, for noting this.