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Monday, February 17, 2014

Whipping Boy

The news on PERS these days is pretty spare.  Things will heat up again next month when the special master starts taking the written briefs and arguments from the plaintiffs and the responses from the defendants.  These will be posted on the Bennett-Hartman website as they are received and processed.  When the first of these links go up, I will post a clickable link to them.  The Legislature “seems” to be in session, although nothing related to PERS has been posted.  There was a brief kerfuffle when a legislator from the southern valley tried to help one of his “friends” (a PERS member) gain a benefit that few of us can access - an exception to the 1039 hour rule that would have allowed certain designated members (sheriffs, police chiefs, fire captains, etc) to retire, but continue to work full time because they were in a hard-to-replace position in a small community.  The present law allows this for communities under 75,000, but the amendment (which died after getting publicly trashed by the media) would have raised the threshold to 110,000.  It never ceases to amaze me how much chutzpah legislators have when it comes to PERS.  Trash the ordinary member who has worked a full career in public service, but create special exceptions for their friends.  Bah, humbug, and worse.

Trashing and beating public employees continues to be a national sport.  The John and Laura Arnold Foundation continues to fund efforts across the country to get states, municipalities, school districts and the like to take away benefits for future retirees, and to reign the existing benefits in for current retirees.  The COLA reduction movement is a specific area the Arnold Foundation has funded in many states across the country.  Last fall, PBS (including OPB), ran the first of a number of programs on “Pension Peril”, which followed the Arnold script fairly closely.  In a scathing article published on Pando, former Washington Post columnist David Sirota, wrote an article entitled “The Wolf of Sesame Street” exposing the role the Arnold Foundation played in funding the series for WNET, the NYC public broadcasting affiliate.  It turns out that WNET had actually solicited the money from the Arnold Foundation, and the Arnold Foundation happily donated the $3.5 million needed to finance the program.  Sirota documented the violations of the Public Broadcasting Charter in pretty significant and damning detail.  After a week of backtracking, double-speaking, denials, and plain B.S., WNET finally decided to return the $3.5 million to the Arnold Foundation and effectively terminate any further development of the series.  As I said elsewhere, it will be hard to measure the damage done by the early installment of the series (I did not watch it), but it is a small victory for public outcry and for David Sirota’s activism that WNET realized what a public relations disaster this was and did the only thing it could do to stem the further erosion of its public image.  Despite this, public employees still seem to be everyones’ “whipping boy” for the foreseeable future.

I’m done with my fall/winter traveling after logging 33,000 miles between late October and today.  We are taking a break from long stints on crowded airplanes, eating out, sleeping in unfamiliar and often uncomfortable beds.  I will be around for all the public hearings on the SB 822/SB 861 lawsuits.

Stay tuned.

16 comments:

Richard Weinberger said...

Thanks For sharing

small business assistance

Bob Frazier said...

Ruling on a case stemming from 2011 legislation, the Arizona Supreme Court said Thursday that the Legislature can't cut cost-of-living increases promised to judges and state elected officials.

http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/24786455/cost-of-arizona-pensions-ruling-estimated-at-375m

mrfearless47 said...

@bob. That will be a relevant case when ours comes before the court in September. It might even be relevant before the special master in April.

Unknown said...

No matter what side people are on the PBS program was an important topic. I think it was unfortunate PBS gave in not because of the program but because of groups that do not like the Arnold Foundation. Using that standard Oregon PB should refuse funds from most foundations. Oregon has been mostly exempt from the pension abuses of many states. Look at CALPERS and the policies that allowed many people to retire with pensions paying hundreds of thousands of dollars each year or Detroit where Unions managed to control pension decisions that helped bankrupt the city. David Sirota is a very partisan reporter who manged to influence his followers who just did not like the message being delivered.

mrfearless47 said...

@Unknown. You give people too much credit for their intellect. Since as you say "...Oregon has been mostly exempt from the pension abuses of many states..." The fact that this is true, opens the question of whether OPB should have even broadcast the program since it doesn't really apply to Oregon. By giving the program oxygen, it opens the door to all sorts of unnecessary attempts to legislate, litigate, and pour endless amounts of legal expenses into a program that has nut been subject to the kinds of abuses people seem to associate with it. The issue with the Arnold Foundation is the fact that WNET went to them for the money ($3.5 million) to fund the cost of the program, AND, in turn, gave the Arnold Foundation some editorial control over its content. That violates two primary rules set up for PBS: 1) that PBS not accept sole source donations for a program, and 2) that donors not have any editorial control over the program. WNET violated both of these rules, which have been set in concrete since the act authorizing Public Broadcasting was passed in the 1950s. Whether I like David Sirota or the Arnold Foundation is immaterial to the argument that WNET was plain wrong to air the series under those circumstances. Sirota merely pointed out where the emperor is naked.

Unknown said...

Both the Arnold Foundation and WNET state neither Arnold or any of the other founders had any control or made any suggestions regarding content and from what I have read Sirota offered no proof to dispute that fact. Also the topic had several founders although Arnold was the largest.

mrfearless47 said...

I've read otherwise that wnet let Arnold review the product and make "suggestions" for improvement. Moreover, while there may have been other sponsors, the Arnold's donated more than 75% of the funds for he series. Whatever you may think, the Arnold's had more or less complete control of the program. Even further, the Arnold's' role in discrediting public employee retirement plans is well known and unless there is psychic unit of mankind, the series matched almost word for word the Arnold's' position on all elements of their pension beefs.

Unknown said...

So if the Arnold money is tainted as they believe pension reform should occur the MIT should refund their grant of 15 million for poverty research, or the 35 million they gave for obesity research, or the other 200 million last year. I have spent hundreds of hours writing grants for non-profits and the Arnold Foundation is one of the great ones. I believe WNET when they say Arnold's had no inputt or control. Either way WNET is regrouping and still working on the series and Arnold's are funding many other PBS programs from black history month to nova.

mrfearless47 said...

My problem is that I don't believe Wnet when they say the money didn't taint the show. That its conclusion were identical to what the foundation advocates, which is pretty draconian, suggests the were under the influence when they wrote for the series. As for the rest, I don't know and I don't care. We will have to agree to disagree and end this discussion.

mrfearless47 said...

http://pando.com/2014/02/28/an-anti-pension-billionaire-shows-the-five-rules-of-deceptive-native-advertising/?utm_source=PandoDigest&utm_campaign=4618f17896-PandoDigest_December_9_2013_copy_09_12_11_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2f01c2729e-4618f17896-81036961

More on the pension peril architect. Not a pretty picture.

Unknown said...

Your blog so you obviously have the right to post anything you want. Members of the pers discussion group though deserve more information on the writer and his sources. His latest article quotes extensively from a very liberal think tank that promotes views favorable to their readers. The author himself has a checkered past of deceptive practices and writes for a very specific liberal viewpoint. Our pension debate needs to use true facts and not biased opinion pieces.

mrfearless47 said...

How about some disclosure about yourself? Sirota is out there for anyone to research. The fact that he quotes from the Brookings institute is largely because the Arnolds stealthily
funded some of their research too. In the meantime it is hard to search "unknown" to find out how he or she might be biased, or not.

Btw. I "own" the discussion group too, but I am no more under obligation to do research for people there than I am to do it on any piece I link to here as a comment.

Unknown said...

Any time a discussion devolves to arguing about "True Facts" I shake in my boots. Coming out of the expertness of my life, there is a serious attack on Pensions all over the US. At the time people were working to earn these benefits they were promised that such pensions were contractual and would absolutely be there in retirement. Now, when it is too late in life to return to work; 'They' (industry, big business, government, etc.) want to change the rules because paying for such plans has become inconvenient. My perspective is that I can be paid the retirement I earned or taxpayers can support me on various welfare programs. Take your pick. But that is just how I see it.
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mpguy said...

Good point, Marc. Like most readers of this blog, I, too, would like to know more about "Unknown."

So, "Unknown," why don't you give us some background about yourself? Might help us better evaluate your comments and decide whether or not we should take them seriously.

Unknown said...

Sure and not sure why my google name is not visible. I am a retired public safety official who was well known and respected by both state and federal officials. I was often contacted and worked with both the federal house and senate on legislation. Politically I am an independent who is a conservative on fiscal issues and moderate on most other matters. I strongly believe Oregon lost a great deal when Gordon Smith lost as the Wyden - Smith partnership was powerful and now we have a dud with Merkley. I worked closely with Kitzhaber his first time as a Governor and feel this time he has let us down and no longer support him. And finally I extensively research the background of people and organizations and dislike when people use these sources as factual when their track records show otherwise. And finally I find most political liberals as offensive as I do the far right. And for fun I do admit it is fun to fuzz up liberals that believe they are the only ones.

mrfearless47 said...

There is no law that prevents you from signing your posts with your real name. Your post really tells us nothing about you that any of us would care enough to look up.

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