Archive for May, 2011
Wednesday, Channel 3, reported on the situation of the City of Memphis line of duty abuse to the cost of almost $12 million dollars per year. This situation has been going on for over 30 years at the City of Memphis and I estimate that the total payout is well over $100 million dollars out of the (more…)
I spent yesterday afternoon downtown at the Shelby County Commission meeting waiting for a vote on pension reform. There was a seven vote majority for a modified plan that is real reform. It was a courageous vote and now we have to wait for a review from the actuaries and a final vote on June 6th. This sends an important message to the City of Memphis that the time for reform is now. Shelby County is in much better shape than the City of Memphis as far as pensions are concerned. Still Plan C, which is the current plan, was far too generous and costly to continue for new employees. Congratulations are due to the seven commissioners who voted for fiscal sanity, Shafer, Roland, Thomas, Ritz, Mulroy, Carpenter and Bunker. I encourage you to email and call these commissioners, thank them for their vote and ask them to hold to their positions.
Maybe the most important thing about this vote was that it sends a message to the City Council and Mayor Wharton that the City of Memphis needs to follow suit and vote a similar plan to the one passed at the County and to enact other benefit reforms that the County did years ago. The City of Memphis has $500 million dollars in unfunded pension liability and $1.2 Billion dollars in unfunded OPEB liability. They need to do something NOW.
Shown below is a message from Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer.
Now that the real danger of the flood appears to be over, we can get back to “things as usual.” Here is a brief update on Commission issues:
1) Pension Reform–We MUST pass some type of pension reform soon. Today we voted on the Mayor’s Plan. I supported the Mayor’s plan (which only makes big changes to the new employees, but we did not have seven votes to pass it (the minimum number) without some compromise, so I supported a compromise plan that would still set us up to be in good shape. The plan is not perfect, but I would rather pass SOME measure of reform and make SOME progress than make no progress at all. And completely stalling Pension Reform and sending it back up to be studied, reviewed and negotiated AGAIN for years is exactly what some Commissioners are backing.
The compromise plan has to go back up to the Pension Board (for a lot of complicated reasons that have to do with changing the actuarial info) and then will be voted on (hopefully) on June 7. Please, please call, write and visit with your Commissioners and let them know you support Pension Reform Plan D (901-545-4301). If this plan does not pass, I will bring forward an alternative in a few weeks, but it requires starting the whole process over, and we lose momentum and valuable savings. We want to turn things around NOW, not wait till the crisis is upon us.
2) Graffiti— I think we all agree that graffiti is a nuisance at best, and at worst, it is used by gangs to communicate. It’s not just ugly, it’s dangerous. But how you go about stopping graffiti makes a lot of difference in a free society. The proposal we were originally presented with would have made it illegal for children under 18 to possess indelible magic markers/paint pens and spray paint; required all stores to keep markers and spray paint behind locked counters; & required all stores to keep a log of anyone buying $25 worth of those instruments for review by law enforcement, and card all purchasers.
Apart from the extra burden on businesses (which was significant and was shown to drive down sales for the retailers), I was concerned about the implications for law-abiding children who could no longer carry these markers to Cub Scouts, Youth Group, Cheer Practice Etc. The children would literally have had to show papers to prove that the markers they were carrying were required for school purposes!!! There was no plan for what to do about homeschooled kids…And in no area where this had been tried could they prove that it decreased graffiti even a little. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone!
After a great deal of debate and delay, we finally stripped out the marker provision and log book completely, and left in just the spray paint and carding requirements and added in keeping spray paint in line of sight of a worker . I voted against the final plan because I still thought it placed too much burden on the already struggling business, because there was NO data to prove it did any good, and because the expert they brought in to speak about it admitted himself that in areas where they did this, the retailers lost sales and internet sales went up. So it looks to me as if you are just punishing the law abiding citizens and retailers, and not curtailing a thing. The ordinance passed, but we are collecting data over the next year, and I can assure you, we will review it.
3) School update…Both sides have agreed to “stand down” until Judge Mays makes his decision in about a month. The pro-Consolidation side agreed not to form the Mega school board yet and I believe SCS agreed not to push for further state legislation. So now we wait. But there is movement in Nashville to form Innovative School Districts that could change the face of things considerably. I’ll keep you updated as information comes my way. This is a very, very important issue for our community!
Those are the highlights for now! Thanks to each of you for your encouragement, support and input. I really value you!
Do You Want A COLA? An R_a C? No, Cost of Living Increase! Of Course
It is that time of year when the City Council routinely gives retirees a cost of living increase. In the past it just goes through the City Council on the consent agenda. And again this year they are asking for a 2011 COLA on the consent agenda which will add $9,393,000 to the pension liability and $740,000 to the annual contribution.
It seems that every time I turn over an open records rock, I find a nest of worms eating away at my financial garden. There are things in the Tennessee Code that you probably did not know and that I have only begun to understand. Many of these laws have been put in the Code with little fanfare and at the bequest of certain elements, mainly municipal administrations and union interests. Here are some examples. Also this process is going on in your County Commission and City Council.
- The first example I observed just yesterday at a meeting of the Shelby County Commission meeting. This is so incredible that I will attach the proposed ordinance. I just went to see “Atlas Shrugged” the other night and this seems to come out of that movie. It is BIG BROTHER” in spades. They want to prohibit sale of graffiti material to minors and to require the sellers of this material to keep a record of bulk sales (over $25). Incredible. You should email the county commissioners and tell them to get real and lay off the private business people who pay their salaries.
- Here is another one that I found which is incredible. It is in the Tennessee Code, 7-51-201 which states in part the following. “there shall be and there is hereby established a presumption that any impairment of health of such law enforcement officers caused by hypertension or heart disease resulting in hospitalization, medical treatment or any disability, shall be presumed, unless the contrary be shown by competent medical evidence, to have occurred or to be due to accidental injury suffered in the course of employment.” This is particularly galling to me as after 35 years of running a business, meeting payrolls, trying to make a profit, I had to have open heart surgery due to a major blockage that I think was caused by years of tension and stress. Luckily I had good results but there was no offered line of duty disability with a tax free income for life. This law should be changed and the requirement should be, if anything, that the public employee show proof that the hypertension or heart disease was caused by the job, not the other way around.
- I have been talking for some time about the need for education reform in many areas but mainly in the cost of education. There is a provision in the Tennessee Code called “maintenance of local effort”. The City of Memphis found out about this when two years ago they balanced our City of Memphis budget by refusing to pay the full annual $93 million payment to the Memphis City Schools. The Tennessee Supreme Court finally ruled against the City of Memphis and this short term solution to our Memphis budget problem has come home to exasperate our current budget problem. The Tennessee legislature should do away with this law and just require that local school systems maintain a high national standard of educational test results by whatever method and finance support that the local cities and counties devise. This will lead to innovation and competition in education rather than rigid financial standards tied to funding. This maintenance of effort provision was clearly devised and supported by the education lobby.
Everyone should become involved in watching our local and state legislatures as they are at work undermining our liberties by regulations and ordinances that serve little useful purpose.