Colossal waste of time – trying to engage a Chico city council member about why they perpetuate the CalPERS disaster

18 Oct

(Sorry the following is messy and crammed together – I cut and pasted it out of my e-mails, VERBATIM, I don’t have time to fix it)


Hi Randall,

I’m sorry I didn’t ask you sooner, but do you understand this, and if so, could you explain it in layman’s terms for my blog?

Juanita Sumner


It looks like a sample CalPERS agreement from some years ago – a rather boiler plate doc.  What did you need with it?  Things have changed quite a bit since this was written in 2002.  But mostly it doesn’t detail any terms with employees or otherwise.  It is just an Exhibit document that identifies Chico as a CalPERS member city (which has been the case for a while) with special notations about various details with such an agreement (i.e. retirements and separation from service, payout terms as standard in 2002).  Counties and cities do not all agree to the same benefits packages (which is the decision of the local governing body, in this case of course the City of Chico).
I’m not sure what else you were looking for with this document.  Can you please advise and I’ll try to help.
Me: (the next day)

It is a reference document from Item 4.4 in last nights agenda. I had to ask Presson for it, and it took her all weekend to send me a cut-and-paste copy. Then she decided to post it on the agenda site, which makes me wonder if she was legally required to do so.

I’ll ask you sincerely – do you thoroughly read the agenda reports? I try to, but I feel like I need a lawyer to understand this stuff.  Can you explain what “3 percent at 50” means, in English? 

Thanks, Juanita


3% x years of service x final base pay (if at least age 50).  I’m certain you’re aware of that already.
You didn’t need it as a reference item to complete the agenda discussion.  In fact, the 2002 reference is one of the first times I’ve seen the Misc details.  They change based on bargaining details, but Chico hasn’t adjusted to that level since before PEPRA.  Since PEPRA already mandates a substantially reduced benefit, AND because Miscellaneous rates prior to PEPRA are already quite well known, who needs the reference definitions.  I don’t and you shouldn’t either.
I’ll be honest in that this seems as though someone’s trying to trip up the Clerk.  There is no reason (related to clarity) to have included this doc.  The Misc rates are already clear.
That document was referenced in the agenda for the discussion – why wouldn’t it be provided?

No, I sincerely don’t understand the formula, I don’t think most of the public understand this stuff.

Trying to trip up the clerk? Randall, I am making an honest attempt to understand how this city racked up $184 million pension deficit, and you’re accusing me of trying to “trip up the clerk”? 

I’ll  be honest – I think somebody is trying to trip up the taxpayers, the voters, and keep the general public, who make less than $40,000/year, in the dark as to how we are constantly being put on the hook for these outrageous pensions. 

Thanks though, for the discussion, I’m not accusing you of anything, but the city is in a mess, and it looks like council just threw gas on the fire.



Perhaps, but the Council obviously didn’t throw gas on a 2002 document referenced by ***every single Misc position offered for employment by the City***.

I have referenced these rates before with your public acknowledgement of your awareness of these formulas.  You’ve independently referenced these formulas in your blog over the years as well.  Numerous articles reference this formula as well including articles I’m certain you’ve read.  Other cities and counties make the reference to their formulas in every employee contract or offer of employment, including even references to positions that are being added in *any* California community (i.e. When Glenn County opens a new position, they list these formula rates in the posting of the position.  So does Butte, Tehama, all 58 of them, and all 482 municipalities).  I’m not sure a 2002 reference to Misc rates, Pre-PEPRA no less, was misunderstood or not understood.  Sure, simply citing the formulas is just as easy.  But if you were looking for a wet signature page to castigate those Aye votes over 15 years ago, then yes, it is a relevant reference.  I’m not interested in who to blame pushing two decades ago.  I’m interested in the fix, and that fix right now.

If the Clerk’s inclusion to the Item 4.4 was beneficial to you, great.  That would be the reason the Clerk would include it in the revised agenda packet.  That seems entirely prudent since you requested it.  But there are literally hundreds of other documents that have referenced this detail (read: the rates are quite well known.  I don’t need the 1978 reading of Proposition 13 to understand where property tax rates are.  If someone on the Council needed that reference, I’d say they shouldn’t be on the Council.  But if a member of the public is unclear about that detail, I’d say the Clerk should include it.

I’m not one to defend the Clerk – she fights her own battles.  But this one is a pitch in the dirt for information you already had.


a “pitch into the dirt for information you already had...” What kind of trash talk is that? 

Me: (from my phone, as I was doing chores in my tenant’s yard)

Randall I have perpetually said I do not understand the formula I also don’t understand why there is not a more public discussion of a formula that has put this city on the path to bankruptcy later the public employees will tell the taxpayers that we promised them these pensions we were never allowed into the conversation
Good eye.  The resistance in adjusting the formulas *isn’t* a limited discussion.  It just isn’t as fruitful.  I understand you don’t understand influence of these variables.  But you certainly knew that 3% (or 2% of 2.5% or 2.7%, etc. etc. etc.) at (some minimum age) times the years of service is the formula.
But let’s say you didn’t.  You asked the Clerk and she provided it and then provided it to the rest of the community (because another resident wanted that original citation).  The formulas are of course part of every single CalPERS community in California.  They are referenced in the contracts as well.  They are referenced in all offers of employment (again, in every single community in California that uses CalPERS).  They are referenced in your blog posts about “90% of their pay” at retirement.  You couldn’t have determined that (except to take it on faith) without that formula.
Anyway, you’ve got your answer.
you’ve got your answer…” Really?
Here’s what I don’t understand how does that formula result in Tom Lando getting $150,000 a year in pension
Work backwards.  And since I can do absolutely nothing about Tom Lando’s pension, and since I am not even able to adjust *existing* contracts with employees past and present (there’s part 2 of your answer…these references are contractual arrangements at hire date and therefore are not subject to collective bargaining), and since Lando’s contract was negotiated long, long, long before I was on the Council (and perhaps before I was even born), and since it has zero *variable* influence on my budget calculations for the City of Chico, it is largely an unimportant detail for me since it cannot be adjusted accept by bankruptcy court.  And if we keep doing what we’re doing, we just might get that chance.
Now you have two answers.
Well, that’s an interesting answer – “cannot be adjusted accept [sic] by bankruptcy court...”  
Randall again:
Do the math.
This crack from a guy who can’t spell!  Actually, I did the math, I came up with a $45,000/year pension for a 15 year employee who made a top salary of $100,000 (I’m not a mathematician, frankly, I think you have to be a wizard to come up with these pensions)
(THREE PERCENT) at $x base salary times years of service.  Once you have that calculation done, calculate what that payment is in relationship to that final year’s base pay.  90%, right?  And they have COLAs (as you know).  COLAs are also contractual.  They aren’t part of the bargaining discussion.
Now try it with 2%.  60%, right?
Years of service (30 is a full career).  Base factor (a contracted number varying from municipality to municipality.  For example, Glenn County employees are *paid* less, but their CalPERS factor is higher for the same positions in Butte County.).  Final *base* pay.  Those are the three variables used in this formula.  Those are all the details you need to know to calculate someone’s pension.
What happens if you’ve served with CalSTRS for 10 years and 30 years with CalPERS.  That’s 40 years of pension payments, albeit calc’ed a little differently due to some options for the employee.
Well, there you have it, I guess that’s the answer I was looking for. 
OG that’s not confusing! I’m at work I’ll have to get back to you later thanks for the conversation
I thought about that conversation all day, I’m sure my dentist will notice the damage to his fine work.  I feel Stone was being flip and evasive – I asked a simple question, I was nice, he accused me of “trying to trip up the clerk”?  I’m struggling to understand how this city is going to get out of this financial mess without either throwing out the CalPERS agreement and waiting for the union to sue (and settle), or just keep putting the squeeze to the taxpayers for more money. Right now they just finished sticking it to developers, raising the nexus for developer fees to a whole new level.
Sewer fees for EVERYBODY are next. 
How much more will the taxpayers take?

6 Responses to “Colossal waste of time – trying to engage a Chico city council member about why they perpetuate the CalPERS disaster”

  1. bob October 18, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

    You’ve been following this stuff for years and even you get tripped up by it. Can you image what it’s like for the average person who does not follow this in detail?

    That’s just the way the politicians, bureaucrats and public employee unions want it: Make it so convoluted that people won’t realize how their getting ripped-off six ways from Sunday.

    And make it so convoluted that if they do, they won’t be able to do anything about it without a phalanx of lawyers.

    And that’s just their first line of defense. If you can get through that than you have to deal with the millions in their campaign war chest to defeat any efforts by anyone to reform the system or just scale back the insanity a tiny bit.

    The system is so corrupt that I believe it can only end in bankruptcy. Of course not before the politicians raise taxes and fees and cut services as much as possible to keep the sinking ship afloat as the rats leave in life rafts with their six figure pensions while we peons are headed to Davy Jones’ Locker.

    • Juanita Sumner October 19, 2017 at 5:01 am #

      “Can you image what it’s like for the average person who does not follow this in detail?”

      You hit it – that’s what I try to get across to these people, but they act as though I’m an egomaniac for expecting them to answer me. Stone’s behavior was over the top – he has come to me in past, wanting to meet at a coffee shop or at the library, trying to get me to post his point of view on the blog without him having to chime in on his own name. He’s a weasel, and that’s the last time I’ll approach him for a rational conversation.

      The good news is, bankruptcy would give us a chance to challenge these pensions in court. But I say, why wait for that? Why not just get out of CalPERS and not pay? Let the employees sue us – that would also take it to court, where we’d at least have a chance to get rid of these leeches.

      • Jim October 19, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

        The bad news is that in the Stockton and San Bernardino County bankruptcy, preserving the pensions was the top priority. Which they did, at the expense of cutting public safety. Remember the judge is also in the public pension program.

      • Juanita Sumner October 20, 2017 at 4:29 am #

        I think the atmosphere has changed, they realized the public is getting angrier, and the situation is more desperate.

  2. Chico Taxpayer October 19, 2017 at 5:04 am #

    Why does he have to act like that? Why couldn’t he just give the answer he left you with in the first place? This is just the way he acted when I approached him about the Esplanade makeover – rude and in my face.

    • Juanita Sumner October 19, 2017 at 5:07 am #

      Thanks, my husband asked the same question. I’m not going to let it stop me from asking these questions, but I won’t give Stone the time of day again.

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