April 2012 Archives
Little known and often misunderstood, the State Personnel Board provides a service with no parallel in the private sector. State employees who are fired, demoted or suspended can appeal their discipline directly to the five-member board, while a private worker's only recourse is the courts.
As the independent investigators noted, they weren't afforded the opportunity to speak with Lt. Pike because, like his boss, he refused to participate in the inquiry, which he could do without being fired. The recommendations of the Reynoso task force and the independent investigators didn't extend to firing or disciplining anyone, for relevant personnel matters were beyond the duties given them. Moreover, their damning findings won't play any role in whether or not Lt. Pike keeps his job, or faces any disciplinary measure at all, which could remain secret.Thanks to this bill of rights, a police officer can refuse to discuss the incident at issue. The officer can only be fired or disciplined based on the internal affairs investigation. That investigation is secret. And then there is the informal code of silence and more formal union protections.
When David Noyes retired as general manager of Serrano Water District in late 2010, he dove right into his new job -- as acting general manager of Serrano Water District. His consulting contract was effective the same day as his retirement.
The 10 percent gain in state tax collections for 2011, reported yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau, is being greeted as evidence that the economy and the fiscal shape of states are both improving substantially. But some context is needed. As the chart below shows, despite the gain, state tax revenues remain below their peak in 2008. That alone is sobering because costs have continued to rise, creating a mismatch between revenues and expenditures that has lasted so long it essentially has created a new fiscal reality for states in which none of their projections from a few years ago about how much money they'd be able to spend in the next decade now hold true.
It was the CTA's local affiliate in Los Angeles that negotiated a contract under which past allegations of misconduct would be jettisoned from a teacher's personnel file. And it was CTA influence that created a disciplinary process so unnavigable that L.A. Unified was unable to fire Berndt even when photographic evidence of his crimes emerged. You'd think that the attendant shame would be enough to force the CTA to swallow at least modest reforms. Yet now the union is coming out swinging against legislation intended to remove problem teachers from the classroom.
The battle between big city mayors, most of whom are Democrats, and public employees unions is therefore heating up. So far this has been primarily a battle between mayors and teachers unions, which is not surprising since teachers are often a majority of government employees in many jurisdictions. The battles have been taking place in Newark, Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Battles between mayors and teachers unions can be epic. And mayors often lose.
Yesterday, I followed up with an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, making my case in more abbreviated form:
Stockton admitted that its biggest problem has been a lack of transparency resulting in a host of "hidden costs" in labor agreements for "obligations that are often difficult for citizens to identify or understand."
There are so many non-sequiturs and political attacks masquerading as arguments in this Plain Dealer Op-Ed one hardly knows where to begin.
The underlying thesis of Steve Holecko's piece, however, is one that needs to be rebutted as often as it comes up. Namely, that the "education profession"-which really means the education unions and their allies-care about kids while those pushing for reform are greedy corporations and politicians committed to a "war on education" in order to shut out their political opponents and find convenient scapegoats.
In the private sector, the bottom line is the bottom line. In the public sector, it's common to hear officials complain about a lack of money even as they spend more money on unjustifiable expenses. As the Daily News explained, "Los Angeles Department of Water and Power General Manager Ron Nichols made his pitch Tuesday for power and water rate increases to keep up with legislative mandates and upgrade aging infrastructure." Yes, it's important to fund infrastructure improvements. But keep in mind this recent Los Angeles Times story:
But as the fiscal picture continues to dim for some states, pension officials are now starting to sing a different tune. The latest is the board of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System and its executive director.
Okay, that's not exactly the stuff of the Improv. But these days it's also untrue if you are an actuary dealing with public sector pensions these days. That's a far more challenging and dynamic world than the one traditionally confronting the profession, which is why the American Academy of Actuaries devoted a big discussion at this year's annual meeting to the provocative topic of whether it's possible for cities and states to avoid ruin after having built up some $4 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities.