LAO: Consider kiboshing retiree health care

Instead of polishing brass on the Titanic, with two-tier retiree health care, or other PEPRA tinkering, give serious thought to abolishing public employee retiree health care altogether, the Legislative Analysts Offices says.

Who not? Any serious analysis should consider that alternative. Public employee retiree health care and pensions are destroying cities.

Calpersions has the story.

“Before California builds a funding model to pay for this benefit (retiree health care) for decades to come, the Legislature should consider whether this benefit should continue to be a part of the state employee compensation package for new hires,” said the analyst’s report prepared by Nick Schroeder and reviewed by Marianne O’Malley.’

For “Before California builds a funding model to pay for this benefit for decades to come” read: “Before California hocks itself and sucks services out of all municipalities in virtual perpetuity.”

“If prospective employees do not value this benefit as much as it costs, the state and the new employee might be better off if the state offered future employees an alternative form of compensation.”

Read the Calpensions story. Surely there is a a way to fairly compensate public employees without sacrificing everything else a city government is suppose to do.

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A big blast of ‘no can do’

Sally Lechich writes:

“Are you supporting this idea (Ten Space’s downtown project), Michael? Really?

“I am sorry but I will never believe that downtown Stockton can be renovated….more BS…here we go again…may as well get Mark Lewis back as City Manager….

“Downtown Stockton will NEVER happen…just me saying what my intuition tells me but lets not get carried away again please…don’t encourage this…let us get CLEAR of the Bankruptcy for a couple years before being so so so full of positivity….

“Let’s not get into bankruptcy again.. let the dust settle first…PLEASE do NOT encourage this …

“Stockton is what it is and will NEVER be what it never was…”

I’m sure many Stocktonians share Lechich’s pessimism. But a couple critical differences should be noted.

First, the incompetents who bankrupted the city have been voted out of office or shown the door. Talented people are running City Hall now (Mayor Anthony Silva excluded).

Second, it is wrong to compare the arena and other capital projects to Ten Space’s project. The arena was a public project. This is a private sector project, done with private capital and little or no city money.

Lewis & Co. ignored the Urban Land Institute’s warning not to build the arena entirely with public money. The whole point of redevelopment, the ULI said, is to encourage private investment. But our leaders knew better, which is why the arena loses money to this day.

But Ten Space is acting in accord with the ULI’s advice.

Beyond the arguments, what I hear Lechich saying is that she is so jaded by City’s Hall’s previous mistakes she can no longer believe Stockton can make progress. I hope better familiarity with the city’s new realities help people to reconsider such defeatism.

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The people hurt by drought

In Friday’s column, I wrote, “We can look at water exporters as Big Ag. Many are. But clearly the livelihoods of many ordinary people are at stake when decisions are made about Delta water.”

Right on cue, the Hanford Sentinel does a story illustrating who those “ordinary people” are.

I defy you to read this story and not feel sympathy for these people. Such people explain the relentless push by representatives such as Hanford’s David Valadao for ever-more Delta water, as well as their rhetoric about “fish over people.” It is their way of communicating empathy for those suffering due to the drought.

Which, unfortunately, they blame on water cutbacks driven by biological opinions — by judges who accept the verdict of scientists that excessive water exports are killing off the Delta. I reject their implicit policy of “people over fish.” All deserve to survive. But stories such as the one above are why exporters should not be caricatured or dismissed.

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The return of the Porkometer

Since congress banned earmarks, the Porkometer is rarely spotted these days. But he’s squealing with delight to hear state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani secured an extra $4 million to fight water hyacinth this year.

The failure of the state Department of Boating and Waterways to properly abate the crazy weed was the sort of systemic failure that requires leaders to step up and find solutions. Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller worked on a long-range plan; Galgini’s earmark will sure come in handy this year.

Otherwise our waterways will be absurdly infested.

Senator Galgiani also will be hosting an oversight hearing on the issue. The hearing will take place on Friday March 27, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at the San Joaquin Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, 6th floor, 44 N. San Joaquin Street.

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Quote of the day

“Do unions overreach at times? Yes.”

—Police union president Kathryn Nance, announcing her 2016 bid to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney.

Nance also said, “Does city government overreach at times? Yes. What we have to do … is to open those lines of communication.”

She is seeking to downplay the destructive role the Stockton Police Officers Association played in the city’s fiscal crisis by making a moral equivalence with City Hall. Oh, we all over-reach.

Not so fast. Voters and new city leaders ousted the executives that contributed to Stockton’s fiscal calamity. Nance wants a promotion for her part in it. She should not get off easily for the astute and obstructive actions of her union, which I sketched here.

You are judged by your record. That’s only fair.

But a record is only a part of evaluating a candidate. I look forward to hearing Nance’s platform. She’s a rare bird, a union Republican. That alone is interesting.

But, as her campaign consultant pointed out in this story, McNerney’s previous challengers have all been lacking in one way or another. Can Nance present a well-rounded set of ideas? Can any platform supersede the union’s attempts to sabotage city reforms?

I’ll answer that last one: Yes. But it would it would have to be a very good platform.

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Bob Kearney dies at home

The gravely ill Stockton man who got a ride home form a New Orleans hospital thanks to the generosity of readers has died.

Bob and Catherine Kearney in better times

Bob Kearney “died peacefully at home in the arms of his wife, Catherine, on March 15, 2015 after fighting liver disease for many years,” according to his obituary.

That was the last wish of Kearney, whose insurance would not pay for him to return to California. After a column on the subject, readers contributed around $10,000 to bring Kearney  back to California.

Here, his friends and loved ones said their goodbyes.

According to his obituary, “A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, March 22nd at 5 p.m. on the basketball court at Capitol Athletic Club at 8th and P Streets in Sacramento, CA. In honor of Bob, jerseys, sneakers, and other sports attire are encouraged. In lieu of flowers, please make a point of spending time with someone you love. Bob would never pass of the chance.”

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The smelt faces extinction

The Delta smelt, the little fish that symbolizes the dying Delta — except to south Valley farmers, who scoff — may be going extinct, a biologist told the Delta Stewardship Council.

Capital Public Radio reports that UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle told a group of scientists with the Delta Stewardship Council that the drought may deliver the coup de gras to a species declining for decades.

If that’s true, that is as damning an indictment against our generation as there could be. Though the environment-challenged farmers to the south may disagree, the smelt was a key strand in the Delta’s web of life. Driving it to extinction would be the epitome of bad Delta management.

If the smelt does go extinct, what then? Will the biological opinions limiting water exports be lifted?

Moyle says no, the story reports. Restrictions may continue to protect other threatened fish. Let’s hope those protections will be realistic and science-based, not political. Been there, done that, drove the fish to extinction.

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Downtown’s comeback gathers steam

Developer Zac Cort — who has changed his company name to Ten Space, Inc. — announced that “a remodeled Alfalfa’s Pizza and Deli, a new Papa Urb’s Grill restaurant serving “Filipino food with a twist,” the Filipino-American National Historical Museum and The Campus daycare facility all will open in early April” on the 100 block of North Sutter St.

Good news. As this story reports, the project dovetails with several affordable housing projects in the pipeline.

The missing piece here is market-rate housing downtown. But a big announcement about that is expected any day.

“We feel like people want an alternative style of living,” Zac Cort said in the story. “I think people have been accustomed to one style of living in Stockton. I think people want convenience, they want walkability, and that’s why people want a vibrant downtown.”

That’s the thought for today.


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Stockton’s gift to cities

“We disagree that CalPERS ‘bullied’ anyone.”

—Brad Pachelco, CalPERS spokesman.

Yeah, right. The state pension Hogzilla threatened Stockton with costly and protracted litigation if the city cut pensions. The “bully” moniker came from federal bankruptcy judge Christopher Klein, who didn’t like the way CalPERS inserted itself into the Stockton case with its claim of royal immunity. A claim he destroyed with his ruling.

Up to that time, cities enthralled by the man behind the curtain would not entertain cutting pensions, no matter how insolvent. San Bernardino stated repeatedly it would not.

But when Klein said the state law protecting CalPERS was illegal, San Berdoo changed its tune. Now the bankrupt city is seriously considering cutting pensions — which city governments ultimately will have to do if they want to provide government services to all citizens and not just serve as pension systems for public employees.

The L.A. Times has the story here.

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King and Queen of Stockton

Here’s today’s Fitz’s Stockton about the possible rebirth of the Delta Queen.

Here’s a 1925 photo of the Delta King in the Deep Water Channel. The Delta Queen is up on the ways.

The waterfront is a liquid highway full of action.

Historian Alice van Ommeren is jazzed about the Queen.

“I think this is good news, making it more functional. Who knows? Some day we might get it back. We’ve certainly got the perfect waterfront for it. Remain optimistic.

“The Delta Queen is a symbol of Stockton’s Golden Era, (which) spans from 1890 to 1940, it would be great restaurant along the waterfront. Stockton shipbuilding has a long history and was at its best when these two boats were built.”

Van Ommeren is a local historian who is publishing Stockton’s Golden Era: An Illustrated History toward the end of the summer. Now she has to revise the section on the Delta Queen.

Here’s a photo of the King and Queen from November, 1941.

Writes Tod Ruhstaller, head of The Haggin Museum:

“They had been sold to a steamship company that was going to tow them through the Panama Canal and then up the East Coast, where they hoped to employ them as excursion boats on the Hudson River.  Then a little thing we call WWII came along and the King and Queen were drafted into Uncle Sam’s Navy—their first job–transporting casualties from Pearl Harbor around SF Bay.”   

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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