Probably the number one issue Pleasanton voters are concerned with is the unfunded employee pension debt. Publicized accounts have put the unfunded pension debt at $137 million.
Jerry Thorne, candidate for mayor was at my home Saturday. I discussed the unfunded pension debt with Jerry. In actuality, according to Jerry, "I look at it from a marketing point, which puts it closer to $170 million".
Jerry said, "The state limits us to a maximum 12 percent of employee contribution that we can ask for, in order for us to reduce our unfunded pension debt."
We know that city employees are nowhere near that 12 percent number, I pointed out to Jerry. Even at 12 percent employee contribution, the unfunded pension debt will still be here in 20 years. Jerry shook his head in agreement.
Jerry said "We will need to move toward a 401K type of pension plan in order for us to pay down current debt and obtain a sustainable balance".
Jerry Thorne is the only candidate for city office that has visited my home to date. If any of the other candidates had visited my home, I would have asked them the unfunded pension question.
In absence of speaking with the other candidates, I visited their web sites and recorded the following information.
Cheryl Cook-Kallio, candidate for mayor. I looked in her issues page. There is no mention of the unfunded employee pension debt. Cheryl has served on the City Council for years and is somewhat responsible for the unfunded employee pension debt.
Did Cheryl ignore this issue while serving all those years on the council and is Cheryl continuing to ignore this issue? I noticed on Cheryl's web site she has endorsements from the Democratic Party.
Endorsements from the Democratic Party with the likes of Mary Hayashi and Pete Stark, arguably the two worst elected Democrats serving the voters of Alameda County.
Cheryl's web site also provides endorsements from a number of labor unions. Which causes concern as to her relationship with the city employee labor unions and how it would impact her decision making regarding the unfunded pension liability?
I also checked the web sites for City Council candidates.
Karla Brown's web site states, "Develop a plan for our financial future that addresses long-term city debt, changes are needed to address our unfunded liabilities".
I would like for Karla to put forth her specific ideas as to how she would go about dissolving the city's unfunded pension debt. Just how would Karla develop a plan for pleasanton's financial future?
On Jerry Pentin's web site, I found a check mark next to "Advocate for pension reform and still maintain a superior work force." I thought this to be a weak statement. I would like to know just how Jerry would be an advocate for pension reform.
Erlene DeMarcus' web site states: "Pension reform is moving in the right direction". She would "continue the dialogue to resolve this major issue, to move toward reducing the city's unfunded liability."
I credit Erlene for recognizing this as a major issue. My problem with Erlene is her coziness with the unions. Then there is her relationship with a wannabe developer that insisted he be permitted to build Hong Kong style high rises in the former Vintage Hills shopping center.
No doubt, this problem must be taken directly to the unions to move forward toward any resolution. There is no magic elixer to make this easy, especially in an atmosphere that is already polarized.
Earlier this year I had a conversation with a Pleasanton police captain regarding an earlier blog, I had posted on Pleasanton Patch. I asked the captain if he read Patch. He said "No, I don't like people talking about my pension."
It may not have occurred to the captain, that if he is a property owner in Pleasanton or Alameda County, he is subsidizing his own salary and pension.