A fair plan for FPD&R reform

By City Commissioner Dan Saltzman of Portland, Oregon. [Editor's note: This guest column is a response to "Dan's Plan" by City Commissioner Randy Leonard - a regular BlueOregon contributor.]

Greetings Blue Oregon readers! I'm not much of a blog dweller, but I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to by colleague Randy Leonard's recent post regarding reforms to Portland's Fire/Police Disability and Retirement System (FPD&R).

It is heartening to see that Randy supports reform. He is a commissioner who has spent a large majority of his professional life defending the rights of firefighters and making sure Portland did right by them. And he's been an excellent advocate for them. It is understandable that he has strong reservations about how changes will be implemented and how they will impact these vital public servants.

I'd like to explain why I believe action needs to occur now. Portland City Council has been studying and looking at the problems with FPD&R for over 20 years. As a result, the City Council has known about these problems and chosen to turn away.

With the passage of Measure 50 in 1997, the City realized it was time to craft a financial plan aimed at solving the FPD&R funding issue. Well what do you supposed happened? A committee was formed, they proposed recommendations in July of 1998, and City Council didn't feel enough time was available to inform voters and chose not to refer to that November ballot. Sound familiar?

Then in 1999, Council asked a citizen-based Charter Review Committee to review the system and recommend changes for the 2000 election. Any idea what happened? That's right, the Committee recommended that the City begin moving toward full funding of the FPD&R system, but City Council did not implement any of the recommendations. I had just come into office at the start of 1999 and am on record as supporting these changes. Unfortunately my colleagues chose not to join me and nothing was referred to the voters in 2000.

So here we are in 2006 and guess what? For the past 10 months the Council sanctioned Independent Review Committee has worked diligently to come up with recommendations. And that is exactly what they did. Everyone on City Council agrees that changes need to be made but when push comes to shove fears of political reprisal and threats of negative campaigns are tossed about.

Well, you Blue Oregon folks are savvy and know what us politicians do. We delay the tough choices and work on our pet projects. Well, I for one will not fall into this trap and want the voters of Portland to have a say this year about how they can start repairing this broken system and start saving money for the things I know all progressive Portlanders support: Small classes in a world class public school system. Clean and safe parks. Early childhood support and child abuse intervention. Programs that will receive increased revenues if FPD&R can be set on a rational and stable financial path. This effort is about showing leadership and doing the right thing for our citizens.

For too long these discussions of changes have been inside baseball, it's time for voters to have a swing at the plate.

Comments

  • LT (unverified)
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    Not living in Portland and not knowing the ins and outs, it seems to me that a word of caution is in order.

    Dan says "For too long these discussions of changes have been inside baseball, it's time for voters to have a swing at the plate. "

    That strikes me as incredibly vague.

    We just lived through a legislative session where we were told that "the voters have spoken on Measure 30" and thus those who did not vote on the prevailing side had no right to express an opinion or ask questions. Do you think voters felt respected by that attitude and willing to give the current House majority another session just like the last one?

    My advice to Dan S. is to be more specific: "the reasons to have the vote in (May?) are..."--with numbers or bullet points "my proposal is better than Randy Leonard's proposal because.."--with numbers or bullet points "the support I have lined up in the community in support of my voting date and my proposals include..."--with numbers or bullet points.

    If you really want to avoid insider baseball, sell your proposal the way a salesperson would. For example: "This vacuum cleaner is light weight, was rated highly in Consumer Reports, and has the following features not found on other models in the same price range".

    Having been in sales over the course of my life for approaching a total of maybe 15 years, it always amazes me when politicians want voters to support an idea but lack basic sales skills.

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
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    I second LT's point. Without an argument in the argument it is just no fun. It is like whiffle ball without either a bat or ball, you just swing . . . twist . . and fall.

  • JEsse O (unverified)
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    Decent points by the previous commenters. Perhaps Dan could also address Randy's concerns about specific unanswered questions on how the reform would work.

    That said, I have to say that Dan took the high road and avoided Randy's bait:

    "In doing so, Commissioner Saltzman is setting aside the City’s best interests in favor of his own political interests and he’s squandering a real opportunity to develop and fully vet a proposal that will truly fix the system"

    Instead, Dan said complimentary and nice things about Randy.

    And Dan made a convincing case that the inertia on this issue, and desire to study and restudy, avoid and avoid, has led to inexcusable inaction. It's time for Randy to act on his plan -- and get the votes on Council to implement it. Reform plans are always easier to tear down than to build up.

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    Damn. Real policy solutions being debated in a blog. Kari, we owe you a brew. I guess we got to hoist one to Jack Bog as well for getting the ball rolling, although I suspect the more productive discussions will occur here.

    Dan: a comment and a question. You write: Well, I for one will not fall into this trap and want the voters of Portland to have a say this year about how they can start repairing this broken system and start saving money for the things I know all progressive Portlanders support:Small classes in a world class public school system. Clean and safe parks. Early childhood support and child abuse intervention

    The comment is this: I would like to think this is a list of things that all Portlanders support, not just progressives.

    The question is this: your comment seems to imply some willingness to compromise on a May or November ballot date. Is this an accurate reading of your posting?

    If the answer is yes, what public commitments do you want from your fellow commissioners in order to move to a November date?

  • Dan Saltzman (unverified)
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    Thanks Paul- Good point on the comment. As far as the question, the short answer is yes. This is obvisouly a very important and complicated issue, and I want a proposal that achives real results and is palatable to the voters. Having the support of the council is vital to that happening, so I will set the pieces in place for reform changes to be on the November ballot. After conferring with my colleagues on the council, I will file a resolution next week that will establish a Reform Implementaion Committee (made up of Council and City Staff, Union Representation, FPD&R Board, and memebers of the Independent Review Committee) that will have a firm deadline to forward a proposal to council for a November referal. The Indenpendent Review Committee's recommendations will be the starting point for this group. If they fail to produce a product, Council will forward it's own recommended changes to the ballot. I believe this process is sensitive to the calling that more time is needed to examine the issues and also holds our collective feet to the fire on making real changes to this dysfunctional system.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)
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    The Independent Review Committee spent 10 months studying the issue and reported a full list of recommendations. Yet the politicians (excluding Commissioner Saltzman) need more time? To do what, exactly?

    The City Council should not be looking to score political points or wrap themselves in a more union friendly (Commissioner Leonard would say "fair") solution. The Tribe has spoken! Now is the time for action, not politics.

    May or November? Who cares. Let's just not water down the IRC's recommendations. We can't afford to wait another 8 years. We can't afford to give the unions a blank check.

  • J R (unverified)
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    Let’s see.

    This is the same Dan Saltzman that tried to eliminate neighborhood associations, voted against withdrawing from the JTTF, was in bed with big moneyed consultants who would have made hundreds of millions of dollars covering the reservoirs and routinely sides with big downtown developers.

    I am still pissed that the fireman voted against the resolution to not invade Iraq. But at least that dumb ass voted. Dan got “busy” that day and didn’t even show up for the vote.

    Now he wants to put it to fireman and cops. Hmmm. I think I am going to have look at that one closer than I would have imagined.

    I won't have to ruminate quite as long deciding between Dan and Amanda Fritz.

    Go Amanda Go!

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)
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    J R: Thanks for making your lefty-fringe subjectivity so apparent. You don't like the Patriot Act (or the JTTF), so Dan must go? Talk about non-sequiturs. Non-binding foreign policy resolutions from the Portland City Council represent mental masturbation at their best. It is designed to placate their most liberal constituency, while having zero impact on the Federal conduct of the war.

    Since when does the City of Portland need its own foreign policy? Seems a little pretentious for the City Council to even offer their opinion on whether to invade Iraq. The Feds conduct foreign policy: it's in the Constitution. Read it.

    BTW, we may still recieve a Federal mandate that requires us to cover the reservoirs anyway. Which will pale in comparison to the costs of filtering our water for cryptosporidium. Guess who will be receiving the lowest (per capita) amount of HSA dollars this year? Puerto Rico or Portland. You think multiple Federal disses might have something to do with the JTTF vote? Nahhhh. They wouldn't hold a grudge would they? Payback's a bitch.

    And to suggest that Dan is the only City Council member doing the bidding of "big downtown developers" is laugh out loud funny. Ever heard of Matt Brown? When was the last time the City Council declined a new condo tower?

    Dan is an engineer (god knows what the rest of them studied in college), and he's also the only one that ever held a job in the private sector (college summers excluded).

    But he doesn't agree with J R on foreign policy issues. Uh-oh!

  • Michael Wilson (unverified)
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    According to an article in the NY Times last week that city is going to be hit hard by changes required to account for pensions, etc. These changes are the result of requirements from something , as I recall, known as the Government Accountability and Standards Board (apparently it is similar to the FASB that covers private industry). Other cities throughout the nation will be similarly affected. Will those requirements affect Portland and if so how? M.W.

  • (Show?)

    And to suggest that Dan is the only City Council member doing the bidding of "big downtown developers" is laugh out loud funny.

    <h2>So maybe that suggests we need someone on the Council who doesn't just do the bidding of big downtown developers?</h2>
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