San Diego's $2.27 billion pension hole

Another reason to block Chargers' punt for new stadium

There is still another reason to vote against the so-called convadium in November. This reason is the huge and growing pension deficit.

Former city attorney Mike Aguirre says the city's pension plan has $8.859 billion in debt and only $6.204 billion in assets. That leaves a hole of $2.2655 billion. The city's pension plan has reached "legal insolvency" because the assets are materially and substantially less than its liabilities, says Aguirre. A multi-billion shortfall has ballooned in the period beginning in 2009, when both the stock market and bond market have soared in value.

This is another reason that it is folly to discuss a multibillion-dollar convadium (combination stadium/small convention center).

The convadium would raise hotel taxes by more than 50 percent to 16.5 percent. Comic-Con has already said it doesn't want any so-called "annex" of the convention center being five or six blocks from the existing center. Comic-Con may well leave if the convadium passes.

Most importantly, San Diego's infrastructure deficit has grown to multibillions of dollars. San Diego needs good streets and roads, clean and safe parks, adequate police and fire protection, a sustainable water supply. The convadium cost could be $2.3 billion, more than double the $1.1 billion the Chargers have estimated.

And keep in mind that the Chargers' contribution could be next to nothing. The team will get the revenue for naming and advertising rights, among other things. These could wipe away most of all of the Chargers' contribution. (On September 14, Forbes magazine said the Chargers are worth $2.08 billion, a 36 percent increase over last year. Yet the team continues to figure ways to squeeze money out of San Diego taxpayers.)

Aguirre points out that many pension reforms are needed. Elected officials have excessively generous pensions — for example, they can purchase more pension credits than permitted under term-limit law. City pensioners have too many benefits; for example, they are permitted to receive both salary and pension benefits for five years after they reach retirement age, and this program is not cost-neutral as required by law.

The Chargers are attempting to pick San Diegans' pockets in broad daylight. Infrastructure and pension deficits are hurting the city now. That is where reforms are needed.

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Hmmm. Jerry Sanders has been claiming for years that the pension deficit was "solved" during his tenure as mayor. Does this mean that ol' Jerry was fibbing?

Jerry's pension solution was to insure that future hires would get Social Security and have a 401k type pension plan. The current pension plan excludes SocSec and provides a defined benefit based on age and years of service. He, of course, excluded the police department but not the fire department. Somewhere in the distant future the current pension plan will go away and the new employees will be looking at poverty at retirement. The Fire Department will not be able to keep good people as they will transfer to other fire departments that provide a secure pension.

Yes, because nobody else in town will want a job. That's such a tired old argument that keeps public agencies busy hjacking up pay and benefits in order beat neighboring cities. It may be hard for pampered public employees to understand, but many millions of smart, talented, hard-working people hold jobs that in fact won't allow them to retire at age 50 or 55 with 90 percent of their pay. Public employees have become the self-annointed kings and queens of victimization, some how believing that made a sacrfice taking that good government job.

Bob_Hudson: Many employees will accept fewer benefits and lower pay to live in San Diego. That should be true of police and fire employees, too. Best, Don Bauder

Your kidding right? New city employees have no pension, no social security and a cash eating, magically shrinking 401k with money losing investment options. A whole 9 of them, all loaded with fees. They offered me a full-time position when they couldn't get anyone else to fill it, and I turned it down. Why bother when even McDonald's can offer a better deal.

thx1111: Under economic pressure, the City took away the juicy fringes of new hires. However, those hired before these cuts went into effect are doing much better than those in comparable cities.I didn't know it was as bad for new hires as you say it is. Best, Don Bauder

AlexClarke: I can remember the brouhaha over Sanders doing pension favors for the police and not the fire employees, thus lining his own pockets. But I can't remember enough to comment on your observation. Best, Don Bauder

Don, Sander did not "line" his own pockets by retaining pension benefits for sworn police officers. He, Sanders, had already been retired from his PD job for several years. His police pension amount was already set.

The reason for retaining police pensions had to do with P.OS.T. (Peace Officer Standards and Training). Once you earn a POST certificate you can move laterally to any agency statewide without having to attend their police academy. Fire services don't have such a training/certificate program. This means you must attend that agencies fire training academy even if you are a multi-year fire veteran.

If Sanders had dropped pensions for police officers, San Diego taxpayers would have been paying to train new police officers only to watch then leave for agencies with pension benefits once they earned their POST certificate.

And, those agencies would have loved it, they get a fully trained officer at no cost of training or salary. A savings in the neighborhood of $150K per hire. San Diego would have been left with a perpetual rookie apprentice force with fewer and fewer journeymen officers.

JustWondering: Maybe the complaint was that he was lining the pockets of his friends and relatives on the force. I will have to review this contretemps. Best, Don Bauder

If nothin else, gotta love the use vocabulary. Always learning a new word.✌️

JustWondering: The pronunciation of "contretemps" has little in common with a conventional English pronunciation of the word. I think it is French. Best, Don Bauder

With the defined pension benefit plans and overtime rules many police and firefighters in SD are getting compensation equivalent to 150k - 200k (or even more) private sector jobs. (Of course you will likely dispute this number because you will grossly underestimate the equivalent value of the defined benefit pension).

This is for jobs that don't require advanced degrees. From what I've read, it's very hard to get a job as a firefighter unless you know somebody. I suspect there are a lot of people who would want those police and fire jobs but they don't have the right connections. I suspect you could lower compensation for police and fire fighters A LOT and still have no problems finding qualified workers.

ImJustABill: I have heard this complaint from a number of people. In procuring police or fire jobs in San Diego, nepotism and favoritism are two essentials. I have heard screams from the other side, of course, denying the allegations. Best, Don Bauder

This may be true especially in the east but it is not true here. There are two ways to become a police officer: 1. Get hired and go to the police academy or, 2. Go to the police academy on your dime. Few private sector jobs come with the risks that police and fire jobs present. You appear to be one of those that think that jobs that don't require advanced degrees are not skilled jobs. Police and fire personal constantly train. Would you have the police or fire pull off the job when they reach their 8 hours? Do you think that a job that can not be done into your 50's and 60' should pay so little and have such low cost benefits that after 30 years on the street and in the trenches one would have to retire in poverty? Most of the higher ranking fire and police have advanced degrees including Masters. Some police departments (La Mesa for example) require college degrees. Maybe you should go on a ride along and see what the real world is like.

Many jobs have much much higher mortality rates and much lower pay (fishing, forestry, agriculture, etc). I never said the jobs were unskilled but I don't think that total compensation packages better than what many lawyers and doctors receive need to be offered to hire and retain good police officers and fire fighters. I don't think public officials are letting market conditions dictate compensation - I think pressure and influence from public employee unions have skew the compensation packages to far more than what the free market value would be.

ImJustABill:Pressure from public unions has played a role in the over-generous retirements of some on the fire and police departments. Best, Don Bauder

AlexClarke: I don't think San Diego police and fire employees are retiring in poverty. In fact, we occasionally print the salaries of such retirees -- many well into six figures. Best, Don Bauder

Sanders is like Howdy Doody, you just have to know who is pulling his strings to know the real plot.

Murphyjunk: But the string puller always seems to be dangling a wad of money. Best, Don Bauder

or for the voters ( fans) a carrot on a stick they will never get

Murphyjunk: While the owners get several carats of diamonds on the end of that stick. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh: Yes. The pension situation has most definitely not been solved. Best, Don Bauder

I agree we don't need a Charger stadium paid with tax dollars from whatever source when the NFL rakes in billions of dollars every year. I also agree the city should do a better job of allocating dollars for infrastructure.

The scary thing IS mismanagement and sadly San Diego has a long and well documented history of doing it. An audit just released of San Diego's Housing commission shows tens of millions of dollars UNCOLLECTED from so-called partners. https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/17-005_performance_audit_sdhc.pdf

Those dollars are needed to pay for low income housing. The commission blames two city departments for not communicating and sharing information. But this is just another example of PLAIN and SIMPLE mismanagement by the executive in charge, our Mayor. What do you think is going to happen if a TWO BILLION dollar Convadium project is approved by a naive electorate.

Folks think before you vote. San Diego needs billions for water, wastewater, streets, and other infrastructure that been crumbling for years. Let the owner of the Chargers, now worth more than two billion dollars, pay for his own stadium.

The Giant Suckin' Sound is becoming more and more humongous all the time. But we'll just keep on dancin' 'cause that's all there is, mah friends . . .

Flapper: It seems so appropriate that there is a giant sucking sound, because both the Padres and Chargers have sucked during most recent years. Best, Don Bauder

JustWondering: How right you are. San Diego needs billions of dollars for water, wastewater, streets, other infrastructure, police and fire protection, libraries…just about anything you can name. It is revolting that people are even THINKING of a multi-billion taxpayer subsidy for a family that has mismanaged the Chargers for as long as it has owned them.

Owners of pro sports teams should never get subsidized. Why do you think they are billionaires? Other people's (taxpayers') money. Best, Don Bauder

Lovers of politics: Lo and behold, Donald Trump in a recent speech lauded "Other People's Money" and boasted how he uses it to achieve his own ends. If he doesn't get elected president, he should own an NFL team. He did own a team in one of those new leagues that started up and then folded. Best, Don Bauder

Marco Bastian: Right you are. This subsidization of some of the richest people in the nation (pro sports team owners) has been going on since the end of World War II. Why do you think the leagues release almost no information about finances? It would be a gross embarrassment of hidden riches. Best, Don Bauder

John Newlin: Unfortunately, Reader distribution is not my department. If you have troubles getting the print edition, you can always get the online edition. Many people will ask me why I am not in every print edition. I tell them I am online far more than in print. Best, Don Bauder

I seem to be able to find The Reader at most supermarkets and mini-markets I frequent - which tend to be in PQ, 4S, and RB.

ImJustABill: Again, this is something I have no role in. Best, Don Bauder

Allow the Chargers to build a stadium on city owned land in the middle of Fiesta Island, with no city money. The city will have to build a few bridges and access roads from the bottom of Clairemont Drive and Ingraham Street, giving access from 5 and 8 . Let the stadium be owned by the city. The Chargers dont pay rent, but the city collects parking fees using paid city workers, and "awards" no juicy ACE contract. The city can rent the stadium anytime there is no scheduled Charger game. Problem solved.

Fiesta Island has better uses than an ugly stadium in the middle of Mission Bay. And the city leaders always stumble over themselves to grant the ACE Parking mafia an exclusive contract.

Ponzi: No more ACE giveaways, in addition to no Chargers giveaways. Best, Don Bauder

CaptainObvious: Your plan has the City giving away land and spending a bundle on infrastructure. Let's not give away anything to a billionaire-owned, thoroughly mismanaged enterprise that is an embarrassment to San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

Louis Rodolico: I don't know about the Regents Road Bridge. Sorry. Best, Don Bauder

Don, that issue is highly complicated because of NIMBYism and a host of other things. From a purely traffic-flow standpoint, it should be built. I've always suspected that the opponents were far less concerned about the environmental impact than they claimed and were more interested in keeping their own dead end streets just that way, and hence quiet. But the opponents appear to have won, and it won't be built.

Visduh: I can certainly understand residents opposing a bridge so they can retain their dead end streets. But again, I don't follow this controversy. Best, Don Bauder

I'm still guessing at the Chargers' strategy? Do they know something we don't know? If I was in their shoes once the LA door (at least the one they wanted) got shut I would have either sold the team or negotiated a deal with Faulconer, Roberts and whoever else is actually making decisions. Faulconer / Roberts were willing to write a big fat 350M taxpayer check to Spanos - and probably would have been willing to go higher. Supposedly after the LA rejection Spanos asked for $650M not $350M and Faulconer / Roberts said no. I don't know if Faulconer and Roberts were being at least somewhat prudent and drawing a line or if their strings were being pulled by others - but at least they drew the line at how badly the taxpayer's pockets would get picked.

And now Spanos wants $1.15B in tax money spent on his project?

Your suspicions about Faulconer and Ronnie R ring true. Except that I don't see Kev-boy as a power broker just yet. He has backers who he must satisfy/mollify first. If you look at those who have made "F" mayor, you will know who is making the decisions. As for Roberts, he seems to have managed to intimidate most of the other local pols, and so few ever oppose him in an up-or-down vote.

Visduh: Faulconer was not ready to be mayor. He was picked hurriedly because the corporate welfare establishment needed a lackey quickly. Papa Doug Manchester was one who was pushing Faulconer, I understand. Best, Don Bauder

Maryanne Beckham: When politicians tell whoppers, you always have to ask what constituency he or she is massaging. In this case, the politician seems to be massaging members of existing government unions (people who were in the unions before benefits were taken from new employees). Telling them lies is doing them no favors. Best, Don Bauder

Aguirre says "jump," Bauder says "how high?"

Another single-source story, the source being a failed local politician. I can't believe the Reader actually pays Bauder to be Aguirre's spokesperson.

petezanko: Since Aguirre is one of the few San Diegans having the intestinal fortitude to take on San Diego's corporate welfare schemes, I am happy to quote him. Best, Donn Bauder

Why don't they just put a couple of aircraft carriers together and play the 8 games there in San Diego Harbor?! US Taxpayers already payed for those ships. Can put up big screens in the parking lots lol!?! Can still charge $20.00 for hot dogs and tiny shot sized beers lol!

SportsFan0000: Would the game be called off because of the weather if a tsunami rolled in? Best, Don Bauder

Mike Murphy: You can bet they will be back with another scam. Paraphrasing what an Elizabethan author wrote (not Shakespeare), "Hell hath no fury like a thwarted pickpocket." Best, Don Bauder

Joseph Oppenheim: Sorry. That tale about demographers miscalculating life lengths is one of the silliest yarns I have heard yet. Does anybody believe that? Best, Don Bauder

The police and fire unions claim that police and firefighters have shorter lifespans than the average person. I think the unions' claims are untrue, as does the author of this website.


ImJustABill: We went through this about ten to twelve years ago. As I recall, there were several occupations with shorter life spans than police and fire. As I recall, lumberjacks were among them, but I wouldn't swear by it. Best, Don Bauder

Jeff Madruga: And it will be a long time before the pension mess is solved. Best, Don Bauder

Sean Rodrigues: You must do some subtraction. The Chargers will subtract the money from naming rights from their contribution. The Chargers will subtract advertising income from their contribution. It is conceivable that the Chargers will not put a cent into this stadium. Best, Don Bauder

Relax. San Diego is entering the 'Golden Age of Debt' Like Detroit-GM-The banks-Stockton-Argentina-Greece-have proven its' better to be on the front end with heavy debt rather than be on the backend flush. E.G the towns and cities in Michigan that are flush will pay for the educational budget of their town and Detroit.

Clockerbob: Wasn't Donald Trump lauding debt the other day, and hosting that he has succeeded with "other people's money?" That is one time he was telling the truth. Best, Don Bauder

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