Her Voice: Firefighters, police deserve those pensions
by Lisa Pedranti / For the Tracy Press
Oct 29, 2010 | 2529 views | 43 43 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We all know our state is in a financial crisis, and hard decisions about how to fix this problem will have to be made by our elected politicians. The pensions of employees all over the state are a topic that seems to be igniting debate and discussion. The most upsetting aspect of these debates is when police and firefighters are lumped into any debate that involves a reduction in these benefits.

One can argue that state and local employees don't deserve such a "rewarding" retirement package when times are tough for all right now, and that may be the case for certain types of job descriptions. I strongly argue, though, that police officers and firefighters who serve in their designated fields for 25 years deserve every penny of their pension.

Every day, these men and women risk their lives doing what they do. Ask yourself how much is your life worth, and would you like a job that involves putting your health or even life in danger every single day you go to work for a minimum of 25 years?

Do you also realize that, statistically, police officers do not reach the average life expectancy of others not in the police field and that the years of stress one endures as an officer shortens their life span?

These brave men and women don't get paid near enough for the extreme nature of their jobs. Most police I know certainly do not get the respect from the public they deserve, either, since most of their encounters are with people breaking the law and causing problems in general.

How many times are the police portrayed in a negative light on the nightly news? More so than not, these men and women are good, do good, and keep our streets safe for law-abiding citizens. Their salaries certainly do not, in my opinion, reflect the ongoing sacrifices they make to serve and protect the public.

Any changes that may be made to the retirement pensions of police and firefighters should only be made to future hires. Raising the age to 55 instead of 50 seems somewhat reasonable, but do not argue that they don't deserve the "almost full pay" they will get when they do retire. These men and women decide to enter these fields for many reasons, and if one perk is in a decent retirement package, they certainly are among a very few select that deserve every single bit of it.

So the next time this topic comes up, think about how you would feel going to work wondering if this day on the job would be your last because your duties to protect and serve cost you your life. Think about the sacrifice to your family if you did not come home from work. Think about it as you push papers next time you go to work in a comfortable office, protected from danger, complaining about outrageous pensions of police and firefighters.

• Lisa Pedranti, wife of a hard-working police officer.



Comments
(43)
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tommybahama
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October 31, 2010
Well axman what's your reply to that?
dealbrkr
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October 31, 2010
Axman- Fair? You have retirement 100%, health care, vacation, expenses, wage(150K) and we foot your lifestyle by our taxes. The general public has zero and could never afoord any of the above. How is this fair?
tommybahama
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October 31, 2010
Thanks for digging that up JimF01 as that appears to be critical information when discussing pay reductions with firefighters who feel the need to blog about how much they have sacraficed during these difficult times.

From where I sit it appears that no one from the city has taken any type of substantial pay reduction, to date, unless you count the "58" people who were actually layed off...

Sounds to me like the city has some explaining to do and I think it should start at the top.
JimF01
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October 30, 2010
From http://www.ci.tracy.ca.us/uploads/fckeditor/File/city_council/agendas/2010/09/07/05.pdf

The main components of the new MOU are as follows:

...



Employee contribution of 3% toward the PERS contribution required by City as the employer



Establishment of furlough bank with eighty-four (84) hours that must be used by June 30, 2011.

•...

While other non-public safety units at the City have taken a number of unpaid furlough days to assist in reducing personnel costs, public safety groups such as TFA cannot implement furloughs ... TFA will therefore be contributing 3% towards the employer’s retirement contribution to ensure a reduction in personnel costs will be realized. In exchange, the City will provide a furlough bank of 84 hours. These hours may be utilized in a manner similar to vacation...
JimF01
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October 30, 2010
Firefighters took no cut in pay. Firefighters agreed in the last MOU to put 3% of their pay as a pension contribution, that is why some of their paychecks are less, but their salaries did not change.

The city gave, in return, in the same MOU, 84 hours that firefighters can take off, with pay. They refer to those hours a furlough hours, but the MOU says nothing about those furlough hours being unpaid. The result is that the employees can then defer using vacation hours and use the furlough hours for a day off.

The same contract allows any employee to cash out approximately a year of vacation time. You can do the math, the employees can cash more out in vacation time, in some cases, than they are contributing to their own pension.
tommybahama
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October 30, 2010
How much of a cut have the firefighters taken axman? Was it 3%-4%-5% or more???

I think that's important for everyone to know because from what I understand you agreed to furloughs but ended up taking a 3% cut. Keep in mind you didn't give up your right to sell back vacation to make up any loss of wages so in essence that makes it a 0% cut.

I agree that you deserve your benefits but I think you need to be realistic when it comes to your wages compared to the rest of the community. When our county is looking at 17% unemployment (Tracy is at 9.6%) then we need to be realistic about what the tax payers in Tracy can truly afford.

The average salary in Tracy is approximately $49,000 per year and the median household income is approximately $76,000. http://www.simplyhired.com/a/local-jobs/city/l-Tracy, CA

Given that the average firefighter/paramedic in Tracy makes approximately $73,000 per year by him or her self then you've got to ask what is a truly fair? Keep in mind that does not include any mandatory overtime.

http://www.ci.tracy.ca.us/modules/dms/file_retrieve.php?function=view&obj_id=11

Tell you what; How about you drop the average wages of a firefighter/paramedic down to 20% above the average wage in Tracy, which would be approximately $59,000 per year and do the same with the remainder of the Department's wages then I'll agree that you're being paid fairly.

dealbrkr
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October 30, 2010
Privatize Fire and Police - Make it an affordable entity. That is the only way any sustainable change will happen. Turn half of the FD back to the county, reduce the city limits to include only developed area's.

We as tax payers insist on a sustainable government. FD is the most expensive department on the city payroll.
MB2010
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October 30, 2010
I thank you for it axman.
axman
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October 30, 2010
And we do earn it. We went through preparing ourselves through fire academies, emt school, paramedic school, and most of us have college degrees. Firefighting and Police work are not entry level jobs. It takes mental and physical aptitude to acquire these jobs and keep them. We are called to place ourselves at risk for contracting deadly diseases, handling combative citizens, and we might possibly have to lay down our lives for a member of the community to live.

We get a fair wage and a fair retirement for those risks.

Meatman
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October 30, 2010


If they earned it, and deserved...

ertion
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October 30, 2010
"years of greed, lies and theft on wall street, Sacramento and DC"

curious that you are exempting local government from this. curious that you are exempting public employee unions at the local level from this.

If a public employee gets a promotion a couple of months before retirement in order for that employee to retire at that last higher salary, what would you call that?

What would you call it in the action of the person or person who performed that action for that employee?

What is the effect on the california pension system of behaving this way?

Are we to simply believe that greed is always something that happens only somewhere else?
Meatman
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October 30, 2010
For you to be the scape goat for years of greed, lies and theft on wall street, Sacramento and DC.
axman
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October 30, 2010
Tommy,

The FD just took a paycut and hasn't taken any raises in 2 years.... what more do you want?
tommybahama
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October 30, 2010
Yes I would contribute my fair share if it would help to resolve this problem. In fact, the total cost for myself and my family would be in the neighborhood of $280 annually.

I have to agree with ertion in that this really isn't about public safety employees or their duties, it's about maintaining an unsustainable level of pay and benefits for public sector employees.

Keep in mind that historically public sector employees have traded the potential of earning higher wages (such as those earned in the private sector) for better benefits and job security; however, it now seems like these same people who were unwilling to take any risk now want to change the rules of the game. They want it all, higher wages, better benefits and job security regardless of the impact it will have on the economy or on the residents they serve.

If these people are truly servants of the "public" then they will do what's in the best interest of the public and take pay cuts, which will result in a reduction in the cost of benefits.

ertion
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October 30, 2010
gum fudge:

you have no idea of my financial situation. I in fact have made a fair amount of money on this current economic mess because I've been paying attention the past several years. However, I also realize the really bad effect this is having and will continue to have on everyone, not just in Tracy.

I also have no envy of anyone who has succeeded by their own merits in the private sector. Their success helps makes us all more prosperous.

The issue is with overly generous, non sustainable pay, benefits, and retirement obtained by the public sector. Again, I could care less about all this EXCEPT that I am being taxed at a high level to PAY for it.

This taxation does two bad things:

1. Prevents those not in the public sector from obtaining anywhere near the same level of retirement security.

2. Takes away money that we would have invested in other income producing activities that helps generate jobs in the private sector.

Public employees need to get paid. They need to get paid decently. Fire and police need to get paid decently. That is the rub. What is decent? In the private sector, companies who pay too much or too litle suffer the consequences pretty quickly. In the public sector, paying too much has in recent history had only one consequence: higher taxes. Until now, when the well is running dry.

Who in the private sector has retirement benefits anything like what you're seeing for fire and police? No one. We have 401K and that is it. Totally at risk, not guaranteed. Again not envy: if I wasn't asked to pay for it I could give a rat's behind.

There has to be some equity of position between public servants and those they serve. The public servant cannot make salaries, benefits, and retirements that dwarf what is possible in the private sector that is taxed to provide them. That is nothing other than an entitled ruling class. Don't expect us to be content with this.
WonderfulWorld
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October 30, 2010
Mrs. Pedranti may be hysterically out of touch with reality but at LEAST she's got the guts to attach her name to her opinions.

Public safety professionals and their families have bought into the remarkable belief that, "my contribution is SO great that NO amount of compensation is sufficient to reward my work."

I'm glad that Mrs. Pedranti's husband has such incredibly high self esteem. But no, her husband is in an important job but still a blue-collar job. There is some element of danger in that job but also aspects of the job that attract people who like the authority and sense of contributing to the community that public safety work can bring.

When excesses occur in our society there are corrections. All over California reductions and retrenchment of public safety compensation has just begun. You may well live out your life in luxery Mrs. Pedranti - the odds are that damage can't be un done - but don't be surprized if not everyone admires your husband for the way that he and his union have exploited the public trust.

And, certainly don't be surprized when the people of Tracy do what must be done to ensure that future public employees will exploit the citizens they serve as your husband and his fellow public servants have.
axman
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October 29, 2010
classless ertion.
Ornley_Gumfudgen
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October 29, 2010
ertion

Odd ya mentioned Jed. In that storyline who was th smarter, Jed or th bankers an businessmen tryin ta bilk him outa his money?

Note I didn't say ya had that envy but ya shore didn't feel inclined ta hold back on what ya really thank.

Th discrepancies ya have are harbored in yer own little mind an th jealousy ya have against people that have done somethang with thair lives is obvious.

Look, ya had th opportunity ta make more of yerself but fer some reason or other thangs didn't work out that way. Now instead of just accptin yer lot in life that ya made fer yerself ya want ta take it out on others.

Ya might not be envious of us two peckerheads (yer words, not mine) but ya shore are envious of th City Manager an many of th employees that do honest work fer th city.

Yep honest work. Now if ya got evidence ta th contrary present it an if true we will prosecute em. Till then it's just idle machinations in yer own little mind filled with baseless speculations.

But it's OK, ya got just as much right ta disagree as th next feller. Just don't be surprised if ya denigrate em because of thair successes in life that someone don't come back an give ya a dose of yer own medicine.

Seems thare are some that take exception ta what I write an th way I write it. That's good an exactly what I intended. It stimulates conversation an conversation stimulates thought.

But if ya notice I never throw th first blow an when people like yerself get a friendly slap frum me it's because ya have taken too much liberty in denegratin someone without any credible facts ta back em up.

This is a lesson Tom Benigno can't seem ta larn. Hopefully ya won't fall inta his catagory an will start thankin with yer mind instead of spewin yer vitriol frum yer emotions.

ertion
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October 29, 2010
tell that to jed clampett
Willofthepeople
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October 29, 2010
Inappropriate ertion...


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