Letters to the Editor - Oct. 6, 2012
Assumptions hurt pensions
More and more, especially with stories about PERS, people are asking about pension plans.
Pensions are defined-benefit plans designed to pay a lifetime retirement income beginning in the future. Plan design requires actuaries to be psychics about life expectancy and unknown rates of investment return.
I’m sure that actuaries didn’t sit down in March 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst, and say, “I think markets will return zero percent over the next 10 years.”
When investment returns don’t match actuarial assumptions, and when retirees live longer than assumed, pension plans end up underfunded.
For a public employee plan such as PERS, public taxes fund the plan, while a private company must use company money to “right the ship.” Either way, here’s the reality: There ain’t enough money to keep righting the ship.
Do employers and investment committees want to bet on dramatic increases in investment returns, given the market volatility of recent years? No. That’s why public plans are being reformed and private pension plans are being terminated.
It’s not confiscation of promised benefits by “fat cats” or employers not wanting to provide retirement income for employees. It’s the economic reality of inaccurate assumptions.
It’s time to quit assuming. Defined-benefit pension plans have all of us too close to the iceberg that took down the Titanic. We pay the costs both as taxpayers and consumers of private products and services.
We have to change that path. Even PERS is moving part of its plan to “defined contribution,” like a 401(k). That puts risks associated with investment returns onto the retiree, but to right the ship, we all have to take responsibility for personal finances.
It begins with spending less than you earn and saving the rest. Madison Avenue and our consumer economy may not like that change, but what’s the alternative?
What a mountain of waste
I am responding to Ryan Thornton’s letter regarding the Pink Martini concert (Readers’ Forum, Sept. 29, “Concert was waste of money”).
First of all, I was there. Most of the crowd was local, from right here in Yamhill County.
Secondly, because this is their home, these community members already donate to YCAP, Virginia Garcia, etc. Because they care about this area — the land and the people — they support the closure of the Riverbend mountain-o’-garbage in 2014, as promised when it originally opened.
Third, Thornton is concerned about where the concert dollars will go but not so concerned about the millions of dollars of profit that leave the area for Houston, Texas, in the pockets of the mega-international garbage corporation, Waste Management Inc.
The piece ends by saying, “What a waste.” Yup, what a waste … a great, big, stinking mountain of waste.
Concert-goers were local
In response to the letter (Readers’ Forum, Sept. 29, “Concert was waste of money”), Mr. Thornton might better focus his community waste concerns on the millions of dollars that go each year to a Texas corporation that imports millions of tons of garbage to Yamhill County, piling it on top of hundreds of acres of the best farmland in the state, than he does about a modest amount of money raised at a concert defending our community’s air, land and water.
Like my family, most of the people at that concert were local people who already support all those causes he mentions, and, because they believe in good causes, they support the closing of Riverbend landfill in 2014.
Don’t allow landfill expansion
I take exception to several things that Ryan Thornton said in his letter (Readers’ Forum, Sept. 29, “Concert was waste of money”). He was talking about the Pink Martini fundraiser for Stop the Dump, the group against the expansion of the dump and for its closure in 2014.
Thornton called it a crowd of Portlanders. I’ve lived in Yamhill County for 40 years, and I recognized a majority of the audience as being local.
It’s great that Portlanders attended because, by far, the highest percentage of garbage that comes to the dump is from the Portland Metro area, not Yamhill County. They were able to see and smell the dump where their garbage comes to rest in our county, which is extolled for its beauty and agriculture abundance.
Many of us who attended the fundraiser also go to the other fund raising events Thornton mentioned. We donate to YCAP’s food bank and the Virginia Garcia Foundation, and volunteer our time as well.
The dump has grown too big with out-of-area garbage. If you have seen photos of the dump during floods, you have seen a disaster waiting to happen to the river. Geologists have made it clear that the big earthquake, magnitude 9, and tsunami will happen. The only question is how soon.
There is no evidence that the dump would still be standing in a magnitude 9 earthquake or that there wouldn’t be liquefaction of the soils beneath the dump leading to a far-reaching contamination of the Yamhill River and the agricultural land around it. Preventing this is important.
There wouldn’t be a need for land-use lawyers from Portland if all of us made it clear to our county commissioners and the dump’s owners, Waste Management, that expansion and continuation of the dump are unacceptable.
Commissioners should listen
Please help me understand. In August, a DEQ hydrogeologist cited concerns of potential environmental risks in the proposed park development near the inactive Whiteson Landfill and active Riverbend Landfill.
Then a month later, DEQ’s project manager steps in to inform our county commissioners that the Department of Environmental Quality sees no factors that make this project infeasible or undesirable. Something seems very suspicious to me.
In fact, it seems to me that the county commissioners, once again, do not like the report they were hearing, so they changed the game plan to meet their liking. As President Ronald Reagan said, “There they go again.”
I have been doing some calling and, apparently, I am not alone in my concerns about the lack of integrity the commissioners have shown by approving another land-use matter without a forthright plan that shows patience and due diligence. If farmers in the area have a concern, then why the rush?
Why are we not making completely sure that all voices are heard and a proper — even ethical — decision is made? I surely hope it is not a situation where Commissioner Lewis wants action before her term is up. I have seen too many games played in our county that have caused a buildup of frustration.
Pretty pictures are painted where maybe there are legitimate concerns. If our farmers are correct that a law is being ignored and they can prove that the project will financially harm them in any way, this should be reason enough to slow down and listen to them.
Odor flows from dump
I read the letter from Ryan Thornton (Readers’ Forum, Sept. 29, “Concert was waste of money”) about the concert being a waste of money. He was concerned that the money raised by the Pink Martini concert was going to Portland lawyers.
I wonder if he uses Western Oregon Waste to pick up his garbage. Is he aware that part of his money is helping to pay for Waste Management lawyers in Texas? I do not belong to the group that is trying to curtail the landfill’s life, but I am glad that someone is working to bring the dump to a close.
It is clear that our mayor and city council are not concerned about the odor that flows our way from time to time. When Mr. Thornton is trying to sell some real estate on the day the wind is blowing his way, and he is out in his yard closing the deal and the odor comes along, he can just tell the potential buyer that his neighbor forgot to close his bathroom window and it doesn’t happen very often.
Voting against Romney
I am an active member of the Latter-day Saints Church and recently turned 81. My wife and I served on the Portland temple for 18 years. We have filled four LDS missions, and we have both held important positions and teaching assignments in the church. That is why it is hard for me to write this letter.
I would like to support Romney for president, but I am concerned that he has not followed Scripture where it condemns greed and advocates the care of the poor and needy. Although he has backtracked recently a bit, I feel he has not listened to church leaders and their compassion about immigrants.
I am further concerned about his rather reluctant tax disclosure and find that he pays about the same percentage on his millions that I pay for $2,400 in retirement, and that hardly seems fair.
I would not vote for a candidate just because he was LDS, even though we have similar views. More Southern “Christians” would not vote for him, or might hold their noses while doing so, for the same reasons.
Perhaps we need to listen to Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, who counseled that we should seek the power to see ourselves as others see us.
Gerald L. Fowles
Campbell works for others
Kathy Campbell is the Democratic candidate for State Representative for District 24.
Kathy, as chair of the Mac High Jazz Night, helped raise more than $20,000 for McMinnville school bands. She also helped her church raise more than $10,000 for Habitat for Humanity, and she helped raise $14,000 with Salsa Night for immigration services and programs.
Kathy Campbell has been working quietly in the community to help others.
This is the type of representative McMinnville deserves, someone working quietly for District 24 families, schools and health care services.
I’m voting Kathy Campbell for District 24.
Yes on 79 for no new tax
Whether or not you are a homeowner, please vote Yes on Measure 79. This measure would damage our housing industry.
If this measure passes, the Oregon Legislature could pass a real estate transfer tax. Then, Oregon homeowners would have to pay a second tax on any transfer of their property. This tax would apply even if you merely deeded your own trust.
Most Oregonians pay an average property tax of $2,200 per year. Voting Yes on Measure 79 will send a message that enough is enough. Our homeowners are already struggling.
Vote Yes on Measure 79, which means No, we do not want another tax.