Thursday, March 05, 2009

Saving Our Springfield (SOS) Citizen Coalition Spokesman Chappell: "We need time to make a good choice."

SOS spokesman Darin Chappell penned a letter to the Springfield News-Leader which was published as a "Voice of the Day" column in yesterday's paper, "...there have been a few questions and critiques raised that deserve to be answered directly. As one of the spokesmen for the coalition, I would like to do so here," Chappell wrote.

One of the issues Chappell addressed was the true intent of the plan. He noted he felt it was unfair to discount or dismiss the plan based on the fact that it will not bring the plan to a 90 or 100 percent funding ratio for more than twenty years. To be honest, I'm not sure that the 1/4-cent sales tax the group has proposed would provide the momentum, on its own, to ever create enough funding that it would reach the 90 to 100 percent funding level needed in order for the pension system to become self-sufficient but, I don't think that was SOS' intent.

Chappell spelled it out more eloquently, and concisely, in his letter to the public than I could summarize:

"We need not fund the pension at 100 percent (or even 90 percent ), unless the city anticipates a mass retirement of the officers and firefighters in the immediate future. What we do need immediately is to fund the pension at the state-mandated level of 60 percent, thereby giving our City Council the opportunity (and the responsibility) to take further steps to make the fund permanently solvent. We need time to make a good choice, not just the easiest one."

The best I can tell, this alternative solution will simply shore up the plan, protecting our City from action on the part of the State. You see, the State has the ability, if the pension plan is funded below 60 percent, and if the City does not make a full actuarial recommended contribution once in every five years, to seize 25 percent of the City's sales tax revenue (which the State handles) and contribute it to the pension plan on behalf of the City.

SOS' plan, I think, is intended to keep the pension plan funded above the 60 percent level to ensure the State can't take action against the City while other options are considered in a more deliberate way.

Deliberate, good. Rash, bad.

I have no inside knowledge about SOS' alternative plan. Oh, I was aware discussions were being held. Heck, Jericho said as much on his show. I wasn't privy to any of those discussions so, I'm learning about SOS' alternative plan along with everyone else.

I like the idea of slowing things down and taking a more deliberate approach, and besides we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow, let alone between now and April 7, or now and at any point in the future of our City.

Today, the City of Springfield released news that there has been another telecommunications settlement, this time between the City and AT&T Mobility. The City will receive $10.22 million from the settlement.

Here are some details from that news release*:

"Under the settlement agreement approved in a closed City Council session on Tuesday, March 2, AT&T Mobility will pay the City of Springfield $10.22 million, which includes back taxes owed as well as taxes paid under protest that will be released. AT&T will voluntarily pay the gross receipts tax on wireless service going forward.

Mayor Tom Carlson said he will recommend to City Council that the $10.22 million settlement be applied to the Police/Fire Pension Fund. That amount would equal the amount the City underfunded the pension plan during four years from FY2004 to FY2007, plus interest."

So, there's another $10.22 million for the fund that, yesterday, we had no idea we'd have, and according to the release, "Litigation continues with AT&T (landline company that was formerly SBC) and Alltel." (I intend to look into the news release's claim that this takes care of the "interest," on what the City failed to contribute in the past.)

These settlements are good news for the pension fund.

I had some questions about information Mr. Chappell shared regarding the CIP in his letter published in the News-Leader. I have asked questions of the City regarding that particular aspect. I am told I should have answers within 24 - 48 hours of asking them. That's a rule of thumb, according to the Public Information Office's Director, for dealing with "citizen journalist's" requests for information because, citizen journalists are not generally on a "deadline." I wouldn't argue with that. I have no deadline here.

As a disclosure, I recently made the decision not to continue to contribute to the Community Free Press. Their publisher once told me, "I have no magic formula for how I pay people." That was the truth, folks. There was no consistency in how I was paid for my work, and no agreement was forthcoming in regards to my compensation so, with no pending agreement, I made a decision to look at, and for, other options.

Now I have to wait for information from the City, just as every other citizen who has a query has to wait. That simply means I won't be getting preferential treatment because I'm on a deadline. That's okay. I'm among good company. Besides, it usually took 24 - 48 hours to get answers to my more involved questions anyway so, I probably won't notice much of a change.

*For a list of City government news releases from the past 30 days, click on this link.



Vincent David Jericho said...

Go to and click on Podcast to hear more from Mr. Chappell and Mr. Wright who were my guests today.

Jackie Melton said...

I heard much of that discussion (maybe not all of it).

Thanks for pointing readers that way. What I heard was good information.

There are links to KSGF's Web site in the body of this post and at the link section of this blog under "Newstalk."