Kevin And Don Respond To Being Self Loathing

Looking back at their journey from the Stonewall Democratic Club to Log Cabin Republicans, they claim it was one that was actually started by the democrats. After being told that marriage as not a priority on the agenda in 1995, they became disillusioned with the DEMS. For a decade they felt like they did not belong until they met the republicans of the Log Cabin Republican Club and discovered they too shared a dream of marriage equality. This blog is now a digital time capsule of their time as Republicans and moderated by a friend and supporter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Half Moon Love

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LACERA Rate Likely To Rise In July Before MOU Expires

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LACERA General Member Contribution Rates Are Likely to Increase in July of 2011 even though the MOU that LACERA negotiated with SEIU (which governs AFSCME employees) expires in September of 2011. LACERA is reporting that, based on new mortality tables adopted by the Board of Investments in March 2011, general member contribution rates are likely to increase, pending approval of the County Board of Supervisors (BOS). Since the last issue, the Coalition of County Unions and SEIU Local 721 have agreed to a July 1, 2011 effective date for new employee rates. LACERA presented its rate recommendation to the BOS in late April; the BOS put the matter on the agenda for its June 21 meeting. The proposed new general member rates reflect a slight increase. Under the proposed rates, Safety Plan B members will experience a small decrease in their contributions. No rate changes are proposed for Safety Plan A members. Once approved, the new rates for all LACERA contributory plans will be available in the Benefi ts section of

Friday, June 17, 2011

LACERA: Statement of Kevin Miguel Norte

Tuesday, June 14, 2011



Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer

Los Angeles County pension board members and managers have traveled the world and stayed at luxury hotels even as the pension fund suffered a $5.1 billion loss in value in the last three years, the Daily News has learned.

Since the economy started to decline in 2000, officials have traveled widely - often at county expense and sometimes subsidized by private entities that seek the county's business - to a long list of conferences.

Destinations included London; Rome; Tokyo; Beijing; Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Moscow; Vienna, Austria; Berlin; Prague, Czech Republic; as well as Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Vail, Colo.; Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach, Fla.; Las Vegas; and New Orleans.

``It would seem to me that with all the exotic places California has that these conferences could be held in our state and county,'' said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

Hotel bills ran as high as $553 a night, and sometimes were partially paid for by securities and real estate firms that the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association invests with.

They ``go on some of the most phenomenal trips in the world,'' said a county official. ``When you represent billions of dollars of American money, the doors open. You get to meet the heads of state. You are wined and dined.''

LACERA paid the bond, stock and real estate investment management firms that sponsor some of the trips' $93 million in fees and other expenses in 2002.

The firms pay for the trips directly or contribute to third-party trustee educational organizations, which offer the trips as gifts to LACERA officials. The LACERA retirement and investment boards then vote to accept the gifts and select members to go on the trips.

The practices have come under scrutiny, and Antonovich has called for an investigation, as the value of the county retirement system's investments have plummeted by $5.1 billion in the last three years - from $31.6 billion in 2000 to $26.5 billion now.

Because of the decline and state law changes, taxpayers will have to kick in an extra $300 million into the retirement system in the next few years to meet costs as up to one-fifth of the county's 87,226-strong work force retires.

Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, said he doesn't have a problem with pension officials going to legitimate educational conferences, but he is concerned about LACERA receiving free travel and lodging expenses from the firms it does business with.

``If the conference is justified, the agency should pay for the conference,'' Stern said. ``They shouldn't be getting reimbursement from investment managers. That creates a conflict of interest as far as I'm concerned.

``If the conferences are necessary, they can stay at regular hotels. They don't have to stay at luxurious hotels. When I go to government conferences, it's $119-a-night. But they are not $300 to $500-a-night hotels.''

LACERA chief executive officer Marsha Richter said it doesn't make sense for LACERA to pay for travel and conference expenses because the agency already pays fees to some of the firms that sponsor the conferences.

``It's like we would be paying double for it,'' Richter said.

As the third largest pension fund in California, the association's board members and managers are required to attend educational conferences, she said.

``They are in charge of large amounts of assets,'' Richter said. ``They have to do most of the work they do delegating responsibility to outside managers and vendors.

``Those are the reasons why we travel - to become more educated overseeing investments, make sure we are selecting the best providers and to benchmark ourselves so we are doing the best job we can and protecting the benefits of beneficiaries.''

LACERA Board of Investments Secretary Brian C. Brooks, a county real estate appraiser elected to the board, said trustees are expected to become experts on the fund's stock, bond and real estate investments and get up to speed on the latest issues at the conferences.

``A lot of times various people, educational groups and associations will put on general education conferences to update people on changing markets,'' Brooks said.

At the conferences, Brooks said, investment firms make their pitches for businesses but ``networking or button-holing is prohibited during the conference day.

``I haven't had a problem with a manager coming up and saying, `We want you to invest in this or the other,''' Brooks said. ``These are not junkets. In fact, I froze to death on the trip to New York.''

Brooks attended a pension conference in New York in 2001, staying at the $388-a-night Waldorf-Astoria Hilton Hotel.

Since 2000, LACERA has spent $67,219 sending board members on trips and also spent $31,099 on similar costs for staff executives.

LACERA has paid for board members' conference expenses in San Francisco, Carlsbad, Monterey, Palm Springs, Palo Alto and Berkeley, according to expense reports.

The trustee educational organizations have paid for most of the expenses of trips to Budapest, Hungary; Vienna; Athens; Istanbul; Berlin; Moscow; Prague; London; Rome; Tempe. Ariz.; and Key Biscayne, Fla. Some of the trips involved visits to more than one city.

The board members have stayed at the $397-a-night The Plaza in New York City, $301-a-night Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, $302-a-night Snake River Lodge and Spa in Jackson Hole and the $429-a-night Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Board of Investment Chairwoman Sandra J. Anderson spent $553 a night at The Sherman Hotel in San Francisco from Nov. 9-11, 2002, to attend a pension fund conference.

Richter said the conference hotel was booked and LACERA had a hard time finding a room for Anderson, eventually settling on The Sherman Hotel. ``That was somewhat unusual,'' Richter said.

Under LACERA's travel policy, the agency reimburses board members and staff at the IRS per diem rate or at $99 per day for meals and incidentals with receipts. LACERA pays for the lodging expenses on domestic trips and officials stay at the hotels selected by the conference.

LACERA's senior managers spent $31,099 on conference travel expenses since 2000.

Richter spent $4,308, staying at the $283-a-night The Regent in Beverly Hills and at the $257-a-night Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, Canada.

LACERA chief legal counsel David Muir stayed at the $461-a-night Millennium Hotel in New York City for the Grand & Eisenhofer Law Firm- sponsored Institutional Investor Conference on Corporate and Securities Litigation.

Despite its losses, LACERA has performed in the top quarter of pension funds in the nation in the last few years.

In 2002, 46,242 retired county employees received an average monthly check of $2,374. LACERA has a total of 141,498 members.

As a result of market losses and state and local officials deciding to fatten pension benefits in the last few years - especially for law enforcement officers and firefighters - state and local governments must now boost contributions by billions of dollars to keep them solvent.

As required by law, the Board of Supervisors voted in April to increase its employer contribution to the LACERA fund by three-quarters of a percent to 10.17 percent of payroll.

The county's contributions to the fund are expected to quadruple from 2001 to 2007, rising from $193 million in 2001, $298 million in 2002, $535 million in 2003 and hitting $800 million in a few years, according to LACERA documents and Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen.

``It's grown from $300 million a couple of years ago to $500 million now, and it's expected to hit $800 million in a couple of years,'' Janssen said.

For someone who retired in fiscal year 2001-02 with 30 years or more of service, the average monthly benefit is $4,368 - not counting public safety employees, whose average monthly benefit is $7,066.

About 20 percent of the county's managers and 7 percent of rank-and-file employees are expected to retire in the next three years as baby boomers, mostly in their mid- to late-50s, decide to retire, said Susan Stern, chief deputy of the Department of Human Resources.

``It's part of the Baby Boom bubble,'' Stern said. ``I think what most agencies are experiencing is that population all started working for the county at about the same age and now they are all getting ready to retire at about the same time.''

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985



SOURCE: Daily News research; Los Angeles County records

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