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Eliminating PERS for Legislators and Judges Takes Away Conflict of Interest

Monday, November 7, 2011

PERS was created in 1945 to provide retirement benefits to Oregon’s public employees.  Legislators and judges were not eligible to join PERS.  Everyone affected by PERS was fairly represented when PERS laws were made and PERS disputes were decided by neutral judges. That, however, began to change in the 1970’s.  By 1984, the legislators had changed the law so that they could retroactively join PERS and judges automatically became PERS members.  Thereafter, PERS members have made all of the PERS laws and they have decided every PERS lawsuit.  That is the problem with PERS.

Oregon will have $3 billion less to spend in 2011 – 2013 then it had in 2009 – 2011.  But laws passed by PERS legislators guarantee that this shortfall will not reduce the money paid to PERS.  The PERS budget for 2011 – 2013 has been increased by $1.1 billion, to $7.5 billion.  PERS members have also decided that during the 2011 – 2013 biennium the people of Oregon will pay over $870 million to pick up employee PERS contributions for PERS members.  That money could have been used to provide services to all Oregonians but instead it will be used for PERS members only.   This is what happens when PERS members have total control over the PERS decision making process and it is a serious problem.

The solution to the PERS problem is to remove legislators and judges from PERS.  Legislators are the elected representatives of the people, not hired employees, and they should not receive employee benefits.  Judges should have their own independent retirement plan, just like they did prior to 1984.  These changes would restore the fairness that existed when PERS was established in 1945 and they would end decades of financial abuse that has cost the people of Oregon billions of dollars.

Article written by Daniel Re


Having Jail Space Only Solution to Effective Incarceration and Rehabilitation

Friday, October 21, 2011

Most people don’t differentiate between “prison” and “jail”. As far as most of us are concerned, as long as the “bad guys” are locked up in a small room with bars and a stainless steel toilet, it really doesn’t really matter what we call the facility, but jail and prison are very different animals that house different populations and meet very different community needs. A healthy community needs both local jail capacity and access to prison space for its most serious offenders.

Prisons are state-run facilities that hold felons who have been sentenced to serve more than a year in custody, while jails are local facilities that house those who are awaiting trial, including those awaiting trial on the most serious felony charges, and those who have been sentenced to serve short periods of incarceration for violating probation or committing misdemeanor crimes like DUII, simple assault and theft. Although it’s important for misdemeanor wrongdoers to be punished, local jails play a more critical role in the criminal justice system: they give force to judicial orders. I’m talking about orders to attend trial, order to participate in anger management counseling and orders to follow through with drug treatment.

Judges, like parents of young children, must have the ability to enforce the rules they make. Unfortunately, when it comes to a group of criminal offenders who typically have no tangible assets, the only enforcement power that matters is the ability to incarcerate. The system fails in dozens of tragic and expensive ways once criminals understand that the loss of jail capacity has rendered the judges “toothless”. That’s where Lane County stands today with respect to property criminals, and the consequences are doing great harm to victims, taxpayers and offenders.

Some might think that the inability to incarcerate is a windfall for the criminals. That’s certainly true for some of them, but for many, perhaps even most of them, the lack of local supervision and jail space is depriving them of a real shot at meaningful rehabilitation. Similarly, some in the community believe that failing to fund a jail is saving money that could be better spent elsewhere, but we’re not saving at all. We’re ensuring more victimization, more insurance costs and higher prison populations, all of which ultimately cost us much more. We’re also paying in lost quality of life and lost business opportunities, because we feel less comfortable in our community and few businesses would choose to relocate to an area with property crime rates among the worst in the country. In sum, we’re being “penny wise and pound foolish”. We’ve struck a balance that represents the worst of all possible worlds: we’re forcing a system design which does less, at greater costs, with disastrous results. That’s a shame, particularly when we have the local talent and expertise to deliver an optimized system capable of delivering more of everything for less. We can do better.