Friday, May 04, 2012


A couple of issues ago, Robert Herold, wrote a compelling piece in the Inlander about how the city of Spokane should reform its lavish pension system for police and firefighters. It was a pretty convincing piece with only one major flaw - there is no City of Spokane Pension for police and firefighters.

I tried to get him to write a retraction. I really like a lot of what Herold has had to say and did not want to delegitimize  any of his further editorials by casting doubts about his credibility. He wouldn't do it, and he told me I should just write a letter to the editor. So I did. It did not appear. I think this is because they had already accepted two that took Bob to task in a fine fashion. I suspect there were many more.

I look forward to future editorials by Professor Herold in the Inlander. May I suggest these topics: Outlawing the use of dogs for unicorn hunting, Eliminating the pet deduction on income tax, Allowing full voting rights for leprechauns, and of course, Compulsory warning labels on Pop Rocks®. Poor Little Mikey.

Here is what I wrote, in all its sarcastic splendor!

As someone who usually enjoys Professor Robert Herold's editorials, I was very curious to read what he had to say about the City of Spokane reforming its pension system for firefighters and police officers. Why the curiosity? Because, interestingly, there is no City of Spokane pension system for firefighters and police officers.

It's a shame Bob wasted all that ink and paper to stridently plea for reform of something that doesn't even exist. At least he didn't waste much of his time preparing this editorial. Obviously, Professor Herold's academic forte is not research.

I am a firefighter and a member of IAFF Local 29, the city firefighters' union. The majority of my state-administered pension plan's contributions are made by me. The city does contribute some and so does the state. However, Spokane's firefighters and police officers do not contribute to Social Security, nor will they receive it. Correspondingly, the City of Spokane makes no contribution to our Social Security. The taxpayers of Spokane pay one-percent less to a firefighter's or police officer's pension than they would if they were having to, instead, pay into his or her Social Security. That's right. The City of Spokane saves money because firefighters and police officers are on this pension plan and not on Social Security.

Not satisfied with just attacking something that doesn't even exist, Bob also launches into general falsehoods about police and fire retirements.

Bob, a  firefighter or police officer has to work until at least age 53 or be penalized up to 9%. Contrary to what you wrote, there is no retirement allowed before age 50. Most will not even retire at age 53 because much of their retirement would go to pay for private medical insurance until Medicare kicks in at age 65.

Professor Herold worked for 31 years at EWU. He says he didn't have a pension plan - only a 401K. He neglected to disclose that he did have the option of joining a state pension plan, very similar to mine - except he also receives Social Security, but he declined. I suspect he may now be regretting this decision, and this may be the impetus for his editorial. If Professor Herold did as much research into choosing his stock portfolio for his 401K as he did for his article on mythical "police and fire city pensions," his investments surely have not done very well.

Should there be a conversation about public employee pensions? Absolutely. But, why don't we start with discussing pensions that actually exist - what they cost, who pays for them, etc.? Bob, Like I said, I have enjoyed your editorials in the past. Now I have to wonder if they were all just works of fiction, as well. Do your homework next time.

John Griffith
Spokane, WA

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well put John, he also needs to be reminded that most FF do not retire until well after 53. This of course saves the state even more money. Keep the a-ram-a in Spokanarama!