WE KNOW THAT THESE THIRD WAY LEADERS VOTED WITH REPUBLICANS TO PLACE THIS HEAVY FINANCIAL BURDEN OF PENSION FUNDS ON THE POST OFFICE AND VOTED TO TAKE AWAY BY PRIVATIZING MANY OF THE POST OFFICE'S REVENUE MAKING BUSINESS. THEY DID THIS BECAUSE THIRD WAY WANT TO PRIVATIZE THE POST OFFICE DESPITE WHAT YOUR INCUMBENT SAYS. LOOK AT THE POLICY VOTES TO SEE THEY ARE WEAKENING THIS PUBLIC INSTITUTION. CALL NOW AND CALL OFTEN TO SAY WE WANT POLICY THAT STRENGTHENS, NOT WEAKENS THE POST OFFICE. POSTAL WORKERS DO NOT WANT TO LOSE SATURDAY DELIVERY BECAUSE THAT MAKES IT HARDER TO COMPETE. THEY DO NOT WANT TO CLOSE OFFICES BECAUSE THAT MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO PROCESS AND DELIVER MAIL AS FAST......ALL COMPETITIVE NEEDS AND ALL THINGS THE POST MASTER IS PUSHING. WE SEE AGAIN A UNION LEADER PUSHING AGAINST THE WILL/INTERESTS OF ITS MEMBERSHIP.
Postal Service To Default On $5.6 Billion Payment by The Associated Press
September 28, 2012
The U.S. Postal Service, on the brink of default on a second multibillion-dollar payment it can't afford to pay, is sounding a new cautionary note that having squeezed out all the cost savings within its power, the mail agency's viability now lies almost entirely with Congress.
In an interview, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the mail agency will be forced to miss the $5.6 billion payment due to the Treasury on Sunday, its second default in as many months. Congress has left Washington until after the November elections, without approving a postal fix.
For more than a year, the Postal Service has been seeking legislation that would allow it to eliminate Saturday mail delivery and reduce its $5 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits. Since the House failed to act, the post office says it's been seeking to reassure anxious customers that service will not be disrupted, even with cash levels running perilously low.
"Absolutely, we would be profitable right now," Donahoe told The Associated Press, when asked whether congressional delays were to blame for much of the postal losses, expected to reach a record $15 billion this year.
He said the two missed payments totaling $11.1 billion for future retiree health benefits — payments ordered by Congress in 2006 that no other government agency or business is required to make — along with similar expenses make up the bulk of the annual loss. The remainder is nearly $3 billion in losses, he said, which would have been offset by savings if the service had been allowed to move to five-day mail delivery.
Donahoe said the post office will hit a low point in cash next month but avert immediate bankruptcy due to a series of retirement incentives, employee reductions and boosts in productivity among remaining staff that saved nearly $2 billion over the past year.
But the post office has few tools left to build its revenue, he said, without either having to pay upfront money it lacks or get approval from postal unions or Congress.
"We've done a lot to reduce cost out of our system," Donahoe said. "The problem now is this: There's nowhere to go."
Postal unions also say Congress is mostly to blame for losses, but disagree that a reduction to five-day delivery is an answer.
"What is needed is for Congress to undo the harm it has done with the prefunding mandate and for the Postal Service to develop a balanced plan moving forward," said Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. He said cutting Saturday delivery would in particular hurt rural residents and the elderly who depend more heavily on the mail for prescription drugs and other goods.
The Postal Service last month failed to pay $5.5 billion, its first default ever on a payment. While it will miss a second payment Sunday, it expects to make a $1.4 billion payment due to the Labor Department on Oct. 15 for workers' compensation. Cash levels are expected to hit a low after that labor payment before rising again due to increased volume from holiday and election mail, including ballots for early voting.
The mail agency said the two payment defaults will not affect day-to-day operations. Post offices will stay open, and suppliers and employees will get paid. Longer term, however, Donahoe has cautioned that a "crisis of confidence" over postal solvency could damage growth.
The post office also remains vulnerable to shifts in the economy that could suppress mail volume. Both FedEx Corp. and UPS recently have cut their earnings forecasts, citing in part slow global economic growth.
"The key thing is Congress must act during the lame-duck session and get this whole thing behind us," said Donahoe, referring to the few weeks lawmakers will be in session after the election before a new Congress takes office in January. "We can't have a Postal Service where customers are constantly worried about our ability to make payments."
"That's no way to run a business," he said.
Congress will have a full agenda of pressing fiscal issues when it returns in November, and some lawmakers have raised the possibility that postal legislation will get pushed over to the next Congress. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is a sponsor of the House bill, has said he believes some kind of legislation can be passed in the lame-duck session, although it may not be as comprehensive as initially sought.
The Senate passed a postal bill in April that would have provided financial relief in part by reducing the annual health payments and providing an $11 billion cash infusion, basically a refund of overpayments the Postal Service made to a federal pension fund. The House, however, remains stalled over a separate bill that would allow for aggressive cuts, including an immediate end to Saturday delivery. Rural lawmakers in particular worry about the impact of post office closures in their communities.
The Postal Service originally planned to close low-revenue post offices in rural areas to save money, but after public opposition it now is moving forward with a new plan to keep 13,000 of them open with shorter operating hours. The Postal Service also will begin closing more than 200 mail processing centers next year, but the estimated annual savings of $2.1 billion won't be realized until the full cuts are completed in late 2014.
"Once again, we are watching the days slip away before the U.S. Postal Service faces the second default of its history. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have now had 11 months to do the right thing and fix the serious, but solvable, financial challenges," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., a co-sponsor of the Senate bill. "Every day Congress delays fixing this problem, the financial challenge grows more difficult and the potential solutions become more expensive."
The Postal Service, an independent agency of government, does not receive tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
Art Sackler, co-coordinator of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a group representing the private-sector mailing industry, said many businesses are preparing their budgets for next year and have no idea whether to expect disrupted service or higher postage costs.
"Congress needs to act quickly on comprehensive postal reform," he said. "These defaults, mounting debts and declining revenues aren't just going to hurt the Postal Service; they're going to hurt the 8 million Americans whose jobs depend on the mail."
PLEASE SEND BALTIMORE BREW YOUR MONEY AS THEY DO REAL INVESTIGATIVE WORK IN THE CITY! BELOW YOU SEE HOW THESE ORGANIZATIONS HAVE BUILT A SYSTEM THAT KEEPS AWAY ALL PUBLIC SCRUTINY. IT ALWAYS HAS A REASON.....TO PROTECT BUSINESS INTERESTS....WITH THE SUPERCOMMITTEES ON CAPITOL HILL IT WAS TO PROTECT THE POLITICIANS AS THEY NEGOTIATED.
THESE GROUPS ARE DOING PUBLIC BUSINESS. THAT IS THE PROBLEM RIGHT THERE. THESE ARE NGOs WHO SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED THIS PUBLIC FUNCTION. TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY, THEY ARE TELLING THE PUBLIC TO TAKE A HIKE!
SHOUT LOUDLY AGAINST THIS!!!!!
Inside City Hall: Behind closed doors, BDC hammers out deals The art of the exemption. Or how to keep news about a city development project out of the media.
Mark Reutter September 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm Baltimore Brew
The BDC meets in a closed session this morning.
Every month a time-honored ritual takes place at the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC). After engaging in some preliminary discussion, the agency’s board gets down to business by kicking out the media and closing its doors.
The Maryland Open Meetings Act requires all public bodies to meet in open session unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.
The BDC board, which instigates and acts on the biggest development deals in Baltimore, has perfected the art of the exemption.
Today was no different. Not long after the meeting had started, board chairman Arnold Williams was calling for a vote to close it.
The Brew has been voicing an objection to this process for months. Today we didn’t bother to object. Instead, we’re going to tell you what happened.
7:39 a.m. – At what may be the earliest time for any public body to meet in Maryland, the board opens its monthly public session, nine minutes late.
7:44 a.m. – Acting president Kimberly A. Clark gives her report to the board. One big success she reports: winning The Baltimore Sun‘s endorsement of a tax deal to help Under Armour expand at Locust Point.
Clark says she had spent an hour talking to the editorial writer about the $35 million deal, which exceeded the city’s own internal guidelines for a subsidy. Reading the favorable Sun editorial was “an ‘ah-ha’ moment instead of a ‘gotcha,’” she tells the board, looking pleased.
7:50 a.m. – BDC officer Phil Croskey runs through a Powerpoint of two proposals for the rehabilitation of the now-vacant Parkway Theatre on North Ave.
One is by developer Sam Polakoff, whose previous bid on the Parkway was thrown out by the BDC. The other is by the Maryland Film Festival in collaboration with Seawall Development (Thibault and Donald Manekin), Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Institute of Art.
After a brief overview of the proposals – both would have live music and studio space, with the film festival proposal including a film study educational component – Williams halts the presentation so that the board can discuss “the financials” in private.
8:07 a.m. – Here it comes: Williams invokes three subsections of the Open Meetings Act to close the rest of the meeting.
The Parkway Theatre proposals: exempt under statute 10-508(a)(14) because public discussion or disclosure “would adversely impact . . . the bidding or proposal process,” Williams says.
A Business Retention and Expansion report: exempt under 10-508(a)(4) because it “concerns [a] proposal for a business or industrial organization to locate, expand or remain in the State,” Williams says.
A Loan and Audit Committee report: exempt under 10-508(a)(5), allowing a public board to “consider the investment of public funds” privately, Williams says.
8:11 a.m. – The board unanimously votes to close the meeting. The conference room door is shut behind this reporter.
8:15-8:58 a.m. – Sitting in the BDC reception area, The Brew reads the minutes of the Business Retention and Project Review Committees. (The material is in a loose-leaf notebook emblazoned with prohibitions against “removing” or “copying” the contents.)
Turns out, there’s not much to read. The last meeting of the Business Retention committee started at 4:09 p.m. on September 17. A minute later (4:10 p.m.), it was closed by chairman Atwood “Woody” Collins III, president of M&T Bank’s Mid-Atlantic Division. The meeting was reopened and adjourned at 4:55 p.m.
The Project Oversight committee met at 12:18 p.m. on September 19. It was closed at 12:32 p.m. The meeting remained private until it adjourned at an unspecified time.
8:58 a.m. – Today’s closed session comes to a, well, close. The 15 members of the board (not all present today) begin to scatter through downtown.
Among its members: four top city officials, including finance chief Harry Black and Kaliope Parthemos, the mayor’s development chief.
There’s one union representative (Bert J. Hash, president of the municipal employees credit union), one accountant (Williams), two attorneys (Deborah Hunt Devan and Gilberto de Jesus) and five bankers (including Collins, Kenneth Moreland of T. Rowe Price and and Brian Tracey of Bank of America).
The board members are appointed by the mayor. Some of them, like Williams, have been appointed for a long time.
9:05 a.m. – Asked why the BDC does not open up more of its meetings, Kimberly Clark replies, “There is a balancing act we have to perform.” She said that proprietary information from developers is reviewed during the closed sessions. If released, such information would spell doom to the developers at the hands of their competitors.
The board’s recommendations to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – regarding what projects should receive TIFs, PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes) or other government subsidies, and at what levels – are also not publicly revealed.
Again, this confidentiality is maintained “to protect that proprietary information” and to gain the most detailed insight into the financial aspects of any given project.
“How else,” Clark asks, “can we be certain we are presenting the best deal for the city?”
9:15 a.m. – Leaving the BDC, Williams is spotted. He says he disagrees with critics who say the BDC is too secretive.
“The meetings are very open, I believe,” he said. “The only time we close them is when the discussion is in accordance with the statutes. I think during the board meeting [today], we made it pretty clear what statues we were using.”
A founding partner of a local accounting firm, Williams was appointed to the BDC by then-mayor Kurt Schmoke in the 1990s. He was named chairman by Mayor Martin O’Malley in January 2002 and has remained in that position ever since.
THE BALTIMORE SUN PRINTED THIS EDITORIAL LAST WEEK. IT APPEARS TO BE FROM A TENNESSEE NEWSPAPER, BUT THE TOPIC IS TIMELY HERE IN BALTIMORE AS THERE IS A MOVEMENT TO PETITION TO REFERENDUM RECALL/TERM LIMITS FOR CITY OFFICIALS. IT APPEARS AS THOUGH THE BALTIMORE SUN IS HINTING TO THE COUNCIL THAT IT NEEDS TO TAKE STEPS TO PROTECT ITSELF FROM A PUBLIC CHANGE OF CHARTER. ONLY IN BALTIMORE, IT WON'T BE THE REPUBLICANS TRYING TO UNSEAT DEMOCRATIC POLITICIANS, IT WILL BE EVERYONE TRYING TO UNSEAT CORPORATE POLITICIANS. LIKE TENNESSEE, BALTIMORE'S THRESHOLD FOR SIGNATURES IS LOW BECAUSE WE HAVE LOW VOTER TURNOUT. THIS IS NOT A HARD THING TO DO AND SHOULD BE EVERYONE'S FOCUS ALONG WITH WHO WILL CHALLENGE THE INCUMBENTS. IS YOUR SOCIAL AND LABOR ORGANIZATION TALKING ABOUT WHO THEY WILL RUN AGAINST INCUMBENTS? IF NOT, THEY ARE NOT WORKING FOR YOU AND I. THIS IS HAPPENING ACROSS AMERICA AND WE WILL PREVAIL!!!!!!!
GET OUT TO PUSH THE PETITIONS FOR RECALL AND RETROACTIVE TERM LIMITS.....THE FIRST STEP IS ORGANIZING A NETWORK OF SIGNATURE COLLECTION !!!
EDITORIAL: City needs a new recall law
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. 5:14 a.m. EDT, September 14, 2012
It's been clearly evident for two years that the fringe attempt to recall Mayor Ron Littlefield was groundless to a fault, and fatally flawed under legal guidelines. The recall's chief supporter, Jim Folkner, has refused to give up, however. We hope Wednesday's appeals court verdict, upholding most of the trial court's findings, will finally be acknowledged as the last word.
The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling on the recall's key deficiencies: the city's two-step recall statute failed to meet the state's superior mandate for a three-step recall process, and there were too few qualified and dated signatures to meet recall petition requirements.
The former will absolutely require the City Council to adopt a revised recall charter to meet state guidelines. The latter should shame the Election Commission, and the majority Republic bloc that ap proved the petitions.
Commission workers allegedly told recall organizers that signatures on their petitions didn't have to be dated -- a requirement under state law to allow signers to change their mind and retract their signatures within 10 days. The partisan Republican Election Commissioners, who hold a 3-2 majority edge, negligently approved undated signatures to be counted anyway. Then they rushed to approve the recall petitions and put the question on the ballot despite warnings of flaws by the panel's two Democrats -- one of whom is Jerry Summers, a highly successful trial lawyer who formerly served as the Election Commission's attorney.
In fact, the Republicans' excessive partisanship seemed apparent at every turn. They also supported their attorney, Chris Clem, in the filing of lengthy petitions supporting the recall process and futilely challenging the constitutionality of the state's recall statute. Clem's fees pushed the Election Commission's $25,000 annual legal budget up to $35,000 by the end of the last fiscal year on June 30. His final bills for the last appeal, Election Commission administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan confirmed Thursday, have yet to be tallied.
There's a good argument to be made that the commission's members and Clem didn't have to get so heavily involved in the legal tangle over the recall petition. All they really had to do was acknowledge the court's authority and await the ruling in the legal contest between Folkner and Mayor Littlefield, who properly challenged the recall petition's flaws.
City officials must now move promptly to adopt a recall process that overrides their illogical two-step recall. Because of an exceedingly low turnout of 18,000 voters in the last mayoral election, it would have allowed the mayor's opponents to effectively accomplish a recall of the mayor with just 9,000 valid signatures on the petitions; that's less than 10 percent of the city's registered voters. Had the petitions and signatures been found adequate, the mayor automatically would have been removed, and a new election would have held.
State law prevents such an exceedingly low recall vote by requiring a three-step process: a successful petition, then a vote on whether to recall the mayor, and, then, if needed, a new election. That's a far fairer process. A revised charter is in order. ___
(c)2012 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
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