Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tom Cooper: An open letter to STRS members; some comments on Tim Myers' observations

April 17, 2006

Dear STRS member (Actives and Retirees):

It has been brought to my attention that a person, apparently representing OEA, Tim Myers, recently posted his reflections of the past few years events occurring at STRS, and, as they relate to the current election, on the STRS Blog site.

Fair enough..CORE is not opposed to any and all expressing their views and perspectives. In fact, CORE has insisted on getting the FACTS straight, and has not been OWNED by any other agenda. It would be nice, however, if people who do such include ALL of the facts OBJECTIVELY, rather than delete and omit pertinent facts, so as to distort actual events and their repercussions.

With that in mind, I am re-posting Mr. Myers' blog views here for you to read...however, I also raise questions, and facts, printed in color, which you might well wonder why Mr. Myers sought to omit:

Sunday, March 12, 2006
STRS: A day from the back row
By Tim Myers
The STRS meetings have gotten interesting, almost entertaining, over the past few years since I started going to the Board meetings. Not many benefit recipients or actives attended the meetings several years ago. Everyone could fit inside the huge glass walls that surround the board's primary meeting room. A few years later, the audience has overflowed into the anteroom outside those transparent partitions.

Somewhere along the line, there arose a clatter. There were accusations, denials, investigations, and finally, a resolution. Adding to the problems at that time was a man simply known as "W." His fiscal ineptitude caused the economy (and the STRS investments) to go into Academic Emergency. There was an immediate interest in what the STRS staff and board were up to. A few new staff members and newly elected board members later, and the STRS is once again the respected retirement organization it once was. The clatter is now in the past, and should, for all intents and purposes, stay there.
here, Mr. Myers would like to simply blame losses at STRS on the economy, and ignore the fact that several people have actually been indicted for ethics violations involving misspending and fiduciary responsibility, and at least one, who by the way, was the recipient of OEA support to get her STRS Board positon in the first place, was recently found guilty. Others, also OEA supported people, also have been investigated.

The interest in board meetings has continued, however. Wonder why, Tim.Today, two groups of STRS watchers have emerged. One still rooted in the past, the other looking for solutions. The first group has, rightly so, criticized the system for extravagant spending and is made up of benefit recipients who are affiliated with the Ohio Retired Teachers. The second group has formed an alliance with all STRS stakeholders, including active groups and the benefit recipients affiliated with the Ohio Education Association.
It appears Tim is either confused as to which group is which, OR would like to confuse others, so as to diminish OEA's inactivity during these ventures into creative and unethical money grabbing. The FACTS are, CORE, (I guess that is the group he associates with the "Ohio Retired Teachers") IS the group which came from the grass roots of members simply asking questions about their STRS retirement funds, and receiving from OEA dominated STRS Board stonewalling, arrogance, belittling attitudes, such as "this is OUR money--not yours", resulting in those members asking questions to, in effect, being told to sit down and shut up. Wonder if Tim was at any of those meetings?
On any given Thursday board meeting, these two groups file into the room as if following a classroom seating chart. CORE sits on the north side of the aisle and the Coalition group sits on the south side.One need only look down the row to see Gary next to Jim in front of Vivian, in front of Mark, in front of me, who is sometimes in front of Rick. Homer is next to Jim, and Bill, well you get the picture. The Wonson rule of chair placement is now in effect. The soft, padded chairs have moved from the back of the anteroom to the front where our assigned seats are.
Actually, one has to wonder what coalition he is talking about? The people (Gary, Homer, Jim etc.) he is referring to are OEA people. Coalition?...In reality, CORE, though most members of CORE actually ARE OEA-R, or at least former ONCE proud OEA members, it is CORE that is supporting and OFT candidate, mark Fredrick, AND and independent STRS contributor, Dr. Thomas Hall. a professor of Economics, who has written books on economics, but was not good enough to be supported for office by the OEA "coalition". Compare Dr. Hall to OEA candidate Connie Ramser, who insisted on voting to approve contracts that the board didn't even have available to read.

The interior is now mostly staff, a few leaders of the two groups, and newcomers who want to be closer to the action. Every once in a while, a librarian type 'shush' is heard outside the glass, as two watchers are discussing a comment heard during the board's discussion. The response is whispered, "Go inside, that's what those chairs are for!" As the day goes on, more people come in and the empty seats are claimed. The interior room's chairs are vacated as reports are given and then refilled with the appropriate staff responsible for the next report.

After lunch, the public gets a chance to speak. These can be mostly speeches asking for restoration of lost spousal health care benefits or the return of the 13th check. Once a person testifying wondered aloud how STRS can get its employees to have more children so the Day Care Center could have all spots filled and thereby more cost effective! hard to tell here. The person Tim is trying to ridicule by misstating the question was very clearly asking if the day Care center could support children OUTSIDE of being specifically for STRS office employees ONLY. Apparently Tim not only think it is OK for YOUR contributions to be used for employees Day Care (doesn't your school pay for YOUR Day Care!?), but he also thinks it is funny that it be cost effective.
And every once in a while, we get a speaker who praises the work of the STRS staff. These comments are highly appreciated by the staff and board members alike. Meaning what, exactly? praising good work is..bad?...which seems to be the point of your blog....or praising work is ..good?

The room generally clears out after the public participation and the board usually continues its work with very few remaining to hear the chair's gavel announce a recess until 9:00 am Friday morning. Often, the board then goes into a scheduled meeting with the Health Care Advocates for STRS during the evening hours after the recess. Friday morning is the resumption of the board meeting and we go back to the same pre-clatter attendance patterns.

Several changes have been made in the make-up of the board in recent years. An additional elected retiree member and some appointed investment experts were added by the Legislature. The active teachers and administrators are now in the minority on the board [REALLY? Hope you don't teach math, Tim. There are eleven seats on the Board... FIVE SEATS are held by elected contributing members (i.e. "actives")... TWO are held by retirees, and FOUR are political APPOINTEES....Who is it you say is in the minority?]...even though they are the only board members actually paying into the system with their continued contributions! For your Information, Tim, I paid into the "system" for 28 years, Tim including my fours of Military service...FYI...I ALSO PAID INTO OEA FOR 28 YEARS, AND IN THE END I GET ARROGANT POLITICAL HACKS LIKE YOU. your absolute arrogant, immature insulting of one's intelligence says more about you and OEA, than it does about STRS. Comments such as yours, as though retirees have paid nothing, is becoming quite typical of people representing OEA. And much like adding additional students into an already full class of inquisitive students, this new arrangement has meant longer board meetings due to the additional questions and subsequent discussions. Some of these questions could be answered with a little more homework before the meeting since the issue at hand is explained in the printed material. One board member actually switched his/her vote one meeting because he/she was not aware of provision included in the measure that he/she voted on in the previous meeting.
Huh? could this have been the OEA candidate? who is it that is not doing there homework?

At the end of the day, all is still well with the system. I can rest assured as an active teacher that my contributions are being spent and invested wisely. I fully expect the system to be there when I retire along with the optional health care benefit. That is, unless that "W" guy gets his hands on my retirement contributions and tries to privatize the system like he wants to do to Social Security!
Or unless the STRS Board aligns it self with corrupt politicians, like Gov Taft, as OEA did in the past. or maybe if you are elected to board, sponsored by OEA
Tom Cooper
retired Strongsville City Schools
retired OEA
member CORE

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