Nancy Hamant: Some notes on STRS Board meeting 5/18/06
(2) limit/restrict late entrants, especially for non-Medicare; (3) retain existing members; (4) continued subsidy for teachers having 15 years service or greater.
A forum for Ohio educators, sharing thoughts regarding their health care and pension system (STRS Ohio). Researcher John Curry manages a clearinghouse of related e-mails, articles, announcements, etc. His daily mailings include many items that do not make it to this blog. Contact John (email@example.com) if you wish to be on his e-mail list. Kathie Bracy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good afternoon board members, executive staff and guests. My name is Thomas Curtis. I am speaking today on my own behalf. I am an STRS disability retiree with 27 years of service.
May I first congratulate Connie Ramser and Mark Meuser for their victory in the recent STRS election? It is my sincere hope they will represent the membership to the best of their ability and follow the true spirit of ORC 3307.15.
Next, I wish to again commend the board for the countless hours you devote each month to the enormous amount of business at hand. I do realize this is a daunting task and appreciate your efforts.
This is nearly the 30th time I have addressed the board from this podium since June of 2003. I know each of you has a very busy schedule, but with all due respect I will tell you I have received very little response from board members to requests made during previous presentations, and have seen even far less action on those requests. Can this somehow be addressed?
In March of 2004, after one of the monthly CORE/STRS meetings we were holding with the executive staff at that time, I met in private with former board member Joe Endry. During that meeting, Joe very seriously asked me why we retirees keep coming to the board meetings and keep asking the same questions?
That stunned me, because the answer was and still is so obvious. We feel no one is listening to many of the legitimate concerns voiced by retirees. We feel we are repeatedly and continually ignored! This in itself is a grave issue with retirees.
It has been documented that the Board can agree by majority vote, to pay consulting firms to justify almost any expense that would benefit individual board members or employees of the STRS. However, you do not agree to do the same for the membership. Actually, you have agreed by majority vote to take away from the membership. In my opinion, this is because your monthly agenda is most often driven by staff concerns and does not permit time for membership concerns. Please review your past agendas and find where you have dealt with retiree requests. My hunch is that you will find few instances of such. Please correct me if I am wrong.
As stipulated by SB133, less then 20% of the board represent the retiree, and greater then 50% of the board represent the active teacher. This is out of proportion considering the true make-up of the membership. The active teacher leadership would argue that active teachers make up the majority of the membership and should be represented by at least 50%. Now I ask you, is that truly the case? Please look at the various classifications of members and the numbers of each? I do not find that to be true, if you consider only those who are active teachers and are paying into this system; disallow all others. This does not justify the high ratio of active teacher seats. This issue needs to be addressed and changed.
Example: The OSBA has strongly objected to any increase in employer contributions. Ohio school boards pay in the greatest percentage of money to this system, yet are not represented on this board. Is it any wonder the OSBA does not understand why the employer contribution rate needs to be increased after 20 years at the same rate? This board is not truly representative of those contributing to the system. Please show me a study that identifies equal representation of all parties paying into this system. The structure of this board does not represent fairly all parties paying into the STRS. That should be reconciled. This is only one issue that needs to be addressed.
Next, would you please find a space within your meeting agenda to address the retirees’ concerns? In my opinion, once this starts happening, far fewer of us would show up each month to complain to the board. A much greater number might show up and praise the board, as we would like to do.
Last month I requested a review by each Board member of Dr. Leone’s two position papers from 2003. It is my understanding that each of you now has copies of both in hand.
To date, I have received only one response. The rest of you have again ignored my request for a response to a legitimate issue. Is this how it is always going to be? If the requests of the STRS retirees are not considered legitimate, then perhaps it is time you tell us why?
Thank you for time to speak today.
MINUTES OF CORE MEETING-THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2006
Dave Parshall chaired the CORE meeting for Mary Ellen Angeletti Who is ill due to disc deterioration in her neck. Minutes are in bold following each Agenda item. Respectfully submitted by Nancy Hamant
A. Tom Curtis introduces Ohio State Auditor Betty Montgomery - -
Tom Curtis announced that Betty Montgomery was unable to Attend the CORE meeting due to illness and hospitalization. Tom stated that Ms. Montgomery's staff indicated that she Would be will to reschedule.
B. CORE Financial Fund - Dave Parshall
Dave Parshall stated that campaign costs were very cost effective and that all printing and mailing costs submitted to Date have been paid. Donations to CORE have slowed. It is suggested that contributions be requested again at Local meetings to replenish the CORE fund in preparation For future STRS Board member campaigns and to fund any Future CORE activities.
C. CORE Website Update - Dave Parshall
Dave Parshall stated that the Website would be updated by Removing the 2006 campaign information and by adding A proactive statement (approved by CORE) regarding support Action for the proposed STRS Health Care initiative (5% increase In Employee and Employer contributions over 5 years).
D. A discussion of the fact that no one speaks for CORE or represents CORE. There are no leaders per se. Nancy Hamant's reading for CORE three years ago, "THERE ARE NO LEADERS IN CORE."
Clearly CORE members have stated that no one person, no "chair", no "elected officer" can do all of the work. Most people speak as an individual. CORE general membership approves annual goals which determine annual action. It is still important to work as a Team, striving to achieve annual goals and also to monitor STRS to ensure safety of STRS Pension and Health Care and to alert CORE members when action is needed.
Dave Parshall will draft a statement for the Website and submit to CORE Advisors for approval for adding to the website.
E. Motion - Personal references ban
Discussion indicated that most people speak as individuals. Professionalism should be the guide. However, it is important to continue to monitor STRS as a Watchdog.
F. Status of the STRS HC Legislation - Damon's report to the ORSC
It was noted in Damon's report to the ORSC, there was some resistance to increasing Employer contributions to STRS. Recommendation is to talk to your own local legislators citing the need and importance of such an increase to both retirees and actives (who will be future retirees). The next few months, as legislators are in their home district areas, are perfect times to encourage their support for the proposed legislation.
H. June 5th Retreat-Tom Curtis reports details
CORE Retreat will be held at Jan Hansen's house at until done. Tom will send out specifics and directions to Jan's house. Please bring Your lunch. There are still a few openings-contact Tom.
J. New Business
Way to even out STRS Board compensation/support. Provide possible CORE Recognition, plaque, desk weight for service. Much discussion ensued, with Ann Hanning (ORTA) responding to CORE questions-that there is STRS money available to reimburse STRS staff, STRS Board members, and the Executive Director for travel expenses to attend local meetings. Discussion also indicated that paying for "food" providing "gifts", etc. would be under much scrutiny since SB 133 and most would probably not be acceptable.
G. STRS Election for 2007 - Planning - We did not have time last month to discuss Kathie Bracy's suggestions for future STRS Board election Campaign
See Kathie's ideas below. Kathie presented the key ones. Most CORE members indicated that CORE is most effective In email campaigning and is certainly able to get information On the internet faster than organized groups. So the Recommendation is to develop a statewide network of receptive Folks to whom to send CORE emails. It is most important to Have at least one email contact in each county-with the Possibility of building to one contact in each school district In the future.
Ideas for future STRS Board Election Campaigns
1. Include website(s) on campaign literature (candidate flyers) to help "spread the word" to those who may not be "in the know".
2. Enlist help of superintendents. They can:
~ Inform the schools we will be distributing literature
~ Enlist the support of principals
~ Have principals inform faculty reps we will be there and that we have the right to be there & distribute literature
~ Provide basic information on schools:
+ Location, driving directions (CPS has a booklet with this info.)
+ Approximate number of certificated personnel in each building.
+ Best way to get literature to specialists (music, art, PE., psychologists, supervisors, etc.) without duplicating efforts in multiple buildings
~ Assist us in getting one permanent teacher liaison (volunteer or appointed) in each building who is NOT OEA rep
~ Statewide, assist with contacts where we need them
3. Arm us with an official statement of our legal rights to enter a public building and disseminate literature to present if/when necessary. We should have the same access as OEA. We should NOT be treated as outsiders.
4. Establish with other endorsing groups spending caps for campaigning (in our dreams!!)
5. If promoting two candidates, print flyers back-to-back, in black and white, unless cheaper to do otherwise.
6. Get help from Gene Harris, Supt. of Cols. Schools, and Susan Zelman, State Dept. of Educ.
7. Get ORTA's authorization to distribute literature at RTA meetings. We should NOT be getting hassles from RTA officers or ORTA people or anyone else. We should also be given an opportunity, whenever needed, to speak for 3 minutes on STRS topics pertaining to all.
Distributing literature to schools: Since CORE does not have huge numbers in force, it is NOT feasible to limit our efforts to certain times of the day and certain parts of the building in order to have direct access to teachers, such as faculty lounge and parking lot during non-teaching hours. This is inefficient use of our time, as we have wasted time in between, plus it takes extra time to ask each individual if they're certificated personnel (as opposed to aides, other staff people). If done in a parking lot, ten people can walk past you while you're dealing with one, who may or may not be certificated. Buildings have many doors: can't always catch people.
[Note from Kathie: These are just ideas that came to me during the time I was distributing flyers to Columbus schools. They wouldn't necessarily apply to other situations, and many things have changed since the election.]
The next CORE meeting will be on Thursday, June 15th at in the cafeteria room behind the
Montgomery, 58, was in the intensive-care unit at Ohio State University Medical Center yesterday after a preliminary diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome. She reportedly was on a respirator.
Her staff said she was “in good spirits and resting comfortably,” although staff members refused to discuss her condition otherwise.
Doctors were still doing tests yesterday, but Montgomery's office said she is being treated for Guillain- Barre.
An expert reached last night described the disease as “friendly fire” from confused antibodies that kill nerves and cause paralysis and breathing problems.
The range of recovery is extremely variable, depending on the severity of the underlying nerve injury, neurologist John T. Kissel said last night.
One-quarter to one-third of Guillain-Barre sufferers are placed on respirators and the need for one has little bearing on the rate of recovery, said Kissel, professor and acting chairman of the OSU Neurology Department.
“It is strange. You can have two patients in the same room, both of whom are on ventilators," he said. “One is on a rapid recovery and 90 percent back to normal in three to four weeks and the other can be hospitalized for months.”
After Erin Tully contracted the disease in 2004, she spent six weeks in a hospital, followed by two months in a nursing home before returning to her Bexley home in a wheelchair. She spent a week in the ICU, she said. Three weeks after the diagnosis, the paralysis was at its worst, leaving her unable to sit up in bed, much less get into a wheelchair.
“It's rough, but you can get through it with support of family and friends and, hopefully, a positive mental outlook,” Tully said.
Tully, 59, completed outpatient therapy in July and returned to her job as a librarian at Montrose Elementary after missing one year of work. She still has some paralysis in her right foot.
“I have four toes that don't want to bend and it alters my gait a bit,” she said last night.
She visits people in the hospital who are recovering from the disease. Tully knows of one man who recovered in two weeks and another who was paralyzed for 18 months.
Montgomery was admitted to the hospital Wednesday afternoon after a visit to her personal physician for a lingering chest cold and cough, spokeswoman Jen Detwiler said.
“We're glad that Auditor Montgomery is getting the treatment she needs,” said Deb Hackathorn, her chief of staff.
She said work at the auditor's office “will continue uninterrupted and we look forward to her speedy recovery and return to the office.”
Montgomery's staff said she will be hospitalized “for an indeterminate amount of time for treatment and observation.”
Montgomery is the Republican nominee for Ohio attorney general against Sen. Marc Dann, D-Youngstown. She was elected auditor in 2002 after serving two terms as attorney general.
The merchant is planning to build its first Central Ohio store at the northwest corner of Gemini Place and Lyra Drive near the Polaris Fashion Place mall, Business First has learned.
The company, known for selling a mix of high-end and everyday merchandise at discounts to club members, has its only Ohio stores - four of them - in the Cleveland area.
Jim Sinegal, Costco's CEO, declined to confirm the company's interest in Columbus.
"We don't put ourselves in a good position from a negotiating standpoint by talking about deals before we close," he said.
Columbus officials, however, confirmed the suburban Seattle-based retailer is seeking zoning permits to sell gasoline on land owned by NP Ltd., the developer of the Polaris Centers of Commerce.
Franz Geiger, NP's managing director, declined to comment.
Costco's arrival in Central Ohio would mean the region's retail competition among discounters would heat up another degree, not just for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Sam's Club operations but also for other drugstore and supermarket chains, said retail analyst Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a New York consulting firm.
"It will slow Sam's down in Central Ohio," he said, "but it will also be an interesting test for Kroger Marketplace."
Kroger Marketplace is a grocery and home goods store operated by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. and designed to compete with Wal-Mart and Meijer Inc. superstores.
Kroger opened its first area Marketplace last year at Graceland Shopping Center and plans to have as many as five of them opened by the end of next year.
Wal-Mart operates four Sam's Clubs and multiple supercenter stores in Central Ohio.
An established Columbus Costco could generate sales of $2 million a week, roughly twice that of an average Sam's Club, Flickinger said. About 60 percent of Costco's sales are in groceries.
"It's long overdue in coming to Columbus," Flickinger said. "Cleveland has been one of Costco's best markets in the eastern half of the United States. They should have been smart enough to come into Columbus as soon as Big Bear was buried."
The Big Bear grocery chain was shuttered in early 2004.
Costco's pricing would test "category killer" retail specialists such as Office Max, Flickinger said, and its broad grocery offerings would compete with Columbus supermarket newcomer Whole Foods Market Inc., which focuses on organic and upscale offerings. Costco's pharmacy program is considered one of the most competitively priced in the nation, he said.
An Ohio expansion fits into the company's plans. Costco recently announced it is increasing its capital spending by more than 40 percent in 2006 to more than $1 billion. It plans to open 34 warehouse stores next year.
Furthermore, trade media report Costco executives expect to grow the company from 327 warehouse stores to 600 in the next eight to 10 years, partly by opening warehouse clubs in closer proximity to one another.
A site near Polaris Fashion Place is probably a good location for the retailer because its merchandise is typically of better quality than Sam's Clubs and its consumer electronics and home-entertainment lines include higher-end goods.
"Costco isn't afraid of premium price points," Flickinger said. "It will import diamonds, platinum and precious gems from South Africa and Israel and (give) consumer savings half or more as compared to a jeweler."
Still, the stores typically sell milk and eggs at prices lower than Sam's Club, he said.
Flickinger thinks Kroger, which dominates Central Ohio's grocery sales, will likely maintain its position and Whole Foods will gain market share. But other retailers would be vulnerable to Costco's competition, he said.
General Division, Courtroom 13A
375 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215
May 15, 2006
Subject: Sidaway Penalty
Dear Judge Glaeden:
On behalf of Warren County educators, I am thanking you for your ruling regarding Hazel Sidaway’s penalties. Two hundred hours of Community service will hopefully remind Ms. Sidaway that she was not fiduciarily responsible with STRS’s members’ money. It is too bad that Ms. Sidaway is not serving her jailtime.
Warren County does feels that Ms. Sidaway’s penalties are appropriate and lenient considering that she served as an STRS Board member for over seventeen years—with, it appears, a growing feeling of entitlement for each year served. Warren County educators are still trying to understand how Ms. Sidaway could spend over $200 for one beach bar bill!
Warren County teachers are anticipating further action by the Ohio Ethics Commission to bring ethics charges against those STRS Board members, STRS staff and STRS contractors who have violated Ohio’s ethics laws. In addition each of those cases will be followed assiduously.
Nancy B. Hamant
WCRTA Legislative Chair
Copley Ohio Newspapers Columbus Bureau Chief Paul Kostyu reported last week that Sidaway “was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, 100 of which must be performed in her former school district. The other 100 hours must be spent working in a nursing home or retirement facility, where a Franklin County judge said she hoped Sidaway would have to help retired teachers.” She also was sentenced to two separate 180-day suspended jail terms and was placed on two years’ probation.
Sidaway, in her role as a board member of the State Teachers Retirement System, took some expensive tickets, in violation of state ethics laws. She apologized. But the judge didn’t buy it, partly because Sidaway hid tickets by reporting them as “meals.”
The judge also was disgusted with Sidaway’s “long list” of trips at the expense of retirees, teachers and school districts. Good for the judge.
SCHURING TRIED TO FREE FRANKLIN
State Sen. Kirk Schuring took some time from his busy day last week to make the patrons of Matt’s Barber Shop in Canal Fulton a little happier. Schuring pounded out a deal with the stuffy Ohio Barber Board that will allow Franklin the basset hound to return to the barbershop, where he delights the patrons with his basset-like inertia.
Franklin, 3, greeted customers at Matt Schwendiman’s barbershop until an Ohio Barber Board state inspector, with apparently little more to do than be grumpy, cited the shop on Feb. 7 for — shudder — violating the board’s pet policy, which bars pets from barbershops.
The state board, the apparent source of this grumpiness, would not budge, even though Schwendiman has been bringing a dog to work for 10 years, and presumably in front of other less anti-dog inspectors.
Schuring, noting that dogs are allowed in such places as hospitals, urged the board to reconsider its own inertia, and the board president agreed to present the board with a deal hammered out with Schuring. The Barber’s Board, however, decided on Thursday to send the agreement for an attorney general’s opinion. Apparently, some of them fear that barber clients will start bringing dogs to the shop. Maybe these board members had guppies for pets when they were kids.
So, here is a tip of my basset Charlie’s canine cap to the pet-friendly senator. And thanks from the rest of us dog lovers, too. Let’s hope the attorney general is one of us.
WHY IS CANAL FULTON COUNCIL HIDING PROCEEDINGS FROM CITIZENS?
Now that Franklin the basset is back in the barbershop (see above column item), perhaps he could drop by the Canal Fulton City Council meeting and take a chomp at the collective political posteriors of the group that has decided not to tell everyone in the city about its gambling conversations.
Council members decided to meet in secret session last week with a lawyer they hired to represent them in negotiations with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma about a possible casino agreement.
Frankly, I think they violated Ohio’s open meetings law in going behind closed doors. But even if they didn’t violate the law, they violated their trust with the residents of the city. The law doesn’t require them to go into secret session; it only offers them the opportunity. What is it that they wouldn’t want their constituents to know?
Michael E. Hanke is general manager of The Repository. He can be reached at (330) 580-8301, by writing 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, 44702 or by e-mail at: email@example.com://www.cantonrep.com/index.php?ID=286215&r=0&Category=14