Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Kathie Bracy: Letter to ORTA Membership Committee Chairman Bruce Hodges

In a message dated 4/3/2017 11:56:24 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, KBB47@aol.com writes:
Hi Bruce --
Good letter, except that I'm a bit bothered by your last paragraph. My gut feeling is still what ORTA needs, instead of seeking nifty new ways to increase membership, is a refocused attitude and approach of supporting retirees with fervor, which includes directly taking on the STRS Board and staff. The STRS Board would like nothing more than for ORTA to be a “Can’t-We-Just-Get-Along” mouthpiece for the STRS Board, telling its members the STRS Board and staff are doing all they can for retirees, blah, blah, blah. No one EVER at ORTA has directly criticized the STRS Board and staff for their poor decision making. It is then, and only then, that STRS responds.  
I'd like to refresh your memory a little. I don't know if you've ever read Dennis Leone's 13 page report from 2003 and his change initiatives during his tenure as an STRS Board member between 2005-2009, which are proof of that. ORTA, instead, has criticized those who criticize the STRS Board and staff for two reasons: (1) Such criticism makes ORTA look like they aren't doing anything; and (2) Much of the criticism pointed at the STRS Board involves the same misconduct by ORTA Board members and ORTA staff. Joe Endry convinced ORTA long ago that criticizing STRS decision-making would only hurt ORTA. So ORTA has made its choice, which is to criticize those who demand change and better decision-making at STRS. In the meantime, retirees lose.
In addition to the two reasons stated above, ORTA made conscious choices to ignore proposals and initiatives that were authored and pushed by Dr. Leone while he was on the STRS Board (see the attached two documents) ALL of which were designed to support retirees and improve the overall management of STRS.  
ORTA also chose to look the other way and not speak in support of Dr. Leone’s repeated warnings between 2005 and 2009 that the STRS Board was wrongly overestimating payroll growth and investment returns. He also attempted to implement a stopgap procedure for STRS to pull out of investments that were significantly going south. In other words, he wanted losses for accounts like Enron to -- at some agreed-upon point --  trigger STRS' withdrawing in order to avoid further losses. NO, said Steve Mitchell, the Board majority and the so-called "experts" advising STRS; as a result, STRS lost millions more. ORTA sat silent through all of this, and these are the poor decisions that have come back to haunt us NOW, in April of 2017!
The bottom line is had the STRS Board listened and made its big 2013 changes between 2005 and 2009, we would NOT be in the mess we are in now.  ORTA simply chose NOT to become involved.  ORTA hates to hear it, but it is the absolute truth, and the masses of retirees know it. Bruce, if we really want to increase ORTA's membership, we MUST deal with the elephant in the room: being completely honest with the membership and going after STRS much more aggressively than ever before. To do otherwise simply smacks of "business as usual, let's all just get along!" Will today's ORTA have the fortitude to push for real change? I am keeping my fingers crossed.
Kathie Bracy
[Currently a member of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association board as Trustee from Franklin County]
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