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Here’s a little tidbit that readers might be interested in. CFO Jay Goldstone hired an actuary, Joe Esuchanko, to evaluate our city’s pension crisis. This is the guy who is supposed to check up on the work of the pension system’s actuary, and the same guy the city attorney used as an expert witness in his effort to invalidate city employee benefits. We at the City Council couldn’t wait to hear from real, live actuaries about the state of our pension. The city attorney (Click on the meeting April 17, item 201, watch 58:35-1:03:15) scared away the pension fund actuary, but here’s what the Goldstone/Aguirre actuary said to the City Council: “There is no material risk that [the city of San Diego pension fund] will be unable to pay the benefits which the city has agreed to pay.”

What? So, Joe, it’s not going bankrupt, I asked? “No,” he said. Not in crisis? “No.” He also explained that in 20 years, we should expect the city to owe about the same proportionate share of its revenues to the pension fund as it does today. (View his slide presentation here.)

I think this is pretty encouraging news about the story that’s brought us such ill repute since 2004. For some reason, it’s gotten virtually no news coverage. The San Diego Union-Tribune (a local newspaper, as the voiceofsandiego.org reporters would so helpfully explain) did an article in March, page B1, labeled “Pension Fund Declared Sound.” (The on-line version at first said, “apparently sound,” and was quickly changed.) But that’s the last report in the U-T of the actuary himself declaring that there’s no pension crisis.

A search of voiceofsandiego.org did not reveal a single article about Esuchanko’s opinion that the pension fund is sound. I did notice, however, that Voice was quick to correct the San Jose Mercury News‘ mistaken identification of the county as “Enron by the Sea,” rather than the city.

Maybe that’s why the average Joe is still convinced of the “pension mess” or the “pension problem” and asks, “Isn’t the pension going to drive you into bankruptcy?” The actuary Joe, has dismissed all this talk. But how would anybody know?

SCOTT PETERS

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