November 03, 2008

Pension proposal unfair to retirees

In introducing legislation to the City Council that could reduce the hard-earned pension benefits of retired Baltimore police officers and firefighters, the city administration has shown its willingness to promote an idea that is rooted in greed and deception ("A costly pension benefit," editorial, Oct. 23).

For almost 30 years under four different mayors, the variable benefit program has provided pension increases to retired police and fire employees.

Throughout the years, in both good and bad economic times, many of our former city leaders have understood how the system works to the benefit of both the employees and city.

Rather than offering a fixed amount of benefits or cost-of-living increase, the Fire and Police Employees Pension System takes into consideration how well investments performed in any given year. What could be a fairer system?

If the returns from the pension system exceed expectations, the employees see an increase. If the pension system's performance fail to meet expectations, those in the system receive no raise.

Under this system, everyone understands that the integrity and performance of the pension fund are paramount.

Now the city administration has produced a plan that will limit benefit increases and allow the city to pocket surpluses from the fund that are supposed to belong to city employees.

For years, the city has provided a pension plan that recognized the difficult and dangerous jobs these brave employees perform on behalf of the citizens of Baltimore.

For years, the city has failed to supply these same employees with a wage that is comparable the pay offered by surrounding jurisdictions, and has held out instead its pension system as an example of its commitment to provide benefits in line with those offered by other jurisdictions.

It is time for the city administration to show its support for public safety in Baltimore and recognize the excellent and dangerous job theses men and women do every day.

It can do so, and it can do that by withdrawing the legislation that would cap increases in pension benefits.

Robert F. Cherry Jr.

Gary L. McLhinney, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the president and a former president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3.

Metro security checks are wasteful, unfair

As an everyday rider of the Washington Metro, I think random security bag checks are out of line. I would understand the need for them if the 9/11 attacks had happened yesterday, but they didn't.

When I get to the Metro train, I'm in a hurry. I don't have time to spare. Thanks to our sagging economy, my job is more important than ever, and I can't risk being late.

And what will these checks accomplish?

The fact of the matter is that such searches usually end up looking like blatant targeting.

That's not fair and seems really pointless.

Shayla V. Gibson, Washington

Why accept poverty as a fact of life?

When the writer of the letter "Obama's tax plan would curb growth" (Oct 27) cited the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, I should have known what would follow.

Sure enough, he then says, "The poor we will always have with us."

He apparently accepts it as normal and expects the poor to exist on and accept unguaranteed handouts from charity rather than guaranteed government aid.

But why, in what we claim is the richest country in the world, should we accept always having poor American citizens among us?

Social conservatism is shameful.

Harry E. Bennett Jr., Baltimore

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