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The following article was posted on December 5th, 2012, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 19

SLO urged to rethink investments

BY MATT FOUNTAIN

It was a night for San Luis Obispo city employees and the newly returned council to be proud of: they completed a sweeping water rate study, implemented a plan to install a fleet of energy-efficient LED street lamps, and waved the final wand over the city’s new two-tier pension plan.

But a little black cloud wafted into City Hall early in the evening when a string of residents called out city management on what they called the city’s “under-performing” investments.

According to the city’s latest investment report for the quarter ending June 30, the city’s portfolio had a market-based yield of 0.47 percent.

SLO-based architect Steve Barasch petitioned for an investment oversight subcommittee to weigh in on what private financial planner and frequent Republican candidate for public office, Matt Kokkonen, later called the “in-crowd” atmosphere surrounding the city’s financial decision-making.

Resident Leslie Hall called for a public-private advisory body comprised of city management, someone from the council, and a few folks from the local financial planning sector to make investment decisions.

City Manager Katie Lichtig explained that there are checks and balances in place to ensure there are multiple signatures other than hers on expenditures, and that staff was working on having a new interim finance director by January before moving on toward a permanent position early next year.

So which local financial wizards want to float their dust over the city’s investment portfolio?

Lichtig could not be reached for comment as of press time on the feasibility or appropriateness of a joint-citizen over-sight committee, or if any residents have expressed interest to her directly.

And about that pension reform the city was celebrating? Kokkonen had something to say about that, too. While the numbers may look good on paper, Kokkonen told the council, the city didn’t do enough to save more off its current employees.

“Our unpaid pension liabilities are growing,” Kokkonen told the council. “And I would urge you to have some spine when you deal with these unions.”

The new lower second-tier formula will be in effect for city employees hired after Dec. 6. The council is expected to have a biannual review of its financial policies at its Dec. 18 meeting.