Ken Benson 
Member since Feb 21, 2012

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Latest Review

Re: “Buon Appetito

Great local restaurant that consistently delivers good value and good service. Now that they have the full bar and all that affords the dining experience, Buon Appetito is one of our go to places.

Posted by Ken Benson on 02/24/2012 at 12:26 PM

Recent Comments

Re: “Oakland's Toxic Deal with Wall Street

Len, I do agree with your thought that the credit swaps with Goldman Sachs were much more complex than either Measure J and or ideas floated to address PFRS unfunded liabilities. Further, the list of those who supported Measure J just like those who oppossed it probably had a myriad of both financial and political reasons for their support and opposition but either way, some may have even uderstood it quite well and that understanding may have or may not have had any bearing on the positions that they took or advocated.

Lastly, as to the size and scope of the problem with and due to Public Sector pensions and employee and retiree healthcare obligations funded or unfunded in the US today, there are loads of experts and non-experts looking for any knight in shining armor even if that suit of armor ends up being someone in a suit and receiving a federal paycheck. Even if the US and California economies keep percolating out of recession it has become very clear that the past 20 to 25 years of public sector benefits and retirement contracts and practices is simply not sustainable given our changing demographics and the structural employment impact that technology (there is an app for that) has had on all industries and will now begin having on local government. The learned response by private sector employers to get more with less and leverage technology for increasing productivity will inevitably begin being applied within state and local government.

That aside, I am an optimist and believe that we will address this public fiscal sustainability issue openly. Sure, it will lead initially to partisan bickering, union and non-union bashing, and private sector versus public sector face-offs but eventually cooler heads and minds will prevail and we will accomodate all sides of the problem in finding a sustainable solution. After all, we all are going in that direction anyway, we had better be able to find an agreeable solution or we will collectively drive off the road together.

2 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Ken Benson on 02/23/2012 at 3:04 PM

Re: “Oakland's Toxic Deal with Wall Street

I think it is safe to assume unless we elect only MBA's with Finance expertise that most local politicians are not going to understand complex financing instruments and obligations like the credit swaps. But, informed and research oriented policy staff and or in-house or outside legal and bond counsel should have been able to discuss the pro's and con's (no pun intended) and then policy makers armed with input from the taxpayers and citizen groups could have and would have made measured decisions to enter in to these agreements. And, furthermore, before signing on the dotted line, the exemptions, cancellations, and on-going costs of these deals needed to be vetted for the policy makers so when they enacted the deal they were informed of what the options and outcomes could cost the City, the taxpayer, and ultimately do to the City's financial standing.

All city's and local agencies need to be less dependent upon the bond sellers and their representatives and have greater access to critical financial analysis. I don't know if we can fund a methodology to share across the State, the County or similar but in hindsight, the City Council in Oakland would have been well served to have entertained a professional services contract not to exceed $14,999 and hired an independent outside expert to have reviewed and commented on the deal with Goldman Sachs before we were obligated by the contract terms.

15K would seem to have been an excellent 'hedge' (pun here is intended) against the potential $46 million. I do not recall how long this took originally to go from Finance Staff to City Council Committee and to enactment and what role Goldman played in those efforts prior to receiving the ultimate contract but let us hope we have learned from our past actions. Patience is a virtue and it may have kept the taxpayers and the City of Oakland from having to face this potential obligation of millions of dollars when we do not have the funds. One can only hope that with new City Administration and renewed focus by both citizen groups, Unions, and the councilmembers, that Oakland will not make similar process mistakes in the future.

Ken Benson

Posted by Ken Benson on 02/21/2012 at 10:22 AM

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