Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 27, 2013

Public Eye

Kokomo Tribune

---- — wage liberation

If Right to Work doesn’t seem like enough of a euphemism, then try out the latest catchphrase from the American Legislative Exchange Council, “Wage Liberation.”

The conservative group’s latest push is really pension reform, mainly in the form of privatizing and/or cutting private pensions.

The Indiana Public Retirement System has already acted to liberate some teachers from their pension funds, by voting to privatize an annuity option. Instead of a guaranteed 7.5 percent rate of return, the teachers choosing the annuity would receive market rate returns, which vary. Right now, the market rate is around 4 percent to 4.5 percent.

The big proponent of privatizing/cutting pensions is hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, who has teamed up with the Pew Charitable Trust to indict public pensions as a huge unfunded liability.

Critics say Arnold’s message, which has some truth to it, is severely undercut by the profit Arnold’s brethren on Wall Street stand to make if public pensions are privatized.

In Rhode Island, where significant pension reform has already been enacted, the state’s bill for financial management went from $11 million to $70 million, while the state pension funds’ rate of return failed to beat the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

Then there are significant questions about how transparent the investments become, once they’re privatized. It’s worth remembering that in Kokomo, the late “wealth manager” Richard Schwartz almost gained control of the city’s pension funds. The Indiana Secretary of State’s office is currently collecting complaints from the victims of a Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Schwartz.

Seeking a second term

Although the start of filing for the May primary election is still three months away, Republican Mark McCann has announced he will be seeking a second term as Howard County Prosecutor.

McCann was first elected in 2010 and was unopposed in the general election. He previously served 16 years as chief deputy prosecutor during the term of Jim Fleming.

In his announcement McCann said he will carry on the tradition of fairness and integrity he has displayed during his time as Prosecutor.

McCann, 49, is a 1982 graduate of Haworth High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Indiana University in 1986. He earned his law degree in 1990 from the Valparaiso University School of Law.

Unpaid bills

The Howard County Council was asked to appropriate additional funding to pay unpaid bills at the Kinsey Youth Center that were discovered after Brent Kelley, left as administrator.

Jeff Lipinski said there are $16,575 in unpaid bills and more than $12,000 that were more than 90 days past due.

Council members approved an additional $17,500 that Lipinski said he hoped the funds would last through the end of 2013.

Wind farm issue continues

At last Monday’s meeting of the Howard County Commissioners, Sandra Lushin, the wife of Center Township Trustee Jean Lushin raised concerns about the development of wind farms in the county.

Lushin said she is concerned about the wind turbines and had visited the Wildcat Wind Farm in Tipton County.

“We’re going to experience the same problems in eastern Howard County as in Tipton County,” she said. “There are so many decisions being made without the people being heard.