About us

Calpensions.com is a project of Ed Mendel, a reporter who covered the Capitol in Sacramento for nearly three decades.

He worked for the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1990 to 2008 and before that for two now-defunct publications, Golden State Report, a monthly politics magazine, and the Sacramento Union, a daily newspaper.

The main focus of Calpensions.com is the pair of big pension funds based in Sacramento, the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System, which have two of the world’s largest investment portfolios.

There also are more than 80 smaller public employee pensions funds in California. Among them are 22 pension funds operated by counties, 32 by cities and 25 by special districts.

Most of the pension funds face the same basic issues. Are pension benefits negotiated by employer unions too generous? Will growing pension costs cut deeply into funding for other government programs?

With their investment clout, the big pension funds can push for better corporate performance, energy-efficient buildings and other policies. The operations of these wealthy and powerful funds are worth a closer look.

Calpensions AT gmail DOT com

45 Responses to “About us”

  1. Edwin Garcia Says:

    Ed! Congratulations on Calpensions — what a great idea.

    Maybe it wasn’t intentional on your part but I got a chuckle seeing the “do not enter” sign at the front of the picture of the pensions building. like telling me, there’s something bad going on in there right now, stay away :) … anyway, you’ll do great at this gig; looks like you’ll fill a void for sure.

    e

  2. Steven Glazer Says:

    Best of luck with your new project. We will all benefit from the information and insight that you can provide here.

  3. Brian Joseph Says:

    Fantastic idea — will make for some interesting reading. Congrats!

  4. Lynda Gledhill Says:

    Ed, Congrats! And great idea. Although I still will miss your wisdom on the budget. Lynda

  5. Jennifer McDaniel Says:

    Ed- Glad to see we haven’t heard the last from you!

  6. D Takashima Says:

    Ed- Congrats for the new website. It is very important for the retirees undestand how poorly the state oversee the investment policy by the investment board.

    I believe that the Legislature need to oversee the management of the investment policy instead of appointees that have failed their responsibility to public employees.

  7. Flossy Kettering Says:

    Hey, great beginning! You may be on to something here. Congratulations. VERY professional.

  8. Hallye Jordan Says:

    Congratulations and great job, Ed! We’ll be reading your blog with much interest, and are adding you to our press distribution list.

  9. Bill Ainsworth Says:

    There is life after traditional journalism!

    Congratulations. Look forward to reading more about the pension funds in the future.

  10. Bill Ainsworth Says:

    There is life after journalism!

    Congratulations. Look forward to reading more about the pensions.

  11. Marianne Russ Says:

    Hey Ed! Nice work. It’s so great to see your byline again.

  12. Phil Perry Says:

    Ed!
    We’ll be keeping an eye on this. Good to see your writings again.

  13. Stephen Green Says:

    Ed: I’ve bookmarked your website. I am sure it is going to succeed. If you haven’t already, I suggest sending a news release to union newsletters and newspapers.

  14. Jann Taber Says:

    Ed! I wondered why I saw you strolling in front of the CalPERS building the other day! Congrats! I’ll miss you covering the Capitol.

  15. m.mendel Says:

    The investigative reporter still lives.
    Glad you’re up and running.
    Congratulations.

    That new building to manage pensions looks like a luxury shopping mall, the atrium, a showcase.
    If all else fails, Nordstroms, Neiman-Marcus, consider.
    (Waterford won’t come calling)

  16. Mike Zapler Says:

    Ed — so much for retiring to Montana. Good luck with this project. Mike

  17. James McRitchie Says:

    I tried to keep up with CalPERS alone at http://www.perswatch.net, but had a difficult time doing that and also keeping up with corporate governance in general on my main site. I’m glad you have taken up this beat online.

    Over the years, I have tried to emphasize the need for an open process at these funds, pointing out when CalPERS failed to follow the law in promulgating rules, noting when they sought corporate governance reforms but ignored similar needs in their own governance structures, etc. We have some really great public pension funds in this state. If they behave well and can meet the public relations battles against them, often based on misinformation, they will be a driving force long after we are gone.

    I look forward to following your posts.

  18. Dan Morain Says:

    Ed–My guess is that you would have won a Pulitzer already if only Deep Throat could have reached you. But, alas, your phone number and the number of your blog don’t seem to be listed.
    I understand that sources can be awfully irritating. But perhaps you could post it on your website, or give me a call, 916 321-4415.
    Thanks, pal

  19. nenebird Says:

    Congrats, glad someone with some knowledge will be writing on this topic.

    I would really like to see some analysis of the savings that the State could make if it dropped out of Social Security. Unbeknownst to most, many but not all state employees pay into both Calpers and SS. This change came in 1973 or so. Prior to, state employees paid in a 6% contribution to Calpers vs the 5% they pay now and did not pay into SS.

    On the SS side, I pay 6% plus the State pays another 6%. I don’t think taxpayers should not pay for two retirement systems for its employees. This could be a net savings to the state. Most local agencies, Corrections, Justice and possibly CHP do not pay into SS. No idea why the State opted to go into SS.

    Also, it would be nice to see some actuarial data from Calpers about how many payments they make for retirees. The anecdotal data says that for these retirees only collect 18 monthly checks before they die. Survivors will collect a predetermined allowance. Only spouses collect. Kids don’t get a dime after college. Its one reason why Calpers has so much Cash!!

    For many, the salary in private or other local agencies is more. Its the retirement that keeps them there. I work with licensed engineers – they could make 150% of what they make for the state in the private sector. The retirement is the great equalizer. ditto for execs. Our director makes less than the clown that runs Del Mar Fairground.

    Our director has a budget in excess of $8 billion, over 20,000 employees, untold liability and safety issues. He makes about 130,000 a year. What keeps him there? Retirement has to be a reason.

    I would make the requirement for corrections, elected officials and other higher. Legislators get a pretty much full retirement after five years service. Judges ditto. Corrections officers get 80% of the salary at age 50…

    Me, I will get 2% x my years of service x my final salary at age 55. I have put in a lot of years but most at 55, average about 20 years. So on a $4,000 a month salary, it looks like this: 2% x 20 years x $4,0000 = $1,600 retirement check.

    Honestly its what kept me in the public sector. I did venture into a local agency and got a grand more a month with less responsibility. But it was a short stint.

    Good luck with your website.

  20. joan joaquin Says:

    This is a good new Website. Thank you. My pension fund was $15B now down to $11B in assets; 15% loss. I paid 8% of my salary into this fund for 31 years and now receive close to 100% of my final annual salary of $32K. Of course that was 22 years ago. $32K doesn’t go too far now. I was a unit supervisor in the San Francisco Department of Social Services and the pension fund is for City & County retired employees. Joan joaquin

  21. Anne Richards Da Vigo Says:

    From arcane budget stuff to arcane pension stuff! Who better to do it than Mendel? Fills a need. Congrats.

  22. Sigrid Bathen Says:

    This is great reporting, Ed. Glad to see your byline again in this brave new multimedia world. . .

  23. Donald Fredericks Says:

    To often we get lost in our own bargining unit (mine is Unit Six) and political interest together. Mr. Mendel his doing all of as a great service with a fair prospective with current and historical information for a better understanding of the process and thiking which goes into benefits. Negotiations are never an easy process. Working as a peace officer in a California prison in the best of times is still a dangerous place to work. Our health and retirements were negotiated with this in mind. As are many other bargaining units. Each were reviewed by management and the legislative process and determined to be full justified before being signed into law. Inflation continues to take its toll on even the best packages for their times.

    All I can say is keep up the good and informative work Mr. Mendel.

  24. AKK Says:

    I’ve added your blog to my daily rotation. So far I’m having a lot of fun (not really the right word) reading it and am learning a lot. Thanks!

  25. Dan Morain Says:

    Ed–I see you still have not listed your phone number. That is a very interesting reporting technique. I wish I had tried it. My number has changed–442 6902, ex 102. If you get a quick minute, perhaps you could give me a ring.
    Thanks

  26. Winston H. Hickox Says:

    Ed

    What you are doing is very informative.

    Would be happy to spend time with you if you think it of value.

    Sit on pension Board (SCERS), and did some work at CalPERS following my time as CalEPA Secretary.

    Winston

  27. Amy Brown Says:

    Hey Ed – nice site. I just found it because I read your piece in the weekly. Let’s grab lunch and talk about how we may be able to take over the world..

  28. PJ Says:

    Great idea for a blog. I have always wondered, for instance, how a firm in Ohio got the contract to administer our PERS funds. When they first started, they got distributions wrong, never answered the phone. They did and still do get tax statements wrong.

    I smell politics, or a payoff. Are our funds safe?

  29. Steve Schullo Says:

    Hi Ed,
    Just wanted to ditto what everybody else has said about your blog.
    I read your latest report on CalSTRS with hat in hand going to the legislators to ask for an increase in state contributions. It must be very degrading. I know the teacher representatives and I cannot believe their timing. They are very politically astute, smart and really are looking out for teachers’ best interest and yet they did this (not to mention approving bonuses to CalSTRS executives). Sure they can admit to “setting the groundwork” for increasing the state contributions, but at this time! Couldn’t they wait until this horrible crisis is over, like perhaps next year. I am sure in the eyes of the legislators; they lost credibility, a lot of credibility.
    Seems to me that the board does not know how to manage the impact of the politics of the current financial crisis. They are acting as though there is no financial crisis. Its business as usual. Believe me when it comes to educators and money, politics is everywhere.
    2 cents,
    Steve
    Retired teacher

  30. Mike Shepley Says:

    Hi-
    Good you have a gig.
    My wife, Donna used to work with you at Golden State report and i remember one time a discussion about the articles in the Sac Union you did on the Sick Building in the early 80s.
    I have been trying to get to them for years….do you have any way to point me to published dates (the UCD film rolls should do the rest)/

  31. Jack Cassidy Says:

    What is CALPERS doing investing in penny stocks? Chec- out the following investments;
    Dune Energy, Inc. (DNE)
    Petro Resources Corp. (PRC)
    Opexa Therapeutics, Inc. (OPXA)
    Hyperdynamics Corp. (HDY)

    Are any of these companies investment grade?
    There is a common dominator.
    Checkout the relationship of some of the major advisors. Could this be pay to play?

  32. Kim Alexander Says:

    Hi Ed!

    This is a great public service — I’m sure your blog will be especially helpful as pension reform initiatives move toward the ballot next year. Thanks so much for keeping us informed!

  33. Ryan Herche Says:

    Hi Ed,

    I am a candidate for the Natomas Unified School Board, and I would like to know if you have any insights on the pension situation at the school district level. Our district is near bankruptcy, so it’s crucial to fully understand our cost structure. Please give me a call any time at (916) 281-5088 or shoot me an email at Ryan@RyanForNatomas.com

    Thanks!

  34. Sharon Hendricks Says:

    I work with the LA Community College Faculty Guild in LA on retirement issues and come to the CalSTRS Ex. Board meetings and wondered if I might be able to meet with Ed while I”m in Sac in Feb. to discuss the new pension initiatives coming through in CA. I will be speaking to CA Community College faculty at the end of Feb. and am a follower of the CalPensions blog and would love to hear Ed’s perspective on all this. You can contact me through my email. Thanks for all the work you do on the blog…very informative!

  35. Jack Cassidy Says:

    What is CALPERS doing investing in penny stocks? Chec- out the following investments;
    Dune Energy, Inc. (DNE)
    Petro Resources Corp. (PRC)
    Opexa Therapeutics, Inc. (OPXA)
    Hyperdynamics Corp. (HDY)

    Are any of these companies investment grade?
    There is a common dominator.
    Checkout the relationship of some of the major advisors. Could this be pay to play?

  36. Lois Kazakoff Says:

    Ed — Please call me at 415.777.6054. I have a project you might be interested in.

  37. Bob Fairbanks Says:

    Please give me a call. 916 731 4447. Thanks.

  38. Marge Ann Jameson Says:

    I would be very interested in publishing your comments on my editorial page. I am an adjudicated weekly newspaper in Pacific Grove. My phone number is 831-324-4742; fax 831-324-4745; cell 831-331-3334. Thank you.

  39. Lois Kazakoff Says:

    Ed — Like to talk to you about the CalSTRS piece. my number is 415.777.6054.
    Lois

  40. James McRitchie Says:

    Those concerned about governance at CalPERS, please know that on September 7, 2010, from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., the Sacramento Central Labor Council and PERSWatch.net will host a “CalPERS Candidates’ Forum,” moderated by the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County. The forum will be held in the CalSTRS Boardroom at 100 Waterfront Place in West Sacramento, next to the pyramid. This is your opportunity to meet and question the candidates.

    Sorry, no food or drinks (other than bottled water) are allowed in the CalSTRS boardroom. Please bring a pen or pencil. All questions presented to the candidates must be in writing and will be screened and sorted by League volunteers.

  41. Dan Says:

    thank you

  42. Ronald Roach Says:

    Great job, Ed. Now if the Dems in the XGR and EGB Jr. were willing to do something about the CalPERS structural setup that breeds corruption. Not going to happen with those currently in power. XGR did it once, in 1991, I think, when Gov Wilson convinced the XGR to go along with his plan (unions actually picketed Dave Roberti’s district office in North Hollywood after the Senate leader backed Wilson’s play) to adopt a second pension tier for new hires and to give the gov power to appoint an actuary who was not hired by CalPERS to decide such things as how many tax dollars will be creamed off the state general fund for PERS. This was going to save billions of tax dollars over a decade or so, but, as you’ll recall, the public employee unions spent $15 million to $20 million (they would have spent whatever it took) to repeal the reforms on the next statewide ballot. There was no funded campaign on behalf of the reforms and the unions’ initiative barely passed. Hard to imagine that all PERS board members didn’t at least strongly suspect there were crooks on board, especially when the thought crossed the minds of some who were watching from afar…

  43. Steve Lyle Says:

    Thank you for taking this on.

  44. James McRitchie Says:

    PERSWatch.net will sponsor a “CalPERS Candidates’ Forum,” moderated by the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County, on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The forum will take place in the CalPERS Auditorium, Lincoln Plaza North, 400 P St., Sacramento, California. Free parking will be available under the building. Enter on the Q Street side between 3rd and 5th Streets.

  45. Dave Baeckelandt Says:

    Ed, Excellent blog and superb posts! I stumbled upon this today. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights here.

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