** Bruce H. Jennings will be speaking in Los Angeles at Occidental College at noon on
September 21st - check this space for updates **
This post begins a discussion series focusing on the California Public Employee Retirement System. You may already recognize CalPERS as one of the worldʻs largest public pension funds. It is also a place where more than 250 members have nominated me as a candidate to serve on CalPERS Board of Administration - and I owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the hundreds of individuals who have supported me in this endeavor. During the month of September, the 1.8 million members of CalPERS will cast votes electing two individuals to serve as Member-at-Large to the Board.
One of my objectives as a CalPERS candidate has been inspired by an array of public interest mentors who have guided my work in the Legislature to pursue a common goal: promoting citizensʻ rights to govern the nature and direction of Californiaʻs economy. Promoting citizen participation in managing one of the worldʻs largest economies is also an essential element to address the fossil-fueled crises of our time, a central argument in my book, The War on California. In each of these regards, there is much that needs to change concerning the management of CalPERS.
There are many junctures for Californians to influence the stateʻs economic and political future, including the more than $300 billion dollars managed by CalPERS on behalf of many of Californiaʻs public workers. While up-coming Board election is limited to members of the pension fund, many elected officials figure prominently in the governance of CalPERS (the Governor, Treasurer, Controller and others). While there is much to criticize at CalPERS, there is also a need to recognize the vital importance of public workers and their invaluable contributions over many years.
The politics surrounding CalPERS has been contentious for many years. Starting as a sleepy bureaucracy for receiving and disbursing retirement funds, CalPERS gradually became a more pivotal force with the expanding political might of public employees and their collective financial resources. By the 1960s, CalPERS became a potent tool for influencing corporate boards across the nation and around the world. CalPERS also became a target for private sector groups eager to exploit economic opportunities for ʻhelpingʻ to manage public employeesʻ portfolios.
The political role of CalPERS is a topic I will explore in greater depth in the coming weeks along with additional excerpts from my book on related topics. I do not pretend to possess vast knowledge about CalPERS; I am, therefore, especially interested in learning from the readers. Many of us who work politically have often benefited from the collective work of many minds working together, yielding not only important information, but often insights into paths for achieving political change.
As a belated apology, my absence for the past several weeks has been largely unavoidable owing to the launching my book as well as my bid to join
the CalPERS Board. Thanks to family, friends and colleagues and the many readers who I hope will join the unfolding discussions. While my previous writing schedule allowed for postings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the next series will be a bit more episodic.
In addition to reviewing some of the larger controversies enveloping CalPERS, I will also punctuate my postings with observations on the continuing controversies surrounding cap-and-trade.
Thank you in advance for your attention and commentary.