Finials Fireworks Pensions & Photos

 This article serves to update developments in recent stories previously posted on this site

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The Petaluma Finials     

              

Last month, I attempted to ascertain the source for the decorative metal finials on several sidewalk poles in the downtown area. Failing in that effort, I offered a tongue in cheek answer in The Petaluma Mystery Sculpture(s)

I can now advise that the finials are not antennae to facilitate communication with the Mothership. Instead they are decorative finials made here in Petaluma by Edgar Haris, noted “…local sculptor, designer, metalsmith in descending order….”

Haris & Company
Artistic Metal Work
250-A Water Street
Petaluma, CA 94952

All Petaluma historians, official and otherwise, take note and duly record Edgar Haris as the creator of these unique ornamentals.

Petaluma Fireworks 

On February 11, I wrote about the efforts of Parks & Rec to put together the annual July 4th celebration and fireworks show. See Petaluma…You Too Can Be A Star!

Given recent articles on Petaluma 360 regarding the continuing need to raise money to meet the funding goals, I stopped by the Community Center to get an update. I believe it is safe to say that Jan Mandrell of Parks & Rec is cautiously optimistic that they will make it; however, donations are still needed to get them to the finish line. They are half way to the $50,000 goal and scrambling to get the rest…

(Roberta Guerra, Terry Connoly, Jan Mandrell, Tom D’Asto, Roseann Lille)

There have been comments on Petaluma 360 Forums about how the costs could be reduced if they would just manage things better. The fact is the planned budget for the July 4th event is extremely precise, sparse, and barebones. Jan Mandrell has many years of experience in planning these events.  For a fuller explanation of what is involved, Click Here 

Anyone interested in contributing can “Buy A Star” by making a check out to “City of Petaluma, Fireworks” and sending it to Jan Mandrell, 320 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma 94954. You can also donate by calling 707-778-4380 or in person at the Petaluma Community Center. The City has also set up a link on its web page (Click Here) if you want to contribute online.  Simply click on the link and scroll down to Donations. You will need to create an account if you do not already have one.

Buy A Star and Be a Star

First Your Home…Now Your Pension?  September 2010

In this two-part series (Click Here & Click Here) I told the story of a 76-year-old female Alzheimer’s patient who had received a pension for 11 years and was facing a claim by the payor that the pension was overpaid.

To briefly recap the story: “The pension in question started with a 1999 letter from the employer’s pension administrator that opened with, “This will confirm that you are entitled to receive a vested accrued benefit under the…Plan in the amount of $… per month…for your lifetime.” Then, as I reported previously, on September 17th of this year, she received a letter from the bank currently administering the pension advising that she had been overpaid and they were asking her to repay $42,814.42.”

Thanks to the assistance of an attorney retained by the family, I can now advise that the pensioner is no longer facing a claim for repayment.  The pension will be adjusted going forward. However, the attempt to recoup past payments has been dropped.

Photos

Over the last year or so, I have attempted to improve my skills with a camera through various classes, books, etc.  I think of it as raising my level of confusion to a higher plane. This effort brought me into conflict with the various platforms that display digital photos and forced me to make some decisions about format size and the ultimate end-user experience.

While the fact of the matter is that the majority of web page viewing is done on small screen mobile devices–smart phones, iPads, whatever–I have elected to focus on desktop or full screen presentations. Granted, this reduces the potential audience but to borrow from Clark Gable’s famous line in Gone with the Wind… “Frankly…I don’t give a damn.” The truth of the matter is that I have gone over to the dark side and actually prefer prints as opposed to virtual digital images, but that is another story.

With my new digital attitude firmly in place, I recently revamped my photo blog.  If you are so inclined, you can check it out (I do not recommend using your mobile phone) at The Petaluma Spectator Photo BlogIn particular, see Ski Petaluma! and Sonoma Scenes…Street, Alley, Walkway

REDUX–First Your Home…Now Your Pension?

My article of September 21, 2010 regarding pension overpayment recoveries produced several e-mail responses and inquiries, particularly concerning the 76 year old female Alzheimer’s patient who had been receiving a pension for 11 years.

I can now provide a few additional facts.

The pension in question started with a 1999 letter from the employer’s pension administrator that opened with, “This will confirm that you are entitled to receive a vested accrued benefit under the…Plan in the amount of $… per month…for your lifetime.” Then, as I reported previously, on September 17th of this year, she received a letter from the bank currently administering the pension advising that she had been overpaid and they were asking her to repay $42,814.42.

The bank in question is Wells Fargo. To be precise, the letter came from Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust in Minneapolis, MN. Wells Fargo recently took over administration of the pension after acquiring Wachovia. The underlying pension is an employer plan subject to the rules and regulations of  ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).

The pensioner’s 81-year-old husband, as Power of Attorney, has filed an appeal of the decision in accordance with ERISA.  In addition, he has contacted an attorney familiar with this area of the law.

I also became aware of an advocacy group for pension rights and I am including a portion of a recent e-mail from that organization:

“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.  As you may have seen in the Wall Street Journal article you mentioned in your blog, we work in conjunction with several legal assistance projects across the country.  The lead attorney for the Western States Pension Assistance Project was also quoted in that article.  This project, with funding from the U.S. Administration on Aging (AOA), provides free pension assistance to individuals who live in California (among several other states).”

Pension Rights Center in Washington, DC (www.pensionrights.org).

That’s all for now. I will keep you up to date as circumstances warrant.

First Your Home…Now Your Pension?

You can’t trust anyone or anything…

Except for my landscaper and my computer guru, this is my motto.

The front page article in last Sunday’s Press Democrat, System stymies mortgage fix simply reinforces my world view when it comes to banks and other financial institutions and their recent mortgage practices.

But for those who may not have mortgage woes, take no comfort.  You, too, may soon be subjected to the whims of financial institutions and insurance companies in other aspects of your life.

Consider this story from somewhere in Northern California as it may apply to you or someone you know…

YOUR PENSION

You are retired. Note

You’re collecting your pension….perhaps for many years. Red rose

Then, one day you get a letter from the institution paying your pension saying: “Oops! So sorry, we miscalculated and have been overpaying you. Please forward $42,814.42 within 10 days.”  Storm cloud

Impossible, you think. Unfortunately, such tactics are becoming a common practice. Wilted rose

In a current local case, a 76 year old pensioner had been receiving a pension for 11 years until presented with an overnight letter on September 17, 2010, advising that she had been overpaid and she had 10 days to accept the repayment terms outlined in the letter.  What really adds spice to the story is that the pensioner is an advanced Alzheimer’s patient in an assisted living facility.  There are a lot of other very “interesting” facts associated with the story. I am holding them back until it matures further…also in the hope that the bank comes to its senses and I can drop it.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an excellent article detailing this new phenomenon of recalculating pensions and how some people are fighting back.  I recommend it to you. In fact, if you are currently receiving a pension, it is essential that you read it.  Click on ‘Overpaid’ Pensions Being Seized.

There are ways of resisting such claims for repayment. However, one needs to hire a lawyer familiar with ERISA (The Employee Retirement Income Security Act) and benefits law to negotiate and litigate.  In many instances, the pensioner can rightly claim equitable estoppel if they can prove that it was reasonable for them to rely upon the original representation of their pension amount.  

There are no guarantees, and frankly, I suspect many people will not realize that they need legal assistance, much less have the resources to hire a lawyer.  Notwithstanding, I think that lawyers may stand in line to take this one on…

Stay tuned…