Archive | September, 2012

Let’s take back our schools – starting with a solid NO! on the Chico Unified school bond, Measure E

29 Sep

 

I like the “shell game” analogy for public finance because it describes the use of multiple, sometimes dozens of designated funds to move money around and change it’s legally allowable uses. For example – years back, the Chico voters agreed to float a bond for Chico Unified School District for the specific purpose of building a third high school. The two existing high schools were, and still are, miserably inadequate. Families like mine were promised that if we all agreed to pay a bond on our property taxes there would be another school by the time our kids came of age.

My kids came and went, no new high school. Chico Unified used legal shenanigans to redirect the money toward various and sundry and undocumented uses, all over the district, fixing “this” and repairing “that”. The money on record doesn’t begin to add up when you do the rabbit math, but whatever. The public gets what the public is willing to swallow. 

What the public gets, specifically, is a $200,000/year plus Superintendent of Schools who totes a $taff of $100,000/year plus “assistants” who each tote their own $taff, etc, etc, til all the money’s gone. See, every time the public approves another bond, $taley and her $taff give themselves raises all the way around, and then  bake up another argument about how they need yet another bond just to run the schools.

Here’s how they get away with it – over recent years, the legislature has changed the wording of the rules for bonds. Here’s what the California Education Code currently allows for the use of bonds – borrowed money that costs $3 for every dollar borrowed:   “The construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities.”

According to political reporter Chris Reed in Cal Watchdog,  San Diego schools have interpreted that to mean laptops, iPads, “and the most routine maintenance, such as painting and minor repairs.”

Why not?” you might say.  You might be among those who can’t say no, based on your love of children. You might say, “No expense is too great for our kids!”  Well, I would say to you, stop and think before you step into that voting booth.

A whopping share of our property taxes already goes toward our schools –  over 40 percent of the state’s General Fund, in fact.  Why can’t they operate within that budget? Because on average, over 90 percent of a district’s budget goes toward “compensation” – salaries and health benefits. In Chico, with over  20 administrators making more than $100,000 a year, I guess you can imagine which salaries we’re talking about. 

The loose wording in these bond rules allows the district to pay for everything but salaries with bond money, leaving over $36 billion dollars – the schools’ share of the General Fund –  to spend on salaries, health benefits, and pension payments.  

Kelly $taley is looking to raise another $78 million to feather her retirement nest, in addition to the millions she siphoned off our property taxes with her  third high school ruse. This woman’s greed knows no bounds. If we continue to allow her and her friends to run our school district  this way, our children will pay for it for the rest of their lives. 

In her request to the county clerk to add the measure to the November ballot, $taley asks  that “we not be assigned the letter ‘F'”.  In this case, ‘E’ is for ’embezzlement.’  Please vote NO on Measure E. 

Read more at http://www.calwatchdog.com/2012/09/24/what-school-bonds-pay-for-from-san-diego-to-burlingame-the-crime-is-whats-legal/

and http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#a

 

 

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The CalPERS disaster: A housewife tries to make sense of it

25 Sep

 

I’m still reading about how we ended up in this pension mess. This time I found a more recent article that confirmed suspicions I’ve had since I read that last article  from 2003.  The essential problem is, the California Public Employees Retirement System gambled pension money on the stock market, and got eaten alive by their own handlers.

CalPERS has to achieve stock market earnings of at least 7.75 in order to ” to keep its funding levels high enough to avoid further forced taxpayer contributions.”  For awhile last year, during a “volatile” market, they managed to achieve an outrageous 20 percent gain.  Of course  they did a little end-zone dance – “This is a great one-year achievement that powerfully affirms our strategy and the skills of our investment team,” said Chief Investment Officer Joseph Dear. “While we can’t assume that we’ll sustain this high level of earnings, we have averaged a net return on investments of 8.4 percent for 20 years.”

But you  know how that works. They just ripped off a bunch of people, triggering the “Karma Factor.” See, that’s how the stock market works, your gain is somebody else’s tragedy. I met a lady once who had got a handsome retirement payoff, and she wanted to turn it into a college education for her grandkids, so she bought Disney stock. Wow, who woulda thunk it – Disney lost their ass that year, and so did my old lady friend.

When that happened to some stocks my cousins and I inherited – mutual funds that had performed well for my family for a couple of generations – we read months later that the agents had ripped us off. It was a huge scandal, you know, that big pre-911 market melt down. It was found that agents were trading their clients’ mutual funds, without their clients’ (one of whom was me!) knowledge.   They were using their clients’ funds  as their own  – a scam know as “late trading”  – and raking in big amounts of money. That can only last so long, before the stock starts to be devalued, as were mine. I lost thousands of dollars over the span of a week, before I was able to get my agent on the phone ( he just wouldn’t return my call) and dump those funds. I got out of the stock market with what was left, but those people were never investigated or charged with anything, even though the whole scam quickly became common knowledge. They nailed Martha Stewart to the cross, she paid for their sins, and everybody went home and forgot about it.

I learned my lesson, but you can’t teach greedy people, they think with a part of their body that resembles an eyeless fish.  There was CalPERS, sitting pretty on a 20 percent gain like there’s no Tomorrow! And then Tomorrow came, and they too lost their (well, our, really) asses.   According to Cal Watchdog, the  fund lost over $17 billion dollars in just five weeks last August. But don’t worry, our loss was most certainly somebody else’s gain.

With my mutual funds, I was helpless. Like Barack Obama, I inherited a mess. I acted quickly, at first on just “women’s intuition”, then I heard the news. I told my agent what I knew, and he was all helpful all the sudden!  I was able to save over 80 percent of my fund.  But CalPERS walked right into that market and laid all their dough on that table. “These strong returns are a testament to our commitment to our long-term investing principles,” said Anne Stausboll, CalPERS Chief Executive Officer. “Our members, employers and California taxpayers all benefit from our disciplined approach to investing.”

They lost over half the fund, in a system that seems to me not much more sophisticated than a dice game. Former Orange County treasurer/tax collector and current county supe John Moorlach calls it the “’Peter Pan Portfolio’ that led to Orange County’s bankruptcy in 1994. The meaning: If you just believe, the fund will be all right.”

That’s what I’d call Dave Burkland and Jennifer Hennessy’s accounting style –  Jennifer Hennessy keeps “predicting” that sales and homeowners’ tax revenues will go up – when one call to a local retailer or real estate agent would set her straight, she’d rather believe she’s Tinker Bell.  She doesn’t “predict” she “wishes”. Like I’ve said before, if wishes were horses around here, we’d all be hip-deep in horseshit. 

The city of Orange rode their wish horse right into bankruptcy – geez, way back in 1994!  They were surfing interest rates, and a pack of sharks ate them.  

CalPERS can’t go bankrupt. We have guaranteed them with our taxes. In the event that they can’t pay, we are on the hook for billions in pension payments, many of those payments going to people like Tom Lando – who makes over $140,000 a year in pension, plus health benefits. There’s also a yearly cost of living increase. 

All because of the outrageous pension packages promised by elected leaders like our Mayor Ann Schwab and her council – who just signed off a new cop contract through which we continue to pay all their pension premiums, including “the employees’ share”.  And, they still get 90 percent of their highest years’ salary, including overtime, in pension, at 50 years old. That is how a cop who agrees to $65,000 a year salary ends up retiring at over $100,000 a year.  And, ex-police chiefs Mike Efford and Mike Maloney have both gone on to public salaries at Butte College, in addition to their pensions. All agreed upon and signed by Ann Schwab and council. 

Reform is coming, slowly, but the public pensioners fight tooth and nail. All we ask is that they pay more of their own pension premiums, and that CalPERS stop gambling on the stock market. Here’s what Steve Maviglio, spokesman for the union-backed Californians for Retirement Security, says to that – “My point was that the pension-bashing crowd used the depths of the recession as the reference point to sound an alarm about pensions instead of the long term returns actuaries use. And given the last two days on the market [August 5 and 8], the alternative that reformers are pushing — 401(k)s — are looking even worse than before.”

Maviglio accuses “pension bashers” of poor logic – he bases his claims on one short period of volatility on the market – any idiot knows, when you get a 20 percent gain, you are riding a short-lived high, and you better be ready for the come-down. CalPERS was apparently asleep at the wheel.

But, their handlers were there, like prowling sharks. Handlers they didn’t even need. According to CalWatchdog reporter Wayne Lusvardi, “An index fund is a passively managed fund designed to match the performance of the whole market or mix of funds.  So whatever commissions CalPERS paid all its external fund managers to invest in public stocks apparently could have been saved just by passively investing in the S&P 500 Index.”

That’s what I said last time – there was a little pack of sharks that fed off this whole mess, the “fund managers.” And the folks at CalPERS, confident that they’d continue to get their five and six-figure salaries and their 70 percent at 55 retirement packages, went right along with the scam – you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours! 

But the real villains here are your publicly elected leaders, at the city, county and state level. They’ve approved the contracts, the salaries, the pensions and the pension payments, every damned one of them. In Chico, most of our council members – with the exception of Jim Walker, somehow – are on the public dole. They all get public pensions, and you know, that doesn’t exactly put them on  very good footing to demand pension reform of their, our, employees. That’s exactly why we need more “regular” citizens on council – a small business owner like Toby Schindelbeck would at least be different. Schwab calls herself a small business owner, and she’s done everything she could during her tenure to promote that business – a bike shop. She’s used her position to promote her private business while making decisions that hurt businesses all over town. I’d like to see a person in there who has everybody’s business interests at heart, and I think that’s Toby Schindelbeck. 

I must say, I don’t like being in bed with Chico Firefighters, who have also endorsed  Schindelbeck.  But, Schindelbeck has told Chico Taxpayers Association that he would like to see the  “public safety” workers  PAY MORE OF THEIR OWN PENSION. We haven’t heard that from Bob Evans or any of the others, including Sean Morgan, who is also expected to get the public safety endorsement.  We’ll be holding Toby Schindelbeck to his word, and I think he will make some welcome changes on council.

CalPERS – how we got here

21 Sep

 

As we hear more about how pensions have taken down our economy and Jerry Brown’s feeble attempts to leash train his SEIU pitbulls, I have been doing some reading, trying to understand this whole mess, how it happened, and exactly what we, the taxpayers, are on the hook for.

I found an article from 2003, from the California Job Journal, that explained how it started. You can read the whole thing here:

http://www.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=523523781&page_url=//www.jobjournal.com/article_full_text.asp?artid=919&page_last_updated=2004-08-17T12:28:33

Right away you see that this is an article about finding lucrative jobs, and it’s steering people into the world of pension management.  “With baby boomers retiring at an escalating rate and becoming more concerned about their financial future, careers in institutional investing are likely to become hotter than a half-price sale at a Lexus dealership.”

As a baby boomer myself, I feel like I just picked up a menu that described ME as the main course.

This article, “Careers in Finance,” directs the job seeker first to the California Public Employee Retirement System. Apparently, CalPERS is a great jumping off point for those who want to make a bunch of money.    According to recruitment manager Linda Miller, the pay is low (stop laughing!), but the experience is money in the bank.   “Many return to million-dollar jobs in the private sector after learning about institutional investing with us,’ Miller reports.”

Here I have a question: do these people get public pensions? I’m pretty sure they do. You only have to work for the state for a few years at full time before you are eligible for a pension.  She says, they “return” to the private sector…” So, was that the whole point? Get a job at CalPERS to learn, then return to the private sector with your nice fat public pension? And benefits? And everything you need to know about ripping off the taxpayers?

What I really found interesting about this article:

  • in 2003 there were over 140 employees of CalPERS. Miller says people make more money in the private sector, but admits they’d work longer hours. And, she says, “We offer sick leave, retirement and lots of holidays, and that is a plus. In addition, there is stability and training available.” All paid for by US, the taxpayers.
  • in 2003, CalPERS had “assets totaling over $137.8 billion.
  • nine years later they’re flat broke and costing us millions in interest to pay off their obligations

And if you want to work in the private sector, you will not be trained, you will need either a Bachelor’s degree, subsidized by the taxpayers,  or experience in the public sector, provided of course by the taxpayers.  According to Maripili Tovar, of Bear Stearns in San Francisco, “”We look for people with a strong background in finance and business and a bachelor’s degree in either of those two fields.”  She adds,  “We are not hiring at this time because we are still feeling the effects of 9/11. But slowly I feel the market and the economy getting healthier.”

But, at  the same time,  CalPERS was recruiting, offering training,  benefits, pensions and “lots of holidays”?

Here we have the story of an agency that has been embezzled by it’s former employees. These people went to CalPERS, not necessarily for training, but to find out what they need to know to get over $137 billion in assets.

How would you explain what happened?

The article goes on to describe how ANYBODY can make a killing in the world of high finance. There are the “third party administrators,” or as my grandma would say, “another layer of fat you don’t need.”

“In a nutshell, we’re third-party administrators and we don’t sponsor or write investments plans,” explains consultant Bob de Montigny. “We do the accounting, tax-form preparation and consulting for long-term retirement. We rely solely on the information from the plan’s administrators.”  

So, here’s a guy who doesn’t even write your package for you, he just takes care of it.  This hound is full of fleas.

We are looking out for the little guy in the retirement plan to make sure the business owner isn’t getting all the money,” states de Montigny. “We do 100 percent of benefit consulting and administration, and take care to see that all the deadlines and deduction limits are met. It’s a very detailed job.”  Wow, I had no idea – how does the business owner “get all the money”? Sounds like the world of finance is a regular snake pit, doesn’t it?  Or, at least, it behooves some people for the pensioner to think that way.

The article says, “Prerequisites for this career include a strong accounting background, knowledge of investments, and proficiency in math. You have to know your way around monthly balance and income statements and understand what money is going in and out of a trust, and why. You also need a fairly strong background in composition and business English.”  Frankly, I’d think if you were competent to do the job that got you the pension, you’re competent to administer your own pension, but hey, we’re talking about public workers here. As we ascertained above, public workers don’t need as much skill to do their jobs as do private workers, so maybe that lack of skill is also at play in their personal lives? They can’t do their own bookkeeping, but they can do ours, that’s just great.

Furthermore, “The field (of third party administrators) is a niche business and there are job opportunities if you have the qualifications. The ups and down of the stock market has little effect on the business.”  Oh, that’s great, these people can send their clients down the market toilet, but the same market “has little effect” on them.

My, oh my, have I learned something about the CalPERS disaster. We have an industry that uses a taxpayer supported agency to train their workers. These workers took  knowledge they gained in their public trough experience through the revolving door to the private industry and then proceeded to rip off their former employers for over $137 BILLION.

Get those letters in to the ER – but remember, you only get one “election related” letter before November 6.

19 Sep

I think David Little makes a big mistake every year when he tries to limit people to one “election related letter” after Labor Day.  Instead of creating a discourse over a period of months, he gets a last minute bullshit storm. 

Right now, nobody is writing, because they want to get that last word in. That’s what happens. In the last few weeks, after about October 5, it will be standing room only. 

In future I wish Little would start encouraging discussion as soon as the candidates and the measures start popping up in the spring. The state ballot measures were posted way back in March or April. And the local ballot measures, like the cell phone tax, have been in the works since last spring too. But you don’t read anything in the ER or the News & Review until the last few weeks. That last minute scramble is never the best atmosphere for considering a ballot measure. 

But, if you have a mind to write a letter to the ER, it’s wide open. 

Schindelbeck is the only council candidate who’s been willing to take on $taff and Measure J

19 Sep

I got together the other day with some friends and talked about Measure J. We came up with a short analysis of this measure. These are FACTS that everybody should know about Measure J:

  • Measure J will add a 4.5 percent tax to cellular phone services and every form of electronic communication service existing now, as well as those yet to be invented.
  • Measure J allows the city Finance Director to add new forms of electronic communication to the list of those services taxed, without voter approval.  
  • Measure J revenues will be directed to the General Fund, which means there is no guarantee they will be used to fund public safety as proponents claim, but could be used for any purpose determined by council.
  • Measure J revenues can and will be used to pay the outstanding pension obligations of our city employees, more than 100 of whom make over $100,000/year and pay none of their own pension premiums. Only the fire employees pay any pension premium, and only 2 %. 

These can be typed or written onto a card or half sheet of paper and handed out or sent to anyone you know who receives a phone bill within the city of Chico. Or you can memorize them for enlightening conversations!

Here’s another list of facts –  these are the top 21 pension earners at  the city of Chico – those who get over a $100,000 a year, in pension. “Warrant Amount”, in case you didn’t guess, is how much they get a month.  John Brown, by the way, is our recently retired fire chief. Want to make a guess at what the new fire chief makes, the guy who shut down Station 5? 

Name Employer Warrant Amount Annual
ALEXANDER, THOMAS E CHICO $8,947.23 $107,366.76
BAPTISTE, ANTOINE G CHICO $10,409.65 $124,915.80
BEARDSLEY, DENNIS D CHICO $8,510.23 $102,122.76
BROWN, JOHN S CHICO $17,210.38 $206,524.56
CARRILLO, JOHN A CHICO $10,398.98 $124,787.76
DAVIS, FRED CHICO $12,467.78 $149,613.36
DUNLAP, PATRICIA CHICO $10,632.10 $127,585.20
FELL, JOHN G CHICO $9,209.35 $110,512.20
FRANK, DAVID R CHICO $14,830.05 $177,960.60
GARRISON, FRANK W CHICO $8,933.56 $107,202.72
JACK, JAMES F CHICO $9,095.09 $109,141.08
KOCH, ROBERT E CHICO $9,983.23 $119,798.76
LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48 $134,837.76
MCENESPY, BARBARA  CHICO $12,573.40 $150,880.80
PIERCE, CYNTHIA CHICO $9,390.30 $112,683.60
ROSS, EARNEST C CHICO $9,496.60 $113,959.20
SCHOLAR, GARY P CHICO $8,755.69 $105,068.28
SELLERS, CLIFFORD R CHICO $9,511.11 $114,133.32
VONDERHAAR, JOHN F CHICO $8,488.07 $101,856.84
VORIS, TIMOTHY M CHICO $8,433.90 $101,206.80
WEBER, MICHAEL C CHICO $11,321.93 $135,863.16

You not only pay these pensions, you pay the interest on the money we have to borrow to pay them. See, the California Public Employee Retirement System gambled it’s money on the stock market, and lost our ass. CalPERS officers still take huge salaries, and of course, get 70 percent of their salary as pension.

The salaries these Chico pensions were based on  were negotiated by people sitting on council now, including Ann Schwab. When Tom Lando  left the city of Chico he was making over $190,000 a year, largely because of a memo Ann signed that linked city worker pay to revenue increases but not decreases. 

That memo was really the last nail in our coffin. Like a little time-release bomb. The public salaries went up, up, up, and they took the cost of living in Chico with them, never to return. Unfortunately, at the same time, council, led by Ann Schwab and the liberals, went on a building permits spree to fund their salary increase, ruining the housing market and the construction industry in our town.  The contractors they brought in from towns like Fresno brought not only their own workers, but undocumented aliens, who took their paychecks out of town. Meanwhile long-time local contractors and workers were left unemployed. This had a long-term effect that is coming to fruition now – those folks are losing their homes, which are selling for much less than they were assessed at five years ago, and now the big stinking pigeon has come home to roost – the city is broke.

And that’s where the memo comes in again – revenue increases but not decreases – revenues went down, down, down, but salaries DOWNTOWN are still going up, up, up. I’ll never forget the time Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy was allowed to hire her own performance auditor, and when he gave her the expected favorable review, she gave herself a $14,000 a year raise. Wow – talk about your perks and benies – a job where you get to be in charge of your own pay! 

This hayride has to end, but when?  The only candidate I’ve seen in this election taking any of these people to task is Toby Schindelbeck, and that’s why he’s the only candidate who has the endorsement of the Chico Taxpayer’s Association.  I like Coolidge, but he hasn’t done much, and some of the stuff he’s said has left me wondering. And Morgan doesn’t know what he’s talking about –  he’s just a rubber stamp for the “public safety” unions. Meanwhile, Evans won’t admit he knows anything about Lando’s sales tax increase proposal, even though he’s been sitting in on the discussions. 

I‘m sick of the same old same old Downtown, I’m not voting for Fist Puppets. I want somebody different in there. Right now, most of them are public workers or ex public workers, including career military pensioner Bob Evans and Biggs city mangler Mark Sorensen.  I don’t think these people can stand up to $taff because they are blinded by self-interests – they know, pension reform could affect them! We need a small business owner, an employer, a person who does business with the general public – somebody who still has his feet planted firmly on the same dirt the rest of us are standing on. 

That’s why I’m supporting Schindelbeck. His future is more tied to Chico, and the rest of us. 

NO on Measure J – No Cell Phone Tax!

17 Sep

It’s always good to listen to people who disagree with you.  If you know what they are thinking, you can oftentimes get them to listen to your point of view, and maybe change their minds.

Sometimes it’s a simple matter of correcting misinformation. For example, the promoters of the new cell phone tax, City of Chico Measure J, are telling people the measure will  lower their taxes. Of course this is not true, but if we don’t step out there and make that clear, people may believe it. We need to make sure people know – the tax is being expanded to forms of electronic communication, like cell phones and pagers, that were not legally taxed before.

Something our opponents are telling us here is  they know people feel overtaxed. They are trying to trick people into voting for this tax increase, they’re telling them it will lower their taxes.  We need to tell people the truth – their cell phone bill will go up!

We also need to remind them, the tax can be further expanded – this measure allows the Finance Director to add any new forms of electronic communication that may be introduced to the consumer, at any time in the future, without voter approval. And, by the way, the tax rate can be raised by vote of council, again, without voter approval.

Finally, we need to ” de-bunk the bunk”, to borrow from an old blog-mate (who, by the way, currently receives over $149,000 per year  in pension). Measure J proponents are using the same old tactic – they are holding “public safety” up like a baby and threatening to throw the baby out the window if they don’t get this tax increase. According to Ann Schwab’s argument in favor,  failure to pass this tax increase “will result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds. “ She’s  threatening to throw all my babies out the window, I just can’t believe that woman, Good Gravy,  she’s a  mean one.

Of course we need a competent and adequate staff, public safety and otherwise. But there is nothing in the text of this measure that guarantees we’ll get that. The revenues from Measure J will go into the General Fund, from which they can be spent at the discretion of council, on anything from Spirit Flags to the unmet pension obligations left to us by the CalPERS disaster.

It is a simple thing to tear down this measure, because it’s a bad idea. It is a matter of speaking up and telling people what’s happening. Write those letters – I hope you will find the above points helpful, but I’m sure you have plenty to say for yourselves.

Ballot measures – today featuring state Proposition 30 and local Measure E

15 Sep

I thought I’d share this interesting link:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures.htm

Look them over, some of them are tax increase measures.  There at the top you see Proposition 30 – that’s Jerry Browns’ pit bull disguised as a tea cup poodle. “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Gee, they make it sound so harmless – “Temporary” – oooo! “Fund Education” – ahhhh!  That’s like saying,  “well he’s just a little ol’ alligatah, Honey!”

They write these titles knowing how many people actually read the text of a measure. Sure, some of those people don’t bother to read it because they ritually vote NO! on anything smelling like a tax increase – that’s not a bad strategy as far as I’m concerned.

But, it’s not my strategy. I know we need taxes to fund public needs. It’s not like I’m just Anti-Tax – my family is full of teachers, I went to public school. I’ve driven my car, rode my bike and hoofed it on public roads for over 50 years.  I like public utilities, which are largely subsidized with taxes, and I like having some sort of police and fire protection, even if I have to take the ticks with the hound. 

On the other hand, I also know, it’s stupid to throw money at budget problems. We certainly do have a budget problem in the state of California, but it’s not a revenue problem, it’s  a spending problem.  Year after year the governor and the legislature have screamed that we are in deficit, need to “cut back,” but they just keep approving more spending. For the craziest stuff, I don’t even want to go there. Mostly for the lifestyle they’ve managed to make out of it for themselves – why do we allow these public servants to live like demi-gods? Alot of us could live on their wardrobe and dry-cleaning allowances, their cell phone allowances, their car and gas allowances. We have “allowanced” these people until they are so far removed from our everyday reality –  I guess, we’ve made our own monster, and we deserve to be destroyed by this creature.

Well, not me. I’m going to fight. This “temporary” tax is another hike – add that onto the hike in the cost of housing, the cost of medical care, the cost of groceries and gas and everything else you need to live. Add that to the city’s utility tax hike and the state’s wood products tax and the proposed Chico art tax and a grocery bag tax – pending state legislation would allow retailers to charge the public for plastic grocery bags, currently illegal.  I’ll tell you what, it sure seems to me, the people of  California are being told to TAKE A HIKE!

First of all, “temporary” means, after the allotted time, the legislature can vote to extend it.  I don’t know if they need public approval for that. Like local Measure H, which would extend a “temporary fee” that was placed on our vehicle registration a few years back. Once you vote something like this in it’s like giving the vacuum salesman a foot in your door. 

And then there’s the WHY? of it. WHY? would we give the schools more money? Here in Chico, they just pad their behinds with the stuff. What does a school district the size of Chico need with all these $100,000 plus administrators, including Stuporintendent of Snooze, Kelly Staley, who makes well over $180,000 a year, plus benefits and pension paid by the taxpayers.

Furthermore, Chico Unified has foisted their own bond on the local ballot – how much money do they need down there? Are they making clothes out of it? Here’s the info on that:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#a

Staley wants to issue $78 million in bonds, placing a $45 tax on your home for every $100,000 worth of value. Read Staley’s request here:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/measure_e_resolution.pdf

Staley only wants $78 mil. Jerry Brown is hoping to raise $6 billion annually. I can imagine Santa Claus, and maybe even the tooth fairy, but I can’t begin to imagine $6 billion.

He says his measure “bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are spent.” That is a loophole – everything after “but” .  Everybody who’s dealt with government types knows what the words “discretion” and “open meetings” mean – in other words, we listened to what the public said but we did what we wanted anyway. 

And there’s this line: “Guarantees funding for public safety services realigned from state to local governments.”   Let’s have a collective, “oh, sure!” on that one – which turnip truck does Governor Moonbeam think we fell off of? How many times have they just TAKEN money from local jurisdictions, saying, “make us give it back” ? And we’re supposed to fall for it? Fool me once, Shame on You! Fool me twice, well, I’ll probably buy it a third time too. But the fourth time, I’m not only not going to fall for it, I’m going to kick your ass for trying to pull it.

Oh, you know, I’m not advocating violence, oh geeshy sakes no! I’m asking everybody I know, everybody within blog-shot,  to bring in a LANDSLIDE against Prop 30 AND local Measure E, the school bond. We have to clean our financial house, and it’s going to be a lot of work. Lately, adding more money to the state of California engine is just like putting cheap gas in your Pinto.  Clunk-clunka-clunk-clunk-clunk!  Clunka-clunk!

 I read an article today, in which the author professed being in favor of Prop 30, and challenged opponents to come up with good alternatives to the “problem”. Of course, he thinks the “problem” is, teachers don’t get paid enough, and we don’t have enough money to hire adequate teachers. I feel the “problem” is, the school system is top-heavy with administrative salaries and drowning in benefits and pensions obligations that should be paid by the employees.  His answer is either raise taxes or watch the California schools fall further into the abyss. I say,  cut administration positions down to bare bones, and make Superintendent a publicly elected position. Then,  fire people, and rehire other qualified applicants at reasonable salaries. Finally, throw out the notion of “benefits packages” altogether – benefits packages are something you use to lure highly skilled candidates in an employee’s market. That is not how I’d describe the average employee of Chico Unified, and Chico is certainly not an “employee’s market,” with Chico State squeezing out Liberal Studies candidates like a sausage press.

 What the government isn’t admitting, is that these contracts come up for review every so many years – every year down at the school district –  and they have the alternative of NOT RENEWING. Instead, they hold the public out of the negotiations with BS about “collective bargaining rights” and renew even worse contracts than those expired. Why do we pay our public workers three, four, five times the median income, while also paying even the “employee share” of their benefits?

That has got to stop. If we really want to live within our means, we need candidates for public office who are willing to tackle the issues of salaries and benefits, not in some future “tiered” system, but NOW. When existing contracts come up for renegotiation, we need candidates who are not afraid to look unreasonable employees in the eye and tell them not to let the screen door hit them on the ass. We need council members who are not afraid to tell employees they need to pay MOST, if not ALL, of their own benefits. I’m sick of these cowards, people who are more interested in keeping their ass in the chair than working for the taxpayers. People who are afraid of $taff because they are too lazy or intimidated to do their own homework and depend on $taff to feed them like infants. 

Do your homework this election, tell your friends, get the word out – “change” is actually a wonderful word, we’re all allowed to use it.