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Measure A omissions, half-truths and falsehoods

29 Feb

Here’s a post from Chico Taxes

https://chicotaxeshome.wordpress.com/2020/02/29/measure-a-omissions-half-truths-and-falsehoods/

Measure A Omissions, Half-Truths and Falsehoods

If Measure A passes CARD will take on $36 million in new debt and two of
every three dollars of the new tax will be spent on debt service. CARD
failed to mention this in the ballot measure. Don’t voters have a right
to know this before they vote themselves a permanent tax that increases
every year?

In his pro-Measure A argument in the Chico ER police officer Jim Parrott
tells us the state, not CARD, created the unfunded liabilities. This is
not only untrue, it’s absurd and it’s particularly disturbing coming
from someone sworn to uphold the law and tell the truth. It wasn’t the
State of California or CalPERS that approved the contracts that resulted
in the unfunded liabilities. It was CARD’s board. And to this day the
Chico ER has not set the record straight on Parrott’s untrue statement.

Moreover, one of CARD’s board members who put up $6,000 to pass Measure
A receives a six figure pension from CalPERS and has every incentive to
insure money that CARD should spend on maintenance, programs and new
facilities continues to get diverted to CalPERS so CalPERS stays afloat.
There ought to be a law that prevents such a conflict of interest.

Despite what CARD and its supporters state there is no guarantee how the
money is spent. In the ballot measure no amount is dedicated to any
project and CARD uses conditional words such as unless and intends.

It would be foolish for voters to approve a measure backed by over
$60,0000 from special interests that would result in a regressive,
permanent, perpetually increasing new tax and tens of millions in new
debt from a governmental agency whose leaders and supporters do not tell
voters the truth. And it’s shameful the local media does not set the
record straight.

The Big Lie: none of the A advocates will talk about the $36 million bond

29 Feb

Here’s an interesting “yes on A” letter. This letter was written by one of the people behind “Yes on A”, local realtor and investor Bill Brouhard. 

For me and my family, Measure A boils down to some very simple truths.

If Measure A passes, Chico’s parks and recreation get way better.

If Measure A fails, Chico’s parks and recreation deteriorate.

If Measure A passes, I’ll be paying $85 a year, that’s less than 25 cents a day.

A gumball costs 25 cents.

If Measure A passes, all those gumballs add up to roughly $3 million per year, 100% of which by law must be spent on local parks and recreational facilities.  CARD has a list of those projects on their website.

When a gumball a day can make and help keep Chico a better place, seems like a thing we all can and should support.  Let’s do the right thing this time. YES on Measure A.

— Bill Brouhard, Chico

First of all, I find this argument insulting – he’s calling our concerns cheap and petty. A gumball a  day? No mention of the $36 million dollar bond, or the $2 million a year in debt service.

He’s also threatening us.

“If Measure A passes, Chico’s parks and recreation get way better.

If Measure A fails, Chico’s parks and recreation deteriorate.”

Sounds like a bully – give us the money or the parks die!

But you know the most interesting thing about Bill Brouhard is, he’s a realtor.

Chico State graduate and resident since 1979, Bill Brouhard has been involved in the planning, entitlement and development of many of Butte County’s largest mixed use residential, office and industrial real estate projects.

Brouhard is also with Every Body Healthy Body. They are the folks who pitched CARD and the city for a gi-NOR-mous sports facility to be located south of town.

He also represents a property owner who is having trouble selling his land because it has all these environmental restrictions on it. When Brouhard came to a CARD meeting a couple of years ago, he was trying to get CARD to buy that land to build the facility. 

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/08/19/dolan-accuses-card-of-brown-act-violation-aquatics-group-wants-nance-canyon-taken-off-protection-list-so-they-can-locate-their-mega-center-there/

Folks,  Brouhard doesn’t care about Chico or our future, he just wants to sell his client’s doomed property. 

A gumball a day, my ass. I’m sure Blowhard is expecting to get a lot more out of it than a gumball a day. 

Gee, all the sudden the ER can’t squeeze in more than 3 or 4 letters a day? What’s the matter Mike – too many NO on A letters?

24 Feb

I think it’s weird that a few weeks ago the ER was running as many as 10 letters a day, but now that’s dropped off to three or four. I happen to know there are letters in the queue – a few of my friends have told me they sent “no on A” letters before the February 21 cut-off, and they just haven’t appeared. 

Of course you know – ER front man Mike Wolcott has endorsed Measure A. 

Of course, Wolcott recruited our friend Dave Howell to write a “con” piece so he could give Jim Parrott another shot at a “pro” piece. I don’t know how many of you noticed – Wolcott listed Dave as “Dave Smith”, Dave had to correct him. By the time Wolcott put the right name on the piece it was buried. That might not sound like more than an innocent mistake (like Karl Ory putting his hand in Nichole Nava’s face?), but it means anybody who googled the name would not find any of Dave Howell’s previous letters or his new “Chico Taxes” website.

https://chicotaxes.home.blog/

Excuse me  for thinking Mr. Wolcott would ever do anything like that on purpose, I’ll just go on thinking he’s an incompetent ass.

Frankly, this measure was written deceptively, and presented falsely by the ER. The proponents aren’t telling us that CARD intends to invest the proceeds in a $36 million bond, and that the funds can be spent at the poor discretion of the CARD board. This election has been dirty.

But Saturday I attended a gathering of Chico Republican Women Federated. Many indicated to me that they had already voted NO on A. Others indicated to me that they had friends who were waffling. I told them to look at CARD’s budget, it’s all there – millions of dollars going to CalPERS on their unfunded pension liability, while district facilities sank into disrepair. I think the group was just as shocked as I am about how little public employees pay toward very generous benefits.  

I wish more people were as involved as this group. We listened to local candidates, had a great chat with GOP Vice Chair Peter Kuo, and I  got to meet new, young, dedicated members. It’s good to see a group that’s on top of local issues and engaging new people all the time.

It’s encouraging to see young people who are willing to work hard to make a difference.  The future looks brighter today. 

NO on A: these letter writers made my day

18 Feb

The other day I noticed THREE YES on A letters in the Enterprise Record. You know what – I didn’t even bother to read them, the titles said it all. One person cited the $85/year base as “tiny”. When the YES people rebutted my Arguments Against in the ballot guide, they said MY arguments were misleading. Hah!

I find the letters written by the NO crowd to be a lot more interesting. Here’s one I like – short, sweet, and to the point.

Back in 1998 the voters of Chico approved Measure A, which at that time was to build a new high school. Well 22 years later we are still paying for that and the new high school was never built.

That is the problem with these things, once we give them the money they don’t have to fulfill the promises they made. CARD has a history of irresponsibility spending our money. Why trust them with more money?  No on Measure A.

— Jim Matthews, Chico

Yeah, thanks for bringing up School Bond Measure A Jim, people should still be pissed about that. That was a classic bait-and-switch.  I hope the voters remember that when the district brings their next bond around – I’m predicting they will put a measure on the 2022 ballot, we’ll see.

Now here’s another short one, but not so sweet – this guy thinks we should all have to pay for his pickle ball courts.

We need more recreational facilities and more pickleball courts.

— Ted Bryson, Chico

Pay for your own pickle ball courts Ted! The following letter-writer brings up a point I have not had time to address – CARD is subsidized by the taxpayers to keep their fees down. I think it’s way past time they update their user fees to be more in line with local businesses who don’t get bailed out by the taxpayers for making poor business decisions. Read what this next writer has to say.

There’s a lot of talk about Measure A.  I have heard statements such as “this is a unique opportunity,” “we need to pay it forward for future generations,” “it costs less than $10 a month.”  I challenge every voter, parent and grandparent to think about these statements.

Measure A is a continuous parcel tax on your property that has no end date. It continuously increases every year, billed on your property tax bill, tied to the Consumer Price Index. This is a tax, folks, that has no oversight or auditing mechanism. There is no budgeting for a tax increase that you have no control over, but are required to pay.

This tax will leave a huge debt and burden to our children and grandchildren.  If they are lucky enough to buy a piece of property, how much do you think your $85 tax will be for them?   Do you think they will thank you for leaving them a huge tax liability?

If CARD needs more money, let people that use the facilities pay for it. Isn’t that reasonable. Pay for what you use.

Please join me in voting no on measure A, so our future generations will not be burdened.

— Lorna Andreatta, Chico

Lastly, here’s a kick-ass letter from Ray Schimmel. I’ll never forget Ray Schimmel, because he spoke at a CPUC water rate increase hearing back in 2013, and told us all about “defined benefits”, which are the basis of our problem. He also grew up in Chico, raised his kids in Chico and Durham, and supported our kids’ rec teams when CARD would not include our league in plans for DeGarmo Park. We had to rent an old warehouse and build our own facility with our own money. It was a great experience, but I have never forgot how CARD turned us away, while giving special favors to their friends who wanted pickle ball and  bocce courts.  

Here Ray takes them on for closing Shapiro Pool – I know he speaks for a lot of people.

I was 11 years old in 1956 when, a hundred yards from my home, the new neighborhood Shapiro Pool opened its doors to me and a huge crowed of ecstatic kids. It was a wonderful facility with changing rooms, showers, two diving boards and organized programs. It’s where I learned that water polo was the name of an activity which allowed your opponents to drown you.

My home was in our family for 60 years and is still in great condition because it was always well maintained but Shapiro pool was closed in 2016. Why? CARD’s consultant,  in 2015, said it had been long neglected.  What?

From a young age I had reasons to appreciate our parks and places like Shapiro Pool, but I am dead set against Measure A, the parcel tax CARD is trying to cram down our throats. Why? In part because it has no sunset provision (never ends) and it is tied to the CPI (probable yearly cost increases).  In addition CARD has not been honest with us about why they really want this measure to pass. That beautiful mailer they recently sent out promoting the parcel tax said nothing about existing unfunded and unsustainable  pension obligations. And yet they continue to promote a grandiose “aquatics center” while history shows they stood by and allowed Shapiro Pool to die.

Simply put CARD does not to deserve to see this parcel tax approved.  Please vote no on Measure A, it stinks,stinks, stinks!

Raymond Lee Schimmel, Chico

A conversation that needs to be had before November – WHO will pay the pension deficit?

14 Feb

Here’s a NO on A letter that merits further discussion – this is a conversation that needs to be had. 

Before we hand CARD $3 million a year with Measure A, here’s why we’re smarter not to. First, we have a massive pension debt and no solution yet. I’m willing to vote higher city taxes this fall to help with that, but not to launch CARD on a spending spree for new toys – the main one being an aquatic center we didn’t all want. But about $3 million a year in new money should get that done in a few years, so why a permanent parcel tax? And why is CARD putting the money into a $36 million bond? Bonds mean one hell of a spending spree ahead, and losing a third or more of the money on interest payments. It’s kind of like how we’re funding pensions, except CalPERS and the unions never mentioned how much we’re about to lose by the state and them not paying it up front like we were told. Tricky thing dissembling.

There’s one more problem. The reason we don’t already have an aquatic center is that the city council wouldn’t buy CARD one. Council members have to think when it comes to what city agencies want and what our taxes can cover. If Measure A fails that will keep happening. I like that. We don’t even know what all the toys are CARD will start throwing money at once nobody can get in its way anymore. CARD will be a pretty hefty sow by the time it shows up at city council overextended again.

— David P. Smith, Chico

 

A line that I find very disturbing is, “I’m willing to vote higher city taxes this fall…”

 

Why the hell would you do that, Dave?  

And then he says, “It’s kind of like how we’re funding pensions, except CalPERS and the unions never mentioned how much we’re about to lose by the state and them not paying it up front like we were told.”   He assumes we all know how the pensions are funded, and what he means by “how much we’re about to lose by the state…”  I don’t think very many people really understand how we fund the pensions. Nor do I believe the average voter/taxpayers is aware how much CalPERS has lost in the stock market through bad investments. But the part that really interests me is “them not paying it up front like we were told.”

Thanks Dave, cause this is the conversation that needs to be had. 

First of all, the pensions are funded through payments made by the public agency and supplemented with stock market investments. Unfortunately, CalPERS made big, stupid promises, saying they could fund more than 50% of the pensions through investments. They amassed a lot of assets – a high rise building in NYC? – and began building a portfolio, promising a 7% return. 

But,  CalPERS investments have never held up to their promises because they continue to make bad investments. They have been lucky to get 3%. So, their investments end up costing money.  Some of these investments have been made inappropriately.  In fact, in 2015, “a federal grand jury indicted two former top officials on fraud, conspiracy and obstruction charges.”

https://www.cnetscandal.com/2015/11/ex-calpers-official-villalobos-commits.html

A CalPERS executive and a board member were found to have been taking bribes to buy poorly performing stocks. 

“Villalobos, collected tens of millions of dollars from Wall Street firms for steering CalPERS business their way.”

“At the center of the investigation was the role of placement agents, the middlemen or intermediaries hired by private equity firms and other financial institutions to win CalPERS business. The investigation came during a rough financial stretch for CalPERS. Its investment portfolio value had plummeted nearly $100 billion, to $169 billion, during the recession.”

Guilty as hell, Villalobos committed suicide before he could be sentenced. His partner was convicted and went to prison.  Since then, CalPERS claims to have cleaned up their act, but their portfolio continues to do badly. So they hired an “assassin” – a guy who comes in and cleans up the mess.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/nothing-is-sacred-for-new-calpers-pension-leader-2019-12-11

In his first week, Mr. Meng surprised staffers by introducing himself to employees from the most junior to senior level. Over the next few months, he was taken aback by how little some staffers knew about the fund’s investments, a person familiar with the matter said. Mr. Meng concluded some lacked information he thought needed to be routinely monitored.

So there’s corruption and incompetence here, not surprising. What would surprise me is to hear that some management was fired, possibly even investigated. What would surprise me even more would be CalPERS actually making money instead of pouring it down the toilet. 

Unfortunately, CalPERS corruption and incompetence only add up to half the conversation.  

Here’s the conversation that still needs to be had.  Who should pay the deficit?

Right now, the taxpayers are picking up not only the monthly payroll amounts, but the semi-annual deficit payments as well. Here’s how that pencils out – I’ll use CARD as an example.

The agency pays 14% of the cost of it’s management pensions. The employees pay 5.5 to 8% of the 14%.  It works like this:  for a $100,000/year salary,  the agency pays (100,000 x .14) $14,000/year, total. This is a management salary, management pays 8%, so that employee would pay (14,000 x .08) $1,120/year. For a pension of 70%, or $70,000/year. That base figure goes up with cost of living increases, based on the Consumer Price Index. 

The agency only pays 14%, the other 86% is the deficit. As their stock market returns continue to disappoint, CalPERS demands more money. That money has been taken from CARD’s General Fund, by way of a “Pension Stabilization Trust”. Money that would have been better spent maintaining district facilities. 

Meanwhile, CARD employees continue to receive above market salaries and pay pennies on the dollar for very generous pension packages.

CARD General Manager Ann Willmann told us at her “informational meetings” that she has personally met with CalPERS officials and “begged” them to change the employee shares. Really? She should be talking to the board, because that’s who negotiates the salaries and the shares. City of Chico pays different shares than CARD, so these contracts are obviously negotiated in house.

What can we do?  The problem we need to solve is, the public is left out of the negotiations. We have no real representation – not in Chico, where too many pensioneers are on our council and various boards. For example, of the five members of the CARD board, two are public pensioneers – Tom Lando, former city of Chico manager, and Tom Nickell, former CHP officer.

I believe these people have a conflict of interest between their own benefit and the public benefit. I think it behooves them to keep approving the salary increases, because that means the agency pays more into the pension fund.  It is obviously in their best interest to keep making the deficit or “side fund” payments, or CalPERS would have gone bankrupt by now and they would be out their nice pensions. In fact, Lando is one of the top five pensioneers in Butte County, having retired at about $134,000/year, with COLA, he’s now getting over $155,000 in annual pension payments.  I’m not sure about Nickell, but I sincerely believe Lando is pressing this tax measure not for CARD, but for CalPERS. He has put $6,000 of his own money into Measure A – you have to spend money to make money, folks.

I also think Lando has been on the CARD board long enough, and needs to step down when his term is up in November. That’s not likely.

Here’s my solution.  I am hoping some competent and honest candidates come forward for CARD board in November. I think a good candidate would  be a local business person who has experience with CARD. Somebody who doesn’t have financial gain to be made. Somebody who understands finance on a basic level. Somebody who has a long stake in the community, whether business or family. And, somebody who has the support of their family, because there are some minor inconveniences involved, like monthly meetings, “special” meetings, and excursions to various district facilities.

I don’t think that’s a complete list, and I didn’t mean to leave anybody out.  I would say, if you are interested in  filling a position like  this, the first thing you’d want to do is attend meetings. Familiarize yourself with the website, and be sure to contact staff with any questions. Read agendas and reports. Read the minutes of past meetings. Read the budgets, not just the most recent, but past budgets to compare. That’s all on the website. I can also give you information I’ve got from staff that’s not on the website, feel free to ask. 

CARD board is doable. It’s not an expensive election, the meetings are short. And, if you are interested in getting involved, CARD is a good start. THINK ABOUT IT!

 

 

 

 

 

ER editor can endorse whatever he wants, but letters writers tell the real truth

10 Feb

As you may know, the Enterprise Record, under the failing leadership of salesman, not journalist, Mike Wolcott, has endorsed both Measure A – a parcel tax  from the rec district – and Prop 13 – a measure that makes it easier to pass taxes. 

That’s funny, if you remember a time when the ER was the stalwart conservative champion, hated by the liberals all around. How times have changed. Something that has also changed – the ER used to be the biggest paper north of Sacramento, now it has less than 10,000 subscribers. For a paper that used to be read in at least four counties, that’s not good. The population of Chico has more than doubled since I was a kid, but the newspaper circulation has gone down – bad, bad, bad.

In fact, Wolcott told me the paper is in such a hole it would die without their ad-rag, Market Value Place. That’s your charity folks, allowing them to toss that bag of pulp out in front of your house every week – your job is simply to move it from the street to your trash bin without complaining, that’s all Wolcott asks. 

I have to laugh every time he re-writes his “rules for election letters” – what a jerk. For one thing, he called the cut-off  December 22. What? Only one election related letter per person between December 22 and March 3? This is a lazy, lazy man. He could, and should, enlarge the letters section at election time – that’s what the readers want. But here’s the thing – he can’t afford to take any more space away from ads. So he cuts off letter writers. 

I’ll say this for him – at least he prints letters in opposition to his opinions. In fact, I’ve only counted one letter in  favor of Measure A since Wolcott made his endorsement, while I’ve counted at least half a dozen NO on A letters. Not including mine. And today I saw a NO on Prop 13 letter that summed it up pretty good. 

Thanks Kathie Moloney, who also wrote a pretty kick-ass letter last month about Janus vs AFSCME, the court decision that overturned mandatory union dues. And big thanks to regular writers Dave Howell and Steve Wolfe for taking on Measure A. 

I am disappointed in the Editorial Board’s support of the new Prop. 13. The state is constantly looking for more ways to raise your taxes, and burden residents with more debt. This is the second school bond in two years with the state borrowing an additional $15 million but we will pay back $27 million with interest.

In addition, this bond allows school districts to go further into debt and when they do so through bonds your property taxes go up and renters, that raises your rent too!   How much more can we taxpayers take? Wake up and tell cities and especially the state NO to more money! Vote no on Prop 13 and any other bond or tax increase they or their cronies put on the ballot.

— Kathie Moloney, Orland

If Measure A passes, not only do you get a new tax but a tax increase every year as it perpetually increases.  Deceitfully not mentioned in the ballot measure is tens of millions of new debt that will cost $2 million annually to service leaving only $1 million annually for CARD.

The yearly increase is indexed to the CPI.  Even without a return to 1970’s style inflation the compounding effect over time will be significant.  Seniors on fixed incomes and others whose incomes do not keep pace with inflation will be hurt the most.  Also, this is a regressive tax with no sunset.

Money that should have been spent for park maintenance, new facilities and programs has been spent on unrealistic and unsustainable pension and other employee benefits.  These benefits have also resulted in unsustainable unfunded liabilities.  Even with a 43% increase in CARD’s revenue since 2013 there is not enough money to fund these liabilities and the parks hence Measure A and if it passes the resulting massive new debt.

A new tax and more debt only postpones the problem a few election cycles when more taxes and fees will be demanded.  The answer is to reform the unsustainable liabilities, but the special interests will not tolerate this which is why they have raised over $60,000 to pass the tax.

— Dave Howell, Chico

Voting yes on Measure A approves a parcel tax to enrich CARD at the expense of Chico property owners.  Adding insult to injury, it has no “sunset clause.”   In other words, it runs forever.  As I understand it, it is also tied to the Consumer Price Index which means that when that rises, as it frequently does, property owners will pay more the following year.  This is an unfair tax to begin with, as all Chico residents may vote on it though only the property owners must pay it.  Even renters will eventually pay more as apartment owners will certainly pass on the increased bond costs.

Recent letters by various writers have shown that CARD seemingly has little financial acumen in that is has let Shapiro Pool slide into ruin, deferred maintenance in able to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay pension expenses and increased salaries and benefits while allowing permanent employees to pay minimum percentages to their pension funds.  And now CARD wants more, in fact a never ending stream of “more.”  It is said that CARD’s budget is up 8% over last year, due to property taxes & development fees, with greater increases in line due to new housing development.  CARD promises to provide greater security and maintenance.  This writer expects continued band-aid maintenance, payments to the pension fund and the funding of an aquatic center.  If the desire for an aquatic center is so great, may I suggest a bake sale.

— Steve Wolfe, Chico

 

 

This election is going to be over fast, let’s start thinking November

8 Feb

I got my ballot with county voting guide a few days ago, and mailed my completed ballot yesterday. I’ve been ready for this election for years now, believe me. I’ve been watching attempts to disable Prop 13 coming through the legislature and I’ve been watching Chico Area Recreation District fumble along with their tax measure. Dan Walters and other political observers have been telling us about the ginormous pension deficits around the state, so who would be surprised at all the tax measures that are making their way, again, like some rough beast, toward the ballot. 

It was a no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned – No on 13, No on A.

And now it’s off to November! 

Whether or not we are successful in beating Measure A, we have to start watching CARD more closely. Board members Tom Lando and Michael Worley are both up for re-election in November, and I think Lando needs to go. He is the driving force behind the tax measures coming forward this year, he’s been working toward a tax measure since 2012. He even paid for a survey out of his own pocket – but that survey came back negative. So he put his name in the hat for CARD board, and since nobody ran against him, he was appointed. Yes, it’s that easy. 

As board member he has pushed forward this parcel tax, offering one rainbow promise after another, without once admitting that CARD’s real financial problem is the employees don’t pay enough toward their own ridiculous pensions. 

Why would Lando admit that – he is one of the top five living pensioneers in Butte County. Of course it is in his best interest, as well as that of CPOA president Jim Parrott, who co-signed the Argument For Measure A, to make sure CalPERS is funded. 

Lando put $6,000 into this measure, that we know of. CPOA tossed in $1,000. But wow – $50,000 from the Service Employees International Union – which represents full-time employees of CARD? That’s not obvious? Hey, pull your underwear off your face!

Jim Parrott is also Board President of Chico Swim Association. That’s no co-inky-dink, Folks.  These people take these positions so they  can work together to control our community. I don’t care if that sounds like a conspiracy theory, it’s true. CARD is an agency that can raise taxes, that is where Lando’s interest lies – making sure his $150,000/year plus COLA pension is funded by the taxpayers. And Chico Swim Association is nothing more than a satellite of CARD, run by the president of a public employees’ union? If you don’t get that, I don’t know how to explain it. 

Suffice to say, we need to pay more attention to these public agencies and who is running them off the cliff.  Lando and Worley are up in November. Lando originally got his seat because nobody ran against him. That can’t happen again, we need to find some competent candidates to take these people on. It’s only a two year term, with one or two meetings a month. 

Meanwhile, Chico council members Randall Stone, Karl Ory, Sean Morgan and Ann Schwab are also up for re-election in November. Thank Goodness Karl Ory has announced he will not seek re-election – I don’t remember a nastier, more divisive person on council, unless it’s Randall Stone. I wish Stone would throw in the towel, he’s had his shot. So have Morgan and Schwab, for that matter. This is why I voted YES on Measure S in 2018 – some people need to be shown the door by way of term limits. Unfortunately, the measure allows for sitting council members to “start over” – Schwab gets two more terms, despite her many clueless years on council. 

I don’t mind saying, this is a daunting commitment. For one thing, city council seats have gotten expensive, 10’s of thousands to run for a public office that only pays less than $20,000/year. But there is a very nice health insurance package – I’ll have to ask about that, I’m sure those have gone up since I last checked. Of course, there are two, very onerous meetings a month, and you’re on the hook for 4 years. Look at it like community service that insures your entire family for four years, maybe that sounds better. 

At any rate, this is the conversation I want to have over the next few months – get your flashlight, and start looking  for 10 honest people.