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CANCELLED: City hosting an interactive forum to discuss POBs

27 May

I got this notice from Dave – thanks Dave!

I also got the cancellation notice from Dave – thanks again Dave!

DAY: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
TIME: 2:00 P.M.
PLACE: City Council Chamber – 421 Main Street


The City of Chico’s employees and retirees participate in the CalPERS retirement system. CalPERS has
determined that the City has an unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of over $140,000,000 which carries an
interest rate of 7%. As such, the City Council is researching all options on reducing this liability. One
possibility is to issue pension obligation bonds (POBs) at a lower interest rate than 7% and use the
proceeds to pay down the CalPERS UAL.


The City is hosting an interactive forum to discuss POBs including the benefits and risks associated with
their issuance. The consulting firm of NHA Advisors will be conducting the forum on June 8th starting at
2:00 pm and concluding by 4:00pm. This forum will be interactive and participants are encouraged to ask
questions and provide feedback to the consultant. Attendees are encouraged to join in person at the City
Council Chambers or watch online. There is no cost to attend this educational forum.

The Pension Obligation Bag

15 May

Well, I must be onto something, because Chico Administrative Services Director Scott Dowell came back to my question about who manages the Pension Stabilization Trust with an order to staff to make it a Formal Request for Public Information. He threatened to make me pay 25 cents a page for anything that couldn’t be transmitted electronically. I don’t know how many of you have ever had to pay for documents, but they don’t let you pick the pages you want, they copy the ENTIRE document and charge you for every page.

Excuse me, but what a prick! You know he could have just sent me the answer, he hired them! This is just your basic intimidation.

So I wrote a letter to the editor about what I already found out.

As city staff prepares to implement Pension Obligation Bonds, there are more questions about this risky scheme.

The consultant explained that the city would issue bonds and invest that borrowed money in the stock market, hoping to make enough return to pay back the bond issue as well as make “extra” payments on the Pension Deficit. The consultant said the city might be able to get an interest rate of 3 – 4% on the bonds, which would mean staff would have to make at least twice that in their investments to achieve their farfetched goal. Failure would mean new debt, in addition to the Pension Deficit.

Staff has already established a Pension Stabilization Trust, made up of funds taken from each department by percentage. As the consultant explained, these trusts are managed by an agency which presents staff with various portfolios to choose from. At the 9/23/20 meeting, staff reported their portfolio was returning “about 4%…”, then, “3 to 4%,” finally admitting, “it may be a little bit lower right now…”

The finance reports for March 2021 show the PST returning 2.7% interest. That does not add up. Can city staff promise to do better with borrowed money? Who would borrow money at 4 – 5% interest to make 2.7% interest on the stock market?

I don’t know if staff is too concerned about the future consequences of POBs. By the time the city’s infrastructure is rotten and failing, they will all have skipped off to retirement, even other towns, leaving our kids holding the Pension Obligation Bag.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Yes, Charlie Harper was an idiot – are we idiots too?

6 Mar

Sorry to be a broken record these days, but I can’t emphasize enough that this Pension Obligation Bond that Staff is trying to force through will tank our town. While there is a complicated mess going on in our town right now, all related to poor management, the POB is the worst thing coming at us right now. I’ll repeat – this bond would cement the taxpayers into paying the pension deficit created by Staff. Meaning, all our resources would be drained into paying the deficit by way of the bonds – not to mention, a proposed sales tax increase. The POB comes before any other “obligations” – like roads, park, sewer and other infrastructure. And, as the economy tanks, the revenues will turn into debt, the biggest debt the city has ever taken on. Don’t be a dupe – the sales tax measure and the “roads” bond are just part of the exhaustive scheme to finance the POB.

Our biggest financial problem is Staff and their unsustainable salaries and benefits. Instead of trying to control employee costs, City Manager Mark Orme and Financial Services Director Scott Dowell have convinced council that we can just put it all under the rug with a POB. 

I’ll guess I’ve done more research on this topic than any member of council. I’ve tried to share what I’ve found – here’s an article I sent to Kasey Reynolds and Sean Morgan. I chose them because I’ve had a pretty good rapport with them in past, and the other night when they voted YES on the sales tax increase and the “roads” bond, they at least tried to fake wanting to vote NO. So, I think they are malleable – you know, like metal – if you put enough heat on it and beat it with a hammer, you might get what you want. 

A recent article from municipalbonds.com, 2/17/21

https://www.municipalbonds.com/education/pension-obligation-bonds-can-it-be-a-prudent-investment/

“In the recent years, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) came out with a stern advisory for local and state governments to NOT issue pension obligation bonds (POBs) to meet their unfunded liabilities and made a case for them being ‘complex instruments that carry considerable risk.’ It’s also important to note that some of the large municipalities that filed for bankruptcies in the United States had some exposure to pension obligation debt – including the City of Stockton and City of San Bernardino – in the years leading up to their insolvencies.”

Here’s an important point I want to come back to later – 

“Primarily, these pension liabilities are based on a few factors: retirement age, mortality, projected salary increases attributed to inflation, across-the-board raises and merit raises, increases in retirement benefits, cost-of-living adjustments, valuation of current assets, investment return and other matters.”

For now I’d like to look at how exactly these bonds work and why the risk isn’t worth it for Chico.

Right now Staffers, especially Mark Orme and Scott Dowell, are trying to mislead council as to the risk of this scheme. 

“One of the biggest challenges and largest variables in the aforementioned list of factors is the investment return on the pension portfolio; this single variable is also responsible for creating the large unfunded liabilities for many of the local governments.”

This is the risk that was ignored in the late 1990’s, when CalPERS said they could fund the outrageous pensions by playing the stock market, and here’s what happened:

“For example: a pension fund assumes an investment return of 7% for the year and bases its actuarial pension obligations for local cities and counties; however, the financial markets had a terrible year and the pension fund only generated 2% returns – this means that the 5% gets added to the unfunded liabilities portion for cities and counties – because that money, originally expected to be generated through investment returns, is still needed to fully meet the pension obligation for city and counties.”

On the one end, CalPERS was making bad investments – we see now, many of those were based on bribery and personal gain. On the other end, CalPERS kept promising better returns, and cities, counties and other local entities all over California started making unsustainable agreements with employees, giving across the board salary increases and overgenerous benefits packages. Even as CalPERS has failed again and again, government agencies like City of Chico have ignored the crisis, continuing to agree to over-generous salaries and perks, even lately creating three new management positions, with salaries over $100,000/year.

Here’s an older article (2013) that details “CalPERS’s three-decade-long transformation from a prudently managed steward of workers’ pensions into a highly politicized advocate for special interests.”

https://www.city-journal.org/html/pension-fund-ate-california-13528.html

It was at long before that – early 2000’s – when former city manager Tom Lando made an MOU (memo of understanding) for Chico employees (including himself) that “attached salaries to increases in revenues, but not decreases…”  That MOU resulted in Lando’s salary going from about $65,000/year to over $130,000/year. In retirement, he is now making about $155,000 (that’s where the COLA comes in). 

The gentleman mentioned in that article, Alfred Villalobos, committed suicide about a year later over allegations that he had been bribing/accepting bribes to unload bad stocks. Just a year ago, another scandal led to the forced resignation of Chief Investments Advisor Ben Meng.  Meng resigned Aug. 2019 after questions arose about why he did not recuse himself from decisions by CalPERS to invest in private equity funds in which he was holding stock!  CalPERS made a more than $1 billion investment in April 2019 in a Blackstone fundMeng owned stock in, and Meng never recused himself.

Meng’s successor, Henry Jones, was also asked to resign, critics accusing him of concealing ethics violations made by Meng. Jones denied everything, saying, “CalPERS has known about questions regarding Ben’s Fair Political Practices [Commission] disclosure filings...”

So there it is – Meng disclosed his investments in those private equity funds, but the board still not only appointed him Chief Investments Advisor, but approved a $1 billion investment in those same equity funds.

So, CalPERS is a total disaster of fraud and corruption, and everybody’s known it for at least six years,,  but the city of Chico didn’t change a thing, just kept doling out higher salaries and refusing to raise the employees’ share of the cost to a sustainable level. 

Let’s go back to that first article – “Primarily, these pension liabilities are based on a few factors: retirement age, mortality, projected salary increases attributed to inflation, across-the-board raises and merit raises, increases in retirement benefits, cost-of-living adjustments, valuation of current assets, investment return and other matters.”

Chico makes all of the above mistakes, failing to manage employee costs. I like to refer to this bit from “Two and a Half Men” – 

 

Yes, Charlie is an idiot. Get what I’m  saying? 

This is how the city of Chico spends money. New Public Information Officer? Homeless Coordinator? Another management position for Public Works? Complete with inappropriate shoes? All three positions created – not filled, created – in the last year, by Mark Orme, at salaries over $100.000/year. 

Does this sound like prudent management to you? Frankly, I think the first thing we need to do, is get rid of Orme, and send his buddy Dowell right out the door behind him. 

And then, in 2022, we should probably dump Reynolds and Huber. Because they just signed on to the sales tax increase and the “roads” bond. Coolidge already alluded to those revenues being used to service the POB. Another note from municipalbonds.com:

“Furthermore, the taxable form of pension debt is often secured by some sort of revenue sources, like sales tax or property tax, which means that the issuance of this debt cuts into a municipality’s debt capacity that could be used for other purposes. Issuing taxable debt to fund the pension’s liability increases the jurisdiction’s bonded debt burden, and potentially uses up debt capacity that could be used for other purposes. Also, the taxable form of debt is often issued without a call option, which makes it hard for a municipality to refund the debt at a lower interest rate in the future.”

Remember what Coolidge said at Tuesday’s meeting – “it’s open for discussion… what size bond and what percentage of that sales tax would go for a road bond…”

Orme, Dowell, and Coolidge, are knowingly trying to dupe us into thinking that sales tax increase would be for public safety, and the “roads” bond would be for roads. “Special” taxes, oh yeah! 

Don’t be a dupe, tell them you’re not buying it. 

 

Coolidge’s tax increase proposals are the grist they need for their pension obligation bond. Chico cost of living will increase while quality of living will decrease.

28 Feb

This Tuesday Chico City council has an over-full agenda. I notice a lot of the remarks on Engaged Chico question the timing of some of the items, with meetings closed to the public. It seems like they’ve packed the agenda with stupid crap like a Downtown card room, after promising us they’d only discuss “essential business” during the shutdown. 

Nichole Nava sums it up, “This topic and a couple of others should be tabled until the E[xecutive] O[rder] has ended and FULL public participation resumes. Continuing to place items such as this one on the agenda while still under the PHE is not the responsible course of action.”

Hidden deep in this mystery meat agenda are two tax proposals from Andrew Coolidge. Coolidge is proposing not only a sales tax increase for “police and fire,” but a bond for “road improvements.” I feel this agenda has been packed for a reason – they want to distract us from the tax increase proposals they are trying to run under the wire. 

If you read the financial reports attached at the end of the agenda, you see that the city is collecting more revenues every year, and paying more toward the UAL every year. This year they paid out $11.4 million, just in “catch-up” payments, That doesn’t include the regular payroll payments they allocate out of each department budget. But Coolidge wants these measures to guarantee the POB that comes up later in the agenda. All the while the UAL is growing out of control because council has failed to control employee costs.

Hidden even more deeply in the casserole – Item 5.12 – is a request from City Manager Mark Orme (“Staff”) to move forward the Pension Obligation validation process. 

 “Staff is requesting approval to continue exploring the CalPERS Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL)…”

Well, that’s interesting – “staff is requesting approval…” Meaning, Mark Orme. Orme knows they need that POB before CalPERS ups the ante again. And, he knows they need the sales tax increase and a bond to cover the payments on the POB. This is a desperate scheme, and we’re the ones who will be left holding the bag for this bond. If we don’t approve the sales tax increase and Coolidge’s bond, the POB payments will bottom out our budget. But even if we do approve those new taxes, we will not get street/road repairs, we will not see more police, but the cops and the rest of the employees will be guaranteed their overgenerous pensions. 

Right now the city is bargaining with the Chico Police Officers Association for a new contract. Instead of asking them to pay more toward their generous pensions and benefits, council is turning the stick on the rest of us. The public safety groups – CPOA and the International Firefighters – only pay 15% toward pensions of 90% of salaries exceeding $100,000/year. That’s ridiculous – $15 for every $100 they expect to collect for sitting on their asses in retirement. But here’s the funny thing – they also pay more than any other bargaining group. Management, with the highest salaries, pay the least – 9%. They expect us to pay their salaries now, and then pay them again, with Cost of Living Increase!  

If you haven’t already commented on Engaged Chico

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/meetings/354-2-slash-16-slash-21-city-council-meeting-continued-to-march-2-2020/agenda_items/6036bf36f2b6700d2c00a1ad-5-dot-12-pension-obligation-bonds-this-item-added-t

please do. This bond will tank our budget. The sales tax increase and (yet another!) bond on our homes will raise the cost of living in Chico even further, just in case things are expensive enough for you already. 

They raised the cost of our trash service 19% – have you seen any improvement in the street in front of your house? Coolidge is bullshitting us again, just say NO. 

Waste Management has raised rates 19% over the past year – why isn’t that money being spent on the street in front of your house?

14 Jan

Every three months I open my garbage bill and get pissed off. 

First of all, it took me the first 5 years to get Waste Management to stop charging me for the yard waste bin. In the very beginning of this forced deal, I told them I wanted to opt out of the $6+ charge for a yard waste bin that I don’t need. They agreed, but I kept seeing the charge on the bill. Rather than beating my head against the wall trying to contact them via their website or phone, I just scribbled a correction on the bill and made the check out for the correct amount. For five years. That finally worked, and as of January, 2020, they finally got it right, I stopped seeing that charge. 

But I also noticed, they were raising the rates slowly but surely, every bill seemed different. So when I sat down to pay my January 2021 bill, I dug out the January 2020 bill, and yes, rates are up. A 32 gal trash bin has gone from $52.89/quarter to $62.79/quarter, just over the past year. That’s an increase of 19%. 

Which led me to  do more math. I looked at my old Recology bills. We had Recology for 10 years, and they NEVER raised their rates. In fact, they had a fuel surcharge that fluctuated with the price of gas – meaning, it actually went down occasionally. Their average charge per quarter was about $82, for a 96 gallon trash bin, or about $27/month. Now I pay $20+ for a 32 gallon bin? 

In fact, my total bill, for a 32 gal and a 64 gal, is $134/quarter, or $45/month. Pay attention – I used to get a 96 gal bin for $27/month, now I pay $45/month for two bins totaling same. That is a 60% increase.

I’ve been talking about the franchise fee the city gets from the haulers – as of fiscal year June 2020,  $1,980,313. That’s almost $2 million dollars, of YOUR MONEY. You paid that in extra fees. For what? Well, I don’t think I’m the only one who remembers staff and council telling us the money would go to  fix our neighborhood streets. Former City Manager Brian Nakamura told us “too many” trash trucks were destroying our streets, and that he felt they should pay for that.  He led us to believe the money would be dedicated to the streets, and council members, including Andrew Coolidge, sat by and let him do it.

The first year the money was used on the section of Cohasset Road leading to the airport. Every year since, it’s been dumped into the General Fund, where it is used at the whim of council. Can you imagine what $1,980,313 would look like on the street in front of your house? Or maybe give Vallombrosa more than a patch job? Maybe upgrade the streets around the college beyond Third World Country? 

You know, the city also gave Waste Management a contract to empty the trash cans in the park, so they run those behemoths around the park roads once a week – a job that used to be done by a city employee with a pick-up truck. So maybe council should use some of that franchise money to fix South Park Drive before it falls into the creek. Ya think? 

Let’s write to council and tell them that Waste Hauler Franchise Fee needs to be spent on neighborhood streets. Let’s start with our new mayor, Andrew Coolidge – that’s andrew.coolidge@chicoca.gov

While you’re at it, tell him what he can do with his “roads bond” and his sales tax increase.

Chico since Nakamura, Orme and Constantin – do you feel “healed”? Or “heeled”?

12 Nov

Chico disaster timeline – rough montage of the last 8 years of city management, or, mismanagement?

Sept 2012 – Nakamura hired from Hemet – Hemet was shocked, said Nakamura had not told them he was looking for another job

Jan 15 2013 – Asst City Manager John Rucker’s “sudden departure” https://www.newsreview.com/chico/content/sudden-departure/8827217/

Mar 7 2013 – Nakamura hires his former asst mgr from Hemet Mark Orme – from the above article – “This week the Chico Enterprise-Record reported the story and also published in its classified section an ad for the position. The ad says the salary offered for assistant manager is $142,652 per year with the potential to reach $172,382 based on performance. The ad refers to the city website for more information.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: 7 years later, as of his resignation, Constantin was making $189,000+ as Asst City Mgr. Let’s see what council intends to pay his replacement]

Mar-Apr ? 2013 – Jennifer Hennessy resigns as finance director – “As the city’s finances worsened, Hennessy was often the target of sharp criticism from some council members and agenda-driven citizens. ” CN&R article link below

April 16 2013 – Nakamura hires former Hemet employee Chris Constantin from an auditor position in San Diego “

“In an interview prior to the council meeting, the 37-year-old Constantin talked about his decision and the controversies he is escaping in San Diego, where he’s served as assistant auditor since 2010.”

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/content/money-man/9619285/

“I made a three-year commitment in San Diego that was up in February,” he said. “At about that point I wasn’t really happy because I wasn’t feeling appreciated.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the N&R article – Constantin left San Diego with a shit storm at his heels.]

May 28, 2014 – Nakamura leaves https://www.newsreview.com/chico/content/so-long-nakamura/13622217/

““It caught us a little bit off guard,” said Mayor Scott Gruendl, who received Nakamura’s resignation letter last Wednesday (May 28) during a breakfast meeting.”

“When Nakamura arrived in September 2012, the city was in a bad place financially and it was his job to fix it. About six months into his time in Chico, Nakamura laid out his three-part plan to Gruendl. Part one was to identify the problems. Part two was to put a team in place to remedy those problems. Part three was to step back and allow the town to heal.

“He pulled the covers back on stuff, and also came up with responses on how to deal with it,” Gruendl said. “That meant a lot of layoffs, unfortunately. What was devastating for a lot of people is how many people we had to let go. Each time, it was more seasoned and experienced people, and it got harder. There was no good way to reconcile that.”

“He’s the lightning rod for the hard decisions that were made—the significant number of layoffs that we did, the collapse of 11 departments into five, the actual moving out of key management people who, for no better explanation, blatantly fucked up,” Gruendl said. “We had people who had good intentions but really didn’t know what they were doing. Brian dealt with it.”

“But the drastic reorganization of city departments has certainly left some with a bad taste in their mouths. Layoffs included many employees who had dedicated years—decades, even—to the organization, and key positions were eliminated, leaving things like the city’s trees untended.”

June 3 2014 – Orme appointed interim city manager

Same article – “Looking forward, Mark Orme—who was promoted from assistant to interim city manager at the City Council meeting Tuesday (June 3)—said he’s excited to work with Chico to begin the healing process.

“There’s been a lot of pain and heartache. That takes time to heal,” Orme said. “There are also external challenges. There’s been a lot of impact on the community financially as it relates to community organizations and a lot of the norms Chico was used to.”

[EDITORS NOTE: “the norms Chico was used to…” What the hell did he mean by that? If you lived here before 2013, let me ask – do you feel “healed”, or “heeled”?

Letter to the Editor: City services will never be adequately funded until employees start paying their fair share

28 Oct

Dave was reminding me the other day (thanks Dave), elections come and go, but the suits are always working on  tax increases. It’s true, elected officials are here today, gone tomorrow, but The Song Remains the Same – City of Chico Staff is always trying to  find a way to  get us to pay their outrageous salaries and  benefits, without providing us with any services. 

I thought BC really wrapped it up good when he said, “Chico taxpayers… are guaranteeing the generous salaries and benefits of well heeled, well paid, privileged city employees.”

So, I wrote a letter to the editor about it! I borrowed generously from BC’s remarks made a week or so ago here, I hope that’s okay BC! I did change your comment about “average income” to “median family income” because that’s the only statistic I could verify. Still works. 

At my blog, chicotaxpayers.com, we’re discussing the Pension Obligation Bond currently being considered in closed door meetings Downtown.

CalPERS promises to fund the pensions with a 7% investment return, but have not met that target, forcing city of Chico to dip into the General Fund to make increasing payments. That’s right – Chico taxpayers, with a median family income of $43,000/yr, are guaranteeing the generous salaries and benefits of well heeled, well paid, privileged city employees.

A Pension Obligation Bond must  be paid ahead of everything else, at the expense of city services. In the event of a bad return, the bond holders can take our entire General Fund. 

To use a credit card analogy: The City has run up so much credit card (pension) debt, they can’t even make the minimum payment. So while they keep spending at the same or greater rate (hiring three new management positions this year), they mortgage the house to pay down the credit cards. They can’t afford to keep the house up (deteriorating municipal facilities, parks and public areas), can’t fix the driveway (deteriorating streets), can’t afford a security system (fire and police), and eventually can’t afford to put food on the table for the family (homeless).

City services will never be adequately funded until employees start paying their fair share.

Tell Mayor and Finance Committee member Ann Schwab what you think, at ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

POST SCRIPT:  I’d also like to see Mark Orme fired, but maybe if we apply enough heat to the seat of his pants we can just make him quit. 

 

Contact Mayor and Finance Committee member Ann Schwab and tell her what you think of Mark Orme’s snake oil scheme to put his pension debt on the taxpayers

28 Oct

I got a great comment from Emily this morning. It was good to hear from somebody, besides me, and Dave, and BC, who is worried about the city’s intentions to foist a Pension Obligation Bond on the taxpayers, currently being discussed in closed meetings.

“Thanks for publishing all of this. I live in District 3 and asked both Denlay and Schwab (I do not consider Breedlove a serious candidate) about their plan to deal with Chico’s unfunded pension liability. Schwab emailed me back immediately with the same response she said she had already sent to you: best way is to make sure businesses can thrive here by improving infrastructure etc, state’s payment requirements are unrealistic and Chico is advocating for change, city has a pension stabilization trust w which to grow its payment funds, and city is considering a pension obligation bond though there’s “some debate” whether those are beneficial.

Thank you again Emily, for taking time to engage the candidates. I had a discussion with Ann, and tried to contact Denlay, who never got back to me.

I’ll give Ann credit – she responds, and she’s honest. But I have to differ with her statement that the state’s requirements are unrealistic. Schwab and her full council signed contracts allowing over-generous salaries and unrealistic employee contributions, and now she says it’s CalPERS’ fault?

Furthermore, she admits there is “some debate” over POB’s being “beneficial“. That’s an understatement, given the warnings the consultant made about the volatility of such bonds. Why would these investments fare any better than CalPERS’ investments, which have been coming in at half or less than their projections? The consultant made it clear – poor returns, which he also said repeatedly are very likely, would be a disaster for the city. The bond holders would take our entire General Fund. That’s about all we have left, besides the already established “Pension Stabilization Slush Fund”.

And, I don’t think the consultants were being fully honest about the streets leasing deal, I think that’s even more risky than they are willing to admit at this stage.

Denlay’s response to Emily was worse.

“I had to follow up with Denlay, who did respond with her ‘instincts’ about how to deal with this problem: get diverse stakeholders together to understand the problems as a whole before working on a solution, need to get different stakeholders to agree on a plan to pay it down within 30 years, but that Chico has ‘many pressing issues even beyond pension liabilities,’ including illegal encampments, needle handout programs, and the state of City Plaza.”

That’s what I’ve been saying about Denlay – she is way over her head. She doesn’t understand that the pension deficit is the biggest debt the city faces, that it is being paid by the taxpayers at the expense of all our city services, and if we don’t do something about it, we’re in for BANKRUPTCY. Worse, she obviously didn’t watch the consultant’s presentation, which is just plain LAZY, girlfriend. The first thing I look for in a candidate is their knowledge of the committees. I’m going to guess she doesn’t even know what committees or who is sitting on them.

But she has been tutored about the POB, because a reader sent me the response he got out of her. That’s what she’s talking about when she says “get diverse stakeholders together to understand the problems as a whole before working on a solution, need to get different stakeholders to agree on a plan to pay it down within 30 years.” The operative word here is “stakeholders” – is she including the taxpayers? Because the consultant also made it very clear that this bond will not go to the ballot, meaning the taxpayers are out of the conversation.

Emily added, “I’m at a bit of a loss bc I can’t believe Schwab is even considering the pension obligation bond, but it doesn’t look like Denlay understands the issues very well.

Thank you Emily, you put it in a nutshell.

But, I’ll still say, at least Schwab is honest, and she responded more clearly. I’ll also tell you something else about Schwab – she wants to get re-elected, I believe she wants to hold onto her seat until she is termed out, so I believe she listens to criticism better than most.

So, it’s time to contact Schwab – she’s not just the District 3 candidate she’s your mayor, and a member of the Finance Committee that is forwarding a recommendation to Council. Tell her what you think of this insane idea.

Tell her you know the sneaky, dirty truth that Mark Orme doesn’t want us to know. This isn’t the kind of bond that shows up on your property tax bill. It’s the kind of bond that drains city finances, written to be paid ahead of any of our other debt and ahead of financing services. This POB will show up in the form of PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICE CUTS, UNMAINTAINED STREETS, A FILTHY PARK, AND HIGHER SEWER FEES.

And there’s the next thing that will show up on the horizon – another tax proposal. They’ll let the streets go to crap, the park will remain a giant hobo camp, and you will continue to see “quality of life crimes” without any response from the cops. When they think we’re about up to here with it, they’ll offer another tax increase. They’ll tell us it’s for the streets and public safety. Oh yeah, remember – just like they told us the Trash Tax would go to the Street Fund. The truth is, they’ve voted year after year to put it in the General Fund, out of which they make their 7-8-9-10-and now 11 million dollar UAL “catch up” payments.

So tell Ann you’re hip to those kind of tricks. Yes, we need to address the pension deficit, head on. Meaning, THE EMPLOYEES, ESPECIALLY MANAGEMENT, NEED TO PAY MORE. And they need to do it without the raises council has given them every time they’ve agreed to pay more of their pension – how asinine is that?

That’s ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

No on Measure E; and there will be a quiz later today about that Finance Committe meeting!

16 Oct

Wow, who would have guessed Measure E – city council districts – would be such a hot topic. Looking at the stats the last week or so, that’s what people have been hitting – “Measure E – Divide and Conquer”.

In the music business, they would call that a “throwaway piece.” I was just annoyed and frustrated over the response I got from the city clerk when I asked about this measure. The clerk is like a sphinx, you could know her 30 years, and I almost have, and never know what’s on her mind. She states the facts, she answers a question as you ask it. Never opines. But, this time she seemed genuinely confused – it’s a stupid measure. And it makes a person think, council pulled a fast one – like the cell phone tax they collected illegally for years – and they need the public to approve it.

I hope that’s what other people are thinking, and I hope it fails. Districts are not only unnecessary, they are a ploy by both the liberals and the conservatives, who both seem to think they can manipulate this system.

Prepare to be manipulated!

And if somebody feels like emailing city finance man Scott Dowell, scott.dowell@chicoca.gov, they could ask him how much it is going to cost to REDRAW THE DISTRICTS after the upcoming CENSUS.

I’m also shocked to see how interested people are in the school board race. I’m sure glad, and I’m sorry I don’t have anything better to offer than “vote for people who aren’t/haven’t ever been school district employees”, but that’s my story, and I’m standing by it.

But I’m sincerely grateful to those of you who have downloaded and watched the video I posted –

https://gofile.io/d/zqp5BI

with big THANKS to DAVE for that link. Since I posted that last Friday, almost 100 people have seen it, and, as committee member Sean Morgan agreed, that’s a helluva lot more people than actually attend those meetings.

So, after I finish my chores this morning, I’m going to make a QUIZ! We all love a quiz, don’t we? I’ll try to make it good and tough. And yeah, I’ll probably allow cheating. The teachers I learned the most from were the ones who allowed open book/notes tests. And that’s the point here, I want more people to see how the city operates behind closed doors.

The Elephant in Election 2020: The pension deficit and staff’s efforts to shift the burden fully onto the taxpayers

7 Oct

Yes, I am still pissed off about being locked out of the Finance Committee meeting two weeks ago. But, I got a flash drive from staff, and having loaded it onto my laptop, I will post that video asap, with my usual snappy narrative. 

I wish I had waited until I saw the  meeting. I had endorsed all three members of that committee – frankly, on a “lesser of evils” strategy. After I watched the meeting, I found myself even more in support of Randall Stone, while my feelings for Morgan and Schwab have cooled considerably. 

I still say those latter two are the best bet (mind you, we’re talking about gambling) in their respective races, but I can’t endorse them. If they were horses I’d turn them out to pasture. Both of them voted to take this Pension Obligation/Lease Revenue Bond scam to the full council. But I don’t expect their challengers would have done any different. They all have a vested interest in funding the pensions. 

Finance Committee Chair Stone was the one who reminded everybody at the meeting that the consultant’s proposal was assuming CalPERS would achieve their full investment target of 7%. The consultant acknowledged this fact, adding,  I quote, “but we know that’s not going to happen…”  He repeated almost those exact words several times in the subsequent conversation.

Even though Morgan acknowledged same – “we’re certainly not going to fix CalPERS, I don’t expect they’re ever going to do any better on returns…” – he also said “we owe it to staff...” to continue the conversation with full council. Schwab agreed. Admitting that the conversation “raised a lot of questions,” she predicted the consultant would have a “much better, more prepared presentation for council.” Yes, I’m sure he will, having heard the criticisms of the plan, he will downplay the risks and play up the supposed benefits. 

Stone was the only committee member to speak plainly about the risks of these schemes – namely, the CalPERS debt and the bond debt will be paid ahead of any other expenses, including staffing and services – including law enforcement and fire personnel. The consultant spelled that out very clearly under the power point heading “Eyes Wide Open to Risks” .  If these proposals were ski runs they would be labeled “Black Diamond”.

Stone was the only one to openly discuss the truth behind these bonds. ” I’m uncomfortable shifting the burden from the beneficiaries to the rest of the city.” Meaning, not only does this proposal shift the burden of payment from the employees to the taxpayers, it shifts our resources away from services to paying the pensions. Period. Both the consultant and Chris Constantin made it clear this was a risky proposal that could bottom out our General Fund and cause layoffs. The consultant specifically mentioned public safety. So, this proposal to guarantee the pensioners their pensions would come at the cost of future employees, and that means, city services.  

The pension deficit and staff’s efforts to shift the burden fully onto the taxpayers is the Elephant in the upcoming election, but nobody cares? Chair Stone announced that no other members of the public had signed in, having acknowledged that I couldn’t get in. So, I’m pretty sure the only candidates who “attended” the meeting were the committee members. I wonder where the challengers stand on any of this? You might want to ask your candidate about that, if your district is on the ballot. 

The consultant set a timeline for this bond – including the discussion period – staff hopes to be signing off on this deal by next spring. So the public needs to weigh in. Now, because, the “upside” to these bonds, as pointed out by the consultant, is there’s no “validation process,” meaning, no voter approval. Is that really okay with you? 

It’s not okay with me, so I wrote a letter about it:

The city Finance Committee discussed restructuring the pension debt – now at over $280,000,000, including $140,000,000 interest. Two schemes presented: 1) Pension Obligation Bond, 2) Lease Revenue Bonds, using our city streets as collateral. The borrowed money would be invested. Ideally, the investments would pay off, and staff would make bigger UAL payments, eventually achieving a lower interest rate from CalPERS.

There is a razor’s edge to this proposal. Worst case and very likely scenario: both CalPERS and the city fail to meet their investment goals, the taxpayers end up owing both the bond investors and CalPERS.

Committee member Randall Stone commented that the consultant’s recommendation assumes a CalPERS investment return of 7%. The consultant acknowledged this fact, admitting, “but we all know this isn’t going to happen.”

Staffer Chris Constantin added, if the city’s not able to pay, “they could forcibly take the money from the General Fund… “ without regard to direct impacts on staffing and services. The consultant reported that a large Southern California county may soon lay off public safety personnel “so they don’t violate their bond covenants.”

Stone voted NO, commenting, ”I’m uncomfortable shifting the burden from the beneficiaries to the rest of the city.” Members Schwab and Morgan voted YES. Morgan admitted he doesn’t expect CalPERS “will ever do any better on their returns…” Schwab concurred.

The Government Finance Officers Association does not recommend these bonds, their first objection being CalPERS’ history of poor returns. What are Schwab and Morgan thinking?