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Use Engaged Chico to let council know what you think of their sales tax increase

1 Jun

Tomorrow Chico City Council will discuss their tax measure. You can read that agenda item here, Item 5.2:

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/meetings/337-6-slash-2-slash-20-city-council-meeting/agenda_items?page=2

You can use Engaged to comment now, and those will be displayed to the public, including council members, who supposedly read all of them. The clerk will not read them at the meeting, but will tally “opposed”, etc. You can also comment directly to council members now, but if you contact them through the clerk you can save yourself some time. Ask her to make your email part of the public record. That’s debbie.presson@chicoca.gov

You can also use the “public comment” email during the meetings. Here’s the notice from the agenda, just in case I forgot anything.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION: This meeting is being conducted in accordance with Executive Order N-29-20.
The public may view the meeting on Comcast Channel 11 or http://chicoca.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2, with remote public participation allowed in the following ways:
Public Participation During the Meeting – The Engaged Chico civic engagement program will be available
for citizen input on individual agenda items both prior to and during the meeting and that program can be
accessed through the City’s website at the link listed at: https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/meetings.
Public comment will also be accepted by email with the subject line PUBLIC COMMENT ITEM ____, and can
be sent to publiccomments@chicoca.gov during the meeting, prior to the close of public comment on an
item. The public is encouraged not to send more than one email per item and not to comment on numerous
items in one email.

Go ahead and have your fun on Engaged! But ask yourself this – why are we putting up with these closed meetings? I’ve been out and about throughout the COVID crisis, cause you know what – MY life is ESSENTIAL. Here’s the report – two weeks ago, town was dead. I live a block from Bidwell Park, midtown, and I’ll tell you what – the lack of activity was disturbing. The streets were empty, we didn’t even see the usual dog walkers passing our house.  Grocery shopping was absolutely WEIRD. Then came Memorial Day weekend, and wham – the conga line of cars headed out of town was unbelievable. As of Tuesday, people are out and about around Chico again, retail centers are busy, groups are milling on the streets, Bidwell Park is busy.  Things are looking almost NORMAL again.  But the meetings are still closed? 

What?!

 

Senator John Moorlach: Chapter 9 bankruptcy, a “friendly alternative” to waiting for pensions to tank our economy

29 May

Sheesh – at least a month ago, Bob sent me this taped interview with SoCal Senator John Moorlach (R, Orange Co.), and I’ve only recently been able to finish it.

The impact of coronavirus on California pensions

Not that Moorlach isn’t an engaging speaker – he’s very natural and easy going, and he puts financial matters in terms the average person can understand. But, it’s so shocking, I had to listen in bits and pieces, and then I had to rewind a lot. 

Moorlach has an impressive resume, in fact, I wish he’d run  for governor. A certified public accountant and financial planner by trade, he has served since 2015 as California State Senator, 37th District.  He started his political career as Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector, from 1995 – 2006. He quit his Treasurer job to run for Orange County Board of Supervisors, serving for the next 10 years. He left the Board of Supervisors to run for Senator in 2015. 

During his campaign for county treasurer, Moorlach exposed his predecessor’s risky and illegal finance escapades and predicted the coming Orange County bankruptcy – according to wikipedia, the largest municipal bond portfolio loss and bankruptcy in U.S. history. He led Orange County back to solvency (he talks about how in the interview) He has earned a reputation as an expert on municipal bankruptcies. 

He suggests the same remedies for California’s financial problems that we have heard from Edward Ring, Adam Andrzejewski, and many other financial “experts.” I don’t usually care for “experts” but all this stuff sounds perfectly legitimate to me,  cause I’ve seen the books Downtown, and these guys are RIGHT ON.

So, I hope you will listen to that interview, but I tried to squeeze Moorlach’s suggestions into the 250 word limit imposed by the Enterprise Record:

State Senator John Moorlach (R, Orange County) tells us, “if you abuse a defined benefit plan, you are headed for trouble.” The abuses – a “reckless” investment target, a retroactive change in the retirement formula that increased benefits by 50%, and employee unions bankrolling board members and judges, making it almost impossible to take any proactive measures on the pensions.

As we’ve been told repeatedly by city staff, Chico is in trouble.

Moorlach notes that Wisconsin’s pensions are 100% funded because they dumped the DBP and instituted “shared risk plans”. They changed the retirement age to 65, raised employee “shares”, and therefore the total agency contributions. They ended the Cost of Living Increase and went with a realistic investment projection of 3%, as opposed to CalPERS’ “reckless” 8%.

But, Moorlach says, pensioned legislators are unlikey to enact this solution, while “the proposition route has been brutalized by the AG’s we’ve had…”

Moorlach’s suggestion is Chapter 9 bankruptcy, a “friendly alternative” to waiting for pensions to tank our economy. “A federal judge can rescind, change or modify existing local bargaining agreements.”

Moorlach believes a well-managed DBP would work. That would require the following changes:  employees pay more; no COLA until a plan is 80% or more funded, and realistic investment target of 1 – 3%. I would add, sustainable salaries and reduced retirement health benefits. Why are we paying health benefits for people getting 70 – 90% of their highest year’s salary?

We must elect city council members in November who will accept these measures and act now.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

 

Joe Azzarito: The California Rule needs to be repealed

29 May

Well, they’ve thrown down their tax measure – at another “remote” meeting. 

5.2. ORDINANCE ADDING CHAPTER 3.90 TO ESTABLISH A ONE-CENT SALES TAX
On November 20, 2018, the City Council approved a Finance Committee recommendation to
engage a professional consulting firm to conduct a tax feasibility voter survey of City residents to
determine the viability of passing a tax measure and on April 16, 2019, the City Council directed
the administration of a voter survey for a 1 cent sales tax measure. EMC Research conducted the
voter survey and on October 15, 2019, EMC presented the results to the City Council which
indicates support for a 1 cent sales tax measure in November 2020. The City Council acted to
direct City staff to prepare the necessary documentation and related actions to place a 1 cent
general sales tax on the November 2020 ballot. The requested action would initial the formal
requirements to proceed with the measure. This action requires 5 affirmative votes. (Report –
Chris Constantin, Assistant City Manager)
Recommendation: City Manager recommends the City Council introduce the following ordinance
by reading of the title only:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF CHICO ADDING CHAPTER 3.90 TO THE CHICO CITY
MUNICIPAL CODE TO ESTABLISH A ONE CENT GENERAL PURPOSE TRANSACTIONS
AND USE (SALES) TAX TO BE ADMINISTERED BY THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF
TAX AND FEE ADMINISTRATION INCLUDING PROVISIONS FOR CITIZENS’ OVERSIGHT
AND ACCOUNTABILITY

As you know, the city of Chico is in financial trouble. So, wow, how have they pulled off a $9,000,000 annual pension payment, in addition to millions more paid in payroll? You realize, in 2012-13 they reported a $168,000,000 pension deficit – now it’s only about $130,000,000. That’s about $5.4 million a year – EMBEZZLED out slowly by our city staff to pay their pension deficit.  Look at your trashed streets, trashed park, and your increasing sewer fees – where do you think they  got the money? Bake sales?  

For years, Staff has siphoned money out of city funds into their pension deficit. They  take a percentage of payroll from each department, JUST TAKE IT.  According to the legislation known as The California Rule (no, you didn’t pass it, your pensioned legislators passed it),  the pensions get paid before anything else. Yes folks, that the law. You are second to the public employees. How does that make you feel? Like you got a pack of leeches in your pants? 

Here’s what Chicoan Joe Azzarito thinks about it.

Previously, I wrote about desired attributes of both elected and non-elected government office holders.  Attributes: 1) Integrity 2) Honesty 3) Accountability 4) Transparency 5) Experience 6) Reliability 7) Morality and lastly 8) Scruples.  Nowhere did I list the ability to lie with a straight face.

Prolific writers Scott Paulo and Roger Beadle feel that only Republicans, especially Donald Trump, exhibit this last most undesirable character flaw. They fail to examine and call out their own heroes – Democrats.  The Corona pandemic has exacerbated this negative feature that a vast majority of government displays daily.

Locally, CARD officiously wanted to put into force a parcel tax without owning up to hidden lies as to cost. Chico council plan to follow suit with a sales tax increase because government employees cannot live with six figure incomes. On a distressed airplane about to crash, we are told to care for our children first before ourselves.  Not so in government – they take care of themselves first and tell us every chance they get to live with broken streets, bad lighting, crime and ultimately homelessness.

The California Rule, behind which they all hide to insure their livelihoods, needs to be repealed.  No Chico person needs $100,000 to $200,000. How many police chiefs and fire chiefs should Chico pay forever. Chico council and their staffs love tax increases because from them come their salaries.  We need to clean house once again and get rid of these leeches. Top pay for one or two individuals should equal $100K and everyone should pay 100% of their pension – no more.

Joe Azzarito, Chico CA

 

Chico is in trouble – and here’s why

21 May

Bob sent a link to an article from Forbes – Why California is in Trouble”  It’s a good read. If you can’t make the link below work, just google the author, Adam Andrzejewski, or “Forbes, Why California is in Trouble” (Thanks Donna!)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2020/05/19/why-california-is-in-trouble–340000-public-employees-with-100000-paychecks-cost-taxpayers-45-billion/#12f7e2955fb8

The author, Adam Andrzejewski (Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO & Founder of OpenTheBooks.com – one of the largest private databases of government spending in the world. Andrzejewski documents salaries all over the US, and tells us, there are 340,000 public employees in California making over $100,000. 

“Our auditors at OpentheBooks.com found truck drivers in San Francisco making $159,000 per year; lifeguards in LA County costing taxpayers $365,000; nurses at UCSF making up to $501,000; the UCLA athletic director earning $1.8 million; and 1,420 city employees out-earning all 50 state governors ($202,000).”

Lifeguards costing $365,000/year? You say, that’s nuts?  No, it’s not. LA has miles of public beaches. Just think what would happen if CARD ran LA beaches – yeah, lifeguards would make $365,000/year. That’s what happens when nobody is watching the purse strings, except the thieves.

Right now this man, beaming like a ghoul, is running our town. Did you vote for him? 

Chico City Manager (High Dollar Whore) Mark Orme at the CARD Center following the State of the City forum in January. Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

No, he was hired by the pack of ninnies we know as “Chico City Council.”  We had nothing to say about his hire, and we have nothing to say about his salary – now $207,000, plus a $56,000 benefits package. We pay that, he pays another $24,000/year, and gets 70% of his highest year’s salary for the rest of his life. 

While Orme boasts that he has not had a raise for several years now, he certainly managed to negotiate himself a second pension – a 457 plan, which is a special kind of 401K for public workers. Orme wormed the city into paying $10,000 a year into that fund, PLUS 4.5% of his salary. In addition to the money paid toward his CalPERS pension and health benefits. 

That is why not only Chico is in trouble, but our entire state is in horrible financial straits – over generous salaries, and a crazy retirement scheme.  CalPERS clients are paying less than half the cost of these pensions, with employees contributing little or nothing, but expecting to get 70% of their ridiculous salaries, with COLA, for the rest of their lives. 

Ex Chico City Manager Tom Lando, for example, retired at about $134,000/year, but now makes about $155,000 – IN RETIREMENT. That’s the “cost of living adjustment” .  He also gets himself hired for various interim positions – like city manager of Oroville – and those salaries add to his pension. That’s why Lando was the first one to raise the notion of a sales tax increase for Chico, and used his own money to pay for a survey to push it. He also donated $6,000 to the Yes on Measure A campaign for CARD’s parcel tax. Lando knows better than anybody that CalPERS must be funded, or he’s out $155,000/year and counting. 

Essentially, CalPERS has led the taxpayers to a room full of straw and is demanding we make enough gold to keep our public workers like a pack of high-dollar whores for the rest of their lives. 

Right now, the city of Chico is working behind closed doors, using ConVID to keep us out of the tax measure conversation. They’re spending taxpayer money on consultants to write the measure and strategize the campaign, just like CARD. 

Don’t be discouraged by the remote meetings. I won’t recommend Chico Engaged, I’ll say, write to council members directly, and tell them we resent them spending taxpayer money on a sales tax increase when they’ve done nothing to reform the pensions and contracts. 

ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

alex.brown@chicoca.gov

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov

kasey.reynolds@chicoca.gov

scott.huber@chicoca.gov

karl.ory@chicoca.gov

randall.stone@chicoca.gov

 

A tax measure would be spit on the Chico griddle – we need TRUE PENSION REFORM

11 May

I’ve been busy with a lot of stuff, but like I promised, I wrote a letter to the ER about Robert Koyasaki’s “Pension Time Bomb” series. I’m embarrassed –  I mis-spelled Siedle through the entire post, I have to go back and fix that, sorry. But I think I got a good letter out of it – you tell me.

Cities across America, like Chico, are unable to provide basic services because all the money is going to pay for pensions. No matter how much money the taxpayers pour into this system, pension expense will continue to outstrip revenues.

Salaries are excessive. Chico city management positions pay four to five times the median income.  

The city pays too little, with employees contributing even less. Until the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2013,  management employees paid nothing toward their pensions. Now they pay between 10 and 15% of total cost, the total payment being 20 – 30%. 

Pension deficit  is created by agencies and employees that don’t pay enough on payroll. The excess becomes the Unfunded Actuarial Liability. Employees contribute nothing toward the UAL, which is over 65% of total employee cost. The California Rule mandates that the pension deficit must be paid ahead of everything else.  For example, our finance director says we have no money to fix streets, but in July he will make the annual $9 million (and growing) payment toward the UAL.

A tax measure would be spit on the griddle in this situation.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. Negotiate lower salaries for management, or hire somebody else
  2. Get all new employees off CalPERS, switch to 401Ks
  3. Pay more in payroll, which would mean, ALL employees would have to pay more, even based on their current shares.
  4. Pre-PEPRA employees should have to pay toward the UAL, or “catch up” payments – they should pay the same shares they pay toward the payroll portion.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

No matter how much the taxpayers dump into the pension system, it will fail and drag our economy down with it, unless we take immediate steps toward true reform

6 May

Listening to Robert Koyasaki’s Pension Time Bomb radio show made me so mad I had to take a break. But I finally finished the discussion between Koyasaki, a real estate investor, economist Edward Seidle, and Phoenix Arizona city council member Sal DiCiccio.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2020/04/30/if-you-see-more-revenues-coming-in-to-your-city-and-you-keep-wondering-why-your-roads-are-looking-like-crap-and-you-believe-youre-not-getting-the-type-of-services-you-should-be-getting-its/

DiCiccio explained that cities across America are unable to provide basic services because staffers are pouring all the taxpayers’ money into their own pensions. Because of excessive salaries, ridiculously low contribution rates, and horrific mismanagement of pension funds, the pension deficit, or Unfunded Accrued Liablity, ” will continue to climb. No matter how much money the taxpayers pour into this system, pension expense will continue to outstrip revenues.

First of all salaries excessive – our city manager, for example, at $207,000/year in salary, makes almost 5 times the median income in our area. Many economics experts, including Seidle, have said that if the salaries were more rational, the pension system would work.

Second, agencies pay too little, with employees contributing almost nothing. In fact, until Orme started paying in a few years ago, he was paying NOTHING. His predecessors, like Tom Lando, Greg Jones, Dave Burkland, and Brian Nakamura, paid nothing. Lando is now getting over $155,000/year in pension, plus COLA, having made absolutely no contribution for his entire career.

These agencies have used CalPERS like a credit card, and now they want us to pay.  First of all, the agency doesn’t pay enough in total.  As of now, the city of Chico is paying, depending on the employee group, between 20 and 30% of total payroll cost, with employees, also depending on bargaining group, paying between 9.75 and 15%. Finance mangler Scott Dowell said in his power point presentation that “City of Chico employees are paying, or are nearly paying, HALF of the CalPERS pension costs.” That is one of the Big Lies. See, he forgets to mention, the Unfunded Actuarial Liablity, or “pension deficit”, which is over 65% of total cost, and the taxpayers pick up that whole tab, with interest.

That UAL is created by agencies that don’t pay enough on payroll, and don’t require enough of their employees. The money they don’t demand becomes the pension deficit, and then the employees are off the hook to pay it. They contribute NOTHING toward the pension deficit, or UAL, payments, the  taxpayers are stuck with the whole turd. 

And then there’s mismanagement of funds. CalPERS is our pension system. They have been criticized for promising too high a return from the stock market, especially since they make horrible investments. They tell their member agencies they only have to pay so much, and then when their investments tank, they come banging on the door for more.

DiCiccio and Seidle explain that no agency requires any member of their pension boards to have any financial credentials or education – the boards are made up of union members. These people are completely dependent on Wall Street money managers.

DiCiccio says, “The wall street money managers are screwing everybody,” from the taxpayers to the employees. He gives an example, which is verified by Seidle – one Phoenix employee group paid $40 million to their money manager for a $4 million return on their investments. Seidle adds, “In the last 10 years the fees have grown exponentially because they are doing high cost high risk investments, which have much higher fees.” And there he also mentions the high risk investments – in one case, CalPERS board members were caught buying bad stocks off of friends.

https://www.breitbart.com/local/2016/06/03/former-calpers-ceo-sentenced-4-years-taking-huge-bribes/

So, what can we do? Unfortunately, we can’t just stop paying our taxes, that’s not going to go anywhere. Also unfortunate – most states, including California, have passed legislation that protects the pensions of those members hired before 2013. “The California Rule,” passed by the state legislature behind closed doors, says, in fact – we must pay the pensions before we pay for anything else.

Last night, watching Chico City Council’s latest remote meeting, I saw it right in front of my eyes. It was in the report Dowell made to council at last night’s remote meeting. He showed council that list of services that $taff plans to cut. One cut that was taken off the list since he made the same presentation at last week’s Finance Committee meeting was deferring payment of the annual Unfunded Actuarial Liability. That is an annual payment, the penalty for missing it would be about $355,000 in late fees. But last night Dowell said there was plenty of money to make that payment  in the General Fund – $9 million. That’s just this years payment, up about $1 million from the payment I saw in last year’s budget.

Dowell, Orme, Constantin and the Public Works staff have acknowledged for about 5 years now that they have not been funding street maintenance or repairs, but they’ve never missed a UAL payment. If that’s not Mutiny folks, I don’t know what to do with my yardarm.

So here are my solutions to this mess:

  1. Get all new employees off CalPERS and give them 401Ks
  2. The city of Chico needs to pay more in payroll, which would mean, all pre-PEPRA employees would have to pay more, despite their ridiculous shares.
  3. Pre-PEPRA employees should have to pay toward the “catch-up payments” or “UAL” – they should pay at least the same shares they pay toward the payroll portion.
  4. Retired employees making more than $(??,???) per year in pension should have to contribute or lose benefits.

Let me know what you think.

The city has $9 million to pay their Pension Deficit, but cut street maintenance and divert the trash tax money to the General Fund

6 May

Another fucking remote meeting.  Within minutes after the meeting started, I had to contact the clerk to tell her – no sound on the microphone, we couldn’t make heads or tails what Finance Director Scott Dowell was saying. We were using my husband’s phone to stream the meeting on our tv – sorry, we’re not public workers, we don’t get free devices or IT help. I had the tv turned up to the key of G, when the clerk swished in and turned up the volume on Dowell’s microphone – Dowell is an idiot – and whoa Nelly, the volume jump almost knocked me out of my chair. 

I know I can watch these meetings later, on video, but I do want to watch it live and participate if possible. It’s pretty onerous. I have to have one device to stream the meeting, and turn on my tablet to make comments, and with our cheap internet plan, everything slows down to a crawl. The meeting keeps refreshing, it’s hard to listen to that. Trying to comment takes forever. I couldn’t sign in to Chico Engaged on my tablet, I think I need my laptop to do that – another device? And, while I’m messing with the devices, the meeting is going on, and I’m missing it. 

Sitting in the chambers, I just have my notepad in front of me, and I can jot stuff down while still paying attention. Having to use two devices to watch the fucking meeting SUCKS.

I made it through Dowell’s finance report – having seen it once in a Finance Committee remote meeting, I had to see what he would present to council. It’s always worth paying attention to this guy. He’s trying to explain why we are ahead of budget but are still short by millions. Last night he referred to the Camp Fire as a “wind fall”. Oh yeah folks, city of Chico made so much money, mostly in sales tax, during the months after the Camp Fire, that it screwed up projections for this year. Yes, they over project, and when they don’t get the revenues they projected, they CALL IT A LOSS. 

Would you believe, they hired a consultant to help the finance director make these projections, and they’re still whack? They didn’t realize, the Camp Fire was an anomaly? The town next door doesn’t burn down every day – when has that ever happened to you? But yeah, you have a disaster that destroys a vibrant retail district near your town, you have all these refugees with no where else to live, no where else to shop, no where else… and your city manager tells anybody who will listen (council and the press) that these refugees are COSTING YOU MONEY? And then he expresses surprise a year later when it turns out, they SPENT MONEY IN YOUR TOWN? And raised revenues by about $8 million over the previous year? 

Our city manager is an ass. He’s been trying to tell us we’re broke for years now, telling us we need to pass a sales tax increase to pay down OUR? bills. But listen, there’s more.

Dowell has been presenting a “plan” to deal with our impending bankruptcy – he’s divided actions into 3 phases – I presented that here:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2020/04/26/staff-says-revenues-are-over-budget-but-still-recommends-massive-cuts-to-services-in-face-of-convid-panic-attack/

Dowell presented a different list last night, all out of order. Look at the list I posted, because Phase 1 is already complete. City management has cut capital works projects some time ago. I sat in a meeting almost 5 years ago at which they said they had NO MONEY for street repairs, and they were taking projects OFF the list because they had no money. Dowell spoke a lot last night about 11 positions that were just eliminated – all part time, hourly workers, including interns. He and Orme are constantly threatening more cuts.

But another suggestion that was on that list for the Finance Committee presentation was to defer “catch up” payments on the pensions. Dowell said that would cost the city about $350,000 in interest. Last night he said they didn’t need to do that – so he’s going to go ahead and make that $9 million payment toward $taff’s “Unfunded Actuarial Liability” – that’s the pension deficit. 

Yeah, they cut street maintenance and repairs, but are putting $9 million of the taxpayers’ money into their own pockets. Great. 

Later I want to present the rest of that “Pension Time Bomb” conversation, as well as my solutions to the city’s pension problem. Stay tuned!