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Letter to the Editor: The pension deficit burden needs to be borne by the employees who created it through unrealistic contributions, not the taxpayers

8 Apr

We here in Chico have a big decision to make and we need to make it quick, before it’s made for us by a group of individuals who stand to gain substantially at our expense. If council approves the Pension Obligation Bond, it’s over Folks, we pay for the outrageous pensions at the expense of public infrastructure and services.

Four of our seven-member council are either public pensioners or married to public pensioners. All of their campaigns have been heavily influenced by public employee unions, who are the biggest contributors in every election. these PACs are allowed higher contributions limits than the average voter, and they can make contributions on their own and to other like-minded PACs.

I don’t believe people with such obvious conflict of interest should be allowed to make this kind of decision unfettered. At the very least, they should have to declare their personal interest in furthering the POB and continuing to prop up CalPERS, an agency they all know has put us in horrible debt through mismanagement. At the last finance committee meeting, both Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge acknowledged that CalPERS continues to make bad investments. So why won’t they ask employees to make more reasonable contributions? And why don’t they make any effort to get out of CalPERS and ask new employees to take a Defined Contribution Pension Plan?

The pension deficit is a burden that should be borne by employees who created it through unrealistic contributions, not the taxpayers.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Time for “Truth in Accounting”

8 Apr

I’ve noticed lately this blog is getting alot of traffic from a really interesting website called “Truth in Accounting”:

https://www.truthinaccounting.org/

This website is operated by a well-credentialed group of individuals, out of Chicago – a city with big pension problems. It is a really good source of information about pension systems nationwide, including the federal government systems, which have driven our national debt for years. Didn’t you ever wonder how this nation could end up with such astronomical debt?

They are featuring the post I made the other day about the city of Irvine, California, and Defined Contribution Pension Plans. So, I must be onto something, these people are all financial big-shots. I don’t think they’d run it if I were shooting blanks at the moon.

We here in Chico, and all over California, have a big decision to make and we need to make it quick, before it’s made for us by a group of individuals who stand to gain substantially at our expense. If council approves the Pension Obligation Bond, it’s over Folks, we pay for these outrageous pensions. Why would Staffers who make enormous salaries care about our hardships – they want the fucking money.

Do you know how many members of council are either public pensioners or are married to pensioners? Andrew Coolidge’s wife teaches at Chico State. Sean Morgan is also employed by Chico State, as is Alex Brown. Kami Denlay (married name, Klingbeil) is married to a public safety worker.

And then there are the contributions from public employee unions – Deepika Tandon in the latest election and Kasey Reynolds in 2018 both received their biggest contributions from the unions. I’m not sure about Huber, but he’s already expressed his desire to add more taxes to your bills with as little public participation as possible.

I don’t believe people with such obvious conflict of interest should be allowed to make these kind of decisions. At the very least, they should have to declare their personal interest in furthering the POB and continuing to prop up CalPERS, an agency they all know has put us in horrible debt through mismanagement. At the last finance committee meeting, both Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge acknowledged that CalPERS continues to make bad investments. So you have to ask yourself why they won’t ask employees to come to the table with more reasonable contributions. And why they don’t make any effort to get out of CalPERS and ask new employees to take a Defined Contribution Pension Plan.

The main reason is that the voters don’t make it a very important issue. That’s probably because most people have no idea what’s going on. You can blame COVID, but I’d say, the public is very poorly educated as it is, and Staff does everything they can to obfuscate the issue. I’d bet my last $5 that most council members barely understand what they are doing, they are following Mark Orme into the swamp. As long as they have their fingers in each other’s belt loops, they will make it out okay.

But Chico is sinking, look around yourself. And then look at the city budget, millions of dollars that should be spent on streets and other infrastructure going to the Unfunded Actuarial Liability – their obscure term for the pension deficit. And then look at your property tax bill – if you’re a renter, ask your landlord about it.

I think there’s a letter to the editor here, I’ll have to work on it. You too.

It’s time for The Discussion: Who will pay for the pensions?

6 Apr

Last time we discussed a Defined Contribution Pension Plan offered by the city of Irvine California. The city of Chico uses a Defined Benefits Pension Plan. What’s the difference? Plenty. Here’s a good read from Investopedia:

https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/032415/how-does-defined-benefit-pension-plan-differ-defined-contribution-plan.asp

The operative words here are “Benefits” and “Contribution”. Defined benefits means, whether or not business is good, the employee gets the pension they were promised. ” Defined-benefit plans provide eligible employees guaranteed income for life when they retire. Employers guarantee a specific retirement benefit amount for each participant that is based on factors such as the employee’s salary and years of service.

In California, the state retirement systems made “guarantees” they couldn’t keep – 70 – 90% of highest years’ pay with minimal to no contribution from the employee. ” Employees are not expected to contribute to the plan, and they do not have individual accounts. Their right is not to an account, but to a stream of payments.

In the beginning, CalPERS even told employers they didn’t have to contribute much of anything – CalPERS said they would make wise investments, and that would pay for these crazy pensions. That didn’t work out, so the employers – cities, counties, and public agencies all over the state – are on the hook for the pensions. And they are turning to the taxpayers like Mack the Knife. See, the contribution was never defined in this plan, so it’s whatever CalPERS demands. Like a junky on the street corner, they want it NOW!

On the other hand, the most common kind of Defined Contribution Pension Plan is a 401K. “Defined-contribution plans are funded primarily by the employee. But many employers make matching contributions to a certain amount .”

In Irvine, the city put up a little over 12% of salary. The employee is allowed to contribute whatever they want, and to control the investments. An interesting notation in that agreement is that the employee must wait 5 years before they are “100% vested” in the plan, meaning, they don’t get a full pension until they’ve proven to be a good and loyal employee.

And a DCPP is less risk for the employer. “As the employer has no obligation toward the account’s performance after the funds are deposited, these plans require little work, are low risk to the employer, and cost less to administer. The employee is responsible for making the contributions and choosing investments offered by the plan. Contributions are typically invested in select mutual funds, which contain a basket of stocks or securities, and money market funds, but the investment menu can also include annuities and individual stocks.

Both set-ups are risky for the employee. If CalPERS fails, and that’s looking more likely all the time, pensioners GET NOTHING. With a DCPP, the employee makes their own investments, if they aren’t market savvy, they stand to lose there too. But, given CalPERS’ track record, I can see where an employee would be wise to opt for a DCPP.

Why hasn’t the city of Chico (or the county of Butte, or any of the local gov agencies…) offered a DCPP? I think that’s a no brainer. The DBPP is more lucrative, as long as they can keep propping up the failing CalPERS. The most popular form of prop these days is the Pension Obligation Bond.

It’s time for The Discussion about who will pay for these outrageous pensions. Will the employees step up to the plate and do the right thing, or will council allow Staff to force the taxpayers to the wheel with new debt and higher taxes?

Next time, on This Old Lady and the POBs!

Joe Azzarito: Council needs to “serve notice to all city employees that as of a determinable date they will be paying the full cost of their ‘silver spoon’ pensions”

30 Mar

Joe Azzarito is a retired accountant who lives in Chico. Here’s a letter he recently sent to the city of Chico regarding the Tax-a-rama council has embarked upon since a “conservative” Super Majority took over in January. Thanks Joe, I hope this email inspires other people to express their outrage with this obvious ploy to leave the taxpayers holding the Pension Deficit Bag.

To all Chico city councilors and Senior City Staff:

The topics of municipal revenue enhancements, namely a sales tax increase and pension obligation bonds keep surfacing in the course of discourse and analysis by concerned citizens such as myself

Now why would that be? Could it be that you all are not listening to your constituents demands that these disastrously wrong ill conceived options, for funding the massive unfunded pension obligations that this city has forced upon its citizens, be abandoned? Whenever I read or hear about these plans of enduring us to untold costs to fund city staff’s, be they unionized or not, exorbitant salaries and pensions, it makes my blood boil. Your dark of the night surreptitious intents, without transparency, to enact either of these programs is a dereliction of duty, maybe not to your sponsors, the unions, or your fellow colleagues, but certainly to your constituents – the people that pay your salary through taxes. 

I have heard that programs such as these can be implemented, without the consent of the voters. How dare you! It is not enough to seek input from us but for us to approve of these wild schemes fraught with danger. Given that the ruling class of Chico earns far and away much more than the median income of the people of Chico, you have the gall to push these down our throats.

 For those on the council, recently elected and those previously, you are not conservatives, in the slightest sense fiscally. You all seem to some how, symbiotically, look after each other’s tail. Unions give you campaign funds so that you can win elected office. In turn, you fulfill their needs by ensuring their members are well paid. Wherein do the citizens fit into your scenario? Oh, yes, we are to fill the city coffers with the funds you promised your benefactors. Our needs lay at the bottom of a very deep hole, somehow they are only minimally attended to. It shouldn’t be that way! We should come first as it is our sweat and toil that makes it all possible. 

I have spoken many times of the badly written about California Rule that keeps you from “doing the right thing” – that being to serve notice to all city employees that as of a determinable date they will be paying the full cost of their “silver spoon” pensions and that salary structures must be revised, downward, to allow the city to adequately meets its obligations to its citizens, first. Promises, previously made in prior eras when economic conditions were much more rosier than now, need to be upended. It would necessitate that pay scales, merit raises, benefits, including pensions, be approved by a body, inclusive of a citizenry board, and not by the likes of City Manager, his staff and/or City Council. To keep the decision making in their hands alone is why these financial problems came about in the first place. Those that pay the salaries should be the ones deciding, not so now. To have city staff analyzing, recommending and being on the receiving end of the decisions made is tantamount to “conflict of interest. 

At the very least a referendum should be devised and agreed to by vote of the electorate on all of the above. The unfunded elephant in the room must be sequestered and controlled. CALPERS should be informed of any changes and any separations be established. The pensions of all covered city employees would need to be renegotiated, with the stipulation that staff would be paying the full load of costs.  Any conflict with current law needs to be assessed and corrected. It is high time that city pay the piper his due!

 Respectfully, Joe Azzarito  

Dave Howell calls out the imposters on city council – Morgan, Reynolds, Coolidge, Denlay and Tandon all ran on “conservative” platforms but now we find they are just a bunch of union toadies

23 Mar

Thanks Dave, for writing a letter to the editor about the Pension Obligation Bonds the city is considering.

No, there are no “conservatives” on council – maybe they’re “conservative” with their own money, but they treat the collective pot like a big cookie jar. They rode into office on money from public employee unions, and now they are trying to pay back their benefactors by roping the taxpayers into paying for the overgenerous pensions and “post employment benefits“.

Here’s Dave’s letter – take his example, and start writing your own letters and emails folks. 

Conservatives are supposed to stand for low taxes and fiscal
responsibility.  We are told we now have a conservative majority on the
city council.  But what we actually have is a council of impostors. They
plan to use the revenue from their proposed sales tax increase to take
on hundreds of millions in new debt. They also plan to take on an
additional hundreds of millions in new debt in the form of a pension
obligation bond.  It’s a dangerous gamble.  And on the off chance it
pays off, it WON’T make the pensions sustainable.  And if it doesn’t pay
off it could bankrupt the city.

Combined pension and other post employment benefit liabilities plus
interest are over a quarter billion dollars and growing.  It can never
be paid.  But our local politicians will raise our taxes and bury us in 
debt to keep the gravy train rolling a few more election cycles.  After
all, bureaucrats and other city employees must continue to receive
unaffordable compensation packages, including multi-million dollar
pensions.  And this in a county with a 21% poverty rate BEFORE COVID.
It’s unconscionable, especially at a time when so many businesses and
working people struggle to make ends meet.  But it is to be expected
when our local politicians are tools of special interests.

These politicians don’t represent hard working taxpayers and never will.
  Voters should remember this in the next election and defeat the sales
tax increase and those council members responsible for it.

Dave Howell, Chico

No, these people DON’T represent the average Chico resident, they represent the public employee unions. It’s time to start thinking about replacements. Kasey Reynolds, Scott Huber and Alex Brown are out in 2022, let’s find some decent hardworking taxpayers to fill their seats. Reynolds is the worst kind of faker, running as a “conservative” and then bringing in not one, not two, but THREE TAX MEASURES. And Huber and Brown pose as protectors of the poor – BULLSHIT people! At a time like this, they want to raise taxes? Tell them HELL NO! 

These people are all beholden to the union PACs. The employee unions are the worst kind of communist plot – the enrichment of the few, paid for by the many. Don’t fall for it, demand council bring employees back to the table to pay more of their own benefits, or throw these IMPOSTERS to the curb in 2022 and 2024. 

Kenny Rogers: You got to know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em. Too bad we can’t get Kenny Rogers to run our city finances

19 Mar

The worst thing about Pension Obligation Bonds is that the proceeds would be gambled on the stock market. The assumption is that the investments would pay both the bond service and the pension deficit.  How nuts is that?

I’ve heard various analogies – taking a credit card to the casino, taking a second mortgage on your house to pay the first mortgage, paying your credit card with your other credit card, etc. Of course people do all these things, and we’ve seen what happens to them. We’ve watched neighbors, friends, even family members lose it all in gambits like that, and we’ve shaken our heads and wondered how they could be so stupid.  How is it suddenly prudent just because it’s a government agency doing the dumb thing? 

They will tell us they know what they’re doing, just like CalPERS told the governor and all the state agencies that they knew what they were doing. They don’t. 

The consultant who pitched this horror story in the making to the Chico City Council said the key would be to borrow the bond money at a rate of 3 – 4% interest. He speculated that money would make a good enough return on the market to pay that rate, and then some for the pension fund. But he made it clear, constantly, that a “downturn” in the market would be a very bad thing – then the city would owe both the bond money and the pension payments, both with interest. 

The difference between those two debts, as reported by the consultant, is that CalPERS won’t dump us for not being able to make our full payments, our “obligation”. As long as we pay SOMETHING, they will keep on paying out the crazy pension payments. In fact, each agency negotiates their own deal with CalPERS and sets the employee contributions.  Of course, if they don’t pay enough, the debt grows, with interest – that creates the Unfunded Actuarial Liability, or, the “pension deficit”. 

On the other hand, a Pension Obligation Bond has to be paid, in regular installments, or the bond holders can demand either the back payments or the entire debt, on the spot.  This means, they could empty the General Fund, and every other fund the city holds, except the Pension Stabilization Trust. The PST is the only truly, legally restricted fund the city has established. All other funds, from the streets fund to the park fund to the sewer fund and on, are available for allocation to the General Fund. 

The proponents keep trying to tell us this is a fool proof scheme. They won’t acknowledge the fact that the market can turn ugly on a dime. Really ugly. Pension systems around the country are making some really desperate, stupid investments, according to this article from the Reason Foundation. 

 
In the United States, public pension funds, which have an average investment return target of 7.25 percent, will likely struggle to meet those investment targets and could be severely impacted by plummeting interest rates. Without changes to pension plans’ assumed rates of return, many public pension systems will see an increase in debt.

Unfortunately, many public pension plan managers are not interested in adjusting their investment return targets to realistic levels at this time. Instead, they are seeking riskier, potentially higher-yielding investments in an effort to make up for depressed interest rates and hit their targets.

What’s super frustrating is the double talk. Our mayor, Andrew Coolidge, acknowledges that CalPERS is doing horribly, but tries to assure us that our staff can pull of successful investments. In this market? 

According to this article, government agencies’ share of the UAL is about to go up again, due to risky investments. For example, “New Mexico’s Educational Retirement Board (ERB), which serves the state’s teachers, is one such plan that dedicates roughly a quarter of its portfolio to fixed-income assets. Within New Mexico ERB’s fixed income-investment allocation, 7 percent of funds go to emerging market debt, which is essentially sovereign bonds issued by countries classified by the World Bank as lower-to-middle-income to upper-middle-income. This includes countries such as Brazil, India, and Nigeria.”

“Even though emerging market debt carries much higher yields that are attractive to pension funds, those benefits can be outweighed by enormous risks since several of these countries have defaulted on their debt in the past. Due to this risk, public pension investment allocations to emerging market debt have historically been used sparingly in pension fund portfolios. However, in recent months, pension fund managers have signaled a growing appetite for allocating more assets to this asset class.”

As more pension funds take on these risky investments, more will fail, debt will increase, and be passed on to government agencies. In California, CalPERS has a horrible record of corruption, with various board members leaving in disgrace over manipulating the public trust to their own gain. Most recently an investments advisor left after he was found to be using CalPERS funds to buy stock in funds he owned. CalPERS is also floundering under huge board member salaries – here’s a thought – CalPERS has it’s own pension deficit.

Instead of screaming for investigations and reform, I think those public employees who stand to get pensions are getting desperate to make sure the pension systems are funded.  I just can’t decide whether our council members are being led by the nose or if they are coming to the table knowing exactly what they are doing. 

What do you think?

Why we need to dump collective bargaining – to end the union domination of California – and Chico! – politics

17 Mar

Thanks Dave, for this great article from David Crane:

https://www.hoover.org/research/bipartisan-opportunism-blame-californias-high-tax-rate

Crane gives us the history of collective bargaining in California, “which endowed police and other local personnel with the power to bargain collectively with the governments that employed them, handing political power over local budgets to government employees who were the principal beneficiaries of those budgets…”

Established by Ronald Reagan in 1968, this agreement “created a piggy bank to help finance GOP legislators.” But of course, it works for whichever party is in power, son when he became governor in 1975, Jerry Brown extended this agreement to school teachers and employees. This has resulted in elections controlled not by the Russians or the Iranians but by the public employee unions.

In Chico the biggest contributors in every election are the SEIU (management) and the CPOA (cops), with the IFFA (firefighters) coming in a close third.

In my opinion, this relationship is completely inappropriate – council approves hires, salaries, and benefits, sets staffing levels, and then accepts huge campaign contributions from the very people who benefit from their actions. I can’t believe the voters don’t see the conflict of interest in this system, but I’m guessing, most people don’t know. Everybody’s got their panties in a knot over the notion that Russia and Iran have influenced elections, but they don’t see corruption that is as plain as the nose on their faces. 

So City of Chico and County of Butte, both of whom have outrageous pension deficits, are considering Pension Obligation Bonds. This action would forever place the burden of the pension deficit – created by the ridiculous salaries, overly-generous benefits, and completely unrealistically low employee contributions approved by our “local leaders” – on the backs of the taxpayers. 

Instead, I suggest we dump collective bargaining – this could be done by city ordinance, and could be accomplished by a petition of citizens. Another option would be a city ordinance that cut the union PAC donations down to the same level as individual donations – about $1,000 per candidate. 

Crane agrees on point #1 – “The antidotes are to repeal collective bargaining rights for government employees or to offset these voters’ power with persistent support of our political parties from donors who care about the general interest (full disclosure: Govern for California provides such support), not to whine about one-party dominance.

Right now, as Doug Ose has said, “we are going backwards” as a state. Over-taxation has made housing too expensive, while infrastructure all over the state is failing. Chico Mayor Andrew Coolidge acknowledges the poor condition of streets in Chico, but advocates a POB, which would suck all the money out of the General Fund, which is made from allocations out of all the other funds – the streets fund, the park fund, the sewer fund, etc. You get the picture every time you drive or bike around town, or open your new sewer bill. Did you get the picture last night when council voted to INSTITUTE A FEE FOR USE OF UPPER PARK? 

Wake the hell up Chico, and write a note to your mayor – that’s andrew.coolidge@chicoca.gov

Intergenerational equity in the pension system, or, stealing candy from babies

15 Mar

A popular topic among academics is “intergenerational equity”. One explanation, taken from a box of laundry detergent: “Iroquois philosophy says that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.”  

Here’s a good article from wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergenerational_equity

An old example of intergenerational equity would be  “debtor’s prison”. 

“Since the first recorded debt issuance in Sumaria in 1796 BC,[10] one of the penalties for failure to repay a loan has been debt bondage. In some instances, this repayment of financial debt with labor included the debtor’s children, essentially condemning the debtor family to perpetual slavery.”

Can you even imagine your kids being dragged off to jail because you can’t make your house payments? Apparently it still happens in other parts of the world.

“While slavery is illegal in all countries today, North Korea has a policy called, “Three Generations of Punishment”[11] which has been documented by Shin Dong-hyuk and used as a moral paragon of punishing children for parents’ mistakes.”

You think Americans are any better? 

“Stanley Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada have applied this concept (calling it “Generational Theft”[12]) to the large increase in government debt being left by the Baby Boomers to their children.”

And part of that debt is the retirement system. Here they are talking about Social Security, which we’ve heard for years is failing because it is not funded adequately. “What?” you say. “Anybody who has a job pays into it, it must be funded!” Hold onto your hat for this declaration.

“The U.S. Social Security system has provided a greater net benefit to those who reached retirement closest to the first implementation of the system. The system is unfunded, meaning the elderly who retired right after the implementation of the system did not pay any taxes into the social security system, but reaped the benefits.”

Sound familiar? Well, maybe you didn’t know – our former city manager, Tom Lando, receives about $155,000/year in pension,  for which he paid NOTHING. Until 2013, when Mark Orme agreed to pay a paltry 6%, the city made the “employer paid member contribution”. Meaning, the taxpayers footed the bill for pensions in excess of $100,000 a year, for people who paid nothing. And now, those people, including Orme, only pay 9%. Their underlings – those hired after 2013 – are required to pay more. It’s a big pyramid scam – the members at the top of the pyramid get the money paid  by the bottom rung. Here’s an analogy of the Social Security system that is also true for the public pension system.

“Professor Michael Doran estimates that cohorts born previous to 1938 will receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes, while the reverse is true to cohorts born after. Further, he admits that the long-term insolvency of Social Security will likely lead to be further unintentional intergenerational transfers.”

Just substitute “CalPERS” for “Social Security” and there it is – the “intergenerational transfers“. A nice way to say “stealing candy from babies.” A nice way to say, “condemning your children to debt, poverty and enslavement to the system.” 

It’s time for young people to realize what is going on. The pension system is not only a pyramid, it’s an upside down pyramid. There are too many taking out that never paid in, and too few paying too little.  The system will collapse within the next 10 years unless older pensioners agree to take less, and younger pensioners agree not only to take less but to pay more. The taxpayers cannot sustain this system. Like ex Chico city council member Randall Stone said – this burden should be born by the employees, not the taxpayers, who have nothing to gain. Especially since all the money is going to the pension deficit, leaving nothing for services. 

But I’m not too worried – I heard about this concept from my son, who told me, the biggest problem facing young people today, “is the pensions…

Teach your children well. 

 

Council rushing through closed meetings to forward the Pension Obligation Bond, Staff reports misleading – they want to ram this thing through before the taxpayers catch on

15 Mar

Last week Chico City Council and Staff confirmed my suspicion that they are using closed meetings to run Staff’s Pension Obligation Bond by the taxpayers. Without any notice to the public, and only 46 members of the public participating via Zoom, they combined two agenda items. The POB was supposed to be discussed as Item 5.12, but they summarily decided to discuss and vote on it during the Item 5.1 – Scott Dowell’s 5 year projection report.

While the POB was a small part of the 5 year projection, I don’t think it was appropriate to just move forward with the 5.12 discussion. Here’s the thing – I read the agenda ahead, and planned to participate in the 5.12 discussion. When I tuned in, there was no 5.12 discussion, and no explanation why. So, I got cut out. I don’t think that’s okay. 

So I asked the clerk what happened to Item 5.12.  She responded:

The POB was added to the 3/2/16 agenda (with items carried over from the 2/16/21 agenda). Because the POB was tied into with 5 year projection (Item 5.1.), staff discussed the items together.

Council took the following action:  A motion was made by Councilmember Morgan and seconded by Councilmember Denlay to authorize staff to continue exploring the CalPERS Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL) restructuring including a legal validation process, applicable public outreach and analysis for possible pension obligation bonds, with it noted that this action does not commit the City to move in this direction. Staff was also requested to bring back more information to the Council regarding the process as it becomes available. The motion carried by the following vote:

AYES: Brown, Denlay, Morgan, Huber, Tandon, Reynolds, Coolidge    NOES: None”

I was just floored. Another smooth move under cover of COnVID. 

And of course the report is misleading.

“Staff is requesting approval to continue exploring the CalPERS Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL) restructuring
including a legal validation process, applicable public outreach and continued analysis. This process would take
approximately four months and prepare the City should City Council decide to issue POBs in the future.”

It’s not a “restructuring,” it’s NEW DEBT. The “legal validation process” is completely administerial – no ballot measure, no voter approval. “Applicable public outreach“? Here’s what it says in the report: “Continued public education and information shared through reports to the Finance Committee and other public forums.” Really? There are no “public forums” right now, only Zoom meetings, with poor reception and limited participation. And that “continued analysis” is going to cost “$10,000 – $20,000”. That in addition to $25 – 30,000 for the “legal validation process“. 

Staff’s report also recommends “initiate a legal validation process” as Step 1, while “Continued public education” is Step 3.

Public education? Shouldn’t it be “public input”? 

So you see this whole thing is being ramrodded in as quickly as possible in closed meetings because they don’t want the public to find out what they’re really doing. 

Normally this is where I would tell you to write to or call your city council rep, but I keep hearing back from folks who have tried that, and got no  response. I can’t report any better from my rep Kasey Reynolds. And you see the vote above – unanimously idiots. So, I would say, don’t waste your time trying to contact them directly, write a letter to the editor of either the Enterprise Record or the News and Review, or both.

And if you really want to get your point across, you have to stick your neck out there a little.  Do your errands in a yellow vest, with “NO NEW TAXES FOR CHICO” scrawled across the back. Place a small sign in your car window saying same. If you have windows on your home facing the street, make 8 x 11.5 signs and post them in those windows. Get some blank postcards, write NO NEW TAXES FOR CHICO on one side, and send it to your rep via snail mail to their home. 

Arlo Guthrie said, “One guy is crazy, two guys are (bleeep!), but three guys – THAT’S a MOVEMENT. And he’s right.  They can ignore one or two of us, but I’m telling you, three, four, five more, and they start to pay attention. 

I will remind you until I’m blue in the face – if we let them sell these Pension Obligation Bonds, we are on the hook for the pension deficit FOR-EV-ER, not to mention, the new debt. Meanwhile, we will watch our streets and infrastructure deteriorate to 3rd World standards. As their investments fail, they will bottom out first the General Fund, and then all the other funds, to service the bonds and pay the still growing Unfunded Pension Liability. As you see in the report referenced above, Staff suggests “Projected costs [for the POB] are as follows and would come from the General Fund:  • Legal validation process: $25,000-$30,000.  • Public education and continued analysis by a municipal advisor: $10,000-$20,000.”

So don’t wait until it’s too late, and then complain – COMPLAIN NOW!

 

Is Andrew Coolidge stupid or a liar?

10 Mar

I know, Chico First is a more fun website. I know, Rob Berry is more the action type, chasing Scott Huber around with a camera. Unfortunately, that circus is distracting people from something they should be paying attention to – that boring old Pension Obligation Bond that Mark Orme is currently trying to end-run around Chico voters/taxpayers. 

Luckily there are other eyes on council right now, folks who are educated and number-savvy and also hip to this scam. A friend of mine recently contacted council to discuss his concerns about the POB, and he got a response from his district representative, Mayor Andrew Coolidge. My friend told me I could use Coolidge’s response for a letter to the editor, so I did. Coolidge is either stupid or a liar – you decide.

Chico Staffers are asking council to implement a Pension Obligation Bond.  Recently a friend expressed his concerns to Mayor Andrew Coolidge, who responded, “That bond is basically financing the city’s obligation (around $147 million to cal pers) at a lower interest rate so it can be paid off over the long term, rather than on Cal Pers rollercoaster payback schedule.”

That is not true. A POB is new debt. The consultant explained, the city would invest the borrowed money in the stock market, hoping for  return enough to pay both the bond debt and the CalPERS debt. The consultant speculated an interest rate of 3 – 4% on the POB, compared to 7% paid to CalPERS. But, the consultant was clear – if investments don’t do well, then we still owe CalPERS, and we also owe the bond holders.

Government Finance Officers Association says POBs are not worth the risk. But Coolidge, without really understanding what he is talking about, says, “I do believe faced with this huge burden the city may wish to pay it through a bank with minimal interest rather than to a state fund (cal pers) with an awful history of robbing from taxpayers.”

That is not how a POB works,  we will still have to pay CalPERS. I don’t think any member of council really understands POBs, they are trusting Staff, who have everything to  gain. Meanwhile, the taxpayers, who will be permanently on the hook for the pensions, are left out of the conversation.

Contact Coolidge, and your district representative.