Archive | The California Rule RSS feed for this section

Interesting comments from readers

21 Jun

I get comments from people that deserve another look sometimes.

Yvonne asked me what I think about Newsom’s mask order and “other dirty deeds.” Thanks Yvonne, a quick search led me to some answers to questions I already had, and then more questions.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-20/gavin-newsom-n95-masks-byd-chinese-company-california-legislature

The question it answered for me is how California went from a $5.6 billion budget surplus to a $54 billion deficit just over the span of about three months of shut-down. Remember folks, we’re talking BILLIONS here. I don’t think most people could count to a billion in three months, but here Gavin Newsom went through $60 billion plus faster than prune juice through the guts of an 80 year old man. A billion off to China for substandard COVID masks, sheesh, I’d hate to see the governor’s credit card bill.

https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2020/05/07/california-faces-54b-budget-deficit-1282926

Legislators are asking Newsom’s staff for the details of the deal, but they won’t tell. Furthermore, the KN95 masks manufactured by the Chinese are not exactly top rated. In April the FDA updated their recommendations, “limiting the use of certain KN95 masks as suitable NIOSH alternatives in a healthcare setting…” The reason is that these masks have the over the ear straps instead of the tighter fitting around the head straps.

So, Newsom spent a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) on masks that are not the first choice of the FDA, and then won’t tell us the details of the deal.

I’m not sure how to feel about that. I’m still processing the new order that we all have to wear masks. I’ve read all the recommendations, and the N95’s are the only ones I would trust if I were truly afraid of this disease or thought I was in danger of spreading it. In fact, if I believed that, I would stay home. But I don’t believe it. I think this order is more about controlling people than controlling any disease. I will wear a bandana around my face when required to get into a food store, but I can shop online without a mask and that’s going to stick.

I got a comment from Robyn, who took offense to my use of the phrase “bum camp” to describe a place where people who do not contribute anything to society sleep, defecate, urinate, and accumulate large piles of trash, despite laws to the contrary.

I was appreciating this page until I read your term ‘bum camps.’ That’s horrendously insensitive towards human beings. Poverty is not a crime. Stigmatizing our most impoverished only fuels crimes against them.

I think it’s horrendously insensitive to trash the park and other public spaces that are supposed to be for all of us. Transients stigmatize themselves – their stigmata is their absolute refusal to comply with norms the rest of us have agreed to live by. Like, don’t shit and leave garbage on the ground next to a water way. Don’t leave needles on children’s playgrounds. Don’t set up camp in my neighborhood and then creep up to my house in the middle of the night to steal my catalytic converter or rout out my recycling bins.

Crimes against them? The only crimes I hear about against the transient population are assaults and robberies perpetrated by other transients.

Somehow she relates all this to racial injustice and police brutality.

By the way, a 1 or .5 percent sales tax, which is a highly contentious issue for so many people of privilege, is not the issue at hand nationally or globally. Racial justice and police brutality is. It would’ve been nice to see something about that here. Absence is silence, which is complicity with racism and white supremacy. But your “bum camp” comment already indicated your stance.

Here this nice lady is telling me what I’m supposed to talk about on my blog. Do I go to her house and tell her what to write in her diary? She tells me I’m racist because I want to discuss what’s on my mind. I’m a white supremist, because I don’t like people shitting on the ground in the park? Where does she get that?

It’s not okay for me to talk about a tax on “Chico Taxpayers Association” but it’s okay for her to tell me my concerns are not important because my skin’s not the right color – okay Robyn, I get it. When will these people learn how NOT to start a conversation?

Joe sent me some good comments related to the current unrest.

Is defunding police how streets are repaved? Don’t think so.

Good question. From what I understand, these people are not calling for the elimination of police services, but want a portion of the public safety budget to go to other agencies, unspecified. I don’t think the protesters understand how public agencies budget money. They don’t see how much money is poured into these public agencies – the Butte County Behavioral Health Department, for example, gets almost $100 million a year, but we still have old, mentally ill people and drug addicts dying on the streets, and we have a problem with police who don’t know how to handle either. The protesters need to come up with more creative answers than “throw money at it!”

Like Joe says, these agencies just use this angst as the basis for tax measure after tax measure, threatening to cut services if they don’t get more money, more money, more money. “Council’s dog/pony show, sales tax 101, promotes an immoral, unfeasible and regressive grab for people’s money, regardless of timing. “ Yeah, people are hurting right now, including local businesses – hardly a time to encourage people to shop less or shop online.

Here Joe suggests a harsher course than I’ve suggested so far, but I agree when he says, “California Rule be damned.

Best course of action: ALL city workers take a 50% pay cut and totally fund their retirement. California Rule be damned. Money would then be there to REPAVE the streets and address homelessness, lighting and crime.

The California Rule is a blatant taking. It’s like having some bum walk right in your front door and stuff his mangy fist in your cookie jar, take all your cookies, and then declare you have to buy more. The CA Rule says, point blank – the pension deficit will be paid before anything else. That’s what’s happened to our public programs, our streets, our park, The California Rule.

According to Joe Matthews in Zoccalo, “The California Rule is the misleading moniker we’ve given to our most troublesome legal precedent: public employees are entitled to whatever pension benefits were in place when they started work.” Matthews adds, “By requiring ever-escalating retirement benefits that force cuts in public services, the California Rule has effectively made a lie out of every significant guarantee in the state constitution, from balanced budgets to speedy trials.

In other states, Matthews says, “only pension benefits already earned by actual work are protected. California is one of only 12 states that have protected the right to earn future pension benefits for work not yet performed.”

 Joe expresses the frustration I feel, especially when I talk to a person like Robyn. “What’s a citizen like me to do? I don’t protest, pillage, rape, burn or kill!

Robyn, I wonder if you have an answer for Joe? Let him eat chocolate, you say?

These public agencies need to clean house before we should even consider revenue measures

15 Apr

Oh for cripe’s sake, another letter from the Measure A people. Like a friend of mine has observed, they are still really mad they didn’t get this measure past the voters. I was hoping they’d just stomp their foot and disappear through the floor, but you can bet they’ll be back in 2022.

Letter: Reflecting on the failure of Measure A

By  |

Great and timely article in the Sunday, April 5 Enterprise Record regarding “No Sports.” For those of us who sports and athletics is such a large part of our lives it is hard to not get our daily “Sports Fix.” We know professional, collegiate, high school and other amateur sports will resume as we recover from this COVID-19 Virus. Our hearts go out to those directly infected with the virus and all of us indirectly affected by staying home and not participating in work or athletic activities. It is a good time to reflect on why Measure A failed and how to move our local recreation and sports programs forward.

In the beginning I was in favor of Measure A. Over the course of the campaign I changed my opinion that the measure would fulfill our facility and program needs. There are too many reasons to cite in 250 words for the failure. No sunset and a CPI were two along with few specifics on what facilities were needed and would be provided by the parcel tax if passed. CARD ignored half of the electorate when they planned the measure.

We need to analyze what facilities are really needed and what programs need to be re-energized and focused on. The October 2018 facilities assessment study should have done this but did not. It was an overall marketing study of the amateur sports market with two of the three proposals being private/public partnerships with no explanation by CARD.

— Terry Cleland, Chico

Cleland is right about the the “no sunset” and annual increase with the Consumer Price Index – the measure was bad. He is also right about the lack of specifics – the measure promised nothing, except more revenues for CARD to spend as they pleased.

But he left out the bond measure – General Manager Ann Willmann admitted several times that the parcel tax proceeds were not nearly enough to pay for any of the over-the-rainbow projects mentioned in the Measure A campaign. Willmann said they would use the parcel tax proceeds to secure a $30-something-million bond, the debt service for which would have cost $2 million a year while only providing $1 million for projects. A million dollars a year? Let me put that into perspective – several years ago, the city of Chico spent a million dollars “upgrading” the public restroom at One Mile. Get it? 

Cleland also neglected to mention the pension deficit, or the fact that a simple majority measure goes into the General Fund, to be spent at the pleasure of the board and staff. He wouldn’t admit – the salaries and pensions at CARD are not sustainable, that they have bottomed out the General Fund to pay down the deficit created by their employees’ unrealistic and unreasonable “shares”. Willmann admitted many times they had deferred maintenance while paying their pensions.  

I feel Cleland is trying to nudge the conversation away from the fact that CARD is poorly managed and is not fulfilling their mission statement. 

Cleland attended CARD General Manager Ann Willmann’s “informational” propaganda sessions. He heard her tell the group that CARD is without debt, and he sat right behind Dave Howell as he corrected Willmann. Howell quoted the latest figure on CARD’s Unfunded Pension Liability as $2.7 million, because that was the figure Willmann had recently given the Enterprise Record. She admitted to him and the rest of us that it is actually over $3 million. How does it grow so fast? Because, only 5 years ago, agency management was paying NOTHING toward their own pensions. CARD was paying, in total, less than 10% of the cost. These agencies have put off paying the pensions, because they expect the taxpayers to foot it. 

As of 2017 Willmann was only paying 2.5% of the cost of her pension, with an annual salary increase, that’s why CARD’s deficit is growing so quickly. As of 2019, she was paying 8%, with another salary increase, up to $127,000/year. 

If you want to see the consequences of this kind of pyramid scheme, read the latest CalPERS “actuarial valuation report” for CARD.

https://www.calpers.ca.gov/page/employers/actuarial-services/employer-contributions/public-agency-actuarial-valuation-reports

Just type “Chico Area Recreation District” into the search engine.

Look at what CalPERs will expect CARD to pay in “catch up” payments within the next few years – and then remember, the taxpayers pay ALL OF IT, in addition to half the payroll contribution. 

And here’s another lie Willmann floated to the public during her little propaganda blitz – she said that CARD has no control over the shares or amounts they pay to CalPERS. “this needs to be handled at the CalPERS level and the legislative level…” she lied. 

Here’s two holes in that lie – 

  1. If it’s out of the agency’s hands what they pay to CalPERS, why are the city of Chico and CARD’s payments so radically different? CARD pays 14%, while the city of Chico pays 21 – 31%.  You can see the city even negotiates different payments for different employee groups, as well as very different shares per employee group. 
  2. According to the report linked above, “The employer contributions in this report do not reflect any cost sharing arrangements you may have with your employees.”  There’s the truth – Willmann told the public at those sessions that the board doesn’t have any control over the shares. Liar. 

Okay, here’s where it gets even murkier – Willmann claimed in those sessions that her 8% was more than half of the agency’s cost – she bragged about that repeatedly.   But, when I asked her, in front of the rest of the group, why the city and CARD pay totally different percentages, she would not answer me in the meeting, saying she needed to check her figures. No, it was because she didn’t want to tell the others the truth – her 8% is not MORE THAN half of what the agency pays, it’s not even half.  She admitted to me via email later, the agency pays 17%.   “ The Total Normal Cost is then split in to the Employee Contribution Rate and the Employer Normal Cost Rate. I was incorrect regarding our Total Normal Cost, it is currently 17.127% for our classic members not 14%.”

Why did she tell everybody else CARD only pays 14%? Obviously, Willmann knows the truth, she knows she pays less than half, but misleads the public, because it’s in her best interest to do so. 

 And, here’s the real pig sticker – the taxpayers not only pay over half the payroll portion, but make the entire “catch up” payments on the resulting Unfunded Accrued Liability. 

So, in answer to Mr. Cleland, I’ll say, before I would even consider a revenue measure for this sad little agency, I would demand the following (and this is just for starters) :

  1. new general manager 
  2. Tom Lando off the board
  3. ratify a new agreement with employees that they work toward paying more of the agency’s payroll costs (a LOT more)
  4. ratify a new agreement with employees that they will pay the same “share” toward the “unfunded liability”, or “catch up” payments

Meanwhile, we do need to poke our legislators to dump the California Rule, and to start dissolving CalPERS and working toward a more sustainable pension system for our certainly needed but much overcompensated public employees. 

Next time we’ll apply the same argument to the City of Chico, who may not be discussing their one cent sales tax increase measure in front of the public right now, but I assure you they are planning to put it on the 2020 ballot. You can find the same actuarial report for the city at the website I linked above, just punch in City of Chico. 

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf