Tag Archives: bankruptcy

Denial, Anger – is this Bargaining?

15 Jun

I noticed people are reading an almost year-old old post, “Mary Goloff and Jim Walker gang jump Mark Sorensen on the dias”, and I gave it a read myself. How funny – Mark Sorensen trying, very gently I thought, to tell the rest of the nit-wits on council how he thought we’d overspent on salaries for various  programs and over-priced land for  housing projects, and Mary Goloff coming at him like a bull at a toreador.  Jim Walker was nasty too, showing his true personality – catty, insulting, trash talking.  They took turns sparring at Sorensen, pelting him with questions only to interrupt him as soon as he started giving an intelligent answer. It was like a junior high gang jump – “hey Bitch, whatchoo doin’ hangin’ round Jimmee? Whatchoo mean, you don’t like Jimmee? What the helz wrong with Jimmee you stuck up Bitch?!”

But now, look at Mary Goloff – she’s stepping and fetching to show us how fiscally responsible she is. See her playing all hard-ass with the Chico Certified Farmer’s Market, kicking them out of their almost-free location on Second Street and moving them to Downtown Plaza, where they will pay more for one day than they currently pay for a year at the parking lot on Second Street.   And, in the same agenda, renting Bidwell Park out to a for-profit outfit for an obstacle course foot race that is supposed to attract some 950 or more people to the neighborhoods along Lower Bidwell Park. 

What next – I’m afraid to say anything, even tongue in cheek. But I won’t forget how she kicked and screamed to throw the conversation off the tracks every time it got down to brass tacks. She denied we had any financial problems, getting angry whenever somebody tried to broach the subject of  trimming some fat.  

Now she’s the first one in line with a plate when it comes to BBQ’ing sacred cows like the Saturday Market and Bidwell Park. 

We need to come up with something better for 2014.

FROM JULY 3 2012 – “Mary Goloff and Jim Walker gang jump Mark Sorensen on the dais…”

I’m sitting here in disbelief of the attack I just watched Mary Goloff and Jim Walker wage on Mark Sorensen at city council tonight. I couldn’t make the meeting, so I have been watching it via computer. 

Sorensen had been challenged by a smarmy Jim Walker to list what changes he would make to balance the budget. Sorensen carefully began to explain that city funds had been depleted by millions over the last few years, with escalating costs leaving revenues in the dirt. He also explained that the lion’s share of our expenses are “operating costs,” meaning, salaries. He also carefully explained that there were programs we simply could not afford anymore, meaning, salaries. 

Mary Goloff could be heard heckling him off microphone. If you or I did what she was doing we’d be asked to leave the room, possibly with police escort. But Mayor Schwab just sat there looking at Goloff, saying nothing.  Goloff  finally got on mike, interrupted Sorensen, and asked him to be specific. So, Sorensen offered housing, saying it had been a mistake to undertake so many housing projects, and he also specified the arts programs – such as the requirement that any capital project include one percent of the total cost of that project be added for art. 

At this point Goloff began to interrupt Sorensen. She started heckling him about how “we all agree” that the arts are important, yadda, yadda. She just kept at Sorensen, not allowing him to answer any of her out-there questions, until Sorensen asked her to stop interrupting him. 

After a quick exchange Walker butted in to attack Sorensen. Out of nowhere, Walker bashed Sorensen about wanting to spend more money on the police department, asking Sorensen where he would get the money to hire more police. This question was off base, Sorensen hadn’t even gotten that far before Goloff had completely derailed him.

 Jim  Walker is just sitting out his time, he seems to be enjoying himself at all of our expense. He, like so many “public servants,” seems to think he is elected to do what he wants, what seems like “the right thing” in his fairy tale mind,  instead of carry out the law. 

Mary Goloff seems to think she has been anointed Queen in some farcical aquatic ceremony to lead us all in the light of her cough syrup-induced wisdom.  She seems to love the sound of her own voice, while here at my house, it sets off the hounds for blocks. 

My computer started failing at this point, and I was unable to watch the rest of the meeting. I am going on vacation tomorrow, I’ll see you folks on the flip flop.  

Henny Penny tried to tell them about Loosey Goosey, but would they listen? Nooooooooooo!

29 May

Yesterday I put aside a bunch of junk I had to do to go to a meeting Downtown.  I don’t know about the rest of you people, but when I don’t work, it shows up pretty immediately on the balance sheet as no dinner, or clean underwear.   But, I figure, a few hours spent each month riding herd on the city monkeys is worth the effort. 

They had to hire some out-of-town gun to tell us, our city staff has been operating, as Chris Contantin puts it, “loosey goosey.” So, that’s why they called me “Henny Penny” every time I said they needed to slow down on the spending? 

I have to say – I really like these new guys. I like Brian Nakamura. I like Chris Constantin. And, I like Frank Fields,  a guy who’s been with the city for some time. I also have to say, I didn’t like Jennifer Hennessy. I wanted to like her – her kid played hockey with my kid, her husband worked with my husband on the rink in Ham City. But she was a petulant little spoiled rotten bitch who cared more about herself than her job. She was lazy, I’ll say it. She just didn’t want to do her job.  She expected to have that salary and those clothes and that hair and that little hot rod, but she didn’t want to do the work that paid for it. No, I”m not jealous – women like her make me embarrassed for the gender.

So, excuse me  if  yesterday, when Chris Constantin came into the Finance Committee meeting and gave the type of report that we’d been asking, begging, demanding from Jennifer Hennessy all these years – NO POWER POINT PRESENTATION?! – just the horrible facts, Ma’am – I just about blew up trying to hold back with “I TOLD YOU BASTARDS SO!” 

We all knew, the entire time, that money was being moved from fund to fund, excuse me for REPEATING MYSELF – like peas under nutshells. If I used the shell game analogy once, I used it a hundred times.  And yesterday Constantin reported to those in attendance exactly that – money was allowed to be moved, from one fund to another – willy nilly, loosey goosey, whatever – without any supervision from Hennessy or the Finance Department or the city manager. Departments were padding their budgets so they’d have a surplus to “spend or lose” – how many times did I tell you that? Like that episode of The Office where Michael has to choose between a new copy machine or new office chairs, and then finds out he can simply give the money to himself as a bonus and does so. 

I think most of the senior management staff needs to be fired. This is why Rucker and McKinley were fired. This is why Hennessy was quietly found another job elsewhere – it wasn’t all her fault – how many times did the council listen to Hennessy say we were in deficit and simply refuse to act? I know I sat in those meetings for years. I sat in one meeting with my then-6-year-old son, during which Scott Gruendl took a fistful of marking pens and a giant tablet and tried to draw a picture of how much financial trouble we were in. He jokingly put aside the red pen, not wanting to alarm anybody! But he made it clear, the city of Chico was spending alot more money than it was taking in. 

After the meeting, my son was aghast – “if the city is in so much trouble with money, what’s Scott doing with all those marking pens?” He noted that Gruendl was using more than one at a time, leaving the caps off, not really acting like a guy who might not be able to afford another set of marking pens. This is the same man who has voted to spend money on overpriced real estate, bar a major retailer from expanding unless they lay down a million dollars to swap out wood stoves, and who has led the city on a windmill chase over banning plastic bags that has cost God only knows how many hundreds of thousands in $taff time.

Furthermore, to listen to Ann Schwab and Mary Goloff sit on that dais and say they didn’t have any idea what was going on is like listening to the captain of the Concordia say it wasn’t his fault the ship ran aground because he wasn’t present at the time.

But let’s face it, it wasn’t just the way $taff was running the books, it was that MOU that raised Tom Lando’s salary from around $60,000/year to over $150,000. That MOU was the killer, linking salaries to revenue increases but not decreases.  It was like some kind of time release poison, it has taken us to The Brink. Gruendl voted for that MOU, in fact, I believe he was one of the proponents who pushed it forward for $taff.  The same thing was going on in Glenn County, where Gruendl’s salary went from around $50,000 to $103,000 in less than five years.

When the public found out about that MOU, it was canned, but they replaced it with this practice of paying most or all of the employee share of pension and benefit premiums. Now our city has adopted a resolution requiring all new hires from out of the CalPERS system to pay “50 percent,” of what I’m not sure. But, Constantin explained to me yesterday – even if the new hire is from out of state, if they come from “an agency” that has an agreement with CalPERS, they come in as a member of CalPERS, and they will not be required to pay the new share.

Furthermore, Gruendl has already informed us, that if we are going to require employees to pay more of their share, we will have to pay them more salary.

At yesterday’s meeting, I sincerely thanked Chris Constantin, but I told the committee of Randall Stone, Sean Morgan and Scott Gruendl that we need to get management and public safety to pay their own share of their pensions. Constantin agreed with me. He  said he’d tried to pay his own share, but apparently the union won’t allow it? I didn’t get a very good explanation. But he also said that if public safety would pay their own share, their pensions would be cheaper.  I think he meant, they’d be cheaper because the city wouldn’t have to go into debt to pay them, the payments would be taken directly every month instead of put off. So, there would be enormous savings in interest. I’m not sure on that, but I think that’s what he meant. It makes sense. 

But there it sat. They won’t push it. Trying to get them to do something is like trying to push Jello. 

So, we have to put the heat to the people who really have control – the council. We have to start holding a match to Mark Sorensen’s ass – he’s up for re-election in November 2014, along with Gruendl and Goloff. They all need to be told, loud and clear, that they shouldn’t even bother to run in 2014 if they re-sign these contracts in January. 

John Salyer: Keep an eye on the government

21 May

Thanks John Salyer for this appropriately timed letter. Tonight our new finance director will announce to a stunned crowd that we are (gasp!) OVER BUDGET AND DOOMED TO DEBT! What a surprise, I for one am just shocked! 

John Salyer is one of those who has been watching and yelling at the top of his lungs, “Get everybody off the track, the train’s coming!” To a deaf crowd that apparently wants to be run over by a train, picnic baskets and all. 

Thanks John, and keep ’em coming! 

 

Letter: Keep an eye on the government

Chico Enterprise-Record
Posted:   05/20/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT

 

One of the fundamental principles underlying much of what today’s small-government advocates have to say is the idea, attributed to John Stuart Mill, that people have no right to take over other people’s decisions about their own lives. Yet today, as government expands its reach and more and more citizens give up their freedoms, government bureaucrats begin to think of themselves as shepherds and the citizens as their sheep.As one economist notes, “Tragically, too many of us are apparently willing to be sheep, in exchange for being taken care of, being relieved of the burdens of adult responsibility and being supplied with ‘free’ stuff paid for by others.” In ways large and small, if government does more, many people end up doing less.

Yes, we all make mistakes. But do governments not make bigger and more catastrophic mistakes?

One of the key differences between mistakes that we make in our own lives and mistakes made by governments is that bad consequences force us to correct our own mistakes. But government officials usually cannot admit to making a mistake without jeopardizing their whole careers.

Let’s take the example of Chico being $50 million, more or less, in debt. How many of you even knew that? I certainly didn’t until I made the mistake of actually starting to pay attention to what is going on with Chico’s bureaucrats.

Search “Townhall Shepherds and Sheep” on the Internet for more on this interesting but unfortunately true subject.

John Salyer, Chico

Wake UP Chico! Time to get to work!

20 May

I’m glad to say there’s a stink going up over the contracts being signed tomorrow night in council. I’ve received e-mails and forwards about it, all from people who’ve been watching for a long time, trying to get more people to pay attention.

Stephanie Taber is like Paul Revere. She goes to these meetings – she came to the CARD board meeting last week at my request – and reads documents with print that looks like black lines. And then she gets on her computer horse and tries to spread the alarm. 

Sometimes I can’t believe she is still standing, how does she do it.  Then I look at the eyes – little twinkly blue Santa Claus eyes I call them – always busy, like the circuit lights on my computer tower.  Stephanie’s brain is like a computer, full of data, always searching for connections, analyzing, spitting out conclusions. Working with Stephanie is like plugging my brain into the master brain. When things don’t add up, I talk to Stephanie, and we get some answers. 

The hard part is getting others to listen, to care beyond just bitching, to DO SOMETHING. I will admit, I have a hard time getting to those Tuesday night council meetings. And sometimes, I’ll admit, I worry that we don’t make any impact at those meetings, that they’ve already got their minds made up, we’re just giving them the legal closure they need by showing up at the dam-ned things. 

But, I’ll also say, I’ve seen things change, I’ve seen things get stopped, I’ve seen things get dragged down like an old water buffalo by a pack of hyenas.  It takes a mob, but it can be done. They can be worn down. 

I hate to even bring it up – it seems so silly now – but they tried to stop the frisbee golf course, and there it is. We see more cars there every time we go up. The  rangers are still up there, even on Sunday, trying to bust people for playing during wet weather, but there it is – like a big sign, saying “Screw the Friends of Bidwell Park and their Political Cronyism.” 

Tuesday night, that’s tomorrow, sorry for the late notice, but tomorrow our new finance director, Chris Constantin, will read his high school style report about how screwed our pooch is, and somebody should show up to give a damn.  Of course, they have pushed this report to the END of the meeting, after the plastic bag ban, the sit/lie ordinance, not to mention, the management contracts.  

Stephanie Taber has been concerned that the placement of this item at the very end of the meeting is a sure way to keep the public out of the discussion.  She’s asked that people yak it up, try to get more of the public involved.  I’ve written letters to the editor, I’ve posted blogs about it, I don’t know what else to do about it.   It’s time for more people to step up, express some genuine outrage yes – but more importantly, mention that three of these people are up for re-election in a year and a half, and they need to do something tomorrow night, or they shouldn’t even run in 2014.

Oh No! The city of Chico faces fiscal insolvency? Time for an INTERVENTION!

17 May

Stand back and hold your breath while I enjoy a chorus of “I told you so!” 

I looked over the agenda for next week’s council meeting, and omigod! It’s an intervention!

Sheesh, what does it take to get through to people? I’ve been saying for years – me, a local property tax payer – that the city was spending out of control, that they were taking us on the road to Perdition – but did anybody listen? I wanted to cut up their RDA credit card long before Jerry Brown took it away, but did they listen? No, they just went about making these contracts that promised a perpetual six-figure salary, well beyond retirement, all paid for by the taxpayers, paying those crazy salaries and benefits and pensions out of the RDA. 

New city finance director Chris Constantin is all up there about the overspending, but he doesn’t say on what. He’s going to allow people to go on damning The Spirit Flags and The Hands. But that’s chump change. In reality, it’s Constantin’s contract, along with the other management contracts, as well as the public safety contracts. These people get the highest salaries, but pay little to nothing for their pensions – 70 – 90 percent of their highest year’s salary available at age 50. 

Management employees – and the department heads just got nearly $30,000 each in pay raises –  pay less than half their employee share, four percent of their total premium. The police and fire department employees pay nothing. The taxpayers pick up the balance of their shares – this is called, “employer paid member contribution.”  

On Tuesday’s agenda, “$taff” recommends renewal of the management contracts, the public safety contracts having been approved already, with the empc intact. 

And at the same meeting Constantin will foist his report – “City of Chico Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle.” He says we are in deep trouble, can’t make our payroll, and need to borrow money. And, here’s the catch – they’re going to have to raise fees and cut services. 

I will agree that they have been giving away the store. Developer fees have been out of whack for some years. For example, I just sat in on a conversation with a property owner who was hooking up to sewer – a very average  case – $24,000. But, a developer pays less than $10,000. 

But, I’m sick of hearing about more cuts in service. We spend over 90 percent of our budget on salaries and benefits. We pay more than 100 people more than $100,000 a year.  In 2012 we spent $1.9 million dollars paying “the employee’s share” of pension premiums. We just gave these guys a $30,000 each raise to tell us we don’t have enough money to pay our frigging bills. 

I predict we the people will be paying more for everything almost immediately. Right now, for example, the city and the county are in talks with the two big garbage haulers about dividing the county and city up into franchise zones, each company taking an equal guaranteed territory. Customers will lose choice. The city will get a franchise fee from each company. That fee will be added to our bills. That sounds like price fixing to me, but I’m no lawyer. 

We may have defeated Measure J, but the city will get our money by hook or by crook.

When I made predictions of bankruptcy on my old Ad Hoc blog, a current city council member came around to snipe about my use of the word, “malfeasance.” He laughed at my predictions. Well, now he’s sitting in a pants full, and he can just clean himself up as far as I’m concerned.

Brian Nakamura wants to keep the public out of the contract talks – some sunshine!

20 Mar

Several years ago, because of inquiries and complaints on the part of various citizens, including myself, Chico city council made a verbal agreement with the public, recorded in the minutes of the meeting, that they would “sunshine” future cop contracts  before they voted on them.   So, if you look at the agenda for March 5, you will see the proposed cop contract.

I went over this in a letter to the Enterprise Record:

The tentative Chico police contract is available in the March 5 city council agenda packet at 

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/city_council.asp

 Some highlights:  
 
Page 33: the taxpayers will continue to pay most or all of the health insurance premium. 
 
Page 34: the taxpayers will pay the employee’s full life insurance premium based on salary plus lesser policies for spouse and children. 
 
Page 35: the taxpayers will pay the full long term care insurance premium.  
 
Page 42: the taxpayers will continue to pay both the “employee’s” and “employer’s” share of pension premiums, for current employees only.   For employees hired on or after January 1, 2013,”the city shall not pay any employee contribution, and those employees shall pay the entire employee contribution rate of 50 percent…”  
 
Page 43: “City agrees to the establishment of a retiree Medical Expense and Health Insurance Trust…funded by monthly contributions made by the city…” of more than $300/employee. 
 
Chico Police currently boasts 147 full-time employees. They claim to be short of staff, but still demand very generous salary and benefit packages for current employees. Their demands place not only the public, but the police themselves, at risk. This contract also creates a dangerous disparity between existing and incoming employees.  There’s already an issue of “compaction” between lieutenants and sergeants, two lieutenants have filed formal complaints.  
 
Brian Nakamura recently announced a $50 million deficit  related directly to the “unfunded pension liability”. When will the CPOA bring a rational proposal to the table?
 

Juanita Sumner, Chico

I read  the entire contract, and was really interested in what the council had to say about it – turns out, “sunshining” does not mean, “public discussion.”  They posted the contract on the agenda for the public to see, but when that item came up at the end of the meeting, Mayor Goloff simply closed the meeting. She didn’t even mention that the contract was available for public review.

I’m not the only person who’s miffed about that. Below read Stephanie Taber’s e-mail to city council and Brian Nakamura:

6.3 on the agenda last week was the sun-shinning of the new CPOA MOU.  Apparently based on a conversation between the City Manager and the city’s chief legal strategist there was no mandate that there be an open discussion regarding the contents and that is now sufficient to just place it on the agenda.  I do not recall that as a decision by council during discussions regarding transparency and sun-shinning.  I object.  I think it is necessary for the City Manager to justify why this MOU is being placed on the agenda for apparent approval without regard to the cost to the city taxpayers.  No fiscal impact – really?

There is no dispute that Public Safety consumes the majority of the General Fund budget.  There is also no dispute that those employees under the Public Safety umbrella deserve the wages they make.  But that is where the consensus ends for many of us.

Why has the city not mandated that current Public Safety employees pay their share of retirement benefits?  The County was able to negotiate a gradual down-tick of employer pick up of their retiree benefits over a three year period.  Why hasn’t the city taken the same approach?

Why hasn’t the city discontinued the $300 per month per employee toward the employees “retirement trust fund”.  That is an incredibly costly benefit – $3,600 per year for one employee, in ten years that is $36,000; 20 and that’s $72,000.  And how many Public Safety employees do we have?  Do the math. What is the justification for that?  What private employer in Chico provides a similar benefit?  And this has been in effect since 2007.

In these tough economic times, City employees who make 2, 3 and even 4 times the wages of those working for private employers, not including very generous city benefits, need to consider shared sacrifice.I see no evidence of that in this current agreement with Chico Police Officers Association.

Perhaps it is time for the city to consider the hiring of a profession labor negotiator to deal with the unions.

Stephanie Taber

Apparently, Stephanie found out, this was Brian Nakamura’s decision.

He’s Mark Sorensen’s pit bull, Sorensen needs to answer for this too. 

UPDATE: Mark Sorensen responded to my e-mail query, but I’m out of town this weekend – I’ll get back to it on Monday. Unless there’s wi-fi in my cheap motel room. 

Nakamura announces a $50 million dollar deficit but still won’t make the cops or fire pay their own way. When will Mark Sorensen and Sean Morgan pull their “fiscally conservative” thumbs out of their asses and do something?

23 Feb

My husband and I both laughed out loud the other night when Brian Nakamura announced our city is about $50 million in deficit. Not that we thought it was funny, it was more of a nervous reaction.   I had to hear him say it a couple of times before the smile slid off my face. 

Then he offered up his puny little reorganization plan that might shave, heavy on the ‘might” – $1 million a year. He’s firing people across the board, and it’s only saving, again, “might” save, $1 million a year. According to the budget figures, that would still leave us in deficit. Has he got some other plans?

His first plan, to land himself a job at $217,000 a year, with a sweeeet benefits package, including a full year’s salary in severance pay, was a roaring success. According to a human resources “wiki” I read, it is customary to give an executive employee a severance of a month’s pay for every year served – Nakamura has not served us six months, yet has a promise of a full year’s salary if we have to let him go for any reason short of homicide or red-handed embezzlement. Thank you again,  Mark Sorensen, proxy dupe, and Tom Lando, puppet master. Boy, wouldn’t you like to get a look at Sorensen’s contract as Biggs city manager, or the contract Lando just got as interim rec manager out in O-ville?

And now these overfed blue jays are the ‘thin blue line” between the city and BANKRUPTCY. They are currently negotiating contracts with Chico Police and Fire Departments.  According to an article in the paper the other day, I was right,  the police alone take over $22 mil, or about half our $43 million a year budget. According to that article, they spend over a million a year on campus, messing with the college kids. 

Let’s face it, it didn’t cost them $100 to arrest that pervert that’s been over there raping who knows how many young women for who knows how long. They claim to spend more than $1 million a year patrolling the college area. Why? There’s a college police department. Why not force the campus police to take over? Why do we have to pay more in taxes for a special “C Team”? Can they get Leslie Nielsen for that kind of money? 

Chico PD just wants more money, more money, more money. They can’t help themselves, they’re pigs. They demand all kinds of perks and benies out of the city – they don’t even pay to purchase or clean their own uniforms – meanwhile, they tell us, they are too short of staff to actually do the job. They don’t prevent crime, they come along afterward and make a report about it so they can ask for a bigger budget the following year. They still haven’t solved the “clown bandit” capers, or those robberies that occurred every summer, again and again the same victims, including the hair stylist over on East Avenue who had her plate glass window smashed out at least twice and her cash register stolen. 

Right now they’re replacing their vehicles – they get new vehicles every five to six years, wouldn’t you like to live like that? Well you ought to, you pay for it!  Go on, go over to Wittmeier, and when they send you into Jackie’s office, you just tell her to call Brian Nakamura, he’s got a little voucher over there for you. She will laugh that jersey girl laugh and say, “No, really Hon, how you gonna pay for this?” 

Yes, the cops get new vehicles, they get a uniform allowance, they get paid to exercise, they get paid to go to their third cousin twice-removed’s funeral. A bunch of them got paid yesterday, along with Brian Nakamura, to stand around and yak it up over a guy who was killed 75 years ago. 

Yes, Officer Carlton Bruce. I didn’t know him, I’m sure he was a wonderful man, 75 years ago. But if I were his wife, I’d still be pissed at him for walking into getting his face blown off. I think Bruce made a number of classic mistakes, and up until now, nobody thought it was worthy of an annual ceremony. Where’s the ceremony for Rod O’Hern? O’Hern was shot in the face and permanently blinded by the accomplice of a suspect back in 1995. He subsequently left the force and moved out of the area. I don’t know if his family still lives here, but at the time of the shooting, he had a six year old and a pregnant wife. These folks could probably use a little comfort for what they went through, but I guess you have to be dead to get any respect out of Chico PD.

I remember that incident, and the problems that caused it have not been solved. Just this past holiday shopping season, only a short walk from the scene of the O’Hern shooting, two women and a ten year old girl were maced and their purses stolen at the MacDonalds on East Ave.  That crime has not been solved.  Our police department continues to take without really giving us anything.  Now they want bigger salaries for their management positions, because they are so jealous and greedy they need to see $$$$ before they will do their jobs. 

Please write to your council – at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us – and tell them the police and fire need to pay their own pension premiums. Currently the police PAY NOTHING and fire only two percent, toward  pensions representing 90 percent of their highest year’s pay available at age 50. Our city is over $50 million dollars in deficit on these crazy contracts, and we will soon be forced to pay more toward the premiums. That either means new taxes, or it means the cops and fire need to step up and do the right thing. 

Mark Sorensen and Sean Morgan ran as “fiscal conservatives.” Somebody should write them a letter and tell them, “that means, you’re supposed to be saving money!”  Somebody might ask them what they’re doing taking  salary and benefits for their council position when both of them have very nice salaries and benefits from their publicly-paid day jobs.

Write to Brian Nakamura at bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us, and while you’re asking him to bring the cops and fire to the table, ask him to pay his own pension share as well – he currently pays only 4%. 

CalPERS – how we got here

21 Sep

 

As we hear more about how pensions have taken down our economy and Jerry Brown’s feeble attempts to leash train his SEIU pitbulls, I have been doing some reading, trying to understand this whole mess, how it happened, and exactly what we, the taxpayers, are on the hook for.

I found an article from 2003, from the California Job Journal, that explained how it started. You can read the whole thing here:

http://www.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=523523781&page_url=//www.jobjournal.com/article_full_text.asp?artid=919&page_last_updated=2004-08-17T12:28:33

Right away you see that this is an article about finding lucrative jobs, and it’s steering people into the world of pension management.  “With baby boomers retiring at an escalating rate and becoming more concerned about their financial future, careers in institutional investing are likely to become hotter than a half-price sale at a Lexus dealership.”

As a baby boomer myself, I feel like I just picked up a menu that described ME as the main course.

This article, “Careers in Finance,” directs the job seeker first to the California Public Employee Retirement System. Apparently, CalPERS is a great jumping off point for those who want to make a bunch of money.    According to recruitment manager Linda Miller, the pay is low (stop laughing!), but the experience is money in the bank.   “Many return to million-dollar jobs in the private sector after learning about institutional investing with us,’ Miller reports.”

Here I have a question: do these people get public pensions? I’m pretty sure they do. You only have to work for the state for a few years at full time before you are eligible for a pension.  She says, they “return” to the private sector…” So, was that the whole point? Get a job at CalPERS to learn, then return to the private sector with your nice fat public pension? And benefits? And everything you need to know about ripping off the taxpayers?

What I really found interesting about this article:

  • in 2003 there were over 140 employees of CalPERS. Miller says people make more money in the private sector, but admits they’d work longer hours. And, she says, “We offer sick leave, retirement and lots of holidays, and that is a plus. In addition, there is stability and training available.” All paid for by US, the taxpayers.
  • in 2003, CalPERS had “assets totaling over $137.8 billion.
  • nine years later they’re flat broke and costing us millions in interest to pay off their obligations

And if you want to work in the private sector, you will not be trained, you will need either a Bachelor’s degree, subsidized by the taxpayers,  or experience in the public sector, provided of course by the taxpayers.  According to Maripili Tovar, of Bear Stearns in San Francisco, “”We look for people with a strong background in finance and business and a bachelor’s degree in either of those two fields.”  She adds,  “We are not hiring at this time because we are still feeling the effects of 9/11. But slowly I feel the market and the economy getting healthier.”

But, at  the same time,  CalPERS was recruiting, offering training,  benefits, pensions and “lots of holidays”?

Here we have the story of an agency that has been embezzled by it’s former employees. These people went to CalPERS, not necessarily for training, but to find out what they need to know to get over $137 billion in assets.

How would you explain what happened?

The article goes on to describe how ANYBODY can make a killing in the world of high finance. There are the “third party administrators,” or as my grandma would say, “another layer of fat you don’t need.”

“In a nutshell, we’re third-party administrators and we don’t sponsor or write investments plans,” explains consultant Bob de Montigny. “We do the accounting, tax-form preparation and consulting for long-term retirement. We rely solely on the information from the plan’s administrators.”  

So, here’s a guy who doesn’t even write your package for you, he just takes care of it.  This hound is full of fleas.

We are looking out for the little guy in the retirement plan to make sure the business owner isn’t getting all the money,” states de Montigny. “We do 100 percent of benefit consulting and administration, and take care to see that all the deadlines and deduction limits are met. It’s a very detailed job.”  Wow, I had no idea – how does the business owner “get all the money”? Sounds like the world of finance is a regular snake pit, doesn’t it?  Or, at least, it behooves some people for the pensioner to think that way.

The article says, “Prerequisites for this career include a strong accounting background, knowledge of investments, and proficiency in math. You have to know your way around monthly balance and income statements and understand what money is going in and out of a trust, and why. You also need a fairly strong background in composition and business English.”  Frankly, I’d think if you were competent to do the job that got you the pension, you’re competent to administer your own pension, but hey, we’re talking about public workers here. As we ascertained above, public workers don’t need as much skill to do their jobs as do private workers, so maybe that lack of skill is also at play in their personal lives? They can’t do their own bookkeeping, but they can do ours, that’s just great.

Furthermore, “The field (of third party administrators) is a niche business and there are job opportunities if you have the qualifications. The ups and down of the stock market has little effect on the business.”  Oh, that’s great, these people can send their clients down the market toilet, but the same market “has little effect” on them.

My, oh my, have I learned something about the CalPERS disaster. We have an industry that uses a taxpayer supported agency to train their workers. These workers took  knowledge they gained in their public trough experience through the revolving door to the private industry and then proceeded to rip off their former employers for over $137 BILLION.

Jennifer Hennessy is incompetent – she can’t do her job and Burkland says she doesn’t have to

15 Jul

I’ll never forget my first real job – a clerical position at a manufacturing plant. I would compare it to the story of the miller’s daughter. On the first day, I was told that the employee I was to be replacing would stick around for a week to train me. At noon that day, having shown me where everything was and how to use the coffee maker, she got up from her chair, smiled, and told me she thought I could “handle it,” then left. At one o’clock, the plant manager came over to my desk followed by several “production” workers. They brought cart loads of microfilm, on rolls, in little white boxes. I was to label all of those boxes, three carts, piled high. This job had gotten held up, he explained, it would be “great!” if it could go out today.   Did I think I could get them done by 4 o’clock?  I wanted to make everybody happy, so said I yes without thinking, and set to work loading the labels into the typewriter.

It was a disaster. I had never typed anything like those labels before – typing class had been all about letters and envelopes, columns and reports. The labels skittered all over the platen, getting glue all over the inside of the typewriter. About every 50 or so labels, the platen had to be taken out and cleaned with alcohol. I typed and typed.   By 3 o’clock I knew I was in trouble. The production workers had come over to my desk to help me affix the sticky labels. We were nervous, labels were getting screwed up. At 3:30 the office manager and receptionist came back to my desk to help with the labels. I typed and typed, and tried not to cry.

We didn’t make it. The plant manager was flustered. The salesman who’d promised the job was really pissed off, he said mean things.  I apologized again and again, they told me it wasn’t all my fault, but could I please be more careful what I committed myself to in future. I could tell they also expected me to get a hell of a lot faster, but they were just trying to be nice.

So, I got faster. I came in early in the morning and worked through lunch until I got better at my job. I had signed up for a typing job, nobody had described all the weird stuff they expected me to type.  It started with typing and labeling, not only sticky labels, but microfiche jackets. They have a little quarter inch tall label strip across the top that chips and peels if you aren’t careful loading them into the typewriter, and strips or frames of 35 and 16 mm film  that falls out in your typewriter. Then there were the three-part work orders, with carbon paper, and the  three-part shipping labels, also with carbon paper. There were the mistakes – whole orders that had been indexed incorrectly, and therefore typed incorrectly, and therefore had to be corrected and typed all over again. I won’t describe what I had to go through to correct microfiche labels, it was too stupid.  I hated doing that, so I asked for my own little “eye-loup” – a little magnifier that you hold up to a light to look at the tiny little page numbers on the film – to make sure the cards had been indexed correctly before I typed them.

I’m not perfect, but I know I’m competent, cause I kept that job for five years while I watched others get fired, for everything from showing up late to breaking expensive equipment to stealing. I was given new jobs and increased responsibility as time went by.  I got good job reviews from my supervisors, and good raises.  Morale was high, we liked our co-workers and our managers, we felt like a team. Our customers were nice to us too. We worked for cities and counties, hospitals, banks – anybody who needed to keep records. We were trusted to handle confidential records, like people’s medical records. As we handled these confidential files we were simply told, “Don’t look at them,” so we didn’t. 

I left in 1984 in finish school. Over the next decade computers killed the microfilm industry, and the company went out of business. 

Excuse me if I compare my experiences in the private sector with stuff I’ve seen coming out of our city $taff. I keep waiting for some professional behavior, some professional accountability out of the people who run our town, and I start to wonder if I will ever get it. For a couple of months now, Toby Schindelbeck and Stephanie Taber, among others, have been asking council and Finance MisDirector Jennifer Hennessy to provide a simple accounting of city finances, as is required by the city charter, and she just plain refuses to give it. City Mangler Dave Burkland won’t make her. 

Last month she actually admitted, she is UNABLE to do it. At the June 5 meeting she admitted that she is incompetent to follow the city charter. She said that when she came to her position seven years ago, she “struggled” with doing such a report – something every house wife does – and went whining to then-city-manager Tom Lando, who apparently patted her on the head and told her she didn’t have to do it anymore. 

I don’t know about you guys, but I go over my check book every month, just to make sure everything is straight. I’ve found big, dumb mistakes, in the 100’s column even, that could have caused big, dumb problems down the road.  I’m no math instructor, like Mary Goloff, but it’s not exactly rocket science – you just add your deposits and subtract your checks and withdrawals. I’ll admit, when my kids were little, I felt like I never had time to do that, and stuff would get screwed up.  So now that I’ve got time, I make it a regularly scheduled event, and it’s amazing how much easier it is. And, I can keep the figures in my head, I know essentially how much I can afford to spend when I’m at the grocery store, or what kind of activities we can plan. My husband and son are enjoying a weekend trip right now that is already paid for, thankyouverymuch. 

But Jennifer Hennessy is unable to do that? And she has expectable stuff – over 80 percent of her budget is payroll. She doesn’t have that many emergencies.  The biggest emergency she’s had lately, is that the state has taken back the fund she’s been mis-using – the RDA. She was paying salaries and benefits out of a fund that’s supposed to be reserved for emergency public works projects. In other words, she’s been dipping into the till to pay her own salary!  

The mayor is to blame here, she’s the captain of our ship. Unfortunately, like the captain of the Costa Concordia, she’s abandoned ship for a party onshore. While she and her college chums bully their bag ban down our throats, our ship is sinking. We have less than $200,000 in our reserve fund, we have un-secured pension obligations totaling in the millions and growing every day, and we have  $taff who are using blackmail to get their way – they are just refusing to do their jobs. Hennessy won’t give the report she’s required to give because it’s BAD. I think the mayor is completely behind her on this – Ann Schwab doesn’t want us to hear that report either. Would you? 

Please write a letter to council demanding that Hennessy do her job, or get out. 

The Pension Bomb is ticking – Chico Taxpayers Assoc meeting this Sunday, 11:30am, Chico Library

29 Feb

Tom Lando is being quiet about his tax proposal – that doesn’t mean he’s given up. Currently he’s conducting a “survey”, supposedly in order to gauge public support, but more likely intended to mold his proposal into something the public will support. He’s just trying to find out what rainbows he needs to promise in order to get it past the uninformed.

That’s why I’ve tried to keep people informed to what’s really going on here – the city is broke after 10 years or more of absolutely reckless and irresponsible spending and Lando has been tapped (because he doesn’t have an elected position at stake) to sell the voters  a tax increase. 

Last night council wasted another two hours on a rambling bullshit session regarding the budget.  It wasn’t a “work” session like you’d see if you attended a city council meeting in Red Bluff or Gridley. In those towns they actually fix streets and get money for school projects.Here they sit and babble for hours and come up with NO SOLUTIONS.

They’ve got to start cutting the upper level staffers. Dave Burkland should not be allowed to retire at 50 years of age, taking over $130,000 a year in pension.  He should be told that he’s going to get a 50 percent salary cut and if he doesn’t like it, there’s the door. Same for Assistant City Manger John Rucker, who is instead getting ready to insert himself as Police Chief, and I’m guessing his new salary will be within $5,000 of the big 2-0-0-0-0-0! Same for at least 20 upper level employees, and those are just the cockroaches you can see.

Ann Schwab won’t fight the union – she IS the union.  She works for the university – SEIU.   Same with Holcombe, Gruendl and Flynn-Golom.  These people are loyal first and last to their benefactor, the union. They know boat rockers get the pitch overboard.

They don’t want to “fix” the budget, they want more money to pay the pensions, including their own. They want a higher state sales tax, and they want a higher local sales tax, you can bet on that.

When I spoke to Ann Schwab at her “Meet the Mayor” event Saturday at the library, she assured me she would not support a sales tax “for a ballfield.” That was it. She won’t support a ballfield? Well, at the regular city council meeting last week she said she’d dip into the reserve fund to hire new people. She ‘s already used the RDA like a credit card to pay salaries and pension payments, that’s bad enough. Hiring new hires without getting your finances in order is like putting out a fire with gasoline.  Or in this case, putting out the Pension Bomb by throwing some more flaming pensions at it.

If you’ve already written a letter to council, I’d certainly like to post it here. Sometimes it helps if they see the conversation going public, makes it harder to ignore us. You can also post your thoughts here anonymously, as long as they are on subject (Chico sales tax increase) and within the legal boundaries (don’t knowingly spread misinformation, and if you make a mistake, please be sure to retract quickly). Just click the “leave a comment” icon at the bottom left of each post.

Also, don’t forget, Chico Taxpayer’s Association meeting this Sunday, 11:30, at the Chico library. We have the room for about an hour before the next group comes in.