People Should Insist That Fares Match Costs for BART Airport Boondoggle

Thanks to the unions, special interests and the crony capitalists, BART in San Fran built a 3.1 mile extension of their line into the Oakland Airport. The cost was $484 million dollars—that is the good news. Every time someone takes the 15 minute ride, the public, the taxpayers pay $5. Then when the rider goes the other way the taxpayers lose another $5. Just to go three miles and the taxpayers LOSE ten bucks.

Where does the money go? To the unions, the bankers and the crony capitalists. On the other hand the people of San Fran and the Bay Area continue to vote for more money for this Ponzi scheme, run by the unions, operates when the unions allow and the unions take whatever wages and benefits they want and the taxpayers and BART riders pay. The voters continue to elect hack politicians owned by unions and crony capitalists (Leftist capitalists). The time has come to sell BART and close down the extortionist unions. What do you think?

“The price tag for this project is a whopping $484 million, meaning it cost $29,576 per foot to build. To put this into perspective, the new One World Trade Center in New York City costs $1,495 per square foot to build. But the bleeding of the public doesn’t stop here.

The Connector’s rail cars will be automated, driverless and cable-propelled, yet with all this technology a new financial report finds it will cost $11 million in the first fiscal year to operate the line and $13.5 million the following fiscal year. Using BART’s ridership estimate of 3,350 passengers per day, the operating cost will be $11 per trip for a ride of less than 15 minutes.”

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

People Should Insist That Fares Match Costs for BART Airport Boondoggle

By Lawrence J. McQuillan, Independent Institute, 5/19/14

BART’s new ride to Oakland International Airport will open later this year, system officials say. All the evidence reveals critics were right to oppose this project and critics shouldn’t stop now.

The rail line, called the Oakland Airport Connector, is 3.1 miles long and links the Oakland Coliseum BART station with the Oakland Airport by a mostly elevated line running above Hegenberger Road.

The price tag for this project is a whopping $484 million, meaning it cost $29,576 per foot to build. To put this into perspective, the new One World Trade Center in New York City costs $1,495 per square foot to build. But the bleeding of the public doesn’t stop here.

The Connector’s rail cars will be automated, driverless and cable-propelled, yet with all this technology a new financial report finds it will cost $11 million in the first fiscal year to operate the line and $13.5 million the following fiscal year. Using BART’s ridership estimate of 3,350 passengers per day, the operating cost will be $11 per trip for a ride of less than 15 minutes.

Reports indicate, however, the highest fare that BART is currently considering is $6 a ride. It doesn’t take a financial genius to figure out that if costs are $11 a trip and revenue is $6 a trip, operating deficits will be huge, requiring massive subsidies to keep it rolling.

BART expects deficits for the Airport Connector of up to $7.9 million the first year and $7 million the second. Welcome to the irresponsible world of BART finances.

None of this was necessary because a shuttle bus, AirBART, which followed a similar route, was already providing a link to the airport. The bus link could have been easily and cheaply improved, especially for so few passengers.

Now massive subsidies will be required for the Connector, draining money from other BART priorities such as replacing aging computer systems or repairing broken rail cars. And, as usual, taxpayers will be the backstop to pay for this boondoggle.

In addition to its revenues from passenger fares, parking and advertising, BART gets revenues from sales taxes, property taxes, regional bridge tolls, grants from the state of California for transit assistance and federal grants.

The Connector is scheduled to open this year, yet officials are still debating what to charge. Any responsible businessman would have figured out first if there would be sufficient customers and revenue to justify the project. But bureaucrats don’t care about this because they know taxpayers can be forced to cover their losses.

BART’s Board of Directors will meet on Thursday for a public hearing on the Connector fares. Fares will be set on June 12. Critics who saw from the beginning that this project was a boondoggle—especially transit advocacy groups and social justice groups—should attend these public meetings, tell the board “I told you so,” and demand that fares be set at a rate that will minimize the need for subsidies and taxpayer bailouts.

Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute.

You Still Don’t Need an ID to Vote in California

There was an attempt to put on the November ballot a measure that would help create honest elections. Not enough California voters apparently want an honest election. The goal was to use a photo ID, so no one can show up at the polls and claim to be someone, vote and sneak back into the shadow, to vote in other places on the same day.

So come November you should know that anybody can vote, all they have to do is lie—kinda like an illegal alien here in this country. Why are we opposed to honest elections in California?

“Supporters of voter identification laws have said they are necessary to combat fraud and keep non-citizens from voting. Opponents have said the laws disenfranchise poor and non-white voters and the amount of voter fraud is exaggerated.

To me the only bigots in this argument are those that diminish the value of an honest vote with a dishonest vote—and that harms all Californians, of any color.

vote ballot initiative

You Still Don’t Need an ID to Vote in California

A voter identification initiative fails to qualify for ballot.

Posted by Michelle Mowad, Moorpark Patch,   6/18/14

An initiative that would have required voters to show government-issued photo identification to have their ballot counted has failed to qualify for the November ballot, the Secretary of State’s Office announced Monday.

Valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters—5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 general election—needed to be submitted by May 30 to qualify the measure for the November ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Because initiative backers did not submit the minimum number of signatures to county election officials needed to qualify the measure, the number submitted was not announced.

The initiative would have established provisional voting for citizens at the polls who failed to present government-issued photo identification.

The provisional ballots and mail-in ballots would have been invalid unless the accompanying envelope contained the voter’s birthdate and citizen’s identification number or last four digits of the driver’s license, state identification card or Social Security number.

Election officials would have been required to verify the identification information before opening or counting the ballot.

If the initiative had become law, it would have resulted in increased local government election costs and decreased state fee revenues, potentially in the range of tens of millions of dollars per year, according to an analysis prepared by the Legislative Analyst and Department of Finance.

There would be potentially increased state funding, about $100 million, to local governments, offset by an equal amount of decreased state funding to local governments in future years, according to the analysis.

Supporters of voter identification laws have said they are necessary to combat fraud and keep non-citizens from voting. Opponents have said the laws disenfranchise poor and non-white voters and the amount of voter fraud is exaggerated.

 

San Fran Government to Become Banker and Mortgage Broker

If the government of San Fran has its way, and it will, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and other private lending institutions will no longer be welcomed or needed in this Leftist city. Thanks to a city program, and tax dollars that are really unlimited, the city is now buying property and then renting or leasing it. Being evicted, the city can come to your rescue. While the program is small, the plan is for the whole city as soon as they can manipulate the money from special accounts to government mortgage accounts.

“But the basic formula would see The City plunk down a big enough down payment to allow tenants’ existing rents to pay the rest of the mortgage, said Tracy Parent, the Community Land Trust’s organizational director.

“The only way to completely secure tenant rights or prevent evictions is to own or control the property,” Parent said. “We feel if affordable-housing nonprofits can buy existing small buildings, it will preserve affordable rents comparable to rent control.”

In other words, apartments and buildings will be owned by government not the private sector. The use of “non-profits” is just a straw man—government controls these organizations—they either do as the government say or they get no money.

Photo courtesy Rex Imperator, flickr

Photo courtesy Rex Imperator, flickr

Under new model with nonprofits, SF covers down payment on housing property purchases 

By Chris Roberts, SF Examiner, 6/19/14  

The deal that saved 16 tenants of a Mission district apartment complex from eviction could become more common after a new city program takes effect.

A nonprofit intent on keeping the tenants in place, rather than an investor or buyer wishing to occupy the building, purchased the property for $1.78 million.

The new small-site acquisition program will see San Francisco cover the down payment of a property purchase to allow nonprofits to buy below-market-rate housing that’s up for sale.

First mentioned by Mayor Ed Lee in his State of the City address in January, the idea’s trial run of sorts is the 14-unit building at 2976 23rd St., which was acquired by the San Francisco Community Land Trust in late May.

Details are still being fleshed out by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and influential city nonprofits, including the Chinatown Community Development Corp.

But the basic formula would see The City plunk down a big enough down payment to allow tenants’ existing rents to pay the rest of the mortgage, said Tracy Parent, the Community Land Trust’s organizational director.

“The only way to completely secure tenant rights or prevent evictions is to own or control the property,” Parent said. “We feel if affordable-housing nonprofits can buy existing small buildings, it will preserve affordable rents comparable to rent control.”

The tenants at 2976 23rd St., a former hostel, currently pay between $700 and $1,000 a month for single bedrooms with a shared kitchen. Most units have shared bathrooms, with the $1,000 rooms featuring private baths. Under the deal, the units will remain below market rate for 200 years.

“My home is no longer someone else’s financial investment, and my living situation isn’t subject to the whims of a financial investment,” said Shalaco, a resident at 2976 23rd St. and writer who goes by only one name.

As the asking price for market-rate apartments continues to increase, the program could be one of the only ways for The City to create middle-income housing, Parent said.

San Francisco could eventually offer as much as $200,000 per unit, Parent said.

Parent’s organization currently owns four buildings, one each in Chinatown, South of Market and Western Addition, and now the Mission.

Earlier this year, the mayor pledged to build or rehabilitate 30,000 housing units by 2020 in order to cut down on rents and give middle-income earners a chance to live more comfortably in The City.

 

Fighting back: Residents force feds to scrap plan to house illegals at Va. college

Barack Obama was trying to use a closed historic black college, not for historical purposes, but to house criminals from foreign countries. Though, since they would be housed in a facility without serious security, they would be able to continue their journey into the shadows of America—taking jobs, crowding our schools and hospitals and forcing up the price of low cost housing.

The good news is that the people in this Virginia community fought the White House and won. The bad news is that this is being done everywhere in the nation. In another article, the Feds are trying to use a hospital, closed because Obamacare reimbursements were going to be too long it keep it open. Now the people of Escondido must fight the illegal alien preferring President.

“More than 90,000 children, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, will be caught this year, and more than 140,000 will be apprehended in 2015, according to an internal U.S. Customs and Border Protection memo.

Plans to house some of the children at an empty office complex in Baltimore were halted after the city’s Democratic mayor and Maryland’s two Democratic senators objected as soon as the details were announced.”

Photo courtesy Seansie, flickr

Photo courtesy Seansie, flickr

Fighting back: Residents force feds to scrap plan to house illegals at Va. college

S.A. Miller, Washington Times, 6/18/14

The Obama administration Monday abruptly halted plans to shelter some of the children surging across the border at a defunct college in rural Virginia, as the White House has continued to see its efforts to house the children throughout the country be thwarted by opposition from local officials.

As many as 500 children were to start arriving this week at St. Paul’s College, a recently closed historically black college in Lawrenceville, Virginia. But the Health and Human Services Department’s plans were stymied, at least temporarily, after town and county officials objected to the short notice and complete lack of community input.

“We were stunned,” said Robert F. Pecht III, president of the Lawrenceville Town Council, who learned of the plan Friday evening. “We were told it was a done deal. The lease was signed, and that was it.”

As the feds worked over the weekend preparing the campus for the arrival of the children, whom officials said would be ages 11 to 17, public outrage erupted in the community, which is about 70 miles south of Richmond.

Letters flooded the town council offices, including from nearby residents threatening to boycott the town if the college became a way station for illegal immigrant youths.

Rep. Robert Hurt, the Republican congressman who represents the region, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday morning demanding she halt the project. After the delay was announced, Mr. Hurt said it should be the beginning of a total rethink.

“I would request that they completely halt the implementation of this plan and return to the drawing board,” he said in a statement. “If the HHS plan is indeed good for the people of Lawrenceville and Brunswick County, then they should begin with a transparent and open process that includes the community and the local elected officials every step of the way and ensures compliance with all local, state and federal laws — including the local zoning ordinances of the town of Lawrenceville.”

The administration has scrambled to find temporary housing for the children, who are pouring across the border in unprecedented numbers.

More than 90,000 children, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, will be caught this year, and more than 140,000 will be apprehended in 2015, according to an internal U.S. Customs and Border Protection memo.

Plans to house some of the children at an empty office complex in Baltimore were halted after the city’s Democratic mayor and Maryland’s two Democratic senators objected as soon as the details were announced.

In Virginia, the administration signed a five-month lease with an option to renew for up to three years, all of it before officials caught wind of it, said Bernard L. Jones Sr., chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors.

He said HHS officials estimated that a steady stream of children would be housed on the campus, each child staying about 30 days until being reunited with a parent.

“The first major concern is the safety and security of the citizens of Lawrenceville and Brunswick County,” Mr. Jones said.

Jerry Prince, the owner of Prince’s Barber Shop in Lawrenceville, said that he wanted what was best for the children, but he feared the children would bring diseases to his town.

“Even kids carry diseases like smallpox, chickenpox and scabies,” said Mr. Prince, 40.

The fears may not be unfounded.

Immigration officials have said many of the children have never seen a doctor until they are intercepted by agents at the border, and head lice and scabies screenings are part of the initial checks.

Indeed, one early hiccup in the government’s efforts to find places to house the children was that the military, which offered housing on several bases, refused to let the children onto bases until seven days had elapsed from the time doctors had administered inoculations.

After seeing the local opposition to the Lawrenceville site, HHS officials hit pause.

“The project of developing Saint Paul’s College as a site for caring for minors in the Unaccompanied Alien Children program is on hold pending community input,” said Kenneth J. Wolfe, spokesman for HHS’s Administration for Children and Families.

HHS officials will attend a community meeting about the plan Thursday in Lawrenceville.

The Obama administration has called the surge of children a “humanitarian crisis” driven by a spike in gang violence in Central American countries that is prompting children to flee to the U.S.

However, critics blame President Obama for laying out a welcome mat for illegal immigrants, especially minors, and for discouraging deportations. Government interviews with the young border crossers confirm that many believed that once they arrived in the U.S., they’d get permission to stay.

Border Patrol agents have been taken off patrol duties to perform what they call “baby-sitting.” Agents say they are doing everything from changing diapers to trying to separate boys and girls getting frisky in detention centers.

On Monday, Rep. Candice S. Miller, Michigan Republican and chairwoman of a key border security subcommittee, wrote a letter asking Mr. Obama to deploy the National Guard to take up some of those duties and let the agents get back to their job of stopping illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and gun traffickers.

“This diversion away from normal patrol responsibilities will result in an increase of drugs and migrants illicitly crossing our border,” she said.

She called on the president to not only deploy the Guard but to give it police powers so it could also aid in patrolling the border and arresting illegal immigrants.
 

Obama to Create “Group Home/Prison” for His Young Illegal Aliens in Escondido

The people of Escondido are about to be invaded with criminals from foreign countries, sent to them by the President of the United States. A former hospital, closed due to low ObamaCare reimbursements, is being transformed into either a prison or a group home. Of course, once Barack drops them off in Northern San Diego County nothing stops them from walking away and into the shadows of our large towns nearby.

In Baltimore the Democrat leadership stopped Obama from using Social Security warehouses for 2,000 illegal aliens. Virginia was able to stop several hundred moving into a closed college. Now the people of Escondido are about to start a fight to keep crime down, taxes used for honest people and telling the President to obey his oath of office. Larry and Kitty Demry of Escondido contacted me about this situation and asked for help—we will provide assistance. This could be done to your neighborhood or town.

California Prisons

Obama to Create “Group Home/Prison” for His Young Illegal Aliens in Escondido

 

Written Exclusively for the California Political News and Views by Larry & Kitty Demry

6/19/14

 

With a variety of articles now starting to pop up around the U.S. it is clear to me that our federal government e.g. the Department of Health & Human Services lacks the desire or integrity to tell citizens about the true problem emerging regarding the illegal children unaccompanied by parents or adults coming into our country. And that means in YOUR backyard, in YOUR city, on your street where you live and raise your family.

In fact, in my city, Escondido, CA just a few days after reading different articles starting to recognize the housing problems of these illegal crossings, I became aware the defunct Palomar Hospital run long-term health care facility within .5 miles of my home is being considered by the City of Escondido Planning Department for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Government Services to operate an “unaccompanied youth care facility serving minors between 6 and 17 years of age.” The public hearing notice goes on to say that these youth will be kept inside the facility with “six-foot-high security fencing.”  These are the same kids who are coming across our borders with what type of fencing and other deterrents to protect the border in place? The city has graciously stated they will not use concertina wire, just decorative wrought iron. Of course, with the use of concertina wire we all would know that these facilities are truly to detain and imprison children and youth illegally in our country. Folks, this is not some esoteric philosophical ideal that we can tout to make everyone and ourselves feel good to help these children in other countries. This is a political issue that is having direct impact on all of us; a direct impact on our families, and our personal day to day lives in the towns in which we live.

Read between the lines. The City of Escondido is being petitioned by the Department of Human Services to become a detention center, or an incarceration camp, or perhaps described as an open door group home so that children between the age of 6 and 17 who have crossed into the United States illegally, without their parents, will have a place to “be processed” into the U.S. And the city of Escondido will have to bear the financial costs of society issues that are a result of this detention center. Crime. Education. Medical. Social and Recreational events. Breakdown of infrastructure from excessive unplanned use. Where is this money coming from? How does it affect you? No one can tell us the background of these children. Are they bringing disease such as small pox, measles, mumps, polio, etc. into the community as a result of poor medical care and lacking inoculations? Could your children be at medical risk when these children are bused into your children’s schools for 2 weeks to 2 months while being held in a local detention center in your area? Are they teen age gang members who will be emboldened to commit crimes because they see no consequence to breaking the law to enter our country? How will you feel if your wife, your mother, your daughter, your neighbor, your friend is a victim of violent crime, robbery, rape, even murder because you did nothing when the building down your street was conditionally permitted to be used as a temporary prison with only a six foot wrought iron fence to keep these “unaccompanied youth” housed and controlled?

Are city governments being coerced to approve these facilities, without proper State and local laws being followed. For example, the property must be properly designated with the State to be called a health care facility, or a group home, or an incarceration facility. If the current ​facility ​designation needs to be changed, the State requires specific steps be taken to legally change the facility designation, and put the proper channels in place to make sure the designated facility follows the laws in terms of number of children staying in the facility, how they get exercise, where they get exercise, their education needs, the noise they make and the times the noise is allowed, the times the facility is open to bus in and out the rotating groups of children. Here in Escondido, the “unaccompanied youth” will be brought to and from the 96 bed facility any time between 7 AM and 9 PM daily. Daily. 7 days a week.

Transparency was promised in this current presidential administration. These sweetheart deals to play hide seek with illegal immigrants are not transparent. These facilities are being pushed through city approvals, without truthfully or legally taking the steps to make sure California laws and other state laws are followed.

​That means​ ​the for-profit organizations running these detention centers for Human Services ​don’t have to ​follow laws on occupancy, noise, crime deterrence, education, recreation, and medical attention for these children because there is no one designated to oversee their operation.​

This deal is bad for us and our cities, and this deal is bad for these kids. Be aware. Be involved. Attend any city meetings open to the public where a Government Services agency like HHS or their contracted organization like “Southwest Key Program” wants to move into your residential neighborhood. Ask your City government to deny permits unless the EIR,  Police Department Crime Report, City Traffic Report, Education Cost reimbursement plan; Report from your mayor on how expenses will be reimbursed for all associated costs in the City to deal with the implementation of the new detention center, Plan for compensation from the City for dedrogated  property values in your area and specifically how violent crime against your family will be addressed if need be.

If you live in Escondido and can come to this planning meeting to find out what is being planned for your back yard, please do so. Escondido Planning Commission at City Hall 7 PM. June 24, 2014.

 

Larry & Kitty Demry

 

Balanced Budget for Moraga –With Pensions and Health Care Costs Up 6-19%

Congratulations to the people of Moraga, in the Bay Area. If you read the press release sent out by city hall, you would think the finances of the town are rosy—the budget is balanced. But then you read the fine print and found out that pension and health care costs have gone up 6-19%–in one year. Worse, they still do not know the complete cost of these items. Yet the city claims a balanced budget.

“”While revenue has declined or remained flat, healthcare and pension costs have increased between 6 and 19 percent yearly, requiring a tighter budget on discretionary expenditures,” she said. The town will spend about 70 percent of its budget on personnel – including salaries, pension benefits and health care – up from 65 percent in fiscal year 2013-14.”

budget-constantin-cagle-Nov-1.-26-2013-300x203

Balanced Budget for Moraga

By Sophie Braccini, Lamorinda Weekly, 6/18/14

The Moraga Town Council approved the fiscal year 2014-15 budget on June 11. The town’s budget is “structurally balanced, meaning that ongoing, annual expenditures are supported by annual revenue sources,” said Stephanie Hom, administrative services director. She noted, however, that although the economic recovery might be improving revenue at the state level, that’s not the case in Moraga.

The town’s property tax revenue has remained relatively flat. Hom’s research indicates that Moraga has a lower turnover rate for homes than similar East Bay communities; and Prop. 13 protects residents from tax hikes. And, while the statewide sales tax measure has helped California’s bottom line, in Moraga revenue from the local sales tax increase goes only to pay for road repairs.

The FY 2014-15 operating budget is $7.2 million and the capital budget amounts to $5.3 million, some of which was appropriated from prior years, and includes $4.5 million for road repairs.

The town’s reserve represents 39.8 percent of the operating budget. Hom projects a slim surplus of $14,000.

Total revenue has increased since the passage of the local sales tax. Property tax now represents 35 percent of the town’s revenue – it used to represent nearly half – general sales tax represents 12 percent, the local 1 percent local sales tax and garbage vehicle impact fee represent 18 percent, and fees for services comprise 13 percent of the town’s revenue. Additional revenue comes from franchise fees, the real estate transfer tax and other small miscellaneous sources.

If you take the local sales tax proceeds out of the budget picture, it becomes a bit bleaker. “While revenue has declined or remained flat, healthcare and pension costs have increased between 6 and 19 percent yearly, requiring a tighter budget on discretionary expenditures,” she said. The town will spend about 70 percent of its budget on personnel – including salaries, pension benefits and health care – up from 65 percent in fiscal year 2013-14. Viewed by department, the biggest share of the budget pie goes to police services, with expenditures totaling 30 percent of the budget.

The expense trend is reflected in Hom’s five-year projection. “This five-year financial plan is somewhat less optimistic,” said Hom. Over the next five years the town will “face an increase in staff time and resources required to bring considerably larger pavement projects through the public bid and construction processes, further burdening the general fund,” she said.

Some of the reductions that have already been implemented include lowering the town manager’s contingency, reducing contract services when possible, and reducing or eliminating other miscellaneous expenditures.

On the capital side, in addition to the 2014 road repair campaign that represents the bulk of his budget, public works director Edric Kwan anticipates electrical work and turf renovation at the Hacienda de las Flores, upgrades to the restrooms at the Moraga library, the bicycle and pedestrian master plan update, the resurfacing of Moraga Road from St. Mary’s Road to Draeger Drive, and the completion of the town chambers at 331 Rheem.

 

 

Civic Openness in Negotiations Ordinances Hold Elected Officials Accountable

Orange County Supervisor Moorlach has opened a can of worms for all Californians. My guess is that few know that union negotiations are held in total secret and agreements are made WITHOUT telling the Board or the public. He reminded us of a couple of sentences in a newspaper article from eight years ago:

“Eight years ago, then Orange County Register reporter Norberto Santana opened his piece, “The Art of the O.C. Deal (Orange County Register, August 6, 2006),” with the following observation: “When people see the board of supervisors vote on a labor deal, what they don’t know is that most often, an agreement has already been reached in private. And it’s perfectly legal.”

In other words these bargaining unit agreement are binding on the taxpayers and not known or approved by elected officials. Any wonder the unions own government—not only aren’t citizens allowed to know but in most cases elected officials are not told till after the fact.

“Can you imagine a private sector business allowing a third-party to negotiate contracts on its behalf with no say in the process? Of course not. Yet, when dealing with labor negotiations, the general public, whose tax money is being spent, allows their elected officials to negotiate without any real say in the process.”

Unions pension public sector

Civic Openness in Negotiations Ordinances Hold Elected Officials Accountable

ByJohn Moorlach, Union Watch, 6/18/14

Eight years ago, then Orange County Register reporter Norberto Santana opened his piece, “The Art of the O.C. Deal (Orange County Register, August 6, 2006),” with the following observation: “When people see the board of supervisors vote on a labor deal, what they don’t know is that most often, an agreement has already been reached in private. And it’s perfectly legal.”

The root cause of fiscal distress for many municipalities is the negotiated bargaining unit agreements. The promise of future benefits could not be feasibly be paid. And most would have told you so if they were asked about the sustainability of the deal points. But when the public is not aware of the contract details until after they are agreed to, it is too late. Shouldn’t the experience of this obvious flaw in the process give those who come after a strong reason to open the negotiation process? Yes, it should.

Can you imagine a private sector business allowing a third-party to negotiate contracts on its behalf with no say in the process? Of course not. Yet, when dealing with labor negotiations, the general public, whose tax money is being spent, allows their elected officials to negotiate without any real say in the process.

As a county supervisor, one of the most serious responsibilities that I have been entrusted with is negotiating with employee organizations representing more than 17,000 county employees. To put this in context, salary and employee benefits represents 35.2 percent of the County’s $5.4 billion budget.

These negotiations, which happen behind closed doors, are shrouded in secrecy, with the general public only being able to give input after a deal is already agreed upon. For this reason, I have introduced the Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance for consideration by the Orange County Board of Supervisors at its June 17, 2014, meeting. The idea is not new. It was first adopted by the city of Costa Mesa.

The ordinance has five main components:

  1. Independent Negotiator – As is current policy, the County will hire an independent negotiator that is not impacted by any outcome in the negotiation process. Past practice had county staff, who were subject to the same provisions as the bargaining unit they were negotiating with, negotiate on behalf of the Board of Supervisors. Independent negotiators remove this conflict.
  2. Cost of Contracts – Current practice has the county budget office analyze the costs of any contract proposal. Under COIN, the independently elected Auditor-Controller will take on this responsibility. This ensures an equal playing ground for both labor organizations and the county as both will be given the ability to comment about the analysis.
  3. Offers and Counteroffers – This ordinance would require that all offers and counteroffers be disclosed to the public within 24 hours.
  4. Board Disclosure – Each member of the Board of Supervisors will be required to disclose any and all verbal, written, or electronic communications they have had with an official representative of a recognized employee organization.
  5. Contract Approval – This ordinance will require that, before the final proposed contract is placed on the Board agenda, the Memorandum of Understanding will be posted to the County website.

This ordinance is intended to not only make the negotiation process more transparent, but to allow the public to hold elected officials accountable for the actions they take in regard to taxpayer funds.

We universally agree on transparency and scrutiny. By implementing COIN, the negotiation process will improve for all the impacted parties.

*   *   *

About the Author: John M. W. Moorlach is a Republican member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and represents the Second District on the board. He serves on the Orange County Transportation Authority, OC LAFCO, CalOptima, and Southern California Regional Airport Authority boards. Moorlach has the distinction of having predicted the largest municipal bond portfolio loss and bankruptcy in U.S. history while campaigning for the office of Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector against incumbent Democrat Robert Citron in 1994. Citron resigned later that year. In 1995 Moorlach was appointed to fill the vacancy, was elected by the voters in 1996 to complete the unexpired term, and re-elected in 1998 and 2002, serving nearly twelve years. In 2006, he opted not to run for re-election as Treasurer-Tax Collector and instead ran for Orange County Supervisor, winning 70% of the vote. He is recognized as a leading expert on municipal bankruptcies.

 

CalSTRS gets $5 billion increase over seven years–$$ Meant for Children, Textbooks and Classroom

The bad news is that Brown and the Democrats (no Republicans was allowed to participate in the budget negotiations) have decided to take $5 billion from teachers, textbooks and the classroom, to shore up an unsustainable pension system that will collapse anyway. The worse news is that school districts are giving teachers “raises” to make up for the added contribution from the teachers to the pension system. This is to stop the teachers from getting a pay cut—due to larger pension contributions mandated by Sacramento.

In the end, just another example of unions taking care of themselves and the children are an afterthought.

“But the legislation, AB 1469, does not raise the Proposition 98 school-funding guarantee to help school districts pay the new CalSTRS rates. And a “poison pill” repeals the rate increase if a court ruling requires the state to reimburse districts.

The only apparent relief in the state budget package that might make more money available for teacher salaries is a cap on school district reserves linked to passage of Brown’s “rainy day” state budget reserve on the November ballot.” 

unions pensions public employee

CalSTRS gets $5 billion increase over seven years

Ed Mendel, CalPensions, 6/15/14

Full funding of the troubled California State Teachers Retirement System was approved by the Legislature last weekend, with most of the additional $5 billion coming from school districts that get no offsetting money from the state.

With only one “no“ vote, lawmakers approved Gov. Brown’s plan to phase in a massive rate increase over seven years, nearly doubling the $5.8 billion CalSTRS currently receives each year from school districts, teachers and the state.

A California Teachers Association lobbyist told a two-house legislative committee in February the politically powerful union wanted additional school funding from the state to cover the cost of the rate increase.

But the legislation, AB 1469, does not raise the Proposition 98 school-funding guarantee to help school districts pay the new CalSTRS rates. And a “poison pill” repeals the rate increase if a court ruling requires the state to reimburse districts.

The only apparent relief in the state budget package that might make more money available for teacher salaries is a cap on school district reserves linked to passage of Brown’s “rainy day” state budget reserve on the November ballot.

The reserve cap was backed by the California Teachers Association but opposed by management groups on the other side of the labor bargaining table, the Association of California School Administrators and the California School Boards Association.

“The governor’s proposed increases in CalSTRS alone will phase in higher employer contribution rates for the next years, going from 8 percent (of pay) to 19 percent,” the management groups said in a joint statement before passage of the budget.

“This is more than the increased level of funding many districts will receive via the new funding formula and will have major implications as boards are finalizing budgets,” the two groups said.

A Brown school funding formula enacted last year gives more money to schools with the neediest students. After deep cuts during the recession, school districts are receiving more money from an improving economy and a voter-approved tax increase.

CalSTRS has been trying for about a decade to get a rate increase. Unlike most California public pension systems, CalSTRS lacks the power to increase annual rates paid by employers, needing legislation instead.

Much of the CalSTRS funding gap, now being painfully closed by squeezing school funding, is due to state and teacher contribution cuts and benefit increases enacted around 2000, when a booming stock market gave CalSTRS a brief funding surplus.

The state contribution was cut from 4.6 percent of pay to 2 percent. For 10 years, a quarter of the teacher contribution, 2 percent of pay, was diverted to a new individual investment plan. A half dozen small benefit increases included a longevity bonus.

CalSTRS would have 88 percent of the projected assets needed to pay future pension obligations if it had had continued to operate under the contribution and benefit structure in place in 1990, a Milliman actuarial report said last year.

Now CalSTRS is only 67 percent funded. A Milliman actuarial report in April showed CalSTRS received $5.8 billion from the state, school districts and teachers last year, while spending $11.3 billion on pensions and administrative costs.

Nearly half of CalSTRS costs were paid from investment earnings. Without a rate increase, CalSTRS was expected to burn through its $184 billion portfolio in 30 years, even if earnings average what critics say is an overly optimistic target, 7.5 percent a year.

Prompt action by the Legislature on the funding plan proposed by Brown last month is expected to ease or avoid the problem of reporting a huge CalSTRS debt under new accounting rules.

The CalSTRS board was told last September that under the new rules a $71 billion debt or “unfunded liability” (now $74 billion) could soar to a $166.9 billion “net pension liability,” an estimate now outdated by earnings and other factors.

It was not clear whether the big new pension debt would be reported by the state or the school districts or both. But there was concern that school district credit ratings might be lowered, increasing borrowing costs.

Under the new Governmental Accounting Standards Board rules, if projected assets using the expected return on investments fall short of covering pension obligations, a lower risk-free bond rate is used for the remainder, driving up the total reported debt.

The new legislation is a major shift of CalSTRS costs to school districts, community colleges and other employers, more than doubling their contribution while the state and teachers get much smaller rate increases.

The CalSTRS contribution from school districts and other employers increases, in seven annual steps, from the current 8.25 percent of pay to 19.1 percent of pay by July 2020.

The legislation reduces the initial school district rate increase proposed by Brown and some of the following step increases, but not the seven-year total. The change eases the impact on districts that already have budgets for the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

Teachers, currently contributing 8 percent of pay, get the smallest CalSTRS rate increase. In three-steps, the rate for most teachers will reach 10.25 in July 2016. For new hires with lower pensions under a Brown reform, the rate peaks at 9.205 percent in 2016.

Lawyers have told CalSTRS that a series of state court decisions mean the pension offered teachers on the date of hire becomes a “vested right” that cannot be cut, unless offset by a new benefit of comparable value.

The legislation provides a new benefit to offset the rate increase by declaring that an annual cost-of-living adjustment of 2 percent, now a routine practice that could be suspended, is vested in years when the rate increase is paid.

The state contribution to CalSTRS, currently a combined total of 5.5 percent of pay to two separate funds, increases in three annual steps to a total of 8.8 percent of pay in July 2016.

The state contribution to an inflation-protection account, which has a large surplus and keeps the pensions of retirees from falling below 85 percent of their original purchasing power, remains unchanged at 2.5 percent of pay.

But the state contribution to the main CalSTRS pension fund with the huge shortfall, now about 3 percent of pay, will increase in three steps to bring the total state contribution to 8.8 percent of pay.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has suggested that CalSTRS be given the power to set employer rates, like other public pension funds. The new legislation does give CalSTRS some rate-setting power, but it’s tightly limited.

CalSTRS can increase the employer rate after 2020 if needed for full funding by 2046, but only by a little more than 1 percent of pay. CalSTRS can increase the state rate after 2016, but only to eliminate debt for benefits in effect prior to 1990.

 

California Can’t Convince Drivers to Trade in Clunkers for Cash

It is obvious that those promoting cash for clunkers in California are economic illiterates and failures in math. The clunkers program, expensive for taxpayers, brings little change to the climate. Plus, the cost of the program provides no economic benefit to the community or the State. Yet, Democrats continue to do this so some people can buy cars at the expense of productive Californians.

“After the low participation rates of the first year, the program was temporarily suspended, and remains so until the guidelines are rewritten for the program and it launches again in 2015.

Yet lawmakers simultaneously extended the program’s funding until 2024, and called for the incentive amount, which is currently at $2,000 or $2,500 for low-income participants, to be increased.”

Why is California in a Depression—illegal aliens being able to buy cars—with your money.

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California Can’t Convince Drivers to Trade in Clunkers for Cash

Bre Payton. Daily Signal, 6/15/14

California is paying drivers to get their air-polluting cars off the road—and will throw in some cash to get a newer, more fuel-efficient model.

But during its first year, only 21 Californians have actually gotten a new vehicle from this cash-for-clunkers-esque program.

Government employees even sent out more than 12,000 letters notifying people they were eligible for a portion of $3 million set aside for vehicle replacement. The complicated process and low cash incentives, however, turned many away from getting these benefits.

After the low participation rates of the first year, the program was temporarily suspended, and remains so until the guidelines are rewritten for the program and it launches again in 2015.

Yet lawmakers simultaneously extended the program’s funding until 2024, and called for the incentive amount, which is currently at $2,000 or $2,500 for low-income participants, to be increased.

This little-known pilot program focused in Southern California is part of the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program run by the California Air Resources Board, which aims at improving air quality by getting high-polluting cars off the road.

By encouraging people to get a newer car sooner, you can speed up one’s decision to get a new car, and consequently they stop driving an older car that’s putting out more environmentally-damaging emissions, said John Swanton, communications director for the state Air Resources Board.

Older vehicles disproportionately pollute California’s air. Over half the pollution is caused by an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of the oldest cars on the road.

Free-market transportation experts don’t think this approach is the most effective, though.

“I think these programs are misbegotten anyway since they are only slightly hastening the inevitable,” said Randall O’Toole, senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “Old cars wear out, and the new cars that replace them are more fuel efficient.”

If passed, Senate bill 913 will require the Air Resources Board to post program participation goals on its website, and inform the General Assembly of progress toward these goals.

“There are a number of higher-polluting vehicles that can be removed from our roads and help meet the air quality emissions goals,” said Jeff Macedo, communications director for California Sen. Anthony Cannella, who co-authored the legislation.

The modernization program gets $30 million from the state each year. Most of these funds go toward the 3-year-old car retirement portion of the program, which has been more successful than the replacement initiative.

Since its enactment in 2010, the state has given $1,000 ($1,500 for low-income participants) to more than 86,000 Californians to retire vehicles that fail a smog check.

The environmental benefits of this program are questionable, however.

More than 60 percent of the vehicles retired were unregistered. This figure suggests many of the scrapped cars were not being driven on the road anyway, thus scrapping them may not have helped the environment as much as projected.

Currently, there is no cost-effectiveness mandate on the program. The retirement portion of the program is estimated to cost $19,000 for every ton of pollution it reduces, while the replacement portion of the program is estimated to cost as much as $43,000 per ton.

“This is another example of a feel-good government program that fails miserably when measured for its effectiveness,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said of the replacement portion of the program. “The overhead costs of programs like this always exceed the benefits confirmed from them.”

 

Lengthy Permitting Times, High Costs..Stop Oakland From Building Needed Housing

Oakland has a need for more housing. They can use both market rated as well an affordable housing. The developers are willing to create this housing—BUT. The time it takes to get the permits are so long that the cost of the project goes up. All of the fees, unions and cost of set asides to be allowed to build are so high, few are willing to chance the investment. Hence Oakland must be rated as the worst place in the Bay Area, the worse place in California, to build.

We should not forget that illegal aliens are pushing costs higher, since they are bidding for affordable and low cost housing at the same time people impoverished must go after the same apartments.

“Contrary to what people might think, these projects are really hard to build,” said John Protopappas, founder and CEO of Madison Park. Hurdles for developers include difficulty securing financing, lower rents and housing prices compared with surrounding cities and high development costs.”

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Why are no developers building in Oakland’s hot housing market?

Blanca Torres, San Francisco Business Times, 6/18/14

As developer Madison Park Financial wraps up work on Lampwork Lofts, Oakland will be left with no major market-rate housing — condos or apartments — under construction.

Apartment booms are underway in nearby cities like San Francisco with more than 5,000 units under construction and in Emeryville, Oakland’s tiny neighbor to the north, where about 360 apartment units are under construction.

Oakland has a pipeline of more than 4,500 approved market-rate residential units. A huge chunk of the approved total, about 3,200, includes housing at Brooklyn Basin, a 64-acre redevelopment waterfront project that broke ground earlier this year on site preparation but is years away from delivering units.

Meanwhile, Oakland apartment rents ballooned by 29 percent during the past two years to an average of $2,187 per month during the first quarter of 2014 compared with $1,698 per month during the same period in 2012, according to RealFacts. Meanwhile, new condo inventory is close to going extinct.

So why aren’t developers putting shovels in the ground?

“Contrary to what people might think, these projects are really hard to build,” said John Protopappas, founder and CEO of Madison Park. Hurdles for developers include difficulty securing financing, lower rents and housing prices compared with surrounding cities and high development costs.

Protopappas emerged as Oakland’s “lone builder” in 2012 when he started construction on 79 units for the third phase of Bakery Lofts, which were completed last year, and continued the following year by kicking off Lampwork Lofts in 2013, which just started leasing units.

By the end of the year, three more Oakland housing projects could start construction. Next month, Protopappas plans to break ground on 101 units at 1032 39th St., a site that straddles Oakland and Emeryville.

Signature Development Group plans to break ground in July on 104 apartments as part of the Hive, a mixed-use project in Uptown. The apartments would likely hit the market in late 2015 or early 2016.

“The market’s good now and we’re still seeing demand spilling over from San Francisco,” said Jamie Choy, Signature’s project manager for the Hive. “What it will be like a year from now, we don’t know. But we don’t think we’ve hit the peak of that spillover yet.”

Another developer, Nautilus Group, bought three sites in Temescal last year totaling close to 260 units with the goal of starting a 44-unit project this year, but the permitting process is taking longer and is mroe complicated than the developer expected.

“I wish I had the projects done right now, there’s so much demand,” said Randy Miller, president of Nautilus. “By the time economy warms up, people are ready to move, people need housing, but supply takes three or four years to catch up with demand.”

Even if more projects get going this year, a city of more than 400,000 people should attract more development during a hot housing market, Protopappas said.

Protopappas has been building apartments in Oakland for more than 30 years, so it helps that he knows the system and can raise capital from “patient investors,” he said.

Other developers have told me that even though rents have risen in Oakland, they may not be high enough to justify construction or that developers would rather build in San Francisco or the Peninsula, where the profit margin is higher on new construction.

Besides the difficulty and uncertainty of getting projects entitled — which Proptopappas recognizes also happens in other cities — “it’s hard to get a construction loan and it’s hard to get equity,” for an Oakland project.

Being Oakland’s lone builder does have its perks: Madison Park’s projects are the only option for new market-rate apartments and have leased up quickly. Lampwork Lofts will be more than 50 percent leased by the time residents move into their units in July.

“(Development) is difficult,” he said. “The only thing saving is us is the fact that the market is so strong.”