Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns–Here’s what’s in store for cities across CA unless we shut off the spigot that feeds the beast

In case you’re lulled or enticed into buying the spin from Jerry Brown or the Legislators who cower when the most powerful and richest of the special interest groups gnash their teeth, here’s a look into our collective future if we don’t turn off their spigot of cash they use to buy, bully, and control our legislators at all levels of government.

Steep budget cuts over the last four years have left Stanton, population 38,000, a shell of a city.

Visitors to Hollenbeck Park will find it fenced off, because the city can no longer afford to water the grass. Children who once played in the sprinkler-like water attraction at Dotson Park will now find it dry. Over at Zuniga Park, volunteers are taking care of maintenance and paying for water.

The city recreation department has been virtually disbanded, with most after-school programs closed. Gone are the days when children nibbled on city-funded snacks at the park. Graffiti is staying up longer because the public works department has been whittled down to three.

At City Hall, staff has been cut to 23 people, who empty their own wastebaskets because the clean-up crew was let go. One employee stays late to vacuum the floors. A part-timer paid through a government program cleans the toilets.

 

The city of Stanton is planning to possibly close three of its parks to save money on its annual budget.

And Stanton can no longer afford membership in the League of California Cities.

In 2010, when council members were running unopposed, the city canceled the election to save $32,261.

“There’s nothing else we can cut,” Marsh said. “It’s scary. If we laid off every single employee left, it still wouldn’t close the gap.”

Marsh said the city is paying for only the things it is legally required to provide…

“…Every city is in trouble to some extent. Some are just starting to confront it, but we’ve been loud and noisy in trying to fix it all along. I don’t know if that was wise, from a PR-standpoint – but we are going to have a balanced budget.”

The city is focusing its budget knife as a last resort on police and fire spending – the biggest drag on the 2012-13 $16.4 million operating budget.

Police and fire amounts to 77 percent of the city’s general fund. By contrast, the city of Vallejo’s public safety spending hit 80 percent when it declared bankruptcy.

From this article, Financial doom may loom for at least one O.C. city
published in the OC Register on July 14th, posted by Tony Saavedra, Register investigative reporter

David Crane Breaks it Down in Layman’s Terms, Public Employee Pension Benefits, General Funds, Special Funds, Non-discretionary, Fiscally-protected and Discretionary

David Crane has a new piece cross posted today at Fox and Hounds Daily and on Advancing a New Society
The title, With Retirement Costs Consuming One-Fifth of Discretionary Spending, California Must Reduce Un-Accrued Pension Benefits makes the point plain and simple. Then Crane breaks it down, for those who don’t understand the distinctions of public finance funds, budgets, and projections.

He breaks public funds down into categories, and even provides a chart for those of us who love graphics to help drive a point home.

Pensions and other retirement costs will consume more than 23% of discretionary state spending in fiscal year 2012-13, according to the budget recently passed by the California State Legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown – nearly three times the share taken up by retirement costs just ten years ago.

For Californians, rapid growth in retirement costs has meant less money for universities, parks, courts and other services as well as a temporary tax increase in 2009 and another being proposed currently (one of three proposed tax increases on the November ballot – Propositions 30, 38 & 39). In the absence of reform, that share will grow, which means even more taxes and fewer services.

California’s general and special fund spending for 2012-13 is budgeted at $131 billion and effectively fits into three categories: Non-discretionary, Fiscally-protected and Discretionary.

Allow me to explain all three in layman’s terms:  (click here to go to Fox and Hound to read the full article)

CalPERS Thuggery Highlights Pension Scam author, Jack Humphreville joins Gadfly Radio next Tuesday, Aug 21 @ 10AM PT

Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler — www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: lajack@gmail.com

See his piece CalPERS Thuggery Highlights Pension Scam

Bankruptcy is supposed to be bottom, and a new beginning–Unless it’s used to favor and further plunder

LA WATCHDOG – In a stunt that would make South American strongman Hugo Chavez proud, the imperious California Public Employees Retirement System (“CalPERS”) and the bankrupt City of Stockton conspired to give an absolute preference to Stockton’s $147 million pension obligation ($245 million over the next ten years) to CalPERS over Stockton’s remaining creditors who are owed an additional $550 million.

But this sweetheart deal where bondholders and other creditors are treated like dirt will have major ramifications in the markets for California bonds and notes as credit rating agencies will lower their ratings and investors will require greater security and significantly higher rates of returns on these higher risk investments.

Click here to read Jack Humphreville’s latest piece at City Watch, posted Aug 16, 2012 Jack Humphreville

Not the Mortgage Crisis, Not the Economy, but Foolishness! Greenhut calls it, in “Bankrupt cities suffer for officials’ foolishness”

“California’s exclusively Democratic leaders not only are unwilling to rein in the costs of benefits for their patrons, the public-sector unions, they have been erecting roadblocks in the paths of localities that want to fix the problem on their own. Yet all the political hurdles in the world cannot fix the basic problem of insolvency.”

Click to read the article at OC Reg, July 22, 2012

Greenhut writes: First pensions, and now bankruptcy tsunami

July 12, 2012

By Steven Greenhut

First Vallejo, then Stockton, then Mammoth Lakes and now San Bernardino. As Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach told Bloomberg News, the bankruptcy dominoes are starting to fall. One California city after another — following a decade-long spree of ramping up public-employee pay and pension benefits, as well as redevelopment debt — are becoming insolvent. Click to go to the article on CalWatchDog.com

Uh-oh, more than one in five cities in California face bankruptcy

By Troy Senik on May 24, 2012 1:53 PM

At least three California cities — Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and Montebello — have declared that they are exploring the [bankruptcy] option. And at least 100 of the state’s 482 cities are on track to face a similar predicament by the end of the year, according to Barbara O’Connor, a professor at California State University at Sacramento.

More than one in five. No wonder the state’s unions are fighting for a bigger role in local bankruptcies. How that fight resolves will be crucial to the fiscal future of local government in the Golden State. Click here to read more

California Counties Are More at Risk of Going Belly Up, than Cities…

This is the fifth in a CalWatchDog.com Special Series of 12 in-depth articles on municipal bankruptcy.
April 11, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

“…If the courts rule that existing pension plans are constitutionally protected and unchangeable, then we are likely looking at formal bankruptcy for many local governments.

With the basics of municipal finance explained, let’s look at the fiscal — or budgetary — situation that California cities and counties find themselves in today.
City and County Budgets on the Verge of Upset…”

Many California cities are under fiscal stress due to the protracted contraction of the economy. Many of those cities will be staring down bankruptcy waves as public pension obligations start kicking in during the coming years.

One of the largest prospects for bankruptcy is that of…”

Click here to read the report.

While many baby boomer private sector employees face financial depression and bankruptcy as their only viable option for retirement, public employees are now the Aristrocracy among us.

California’s Crippling Brain Drain
DEC. 5, 2010
By LAER PEARCE
Three articles caught my eye Sunday morning, and what a tale they tell!
The first article said that Donald Lamm, 57, has announced his retirement as city manager of Westminster, an Orange County city of 88,000, where he was taking down a $207,000 annual salary. Lamm said he was going to start his own business.

The second article said David Freeland has announced his retirement as deputy P\police chief of Irvine, which is routinely rated as one of the safest large cities (pop. 208,000) in America. Freeland, 59, appears to have been paid close to $200,000 a year. Now he plans to teach martial arts, write a book and spend time with his family.Click here to read more.

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What’s a thug? How does a thug operate? They try to sit on you, tie you up, render you defenseless. Behold Public Employee Unions’ latest thuggish move:

Just when a City finds a way to fight back against Public Employee Unions who are bankrupting their city budget, as well as bankrupting the State, behold, a water-carrier carries a bill, to kill local government’s power to negotiate for relief. The only solution acceptable to the unions, is for the taxpayer to pay more.

The other solution, the fair solution, which requires unions to negotiate new contracts and make concessions, like the rest of us have to in this economy, is unacceptable to the public employee unions. Instead, they turn to their bought and paid for elected legislators and have one of them carry a bill, and their committees speed it along, before any other city tries to do what Vallejo just had to.

This bill would take declaring bankruptcy for local governments, off the table.

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