Archives for: May 2010
Last summer the council voted 4-1 (Barth) against discussing a possible sunshine ordinance.
If passed by the voters, the measure would supplement the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act as they apply to the city with the following more demanding requirements:
Making and Responding to Public Records Requests
"City Clerk shall publish in the annual budget document the number of public records requests received during that fiscal year, the number of requests where documents were available, the number of requests where no documents were available in response to the request, the number of requests completed (or records available) within: 24 hours, 5 days, 10 days and over 10 days.
This is from former newspaper man Ron Kaye about the LA city pensions:
The bill to taxpayers for city pensions is close to $1 billion this year and is expected to go far higher in coming years which is the No.1 reason services are being slashed, assets sold and bankruptcy looms as the only way out.
Among the many sweetheart deals over the years that have led unions to finance the campaigns of our elected officials is a little clause that LACERS uses to make sure retirees get 3 percent cost-of-living increases in their pensions even when there is no inflation.
This year, LACERS reports the increase in the consumer price index for 2010 "for the Los Angeles area is negative 0.8%. This is the first time in LACERS' history of COLA processing that a decrease in the CPI has occurred."
Not to worry, pensions are not being decreased.
"In spite of the negative change in CPI, none of LACERS Members and beneficiaries will experience a reduction of their retirement allowances," LACERS explains on its website.
Read more here.
The city held its first budget meeting for the coming fiscal year on April 28. There was a small audience mostly made up of city staff and those who do business with the city. There were only four public speakers. Two, Marshall Weinrab of the Chamber and Steve Aceti of Coastal Coalition, had their hands out asking for more money. The other two, Sheila Cameron and Tony Kranz, made succinct comments about the lack of details in the staff report.
What’s going on? Well, the city is undergoing what it calls a “fiscal realignment plan.” That’s a smoke-and-mirrors term for budget cutting or spending reductions. They say the plan will save $778,000 and will be instead of across-the-board cuts. But cuts are cuts, and reductions are reductions, no matter how they are framed.
Here is the not so good news:
1. The budget will be reduced 9%.
2. Expenditure projections are reduced considerably.
3. No Tier One capital projects are reduced, but none are increased.
4. Rubenstein traffic calming is on hold.
6. Revenue projection is down because recovery is slower than anticipated.
6. No projected increase in sales tax revenue.
7. For property tax a 3% decrease in net taxable value over the last year (1st time in Prop.13 history).
Councilman Stocks was not present at this first budget meeting. He was in Mexico City with SANDAG on a mission dealing with border problems. ¡Olé! Both Councilmen Dan Dalager and James Bond spent a lot of time praising the staff for their outstanding work and justifying the lack of detail in the budget by saying they had spent hours conferring with City Manager Phil Cotton. The public doesn’t have this opportunity, so the public needs to be given details for transparency. For example, there is a technical paragraph in the staff report about changes in staff job classifications, but no explanation of what it means and its effect on the budget.
The elephant in the room that was scarcely mentioned is the financing of the Hall property park. The staff report simply says “No changes.” It is necessary to look in last year’s six-year plan to see that the city is not funding construction through fiscal year 2014-2015. Stocks and Dalager have been painting a rosy picture of the city’s economic status for several years now. They talk about a balanced budget and our high reserve fund. The contingency Reserve Fund is 20% of the operating budget and the Budget Stabilization Fund is 5% of the estimated revenues. This is a good place to be. but they fail to mention that this was accomplished by borrowing $45 million to buy the Hall property and finish the Library. And they never mention that they borrowed the money with Lease Revenue Bonds, so the cost is not counted as “debt” payment, but as a yearly “lease” payment. The money still has to come from somewhere in the budget, as the projects have no revenue stream. This is accounting doubletalk.
Councilwoman Houlihan talked about taking a conservative view, and Councilwoman Barth wanted more detail. This is a fuzzy picture at best. It all needs to be explained to the public better. After all, we pay the bills.
UT SeaCooling Ban on Power Plants
The State Water Resources Control Board last week decided to phase out once-through cooling for seaside power plants because the process kills more than 2.6 million fish and 19 billion fish larvae annually, according to the agency. The policy may be contested by energy companies concerned about the cost of compliance, including fitting new infrastructure into existing facilities.
Ratepayers statewide will pay the bills for retrofitting, which could reach into the billions of dollars.
UT SVR Capacity to Double
The $568 million effort involves boosting the 220-foot-high dam by an additional 117 feet. Work is expected to begin this spring and finish in early 2013. When the dam raise is completed, the capacity of the adjoining San Vicente Reservoir will more than double.
California's $500-billion pension time bomb
The staggering amount of unfunded debt stands to crowd out funding for many popular programs. Reform will take something sadly lacking in the Legislature: political courage...
How did we get here? The answer is simple: For decades -- and without voter consent -- state leaders have been issuing billions of dollars of debt in the form of unfunded pension and healthcare promises, then gaming accounting rules in order to understate the size of those promises.
As we saw during the recent financial crisis, hiding debt is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, General Motors did something similar to obscure the true cost of its retirement promises. Through aggressive accounting, for a while it, too, got away with making pension contributions that were a fraction of what it really needed to make, thereby reporting better earnings than was truly the case.