What can we learn from Stockton's bankruptcy? Around Town, posted by CCCTaxpayer, a resident of another community, on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:57 pm
We are likely to see the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of America in the very near future.
What lessons can we learn from this?
Will Stockton ultimately benefit from taking this step? Will labor/public employees benefit?
Could it have been avoided by better planning, more reasoned negotiations by public employees, or other steps?
At what point should all discussions of insolvent governments, unfunfed pensions and tax increases include an analysis of municipal bankruptcy?
When is asking (demanding or threatening) the public to pay higher taxes simply a plea to throw good money after bad and push the problem down the road without likelihood of ever solving it ultimately costing the taxpayers more for the same outcome?
Are Stockton's problems more severe than Contra Costa's and local fire districts' problems, or just more mature?
Until these issues are discussed openly by our political leaders I will not support ANY tax increase. So, let's start that discussion now.
Posted by [removed], a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 7:23 am
There are many good reasons to look at examples throughout California concerning the fiscal stability of cities and counties including Vallejo, Stockton and more. There are humorous resolutions of such considerations based on historical events that might disarm arguments repeating on your town square forum.
One such reality is Stockton cannot go bankrupt because it was conquered by Don Sherwood, the World’s Greatest Disc Jockey” in September 1958 and its land and spoils belong to San Francisco including its suburb of Discovery Bay, most often referred to as “Slough City.” It is further true that subsequently Stockton and its suburbs was transferred to the State of Hawaii during that time and became the basis of identification for Hawaii as “Stockton with Palm Trees.”
It may be simply too serious to continue discussions of places that no longer are part or near Contra Costa and focus on what is local reality for voters’ consideration. Let us start with “have we got what we paid for in the capabilities and services of Contra Costa politicians?” Which leads to the current question on many minds “should we continue to pay for the level of capabilities and services offered?”
After thousands and thousands of unpleasant words, together, that is one question that leads to “Why didn’t Don Sherwood invade Martinez so many years ago.
REF: Don Sherwood, The World’s Greatest Disc Jockey, by Laurie Harper with Forwards by Herb Caen,
Posted by My take on this critical problem, a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:15 am
First I would like to say to say what, what? The entire county is asking for new fire taxes. Even the state has jumped in and will ask to add a new fire tax on top of the new fire tax in some areas. Then you go on to sell the doom and gloom if you don't get your extra tax money. What a piece of work you are.
Now, to comment on the real subject about overspending our tax dollars that is creating this storm. Many people are unaware of the role of the local agency formation commission (LAFCO) and it powers. These past few years there has been a new rule for LAFCO. The new rule was established that local governments and special districts conform to a municipal service review on a regular basis. Upon these reviews the commission is suppose to report if the entities are able to manage the services in an orderly and sufficient way and report. LAFCO also reviews annexations and re-organizations along with boundary changes. In doing so they should react to probable problems that each entity may face after reviewed. A reasonable person would think LAFCO should penalize, criticize, and keep these troubled entities from expanding unless there is dependable resources and financial accountability. This should include development restrictions. Since LAFCO has the same politicians that have created this disaster in the making there probably will be more bankruptcies before reform. I think LAFCO should play a stronger role in recognizing potential bankruptcies of agencies as well as useless entities such as MT. Diablo Health Care. It should also use its powers to force government entities to reel back in their overspending through restricted growth regulation. Anyone who thinks they can tax their way out of this problem is kidding themselves. A new tax I would have voted for ten years ago would certainly get my no vote today because of irresponsible government spending. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.
Posted by Real, a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm
Let's keep it real here ! Everyone is facing increases in taxes and fees. Most municipal water and sewer rates have jumped 20 to 50% 9or more. The County is sneaking a water fee past the voters, ConFire wants $90 tax inc increase, East County Fire wants $200 tax increase, and the list goes on and on. This is how these guys balance their budgets. Well, that and fibbing about what an unrealistically high rate of return on investments allow our leaders to be heroes - until the ponzi scheme runs out.
But the point is that we aren't getting raises (those of us lucky enough to be fully employed) but we are seeing gas, medical, and other costs rise. Perhaps we can't afford all the great services the government sector would like to provide. Don't try to scare us into believing if a tax fails our houses will burn down or that the water supply will become poisoned if we don't step up and pay the "clean water" fee. Understand this - given the choice of slower response by red trucks and dirtier water OR increases in taxes, many of us will make the difficult and perhaps unfortunate choice.
The challenge for political leaders is to CUT costs and live within your means - which is what the rest of us do !
If these leaders can't do it on their own then I agree that bankruptcy may be the only way to avoid throwing good money after bad .
Posted by Say what? , a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm
The projected cuts are 50% station losses in East County and about 30% in ConFire territory. I'd call that pretty severe, but you are entitled to call it trivial if you want. Just don't complain when the cuts actually take place. Your comments suggest you think they are bluffing.
What irresponsible government spending are you saying has happened to these services in the last 10 years? You said you would support then, but not now.
Neither of the budget shortfalls in East County or ConFire is explained by increases in employee compensation over those 10 years. Any quick review of historical documents will show this is a revenue side problem. One which unfortunately cannot be addressed without A)increasing revenue or B)through huge cuts in service and staff.
Posted by Real, a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm
Say what? Don't make things up now. No one said the cuts were trivial. Did you think otherwise. Why? Not to be rude, but it looks like a reading comprehension issue or projection.
Cuts are real and tough. No one said otherwise. Tough does not equal trivial. I wonder if your other strong opinions are based on similar misreads. That may explain a lot ?
Whether or not I think the govmt is bluffing us with some sort of dirty water if we don't agree to pay a clean water tax doesn't really matter. I don't have the money to spend on their demands any longer. I think others agree, but we will see.
Irresponsible spending...for starters a bunch of pensions that are beyond the private sector and completely unneeded to attract and retain quality personnel. Then extremely expensive low co-pay medical benefits that again are beyond those offered by the private sector. Then enhancing what is known as "industry standard" models based on a race to the most expensive models (not what one sees in the private sector).
It has always been other peoples money (taxpayers) and no reason not to reach for the stars.
Certainly as long as the public puts up with the demands (threats, extortion, fear mongering, etc...) we know the govmt will continue to pick our pockets. That's how they run their business !
In better times, sure - I would look right past these taxes, but with all of them coming at us at once, and times being tough to start with, don't expect support.
Posted by Say what? , a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm
Real, you are making silly assumptions with no frame of reference.
Comparisons of fire staffing models have been made based on national fire science standards. Even post enhancement East County would not be at those levels. I hardly call that a race to any premium standard.
Then you make some passing reference to private sector standards. What fire standard are you referring to from the private sector?
Recognition of 50% cuts in stations is not "fear mongering". It's called reality based on the available revenue. If you have math that shows otherwise, now would be a good time to post it. But for the most part, your group seems to speak in generalities. I don't recall any of you speaking nuts and bolts with actual budget numbers to say your alternative would work.
Since wages and compensation make up 60-65% of fire budgets, typically, one can do quick math to see that you expecting services to remain status quo on the backs of the fire fighters would necessitate a 40% pay cut overnight, based on current deficits.
That's not realistic or "real" as your alias likes the play on words. Especially in the case of East County who are already well below surrounding areas in terms of pay. You don't retain talent by paying them 50% less than what they earn next door. What you instead create is a resolving door of staff. In your blind pursuit of saving money you instead pay it out in added training costs and other ancillary retention costs of your own creation.
Save a nickel to later spend a dollar for your short sightedness. The comments about "fear mongering" and "extortion" are misplaced and frankly a little paranoid in tone.
Have you mentally calculated the hit you might take in increased fire insurance costs? Can you envision any where your costs would stay the same or go down in the face of these service cuts?
Posted by Real, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm
Say What?... Your 3/16 post "I'd call that pretty severe, but you are entitled to call it trivial if you want." is dishonest. No one called the cuts trivial.
Then you tell us that we can't expect to retain talent by paying them 50% less than neighboring districts. Thing is, no one is talking about paying anyone 50% less when including all benefits. Secondly, we have not seen any lack of labor force supply.
And really, this isn't about fire districts - this is about all municipal / public employees as well as absentee and poor management by elected officials.
What can we learn from Stockton's BK? I guess we can learn that unless the public says NO, the leaders will continue to spend more than they have and rely on our grandchildren to pay the piper.
The bottom line is that we can not afford the level of services that we have come to want. We will need to face that...
Posted by East County Watch, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm
I have to agree with Real and others. Say What needs to understand that this is not about fire, it's about all municipal overspending.
I know Say What wants to make it a personal issue but it's not. He can see a shrink if he has problems understanding it's not all about him.
Borenstein placed another article that puts the unfunded liability at 28%. A twenty eight percent shortfall of funds means eventual defaults. To compound the future problem to get worse, there is a projected 7.5% return on investments. It is so unrealistic this is definitely a more severe problem than defending huge public pensions and benefits.
Since wages and compensation make up 60-65% of fire budgets....
This is a real problem too and is lopsided. Labor and benefits should account for 30% - 40% max. You see this ratio every day in successful operations private and public. Some have labor even less than 30%.
It is so important to future generations that we send a message today of no more overspending.
Posted by Say what?, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm
Real, you seem to be struggling with basic cause and effect.
So let's agree to disagree. I'll save future discussions for people who understand that costs of private or public goods and services, generally speaking, rise over time. That is a fundamental fact you seem to have trouble grasping.
I'd love to be able to buy gasoline at 27 cents per gallon that I used to pump as a kid working at a full service gas station. Remember those?.
Posted by Real, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm
Say, did you really think someone here said the cuts in service that are being suggested were trivial?
Clearly no one has said that, yet you set that premise as a straw man against which you leverage your position. That is not honest, and I think it weakens the force of your other arguments.
It is important for others to see how you employ this technique to confuse the discussion. The FACT is that whatever cuts may take place as the tax paying public enforces it's right (duty?) to say 'No more spending money you don't have on things we can't afford), they will not be trival. I suggest they are necessary, while you and others may disagree.
There is no good reason to try to characterize remarks you disagree with. And doing so with such blatant and prejudicial error is telling.
Finally, I do appreciate inflationary trends in the marketplace as well as the pressures that affect them. Your statements to the contrary represent yet another straw man to divert attention from the discussion. Covering costs with revenue on the short, mid, and long term are not excused by this 'phenomena'.
I think we should agree to disagree. But let's do so based on what each of us has actually said, not your attempt to put words into my mouth.
Posted by Say what? , a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2012 at 8:51 am
Prejudicial error?? OMG!
Real, you opened in this thread by insisting government is lying to you. You claim they are "sneaking" a water fee past you, when it's a FEDERAL mandate that's been in the news and even discussed here quite a bit. Then you call the ballot measures "ponzi schemes".
But because I don't agree with your characterizations, I'm the bad guy? I think you have a trust issue with government that you are now insulting me with.
Your friend ECW(perhaps just you under another alias?) insists he can't afford it either because he's prioritized his credit card over paying more for public safety services. Isn't that example by definition someone living above their means?
But the real point I've been trying to make is the massive hole in your logic. The focal point here was fire. It's mention by your crew several times. So how did you determine that a simple "No" vote on the ballot measure will assure you escape any additional monetary outlay? How did you reach the conclusion that your fire insurance will not rise by some amount that is multiples of the proposed revenue enhancement?
Finally, how much money have you been asked to give to fire since the passage of Prop 13? You insist or at the very least imply a never ending stream of tax measures are being asked of you to fund government services. I know of only the fire and water measures under discussion here. Please indicate the historical dates when you were previously asked to pay more for either one.
"are u kidding", so the 69 cents in taxes added to the 27 cents I mentioned earlier explains away the $4.65/gal gas I had to buy the other day? Or is it possible you oversimplified a bit?
Posted by [removed], a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:29 am
After several readers reviewed this private conversation among, maybe, four commentators, there is a humorous question, "Do people in Stockton actually understand all the subjects included in such disagreements?" E-exchanges this morning were surprised by the scope of such subjects and wondered if someone, such as you, would provide a summary of each.
I do want to acknowledge the commentary is mostly quite respectful with only a few lapses and that should bring applause by your readers.
Posted by East County Watch, a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:48 am
Say What , you are so transparent and flippant with your words. On another blog you crucify Borenstein and praise Vorderbrueggen. This must have something to do with your mentality. You criticize the Times and then compliment them when you get an answer you agree with. The clean water tax is so bogus it makes me sick. We already pay a storm drain tax. All they have to do is spend that money correctly to comply. Then you go to the sky is falling fire tax. You insinuate no one has paid an increase since prop 13. This is another bogus claim by your flippant words. Not only do we pay more, but every year since prop 13 started except maybe one there has been an automatic increase. In addition every home that sells for more is an increase tax for your fire benefit.
On top of that increase several residents pay an added tax in the form of benefit assessments. Again on top of both of those taxes there are fees. In my case, I pay close to one thousand extra tax dollars for inspections, permits, etc. to the local fire district. On top of all that certain areas such as Morgan Territory will pay a state fire tax on top of the local fire tax. This year both the state and the local fire districts are asking for more money separately. Say What, you need to get weaned off of your constant suckling of the public’s money for you six figure high benefit generous public pension job. The public employees need to take the same hit as the private sector and not some fraction of percentage in concessions to fool the public. Get off your high and mighty public stage and take a financial bath with the rest of us. Then when the times are good again you can reap the rewards as everyone will do. You know when times are back and taxes are up there is no way you will give a tax reduction. Thats why we need to vote no and reform pensions.
Posted by Say what? , a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:59 am
ECW, so now it's my fire benefit? What "automatic increase"? Since what you effectively pay is tied to property values and many of those have been reset to levels from 10 years ago.
Unless you hold commercial property why would the fire district be charging you anything over and above that?
On another blog? I think you have me confused with someone else.
Maybe after the morning caffeine wears off you can calm down and discuss with a little more rational thought. I can comment pro and con on any news report without being "pals" with the journalist. Is that concept hard to grasp?
This latest post confirms that you are simply looking for a punitive outcome with respect to public employees. It has nothing to do with cost of services or inflationary factors. Right or wrong, you just want someone else to share your pain.
As for your claim that no one has given you a tax reduction, maybe you should take advantage of the reassessment options available to you through the Assessors office. If you haven't already, that's on you. That sizable reduction has been available for 3-4 years now.
Pensions have been reformed. Based on public sentiment there is probably much more that will be done. The results don't show themselves for years out. Just like the over extension of benefits didn't become problematic for a decade. You can't just nullify existing pension agreements for a myriad of legal reasons.
The rest of your post is nothing short of an angry rant. No point in addressing someone who has become unhinged.
Posted by Say what? , a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm
ECW, after watching that mess I can see why you relate.
A six year old lie about Pelosi to open and it goes downwhill from there.
But the web site you linked to is quite telling of your mindset. It's got birther/racist/tea party stuff all rolled into one. Quite fact challenged. But when your mind works like that facts are inconvenient.
Posted by Monty, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm
I watched the video lined above to see what I might conclude abut ECW who posted it and SayWhat who commented on it. I find the video to be a realistic view of a small business owner to the leaders of both parties who are not bringing forth solutions but playing politics instead. No lies about Pelosi...and republicans got no free pass here.
I didn't spend much time reviewing the website as that was not what ecw posted and the video stood on its own.
Count me on ecw's side in this debate...along with the real world people...
Posted by [removed], a resident of another community, on Mar 22, 2012 at 7:20 am
This discussion among a very few has drifted among subjects with little impact locally and with far less detail than is needed to consider such commentary.
Is it possible to focus the commentators and determine the value of this conversation? It seems it started with the potential for our county to go bankrupt and has drifted to subjects far from that consideration.
Posted by Say what? , a resident of another community, on Mar 22, 2012 at 9:02 am
Monty, sounds like your focus was to judge Danville Express posters more so than the content in the link.
The tax hike the gentleman in the video is referring to is presumably the TEMPORARY Bush tax reduction that was due to expire. As we all know, those are still in place. So what tax hikes are this man referring to that he's under duress over?
What on Earth did small business do in the late 90's under the 39.5% top bracket? Were they all on life support? Or is this gentlemen being a little selective with his topics on which to rant? How many business people do you suggest are filing their business income directly to their personal return? If he's making $250k+, as suggested in the video, are we really to believe he's struggling to get by?
Sorry, but the tax proposal from Obama will mostly be directed to the top 2-3% at most. Those best able to cope with it. Again, only going back to the rate from 10 years ago. This is, as ECW likes to say, fear mongering on the gentleman's part. When he says he doesn't see taxing the top earners as a solution and immediately turns to say a better one is to reduce the compensation of 535 Legislators, how can you take his suggestions seriously? Taxing corporate jet owners is just as symbolic as reducing pay on 535 Congress critters.
Superpower countries have to run on real revenue. When ours has experienced corporate contributions falling from 40% of total revenue a generation ago to around 11% today, somebody else is going to have to make up that loss. That somebody has become you and me. That or you stop make excuses for he who claims his taxes have only gone up when statistical data says otherwise.
If you're going to say we have to do it on the cheap from here forward, then concede the fact that you are willing to sit by and watch this become a third world country. We are clearly on that trajectory. Government spending plays a role, no doubt. But what is contributing more is the unprecedented skew in the distribution of wealth and tax avoidance by corporations. We've grown into a haves and have nots society.
So ask yourself how that happened? Who is the government? It's us. Or more accurately a subset of us. It's the people who have bought the most influence in Washington. If you or the angry fellow in the video think you're just going to throw them all out, I'm afraid you are rather ignorant about the structure and the power of the system.
Monty, as a practice I would not go to a KKK meeting to learn about how to improve race relations. I also wouldn't visit a site with the content list that one has to get objective facts.
But you are free to get your perspective from whatever site you wish.
Hal, you clearly haven't been paying attention. Posted in this very forum are comments from the County Administrator making it clear that mass layoffs would be chosen over the bankruptcy option. Are you implying that David Twa is lying?
Posted by Informed Resident, a resident of another community, on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:29 pm
Real and ECW,
Quite a week you both had…given enough rope it was bound to happen. Let’s review shall we?
We can start at the top and please bear in mind that this topic danced around taxes and public safety (aka “fire tax);
Posted by Real, a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm’ “The challenge for political leaders is to CUT costs and live within your means - which is what the rest of us do !”
Really?? Is that what the rest of “us” do? Because if it is, then it was lost on ECW who posted;
Posted by East County Watch, a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm
“I will keep what money I have left for Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Medical.
If there is any left after that I will take care of my transportation, my children, and my credit debt.”
What can be logically summed up from these two that can’t keep their issues untangled?
• I will keep what money I have left for “food, shelter, clothing and medical”? (Isn’t the fire service that we enjoy responsible to protect two of those; shelter and medical? Is ECW telling us his shelter can’t burn or he will never need emergency health care?)
• Real; “CUT costs and live within your means…that is what the rest of us do!” (Really? Because ECW just replied that He isn’t following your “opinion”…read on).
• ECW; “If there is any left, I will take care of my transportation, my children and my credit card debt”. (Wait, what??? Credit card debt??? I guess “ECW” missed the memo put out by “Real”…looks like someone spent more than they took in)
• ECW; Time for everyone to spend within their means including the government and not put me in more debt than I already am. (Yep, we all just read that correctly! ECW wants “everyone” to spend within their means so HE is not in more debt than he has ALREADY put himself into-Wow!)
• In a world where ECW and Real profess the importance of priorities it is nice to see that ECW listed his children 6th amongst his 7 priorities. (So much for that coveted “Father of the Year” Award-and that all important credit card debt aka; “unfunded liability” ranked DEAD LAST. Is ECW sounding Hypocritical or is it just me paying too much attention to his very own words?)
Lastly, as I pointed out on another post, “Real” is doing his darnedest to make it look like others agree with his opinions. Just pay attention to the unnecessary space that he inserts at the end of his sentences before the final punctuation mark(s). Judge for yourself;
Posted as “Real” –
Posted by Real, a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm “Let's keep it real here !”, “ which is what the rest of us do !” and “If these leaders can't do it on their own then I agree that bankruptcy may be the only way to avoid throwing good money after bad .”
Posted as others –
Posted by Mick L, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, 23 hours ago “Our country is the strongest nation and economic engine in the history of Mankind .”
“So as we look at solving the the huge municipal and public indebtedness we should strongly consider lessening the taxpayers contribution to benefit packages until they are down to the levels of non-public employees .”
Posted by “are u kidding”, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm “Say are you Kidding ?”
Posted by “Sneaky”, a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2012 at 9:13 am “It seems that you disagree. Shocker !”
p.s. Real (or whoever you are posting as today), before you go off on making excuses for getting caught, just remember; I am not your enemy…the space bar is.
Posted by East County Watch, a resident of another community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:32 am
Thanks for the recap. It all looks great except for your little innuendos.
The most important thing you need to remember no matter who you hate or think your better than is "All Government needs to take from someone to give to itself".
It is up to us the taxpayers and voters to control government from taking everything. This is the fundamental reasons we created this country. It is also why we have a constitution of which is eroding because of people like you. You really should move to a communist or socialist country if you think public employees are so entitled over and above the rest.
Posted by Informed Resident, a resident of another community, on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm
Again with the name calling? Darn, you are so clever.
Perhaps at some point you might want to step back from your keyboard and contemplate if your whiny responses which include name calling, and assumption(s) are helping your cause. Often your responses simply highlight your infatuations, lack of common sense, lack of political comprehension, lack financial understanding and numerous other shortcomings. Because through your posts, you do a much better job of demonstrating this than I ever could.
Glad you enjoyed the recap. As predicted, you attempted to minimize inconsistencies with your positions by erroneously referring to them as my little innuendos. Sorry, but that didn’t work.
You seem to think that all of this is excusable behavior at the same time you try to wrap yourself up in some awkward patriotic self-invented statement. Do you even understand the Constitution to which you refer to? You have a very unique view of what government is supposed to be, as opposed to what it is. I hope at some point that you consider that it is your preconceived notions that actually put you at odds with what you imagine the Government, taxes, services, and representation to be.
ECW, you continue to dismiss bad behavior on your part, and ironically insist that others must do what you say, not what you do. You have a major chip on your shoulder, which has manifested in a very unhealthy mind-set.
The irony is so clear-but you still fail to see it.
I suggest you do some real world research on government, finance, taxes and public employees because you definitely have an illusion on what you are owed.
Posted by AndreaC, a resident of another community, on Apr 19, 2012 at 11:26 pm AndreaC is a member (registered user) of Danville Express
The town of Stockton, California's approaching bankruptcy case may become the single biggest such case in history. But that is not its only Guinness-worthy record lately. The conditions behind a recent court ruling amount to the biggest parking ticket ever served. Here's a proof: [url=Web Link parking garage fiasco a lesson for all[/url].