<b>MASS OPPOSITION:</b>  (from left) Sheriff Bill Brown; Supervisors Janet Wolf, Doreen Farr, Steve Lavagnino, and Salud Carbajal; DA Joyce Dudley; and others gathered at the county courthouse for the second of two No on Measure M events this Monday.

Paul Wellman

MASS OPPOSITION: (from left) Sheriff Bill Brown; Supervisors Janet Wolf, Doreen Farr, Steve Lavagnino, and Salud Carbajal; DA Joyce Dudley; and others gathered at the county courthouse for the second of two No on Measure M events this Monday.

Measure M Is for Mayhem

Will the Ballot Item Fix County Infrastructure or Fracture Its Budget?

Thursday, May 8, 2014
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

Peter Adam knows how to make a point. The 4th District supervisor, a Tea Party Republican whose district is the county’s most conservative, focused his 2012 election bid on saying Santa Barbara needs to better maintain its infrastructure. Since he took his seat on the dais, he has repeatedly tried to rally the Board of Supervisors to funnel more money toward county-owned roads, buildings, and parks, and though he was the lone vote against the budget last June, he convinced his colleagues to tack an extra $2 million to its road maintenance funding.

But that $2 million wasn’t enough for him, and Adam advanced his crusade to this year’s June 3 ballot, collecting nearly 16,000 signatures in support of what is now known as Measure M, an ordinance that would force the supervisors to pay millions of dollars every year to keep the county’s facilities fresh.

Where Adam talks of Measure M fixing potholes, leaky pipes, and vermin infestations, the county’s sheriff, district attorney, and four remaining supervisors ​— ​not to mention many other county officials and elected representatives ​— ​worry about it removing the stitches on a still-healing budget. At the height of the recession, the county cut $60 million in costs and axed nearly 600 full-time jobs. It faced a $72 million deficit and struggled over how to pay for jail operations once the North County facility opens in 2018. Now, going into the next fiscal year, the county expects a minor surplus, and multiple departments have worked together to create a delicate plan to save up for the approximately $16 million needed to annually operate both the existing jail on Calle Real and the main portion of the new Santa Maria jail.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” — Supervisor Steve Lavagnino

Opponents warn that Measure M’s potential passage ​— ​and the tens of millions of dollars it would corner ​— ​could upend that balancing act. Because of federal and state mandates, only about $200 million of the county’s projected $900 million budget falls under the supervisors’ purview and so does the only existing funding available to address Measure M. Public-safety and health-and-human-services departments receive the bulk of that discretionary money and would therefore face the deepest cuts. Opponents state those cuts, higher taxes, and debt are likely to follow passage of the measure. Adam hasn’t proposed any specific reductions but said he wouldn’t vote to cut public safety, a promise opponents have called impossible to keep.

As it appears on the ballot, Measure M sounds simple: “Shall the County Facilities Maintenance Ordinance requiring the County to keep County owned roads, parks and buildings in their current condition or better be adopted?” But 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who agrees with Adam on issues more than anyone else on the dais but diverges sharply from him here, cautioned voters to keep something in mind: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

M Is for Manageable

The fiscal and legal reviews of the measure espouse similar messages of caution. Auditor-Controller Bob Geis wrote that because funding for programs provided by the county’s public-safety and social-services agencies is prescribed by federal and state law, “it may not be possible for the Board of Supervisors to fund the requirements of the ordinance” without new revenue sources.

County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni pointed to a 2006 case out of Ventura County in which a state Court of Appeal struck down an ordinance that obligated that county’s board to a minimum budget for public-safety agencies because it tied the board’s hands. Measure M could do the same thing, Ghizzoni wrote, stating that it “may not be enforceable if it seriously impairs the board’s essential government function of managing the county’s financial affairs.”

Ghizzoni declined to elaborate on the possibility of Measure M’s passage resulting in a lawsuit ​— ​which would cost the county millions of dollars ​— ​but District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who is throwing her political clout into defeating the initiative, said she is “deeply concerned about it from a legal standpoint.”

But Adam, bombarded with all of the concerns raised and questions asked by his measure’s many naysayers, remains confident in not only its legality but also its necessity. He has likened their reaction to a “conniption fit” and a “temper tantrum.”

“They like being able to operate with impunity, and they don’t want to answer to the public,” he continued. Adam’s chief adversaries in this fight include fellow supervisors Salud Carbajal, Janet Wolf, Doreen Farr, and Lavagnino, plus Dudley and Sheriff Bill Brown (Measure M’s campaign consultant is shared by Sergeant Sandra Brown, who is challenging Bill Brown for reelection and whom Adam supports).

“Nobody denies we have a problem,” Adam said. “Their only suggestion is that we defer the problem.”

Other opponents include former North County supervisors Joe Centeno and Joni Gray (whom Adam unseated in 2012, in a surprise victory), as well as former Santa Barbara school board president Lanny Ebenstein and several members of the Goleta and Carpinteria city councils. Behind Adam are former North County supervisors Tom Urbanske and Willy Chamberlin, Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson, and Santa Barbara City Councilmember (and congressional hopeful) Dale Francisco.

Adam has said repeatedly that the measure’s strength lies in not mandating a funding source; his opponents say that is the crux of the problem. The measure, which if approved could take effect shortly after June 3, would make the supervisors beholden to the baseline measurements of the county-owned roads (not those owned by the cities or the state), buildings, and parks; if their conditions improve as a result of the upkeep, those better conditions would become the new standard. Incurring debt would only be allowed if the voters approved it at another time. The ordinance wouldn’t address the county’s $350-million-and-growing backlog of maintenance but would stanch its growth. “Nobody denies we have a problem,” Adam said. “Their only suggestion is that we defer the problem.”

By Paul Wellman (file)

Supervisor Peter Adam

M Is for Maybe

Since February, when the board begrudgingly voted to place the measure on the ballot (it was that or adopt it outright), Measure M has been what Carbajal has called “the elephant in the room” of many county meetings. In that time, county staff has hustled to come up with solutions for what to do if Measure M passes. None of them are particularly palatable to the players involved.

The likeliest scenarios involve deep cuts to public safety, with the Sheriff’s Office ​— ​and the new jail ​— ​the biggest target. Out of the county’s $200 million discretionary pot, more than $120 million goes to Court Services, Probation, the Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office, which receives the biggest chunk of funding. Many of the measure’s opponents scratch their heads at how the county could pay for the $16 million in jail operating costs ​— ​not including the money needed to run the new jail’s recidivism-reducing wing ​— ​at the same time they have to find anywhere from $18 million to $44 million for Measure M costs. The supervisors have until this fall to opt out of the jail project, for which Sheriff Brown secured $119 million in state funding for construction.

“It’s eating the elephant all in one bite, and you can’t do that” — Supervisor Steve Lavagnino

“If we were to lose this opportunity as a result of this measure being pushed through, it would be a travesty,” Brown said, calling Adam’s “0-to-100 miles-per-hour” measure “the wrong approach.” Lavagnino agreed. “It’s eating the elephant all in one bite, and you can’t do that,” he said.

Cuts could come in the Health and Human Services departments and could be coupled with tax increases, such as on oil extraction and hotel beds, or parking fees at county beaches, which the board fought hard against in recent years. The county could also seek out infrastructure-specific grants, but whether those would be around year after year remains uncertain.

Where Adam’s opponents agree with him is on the need to do something. The plan most favored is a savings scheme similar to that for jail operations, where money is set aside incrementally each year. “These are not just scare tactics,” Carbajal said, borrowing a phrase used by Adam and his supporters. “This would greatly impact our ability to fulfill what counties are supposed to be doing.”

M Is for Money

Each side of Measure M has succeeded in securing financial support, with Adam’s side scoring approximately $125,000 and his opponents amassing $75,000. The measure’s biggest supporter so far has been the Montecito-based Neighborhood Defense League ($30,000), which, like Adam, wasn’t in favor of the Highway 101 widening project; Adam also received $5,000 from retired highway builder and fellow anti-widening advocate Ron Pulice. Santa Maria Energy, for whose 136-well oil project Adam tried to lower the emissions standard, donated $10,000 and has promised $10,000 more. Rancher Nancy Crawford-Hall also chipped in $10,000, and construction company CalPortland donated $12,500.

Bankrolling the “No on Measure M” campaign have been the Chumash ($25,000), the Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association ($20,000), the Santa Barbara County Firefighters Government Committee ($10,000), and Local 620 of the Service Employees International Union ($5,000). This week, Lavagnino, Carbajal, and Farr each pledged $5,000 out of their own campaign coffers to defeat the measure.

Farr said that Adam, who joined the board just as the county was coming out of the recession, might be more understanding of the bind this measure could put the county in if he had been there when the supervisors had to make “those very difficult choices” several years ago. “There’s no way to sugarcoat it,” she said. “Measure M means a rocky road for everyone.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Remarkably strong resistance to fixing a LOT of bad infrastructure! Deferred maintenance really translates to dramatically increased costs down the road. In the face of very bad spending habits in this county, why the argument? Fixing infrastructure problems now is the answer. Repairs will never be cheaper than they are right now. Evidence: Santa Barbara Recycled water plant and desalting facility. Both poorly maintained and non functioning. They are both brutally expensive to bring back on line.

Oldnoleta46 (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 8:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Correct. I think that the problem the other Supes have with Measure M is that it sucks money from their pet programs which is how they buy their votes while our infrastructure continues to decay.

Vote for M.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 8:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It might be expected I'd be persuaded by Dem Supes, but the participation of Conservatives like Ebenstein and Gray against M also is what makes me inclined to Vote No on M.
The political ideologies of the entire group is so diverse that you have to stop and take note.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 8:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

M is for More Fiscal Responsibility - Yes on M.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 8:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

No on M means:

More Money for Mercenary County Employee Union Members

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 8:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Then I'm definitely voting No on M.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

foofi and JL convinced me: NO on M!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 9:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

True to form, the Independent failed to report that M is the consequence of the challenge from Wolf to Adam to get the voters to back his idea. M is the result of Adam getting support from more than 13,000 voters. There is demand both to maintain the existing infrastructure in the county, and to hold supervisors accountable to a realistic budget. Working within one's means is what the employers of the supervisors have to do every day. Asking that from our employees is both reasonable and responsible. Prop M holds higher the notion that Party and Funding (SEIU, et. al) should not reign over the people of Santa Barbara County.

considered (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 9:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

“Shall the County Facilities Maintenance Ordinance requiring the County to keep County owned roads, parks and buildings in their current condition or better be adopted?”

The key phrase in this question is "County owned". So if the initiative passes and the funding just is not there, would that lead to privatization of all non-essential county properties? Would leasing the SB County Parks properties to be privately managed be a good thing? That's a huge policy question that I do not have the answer.

sbsailor (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 9:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Again: this is a meat-axe approach that's been more than 35 years in the making, since Prop. 13 was approved in June 1978. Every year that inflation has exceeded 2%, and that's been most of them until recently, funds for infrastructure repairs & maintenence and everything else General Funded have dwindled in real dollar terms. The property tax roll-ups-upon-resales haven't begun to keep pace, and they're cyclic with the roller-coaster of housing sales. Notice I said "housing" sales: commercial & industrial properties turn over much less frequently, and often when they do it's through tax-neutral schemes, and therefore they get a vastly disproportionate advantage from Prop. 13.

There's only one real solution to the problem that Measure M purports to address: we all have to pay more for the services that we demand or, really, to pay at least what we used to pay 35+ years ago. Promising that Measure M would "Fix Our Roads with No New Taxes!" is akin to promising everyone's kids a free pony. The only rational vote for Measure M is "NO!"

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 10:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

No on M is the meat-ax killing any possible fiscal accountability in the county.

There is one reason and one reason only we now have a one billion dollar county pension debt: unrestrained free spending by a string of county supervisor progressives.

This fiscal irresponsibility must be curtailed so it never happens again.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think Measure M is poorly written, and quite likely won't withstand a legal challenge even if it passes. I will vote for it however because I think it's raising awareness about how poorly our region, state and country deals with infrastructure investment and maintenance. Infrastructure is the backbone of economic growth, and we just don't spend enough $$$ on it in the US.

Perhaps if Measure M passes - even if it's struck down - it will send a message to our local elected officials we're tired of continuing to spend money on "public safety" (code word for public employee pensions) at the expense of our vital infrastructure.

If you read yesterday's news announcing a report by the CA Legislative Analyst's Office, you will see CA has a $340 BILLION long-term debt, of which $200 BILLION is public employee pension liabilities, including $73.7 BILLION shortfall just for teacher's pensions.

We need to fundamentally change how we're operating as a state, and locally, and make infrastructure a much higher priority. In addition to forming the backbone of economic growth, building and maintaining infrastructure also creates well-paid jobs (many of them union, and all prevailing wage).

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 10:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Step one to repair our state:

Convert all public workers to defined-contribution pension plan.

Or, put all government workers on federal social security plans instead of the current state unsustainable pensions plans

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 10:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Two additional points:

1. Greg Mohr is against it, which is always an indicator to me to support it.

2. Look who's bankrolling the "NO" effort - The Chumash (in Salud's hip pocket), and all the public employee unions (DSA, Firefighters and SEIU).

In summary, if you want to keep letting the County's (YOUR) public parks, roads and other facilities continue to decline, in favor of spending YOUR money on paying increased wages and retirement benefits to the County's employees (many of whom don't live in the county), go ahead and vote "No".

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 10:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Measure M means do you want tax payers to have more control how their tax dollars are spent: then vote YES.

Or, do you want the employee unions to have more control how your tax dollars are spent: then vote NO.

Could not be clearer, no matter how the self-serving special interests want to muddy the waters.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 10:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

look, foofi, it's never gonna happen which you repeat for the billionth time: "Convert all public workers to defined-contribution pension plan." You'll never get elected to public office, and this won't happen. You would be much wiser to state all public employee union members should be required to contribute significantly [up to 6%] to their own retirement plan. This would be some meaningful pension reform, not your pie in the sky all-or-nothing demands which are just clouds of hot air.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 11:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Convert public pensions to defined-contribution plans, just like private industry has done with their 401K plans.

Done. It is gonna happen.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

tell'im Doc. Thanks!

jazzifier (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 11:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Pension issue will be eventually handled by a Federal Bankruptcy Judge, which says volumes about how greedy or incompetent all Politicians are or how stupid the people have become. Detroit is a case study on the issue. How does an Court Appointed Monitor sound voters.

The guess will be how long Santa Barbara County will chug along on life-support before we have a code-blue event and need the crash cart but Mother Nature many kick us hard in the crotch before then with a 1860's style drought which will highlight what happens when you over-populate a coastal desert.

The ocean offshore is mostly DEAD compared to the thriving eco-system it was 45 years ago so bring on the Desalination Plants, can't be deader than dead, can it.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 1:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The County Roads around my home are just in abysmal condition.

I'm in the south county and generally I disagree with Peter Adam on just about everything. But he at least seems to care about the horrible state of my roads.

Usually I'd vote the way the other 4 supes and the Sheriff suggested. The problem is that their column from about 1 week ago and this report totally ignore the rotten state of my roads. By ignoring my problems and just threatening bigger problems if my roads get fixed, I just am annoyed with them. Solve or at least try to solve all the serious problems!

So this report makes me lean farther toward a Yes on M.

pardallchewinggumspot (anonymous profile)
May 8, 2014 at 9:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with foo fighter! Fix what we have in place now before we pay triple tommorrow. South county and North county lets get together on this!

HPOPS (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 8:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

DrDan, how does "up to 6%" represent a significant contribution? I have a 401(k) and contribute the maximum allowed by federal law, and my employer matches 2.5%. Perhaps the public employees need to be converted to a similar plan, with social security and an increased retirement age (basically match what the private sector does).

For those of you that don't understand public employee pensions, the public employees are guaranteed to receive a fixed amount, regardless of the performance of the investments the administrator (PERS, CALSTERS, etc.) makes.

In Santa Barbara county, there has been a 75 percent increase in countywide retirement contributions from $66.1 million in 2007-08 to $116.2 million in 2013-14, and the average salary and benefit cost for a public-safety employee has increased from $117,600 in 2008-09 to $153,200 in 2013-14, while for a non-public-safety employee, the cost rose from $97,900 to $118,500 over that same period.

Obviously this is unsustainable, and it's incumbent of us citizens and voters to make sure our elected officials don't continue to kick this can down the road. We have to address this issue, and the issue of providing adequate public infrastructure funding as well. These are painful and contentious issues to deal with, but we need to in order to have a sustainable and prosperous economic future. If not, howgreenwasmyvalley is correct, this will be decided by a Bankruptcy Court in the future.

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 10:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This article is just another soapbox for Fool and his cohorts to complain about pensions again. Some just ignore the facts the CA Supreme Court has ruled on this issue more than once. They said public employee defined benefit pensions cannot be converted into 401K style pensions at his whim, or the voters. Measure M will be the reason for drastic cuts in services, not pensions.

But don't let the facts get in your way. Complain on.

Validated (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 3:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

M is for Maintenance.

Vote Yes on M

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 4:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Public pensions cannot be converted to 401K on a whim. No problems with that. But no one is saying that. They will be converted in a fair and systematic manner.

The ruling in the Detroit municipal bankruptcy found the pensions can be adjusted downwards, because when the money is not there, it is NOT there. One billion dollars is a lot for this county to make up in its own downward spiral of deficit financing of late..

And nothing prevents the county from starting the conversion to 401K plans with new and non-vested employees.

Yes, it is all interrelated and yes union demands and the soft corruption of too many years of union endorsements for county supervisors that led to this mess will be constantly presented.

Because you can't fix one end of the problem unless you fix both ends of the problem.

One billion unfunded employee pension liability due to defined-benefit pension plans + unions endorsing county supervisors who cut them the best deal + county revenues no longer match county expenses.

All intertwined.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 4:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

401ks are pretty risky, worth a fortune one day and nothing the next.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 4:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't speculate with your 401K - it is your seed corn. Plus it forces you to invest in America, instead of tearing it down. You might actually have to find value corporations are your friends after all.

There is nothing risky about 401K's; only the choices made by the account holder who may try to get too greedy. But that is their call. The 401K is neutral.

Risk right now is the over-committed CalPERS and CalSTRS defined benefit plans which are now $200 billion in the hole. If you are relying on the state to make up the difference, you need a Plan B.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 4:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh, great, I've now become the local Obama: if I'm against something, Indyholio is for it, and presumably vice-versa. Now, my strategic plan becomes clear...

Not one of you has addressed the facts that I presented: county (and all local government) revenues, in constant-dollar terms, have been decreasing since 1978, and we don't get something for nothing. Oh, except "Fix Our Roads with No New Taxes!"


GregMohr (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 5:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

County pensions are attempting to get something for nothing, Mohr..

County union bosses badly served their members. And they keep trying to buy more supervisors who will keep doing more of the same.

County revenues have been going down; yet unions demand county expenses only go up. Breaking point, Mohr. When are you going to break this bad news to your union rank and file?

M is for maintenance.

M is for mayhem for county union promises, that cannot now be funded.

Prepare your union members for cuts in positions, programs and paychecks. You started it , and now you have to finish it.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2014 at 5:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The point of Prop 13 was to prevent uncontrolled increases in gov spending while protecting seniors from losing their homes due to spiraling property taxes. by the time Prop 13 passed, it included inheritees and business property owners in the protected class - big mistake.

Meanwhile the unions kept right on buying politicians and the politicians kept right on spending, just pushing an ever-increasing mountain of debt into the future.

But of course the ultimate blame lies with the voters, who keep electing these big spenders while remaining blind to the long term effects and deaf to those who want to fix the problem.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 1:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Ken-Volok, why are 401(k)s more risky than public pensions? They both invest in the same securities, real estate, etc. The only difference is if the public employee pension administrators make bad investments the losses are covered by us taxpayers.

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 2:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@GregMohr, I agree Prop 13 has punched a huge hole in CA revenue, and basically shifted that burden from property tax to income tax, which is far more volatile in terms of budget forecasting.

I think the real issue here is how to divide up the pot of money we have. Many of us feel we should invest more in infrastructure and less in public employee compensation and pensions. That's the simple answer.

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 2:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@JohnLocke, I agree with most of what you state, except that I don't think the voters typically have good candidates to choose from. For a candidate to be taken seriously, they need to be backed by one of the two parties, and for them to win they need $$$, lots and lots of $$$.

It's the same with No on Measure M, Janet Wolf, Bill Brown, etc. A few party bosses (Salud, Daraka, Das) are controlling the endorsement slate, which results in which issues or candidates are funded by the public-employee unions. It becomes virtually impossible for an independent thinker to get elected.

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 2:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have that impression of 401Ks because when the economy tanked, people said their 401Ks did too. But your response further illustrated why the stock market is really a great big Chumash Casino, for better or worse.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 2:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KV: You need a better definition for "tanked" and the overall trend of market value investing as well as diversity and a balanced portfolio.

Many 401K employees use services like TIA-CREFF or the newer target retirement investment accounts that are not day-trader jittery, short-sellers dooms day machines or speculators in the next sure thing.

The broad based market is still where it is at, along with cash equivalents which until the past few years provided both security and a fixed income cushion. Even government savings bonds can be part of a retirement portfolio, that will not tank.

Sucking pensions out of the backs of taxpayers is the riskiest of all when most California public pensions are now running such huge unfunded liabilities. The over-promised the market and now have no where to go to make up for what they failed to earn, but promised anyway.

Let's see how many taxpayers will open their own wallets to pay off government workers who were promised to live like millionaires after their time as "public servant" was over.

If you are not in the market KV, prudently and for the long-term, you will be left behind. Considering your age, you already have been left behind.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 3:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Foo so funny, don't choke on my dust dude.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 4:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KV, you are starting to get the difference between defined-contribution plans (401K) and the defined-benefit plans (CalPERS).

Yes, both invest in the stock market so they both go up and down with whatever investments are chosen for whatever reasons by each investor.

So a 401K gets what it gets in the final analysis, based upon the contributions made to the account.

No one makes up anything in 401K accounts later, which means they are invested carefully and prudently by those who hold them.

However, since CalPers is the other type, the defined-benefit plan it has to deliver a defined amount that was promised way ahead of time, whether the market delvers that amount or not : often a certain percentage of the final three years salary, or what ever the union contract promised.

What makes the CalPers accounts unsustainable, which has now long been known, is they were way over-promised by the unions and now their investments have under-performed.

But as pointed out, this does not matter to the unions because they are allowed to come back to the taxpayer to make up the deficiencies.

This is what is eating into present services. And why these are such bad pension plans for all of us.

When schools say they "don't have any money" the are not telling you one of the biggest reasons is they are now devoting more of their per-pupil monies to pay back CalSTRS for employee pensions that were over-promised.

Schools are actually getting more money from the state every year, but now more of it has to be returned to their under-funded pension accounts. So it does not end up "in the classroom". But the money is still going for "education".

You have probably heard about "pension-spiking" these defined-benefit plans, which allow the defined-benefit recipient to really make out good.

The recipient gets even beyond what they would have earned if they can finagle a higher job classification or bonus salary their last few years of employment). HIgher last years pays = higher "defined-benefits" at retirement forever.

Now you can see why it is so critical to phase out all defined-benefit pension plans like CalSTRS and CalPERS and convert them to the far more stable 401K type plans.

Both plans provide for retirement but one drains out present resources to make good on past unsustainable promises. These are punishing to the taxpayer but a windfall for the recipient. Jack pot city at the end of the rainbow, at our expense.

The other 401K plan invests past earned resources prudently for the long term, and under the control of the recipient for performance, and not the taxpayer in the final analysis for the pension pay-out.

We cannot continue to run our state budgets on defined-benefit pension plans. It is that simple. They have to be phased out.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 4:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I disagree with solution but thanks for sharing the knowledge part.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

rant on oh clue-less, foo, and of course in your pseudo-condescension to KV you use CalPERS as an e.g., but in fact there are over 85 different public pension plans going on in Calif., alone. The UC public pension plan is pretty good, they will be able to honor their promised payments to employees, the union members/employees there are paying plenty into their own pensions [at least up to 7-8% @ year, which is good], and all your falsities that a 401(K)is better for the employee is simply...hogwash. Quit repeating yourself so endlessly.
When foo writes to KV "If you are not in the market KV, prudently and for the long-term, you will be left behind" -- wah, wah, YOU have already been left behind, foo. Your free market fundamentalism shines through in all its illogic and worship of supposedly eternal/immutable market forces.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 4:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Union members paying "plenty" into their own retirement accounts is a meaningless assessment.

Defined-benefit plans are inherently unstable and unsustainable and should not be the default position for any public sector employment.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 10, 2014 at 5:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The big difference between "defined benefit (DB)" and "defined contribution (DC)" is when the Federal Reserve, read Government, manipulates Natural Law with vehicles such as, Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP), the DB people are not penalized, read insured from harm, and the DC people are screwed with no vaseline.

The big problem, is in a social system, Savers are the bedrock from which all economic activity springs forth and manipulation or malinvestment of the savings rate will eventually have a cataclysmic result, for all.

No Free Lunch.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 8:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

HGWMV: There are other secure long-term investment strategies, besides fixed interest rate investments. WSJ just this last Sunday had a laudatory article about the soundness of 401K plans as retirement vehicles.

But it does require discipline by the investor to make adequate contributions to the plans. This used to be the American Way, and not all that long ago.

We need to go back to those bedrock values of thrift and prudence in our lives. Meeting the minimum payment on a credit card and buying lottery tickets is not a good financial plan. Nor is it the way the government should manage its affairs either.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 8:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Indyholio: you are absolutely right, but what to do?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 9:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

JL: what do you do?

Don't conflate union endorsements as a good thing.

See union endorsement as toxic to the public's best interests.

Recognize the conflict of interests and soft corruption union support inflicts upon any candidate who accepts such tainted endorsements and contributions.

Everyone still has one independent vote. There is no reason union money should buy more than their fair share of individual votes: i.e. only one union vote for each union member.

Expose the negative self-serving nature a union endorsement means, which is not in the best interests of good governance.

And even if union members now allegedly comprise 20% of the population, there are still 80% of voters who are not.

Don't assume you have to inform everyone about the corruption of union influence, you only have to inform one or two and let this circle grow.

Monitor the voting patterns in Isla Vista if they play a role in the outcomes of any election - these concentrated and transient student votes are farmed heavily by union interests.

Unions belong on one side of the bargaining table only; not both sides.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 9:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

JL: what do you do?

Don't conflate a liver complaint for wisdom.

See Foo's endorsement as toxic to the public interest.

Recognize the soft corruption of fancy dinners and foofi drinks on the local GOP establishment.

Recognize the self serving nature of paid political operatives commenting anonymously and profusely and local news sites.

Expose the negativity of paid ideologues and the impact on rational discussion.

And even if Tea Partiers make up 5% of the electorate, there are still 95% who are not Tea Party.

Don't asssume you have to copy and paste ad nauseum and write lengthy tracts on news sites. Nobody will read them except to satirize them.

Monitor local politicos and their speech patterns to more easily ientify them in the blog roll.

Paid political operatives belong one one side of the table only, underneath.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 9:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

KV, you are an excellent foil. You know what they say about imitation being the best form of compliments. Bring it on!

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm glad you read it with good humor.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 10:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Measure M is for morons.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 12:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It seems like this group is down to about 7 or 8 of us. Perhaps we should take it offline and go settle this over some drinks. ;-)

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
May 12, 2014 at 4:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

County CEO in the Sunday NewsPress sets out some county budget facts that put this discussion on firmer footing than the purpose prose put out by the county union forces.

County unfunded pension liability now set at $818 billion; no longer a billion dollar unfunded shortfall. Most likely due to Wall Street run up of corporation investment values.

County expenses: $903 million
County revenues: $905 million
Surplus $1.8 million

Which means if the entire budget surplus was applied every year to the unfunded pension liabilities, the county could finally catch up in approx 630 years. This shows you the enormity of the problem.

76% of the county overall budget is restricted state and federal money dedicated primarily to health and human services; using the county as a pass through agent only with no discretion about this spending.

The true county budget for the rest of county operations is $217.6 million.

This is the amount the supervisors exercise 100% discretion over its spending .This is the amount the public sector union will fight wanting the bulk of it be spend on increased personnel salaries, perks and benefits in opposition to spending any portion of this on county infrastructure needs.

No formal analysis has been made if Measure B passes, but county auditor suggests it make impact $18-21 million dollars out of the $217.6 million currently on the table. Approximately 10% of the 100% the county supervisors have discretion in spending.

That is all Measure M asks to be set aside for county infrastructure maintenance: 10% of the annual discretionary budget of $217.6 million dollars.

It is prudent for any large organization to not spend more than 80% on personnel costs so setting aside only 10% of the discretionary budget for infrastructure is hardly "mayhem". In fact it is the barest minimum for any reasonably run organization to dedicate to its infrastructure needs.

Measure M forces wanting its defeat are clearly only those employee unions who have a direct and tangible interest to ensure as much money as possible gets spent only on them.

You are being intentionally and badly misled by the county employee union forces. Vote for sanity to be mandated on county operations for those who cannot speak: the buildings and infrastructure needs who have no organized voice.

Yes on MeasureM - it makes sense.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 18, 2014 at 10:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh jeez, foof: "County unfunded pension liability now set at $818 billion"? With a "b"? Your Freudian slip is showing.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 10:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nope no error, because the one billion number was the last official figure. That was billion with a "b".

County apparently is benefitting from their friends on Wall Street too, in this last run-up of the "corporate" stock market which has been making a small dent in the county pension liabilities.

If you can ever call betting on the stock market a sure thing for the pension kitty, the way too many pension funds do their investing for social engineering rather than returns for their beneficiaries.

So a nearly $200 million uptick on paper is not a bad showing for a town that virulently hates "corporations". Cementing those gains and not spending them is the next hat trick.

I am all for wiping out this previous one billion (with a "b") county pension liability any way it can be done. So should you.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So you're now criticizing "the County" for making wise investments and getting a return?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 10:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Read what I said, KV. I am celebrate Wall Street investments doing well, if this is the case. Keep your eye on the goal: fund your liabilities so more money is available for present needs and county services.

However, here is a disturbing report from the County Grand Jury who investigated unfunded pension liabilities and found in 2011, the county had a $689 million dollar unfunded liability.

And now in 2014 is has grown to well over $800 million dollars? Which may be down from a previous reported high of one billion. Good news is county financial reports are now required by Government Accounting Standards to carry the amount of unfunded lialitiies on its present balance sheets so we can all know for sure what is going on.

Looks like there is some badly missing information here if we only had $689 and now are up still over $800 million. It would pay for all of us to read the Grand Jury Report - June 2012.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 10:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Gotcha, I shall drink more coffee before commenting.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

NO on M! And just look at some of those supporting the ridiculous Measure M:
$40,000 out of the Neighborhood Defense League of California, a Montecito-based group, with one of its board members, Doug Herthel, contributing another $4,000.
Good old SME (Santa Maria Energy) has donated $10,000, CalPortland, a building materials company with operations in Solvang, recently gave $7,500. Money wasted since YES on M will easily win.
Foo as always dives into County Pension fund issues: keep hijacking these threads with this BS, foofi, Iamsomeguyinsb has figured you out with his moron tag...keep cuttin' & pastin' bro, most of us just skip over your inane natterings... and hey, who pays you for this guff, eh?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 12:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What does Montecito's "Neighborhood Defense League (NDL)" do?
Look for antiMontecitan propaganda?


Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Liberals have often complained about our detiorating infrastructure and how we need to fix it. Measure M will do that!

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 12:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"What does Montecito's "Neighborhood Defense League (NDL)" do?

Look for antiMontecitan propaganda?"

Or maybe they argue about whether or not to support Chris Christie?

"Christie calls for more aggressive foreign policy

"I took a helicopter ride from occupied territories across ... and just felt, personally, how extraordinary that was to understand the military risk that Israel faces every day," Christie said.

The comment about "occupied territories" drew sharp criticism from some in the audience. The Israeli government and by extension most of Israel's supporters in the U.S. don't consider the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be occupied territory.

After the speech, Christie met privately with Adelson to explain that he misspoke."

Rusty Trombones for all.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 12:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

oops! money wasted since NO ON M! will easily win.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 1:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Neighborhood Defense League of California includes former County CEO Mike Brown and is led by Judith Ishkanian:
I have no idea what they do, but they've given the $44,000 and the photo shows a bunch of fatcat 1%ers or 1% wannabes. I assume they're a non-profit: why are they getting into this M business?
No on M, and let's keep Montecito 1%ers from controlling this election since their $ are funding a lot of the bogus pro - M ads.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 1:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

foofi's May 18 post with the BS about Counting owing "$818 billion" is nuts just like the crackpot HE is...what, the pensioners will all live to be 400 years old? utter crap and no references except the fallacious News-Suppress.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I just read their mission statement, it is puzzling.. but it all seems fair and square. Wealthy people have also donated against M, people hold differing opinions across the economic strata just as in every strata of life.
No on M :)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 1:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If I miss-typed $818 billion instead of the new figure of $818 million in unfunded county pension liabilities, thank you for catching this. But silly you, if actually thought this is what was meant. Shows you are not really paying attention to the real scope of the troubling unfunded pension issue.

Facts count, and the latest statement from the County as of May 2014 is $818 million. My apologies for my typo.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 1:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ohhhh I've figured it out, foofighter is Dr. Evil!!

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 2:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Measure M's best benefit is dedicating a certain percentage of county revenues off the collective bargaining table, and reserving them for capital infrastructure repair, maintenance and replacement.

County auditor estimates this to be approx 20 million out of the $200 million the supervisors have discretion over = 10% of the discretionary budget dedicated to present capital infrastructure maintenance.

Too bad it had to come to this, but too many years of employee union interests being on both sides of the county bargaining table has created the necessity for this voter-mandated infrastructure lock-box.

Too bad prior Democrat supervisors did not show sufficient discipline on their own; but they didn't. They couldn't because they sold out ahead time to the employee union interests which helped get them elected.

Now the people have to do this for them.

The people did keep voting for these employee union-compromised candidates who did exactly as they were expected to do (hand over as much county money to the union "family" themselves as they could), so irony is noted.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"ohhhh I've figured it out, foofighter is Dr. Evil!!"

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.

I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together

FoolPt (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 2:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

See how they blog/ like hogs in bog see/ how they type/... all typos.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KV, you are not supposed to light up until 4:20, not 2:40.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh man I dunno foo, 4:20am is a little early even for me, unless I'm about to head out on an expedition.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

sure, foo, YOU hassled Greg Mohr's earlier correction of your bizarre "$818 billion" mega-error by responding at 10:39 a.m. today with "Nope no error, because the one billion number was the last official figure. That was billion with a "b" " -- your Freudian slip is huge, that's million with an "m" foofi. stop posting garbage, eh? You apparently light up well before 4:20. Two typos, dude.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey, hey now let's please stop falsely associating wake n bake with typos and cognizant errors.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That'd be more comforting if your sn wasn't LoonPt

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's a location named after an aquatic bird.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 4:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

duh I know I that, don't you remember :? i'm gonna quit while we're ahead.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Looks like M is mainly to benefit the likes of the Adam family, Crawfish-Hall, and the like.
When they give jobs to Americans and pay back their socialist farm subsidies, I'll consider voting yes.

Walter (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 6:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KV, you are not supposed to light up until 4:20, not 2:40.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:17 p.m

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 11:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You apparently light up well before 4:20. Two typos, dude.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 3:25 p.m. (

That may very well be true Dan, however, the question NOBODY dares ask is this: Is that 4:20 a.m, or 4:20 p.m.?

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
May 19, 2014 at 11:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The question I have: what is Foo smoking :?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 12:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Volok: When you attack Foo, I feel as though you are attacking a part of me.

FoolPt (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 5:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Foolpit, you just tossed KV a slow pitch to describe which part of you best represents me. (Snicker)

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 8:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

gawd! I was afraid someone would ask the a.m. or p.m. question: it is far too deep for me, or, it's above my pay grade...dunno

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 9:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The wet part! ;)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 9:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

HAPPY that Measure M lost, of course, but this study shows the extreme libertarians/PeterAdamTeaPartarians canNOT blame the IV vote like they love to do (tiny Isla Vista turnout):

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 6:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: