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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: Endorsements

Re: “Guillen, Quirk, and Wiener, and Yes on B, 28, and 29

Apart from the genuine need for community college funds a $48.00 parcel tax is really unfair to a low income property owner, of whom there are many. Let's take on the big dog, prop 13, and modify it.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Kurt Schoeneman on 05/17/2012 at 12:22 PM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

Forgot one more part of this mail in election circus: the people at MOBN and the citizen's budget advisory committee who wrote the ballot argument in favor of J, made so errors in the original submittal, they went to court to get their own submittal changed. Then one of the mobn members has the chutzpah to say that the people who wrote the rebuttal against J could be sued for misstatements.

Posted by Leonard Raphael on 10/22/2011 at 5:22 PM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

@Leonard, Well said. I posted earlier this evening that I tried to go to the Measure Y website to see what was up and found it still says that Measure Y provides 63 more cops and brings the total to 803 cops. Unbelievable. Every little thing this city does is fucked up. Every little thing.

Posted by yoyo_guru on 10/22/2011 at 1:10 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

The ballot envelopes are badly laid out. There is so too much busy text and a confusion of font sizes and bad use of red color.

The all important "Failure to SIGN the declaration will invalidate your ballot" warning is useless because nothing to show you location of or label the "declaration".

A fitting ballot for a Rube Goldberg jerry rigged election from a Mayor and Council that rush from one crisis to crisis ineffectively.

Measure I where they lamely tried a nonbinding resolution to make the measure specify how money wb spent after they omitted that little piece from the ballot measure.

Or Measure J, where Libby S has stated publicly that there's a 5 year cap on the extension, but oops she forgot to put that in the Measure.

The desktop publishing manager responsible for approving this ballot envelope should be promoted to drafting misleading badly written ballot Measures for the City Council. They'd fit right in at a normal City Council meeting.

-len raphael

Vote Yes for Oakland


Posted by Leonard Raphael on 10/22/2011 at 1:01 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

Measure I = more taxes and cost to people who had nothing to do with the finncial crisis and are already paying a higher cost of living increase over four years than any other County in Northern CA. Measure I also does not tax the owners of vacant lots - which attract grafitti, illegal dumping, drugs and prostitution and are a drain on dwindling resources.

Measure H = pure cronyism. Democracy is messy, so get over it. We want to elect our elected officials! I always appreciated John Russo candor. All the City Council wants is a "yes-man."

Measure J = fuzzy bookkeeping. How can it be that the City hasn't fully funded a retirement program for employees hired before 1976? Really? What have you guys been doing all this time??

Posted by Pamela on 10/21/2011 at 4:49 PM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

@lawngun, If you're out of Oakland, you're not behind: you're ahead. :)

Posted by yoyo_guru on 10/21/2011 at 9:17 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

len, I agree -- Oakland pols, if given the chance will avoid unpopular decisions like the plague. Measure J does require approval of the PFRS Board, as well. I understand your take on it and can't blame you, if you don't support it. Just pointing out some of the intricacies of this issue -- more for those who are less knowledgeable on the issue than you.

yoyo g, you are absolutely correct re the parcel tax. I haven't been keeping up on this really -- just reading little blurbs in the media. I'm going to quit while I'm behind. :)

Posted by Lawngun on 10/21/2011 at 7:23 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

lg, sure PFRS has to be funded before the last beneficiary dies at least on a pay as you go basis. But I'll bet you that the City will try to use debt to fund it. Debt that will go past the death of last beneficiary.

The only alternatives to that are unacceptable to our current pols, unions or voters:

a. raise taxes even higher just for PFRS than the amazing already high hidden PFRS tax overrides are now

b. cut costs on other general fund items to free up money to fund PFRS

c. play Chapter 9 bankruptcy chicken with PFRS beneficiaries and tel them we can't honor our obligations to pay them benefits that are indexed to what current OPD cops earn, including holiday pay etc. I haven't run the numbers, but that has to be a big part of why PFRS obligation never seems to go down.

So yes, in a perfect world giving the City flexibility on the funding deadline would be fine. But not here where if you give the pols flexibility, they always chose to avoid painful decisions.

Posted by len raphael on 10/21/2011 at 12:27 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

@Lawngun, You can't have a general tax as a parcel tax. So they pretend this is a special tax (even though that is BS since it contains everything except the kitchen sink). From Marleen's DefendingMeasureY site:

“City does not dispute that a flat-rate parcel tax is unconstitutional if it is a general tax.” Id. At 1309, citing Digre, supra, and Thomas v. ."

Posted by yoyo_guru on 10/20/2011 at 11:06 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

A simpleton wrote these endorsements. It's nothing but a rehash of the same half-truths and false premises we've been told by our City Council and Mayor over and over and over... Perhaps this was meant to be an op-ed column written by Nancy Nadel and got mis-filed? When even Max A. drops the pretense of civility, you know it's bad.


Posted by PatrickM on 10/20/2011 at 10:17 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

Oops. yoyo g, you are correct. I had assumed, based on the media coverage, that Measure I was a general tax, hence the cries that the City Council is in no way obligated to spend the funds in a particular fashion. I see now that they have specified a laundry list of "special" purposes, thus qualifying as a special tax. Given that the list is so broad and vague and the concerns over lack of any spending guidelines, one wonders why they didn't just put a general tax on the ballot.

My bad. Been only half interested in all this, since I have left town. Still enjoy a good game of Whack-a-Mole, or Whack-a-Politician, in this case.

Len, I don't disagree that City Council needs to knuckle down and fund the pension liability. One thing to keep in mind is, that the "repayment" of the pension debt can only be extended out so long. Funds must be available in the plan to meet the payments to retirees, when the payments are due (a cash flow issue). In other words, the City can't fund the plan over 50 years, if all the retirees are dead and gone after 40. Issuance of additional pension debt is one way around this limitation, but not a very good one. All this is to say, I don't think giving the authority/flexibility to extend the repayment date is, in and of itself, a bad thing, given the built-in limitation on the funding horizon.

Posted by Lawngun on 10/20/2011 at 8:59 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

Another fundamental flaw of Measure J is that this proposal allows extending the time indefinitely to fully fund without providing any revenue to actually fully fund.

Best way to understand that is to view the KTOP video of the City Council Finance committee meeting held, (i think it was)May 24 2011.

In it you'll see several experts, paid and volunteer, get up and speak in favor of giving the flexibility of a deadline extension in combination with providing funding mechanisms. One speaker made a point that PFRS is only 33% or so funded, but should be at least 80% funded. Another speaker mentioned the high level of Oakland debt (i'd have to rewatch that to confirm that)

Then the council members asked questions. You could almost see a small light bulb go on over Pat K's head when she asked if the extension decision could be separated from the how to pay decision. Answer from the dismayed experts was Yes.

Guess what Oakland pols will chose when given a choice between delaying paying for something and ignoring how to eventually pay, vs delaying paying but making sure there will be money avail to pay for it.

They chose delay the deadline for full funding, and delay any decision on how to fund it.

We should defeat J and tell our council members to go back to committee and figure out how they'll pay off this 450 to 700Mill obligation without dragging it out 50 years.

if they have to cut wages and even jobs and programs, they should do it now, before the obligation gets any bigger or our deficits grow deeper.

-len raphael, cpa
Vote Yes on Oakland

Posted by len raphael on 10/20/2011 at 3:10 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

At least you give Measure J, the pension funding extender, a full sentence. Most of its supporters don't understand it enough to say even that much.

Big of you to spare a full sentence considering that's at least a 460Mill obligation and very possibly closer to 700Mill if the plan used a realistic 4% rate of return assumption for investments instead of 7.5%. But then, you're must be earning 7.5% on your retirement savings like the rest of us.

The other day Jane Brunner's newsletter described Measure J
as "a technical fix" "that would allow the City to lower it's annual payments'
for the old pre Calpers pension plan for fire and cops.

It is not correct to describe it as a "technical fix". Nowhere in the City
Attorney's or the City Auditor's ballot opinions is it described as such.

A technical fix commonly means curing a drafting error in the original law that has no important effect. To the contrary, the prior charter amendment explicitly set the year 2026 as the final deadline for fully funding the PFRS.

J completely removes any fixed deadline for full funding and leaves it up the
PFRS board and their chosen actuary.

What might be best for PFRS beneficiaries is not necessarily best for the

The City Auditor opinion states the effect of J would be to stretch out the
funding payments past 2026.

As Jane's newsletter states, extending the deadline might reduce the annual City pension contributions and possibly not increase the annual taxes that we all pay
directly or indirectly now. (a much higher ad valorem rate than Berkeley or SF or Piedmont residents pay). (those tax "overrides" are dedicated to PFRS. The taxes are not the same as the City contributions)

But what her newsletter and the ballot measure fails to mention, is that
stretching out the payments would very likely increase the total amount of taxes we pay over the entire extended funding period.

If you want to call that "not raising taxes" , go ahead but try to keep from smiling.

A longer term gives more flexibility but also exposes the residents to
investment risks over a longer number of years than 2026 that could more than wipe out the benefits of the flexibility.

But more importantly an unlimited funding extension shifts the burden of the funding to yet even younger future Oakland residents who never benefited from employees who were hired pre 1976.

Those young and future residents are the ones who should be allowed to vote on J because they're the ones who will be paying thru the nose for an unspecified number of years for the benefits of employees who retired before the residents were even born.

No, this is just a "technical fix".

This is "the fix is in" for generation x,y,z.

-Len Raphael, CPA

Yes on Oakland
by Voting NO on H,I,J
(contact if you want to help defeat J)

PS: This 700Mill little problem also was not "caused" by the Great Recession. This was caused by bad investment decisions in the 80's and 90's by the PFRS boards (largely selected by our financially saavy competent City Councils) and compounded by our City Council twice approving borrowing money to play the market "on margin". Both times we lost big time. Nothing to do with the Great Recession, except that once again we failed to pay down the pension obligation during the fat years of the Real Estate Bubble. So now we're scrooged.

Posted by len raphael on 10/20/2011 at 1:28 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

You love H and J also.

Ok, you've swallowed the entire tall glass of Quan and the Council majority's kool-aide.

On H, making the city attorney appointive, some people might say that more democracy is better than less, but not you. Expensive, messy. Yes, that describes elections pretty well.

But as much as I disagreed with many of the former elected City Attorney's actions, I'm very glad that he had the indepence of his elected position to tell Quan, Reid, and Kaplan that they were foolish to attract the attention of the Feds and the County by approving industrial dope growing. With that exquisite talent of our leaders here to pick economic winners and losers such as bakeries, no doubt our pols would have followed up with showering RDA money on the producers.

Kaplan and Quan wanted to shop for a favorable legal opinion on industrial mj growing. ie rent an appointive city attorney for a day.

Then they would projected balanced budget heaven and not have asked for any union concessions. The whole house of cards would have collapsed when the Feds cracked down.

-len raphael, cpa

Vote Yes on Oakland

Posted by len raphael on 10/20/2011 at 1:06 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

You fell for the line that Oakland's fiscal problems were caused by the Great Recession. It's an excuse that many of our pols here make, knowing that it gets residents nodding their heads in sympathy, thinking about their personal experiences.

Only problem is that it's a lie.

What really happened is that the Great Real Estate Bubble generated huge real estate tax revenue and construction fees that masked massive increases in City spending, mostly for wage raises and increased benefits for city employees, but also on social program services by non profits awarded without competitive bidding.

Even at the height of that Bubble, the City government here did not set aside a substantial rainy day reserve like many other cities did (even Berkeley?). From those boom year tax revenues Oakland did not reserve one penny for the growing obligation of now 700 Million of retirement medical retirement benefits.

You might have thought Oakland would have invested a bit into it's 90 year old public infrastructure? Nope, Oakland's leaders assumed the Real Estate Boom would last forever. Next time you bike from Berkeley into Oakland, shut your eyes for a half second. You can tell when you've crossed the border.

During the Bubble, Oakland raised all of it's employees except for some professionals, to the ranks of the highest pay in the entire country, according to a city paid for salary survey the the SEIU insisted the City remove from its website. "misleading" or some such was the phrase.

Oakland reduced it's employee work weeks to 37.5 hours. Did Berkeley do that?

But the crown jewel in the fiasco was the City Council retroactively increasing every city employee's 35% (including their own pensions but not teachers who are underpaid by OUSD). Retroactively. By my very rough estimate, that will cost Oakland hundreds of millions.

What to do now is the question.

The proposed 11Million/year parcel tax in the face of years of the projected 75 to a 100Mill deficits we face? You'd need more like a $1,000/year parcel tax to just break even on those expected shortfalls. That's without the deferred infrastructure work, without increasing the number of cops, and without improving the schools here.

Unless you know something about most Oakland residents that I'm missing, we can't come up with 1,000/year more in parcel taxes.

This 80/year parcel tax only gives the pols more time to delay figuring out how to cut costs here without cutting service levels. Those so called 10 to 15 pct concessions were mostly two and three year temporary furloughs or delays of raises. When the two to three years expires, the compensation will be higher than ever.

Before you tell us opponents of this parcel tax that we have to provide alternatives, tell the City of Oakland to provide their own council members and residents with a copy of the "approved" two year and 5 year projected budgets that was "balanced" by selling the Kaiser Convention Center to itself.

-len raphael, cpa

Vote Yes on Oakland
by VOTING NO on H, I, J
(contact for how you can help)

Posted by len raphael on 10/20/2011 at 12:52 AM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

"bashing Oakland leadership has become a full-time sport for pundits and many residents"
begs the question: why?

Could it be that we actually have an extremely dysfunctional government in Oakland? Or have we all just gone crazy?

Posted by yoyo_guru on 10/19/2011 at 11:32 PM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

Hi, Lawngun. I is officially a special tax and needs a 2/3 vote to pass. It is not classified as a general tax. That, at least, as wrongheaded as it is, is good news.


Posted by yoyo_guru on 10/19/2011 at 7:10 PM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

A special tax, for a specific purpose, requires a 2/3 vote to pass. A general tax, as proposed, only requires a majority approval. Somewhat counterintuitive.

Posted by Lawngun on 10/19/2011 at 6:34 PM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H


Re "they're telling people what they want to hear,"

yeah, and people are HEARING what they want to hear. It's a Rorschach tax. The council seems to have designed it that way... It is totally nebulous and anybody can read whatever they want into it. You don't write a parcel tax that way. It should be for a specific purpose.

Hey, and renters, don't worry! Mayor Quan (after making a point of saying she was not trying to campaign for the measure) assured renters that it would cost them only a few pennies a day. Sounded like a pledge drive...

Posted by yoyo_guru on 10/19/2011 at 4:59 PM

Re: “Yes on Measures I and H

Yeah, sorry, it's kind of a fool me twice, won't get fooled again kind of deal, unfortunately. Voted for Measure Y and Measure R before it. Nothing here to indicate any likelihood of a better outcome. There just isn't.

Posted by marye on 10/19/2011 at 3:24 PM

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