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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 14, 2012 3:08 PM. The previous post in this blog was Another p.r. flack for Portland City Hall. The next post in this blog is It's time for a showdown with the PoPo union. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A cautionary tale from the California desert

Although it may be too late for Portland:

Yet on close examination, the city's decades-long journey from prosperous, middle-class community to bankrupt, crime-ridden, foreclosure-blighted basket case is straightforward — and alarmingly similar to the path traveled by many municipalities around America's largest state. San Bernardino succumbed to a vicious circle of self-interests among city workers, local politicians and state pension overseers.

Little by little, over many years, the salaries and retirement benefits of San Bernardino's city workers — and especially its police and firemen — grew richer and richer, even as the city lost its major employers and gradually got poorer and poorer.

Unions poured money into city council elections, and the city council poured money into union pay and pensions. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), which manages pension plans for San Bernardino and many other cities, encouraged ever-sweeter benefits. Investment bankers sold clever bond deals to pay for them. Meanwhile, state law made it impossible to raise local property taxes and difficult to boost any other kind.

No single deal or decision involving benefits and wages over the years killed the city. But cumulatively, they built a pension-fueled financial time-bomb that finally exploded.

The whole thing is here.

Comments (17)

From this post:
"No single deal or decision involving benefits and wages over the years killed the city. But cumulatively, they built a pension-fueled financial time-bomb that finally exploded."

From the previous post:
"Another p.r. flack for Portland City Hall
This one will be in charge of selling "equity" to the unwashed masses. Salary: $5,028 - $6,706 a month. Just what our cash-strapped city needs."

Related?

I was just in downtown San Bernardino last weekend. It was my first time there since 1990. Back then it was a thriving area with retail businesses and activity.

I was shocked at how dead things were there now. Businesses closed, boarded up and abandoned. No people on the street. Even their convention center and adjoining hotel were closed. On the other side I did notice a lot of city and county government office buildings that seemed to be doing okay.

The continuously updating side bar on Jack's blog page says it all.
As San Bernadino and countless other places go, so goes Portland eventually.

My High School history teacher might say, "Compare and contrast the financial decisions by San Bernardino ten years ago, to those made by Portland in the last three years."

Pencils up... you have 20 minutes....

Begin.

I don't think San Bernardino is technically in the desert. It definitely is bankrupt though.

Actually, the real winner in California is Poway:

"Poway California, population 47,811 as of 2010, has placed an enormous bet on rising home prices and tax revenues. Poway borrowed $105 million but will not start to pay that amount back until 2033 at which time they will owe $877 million in interest."

Note that the interest is about $20,000 per resident.

Can't imagine why CoP hasn't used the "borrow money now, repay starting twenty years from now" trick yet...

This has Molalla written all over it. The Clackastani's won't go away! Why, because there is always a mistake to fix. Molalla's was $2.5 million SDC refund, due around now, no take-backs, no iou's, no deferments, paid in full [supposedly]. This from a city struggling to maintain its current $400,000 a year budget. Then they fire the city manager before the election. The city manager, who gave it to the city straight: fund's were misappropriated and we will have to cut cost's. 150k managed to also just vanish over a period of 3-4 years under city council and mayor. No audit has ever been done, talk about Bell, California. Then they elect a council member as mayor, a council member who rubber stamped the whole ordeal. WTF? The reason I grumble about my illegal portion of the $20 million? So shoulders on the State Highways in Clackamas County. A woman was just killed on the road a week ago, several hit and run's, yaddah, yaddah, status quo, here.

Forgive my grammar, should read "No shoulders...."

Liberal whores and their union pimps working together to steal taxpayer money.

And the taxpayers continue to vote for the idiots who caused the mess.

I understand why liberals and unions work together to make themselves rich. I'm less clear on why people who work for a living vote for the scum.

liberals and unions make themselves rich? You mean they're part of the 1%? The 1% that owns 90% of the wealth of the country? Or is that the one-tenth of one percent that owns 90%? I forget exactly how tiny the group is that owns everything. And the liberals and unions are in this group? Unions are 1% of the country? Liberals are 1% of the country? And they own 90% of the wealth? Somehow I doubt it.

Thank you Jack, that was well worth reading. I didn’t know news organizations still wrote 3,400 word articles detailing financial abuses anymore? Then again, I read the Oregonian!

"liberals and unions make themselves rich? You mean they're part of the 1%? The 1% that owns 90% of the wealth of the country? Or is that the one-tenth of one percent that owns 90%?"

That's right; you just keep blaming Bushie while Obama & Geithner et al steal the ball right from under your hands. You won't even know what hit you. Or obviously from whence it came.

Bushie? Bushie? where is Bushie mentioned? I merely questioned whether liberals and unions were in the 1% that IS the rich.
And as for knowing from whence it came, I doubt you do. The 40-hour week didn't come from God or the rich, workers died in the streets for it. Unions fought for it, and for everything else that makes the middle class. Unions aren't perfect, but they're like the democracy Winston Churchill referenced.

This is part of what really bugged me about Sam Adams' arts tax. It is pitched as being all for the "children" (the old saw that keeps on giving to government employees of all kinds). But you can't trust the Adams crew and the School District (its lack of bargaining power at the labor contract table, particularly). More city bureaucrats and associated so called Charity (city founded and funded charities) administrators will be enriched by this tax, as will no doubt the benefits and compensation of existing school district employees. All of these cats making in total compensation close, if not more than, $100k per year; and it's never enough. Adams just proposed boosting a phone tax to fund more police training. So, don't think for a minute the $35 arts tax is going to stay at $35 for much more than a year; most likely it will be transformed into a bonafide full blown real income tax (resurrecting the Multnomah I tax of 1% of the years 2003-2005).
Portland's electorate is largely composed of the young collge student hip crowd, government employees slurping up the taxpayer and borrowed largesse, and another relatively high(in proportion) segment on government assistance.
My advice for Portlanders with means, get the heck out before yesterday, as you are seen as easy prey for the next big taking.

Municipal Bankruptcy is off the table until:

1. The zoo renovations are complete
2. The Convention Center Hotel is built
3. 50 miles of Streetcar lines are built
4. MAX to Vancouver, Milwaukie, Sherwood, and the Powell line to Gresham are built
5. The Sustainabilty Center is reborn and built
6. The new containiner terminal on West Hayden Island is built, along with a publicly owned railroad and truck route
7. The Columbia River Crossing
8. The I-5 to 99W connector in Sherwood
9. We need to replace the Portland Building, don't we?
10. And the Multnomah County Courthouse
11. We haven't talked about bikes yet - let's build 200 miles of dedicated bike routes

OK...once all that is done, THEN we'll declare bankruptcy.

Jack, Jack, Jack -
We're NOTHING like them ... THEY are in California and WE are in Oregon, the difference is SOOOO obvious (LOL).

I'm way past crying, nothing to do but laugh from now on.

"The 40-hour week didn't come from God or the rich, workers died in the streets for it. Unions fought for it, and for everything else that makes the middle class. Unions aren't perfect, but they're like the democracy Winston Churchill referenced."

I find it absurd that public employee unions try to piggyback on private sector unions of a century ago. And my grandfather belonged to the IWW. And Dos Passos' USA is as good a book as I know.


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