Friday, January 16, 2009

Article in question

Recently much has been made of an article that the Community Free Press printed and that article is posted below. The uproar has been raised by one of my challengers Robert Stephen's who seems to believe that the CFP is being biased because they printed an article penned by me on the police and fire pension shortfall and the wording of what would transpire if indeed this tax passed. If Mr Stephens was as concerned for this community as he lets on he is, he would have been speaking out on the obvious ploy on words which would have had the city possibly once more short funding the obligation of the police and fire pension system. Added to this complaint is that KSGF broadcast live from our other challengers place of business Big Momma's Coffeehouse on Commercial Street.

Never does Mr Stephens point out that KSGF was broadcasting from Big Momma's long before Lyle Foster was even a candidate, and the article written below was penned by me before I even turned in my signatures. Not once do I mention that I was thinking about being a candidate during this article so Mr Stephens is way off base on his assessment of favoritism.

Much has been made lately of the 45 minute presentation to solve the police and fire pension system given by City Manager Greg Burris. I have had the opportunity to sit through a couple of these presentations along with viewing the one on the internet and I believe there is much room for improvement.

After passage of this tax increase the plan will generate up to 40 million dollars annually in revenue for the pension system, depending on shopping habits and tourism. Based on the current verbiage of the bill this tax increase will sunset in five years, or when the pension is 100% funded. Milliman, the company tasked with finding the solution to the funding shortfall, is one of the country's largest investment consulting firms in terms of assets under advisement. Included in the initial findings of Milliman was a statement that it would require six or more years to fund the pension plan fully. In his presentation, City Manager Greg Burris has PROMISED that the city will contribute 29.88% funding into the pension plan during the five year timeframe. This means that approximately 40 to 50 million dollars will be placed in the pension system by the end of the first year of this tax. The reason for all this was so every player on the field has "skin in the game.” This should put us well on the way to solvency you’re thinking; NOT so fast!! The devil is in the details.

Here in lies the problem with this bailout plan of our city manager. Once We The People have voted YES to increase our taxes, absolutely NOTHING prevents the city council from spending the 29.88% else where in the confines of the city; just as occurred earlier when the city failed to fund the plan for four straight years. The skin that the city has in the game can be overlooked because the sales tax will be generating the required actuarial amount, thus allowing the city to meet the guidelines of state statute. There have been numerous requests that an ordinance be passed forcing city council to fund this 29.88%; however road blocks keep getting thrown in the way under the heading of, binding future city councils. According to City Attorney, Dan Wichmer, binding future city councils is defined as:

Budget is year to year. It is only good for 1 year. That is why we can't bind future councils. We cannot make fiscal commitments beyond 1 year. Even bonds are subject to annual appropriation.

In short one council cannot oblige another council with commitments, which in hindsight is exactly what has been done with the short funding. Past city councils obligated present and future city councils for this debt.

A cursory research project was started to define what "binding a future city council” meant and how it pertains to our situation and the response we found came directly out of the California constitution. The following is a basic rule for municipal law;

*The Power and Limitations of a City*

*Binding Future Councils* One city council cannot forever tie the hands of future city council with respect to legislative enactments; no ordinance passed by one city council may remain beyond the repeal or amendment of a future city council. Each council is elected by the people to serve the needs and desires of the people at that time, and cannot be restricted, from a legislative standpoint, by prior council action. A council may however enter into certain long-term contracts such as leases, cable television franchises, or rubbish contracts, provided there are not antitrust (anti competitiveness) problems.

By the definition of binding future city councils anyone can see nothing prevents city council from passing an ordinance requiring that the guaranteed amount promised by City Manager Greg Burris of 29.88% gets funded. The argument being used by our city attorney is disingenuous and has people asking, why won't our elected leaders put "skin in the game" and pass an ordinance requiring the city to fund the portion for which they are responsible?

The city leaders have earned the distrust of the citizens of Springfield and closing this obvious loophole with a proactive approach will benefit the city, city management and city council.

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