Sunday, December 26, 2010

RTA Boondoggle

So now the RTA, Rio Nuevo, TCC, and Tucson are all broke! And the only way RTA can see to get out of the hole is to borrow against the tax money they control. This is not a new story: the taxpayer funded activities around here are all wallowing in debt with little to show for it. Let's cut these bums out of control and force accountability for the use of that money.


If RTA has mismanaged and overspent, then halt the spending and put the projects on hold to join the Rio Nuevo projects in limbo. Borrowing huge sums so the same people can get their hands on the money to spend it capriciously on more inflated projects seems like an exercise in futility. The idea that projects need to be merely begun, and not funded in entirety, is a foolish way to do business. If there is any actual money left, let it be spent on public safety projects for local use. No more cross town freeways for outsiders to use: let's spend what is left on local projects hiring local people.

No more borrowing. The dollar value is cut by 40% usury charges, which creates a huge debt for this community to complete boom inspired projects. Whatever the promises were, what money that can be spent will be received as it comes in. Create an RTA fund and when that fund is large enough to proceed with completion of a project, then begin again.

The money is not there. Accept the fact and scale back operations until times get better. Fund ongoing street repairs and small projects out of the incoming revenue. Debt only delays the realization that the money is not there, it just sets taxpayers up for a deal where the money is blown now but the debt must be paid for years and years, during which time there will be no money for anything else. Now, if we can wait out the recession without debt, then times will be better much faster. It sounds like the RTA is planning on using up Pima County's credit rating to borrow huge sums. Pima County Supervisors might be interested in this angle.

I'm sorry about the jobs we are talking about here. Putting projects on hold deals with fiscal reality but real people work those jobs. The incremental funding jobs in RTA would keep some jobs, retirements could be encouraged, and attrition will account for some. I do believe that the unemployed need retraining programs tied to unemployment benefits and perhaps the unions would be interested in funding some of this.

Dorothy Prater Niemi





Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Modern Streetcar Stimulus?



In Tucson, Mayor Walkup is once again in a hurry to get another grant that must be supported by borrowed money. We should all stampede to the fore to protect this 'opportunity' to indebt the taxpayer through encumbering the RTA revenue stream and the Tucson general fund, thereby increasing the debt service and interest charges. If the RTA borrows $88 million, then over $100 million must be paid back, thereby diluting the material buying power of the tax dollar they are spending. No telling what kind of deal the city would make on new 'Certificates of Participation' or 'grant anticipation notes', which would further indebt the general fund.


So the bottom line is that they want to borrow money to build a system that will not be self-sufficient in operating costs. Mr. LaHood has evidently sabotaged the stimulus by paying grant money into projects that will not be self sufficient or profitable when they are completed. In the case of the city of Tucson, which is reportedly $54 million in deficit for 2011 and is paying about 30+% of total income as debt service, more debt cannot be tolerated. SunTran must also be subsidized and this new streetcar project would just add another increase to the deficit. The city of Tucson does not need more revenue streams tied up and diluted nor does the city need more debt service drain on the inadequate general fund. What next? Laying off police and fire to subsidize this streetcar? The city already wants to raid $14.5 million from the street repair fund to build another bridge over the Santa Cruz for the streetcar. Our streets need maintenance. Spending $178 million on a project that is of questionable economic benefit seems out of place in this economic climate. The city cannot afford more debt.

RTA money is obtained county wide, yet this streetcar project will not improve the economy countywide. Economic benefit will be limited to a few landowners and businesspeople along the route, which will cost more than $50 million per mile, with the RTA funding covering half the cost. This is not a judicious use of RTA funds. I remember a long list of funded projects, of which this modern streetcar was not one detailed, but existed only as part of a list of possible projects. $88 million is a bite out of RTA projects elsewhere and even more money would be lost to interest payments on $88 million in debt.

Possibly another grant could fund local projects, rather than using our tax money to fund jobs in Oregon. We need local stimulus money to stay local, not force us into borrowing in order to get the money in order to buy streetcars made elsewhere. We need jobs here and less debt.

I have an alternative proposal. Put buses or vans on this proposed streetcar route. Bulldoze a road through the Santa Cruz to mimic the use of the proposed bridge and send the buses over it. Connect it all up now with increased transit and just see the economic activity along the proposed route. If this deal is truly about moving people along this route, let's do it now and try it out. Revamp the bus pullouts or make new ones and get busy moving those people. We need a bus stop right by that new UA classroom complex! Stop talking about this proposed route and get it on! Modifications to little used routes could pick up the cost. Put those expensive teamsters to work on this people moving project.

Monday, December 06, 2010

HELP THE UNEMPLOYED!!!!!

Unemployment in perpetuity?





Unemployment at 10% is caused by:

• population increase

• money concentrated in 'financials' instead of production

• dumping of foreign consumer goods on US market

• 2% of population has 25% of the wealth

• borrowing has lessened since subprime boom

• taxes favor financial losses

• foreclosures and devaluation of housing to pre boom levels

• credit card use is down due to increased standards

• cities and states are debt ridden to the maximum

• the federal government is debt ridden and in deficit spending

• insurance costs are out of control

• medical costs are out of control

• local taxes are up

Certain industries related to construction have been hit harder during the recession. Jobs overall are scarce, with work to be found in medical services and internet related businesses, among others.

The long term unemployed need to find new professions. I remember when the mines closed down and left many workers stranded. The government offered job training classes to these displaced workers, giving them a chance to get off the dole and back into the workforce. A friend laid off at the mine south of Tucson took this opportunity to become a skilled diesel mechanic. Why can't workers now be offered an opportunity to change professions?

A long term unemployed person signing up for this program would continue unemployment benefits. Success would continue benefits until the program was complete. Non attendance would cut off benefits.

Enrollment in programs should be limited to certain growing professions. For example, a program in construction management would not be eligible for funding due to a glut of workers in that profession. A program in website construction would be eligible because work in that area is growing.

A further caveat would require that the school providing the training would not be paid unless the student successfully completes the class, with a final payment due upon completion of the program. This would prevent the schools from getting the money upfront, which lessens their responsibility to the student. If the student fails, the school is not paid!

I think that the long term unemployed would leap at the chance at a retrain themselves and give themselves a chance in this new tight job market. The nation cannot afford to have 10% of our workers on the public dole and a simple program to reeducate these workers would give hope to distressed workers.

My program suggestion has several important aspects:

• Workers have a chance to reeducate and get off unemployment

• Schools have an infusion of students and money into their programs

• More money is circulating

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tax Policy as an implement of change

Tax Policy as an implement of change


A short term tax source would be the taxing of the original mortgage lenders on all foreclosures and the taxing of the foreclosing party, as the empty homes are a blight to neighborhoods and make problems for local law enforcement. Local economies should tax vacant houses at a higher rate, due to the extra costs. All tax hikes go on the foreclosing parties, not the people being ousted. The idea here is to discourage bad loans at the inception, and collect taxes on the problems loans all down the line.

Another idea would be to discourage non producing investments like mortgage backed securities and ETFs, that tie up money and produce nothing except commissions and dividends. Tax the profits from these kinds of investment at a high rate and tax the losses also, as a drain on the system. No more tax credits for losses from non producing investments, real or fabricated. The government is rewarding these non good or service producing investments with tax breaks. The government even covered their losses with tax funded bailouts, instead of refunding to the original investors, who took a loss. There were other ways to prop up the pension funds.

Long term tax policy as a remedy for economic problems could include stabilizing population growth as a remedy for high unemployment. Lately the numbers of jobs available has not kept up with population growth, resulting in high unemployment rates and many unemployed young people.

Perhaps the tax policy should state 'one dependent per one adult' instead of huge tax breaks for people who have many children. Having more children actually costs the system, the schools, welfare, busing, meals, and other subsidies. Limiting the dependent credit to one per one would tend to discourage large families. The same would go for school tax credits and tuition subsidies. Manifest Destiny is certainly over and more population growth plus high unemployment will damage the prosperity of the citizenry.

As for the economic model that demands ever increasing growth for success is surely in for a disavowal as populations become more dense and physical supplies are strained or tenuous. Tax policy could slow down this 'population infill' before we have people living in doorways. Too many people are broke and unemployed while the amount of money the mega wealthy controls has ballooned.

Current tax policy uses the IRS as an arm of welfare, giving 'returns' to people who did not earn them like a once a year Santa. I suppose that gratis payments to low income people is easier to do this way than it would be if the legislative process were used to authorize these payments. It also attracts less political publicity. Payments to these people should be limited to one per one.

So now the IRS is to be used as an arm of insurance companies to force people to buy private health insurance? If the IRS is checking on this, then it must be a tax that you will be punished if you do not pay, just like income tax. A tax imposed on us by private companies is not sound policy. I am hearing stories of people who have to buy high deductable insurance because it is cheaper and then still don't get health care because they can't afford it. Anything to keep the IRS off your ass, right?

More on tax policy later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

REVISE TAX CODE

1. Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) Definition


Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) - Definition of Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) on Investopedia - A security that tracks an index, a commodity or a basket of assets ...

www.investopedia.com › Dictionary -



Exchange-Traded Funds are being discussed as the next scam like the mortgage backed securities debacle. It looks like another way to make money without investing in material jobs. This kind of investment does nothing to add to the economy, except for a few receiving commissions and a few receiving dividends. Money tied into these second tier investments produces no jobs, creates nothing material and freezes money out of circulation.

Carnival barkers rule. Taxes pick up their losses. Perhaps losses in investments that produce no jobs or material goods should not be tax deductable, which would discourage the practice. The prevention of future bailouts for these kinds of manipulative non producing funds must be a priority. Those subprime losses and the 'securities' losses should not even be tax deductable but instead were subsidized with tax money. Maybe these kinds of losses in 'non producing' investments should be taxed as a burden to the rest of the economy. Profits from non-producing investments should be heavily taxed also, in an effort to capitalize on and discourage non-producing investments.

Fannie and Freddy and any other of those who subsidize non producing investments like mortgage backed securities should lose funding. If the mortgage brokers go broke so be it. These people cannot control monetary policy and tax policy and all that would benefit them.

Our nation is becoming a playground for the rich for whom it is apparently easier to avoid messy investments that actually result in jobs producing something. Too much in the hands of the few did not bode well for other nations.

I think it is far too easy for politicians to put governmental agencies in debt to give tax money to special interests who were making risky investments. That is not capitalism: It is parasitism. Tax the ass off these people and those non producing investments. Tax the original lender if a home is foreclosed, as it increases welfare and homeless. Tax the owner of record of a foreclosure at a higher rate than residents, because the empty house requires increased police patrols. Provide tax incentives for keeping the homes in the hands of the buyers, instead of tax incentives for eviction.

Tax policy is a tool and should not be a weapon. We need to work together to solve economic problems that are causing unemployment and scarcity of money. Stop passing the bubble around like a hot potato and let those who profited from the fraud fed bubble take the losses. Why not create tax policies to achieve this aim?

What kind of capitalism is being promoted by these archaic tax policies that reward making bad loans and eviction and tying up money? Special interests bailouts will make this monetary system a reversion to the wealthy oligarchies of the past where the masses are expected to absorb fewer jobs and a tax hike while more money is concentrated in the hands of a few? Taxes on the upper echelons should be increased, with easing provided for increasing employment in local sustainable businesses. Spending on increasing infrastructure should be avoided, with infrastructure maintenance to be encouraged as a source of jobs, but not the only designee for funding. The kinds of businesses that should be funded are those that build up a continuing business for example like a sewing business that imports fabric, sews it into something salable, sells it locally at a reasonable price that competes. Flip side would be that Pima cotton is once again grown here, thread is spun here, cloth made here, sewn here, sold here and elsewhere if there is a surplus. Pima cotton used to be famous and cotton seed oil is a commodity. This is an example of what could be accomplished. A cottage copper industry would create more long term jobs than a huge short term mining operation. Sustainable jobs should be the focus of tax break investments.

ADVICE TO THE POLITICIANS: GET BUSY AND MAKE SOME TAX CHANGES THAT BENEFIT MAINSTREET!





Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Rio Nuevo Debacle

Rio Nuevo Rundown


The issue of management must be addressed when considering the decisions made by the Rio Nuevo Board and the Tucson City Council and Mayor as of the TIF time period from inception to Q4 2010.

As of 2010, $230,000,000 was spent: $156,682,160 was spent as mostly borrowed cash on capital projects, of which most are grossly incomplete and another $70,000,000 was blown on other 'costs'. Future money was encumbered at an average interest of close to 50%, cutting in half the material value of the dollars invested in jobs and projects.

In 2010, Rio Nuevo spent over $15,000,000 on debt service of which $6,200,000 went for interest on five debts incurred by Rio Nuevo and passed by the City Council. The TIF revenue of $9,322,000 did not cover this payment. This huge debt payment is not covered by the total revenues of $13,000,000, even though the income from the TCC is also encumbered. Reserves of borrowed money are being used to make up the difference.

Using this train of fact, perhaps it is time to question the decision making that occurred that produced this unfortunate situation. The individuals involved were quite interested in possessing borrowed cash to pay out. They were so motivated to get the cash; they agreed that taxpayers would pay 50% interest. This reduces the value of the tax dollar by half. The moneylenders get half and the Rio Nuevo handlers get half and the taxpayers get to pay for it. Is this mismanagement?

I know the scheme was that the boom would be endless and properties would continue to escalate and the tax money would continue to flow and grow. Debts would be smaller because of increased value in equity. Instead, a recession intervened and closed the party down. Property is down only 40% if you're lucky and commercial and housing sits empty. Tucson is not booming. Tucson just turned down a tax hike for the city. Tucson has a history of real estate booms and busts. Was I the only one in town who knew this?

Poor decisions and a recession that was foreseeable by many of the cautious has put Tucson in the category of the family who just bought a new car and home and then lost their jobs. Default, anyone?

But it's not just the borrowing and spending, it's the way the cash was spent. According to the Rio Nuevo audit, the Rio Nuevo handlers played fast and loose like a sailor on shore leave with a pocket of cash. Evidently no spending plan existed beyond borrowing the future proceeds of the TIF and TCC and setting up payment plans. No attempt was made to pay for work incrementally. Everybody dreamed big but not in enough detail to actually fund most projects that were begun. Evidently, the spending was dictated by whim or friendship, instead of what could be afforded. Rio Nuevo would now need $449,530,501 and more to complete the projects they began.

This scattershot approach resulted in millions of dollars wasted. I call this mismanagement. Even if the recession had not intervened, it would have been difficult to raise enough money to finish what they started. Looney tunes seems rational compared to this.

The Rio Nuevo audit revealed that few projects were actually completed. The Fox Theater restoration was completed but the operation of the theater is not profitable. The 'Presidio' generates no income. That brings me to another consideration. Apparently the TIF spending was supposed to be an economic stimulus. Projects should be revenue generating. Projects should not be infrastructure or housing. This was not a 'living space' project where housing is created and tenants pay rent and buy needs from area stores which generates tax revenues. The Rio Nuevo was supposed to be a new arena/stadium that held important big events, raised the cultural opportunities of locals and generated fat tax revenue. However, instead of focusing on the big event facility, a series of other derailments took place, with the money going to a hokey film and other frivolities that did nothing to create revenue. The tacking on of a glassy entrance to TCC did nothing to enhance revenue but did result in a substantial debt was a bad business decision. Architects collected millions in tax money. How about paying architects as the project is built, on an incremental basis? If the structure is not built, no payee to architect. We have been taken to the cleaners. We have no new arena nor do we have a world class museum, but we now have cash happy architects and outlandish designs and an out of state filmmaker has $800,000 in tax money. Is this mismanagement?

What happened to the bid process required by law? Why was this Rio Nuevo video not put out to bid? The city and Rio Nuevo paid the bills for this film so it should have been put out for bid. If the bid process was violated, the city charter says that those responsible will be removed from office. If more laws were violated, this should come to light. It has been suggested by the Rio Nuevo Audit that the payments to the U of A were in violation of state law. Legal problems, subverting the bidding process required by law, and lack of progress point to mismanagement. The bidding process for all spending needs to be documented.

The city matching funds projects for Rio Nuevo were transportation projects, some of which seemed that there was a bond issue for some time ago. What are the cost overruns on these transportation projects? Did these matching funds projects bring in revenue to the TIF? I know the premise is that good streets generate business but did this happen? What was allowable for matching funds? The Martin Luther King housing units downtown have been eating money but generating nothing after the tenants were ousted. The debt level will ensure the rents remain high.

The modern streetcar that lacks funding has already consumed millions in Rio Nuevo 'matching funds' , another fiasco designed to need a city subsidy to operate. Already deep into transit deficit spending to set up a situation projected to require a subsidy to operate is the ultimate foolishness. As for the streetcar projects, most of them take place out of state employing workers building streetcars while Arizona's unemployment rate remains high. If the Federal funding requires that our community export jobs, then perhaps this type of funding is simply too expensive for Arizona.

The new Rio Nuevo Board has been hiring lawyers and now wants to hire employees, even though Rio Nuevo is in deficit spending. I suggest this board nominate and elect one of their own to be treasurer. I also suggest that those with financial interests in the defunct hotel project resign over a conflict of interest. As a community, we need fresh ideas on the board and we also need a board that is willing to work in a transparent manner and one that is willing to work to salvage what is left of Rio Nuevo. We have from 2011 to 2025 to work towards solvency and material achievement. A hiring freeze is in effect, isn't it?

This bum on the street corner now wants you to buy him a new car when he's flat broke. Tell him no. Tell him to get busy and do the job as Rio Nuevo Board, instead of just claiming dubious prestige for the title.

The pattern of disorganized and whimsical spending without a reasonable budget for accomplishing material gain in the form of an arena or expanded TCC or even a viable project to generate revenue was an outstanding example of mismanagement that needs a full investigation. The gambler who is forever optimistic just continues on and on until he is bankrupt.

I say it is time for the gambler to fade away and a fiscal conservative to take his place.





IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION:

Rob O'dell wrote an interesting factual article on Rio Nuevo and the hiring of lawyers and what they were paid out of tax money:

http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_522148bd-131f-5d86-bb90-5ac6c3867d11.html

Joe Higgens and Chris DeSimone wrote a good opinion piece on the Rio Nuevo Audit:

http://tucsongrowup.com/2010/11/06/those-responsible-for-rio-nuevo-must-face-consequences-wut-column-for-inside-tucson-business/



Friday, October 29, 2010

Tucson Convention Center Renovation Ideas

The Convention Center Renovation


We are talking cosmetic changes at the beginning. Jobs to renovate the TCC can be created. TCC is a serviceable facility that has much to recommend it. We need projects that serve the needs of the community and that create local jobs.

Money? Is there any money at all? A $51,000,000 deficit on an adopted budget ? Should budgetary decisions be based on cutting costs to meet the budget? If so, then matching a retiring debt with a new debt that does not change payment amount in order to obtain money for jobs projects should instead go to cut the deficit.

Perhaps, but the train of thought will continue as if there were money. I would prefer to short contract pay as you go with no debt. Without the debt, maybe part of the $ could be used to retire other debt and a smaller amount would go to a fund. When that fund reaches the size required for a short term job, then hire! The improvements thereby would be on city property to city buildings by local contractors on an incremental basis.

Implementing an incremental hiring and renovation plan would require planning to meet the need to renovate TCC. After an outside tour of the TCC, I think that cosmetic renovations are needed. Maybe TCC isn't as large as some but artistic quality, ambiance etc will attract clients. If the rent prices were lowered, then possibly more acts, attractions would be able to come here. We need lower rent prices and a better looking structure.

The grounds of TCC are really nice, beautiful plants and nice brickwork. It's like a park. The grounds are a plus for the entire set of structures. Tourists love the flora.

• The structure has a nice brick facade but the older metal and glass additions could be refurbished or replaced.

• Doors need refurbishing.

• brick needs sandblasting

• cement walks need sandblasting and resurfacing. Tile would be nice but expensive.

• new light fixtures and electronic signs

• The tunnel is quite unattractive: how about bright tile mosaics or murals and better lighting? The tunnel is nice in summer. Good open air snack cart area. It seems like something really good could be made out of the tunnel. How about scenes from Arizona history done in mosaic all along the walls? There might be an art grant out there somewhere to help pay for it. Local artists make it more valuable as a tourist attraction.

• The west side is horrid, except for the plants. This definitely needs reassessment and redoing. Paint, stucco, anything. Is this what people see when they walk to the back lots? All that area could be turned into breakout rooms and the maintenance crew could be quartered in a steel building somewhere else.

• The chain link corral and chairs stacked against the walls don't do much for the decor. Ratty chairs look like a yard sale.

• The TCC could be a showcase for local art if murals are put on some of the walls. I'd love to see more sculptures by local artists on the grounds.

• The new addition is ugly. Why didn't they match the TCC when they designed it? It looks like a cheap skirt tacked over levis.

• We were over there on a Thursday. the escalators were grinding away and icy air conditioning even though it was 85 outside. Expensive choices. What is the utility bill over there?

• Solar power additions. I don't know what the roofs look like but that would be a good place for liteweight units if it's feasible.

• I have been told that the TCC needs new electronics.

These are just a few ideas from walking around the main TCC.






I like architecture and buildings. The TCC could be a showcase for local art. Jobs refurbishing the structure could be created. The ratty chairs could be reupholstered by locals, rather than replaced by chairs made in China. A good cleaning would help. The place looks like maintenance has been deferred. How much money was spent on maintenance at the TCC?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Arizona Educational Reform

Available on Kindle
School reform is a popular subject during an election year. Arizona has applied for and been denied two lucrative federal grants intended to encourage school reform in the states. Perhaps the lack of desire for change in education in Arizona was obvious in the application. The recent spate of negative statistics concerning student achievement in Arizona has begun a dialogue among many concerning the need for school reform. Arizona educators have tried testing and teaching to the AIMS test, ESL instruction for teachers, making certification more expensive in terms of time and credits for teachers, career ladders, raising academic requirements for graduation and many other fruitless gimmicks. The dropout rates remain high and the average academic achievement test scores are mediocre to terrible.


What next? I suggest a real overhaul of this 1912 educational vehicle. Changes since 1912 are apparently endless but the stars of this show are the growth of population size and the change in material technology and innovation. Immigrants have changed the cultural makeup of Arizona and a service economy has emerged. Things are different now in 2010, almost a hundred years later.

I will now address one facet of school reform that would benefit academics and sports, without sublimating either. School reform can eliminate a social emphasis that creates a hierarchy other than academic, often centering on sports proficiencies.

Both academic and sports proficiencies are important but should they be competing against each other in the public schools? On a social level, if the sports proficiencies are deemed the most important by the staff, then the students will get the message that the sports proficiencies are most important and that these people must be pleased by performing sports, which also gives social prominence.

I taught a long time and I know teachers push the academics but the social rewards are for the stars of the sports. As a preliminary to reform, the costs of sports must be separated from the total school budget and analyzed as percent of total, donation level, cost to student, income from events, cost per student participation donated and requisitioned, cost per capita student participation, etcetera... After this analysis is completed, a discussion on the distribution of funds can proceed.

I propose to separate the academic job preparation proficiencies from the sports proficiencies in the public schools, in an attempt to elevate the social status of academic proficiencies to more of a realistic level as found in later life. Create two separate entities, the academic schools and the sports schools merged with the city parks and recreation department programs. Separate these entities, while requiring passing grades for students to participate in the new City Sports Plan. Of course this would require cooperation in facilities management as the city costs and facilities are merged with those of the public schools or in partnerships with charter schools. There would be no need for additional facilities or busing to the Sports Schools; bus passes for needy students would be available through a donation program or subsidy.

I think this plan would free up money for academics.

This separation plan would also have an added benefit in that the academic facilities would be more flexible, since large groups of students of similar age need not be amassed in order to field a better sports team. Smaller schools for all ages closer to homes of students would eliminate busing costs. The Internet and Distance Learning would make available any course requirement online plus any level academic electives. On duty teachers would monitor progress and offer assistance in the upper grades, plus traditional classrooms for basic learners of any age. The possibilities are endless in a local K-12 academic school. The elimination of busing would save money. As this plan takes effect, bait the school districts with money from the state that would be spent on busing would either be lost or diverted to distance learning equipment designated for local smaller schools. Bait the universities into establishing a curriculum for generalists who can run and teach in one of these new K-12 Internet and basic skills schools.

As for the Sports Schools, attendance would be voluntary with the exception of x number credits in 'Lifelong fitness and nutrition", which would be required of all students in the Academic Schools 8-12. This requirement would introduce the students to the sports schools and thus the staff could encourage participation in Sports Schools volunteer programs. These programs would be funded on a per capita daily student attendance basis, which would encourage the Sports Schools staff to encourage more students to participate. If attendance fell below a certain percentage in a month, an immediate review of the teacher and the class would be conducted. To encourage attendance, student would be offered bus passes at a small profit. A Sports School would allow for the development of local sports stars, parental donations, recruitment possibilities and sports games for people to attend for a small fee. A self supporting program would provide jobs for concessionaires and security. Regional games could be funded as the schools fund them now. Why not a hierarchy of leagues until the big leagues take notice? We have two facilities in town plus all the school fields to use to develop local talent and we have all winter to practice. I do believe that the mandatory schooling law dictates that academic eligibility requirements be met by all Sports School volunteer programs. Community spinoffs could include sports leagues for older players.

As for Vocational Education 8-12, vocational centers would be established and programs of apprenticeships in local businesses would be developed. These vocational centers would contain various shops and trades, sewing, art, theater, electronics repair, real estate, agriculture, home gardening, small business management, business finance etcetera. As with the Sports Schools, students 8-12 would be required to earn credits here, which would expose students to career choices and the actual physical facility. Attendance would be voluntary and funded on a per capita daily student attendance basis, which would reward the best most relevant teachers. After a month of low attendance, the class would be under mandatory review and possible immediate cancellation, which would save student funds for successful teachers. I have seen teachers in electives run the students off until just a few were left, which is quite a low class load while collecting similar money to the teacher teaching required courses, swamped with students. Vocational certification would be relaxed to include more life certified teachers and journeymen. Cooperation with specialized charter schools could cut presentation costs.

School reform has many facets and possibilities. The state of Arizona has a good basic curriculum, but the teaching of that curriculum is too loosely interpreted by principals, who prefer to cultivate a non confrontational attitude towards teacher management. Perhaps that is the easiest row to hoe, but the curriculum as it applies to the success of a child in the system must be presented to all children, who will understand at the level the teacher is able to impart to them. Some students will have the native intelligence to understand the material without instruction, but those are few. In this era of electronic instruction of factual material, the concept of mastery learning must be revisited, rather than strict adherence to the grade level system. In a K-12 school, the concept of students proceeding at their own pace would be much easier to implement and would free the students to proceed through the required curriculum at a reduced or accelerated pace. Given the various maturity levels of students in any age group, this system might be a relief to many.

To create liquidity, If the school facilities are too large, then divide up the facilities and rent them out to other government agencies first at a nominal rate, then to private enterprise: child care, clinics, therapy centers, and other health related businesses. Get some cash flows and use the money to fund academic competitions and travel. How about awards dinners and travel for academic stars? The Science Fair is an excellent example of how to run a creative competition and exposition.

I was gratified to hear that Mr. Huckleberry of Pima County is fielding a plan for a local sports complex, where traditional sports and sports not taught in the schools will have a venue. I support the idea of this complex and would suggest that the Sports Schools plan could cooperate with the county in use of these facilities, sharing in educational efforts, utilities and maintenance costs.

School reform is a complex issue that must be addressed with practicality and creativity plus realistic views of the academic and social needs of students. Today's job market is tough and students will become motivated to learn how to make a living and exercise voting rights. The job of the schools is to prepare students to earn a living and function lawfully within our society.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

City of Tucson Budget Crisis


Mind Set and the Economic Crisis




Another tax hike will cut commercial spending, which is an undesirable outcome even though the city would then have more money to spend. Take from the many to give to the few. I think it is time for new ideas.

An analysis of city spending needs to be made. I will begin with SunTran.

How often do the routes run?

What is % ridership? If it is 25%, then four too many buses are being run.

How much is this transit management team being paid? They are producing nothing.

How much federal funding does Tucson get for transit?

How many actual runs would serve the needs of the riders?

At forty cents a ride, maybe a little inconvenience is worth it. If SunTran cannot afford to run so many buses due to low ridership, then it would save money to cut the number of buses. Preserve the routes but not the frequent pickup times. People who ride the bus will plan ahead to continue using the service. If these excess runs are being demanded by the union in order to create jobs, this point must be negotiated. The money is just not there for them to spend. The taxpayers are subsidizing their jobs with no increase in productivity.

The ticket subsidy should remain the same if SunTran cuts the bus runs. This is the sacrifice asked of the people who ride the bus to the budget crisis. They cannot afford to pay more. The 'executive staff' giving up their free cars and cell phones might be a nice gesture. How about they get a free bus pass?

This plan will cut personnel costs and might result in layoffs, unless the drivers want to get together and share the actual available work. This plan would cut personnel insurance costs. Fewer buses would be running, so the bus fleet would last longer. Running huge empty buses is a waste of machine hours, fuel, insurance, street surfaces and productivity. This is like a teacher giving sixth graders scads of third grade work to keep them quiet. It works but there's no productivity. Those handicapped transit vans could run when full by appointment, with a driver on call, not just to pick up one person. You know, like the shuttles to Nogales from South Sixth.

This is a right to work state. The unions have no right to demand that the city fund excess bus runs in order to maintain their membership dues payments.

An analysis of the mindset that asks Don't you think that this worker is worth $100,000 or $50,000 or whatever? The question they should be asking is: What is the amount we actually have to pay workers? Figure that out and then cut payments and city funded benefits to workers to what the city can actually afford to pay. If these workers feel slighted, then they can move on. In this job climate, applicants at a lower pay will be legion.

This brings me to somebody's saying that each department will be cut X%. This screams assumption that each department is equally important, not top-heavy, overstaffed or even competent. An analysis needs to be made on each department. Some departments could be eliminated entirely, others remain more intact. Maybe some departments can be merged into others. I know it's easier to leave it all intact, but I question the efficiency of spending in some instances.

How about the city visit one of those agencies that do debt consolidation and renegotiation? I know this has already been done, but perhaps something could be gained. Has the city considered 'clawbacks' of money paid out with little received in return? It happens on Wall Street why not here? I am awaiting the Rio Nuevo Audit. Possibly charges can be filed? Excess indebtedness has eroded the value of the tax dollar to $.60 with $.40 going into the pockets of the moneylenders for years and years to come. What about default? What are the options?

According to a verbal report, the Fed wants to keep 3-4% inflation rate, which helps pay off the exorbitant Federal debts run up in the last 10 years. If that happens, that means we pay higher costs for everything, while unemployment continues and the people have less to spend. Higher taxes on top of that will simply put more of the money supply in the hands of government for distribution to that select group of workers. This is onerous when reorganization has not be achieved. Reorganization of city departments should result in lower taxes, not higher. Excess indebtedness has eroded the value of the tax dollar to $.60 with $.40 going into the pockets of the moneylenders for years and years to come. What about default? What are the options?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tucson Budget Crisis

 If the city is requesting a tax hike, there must be more information given to the voters.


So let's do some math! What is the amount of federal money received by transit today? How long is this requirement from the '70s in effect? Are these higher costs associated with hiring a management company, the union demands, the benefit levels and coping with strikes worth what the feds are contributing now? Too much money is tied up in this. If the answer is that certain people who make money off federal grants control the process and they're not going to let go of it, then this financial crisis cannot be solved. If this management company hiring is in perpetuity, then a court challenge needs to be made. How much does the management company for transit cost the taxpayers? This appears to be an unnecessary restriction in a right to work state.
I want to know what percent of this proposed tax increase will go to what department and will be used for what. How about a nice pie chart showing the raw data? Then break down each core department into how it spends the money: personnel, pensions, benefits, equipment, maintenance, buildings, consultants, debt service... Another general pie chart showing personnel numbers per department, others to show executive, administrative, clerical, field personnel, contractors and consultants as a percent of total expenditures in each department.

Core services as defined by charter? how detailed is it? Are all these subsidiary to the core services also untouchable? Can some portions of 'core services' be transferred to other departments, away from core services? let's redefine 'core services' to more austere levels.
I know what kind of core services this city had in the early days and what they are defining as core services now is nothing like that.


Here is an explanation for the creation of a management company for transit, politely supplied by George Caria:


Here are the answers to your questions. The first and third questions are reated, so I answered them together.



1. When did the city give this management team the right to negotiate with Sun Tram, giving them the right to strike when others can not? and 3. She said it was federally mandated. Why would this be?



When the Transit system went from private to public in the 1970's, the Federal Government had agreements in place with the Department of Labor. If transit systems, throughout the United States, not just Tucson, were going to received federal money they were required to have a right to strike clause in their labor agreement. Since most cities do not have a right to strike clause, they were required to hire a management company, so those employees were not employed by the City, but a separate management company. Additionally, it is required that issues related to labor details in the agreements, only be negotiated by the management company, and not the City.



This model was used throughout the country in cities such as Minneapolis, Mephis, Richmond, just to mention a few.



2. Who in the city set this up?



As I previously mentioned, this was set-up back in the 1970's. As private transit companies were folding, the Federal government offered financial assistance, and this was one of the strings attached to receiving Federal dollars. If Federal monies were not used to acquire transit systems cities were faced with the dilemma of using the Federal dollars or not having a transit system in the community.

Friday, August 13, 2010

PROPOSED TUCSON TAX INCREASE

THE PROPOSED TUCSON TAX INCREASES




I have been holding my consul lately concerning the fiscal problems of the City of Tucson government, while hoping to learn more about the situation. A few discussions, presentations and websites later I think I know enough about what is going on in order to logically comment upon it.

The presentation at El Rio by City Council members Romero, Fimbres and Ulich was illuminating in that four 'core services' are identified as being Police, Fire, Parks and Transportation. The Police and Fire and Parks departments were well represented by the respective department heads who took responsibility for informing the people concerning the tax increase to be voted upon in November. Nowhere did I see the head of Transportation, nor did I hear a word concerning their proposed share of this proposed tax increase. They should have been there to explain their part. I feel slighted by this omission.

I don't trust this proposal without estimates, percentages per department, prioritizing cuts and layoffs. Isn't there more to this proposition? We need expositions for the rest of this proposal. What about the reorganization of city hall? What about the proposed salary raises for council members? What else is tied up with this vote? Using scare tactics to get through a tax increase that would also include raises for council members? These items should have been four separate votes, not one huge vote with unrelated items in it.

Reorganizing city hall should be tied to a tax decrease, not an increase. Giving raises at a time when unemployment levels are high is unwarranted. Guaranteeing that one segment of the city is immune to layoffs and hikes in benefit costs is not fair to the rest of the city employees or the taxpayers since this tax hike would benefit Transportation employees in just that way. I heard that the city charter details transportation as a 'core service' but I suggest that parts of the transportation department would be better organized under different departments, thus reducing transportation to the actual core services, which would not be so difficult to fund. How about public safety and road repair administered under the police department? Are the SunTran employees under a management company so they can be exempt from the city worker agreement not to strike? Who set that up?

As for the scheduled cuts to be made in the event this tax increase does not pass, these are not the only configurations of cuts to be decided upon. I mean, there are other things besides police and fire to cut. I've seen the budget. One presenter at another meeting suggested retiring the 'double dippers', cutting high level salaries and benefits and reorganizing and cancelling departments. Absolutely, the level of public debt is too high! No more borrowing for anything.

Analyze this streetcar thing. How much money was borrowed to finance this? How much grant money was obtained? How much debt service will be paid on all borrowed funds? Does the interest cost of borrowing use up the grant money? Are we really making money on this thing, or are we just employing people in Oregon to build streetcars? What will the maintenance on this system cost? Are fares expected to pay for this deal? How realistic is this scheme? A few will be employed, but how long will it take for the rest of us to pay for this system? How many of us will use this system? I think deals like this and Rio Nuevo are impoverishing the community with debt service, reducing the value of our tax contribution.

Maybe this is off the topic of the proposed .5% tax increase, but voters are wary of giving more money into the hands of the city because of the recent track record. More tax to give to the moneylenders for debt service is simply unacceptable. If there were no debt, there would be no money crunch and projects could still continue to be built out of incoming receipts. A new way of thinking is needed.

The size and cost of government spending and projects must be reduced to fit the budget! You cannot depend on tax hikes, borrowing and selling real estate assets during a downturn.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

TAX THE LIENHOLDERS!

TAXATION AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Communication with others produced a new idea. According to a source, it is possible to tax banks, but that is a state responsibility.
Can the legislature take charge and tax foreclosures and repossessions? Not a tax on the poor guy who just lost his home or investment! How about a tax on the repossessors,; instead of giving them a fat tax break on the homes and businesses they repossess? They end up with a tax advantage and physical possession of the properties, a good deal for them and a bad deal for the rest of the community.

The foreclosure policy could also be implemented as a fee. How about a fee on every repossession and foreclosure, payable by the lienholder? The courts and administrative offices could raise fees on the lienholders foreclosing and repossessing. The police and fire could have a non-refundable contingency fee on empty homes and commercial property and require a monthly list of foreclosures and repossessions, plus cash payment for each at time of filing.

The reasons for instituting new fees and taxes on lienholders foreclosing on and repossessing properties should be stated:

Foreclosures and Repossessions contribute heavily to:
Homelessness
Increases in public housing costs
Increases in bankruptcy rates
Neighborhood blight and vandalism
Increases in welfare rolls
Increases in state health care costs

These foreclosures and repossessions are damaging the social fabric of our town. Community resources have to take care of the people ousted from their homes and businesses after the lienholders are through with them. Homes and jobs are lost as a result of bank policies. Foreclosed homes are even sold for less than the original buyer could have now paid. How about appraisal fraud on homes, like the false appraisals on 'derivatives'? Social responsibility can be maintained through taxes and laws.

This fee or tax money from the lienholders could be divvied up among the state and communities. This is a tax people would support! Sock it to the banks!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

NEW REVENUE SOURCE

In thinking about the need for new revenue for the city, my mind landed on the banks, who are rolling in cash. I have several questions about the banks and the foreclosures and the taxes on the foreclosed properties.


In several places I have seen case histories of those who lost their properties through foreclosure, then were charged taxes on these properties even though they could no longer had access to the properties. Taxes apparently accumulated long after they were ousted by foreclosure.

My question is this: Where are the taxes on foreclosed homes? The lenders foreclosing should be liable for the taxes, since they ousted the inhabitants and claimed possession of the property in fact. They claim the property, they own the taxes also? If you buy a property, you assume the liens which must be dealt with at time of purchase. The taxes should be assumed by the banks, since they take defacto possession of the foreclosed properties.

How much money could be generated by making the lenders pay taxes on the foreclosed properties?

The cities, towns and states could use this owed tax money, which should be paid by the defacto owner, not held in limbo by a paper technicality that allows the banks to stick the prior owners with the taxes, who now must struggle with this added debt after they lose possession of the property, that held fraudulent appraisals in the first place. The banks should step up and pay the taxes and penalties they owe on the properties they seized.

Pass some more penalties and tax the lenders for every empty home they own in this community. If they were taxed, maybe they would cut the rent or prices and get people in the houses. Empty homes in this community should cost those big owners some money.

Our governments need the money.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tucson Employment or more Unemployment and debt?

So I learned much about this city since returning here a few years ago. Ready to compare with what I had seen in other communities to my hometown, I engaged in political activity, mainly in the form of attending political functions and listening.


Factions have been squabbling over the spoils from the failed Rio Nuevo projects and very few have taken money from the many and then given to favorites. Too much money has been spent on too little. A few made big bucks and too many are unemployed.

The latest boondoggle is to buy streetcars from Oregon, putting them to work while our own people are unemployed. And they want to borrow money to do it, laying heavy amounts of debt service on Arizona people in order to hire people in Oregon to build streetcars we don't need.

Adding more debt to the public load already in place is foolish in this economic climate. Rio Nuevo is $2,000,000 in deficit a year, owing that much more than they bring in while they feverishly try to set up yet another debt for the city to guarantee to build a hotel downtown. Occupancy rates downtown are about 50%, which is too low for another hotel to be built. Can you believe Shelko wants to borrow money, hold enough to make payments for x years and is planning on a high occupancy rate to pay for the hotel? What are the occupancy rates right now? What is the intake of the TIF revenue right now? What is the present take of TCC? We need a dose of reality.

The city is $33,000,000 in deficit but just borrowed more money to build a building when empty buildings stand all over town. This new debt adds to the debt load.

Now an 'emergency' meeting was called to bring RTA into the money pit downtown in order to adequately fund this modern streetcar project. A huge portion of this money will not bring jobs to Tucson, except in the form of benefit to the few merchants along the very short route and the developer at the end of it. How much of this proposed debt, the federal grant and the city and RTA contributions will actually stay here to fund local jobs?

What percent is debt service? Sales tax revenue is not predictable as a revenue source when compared to the steady drain of debt service on the local economy.

What percent will be spent in Oregon on streetcars built by people who boycott us?

We do not need this project. We already have roads to all of these places. Let's use them.

We need small scale local jobs funded without debt. Instead of a giant museum all at once, we build a wing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

SB 1070 Arizona and Illegal Immigration

ARIZONA AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION




Senate Bill 1070 was passed by the Arizona House and Senate and signed by Governor Brewer, drawing both criticism and praise within the state.

Police officers will be made responsible for checking immigration status as well as given the power to stop people who might be illegal immigrants to check their papers. In the hands of a repressive police force, this law is dangerous.

On a practical level, I don't think the cops are interested in repressing or hassling anybody and that they now have plenty to do managing public safety concerns. The role of local police in our society has been to maintain order.

In order to maintain order, several criteria must be enforced:

• Traffic safety

• Immediate violence prevention

• Investigations into violence

• Enforcing court orders

This maintains continuity and consequences and preserves the fabric of our society.

The attitudes that created this law, will not be solved by this law. Let us think about Mexico and the Cartels for a while. There are a few facts on this that should be noted:

• Increasing violence in Mexico against police and Federales

• Rival factions in Mexico are competing for a market share of the USA drug trade

• The Cartels are reported to have $$$$$

• Is the Mexican government in danger of falling?

• the last Mexican election was quite close, with the populist candidate losing

• Recession has caused Mexicans to return to Mexico from USA, losing income

• Mexico produces about 450,000 more people a year than they have jobs for.

• The USA as population outlet for Mexico has slowed down due to higher unemployment in the USA

• High unemployment or underemployment rates in Mexico

• The USA has a law giving citizenship to anyone born here

• Arizona/Mexico is part of an ancient migration route

• Hispanics settled in what is now Arizona during the 1500s

• Anglos settled in what is now Arizona mostly after 1850



Recent history needs to be reviewed:

• During the subprime boom, Developers and Builders dominated Arizona politically

• Large numbers of undocumented workers were hired by developers and builders

• Mexicans heard about the good jobs available and headed to the USA

• Cultural change caused by the influx of Hispanic workers upset some residents

• Existing medical and educational services are used by undocumented workers

• Resentment over undocumented workers rose as unemployment grew

• Violence from Mexico appears to be spilling over into the USA

• An Arizona rancher was killed on his own land, apparently by a trespasser from Mexico

• Drug cartels in Mexico continue to feed the demand for drugs in the USA

• Illegal immigrant apprehensions are down in Arizona as jobs became scarce

• Federal action on illegal immigration has been fragmented and ineffective

• Some politicians are asking for militarization of the USA/Mexico border



Is illegal immigration a public safety issue? The immigrants have criminals among them, like any other human group. The drug cartel violence, drop houses and coyotes give the Mexican nationals a bad reputation, but the reality is that most illegal immigrants are peaceful people trying to find work, have children in the USA and build a better life for themselves and their families. Many of them send money to Mexico in support of impoverished relatives. Some of them ask for medical help and they all send their children to school. These human needs cost money to fulfill and the state of Arizona is bankrupt. Don't wait for the government of Mexico to offer to help pay for these services their citizens are receiving while in the USA: no money has ever been sent to pay for these services or needs, although the money the illegals send home to Mexico is certainly welcome.

So we have a situation where the impoverished come to the USA to work, their presence utilizes state services, but no sovereign entity is picking up the extra cost. Therein lies the resentment. Mexico and the USA should refund the cost of these services to Arizona and the other states taking care of undocumented immigrants. WE NEED THE MONEY.

As for SB 1070, I regret the perceived need for such a law on the part of lawmakers. Law enforcement should be able to concentrate on public safety issues. It is increasingly obvious that immigration reform is needed on the federal level, whether or not special interests oppose action. This election year politicians are finally talking reform.

It is about time!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Responsible Capitalism

Responsible Capitalism




Are we capable of responsible capitalism? A definition of terms is in order. Responsible capitalism is defined as capitalism performed in such a way as to perpetuate the system as a whole as well as create profit for the individual. Reliance on short term thinking is a sign of decadence and eventual decline if the future is not considered when making present profits.

In the vernacular, "I got mine!" The carnival atmosphere of the Boom has now given way to sober reflection of how to cope with the aftermath of overproduction and subsequent surplus in the housing market. Derivatives are now known to be gambling but how the taxpayer ended up paying for losses incurred is beyond comprehension.

I have not read the new financial regulation legislation. It does look as if investigations for fraud are just beginning. The raters will now be rated and schemers will keep company with Madoff. Do the regulators and the appraisers really work for the lenders? This cozy relationship needs to be dismantled, distanced, anything to remove them from such proximity.

So the scheme unravels to begin with easy money pumped into the system from the government. Developers seize on this opportunity to get loans to build houses that were then sold to people who previously could not get credit. Since credit standards were apparently nonexistent why not charge more for the units and get more money on return? All they had to do was find an appraiser who would raise the appraisal on demand in order to facilitate more profit per unit.

This was a good deal for everybody, the developer, the builder, the broker.....These became the fodder of the subprime mortgage derivatives. Empty calories were these 'investments' touted to be good returns for investors, but were actually just failing vehicles for hedge funds to bet against. Who was not surprised when these derivatives failed?

But to forge ahead, we must plan for the future. We have Ponzi schemes and now we have Subprime schemes, both of which will be run by outlaws. At least we can now identify the scams. I can't help but wonder what the next scam will be. We can all pray for some morality to continue this economic system.

Profits expectations remain too high, with incredible luxury demanded, not just a comfortable living expected. In this world of excess human population, every rich man can be viewed as having the portions of many. I think some luxury is deserved for work, but not deserved for social manipulation resulting in profit, like the subprime scandal that morphed into an insurance scam betting on failure. So they created a scam and hit it big for a while. Clawbacks are hell. How about rebating the money cities, counties and states lost in the housing market crash instead of paying off foreign bankers and irresponsible moneylenders and brokers? The boom debt needs to be paid off. Who owes whom? Let the courts decide.

Friday, April 09, 2010

TO THE ARIZONA LEGISLATORS


SOLVING THE ARIZONA BUDGET CRISIS


As with any problem solving set, the solution can only be achieved by a structured approach. Begin with the definition of the problem:

The state of Arizona is obligated to pay out more than the revenue amount.

Various approaches to solving this problem have been forwarded:

Spending must stay as is so we must raise the amount of revenue.
a. raise taxes
b. increase business activity and thus revenue through taxes
c. sell off assets
d. increase debt by borrowing to spend

Spending can be cut back and less revenue will be needed
entitlements take large part of revenue
constitutional amendment needed to change entitlements
cutbacks in discretionary programs
cutbacks in police and fire
cut salaries/pay

A new budget can be formed from scratch, using ‘necessary services’ as criteria earmarked for funding.
a. freedom to fund what is needed.
b. if default is declared, contracts are voided.
c. after basic needs like water, police, fire, sanitation are funded, then discretionary
spending for the remainder of the funds, if any.


The first two approaches have been melded and used. The net result was a continuing budget deficit and heavier debt load. The Constitution of Arizona is now a parody, as the debt load exceeds the stated limit. Permanent overrides are now discussed, yet nothing can be done about the mandated spending.

Bankruptcy. What will be paid first with cash? Police? Probably.
Will it ruin our credit rating? Should we worry about that? Didn’t somebody sign an agreement that our interest rates on borrowed money would go up if our credit rating slips?

Instead of wasting time trying to make taxpayers pay for what is forbidden to fund in the constitution of the state of Arizona, why not focus efforts on another referendum? How about a referendum to amend the referendum/initiative laws that requires a sunset clause of no more than 5 years of financial obligation with a specific project stated, instead of the current version of pure permanent entitlement, with no strings on the funds. A change in the law could also sunset all existing permanent entitlements.


Before voting anything budgetary, think does this add to entitlements, does this raise what we are obligated to pay out? Amending the constitution to allow for tax money to go to private religious schools will increase the educational obligation where none exists today. Not a good move. We can’t afford it and it is against the constitution. We can’t put teaching religions at the tax trough. Isn’t it against the Federal Constitution?

You can’t afford to pass legislation that increases spending. If this tax increase does not pass, more cuts must be made. A recent article in a local paper said that not passing this tax increase will result in the loss of x number jobs. This would not be necessary if all took a pay cut to allow for fellow workers to share in what funding there is. It used to be a game to see who would get the raise, it’s now not a game to actually have to cut back because the money is not there. The boom is over, the money and equity is gone and too many workers were hired then for to be paid now with the current revenue. It will work if they all take a pay cut. This will cut down on benefits costs. Should everyone’s taxes be raised in order to furnish high benefits for city workers?

Debt loads must be defined and prioritized. Water must be paid, because it is a source of revenue and a necessity. Default must be discussed.

Departments must be defined and prioritized into
a. nice to have
b. could survive without
c. necessary

Retaining those departments that bring in revenue might not be the cheapest in the long run, if ultimate social costs rise. Tax collectors never lose their jobs, I guess. It is still not obvious to me how paying more license fees, taxes and mandated insurance frees up more money to purchase inventory or spend on the open economy. Higher taxes and government fees take money out of circulation, leaving less to be spent elsewhere. The tendency of the Tucson solution set is towards higher taxes in the city, which will drive buyers elsewhere. The least mobile will be the hardest hit by higher city taxes. The net result might be less revenue. Businesses might leave Arizona if taxes go up.

As a finale, you have a huge job to do. I suggest that the bodies meet without all the hangers on. Meet among yourselves and discuss this budgetary problem the state is facing. Exclude the lobbyists, special interests, department heads and others with skin in the game. You have a huge responsibility and it is yours to handle alone.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Political Vandalism

I watch the news regularly and recent reports of violence towards congressional offices have been the subject of much comment. Apparently both political parties have been hit with vandalism.

Finger pointing has been rife since the first incidents occurred at Democrats’ offices, including house member G. Giffords of CD 8 here in Pima County and Tucson. Mr. Limbaugh and Ms. Palin use unfortunate phraseology like ‘wipe them out’ and ‘reload’, causing a spate of complaints from those who think they are inciting violence. Ms. Palin has denounced violence. I think she may have meant ‘If at first you do not succeed, try, try again’.

I have no idea who did the violence. Perpetration is difficult to prove. But I do wonder why it was so easy to stir up the violence. Ms. Palin verbally attacks the media, directly challenging their power. Bias appears to be the norm, both in the press and on the podium. With the internet, it is becoming more difficult to slant reporting, since there are so many sources of data. Perhaps perception of bias provokes violence if coupled with economic inequities. People understand bias.

The internet article in the Arizona Daily Star was blatantly biased in saying Cindy McCain was ‘lukewarm’ in her introduction of Ms. Palin. A biased interjection of opinion into what should have been a factual report of a political event, things like crowd size reported accurately, who was there, interviews with local organizers, etc. etc. I don’t really think people are interested in a reporter’s opinion disguised as fact.

So what is the source of the violence? Maybe people don’t like the attitude of the politicians, the lack of jobs, the level of public debt, mandated insurance costs, higher taxes, cuts in public services, more regulation and loss of freedom in the name of protecting us. Take your pick. We have an educated populace, phenomenal communications and an attitude of lifelong learning. A large number of people know a great deal about what is going on in the government, from the internet and a cadre of dedicated media. This educated electorate sees what before was hidden and slow to disseminate. The electorate is perceptive of a lack of accountability in our elected officials for the bailouts, tax rebates and lobbyists.

Perhaps reflection on how action creates reaction, the role of government, the constitution and the freedom of the American people should be required of our elected officials. Did any of them thoroughly survey constituents concerning the important issues of the day? Should all elected officials understand and act on voters’ interests and needs? I think so.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

TAX REBATES AND HEALTH INSURANCE

So the interstate homebuilders are bailed out by refunding tax money they paid during the boom, as if these people really deserved to get this windfall? The moneylenders are bailed out in direct payments to them from tax money that had to be augmented by borrowing. Essentially our government is borrowing money from foreigners in order to rebate money to the homebuilders. Our government borrowed money to give to the banks. Convenient that the bill excludes TARP recipients from these rebates. That would be a little too over the top.

What I see here is that the same people who created the boom are still in power and will still control too much of the money supply, using machinations available to them through political campaign support and lobbying. Why should those who caused the bubble end up with more power?

The Federal Reserve is lobbying to get more power and a court order must be obtained in order to obtain information from them. This all powerful, unelected bureaucracy makes choices that benefit special interests over the economy in general. Names are concealed from the public record. Payments are concealed. Less power needed, not more here.

The interstate homebuilders get tax rebates? This is incredible. I would like to see the end of cookie cutter home construction brought in by these ‘too big to fail’ homebuilders. I can see it now. They get their taxes rebated, they hold the money until the housing market is deemed cheap enough to snap up properties at a bargain, betting that the market will upswing instead of continuing to lose value. A false bottom would relieve them of their cash with diminishing returns. Why should they have the cash? They can ride out the recession on this cash while the smaller businesses are squeezed out.

Favoring interstate firms over locals is ruining the economy. Requiring millions in contracts awarded with borrowed money in order to interest the interstate firms wastes money. Go local. Go incremental. Stop the borrowing. The moneylenders are reaping 40 cents out every tax dollar spent on borrowing here in Tucson. Incremental financing as the funds come in would give taxpayers 40 cents more for every dollar spent. Better the taxpayers have the material value increase, than the moneylenders. If a default spawns ‘poor credit ratings’, then go incremental. Live within the income.

So now the IRS is getting a $20 billion dollar makeover and a drastic increase in their power to punish and collect money from citizens. The tenth amendment is ignored as the Federal legislatures deem it legal to require that citizens buy a money handling service in order to obtain health care. This is a violation of our personal rights to decide how we will spend our money. So now the health insurance firms will have a permanent sellers market, illegally mandated in violation of the tenth amendment. The federal government is creating and controlling economic activity instead of only regulating economic activity interstate.

I feel that we need reasonably priced health care, not a series of mandated brokers handling our money for us.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

DEBT DEBT EVERYWHERE A DEBT DEBT

How to cut local and federal debt

The government must cut spending somewhere before adding a new obligation, popularly known as PAYGO. Unfunded mandates from the federal to the state must cease, particularly in education.

A young doctor will borrow against future earnings to buy an incredibly expensive piece of equipment, and then charge patients to pay for it. Perhaps the government might subsidize the cost of the equipment, rather than distributing the same amount in subsidized patient health care. I think health care professionals would find subsidized equipment financially attractive debt relief.

Student loans are a drag on the economy. Somehow, you should be able to work all of them off in public service, like on the reservations. (For example, teach GED or tutor students to work it off)

Did term limits encourage the mountain of debt? This is a cynical thought that during the cheap credit drama, borrowing on the part of cities in Arizona rose precipitously, giving the borrowers much power in the community, without having to return to the voters for a long career in congress. Absolution of responsibility? Why not borrow? They won’t be here to pay for it because they are term limited. I think politicians ability to indebt the taxpayer should not exceed their term of office. Term limits disrupt entrenchment of special interests, which is a positive effect. Which is worse?

Road building has gone far enough for now. We need to maintain the transportation infrastructure rather than borrow to expand it. No more borrowing for transportation would force a pay as you go plan and reliance on short term contracts to local contractors.

Moneylenders have their place but it should not be at the top of the profit chain. There are too many fees, interest payments, obligations; it costs too much to borrow, too many brokers, too many people who produce nothing cut in front of everybody at the table. Endgame. Somebody big should take a haircut, face a clawback of that money and fraud charges.

Legislation against debt needs to happen. It looks like the city of Tucson is paying $133 million to borrow $80 million. This is not judicious use of taxpayer money. How about limiting debt incurred by politicians to their term or require a public vote on any debt?

Reduce the fleet the government sponsors. Cancel all cars for other than police and fire. This would save insurance, fuel and maintenance plus a cash outlay for new units. Sell off gas guzzlers, private cars etc.

Van Tran in Tucson: how many people are being served at what cost per person? Would this be cheaper contracted out to a private enterprise taxi?

Pima County should not borrow to build more wastewater plants. We are still paying for the last one. Why not start incremental work and use local contractors and pay cash as it comes in? Don’t borrow to build. Pay for the ongoing work as the money comes in and avoid interest charges. If this doesn’t generate enough money then the plans are too grandiose and must be scaled back to the actual income available. The amount of actual income available should drive the scope of the project, not the maximum able to be borrowed and the cash in a lump sum for somebody to play with. It costs money to borrow money and an ambition to control a large amount of money is not adequate criteria to indebt the public.

The TIF Rio Nuevo in Tucson did not produce adequate results from the cash borrowed and the debt remains. Legally this appears to be tenuous as audit results are awaited. How did the people who controlled Rio Nuevo get the power to borrow against the revenue stream? Why is this allowed without a popular vote? Somebody landed control of $80 million and blew it. Who voted to do this? What about the $15 million entrance boondoggle? That’s like financing a new Cadillac and never getting possession of the car but still have to pay the debt.

Mandating insurance turns it into a debt. This assures that a percentage of income is forever inaccessible to the earner. This is a tax also. The net result is that the earner may never have access to this money, but is required to pay it. This is a debt. The insurance companies are taking too much out of the general economy and funneling too much of the money to themselves and health care professionals, who are pumping up the costs by ordering expensive tests/procedures in order to avoid litigation.

Litigation in the medical world is making money for the lawyers at the expense of the insurance companies and medical professionals who must pay enormous insurance premiums. Some claims are legitimate but the parasitic aspect of litigation and the negative results on society is a cause for concern. Limits on litigation must be set in order to protect our medical professionals, while protecting individual rights.

There are more ideas out there. Cut debt, reexamine contracts for legalities and applied limits to more than the market value for rent as a lease payment in Tucson, and renegotiation possibilities for strapped homeowners. Or defaults will continue to rise. Nobody wants to put more money into something that is losing face value, making the debt impossible to pay in today’s economy. If you can get better elsewhere for less money, then that will happen. Buyers have dried up. Cut the rents. Nobody can make money while paying exorbitant rents because the owners have huge debt on the property. So units stand empty.

If you own a rental and that rental remains unrented with an exorbitant rent demanded, does that constitute a tax deduction for the owner? If it does, cancel that deduction. Nobody should make money from the government by leaving units unrented.

Creative thinking needs to happen. Focus on the real necessities. If local default becomes an option, we can start over with the actual income to be applied to the necessities of government, instead of harmful cutbacks in physical necessities in order to meet debt service. Practicality must rule.

Remember that old Alexander Dumas story about the poor woman who borrowed a diamond necklace from a rich friend, lost it, and spent years paying for a replacement only to eventually find out the original necklace had been glass? I don’t want to spend the taxpayers’ lives paying for debts incurred within a few years. This truly impoverishes the community for the duration of the debt. They cannot count on continued inflation and another boom to bail them out of debt made smaller through inflation. That is wishful thinking.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hypocrisy at the Arizona Daily Star

Dear Colonel Gent:

I read with interest your letter in the Arizona Daily Star on February 15, 2010. The best line in the letter is “When elected officials decline to take part in public discourse, one has to ask why.”

I looked on the net to perhaps find your e mail address and found your bio, which tells me you are a person to respect. Like many of the Republican Party, I support the military and veterans. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue of national pride and responsibility. I am also a Daughter of the American Revolution and am proud of it.

I surmise we do have more goals in common. Since you serve on Representative Giffords Military Advisory Council, I surmise that you support the space program. To me the space program is too important to be a partisan issue. Many military people I have met also support the space program.

I also have a great interest in environmental issues and as a consequence, I have supported Representative Raul Grijalva in my district. Possibly you also have such interest in preserving the natural environment.

A noted Iraq War veteran and author in Arizona, State Representative Frank Antenori had the following to say when I requested a statement about the Arizona Daily Star’s editorial policy:

“The Arizona Daily Star's editorial board has clear bias and hidden agenda that distorts or filters information in an effort to influence public opinion in favor of their ideological beliefs. They offer no opposing views on their editorial pages and have consistently suppressed opposing views submitted by readers by refusing to print them. They are now truly living up to the words of Mark Twain, "Those that do not read the paper are uninformed, and those that do are misinformed."”

I believe that Mr. Antenori is correct. Apparently, nothing is more important than partisan politics to the editorial staff at the Star.

My own experiences with the ‘Reader Advocate’ Debbie Kornmiller did nothing to correct this assertation. Ms. Kornmiller has banned me from commenting online because my husband allegedly broke the terms of service while using his private e mail address. No complaints were made about my postings.

Ms. Kornmiller banned me because I am a Republican precinct committeeman who does not always agree with her personal choice of candidates. My blog explains my interests and opinions, if you would like to see what Ms. Kornmiller banned. A past president of the Pima County Republican Womens’ Club has felt ostracized because she was at odds with Ms. Kornmiller. Ms. Kornmiller has also ‘edited’ letters printed in the paper, receiving complaints. I attend several Republican political organizations and often the discussion turns to the biased editorial page of the Star. The problem appeared to escalate after the demise of the Tucson Citizen.

What does this have to do with elected officials declining to take part in public discourse? It has been suggested that the Star have more ‘conservative’ viewpoints represented in the opinion section. I support this idea.

I think what we have here is a breakdown of genuine bipartisanship, reflected in the stagnation of the legislative process. My problem with Ms. Kornmiller is a microcosm of the mentality that is preventing true public and private discourse. The lines of communication are cut. What the opinion page of the Star is offering is not public discourse, but is a heavily edited version of the truth as sifted for you. That’s probably why some decline to comment for the Star. They don’t deserve to be criticized for not answering the Star’s demand for a statement. There are other venues to reach the constituency.

A free flow of ideas is essential for democracy. I think that the key to future success in solving the problems of this country lies in bipartisan or antipartisan agreements. Important issues like the military, veterans affairs, forwarding the space program, health care payment system reform and other issues should generate bipartisan coalitions, but the lines of communication must remain open for this to occur.

I am disappointed in the Arizona Daily Star.

Sincerely,
Dorothy Prater Niemi
LD 27

Monday, January 18, 2010

Capitalism?

Capitalism/Free Enterprise System


The Free Enterprise economic system is not a game of ‘keep away’ played as a child. Free Enterprise is a game designed to keep the system running while making a profit. If the means to a profit eventually destroys the system, then this means is immoral to use. Morality is actually subjective as used by people and the legal system only covers a small portion of business practices. A sense of responsibility has been absent in the past, either that or a blissful ignorance or indifference to the consequences of the business model deemed to earn a profit. Ms. Bair indicated that compensation practices be linked to FDIC insurance rates, as an insurance hazard that promotes risky investments. Is it really true that investment houses funneling investors’ money into mortgage ‘products’ bet against success and collected insurance money when the mortgage ‘products’ failed while the investors they counseled lost their cash? And what about dividend payments? Are these boards and executives feathering their own nest using tax money and the capital invested by others? Many questions remain to be answered.

Of course the excesses produce regulation and restrictions. Yet they still want more derivatives and other investments that produce nothing but commissions for a few, very expensive people. These derivatives and hedges should be relegated to organized gambling in Nevada or let the Indians handle them.

Formerly known as killing the goose that lays the golden egg, this destructive behavior
must be discouraged, in favor of a less phenomenally profitable enterprise that makes a good living and keeps work going. The short term profit taking model should be analyzed carefully before implementation, as to whether the economy will be perpetuated in a healthy condition after the profit taking. Is that so much to ask on a moral level or must the government create regulation? The answer lies before us.

Now the investment banks that were intensely subsidized for a short time are hugely profitable and plan to pay themselves large sums for handling the government money. Unemployment is about 10%, social services are strained, the real estate market overbuilt and foreclosures rising. Local governments talk more taxes and insurance is in danger of becoming a mandated racket, while layoffs continue.

Can all this be blamed on the mortgage bubble? Easy money and no oversight pumped up real estate values so the securities sold by the investment banks would be worth more and they could make more mortgage ‘products’ for their clients while betting that these same securities would be worthless, collecting on insurance paid by the Feds through the ‘too big to fail’ authorization. Clients sold these ‘securities’ lost out as the foreclosure rate surfaced and the lack of loan oversight became a national scandal. Is buying insurance on something you know to be questionable or even worthless a crime? Fraud? Claw back that money.

Populism aside, people feel ripped off, gasoline prices are creeping up and the President is talking taxes on the investment bank bubble. Unbridled capitalism does become Darwinism as the available resources become controlled by a few manipulative individuals. Better yet, if these ‘new entrepreneurs’ can make up their own investment games without oversight, force the government to pick up the losses and come out of it with huge sums to divvy up, just like the train robbers of old, they think they won the game of keep away.

A brief return to the social unrest of the 20th century in the United States in my memory and knowledge of history tells me that the economy is often cause of unrest as manifested by bitter elections, corruption, recession, fewer jobs, riots and more regulation. The phenomena of bus rides past AIG mansions, rumors that Goldman Sachs people find it easier to get a firearms permit, or that GS people had swine flu shots before anyone else fan populist flames. I thank the media for publicizing the outrageous ripoffs and giant payoffs. I hope our Legislators order a full investigation of the ‘too big to fail’ authorizations. If they do not, expect them to be voted out. Difficult for incumbents in times like these.

Responsible capitalism? Is that possible? Regulated responsible capitalism? Foresight and careful decisions will perpetuate our civilization and allow free enterprise to function within a framework of sustainability in this new environment of 2010.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tucson City Council

Recall of City Council 2010


What do I think of the recall?

What caused the recall?

A lack of focus in Rio Nuevo contributed to public distrust. One project should be the focus until that project is completed and paid for. Squandering money on consultants resulted in a few benefiting hugely from Rio Nuevo while few jobs were created. Most of the money was skimmed off by those in the know before the job benefits actually reached the people. As for the public structures to be created with this money in Rio Nuevo, they do not exist, the money is gone and the fund encumbered for $80,000,000. We see a very few benefitting at the expense of the rest of us as the city staggers under a mountain of debt service. And there are no new museums or parade grounds for the people to enjoy.

I think an investigation and the ongoing audit will determine where the money went, what it was spent on and who got it. How about a list of people/enterprises that received Rio Nuevo money, in order of amount? This is public information. Let the audit begin when the first Rio Nuevo crew was ousted and the new regime took over.

Insular attitudes, insider mentalities, a lack of long term planning, lack of focus in Rio Nuevo, too much debt, and high unemployment have resulted in a negative public attitude. Recalls are a sign of public unrest and competition for scarce resources. The Rio Nuevo money was a rare opportunity for this community that has come to just another credit line to be obligated with nothing to show for the money. Too many people were cut out of the deal. Too much in the hands of too few. A few jobs for some very expensive people. Free land for select individuals. Rent subsidy for some and not others.

The ‘discovery’ of the $32,000,000 budget deficit just after the election left some people wondering if this information were withheld in an attempt to influence the election.

And now after all this public debt and the recession, we cannot afford more taxes and fees. With the city scrounging in our pockets for money and high unemployment rates, citizens need relief. The recall interests people because the city is insolvent and the Council raised fees and might be considering raising taxes.