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Helping Citizens Understand California County Pension Debt and Finances

John G Dickerson

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Understand Unfunded Pension Debt. Hold Officials Accountable. Redirect Local Government Finances.

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Mendocino and Marin Reformers Testify Against Unfettered Excess Earnings
State Senate Committee

The California State Senate's Public Employment and Retirement Committee held a hearing June 9, 2014 on "AB2473" - a bill to conform California's County Employee Retirement Law (CERL) to the Internal Revenue Code.

Holly Madrigal and Ted Stephens testify against unfettered diversion of Excess Earnings

Holly Madrigal - Ted Stephens

This bill grew out of a 3 year process in which all 20 County Pension Funds organized under CERL went through the IRS' "Voluntary Correction Program".

Ted Stephens (member of Mendocino's Retirement Board speaking for himself) and Holly Madrigal (Willits Mayor and candidate for Third District Supervisor again speaking for herself) were joined by John Dickerson (publisher of this site) and David Brown (Marin's Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans - CSPP) to offer a proposed amendment to AB2473.

It would prohibit the diversion of so-called Excess Earnings unless the Pension Fund has at least 20% more money than it needs.

There may be no greater indefensible practice condoned by CERL than the diversion of so-called "Pension Fund Excess Earnings" to pay other benefits.

This practice created about a fourth of Mendocino County's $220 million unfunded pension debt (click to read an explanation of this absurd practice - opens new tab or window).

As we expected our amendment wasn't accepted and the bill passed. But our main purpose was to let the "Powers That Be" in Sacramento know that citizens and officials in the 20 CERL counties are organizing to oppose the practices that imposed hundreds of billions of debt on our people. We let them know we will be back.

Thanks to Dan Pellisier - President of (California Pension Reform) - for helping us Sacramento nyophytes figure out how to get before the committee - and advising us to not have high expectations.

First California County
Pension Reform Conference

The first California County Pension Reform Conference was held Saturday, May 10, 2014 in San Rafael focusing on the SF Bay - North Coast Region.

It took over a month to produce videos of the conference - but finally here they are.

A series of panels presented various aspects of pension reform to over 200 fellow citizens, elected local officials, media, statewide reformers, and members of county-focused reform groups.

Videos of these sessions can also be viewed at the conference website - Here're the topics:

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed INTRODUCTION - KEYNOTE SPEECH: Marin County's Michael Lotito introduced keynote speaker San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. Reed gave his explanation of why pension reform is so urgent to prevent the choking off of city and county services, and how his proposed statewide ballot initiative would help.

FINANCIAL SITUATION: Marin colleague Bill Monnet and I described the massive unfunded pension debt that's been imposed on our counties.

HISTORY AND FUTURE: Dan Pellisier (California Pension Reform), Jack Dean (Pension Tsunami), Karol Denniston (Municipal financial restructuring attorney), and Lance Christensen (Director of Pension Reform - Reason Foundation) describe aspects of the history and future of "pension reform" in California, how it got started, the current situation of municipal bankruptcies such as in Stockton, San Bernardino and Detroit, and trends affecting the next couple of years.

COUNTY & CITY OFFICIALS: Dan Gjerde - Mendocino County Supervisor Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde and City Councilpeople Linda Pfeifer from Sausalito and Larry Chu from Larkspur describe how their governing bodies are reacting (or not) to the evolving threat.

CANDIDATES: Candidates for County Supervisor in Mendocino (Holly Madrigal) and Sonoma (Ken Churchill) and for the State Assembly on the North Coast (John Lowry) talk about how unfunded pension debt is affecting their communities and how the issue affects their races. Govern for California's Andrew Crutchfield explained the six-year opportunity to change the nature of the State Legislature, and former State Republican Chair Duf Sundheim opined about the need for cross-partisan reform coalitions.

WRAP-UP: Finally I gave the conference wrap-up describing the "unity principles" that are the foundation for Mendocino County's "Reform Our County Coalition" (Let's ROCC Mendocino County).


Citizen's Letter to County and Retirement Officials

Reform Our County Coalition

To fellow concerned citizens of Mendocino County.

Please Citizen Letter to Mendocino County Officialsadd your name (see below) to the letter to Mendocino County officials and others. Click this image for a copy.

Here’s why.

We believe a massive – irresponsible - unnecessary unfunded pension debt has been imposed on the People that will seriously damage our County for the next generation. Officials are now seeing the danger. But too many (not all) refuse to face up to what really caused this debt.

To quote from the letter:

Before we can solve big problems we first have to recognize we have them. Then we need to understand what they are. Before talking about solutions we need to know what’s true and accurate.

Are the analyses and findings in the report essentially correct? If they aren’t, please relieve our deep concern by proving they’re wrong.

Our County belongs to the People - not its officials - and certainly not the Retirement Board whose Pension Fund created $220 million of debt We the People have to pay.

The People deserve Causes of Mendocino County's Unfunded Pension Debt - and NEED to know what the impact of this debt will be and what caused it.

Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

You won’t be saying you necessarily agree with our analysis - and this doesn't bind you in any way. This is just asking officials to finally answer these questions after 6 years of mostly avoiding them.

How To Add Your Name

Click to Open an Email message

Copy and paste the paragraph below into the email:

I hereby authorize “Reform Our County Coalition” to add my name to the list of concerned citizens signing the Letter to Mendocino County officials and others as shown on this website.

Type your name as you want it to appear in the list of names.

Send it away!

And ... THANKS.

Reform Our County Coalition Steering Committee

    Holly Madrigal     John Dickerson
    John Robertson Ken Fowler
    Tom Monpere Richard Respini

Click for copies:

7 Page Summary of Analysis

Full Report - 22 pages plus attachments


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