living dead because Ventura has no money

The Ghost of No Money Haunts Pensions and Cemetery Park

‘Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. I’ve had nothing yet, “Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I can’t take more.” “You mean you can’t take less, “ said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing” —Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

THE SPECTRE OF BANKRUPTCY

[T.E.A. PARTY ANYONE?]

In the August 2008 edition of this newsletter, we suggested that Ventura “may” be following the missteps of the City of Vallejo right into bankruptcy court. After you read this you will realize that our unfunded pension debt and contractual obligations are staggering.  We as a community owe $150,000,000 alone on the City’s pension debt, which is $1,500 per person in a community of 100,000.  Incredulous?   We’ll explain.

no money in the CAFR

The 2008 CAFR shows Ventura has no money to pay unfunded liabilities.

Start with the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), ending June 30, 2008.

Remember, the pension statistics are based on numbers as they existed on June 30, 2007, These CAFR reports are published 18 months after the fact. At page 15 it reflects that our long term debt, labeled “total non current liabilities” totals $135 million dollars ($134,984,820).

You might recall that the City financial types reported to the Blue Ribbon Tax Committee that we have $10,000,000 in our general operating fund — that’s our reserve, which has not changed since 1992.  All investment  income from that reserve was spent. They also reported that we have $145,000,000 in other investments (after marking down the $10,000,000 lost to WAMU and Lehman Bros. investments), but we can’t touch this money because the funds are committed due to previous contractual commitments of the City Council.  So we owe $135,000,000 and have $155,000,000 in investments, ignoring the contractual obligations for the moment. On the face of it we have $20 million more in assets than debts, so we are looking good right?

Wrong!

Let us take a closer look at the City of Ventura’s Pension Plan. Turn to page 70 of the CAFR (page 102 of the PDF file) of the City’s 6-30-08 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which lists the “off the income statement” underfunded obligations — money we owe as of June 30, 2007, for which we have no money.  The total Actuarial Asset value for the City pension plan investments is stated as being $313,847,955, the actuarial accrued liability is $362,521,549.   The  unfunded accrued liability for regular employees is $5,176,721 and for Safety Employees (Police and Fire)  is $43,496,873, or a total of  $48,673,594.

This liability ($48.7 million) accrues interest at the rate of 7.75% per year on the amount that is owed as an “unfunded liability”. Remember again this was 18 months ago. Then move to the end of 2008 and add to this the fact that CALPERS devalued our actuarial asset value by 35%.  The result is that the actuarial asset value went down by $109,846,784 ( $110,000,000), thereby increasing our liability by the same amount thereby reducing the value of our pension assets to $204,001,171. —we lost the  money in the market. The following is the real financial picture right now:

True Financial Picture
(1)  June 20, 2007 unfunded debt $48,673,594
(2)  Interest 6-30-07 to 12-31-07 @7.5% $ 1,825,259
(3)  Interest 1-1-08 to 12-31-08 @7.5% $ 3,650,519
(4)  Loss of pension value 35% $110,000,000
Total Unfunded Liability of City $164,149,372*

Now go back and add in what IS shown on the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report(CAFR) for 2007 (page 15 of the document, page 33 of the PDF). This is what is owed by the Citizens of this community — right now, and getting worse each year!

(1) Long Term “noncurrent” Debt $135,000,000
(2) Unfunded pension benefits $ 164,149, 372
Total debt $294,673,595

How would you view our current financial posture?  We owe $294,673,595 and we have $10,000,000 in the bank.  Any suggestions for our City Manger or City Council?

Consider that the City of Vallejo decided to file bankruptcy when their obligations amounted to $730 per person. To further add to your perspective, Orange County, California filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the U.S. at a cost of  $600 per resident.  Ventura’s obligation is approximately $1,500 per person.

If you were in charge, what would you do?

THE CEMETERY PARK PROPOSAL

no money for Cemetery Park

Cemetery Park will remain a ghost town because Ventura has no money for a Memorial.

[FINDING THE MONEY IS A DEAD ISSUE]

The City has spent $40,000 for the architectural renditions of  a plan to create a memorial place at Cemetery Park..  This $4,000,000 Plan includes a memorial to commemorate those buried at the cemetery, memorial gardens, refurbished landscaping, veterans’ memorial walk and flagpole, and repairs to the historic WPA rock wall, 3,000 bronze grave site markers, and the retrieval and display of existing headstones. The City acknowledges there is no money, but assures the proponents that over time, with a combination of city funds and outside grants, perhaps they can find the $4,000,000 million dollars.

Then there are the opponents. One group, the restoration folks, want the park restored as a cemetery, and claim the City plan does not go far enough.   They want it like it was headstones and all.  Another group contends that the decision to make this into a park was made forty years ago when the City  was forced to do something because those responsible did not maintain the cemetery. The park has been serving the community as a passive park and a memorial since and is used daily by local residents. This is a 7-acre park serving the mid-town community.

As an interesting aside  the City code enforcement folks have stepped up a campaign to issue expensive citations to owners of dogs that are not on a leash in Cemetery Park.

Editors’ observation:

Perhaps the question we all should be asking instead is why our City Council  is so willing to spend $40,000 to placate a vocal minority by voting to pay for a study to formulate a plan to restore an old cemetery site when we have so many other pressing priorities.  How about – No!

THIS FROM A READER

We receive many emails from our readers which have been very positive. This concerning our March issue:

Thank you so much for this current issue. One of the many things I  like about your report is that it stays on course and is not distracted by all the non-issues brought up by the City for dodging the bullet. The concept of public employee’s being exempt from the reality’s of this economy really, is the height of arrogance”.

—R.M.

EDITORS’ COMMENTS

 Until the Citizens of this community solve the systemic problem, by electing city leaders who are “qualified” to manage a municipal corporation, with a operating budge approaching $500,000,000, and in electing leaders who will make the hard (not political) decisions to solve the pension and unfunded debt issue, the taxpayers and citizens of this community will always be at risk and a target for more taxes and more fees.

 

Editors:

B. Alviani        S. Doll           J. Tingstrom

K. Corse          R. McCord    T. Cook

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Government tax burden

No New Tax Will Make Up for Lost Investments and Bad Management

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.”   —Thomas Jefferson

THE VENTURA BUDGET CRUNCH

[SEND IN THE CLOWNS]

“Clowns to the Left of me, Jokers to the Right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”—Stealer’s Wheel (Joe Egan & Gerry Rafferty)

On January 24, 2009, at 8am the City of Ventura held a special meeting at the Police/ Fire Department community room with the full City Council to discuss the city budget.  This  “public hearing” was on a Saturday and was not televised. The usual coterie was present.  The other half of the room was occupied by City personnel.

Once the current budget figures were shared with the audience, reflecting a lower projected income  of $83 million. City Manager, Rick Cole stated, “if we must, we can run this government on $83 million.”.  The projected  deficit was $12,000,000.

THE GOVERNMENT THREE STEP

[Tea Party anyone?]

First, steps forth our fine State legislature, which seeks more tax money from the citizens, with a quadruple  whammy:

  1. Raising the Sales Tax by 1%
  2. Doubling DMV registration
  3. Reducing the dependent tax credits
  4. Increasing personal state income tax by  .125%.

If you want to follow the bouncing tax ball visit the calculator on The Sacramento Bee web site to see how much more you will have to pay, if all of the proposed tax increases pass.  Fill in a few figures and voila – your new tax burden.

Here is our projection of the impact on the citizens of Ventura.   Assume 70,000 Ventura Households, an average annual income of $75,000 and that our city projects tax revenue of $7,000,000 of every increase of ½% in tax.

Cost to Ventura Citizens

State Sales Tax Increase (1%) $14,000,000
DMV 50% increase ($160 average x 2.5 cars per household x 70,000) $28,000,000
Additional Income tax ($140 per 70,000 households) $9,800,000
Loss in dependent tax credits (2 children per household) $29,400,000
Total $81,200,000
Cost per Ventura household (Total divided by 70,000 households) $1,160

Second, steps forth the City of Ventura with the local version of the sales tax.  A proposal to add ½% to raise our local rate to 7.75% from 7.25%. (Don’t’ forget the State has already added 1%, so it will be a  9.75% sales tax, if Ventura voters approve the local measure)

Ventura’s 1/2 percent sales tax $7,000,000

Now steps forth the Ventura Unified School, which is considering a real property Parcel Tax on City of Ventura residences and real property to cover their budget deficit.

Parcel Tax ($200 per parcel times 32,000 parcels $6,400,000
Recap of TOTAL PROPOSED NEW HOUSEHOLD TAXES $94,600,000
Cost per year per Ventura household in new taxes (State, City, VUSD) $1,351

A NEW TAX — THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE

[The City Council with rose colored glasses]

The Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) has worked out alternative budgets that will get them through this financial crisis. With careful management, over the next two years, The VUSD can adjust and reduce expenditures by $20,108,500, making the need for a new property (parcel) tax unnecessary. Some members of the School Districts Budget Advisory Committee are thinking that it is just  easier to just get more funds from the general public in the form of a new property tax.

The City of Ventura is pursuing its own path to financial Armageddon.  Facing a $12,000,000 deficit, because income will only be $84,000,000 against expenses of $96,000,000 (they project and hope), the City manger is realistically seeking and trying to operate within the existing revenues by reducing staff and expenses.  An effort to be applauded, given the specter of five years of depression.

On the other hand the City Council has other ideas — save this fireman’s benefit, this policeman’s job, the library, the arts, the homeless etc. — programs unrelated to essential governmental functions, which they lavishly funded, and pay scales they generously promised to pay between 2003 and 2007, when our elected officials knew we did not have the money for such increases. ( See 2003 Budget Report, Donna Landeros, City Manger, Economic Overview)

The temptation to resort to the citizens and seek new taxes seems to be the politicians path of least resistance at all levels of government.  Ventura is no different.  What if instead those programs were eliminated and pay and benefits were modified , so as to allow the government to operate within their existing  tax income?   While workers in the private sector are cutting expenses, laying staff off, not funding 401K matches and eliminating raises, the public sector seem to feel they are immune from economic realities and seek more money from YOU.

Editors’ comments:

What say you, citizens of Ventura? At what point does living within our means and going back to the basics really take affect? If this is the worst economic crisis since the “Great Depression” or “World War II”, at what point does government start reducing programs and staff to only provide the necessities that only city government  should provide? Or, that only state government should provide? As long as there are economic constituencies (public employees) within government who define their own job description, bargain and politicize through unions their own pay and benefits, the citizenry will always be in danger.

CONTINUED PROBLEMS ADD TO FINANCIAL DEFICIT

While the City seems proud that it only lost $10 million in investments in 2008, they defend their loss by comparing the loss to the average citizen’s 401K losses.   Hardly a realistic comparison given that the investment policy for a municipality is  and should be much be more conservative and  restrictive.  Some at the City makes it sound as if it is heresy to suggest that they should not have lost anything.

The City Attorney on the other hand  is crying “fraud” on the part of Lehman Brother and WaMu — a distraction away from the real issue. None of the four members of the Investment Committee have investment licenses,  nor the experience and qualifications to oversee a $200 million portfolio in this current financial market. Months before the Lehman and WaMu  debacle,  the City had a prior warning of problems due to  a potential  $10 million loss they had invested with Bear Stearns.  It turned out that the Bear Sterns was acquired by JP Morgan and thus avoided bankruptcy, however at this writing we do not know how much JP Morgan is willing to pay the City of Ventura on that investment.

It is easy to raise taxes and bury our heads in the sand. It is difficult to make the tough decisions that will avoid a future disaster but we have reached the point of critical mass. The City is under funded in its pension plan by over $60 million as of 2007, which is exacerbated by the 52% drop in value of  the pension fund investments by CalPERS, the pension investment manger for Ventura. Over $362 million (Page 70 of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, page 102 of the PDF) is owed in future pensions and this amount is growing each year.

EDITORS’ COMMENTS

If we can’t sit back, inject humor and laugh in these hard economic times it has  truly become a” foul wind.” Hope you enjoy the humor of this.

In this current economic crisis, we had to reduce our staff. We had no laternative. RANDY HAS TO GO !

Editors:

B. Alviani         S. Doll           J. Tingstrom

K. Corse           R. McCord    T. Cook

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Citizens Don't trust Ventura City government

Ventura City Government Gives Citizens Few Reasons To Trust Them

don't trust government

“The most cogent reason for restricting the interference of government is the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its power” —John Stuart Mill

Keeping Track Of Lost Opportunities, Revenues and Unnecessary Expenses

With the passing of sales tax increases in Oxnard and Port Hueneme, it will come as no surprise to Venturans that our city Council will take this as a signal that it is time to attempt to impose a new sales tax increase again in Ventura. If citizens read the Ventura County Star article of November 9, they should catch the reason why Ventura’s tax failed while others passed.

Lack of Trust Killed P6

The operative word is TRUST. The City of Ventura has been determined and relentless in their effort of to unilaterally impose new taxes, in the form of fees, regardless of the wishes of the citizens of this community. It seems clear that we are not in charge of our own community and are to be punished for having the audacity of not approving a sales tax increase in 2006.

Financial Failures Killing Trust In City Government

Here are some examples of how this City Council has been attempting to increase revenues at the expense of Venturans:

Increased taxes or increased fees:
911 Phone tax $2.2 million per year, estimated
$10 Fee to process a Business License $40,000 per year, estimated
$99 Hillside weed abatement inspection fee $250,000 per year, repealed
$140 Toxic Waste disposal fee on restaurants $200,000  per year, estimated
$100+ fee on all restaurants for beach clean-up $150,000 per year, estimated
¼% Sales tax increase (Measure P6) $6 million per year, failed
User fee increases in 2004-2006 $500,000 per year, estimated
Safe Beaches fees $133 per business $266,000 per year, estimated
SUB-TOTAL OF FEES/ATTEMPTED FEES $8,206,000
Loss of new businesses or loss of existing businesses:
Ventura County Star moves to Camarillo $0, estimated
Harbor Development — 10 years in planning $0, estimated
Seaward and Harbor Development $0, estimated
Failure to complete Olivas Park Road to Auto Center $4.0 million, estimated
Harbor and Figueroa — Embassy Suite Hotel $2.0 million, estimated
SUB-TOTAL LOST REVENUE $ 9,000,000
Inaction, indecision or bad decisions by city gov’t.
 Waste Water Discharge penalty imposed by State Water Control Board  $733,000
 Wal-Mart lease – annual loss of sales taxes  $600,000 per year, estimated
 State Water Contract – annual cost  $895,000 per year
 Helen Yunker legal defense costs  $500,000, estimated
 Legal expense in Ventura v. Tolman & Wiker, low income housing dispute  $800,000, estimated
 Staff costs to track/ resolve 911 refunds issues  $65,000, estimated
 33% increase in retirement pensions for Firefighters  $1.2 million per year, estimated
 Cemetery Park Beautification Plan  $4.0 million, estimated
 Viewscape Consultant  $110,000
Use of out of town architect(s) for review $1.0 million, estimated
Victoria Avenue narrowing project $322,332
Solar compactor Trash can $ 4,500
Failed Computer System 2005-2006 $1.7 million, estimated
New Computer Program $800,000, estimated
Annual Living Wage Implementation for public contracts $171,000, estimated
City personnel cost to pursue P6, the failed sales tax increase initiative $ 40,000*
New City Attorney salary increase $ 85,000 per year, estimated
Buyout of old City Attorney Contract $150,000, estimated
SUB-TOTAL OF OTHER EXPENDITURES $13,175,832, estimated
GRAND TOTAL $30,381,832, estimated

The Cost of Trust Measured In Dollars

Missed opportunity and bad judgment contribute to citizens’ lack of trust in city government.

When you total this all up, there is over $30 million in lost revenue, new taxes, new fees or expenditures that combined would have eased the City budget greatly from wanting to tax the citizens further.

One third of this total is in lost businesses for our community directly attributable to the City Council’s failure to direct city staff to actively process new economic developments and opportunities in an expeditious and cost effective manner.

Then there is the collateral impact of such fiscal mismanagement. Consider, if you will, the impact of projects which failed and/or were not built because of inaction by the City Council and the staff, which resulted in loss of property taxes which were needed to support the Ventura Unified School District. Property taxes would have been collected from the Harbor Development marina, Seaward and Harbor Development, Olivas Park Road-Auto Center development, the Harbor and Figueroa- Embassy Suite Hotel property, the old Ventura County Star site and a fully leased K-Mart property. Forty percent (40%) of those taxes would have been spent on the children of this community.

EDITORS’ COMMENTS

Citizens are now being actively polled to see if they will agree to a ½-cent sales tax. We predict the reversal of the 911-tax blunder, and that our politicos will then spin this as a “carrot” to persuade a yes vote from the voters on a new sales tax. See this for what it really is, a threat of fewer services unless we tax ourselves further. Please review the way our City Council has conducted business in the past, and ask yourself one question- “Do we TRUST them to continue to make more decisions on how they manage our community and spend our money in the future?”

Editors:

B. Alviani          S. Doll             J. Tingstrom

K. Corse             B. McCord      T. Cook

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Keeping track of the City Council

Keeping You Up-to-Date On The City Council Decisions

SUMMARY UPDATE OF CITY COUNCIL DECISIONS

In our last several publications we treated issues that are important to our community. We now provide updates on those issues as they have evolved and as information has become available:

(A) The 911 Fee

You refused to pay, filled out the forms and opted out, but you are being charged monthly. What more could happen? Out of town residents have been ensnared in the program. Those who purchased their cell phones in Ventura are being billed. The City has no jurisdiction over them but they are being charged the fee. The official response of the City is “we are working on it, or it is the fault of the telephone company”.

If you are one of the 27,000 that opted out you should check your bill and write a letter to the Council.   At $1.49 a month, the City is collecting approximately $40,000 per month from you and they are not entitled to it. What a mess!

There is light at the end of this dark tunnel. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has drafted a civil complaint to determine that this ordinance is a tax under Proposition 218 and therefore illegal. The complaint is to be filed in the next two weeks.  Reported in today’s Ventura County Star another lawsuit is planned to compete with this one.

(B) Increased Fees

[A Quest — “Who’s got the soap”?]

In our last three monthlies we reported to you that the City Council is seeking to increase fees and raise another $2.6 million dollars, and that the early June Council meeting the issue was tabled after Councilmen Fulton and Summers commented that there had not been sufficient time for the community to address this issue.  Another important point was the inability of anyone to obtain and read the MAXIMUS REPORT(s) [the experts hired by the City), which was designed to be the “legal” for the fee increases in the first place. These reports could not be found.

Somehow that lack of critical financial data did not stop the Council from increasing fees in 2006 and 2007. So, good reader, ask yourself how an elected official can vote to increase fees based on a report that they don’t have? Or, you ask rhetorically how an elected official can ask the community to pay another 2.6 million dollars if they are not able to provide logical answers?

In July VREG received the MAXIMUS 2004 AND 2007 reports. These reports only provide conclusions and none of the basic financial data that led to those conclusions. For example, the 2007 report incorporates a “Cost Plan which has been provided as a separate document”. That plan is not available. Another example, the 2004 report says that MAXIMUS “used the standard methodology that we have employed for hundreds of similar studies: MAXFEE”. At page 29 the reports says “MAXIMUS provided the voluminous detail and background materials behind all of the calculations and analysis to the City under separate cover. Appendix 5 of this report contains the summarized results (potential fees)”.

VREG has not been able to locate the basic cost report that served as the foundation for the MAXIMUS reports. Officials at the City have been helpful, and now have provided all eleven (11) appendices. The cost report has not surfaced. It is hoped that the Council will not race to judgment until all parties have a chance to evaluate the data.

(C) The Firefighters’ Pension

In a vote of 4 to 3. the Council approved the Memorandum of Agreement and the new pension contract with the firefighters of this city giving them a pension equal to 3% of their highest salary times the number of years in service plus all medical, dental. The yeas were Councilmen Fulton, Brennan, Summers and Monahan. The neighs were Mayor Weir, Councilmen Andrews and Morehouse. It should be of grave concern to all when one councilman says, before he cast his “NO” vote – “I HAVE GRAVE CONCERNS TO COMMIT WHEN WE DON’T KNOW WHERE THE FUNDS WILL COME FROM”.

Editors Comment:

Councilmen this was an increase of 33 1/3%!

The councilmen casting the yea votes and our fire chief, Mike Lavery, defend their position by saying that they need more benefits because they must remain competitive with other cities and counties, using as a current example the fact that they have unfilled openings. When asked why they are not filled, the answer is that the Chief REQUIRES all firefighters to be trained paramedics.

We all want qualified firemen and police officers and certainly want Councilman Summers “to sleep well at night knowing that he has the best public safety officers” (quote from his speech on August 4th) but somewhere a limit must be established on how much of our general revenues will be devoted to this purpose. The City of Vallejo is in bankruptcy because they devoted 80% of their budget to this purpose compared to Ventura at 51%.

How much of your tax dollar do you want to pay out for police and fire? You only have 49 cents left to pay for streets, recreation, other employees and widgets, so what are your priorities? We at VREG would like to hear from you.

(D) The Sale Of State Water Options

 As previously reported we annually pay $950,000 to the State Water Project for the option to obtain 10,000 acre feet. Since 1972, we have paid $22,582,371. We are committed to pay another $25,650,000 through 2035.      The reality is that we will never build a pipeline, and that as a category A user we will only get a fraction of the entitlement because there is not enough water to meet all entitlements under drought conditions. Make no mistake – the Governator has declared a drought.

Since 1972, we have paid $22,582,371.

VREG last year proposed that the rights be marketed to meet our annual cost AND put money in the bank to help defer our water costs, and/or to hopefully fund and build a desalination/filtration plant. We are happy to report that the Council has commissioned Kennedy-Jenks Consultants to assist in an attempt to market Ventura’s contractual rights. There is precedent for such a step. Butte County recently received approval of the sale of their water rights on a one year plus one year option basis to Palmdale Water District. This was accomplished over the objection of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District, which charges $425 am acre foot for untreated water. This 800 pound gorilla objected to the Butte-Palmdale contract and you can expect them to object to any sale by the City of Ventura in any sum below that which is charged by the MWD.

Editors’ Comment:

Doesn’t take a lot to grasp the market opportunity here so we encourage the City Council to forge ahead with “viga”, all due dispatch and total disregard for the MWD.

WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FROM THE CITY COUNCIL

(A) Rate Increase For Water and Sewer

Enclosed with your last bill was a notice that you will be paying more unless you object by SEPTEMBER 22, 2008. The following is a summary and what it will mean to you as an owner or renter:

SINGLE FAMILY HOME
Current FY2008-09 FS2009-10 Increase/%
Water Bill $59.46 $63.66 $68.63
Wastewater bill $64.16 $68.52 $73.27
Total 2 month bill $123.62 $132.18 $141.90 $18.28 = 14.7%
MULTI-FAMILY DWELLING (10 UNITS) -89,700 GALLONS
Water Bill $282.10 $300.38 $321.96
Wastewater bill $437.80 $467.50 $500.00
Total 2 month bill $719.90 $ 767.88 $821.96 $102.06=14.1%
COMMERCIAL OFFICE – 29,920 GALLONS
Water Bill $137.03 $142.85 $154.16
Wastewater Bill $83.71 $ 92.98 $100.23
Total 2-month Bill $216.74 $235.83 $254.39 $ 37.65/17.4%

* Rates include assessment for the contractual right to obtain water from the State Water Project. If that entitlement is sold to another user that income would go a long ways in lessening the impact of water costs on this community.

If you oppose the rate increase then by SEPTEMBER 22, 2008, you must mail your name, property address or parcel number to:

 

WATER RATES

CITY CLERK’S OFFICE

City of Ventura

P.O. Box 99

Ventura, CA 93002-0099

 

If you object you can also attend the City Council meeting on September 22, 2008, and/or can obtain information from Gary Lee at (805) 652-4253, or email him at glee@cityofventura.net.

(B) The “Crime-Free Rental Housing Program”

[Specter of Aldous Huxleys “Brave New World” of

The City Council has asked its staff to appear at the council meeting on October 20, 2008, to consider implementation of a new program called the ”Crime Free Rental Housing Program”. The draft proposal seeks more fees, purportedly revenue neutral – meaning it will only cost what it costs to enforce – projected at $400,000 from our citizens who own rental housing. The proposal seeks to force owners to have all of their apartments or rental home inspected to make sure there is no criminal activity and/or to make sure that all buildings are in compliance with building codes and all City regulations. Here’s the proposal:

 

  1. The owners of apartment will have to pay an annual fee for each apartment in order to raise $400,000. The fee is for inspecting each apartment to make sure it is crime free. The City has not said how much the fee will be, and they don’t know how many rental units there are in the City.
  2. The owners will have to attend formal training on how to prevent crime and to show them how they can manage their property and rental agreements.
  3. Initially and every 47 months afterward each apartment is required to be inspected (searched) by the Fire Department and/or the Police Department and/or Code Enforcement Officer [all law enforcement] to determine if any crime is being committed or to determine if there are any building code violations.
  4. If you don’t get the certificate you can’t operate your apartments and penalties will be imposed. If you get the certificate the City Manager is given the power to revoke your certificate, along guidelines that his office is to develop, you will suffer penalties The penalties that can be imposed:
    1. You may be cited for a misdemeanor, jailed and/or fined
    2. The property, summarily declared a public nuisance by this ordinance if it does not have a certificate, can be sold, the nuisance abated at the owners expense or destroyed at the owner’s expense
    3. If your certificate is not timely renewed you will receive an Administrative Citation, and penalties will be imposed for each day beyond the expiration.

A large number of owners have expressed strong objections to this program, and a committee has now been established to try to determine if such a program should be modified or abandoned as a bad idea. Initial indications are that some type of enforcement is being considered but it is not clear what form this will take. Information can be obtained from Andrew Stuffler (654-7837), the lead person for the City. He has stated that since the initial proposal their data has shown that 93% of owners with rental units have not had any code enforcement or law enforcement issues.

Editors Comment:

Another 911 fee fiasco? This proposal seeks to impose new fees for police, fire and code enforcement, the costs of which by law are paid by general tax revenue. New “taxes” require a citizens 2/3 vote, whereas “fees” don’t. Now the city wants to re-label the police, fire and code enforcement officer’s inspections as a service to prevent crime and/or enforce the law against wrongdoers (7%) by imposing the costs (fees) of enforcement on citizens (93%) who are law abiding. Just who comes up with these ideas in the first place?

In case they haven’t thought about it our new city attorney might review California Code of Civil Procedure 1822.5, which requires Inspection Warrants before a residence can be searched to enforce regulations, and the decision of CURRIER v. CITY OF PASADENA (1975) 48 C.A. 3d 810, which held a similar regulatory scheme unconstitutional.

If passed as presented we predict that the lawsuits will fly. We citizens will have to pay for the attorneys fees and costs on both sides.

 

Editors:

B. Alviani          S. Doll               J. Tingstrom

K. Corse            B. McCord         T. Cook

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