How Fraudulently Low “Normal Contributions” Wreak Havoc on Civic Finances

Back in 2013 the City of Irvine had an unfunded pension liability of $91 million and cash reserves of $61 million. The unfunded pension liability was being paid off over 30 years with interest charged on the unpaid balance at a rate of 7.5% per year. Irvine’s cash reserves were conservatively invested and earned interest […]

Steps to Improve Police Training and Accountability

“We’re not anti-cop. We’re anti bad cop. Bad cops have to be fired, just like bad politicians” – Leader of Black Lives Matter counter-protest, who was spontaneously invited to speak at a pro-Trump rally (watch video). There aren’t too many things that are easier to agree on than this sentiment. Even those of us who […]

How Placer County Privatized Inmate Food Services

Introducing competition to the public sector is an essential part of delivering cost-effective services to taxpayers. What happened earlier this year in Placer County is just one example of how millions of savings can be realized by privatizing a public service. By replacing county employees with a private firm to provide inmate food services to […]

Pension Reform – The San Jose Model

Pension reform in San Jose began in June 2012 when voters, by a margin of 69% to 31%, approved Measure B. Despite overwhelming support from voters, however, this vote triggered a cascade of union funded lawsuits which by 2015 had overturned several of the key provisions of the reform measure. Finally, in August 2015, the […]

Reforming Binding Arbitration

The City of San Jose was a pioneer in reforming their rules governing binding arbitration, rules that may seem obscure and complex to the uninitiated, but which have profound consequences. Until the San Jose city council put arbitration reform on the ballot in 2010, unelected arbitrators could end labor negotiations with decisions that were devastating […]

Pension Reform – The San Diego Model

Beginning around 2009 it became clear to civic leaders and councilmembers that the City of San Diego faced serious financial challenges. A San Diego County Grand Jury in that year released a report that recommended the city file for bankruptcy. The report cited the underfunded City’s pension system as the primary underlying cause of their […]

Tips for Negotiating with Public Sector Unions

You’ve just been elected to the city council. You’re 34 years old and you’ve been attending your city council meetings for almost a decade. You’ve served on some civic improvement commissions. You’ve been a concerned activist for most of your life. But the firefighters union contract is being renegotiated this year, and you’re about to […]

Getting the Most Out of Your Annual Agency Audit

Audits matter. In Placentia, Bell, Compton, Pasadena, Beaumont, and elsewhere, California cities needlessly lost millions, and for a time, nobody knew. Accounting is boring. Until it isn’t. Just as the devil is in the details, the financial fate of public agencies is buried in the numbers. Whether it’s via corruption or incompetence, without vigilant oversight, millions can […]

How to Put Agency Budgets Online

Across California governments are putting more of their information online. While browser-based charts and graphs showing your agencies’ revenues and expenditures will impress constituents, moving fiscal data online can be challenging – especially for those governments that do not have a lot of technology geeks on staff. Fortunately, governments now have an array of options […]

How to Identify a “Good” Bond

In November 2016 Californians approved Prop. 51, authorizing $9.0 billion in new borrowing for construction and upgrades of public schools. Also on November 8, Californians approved 171 local bond measures, authorizing over $22 billion in additional financing for construction and upgrades of public schools. This new borrowing is only to construct and upgrade K-12 and […]