Earthquake Safety Bond as Discussed in Meeting Today

Hi Matt and All! Well, I played around with my ballot measure argument when I got home and only succeeded in increasing the word count from 290 to 317. If you can, please take a look and help to improve the argument so we can hopefully submit it on Thursday at the Department of Elections.

I feel that it's important for us to submit an "Against" argument, not only so folks know we're still alive and kicking, but also as a sole voice for fiscal prudence. If no one speaks up against this measure, that sends the message that all the bureaucrats have to do is to attach a nice feel-good title to their bond measures and the voters will automatically approve them. They have done this for years--and they will continue to do this--but someone should speak out against this common practice. Only Terence Faulkner would have the nerve to write an argument against this ballot measure too, but he usually doesn't submit that many arguments, so if we submit, we should be able to win the lottery.

Here are my ramblings:

ARGUMENT AGAINST
EARTHQUAKE SAFETY & EMERGENCY RESPONSE $400 MILLION BOND

No one would argue against safe buildings and a
functioning emergency response system, but is an expensive bond measure the most
prudent use of taxpayer money to accomplish these goals? By lumping all these reasonable improvements
under one “proposed project,” the Board of Supervisors has inflated the cost
and declared a bond is necessary. By the
time the citizens pay for the interest, legal expenses, bond fees, and the
oversight committee costs, the $400 million cost will almost double. With the expected cost overruns that always
accompany these bond projects, we can expect to pay a lot more.

The needed improvements can and should be paid for out of
the annual operating budget, one at a time, not all at once. With a current budget of $7.3 billion, surely
city officials can put aside a small portion each year to upgrade facilities,
rather than wait for an emergency. Would
an individual defer all maintenance on his/her car until it becomes an
emergency or fix things as needed on a priority basis each year? We should expect no less from our city
officials.

Have you seen the proposed FY 2015-2018 water and sewer
rate increases from SF Water Power & Sewer? Many of the increases will almost double over 4 years. The rate increases are to “ensure we can
provide water during a drought and within 24 hours of an earthquake…” If the rate increases will pay for
firefighting, then why is “a reliable water supply for fires and disasters”
part of the reason for this bond? Isn’t
that double dipping?

Vote NO on . Demand that city officials
fund the basic services of government, which includes the upkeep of safe government
buildings, out of their huge operating budget each year, not with costly bond
measures that will burden our children and grandchildren.

Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Thanks!
Aubrey

Nice job Aubrey….

Mike

Hi Aubrey,

Indeed, good job. Thank you for doing this. I like your viewpoint that we need to let the Supes know that feel good titles do not impress us. Yes, we have inherited Terry Faulkner's torch. Terry is still around (he lives in my neighborhood, and I see him once in a while), but is not the firebrand he used to be. That said...

I am still concerned about what may appear to the general public as our ignoring the crucial issue the proposition states, that this is not maintenance of facilities, but major improvement (or at least that is what the proposition says it is). In the very old days, families, businesses, and governments established funds to set money aside to pay for major improvements. That is not the case today -- today everybody borrows for such projects. And yes, what government borrows today, future generations pay for; just as this generation is paying for past borrowing. Therefore, in my view, any mention of using on-going funds from operation gives the impression that we might not be quite understanding either finance or how the world works today. And, because debentures are the way governments finance major improvements nowadays, they need to bundle small projects into large ones, given the cost and effort involved in obtaining financing for each project individually.

I am fine with submitting the ballot argument exactly as it is, because I am totally against fiddling with language forever, or letting the perfect get in the way of the good. But, if you like, and there is time, I am asking whether you would consider somehow incorporating the idea of going back to the days of establishing major-improvement funds, which would constitute a more equitable payment structure -- you want something, you pay for it! For example:

1. The end of the first paragraph might say, "... taxpayers will not only incur huge costs, but also force our children and grandchildren to pay for debt we choose to incur."

2. The second paragraph might say: "There is a better way. With a current budget of $7.3 billion, surely city officials can bring back the fiscal prudence of major-improvement funds, which call for setting aside a small portion each year to upgrade facilities. No bond measure today should be approved by taxpayers without a clause establishing such funds." (Note: In may view, saying don't approve any bonds until our proposed funds have enough money to do the projects, means don't do any projects, and let the earthquake eat up the firefighters, until there is money in the funds.)

3. I would not compare car maintenance, or any other maintenance, with this ballot measure. Again, this ballot measure is not about maintenance.

4. The rate increase by the PUC is tricky. I looked for the newsletter to which you refer, and I believe I found it (might not be the same one). The way I interpret what I see on the newsletter is that the rate increase is additional money needed to complete an on-going major improvement project that was financed via bonds. Whereas the ballot measure is talking about future projects. So, I would not conflate the two issues. On a different PUC letter, I recall reading about a rate increase to repair the water tunnel; that is maintenance, and should be financed by current operations, and the PUC is doing just that.

Anywho, those are my two cents on the matter.

Marcy

I am reading Nasim Telabs book "Anti Fragility". This is one powerful book.

On the topic at hand, Nasim describes the danger of debt. Debt fragilizes a government. If the debt is too large, it removes the ability to borrow in estremis.

the City of San Francisco owes to the citizens it serves the ability to handle the financial shocks that a major earth quake would impose.

Hi Marcy and Phil. Thanks for the ideas, Marcy. Yes, I will rewrite my argument and post it. I especially like the sentence about major-improvement funds. It really is something from another age, but it is right for us to bring it up to a generation that may never have heard of such a thing!

Thanks!
Aubrey

I am reading Nasim Telabs book "Anti Fragility". This is one powerful book.

On the topic at hand, Nasim describes the danger of debt. Debt fragilizes a government. If the debt is too large, it removes the ability to borrow in estremis.

the City of San Francisco owes to the citizens it serves the ability to handle the financial shocks that a major earth quake would impose.

Hi Marcy and All! OK, I reworked my argument based on Marcy's recommendations. (Sorry for posting so late--I have company right now.) Please review and advise for improvement. I intend to take our 25 (or more) arguments down to the Department of Elections tomorrow morning and submit them for the lottery unless there are objections.

ARGUMENT AGAINST
EARTHQUAKE SAFETY & EMERGENCY RESPONSE $400 MILLION BOND

No one would argue against safe buildings and a
functioning emergency response system, but is an expensive bond measure the most
prudent use of taxpayer money to accomplish these goals? By lumping all these reasonable improvements
under one “proposed project,” the Board of Supervisors has inflated the cost
and declared a bond is necessary. By the
time the citizens pay for the interest, legal expenses, bond fees, and oversight
committee costs, the $400 million cost will almost double. With the expected cost overruns that always
accompany these bond projects, we can expect to pay a lot more.

Rather than ignoring basic infrastructure for decades and
then declaring the costs too great to pay out of current operating funds, there
is a better way. With a current budget
of $7.3 billion, surely city officials can bring back the fiscal prudence of
major improvement funds, which call for setting aside a small portion each year
to upgrade facilities, rather than wait for an emergency. Then projects can be funded on a priority
basis and paid for one at a time, not all at once, without incurring unnecessary
debt for the future. No bond measure
today should be approved by the taxpayers without a clause establishing major improvement
funds.

Vote NO on A. By voting
NO, tell the Board of Supervisors to go back to the drawing board and include a
clause for establishing major improvement funds and act like the true trust keepers
of taxpayer money that they are supposed to be. Demand that our city officials fund
the basic services of government, which includes the upkeep of safe government
buildings, out of their huge operating budget each year, not with costly bond
measures that force our children and grandchildren to pay for debt that we
choose to incur.

Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Thanks!
Aubrey

Hi Marcy and Phil. Thanks for the ideas, Marcy. Yes, I will rewrite my argument and post it. I especially like the sentence about major-improvement funds. It really is something from another age, but it is right for us to bring it up to a generation that may never have heard of such a thing!

Thanks!
Aubrey

I am reading Nasim Telabs book "Anti Fragility". This is one powerful book.

On the topic at hand, Nasim describes the danger of debt. Debt fragilizes a government. If the debt is too large, it removes the ability to borrow in estremis.

the City of San Francisco owes to the citizens it serves the ability to handle the financial shocks that a major earth quake would impose.

If you want to throw in a Leftie comment to see if it helps get their attention…how about saying something at some point like “Why give more of our money to the bankers?” Or something like that.

Just a thought…

Mike

Go for it, Aubrey!! Let me know if you need any help with this project.

Marcy

Well, the bad news (for me) is that my trip to Asia which I was supposed to leave on tonight fell through, but since I'm still here, I took a stab at rewriting Aubrey's argument against the earthquake bond measure (copied below).

  I thought what you wrote was pretty good too though Aubrey, so if you've already made copies or don't want to use this for whatever reason I won't be too disappointed.

  Give me a call if you'd like some help taking the arguments in to City Hall this morning.

Love & Liberty,
                                 ((( starchild )))

Hi Starchild! I'm working on the control sheets and getting things ready now. We can submit both arguments, as far as I'm concerned, many times as time allows. It would be a shame not to use Willy's wonderful comment! My only objection is the word "maintenance" towards the end. As Marcy mentioned earlier, most of the work is upgrade rather than maintenance, and surely the rebuttal against our argument will pick up on that. Here's an interesting quote from http://onesanfrancisco.org/ten-year-capital-plan/ that I was trying to use in my argument that I didn't use but wanted to: "In 2006, addressing decades of underfunded infrastructure, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors approved San Francisco's first citywide, ten-year Capital Plan. It was the first time the City family thought comprehensively about its infrastructure and started down a road to recovery..." The second sentence is another rare and surprising moment of government
honesty. Maybe you want to use when you change "maintenance" to deferred concern for the citizens or something like that.

I'll give you a call in about an hour or so and I can pick you up and we can finish of things at the Department of Elections, as always.

Thanks!
Aubrey

Good job all of you…

Mike

Hi Aubrey,

Good idea about submitting 2 arguments. Yours, looks fine as is. Yes, pleeeze, no mention of maintenance or repairs in this case (different than in the case of the school bonds a couple of years back)

Marcy

Thank you.

It is important to strongly oppose these terribly expensive and unnecessary
and speculative measures.

Perhaps you can add some language about how it is impossible to anticipate
every possible threat. No matter what we do there will always be danger
from an earthquake (until we finally fall into the ocean of course).

Sam Sloan