THC Poll: Is Humboldt’s homeless population shrinking?

LoCO ran a piece on Thursday focusing on the point-in-time report, which essentially said that the homeless population in Humboldt County shrank by 40% over the last year.

THC, as you may have guessed, thinks this is total bullshit. But, contrary to popular belief, it’s not only our opinion that matters, so we want to know what you think.

That’s right – time for another THC poll!

And yes, we know, it’s been too long since we ran a poll. Our apologies to those who’ve been requesting more. If you’ve ever got an idea for one, let us know!

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Public unions want to exempt themselves from government transparency

As a follow up from our piece yesterday – the one about how public employee unions could be a huge player in triggering the next major financial melt down – we offer up this fun tidbit:

Unions trying to kill government transparency

That’s right folks – at a time when it is of the utmost importance that the public has oversight into the contract negotiations which will dictate, to a large extent, how well California is able to cope with overwhelming debt, the unions have made a major play to hide those negotiations from public view.

Here’s a link to the bill itself: AB 1455

We’re simply wondering when unions will give up the charade and start wearing their super-villain outfits in public.

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Public Safety Unions and the Financial Apocalypse: “The money won’t be there.”

Public employee unions work hard to ensure ever-increasing payoffs for public employees. But if the public pension system continues as it is today, the very real consequence of pushing for higher retirement payouts is likely this: the money that retired public employees are depending upon may dry up.

The California Policy Center ran this story posing such a hypothetical situation: Public Safety Unions and the Financial Apocalypse

We think it’s worth a read, even while admitting that it seems a little alarmist to us. Here’s a chilling quote from the piece that sparks our interest:

“Millions of retirees and active public safety workers still expect pensions that are roughly equivalent to the amount they made at the peak of their careers. But the money won’t be there.”

In their pursuit of “championing the rights of working people,” do you think these unions are aware that they may potentially be ushering these same folks – and the state as a whole – to financial ruin? It will come as no surprise to you, but THC thinks they sure are. It’s just a shame that the people theses unions claim to represent may end up taking the brunt of the damage when CALPERS, or any public employee pension system, goes belly up. (Fun fact – CALSTRS, the teacher pension system, saw its unfunded liabilities go from $76 billion to $97 billion practically overnight.)

This is especially relevant for Humboldt County; even if there is no financial apocalypse for the world, the nation, or the state, you can bet your ass that there is one coming for Humboldt County. Once the pot bubble bursts – and burst it will – a huge portion of our local economy will collapse.

Our County government is already hurting financially, and is already hard pressed to cope with mounting debt due to unfunded public pensions. What do you think will happen when the cash cow they hung their hats on fails them?

Couple the specter of potential collapse with the fact that public unions are even now pushing to exempt all aspects of public employee contract negotiations from disclosure, and it paints a bleak picture for the future.

 

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CALPERS: The debt problems our leaders don’t seem to understand

The California Policy Center recently put out a good piece on the reality behind the debt obligations for our State. Read the full article here: Can California’s Economy Withstand $1.3 Trillion of Government Debt?

Because we are generous, and probably hate reading even more than you do, we went ahead and made a couple of graphs to sum up the article. But let’s set the stage first.

Let’s break California’s public debt into three categories: debt from bonds and loans, debt from unfunded pension obligations, and debt from other retirement benefits like retiree health insurance.

California’s official estimate of those three totaled to $832 billion, and was divided like so: But there’s a problem. The people who make these estimates are either idiots, or willfully lying to the public about the anticipated returns the assets funding the pension plans.

The California Policy Center reworked the numbers on unfunded pension liabilities with some more realistic anticipated rates of return, and came up with these numbers:

See that huge jump in the purple area? That represents how the unfunded pension liabilities of California are nearly 3 times as high as the state government is admitting to.

In case you’re counting, that jump (from $258 billion to $713 billion) takes the state debt to $1.29 trillion.

$1.29 trillion!

The main cause of this is that CALPERS, the agency responsible for making the initial idiotic projection, estimates their returns at 7.5%. The California Policy Center uses a number based on the Citigroup Pension Liability Index – the same numbers used by the Big Three credit rating groups like Moody’s. That number is 4.4%, and it makes all the difference.

We should point out that it’s not only ill-advised to use such a high-risk system, but is also probably illegal for a private entity to do. At the least, it would  open up a corporation to lawsuits from shareholders, etc.

So, as an extension of our discussion last week about Fortuna Mayor Sue Long not having the faintest clue about how pension plans work, we also have this – state agencies that are deliberately misleading the public about the amount of debt we’re on the hook for. And public employee unions who are hell-bent on exacerbating the situation by demanding higher incomes and better benefits for public employees even though it will cripple the state, and eventually render the system unable to pay the members’ pensions. (Just remember – “Me too!” screws absolutely everyone else.)

We’ll come back with more this weekend once those graphs have really had a chance to burn into your brain.

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Congressman Chaffetz scoots his way into healthcare vote, record books for being an idiot

We found this entertaining, and hope you will too.

After foot surgery for pre-existing condition, Chaffetz to return to vote on Republican health care bill

Back to the Mike’s Hard for us!

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Sundberg pandering to teachers on Facebook;

Taking a page out of Supervisor Virginia Bass’s book, Ryan Sundberg went into full-on pandering mode on Facebook with this idiotic post about teachers salaries:

We won’t go into a huge amount of detail here about teachers’ salaries. We’ll only say.

As a savvy young lady named Shel Barsanti pointed out to Sundberg that its not necessarily teachers’ salaries – which, on average, are much higher than the average household income in Humboldt – that are driving up taxes. It’s the unfunded liabilities associated with their kick-ass pension plans. Plans that, as a private citizen, would have to be worth millions to provide a return on par with what teachers are receiving.

Sundberg – like Sue Long over in Fortuna – has no idea what big words like unfunded pension liabilities mean, so we’ll take it easy on him.

But, lastly, we also want to point out that his wife, Kim, is a teacher – so demanding that she gets a higher salary seems a little self-serving to us.

And while the Facebook post (which we faithfully recreated below) that Sundberg regurgitated raises some interesting points, we don’t think it really made the case that he was hoping for. The comparisons made in . For example, the average teacher’s salary is higher than $50,000.00. Not to mention that the numbers thrown out in the post are wildly imaginative.

As most teachers are contracted to work 6 1/2 hours per day, and using the 180 days of work as our measuring stick per the FB post, a teacher making even the “measly” national average of $50,000 pencils out to $42.67 per hour. So, what’s the complaint again?

But hey – maybe these folks demanding higher raises at the detriment to the children they purport to live for, and the people like Sundberg, are in the wrong profession. If it were as simple to make so much money baby sitting as the post suggests, they are welcome to make the switch.

Although we’d argue that Ryan is perhaps more in need of a babysitter than he is qualified to be one.

The post in question:

Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit! That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That …would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to……… 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET’S SEE…. That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year. Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!

Heaven forbid we take into account highly qualified teachers or NCLB..

Standing up for our children’s educators, one of the most important people in our kids lives.

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The Great THC Sticker Giveaway! We’re on Facebook, y’all!

What THC fan would want to miss the opportunity to get a goodie bag of giftcards and THC swag?

We got another round of our super cool THC stickers in last week, and we want to give em to you! All you have to do is send us your address and we’ll shoot some over to you. (We give you the THC guarantee of keeping your details private – just ask all of our satisfied recipients of stickers and gift cards from the first batch.)

Also – we’re on Facebook! That’s right, THC is hip! Check us out at https://www.facebook.com/thehumboldtconsequential/

If you share one of our posts with your friends, we’ll set you up with a care package of stickers, and of course, our favorite Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Cheers!

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Fortuna Mayor Sue Long has no clue how costly public employee benefits are; proves it on Facebook

Public pension plans will be the ruin of California, and of the County of Humboldt. There are plenty of warning signs, and plenty of people telling our leaders in government that something drastic needs to be done in order to avoid a massive economic catastrophe.

So far, all of those warnings seem to fall on deaf ears, at both the state and local levels. THC guesses that a large part of the problem is that our government leaders just can’t wrap their heads around the dangers of our current public pension system. We expect this kind of idiocy from Humboldt’s Board of Supervisors, but it’s actually a much more pervasive problem.

Take City of Fortuna Mayor Sue Long, for example. Last year, Long was on a crusade pimping a sales tax increase on Facebook when she foolishly decided to bare her lack of financial awareness for all the world to see. (Her utter lack of knowledge on the subject is pretty concerning when you consider that she’s calling the shots in Fortuna and is a bookkeeper for a local construction company. Yikes.)

Here’s a snapshot of the post in question:

Let’s break Long’s response into a couple parts. Clearly, officers’ salaries come from tax-payer money, and so anything they are earning after retirement is at the expense of the tax-payer. (Because we also pay their pensions.) There are no two ways about it. Just because we paid out towards their pensions while they were working does not make it a drain on our resources.

But the more troubling part of her post is this: she has no f***ing clue what the differences are between a defined benefit plan (the type which nearly every public employee enjoys) and a defined contribution plan (what most of us in the real world are stuck with).

Defined benefit plans require employers to set aside a certain amount every month or year for their employees, while defined contribution plans are funded by taking cuts directly out of an employee’s pay. While people who have to set up IRA or 401(k) accounts are using their own money to build a nest egg, public employees are collecting their full salaries and the people they work for – known as the public – are also emptying their wallets to pay their retirement pensions, too.

What is so hard to understand about that, Sue?

You see, it’s this sort of out-of-touch governance that has led us our governments’ to the edge of total financial breakdown.

A groovy THC insider at the City of Fortuna hooked us up with the a look at the details on Fortuna’s financial obligations when it comes to paying down their defined benefit plans.

Check that out here: Fortuna CALPERS ACTUARIAL VALUATION -FY 15-16

Open that up and you’ll see a few things; on top of their normal contributions, the premium rates continue to increase and Fortuna is being forced to pay lump sums to make up for shortfalls in the return on public investments.The document above had Fortuna paying an additional $188,741

Another way to look at is this: tax payers are getting screwed once, and then screwed again, just to pay for public retirements. Those premiums and those lump sum payments are projected to grow steadily higher, too.

So, umm, Sue…defined benefit plans are not similar in any way, shape, or form to 401(k)s and IRAs. And it is becoming increasingly expensive for the tax payers to foot the bill for public employees, like police officers.

Glad we could clear that up for you.

Also, let us here make a shameless plug and tell you that THC just started using the Facebook – stop by our page, say hi, and be sure to follow us! Check it here: https://www.facebook.com/thehumboldtconsequential/

If you do like our page or share our posts with your friends, drop us a line with your address and we’ll send you some of our cool THC stickers (above). And maybe a giftcard, too.

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Cannabis unions another nail in the coffin for Humboldt’s biggest industry

As if our local government wasn’t doing enough to squeeze the life out of Humboldt’s most lucrative industry, the State of California decided to let unions drive the bus in regulating wages for cannabis industry employees. As you realize, this is just another development that will price Humboldt’s growers out of the market.

It’s already apparent from the County of Humboldt’s complete failure to regulate the marijuana industry that anyone but the highest-producers in Humboldt will be forced out of the game due to their inability to cope with the cost of farming.

Check this article from the LA Times: Cannabis workers, once facing legal peril, get the California seal of approval

Basically, the State of California’s “California Apprenticeship Council of the state department of Industrial Relations” has created a union-designed apprenticeship program to for the position of pharmacy technician. Setting union training and membership as the standard for dispensary workers spells trouble for the entire industry, as it will become a requirement to have union-trained employees (mark our words!), and will pass the higher cost of employing those folks to those working the industry. We guarantee you that the price of cannabis will continue falling, meaning that all of those increased costs will be saddled on producers, manufacturers, and dispensaries.

For example, Shayna Schonauer, the first recipient of the State-approved tag of “cannabis pharmacy tehcnician,” is earning in the range of $36.00 per hour. That’s a darn high wage, considering that Shconauer earned $9.00 per hour when she started out. Quite the jump. Even if that wage increase were limited to only cannabis pharmacy technicians, it would have a huge effect on the bottom line for dispensaries.

But the problem goes much deeper than that.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union, the group leading the charge behind unionization for the cannabis industry in eight states,  “envisions apprenticeship programs covering every part of the cannabis industry “from seed to sale.””

Imagine that. Every single employee of the cannabis industry earning union wages. It might be good for the employees individually, but for Humboldt’s slice of the industry? Just one more reason that we can plan on kissing our toehold in the pot business good-bye.

Schonauer’s quadruple salary stands as a good indicator of how wages would increase, but even the $13.50 wage mentioned in the LA Times’ article would be catastrophic for Humboldt’s farmers who are already in a tough position when it comes to meeting the demands of the market.

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Humboldt Bay Firefighters fudging the numbers amidst their demands for higher salaries

As we mentioned last week, Humboldt Bay Fire Protection District’s  firefighters are demanding a raise.

Like clockwork, one of the fire union’s representatives put out an opinion piece which bemoans just how hard and unfair life is for firefighters. You can read that opinion piece here: Local firefighters are getting burned

Matt McFarland, author of the opinion piece, says that “Humboldt Bay Fire line staff has gone 10 years without one single pay increase — not even for cost of living. In that same 10 years, the average cost of living has increased 19 percent.”

We’d invite you again to check out the article we wrote last week about the reality – between that article and reading the Memorandum of Understanding between HBF and it’s union employees, you’ll see that the claim about raises is completely false.

So, to counter that bullshit claim with some actual numbers, here are two links; one is to a list of HBF salaries from 2013, and the second is the same list from 2014.

2013 HBF Salaries

2014 HBF Salaries

We challenge you to find a single fire-fighting employee that worked a full year whose base salary did not go up from 2013 to 2014.

There may very well be a few in there, but we got tired of looking after cross-checking over 20 of them to find that, indeed, every single one of those we did check received more in 2014.

The opinion piece in the Times-Standard does have one good thing to say, though. It’s this:

“At Humboldt Bay Fire, the wage gap between captain (the highest rank represented by our union) and fire chief is a whopping 120 percent. Across the state, the average gap is around 50 percent.”

We’ve looked at the ridiculously high percentage of upper-level firefighters in Humboldt before. And we agree that they are getting paid way too much compared to lower-level firefighters, and we’ll also say again that there are way too many of them.

But we refuse to be taken in by the dog and pony show put on by the fire union when every single firefighter at HBF took in over $100,000 in total compensation more than three years ago – and those pays have definitely gone up since then.

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