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Monthly Archives: March 2008

Lane County – Tent City Jail

So the hard sell begins — Lane County will have to build a “tent city” to house criminals instead of using the jail … if only those pesky citizens would pass a tax increase…

Fleenor, Chief Deputy District Attorney Alex Gardner and Florence Police Chief Maurice K. Sanders toured the Maricopa County tent city in Arizona …

Fleenor wants to bring the ideas back to Lane County to build a similar tent city. He says it’s time to seriously look at fresh, cost-effective ideas for maintaining county services, especially when federal timber payment money runs out.

Fleenor realizes it will not be an easy sell. “I think the toughest part is trying to get the trust of the citizenry to go ahead with the comprehensive rethinking of our public safety system,” he says. “Obviously with the declining revenue, we can no longer do business as usual.

Of course, the problem is Lane County Commissioners HAVE been doing business as usual, and continue their hiring millions of dollars in new management and other non-safety personnel. Why? Why have Commissioners refused to implement a hiring freeze, and then hold public safety hostage? Why Commissioners? When will you stop doing “business as usual”?

Here’s what we’ve documented since the “budget crisis” began. See for yourself at http://www.co.lane.or.us/jobs/ — the hiring continues, but County Commissioners will have to slash public safety.

Mar 27 2008

  • 207-142 PSYCHIATRIST – .5 FTE (20 hours) $52,644.80-$73,008.00
  • 208-054 ENGINEERING ASSOCIATE (Working Title: Utility Coordinator ) $40,227 – 55,765
  • 907-021 Extra Help – On-Call Juvenile Cook $10.22/hour
  • 208-047 Kennel Attendant $10.22 – $14.16/hour
  • 208-048 PLANNER $37,544 – $52,042
  • 207-136 SENIOR SYSTEM NETWORK ANALYST $49,254-$68,203
  • 208-023 Sr. Programmer & Systems Analyst $49,254 – $68,203
  • 208-045 YOUTH SERVICES EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM SUPERVISOR (Official Title: PROGRAM SUPERVISOR) $53,144 – $79,726

And so on…

(more…)

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Social Security Bankrupt in 2017

Why aren’t any of the candidates talking about this? Very soon the Federal government has to raise vast amounts of additional revenue to pay back the Social Security funds which have been “borrowed”. The crisis comes in less than 10 years; guess who’s going to pay for their lack of fiscal responsibility? (Hint: protect your wallet) A crisis of this magnitude makes the recent mortgage problem look like child’s play.

While the Social Security trust fund will have resources until 2041, the more critical date in terms of government revenues will occur in 2017. In that year, Social Security, which has been providing billions of dollars in surpluses to the government for over two decades, will start having to pay out more in benefits than it will receive that year in payroll taxes.

At that point, the government will have to start replacing the money it has borrowed from the Social Security trust fund. It can do that only by increasing borrowing from the public, raising taxes or cutting other government programs. The elimination of the Social Security surplus is a key reason that experts are projecting sizable budget deficits in future years.

The bottom line is there is no trust fund; it’s all been taken by the Federal government. In 2017 something has to give, and our guess it will be your wallet — giving a lot.

The Myth of Targeted Taxes

This also explains the myth of “targeted taxes” — the idea a special tax is set aside (usually for education, roads, etc) and never ever works. Why not you say? Simple. The government simply reduces the scheduled payment to whatever the “target” is, the special tax fills in the gap and presto! Instant general fund tax increase.

Here’s how the shell game works. In a $100 million budget, suppose $20 million is dedicated to education. But citizens want better schools, so vote for a $10 million special tax dedicated to education. They’re sold this by legal language that will “guarantee the tax funds can only be used for education”. But nothing is ever mentioned about the previous budget of $20 million, and that’s what provides the loophole for this scam.

The politicians simply reduce the education budget by $10 million, give education the “dedicated” $10 million and poof! The slight-of-hand means an extra $10 million in the general fund — the “targeted” tax has become a general tax (to avoid the taxpayers revolting, perhaps they’ll only reduce the education budget by $8 million or so, but you see how the scam works).

Social Security is in a similar boat. It’s not separate from the budget (except on paper). There’s no lockbox, trust fund or anything else (well, maybe IOU’s, but they don’t count). All the money comes from taxpayers, and since the Federal government “borrowed” the money, there’s nothing left to cover the payments starting in 2017 when the Social Security taxes are insufficient to pay benefits. What do you think will happen in 2017 when the vast revenue shortfall becomes reality?

In 2017 the poop is going to hit the rotating air mover.

Hillary’s Foreign Policy Experience – Where is It?

Hillary contrasted herself with Obama saying she is ready on “day one” to lead with her vast foreign policy experience; she’s basically claiming co-presidency with Bill, trying to merge her limited experience with his eight years (Of course, by her logic, First Lady Laura Bush should be running, but we digress). Recently, part of her claim to experience was “landing under sniper fire” in Bosnia in 1996. Great story, and works in well with her “I’m tough under fire” line — the only problem was it never happened.

SHARYL ATTKISSON reporting:

It was supposed to be an example of Hillary Clinton’s battle-tested experience.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON: I remember landing under sniper fire…

ATTKISSON: In the speech last week, Senator Clinton was referring to her visit to Tuzla, Bosnia, in 1996 as first lady. The brutal war was over, but hostilities continued, and though the trip was exactly 12 years ago tomorrow, the memories seemed etched in Clinton’s mind.

Sen. CLINTON: There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.

ATTKISSON: Problem is, that’s not what happened. And we should know. CBS News accompanied the first lady and daughter Chelsea on that Bosnia trip. That’s Senator Clinton talking to me on the military flight into Tuzla, and these are the pictures we recorded of the greeting ceremony when the plane landed. Compare that to Senator Clinton’s account.

Sen. CLINTON: I remember landing under sniper fire. There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened.

She is now claiming she “misspoke” about the event. Yeah, we *always* get confused when going to 7-Eleven for milk about the sniper fire — it’s common to see snipers around every corner when they don’t exist.

If her memory is correct about what she thinks happened, can she be trusted to run the country? And if it’s not, is inability to tell the truth for political gain what we really want?

Perhaps the country is so used to the Clinton tricks (Bill or Hillary) this isn’t really a big deal, but character matters. The bottom line is Hillary simply doesn’t have any more experience than Obama. If that is her defining difference in this campaign, the question is, will the people buy what she’s shoveling? As more records are released from her time in the White House, it turns out she was less important they she thinks.

The only proposal we know she was extensively involved in was “HillaryCare” early in Bill’s term. And of course, she doesn’t talk much about that. Why not? Perhaps if the country found out what her skills and experience really are, they’ll reject her by a large margin — Bill she’s not.

There may be a reason to prefer the Clintons over Obama, but experience isn’t it. Unless you’re really voting for Bill, not Hillary.

Lane County Layoffs – Up to 16% of Workers

We’ve been wondering where Lane County Commissioners have been lately. But here they are again, with another article in the Register-Guard about layoffs in Lane County. Given their track record of continued hiring of millions in new managers, directors and supervisors (which we documented in our last article, and from now on we’ll just call management), we’ll cut through what they say to give you a different perspective.

The Lane County commissioners on Wednesday directed staff members to prepare to cut as many as 200 jobs by July 1 …Although Spartz hasn’t determined how many positions will be cut, he said earlier projections — cuts equivalent to 230 average county jobs, or about 16 percent of the work force — are plausible.

… But we’d imagine none of those will be managers, as they continue to hire more. As recenlty as March 13, 2008, there was $400,000/year in management hiring. On Feb 6, 2008 another batch of management also costing over $300,000/year. Or July last year, with $200,000 in management (and as a bonus, a “nuisance abatement specialist”). In just those three groups, over $1 MILLION in new management and other non public-safety hiring.

Is hiring more managers your priority as it is for the County Commissioners?

Even if the county gets the federal money for another year, the board might make the cuts and use the money to lower costs that steadily rise faster than revenue, Commissioner Bill Dwyer said.

Like all those new non-public safety hires? See the current list for yourself at http://www.co.lane.or.us/jobs/.

The board has said that without the federal money, the county might drastically reduce the number of jail beds for local offenders, discontinue prosecution of juvenile defendants and many other crimes, and eliminate programs including community health, animal services and nutrition for women, infants and children.

Yep, the budget has to be cut for all those new managers and other non pubilc-safety positions. We didn’t track much hiring from July 2007 to February 2008 (we thought the fiscally responsible thing was a hiring freeze, but Lane County Commissioners didn’t feel the need) — and we’re only counting management. What about other non public-safety hiring? How many millions are spent on items other than what citizens tell the County is number one — public safety.

But of course, they’ll have to cut public safety to pay for all of it. If only that tax increase was approved…

Task force suggestions could include increased logging on federal lands or relief from state restrictions on the amount of property taxes that counties can levy, Nesbitt said.

Now at the end, we get the real point. All this is to get “relief from state restrictions on the amount of property taxes”. So, continue to hire, hold hostage public safety, and then hope the public finally gives in to the County’s insatiable desire for more taxes.

At least Guido on the corner is up-front about his intentions — “Gee, that’s a nice family you’ve got there, it would be a shame if something happened to them”.

As we’ve documented, the County could save millions (and spare the hard-working families layoffs) if they just instituted a hiring freeze. No layoffs, just don’t hire any new employees. Reasonable? Not for Lane County Commissioners. We’re waiting for someone to ask (on the record) Lane County Commissioners why they refuse to implement a hiring freeze, and then layoff in the number one priority of citizens. If it’s something other than a twisted way to get higher taxes we’d like to know.

Coming soon to a ballot near you — another grab at your wallet. Somebody has to pay for all the managers, directors and analysts. Sleep well, Lane County, you’ve got plenty of managers, even if Commissioners won’t staff the jail.

Lane County Oregon Budget – Room for New Management but not Public Safety

We haven’t checked in on Lane County’s budget problems for a while — the Commissioners have been a little quiet lately (Faye Stewart has been the most vocal in requesting new taxes, and he’s been strangely quiet). So you think the County is hard at work dealing with the budget problem? Not exactly. They’re still adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to the budget in NEW HIRES!

We started documenting this a while ago as a joke — the County would implement a hiring freeze instead of laying off people and hiring new management as that’s only common sense, right? Wrong. Commissioners always say they’ll have to cut public safety and close the jail, but it’s strange there’s always room for new management. Have a look for yourself at http://www.co.lane.or.us/jobs/

Here’s a look back at what we’ve found in the past year. This only represents a small fraction of the new hiring the County has done. Ask yourself — when they close the jail and let criminals out, halt criminal prosecutions, and cut public safety, could some of these positions have been left unfilled and the money used for higher priorities? Is hiring new managers while laying off public safety workers your priority? It appears to be Lane County’s priority, and the priority of the Commissioners.

Instead of using the common sense approach, Commissioners Faye Stewart and Bobby Green continue to add new management, and then say no money exists for public safety — if only the citizens would pass a tax increase…

Of course, if a tax increase is passed, based on their previous performance, how many new managers would that pay for? Do you really think they’ll suddenly prioritize public safety when they haven’t in the past?

So on to the list:

Mar 13 2008

  • 207-121 MENTAL HEALTH MEDICAL OFFICER (Official Title: MANAGER) Salary: $122,117-$169,312/annually
  • 208-033 PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR (Official Title: DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR) Salary: $78,978 – $118,477 annually
  • 208-009 Sr. System Network Analyst (Working Title: PROJECT MANAGER) Salary: $49,254-$68,203/annually
  • 208-045 YOUTH SERVICES EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM SUPERVISOR (Official Title: PROGRAM SUPERVISOR) Salary: $53,144 – $79,726 annually

That’s not *all* the jobs they’re hiring, but that’s about $350,000/year by itself. How much would that money help the sheriff avoid laying off people who provide safety for the public? Would you rather staff the jail to keep criminals off the street or hire more managers?

Feb 6 2008

  • 208-014 DESIGN ENGINEER OR DESIGN ENGINEERING SUPERVISOR $56,680 – $85,030 annually
  • 207-121 MENTAL HEALTH MEDICAL OFFICER (Official Title: MANAGER) $122,117-$169,312/annually
  • 208-007 Program Manager $62,005-$92,997/annually
  • 208-009 Sr. System Network Analyst (Working Title: PROJECT MANAGER) $49,254-$68,203/annually

Another $350,000/year. As it was once said, a billion here, a billion there — pretty soon you’re talking real money!

July 11 2007

  • 207-025 LAND MANAGEMENT MANAGER $67,304 – $100,956
  • 207-068 MANAGER (Working Title:Project Management Office Manager) $64,353 – $96,530
  • 207-039 SENIOR PLANS EXAMINER $19.92 – $27.59/hour
  • 207-055 ADMINISTRATIVE ANALYST
  • 207-053 ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
  • 207-057 EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO THE DIRECTOR OF YOUTH SERVICES
  • 907-007 EXTRA HELP – Clerical
  • 207-029 NUISANCE ABATEMENT SPECIALIST

Another few hundred thousand.

June 12 2007

  • 207-021 BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER. Filled May 25, 2007.
  • 207-016 Performance Development & Diversity Coordinator. Filled May 30, 2007.
  • 207-025 LAND MANAGEMENT MANAGER. Currently conducting interviews.
  • 207-029 NUISANCE ABATEMENT SPECIALIST. Filled May 25, 2007.
  • 207-024 PROPERTY APPRAISER 3. Conducting interviews.

May 31, 2007

  • 207-044 CLINICAL SERVICES SUPERVISOR ($25-$33/hour)
  • 207-037 MHO CARE COORDINATION SPECIALIST ($19-$27/hour)
  • 207-040 PHYSICIAN ($90,000 – $125,000 /year)
  • 3 Network Programmers/analysts ($50,000 – $68,000 / year)
  • 206-146 ASSISTANT COUNTY COUNSEL (not just one, but two!)
  • Engineering Assistant and Technician
  • Executive Assistant
  • Human Resources Analysis
  • And our personal favorite: 207-029 NUISANCE ABATEMENT SPECIALIST

Are the priorities of Commissioners Bobby Green and Faye Stewart your priorities? Ask yourself, with this kind of bizarre management and fiscal (ir)responsibility, could any size of tax increase satiate the voracious appetite of Lane County Commissioners to spend, spend, spend? Does this list match up with their claims of no waste left in the budget to cut?

How many millions could have been saved over the past year (WITHOUT LAYOFFS) simply by implementing a hiring freeze? Commissioners Stewart and Green are strangely silent on this issue — why not have a hiring freeze?

Obama Wins Texas – Will Hillary Quit?

You may not have heard much about it, but Obama won Texas (CNN) — 99 delegates for Obama, 94 to Clinton. We’re waiting for Hillary to bow out of the race — even Bill said she “had to” win Ohio AND Texas. Of course, just because the Clintons said something doesn’t mean they’ll actually do what they said.

What does “win” really mean anyway?

A Democratic Do-Over Fiasco

The insanely stupid idea of a do-over in Florida and Michigan is beginning to make the rounds. You simply *can’t* redo fairly. What about Republican voters who crossed-over and voted for the Democrats? Will you limit the do-over to registered Democrats only? What about the independents? What about Democrats who voted for a Republican — they get to vote twice. The whole idea of a do-over is insane and fraught with problems, legal issues, and frankly, stupidity.

But a do-over is wrong on the basic principle of fairness (playing by the rules). We don’t agree with the DNC ruling originally stripping those states of their delegates, but the rules were made, and everyone had a chance to protest them and find a solution — nobody did. The states moved their primaries KNOWING what would happen, and did it anyway — they should have to abide by the rules.

If do-overs are allowed in those states, why stop there? Why not allow *any* state a do-over? After all, early states had a much more crowded ballot — in the issue of fairness, why not allow them a do-over with only two on the ballot? What about all those who voted for Edwards or Kucinich? Shouldn’t they be allowed a do-over so their vote “counts”? After all, once you start ignoring the rules, it’s anything-goes.

Are elections going to follow the rules, or can Democrats just change the goalposts in the fourth quarter? That’s the legacy Al Gore left the Democratic party — if you don’t like the way things are going, just try and change the rules to favor your side. Keep voting and counting until you get the result you want — vote early, vote often.

With this election appearing to conclude by throwing out the rulebook, ending up in back room deals and legal fights, Hillary is a lock to overtake Obama. She’ll get the nomination, as the Clintons are *much* better at fighting a scorched-earth, change-the-rules what-does-is-mean-anyway battle. In that scenario, Obama doesn’t have a chance and might just as well quit now. Obama simply can’t beat the Clintons on their turf — for Obama to win, he must change the tone, and now.

In the future the Democratic party shouldn’t bother with such trivial matters as primaries. They should just let the Superdelegates pick the nominee and avoid all this primary nonsense. The DNC isn’t going to follow their own rules, so why bother voting? Why have rules at all? Just let the party leadership pick the nominee and don’t bother worrying about what all those pesky citizens want.

That’s the issue facing the DNC and Howard Dean, and an ironic situation facing the political party calling themselves “democratic”.