Tag Archive for Proposition 39 (2000)

San Joaquin-Delta Community College District on Verge of Violating Proposition 39 Requirements for Bond Measures

I sent this email (below) on September 14, 2015 to the elected board of trustees, the top administrators, and the independent citizens bond oversight committee for the San Joaquin-Delta Community College District, based in Stockton.

The district wants to use $500,000 to develop a “facilities master plan” as a first step required by state law to ask voters to approve borrowing money via bond sales for facilities construction. That $500,000 would come from proceeds of bond sales authorized by voters in March 2004 as Measure L. Voters would consider the bond measure in 2018 or later.

A board vote on the proposal is scheduled for September 15, 2015. See the staff report: Request to Authorize the Creation and Funding of a “Facilities Master Planning Project” and to Authorize Contract Negotiations for Architectural Services to Develop the Campus & Facilities Master Planning Services

While this scheme sounds like an easy way to get money to hire an architectural firm to develop a plan for future bond measures, it appears to violate 15-year-old state laws (Proposition 39 and Assembly Bill 1908) that impose extra protections on bond measures that win voter approval at a 55 percent threshold.

Considering that the California State Controller and multiple county grand juries have criticized the district for inappropriate or questionable expenditures of bond proceeds authorized by Measure L, the district’s continued practice of using funds for expenditures that are ambiguously legal (at best) may compromise the willingness of voters to approve another bond measure for the district. Has the district taken into consideration the risk of negative public response to this proposed bond expenditure?

In 2016, California voters are likely to decide on a $9 billion statewide school construction bond measure and perhaps 150 or more local school and college construction bond measures. Would this expenditure add to the growing list of abuses of California school construction bond measures and thus contribute to jeopardizing passage of additional bond measures in 2016?


From: Kevin Dayton
Subject: To trustees, administrators, bond oversight committee for San Joaquin-Delta Community College District: Item 9J on 9/15 board meeting agenda may not be legal
Date: September 14, 2015 at 1:41:43 PM PDT
To: xxxx
Cc: xxx

Dear Board of Trustees, administrators, and Measure L Citizens Bond Oversight Committee for the San Joaquin-Delta Community College District:

At its September 15, 2015 meeting, the board will consider Item #9J, a proposal to spend $500,000 of bond proceeds from Measure L (approved by voters on March 2, 2004) for a newly-created “project” to develop a Facilities Master Plan. This plan will prepare the district for a bond measure to bring before voters in 2018 or later. Here is the item:

A. Authorize the creation of a new bond project entitled “Facilities Master Planning (FMP) Project” using Measure L Bond funds with an initial budget of $500,000 from bond program contingency.
B. Authorize negotiations with the top-ranked qualified architectural firm Gensler/LDA to provide the services to develop the campus and facilities master planning and possibly other capital planning and design services, per the Request for Qualification (RFQ) LA-RFQ-51.
C. Authorize the Superintendent/President or authorized designee to execute the final agreement following successful negotiations.
D. Qualify the other two (2) firms that were interviewed to provide services for the District for projects as needed.

Note that Article 13A, Section 1 of the California Constitution restricts how a community college district can spend borrowed money obtained through bond sales authorized through ballot measures approved by 55% of the voters under the criteria of Proposition 39 (2000). Bond proceeds can be used for “construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities.” And voters must be provided with a list of the specific school facilities projects to be funded by the bond measure.

Some questions you need to consider before approving the $500,000 in Measure L funds to be spent on creating a Facilities Master Plan for a future bond measure:

1. A list of specific intended projects to be funded by Measure L was provided to voters in the ballot information for the March 2, 2004 election. In this list of Measure L projects, which project describes the development of a Facilities Master Plan for another bond measure?

2. Is development of a Facilities Master Plan a legitimate “project” that can be funded by bond proceeds authorized by voters under the criteria of Proposition 39?

3. Is it reasonable to assume that voters who approved Measure L expected that the bond proceeds would be used to develop a Facilities Master Plan for another bond measure?

4. Is it fiscally responsible to borrow money from investors and pay them back over many years – with interest – to pay for development of a Facilities Master Plan for another bond measure?

5. Does the use of Measure L funds to develop a Facilities Master Plan for a future bond measure remain justified even if voters end up rejecting the bond measure(s) meant to fund the projects in that Facilities Master Plan?

6. What are the terms of maturity and interest rates for all of the bonds that provide the $500,000 in funding for this contract?

7. What is the total cost of developing the Facilities Master Plan if the district includes the interest that must be paid on the $500,000 in bond proceeds?

8. Has the district consulted with its Citizens Bond Oversight Committee for an assessment of whether this proposed specific expenditure of Measure L bonds complies with Proposition 39 and complies with what was presented to voters as Measure L in 2004?

Regardless of whether the San Joaquin-Delta Community College District is justified in seeking voter approval to borrow more money for construction, the district needs to follow the law when it spends borrowed money authorized by a previous bond measure. This proposal on the board’s September 15, 2015 meeting agenda is possibly illegal and needs thoughtful consideration.

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC

Planning for 2014: Two Recommendations in www.FlashReport.org to California Supporters of Economic Freedom and Fiscal Responsibility

It’s too early to predict if Californians will elect more supporters of economic freedom and fiscal responsibility to Congress, statewide office, the state legislature, and local offices in 2014. It’s also too early to know if Californians are getting sick of accumulating yet more public debt through state and local ballot measures.

In the meantime, I’m trying to promote grassroots activities that might encourage Californians to do the following:

1. Consider electing government officials with a different philosophy of government than the tax-and-spend model prevalent in much of the state.

2. Better understand and scrutinize bond measures before approving educational districts to borrow money for construction (and other expenses authorized by Proposition 39, such as iPads).

See my December 6, 2013  article California Supporters of Economic and Personal Freedom Can Plan for 2014 by Thinking Locally in www.FlashReport.com.

2013 Annual Conference of California League of Bond Oversight Committees Highlights Current Controversies on Municipal Bond Sales for Schools (and High-Speed Rail)

I’m on the Advisory Board of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees (CalBOC), which held its annual conference today (May 10, 2013) in Sacramento. To improve public accountability for California K-12 and community college construction programs funded by money borrowed through bond sales, this non-partisan organization improves the training and resources available to bond oversight committees; educates the state legislature, local school boards, and the public about the oversight and reporting authority of bond oversight committees; and advocates on a state level, where appropriate, on issues of common concern to bond oversight committees.

California League of Bond Oversight Committees Logo 2013

Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees were established through a section of Proposition 39 in 2000 that became California Education Code Sections 15278-15282Michael Day, president and co-founder of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees, said that attendees should “go with the knowledge that you’re doing good things” as ordinary California citizens. Day kicked off the 2013 conference by asserting that “spending wisely shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” (I would have added that spending foolishly doesn’t seem to be a partisan issue.)

Presenting first at the conference were two finance and business administrators from the Santa Ana Unified School District, which is getting criticized for borrowing $35 million in 2009 by selling Capital Appreciation Bonds at an almost 10:1 debt-service-to-principal ratio. In addition to suggesting that Capital Appreciation Bond sales can be a valid business decision under certain conditions, they insinuated that school districts know best how to sell their bonds, and perhaps the state legislature is needlessly interfering in their own local affairs. To boost their case, they asked two rhetorical questions to show the arbitrary nature of the provisions in Assembly Bill 182 that would restrict school district sales of Capital Appreciation Bonds:

1. What’s the proper maximum maturity period for school bonds?

(AB 182 proposes 25 years)

2. What’s the proper maximum ratio of debt-service-to-principal on school bonds?

(AB 182 proposes 4:1)

Following their presentation was Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon), who introduced Assembly Bill 182 to restrict the sale of Capital Appreciation Bonds. (The bill passed the Assembly on April 8, 2013 with a 75-0 vote.) Catching my attention during her speech was her assertion that the legislature should expand state-mandated performance reviews for school bond measures to include such items as an examination of the school district’s labor compliance program. Knowing how the old labor compliance program laws and regulations had changed starting in 2009, I asked what she meant. Assemblywoman Buchanan said that the State Allocation Board had discovered that some school districts had applied for and received state reimbursement for labor compliance program expenses but weren’t actually following the state requirements and didn’t deserve the reimbursement.

California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer Speaks at 2013 California League of Bond Oversight Committees Conference

California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer speaks at the 2013 California League of Bond Oversight Committees annual conference.

California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer was the keynote speaker. He declared that the Poway Unified School District officials who engineered its notorious 2009 Capital Appreciation Bond sales were “stupid” and should be fired or recalled. Many people in the meeting room clapped in response, although I don’t know what the representatives from the Poway Unified School District did.

Lockyer sees “a whole industry that lives off of this” scheme for Capital Appreciation Bonds and detects “an odor” of underwriters and other financial management firms engaged in “corrupt practices” and taking advantage of school districts through bond sales. He said he heard a story about how an underwriting firm turned down a school district’s request for handling a ill-advised, foolish Capital Appreciation Bond sale, and then the school district asked another firm with fewer scruples, which was pleased to do it for a fee.

Lockyer noted that the 4:1 debt service to principal ratio for school bonds indicated in Assembly Bill 182 was a political compromise among various parties, including some special interests that demanded either absurd ratios (such as 9:1) or no ratio at all. He actually supports an outright ban on Capital Appreciation Bond sales by school districts. (Michigan enacted such a ban in 1994.)

At the March 18, 2013 meeting of the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, chairman Dan Richard told me to ask the State Treasurer about the details of the bond sales for the California High-Speed Passenger Train for the 21st Century. So I was ready with the first question for Bill Lockyer: when will the authorized High-Speed Rail bonds be sold, what will be the rate, will they be 35-year bonds as authorized, and will some of them be sold as Capital Appreciation Bonds?

Lockyer answered by revealing that California High-Speed Rail bonds will not be issued separately but will be “mixed in” with general state bond sales (such as the state bond sales in mid-April 2013). Then to my surprise, he said that a small amount of the high-speed rail bonds had already been sold! I sent out a tweet that’s now getting some attention:

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer says small amount of bonds for California High-Speed Rail have been sold already. Did anyone know this?

He also told me that the market sets the rates – a clever answer from an experienced politician who knows how to evade the tough questions.

Regarding state K-12 school bonds, Lockyer said about $2 billion was left from the state school bond measures approved in the 2000s and that it was likely that the state legislature would put another school construction bond measure on the November 2014 ballot. (Three school bond measures approved by California voters in 2002, 2004, and 2006 authorized the state to borrow $35.8 billion by selling bonds. The State Allocation Board disperses the grants.)

Finally, in response to an excellent question from Kern County Taxpayers Association executive director Mike Turnipseed, Lockyer said that perhaps some of very old voter authorizations for bond sales that never happened in the end could be “erased” or cancelled, thus eliminating the state’s liability for repaying the principal on those bonds.

Kevin Carlin of the Carlin Law Group in San Diego made a presentation about single-source alternative construction procurement methods, including design-build and lease-leaseback. The presentation was routine until he began advancing his view that there’s a “proliferation of illegal lease-leaseback school contracting” in California and cited the Sweetwater Unified School District in Chula Vista as an example. A vocal faction in the audience – primarily school district officials and an attorney for school districts – disputed these claims. During the question-and-answer session, I told Carlin that his only ally in the state legislature was the self-interested Professional Engineers in California Government union and that his best chance for addressing the problem was to add provisions to law that ensure better public access to bidding and contract documents on design-build and lease-leaseback projects. (See California Public Contract Code Section 20133 (g).) Supporters of lease-leaseback complained that I wasn’t asking a question.

Joel Thurtell Speaks on Capital Appreciation Bonds at 2013 California League of Bond Oversight Committees Conference

Joel Thurtell speaks on Capital Appreciation Bonds at the 2013 California League of Bond Oversight Committees annual conference.

Retired Detroit Free Press reporter Joel Thurtell, now a blogger at www.JoelontheRoad.com, was the last speaker at the conference. His investigative report “Michigan Schools Load the Future with Debt” was the headline story in the April 5, 1993 Detroit Free Press, and it led to a 1994 state law banning Michigan school districts from selling Capital Appreciation Bonds.

One of the reasons why the article was effective in changing public policy was the directive of a Detroit Free Press editor to Thurtell to produce a “Big Graphic” showing the extent of Capital Appreciation Bond sales by Michigan school districts. Thurtell had to perform many days of tedious paper-based research at the state treasurer’s office in Lansing, but the result was stunning. (Likewise, I believe that the graphic elements of the www.VoiceofSanDiego.org articles on Capital Appreciation Bond sales by California school districts was a major factor in finally bringing state and national attention to the issue.)

In January 2009, Thurtell posted the text of his old Detroit Free Press articles on his web site. Nothing more happened with them until March 2012, when Alicia Minyen, a member of the Board of Directors of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees (CalBOC), found his articles with a web search using the terms “Capital Appreciation Bonds” and “ban.” At this time the word was beginning to spread about the astonishing 10:1 debt service to principal ratio for bonds sold in 2009 by the Poway Unified School District, and the Los Angeles County Treasurer was publicly warning against Capital Appreciation Bond sales.

Joel Thurtell and Alicia Minyen

Champions of fiscal responsibility: Joel Thurtell from Michigan and Alicia Minyen from California.

Minyen contacted Thurtell and then reported on what she learned at the 2012 California League of Bond Oversight Committees. I heard Minyen’s presentation on Capital Appreciation Bonds and then reported it on my blog on May 11, 2012 as Please Read This, Even If You Think Municipal Bonds Are Really BORING: We’re Setting Up the Next Generation of Californians to Pay Staggering Property Taxes, apparently being the first Californian to post a journalistic report on the web about this practice in California.

Thurtell noted today that the worst abuse of Capital Appreciation Bonds in Michigan was at a school district that even used bond proceeds to buy personal computers. I immediate thought about how California school districts are using bond proceeds to buy electronic tablets, with Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District being two prominent examples.

In 2012 California Voters Authorized Community College Districts and K-12 School Districts to Borrow $15.3 Billion for Construction Through Bond Sales

No one seems to know exactly how much money California voters have authorized community college districts and K-12 school districts to borrow for construction since Proposition 39 was approved by 53.4% of voters in November 2000. That statewide ballot measure reduced the vote percentage needed to pass bond measures authorizing bond sales from 66.67% (two-thirds) to 55 percent under certain conditions. This was the start of California’s massive accumulation of debt for educational construction at the state and local levels of government.

I have now confirmed the election results for bond measures considered by California voters in the June 5, 2012 election. Voters approved 25 bond measures in 25 educational districts and authorized these districts to borrow a total of $2,007,880,000 by selling bonds to investors. Voters in an additional nine (9) districts rejected nine bond measures totaling $312,695,000.

Add the amount of bond sales authorized in the November 6, 2012 election, and California voters authorized educational districts in 2012 to borrow a grand total of $15,293,681,190 ($15.3 billion) by selling bonds to investors. Add interest and transaction fees to this amount, and NEW debt service imposed on taxpayers for educational construction in 2012 probably will be $25 billion to $30 billion, depending on interest rates, sales of capital appreciation bonds, and other variables related to municipal finance.

Next, I plan to compile the results for school bond elections in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. And don’t forget the three past statewide propositions (in 2002, 2004, and 2006) authorizing a total of $35.8 billion to borrow through bond sales.

Educational Bond Measures Approved by California Voters

June 5, 2012
Sorted by Highest to Lowest Amount Authorized for Borrowing Through Bond Sales
West Valley-Mission Community College, Measure C

$350,000,000

Clovis Unified, Measure A

$298,000,000

Cupertino Union, Measure H

$220,000,000

Mountain View Whisman, Measure G

$198,000,000

Val Verde Unified, Measure L

$178,000,000

Norris School District, Measure B

$149,000,000

Dublin Unified, Measure E

$99,000,000

Milpitas Unified, Measure E

$95,000,000

Cabrillo Unified, Measure S

$81,000,000

Sulphur Springs Union Elementary, Measure CK

$72,000,000

Lincoln Unified, Measure A

$48,500,000

Charter Oak Unified, Measure CO

$47,000,000

Healdsburg Unified, Measure E

$35,000,000

Savanna Elementary, Measure G

$28,750,000

Old Adobe Union, Measure G

$26,000,000

Taft City School, Measure C

$23,600,000

Wright Elementary, Measure I

$14,000,000

Reef-Sunset Unified, Measure A

$10,830,000

Pollock Pines Elementary, Measure K

$9,000,000

Sebastopol Union, Measure H

$9,000,000

Guerneville School District, Measure F

$6,000,000

Buellton Union, Measure V

$3,200,000

Elementary Schools Facilities Improvement District No. 1 of the Gridley Unified School District, Measure D

$2,500,000

Southern Trinity Unified, Measure V

$2,300,000

Trindad Union, Measure W

$2,200,000

TOTAL

$2,007,880,000

Educational Bond Measures Rejected by California Voters

June 5, 2012
Sorted by Highest to Lowest Amount Not Authorized for Borrowing Through Bond Sales
Jurupa Unified, Measure M

$125,000,000

Antioch Unified, Measure J

$59,500,000

Brea-Olinda Unified, Measure E

$54,000,000

Mountain Empire, Proposition G

$30,800,000

$11,995,000

Gridley Unified, Measure C

$11,000,000

Corcoran Joint Unified, Measure V

$9,000,000

Biggs Unified, Measure B

$6,000,000

Sierra Unified, Measure O

$5,400,000

TOTAL

$312,695,000

Foolishness That Won’t Be Stopped: California’s K-12 School Districts Use Borrowed Money from Bond Sales to Buy iPads and Other Technological Gadgets

The web site www.EdSource.org (“Engaging Californians on Key Education Challenges”) has an article today (December 18, 2012) entitled Districts Face Questions in Spending Long-Term Bonds for Short-Lived Technology. It’s a good summary of how some K-12 school districts in California are using language in Proposition 39 to justify spending borrowed money from bond sales to “equip” schools with computers and other technological products.

Money borrowed through bond sales is typically paid back with interest over a long period of time – much longer than the useful life of computers. Aren’t you glad you didn’t take out a 30-year bank loan to pay for your Radio Shack TRS-80?

Chris Reed had a short piece posted in the December 9, 2012 www.CalWatchdog.com entitled Will School Finance Scams Be Addressed? One of Two at Best. He predicts the California state legislature will restrict the ability of educational districts to sell Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs), but will not prevent educational districts from using bond proceeds to buy technological products.

Proposition Z was and still is the Zombie Tax.

Proposition Z was and still is the Zombie Tax.

The most prominent recent controversy about California school districts using borrowed money from bond sales to buy technology occurred during the fall 2012 campaign to pass the $2.4 billion Proposition Z bond measure for the San Diego Unified School District. The San Diego County Taxpayers Association led the charge in pointing out how the school district was spending bond proceeds on iPads. In the October 9, 2012 article Is School Bond Money Going to iPads Over Repairs? Fact Check, Voice of San Diego reported the following:

As of mid-September, the district says it had spent more than $379 million of its Prop. S funds. About 11 percent of that has been used to buy iPads, computers and other technologies, according to figures released by school officials.

While the article never actually stated the amount, 11 percent of $379 million is $42 million.

In a subsequent October 25, 2012 article $2,500 iPads? Fact Check, Voice of San Diego reported these findings:

A display case at San Diego Unified School District administrative headquarters highlighting the Proposition S bond measure. The school board has not yet directed district personnel to enhance the display with the original signed Project Labor Agreement negotiated with union officials.

A display case at San Diego Unified School District administrative headquarters highlights the Proposition S bond measure.

The school district used some money collected under Proposition S, the bond approved in 2008, to invest in classroom technology upgrades, including more than 21,500 iPads and nearly 77,800 laptops. More purchases are planned next year…

The iPad purchases came in two phases. First, the district used a series of highly controversial 40-year bonds to buy 10,729 iPads. The district says each iPad cost $420 plus another $116.50 for three-year warranties and accessories. After reviewing bond documents, we calculated that the district will pay an average of about 7.6 times that amount once the final bill comes due. That means a single iPad will cost $4,077.

The district’s second purchase of nearly 10,800 iPads will be less burdensome. The next set of bonds came with a bill that’s an average of about 5.1 times the original cost. Our math shows the district can expect to pay about $2,731 per device for iPads purchased in the second wave.

San Diego voters didn’t care: 61.80% of them voted for Proposition Z on November 6, 2012 and guaranteed that the San Diego Unified School District will have the authority from the 2008 Proposition S and the 2012 Proposition Z to borrow millions of dollars more to spend on iPads.

Besides the bond investors, the people making money on this activity are investors in Apple, Inc. I tweeted the following about the www.EdSource.org article:

California school districts using borrowed $ from construction bond sales to buy computers. (What’s Apple’s position?)

Finally, Jack Weir, a member of the Pleasant Hill City Council and an activist in several community and taxpayer groups in Contra Costa County, emailed a provocative response to the leadership of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association in response to the www.EdSource.org article:

From:Jack Weir
Sent:Tuesday, December 18, 2012 9:26 AM
To: xxxx
Subject: Re: Should schools be using bond money for technology which is so short lived?

As Alicia Minyen, Anton Jungherr and other CalBOC board members have amply demonstrated, school bond programs are largely out of control – literally.  Mt. Diablo and West County districts have abused Prop 39 on a major scale, although there are far more egregious examples elsewhere in the state.  The new Mt. Diablo board is committed to address their Measure C issues, but will have little corrective latitude.  Dismantling the massive damned solar canopy won’t unring the bell.

There is a whole industry of bond counsels and consultants that work this field, operating in tandem with teachers unions and Democrat politicians that advocate milking the school construction programs to wring additional operational (compensation) funding from local property-owning taxpayers.

After ten years of wrestling with the problem of bringing public (government) education into the 21st century, it is clear to me that nothing short of a whole new paradigm is needed.  And, to get there, we should be asking broad future-focused questions, such as:

> Do we really need brick and mortar facilities dedicated exclusively to classroom teaching?  (Ditto brick and mortar “libraries.”)
> Does it make sense to continue to load ten year-olds with 50 back-breaking pounds of paper books*, when most have (or should have) access to digital devices and the internet?  Within five years, every bit of data and information needed for a good education will be available on the “cloud,” accessible only via digital devices.  Other countries (and states) will leap-frog traditional educational models and kick our economic asses.  Take a look at what India did to bring education into its remote rural villages 25 years ago, and now their kids are coming here to work on H-1B programs.
> Who should pay for K-12 education?  “Free” education ain’t; certainly not to taxpayers, who currently gain a pathetic return on their “investment.”
> What’s the right role for taxpayer advocates in the political forum going forward?

It’s time to start over.
Jack

Based on the results of the November 6, 2012 elections, Californians don’t want to start over. They like the current paradigm, in which the kids get to use “free” iPads.


* Note from Kevin Dayton: regarding the weight of paper textbooks, Assembly Bill 2532, signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002, required the California Board of Education, on or before July 1, 2004, to adopt maximum weight standards for elementary and secondary school textbooks. The California Board of Education subsequently adopted regulations concerning textbook weight standards.

Don’t Be Fooled! Meet Some Sneaky Fake Taxpayer Groups In California

In November 2000, California voters approved Proposition 39, which allows school districts to seek voter approval for school construction bonds at a 55% threshold instead of a two-thirds threshold. One of the conditions in Proposition 39 required of school districts seeking the 55% threshold for passage is to establish a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, with the requirement that “One member shall be active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization.” (See California Education Code Section 15282.)

I scoffed at that provision and figured it wouldn’t be long before the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO and its regional affiliates created their own “bona fide taxpayers’ organizations” to undermine bond oversight committees and make sure taxpayers remain a generous source of revenue for the government and the people who live off of it.

That has surely happened with the case of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association in San Diego, one of two obviously phony taxpayer organizations that float about nowadays to provide cover for the union tax-and-spend agenda.

The Middle Class Taxpayers Association in San Diego – FAKE!

The Middle Class Taxpayers Association, formed in 2011 in San Diego, betrays its true agenda with the code words in its mission, as reported in the leftist Ocean Beach Rag: “MCTA will focus on pocket-books issues such as healthcare coverage, housing affordability, quality of life, small business development, asset building, moral public budgeting, employment self-sufficiency, lifetime education, retirement security, and consumer safety.” (They forgot to include “investment” in this list.) In other words, more taxes, more programs, more spending.

A post on the web site of the San Diego County Republican Party claims that “the ‘Middle Class Taxpayers Association’ isn’t a new voice for responsible stewardship of our tax dollars. It’s a front group shilling for the San Diego (Central) Labor Council. The Labor Council doesn’t even try to hide its involvement.” No surprise, the Middle Class Taxpayers Association opposes Proposition A (Fair and Open Competition) and Proposition B (City Employee Pension Reform) on the June 5 ballot in the City of San Diego.

In the summer of 2011, the Governing Board of the Southwestern Community College District in Chula Vista declined to reappoint Rebecca Kelley, the representative of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, to its Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee for the $389 million Proposition R bond measure, instead placing a representative of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association on the oversight committee.

That so-called taxpayers’ representative is Matt Kriz, political director of International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 36 and Local 831. As reported earlier by the Dayton Public Policy Institute, the board of directors of the Southwestern Community College District is about to vote on a policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with construction unions to work on projects funded by Proposition R. Even the college newspaper was able to make the connection:

Builder Decries Loss of Oversight Members: SWC Board Replaced Two on Prop. R Committee over the Summer – Southwestern College Sun newspaper – October 7, 2011

Also, see Breaking: Labor Corruption…SD Labor Council Seeks to Oust Taxpayer Advocate from Oversight Committee – posted on San Diego Rostra by Ryan Purdy – July 12, 2011

The real taxpayers’ organization in San Diego County is the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. In addition, Richard Rider’s San Diego Tax Fighters is a reliable source of information on local fiscal responsibility.

The Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group – FAKE!

I only checked the existence of this phony organization when construction union officials handed me a letter from the Richmond-based “Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group” on May 18 outside an event hosted by the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. The letter reiterated union-backed attacks on a study showing that school construction in California is 13%-15% more expensive when a school district requires contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

Using web searches, I only find one example of the Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group involved in policy issues: on June 18, 2009, Susan Swift – the executive director of the Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group – spoke to the Brentwood City Council in support of a requirement for contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on the Brentwood Civic Center. (The union requirement was approved on a 3-2 vote.) Swift is a former staffer to two San Francisco Bay Area Democrat state legislators and received the endorsements of numerous Democrat politicians and unions when she ran unsuccessfully for Director of the West Contra Costa Healthcare District in 2004.

The real taxpayers’ organization in Contra Costa County is the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. There is also a small group called the Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers, which still seems to pop up occasionally to oppose new taxes but whose web site has been neglected for several years.

The Mother Lode Taxpayers Association – BONA FIDE or a POLITICAL FRONT?

I was reminded last week of my old 2000 prediction about fake taxpayer groups when I read about the controversy concerning the legitimacy of the Mother Lode Taxpayers Association, a group founded in 2010 that established a Political Action Committee on April 12, 2012 for independent campaign expenditures in support of Frank Bigelow, a Republican candidate for the 5th Assembly District facing off in the June 5 primary against former Assemblyman Rico Oller.

Now, I’m guessing that Frank Bigelow (just like Rico Oller) would be a solid vote for fiscal responsibility in the California State Assembly. But I wouldn’t regard the three donors to the Mother Lode Taxpayers Association’s Political Action Committee to be special interest groups known for their philosophical resistance to relentless tax increases and government expansion. It received $150,000 from the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee, $75,000 from the California Dental Association Independent Expenditure PAC, and $10,000 from the California Cattlemen’s Association PAC (CATTLE PAC).

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (which endorsed Rico Oller) issued a press release noting “fake taxpayer groups like this undermine legitimate taxpayer organizations…” Yet, I notice that the web site for the Mother Lode Taxpayers Association has been active in other local campaigns in the past three years: see here. The executive director, Heidi Morton, is active in Republican and conservative causes in Tuolumne County.

So is the Mother Lode Taxpayers Association bona fide or not? I hope so, and I hope it will join the other legitimate taxpayer associations in California in the lonely fight for fiscal responsibility.

A Fairly Trustworthy List of Taxpayer Organizations in California

I don’t know every listed group, but I believe the National Taxpayers Union (based in Washington, D.C.) has posted a fairly accurate list of bona fide taxpayer groups in California: California is the Best Example of How to Run a State’s Economy into the Ground.