Further Misadventures and Malfunctions of the Murrbot™


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One of the few areas right and left generally agree on is the primacy of Public Safety as a critical function of government. If taxes do nothing else, keeping us safe should be on the list.  Police and Fire are the last items to be cut from a responsible budget, and first to be restored when the economy improves.  On the other hand, we hope that budgets are kept as lean as possible, given the enormity of public safety’s bite from the General Fund pie.  Balance is found in fielding as many well trained and appropriately supervised law enforcement officers and firefighting staff as a community can afford to cover, given the cost of payroll and benefit burdens for future obligations.

To that end, Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray sent out an email blast earlier today, patting herself on the back for her efforts to restore public safety personnel to “pre-recessionary levels.”

Let’s be clear though:  Technically the budget cuts of years past were not made by the recession so much as former Mayor Curt Pringle’s insistence that we continue spending on his grand visionary projects as though the recession was a figment of someone’s imagination.  But Murray will never, ever admit that.  In fact, the need for such budget cuts was never made public until current Mayor Tom Tait’s Power Point presentation in January 2011.  The newly minted, fiscally conservative Mayor, at his first State of the City event, then revealed that the City he had just inherited a month earlier had been systematically stripped of its stability by years of deficit spending, and reserves were so depleted that the City must cut even basic functions like Public Safety in order to pay the bills.

In fact, Pringle notoriously walked out of the presentation, realizing this was not to be the ego stroke he’d anticipated when he eagerly sat at his front-and-center table waiting for an “I stand on the shoulders of the great man who served before me” speech from Tait.  That public revelation by Tait of Pringle’s utter failure to lead is rumored to have set off the firestorm between the the two Mayors, leading to a campaign of retaliation and personal animosity with the goal of crippling Tait for his honest assessment of the situation with the public he had sworn to serve.  From that fateful presentation:

Study in contrasts: Former Mayor Pringle, current Mayot Tait.

THE BUDGET:

The first challenge is that Anaheim has a serious budget problem. I just returned from the US conference of Mayors and I will tell you our situation is not unique. The vast majority of cities are dealing with this same issue. It is not an issue of not taxing enough. It is an issue of spending more than we have. Our problem is exacerbated by the fiscal crisis facing the state.

Sacramento is looking to make some radical changes to meet its $25 billion dollar deficit crisis. In fact, just last week, we were notified that the State is taking steps to dissolve city redevelopment agencies and Enterprise Zone designations – one of which Anaheim secured recently, after months of hard work by the city and the chamber. This makes our situation in Anaheim even more challenging.

I believe that my job as mayor, and certainly my job this afternoon, is to present the state of the city as plainly and honestly as possible-and hopefully to have us all leave this place with clarity about the challenges we face, resolve to overcome them and optimism to face a great future for our city.

Let us begin with clarity today – Anaheim is facing a structural deficit of nearly $10 million dollars.

We hear the term “structural deficit” a lot, but I’d like to show you what it means:

This is what a structural deficit looks like. Expenditures continue to exceed revenues…even as our economy is slowly recovering.

The Blue Line represents our city’s tax revenues, while the red line represents city spending. The blue line is supposed to be above the red. The pink area represents our deficit.

As you can see from this next chart, our reserves have dropped from $45 million in 2007 to about $11 million today, and unless we enact changes in how the city spends money, our reserves will be depleted next year.

As you can see, our immediate task is to cut spending. We must balance the budget and stop the drain on our reserves. There is no responsible alternative. However, even when we close this year’s budget gap, I believe we will face larger deficits year after year unless we also address the underlying cause of our deficit.”

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Murray the misunderstood visionary. Photo by Chris Prevatt.

Leaders like Murray continue to shield Pringle from responsibility for those disastrous spending decisions that kicked the deficit can down the road to the incoming Council, and the behavior is typical of her “smoke and mirrors” leadership, now brought directly to email inboxes across Anaheim.

So Murray has a proposal to fix the cuts to public safety necessitated by the spending habits of her mentor. How wonderful of her. *snark*

Those new cops she wants to hire (cops we would ALL love to be able to hire) would be more affordable if Murray and company had brought the pension percentages for NEW HIRES down to more sustainable levels. While Governor Jerry Brown made it possible for cities to hire in new staff at lower burden levels than current staff, the majority (again over the objections of Mayor Tait) voted to give new hires the maximum allowable pension.

So this is not even remotely sustainable in the long-term, should Murray ever stop to do even basic back-of-the-napkin math.  Nope, when Murray pats herself on the back for “comprehensive pension reform” all she could truthfully point to would be the wholesale bullying of ONE employee: Mayor Tait’s policy aide Mishal Montgomery (right.)  Yes, if you’ll recall, the Council majority did reduce the budget for the Mayor’s aide, bringing it in line with that of the four other councilmembers, in a petty version of what we called “the fairness game” when our kids used to whine that one sibling was given more Fruit Loops in their bowl than others.  Never mind that Tait’s workload far surpasses that of the other elected leaders, he is forced to get by on the same staffing budget.  In fact, because his staffer was already enrolled in PERS prior to the change, her pension obligations are calculated against his allowable budget.  So Murray’s version of “pension reform” is really about no more than bullying Tait’s assistant into choosing her paycheck or her pension, leaving Tait with less help than his colleagues. But I’m getting off topic…

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Murray further reveals her utter cluelessness in regards to basic municipal finance by assuming that our costs remain fixed, and thus our ability to cover the bills today equates to ability to cover them tomorrow.

As far back as 1997, when the first bonds were released for the Disney expansion and Convention Center improvements, we have known that the price tag would rise over time.  Since then the City has used the APFA to release even more bonds, each with escalating obligations, many with balloon payments of compound interest heavily weighted to the back end of the maturity charts.

The LA Times reported back in January 1997 that,

“The city’s first full annual interest payment of about $24.3 million will begin in 2002, a year after Disney’s California Adventure is set to be up and running. The deal is structured so that payments escalate to nearly $76 million annually before the bonds are paid off in 2037.”

What Murray is NOT sharing with the public, either due to her own ignorance or simply a desire to keep the public ignorant until she can complete her next term in office, is that the ticking time bombs of bond balloon payments will be due before this batch of new hires collects their pensions.  How will we pay for those escalating payments in addition to the highest pension formulas permitted by State Law for new hires?  Well, that is not Kris’ problem!  By the time that financial train wreck collides, Murray will be out of office and very likely out of town, perhaps living on some tropical island as a guest of Curt Pringle. While you and I will not be invited to visit, you can be sure we paid for it.

Now if you like the way Kris Murray and the Masters of the Universe have been running our fair city, if you are perfectly OK with the roughly ONE BILLION DOLLARS in Crony Capitalist largesse that represents the current Council majority’s continuation of Curt Pringle’s leadership “vision” for Anaheim, then you just might be able to catch the very tail end of Murray’s fundraiser, taking place as I write this, at the Sheraton.

Be sure to bring your checkbook! The theme of the Event, “Promises Made, Promises Kept” isn’t specific about what promises she’s referring to. Her promises made to ME in exchange for signing her nomination papers have long since morphed into Jello-O.  Clearly she HAS kept promises to enough people to believe she may be re-elected, and those recipients of her promises are likely to be in attendance at tonight’s function.  While you’re there, take a good look around, you are certain to find Kerry Condon (left) there, representing the Police union about to benefit from Murray’s generosity with the public dole.  You are also likely to encounter representatives from the Fire union, who will benefit from the $20 million in “community improvements” that was pork-barreled into a toxic bond sale and misrepresented to the public as the cost of expanding the Convention Center.

At least, if there’s a bright side to her spend-it-while-you’ve-got-it budget proposals, today’s email message states clearly:

This communication is not paid for at government expense.”

It is paid for by Kris Murray for Anaheim City Council 2014 #1339003.”

The LAST self-congratulatory message she sent out was NOT so responsible, sent out as it was by the Chamber of Commerce in what appears to be a potential violation of the Mass Mailing prohibition as presented by the FPPC.

Oops. Gee, I hope nobody is so “unkind” as to report to the FPPC what I am sure is merely an oversight…  Well, if Kris Murray should wonder if she’s in trouble, at least prior to receiving the envelope from Sacramento that might be coming, she could ask City Attorney Michael Houston, who has previous experience in this matter. 

Good luck, Kris, and enjoy your fundraiser!  You might check with “Steven Albert Chavez Lodge,” but I THINK you can use campaign funds for legal fees.


About Cynthia Ward

I am a truth-teller. It gets me in trouble. But if you ask me if a dress makes you look fat, I will tell you so, and help select another, before you go on television and realize it for yourself. My real friends are expected to be truthful with me as well. A secret shared will be taken to my grave, but lie to me, and it will end up here…on these pages… especially if you are tasked with the stewardship of public resources. I am a registered Republican who disdains the local GOP power structure, a born-again Christian who supports everyone’s right to spend their lives with the partner of their choosing. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I am a loyal friend to those who merit that friendship and when crossed I am a bitch with a capital C. I do not fit into a box, nor do I see others through the stereotypes that politics and public affairs so often tries to shoehorn us into. I think for myself, and so do you. Welcome to our shared space in this world.