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Our occasional contributor J.M Ivler of Los Alamitos and Los Alamitos News died unexpectedly a couple weeks ago from a massive heart attack. Here are some words from his activist friend Lauren Sommers:
I will miss JM so much — what a great loss our community has suffered. JM was super smart and shared much of his wisdom & knowledge with us. JM Ivler was truly a great man. He successfully helped to protect our community from over-development and a massive trucking distribution center.
I met JM 4 years ago: we were part of a handful of residents who successfully stopped a horrible development (ProLogis) that was about to be built on the border of our two cities, Los Alamitos and Cypress. With the brilliant assistance and guidance of JM Ivler, a handful of us Cypress & Los Al residents went on to win TWO Cypress city ballot measures We were out spent about 100 to 1, but we still won! Every resident of Cypress owes JM a lot – and they do not even know it. Much of what JM did for us was behind the scenes.
JM was thrilled that Bernie Sanders was running last year. JM opened my eyes to so many things. For example, he would say: “If you ‘Liked Ike’ (in the 1950’s), then you will love Bernie Sanders”. JM reminded us that the platform of the 1956 Republican Convention was very similar to Bernie Sanders 2016 platform. My, oh my, how our country has gradually moved to far, far political right – it happened over the course of the past 35 years, it was over a long period of time, therefore most people do not even realize it !! Essentially, in most important ways, Eisenhower = Sanders.
JM was so impressive with his intellect, wisdom and moral compass. JM was a magnificent role model because he would boldly fight for those things that would benefit everyone – he fought for the Common Good. JM did his research, he development excellent arguments and held his public officials accountable – This is what we all should be doing. JM pleaded with elected officials to vote in favor of the Public Good as opposed to voting in favor of benefiting just a few individuals. We need millions of JMs to create a better country.
Our part of Orange County has lost a great advocate who was preserving and protecting our community. I fear that there are not enough residents willing to fill those shoes. I hope I am wrong about that. Many of us owe JM so much. It is up to us to carry the torch and continue to preserve our wonderful community. If not you and I, then who? We love you JM. I leave you with his words (actually I do not know if he wrote this or is quoting someone) – which he posted on New Years Day this year:
“The sun will come up tomorrow. Just like it did today and yesterday. It’s just another day, for you to do with what you may. You will choose how you greet it, how you meet it, and what you will make of the morrow. It is yours to do with what you want. You will make it good, or bad, based on your actions, your perceptions and your desires for the day is yours to do with what you will. It is a day above ground, a day filled with opportunity, choices, chances to let your dreams fly and time to hold things dear. Each of our days are numbered, and we don’t know when the final one may come, so plan as if you will live forever, and live each as if it is your last. Seize the day, force it to your will, embrace life and remember above all, that you are the breeze from a butterfly’s wing; leave ripples in the waters of life that mark your passing with peace and love.”
Vern says: JM was an ideas guy and an action guy. He wrote two piece for this blog which highlight one of his big ideas – reforming Proposition 13 – and his great gift to American children – “EduCad.” I think the best way we can remember him is to re-read those two pieces.
by JM Ivler, June 19, 2014.
In the late 1970’s an attempt was made to rein in the uncontrolled taxation of real estate property in California. This effort became known as Prop 13. The idea was simple. All real estate would be taxed at a base year rate, and there was an annual limit on how much the tax could increase each year. This allowed people to properly plan and manage their real estate taxes and ended a process where people would be surprised by massive increases in property tax from reassessment.
And all was good.
But there was also a series of decisions that were made that would trigger a reassessment of real estate property. If a property was sold, then the sale would establish a new base rate for the property for future taxation. And if the property was altered (for instance more square footage was added to the property) this too could trigger a reassessment for the property.
And all was good.
Well, not really.
See, there are different types of real estate. There is the real estate of a single-family residence or the home or condo where one lives, and then there is the real estate that is income-producing. Income-producing real estate is generally commercial in nature. A hotel, a strip mall, a multi-family apartment complex, a warehouse, an office building, a restaurant.
When was the last time that you saw someone add a 21st story to a 20 story office tower? Add another 20,000 square foot to an existing 50,000 square foot warehouse? Tear down the walls of an existing grocery store to add 15,000 square feet?
On the other hand we all know one person who owns a home on a street where they or one of their neighbors made modifications to their home and triggered a reassessment of their real estate.
So we have defined two separate classes of real estate. One will almost never be affected by reassessment and the other will.
These two classes have something else in common. In most cases that single family home is in an individual’s name. And that commercial property? In most cases the ownership resides in a corporate entity. When a person sells his home, it’s generally sold as a transaction between two individuals (sometimes listed a a man and wife selling a real property to another man and wife, but in most cases between individuals.)
But different story with those commercial properties. In fact a change of real ownership can occur, with the listed real property owner not changing. For example, CompanyA, LLC owns a 20-story office building and, instead of selling the real property, all the stock in CompanyA, LLC is sold from CorporationZ to CorporationX. So CompanyA, LLC stills effectively owns the real estate, as the real estate actually was sold or transferred from one owner to another.
When there’s a change of ownership in that single family residence, that triggers a reassessment of the property’s valuation and taxation, but the change in ownership of the real estate between the two corporate entities through the change in ownership of the LLC does not.
Why is this all important? Because these two specific loopholes have changed the tax burden in every county in California. Individuals who own their primary residence have, year after year, been paying a larger share of the property taxes received by the State of California, while at the same time the amount of property tax received has been declining as these commercial properties are not being reassessed.
Within tax policy circles this actually has a name, it’s called a split-roll. And one of the key things that a split-roll does is shift the tax burden over time away from one side of the split and to the other side of the split.
Now let’s look at two properties. The first is a single-family residence and the second is a four-story office building. Both properties were built prior to Prop 13. In the almost 35 years that Prop 13 has been in effect there have been no additional feet added to the four-story office building, and the LLC that has owned it, although having been sold three times, still owns the real estate. In all those years, the property has not be reassessed. The single-family residence on the other hand has been sold three times in that same time period, and at least two of the owners have made additions to the property. So that property has been through at least five reassessments.
Now anyone can tell you that this is clearly “not fair.” And that’s the primary cause in the tax-burden shift that’s pushing a greater burden of property taxes from commercial property owners to those that own their homes. In simple terms it’s costing the State and the Counties billions of lost revenue, an at the same time rewarding those commercial property owners and punishing folks who live in their homes. Something tells me that was not what the people that voted for Prop 13 were intending to do to themselves.
Now, let’s look at some other things that are happening at the same time. Since the income is going down for the State and the Counties because these commercial properties are not being reassessed the State and the Counties, in fact all of government, has had two choices. It’s either had to find creative ways to increase revenue, or find ways to cut what they spend. So parks that were generally free to access in the late 1970’s and 1980’s now have entrance fees. The fees for licenses and registrations have risen. The cost for attending college or university has risen. In other words, rather than sharing the pain for these items of common good there has been a shift of the burden to those that use these common services. And when the costs could not be covered by new fees for service, the services have been cut. A high school arts program here and a music program there, and suddenly California went from having the best public schools in the nation to being much further down the list.
But this is a shared pain for us, we all suffer equally, right? Not quite. Let’s look at an example of two commercial buildings side-by-side in downtown LA. The first is a 10-story office building built pre-Prop 13 and the second is a 10-story office building erected in 2010. As you’d expect, the older building has a much lower property tax based on the early assessment and the capped increases of Prop 13. So, one would assume that the rent per square foot charged in these two buildings would reflect the fact that the renters in the older building are paying a much lower rate. But that’s the problem with assumptions. Both building are well within the going rate for square footage in that area – the older building may have a slightly lower rate, but it’s well within the same range.
If that’s the case, then the owner of the first building, with substantially lower overhead costs brought about by the fact that his property taxes are set so low by the Prop 13-protected assessment, is clearly making a much greater profit margin due to his lower overhead costs and comparable rental rates. In other words, not only is the older building’s owner not feeling the pinch, he’s getting maximum benefits from exploiting the loopholes that have kept his assessments low.
In under 1300 words so far I have explained a clear and present problem that has been created by a poorly written law that has caused massive amounts of pain for Californians in general, but has been a financial windfall for a small handful of people. These two loopholes not only protect a small class of people, but help enrich them while passing along the pain of the loopholes to a much larger class of people.
Why does all of this matter? Because there’s a group of politicians who every election cycle sign pledges in which they promise to NOT fix the loopholes and to continue to hurt the many for the benefit of the few. These people will say that they are “signing pledges to not raise taxes,” but the pledge also means that they will not fix the loopholes in Prop 13 and correct a bad law that is hurting many in the state to the benefit of a very few.
When you started reading this you were thinking that Prop 13 is good, and in fact it does have some very good components. But these politicians’ pledges mean that they will NOT fix the loopholes. And these loopholes need to be fixed or we’ll find that more services will be cut, and more fees will be passed along to the majority so that this special minority can continue to make massive amount of profits at the expense of the majority.
The key to fixing this clear and present danger to California is to demand that our elected officials NOT sign these pledges to not fix the Prop 13 loopholes. The key way to ensure that these loopholes get closed is to demand to know from any person running for public office if they will work to close these loopholes the day that they get elected. The key is to demand accountability from those that seek our vote, and to vote only for those that will fix a broken system that has loopholes that benefit a small minority at the expense of the majority.
So listen carefully and when you hear a politician say that they have signed a pledge to “not raise taxes,” remember that means they have signed a pledge to do everything in their power to keep these special interest loopholes in Prop 13. Remember that, even though they may claim that they are working for the benefit of you and the rest of California, they’re really working for the direct benefit of those that will continue to push more of the tax burden on you, and protect the growing profits of the this special class of people. The signing of the pledge is a special message to those benefiting from the loopholes in the law today that these politicians will continue to do all in their power to make sure the playing field is stacked in their favor.
And if you’re running against one of these “tax-pledging” politicians, take the time to explain to the voters why these people are working against the interests of a majority of Californian’s and why you will focus on fixing these loopholes in Prop-13. People understand when it’s explained to them how these loopholes are hurting the majority just so a small handful can benefit by having the deck stacked in their favor.
by JM Ivler, June 24, 2015.
Vern here. Last week there was a competition where, if a small business got a certain number of votes, they had a chance to get a “Mission Main Street Grant” for, I think, $100K, and I wanted you all to vote for EduCAD, a very laudable project of our sometime contributor J.M. Ivler. He explained to some of us at the time that what he would spend HIS award on if he got it was a PUBLICITY FIRM, to let people know about this great program that is offered free to veterans and families of veterans, and nearly for free to students and families from low-income districts.
Well, JM’s program did get the votes it needed, but I thought we should still let you know about it… if what he needs is a publicist, we can at least do our little bit. So here’s JM…
It’s summer. No more school work. But what about a student that wants to stay fresh on what they learned last year, so that they don’t lose that knowledge over summer and have to spend time in revue? Is there a tool that can help a student stay fresh? This process, in the education community is called “summer bridge” work and it is used by parents that want their kids to have a jump on the new school year. It doesn’t take lots of time to stay fresh over summer, and it’s much easier if you do a small amount of the review work every week over summer than attempting to catch up in the beginning of the school year. Well for math in high school, there is a product. It wasn’t designed for that purpose, but it can be used that way.
A Los Alamitos company released a product that was designed for SAT/ACT math help. The product was released for free to every high school student in the United States attending a public highs school for either the SAT or ACT, and 100% free for any military family that has a .mil address. The products are available at http://www.hscetp.com/ (High Schools) and http://www.milcetp.com/ (Military).
The product uses the Official SAT and ACT Practice Books practice tests to adapt a matrix of over400 Problem Types to just those Problem Types a student needs to work on based on how they did on the practice test.
In addition, coaches (tutors, parents or teachers) can create Coaching accounts, provide the student with a code, and the student can attach to the coach. The coach can then see the students work, and recommend Problem Types that the student should be working on to the student, which the student can access via a Coaching Queue.
Finally, the student can create a hotlist of Problem Types that they have worked on that they may wish to return to, so they can access and re-work the problems.
But what if the student is not preparing for the SAT or ACT math portion, can they still make use of this free too? Yes, the product can be used for summer bridge, and it doesn’t cost one penny to a student, parent or school.
The key to the product is two parts. The first part is called CETP for “College Entrance Test Prep”. This includes the scorecard system that students use with either of the official books, and the portion of the system that adapts a matrix of over 400 Problem Types to allow the student to focus on just what they need to for the standardized tests based on the practice test results.
The power in the summer bridge is that the matrix of Problem Types is broken out by math subject type by row and difficulty across the columns. The difficulty are three levels, from easy to hard. But for summer bridge the key is that subject types that make up the individual rows. Each row is broken into subject areas; pre-algebra, algebra I, algebra II, plane and coordinate geometry, trigonometry and data analysis, statistics and probability
So, a ninth grade student who just completed a year of pre-algebra can register in the application and once registered, go into the application and start working on problems from pre-algebra that are in any of the three levels of difficulty. All at no charge.
When the student selects a cell, for instance “pre-algebra/easy” they will see a list of the various Problem Types that are in this cell. The student can look and review the different Problem Types and then they can elect to run a Problem Type from this cell in something called EduCAD-ST. This is the second part of the application, and it is very powerful. EduCAD-ST is a patented web-based Socratic tutor of math. Once a Problem Type has been loaded into EduCAD-ST the application can generate hundreds of different math problems of that Problem Type. When the problem is generated the student can answer it, or they can elect to “show next step”. If the student decides to “show next step” the application will start a Socratic dialog of questions and answers with the student on the left side of the application. Once the student thinks they know the answer, they can enter the answer. If they answer correctly they will be told that they did, but if they answer incorrectly the entire Socratic dialog is exposed so they can learn how to do that Problem Type. They can then elect to run another problem of that Problem Type and go through the whole thing again with a new problem or exit the application and return to the selection window.
If a student was doing summer bridge for pre-algebra and just did one Problem Type per day, they could start using the product today and not complete all the Problem Types by the time school restarts. But they would be fully up to speed to move on to Algebra I with almost all of the pre-algebra fully reviewed during summer bridge study giving them a major jump on being fully prepared to start algebra I in the new school year.
If all this is free, there must be a catch. But there isn’t. For the military it is 100% free, and for public high school students in the US it’s about 95% free. The company, EduCAD Learning Solutions, is able to do this because they have sponsors (up to three of them per school) who sponsor the student’s access to the product so that parents, students and schools can access the product at no charge. Yes, there is an upgrade fee for those students in high schools that want to have access to both the SAT and the ACT scorecards, but access to the patented Socratic tutor is 100% free. As they said in a public grant application “Every Student Should Achieve Their Potential. hscetp.com and milcetp.com offer a free way for every student to do so in math with an adaptive patented Socratic tutor covering over 400 concepts from pre-algebra to trig and stats. All at no charge to the student, parents or schools.” The ability to use the product for summer bridge was documented in a public post to a Linkedin group to teachers.
The product has been approved for distribution in the Los Alamitos Unified High School district. It is under consideration in both the Long Beach Unified School District and the Huntington Beach Unified High School District. But the company wanted to get the product out into the hands of students as fast as it could, so during the registration process, if your school has not provided a school code for access, the company allows you to look up your High School on your own and get your high school’s school code so that the students don’t have to wait for the bureaucratic process of the school to complete before they start getting the math help they want or need.
POSTSCRIPT, 1/19/2017: What is the future, and availability, of EduCad, given the death of the great man? The Orange Juice Blog will find out and let you know!