Mesa Activist: Vote NO on all Mesa Bond Issues

Longtime City of Mesa activist and watchdog Gene Dufoe presented this excellent case why Mesa voters should vote NO on all the City of Mesa bond issues. It’s lengthy but well worth the read to become informed.

On Monday, Oct. 5, I spoke at the City of Mesa Council meeting for 3-minutes on why $580,000,000 Utility Revenue Bonds should not be approved at the election on November 4.  The earlier article, as well as this article, are available on the http://votesmartmesa.com/ website.  The earlier article also appeared in the Gilbert Watch on August 22, 2014.  The complete update follows:

A look at why the concentration on the City of Mesa’s Utility Bonds, we need to look at the City of Mesa Budget: FY2014-15 Auditor General Schedules A-G: Schedule A Summary of Estimated Revenues and Expenditures to find why. http://www.mesaaz.gov/budget/ Documents/FY_14_15/Schedule% 20A_Summary%20of%20Estimated% 20Revenues%20&%20Expenditures. pdf

Looking at Interfund Transfers In (Out), we discover Transfers (OUT) of $(173,606,136) for the ENTERPRISE FUND and Transfers (IN) of $85,429,615 to the GENERAL FUND AND $92,164,059 to the DEBT SERVICE FUNDS.  The ENTERPRISE FUND is the business portion of the City of Mesa operations, i.e., the various utility operations run by the city.  This withdrawal from the ENTERPRISE FUND is taking more than $173 million of the current profits of the various utility funds and using it mostly for the current operations of the GENERAL FUND and the DEBT SERVICE FUNDS.  Note that the Property Tax Revenues of $33,440,000 also boosts the DEBT SERVICE FUNDS.  The result is the City of Mesa is taking current funds from the Enterprise Fund to spend immediately.  They are not using that money to responsibly maintain the infrastructure required by Enterprise Fund operations.  Instead, they are asking the residents of Mesa to mortgage our future (and also having our children and grandchildren) to make many of these needed infrastructure improvements with revenue bonds that will last through the year 2044.

The earlier paper discusses how the Utility Revenue Bonds are paid from the revenues i.e., the monthly water, waste water, electric, natural gas, and solid waste (garbage) utility bills, so they do not effect the direct tax burden.  However, paying utility bills comes out of the same pocket as paying any other bill.  This year’s City of Mesa rate increases on July 1, 2014, over the prior year are as follows:

•  Electric rates increased by 2%,
•  Natural Gas rates increased by 3%,
•  Water rates increased by 7%,
•  Wastewater rates increased by 7%, and
•  Solid Waste rates increased by 6.9%.

The Secondary Property Tax also increased from $22,105,000 last year to $33,440,000 this fiscal year.  That is an average 51% increase per household.

The only other City of Mesa Interfund Transfers (OUT) is $(7,038,653) from the IMPACT FEE FUNDS and the only other Transfers (IN) is $3,051,115 to RESTRICTED FUNDS.  Impact fees are assessed for new construction and are intended to go toward building the infrastructure for that new construction; however, the City Council has voted to use impact fees to bolster the General Fund and satisfy Debt Service.

According to Ryan Wimmer of the Mesa’s Office of Management and Budget, on July 1, 2014, the authorized, but not yet sold, bonds total $219,668,000 of which $72,213,000 are Utility Revenue Bonds.  A total of $580,000,000 is on the November 4, 2014, ballot is divided as follows:

•  Water System Revenue Bonds-$315,700,000;
•  Wastewater System Revenue Bonds- $178,200,000;
•  Electrical System Revenue Bonds-$27,000,000; and
•  Gas System Revenue Bonds-$59,100,000.

The bonds shall be payable solely from the revenues of the City’s utility systems, bear interest not exceeding 10% per annum and pay principal over not more than 30 years from the date issued.  The last utility revenue bonds, Series 2014, were for only 24 years.  If these utility revenue bonds are funded in the same manner as those previously authorized and sold, these bonds will be repaid over the coming years with interest-only payments for the most of the years of the bonds with the principal be paid in the last year or two of the bond life.  This will mean that the total interest repaid will be significantly more than the initial bond principal.  All of this when the Enterprise Fund is currently making a profit of more than $173 million annually.

From the “Moody’s assigns Aa2 rating to City of Mesa, Arizona’s Utility Systems Revenue Bonds, Series 2011” dated 13 May 2011, the following is quoted, “In fiscal 2010, $84.4 million was transferred from the Utility (Enterprise) Fund to the General Fund revenues.  Near term transfer amounts are forecasted to remain stable at $83.6 million.”  However, that did not happen as will be discussed in the next paragraph.  Since that time:

The Secondary Property Tax has increased from $14.1 million in FY10/11 to over $33 million in FY2014/15,

The Enterprise Fund transfer to the General Fund and Debt Service has increased from $83.6 million to over $173 million in the current year,

The stated bond indebtedness has increased from $1,354,816,963 on July 1, 2011, to $1,710,800,000

That is an increase of nearly $356 million in debt in three years.  And the City of Mesa, still has $219,668,000 of taxpayer-approved bond authorization, not yet sold, and now the City of Mesa is requesting approval for an additional $580,000,000 in Utility Revenue Bonds.  If the four  Revenue Utility Bond issues pass and considering the already approved bonds, not yet sold, that will be an addition to the current debt of nearly an additional $800 million.

In summary, since July 1, 2011, the debt of the City of Mesa has ballooned from nearly $1,356 Million ($1.356 Billion) to nearly $1,932 Million ($1.932 Billion) and we are being asked to approve $580 Million in new revenue bonds for a total indebtedness of 2,512 million ($2.512 Billion) or nearly double that we owed in July 2011.

Not only will that be an a major increase of the debt, but combining the lengthening of the bond life with the current City of Mesa approach to the repaying of Utility Revenue Bonds with interest-only payments for the first twenty-nine or thirty years and then paying the BALLOON principal payment(s) in the last year or two of the now 30-year bonds, the utility rates will continue to dramatically increase.  Note that the life of the Revenue Utility Bonds have increased from 18 years in 2009 to 24 years in 2014 and now 30 years for the new bonds to be voted on in November 3, 2014.

In a economy growing better than three years ago, the City Council is not properly protecting the interests of the City of Mesa residents.  Now, the City Council and Mayor Giles, as the newly-elected mayor, needs a wakeup call.  Note that Mayor Giles, earlier served in the City of Mesa City Council from 1996 to 2000.

We strongly urge a NO VOTE on all four of the bond issues.  It is time for the City of Mesa to cut all but the absolutely essential services and for repayment schedules to be part of any future bond authorizations and get back to pay-as-we-go management.  We need to pay for the City’s needs without drastically increasing taxes or utilities.

Gene Dufoe, interested citizen of Mesa

Mr. Dufoe is a retired Boeing engineer/manager who possesses the following degrees:  BSAE, MSAE, and an MBA with an emphasis in Finance.

NRCC: Not Happy With Obamacare? Blame Kyrsten Sinema!

Although released earlier this year by the NRCC, this ad is as relevant today as it was in March. As your premiums and deductibles increase while your coverage decreases, remember who Arizona’s biggest champion of Obamacare was – Kyrsten Sinema.

This election, there is a much better choice. Vote for Wendy Rogers on Election Day!

Video: Ballot Stuffing is Legal in Arizona

By now, you’ve all seen the video of the Randy Parraz associate walking a box of completed ballots into an early voting location. Did you know there is no law on the books regarding who or how many ballots can be submitted?

The question everyone should be asking (in addition to who was the allegedly obscene ballot stuffer) is how or where did someone obtain so many ballots?

The answer is simple. Community organizers collected the ballots.

How is this done?

The most common practice is to sign up whole neighborhoods for early ballots like a farmer sowing seed in a large field. Once the ballots arrive, community organizers go into the field door to door harvesting the virgin ballots sometimes exchanging an item of value and a promise of political favorism.

Another harvesting method that has been observed is to throw a community event with food, music and political speeches. The entry “fee?” Bring your unmarked ballot. Entry and food is granted and the voter turns over their ballot.

With a fresh harvest of unmarked early ballots, community organizers and union members will gather in private where they fill out the ballots in mass identical fashion, seal them, scribble a signature on to the envelope and pack a crate ready for delivery to the nearest early voting center.

Republicans don’t vote this way because many see the privacy and individuality of their ballot as a sacred right rather than an exercise in mass political production.

Watch for more battles to be waged over how we vote. Republicans will push for strengthening voting integrity while Democrats will move to allow voters to print out their ballot on your home computer.

Just another front on the battle lines for freedom and the rule of law.

 

Southern Arizona News Examiner Endorsements

A quick shout out to our friends at the Southern Arizona News Examiner on their endorsements. Here’s the editorial they sent out earlier:

Southern Arizona News Examiner

ENDORSEMENTS FOR THE 2014 GENERAL ELECTION

ALL PARTISAN OFFICES – VOTE STRAIGHT REPUBLICAN 

I don’t care if there’s an unopposed Democrat running who’s your brother-in-law, DON’T VOTE FOR ANY OF THEM.

Not because all the Republicans are wonderful, they aren’t A few are even dingbats. But life is a matter of “compared to what” and the system works better when the party that needs reform is helped along.

Democrats need reform more desperately than Republicans. Republicans have primaries and allow their peasantry a voice. Democrats now are ruled by a small elite that is loyal to the special interest groups they comprise. Union leadership is now more involved in backing up the LGBTs over same sex restrooms than they are about taking care of their members. Teacher’s unions are more interested in backstopping the big corporations pimping Common Core and the massive test revenues they will get than they are about taking care of classroom teachers or, God forbid, the kids themselves.

Radio host Hugh Hewitt said it best. Democrats need to be punished for the cowardice they have displayed in failing to challenge Obama, Pelosi and Harry Reid for their incompetence and dumb ideas.

Make them pay for it. The humiliation of a big defeat might finally get them to change some of their elitist ways.

BALLOT PROPS – STATEWIDE 

122 – YES It drives the left nuts to consider something the Founders would find elementary.

303 – YES Only someone with the soul of a petty bureaucrat and a sick control freak would deny a terminal patient a shot at an experimental drug.

BALLOT PROPS – LOCAL

415 -YES We have the same obligation to discarded and sick pets that we have to discarded and sick children. Only anarcho-capitalists can vote no on this without hypocrisy. WAIT! Anarcho-capitalists don’t believe in voting. Conservatives and limited government conservatives should join me in voting YES for something that will save thousands of dogs, cats and assorted other critters. DO THE MATH YOU WHINING MAROONS WITH PIG MASKS. $22 million over 15 years for over a million people is chump change.

Get a life.

Net Metering Levels The Energy Playing Field

By Barry Goldwater Jr.

I don’t recall Joe Galli, the former executive director of the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, ever taking up the cause of economically disadvantaged people in south Phoenix. Nor do I understand why he doesn’t identify his new role as the Executive Director of  Market Freedom Alliance. It’s perplexing that the head of an organization by that name would be expressing disapproval of free market enterprise. Nor do I understand Mr. Galli’s motives in writing an article critical of net metering. Perhaps APS has found another front group to attack solar energy.

I am Chairman of TUSK, which stands for Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. It’s a conservative group that supports energy choice and energy independence.

APS doesn’t like net metering because it forces the utility monopoly to pay a fair price for the excess solar energy rooftop solar users send back to the grid. That’s not a subsidy, that’s commerce. In fact Arizona subsidies for rooftop solar power are long gone. That’s a good thing. The industry is able to stand on its own two feet.

You can’t say the same about APS. It’s a regulated monopoly that depends on a government set rate of return of 10%. If APS makes some bad calls, no worries, they can ask regulators for a rate hike. And captive ratepayers have no choice. It’s not like they can switch power companies. As far as national subsidies, the fossil fuel industry is one of the most heavily subsidized industries in the country, receiving far more than solar.

The rooftop solar industry, which supports TUSK, is made up of private businesses, not regulated monopolies. Rooftop solar is giving these monopolies the first competition they ever had and they don’t like it; and apparently neither does Mr. Galli.

Whatever Joe’s motives in writing an article critical of net metering, I’d like to set the record straight. The federal government has dozens of favorable tax structures that benefit traditional energy sources such as natural gas, coal and nuclear.  Yet for solar there is only one and the benefit of the lower tax treatment is passed on to the end consumer through lower electricity costs.  As any good republican knows, lower taxes means more economic growth and more jobs.  Lower taxes on solar are no different.

Secondly, Mr. Galli makes the claim that rooftop solar is for the rich. That’s simply not the case. 57% of the rooftop systems installed in Arizona are installed in zip codes where the median household income is at or below the Arizona median income. That’s according to the Arizona Solar Energy Industry Association, a respected trade group.

Monopolies such as APS don’t like leased rooftop solar which has made solar available to people of more modest means. In fact, APS supports a property tax that targets leased rooftop solar customers. Hopefully Mr. Galli’s concern for those struggling in this economy will extend to working class families and retirees using solar; and perhaps he will write an article critical of this impending property tax.

Conservatives are smart enough to know that net metering opens energy choice and energy independence to more people through rooftop solar. And I am certain that conservatives can see though APS’ attempts to tax a competitor out of business.

Sal DiCiccio: How You Got Duped

SalDiCiccio

Vote YES 487/Stop Pension Abuse 

How (fire/police death and disability claims) became the most important issue in the 487 campaign-and how it’s not true. 

I am writing to show you how you were manipulated by the politicians (mayor & council), the opponents of pension reform and by the media covering this important issue. And, mostly because you need this information before you vote.

The issue of death/disability benefits being cut off are just not true and the media knew this was not true when they wrote their stories.

Here is the technique used to dupe you:

History and Technique

During my re-election campaign the unions filed a lawsuit in court against me, they then got the Media to write about the lawsuit. The unions then did mailers and TV to the public on the their lawsuit using the articles in the newspaper as the foundation.  Yes, the unions file their own lawsuit, get the media to write about it, then use the stories written in the paper in mailers and on TV. Even though the judge quickly threw out the case, the stories were written and used as fact in subsequent mailers and on TV.

Fast forward to The Pension reform (487) campaign:

The unions get their friends on the council to change the wording on the ballot description to add the words “Police Officer and Firefighter,” they then create the death and disability connection, then they get the media to write about it and create a story, then they do mailers and TV based on the confusion that they created using the published stories as the foundation. The unions rig the ballot description, get the media to write about it, then use the stories written in the paper in mailers and TV. The media knew this was not true.

The media can claim ignorance the first time, but a second time?

Hats off to the anti-pension reform campaign for being able to successfully use the media to make an issue that was never an issue as the highlight of the campaign.  Unfortunately, it creates confusion and suppresses voter turnout. The unions want to make sure you don’t vote.

And the media? Well, the same people that complain about low turnout are the same ones who knowingly help write the stories depressing turnout.

Fact: Death/disability claims are a LIFE INSURANCE plan and not a pension.  They’re not even close to being part of this initiative. 487 covers only the City of Phoenix pension plan. The police/fire are covered by the state pension plan not by the city plan. Phoenix cannot opt out of that plan. Police and Fire are clearly excluded.

I thought long and hard whether to write this column, but I believe strongly every vote matters.  Any delay in getting out the reality behind the politics would be doing you and disservice. The only way we will win is if the public gets the truth, please pass this on to your email list!

I am sorry that was to done to you, but you are the last ray of hope if we are going to change and reform our pension system.  Our city needs your help and we need you to vote.  Please don’t let them win by not voting.

Vote YES 487

Tom Jenney: Be sure to look at your early ballot

AFP Arizona

Dear Arizona Taxpayer,

With mail-in ballots sitting on kitchen tables across the state, AFP-Arizona wants to make sure that citizens are informed on some of the ballot propositions that will be decided between now and November 4.  
 
IMPORTANT:  It is best to get your ballot in the mail by Thursday, October 30.  You can also drop it off at any polling place in your county of residence between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm on Tuesday, November 4
 
Below are quick summaries of AFP-Arizona’s positions on several ballot propositions.  You can read more in-depth analysis at AFP-Arizona’s website.
  • YES on Arizona Proposition 122: Rejection of Unconstitutional Federal Actions  —  Prop 122 will provide Arizonans with a way to protect themselves from overreaching and harmful federal policies.  AFP-Arizona strongly endorses Prop 122.  
  • YES on Arizona Proposition 303: Use of Investigational Drugs, Biomedical Products and Devices — Prop 303 would allow terminally ill patients in Arizona to procure experimental drugs that have not completed the full FDA trial process (but have been deemed safe by FDA).  AFP-Arizona strongly encourages citizens to vote YES on Prop 303 to protect the health and safety of terminally ill patients and strike a blow for the freedom of individuals to make their own health care decisions.
  • NO on Maricopa County Proposition 480 - Prop 480 would spend $935 million to fund new and updated facilities for the Maricopa Integrated Health Systems.  If passed, the proposition would result in a significant property tax increase, especially on small businesses.  A typical small business with $1 million in assessed valuation will end up paying $7,800 for this bond measure.  Maricopa County taxpayers already greatly subsidize health care for the less fortunate, and there are already sufficient health care options, including vast private hospital systems, available to Maricopa County residents.  Prop 480 has little accountability for how the money is used, and it would subsidize government health facilities in unfair competition with private health care enterprises.
  • NO on Pima County Proposition 415 – Prop 415 would issue $22 million in bonds for the expansion and renovation of the Pima Animal Care Facility.  Pima County taxpayers are already being subjected to a property tax levy increase of $45 million, or approximately $50 on a typical house, and the Animal Care Center has already received a $1 million increase in its operating budget for expanded shelter operations, medical treatment, and spay/neuter programs.
  • YES on City of Phoenix Proposition 487 - Prop 487 would solve the City’s nearly $1.5 billion unfunded pension liability problem by moving new employees to a plan similar to the 401k plans that are common in the private sector.   Prop 487 would fix the City’s scandalous $190 million pension spiking problem by limiting the excess pension benefits given to current employees.
 
LEARN MORE!   Please go to www.aztaxpayers.org , print out the PDF version of our analysis, and give copies to your friends, neighbors and co-workers.  
 
Thank you for taking action
 
For Liberty & Prosperity, Tom
 
Tom Jenney
Arizona Director
Americans for Prosperity 

Sal DiCiccio: Pension Reform Matters – Vote YES on 487

MillionaireFirefighter

$1.1 Million: Cash Payout to one Firefighter at Retirement and then STARTED his annual Pension of $149,420-for life. He retired at 54.

$955,000: Cash Payout for another Firefighter. He then started a $130,000 pension for life. He retired at 53.

See the list of Firefighter retirees below:

Average Cash payouts at Retirement: $679,672

Average Yearly Pension: $111,296

Average Age at Retirement: 53

24 Firefighters cashed out over $16 million in retirement and then started their pensions.

Every single city employee (Everyone) gets both a Cash Payout AND a Pension.

Vote YES 487/Stop Pension Abuse

We all love our firefighters and respect them for the hard work they give our city. You’re probably wondering why they’re coming in droves to our neighborhoods handing out misleading information on pension reform? Especially since they’re clearly excluded from the pension reform proposal. Why, because they’re concerned that they may be next for reform.

The numbers from above are from Budget and Research and from the state of Arizona Retirement plan (PSPRS).

Why does pension reform matter? Without reform you will see more:

New and higher taxes: Phoenix passed a new water tax on you to pay for  pension spiking.

Cuts in Service: Phoenix is short over 500 police, cuts were made to seniors, libraries, seniors and children.

The government unions are doing all they can to undermine your vote. They want to keep everything…the way it is. Their union and their spokesman are purposely using strong arm tactics to attack people who support pension reform.

Here are the numbers:

PensionNumbers

What does 487 do?

* It immediately stops pension spiking. This alone would save over $19 million per year
* Fixes the broken pension system saving over $400 million.
* Allows current employees to keep everything they have earned.
* Makes new employees get the same retirement benefits you get. Moving all newemployees to a 401(K).
*Police and Fire are clearly excluded from the proposal.

Vote YES 487

Yes487

My best to you and your family,

Sal DiCiccio
Phoenix City Councilman

Terry Goddard Misrepresents Facts – Secretary Bennett Sets Record Straight

Secretary of State addresses the absurd claims by perennial candidate Terry Goddard.

PHOENIX – Candidates often make inflammatory statements as a tactic to provoke a sense of mistreatment to curry favor with voters.  However, blatant mischaracterizations about Arizona’s system of elections must be corrected.  With less than three weeks before the General Election, current Secretary of State Ken Bennett believes it’s necessary to clear up inaccurate information being presented by Terry Goddard over the past few months.

The latest examples occurred during the Clean Elections Debate, hosted by Arizona PBS.  During the broadcast, Mr. Goddard made two statements that were either terribly ignorant or deliberate misrepresentations of the truth for political gain.

“I’m confused where Mr. Goddard came up with amount of $2 million to implement the so-called Dual Track, or bifurcated system of voting in the primary,” said Secretary Bennett.  Truth is, our counties will spend about $500,000 for both the primary and general elections.  This system—one that I’ve repeatedly said is not ideal for election officials—was developed in response to two conflicting directives.  One from Arizona’s voters, (Prop. 200) and the U.S. Supreme Court (Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Ariz., Inc.)  As I’ve publically said before, and I’ll ask Mr. Goddard, which directive should we ignore; Arizona’s voters or the Supreme Court?

“In addition, I’m troubled by Mr. Goddard’s characterization that students, ‘who have to vote a federal ballot, are treated as second class citizens,’ which is patently false and simply absurd.  College students do not have to vote a federal form.  Those voting a federal ballot are simply doing so because they haven’t provided proof-of-citizenship to our County Recorders, a requirement approved by voters in 2004.  Election officials around the state are committed to treating each voter equally and for Mr. Goddard to assume otherwise is offensive to elections officials statewide.

“Combined with his conspiratorial accusation of voter suppression when he declared ‘independent voters get only one chance to cast a ballot,’ I question Mr. Goddard’s fundamental understanding of how elections work in Arizona. While I certainly appreciate Mr. Goddard’s compliment about my singing voice during the debate, I would ask he either learn the songs or stop making up the lyrics.”

Net Metering Tax Credits Discriminate

Recent legislation providing solar tax credits for residential homeowners has allowed billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street financiers to profit at the expense of working class Americans.  Solar corporations leasing panels to home owners, rather than selling, have reaped the financial benefit of solar tax credits intended for home owners to the tune of hundreds of millions.  These tax credits to solar companies have boosted dividends for their shareholders at taxpayers’ expense, while panel-leasing home owners get no immediate financial benefit.

meterWorse.  Solar tax credits discriminate against lower income communities.  Group housing, where many lower income families reside, cannot install residential solar panels, and are therefore not eligible from the get-go for these special tax credits.

Arizona is subsidizing the solar industry with $1.2 billion on residential solar, and not a dime goes to the state’s lowest income sectors – yet, another reason not to have discriminatory solar tax credits.

Further, after residential panels are installed at huge costs to taxpayers, the system of net metering goes to work, also discriminating against the working class.  Owners of solar panels can buy power from the grid as needed, or ship surplus power back to the grid when they produce more than they use.  Under net metering, solar panel owners, however, avoid paying for the service and repairs to maintain the grid.  These costs to maintain the grid are then shifted to non-solar users, placing a higher financial burden on this group, resulting in a disproportionate share of the burden falling on the aforementioned lower income sectors.

In Arizona, taxpayer subsidized solar panel ownership has led to the adding of “environmental programs cost adjustment factor” and renewable energy fees on utility bills, raising financial burdens for all non-solar users, lower income families included.  For example, the city of Scottsdale has a median family income of over $92,000.  Just in the past 5 years, they have had over 1,200 solar installations, which are eligible for state and federal subsidies.  In contrast, an area in south Phoenix with 29,000 residents and an average income of $41,000 has only 45 residential solar installations.  This is just an example, but the statistics are undeniable:  Taxpayer subsidies go to wealthier communities by a factor of 26 times more than lower income communities.

Regressive solar tax credits should end immediately.  Why have we chosen one industry over another?  And worse, we’ve chosen a discriminatory industry that keeps lower income communities down by unfairly forcing them to pay for others solar installation and operation.  Under any sun, these policies are just plain wrong.

Joe Galli

Former Executive Director – North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce