When it comes to foreclosing on Californians, it looks like Wells Fargo may take the prize. According to a report released today, Wells Fargo is responsible for more homes in the foreclosure pipeline in California than any other single lender.
California has some very powerful assets. People really want to live here, the weather is great, the state is beautiful, and we have a lot of well-educated workers. That should make it no surprise that the state's economy is growing now as the information economy rebounds.
Since February California has created almost 234,000 jobs, more than Texas, Oregon and West Virginia combined. (CBS)
While Rick Perry is busy trying to put a rosy spin on his corporate subsidy plan, California is building the economy of tomorrow.
If there's one thing that's been particularly consistent to campaigns of the far right in San Diego this fall, it's the unusually desperate attempts to hide the real agenda from voters. It's one that should be cause for optimism as long as voters pay attention, and betrays an almost impressive self-awareness from the top of the GOP that the party's agenda has drifted well outside the mainstream.
From the special exemptions of Prop 32 to Brian Bilbray's teetering re-election bid to Carl DeMaio's bizarre mayoral campaign, extreme conservatives are doing everything they can to hide their record and who they are.
For the backers of Proposition 32, the deception was part of the design from the very beginning. They surveyed the political landscape and found that, unsurprisingly, nobody wants millionaires and corporations to be able to buy off our political process. Rather than abandon a wildly unpopular idea, they came up with a different plan: fake it.
Prior to Eternity is the blog where it has 7 short posts on 7 different repeating topics. The gist is mostly Spiritual with some politics and opinions on morality. If you are interested in poetry and thoughts then Prior to Eternity is the place for you to look into it and enjoy and feel the lines. This collection of poems by Luke Aditsan is truly inspirational. The inspiration in no way reflects the usual interpretation of that term, but comes from a universal spirit in nature righting the ways of mankind. They capture your imagination with vivid images and intense feelings while leaving the reader with man's greatest gift: Hope. Hear the Call of the Storm. There is a link to a book for sale but it is a soft sell and I would like the blog to stand on it's own if that is in the cards.
What do the Cities of San Bernadino, Mammoth Lakes, & Stockton have in common? All three cities follow RDA and the League of California Cities, all circumvented AB26, and all three went bankrupt within a year.
Tax revenue is collected for the basic needs and services of the community, not to fund the private sector. The League of California Cities and the RDA Association are not on the side of the people. They are lobbyist groups who's purpose is to divert money to themselves and their affiliates.
In 1945 California authorized Redevelopment Agencies (RDA's) to alleviate urban blight. Blight is defined by state law as a combination of physical and economic conditions - vacant buildings, declining property values, poverty, high crime rate - that prevent private enterprise from developing in the area.
In the beginning very few cities used RDA, now most not only use but abuse RDA. Half of California cities are declared between 11-30% blight and 20% of cities claim over 30% blight to acquire land for RDA. The entire city of Imperial Beach has been declared blight. Imperial Beach is 1 ½ miles of beach-front property in Southern California; Does that sound 'blight' to you?
Powers of RDA:
Eminent Domain - Once an area is declared blight the city has the right to exercise the powers of eminent domain. The League of California Cities considers the powers of eminent domain an 'important tool' and encourages city officials to declare areas of their city blight to obtain eminent domain powers.
Take Out Loans & Issue Bonds without Voter Approval - RDA's use a federal Community Development Block Grant to start a project, but the remainder of the funding comes from issuing debt. By declaring a city blight the city is able to side-step Prop 13 to take out loans and issue bonds without voter approval.
Funding of RDA:
RDA gives the impression that the money is from state or federal grants, but 97% of all RDA finances are funded by the city. RDAs receive the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to begin work, but all redevelopment activity is financed by taking out loans that the city backs with future property taxes.
Tax Increment Financing: When Prop 13 passed RDAs feared a limited money stream, so they lobbied for special property tax revenues. After an RDA area has been established all property tax increases - less 2% for inflation - goes entirely to RDA instead of being used for the basic needs of the city. In the case of Imperial Beach all of IB is declared blight so ALL property tax increases go to the RDA program. The payments to RDA last as long as there is debt outstanding, and RDAs no longer have plans to conclude their projects, so eminent domain remains on the properties.
Cost of RDAs:
We can see the results of RDAs in the bankruptcies of Stockton, San Bernadino, and Mammoth Lakes. RDA eats up $1.5 billion/year of our cities budgets in the State of California. By reviewing the financial records of Imperial Beach shows the actual costs of RDA.
City Services vs RDA: 97% of all RDA funding is from the city itself. Taxes are collected for the general needs of the community, not to fund the private sector. Originally an RDA project took about 2% of a city's budget, now RDAs are swallowing up to 30% of city budgets.
The bigger problem is that the cities are spending even more on RDA than they are acknowledging. Imperial Beach's RDA is 32% of the budget, but I also found $4 million spent on RDA that is being funneled through 'dump accounts'. The budgets of numerous city departments have 'ABC' accounts listed with their expenditures. The ABC accounts pad the departments' budget by as much as 25%. The ABC accounts on the IB Fire Department's $2.3 million budget is $450,000 - 19% of their budget is being padded with RDA costs and legal fees.
Google 'RDA' and you'll find dozens of lawsuits pending. The Imperial Beach Financial Report for the year ending 06/30/11 stated City Attorney Fees at $244,000 - but paid out over $500,000 defending RDA lawsuits. This year the City Attorney Fees are budgeted at $200,000, but have already spent $600,000. In 2011 the City of IB also cut two checks to the RDA Association to help pay for their legal fees.
Another similarity of every city that belongs to RDA and the League of California Cities is massive payrolls for the top elected and appointed officials. Mammoth Lakes has a population of 8,000 people yet the Comptrollers' 2010 report shows their City Manager's salary is $198,533; Assistant City Manager at $186,358; and Exec Assistant to the City Manager at $71,708; and Airport Director at $151,431.
What are the salaries of elected and appointed officials in the city of Imperial Beach? That is information the City refuses to disclose. The new budget shows the City Council and Appointed City Officials shifted half of their payrolls to RDA accounts to avoid the State Wage Limits. City elected and appointed officials are giving themselves multiple titles to double dip wages.
How To Tell If Your City Is RDA? Simply look at the City Council Agenda.
"..JOINT REGULAR MEETING OF THE MAYOR AND COMMON COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO, MAYOR AND COMMON COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO ACTING AS THE SUCCESSOR AGENCY TO THE REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY, MAYOR AND COMMON COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO ACTING AS THE SUCCESSOR HOUSING AGENCY TO THE REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY, AND MAYOR AND COMMON COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO ACTING AS THE HOUSING AUTHORITY .."
The Mayor and Council are hired to oversee the affairs of the City Employees and finances. It is a conflict of interest for council to belong to lobbyist organizations and to use tax payer dollars to fund lobbyists. 'Successor' RDA agencies are RDA on steroids. Their purpose is to shift as much money as possible from the city general fund to RDA regardless of the harm done to the city.
Our government functions on a system of checks and balances, but when city elected and appointed officials conspire together we have lost balance.
The League of California Cities lobbies every branch of city government. Their website lists departments for council, city managers, city attorneys, finance, city clerks, fire, police, & public works. The League nurtures a mentality in city officials that circumventing laws and putting their cities in debt with unnecessary construction projects and massive salaries is acceptable.
Circumventing wage laws burdening cities with massive debt from unnecessary construction projects can no longer be acceptable in our State. We must close down RDAs and remove any elected or appointed officials associated with and lobbyist organizations. Government officials are paid to work for the people, not to conspire against us.
Independent pharmacist Odette Leonelli owns a small pharmacy in Redondo Beach. Like many small businesses, the pharmacy has struggled in recent years due to economic hardship, but they have survived. The bigger threat to small pharmacies, according to Leonelli, is not the economy, but the abusive auditing practices of large pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the companies who control a large portion of the prescription drug industry in this country, including pricing and pharmacy reimbursement rates.
According to Leonelli's opinion piece in the Redondo Beach Patch this week:
Small, independent pharmacies like mine have survived many economic downturns-including the Great Recession-and have adapted to technology and the changing needs of our customers. But we face a formidable foe in the large pharmacy benefit management companies (PBMs) that manage prescription drug benefits for more than 215 million Americans. PBMs manage prescription insurance claims, and pharmacies of all sizes must enter into contracts with them in order to serve patients.
Leonelli goes on to describe the frequently unfair PBM auditing process, which has a direct impact on the pharmacy business, particularly smaller, independent pharmacies. Leonelli argues that PBMs use this process to "bully" smaller pharmacies: