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Mayor Bates pushed into pool for Measure C

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, along with council-members Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington, were pushed, fully clothed and voluntarily, into Willard swimming pool yesterday at a gathering to express their support of Measure C.

Measure C, which is on the June 8 ballot, aims to save Berkeley pools and, without it, Willard pool is slated for permanent closure on July 1.

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  • Lori Kossowsky

    Kriss, as usual were terrific! Thanks Linda for so ardently supporting Measure C.
    This is a grassroots effort and we have so much great support. No one mentions that without the warm pool people will die. That’s not an exaggeration. There are people who have already made their decision, like the followers of Ms. Bowman. BUT, when you get into that voting booth, remember the legacy that we need to leave our children, AND remember that deaths will occur without the warm pool. That’s all I ask.

  • Justin Lee

    Measure C is a general tax to save Berkeley’s budget deficit with a Trojan Horse called a Pool Bond.
    They are getting too much money to just pay for pools-109 million dollars over 30 years plus 30 million in interest payments to some bondholder.
    If you vote for this measure, you are a fleeced sheep.
    And, of course, renters love this bond because they get to steal other peoples’ money to pay for their recreation.
    The pool is 3x too expensive.
    The bond is bad financing.
    The city will rake in massive tax money, limit the expenditure on pools to 3.5 million a year and pay off their rosy pension obligations and salaries with the extra.
    The Bondunderwriters LOVE measure C. The government oligarchs LOVE their high salaries and retirement plans. They are too dumb(see picture above) and greedy(see above picture) to make the correct decisions on rebuilding the pools. That would be:
    1) A competitive private contractor bid to shave 50% off the price tag
    2) Much, much Higher use fees(memberships) for those who did not pay to build the pool. Cal Students,renters and out-of-towners
    3) Free access to any parcel that got stuck with this albatross bond
    4) Begin the wind down of public indebtedness to pensions and cut salaries across the board 15%. If pools are so important, then the overpaid bureaucrats who lend nothing to the party need to sacrifice as well to keep the budget intact
    5) Possible privatization of the pool maintenance contract plus other services like trash,landscaping

    The whole planet needs to delever debt-why is Berkeley adding more credit debt to an overburdened and underwater home “owner” or borrower. Massive FAIL by pro-C voters here. Massive and irresponsible

  • Justin Lee

    Notice the first comment never mentions the financing and the value for the dollar that the homeowner pays for these pools. Talking about VALUE for the money is never a good topic for the Party of Whatever-it’s always about legacies and the senior body count. Where does this crap come from??
    I suggest the party of whatever look at the cost and try to get a better DEAL and then we can all vote for nice,new pools that are not 2-3x more expensive than competing towns.
    Masquerading a general tax bond payment plan with marketing is called “moral hazard.”

  • Maureen Burke

    To add to above comments, remember that this is also a Mello-Roos bond, which means it will NEVER come off our property tax bills and will increase in perpetuity and be a negative factor in selling our homes. I was very surprised to learn that many supporters of Measure C, including local officials, are unaware that Measure C is a Mello-Roos bond measure. How seriously do they analyze any public issues if they aren’t even aware of this basic component of this bond measure?

    The maintenance for city pools should come out of the city budget. Period.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Justin, stop bad-mouthing renters that way. As a renter I am fully aware that increases in property taxes get “passed on” to renters in the forms of reduced maintenance, a possibly higher rent ceiling, and increased pressure on owners to “encourage” attrition of renters to reset to market rates. When I, as a renter, vote on things like this my incentives are quite well aligned with my landlord’s. I’m sure I’m not the only renter who is aware of that and, anyway, no renter is really getting a free ride so at least you should be aware of the alignment of incentives.

    The bond does appear to be a bad deal for other of the reasons that you mention and other reasons that have been discussed on this blog. Moreover, its a decent indication of how lousy a job our elected folks are doing that this measure arrives in its present form and with time pressure. If the bond fails then perhaps a better structured deal will be put together in the future but apparently not without likely losing the service for a period of time.

    That didn’t have to happen and proponents of the measure should stop pinning the blame on pool supporters who, nevertheless, feel it is wiser to vote against this particular measure.

    Still, it really doesn’t exactly help when you use the mere existence of the measure as an excuse to stereotype renters as greedy idiots.

  • Lori Kossowsky

    I agree with you about your opinion about the renters Thomas. Many renters are furious about the way Ms. Bowman and her organization portray renters.

    Sincerely,
    One fleeced sheep who needs the warm water pool and is voting YES on measure C.

  • Robert Collier

    Tom Bates, Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington deserve a lot of credit for courage and sense of humor. They helped the Willard neighbors have a really fun community gathering to save their beloved, tattered pool. Just like all other members of the City Council, all members of the School Board, former Mayor Shirley Dean, State Senator Loni Hancock, and a wide variety of local groups, they support Measure C because it is based on sound finance and a deep love for Berkeley. It’s our best, last chance to save two of Berkeley’s four pools (Willard and Warm Pool) from permanent closure and to protect our quality of life for many generations to come.

    It’s sad that Measure C’s opponents are so mean-spirited, like the commenter above … “dumb … greedy … fleeced sheep … renters love this bond because they get to steal other peoples’ money to pay for their recreation.” It’s also sad they shamelessly fabricate such false claims about Measure C’s financing. Why such bitterness? Why such hate? Why tear Berkeley down, rather than saving and protecting it?

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Robert, leaving aside the issues about civility, I would appreciate it if you could explain why you think the opponents are wrong about the alleged financing problems in this measure. Their arguments seem clear and compelling to me but I do have an open mind.

  • Robert Collier

    In response to Thomas Lord: the allegations of financing problems are simply fabricated numbers pulled out of thin air, with conservative talking points added on … “a general tax to save Berkeley’s budget deficit with a Trojan Horse” …. “109 million dollars over 30 years plus 30 million in interest payments to some bondholder.” … “The pool is 3x too expensive. ” … “A competitive private contractor bid to shave 50% off the price tag” … “The city will rake in massive tax money, limit the expenditure on pools to 3.5 million a year and pay off their rosy pension obligations and salaries with the extra.” … “cut salaries across the board 15%” … “privatization of the pool maintenance contract” … Ask yourself why every single elected official in and around Berkeley — collectively with hundreds of years of experience in municipal finance decision-making — supports Measure C and its Mello-Roos financing structure. Ask yourself why Berkeley has an AA+ bond rating, in the top 1 percent of all cities nationwide (answer – because its bond revenues are spent properly and repaid according to schedule). The conservatives can’t go into full Tea Party roar here — after all, this is Berkeley — so they use fancy mumbo-jumbo about “greener alternatives.” But it all comes down to values. Do you think we should have good public services and recreational facilities in Berkeley, or not? I plan on raising my kid(s) and living here for the rest of my life. My wife and I hope our two-month-old son will have a pool to swim in with his friends and neighbors. I love Berkeley, and I don’t want to let its pools crumble and disappear, for all neighborhoods, the able-bodied and the disabled. That’s why I’m voting for Measure C.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    So, Robert,

    Do agree, as opponents are making as a claim about facts, that the bond measure is in substantial part to finance not capital investment but operating costs? Also, on what basis do you dispute that the capital costs could be brought way down with a more competitive bidding process?

    Those are the two main opposition points that so far sway my vote. You didn’t really answer them here other than to ridicule them without reference to any facts.

    Plus, you’re now associating some of the opposition with the “Tea Party” and in other ways engaging in rhetoric that really undermines your rhetoric as being fundamentally hypocritical.

    Also, I disagree that Berkeley’s AA+ bond rating has much to do with “properly spent” – it has much more to do with “repaid and looks like there’s more money the table”. “Properly spent” is not a primary concern of bond buyers. It’s not irrelevant, sure – but unlike private debt the investments floated by these bonds don’t have to pay their own way. Municipal bond holders only, when coldly calculating, want the bond payout – not the capital investment results. Indeed, a municipality that can float bonds on unrealized promises and yet consistently issue the payout would be attractive to investors even while being bad news for the residents: suckers are attractive to investors.

    -t

  • Maureen Burke

    Aside from the Mello-Roos fiasco (trying to take maintenance costs off city books), the even bigger problem with the pool bond is that it is not an integral component of long-term infrastructure planning the city simply must undertake.

    Where is the leadership in this town to take on necessary tasks to ensure our town’s livability for everyone for generations? It’s easy to grab applause for cheerleading popular things like pools. Everyone likes them and everyone uses them. Of course every politician will back this measure because it will garner them more votes than cheerleading for a sound infrastructure plan. It doesn’t mean this pool measure is a good idea.

    Berkeley must have a real, comprehensive long-term capital improvement plan. It must include seismic retrofitting of the old city hall and other buildings, road resurfacing, sewer line repair, library capital projects and other items. Pool construction and refurbishing should be a part of this plan, not something on its own. That’s what intelligent planning calls for.

    So let’s have that conversation–let’s rank the pools with all the other capital projects facing the city. Should the pools come before sewers? Before libraries? Before seismic retrofitting? Before health and daycare centers? I don’t know, but I do know that a real leader would prioritize spending requirements for our city in a rational way. And a real leader would never push maintenance costs off city books as a way to wiggle out of a serious budget shortfall.

    Also, I don’t appreciate the way this pool bond measure is slated for the June ballot and the school district bond measure is slated for the November ballot in hopes that voters will forget they’re voting for two additional self-imposed taxes in one year, adding to the already huge burden many residents face.

    Mr. Collier, despite your earlier assertion that the City of Berkeley does not have a deficit, the city reported recently that the projected deficit has grown to over $16 million. And no, I am not a Tea Party member or supporter or conservative or handicapped-hater. I despise the Tea Party tactics, which seem very similar to those you are using in this forum with your efforts to paint those who disagree with you as somehow morally flawed. But I do not like political pandering and I do not like stupid policy decisions and I do not like inefficiencies, all of which do real harm to real people. This pool measure contains all of the above.

  • Jesse Townley

    One note about renters & property tax measures.

    The annual rent adjustment in Berkeley is 5-10% HIGHER than surrounding cities like San Francisco in order to give property owners on-going relief from new property taxes, no matter if any new taxes occur or not. SF gives property owners a lower annual increase & allows partial pass-through of new property taxes to tenants.

    So yes, tenants do help pay property owners’ property tax bills, every year regardless of whether there’s a new tax or not.

    (The Annual General Adjustment [AGA] is calculated as a % of the Consumer Price Index [CPI]. Berkeley is at 65% of CPI, while SF is at either 55% or 60%.)

    Also, Measure C proceeds can NOT be put into the general fund. It is for pools in perpetuity.

  • http://www.tktaylor.com Tracey Taylor

    This comment is from Robert Collier:

    Thomas Lord — there is no such thing as a “more competitive bidding process.” All Berkeley bond projects are put out to public bid. To make them “more competitive” would require changing the state law that requires all municipal public works projects to pay the prevailing wage. Republicans have been fighting to overturn this law for decades, and it remains one of their main talking points. … Yes, Measure C provides both capital and operating expenses. This combination is absolutely necessary, because to repair and rebuild the pools without also providing funds to operate them would be irresponsible in the current budget crisis and would turn them into white elephants. Mello-Roos CFDs are essentially bonds and parcel taxes rolled into one. See the official Measure C ballot information:http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=50932. …. As for credit ratings, it would be illegal for the city’s to use Measure C’s funds for any purpose other than those officially stipulated, and it would ruin the city’s AA+ bond rating. The city has a good track record of using bond measures — such as the 1996 bond measure that rebuilt the Central Library downtown, and the many school bond measures and parcel taxes.

    Maureen Burke — you and BASTA are repeatedly trying to confuse “deficit” with “debt.” No, they are not the same thing. The city has a projected deficit, which it will eliminate with budget cuts. By law, the city must have a balanced budget. The city’s debt is not rising, and the city’s overall indebtedness is relatively low — hence the city’s AA+ bond rating.

    As I commented earlier, it all comes down to values. Should we preserve our recreational facilities in Berkeley, including pools, or should they be closed and downsized? Measure C is the result of many years of community process and public decision making about the pools. That’s why all local elected officials and thousands of Berkeley residents are voting “yes.”

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Mr. Collier,

    Thanks for taking the time. I’m sometimes accused of being a bore on Berkeleyside yet I’ll risk probing you a bit further on this. I’m still quite skeptical.

    The measure is supposedly to build two pools and renovate two pools (and then have operating funds for them for a number of years). I say “supposedly” because if I understand the Council Resolutions correctly (64,797-N.S., 64-798-N.S., and 64,799-NS) the measure will actually authorize the option for demolition and replacement rather than mere renovation of the Willard and West Campus pools. Taking the ballot measure at the word in its summary – it’s build two (one of which is indoor) and fix two.

    Yes, you’re right that I spoke wrongly asking for a more competitive bid process. The bid process is not clearly the problem. What I was noticing is the price:

    Looking around at “stuff on the Internet” about the cost of building pools, I’m having trouble figuring out how that adds up to more than $10M. I don’t have much trouble believing that the City (or anyone with $20+M to spend) will spend more given this authorization – but how is it that we don’t have a less expensive plan on the table?

    I’m also not quite buying your answer about the operating costs. You wrote:

    to repair and rebuild the pools without also providing funds to operate them would be irresponsible in the current budget crisis and would turn them into white elephants.

    Unless you have some certain knowledge that the “current budget crisis” is going to turn sharply around in the next few years, you have to explain why it is responsible to borrow money for those operating expenses. I don’t see it. You are saying that we can’t afford to operate these pools now so, let’s just borrow the money (raising the bill for these years) and then…. what? I’m sure it will be a “legacy” project one way or the other, if you catch my drift.

    Also, I’m not sure why think Ms. Burke is confusing deficit and debt. She didn’t abuse the term in what you are replying to there. On the topic of the pool financing, hers have been the most cogent comments I’ve seen, overall. You, on the other hand, wrote:

    The city’s debt is not rising,

    which is really rather what is at stake here, isn’t it? Have we recently retired $22.5M in debt that you’re aware of?

    Lastly, you write:

    As I commented earlier, it all comes down to values. Should we preserve our recreational facilities in Berkeley, including pools, or should they be closed and downsized?

    The opponents at their best are arguing that if we are to preserve our recreational (and therapeutic) facilities, Measure C is a fiscally irresponsible way to go about it and that better options ought to be considered. To my mind, they still make the more persuasive case.

  • Robert Collier

    Thomas Lord — Measure C does not “borrow money for those operating expenses.” The bond measure (the loan) portion of Measure C is for the capital expenses, while the parcel tax (annual tax) portion pays for the operating expenses.

    “how is it that we don’t have a less expensive plan on the table?” … Aside from the perennial Republican complaints about the prevailing wage and other code requirements (see previous), please realize that Measure C is the result of many years of public process, including a City-BUSD Pools Task Force, of which I was a member, and zillions of hours of public testimony and debate at the City Council. Many compromises were made by everyone concerned. This is our democratic process, for better and worse, in Berkeley, California. Nobody, including myself, got exactly what he or she wanted, but we all need to be realistic and move forward together. This is our one chance. Two of the pools will close permanently and the other two will be shriveled by the budget crisis unless we pass Measure C.

    I think we’ve exhausted this line of debate. Thanks, Berkeleyside!

  • EBGuy

    Ask yourself why every single elected official in and around Berkeley — collectively with hundreds of years of experience in municipal finance decision-making — supports Measure C and its Mello-Roos financing structure.
    Because they refuse to make the hard choices necessary to run a balanced budget — it’s not like they haven’t done this before. FWIW, I’m having a hard time seeing the compromises made as it looks like a Cadillac pool plan to me. All that said, I can be swayed, as I too plan on raising my kid(s) and living here for the rest of my life. I love Berkeley, and I don’t want to let its pools crumble and disappear. Hearing about the compromises (link, or a civil discussion here) may help me get over my Mello-Roos phobia.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Mr. Collier:

    You say:

    Measure C does not “borrow money for those operating expenses.” The bond measure (the loan) portion of Measure C is for the capital expenses, while the parcel tax (annual tax) portion pays for the operating expenses.

    That does not appear to be the case. I see that that was the intent of the Berkeley Citywide Pools Master Plan but it does not appear to be what the Council Resolutions we’re voting on say.

    The new taxes are indeed divided into two parts: one to service the bond debt and the other for ongoing expenses. You can, if you are so inclined, pay off the former tax early but the latter is perpetual. Per the master plan, operating expenses are presumed to be going up, hence a deficit relative to current funding levels, hence the service-oriented special tax. Right? That all sounds sane on the surface.

    However, the bond authorization is broadly formulated under Mello-Roos rules for the purpose of paying for facilities and services. The Mello-Roos rules permit paying for expansions of services and it would appear that will be easy to qualify under.

    You seem to disagree and I presume not without good reason so you can you please tell me what I’m missing in reading those resolutions?

    The Master Plan makes it very clear that there are projected revenue problems with these pools.

    The Master Plan also makes it very clear that you folks on the planning committee set your sights on extremely fancy pools with lots of amenities from the first day of opening.

    For revenue enhancement you suggested chili cook-offs amidst the water slides, Santa Swims, parachute jumps, and free money from Verizon to help cover the cost of operation of some very fancy pools.

    Meanwhile the damn streets are in horrible shape, I find myself thanklessly cleaning out sewer drains during the rainy season, we don’t have enough beat police around here, vital social services are about to become more strained than they’ve ever been before as the state falls further into ruin….

    Hindsight is always better than foresight, right? That’s what they say.

    What I wish, with hindsight, is that you nice folks working on the Pools Master Plan had take a different approach. Specifically:

    Design the most absolutely spartan, basic, simply “functional” and “robust” and “adaptable” system of pools possible – just the very minimal needed functionality. Strive for a design of that boring basic functionality that affords future improvement and elaboration – don’t push for it on day 1. Get the foundation secured and then build. Get the simple and robust thing working first. Trust me, the kids would love that just fine.

    I can’t believe you guys called for a figure-8 water slide. Or, actually, more than one. And I can’t believe how short that report is on breakdowns of operational expenses. And how short it is on a technical analysis of how to build a robust, lasting pool that will be inexpensive to maintain. I think I do “get” the warm, community oriented spirit behind it and the *attempt* at nailing the fiscal stuff but… I think it fails by aiming for “fancy” and lacking concentration on “basics”. Sorry. All due respect, really. Again: hindsight is easier than foresight.

    My best guess is that, especially with all the money going into promoting it and the uninformative wording of the measure, that Measure C will likely pass. That’ll be sad, to me. We coulda’ shoulda’ woulda’ had a better option. Maybe it’ll fail and then I’ll be sad about hopefully temporary pool closures and uncertainty – but I’ll hope we come with a much better plan.

    Meanwhile: did you know you can rent inflatable waterslides, much like the bouncy castles that folks frequently rent to put up in San Pablo park? And all they’ve got there to work with are a few picnic benches, some dirt-cheap grills, space – and, sure, a few playground toys though none that cost all *that* much to buy or maintain. The pool facilities don’t have to be much more than that for authentic community.

    And, as you say, we’ve exhausted at least this thread if you’ll forgive for taking my inevitably imperfect last word. Bless you, man, for what looks like it must have been pretty hard work on the Pools Master Plan and, even though I’m just increasingly critical of Measure C – hey, worse things have happened and its hopefully the case that if it does pass the interruption of service is minimal. I like your goals. I just can’t sign on to your means.

  • laura menard

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/opinion/ci_15167052

    Oakland Tribune editorial: This is not the time for Berkeley Measure C

    We all value good services and amenities, but some of us value our financial stability, comprehensive infrastructure development and economic diversity in Berkeley just as much.

    Berkeley is likely to follow Oakland and add a substantial increase in waste water fees on the water bill to cover costs associated with the EPA lawsuit against east bay cities for toxic leakage into the bay from our aging sewers and storm drains.

  • Lori Kossowsky

    This is not the time for Measure C? So, when is a good time– after the pools are gone? Those speaking about the issue have already made up their minds, so I am not trying to change them.
    Just get the facts straight.
    Small story: Next to where I rent ( horror) the people own their home and rent out units in the back of the property. While I’ve been to their home as a guest, they don’t want to pay anything more because then they feel like the renters get a freebee. If renting is part of your business and you don’t care about the quality of life for your tenants, that is sad and selfish. Ok, on to end of story, I went across the street, to an extremely nice home, to ask for a vote on measure C.
    The woman who answered the door said she had already voted absentee ballot; when she saw the sign in front of our house she said she knew which way to vote. Apparently she knows my neighbors. YES ON MEASURE C.

    ENOUGH!! YES YES YES ON MEASURE C!