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Old Mendocino County Courthouse Around 1915

California County Pension Debt

 

Mendocino County's Pension Debt

The Biggest Barrier Today

Officials Refuse to Face Uncomfortable Truths

Mendocino County & the Lessons of History



Decades of Official Denial


Choices -

Today's Biggest Barrier - Official Denial

The Meeting of 5

Buck Actuaries

The CSAC Affair

The "Questions Report"

"Questions Report" Part 2

 

The First Steps in Solving a Problem
Step 1 - Recognize You Have a Problem ¾✔
Step 2 - Then Understand What It Really Is


Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them

Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.*

Georges Santayana

Well there's good news - and bad news.

First the good news - two main types.

Mendocino's Board of Supervisors knows there's a big problem - and that's a good first step. I pay attention to what goes on in the 21 California counties with independent County Pension Funds. I haven't seen any of the other 20 County Boards of Supervisors that has more forthrightly stated the extent of the threat posed by unfunded pension debt.

But this is only "pretty good" news regarding the first step in solving problems - recognizing you have one. They still haven't projected the overall impacts of this debt beyond one year. They are driving our bus into the future without headlights. Competent planning requires different scenarios. The "everything's going to be great" mantra from Retirement officials in the past doesn't cut it. If the Supervisors took a cold hard look at what's likely to happen - they'd be far more scared than they are.

But the biggest problem is - as a governing body - Mendocino County's Board of Supervisors as a whole refuses to understand the core - fundamental causes of this debt. They are identifying and responding to symptoms of the debt - not its core causes.

Also - the Retirement Board is operating at a much higher level of accountability. There are many theories as to why - but whatever caused it - it's good.

The bad news is that:

  • Most County and Retirement oficials refuse to confront the most important internal causes of Mendocino County's unfunded pension debt that they can do something about.
  • The Retirement Board is still being blindly driven by the same deeply flawed "perverse incentives" designed into the County's pension system. And the very structure of the Retirement Board continues to impose the hugely negative results of those perverse incentives on the County, its People today and over the next 3 decades, current and future County employees, and in fact places a growing risk that the full pensions expected by younger retirees and older current employees may not be paid.
  • The Board of Supervisors ...
    • ... hasn't identified the changes that must be made at the State level and vigorously advocated for them.
    • ... hasn't come close to telling the People of Mendocino County the truth about what really created this debt - in particular failures of the County government for which they are now responsible.

The Board of Supervisors understands the debt's immediate impacts - but they don't understand its most important causes or its long-term impact because they won't look at it directly in the face.

They can't play their necessary role in resolving this threat until they do.

Major Point!

This refusal of most of our County Board of Supervisors to confront the painful, embarassing, and hugely uncomfortable truth is the biggest barrier we face today to responsibly and fairly resolve this debt - prevent this debt from continuing its trajectory towards a truly destructive crisis - and make the changes to make sure this never happens again.

 

Four Failed Efforts to Refute My Basic Findings

One way to observe this avoidance is to look at the four efforts made by officials to disprove any of the assertions I've made in my reports.

This isn't about me. Really. It's about most of our County's elected officials' refusal to face uncomfortable truths about the role played by County and Retirement officials in the past (most of whom are not still in office) that created this debt and to tell the People of Mendocino County the truth about that.

Over the last 17 years I can recall only four efforts to refute anything I said that actually involved officials putting anything like "their" data and analysis on the table. I can recall only one instance of any official correctly identifying an error of any significance - and the impact of that error was so small it had no impact on my fundamental analysis and conclusions. (I'll describe that in this section.)

Let's take a look at those responses.

 

* What Santayana actually wrote in The Life of Reason - Vol 1 Reason in Common Sense was:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The phrase I use above - that evolved in popular usage from Santayana's writing - is more "famous" than his actual words.



 

This is the first page in the "Official Avoidance" section. The "Last Section" buttom takes you to the first page in the preceeding section - "If No Reform". The "Next Page" is next in this section.

 
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