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Our County by Efren Carrillo

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Our County by Efren Carrillo - November 2016

by Efren Carrillo

Noreen Evans’ Dangerous & Reckless Pension Proposal

Noreen Evans has proposed one of the most irresponsible and ill-conceived ideas yet in her campaign for Supervisor, a pie-in-the-sky idea that puts our entire pension fund at-risk. In her recent Close To Home with Julie Combs, Evans discussed this concept as a viable and creative solution to our affordable housing crisis. It’s clear to us that Noreen Evans is clueless as to the grave logistical and financial issues facing her proposal, which would saddle taxpayers with hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities.

In her Candidate Statement for the November election, Noreen Evans has identified $2.3 billion in the Sonoma County Employees Retirement Fund as a source for financing affordable housing. She has since tried to distance herself from that attractive description to say that her proposal is really for workforce housing suitable for firefighters and teachers. Nonsense.

The proposal reaffirms Evans’ continued efforts to gloss over what was a terrible idea which creates more questions than answers about the prospects of adding up to $900 million in additional unfunded pension obligations to the Sonoma County Employee Retirement Association (SCERA) Fund, on top of the $800 million in unfunded pension obligations currently outstanding. 

The idea also shows Noreen’s lack of understanding and research on the SCERA, which is managed by a separate Board of Directors and requires funds to be diversified to meet an expected rate of return, which Noreen’s proposal would do away with. The end result is a Ponzi scheme-like scenario that robs Peter to pay Paul, which will eventually catch up to retirees and taxpayers who will have to make up for the lost revenue.

It is important to understand that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has no authority to choose SCERA investments. The SCERA Board is a separate entity entirely, with some members appointed by the Supervisors, who have a responsibility to maximize return on investment. 

Despite being informed of these and other facts surrounding the pension fund, Candidate Evans continues to portray her scheme as a viable solution. It is not. 

It’s clear that Noreen Evans is selling a concept to the voting public that may sound good in print, but would be disastrous for both the County employees that support her and the taxpayers in the long run. 

Further, Evans has consistently scoffed at solutions proposed by her rival, Lynda Hopkins. Both of Lynda Hopkins’ proposals to address the housing crisis offer promise. Junior Second units (using underutilized bedrooms within existing homes to create small affordable studios – recently signed into law with AB 2406, an emergency statute approved by Governor Brown on September 28th) and her proposal to streamline the process and reduce fees for granny units – where they are allowed – would create meaningful housing for low income single people at a much faster rate than large development. 

Single family households are the largest growing sector of our population, and the most impacted by rising rents.

Rather than being open to new ideas, Evans continues to tout inclusionary housing, which is only possible in tract development. Not only that, but given the required margins, building a meaningful inventory of affordable units using inclusionary housing would require massive development and infrastructure. Is that what Sonoma County wants? We think not.

Noreen Evans’ proposal, as it stands, is a testament to her irrational and irresponsible fiscal mentality, and voters should keep a wary eye on her campaign proposals to ensure the protection of our tax dollars. Certainly, this idea calls her financial decision-making thought process into question.

There is no doubt we need to invest in affordable housing, but Noreen’s proposal is a reckless one that puts taxpayers and Sonoma County in financial danger.

Public Hearings on The Sonoma County Water Agency’s (SCWA) Fish Flow Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) have been scheduled for mid-November. The first hearing in the upper river, will be held at the Cloverdale Veterans’ Hall on November 16th at 6pm. In my District, or the lower river, the hearing will take place on November 17th at the Guerneville Veterans’ Memorial Building at 6pm. 

The 180 day public review period began on August 19th. Due to the volume of information in the report, and the importance of this issue for our community and the river, the comment period was extended from the typical 60 day review and comment period to a 180 day public review period. All written comments will be due by February 14, 2017 and can be sent to fishflow-eir@scwa.ca.gov Of course, your comments may be submitted at the public hearings in November, or at any time up until the deadline.