Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:43
Capital appreciation bonds – time bomb for next generation
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
The candidates for the San Leandro school board were asked to speak on a thorny issued that’s been under the radar – the $108 million in Capitol Appreciation Bonds (CAB) debt the school district has pending.
CABs are different from other bonds, which are gradually paid off throughout the life of the bond. With CABs, no money is due for years and then a huge payment is due at the end of the term of the loan, and the interest is much higher than with other bonds. So the current board and district administration can put off paying the CABs, and the debt falls on the next generation.
Last year, State Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer sent out a joint release advising that school districts should no longer use CABs, saying they jeopardize the financial future of California students.
The district currently has two CABs pending that could wind up costing taxpayers around five times or more that the initial amount of the loans – a total of up to $107 million on a $20 million loan.
The CABs were issued in 2010 – one for $5.6 million that will reach maturity in 2035 with interest adding up to $27.5 million. The other for $14.3 million, which will reach maturity in 2039 with interest totaling $80.7 million.
When asked about the CABs, the current crop of school board candidates say that just because the payments aren’t due for 20 years or more, that cannot be an excuse to ignore the looming debt.
At-Large candidate Evelyn Gonzalez says that it is imperative that the new school board take action to resolve the CAB issue as soon as possible.
“We need to refinance now that the market is more positive,” said Gonzalez. “CABs are really for businesses who can take out loans in hope of repaying them when their revenue goes up. Well, school districts do not have a lot of revenue increases.”
Gonzalez estimates that, if the school district intends to wait until the bonds mature in 20 years to make a full payment, they should already have $15 million set aside, which they do not.
“This needs to be on the radar of everyone,” said Gonzalez. “If we wait until it’s mature, then it is a huge problem.”
Fellow At-Large Candidate Peter Oshinski agrees.
“CABs are ticking time bombs,” Oshinski said. “You are borrowing money now that is to be paid back later at a much higher rate. You are assuming that property values will increase at the time the money is due. We know all too well how that assumption has played out. Where will this magic money come from to pay this balloon payment?”
Oshinski says that the CABs need to be paid off as soon as possible.
“They should treat these as any other debt and make installments until these are paid off,” said Oshinski. “The reality of the situation is that by the time these bonds are due, the district will be in need of additional repair and replacement of our current schools which are in the neighborhood of fifty years old. How will they finance additional repairs if they can’t pay off the current bonds?”
But Jean Kinkella, who is also running for the At-Large seat, said that, while CABs should clearly be avoided, the district was doing its best when they took out the loans and there were even worse loan terms that the district avoided.
“They were purchased in the middle of very difficult economic times due to the recession,” said Kinkella. “Under the economic circumstances, I think the San Leandro School district has navigated the loan shark infested waters quite well.”
Monique Tate, the other candidate for the At-Large seat, agreed with Kinkella that the CABs were effective “at the time” as a solution to immediately find projects but that they will place a burden on the future of the district and students.
“I don’t think we should continue to use CABs for future projects, but research more effective ways to help fund the district with less impact that would likely take away resources from student learning,” said Tate. She added that the district must work toward paying the CABs back immediately.
District 4 candidate Leo Sheridan called the loans dangerous and said they should be refinanced immediately.
“They need to be converted into current interest rate bonds or callable bonds immediately,” said Sheridan. “That will be much easier to swallow. In my opinion, CABs are similar to how a loan shark works – it’s there when you need it but ultimately very expensive. It is just an awfully expensive way to get money.”
District 4 candidates Chike Udemezue and Latrina Dumas did not reply to requests for comment.
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:41
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
You won’t see his name on the Nov. 4 ballot, but Gregg Daly is asking for your vote for mayor of San Leandro.
Daly said he launched a write-in campaign because he believes the city is headed in the wrong direction.
One of his major concerns is the militarization of the police force. And he should know – Daly is both a former military police officer and a former patrol cop for the city of Monterey.
“Cops are cops and soldiers and soldiers,” said Daly. “Everyone knows that’s the way it needs to be.”
Daly is against the armored vehicle that the San Leandro police department wants to buy, saying it doesn’t benefit the city and those fellow candidates who support it are being unduly influenced by the police department.
“Every candidate that has come out in favor of the the tank is backed by police,” said Daly.
Daly describes himself as a “groovy libertarian,” moderate politically. He currently works as an IT consultant and he and his family have lived in San Leandro for 18 years.
Daly said that he chose to run as a write-in candidate so the public can see how independent he is.
“I’m not going to play the same games as everyone else,” said Daly. “I purposefully want to be a different kind of candidate. I’m not taking anyone’s money to represent a certain point of view. I’m realistic and truthful even if it means making some people uncomfortable.”
Daly opposes Measure HH, the proposed half-percent, 30-year sales tax that is on the ballot. He says that the city has been foolish, racking up $187 million in unfunded liability in employee pension and benefits.
Daly described the pension situation as “a house of cards” that could potentially lead to bankruptcy. But having the public pay more in sales tax isn’t the answer.
“When you put everything together, you can see that this is a ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ situation,” said Daly. “They are taking silly risks and stupid liabilities.”
Earlier this month, the San Leandro police department announced they were awarded a $500,000 grant to pay for four police officers to patrol the city’s schools. It later came out that the total cost of the officers was over $2 million and the school district was on the hook for $1.7 million.
It has yet to be decided if the police will accept the grant or if the city will contribute to the bill. Daly called the situation an example of the shortsightedness of the city government.
“We are making the same mistakes over and over,” said Daly. “No one considered whether that grant had anything to do with the actual mission of serving the community.”
It’s difficult for a write-in candidate to win an election and Daly is facing current city councilwomen Pauline Cutter and Diana Souza as well as Bal Theatre owner Dan Dillman in the mayoral race. Still, Daly says he is surprised by the number of San Leandrans who have shown him support.
“If the people of San Leandro want something completely different, I’m standing right here,” said Daly.
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:38
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
Six candidates are vying for two seats on the San Lorenzo School Board, including two long-term incumbents, parents with students in the district, and a candidate that wants to see the San Lorenzo High Rebels get a new mascot.
Five of the candidates attended a forum to share their views on Oct. 15 at the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association – incumbent Isabel Polvorosa, family program administrator Janet Zamudio, banker Steven Kirk, substitute teacher Guillermo Nevarez, and retired teacher Ronald Joseph Pereira II. The other incumbent, Helen Randall, did not attend the forum.
Pereira distinguished himself early on when asked why he chose to run for the school board. He has 17 years of teaching experience, but it was something a little more personal that made him throw his hat in the ring.
“I ran because I found out that the San Lorenzo High School mascot is a Confederate solider,” said Pereira. “I have biracial children. That (mascot) is not conducive to the changing environment of this area or public school, period.”
Polvorosa has been on the school board for 12 years and Randall for 20 years, but the board could face a shake up from voters frustrated that the school district has been in contract negotiations with the teachers’ union since last January.
Kirk, the treasurer of the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association board is the only candidate without a background in education, but he says his experience in finance will help the district.
Asked how they would decide where to make budget cuts in the future, the candidates all agreed that budgeting is one of the largest challenges the district faces.
Budget is Biggest Challenge
“We’ve been putting away reserve funds, which is to the district’s credit,” said Kirk. “But there is such a thing as over-saving.” He said he would use some of the district’s surplus to restore services lost during the economic downturn.
Nevarez said he would keep cuts away from the classroom and preserve teachers.
Pereira says his decision-making process is simple: “I ask ‘How will this decision affect students? and if it won’t affect students positively, don’t do it.”
Polvorosa said she was very proud of the board for keeping reserves at 6 percent, well above the state-mandated 3 percent level.
“Yes our reserves are high and thank God they are high,” said Polvorosa. “As a district, you have to be ahead of the game.”
Zamudio said that the district is in a transitional period after the economic downturn of the past several years.
“We need to rebound from the recession,” said Zamudio, who agreed with Kirk that some reserve money should be spent. “Look at every dollar as an opportunity for students.”
The candidates were also asked how schools can help kids use social media responsibly.
Zamudio said that there should be conversations in classrooms about the dangers of rumors and bullying and that parents should talk to their kids at home as well.
Kirk said that social media is difficult to monitor and kids will find a away to use it even with restrictions.
Navarez agreed that it is “nearly impossible to monitor at a district-level” but policies should be in place on bullying. He added that the schools themselves should be more active on social media for promoting events and community involvement.
Keeping Up with Technology
Pereira said that social media is particularly dangerous for adolescents as they are in a very vulnerable time in their lives and the schools can take a leadership role in teaching what is proper use.
Polvorosa said that they have always worked to update school policy as technology changes and that “it’s scary” how fast information and rumors fly online.
Each of the candidates stressed parental involvement in student’s schooling and they all also agreed that teachers’ salaries should not be tied to student test performance.
Each candidate also pledged to do their best to serve the students of San Lorenzo.
“When you are running for public office, your number one job is to listen to the community,” said Zamudio. “The best thing you can do is elect somebody who can listen.”
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:37
Voters are asked to consider Measure II, a modification to the city’s charter, on the Nov. 4 ballot
If approved, Measure II will allow the City Council to appoint a vice mayor for a 1-year term at their first meeting in January of each year. Under the current charter, the vice mayor is appointed in May.
The reason for the amendment is to make the designation of the vice mayor run on same schedule as the election cycle. Appointing a vice mayor in spring stems back to 20 years ago when San Leandro City Council members were elected in April.
Now that they are elected in November, the new vice mayor schedule makes more sense, according to Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who wrote the ballot argument in favor of the change.
“It’s really just a technical amendment,” Cassidy said.
There is no submitted argument against Measure II.
Measure II will have no fiscal impact on the city and it could pass with a simple majority.
Vice mayors are chosen by the City Council amongst themselves. The position takes up the duties of mayor when a mayor is absent, but they are usually ceremonial, including running council meetings and attending ribbon cuttings.
If a vice mayor is appointed in January, all sitting city council members will be able to be eligible.
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:34
Mayor Stephen Cassidy congratulates the winning team at this year’s trivia bee, the Friends of the Library Gift Shop team – Saul Schultheis-Gerry, Michael Gerry and Max Gerry.
The Friends of the Library Gift Shop team won the 21st Annual Trivia Bee on Oct. 17 at the Marina Community Center.
The Trivia Bee raises funds for the San Leandro Library’s Project Literacy, which provides free tutoring to adults who want to improve their reading, writing and life skills.
The bee wouldn’t be possible without all the sponsors and teams that compete in the trivia contest. It’s a fun night for both the contestants and people who come to have dinner and watch the bee.
The Friends of the Library Gift Shop team members are Saul Schultheis-Gerry, Michael Gerry and Max Gerry.
The second place team was 24 Desperate Lost Heroes – Joe Valetti, Mike Burns and Rick Smith.
The third place team was the Honey Badgers – Biljana Horn, Thomas Horn and Greg Slatoff.
The teams and sponsors at this year’s Trivia Bee are:
1. The Mayor and City Council
2. The Breakfast Club
3. Ken Pon for City Council, District 1
4. Pauline Cutter for Mayor
5. Mike Katz for City Council, District 1
6. Friends of the Library #1
8. Project Literacy Tutors & Learners
10. State Roofing Systems, Inc.
12. San Leandro Players
13. The Lethal Librarians
14. San Leandro Education Foundation (SLED)
15. Arts Council of San Leandro
16. Friends of the Library #2
17. San Leandro Police Officers Assoc.
18. Yes for Measure HH
19. San Leandro Commissioners
20. San Leandro Next
21. Friends Gift Shop
22. The 24 Desperate Lost Heroes
23. Alameda County Firefighters #55
24. San Leandro Times
25. San Leandro Chamber of Commerce
26. Max’s Team
27. San Leandro Rotary
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:33
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
The Hayward Demos hosted a forum for the Area 4 and At-Large San Leandro School Board candidates last week at the Main Library, with each of the candidates pledging to do their best for San Leandro schools.
The regular debate format went out the window when only one of the three candidates for the Area 4 seat showed up, leaving Leo Sheridan to speak more casually with the audience.
Sheridan spoke about his educational philosophy and fielded questions from the crowd of about 40 people. Fellow Area 4 candidates Latrina Dumas and Chike Udemezue did not attend.
Sheridan is a San Leandro High graduate and his daughter currently attends James Monroe Elementary. He is the general manager of an automotive paint distributor and a youth sports coach. He has the endorsement of the teachers’ union.
“This is the school district that I went to when I grew up,” said Sheridan. “I want my daughter to go through this district and make sure it’s the best it can be.”
When asked to name a recent decision by the school board that he disagrees with, Sheridan said he could not think of one.
“The school board has been great at acting as a group,” said Sheridan. “I don’t see dissension.”
Sheridan also said that he disagrees with the idea of the school district giving the San Leandro police department $1.7 million to pay for campus police officers.
“I believe school resource officers provide a service and have done a great job,” said Sheridan. “But I do think $1.7 million is excessive.”
Attendance was better in the At-Large race – candidates Evelyn Gonzalez, Jean Kinkella, and Peter Oshinski were all there, but Monique Tate did not attend.
Gonzalez is the mother of two San Leandro High graduates and two current students. She is endorsed by Mayor Stephen Cassidy and school board members Ron Carey, Mike Katz-Lacabe, and Lance James.
Kinkella is a retired high school Spanish teacher. She and her two sons all graduated from San Leandro High.
Oshinski is a nutrition administrator for Hayward school and a consultant with the state Department of Education.
Asked about the district providing that money to pay for cops, the candidates were split.
Gonzalez said that the police are a city asset and should be patrolling San Leandro as a whole, including the schools. She said that maybe one cop should be hired instead of the four currently proposed.
“I do think there are better ways to spend (district) money,” said Gonzalez.
Kinkella said that she supports hiring the officers, saying they will help at-risk kids, moni
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:28
Karl and Antoinette Mallard were honored on their 50th wedding anniversary with a family dinner at Il Fornaio in Burlingame hosted by their sons and daughters in law.
The honored couple were married September 27, 1964 in Carson City, Nevada and have lived in San Leandro for their entire married life. Karl is a lifelong resident and Antoinette is a native of Pittsburg, California.
They raised two sons Robert and Richard who attended local schools and are graduates of San Jose State University. They also have two granddaughters Kennedy and Kelsey.
Karl is a retired Sales Engineering Analyst with Gillig LLC, a local bus manufacturer, Antoinette works at the San Leandro Library and has 34 years of service. They both enjoy spending time at their cabin in South Lake Tahoe.
CAPTION 1: Karl and Antoinette Mallard and their family recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a local restaurant in Burlingame.
CAPTION 2: Karl and Antoinette on their wedding day in 1964.