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Pension Problems 


 Patrick Cloney's guest column ("Pension Debt is Devouring Local Services," Aug. 31) effectively addresses the threat to our safety (police, roads) quality of life (health care, social services) and even our county's fundamental economic viability.

 I served on the 2016-2017 civil grand jury, where we dealt with unfunded pension liability and how it could "Un-Fund Our Future." At that time, the liability stood at $232 million, representing twice our annual fund revenues of $118 million. 

 Mr. Cloney reports that by early 2021, pension liability had grown to $330 million, and that 32 percent of Humboldt County's payroll costs were for pension obligations, and expected to increase by $17 million per year. Now, in 2023, he writes that "Humboldt County has a $17 million budget deficit that's projected to grow." 

 That's a lot of rotten roads un-fixed, abused children un-cared for, property vandalism and speeding traffic un-policed, housing un-subsidized, waste un-dumped. A depressing yet incomplete picture of our decaying community infrastructure.

 Mr. Cloney describes a viable plan — will he be heard? Will we all get behind his proposal to fund our future? 

Barbara Madaras, Eureka


Patrick Cloney has done us all a great service by doing diligent research and putting hard numbers on the local public sector pension crisis. We need more police, firefighters, road maintenance and other important government workers but we can't afford to hire them because of the amount we are paying to retired workers. Humboldt County spends just a whisker short of one-third of its payroll costs on pensions — think of that, one third.

Think of it this way: Every pothole is a pension payment.

David Callow, Glendale



Patrick Cloney's warning that "Pension Debt is Devouring Local Services" provides compelling reasons for establishing long-overdue PDSIRs, (Pension Debt Service Impact Reports).

Far more challenging is addressing public officials' policies and practices supporting developments with destructive, long-term economic, environmental and social impacts at the core of diminishing public services.

For example, a generation of top public health officials, law enforcement and elected representatives spent millions chasing the homeless from bush to bush while simultaneously permitting "moderate and above" priced subdivisions to far-exceed Humboldt County's own Regional Housing Needs Assessments, culminating today in the third looming housing collapse and bailout in just 40 years. Each collapse condemns more local families to bankruptcy, foreclosure and desperation, decreasing sales tax revenues and increasing demand for social services.

Adding to social service demand is FEMA's recent denial of earthquake assistance because 90 Rio Del homes do not meet the monetary damage threshold of 90 Malibu homes ("Forgotten in Rio Dell," Aug. 31); or, HUD's sweetheart deals enriching banks, developers and landowners with "affordable housing" projects that soon revert to market-rates, worsening the housing crisis.

In California alone, HUD-secured "private financing" totals $7.7 billion, ($168 billion nationwide), to build, expand services or refinance just 71,000 units in exclusive senior communities, many charging $250,000 minimum entry fees. Meanwhile, 3 million California seniors over 65 lack financial resources for basic necessities.

"Private financing" includes public pension funds, 401Ks, IRAs, savings and checking accounts. Eighty-four percent of banks' annual $11 billion in overdraft fees are paid by 9 percent of its poorest customers.

Adopting CBAs, (Community Benefit Agreements), for all large developments can begin reversing the local legacy of legislating to advantage privileged individuals. Community prosperity relies entirely upon the purchasing power of working class families and their security in housing, healthcare, transportation and education.

George Clark, Eureka

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