Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

Over $75 million in COVID-19 rent relief for Contra Costa County

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Tenants and Landlords – application period opened yesterday

(Martinez, CA) – Starting March 15, 2021, Contra Costa County tenants and landlords impacted by COVID-19 can apply for assistance from the COVID-19 Rent Relief program. Over $75 million is Contra Costa County’s allocation of federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which allocated $2.6 billion to Californians in need of rental relief.

“This funding for COVID-19 relief cannot come any sooner to help provide the hardest hit individuals and families in Contra Costa with financial assistance with rent and utilities payments and help them gain back financial and housing stability,” said Board Chair, Supervisor Diane Burgis. “My colleagues on the Board and I remain committed to helping residents get back on their feet, especially now that we have safe, effective vaccines that will help end this pandemic.”

The program assists income-qualified renters impacted by COVID-19 who need help to pay for rent or utilities. Eligible household income may not exceed 80% of the local median income. Eligible renters whose landlords do not participate in the program can still receive 25% of unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Eligible renters can also receive future rent assistance equal to 25% of their monthly rent. The program also provides up to 80% rent reimbursement to landlords for unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

“I am appreciative of the partnership with local governments like Contra Costa for their vote of confidence in our rent relief program,” said Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez. “We have been closely working together to ensure we provide rent relief and support to those communities hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Check eligibility and apply online for COVID-19 Rent Relief and in Spanish Ayuda con la Renta. Tenants and landlords can contact the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Call Center at 1-833-430-2122 for assistance to apply. To learn more and find state resources, visit Housingiskey.com.

For information on Contra Costa County’s Ordinance on Eviction Protection and Rent Freeze, see FAQs on the County website. For additional resources, call 211 or 800-833-2900, text HOPE to 20121, or visit www.contracosta.ca.gov.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Contra Costa Community College District bond sale, refinance saves property tax payers $1.7 million

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

By Timothy Leong, Public Information Officer, 4CD

On November 10, 2020, the Contra Costa Community College District (District) sold $110 million of new Measure E bonds and refinanced $35 million of previously sold general obligation bonds originally issued in 2014 following voter approval of 57.58%.  Due in part to favorable Moody’s and S&P ratings, the refinancing collectively saves Contra Costa County property owners over $1.7 million through 2040, and savings will be passed on in the form of lower property taxes. Voters will see this change reflected in their 2020-21 property tax bills, with annual total savings for our taxpayers of over $150,000.

The new Brentwood Center and new Kinesiology and Student Union Complex at the LMC-Pittsburg campus were the first major District projects completed using Measure E funds. The $110 million sale of new Measure E bonds will help continue the transformation of additional facilities at District sites. These projects include the new Science Center and renovation of the PE/Kinesiology Complex at Contra Costa College, the Arts Complex and PE/Kinesiology Complex at Diablo Valley College (DVC)-Pleasant Hill Campus, and the new Library and Learning Center at the DVC-San Ramon Campus.

“This is the fourth time the District has refinanced previously sold bonds to reduce debt service for our taxpayers,” said Chancellor Bryan Reece. “We will continue to focus on our fiduciary responsibility of managing public funds and want to thank Contra Costa County voters for allowing us to make these critical investments in the community.”

The sales and refinancing transactions were handled by Morgan Stanley.  KNN Public Finance was the District’s financial advisor, and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe performed as bond counsel.

The Contra Costa Community College District (District) is one of the largest multi-college community college districts in California. The District serves a population of 1,019,640 people, and its boundaries encompass all but 48 of the 734-square-mile land area of Contra Costa County. The District is home to Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, as well as educational centers in Brentwood and San Ramon.  The District headquarters is located in downtown Martinez.

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Contra Costa County issues $97.42 million in tax-exempt bonds to fund new county facilities

Friday, February 26th, 2021

For redevelopment of former administration building site, build fire stations and fund new airport terminal; savings of $7.3 million also generated from refunding existing bonds

By Susan Shiu, Director, Office of Communications and Media, Contra Costa County

Thursday morning, Feb. 25, 2021, Contra Costa County sold $97,420,000 of lease revenue bonds with Barclay’s Capital Inc. serving as underwriter. Proceeds from the bond sale will fund infrastructure projects including redevelopment of the former County Administration Center complex in Martinez, a portion of a new Aircraft Terminal at the Buchanan Field Airport in Concord and construction of two fire stations in Pacheco and Bay Point.

In addition, the County refunded $48.4 million of outstanding bonds resulting in significant savings to the County.

The bonds funding the new construction projects have a true interest cost of 2.27% with a term of 20 years. The refunding bonds have a true interest cost of 1.80% and shortens the term of the previous bonds by two years, from 19 years to 17 years. The refunding bonds resulted in a net present value savings to the County of $7.3 million.

“The results from today’s bond sale are proof of the County’s reputation of strong financial management within the municipal market,” said Chair of the Board of Supervisors Diane Burgis. “This allows the County to secure financing for important public infrastructure projects at very attractive rates to better serve our residents.”

According to the California State Treasurer, lease revenue bonds (LRBs) are a type of revenue bond. Lease revenue bonds usually finance the construction of facilities, including government office buildings, correction facilities, courthouses, and fire facilities. However, unlike revenue bonds that use money generated by the project (a bridge toll) to repay investors, lease revenue bonds have a lessee (government agency) that pays rent to use the facility. The rent payments are used to pay back investors who purchased the bonds used to finance the construction of the facility. LRBs are secured by lease payments made by the party leasing the facility (school or office building) that was funded by the bond issue.

“Historically low interest rates and the County’s strong credit profile have allowed us to advance critical projects and refund existing debt for cost savings,” stated County Administrator Monica Nino.

Contra Costa County has been rated “AAA” by Standard and Poor’s since 2012 and, most recently, was upgraded by Moody’s Investor Service to “Aa1” from “Aa2” on February 16, 2021. Both credit rating agencies have attributed their high ratings for Contra Costa County to strong financial management, with policies and practices well-embedded in County operations. They have also pointed to a strong local economy with a large, diverse tax base.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Moody’s upgrades Contra Costa County’s Issue Rating to Aa1 reducing cost for floating bonds

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Also upgrades LRBs’ to Aa2 and POBs to Aa3; assigned Aa2 to 2021 LRBs; outlook is stable

By Susan Shiu, Contra Costa County Office of Communications & Media

On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the Issuer Rating, an indicator of general creditworthiness, of Contra Costa County from “Aa2” to “Aa1”. In its press release, Moody’s cites the County’s “…strong and sustained financial position supported by robust reserves and liquidity.” On Moody’s credit scale, “Aa1” is just one notch below the coveted “Aaa” credit rating.

The rating upgrade is especially complementary of the County’s efforts since Moody’s has placed the U.S. Local Government sector, as a whole, on negative outlook due to the coronavirus pandemic. The upgrade comes in advance of the County’s planned issuance of lease revenue bonds for the construction of an aviation terminal, fire stations, and a new office complex. In addition, the County will be refunding existing bonds for an estimated net present value savings of $7.8 million, or 16.2%.

Board of Supervisors Chair Diane Burgis (District 3) commented that “The upgrade from Moody’s is a testament to the strong financial management practices that have become a tradition in Contra Costa County.”

County Administrator Monica Nino stated that “Contra Costa County has been a leader throughout the State in prudent financial and budget management, and we plan to continue that into the future.”

Complete Press Release

New York, February 16, 2021 — Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded Contra Costa County’s (CA) issuer rating to Aa1 from Aa2, lease revenue bond rating to Aa2 from Aa3 and pension obligation bond rating to Aa3 from A1. The amount of debt affected is $232.4 million and $85.7 million, respectively. We also assigned a Aa2 rating to the Contra Costa County Public Financing Authority’s $62.4 million Lease Revenue Bonds (Capital Projects and Refunding) 2021 Series A (Capital Projects) and $37.2 million 2021 Series B (Refunding). The outlook is stable.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The upgrade to Aa1 incorporates the county’s strong and sustained financial position supported by robust reserves and liquidity. The Aa1 rating incorporates the county’s large and diverse tax base poised for ongoing solid growth, residents’ favorable income levels and moderate long-term liabilities. The rating also factors the recent increased general fund subsidy for the county’s hospital enterprise because of higher operating costs unrelated to the pandemic. The subsidy will remain manageable when compared to the county’s operating revenue. In addition, the county will benefit from a recently approved sales tax measure that expires in March 2041. These funds can be used to support general operations, providing additional financial flexibility. The county’s strong governance, as demonstrated by management’s prudent fiscal practices and adopted policies, is also factored into the rating.

The Aa2 ratings on the county’s lease revenue bonds are one notch lower than the county’s Aa1 issuer rating, reflecting both the absence of California GO (General Obligation) bond security features, which provide uplift to the GO rating, and the weaker legal structure of standard abatement leases, despite the “more essential” nature of the pledged asset, which is the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center.

The legal provisions for the Lease Revenue Bonds, 2021 Series A and 2021 Series B include that the city will provide rental interruption insurance for 24 months, title insurance, and will not require a debt service reserve fund, which is a negative credit factor. This negative credit factor is mitigated by the county having earthquake insurance that covers the pledged asset, a protective feature that is rare for California abatement leases. The county is not legally obligated to have earthquake insurance, however management expects to renew its policy when it expires next month.

The Aa3 rating on the county’s pension obligations bonds is two notches lower than the county’s issuer rating, reflecting the lack of strong legal features of California GO Bonds. The notching also reflects the relatively poor performance of POBs in Chapter 9 bankruptcies compared to other types of municipal obligations. The POBs are unsecured debt paid by general operating revenues.

RATING OUTLOOK

The stable outlook reflects our expectation that the county will maintain a strong financial position supported by management’s prudent fiscal practices. In addition, we expect that the county will continue to navigate through the economic, operational and financial challenges caused by the coronavirus without materially impacting its long-term credit quality.

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OF THE RATINGS

– Improved income and wealth levels

– Material reduction in long-term liabilities and fixed costs

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO A DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS

– Sizeable reduction in reserves and liquidity

– Material increase in long-term liabilities and fixed costs

LEGAL SECURITY

The issuer rating is equivalent to what would be the county’s general obligation bond rating. In California, GO bonds are secured by the levy of ad valorem taxes, unlimited as to rate or amount, upon all taxable property within the county.

The lease revenue bonds are secured by lease payments made by the county for use and occupancy of various leased assets which we view “more essential”. Lease rental payments are payable from any source of legally available funds of the county.

The county’s obligation to make all POB payments of interest and principal are imposed by law and are absolute and unconditional. The POBs are payable from any source of legally available funds of the county, including the county’s general fund.

USE OF PROCEEDS 2021

Series A bonds will finance improvements at the county’s Buchanan Field Airport, the construction of two fire stations and a new county office building. 2021 Series B will refund outstanding lease revenue bonds for savings and there is no extension in maturity.

PROFILE

Contra Costa County is located in the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area, just east of Berkeley and Oakland in northern California. The county seat of Martinez is approximately 24 miles northeast of downtown San Francisco. The county has a population of 1.1 million and the largest industry sectors that drive the local economy are health services, retail trade, and professional/scientific/technical services.

METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in the issuer rating was US Local Government General Obligation Debt published in January 2021 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx? docid=PBM_1260094. The principal methodology used in the lease and pension obligation bond ratings was Lease, Appropriation, Moral Obligation and Comparable Debt of US State and Local Governments published in January 2021 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx? docid=PBM_1260202. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of these methodologies.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For further specification of Moody’s key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody’s Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx? docid=PBC_79004.

For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody’s rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider’s credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Moody’s general principles for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1243406.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody’s legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Did you receive a tax form for unemployment benefits you never applied for? Fraud attorney outlines the steps to take

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

By Newsroom Newswire

Now that it’s tax season, and tax forms are arriving in the mail, many people are beginning to find a nasty surprise in their mailbox: an IRS form 1099-G reporting unemployment benefit income that they did not actually apply for or receive.

If you receive a form 1099-G but did not file for unemployment, someone may have stolen your identity to commit unemployment fraud.

Attorney David Fleck, who has extensive experience in fraud cases, said this is one of the easiest frauds to perpetrate, which is why it has suddenly become common during the pandemic. As unemployment numbers swelled, unemployment departments across the country became overwhelmed with applications and made thorough background checks of applicants fall by the wayside.

“I’ve seen so many different scams in my career, and frankly there is nothing new under the sun,” he said. “Because these are unusual times, con artists are just using this moment as a way to take advantage of the system.”

Learning that your identity has been used to perpetrate a fraud can be a stressful experience, Fleck said, but there are steps you can protect yourself and mitigate the damage:

  1. Report the fraud to the California employment development department, https://www.edd.ca.gov/. California EDD has a form on their website to use for reporting identity theft and unemployment fraud. You can also call the EDD Fraud Hotline at 1-800-229-6297.
  2. File your taxes as normal, and do NOT report the fraudulent income. If you’ve reported the fraud to EDD, that’s all you need to do. You don’t need to also report it to the IRS.
  3. If you suspect you may be a victim of a broader identify theft, you may want to check the website of The Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit in San Diego. Visit idtheftcenter.orgor call 888-400-5530.

“Fraudsters never let a crisis go to waste,” Fleck said. “But hopefully, now that state officials know this fraud is going on in such large numbers, innocent victims won’t be on the hook.”

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Construction workers’ organization unhappy with “discriminatory and costly” PLA in Antioch’s desal plant contract

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Note: The following letter was sent via email to the five members of the Antioch City Council on Thursday, Dec. 24.

Antioch City Councilmembers,

When you placed a discriminatory and costly Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on the Brackish Desal Plant in 2018 we warned you not only what it would do to discriminate against local construction workers but what it would do to your costs. Judging by the manner in which you snuck the approval for the contract to build it through on a Friday night before Christmas with no public notice, you obviously did not want us to remind you.

But here we are.

A reminder of the bigotry you approved: Your welfare for local union bosses in the form of a PLA forces all workers to pay union dues, pay into union pensions they’ll never vest in (that’s wage theft) and explicitly discriminates against young men and women in state approved non-union apprentice programs by banning them from working at all. Any union-free contractor who worked on the job would only be allowed a few of their own employees period with all others coming from union hiring halls. The result? Reduced bidders and increased costs. 85% of the local workforce is union-free, as is the state’s construction workforce. That number holds true for your contractor base as well. These companies simply don’t bid work with PLAs on it so the results are higher bids from those who do, as every major study conducted proves and as you just learned firsthand.

So, a project that you had estimated would cost $60 million before the PLA has now been awarded for $86,689,000. BUT THAT OF COURSE IS NOT ALL. There is a 5% contingency of $4,334,450 in case of “unforeseen costs” (count on it) for a total of $91,023,450. BUT THAT IS NOT ALL EITHER. In addition, you authorized city staff to increase the total budget for the desalination project to $110 million.

In 21 years of fighting PLAs we have never seen a PLA come in this far over budget. Ever. Congrats.

Of course, a body who took their fiduciary responsibility to ratepayers seriously would have rebid this with no PLA and compared costs but your canine affection for big labor special interests wouldn’t allow for this. So here we are.

We will continue to monitor this debacle and make sure citizens are kept updated. The story that recently ran in the East Bay Times about this last-minute cram down before Christmas did not mention the PLA. We will make sure the next one does.

Merry Christmas.

Eric Christen

Executive Director

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Kaiser Permanente awards $1.1 million in grants to non-profits, to improve community health

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Antioch’s Brighter Beginnings, Opportunity Junction and school district among recipients

Grants increase access to health care, improve economic security and address mental health and wellness

By Kerri Leedy, PR and Media Relations Manager, Kaiser Permanente Northern California

WALNUT CREEK, Calif., Dec. 7, 2020 – To address the health needs of the community, Kaiser Permanente in the Diablo Area has awarded $1.1 million in grants focused on increasing access to health care and coverage, improving economic security and addressing mental health and wellness.

The Kaiser Permanente funding to 28 non-profit organizations will help low-income, at-risk communities in Central and East Contra Costa County, and the Tri-Valley area of Alameda County. The Antioch Unified School District, as well as Brighter Beginnings and Opportunity Junction, both located in Antioch, were among the recipients of the grants.

The 28 grants are aligned with Kaiser Permanente’s mission of improving the health of our members and the communities we serve. Kaiser Permanente recognizes that many factors impact health including social, economic and environmental conditions in the community. Through support of local non-profit organizations, Kaiser Permanente is working toward improving health for all.

“Our communities are facing significant and unprecedented challenges,” said Marty Ardron, Senior Vice President and Area Manager for Kaiser Permanente’s Diablo Service Area. “These organizations are committed to helping by providing vital health and mental health care, housing, and food assistance. We are proud to support them.”

The following nonprofit organizations received support from Kaiser Permanente:

Increasing Access to Care:

Axis Community Health Supporting Complex Patients with Case Management Services
Brighter Beginnings Increasing Access to Healthcare in Antioch
Contra Costa County COVID-19 Ambassadors Project
District Council Contra Costa County Society of St. Vincent de Paul RotaCare Pittsburg Free Medical Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul
La Clinica de La Raza, Inc. Connecting Families to Health Care
Planned Parenthood: Shasta Diablo Inc., DBA Planned Parenthood Northern California (PPNC) Promotores: Increasing Access to Health Care
RotaCare Bay Area Provision of Healthcare to Contra Costa County’s Uninsured Population

Improving Economic Security:

Alameda County Community Food Bank Farm Fresh Produce Program
Contra Costa Crisis Center Thrive Local Contra Costa: Follow up services for homeless 211 callers
Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Food Distribution in Contra Costa County
FRESH APPROACH Access to Nutritious Foods in East Contra Costa County
Hope Solutions (formerly Contra Costa Interfaith Transitional Housing, Inc.) Key steps: Path to Permanent Housing and Healing
Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa Nourishing Lives Through Food
Monument Crisis Center Ingredients for a Healthy 2020-21
Open Heart Kitchen of Livermore Inc Hot Meals Program
Opportunity Junction, Inc. Administrative Careers Training to Improve Economic Security for Low Income Adults
SHELTER, Inc. Supporting the Behavioral Health of Homeless Families
Trinity Center Walnut Creek Youth Wellness Advocacy

Addressing Mental Health and Wellness:

Family Justice Center of Contra Costa Thrive Local Contra Costa
Antioch Unified School District Mental Health & Wellness Initiative
Counseling Options & Parent Education, (C.O.P.E.) Road to Recovery
Fred Finch Youth Center Contra Costa County School Based Services
Lincoln Trauma-Informed Care
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District Parent Outreach Coordinator
Mindful Life Project Countering ACE’s with Innovative Mindfulness Programming in East Contra Costa County
Monument Impact Mentes Positivas En Acción
Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa Educating the ARC of ACEs within out LGBTQ+ Communities through and Intersectional Lens
Rubicon Programs Inc. Wellness, Work, and Mobility

About Kaiser Permanente

For 75 years, Kaiser Permanente has been committed to shaping the future of health and health care — and helping our members, patients and communities experience more healthy years. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Since July 21, 1945, Kaiser Permanente’s mission has been to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.4 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. http://about.kaiserpermanente.org.

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Senator Glazer calls BART labor contract extension “premature”, “big mistake”, Board VP Foley supports, Director Allen oppose

Friday, December 4th, 2020

State Senator Steve Glazer and screenshot of BART Board meeting, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.

Board approves contract “after secret negotiations were held during BART Directors’ campaign elections” he said.

“…giving space to someone who can’t pronounce our past GM’s name or spell eBART correctly and someone who makes false claim after false claim is a disservice to the public and spreads lies.” – BART Director Li

“These agreements offer BART budgetary stability as we plan our recovery from COVID-19.” – Board V.P. Foley.

“The contract extensions come seven months before the contracts are due to expire, locking in employee costs at pre-pandemic levels…at the level that it was when we were carrying 410,000 riders each week day and now we carry about 50 (thousand).” – BART Director Allen

By Allen Payton

In an attempt to get them to reconsider the proposed labor contract with employee unions, State Senator Steve Glazer challenged the BART Board during their meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3. He asked why they were considering the contract long before it’s set to expire, and more is known about the impacts of COVID-19 next year. In response, he was called a liar by one director.

Nevertheless, the BART Board voted 7-2 in favor of the contract, with Directors Debra Allen from Contra Costa County and Liz Ames from Alameda County casting the votes against. Board Vice President Mark Foley who represents Antioch on the board voted in favor of the contract extension.

Glazer issued a statement earlier this week about BART’s announcement “on Thanksgiving eve…(about) a tentative labor contract with their represented groups, after secret negotiations were held during BART Directors’ campaign elections.”

“Along with other specific contract changes, this tentative agreement is premature and a big mistake and will likely harm BART riders, commuters and taxpayers through fare hikes and service erosion,” his statement continued.

Glazer read most of the statement during the Thursday meeting, but offering additional comment.

“I want to be clear what I have to say reflects my views of accountability and trust that the public expects from all of us,” he said. “I think we all agree that BART is in a financial meltdown due to the pandemic and it’s not clear to me that you have a clear plan for recovery. The district’s own financial analysis projects a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars by next summer amidst the steepest decline in ridership in your agency’s history. My view, the district needs all the flexibility it can to avoid a financial disaster. Yet, BART is tying its hands with this agreement.”

“In the first half of 2021 BART will have a clearer idea about the COVID-19 vaccine availability, ridership improvements, any potential financial bailout assistance from the federal government, and the results of your early retirement incentives that have already been offered to existing employees,” Glazer explained. “All of these potential outcomes will provide important budgetary insight that should shape any new contract terms. But instead of waiting for that information, you are now rushing to approve a contract, negotiated behind closed doors, with no public notice and it will prevent you from making any kind of targeted salary reductions if your revenues do not recover. This will likely lead to service reductions and fare increases which will hurt the very people you are here to serve.”

His statement issued on Monday adds, “BART is leaving few options but to lay off employees and curtail the number of trains, which would further depress ridership and deepen the agency’s financial crisis.

“So, I come here with a question,” Glazer continued during the meeting. “The current labor contract with your representative employee groups doesn’t expire until July 1st, 2021. So, why did the district make an early agreement with so many economic unknowns?”

“It’s my understanding that BART has not even done a salary survey of other transit districts and public agencies to determine if the current salaries called for in this agreement are needed to recruit and retain qualified employees, basic data needed to inform any effective negotiation,” he said. “I question whether the failure to conduct a salary survey is keeping with board policy and procedures.”

“Now, the public was never told when your negotiations started. I’m told these negotiations were initiated by the Board in September and October. If true, that means that directors were negotiating with BART unions on their salaries and benefits on one hand, while asking the same unions for campaign contributions with the other hand. This is an outrageous injection of politics in a hugely consequential employer-employee agreement. And by setting the terms of the agreement at three years rather than four years based on past contract durations, the future contract will be negotiated during another election year.”

“You know that, Board members, before you came to this board for the most of you, had worked for a long time to ensure the contract negotiations would not be immersed in politics and election year circumstances. So, that four-year duration was done purposely. You unravel that in this proposed contract before you.

“In this agreement, for the most part, you’ve abandoned any of the work rule changes that were central to the 2013 contract negotiations. Where have those work rules been laid out, publicly disclosed and discussed, so that we can understand why they’ve been abandoned in this agreement.”

“You know, when the strike happened in 2013, BART management was clear that the work rules were probably more important than the salaries and benefits being negotiated. It had that kind of consequence and impact on the agency. But there’s a complete void of understanding or knowledge about what efforts were made to negotiate those work rules.”

It reversed important e-BART reforms that were instituted by former General Manager Grace Crunican. Again, BART, the board members, and the management (were) very involved in establishing those eBART reforms which you’re throwing out in this proposed contract.”

So, it’s not surprising to me, that you are moving forward with due haste to approve these negotiations and rush this contract through with very little public review, and I think that it’s because the details and the consequences are uncomfortable.

“I would hope that you will reconsider what you are doing, today and take a more deliberate and cautious approach to these negotiations as you consider the full impact of the pandemic on our economy. It would be best for your financial well-being and more importantly for BART riders throughout the Bay Area.”

“In conclusion, let me just say that the foundation of your service as board members is to ensure that this transportation system is able to function during good times and bad times. This contract continues the limitation against training management to run the trains during a work stoppage. So, all of BART riders, many of them low-income people who can’t afford to stay home, will be prevented from getting to work under this contract provision. We’re talking about teachers and nurses, social workers, grocery clerks and other essential workers, who will all be left stranded if your trains stop running because you created this self-inflicted problem.”

“This strike protection provision is an abdication of your sacred duty and will limit future boards from helping the commuters when matters cannot be worked out at the bargaining table. And listen, we all would strongly hope that all matters can be worked out at the bargaining table.”

In  his issued statement, Glazer included, “BART’s management doesn’t want the public to see what they are doing because they know that BART riders and other Bay Area residents would not support this agreement if they understood its details and its consequences.”

The BART Directors then took up the issue of the labor union contract.

General Manager Robert Powers responded to Glazer, saying, “I was the one…negotiating these tentative agreements with our labor partners. There were no elected officials in those discussions. I was supported primarily by our chief labor negotiations officer as well as our AGM of Operations. I wanted to be…crystal clear that it was me leading these negotiations under the authorization granted to me by the BART Board.”

During public comments, Sal Cruz, president of AFSCME Local 3093 said, “Our work has accelerated during this pandemic at great risk to our employees, as we position ourselves for the recovery we know will come. Proper positioning will be critical for the survival of all transit and for the Bay Area economy that is now linked to BART. Thank you for your leadership during these challenging times. Every transit agency in the country is in the same position as you are, now. The decision before you, today, is not an easy one. But it allows us to focus on rebuilding o ur system, continuing to provide safe transportation for our essential workers and preparing for the return of our riders. The workforce is behind you, the riders are behind you and the Bay Area is behind you.”

BART Director Li. Video screenshot of board meeting, Dec. 3, 2020.

Li Calls Out Glazer

BART Director Janice Li, who represents District 8 which includes portions of San Francisco, spoke next calling out Glazer for lying, mispronouncing the past general manager and misspelling eBART (it was spelled “e-Bart” in his statement from earlier in the week.

“I am proud to vote yes on this action, today. A yes vote, today is a yes vote for BART, is a yes for our riders and a very, very important yes for our workers,” she said. “Voting no makes BART an enemy to our workers and our riders.”

“There has been a lot of talk about this decision coming forward as too early or as a result of private meetings. I just want to be very clear that this claim is factually not true,” she stated. “First, I’m a member of the board’s labor negotiations review committee. We have been meeting since May of this year, then again in July, then again in August. These meetings are open to the public. They are publicly noticed and at subsequent board meetings we always give updates during board reports.”

“Second, we have held multiple closed session meetings regarding labor relations in recent months, and once again they have always been noticed as part of our board agenda,” Li continued. “Third, people who are saying that this is too early are saying that because the financial situation ahead is so unclear and that the board should wait until more is known. The truth is that things will inevitably change. But our staff has been doing excellent work in scenario planning and being transparent about all the potential futures, both good and bad. Furthermore, this contract is not one in the same as our budget revisions. In fact, this does not mean layoffs can’t or won’t happen. So, saying that by voting, yes it ties our hands or limits our options is incorrect.”

“And fourth, respectfully, I strongly refute the false claims made by Senator Glazer. Honestly, giving space to someone who can’t pronounce our past GM’s name or spell eBART correctly and someone who makes false claim after false claim is a disservice to the public and spreads lies. The idea that this was timed with elections is wrong and I will speak for myself, I was not up for election, re-election and I have not raised a cent for re-election, this year and I was not even endorsed by unions when I first ran in 2018.”

“So, what we actually have before us is a result of an incredible collaboration between BART management and labor unions and at the end of the day, who benefits?” she asked. “It’s our riders.”

She then thanked “the entire BART team for rebuilding trust with our labor unions and of course I want to thank our labor union partners for being collaborative at an incredibly difficult time.”

“As a board member I’m incredibly grateful that this decision is coming to us sooner rather than later so we can get back to focusing on running a safe system for our essential workers and implement a successful recovery plan during and through the pandemic that has raged every public transit agency, every public institution and every aspect of our lives. Let’s vote yes on this, today and if you remember our new slogan from the board workshop, earlier this year which, I know feels like years ago, ‘Let’s Go,’” she concluded.

Foley Speaks in Support

Board Vice President Mark Foley speaks on the matter during the meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Video screenshot.

Foley shared his thoughts in support of the contract.

“There was a lot of hard work that went in to making this happen. I am fully in support of this prudent approach to labor negotiations during the pandemic,” he said. “These agreements offer BART budgetary stability as we plan our recovery from COVID-19. A wage freeze, next year, coupled with two years, of at most, very modest increases, increases that are directly tied to returning ridership and BART’s financial recovery, is a responsible course of action to take.”

“More importantly, you know these contracts provide language to allow us to reopen negotiations, a necessary safety net during these challenging times,” Foley continued. “These proactive steps are being taken to hopefully avoid further service cuts, like closing stations, eliminating weekend service or laying off employees, employees that will be needed when we ramp up service.”

“And to those employees I say thank you. You are BART’s most important asset,” he stated. “We wouldn’t have been successful if not for the collaboration of your union leadership and union partners.”

“And lastly, I’d like to thank the district secretary’s office for bringing this item, publishing this agenda to the board, two days early rather than publishing it during the Thanksgiving holiday. This gave us additional transparency around this action. I urge my fellow board members to vote in support of these tentative agreements and I fully support this motion,” Foley concluded.

Allen Offers Arguments Against Contract

BART Director Debora Allen speaks during the board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Video screenshot.

Director Allen spoke against the contracts and supported what Glazer said.

“First, I want to touch on the private meetings because that seems to be a contentious little dialogue. I believe that is absolutely how these contracts come to be,” she said. “It is unfortunate the board discussion about these agreements doesn’t happen in public session. I believe we shouldn’t be discussing the contract extensions in closed door sessions where board members may say things that they would not say in public. In addition, I really do believe not enough of our own closed board discussion has occurred prior to this day of ratification.”

“There’s so much operational uncertainty, right now for BART and I’m not comfortable that the financial projections and plan give us the data we need for this decision,” Allen continued. “It’s really hard to say whether these are fair contracts. But despite having received $377 million in federal CARES Act subsidies already, this year, BART  projects another $210 million deficit over the next 18 months and that is the case after we slashed the capital and pension funding allocations from the Fiscal Year ‘21 budget, along with the load shedding to the capital budget that has occurred throughout this year.”

“From my view we should be receiving regular updates of projected deficits for three years…and that information should be part of any decision by this board to extend labor contracts for three years out. They go together. Labor is 80% of our budget,” she stated.

“So, now we are all hopeful that another $377 million will come to us from D.C. and we’re hopeful that the retirement incentive will induce enough people to retire from exactly the right positions that we can afford to eliminate which we know is not really a reasonable assumption. We already know that some people are retiring from positions that we are going to have to turn around and refill,” Allen said. “We shouldn’t be budgeting to hopeful or aspiration. This is what we did back in June when we passed the budget, and it didn’t work out. We really projected far more revenue than we have. But, if even if those other things come true…it will likely only fund another three-quarters to one year of operating deficits. And it won’t do anything to make up for the lack of capital funding and pension funding that we put aside in ’21 and are likely to do, again in Fiscal Year ’22.”

“The contract extensions come seven months before the contracts are due to expire, locking in employee costs at pre-pandemic levels even as revenue projects remain wildly uncertain well into the next couple of years,” she explained. “Costs will be locked in at the level that it was when we were carrying 410,000 riders each weekday and now we carry about 50 (thousand).”

Other board members spoke, mostly in favor of the contract extension and they then voted 7-2 to approve.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter