Archive for the ‘Open Records’ Category

The True Facts About IRV Voting

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

October 16, 2018

 

I recently sent out an email and posted information on my website (www.memphisshelbyinform.com) giving my recommendation to vote NO-YES-YES on the three ordinances at the end of the upcoming ballot.

 

I then received an email from City Councilman Edmund Fore Jr. as shown below.

Mr. Saino,

I hope this message finds you in good health and spirit.

We disagree on many things, but I will say that you are spot on regarding these items. In fact, IRV has been repealed in several cities due to costs and the number of exhausted ballots that are thrown out. Taking to the local Comptroller, Shelby County would have to pay up to $6.3 million for new machines.

I would be glad to provide more information, as the local media has refused to give the public both sides.

I appreciate your attempt to educate the people, even when we disagree.

 

He also sent me to a website (www.yes2repeal.org)  and if you will look at the video on this site it explains the faults in Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and he also sent me the document that you can read explaining the true cost and impediments of IRV. Enough said. Early voting starts tomorrow and please get out and vote and vote NO-YES-YES.

NO-YES-YES

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

 

September 18, 2018

 

NO-YES-YES

 

There are three interesting proposals at the end of the upcoming November 6th ballot here in Memphis.

These three are very interesting and particularly difficult to understand but I will try to explain them to the best of my ability and research.

 

City of Memphis Ordinance #5676 Vote yes or NO

Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide no person shall be eligible to hold or to be elected to the office of Mayor or Memphis City Council if any such person has served at any time more than three (3) consecutive four-year terms, except that service by persons elected or appointed to fill an unexpired four-year term shall not be counted as full four-year term? Vote NO

 

 

This is an attempt by the political class to undue the terms limits put on the City of Memphis by voters. You can see what happens when politicians get too many terms in office. Look at the 2001 pension resolution by the City of Memphis when they approved elected and appointed officials to get immediate pensions after 12 years of service regardless of age. This cost the city of Memphis millions until finally rescinded. More recently the Shelby County Commission tried a similar plan which was vetoed by the outgoing County Mayor and may come up again with the new County Commission and new County Mayor. VOTE NO!

 

City of Memphis Ordinance #5677 Vote YES  or no

 

Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to repeal Instatnt Runoff Voting and to restore the election procedure existing prior to the 2008 Amendment for all City offices, and expressly retaining the 1991 federal ruling for persons elected to the Memphis City Council single districts?

 

Instant runoff voting is a very bad idea and it is being sold to save money by not having a run off election. Nationwide it has proved to not work and to cause confusion with the electorate. More importantly it does not necessarily lead to a candidate winning with a majority as is required in the single member districts of the City Council. A good example is the 2015 election to the City Council. City council races for Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 required runoff elections on November 19, 2015, with no candidates receiving majorities of the general election vote. A particularly bad example was the race eventually won by Worth Morgan.  There were 4 candidates in the first round that won 90% of the votes. In the runoff between Morgan and Springer, Morgan won by only 136 votes. If we had had instant runoff voting it is probable someone else would have won and that person would have won without a majority of voters thus violating the 1991 federal ruling. 2nd and 3rd choices do not count as a majority decision and you end up with a winning plurality candidate. Only a one on one runoff election insures a majority winner. VOTE YES!

 

City of Memphis Ordinance #5677 Vote yes or NO

Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide that in any municipal election held as required by law, the candidate receiving the largest number of votes shall be declared the winner, thereby eliminating run-off elections?

 

This is an attempt to change from a majority vote system to a plurality vote system. The County uses a plurality system for their 13 seats on the County Commission as to the 6 City Council members in the super districts. These runoff elections which happen only in the 7 City Council single member districts were caused by a 1991 court ruling should be reversed as circumstances and population has changed. VoteYES and pending the court ruling there will no longer be a need for runoff elections.

The New Shelby County Government Is Looking Like the Old City Government

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

September 4, 2018

The New Shelby County Government Is Looking Like the Old City Government

 

The new Shelby County government is just beginning and we all wish them well. We all want and need low cost and efficient government to furnish fire and police services, bring us our utilities, repair our roads, run our legal system, furnish medical services and educate our children.

 

Shelby County government has been well run for many years as compared to the City of Memphis. Let me give you several examples.

 

In 2007 the Governmental Accounting Standards Board issued GASB 45 which required that other post-employment benefits (OPEB) must be recognized as the benefits earned rather than as they are paid. The county in 2008 made certain positive changes as shown on the attached document. The City of Memphis did nothing until 2017 when they made changes to the benefit plan. The County OPEB unfunded liability went from $319 million in 2008 to $46 million today. The City of Memphis did nothing until 2017 when the benefit changes brought the unfunded liability from $857 million to $417 million, due to plan benefit changes.

 

The City of Memphis pension board regularly approves line of duty liability at 10 times the rate per employee as the County and the MLGW. This has led to an annual cost for LOD disability for the city of Memphis of some $17 million dollars per year, 10 times that of the County and the MLGW. The problem is the makeup of the pension board membership that grants these LOD disability pensions.

 

And finally, the new County pension scam allowing benefits for life with 12 years of service looks much like the January 2001 pension scam of the City of Memphis. That disastrous action allowed elected and appointed employees with 12 years of service to receive their lifetime pensions immediately.

 

It is noteworthy that the new county resolution passed with an 8-2 majority. Commissioner Walter Bailey sponsored the resolution saying that “since elected officials with term limits shouldn’t be penalized for their public service”. Commissioner Walter Bailey was term limited after his first two 4 year terms and then reelected later after laying out for a term for another term.

 

Now some politicians want to do away with term limits. The above scams only make me want to tighten terms limits so that term limited politicians do not twist the rules to feather their nests. We need term limits pension scam rules not only locally but also for the US House of Representatives and for the US Congress.

 

What are your thoughts?

ELECTIONS ARE COMING

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Elections Are Coming

 

July 11, 2018

 

There is an important election coming up on August 2, 2018. Let us look at some of the important elections.

A new Tennessee Governor will be elected as our current governor is term limited. You will be asked to choose whether to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary. I am voting in the Republican primary. For me it comes down to Diane Black or Randy Boyd. I met Ms. Black recently and was impressed. Mr. Boyd has the support of Mike Huckabee. Take your pick but I am voting for Ms. Black.

Another important election is the United States Senate because of the retirement of our current senator, Bob Corker. I am voting for Marsha Blackburn. She will have a tough fight in November against Phil Bredesen, the Democrat.

The most important local election is the County Mayoral election. Shelby County has been well run under Mayor Luttrell and David Lenoir is the best candidate and I will be voting for him.

Another important election is the District 8 United States House of Representatives between the current representative, David Kustoff, and George Flinn. I know and like George and while he has a high hill to climb I would vote for him, but I am not in his district. In my district I am voting for Charlotte Bergmann.

I am in Tennessee Senate District 31 and will be voting for Brian Kelsey.

I am in Tennessee House of Representative District 93 and there is no Republican running, so I will not be voting on this district.  I used to vote in District 83 and if I was still there I would vote for Mark White.

Another important election is the Shelby County Commissioners. I am voting in District 7 and will vote for Samuel D. Goff. I recommend the republican candidates where they are running.

I have listed a complete ballot with my choices listed in red. Vote your convictions but please vote.

Make Memphis Great

Monday, May 28th, 2018

May 29, 2018

Make Memphis Great

What is great about Memphis?

It is a beautiful city with wonderful trees and flowers.

I has wonderful weather. Many believe that because it is built on a series of bluffs along the river, that most of the bad weather goes north or south of the City.

It has a treasure trove of drinkable pure water.

It has a relativity low cost of living compared to many comparably sized cities in Tennessee and especially nationwide.

It has good local healthcare facilities including a fabulous St Jude cancer facility.

Then what is keeping Memphis from being better?

A larger than normal poverty level caused by a lack of qualified and trained workers for better than minimum wage jobs that require certain skills. These better paying jobs are available but are going unfilled.

An educational system that separates students into those that can afford private education schools with good outcomes and those forced into public education with poor outcomes.

A lack of the traditional family structure based on a two-parent home with values taught at home and in traditional churches. This previously prevalent and proven successful family and church structure has been destroyed by years of failed government poverty programs that encourage welfare dependence and lack of initiative.

Local crime encouraged by gangs and drug culture.

How can we change the above? We encourage your input, suggestions and debate.

Open The Purchasing Records

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Open The Purchasing Records

May 15, 2018

There was an interesting article in the CA entitled “Memphis has lost focus”. The article went on to quote the Chairman of the Memphis City Council, Berlin Boyd, saying “We can’t continue down this path and expect a different result”. Also Richard Smith of Federal Express and Chamber of Commerce chairman, demand that elected leaders gut or fix the city/county EDGE board. The EDGE board is well known for handing out tax freezes for various businesses. The Edge board also has rules for minority vendor participation for any EDGE granted pilot. The article stated that Mr. Smith urged the end of minority spending rules.

 

Concerning EDGE minority spending rules the article stated that Boyd said that the biggest beneficiary of the minority spending rules is white women. Assailed by critics, Boyd and Smith agreed to keep the spending rules in place.

 

I have railed against this minority spending requirement for several years. I am not against economically disadvantaged minorities getting a leg up. However what should be changed is the following.

 

The paperwork and legal qualification rules are very complicated and discourage otherwise qualified firms. There should be a common-sense method such as the better business bureau or other independent organization that gives a rating system based on customer satisfaction reports.

 

Most importantly the purchasing system should be open and transparent with the final bids and selection on line and open to all. If a minority firm is the low bidder, so be it. If it is not the low bidder and is selected, then the price differential should be no more than 3% to 5% and then the minority firm should be given a one to two year time to graduate to a no price differential status for future competitive bids.

 

The system now is not transparent and we do not know what minority spending rules are costing us and we do not know who are the beneficiaries.

 

 

 

 

Why Can’t The Public See Public Bids And Price differentials?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

April 10, 2018

 

Why Can’t The Public See Public Bids And Price differentials?

 

Bids for items purchased by public entities should be open and public information. Organizations such as the City of Memphis, Shelby County, MLGW and others paid for by local, state or federal tax money should have transparency on their bids.

However, this is not the case. Here are some local examples.

If you go to the City of Memphis website (www.memphistn.gov) and click on Business and then on RFPS and RFQS (request for proposals and request for quotations) and click on current solicitations you will see a table of upcoming quotations.

However In regards to the posting of Bid Awards online, the City currently does not post these online, but plans are in motion to soon place online links to reports detailing all bid awards for a given time frame plus the awarded vendor name, amount, description of the bid and Division name.  (attached are two examples of this report—one for 2017 and one for 2018 YTD).  However, there is no report available that includes the above information along with details on the losing bidders. Info on losing bidders would have to be obtained via the Open Records Request system on an individual bid basis or by reviewing the contract documents for each awarded contract.

If you look at the above two lists (one for 2017 and on for 2018, you will see the types of items purchased by the City of Memphis and the amounts spent. There are huge amounts of pubic money being spent.

The tax paying public is entitled to know how this money is being spent, who is getting this business, how much higher the other bidders quoted and if the lowest bidder was not awarded the contract, why not.

The rules and regulations for being able to bid on this public business are very complex and discouraging for private businesses to jump though all the hoops. I know several local business who add 10% plus whenever bidding on public buxiness due tothe paperwork.

I asked Shelby County for similar information on purchasing and their reply was as follows.

In response to your inquiry, the County does not publish the information on our website. There is no intentional exclusion of the public’s right to see the information but rather there has never been a demand for the information.  Another problem we have is that we do not have a sophisticated system to process purchasing and contracts information.  We are in the process of obtaining a modern system that will facilitate providing the information in question.

 

Occasionally we will have a request for the information you are citing but it is usually from an unsuccessful bidder or sometimes from a company interested in bidding on a certain service or commodity.  Is there anything in particular that you would like to see?

 

To date I have not gotten any response from the MLGW concerning the question of purchasing transparency.

Now here is the problem with all local public purchasing.

A local news report stated the following. “Shelby County commissioners approved a moratorium Monday, April 2, on all county contracts and budget amendments worth more than $50,000 through the end of August.

The 10-3 commission vote follows concerns some commissioners expressed last week in committee sessions about a multi-year contract worth $20 million for medical services to county corrections center inmates.

The contract is specifically exempted from the county’s ordinance setting percentage goals in awarding county government contracts to minority-owned businesses.”

Now I have no objection to seeing minority-owned businesses getting a leg up in establishing an efficient and competitive private business. If they need a price differential for several years in order to get up and running so be it. But the public should know what it is costing the taxpayers and it is obvious we do not know the extent of this public cost. Let us put it out there so we know what it is costing. What is your opinion?

What Pubic Retiree Healthcare Costs You As A Taxpayer

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

What Pubic Retiree Healthcare Costs You As A Taxpayer

 

January 16, 2018

 

Years ago, I started investigating healthcare costs for active employees and retirees at the MLGW, the City of Memphis, Shelby County and the school system. At that point (before 2007) there was no requirement that the unfunded liability of medical and other costs for retirees be put on the financial statements of the various local governmental units. I started checking on the unfunded liability which was called OPEB. (Other Post Employment Benefits, mainly health care costs and life insurance).

I was shocked by the amount of unfunded liability. Look at the history of this huge unfunded liability over a certain time period.

OPEB History- unfunded liability

MLGW 2007            658 million

MLGW           2015              461 million   down 30% from 2007

 

City of Memphis 2008                  857 million

City of Memphis 2015                  730 million

City of Memphis 2017                  504 million  down 58% from 2008

 

Old Memphis School System 2008                   1.34 billion

Current Shelby County School System 2016  1.25 billion   down 9% from 2008

 

Shelby County Government 2007                     319 million

Shelby County Government 2016                     101 million   down 69% from 2007

It is obvious that this is still a large problem. But as usual, our Shelby County government recognized the problem early (in 2007 when notified by GASB) and acted. The City of Memphis was slow in acting but eventually addressed the problem. The Memphis school  system as usual has stuck its head in the sand and is hoping for a government bailout. The MLGW is well healed and is slowly addressing the problem.

The next question that occurred to me was “What is the cost to the taxpayers for the portion of annual health care premiums for retirees paid by taxpayers?” I asked for and received the following answers.

MLGW           2528 retirees’ cost/retiree paid by rate payers            $11,733/year

City of Memphis 1524 retirees’  cost/retiree paid by taxpayers            $6466/year

Shelby County   1941 retirees’   cost/retiree paid by taxpayers            $4658/year

 

It is obvious that the MLGW is different and that Shelby County Government is more efficient. In my next posting I will take up the cost to public employees (active and retired) for their annual health care premiums so that you can compare your cost to what public employees pay and look at the annual cost rise since the affordable care act came into our lives.

More Info Needed Before Moving Brooks Museum Downtown

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

December 27, 2017

What We Need Before Spending Millions On Moving Brooks Museum Downtown

 

Citing “declining enrollment” and “overwhelming real estate debt,” the Memphis College of Art — the storied Overton Park institution that traces its origins to at least the 1930s — on Tuesday announced plans to close. This CA article published October 24th of this year points out the problem of piling on debt without proper planning for debt retirement and a sound financial base.

 

As the plan for the Brooks museum rolls forward by the City of Memphis, let us look back on available information on the two institutions. The only available source of public hard financial information on the Memphis College of Art and the Brooks Museum is the 990 forms (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax) provided by Guidestar.

Therefore, I pulled up these forms and here is a brief report on the three last available years.

Memphis College of Art, form 990 for years ending June 30, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The figure shown are the net assets or fund balances (total assets less total liabilities).

June 30, 2014                         $14.8 million

June 30, 2015                         $18.1 million

June 30, 2016                         $16.6 million

 

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Inc

June 30, 2014                         $6.2 million

June 30, 2015                         $5.8 million

June 30, 2016                         $5.0 million

 

I have attached the complete relevant 990 forms which gives additional information of the Memphis College of Art and The Brooks museum. However, these 990 forms may not reveal the complete story. Apparently, the College of Art made some bad decisions about opening additional facilities downtown.

 

What is needed before embarking on the expensive downtown move by Brooks is a complete most recent financial audit of the Brooks so that all information about expenses, income and debt is fully known by the Memphis taxpayers. The 990 forms do not give enough information to make a informed decision.

 

MLGW Rate Increases

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

MLGW Rate Increases

 

MLGW has proposed rate increases in gas, electric and water rates over the next few years. MLGW management says that part of the need for increases are related to decreasing sales in product. Well I decided to review the latest annual report available (the year ending December 31st, 2016).

 

The City Charter designates the disposition of revenue from MLGW three divisions, light, gas and water. MLGW is not a profit-making organization but it is required to breakeven and pay it debts and keep a reserve to cover its debts and emergencies with a proper margin. It also pays to the City of Memphis a payment like a for profit business would pay.

 

I have looked at the statements of the three divisions for the year ended 12/31/16 and the electric division lost $12 million dollars after paying $40 million to the City of Memphis. The Gas Division lost $14 million after paying $17.5 million to the City of Memphis. The water division made $9.8 million after paying $4.4 million to the City of Memphis. It is not clear if this includes the 2 million payment for the FedEx arena.

 

It seems clear to me that the MLGW needs a price increase to keep its financial situation secure. It is a well-run organization with well trained employees and with advanced technical knowledge.

 

Now I want to point out that MLGW employees have a much richer health care benefits then the City of Memphis and Shelby County employees. I am gathering current information of these benefits and will be publishing information as soon as I obtain the data.

 

People are becoming energy savers and the combination of advanced energy saving appliances like light bulbs and AC/heating units and smart meters are saving energy and this is a good thing for the ecology. Again this is a well run organization with competitive rates and I hope that whomever replaces Jerry Collins will be as able as he has been.