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STOP CORRUPTION IN COUNTY GOVERNMENT
I was first elected to the City Council following a corruption scandal. It was my duty at the time to restore public trust from the ground up, and usher a new culture of honest and responsible government. Immediately upon installation, I launched the most sweeping management overhaul in the City’s history and the most extensive government reform measures in the entire region. I am proud of this early chapter in my public service, and the application of my technical background to profoundly alter the culture and internal control environment of the City.
I wish to bring the same discipline to County government. I support the following local reforms for Riverside County:
· Mandatory bidding for all public contracts
· Open and public discussion on all contract renewals (no automatic behind-the-scene "evergreen" extensions!)
· Periodic rotation of Riverside County auditors and Riverside County attorneys (no advisors should be appointed forever)
· Real-time public disclosure of all campaign contributions (including same-day disclosure at Board of Supervisor meetings whenever related contracts are up for consideration)
· Caps on executive compensation and bloated benefits
· Timely approval of balanced budgets, in advance of the applicable fiscal year
· Immediate public disclosure of all auditor communications involving internal controls
· Mandatory remediation of internal control deficiencies identified in audit reports
· TERM LIMITS for County Supervisors, no exceptions!
· Criminal prosecution of all corruption in Riverside County and related cities
During my Mayorship, I authored one of the strictest TERM LIMITS ordinance in the entire state of California. In fact, I was "termed out" of my City Council position in direct consequence of the ordinance that I personally authored! I stood by my decision then, and I continue to support TERM LIMITS more broadly as a strategy for mitigating corruption and complacency in career politicians. I have observed the pernicious influence of vendors and contractors on incumbent politicians over time, the onset of corruption and conflicts-of-interest, and the comfortable complacency of multi-term politicians whether they realize this or not.
In Riverside County, I support mandatory TERM LIMITS for the Board of Supervisors, without exception. TWO TERMS. THAT'S IT!
Our state’s unfunded liability for combined pension funds (CalPERS, CalSTRS, and UC), together with promised healthcare for retirees, approximates $1 trillion of debt, according to the most recent estimate of the Stanford University Economics Research Institute. This is a staggering amount, which is at least six-times the size of the State’s entire General Fund revenue intake. As an economist, university lecturer in statistics, and one-time pension auditor, I can confirm (with mathematical certainty) that the system will be unavailable to deliver on promised obligations, and will increasingly encroach on city, county, and state budgets each year of the foreseeable future – threatening every aspect of public services. Last year alone, $20 billion in pension payments were disbursed to 600,000 retirees, with nearly 25,000 individuals earning pensions of over $100,000 – a 63% increase since 2012. In some cases, “public service” retirees were paid in excess of a quarter-million dollars in annual benefits.
We need bold, responsible leadership NOW to reform a broken pension system. I demand that California pension funds use realistically achievable discount rates immediately (closer to the risk-free rate of return), instead of the generous and unrealistically achievable 7.0%-7.5% assumption used by sneaky politicians to deliberately cloud the full extent of these obligations. In addition to immediate transparency, I support migration to defined contribution plans (or transitional hybrid plans) for new employees in Riverside County, higher mandated funding levels for all funds, and re-evaluation of the so-called “California Rule” to enable good-faith renegotiation of fair and economically sustainable pension programs for existing participants. We must also end abusive spiking schemes and double-dipping scenarios, which inflate these obligations and further exacerbate their unfunded status.
According to Transparent California (https://TransparentCalifornia.com), dozens of Couty employees are compensated at half-million dollars each year. Approximately 500 employees are compensated at quarter-million dollars or more each year. This is economically unsustainable and morally irresponsible. The problem is further compounded by long-term contracts, bonus payments, pension obligations linked to compensation, and perpetual negotiations that ratchet the milestone even higher. For the fiscal year 2022-2023, a significant component of the more than $1 billion increase in the budget over prior year is attributable to compensation. I support budgetary reforms and enhanced negotations on behalf of Riverside County taxpayers.
Elections are the most consequential process in our representative democracy and each level of government with jurisdictional oversight over elections has a constitutional obligation to ensure that only legitimate votes are accounted for, and elections are managed with the highest level of verifiable integrity. The consequential stakes and the legal exposure are simply too great for any government agency to be complacent on this issue. I support audits, forensic examinations, and detailed evaluation of internal controls at each stage of the vote tabulation process in Riverside County. I began my professional career in the private sector evaluating internal control environments as an auditor with one of the largest international accounting firms in the world. I know how important well-designed internal controls are for detecting, preventing, and/or mitigating the susceptibility of fraud.
When I was Mayor, I took on the public schools and WON! Even though public education was not within the purview of my formal jurisdiction, it was certainly within the purview of my moral obligation. I held public hearings on the quality of education and organized parents to reform one school's entire administration. Similarly, I will use my podium as Riverside County Supervisor to advocate for parental rights, education reform, and sound academic curriculum rooted in traditional subjects.
Our educational system requires immediate overhaul. At one point, California’s educational system was the best in the nation. Today, it ranks near the bottom – 46 out of 50 states in terms of student achievement, and nearly half of our children cannot read proficiently at grade level. The achievement gap is the widest on record, with children from underprivileged communities falling further and further behind – notwithstanding rising educational outlays in California, and per-pupil spending above the national average. We NEED accountability now, to demand that local school districts allocate greater shares of their budgets to the classroom, instead of bloated administrator salaries, excessive pensions for district executives, and central office overhead – which now, collectively, account for a majority of the education budget.
I support school choice, school competition, and student vouchers so that parents can send their children to better performing schools – including those reserved for the children of Sacramento’s political elite. I support overhaul of arcane tenure rules, so that teachers are evaluated (and rewarded) based on student performance and achievement in the classroom. I support return of traditional academic disciplines and curricula focused on college preparation and the high-skilled jobs of the future. I am NOT beholden to union bosses, political elites, or the special interest industrial complex which works diligently to perpetuate the decrepit status quo. I will champion the civil rights of children and their parents.
For the current fiscal year (2022-2023), the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a 15% increase in expenditures during a period of 1% population growth. Most of the change was attributed to compensation increases. I do not agree with excessive budgets that significantly exceed population growth plus inflation. In fact, state legislation called the GANN LIMIT was approved decades ago to limit government's expansion. I support the GANN LIMIT concept and would temper the County's appetite for bigger and bigger government. Excess revenue above basic parameters (like population, inflation, or the cost of one-time capital improvements), should be RETURNED TO THE TAXPAYER IMMEDIATELY.
Furthermore, I support the following budgetary reforms:
- Lower taxes and fees, across the board
- Control excessive debt
- Improve the County's credit rating
- Zero-based budgeting (i.e., every department must justify its budget!)
- Internal control audits, and then more audits!
- Audit every County department's financial condition and budgeted expenditures, without exception
Every major survey of business climate consistently ranks California dead last (50 out of 50 states) in terms of business-friendly environment, with over 13,000 businesses leaving the state of California in the last 10 years, including major employers with ties to our Senatorial district. This dire predicament for companies, employees, and working families, is the direct result of over-taxation, over-regulation, and arcane licensing processes that are prone to abuse, favoritism, and in the worst cases, corruption. We need to reduce excessive taxation across the board; streamline the convoluted business permit and licensing process (without special treatment for campaign donors or the expensive lobbyists who represent them); and provide greater efficiencies in regulatory monitoring and compliance.
I join mainstream economists across the political spectrum who recognize that excessive taxation is hurtful not only to businesses and private sector jobs growth, but to the state's ability to achieve sustainable tax revenue -- due largely to the deleterious disincentives that excessive taxation has on production. This concept can be illustrated through the Laffer Curve, which was first described by economist Arthur Laffer of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors, and which has since received broad academic recognition even from left-wing economists like Christina Romer of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors. Basically, excessive business taxation (like the California status quo) crosses a critical inflection point on the Laffer Curve, beyond which higher tax rates actually produce declining tax revenue to the state. Every member of the State Legislature should be mindful of this inter-play between tax rates and tax revenue.