Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Meyering Censure Gets 1,000 Views

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The various items related to Pat Meyering's censure by the Sunnyvale City Council surpassed 1,000 views recently.

(Edit 1/25/2014:  Sunnyvale is using a new version of video recording presentation which is incompatible with their old version so I am directing everyone to the YouTube versions here:
End edit of 1/25/2014)

The single most popular posting is the one with the video in which Council Member J. Griffith (running for re-election this November, 2013) proposes an agenda item to censure CM Meyering here:


The next most popular posting is a listing of links to videos of ALL the related incidents here:

The 3rd most popular video is Council Member Meyering's defense here:

Link to Videos of Meyering Censure

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(Edit 1/25/2014:  Sunnyvale is using a new version of video recording presentation which is incompatible with their old version so I am directing everyone to the YouTube versions here:
End edit of 1/25/2014)

Incident which started it all - Meyering says Council Members (CM) who received campaign contributions should recuse themselves from voting on an issue affecting the contributor.  CM Jim Griffith moves to make an agenda item to censure CM Meyering:


Reading of  Charges Against CM Pat Meyering

Pat Meyering spoke in his defense immediately after Mayor Spitaleri read the censure motion:

Related: City Council Members address should CM recuse themselves if they received campaign contributions:

Public Comments on the Day of the Censure Vote:

Public Comment Before the Agenda Item is Discussed by the City Council

After the public comments, Vice Mayor J. Griffith spoke (the beginning of this excerpt, 4:26 on the city tape) in favor of the motion:  

CM Meyering alluded to an attempt he believes was intended to trick him out of being able to speak.  This incident is referred to later by CM Whittum (who expresses regret) and CM Moylan who denies it was a trick and insists it was a valid motion.  The incident of 9/18/2012 may be viewed at

The Motion to Censure Pat Meyering - Legal/Moral Issues

The issue that was being debated at the time Vice Mayor Griffith moved to put a motion to censure CM Meyering on the agenda was related to a garbage collection contract.  In the debate on the censure motion, Councilman Whittum alluded to issues that have arisen in other cities related to garbage collection.  Here are a few items related to crime and garbage collection:

California & Sunnyvale Pension Debt Increase

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California - with the second worst credit rating in the US after Illinois according to Moody's - has had it's pension debt revised upward to double what it was proclaimed to be by CalPERS.
"Employee retiree costs to date have been vastly underreported to taxpayers, according to Moody's. Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has established new rules to help prevent misreporting, and with the changes, new estimates put California's unfunded liabilities at nearly double the previous estimate."

The Economist notes that although the CA budget is nominally in surplus by $1.1B-$4.4B, in fact it owes the CalSTRS Teacher Retirement fund $4.5B every year for the next 30 years which would more than wipe out the surplus.  The "surplus" is the budget analysts' estimate for the coming year.  It is not cold hard cash, just a guess of the coming year's revenue.

The NY Times looks at all the states and notes the same about California as the Economist.

Moody's is looking at 30 California cities for possible credit downgrade including Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.
C.f., last paragraph at:

The Washington Post reports that Detroit is defaulting on it's debt and will only pay 10 cents on the dollar to bond holders and intends to treat pension and retiree health care as creditors like any other:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Unhappiness and Progress

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You may be aware that several Wall Street millionaire's are serving prison time for insider trading.  One who didn't was pretty outrageous.  He bet heavily against his own company and then sent out (false) information about his big railroad co. that drove the stock down so he made a killing when the stock rebounded.  Instead of going to jail he was actually celebrated for his cleverness.  Of course, that was in the 1800's when it was all perfectly legal.  There has been progress on our thinking about what is ethical. 

Some may feel like Ogden Nash that "Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long".  P
rogress doesn't just happen in technology, it also happens in our approach to government.  All of human progress depends on people looking around them and saying - this is bad, really bad.  And the most effective are usually the angriest that things are not as good as they could be.  Very upsetting if all you want is anodyne comments to the effect of how wonderful everything is.  Thomas Paine was a pain and criticized everyone for not living up too his standards, and the founders of the constitution just took a mild suggestion to talk and wrote the constitution because they were massively unhappy with the Confederation of States.  Steve Jobs was notoriously difficult to please, arrogant, and hypersensitive if things weren't right.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." (George Bernard Shaw)

I am writing this because I saw my name used in vain.  It was a back-handed compliment saying I "usually" stayed close to facts.  Thanks.

Of course, that was a warm up to criticizing my attempt to make sense (to myself, at least) of the kerfuffle about Pat Meyering by attributing it to partisanship.  Otherwise I can't make senses of it.  To me, it seems much ado about nothing.  If the rest of the City Council just let him have his say he'd be done in a few minutes and no-one would particularly note what he said.  Instead they make as much noise as possible to ensure the entire South Bay is aware of his (and several other's) contention that Sunnyvale risks looking like a "pay-to-play" city.  All in an election year so they make sure that he becomes a polarizing figure during what would otherwise be an unexceptional election. (Summary here:)

The claim was further made that I ignored a "fact" that a several hundred dollars campaign contribution isn't a conflict of interest.  A fact is something like "Sacramento is the capital of California".  Whether campaign contributions produce a conflict of interest is a matter of opinion and law.  With all the reporting requirements of state agency the FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) it would appear that the state does consider the possibility of an appearance of conflict of interest.  Otherwise, why require the publication of campaign contribution information?  And why does the Federal Election Commission publish a book of over 170 pages on election laws relating to campaign contributions - some forbidden?

Another thing I feel compelled to comment on.  Someone said Meyering probably has campaign contributors whom he serves.  This appears to be an attempt to make CM Meyering seem equivalent to the others on the City Council to make him look hypocritical.  Meyering had two (2) contributors.  Himself ($10,950) and W. Donnelly ($100).  If Mr. Donnelly comes before the City Council I hope and expect Mr. Meyering will recuse himself.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mayor Spitaleri received over $117K from too many campaign contributors for me to count.

Sorry - no equivalence.