Fourth District Sonoma County Supervisor candidate Deb Fudge released a poll this week showing her with a commanding lead over her nearest rivals, though one-third of voters surveyed did not pick a candidate and Fudge declined to reveal some details of how the poll was conducted.
Former Obama Administration official James Gore powered past his chief rivals seeking the 4th District Sonoma County supervisor seat, raising more than $83,000 in contributions since Jan. 1. His nearest competitor, Windsor Town Councilwoman Deb Fudge, pulled in just over $44,000 in the same period.
Santa Rosa winemaker Ken Churchill, an advocate of overhauling public workers’ pensions, has jumped into the race to replace Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire.
Five months from now, Sonoma County intends to launch its program to become the power supplier to 220,000 local homes and businesses, displacing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. from its position of energy dominance.
Here is the gravity of our county’s financial situation. From 1991 to 2000, the county spent $108 million on pensions, an average of $10.8 million per year. From 2001 to 2010, the county spent $302 million on pensions, but ended the decade with a $330 million liability and $515 million in pension bond debt. Added together, the average cost was $114.5 million per year, 10 times more than the previous decade. These numbers may sound shocking, but the reality of the situation is much, much worse because these numbers are based upon accounting gimmicks and overly optimistic investment return assumptions.
Did Sonoma County supervisors break the law in the way they boosted retirement benefits for themselves and other employees 10 years ago? The county grand jury posed that question earlier this year, and the county issued its formal response last week. As I read through it, I was reminded of former President Bill Clinton’s famous parsing of words: “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday unanimously endorsed a legal report disclosing that procedural errors were made a decade ago by county officials who adopted more generous pension formulas. County officials failed to fully meet a requirement that would have given the public at least two weeks to review and comment on the financial impact of the pension increases before their adoption, a report by the Sonoma County Counsel’s office found. ‘There’s no denying that the 100 percent letter of the law was not followed on this piece,’ said Supervisor David Rabbitt, commenting on the results of the inquiry by county attorneys.