Friday, September 16, 2016

Response To San Leandro Times False Story On School Bond Debt

The San Leandro Times published my letter in response to the paper's false and misleading story on school bond debt last week.  Here is the letter I submitted:

"'Nuclear Power Coming to SL.' That was a headline in the San Leandro Times five years ago. It was supposed to be an April Fool’s Day joke (though not published on April 1st).  I remember the story well because I was Mayor then.  Phone calls by irate residents flooded City Hall.  

Reading last week’s alarming front page article on school bond debt reminded of the nuclear power article.  It was so riddled with errors that the article is as close to reality as a nuclear power plant opening in San Leandro.

The factual premise of last week’s article was that payments we are making on Measure B, the 2006 school bond that funded the construction of the performing arts theater and Fred T. Korematsu campus at San Leandro High School, are not being allocated to pay off certain debt, called Capital Appreciation Bonds or CABs. As a result, San Leandro taxpayers, the article stated, are on the hook for a $90 million balloon payment that will be due in 2039.

This is dead wrong.  In 2039, all debt associated with Measure B, including the CABs, will be fully paid off.  That’s it.  There is no balloon payment due in 2039 or any year thereafter. 

Moreover, it’s important to understand that the CABs were issued by the school board in 2010 to complete Measure B projects only because the housing market had imploded which played havoc with traditional means of financing school construction.  Two hundred school districts in California, including Dublin, Emeryville and Hayward in Alameda County, issued CABs.

One could laugh off the nuclear power plant article.  Unfortunately, the school bond debt article is much more insidious.  Readers would have no reason to know its factual premise was false.  They may likely take a negative view toward any future school bond measure.  That is exactly what will be presented to the voters in the form of Measure J1 this November.

Our community, our schools, and our children have benefitted tremendously from the three bond measures starting in 1997 that San Leandro voters have adopted. The school district used these funds to construct new school sites, buildings, academic wings, a performing arts theater, and athletic fields and facilities, including a new football/sports complex, renovate classrooms, libraries, and restrooms, and undertake significant seismic upgrades district wide.  We should take pride in this accomplishment.

The previous bond measures emphasized the construction of new schools and buildings.  Measure J1 takes a different approach.  It will fund critically important renovation and modernization needs at existing school sites, particularly our elementary schools, some of which are over 100 years old. 

Please join me in supporting Measure J1. Strong schools are essential to having a strong city. We will all benefit through continued investment in our schools by passing Measure J1."

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