Saturday, September 30, 2017
Friday, September 29, 2017
By Alexandra DeSanctis — September 6, 2017
The cat’s out of the bag. In a Monday interview with New York magazine, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio admitted his disdain for private property and his desire for the government to control land distribution within the city.
The mayor went on an extended riff about the benefits of socialism when the interviewer asked what has been most difficult about reducing income inequality. “What’s been hardest is the way our legal system is structured to favor private property,” de Blasio replied. “I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be.”
More from the mayor’s answer:
I think there’s a socialistic impulse, which I hear every day, in every kind of community, that they would like things to be planned in accordance to their needs. And I would, too. Unfortunately, what stands in the way of that is hundreds of years of history that have elevated property rights and wealth to the point that that’s the reality that calls the tune on a lot of development. . . .
Look, if I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed. And there would be very stringent requirements around income levels and rents. That’s a world I’d love to see, and I think what we have, in this city at least, are people who would love to have the New Deal back, on one level. They’d love to have a very, very powerful government, including a federal government, involved in directly addressing their day-to-day reality. [Emphasis added.]
Earlier in life, De Blasio was a left-wing activist and an ardent supporter of the radical socialist government in Nicaragua — the Sandinista National Liberation Front — which at the time was strongly opposed by President Ronald Reagan and his administration.
Today, De Blasio is well known for his intensely progressive approach to managing New York City’s government. This interview reveals that perhaps his past desire for openly socialist policies still lingers.
Editor's Note: Many politicians laud the virtue of "Plan Bay Area" a central planning scheme to control housing and transportation in the Bay Area. MTC is now plotting to control even MORE COUNTIES than the original nine Bay Area counties to include Sacramento and the Central Valley in a supra regional administrative government akin to socialism We do not think it will work out well for them.
Socialism is like a nude beach: sounds pretty good until you actually see it
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Here are the 20 most expensive places in America to diePublished: Sept 27, 2017 1:02 p.m. ET
President Trump’s proposed tax plan would eliminate the federal estate tax
Some U.S. states have punitive ‘death’ taxes.
With the current relatively generous federal estate tax exemption of $5.49 million for 2017 — doubled if you are married — most folks are free of any federal estate tax worries. Also, President Trump’s proposed tax plan would eliminate the federal estate tax. And 30 U.S. states have no estate or inheritance taxes. That’s the good news, at least for those who don’t want to pay it.
The bad news? Some 20 states and the District of Columbia currently impose their own estate or inheritance taxes, or both, for 2017, and some of them have exemptions well below the federal amount. If you live in one of these jurisdictions, you could be exempt from the federal estate tax but still exposed to a significant state death tax hit.
On Wednesday, a group of 130 individuals — including Robert Crandall, the former chairman of American Airlines AAL, -0.61% Arnold Hiatt, former CEO of Striderite and Leo Hindery Jr., former CEO of AT&T T, -0.27% — released a letter saying estate tax is only paid by a small fraction of the wealthiest Americas. “Now during a time of stunning wealth inequality, Congress wants to abolish the tax,” Morris Pearl, chairman of the group and former managing director at BlackRock.
Don’t miss: Retiring? How to find a tax-smart state to live in
Given state-level estate taxes, however, you may want to be careful where you die. If you are considering moving to avoid state death taxes, be sure to consider all the potential tax hits in the new state, including those that will pertain while you are still alive. Finally, if you decide to move to a lower-tax state, be sure to do what it takes to establish that you are no longer a legal resident of your old higher-tax state. Otherwise, your old state may claim that you still owe taxes back there.
14 states and D.C. have their own estate taxes
The lowest maximum estate tax rates are 12% (Connecticut and Maine). The highest rate is 20% (Washington). The other states and D.C. all charge a 16% maximum rate.
For 2017, 14 states plus the District of Columbia have their own estate taxes (as opposed to inheritance taxes). Like the federal estate tax, these state-level estate taxes are based on the entire value of your estate in excess of the applicable exemption. Exemptions vary from a low of $1 million to a high of $5.49 million.
Delaware, Hawaii, and Maine have $5.49 million estate tax exemptions for 2017, which is the same as the federal exemption. New York’s exemption is $5.25 million. So in these four states, there is much less risk of unanticipated estate tax exposure. That said, wealthier folks in those states can be exposed to both federal and state estate taxes. Massachusetts, Oregon and D.C. have exemptions of only $1 million.
What Is the Public's Opinion on Tax Cuts?
Six states have inheritance taxes
For 2017, six states impose inheritance taxes, which are assessed on the value of specific inherited assets. In contrast, estate taxes are assessed on the entire value of an estate in excess of the applicable exemption. Another big difference is that inheritance taxes are paid by the person who inherits the money or property while estate taxes are paid by the deceased person’s estate before making distributions to heirs. The last big difference is that inheritance tax exemptions are zero or negligible.
Some more good news: property passing to a surviving spouse is exempt from state inheritance taxes, and only Nebraska and Pennsylvania tax inheritances passing to children and grandchildren.
Maryland and New Jersey charge both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. In both states, the inheritance tax exemption is zero and the maximum tax rate is 16% (in addition to the 16% maximum estate tax rate).
Thankfully, the federal and state tax rates are not just stacked on top of each other — because state inheritance and estate taxes are subtracted from the value of your taxable estate in calculating the federal estate tax. Despite the subtractions, you can wind up with some pretty horrific effective combined tax rates, if you add up federal and state estate taxes, and state inheritance taxes. The federal estate tax rate is a flat 40% on the value of your estate in excess of the exemption ($5.49 million for 2017).
Editor's Note: Senator Scott Wiener (of SB35 fame) is considering putting a bill for an estate tax in California if the estate tax is repealed with the Federal Government.
City pension woes hit home as shortfall hits $405 million
As the city of Palo Alto looks for ways to reduce its massive employee pension shortfall, residents might soon start feeling the impact, officials said.
City services could be reduced. Pay and benefits for city employees might be affected. And the pension gap could influence how often the city hires outside contractors to perform services.
The city doesn’t pay pension benefits for the contractors, and so outsourcing might make sense in more situations, city council members said during a meeting of the City Council Finance Committee this month.
During the meeting, City Manager Jim Keene warned council members about challenges that may arise from tackling the pension issue.
“We haven’t at all talked about the real-life realities … about implementing changes that force reallocations,” Keene said. “Even outsourcing in and of itself can be quite challenging to the community — particularly when you’re not in a crisis mode. We all just know human nature. The thing is, ‘why are you guys doing all of this? Why do I have to have a contract street sweeper? It was so much better when Public Works did it.’ There will be a hundred issues
like that, potentially.”
like that, potentially.”
The city of Palo Alto’s shortfall for covering employee pension costs shot up by nearly 20% in one year, reaching $405 million as of June 2016, according to new data that was presented to the Finance Committee.
The $405 million figure is an increase from a pension shortfall of $338 million as of June 2015 and $250 million in mid-2014, according to the projections by the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS. The new figure is close to double the amount of the city’s $210 million general-fund budget for this fiscal year.
The pension shortfall — also known as the unfunded liability — is the difference between what will be needed to pay employee pensions into the future and the amount that’s been set aside.
CalPERS determines the unfunded liability amount by estimating how much will be needed to pay for pensions of current and future retirees. Another variable is how much CalPERS will earn from investments of the money it collects. A lower rate of return means that cities will need to contribute more to cover pension costs.
CalPERS announced in December that it would start using a lower rate of return in its calculations, decreasing the rate from the current 7.5% to 7% over three years starting next fiscal year. That’s expected to cause a sizable increase in the city’s annual CalPERS payment, and will also increase the amount of the pension shortfall.
Palo Alto officials are concerned that the actual rate of return will turn out to be 6.5% or even lower. Councilman Eric Filseth, who chairs the Finance Committee, said in May that the city’s pension gap could actually be between $500 million and $800 million.
At this month’s committee meeting, Filseth said he wants to “get the numbers right” before developing strategies to reduce the pension gap. “Because once the other stuff starts, once we start on a funding strategy, even the numbers, there’s going to be a tendency to try to politicize those,” Filseth said.
Finance Committee members said this month that they want to find a way to explain the pension dilemma to the public in easy-to-understand terms. For example, the city’s payments to CalPERS thus far could be viewed as similar to making a minimum payment due on a personal credit card. The minimum payment does little toward paying off a large outstanding balance.
Councilman Greg Tanaka said when the city discusses the cost of employees, the expense of pensions should be considered as well as salaries. The pension costs should be a factor in situations such as labor negotiations and in deciding whether to contract out a job rather than have a city employee perform it, he said.
“That’s really important to have every figure for labor framed as our true cost,” Tanaka said.
The Finance Committee will continue discussing the pension issue in a series of meetings this fall, and is expected to make recommendations on how the city can approach the issue.
Chief Financial Officer Lalo Perez told council members that they could decide to “bite the bullet” and pay off a large portion of the pension gap in a short time. The question would be how such a move would impact city services, he said.
The city has been reducing pension benefits to new employees over the last several years by increasing the pension eligibility age and decreasing the amount paid.
Another issue is how much the worker pays toward their pension, Keene noted.
“The distribution of the cost between the employee and employer is not set in stone,” Keene said. “That can be renegotiated and actually, in some ways we’re behind some other jurisdictions as far as shifting more of the growth and the increasing cost to the employee.”
Editor's Note: The Marinwood Fire District receives $2.8 million in local taxes (plus funding from the State for strike team services and "insurance reimbursements" when ambulance services are rendered. CSA #19, a fire service district consisting of Santa Venetia, Los Ranchitos and Country Club pays the city of San Rafael only $1.7 million dollars to cover fire protection for a MUCH LARGER area. Marinwood Fire Department spends 2/3rds of its service time OUTSIDE of Marinwood CSD serving North San Rafael FOR ALMOST NO COMPENSATION from San Rafael.
Marinwood CSD pays more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS more for fire service and it gets used 2/3 of the time in neighboring San Rafael. We Marinwood CSD taxpayers are getting a raw deal. Of course we are proud of our fire department but the costs should be spread fairly between us and neighboring jurisdictions. We need to OUTSOURCE our fire protection just like we do with Marin County Sheriff. Our costs should ONLY reflect what is serviced in Marinwood/Lucas Valley and not subsidize protection elsewhere.
The pensions for the fire department ALONE amount to millions of dollars in liability. 2300 homeowners in Marinwood CSD cannot be expected to carry this burden alone.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Millennials want a different kind of suburban development that is smart, efficient and sustainable.
The suburbanization of America marches on. That movement includes millennials, who, as it turns out, are not a monolithic generation of suburb-hating city dwellers.
Most of that generation represents a powerful global trend. They may like the city, but they love the suburbs even more.
They are continuing to migrate to suburbs. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 25- to 29-year-olds are about a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs as vice versa; older millennials are more than twice as likely.
Their future — and that of the planet — lies on the urban peripheries. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made clear that, especially in suburbs, the United States desperately needs better drainage systems to handle the enormous amounts of rainfall expected from climate change.
They also made clear that new, sustainable suburbs can offer an advantage by expanding landscapes that can absorb water.
Housing affordability is a major driver of the appeal of suburbia, which has historically been, and still is, more affordable, especially for first-time home buyers.
Yet millennial suburbanites want a new kind of landscape. They want breathing room but disdain the energy wastefulness, visual monotony and social conformity of postwar manufactured neighborhoods. If new suburbs can hit the sweet spot that accommodates the priorities of that generation, millennial habitats will redefine everyday life for all suburbanites, which is 70 percent of Americans.
How can technology, revolutionary design and planning transform suburban living?
Climate will determine how environmental goals can be achieved in a given place: solar in the Sunbelt, say, or advanced water management in the rainy regions like the Pacific Northwest. Suburbs of the same age or size don’t share the same potential benefits or needs. Here are some ideas to shape future suburbs into smart, efficient and more sustainable places to live.
Existing suburbs were developed to maximize house and lot sizes, and some are often locked into aesthetic compliance, like mowed lawns. These communities were also built around cars. Many residential developments offer small parks or playgrounds within walking distance, but require cars to get to bigger recreation areas.
In sustainable new suburbs, house and lot sizes are smaller — in part because driveways and garages are eliminated — paving is reduced up to 50 percent and landscapes are more flexible. The plant-to-pavement ratio of today’s suburb is much higher than that of cities, but the next generation of suburbs can be even better at absorbing water.
House and open community spaces are set among teardrop-shaped one-way roads, which encourage predictable, safe separation of pedestrians and moving vehicles. New suburban developments will utilize technology like autonomous electric cars (parked at solar-powered remote lots) and smart street lighting, which minimize energy use and harmful environmental impact.
Communities will share neighborhood amenities like public access areas, drone ports for deliveries, car pull overs (a wider shoulder in the road for pickup and drop-off) rather than private driveways and open common spaces.
Businesses also like locations on urban peripheries. That dynamic is helping to reshape suburbia’s traffic patterns, since many cars avoid urban centers. As cars move to renewable energy, emissions and road noise will diminish. In the near term, we should hope to see more efficient cars and on ride sharing.
Drones at your doorstep
The use of drones will reduce the need for many car errands — and their emissions: With their unrestricted air space, suburban communities are likely to be first to receive package deliveries from the drones being tested by Amazon. They would be either hub-based, at Amazon warehouses, within 15 to 20 miles of customers, or truck-based, as with U.P.S. or Workhorse, in which a truck stops and a drone deploys. Small to medium packages — 86 percent of Amazon deliveries are under five pounds — can be handled by current drones and deliver to covered areas at doorways or at shared car pull-offs.
Cars that park themselves
In a future suburban development, a homeowner will order an autonomous car, via an app, from a remote solar-charging lot. As a car approaches, it will “talk” to a home: Lights and other utilities are activated or shut off for greater energy efficiency. Because these suburban homes will not have driveways or garages, front yards can be bigger, devoted to ecological functions or recreational activities.
A smarter landscape
The neighborhoods will be friendlier for pedestrians, with sidewalks and paths that connect to open spaces and communal areas. Before we had fenced-off backyards. In the future we’ll have common recreation spaces or vegetable gardens. Or they can be designed for shared landscape features like forest, vernal ponds or wetlands that help manage storm runoff and control flooding.
Climate change has resulted in heavier rainfall when storms do come, and there’s a need to store all of this water to prevent catastrophic urban flooding. Less pavement in suburbia means the ground absorbs more rain and snow and less storm water pours into heavily paved urban areas nearby.
Planners need to view cities, suburbs and exurbs not as discrete units but as regions, with one integrated environmental and technological system.
It’s rare that such a profound change of vision for the future is so close to being achievable. And the millennial generation, with their there’s-an-app-for-that outlook, is the one that will adopt it.
They find beauty in the utilitarian, and they know just how quickly radical technologies can change everything — including the suburb they want to call home.
Alan M. Berger is a professor of landscape architecture and urban design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-director of the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism and a co-editor of the forthcoming anthology “Infinite Suburbia.”
This article first appeared in The New York Times.
The sun has left and forgotten me
It's dark, I cannot see
Why does this rain pour down
I'm gonna drown
In a sea
Of deep confusion
Somebody told me, I don't know who
Whenever you are sad and blue
And you're feelin' all alone and left behind
Just take a look inside and you will find
You gotta hold on, hold on through the night
Hang on, things will be all right
Even when it's dark
And not a bit of sparkling
Sing-song sunshine from above
Spreading rays of sunny love
Just hang on, hang on to the vine
Stay on, soon you'll be divine
If you start to cry, look up to the sky
Something's coming up ahead
To turn your tears to dew instead
And so I hold on to his advice
When change is hard and not so nice
You listen to your heart the whole night through
Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you