Cobra's 2021 Election Campaign

Easy_C

Peacock
Well, I may be getting pulled in that direction myself. I went to a local party Christmas event and...letting out just a little bit of the fire...just enough to stand out slightly was enough to get some people saying I should be on the party committee.

If I actually do manage to get some good allies the plan is to go on the warpath and purge every corrupt and dishonest local party official...and right now there the will to do that from a lot of important people in town.
 

paninaro

Pelican
Anyone know much about School District Tax levies? I find it difficult to grasp that property values are rising in the wake of this school district disaster. Anyways, the district is asking for more money due to these rising values. I just take it as a 'timing" issue meaning that the effects of declining school quality will be felt in the long run as far as property values.

I would appreciate anyone poking holes in this. Districts don't seem to need anything to justify asking for more money except an approved Budget which is approved by Boards that can't manage their money well.

Property values are rising because money is cheap due to low interest rates, so there's a lot of demand (buyers) and not a lot of inventory. Also remember a lot of buyers don't care about the schools and their quality. If you're a retired couple, or a 40 year old spinster, the schools don't concern you (unless the schools start educating the spinster's many cats!).

But... look into this: how often are property values actually adjusted (reassessed)? Where I am, they do it every 3 years, so 1/3 of properties are done each year. Crucially they do not reassess any sooner. So even if you sold your house earlier this year for double what it's worth, that's not reflected in the assessment until it's your year for re-assessment. Not all places do it this way. Ask your property tax office.

In other words, while prices have been rising a lot this year, it may not necessarily be reflected in tax revenues until a few years later, depending on how they do assessments.

Also most school districts ask for more than they expect each year, so when they are told to cut 5% from their budget before it will be approved, that's easy to do. It's a negotiating tactic.
 

perros

 
Banned
Good for you Cobra. I just ran in November 2020 for County Board in my town as well and won barely by 70 votes or so. This being a Republican/Conservative town mind you and running as a progressive. It was tough, but I hung in there and piled through it.

Some words of advice, there is going to be a lot of people in your ear about what to do and what not to do. Always lead with integrity and what you believe in.

Is your race partisan or non-partisan?

Also, in local elections, name recognition is everything. You mention that you are not involved much in the community, try to join as many organizations as possible, and try to get your name out there as much as possible. Social media is good, but remember that the majority of people who vote are seniors who don't do social media all that much so you have to be careful about what you put on social media as it can rub that demographic the wrong way. My opponent was very vocal on social media and pissed many older folks off by some of the things she was saying and lost by over 700 votes. So be very careful about what you put on social media. I kept it simple on my facebook and twitter page and just focused on name recognition "Vote for Perros" and if I wanted to write an opinion I had about an issue I would do it respectfully in the local paper which is what many older folks read still. Keep it classy and respectful all around. Those are some of the things I learned as I was running for office. I basically ran my campaign like Joe Biden, wasn't too vocal, kept it short and sweet and not ruffle feathers or rock the boat, and let my opponent self destruct by going crazy on social media. The crowd I was trying to please were older folks, so my strategy worked for them. It really depends on the crowd you are going after.
 
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Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
Good for you Cobra. I just ran in November 2020 for County Board in my town as well and won barely by 70 votes or so. This being a Republican/Conservative town mind you and running as a progressive. It was tough, but I hung in there and piled through it.

Some words of advice, there is going to be a lot of people in your ear about what to do and what not to do. Always lead with integrity and what you believe in.

Is your race partisan or non-partisan?

Also, in local elections, name recognition is everything. You mention that you are not involved much in the community, try to join as many organizations as possible, and try to get your name out there as much as possible. Social media is good, but remember that the majority of people who vote are seniors who don't do social media all that much so you have to be careful about what you put on social media as it can rub that demographic the wrong way. My opponent was very vocal on social media and pissed many older folks off by some of the things she was saying and lost by over 700 votes. So be very careful about what you put on social media. I kept it simple on my facebook and twitter page and just focused on name recognition "Vote for Perros" and if I wanted to write an opinion I had about an issue I would do it respectfully in the local paper which is what many older folks read still. Keep it classy and respectful all around. Those are some of the things I learned as I was running for office. I basically ran my campaign like Joe Biden, wasn't too vocal, kept it short and sweet and not ruffle feathers or rock the boat, and let my opponent self destruct by going crazy on social media. The crowd I was trying to please were older folks, so my strategy worked for them. It really depends on the crowd you are going after.

This race is non-partisan.

I appreciated your breakdown on how you pursued your voters! I honestly have started purging much of my social media. I was very vocal there but no longer. As far as voters, this part is interesting. When you say County Board elections, I'm assuming this is a consolidated election like mine? Also, is it usually a known fact that it's mostly older people that vote in these? I guess I'm trying to find out what voter demographics are in these elections in my own town. I'm assuming they are not that different from yours. Given parents, including me haven't voted in these elections in the past, those demographics make sense. That said, MANY more parents are paying attention this time around and likely will become the "silent" voters. I'm trying to figure out the extent to which these folks need to be targeted versus the older "usual" voters. Thank you again for clarifying this aspect.
 

Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
Does anyone here understand School District bond financing and refinancing at a somewhat deep enough level?

For example, I wonder how, after a cursory search on Google, I find that some School Districts managed to refinance their bonds at the recent low COVID-19 interest rates while others just kept going. The refinancing are saving $2 - 5 million per district at the very least.

Yes, of course there are limits to how much debt a school district can take on but that doesn't seem like the reason many haven't refinanced. Am I missing some restriction or impediment to seeking a refinance other than pure laziness?
 

Thomas More

Hummingbird
Does anyone here understand School District bond financing and refinancing at a somewhat deep enough level?

For example, I wonder how, after a cursory search on Google, I find that some School Districts managed to refinance their bonds at the recent low COVID-19 interest rates while others just kept going. The refinancing are saving $2 - 5 million per district at the very least.

Yes, of course there are limits to how much debt a school district can take on but that doesn't seem like the reason many haven't refinanced. Am I missing some restriction or impediment to seeking a refinance other than pure laziness?
They may need a referendum to issue new bonds, even if the purpose is to pay off old, higher interest bonds
 

Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
Me thinks thou underestimateth the level of incompetence

I'm afraid you're probably right. I'm a benefit of the doubt kind of guy but that is changing rapidly as I learn more in this situation.

They may need a referendum to issue new bonds, even if the purpose is to pay off old, higher interest bonds

You are absolutely right. I confirmed that a referendum is needed. Then the question becomes, why didn't they put one out. I know referendums are administrative burdens but in the interest of refinancing for some cheap rates, who wouldn't vote for it?

Hopefully I don't lose my shit with these people.
 

paninaro

Pelican
A school district bond (which is basically a muni bond) is like asking investors for $100 now, and we'll pay you back $11/year for the next 10 years (just an example). The investor is assuming a steady cashflow -- some people invest for just that reason, especially since muni bonds are often tax-free, at least at the state level.

So what's a refinance? Well you can't go to the existing investors and say, "Hey, guess what, now I'm going to pay you $10.50/year back instead of $11/year." That's breaking the terms of the contract and why would they say yes. Instead, you get a bank to issue you new debt to cover your remaining years of payments at $11/year. Where you save money is on the NPV (net present value) since you're financing that number. In short, due to inflation, $11 today buys more than $11 will 5 years from now. So how much is your $11 payment in 2025 worth if you were to pay it now? Maybe $10.50. So if you have 5 years of $11 payments remaining ($11 x 5 = $55), in today's money that may cost only $52. They'll sell you $52 of debt and charge you $1 (over 5 years) for the pleasure of doing so, so your cost is $53 ($52 currently + $0.20/year over 5 years) compared to $55 over 5 years. In banker's terms, it's a cashflow or rate swap.

But... the terms a new lender imposes may make this impossible. Maybe the county the school is in has had their government debt rating lowered -- this is pretty likely as tax revenues are down due to unemployment from this pandemic and imagine all those businesses that were forced to close -- not much sales tax revenue coming in from a restaurant that isn't allowed to be open or can only open a few hours a day and to take-out only . Now the cost of money is going to make it too high to be worth refinancing (even if the rate is slightly better, you have refinance fees).

To put it in simpler terms, imagine you have a mortgage on your house you got 5 years ago at 5%. Now the rates are 3%, however you lost your job this year. The bank either won't write you a new loan, or will ask a premium on top of the 3%, so it may not be worth refinancing.

Now, this is all assuming the school district did look into refinancing, and ran into an issue like the above. Maybe they just didn't look, or maybe it requires voter approval and that's a long process. You could email the comptroller/CFO and ask. They are usually rank-and-file bureaucrats and not board-appointed like the superintendent, and often will reply just because they are happy someone is taking an interest in their work.
 

Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
A school district bond (which is basically a muni bond) is like asking investors for $100 now, and we'll pay you back $11/year for the next 10 years (just an example). The investor is assuming a steady cashflow -- some people invest for just that reason, especially since muni bonds are often tax-free, at least at the state level.

So what's a refinance? Well you can't go to the existing investors and say, "Hey, guess what, now I'm going to pay you $10.50/year back instead of $11/year." That's breaking the terms of the contract and why would they say yes. Instead, you get a bank to issue you new debt to cover your remaining years of payments at $11/year. Where you save money is on the NPV (net present value) since you're financing that number. In short, due to inflation, $11 today buys more than $11 will 5 years from now. So how much is your $11 payment in 2025 worth if you were to pay it now? Maybe $10.50. So if you have 5 years of $11 payments remaining ($11 x 5 = $55), in today's money that may cost only $52. They'll sell you $52 of debt and charge you $1 (over 5 years) for the pleasure of doing so, so your cost is $53 ($52 currently + $0.20/year over 5 years) compared to $55 over 5 years. In banker's terms, it's a cashflow or rate swap.

But... the terms a new lender imposes may make this impossible. Maybe the county the school is in has had their government debt rating lowered -- this is pretty likely as tax revenues are down due to unemployment from this pandemic and imagine all those businesses that were forced to close -- not much sales tax revenue coming in from a restaurant that isn't allowed to be open or can only open a few hours a day and to take-out only . Now the cost of money is going to make it too high to be worth refinancing (even if the rate is slightly better, you have refinance fees).

To put it in simpler terms, imagine you have a mortgage on your house you got 5 years ago at 5%. Now the rates are 3%, however you lost your job this year. The bank either won't write you a new loan, or will ask a premium on top of the 3%, so it may not be worth refinancing.

Now, this is all assuming the school district did look into refinancing, and ran into an issue like the above. Maybe they just didn't look, or maybe it requires voter approval and that's a long process. You could email the comptroller/CFO and ask. They are usually rank-and-file bureaucrats and not board-appointed like the superintendent, and often will reply just because they are happy someone is taking an interest in their work.

This is awesome. I appreciate the continued clarity @paninaro !

I'm not wholly familiar with government Bond Debt like this and am admittedly still learning. I maybe thought that a new round of Bonds can be issued and resulting in proceeds that could be used to "pay off" existing Bonds. However, I just realized that the holders of those Bonds would not want to sell them (unlike Bank Debt which can be paid off any time). I'm a lot more familiar with lender/Bank debt structures and just converged this aspect in some way. Correct me if I'm wrong..

So the "rate swap" method you mentioned is what remains. On that note, our Bond rating has increased and our EAV has gone up resulting in an increased Tax Levy request for next year from the School District. It is possible they waited for this EAV assessment to look into Bonds but I don't understand why they couldn't have looked into it earlier.

Edit: I did email the Controller. I'll see what he says.
 

Thomas More

Hummingbird
Even if a district went for a refi, they would have an overwhelming tendency to use it as an opportunity to borrow extra, and find something to spend it on. Usually a lot more. There's no political support for the referendum drive unless every stakeholder faction gets a taste of that sweet, sweet cash from the new bond issue.

It's no different from the way a home owner using a home equity loan to pay credit cards will borrow extra for a car, or a vacation, or a huge, poorly thought out addition to their house (better yet, all three).
 
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Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
Even if a district went for a refi, they would have an overwhelming tendency to use it as an opportunity to borrow extra, and find something to spend it on. Usually a lot more. There's no political support for the referendum drive unless every stakeholder faction gets a taste of that sweet, sweet cash from the new bond issue.

It's no different from the way a home owner using a home equity loan to pay credit cards will borrow extra for a car, or a vacation, or a huge, poorly thought out addition to their house (better yet, all three).

I have been trying to come to grips with this. The cognitive dissonance between getting more money to pay for stuff and straight up getting money to reduce interest is just appalling. Tax payers get more of their money allocated to debt service costs and no one bats an eyelid. Anyways, maybe there is a way to spin this into a goal but not even sure.

Update on things:

The union already knows my name. I heard they published it in their internal secret newsletter.

There is a forum coming soon that I need to prepare for. I've never done this in a live setting.
 
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paninaro

Pelican
I'm not wholly familiar with government Bond Debt like this and am admittedly still learning. I maybe thought that a new round of Bonds can be issued and resulting in proceeds that could be used to "pay off" existing Bonds. However, I just realized that the holders of those Bonds would not want to sell them (unlike Bank Debt which can be paid off any time). I'm a lot more familiar with lender/Bank debt structures and just converged this aspect in some way. Correct me if I'm wrong..

In short, home mortgages and consumer loans (like a car loan) have a lot more flexibility than corporate or municipal debt. You can pay extra on your monthly payment on your mortgage, and that reduces principal (something I recommend, and something I do). I volunteer at a non-profit and they have a typical commercial loan -- they are not allowed to pay any extra or anything early without huge fees and penalties. Actually, we looked at refinancing a loan they got 3 years ago, since rates are lower now, but you add in the penalties and finance fees and it's not worth it in their case.

But... at this point if your goal is to win the election, then don't waste your time going down this rabbit hole. Wait until you win to go into this kind of thing. Refinancing debt is not a hot topic with voters -- it's too arcane and abstract. Your message should be simple, like "reopen schools safely" or something like that.

You have limited time and resources, and the clock is ticking as the election is a few months away. Spend your time wisely towards achieving your goal of getting elected.
 

EndlessGravity

Pelican
Protestant
at this point if your goal is to win the election, then don't waste your time going down this rabbit hole.

To add to this: although most politicians takes this to a gross extreme, don't get bogged down in the details or pinned down too hard. An election isn't necessarily the time for that. I'm not saying don't have plans or don't discuss them. Just be careful to identify which rabbit holes matter. The public votes for the man, not necessarily the plan.
 

Papaya

Peacock
Gold Member
Cobra

You should run as a registered Democrat then vote for sensible policies. They have RINOs. It's time for the right to play by the subversive rules with DINOs

In fact we can all play. I'll register as a democrat even though I don't live in your district and vote for you as many times as necessary

I won't bang an ugly pan face Chinese spy for you though. Some lines I can't cross
 

Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
In short, home mortgages and consumer loans (like a car loan) have a lot more flexibility than corporate or municipal debt. You can pay extra on your monthly payment on your mortgage, and that reduces principal (something I recommend, and something I do). I volunteer at a non-profit and they have a typical commercial loan -- they are not allowed to pay any extra or anything early without huge fees and penalties. Actually, we looked at refinancing a loan they got 3 years ago, since rates are lower now, but you add in the penalties and finance fees and it's not worth it in their case.

But... at this point if your goal is to win the election, then don't waste your time going down this rabbit hole. Wait until you win to go into this kind of thing. Refinancing debt is not a hot topic with voters -- it's too arcane and abstract. Your message should be simple, like "reopen schools safely" or something like that.

You have limited time and resources, and the clock is ticking as the election is a few months away. Spend your time wisely towards achieving your goal of getting elected.

Again, I cannot tell you how insightful your advice and insight has been. I'm not going down this rabbit hole any more. The issue is that people like me don't understand how deep these rabbit holes like this go. So your suggestion is well received. This is again why my support system, here included, has been so effective.

I need to come up with something simpler that focuses on budget responsibility. For example the Superintendent's contract provides for no accountability for the budget except simply presenting it to the Board. Not sure how it is everywhere else but this seems a bit unaccountable.

I'll be speaking with a nearby district's head of Finance in a bit. I'll see what she says too.

To add to this: although most politicians takes this to a gross extreme, don't get bogged down in the details or pinned down too hard. An election isn't necessarily the time for that. I'm not saying don't have plans or don't discuss them. Just be careful to identify which rabbit holes matter. The public votes for the man, not necessarily the plan.

Yes! This has been a good lesson in distilling and simplifying my message.

* Giving parents a choice
* Opening safely
* Children first
* Give Parents a voice

Here's a challenge. This is now! Meaning that in the next few weeks there is a possibility that things may change and the schools will reopen. In that case the message, in turn will need a change.

Challenge is that the nearby School districts, by reopening earlier have gone through the associated challenges and adjusted themselves. I don't believe that our Administration is fully capable of handling that challenge effectively.
 

paninaro

Pelican
Remember, focus, focus, focus. Budget responsibility is great, but the majority of voters just don't care about it (too complex or boring) and it doesn't draw them in. Also think through any of your "parents" slogans carefully. You can pull census data and related statistics for your area, but I'd guess only around 30% of adults have children in the school system currently. Then among people who vote, especially in off-year elections, it's probably even lower as those voters tend to be older i.e. retirement age.

You do face a challenge if you run on an "open schools safely" pitch if schools end up opening before the election. The thing is, I bet that's the thing most voters, both those with and without kids, care about -- opening schools. Even those without kids have noticed how their coworkers with kids are slacking due to being forced to play teacher at home and so on. It's a hot-button topic and one that really draws people in and could win you the election.

Can you get some inside info on this one? For example, Board of Ed meetings must be noticed so you can see when they will meet. I'm guessing if they meet monthly, there are only 3-4 meetings until the election. Those are the only opportunities for the schools to open, since they probably need to vote on it. Even if they vote yes, that doesn't mean schools will open the next day. Lots of preparation is needed.

What I did last summer when I was trying to figure out if the schools in my area would open was to drive by them during the weekday and look for work trucks. The school system admitted they needed to install hand sanitizer stations outside each classroom and upgrade HVAC systems. That's more than a one-day project. Another thing is they wanted to upgrade buses to add a plexiglass partition between the driver and the passengers. Well, if you know where the bus yard is, walk up and take a look. If they aren't in yet.. well you can estimate how long it would take to install them on a fleet of buses, assuming your school district has deemed these necessary.

A lot of that preparation requires extra funding, which the Board of Ed must approve. Check the meeting minutes and agenda from earlier this year. Did they approve a supplemental or emergency budget allocation for this purpose? Did they fund buying PPE for all the teachers?

I bet if you're friendly with a principal or the janitor at your local school, you can find out a lot about the preparations that have taken place so far. That'll give you some insight about if they are really ready to open or not.
 

Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
Saw this on twitter and thought about you brother Cobra.


Thanks brother. That tweet is offline now but I saw it before.

Chicago Teacher's union protested today and many didn't come back to work to teach. If this goes further south, our union may take an example and head in the same direction unfortunately.
 

Cobra

Hummingbird
Gold Member
Remember, focus, focus, focus. Budget responsibility is great, but the majority of voters just don't care about it (too complex or boring) and it doesn't draw them in. Also think through any of your "parents" slogans carefully. You can pull census data and related statistics for your area, but I'd guess only around 30% of adults have children in the school system currently. Then among people who vote, especially in off-year elections, it's probably even lower as those voters tend to be older i.e. retirement age.

You do face a challenge if you run on an "open schools safely" pitch if schools end up opening before the election. The thing is, I bet that's the thing most voters, both those with and without kids, care about -- opening schools. Even those without kids have noticed how their coworkers with kids are slacking due to being forced to play teacher at home and so on. It's a hot-button topic and one that really draws people in and could win you the election.

Can you get some inside info on this one? For example, Board of Ed meetings must be noticed so you can see when they will meet. I'm guessing if they meet monthly, there are only 3-4 meetings until the election. Those are the only opportunities for the schools to open, since they probably need to vote on it. Even if they vote yes, that doesn't mean schools will open the next day. Lots of preparation is needed.

What I did last summer when I was trying to figure out if the schools in my area would open was to drive by them during the weekday and look for work trucks. The school system admitted they needed to install hand sanitizer stations outside each classroom and upgrade HVAC systems. That's more than a one-day project. Another thing is they wanted to upgrade buses to add a plexiglass partition between the driver and the passengers. Well, if you know where the bus yard is, walk up and take a look. If they aren't in yet.. well you can estimate how long it would take to install them on a fleet of buses, assuming your school district has deemed these necessary.

A lot of that preparation requires extra funding, which the Board of Ed must approve. Check the meeting minutes and agenda from earlier this year. Did they approve a supplemental or emergency budget allocation for this purpose? Did they fund buying PPE for all the teachers?

I bet if you're friendly with a principal or the janitor at your local school, you can find out a lot about the preparations that have taken place so far. That'll give you some insight about if they are really ready to open or not.

Yep, stopped jumping down the Budget rabbithole. I understand school budgets well enough now to stay away from making it a big part of my platform.

I have some inside information from the Union. They seemed to think last week that the district will likely announce reopening plans soon. However, the Chicago teacher's union has vehemently opposed their teachers coming back today and many stayed home in protest. The reverberation may affect us. I'm not sure. Also, they seemed to have spent a few million dollars on PPE, months ago, and have installed some direction stickers, plexiglass etc. in at least some buildings. However, it's just been sitting there.

***

Update : The group will have a kickoff meeting soon for the campaign. From what I can tell, yard signs do very little. However, mailers received right before the election could do the trick. I've also heard suggestions to use social media ads, texts etc. We are also putting together a database of people that signed our petitions and enlist their help in obtaining support.

I also really need to get a PAC started soon. My state has some specific filing requirements but only if it reaches certain limits. IRS has certain filing benchmarks as well. I heard it's a pain to get a bank to open one of these. We're looking for a treasurer to keep track of it all and getting volunteers to do things can be challenging. Some funds will be used for the candidates' campaigns but others for lawsuits etc. If anyone can offer clarity on PACs, would appreciate.

We'll also start having certain events where I'll be expected to speak at least to a crowd. That'll be challenging but I think I can handle it. The driveway that I did it at last time was 15 - 20 people. That number will go up. I'm also expected to speak in a live forum that's right around the corner. I'll need to sound informed and confident at the same time.

One of the key questions I've been asking myself is communication etc. I've been fairly "scorched earth" previously on social media, especially facebook, and I have taken certain people with opposing views on the brink. My whole family knows my leanings. That said, as of a week ago, I've deleted a lot of my posts and cleaned up my facebook. There are still some posts that fall in the patriotic category but nothing crazy. I haven't formally announced that I'm running but once I do, my social media will be under scrutiny. I want to be able to post my thoughts honestly and directly but I'm finding that very difficult these days. I'll do it at home and in groups of close friends but not elsewhere.

I did send an information request to the school to understand the amounts we spend for instructional (classroom) versus non-instructional (food, IT, support staff etc.) functions. I got a call from the Administration official who handles those requests. Nice conversation. He appreciated my inquiries and trying to understand the operations of the district. He mentioned that many Board members have no idea and don't try to learn before the election, and hence spend the first 6+ months understanding basic fundamentals. He may have been blowing smoke but it made sense.

Anyways, stay tuned..

There is local media that will likely start reporting on me and other candidates soon. I'm not exactly sure how to prepare for this but it shouldn't be too bad.
 
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