Bradley Braving Council Incivility In Campaign For Upland Treasure

“Our city must get its financial house in order,” Greg Bradley said in explaining what is prompting him to seek the treasurer’s position in this year’s Upland Municipal Election.
Over the last couple of years and then peaking with the recent resignation of City Treasurer Larry Kinley, just how critical the financial situation has grown in the City of Gracious Living gradually became clearer to Bradley and a closely-knit group of residents and local business owners of which he is a part, Bradley said. The seriousness of the matter led to a determination among them that something had to be done about it.
Previously, Bradley said, he and others had been confident that the city’s finances were being competently minded by Kinley, a former vice president with the Bank of America who had overseen that bank’s problem loans division. Kinley was elected Upland treasurer in 2016. But alarmingly, when Kinley became concerned over the city’s runaway pension debt which had reached somewhere approaching $100 million around the time Kinley took office and had climbed to $121 million by the close of the 2019-20 fiscal year in June, other city officials undercut the treasurer and his function as Kinley crusaded to fix the problem as he saw it. Kinley had sought to directly address the pension cost escalation issue by informing the city’s residents about its implication, which includes the consideration that, given the current trajectory of city finances and the growth in Upland’s pension obligation, by 2028 the city will be paying its retired former employees more annually than it will be paying its working employees, requiring a serious downscaling in the municipal services the city will be able to provide to its residents. Rather than embrace Kinley’s call for reform, the city council and former city managers Marty Thouvenell, Bill Manis and Jeannette Vagnozzi and current City Manager Rosemary Hoerning denied him a place at the public meeting dais and then censored his efforts to make reference to the unfunded pension liability in the city’s monthly treasurer’s report. All four of those city managers stood to reap substantial pensions upon retirement, in most cases approaching or exceeding one of $200,000 per year. To Kinley, this was a conflict of interest on their part that he could not overcome. Ultimately frustrated at the way in which he was being thwarted by city officials who were more interested in ensuring that city employees continued to receive their lucrative pensions than seeing that adequate means existed to cover the cost of providing city services, Kinley earlier this year resigned, leaving the city without a treasurer.
Though Bradley is aware of what befell Kinley, he is not daunted by it.
“I’ve been distantly aware of issues at Upland City Hall and the growing financial crisis for some time,” Bradley said. “Due to some of my family members’ health issues, for more than a decade I was too busy to pay much attention to the city’s problems. As I was able to refocus on the city’s financial issues more recently, I realized things had declined even further. I am not a politician, so I looked for ways to help. When Larry Kinley resigned, this came to a head. Many other people and I were all putting our heads together to try to find a qualified candidate and support him or her. Finally they all started pointing at me and I realized I was ‘it.’”
In sizing up what he thinks he might be able to accomplish as treasurer, Bradley said, “Upland has traditionally provided a narrow range of duties for the treasurer. Those duties were further limited when Larry Kinley tried to warn of imminent disaster. If I am elected and the new city council and city manager continue that limitation, I will have a tough time doing much, but I will do what I can. I will have a title that may allow my warnings of financial conditions to be taken more seriously and I may be able to help with information. If the duties are restored, I will be able to do more. If the duties are expanded to match those of the treasurer in some other cities, I will be able to do even more, still.”
In considering what his qualifications are and what distinguishes him from Stephen Dunn and Darwin Cruz, the two others seeking the treasurer’s position in Upland, Bradley said he is capable of intense focus on making a company, collective or institution function within the confines of its financial means and conducting itself responsibly based upon its fiscal reach.
“I am a total nerd in basic personality, but have started to become more vocal in my old age due to becoming irritated with the condition of my beloved city,” he said. “I was the 10-year-old kid reading encyclopedias from cover to cover. I skipped grades and went to one of the best prep schools in the country. I was the youngest nerd in a school full of nerds from all over the world. I learned to deal with lots of people who were very different from me. I was in college at 15. I was accepted to several of the best universities, but went to Cal Poly so I could work in my business ventures while attending. While others were out partying, I figured out ways to make money and bought a house and a new Jaguar at 19 that I still own. I was partially retired at 30 and spent the 1980s with a nice house on 20th Street but spent winters skiing at my house in Park City and summers at my house on Admiralty Island. I’m not a plodder who’s main asset is the other people in public office who were his buddies in community college. I believe in producing something and getting things done. I have a wide variety of friends in various fields whom we refer to as our brain trust. I have experience in building businesses and recovering businesses that many consider beyond saving.”
Bradley enumerated what he considered to be the major financial issues facing the city.
“The California Public Employees Retirement System needs to have a plan on how to deal with its unfunded actuarial pension liability,” he said. “The city has already started investigating the details of issuing pension bonds, which is great. The city will likely want to make a decision on if we should move forward on that. We will then have more current information on the financial environment that may be heavily affected by the results of the national election.”
Bradley said, “We need to stop digging a bigger hole on the California Public Employees Retirement System’s unfunded actuarial pension liability.”
He said, “We need to work on ways to bring more money into the city and minimize any downsides from those actions.”
In addition, he said, “We need to improve the efficiency of certain operations in order to use the money available from the savings we can realize by doing that.”
He observed, “There is much deferred maintenance on infrastructure. We need to start working on that. We need to prioritize District 3 and District 4, as they have been lower on the priority list and deserve to be on the top for a while.”
Bradley said he was acutely aware of what the lines of authority are at City Hall and that the treasurer does not have a vote with regard to policy as does the city council, but is rather a watchdog over the city’s financial affairs. He said it was therefore unrealistic for the treasurer to attempt to dictate policy, but that if elected he would instead seek to influence the council by offering quiet counsel that is well considered and thought through and based upon confirmed facts.
“If someone tries to convince me I should listen to him, I become suspicious of his motivation,” Bradley said. “Salesmen sell. I work quietly and let people learn that my statements are carefully considered and worth hearing. My consulting business has had an unlisted phone number for 30 years. I do not make quick statements and hope to be right more often than wrong. Any recommendations I make would need to be considered carefully. I won’t gamble with my city and hope for the best. We have far too many politicians who just say something they think will be popular and hope to be right or bury it in the next news cycle. We are going to have to make some tough choices to make it through the next few years and we need to make sure the public understands the full reality in order to make the best choice.”
The city is facing an unforgiving financial reality, Bradley said, and is in need of someone with the fiscal discipline to see it through these tough times.
“We have some work to do to make things better,” Bradley said. “The city has tried to further limit the duties of the treasurer, which are already far more limited than most people realize. Once those limitations are determined, I will be the one who collects facts and opinions, adds my own, and presents a recommendation. If Upland is to remain solvent and maintain a basic level of services including public safety, infrastructure upgrades, and community services, the city must find new revenue streams. Since the city generates revenue through fees, property taxes, and sales tax, the logical and most equitable course of action is to place a sales tax increase on the next ballot for the voters. However, before this happens, the city must undertake a sincere effort to educate the community on why the sales tax increase is needed and how it will be used by the city to support services. The residents must have reassurance and trust that the city will use the sales tax revenue to enhance city services and not to pay unfunded pension obligations.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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