Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Harvey's Time Bomb Blows Up on Antar

Harvey Johnson's ticking time bomb finally blew up.  Mayor Johnson loved to brag how he was able to balance his budget without raising taxes or laying off any employees despite enduring the Great Recession.  Unfortunately for Mayor Lumumba and Jackson itself, Mr. Johnson did so with crazy bond deals that paid a great deal of cash up front - and stuck later administrations with the bill.

Mayor Lumumba announced in his budget presentation last week that Jackson's debt service will increase 38% next year.   Look at the GOB 2010 series bonds in the image posted below.   The annual payment is $992,087.  However, the payment skyrockets to $4,200,954 next year - an increase of $3,208,067.

Click on image to enlarge
What happened? How did Jackson wind up in such a bind?  It's very simple.  A disgraced financial advisor, Porter Bingham, smooth-talked Mayor Johnson and the City Council into restructuring some bonds.  He promised a bunch of cash to line their pockets - while lining his own with some nice fees, of course.  Some future Mayor would have to worry about actually paying for them.  Let the good times roll and roll they did as Mr. Bingham and Harvey's crew all went to a nice Jackson restaurant to celebrate when the deal closed.  The wine flowed freely that night. 

Think of this bond deal as a cash-out refinance of a house with a sub-prime ARM.  The homeowner gets $100,000 cash when the loan closes.  He can spend the money fixing up the house, buying a new car, going on a nice vacation, or anything else his heart desires.  He will pay an interest rate of 4% for a few years.  However, the rate will jump up to 12% after eight years.  Suddenly his mortgage payments double or even triple as he gets killed by a sudden jump in interest rates.*  His income didn't increase but his bills did and that is how you got the Great Recession of 2008.   Jackson's bond "restructuring operated in the same manner.

The Clarion-Ledger reported in June 2010:

" The city is anticipating a $9.8 million shortfall. The council took a step Monday to help plug that hole by voting 5-1 to restructure $25 million of the city's bond debt. Johnson told council members the city could see $5.4 million in savings with the deal. The deal stretches out some of the city's debt over more years. The gross cost of the deal to taxpayers is $10.8 million, but city officials peg the present value cost - a calculation that measures the value of the deal over time - at $1.3 million.

Despite the long-term cost, Johnson said it is the only way to get cash now to help balance the budget until the economy improves. "Is it ideal? No, but we are not in an ideal situation right now," he said. City officials are contemplating further cuts to make up the rest of the $9.8 million.

Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill, who voted against the plan, said he is concerned about the increased debt it places on the city a decade from now. Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon spoke for the majority by saying she expected revenue from growth downtown will allow the city to shoulder the debt. "I don't think we really have a choice," she said."
The schedule posted below spells out what was wrong with this deal.


Check out the fourth column in the schedule posted above.  Jackson got $5.5 million in 2011-2013.  Those years just happened to coincide with the term of the Harvey Johnson administration.  The payment to Jackson fell to $1.9 million in 2014.  However, the swing from Jackson getting money to Jackson paying money took place in 2015 as Jackson had to make an annual payment of $957,675 for four years.  The payments jump to $4.5 million per year for five years and finally end with a payment of $6 million (Mayor Lumumba's debt service schedule didn't provide the six million dollar payment for 2024.) 

  The schedule posted above is a projected schedule and not the payments that were actually made.  However, the numbers won't differ that much as one gets the idea of what was going on in this fiasco.  JJ warned what would happen if this bond deal stood. JJ reported on June 18, 2010:

Unfortunately for Jackson, the city council was given very little time to consider this matter. Rick Hill was supposed to bring this presentation to the work session Monday. Didn't happen. It was given to the council members less than a half hour before the regular meeting Tuesday. Our city council thus had only a few minutes to study the strengths and weaknesses on a TWENTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLAR LOAN!!! What exactly are the details of this refinance? Here ya go:

1. The city faces a $9.8 million deficit for fiscal year 2011.
2. Here is a breakdown of the fees:
Baker Donelson (Anthony Simon): Bond Counsel. $150,000
Malachi: Financial Advisor. $80,000
Rice Financial Products: Underwriters $5.50 price discount per bond ($140,000).
Tony Gaylor, Betty Mallet: Underwriter's Counsel. $95,000.
3. Malachi projects upfront savings of $5,520,779 for FY 2011.

It should be mentioned that nothing was opened up for bidding. Jackson might have been able to get lower fees, lower interest rates, or better terms but it will never know because it didn't ask.

Page 14 is where the devil appears. Jackson will have borrow $26,544,903 in general obligation bonds. However, read the savings column in the table posted above. Jackson will save half a million dollars a year for several years. Unfortunately, Jackson will start paying nearly a million dollars a year for four years. Then it will pay nearly $2 million and then around $4.5 million a year for four years and finally $6 million for the final year. Net cost IS $10,829,286. You read that right. For a few million dollars now, Jackson will PAY nearly ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS down the road.

 Its not unreasonable for council members to have problems understanding this stuff. Retired cops, school principals, loudmouths, and even lawyers have problems comprehending bond deals. However, they should have at least tabled the proposal so they could study it for a week or call in an independent adviser whose fee did not depend on whether a deal was closed. Even more disturbing is a councilwoman stating she hopes the downtown projects pay off. Hopes? What happens if they don't, Mrs. Barrett-Simon? Where are you going to come up with the five or six million a year to pay off the interest on these bonds? Page 17 states the old principal amount was $23,575,000 with interest costs of $2,969,903. Jackson will thus pay an extra eight million dollars in interest just to save some money this year while city council members hope "expected revenue" from unfinished projects will materialize.
Ah, the Bond Pimps were involved in this deal as well.  Tony Stovall was the point man at Rice for this deal.  Tony Gaylor usually comes in with legal services on these deals and did so this time.  The SEC banned Mr. Bingham and his company, Malachi Financial Products, for life from participating in municipal bonds and suspended Mr. Stovall for six months for their rape of Rolling Fork.  Earlier post on SEC ban of Bingham. 

The question is how many more ticking bond bombs are set to go off around Missisisppi, thanks to these guys.  Unfortunately for Mayor Lumumba,  this bomb went off on his watch and now he has to pay Harvey's bill.  

Kingfish note:JJ attempted to obtain comment from the Lumumba administration but was unsuccessful in doing so. 





What's funny is someone will get mad because I called these thieves "bond pimps" yet never once get mad about how they actually ripped off Jackson. 


*The numbers used in the example were created from scratch and are not the figures used in the actual bond deal.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Next.

Anonymous said...

"Margaret Barrett-Simon spoke for the majority by saying she expected revenue from growth downtown will allow the city to shoulder the debt." HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

"Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come truuuuuue...."
- Steven Tyler

Anonymous said...

Crooks passing on a dirty dead to another bunch of crooks. I bet Harvey made a few bucks.

Anonymous said...

Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, said at the press conference that he has seen figures showing that, with all the residential development downtown in the form of loft apartments and condos, that in 10 years there could be as many as 25,000 people living downtown, tripling traffic on Pearl Street and Pascagoula Street.

-- Mississippi Business Journal
-- March 3, 2008

Anonymous said...

Sick of always hearing how the citizens are always getting screwed, AND YET, these citizens keep voting these guys who screw them into office. UNTIL, the citizens wake up. They get what they deserve! Glad I moved out 4 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 9 cometh. Baked in the cake already.

Anonymous said...

Birmingham did the exact same thing.....but with 5,000,000,000 worth of debt.

The city had to file for bankruptcy.

Jackson got fleeced for a much smaller sum and probably cannot file for bankruptcy. The city will be required to raise property taxes and all fees and charges to pay this back. So if you pay $4,000 a year in property taxes now.....look to pay $8,000 shortly.

That sound you hear is the value of NE Jackson real estate swirling down the drain.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Harvey floated general obligation bonds on the backs of Jacksonians to build the red ink gulping Convention Center even though during the campaign running up to the election to approve the public was told that the funding mechanism would be revenue bonds. The bait and switch was never communicated to the public.

Anonymous said...

Remember.....The only job Harvey had in his prior life was as a grant writer/applicant. He was a master as shakedown, getting ahold of other prople's money and grinning. Wait....also on boarding the tour bus traveling around Jackson. The man was a genius, said nobody ever.

Anonymous said...

Gosh. It's almost like those that get into politics do so to stoke their own egos, line their pockets and those of their cronies, and take every thing they can from those they claim to serve. No matter the color of the politician, all they seem to see is green...for themselves.

Anonymous said...

On a relative scale I wonder how the Johnson bond debacle will stack up against the continuing 'easy money' from the Fed that has inflated the equities of many Americans, especially the well to do. The current administration admonished the Fed's generosity during B.O.'s reign but now Mr Trump demands that the Fed keep the easy money flowing. Everyone needs to refurnish their homes with zero% financing for 7 years and a new Lexus also financed at zero% to take a vacation and celebrate.

Jackson's former mayor left the city quite a financial hill to climb but the Fed has been financing the White House's grand standing in the face of depression since Bush II. If Mr Lumumba can just shuffle and side step for a while his problems will be swallowed by the greater scam in Washington.

Albert Schweitzer said...

"
Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill, who voted against the plan, said he is concerned about the increased debt it places on the city a decade from now. "

Jeff Weill made a great councilman, and is making a great judge.
His worth to our community is about ten thousand times that of his current replacement. We need a thousand more like Mr. Weill and a thousand less of the replacement types.

Anonymous said...

They stupidly believed all that creative class garbage.

Kingfish said...

You can thank Weill for this post. he gave me all the bond documents for this deal that were given to the city council when I asked for them. That includes the schedule posted above. He also fought against the interest rate swap that SOR and her cronies tried to pull at the end of the second Melton administration. Managed to get it killed.

Meanwhile, when I asked Whitwell for similar documents when bond deals came before the council, he never would give them to me and voted for every one of them.

Anonymous said...

There is another simple solution, just quit paying the bond principal and interest. What does Jackson have to lose? By the way, who or what entities bought these bonds? I know I would hate to be a trust officer having to explain why I thought these bonds were viable investments. It appears to late to "kick the can down the road"again.

Anonymous said...

The state should've taken over Jackson and the Jackson public schools a long time ago.

Harvey Hater said...

Serious question: has any single person done more to harm the City of Jackson than Harvey Johnson?

This terrible bond deal was implemented under his watch.

He completely whiffed on the Mbraves stadium, which could have actually revitalized downtown (see: Chattanooga; Montgomery, AL; Memphis; Birmingham).

He completely stopped repaving of streets and switched to a patching-only plan that is responsible in part for the abhorrent condition of our streets today (there is a good Northside Sun article on this that currently eludes me).

He oversaw and agreed to the completely unrealistic EPA consent decree, and then did virtually nothing to work towards compliance with it, again sticking those who follow him with these problems.

What else am I missing?

While we can't blame everything on Harvey, look at Jackson before his first term (1996) and Jackson now.

Kingfish said...

All right, I allowed your one post about Ben Allen. now knock off the rest of them. This is about a bond deal, not about a fetish for BA.

Anonymous said...

3 Hypothetical questions. What percentage of Jackson's current population could read this article and have any semblance of an intelligent conversation about it ? What percentage of Jackson's current population will end up paying for this fiasco ? How many people, not already vested in this tragedy, are stupid enough to invest in this third world joke of a town ?

Anonymous said...

10:17, full faith and credit of City is pledged so a bond holder could take anything the City has. Now what does the City own that is worth anything?

Anonymous said...


KF,

You have got to expand this and all of the stellar reporting you do to reach the masses. I am serious.

Thank goodness for this blog, but you are doing too good of a job not to get this and your other efforts to a larger audience.

Maybe short of a TV network, this is the next best thing, but for sure I want to express my thanks for your hard work.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:20...now, now, now

We need a source of fast food workers and guys who pick up trash to, not to mention prisoners who clean and landscape road medians.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:23... It's like a payday loan for the city. I'm sure many Jackson residents are familiar with the concept. My guess is that it will get refinanced again. There will be another round of hefty fees paid out and Jackson will be back in the same situation in a few years. Kingfish will link back to this post which links back to the last post, ad infinitum.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Johnson's qualifications and history were well known before he was elected, so you got what you asked for. This is hardly news. And don't even get me started on the council members.

Anonymous said...

Several unfortunate (actually terrible) things have converged to create the situation Jackson now finds herself in. First, our newspaper failed. We get very little local investigative reporting and must rely on sound bites on TV and your blog along with very little else. Once in awhile the Jackson Free Press will do a really good and revealing article. But, in the mainstream print media, Jackson's failed. Granted Harvey Johnson made many errors, but he also did better than the crop that has followed him in actual administration. The Bond deals were awful. Siemen's was by far the worst deal every made by the City of Jackson. It is digging the City's grave deeper every day. The sewer portion of the $90,000,000. was highway robbery. The computer/billing portion has never worked and appears to be unfix-able, even by Siemen's. This should have been a less than $50,000,000. job that was functioning optimally years ago. Instead, it was another screw job. One of our suburban mayor's sons sold Siemen's to the city. Go figure.

Frank Melton was a disaster that the city will never recover from. Our dearly beloved suburbs helped finance him into office. Drugs increased under his non-administration. He played policeman. He played bulldozer driver. He went to jail. He was in court in Meridian the day he was inaugurated. He demolished Parks and Recreation. His contribution to the drug trade is still being paid for in drugs, deaths, gangs, and violence. A few public minded people and organizations kept the city from collapsing during his reign of terror. We are still paying for some of his mistakes.

As the economic flight (it was both blacks and whites) continued, the city deteriorated with loss of tax base. Some of the suburbs actively recruit Jacksonians and businesses. This may pay in the short term but will cost dearly in the longrun.

I notice that this special session may do something toward returning some internet revenue to municipalities. It better be more than the road and bridge tax does or it will be too little too late. If Jackson fails, the metro area will suffer. It will be a good thing for no legal business nor citizen.

Those who gloat can gloat. I guess a gloater will always gloat. Sort of like fiddling as Rome burned. We need some problem solvers. Not planners; solvers who can act with decisiveness.

Cynical Sam said...

For you diehards in The Fondren and The Belhaven, Madison County is looking pretty good right now? Sorry, we don't issue visas to Jacktown residents.

You catch 'em, you clean 'em.

Cynical Sam said...

Detroit v2.0

Anonymous said...

Didn't Hinds get into the same bond mess?

Anonymous said...

@10:20

A takeover of Jackson and JPS by the State is the LAST thing Mississippi needs. Jackson and its residents voted for the fools that put them in this situation. Let them wise up and vote in some leaders that are not crooks and want to right the ship. That may be wishful thinking but until then the City of Jackson will continue its not so slow decline.

Anonymous said...

So this means the city will fix no more potholes ?

Anonymous said...

11:29, yes Bingham and crew did the same to Hinds County. Difference is that in 2015 Hinds County got out of said mess with no further payments. Sometimes governing authorities listen to good advice; other times they don’t.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could start a GoFundMe to get my grandparents out of Jackson. Unfortunately it will likely get flagged as racist because I will have to explain why the City of Jackson is collapsing into a black hole necessitating the need to flee.

My grandparents are elderly white Christian holdouts who are true believers in racial equality. I fear tyat they will have to chose between losing their homes due to unpaid taxes, or getting their prescriptions filled and buying groceries.

Anonymous said...

There is another simple solution, just quit paying the bond principal and "interest. What does Jackson have to lose?"

The bond rating of Jackson would go to junk bond status.

Anonymous said...

@2:47

What is their bond rating now? It can't be much higher than "Junk" now.

Anonymous said...

This is the same thing Trump is doing on a national level. All of these schemes on both the local and national level predict some magical economic growth will take place to pay for it but it never does.

Anonymous said...

@12:03, I actually somewhat agree with your point, but more so regarding the entire state than just Jackson. Mississippians deserve the trash they get because they voted these idiots into office even though the complete opposite would have been in their best interest. The federal government already provides a huge amount of the funding for the state because we are unable to take care of ourselves and all that money is squandered and pilfered and we continue to be the worst state in the country. When will we wake up and vote in our best interest?

Anonymous said...

Name some candidates @6:04 in the last Statewide election (2015) who would have been "in our best interest".

Lightbulb moment said...

"KF,

You have got to expand this and all of the stellar reporting you do to reach the masses. I am serious.

Thank goodness for this blog, but you are doing too good of a job not to get this and your other efforts to a larger audience.

Maybe short of a TV network, this is the next best thing, but for sure I want to express my thanks for your hard work."

Here Here! What we need is to revive the old (Enoch) "Sanders Speaks" TV hour with The Kingfish as Enoch's partner. This will work!

Anonymous said...

2:47, there is no reason to actually do that before they go borrow another $500 million. Then you might as well default. But not until you have maxed out the credit card.

Anonymous said...

1:48, say it isn't so! Did such things start happening in Hinds County after Stokes threw in the towel and went back to the council? Timing seems close. Maybe Jackson should be given to Hinds leadership.

Perkn said...

it'sfunny this wasn't discussed before the new school bond. NOT! because OUR leaders dont want you to know that taxes are going up again. thanks liemumba!!

Anonymous said...

Good catch, 7:56! You get the timing award for sure. Stokes was still at the county when the swaps were terminated, but had slipped into the minority voting block upon the arrival of Greer and McQuirter. Then he slipped back to the city.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting @6:04. Please name some candidates in the last Statewide election (2015) who would have been "in our best interest".

Anonymous said...

8/21 @ 10.17 and 8/21 @ 7.52

What you are suggesting is very dangerous. First - and most immediate - Jackson's cost of borrowing money would increase significantly, as the bond rating for a municipality that defaults on its debt would get crushed. Granted, the city has played fast and loose with its borrowing to this point, but a certain level of credit is necessary for governments, so doing anything that would increase those costs is ill-advised.

At a macro level, the fact that municipalities like Stockton, Jefferson County and Detroit have gone through bankruptcy and appear largely unscathed is a bad harbinger. It is these outcomes that lead other governmental entities and the broader population to think that defaulting on debt is a viable course of action - as you suggest. If these bankruptcies become systemic, it will have significant ripple effects in the credit markets - which are HUGE! Much larger than the stock market. This would be a fundamental (negative) shift in the financial structure of the US economy.

The pension crisis represents a similar default risk. These "shadow" liabilities are going to wreak havoc on states and municipalities in the decades to come, which will put more strain on the bond debt service. Defaults will be widespread, and the Fed will ultimately step in and bail them out. Give it 25-30 years, and the US economy will look pretty much like socialist northern Europe.

Anonymous said...

It will actually do us no good to rehash the past. And, I would remind those of you so inclined that you do not look back far enough. Nor did you support those who made some progress at both the State and local levels. Instead, you listened to the good ole boys who've been fleecing you for decades. The names change but the tactics remain the same.
Worse, the darker skinned " good ole boys" saw the game and played it to their own benefit.
Priester and Lumumba actually have the education and IQ levels to make some headway in cleaning up the mess left them.
If you have a workable solution for the problems Jackson faces, by all means, share it. Those are appreciated. And, I appreciate KFs effort to help us with " problem identification".
Otherwise, tend to your own business. I'm fairly certain from the tone of some comments, that you should start in your own households as you are obviously quite unpleasant to be around.

Anonymous said...

Nor did you support those who made some progress at both the State and local levels.

Who specifically made progress at both the State and local levels? Cough up some names.

Anonymous said...

Whoever is suggesting Kingfish should get a TV show is probably the same guy who supported the notion of Sid Salter having a radio show on Supertalk. Salter's face for radio was equally as dynamic as his voice for newspaper. He was a thoroughly boring, monotone, egocentric idiot. And his articles purchased by Jackson Jambalaya indicate he is still all of those.

Anonymous said...

"But, But, But, . . . How can you blame someone who isn't even there for the City's current problems?"

- The idiots posting on this website when talking about their parents who failed to invest in Jackson's infrastructure when they ran the city and then took their tax dollars to Madison or Rankin County

Anonymous said...

Tell us @11:01. When one sells their Jackson property and moves somewhere else how do they take their property tax dollars with them when the new owner of said property in turns becomes the payer of the very same, or over time higher, taxes?

You're the idiot because you never want to take responsibility to fix anything.

Anonymous said...

10:05 you are correct about the unwinding of the Fed's balance sheet and the rise of interest rates triggering an excrement storm that will make Jxns troubles pale in comparison.

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