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Articles about John

Local News 
"New Sanitation District board member blames lawsuit on former Ukiah city manager"
By Justine Frederiksen, Ukiah Daily Journal 
Posted: 02/04/17, 6:51 PM PST | 


The newly appointed member of the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District told the Ukiah City Council that he believes a multi-million dollar lawsuit was filed between the two agencies because of a lack of communication.


“The former city manager, Jane Chambers, would not take phone calls from the Sanitation District for a period of one to two years,” said John Sakowicz, addressing the City Council at its Feb. 1 meeting. “In my personal opinion, the only reason this lawsuit was filed was to get the attention of the city.”


Sakowicz, who was appointed to the Sanitation District’s board during its last meeting Jan. 19, did not say that he was speaking on the board’s behalf, but did say he wanted to “set the record straight on a few things.


“I come in a spirit of reconciliation,” he continued, asking the City Council for more than the three minutes typically allotted to each person during public comment, and Mayor Jim Brown granted him more time. “I want to see this lawsuit settled, (and) one possible solution is to simply split the difference between the legal fees (approaching a few million dollars) and to make the billing process more transparent.”


Currently, both agencies share ownership of the Wastewater Treatment Plant that each depends upon to serve its customers, but the city alone operates the plant and handles all of the billing and payments.


In its lawsuit, the Sanitation District alleges that the city has been violating the participation agreement between the agencies and has not been paying the district the proper amounts for decades, adding up to close to $30 million.
“A more severe settlement offer might be that the city rips up the participation agreement and transfers the ratepayers that the district owns to a newly independent district, and have them do their own administration and their own billing,” said Sakowicz, explaining that the question would still remain of what to do about the $27 million the Sanitation District claims it is owed. “I think there is a middle ground, and I hope you find it.”
In an attempt to find that middle ground, city staff has asked district representatives to seek a settlement agreement through mediation, but several months later it is still trying to schedule a first session.


“We have agreed on a location and a mediator, but we cannot agree on dates,” said City Attorney David Rapport, explaining that the earliest date the Sanitation District offered was in late May. “We are hoping to get an earlier date.”


Council member Maureen Mulheren said she also made a request of the district’s board regarding televising its meetings that she hopes will be addressed at its next meeting.


“I think it’s important for the public to see how the process works, and they really have the right to see what happens at public meetings,” Mulheren said. “I hope their board agrees and that the board works out a way to have the meetings put on the Internet in some way, shape or form.”


According to its schedule, the next meeting of the UVSD board should be Feb. 16.


About the Author
Justine Frederiksen is the UDJ’s senior writer. An experienced reporter, she covers the City of Ukiah including the police and fire beat, as well as education, environment, water and much more. Reach the author at udjjf@ukiahdj.com or follow Justine on Twitter: @JustFrederiksen.

Articles authored by John



"Bad-Banking Addiction: A 15-Step Program"
by John Sakowicz 


After recently speaking with friends who are managing directors at the five big firms left standing on Wall Street—Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, and J.P. Morgan Chase—I got the feeling that everything was hunky-dory.


Yes, hunky-dory. My friends all said they are “living to fight another day.”


What’s the good news?


All are picking up market share as a result of the failure of so many of their competitors. My friends said that as a result of this consolidation, all divisions of their banks are rising to top-tier status. Furthermore, their firms are now enjoying wide facilitation spreads.


But my friends omitted a lot. No mention was made of the trading books of their employers’ respective acquisitions—i.e., WaMu, Bear Stearns, Countrywide, big chunks of Lehman Brothers, etc.—or of the ‘impaired’ portfolios that each acquisition brought to the (un)lucky suitors. No mention was made of the charge-offs that continue at their respective ‘heritage’ books of subprimes and, worse, the twilight zone of swaps and derivatives positions written against these subprimes. No mention was made of other credit bubbles ready to burst, like consumer credit—credit card debt, auto loans, and student loans. No mention was made of the commercial real estate bubble. (We hear about the residential real estate bubble, but that’s only part of the story.) And no mention was made of the private equity bubble.


I was told by my friends that a successful banker in 2009 can realistically balance the long view with the current Grim Reaper mentality. I was told that ‘crisis presents opportunity.’ (Personally, I prefer top-line growth as the engine of opportunity.)


A final word from my friends? The important thing to remember, they said, is that “our reputational strength is as good as it’s ever been.”
Hmm. Reputational strength? Are these guys kidding, or what?


The truth is that we are witnessing the death of banking as we know it. We may even be witnessing the death of capitalism as we know it. Cause of death? The vapor lock of our credit markets despite monster-sized bank bailouts. And I do mean monster-sized. Since September, we’ve seen money supply increase by more than 125 percent. Bloomberg News reports that $12.8 trillion in bailouts, loans, guarantees, and other liabilities has been put on the books at the Federal Reserve Bank.


That’s new liabilities in everything you’ve never heard of, from the newly created commercial paper buying facility to more foreign currency swaps to a refinancing of the Fed’s Term Auction Facility (TAF) to an expansion of the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF) to the launches of the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF), the brand spankin’ new Consumer Credit Program, and more.


There are two more big programs: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s $1 trillion quantitative easing program (the ‘nuclear option’—a trillion-dollar buyback of long-term treasuries, and the asset-backed securities and bonds of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s $1 trillion Public-Private Investment Partnership (the trillion-dollar garage sale of Wall Street’s toxic assets that makes the American taxpayer the biggest single investor in the hedge funds that will -presumably buy these assets).
Taken together, it’s a mountain of bailout debt. And if the bailouts fail, our national debt will approach something like $15 trillion, by my calculation.


What did those bailout trillions get us? They got us a new bubble. The last bubble was called mortgage debt. This bubble is called national debt. And it’s a super-bubble.


So what do we do now?


The fix is simple: First, let the ‘bad banks’ die. Second, re-regulate the surviving banks. If banks are too big to fail, then they should be regulated like utilities, which are highly regulated because they are also too big to fail.


Let’s start with AIG—not really a bank but close enough. AIG has already received $160 billion in bailout money. They wanted another $30 billion after posting a $61.7 billion fourth-quarter loss, the worst in U.S. corporate history. Bottom line: AIG can’t or won’t say where a lot of that $160 billion went. It also can’t or won’t sell any of its subsidiaries to come up with cash. And it can’t or won’t lay off any of its 116,000 employees. Sounds like a taxpayer wipeout to me. I say: Let AIG fail.


Furthermore, Bernanke and Geithner should use that $30 billion AIG is asking for to support ‘good bank’ models, i.e., not-for-profit banks, cooperatively owned banks, and community banks.


OK, now, re-regulation. On March 26, Geithner proposed sweeping new regs to control systemic risk. Good start. We’ll make it simple for Geithner. Just turn back the clock 20 years. Go back to the future. Here’s how in 15 easy steps:


1.    Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed in 1999 by Bill Clinton. Separate investment banking (underwriting and higher risk) from commercial banking (lending and lower risk).
2.    Roll back rules that currently allow off- balance sheet accounting.
3.    Give the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission a clear mandate to regulate swaps and derivatives, now a massive $500 trillion national market. (The swaps and derivatives exchange and clearinghouse proposed by the InterContinental Exchange, or ICE, is a good start.)
4.    Repeal the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which prohibited regulation of swaps and derivatives.
5.    Roll back the Securities and Exchange Commission’s policy in 2004 that allowed the ‘voluntary regulation’ of Wall Street banks.
6.    Roll back the rules that allow Wall Street and its G-7 trading partners to determine their own capital reserve requirements based on ‘internal risk-assessment models.’
7.    Block predatory lending practices.
8.    Have state banking regulators supersede federal regulators for the enforcement of state consumer protection laws that guard against predatory lending practices and other abuses.
9.    Put federal laws on the books that allow victims of abusive loans to sue companies that bought their loans from banks that originated their loans.
10.    Contract the scope of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and prohibit their participation in the subprime market.
11.    Enact antitrust laws and other regulation to break up too-big-to-fail megabanks, which engage in higher-risk practices than do smaller banks.
12.    Repeal the 2006 law that prohibited the SEC from regulating the obvious conflicts of interest between credit-rating companies—i.e., Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch—and their Wall Street clients.
13.    Restrict and monitor the lobbying activities of Wall Street.
14.    Require every bank that underwrites a deal to keep a part of the deal in its own investment portfolio. That way they’re vested along with their clients.
15.    Reform Wall Street’s obscene compensation structure. Not only is greed rewarded on Wall Street, but fraud is rewarded, too. (Annual bonuses typically account for most compensation, not base salaries. Therefore, vest these bonuses to be payable over a period of, say, five years. If a deal turns sour, then investors have recourse: Don’t pay the bonus.)


---
John Sakowicz is the cofounder of a multibillion-dollar hedge fund and is a general partner at the offshore investment adviser Templar Advisors. He also hosts "The Truth About Money" on NPR-affiliated KZYX in Mendocino County, California.
 

 Volume 1, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2009

© 2008 – 2014 Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. All Rights Reserved. 

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 John Sakowicz, "Ruminations: The Phenomenal Universe," Johns Hopkins Magazine, November 2008, http://pages.jh.edu/jhumag/1106web/ruminate.html  ( accessed, Febraury 12, 2017) 2015)


R U M I N A T I O N S
The Phenomenal Universe

By John Sakowicz, A&S '77, '79 (MA)

Earlier this year, on March 15, a literary giant died. I'll call him a literary giant.

This man was part of the extended family that we call the Johns Hopkins community. He was the chairman of the Writing Seminars from 1973 to 1977 and was a mentor to many of the department's most famous graduates, like Louise Erdrich. He was a friend and colleague of many of our most esteemed faculty members here at Hopkins, like John Barth, John Irwin, and Richard Howard.

He was the editor who discovered or championed many of the world's most important fictionists and poets of the second half of the 20th century. He was a difficult, though dazzling, novelist. He was a critic. Most of all, he was the great impresario of experimental fiction.

And he had the impossible good looks of a GQ model. And he was married five times. And he loved women and women loved him. And he drank too much. (A friend of his recently told me that for most of this man's life, his liver was on a "Bataan Death March.")

This man was a literary rock star, very much like Jack Kerouac, insofar as he was a genius of the troubled, superluminous, and fugitive type.

His name was Charles Newman.

Charles Newman, dead at 67.

It's hard to believe. Because Charlie was the very personification of raw talent, energy, libido, and life-force.

Surrounded by Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer Prize winners and National Book Award winners, etc., Charlie lived and worked in a phenomenal universe. But his own mind — -packed with a wealth of extravagant literary theories, wild metaphors, paradoxical and perplexing lists of literary things-to-do, willful contradictions, mind-blowing metafiction, and transformative teachings — was the real phenomenal universe in which Charlie lived and worked.

And I was his student.

Before Charlie came to Hopkins, he was a young instructor in the English Department at Northwestern University, where he turned an inconsequential campus publication into one of the world's most prestigious literary magazines, TriQuarterly, and he was its editor for over a decade.

At TriQuarterly, Charlie showcased such writers as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, William Gass, Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Sexton, W.S. Merwin, and John Ashbery.

Charlie kept pretty good company. And he had a lot of peer respect.

In addition to being a publisher, Charlie was a mind-blowing novelist, as I mentioned. He was a delight not just to other writers but also to readers of serious fiction. He was the author of White Jazz, The Promisekeeper, and New Axis, among other books. Each novel is a challenging but also seductive linguistic performance.

Charlie's last and unfinished novel, which he started 20 years ago, is about the death of those two great social revolutions of the 20th century: Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism.

Yeah, you nailed that one, Charlie.

I once had somebody ask me what Charlie's novels were about. What was Charlie about?

The bigger question is, what is experimental or post-modern fiction about? What is John Barth about? What is John Gardner about? Despite their differences and pissing contests, what is any of these writers about?

Charlie had each of his students, including me, ask this fundamental question.

And the answer is that these guys are about a proposition: What can fiction be?

Fiction can be both an axiom and an idiom. Fiction can be both an elaboration and obfuscation. Fiction can be both immediate and resonant.

Fiction can be both the wheel or rack or iron maiden of exhaustion and the fountain of replenishment (definitions courtesy of John Barth).

Fiction is about "aboutness" (also courtesy of Barth).

Fiction can be about both "thereness" and "betweenness." Fiction can be about both "what is" and "what is more than we can ever imagine or guess."

Why should the average person on the street care? Why give a rat's ass?

Because pushing the limits of fiction pushes the limits of language. And it is language that makes us fully and uniquely human.

This was the phenomenal universe of Charles Newman, this proposition and this answer.

Q: What can fiction be?

A: It can be limitless. It mirrors the limitlessness of the human condition.

All this sounds pretty academic, but Charlie was no mere academic. No way.

I asked Joe McElroy, a teacher and friend, who once taught at Hopkins and who is, in his own right, a literary lodestar in a cold, black universe, how he remembered Charlie.

This is what Joe e-mailed back to me, and I'm paraphrasing:

Charlie was always the shrewd American kid making his way through the Fulbright Scholar curriculum at Oxford, the wanderer who loved central Europe, the student of politics and economics who took note of America's cheerful ignorance of world affairs, the minor-league ballplayer, the American dreamer with a grandiose investment in the construction of cabins in North Carolina or Virginia (I'm not sure which) — who was very nearly killed by one of his farm employees who came at him with a pitchfork — the working vacationer on a shrimp boat, the traveler down the Mississippi on a barge, the breeder of Hungarian hunting dogs, and the literary giant who said what he really wanted was to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

To which another friend added, Charlie kept two things in the bottom drawer of his desk. An autographed copy of Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino. And a bottle of whiskey.

This friend continued, I once remember sitting with Charlie there in his office in Gilman Hall and drinking with him as daylight faded. He started talking shop — the New Fiction. It was weird. And wonderful. Weird and wonderful.

Charlie was sitting there, talking in the dark like some sage. He was painting this mural of the great literary achievements of my lifetime. It was like watching someone paint by the numbers, but Charlie was painting in the dark.

Remember those paint-by-the-numbers kits?

Well, Charlie was sitting there in the dark, getting drunk, quoting Calvino in Italian. And Czeslaw Milosz in Polish. And Joseph Brodsky in Russian. And Octavio Paz in Spanish.

And he continued by talking about the disillusioned leftist politics of Susan Sontag. And the violent season of literature coming out of the Vietnam War.

And how Aztec art with its themes of dismemberment and reintegration was the inspiration for the fiction of magical realism.

And how Pablo Neruda believed that following an insane commander into war or obeying an unlawful order was, in and of itself, a dangerous and inexorable force that could lead to the destruction of a nation or an army.

I just sat there, and I listened, and I watched, as Charlie painted the big picture of world literature right there in the dark.

This, my friends, is a phenomenal universe. And my years as an undergraduate and graduate student of Charles Newman were an unplanned tour in this universe.

It was one of the best times of my life.

Thank you, Charlie.

John Sakowicz is former CFO and a founding partner at Battle Mountain Research Group and former national sales manager for commodities and futures at Dean Witter Reynolds. He won a PEN USA WEST award in 1997 for writing about the AIDS epidemic.

 

 

 

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