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Thursday, January 31, 2013

School Bond Corporate Power Player: Emeryville Firm Reaping Big Profits

Emeryville: Center Of School Bond Universe

As school districts up and down the state buckle under the interest heavy debt incurred by a recent spate of facility construction Capital Appreciation Bond (CAB) financing, Emery included, a local bond writing firm has positioned itself as the top bond selling corporation in California. It's Caldwell Flores & Winter, the educational bond selling heavy weight located right here in Emeryville.
The Christie Avenue firm, founded in 1986, has moved up through the ranks of educational bond sellers and now represents over 200 school and community college districts in California.  Caldwell Flores & Winter has emerged as the top seller of school bonds in the state, including the fiscally ruinous CAB financing, with some 84 deals (Emery included) totaling $6.8 million in fees under its belt.

"This Emeryille firm has emerged 
as the top seller of 
school bonds in the state". 

Caldwell Flores & Winter collects fees on school bond sales but it also has a bond election division, charging school districts for election services to help coax voters to spend money on bonds for school rebuilding.  So money goes from school districts to Caldwell to help win their bond elections but Caldwell is also known to generously help finance school bond elections with their own corporate donations so money flows both directions.

Here in Emeryville, Caldwell Flores & Winter donated $10,500 (more than any corporation or individual) to Measure J, the school construction bond in 2010.  That measure, meant to authorize the selling of bonds to pay for a new school at the Center of Community Life, passed with 73% of Emeryville residents supporting it after a blistering wall-to-wall campaign barrage featuring mailers, telephoning and door-to-door campaigning.  Caldwell will receive fees for Emery's bond sales, an amount the School District has yet to disclose.
It should be noted also, Caldwell Flores & Winter Vice President, Greg Kato, donated $1000 of his own money to Measure J, ostensibly to help Emeryville school children, even though Mr Kato doesn't live in Emeryville.

The firm touts its winning record running bond election campaigns, winning more than 200 of them, including traditional 2/3 General Obligation Bond elections with an impressive 90% success rate. The corporate website features a promise to prospective school districts, "Give us the resources and a handful of volunteers and we will deliver a win on Election Day" a motivating factor for Emery's School Board in 2010.

"Give us the resources 
and a handful of volunteers 
and we will deliver a win on Election Day"

Calwell Flores & Winter has become a major player in the lucrative educational bond market with over 550 bond sales and $5 billion in bond proceeds sold.  They have worked the Washington angle, receiving more than $260 million in Federal Stimulus authorization.

Lobbying For CAB's
With public anger rising over ruinous interest rates and multi generational school loans, Caldwell's lobbying arm has of late, taken up the task of protecting the infamous delayed interest Capital Appreciation Bonds, the firm's bread and butter.  As State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson and Treasurer Bill Lockyer have moved to make CABs illegal in California, Caldwell Flores & Winter are fighting back, complaining that no other similarly restrictive measures are being discussed for other governmental entities.
Caldwell says in some communities hard hit by the recession, CAB financing is the only type available to them and making this type of bond illegal will rob these school districts of their much needed school facility improvements.  Furthermore, Caldwell maintains, "Restricting CAB's  could result in reductions of 30% or more of facilities funds available to school districts for construction at a time when the unemployment rate hovers near 10%.  It's like telling homeowners that you can only take out a 15 year mortgage when they really need is (sic) a 30 year home loan."

With bankruptcy looming for many California school districts in the wake of crushing interest payments as their CAB loans come to term, Caldwell Flores and Winter use their website to tell citizens and lawmakers, "Let's not bankrupt our future or tie the hands of California's nearly 1,000 school districts by restricting its (sic) financial options".

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