City of Chico discusses filing for ‘Party’ status in Cal Water rate increase case; let’s encourage them to go all the way and file for ‘Intervenor’ status

25 Nov

The agenda for next week’s city council meeting (Dec. 1) includes a proposal for the city to file for “Party Status” in the rate increase case filed by Cal Water last July.  Here is an excerpt from the report:

California Water Service Company (Application No. 15-07-015) California Water Service Company (“Cal Water”) filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission to increase rates and consolidate the Chico district into a proposed “Northern Region.” This memorandum seeks City Council authority to become a party in the pending application.

Cal Water provides water service to the City and its residents. Cal Water is requesting water rate increases for years 2017, 2018 and 2019. The proposed increases are 19.1%, 1.6%, and 2.8% respectively.

The proposed rate increases would impose a significant burden on the City, as a customer of Cal Water. The rate increases would also impose an undue hardship on City residents. As a Cal Water customer and on behalf of its residents residing in the Chico district, the City has an interest in minimizing the proposed rate increases.

In addition, Cal Water is seeking to consolidate its Chico, Oroville, Marysville and Willows districts as the proposed “Northern Region.” The proposed consolidation affects City and its residents because the City is one of the districts to be consolidated. If consolidation is granted, Cal Water requests rate increases of 20.3%, 1.7% and 2.4% for years 2017,2018 and 2019 respectively, for the combined Chico and Oroville districts within the Northern Region. lf consolidation is granted, the City, as well as Oroville residents, will shoulder an even higher burden than that which is requested in Cal Water’s general rate increase.

Although Butte County has joined as a party, the City’s specific interests are not adequately represented. The City’s participation will be relevant and beneficial to the proceeding.

CONCLUSION / RECOMMENDATION It is recommended the City Council direct staff to file a Motion of City of Chico to Become a Party

“Party Status,” unfortunately, just means the city, along with the county, are on the notice list of events in the eventual raising of our rates. In order to make a formal protest, they must file as “Intervenors,” but I can’t seem to convince them of that.

Please write to council and the supervisors and ask them to take that further step. Be nice – you get more flies with honey than vinegar. 

Chico City council can be reached by way of the clerk’s website –

Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk was the first one to respond to my request, she went through a really onerous and ridiculous filing system to get on the Party List right away. Then she asked the board to do so.  She even went to a Chico city council meeting and sat there waiting through a long agenda to make a case for the city to do something.  I sat at home in my snuggies that night, yelling “Go Maureen! Yeeeee-haw!” into my computer screen.  

The CPUC rep that contacted Supervisor Kirk even admitted it would be good to have a lawyer’s assistance in filing the paperwork. I don’t even know if an individual can file for Intervenor status, that’s really a job for the entire board of supervisors. 

Reach them here:

Nextdoor: interesting news source, seems to be working for some people

24 Nov

Nextdoor, described as the “private social network for neighborhoods,” is an interesting news source. Since I joined a few weeks ago, I’ve seen a lot of interesting stuff that hasn’t shown up in the newspaper.

First there was the “bnb” conversation – “Airbnb” is a website through which you can rent your home out like a hotel. One woman brought up her concerns for her mid-Chico neighborhood, but was quickly struck down by other “neighbors” who turned out to be renting their own homes through Airbnb.  In the course of that quick but “snarky” conversation, I noticed, people seem to have forgotten past conversations about making it illegal to rent out second units in certain neighborhoods, a “disorderly events” ordinance, and most recently, the “social host” ordinance, which allows Chico PD and Fire Dept to assign “response” charges to the owner of a property at which an out-of-control  party took place. Those conversations got downright nasty at times – all stemming from neighbor complaints about rentals.

It is actually illegal to rent a second unit in the neighborhood directly surrounding the college without owner occupation of the property – the city made that ordinance a few years back. Not long after the “bnb” conversation, a woman complained on Nextdoor that the second unit next to her was being “rented illegally,” but she couldn’t get any response from city code enforcement. 

Here’s what’s creepy – within a couple of days, another neighbor posted a response to that woman, saying three code enforcement officers had been over to check out her rental, and found everything was perfectly legal. She gave her name and contact information, encouraging the plaintiff to contact her with future concerns. 

The second unit owner was very nice about it, I think the first woman was way out of line.  This is what Nextdoor has been criticized for – the Big Brother thing. Some neighbor groups have actually been accused of racial profiling and harassment. 

What also caught my attention about that post was – three code enforcement officers? City code enforcement?  Responding to a complaint about a rental? But we have a homeless camp at the median between Park Avenue and Cypress/Pine Streets that goes unattended for weeks. When they finally clear it out, the bums just move farther down the creek bank, you can see the piles of garbage as you motor over the bridge. 

Well, here’s an interesting post from Nextdoor, just posted yesterday, by a man named Ron from the “North  Chapman neighborhood”:

Today, over 300 pounds of trash and metal were removed from a former transient camp right in the middle of our residential neighborhood. The camp was on a vine-covered vacant lot and was first noticed about three months ago. With the help of many neighbors, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, and the Butte County Code Enforcement Division, the transient residents were encouraged to move on. When the camp was cleared numerous bicycle parts were recovered, confirming our suspicion that the site was being used to ‘recycle’ stolen bicycles.

This is posted to encourage others with unwelcome transients camping/squatting in their neighborhood to use the resources available and fight back. I am not unsympathetic to the homeless issue here in Chico; however, a residential neighborhood with children and families is not a suitable destination for those who steal, exchange stolen property, and use illegal drugs.

Thank you to all the North Chapman Neighbors who supported our effort.

Looking at the map provided by Nextdoor, I see the area is in the county, technically, but right in the middle of urban Chico. It’s a part of town the city of Chico has tried to ignore for years, manufacturing a phony story about neighbors who don’t want to be annexed, but never being able to provide any written proof of that assertion. The police seem to think they can’t cross the creek to enforce the law. And it takes the sheriff three months to do anything but “encourage”.

I’ve been on Nextdoor for almost a month, and this is the first I’ve heard of this situation. I don’t know if Ron’s group is working offline, what he’s been through trying to get law enforcement to pay attention to this matter. But, I know there’s homeless camps in the park right alongside my neighborhood, and despite a short-lived high-profile fling at One-Mile, the cops aren’t doing anything about it.

We do see them roust bums at the CARD center once in a while – CARD board member Tom Lando has made requests of the city to pay special attention to the CARD center. That center is used for community classes, children’s and other programs, and people are finding human land mines and garbage piled up around the buildings.  They complain of passed out drunks on the lawn and portico, even sprawled out on benches. Nobody seems to rent that building for private affairs like weddings anymore – in years past, you’d see it decked out almost every good weather  weekend.  The CARD board now has most meetings at their new headquarters at California Park. This is the reason behind the new rose garden – it will have a fence and locking gate, and only be available for paid events, in an attempt to keep bums, as well as the general public, off the CARD property. Because Chico PD  could not enforce the vagrancy laws, despite salaries averaging $100,000 with 88% of their benefits paid by the taxpayer.

Chico PD monitors Nextdoor, and it seems they are responding to certain complaints, even those made casually in conversation. I also find it a good news source – even if there isn’t much chatter in my neighborhood. A lot of my immediate neighbors have joined, but I haven’t seen crimes mentioned. There’s a gal who will watch your pets for $15/day. There’s a lady looking for a plumber, another woman selling a ceiling light. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the woman bitching about her neighbor’s rental – that is to be expected on a site like this. The Airbnb conversation got kind of rude, and I recognized a guy who has come to this blog in past under an alias and tried to bully me. I  felt he was bullying the woman, and she ended up “closing” the conversation. If it were me, I’d have charged right back at him, but the lady was polite and felt the conversation had run it’s course.

I haven’t seen any of these stories on the tv or print media, but I’m guessing there’s at least one reporter lurking in the shadows. You have to give personal information to sign up – I was asked for my social security number or a credit card to verify my address. I refused and was allowed to request a post card be sent to my house with a secret code number. This supposedly proves I’m really a “neighbor.” Unfortunately they mis-addressed it.  The way they sent it, there are five neighbors who could claim my identity if my mailman hadn’t figured it out. So much for security, but at least I didn’t have to compromise my SSN or my credit card. 

We’ll see when the local media finally picks up on this. I notice the Ch 12/24 news shamelessly cherry-picks the daily newspaper, using the same whole phrases from the newspaper stories. 






Enterprise Record running the tax increase campaign? I thought newspapers were supposed to be objective

23 Nov

It seems  the Enterprise Record is running the campaign for a local tax increase – read Laura Urseny’s “Biz Bits” column for Sunday:

“Former Chico airport commissioner Karl Ory certainly brought a surprise to last week’s City Council meeting. During the public comment period over the AvPORTS proposal to manage the Chico airport, Ory suggested that airport improvements might warrant a bond measure.”

I know Ory has been beating this horse, can’t figure out what his interest is. Maybe somebody out there can fill me in. 

“AvPORTS — and others — have suggested that the terminal at the Chico airport is too small, given airline industry trends toward larger planes to carry more people. Sky-West used to fly in with a 30- seater, but nowadays the planes that might come to Chico — if commercial service ever returns — could be in the 100- seat size. AvPORTS suggested a larger terminal with a larger area for the Transportation Security Administration processing is needed.”

Chico couldn’t even fill the 30-seater, is the reason Sky-West is gone. Why in the hell would they send in a bigger plane? 

“One criticism was that Chico has no way to pay for the improvements. A counter was that no airline was going to come to Chico without those improvements.  Ory suggested Chico could turn to a bond for a public vote to pay for capital projects at the airport. Ory is a retired Chico airport commissioner and retired city councilman.”

Here she forgets to mention, the airline wants a subsidy to cover their losses when they can’t fill the planes – like $200,000/year!

Then she seems to be playing the Devil’s Advocate. “But this is one of those suggestions that raised eyebrows. We wonder if the community would vote to tax themselves for airport improvements, when a smaller group wouldn’t even fly out of Chico to help support commercial air service here.”

But here she comes again with that bond stuff.

“Since then, I’ve heard from another airport advocate who didn’t automatically dismiss the idea of a bond.”

She’s talking about Tom Lando, I’d bet my last $5.  Maybe Lando is finally getting a thin-skin about being tagged with this tax increase.

“Why such a thing might warrant community support, he explained, was because the airport benefits many in Chico. Benefits include the transportation for residents and businesses, as well as jobs. The advocate pointed out that large companies in considering a new location would consider getting in and out of Chico via commercial service important.”

Lando is also a member of the CARD board, as well as member of the Aquatic Facility committee. He listened to the consultant say that not having an airport was a bad indicator for the success of the Olympic style swim center CARD is pushing.  If we can’t support an airport, how could we support this aquatic facility? Lando and friends are even proposing a sports stadium for Chico, all to be built with a bond.

What neither Urseny nor Lando is talking about is how big of trouble every public entity around here is in over their unpaid CalPERS liability. You just read here, the city has assigned $6 million in pension debt to the Private Development Fund – that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  That’s what a bond would really be about, and then, in a couple of years, like Chico Unified, they’d be telling us they need yet another bond to actually improve the airport. Same old story. I hope you kids are paying attention.

Recently I’ve noticed our local media has fallen to yellow journalism. We don’t really have a newspaper in this town. I know, I’m just a blogger – internet gossip monger? But these people are supposed to uphold some sort of journalistic integrity. They are supposed to work for the public at large, not the government, or the corporations. 

Aside from the rather loose rules set before me by Word Press (for one, you have to publish, something, somewhat regularly, or they will take your blog away!) , I am free of corporate and government influences. I will continue to work in 2016 to inform you and be a tack on the chair of the Overlords. 

POST SCRIPT: And today (11/25/15) Dave Little has foisted an editorial – he’s actually mad because Chico isn’t “stepping up” to “save the airport”

Mr. Little, you need to step aside, and let a real journalist save the newspaper

Private developer fund deficit due to $6 million pension liability

19 Nov

What a day I had yesterday, started it off with that Finance Committee workshop Downtown.  I was on my bike, bouncing through the park by 8:20, the air was damp and smokey and my muffler was wrapped around my head. When I rode home about an hour and a half later, the sun had warmed up and the day positively sparkled. I was home by 9:45 and off to work. All day I thought about what I heard at that meeting, and it really pissed me off.

Hey, do any of you remember that story out of Manton, just east of Red Bluff, about a group of school kids waiting for their bus one morning, witnessed a fight between a bear and a cougar over a deer carcass?  I can’t remember how that played out, who got the carcass, but the kids described it as quite a sight.  Well, yesterday I got to watch our mayor, Mark Sorensen, and one of our long time local developers, Pete Giampoli, go at it over a $6 million pension deficit. 

A couple of days ago I was complaining about the report for this meeting –

So yesterday I went to the meeting to see what the developer community had to say about it. There they were – Webb and Giampoli, and a few others, an old realtor named Doug, the usual suspects. I’ve watched Bill Webb get older,  but I am still waiting for him to grow up.  I know they read the consultant’s report because they carried it up to the dais and referred to various entries, questioning this and that. I know they are pissed because  the report makes them look like leeches – taking services from the city for which they pay less than the average homeowner. The homeowner has been subsiding the developers – when we put a new roof on our house, we pay about three times what they pay for the permit.

The real stinker –  ‘cuse my pun – is sewer connects. You probably know the homeowner pays thousands – our neighbor paid about $17,000 – just for the hook-up. Just to tap into the trunk line that runs past your house. Meanwhile, I got Tom Lando to admit, at that same time, about 2003 – developers were paying $3500 per unit. Why? Because developers are not made to pay for the trunk line to be laid, but the homeowner is expected to pay for that. That’s why the homeowner is charged by the “frontage” of their lot, the actual street length of their property. So, if you have a wide shallow property, you will not only pay more than the developer, you’ll pay more than your neighbor with the same size lot, but his is narrow and deep. Get what I’m saying?  Homeowners have been taking a screwing for years, while developers have oftentimes skipped without paying any fees. The city has been “deferring” fees – so the developer does not have to pay until his job is “built out”, or finished to the last lot. How long you think it’s going to take them to finish Meriam Park?

Ever hear of the Winchester Mystery House? That lady wasn’t crazy – check the records, she never paid one dime towards permits for that mess. As long as she kept building something she didn’t have to pay.

Developers have enjoyed a sweet hayride in this town, all the while telling us of the benefits they provide. They provide jobs – well, at least as long as the boom lasts. They provide housing – at inflated market prices that will fall in a few years and leave people all over town in foreclosure.  They destroyed our housing market over the years from 2005 – 2007, and the city went along with it for the one time fees. They might have thought property tax values would go up, but that was short lived. As foreclosures swept our town, property values went plummeting. A house on our street that originally sold for almost $600,000 last sold for less than $400,000.  Families were ruined.

 Over that period, city council signed an MOU attaching city salaries to revenue increases, “but not revenue decreases”, and salaries Downtown roughly tripled.

A couple of these developers tried to tell the city, the business has up-turns and down-turns, and the city should have responded to the downturns by cutting expenses Downtown. Frank Fields and Sean Morgan were quick to bring up the lay-offs, but forgot to mention – new positions have been hired since, and salaries have been raised. Morgan even made a creepy speech about how “the people who were responsible for this (our current financial morass) are gone now, you don’t see them around town anymore….”

See, he’s afraid to say, “Dave Burkland”. For your information, Sean the Idiot, I just saw Burkland at Mangrove Safeway the other day. He looked right at me and my husband with that “oh GOD!” look. He lives out off Hwy 32, west of town, in a great big nice house, and hauls in over $100,000 in pension a year. Wow, he’s so punished!  Hennessy pulls down a great salary in Temecula and her family still lives in a posh pad in North Chico. Unless she is caught literally stealing, she will enjoy a pension of over $100,000 for the rest of her life.

Morgan makes this speech at almost every meeting, reminding everybody that our new, fiscally conservative council is on the job! But, guess what – they’re not.

First I listened to Fields lay out the kind of mess we’re in – over $6 million pension deficit, just in the Private Development Fund. Yeah, remember that cost allocation Bullshit I told you about – well the developers got their introductory lesson yesterday. Yes, through the magic of cost allocation, the city can dip into funds to pay salaries and benefits and pension for employees who have nothing to do with that fund – they were at a meeting one day where that fund was discussed…

The developers railed, they said the cost study must be wrong.  Mark Sorensen became impatient – I’ll say it – bitchy.  He really attacked Pete Giampoli, telling Giampoli he wanted a specific point from that cost study that was wrong. I know Giampoli wanted to say, “the part where we have to pay the pensions”, but you know what, Pete Giampoli doesn’t have the ganas to say “shit” when he has a mouthful. I think “Giampoli” is the Italian equivalent of “peindejo.” 

Here I sat, like Little Black Sambo – watching the tigers fight. They both suck as far as I’m concerned, but I have to agree with the developers on this pension liability crap. And then, Consultant Chad Wolford moved up to the microphone to tell them both to put their peckers back in their pants.

I like Chad, he’s funny. I could tell he’d dealt with these developers personally, he used first names. I could tell he was slightly insulted by the cracks about his cost study, he assured us that the study was completely objective. He also pointed out he’d answered all their questions previous to the meeting – “in every case the critics had not read the study or had not listened to me when I explained it…”

The study involves the “actual” expenses – and, sorry, that includes the pensions – related to the services they receive – for example, plan checking. Through cost allocation, they’re not only paying for the employee who comes out to the job site and handles their plans, they’re paying for the maintenance and utilities for his office space at City Hall, they’re paying for the assistants who help that employee by making copies and coffee, they’re paying for the janitress who comes through to clean the coffee pot and empty the trash cans. 

And, since they laid off so many of his co-workers, plan checker man  told us, he’s “in the field all day and in my office until 7 o’clock at night…”  That’s Overtime sweetie, and they allocate that.

Sure you pay for that in private enterprise, but Giampoli reminded us – in the private sector, there’s competition to keep prices and salaries reasonable, affordable. The city has quite the monopoly here, and they get to make the rules. And they charge more for these services than the county charges, without any apology. 

Chad was not hired, he reminded us, to decide whether salaries or compensation were fair, he was there to tell us what those expenses were and what were our options for cutting the divide between revenues and expenses. He’s nobody’s friend, he has no dog in this fight. I bet if he did have a dog in this fight, it would have no hind legs.

As I listened to the consultant I realized I was running out of time – I promised my husband I’d be home by 9:45 so we could get a jump on our work day. He was home oiling and sharpening his chain saw, rounding up all the rakes and loppers, getting ready to spend a sunny afternoon clearing brush and cleaning up tree trash with our son. I was looking forward to a day of running between burn piles with a pitchfork, cause I’m a weirdo.  I started toward the front door of the chambers, pulling on my jacket and digging my hat and scarf out of my bag. I lingered in the front entry to put away my notebook, and I heard Chad saying something about the “real problem,” so I got my notebook back out and stood listening by the door.

He explained very plainly that when city management went through two rounds of cutting workers from the payroll, “you didn’t reduce the cost of overhead”. He doesn’t mean, the PG&E bill. He said, “management salaries, compensation and pension.”  The mayor and his “conservative council”  laid off all the worker bees, but they didn’t lay off any management. In fact, they hired more management and raised management salaries. 

Right now, our management employees are all veterans of the CalPERS system. As such, they are not subject to the new legislation that forces public employees to pay half their expenses – they pay 9 percent of pensions of 70 percent of their highest year’s earnings at age 55. 

Frank Fields made it very clear – the private development fund deficit is “largely due to pension obligation.”  They’ve emptied the General Fund making transfers, now they want the developers to pay more.

And not just the developers – they did not, in front of me, address the problem of homeowners paying so much beyond actual cost. 

PS:  Now you might want to read the conversation I had about a year and a half ago with Mayor Sorensen, in which he says I made up the pension deficit. That Mark, he’s a crack-up.

PSS: The consultant made a remark that stuck – he included city council as “overhead“, and actually mentioned that we could cut our city council. That’s true – a lot of towns operate fine with five, we have seven. I don’t have a current figure, but last time I checked, the mayor gets a $9,000 “stipend,” the other councilors get almost $7,000 each, and then they get health insurance packages ranging from about $8,000 to over $20,000 (Sorensen was taking a $21,000 package last time I checked, in addition to whatever he gets as city manager of Biggs). Cutting two councilors would mean a minimum savings of two $7,000 stipends and two $8,000 health insurance packages – $30,000/year.


Commercial air service is dead in Chico – when will the city start paying attention to the real airport users, the tenants?

15 Nov

Laura Urseny’s story on the airport in today’s ER was no surprise for anybody. While she tried to insert “a glimmer of hope”, she had to admit, it looks like the end for commercial service in Chico. 

I have to give her some credit – she actually sought out a couple of airline executives and put the question to them, and the second guy took her seriously enough to give her a good answer.

Last week I chatted with Jude Bricker, senior vice president of planning for Allegiant.

He said there’s not much interest in Chico. Actually, none.

Bricker went through issue after issue that Chico faces. Airlines are flying bigger planes, roughly in the 150- seat capacity, for cost efficiency. Chico would be hard pressed to fill that, even once a week, he said. Chico had issues filling the 30- seater that SkyWest flew in three times a week. “ We’re not in active negotiations (with Chico) and have no plans for service,” he told me.

What could we do to interest an airlines, I asked. A subsidy program or other incentive was the first thing he mentioned, and then some way to assure the airlines that passengers would come.

He mentioned Sacramento’s closeness as a hefty black mark against Chico.”

There it is – they’re using bigger planes now, just like I’ve said. Those planes not only need 150 passengers to fill them, they need a bigger runway to fly out of here. Chico has not updated their runway like Redding did only a few years ago. That’s how Redding stayed in the game. Chico was busy pilfering the now-red airport fund to pay down the pension deficit. 

And then there it is, these giant corporations want a subsidy to locate here.  Yes, the taxpayers would have to pay these airlines to come here to serve less than 20 percent of the population.  Even then, they only offer service once a week, and there we are again – if they don’t meet the needs of the public the public will go to Sacramento. 

Yes, there is an international airport an hour and a half down the road – Hellllloooooo!

Why Urseny or anybody would continue to pursue commercial air service out of Chico is beyond me. Selfish? Just plain stubborn? Desperate?  Yes, there is an elite little crowd here who expect the taxpayers to foot their luxury bills. 

Urseny keeps trying to prop up this horse cadaver, at first telling the reader about “a glimmer of hope”. In the end she admits, “wouldn’t it have made a great column for me to announce some positive airline news?”  So, now she’s making up news to make herself happy? How about reporting on what’s really going on at the airport – the tenants are complaining that the city is giving them poor leases. These are the people who keep the airport there at all, and the city has treated them poorly for years, giving them crap buildings, forcing them to make their own repairs, but giving them no assurance they won’t be kicked out for higher-paying tenants or have rent raised on themselves when they undertake those repairs. 

How many people would rent a house that needs a new roof, when the landlord told them they’d need to fix the roof themselves? I don’t think that’s legal. But the city let the Aero Union building fall to complete crap – one reason they left – and now the city will have the museum people raising the $200,000 necessary to fix the roof. 

Hey, have a good time out at the Air Museum, but I wouldn’t linger in there too long. 


Consultant report: if we stopped subsidizing new development, we could get a whole ‘nother cop!

14 Nov

Next Wednesday the city has scheduled two concurrent meetings – a Finance Committee workshop starting at 8:30 am and an Internal Affairs Commission meeting starting at 9am.

You might recall councilwoman Tami Ritter changed the time of the IA meeting from 8am to 9am because she can’t get her big ass out of bed, through the shower and coffee shop drive-thru before 8:45 am. 

Both of these meetings hold items of interest to me. I question their scheduling these meetings concurrently but where’s that going to get me?  At the Finance Committee workshop they will discuss how developers have been getting away without paying fees for years, putting the Development Fund as much as  $9 million in the red for years. I had to print that figure in red, I mean, $9 million dollar deficit? How does that happen? 

Well, it happens when you don’t collect the fees, but you continue to pay city employees to do work for developers. There’s a whole department full of salaries up in that building devoted to for-profit developers. 

This problem was highlighted about 10 years ago when Cal Trans threatened a lawsuit against the city for not “dedicating” funds for widening of Hwy’s 99 and 32 while they permitted subdivisions all over town that were obviously going to strain our roadways. Tom Lando, then city manager, argued that the state should  pay for the widening, but Cal Trans showed without effort that the strain was coming from five specific subdivisions the city had approved, including Meriam Park – “a city within a city…”

I sat in a meeting where former city employees told us  these “planned communities,” like Westside Green over on Nord, were going to take the quality of life in our town on a one way ride. At that time most of our major roads had an ‘A’ or ‘B’ rating for travelability,   $taff said they were moving quickly toward ‘C’ and would never return. 

Ultimately Chico was ordered to dedicate funds, but in a conversation I had with Mark Sorensen about a year ago, he said the city had never collected the funds from any of the developers named in the suit. It looks like they still haven’t. Read the report I cut-and-paste from the agenda:

Specific Fee Category Results.   The analysis revealed that 70% (412 I 590) of the current fees for New Construction (a count of plan check and inspection fees combined) are less than the full cost of providing the services, thus providing a subsidy to fee payers. The remaining fees (30 %) are currently set equal to or higher than full cost. In other words, if the City elects to set all fees to recover full cost (and no more), some of the current fees would increase, and others would be reduced.

Read on – “new construction” means new homes and commercial buildings – 70 % of building activity going without paying fees!  “The remaining fees” are homeowners doing remodels, etc to their existing homes – we’ve been paying fees “set equal to or higher than full cost…”  It says there, “some of the current fees would increase, and others would be reduced.”  

Well, let me add a suggestion – they ought to have to give us our fucking money back, homeowners have been ripped off to pay for the big boys.

Read on:

Overall, since the annual volume of new construction permit activity applies more heavily to those fees that are currently under-charged (subsidized), the City would experience an overall increase in annual revenue in New Construction fees of approximately $ 260,000. A pattern of over- and under-charging for individual fees is very common for building studies. Wohlford Consulting normally finds that New Construction fees under-recover the cost of services for smaller project sizes and over-recover for larger project sizesparticularly at the extremes of the range. The existence of an overall deficit or surplus in New Construction fees depends on the mix of projects among sizes, but it most commonly results in an overall deficit or potential increase in revenues if fees are set at full cost for all project types and sizes. This latter result is evident in the Chico Building analysis. The results for the Miscellaneous Commercial fee category also show a mix of subsidized and surplus fees, but the overall revenue result is different. Although a large majority of fees by tally (71% or 132/185) are currently under-charged and subsidized, enough volume of activity occurs in the over-charged fees that the net result is an annual surplus of $48,000 and a cost-recovery rate of 114%. In particular, overcharges in the group of fees for small remodels or renovations (Fees# 12-17 in the Building results) offset all of the subsidized fees in the Miscellaneous Commercial fee category. In other words, the fees for small remodels and renovations are partially funding a variety of other fee services. As a result, if the City sets fees at 100% of full cost in this category, some fees would increase and others would decrease, but the net revenue would decrease by approximately $48,000 per year. A slight majority (53% or 45/85) of fees in the Miscellaneous Residential fee categories are currently set at or above full cost. The annual fee activity volumes for those categories result in a net surplus of $ 44,000 and a cost-recovery rate of 131% when compared to full-cost-recovery fee levels. Even though two of the three general Building fee categories present a revenue surplus, the funding deficit in New Construction is large enough that the net effect of all of the categories combined (New Construction, Miscellaneous Commercial, and Miscellaneous Residential) is an overall subsidy of $169,000. This subsidy also represents a potential annual revenue increase of $169,000 if the City sets fees at the full-cost-recovery levels. 

And let me remind you, Franklin Paving, one of the “big boys”, was probably the biggest single contributor to Mark Sorensen’s recent campaign. Look at the reports for Mike Maloney’s PAC, I ain’t got time to school you again on that.

Meanwhile, in the room next door, the Internal Affairs committee will be discussing an ordinance written almost specifically for the protection of our adorable City Clerk, Badge Bunny, and Best Pinner Ever!, Debbie Presson – a new Code of Conduct Policy that does not allow council members to go to the public with their concerns about staff. 

So there you are, I know you can’t make it. I’ll keep you posted.

Why CARD isn’t going to fix Shapiro Pool

11 Nov

Two weeks ago CARD had a “public meeting” to start discussion on their proposed aquatic center. They didn’t notice the meeting ahead, so only about 25 people showed up. They were given a short presentation by a couple of consultants and then asked to break into groups and write down their own wants for such a project. They were encouraged to dream big – water slides, 50 foot competitive pool, therapy pool – you name it!

I had attended the committee meeting earlier that day, and had a different kind of report from the consultants. At the committee meeting they made it clear the public would have to agree to a tax, not only to build this thing, but to maintain it in perpetuity. The consultants both made it clear this facility would be used by a very small portion of the public but would have to be supported by every home owner, renter, business owner and citizen of Butte County.

Consultant Lauren Livingston made it clear – if you  try to charge “users” based on the true cost of this thing, they couldn’t pay. But make it too cheap, and everybody would want to use it, and then it would be too small. “These things are not the cash cow people believe they are…” she said.

David Little, who did not attend the committee meeting, wrote an editorial blaming the consultants for pitching this big dream. I wasn’t at the public meeting, I don’t know what went on there. But at the committee meeting, both of those consultants told the committee they needed to plan something the community would use and could afford. But, committee members, especially Haley Cope and Jackie Santos, kept demanding all the bells and whistles. Cope was really insulting, saying in so many words the community doesn’t know anything and shouldn’t be taken very seriously in the decision making process.  She reminded us she was an Olympic medalist, but I don’t know what kind of grasp she has on the constitution.

Cope kept saying this thing would drag in people for “therapy”. The consultant told them no, there are already therapy pools in town, including a new pool at Enloe. And, he added, insurance companies won’t pay for therapy unless it’s done in a “dedicated therapy pool,” meaning they’d have to build a separate facility up to medical code.

Tom Lando, champing at the bit, declared such a facility would bring in hundreds and hundreds of people from our surrounding areas.  Redding has a pool. Durham has a pool. Willows has a pool. Exactly who does he think is going to drive to Chico to pay a membership at our aquatic center?

The entire time, the consultants kept shooting them down, telling them these facilities never pay for themselves, and they’d have to get some sort of commitment out of the taxpayers before they made any real plans. Certain committee members just wouldn’t understand – they want to bait the public with flashy drawings, without telling them about the cost. They kept demanding that the consultant come up with some sort of plans to show the public, and he kept telling them that’s not what he was hired for.  He was hired to find out what kind of center the public is willing to pay for, and like Little also noted – that’s not coming into the public conversation.

So, reading Little’s editorial, I had to write the following letter:

I attended an Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meeting held before the public meeting October 28 to hear their consultant’s suggestions. 


Dennis Berkshire of Aquatic Design Group and Lauren Livingston of The Sports Management Group made it clear that CARD will need to put a tax measure on the ballot to fund the kind of project AFAC is encouraging. “You can find a bazillion partners who want to use it,” said Livingston, “but none of them bring anything of value.”  Berkshire added we could expect, at best,  “40 – 45 percent annual operating cost recovery” from user fees, the rest would have to be “subsidized” by the taxpayers.  

The cheapest plan I have seen presented so far is $10 million, and the rainbow visions go as high as $28 million.  


Former CARD director and board member Ed Seagle reminded the committee that in 2012 they ran a survey which indicated the public is not willing to be taxed for this project. Since 2012 CARD has spent almost $100,000 on out-of-town consultants, trying to convince the public to pay for an aquatic center which might be used by a projected 15 percent of our population. 


Meanwhile, a local consultant recently reported we can remodel Shapiro Pool for about $550,000. 

Yes, we could have Shapiro better than it was before, for less than $600,000. But we have to remind ourselves what this is really about – it’s about the pension liability CARD has piled up – over $1.7 million –  and how they will pay it.


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