Maureen Kirk, Bill Connelly respond to my request for help with PG&E rate hike

20 Sep

Thanks to Maureen Kirk, my District 3 super, for responding to my plea for help with PG&E’s latest G-snatch. She asked me to nail down a date and time for a meeting – not so easy.

I ask people  - “what’s good for you?” and they come back with, “why don’t you just set a date so I can complain about it?” Well, not exactly in those words, but you know what I mean. So, I’ve tried to get ahold of the library room – but they’ve taken the mechanism off the website. I e-mailed the gal who had helped me in past, but no response. So, today or tomorrow I will call  or go over there. I’m busy as hell right now, wouldn’t you know it.

So, that’s where I’m at with this “public” effort.  

Bill Connelly also responded, but I’m not sure what exactly to make of his response:

I agree that PG&E seems to get every rate hike they request. On the other side the state requirements that more power come from solar and wind may be a complication. The avoidance of using coal power is also an issue. Also it would be better to pay any solar excess from homes and business full value to induce more panels.

Is he attempting to rationalize the rate increase, or what? I’ll have to get back to him when I get a chance, I’m off to work. As usual I will keep you posted.

No response or reaction from council or board of supes regarding PG&E rate increase. Write those e-mails!

19 Sep

Well, I sent my sad little notes around yesterday. asking for help in protesting the PG&E rate hike. I sent to the full city council, all the candidates (including the current mayor and vice mayor), and then I sent to the board of supervisors. I included staffers.

I sent that yesterday afternoon, with a couple of hours left to the work day, and the only response I got so far is candidate Rodney Willis.  I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to be very disappointed in these people if they don’t have something to say – I’m going to be pretty disgusted in fact. 

At least I got the supervisors to write a letter protesting the water rate hike, and I really feel that protest, mainly from Marysville, resulted in half as big a hike. I know, 19 percent still sucks, especially when most of it will go toward pensions (they said so in my rate increase notice), but at least it’s not 38, and you know they would have taken 38 if they could get it. 

So let’s jump on this, NOW! Write to the addresses I gave in the last post, and then write to your city council and your supervisors.  Tell them we want to see where the money from the rate increase is going. We want to know, how much do PG&E employees pay toward their own benefits and pension? 

scott.gruendl@chicoca.gov

mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov

randall.stone@chicoca.gov

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov

tamiritter@chicoca.gov

ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

mary.goloff@chicoca.gov

dteeter@buttecounty.net

mkirk@buttecounty.net

bconnelly@buttecounty.net

slambert@buttecounty.net

lwahl@buttecounty.net

PG&E asking for ANOTHER RATE HIKE! Public hearing scheduled for October 9 at Chico Holiday Inn. Should we form a posse?

18 Sep

I always wonder how many people read the notices in their PG&E bills. When I try to talk about this stuff to anybody outside my own family,  I get one of two responses – 1) OMG! How  do they get away with that? 2) Did you see the Giant’s game last night?

It’s hard to get people to talk  about this stuff, aside from an occasional howling rant when they get their latest bill. I’ve talked about the tiered pricing – it’s so confusing. But the weird thing is, they change the billing from month to month. Every other month they use a method of billing that raises rates dramatically for the last week and a half of the month. They do this by lowering that base tier amount, the amount you are allowed before they start raising the rate – they cut it in half. So, you’re in Tier 2 twice as fast, and Tier 2 doesn’t amount to diddly, so you’re in Tier 3 before you can say “Turn off those GD lights!”. Your price per kilowatt hour has just gone up from .13 to .31, wham-bam-thank-you-ratepayer.  You probably don’t use as much gas, but  they use the same scam on the gas pricing, look at your bills.

I wonder how many people know about what their electric or gas usage is every month. I wonder how many people throw away their utility bills when they pay them. This is frustrating for me. It’s like trying to rile up a bowl of Jello.

This latest notice is really  bad.  They are eliminating Tiers 3 and 4, and want to “gradually merge Tiers 3 and 4 usage into Tier 2″. I’m guessing, they will raise Tier 2 from it’s current 15 cents  to at least 25 or 30 cents.  Wow. Tier 1 is not even enough for a family of three in an 800 sf apartment. This I know, because my family hasn’t been able to do itfor a couple of years now. 

I save my bills for years – I wonder if anybody else does that. I have bills from both houses. I just got curious enough to look into my filing cabinet, I pulled out a bill from this apartment from 2010.  I found they have systematically pushed my family out of Tier 1, all the while making us feel like pigs with charts that show not our usage but the increasing amount we pay. 

In 2010, they were already using the weird billing, changing the baseline for that last week and  a half. But,  for that first three weeks, Tier 1 was 313.5 kwh at .11/kwh – compared to now – Tier 1 is currently 262..2 at .14/kwh. Looking over those bills, I see my family was well within Tier 1, right up until they cut it by about 50 kwh. That’s several days of our average daily usage.  

Do you really believe we have an electricity shortage? You’ve got to be kidding, with all the options for producing energy these days? The problem is the market, the brokering, and our governments’ total negligence to it’s duty. The California Public Utilities Commission has been completely loaded with utility company shills, including CPUC President Michael Peavey, who is currently being investigated for inappropriate behavior in the aftermath of the San Bruno disaster.

The notice in my bill says there will be a public hearing over this proposal, along with a proposal to double the monthly service fee from $5 – $10.  They’ve scheduled two sessions on October 9 at the Chico Holiday Inn, one at 2pm and another at 6:30. I don’t know if they will handle the proposals separately. It says there will be an administrative law judge present, possibly some CPUC members, and of course, PG&E reps to make sure to negate anything the ratepayers might have to say.  Cal Water has a guy, Justin Scarb, whose job is just to go around putting the opposition in the trash can.  I’m guessing PG&E has at least two reps for just that purpose. 

The CPUC hearing in March 2013 for the Cal Water rate hike was a big joke. There was no administrative law judge, nor any members of the CPUC present. The man who presided explained to us that he was, in fact, “a judge,” but not a CPUC judge. He’d been asked to fill in for the CPUC ALJ who was “very fatigued from traveling to hearings up and down the state…”  Wow, excuse me, Herr Emperor, while I get out some rose colored shades to shield my sensitive eyes from the nakedness of your puny junk.

Worse – the public was completely unprepared, just a pack of howling idiots,  reminiscent of those two old guys on The Muppets. The first speaker was the only one who had something worthwhile to say – Ray Schimmel. A retired finance manager, he tried to explain the benefits and pension packages the utility employees get – “defined benefits, the Cadillac of coverage…”  He explained, these packages come with a guarantee that no matter the financial shape the utility company or other public entity is in, those retirees get their benefits, no matter what.  

As Schimmel tried to make his point, the judge interrupted him repeatedly to tell him he had  to limit his comments to three minutes. Schimmel got frustrated and asked him to stop interrupting, and it went completely south from there, with some old shithead standing up from the audience to tell  Schimmel to sit down, there were other people who wanted to “talk.” Of course, he meant, vomit launch, but he called it talking. The whole meeting went down the tubes and my family left. 

Schimmel is right – these agencies have become nothing but salary/benefits/pension troughs.  That’s why CARD laid  people off to make a side-payment to CalPERS last year. The management salaries go up, the benefits and pensions get paid, no matter how they have to make lay-offs and scale back service.

You saw that with PG&E during a long power outage here in town about 5 years ago. Businesses all over town were hit – Spiteri’s Deli was closed for almost a week, with a cold case full of rotten meat.  Thank goodness we were living in a house with a wood stove then – temps went into the 20’s, and PG&E was denying overtime. They had a mandate that trucks had to be back in the yard by 10pm, no matter where they had been sent. No night work, because PG&E didn’t want to pay overtime on their field employees – it might cut into their stockholder profits. We’ve heard that before Folks, they’ll screw us for money – think ENRON.

So, I don’t know how mad you are about this latest proposal to stick us, but I’m not showing up alone  at that hearing, just to be handed a piece of crap in a Dixie cup and told to go home. If anybody’s interested in having an emergency Chico Taxpayers Association meeting  at the library to discuss  this and prepare some sort of comments, let me know at the “contact us here” button at the top of the page. 

We can also send  comments via snail mail or e-mail,or phone them in. I’d recommend jumping on that immediately, and writing a series of short notes, rather than some long blathering diatribe. Keep it simple, and they’re more guaranteed to read it.  Here’s the contact info that I got from my notice – you got it too:

E-mail:    public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov

Mail: Public Advisor’s Office, 505 Van Ness Avenue,Room 2013, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: (toll free number) 1-866-849-8390

Don’t give in too fast – we were able to pare down Cal Water’s rate hike proposal from 38 to about 19 percent with protest letters, calls, and the actions of groups like Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates. We can fight PG&E. Now’s the time – they and the CPUC are under incredible pressure and negative publicity over the San Bruno disaster. The mayor of San Bruno is asking for CPUC president Peavey to be removed. Let’s jump on this dogpile folks, we might get something for ourselves.

Here’s my question: when will we get to see The Books? Where does this money go, if we aren’t guaranteed perfect service 24 hours a day 365 days a year? We pay premium prices – for what? Certainly not secure service.  Pensions? Stock holders profits?  We are supposed to be able to ask for the books on these utility companies. Cal Water told us in their rate hike proposal, of a million dollar local rate hike, only $168,000 was going into infrastructure projects, the rest was going into salaries, pensions and benefits. That’s what’s going on here, and we need to point that out. I think that’s what worked with Cal Water, but I’m just the piano player. 

 

 

 

 

Sac Bee: Do we have an “overabundance of Democracy”?

16 Sep

I enjoy a copy of an out-of-town newspaper once in a while.  I hadn’t seen the Sac Bee in a few years, grabbed a copy at The Store when my husband drove me up to the hills to get out of the pea soup hovering over the valley.

The leading editorial was right out of my mouth – “Overabundance of Democracy: Elected bodies often avoid Scrutiny.”  The editors opine that while choice is wonderful, sometimes too many choices lead to nobody really doing any choosing. Voters in Sacramento County are faced with “32 special districts elections with one, two or even three open seats apiece…” California has “roughly 2300. They include mosquito and vector control districts that decide when to spray your neighborhood with pesticides and water districts that decide how much you have to pay when you turn on the tap. Others manage sewers, parks and cemeteries.” 

In our upcoming election we have a school district election and Chico Area Recreation District board positions. Unfortunately, we don’t get to elect our Mosquito and Vector Control Board, they are spoils appointments made by the county supes and the city councils in the district.

I agree with the editor – there’s nothing wrong with having these boards, but they need to be monitored. The Bee points out some districts they feel should not even exist – I’d say we need to lose Vectors and turn the operation over to the County Health Department – but ideally, these boards are a way for us to have more control over agencies that can put bonds or assessments on our homes.  As you may know, BCMVCD did just that earlier this year, in a process that I think we should all be questioning more seriously.

The Bee feels, “People are so busy and disconnected…”, cites low voter turnout, and complains “local governments rarely get the kind of oversight they deserve when making decisions about how to spend our money.”

Hear hear! How many times have I said this, well, you know, in my own way: “If we’re not paying attention, they may do things we don’t want. They may even line their own pockets, as the leaders in the Southern California city of Bell did for years before getting caught.”

Matt Ball, the guy who runs Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control, makes about $110,000 a year, and pays less than four percent of his own benefits. The new CARD director is making about same, and while I don’t know what his benefits package looks like, his predecessor, now retired, Steve Visconti paid nothing toward his own benefits and pension.

I have attended CARD board meetings, this is really easy.  They are monthly, start at 6:30 or 7:00 pm, and are usually over by 8:30. Right now they are talking about putting an assessment on our property taxes to pay for a grand new aquatic center. You can find information about all this at the CARD website – the “resources” page has budget and agenda information.

http://www.chicorec.com/CARD-Resources/index.html

I have never been to a BCMVCD meeting. I think they’re monthly, in the evening.  They seem to be held mostly at the little office in Oroville, but are sometimes held at the “Taj Majal” out on Otterson  Drive. You can find out a lot about this agency via their website:

http://www.bcmvcd.com/about.php

The editor sums up “Citizens have to get involved. Just think, if every adult picked just one local elected body to pay attention to just once a year, it would go a long way to keeping just the right amount of democracy.”

Well, I’d  say, get out there more than once a year. I myself have tried to keep up the blab on this stuff, but frankly, I haven’t been able to get to the meetings like I used to, I been busy in my personal life. But I don’t have to be disconnected.  I go to the websites and read the agendas, the documents, I do some research, I talk to people.  Try to get out there and find a commission to follow. If you want to send a report about a meeting, please send it to the “Contact Us Here” button at the upper right corner of the front page. 

 

ER ran my letter, here’s a few comments from Faceblob

11 Sep

We’ve seen letters to the editor, the police seem to be pushing a sales tax increase “for public safety.” 

 

Folks, the cops get over $20 million a year and fire gets another $17 or so. Million. Our budget is only about $42 million, do the math. According to a recent revelation from Downtown, the cops [sorry - correction - I'm sorry I screwed this up -  cops and fire between them get 72 percent, over half of which goes to the cops] get about 72 percent [more like 42 percent] of the General Fund [almost half the total budget], and they still can’t do their jobs. While the college students seem to have been keeping the fire department off their butts lately, the cops have gone on vacation as our crime rate goes up, up, up. We had a fatal stabbing at Downtown 7-11 last week, and a tussle with a guy who was later found to have a knife at Rite Aid on Mangrove.  Compare that to the number of cops who have EVER died in Chico – one.  And those are just the incidents that made it into the press. Chico is becoming much more dangerous for the general population, while the cops, who eat half our budget, walk away from their duties saying they don’t get paid enough. 

 

Months ago, I sat in a meeting Downtown, with Chief Trostle and now-retired officer George Laver, and told them how bad the situation was getting at Mangrove Plaza. I told them how twice I’d been in the Payless Shoes store when shoplifters had just about run over customers getting out the door with shoes. Payless takes a responsible stance – their clerks are told to stay put, never follow anybody out of the store. Wise thinking, you can get dead so fast, over a radio or a pair of shoes? Forget it – that’s the cops’ job.

All it would take is an undercover cop at that shopping center for a week, just a guy in shabby clothes, or a woman dressed like a housewife, and you’d be able to figure out who’s who and what’s going on down there.  I think the cops could learn something by talking to the people who work in those businesses, but Trostle just sat there as I told that story, the muscles in the sides of his head moving like boiling milk. I told him about an encounter I’d seen between some customers and a screaming drunk in front of Rite Aid. I told them about a guy who stood in front of me in line, stinking drunk, and bought a bottle of whiskey at 10:00 in the morning. I got no response. I don’t even know if they approached the management of either business.

Our police problem is not financial, it’s mental. They think they’re too good to serve people. What they’re doing in “public service” is anybody’s guess. Oh, I’ll answer that – they know the money is  great, the benefits are unreal, they don’t have any illusions about doing society any favors.  As soon as they put on that uniform they start to breathe their own farts and their attitude goes right through the top of their silly little hats.

I sent the following letter to Chico Enterprise Record two days ago, we’ll see if they run it:

Any candidate or incumbent who wants to be elected to Chico city council in November should be quizzed extensively about the employee contracts which will be back on the table in December. So far none have discussed the contracts in detail, nor have promised to curtail excessive compensation.  They all complain that employee negotiations are complicated, and promise to save the city with cuts elsewhere, but won’t elaborate.  So far, cuts have resulted in the disgraceful deterioration of our streets, our parks, and public  safety in general. 

 

One provision of  the contracts that needs to be changed is the city’s collection  of union/political action committee dues, even from employees who do not want to be  union members. These same funds are channeled into every city election, throwing the odds ridiculously. 

 

And, as pointed out by former candidate and administrative law judge Joe Montes, it creates a terrific conflict of interest. The city councilors sign the contract that allows the money to be collected, at taxpayer expense, and handed over to PAC’s that turn right around and hand it back  to the council candidates of their choice, either through direct contribution or through “indirect” support such as mailers and billboards. 

 

This election will be a turning point for Chico. As the public safety unions become more powerful, the average citizen will see their influence over their locally elected leaders get weaker and weaker. Speak while you have a voice – join Chico Taxpayers Association. 

UPDATE:

The ER ran my letter yesterday. I noticed there were a few comments – I don’t participate in Faceblob, so I brought the comments here, where anybody who can use a keyboard is allowed to participate in the conversation, not just people who are mainlining their social life through a box.  I’d like to see this conversation go beyond “the usual suspects”. 

Juanita you are wrong about the power of “public safety” unions. The fire union is powerful, the police union is not. The fire union was taking raises when then the police union was giving money back to the city. The police department is losing officers to higher paying agencies where the fire department has hundreds if not thousands who would do the same job for half the pay. You should recognize the difference.

This woman is not speaking to my letter, she’s a cop groupie who attacks the fire department. That is so distressing – aren’t they all public safety workers? Why do they act like characters from Super Troopers or Gangs of New York? Aren’t they supposed to support each other? But you’ll hear this same rant from police Chief Kurt Trostle – “the firefighters get paid to sleep and play X-Box!” He said exactly that when Stephanie Taber and I were invited to meet with him at the police station one day. He is very juvenile, like a big pouting teenager.  Angela is also playing with the facts – look at the salary charts, the cops have continued to get salary increases despite the theatrics played out in city chambers. 

Michael Jones answered:

I agree the Fire union members are more overpaid than police. And if it can be independently confirmed that Chico pays below market rates for police, then perhaps they’re not overpaid. But they make a lot more than the sheriff. Did you know that Dave Main Chico fire captain makes more then the Secretary of Defense? Is anybody really OK with that??

I don’t know what he bases this claim on, that fire fighters “are more overpaid” than police.   Maybe he will come around with the background on that. Does he mean they take more overtime? Also, he just showed a chart that blows the “Chico pays below market rate for police” out of the water – look at Chico Politics.  It is clear that both are fire and police are paid well above the average. 

http://chicopolitics.com/2014/09/10/ann-schwab-corrected/

I don’t really understand this entire remark, but I will say, no, it’s not okay with me that both our police and fire chiefs make more than the Secretary of Defense. Furthermore, they make more than four times the median income.  They are paid by people who live on less than a quarter of what they make, just in salary, then we pay their benefits. No, this is not okay with me.

 

 

See what’s ahead for Chico in the next couple of years…Marysville city staff play dirty with November tax increase measure

7 Sep

 I don’t know if you’ve heard, the Marysville city council voted to put a one cent sales tax increase on their upcoming ballot. As you’d expect in a town that defeated a similar proposal in 2008, there’s opposition. But something Democracy minded citizens might not expect was how the opposition was treated by the city clerk.

According to Lou Binninger in the Territorial Dispatch  

( read the full story here – http://territorialdispatch.biz/2014/sept/Sept3-2014WEB.pdf   )

the Marysville City Clerk gave the anti-tax group the wrong deadline and therefore prevented them from submitting their ballot arguments. When the group showed the clerk a note in her own handwriting with the wrong deadline, she still refused to accept their arguments. The city attorney backed her up, saying all the city has to do is post an obscure notice in whatever newspaper they think can bury it the farthest in the want ads. 

I’m not surprised, Chico City Clerk Debbie Presson has given me misinformation, and then handed me nothing but a dumb giggle and “I’m so sorry!”  But  to those of you who have not yet been hipped to the true meaning of “public servant,” it would still come as a shock that these people work to feather their own nests instead of safeguarding the public interest. 

I expect this or a very similar scenario to play itself out right here in Chico in 2016. We’ve already heard the cops asking for some sort of public safety tax, probably an increase in sales tax. As busy as I will be over the next year or so, I will  keep Chico Taxpayers up and running, let’s try to get ready for another go-around like Measure J, it might be fun. 

It’s not about pot it’s about property rights

7 Sep

When I read about warrant-less searches in Lake County, I realized what it is that bothers me about the Butte county marijuana ordinance, Measure A – I’m an American, and I believe in my rights to my property, to be safe and secure in my home. I realized, Larry Wahl’s marijuana ordinance is a step in the wrong direction.

The worst thing about Measure A, is that it goes beyond  encouraging fighting and court battles between neighbors, giving even strangers a harassment tool to hound people they don’t like for whatever reason. This really bothers me – complaints aren’t restricted to neighbors.  Wahl has claimed all along that he’s trying to help people who live next door to “egregious” grows – no, he’s trying to harass people who don’t agree with him out of Butte County. This isn’t just about marijuana, it’s about everything Wahl and his hip pocket stand for – unregulated development, wholesale logging of our forests, open door to PG&E and other utilities, lower regulations for fracking and mining, and more property tax revenues and other fees to pay salaries and pensions, including his own $58,000+ salary, down at the county.  

I’m sick of these grabs. Somebody please tell Larry to read a book, I’d suggest “John Adams” by David McCullough. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.