Chico Tea Party to host councillors Sorensen and Morgan, ass city manager Orme – “Chico’s role in economic development and how Chico can grow it’s way out of debt.”

17 Apr

Chico Tea Party meeting Tuesday 4/22/14 @ 7pm.

The Chico Tea Party Patriots will be holding a symposium. The topic will be the city of Chico’s role in economic development and how Chico can grow its way out of debt.  Mark Orme assistant city manager along with Sean Morgan and Mark Sorensen will be guest speakers.

 
The meeting starts at 7PM– at Marie Callenders 1910 East  20th Street, Chico. Doors open at 5:45 for those who want to order Dinner and visit before the meeting.

chicoteaparty.ning.com/events/chico-tea-party-patriots-meeting-3

LIMITED GOVERNMENT, FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, FREE MARKETS

Check us out on Facebook at “Official Chico Tea Party”

Check out www.chicoteaparty.com for more details on what tea party patriots are doing today.

Chico Tea Party Patriots
chicoteapartypatriots@gmail.com

236 East Ave., Ste. A
PMB 112
Chico, CA 95926-7239

Utility Tax Refund forms now available on city website

17 Apr

Wow, I am surprised this year to find the finance department has already posted the Utility Tax Refund application. In years past, I’ve had to remind them, but this year they got it up at least two weeks early. 

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/UUTRefundApplication2014.pdf

I hope you have all saved your bills – PG&E, and water for most people I assume, and if you still have a “land line” phone, they’ll get you there too. So, I save all my bills, and I march Downtown one day in June to collect. I usually get at least $50, even as low as we keep our bills here.

We’ve finally turned off our heater, so we can enjoy a few months of low bills before it gets hot enough to tip the air conditioner thermostat. But I’ve already heard air conditioners around our neighborhood. Save those bills!

 

Nakamura is dumping the fire department – in 2017!

14 Apr

Tomorrow night city council will discuss serving a three-year notice to the fire department that they will be considering a contract with Cal Fire. You may be asking the same question I am – why did they just approve new contracts with the fire department, with a proviso that says we have to give them three years’ notice before we dump them? This is not a sincere move on the part of Scott Gruendl or Mark Sorensen, it’s election year pandering.

Look there it says, “recently completed negotiations…” meaning, weeks ago. Why did they go through with the contracts at all?

REPORT IN BRIEF: The City of Chico recently completed negotiations with its nine (9) bargaining groups. One
outstanding issue, pertaining specifically to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Local 2734, that
essentially binds the City, is Section 5.7, a contracting out provision. The City Manager believes this section
adversely affects the City’s ability to consider alternative service delivery options in order to evaluate the costs related
to salaries and benefits. Thus, in light of the City Council’s desire to treat all bargaining units respectfully and equitably
in future negotiations, the City Manager recommends that the City provide the attached notice of intent, which
becomes effective April 16, 2017.

Experience is what counts in the Assessor’s office

13 Apr

Today’s session with Butte County assessor candidate Diane Brown answered all my questions about the assessor’s race – including, why would such a highly skilled non-partisan position be filled by the fickle public?

Brown’s opponent Al Petersen had already led us into this conversation, telling us how important it is to have an assessor who has an eye for detail and a good relationship with the public to keep the rolls accurate and up to  date.  Diane Brown took it further, driving in the need for experience in this leadership role. 

Petersen and Brown are former co-workers at Butte County assessor’s office, Petersen having left a  few years back to take a position with the Sutter County assessor. Al is a very polite guy, I didn’t want to get into it with him about why he left Butte County as an employee to drive all the way to Sutter for a job, I figure, there are a million personal reasons. But he and Diane still have a very good rapport, and that made for one heck of an informative conversation.  I’ll say, they both know their job and are really serious about this position. 

Diane led right off telling us about the function the office, picking up where we left off with Al. With a staff of about 38 people, the office is responsible for identifying taxable properties and their owners, assessing taxable value of everything from bare land to new construction, commercial properties, residential remodels and rebuilds. The maps must be updated to reflect changes in parcel boundaries and subdivisions. 

Assessments, she says, are based on recorded documents, inspections, and objective market values. Of course, market values have been falling over the past years, there are plenty of houses currently over-assessed. Brown explained that these homes can be enrolled in the Proposition 8 program. Prop 8 allows the assessor to adjust the base value of a house when it becomes “upside down”. The home remains in this program until either the market recovers and the home becomes worth more, or the house adjusts down to true market value. There are currently about 22,000 houses enrolled in the Prop 8 program.  Brown says anyone who thinks their house is over-assessed should certainly contact the assessor’s office.

Properties can also qualify for a variety of exemptions. For example, if your home is damaged by some accident – even if it was your own fault – you can get exempted from paying taxes on all or part of the house until it has been repaired. Also, home improvements that are made to accommodate a handicapped individual are exempt from re-assessment. In fact, a handicapped person may sell their home to move to a more accommodating home, and keep the tax base from their previous home. I’m sorry if my explanation is simplistic – if you want all the details, contact the assessor’s office.

I’ll tell you what, the conversation was flying fast and over my head alot of the time. There’s a lot to this job, that’s for sure. Complicating matters, Brown says the manual by which assessments are made is woefully out of date and hasn’t been updated because the position of Standards Officer has been vacant since 2005. The county has made cuts to stay on budget, but there is a position Brown says she would very much like to see filled. 

She is left to rely on her experience both in assessing and in training new assessors. There are a myriad of complicated rules and regulations – she used the exemptions as an example – something as simple as noticing a handicapped sticker on a car at a house getting a remodel would tell an experienced assessor that this household may be eligible for an exemption. 

“My training and experience make me the best candidate for this job,” Brown asserted.  Sue asked, how long would it take to bring a person who is not experienced up to speed in this job. I immediately thought of the Wilmar 8 – a group of female bank employees who went on strike back in the 80′s, one of their complaints being, they were regularly made to train outside male workers promoted over them. 

Diane explained that the state will grant such a person a temporary assessor’s certificate, which is good for one year. During that time this person must receive 24 hours of training regarding  all the stuff Diane told us about at this meeting. This would make them qualified to be hired as an assessor, but Diane says, a new hire would still require at least a couple more years of intensive training to be qualified as an “advanced assessor,” able to go out on their own and make their own calls. But, at the will of the capricious mob, they’re qualified to head the office? Weird, so very, very weird.

I wonder if the public is up to hiring somebody for this job, most of us having a slim to nothing hold on the qualifications. But, Diane reminded me, this person needs to be accountable to the public. “An assessor has to be able to work under a lot of pressure,” she said. County officials might want the assessor to over-assess, bring in more revenues for the county. These people could put an obscene amount of pressure on an individual who was beholden to them for a job. That’s why the assessor has to be accountable to the voters. 

Why me? she asked rhetorically.  She went on to detail her 30 year relationship with Butte County. Starting in the assessor’s office in 1983 as a clerk typist, she educated and worked her way up to appraiser in 1989 (slightly different than assessor, an appraiser only fixes value, assessor figures in all the exemptions and rules that go into setting the tax), was one of the first office staffers to be sent out to do field work, and one of the first women to work in the mountains. She has worked at all the local offices, trained new employees, and, as an advanced assessor, has assessed all sorts of properties – residential, commercial, ag, etc. 

What would Diane do as head of the County Assessor’s office? Again she mentioned the out-of-date manual. She would like that to be updated, asap. This would require the hiring of a new Standards Officer. The assessor’s office has been run very frugally under Fred Holland, who actually returned money to the General Fund the last few years. That’s like putting your children on diets to save money – not a good idea if they’re not actually fat. Maybe we need to ask our county supervisors to fill that position. 

There is quite a little gaggle running against Diane and Al for this job. Diane said it - “Let’s face it, this position pays a lot of money.” Al told us, the assessor is only required to be in the office, physically, two days a year! Those are the days he has to deal personally with the auditor. Bill Connelly and Virgle Gage have absolutely no qualifications, Connelly has already made statements indicating he will be completely dependent on staff. Rudy Rindelsbach is a realtor.  His knowledge of realty may come in handy for him, but he, like Connelly and Gage, will still have to be “brought up to speed” on all those laws and exemptions.  Again, leaving staffers who are hired instead of elected to run the shop.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not accusing county staff or CAO Paul Hahn of anything, but like Diane said, a boss can put undue pressure on employees, it’s better to keep the safeguards in place. 

Diane Brown seemed firm in her conviction that “the taxpayers deserve somebody who can step in there the first day of work without any training…the taxpayers deserve better.”

So, there it stands – of a field of five candidates in which we have two that are qualified and three that may just be in it for the $123,000 a year paycheck. You decide. 

Thanks to Diane Brown for coming in on a Sunday and thanks Al Petersen for coming in to round out the conversation. I think it is very much to both of their credit that they come out to engage the voters.

And thanks to everybody who came down to enjoy sandwiches with me for Taxpayer Appreciation Day!

 

 

 

 

 

Dogpile on Mary!

11 Apr

Do you remember childhood? Remember being on the playground and hearing somebody scream at the top of their lungs, “DOGPILE!”  And a mob would form out of nothing and jump on some poor kid – usually, a real annoying kid.  Seen it. Done it. Gonna do it now.  It’s highly uncivil, but let me ask you – has Mary Flynn Goloff been civil?  

I’ve actually been holding back lately, but you know I’ve said it before – Mary needs to go. She needed to go from the get-go. She’s never contributed anything worthwhile to a conversation. I remember when she chaired the Economic Development Committee (yeah, it’s all coming back to you now…), I sat in on a meeting where a former Chamber CEO was making his farewell speech as he headed to another town, carpet bag in hand. Jim Goodwin told us that Chico wasn’t going to get any new jobs because our housing was too expensive. Perspective employers know they can’t pay the kind of wages it takes to own a $400,000 house, so they go elsewhere. One manufacturer, of a cool, space age, high tech jet, pulled up stakes and headed for Texas.

Why are houses so expensive here? Well, first there was Tom Lando’s attaching of salaries to “increases in revenues but not decreases.”  Staff and council started handing out building permits to raise their own salaries. By the time that hayride was over, houses had gone from less than $100,000 to $600 – 800,000, in the span of a couple of years. Tom Lando’s salary had gone up about $100,000. 

Then staff, with the blessing of council, started giving the cookie jar to their friends who helped them raise revenues. They’ve allowed developers to come in and get all kinds of cheap to free service – streets, sidewalks, sewer hook-ups. They’ve handed money to developers – the $7 million used to purchase the low-income section of Merriam Park went right into New Urban developer Tom DiGiovanni’s pocket, out of the RDA fund, meaning we’ll pay for it three times. Scott Gruendl arranged for  DiGiovanni to write a “parallel code,” so he wouldn’t have to get variances for the sub-code stuff he does. They just let him write his own code, with narrower streets, smaller setbacks, and stuff like, the wall of one house acts as the fence to the neighbor’s property – your neighbor’s kid can play basketball off the wall of your house, and you have to sue his parents to make him stop. Go look at Doe Mill – you think that’s standard code? But those yardless crappers will still run you over $250,000 each. What?

Goloff sat through that Economic Development meeting listening to Goodwin’s report, and whenever there was a break in the conversation she’d kind of look around the room and flutter her hands and say, “Well I just think Chico is a wonderful place to live.” She just kept repeating that, over and over. 

Yeah, nice if you’re a public worker, and make three, four, five, six times the median income. It’s real nice to live in a town like Chico, where people are desperate, on a big salary. You can have a maid, nanny,  landscaper, all these willing slaves to do your shit work for you.  But it sucks if you’re living on the median income or less, because the high salary assholes drive up the cost of everything from gas to hair cuts to daycare to eggs. I got my hair cut at Dimensions once. I went in and told them, Annie August sent me, so they knew she’d told me how much to pay. I used to get a nice ‘do, a little color, made me feel pretty when I was changing diapers and scrubbing rental toilets. As I sat in the chair getting my color and cut, a lady came in, announced she was visiting from “The City,” and sarcastically asked if she could she get a cut for less than $150? Oh sure! they told her. They did exactly what they did to me and charged her twice as much. I remember how those gals looked at me, “Shut Up!” I never went back. After having a woman like Annie August fussing over you, there’s just nobody else. But I saw what they did, and I never forgot it. That’s the way this town is – take advantage creeps.

And that’s what Mary Flynn Goloff is, a take-advantage creep. She never even understood what she was getting herself into with the job of councilor, she just wanted attention.  I don’t know which ones are worse – the ones who come in with agendas in place, or the ones who come in to be fawned over like some sort of Evita, and end up being used like a Fist Puppet by the ones who do have agendas. That would be little Miss Mary. 

She’s been to rehab at least twice for alcohol and prescription drug problems. She’s already had problems attending meetings – we found out later, she’d been in rehab at that time.  Nobody is going to forget her unannounced entrance at Harvest Bakery while on prescription medication. How can we help but be suspicious that she’s fallen off the wagon again? In an attempt to be civil, I will ask Goloff to buck up and finish her term, but to announce NOW that she does not intend to run again. Thank you Mary for your anticipated cooperation.

 

 

Butte Supers write another protest letter over Cal Water rate hike – the leaders are leading, now the people need to follow

7 Apr

I’m sorry I haven’t posted this sooner – the Butte County Board of Supervisors has sent another protest letter over Cal Water’s proposed rate hike. 

March 25, 2014 

Ms. Karen Miller
Public Advisor, California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue, Room 2103
San Francisco, California 94102
RE: California Water Service Company General Rate Case
Dear Ms. Miller:
On behalf of the Butte County Board of Supervisors, I am writing to express concern over the proposed increase
filed by California Water Service Company (Cal Water). Butte County is served by two Cal Water service districts,
Chico and Oroville, with customers of each facing proposed increases of more than 26%. The Office of Ratepayer
Advocates proposed alternate rate increases of 7.2% for Chico and 16.1% for Oroville in March of last year, but
those rates are not reflected in the proposed rate case settlement.
The unemployment rate in Butte County at the end of January, 2014 was 10.0%. Although that rate has improved in
the past year, it continues to exceed that of the State of California and the United States as a whole. New home
construction may be on the rise throughout the rest of the State but that trend has not extended to Butte County.
While our local economy is finally showing some signs of improvement, it remains extremely vulnerable to events
affecting local spending and consumer prices. Our community can ill afford the negative long-term impacts of the
proposed Cal Water rate increases.
It is our hope that the Public Utilities Commission will assist the thousands of Butte County citizens and businesses
facing economic hardship by adopting more reasonable and affordable rates in the Chico and Oroville Water Service
Districts served by Cal Water.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Doug Teeter, Chair
Butte County Board of Supervisors
cc: Members, Butte County Board of Supervisors
The Honorable Brian Dahle, Member of California State Assembly
The Honorable Dan Logue, Member of California State Assembly
The Honorable Jim Nielsen, Member of California State Senate
Paul Yoder, Strategic Local Government Services, LLC
Joe Como, Office of Ratepayer Advocates

The other good news is, while the decision was supposed to be made in January and we might already be paying that 38 percent proposed increase, the commission is still out. I’m guessing, the various protests have been getting through, and these commissioners and their hangers-on have realized they are suddenly under scrutiny. Reading up at Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates’ Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marysville-For-Reasonable-Water-Rates/176321489194208

I understand the proposal has so far been whittled down to 10 percent – WOW! – but the source, a spokesman from Cal Water, warns that the commission “ can raise it to whatever amount they determine that Cal Water needs/and or deserves. ”  We have it in cyber ink –  the CPUC does what’s good for Cal Water! “needs and/or deserves“? We need to keep up the pressure.

I wish people would write to the supervisors and thank them for joining the protest. You can find their e-mail addresses here

http://www.buttecounty.net/boardofsupervisors/Home.aspx

A friend of mine who lives here in Chico reports that her homeowner’s association has raised dues because of the pending increase. “People had no clue,” she said. Yes, it takes time to get the information out. If you’re reading this and you care, write a letter to the Enterprise Record, News and Review, Oroville Mercury Register, or some other local newspaper. Remind your neighbors, this increase is mainly for pensions and benefits. Only $165,000 for infrastructure, over three years, but almost a million for pensions and benefits. Do the math on your bills, tell people how much your bill will go up. Tell people how much you’ve spent fixing your plumbing, buying water-conserving fixtures and appliances,  how you’ve changed your lifestyle to conserve, and  been rewarded with rate increase after rate increase. Remind them, we don’t have a water shortage, we have too many developers in Southern California demanding our water. 

My friend’s comment, and the inaction of the commission on the rate case have convinced me that people need to know, and we still have time to tell them. 

Only two months left til primary – Butte County assessor candidate Diane Brown coming in to library next Sunday, more speakers lined up

6 Apr

Next Sunday Chico Taxpayers Association will host Butte County assessor candidate Diane Brown at Chico Library, the usual time, noon to one pm.

There are six people running for the office of assessor. This may seem weird until you see the salary – over $120,000/year. Bill Connelly, who has yet to offer an qualification for the job or even any understanding of the duties,  has already stated the salary was a major consideration in his decision to run. 

The candidates filed:

  • Rudy Rindlisbacher, who lists himself as a real estate broker
  • Diane Brown, currently principal appraiser for the Butte County assessor’s office
  • Blake T. Bailey, undescribed
  • Bill Connelly, who describes himself as a contractor and county supervisor (District 1)
  • Al Petersen, currently chief appraiser for Sutter County, a former employee of the Butte County assessor
  • Virgle N. Gage,  “retired business executive”

Al Petersen was the first to announce, so I googled him and found him at Sutter County, contacted him and he got back to me right away. Al has supported our speaker series since the beginning. What I feel about Al is, he’s gone to a lot of trouble to contact the voters, it’s a logical stretch that he might be more accessible once he is in office. 

When I contacted Diane Brown, she actually told me she’d been trying to figure out how to get ahold of Chico Taxpayers, she’d read my letters in the paper and thought this forum was a good idea. We both wanted to get April 15, but that day was booked, so we settled for the usual Sunday date – I like consistency when I can have it. I’m hoping Al with come in, not for a debate, but both of these people as as well-informed as you can get about the function of the Butte County assessor’s office, between them, we should have a very interesting, educational and enlightening conversation. This isn’t just about the election for me, it’s about understanding the function of these highly paid employees who have a very direct impact on our lives.

I tried to get Bill Connelly to name a date, but he wouldn’t. Instead he came into Maureen Kirk’s date and  muscled himself into the conversation. But, he didn’t discuss the assessor’s job, just gave his take on issues before the Board of Supervisors. Which is where he belongs if you ask me. I can’t stand a jumper – somebody who runs for an office and then shags it halfway through. And Connelly is making no bones about the salary being twice as much! He’s got no qualifications for this office. And, Al told us – there are only two days of the year when an assessor is required to be in the office.   Is that how Connelly intends to run the assessor’s office? Show up the two days that he is required, then go home and collect that fat salary? And let’s not forget – pension and benefits, based on that $120,000 + salary.  

As for the others,  I will work on contacting them, at the very least, to tell them about Diane Brown coming in. I’m worried that this race will go to Connelly because he’s got name recognition (Sheesh Bill – think you put up enough signs?)  and because people don’t know what the assessor’s job is. And, he’s been raising money since way before he announced. It was pretty clear he wouldn’t commit to a date with us because he knew there was no money in it. Bill, could you wipe that slobber off your chin, you’re freaking me out.

Good questions to ask the assessor candidates are, how do you evaluate a property, where do you collect comps, do you actually physically view the property or use maps, etc. How do these folks feel about prop 13? Al has mentioned he’d like to see some analysis of how much money we’re losing to prop 13 – does that kind of talk turn you on or off? We need to talk about this stuff, come on down and bring your questions. 

Furthermore we have the following candidates lined up:

  • April 27 – Andrew Coolidge, city council, noon
  • May 11 – DOUBLE BILL – James Gallagher, 3rd dist assy, noon; Andrew Merkel, 2nd dist supe, 1 pm
  • May 25 – Joe Montes, city council, noon

And, I realize these things are at noon. Food is allowed in the library, so I’m going to try to bring sandwiches and bottled water, maybe a pot of coffee.

 

 

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