How do they get away with this every three years?

16 Aug

I’m sitting here in shock over the announcement that Cal Water got 20 of the 38 percent they asked for in a rate hike. And here’s the kicker Girls – retroactive back to January of this year. The CPUC had delayed the decision, so they agreed to make it retroactive. The announcement claimed the average retroactive amount would be $56, just glued on to your next bill. That’s based on the assumption that we all spend the lion’s share of our time at work and school, flushing public toilets and drinking bottled water.  Mine will more likely be over $100 – God I’m a pig. 

I got a comment from John B., reminding me, Cal Water asks for a rate increase about every three years. It’s automatic or something. 

my comment is about the 20% increase in water rates that was just approved, how do they get away with this every 3 years,they ask for raises to build new water tanks,repair/replace infastructure,new office to cut down cost,but when these things are done the cost still stay in place,so if they ask for 500k to build a water tank in there rates they are getting that 500k every 3 years forever.why do we not see a decrease when projects that the money was for are complete maybe a little for upkeep. they have increases in effect from 20yrs ago for completed projects. take out the public in cpuc

He’s right, they make it sound temporary, but they never use the word “sunset,” or give a date. They just use these excuses to perpetually hike our rates to cover their pensions, like I said in my letter to the ER:

Chico Cal Water ratepayers have been wondering about the “WRAM” charge on their bills. WRAM is the “Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism,” by which Cal Water manipulates our rates monthly to cover what Chico manager Pete Bonacich calls “operating expenses.”

Contacted by Action News 24, Mr. Bonacich described “operating expenses”. “We still have to have people go out and read our meters, we still have to have people go out and check our well sites, and maintain our pumps and things like that.”

Like Chico Police, Butte Vectors, CARD and other public and quasi-public employees, Cal Water employees get defined benefits, for which they pay zero to nine percent. They expect us to pay the rest. The Chico water rate increase notice I received in my bill included “$556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel…” and another $423,000 for field workers’ benefits, for one year, but only “$163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016.”

We are faced with a wave of tax and rate increase proposals to pay for pensions for workers who pay little to nothing for 70 to 90 percent of their highest year’s pay, available as early as age 50. Please join Chico Taxpayers Association in protesting unsustainable compensation. Protests from Chico ratepayers have resulted in a decrease in the water rate increase proposal which is currently before the CPUC – together we can and do make a difference.

I meant that about making a difference. They wanted a 38 percent rate hike, and while I’m sure they asked for more than they really wanted, I’m also pretty sure they would have got that 38 and liked it plenty if we hadn’t squawked about it.

I won’t give Chico much credit, Marysville and Lucerne and some other towns made a lot more noise. We owe them a lot of thanks. Those letters got one CPUC commissioner to at least set it aside, he asked for more comments from ratepayers. I’m guessing if we’d given him more, we might have got a better shake than 20. Oh well. 

John says, “take out the public in cpuc [California Public Utilities Commission]…”  This has already been accomplished – our governors, from Gray Davis on to Jerry Brown II have built a commission out of former employees of the utility giants. The current president of the CPUC, Michael Peevey, once headed Edison South and other power companies. 

Screaming bloody murder about this stuff is good, but we have to start voting for some new people. We have to start in our local elections, get rid of these union plants. 

 

 

Staff robbed the airport fund to pay their pensions, and now Redding will get increased commercial service because they put money into their airport

16 Aug

Why is Mark Orme surprised that Skywest has cut service to Chico? Is he new around here or something?

I’ve attended the Airport Commission meetings on and off for a few years now. Their agendas read like a broken record – get commercial air service! And, there has always been an underlying fear that Skywest would bail out on us completely.  From my own and experiences I’ve heard about, it’s no loss. Skywest was awful, leaving people stranded in Frisco with no refund.

Jim, how about that story you told me about the fueling problem on your Skywest flight? That is a great story about how Chico airport is run – or not.

Orme reveals that the city’s plan to save the airport over the last year has been to encourage people to use Skywest. That’s the plan? These people are bigger idiots than I could ever imagine.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who is a tenant and plane owner at Chico airport told me the real problem – the runway at Chico airport is not long enough for the new jets they’re bringing in. The tarmac needs to be lengthened. Redding did such a project a couple of years ago, and I think it cost less than a million dollars. Now they announce on Ch 7, as Chico loses Skywest, Redding airport will be getting more flights. That’s because they lengthened their tarmac to meet modern needs. Chico instead pilfered the airport fund, which Orme reminds us, has been in the red for some time, to pay their CalPERS payments.

Chico Airport has suffered from a lack of management for over 10 years. I can’t remember when the airport had a full-time manager. The fund has been in the red for several years.  Now, they suddenly find funding to hire a manager? I’m just going to guess – this guy is a friend of Orme’s or Constantin’s.

Orme says it’s time to get over the loss of commercial air service. I agree. I think it’s long past time they started better serving their tenants and pilots who pay fees to park and fly out of our airport. Last year, according to staff, they lost 130 planes. 130 yearly parking fees.  I don’t know the dollar amount on that, but they were bumming about it. 

These people who are banging for commercial air service in Chico better get their heads out of their asses and think – they really think a commercial air liner is going to land on our pot-holed old tarmac, short, I don’t know, what, 100 feet? That’s a lot when you’re landing a jet people. And then there’s the fueling station – I’ll let Jim tell you about that.

Ride the Tiger?

15 Aug

The first question I would have for Reanette Fillmer is what’s a  CALPELRA Labor Relations Master (CLRM) ?

 

PEOPLE

Reanette Fillmer

Consultant

t: 530.520.5775
f: 415.678.3838
rfillmer@publiclawgroup.com

Experience

Ms. Fillmer is a human resources consultant with the firm and has over 25 years of experience in public and private sector employee relations and human resources. Ms. Fillmer works with our public sector clients on a variety of human resources and personnel issues including: integrated disability management (FMLA/CFRA/PDL/ADA/FEHA), employee and labor relations, arbitrations and mediations, organization management, strategic planning, terminations, policies and procedures review, and recruitment. Her years of experience in both the public and private sector make her a valuable addition to the firm’s consulting team.

Related Experience

As a Human Resources Director with the County of Tehama, Ms. Fillmer oversaw all aspects of labor and employee relations including bargaining, mediation, arbitrations and PERB hearings, EEOC claims, contract interpretations, settlement agreements, and disciplinary issues. She also provided advice to all County departments regarding regulations and policies related to the Civil Rights Act, EEOC claims, ADA and FEHA considerations, workers compensation, recruiting standards, staffing and employee issues and investigations of complaints. Prior to taking a position with Tehama County, Ms. Fillmer served as the Human Resources Manager and Payroll Manager for the Sacramento Superior Court.

Community Activities

  • Member of CPAAC
  • Member SHRM
  • Member of Tehama County Employer Advisory Board
  • Past member of Board of Directors for CSAC EIA
  • Served on CSAC EIA Primary Workers Comp Committee
  • Served on Legislative Committee and the Benefits Committee

Certifications

  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • CALPELRA Labor Relations Master (CLRM)

The “homeless problem” is not going to get any better – $1 million grant eaten by management salaries, county having trouble recruiting for the lower paid, “hands on” positions

10 Aug

I sent a note to District 3 supervisor Maureen Kirk, asking about the results of the $1 million grant the county received to beef up Behavioral Health services. I reminded her – Chico PD has complained that there are no staff to take care of people “who are a danger to themselves or others,” the police are in the habit of handing them over to nurses at Enloe Emergency Room. This is not only a problem for Enloe staff and other patients in the ER, it’s a financial problem for the hospital, who does not receive  any reimbursement for these “patients.”   Another problem is, once the police leave, hospital staff is not able to force them to stay, and they oftentimes just leave as soon as the cops are out the door. Problem not solved.

I wrote a rambling note to Supervisor Kirk, complaining that “sit and lie” and “clean and safe” have only driven transients out of the Downtown area and into the rest of town, especially the Vallombrosa and Mangrove corridors. She responded that she knew this was a problem.  She described the city’s strategy as “whack a mole.”  She’s right – they’ve whacked them underground, and they’ve popped up at the CARD center, and Rite Aid parking lot, and the post office annex, etc. That’s just my neighborhood, I can’t say what’s going on around town,  but I’ve also noticed the usual concentration out at East and Esplanade, near the new Raleys, is growing. They had a stabbing in the East Ave Raley’s parking lot a week or two ago, and one morning I witnessed a little hobo fight in the parking lot, where they congregate to turn in their recyclables.  At that time, it just looked comical, now I realize, those dirty old fuckers are packing – they pretty much have to if they don’t want to get stabbed and robbed by another one of their buddies. I told a city committee about similar incidents when I was a college student in Sacramento, and some of them actually made fun of me, acting as though I was making it all up. 

Kirk forwarded my inquiry to staff, and got this answer: 

We are moving along with program implementation in the ERs – Enloe included. We have many of the staff hired (though not all the staff – we are finding some challenges recruiting for the evening shift staff) – and will hopefully be interviewing a new group of candidates next week or the week after. Our IT departments are working together and are almost finished with setting up the secure internet connections in the ERs. Finally, we have completed site visits for Medi-Cal certification and are just waiting for State/Federal response. Our Crisis Manager is working with Enloe to begin setting up training for staff. I am hoping that program start-up (at least at Enloe) will begin in early to mid September. We are also working to get triage personnel in the shelters during this same time frame.
>
> In the meantime, we continue to provide the mobile crisis services at the ER as we always have.

Yeah, I’ll bet they’re having “challenges recruiting for the evening shift staff”! Who wants to do a job like that for $30 – 35,000 a year? Are we talking about people with any training? Well, they likely had to go to college and work long internships to get that training. They’re older people by now, maybe have kids? But they’re expected to do a  job like that, at night, for a salary that won’t even pay the rent. much less car expenses. And what about child care – who has a child care center open all night? Don’t say “the spouse,” a lot of people are single parents these days. On a salary like that, they’d have to be on food stamps to make ends meet.

I’d also like to respond to the comment the staffer made at the end. I won’t call her a liar, but the cops said there is no “mobile crisis service,” and that’s precisely the problem. The cops bring in these lunatics covered in their own excrement, and there they sit in Enloe ER, oftentimes until they become able to motor themselves out the door. Nobody picks them up after 5 or on weekends, that’s the precise problem, but the staffer denies it.  Denial is a major part of this problem.

I asked Maureen Kirk if she actually expected a $30-35,000 employee to deal physically with these people when the $100,000+ psychiatrist they hired won’t even be coming into the same room with them, but she hasn’t got back to me. Kirk makes about $58,000 salary as supervisor and also enjoys health and pension benefits, although I don’t know how much of  that she pays.   I asked her if she would take a night position at Enloe to deal with mentally disturbed street people for a lousy $30-35,000/year.  Maybe she’ll come over to the blog and talk to us about this problem. 

The short of it is, we still have a major problem here,  and it’s not getting any better.

 

 

Is crime on the rise in Chico, or is police response at an all-time low?

3 Aug

I don’t know if there is actually more crime in Chico, or more problem reporting crime and getting the cops to do something about it. I do know, I see more “homeless” people around town than ever before, and I hear more complaining and anecdotes from people about petty thefts, vandalism, and generally unpleasant behavior. 

This problem is NOT confined to the little section of the city known as “Downtown,” but city council only discusses the problem within those boundaries.  “Sit and Lie” only applies to Downtown, for example.  

So I turned to my county supervisor,  Maureen Kirk. I wrote her a nagging e-mail about how the Mangrove Plaza/Vallombrosa Post Office area is becoming a magnet for panhandlers and drunks. They take positions right outside Safeway, oftentimes between the shopping cart bay and the front doors, with dogs, with all their stuff. They will actually walk out in front of supermarket customers to ask for money. They camp pretty unabashedly around the post office annex, tearing bricks out of the retaining wall  where they sleep at night and leave their belongings/garbage during the day. 

I’m waiting for Maureen to come back to me with an update regarding a roughly million dollar grant Butte County Behavioral Health received this year to beef up services for the mentally ill, including transients picked up by Chico PD. At meetings I’ve attended, the police have complained that Behavioral Health was underfunded, and after 5pm and on weekends, the police had nowhere to take folks who seemed to be a “danger to themselves or to the public,” except the ER at Enloe.

Imagine yourself in there at 1am with a screaming child, and there’s a guy laying on the gurney in the next slot, covered with his own poop and muttering obscenities. Or not muttering at all, looking pretty dead. A person who is believed to be “a danger to himself or to the public…”  They’ve used our hospital ER, which charges roughly $7,000/hour, as a drunk tank.

I knew Behavioral Health was understaffed – I’d looked at the salaries, and seen – the director seemed to be a revolving door position, often empty. The salary was only about $58,000/year, while other management were making in excess of $75,000/year salary. “Staff” consisted of interns making less than $10,000/year, with no benefits. These folks came and went, and I can’t believe that kind of staffing is conducive to anybody’s mental health.

When the grant came up on the agenda, it looked as though they were hiring a couple of senior doctors, both compensated at well over $100,000/year including salary and benefits. One of these doctors will only be available via computer link. The rest of the hirees – it looked like, the folks who actually have to deal with the day-to-day problems of the clients, were to be compensated less than $50,000, total salary and benefits. 

I don’t like the salary scheme, but at least the department is getting staffed. I dropped Maureen a note  asking, does this mean the center will be open 24-7 for Chico PD to drop off transients and other patients? She said she’d check on this and get back to me. I’ll be interested in hearing what she finds out, thanks Maureen. 

San Bruno mayor asks for removal of CPU Commissioner Peevey for inappropriate relations with PG&E in probe of PG&E blast

29 Jul

A Marysville Water Warrior  friend of mine sent this  – no link, just an attachment. I hate that, but this is important news, that you will NOT see in the Enterprise Wretched, so I’m running it here. It’s from the San Francisco Chronicle.   Maybe you remember – Peevey was the guy I was asking you to write letters to.  You might also remember the post I made regarding the make-up of the CPUC – they’re all ex-employees of the utility companies. Read it for yourself:

 

San Bruno mayor calls for top official’s removal from blast probe

Jaxon Van Derbeken

Updated 3:56 pm, Monday, July 28, 2014

*

A Chief of Staff of California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey (photo removed, sorry) advised a PG&E executive on ways to deflect a request to disclose public information. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle | Buy this photo (07-28) 14:44 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — The California Public Utilities Commission’s president should be removed as head of the regulatory agency in light of San Bruno explosion-related e-mails that show state officials are “subject to undue influence” by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the city’s mayor said Monday. Mayor Jim Ruane said the e-mails, including an exchange in which commission President Michael Peevey’s chief of staff advised a PG&E executive on ways to deflect a request to

disclose public information – and the executive replied, “Love you” – showed that state oversight of the utility “is corrupted.”

The utilities commission “has lost its ability to carry out its mandated function as a watchdog for the public,” Ruane said.

While the commission’s reaction was muted, PG&E said it was looking into whether the executives who wrote the e-mails had acted in an “ethical manner.” And the head of PG&E’s parent company apologized that a utility official wrote in an e-mail that he had “no respect left” for a state senator who represents the neighborhood where eight people were killed and 38 homes destroyed when a natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno in September 2010.

Large fine looms

Ruane called on Peevey to be removed both as commission president and as head of regulatory proceedings into whether PG&E should be fined more than $2 billion for safety violations related to the explosion.

The mayor made his comments outside the commission’s San Francisco office, in a press conference that officials called after obtaining the e-mails in a lawsuit settlement with the utilities commission. In one e-mail exchange last year, Carol Brown – Peevey’s chief of staff – suggested to PG&E official Laura Doll that the company fight a public-information request related to a safety seminar that the commission was planning to hold. Brown said PG&E could send a “sweet note” deflecting the request and then “wait for them to throw a fit.” Alternatively, PG&E could answer “any simple question” but refuse to answer others, Brown said.

Doll replied in an e-mail, “Love you.”

In another e-mail, Doll invited Brown to “get together or just have a phone call to talk about Mike’s (Peevey’s) potential remarks at the safety symposium.”

PR tip

Another e-mail exchange showed that Peevey himself critiqued PG&E’s public relations strategy when it was indicted on federal criminal charges in connection with the San Bruno case earlier this year. Peevey told a PG&E executive that the company’s handling of the news was “inept.”

San Bruno officials said Peevey’s critique was improper, given his role as arbiter of the still-unresolved regulatory case against PG&E. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, joined Ruane in calling for Peevey’s removal from the case.

“He obviously has a bias,” Speier said in a statement. “If Mike Peevey wants to be a consultant to PG&E, then he should resign.”

Peevey, a former president of Southern California Edison Inc., will complete his second six-year term on the commission at the end of 2014. He was originally appointed by former Gov. Gray Davis and was reappointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Gov. Jerry Brown has the power to replace Peevey as president. Brown is on an official visit to Mexico, and his office did not respond to a request for comment.

Complaint against PG&E

In addition to calling for Peevey’s removal as commission president, San Bruno officials filed a complaint with the state agency against PG&E for “knowingly and intentionally attempting to illegally influence the outcome” of cases related to the 2010 disaster.

The city also asked for the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the utilities commission and PG&E, “so the public can once and for all be confident that the actions of this public agency will no longer be subject to undue influence by PG&E.”

The utilities commission said in a statement that it “takes seriously all allegations of bias and rule violations and will evaluate the motions when filed by the city of San Bruno.” PG&E President Chris Johns sent a letter to San Bruno officials and the utilities commission saying the company is “absolutely committed to conducting ourselves in an ethical manner at all times. I want to assure you that we will review the e-mails involved in this matter to ensure that this high standard was upheld. If it was not, we will take appropriate action.” Karen Paull, chief counsel of the utilities commission’s watchdog arm, the Officer of Ratepayer Advocates, said there are strict rules against informal talks between state officials and utility executives during enforcement proceedings such as the San Bruno case.

“If you allow back-channel communications, like we have seen in the e-mails, you cannot have a fair process,” Paull said.

Apology to Hill

The head of the utility’s parent company, PG&E Corp., issued an apology Monday to state Sen. Jerry Hill for comments a PG&E executive made about him in a January 2012 e-mail to a utilities commission official. The executive, Brian Cherry, PG&E’s vice president of regulatory affairs, said in the e-mail that “I have no respect left” for Hill, D-San Mateo, who has frequently criticized the company and the utilities commission since the San Bruno disaster. PG&E Corp. CEO Tony Earley told Hill in a letter that Cherry’s comments “do not in any way reflect the company’s point of view and are unprofessional.”

“While we may disagree at times, I have always appreciated your passion and even-handed approach on many policy issues affecting the communities we are all fortunate to serve,” Earley wrote.

Hill said he appreciated the spirit of the letter.

“I think Tony Earley means well and wants to make changes,” Hill said. “But it’s difficult because of the size of the bureaucracy and the long-standing historical culture that needs to change.”

Jaxon Van Derbeken is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jvanderbeken@sfchronicle.com Twitter @jvanderbeken

Good news for Marysville – CPUC judge recommends lower rate hike for them, but still no word for Chico

26 Jul

It really makes me frustrated that the local media isn’t covering the Cal Water rate increase. Here’s a story from the Marysville Appeal Democrat, regarding the Marysville rate case, which is separate from the Chico rate case. I have no news on the Chico rate case. When I asked David Little if he could find out more information on this rate increase he responded, “I don’t know if we’re doing anything on Cal Water?” [sic]  

http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/puc-to-consider-cal-water-rate-hike/article_4406288a-12f1-11e4-9d88-001a4bcf6878.html

PUC to consider Cal Water rate hike

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:08 am

By Eric Vodden/evodden@appealdemocrat.com

 
An administrative law judge issued a proposed decision this week that keeps intact a California Water Service Co. three-year rate increase in Marysville.Judge Robert Mason’s decision reflects a settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates calling for a 10.16 percent rate hike this year.

 The 93-plus page decision also follows settlement agreement recommendations of inflationary rate increases in Marysville of from 1 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

The decision, which addresses proposed rate hikes in water systems operated by Cal Water throughout the state, must still be considered by the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission will take up the proposed increase on Aug. 14.

Cal Water spokesman Justin Skarb said if the PUC adopts the agreement, new water utility rates will become effective a few days later. The company has said it needs the increase to keep up with increased costs and state-mandated capital improvements.

Under the proposed decision, a typical residential customer in Marysville using about 9,724 gallons of water per month will have charges totaling about $43.65, up from $39.36.

The increase, stemming from a company’s 2012 application, was initially expected to be completed in time to be imposed last Jan. 1. Since it wasn’t, customers will see a surcharge on their bills to reflect the “under-collection of revenue” since Jan. 1, Skarb said.

“To lessen the impact on customers, the surcharge will be spread out over a period of 12 months, and is likely to be less than 25 cents per unit of water used by customers,” Skarb said in a statement. “Those figures could change, however, if the commission does not adopt the proposed decision, or otherwise modifies it.”

The settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates last November effectively ended a public campaign in Marysville by residents opposed to the hike. Yuba County supervisors, the Marysville Joint Unified School District and the Marysville City Council also opposed the increase.

The 10.16 percent increase for 2014 is below the 14.1 percent increase recommended by the Office of Ratepayer Advocates. It was believed the increase would fall somewhere between the 34.8 percent Cal Water was asking and what Ratepayer Advocates was recommending.

The increase also includes funds needed for the $2 million relocation of water mains along portions of Highways 20 and 70 to accommodate Caltrans’ ongoing roadway project.

CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769.

I think Marysville got a good decision because they made a very loud protest, as did Oroville. They were actually named on the documents as a “party,” and they got regular updates on the case from the CPUC. I don’t even know how to register myself as a “party.” When I tried to talk to the folks in Sacramento, they told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously and be heard at all by the commissioners (or even their receptionists),  I’d have to drive to San Francisco to attend meetings, pay out of my own pocket to stay overnight because the meetings went on over days, sometimes over the weekend. Otherwise I could just sit home and wait for the rate increase notice, retroactive to January 2014, in my bill.  I had no posse behind me, no group willing to make phone calls, spend hours searching and networking for information, attend meetings or help to write or sign letters. 

Chico has been pretty limp-wristed here. There was a big hoo-rah in the beginning, back in March 2013, when a packed room of pissed off jerks greeted the CPUC representative who monitored the hearing. Oh yeah, you guys gave little Darwin a real pants-ful. And then you folded up and went home and hung your testicles on the wall next to your Mickey Mouse badge and cap gun.

Just lately I’ve seen a letter about WRAM – well, how do you do? Let’s get together and write a formal, group letter to the CPUC before they make their final decision. I’m willing to book the library room to work on something, let me know if you’re interested. 

If we don’t make some kind of noise, we might actually get the 38 percent increase Cal Water proposed to begin with. Cal Water rep Justin Skarb acts as though Cal Water is being shorted here, that we’re just getting oodles of free water. We have to tell the CPUC about the notice we got – read here – about $1.5 million just for salaries, pensions, and benefits, and another $395,000 for “quality employees“, whatever the hell that means:

Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:

  • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
  • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
  • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
  • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
  • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016

 

Remember, this is a proposal, the CPUC still needs to make a decision. 

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