What are the issues leading up to November?

7 Feb

The top three searches this week, in order of popularity,  were

  • “torres shelter executive director brad montgomery salary”
  • “joe matz recology”
  • “water rate increase”

I was relieved to read that Chico city council gave the Torres Shelter the back of their hand last Tuesday, offering them the $277 collected by way of those new red-topped meters Downtown. That is a perfect solution for both the Torres and for naysayers who appropriately pointed out that the city shouldn’t collect money without specifying exactly what it will be used for.  It also tells us, point blank, what the community really thinks of the shelters – those meters have been available since August, and they’ve only collected $277? That’s a pretty clear message if you ask me – “Go Away.”

 A letter in this morning’s paper suggests that the Jesus Center and Torres should merge.  Good point. I had always thought there was a board of directors that ran the various homeless agencies in town, but no. They all have their own boards of directors, staff, etc. The Jesus Center has 12 paid employees, the Torres boasts anywhere from 8 to 16 – wow, that’s a lot of people being paid to serve the same hundred or so people a night. Maybe merger would be the best answer.  

I hope the search for Joe Matz, Recology, was out of curiosity over the trash deal the city is working out with the haulers. I had just inquired about the deal, and again Chico city manager Mark Orme assures me he has nothing to report. I’ll speculate here – they are fighting like, well, junk yard dogs, over this deal. The trash companies were given 5 years “notice”, so in that time  they can drag their feet, saying they are doing cost studies, etc. The city is asking for too much, and the haulers know the public will buckle under the rates  they will have to charge to cover all these services – street sweeping? Hazardous trash  pick-up? I told  Orme the public needs to be let into this discussion but as usual he will not respond to that request. I don’t know if he’s just stupid or doesn’t care what the public thinks, but county admin officer Paul Hahn already warned him what would happen when the deal rolls out – “phones ringing off the hook for two weeks…” 

 Of course people are pissed about water rate increases when we have been told that Chico came within half a percentage of meeting it’s water saving goals while other districts around the state are not even coming close. Farmers in So Cal are growing strawberries with water transfers while we are being told to rip out our lawns. Of course, doing their part to spread propaganda, the Enterprise Record sent Heather the Hack over to Cal Water’s open house to act as their mouthpiece. She’s a lawn feeder, that girl. No, she did not ask Pete Bonacich how much he gets in salary or why he doesn’t pay anything toward his benefits. 

I didn’t see any searches about the swimming pool tax, the school bond, or the sales tax increase, but as November draws near, I think the conversation is going to get pretty hot. 

It’s good to see people asking questions about funding Torres Shelter

2 Feb

People have been searching for information about the Torres Shelter, especially “Brad Montgomery salary,” so I’ve been doing a little searching of my own. People keep asking me questions about the shelter – I became curious about who is actually responsible for running the shelter.

Torres Shelter is run by the Chico Community Shelter Partnership, a board of local folks who profess a desire to help the needy and get them off the streets and out of public parks. They are a “non-profit” and file a form called a 990 – here’s the latest filing I found, for 2013:

http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/680/680440819/680440819_201409_990.pdf

 I was floored to see, right there on page one, a total salaries and benefits figure of over $400,000. Wow. I heard there are 16 employees, I’m wondering how that pans out. I have no information about shelter staff duties. I do know, some of the people – mainly counselors – who work for clients of  the Torres are paid by different agencies, like Butte County Behavioral Health, and Northern California Catholic Services. Those salaries are not included in that $400,000 figure. 

 

I don’t know what the director position duties are, but with a lot of agencies I’ve learned, the director’s main job is fundraising. The biggest salary is usually the director. At other agencies I’ve looked into, like the Chico Creek Nature Center and the Blue Room, for example, the director’s salary was about $50-55,000/year.  

I did find out something about the board and staffers in their Summer 2015 newletter.

http://chicoshelter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Summer-2015-Final-Newsletter-1.pdf

Board Chair Joseph Hallett is a local  mental healthcare provider. Vice Chair Karen Betenbaugh, a resident of Capay, is married to Orland Edward Jones advisor Paul Betenbaugh. Treasurer Holly Pladson is a local CPA and teaches accounting at Chico State. Secretary Billie Kanter-Monfort is a retired Chico State employee, married to former Chico planning commissioner and CSUC retiree Kirk Monfort. 

Non officers include Jim and Kris Fortado, a retired couple, Lawrence Sullivan, a human resources professional, Pat Macias, a retired art teacher, former park commissioner Rich Ober, a software professional, and Tim Vander Heiden, who sells products that help businesses become compliant with the American Disabilities Act. 

I just thought we should  know who is running this place that is largely tax-funded. How they run it is another question. Here’s how they list “Staff”

“Brad Montgomery, Executive Director; Bill Slack, Shelter Supervisor; Dawn, Development Coordinator; Liz, Service Coordinator; Louise, Service Coordinator; Melanie, Service Coordinator; Krista, Shelter Coordinator; James, Friends House Manager.”

I only see eight names listed there, when there is supposed to be a staff of 16.  I don’t understand the reluctance of these people to use their last names – this shelter is funded with public money – look at that Form 990 again – and this is public information. Why so shy? 

What a snoop, huh? Well, you should be so snoopy. Tonight Brad Montgomery is going to do what non-profit directors do – he’s going to try to hustle a paycheck out of city council. Your money, you should be interested in how it is being squandered. Or not. 

 

 

 

 

 

Election 2016 will be The Battle For Chico

2 Feb

I like to look at the blog stats, see what people are thinking about, what searches bring them here. I have to wonder if somebody’s just having fun with me when they type in “reanette fillmer stupid bitch.”

What in the world did Ms. Fillmer do this time?

A month or so ago, the lines were bouncing with curiosity and outrage over the Feaster shooting – now it’s the Torres Shelter. Tonight shelter director Brad Montgomery will make some kind of plea before City Council, we’ll see what happens.

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of Chico Chamber chair Mark Francis’ suggestion that Chico is ready for a quarter cent sales tax increase. That reminded me – I need to make another order from Lucky Vitamin. I found Lucky Vitamin a few years ago when former city manager Tom Lando started talking about raising sales tax. I didn’t like online shopping at first, but wow, it’s gotten so much better.  Since Lando first broached the subject of a sales tax increase, I’ve found my way onto various shopping sites that offer good prices and free shipping. I find shipping to be getting a lot better, and when there’s a mistake, you don’t have to drive to the store and wait in an onerous line to make your return.

It’s up to the seller to collect sales taxes, and they are not required to do so unless they have a “physical presence” in California. I know Amazon.com has made a deal with the Franchise Tax Board but only for items shipped from a California location. The customer is on the hook to report and pay uncollected sales tax, or  “use tax,” but there is no mechanism to sort this out by city, the state just keeps it.

http://blog.taxjar.com/sales-tax-for-california/

Whether or not the city gets the sale tax, local businesses will suffer. They need to know that before they decide whether or not to support a sales tax increase. For a while I got over Lando’s little threat, but I shop online more now than I did, and Francis has pissed me off again.

Sheesh, Nevada is a day trip, do they realize that?

It’s funny-weird, not funny-ha-ha,  that Francis’ wife Jolene has brought a proposal to rename City Hall after former City Mangler Fred Davis.  Davis, until his recent death, was one of the biggest pigs in our pension trough.

http://chicotaxpayers.com/2013/07/13/heres-whats-really-behind-the-park-closures-more-than-21-retirees-get-over-100000year-in-pension-ex-fire-chief-gets-over-200000/

How did that old guy worm his way up to over $149,000, in pension? He helped Tom Lando pull off that MOU that “attached salaries to revenue increases, but not decreases…”  That’s how!  Old bastard had a bag of tricks, and long after he’s rotted to dirt, Chico taxpayers will be paying for his hijinx.

Time to mount up, get ready for battle – they are coming after the roof over your head, the food on your table, your kids’ education.

It’s the Battle for Chico.

 

 

 

The state of our city is disgraceful

30 Jan

At yesterday’s “State of the City” address, Mayor Sorensen admitted that pension liability is the biggest problem we face, that only 51 of our 400 and something employees are under the new “post retirement reform” laws (meaning they pay 50 percent of  their own benefits instead of 9 percent like the others), but cried like a baby that we “have no control” over the situation.  Soon we will be paying 41 percent of their pensions, while most of our employees pay 9 percent. We’ll pay more next year, and the year after that. We don’t have the money – that’s why they call it a “liability.” 

Sorensen even had the nerve to say, the city is putting their “deficit” to bed soon. If you look over the meeting agendas of late, you will see how they have separated the pension deficit from the budget – a second set of books – to hide the millions we owe on pensions for long-gone city employees. 

Mayor Sorensen might be a master chef and book cooker, but his daddy must have been a glassmaker, cause we can see right through him.  Although, I don’t think Sorensen can see past the end of his own nose. He simply has to protect the pensions, because he’s going to get one when he retires from his job as city manager of the little town in the orchards, Biggs.

Knowing people in town are pissed off about the condition of city and neighborhood streets, letter after letter asking that the Esplanade be left alone, and just another letter this morning describing our City Plaza as a “refugee camp,” Sorensen apparently didn’t touch those subjects. Fair weather mayor. Instead he’s going to spend a bazillion more dollars on gadgets for the cop shop. 

Like Nextdoor, the website that was touted as a kind of “Neighborhood Watch” on the computer? A big crime fighting tool? I wouldn’t know, apparently I was held out of most conversations because I did not have a “neighborhood group.” None of my neighbors were joining, nor were they interested. When I asked to be added to another group they simple never responded.  So,  I was left out of most conversations, left with general postings like, yard  sales, ad for local services, now and then a report of a suspicious activity, and meandering chatterfests about what neighbors were doing that would come to a halt as soon as somebody got their nose out.

Frankly, I began to wonder – are there even 100 Chicoans signed up for this service?

Then, after I’d been signed on about a month,  they sent me the notice about their “privacy” practices, including this blurb about cookies:

Server Logs. We automatically collect information created by your visits to our website and use of our apps, your use of Nextdoor, and your interaction with the messages we send. This information may include the browser you are using, the URLs you came from and go to, the model of your computer or mobile device, the operating system version, IP address and protocol used by your computer or mobile device, your mobile device or app identifier, and usage and browsing habits. We use this information to provide and improve our Services, to diagnose and resolve problems, to analyze trends, to help target offers and other ads (if and where applicable), to monitor aggregate usage, and to gather broad (aggregate) demographic information.

You can configure your browser to reject cookies, but doing so will prevent you from logging into our website. Our systems are not configured to accept browsers’ Do Not Track signals.”

So, I realized, this was the entire idea behind Nextdoor – gathering data for advertising. Wow.  And, I never found any useful news – I know there are car break-ins and other property crimes going on within a mile of my house but nothing ever turned up on Nextdoor.  My husband and I are able to find out more about what’s going on in our neighborhood simply by taking a rake out to our front yard and puttering around for half an hour. We also walk the hood at different times of night and day, we try to stay in touch with our neighbors. Having face time with neighbors is probably the best way to keep your hood safe.

Chico PD has credited chatter on “social networking sites” with helping them solve certain crimes, but they’ve never named Nextdoor so I don’t know what sites they’re talking about. I’m sure they watch Facebook, I’m guessing it looks like a scene from “Batman Forever”.

Take a good look, this is what you look like to passersby when you’re texting. So much for technology and crime fighting.

I didn’t hear Sorensen’s whole speech, I had to rely on the media! I didn’t hear him talk about the crime rate. But I did read a back page story about a guy who was just arrested in October for stealing a car – grand theft auto – furthermore, assault on a “police animal” – and just got arrested for essentially the same thing again this week.

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20160129/chico-police-nab-man-allegedly-spotted-in-stolen-pickup

In fact, Anthony Raymond Beck seems to bust out and steal a car quite frequently. In 2013 he was arrested and convicted for stealing a  car under the influence of drugs and booze, causing injury and property damage, but let out on probation in January 2014. By March he had violated his probation, arrested again for obstructing a police officer. He was arrested three times within a week in April 2015, released “O/R” each time, even after found with burglary tools.

He was arrested a total of six times in 2015, found with drugs and needles, burglary tools, under the influence, with stolen cars, yadda, yadda, yadda.

And now another stolen car. This guy is a crime spree. Why is he still out there, endangering the public safety? 

The cops will tell you it’s because these crimes have been lowered to misdemeanors by the voters. The jail is overcrowded, and they are forced to release criminals without serving a sentence, because of the voters.

No, it’s because their salaries and benefits eat the budget so that we can’t build a decent and sufficient jail. Now we are told we must pass a bond to pay for improvements at the jail or we will be at the mercy of criminals.

I feel like we’re at the mercy of the public workers. When will we get these people to do the right thing, pay their own way? 

 

I think we all agree we need some level of help for homeless people, but we need to be asking questions about the expense and lack of results

28 Jan

 

After I read about the Torres Shelter threatening to close it’s doors, I went about researching the kind of salaries they pay down there. I couldn’t find director Brad Montgomery’s salary info anywhere, but I did find an ad for a counselor to address clients at both the Torres Shelter and the Jesus Center – salary about $42,000/year.  This position was offered through Northern California Catholic Social Services, which I was surprised to find gets most of it’s funding through the county Behavioral Health Department. Look at the wages they are offering and the duties they heap on.

For example – $13.40 an hour for these  “Minimum Employment Qualifications” – Experience working within the foster system, court system and/or with volunteer preferred. Must have reliable transportation, valid driver’s license and insurance. Must be able to multi-task and have solid computer skills; especially Word and Excel. Needs to be able to communicate verbally and in writing, documenting work on a computer is a required. The successful candidate will be able to work independently, use good judgment and be part of a team.

The list of duties would insinuate a lot better salary. This particular position does not offer paid benefits but ” is eligible to participate in our benefits package including: medical, dental, vision, EAP and life.”  On $13.40 an hour, you’re supposed to provide your own insured vehicle, gas to drive it, and then pay for your own health benefits? And this is a position that includes hands-on duties with clients. Wow.

https://nvcss.org/careers/

Meanwhile Butte County Behavioral Health Director Adrian Kittrel, who does not work with  clients, makes over $200,000 in salary and pays less than 10 percent of his own benefits and pension.

This is the typical lop-sided situation with most public agencies. This is why they have trouble filling these positions.

On another job website I found positions listed for Chico Area Recreation District – a “coordinator” who works with social media from their office gets a salary of  about $42,000, with benefits paid by the taxpayers (CARD management pay nothing for their benefits). Meanwhile other CARD positions – those who actually run the activities for the public and supervise our children – pay less than $15 an hour. These are part-time positions – 25 to 27 hours – that do not come with any health or pension benefits. You’re working too many hours to get another job, but you can’t make enough money to support yourself.  Most of CARD’s jobs are poverty level  jobs, while they pay their general manager over $120,000/year, and she pays nothing toward full health care and pension.

Researching this topic I came across a very interesting article about doctor burnout. The author just happens to be a psychiatrist.

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2016/01/doctor-beat-burnout-can.html

She is pretty frank about her disappointment in the medical sector. Her biggest problem seems to be over work and a “factory” atmosphere at her job. This prevents her from doing her best for her patients, and that adds to the frustration and depression. 

It is interesting to hear from the other side of the coin, this goes a long way to explain the patient’s miserable experience.

And you may feel same – I’m frustrated that we pay for this. Butte County Admin Officer Paul Hahn says over half the county budget goes to behavioral health and other services for the indigent. The money does not seem to solve the problem, it only results in more behaviorally disturbed and indigent people being brought into our county. In Chico it’s becoming a total disaster.

This morning my husband and I cleaned our garage and took our horde of recyclables over to The Work Training Center. I asked my husband to drive me over to take a look at the Torres Shelter, I have not had a good look at it for years.  The first thing I notice are what looks like cars being lived in, parked along the street outside the center, along the Costco parking lot. It looked like a gypsy camp. According to their website, “guests” are only allowed to check in from 4:30pm to 6pm. If they want to check in at another time, they must call between the hours of 10am and 3pm to make an appointment with shelter staff.  The shelter is “open for guests from 4:30 pm – 6:40 am daily.”  

I’ve heard complaints that the clients are “kicked out” at about 7am. I don’t know if there is a meal in the morning, but I think the Jesus Center offers a breakfast. There used to be a shuttle service that picked up those who do not have cars, took them to the Jesus Center, or various public agencies around town, because local businesses were complaining that they stayed in the area, “milling around” the commercial sector. That shuttle was largely funded by city of Chico, who discontinued their funding last year. So now you find this little encampment surrounding the shelter, out in the public  right of way, cars full of flotsam everywhere but the driver’s seat, windows covered with old tarps, a van with foam core over the front windows. A little group of dirty and disheveled men working under the hood of a car that looked like it should be headed for the scrap yard. It looks like any other homeless camp.

Last year when we were at Chico Locker one afternoon, my husband and I noticed the same scene in the parking lot surrounding the Jesus Center. A dilapidated motor home sat behind the JC building, some crappy cars, even a tent, all  obviously occupied. We wondered how that could be going on, the Jesus Center was supposed to have all these rules. Not long after that conversation, we heard Bill Such was being let go. We realized, he’d been allowing the laissez faire camping. We found out, a new board had taken over, a bunch of realtors, bankers, business people. They were ready to hold a higher bar for the center.

This is what needs to happen at the Torres before I am willing to support them in any way. I don’t think they should get city funding, and I think donors should ask more questions about why this shelter is so expensive to run when it is of such marginal service. 

 

 

 

Torres Shelter closing may be reason to celebrate

27 Jan

I’ve been hearing a lot over the last couple of days about Torres Shelter losing funding and threatening to close.  In one report, shelter director Brad Montgomery said he had to let three staffers go because he can’t afford to pay them anymore.

The first thing that came to my mind is, what’s Montgomery’s salary? He’s admitted that salary is the biggest expense at the shelter, while claiming to serve some 100 people or more per night. But only 750 a year? He also claims to be finding permanent housing for another person every “29 hours.” 

Visualize that – a regular conga line of “homeless” people moving into our area by way of the Torres Shelter.

And let’s not forget the bed bugs.

I don’t think the shelter is managed properly, I’m sorry. I think it facilitates a salary for Montgomery and it facilitates more creeps coming here, knowing they can have a place to get out of the weather.  Looking online, I find many local services that cater to the homeless, even their dogs. This is why we have so many homeless, we invite them here.

I know we have local homeless, I believe there is a need for some sort of overnight shelter.  But I think Torres Shelter needs to close until they find better management. I wonder how this would affect our “homeless” population. 

 

 

CARD to put their parcel tax plans on the table at February 18 board meeting

24 Jan

I miss all the good stuff – I was out of town for CARD’s board meeting last week, and they FINALLY fessed up and announced they are after a parcel tax.

Remember, almost exactly a year ago, I had called then-director Jerry Haynes, just to ask, how would they go about seeking a tax?  I didn’t know what the procedure is, and I couldn’t find much information online, so I just decided to ask. Ask a simple question!

http://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/01/29/why-is-card-being-so-secretive-about-the-aquatics-center/

Haynes resigned about a month later, citing “differences with the board“?  I have to wonder, did Haynes try to tell them they couldn’t afford a new aquatic center? Did he drag his feet in facilitating the studies and public meetings? He sure as hell didn’t want to talk about any aquatic center to me, denying even that there were any plans to build an aquatic center. He was really pissed off too. If I’d been standing in the same room with him I would have been afraid for my personal safety, like I was when Jan Sneed went off on me after a board meeting a couple of years ago.

http://chicotaxpayers.com/2013/05/13/jan-sneed-attacked-me-at-todays-card-finance-meeting-this-woman-is-out-of-control-and-isnt-suitable-for-public-office/

When people act  that crazy, you can bet there’s a pot of money on the table. Or a pot of debt? 

CARD spends a lot of money for a district that does not offer much in recreational opportunities. If you look at their budget you see payroll eats all their money, with 33 employees sitting on top of a few million dollars.  Despite budget problems over the past few years, current CARD director Ann Willman makes about $12,000/year more than her predecessor Steve Visconti, the controller’s office reporting her salary at $124,000/year. She pays nothing toward her benefits/pension package. That’s right – CARD management pay nothing toward their packages. Same  deal as city of Chico and other entities – only new hires, who have never been “in the system.” Willman has been around the block a few times, working for CARD, then switching over to director of Feather River Rec in Oroville, spiking her way back to Chico in less than two years. She left FRRD after a scandal involving a camera planted in the girl’s toilet at one of their facilities, landing safely in the Chico director’s chair. 

At one meeting, they planned to cut all part time staffers to 28 hours or less so they would not have to pay Obamacare for those employees, despite reports from their own staff that programs were being cut and children turned away due to lack of staff. But their management employees’ salaries just go up, up, up. And they pay nothing toward their benefits. They are sitting on more than $2 million in pension liability, for 33 employees. 

And they’re trying to tell us, they need this parcel tax for an aquatic center? It doesn’t add up. 

The board will discuss placing a parcel tax measure on the November ballot at their February 18 board meeting. Here’s the board page from their website:

http://www.chicorec.com/About-Card/CARD-Resources/Board-of-Directors/index.html

Note the e-mail addresses of board members, if you’d like to contact them to voice your opposition to this grab. Tell them their employees need to stop being dead beats and pay their own pensions. I don’t mind chipping in, but this is ridiculous.

You’ll also notice, their minutes are six month behind, ask them what’s up with that too.

 

 

 

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