YES ON PROP 6: Californians pay the second highest gas tax in the US, while driving on the fifth worst roads

16 Aug

Here’s the first YES on Prop 6 tv ad. Prop 6 repeals SB 1, the recent legislative increase in our gas tax and car registration fees.

 

Some points I’d like to make:

The ad says the typical family will pay $779.28 more taxes per year under SB 1. That figure does not take into account the effect this increase has on everything that arrives on a truck – from groceries to tooth paste and shampoo to clothes, shoes and school supplies for your kids. Neither does it include the effect this increase will have on services like public utilities, medical, day care, you name it. 

Before SB 1 went into effect last January, California had the ninth highest gas tax in 50 states. Now, according to 24/7 Wall Street (  https://247wallst.com/special-report/2018/01/26/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-gas-taxes-6/   ), we have the second highest gas tax in the nation, at 53 cents a gallon.   24/7 Wall Street quotes  the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Report Card For America’s Infrastructure  –  “the percentage of roadway in sub-optimal condition is 28.5% – the fifth highest in the nation.” In other words, we pay the second highest gas  tax but have the fifth worst roads in the entire United States.   

Think people, read that again – the threats Jerry Brown and his fellow pensioners are making about roads going unrepaired mean nothing.   We’ve already suffered some of the worst roads in the nation while paying some of the highest taxes, how much worse can it get? 

Here’s where the money has gone, and will continue to go, like kipple into a black hole – California now has over $1 TRILLION in unfunded pension liabilities. They know we won’t pay them outright, so they try everything under the sun to trick us into raising taxes for funds that can be pilfered later through allocation. Promises haven’t worked, so now Brown is threatening. Look at the visuals – I’m hearing, “Pay or Die”. 

The ads Brown is running are paid for with public money, including conscripted union dues from agencies like California Highway Patrol. They’re breaking the law, using taxpayer money to run ads for a tax increase campaign, that’s desperate. 

Write letters, tell your friends, it’s YES ON PROP 6. 

 

 

 

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Dan Walters: “Despite Law Politicians use Taxpayer Funds for Campaigns…”

12 Aug

Thanks Bob, for sending me this link from Dan Walters over at Cal Matters. 

https://calmatters.org/articles/commentary/despite-law-politicians-use-taxpayer-funds-for-campaigns/

Chico Area Recreation District has done exactly this – use taxpayer money to hire consultants to vet, write and campaign for tax increases. How do you fight your own money?

Like Bob asked, I also wonder – will the Enterprise Record run this editorial piece? They’ve run Walters before, pick and choose, I assume, when they’ve agreed with what he was saying.  

They ran my letter about the city’s use of it’s taxpayer supported website to promote SB 1 road work, after I resent it three times over as many weeks. I sent my letter about staff holding the park and roads hostage for a tax increase measure last Tuesday. I hadn’t seen it by today so resent. 

I wish more people would write letters to the editors of local papers. I don’t mind waiting in line to get my turn, I’d just like to see some of the remarks I’ve been getting from friends and neighbors in the newspaper. People like to bitch, it’s human I guess. Well, bitch in newsprint, it’s even more satisfying!

 

Chico needs better management

11 Aug

I’m sick of hearing idiots blame the rash of fires burning around our state on Global Warming. The problem is, Cal Fire relinquished responsibility for fire prevention about 11 years ago, leaving it up to local entities like the city of Chico and county of Butte. So far, neither of those agencies have stepped up to the plate.

The city of Chico has allowed Bidwell Park to fall dangerously into neglect. Dead trees and other vegetation through out the park are a  huge fire risk for our entire town. While City management continues to enjoy salary increases and only pays a small portion of their own pension obligation, We are told they need more money to maintain the park.

Mark Sorensen and his cronies have suggested a revenue measure in the form of a bond on our homes, for street improvements. I think they abandoned the sales tax increase measure because it’s not as sure  a thing as a bond. They say they will dedicate it to Street improvements because then they only need 51% of the vote to pass it.

The problem with dedicated funds is they can be allocated to other funds and used for whatever purpose Council and staff agree to use it. Dedicated funds also free up other money that was not restricted . The whole concept of dedicated funds is a lie they use to get us to pass these Revenue measures.

I first heard of the concept of “failure maintenance” from former city of Chico Public Works manager Ruben Martinez. Martinez reported that city buildings and other public facilities were in serious need of repair, but as usual, he complained about lack of money, while collecting a salary of over a hundred thousand a year. I guess we’ve all gotten used to hearing people who collect a salary telling us they don’t have enough money to do anything.

Ironically, I was sitting in a morning meeting with Martinez present, when a woman tried to come into the room, finding the door knob was broken. Martinez, a handy enough guy, fixed it with his Leatherman Tool.

I was sad to see Martinez go in the first round of firings under Nakamura. I have the feeling Martinez was too open with the public about the financial problems downtown. He was apologetic, while current works manager Erik Gustafsson is completely the opposite. Gustafson is constantly taking projects off the Nexus, complaining there is not enough money for anything but his $200,000 per year compensation package.

Parks manager Linda Herman does same, collecting over a hundred fifty thousand a year in compensation while telling us she does not have any money for maintenance of the park.

Ever been on a farm when the farmer’s brought out the slops bucket? Ever seen a mama pig nursing a litter  of shoats get up and run for that slops bucket, babies flying and bouncing  in every direction? That’s city of Chico employees for you, they don’t really care about the citizens, they’re just after that slops bucket.

We’ve got Mutiny on the Bounty here in the city of Chico. We’ve got a bad captain and he’s steering our ship onto the rocks just to coerce us into paying more money. I frankly believe that if we got rid of Mark Orme and his first mate Chris Constantine, and hired better management for our city, things would turn around here.

I wrote the following letter out of a serious fear that it might be too late.

Could Chico have a catastrophic fire? In fact, a fire that started in Upper Park in July threatened a subdivision in East Chico and nearly jumped Hwy 32, coming within 100 feet of  a house near the Peregrine Point disc golf course. Fire investigators told the neighbor the source of the fire was an illegal campsite.

Only days before that fire, I emailed park staff to alert them to Illegal campers using campfires at the disc golf course. On August 2  I reported another illegal camper at that spot – as of today (8/7) he is still there. The city has closed the course but failed to remove or lock the portable toilet, creating a de-facto campsite.

We’ve watched Bidwell Park deteriorate into what is defined by Cal Fire as a “Fire Hazard Severity Zone”, with fuel,  weather, and  slope for a catastrophic fire that could easily destroy hundreds of homes through Chico. The Park Director, who has expressed support for a revenue measure, has closed an unprecedented area of Bidwell Park, complaining she doesn’t have funds to remediate the damage from the recent fire.

For years city staff has practiced deferred, or “failure” maintenance, while emptying one fund after another to pay an increasing share of the CalPERS obligation. Now they are holding our park, our roads, and our quality of life hostage for a revenue measure. The results are going to be disastrous.

Chico citizens deserve better leadership and better service. Don’t buy staff threats – demand new city management.

Juanita Sumner

 

 

 

How long do you think the city will hold Upper Park hostage for a revenue measure?

31 Jul

The horrific Carr Fire up the road in Redding has me wondering – what would have happened if the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction two weeks ago when Upper Bidwell Park caught on fire. The winds drove that fire up the hill, threatening a subdivision and other residences along Hwy 32. What if the wind had shifted toward Chico, the densely populated neighborhoods of Canyon Oaks and Cal Park would have been right in the path of the fire.

As overgrown as the park is these days, hip high dead grass standing in fallen branches and under deteriorating trees, a fire could charge right into the heart of old, overgrown neighborhoods and make it’s way from treetop to rooftop all the way across Chico.

You don’t see that happening? Neither did I until I saw the pictures from Santa Rosa,  and now Redding. In 1991 it was the Oakland Hills.

I wondered what the law is regarding fire clearance, not just around homes, but along public roads and waterways. I found Cal Fire makes very good and clear ” recommendations “, but that’s all they are. The state relinquished responsibility for wildfire prevention to local jurisdictions – like Butte County and city of Chico – not only to make the laws but to enforce them.

So it’s no wonder Bidwell Park and other city properties are, by definition, Fire Hazard Severity Zones, “based on factors such as fuel, slope and fire weather…” Last year, the city of Chico, in direct contradiction of recommendations that are actually THE LAW in places like Tehama County, hired a contractor after July 1 to mow city property at the corner of Bruce Road that was in violation of the city’s own weed abatement ordinance. The city always has numerous properties listed on their own annual “Weed Abatement and Compliance”, along with Chico Unified and Enloe Hospital. Every year they threaten themselves with fines – well, us, actually – and then wait until the last possible moment to get them mowed.

My husband and I happened to be driving by at about 3 o’clock on a hot July afternoon, when we saw a crew unloading a big mower machine on to the city lot.We were shocked – in Tehama County you’re not allowed to mow after 11 am because of the ease of starting a fire in dry grass.

So we weren’t surprised when the news announced Chico Fire Dept had been dispatched to that scene for a fire that threatened to jump the intersection toward the construction site across the intersection.

Nor were we surprised to hear that the contractor had not been cited. Which kinda sucks, because a man is still sitting in federal prison for starting a fire in Tehama County that caused millions and killed three people. He had put his mower away hot and his shed had caught fire, setting  half the county ablaze.

So the city of Chico, through blatant negligence, has set the stage for  a Redding-esque fire in our town. And then City Council essentially lit the match when they unanimously approved a “shelter crisis designation’ that allows the homeless to sleep in parks and school grounds.

The cause of the Carr Fire has been reported as a car malfunction. A car pulls along the side of an overgrown highway and catches on fire. I watched a car catch fire in a parking lot and a car caught fire down my street. Within seconds  both cars were fully involved and threatening nearby cars/structures. If that happened on Vallombrosa or any other streets along Bidwell Park we’d have an inferno.

For about 12 years now the city has admittedly deferred maintenance on the park while continuing to hand out raises and pay the lion’s share of the pensions. Earlier this year Park Director Linda Herman said she needs a revenue measure to do her job – her $130,000 plus comp package isn’t enough!

Acknowledging the current disgraceful condition of our park, Herman recently told the local paper she is looking for a grant to maintain the park. See, they spend a hundred million dollars  a year on salaries, benefits , and hot water for the cops and fire department, but have no money to actually DO anything.

Are we just stupid , or what? If you’re not stupid, write a letter to council and ask them how long Upper Park will be held hostage for a tax measure.

 

Is City of Chico using taxpayer funds to promote gas tax?

28 Jul

Where have I been? Writing a letter to the editor about the gas tax repeal, Proposition 6.

Supporters of Prop 6, the gas and registration tax repeal,  charge the State of California with improper use of taxpayer  funds to fight the  measure. Signs costing as much as $1000 each are posted at road work sites, touting funding from the gas tax – SB  1.

Under California Government code, officials cannot spend taxpayer money  “..to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure”. Yet, on the taxpayer funded city of Chico website, the Annual Road and Rehab report proclaims, “Rehabilitation of Cohasset Road is the City’s first major roadway maintenance project funded with State allocated Senate Bill 1 (SB1)…The community’s gas tax and franchise fee dollars are at work to fix Chico’s local streets and roads.”

The job will also take funds from the garbage tax.

Over $1.5 million for a scrape and patch of one road. How does the street in front of your house look?

The city of Chico is using tax dollars that should go into fixing our neighborhood streets to promote more taxes – using your money to stick you for more.  Are you happy paying more to register and gas your car while driving over potholes that void the warranty on your tires?

Are you happy that while your street goes unmaintained, city management continues to receive salaries in excess of $200,000/year, while paying less than 10 percent of their pension?

Vote yes on Prop 6, repeal SB 1, the gas tax.

The Reform California people and their lawyers have called out the state on improper and illegal use of funds, and that effort is a strain on their  funding. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown, using his influence as a public official,  has raised over $15 million for ads against Prop 6. If you have a few bucks to spare you can help Reform California with a contribution.  I can’t give you the link because of WordPress rules, but you can find it at the Reform California website. 

Better yet, write your own letter to the editor. How much has the gas tax added to your cost of living – not just gas and registration for your car, but groceries, all your retail items, including the shipping charges for your online purchases. Look over your bills – your utilities have gone up too. The squeeze in on, and it’s all about the CalPERS deficit. 

Like Ralph Nader said, turn on to politics, before politics turn on you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent Upper Bidwell Park fire shows the city is not doing enough to stop illegal camping in the park

17 Jul

Last week’s fire that closed most of Upper Bidwell Park, indefinitely, should not have come as a shock to anybody, least of all City of Chico Parks Director Linda Herman.  

Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2018 6:00 AM
To: Linda Herman <linda.herman@Chicoca.gov>; Theresa Rodriguez <theresa.rodriguez@Chicoca.gov>; Shane Romain <shane.romain@Chicoca.gov>
Cc: Sean Morgan <sean.morgan@Chicoca.gov>
Subject: Illegal camping at Peregrine Point disc golf course

Hi Linda,

Does the city’s Declaration of a shelter crisis mean that people are allowed to camp in city-owned parks?

My husband and I walk our dogs almost daily at the Peregrine Point disc golf course on Highway 32. There’s a man who’s essentially living there out of his vehicle, he’s been there almost every day that we have gone up for over a month now. He’s there very early in the morning, we’ve caught him in his underwear.

We’ve also noticed that the trash has been overflowing on several occasions. Then the other morning (July 5) we found that the post at the trailhead had smoke coming out of it – we believe there was an unextinguished cigarette in it. We poured an entire  bottle of drinking water in it, and that seemed to put it out. We drove by later and there was no longer any smoke coming out. We believe if we hadn’t done anything it could have started a serious fire , the metal post was extremely hot. It was before 8 a.m. and the illegal camper was the only other person there.

We can see that The Outsiders group has been taking care of their responsibilities, putting chips on the trails and at the tees. We see less litter on the actual course then we have seen in past.

But we’ve also seen a lot of broken car window glass in the parking lot, and we see this illegal camper there regularly. We’ve also found a site a ways up the old Humboldt Road where someone has obviously been camping. There’s a small Fire Ring, indicating they are actually having campfires. There’s also soiled toilet paper on the ground at that site.

I took pictures. 

we no longer feel confident walking out of sight of our car. We’re usually out doing our rentals, we have tools in the back of our truck we can’t afford to lose.

What is the city planning to do about the problem of illegal camping and thefts out of vehicles in our public parks?

Thanks , at your convenience, for your anticipated reply, Juanita Sumner

Herman’s response was prompt:

From: Linda Herman <linda.herman@Chicoca.gov>

Date: 7/9/18 4:20 PM (GMT-08:00)

To: Juanita Sumner <nag.mom@hotmail.com>

Cc: Sean Morgan <sean.morgan@Chicoca.gov>, All Park Rangers <all-park-rangers@chicoca.gov>, Mark Orme <mark.orme@Chicoca.gov>, Erik Gustafson <erik.gustafson@Chicoca.gov>, Michael O’Brien <michael.obrien@Chicoca.gov>, Shane Romain <shane.romain@Chicoca.gov>

Subject: RE: Illegal camping at Peregrine Point disc golf course

Hi Juanita,

Thank you for providing this information.  We were aware of previous campers in the Cal Trans right of way up the road and with the assistance of CHP have moved them along numerous times.  However, we did not know there was a camper directly at Peregrine Point parking lot.  Thank you for also putting out the fire, which is very scary!

The Senior Ranger went up there today but did not see this vehicle.  We will also increase the frequencies of Ranger visits to see if we can catch him.  I will also let the Outsiders know to let us know if they see any suspicious vehicles/activity and to call Police Dispatch if there is an emergency.

In addition, the Rangers and the Chico Police Department Target Unit have been working hard to increase patrols to address the continual, overwhelming encampments and illegal activity that occurs in Bidwell Park and the other City parks and greenways.   

Again, thank you for alerting me to this individual.  We very much appreciate your efforts, and for helping to be more eyes and ears out there for us.

Linda

Linda Herman

Park & Natural Resource Manager

City of Chico

I wasn’t surprised that Herman and staff were unaware of the camper – all an illegal camper has  to do is be up and around by 8 am and the ranger can’t do anything. And no ranger or other staffers are coming by at night, or before 8 in the morning, or they’d have caught him red handed, walking back from the portable toilet in his skivvies. 

And I think we caught him putting his cigarette butt in the metal post at the trail head. We walk the course frequently, and he’s the only other person we see there at that hour of the morning. 

I responded to Herman, telling her that just that morning we’d been to the course, and in the time it took to walk from the parking lot to the point somebody had turned out the trash can, obviously looking for recyclables, and left the contents on the ground around the bottom of the can. It wasn’t an animal, it was a person. We’ve seen other campsites, with fire rings and ash, along the old Humboldt Road, and we realized somebody could be lurking out in the bushes along the road. We felt lucky our truck hadn’t been broken into.

I also told her we were pretty disgusted with the condition of the park, and asked her if she’d like to take a walk in Lower Park near my house. She accepted, and that was the last time I spoke to her before I heard the news about the fire.

Something I wanted to bring up in my e-mail was that the only maintenance we are seeing at Peregrine  Point is the trail maintenance agreed to by the Outsiders, the local group that got the course set up all those years ago, and made an agreement to maintain it at their own expense. But as far as I remember, that agreement just covered the course itself – the trails that lead to the various tees and baskets, the area directly surrounding the tees and baskets, and the old growth Blue Oak trees along the course. The Outsiders have been spreading bark and setting up netting to protect the trees, it looked like they had groups up there frequently judging from the work that was done. Somebody had been weed whacking the grass along the trails. 

But all around the disc course the grass was left to grow waist high and die. The old growth trees, some of their branches laying on the ground, didn’t stand a chance in that situation. When I walked the course yesterday morning with my family I could see whole stands of old trees that are caput. The big gorgeous oak tree that met visitors at the top of the trail head  leading into the course had caught fire and been pushed over by a bulldozer.

The fire destroyed a lot of the fixtures that have been installed by the Outsiders over the years.

The fire was not a surprise to me, but still a shock. I just can’t believe the way the city has allowed the park to degrade, and then let campers in. They say this fire started at Alligator Hole, at 10 pm Thursday. The park road is gated at sunset. Anybody up there with fire at 10 pm is an illegal camper. 

Remember that old saying – “for every one you see, there’s 10 in the floor boards”

Herman admitted they are aware of the campers along Humboldt Road, “the Cal Trans right of way”, so how could she not know there are others camped in the park below the canyon rim? That’s either incompetence or willful neglect.

Not long ago the park commission told rangers either get used to carrying a gun or look for another job. I believe a couple of them quit but the rest are now sworn officers and carry guns. Why aren’t they out on the Upper Park Road at night searching out illegal campers? How much time are they spending in Downtown Chico now that they are part of the police department?

This isn’t the first time there’s been a substantial fire in the Upper Park, in the same area where I’d reported illegal campers. My husband and I had been observing an entrenched homeless camp on the other side of Hwy 32, within site of the highway and the new subdivision, just below the new Cal Water storage tank. We’d reported it to the police, Officer Zuchin had responded. But again and again we’d drive by and there was the camp, a blue tarp shade structure strung from the oak trees, a big pile of burned over wood, and a trash pile that looked as though it had been accumulating for years. We could see bikes and trailers full of crap. 

Within a couple of weeks a fire started there above Yosemite, just below the illegal campsite, between highway 32 and Humboldt Road. The cause of that fire was never reported. Same with several other fires that have sprung up along Hwy 32 above Chico, including this fire that burned into Upper Park.

0925171119

Here we are just above Humboldt Road.

The trails that were burned in this fire last Septemeber have not been reopened, and as far as I can see they are not performing rehabilitation. 

So, excuse me if I cancelled my walk in the park with the park director. Herman actually spoke up at one morning meeting, telling the assemblage the city needs to pass a revenue measure. At that moment I couldn’t decide whether I admired her honesty or whether I was disgusted with her point blank greed. 

I’ve fallen onto disgust, at this point.

 

 

 

Dan Walters: state budget full of transportation “boondoggles” – here’s a local example

13 Jul

Here is yesterday’s column from Dan Walters, describing a state transportation agency that has millions in budget but provides NO benefits to taxpayers.

https://calmatters.org/articles/commentary/legislature-may-erase-embarrassing-boondoggle/

A few months ago I wrote a post about the rail agency he mentions, which is working with the local agency, BCAG (Butte County Association of governments) to land grant funding.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2018/01/23/bcag-proposes-spending-millions-for-bus-lines-that-are-predicted-to-have-a-40-percent-return-on-fares-how-about-fixing-our-streets/

This is an example of what really happens with SB1 funds. Repeal SB1, repeal the gas tax, repeal the misuse of our tax dollars.

YES ON PROP 6.