CARD board and staff show a pattern of thumbing their nose at the public and the rules

20 Aug

I didn’t get to tell everything I saw at the CARD meeting Thursday evening. Everything I saw that night fit a pattern that’s been catching my eye for the last couple of years.

When Chair Bob Malowney opened the meeting, he offered the floor to public comments “not related to items on the agenda”.  Chico City Council does that at the end of the meetings, calling it, “Business from the Floor”.  You can bring up concerns you think need to be addressed, either by the board or by staff, and they can vote to take action at some time in the future or just sit there like stone monkeys staring at the speaker until he/she goes away.

Two men identifying themselves as owners of “Off The Wall Soccer” on 20th Street came forward to air a gripe that sounded so familiar it brought me forward on my chair. Essentially, CARD had made an agreement with them and broken it, acknowledged it had been broken and promised not to break it again, and then proceeded to do so. Over and over.

Off The Wall offers indoor soccer year round, for people who want to be able to play no matter what the weather, and be able to depend on consistent “field” conditions. It’s a smaller venue, so they are restricted to 7 member teams instead of the standard 11, but this created a niche for Off The Wall, one of the owners acknowledging, “we were making a lot of money.” 

A business that is making money is always a good thing to have in your town. Private businesses make money by providing a service the public wants at a price they can afford, and that’s always good for the consumer.  

Until 1995, when CARD started to offer a 7 member team program in addition to their 11 member teams.  This created a drain on business for OTW. The owners finally went to CARD, accusing them of unfair competition. CARD was offering their programs at much lower fees, undercutting OTW by half. 

I don’t think it’s right for an agency that is subsidized  by the taxpayers to play price wars with private business. CARD should provide programs that are not provided privately, instead, they see a private business making money and try to cut in on the action.

CARD agreed to cut the number of 7-member teams they offered, and this was fine with OTW, so a “settlement” was made. I don’t know if that was on paper, but it was with Steve Visconti and Monica Jameson, both of whom have left within the last couple of years. 

“Within a year and a half “ CARD was violating the agreement. In 2006 Visconti acknowledged they were violating the agreement and promised they would stop.

Again in 2013, OTW “started to see a big slide in participation… we found CARD had added programs beyond  the agreement…”  Owners of Off the Wall again complained, and Steve Visconti acknowledged CARD had violated the agreement, and that they would stop. 

But, the two men reported, “this lasted less than a year.” 

Here’s the pattern. This is exactly how Visconti and other staffers treated me when I asked to be put on the notice list for the Aquatic Facility Committee. Over a two year period, Visconti alternately promised to include me on the list, denied the existence of the committee, denied that there had been any meetings, constantly contradicting himself, as well as agendas posted on the CARD website. 

Ann Willmann isn’t any better, having kept her communications with Every Body Good  Body like a state secret. I knew something stunk, and finally former county supervisor Jane Dolan and husband Bob Mulhullond had to point out to CARD that they were not running their meetings properly and were playing fast and loose with the entire aquatic center conversation.

Every Body Good Body, despite their 301-C yadda yadda, is a private corporation that will build a privately-owned facility.  Whether or not they get public funds, this facility will be run for a profit and anybody who wants to use it will pay fees well beyond the donation they make on their property taxes. 

So here’s the irony, just in case you didn’t see it – CARD competes with successful business Off The Wall Soccer, undercutting them by 50 percent, but they’re ready to go to the county supervisors to ask that a huge parcel of land be taken off the protected register so a private development company can develop the shit out of it for their own gain. 

The owners of Off The Wall say the situation is getting pretty desperate. “If we don’t have the Fall, if CARD keeps registering (beyond the agreement), we’re out of business,” said partner Mario Sagastume.

Longtime board member Jan Sneed admitted “I was on the board when we agreed to this…” but trailed off without a suggestion. Tom Lando claimed, “we did agendize  this and asked you for further information…” but he trailed off – the owners had already handed the board a packet detailing communications over the years, it was all right there.

Bob Malowney seemed unrepentant, saying that “people want to play soccer…” . 

 I think CARD has way overstepped it’s purpose. They are a district that is supposed to offer facilities for people to play sports. I think they go too far when they try to run programs too. They compete with a number of private businesses –  from weddings to fitness to daycare – all subsidized by the taxpayers so they can undercut their competition out of business. And they do it badly, cutting programs that people come to depend on as soon as there is not enough money in the kitty to pay their pension.

CARD pays more than $400,000/year on pensions, and more than $300,000 on health benefits, all for about 30 management employees.  They are pursuing an assessment because enrollment in programs is dropping and they need money to bring their facilities up to code and up to Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, neglected since 1990. 

Recently the board voted to make management pay some of their pension – they have previously paid NOTHING toward retirement at their highest year’s salary at age 55. They’ve paid their own pensions while neglecting facilities all over town. 

CARD has already signed up 7-member teams beyond the agreement for Fall 2016, but promised to agendize OTW’s complaint for an upcoming meeting. 

 

 

Dolan accuses CARD of Brown Act violation; Aquatics group wants Nance Canyon taken off protection list so they can locate their “mega-center” there

19 Aug

Wow, what a meeting you people missed last night. I hate going out at night, but every now and then I get a little prize for my diligence.

Last night I got to watch Jane Dolan and Bob Mulhullond call Chico Area Recreation District board and staff on the carpet for holding the public out of the aquatic center conversation. She used the words “Brown Act violation” in describing the way their agenda had  been noticed in the “local  media” – meaning, the Enterprise Record.

When I saw Laura Urseny’s blurb in the ER, I had already read the agenda, I knew she was leaving out the part about Nance Canyon. While Dolan turned around and explained she wasn’t blaming the paper, I am. Urseny works for CARD, she always has. She is a butt kisser, she thinks that’s the only way to get friends I guess.

Last night Bob Brouhard, of Guillon Brouhard Commercial Real Estate,  a member/representative of “Every Body Good Body,” described the organization as a “501 3C non-profit” started by parents of Aqua Jets, not mentioned by name. He said he and others had got tired of driving their kids “all over” to other towns who got “all this money” that he thought should be coming to Chico. 

As the parent of a kid who participated in travel sports, I thought that was the whole idea – get your kid out there, go places, see other towns.  I also doubt Brouard’s claim that Chico will see “all this money.”  The leagues we visited tried to get us to patronize hotels, usually the pricey places. Visiting parents – not just us – usually opted for the cheap hotels, or just drove  home. Others brought motor homes and stayed in the facility parking lots, bbq-ing meals, even selling tri-tip sandwiches and other such fare as fundraisers. I never saw any report detailing how much, by the dollar, that these tournaments bring into a town, and I’m doubting Brouard’s claims that such a center would be a financial triumph for our town. It’s already looking like they want all kinds of help.

If you want more information on Brouhard I think a quick look here will be of interest:

http://www.gbrealestate.net/commercial_brokerage/bill_brouhard

https://www.facebook.com/bill.brouhard

Of course, while Brouhard said EBGB came up with seven potential sites, the site they pick is right in the middle of a disputed area, a parcel that is being included in the Butte Habitat Conservation Register.  What is this group  thinking, wanting to build a facility like this on a politically and geographically sensitive piece of land, so far out of the city limits? 

Because Bill Brouhard and his partner Doug Guillon are investor/developer/realtors. All they see in Nance Canyon is dollar signs. I don’t even think this has as much to do with Brouhard’s complaints about driving two sets of kids to swim meets, I think it has more to do with the property owner and how much money they all stand to make. 

Brouhard says they’re thinking 50 years in the future! But they need the CARD board to act now, he says, and tell the county to pull Nance Canyon out of the conservation area.

He claims the owner is willing to sell for 14 cents an acre.  Those were his exact words – he’s a realtor, he should  know better, is he trying to mislead the board?  I know Lando should have called him on that figure, our ex-city manager knows exactly what land values are. My husband immediately bumped my elbow to hiss, “he means per square foot…” but I was busy scribbling other details, so failed to call him on it.

He also claimed the property would include rights to a creek – Butte Creek!

In order to make this pipe dream a financial drain on the citizens, Brouhard and EBGB need CARD to write a letter to the county, asking them to take that parcel out of the conservation area and place it in an Urban Permit Area.   He’s also asking CARD to form an ad-hoc committee – which means, staff time with no public oversight – to “coordinate” with EBGB. He specifically asked for an ad hoc,  because ad hoc meetings don’t have to be noticed or reported to the public.  I believe EBGB is trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes, and they know exactly what they’re doing.

He brought a box of printed materials for the board but when I reached out to take a map from his he turned abruptly on his heel and ignored me. That’s okay, Jane Dolan mopped the floor with his shiny ass.

She got right up  during public comment and got really mad. First she said the article in the Enterprise Record had left out specific information, hadn’t given the public a real idea of what was actually happening at the meeting, adding that the aquatic center had not been “publicly vetted.”

“Public discussion does not begin with a non-Brown act notice of your agenda…” referring to the story in the newspaper. 

Gee, where was Janey when they kept putting me off on my requests to attend aquatic committee meetings? Steve Visconti lied to me around every corner, staffers refused to do their job, and then Ann Willmann fixed it all by telling the aquatics center proponents to form their own non-profit so the public would be completely cut out. 

Dolan warned the board they were dealing with a very sensitive property, and even though she professed support for an aquatic center somewhere else in Chico, she would not support it at this site. “If I were still in the job (her appointment to the Central Valley Flood Protection board) it [Nance Canyon] would already be part of the conservation area.”  

He husband Bob Mulhullond stood up to ask the board where was the staff analysis? He and Dolan both accused the board of getting ready to make a decision without proper procedure. Mulhullond said further they should just “reject this!” 

I was astounded. All this time I’ve been trying to follow this stuff,  I barely  understand half of it, but I’ve smelled a rat. Well, Dolan and Mulhullond, bless their hearts, came down last night to say, “There’s your damned rat, right there! Kill it!”

This whole aquatic center business has been handled illegally, is what I’m guessing, and I’m also guessing at least two of the board know that – Lando and long time board member Jan Sneed.  Chair Bob “the Yo-yo” Malowney made vague statements about “we’ve been intending to take this before the public…” and Lando remarked that he’d “heard” there had been public meetings but he hadn’t attended any of them.

Lando then suggested they go ahead and name a subcommittee to coordinate with EBGB. As they were discussing this, Dolan stood up again to ask them, stuttering mad, “What is it you’re going to do?”   She pointed out, they were trying to go ahead and act without proper  procedure again. She said the whole thing was inappropriate without public vetting. 

Lando then agreed to agendize the subject of the ad hoc committee. This is when I started to wonder if anything they’d done with the so-called “Aquatic Facility” committee was legal.

The discussion was tabled with direction to staff to agendize the matter, and Dolan stepped out into the hall with Bill Brouhard.

It was 7:30, I was butt tired, husband too, but we decided to stay a little longer. There was a lot of important stuff on the agenda I don’t understand, something about creating a district that could issue  bonds. We listened to Ann Willmann’s report, because there’s never any written report, you just have to be there. 

Good thing we stayed. Willman had been meeting with EBGB! Of course! She’d also been involved with a contractor(s?) who is/are evaluating buildings and other facilities for CARD, telling them how far they’ve allowed things to slide, and how much it is going to cost to get all their facilities back in code compliance, including ADA.  Then there’s the total replacement of the playground at DeGarmo  Park.  The surface they laid down proved to be a total disaster, and has to be replaced. Problem is – why would they want to put that old playground equipment on that new surface? So CARD approved the replacement of the entire playground.

Where will they get all the money for this malfeasance? Willmann announced an “informational” meeting on  September 8 (TBA) at which the board and the public will hear from representatives of different organizations about bonds and other “funding options”. 

Mark your calendar, I’ll get back to you  

CARD plans to add Nance Canyon to their assessment district – meeting tomorrow – Thursday night – 7pm, CARD Center on Vallombrosa

17 Aug

Here is the most recent article I was able to find regarding assessments on your property by agencies like Chico Area Recreation District. 

http://www.disclosuresource.com/downloads/calbudget.pdf

Tomorrow night, CARD will discuss asking the county to add Nance Canyon to their assessment district. They are also discussing their plans to place assessments on us for their planned aquatic center.   That is done by mailed ballot – explained in the above article.

Since 1992, state law has required that local agencies considering implementing any assessment notify affected landowners 45 days in advance and hold a public meeting and a public hearing on the proposal.(9) The notice must include the estimated amount of assessment per parcel, the purpose of the assessment, the dates, times, and locations of the public meeting and public hearing, and instructions for protesting the assessment, if applicable. The notice must either be mailed to all affected landowners or advertised in local newspapers, depending on the number of affected parcels and the use of the proposed assessment.

Write to CARD and ask them when they plan to mail these notices out, or if they are going to try to sneak the notice under the radar in some back-page ad in the ER or N&R? You can contact the board here:

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

You might want to remind them, they’ve paid two consultants so far who’ve told them the public doesn’t back this project and that it will only be used by 15 percent of the population. Ask them why they insist on spending money on consultants to get an assessment instead of maintaining Shapiro Pool, closed permanently earlier this year after years and years of sub-code neglect. Instead they proceeded to spend as much as $400,000 a year on pensions for less than 30 employees. 

 

 

Chico Unified, CARD getting ready to dive into your purse

16 Aug

We will have at least two new taxes coming at us this coming year, including Chico Unified School District Bond Measure K on the November ballot, and a mailed assessment from Chico Area Recreation District.  

CARD will have a speaker from “Every Body, Healthy Body” discussing efforts to include Nance Canyon in the assessment area. That’s Thursday night, 7pm, at the CARD center at 545 Vallombrosa.  

The best way to fight these grabs, is get involved early.  I’ll try to keep you posted, but I wish I could get somebody to attend the school board meetings and report here. 

 

 

Why hasn’t CARD posted minutes of their board meetings since December 2015?

12 Aug

Digging into various issues, I find myself all over the internet, using a lot of city, county, state, and other public entity websites. Compared to some of the sites I’ve been to, our city, county, and other local agency websites fall pretty short.

It’s not the website’s fault, it’s the way these agencies use them.  They spend hundreds of thousands a year on “IT”, but you can’t find what you want on their websites because they aren’t updated. Each entity is also very subjective in what they think they have to put on their website. A lot of useless information, a lot of out-of-date information, and a lot of button pushing just to find yourself back at the page where you started. 

They aren’t consistent in what they post. For years I bitched at Debbie Presson, why didn’t she have the council minutes posted in  a timely fashion? She whined about staff shortages, work work work. The city of Willows has their minutes posted through July of this year.   

The reason it takes a month is that minutes need to be approved by the agency board, they can question their clerk’s memory of events, ask for the tape, even ask that stuff they actually said be “stricken” from the record. Some  agencies only meet once a month, so it’s not unreasonable for the clerk to take a month or so to post the minutes.  

Debbie Presson suggested I should watch the provided video.  Hours of crap, fast-forward-fast-forward-wait-back-it-up – just to see what they voted on and how they voted? That’s a 2-minute scan of the minutes, why should I have to sit there digging through a video? 

So, when I went to the Chico Area Recreation District website to see what the board has been up to the last few months, I was frustrated to find, they haven’t posted minutes of their monthly meetings on the website since December 2015. 

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

The city of Chico council and committees all review their minutes regularly, so does CARD. When city agencies review their minutes, the minutes are posted to the agenda on the city website – a roundabout way of reading the minutes.  But until recently, CARD has not posted the minutes with the agenda, so, up until about May, the only way a taxpayer can  take a look at the minutes for four or five meetings is present themselves at the CARD center and wait while a staffer bumbles around trying to figure out how to comply. I get a kick out of the look on these people’s faces when you ask for something they are supposed to make available anyway.

We shouldn’t have to do that, but as city clerk Debbie Presson and CARD manager Ann Willmann will tell you – they are not legally required to post the minutes on the website. 

And of course, they’re right. It’s not a legal matter, it’s an ethical matter. 

 

Hey Bob! I need a proof reader…

4 Aug

No, dammit, I did not attend that “Local Government Committee” meeting yesterday. I had wanted to find out if the county had come up with a plan to close the poo ponds at the dump yet, but I guess I’ll have to write a note to staff and ask where that discussion has gone.  They’ve already admitted that if they close that facility to enlarge the dump, as planned, septic service companies will have to truck their cargo out of the county. One staffer reported that would double the cost of having a tank pumped.

I don’t know how many people on the committee or staff have septic tanks, but they should know, almost all of unincorporated Butte County is on septic as well as quite a number of homes in Chico. A lot of people already don’t get their tanks pumped often enough – now what? Staff has been working on “alternatives,” including a new facility at Chico Wastewater Treatment Plant and Fly Factory, out there west of town. I don’t know about that, I think that would also prove to be cost prohibitive for homeowners. Given that our sewer fund has been in the red for years, pilfered by “cost allocations” to different funds to pay salaries and benefits, this just sounds like another opportunity for the City of Chico to put their thumb in our pie. Or in this case, our septic tanks.

There were a few interesting items on that agenda, but things pile up on me by 3:30 in the afternoon, it was 105 on my patio, didn’t seem like a good idea to mount the old three-speed and go gallomphing out into the 3-digits.  Oh well, I’ll have to check in with staff and see what they’re up to.

Instead of going to the meeting, I decided to stay home and work on another project. I’m looking for proof readers – Hey Bob!  Can you contact me here, I need you to read something over for me, see what you think.

 

You have to read the agendas

30 Jul

I haven’t been hitting the public meetings lately folks – when I realized this the other day, it was like waking up at the wheel of a moving car.

You know, Butte County public works manager is threatening to close the poo ponds at the dump, he says this will double the cost of having your septic tank pumped (!), and our local government officials are sitting around with their thumbs up their asses cause most of them are on sewer.

I just realized, my supervisor is on sewer. She represents two of the hill-billiest communities around here, Forest Ranch and Cohasset, and a district full  of septic tanks in Chico, and she doesn’t have a clue about septic tanks. Does she think the residents of Cohasset will pay twice as much to pump their tanks? No, when their tanks fail, they will call “Midnight Septic Service” and neither the county nor the city will be the wiser.

I told Maureen about the new soda machine at the Cohasset Store. Within a week somebody had shot it full of holes, leaving a note: “What? No Budweiser?!”  

Maureen is over her head, I don’t think she knew what she was getting into with that district. When the county made their trash franchise deal, County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn said his office’s phones “rang off the hook for two weeks with complaints.” I’d say, he was lucky people used their phones.

Maureen’s constituents had been blind-sided. She’d offered up a little public meeting at the Forest Ranch store, but didn’t notice it properly, and nobody came. When the deal rolled out and rates were increased while service was cut,  they were really pissed. I made a point to make sure they all knew who was responsible – most of my neighbors in Forest Ranch did not even know what district they were in, much less who was their Supe. Now they sure as hell know. 

Did Maureen learn anything? I don’t think so, this poo ponds thing has been kicking around in meetings for the better part of a year, and she has not notified her constituents. She has an office, and a staff, paid for by us, and she could get a list of her district addresses from Candy Grubbs, send regular notices as to what’s happening – especially stuff like, “the cost of pumping your septic tank is about to double…” – but she chooses not to.  She could have a website, but does not. 

So, I will have to attend the “Local Goverments” committee meeting next week, how exciting. I’ll try to keep you awake.

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/LGC-8-3-16-AgendawithAttachments.pdf

Actually those meetings are full of interesting topics. At the same time they are discussing screwing septic tank owners all over Chico, they will give us an update about how they are trying to force more people onto city sewer. They will also discuss an accusation made by the Grandiose Jury that Chico does not spend enough “local taxpayer dollars” on the homeless. I’m sure some of you might have something to say about that. 

Of course there’s nothing on this agenda or any other I’ve received about pending rate increases from PG&E and Cal Water.  Nor is there an update on the trash franchise deal.

Does anybody pay attention to this stuff? No, at least half the residents of Chico are butt in air, head in gopher hole. That is a position that leaves a person is prime position for a good screwing.

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