City of Chico fiddles while Rome burns

18 Jan

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I reported an illegal camp in Bidwell Park. It took the city a few days – New Year’s weekend! – to get them out and then collect up the trash. We knew that wouldn’t be the end of it, and again yesterday my husband found an illegal encampment – this time right off a main trail, right out in the open, unabashed and unafraid of detection.

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Some people just get too comfortable in the park.

When my husband was taking a picture of the tent a woman actually confronted him. He had our 10 year old diabetic dog, so I started to worry – what if one of these people had a pit bull or other killing machine type of dog? I started to question my husband’s insistence to walk the park with my old dog every morning, even though this routine has successfully kept her blood sugar down to manageable levels.

There you are folks – I don’t feel safe in Bidwell  Park, and you shouldn’t either. Arm yourself and be ready to defend yourself and your children/pets. 

When the woman shouted at my husband, “what are you doing?!” he responded, “what does it look like?” And he took a picture of her tent. He told her, “you know what you’re doing,” and that she had about 30 minutes to clear it all out before he’d report it to the police. 

When he made he way back home with Biscuit, the tent was gone. 

Yeah, the park looks like a hobo camp, why not? The city has allowed the park to sink into horrible disgrace. It’s not “natural,” it’s a manmade disaster of non-native species and septic swamp. Nothing has been done to maintain the health of the park for at least 20 years. The city turned maintenance over to “volunteers”, has brought in jail crews a few times, but has no cohesive plan for how the park should be maintained.  How many millions have gone to plans for Bidwell Park? I’ve lost track. 

City council voted last night to spend more money on staffing Chico PD. I will make my official prediction – the homeless problem will continue to get worse, Bidwell Park will continue to sink into disgust.

UPDATE: I will say, Mark Orme is quick to respond to my inquiries.

Ms. Sumner,

 Thank you again for your input.  I’ve cc’d the Police Chief and Public Works Director over Operations on this e-mail, as they may have additional feedback to give.  I can tell you that staff is evaluating every opportunity to move forward with an effort to deal with this situation more aggressively.  One potential program we are working on is furthering the bond between our public works team and the Police department.  They already have a great working relationship, but we’re looking at a creative approach to securing an even smoother ability to deal with these park issues.  It will roll out during the budget process.  As for now, the Police Department and Public Works will continue to monitor and conduct sweeps on a regular basis…although not as often as staff would like to be able to do, simply due to resource constraints.  

 Have a great day,   Mark

 Mark Orme

City Manager

For the Beautiful City of Chico

But there’s your answer – “resource constraints”. A hundred million plus budget, and this guy is complaining about “resource constraints”?

So I had to ask him about this.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/09/29/chico-pd-announces-quarter-cent-sales-tax-increase-campaign-through-business-support-team/

The podcast is still available, listen to it yourself. Mr. Van Rossum spoke at last night’s council meeting in favor of increasing the police budget – without talking about his “Business Support Team” or mentioning that he raised a few thousand dollars through North Valley Community Foundation Annie B’s for Chico PD. I asked Orme if it’s still true, the police spend so much time at Enloe dealing with the homeless, they need a substation?

When I asked Dorian Kitrell, a director at Butte County Behavioral Health, why the cops were spending so much time babysitting the homeless,  waiting for county employees to pick them up for a ride to the facility in Oroville, he didn’t know what I was talking about. 

We’ll see what Orme says. I’m getting kind of tired of hearing about “resource constraints” from a guy who sits on a $100 million-plus budget and a $200,000-plus salary. 

 UPDATE UPDATE: I have to hand it to Orme, he’s quicker on that send button than Donald Trump!

Yes, the business support team is an independent group, not under the City’s auspices.  The person who usually speaks on their behalf is Ms. Donna Sherry.  I don’t have her contact information readily available, but it may be something you can reach out to Chief O’Brien to get.  As for the radio issues at Enloe, I know it has been an ongoing problem, however, one of the capital expenditures the City is evaluating this year is an upgraded radio system that would deal with this issue.  Again, the Chief would be the best person to speak to that concern.

 If you e-mail him on both of these matters, he is really good about getting back. 

 Hope this helps and gets you connected to the right folks,

Mark

So I wrote to the police chief:

Hi Mr. Obrien,

I was told by city manager  Mark Orme to forward the inquiries below to you.

First, I wonder when we can expect regular patrols of Bidwell Park. My husband and I keep encountering illegal campers on morning walks with our dog, and we don’t feel safe in the park or our adjacent neighborhood anymore. We feel the park has become a haven for criminals to predate our neighborhoods.  The online police reporting website does not have a button for “illegal campers” so we have made reports to the city manager and staff. 

Second, I wonder if you have contact information for the Chico Police Business Support Team, Donna Sherry.  I wondered about a fundraising effort made in 2015 through the Annie B’s drive, by Jack Van Rossum. He made comments on a local podcast show, Chico Currents, saying the police spend so much time at Enloe with homeless people, they need a private “substation” and special radios for communication. I wondered if this is still true and what became of the fundraising efforts. 

Thank you, at your convenience, for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner

I have not had any dealings with O’Brien, we’ll see what we get.

 

CARD rose garden under water

12 Jan

As I listen to the dumping rain outside, I wonder what damage is occurring around town that could have been foreseen by anybody who has lived in this town more than four or five years. Yesterday on a trip through Bidwell Park we found the new rose garden installed by Chico Area Recreation District was flooded and badly damaged.

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Irrigation lines, rose bushes ripped out, expensive sand washed out to the creek.

This job was engineered by Greg Melton, the same guy that drew up the plans for DeGarmo Park. The first year after DeGarmo was opened, the play field flooded, and the whole thing had to be redone. I don’t know how much that cost. But Melton has been given a contract by CARD, guaranteeing him jobs without bidding.

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This sand is supposed to be on the inside of the fence.

The woman who brought forward the idea for this rose garden offered $100,000 of her own money, but Melton drove the cost up to $250,000. I don’t know what the total cost of installation ended up, I’ll have to ask Ann Willmann, CARD director.

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Anybody who has lived here more than five years knows this area gets regular flooding during heavy rains. Why would anybody put a rose garden in a potential swamp? Cause he wasn’t spending his own money.

There’s the creek, right there. This area has long been known as a flood zone. But CARD went ahead and removed big trees to bring this project right down to the water’s edge. During a drought, that was GENIUS MELTON!

I’ll  ask Willmann what the cost of repairs will be, and get back to you. 

The problem with Bidwell Park: they’ve deferred maintenance but kept on paying their salaries and benefits

11 Jan

I e-mailed park manager Dan Efseaff yesterday regarding the backhoe that sank into the asphalt path in Bidwell Park. This is a heavily used commuter trail.  In good weather you will see people riding Downtown to their jobs.  My husband and I use  it regularly to get out and do various errands around town, most of which involve SPENDING MONEY. So I wanted Efseaff to know, somebody cares. 

I wonder when we can expect repairs to the asphalt path under the freeway. My husband and I encountered a city back hoe sunk into it yesterday. There’s a big sinkhole there.  I got a good picture for my blog if you want to see it –   chicotaxpayers.com

 The asphalt was just laid right over dirt – this path has been undermined by gophers for some time. There should be road base laid under asphalt, with proper preparations. The little sinkholes that have formed over the years are a hazard, especially for pedestrians. This back hoe sinking was bound to happen, but it’s just lucky nobody has been injured. I use the park paths regularly, and there’s hazards out there  that need to be addressed, including these asphalt paths laid improperly over dirt. 

 Thanks, Juanita Sumner

The response I got was nothing short of depressing:

Hello,

 Yes, unfortunately the City skimped on road base years ago when the paths and roads were paved, we sometimes tread on the asphalt as if it is thin ice—the backhoe broke thru as we were clearing a hazard tree across the path.   In addition, the recent weather conditions have accelerated the decline of a number of deferred maintenance issues.

 We will need to wait until the soil is dry enough for us to do a temporary repair (fill and compact properly).  We will then put on some gravel base to provide a temporary surface (and better base for the future), and then later schedule an asphalt repair when Right of Way starts that operation later in the year.  The temporary fix will reconnect the path.

 Long-term, we will seek funding options for more comprehensive repairs and fixes to Lower Park roads and paths.

 We are collecting an inventory of issues, so let us know if you see anything new (530-896-7800), but be careful in the Park the next couple of days as the wind and saturated conditions are of concern to us.

Thanks.

 Sincerely,

 Dan Efseaff |Park and Natural Resource Manager

530.896.7801 | dan.efseaff@Chicoca.gov

Yes Efseaff admits the park has been “skimped on”, while salaries have gone up and benefits have been paid.

According to Public Pay, Efseaff makes $93,000 in salary and gets a $47,000 pension and health package.  He pays 9 percent of his package – what, less than $5,000/year out of a $93,000 salary for 70 percent of that salary into perpetuity. 

Whenever I read this stuff I want to slap their hands – “get the hell out of my purse, Leech! 

Here’s a guy who admits, he just hasn’t been doing his job – he collects the salary and perks, alright, but he “defers” the work. Great! 

A “temporary” repair for a trail that is a major commuter route in dry weather? They will “seek funding options”? 

Here’s the city’s 2016-17 budget:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2015-16CityFinalAnnualBudget.pdf

The park fund has a lot of money in it, but management eats like pigs.  Park salaries outpace the budget by almost $5 million, leaving a deficit in the General/Park fund of $4,266,937.

So I gotta wonder – what does he mean when he says “seek funding options”? 

And, he makes the usual plea for us to help him collect his $93,000 a year salary – “let us know if you see anything new”? 

Don’t get your loafers dirty Dan. 

Bidwell Park is in big trouble

10 Jan
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We came over to investigate the downed tree, and found the city back hoe had sunk into the flimsy asphalt path.

Years ago when the city installed the asphalt pathways that intersect the park in places, I saw this coming. My dad drove a belly dump for Henry Teichert, I had seen a little bit of roadwork from the cab of his Peterbilt. You don’t lay asphalt on dirt, silly rabbits.

As a park commuter, I watched gophers undermine the paths immediately, creating hazards, especially for pedestrians. But it never occurred to me that city vehicles would have to use these pathways. I was shocked when we encountered the back hoe sunk deep into the muck, broken asphalt on both sides, no thicker than heavy mil cardboard.

Duh!

The park has been badly managed for years, because there is no accountability. The staffers who are responsible for this stuff come and go, and nobody leaves notes for the new guys.  The man who was driving the back hoe was also shocked – he had only been with the city for 11 years, he had no idea the asphalt had no support under it. I hope he didn’t get into trouble because it’s not his fault.

Management gets paid to know this stuff. Dan Efseaff makes about $100,000/year, plus pension and health package, to know this stuff. I’ll have to send him this picture. I already sent it to the Enterprise Record, we’ll see if it makes it into Hot Shots!

 

You can’t always count on the cops – know your neighborhood, and keep an eye on it

8 Jan

My husband takes our dog Biscuit out every morning for a walk around the neighborhood. She’s diabetic and needs the exercise to keep her blood sugar  down, and my husband is on alert ever since a car was broken into across the street last year. We both feel it’s a good idea to walk the neighborhood regularly, different times of day, keep in touch with our surroundings.

No matter what the weather, they take their morning constitutional over to the park. After she came home soaking wet a couple of times, my husband  decided to make her a raincoat from a garbage bag.

She was not thrilled about the raincoat.

She was not thrilled about the raincoat. That’s not a happy face, and the tail is all wrong.

Of course she cowered and tried to shake it off at first, but as soon as she realized it meant WALK, she was on board. Now I put it on her anytime I want to take her outside.

What a fashion maven.

Taking Fashion Maven Biscuit out to the mail box.  There’s the correct tail posture. 

Of course, Badges has to have everything Biscuit has, so we fitted him with his own little jacket.

You THE MAN! Badges.

Marshall Badges and Deputy Ding-Dong during a rare moment in between dumpers.  

Badges wasn’t too sure either, but like Biscuit, he now identifies the raincoat with WALK, and he actually holds his head up to have it pulled on. 

Don’t let the weather keep you from being active. Get out there and keep an eye on your hood. 

Move the recycling center – city has permitted too much housing in that spot, so should help Chico Scrap Metal move to a new location

5 Jan

Yes, Debbie Presson is incompetent and should step down.  As David Little reported in this morning’s editorial,City Attorney Vince Ewing said he hadn’t prepared his legal opinion on the matter yet [Chico Scrap Yard]. Obviously the city clerk and the mayor didn’t realize that when they set the agenda. And so 11 people got up in front of the council to ask for a decision, only to be told it would be put off for two weeks.”

Presson really jumped the gun on that – the signatures were only turned in a couple of days before the meeting, the agendas had already been sent out. She had to send an amended agenda the day of the meeting. That’s not very good noticing, but hey, look who we’re talking about here. 

This is the same woman who once told me the noticing distance for a project was only 300 feet when it was actually 500 feet. When I pointed this mistake out to her she actually giggled. Her mistake meant a neighborhood meeting had to be cancelled and rescheduled, but who cares about the inconvenience of the public at the clerk’s office?   A few months later the distance was “administerially” changed to 300 feet, meaning Presson had to notice less neighbors of impending subdivisions and other projects. I had to wonder – how long had she been noticing only at 300 feet? When it was pointed out to her the rule was changed.

She also told my neighbors and I that the 300 feet extended only along the sidewalk, from the “front door” of the project. Our project was an empty lot, but she still refused to notice any of the neighbors that lived along the back border of the project, their back fences lining the lot. She said the distance was measured along the city sidewalk, and the notice only had to include the neighbors on the facing street. What a bitch.

Frankly, I’m guessing Mayor Sean Morgan, who can be found leaning over Presson’s desk quite regularly, encouraged her to agendize the matter quickly so he wouldn’t have to listen to the little mob that has formed around this issue. While I question Karl Ory and Mark Stemen’s motives in this movement, I know Morgan likens listening to the public to listening to a set of fingernails being dragged down a chalkboard.

I honestly believe Morgan would like to run this issue under the radar, but the city attorney nailed him on it.

Little complains this issue has dragged out for 40 years. Well, in that time, the city has permitted housing right up to the boundaries of the property. Instead of protecting an industrial area by moving the old houses that were present, they permitted one low-income development after another. You realize, over the past 40 years, staff and elected officials have changed so much, the right hand hardly knows what the left hand is doing. That area is a planning disaster.

Yes, Chico Scrap Metal is an important business. When my family  was buying and fixing up old houses we made trips in there several times a year, with stuff no one else would take.  But that part of town has changed. Would you like to live next to the scrap metal yard? Who would? Especially now that other recycling locations are closing and that neighborhood suffers a steady stream of garbage can miners every morning.  But the city permitted housing right up next to that site as recent as last year. 

The scrap metal yard has been sitting on the train tracks for years – hey, wake up! You should have sued the city to stop permitting housing in your armpit or to help you move to a more appropriate location when they built Ricky Court. 

I do believe the city should provide financial and staff assistance in helping Chico Scrap find a new place. 

But yeah, this just adds more to Chico’s “business hostile” reputation and chases more jobs out of town.

 

Cut the pensions

3 Jan

Thanks Rob, for this link to yesterday’s Dan Walter’s column.

Walters opines, “If it’s not economically or politically possible to finance the pension promises made to state and local government employees, the system’s only hope for solvency may lie in reducing those promises.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article123886739.html#storylink=cpy

We must ask ourselves, who made these promises in the first place?

  • Jerry Brown – with contributions of $50,000 – 100,000 from just about every employee’s union in the state of California  (   https://votesmart.org/candidate/campaign-finance/69557/jerry-brown-jr#.WGu0MvkrKUk   )
  • Third District Butte County Supervisor Maureen Kirk.    As a council member Kirk signed the “Memo of Understanding” that attached city employee salaries to “increases in revenues but not decreases…”   She also signed one contract after another requiring the city to pick up the lion’s share of city employee benefit expenses –  not only the much larger “employer share” of pensions and benefits but all or most of the “employee share” – the “employer paid member contribution”. For years under Mayor Kirk “public safety employees” paid nothing toward their own pensions, while management employees were allowed to get away with 4 percent. Now she rubber stamps raises for the county, as well as anything the Behavioral Health Department wants.
  • Second District Supervisor Larry Wahl – Wahl signed on to all of the above as a council member and added a step-increase system for the police department that essentially means automatic promotions and raises. As supervisor Wahl has voted to fully fund every request made by the Behavioral Health Department.
  • Don’t look now, but your former and current mayor are public employees who collect their own pensions. Don’t expect either Mark Sorensen or Sean Morgan to turn down any raises or require higher contributions, especially for cops or fire. They’ll dump lower level employees to feather the public safety nest, which is why our streets are shredded and our park is a disgrace.
  • Your vice mayor is a former employee of CalPERS. When we asked Reanette Fillmer during her 2014 campaign if she is eligible for a public pension, she said she didn’t know.  Don’t expect a straight answer about anything from that little minx. 

Do you feel responsible for these pensions? Do you get a pension? If so, who pays for it? 

Our public employees are like junkies – they’re high on ENTITLEMENT, the notion that they are better than us because they are a member of the racket, and we aren’t. They are high on the notion that we will foot the bill for their ridiculous lifestyle.

Remember what Nancy Reagan told you – JUST SAY NO!