Those pesky rules!

6 Oct

The proponents of Measure H are really running a hard campaign, and they aren’t letting rules get in their way. The flyer I received the other day is full of those promises they can’t make for a simple measure.

That first line is really troubling, insinuating the city only has $3 million in the road fund. The city received 10’s of millions in emergency funding for the Camp Fire and later for COVID, over $12 million in American Rescue Plan Funding just two months ago. And they claim there’s only $3 million for road maintenance? Meanwhile, they “allocate” pension funding out of all the funds, including the roads fund. Barbara Martin, who was just promoted to Administrative Services Director, told me that a percentage of payroll for each department fund is allocated to the Pension Stabilization Trust. That, remember, is in addition to the “payroll’ share, going to the annual “catch-up” payments made at the end of the fiscal year.

The second claim, housing – I think I covered that pretty well in my last post. They’ve already given over $32 million in emergency funds to developers to build low-income housing that isn’t needed, which will tank the housing market for a few years before attracting thousands of new residents with whom we will have to share our deteriorating infrastructure. ‘Nuff said?

Public Safety? What does this paragraph even mean? It’s so full of vague phrases – “increase proactive policing”… “expand training”…”protect 911 emergency response times“…? No, they can’t make specific promises, but what the hell are they even insinuating here? I really don’t think they could tell us, they’re just saying what they think the voters want to hear. Their promises aren’t worth the flyer their printed on. A 2/3’s measure would have specific amounts dedicated to specific programs, written directly into the ballot measure.

I saw a sign like this in Kasey Reynold’s front yard. In the ballot measure, it says she’s not supposed to campaign, as a council member, but I guess that doesn’t include her yard. The only others I’ve seen were being removed by a Cal Trans worker from the public right-of-way along Hwy 32.

Make Chico Better” ? That’s their slogan, I think it’s really weak and insulting. First of all, Reynolds, along with Morgan, Coolidge and Tandon, signed the Shelter Crisis Designation, and then proceeded to lumber through that Warren vs Chico lawsuit like Godzilla in a Lego village. That has led us to the state of perdition we find ourselves in, and every time they promise us they’re going to fix it, the judge hits the entire town with a cease and desist order. Our parks are trashed because of decisions council has made, and we’re on the hook for $1.5 million/year to maintain the $3 million pallet shelters for the next 5 years? They can’t even tell us, but they expect us to raise our sales tax to pay for it. They’re not saying anything about that in their flyers or signs or social media.

Furthermore, it’s insulting in that we’ve watched them reeling in the money hand over fist, do they really think we believe they don’t have enough money to fix our roads? They just raised sewer rates (Dave corrected me, it was 67%, not 60 as I reported) but they need sales tax too? They’ve been permitting unprecedented levels of new housing – most of which will generate new property taxes, permanent prop tax that will increase incrementally every year – but they still need a sales tax increase? They think we don’t know about the “catch-up” payments? They sure don’t mention that either. I hate being treated like I just fell of a turnip truck.

We have to ask ourselves, when will it stop? Here’s that answer – when we vote NO on Measure H.

And finally, here’s a tactic that really made me disgusted with the H proponents – they just won’t follow the rules. I found these pictures at the Yes on H Facebook, identified as a city employee taking a group of kids door-to-door to hand out Yes on H flyers and signs. I asked the clerk, and she said that while city employees are allowed to do what they want on their own time, they’ve been informed that they are not allowed to wear their city “uniform”. Look closer at the picture – not only is the city employee pictured wearing a city logo shirt, he’s got them on three of the four kids.

https://www.facebook.com/YesOnHChico

I think H proponents should have to remove these pictures from their Facebook site, but I’m not going to pull the clerk’s ear any further, I trust her to do whatever is appropriate. The city of Chico put this measure on the ballot, and they make and enforce all the rules for the campaign.

Many campaign donors look at it like more of an investment – take Measure H donors, please!

6 Oct

It’s always good to see who is behind a campaign and how much money they’ve put into it. Sometimes we find, these donors look at campaign contributions as more of an investment than the rest of us.

Here’s the link to the most recently filed report from Chicoans For The Sales Tax Measure 2022 — aka, Yes on Measure H. It’s a quick read, but very interesting – thanks Dave for the Heads Up.

https://public.netfile.com/pub2/RequestPDF.aspx?id=204866944

The biggest donors on this report are the Chico Police Officers Association and local developers Slater and Son. The CPOA was also the biggest donor behind ill-fated CARD Measure A. The Chico Police Department is also the biggest expense the taxpayers have, taking over half the new budget of $211 million. The salaries lead the pension deficit, so the cops also have the biggest pension deficit. Generous contributions to candidates at election time have kept council members from pressing CPOA members to pay more rational shares of their pensions and benefits.

Meanwhile, developers Howard and son Brandon Slater enjoy their fair share of public housing contracts, most recently receiving the contract for the new Jesus Center and transitional housing on Fair Street. That project is funded by the city of Chico.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not seeing the housing shortage the city (and Measure H proponents) are claiming – read this article, this is what I see whenever I drive around town.

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/nearly-1400-affordable-housing-units-in-chico-proposed-while-camp-fire-survivors-move-out

CHICO, Calif. April 16, 2022 — Construction of affordable housing in Chico is picking up, while tenants are moving out.

Brendan Vieg, the City of Chico’s community development director for planning and housing, released the new development statistics during the Chico Chamber of Commerce’s community development update Thursday.

Affordable housing, historically not comparable to those numbers, is keeping up this year. Vieg says 476 affordable housing units are currently under construction via apartments, duplexes and more. This work can be seen at the 59-unit project located at the old Jesus Center near downtown, the 60-unit project at the intersection of Bruce Road and East 20th Street, 97-unit Laval Ridge project off State Route 32 and east of Bruce Road, the 100-unit Creekside Place project across from Marsh Junior High School and the 106-unit North Creek Crossing project inside Meriam Park.

And a lot of it is being built with public money – “Those affordable housing projects represent solely those that have already broken ground, but something both the in-construction and in-development projects share: where the funding is coming from.

Vieg says a total of 10 projects are being funded through disaster tax credits and CDBG Disaster Recovery Funds. Chico received over $32 million of this post-Camp Fire due to the influx of around 20,000 people who were displaced and eventually moved there in 2018.

The Measure H flyer I received today claims that the revenues from H “would support“, among other things, “housing“. So you see, Slater and Son are making an investment, not a donation. They will receive millions in funding out of those revenues. There’s no oversite on jobs like that, when it’s taxpayer money, the sky is the limit. No fiscal responsibility, no competitive nature, the contractor charges what they want once they secure the contract.

Howard Slater used to say something along the lines of “for every dollar you spend in planning, you save $7 in building…” Well I’d say, he’s using the same philosophy in regards to greasing the wheels that turn his business empire – the public trough. For every $30,000 donated, you get how many million in return Howard?

And we must realize, the cops look at it same. Every election the CPOA are the biggest donors.

I’ll add this last “I told you so” – when Paradise was burnt to the ground and people fled for their lives, city of Chico management treated them like a pack of fleas, claiming they were overwhelming services like roads and sewers. Orme cried poormouth while receiving millions in disaster relief. I told you all that was BULLSHIT, and here’s staffer Vieg admitting it.

Over three years after the blaze, these people are moving out.

“‘Our population swelled to over 112,000,” says Vieg. ‘Based on the Census, they have come in with a number of 101,475. So that’s kind of a big reflection of, again, a greater out-migration in our community.'”

At the time, Orme claimed 120,000. He used that number to file for and receive millions in disaster relief. Council spent the money as they saw fit – doled it out to their buddies in the unions and the developer community.

The most interesting reports come after the election is over, because the smart ones don’t donate until the last quarter. That would be the Service Employees International Union, which is the biggest union Downtown. That’s another time, on This Old Lady.

Chico Says No: There is no bigger reason for the City’s financial predicament than spiraling pension and other post employment benefits (OPEB) costs.

3 Oct

 Investigating the “Chico Says No” site further, I found this really good essay on Chico’s unfunded pension liability.

https://chicosaysno.weebly.com/unfunded-liabilities.html

Something I’ve tried to remember to include in the pension deficit conversation but often forget, is OPEB – other post employment benefits. Yes, there is also a separate deficit on employee health benefits, for the same reason there is a pension deficit – our city employees expect very nice benefits – health insurance, vision, dental, life insurance, etc – but employees don’t make realistic contributions. Listen, the only reason they discuss the pension deficit AT ALL is that we’ve continued to press them about it for years. As we’ve kept pressing, they’ve raised employee contributions, by very tiny increments. The taxpayers pick up over half the “payroll” share and ALL the “catch-up”, or deficit payments.

And here’s what’s weird, like the author points out below – the catch-up payments get bigger every year, taking more money from the General Fund every year, but the deficit just keeps getting bigger. More about that tomorrow – or you can look at the budget yourself, here:

https://chico.ca.us/sites/main/files/file-attachments/2022-23_city_annual_final_budget.pdf?1664554257

And now, from the Chico Says No website:

Why are the streets crumbling in Chico?  Why is the rest of the infrastructure in sad shape?  Why have City services declined?  And why has this happened while City revenue continues to rise?  The fact is the City has never had more money to spend and the infrastructure has never been worse.  Why do our local politicians and bureaucrats continually cry out for more money and raise fees and taxes?

There is no bigger reason for the City’s financial predicament than spiraling pension and other post employment benefits (OPEB) costs. These costs are referred to as unfunded accrued liabilities (UAL) meaning there has not been enough money put aside to pay for them.  Despite higher fees and taxes, despite money that is supposed to be dedicated for essentials like street maintenance being siphoned off to meet these costs, they continue to spiral out of control.

The City Council wants tax increases and although no City Council member will tell you the truth, the reason for these tax increases is to deal with the UAL.  It is unconscionable that our local leaders will not level with people like you who have to pay for this.

If you read nothing more on the subject, read this article:

Although it is over two years old it applies even more today because the problem is even worse today. The article states:

Local governments and school districts always tout these measures as necessary expenditures to rebuild crumbling schools, maintain overused parks and provide better police services, but don’t be fooled. Every new local tax these days is, essentially, a pension tax. These governments write the ballot summaries and provide ‘voter information,’ so they are able to sway the discussion away from the true causes of their fiscal peril.

And remember, no city in California has solved its UAL predicament by raising taxes or borrowing more.  All that can do is increase the cost to taxpayers and postpone the day when there will be no choice but to reform these liabilities.

Don’t vote for the politicians’ tax increases.  Don’t let them borrow more.  Instead, demand accountability and demand they reform the out of control unfunded liabilities before they cost taxpayers even more.

New group comes out against Measure H: Chico Says No

2 Oct

https://chicosaysno.weebly.com

VOTE NO ON MEASURE H

Why Should You Vote No On the Chico City Council’s Measure H Sales Tax Increase?

  • There is No Guarantee How the Money Will Be Spent

The measure contains a long list of possible uses for the money (many vague) but no details, dollar amounts or completion dates are assigned to anything.  Instead of necessities like street maintenance, the money can be spent on unsustainable employee costs, boondoggles and possibly hundreds of millions in new bonds (debt)! Remember, the money from the garbage tax was supposed to be spent for street maintenance but was siphoned off for the pensions. And that is only one example of our money being mismanaged!

  • There is No Citizen Oversight Council

Our city councils have proven over and over they can’t be trusted to spend our money wisely.

  • The Tax is PERMANENT Despite What The City Says

The ballot measure deceitfully says the tax will be in effect until “ended by voters.” Do you think the City will ever put a repeal on the ballot?  Of course NOT!  So it will require professional signature gathers to collect in excess of 12,000 signatures to get a repeal on the ballot and that will cost thousands of dollars.  Who is going to pay for that?  No one!  You will NEVER get a chance to repeal this tax.

  • The Tax is REGRESSIVE

Working people, poor people and those on fixed incomes will pay a disproportionate amount of their incomes and savings for this tax. In 2019 a City consultant said the per capita cost would be about $200 a year and that’s before the worst inflation in forty years.

  • This Is No Time for Another Tax Increase

Inflation at a 40 year high, looming recession, 22.4% of Chicoans living in poverty, record debt, taxes and the cost of living are already too high, etc.  And the City just passed a 67% sewer rate increase! Among other taxes, the City already taxes us 5% on gas, electric, telecom, water and has “franchise fees” of 2% on gas and electric and 10% on garbage. We have enough taxes!

  • The City’s Revenue Has Been Growing for Years

The City has never had more money to spend and the streets and the rest of the City’s infrastructure have never been worse.  The City’s revenue is up 40% FY15-16 through FY20-21 and when the audited financial reports come out for last fiscal year revenue will be up again. (As usual, the City doesn’t publish the audit financials until 6 months after the FY closes!)

  • The City Has a Spending Problem, Not a Revenue Problem

For many years money that should have been spent for essential programs like infrastructure maintenance has been siphoned off for massive unfunded liabilities which continue to grow anyway.  These liabilities are unsustainable. A tax increase will NOT solve this problem but only enables the City to delay taking action resulting in more tax increases later.

Instead of voting for a tax increase, demand the City Council reform these unsustainable liabilities so they are not passed down to your kids and grandkids! Download this flyer here and distribute it to everyone you know! Thank you!

The letters section: I’m going to kick Brandon’s ass

30 Sep

Well, I woke up in the middle of the night with my election letter in my head, so I got up and dashed it off to the Enterprise Record letters department early Wednesday morning. You can read it here, straight from the jackass’ mouth. Er, ah, keyboard. Heee-haw!

Measure H proponents would have us believe that if we would just vote “conservative” this November, we could trust council with an unrestricted tax. Sometimes a “conservative council” does not make very “conservative” decisions.

Last year, our “conservative council” approved $300,000 in American Rescue Plan money for an architect to design “parklets” for Downtown bars and restaurants, hundreds of thousands more promised to build them. $120,000/year to DCBA for the skating rink. But there’s not enough money to fix the streets in our neighborhoods?

The same council just approved a 60% sewer rate increase, after spending millions in grant funding to hook more people up, all the while claiming that Paradise refugees were “overwhelming” our sewer plant. Now they’re talking about hooking the town of Paradise up to the same sewer plant?

The “conservatives” all signed the Shelter Crisis Designation that led to the Warren vs Chico lawsuit, then botched that. They spent $3,000,000 building pallet shelters, we’ll pay another $1,500,000/year to maintain them, but illegal camps persist.

Councils, and all their promises, come and go, leaving us with problems they don’t have to answer for. Measure H is a permanent new tax, and goes to the General Fund. There are no guarantees on a simple measure. Look at the record – last year, $1,200,000 budgeted toward streets, $12,200,000 to the pensions.

We can do better. No on Measure H.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

And then this morning I saw Brandon Slater’s letter. Slater, the son and heir of developer Howard Slater, is one of the folks who signed the Arguments For in the ballot pamphlet. That list of names is important – do your research – almost every name on that list is somebody who will benefit directly from city monies, including Measure H revenues, which will go into the General Fund. Slater, for example, has the contract to build the new apartments on the former Jesus Center site. Give me a name, I’ll tell you what they got.

Slater is making the argument that I made fun of in the first paragraph of my letter – he says the liberals and conservatives are in total agreement that the money needs to go to the streets! Well, Pollyanna, don’t we all wish we lived in your Dream Kingdom!

In fact, Slater’s saying that there is no partisanship on council, that this tax measure is a bipartisan effort. Wow, that’s just a lie Brandon. Furthermore, he ignores the poor spending decisions made by the conservative-led council we’ve had since 2020. The council became even more conservative with the departure of liberal lunatic Scott Huber, whose replacement, Dale Bennett, was named by the council conservatives. They named retired police chief O’Brien to Kami Denlay’s seat, a guy with a personal interest in seeing the pensions paid up.

And of course, Slater himself has a direct interest in the perpetuation of the “Homeless Industrial Complex”, into which the city pours millions a year. So does Measure H co-signer Laura Cootsona, who gets a salary to run the Jesus Center operations.

I think my letter is a good response to this guy, but you’ve seen other “yes on H” letters, all using the same points – especially that lame line about the tax not applying to groceries or medicines. Well, if you can wear your groceries, wash yourself with them, clean your house with them, and eat a banana when you have a head-ache or a fever, you may be able to avoid paying this tax. Oh yeah, you’ll have to walk to work – or ride that magic banana. And be sure to pack your lunch – because the tax applies to gas, bicycles, car/bike parts and maintenance, and any prepackaged/prepared food.

Today a friend of mine asked me about other revenues the city collects – let’s talk about that next time, on This Old Lady Kicks Brandon’s Ass.

You don’t have to wait for your local election guide to come in the mail – it’s already available on the county website

28 Sep

Go to this link, and you’ll find all your local candidates, from local councils and boards to the Senate and Assembly races. You’ll see the local measures, including City of Chico Measures H and L. I don’t know when the clerk plans on mailing, but here it is – do your homework before you vote.

https://buttevotes.net/DocumentCenter/View/1003/Voter-Information-Guide?bidId=

Letter to the Editor: City misusing American Rescue Plan funding, contact your district rep and tell them you want some money spent on the street in front of your house

19 Sep

I hope you are enjoying this rain as much as I am. My husband and I spent the weekend cleaning gutters and putting away stuff that can’t get wet, routing out winter clothes and bedding, etc. Get ready, 10 months ago there was flooding on the Sac, freeways were flooded, and there were mudslides in SoCal. It’s absolutely amazing how quickly things turn around in California.

But don’t forget to pay attention to what your government is up to. After I attended that Internal Affairs Committee meeting last week, I felt compelled to write a letter about it. I’ll guess, most Chico taxpayers don’t know about the day meetings, they don’t read the agendas or reports, and 9 months or a year later they are caught completely off-guard by headlines saying the deal has already been done. Or they drive Downtown once or twice a year and notice all these big changes but don’t realize – it was paid for by the taxpayers, not the DCBA or the Chamber. We’re all paying for it out of COVID Emergency Funding that was supposed to be used for the benefit of the entire town, not just a handful of cronies.

And, for those of you who do enjoy shopping in the Downtown business district, there will be fewer parking spaces, smaller sidewalks, and I’ll predict, more drunken behavior than ever. So I thought I better write a letter to the editor about it, maybe it’s not too late to stop this obvious misuse of funding.

At the September 12 Internal Affairs Committee meeting, staff and committee members discussed ending the city’s COVID Emergency status. The city is still operating under a state of emergency, the county ended theirs in April. The city has received over $20,000,000 in American Rescue Plan funding since the state declared the COVID shut down, another $12,200,000 received just last month.

Downtown bar and restaurant owners, already receiving PPP funding, are eager for the city to pour more COVID money into their businesses. Staff reported that many Downtown businesses had been allowed to extend their seating areas into the public right of way. The city paid for the installation of “K-rails” – large cement buttresses used to cordon off parking spaces and sections of city sidewalk for use by bars and restaurants.

Business owners attending the meeting expressed their concern that the temporary “K rails” are “unattractive”. The city manager announced she had awarded $300,000 to a local architect to design and build “parklets” so that businesses could continue to commandeer the public right of way, even after the Emergency declaration has been ended. She reported 42 parking spaces had already been “eliminated” by parklets now in use.

She also commented, “$300,000 does not begin to cover this.” She is asking council to approve the use of hundreds of thousands in American Rescue Plan funding to put parklets at Downtown bars and restaurants.

If you disapprove, now is the time to contact city council, before more money is spent.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Scott Huber tells us to put our money where our mouth is? What is this, WWE?

16 Sep

I saw this recent letter to the Enterprise Record from Scott Huber, who quit Chico City council in disgrace after citizens confronted him for breaking the law by aiding and abetting illegal campers. He had also taken a summer job out of state – over 1,000 miles away in Wyoming – leading a lot of us to question his dedication to his position here. He quit in a huff, insisting he feared for his family’s safety over remarks made on social media, as well as a barrage of emails sent to him at his new employment address.

Hey, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. I thought his excuses were questionable – just lame, really. For one thing, he’s no angel, he’s a very contentious person. He was very offensive in remarks he made from the dais, and unapologetic about breaking the laws he was hired as council member to uphold. I’m sorry, I didn’t buy his whining excuses then, and I don’t buy them now. He got mad because he wasn’t getting his way, he tried to ditch out on his duties, he got busted and publicly humiliated, so he went dragging his blanket into the corner to sit in his underwear watching cartoons and eating Captain Crunch. Tipper said Al didn’t change out of his bathrobe or shave for two weeks after November 2000.

If he was so fearful for his family’s safety, why did he stay in Chico to continue to dabble in local politics? And I have to wonder – he’s FOR the tax measure, while his friends Karl Ory and the other liberal candidates are posing AGAINST it? What the hell is going on down at Democratic HQ these days? Looks like a lot of posing and posturing to me.

Below, Huber parrots staff, complains that if other cities are doing it, why shouldn’t we, and then insults us all with an ugly charge to “put their money where their mouth is”. Who is he talking to?

“Four years ago Chico City staff identified that it would take $188 million dollars to catch up with long deferred road maintenance and repair costs (Chico Enterprise-Record, February 24, 2018). Over and above that it was estimated that the annual cost of maintaining and improving city streets was running about $7 million to $8 million dollars per year. Ironically, the city’s annual roadway maintenance budget is just $1.2 million.”

Yes, Chris Constantin went before every committee and commission and board of the city and painted a picture of doom and gloom, unless we passed a sales tax measure. That paragraph looks right out of the power point presentation. But read it – “long deferred maintenance...” Who deferred that maintenance? Council, after council, which included people who still sit on council and other local boards, and another guy who just got hired as city manager. And who agreed to put that money into the pension payments? Council, at the direction of Staff. Who agreed to a mere $1.2 million for the roadway budget? Well, that’s not correct, I checked the budget – that’s for all capital improvements, including roads. And Huber approved it, along with the rest of council. What an ass.

The minimum statewide tax rate in California is 7.25%, and cities are allowed an add-on rate of up to 1.00% for local needs such as road repair https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/taxes-and-fees/sales-use-tax-rates.htm . In most areas of California, local jurisdictions have added district taxes that increase the tax owed by a seller.

Chico is one of only eight cities in California over 50K people that do not have an add on sales tax.  Of those eight, we have the lowest budget per capita for the general fund.

So he’s saying, that because other jurisdictions have been able to rope their voters into paying higher taxes, we should do same? My mother’s voice echoes in my head: so if your idiot friends all decided to jump off a cliff, you’d do it too? Why should we raise our sales tax based on towns like Oroville, which is still crying poormouth after a successful full-cent tax increase measure?

Unlike Oroville and other local jurisdictions, Chico has a strong retail sector with three major shopping districts, multiple new car dealers, and probably more bars and liquor stores than any town really needs. A Walmart and how many big chain grocery and retail stores – including two major home improvement chains and a local building supplier? Sheesh, CVC towers popping up all over town. All situated centrally among tiny towns with no Walmart, no car dealerships, no nationally known beer manufacturer, no major hospital.

Yes, hospitals include sales tax on many things, like those $50 aspirins they give you, crutches, bandages, splints, the baby supplies that come with your new child, etc. They only things they can’t tax are doctor/nurse services, your room/food service, and your prescriptions, everything else is taxed.

By the way, when the proponents of this measure mention that “visitors” will pay a large share, you should remember, they mean anybody who doesn’t live in Chico, like our friends and relatives in Biggs, Gridley, Paradise. Even folks from towns in Glenn and Tehama County come here to shop, eat at restaurants, enjoy movie theaters, and look for medical care. Is this any way to treat people who support your economy? Like cash cows?

And here’s where Mr. Birdwatcher goes trash mouth:

With these hard realities in mind, the question of putting a sales tax to the voters has been proposed, debated and rejected by various configurations of the City Council repeatedly. Finally, despite opposition that has been both predictable and political, Chico voters have an opportunity to “put their money where their mouth is” and actually do something to make Chico safer. A large bipartisan group of Chico residents and business interests support the small tax and it will not be applied to groceries or medication.

Here’s a person who does not allow anybody to disagree with him. If we question this tax, it’s “predictable and political,” meaning he closes his ears as soon as we open our mouths because he believes he will not like what we say. If he doesn’t like our “politics” he doesn’t have to listen to us. Fascists like Scott Huber do not belong in positions of public trust.

And then it gets contentious. This is the kind of phrase my grandpa always warned me not to use, cause it might lead to teeth hitting the playground. “put your money where your mouth is” are fighting words. It means, put up your fists. It’s offensive to me that this jackass thinks he can call people out like that, after he said he fears for his family’s safety. What a heap of doodoo.

Finally, he makes the promise that he don’t have to keep.

Help make Chico’s roads safer, please join me in supporting Measure H.

One more time – repeat after me – Measure H is a simple majority measure, passed with 50% + 1 additional participating voter. It is a permanent tax with no dedicated purpose. The revenues from this measure will go into the General Fund to be spent at the whim of council, whatever council. You have to look at past spending, and ask yourself, do we want to put more unrestricted money down this rabbit hole?

No, No, No on H.

American Rescue Plan funding being spent on a complete remodel for Downtown Chico, while needed road projects stay on the “wait-and-see” list

14 Sep

Monday (9/12/22) I attended a City of Chico Internal Affairs Committee meeting. The agenda items were discussion of the city’s COVID Emergency Declaration (yes, still in effect), outdoor dining, and Kasey Reynold’s request to discuss “quality of life” under the Warren vs. Chico settlement.

I feel Reynolds is illegally using staff time on that last mention – she is not allowed to use staff time to discuss ballot measures once they have been lettered and placed on the ballot. This is an obvious campaign ploy for both her re-election and Measure H as well. She’s trying to convince us that she’s fighting for us, and can be trusted with that one cent sales tax increase. But I don’t have the money to hire a lawyer and pursue the matter, so I’ll just say, I won’t be supporting Reynolds in November. She’s too willing to bend the law for her own ends.

The more interesting items were the COVID emergency status and outdoor dining conversations. Yes, the city of Chico is still in a state of emergency, and that bugs me because it gives the city manager emergency powers – he can allocate money, hire people at salaries he determines, and many other questionable acts. Just think, Bill Dauterive in charge during the hurricane. Former and disgraced manager Mark Orme hired a new police chief, and created three new positions, at salaries well over $100,000/year, in his position as Emergency Services Director, before he got the boot for being derelict and irresponsible.

So now former city councilor and one time mayor Mark Sorensen has been hired as city manager and given the same Emergency powers. Why are we still under this emergency? Because the city has actually turned it into a windfall of funding. Just last month Chico received another $12.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. The city had already received $22.1 million directly from the ARPA in 2021, plus another $1.7 million of the county’s ARPA funding.

While the budget shows that some of that funding has been used to bring Park Avenue and Mulberry Street up to 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act standards, over $3 million went to the building and establishment of the pallet shelters, which staff has predicted will cost another $1.5 million, minimum, to maintain and operate, ANNUALLY. Other money went to “affordable housing” – almost 1400 units. Unfortunately the housing sales and rental markets continue to be shaky, rent and prices continue to go up. Furthermore, the city has failed to address rising utility rates, recently announcing a 60% increase in city sewer rates. Furthermore, they intend to tie sewer rates to water consumption, which is a grab, plain and simple.

This city is flush with money, the problem here is clearing in the spending.

Which brings me back to the meeting. There was a short discussion of the Emergency Act, really short since members Deepika Tandon and Mike O’Brien did not show up. O’Brien tried to participate by phone, but since he did not advise staff that he would be “virtual,” they had not sent him the agenda or reports. So he sat there making decisions based on what he heard at the meeting – he just went along with Reynolds – Aye aye Captain! There was no explanation for Tandon’s absence, in fact, both staff and Chair Reynolds seems to be surprised and even a little miffed.

Reynolds called for the committee to send a recommendation to end the State of Emergency, noting that Butte County had ended their state of emergency in April. But she was hardly very enthused about it. Her attitude seemed to be, “we’ll see what happens,” when council takes up the matter at their next meeting. I got the general feeling that nobody really wants the emergency to end, including Downtown merchants, especially bar and restaurant owners. They have been enjoying PPP loans, and the city has made them alot of promises out of that American Rescue Plan money.

The city has even stated they will allow the use of outdoor dining space, whether permitted or not, to continue for another 180 days after the end of the emergency. Later in the conversation staff made it clear they intend to make parklets a permanent addition to Downtown despite the end of the emergency. They’re using their emergency powers to make changes that will affect our town and our budget long after people have forgotten COVID.

There’s the other issue. According to staffer Brendan Vieg, the city has been pretty “lax” in the permits process. They have allowed various restaurants, bars and coffee shops around town to establish outdoor dining areas on their own property without permits, which is against the law. They’ve also left it up to the ABC to enforce the liquor serving laws – I know, what a free-for-all – drinks served to people curbside, in keg cups, in their cars. The whole thing was surreal. And, now we find out, it was completely unsupervised.

Those restaurants who established their outdoor dining areas without permits, without health and safety inspections, without fees, will still be allowed to operate those outdoor areas as long as the emergency order persists, and for at least 180 days after. Again – without health and safety inspections. Vieg says the city will rely on people to complain.

Meanwhile, other establishments were encouraged to take over parking spaces directly around their business property. The city has placed really ugly cement buttresses – “k-rails” – along the street to allow space for revelers who don’t want to party inside. Not only are they ugly – in the words of one Downtown business owner, “unattractive and dilapidated…” They look like they’ve been used on freeway construction sites, they’re tagged, beat up, and really bring that look of urban ghetto.

But that’s not the real problem for me – they make it onerous to walk or ride a bike Downtown, totally unsafe. I wouldn’t even take my car Downtown when traffic is busy and people are getting slobbering drunk at these wonderful sidewalk cafes the city has established. It’s just not safe, they only allow about a butt’s width to walk on the sidewalk, if you’ve ever had kids, you know that’s not family friendly. Downtown sidewalks, once subject to No Smoking ordinance, have become “the smoking area” for private businesses. And it doesn’t look like anybody is doing any cleaning.

This seems outrageous to me – to claim that pricey bars and restaurants in one small section of town are deserving of American Rescue Plan money to enhance their private business corridor. The city is pandering for the sales tax these places produce. Without considering how much of the budget goes to the problems they produce – last budget shows over half goes to the cops, and I’d say most of their job is rounding up the bums and the drunks. Two problems that are exacerbated and perpetuated by dumb decisions on the part of one council or another.

Business owners attending the meeting mostly Downtowners, not only wanted to see the emergency extended, but they want the ARPA to be spent on redesigning the cement buttresses, to make them trendy and attractive. And PERMANENT.

In June 2021, the Council allocated $300,000 in one-time American Rescue Plan funds toward the design, construction, and implementation of temporary parklets in the downtown area. The purpose of the project was to replace the existing K-Rail parklets with safe, aesthetically pleasing parklets, and allow for continued use of outdoor dining in an effort to continue to provide a safe dining experience for local residents and visitors.

Yes – the city already allocated $300,000 to Galloway and Associates Architects to design pleasing looking buttresses. Yes, that would be the firm owned by Matt Galloway’s dad, which is why Matt Galloway signed the “Argument For” Measure H, cause he, like the rest of the supporters of Measure H, have direct benefit to gain from it.

What’s a parklet? Here are some images I found online that look like the pictures Macarthy showed at the meeting.

Looks trendy and expensive to me. In fact, according to Ass City Mangler Jennifer Macarthy, “$300,000 does not begin to cover it…” They will be asking for more ARPA money to spend making Downtown into a restaurant zone. That might be nice for those of you who can afford to throw down $200 for family meal, but most of the taxpayers who pay for this stuff don’t even go Downtown. While the elite meet and dine at our expense, we’ll be grinding our teeth and our tires around the rest of a town that hasn’t seen street maintenance for the last 20 years. And according to Macarthy, the general public has already lost 42 parking spaces to this effort to make Downtown more Uptown.

Get ready to lose more parking Downtown – “A maximum of fifty percent (50%) of the number of normally required parking spaces may be occupied or otherwise rendered unusable by the placement of temporary seating and other features associated with the temporary use. Such maximum may be increased or decreased at the discretion of the City’s Public Works Director based on unique site conditions.” A couple of Downtowners commented that there is no comprehensive code for such approvals, it’s completely up to the director to make the call as he chooses.

This is how they spend “emergency” funding, and they tell us we need to pay higher taxes if we want them to maintain our streets?

Well, there’s more, while I’m at it, let me tell you about what I saw at City Hall the last couple of visits I’ve made. You all remember when I ky-yied about the nearly half-million dollar remodel of City Chambers? Paid for with Comcast ratepayer funded grants, that job was originally estimated at about $225,000, but ended up costing almost $400,000 because of just plain incompetence.

That was in 2018. When I visited the City Hall building next door in August of this year, I discovered the building is being remodeled. A staffer told me the third floor, once a public reception area and clerk’s office, is being made over into high-tech conference rooms. Like the huge, fancy ones they put in the old Muni building just a few years ago, at who knows what cost. They really went tits-out with fancy paneling and flooring at the Muni building, they spent a bunch of taxpayer money on that building, which isn’t even used for much of anything. Most of the time that two story building sits empty, but I’ll bet the lights and ac are still running.

So, the city is broke, too broke to maintain the streets, or the sewer, or the parks, but still has enough money to do a complete remodel of Downtown and City Hall. Wow, I don’t know about you, but I feel like I just rolled off a turnip truck.

We’re not turnips, and I won’t be squeezed for more turnip juice. Tune in tomorrow, I would like to tell you about some other stuff I’ve been doing, next time, on This Old Lady Goes to Town.

POSTSCRIPT: Doug Roberts, you sell-out, I hope you are haunted by the hook-handed one for the rest of your lousy beer mopping life.

Don’t let the heat make you stupid – don’t fall for the threats, Vote NO on H

10 Sep

Are you worried that you’re going a little, well, CRAZY? You got that right – it’s Dog Days, and that’s when people and dogs go crazy. Go outside about 5am, there he is, Orion the Hunter, setting out across the sky, followed by his faithful dogs. I believe that’s where dogs go when they die, they follow Orion across the sky. At this time of year, Orion and his dogs are walking in the hot daylight, and you know what heat does to your brains. It makes you stupid and crazy.

Most people like to think they’re intelligent. But your intelligence is subject to many variables – alcohol comes to mind, but there are other factors that aren’t under our control. Like the weather. My two worst times of year are Dog Days and the first days of January, because the weather is bleak, and it ain’t going away. Late summer in NorCal is like this – 105, 106, 109, 112, 112, 112… Once the temps get up that high, it’s hard to get them down. Like your temper, they just keep getting hotter. I do stupid stuff, like online shopping. The other day my husband stopped me just short of ordering a troll doll.

Troll doll, close-up

Justin Taylor / Creative Commons – I had one of these when I was a kid, but my dog ate it.

In January, the cold gets in my bones, and the darkness gets in my mind, like a Stephen King story – I get sad, and I can’t explain it except that it’s cold and dark outside. I do stupid stuff, like make a whole cake and eat it. Frankly, I know it’s inevitable, so I plan for it – this year I’m going to make a chocolate souffle and eat that.

Unfortunately this is an election year, and you know, they’re ugly anyway. Add record heat, unbelievably bad air quality, and wow – what a circus.

Here’s a letter from unsuccessful council candidate and former park commissioner Jeffrey Glatz.

I was present back in 2019 when former City Ass Mangler Chris Constantin went to all the commissions and made his pitch for a sales tax measure. Glatz was in attendance when Constantin spoke to the Park Commission. Of course Constantin wailed on that the city was in dire straights, blamed the Camp Fire Refugees, and claimed a 220,000 post fire population that only turned out to be about 210,000. That Census, by the way, was done in the days immediately following the fire, alot of refugees who were living here temporarily have left, but Constantin used that tragedy to further his ends. Of course, Glatz bought the pitch, swallowed it hook, line and sinker, without ever looking at the city budget. If he had, he would see, the city is flush with funds, including a recent gift of $12.2 million in disaster relief money. He brushes off the CalPERS debt like a guy who doesn’t have the faintest notion what the hell he’s talking about.

This guy is a good example of why the commissions and boards should be eliminated. They are spoils positions, given to those who support the council members who appoint them, oftentimes financially. We don’t even get to elect these people, they’re not qualified for the positions, they’re just tools of staff.

Glatz is simply repeating, regurgitating, what he’s been told. He uses the same argument – the city is desperately poor, and taxpayers will only suffer more attrition if they don’t pass the tax.

Are you sick of the threats? Are you sick of willful subordination? Vote NO on Measure H.