Election 2018 took all the fun out of Democracy

6 Nov

Google reminds me this morning, “Go Vote!”

Go stuff a sock in your ass, Google! I voted two weeks ago, where have you been? 

But County Clerk Candy Grubbs says less than half the ballots she sent out have come back in. Wonder why? Cause people are disgusted and confused, is why. Just yesterday I talked to two elder Democrats who are not supporting Newsome, Denny or Feinstein, but can’t stomach their opponents either, so will not be voting in those races. These are people who have voted the Demo ticket since before I was born, and they say they’re just disgusted with the way this election has played out. They told me they are still out on many of the ballot measures too. 

They’re not alone.  Recently I talked to a young couple who say they are confused by many of the ballot measures and will probably not vote on any of them. I asked them to reconsider Prop 6, telling them if they read the description of the measure completely through they will be able to make a better decision. I don’t like to tell people how to vote, I try to tell them to educate themselves, but this election has been a textbook example of misleading and manipulating language and misinformation. 

And the press has been playing dirty too. I found a Yes on 6 letter in a Fairfield paper that had been titled “No on 6”. I wrote a note to the editor but have not received any answer. When I looked at comments below the letter I saw others who were asking why the title didn’t match the letter, but there it stands today, “No on 6”. 

https://www.dailyrepublic.com/all-dr-news/opinion/letters-editor/letter-to-the-editor-stop-waste-by-sending-message-no-on-6/

At the Chico Enterprise Record, it’s a pretty clear case of advertising. While editor David Little finally endorsed Prop 6, he’s been running a really obnoxious “No on 6” drop down ad for weeks. 

I don’t know if I should tell this story, I have enough trouble getting the ER to run my letters, hate to piss them off further, but I’m kind of pissed off about being held off by the forehead. I started writing Prop 6 letters early, and I sent my last letter BEFORE Dick Little announced the deadline. He held my letter for over a week, then announced the deadline, and ran my letter AFTER the deadline.

When I called him on that, he told me I could have one more election related letter, “but not about Proposition 6, because then Vercruyssen will call foul and insist on another one as well. I don’t want to go down that road. “

And then I had a note from a friend who had sent in a Yes on 6 letter and hadn’t seen it for a couple of weeks. I asked Little about it – he’d been on vacation (?!),  hadn’t seen it. 

I’ll tell you what happened – it was “lost” while Little was on vacation, and Schlobover and Urpseny were running the paper. My friend had to resend, and I told him to be sure and cc Little. And there it was!

So, what I’m hearing is, there’s a split on the ER editorial board, and when the editor is away, his underlings do whatever they want – mainly pander to their advertisers. That’s journalism! 

This is the worst election I can remember, as far as deceptive advertising and terrible press coverage. I’m just holding on for tomorrow, when I can scrape the last crap mailers out of my mailbox and stuff them in my garbage can. 

 

 

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Enloe Hospital tells patients, get better insurance, or hit the road

4 Nov

Strange but true. Enloe CEO Mike Wiltermood makes over $1,000,000 in salary and benefits. What’s his job, anyway? Well, apparently, he’s GOD.  He certainly seems to have power over life and death, deciding who will receive life-giving treatment and who won’t, based on their income. That’s what he’s doing when he tells us Enloe won’t accept patients with Anthem Blue Cross – one of the cheapest plans you can find out there. He’s not just  throwing out an insurance company, he’s throwing out patients who can’t afford Enloe’s new rates. 

To see how Enloe’s rates compare to other hospitals, see this link. Ask yourself – how do they maintain “non-profit” status with that kind of mark-up?

http://www.hospitalcostcompare.com/hospitals/50039/inpatient

Read the ER story below:

By  | lurseny@chicoer.com | Chico Enterprise-Record

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

CHICO — Enloe Medical Center and medical insurance provider Anthem Blue Cross were not able to negotiate new contracts as of Nov. 1.That means residents who have commercial coverage are impacted, but not those with MediCal or MediCare coverage. Emergency room coverage is intact as well. Physicians within the insurance network will be impacted as well.For those patients with Anthem Blue Cross insurance, they may face higher costs for services or need to find medical care at a different facility out of town. It all depends on what kind of policy they carry, according to Enloe CEO Mike Wiltermood. Enloe is now out of the network, he said.

Wiltermood said Enloe started negotiating with Anthem Blue Cross in May, hopeful that a better contract could be reached. He said Enloe believes that physicians here weren’t being paid on parity with others.

“Anthem hasn’t given a contract increase in nine of the last 12 years” to physicians, he said Friday.

Wiltermood said Anthem wasn’t interested in offering a different contract, either not showing up prepared to negotiate or offering the same contract as has been in place for a number of years.

Wiltermood said Anthem “ … was telling enrollees that they were negotiating in earnest. That wasn’t the case.”

“It was basically take it or leave it,” Wiltermood said.

He said the last time the two sides met, Oct. 30, Anthem offered “less than the current contract.”

Enloe also received a letter from CalPERS, encouraging the hospital to find common ground for a new contract. Wiltermood said the letter was “bullying.”

Wiltermood said he wondered if CalPERS sent Anthem the same letter.

While a comment from Anthem indicated the insurer would be happy to bring Enloe back into the network, Wiltermood said there were so many occasions to do that that didn’t happen.

“We’ve been told that Anthem is not going to budge off the original agreement.”

Wiltermood acknowledged the situation can hurt Enloe in the short term.

“We’ll have to see if people migrate to other commercial plans. In the short run, there will be an impact and we understand that. A lot of this just depends on how people react. If it’s important (to them) to stay local, they’ll go to another insurance plan.”

Wiltermood said he had talks with Butte County school districts and others that could deal directly with Enloe, and would entertain other groups that might be interested in that.

Finally, enrollees can find a toll-free phone number on the back of their medical cards, and can call with their questions.

Anthem representative Eric Lail sent this statement to the Enterprise-Record:

“Our priority during these ongoing negotiations with Enloe Medical Center continues to be protecting affordability for our consumers, while providing access to quality healthcare. We are negotiating in good faith to bring Enloe back into our network of care providers as soon as possible. In the meantime, consumers can access care at one of the many providers in the area who remain in our broad network.

“We do believe hospitals and doctors should be compensated fairly, and that has been reflected in our offers to Enloe. However, we cannot agree to rates that are not in line with what similar providers in the area receive. Those higher costs would be paid for by our consumers, many of whom are covered by self-funded plans and pay for their medical services directly.”

According to Enloe, “Anthem Blue Cross has indicated that many of its members may be able to continue their pre-authorized care plan at Enloe if they have pre-authorized surgeries or other procedures, if they are scheduled before the termination date and within 180 days after the contract terminates.

Anthem Blue Cross has said its members may also be eligible to continue their care or complete covered services for an acute condition, terminal illness, serious chronic condition, care of a child (age 0-36 months) or pregnancy, Enloe indicated.

Chico Area Rec Dist wants you to forgive $180,000 loan to the nature center so they can use the money to pay their pensions – NO!

28 Oct

In a time when families all over California are cutting back their budgets and lowering their expectations for their children’s futures, public agencies continue to spend money they don’t have and expect the over burdened taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Chico Area Recreation District, for example, tells us they don’t have enough money to properly run programs they’ve run for years. They’ve dropped the Fourth of July pancake breakfast, closed a popular swimming pool, and cut back hundreds of part time employees to 28 hours or less to avoid the healthcare mandate,  complaining they don’t have enough money. But at the same time, they spent over a $1,000,000 buying a rotten old building in Cal Park, then spent 10’s of thousands more in repairs. Meanwhile they took over the Nature Center, $200,000+ in debt to the taxpayers, and  made plans for a grandiose recreation center miles out of town.

They continue to spend 10’s of thousands a year on consultants to help them get a revenue measure on the ballot.

And NOW they want the city of Chico to forgive half the debt for the Nature Center.

According to CARD’s budget, the Nature Center brought in about $250,000 last year, an increase over the previous year of $20,000. Why can’t they pay their debts?

 Most  CARD programs do not support themselves, taxpayers already subsidizing over half their expenses. Here’s a program that actually generates money, but instead of applying the proceeds toward CCNC expenses, they put the money in the general fund and use it to pay their $1.7 million pension deficit, generated years before they began managing CCNC.

That’s stealing, if you ask me.

Save your own money from being spent on more studies and consultants –  contact Ann Willmann and the board now, at annw@chicorec.com.   Tell them Willmann needs to pay more than 2% of her pension out of her $100,000+ salary, and they need to put CCNC proceeds in a separate fund until the ENTIRE loan is paid at the originally agreed terms.

From Chico Enterprise Record:

 | UPDATED: 
CHICO — There is only the matter of money standing in the way of the Chico Creek Nature Center coming fully under the Chico Area coffers of Recreation and Park District.

 

But it’s a six-digit amount.

At Thursday’s CARD meeting, the board agreed that taking over the Nature Center is a good move for CARD. The Nature Center’s board of directors approved dissolving the 501(c)3 under which it operates.

While the Nature Center program is a nonprofit, it has leased its center in Bidwell Park from the city.

“There is no problem with the Nature Center coming to us,” said CARD Director Bob Malowney, who serves on CARD’s Financial Committee and said the committee is happy with the idea too.

“We would like the city to meet midway on the outstanding balance, or better,” said Malowney.

There is the matter of a loan the city made to the Nature Center to help build classrooms while it was independent of CARD which the center’s board has been working to pay off in tiny chunks.

The original loan of about $185,000 had grown to more than $200,000 with unpaid interest after the Nature Center struggled over payments. Repeatedly, the center asked the city and was granted deferral of the loan payments and term changes.

According to a CARD staff report presented Thursday, there is a balance of $171,200 to the Nature Center loan from the city.

The Nature Center board has been working with the city to figure out how to proceed.

CARD General Manager Ann Willmann suggested to the board that CARD work with the city and offer to pay a portion of the outstanding loan. She did not indicate an amount or percentage.

Thursday, the CARD board agreed with Willmann’s suggestion, but was hoping for a small repayment amount, citing the numerous benefits the city has enjoyed since CARD began managing the Nature Center. and taking on its employees.

The Nature Center  would continue to operate as the Bidwell Park Information Center and would be a benefit to the city, Willmann pointed out.

CARD Director Michael Worley suggested the city could provide CARD more access to the immediate area around the Nature Center, such as Cedar Grove or the deer pen.

Willmann will be getting in touch with the city for further discussions.

Feasibility study

The CARD board accepted the final draft of the feasibility study and needs an assessment it ordered in regards to EveryBody Healthy Body.

The study indicated that more rectangular fields, such as soccer fields, are required; that more land is needed; that the build-out of DeGarmo Community Park cannot fulfill the community’s recreational needs.

EveryBody Healthy Body coordinator Jovanni Triceri told the CARD board that the organization “is hoping to find out ways to collaborate (with CARD) in the coming months.”

“We don’t think CARD should do all of this,” he said in regards to the feasibility study conclusions, adding that his nonprofit wants to make sure the CARD master plan is implemented.

“Our needs are beyond the building out of DeGarmo,” said CARD’s Malowney. “We’re looking forward for any group coming forward …”

A nonprofit, EveryBody Healthy Body has been looking at several hundred acres south of Chico for a sports and recreation complex to be built out over the next 50 years.

Are CARD and city of Chico crossing the “fine line between legally disseminating information and illegally advocating for or against a ballot measure”?

22 Oct

New revenues provide a wish list for $taff

18 Oct

The other night council and friends divvied up a pot of “extra” money they found in the couch cushions – not really! It’s extra money from all the new housing property tax receipts. You know, they keep saying they need to build affordable housing, but none of the new stuff is going for less than $300,000. I was looking at rentals online the other day and noticed there’s been another subtle but firm increase in rent. Even Paradise is  getting a little pricey. So yeah, property tax revenues are going up, up, up, and staff rubs their hands together and comes up with ways to get it into their pockets.

You can look at their entire wish list, and see how they avoid making street repairs, on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting (10/16/18), and you can watch the video – please do! You won’t believe how frank they are about wanting to tax your ass off. 

They’re stealing our money, wake up and write a letter to the editor, I did.  Don’t just lay there taking a screwing, say something!

This year the city of Chico received nearly $2.5 million in General Fund “net income” – new revenues from increases in property and bed tax receipts.

City policy, dictated by staff and rubber stamped by council, allows staff to subjectively assign this money to various funds.  Staff came up with their own list of priorities, including $250,000 for their Pension Stabilization Trust. Another $25,000 goes to a voter survey, to “engage political consultants to determine the willingness of voters to support a tax measure.” 

None of the money, over half of which came from taxes on our homes, will be used for street repairs. They told us the garbage tax would go to fix our streets, but the city manager has made two attempts to redirect that money to pay salaries and pensions unrelated to street maintenance.

We have over fed Blue Jays running our town. People who make in excess of $200,000 a year, expecting the majority who live on less than $45,000 a year to pay pensions of 70 to 90% of these crazy salaries. Meanwhile our streets go without maintenance and city “leaders” spend another $25,000 to convince us we need to pay more taxes if we actually expect service.

Anyone who has lived in Chico for more than five years should look around themselves and ask the question, what’s wrong with this picture?  I see a greedy, bloated management staff who need to get out in favor of young people who will take rational salaries and pay their own pension freight. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you received your mail-in ballot?

16 Oct

My husband and I watch a lot of Sacramento News – just to see what’s going on in the outside world. What we found out lately is, Clerk/Recorders in other counties are being way more proactive about getting people to vote.  In fact, people are already returning their ballots in Sacramento, and I haven’t even received mine yet.

Of course, I got the voter guide sent out by the state. And my PO Box is full of campaign crap from every Tom, Dick and Kasey, but the clerk can’t seem to get my ballot delivered.

What is with that bitch?

For years I’ve got my voting information at my PO Box, because my home mail service is sketchy at best. For 15 years it’s just got worse and worse – here’s a tip, don’t complain, the post office folks have ways of making you very miserable. You should have seen what they did to our Christmas packages for years.  So, we just started changing everything to our PO Box. Which is great, you don’t have to worry about porch pirates, and the service at the post office is fantastic compared to home delivery.

So we’ve been getting our voting materials at that PO Box for over five years now, without a hitch. Until this year, when we found a notice in our home mail box that we should receive our mail in ballot between October 10 and October 18. The notice included a change of address form. I wanted to call the clerk’s office and ask why my address had  been changed when I’d been getting my stuff at that mailbox for at least two elections, but I decided just to turn in the change of address form. That was back in September.

Then I received two of my three property tax bills at my home mail box. And here’s the other thing – one of my neighbors’ prop tax bills was included in my stack. That’s my mail man! And that’s why I got the PO Box. So I sat right down and called the Tax Collector’s office, left a message asking for the mailing address to be changed (without asking why two of three had been switched in the first place, cause I also know better than to mess with the Tax Collector). I received a call back within 24 hours telling me the change had been made. They even sent me new bills within a week.

But still no mail in ballot or local election guide, either at my home mail box or my PO Box.

The clerk has two more days to get that ballot into my mail box, one or the other. I don’t know what to do if it doesn’t come – last time I contacted her about the issue of missing ballots she was in my face HOSTILE.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/11/02/grubbs-resents-my-asking-questions-about-missing-ballots-thrown-out-ballots-undeliverable-ballots/

We have too many people in public service who think they are above question. 

Let me know if your ballot has turned up or not. 

UPDATE: I finally got my mail-in ballot and voter guide yesterday, October 17, one day short of the deadline, and roughly two weeks til Election Day. Meaning, about a week to get my ballot back in the mail, for Prudence’ sake. 

We need a new clerk. A young person who is willing to take a rational salary and pay their own benefits. Oh, and actually do the job.

 

Garry Cooper: “Ask them where all the money you paid already went.”

11 Oct

When I attended a Finance Committee meeting a couple of weeks ago, to hear Mark Sorensen’s plans to foist a bond on us for more pension fodder, I tried to raise a few questions about how our streets and roads are maintained now, how that’s paid for, and why the taxes we already pay are not sufficient. I asked about new roads I saw going in at new subdivisions off Hwy 32 and Bruce Road, and about road widenings provided for those subdivisions. The road widenings on Hwy 32 and Bruce were specifically necessitated by the Forgarty and Meriam Park subdivisions, as per a threatened lawsuit from CalTrans.

Before chair Mark Sorensen could tell me to shut up, I got staff to report that the Forgarty streets were paid for with $6 million in Redevelopment Agency funding, or RDA. RDA is borrowed bond money, it’s estimated to cost $3 in interest for every dollar spent. 

I have to wonder, how much RDA money went into those new streets at Meriam Park?

Soooo many questions – and too many people like Sorensen telling me “that’s enough, Ms. Sumner!” (Ah, in friendlier days, it was “That’s enough Juanita!”)

That meeting was pretty contentious. When tax advocate Stephanie Taber went on a ramble about how “the liberals”spent all the money and that’s why we need a new tax for street maintenance, committee member Randal Stone came across the table at her, looking like he wanted to grind her bones to make his bread, saying, “I don’t know which council you’re talking about, but we inherited the streets…” 

All I know is, the city of Chico has come after three of my houses in the county, telling me and my neighbors we’d get better services if we’d agree to annexation. We weren’t really told our rights – it’s actually doable to fight annexation, a neighborhood protest could overturn it. But we were led to believe it wasn’t fightable, so we rolled. I remember Dan Nguyen-Tan telling me, “just think, you’ll be able to vote in city council elections…”

And then we watched the streets in front of all three houses go to hell without maintenance. Here’s the thing – at House #2, the county started a resurfacing job. We were right off Palmetto, and the county had come in, taken it down to the base, and was about 2/3’s of the way through the job when the city annexation went into effect. They supposedly had an agreement that the city would redo gutters, curbs, sidewalks and the ends of driveways, which were left hanging a good 10 – 12 inches above the surface of the new street. We waited and waited, but the city didn’t come. We used our neighbor’s sideyard, with permission, to  get into our driveway. Three households driving across this woman’s side yard to access their houses. 

And then one night a neighbor on our street had a stroke. The ambulance could not get to her driveway, and had to run across neighbors’ yards with the gurney to get her out. She was about 95 years old. She died.

I called the city to tell them what happened, and the  guy who answered the phone was very flustered and apologetic – he didn’t know our street had not been completed.

Welcome to the city of Cheeeko!

The city has long had a policy of pay the pensions first, and worry about service later. In about 2006 then city manager Tom Lando floated a memo of understanding, signed by council, linking city salaries and benefits to “revenue increases, but not decreases…” 

Read that a  couple of times.

Salaries went up, 14, 19, 22 percent! Every year, until we figured it out. We started a collective bitch. The council responded by signing new mou’s – this time, they agreed to pay the employee share of benefits. For years management, along with PD and Fire, paid nothing, absolutely nothing, toward pensions of 70 – 90 percent of their highest years wages. Salaries had gone up – for example, Lando’s salary went from about $65,000 a year to over $100,000. By the time he retired he was making about $180,000 a year. His successor came in at $190,000/year. Now Mark Orme is making over $220,000 a year. 

We raised the collective bitch again, and they agreed to pay some of their benefits. Oh my, 4 percent! Well aren’t you special! So council gave them raises to cover the new payments. All’s well that ends with a  good public screwing!

We pay over 30 percent of their benefits now, add their 4 – 9 percent, and CalPERS wants 50 percent. For now – as time goes by, with CalPERS questionable investment policies, they will eventually want the full 100 percent. So begins the arm-wrestling match over who pays.

Mark Sorensen wants the taxpayers to foot the bill. Ask him why – I’ll answer that – because Mr. Sorensen has wrangled himself a sweet little job as city manager of the nonsense town of Biggs. That makes him a ward of CalPERS. While he doesn’t make half the salary Orme makes, he still depends on those benefits, he’s  got a growing family and a big old gated mansion to take care of. So he’s a soldier for CalPERS. 

The consultant who attended the meeting had all kinds of ideas about getting the public to go along with this scam. But his one warning was, tax measures are hard to pass, and opposition can overturn their little rowboat. The consultant actually suggested that they identify possible opponents and try to smooth them over – promise them stuff!   Get somebody else from the community to invite them out for coffee and snacks, and try to talk them out of opposing.

And, like consultants I’ve listened to at Chico Area Recreation District meetings, he said it was important to keep the measure a secret as long as possible, while surveying selected recipients – they use demographics to find out who is most likely to go along, and they call those people. One CARD consultant said it was very important not to include negative comments in surveys. 

At that point, having wasted enough of my morning, I got out of my chair, picked up my stuff, smiled at Sorensen, and walked out of the little stuffy room. As I walked out I said, very clearly, “there will be opposition, you can count on it.” 

And I was right. I’ve never met Garry Cooper in my life, I’ve never spoken to him, he’s never come to my blog or commented on my letters when we had Topix. So I was surprised and glad when he wrote the following letter to yesterday’s Enterprise Record.

 

The city of Chico wants to ask you to pony up tens of millions of dollars to repair the roads.

Ask them where all the money you paid already went. They will point out that about 80 percent of your money went to salaries of the public unions who, upon every election, donate generously and tout their valuable “endorsements” to the candidates most likely to give them better hikes in wages and benefits.

For instance, you have firemen in Chico bringing in over $200,000 and with base salaries of over $150,000, who are allowed to retire at age 55 with 90 percent of that for life. Most have rental homes and IRAs due to their generous salaries. You, the working class hero, who must work until 65 to get your average $1,200 Social Security retirement, are being asked to pony up more. Is that fair?

Sure, they will claim firefighting is dangerous, but so is roofing, operating heavy equipment, truck driving, and working on oil rigs. Just the stress of struggling by the average Joe in Chico whose salary is in the $30,000 range puts more pressure on one’s heart than those who hop in their $60,000 pickup and tow their $50,000 RV to fish on their days off after collecting their rents from you.

I have no problem with wealth and income, but getting your riches on the backs of the the poor by bribing politicians is wrong. These union agreements are illegal and voidable.

— Garry Cooper, Durham