Homeless agencies fighting like dogs over scraps

21 Nov

The other day I got a mailer from the Jesus Center, their annual fundraising drive. 

The Jesus Center has a long history here in town. The first location that I know of was a building situated down the street from the current location. They offered very spare meals twice a day – sometimes just a slice of American cheese between two pieces of white bread, contained in a sandwich baggie. They also offered Salvation – at times they were accused of asking clients to pray for their meals. 

In the early days the center was privately run, by a local family. By the 1990’s the center had a staff, and a manager – Al Kay, who was very popular in town. He renamed the operation “Loaves and Fishes.”  Kay started to ask for community support, encouraging donations of food. We had a good year in our tomato patch and I took him a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes, for which he thanked me up and down.

But some of the neighboring businesses often complained that the center was bringing in transients, who would wander that length of street, drunk, panhandling, ranting and raving away customers. 

 

We had a rental in the neighborhood, when we were working on it, we bought lunch a lot of times out of the window at Duke’s Liquor – they had really good  wagon-style tacos for about $1 each. I saw what the locals were complaining about – we’d always encounter at least three drunks while waiting for our food, including one woman who would walk up and try to start a fight. The others would just walk back and forth mumbling and smoking cigarettes, which they picked up from the ground.

Around the corner, there was a house full of working girls – yeah, daytime hookers – who would hang around the intersection of Park and 13th wearing the usual clothes, stand at the stoplight smoking cigarettes and engaging passersby, oftentimes running back to the apartment house to meet them in the parking lot.

That corridor has had a problem with transients as long as I  can remember.  Part of the problem was an old building known as the Ice House – at some point, ice was manufactured there. It had been empty since at least the 1960’s, and was a serious public nuisance. It wasn’t only an eyesore, it was a gathering and camping place for the transients, as well as a rat house. 

In the 1990’s, the city and the Jesus Center had an idea that seemed to kill two rats with one stone – let’s renovate the ice house and turn it into a functional shelter, set it up with the county, get some funding, etc.  The old building that had housed the JC had been burned down at some point in an arson fire – nobody was ever even blamed for it, they just moved  along toward relocation.

The ice house was gutted and revamped into a kitchen and dining hall with an office and even a couple of living spaces. And renamed The Jesus Center. 

I was happy about that – like a lot of people, I believed the transient problem was already there, and they needed some center to deal with it. 

I don’t remember when the Torres Shelter came on the scene, sometime around 2000? The city gave them the use of the land, and donors built the shelter, and several groups have tried to run it. 

Both centers started to hit the skids, in my recollection, sometime during the early 2000’s. My husband and I started to notice the JC was looking very run down, with tags on the outside of the building and trash piling up in front. At some point we noticed a broken down old motor home with a tarp pulled half-heartedly over the roof, parked in back of the building. On different occasions we saw different men staggering out of it.  Whenever we’d go to Chico Locker to buy meat or sandwiches, we’d see a surly, dirty group at the picnic table provided for customers, smoking cigarettes, making inappropriate comments. The staff kept them out of the store, but couldn’t keep them off the table.

The trash started to pile up all around that corner. One day not too long ago I sat in the parking lot and watched two really drunk people repeatedly walking out in front of cars that passed through the intersection of 14th and Locust.  They acted as though it was some sort of game.  If they do get hit, it’s an all expenses paid stay at Enloe Hospital.

We were glad when we heard Bill Such had been sent packing and a new, no-nonsense board had taken over the JC. But things did not get better under new director, Laura Cootsoona.  The JC started giving bums sleeping bags, back packs, and other camping supplies that we’d find in piles in Bidwell Park, under various bridges around town and along our creekside greenways. 

I believe locating the Torres nearby was a mistake, they seem to compete for funding. And I don’t think the Torres Shelter board is led by practicality, they are led by Pollyanna fantasies. They don’t hold high enough standards for their clients. They say they have rules – the rules end at the public sidewalk in front of the shelter. The Torres board won’t be responsible for the behavior of the people they attract. 

Neither entity will take responsibility for the rampant illegal camping going on in their area. Neither will patrol the park to get illegal campers to come to the shelter. They sit and collect their salaries and wait for the transients to come to them. 

And North Chico has no open door services – transients are expected to find their way South. The old hotel on Esplanade and the Esplanade House accept clients through the courts, and have long-term programs. The Esplanade House is having internal problems over the current director’s insistence that they accept single drunks – he wants the money, the original founders want to protect the families living there. 

So, right now, our homeless agencies are all fighting among themselves, and it looks like the Torres Shelter will be gone within a year. 

I don’t know if I’ve shed any light on this situation, I’ve had a hard time remembering the timeline. But I do know, the situation is worse now than ever, and all we have is bickering among these publicly-funded agencies. 

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/plan-lacks-transparency/content?oid=25360445

So when I got the annual fundraiser notice from the Jesus Center, I hucked it. I’m tired of supporting this bullshit. 

 

 

 

 

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Sorensen suggests a ballot amendment that limits council members to three terms – what is he up to?

18 Nov

From next Tuesday night’s council agenda:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=276

Re: Request to agendize Council Member term limits
I request to agendize a discussion regarding placing on the November 2018 ballot a
proposal to amend the City of Chico Charter limiting the number of Council Member terms to
three (3) terms in office.
Sincerely,
Mark Sorensen
Council Member
City of Chico

Not that I don’t like the idea – Hemet voters passed a similar measure in 2010, spending only about $3500.

But, I have to wonder – is he out to get Schwab, or  what?

 

Mutineer Sherry Miller says I have to make an appointment and drive out to the airport if I want to see the video she promised to have on the website

15 Nov

I got an e-mail from City of Chico Airport $taffer Sherry Miller yesterday, saying, “I do not have a time frame for when the video will be available on our web page.”

I can never decide – is it incompetence, or outright insubordination?

Yes, I’ll use that word – insubordination – because this woman is supposed to be working, excuse me, “serving” the public, and she’s just refusing to do so.

But she offers to loan me the DVD, if I drive out to the airport, by appointment, to get it.

A friend of mine asked me how we’ve come to this level with public employees – I’ll say, we’ve allowed it, we’ve put up with it, we’ve let ourselves be put in this situation.

I think we need Cesar Millan.

Mutiny! City $taff decides they don’t have to answer questions

14 Nov

I’ve been distracted by city of Chico improprieties lately – I have two requests for information that are being point-blank ignored by $taff.

Last week the clerk’s office posted the city council agenda with an item regarding the current Chico Police contract negotiations. The agenda report referred to a document – 

“Section 1. That an amendment to the contract between the City Council of the City of Chico and the Board of Administration, California Public Employees’ Retirement System is hereby authorized, a copy of said amendment being attached hereto, marked Exhibit. and by such reference made a part hereof as though herein set out in full.”

that was not attached to the agenda. I had to ask for it. The clerk sent me the document later in the day – it turns out, last March, council signed a release, indemnifying CalPERS from any harm caused to the city by that agency.

The document clerk sent was not cut-and-paste and she did not provide me a link through which I could share it. 

This is the second time I’ve had to ask for a document that was supposed to be attached to a  report on an agenda.  So, I wrote an e-mail to city $taff, asking why the document wasn’t attached to the agenda, as was described. They just aren’t responding. 

Here’s an article Dude sent that might shed some light – thanks Dude!

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article184235683.html

Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for airport commission $taffer Sherry Miller to post the video of the “special” airport commission meeting held last week. She had been posting notices of the meeting for about a month, saying, “As I noted in an earlier email, the meeting will be videoed and a link posted to the Airport Commission web page.”

I would have attended that meeting, but about half an hour previous, the heavens opened up for a dumper, and I thought, “well, she did say the video would be posted…”  I was born here, I know – you think twice before you go out in a storm. I’ll never forget the time I went to an evening meeting, it was storming, public works hadn’t cleared drains, and not only the city building parking lot and courtyard but two businesses across the street flooded. I remember standing inside the lobby with a group of people, including then assistant city manager John Rucker, telling Rucker I had to walk on curbs to get in from the parking lot.

Miller also said, “In addition, the City Council Chambers are not under construction so the meeting will be held in the usual location at 421 Main Street in the City Council Chambers.  This works out better for viewing the presentation.”

But the agendas page still posts the meeting at the old Municipal Building, “441 Main Street, upstairs…”  In red.

So, if the meeting was held in the council chambers, why did she later claim that the video is not in the right format for posting or sharing? That’s the same chambers the council holds meetings in twice a month, and those videos are available the next day, almost without fail. 

So, I’ve been asking her when that video will be available, and she’s just not answering. 

Mutiny on the Good Ship Lollipop?

 

Team Chico Police meeting

12 Nov

Thanks Jim for attending this meeting and sending us this report.  If only more people were willing to attend meetings, maybe we’d be able to force change in the way things work (or in Chico, the way things don’t work)  . Thanks for speaking up Jim.

Wednesday November 8th I went to the Team Chico Police public safety meeting held at Round Table Pizza on Pillsbury. It was mostly a PR type event, several officers and the Chief were there. They talked a little about better security around your business and home. Video cameras were strongly recommended as a deterrent. I have had them at my house for over 10 years.

The Chief said that they will be fully staffed in the coming months with the inclusion of the three park rangers.  So I asked what full staffing means and is that enough. The Chief said that full staffing is what the City Council has approved in the budget, and he gave a political roundabout answer to my second question.

 

They promoted use of the Nextdoor app and the Chico PD app. Be sure to note the serial number of bikes, since that can make a big difference when they stop a transient. The officer said they often run the serial number of the bums bike. Unless there is a report of it being stolen they can’t do much. Same with all your personal property, note the serial number and take photos.

 

They also asked to call the non-emergency number to report any suspicious activity; 897-4900.  They asked to call the non emergency number to report nonemergency suspicious activity. You will still need to fill online reports of theft.

 

Several people made comments about how the bike path is a big crime problem. One apartment manager asked if the bike path could be closed. The Chief said that we would have a very hard time closing the bike path with the pro-bike attitude in Chico, he wants more TV cameras to monitor the problem areas. However he noted that they don’t have the staff to monitor the cameras in real time.

 

Overall I felt like it was a less fulfilling than I expected, however I’m not sure what I expected.

 

Jim Matthews

I boldfaced the non-emergency number because that is big news to me. For the past year or so Chico PD has encouraged the use of their online reporting mechanism, and I’ll tell you right now, that sucked. The citizen was expected to log in, give personal information beyond their name and address, and select a password – oh gee, we all need more passwords cluttering up our lives!  The online reporting scheme sent a pretty clear message to citizens from Chico PD – “We don’t care about your petty problems…”

I guess it’s okay to report a theft online – it’s already happened, and then I assume I’d have a copy of the report. 

I don’t know about cameras, they can  be expensive, and they don’t stop crime, they just get a furry picture that might or might not be identifiable. I see more of them around town, we’ll have to see if that brings up the number of arrests. 

Good question Jim – how much staffing is enough? They’ve given those numbers in past, based on population, and we’ve always been within three officers of full staffing. A question I would like to ask is, will the chief take a pay cut and be willing to pay more of his own pension to guarantee full staffing?

Nextdoor was a disappointment for me – for one thing, they asked me for my social security number to sign up, when I wouldn’t give that, I was sent a post card with a code number to sign up. That’s security? And after I’d already been signed up for weeks, they sent me a notice that said I had to agree to let them mine my personal information and monitor my online activities so they could sell that information to advertisers.

The entire time I was on Nextdoor, I saw more people’s comments directed toward selling some sort of service/products than I saw comments exchanging information about crime. My next door neighbor uses Nextdoor to advertise parties at which she sells stuff like cosmetics and housewares, and my ex-tenant uses it to sell Avon. 

Only a couple of neighbors used it to report stuff like, shed broken into, package stolen at Christmas time, etc. One person posted every “suspicious” person who walked by his house, but that wasn’t helpful. 

All the police “app” amounts to is faster access to the online reporting mechanism. Just put 897 – 4900 on your speed dial!

Sure, record your serial numbers, take pictures – if only for your insurance company, cause the cops aren’t going to get your stuff back, that’s laughable. I don’t own a $2500 bike, so who cares, right?  Most of the stripped bikes I see are less than $150 bikes, and they’re all over town. There’s one hanging in a  tree out at the new subdivision on Hwy 32 East.

Anybody out there with a story about a cell phone or other small electronic device or cash stolen out of a car or house and returned by Chico PD? These people steal stuff that fits in their pocket.

Speaking of what what a “pro-bike” town we are, did Chief have any statistics on how many law abiding citizens actually use that bike path that runs alongside North Valley Plaza and Pillsbury?  It has never been safe, I was accosted there 30 years ago, and I’m sure many people have bad stories about that section of the trail. If it’s going to be allowed to remain, then we should have cops on bikes. All the trails in town should be covered by cops riding in teams on bikes. Having bike trails that are not patrolled by police is just setting up a special highway for criminals to access neighborhoods and then get out quickly.  But Chico PD won’t do bike patrol, and if they do, they want extra pay, like they  get extra pay for speaking Spanish or taking a canine in their car. 

The cops don’t seem so “pro-bike”, I have to wonder where the chief gets that bullshit. I’m guessing he’s got a can of it under his desk. 

I’m sorry to make fun, but this meeting is no different than meetings I have attended in past. They’re telling us crime is our problem, they just come along to take a report afterwards. 

California Hepatitis A outbreak makes it’s way to Utah by way of Metallica fans – when will it hit Chico?

11 Nov

A reader sent this story with the question, “How long before it hits Chico?”

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/hepatitis-crisis/sd-me-hepatitis-metallica-20171109-story.html

“The San Diego outbreak has killed 20 people and more than 370 have required hospitalization. As of Tuesday, the county has tallied 544 people infected, and new cases continue to crop up. It’s one of the worst outbreaks the nation has seen in decades.”

San Diego was the first city, I believe, to report a Hepatitis A outbreak so bad they had city staff and volunteers hosing the streets of Downtown with bleach and water. Los Angeles and Santa Cruz have also reported numerous cases. The outbreak has been linked to public urination and defecation, and homeless advocates blame a lack of public toilet facilities. 

What homeless advocates haven’t explained yet is how filthy public toilets will stem the spread of this disease, and who should have to clean them. In San Diego three tourists became infected while in town for a rock concert. While they reportedly ate at a restaurant later cited for violations, county officials believe “More likely culprits would be publicly-shared bathrooms on or off property, another unknown infected person, or any contaminated surface in or around the establishment.”

That sure makes sense to me after I’ve been in Downtown Chico and seen the filth on the sidewalks right outside the entrance of busy restaurants.

And here’s my question – when will we hear reports of workers being infected? 

In Chico a private firm is contracted by the Downtown Business Association to clean the bathrooms, but anything beyond a mop and wipe requires the involvement of city staff. Staffers are routinely called upon to unplug toilets that have been filled with a variety of objects – including clothing and trash – and that’s a job that’s going to expose you to whatever’s coming around the pike.

Public works director Eric Gustafson has recommended “Portland Loo” – but these still have to be cleaned by a person, they’re not self-sanitizing. 

I’ve been watching the situation with the Jesus Center and I’m not sure how moving a homeless shelter is going to help this situation. The problem is, there are more of them pouring in every day.

 

 

Chico PD make contract demands tonight, here’s a sampling

7 Nov

From tonight’s council agenda (I boldfaced stuff that sounded interesting to me):

Below are the proposals from the Chico Police Officers’ Association to the City of
Chico. MOU Article refer to the existing MOU.
1. Three-year MOU effective January 1, 2018 through December 31,
2020.
2. No COLA or other unit-wide salary increase for length of MOU.
3. Canine Pay. Article 5.10 and 5.7
a. Compensation: Add alternative assignment for Canine
Officer of 10% (Article 5.7D)
4. Specialty Assignments. Article 5.7
a. Traffic Sergeant: Add a Traffic Sergeant assignment at 10%.
(Currently no one is assigned to this position.)
b. FTO Sergeant: Add FTO Sergeant assignment at 5%. (This
assignment would only be paid when there is someone in
the program.)
5. CPOA Time Bank. Article 2.5(A).
a. Add an additional 100 hours to the Union Time Bank on the
city each year such that these hours are not backfilled.
6. Salary Schedule Correction. Article 5.1 and Exhibit B. Remove the
bottom pay step for Sergeant. (Step D or Step F depending on
when employee hired.)
7. Minimum Staffing on Patrol Teams with Mandatory Overtime.
Create a mandate for minimum staffing to protect citizens and
improve officer safety.
a. Mandatory Overtime to only cover sick leave, bereavement,
Administrative leave, and Training
i. A Days – Current Staff (8) Make minimum (6)
ii. A Swing – Current Staff (8) – Make Minimum (6)
iii. A Graves – Current Staff (7) – Make Minimum (5)
iv. B Days – Current Staff (8) – Make Minimum (6)
v. B Swing – Current Staff (8) – Make Minimum (6)
vi. B Graves – Current Staff (7) – Make Minimum (5)
vii. C Swing – Current Staff (6) – Make Minimum (5)8. Holiday Hours. Article 6.1 and 6.2.
a. City shall provide hours towards the employee’s Holiday
Time Bank equivalent to the employee’s regular work shift.
9. Sick Leave Accrual Rate. Article 6.4(A)(2)
a. Employees shall accrue sick leave in the amount of ten CIo)
hours per month.
10.Alternative Assignment FTO Clarification. Article 5.7
a. An employee who is assigned on a temporary basis to Field
Training Officer shall receive 5% Alternative Assignment pay
for the time the employee worked such assignment.
11.Education Reimbursement. Article 6.8(1)
a. Provide up to $1,500 per fiscal year for reimbursement of
approved educational programs and training.
b. Cap of $15,000 per fiscal year.
12.Medical Insurance Opt Out. Article 6.3 and Exhibit C
a. Increase payment to employees opting out of City’s medical
insurance plan to $500 per month into the employee’s
medical flexible spending account or deferred compensation
account.
13. Fitness. Article 6.8(H)
a. Add language to MOU allowing employees to work out
during their regular work schedule at the CPD fitness facility
and while maintaining availability for service and subject to
supervisory approval.