Fun and games on your dime

15 Feb

You may have read that the City of Chico Internal Affairs committee yesterday refused to recommend a Downtown smoking ban.  What you didn’t read was that they spent almost an hour and a half  leading the cancer folks on as though they might consider it.

An hour and a half of $taff time, mulling over almost identical $taff reports regarding two almost identical items (see my previous post):

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/sitting-with-the-circle-of-jerks-down-at-city-hall/

The room was packed with supporters of two proposed smoking bans – one a comprehensive ban of smoking almost anywhere Downtown. The other, a redundant ban that also includes all of Bidwell Park.  There was not a full committee present – Holcombe already seems to be making his way toward the exit.

Chair Jim Walker and third leg Bob Evans made it clear from the get-go that they would probably not recommend either ban. One of the proponents actually said they already knew they wouldn’t get Item A, and most had come to address Item B. But, Walker proceeded to ask for comments regarding Item A, and took up a good half hour on it.  At one point Walker actually used the words “convince me,” even though he had made it clear that he thought the Downtown ban was an attack on civil liberties, motivated by  a simple dislike of smokers. Regardless of his opening remarks, he continued to lead this group on for an hour and 25 minutes, telling me at one point, “I think this is the best use of public salaries…” .

This pandering  is an incredible waste of $taff time. I tried to point that out but  Walker kept interrupting me. Well, let’s do the math kids. At the table sat John Rucker, at over $165,000 a year, playing secretary to the committee. Next to him sat city attorney Lori Barker, at over $190,000. Then two members of the clerk’s staff (writing the reports that Rucker will read verbatim at the next meeting), the head of the parks department, one of his rangers, and a guy from CARD.  Want a grand total on those salaries – all of which YOU pay?  Well, I don’t have the current figures in front of me, but I’ll make a shot at the general ballpark  – we’re talking almost three quarters of a million dollars in horseflesh, sitting in one room, babbling two identical items that have  already received hours of $taff time in various reports and meetings. And that’s just the salaries, don’t forget we tote their benefits and pensions.

Feel like a pack-mule? Well you should – a blind pack mule headed for a precipitous drop.

These meetings aren’t video-taped,  and the minutes are questionable – it depends on who’s taking minutes how complete they are. The clerk or her assistant tapes the meetings, but only for their own use. I’ve been to meetings that went all over town, voices were raised, huge arguments were had, and then read the minutes: a list of the items discussed and sometimes the names of any people who spoke, but nothing about what they said. Sometimes the minutes make note of whether a speaker supported or opposed an item, but that’s it. The committee members are allowed to read the minutes and ask for things to be stricken, even if they are true. The council does not allow verbatim minutes of any meeting. You figure that out.

I think these committees should all be thrown out. The reason behind committees is supposed to be airing these matters WITH THE PUBLIC.  Let me ask a stupid question: how many of you are available for an 8am meeting, Downtown?

I have been to these meetings for years. I may not have a paid job, but it’s not like I don’t have other things to do. I used to take my kids, as young as four years old, and was proud how well behaved they were and how they’d always pay attention and make the most adroit observations afterward. But frankly, intelligent humans that they are, they got sick of going – it will wear you down morally, if you don’t have enough experience to put it in perspective.

So now, I go in by myself.  Yesterday I got up at 5 in the morning in order to get my  morning chores done – I get sick of coming home at 10:30 in the morning, feeling like I’ve been running behind somebody’s truck, and find myself two to three hours behind in my day. So, by 4:00 in the afternoon, I feel pretty shagged out, but take a nap? No, I work for a living. When I don’t work, I don’t eat.

And I’ll complain here: Jim Walker treated me like shit. He doesn’t like me, and he doesn’t like what I have to say. When I tried to ask the woman from the Lung Association just how she intended to enforce this rule, Walker interrupted me and  told me I was out of line. I told him this was part of the conversation, that Bob Evans had already brought it up. He asked the Lung Association woman if she was “comfortable” being asked questions by me, and she said no,  so Walker told me to shut up, essentially.

The Lung Association bitch had made this statement: “We don’t expect business owners to enforce it (a ban on smoking in doorways Downtown)  – the public will enforce it.” Her exact words. When I tried to ask her just exactly how far she expected public citizens to go in enforcing this ban, she wouldn’t answer me. She didn’t want to say, “I don’t care if you get the front of your head knocked out, I want you to attack smokers wherever you see them.”

Evans and Walker had already said they believed the Downtown ban was excessive, that 25 feet was onerous, and Evans had already questioned whether it was enforceable. As soon as Walker told me to shut up, Katie Simmons from the Chico Chamber spoke up saying exactly what I said – neither the Chamber nor the DCBA will support this ban because, not only is it not supported by their membership,  it’s unenforceable. Several other speakers followed with the same concern, including a guy who had earlier spoken on behalf of the ban.  But Walker told me to shut up. I’m so sick of that little dick, next January will not come soon enough for me. I wish I could throw that screen door at his ass myself, the self-righteous little prick. Out with bad rubbish!

Walker did make some interesting statements. This is why I question the hour and 25 minutes of $taff time that was taken for this issue. Walker said, right off the bat, “we mix up health issues with annoyance issues…things we just don’t like.” He went on several times to say that he believed the advocates were “just trying to make smoking so inconvenient” nobody could smoke anymore. He made it clear he wouldn’t support it. But, 20 minutes later, he asked for more comments from the audience, saying, “convince me…” It went on like that for an hour and 25 minutes of a two hour meeting with another item still waiting on the agenda.

These committee meetings rationalize millions in $taff costs, for questionable results. They do not make these conversations any more accessible to the public. They instead give the impression that the public has had input when they most certainly have not. It’s just a total scam, and we pay for it.

I’ll get back to Jon Luvass’s little rant later (Item C), but right now I got things to do.

13 Responses to “Fun and games on your dime”

  1. Mark Sorensen February 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Plus benefits…. add 40-50% for City Hall employees. 45% is probably a good average.

    At virtually every council meeting I have my list of payroll & benefits costs. We typically have $1,700,000.00 to $2,000,000.00 worth of annual payroll & benefits in attendance. Which works out to $840-$1000 per hour in raw direct costs. Plus their support staff and indirect costs.

    I calculate the City Attorney’s raw cost at $126 per hour. Plus staff and indirect costs.

    Consider that just the Information Systems department (which supports virtually all employees) has just Payroll & Benefits costs of over $904,000. The indirect costs are huge.

    As for the time and cost to process a relatively simple change to an existing ordinance, I believe that someone used the Card Room Ordinance Change:

    http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=264&meta_id=25216

    Consider that the proponent of the change wrote their request on May 6th. It took 3 months to get the item to Internal Affairs in August. About another 3 months to get it to Council on December 20th. With the final reading and adoption on January 3, 2012.

    Very Significant amounts of time time & resources were consumed in the effort.

    It does not matter what you think of a particular effort, but let’s be honest about the true costs.

    • Juanita Sumner February 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      thanks Mark, I was just rattling those numbers around in my head while I rattled pots on the stove. It’s distracting trying to lead a productive life when you know stuff like this – it’s DEMORALIZING.

      Thanks especially for that figure on the city attorney’s time – when I asked her what she thought a good ball park figure was for the cost of writing up some dumb ordinance, she hemmed and hawed and wouldn’t tell me. Maybe I should send her a little note: “Hey Lori, your time is worth $126 an hour. Do I get a kiss with that?”

  2. tschindelbeck February 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Juanita, as a business owner in Chico who has to scrimp and struggle just to make payroll for my 5 employees (not including myself and my wife), I am OUTRAGED at this waste of time and money. Thank you for you tireless effort to let the public know how much of OUR money the city of Chico wastes with these BS meetings, committes, etc. If I were to form a committee to have a meeting about an issue, only to refer it to another comittee for another meeting, and then have a manager’s meeting (city council) to discuss what we already discussed, and then refer it to ANOTHER meeting, I would be out of business. And stupid. You had it right with your “circle jerk” metaphor. Thanks again Juanita.

    • Juanita Sumner February 16, 2012 at 8:20 am #

      Thanks for chiming in, I hope more business owners will speak up.

      I saw you at that meeting a few weeks ago – yes, I’m outraged about the intersection of Forest and 32, that was horribly planned, from the get-go. Thanks for saying something about that, and I hope more of your neighbors will come forward. I wish 7-11 would have sent lawyers a long time ago, you’d think they would have been more aggressive in defending their interests, they’re screwed.

      I’m glad you know how to stand up on your hind legs, please come again!

      • tschindelbeck February 16, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

        I will. And with the support of good citizens like you, hopefully I will get elected to city council this year and make a real difference. The passive-agressive attitude these people have is ridiculous. Here is an article in todays News Review about that situation and my candidacy. Please share it with your friends- those of us with common sense need all the help we can get!
        http://www.newsreview.com/chico/fed-and-pumped-up/content?oid=5172967

      • Juanita Sumner February 17, 2012 at 8:13 am #

        Well, you are a brave young man. Just remember,
        Sorensen had to run three times, and I didn’t even keep track of the amount of money he put into his own campaign. But he never wavered, he never gave up, and finally he got on there.

        THANKS MARK!

        Bob Evans didn’t make it the first time either, and he got over 10,000 votes. Then, when there was a vacancy, the mayor and her friends were ready to flop a total unknown in that seat – Sor Lo. If we hadn’t come forward as a mob and if Bob Evans hadn’t come forward they would have done it.

        THANKS BOB!

        It takes persistence. Get ready for them to come at you like a pack of vipers too. They’ll say mean things, and you just have to take it. When they couldn’t get anything on me, they’ve tried to call me a liar, they’ve called me crazy, they’ve made fun of the way I look, they even tried to make fun of my husband for being a working person.

        Don’t let them distract you from the issues. No matter what they say about you stay on topic.

        And start going to ALOT of meetings. Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy they are expected to put into it. I’ll never forget the time Steve O’Bryan quit the Planning Commission, complaining that the reading material was so heavy it made him get in a wreck on his bike. (it was really because council overturned a Plan Comm decision and put a condo-complex right across the street from his house).

        There’s another lesson: don’t run for council just to get your stuff done, be ready for all the issues, and be ready to vote against your personal best interests in the interests of the town as a whole.

        I think you’ll agree, that’s a rule that’s been stomped pretty good over the last 6-8 years.

  3. Rick Clements February 16, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    These circle jerk meetings are a product of an atmosphere created by the Progressive Liberals that have taken over our local Government. The SEIU union workers have left us with huge pensions that were created to create Democratic votes and of course, dues for their time. I’ve watched the City Council for over 42 years and this council, excluding Mark and Bob, has been the worst and most “up yours Chico” council to ever have been elected. The News and Review is practicing censorship to keep Jeff rich in those ads the ad rag spits out every week, Bob Speer who I once admired is protecting and contributing to this Progressive Liberal cronyism because he’s a Progressive Liberal himself. When you have people like Sharon Fritsch, Linda Furr, and Maria Phillips running around and whining and telling us all how to live and vote, all Progressive Liberals..Chico is in real trouble. The amount of “screw you all” and “let’s get the get while the getting is good” deception these people all espouse is all possible because of those circle jerk Progressives like Ann Schwab (a Forest Ranch resident) and Andy Holcombe and Scott Gruendl who know better on how we all should live. Finally, you can all thank Queen Jane and Professional Democratic Whacko Liar Bob for the political atmosphere that has ruined this town. Just wish you could see their bank accounts and the White Mercedes they drive all courtesy of the taxpayers. It’s time to make sure that Ann goes and that Herrera and Reed do not get elected and that Mark Sorenson be appointed mayor!

    • Juanita Sumner February 16, 2012 at 8:46 am #

      Thanks Rick, you remind me, I have to post that blog about Bob Speer censoring letters. I’ll get to that asap – thanks!

  4. Jacinto February 16, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Hi Nita,

    I’ve been following your blog and I have to tell you it is enjoyable and it makes me chuckle sometimes.  You are service to the community so keep going.  I wish there were more people like you doing this at all levels of government.

    Jacinto

    • Juanita Sumner February 16, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      I can’t find your website anymore, but I see you are on twitter. Sheesh, now that I finally get on wordpress, everybody’s on twitter!

      I like your self-portrait – I like all your art – the Turtle Lady! I love that picture of your mother in her kitchen. When I look at your paintings I want to do something creative.

      Thanks, you know your compliments mean a lot to me. If you still have your website up please send me a link, I really enjoyed looking at it.

      • Jacinto February 17, 2012 at 6:50 am #

        Nope, no more website but I’m still painting. If I ever show any of these I’ll drop ya’ll a line. I don’t have your email address anymore.

      • Juanita Sumner February 17, 2012 at 8:00 am #

        well here I am! Waiting for what my cousin Janet refers to as an “Art Attack!”

      • Jacinto February 18, 2012 at 7:14 am #

        Will do, but don’t hold your breath – it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Give’em the truth.

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