Archive | March, 2012

Jim Nielsen, 2nd District Assemblyman, will speak at Chico Library Sunday, 11:30 am.

30 Mar

Second District Assemblyman Jim Nielsen will be coming over to the Chico Library to discuss ways to fight local tax increases. He has promised to give us some good strategies. I hope there will be a good turn-out – we need to let Tom Lando know, we will not support his plans to raise our local sales tax three quarters of a cent.

 

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Jim Nielsen will speak to Chico Taxpayer’s Association, Sunday, April 1, 11:30 am

25 Mar

Memories of summer - I made this minestrone  with tomato sauce from last year's garden.

We are lucky to have good friends – our friend Mark is one of the bestest. Every year he gets us a ginormous corned beef brisquet from the locker, and we eat it for a week, in one form or another. My favorite way to finish it off is to use the broth to make a nice pot of minestrone.

I used my own tomato sauce, from last year’s garden. My husband plants a lot of tomatoes because you never know what might happen. They kicked in late last summer, because of that late rain – we didn’t get a ripe tomato til August! And then they came in, Hellbent for Glory. My little freezer was solid packed by the end of September.  I still have about half a dozen pints of sauce in there, stowed away with all my Meyer’s lemon juice and some big-ass chickens bought on sale at Safeway.

Nothing makes a good pot of soup like some good bread – this time I made it into stix, my kids loved them. I might make some more today.

I buttered them when they were still hot and rolled them in a little pile of big salt and garlic powder. Next time I might use real garlic – I’ve heard, if you eat enough garlic, it keeps the tax vampires away. I know, that’s probably just some old wives’ tale.

What you really need to do to keep the tax vampires at bay is organize early and get a good plan. So, next Sunday, Casey has got a promise from Jim Nielsen, Second Assembly District representative, to come to the library and give us some strategies for fighting tax increases.

Jim  Nielsen shares our area with Dan Logue. Their districts meet up at Hwy 99, splitting off some of West and South Chico, with Nielsen skirting the edges and Logue taking the lion’s share of our town.  Nielsen has been in one California legislative office or another, on and off, for over 25 years. I don’t know how you feel about him politically, but I’d say, he has some experience to share and some  things to tell us about the system, how it works, and how to go about putting down Tom Lando’s plan to increase our sales tax by 3/4 of a cent, in it’s tracks.

Unfortunately, I have a previous committment, a Mom Thing, and nothing gets in front of the Mom Thing. So, I am counting on folks to come out and greet Mr. Nielsen and show him a good time, listen to what he has to say and give me the skinny when I get home.

Remember, keep the questions and the conversation on topic – what strategies can Nielsen offer to stop this tax increase? Has he ever participated in a local tax increase battle? Does he know of any instances where citizens have successfully overturned an effort like this? How?

I’d like to invite Dan Logue and other legislators and local elected officials  to speak to us as well, so let’s be nice to Nielsen, give him the old “Y’ll come back now, y’hear!” treatment.

That’s next Sunday, April 1 (yeah, I know!), at 11:30 am, at the Chico Branch of the Butte County Library, at the corner of First and Sherman Avenues.

Jennifer Hennessy says utility rates are about to go up to offset your conservation efforts, you dummies!

16 Mar

City Finance Director? Jennifer Hennessy, in her Preview of the FY2012-13 Preliminary Budget, reports that utility rates are about to go up.

It’s your fault, Stupid – you’ve been altogether too good at cutting down on your energy and water usage, Doh! So PG&E and Cal Water will just have to raise your rates!

I found it in next week’s city council agenda, available here  – get out your waders,  Folks, it’s thick and deep. And it stinks:

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/3-20-12CityCouncilAgendaPacket.pdf

On page 4 of the Preliminary Budget Preview, Hennessy reports,

“Utility User’s Tax – growth rate of +1%

Currently the city is experiencing growth in Gas and Water services, but declines in electric and Telecom are offsetting this growth. PG&E is projecting up to 1% increase in electric rates, and between 1-5% increase in gas rates. However, they are projecting gas usage to decline. Cal Water is projecting a rate increase but is unable to provide the amount at this time. Telecommunications are also difficult to project because of the many changes in this industry. The city has seen a decline in cell phone companies’ remittances due to interpretations of our ordinance, as well as the exclusion of telecom companies taxing data plans.”

Points of interest:

1) your electricity is about to go up 1 percent and your gas 1 to 5 percent (but you won’t notice the gas increase til about next November)

2) your water rates are going up

3) the city, while they’re not mentioning it here, will have to get us to vote by 2/3’s majority to tax our own cell phones or they are going to lose that revenue altogether

4) despite the projected decrease in gas usage and the decline in cell phone tax revenues, Hennessy predicts a 1 percent increase in the UT based on the 1 percent increase in electric rates. Your pain is the city’s gain!  

This is why, try as you might to be a good steward and cut down on energy usage, your bills continue to go up. I always keep mine, so I know.

My family has moved from a big house into a tiny apartment. We’ve decreased our living space by roughly 38 percent, but our PG&E bill has gone down less than 20 percent. That’s because, over the last two years since my family made this sacrifice, PG&E has lowered the gas  “baseline” by almost 14 “therms,” while raising the baseline price per therm from 94 cents to $1 per therm. So, you get less at the cheap price, and the cheap price ain’t so cheap no more!

Your water rate just went up too  – in fact, Cal Water has instituted strange new “tiers”  – two “Tier 1” and two “Tier 2”? Look at your bill – your baseline for water just went from 10 ccf at 83 cents/ccf, to 9.31 ccf at 87 cents/ccf! And after that first 9.31 ccf, the price goes up to the second “Tier 1” – .69 ccf at 88 cents/ccf.  That’s less than one ccf for more than you paid for a whole ccf yesterday. And then there are two “Tier 2” prices – 1.86 ccf at 93 cents/ccf, and then .14 ccf at 94 cents/ccf.

No, I’m not going to tell you what a ‘ccf’ is, I’m trying to get you to look at your bill, dammit!

I’d also like to point out, that while the city is supposed to work for the citizens, to protect us against this kind of wanton price gouging from “public” utility companies, they are instead helping Cal Water and PG&E to screw us blind.

Don’t forget to save your PG&E and water bills and apply for your Utility Tax Rebate – available in May.  I’ll let you know as soon as I nag the Finance Dept into putting the form on the website.

You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours!

15 Mar

Every two weeks the city council gets another dose of medicine – budget updates on the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency. Malfeasance Director Jennifer Hennessy is trying to break it to them slowly that we are out of money, and then they have these little confabs about how to hand the situation. These meetings are maddeningly the same – they never really come up with any solutions, they just sit wringing their hands. 

At my house we have had some financial shocks. For example – I had to get some dental work done, cause I ain’t been to the dentist in six years. My teeth were in generally good shape, except for my back molars – the ones I grind like 24-7. In fact, I’m holding my tongue between my teeth right now to keep them from grinding.

My back molars needed a little extra work – at $170 a tooth, I’d like to think of it as a weekend in the Poconos. All told, between the initial exam, the standard all-around cleaning, and the two back molars, this little adventure ran me about $650. Yeah, $90 for a 40 minute pick and scrape, that was kind of a shocker. By the time I paid all this off, I had taken a hefty broadside at my family’s budget. 

But, I have to say, my teeth were still in pretty good shape – I’ve always had trouble with those molars. When my kids were little, my dentist had me coming in four times a year, at $90 a pop – just put a bell around my neck and lead me to the barn!  When I’d see my dentist at the grocery store, I felt like saying, “Mooooo-oooo Fred!” So,  I actually saved money by not going in, contrary to the lecture I got from my hysterical hygienist, Carol. You heard me – I saved money by NOT going to the dentist. 

So, I’m going to practice the same kind of budgetary magic our Malfeasance Director, Jennifer Hennessy has taught me over the last five or six years – instead of recording the $650 as a loss,  I’m going to write off a $720 savings! 

Unfortunately the city budget is not so simple. Our city has become addicted to endless spending – it’s like heroin, and they are hooked bad. To watch these idiots try to fumble their way out of the mess they’ve made for themselves is very frustrating. It’s like watching the teenagers do all the wrong things in a slash movie. You scream at the movie screen – DON’T OPEN THE DOOR! – but they don’t hear you! 

When I sit through these discussions, I want to scream, “CUT THE CRAP!”

And the “CRAP” I’m talking about are the committees. Like the Sustainability Task Force. Linda Herman is struggling to keep this group together, to keep them on “task”, because her salary depends on it. She makes over $85,000 a year, plus benies and pension, to administer to a pack of children who can’t even make meetings. In fact, lately, Linda seems to have had trouble making the meetings:

Hi Everyone,  Fletcher called me last week concerned about the timeline that was set regarding the Sustainable Business Program.  Primarily he was concerned that the beta test businesses being contacted this week and then having Alan gone on spring break during the time when the businesses may have questions.  I know that the problem was that Fletcher and I were not at the Ad-Hoc meeting and we sincerely apologize for that.   

Right now they are working on the “Sustainable Business” program. Each member is supposed to survey local businesses, find out what they think of the checklists and “tasks” the committee has come up with – stuff like, replacing all your lightbulbs with little mercury bombs, and providing bicycles for your employees to ride across the street to have lunch. We’ll see if they do any better than the Diversity Action Committee, who had to be nagged constantly by Mom Rucker, and turned in less than 200 “surveys” in a town of over 85,000 people. 

But I notice right away, in an e-mail from committee member and Recology employee Jill Ortega, they only seem to be contacting businesses who are already on the bandwagon –  “My list includes the following: Chamber of Commerce, DCBA, Transfer Flow, Woodstock’s, Sierra Nevada Brewery, and Masie Janes.”

 

In fact, Ken Grossman, owner of Sierra Nevada,  is a member of the STF, regardless of the fact that he never does any work and only shows up at a few meetings a year.   This whole “Sustainable Business Program”  is really just a bunch of people sitting in a circle patting each other on the back at our expense. 

Why would Ortega choose to include failed Greenfeet owner Valerie Reddeman in her survey? You got me. “Even though her business has recently closed, I believe she can provide some valuable insight.”  Well, she’s also a member of the committee, and I’ll bet she’ll be real cooperative too. Between these two gals, they’ll come up with a favorable review of their own program, how nice.  

Neither the DCBA nor the Chamber were interested, according to Ortega, so that leaves her with nobody but the choir to preach to. By the way, Ortega is one of several garbage company employees, as well as employees from the county dump,  who are paid to sit in these committees. They tack that onto your garbage bill every month, I hope you don’t mind. 

This is how they fiddle while you are at work all day. They’re supposed to meet next Monday afternoon, but they still haven’t confirmed that yet. I’ll try to keep you posted, but if it snows over the weekend, I ain’t going. 

Drawing a line on the editorials page

14 Mar

Below is Chico Taxpayer Association board member Casey Aplanalp’s letter to the Enterprise Record, run in this morning’s paper. 

If you haven’t seen the survey he mentions, look here:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/lando-releases-survey/

The survey isn’t just leading, and it isn’t just misleading, it’s downright dishonest, insinuating that certain people and groups support the tax without asking these folks for their permission – including Larry Wahl and the Bidwell Presbyterian Church, both of whom contacted me/this blog. 

Lando will use the dishonest survey results to write his tax increase measure for the council, and I’m afraid certain members of council will try to say that’s enough to put the measure on the ballot. We have to write letters to council – write more than one letter if you feel the need –  telling them we want a petition with the legal number of signatures. We should let both Ann Schwab and Bob Evans know that if they put this measure on the ballot without the signatures, they’re going down in flames in November. 

I believe my question regarding how a tax increase measure gets on the ballot, along with a general report regarding the upcoming tax increase proposals (that’s proposals, plural…) headed for the upcoming ballot is agendized for the first meeting in April, but you’ll have to wait for confirmation from the city clerk. I’ll keep you posted. 

In the meantime, read this letter from Casey and try to search for inspiration to write your own:

We need to know more about the sales tax hike proposed by Tom Lando and Jim Stevens. This needs to see the light of day.

I have a copy of the script the survey company is using, and it’s as crooked as a rubber cane. Biased and leading. Results should be scrutinized and dismissed upon presentation.

I’ve sent Lando an invitation to present and explain his proposition publicly, which has been ignored. What is he hiding? The Chico Taxpayers Association, Butte Taxpayers Alliance, Chico Tea Party, Butte Republican Party, Butte Libertarian
Party, Young Americans for Liberty, and the local Ron Paul Support team are all opposed to this sales tax hike proposed by Lando.

Where’s the tax hike support? And where’s the coverage?

 Casey Aplanalp, Chico

Oh, let me get my little violin for the poor policeman!

11 Mar

The Chico PD and fire department are the biggest salary suckers in town. Together they take about 85 percent or more of our city pie, with the cops getting over half.

It’s not just their salaries, which were artificially raised along with all city workers by that MOU that linked pay to revenue INCREASES but NOT DECREASES. The cops and fire department are the worst because they have managed to get overtime written in to their contracts. They are guaranteed a certain amount of overtime, and given just about as much as they want beyond that. Some of them double their salaries with overtime, a practice know in the industry as “spiking.”

Spiking has driven our city employee costs through the roof, especially pension costs. See, cops and fire are allowed to retire at 90 PERCENT of their highest year’s salary. So, you got these people who agreed to salaries in the $50 – 80,000 range, “spiking” their pensions up to  $100,000 plus. Fire Chief John Brown retired a couple of years ago at over $206,000. I used to watch this man struggle to stay awake in meetings, just so he could give his two cents that overtime saves money over new hires. What a crock of bullshit, but council has bought this line for years, allowing the police and fire departments to suck the city dry without really providing any service.

Another problem with the fire and police departments is workman’s comp. For two years running, I’ve heard Malfeasance Director Jennifer Hennessy report that we are “again” overbudget in this fund, due to excessive injuries in the Chico police  and fire departments.

So yesterday we are treated to a front page story in the Enterprise Wreched – “Officer who suffered career-ending injury in Chico riot dies in Willows.” 

I usually try to avoid disrespect for the dead, but I’m certainly not going to try to manufacture any phony respect for a guy who saw an opportunity to rack up some overtime playing “Riot Cop” in another town when he knew damned well he had a bad knee and didn’t have any business on active duty. 

According to Greg Welters epic sob story, then-47-year-old Willows police sargeant Bill Carter injured himself during the Rancho Chico day “riots” of 1990. But as you read the story, a few things stand out.  At some point during the mayhem, Carter claimed, “Something popped in his left leg, and he knew his knee had become dislocated.”  Yes, he knew his knee had become dislocated, because it had happened before.

What was a 47 year old man with a bad knee doing at a riot in another town? 

Well, of course, he was SPIKING HIS SALARY. And, he got his cherry on top – retirement with full disability at 47 years old, with a pension based on that last years spiked salary. 

And now I’m supposed to cry for a guy who just spend the last 20 years milking a bad knee? He even went on to another job – how ironic – he went into fraud investigation work. Maybe he should have investigated himself. Read the story – at several points, he knew his knee was injured, but he made the decision to keep re-injuring himself, until he had an injury that was sure to end his “career” and set him up for life.

Cry for a 69 year old man who just died after milking the system for the last 20 plus years? I don’t think so. I think there should be a special place in Hell for people who take advantage of the public trust. And their widows, too. 

When I did some research regarding knee injuries, I found a list of specific jobs in which knee injuries are considered part of the game – three were sports, the fourth was carpet layer. Neither cops nor firefighters were on the list. Only jobs in which a repetitive action will result in a predictable type of injury were listed. For carpet layers, it’s the knee kicker that moves the carpet into place. That will also give a person a hernia. So will carrying giant rolls of carpet onto a job site without any assistance. My husband has had both of those injuries, but because he’s a contractor instead of a publicly-paid trough sucker, we had to pay the doctors out of our own pocket, and he’s not eligible for workman’s comp, so he was just unemployed. 

The next two reasons given for the average knee injury were age and obesity. I didn’t know Bill Carter, but let’s face it – 47 is old for any active job. You wouldn’t have found a 47-year-old Nolan Ryan running out to fight with drunk 20-somethings in a riot. Any adult should have better sense. I think Carter did it on purpose, but that’s my opinion.

There also ought to be a special place in hell for journalists who write this kind of crap, but it’s about what I’ve come to expect from Greg Welter. Welter never writes a story that’s NOT slanted. He’s on the cop beat – funny, he was also on the Redevelopment Agency’s “citizen’s oversight committee” a few years back. The committee that was disbanded on Scott Gruendl’s request when I and some other citizens asked that the commitee’s activities be opened up to the scrutiny of the public. I was put on their e-mail chat list, and I read over the conversations they were having among themselves. At one point, when other members balked at the (then) $40 million price tag for the new police station, Welter argued that the cops should get whatever they want. “Whatever we do, ” he cautioned, ” we (the RDA committee) don’t want to be perceived as ‘anti-police’…” 

I don’t know why he’s so worried about being perceived “anti-police”.   Maybe he should try to be perceived as an honest journalist who writes unbiased stories. But maybe that’s not why he got into journalism, I don’t know. 

Get ready to make turnip juice! Or get ready to fight.

10 Mar

I bet you are as happy as I am to hear that the Butte Taxpayers Alliance has voiced their opposition to both the proposed sales tax increase and the phone tax coming before the city of Chico. We need to network to get the word out, and Jack Lee and friends are working hard to do just that:

http://www.norcalblogs.com/post_scripts/2012/03/bta-will-oppose-new-taxes.html

These folks are doing serious work, reviewing the city budget, going to committee meetings, asking the questions that need to be asked, and getting the answers out to the public. Their website:

http://www.buttetaxpayers.org/

I’m sorry, I attended neither the Finance Committee Meeting nor the Economic Development Committee meetings this past week. I didn’t even attend any Sustainability Task Force meetings lately. Sometimes I need to stay away from the bullshit factory, it starts to be a drain.

But, I don’t think I need to go to committee meetings to know the city is planning to sucker us out of almost $12,000,000 a year in additional taxes, and I’m not going to just stand here and take it. This council has ruined the housing market, lost large manufacturers and chased others away, and now they will ruin the retail sector? We can’t have that. Tell your friends, get ready, we’re all about to be squeezed. If you aren’t a turnip, you better say something.