Archive | July, 2012

Keep a Knockin’ but you can’t come in! Come back next Tuesday night and try it again! And be sure to bring plenty of your friends.

26 Jul

Toby Schindelbeck has finally been rewarded for his persistence – he’s been going before Chico City Council, asking that Finance MisDirector Jennifer Hennessy comply with city code and give a budget report at every meeting.  City clerk Debbie Presson has informed him that this subject will be “discussed” at the August 7 council meeting. 

But we know, it won’t be a very good “discussion” unless a bunch of people come in and demand some action. Toby has observed that issues like Corporate Personhood and the “single-use” plastic bag ban have drawn fairly small crowds – he estimates 25 – 30 people, and I’d say he’s being generous. The city has acted on these issues, with only that small fraction of the population in support. So, Toby believes there needs to be an even stronger presence to get a decent discussion on this matter, and I agree. 

Like Toby and Stephanie Taber and others have been saying, the city code calls for a monthly budget report, with sticky details like receipts, etc, and Jennifer Hennessy admits she has not made such a report in the seven years she’s been with the city of Chico. Try not paying your taxes for seven years – you’ll get the same treatment as the man from Touch of Class Florist – 68 years old, and he’s being sent to PRISON. But Jennifer Hennessy and her boss Dave Burkland, and their overseer, Mayor Ann Schwab, get to flog the law right in front of everybody, and Ann just steps right into that little red convertible and drives off to her palatial estate in Forest Ranch. 

The law is a piece of paper. It takes people to demand law enforcement. We’ve got a serious law enforcement problem in our town. The police say they aren’t paid enough to enforce the laws in the streets, and now Dave  Burkland says, he just doesn’t have to. 

And your mayor won’t make him either. He’s retiring, on more than $150,000 a year, for the rest of his life, but she’s up for election in November – time to take out the trash.

That meeting is scheduled for August 7, the usual time, the usual place. I’ll keep you posted. 

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Stephanie Taber answers Quentin Colgan’s letter to the News and Review

22 Jul

I get complaints from friends and strangers, and it has also been my own experience, that the editor of the  Chico News and Review is not always objective in deciding which letters received from the public will be printed in the paper and which ones won’t. Robert Speer has offered me excuses, but I have always found him to be disingenuous. For example – he told me he would only run letters that referenced an article or letter recently printed in the paper – untrue a million times over. He also told me he wouldn’t print letters that had already run in the Enterprise Record – also untrue a million times over. The man has his own reasons for running or not running letters.

David Little is more objective, but he’s got his faults too – once he threw out a letter from my husband and later admitted he had thought I’d written it and used my old man’s name. He just threw it out without even calling the phone number or e-mailing, just assumed I’d do something like that when I’d never done anything like that before, because he was mad at me over a snit we were having at the time.

I think Little gets his nose out at people personally, and Hell hath no fury, know what I mean? With Speer it can  personal but I think it’s most often political. Suffice to say, they both carry what my dad used to call a “Shit List,” and if you’re on it, you don’t get ink in their rag. 

Of course either paper is equally likely to print a total wad of lies or misinformation without so much as a google fact check. I will never forget the time Dave Little printed a letter saying the cops had been called to my house on a dog complaint. The letter writer insinuated that this was why I often wrote letters complaining about the cop contracts. I called Little and told him the letter was false, nothing like that had ever happened – but  he wouldn’t retract it. I had to look the old man up in the phone book and call him myself, tell him he had been misinformed, and ask him to write a retraction. He apologized profusely and the apology was in the paper within three days. He wouldn’t tell me where he got the information, but later I found out he was a member of VIPS, and he still is. I think that’s something Dave Little could have looked into before he printed a story like that about me and my family, not to mention my dogs, but he didn’t see it that way. Poor journalism, is how I see it, and that’s what I’ve come to expect out of both the daily and the weekly. 

So, pardon me if I was not surprised when my friend Stephanie mentioned to me that she didn’t think Speer would run her response to a letter from Quentin Colgan, regarding our current fiscal morass. QC made an argument he has been swinging around town lately – that Fire Station 5 had to be closed recently because the Tea Party forced the city to have a $150,000 election over Measure A. 

The first problem I have with this argument is, the city is out a heck of a lot more than $150,000. The second problem I have is, I happen to know that over 8,000 Chicoans signed that petition, and there’s not more than 600 active members of the Tea Party. I also know the Tea Party didn’t sponsor the petition drive, nor were they the only people that marched out with those petitions. Colgan’s argument doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s amazing what kind of “facts” the general populace will believe if you just keep repeating them.

Some folks are trying to use the Tea Party as a target to rile up their peanut gallery, using Measure A as their rally call. They keep banging the same old drum. They refuse to have a rational discussion about the situation we’re facing, because it’s going to mean some sour beans for them and their trough-dwelling friends. 

So, it’s up to a rational person like Stephanie Taber to lay it out straight for those who like facts. Stephanie attends the meetings, she reads the reports, she goes to the trouble of putting questions in writing for $taff, and then waiting persistently for an answer that practically has to be deciphered by a lawyer. She has followed this budget conversation since the day then-city-manager and first rat to jump, Greg Jones, expressed his grave concerns that we were headed straight for bankruptcy. She has followed the figures and checked the facts until she has forced these rats right to the wall – they have lately begun to dig their feet in and refuse to obey the sunshine laws, refusing to give the fiscal reports demanded by the city charter. Some people can try to run their little smokescreen of repetitive nonsense, but more rational people are finding out the truth. Thanks to Stephanie Taber for writing this letter below, which may or may not run in the Chico News and Review:

I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to Quentin Colgan’s letter of July 12th; primarily because the costs surrounding the Special Election held regarding Measure A have been distorted.  Yes, it did cost $150,000, but why?  That’s the elephant in the room. The progressives on the City Council chose the method by which the election would be held.  Per the City Charter (which is the City’s Constitution) Section 501 clearly states “The City Council may determine that any Special Election shall be held by mailed ballot” etc. That would have cut the cost by half, at least.  But the Council chose the most expensive means possible, voting at the precinct.   They were afraid that just telling the students they were being disenfranchised, which was an obvious lie, would not be sufficient to defeat it.

 As to “it’s all the Tea Party’s fault”; I was the only signature to the Measure.  I felt no need to consult the Tea Party before I took that action; but did enlist the help of many concerned citizens to gather the more than 8,000 signature required to put it on the ballot.

 Toby Schindelbeck has called upon our Finance Director to adhere to Section 908 of the City’s Charter which states “(the) Finance Director shall submit to the Council through the City Manager monthly statements of receipts, disbursements and balances in such form as to show the exact financial condition of the City”.  It does not state when you may want to or if you have time to; it says “shall”. No one on the Council or otherwise can remember when that may have happened last.  If it was being done as the Charter states it would have been recognize that the City was facing a financial Armageddon and steps could have been taken much earlier in the fiscal year to avoid the closing of Fire Station 5.

 Stephanie L. Taber

July 17, 2012

City Art Director Mary Gardner is foisting a new “Art Tax” on us to pay her own salary

17 Jul
To mgardner@ci.chico.ca.us, gerimahood@yahoo.com, mcbergarts@gmail.com
(Mary Gardner, city of Chico public arts director, city of Chico, Geraldine Mahood and Monica Berg of the Arts Commission) 
 
 
Hello ladies,

 
I recently read your memo here
I think it’s despicable Ms. Gardner that you are trying  raise revenues for your own salary by foisting a new “Art Tax” on new development. 
 
Ms. Mahood, Ms. Berg, nobody wants eggsuckers like you telling them how to spend their money or what’s “art”. You people make me sick.
 
The Chico Taxpayers Association will fight this grab, as will other civic groups through the area. That’s why you’ve kept your efforts “under the radar” I assume – you don’t want people to know about this, because you don’t want to hear what they think about it. Or YOU! 
 
You people need to get real jobs and quit sucking off the public teat.
 
 Read all about it here:
Sincerely, Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Jennifer Hennessy is incompetent – she can’t do her job and Burkland says she doesn’t have to

15 Jul

I’ll never forget my first real job – a clerical position at a manufacturing plant. I would compare it to the story of the miller’s daughter. On the first day, I was told that the employee I was to be replacing would stick around for a week to train me. At noon that day, having shown me where everything was and how to use the coffee maker, she got up from her chair, smiled, and told me she thought I could “handle it,” then left. At one o’clock, the plant manager came over to my desk followed by several “production” workers. They brought cart loads of microfilm, on rolls, in little white boxes. I was to label all of those boxes, three carts, piled high. This job had gotten held up, he explained, it would be “great!” if it could go out today.   Did I think I could get them done by 4 o’clock?  I wanted to make everybody happy, so said I yes without thinking, and set to work loading the labels into the typewriter.

It was a disaster. I had never typed anything like those labels before – typing class had been all about letters and envelopes, columns and reports. The labels skittered all over the platen, getting glue all over the inside of the typewriter. About every 50 or so labels, the platen had to be taken out and cleaned with alcohol. I typed and typed.   By 3 o’clock I knew I was in trouble. The production workers had come over to my desk to help me affix the sticky labels. We were nervous, labels were getting screwed up. At 3:30 the office manager and receptionist came back to my desk to help with the labels. I typed and typed, and tried not to cry.

We didn’t make it. The plant manager was flustered. The salesman who’d promised the job was really pissed off, he said mean things.  I apologized again and again, they told me it wasn’t all my fault, but could I please be more careful what I committed myself to in future. I could tell they also expected me to get a hell of a lot faster, but they were just trying to be nice.

So, I got faster. I came in early in the morning and worked through lunch until I got better at my job. I had signed up for a typing job, nobody had described all the weird stuff they expected me to type.  It started with typing and labeling, not only sticky labels, but microfiche jackets. They have a little quarter inch tall label strip across the top that chips and peels if you aren’t careful loading them into the typewriter, and strips or frames of 35 and 16 mm film  that falls out in your typewriter. Then there were the three-part work orders, with carbon paper, and the  three-part shipping labels, also with carbon paper. There were the mistakes – whole orders that had been indexed incorrectly, and therefore typed incorrectly, and therefore had to be corrected and typed all over again. I won’t describe what I had to go through to correct microfiche labels, it was too stupid.  I hated doing that, so I asked for my own little “eye-loup” – a little magnifier that you hold up to a light to look at the tiny little page numbers on the film – to make sure the cards had been indexed correctly before I typed them.

I’m not perfect, but I know I’m competent, cause I kept that job for five years while I watched others get fired, for everything from showing up late to breaking expensive equipment to stealing. I was given new jobs and increased responsibility as time went by.  I got good job reviews from my supervisors, and good raises.  Morale was high, we liked our co-workers and our managers, we felt like a team. Our customers were nice to us too. We worked for cities and counties, hospitals, banks – anybody who needed to keep records. We were trusted to handle confidential records, like people’s medical records. As we handled these confidential files we were simply told, “Don’t look at them,” so we didn’t. 

I left in 1984 in finish school. Over the next decade computers killed the microfilm industry, and the company went out of business. 

Excuse me if I compare my experiences in the private sector with stuff I’ve seen coming out of our city $taff. I keep waiting for some professional behavior, some professional accountability out of the people who run our town, and I start to wonder if I will ever get it. For a couple of months now, Toby Schindelbeck and Stephanie Taber, among others, have been asking council and Finance MisDirector Jennifer Hennessy to provide a simple accounting of city finances, as is required by the city charter, and she just plain refuses to give it. City Mangler Dave Burkland won’t make her. 

Last month she actually admitted, she is UNABLE to do it. At the June 5 meeting she admitted that she is incompetent to follow the city charter. She said that when she came to her position seven years ago, she “struggled” with doing such a report – something every house wife does – and went whining to then-city-manager Tom Lando, who apparently patted her on the head and told her she didn’t have to do it anymore. 

I don’t know about you guys, but I go over my check book every month, just to make sure everything is straight. I’ve found big, dumb mistakes, in the 100’s column even, that could have caused big, dumb problems down the road.  I’m no math instructor, like Mary Goloff, but it’s not exactly rocket science – you just add your deposits and subtract your checks and withdrawals. I’ll admit, when my kids were little, I felt like I never had time to do that, and stuff would get screwed up.  So now that I’ve got time, I make it a regularly scheduled event, and it’s amazing how much easier it is. And, I can keep the figures in my head, I know essentially how much I can afford to spend when I’m at the grocery store, or what kind of activities we can plan. My husband and son are enjoying a weekend trip right now that is already paid for, thankyouverymuch. 

But Jennifer Hennessy is unable to do that? And she has expectable stuff – over 80 percent of her budget is payroll. She doesn’t have that many emergencies.  The biggest emergency she’s had lately, is that the state has taken back the fund she’s been mis-using – the RDA. She was paying salaries and benefits out of a fund that’s supposed to be reserved for emergency public works projects. In other words, she’s been dipping into the till to pay her own salary!  

The mayor is to blame here, she’s the captain of our ship. Unfortunately, like the captain of the Costa Concordia, she’s abandoned ship for a party onshore. While she and her college chums bully their bag ban down our throats, our ship is sinking. We have less than $200,000 in our reserve fund, we have un-secured pension obligations totaling in the millions and growing every day, and we have  $taff who are using blackmail to get their way – they are just refusing to do their jobs. Hennessy won’t give the report she’s required to give because it’s BAD. I think the mayor is completely behind her on this – Ann Schwab doesn’t want us to hear that report either. Would you? 

Please write a letter to council demanding that Hennessy do her job, or get out. 

Scranton, Pennsylvania cuts workers to minimum wage – only $130,000 in their cash reserves

12 Jul

I finally got a chance to watch the video of last Tuesday’s council meeting. It cut on me during the meeting, just after Walker and Goloff were mopping up their attack on Sorensen, and I didn’t get it back til yesterday. I have watched the video in bits and snatches.  I made it to the noise ordinance conversation last night, but had to turn it off after Jessica Allen and a couple of her friends got up to demand their rights to be bad neighbors. 

One thing I learned is that the city of Chico has less than $200,000 in the reserve fund. No, I did not forget a zero on that figure, that’s it – less than $200,000. Read it and weep – and then call them to ask what they did with that property tax check you just sent in. 

You can look at the budget report here:  http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/budget.asp

You see the millions the city takes in, in sales tax (over $17 million) property tax (over $11 million), even taxes on your PG&E, phone and water (almost $7 million), and your visitors’ motel rooms (over $2 million). To me that seems petty – “bed tax”?   Some people think it’s a good idea to shake down the visitors of your town, as if  it’s not enough that they spend money on your motels, restaurants and shopping centers.  It’s a common grab all over California, every city does it.  A lot of distasteful things become “common” when no decent person stands up to say “enough is enough.” 

In Chico, as has been oft repeated, over 80 percent of our budget is in salaries and benefits. That’s the elephant in the room, and everybody’s getting pretty hip deep in elephant shit around here.  It’s a simple concept, no matter how convoluted $taff and council try to make it: if they spend all the money on salaries, benefits, and the Great Pension Stock Market Disaster, there’s no money left to pay for supplies to say,  clean up leaks in the sewer and water lines that are causing the state to fine us by the day, widen the roads that we are required to widen because of the permitting of Meriam Park, etc. And you can just get used to those pot holes in the street out front of your house.  Got bad neighbors? Get a lawyer.

What’s really frustrating are the reactions of the cops and fire – they act like they don’t get paid at all. Those guys take most of the 80 percent. They get overtime written into their schedules. According to Hennessy, both fire and the cops are over budget on their workman’s comp claims for at least the third year in a row. The city just slammed another cop contract past us without public review, and signed the new chief’s contract three days before it was made available to the public, and then only by request and a direct visit to the clerk’s office Downtown. 

So, we will get another year of poor response times, bitching and moaning from cops and fire. Get ready for your homeowners and your car insurance to go up – the insurance companies know when your local police and fire departments are a pile of shit. 

And don’t think I’m not wondering about all those suspicious house fires. 

 You can just forget about any of the services a city is supposed to offer.  Try to get something out of the city clerk these days – if you can catch her in the office! 

Well, here’s the story of Scranton, Pennsylvania – home of Michael Scott! 

http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/10/12659748-scranton-pa-slashes-workers-pay-to-minimum-wage?lite

The mayor of Scranton, when faced with a situation similar to Chico’s mess, did what needed to be done. Unfortunately, he waited until it was too late to do something rational. I’m afraid it’s come to that with our city council – if you think that scene between Goloff and Sorensen was rational, well, you deserve to live here. 

Marysville council rejects sales tax ploy by retiring city administrator – where’s Chico’s knight in shining armor?

11 Jul

I am not a member of the Chico Chamber of Commerce, but I check in to their website regularly to see what they’re up to.  Sometimes I believe, they are the real Chico City Council. While our elected leaders frolic and cavort in  their stupid committee meetings, the Chamber is working on a “Top 10 Economic Development Action List”. 

Yeah, sounds great, until you consider, one of their “Top 10” is a proposal to raise the local sales tax.

One prominent member of the Chamber who might be able to fill us in on the discussion is Bob Evans. I’ve asked Bob where he stands on this tax increase, but he just keeps saying he hasn’t seen a proposal yet. Lately I have asked him if he would require Lando and the other sales tax increase proponents to get the legal number of signatures on a petition before he votes to put this proposal on the ballot, but he won’t answer me. His downright refusal to discuss the tax increase is frustrating to me – I want to believe Bob is a “fiscal conservative.” After all, he had some high and mighty things to say about his opposition to the phone tax. But, he knew the phone tax didn’t need his support to get on the ballot. It’s easy to posture as the good guy when you know others will achieve the end result you really want. Evans’ resistance to making a pledge against a sales tax increase is screaming in my ear like a fire alarm. 

In Marysville, Mayor Bill Harris had no trouble making himself clear when his city mangler proposed a half-cent sales tax increase: “This will be viewed as the City Council coming to them wanting more money again.”

Well, the article mentioned, the city mangler is retiring, so I would also see it as his way of securing his f-ing pension, but nobody mentions that. 

City councilwoman Christina Billeci echoed a sentiment I’ve been hearing increasingly in Chico –  “We need to balance the budget with the revenues we have,” she said.

Other council members cited lack of support from citizens, including one councillor who claimed to have got “angry reactions” to the proposal. One council member said he might have supported the move before the June election, “But the cigarette tax was voted down, and that should have been a slam dunk,” he said. “I would see this as a waste of effort and money.”

The only council member who supported the notion, Head Start administrator Ricky Samayoa, made some pretty disparaging remarks about the town. 

“There’s a lot of people that know there’s a lack of resources here for us to have a proper city and manage it,” he said. Oooo! A “proper city”! What a bitch!  Does he have letters from constituents to support  this statement, or is he just using “a lot of people” to describe himself and his co-workers? Not enough drive through coffee stands for you Ricky? Not enough 5 Star restaurants or pink boutiques? Sorry, we’ve never been ones for putting on the Ritz here in the North State, better get in your zip car and drive back to the Bay Area. 

In the Enterprise Record story, Samoyoa further claimed that “continued cuts to maintenance and other aspects of the city’s budget hurt chances for an economic recovery.”  I imagine Marysville has the same problem Chico has – too many $100,000+ salaries and not enough $20,000 – $50,000 workers. While he’s sitting down there under the air conditioner vent at Head Start in a fresh shirt and manicure, the streets are going unmaintained, the classrooms overcrowded, the police and fire  departments underfunded – is that the problem Mr. Samayoa? 

“The way we’re continuing to go, it’s just going to be a dying city, even if the economy picks up,” he said. Now, that statement doesn’t even make sense. This is a typical example of scare tactics. “The way we’re continuing to go…” You mean, paying $100,000+ salaries to fat bureaucrats, while cutting services to the public? Somehow I don’t think that’s what he’s talking about.  ” …it’s just going to be a dying city…”  Wow, what an idiot – obviously no knowledge of local history. Marysville has been through so many booms and busts, it ought to be called “Bouncyville.” If you get to know Marysville, you see it has everything needed to be a wonderful place to live, in good times and bad, regardless of carpetbaggers like Samayoa.

“Give folks the opportunity to have this debate,” Mr. Samayoa suggests. Sounds like the rhetoric coming from Andy Holcombe and the rest of the sales tax increase proponents. Hey, that’s a swell idea! People should talk about these things, hash them out. And then, if enough of them sign a petition to put such a proposal on a legal ballot, well, they can VOTE on it! But that costs alot of money – best for those who really believe in this cockamamie idea to get the petition first, show the need to spend all that money on an election. That’s what rational people would do, anyway. 

But if you ask Holcombe to discuss the pending proposal, he denies there is any such thing.  The only member of Chico City Council who is willing to discuss this proposal at all has been Mark Sorensen – thanks Mark. At least Mark has been good enough to answer our questions about the mechanics of such a proposal and getting it onto the ballot. Evans and Holcombe have both denied knowing anything about it, although Holcombe has made it good and clear he’d support raising the sales tax and Evans has been seen at Chamber discussions on the matter. The others have been mum to the public, but I’m guessing they will support it. Holcombe, Schwab, Goloff, Walker, Gruendl – and Evans? – are all banking on more revenues to rescue the city from the Shit Creek they’ve floated us up.   Evans, while he will admit we’re in deep shit, will not offer so much as a suggestion of a paddle. He seems to be holding back until after he gets himself safely re-elected in November. Then he’s got a year to get that sales tax voted in and three years to make the public forget he had anything to do with it. 

Well Bob, is that what you’re up to?

I’ll say, if he were at least honest, I might be able to hold my nose and support him, but this game he’s playing is a real turn-off. 

Council video feed still not available – $taff seems to have taken the Summer off!

10 Jul

I know, there’s probably  a perfectly legitimate explanation for this. Debbie Presson isn’t sure why the feed is off, but she’s got somebody working on it. Not yesterday though, cause she was out of her office.

I’ll tell you what else is interesting – there haven’t been any of those morning meetings lately – in fact, it looks like all the committee meetings for July are CANCELLED. In fact, there hasn’t been an “Economic Development” committee meeting for months that I’m aware. For all intents and purposes, the city of Chico seems to be on Summer Vacation! How nice for them!

But, as you see, the town runs along without them. In fact, I’m wishing the public works department would also take a hike – they’re TOO BUSY right now, tearing up the streets Downtown. Oh well, the college students have “gone home” – what do we need Downtown for when the college students have gone home?

That seems to be the gist of if – the city of Chico is here to serve the college students. The rest of us can just get along – as long as we keep paying our taxes, nobody will bother us! 

I just have to wonder, what are these $85,000, $95,000, $134,000 $taffers doing right now, and why do we need to keep paying them?