Archive | August, 2012

Hennessy is using city funds like walnut shells to hide and move money

29 Aug

I had a dentist appointment yesterday morning, bright and early, so I thought I’d drop in on the Finance Committee meeting.   There I watched Toby Schindelbeck try to dig a monthly finance report out of Jennifer Hennessy – and that was like pulling teeth.

I’ll tell you something about Jennifer Hennessy – she’s used to getting her way, Daddy’s little (?) girl. When Schindelbeck pressed for those reports, in a very polite and businesslike manner, she started acting like a petulant child, bickering with him about her “interpretation” of the code. She acted as though the code was written by Joseph of Arimathea.

I would recommend everybody read the Charter and Code for the City of Chico, it’s not rocket science. Get a dictionary, just for those $64,000 words. But, it’s very clear, it’s very direct:

“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. At the end of each fiscal year the finance director shall submit a complete and detailed financial statement.” (Article 9, Section 908)

What do you guys read there, any comments? I hear it loud and clear – she’s supposed to show us how much came in, how much went out, and how much is left, EVERY MONTH. She acts as though that’s an unreasonable request, even after the Station 5 fiasco.

How soon we forget? In January of this year, Hennessy had told us everything was DANDY! Then by March we were in DEFICIT.  In July we were closing a fire station that sat watch on the entire east side of town, including all the east side grasslands (meadow foam!) that this council allowed developers to squat on over the last five years. 

Schindelbeck had gone to a lot of trouble, read over reports, graphs, charts, and found figures that don’t match. He had different reports from different staffers that listed different balances in the same funds. He had reports that indicated  questionable transfers between those funds, and he had a report that showed $taff had undertaken a project with a fund that was completely inadequate to fund it.

But, our council seems to have drank Hennessy’s Kool-Aid.  With the spectre of mismanagement standing firmly behind him, Scott Gruendl defended Jennifer Hennessy’s adamant, and I’ll say, BITCHY and CHILDISH, refusal to DO HER $165,000 A YEAR JOB. 

Scott Gruendl went on to explain the practice of “deficit spending.” In his world, spending other people’s money you don’t really have is considered a high art form. In fact, did you know, council members used to get credit cards? Gruendl made such fast use of his credit card, wining and dining at little nooks and crannies all over the Bay Area, that council voted to tear up those cards. Nobody else was using them, Gruendl was partying with his, and then using excuses like, he had to go pick up the “Sister City” plaque that could easily have been shipped for a fraction of the cost of putting him up in a chic boutique in San Fran and sending him to all the  snootiest little eateries. Gruendl is a pig, and he likes to be kept nice and fat.

So, he says, there’s nothing wrong with spending in deficit on stuff like a bike path, buy some guy’s property to run a bike path across, everybody does that when they are poised on the brink of bankruptcy. It’s called an investment in the future – yeah, that property owner’s future just got a lot brighter, wouldn’t you say? 

Did you know, they spent General Fund money finishing up that Hwy 99 bike path – the privately contracted workers were in my neighborhood all one weekend.  Having freshly paved only the exact bike route through my neighborhood of otherwise shredded streets, they sent in a crew to stencil the magical protective bicycle people in the brand new oily surface.  People, not cyclists, but people who occasionally like to be seen on a bike,  seem to think those stencils are magical.  They seem to believe  they can ride right out in the street and those stencils will protect them from the congregation of the Evangelical Free Church over on Filbert! Good luck! 

Hennessy and the rest of them need these projects to attract grants to bring in revenues to pay their salaries and benefits. The grants don’t even start the job – for example, already over $1 MILLION  has been granted on that Downtown remodel, and SPENT, and you see how far it’s gotten. They’re already out of money, and the job will wait until there’s more.  They used the money not for construction – it PG&E you’ve seen hashing up the streets. Construction is really a pittance of the actual cost of these jobs – they spent most of this money on their own salaries and benefits. Ask Hennessy – the entire gas tax, which is legally supposed to be reserved for  capital projects, is spent on salaries and benefits. 

Furthermore, in order to get these grants, the city has to spend money, oftentimes matching the amount of the grant. So, every time you hear they got a grant, what they aren’t telling you is, it’s going to cost you the same amount of money to get it. And, don’t you love the way they act as though these grants just rain like manna from heaven – no, they come out of the taxes you send to the state and feds every year. 

Hennessy said that when Fred Davis ran our town, he only had 10 “funds”. Now there are over 250 funds. Know why? Cause all those “funds” act like walnuts shells – you can HIDE MONEY that way, and transfer it from one “specific” fund to another. That’s the way they will take the phone tax they expect to get out of you and use it for whatever art project or Sustainability scam they please. 

The conversation was getting pretty hot when I noticed the clock – I had to be at the dentist for a good reaming at 9am. Gruendl was telling Schindelbeck, very rudely, that his comments didn’t have anything to do with the subject at hand. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked to speak. I told them I agreed with Schindelbeck  – that for exactly all the reasons Miss Malfeasance listed for NOT doing her job, she needed to do it.

They are using this confusing mish-mash t0 move money around to pay their salaries and benefits, that’s what I know. We need to demand not that Hennessy DO her job, but that Hennessy LOSE her job. 

And Gruendl needs to go in 2014, let’s make note of that. 

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Finance Committee to take up Section 908 – will Jennifer Hennessy do her job? What does the new city manager think?

27 Aug

I don’t know how many people are available for an 8am meeting Downtown, but tomorrow morning the Finance Committee will take up the issue of Jennifer Hennessy not complying with Section 908 of the Chico City Code. 

908 says that the Finance Director is supposed to give a current update regarding our budget, just like you do every month with your check book. You see what you’ve taken in, and you see what’s gone out. It should all be there, so you don’t get in trouble with your finances! Heck! You wouldn’t want to write rubber checks – Mike Ramsey will slap you in jail for that! 

The city of Chico is in a deep amount of deficit-doo right now because Hennessy hasn’t been making these reports. The only reports she will make are “after the fact” – by the time she tells us anything, we’re already in trouble. And the reports she gives are never clear – she spends hours on these ridiculous “power point presentations,” with little cartoon figures and charts and graphs, without ever really telling us exactly how much money has come in and where it’s gone. We just see budgets – like Scott Gruendl said, “budgets are a fairy tale…”. They’re speculative, imagined, hoped-for,  but rarely achieved. And Hennessy announces so many budget changes due to “unexpected downturns” that it’s hardly worth the paper to even write the damned things. 

I’d frankly rather have a neat little accounting of what she’s taken in for each fund every month, and what’s  she’s spent. She won’t give us these details – leaving a suspicious person to speculate that she is doing something inappropriate with the money. 

The state parks department was funneling money into a secret fund that was being used to buy state worker’s unused vacation time. I’m sorry, but until Hennessy tells us what’s going on, I’m a suspicious person.

So, if you have the time tomorrow morning, that’s 8am, at City Hall, in the little conference room off the main chamber. There’s speculation that new city manager Brian Nakamura will make an appearance, I’ll keep you posted. I can only stay half an hour cause I got a dentist appointment. Yeah, I saw Marathon Man too, Stop It! 

Who cares about 2012 – Rand Paul for President 2016!

25 Aug

Here’s a little something I just wanted to pass along:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svGDZOW-brA&feature=youtu.be

I know, talk is cheap – it’s only worth as much as the ears that listen.  People like Ron and Rand Paul are trying to get America to DO SOMETHING – why isn’t America listening?

I have no hope for Election 2012. Romney is a RINO. A victory for this guy would be the end of the Republican Party as we know it. I don’t like everything about the Republican Party, but I don’t want to see it turn into an arm of the Democratic Party. Furthermore, he isn’t that far off Obama in his policies.  Romney doesn’t have any real plan to get us out of Iraq or Afghanistan, he can’t overturn Obamacare because he doesn’t have enough support in the legislature – to me, he’s the worst things about Obama and more.

The alternative? Another four years of Obama. You know that old saying – sometimes it’s better to go with a bad thing you know, than a bad thing you don’t know.

Not that I’m voting Obama, but I’m not voting Romney, either. I think I’ll write in Ron Paul, just to give Rand Paul a little nudge.

Ann Schwab’s argument in favor of Measure J – “to protect against the risk of losing” illegally collected tax revenues

25 Aug

Here is the “Statement of Accuracy” signed by those arguing in favor of Measure J – Mayor Ann Schwab and councillors Holcombe, Gruendl, and Goloff. Jim Walker submitted a letter of consent.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail with these documents attached – arguments FOR and AGAINST Measure J, the cell phone tax, submitted to the city clerk earlier this month.  None of them cut and pastable into my blog, so I’ve been hem-hawing around trying to figure out how to load them up. I hate to break this kind of news – I am not exactly a computer whiz kid.  Word Press is a wonderful forum, but there’s buttons I still haven’t figured out yet. 

So, I finally just took a picture of the above “Statement of Accuracy” sheet with my camera – you can see how that turned out. The “Argument in Favor” below had to be typed in from a window on the little “notepad” my kids gave me for Christmas.

The city clerk has said she can’t give me the cut and pastable versions cause she’s afraid I’ll “edit” them.  Well, I’ll assure you, I have typed this argument in very carefully, word for word, and this is what Ann Schwab has to say for herself. I will admit, I received this argument before the county clerk had assigned a letter to the measure, so I added the letter ‘J’.  Let’s discuss this over the next few weeks :

Argument in Favor of Measure J – Utility Users Tax

We recommend approval of Measure J to protect existing revenue to continue vital services for the residents of the City of Chico.

The City of chico is at risk of losing $900,000 each year if voters do not approve Measure J to modernize the language of it’s current Users Utility Tax (UUT) ordinance. This would represent a significant reduction in General Fund revenue. The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund. A loss of $900,000 a year would result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds.

In recent years, there have been significant changes in both technology and billing practices. The use of wireless services and voice over internet protocol has become widespread, billing for local and long distance services  is frequently bundled, and long distance calls are not always billed based on time and distance, even for land lines.

To protect against the risk of losing tax revenues in the face of legal issues, approval of Measure J will modernize this existing tax to ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same, regardless of the type of technology they are using or billing practices employed by their providers.

This proposed amendment includes a slight rate reductionk, from 5% to 4.5%. This rate, if applied to the average cell phone bill of $50 per month, would equate to a monthly charge of $2.25 as opposed to the current charge of $2.50.

Vote yes for Measure J and protect existing police, fire, roads and parks in the City of Chico.

Measure J – That’s Ann Schwab sliding her hand into your purse.

23 Aug

The other night the Chico City Council signed a new city manager at $217,000 a year, plus benefits. That’s an increase of about 14 percent over retiring city manager Dave Burkland’s salary. Meanwhile, the median American income, according to the census bureau, has fallen by 7 percent. In Chico, the 2010 figure for median income was about $38,000. Seven percent would be a hit of over $2500. OUCH!

I wonder if the researchers took into account those families whose incomes have remained fairly steady, while expenses like utilities and taxes have grown unrepentantly. You’ve probably received the same notices I have got from PG&E and Cal Water – they seem to raise rates at will these days. You probably read Cal Water’s notice that we weren’t using enough water so they had to raise rates to recoup money they spent when they thought we were going to use a lot of water. But,  talking out both sides of their mouth, they raise the rate per ccf tremendously when we use over a certain amount of water – to encourage us to conserve water! What kind of circular bullshit is that?

The same circular bullshit you get from the city of Chico, that’s what.  For several years now we have heard one report after another about our dismal financial situation. We had to close a fire station for a month.  We can’t keep enough cops on the street to serve a citation for a second noise complaint. We don’t have enough money to fix our streets. We don’t have enough money to properly maintain Bidwell Park.  But without missing a beat, they tell us they are increasing their own salaries.  They are signing a contract with Chico PD that gives them a raise, along with structured overtime and pays the “employees’ share” of their benefits and pension premiums. And now they hire a guy at $217,000  a year, plus the benefits and pension payments, whose successor in Hemet is only making $162,000 a year.

http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/hemet/hemet-headlines-index/20120821-hemet-council-selects-orme-as-interim-city-manager.ece

And they propose to cover these asinine appropriations by raising our taxes. That is the intention behind the phone tax –  measure J – already placed on this November’s ballot, as well as the motivation behind Tom Lando’s coming sales tax increase proposal – watch for that in a special election in 2013.

Measure J is our immediate problem. It is billed by it’s sponsors, including Mayor Ann Schwab, as a tax reduction.  Sure, they will lower the existing land line tax from 5 percent to 4.5. But this measure will allow them to extend the tax to cell phones, pagers, and forms of electronic communication that have not even been introduced to the consumer yet.   This measure will allow the city Finance Director to add any future form of electronic communication that is included in your phone bill to the tax base without consulting the voters. You will simply see the increase on your phone bill.

Remember when the only people who had cell phones, or “mobile phones,” were guys like Elvis Presley? Yeah, a cell phone used to be for rich people only, a status symbol even. Well, try living without one today.  Land lines are pretty unreliable – unless you live within a few blocks of the router over in college town, you get hit and miss service, at best. When we had AT&T, we’d be without either phone or internet service for days at a time.  We felt forced to switch to cell phones. When my son was looking for a job, they expected him to have his own cell phone, mom or dad’s number was a real turn-off to employers.  So, yes, in this day and age, not having a cell phone has become akin to not having a car – what’s wrong with you?

This cell phone tax is a matter of TAKING, by people who just expect to TAKE. The city does nothing to guarantee or improve or even cheapen the cost of your cell phone service. They’ve actually refused to permit cell phone towers on occasion, citing “aesthetics.” But they expect to add a 4.5 percent TAX to a service you contract with a commercial provider?

We need to get the word out on this TAKING. Ann Schwab and her friends are billing it as a TAX DECREASE! You know better, and you need to tell your friends, your co-workers, and people with whom you do business – you need to start telling everybody you know who lives in the city of Chico, that they are about to be had.

I’m starting with my close friends, and then I’m going to mail letters to people like my dentist, my auto shops, my vet, etc. You would be surprised how many people don’t know what this phone tax is all about. People who don’t have time to educate themselves often depend on their friends to give them the heads-up. Be a good friend, tell everybody you know about this tax.

That’s Measure J, Ann Schwab’s plan to stick her little pig nose into your phone bill.  Bad Pig! Time to give her a sharp rap across the snout – No on J!

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss! $217,000 a year, plus benefits. And he’s a liar, to boot.

19 Aug

I got a comment a couple of weeks ago from a person who identified themself as a resident of the town of Hemet, Ca, and said that our city was about to hire their city’s manager. And what do you know – our council went right ahead and did that the other night. And it was unanimous, so Sorensen and Evans went right along with it. 

This Nakamura dude only made it in Hemet for three years. And when their financial ship appeared to be on the rocks, he kept it a secret that he was looking for another job, here in Chico. 

http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/hemet/hemet-headlines-index/20120815-hemet-city-manager-accepts-chico-job.ece

In fact, according this story, he lied to his bosses about his intentions when they found out he had visited Chico – he told them it was just to “share with the council my experience on how we made our city a wonderful place, and that’s it.” For one thing, Hemet isn’t such a wonderful place, it’s a shithole with piles of problems. 

According to the story, “Two weeks ago, (Nakamura)  said he was no longer involved in talks with Chico, but on Wednesday said Chico officials contact [sic]  him last week and negotiations moved swiftly.”

Hemet lies in the middle of SoCal, out in the wasteland east of San Diego. It’s one of those towns that has grown by leaps and bounds over the boom years. In the 90’s, they actually allocated $800,000 in RDA money to begin building a LAKE, to draw tourism.  And now there Hemet sits, LAKESIDE! revenues dropping, and up to it’s ass in debt. In fact, if you scan over their agendas and records, you find Hemet is in the same kind of mess Chico is in  – they’ve  been using their RDA like a credit card too.

So, why are we hiring a guy to replace Dave Burkland that is just going to continue us down the same road to Perdition that Dave Burkland had us on? A guy who is jumping the ship he helped sail into the reef? Just like Burkland.

And, at 47, you know he’s just coming here to retire. Mark my words, in three years, this POS will retire at over $150,000 a year. 

Ask your mayor, Ann Schwab. You can e-mail her at aschwab@ci.chico.ca.us, or drop her some snail mail at 555 Vallombrosa Ave, #74, Chico CA 95926. Decisions this woman is making are killing our town. Write to the other council members too – they also voted to hire this man. You can get them through Debbie Presson at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us. 

First Mate Dave Burkland declares MUTINY! Schwab too busy campaigning to take the helm.

15 Aug

As you may have read, local business owner and city council candidate Toby Schindelbeck has been after  Finance MisDirector Jennifer Hennessy and City Mangler Dave Burkland to comply with the city code and hand over monthly budget updates that include all the pertinent information demanded by the code – including our revenues. 

Maybe you’ve lived here long enough to remember a string of embezzlements that made the news – several local non-profits and a couple of long-time local businesses – all hookwinked by older women bookkeepers, for  10’s of thousands of dollars. One popular Esplanade business owner recently said he’s still suffering the effects, almost 10 years later.

Besides the fact that they were all older ladies with good reputations, the common thread in these crimes was how they did it – they just didn’t report all the revenues they were taking in, taking the money themselves instead. That sounds like an old trick, doesn’t it? Well, obviously, it still has the potential to work.

Those of us who’ve been watching the city $taffers consistently have heard budget reports that just didn’t make sense – most recently, the vast discrepancies in the budget report Hennessy gave early this year, and a May report in which she was suddenly short so much money the city had to close Fire Station 5.  Now, if she was doing the job for free, that might fly, but we pay this woman roughly $160,000 a year, and you’d think she could do the job for that kind of dough. 

So Schindelbeck’s request for the monthly finance reports required by the code is not only reasonable, it’s necessary. We need to press this woman to make better explanation of where all this money is going. 

I’ll tell you where it’s going – Hennessy’s salary has increased by over $30,000 since she gave her first warning of “deficit.” 

But Hennessy will only do the job her bosses require, and Dave Burkland tells Schindelbeck in this e-mail below, he’s not going to make her do it, even while admitting it’s perfectly do-able.

From: “David Burkland” <DBURKLAN@ci.chico.ca.us>

Date: August 10, 2012 5:26:26 PM PDT

To: “Toby Schindelbeck”
Cc: “Jennifer Hennessy” <jhenness@ci.chico.ca.us>, “Lori Barker” <LBARKER@ci.chico.ca.us>
Subject: Re: Public Records Request response

 Mr. Schindelbeck,
 
I am responding to your email dated August 7, 2012, to the City’s Finance Director, Jennifer Hennessy.  As you know, the Council directed the Finance Committee to agendize an item to determine the form and content of monthly financial information that would best benefit the Council and community. As I mentioned at the Council meeting, staff researched Section 908 of the City Charter and found that monthly reports provided to the Council over the years had varied significantly and had included the monthly claims and investment reports that the Finance Director recently provided you. 
 
In your email you acknowledge the receipt of information which Ms. Hennessy provided you in response to your Public Records Act request for monthly financial reports as defined by the Chico City Charter section 908. 
 
You then repeat your request for such monthly reports and state that you understand the Public Records Act to allow the City 10 days to provide the requested information and that “[t]his applies to Public Records which are created, or which should have been created…..”
 
The Public Records Act requires the City to provide records which are in existence at the time the request for those records is received.  It does not require that records be created.  To the extent that you are requesting the City to create records in a form that you feel should have been done in the past, there is no requirement that the City create those records. 
 
At this time, the City has provided you all of the records that it has which we believe are responsive to your request and, therefore, has fully complied with your request. 
 
I believe that the Finance Committee will take this opportunity to focus on financial information needs going forward.  Any recommendation from the Finance Committee will go to the full Council for final action.  We’ll keep you informed of the dates and times of the meetings and hope you have an opportunity to participate.  If you have any questions, please call me at 896-7201 or email: dburklan @ci.chico.ca.us.
 
Dave Burkland
City Manager
Well, there it is – a guy who is paid nearly $200,000 a year telling us he’s not going to do his job.  And where’s his boss, Ann Schwab? 
Currently Schwab is too busy running her re-election campaign, playing Evita! for the students, to do anything about running the city of Chico.  
But you can make use of the above mentioned e-mail addresses to let Burkland and Hennessy know how you, the taxpayer, feel about this. Notice how they both took steps to make it harder to figure out their city e-mail address – most employees just use their first initial and last name – notice how Burkland does his all in caps, and both he and Hennessy leave off the last letter of their name. They don’t like their e-mail addresses given out, so be nice.  But be firm. Tell them we want to hear the reports Burkland admits are do-able EVERY MONTH, like it says in the charter.
Like Toby Schindelbeck often reminds us – the city Charter is our constitution, and we should take it more seriously.