Archive | November, 2012

Save your old phone bills – the city may be doling out refunds of illegally taken cell phone taxes

28 Nov

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I been busy hanging laundry these last fine days, anticipating the wet stuff. Kris Kuyper has predicted, today the honeymoon ends, and we’re going to get a little taste of Winter. About five days of it, apparently. Well, speak of the Devil – it just started pouring down as I sat here typing.

So yesterday I mounted old Myrt, my old Raleigh Superbe,  and we headed out through the park about 7:45 to a Finance Committee meeting Downtown.  Wow, what a morning it was, I didn’t even need a extra pair of skivvies. There was a mist along the ground. The leaves were still clinging to the trees, and that far-away sunlight was filtering down through all the light greens and tones of gold, it was like some magical forest. Right up til you get to the freeway where they’ve slaughtered every living thing. Oh well – did you think we could go along like a nice little town after Schwab and her friends permitted Meriam Park – “a city within a city.” The freeway widening as well as the upcoming widening of Hwy 32 were necessitated by Meriam Park and a couple of other subdivisions permitted by this “sustainable” council of ours. Tom Varga stood up and told us, gridlock will get worse, air quality will get worse, we will have all the trimmings of a city before you know it. I choose to get out there and enjoy what’s left of Old Chico before the developers bury it in a pile of shitopia.

If you’ve been watching meetings lately you’ve seen, we have to come up with matching funds for those projects. Business as usual Downtown.

At yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting, chaired by Scott Gruendl, they were busily giving away more of the taxpayer’s money. Gruendl really seems to believe that’s his job. The first two items on the agenda were approval of two mortgage subsidy deferrals. The mortgage subsidy program is intended for low-income first time home buyers, a low-interest loan that is supposed to be paid off or refinanced in five years.  Yesterday, on the recommendation of staffer Sherri Morgado and city manager Brian Nakamura,  Gruendl and Mark Sorensen voted to extend the loans of an individual and a couple who have moved out of their city-subsidized houses but “can’t” sell them and want us to go on footing the bill for their life styles. The first woman has had her loan out for 10 years, and has already got one extension. Now she’s coming forward for her second extension, even though she owns a second home. The other couple says they had to relocate to the Bay Area for their jobs.

Frankly, I don’t believe either of the buyers would qualify under the income requirements, but Morgado didn’t present all the documents. She argued that the city would lose if they force these folks to sell now. I don’t agree – the city could easily recoup their money by foreclosing. None of these people are threatened with homelessness, they just don’t want to lose on their investment, like families all over town. So they expect us to subsidize their bad judgement. Morgado is the one to blame – she is loaning money to people that banks won’t touch.

So both of their houses are being rented below market here in town, competing with landlords like me who run our businesses properly. I also believe they could be lying about the actual rent they collect, but there’s no way to know.  I find that kind of mismanagement of a fund that is supposed to help low-income people buy houses pretty disgusting. But, Mark Sorensen and Scott Gruendl went ahead and gave them the extensions. That matter was settled by 8:05, when Mary Flynn walked in the door with wet hair and a startled look on her face. She had already missed the first two agenda items. She looked surprised, as if she expected them to wait for her.

Flynn’s attendance at meetings has been so shoddy, a few months ago council had to vote as to whether to kick her off or not. They let her slide.   I’ve heard she’s pondering quitting, even before her term’s up. But that’s just gossip, we’ll have to wait and see what she does.

She made it to the meeting just in time for the quickie financial report from Finance Director  Jennifer Hennessy. This consisted of charts and doodah made up by consulting firm HdL Coren and Cone – “2013 Property tax Summary” and “City of Chico Sales Tax Update” – five pages in  total. I’ll ask – why do we need a consulting firm to do these reports? To do our everyday bookkeeping? We have not only Jennifer Hennessy (salary over $133,000/yr, benefits over $60,000) but her staff of thirteen accountants, account clerks, senior account clerks, accounting technicians, accounting manager, financial planning manager – as Yul Brynner would say, “Et-CET-era, Et-CET-era, Et-CET-era!” God only knows what their salaries and benefits add up to, I only have the management salaries from 2010. 

I asked Jennifer what we pay for HdL, Coren and Cone, she answered, very nicely I might add – “$4200 a year, for the Property Tax Summary.” I asked her what it cost for the sales tax report, but she didn’t have that figure. 

Well, I’ll say, it was three pages long and with all kinds of groovy colors and little pie charts and bar graphs and all that stuff you always wondered if you’d ever use beyond 9th grade math. It gets confusing. All  it represents to me  is $4200 (just for the prop tax report)  that should have gone toward flood mitigation on Big Chico Creek. 

While it might make a good read for the dentist’s office, it’s really just the same old stuff, gleaned from the Butte County  records, analyses of various statistics regarding the housing market, comparisons between prop tax revenues over the last few years, “real estate trends,” yadda yadda. It’s a great illustration of how they can use figures to say whatever they want, as long as they leave out a lot of pertinent information. For example, “Home sales have begun to rebound…The reported median price of an existing, single family detached home in California during July 2012 was $281,000. This was an 11.5 percent increase from $252,-000 in July 2011.” That sounds great, as long as you don’t include the fact that the same house was going for more than $500,000 just four or five years ago. That’s a loss of almost 50 percent. Bad, bad, bad!

Hennessy had to admit, we’re in the red on prop taxes – declined 2.1% – because “our budget assumed there would be zero impact” on property tax revenues this year. She speaks as though it’s the budget’s fault.  That seems kind of dumb to me, but I’m no Financial Planning Manager.

The rosy report for sales tax was a 9.9 % increase – mainly due to “building and construction.” Yes, you’ve seen those low-income apartment projects going up all over town, as well as some new housing. And you’ve seen home improvement projects all around town, people are spending money.  While “Lumber/Building Materials” were up by 42%, “Plumbing/Electrical Supplies” were up by a whopping 139% .  Yes, mom and dad remodeled the bathroom alright! 

Department stores and electronics stores took a hit – down about 9% and 13% respectively.  But, people are apparently buying new cars – that was up about 17%.  Wait til she gets the Christmas receipts – even  my family bought stuff for Christmas. We’re glad to do our part. 

 As Hennessy concluded her report, I noticed, it wasn’t even 8:20. Things were rolling right along, even with my bitchy questions. Time for a “discussion of Measure J.”

There was no staff report for this item. There was really no discussion. Scott Gruendl described Measure J as though he was reading it cold from cue cards, having never heard of the measure before. He asked Laurie Barker, “What needs to be done around the failure of Measure J?” I thought this was a no-brainer, but Barker, whose  total salary and benefits cost the taxpayers almost $300,000/year, said the city’s next move needs to be discussed and approved by the full council, probably in December. 

They all seemed tongue-tied and hesitant to talk about Measure J. Sore losers? I tell you, the linguistic gymnastics these people go through just to avoid telling it like it is – “we’re trying to define what the loss will be, what adjustments to make…”  The proponents, including Gruendl, said in the election booklet, $900,000 a year, what happened to that figure? What “adjustments” to make? You mean, contact the providers, and tell them to stop collecting the tax?  Stop spending the money? No, that wasn’t all of it.

Barker added, “How will we deal with refund requests?”

Oh, there it is. That’s what they’re nervous about discussing – I wasn’t crazy – they may actually have to refund money! 

Now, hold my horses, you know how excited I get. Barker made it clear, you can only claim up to the past year. And, she’s not sure if they’ll have to refund anything at all. She wasn’t pouring forth with details, but I’m pretty certain she is watching for the outcome of that lawsuit in the San Diego Superior Court – Chula Vistans suing their city for refunds on the same tax. 

But Gruendl was concerned about refunds – he said, “I’ve been paying that tax for years!” Earlier he said he’d be glad to pay a tax to help the “community,” but now he’s talking about getting his refund, I just don’t know what to make of that man.

Jennifer Hennessy said the city would hold the receipts that continue to pour into the city’s coffers until “further determination on the legal front.” 

Brian Nakamura, our harried and peaked new city manager, spoke up, saying “this will go into the ‘unfunded liabilities’ conversation.” He went on to say that the city had already made cuts, “reduced contributions to certain funds.” I think what he actually meant was, they’ve laid off all the lower level employees that actually provided service, and funneled their $20 – 35,000/yr salaries into the funds that pay pensions and benefits contributions. 

He went on to repeat, almost word-for-word, what he told Channel 7 News: the money “lost” by the failure of Measure J “would have funded 7-8 positions at the police department or 2/3’s the cost of operating one fire station (for a year?)” He talked about cutting maintenance to  Bidwell Park, mentioning “our grandchildren” and making all the usual threats. What a petty little man we got for $212,000 a year, plus undisclosed benefits. 

At this point I asked, “What is the current figure the city pays for benefits and pensions?”  Hennessy quoted the pensions figure alone – just pensions – “close to $7 million…”  She didn’t have the benefits figure. 

Scuse me – 7 million dollars? Just for pensions?

Coincidentally, the next item on the agenda  was a continuation of the “unfunded liabilities” conversation from October 23 – but Nakamura didn’t have the report that was requested at that meeting, so there was no discussion. I’ll have to catch up with that one in the next blog. 

The last item was rescheduling the meeting that fell on Christmas Day – that will probably happen on December 26.  Then, during “business from the floor,” former city council candidate Dave Donnan started a quick discussion about the revenues that might possibly be had through garbage franchise districts, but Gruendl closed the meeting just before 8:35,  saying, “the stage is set to discuss ‘enterprise zones’ in the coming year.” That’s also another blog entirely. 

I was shocked what they managed to cover in less than 35 minutes. I think that’s because, Donnan and I were the only members of the public in attendance. More people need to show up at those meetings, ask more pointy questions – but like the checker at the grocery store told me when I told him about it, “that’s why they have those meetings at 8am, they know we can’t show up.” 

Oh NO! We’re in the same boat with the Twinkie and Ding Dong eaters

25 Nov

I saw an interesting letter in the ER today – “Mismanagement doomed Hostess”.

I know, why would we care, those cakes are horrible. Studies have shown the high-fructose corn syrup they build those things out of literally tricks your mind into thinking you’re still hungry – off to Obesity!

But, as usual, we find, this enterprise was a giant pillar of the economy – go figure. To think, something that is unhealthy for human beings is good for the economy – you know, like cigarettes and alcohol!

Apparently there were almost 20,000 jobs lost. According to letter writer Paul Ellcessor,  “19,000 good jobs that pay a liveable wage have been eliminated because of mismanagement and vulture capitalism.”

I would challenge Mr. Ellcessor’s idea of a “good job” and a “liveable wage.” I don’t have the specifics on the wages or benefits or working conditions offered by Hostess, but I do know they operate in states where the unemployment level is such that most people aren’t going to question anything resembling a job.  They’re unionized, which means, some guy in a suit makes more than any of the actual workers, driving around from one shop to the other, telling employees to take it or leave it.

But yes, what Ellcessor describes in his letter is all too common in America today.  He calls it “corporate vulture capitalism,” but I would say it’s alive and well in the public sector too. 

A bunch of suits come around and buy a company, whether or not it’s doing well, doesn’t seem to matter.  They can use the company to leverage themselves some outrageous salaries, and as Michael Scott would remind us, “perks!” 

Ellcessor describes how they did it at Hostess: “In September 2004, Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They demanded and got over $100 million in concessions from their workers’ unions, claiming they could not compete under their labor contracts, even though their competitors operated under nearly identical contracts and were profitable.

At the city of Chico, management used the threat of bankruptcy to eliminate most lower-wage workers, leaving more money to pay management salaries, benefits, and pensions. 

When they emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 they somehow had nearly $670 million in debt, almost double the $450 million owed entering bankruptcy. Most companies shed debt, not increase it, when they seek Chapter 11 protection.

In Chico, finance director Jennifer Hennessy has made one report after another showing we are in deficit, but the city keeps signing contracts that offer pay raises and allow employees to get away without paying their full “share” of their own benefits and pensions. 

What did they do after emerging from Chapter 11? They continued the same business model and products. Plus, like all good corporate leaders, they gave themselves a raise — the CEO to $2.25 million and other top executives got raises of 35-80 percent.

Chico City Council are currently signing contracts that still offer raises and payment of the employees’ share of benefits and pensions. 

Guess what happened, in January? Now loaded down with over $1 billion in debt, from hedge funds Monarch Alternative Capital and Silver Point Capital, they filed bankruptcy again. Incredibly, CEO Brian Driscoll asked the bankruptcy judge to approve a salary increase and severance pay guaranteeing his compensation if liquidation occurred.

Despite Mayor Ann Schwab’s dire warnings that the city would fall into ruin unless voters approved the cell phone tax, she went ahead and hired a new city manager at a $50,000 pay raise over the previous city manager.   I don’t know what kind of severance package Brian Nakamura was promised, but I’m guessing it’s there in his contract, which you can see by appointment and at 10 cents a page. 

Nakamura is no different than the fly-by-night suits that buy and sell these big companies into the gutter. He has worked in cities all over California, staying for an average of just over a year, then moving along to the next town that promises him more money. He’s made his way up to a salary of $217,000 a year, of which he will be eligible for 70 percent a year in pension, on his 50th birthday, which I believe, is less than one year from now. My bet is, he will not make it in Chico more than 18 months, and he’ll leave us in the same quandary he left Hemet.  

How is this different from Ellcessor’s scenario? Well, the Twinkie and Ding Dong eaters pay the suits over at Hostess – Brian Nakamura is paid out of our property taxes. 

I booked the library room for every first Sunday through April 2013 – Chico Taxpayers Association is here for the long haul.

19 Nov

I am still waiting, with coffee breath, for the final results of the election. I’ve noticed, more votes have been added at some point since election night, but the result remains the same – Measure J is a good 2,000 votes behind and at least 5% short of the 51% needed to pass. 

I think it was member Casey Aplanalp who said we should be thankful to Tom Lando and Ann Schwab and the other tax hike proponents – they gave us the nudge to create our group, and wow, it sure worked out. 

So, I went ahead and reserved the library meeting room for the next five months, first Sunday of every month, 9am to 10am. I will be there this December 2 to see if anybody can help me draft a letter to the city. I want to ask a  few questions, what happens now that Measure J has been defeated? Which companies are collecting the tax currently, and when will Jennifer Hennessy have a letter drafted to those companies, telling them to stop? 

Etc. 

I hope you can join me, but don’t worry, I’ll be sure to fill you in.

Council to discuss Section 908 – Hennessy offers monthly reports online as well as to council

16 Nov

Well I’ve been lame lately – I have not been attending the morning meetings. You can withhold that from my paycheck, okay? But I do see, on the agenda for next Tuesday’s council meeting, there is the item we’ve been waiting for  – a recommendation that Finance Mis-director Jennifer Hennessy give a monthly finance report, as per city code section 908. 

Since I wasn’t at the meeting, I don’t know exactly what she will be asked to report – here’s the agenda item, take a look: 

4.2. CONSIDERATION OF FINANCE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE 8/28/12, 9/25/12 

and 10/23/12 MEETINGS REGARDING MONTHLY FINANCIAL REPORTS

A. The Finance Committee considered the matter of development of a Monthly Financial Report at its
meetings of 8/28/12 and 9/25/12:
Recommendation: Accept the Finance Committee recommendation (3-0) to approve the monthly
report package to be distributed each month to the City Council and posted to the City’s website.
B. The Finance Committee considered the matter of development of Monthly Department Expenditure
Reports at its meeting of 10/23/12.
Recommendation: Accept the Finance Committee recommendation (3-0) to approve the Monthly
Department Expenditure Report to be distributed each month to the City Council and posted to the
City’s website.

It looks all well and good on paper, but having missed the meeting, where the conversation goes all over town, I won’t know exactly what she’s going to give until I hear her giving it. And of course, that’s not going to happen unless the full council approves this recommendation. It would probably be good to write letters to council – send them through dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us

Right now I’m interested in hearing a report about exactly which phone companies are still collecting the phone tax, a draft of Hennessy’s letter to these companies telling them they no longer need to do so, and a report as to exactly how long Ms. Hennessy thinks she will need to complete this task.  This is what we will take up at our next Chico Taxpayers Meeting, we will be drafting a letter to Hennessy and her bosses, asking exactly these questions. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’ll be tuned in Tuesday night, hope you will be too. 

Vindictive new city manager Brian Nakamura already threatening cuts in public safety service because we threw out Measure J – who hired this guy?

14 Nov

While there are still votes uncounted in Butte County, everybody seems to be assuming that Measure J has failed.  I’m still not sure, I’ll be glad to hear  Candy Grubbs declare it good and dead so I can start worrying about other stuff.

But a story from Channel 7 news quoted our new city manager Brian Nakamura already making threats to cut public safety.   “Chico City Manager Brian Nakamura says the money would have paid for up to eight police officers or two-thirds of operating one fire station…Nakamura says there could be cuts for fire and police.”

Whoa now! Here’s the guy who Mark Sorensen told me was going to get $taff expenditures  in control! This guy was hired because he supposedly has a reputation as a salary cutter! That according to Sorensen, who voted to hire him at a salary some $50,000 higher than not only his predecessor, but his replacement in Hemet as well. In fact, a few weeks ago, the city finance director had to ask the city council to approve a budget addendum to accommodate Nakamura’s $217,000/year salary. And, as of now, Nakamura pays only a fraction of his “share” of health benefits premiums and NOTHING  toward his pension, which will be 70 percent of his salary, available to him in roughly three years.

The Ch 7 story mentions, “The city says it (Measure J)  would have brought in $930,000. “ I don’t know where they got that figure, but I think it’s a conservative estimate. They already get over a million dollars, mainly from landlines.  According to my research (I GOOGLED it!), over 50 percent of America is still clinging to their land lines.

When you add life’s necessities – PG&E and water – the city gets over $4 million a year off this tax. $4 million might sound like a lot to the rest of us, who live on less than $50,000 a year, but to these people, it’s spit on a griddle. They go through almost $50 mil a year, over 90 percent of it eaten by their salaries, perks and benies.

Chico PD eats over half our budget, and with the fire department, some 87 percent.  After that 9 hour overtime fest at the empty apartment, I think some questions are in order.

But Nakamura isn’t asking any pointy questions about our budget – he won’t rock the boat. He steps right into Burkland’s shoes and starts threatening the taxpayers with cuts in services.

We need to remind Jennifer Hennessy and Ann Schwab to get cracking on getting that phone tax off our bills

12 Nov

I’m still poking Measure J with a stick. It lays there as if dead, but we’ll see.   Not that I’m so worried about those 14,000 uncounted ballots, but, will the city stop taking the tax now that we’ve sent it to the boneyard?

And according to an article in the Enterprise Record the other day, “it’s unclear what the city’s next step will be.” Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy says the city will “likely have to proactively inform” the phone companies they no longer need to collect the tax. Well, let’s write those letters folks – that’s jhenness@ci.chico.ca.us  – no, that’s not a typo, that is her correct city of Chico contact.  Remind Ms. Hennessy she needs to contact those phone companies NOW. Tell her you’d like to get copies of those notices. 

And, ask her for a list of those companies that DO collect the tax – as far as I know, it’s only AT&T, even though the ER article says there’s only one carrier that doesn’t collect. 

In Chula Vista, ratepayers are still awaiting the outcome of a trial, set for this coming January, to determine if they will be REFUNDED of money that was collected by way of the old tax. This old tax was in effect all over California, and all over California people are throwing it off. The original law allowed for taxing of land lines, NOT cell phones. The City of Chula Vista brought forward their own version of Measure J, to “modernize” the tax for their own use. Their voters rejected it soundly. But, the city continued to collect the tax.  They said the law was too vague.

Your vivacious Mayor, Ann Schwab, admitted in her “argument in favor” of Measure J, that the old law  needed to be “modernized,” or the city was “at risk” of losing this revenue. What does she mean, “at risk” ? Is she going to pull the same kind of bullshit they pulled in Chula Vista? Ask her at aschwab@ci.chico.ca.us

In Chula Vista, the city claims that ” municipalities all over the state collect a similar tax under similar ordinances.  The original ordinance never intended to exempt from taxation the usage of mobile communication devices that are in common use today.”

See that article at 

http://www.thestarnews.com/latest-news/judge-oks-pursuit-of-lawsuit/

Be ready to hear the same bull from Schwab and Barker. And be ready to go right back on the warpath. If they don’t stop collecting the phone tax, we should go after a reduction in the Utility Tax rate, to 1 percent or less, and then go after an exemption for ALL citizens who qualify for the rate assistance programs offered by the utility companies.  

When the ER reporter asked me for a comment, I told her The Chico Taxpayers Association would follow this thing, and I’m ready to do that. That’s what it takes. The CTA isn’t going to go away. 

 My grandma had a little poem hanging on the wall of our bedroom when we were kids. “Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn! The sheep are in the meadow, the cow is in the corn! “  For those of you who didn’t grow up on a farm, those are bad things – the sheep are scattering, and the cow is wrecking your corn patch.  “But where is the boy who’s to look after the sheep? Why, he’s under the hay mow, fast asleep!” Hey, is that you? Are you sleeping while the cow is eating your good sweet corn, and your sheep are about to be hit by some drunk on his way home from The Four Corners?   At the bottom of the frame, there were the words, “Go After the Cow!” Yes, wake up, write those e-mails, tell those cows, “get your hooves out of my phone bill!” 

HERE’S THE ER ARTICLE FOR REFERENCE

With Measure J failure, City of Chico waits to understand impact

By ASHLEY GEBB-Chico Enterprise Record, Staff Writer
Posted:   11/08/2012 12:05:48 AM PST

CHICO — While Chico voters appear to have defeated a change to the city’s telephone users tax Tuesday, it’s unclear what the city’s next step will be.

Measure J asked voters whether to amend wording to the city’s telephone users tax to encompass modern technology such as cellphones while decreasing the tax rate from 5 percent to 4.5 percent.

With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, the tax measure was failing, with 53 percent opposed.

The tally to date is 12,451 no votes and 10,973 yes votes, with still about 14,000 ballots left to be counted in all of Butte County.

If the measure fails, the city will likely sustain a major hit in revenue that supports the general fund, said Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy.

The city currently receives about $1.4 million annually in telephone user tax revenue, of which $900,000 to $1 million comes from wireless telecommunications providers. That may not be the extent of the loss, Hennessy said.

“Over time as more people transfer from having landlines to having cellphones or other types of voice communication that’s not covered under our current ordinance, our tax base will continue to decrease,” she said.

City Attorney Lori Barker declined to state impacts until Measure J’s outcome is finalized, but she said she will prepare a report for the City Council once all the votes are tabulated.

Measure proponents said its passage was critical to protect tax revenue, while opponents argued it was a regressive tax that unfairly targeted students.If the measure does fail, Hennessy predicts the revenue loss will begin this fiscal year.

The time frame also depends on phone companies, she said, and the city will likely have to proactively inform them they no longer need to collect the tax.

All but one company currently collect the tax. Metro PCS stopped paying the tax in March 2011, causing a loss of nearly $80,000.

“We will be working with the new council as for what priorities are, where we cut the funds, where we cut the expenditures,” she said. “There will be some tough decisions.”

Juanita Sumner of the Chico Taxpayers, a group that worked to raise public awareness about Measure J, said members now will wait to see if the city stops collecting the tax. She noted that in Chula Vista, where a similar measure failed but the tax continued to be collected, the city is being sued.

“Chico Taxpayers are ready to follow this issue to its end,” she wrote in an email.

Dump mismanaged – needs MORE trash!

9 Nov

Well, the headline below says it all – we aren’t trashy enough in Butte County, the dump is staaaaaaarving!  Come on people, shake down – you are not living opulently enough! 

Just kidding. The real problem is mismanagement, or rather, too much management.   The dump currently has at least two management personnel that I know of – Bill Mannel and Steve Rodowick – both of whom yank in almost $100,000/yr, TWO MANAGERS, largely just to drive all over the county and sit in meetings. Hasn’t the county ever heard the one about “too many chefs”? Why do you need two managers, both with separate  benefits, and pension packages, none of which they pay for themselves? 

So, they try to make the increase sound like “pennies”, but Mannel is already crying that this will not be enough. This hike over three years is not going to be enough? No, it’s pissant to these guys with their salaries.  What Mannel really wants is to force the two local haulers to take all trash from Chico to the Neal Road dump. In past, when the county dump has raised their fees, the haulers have hauled ass for Yooooooba City, where other cities’ garbage is considered a “revenue source”.  Yes, Waste Management and Recology, two of the longest-running members of Ann Schwab’s Sustainability Task Force, will truck garbage 50 miles to save “a few pennies.”

The county owns the dump now, “managed” by Mannel and Rodowick. I have listened to these two complain before that the dump does not take in enough trash/money (same thing to them). They want the city to force the two haulers to take all trash from Chico to Neal Road, but the trash companies say they won’t do that unless the city can guarantee them EACH  a certain amount of business every year by instituting  “enterprise zones” – dividing the town up like a pie and handing certain sections to each hauler. Meaning, you don’t choose your hauler, your hauler chooses you.

This is a problem for me because  I WON’T USE WASTE MANAGEMENT.   Linda Herman and Ann Schwab and Larry Wahl know why – they were sitting on the now-defunct “waste management committee” when I brought in a complaint that drivers from WM were driving pell mell across my property, trespassing in my private driveway, tearing holes big enough to form little ponds, to access houses on the other side instead of requiring those customers to put their trash out on the public street like everybody else. At one point a WM truck, trying to turn around on my skinny little private driveway,  took out an electric pole, cutting power to four houses on my street. The manager from WM came out and tried to tell us we had to pay PG&E  for the damages, because it was in our driveway!  The driver of the truck told my husband it was his second day on the job. Wow, good job! Took out a phone pole on your second day at work! We’re so glad to know what kind of people they hire down at Waste Management. My husband told the WM manager to get the hell off our property and we’ve used Recology eversince. The city told Waste Management to stay off our property too, but we’ve had to tell their idiot drivers a number of times since -they’ve admitted to me, they don’t know where their accounts are, so they will enter little cul-de-sacs and alleys  just to check for WM cans. 

Anybody who doesn’t believe me can listen to my story about former employee Ginger, who used to run the WM office. Oh yeah, now you know I know what I’m talking about. Ginger retired a few years  back, but anybody who’s been in the trash trade in this town more than five years know who I’m talking about, and probably has a pretty good story of their own. 

The dump is poorly managed, and money isn’t going to fix the problem. Now they cry they don’t have enough trash, and need a guarantee of more trash to come. But later this year they will switch gears, and say, as they have in the past, the dump is getting USED UP, they need more money to PROLONG THE LIFE OF THE DUMP. They just switch their story whenever they need more money.

The dump needs to be completely overhauled. It is an old-fashioned dump, the kind where you just bury garbage and hope gnomes will carry it deep into the earth before the next generation finds out what you’ve done.  Nowadays, intelligent towns are converting to “composting dumps” – a “no-brainer” as far as I’m concerned – go look at that giant composting machine they use at the “green waste” facility on Cohasset. A-MAY- zing!  Other towns, like Truckee, have also become a lot more careful about what they allow in the dump – they give customers more options for sorting trash.   They actually manage their dumps, not just talk about it.

Neither Rodowick nor Mannel actually “manage” anything, they spend the lion’s share of  their time raising money to pay their own salaries.  Rodowick  gets paid  to sit in Sustainability Task Force meetings, along with employees from both haulers. They’ve asked Schwab  for more trash regulations that benefit their collective bottom line. They’ve  managed to get Schwab to put extra requirements on landlords, lowering the number of units per garbage can and requiring locking recycling bins at rental complexes, so people can’t “steal” from recycling bins. They’ve asked for “enterprise zones” before, but it hasn’t gone anywhere so far. I think Schwab and Herman are aware, I’m not the only person who has pointed out the vast difference in the levels of service you get from Waste Management and Recology. 

Of course, I don’t trust Recology all that completely, but they haven’t burned me yet, I’ve got good service out of them at various rentals for almost ten years, without complaint. It’s only their actitivies in the STF that lead me to mistrust them. They don’t care about the planet, they don’t care about us, they care about money, and that’s the bottom line folks. 

Neal Road dump needs 20,000 more tons of trash a year

By ROGER H. AYLWORTH-Staff Writer
Chico Enterprise Record
Posted:   11/09/2012 12:06:17 AM PST

OROVILLE — Tuesday, Butte County supervisors were told additional trash is essential to the economic health of Butte County’s Neal Road Recycling and Waste Facility.Bill Mannel, county solid waste manager, made that point when he lobbied the supervisors to impose an increased gate fee at the dump.

Mannel asked the board to up the facility’s gate fee by $1.50 a year over three years.

Mannel said the hike will add about 10 cents a month per added dollar for residential trash removal. So at the end of the three-year hike cycle, according to Mannel’s figures, the residential fees will have climbed by 45 cents.

Having asked for the hike, Mannel said the price hike by itself “will not get us where we want to go.”

In order to keep the facility solvent, Mannel said there needs to be a fund balance of $3 million to $4 million a year to be ready for unanticipated operational costs.

To achieve that goal, in addition to the hike, the county needs to bring in 20,000 more tons of garbage a year.

Mannel said in recent years the tonnage coming to Neal Road has slipped. He said the faltering economy and the associated sharp reduction in construction, combined with increased efforts to recycle an ever-larger portion of the refuse, are the primary causes for the drop.

With the $1.50 addition, the gate fee at Neal Road would be $42.11 a ton.

Oroville Supervisor Bill Connelly said when he came to the board eight years ago, the gate fee was less than half of that, and

he asked Mannel to justify the need for the hike.Mannel agreed the fees were lower then, but said in the interim there have been additional state and federal regulations that have sharply hiked operational costs.

Chico Supervisor Larry Wahl said regardless of the need, it is just the wrong time to raise fees on anything, particularly on a service needed by the hard-pressed construction industry.

The $1.50 hike “will add pennies” to individual bills, observed Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi of Paradise. He said it was better to make hikes in increments than to wait until things reach a crisis stage and have to raise bills by a huge percentage.

The hike was approved on a split vote with Yamaguchi, Chico Supervisor Maureen Kirk and board Chair Steve Lambert in favor, and Connelly and Wahl opposed.

Outside of the meeting, Paul Hahn, Butte’s chief administrative officer, said the county hopes to broker a deal with trash haulers and the city of Chico to see that all of the trash collected in the city is funneled into Neal Road.

If that can be arranged, according to Hahn, the 20,000-ton goal could be achieved.