Juanita Q. Public

2 Jan

Today, glutton for punishment that I am, I got on old Myrt my 3-speed and headed out for another meeting Downtown.  At least this meeting was at 9am instead of 8am. I won’t lie – the park is not pleasant before 9am these days, it’s brain-freezing  cold on a bike, and the trails are slicker than (my dad would say ‘shit’) banana pudding. Old Myrt has skinny little tires, and her brakes are sketchy. She’s a fine lady, unsuited to the wilderness trails, but she does alright, I’ll say. 

This meeting was the oversight board for the Successor Agency to the Chico Redevelopment Agency. You might remember, the RDA was dismembered by the state last year, cause they were spending too much money, on stuff that wasn’t appropriate. The city of Chico had  been pilfering the RDA fund for all kinds of  stuff – essentially, they were using the RDA like a credit card to pay for stuff like those GD “spirit flags” that sit in that median over on Forest Avenue.  In the end, we found out, they were paying salaries and benefits with money that is supposed to be limited to egregious cases of blight and other “emergencies.” 

Today I found out, this money, collected out of our property taxes, is being used to pay salaries Downtown.  According to one report titled “Amended Enforceable Obligation Payment Schedule”, $445,166 was spent on “RDA Housing Admin Staffing Costs,” “various employees.”   

One employee who is “100 percent paid” out of the RDA is Senior Planner and Housing and Neighborhood Services employee Shawn Tillman. Tillman is the staffer committed to the RDA Successor Agency oversight board. Because of his assignment to the oversight board, his salary (as of 2010 he was making around $93,000/year) is taken entirely out of the Successor Agency. 

Remember, the Successor Agency, like the RDA, is funded by bonds on your property taxes. That’s borrowed money, and there’s interest – I’ve heard the formula described as, for every dollar spent, we pay $3.   So, to me, this is like paying your rent and your everyday expenses on your credit card, while still spending on things like dining out and partying, giving expensive gifts, buying new clothes all the time, etc.  That’s a doomsday scenario for an individual. If your loved one or friend, even co-worker,  was spending money that way, you’d be thinking “INTERVENTION TIME!”  You certainly would not be wise to loan a person like that money – in fact, you would be “an enabler.” 

So, here we are, enabling city $taff to live high on the hog during a recession, damn the torpedoes – “we NEED these salaries!” I read an article from the city of Hemet, the town from which we stole away our lovely and vivacious $212,000 a year city manager, in which one of their police officers answered demands for a salary freeze, saying, “we have MORTGAGES!” Well, yeah, you sure do. You public employee assholes drove up the price of everybody’s mortgage with your crazy salaries. You didn’t think, “wow, is this good for the public economy?” No, you just went right out and bought that $800,000 crib that is today worth $400,000. Well, really, $250,000. I got a secret for you – it was never worth more than $100,000, you just got yourself shagged. And you screwed the housing market in our town in doing so, thankyouverymuch. You drove up the price of everything from cars to eggs and milk, daycare and other services too. 

So, excuse me Mr./Ms. Public Worker, while I get my little violin out and play a little tune for your financial problems. You created EVERYBODY’S financial problems, so suck it up. 

During the meeting, Larry Wahl asked just how many salaries, and whose, were being paid out of the SA – Tillman got up on his little ratty hindquarters here, and told Wahl that  he wasn’t required to report that!  Well, given that $445,000 a year figure, and the $93,000 figure for Tilman, we have to wonder – is Dani Brinkley, the city clerk assigned to the oversight board – also paid out of the SA? And what about their benefits? 

Today’s meeting was supposed to be a public hearing, required to be held at least five business days prior to an upcoming meeting regarding the acceptance of an audit done of the agency. I noticed I was the only member of the public in attendance, so I asked, how had they noticed this meeting? You’d think, if there’s a requirement for a public hearing, there’d be a requirement for noticing. No, said Shawn Tillman and Dani Brinkley – the SA has none of the requirement for public noticing that most government boards are held to. I’m not sure, but I think Tillman said this was a decision made by the Chico City Council. 

They don’t seem to take this “public hearing” stuff too seriously – Chair Scott Gruendl did not even show up. 

Vice-chair Trevor Stewart, of the Butte-Glenn Community College District, said “this is a regularly scheduled meeting” – so there was no need for public notice. Brinkley added that she posted a copy of the agenda by the front door of the chamber building – wow, that’s some high technology there! She says people can request to be e-mailed the agenda, no charge.  That’s DBrinkle@ci.chico.ca.us. Please e-mail Dani and request an agenda for each monthly meeting. 

They won’t take the public seriously until the public starts taking itself seriously. 





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