Archive | January, 2013

California is Business Hostile

12 Jan

The KIST! thermometer says, “get your ass in the house before your feet stick to the patio – it’s 23 degrees out here!” 

The dog dish is frozen pretty solid, I had to take a little hammer to it so Biscuit could wet her whistle. Then she pees for like 10 minutes, having held out all night, while Max makes the rounds of all the shrubberies. He’s got a funny jingle in his step on mornings like this – if only he could fly, so his feet would not have to touch the frozen ground!

I watch my breath form a cloud while they have a quick snack, and then we all head back in the house – too cold and dark to stay outside, too cold to even light the chimenea. 

Sometimes I wonder if I should go back to bed on mornings like this, save PG&E, but instead, I make myself a cup of coffee and sit down in front of the computer to read the papers.  I don’t like to get all my news from the very limited Chico Enterprise Record, I like to scan a lot of the area papers – Redding Record Searchlight, Red Bluff Sentinel, Auburn Journal, Grass Valley Union, Orland Press Register, etc.  This morning I was looking over my hometown paper – The Willows Journal – and  read a story about a bunch of kids I grew up with in Glenn county donating $16,000 in rice receipts to the Willows High athletic program:

http://www.willows-journal.com/news/school-9579-rice-donated.html

I also read this interesting article in the Orland Press Register:

http://www.orland-press-register.com/news/labor-10515-brown-meeting.html

The ex-mayor of Orland and a couple of local business owners were granted an audience with Governor Moonbeam, given a chance to air their beefs with the state labor board. 

The owner of a small Orland business was nailed for $3,000 for hiring a high school kid through a school program – 4 years ago, and the case is still “in litigation.” I can only imagine the lawyer bill this man is toting after four years of dicking around with the state of California – that would be like swimming in a leech-infested swamp! This man met with state labor commissioner Julie Su back in July, said that was a positive meeting, but his case is STILL IN LITIGATION after four years and a meeting with the state labor commissioner? Please – you people are TOO EASY! No wonder you’re getting screwed over a barrel, Mr. Nunez. 

And now, Orland’s ex-mayor is saying of his meeting with Jerry Brown, “”The meeting with the governor was the most productive meeting I’ve ever been to in my life.” What an ass-kissing slut he is! 

Scuse my language, I get so sick of the liberals and their blood-sucking, I can’t keep it clean anymore. 

Like a business owner I know says about the city of Chico, “They think just because you own a business, you’re some kind of $ugar Daddy.”

The State of California is business hostile. Look at the deal they just made with Amazon.com, just to get more sales tax revenues. They paved the way for Amazon to take more business away from local California businesses, while further enriching themselves. They get to KEEP  sales tax they generate! 

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/amazon-com-taxes/content?oid=6231231

Sure, I love online shopping, but this deal, whereby Amazon gets to keep a giant portion of the sales taxes they generate while taking business away from local retailers is pretty lame. The state doesn’t care about small businesses, they just want ANY tax revenues to feed their salary and benefits machine.

Try starting a small business in Chico – take a look at this first:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/business_in_chico.asp

Don’t forget to pay that $48 fee for working out of your house! 

Yes, California is business hostile.  

This weekend we’re having a late “First Sunday” meeting, on “Second Sunday” instead. The CTA will meet at the library tomorrow, Sunday, at 9am. We’ll talk about the latest news on Measure J (still waiting for the Finance Dept to get back to me regarding the cell phone tax refunds), the “unfunded pension liabilities”, and we’ll also hear from Bob Best, who has been getting together with various local groups to discuss priorities for the 2014 election.

Hope to have a great conversation, everybody is welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It never ceases to amaze me the petty maneuvers they go through Downtown to drag as much $taff time out of the process as they can

10 Jan
Look what’s on next Tuesday’s council agenda:
 
2.1. ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHICO AMENDING SECTION 3.56.150 OF
THE CHICO MUNICIPAL CODE REGARDING REFUNDS FOR OVERPAYMENTS AND
ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS OF UTILITY USERS’ TAXES – Final reading and adoption
Adopt –  On December 18, 2012, the Council introduced an ordinance to amend the City’s claims
procedures regarding requests for refunds of overpayments or erroneous payments of utility users’
taxes. The ordinance is now being presented for final reading and adoption by the reading of its title
only.  
 
Unfortunately, the clerk purposely loads these reports in such a manner that I can’t cut and paste from them (she says she’s afraid I’ll edit it, I swear to God, that’s what she told me), so here’s that link –
All they’re doing here is changing the charter to allow people to get a refund without having to first try to get it from the cell phone carrier – that’s what the old law said. I guess we should be glad they’re taking it up at all, but it never ceases to amaze me the petty maneuvers they go through to drag as much staff time out of this process as they can. Look at the number of documents it took just to change this minor little thing. See how many $taffers were involved!
 
There’s no information about actually collecting your rebate, I’m still waiting for staff to get back to me on that. 

Don’t forget about those cell phone tax refunds!

9 Jan

At the December 26 Finance Committee meeting, Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy and City Attorney Lori Barker reported on their efforts to notify cell phone carriers that they no longer need to collect Utility Tax on cell phone bills, given the defeat of Measure J. You might be sick of hearing this but I never tire of telling it – they’ve been collecting the tax illegally for years now, knowingly, and when they noticed that other cities around the state were being sued for perpetrating this fraud, they wrote a measure legalizing it and plopped it on last November’s ballot. As you may recall, WE KICKED THE CRAP OUT OF IT, thankyouverymuch. 

So, what’s the big hold up with telling these companies to stop collecting, you might ask. Any intelligent person might ask that. Any intelligent person might run screaming out of these meetings. I prefer to think of myself as not quite intelligent, maybe just “dog smart.” I may not understand exactly what’s going on, but I got a very suspicious nose. So I go to these damned meetings and ask these persistently annoying questions – if you think I’m  annoying, just try being  me! 

It was asked at the meeting, I don’t remember by who or in exactly what words, but something like this –  well, Jennifer, since you receive these payments from these companies, wouldn’t you know which companies are collecting the tax? 

I’m so glad somebody asks questions besides me – you only get so many pointy questions before certain people get all pissy on you. When that question was asked, all I could do was yell  “You GO girl!” in my head. 

The answer – they are having a hard time segregating (their word) the land line taxes from the cell phone taxes. 

Okay, I thought, that sounds reasonable. You know me, at 8:15 in the am,  “hand me your purse” sounds reasonable to me.  I’m not really awake until about 9:15, three or four cups of coffee down the gullet and a couple of loads of laundry. I come home from these meetings and realize I let all kinds of weird stuff go by without so much as a squawk. 

Have you looked at your cell phone bill? They not only “segregate” your cell phone charges from your land line charges, they segregate all your calls and the amount of time you talked and everything. I could track my husband around the city for the better part of a month using that phone bill.  

The measure was defeated in November and they’re still grappling with, as the News and Review put it, “the daunting task of how to repay local cell phone users the utility tax that is has been collecting under an outdated ordinance.

They can’t even answer questions about it yet. I sent an e-mail to the Finance Department today:

Hi,  I understand the city will be refunding cell phone taxes taken as a result of the defeat of Measure J – could I get the details on that? When and where can we get it, what documentation would we need, etc.    I assume this information will be posted on the front page of the city website eventually, but I’m writing a letter to the editor about it, and I wanted to get the  facts right.  

 Thanks, Juanita Sumner

I received this response:

 

Hello Juanita, thank you for your request for information on refunding cell phone taxes as a result of Measure J.  We will be responding to your request soon.  Thank you!

 

Well, we can make it easier for them – sing out people – who among you has been taxed on your cell phone bill within the last year? Bring those bills forward, e-mail the Finance Department – that’s jhenness@ci.chico.ca.us or ltheisen@ci.chico.ca.us – and tell them you have your bills, and you’re wondering how to get your refund. Simple as that. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mickey Harrington will cost Butte County $400,000

5 Jan

I get frustrated with the Butte county clerk’s website because it’s just not as good or as easy to use as the city of Chico website. It’s hard to find anything, you just have to click everything and see if it leads where you want to go. Then, if you find what you want, you have to write down how you got there so you can find it again.

One handy resource the county clerk used to have on her website was a link by which you could check to see if your mail-in ballot had been received and was ‘good”, meaning, it is going to be counted. I’ve used it in the last two elections to comfort myself that at least the damn thing got to O-ville.

You wouldn’t believe what Albert at the post office did with my Christmas packages this year – yes Felix, it was the clerk who put the wrong labels on the packages and sent them to the opposite destinations, please tell your mom I am not the incompetent here! 

You think I’m going to trust the post office with my mail-in ballot after their abysmal history at delivering my packages?  

Back to business here – it is already too late to mail your mail-in ballot. I mailed mine over a week ago, so I feel somewhat secure. Well, not really. I’m going to call Candy Grubb’s office Monday to make sure they got it. 

This election stinks. They blame Logue and even Nielsen for this run-off – why isn’t Mickey Harrington willing to wake up, smell the coffee and CONCEDE? With only 27 percent of the vote in the last election, he says this election is “doable.”  He honestly expected to get Dan Logue’s endorsement after the November election, even after Logue had endorsed Nielsen when he dropped out of the race in October.  Harringtons simple-minded refusal to accept the will of the people, to me, is a sign that this guy isn’t playing with a full deck. But of course, there’s a quality that always seems to attract the liberals like a big turd attracts flies. 

What really stinks about this election is the timing – scheduled at will by Jerry Brown, right in the days after the holidays, bad weather, school starting up soon – all three conditions that conspire toward low voter turnout. This election could have been held as late as April,  but Brown thinks Harrington’s pathetic 27% will look beefier in a rigged election. 

Try doing your homework on these two – you will find that Nielsen has spoken at length on the issues when asked by various media sources, like the Sac Bee, where Harrington’s answers are “still unavailable”.  Later, when interviewed by the Enterprise Record, Harrington said he didn’t feel there was a need for pension reform? Wow, that’s pretty gutsy of him – or crazy, whichever. 

I felt good about my vote for Jim Nielsen. The people who have criticized Nielsen to me have been completely ignorant of the real issues and Nielsen’s record on those issues. They’ve criticized him because they’ve “heard he lives in a trailer in Gerber.”

From Wikipedia: A question of residency eligibility arose during his bid for the Assembly in 2008, because Nielsen owns 2 homes, one in the district he represents and one near the capitol, which is the custom of most legislators. Nielsen won the case and even received a judgment for court costs in the amount of $7,400 against Plaintiff Don Bird. Plaintiff appealed to the Secretary of State who then deferred to the State Attorney General. After reviewing the case, the Attorney General issued a letter on December 22, 2008, stating there was no evidence to warrant further investigation and the matter was closed. The Attorney General was Jerry Brown, a Democrat and former Governor of California.

There’s the legal end of it, from 2008, but people still dredge it up, because it’s the only real criticism they have. It’s not a real issue.  I don’t think the reference has as much to do with legal residency as with the notion that only white trash hicks live in trailers, or in Gerber. That’s the kind of people that vote Harrington – people who feel uncomfortable with the lifestyle we appreciate here, and can’t come up with anything better than the cheap potshots that littered Obama’s presidential campaign. 

The good news is, from the Colusa Sun Herald, “The Tuesday runoff between Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and Democrat Michael “Mickey” Harrington may not be on the forefront of the public’s consciousness, but turnout is expected to be higher than election officials first predicted.”  According to their story, Butte County had already returned 28 percent of it’s mail-in ballots by December 28, Tehama had already received 25 percent, and Colusa 30 percent. 

Thanks to all those voters who voted early and I hope the rest will either get over to the county clerk’s office today (Saturday Jan 5) or to their polling place on Tuesday. Contact me if you need a ride, and I’ll try to accommodate you or get somebody else to do so. 

UPDATE:  I called the county clerk’s office – that’s (530) 538-6366 –  and talked to a gal who gladly checked not only my ballot but my husbands – both received, and “GOOD”!  I believe they are still open today, until 5pm, and then you can get them during regular business hours Monday and Tuesday, if you’re worried. I checked because I would have felt stupid if it was a close race, not knowing whether my ballot even made it in there. 

CTA meeting rescheduled – no First Sunday meeting this month – Second Sunday meeting instead!

4 Jan

I’m sorry to be a flake, Folks, but I will not be able to make the regularly scheduled Chico Taxpayer’s meeting, so the gang has agreed to meet Sunday after next – that’s January 13 – same time, 9am.

I’ve been wanting to talk over the unfunded pension liabilities, and our campaign to get city employees to pay their own “employee share”. We need to discuss the whole notion of who pays what regarding benefits/pensions. I believe the employees should get ready to pay more, a lot more, or get ready to give up this notion of 70-90 percent of their highest year’s salary at 50 – 55 years of age. 

A decent person would not expect others to pay these salaries and benefits, it’s just greed people. 

So, I hope to see hear some productive ideas on January 13, get a letter writing campaign going, try to get council to listen to reason. 

Plan B? There’s another election coming up in two years, and now’s the time to look for suitable replacements for Scott Gruendl and Mary Goloff. 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that our city manager only makes about $20,000 less than the vice president of the United States? More than Hilary Clinton and all the other members of the cabinet?

2 Jan

A friend of mine sent me an article the other day about President Bronco Bama ordering raises in his executive salaries. He just gave Joe Biden a raise – as of March, the VP will be making $231,900 a year, up from $225,500. 

Of course, Obama takes a salary of about $400,000 – raised from around $225,000 during the George W. Bush administration. People howled about that raise, but the Bronc just walked right into it.  

My friend expected me to be outraged about these salaries – I am!  But here’s what’s really got my panties in a knot – our city manager, Brian Nakamura, demanded $212,000 to take the job here, roughly $50,000 more than his predecessor, almost as much as the Vice President of the United States, and MORE than the following individuals:

  • Hilary Clinton (currently Secty of State and third in line for the throne) – $186,600/year
  • Tim Geithner (Secty of the Treasury) – $191,300/yr
  •  Eric Holder (Attorney General) – $191,300/yr
  • Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the Federal Reserve) – $199,700/yr

In fact, Nakamura is paid higher than ANY member of the president’s cabinet. To manage a town of less than 100,000 people. 

And we’re depending on Nakamura to “do something” about our budget problems? He doesn’t even pay his entire “employee share” for the pension he expects to take, 70 percent at age 55.  He only pays 4% of the “employee share.” How will we get our financial house in order with a guy like this running things? 

Write to Brian Nakamura, at bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us and ask him to pay his own pension premium. CC the mayor – mgoloff@ci.chico.ca.us

Maybe Linda Murphy should have “the facts” before she accuses another letter writer of mis-stating anything.

1 Jan

Here’s Ken Campbell’s response to the questions I asked him in my letter to the editor – he got somebody’s mother to call me a liar. 

Letter: Letters didn’t have the facts

Chico Enterprise-Record
Posted:   01/01/2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Two recent letters in the E-R incorrectly state facts that are not true.In one letter, the writer states the Chico Fire Department is the only city department that contributes to its own pension plan and they pay 4 percent. I don’t know if they are the only department, but I do know they already contribute 7 percent.

Secondly, it is stated the Fire Department gets paid for 56 hours a week with 16 of those hours being overtime. No, their salary is based on 56 hours of straight time worked per week. After 56 hours, they are paid overtime. An employee who works 40 hours for a $60,000 salary actually makes more money per hour than an employee who works 56 hours for that same $60,000 salary.

It would seem to me that the Chico Taxpayers Association should be calling on the city of Chico management to explain the benefit packages offered by the city to all employees, not just one department. If benefits need to be changed, it should apply to everyone.

— Linda Murphy, Chico

First of all, I never “stated facts” in  the letter – I asked questions. Ken Campbell never came back, but this woman, whose name matches a fire department staffer, comes back to put words in my mouth and  call me a liar. Not by name, of course, but she references the Chico Taxpayers Association.

Second, she says the fire department contributes 7 percent – they do not. I’ve got the figures.  I’ll cut and paste it here from the records I was sent, sorry it’s kind of a mess, but you can figure it out.

Bargaining Units Employer Rate Employee Contribution
City Payment of
Employee Contribution
Total CalPERS
Contribution (City &
Employee)
Retirement Formula EPMC

CEA 23.831% 6% 2% 31.831% 3% at 60 Yes
SEIU ‐ TC 23.831% 3% 5% 31.831% 3% at 60 Yes
WPEA 23.831% 3% 5% 31.831% 3% at 60 Yes
IAFF 31.006% 2% 7% 40.006% 3% at 50 Yes
CPOA 31.006% 0% 9% 40.006% 3% at 50 Yes
CPSA 23.831% 0% 8% 31.831% 3% at 60 Yes
MGMT 23.831% 4% 4% 31.831% 3% at 60 Yes
PSM 31.006% 0% 9% 40.006% 3% at 50 Yes
CONFID 23.831% 8% 0% 31.831% 3% at 60 Yes

Let me sort that out for Linda – the fire department “Bargaining Unit” is the IAFF, or “International Association of Fire Fighters.” The “Employer Rate” is 31.006%, the “Employee Contribution” is 2%. The “City Payment of Employee Contribution” means, the part of the “employee share” that is PAID BY THE CITY. There’s another 7 percent, paid by US! That adds up to a total contribution of 40.006 percent, on a pension that will pay 90 percent at age 50. “Yes” means, they get the “EPMC”, or “Employer Paid Member Contribution” – that’s the 7 percent paid by the city. 

So, yes, I was wrong in my letter! They don’t pay 4 percent, THEY PAY 2 PERCENT! And we, the taxpayers, pay the other 7 percent of their share, plus another 31%. And our share increases every year, according to documents I was given by city councilor  Mark Sorensen and city manager Brian Nakamura.

Linda, you need to get the facts straight before you sit down in front of your box again and call ME a liar.