Watch your step Downtown!

26 Apr
Wow, I better take one or two of these before I head out to another city committee meeting.

Wow, I better take one or two of these before I head out to another city committee meeting.

The most exciting thing I have to report about Wednesday’s Economic Development meeting is, I made it! Early! Sat for 10 minutes.

This is big news to me cause lately I been so busy I have had to leave post it notes here and there to tell me what to do and where to do it, what time, and who’s going to be there. All day I reminded myself – don’t forget that 4:00 meeting!  

I got there to find Laura Urseny and CARD recreation supervisor Ann Willman chatting away like two old school chums. This is why Laura Urseny does not write hard news, she’s too friendly with everybody. Her stories always tell you whatever the subject of the story wanted you to know. She covered the CARD meeting the other night, and all she wrote about was the dog park memorial plaque. CARD is broke, they spent all their reserve funding on their own pensions, they’re trying to attach a bond to our property taxes like some kind of nit,  and all this “reporter” has to talk about is a memorial plaque?  Tsk, tsk.

They finally got everybody in there and the meeting started about 4:04 with a quick introduction of the man from Wizard Manufacturing. I didn’t catch his name, but $taffer Shawn Tillman introduced him as “a significant employer,” and “one of our top 25 sales tax providers!”

Let’s talk about that right there. An “employer” is something for us, the citizens. An employer provides jobs! But sales taxes are for the suits Downtown, to pay their salaries, and especially, their pensions. Tillman makes over $120,000 a year to pound his own phlegmatic chest. He takes his salary out of the supposedly dismantled RDA. All he thinks about around the clock is how to get more money in here for salaries and pensions.

Mr. Wizard told us he’d bought the business, which fabricates machinery like hullers for farm operations,  only 6 years ago, intending to move it to Woodland, lock, stock and barrel. He and his family are from Woodland, many generations in Yolo County.  But, then he went on about how friendly this area is. Oh oh,  I thought, and my Bullshit Detecter started to go off like a fire alarm.

He wanted to impress the c0mmittee with how much sales tax he hauls into Butte County and Chico.  He said that while he does most of his business out of the country (60 percent of his machines are sold in Chile and Mexico) he “writes up” his sales so that the sales tax goes to Butte County/Chico. Wow, is that legal?

He showed us an aerial photo of his factory and described the property – adding that part of the property is still on septic and needs sewer – OH, THERE IT IS! He’s milking the city for a cheap or even free sewer hook-up, and who knows what other fees he wants to get around. He also mentioned, part of his property is zoned residential and he wants to develop it. Now, I get it, Mr. Wizard. 

He said he employs “40 plus” people here, so  I had to ask him, “where do your workers live?”   He said, without missing a beat, “10 percent Durham, 30 percent Paradise, the rest in Chico proper.”  I don’t know what he means by “Chico proper” – do they live within the city limits, or halfway to Durham? Just this side of the Oroville city limits? Maybe just this side of Dairyville? But I was not allowed to question any further – Mr. Wizard looked at the crowd – a bigger audience than usual because of the grant funding discussion – and admitted he was not expecting to “be written about in the paper.” He started to act real rabitty, which offended me, frankly. I don’t like people who are offended at  being asked a few simple questions. This guy tried to act like it wasn’t public business. 

Furthermore, he warned the committee to keep wages down here. Yeah, we see – that’s why he really located here, the wages are lower than the Sacramento/Woodland area. Woodland is a booming little town, you stop at a gas station, you can tell – the people around you are EMPLOYED. Chico is a sleepy little unemployed town, and the kids coming out of the high school are pretty desperate for jobs alright. There aren’t any! So, this man has hooked up with the high schools to train his employees. That’s just great, but he can only provide 40 jobs? 

I asked him where his workers live because a few years ago, in that same room, I listened to outgoing Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Goodwin tell the committee that manufacturing isn’t coming to Chico because our housing is too expensive. I didn’t get a chance to bring this up at the meeting – we need either better wages, or cheaper housing, that’s the bottom line. We’ve already tried to develop “cheap starter housing for families,” but somehow, that just raised the price of housing in town, along with everything else.  Chico is an expensive town.  If manufacturing comes to Chico, those jobs will just fill up with people from Gridley, Live Oak, Palermo, Tehama and other cheaper places to live within commuting distance. We who have to live and eat in Chico can’t afford to take Mr. Wizard’s wages. 

All I did was ask a simple question and busily scribble down his answer, but Mr. Wizard got really uncomfortable at this point, gathered up his stuff, thanked the committee, and left. I couldn’t help but notice – he has what we used to call in Princeton/Butte  City, ‘truck butt”.  That’s what a white farmer gets from driving his truck around all day supervising his Mexicans.  I thanked him for sponsoring the hockey rink, but he still looked at me like a snake. Well, snakes have some rights too, buddy, especially in their own dooryard.

I wish he had stayed for the rest of the meeting. He would have heard what the arts crowd thinks of real jobs – for gawdsake Man! It’s the arts that bring people here to spend money in our restaurants! Boy, Debra Lucero gets NASTY when you cut her salary – that’s where all the money goes, to pay HER. For Artoberfest? Look at the picture in today’s paper – look at that “crowd.” Come on!   And then Ann Willman, from CARD, making her pathetic ploy for $2,000 for 4th of July – Ann, take a hat around the CARD office, ask Steve Visconti to pitch in! You people suck up all the money with your salaries and perks, come up with that $2,000 from among yourselves! 

I love 4th of July too, but I wouldn’t go near One Mile because it’s a cluster jam of the kind of people who go to the park like twice a year. The next day there’s still garbage to pick up, and the place looks like it’s been had over by a herd of buffalo.  It’s just a “be seen” event where you can’t even have a decent conversation for the mayhem all around your ears. 

Nakamura cut these two entities off cold but still handed the Chamber /DCBA over $100,000.  Katy Simmons from the Chamber offered to help both Lucero and Willman but Lucero went bitch on her. Lucero is a bitch, she whines long and loud about “working” – look Debra, sitting in meetings and carping about how hard you work is not “working.” A

Ann Willman, who admitted she is leaving CARD shortly for a job with Feather River Parks and Rec, seemed to be receptive to Simmon’s offer. But again, she’s leaving soon for another job and we’ll see what they get in her place.  As Urseny reported in the paper, there was a lot of kidding around about putting Nakamura in a dunk tank to raise money for CARD. I offered to go in the tank, but when I got home and thought it over, there’s no way I’m going to help CARD. They need to come clean about their salaries and pensions, and pay their own benefits, before they’re going to get anything more out of me or my family. I’d also like to know Willman’s real reason for switching jobs – she’ll have to commute to Oroville, so I’m guessing, there’s more pay being offered. 

The whole idea that these entities bring tourists to town is a fantasy. The events and marketing campaigns they undertake are attended by them and their friends and hangers on. These entities are formed to suck up grants and other public funding to pay their own salaries. That’s all they do, pander for money for themselves. They don’t serve anybody. Look at Downtown, and ask yourself, what is the Chamber/DCBA doing with that $100,000?

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