Archive | July, 2013

When will they get some proper management at Chico Airport?

30 Jul

I’m blowing off this morning’s Internal Affairs discussion on liquor licenses because I’ve already heard what Kirk Trostle has to say: “I want more MONEY!”  I also got a kick out of the editorial posted this morning – it’s a – MAY- zing how many things me and Dave Little agree on, for two people who’d rather eat a Dodger Dog than be civil to one another. 

I will be taking in the Airport Commission meeting at 6pm, however. I know, 6pm, and no hors d’oeuvres or nothin’, that is gauche. 

But tonight, Brian Nakamura is going to give the report I been dying to ask for – where the airport gets it’s revenues and how it’s spends them. 

The airport is so neglected, it’s ridiculous. And when they do pay attention, it’s “we want service to Disneyland.”   Nobody seems to realize what an incredible manufacturing area it is, and how much it would mean to our city to get some big employers out there. In the old-old days, a manufacturer wanted to be next to the river, not only for hydro-power, but for transportation – raw materials in, processed goods out! Then it was the railroad tracks. Today, it’s the airport. We have one, but we have not set it up as a very good business zone. In fact, a friend of mine who owns a small manufacturing operation at the airport tells me constantly – Chico is business hostile. “They treat anybody who wants to start a business like they’re some kind of ‘Sugar Daddy’.” 

The biggest problem at the airport is Maria Rock, who owns the fueling station. The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars protecting Maria Rock’s business from Danford Jay, an airport business owner who says he was given a verbal go-ahead by the city to open his own fueling station, but later told the Rocks have the exclusive rights.  Airport users complain that the Rocks run the fueling station a la Gomer and Goober, but staffer Debbie Collins told me she write these complaints off as “anecdotes” and refuses to act on them. 

We’ll never know if their daughter, city attorney Alicia Rock, had anything to do with it – who cares – the whole thing was inappropriate, and just another symbol of the mismanagement of our town. 

So, I’m  going down there  tonight, I’ll fill you in. 

And don’t forget, First Sunday meeting, August 4, Chico library, 9am. 

The cars keep going faster all the time. The bums still cry “Hey buddy have you got a dime?!”

27 Jul

I went to the city Economic Development committee meeting this week unsure whether these meetings should continue. In past, this has been nothing more than a monthly justification for Shawn Tillman’s employment. His reports were pretty desperate attempts to make himself look busy. His $88,000/year salary was being paid out of the RDA successor agency.  Well, he didn’t show up this past week, and I’m wondering if he got the sack (good riddance). Brian Nakamura was given the task of note taking and he scribbled busily in a notebook just like mine the whole time. I would give $5 to see his notes.

At the last meeting in June, Tillman announced the meetings were unrecorded because the clerk’s office no longer had a staffer to take notes. No tape recording, nothing. At that point, I felt the meetings should be discontinued, but I wondered, how will the public be able to keep tabs on what they’re doing with all these local consultants and business agencies? If these meetings discontinue, and there’s no reporting of their activities, just what kind of deals with they be swinging with the Chamber of Commerce, the DCBA, and whatever local businesses, behind the public’s back?

We already have the “Mayor’s Business Council,” or something like that. Last year I tried to get in to those meetings – not only Ann Schwab but Mark Sorensen held me out by the forehead. Sorensen wouldn’t even tell me who else was involved, but Ann said it was Butte College, Chico State and PG&E! Well, I guess they do qualify as “local businesses.”

Now Sorensen seems to want to take the Economic Development committee behind closed doors by making the meetings at irregular times and dates, at different locations around town, with little time to notice the public. When Gruendl insisted, although half-heartedly, that the meetings needed to be scheduled consistently and noticed in advance, Sorensen said he doesn’t want consistency “to become a strait jacket.

Sorensen seems to be trying to keep people like me out. At this point Chamber director Katie Sweeny remarked that she didn’t think it was that important to get the public into these meetings anyway. Gruendl had to explain to her about that pesky Brown Act.

Ironically, Sorensen had criticized the wheeling and dealing that went on in the Sustainability Task Force, by which a $399,000 grant from PG&E was divvied up between several members of that committee, but I guess he forgot to send that complaint to the Grand Jury.

I was shocked at Sorensen’s behavior at last Wednesday’s meeting. He seemed to be trying to ditch the public from these meetings. Instead of following Nakamura’s suggestion, and having these meetings quarterly to save staff time, Sorensen and Gruendl came up with this plan to meeting monthly with various businesses, at their locations. Gruendl kept making it clear, since he’s up for re-election, that these meetings need to be noticed to the public – but it was funny how he and Sorensen kept coming up with ways to get around the Brown Act. “If we’re meeting outside our jurisdiction (Chico), there’s no Brown Act violation…” and stuff like that.

Sorensen and Gruendl want to keep the meetings monthly, and Sorensen doesn’t seem to care whether the public is involved or not.

After that $399,000 pie from PG&E was divvied up right in front of him by Schwab and her friends on the STF, you’d think Sorensen would be a little more appreciative of Sunshine. But he’s a local businessman, just think what kind of deals he can cut in this committee that will benefit his bottom line!  He was on the old RDA “citizen’s oversight” committee, which was totally running under the radar, a group of local business owners having meetings without public notice, and giving input regarding the spending of RDA funds directly to council. When I complained about the lack of public oversight on this committee, staff and council admitted it was illegal and disbanded it.

This committee is all full of rhetoric about helping Chico become “more business friendly” – “we’re creating bridges for people to move along as they build momentum and mass…”  “create venues for people to network...” What a pile of silly bullshit that is. Sounds like the Chamber of Commerce’s job. Katie Simmons gets a salary, which is partially paid with a grant from – you guessed it – the City of Chico. Then there’s the Downtown Business Association. These entities get money from their members, as well as city grants, to help businesses get started, navigate the governmental pitfalls,  all kinds of workshops and presentations to help them stay abreast of the changing regulations and business trends.  As Scott Gruendl rambled on describing his grandiose plans for the New and Improved!  Economic Development Committee, Katie Simmons kept reminding him that the Chamber does all the stuff he was babbling about – including an ongoing series of  “Budget 101” workshops with city manager Brian Nakamura.

The website says these presentations are exclusive to chamber members, but all you have to do is e-mail or call Katie Simmons and ask nicely if you can attend. She gets money from the city every year, out of our tax dollars, she’s pretty cooperative if you approach her the right way.  I have not been able to get to any of Brian’s lectures, but I went in when Chief Kirk Trostle was having a Q&A and that was very informative.

Sorensen is a funny guy. One minute he’s all yakking about sunshine and the public and yadda yadda, but when it’s his project, the public is not that important. I think the Economic Development committee should just be canned, but I sense Sorensen and Gruendl have something else in mind.

Meanwhile, throughout the meeting, right outside the windows, the Downtown circus was in full swing. At one point, a man approached the windows wearing nothing but a pair of ratty underwear, then climbed into the trout fountain to take a bath. A group of men stood across the street on the sidewalk along the plaza, talking, every now and then somebody would approach, and one man would walk over and open the trunk of a car parked along the street, motion the person over, stand behind the open trunk lid for a moment, then shut the lid and walk back to the group as the newcomer departed down the sidewalk. Cyclists rambled across the concrete plaza as though it was the skate board park, occasionally jumping the concrete curbstones and bouncing along the sidewalk.

And the beat goes on.

Ann Schwab and Kirk Trostle out to protect their own bottom lines – liquor ordinance just a revenue grab

25 Jul

In between gardening and putting up tomato sauce and peaches, I spent yesterday going back and forth to city meetings, a special Internal Affairs meeting at 8am and “economic development,” or at least, talking about it, at 4pm.

The Internal Affairs discussion was about what amounts to a money grab being attempted by Chico PD chief Kirk Trostle. Trostle, as you may recall from an earlier post,  was trying to get the ACE (Alcohol Compliance and Education) ordinance on an upcoming ballot, and told me at a Police Advisory Board meeting that he hoped it would result in at least $100,000 worth of (new) fees with which he could hire another officer. But, he admitted, the officer would not necessarily be dedicated to alcohol compliance or problems, he wouldn’t guarantee that.

Well, at a subsequent meeting, city attorney Lori Barker shot it down, informing Trostle that the “fee” amounted to a “tax”, and the city is not allowed to tax the sales of alcohol. So, Scott Gruendl moved for staff to work on an ordinance that would allow the city to collect some sort of fee without it being construed legally as a tax.  What a creep that guy is, a regular goniff.

Mary Goloff, Ann Schwab and Scott Gruendl are attempting to dress it up as the city’s plan to handle our “community alcohol problem.” Goloff and Gruendl are up for re-election, and Schwab is not only on the defense lately, she’s looking out for her interests at the college and her Downtown business.

Schwab has been hung out to dry, stripped of her former stately power. Lately she seems constantly to have been crying about something, and tears up at the slightest criticism or correction. She’s fallen back on her job at the college – an administrative fluff position that adds another $80,000 + in salary and benefits to tuition – and is desperate to show herself as champion for the college. She also needs to worry about her bike store – Downtown business is in trouble, and she has taken the tack of blaming the bars and other liquor-related establishments. She says “the university is doing what they can do.” Well, she sure knows who butters her bread.

She also made some questionable statements regarding liquor licenses, how they’re issued, and what happens when a business sells a liquor license. “Once a permit is issued,” she piped up, sounding like a character from “Th Music Man,” it’s ISSUED!” She went on to describe her nightmare scenario: a place could start out “respectable and low-key,” but that business might fail, and be sold to somebody else!  “It can change to PITCHER NIGHT  with no approval from council,” she concluded, setting her lips firmly and looking around the room for an “AMEN!

(…and that starts with ‘P’ and that rhymes with ‘T’ and that stands for TROUBLE! Right here in River City!)

Well, just like that pile of hooey she rolled out in support of Measure J, her statement above doesn’t turn out to be exactly true. Officer George Laver, who seems to be the guy in charge of liquor at the cop shop, informed all of us of the actual function of the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It turns out that “conditions can be placed by the ABC – such as hours of sale of alcohol and other specifics…” And, even if the business comes under completely different ownership, the new owner cannot make “significant changes to the business model” without a hearing from the ABC that includes input from the cops and other local agencies.

In fact, Laver went on to describe a “very good working relationship with the ABC.” The ABC allows local agencies to have input and set conditions, and according to Laver, Chico PD and the city of Chico have been “very successful” in getting what they want out of the ABC.

Later, the owner of the Winchester Goose also corrected erroneous statements Ann made. First, he told everybody that the ABC has a very complete process for input,  everything needed to make a complaint or check on a business’s license is on their website.  Ann had also bitchily asked, in direct reference to the Winchester Goose,  “why would anybody put so much investment into a business without getting the liquor license first?” The guy from the Goose told his story – last November, he’d received “the green light” from Chief Trostle as well as the planning commission. It was only recently that they’d been talking about denying his license, after he’d already spent a bunch of money. Ann hates being corrected, she’s testy and combative with anybody who disagrees with or questions her. But she sure didn’t have anything to say in response.  As usual, her eyes turned red and got watery, she just sat there like a spoiled brat being called on the carpet. 

Everything Laver said confirmed that the ABC is competent and willing to work locally.  But, Chief Kirk Trostle seems to have a different view of the ABC, which he says, “is working with staff levels from the 1950’s…just pushing paper.” He says there are only two agents for 16 counties.

Well, I just dropped off a note to the Redding office, which Laver described as being so cooperative, and asked them about  that. I’ll keep you posted.

What both Schwab and Trostle want is more control than the ABC is willing to give them in making demands upon businesses that sell alcohol. According to Laver, a local land use permit process would allow the city “to create whatever kind of language you think is reasonable.

For example, the ABC says stop serving at 2am, Schwab and Trostle want it over at midnight. They want serving to stop at 10pm on certain holidays, historically troublesome dates like Halloween and St Paddy’s. Laver reported, in past, they’ve just asked the problem establishments, like Rileys, to stop opening up with cheap booze at 6am, and they’ve complied. But Trostle and Schwab just want to be able to demand. They don’t want to work it out, they don’t want to discuss.

I think they want to be able to demand more money out of businesses, using this ordinance as a wedge, but that’s just my guess.

There are two camps here that want this new permits process – those who are freaked out about Chico’s perceived reputation as a druggy town that kills college kids with booze, and then there’s Chief Trostle, who wants the money. This is a revenue grab, plain and simple, a shakedown. Ask the guy from The Screwed Goose.

Later yesterday I went to the Economic Development committee meeting, and that was a hoot too, I’ll fill you in later. Now I am off to get some pasta dough going, with which I am going to serve homemade tomato sauce with dinky meatballs.  Ciao Babeee!

Ask a stupid question…

23 Jul

The other day the Enterprise Record ran a pretty stupid editorial about the airport fire station closure. “Our view: In the best of a bunch of bad options, closing the Chico fire station at the airport makes the most sense.” 

Spoken by a person who obviously has no clue to the economic importance of the airport or how mismanagement out there is killing us financially.

Later in this piece, the editor mentions, almost as though he doesn’t really mean it, ” If he (or the future chief) is looking for other places to save money, perhaps firefighters can pay their own share of their pensions, rather than having the city pay the employee share. “

Today Editor asks, “Can the public have a voice in city budget?”,  suggesting, “The city could ask before it cuts. It might be surprised by the answers.”   Editor implies that we’d be okay with some of these cuts if we knew how much these services “cost”. What he fails to figure into “cost”, is the “employer paid member contribution,” aka, “the employee’s share.” 

What a dumb question – “Can the public have a voice in city budget?”   Better to ask, “WILL the public have a voice in city budget?” The next question would be, “Will the council listen?” 

The answer to both of those questions lies with the public.

This may be a job for Robin Hood

21 Jul

Well, the best laid plans of mice and moms – next time I  tell you I’m going to hand out fliers at an event, tell me to stay home and make a cobbler. 

I want to get the info out, know what I mean? I’ve written letters to the editor, and then there’s the blog. I talk to my friends, I talk to grocery checkers, I talk to anybody who can’t run away. Yesterday I attempted a crowd that was not in the mood to hear about anything “negative.” 

I went over to One Mile a little after 4pm, not really sure what to expect of this “Birthday Bash”. It was about 105 outside, so there were the usual people – the young adult, social crowd, who are turned off to sitting under air conditioners all day, and like to spend their free time under some old trees, next to moving water, listening to music, maybe smoking a little dope, playing a little hacky-sack, seeing, being seen, and meeting others like-minded. They aren’t there to hear about politics, and that’s exactly what’s going on, so I didn’t want to intrude on their non-reality. From what I’ve seen every time I’ve visited Caper Acres since the Monday – Thursday closure, these people aren’t letting locked gates stop them from enjoying the park. 

It being Saturday, there were also lots of out-of-towners. In fact, the only people I spoke to were from elsewhere. I realized something else I should have known – tourists are usually a little friendlier than residents.  I’d make eye-contact, and if they’d say hello, I’d say hello, and as soon as I got my foot in the door, I’d add, ” I’m here handing out information about the park closures,” or something like that. They’d invariably say something along the lines of, “Park closures? I’m not from around here, what’s THAT about?”  They were always sympathetic, and some were actually aware of the pension problems, but none of them wanted to spend their weekend vacation yakking with some stranger about politics, so I never pushed it. 

Funny thing – none of them had heard there was any kind of event, they were just noticing something was afoot, wondering what?  

There was a group of park volunteers, wearing the familiar green t-shirts, their vehicles parked kind of pell mell on the lawn around the concession stand. They were kind of crabby, standing together in a little knot at one of the stands instead of mingling out through the crowd. I wonder if any of them had any crowd control experience, any experience setting up events like watermelon eating contests, etc. One man was testily announcing that there might be too many volunteers present at that time, that the event would be running until almost 10pm and he hoped there would be enough people to finish out the evening. No, they didn’t seem to be very tightly knit or organized.  

At this point I looked around myself and realized, this had not been a good idea.  I realized, I wasn’t going to find anybody there who really cared about what’s going on Downtown enough to do anything about it. I’d seen all the artwork and milled around the stands. The park volunteers had a petition at their stand, but I didn’t have my glasses so couldn’t read it.  I got on my bicycle and headed home to help my husband throw a chicken on the grill. 

Originally I thought I might go back after the sun got low and things cooled off, but I changed my mind.  CARD planned to finish off the evening with an 8:30 showing of “Hugo,” a very depressing sounding Martin Scorsese picture that for one thing has absolutely nothing to do with Chico, Bidwell Park, or the number 108. Whenever I tell people about the CARD movies in the park, they always ask, “Who’s responsible for picking the movies? ‘Bees’? Really?”  

I have to agree. I could think of at least one movie that would have been more appropriate for an annual celebration of Bidwell Park  – “Robin Hood,” outdoor sequences of which were actually filmed in Bidwell Park, an event that has long been one of Chico’s magical moments.You’d think they’d be able to get a week’s worth of activities out of that every year – how about exhibits at locations like the CARD center, the city building, Chico Museum? This movie has not only special interest to Chico, but was nominated for best picture in 1938 and  voted one of the best films of all time in 2001. Errol Flynn and the rest of the cast continue to be popular draws to film festivals.   But CARD will not be showing Robin Hood at all this year – “Hugo” was the last offering of the summer in fact. They only planned two movies, neither of which has any special significance to Chico.

That is my complaint about this recent attempt at “community” – the Bidwell Park Birthday Bash. It was like a robot trying to act like a Human.  I think it was just a last minute attempt to put a smiley face on our town when we don’t really feel very smiley, we’re not happy, and we’re all kind of pissed off at each other. I wish I could say “nice try,” but I can’t mean it. 


We need to educate the Siobhan O’Neil’s of our town – Chico doesn’t have a revenue problem, Chico has a SPENDING PROBLEM!

20 Jul

Well, the ER ran another propaganda piece for this city this morning – “Chicoans starting to feel impacts of reduced services…” Really? And how many “Chicoans” did you bother to poll on that?

The talked to a couple of women in Bidwell Park, one of whom, a publicly-paid child services worker, decided to take a smack at the defeat of Measure J.  She says, they’re closing the park because we defeated Measure J. 

“The sisters don’t understand why the city had to lock the gates on the pool’s north side. Both wondered about parking impacts in the surrounding neighborhoods and the hazards for families and children in having to cross the street.

O’Neil said she sees a direct correlation between the park closures and Measure J, a cellphone tax voters shot down during the November election. She had voted in its support.

‘You get what you pay for and what you don’t pay for,” she said. “For pennies a month, we gave up a source of revenue to help with services in an economy that’s still struggling.'”

I love that – “You get what you pay for…” Here’s a woman who admittedly doesn’t “understand why the city had to lock the gates “. What would you expect from a person who’s paycheck comes from tax money?

So, I called and left her a message on her publicly-paid voice mail, inviting her to the next First Sunday meeting of Chico Taxpayers. This is the kind of person we want to engage, the people who believe whatever their friends  tell them, their other publicly-paid friends. I wonder how many people this woman knows, outside her immediate family, who don’t have their snout in the trough? 

This is it Folks. You have seen the enemy, and it is IGNORANCE. 

I’ll be at the park today, handing out these:

park flier

Feel free to print them out and hand them around yourselves, we have to get this information out there. 

Chicoans starting to feel impacts of reduced services

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer

POSTED:   07/20/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT

CHICO — When tree limbs fall in the city of Chico, little can be done these days other than to drag them out of the way and hope they will be picked up soon.

People are tugging on the locked doors of bathrooms in Bidwell Park and find locked gates blocking access to the north side of the Sycamore Pool parking lot.

On Fridays, residents still approach the finance counter at City Hall to pay parking tickets, dog licenses or business licenses only to be told the office is now closed on Fridays.

It’s been two weeks since layoffs were finalized for dozens of city employees, including the entire tree crew, half the park staff, and more than 20 administrative positions.

No departments were spared from budget reductions as the city closed a $4.8 million budget gap, and citizens and city employees continue to realize the impacts of related service reductions.

“I’m trying to stay positive and do the best I can,” said street trees field supervisor Dave Bettencourt. “Public safety is paramount right now. We’ll make it work.”

He’s now doing the tasks of the now-retired urban forest manager, his job and the work of the former four-man crew. Response time for some calls is now triple, Bettencourt said.

When a report is made of fallen branches, he’ll go cut them up, pile them and add it to a list to be picked up about once a week. They used to be picked up the day they fell, he noted. For larger limbs or trees, like the one that fell across Vallombrosa on Thursday night, the city is finalizing an emergency contractor for 24/7 response.

It’s also working on a pruning contract, as growing trees start to obstruct stop signs and lines of sight, Bettencourt said. Summer is also usually when the city does its pruning in school areas, the downtown business area and around the college, but it’s all on hold.

When possible, Bettencourt piecemeals together help from other departments, including park staff, traffic signals and public works. “We are still going to need to maintain,” he said. “We are doing the best we can with what we have.”

He got a phone call recently from the Downtown Chico Business Association, asking what would happen to the decorating of the City Plaza tree at Christmas, a service normally done by the tree crew. “She said, ‘Should I be concerned?'” Bettencourt said. “I said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Some residents are also wondering what the impacts will be months from now, as park closures continue.

“What kind of degradation will happen in six months?” asked Siobhan O’Neil as she walked through the park with her sister Caitie Giusta on Thursday.

“It’s embarrassing,” Giusta said of the closure, noting the park is nationally recognized in travel guides and a major Chico attraction. “Here we have this jewel, and we are shut down 60 percent of the week.”

The sisters don’t understand why the city had to lock the gates on the pool’s north side. Both wondered about parking impacts in the surrounding neighborhoods and the hazards for families and children in having to cross the street.

O’Neil said she sees a direct correlation between the park closures and Measure J, a cellphone tax voters shot down during the November election. She had voted in its support.

“You get what you pay for and what you don’t pay for,” she said. “For pennies a month, we gave up a source of revenue to help with services in an economy that’s still struggling.”

Chico resident Bill Korte cycles through lower Bidwell Park almost daily. After finding the locked bathroom door Wednesday and reading the sign, he acknowledged he is used to not having the amenity because the bathroom is new but he still wishes it was open. “It’s a convenient pit stop for me,” he said.

The parking changes and the bathroom closures are what frustrate resident Cindy Ennes, she said Thursday as she finished her morning stroll.

“Because we are old and we often stop on that 3-mile loop,” she said with a laugh.

Turning serious, she said she’s noticed a significant decline in park patrons since the closures took effect. It saddens her to think the impacts are driving people away.

“I can’t believe what they are saving isn’t lost in the community’s enjoyment of the park,” she said. “I really feel like the city is doing this to punish its citizens.”

Councilor Sean Morgan said everyone has a difference of opinion about what the city’s priorities should be as it faces necessary cuts.

“Branches aren’t getting picked up as quickly … and Caper Acres isn’t open as many days as it once was and the park isn’t as clean as it was, and those are all bad things,” Morgan said. “But so is losing police officers, which is probably more important.”

“From a policy standpoint I have to do what is most important to the city and that is, are the citizens safe?”

The Police Department was slated to eliminate 19 positions as a result of budget cuts, though two community service officer positions were retained.

The City Council also has asked staff to find ways to restore more officer positions.


Reach Ashley Gebb at 896-7768,, or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.

Where does the money go?! Chico councilor Randall Stone offers some answers

19 Jul

Thanks Councilor Randall Stone for sending me an interesting link to a table he’s posted regarding average salaries, by department, Downtown.

You can see it at this link:

But I’ll summarize – the fat paychecks are in “Public Safety”, police and fire.  Number One, Public Safety Management – and I’m not sure, but I think this covers everybody over the rank of “officer” – is paid an average, average, of $128,900/year.  Those salaries range from about $98,000 to the police and fire chiefs’ salaries at about $185,000/year.  

Peter Durfee, president of the Chico Police Officer’s Association, wants us to remember that these salaries include overtime. He makes the same circular argument the cops and fire have always made – if you’d hire more officers, we wouldn’t need so much overtime…but overtime is cheaper than hiring new officers…”  They won’t take structured overtime out of the contracts – the CPOA was just screaming for MORE structured overtime last year. Former CPOA president Will Clark said they needed to schedule overtime for EVERY three-day weekend. This is NOT cheaper than hiring new officers, especially if the new officers are paid their agreed-upon salaries of $63,000 – 80,000. Instead, everybody through the rank of sergeant is allowed to spike their checks with OT. The lieutenants just demanded and got raises because their underlings were spiking their paychecks so high as to be getting more salary.  But Durfee insists that overtime is not the same as pay. I can’t follow his reasoning, it’s like chasing a greased pig. 

Management certainly ain’t doing too bad, averaging $96,000 a year. Considering the city manager makes $212,000, and his immediate subordinates like Assistant City Manager make  $185,000 a year, you realize there has to be ALOT of management to average that out to $96,000.  At this point, Brian Nakamura has trimmed so many of the worker bees, about all we got left down there is Management.

As Randall Stone has reminded us, these figures are just PAY. They don’t include the pensions, benefits, and other expenses we pay to float these salaries.  

Thanks again Councilor Stone, and hope to see you again soon at an upcoming CTA meeting. 

$9,580 in cell phone rebates, and still counting

19 Jul

from Frank Fields 7/17/13

UUT refunds:

UUT cell phone refunds: $9,580

UUT annual refund program: $5,596 (May/June 2013)

Well, I am not excited about the UUT refund total, it doesn’t look like more than the usual number of people. At about $50 average refund, it only looks like the usual 100 people that always come in, myself included. I got almost $40, which puts the average Frank Fields gave me in perspective.

This tells me the process is too onerous for most people to take it seriously. You have to either mail that stack of crap in,  all your bills, all the pages, along with your tax returns, or, you have to find time during the work day to amble on down to the city building and make a personal appearance at the Finance Department window. 

To think, they’re ripping off the poorest people in town.  Maybe Brian Nakamura should grow a mustache, so he can twist it as he rips off the poor and closes them out of the playground. 

I’ve asked Nakamura, cc’ing the full council, to make the process electronic – something you could do over the computers at the library on a Saturday morning – but he just won’t answer.  I’ll get back to that soon. 

But, I do find the cell phone refund total impressive – $9,580 bucks. I didn’t get the number of applicants from Fields, but I’m guessing, that’s more than 100 applicants. Fields told me earlier this year, some of the applicants are businesses, with bigger refunds that kind of  mess up the average, but I’m still guessing, more than 100 people have filed for that refund, and that’s good. I get searches for the information in the blog daily, so I know people are still interested in getting their refunds, whether they will go through the onerous process or not. I wonder, how many people even keep their bills. 

I notice this morning, the city keeps announcing they’ve found this solution and that solution to the park closures, but the main park road and Caper Acres are still closed Monday through Thursday. I hope people get as mad about the park closures as they did about the cell phone tax. I’ll be in the park this weekend, for the Bidwell Park Birthday Scam, handing out fliers with dollar amounts and contact information – I hope we can turn this park closure on Nakamura, show him he messed with the wrong kind of bees.

I’ve reserved the library room for Sunday, August 4, 9am, for our First Sunday Chico Taxpayers meeting. I’ll have an update regarding the park closures, and more ideas for bringing the employees to the table. 

Here’s what’s really behind the park closures – more than 21 retirees get over $100,000/year in pension, ex-fire chief gets over $200,000

13 Jul

The following is available at this link:

Name Employer Warrant Amount Annual
ALEXANDER, THOMAS E CHICO $8,947.23 $107,366.76
BAPTISTE, ANTOINE G CHICO $10,409.65 $124,915.80
BEARDSLEY, DENNIS D CHICO $8,510.23 $102,122.76
BROWN, JOHN S CHICO $17,210.38 $206,524.56
CARRILLO, JOHN A CHICO $10,398.98 $124,787.76
DAVIS, FRED CHICO $12,467.78 $149,613.36
DUNLAP, PATRICIA CHICO $10,632.10 $127,585.20
FELL, JOHN G CHICO $9,209.35 $110,512.20
FRANK, DAVID R CHICO $14,830.05 $177,960.60
GARRISON, FRANK W CHICO $8,933.56 $107,202.72
JACK, JAMES F CHICO $9,095.09 $109,141.08
KOCH, ROBERT E CHICO $9,983.23 $119,798.76
LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48 $134,837.76
MCENESPY, BARBARA L CHICO $12,573.40 $150,880.80
PIERCE, CYNTHIA CHICO $9,390.30 $112,683.60
ROSS, EARNEST C CHICO $9,496.60 $113,959.20
SCHOLAR, GARY P CHICO $8,755.69 $105,068.28
SELLERS, CLIFFORD R CHICO $9,511.11 $114,133.32
VONDERHAAR, JOHN F CHICO $8,488.07 $101,856.84
VORIS, TIMOTHY M CHICO $8,433.90 $101,206.80
WEBER, MICHAEL C CHICO $11,321.93 $135,863.16

Total Amount for this Employer
$219,835.11 Monthly
$2,638,021.32 Annually

This list is not up to date – for example, it doesn’t include recently retired city manager Dave Burkland. Burkland retired at $180,865.44, and will recieve 70 percent of that salary in retirement – about $130,000.

These people paid little or nothing toward this retirement, we the taxpayers pick up most of the tab, now, as when they were employees. Right now we pay over 20 percent, while most Chico employees pay 4 percent to nothing. Only the classified staff pay their full share, and they’ve been mowed like spring hay.

We’ve been paying as little as 20 percent of the cost of these pensions.  CalPERS is going bust because they didn’t collect enough money to float these pensions – they told cities, counties, the state itself, and quasi-public entities all over California they’d be able to get most of the money by playing the stock market. That has been a disaster, and now they can’t pay the pensions they’ve guaranteed. They’re saying,  somebody needs to pay more, they don’t care who. They have handed the city of Chico, what was the latest total – a $46 million bill? That is the  unfunded pension tidal wave that is really busting Chico’s balls – not the payroll for emptying the garbage cans at the park.

You can cut and paste this post, print it out, and hand it out to friends, or e-mail it.  I’d be very happy if people would pass this information around, this is really what’s behind the park closures.

No volunteers, no donations – say it like Amy Winehouse – “NO, NO, NOOOOOO!”

13 Jul

I hate to be a naysayer, but you know me – when you’re good at something, you should run with it.

I’ve been trying to follow the discussion regarding the closure of Caper Acres. Facebook is a turn-off. I don’t have a Facebook account, and I don’t want one, capisce? Word Press is free and easy, anybody can get to it, anybody can contact me via the site, and if their comment is pertinent and non-offensive, I’ll print it. Hell, I’ll probably print it anyway.

Facebook is a way of excluding people, that’s hardly the way to get a community movement going.

That said, I was glad to see a new announcement today, apparently made by the monitor of the site:

The petition letter & “overview” received a face-lift today. Check it out. It doesn’t talk about ways to raise funds. It doesn’t talk about volunteers. It politely addresses the issue that a HUGE decision was made without taking into consideration the feelings or opinions or needs of the local constituents.

Well, I’m so happy to hear that. I don’t want to hear any more SHIT about volunteering or donating money.  Anybody who’s read the city budget should be marching Downtown to demand a fucking refund! 

We need to get a “take no prisoners” attitude here people. No more mamby-pamby, feel-good crap about helping out the poor city workers. Brian Nakamura is not doing a good thing, he’s trying to sweat us for more taxes.

And the Enterprise Record seems to be going right along with this little campaign – all the sudden, all these stories about crime and cops. As if, crime never happened here before?  No, it’s just never gotten the kind of coverage it’s getting these days from the Enterprise Record.

And don’t you love the way they’ve reported several assaults lately, but nothing about their proximity to some pretty well-established transient camps along Lindo Channel? Including yesterday’s attack at Verbena Fields, which has become a de-facto DUMP and homeless camp eversince it was installed as a dog-shitting area.   I think that’s odd.

Yes, camping on public  property is illegal. A lady who works at the county told me there’s been complaints about these camps, but the city says it’s the county’s jurisdiction, and the county comes right back at ’em with the same. There’s apparently been  some “rousting out” of these camps, but they just move a few hundred yards and wait for the cops to come back, maybe weeks later, after they’ve argued over whose job it is.

Right now there’s a pile of trash  behind S&S market, left by a camp that was plainly visible from the road, right there, big as life. They left due to some sort of harassment, but there sits the trash they managed to accumulate over the week or two they were there.  As far as I know, it’s sitting on city property, but I don’t have a map.  

“Volunteerism Could Work” says Little Pollyanna Daugherty over at the Chico News and Review.  Not given our city budget, it can’t.  Not given those salaries, benefits and pensions, it can’t. 

Brian Nakamura is inviting people who contact him about the park closures to the Bidwell Park Birthday Bash on July 20. This is an all-day fete, at locations around town. I plan to be at One Mile over the course of the day, handing out some information about the budget, the salaries, and the benefits and pensions. Please come on by, or get ahold of me and I’ll send you some information you can hand out yourself.  I’ll be posting it here too. 

Volunteerism could work

Plenty of people want to help keep the gates of Caper Acres open
This article was published by Chico News and Review on 07.11.13.


Using volunteers to do cleanup at Caper Acres may not be the way to keep Bidwell Park’s fairytale playground open, but employing their help elsewhere to free up city staff to do that work has the potential to keep the gates open.

As reported in Newslines this week (see “Sacred acres,” by Tom Gascoyne), there is an effort afoot to organize a volunteer group. Bringing that effort from idea stage to execution will take some creativity over at City Hall, and also a dedicated pool of volunteers.

But it can be done.

Chicoans love Bidwell Park. Indeed, it’s one of the community’s biggest bragging points when touting the best things about living here. And parents of little kids are especially fond of Caper Acres, which is a one-of-a-kind play place.

Now is the time for everyone who enjoys the park to step up.

Volunteerism doesn’t address the layoffs of seven much-needed workers in the Street Trees and Parks divisions. That’s a separate issue altogether. The bottom line is that these workers are needed to keep the park operating smoothly, but their positions will remain unfilled until the city is financially solvent.

Using volunteers is certainly not a long-term solution. They shouldn’t be responsible indefinitely for helping sustain park services. But as a stopgap measure—until the city gets control of the budget—this could be the way to keep Caper Acres open more than just three days a week.