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.

http://www.chicochamber.com/news/lunch-hour-city-manager-725

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.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: