Archive | July, 2013

$taff closes park, Park Commissioner Richard Ober wants sales tax increase

10 Jul

I have been so mad about the park closures, I have not been able to blog it.  But last night I ran into Erika (sp?), and now I know I’m not even hardly pissed off  compared to some people. Erika is ready to march on city hall, and I hope she will do it. 

Her husband, as though he was herding a small child, kept reprimanding her. “Erika, calm down!” My husband does that. He gets kind of freaked out when my face turns grey and I start vibrating, but, I had my vet give me a check-up, and he says the old ticker is in good shape!

So, I’m ready for  trouble, with a capital ‘T’. I’m done with $taff, they’ve pushed it too far now. This is MUTINY people, and I say, they walk the plank.

We must ask our boy, Mark Sorensen, why we are paying new city manager Brian Nakamura $217,000 a year to close our parks. That’s msorensen@ci.chico.ca.us. Sorensen keeps telling us what a great job Nakamura is doing, but I’m not listening, I’m watching Nakamura. The first thing he did was demand a $50,000 increase in pay over old city manager Dave Burkland’s salary. His first act as city manager was to make a $50,000 “supplemental budget allocation” to cover his own salary. Then he “reorganized” the city departments, firing the hell out of the worker bees and then giving $30,000 salary raises to the remaining department heads – two of whom were friends he’d hired in the interim – new ass city mangler Mark Orme and financial trouble-shooter Chris “I really want to pay my own share but they won’t let me” Constantin. 

Watching these three “fix” our city problems is like watching Red Adair put out  a flaming oil well – bring in the dynamite! Oh, we’re sorry, did we blow up your little town? 

What they’re up to, is exactly what I’ve already seen play out in Stockton and Vallejo.  In Stockton, they hired a new city manager about three years ago. He proceeded to “reorganize,” hiring new administrators, at higher salaries. He gutted the police and fire departments in a town that has been a crime problem since the turn of the century.  Now, he’s screaming “crime problem!” and telling the city council they need to put a tax increase measure on the ballot to fund crime prevention. If you don’t think that’s funny, you need to take another shot of Wild Turkey.

So now we have Brian Nakamura  cut- cut-cutting the hell out of our town. Every day the Enterprise Record runs another propaganda piece about the “increase in crime.” The story this morning, about the cop who had to deal with the drunk Downtown, is absolutely comical.  Our police department is a joke, except, they’re not funny. They’re bankrupting our town with their insane pensions, and all they can do is stand there and refuse to serve us unless we give them more money. Ha ha – they have  a “no strike” clause in their contracts, but that doesn’t mean, they can’t just drag their feet and do a shitty job. 

I predict Nakamura will use the same time line as the manager in Stockton – he’s going to ask for a tax increase measure to be placed on the 2016 ballot. Research tells them that tax measures do better in a gubernatorial election, cause more people come out. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know this – they’ll lie through their teeth to get us to pay. They’ll threaten and twist our arms with NO SERVICE. 

Whose ready to take it right back up their ass? Let me know, I got some ideas. 

In the meantime, you can tell Brian Nakamura what you think at bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us.  You can reach the council at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us. 

While you’re at it, write to park commissioner Richard Ober at richard.h.ober@gmail.com to let him know what you think of his constant pushing for a sales tax increase. Read the story below.

Volunteers ramp up to save Caper Acres

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer

Posted:   07/06/2013 12:09:06 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge

The front gate at Caper Acres is seen in this file photo taken Wednesday in Chico. Caper Acres is…

CHICO — Without the ability to guarantee services in the wake of staffing reductions, the city was left with no option but to implement closures in Bidwell Park, Public Works Director Ruben Martinez said Friday.As the divisions adjust to reduced staffing, the city will start by providing services it knows it can guarantee and look for opportunities to restore other services as possible, Martinez said.

The crews want to keep Caper Acres, park bathrooms and gates open but it’s not feasible at this moment.

“Everybody wants to try it but we can’t be there sometimes,” he said. “We have to have that internal capacity to make sure we are there on days we say we are going to be there, rain or shine.”

City staff will now focus on preparing the park and its facilities for peak usage days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reductions in services start Monday.

Caper Acres, which has been closed on Mondays, will now be closed Monday through Thursday. If there is an opportunity to reopen the children’s fantasy playground to its old schedule, it will be the highest priority, Martinez said.

Residents are rallying to protest the closures and offering up the idea of volunteers to keep services afloat.

Abigail Lopez created a Facebook page called “Caper Acres Volunteers” in hopes residents would come together to save the fantasy children’s park.

“If the city is really concerned with the budget — and we have a $4.8 million deficit — I think they’d be willing

to provide the training to the volunteers to do what needs to be done,” she said. “I don’t see that in a community like Chico, why that wouldn’t be possible.”She is willing to step up and clean bathrooms, pick up trash, open gates — whatever it takes. It’s well worth the value to her 5-year-old son, Chase, who has autism.

“It’s really helpful for him to be exposed to the regular kids as well as the special-needs kids,” she said. “He loves to run around and be outside.”

When Lopez heard about the park closures, she knew she had to take action.

“That’s a part of the Chico experience. Having it not available so many days a week, it’s just not fair,” she said. “My mom has always told me if you think someone should do something, maybe that someone should be you.”

Other impacts include closure Monday through Thursday of the permanent restrooms on the north side of Sycamore Pool, at Cedar Grove and at Five-Mile Recreation Area. Portable restrooms will be added to Cedar Grove and Five-Mile, and the restroom on the south side of Sycamore Pool will remain open seven days a week.

Reservations will not be available for major group picnic areas in the park Monday through Thursday, and nearly all park gates will also be closed those days, except for the main entrance gate to upper Bidwell Park and the Fourth Street entrance to lower park.

Parks Commissioner Rich Ober wrote in an email that he is “sickened and saddened by what is being done to Chico in the name of short-term fiscal ‘responsibility.'”

If not addressed, the problems from such draconian cuts — declining trees, unrepaired park infrastructure and unpatrolled greenways — will have impacts for years to come, he said.

Ober is encouraged by the community support to step forward as volunteers, but it won’t be enough to prevent inevitable degradation of the park. He sees another totally feasible solution by way of a tax increase to support the park.

“This community is willing to step up in support of our parks and infrastructure,” he wrote. “If our community leaders will have the courage to ask, we’re willing to do the right thing.”

A Facebook page called Save Caper Acres has garnered more than 4,700 “likes” since the closures were announced Tuesday and an online petition had collected more than 2,000 signatures.

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

Staff has hit a beehive with a rock – they better run!

7 Jul

It’s Sunday and I’m feeling religious – THANK YOU GOD for bringing Abigail Lopez to our meeting this morning. Actually, truth be told, thanks to Jim in Chico for contacting Abigail and telling her about our meeting. Jim also has the power to move things, make things happen. 

Abigail brought us an update on her efforts to stop the closure of Caper Acres – here’s the letter she sent to the Enterprise Record:

One-Mile and Caper Acres are among the most visited attractions in Chico. Caper Acres is arguably the best park in town, and most certainly the one that offers the most shade and security. Generations of children have grown up playing there, and to cut park hours so that homemakers or parents who work non-traditional hours are unable to bring their children there is unfair and unconscionable. It makes no sense to close one of the best free sources of entertainment for children on weekdays during the height of summer.

In addition, closing restrooms that are needed by scores of visitors is short-sighted and will only result in increased maintenance costs when less scrupulous visitors elect to use the bushes as a toilet. It is also unfair to children, the elderly, and those with disabilities, as many have conditions that make it difficult to hold their bladders for any length of time.

Closing Caper Acres and several restrooms is a poor choice for Chico. I believe we can find a way via volunteers and donations to keep the park open in its current capacity. The citizens of Chico need to know exactly what would be required to maintain the park’s current availability. I have created a Facebook group called Caper Acres Volunteers to address this and will be contacting city officials to find out exactly what we as a community can do to keep our park the way it is.

— Tanya “Abigail” Lopez, Chico

I’m thrilled to have new people in the conversation. Abigail even read the budget to get ready for this conversation, that’s determination. I’m so glad to get new people involved in this discussion, but it’s so much better to talk to somebody who cared enough to read the documents and even  call various staffers to get explanations. Thanks so much Abigail for bringing something to the table. 

Of course, the meeting went all over the place. I read my notes later and think, “What the hell!?!” But mostly we talked about the real reasons for our fiscal distress – salaries, benefits and pensions. We talked about the employee contracts, which are only good through December, and will therefore be up for discussion from here on in.

We need to keep on top of this discussion, as best we can, being held off by the forehead by council and staff. The two sides, by way of negotiator Brian Nakamura and a human relations firm hired by the city, will each make their offers, chew them up, and spit them out with demands both ways. It’s just like you’d imagine – a total Repo-Man grab, with pushing and shoving, nose-twisting, shin kicking, and best of all – threats from unions to bring out their big wallets at election time to punish or reward councilors who vote the right or wrong way. 

The biggest issue in the contracts, for me, the simplest, clearest issue, is the payment of the benefits and pensions premiums. Right now, most city employees pay little or nothing toward their packages. Only the lowest paid, “classified staff” pay their full 9 percent share. Management pays 4 percent, which is less than half the suggested “employee share”, the fire dept pays 2 percent, and the  cops PAY NOTHING toward pensions of 90 percent of their highest year’s pay available at age 50. 

Just the “employee’s share” costs the city over $2 million a year. Nakamura is only trying to shave about $5 million from the budget right now, that $2 million would go a little ways toward his goal, wouldn’t it?

Right now we have one city councilor, Randall Stone, who has come to a CTA meeting and said he’ll press employees to pay their suggested 9 percent share, all of them. Stone has been taking heat from the fire department for being honest – we need to support him with more letters to the editor and also to council.

Scott Gruendl has also made comments to the Enterprise Record indicating he’d like to see the employees pay their share. Gruendl is up for re-election in November 2014, so we need to hold those remarks to his butt like a torch. 

We also need to remind him, he approved those contracts, as well as the MOU that linked salaries to revenue increases but not decreases. Mary Goloff also signed the contracts that gave public safety workers their incredibly generous benefits and pensions packages for little or nothing out of their own pockets. Mary actually went on and on about how great the contracts were at that time, thanking staff up and down for doing her job for her. I’m guessing she never even read the damned things. Jim Walker admitted same, almost like, “duh – who reads that stuff?

We need to tell these folks that the closure of a playground is not going to come out as they intended. I think they expected to throw a rock at a beehive, and those mad bees would all say, “hey Chico, you need to pay more taxes to keep our playground open!” After I met Abigail today, I think the bees are going to turn on the rock throwers. 

 

City manager Brian Nakamura cancels for tomorrow’s meeting – but there’s plenty on the agenda, come on in anyway

6 Jul

I got a last minute cancellation from Brian Nakamura, saying he will not be able to attend our meeting tomorrow.

But, he says, “Please know that I very much want to speak to your group very soon given our fiscal situation.”

I told him we have regular meetings, and he’s welcome, along with Chico in general, to attend any one. 

I also asked him, “what can the Chico Taxpayers Association do to help you/the city right now? ” 

I will keep you posted if he gives me an answer.

We will have our regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow, as usual, Chico Library, Sherman and First, 9am. Last meeting we decided to talk over the employee contracts, try to come up with a list of things we would like to press for in the next round of negotiations. Stephanie and I have read the contracts, and while I don’t know them by heart, I do remember stupid stuff like, the $300 a month that is put into a “health insurance savings account” for each and every police officer, to pay for expenses not covered by the health insurance policy we buy for them. There’s a lot of weird little perks and benies like that, stuff people in the private sector would not believe. We realize, not many people ever read these contracts – former city council member Jim Walker admitted in the four years he sat in on employee contract negotiations he’d never actually read one of the contracts he’d signed, giving employees written in salary increases and paying all their health and pension premiums. Of course, Walker wasn’t spending his own money, so why would he give a rat’s ass what he’s signing? 

We should also discuss the city’s layoffs and closures – these actions are intended to squeeze us into agreeing to a tax increase of one sort or another. They’re already bringing the ACE ordinance – a fee levied on any business that has anything to do with the sale of alcohol – around the back door. And, you may have heard Mary Goloff question speakers at a recent meeting – would they be willing to pay a sales tax increase? 

Today I was at Wells Fargo Bank, and my teller, trained to make light chatter while transacting my business, brought up the closure of Caper Acres. She surmised that the city closed that popular playground just to “get the conversation going…” I don’t know why, but I got the creepiest feeling off this 20-something mother – she could be convinced that WE all NEED  to pay more sales tax!

People are ignorant, and I mean that in the dictionary sense of the word – from Dictionary.com – “lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact…uninformed; unaware.”

According to glassdoor.com, the average bank teller makes about $11 an hour. At full time, that’s about $22,000/year. And she’s lucky to get any health insurance policy at all, forget pension. Do people like my teller know what they’re making Downtown, just to open the gate at Caper Acres every morning and take the trash bag out of the can? 

We need to get going on an education campaign of some sort, to let people know – IT’S NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM, IT’S A SPENDING PROBLEM. 

I hope to see a happy group around the table tomorrow!

Happy Fourth of July – let’s start thinking about Election 2014!

4 Jul

It’s a good time to be an American. For one thing, in about 40 minutes,  the Rotary Club, with help from The Work Training Center, CARD, and the city of Chico,  will be offering FREE PANCAKES over at One Mile.  

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everybody that public participation is the most important part of Democracy, and I’m not talking about a pie eating contest or a horseshoe toss. We have an election coming up in less than two years, I’d like to see some likely candidates step up for the city council race.

Scott Gruendl is talking like he’s running – on the news yesterday he was quoted as waiting for the employee unions to come forward with a better deal to keep the airport fire station open. Yeah, yeah – he’s so full of shit –  let’s not forget, Councilman Gruendl approved the MOU that linked public salaries to revenue increases but not decreases.  He knew exactly what he was doing – the same thing was happening in Glenn County, and over the same time period, his Glenn County salary went from about $50,000 to about $105,000/year – oh my! What a co-inky-dink!  And, in Glenn County, the employer pays the ENTIRE  “employee’s share” for pensions and benefits. That is odd, since Glenn County is in the lowest income bracket in the state, one of the poorest counties in the entire country.

Gruendl seems to have no shame as he strings together an impressive total of public moolah.  In addition to his $100,000+ from Glenn County, Gruendl takes about $8,000/year from Chico State as a part time “lecturer”.  And, contrary to what a lot of people believe, our city councilors are paid and benefitted – Gruendl takes  another $7,800/year for his council seat, plus a $17,000 benefits package for which he pays 2% of his salary,  less than $200/year.

If this guy gets re-elected, you can say GOODBYE to the America you thought you knew. People like Gruendl are moving into position all over the United States, pushing the employee unions into power, taking more public money to feed their war chest. If they have their way, the government will be the only employer out there, and if you don’t have a government job, you will be a slave. You will work 60 hours a week to pay their salaries.

I know, pretty dramatic. Oh well, just sit there, and see if I’m right. 

Happy Fourth! 

 

CARD just doesn’t get it

3 Jul

I read in the Enterprise Record that CARD was taking their paid consultant’s advice and embarking on a public relations campaign. Sounded stupid, and turned out to be exactly that. The gal who was supposed to be out in the park yakking at visitors and handing out taxpayer-purchased “free” bling did not show up. Wow, some campaign!

I had been out running some errands so asked my husband to drive me over to her first campaign stop – Hooker Oak Rec Area. She was supposed to be there from 10am to 1pm. Uh-huh.  I thought that sounded feasible – that’s a popular playground, close to the creek, nice and cool. Parents with small kids don’t always have a nice house with air conditioning and a big yard full of playground equipment. Alot of people depend on the park to get their kids and themselves out of the house, somewhere free and safe to go. When the temps get up over 100, people flock to the parks along the creek. There are also the kids’ camps and daycare groups.  My husband and I ride that trail up through the park to Five Mile Rec Area all the time, and the playgrounds at Hooker Oak, especially over by the creek, are always busy. 

When we got there about 10:50, the maintenance workers were spread out over the ball fields, doing the day’s maintenance, in near 100 degree heat. These guys get paid, on average, less than $10,000 a year – temporary workers,  they also get no benefits. 

Lisa Almaguer, CARD marketing coordinator, is also considered a temporary employee, but gets a considerably better wage than the maintenance workers – over $15,000/year. Not bad, considering her occupation, which seems to be, deciding when and where she will come to work. I wrote her a note, asking her, had the newspaper got the time wrong?

Hi,

We went out to Hooker Oak Park yesterday to participate in your questionnaire regarding the parks and get some free bling, but we couldn’t find you. We were there about 10:50. We wonder if the newspaper got the time/place mixed up?
we’re looking forward to coming out for the other events listed, hoping the newspaper got the schedule right – thanks for your efforts – J. Sumner

Here’s her response:

From:  Lisa Almaguer (lalmaguer@chicorec.com)
To: juanita sumner

Due to the extreme heat, we had to cancel the Hooker Oak park visit. I will be at the other listed parks (barring its not 105+ degrees!).

Thanks for your interest, I hope to see you next week at DeGarmo Park.

Lisa

I had kind of expected this to be the case, but I had to hear it from her. “Extreme heat“?  Oh, it’s okay for people to be out mowing lawns in the sun, striping ball fields, taking bags of trash out of cans, but this gal doesn’t do her job at more than 105 degrees? Well, la tee dah – let me know when you got that silver spoon out of your mouth Honey, I’d like to stick my foot in it. 

This is the kind of crap that we pay people for down at CARD. 

And, it’s not even their own idea. It’s a statewide campaign by the State Parks Department. You may recall how mad people got a year or so back when it was discovered that the State Parks had been maintaining a “slush fund” illegally, without the knowledge of the state controller, etc, out of which they paid themselves for unused vacation and sick time. People got so mad, apparently, the Parks Department decided to print up a bunch of “flying discs”, water bottles, and other bling,

again, with tax dollars, to hand out to the stupid masses to buy us off and get our love back. 

I thought this was a dumb plan, but they’d already spent the money, so I’ll admit, I wanted a couple of those flying discs for Biscuit. And then she wasn’t even there – some CAMPAIGN Honey!

One of my errands was to a motor shop over on Park Avenue. They were in there working away with NO air conditioning, at all. That’s the private sector for you! 

Well, chalk one up for the Chico Area Parks and Rec District – a public relation campaign that gives them NEGATIVE publicity. 

CARD takes consultant’s advice, sends out messengers to brighten it’s image before the public

2 Jul

Today Chico Area Rec and Parks District, aka CARD, is starting a public relations campaign suggested by a consultant they hired to run a survey a couple of months back, trying to “guage,” or more likely create support for a new bond or assessment on our property taxes. 

The consultant came back with a “negative” –  not enough support indicated for any kind of tax to float CARD.  For one thing, only 1800 of 10,000 surveys were even returned – you can interpret that however you want, they sure did. I interpret that as, people don’t even CARE about CARD, much less want a bond on their homes.

The reasons listed by the consultant – summarized from respondents’ comments: “bad economy; recent passage of Measure E, prop 30, and other tax increases; and ‘government spending’”.

Of course she didn’t elaborate on “government spending.” You can speculate there too. I will speculate that at least some people either read my letters to the editor or found out for themselves – the aquatic center held up as a prize for your correctly-answered survey was nothing but a rainbow – it disappeared before the survey had even been completed. Board member Ed Seagle sat right there at a meeting and said they were wrong to even suggest they had anywhere near enough money to even think about building an aquatic center, and that notion dried up quicker than spit on a griddle. But not as loudly – they never took out a press release or anything, they let it ride silently. They knew I’d sent those letters, and Seagle was just doing damage control, covering his own ass if you ask me.  

Seagle of course didn’t mention the $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS for THEIR pensions. They act like they were buying something for us with that money – Scott Dowell keeps repeating, like some kind of snake handler, “we saved $40,000 with that pay-off.” Big fucking deal, Preacher Man. You saved YOURSELVES $40,000, you ripped the taxpayers off for $400,000, and counting. CARD staff does not pay one thin red dime toward their own pensions.

The consultant had some wisdom to offer the board and staff. She said they needed to get out  there and create a more positive image of CARD. I’d say, “an image at all.” How many people don’t even know CARD exists until they need an “after school program” to dump their school age kids in when school’s out?  That’s where CARD gets most of it’s “program revenues” – they get most of their money in property taxes and new home fees, but of the revenues they generate themselves, those after school programs are their Blue Ribbon Cash Cow. But recreation superintendent Monica Jameson loudly announced at one meeting, she doesn’t have enough staff to supervise your children properly – she’s going to have to turn hundreds of kids away. Good luck finding somewhere to dump your spawn this summer.  And, if you are “lucky enough” to get in, keep an eye on your own child – she said she only has two adults to supervise over 300 children in one program, and some 500 signed up! 

It’s going to take a lot more than some little gal sitting in the park handing out “free” flying discs and other stuff paid for by the taxpayers to untarnish CARD’s reputation with me. 

UPDATE:  I had errands to do in my car yesterday, so drove by Hooker Oak Park at 10:50 to see the CARD gal and get some of that free bling – she wasn’t there. “Almaguer will be at Hooker Oak Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 2;”    We drove all over the parking lot at Hooker Oak, looked around the playgrounds and the ball fields – nobody but the usual $5,000/year maintenance workers.   There was no place she could have been that we wouldn’t have seen her. If I’d rode my bike over there in that heat, I would have been pissed off. Why would she say she’s going to be there for a certain time block, and then right in the middle of it, nothing?

I’ll drop her a note.

CARD delving into community park-love effort

Staff Reports

Posted:   07/01/2013 12:55:40 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge

Marketing coordinator Lisa Almaguer shows off the flying discs she’ll be giving away at parks…

CHICO — Lisa Almaguer will be staking out a corner of several Chico parks through July, hoping to talk to lots of people about what’s behind their feelings for Chico parks.She’ll be at Hooker Oak Park on Tuesday morning.

This is the unfurling of “I love my parks and recreation” campaign, which she is pursuing as a way to reinforce how important play and parks are to people. July is National Parks and Recreation Month, designated by the National Recreation and Park Association.

Almaguer works for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, which owns Community Park and the others she plans to visit.

While she knows park users have an appreciation of CARD parks — because they’re already playing there — Almaguer hopes her campaign will bring a better understanding of how valuable parks are in people’s lives.

She’ll be asking park users what they love about the parks, writing down the comments on slips, and then displaying them on bulletin boards at each park. There will likely be a report to the CARD board as well.

The national association’s turnkey campaign came with minimal costs, so CARD decided to adopt it in July.

“Basically, we’re looking to find out why parks are vital to the users,” said Almaguer, who handles marketing for CARD.

Almaguer will be at Hooker Oak Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 2; at DeGarmo Community Park from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 9; at Wildwood Park from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 18; and at Community Park

from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. July 27.Initially, she’ll have give-aways like flying discs and stickers, and by mid-month, she’ll also have sunglasses, water bottles and more.