Archive | August, 2013

City councilor blames county DA for “drinking problem” – why should the cops arrest these kids or the college throw them out if Ramsey won’t prosecute?

31 Aug

I am an alumnus of Chico State. I think I finally graduated about 1991 – I didn’t know, you had to apply to graduate, I finished the classes they told me to take and sat around waiting for my
diploma in the mail for about six months before somebody finally told me I had to fill out forms and lay down $75 before they’d officially let me out of that insane asylyum.

I did well enough – “suma cum laude” – had to look that up. I’ll admit, a lot of those ‘A’s were for “apple polishing,” but I was just glad to get the hell out of there.  I had my problems, mostly trying to stay awake in class.  One thing I never did was fall in a puddle of my own puke or get arrested for any bad behavior.

My cousin Charley had lived in town for years, he went to PV High.   When I enrolled at Chico State, our grandmother’s Alma Mater, he was working at Gepetto’s. My first Pioneer week, I went in to have a cup of coffee with him while he was prepping the kitchen before opening one morning. He told me, “go to Gramma’s Teet, I’ll see you there later.” Apparently he’d gone out of the restaurant earlier that morning to take the trash, at about 10 am, and encountered a pack of sorority sisters egging a police car. The cops had pulled over, got out, and were watching the attack from a safe distance. “It’s going to be a bad weekend,” Charley predicted. With that I left for class – some teachers insisted on holding class during Pioneer week, there was a pretty solid divide through the faculty on this matter. Some of them felt the kids should be allowed to have fun, others had tried to fight it for years and gave up. But it seemed all my teachers were holding that thin blue line. I had to go to class, under threat of failure. 

I also needed to pay my PG&E bill, so I headed over toward Salem. Walking back toward the college I encountered my first revelers – I was meandering along Third or Fourth Street, passing a two story house with an upstairs deck, when a beer bottle smashed on the sidewalk a few feet ahead of me. “Oops!” I heard from above. A girl, looking pretty drunk, leaned over the railing to apologize. “Sorry!” she sniggered. At this point, I suddenly realized – my cousin Charley was one of the more level-headed members of our family.  I went to my class, I went home, I loaded my cats in my car, and I headed for my grandmother’s house over in Glenn County. 

Charley came out later, we had the usual “dab dinner” (leftovers), and turned on the news. Oh yeah, that was the Big One. “Student” parties had gone out of control, a riot had broke out in the intersection of Fifth and Ivy. The laundromat on the corner was trashed, a fire started in the street using furniture from the laundromat, and a news van responding to the scene was overturned by rioters. Turns out, that was a good weekend to spend at Gramma’s with the cats! 

I think that was the first time, in modern history, that the students had got that out-of-control. Most of those arrested were enrolled at one or another of our local colleges.  Since then, we’ve had similar but smaller incidents at the beginning of almost every semester. When they “cancelled” Pioneer Week to stop it, Halloween became a problem, then Cesar Chavez Day? 

My grandmother  told me, the college has always been some sort of problem. Back in “The Day,” it was sexual assaults. Yep, back in the “good old days,” men would flock to Chico every weekend to pick up some babes! Some times the babes weren’t so willing to be picked up! And sometimes it wasn’t randy farm boys – it was male teachers and students. My grandmother gave me stern advice about going to male professor’s offices alone, or letting men walk me home at night. “Better to be all knees and elbows,” she’d say, meaning “Run home,” and stay under the street lights.  

So, don’t waste my time telling me what a nice town Chico  was – it’s never been a perfect town, there’s always been problems associated with bringing 15,000 non-residents into your town without doing any sort of background check.

So, this semester we had the obligatory bottle and rock assault on Chico PD. I don’t know how we’d start the semester without it! I don’t know how the cops would get their foot in the door for more funding if they didn’t have these barreled fish to hold up to council as a threat during contract talks. This year, as always, the Chief has made his “Zero Tolerance” speech – oh, I’m so scared Kirk! You say that every year, Muloney said it, they’ve all said it.  We’re still waiting for you to explain what “zero tolerance” means. 

To me, it means, for certain infractions, you only get one chance, and then you’re out. But, looking over the police reports and the Butte County Superior Court case index, you’ll see some people making repeated violations with alcohol. For example, a Chico State student who’d been arrested for “minor driving under the influence” in 2011 was just arrested again at a party on Hazel for “disorderly conduct, alcohol.” He lists his current age as 20, so that’s two violations we know of involving minor in possession of alcohol within the last two years. Why did Chico State accept this person as a student? They wouldn’t get into one of my rentals, and my neighbors are glad to hear that.

I guess either of the colleges would have a problem trying to reject or kick out these kids without a conviction. That’s where Mike Ramsey comes in. I see most of those arrested for “disorderly conduct, alcohol” are transferred to the county jail. But, I can’t find their name in the case index, I guess it takes a while. I will try to do more research.

But, in an e-mail conversation regarding the “community drinking problem,” councilor Sean Morgan told me,  “To the drunk in public comments. Here we are in complete agreement. When someone is arrested for Drunk in Public they are taken to the Oroville Jail, kept overnight, and, are your ready for this???!! Released the next day! No fine. No consequence. The DA won’t prosecute them. Not enough time he says.”

“He” being, I assume, Mike Ramsey.

Wow, that’s a gobstopper – why should the cops arrest these people knowing they won’t be prosecuted? How will the college know they have a police record, that they’ve caused problems in their host town, if the DA doesn’t prosecute these people? 

I mean, real problems for real people. I had a friend who rented a store front Downtown, it had been a dream of hers to revamp and reopen a long-time Downtown landmark beauty parlor. I don’t think she lasted there a year. Twice drunks broke her front window – witnesses said one drunk just tripped and plowed right in, another was shoved by a companion. Both times, the police had contact with the perpetrators, but because there was no arrest or names obtained, and because the repair was under the deductible on her insurance, she had to pay for it herself. That will drive you out of business.  

The police must be too frustrated to arrest these rowdy troublemakers – I notice, they make a big stink about an out-of-control party, but you check the arrest logs for August 24 – 28, and you don’t see very many arrests for that Ivy Street area, or the Hazel Street party recently in the news. According to the news reports, and the video and photos still running on the Enterprise Record website, they should have brought in a net and corralled the whole bunch, dozens of rowdies. I think it’s illegal to hit anybody with a bottle, or a rock, or any projectile, for that matter, but I see no such arrests for that Ivy Street area on any night around the 24 – you look,  maybe I missed them.

http://www.chico.ca.us/Police/documents/WeeklyArrests.pdf

I do see arrests for alcohol related offenses scattered over the last couple of weeks, but alot of those are people well over college age, with occupations like, “Build.com” and “cleans taco wagons,” etc.  You see the pictures, hear the stories – why aren’t more students arrested? 

I also found the arrest records for that “gang” that was hanging around the railroad tracks at night, robbing people. This has gone on as long as there’s been a bike  trail down there, it should be easy pickings for smart cops to bust people like this. Instead they wait until the beginning of the semester, when new college kids are in town, and roust the bad kids in a big raid. Once. Check the names in that story, you’ll also see them in the arrest report. Then check the court index – I found several of those people had been arrested before for similar offenses, some of them involving methamphetamine. Recently, this year. But they’re still out, available to terrorize the college kids? 

We have a real problem with our local law enforcement, and I’d say, since County District Attorney Mike Ramsey is the highest paid and highest placed officio involved, his is the head that stinks. Ramsey’s problem is, he’s a total egomaniac. He thinks he’s Elliot Ness – one year, he used public money to have himself and his staff dressed in period clothing and posed next to some Ness-era cars for a calendar shoot. Dressed up like Elliot Ness. What a crazy bastard. 

And who does this Ness-wannabee protect us from? Oh, gross, egregious environmental violators, like George Scott, of Chico Scrap. George Scott has run salvage operations in this area for years, he’s kept abreast of the ever-changing rules, and I’d say, run a pretty good business. What would you do, bury that old washer in your back yard? We just took an old water heater over there – I guess I just could have told my husband – “put it in the back of the F-150 and drive it over to one of the double-letter roads in Glenn County, roll it out along a rice field…”  What would we do without businesses like Chico Scrap? 

But for some reason, Ramsey has taken on this business, to the point of harassment. Meanwhile, he won’t dirty his hands with “Chico’s Drinking Problem.” 

Ramsey is elected again and again because no attorney from around here with any sense would run against him. Ramsey is a vindictive ass – look what he did to Bill Hill! Took his teenage daughter’s clothes! Run against that guy, and lose to his Democratic party machine, you’re sending out invitations to your own ass-kicking. 

The voters could help by mounting a recall. Needs to happen, not sure who will try it. George Scott already put alot of money into that carpet bagger he ran last time – not that I blame him, who would he have got from around here? I don’t know if he would be interested in financing a recall campaign.  But that’s the only way we will get rid of Mike Ramsey. And he’s the real “drinking problem”.

Marysville group plans rally against Cal Water rate hikes

30 Aug

UPDATE: THIS RALLY HAS BEEN POSTPONED – DATE AND TIME TO BE ANNOUNCED

Yesterday I got an e-mail from Connie over in Marysville to tell us about her group, Marysville For Affordable Water Rates. Her group is trying to network with like-minded people in other towns.  They sound like a more “with it” group than ours, they’ve really been working hard against the water rate increase.  They’re getting a rally together for September 21 in Marysville.

“We filed a Formal Complaint with CPUC. We have been in touch with many cities that are also fighting back. We are having a rally here in Marysville on Sept 21st @ 10AM. All of you are invited. We have speakers scheduled to talk from other cities. Adam Skow from Food and Water Watch will be here to speak. We are inviting the media from Chico all the way down Sacramento. Newspapers and TV. WE do have a very active facebook site.”

Their Facebook site is interesting, and I see Oroville has also come up with a Facebook site. I hate Facebook, I’m not doing a Facebook site. If somebody else wants to do one, I’d say, get ahold of Connie, here:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marysville-For-Reasonable-Water-Rates/176321489194208

They have signs – e-mail at Marysvillewater@yahoo.com

What I haven’t seen on their website is a discussion of the pensions that are causing the rate hike. That’s what my notice said – $500,000 just for administrative pensions, another $300,000 for the “field workers” – a year!  When Cal Water held their “rate increase hearing” in Chico, citizen Ray Schimmel stood up and explained their “defined” or guaranteed benefits plans. Schimmel, a retired financial analyst, described Cal Water’s pension plan as “The Cadillac of Pension Plans.”  Cal Water is not going to use this money to improve service or give us better water – in fact, every time I turn around they are sending me a notice that my water if full of all kinds of shit, but that’s perfectly okay!

We need to get more people involved.  I do want to attend the rally, and I’d like to get some of those ginchee signs they’ve printed to spread around town.  Unfortunately, my automobile was recently burnt to a crisp in a parking lot fire in O-town:

Well, the door were still attached, but quite melted. And of course, the fire department smashed out all the windows just to make sure the car was completely trashed. Sorry, but the city of Oakland people my husband dealt with were so rude, I hope Oakland slides off into the sea in the next  Big One.

There’s one of the floor mats I bought with my birthday money. New tires.  We’re still waiting for AAA.

My husband and son are taking the rental car out of town. Yeah, another ballgame, those guys just never learn. Can’t resist free tickets right behind home plate. Thanks Dave!

Anyhoo, that leaves me figuring out how I am going to get to Marysville – I will have to hash that over with the CTA this Sunday, at our regular meeting. Maybe we can get up a posse.

At any rate, I will support this group in any way I can, and I’d like to start a similar group here in town, I’d even be willing to post a new word press page for it. I’d also be willing to set up meetings at the library, direct e-mail, etc.

What have I learned after 10 years of attending city meetings? Be a bitch, or get screwed.

29 Aug

Wow, isn’t that great that acting city Fire Chief Keith Carter has found a way to make those cuts at Chico Fire. The story behind that is, Brian Nakamura told an “exclusive membership” audience at the Chico Chamber luncheon he was considering out-sourcing the fire department to Cal Fire. Wow, all the sudden Carter got real imaginative on ways to save money! I honestly don’t think “public outrage” had anything to do with it – unless it was public outrage directed toward Nakamura.

I get a kick out of the editorial in today’s paper, saying the department could have kept the public better informed – what’s Nakamura doing, discussing city policy at private chamber meetings? This was never discussed before the full public in any council or committee meeting.

I bet you all wonder how much stuff goes on Downtown without any public oversight – plenty! At yesterday’s Economic Development committee meeting, that was a large part of the discussion. Unfortunately, Nakamura and  council have decided to cut expenses by cutting the staff who usually keeps the public in the loop. There was no clerk at yesterday’s meeting, and I didn’t notice anybody at that table taking notes. If you don’t attend these meetings, you wouldn’t know stuff like, they have a staffer almost completely dedicated to servicing the Chico Chamber, Shawn Tillman.

Tillman was apparently one of the staffers who was kept through the makeover but “bumped down” a couple thousand in salary – he used to make about $92,000/year, now only $89,000. At another meeting, I found out, his salary is paid out of the RDA because he also administers the oft-cancelled “RDA Successor Agency” meetings.  That means we really pay him about $250,000 – most of which goes to the interest on the RDA money. 

The Economic Development Committee is currently struggling with this problem – even while we spend $38 million of our $43 million dollar budget on salaries and benefits, they keep whining we still don’t have enough staff to cover meetings, notice citizens via e-mail or post agendas and minutes online. Paubrecitos!

Yesterday’s meeting started out with a discussion about how they will run this committee. Gruendl has foisted a plan by which there will be “regular business meetings” every other month, during which the committee can take action. In alternative months, the committee would meet with the business community via “events” orchestrated by Katie Simmons, director of the Chico Chamber of Commerce.

Simmons already has a city staffer, Tillman, assisting her with business that really ought to be done by the chamber. Why are we handing the Chico Chamber a free staffer, in addition to money they get every year from community grants?   Tillman administers “Team Chico,” a group of consultants, including Simmons, who are supposed to be reaching out to local businesses, telling them about programs they otherwise might not be aware of!  This little club of matrons visits businesses they choose to visit, offering them perks and benies of Chamber membership, as well as notifying them of city programs.

Isn’t that Katie Simmon’s job? All a business has to do to find out about what the city offers is come to the website. 

This is the kind of crap that passes for “Economic Development.” Tillman gives roughly the same glossy report every meeting – “our business climate is healthy!” He says there’s been 400 jobs added by existing businesses – businesses he’s actually contacted!  Do tell?

But I wish you’d also tell me Shawn, other than contacting these businesses and then reporting it to us, what did you do to create those job? Well, nothing.  It has become more than apparent to me that Tillman’s part in all this is simply the part of cheerleader, yakking up the marvelous magic of Economic Development! 

At one point, Mark Sorensen raised an interesting issue – just how far should the city, a public entity, go to promote private business? That went out the window.

I think they’ve already gone too far. There was the Mayor’s Business Advisory committee, with Ann Schwab and Mark Sorensen meeting privately with businesses – – like PG&E! Enloe Hospital!  – – but Sorensen, Schwab and the staffer attached to that committee denied me access to those meetings, saying the business people didn’t feel comfortable talking in front of the public.   Well, that tells me more than an agenda! What the hell could they be uncomfortable talking about in front of the public?

When I asked Gruendl about these meetings, he said they will be “absorbed” into the Economic Development Committee, I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

I was pleasantly surprised that yesterday’s agenda included something like a business roundtable – several members of Team Chico, local business owners, had come in to give reports about their activities with TC. Unfortunately, Item 1 was allowed to go all over the place, at least 20 minutes spent completely OFF TOPIC, and by the time these reports came up, I had to leave. 

Unlike most of the people in that room, I am not compensated to sit in those meetings.  I don’t have a housekeeper at home to make my family’s dinner. I have two to three hungry family who have been working physically all day to further my bottom line as well, and I like to offer some support in the way of a hot meal on the dinner table. The fact that they schedule these meetings at the dinner hour is frustrating to me – how does this save staff time? How do council meetings that go on beyond 11 pm save staff time? 

Scott says having these alternate meetings with businesses, outside the city chambers, away from the clerk and the recording devices, will save staff time!

I will call Scott The Rubberband Man – you gonna lose control when the rubberband starts to jam.

Scott can turn anything around and make it sound positive. Yesterday he told us that these “industry meetings” would save money. Oh? How’s that? By cutting out the pubic, that’s how. The conversation covered the Brown Act – Taylor cheerfully announced that if only one or two of them attended an “event” it wouldn’t be a Brown Act violation. Sorensen agreed. They all kept repeating a lot of crap about keeping the public involved – I felt this conversation was almost fully for my benefit – thanks for the yadda-yadda wave Katie – but you know how some people say exactly the opposite of what they really mean because they know you won’t like what they really mean? 

It was Tillman who said he didn’t think they needed to notice the “industry meetings” – he waved at “the partners” from Team Chico and said, “you can promote it…” he suggested. Oh really? Well, I’m not expecting to see any tv commercials or giant glossy ads promoting the “event” they’re scheduling for the “market analysis” they did with taxpayer’s money a few months ago. Remember the retail survey, you might have participated? Tillman told us in June that report would be made at this meeting, but all they have are tentative plans for a two day “event”, workshops planned mostly for businesses. They are planning workshops designed to show retailers how to “take advantage” of the data from the survey.   

Jesus Christ Katie, do you have to be so insensitive?  Great choice of words –  “take advantage”   This woman does not pretend to have any concern for the average citizen, consumers are her bread and meat.  She said it herself – those “exclusive to members” luncheons she’s been inviting city staff and council to attend are “a fantastic opportunity for our guests (city employees, elected officials) and for our members…” Yeah, they sure are. Legally, they call that lobbying. Unfortunately, not everybody benefits when special interests are allowed an exclusive event to lobby our policy makers.

When I pointed this out, they all sadly agreed. I told them, these meetings all need to be completely open to the public, and noticed, just like they have been in the past, or it’s going to look like something inappropriate is going on.  We wouldn’t want anybody like me thinking there was something funny going on, now would we?  Scott agreed, profusely, his tail so far between his furry legs you’d almost think he really meant it! Simmons actually said that the luncheons would be made public, but again, I’m not expecting a big ad campaign pointed at the taxpayers. 

What the hell does Tillman do with his time that he doesn’t have 5 minutes to send a list-serve e-mail? “I guess I could use the notice list for the regular meetings to notice the industry meetings?” he offered meekly, like a little child who’d been told he was expected to eat the crusts too.  Yes, that’s what you need to do Shawn, duh, please stop trying to make it sound onerous, you little drip. 

Scott runs these meeting horribly, he’s no improvement over Goloff. I’m all for public comment, I demand it, but Gruendl needs to keep the comments on topic or step down. He let a man go off topic for like 20 minutes. I had my hand up the entire time to ask on-topic questions about the public noticing of these meetings, and Gruendl just ignored me. After he let the other man go on at length, repeating himself, and going way off topic, he let Audrey Taylor in ahead of me – off topic, at length. I finally had to wheel my chair – from now on I will not sit in a chair without wheels at those meetings – and physically insert myself into the conversation to ask my on-topic questions. At one point, I just had to start yelling over Tillman, regarding the noticing of what Scott called “the listening meetings” – I had to keep saying, “No, that won’t work…” until they listened.

I’m not going to be polite, I don’t care who thinks I’m a bitch. One thing I’ve learned having dealt with these people all these years, be a  bitch, or get screwed.

I’ll keep tabs on these upcoming “events”. 

 

 

Just how should parking revenues be spent?

28 Aug

Yesterday I hauled out of here at 7:45, and I mean hauled ass.  I can never get out of here in the morning, always have to go back for something, bike lock, ink pen, notebook, whatever. Just getting out my driveway can take me 20 minutes. If I’m lucky I don’t get halfway up the street and then realize I’m still wearing my pajama top.

I made the 8:00 Finance Committee meeting at about 8:04, having achieved flight somewhere under the freeway overpass, screeching into my chair just as Brian Nakamura and some other $taffers were taking their seats, and  Mark Sorensen was calling the meeting to order.

I had gone down there to ask some questions about the parking fund.  I find these meetings are the best time to ask questions, as long as they are relatively on topic. I must say, despite my feelings about their obese salaries, Chris Constantin and Frank Fields seem competent and are cooperative.  They give me an answer when I ask. The only part I have to figure out is, which question to ask.

Yesterday I wanted to know, what salaries are paid out of Downtown parking revenues, or Fund 853. I saw in the reports that fund takes in a little over a million a year – that’s just coin from Downtown parking meters – Whoa Nelly!

I also saw, half that fund goes to salaries and benefits, and I wondered – that can’t be just the parking meter crew. No, it’s not. Mark Sorensen mentioned, they take $120,000 for a cop, and no, he’s not assigned Downtown.

Well, I must say, that’s questionable. And that was the topic – just what should the city be able to do with the parking revenues. Fields, speaking on behalf of Constantin who is out of town til Sept 9, wants direction on that. It’s not his job to set policy, he’s just there to give us the facts. The fact is, we’ve been spending money “loosey goosey” (yes, that term has made it’s way permanently into the finance lexicon), and the Finance Department is asking council to put some limits on various funds, make some rules about spending.

Oh my geeshy sakes, isn’t that just Rocket Science! 

I know, we’ve heard this before, months ago. It’s not staff’s fault here, Constantin has been asking for direction, telling council they need to come up with new budget policies. Council has been moving like sap in Winter. I keep going to these meetings, months apart, and hearing the same conversation.  At one meeting, Constantin said departments had all been spending money without Finance Department oversight, and then just handing the bills to the Finance Department. Also, historically, whatever a department spent became their budget for the next year, encouraging departments to spend more to get more.  This is called “rollover,” and Fields says that while it’s really not a good way to run your finances, it’s “become the norm in government, I’m not sure why…”

Well, Frank is being too nice here. I know why, cause I remember an article in Tim Bousquet’s paper, years ago, about a lady named Jan who worked at the college. She said her boss had bought an enormous, gorgeous teak desk one year with what otherwise would have  become a “budget surplus,” meaning, their budget would have been cut. Rather than take a budget cut, this man bought himself a grandiose desk, at the taxpayers’ expense. This has become “the norm” in government.

And don’t forget, budget surpluses can also be taken as bonus by the department head – watch that episode of the office, where Staff is divided over buying new chairs or a new copy machine, and Michael “solves” the argument by taking the surplus as a bonus and buying himself a pimp jacket.

I have to get to work around my house now, I’ll pick this up later. 

Later:  Since I last posted, I have got a bunch of figures from Frank Fields, regarding the parking fund (853) but I haven’t had a chance to look them over. I also got some figures for the park fund (050) and wow, that’s a can of worms. I will get back after I’ve read over those documents – today  I am working out of town.

Later Later: Well, the documents Frank was so nice to provide me didn’t tell me anything really new – just kind of answered my suspicions.  Nor did he give me a document that I can cut and paste or figure out how to post in any way for you – I’ll work on it. Suffice to say, yes, they pay too many salaries out of the parking fund, salaries that, I’m sorry, have NOTHING to  do with providing anybody parking. 

What stunk about this meeting was, they have had the same discussion in front of me several times now, over months – and years previous with Hennessy – but nothing changes.  Staff certainly seems willing to have new rules for spending money – they don’t want to take the blame for the mess we’re in, they want to make sure we all know they are at the behest of council. So, the problem – the head of this stinking fish – is COUNCIL.

Furthermore, I’m blaming the two who told us they’d bring “fiscal conservatism” to this council – Sorensen and Morgan.   These two, especially Morgan, who is an ass, are doing nothing but fiddling our money away. They both signed another set of contracts agreeing to pay the employee’s share. With Morgan completed embedded at Chico PD (he brags constantly about going on frequent “ride-alongs” with his personal friend CPOA president Peter Durfee), I don’t see this changing anytime soon. We will continue to pay whatever the cops hold their hand out for as long as Morgan has anything to say about it.   Sorensen is way too friendly with the Chamber crowd. We’ll never get our financial house in order with Sorensen and Morgan handing out our taxes to their friends.

Park Commission needs to be completely “renovated”

27 Aug

Last night I had a dilemma – two meetings at the same time. I really wanted to get over and hear what Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and Senator Doug LaMalfa had to say about Obamacare last night, but I decided to go to the Park Commission meeting instead. I’m glad I did, because Laura Urseny’s report doesn’t tell the half of it.

Urseny’s report just sounds like a little groove fest – the meeting was actually pretty contentious.   For one thing, Dan Efseaff and Lise Smith-Peters kept trying to tell the commission that there is already a fund and a volunteer program in place, all the Caper Acres Volunteers need to do is come down and join in. But Caper Acres Volunteers seem to want more. Nobody is saying exactly what they want in this conversation, it just went around and around like a clogged toilet for an hour.

Commissioners Lisa Emmerich and Mary Brentwood kept bringing up the crucial point – if this group wants to collect money for the park, they need to establish themselves as a non-profit – form a 501C3 committee. I believe this is correct – I’ve looked into turning CTA into some sort of non-profit or PAC. You are not allowed just to collect people’s money unless you are going to file the proper paperwork, that’s basically the deal. Nobody would come right out and say it, but it was pretty clear to me – either the Caper Acres Volunteers must form a 501C3 or they just have to join Park Volunteers and do what they’re told by Lise Smith Peters and Dan Efseaf.

Caper Acres Volunteers representative Abigail Lopez indicated that she was willing to “look into” forming a 501C3, “if that’s necessary.” She said she’s already had offers of money donations as well as volunteers. The sticking point with these people is a good one – they are not too comfortable handing more money over to city staffers, without some rock-solid agreement that it will all be “spent on Caper Acres.” 

Well, grow up. What do you think that means? Dan Efseaf gets paid $93,000/year to oversee Caper Acres – his salary can come out of any such fund. See how that works? That’s how they’ve drained almost every fund Downtown to pay for their salaries and benefits when they are cutting services every day, locking up our parks, closing down community fixtures.

One man stood up to make a very important point, which “reporter” Laura Urseny point blank ignored – Chris Bolshazy (sp?) from the SEIU(!) came in to tell the commission, essentially, that they are derelict in their duty if they don’t complain about being left completely out of this decision to close the park.  Well, DUH! Why does this commission even exist – I ask myself that every time I attend one of these meetings. Bolshazy told the commission they need to read the city charter – good idea! This commission is just a discussion group, a “think tank”, they don’t DO anything. And, oftentimes, any recommendation they do make is overturned by city council. These commissioners are not elected, they do not represent the public – these positions are just political spoils. 

I mean, I like Mark Herrera, but when he said last night that the city “doesn’t have enough money to take care of the parks,” I wanted to slap him upside the head.  Here’s a guy who made a loud protest about trees being removed but not the couplets project that necessitated the removal.  He can’t get more pissed off about this? Where’s the real angst Mark? 

The Park Commission needs to be completely redone. The park is one of our most important assets in Chico – why is there no Parks Committee made up of our elected representatives on City Council? We have the Internal Affairs committees, Finance, and Economic Development. They have a “Mayor’s Business Advisory Board” with Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen that is not open to the public. They have a “local governments” committee made up of representatives from the city and county and various public entities. But no member of council sits on either the Parks Commission, or, get a load of this – the Airport Commission? Both of those entities are run by a bunch of feel-good  – sorry to say this – IDIOTS – who don’t have the slightest clue to the code or what they’re supposed to be doing. And even if they tried to do something, they are completely held off  by the forehead by $taff. Here we have the parks closed without any input from the “Parks Commission” and the airport fire station cut without any discussion by the “Airport Commission.”

These two commissions take up $taff time – last night Ruben Martinez, at his newly inflated salary of over $170,000/year, sat at that meeting with his usual stone-face posture, just sitting, staring, somewhat alert in case somebody asked him a question, but just sitting there. Next to him sat Dan Efseaf, at about $93,000 a year, and then little $62,000/year Lise Smith-Peters, who lists herself as “Mary” in the salary charts. There sat over $300,000 worth of staff beef, looking like they’d all rather be eating Dodger Dogs.

Efseaf and Smith-Peters were certainly “working”. They seemed to get a little exasperated toward the end – the whole conversation seems moot to me. Here it is: Caper Acres Volunteers wants to run Caper Acres, they want to have a fund “dedicated” to Caper Acres, but $taff wants them to join the existing volunteer group and hand any donations over to the existing fund.  CAV is understandably uncomfortable with that, but I’ll give them an ice cube’s chance in hell of starting their own non-profit.   We already have Tom Barrett, the guy who was dropped from the Park Commission because he had a nasty habit of sending rude e-mails to citizens, who has started his own non-profit, The Bidwell Park Foundation. I expect this to be as big a scam as the Bidwell Mansion Foundation. Barrett can even pay himself a salary – I’m guessing, that’s the whole reason behind his “foundation.” We’ll have to see. I don’t think Lopez has any such intentions, but I don’t know if she has any idea what she’d be getting into. You can really get into trouble with a non-profit if you don’t have good, salaried, legal advice. 

What I would suggest to Lopez and her friends is, stand up to city staff, and tell them to get their asses out there and do their fucking job or you’re going down to Home Depot to buy a good set of bolt cutters, In fact, that gate may be pretty easy to lift off the hinges, I’ll have to look into that. 

City of Chico meeting schedule for week of August 26, 2013

25 Aug

Bidwell Park and Playground Commission, Monday August 26, 6:30 pm, City Chamber Bldg, Council Chamber:  The only item on this agenda is commissioner Richard Ober’s request to agendize a discussion about creating a “public/private non-profit partnership” between the city of Chico and the Caper Acres Volunteers. This is total news to me. The Caper Acres Volunteers Facebook has not been updated for almost a month, there’s nothing on it about the meeting they had at the end of July, and I have yet to hear any news about this handful of moms starting a legal non-profit. I will try to make this meeting, I haven’t attended one of these for years. 

Here’s that link:    http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/bidwell_park_and_playground_commission/BPPC_Agendaandreports_13_0826.pdf

Finance Committee, Tuesday August 27, 8 – 10 am, City Chamber Bldg, Conf Rm 1: This meeting is chock full of interesting stuff – did you know the city takes in over a million dollars a year in Downtown parking revenues, and spends over $500,000 of it on salaries and benefits? Something tells me the fellows who service those parking meters are not taking in that kind of salary, I’m guessing, this is another fund that is being hit heavily for other than it’s intended purpose.  $taff is in fact requesting that this fund be opened up to all kinds of allowed expenditures, stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with securing you a parking space Downtown. 

Other items include a continuation of the user fee study, as well as the usual budget and finance department updates from Chris Constantin. If you can’t make the meeting, at least look over the agenda – over 100 pages, including a Downtown parking study and pages and pages of incriminating financial figures. 

Here’s that link:  http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/8-27-13FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

Economic Development Committee, Wednesday August 28, 4 – 6 pm, City Chamber Bldg, Conf Rm 1:  THIS MEETING HAS BEEN ERRONEOUSLY POSTED AND NOTICED AS BEING SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY THE 27TH.  Sean Tillman sent out a blast of e-mail corrections that loaded my mail box like a diaper, but has not corrected the notice on the website yet. I keep waiting for his name to disappear from the $taff roster, and I keep being disappointed.

I had been looking forward to this meeting, because at the last meeting I attended, Tillman excitedly promised the results of the shopper’s survey undertaken earlier this year by Tri-Counties Bank, sponsored in part with our tax dollars.  Audrey Taylor from city consultant Chabin Concepts even mentioned having some sort of exciting “event”,  “in August”. But I don’t see anything about that on this agenda. Instead they will be continuing the conversation about merging this committee with the underground “Mayor’s Business Advisory Council,” which operates without public oversight. I’ve asked to attend MBAC events and been refused by $taff, as well as Ann Schwab and Mark Sorensen. Only Ann would even tell me who else is in this secret committee – PG&E? So, I don’t know if this is a good move. I’ve heard, at last week’s council meeting, they’ve re-opened the conversation about hiring a new Economic Development Director, also behind closed doors. I’m sick of all this sneaky business with the Chico Chamber, DCBA, and various consultants who come around at Community Block Grant Funding time. This issue needs more sunshine. 

There will be a “report” from “Team Chico” – another behind closed doors effort between the City of Chico, Chico Chamber, Downtown Chico Business Association, 3CORE and the Alliance for Workforce Development and who knows what other “stakeholders”. Their meetings are not noticed to the public, Tillman reports whatever he feels the public needs to know. These reports are all full of rainbows and lollipops, nothing substantial.  But, city money, in the form of Tillman’s salary and benefits, is being spent on these consultants, many of whom also get CBGF money. I read the slick report included in the agenda, and some of the information is no longer correct (Hwy 32 widening was KO’d the other night), a lot of it is just soap bubbles. 

Here’s that link:   http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/8-27-13EDCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

I wish more people would take time to attend these meetings, just once. I hate to think people just like to sit around complaining but doing nothing! 

Chico Taxpayers will meet next Sunday despite Labor Day

25 Aug

I got  the heads up that our next First Sunday meeting falls on Labor Day weekend, but I’m forging full steam ahead anyway. I like consistency. What better way to spend an hour or so of your Labor Day weekend? You like sitting on the highway with the other lemmings? You like driving hours into the “wilderness” only to find 800 people vying for two parking spaces and a picnic table? I’ll be down at the library, enjoying what may well be the last peace and quiet of 2013. 

Next Sunday I’ll bring in some pages of city employee contracts I’ve printed out, and if anybody else shows up, we’ll redline some stuff that needs to get cut. What fun! I want to get these details out to the public, so it would be great if we could make some points to write in letters to the editor.

If we can get Stephanie Taber to come in, maybe we can get her to give us a report on meetings she’s attended over the past month. I’ll drop her a line and ask her about that. She covers not only the city meetings, but the Chamber of Commerce meetings. Last month she was present for a conversation with Brian Nakamura – usually only members are allowed in these meetings, or, like their “Business Crawl,” non-members are  charged a lot to get in.  I’ve got Katie Simmons to let me in by reminding her how inappropriate it is for the city manager to be talking to an “exclusive membership” audience, but was not able to attend last month. Stephanie reported that Nakamura discussed out-sourcing the fire department, and wow, what do you know – all the sudden interim chief Keith Carter comes up with a brilliant new rotating station plan that cuts fire department overtime! Wow! 

What bugs me is Nakamura is having these conversations without the public. I’ve also heard they’re again planning to hire an Economic Development Director – what? with the money they are “saving” by shuttering up our park? 

It’s time to pay attention. We need folks to attend these meetings. I’ll try to keep a meeting schedule for the week ahead posted here, but it’s tough – maybe I’ll post a list of all the damned chores I have ahead of me today, not to mention, some kind of plan for dinner! 

I hope some of you can make it next Sunday, I’ll be there, testing out the free wi-fi.