Facing the enemy

16 Aug

I’ve tried to get up earlier lately – 4:30 – 5 am, the stars are just outrageous. Orion rises from the East, in all his glory, ready for the Autumn hunt. It’s Dog Days folks – that time of year when dogs and old ladies go crazy.

Speaking of things that drive you crazy, yesterday I was invited to have breakfast with some folks who wanted to know more about the unfunded pension liability that currently hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles.  Here, we think we live in a nice little town, but our city $taff is constantly pointing to perils and mishaps that might befall us if we don’t wise up and shake down some more tax monies. 

To make a long story short, I was invited by one man who already seemed to get it, to speak to a group that largely wasn’t going to get it.  Maybe not ever.  

I sat through their meeting, during which various members gave thoughts on the 20-something city employee pensions over $100,000. Many of them admitted they were public employees themselves. Most of them admitted, right off the bat – they knew members of the 21, played golf with them, did business with them – “some of these people are our clients…”  

Others opined that it’s not the employees’ fault that they were tempted by Satan and gave in.  Where’s Aunt Esther when you need her? People have lost their sense of shame, maybe it needs to follow them around in the form of a mean old lady with a handbag. 

One gentleman summed it up – “just because I didn’t opt for a public sector job doesn’t mean I am going to sit around and whine about the salaries…”  For a minute I thought, “I’ve wasted my time down here…”

But a few, including the fellow who invited me, seemed to be genuinely concerned about the course our city is taking. One man actually used the word, “unsustainable.” 

And, I realized, I have spent the last year and a half preaching to my little choir at the library, people who have already pledged their dedication to watch dogging the city and wrestling with our spending problem.  Facing a hostile audience is far more productive. Frankly, I hope I got up some asses yesterday. Maybe I should have been a proctologist! That’s where I do my best work! 

Speaking of hostile audience, get a load of this exchange I had with David Little over my letter run this morning. For one thing, I had to resend – I noticed, I’d sent my letter before John Salyer sent his letter, but my letter had not run. This happens about 30 percent of the time, especially when Little is away from the desk for whatever reason. But when I saw it this morning, I saw that for no reason they had edited my letter. Read on.

On Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 1:48 PM, juanita sumner  wrote:


I haven’t seen this letter run, and I know John Salyer sent his letter after mine, so I’m wondering if mine was lost in transit, and I’m resending. Sorry for any inconvenience – JS
From: juanita sumner
Subject: letter to editor
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2013 15:14:05 -0700

What was ex-mayor Dan Herbert thinking when he approved the “memo of understanding” that linked city salaries to “increases in revenues but not decreases”?   That MOU resulted in raises as high as 22 percent.  


That deal was outed to the public by journalist Richard Ek. Maybe Herbert thinks Ek was “throwing stones” (Letters, 8/11/13), but Ek’s scrutiny led to the end of that provision in the public contracts. Unfortunately, management was quick to replace it with another provision that the taxpayers pay most or all of city employee’s benefits and pension premiums. With the salaries already inflated, the resulting benefits and pensions packages have just about broken our collective back. 


Can Dan Herbert explain how the pay raises that new city manager Brian Nakamura immediately secured for himself and other department heads, over $500,000 in “supplemental budget appropriations,” will solve our fiscal crisis? I am focusing on the budget, even though city management continues to throw up distractions like the closure of our public park and threats to roads and public safety unless we taxpayers are willing to put up more money – now a garbage tax? 


The city already enjoys a $43,000,000 budget, despite the slight of hand called “reorganization.” Too many city employees still enjoy salaries three, four, five times the median income, paying little or nothing toward obscenely generous benefits packages. 


Questioning the actions of elected officials and staff is every citizen’s right and responsibility.  


Juanita Sumner, Chico Ca

Little answered:

From: dlittle@chicoer.com
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2013 19:54:04 -0700
Subject: Re: FW: letter to editor
To: juanita sumner

I’m away on business, but I know we received. Thanks for your patience. It will run.

David Little
Editor, Chico Enterprise-Record/Oroville Mercury-Register
DFM NorCal cluster editor
400 E. Park Ave., Chico, CA 95927
Telephone: 530-896-7793
Twitter: @ER_DavidLittle
I wrote back
On Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 5:28 AM, juanita sumner  wrote:

I see it this morning – I’ll tell you what’s weird – it’s been edited. Why? 

I put the date of Herbert’s letter, somebody inserted “to quote Herbert’s letter” – ? 
This is going to sound silly, but I don’t like my letters edited unless there’s a good reason. A little mix-up in wording can change the meaning of a sentence, or make a letter sound  confusing and stupid. If there’s a problem with a letter, please send it back.   I don’t think it’s appropriate to edit a letter to the editor.
Sorry to be a nuisance, but that never happened before, so I thought I’d better say something  – Juanita

Watch the change in tone

From: dlittle@chicoer.com
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2013 06:08:37 -0700
Subject: Re: letter to editor
To: juanita sumner

We edit all letters for clarity and content. If you look in the “letters policy” in the newspaper every day, it says words to that effect.

So I just had to ask

What does that have to do with the edit to my letter? My letter was clear and the content was correct. And within the word limit – whoever edited actually added words. 

 The problem being, people don’t know where to look for Herbert’s letter now, but I guess they can figure it out.  I spend a lot of my personal time on these letters, just to have some jackamoe edit my thoughts? 
This will go on my blog, so people know what to expect when they send in a letter – thanks, Juanita
UPDATE: here’s the response I got from Little – Big Brother Speaks!
From: dlittle@chicoer.com
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2013 08:03:48 -0700
Subject: Re: letter to editor
To: juanita sumnerSomebody here who’s a copy editor thought your letter was clearer the way it ran. When you meet the writer who doesn’t need editing, please introduce me. I haven’t met such a writer yet. Everyone (even editors) need editors.

This man thinks he knows better than the letter writers what their letters should say? 

But when a guy sent in a letter saying I’d had Chico PD called to my house, Little wouldn’t retract it, or even call the police to check into it. I had to call the man myself, he admitted he’d made the story up, and wrote a retraction the next day.  I guess I was lucky Little bothered to print the  retraction. 

Somebody needs to start a newspaper in this town. Don’t look at me, I ain’t no Daddy Big Bucks. 

UPDATE UPDATE: I’d like to respond once more to Little, and tell him, his paper needs PROOF readers – another stupid mistake in Laura Urseny’s CARD board meeting story – she spells Ed Seagle’s name “Segale”. This kind of stupid error, which could be caught with a quick read through,  abounds in the ER, I just never say anything.   It does bother me – a newspaper that is more concerned about spinning the news than spelling it right?

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