Archive | October, 2013

Mau mauing the Flak Catchers – it’s just not as fun as you’d think!

30 Oct

I get frustrated dealing with bureaucracy and bureaucrats. I just spent a couple of days, during breaks from my job, to check over that list of tax-related amendments that have been circulating the legislature like a bunch of flies over a carcass, It was a pain in the ass, okay?  I’ve been all over that stupid legislative website – like most public websites, you know it costs a zillion bucks to run the damned thing, and it’s just not what it could be.  Sometimes it pops right up with info, other times you’d think the elves who were running it had gone out on strike. 

It’s not just the website, it’s the ridiculous complexity they’ve manufactured to make it look like legislators and their $taffers earn their money.  Here’s one reason it’s so confusing – I went in search of an amendment titled “SCA3” –  “introduced by Senator Mark Leno on December 3, 2012 to authorize school districts, community college districts, and county offices of education to impose a parcel tax on real property by a 55% vote of the voters in the district or county under specified circumstances…” I could not find it on the California Legislature’s website, but I found it analyzed on other sites, including “Legislative Intent Services” at http://www.legintent.com/california-legislative-and-administrative-research/?gclid=CJX3tNm_v7oCFQZyQgod5A4AFw

So, I contacted Legislative Services, asking about “SCA3, which lowers the voter threshold for tax measures from 2/3’s to 55%.” I don’t know if the gal who responded had read my simple e-mail. She came back with another SCA3 – “This measure would require each local agency to comply with the CPRA and the Brown Act, and with any subsequent statutory enactment amending either act, enacting a successor act, or amending any successor act which contains findings demonstrating that the statutory enactment furthers the purposes of the people’s right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business. “

So, how do I respond to her? “Sorry Hon, that’s real interesting, but where does it say anything about lowering the voter threshold?” I don’t know how to respond, so instead I’ll assume – the SCA 3 I was looking for has died and been reincarnated as another amendment. 

That is pretty interesting though – read the new SCA 3 herehttp://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SCA3  –    something about providing records of meetings!  “ access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business. “

But, the gal from Legintent did send send me this good link – telling us what has been approved for the next ballot, at this point, June 2014  – including the new SCA 3 – take a look, and keep this link handy:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures.htm

Re-read my last post – I finished updating. Then get mad and write a letter.

30 Oct

I’ve finished flopping out what I could find on those seven deadly amendments.

Remember, complaining is really a lot more satisfying when you’ve actually got off your dead ass and tried to do something about it.

See what your California Legislature is up to – don’t turn your backs on these slop suckers! Seven legislative amendments that lower the votes required for raising your property and sales taxes.

27 Oct

I’ve been trying to track a group of constitutional amendments currently slithering their way through California Senate and Assembly committees. What these seven amendments have in common is they will lower the number of votes needed to raise taxes. They need two/thirds approval to make it through the legislature. Unfortunately the California legislature is infested with tax and spend morons, all of whom are hooked up to CalPERS pensions. Yeah, that’s right – even your “representatives” are in the trough!

Don’t let that stop you from arming yourself with knowledge and writing letters – to your California legislators, the newspapers, your friends, and even to those legislators who support these bills – tell them, you’re not so poor you can’t send a check to their competitor in the next election.  Tell them you belong to Chico Taxpayers Association – the only group that BEAT a tax measure in Election 2012!

Stephanie Taber gave me a list of the amendments, below I’ve begun compiling the current data from the California Legislative website, as well as the Assembly and Senate websites. Every body should make a point of checking these websites regularly. This is a real civics lesson for me – this is how you learn about your government after your school teachers told you a bunch of shit about Democracy. Read up below, I’ll be adding to this info as I get  time. Right now I got to roll out some noodles and get some chicken in a pot for some soup for dinner. 

ACA3Lowers Vote Requirements for Tax Increases

Synopsis from California Legislative Counsel’s Digest:  

(1) The California Constitution prohibits the general ad valorem tax rate on real property from exceeding 1% of the full cash value of the property, subject to certain exceptions. This measure would create an additional exception to the 1% limit for a rate imposed by a city, county, or special district to service bonded indebtedness incurred to fund certain fire, emergency response, police, or sheriff buildings or facilities, and equipment, that is approved by 55% of the voters of the city, county, or special district, as applicable.

(2) The California Constitution conditions the imposition of a special tax by a city, county, or special district upon the approval of 2/3 of the voters of the city, county, or special district voting on that tax, and prohibits these entities from imposing an ad valorem tax on real property or a transactions or sales tax on the sale of real property.

This measure would authorize the imposition, extension, or increase of a special tax by a city, county, or special district for the purpose of providing supplemental funding fire, emergency response, police, or sheriff services, upon the approval of 55% of the voters voting on the proposition, and would prohibit the revenues derived from such a tax from being expended to supplant any other funding source for the provision of these services. This measure would also make conforming changes to related provisions.

(3) The California Constitution prohibits specified local government agencies from incurring any indebtedness exceeding in any year the income and revenue provided in that year, without the assent of 2/3 of the voters and subject to other conditions. In the case of a school district, community college district, or county office of education, the California Constitution permits a proposition for the incurrence of indebtedness in the form of general obligation bonds for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities, to be adopted upon the approval of 55% of the voters of the district or county, as appropriate, voting on the proposition at an election.

This measure would similarly lower to 55% the voter-approval threshold for a city or county to incur bonded indebtedness, exceeding in any year the income and revenue provided in that year, that is in the form of general obligation bonds issued to fund certain fire, emergency response, police, or sheriff buildings or facilities, and equipment.

Status –  this bill was introduced in January 2013. In April 2013 it was sent to the committee on Local Government, after which it will head to the committee on Appropriations. The Local Government committee is made up of nine legislators, six of them Democrats. 

SCA 4  – Lowers Vote Requirements for Tax Increases

Synopsis from California Legislative Counsel’s Digest:

The California Constitution conditions the imposition of a special tax by a city, county, or special district upon the approval of 2/3 of the voters of the city, county, or special district voting on that tax, except that certain school entities may levy an ad valorem property tax for specified purposes with the approval of 55% of the voters within the jurisdiction of these entities.

This measure would provide that the imposition, extension, or increase of a special tax by a local government for the purpose of providing funding for local transportation projects requires the approval of 55% of its voters voting on the proposition, if the proposition proposing the tax includes certain requirements. This measure would prohibit a local government from expending any revenues derived from a special transportation tax approved by 55% of the voters at any time prior to the completion of a statutorily identified capital project funded by revenues derived from another special tax of the same local government that was approved by a 2/3 vote. The measure would also make conforming and technical, nonsubstantive changes.

Status – This bill was introduced in December of 2012 and approved by a Democrat-controlled Governance and Finance committee in May. From there it went to the committee on Transportation and Housing, also stacked with Democrats, who approved it in August. T&H sent it to the Rules committee for some amendments, then on to Appropriations.

SCA 7 – Lowers Vote Requirements for Tax Increases

Synopsis: This measure would lower from 2/3’s to 55% the voter-approval threshold for a city, county, or city and county to incur bonded indebtedness, exceeding in any year the income and revenue provided in that year, that is in the form of general obligation bonds issued to fund public libraries.

Status – I’m not sure, but it looks like this bill died in various committees –  Vote [required in committee] : 2⁄3. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no. 

 SCA 8 – Lowers Vote Requirements for Tax Increases

Synopsis – This measure would provide that the imposition, extension, or increase of a special tax by a local government for the purpose of providing funding for transportation projects requires the approval of 55% of its voters voting on the proposition. The measure would also make conforming and technical, nonsubstantive changes.

Status – It looks like this one was tossed out by the Appropriations, Fiscal, and State Mandated Local Program Committees.

SCA 9 –  Lowers Vote Requirements for Tax Increases

Synopsis – This measure would provide that the imposition, extension, or increase of a special tax by a local government for the purpose of providing funding for community and economic development projects, as specified, requires the approval of 55% of its voters voting on the proposition. The measure would also make conforming and technical, nonsubstantive changes.

Status – this one also looks dead, having been refused in the same committees as #8

SCA 11 – Lowers Vote Requirements for Tax Increases

Synopsis – This measure would  condition the imposition, extension, or increase of a special tax by a local government upon the approval of 55% of the voters voting on the proposition, instead of the 2/3’s now required,  if the proposition proposing the tax contains specified requirements. The measure would also make conforming and technical, nonsubstantive changes.

Status – Again, it looks dead – Vote: 2⁄3. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no.  State-mandated local program: no.

SCA 3 – Lowers Vote Requirements for Tax Increases

Synopsis – This measure would alternatively condition the imposition, extension, or increase of a parcel tax, as defined, by a school district, community college district, or county office of education upon the approval of 55% of its voters voting on the proposition, if the proposition meets specified requirements. This measure would also make conforming changes to related provisions.

Status –  Another one that appears to be dead – Vote: 2/3. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no.  They’re already using this number for a new, unrelated bill. 

I’m not sure I understand how it works – could it be true that all but two of these amendments – those highlighted above in red – have already died in committee? I’ve sent off an e-mail to a legislative information site, I’ll see what I get.

Meanwhile, you may want to take another look at ACA 3 and SCA 4 – these are sufficient to load our pants full of tax bonds and hikes in sales tax by any “special district” like the city, county, schools, CARD, you name it. 

I don’t know if we can stop these amendments. The legislature is controlled by the tax and spend loonies right now, including “RINOS” who call themselves Republicans but spend like Democrats. We’ve got a taskmaster as Governor who treats us like bad children because we don’t earn enough money to cover his lavish lifestyle and that of his cronies. They ALL drink the CalPERS Kool Aid – every one of them is awaiting a pension, licking their chops. 

We can still stop these efforts locally.  We know the public sector is rattling chains to get a sales tax increase here, starting with ex-city manager and pensioneer Tom Lando, who used his own money to float a survey of the public a year or so ago. Lando is still chomping for somebody to sponsor a measure on an upcoming local ballot, saying his survey, which he won’t disclose to the public, indicated support.  But not 2/3’s support, is what I’m guessing, so he’s waiting for those amendments.  We know CARD is pursuing a bond to pay their CalPERS, no matter what kind of carrot they hold up to the public. They also ran a survey, using a long-debated aquatic center as a carrot, but that survey told them they could not get 2/3 support.  We need to let CARD and the city of Chico know, we’ll fight. We beat Measure J, and it only required 55 %. 

CARD has actually mentioned these amendments, telling a group who met to discuss a proposed aquatic center that they needed to contact their legislators. I’m telling you the same thing.  Ask for status information, and tell them why you are concerned. I don’t know if they know about these local tax increase efforts. I’m not that thrilled with either of these guys – I’m going to tell them my vote depends on their action in heading off these amendments. 

Dan Logue – http://arc.asm.ca.gov/member/AD3/?p=addresses

Jim Nielsen – http://district4.cssrc.us/content/my-offices

 

Camden New Jersey throws out their cop contracts – Chico needs to look into this

27 Oct

People think I hate all cops – no, I just hate cop, or any public employee, who abuses the public trust to enrich themselves. This is how I see Kirk Trostle and most of our police force – greedy pigs who threaten us with increasing crime unless we meet their demands for pay increases, extra overtime, and more officers. They refuse to pay ANYTHING toward their generous health benefits and retirement packages.   Asked along with other city departments to cut 10% of their budget, they came back with demands for raises and promotions.  Recently Trostle said they need more money for Halloween overtime, their continual foot in the door being a threat of Chico State and Butte College students and their “friends from out of town” having a “riot”. 

Here’s what a “riot” looks like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD_amsSsg78

I realize, these holidays bring people into town, whether they are registered to attend college, I do not know. But I think the cops’ hype is overblown, and poor advertising for our town. I think they bring in as many problem visitors as they keep away, maybe more, with their taunting, baiting, threatening attitude. They’ve taken a children’s holiday and turned it into a dirty word with continuous threats of Anarchy to frighten and mislead the public into giving in to their demands.  

Trostle went on and on about the consequences of drinking in our town at the Community Alcohol Workshop last week. There was plenty of talk about instituting fees for bars and restaurants, mainly Downtown, but not one word about holding the actual perpetrators – the people who choose to over-consume alcohol – responsible for their actions. Chico PD tells us again and again, registered college students, in disproportionate numbers,  are getting drunk, drinking underage or providing alcohol to underage persons,  getting in fights, getting alcohol poisoning,  being both the victim and perpetrator of sexual assaults, and other dangerous and just plain annoying – oh and did I mention ILLEGAL – behaviors related to alcohol intoxication. They tell us this group is causing a disproportionate drain on resources, both public and private. So, why don’t they prosecute these kids, and better yet, get them in trouble over at the college?  

 I’ve been told Mike Ramsey won’t prosecute these cases – not enough time he says. I think he means, there’s not enough money in them.   I wonder if it also has anything to do with the college being afraid parents will get mad and the college will get a bad reputation. I think the “Party School” image works more positively for a sausage school like Chico State than a reputation for putting kids in jail and squeezing them for money. As for Chico PD, I look forward to a chief that will take on the DA and the Chancellor, but Trostle isn’t that chief.

Instead Trostle is trying to demonize not only bar and restaurant owners but landlords.  Seeking to bill property owners for problems arising out of  their tenants’ house parties, he’s asking council to put a  “civil response cost” ordinance on the ballot.  This will allow Chico PD and Fire, as well as ambulance companies and hospitals, to bill landlords instead of the actual party hosts, without due process of law. This ordinance gives Chico PD the right to attach a landlord for expenses occurred under police discretion without proving the landlord had any knowledge of the party. Here again, we have a blatant money grab by a chief who does not want to go the proper route through court because it means actual police work.   In typical style, he tries to use statistics about underage drinking, alcohol deaths, and sexual assault as an excuse to shake down landlords and property owners. 

Chico PD also uses the street people to flame the public’s fears,  using the failure of the “sit/lie” ordinance as their excuse for not dealing with the increasingly bad atmosphere Downtown and the proliferation of transient hot spots all over Chico. An employee at Rite Aid on Mangrove says they don’t call the police anymore because they’ve refused to come, saying they don’t have the personnel to deal with “code issues.” They tell us they can’t arrest them without “sit/lie.”  A guy standing in front of the automatic door of a store, filthy, waving a bottle of booze and screaming at the top of his lungs, stepping back and forth into the sensor beam on the automatic door, causing the door to open and shut itself into a fit, is a “code issue.”  Standing in the middle of a walkway, hostile to passerby, finally staggering out into the parking lot to confront a man in a Blazer is a “code issue.” 

As Peter Durfee demonstrated recently, there are already many reasons for Chico PD to interact with street people, ticketing them for a variety of violations that have been a part of the Chico code for over 10 years now, a response to people who saw the writing on the wall that long ago.  We’ve also had State Parks employees in Bidwell Park, citing campers and removing illegal campsites. The city, both the police department and the park department, have allowed Bidwell Park to become infested with illegal campers, supposed “homeless” folks. I’ll tell you what, I see them when I traverse the park in the morning out to do my errands, I see them when I’m doing business up and down Mangrove Avenue, and I see them when I cross Lindo Channel to head over to the North side of town. I don’t feel safe. There’s been too many incidents lately, with transients attacking each other, attacking other people, knifings, and strong arm robberies. Chico PD has allowed this army of the night to take over various areas linked up by the creeks and the convenience stores by simply not enforcing basic laws of loitering, trespassing, public intoxication, camping and urination/defecation.  I don’t know what law covers it, but I’m pretty sure these people are not allowed to harass others either.  These things have always been illegal, and there’s also rules about where they can panhandle that are blatantly violated, but only lately has anybody been enforcing them. Just Durfee? Just long enough to get his fat puss in the News and Review? 

Is it only clear to me Chico PD has long ago stopped serving the public? 

I know there’s other ways to solve our problem.  Thanks Jim in Chico for this story from Camden, New Jersey. I did some research, and you will also find an article about how they did it by getting rid of things out of the contracts, like paying employees for unused vacation and sick time!

From National Public Radio, reporter Elizabeth Fielder:

Last year the city [of Camden, New Jersey] set a new record with 67 homicides, the worst since 1995. To combat crime, [Camden County Police Chief Scott] Thomson says the department is trying a blend of old school policing, getting officers out of their cars and on to foot patrols, and newer technology using microphones to record gunshots and cameras to capture license plate numbers and remotely keep an eye on the streets. Camden’s made some inroads. Since the new police force took over, the long ailing city’s crime rate has fallen 15 percent. Homicides are down 22 percent and burglaries dropped nearly 30 percent. In one tough neighborhood, a bunch of little kids are playing football in a patch of grass.

[According to Camden County Commissioner Louis Cappelli Jr.,] “We will have 401 police officers, 100 civilians at the same cost that Camden was paying to employ 260 police officers and the salaries for the police officers that we brought over are the same as the salaries that they were being paid before. What we were able to do is to eliminate some of the frivolous financial terms that were developed over decades through labor negotiations.”

From NBC News, April 30, 2013

The last remaining members of the 141-year-old police department in Camden, N.J., will retire their badges Tuesday as the city — stricken by brutal murders and crippling poverty — yields its streets to a new metro division of the county police force.

Gov. Chris Christie and other advocates hope that the transition to a county-run force will help drag the city of 77,000 out of a half century of post-industrial decline and decay, its annals pockmarked by open-air drug markets and sky-high murder rates. Union leaders called the new policing model, which was approved by local and state officials in August 2011, “untested” and said the move amounts to union busting.

Officials have struggled for years to reduce crime in a city where more than 42 percent of people are thought to live below the poverty line. Budget cuts forced the city to lay off 168 officers in January 2011 — 46 percent of the entire department. A spike in crime ensued

Even after some of the laid-off officers trickled back with the help of federal funds, crime rates never fully leveled off. Camden had about 270 cops to rely on as the streets turned into killing zones last year, with absentee rates reported as high as 30 percent, said Jose Cordero, a consultant with 21 years of New York City Police Department experience.

Police union contracts had gotten too expensive for the city, said Cordero, who helped design the new force. Officers could earn an 11 percent bump in their pay by working an anti-crime patrol, or 10 percent more for working a nighttime shift.

“The primary purpose of this was the city could not afford to staff up its police department to the number of officers required to have a fighting chance in what is one of the deadliest cities in America,” Cordero said.

Officers in what will be a 400-strong metro division, to be backed by 100 civilian employees, have trained on the streets of Camden alongside city police since March. About half of the regional force is expected to be comprised of members of the old Camden Police Department.

“I’m looking to see a partnership form between the metro division officers and the citizens of Camden; that partnership is crucial to prevent future crimes,” said Freeholder director Louis Capelli, Jr., who helped develop the new force.  “For the first time in decades they’ll have officers walking the beat and in their neighborhoods on bicycles.”

Camden is so far the only town or city to make use of the regional police department, which will be paid for by city property tax revenues and state municipal aid funds, Capelli said.

Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson will take control of the new force on Wednesday after retiring his city post. The force will cost Camden an estimated $62 million, the same amount the city use to pay for the smaller previous force.

Some city residents and business owners said they were pleased with the change as the new force began to roll out on streets in April.

From nj.com, March 13, 2013 –

By Terrence T. McDonald/The Jersey Journal 

on March 13, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Jersey City has come to an agreement with three labor unions representing fire and police officials and rank-and-file police officers that give the employees a 2.5 percent salary hike for the second half of this year.

The three new contracts, which also provide a roughly 2 percent pay increase for each of the next three years, were approved unanimously tonight by the nine-member City Council.

The new labor agreements address some issues that have caused headaches for city finance officials for years, including terminal leave. New employees will not be eligible for this perk thanks to the new contracts.

“We’ve all seen some of the larger payouts, and the union representatives were willing to work with us to address that growing concern,” Assistant Business Adminstrator Robert J. Kakoleski told the council on Monday. “All three deals make significant impacts on that benefit.”

The new contracts apply to workers in the Jersey City Fire Officers Association, the Jersey City Police Superiors Officers Association and the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association.

Workers in the three unions hired after Jan. 1, 2013 will not be eligible for “terminal leave” payouts, which cost the city roughly $10 million last year.

Longevity pay, which amount to bonuses tied to the number of years an employee works for the city, will be capped at 12 percent for new employees, down from 16 percent for current workers.

Members of the three unions will also have to pay increased co-pays on prescription drugs.

 

Boss Hogg is at it again – Chico PD Chief Kirk Trostle using “drinking problem” to get more money for Chico PD

24 Oct

Yesterday (Wednesday 10/23) I attended the “Community Alcohol Policy Workshop” at City Hall. I could describe it in one word: Sheesh!

You can stop reading right here if you want, cause I’ll give you the gist of it – Chico police chief Kirk Trostle is trolling for money again, and he’s trying to ostracize two groups in the community – Downtown bar and restaurant owners, and mom and pop landlords – so he can apply discretionary fines and rules against them to get money to pay the cops’ CalPERS payments.  There it is in a nutshell folks, Boss Hogg is at it again. I know he doesn’t look like Sorrell Booke, or Ernest Borgnine in “Convoy”, but Kirk Trostle is a dirty, corrupt  money-grubber who will threaten the public and allow our town to turn into a dirt pile crawling with bed bugs if that’s what it takes to get his way.  

This “workshop” was actually a presentation, a nagging lecture really, by alcohol consultant James Mosher, hosted by Chico PD.  Trostle opened up the act with his sentiments – “Chico is way over-saturated with alcohol outlets…”  Hmmm, this is the thinking behind the approval of BevMo! earlier this year? Chief went on and on with the fake figures on the cost of our drinking problem. The figures he presented were prices, not costs. For example, he said Enloe loses $4 million a year on “uncollectable” bills from drinking “incidents”. Let’s see the paperwork, please. I think you will find, first of all, Enloe charges $7,000/hour for a visit to the ER, and they compute partial hours into whole hours, meaning, if you come in at 11:45 pm you are charged from 11:00. I have the bill, don’t try to tell me any different. The figure Enloe put forward in this discussion is a mushroom cloud. 

A man was circulating the audience, handing out 3×5 cards, telling us to write down any questions or comments – they’d be addressed at the end of the presentation, he said.  I didn’t know if I would be around for the end of the session, but I took a little stack, I’m not shy. The folks all around me took some too.

My first question was to the Chief – “Why did you lobby for the approval of BevMo!” ? Here he had just stated, “Chico is way over-saturated with alocohol outlets…” Exact words, I wrote them down in my trusty notebook. I’m guessing, if he ever did answer that question, he gave  this little speech about what a great business BevMo! is, how they’re all yuppy and upscale and, you know, different from Dukes and Mangrove Bottle Shop and Finnegan’s Jug and other smaller, locally owned liquor stores. How many of those stores sell a bottle of wine for 5 cents?

I’m not an “alcohol outlet” owner, but I couldn’t help noticing how this discussion, which I’ve sat through many times, always turns disproportionately towards Downtown. It’s subtle most of the time, sometimes very blatant – to the point where members of council and others have stopped the discussion to remind everybody that this is a citywide issue. But within sentences it ‘s back Downtown, as if Downtown is the only part of town that suffers and Downtown bar/restaurant owners are responsible.

The discussion also usually blurs the homeless disorderly problem with the student drunkenness problem, college with high school drinking, teenage house parties with frat and sorority activities, etc. I will give consultant James Mosher credit that he delineated two specific parts to the problem – retail availability (mostly bars and restaurants) and social availability (house parties).  But that was it – he seemed to be lumping negligent parents in with over-21’s who knowingly buy and supply alcohol to minors. By the end of the presentation, Mosher had boiled everybody down into plastic components, and most of it was speculation and extrapolation based on stereotypes. 

He was also very divisive. He pointed out the enemies – bar/restaurant owners, and landlords/parents – right off the bat, making really nasty comments.  “We have to show them…” he said several times, identifying “them” alternately as alcohol merchants, landlords and parents.  He showed insulting cartoons, made sexist remarks, and even made remarks that were blatantly untrue. He described the alcohol compliance officer in another town as “a cute little gal” and insinuated that it is okay for her to use her sexuality – all women do righ? – to do her job. In Chico a female Chico PD officer serving as alcohol compliance officer was found to be having sexual relationships with more than one bar owner – is he saying that’s okay?  He also stated that while servers in bars have to “have a certificate,” liquor stores can hire “any 16 or 18 year old to sell alcohol.” That’s not true, and people in the audience were shaking their heads along with me. I don’t know how much we paid this guy but I have a request in to Finance Director Chris Constantin for that information. As far as I’m concerned they should have used the money to pressure wash the sidewalks Downtown. 

 I don’t like discussions in which people are lumped into groups, or where groups are demonized by stereotype.  I was sitting next to a couple of long-time successful Downtown restaurateurs, and a typical landlady, and I got the same feeling from all of them – we’re about to get screwed. Chief Trostle has identified us as cash cows, and he’s coming with that bucket and those cold hands!

The cops, as former city manager Tom Lando said at a meeting years back, are “always trying to get their foot in the door for more money.”  The Chief’s chief pre-occupation seems to be raising money for his department, like the director of the Nature Center or the Boys and Girls Club. He’s not here to serve us, he serves the department. When Brian Nakamura asked all the city departments to make 10 % cuts, and even the fire department complied and made significant staffing re-arrangements, Chico PD answered by demanding raises, promotions, and new equipment.

Don’t you love a guy who can cry poor-mouth from the front seat of a brand new vehicle with all the bells and whistles, paid for by you, the taxpayer?

Trostle, for his part, has tried to float the ACE (Alcohol Compliance and Education) ordinance, which would have allowed him to set a fee for any business new or old that “provides alcohol”, a fee based somewhat on square footage, but also based on the Chief’s discretion.  This new fee would have gone to the police department, to “fund alcohol enforcement,” meaning, salaries.  Am I the only one here who questions the appropriateness of allowing the Chief to set the fees that he is going to collect for himself? And then also decide what the rules are, and when someone has broken them? There’s some conflict of interest there, wouldn’t anybody say?

When I asked him about it, Trostle admitted to me that he hoped to get $100,000 a year or more, enough to fund another position in the department. At that time he told me there would be no guarantee that that officer would be available for “alcohol related” problems. More likely the money would be sucked into existing salaries and benefits.

But city attorney Lori Barker took the air out of his balloon when she told him such an ordinance is illegal for a local jurisdiction to impose – it amounted to a tax, plain and simple, and only the State of California is allowed to levy taxes on alcohol (Prop 26). I can’t believe Trostle didn’t know this, and hope Barker would go along with him and NOT interpret the fee as a tax. You know, just like they call that a “fire fee” instead of a “tax for living about 500 ft. Trostle knows that if Barker had gone along with him, the alcohol establishments would have had to get lawyers and sue.    Good for Barker.

So now Trostle is pursuing ordinances that would make alcohol outlet owners/managers and property owners/landlords liable for “response fees” when police, fire or ambulance are sent to the location because of any sort of disturbance or “public nuisance,” as well as hospital bills. “Nuisance” would include drunkenness, fights, drug dealing, car accidents, alcohol poisoning – any “nuisance” behavior undertaken by folks who allegedly received booze at that location.

It’s already against the law to sell/provide alcohol to minors, or to sell or provide alcohol to intoxicated. Trostle is trying to make business and property owners responsible for illegal behaviors that other people undertake without their knowledge,  on or off their property. I’m responsible for a drug deal that goes down between two customers as they leave my restaurant? They could just as easily be exchanging money for their dinner, exchanging business cards, sitting to make plans for the next stop,  making a long goodbye.

Trostle wants to make bar owners and landlords/property owners responsible because they’re easier to attack than the irresponsible people who actually cause the problems.  Here’s the creepy part. Consultant Mosher recommended the same solution for both the “Downtown drinking problem” and the “house party problem” – instead of pursuing criminal statutes, he recommends a “Deemed Approved Ordinance” for liquor establishments and a “Civil Cost of Recovery” ordinance for landlords/property owners.

In a  criminal proceeding, it would have to be proven, “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the bar/restaurant/liquor store owner, or landlord/property owner, knew that an intoxicated or underage person was being served in their establishment /on their property. Mr. Mosher beamed like a demon when he told the gathering that a civil ordinance is “easier to prove liability” (there is no proof required!), there’s a “greater likelihood that punishment will be imposed”, because there’s no jury trial.  The “defendant” is literally sent a bill by the cops, fire department, ambulance company or hospital, and if they don’t pay it, they will be thrown into collections. If they want to appeal they can hire an attorney and go through an administrative process – there is NO COURT, no trial, no civil rights.

I came out of that meeting yesterday feeling like the city is attacking me. I think the Downtown restaurant/bar owners felt same, the guys next to me expressed a lot of frustration. We’re responsible, law-abiding citizens, and we know a shake-down when we see it. 

UPDATE: I made a roundabout asking various bureaucrats how much this consultant received and who paid, I finally had to go straight to the horse’s mouth.

From: juanita sumner
Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2013 6:49 AM
To: jimmosher
Subject: FW: community alcohol presentation

 

Hello Mr. Mosher,

 

I attended the presentation you gave in Chico, Ca on Wednesday October 23.  I wonder,  how much were you paid for the Chico presentation? 

 

I’m asking because, whenever I tell people about the presentation, the first thing they ask is, “how much did THAT cost?” 

 

If you could give me an answer, I’d appreciate it – thanks, Juanita Sumner, Chico Taxpayers, Chico Ca

 

Apparently, Mr. Mosher read my blog! Oh oh!  Sounds kinda bitchy!

 

From: jimmosher
To: juanita sumner
Subject: RE: community alcohol presentation
Date: Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:19:39 -0700

I was engaged by the Butte County Department of Behavioral Health as a consultant through a consultant pool program administered by the Center for Applied Research Solutions and funded by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.  The reimbursement rate is $400/day plus expenses.

 

For your information, here is Section 25663 (b) of the California Business and Professions Code:

 

25663. 

   (b) Any off-sale licensee who employs or uses the services of any

person under the age of 18 years for the sale of alcoholic beverages

shall be subject to suspension or revocation of his or her license,

except that a person under the age of 18 years may be employed or

used for those purposes if that person is under the continuous

supervision of a person 21 years of age or older.

 

Jim Mosher

 

To which I responded:

 

Thank you Mr. Mosher, for your immediate response to my question.

 

That section you include is enlightening – at least three people right next to me heard you say that “kids 16, 18 years old” can sell liquor without the kind of training required of a bar or restaurant server, but nobody heard you say, “under the continuous supervision of a person 21 years or older.” Thank you for that clarification.  

 

Juanita Sumner

I’m glad, after I had to sit through his insulting hype for over an hour and a half of my work day, he got a snootfull of what I think. I hope he changes his tack, his presentation was offensive and divisive.

Hey – sometimes bitching about something really does work! City Clerk posts up-to-date council minutes! (does her $135,000/year + benies job)

19 Oct

Stop the presses – the city council minutes have been brought up to date! Why? Because Debbie Presson won’t be publicly criticized. 

Thank you Truth Matters Chico!

Presson is now doing what folks have been asking for – posting the actions of the meetings almost immediately instead of holding them for six months while she powders her nose and fixes her lipstick.  She’s “annotating” the agendas with the motions made, the votes and actions taken. That’s good to have, really, because I’ve watched those meetings and things happen so quick and off-mike – sometimes I can’t tell what they did right in front of me.  Reading annotated notes is like going to a city council meeting without having to wade through hours of bullshit. 

Here’s why –  “Then Presson said she can spend time composing more detailed official minutes for council approval.”

That’s a good word to use – compose – because that’s more what she does – she picks and chooses which comments to include, and leaves the rest out. I’ve actually had to ask her to include question and answer sessions I’ve participated in at those meetings. She’s included some comments I’ve remembered at meetings and left out whole conversations on another topic. She left out the conversation I had with Jennifer Hennessy at one meeting, during which Hennessy gave me mis-information about the amount spent on employee pensions.   They should not be able to pick and choose – it should be either action-only (like she just posted) or it should be verbatim. They were doing the Chief’s Advisory Board minutes verbatim when Maloney was chief, why not city council and committee meetings? 

And then, what they’re not talking about in the news article, is “council approval“. Yeah, council members get to remove stuff they don’t like! Even if they really said it! 

I’m happy to see the action-only posted, but I’m sick and tired of Debbie Presson collecting a $135,000/year for sitting on her ass “composing” stuff to be passed off as the truth. 

We need a BIG shakeup in November 2014. 

Aquatic Center efforts go underground

18 Oct

I came away from last night’s CARD board meeting feeling like they aren’t going to fully discuss their aquatic center plans in front of me because I’ve criticized them publicly. I also saw something last night that tells me, these kind of people serve on these boards to forward their own interests, CARD doesn’t really serve the community. It serves the board members’ friends.

We sat through an audit report from Mattson and Isom. The woman reminded me of a school  teacher, she was very professional and cheerful.  I won’t pretend to understand or care. Of course she found everything in order – as long as they keep records of where the money goes, an auditor doesn’t care that they spend it all on their own salaries and pensions.  She was speaking as an auditor, not a person who pays for it out of her property taxes. Of course she gushed all over the board at the end of her report and told them how thankful M&I is to get their business, leaving as they moved along to the next item.  

The bottom line was, CARD revenues are down because the board has cut programs and cut staff, but they have continued to make the payments to CalPERS for benefits and pensions. Two of the board members, Tom Lando and Ed Seagal, are CalPERS pensioners, and Herman Ellis receives a pension through Cal State Chico. The conflict of interest seems obvious to me.  But the board moved right along to “Unfinished Business.” 

A regular item on this list, the Humboldt Skate Park is of constant concern down at CARD. From the time it was built, we’ve seen that it was poorly planned, never should have been done. It’s too small, stuck in a corner of town where no kids live, and destined to be a homeless hangout. It’s concealed by that stupid fence so people can do drugs, ride bikes, even cars! and vandalize, without the scrutiny of the non-interested cops or the unknowing public.  I’s closed due to vandalism at least twice a year, for weeks at a time. It has a bigger maintenance budget than larger area parks.  

Maintenance superintendent Jake Preston showed photos taken from the internet of “brawls” and even of a small car being driven inside the gated fence.  Board member Jan Sneed reported that she went into the skate park and had a conversation with some “hardcore skaters” who told her they’d “beat up” any high school kids who tried to use the skate park.  Instead of having these losers arrested, she says they need to  be part of the committee to figure out what to do about the problems. 

Does she think this is Mayberry RFD? 

Maintenance director Preston laid out four possibilities: 

  • leave the park as is
  • close and eliminate the park
  • give it back to the city of Chico
  • create a positive atmosphere with some supervision and even programs

I was surprised when about half dozen members of the established “skate community” attended the meeting, three of them stood up to talk about ways the park could be improved. Two of them agreed the park was too small. All three agreed with Jake Preston that the park is in a horrible location. They all blame the “bums” for the drug and alcohol use, the syringes and other paraphernalia that litters the site, and the constant reek of pee. They also pointed out that the best skate parks are private and charge a small entrance fee.  They said they drive regularly to Sacramento and San Jose to pay to skate. 

The board listened attentively and respectfully to these people. One thing I’ll say about CARD meetings is, the speakers are treated better. The board members don’t go on with their bullshit philosophy for hours on end, these meetings are very businesslike. But, I also noticed a distinct difference between the way they treat the skate board park and how they later treated the  folks who want an aquatic center.

For the skate board park, they want to “create ownership” – have some non-profit take it over. For one thing, bless his heart – Jake Preston is sick of the Humboldt Skate Park. I don’t blame him. He’s being made to be a babysitter for druggies and creeps who want to hide in that fenced yard where the cops can’t see them doing deals and shooting up. Preston clearly does not want to be responsible for the skate park anymore, and neither does the board. They want to hand it off to some bunch of dummies like the Outsiders, who took on the frisbee golf course at Five Mile.  These groups can then apply for grants to do the maintenance, and CARD washes their hands of it. 

That sounds great until that group falls apart. These facilities always end up degrading with time and neglect, and turn into a problem again. And, the skate park is poorly designed, too small to be safe, and tucked away into a corner where everybody admits – the homeless have “owned” that spot since before I was born. When I was a kid, that’s where “Bidwell’s indians” used to sit around and get drunk all day along the creek. 

But that discussion ended with Ed Seagle’s suggestion to start a “Chico Skate Board  Club” to pay for some supervision of the park.  Charging a membership fee to get in, and demanding membership cards would “get rid of the riff raff,” he says. As for the “money issue,” Seagle mentions contacting local businesses, “so we don’t have to spend any money…” on a CARD owned property. Wow, great Ed, thanks for your support. The discussion ended with the formation of another committee to continue studying things – more study?    Jake Preston handed his card to the skaters as they left the room.

And then it was off and running to the aquatic center discussion, which was a whole new ballgame.  They talked about the 15 people who signed up for the committee (only one had signed up at the Sept 23 meeting), but argued over that being too many – “we’ll never get anything done with that many people,” opined one board member. Director Steve Visconti suggested the list be paired down by having each applicant submit “a letter of intent,” with information about themselves and their interest in the project. Oh? Pick and choose, eh? This committee is starting to sound kind of exclusive.   They talked about wanting more “stakeholders” on board – they only have one right now – and I’m guessing, that’s the Aquajets manager who was the only one to sign up at the Sept 23 meeting.  Aquajets are considered a “stakeholder,” but not a member of the general public? They want people with some sort of credentials, is what I get. How about this – I  can bring my cancelled tax payment checks? 

At one point in the conversation, Jan Sneed, one of the longest running members, declared that the board needed to decide whether or not CARD would take an active part in this aquatic center promotion before there was any further discussion. She seemed to feel they were violating some rule.  So, they voted unanimously to support this project.  

While they refused to talk about funding, Visconti mentioned that the next step would be for CARD to pay an artist to come up with drawing of the proposed center.   Here we go – CARD money! This is not appropriate, as far as I’m concerned, but they also chose to pay about $40,000 for a survey that they aren’t listening to. The survey indicated the public would not support an aquatic center, but Laura Urseny indicated in her article in yesterday’s ER that they still intend to pursue a bond. They refused to talk about that last night, I believe, because I was sitting right there. 

Ed Seagle did make a remark about finding a “stakeholder with deep pockets,” but that didn’t even get a response. Instead they opened the meeting to public comment, and of course the first “member of the public” to stand up was former CARD director and board member Jerry Hughes. First Hughes argued that they should have another publicly noticed meeting, try to get more members of the public “to commit”. But, he also detailed past attempts at “getting the public to commit.” Failure 40 years ago, failure 20 years ago, and he still insists we “need” an aquatic center. He ignored the results of the recent survey, which indicated, not enough support.  Two public swimming pools that CARD has refused to maintain, a skate park they are trying to pawn off on somebody else, but we NEED an aquatic center? The people have spoken again and again, but Hughes and his friends, mostly Aquajets grandparents who remember how many times this effort has failed but refuse to see why, still insist we need this ridiculous money pit.  There is NOT sufficient interest in swim sports here to build a fucking Taj Majal aquatic center, get over it!

Hughes and another speaker tried that old tack – “what an economic boon to Chico!”  One woman claimed a swim meet in brings 3,000 people to town. I don’t want to call her liar, but I would like to see some numbers on that from a more reliable source, like local hotels, restaurants and gas stations. Maybe she meant, several meets over a year? 

Here Ed Seagle broke in,  admitting, in a very frustrated tone, “The reality is, most pools barely break even…”

But Seagle had a bad case of double speak last night.  He acts like he’s uninterested, but went ahead and voted to form a committee of Sneed and Worley to oversee the citizen’s committee, and at a future meeting, they will vote to pay for the artist’s rendering.  I’ll drop a note to CARD staff, let them know I want to be noticed of these meetings.

I’ll try to keep an eye on this effort, you should too.

I find it weird that the skateboard park, which is already an existing problem, is left to “new ownership,” but this aquatic center rainbow is getting a  conceptual drawing, a  citizen’s committee, and according to the story in yesterday’s ER, a bond measure on the 2016 ballot.

When my kid’s hockey club went to CARD, asking for a spot in the facility they planned for DeGarmo Park, they told our kids NO – it’s bad for Cal Skate! They said it would be directly competitive with a local business. But here the aquatic center isn’t competition for In Motion? It isn’t going to negatively impact the school swim teams? What about PV and Shapiro pools? Will CARD close those pools due to inability to maintain them? They’re already in such bad shape that the school swim teams “are forced” to use In Motion Fitness.  This conversation was completely different than the conversation they had with our hockey club.  And completely different than the skateboard park discussion.

Why aren’t we screaming “MISMANAGEMENT” ? I sure wish the rest of you would get some letters to the paper on this. I think we could beat it down before any CARD money is spent on it.

NOTE:  I e-mailed CARD manager Steve Visconti and he has placed me on the notice list for the aquatic center committee. I’ll keep you posted.