Archive | December, 2013

Stuff to watch for in 2014

31 Dec

Today, the last day of 2014, I’d like to run over a few things to remember in 2014.

  • After today, city of Chico employees are ‘working without a contract.” Their current contract expires at midnight.   The talks have been going on since last Spring, informally, and behind closed doors. The only “sunshine” we’ve received was at the June 18th council meeting, at which the police proposed that they would pay the “employee’s share” of their benefits (9 percent) if the city gave them raises in pay to cover the expense. That proposal was tossed, thankyouverymuch. Since then, all I can get out of anybody is “I can’t discuss it.”  But, we need to lay it heavy on our council members to make the public safety and management employees pay AT LEAST their 9 percent share, and they better get ready to come up with more than that. CalPERS constantly raises the share they demand from the employer, it’s the employer who is left to decide how much the employee will pay. In this case, that’s your council, and if they don’t come up with some better contracts, well, read on.
  • there’s a primary coming in June, and a general election in November. In the city of Chico, we have three council seats – Sorensen, Gruendl and Goloff –  up for grabs.  At the county, we have two supervisors,  clerk/recorder,  assessor,  auditor,  DA,  sheriff/coroner, treasurer/tax collector, and superintendent of schools all open to challengers.  So far, none of the council members has announced plans to run, as far as I know, and Andrew Coolidge has again thrown his hat in the ring for one of their seats.  County supervisors Larry Wahl (Dist 2) and Maureen Kirk (3) both have opponents – I don’t remember the name of the guy who is running against Wahl, but Bob Evans has filed papers to run against Kirk. Alan Petersen, of the Sutter County Assessor’s office, has announced his candidacy for current Assessor Fred Holland’s job, but I haven’t heard for sure that Holland will be running. Undersheriff Kory Honea will run for Sheriff, but I don’t know if Jerry Smith also intends to run for re-election.
  • CARD is still looking for a way to fund their plans for an aquatic center, telling a small group of wishful thinkers that they needed to wait for the state legislature to pass amendments that would change the voting requirements for new taxes from 2/3’s to 51 percent. Those amendments are expected to be passed by a Democratic majority sometime next month. Meanwhile, a committee has formed to carry the torch to the public, the first meeting will be held Jan. 7 at 6:30 pm, at the CARD center.  Of course, having spent so much time and trouble trying to get Visconti to send me e-mail notice, I will not be able to attend that meeting. I’ve sent a note around to those on my mailing list (if you want to be on that please contact me here) and hope one or more of them will attend, you should too.
  • Chico Taxpayers Association is changing it’s meeting schedule. We realized, the first Sunday of the month falls right ahead of a lot of important city committee meetings that we like to attend and talk about. So, I’ve scheduled the January meeting for the Second Sunday, and we’ll probably be moving it to the Third Sunday before too long. I’ll keep you posted. January meeting – Jan. 12, 1pm, Chico Library.  We are trying to arrange for Butte County Assessor Candidate Alan Petersen to come in and talk to us about the assessor’s duties. 

I hope you will all make a New Year’s resolution to get more involved in local government this year. Like Sue Hubbard always says, it’s locally that you can make the biggest difference. She’s right. 

No, it is not okay for commissions, committees or task forces to meet a majority of their members without Staff present to take notes, or without Staff notice to the public

29 Dec

I got off the track from the Sustainability Task Force – I was having a conversation with Mark Stemen about whether or not Staff needed to be present at committee meetings, who was allowed to notice the public, who was allowed to take minutes, etc.

I can appreciate both sides of this argument, cause I rode this merry-go-round over the old Redevelopment Agency Citizens Oversight Committee. Sure, I wanted some citizen’s oversight too, a group who was allowed to sit in on the meetings and report back to the general public, get the word out what was going on with the RDA credit card. What we got was a group of people who thought they should be allowed to give recommendations to council, but didn’t have to notice their meetings, could have running e-mail chat discussions involving a majority of their members, with no record available to the public. I wanted a staffer assigned to their group, but a “conservative” – led council under Mayor Dan Herbert declared they couldn’t afford a staffer, and, acknowledging the illegal nature of such a group, disbanded the committee. 

Of course that was a bunch of crap – that same council signed the MOU that linked salaries to “revenue increases but not decreases…”, raising salaries by 14, 19, 22 percent year after year, effectively emptying our city’s coffers and sending us into perpetual debt. Later, surviving members of that council signed the contracts that have us paying 81 – 100 percent of staff benefits and pensions. 

So now here we are – we really CAN’T afford staff to sit in these meetings. It’s really getting ridiculous. In past, the clerk’s staff kept the minutes for these meetings. The clerk’s salary is about $135,000/year, but her staffers make less than half of that.  Now that Presson’s staff has been cut down to one surviving member, Brian Nakamura is sending management staff to take notes at these meetings.  Nakamura himself, at $212,000/year, was taking notes at the Economic Development Committee meetings. He’s assigned Planning Director Mark Wolf to take notes at the Sustainability Task Force meetings. I’m not sure, but I’ll guess that Wolfe’s salary is in excess of $150,000 a year. I’m not complaining, Wolfe is a competent person – but we’re talking about a secretary’s job here, not a person who’s responsible for coordinating a bunch of citywide projects. Figure the difference yourself, more than twice the salary. 

The reasoning behind assigning Wolfe was that the STF has been placed under the Planning Department.  That makes sense, because the original notion behind the STF was to make city services and development more efficient – gee, the way things turn around, huh?

I have to give Stemen credit for trying to save the city some money. And I’m not accusing him of being dishonest or incompetent. He told me in an earlier post, “I have no argument with you over the cost of staffing or the Brown Act…If I have a beef about the Brown Act is is with the City. They are interpreting the Act in a way that says only they can notice the public, and more importantly, only they can take minutes, which is not true. ”  I disagree – that’s what Staff is for, and if they’re not doing the job correctly, they need to be replaced with qualified staffers, not usurped in a hostile takeover. 

He did relate a story about the park commission that bothers me, and reminds me of my experience with the RDA COC. “Last night at the BPPC meeting, Dan E told the members of the tree committee they could not meet without him or staff, and they didn’t have time right now, even though the committee has not met in months. Mark H asked directly if a member of the committee could take minutes, and he [Efseaff] had to admit they could, but he would prefer they not. So they won’t, and thus the key documents the rest of the City staff needs from the BPPC sit on a shelf in draft form.”

I said I’d check with Staff (ha ha) and find out. I know, that’s pretty circular, but Staff are the people we hire to keep the Book of Rules, so that’s who we consult. 

I looked at the description for the job of city clerk available at the Human Resources link on the city website:

Typical Duties: 

Serve as Clerk to the City Council; plan and direct the publication, filing, indexing, and safekeeping of all 
proceedings of the Council; record and publish all ordinances; attest and certify various City documents; 
serve as custodian of the City Seal; plan and direct municipal elections consolidated with County 
elections; serve as a filing officer for required disclosure under the Political Reform Act; serve as filing 
officer for claims and legal actions against the City; plan and direct the maintenance and safekeeping of 
all historical and official municipal records and documents on a City-wide basis; respond to a variety of 
inquiries and requests for information regarding past City Council actions and documents; direct the 
preparation, organization, printing and distribution of the agenda for City Council meetings; supervise and 
participate in the keeping of proceedings, ordinances, resolutions, and minute ordersdevelop and 
implement systems, policies and procedures; administer the provisions of various State laws, including 
the California Elections Code, Political Reform Act of 1974, Brown Act, Public Records Act and other 
applicable laws; prepare and administer the Council and City Clerk’s Office budgets; administer Oaths of 
Office to elected and appointed officials, department heads and City employees; countersign bonds and 
other evidences of indebtedness issued by the City; attend and keep a permanent journal of proceedings at 
all meetings of the City Council; coordinate City Clerk activities and work with other City departments 
and with outside agencies; select, supervise, train and evaluate assigned staff; administer the overall 
workload of the City Clerk’s Office, including review and evaluation of work products, methods and 
procedures; plan and organize special City events; supervise use of Council Chamber Building facilities; 
secure bids for official advertising in newspapers; supervise procedures for appointments to Boards, 
Commissions and Committees; perform related assignments as necessary.

I bold-faced those items I found related to this issue, but there it all is.  I’m bothered that it doesn’t say, “attend or assign staffer to attend and keep a permanent journal of proceedings at all board and commission meetings…”. But, I do see, the city clerk is the authority on the rules for record keeping, and that she is supposed to “develop and implement systems, policies and procedures,” by which to keep those records.  She’s also supposed to be the city’s authority on the Brown Act. I’ve read the Brown Act, and I really liked the presentation city clerk Debbie Presson gave at the STF meeting, so she’s the one I asked. 



 I’ve been having a conversation with some folks, including Mark Stemen, chair of the Sustainability Task Force, regarding the taking of minutes at committee meetings.


Mr. Stemen and some others believe that staff is not required at these meetings, that it is okay for a committee member to be responsible for taking minutes, as well as getting the public notice out in time. That does not make sense given your excellent presentation on the Brown Act Debbie.  I was under the impression that having these meetings without staff present and without staff notice of the pubic is a violation of the Brown Act, please correct me if I’m wrong. 


I’d appreciate it if somebody could clarify here. Apparently, Dan Efseaf told park commissioners that they could have meetings without staff, and take their own reports, but he’d rather they didn’t?  – thanks, Juanita Sumner 

She responded:

You are absolutely right. If there is a task force or commission that has been created and members appointed by the Council….staff needs to be there to provide support and information during the meetings and to ensure that not only does the agenda noticing meet all requirements but the minutes as well.  The legislative history is critical to the process. I will pass that reminder on to staff as well. 

Thank you for asking the question. 

I felt stupid for putting that off as long as I had, but it was Christmas and I don’t like to be a flea on Staff.  Not every minute, anyway. But it was as easy as asking. I’m glad I did too!  No, it is NOT okay for any city-appointed commissions, committees or task forces (and there are legal definitions for each of these) to have meetings of a majority (more than half their members) without a staffer present, or without staff notice to the public. 

I think it’s a good idea. I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but stuff gets kind of loose and fast when the public gets left out of the equation.  But, I don’t like the way Brian Nakamura seems to be using the Brown Act as an excuse not to have the meetings. He’s obviously having meetings about public policy behind closed doors – where has the Farmer’s Market conversation been going on? That is what he wants – to do business without the onerous burden of public input.  I’m guessing he’s entertaining offers for the sale of Bidwell Ranch.

Christmas is over, time to get back to business

29 Dec

I really don’t know what to think or who to trust these days. Yes, I’ve been testy with Mark Sorensen, and some of my friends are giving me the hairy eyeball over that.  Well, I’ll give it right back at them – why aren’t more “conservatives” questioning Mark Sorensen?  Why aren’t more people demanding to know what’s going on in the contract talks?  At the very least, Sorensen could be more vocal about what he would like to achieve in the new contracts. 

I am surprised to find Enterprise Record Editor David Little saying something about city employee compensation.  I’ve had to wonder if his paper is running some sort of propaganda screen in favor of city employees. In June he ran a story entitled, “Chico officers offer concessions, city says no.”   The headline should tell you, Reporter Ashley Gebb wrote a slanted piece.  She made it look like the police department was really trying to help out! She wrote it as though CPOA president Peter Durfee had the facts, and Mark Orme was just making excuses when he said the proposal would actually cost the city an extra $500,000, not save the city $700,000 like Durfee claimed. An unbiased piece would have started something like this: “City officials and police employees are in disagreement over a proposal by the police department...” etc. Instead she writes it from the police department’s point of view. 

Since then, as far as I can find, there hasn’t been one word run in the Enterprise Record news section about the current contract discussions Downtown, even though it’s been kicked around the letters page. A couple of years ago the city told us they’d “sunshine” these talks, show us everything that came out of every meeting. When I ask Sorensen about it, he simple denies that there is any negotiation going on right now. He treats us like “the kids.” Well Daddy-O, Junior is about to drive your carcass over to Sunnybrook Farms if you don’t get off the stick and do something.  

 Below Little seems to be pointing a ridiculous salaries in cities around California, as if Brian Nakamura’s salary is not so bad! But, Little reminds us, Chico is a small town with small problems – our biggest problem here Folks, is how we will pay our employees! Look at the amount of time they put into that subject Downtown, at various committee meetings. Whenever they are talking about “funding” anything, it’s the salaries they’re talking about, paying salaries and the associated benefits and pension.

Our town just drives itself around in a little circle all day, they never do anything for us, they just perpetuate their own livelihood.  And “they” include seven councilors who take a salary and very nice health benefits to sit up there like the Mad Hatter and his staff of Dormouse and other idiots.  Oh, that’s beautiful – imagine it yourself, Gruendl in the hat, and Sorensen’s butt sticking out of a teapot! 

Meanwhile, as Dave Little says, “An alert reader pointed out this week that Chico’s wages, plus retirement and benefits, ‘are higher in comparison to bigger cities in Marin and Los Angeles counties. Even Beverly Hills.’ Chico?!”

Later he describes our city employee benefits as “Cadillac packages.” I have to agree. And we can’t just point at the cops and fire – it’s Brian Nakamura and the rest of management staff, who have the highest salaries, expect to be paid 70 percent of those salaries in retirement, but pay only 4 percent of the cost now. They are just as bad as the cops and fire, if not worse – Nakamura controls the whole thing, as head negotiator, as if that’s appropriate! 

Where are the rest of you? Sitting at home with your cozies? Hey, Christmas is over, and the New Year is breathing down your neck, holding it’s hand out for more of your money. Wake up and write to council. Tell them to stop giving away the bank. 

Chico Taxpayers will be taking up the new year with a new schedule. We’re meeting on the fourth Thursday of January, trying out a new time – 1pm.  We have a guest for this meeting, County Assessor candidate Alan Petersen. I hope he can enlighten us about the workings of the assessor’s office, and his philosophy for running it.  Incumbent Fred Holland will also be running, so I will try to get him to come in and visit another time. I don’t believe in debates, they’re too hard to run correctly and usually end up skewed by politics. I’d rather give these candidates a forum and the public an opportunity to ask non-political questions. 

Meanwhile, I hope you will all read up on the employee contracts, available here:

You’ll also find some interesting rules for employees and various employee-related procedures, but you won’t find anything about the rules for the contract talks. I look for that and get back to it.

David Little: Salary numbers don’t lie


POSTED:   12/26/2013 10:31:11 AM PST

For an alleged wordsmith, I’ve sure become a numbers geek lately.

Spreadsheets with data fascinate me (well, usually) and the release of new salary information on state Controller John Chiang’s website was a revelation to me this week. I spent four hours browsing it Friday to see what cities, counties and colleges are paying their employees.

It convinced me I went into the wrong business.

We have our own database of public employee salaries at, but it lists only salaries of local governments and schools.

Chiang’s website ( is fun to play around in because you can compare the local entities to others in the state. I found there’s no rhyme or reason to salary levels.

You’d expect that the highest-paid city manager in the state would be from Los Angeles, San Diego or San Jose. Wrong. Not one of them is even in the top 10.

The top-paid city official in the state is the city manager of Buena Park, who earned $545,394 last year. Really? The home of Knott’s Berry Farm is that tough to manage?

City managers from Carlsbad, Menifee and Temecula are also in the top 10. Without Chiang’s website, I’d never know the fascinating fact that the city manager in Menifee earned $440,415 in 2012. Without Google maps, I’d never know where Menifee is.

The second-highest-paid city official in the state isn’t a city manager. It’s a police sergeant in South Gate who earned $486,044. Must be a dangerous place. No. 3 is the city attorney in Pleasant Hill ($465,209). A lot of litigious people there, I guess. And No. 4 is a fire battalion chief in Milpitas ($461,212). A lot of fires in Milpitas.

Chiang’s website not only lists these people (without naming names, for some reason) but it allows other ways to parse the data. You can see how wages rise and fall. (Hint: They don’t fall.) You can see the positions with the highest compensation. (Hint: You want to be a doctor at the Kern County Medical Center.) And you can see the average employee wage for each local government.

An alert reader pointed out this week that Chico’s wages, plus retirement and benefits, “are higher in comparison to bigger cities in Marin and Los Angeles counties. Even Beverly Hills. Chico?!”

Well, yes. Dive deep and there are plenty of appalling numbers. But there are also reasons to be thankful. For example, be thankful you don’t live and pay taxes in Vernon, where there are 121 residents and 287 city government employees. Those city employees make an average of $98,332, highest in the state. (Vernon, by the way, is right next to Bell. That figures.)

The second-highest wages in the state are in Hayward. Then Sand City. Vallejo is fifth, right after Los Angeles.

Chico, which has some well-documented financial problems, is 44th in average wages at $67,645 out of 478 cities. That’s better (for taxpayers) than Vernon or Sand City, but higher than larger or more expensive cities such as Napa, Newport Beach, Oceanside, San Diego, Sausalito and Santa Barbara.

Even more alarming for Chico is if you filter the results based on the average retiree and health care cost the taxpayer funds. Chico is 14th in the state out of 478 cities, paying $31,940 per employee. That’s almost double the state average. Add it to the average wages, and it’s an average of more than $100,000 a year per employee.

That’s something for City Council members to keep in mind as the city negotiates labor contracts and tries to cut expenses to end this brutal cycle of cutting. There wouldn’t be as many job cuts if the city wasn’t handing out Cadillac benefits packages.

Holiday must reads: Truth Matters, and here it is!

27 Dec

Mary, Quene and Alicia over at Truth Matters Chico! have been working hard to explain some of the financial calisthenics that go into paying for public government – you know, of the government, by the government, paid for by the people. Here Mary gives us the details of the cost allocation study in grown-up but pretty easy language:

Mary has been going to a lot of trouble to try and put this stuff into readable packages, it is up to all of us to tag along. It’s really not rocket science. If you don’t think you should have to understand this stuff, then put a collar on and go along being a lapdog to the Oppressor.

And then get ready to get really mad. Mary’s next post tell us all those things we have suspected are true. Here she posts a report that was never given because the city employee who was going to give it – Fritz McKinley – mysteriously got the ax the day or so before the council meeting at which he was scheduled to give it. I’ll let Mary explain, I’m too pissed off.

I also have a couple of e-mails from Sorensen, related to the discussion we’ve been having about the garbage tax, but I got a lot of chores right now, so I’m not going to get all pissed off about that again too. I’ll get to it later.


Yes, many city of Chico employees are overcompensated

27 Dec

NOTE: a person recently tried to get my contact information from the ER editor saying they wanted to discuss this piece – look for the “comment” button at the bottom of the page. If you want to be anonymous, let me know, or just use an acronym. 

Right now, our city “leaders” are kicking around the city employee contracts, and as everybody knows by now, the most important of those contracts are police, fire, and management in general. These employees are not only our most highly paid, but currently pay little to nothing for their  very generous benefits and pension packages. The “public safetly” employees also manage to bolster their agreed-upon salaries with 10’s of thousands in overtime. They also get some pretty ridiculous perks – for example, police officers are paid to put on and take off their uniforms, paid to shower (including the water and gas bills that put the department over budget), paid to work out at the gym, and if their hijinks get them sued, we pay their lawyer and pay them to sit in court. They get vision, dental, life insurance, rest-home insurance, etc, etc, etc. And out of their average $90,000 a year salaries (before overtime), they don’t pay squat for their pensions – 9o percent of their highest year’s salary, available at age 50.

Meanwhile, any cop will tell you, fire employees get paid to sleep, shower, sit on their X-boxes, eat, shop, whatever they want to do over their shifts. They don’t work a normal eight hour shift like private employees, they’ve manipulated a guaranteed overtime system by threatening us with “slow response times.” Sure, they’ve got that hook and ladder at the grocery store around the corner from your house, but they’re all inside the store loading up groceries they don’t pay for to eat on our dime. Sorry, but everybody knows this is true. They chase ambulances, with no recompense from the ambulance companies, who charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 per mile for your patient to be transported. And then you pay for the  fire department too, isn’t that funny? And you pay for their medical and legal expenses, and you pay for them to sit on their asses into perpetuity when they turn 50 years old. 

So, excuse me if I feel these people need to be taken to task, I don’t care if they are insulted. It hurts my feelings when I have to pay my property taxes to foot the bill for a bunch of guys to sit around farting in front of a big screen tv.

There’s been some discussion in the letters section, I hope there will be more. Below I’ve got a few letters I’ve seen, although I’ve missed others, I wanted to get these out here, get some more conversation out of them. The ER not only dumps letters after a day or so, but the forum they run demands that you have Facebook, and isn’t available to those who don’t have an online subscription. So, here are a couple of pro-employee letters, and one from Michael Jones that I think says it very well. 

Letter: Police, fire not overcompensated

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   11/30/2013 10:39:31 PM PST

One letter printed Nov. 24 (“Stone sticks up for taxpayers”) was reported that, “The average police or fireperson in Chico makes three times as much in wages and benefits as the average Chico taxpayer.”The city of Chico is currently advertising for a police patrol officer position. The listed salary range is $53,000 to $71,000. City of Chico firefighters are close to that same salary range, from $55,00 to $77,500.

Even using the higher Chico firefighter wages, a third of their listed salaries would be just over $18,000 (low) and nearly $26,000 (high).

The lowest Chico-wide mean salary (i.e., average Chico taxpayer) I’ve found online was $36,000 (“Simply Hired”) and the highest was almost $69,500 (“Salary List”).

While I recognize that the level of contractual benefits that can be earned — above and beyond the base salary — can vary significantly from one career to the next, I believe it is somewhat disingenuous to suggest that Chico police officers and firefighters are grossly overcompensated in relation to the average Chico taxpayer.

On a side note, due to the Windfall Elimination Provision, police, firefighters and public school teachers receive virtually nothing in Social Security benefits — even if those benefits were rightfully earned in work done prior to the public service employee’s pension years.

— Mark S. Gailey, Chico

I’m sorry, yes they are too!  Gailey tries to play the numbers, but it’s all there. Yes, a lot of private citizens in Chico, including my family, live on less than $30,000. The average cop makes about $92,000, and many firefighters as much as double their $55 – 75,000 salaries with overtime.  That’s about three times the average or “mean” income. And, we’re comparing one person’s wages to a “household” income. 

He says they receive “virtually nothing” in social security – “virtually” is in the eye of the beholder. Read the contracts yourselves, you won’t believe all the perks they get. Gailey is using the facts he likes and leaving the rest out.  He’s betting nobody really reads those contracts. Please do, they’re available on the city website, under Human Resources.

Now, here, Don Grant says we must not blame the employee, it’s the politicians’ fault:

Letter: Blame politicians, not employees

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   12/11/2013 09:59:37 PM PST

 Read a letter the other day from a Joseph Neff concerning his ideas on public pensions. I have seen several letters targeting public pensions and workers and it seems that is a favorite target for individuals to vent toward.What almost all of these people don’t realize is the pay and pension programs for these public employees were not just handed out to them. These are all negotiated pay scales and benefit packages that elected or appointed officials have negotiated with the respective groups of employees. These are the same employees who year after year have gone without any raises and usually each year have had to give just to be able to stay employed. Most of these individuals make under $45,000 per year and still have to contribute a portion of that to their health coverage and public pension.

I would like to see Neff provide for a family of four all the necessary basics on that salary and still be able to save for retirement as he suggests. He also says that SSI will make up the rest. Who’s to say SSI will be available in the future. Invest in 401(k)? Does the crash of 2008 ring a bell?

Stop lambasting the public worker. They do a very fine job. I hope this blame game will run its course and get these sour grape people off their necks, and no I have never held a public works position. Private sector only.

— Don Grant, Oroville

Maybe Mr. Grant is talking about city of Oroville when he mentions employees who’ve gone without pay raises – not Chico or Butte County. I was just looking at the salaries for managing the county dump, and those guys have received $10 – 20,000 in raises over the last few years. City of Chico employees, especially cops and fire, have gone right along getting their scheduled raises – they just promoted a bunch of cops, and I’ve seen two now retire within a year to six months of promotion – Dye and Laver. That’s called “spiking,” and now those two will retire at 90 percent of their newly inflated salaries. 

Mr. Grant seems to be trying to use the lower paid “classified staff” as shields – yes, the lower paid employees get less salary, but they also get a benefits and retirement package for which they only pay nine percent of the cost. I will leave my little violin in it’s case. 

Finally Mr. Grant, I will continue to lambaste a group of people who expect to be kept like prize pigs. PAY YOUR OWN BENEFITS, SOOOOO-UUUU-IIIIIIEEE!  Then I’ll stop basting you. Oh, excuse me, I guess I meant lambasting!  It’s just all this pork folks, it gets me a little excited.

Finally, I’m so glad to see Michael Jones getting in there. Mr. Jones is more patient than I am, he is willing to take the conversation further without stomping on the floor until his foot gets stuck. That would be me.

Letter: Big pensions lead to big expense cuts

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   12/16/2013 09:16:55 PM PST

No one begrudges the public employee who makes $45,000 a year, and retires on less than that. But Chico firefighters on average make $80,000 a year and retire on $90,000 a year. And can retire at age 50.

That’s why the public employees over in maintenance and parks are being laid off. The City Council needs to correct this misallocation of resources. Mayor Scott Gruendl is up for re-election next November. Here’s his chance to earn it.

— Michael Jones, Chico

Yes, he’s put his finger right on it – we have a misallocation of resources.  I don’t want to talk about “what people are worth.” If you want to go there, I’ll tell you what – I’m worth a lot more than that little shit, Ken Campbell. So, like I say, let’s not go there. Let’s just set a wage that’s available for performing a certain task. Let’s say if you don’t like that  wage you can hit the road and give somebody else a chance. And, given a reasonable wage, we should expect our employees to take care of their own retirement and medical expenses, with some compensation for years of service, but not just a guaranteed free ride all the way through. 

The real problem here is management. Our overcompensated city manager also plays double as our contract negotiator. I think I finally understand the expression, “in the catbird seat…

Now, lets be nice!

27 Dec

Word Press is a fun site – one of my favorite features is the stats it keeps on my blog. It shows me terms people searched that brought them to my blog. Yesterday somebody keyed in the phrase, “Brian Nakamura’s head on a stick.” Whoa, now, I’m not advocating anything like that!

Those of you Merry Standish fans – fess up you lurkers – might remember the bit they did about Jane Dolan and Kim Yamaguchi, two long-time Butte County Supes. They were pretty bitter enemies – I watched Jane Dolan during one campaign speech, try to light up a bunch of old-timers with the fact that Yamaguchi was Japanese. I know she’s well educated, she knows how to talk – but she purposely mis-pronounced his name with a short ‘a’, like ‘a-munds’, to show those old-timers she is a local! That’s doubly-funny since Yamaguchi’s family had been in the area longer than transplanted Dolan.  Politics are so fun.

I thought Merry-Standish hit the nail on the head when they dressed local musician Steve Cook up as Jane Dolan, in a blonde wig, dumb glasses, furry sweater and bra, and had him/her charge around the room with a really good paper mache reproduction of Yamaguchi’s head on a little pike. Yes, that was funny, cause it was just a skit. You’re allowed to have feelings, even ugly feelings. But, you’re not always allowed to act on feelings, even nice ones. Don’t hug people you don’t know, don’t ask dumb questions about family members who aren’t there, and don’t invite that young chick in your office under the mistletoe, for gawdsake.

Yes, you can vent here, and I will keep it anonymous. But I just wanted to say, as annoyed as I am with Brian Nakamura, I would not wish anything more ill on him than he gets sent somewhere else, thankyouverymuch.

On holiday

23 Dec

I posted a blog about the garbage tax over at worldofjuanita. I sent a note to Mark Sorensen, and he gave me an answer – I’ve posted that for you to analyze. It’s hard to read Sorensen, he won’t come right out and say one way or the other where he stands on this garbage tax, too cagey. The links he gave me are interesting, although, one doesn’t seem to work. I hope people will read that stuff, I’ll get back to it one of these days.

Yes, one of these days. I been trying to set aside a day to just sit and blog all this stuff I been studying up on, but you know, the family just keeps distracting me with FUN!  It’s X-MAS! Yesterday we went out and dragged home a little Charlie Brown tree. Today we will surf the powdery seas. Oh God, that’s a lie. We’ll be grinding granite up at Sugar Bowl, flop me a glob of that Sex Wax Big Daddy.


No, the slopes are not copacetic today, but the sun is out, so who cares.  I’ll get back to you Mark.

What happens to the revelers after they are arrested Downtown? How about some accountability for the $60,000 spent over four days of Halloween?

20 Dec

A month or so ago I read an article (posted below) in the Enterprise Record regarding the dollar total for police enforcement over Halloween weekend. Over a four day stretch the cops reportedly rang up over $60,000 in regular hours and overtime, it’s all spelled out down there, thank you Almendra Carpizo. 

Lately I’ve been looking over arrest reports – something I found a few years back when I was researching potential tenants. I try to keep an eye on those, which are available online – I just google “Chico police arrest reports,” and usually the most recent ones pop right up. I’ve never kept notes, or tried to make any long term study. What I’ve been doing lately is checking the names on the arrest logs over at the Butte County Superior Court website. I realize, it may take some time to update the court website.  I haven’t been doing this too long, but I will start writing down names and dates on the drunk in public stuff, and then I’ll try to check back to see how many of these drunk in public arrests actually make their way to court.

I’ve been told, Ramsey won’t prosecute, his office is understaffed and overbooked, yadda yadda.  Not to mention, he seems to have been carrying at least one staffer with perpetual hangover the last few years. Whatever the reason, the fact remains – the city of Chico is spending millions of dollars a year on cops who arrest people who are never formally charged with a crime, never prosecuted, and therefore, never tapped for their share of the cost. 

I asked Chief Trostle about it.

Sent to Chief Trostle, Dec 3 2013:  I have a question about arrests made over Halloween, St. Patricks and other high enforcement “holidays”. I was not sure who to ask, so I have sent to you four.  I’ve cc’d the news folks because I thought they’d be interested, or maybe they know something that can shed light here. 


My question: what happens to these arrestees? How many are charged formally? How many convictions, generally speaking? How much is collected in fines from these people? If you do the math for this recent Halloween, it cost about $600 per person to make there arrests, how will that money be retrieved? 


Thanks, at your convenience, for either answering my questions or forwarding me to someone who can  – Juanita Sumner, Chico

Response rec’d Dec 4 2013:

Ms. Sumner,

I received your email and questions regarding arrests, convictions, and fines.  I wish I had access to that type of information, but unfortunately it doesn’t exist.  I can tell you that during the special events (ie Halloween, St. Patrick’s day, etc.), everyone we arrest is booked into the county jail and charged.  This is different than most of the rest of the year.  For most of the year, people arrested for things such as drunk in public, are not formally charged.  This is mostly due to the workload of the District Attorney’s Office.


We do not receive a report from the DA’s Office regarding convictions or fines.  When a case is adjudicated by the courts, we do not receive any notice of the final outcome.  That is also true with potential fines.  It is possible to go to the court’s website and research cases by name, but that is a very time consuming process which we have never had the staff to complete.  Sorry I don’t have more information for you.


Ford Porter


Chico Police Department

I had to thank Captain Porter for his response, but I find it very frustrating, and unacceptable. Here they hold their hand out for more money every Halloween – not to mention, Cesar Chavez Day?  But they don’t have any kind of figures on what becomes of their arrests? That’s just inexcusable un-accountability.  

Again I will quote that old Yiddish saying – When the fish stinks, it’s the head of the fish that stinks!  Here we have a many-headed fish, a monster sporting the heads of Scott Gruendl, Mark Sorensen – the whole council, in fact – along with Brian Nakamura and Kirk Trostle. This is why we have elections folks. It’s time to wrap up some fish and huck it into the bin. 

Chico Police Department reveals salary costs of patrolling Halloween weekend


POSTED:   12/03/2013 12:00:00 AM PST

CHICO — The Chico Police Department spent more than $60,000 to patrol downtown and the area south of the Chico State University campus from 6 p.m. Oct. 31 to 6 a.m. Nov. 3, according to the department.Chico police used about 1,380 staff hours during that period, mostly due to regular shifts or shift adjustments, according to a press release prepared by Chico Police Lt. George Laver.

“Numerous officers (including detectives) had their shifts adjusted to work Halloween night in an attempt to alleviate overtime,” he stated.

The police chief, captains, lieutenants, detectives, other sworn staff and dispatchers who would normally work during the day were required to work the three nights to help with the event, Laver told the Enterprise-Record on the phone.

The only exceptions were for personnel working a day shift — about 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. — and a few other officers.

The amount of staff that worked is what would be expected, because “unfortunately” that’s what the department has had to do for the last 20 years, Laver said.

“It’s one of the days or events that we have circled in the books and everyone knows that there’s no vacations … A ‘don’t even bother’ type of thing,” he said.

The costs of the extra staffing were just over $42,000 in regular wages and an extra $20,000 for overtime, according to Laver, who oversaw the Halloween operation.

Those wages reflect the people who were pulled from their assignments to work specifically on Halloween weekend and were dedicated to the campus area and downtown, Laver said. There were two teams that were on duty to patrol the rest of Chico, but the amount of money to staff those teams was not included as to not skew the data.

Halloween 2012 took $53,000 out of the department’s overtime pay, and it was expecting to spend about $70,000 to $75,000 in total this year.

Although the figure was smaller than first thought, Halloween weekend costs the department two training days to accommodate for the event and stay on budget.

Typically, the Chico Police Department trains once a month with the department splitting in half and alternating months, Laver said. Training days scheduled for November and January had to be canceled in order to save on overtime.

If the Police Department wouldn’t have done that, overtime costs would be over or comparable to last year, Laver said.

Laver said that during the Halloween weekend there appeared to be fewer arrests than years prior, but he’s unsure why. There were 99 arrests, 84 alcohol-related, according to police.

People may say not to worry and let people have their fun and only respond if there’s a problem, Laver said. However, a situation can quickly become a crowd-control issue and the Police Department won’t be able to muster enough resources to handle it.

Outside agencies like the Butte, Glenn and Tehama County sheriff’s offices, several Butte County police departments, and the Butte County Probation Department donated 686 staff hours to help Chico police during Halloween weekend, according to Laver. The AVOID the 8 DUI Task Force provided an additional 64 hours of enforcement.

“It’s a tremendous help to have those agencies here,” he said.

Laver said he’d like for things to get back to where the Chico Police Department could staff Halloween weekend with its regular shifts or just one extra team.

All the money saved could be used for increased staffing for the remainder of the year, he said. He recalled 1989 as the last year the Police Department had its regular staffing out for the event.

Government reports show a gap between public and private sector salaries in Chico – public salaries still way ahead

19 Dec

Thanks Kelly for sending me that link to State Controller John Chiang’s website:

There I found some of the latest statistics on the city of Chico, it’s residents, and it’s  employees:


Residents: 87,671

Employees: 471

Residents per employee: 186

Average wages: $67,645

Average retirement & health cost: $31,940

Total wages: $31,860,950

Total retirement & health cost: $15,043,727

I also like to look at the US Census “Quick Facts” website, here’s the page for Chico:

There you’ll see, it looks like the latest figure for median household income has actually gone up since the last time I checked – it used to be around $38,000, now they have it listed at about $42,000. Well, whoop – eee.  Above you see the “average” wage for a city of Chico worker listed at $67,645.

I know, “median,” and “average” are two different things. “Median” is funny – you stack up the numbers – which may be wildly different from each other, or may be very much the same – from most to least, and then you pick the number that is physically dead center in the middle. What does that mean? And “average” – you add up a stack of numbers, which, again, may be very similar or may be wildly different, and then you divide by the number of numbers. Again, what does that mean? 

Excuse me, I don’t even want to get started on “mean.”

Anyway, when I researched this matter, I found a salary study that showed “average” and “median” salary figures for Phoenix, Arizona. These figures were within a few dollars of each other. Don’t ask me how that works. But, I’m going to assume that the figures are similar here, and I’m going to compare the “average” salary I got for public workers with the “median” salary I got for the general public. There’s a gap of about $25,000. 

At this moment, I’d like to make it known to any of you city of Chico workers out there, I’m available for lunch most weekdays.  I have very inexpensive tastes – I like restaurants on wheels. In fact, since you’ll be paying, I could be persuaded to come out to the Farmer’s Market some Saturday morning for a quick tamale. 

I can’t be bought, but I could be adopted. 

You can put a dress on a pig, but you don’t fool us – it’s a GARBAGE TAX!

16 Dec

At tomorrow’s city council meeting, there’s a vague item on the agenda regarding a $100,000 budget appropriation from the not-so-aptly-named “Emergency Fund” for another consultant. If you didn’t read the item you might not know, it’s about the garbage franchise zones that Brian Nakamura is trying to flop on us. He’s lied all the way through on this one, telling us alternately, it would get trucks off our streets, bring in fees to fix streets, that it would give us more control over the haulers so they couldn’t use “their old trucks” here, among other accusations, and finally, that the companies would have to perform “free” services, such as street sweeping and emptying the cans in our public parks. 

On that last note, I’d like to point out, Park Staff used to empty the trash cans in the park. This involved one or two guys wearing appropriate clothing and gloves, lifting 33 gallon trash bags out of the stationery cans, picking up any errant trash, and tossing it all into the back of a city pick-up truck. Now we have a gi-normous WM truck trolling through the park. They come in on days when the gates are closed, so the driver must have a key to the gate, or a staffer who goes over and lets the truck in and out, I don’t know. The cans are off the road, so the driver can’t get them with the truck – I’ve seen him at 5 Mile. He has to park the truck and walk over to take the bag from the can. I’ve never seen a WM driver pick trash up off the ground, he’s just walked right by it on his way from can to can. I don’t blame them at what they get paid, they shouldn’t have to bend and stoop to pick up trash off the ground. 

I’m guessing it’s cheaper to have WM do the parks because their drivers don’t get a fraction of the pay that our park workers got, and they only get the nominal worker’s comp, no benefits or pension. But, the trucks are literally “trashing” the park road, just like they trash streets all over town, and the smell of exhaust hangs in the air for a good 10 minutes after the truck has left. 

As for Nakamura’s claim that people have complained there are too many trash trucks on the street, I’ve asked him for those letters, e-mails, transcripts of phone calls – all of which are part of the public record. He has never even answered those requests. I don’t believe he has any such complaints, because as soon as I came at him with that question, he started saying the new fees from the Franchise Agreement would go to fix the streets. Like the Castaways said, “Liar!” The city already gets about $20,000 a year in license fees from the haulers, and this money disappears into salaries and benefits, along with the receipts from the Gas Tax. 

Another claim Nakamura made was that our haulers “dump” their old trucks here, bringing in old trucks from the bigger cities, where Nakamura claims the air quality restrictions are higher? Some people will feed you anything, don’t leave your mouth open too long. I wasn’t the only one to call BULLSHIT! here – Joe Matz, from Recology was pretty offended by these accusations, but kept a cool head in reminding us that ALL California has the same air quality and safety restrictions on any motor vehicle, and those accusations were just pulled right out of Brian Nakamura’s ass.

So now Nakamura is desperately trying to tell us that with a FA, he can “make” the haulers do extra chores, like street sweeping, park clean-ups, community clean-ups. No, we will all pay the haulers do that stuff, when we are already paying city staff to do that stuff. We pay for all of that in our property taxes, even those of us who don’t dump our backyard leaves in the street, even those of us who don’t leave trash in the park, even those of us who don’t throw garbage on the  ground, but pick up the trash of others and dispose of it in our own garbage cans at home.

Please write letters to council and the newspapers rejecting this garbage franchise. It’s just a sneaky way of getting the ratepayers to pay more taxes to pay for Nakamura’s sweet pension.