23 Jan

I attended last night’s Chico City Council meeting last night, on a whim, for a short while. It’s good to make yourself physically attend one of these meetings now and then, like cod liver oil, it’s good for your constitution. 

The items I was interested in had been held to the end of the agenda –  the new employee contracts. The big news is, city employees are being asked to pay their full share of their pension premiums. Whoop-de-fucking-do!  That’s only nine percent of the cost of pensions worth 70 – 90 percent of the highest year’s salary, available at age 50 – 60 years.  Life expectancy in the United States, according to Wikipedia, is about 78 and a half. So, on average, we will pay these folks almost a full salary,  for DOING NOTHING,  for an average of 28 and a half years. And yeah, we pay their health benefits and their rest home insurance too.

Sure they will make new hires pay 50 percent. Another can of worms hits the floor. First of all, how would you feel toward your co-workers knowing fully well you pay 50 percent of your pension and they only pay nine? Come on – I feel that is setting up a hostile work environment, how could anybody be so stupid or insensitive to think something like this is okay?  Well, I guess the same folks who think it’s okay for Todd Booth to carry a gun and represent the city of Chico, there’s your answer.

Second, this plan will only work if they fire all existing employees and hire new ones. Fat chance. 

I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay for that issue, so I’d written an e-mail to council ahead, telling them they needed to make the contracts only good for year, and then we need a financial report about how much money was actually “saved.”  I also wanted to thank Michael Jones for the wonderful chart he had made with friends, showing how out of whack our salaries are when compared with other, some of them very spendy, California towns. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera.  He’d had a beautiful banner made, displaying it on the back of the council chamber. He’d also had postcards made up, already stamped and addressed to each council member. He was handing those out, asking people to sign and send them. He gave me a set, which I sent. 

Here's one of the postcards Michael Jones had made. Speaks for itself. Thanks Michael and Kelly!

Here’s one of the postcards Michael Jones had made. Speaks for itself. Thanks Michael and Kelly!

When I see that kind of determination, I feel, well, you know:

Michael Jones has been active in Chico for a long time, he could give you a pretty good historical perspective on most of the business before council today. I remember stuff too, and it’s funny to listen to what they say now.

 I sat through the annexation conversation, which was interesting because I happen to know a lot of the background on that conversation, I remember when it all happened. I’ve watched it because I’d owned rentals with septic tanks in parts of the county that Tom Lando systematically turned into “county islands” so he could annex them later. For example, at one point, the city just annexed Courtesy Motors, who wanted to expand onto their sewer. Wow, all the sudden, we were in a county pocket, boundaried by a car dealership? In a morning meeting, Lando crowed about the sales tax receipts he’d just stolen from the county!

And Colleen Jarvis was honest at the time – she let everybody know, they were annexing for the property taxes, and they wanted people on sewer to pay for an expansion at the sewer plant, as well as problems with river flow and accidental poop releases  that they are still having today.

When I complained about annexation of my properties, they said, “Oh Juanita, you’re going to get all these city services, and you can vote in council elections!”   Boy, talk about rainbow promises – here’s a funny example: We were living in a house on Palmetto, and the county had started a makeover that was supposed to be completed by the city, an agreement made over the annexing of the neighborhood. The county started the job, and everything went smoothly – they stripped and resurfaced it, it still looks great! But, on the day that the job was handed over to the city for completion, work came to a halt. Oh oh, we thought, our driveway was still suspended about a foot up in the air, and we’d been cutting across the neighbor’s side yard (with their permission) and exiting by way of their front yard, because it was lower than either driveway. There were three households off our driveway, we’d turned that one neighbor’s yard into a mud slick. It was the rainy season, so the mud went all over the place, all the way up our shared driveway, and out into the construction zone.  It made for slippery driving, and forget pedestrian access. A week or so went by and the city just didn’t show up. One night our old neighbor lady had a stoke – and the ambulance could not figure out how to get into our driveway. It was a disaster, all of us were out there trying to get that ambulance across that mud slick, and they didn’t want to come. Finally they got the poor woman out of there, but she didn’t last very long afterward, and I can’t believe the ambulance delay helped her in any way.  The next day I called the city, told them what happened – oh, many apologies – but they still didn’t send a crew until the next week.

And now I live on Filbert – we are proud of our potholes, we call them, “vernal pools.” (sarcasm alert)  There’s a chronic pot hole near the corner of Filbert and Downing – about 12 years ago, it voided the warranty on my tires – excessive road hazard.   They annexed our neighborhood here over five years ago, and you can still look out there and see that same pothole – I call it, “Mooooby Dick! Ye dam-ned whale!”

Oh, but you say, I can vote in city elections! Yeah, that was tasty two years ago, when we kicked the shit out of Measure J, but, over the long run, it’s been a total downer. I voted for Scott Gruendl, Mary Flynn, Tom Nickell, Mark Sorensen, Sean Morgan, Mitt Romney (?!) and some others my brain is protecting me from by forgetting. The only votes I feel good about today are the ones I threw away on Nader – thanks for that Ralph.  I am starting to hate voting, I may quit altogether. That carrot has gone sour.

So, this controversy over the annexation of much of Chapmantown, one of the oldest contiguous sections of the city of Chico, has many biting heads. No, I don’t feel any better about being annexed myself. When I lived in the county, I had the sheriff and Station 42. The sheriff’s employees we encountered were great. We also got alot of support from CHP in those days – they came to help a couple of my old neighbors shut down a party house, that was a-may-zing. CHP did that, because we were in the county, now we can’t get them, they tell us to call the Chico PD. Hah!

The fine volunteers of Station 42 put out two fires in my neighborhood within minutes, saved both houses, one of was already burning on the roof. The other fire involved a car parked right next to the house, which left a huge scorch mark but never “engaged” the house. Because Station 42 is there within five minutes, we timed them. When I had an experience with the city, it was more like 10 minutes, and the house was fully engaged and ended up being a total loss. I believe if it hadn’t been for the fast actions of my neighbors, I would have lost my garage that day.

So, when Scott Gruendl protests that he has received “a lot” of comments from Chapmantown residents that they don’t want to be annexed, I say, “who could blame them.” Well, I have to think again.

I owned a house just this side of the city limit in Chapmantown. I had great sewer, great drainage, high curbs, etc. My house was protected. Blocks over, the houses sit in swamps, no sidewalks – one lady came to a meeting to describe the system of planks she has to lay out during rainy weather to get from her front door to her driveway. This also means, raw sewage floating up out of old long untended septic tanks. I’m sure, some of the septic tanks in that part of town are sub-code.  And, it’s been documented – the water pipes are leaking toxins into the groundwater over there, and toxins are getting into the drinking water. This I know because friends of mine living on 20th Street received  notice that drycleaning fluids had contaminated the city water, and they shouldn’t even shower in it until further notice. Last I heard, the city is making some progress on this issue – but they are waiting for lawsuits against the old businesses to play out, or for grants and funds  from the feds and state. In the meantime, they’ve been deferring developer fees, that fund being bottomed out. That’s who is supposed to pay for the sewers and the plumbing for development, the developers. Instead, the city has been giving them a free ride for years, and now they want the taxpayers to foot the bill for clean-up required by poor infrastructural management.

So, yes, in this case – one of the oldest urban areas of town, not an almond orchard dotted neighborhood five miles north of town – I’m for annexation.  And I think most of the residents would say so too, given the proper background info and an election to make it respectable. Instead, we get vague reports from Scott Gruendl about residents he’s talked to that don’t want to be annexed. These nameless residents who can’t seem to put comments in writing with a signature, these shadow-puppets, are saying, they like their rural charm! But no names, no phone numbers, no evidence. Just Scott Gruendl’s word.  Like they’ll tell you if you try to report something – anecdotal evidence is not acceptable, let’s hear some names, let’s see some e-mails or phone memos Scott.

And excuse the ramble, but then there’s Sorensen. He says we can’t afford to annex Chapmantown? Oh, but we can annex all over North Chico, they’re just chomping at the bit to get out there where the properties are bigger and generate more taxes, but everybody is on a new septic tank, and their houses are not close enough together to warrant sidewalks, so this would be pure profit for the city. They’d be taking in all those expensive properties (prop tax and utility tax) but they wouldn’t have to offer any services. They certainly wouldn’t have to clean up the mess they’ve allowed Chapmantown to become over all these years.

Dan Nguyen-tan was one who told me my services would get better after annexation. Within a couple of years, Nguyen-tan was complaining that the annexed areas had become a drain on Chico, and – GET ALOAD OF THIS! – he and Gruendl and Dave Burkland tried to blame our burgeoning fiscal problems on the annexations! And at the meeting the other night, Ruben Martinez reminded us, our short-lived City Mangler Greg $190,000/year Jones (who retired at 70 percent of that salary having paid only 4 percent toward the pension premiums) tried to tell us that we’d annexed these areas “without any visible means of support.”

That just doesn’t add up to me. Oh sure, you annex millions in property taxes, millions more in sales tax, but the annexed neighborhoods are still looking like third world countries 10 years later? Drive that neighborhood along the freeway, behind East Avenue McDonalds. Go in the daytime, they’ve had strong-arm robberies there during the day.  Look at the streets, look at the filth, and ask yourself – “am I in America?” Yeah you are, you’re in the City of Chico.  Alabama? Nope, California. Tom Lando’s California. Dave Guzzetti’s California. Jane Dolan’s California.

I mention Lando because he was the puppeteer, but I also mention Guzzetti and Dolan because they’ve been the official face of efforts to stop the annexation of Chapmantown. Dolan even threatened to sue at one point. Schwab and Gruendl both brought her up, but for some reason, refused to mention her name. She was the “county supervisor from that district…”, even though, both Schwab and Gruendl, by his own admission to me, have had dinner many times with Jane and husband Bob in their home.

Oh well, enough of this. This is a  ramble. I went to a meeting, so I felt the need to talk about it. Go to a meeting and tell me what you saw.

Did I say going to one of these meetings is good for your constitution? Well, it is. As soon as you get home you are going to want to take a big dump. Works better than poke berries. 

4 Responses to “Whimsies”

  1. Rose Kelley January 23, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Annexation issues – Juanita style.

    Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:14:31 +0000 To: rosaliekelley@hotmail.com

    • Juanita Sumner January 23, 2014 at 8:40 am #

      Hey Rose, good to hear from you!

      Juanita style – I sit at this table with three chairs, and, moving from chair-to-chair to represent my different points of view (Id, Ego, and SuperEgo) have these round table discussions with myself, which I blog. Thanks for putting up with me! (Oh shut up Id! You’re always hogging the keyboard!)

  2. dispo2014 January 23, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Thanks Juanita 🙂

    Looking forward to Bob Evans, and then Maureen


    • Juanita Sumner January 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      Michael, it’s people like you who keep Democracy alive. It’s takes constant digging, and rooting, but we will do it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: