Archive | February, 2014

Impeach Gruendl?

27 Feb



When I was out doing some errands yesterday I saw this sign sitting in an empty lot over in South Chico. I’d heard about these signs from the gals over at Truth Matters, and I was so jealous, I wanted to get my hands on one.

I don’t know who made or distributed these signs. I’d say, if they were serious, they’d put some contact info on there.  Of course, we probably wouldn’t want to spend the money to impeach a guy we could just vote out, but it’s fun to talk about stuff.  Lately I do feel a groundswell of anger is about to overtake the assholes Downtown, and Gruendl is going to find himself out on his bum. 

There’s a great cover story in the News and Review today about the latest budget and contracts, which are a little too little, a little too late.

At last the whole story is getting out. It’s been out before – the late Dr. Richard Ek was all over the over compensation Downtown. He wrote article after article detailing not only the crazy spending, but the really enormous problem of salaries and benefits. Now Dave Waddell, who was Ek’s successor over at Chico State journalism department, is taking it up. Michael Jones and Kelly Skelton are taking it up. At last the dirty laundry has hit the air. 

Oh yeah, here’s a good one:



Tea Party hosts City of Chico Fire Chief Bill Hack – find out how Fire Department will spend $5.3M grant – be sure to ask him how he will pay for those new boots when the grant runs out

25 Feb

Chico Tea Party meeting Tuesday 2/25/14 @ 7pm, Marie Callender restaurant at 1910 20th Street (at the Chico Mall)

“Fire Department Status and open questions with Bill Hack Division Chief Chico Fire”
Learn about the $5.3M Grant that just past City Council.

Sheesh, there’s just not enough time in the day to bitch about stuff.  NO, I’m not happy about the new grant for the fire department. First of all, that’s our money – why don’t people get that? Second, we don’t need more stupes in boots to sit down at the fire station breathing their own farts or endangering our lives using their sirens to run stop lights. And, last but hardly least – when this grant runs out, they will kick and scream that they need more funding from the city to pay the extra guys they hired with the grant. 

We’ve been here before – who keeps eating the bread crumbs? The city of Chico just keeps running in the same circles. 

I will not have a chance to attend, but these meetings are open to the public. I’d recommend being on time, they usually have an interesting program for 20 minutes or so, and then the speaker is given the floor, and will accept questions from the general audience. Also, they open the room at 5:30 for dinner, I believe, if you want to make an evening of it. The wait staff there is very professional, and you can have drinks during the program. Please be sure to tip nice, these guys and gals work hard on their feet all day.

Thanks for doing this Tea Party!  In future I will try to remember to post all their events, sorry to be so slow to get this up.


Fascist new committee meeting rules throw out free speech – it’s the END of public discourse in Chico

23 Feb

For years now, I’ve turned my attention toward the day meetings, where there has always been a more conversational tone between council/committee members and the public. Although it was sometimes testy, it was what you call “give and take.”  It was one of the few remaining factors that kept Chico’s “small town” atmosphere – the notion that elected officials were just members of the public who had been chosen by their peers to do a job, that they were never above us, and if they didn’t watch it, they might just end up under our feet. 

Unfortunately, we’ve had one mayor after another who has abused their privilege as elected “official.” Yeah, that’s right – starting with Ann Schwab, I’d say, they just started getting a little too officious. Our current mayor Scott Gruendl has become a regular Pinochet, using his position and his gavel to silence criticism while he empties the city coffers into the pockets of his friends – his developer friends and city employee unions who have financed his campaigns for city council.

Gruendl’s latest abuse of power is the institution of new rules for those daytime committee meetings. And it’s not just Gruendl’s idea – Brian Nakamura is chiefly behind it. Didn’t I tell you he was up to something when he started charging that too many members of the public got “off topic” during meetings, and that it was a violation of the Brown Act?   

You know, the Brown Act he says does not need to be attended to when it comes to having staffers supervise the un-elected committees, namely the Sustainability Task Force. The STF can now have meetings with anybody they choose, make recommendations to council based on what their friends tell them in secret meetings,  without any oversight from the public.  But you and I need to put our name and address on a card to speak, and we’re limited to three minutes per agenda item?

From this week’s Finance and Economic Development committee agendas:

NOTE: Citizens and other interested parties are encouraged to participate in the public process and will be invited
to address the Committee regarding each item on the agenda. In order to maintain an accurate and complete
record, the following procedural guidelines are being implemented:

1. Speaker Cards – speakers will be asked to print his/her name on a speaker card to address the Committee and provide card to the Clerk prior to the completion of the Staff Report. 

2. Speak from the Podium – the Clerk will call speakers to the podium in the order the cards are received. 

3. Speakers may address the Committee one time per agenda item.

4. Speakers will have three minutes to address the Committee.

I’m sorry, that is not encouraging, that is discouraging. That is how they hold us off by the forehead. They have a conversation right in front of us, they say the most outrageous stuff, and then they tell us we only get to address them, from a podium, for three minutes, cramming every observation we have on their up to one hour long conversations into three minutes. 

For example, during the Internal Affairs discussion on the Social Host ordinance, a group of landlords came in to make it clear they would not tolerate being held financially responsible for tenants’ behavior, they’re landlords not babysitters. Sean Morgan, in an attempt to suck up, kept telling them, “don’t worry, the TENANTS will be held responsible…” He kept using the word “tenants.”  We’d just had a long discussion about how the only person who should be held responsible, is the person(s) who provided the alcohol to the underage drinker, and hey, that might be the landlord, or it might be the tenant, or it might be the under-age person’s parents, or a guy he/she met at the liquor store. I wanted to hear the legal lingo – dealing with these fuckers Downtown is a Repo-man grab – you have to get them to SAY IT, and you have to get them to say it in legal terms. Morgan is an ass, how he got a job as a professor at a college mystifies me – he just wasn’t getting it. We wanted to hear “responsible party,” which is what city attorney Roger Wilson finally gave us. There’s legal import to terminology, just like when you accuse somebody of LIBEL! But this idiot thought he had to tell us, they’d stick it to the TENANT, he was just trying to buy us off and shut us up. We had to demand, and that doesn’t happen in a three minute puke-up from the podium, it happens in a give-and-take conversation.

I’ll tell you why they did this – because the people have gotten a little too  tired and a little too wise to take any more of their illegal bullshit. People have been packing those little rooms to tell these fuckers where to stick it, and guess what – Brian Nakamure and Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen have got some kind of royalty complex – they think people are just supposed to do what they say without asking questions. They don’t like too many questions. And they have some kind of fatal allergy to THE TRUTH.

The people have been overthrown.  Long live King Gruendl and his jesters Morgan and Sorensen.  

Chico Taxpayers Association candidate speaker series

20 Feb

We have five speakers lined up  between now and the June 3 primary – thanks so much to these candidates, as well as Alan Petersen, Bob Evans, and Maureen Kirk,  for supporting our series. All the presentations will be at Chico library, located at the corner of First and Sherman Avenues in Chico, starting at noon and running until 1pm. The public is asked to come in and take this opportunity to learn something about the candidates who are asking to fill very important jobs.  I will be there at 11:30 to set up chairs. 

  • March 9, Dist 2 Supervisor Larry Wahl
  • March 30, Dist 3 Assembly candidate Ryan Schohr 
  • April 27, Chico city council candidate Andrew Coolidge
  • May 11, Dist 3 Assembly candidate James Gallagher
  • May 25, Chico city council candidate Joe Montes

What’s the use of sunshine if nobody’s paying attention?

17 Feb

I was glad to see Chris Constantin and his wife Angelique at our CTA meeting Sunday, they came early and helped Maureen Kirk and I set up chairs for Maureen’s presentation. 

I had finally asked Chris, why is there such a need to waive the “sunshine” period for the cop contracts. He put it simply – because as soon as these contracts are  approved the city will start saving money. Chris assured me that this new contract cuts the cops’ pay and benefits by 12 percent. He said, very emphatically, that he doesn’t want to see the old contracts go for even another two weeks. 

And, I have to agree, the public has not exactly broken down the door to City Hall to comment on these contracts. Maybe I’m unaware – there’s been a blizzard of e-mails? At any rate, if you want to bitch about the contracts, you have tomorrow night, knock yourselves out.

What’s the use of sunshine if nobody’s paying attention? I’m willing to go with Constantin at his word, I hate math.

Maureen Kirk: “I think the county is headed in a really good direction”

17 Feb

Yesterday Maureen Kirk came down to the library to talk to a feisty little group. I know coming to the library on Sunday makes Maureen happy – she gets a real kick out of seeing all the people waiting for the doors to open. I know she will describe that scene every time the subject of library funding comes up in Oroville. 

Maureen and I were both anxious to talk about the county Behavioral Health department, a subject brought up previously by Bob Evans at our last get-together. Bob described what I had found over the last couple of years of snooping – this department is very important, a central piece in our current Downtown vagrancy problems, but over the last few years, underfunded and with a revolving door director position.

This department is responsible for taking charge of people who are found to “be a danger to themselves or others,” including everybody from suicidal teens to homeless people found incapacitated either by alcohol or mental infirmity. Most of the problem, from what I’ve seen, is alcohol. The police regularly deal with people who are too drunk to get up out of their own filth, and out of basic humanity, these people are picked up. During the weekday, regular business hours, they are transferred to the staff at the center on Rio Lindo. But, after 5pm and on weekends, they are taken to Enloe Hospital, and left with the nursing staff in the Emergency Room.

If you’ve been to the ER on a Friday or Saturday night, with your baby’s earache or your parent’s heart attack or whatever, you might have seen what I saw – a bunch of young nurses trying to deal with a pissed off old man covered in his own excrement. 

When we talked about this subject Downtown, the general consensus was that these folks are dangerous, too dangerous for Fire Department staff to handle. But okay to hand over to ER nurses at Enloe? Nurses who have to deal with everything from sick babies to elderly with breathing problems to drunken college students? 

So, I was anxious to hear what Maureen had to say about this situation. She had good news – the Behavioral Health department has received a grant, and they’re hiring a new director. What I found when I looked over this situation was a $58,000 director position that was often unfilled, supervising skads of interns, who made less than $10,000. I met one of those interns at the meeting Downtown, she was very young. She said there will be a meeting later this month in the Behavioral Health Department, “setting priorities.” I’ll try to get to that and let you know. 

While this news sounds good, I worry, what will happen when the grant runs out? We made it clear that this department needs to be fully funded in future, it’s not some kind of luxury, it’s a necessity.

Supervisor Kirk said she feels generally positive about the county, although, one of the biggest frustrations they’ve had is trying to fight the CARB (California Air Resources Board) regulations. CARB’s mandate for retrofitting trucks, she feels,  is completely onerous for farmers and small trucking companies. She echoed Evan’s comments – these regulations are “job killers”. I agree, we don’t have nearly the bad air quality that necessitates these restrictions in places like Fresno. Whenever my family travels south, we notice – the air stinks like car exhaust. I’ll take dirt plumes and wood smoke any day of the week.

Kirk did not agree with Evans on the State of Jefferson issue. Although she understands the frustration of dealing with the rest of the state, she put her finger on a key problem – we don’t have the economy here to sustain ourselves independently of LA. Farming is important, sure, but it doesn’t compare with the tech and retail money that floats into the state by way of LA and Bay Area companies. While Evans felt we might rattle the idea around, get the rest of the state to give us a little more respect, Kirk feels the idea is impractical, and doesn’t see the board taking it up anytime soon. She says we need to work on our economy here.

The subject that makes me warm to the idea of state separation is water. Maureen thanked me for  bringing up the issue of the Cal Water rate hike to the board, and felt they were right to respond to the Department of Ratepayer Advocates. Bill Connelly had come in, and he added, the Oroville people had also contacted him about the same time, and because of their efforts, the DRA had recommended dropping the increase from about 30 percent to about two percent. I have to take Connelly’s word on this, I have not been able to get any info. I will get ahold of the Oroville people and ask them for the news. 

Water is considered a commodity by some, Connelly warned us, we need to keep an eye on our water deals.  I don’t understand the situation with Lake Oroville, except, we don’t own that water, it’s owned by a water district down south. Connelly and Kirk tried to explain that sitch, but it wouldn’t fit in a nutshell. They say some progress has been made in getting the Palmdale water district to pay more of the expenses for storing and pumping the water, but I don’t really understand. This is an issue we should all try harder to wrap our heads around, but it’s hard to get the information without sitting for hours in meetings.

We also talked Economic Development. The county has an economic development team, headed by Jennifer Macarthy. They’ve recently stopped giving consultant Debbie Lucero money for her financial wizardry, saving the county about $30,000. The city also dropped Lucero, who used to run Artoberfest, making outrageous claims about raising bed tax totals, etc. That was good news, I’m tired of these leaches. But, there’s no good news on the job front so far, we’re still sitting back waiting for employers to figure out what a great area we have here.

I tried to get a conversation going about what the problem is, but that went over like a Led Zeppelin.  I can think of a number of problems, starting with the cost of housing, especially in Chico.  The guy who owns Wizard Manufacturing came into a city meeting last year and asked the council to do what they can about keeping wages down. I don’t think he means, force people to live in poverty. I think he means, do something about the outrageous cost of living in this area, which is fed by the salaries in Downtown Chico. Nobody gets that, I get so frustrated. 

Another criticism we’ve had is the internet service is poor here, and companies like AT&T and Comcast are holding out for government money to fix their aging infrastructure. Yes, my AT&T service sucked, and they told me, my house is too far from their transfer station. My landline would go out too, and they’d have nothing but excuses. My Comcast service is better, but only compared to AT&T.  I say, tell them we won’t renew their licenses or permits to  operate here until they put some money into their sagging and neglected infrastructure, but I’m a bitch.

These are problems we will have to deal with before we get any jobs here, and it will have to be a joint effort between the county and city of Chico.

Maureen will be hosting Town Hall Meetings in Forest Ranch and Cohasset. At the Forest Ranch Community Center, on Feb. 26, from 3 – 4pm, she’ll be joined by Brian Dahle, District 1 Assembly, covering the foothills east of Chico. She’ll be in Cohassset on March 19, at the Community Association building, time to be announced (Maureen thinks 6pm). 

I’d like to thank Maureen Kirk and the other candidates who have supported this series, even coming in early to put out chairs. We had assessor candidate Alan Petersen and 3rd assembly candidate Ryan Schohr, Bob Evans, and Bill Connelly, all out there to engage the voters. Thanks All, for supporting Democracy.

Our next speaker will be Second District County Supervisor Larry Wahl, March 9, at noon, and then on March 30 at noon we will have Ryan Schohr, who wants to take up Dan Logue’s assembly seat. Please join me in welcoming these candidates who are working hard toward Election 2014.

Get informed – Republican Women to host candidates at Manzanita Place – series kicks off Thursday with Doug LaMalfa and Greg Cheadle

17 Feb

The Republican Women will be hosting luncheons at Manzanita Place over the coming months to introduce candidates for 2014. They’re opening this series on Thursday, Feb. 20 with congressman Doug LaMalfa and Greg Cheadle, a candidate for LaMalfa’s seat (1st District).

Tickets for the buffet luncheon are $15, doors open at 11:30. Public is welcome, and they’re asking that you RSVP today for the luncheon – call 852-1644 for more information.

I’ve met Greg Cheadle, don’t let that picture throw you, he’s a nice guy, very intelligent,  worth a listen. Doug’s a fun guy too, and will have an update from congress. Should be informative.

We’ve got to get that gavel away from Gruendl – he’s a danger to himself AND the public!

15 Feb

 put up a great post the other day of the last council meeting a couple of weeks ago, during which Mayor Scott Gruendl used his gavel like a tomahawk.   That guy, he’s just drunk on his own power trip.  Watch for yourself, the gals posted the footage from the meeting.

People don’t pay enough attention to Scott Gruendl, and they really should. If you get to know him like I have, you see, he’s a creepy, weird little jerk, with delusions that we are all so lucky to have a guy like him, we absolutely aren’t worthy. 

Hey, did you ever watch the original film, Anastasia? Ingrid Bergman plays a mysterious woman claiming to be the lost Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, and Helen Hayes plays the  grandmother who must decide if this woman is the child she knew many years before.  Near the end, when the Hayes character feels it’s impossible to know, she watches the younger woman scold a soldier – “How dare you light a cigarette in my presence!” She immediately decides that this young woman really is her granddaughter, telling her, she had shown a streak of royal bearing that was impossible to fake. 

Well, we may have found Anastasia’s lost brother Alexei – in Scott Gruendl, our royal mayor. He treats Mary Fitch like she’s a child, trying to get away with something.  Not only have I seen him and other mayors allow many people to go well over the illegal three minutes,  also documented several specific incidences, including an incident at the same meeting. Scott is way out of line to stop Mary Fitch without any discussion, while allowing other speakers to go on at will. Watch for yourself.

Chico, you deserve what you vote for, and what you are willing to put up with from your elected officials

15 Feb

I noticed an item in Tuesday’s council agenda that waives the Sunshine period for the employee contracts. There is also a provision allowing employees to tack their Employer Paid Member Contribution onto their salary as compensation so it’s added to their pension when they retire.



Item 4.2 contains a typo? In the item they describe it as “special compensation.” Legally, there’s a difference, but I only caught that just now. I immediately wrote a note to council regarding Item 4.1:

I can’t believe you’re talking about waiving the sunshining period for the contracts.


Although, I realize, you folks don’t have any consideration for what the public thinks about  these contracts anyway. You approve them for your own reasons.


Mark, Sean, and Scott, it looks very much like you approve these contracts because the police and fire departments have contributed to your campaigns, and nobody who pays attention needed Michael Jones to tell them that.

The sunshine period needs to stand. I’m writing because I find it onerous to attend the council meetings. I speak to people all the time, at the grocery store, the library, the tractor store, the butcher shop – people say there is no use in attending council meetings. When I recently went to the reference desk at the library, I got into a pretty lively conversation (in the library!) in which several women told me, they feel intimidated out of speaking because oftentimes you folks make nasty remarks about people as they walk away (they mentioned Mark and Mary specifically), and nobody ever gets a chance to answer back to the snide remarks or inaccurate statements you often make from that dais (here they mentioned you Scott). One woman said she attended a hearing where Mary decided to limit remarks to a minute and a half. That’s really controversial, people can’t believe they’d come down to be heard and get treated like that.  It’s like wearing this little button I have, maybe I can get copies for each of you. It says simply, “I’m not really listening to you.” At least you people could be honest. You’re not a representative government, everybody knows that.  You act like the Ruling Class. 


As I pedaled through the absolutely disgraceful looking Bidwell Park on my way to yesterday’s Internal Affairs Committee meeting, I passed an old neighbor walking his dog. I told him I was going to a meeting DT, and he said, “yeah? well give them a ration of s–t for me, would ya?” 


That is how you are perceived by the general public.  Waiving the sunshine period on the employee contracts will just look like more of same from a deceitful council. 


But go ahead and do whatever you want, like you always do – Juanita Sumner

I also wrote to Finance Director Chris Constantin about Item 4.2, asking for explanation. 

Hello Juanita,

The items on the agenda are to eliminate or reduce the EPMC, which is the PERs payments that CalPERs indicates is the employee share of their retirement benefits.  In the past, the City picked up the EPMC for employees (up to 8% for non-public safety and up to 9% for public safety) rather than employees paying for it.  Special compensation is a second piece which would allow amount the City pays for the employee share to be considered additional compensation for the employee, as thus, pensionable.

What does this mean? The scenarios below is the best way to explain this with a non-public safety employee.  There are three pieces to follow: taxable wages, who pays what for the employee share, and the ultimate salary that is used of paying out a pension.


Scenario #1: Employee pays their share of retirement

Employee making $100,000, the employee’s share of the retirement contribution is $8,000.  The employee pays for their $8,000 retirement contribution, thus, the employee would have taxable income of $92,000 (the retirement contribution is paid pretax).  For the purpose of retirement, the employee made $100,000.


Scenario #2: City pays for the employee’s share of retirement

Employee making $100,000, the employee’s share of the retirement contribution is $8,000.  The City pays for the employee’s $8,000 retirement contribution, thus, the employee would have a taxable income of $100,000.  For the purpose of retirement, the employee made $100,000.


Scenario #3: City pays for the employee’s share of retirement and City allows that share to be treated as “special” compensation

Employee making $100,000, the employee’s share of the retirement contribution is $8,000.  The City pays for the employee’s $8,000 retirement contribution, thus, the employee would have a taxable income of $100,000.  Special compensation treats the city’s payment of the employee share as pensionable wages, so for the purpose of retirement, the employee made $108,000.


Hope this helps.



As Constantin describes above, the amount we pay toward the employee’s pension becomes part of their wages, and part of their pension – but, they don’t pay taxes on it as salary. It becomes part of their salary when they retire. Then they’ll pay income taxes on it, as they receive it.

So, this is why, I’m guessing, they needed to waive the sunshine period – people like me are starting to ask questions about the contracts. 

I was surprised when Constantin also responded to my letter to the council. He actually wanted to talk to me by phone, asking for my phone number. RED ALERT JUANITA! Whenever somebody wants to talk to me on the phone, they want to talk OFF THE RECORD, and that usually means, they’re going to say something I ain’t going to like, and they figure the general public ain’t going to like it either, so they don’t want any written record of what they will say, like an e-mail. I went ahead and sent him my phone number, not knowing how to refuse, but I got in my car 15 minutes later and headed to Sugar Bowl. The snow was great! They call it “corn,” and the slopes were like Surf City USA all morning. Good luck getting ahold of me up there.

So here’s his e-mail explanation:

Hello Juanita,


I received your comments regarding the City Council’s agenda items for employee contracts.  Some of the items you outlined below related to the employee contracts we discussed this morning.  I hope my response provided the clarity you were looking for.  As for the sunshining and adoption of employee contracts, the City Council may elect to only sunshine the items and adopt them at the next meeting.  It was at my recommendation to the city management team that the city staff propose the agenda item with the ability to adopt at the same time we sunshine, and this is why. 


The contracts being considered involve significant reductions in both pension and compensation costs to the City.  Employees will by paying their EPMC (all 9% for CPOA over 1 year and all 8% for CPSA over 2 years) where they were not before as well as reducing any monthly health trust payments to the CPOA.  The City will also remove any special compensation for these EPMC payments which will reduce the pensionable pay for most employees.  Employees will not be receiving increases in any cash compensation.  Given that the City did not receive comments on the previous contracts that were sunshined, the City would delay reducing sworn and non-sworn police compensation and benefits reductions with a high likelihood of little comment.


The City Council and management highly value public comment, input and perspective, so we appreciate giving the public that opportunity on employee contracts – especially when the city provides employees increases in pay and benefits. However, in this case, it is important to give the City Council the opportunity to immediately reduce employee pay and benefits if there is no public input that would require more time for the public to evaluate the contracts.  As such, the City Council at least has the option to approve them Tuesday.  If there is more need for discussion, the City Council can consider just to sunshine Tuesday and approve at the next meeting.




Basically, he’s saying, they want to rush it through, but he doesn’t explain why.  Then he says, if the council receives public comment Tuesday, they can reopen the sunshine period. What I’m getting is, they’re asking me to withdraw my comment so they can jam this thing through. 

Scott Gruendl also responded, a couple of times, he’s such a spazz.

I can also take some time before executing the agreements on behalf of the City if any member of the public indicated that more time was needed to gain any further explanation of any items of concern that have been discovered, but not fully [here his first e-mail ended]

Scott’s second e-mail: 

… investigated. 

Sorry, I pushed send before I finished since this was sent from my tax free phone that has a tiny screen and my thumb is simply too fat to work it well. Thanks. 

Scott Gruendl is weird. Why does he need to make a big deal about using his “tax free phone”? His “tax free phone”? Is he referring to the device we pay for? Is he complaining about it? Why doesn’t he use the cute little computer we gave him instead of struggling with his fat fingers with that “tiny screen”? Well, I’ll tell you what, he can’t blame us for his fat fingers. 

Gruendl is saying, the public hasn’t commented. Well, I for one have commented, several times, directly to him and other council members, about what is wrong with these contracts. I have to wonder, how many other comments have been made that just haven’t been put in the public record (Debbie Presson could but won’t answer that one.) They are just trying to ignore us. Here they are trying to set a precedent – get rid of the sunshine period certain members of the public have worked hard to get. 

Well, I’ll tell you what Chico – you deserve what you put up with. And I’ll be glad to throw salt on it. 

A matter of discretion

12 Feb
From Google:
  1. 1.
    the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.
    “she knew she could rely on his discretion”
    synonyms: circumspection, carefulness, cautionwariness, chariness,guardedness; More

  2. 2.
    the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.
    “it is up to local authorities to use their discretion in setting the charges”
    synonyms: choiceoptionpreferencedispositionvolition; More


    Today I attended an Internal Affairs Committee meeting. I know, I’m uncouth. To my own credit, I’ll say, I have quit cussing, out loud, and I’ve been trying to pay extra attention to my hygiene. I don’t eat anything explosive  before a meeting, ever since I had a very unpleasant experience with a batch of brussel sprouts. But, I’m not going to sit there with a cork in it when the city tries to pull some stunt, and I ain’t going out of my way to be polite about it.

    The city was aiming to charge property owners for expenses occurred by police, fire department, ambulance, and hospitals when police are called to a party with underage alcohol consumption. “Property owners” should mean parents, obviously, since it’s been noted in past discussions that a significant portion of the city’s underage drinking is occurring in private homes, the party hosted by a teen or just-turned-21 year old host, with or without the knowledge of the parents. Sometimes the booze is brought in, other times, Mom and Dad are out and the liquor cabinet is unlocked.  And, I’ll say, I’ve actually had the parent of one of my kid’s friends ask me at a family Christmas party if it would be okay for my 13 year old to have some rum and coke punch mixed up by her 16 year old daughter. I quietly but firmly said no, and the other parents acted as though I’d farted out loud.   So, I know, parents are a part of this problem. But, the ordinance specifically named “landlords.”  Parents were never a part of today’s discussion. 

    It’s all about getting more revenues for the police department. This has been a focus of Kurt Trostle since he came into the Chief’s position.  Sure, the police department spends a lot of money on drunken behavior in general. They arrest people all the time, including for underage drinking,  but these people are not charged or convicted, so they can’t be made to pay any of the cost of the salaries or benefits involved. This, I have been told, is because our county DA won’t prosecute unless there’s a death – he  says he doesn’t have enough staff. I’ll also say, I’ll bet it’s just too hard to prove who gave them the booze, who was the host, who was responsible for the underage person being there. Kids won’t rat. So, the police department literally spends millions, and asks for budget appropriations constantly, on Friday/Saturday night shenanigans with no recompense from the actual shenaniganers. 

    Months back a consultant was hired by some local agency to come in and describe the various methods of dealing with problems related to over consumption of alcohol, including but not limited to serving alcohol to minors. One topic he discussed was the social host ordinance. He described an ordinance in which landlords would be held responsible for incidents occurring on their property, with or without their consent or knowledge. He described it as a tool, not to control underage drinking, but to recoup response costs.  He said, the main advantage to this type of ordinance was, it eliminates the due process for landlords. See, you have to give the drunken rioters due process – that’s what Ramsey doesn’t have staff for. But this ordinance these dirty sneaks were trying to foist would have given the police the “discretion” to decide when a response fee should be assessed, to whom it should be assessed, and how much the assessment would be. And, the money would go to the police department and any other agencies involved. Meaning, the landlord would get the Emergency Room and ambulance bill for the underage drinker, in addition to charges for salaries and benefits of police and fire department employees involved. 

    Now, I realize – if the landlord lives in the rental, buys the underage drinker the booze, watches while they drink themselves sick – sure, that person is responsible. I wanted them to say, in so many legal words, that they would eliminate all the instances of “landlord” in the ordinance, and replace them with “responsible party,” which would of course have to be determined in a court of law.

    At this point, I will repeat, were trying to foist. The new draft gave four different options for this ordinance, the first being, no landlord responsibility. Legal staffer Roger Wilson explained that after a meeting with “stakeholders” (I wasn’t invited, even though I’ve been talking to Wilson about this ordinance), he decided that was what he would recommend. The other three options were completely ridiculous, and I can’t help believing they were put in as a threat if we landlords didn’t go along with this ordinance as a whole. Tami Ritter a couple of times tried to get speakers to say they’d support the ordinance if the landlord clause was removed. The committee finally voted unanimously to forward a recommendation of no landlord responsibility. 

    That was only part of the ordinance. The meeting ran so long – several people fell to complaining about how police have handled them or their tenants, including myself, the conversation went off track sometimes. See, it’s this whole notion of “police discretion.” That scares the hell out of me, that a cop is allowed to decide to, as Officer Lori MacPhail said at the meeting, “take somebody’s liberty.” And, she was wearing a piece – I’ll add, “take somebody’s life.” As we have seen in this town a number of times. 

    See, they don’t use the best discretion, none of these dummies. As I sat waiting for the meeting to start, I was unable to avoid overhearing a conversation between Tami Ritter and Lori MacPhail. Ritter was telling MacPhail that her mother had been sick last night. She said, in a room full of people, that her mother had got food poisoning from some chicken she’d bought at a local grocery chain. She named the store, one of our largest employers as well as sales tax contributors, by name. But, did she take her mother to the doctor? How does she know it’s food poisoning? How did she know it was the chicken? I think that’s really indiscreet Honey. She just took a shit on the  reputation of this well-known chain, saying they sell bad chicken without providing any substantiation of the claim. How many people walked out of there thinking that was true, and will never buy meat at that chain again, and will tell their family and friends? That’s really poor judgement for an officer of the public trust. But both Ritter and MacPhail repeatedly claimed they have good discretion.