Archive | February, 2014

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. 




From Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates: We are NOT going away. We want change.

10 Feb
“Whiskey is for drinking; Water is for fighting over” ~
This quote has been attributed to 
Mark Twain 

We have a lot of new information to share. Please share this post on your facebook site and with friends and family.

Several weeks ago a group of us from Marysville met with other cities to form a coalition. We have said many times that there is power and strength in numbers. All of us have been fighting alone. So forming an alliance, only makes sense. The group represents cities served by one of the BIG 3 private for-profit water companies in California: Golden State; Cal American; and California Water Service. Everyone has the same stories and issues: escalating water rates!! The coalition advocates for fair and reasonable water rates. 

It is pretty obvious that we will never change the way that the BIG 3 do business. But we can lobby for change at CPUC. We can and will put pressure on local and state elected officials. CPUC appears to be rife with conflict of interest between its role as a State agency that oversees the private utility companies and its role as a rate setter for private utilities. The current system is broken!! It is working for the private water companies, but NOT for the ratepayers. There is no protection for the ratepayers of the private water companies. 

The coalition of cities is growing. A website that will be representative of all cities that join the coalition will soon be up and running. We will keep you posted. 

Yesterday several members of the coalition attended an Assembly Committee meeting on Utilities and Commerce in Sacramento. The topic of the meeting was “Keeping Water Rates Affordable”. Denise Rushing (Supervisor in Lucerne) gave a presentation about their issues with rates (Cal Water). Kudos to Supervisor Rushing for standing up and speaking out for those who elected her. Bill Simmons (Marysville) and Craig Bach (Lucerne) also spoke. They talked about escalating water rates; affordability; WRAM surcharges etc. Apparently Arizona does not have the issue that we have. The PUC in Arizona elects their commissioners. They are not appointed. They are accountable to the people. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Thank you to Bill Simmons and Craig Bach for speaking out. We appreciate you!!!

Chris Pedigo is scheduled to be interviewed by Channel 13-Sacramento this evening. He will address all of the issues above. Thank you Councilman Pedigo!! 

Please be sure to share this update. It is encouraging to see how many cities are happy to jump on board with the coalition. We will continue to meet; to network; to lobby and share resources. 
We will be back soon with another update. There is much more going on. 

Spring and summer is just around the corner. More brown lawns. More brown parks. Higher WRAM charges. Higher water charges!! 

We are NOT going away. We want change.

NOTE:  Check out the new website

Michael Jones: Police union plays hardball

7 Feb

Yes, we just watched Chico City Council approve police employee contracts that allow for salaries three to four times the median Chico income and only demand employees pay nine percent of their  total pension cost, and then saw Scott Gruendl turn around within two weeks and make a speech about how much financial trouble our city is in. 

Yes, the cops own Gruendl, and his friends Sorensen and Morgan, donating thousands of dollars to those three campaigns in every election, and/or spending as much on their endorsement. See for yourself, at Michael Jone’s blog, Chico Politics.

Here Jones has documented the inappropriate relationship between certain councilors and the police department. They get their talking heads elected, and they enjoy salaries in excess of towns in Marin and Napa counties where the median income is twice as much as Chico’s.

I know, friends of mine are incensed over Randall Stone’s outing of police officer Todd Boothe’s Facebook antics. What ever happened to the investigation we were promised? It got swept under the rug just like we said it would. Durfee wants Stone off the Police Advisory Board and out of any decisions involving the police department? Oh, come on. If that’s the case, then Sean Morgan needs to take the same door – he told me in an e-mail that he is very close friends with Peter Durfee, has known him since going to school with him here in Chico, and makes frequent ride-alongs with Durfee in his patrol car, at all hours of the night. When I asked Morgan if he could attend an August Sunday morning CTA meeting, he answered,

“I’ll chose a Sunday and come on down. I’ll give you a heads up. Won’t be this Sunday as I’ll be out with your favorite police officer until 4:00 AM.”  

If they want Stone out, then Morgan goes too.

Thanks Michael Jones and friends for going to a lot of trouble, a lot of research, and then putting it up in an easy-to-read format.  


Let’s hear more about separating the state

6 Feb

I’d like to thank a couple of people who have brought the State of Jefferson issue into our speaker series, and I was impressed with Bob Evan’s response when questioned about the subject.

Evans noted that we don’t get equal representation in Sacramento. Some serious talk about separation at county boards and city councils around the North State might get their attention, he opined.  And, “If they just laugh at us, we’ll already be down that road...” – meaning, we’ll already have the legal process in motion.

This is a sentiment that always attracts my attention – getting their attention, whether they are Downtown or in O-ville or in Sac-o-tomatoes. I have given up on Washington DC, sorry.

I was about to give up on Sacramento when I had a curious experience. I told you all there was a hearing in Sacramento the other day, regarding water rates. The Committee on Utilities and Commerce was hearing from some sub-committees and other entities regarding the effects of private water company rate increases on low-income and the elderly. I had been told they were looking for public comment, but I knew I would not be able to go to Sacramento on a couple day’s notice, so I picked up my cell phone Monday morning and went about trying to contact the committee by phone.  

I must have got a hold of a phone number the public is not supposed to have. It reminded me of the time I wandered out of my sister’s dressing room at JC Penny, and got lost in that catacomb of curtains. As I bashed in on all  these ladies, strapped into their 1960’s style foundation garments, I was treated like something the cat dragged in – one woman hit me right in the face with her nylon. They didn’t give me a chance to say, “I can’t find my Gramma!” They just yelled at me and threw me out. 

That’s what I encountered when I dared to dial a number at the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce – “what are you doing here?”  The woman who answered wasn’t a helpful public servant, she was a dog in the manger.  Or, excuse me, a hog in the trough.

You know that story – a dog, who can’t eat hay, jumps into a manger and snarls at any cow that tries to eat.  Dog knows he can’t eat hay, and hogs know they can’t eat all the slops. Dumb dog/hog? No, greedy dog/hog, a dog/hog that knows the power of running the manger/trough. Here we have the State Worker. State workers have a code – they protect the system, period. They are trough hogs, and they’re scarier than any dog you will encounter.

I tried to stay on track with this gal, I identified myself, and told her I was looking for information about a committee hearing that was to take place later in the day. She cut me off before I could finish what I was saying – “there’s no committee hearing today!”   I kept trying to explain myself, and she just kept saying that. At some point I must have mentioned a name or a phrase she recognized because she suddenly started listening to me. She admitted there was a hearing. “I’ll transfer you...” and she sent me on to somebody else. Again, I was treated as though I had wandered in on a fat lady struggling into a girdle. The second woman denied there was a meeting, and asked pointedly what I was doing calling her. Again I struggled to explain, again I must have mentioned some kind of code words – she also admitted there was a hearing later that day, and transferred me to a third person. 

So far, I had two women who had at first denied there was any meeting, but when I’d mentioned some specific names, they’d suddenly remembered – “oh – THAT meeting!” By the time I got to the third woman, I was pretty diddled, stuttering, but I persevered. She was ready to admit there was some kind of meeting that day, what did I want? I named the committee and meeting, and told her I had only heard about the meeting days before, on accident, and that I would not be able to attend. How could I make comments?

As if she hadn’t heard a word I said, she told me I could come to the hearing. 

So, I responded again that I would not be able to attend, and I tried to chatter out my comments as casually as possible while I still had her ear. I told her my community was being hit with onerous water rate increases for pensions, and we were tired of putting up with inaction from the California Public Utilities Commission.  She just kept babbling at me that I would have to come to the hearing.  I told her I was sorry I had wasted her time and mine, said goodbye, and hung up. 

Then I wrote an e-mail to the staffer who administers the committee.  They’d gotten a hold of her when they’d contacted Assemblyman Anthony Rendon’s office, he’s on one of the sub-committees. I wrote in my e-mail various concerns we have here in Chico over our water rates – complaints from both the city of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District that trees would be dying all over town, ball fields would be going brown, and playgrounds turned to dust and mud. I also made a brief complaint about what happened when I tried to contact the committee by phone.

I got the usual glad-handers – the damage control artists. Wow, this lady is mad, and she has a big mouth – we better smooth her over! Now all the sudden, everybody wants to be all nicey-nicey! From Sue Kateley, staffer to the Committee on Utilities and Commerce:

Dear Ms. Sumner,

First, I’m very sorry to hear that your call was not handled properly. I want to assure you that it is not typical to hear that someone was treated badly by Legislative staff. If you could provide the phone number that you called, I will see if I can find out what happened that led to this situation.


The hearing was held yesterday afternoon and we had a number of Cal Water customers from Lucerne and Marysville who did attend. There is a video recording available over the internet if you would like to watch the hearing (I know that isn’t the same as being there). I think this link will work for you:

We did hear a number of comments similar to yours, expressing concerns regarding steep rate increases proposed for Cal Water customers and a proposal that is being made by Assembly Member Yamada to provide assistance to low-income and disadvantaged water utility customers.


The Cal Water rate case has not yet been completed and some changes have been made to reduce the amount of the rate increase. I don’t know specifically what is currently being proposed for customers in the Chico area.


If you wouldn’t mind, could I put you in touch with the staff at the Public Utilities Commission so that you could get an update on the status of the rate proposal? I can do this via email but I don’t want to share your email without your permission. Let me know.






Sue Kateley, Chief Consultant

California State Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  They always want a name and a phone number. I don’t know how to tell this gal – it was her phone number, and she may be one of the trough hogs that snarled at me!  

But, there’s good news up there. “The Cal Water rate case has not yet been completed and some changes have been made to reduce the amount of the rate increase.”

 We still have time to contact these people. I’ll get back to this gal and ask her to put me in touch with the CPUC, and ask her for other contact information. I’ll try to be nice. But, I’m with Bob Evans. These snarling trough protectors in Sacramento don’t take us seriously. It’s time to sharpen that ax.

Please write letters to Anthony Rendon – we are conserving, but we’re still getting squeezed by Cal Water

1 Feb
I was happy to find, when I removed the freeze cloth, my nopal cacti had grown alot.

I was happy to find, when I removed the freeze cloth, my nopal cacti had grown alot.   The little one at right front was a leaf that fell off. I threw it in the compost pile, and about two months later, I realized it was growing, so brought it back. The big mother plant is there in the left foreground, the original plant is hardly visible behind all the new growth.

I’ve been reading newspapers in little towns around Greater Los Angeles – Downey, Cudahy, Hawthorne – looking for their reaction on the drought. Alot of them are well-aware of their natural surroundings, one man chastising his neighbors in a letter to the editor for trying to have lush green lawns using imported water.

Here at my house, I realized a year or two ago, we needed to start getting rid of water-intensive landscaping – in our case, an acre or so of lawn between our little domicile and our  tenants’ up front. So, we just stopped watering huge sections, let it go, and went about trying to find some sort of mitigation for the resulting stickers, dirt and mud.

First we laid a lot of gravel and rock. I like that, it keeps the areas directly around our houses fairly neat and easy to clean. I also like rock collecting, and we go alot of places where we find really great rocks for rock gardens. I got all kinds of cool rocks from all over California. 

We also started looking for “drought tolerant” plants. I had this nopal cactus from my mom, I’d dug it out of her front yard when I sold her house, and put it in a plastic pot. There it was for years, toted from one house to another, like a mummy. Sometimes it would grow a nopalito, which would usually shrivel and fall off. Finally I decided to plant the poor old thing. I found out, there were three separate plants in the pot. I can’t get over how well they’re doing now.

I placed my mom’s old strawberry pots among the nopals last year, having had them for years and never used them for strawberries. Wow, they worked fantastic.

I took all the old "mother" plants out of my strawberry pots and replaced them with the babies they'd had, which were growing in the ground all around the pots.

I took all the old “mother” plants out of my strawberry pots and replaced them with the babies they’d had, which were growing in the ground all around the pots.

I cleaned them out and added some fresh dirt and started planting the babies. They had been growing on no water in the cold cold ground, and as soon as they got into that peat moss and perlite mix I used, and I gave them a big drink of leaf tea from my rain barrel, they perked up like they’d never been anywhere else. Hello Sweetheart!

Mmmmm! That last storm left me with 55 gallons of leaf tea from my rain gutters. Wow, I got to get more of these barrels.

Mmmmm! That last storm left me with 55 gallons of leaf tea from my rain gutters. Wow, I got to get more of these barrels.

My husband and I bought a kit to turn these old plastic barrels into rain barrels. We bought the hardware at Home Depot, less than 10 bucks.

We cut a hole in the bottom, no rocket science required, and easy-as-pie, inserted the valve kit.  Remember to put it on a raised pedestal so you can get pressure in your hose.

We cut a hole in the bottom, no rocket science required, and easy-as-pie, inserted the valve kit. Remember to put it on a raised pedestal so you can get pressure in your hose.


I was amazed, that little storm we had, I got a full 55 gallon barrel. This I will use on my container plants. Right now we’re planting seeds for our Summer garden.

Ah, here-in lies future tomato sauce.

Ah, here-in lies future tomato sauce.

I conserve in times of drought, and try to save some aside in times of plenty – that’s a lifestyle I was raised with. But Cal Water is using the drought to take advantage of us. Don’t be a sap, write to Anthony Rendon,    Mr. Rendon sits on a committee that is participating in hearings regarding water rates. Cal Water is gouging us, and it’s not only hurting us all personally, it’s going to start hurting our economy. Between this and the upcoming garbage rate increase, we will all have less “disposable” income. That’s going to trickle up when sales taxes continue their steady dive. 

Me, I’m going to buy more rain barrels, and keep writing letters. I hope you will do same.