Archive | May, 2014

Let’s all enjoy a solid chorus of “I Told You So!”

31 May

Yes, I believe in rubbing it in good. I let too many things fly past, this is not going to get by without insult. 

Mark Sorensen owes us an apology. He was Brian Nakamura’s biggest supporter. Now Nakamura is doing just exactly what he did to Hemet, and other towns before that – leaving without proper notice, for a job he secretly sought out while in our employ. The guy is so predictable – I predicted this, in fact. But Sorensen gave him a huge salary, and the sacred trust, and then stood by while he pilfered our treasury for his own fat salary, pension and benefits. Not to mention, those of his friends, Orme and Constantin. And now he’s hired his friend as our city attorney. 

Is Sorensen stupid or is he in on it? Will he take over as City Manager? What will happen to Orme and Constantin? I can’t decide yet, I’ll have to put in my prediction later. If only it paid like Vegas, I’d be a fucking millionaire by now. 

Attack of the Mother Frackers

27 May

I’ve seen the signs around town, especially in that big mess at the corner of Bruce and 32 – “Citizens Against Higher Energy Costs.” Somehow I just knew this was not a campaign to get PG&E to lower their rates.

Actually, it’s a campaign on behalf of and probably paid for by PG&E – their attempt to derail the effort to ban fracking in Butte County. Maybe you were just as surprised  as I was, back in April, when a nearly unanimous board of Supervisors voted to place an ordinance banning fracking on the county ballot. All but the same Larry Wahl who says he opposes marijuana grows because they’re bad for the environment – go figure.

I first heard about Citizen’s Against Higher Energy Costs  through  Senator Jim Nielsen, who sends me his regular e-mail newsletter eversince I made an inquiry of his office. I also received a note, asking if the Chico Taxpayers Association would like to join the group, from a lady named Ingelise Guy. When I googled her, I got , “Ingelise Nielsen Guy”, but I don’t know if that’s the same lady. Weird though. 

I asked her how much money Jim Nielsen received from PG&E, but she hasn’t got back to me. So, I googled PG&E campaign contributions, and found this:

http://www.pgecorp.com/aboutus/corp_gov/political_engagement/political_engagement.shtml

Cool, eh? Just love the internet.  

Looking over the reports year by year, I see Jim Nielsen has been taking $3900 a year directly from PG&E. I know, that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to pay for phones and electricity for your campaign office, and a bunch of campaign signs. Year after year, $3900. I’m sorry, that looks bad Jim! 

It is funny – I don’t see Larry Wahl on  that list, or find PG&E in any of his campaign contribution reports, but he’s vehemently against the ban. Meanwhile, you’ll find Maureen Kirk, who voted in favor of putting the ordinance on the ballot, took $500 from PG&E one year. But, that $3900 a year still looks bad for Nielsen. 

And I really don’t like the implied threat that they’ll raise our energy rates if we try to ban this very questionable practice in our county. I’d like to think my elected officials are there to protect us against these marauding corporations, but I don’t believe they can take money from these same corporations and still act in our best interests. 

Virgle Gage gives us something to think about

26 May
Virgle Gage is a nice guy to chat with.

Virgle Gage is a nice guy to chat with.

I am so glad I took the time to meet Virgle Gage – the discussion we had yesterday gave me a lot to think about.  I still believe a person needs practical experience in assessment and appraisal of properties to take this job, but I also believe there are subjective decisions to this job that are influenced by management philosophy, and I’ve been looking for each candidate’s particular management style.

I was impressed with Virgle Gage’s professional achievements. He has worked for years, doing what he calls “assessing”, in a general sense of the word. Mr. Gage assessed businesses for their performance, not their value, that’s about as simple as I can put it. Of course that job took knowledge, skill and training, but not the same training it takes to make a fair assessment of a home. According to Diane Brown, who is running the Assessor’s office in the interim between  Fred Holland’s retirement and the appointment of the elected official, there is a pretty vast set of rules regarding assessment, a thick manual in need of update.

I am not convinced a person who has no background in property assessment could come in and take a quick online course and test, and be considered qualified to run the Assessor’s office. On the other hand, I’ve found there’s more to this job than the qualifications. The Assessor makes a lot of subjective decisions, based on their own personal philosophy about how much a person should pay in taxes.  

I think there are two kinds of assessors. One kind works for the county, raising revenues. The other kind of assessor works for the taxpayers, making sure that we are assessed fairly.

There you go – that’s subjective. Everybody has their own idea of what’s fair. I think what would be most fair would be assessment based on sale price, but our California tax code allows the assessor to make “supplemental assessment,” meaning, if he thinks your house undersold, he can assess it for more.  I’d like to see a concrete set of rules for property assessment, and I’d like to think it runs along the lines of square footage and comparable neighborhood sales. Comps should be limited to the immediate area, within sight of the property being assessed, and should be of similar size, age, quality and amenities. 

Fred Holland was of the first kind of assessor, he told me so. He told me he thought it was his job to raise revenues for the county, and he would look for the highest possible assessment. When he came to assess my house, since I was home, he asked to come in. When I asked Why?, he said he wanted to see my “appointments” – drapes, counter tops, cabinets, flooring, all that personal stuff. That’s not what an assessment should be based on, and I said ‘No’. I referred any further snoopy questions to Old Venus, and I went in the house. I wonder how many people let him in thinking they have to?

Diane Brown spoke a lot about going into people’s houses. I don’t think that’s appropriate. If they’ve pulled permits, they’ve had an inspector in, and all that stuff is in the specs. Assessors can get everything they need from the specs and the front yard of a house. If there’s any suspicion that a property owner has un-permitted uses on their property, that’s supposed to be handled by code enforcement. There’s no excuse for anybody from the Assessor’s office to be snooping around in your house or private areas.

I think supplemental assessments are bullshit all the way around. How can they tell me my property is worth an amount I won’t realize unless I sell? And maybe not then?  It’s bad enough paying property taxes at all, but to have this all based on revenue needs is just wrong. It should be based on the concept of usable roads, quality schools, clean, safe utilities. 

While Mr. Gage felt it necessary to explain why he was running for this office, I was also interested in his general philosophy. I want to know, how does the candidate feel about Prop 13? Gage said he feels it motivates businesses to move to California, not only for protection of their commercial properties, but because a lower property tax rate gives homeowners more money to spend. This is the right attitude as far as I’m concerned, and I think we need to communicate this to the other candidates. 

This is one reason I hope the Assessor’s race goes on to November. I want this conversation to be had. 

 

 

 

There’s still time to write to CPUC to protest Cal Water rate hike

26 May

I wrote the letter below to the Enterprise Record about two weeks ago, but David Little claims he’s had so many campaign letters he can’t squeeze this in. I don’t have time to complain about how that little prick runs his rag, so here it is:

Thank you Maurice Picard for writing about the Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism by which Cal Water punishes us for conserving water. The California Public Utilities Commission allows water companies to use WRAM to adjust rates monthly to cover their expenses, not our usage.  We are “damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.” 

WRAM was initiated as a “pilot program” in 2008, “to remove any disincentives the company may have to implement Conservation Rates and Conservation Programs”… This latest notice says the purpose is to “make sure Cal Water collects the right amount..”  

My May bill also includes a separate notice explaining an “18-month surcharge…to allow recovery of fixed costs not covered due to unanticipated sales variations…” But they said they used WRAM to make sure that doesn’t happen, that doesn’t make sense. 

Furthermore, Cal Water has proposed a rate increase, originally 38 percent, now down to 19 percent. The notice I received in 2012  said most of the money would go to compensation for workers who don’t pay anything toward their own defined benefits packages. 

We are under demand to cut our water usage, at the same time, pay more in rates for extravagant benefits packages for these for-profit water companies. Please write to CPUC Administrative Law Judge Robert M. Mason III, 505 Van Ness Avenue, Fifth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102 and tell him this rate hike is neither justified nor in the public interest. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico 

Virgle Gage to speak to Chico Taxpayers today, Chico library, 1 pm

25 May

I’m sorry I didn’t schedule Virgle Gage earlier in the season, I have been hearing that he is an engaging speaker. Trying to schedule people over the last few months has been a challenge, and I really appreciate the cooperation I’ve had from these candidates. It was nice of Mr. Gage to agree to come on down to the library to answer questions, I hope we can give him a good reception. I know there are people out there who haven’t voted yet, and I hope they’re taking these county offices seriously.

I’ll be there at 12:30 to set up chairs, and I’ll  get a good interview with Mr. Gage for those of you who are not able to make it today. 

Chico Enterprise Record reporter Laura Urseny seems determined to pull the wool over the taxpayers’ eyes on CARD’s aquatic center boondoggle

18 May

Chico Enterprise Record, 5/16/2014:  “At Thursday night’s CARD board meeting, center representative and former CARD board member Jerry Hughes asked the CARD board to consider setting aside $30,000 for the aquatic center effort.  He said that money would be used to hire a consultant for a feasibility study.”

I find it really interesting that Enterprise Record “reporter” Laura Urseny, who covers CARD and attends all the meetings, chose not to tell us that CARD just put out money for a consultant for a “feasibility study”  – remember the little survey they floated last year?

I sat in on the consultant’s report – she said there was no support at that time for an aquatic center, and that CARD needed to “build support in the community.” That’s what this new consultant is all about – how will they convince us that we need to put a bond on our homes to pay for an aquatic center?

According to Director Steve Visconti, “There’s not enough to build an aquatic center; we’re talking millions. But we do have $30,000. We can do a conceptual plan or help with the process.”

What neither Visconti nor Urseny will ever  tell you is that CARD is on the hot seat for their unfunded pension liability.  Last year, in addition to $300,000 spent annually, they made a “one time” $400,000 paydown to avoid penalties from CalPERS. CARD employees pay nothing toward their own retirement – 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55.    Visconti is set to retire soon on 70 percent of $112,000.

“Earlier in the week, an outreach meeting for potential partners and funding sources was held that attracted about 30 organizations that came together to hear about the proposed center. ” Really?  I signed up to be noticed of these meetings and they dumped me from the list. I have to ask, what 30 organizations, how about naming them? Why are CARD and Urseny so secretive about this whole aquatic center thing? Because they’re in those meetings talking about how they will get the public to pay for their pipe dreams.

Laura Urseny is not a news reporter – she’s nothing but a busybody. Oh yeah, I hear you – “look who’s talking…”  Well, it’s my purse they’re sticking their pudgy mitts into, and I’ll tell you what – they’re going to draw back a stump.

 

 

Voter pamphlets and mail-in ballots should be arriving now – primary June 3

14 May

I got my mail-in ballot a few days ago, and I’ve filled it almost completely. I have to admit, there are some offices I’m not voting, I just don’t know anything about the candidates one way or the other. And, there are a couple I have not decided yet, I’ll be holding onto it a couple more days.

Would you believe, there are still five days left to register to vote in this election?

Geez, and almost three more weeks of mailbox stuffed fulla junk!

 

This is just one day's sampling of the campaign blitz.

This is just one day’s sampling of the campaign blitz.

 

See there, Bill Connelly sent me a Mother’s Day card.

 

That Bill, he's a go-getter.

That Bill, he’s a go-getter.

 

Good for Bill, he sent a post card – on the other hand, Bob Evans gets the Paul Bunyan award.

 

10 x 14? That's a lot of tree pulp Bob!

10 x 14? That’s a lot of tree pulp Bob!

 

I often worry my mail carrier won’t be able to get my regular mail in there.

 

Here's a pissing match - will the extra two and a half inches guarantee victory for Mr. Gallagher? My dad always said, check their shoe size.

Here’s a pissing match – will the extra two and a half inches guarantee victory for Mr. Gallagher?

 

I often wonder how much these mailers influence people’s decisions. And then there’s this guy.

 

I have to wonder how much money this man makes selling ads in his "newsletter."

I have to wonder how much money this man makes selling ads in his “newsletter.”