2016 – the Year of the Tax

4 May

The other day I read a pretty comical article in the Enterprise Record – “Caper Acres Users Mention Tax.”

Excuse me – what the hell kind of a headline is that? “Mention Tax“? Was this overheard in casual conversation? Was it just  whimsy?

To me this word play typifies the verbal gymnastics people will indulge in to get around talking directly about raising taxes, just trying to put the notion out there so we think we came up with it ourselves. I’m wondering how long it took the editorial staff to decide to call this a ‘tax‘ at all.  I don’t trust the ER anymore.

This “mention” of tax is actually part of former City of Chico manager Tom Lando’s slow and grinding efforts at getting us to foist a tax(es) on ourselves to cover his and other grandiose pensions. Here, read up on it:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2013/07/13/heres-whats-really-behind-the-park-closures-more-than-21-retirees-get-over-100000year-in-pension-ex-fire-chief-gets-over-200000/

A pension that’s not mentioned in that list is Pam Figge’s pension. Figge is the Chico State instructor who brought her class into a Park Commission meeting to “mention” a sales tax increase.  Pam Figge was also a city of Chico $taffer under Lando. She’s one of those perpetual revolving door trough dwellers, like Lando, who also teaches at Chico State. I don’t know how many pies old Figgy has her finger in, but Lando sits on various boards around the county, including Chico Area Recreation District. 

A few years back, Lando undertook a campaign to get a sales tax increase on the ballot. He and business associate Jim Stevens hired a company from out of town to run a survey testing the waters for a sales tax:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2012/03/05/lando-releases-survey/

These companies always boast their ability to get voters to approve tax measures on themselves, so of course, it was leading, using scare tactics, leaving out the reasons the city got into this mess. I was also contacted by people, including Larry Wahl, who said Lando used their names as though they supported the tax, without even asking them. Read it yourself.

Back when he was still city mangler, Lando was behind the MOU that nailed us into our coffin – the one that linked city salaries “to increases in revenue increases but not decreases...”  His salary rocketed up about $100,000 over a few years, going from about $69,000 to over $160,000. When  we found out about that MOU, they dumped it, but wrote the “Employer Paid Member Contribution” into the employee contracts – the clause by which we pay their share of pensions and benefits.  I know I’m not the only one that bitched about that too, and now look, they’re pretending to dump it – but only for new hires.  Brian Nakamura, Mark Orme, Chris Constantin and their over-priced management friends only just agreed to pay 9 percent of their own pension – please join me in a solid chorus of “Big Fucking Whoopie, Fellas!”   

Sorensen and Nakamura expect us to eat lint out of their buttcracks, because they are making NEW HIRES pay their own benefits. Again, BFW Boys! What they don’t like to say is, that won’t happen until our existing workforce retires on 70 percent of their fat salaries and walks on down the hall. Mother…

And then, the new hires only pay if they come from outside the retirement system. For the entire United States. Most of our new hires are picked up from within the system, we hire very few newbies.

And then, the new hires only pay  50 percent. Imagine yourself sitting at the city picnic, over on the railroad tracks, eating your slice of community pie, and some cop comes over and takes half your pie and puts it on his plate next to his big fat piece, and walks away. Then a fireman comes over and takes half of what’s left, walking over to the opposite side of the room to glare at the cop while they eat your pie.  

Actually, this analogy isn’t right – Brian Nakamura got your pie while you were standing in line, sorry about that. 

These people just don’t get how big of pigs they are being – the pig is always the last one to know, right? Who, me?  Then most of them have the nerve to put on the “I’m just (sniffle) outraged!‘ act, like little Beth Vice over at Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control.  I hope she is able to pull her panties out of her ass, cause I’m the one who gets to be outraged this time. I’m sick of paying for people like her to sit in air conditioning waiting for the phone to ring, making $60,000+ but contributing NOTHING toward a pension that will pay them at least $50,000 a year (plus COLA) for the rest of their bloated life.

This is the common core behind all these little tax bombs that are headed our way over the next couple of years.  Gee, isn’t it just coinky-dinkal, that BCMVCD just lost the same amount in RDA money that they were splattering out on their own benefits? They say the cost of pesticides has increased – well that’s funny cause their budget shows they’ve spent $150,000 less on pesticides this year than they did three years ago. At the same time,  they’ve laid off employees, but wow, their pensions and benefits costs kept climbing anyway? What gives Beth?

Don’t forget the garbage tax. When I sat in on that conversation, the consultant said repeatedly (and I have this on tape) that the main reason for doing a franchise agreement was to “help the city with it’s financial condition…”  He even admitted, there will be a period during which there is no restriction over how many companies can operate, due to legalities in noticing the companies of the new regulations (5 years). He also admitted, that in order to get Recology and Waste Management to agree to go along with this deal, some of which is on shaky legal ground, the city must agree to close the bidding process to just those two haulers. This whole thing smells worse than Garbage Day.

Don’t forget CARD, who has  committee of  “shareholders” scheming behind closed doors to put an assessment or a bond on our homes to pay for Aquajets new Taj Majal swim facility. Oh yeah, don’t worry, you’ll be allowed to pay to get in, when Aquajets aren’t using it for one of their legendary swim meets. 

Let’s talk about assessments. For lack of a better adjective, I’ll say, assessments suck. This is a way by which these rent seeking agencies (  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking  ) like BCMVCD and CARD stick it to us through our homes. Each property owner gets ONE vote. Did I say, each property owner? Well they count couples or families or groups of investment partners as an each, and they only get one vote among them. And, it doesn’t matter how many properties you own, how many assessments you will pay, what your total assessment would be – you and your spouse or partner(s) get ONE vote. Period. 

When I read into the text of the Caper Acres “users” story, I found the opposite was true – Figge’s class only polled people who came into Caper Acres with their kids.  I had to laugh – these college kids that Pam Figge rounded up and brought down to the playground (were they accompanied by a child under 13?) only “surveyed” people who use Caper Acres. They asked them, essentially, “would you like other people to pay more to secure your whimsy?”  Well, duh, 80 percent of them said “Yes!”  

And the demands – keep the Bunker Hill tunnels? Yeeeccchhh! My boys never wanted to go into those tunnels, and I was relieved. They have always stunk of pee, and I’ve long questioned the safety of tunnels in the dirt, come on.  Alot of Caper Acres should just be removed. Those structures were somebody’s silly fancy, nobody ever thought to ask – “how will we maintain these? How will we keep transients from camping out inside them, using drugs, leaving filth, etc?”  Time after time the city has faced liability issues over those crazy fixtures at Caper Acres. I once watched a woman and her kid fly off the end of that crooked slide and land in a heap on the dirt. They landed hard, the child bouncing off the woman’s lap and landing SMACK on the hard ground.Playgrounds are hazardous, fixtures fall apart. Structures have been cordoned off, the place has been closed due to either trees falling or vandalism a number of times – it’s a big liability to the city. 

We didn’t see the survey, we don’t know whether the respondents were informed off all the issues revolving around the park. I’m pretty sure they weren’t told about the salaries, the benefits, the pensions, the EPMC, etc. Just like the pamphlet from BCMVCD didn’t give any real information, and Lando’s survey didn’t give any real information. These people are ready to roll out a propaganda machine to get these bonds or assessments. 

Laura Urseny is part of the propaganda machine. She’s been writing articles about how bad of shape Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools are in – where has she been for the last 20 years that they’ve been left to rot? We can’t trust the Enterprise Record for the straight story, I’m sorry, Dave Little is a businessman, not a journalist. I have yet to see any comprehensive coverage of the garbage tax or the sales tax conversations that have been going on Downtown between the Chamber and other entities. I have this from people I know in the chamber and other organizations. They say it’s all being kept from the public, waiting for state laws to change regarding voting percentages for tax proposals. Our legislature is busy shifting the percentage from 2/3’s to 55 percent.  

And, a highly placed city staffer told me that Tom Lando is behind a lot of stuff, that he’s really pushing to annex Chapmantown because he wants the property tax revenues. The city has a 45/55 deal with the county over property tax revenues –  just think how much money that would mean to the city.  Mark Sorensen and city staff all scream that Chico can’t afford to annex Chapmantown because of all the issues over there, it would cost too much to repair their sagging infrastructure. Well, are they stupid, or just playing stupid? Lando knows like I know that Chapmantown would not get any more service than they currently enjoy, but Chico will get half of their property taxes to pay off their pension obligation. That’s a big conversation behind closed doors, I’d like to see the public get involved in that. 

So, I will try to keep on the ball, but to tell the truth, I could use a little help down here.  I feel like I’m standing in a shit storm with a tennis racket.  

 

 

Caper Acres users mention tax

By Laura Urseny lurseny@chicoer.com (mailto:lurseny@chicoer.com) @LauraUrseny on Twitter

POSTED: 04/29/2014 06:40:23 PM PDT

Chico >> Parents and other users of Caper Acres in Bidwell Park might be willing to consider a fee or tax to help out the playground which is destined for a renovation. A group of Chico State University students assigned to look at the play area as a class project uncovered that sentiment and shared it with the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission Monday night, along with other observations. More than 150 surveys were taken over a six-day period. According to the information presented to the commission, 85 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as city residents “were in favor of paying a local tax to fund the maintenance and renovation of Caper Acres. Forty-seven percent of all respondents would be willing to pay some sort of parking fee,” according to the survey results..The survey results indicated that users were willing to pay one or the other, but not both. Users said the funds must be earmarked for Caper Acres. Other financial suggestions included creating a maintenance district, user fee or crowdsourcing. The survey discovered other stances. Users wanted to keep the story book theme. “Must keep” features included the Bunker Hill Mine (also known as the tunnels), the Crooked House, Big Cheese and Locksley’s Castle. The tunnels are marked for removal in a proposal from Melton Design Group, hired by the city for the redesign. The city has problems with overnight campers inside the tunnel, as well as drainage of the area. Part of former city planner Pam Figge’s geography class, the students looked at the area from soil types and American Indian use to vegetation types, users and play equipment. Commissioners said the information was valuable, and referred later in the evening to the idea of a tax-supported areas in Bidwell Park. City officials have said there is no budgeted money available for the renovation, and is looking to the community for help. The Park Commission’s Natural Resources Committee is overseeing the Caper Acres renovation. The next meeting is planned for 6 p.m. May 8 in Conference Room 2 of the Chico City Council Chambers, 421 Main St. Chairwoman Mary Brentwood said there is plenty of time for more public comments. Contact reporter Laura Urseny at 896-7756.

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6 Responses to “2016 – the Year of the Tax”

  1. Richard G. Coon May 4, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Juanita, you hit the nail on the head as usual. Well done! And don’t feel alone – thanks to you, some of us are waking up…..

    • Juanita Sumner May 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      I hope so Richard – I am noticing, more people are starting to question the benefits/pension deals.

  2. dispo2014 May 4, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Lando is bad. A lawyer who lives in Canyon Oaks once told me Lando is “a snake.” He outright lied to the Council about an issue they were interested in helping me with. He said in open Council session he wouldn’t give a certain Bidwell Park contract to the University Research Foundation if they were affiliated with the Ecological Reserve, and then he attempted to do exactly what he had assured Council what they didn’t have to worry themselves over.

    Michael Jones

    • Juanita Sumner May 4, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

      I attended a lot of meetings when Lando was city manager, he used to have a favorite saying, “Oh, we can get around that!” Meaning, “That rule.” He was always wheeling and dealing, and he really seemed to enjoy it.

  3. Jim May 5, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    Currently they have some kind of committee or consultant or some BS like that to redesign Caper Acres. They want to get rid of the creepy tunnels, which isn’t a bad idea. Apparently homeless are sleeping in there. But you don’t need an engineer or endless meeting to do that. Just send some guy over there with some bricks and mortar and seal them off. It ain’t rocket science.

    • Juanita Sumner May 6, 2014 at 8:11 am #

      I do agree. There are a lot of things I’d change about Caper Acres, mainly, make it simpler. Swings, slides, benches for folks to sit and chat. I’d leave the structures that have caused the least amount of trouble over the years. Yeah, get rid of those disgusting tunnels, bums have been camping in those things for years. That could be done over a weekend with a bunch of fraternity and sorority kids. I’d also put the trees on a regular maintenance schedule. The incidents we’ve had in the park with falling trees could be prevented, and it’s only a matter of time before a person gets hurt instead of just a fixture.

      I remember when they gutted the playground at Five Mile, saying all the cool old stuff was dangerous. They said the Hooker Oak itself was dangerous, and just tore it out, I still can’t believe that. The truth was, city staff had neglected the fixtures all those years, finally turning maintenance for all that stuff over to CARD, who didn’t care for it either. Steps should have been taken years ago to cover and protect Hooker Oak, they could have built a simple barnlike structure around it and had a vistor’s center/museum there instead of building at the Nature Center.

      At Caper Acres Dennis Beardsley let anybody with $$$ come in and do whatever they wanted, build these Disneyland fixtures without a second thought as to how they’d be maintained, or who would pay for it.

      The consultant running the current makeover is a guy they’ve used for years – Greg Melton, Melton Design Group. He is responsible for the landscape design on the roundabouts on Manzanita, as well as the design for DeGarmo Park, and a lot of other spendy projects. I’m pretty sure he was one of the people behind the revamp of Downtown Plaza. Guys like him essentially try to write in as much money for themselves as possible.

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