Archive | June, 2014

Chico Area Recreation District needs more public scrutiny

28 Jun

I’ve become so busy in my personal life, I’ve had trouble staying afloat of all the discussions. I’m sorry, I’ve let myself become distracted with conversations that don’t really matter, except from the point of view that we pay for this stuff with public dollars. 

Colleen Jarvis made a good point with me one time, I guess I should tie a string around one finger to remind myself – pick your issues, and stick with them. You can’t fight everything.

I got frustrated with CARD because they so easily pushed me off by the forehead. I repeatedly asked to be noticed of aquatic center board meetings, and I repeatedly got left off the notice list, even though Steve Visconti cheerfully thanked me for my interest. At one point he even told me they hadn’t had any meetings yet, even though the agenda for that week’s board meeting listed a report from a meeting of the committee. He just looks you right in the face and denies stuff, he’s incredible.

You might also have read, he’s retired.  On 70 percent of his $117,000/year salary, with fully paid benefits and pension. Incredible. CARD employees pay NOTHING toward their own retirement, not even the 9% currently required of city and county employees. 

I got frustrated because nobody else seems to give a rat’s diddly, except maybe the aquatic center nazi’s who’ve been stalking the blog.   There were about 30 people at the last committee meeting I attended – Aqua Jets parents, school district employees, and the manager of Aqua Jets. These people made it clear they want the public to pay.  Oh yeah – their kids’ private swim club has a PUBLIC benefit! Former CARD manager Jerry Hughes gave them a quick informational lecture on some bills that were headed for the state legislature that would lower the voting requirements for passing bonds from 2/3’s to 55, even 51 percent. I tried  to keep tabs on those bills, it was just about impossible. I’m sure one or more of them passed in one form or another, and we’re going to be hit with multiple tax measures on the 2016 ballot.

Something CARD is not publicizing is that three of their board members are up for re-election this year – hey, did you know you elect your CARD board? I can’t find any information about that, except that Jan Sneed, Ed Seagle  and Herman Ellis’s terms are all up this year, with Lando and Worley up in 2016. This is the board that okays these management salaries and allows CARD employees to get away paying NOTHING toward their own health benefits and retirement. 30 full-time employees suck up a $5 million+ budget, with most of the real work being done by seasonal employees who make less than  $10,000/year, no benefits what-so-ever.

A highly placed city employee told me recently, Tom Lando still runs a lot of stuff around town. Lando has made it plain he wants a sales tax increase on the 2016 ballot and he’s got more people banging that drum. As far as I can tell, all public employees/retired public employees, like ex-county worker Patrick Newman. Of course they watch out for their own benefit, what else is new. 

I once thought of running for CARD board, but I’d have to see a lot more people showing interest in turning that agency around. Completely, upside down, shake all the junk out of it’s deep pockets, get our rec scene back on track. There’s no excuse for the way CARD has mis-managed OUR resources to line their own pockets. 

CARD board meetings are usually held around the middle of the month, on a Thursday, I think 7:30. It would be great if people would show up or write letters to the board and tell them they need to use the opportunity presented by Visconti’s retirement to wangle a new contract for the District Manager position, make all the management employees pay their own  benefits and pensions. 

Here’s the link:

http://www.chicorec.com/CARD-Resources/Board-of-Directors/index.html

Mosquito abatement district still tabulating assessment ballots – public hearing July 9, 7:30 pm, 444 Otterson Drive in Chico

25 Jun

I finally phoned the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District in O-ville to ask what was the result of the assessment vote. 

I’m sorry to poke fun, but the lady who answered the phone sounded so happy to get a call, I felt I had made her day. How many hours does she sit there, watching the hands on the clock? I won’t speculate on what she does all day, but I’m guessing she could count the number of calls she gets from the public on one hand. A month.

You could almost hear the air fizz out of her head as I asked about the assessment ballot. Her voice lost all that cheerful animation,  immediately became very strained. Like I’d offended the hell out of her just asking.  I get that alot.  People just hate a snoop, don’t you? I hate a snoop, but I don’t eat out of the public cookie jar, I just put cookies in.  Public servants need to get used to getting slapped when they get caught with that sticky mitt in there.  But they continue to act like, “what?”

“The tabulation will be announced July 9 in Chico,” she snapped. Yeah, snapped. I could tell by her tone that I wasn’t the only person who has questioned this assessment. 

Yes, according to the ballot instructions, the results will be announced to the public on July 9 at 7:30 pm, at the District office in Chico – 444 Otterson Drive. I don’t know why she just can’t give it to me on the phone, you know they’ve done it already.  

Well, I’m just on pins and needles – hope you are too. I will try to attend that meeting, at least it’s in town.  

 

 

What’s with Sorensen’s flip-flop on the Saturday market?

22 Jun

I’ve been “decompressing” these last few weeks, waiting for Summer to roll in, getting the garden going, and turning over a rental. Frankly, I was getting pretty sick of Chico politics.  I got sick of talking about the “Farmer’s Market,” because there were too many important things left out of the conversation.  

  • despite my asking, there was never any discussion of the Thursday night market, how much DCBA pays to shut down streets, and how unhappy Downtown merchants have always been about that
  • we never talked about the agreement by which the market is held every Wednesday ON PRIVATE PROPERTY at North Valley Plaza – I’d like to know, how much they pay, what’s their agreement with NVP? 
  • Saturday Market is NOT A FARMER’S MARKET – you can buy all kinds of packaged food and plastic crap and stuff that isn’t grown by farmers. And when the question of sales tax receipts came up, the CCFM folks just went mum. 

Those are just three little questions I had that went right under the carpet. 

I’m also sick of talking about Downtown as though Chico begins and ends between the creeks. There are whole parts of town with crapped out streets and bad drinking water, shopping centers with empty storefronts and whole sections of town that represent a dictionary example of BLIGHT. Drive that neighborhood behind East Avenue Mickey D’s – lock your doors! There have been muggings in that area. 

Unemployment in Chico is higher than the state average, and median income is lower.  

Ask yourself another question: what percentage of Chico’s 80,000-plus population even goes near the Saturday market? But, every city resident is paying for the $taff time that goes into this bullshit. 

The biggest question though, is what got into Mark Sorensen? When this petition came out, he went on Topix and ranted about how it was illegal, but now he joins a unanimous council in shoving this thing up our collective butt? 

Something weird is going on. Let me guess. Sorensen wants the market to pay for the infrastructural improvements to that lot, and as soon as they do, that market is kaput and there’s a four story “live-work” unit on that lot. 

 

 

Mosquito abatement assessment – still no news

16 Jun

I’ve been looking for the news as to whether the mosquito abatement assessment was passed last week. They were supposed to  tabulate ballots last Wednesday. I could call them, but I’m curious as to why there’s been no media coverage of this assessment issue. After all, the pensions and benefits discussion is being had, even though it had to be dragged up to the table, kicking and screaming.  If you look at the budgets available on the BCMVCD website, it’s as plain as the nose on your face – this assessment has nothing to do with West Nile Virus.

I’ve been searching for any reference, and I finally found a story from last month in the Mercury Register. 

 http://www.orovillemr.com/ci_25763858/frrpd-rejects-support-butte-mosquito-control-assessment-measure

Feather River Parks and Rec District, like the rest of us property owners, received their assessment ballot, and voted NO! But, of course, not for the reasons I would have liked.  I don’t know anything about these people, I don’t know why they don’t seem to be outraged over the pensions and benefits.

One board member actually offered support – said he’d found a dead blue jay in his back yard that had tested positive for West Nile Virus. He tried to convince the rest of the board that this was a “quality of life issue” – oh, I’ll say! A quality of life issue for those 18 employees of BCMVCD who receive not only generous salaries but pensions and benefits paid by the taxpayers.   He went on to say that “West Nile Virus is a real issue!” Well, why wouldn’t that blue jay he found in his back yard be front page news if West Nile Virus was really a credible threat to our area?  I’m just asking.

The other board members were quick to announce they’d all voted NO on their personal ballots, but no reasons why. One woman offered that people should do more of their own abatement. But no conversation about the pensions and benefits. 

It’s really too bad that neither the media nor our elected officials seem willing or able to take on this issue. And don’t expect Staff to step up to the plate with the truth. George Barber, the general manager of the Paradise Irrigation District, writes to the PID board, “This assessment will cost the District less than $200 per year for the properties we own in fee. I think it is appropriate to support their effort in protecting the public’s health as we have a similar responsibility as a District.”  Sheesh George, that’s easy for you to say, it’s not your money, and it all goes into the same pot that you get your pension out of. 

Then I read an agenda item from Paradise Recreation District that quoted BCMVCD manager Matt Ball as saying the assessment would not apply to public agencies? Here’s the link to the minutes for the May 13 meeting

http://www.paradiseprpd.com/Minutes.pdf

Look at Page 5, Item 4.  Why would public agencies be allowed to vote – receiving multiple ballots to my one – on an assessment they won’t have to pay? Of course, like George Barber says, BCMVCD’s activities benefit the irrigation district, with miles of swampy mosquito habitat, and isn’t it just all the better, if the taxpayers pick up 99.9 percent of the tab? 

I also find it damned interesting that the PPRPD questioned Ball’s statement. Neither PID nor FRRPD  mentioned this clause. Is Ball allowed to promise an exemption in order to get votes? Gotta wonder, people, ask questions! 

 

 

 

 

We need to get a cookie jar with a lock on it

16 Jun

Thanks for that wake-up call Frank – yes, public works raises are on Tuesday nights’ agenda. All the sudden we got enough money to hire two new positions and give people raises.  But, if you look at the agenda report (Item 4.9), you’ll see they are chalking up a $13,000 savings. That might sound good, but I think the Devil is in the details.

Frankly Frank, I don’t have a lot of time to analyze this shit, I wish I could get more helpers. Right now I got a loaf of bread in the oven, and I’m sick and tired of putting aside scrubbing my own bathroom to read reports. In about 40 minutes, I got to get over to the mess my tenants left me at one of my rentals, I got to get that bitch tits out and on the market within about a week and a half. Yeah, whiney-whine-whine!   You’re right, something stinks here. 

I’ll give you my women’s intuition on this – what Mark Sorensen calls “making stuff up” – well, I can make my own opinions Mark, and my opinion is, they’ve cut positions, hired cheaper people to do the same work – and divvied up a lot of the savings into raises for existing positions. You know that means less services for the taxpayers, but we still pay the same taxes.  I mean, did you think, they would divvy that $13,000 up 82,000 ways and send us a check? 

I don’t have time to look it over again right now, but if one of those positions belongs to Ruben Martinez, I’m going to make a stink about this. He excuses the salary increases in his report, “It’s important to note that these recent staff departures were for better opportunities and brighter future outlooks. “ What the hell kind of bullshit is that?  I like Ruben, but he’s getting soft. His hands and fingernails are nicer than mine, and I’m a woman.  Yeah, Ruben, I meant that like you heard it, Guero!

But I don’t have time to make a stink right now – I’ll have to get back to it later.

Here’s the link:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=82&meta_id=40177 

Let’s play a fast game of musical chairs!

14 Jun

I want to thank Bob over in Orland for this “way out theory based on little factual information.” That Bob, he keeps me paddling when I’d rather sink to the bottom of the Think Tank and go to sleep.

Bob reminded me, Mark Sorensen is the city manager of Biggs. Maybe you remember – he got that job through his neighbor here in Chico, Pete Carr.  Carr had been the manager of Biggs when he left to take the management position in Orland.  So, I guess, over the back fence, he mentioned to Sorensen his old job in Biggs, $90,000/year plus benies, was laying there like a warm cherry pie in an un-guarded window frame. And, Sorensen being no dummy, he snatched that cherry pie faster than Yogi Bear would go after a picnic basket.

I have to ask, are people stupid or just don’t care? How is it okay for the guy who manages your town to live in another town, where he is completely insulated from the consequences of his actions? City councilors are required to live in the city, county supervisors are required to live in their district, but you can hire a guy from Timbuktu to manage your city, and  then give him an extra stipend to jet back and forth.

It is true, whether P.T. Barnum said it or not – there’s a sucker born every minute.

Just when I was drifting off to the sound of my vacuum cleaner, Bob also reminded me, Mark Orme has stepped into the vacancy left by Brian “The Hit Man” Nakamura, so now we are out an Assistant Manager. Bob, who’s met Carr, says Carr is probably qualified for such a position.

Then Bob adds, this would leave another position open for somebody else – Carr’s manager position in Orland.

That Bob, he’s always poking my brain with a stick to see if it’s still alive.  Holy Cat Crap, I realized – that would be Gruendl!  But my balloon never even got halfway inflated before it let itself out – that doesn’t mean we’d be rid of Gruendl, anymore than the Biggs job meant we’d be rid of Sorensen.

Like I asked before – are people stupid or just don’t care? These bureaucrats change jobs like underwear, have car will travel. They used to have to sign a contract that said they wouldn’t have any other job – and I’d guess, an elected position in another town would be a conflict – but that’s just my guess. Apparently none of that matters anymore. They aren’t even required to be in the office five days a week – remember Brian Haddix, who took the CAO position for the county without quitting his job in Tulare County? Nobody noticed he was just never in the office. For 14 months.  Good  God, don’t ask any of these people to look after your cat.  After the board FINALLY found out, Haddix “abruptly resigned,” leaving five wet hens looking for a replacement. He was doing two jobs, hundreds of miles apart, for 14 months before anybody figured it out. Hellllooooo? Anybody home?

Thanks for that prediction Bob, I don’t think it’s so far-fetched at all. We’ll have to see how it plays out!

 

 

Mosquito assessment ballots to be tabulated tonight – call your representatives, tell them you’re not going to pay more to cover pensions and benefits

11 Jun

Tonight the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control Board will announce the results of the recent assessment ballot sent out to property owners. It’s a weird process, in which your vote is “weighted” by the amount of property you own. “If a majority of weighted assessment ballots returned are in support, the assessment may be levied for fiscal year 2014-15 and may be continued in future years…

There will be a public hearing, but I’m not sure why that should matter if they’re going to decide this thing on a straight tabulation of the ballots. I’m not driving out to Larkin Road in Oroville for a 7:30 pm meeting, sorry about that.  Shippelhoute’s dog.

I would like to put in my two cents, so I’m going to make a few more phone calls. We need to tell these folks, we don’t like the contracts they’ve been approving. According to district manager Matt Ball, “District employees are 100% covered and District employee family members are 80% covered under a Blue Shield high deductible plan.  District employees hired on or before December 31, 2012, pay 1% of their CalPERS retirement plan.  District employees hired on or after January 1, 2013, pay 6.25% of their CalPERS retirement plan.”  

Furthermore, Ball said he’s laid off six workers – Matt, how about paying your own pension premiums if you’re so worried about cutting services? The board just approved a new contract for Ball, who admits above, pays nothing for his health insurance, only 20 percent of the cost for his family to be covered, and only 1% of his pension. Ball makes over $110,000 a year in salary, he’ll get 70 percent of that at age 55, and we pay for it. 

I guess the board really patted themselves on the back when they arranged for new employees to the district to pay a whopping 6.25%! Go ahead Boys, smoke those big cigars – I hope they blow up in your faces.

Today I will sit down between chores and call the Chico representatives and tell them what I think of the contracts they’ve been approving.

Albert Beck, 342-5991

Charles Bird, 895-7251

Larry Kirk, 345-9055

Primary turn-out down from 46 percent in 2012 to 26.8 percent this past Tuesday. What can we do to raise voter turn-out?

6 Jun

I can’t say I’m surprised in any way with the turnout for this latest election – only 26.8 percent. I’m not surprised – turnout has been disappointing here in past – but I’m pretty confounded. Why would so many people go to the trouble to register to vote, but not turn in a ballot?

I myself actually under-voted – left some offices blank because none of the candidates listed seemed good for the job. I also voted for a couple of candidates without really caring whether they won or not – I just wanted to send a message to certain incumbents that I don’t like the job they’re doing.  In a couple of races, I tried to vote for the candidate most likely to beat the incumbent – I really want Kamala Harris out of the Attorney General position, she’s a fascist bitch. But good luck – I predict she will only leave that post to become Governor, Goddess help us.

I might not always be happy with my votes, I don’t find myself backing a winner very often, but I vote no matter what. That’s why I registered for an “absentee ballot” – I don’t want to take a chance that an illness or other emergency would keep me from voting. 

Since I got my first absentee ballot, I realized, this is the way it should be. Polling places are dumb. I’ve lived right across the street from my polling place, and it was still a pain in the ass – where do you think the people park all day who don’t live right across the street?  And several times, the workers tried to tell my husband or I we weren’t registered – one time, my husband looked down and found his name on the page right above the woman’s finger. Another time they tried to close our polling place at 7:45 on a night when my husband  had been working in Quincy all day and sped home to get to the polls – they tried to shove him out and close the door with 15 minutes left til polls closed, he literally had to push their hands off of himself and demand  to be allowed to vote.  I’ll never forget when Candace Grubbs closed a bunch of polling stations because the students were out of town – but didn’t tell anybody about the change.  A friend of ours who’d been voting at the same precinct for over 10 years showed up at the door to find nobody home, and ended up turning in  a provincial ballot at our neighborhood station. My husband had to inform the women running the station that our friend had the right to a provincial ballot, they weren’t going to give it to him.

When the clerk’s office announced they were way short of polling station workers, I again wondered, why don’t they go on some sort of campaign to get more people to vote “absentee,” and then do something about reminding them to turn their ballots in on time. How about some well-placed billboards, “VOTE!” with important dates and a phone number?

A June 4 story in the Enterprise Record quotes Candace Grubbs as saying she was surprised with the low turnout – “I thought we’d be up to 45 percent.” That is roughly the figure for turnout in the 2010 and 2012 primaries. I don’t remember who was up then, or what the issues were, but I’d say, this election was pretty dismal. The governor’s race was almost a no-show, with all these no-name nobodies going up against the Star Power of the Moonbeam – not to mention, that guy started raising bundles of quatloos over a year before the election. Because of this anomaly, I’ve heard predictions that voter turn-out would be down since March – isn’t that something that the elections office should be studying? She doesn’t seem to feel she has any responsibility here, she’s just the piano player.

But we can’t put it all on the  clerk. I think low turn-out tells us,  people don’t know/don’t care about local government, that’s a conclusion I’ve come  to over the last few years of trying to get people to pay more attention. It’s hard  to have a Democracy when most of the public either doesn’t participate or just does a miserable half-assed job. People don’t bother to inform themselves, they vote on name recognition, or worse, names that sound good! They vote for people who look like them, have a similar last name, wear the same clothes, or use the right catch-phrases. They vote the way their friends and co-workers vote, or they vote for a person who was nice to them at a campaign event.  I’ll give you $5 if you can find 5 people coming out of a polling place that know what was on the agenda for their last city council meeting. 

For years now, I’ve been trying to get more people to pay attention to the issues Downtown, as well as at the county level, and you know, I notice more people all the time are starting to tune in. I get people who contact me to ask about stuff they’ve been looking into, wanting to network for information, and that is so thrilling to me. That’s why I want to continue the forums after this brief break.  I notice,  people want to talk about the issues, they need encouragement instead of being made to fill out a speaker card and given three minutes to blow their flap to deaf ears. So, let’s take a break to enjoy Summer, and then let’s get the forum up and  running again.

I’d like to thank all the candidates that came in to support our forum, congratulate those who made it through the primary, and those who didn’t – thanks for running. Thank you for doing your part to support Democracy.

I’d also like to thank those of you who came to the meetings with your questions – I’ll keep you on the mailing list, see ya later Alligator.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has Candace Grubbs done to raise voter turn-out?

2 Jun

I just got a reminder from my friends at the Tea Party – tomorrow is Primary, and if you haven’t mailed your “absentee ballot,” you’ll have to turn it in a polling station or at the clerk’s office in Oroville.

An article in the May 28 Oroville Mercury Register reports that only 19 percent of more than 74,000 ballots have been returned. Wow, 74,000 voters registered absentee – but don’t get their ballots in?

I’ll admit, this was a depressing election, we  really didn’t have much to vote about. I will admit, I “undervoted” – I didn’t fill in bubbles for every candidate, I can’t just hold my nose and vote for anybody. But I did vote against Candace Grubbs and a couple of other long-time ass-planters, just to let them know I’m not happy with the job they’ve been doing.

For one thing, Grubbs, who enjoys a good salary and a hefty budget for her department, could send out a reminder a couple of weeks out, tell those people, MAIL IT NOW!  She sends a reminder at some point in March, telling us to be looking for our ballots in May, so I don’t know why she can’t send out the same little postcards in mid-May, reminding absentee voters that the deadline is coming up.

Another thing I got a gripe about is the little mechanism she has on her website to see if your absentee ballot had been received and is “good” isn’t working this year. I’ve used it twice in past, and I think it’s important – what if I find out, they never received my ballot? If the post office is as good at delivering these ballots as they are at delivering my Christmas packages, I’d say, about 40 percent of those mailed in have been lost/destroyed.

I’ll have to give the clerk’s office a jingle today, because if they haven’t received my ballot, I might just go down there and fill out a new one. I might have to ask Old Candy to pay for my gas, see what color her face turns.

I predict voter turnout this primary is going to be a new record low.