Archive | July, 2014

San Bruno mayor asks for removal of CPU Commissioner Peevey for inappropriate relations with PG&E in probe of PG&E blast

29 Jul

A Marysville Water Warrior  friend of mine sent this  – no link, just an attachment. I hate that, but this is important news, that you will NOT see in the Enterprise Wretched, so I’m running it here. It’s from the San Francisco Chronicle.   Maybe you remember – Peevey was the guy I was asking you to write letters to.  You might also remember the post I made regarding the make-up of the CPUC – they’re all ex-employees of the utility companies. Read it for yourself:


San Bruno mayor calls for top official’s removal from blast probe

Jaxon Van Derbeken

Updated 3:56 pm, Monday, July 28, 2014


A Chief of Staff of California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey (photo removed, sorry) advised a PG&E executive on ways to deflect a request to disclose public information. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle | Buy this photo (07-28) 14:44 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — The California Public Utilities Commission’s president should be removed as head of the regulatory agency in light of San Bruno explosion-related e-mails that show state officials are “subject to undue influence” by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the city’s mayor said Monday. Mayor Jim Ruane said the e-mails, including an exchange in which commission President Michael Peevey’s chief of staff advised a PG&E executive on ways to deflect a request to

disclose public information – and the executive replied, “Love you” – showed that state oversight of the utility “is corrupted.”

The utilities commission “has lost its ability to carry out its mandated function as a watchdog for the public,” Ruane said.

While the commission’s reaction was muted, PG&E said it was looking into whether the executives who wrote the e-mails had acted in an “ethical manner.” And the head of PG&E’s parent company apologized that a utility official wrote in an e-mail that he had “no respect left” for a state senator who represents the neighborhood where eight people were killed and 38 homes destroyed when a natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno in September 2010.

Large fine looms

Ruane called on Peevey to be removed both as commission president and as head of regulatory proceedings into whether PG&E should be fined more than $2 billion for safety violations related to the explosion.

The mayor made his comments outside the commission’s San Francisco office, in a press conference that officials called after obtaining the e-mails in a lawsuit settlement with the utilities commission. In one e-mail exchange last year, Carol Brown – Peevey’s chief of staff – suggested to PG&E official Laura Doll that the company fight a public-information request related to a safety seminar that the commission was planning to hold. Brown said PG&E could send a “sweet note” deflecting the request and then “wait for them to throw a fit.” Alternatively, PG&E could answer “any simple question” but refuse to answer others, Brown said.

Doll replied in an e-mail, “Love you.”

In another e-mail, Doll invited Brown to “get together or just have a phone call to talk about Mike’s (Peevey’s) potential remarks at the safety symposium.”

PR tip

Another e-mail exchange showed that Peevey himself critiqued PG&E’s public relations strategy when it was indicted on federal criminal charges in connection with the San Bruno case earlier this year. Peevey told a PG&E executive that the company’s handling of the news was “inept.”

San Bruno officials said Peevey’s critique was improper, given his role as arbiter of the still-unresolved regulatory case against PG&E. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, joined Ruane in calling for Peevey’s removal from the case.

“He obviously has a bias,” Speier said in a statement. “If Mike Peevey wants to be a consultant to PG&E, then he should resign.”

Peevey, a former president of Southern California Edison Inc., will complete his second six-year term on the commission at the end of 2014. He was originally appointed by former Gov. Gray Davis and was reappointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Gov. Jerry Brown has the power to replace Peevey as president. Brown is on an official visit to Mexico, and his office did not respond to a request for comment.

Complaint against PG&E

In addition to calling for Peevey’s removal as commission president, San Bruno officials filed a complaint with the state agency against PG&E for “knowingly and intentionally attempting to illegally influence the outcome” of cases related to the 2010 disaster.

The city also asked for the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the utilities commission and PG&E, “so the public can once and for all be confident that the actions of this public agency will no longer be subject to undue influence by PG&E.”

The utilities commission said in a statement that it “takes seriously all allegations of bias and rule violations and will evaluate the motions when filed by the city of San Bruno.” PG&E President Chris Johns sent a letter to San Bruno officials and the utilities commission saying the company is “absolutely committed to conducting ourselves in an ethical manner at all times. I want to assure you that we will review the e-mails involved in this matter to ensure that this high standard was upheld. If it was not, we will take appropriate action.” Karen Paull, chief counsel of the utilities commission’s watchdog arm, the Officer of Ratepayer Advocates, said there are strict rules against informal talks between state officials and utility executives during enforcement proceedings such as the San Bruno case.

“If you allow back-channel communications, like we have seen in the e-mails, you cannot have a fair process,” Paull said.

Apology to Hill

The head of the utility’s parent company, PG&E Corp., issued an apology Monday to state Sen. Jerry Hill for comments a PG&E executive made about him in a January 2012 e-mail to a utilities commission official. The executive, Brian Cherry, PG&E’s vice president of regulatory affairs, said in the e-mail that “I have no respect left” for Hill, D-San Mateo, who has frequently criticized the company and the utilities commission since the San Bruno disaster. PG&E Corp. CEO Tony Earley told Hill in a letter that Cherry’s comments “do not in any way reflect the company’s point of view and are unprofessional.”

“While we may disagree at times, I have always appreciated your passion and even-handed approach on many policy issues affecting the communities we are all fortunate to serve,” Earley wrote.

Hill said he appreciated the spirit of the letter.

“I think Tony Earley means well and wants to make changes,” Hill said. “But it’s difficult because of the size of the bureaucracy and the long-standing historical culture that needs to change.”

Jaxon Van Derbeken is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter @jvanderbeken

Good news for Marysville – CPUC judge recommends lower rate hike for them, but still no word for Chico

26 Jul

It really makes me frustrated that the local media isn’t covering the Cal Water rate increase. Here’s a story from the Marysville Appeal Democrat, regarding the Marysville rate case, which is separate from the Chico rate case. I have no news on the Chico rate case. When I asked David Little if he could find out more information on this rate increase he responded, “I don’t know if we’re doing anything on Cal Water?” [sic]

PUC to consider Cal Water rate hike

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:08 am

By Eric Vodden/

An administrative law judge issued a proposed decision this week that keeps intact a California Water Service Co. three-year rate increase in Marysville.Judge Robert Mason’s decision reflects a settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates calling for a 10.16 percent rate hike this year.

 The 93-plus page decision also follows settlement agreement recommendations of inflationary rate increases in Marysville of from 1 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

The decision, which addresses proposed rate hikes in water systems operated by Cal Water throughout the state, must still be considered by the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission will take up the proposed increase on Aug. 14.

Cal Water spokesman Justin Skarb said if the PUC adopts the agreement, new water utility rates will become effective a few days later. The company has said it needs the increase to keep up with increased costs and state-mandated capital improvements.

Under the proposed decision, a typical residential customer in Marysville using about 9,724 gallons of water per month will have charges totaling about $43.65, up from $39.36.

The increase, stemming from a company’s 2012 application, was initially expected to be completed in time to be imposed last Jan. 1. Since it wasn’t, customers will see a surcharge on their bills to reflect the “under-collection of revenue” since Jan. 1, Skarb said.

“To lessen the impact on customers, the surcharge will be spread out over a period of 12 months, and is likely to be less than 25 cents per unit of water used by customers,” Skarb said in a statement. “Those figures could change, however, if the commission does not adopt the proposed decision, or otherwise modifies it.”

The settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates last November effectively ended a public campaign in Marysville by residents opposed to the hike. Yuba County supervisors, the Marysville Joint Unified School District and the Marysville City Council also opposed the increase.

The 10.16 percent increase for 2014 is below the 14.1 percent increase recommended by the Office of Ratepayer Advocates. It was believed the increase would fall somewhere between the 34.8 percent Cal Water was asking and what Ratepayer Advocates was recommending.

The increase also includes funds needed for the $2 million relocation of water mains along portions of Highways 20 and 70 to accommodate Caltrans’ ongoing roadway project.

CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769.

I think Marysville got a good decision because they made a very loud protest, as did Oroville. They were actually named on the documents as a “party,” and they got regular updates on the case from the CPUC. I don’t even know how to register myself as a “party.” When I tried to talk to the folks in Sacramento, they told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously and be heard at all by the commissioners (or even their receptionists),  I’d have to drive to San Francisco to attend meetings, pay out of my own pocket to stay overnight because the meetings went on over days, sometimes over the weekend. Otherwise I could just sit home and wait for the rate increase notice, retroactive to January 2014, in my bill.  I had no posse behind me, no group willing to make phone calls, spend hours searching and networking for information, attend meetings or help to write or sign letters. 

Chico has been pretty limp-wristed here. There was a big hoo-rah in the beginning, back in March 2013, when a packed room of pissed off jerks greeted the CPUC representative who monitored the hearing. Oh yeah, you guys gave little Darwin a real pants-ful. And then you folded up and went home and hung your testicles on the wall next to your Mickey Mouse badge and cap gun.

Just lately I’ve seen a letter about WRAM – well, how do you do? Let’s get together and write a formal, group letter to the CPUC before they make their final decision. I’m willing to book the library room to work on something, let me know if you’re interested. 

If we don’t make some kind of noise, we might actually get the 38 percent increase Cal Water proposed to begin with. Cal Water rep Justin Skarb acts as though Cal Water is being shorted here, that we’re just getting oodles of free water. We have to tell the CPUC about the notice we got – read here – about $1.5 million just for salaries, pensions, and benefits, and another $395,000 for “quality employees“, whatever the hell that means:

Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:

  • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
  • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
  • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
  • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
  • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016


Remember, this is a proposal, the CPUC still needs to make a decision. 


24 Jul

I couldn’t have timed my letter to the Chico Enterprise Record better – Stephanie Taber wrote a complementary letter to the News and Review, printed today.

Re “Who you gonna call?” (Letters, by Jane Martin, July 17):

Chico taxpayers provide police officers with a generous salary package including overtime starting after eight minutes, 10 minutes of paid time to put on and take off “protective clothing,” compensated call-back time, court time (even if canceled), and telephone standby time (three-hour minimum).

“On-call” is compensated at $100/week or compensatory time off. Salary compensation also includes: 5 percent differential if working out of class, alternative assignments earn a basic pay increase between 5 percent and 10 percent and a 5 percent bonus for a bilingual assignment. There is also additional compensation for POST certification: 2.5 percent (intermediate officer) or 5 percent (advanced officer).

CPOA’s basic compensation package includes worker’s compensation and long-term disability. There is medical, vision and dental coverage with minimal employee compensation. The life insurance policy provides full salary coverage. There is a $50/month payment for membership in a qualified health and fitness program with no requirement to show attendance. There is also a uniform allowance of $900/year.

Police officers also serve because of tradition and honor, but they get paid handsomely for it.

Stephanie L. Taber


I remember the letter to which Stephanie is responding – I remember getting a big laugh out of it:

Who you gonna call?

Re “Take note, union president” (Letters, by Stephanie L. Taber, July 10):

Once again Larry Wahl has his paid staff person, Stephanie Taber (a political appointee with handsome benefits we subsidize), write a letter attacking law enforcement.

Yes, our military troops and police officers are public employees. And I have no doubt that they complain about their level of pay, too, for the service they render. They serve because of tradition and honor and love of country. But military personnel injured on base in the U.S. or in a war zone are provided services and compensation, possibly for life. All first responders in harm’s way should be guaranteed basic services now and in the future!

It is interesting that Ms. Taber does not mention that she and Mr. Wahl are both local public employees with nice salaries. When citizens suffer serious car accidents or have their homes broken into, they call 911 for help from law enforcement. We don’t call Larry Wahl or Stephanie Taber. So what do these two do to earn their fat paychecks and benefits? Do they put their lives on the line?

What hypocrites—always attacking law enforcement. If Wahl or Taber hears someone breaking into their house at 2 a.m., who do you think they’re going to call? A private security firm in the Yellow Pages or 911?

Jane Martin


I don’t know if Jane knows, Larry Wahl was about as cop friendly as you could get when he was on council.  He voted for all those fat contracts. He admitted to me that he signed the MOU that linked salaries to “increases in revenues but not decreases…”   He apologized, his voice cracked – he said he didn’t understand it.  I just let him tell me that, I didn’t have the nerve to ask him what his reading comp score was in high school. It was a three sentence memo, just as clear as the nose on your face. 

He also proposed the steps promotion plan, saying it would curtail the salaries – instead it seems to work as automatic promotion for these guys. They get automatic raises. There’s supposed to be a performance review, but it’s not spelled out. I’ve seen so many fat, unhealthy cops, I can’t believe there’s any such performance review. Let’s see Peter Durfee jump over my back fence a breath ahead of  my nippers. 

I also have to laugh at her comparing Larry and Stephanie’s income with the salaries these cops are taking home. The smallest salary I’ve seen is about $63,000, that’s starting. That’s also about $23,000 a year more than the median income. And then there’s the health benefits and pensions – they expect to get 90 percent of their highest year’s salary, at 50, for the  rest of their lives, and they don”t expect to pay more than  9 percent. And we had to yank that out of them, kicking and screaming.  That indicates to me some sort of mental dysfunction on their part. 

I don’t want to talk about what cops are worth, or how dangerous their job is – how can we go on paying these salaries? Are their heads made of wood, or what? Can they do math? What are we supposed to do for more money – start pulling cars over on Hwy 99 and shaking down the out-of-town drivers? 

I’m just glad Stephanie Taber is out there. She reads the paperwork, compares what they say with what they  write down. I wish we had 10 more like her. 




Look at the police contracts and who signed them before you vote this November

24 Jul

Here’s a letter I sent off to the Enterprise Record the other day.

I wish more taxpayers would read the city police contract, available here

before they jump on any ill-conceived attempts to raise local taxes to fund the cop shop. 


Police employees pay nothing toward their medical or dental.


Police employees pay only 9 percent of their pension, which amounts to 90 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 50.


In addition to workman’s comp, the city pays for “long term disability insurance.” This premium is treated as a “post tax” payment so they don’t have to pay income taxes on it. 


Contracts force all “permanent and probationary employees” to “be dues paying members of CPOA or shall pay a service fee to CPOA.”  Furthermore, “city agrees to deduct CPOA dues or fee from employee pay.” The Supreme Court just ruled this practice illegal for home health care workers. 


For years we’ve been threatened by our own police to either pay up or be left to the wolves.  Our ex-city manager Tom Lando once said, “the police department is always trying to get it’s foot in the door for more money.” I am not willing to pay more to self-interested tyrants. Like the editor says, it’s time for us to learn to take care of ourselves. Join the Chico Taxpayers Association in protesting the contracts that have brought us to the brink of bankruptcy. 


 Juanita Sumner, Chico 


What can we do about it? We need to elect better people to city council. Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen have both signed the contracts that give these employees all this bling. They don’t think there’s anything wrong with the contracts. They both have similar contracts at their publicly-paid jobs. Gruendl makes over $100,000 a year at Glenn County, and I’m guessing he does not even pay the nominal 9 percent toward his benefits and pension – ask him yourself. Sorensen gets about $90,000 a year as city manager of Biggs, plus the usual benefits, and I’ll guess he’s not paying 9 percent either. Ask him.

Do me a favor, ask these jackamoes a few questions about these contracts before you give them your support.

Australia ends “useless and destructive” carbon tax

17 Jul


I first heard about this on PBS’/Deutsche Welle World Journal. You never hear this kind of stuff on the American networks. 

Nothing like this will happen in California as long as we are stuck with the Democratic Party. California has become a sink hole for the liberal politician who knows just how to squeeze the public teat. 

Here in Chico, it would be nice if we could get some city representation that worked toward practical goals that resulted in a lower cost of living and more jobs for constituents, instead of jumping on every feel-good salary scheme that comes down the pike. I’d like  to see some bluster behind a letter to Jerry Brown and other state heads, telling them their taxes and their onerous regulations are killing jobs and ruining families. Like Tony Abbott said, these taxes hurt families, and they don’t help the environment. 

That’s something I’d like to see from one of our city council candidates – a letter to the governor, asking for some relief from these onerous taxes and regulations. What I think I will hear first is a call for an increase in the sales tax to fund more police. We’ll have to see what happens. 





Saturday morning bluster

12 Jul

I’m still on vacation, I guess, but of course I can’t help look at the news, it’s compulsive. 

I was really glad to hear that the Supreme Court says public sector unions can’t collect fees from home health care workers who object to being affiliated with a union.  These people, usually paid minimum wage, were made to pay “fair share dues” to unions. I don’t know if this ruling applies to anyone else, but it sure opens the door.  In past the city of Chico has been made to collect “fair share dues” from cops whether they wanted to be union members or not. I’ve always wondered, how many cops in Chico are unwilling to follow Peter Durfee? But have to pay anyway? I hope this ruling has wide reaching effect. 

I’m glad to see Brian Nakamura gone, but now we have Orme, I don’t know if that’s much of an improvement. I read a memo Mary Fitch provided on Truth Matters, written by Orme to staff, telling them they shouldn’t be discussing salaries and other matters among themselves, and I have to say – the guy is a little jackboot creep. I always picture him in one of those brown Nazi uniforms, with the cute little bill cap.

They made a big deal about Orme taking a $9,000 lower salary. Excuse my French, or German actually – Big Fucking Deal. He still got a raise over his Ass Man salary, which was alot higher than the salary he was pulling in Hemet (Remember Hemet!), and about $30,000 more than former city mangler Dave Burkland was getting.

Our park remains closed most days, trees are going untrimmed and the park roads are becoming completely riddled with potholes. One day a week a Waste Management truck, provided with a key, drives through the park collecting trash. Fritz McKinley, before he became  desaparecido, told us the garbage trucks were the number one destroyer of streets, and Brian Nakamura claimed that was why they needed to pay more franchise fees, but here he gave them the contract to empty trash cans on the vulnerable park road – this man’s words and actions never added up right. This to save, what, salaries and benefits for two staffers? Probably both paid less than $60,000/year. According to “,” the average Northern California garbage truck driver makes $30 – 37,000 a year, and that’s union scale. Benefits – well, the garbage companies are required to pay workman’s comp and SSI, I presume, but that will not amount to $50,000 a year for the rest of your life. I’m guessing they are on taxpayer subsidized Obamacare, or go to the ER and then can’t pay, like all us other indigents. 

Peter Durfee thinks his job is dangerous – let’s see that fat pig out behind a garbage truck five days a week, I can’t believe he’d last more than a day out of his air-conditioned fully equipped cruiser. 

I wonder if everybody heard the story of how we got stuck with Nakamura in the first place. Remember how Hemet reacted to the news that Nakamura was leaving for Chico – they were surprised, and a little miffed, because as he was promising loyalty forever to Hemet, he was scooting up to Chico behind their backs to apply for the job here.  The news was leaked here in Chico – according to Tom Gascoyne in his story in the N&R, “this reporter head about it from a local business owner…” I heard it was Budd Schwab, in a conversation with Gascoyne at Duffys. I have that on reliable sources, so that’s what I believe.  Both of these men are regular Duffy’s dwellers, and I have a couple of moles at Duffy’s. Budd leaked the news to Gascoyne, and who knows who else, Hemet got really pissed at Nakamura, and, here’s what nobody will admit – we had to hire the motherfucker because he threatened to sue us. 

And now here we are. Mark Sorensen left holding a bag of dog doo. At least that’s funny.

It has really come home to me how much  trouble the city is really in, since I tried to get my Utility Tax rebate. In past this has been a 45 minute task – drive down to the city, take the stuff in, stand while they check every page of my bills, add it up – but I’d walk out with cold green cash. This year the woman told my husband they’d have to keep the paperwork for review, but she said they’d “cut a check” the next day. Long story short, it was about  three weeks of bitching at Chris Constantin, who put me off, put me off, telling me the check had been cut and sent when it really hadn’t. I finally got it Friday. I don’t know how much of Constantin’s time I took with my chain rattling, but do the math – that boy is expensive. I felt like an old rich broad who’d hired an escort. My $53 rebate must have cost them at least a few hundred dollars.

 Have you been following the conversation on the “move your ass off the sidewalk” ordinance? One citation? And Idiot at the ER says this is working? Go to Gen Kai restaurant and have an order of tekka maki at a window seat – we got a transient problem people, and Chico PD is doing NOTHING. I told Kirk Trostle, the problem is not limited to Downtown, like the conversation has been. I told him about incidents I’d seen at Rite Aid – including a man in a big 4WD truck who got so frustrated with a transient who was wandering the parking lot, he punched the drunkard through the window of his truck as he was exiting the parking lot. I watched the whole thing, I couldn’t blame the driver. I told Trostle I’d watched a clerk sell an intoxicated man a bottle of booze at 10 am, and as far as I know, there’s been absolutely no investigation. I felt for the clerk – the man was in his face, demanding. The clerk just wanted rid of the guy, but that’s against the law. 

Trostle is still trying to make a special zone out of Downtown – it’s on the Planning Commission agenda for next week – trying to make Downtown restaurant owners pay all these extra fees, as much as $5,000 per business, directly to Chico PD.  It’s just a revenue grab, it’s not going to do anything about our very convoluted “drinking problem.” 

Meanwhile, the cops just admitted, they’ve been on an 18 month “hiatus” from breaking up homeless camps in the park, the channel, etc. I’m getting sick of these fatasses and their slovenly refusal to do the jobs they are overpaid for. Trostle and Durfee, just keep it up boys – you’ll have the entire town up your ass before you know it.

Well, back to work. 








Mosquito Tax passes by 58 percent

10 Jul

Well, I don’t have time to bitch about it now, but I called the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District and the little shoat at the phone told me the assessment passed, with 58 percent of the vote.

Sheesh.  This town is so divided down the middle – I was looking at our stats the other day, and according to several sources, the Republicans in town only outnumber the Democrats by about 5 or less percent. No  wonder this is such a nasty little town at times.  Lately, all the time. 

A man I was talking to about this reminded me, BCMVCD just built a “Taj Mahal” office over on Otterson  Drive. “There’s about three employees sitting in that thing,”  he complained.  Yeah,  three employees worth almost $500,000 in salaries, pensions and health benefits. 

I’m surprised this passed, but not surprised by the slim margin. That’s why the  legislature has been  lowering the voting threshold for bonds from two thirds to 51 percent – they know they can’t get popular support for these taxes, so they’re just going for fascism.

I’ll tell you what’s really wrong here – the local media has not said anything about the salaries, pensions, benefits,  or, like the man reminded me, the Taj Mahal office building. Today I ate my lunch over the usual propaganda piece on Ch 12 News – fogging in Hamilton City and Nord tonight! Heck, they legally have to tell us when they’re going to fog us, but insist the fog is harmless. But cover your car maybe. Uh-huh. Linda Watkins Bennett, a woman I once admired, read the public relations release from  BCMVCD as if it was news, running a video  of a BCMVCD  employee gravely warning us not even to go outside after dusk, as if we’ll be swept away  by the swarm and our desiccated carcass will be riddled with deadly diseases.  Then  Linda trots out the provided figures – 24 cases of West Nile in 2013? They’ve got a bigger problem with Chlamydia over at the  campus.

The piece the News and Review did in April came off like straight propaganda,  not a word about the salaries, pensions, health benefits, or the Taj Mahal headquarters, just a bunch  of crap about how afraid we should be of mosquitoes.

And I could only find one specific  case, of 24,  described,  from 2013 – that of a child in North Chico. The child had already made “full recovery” at the time of the report, symptoms including headache and fever had occurred at least a month before the girl’s test results were made public.  She had no lasting consequences. I’ve only heard of one death confirmed from West Nile, that of an older Chico  man.

I’m not being flip – the flu  is  dangerous too,  but you don’t see a Butte County Flu Control District. Why  isn’t mosquito  abatement handled out of the Health Department? Why all the  extra management salaries? ‘

I know, that’s a dumb question.