Archive | September, 2014

When your elected officials can’t/won’t help you…

30 Sep

I am getting frustrated in my efforts to get our local leadership to help protest the pending PG&E rate hike proposal. I think Maureen Kirk is sincerely interested in helping here, but she handed me off to PG&E employee Lia White, who didn’t answer my questions about pensions and  benefits – instead she sent me a blob of information about PG&E’s programs.   She  even sent me copies of the inserts we all get in our bills. But no answer to my question – how much of their own benefits do PG&E employees pay? Cal Water management pays  nothing toward their pensions and benefits, CARD management pay nothing, and the mosquito district personnel only pay 3 percent, so I have to ask. 

So, while I appreciate her attempts, I won’t ask Maureen Kirk for help with this issue again.  I remember, when she was a city council member,  how she took on Comcast, over a missed football game, and took on Union Pacific over the speed of trains running through town. I thought she had the chutzpah to demand some answers out of PG&E.

So, here we are, the hearing is coming up in a couple of weeks, and we can’t count on our elected officials, so let’s do our best. Please write those e-mails/letters to the CPUC. Get out your old bills and tell them how you’ve watched  the rates go up up up, the billing changes, rates and baselines change without explanation – look at your bills, I’m sure you will find something to say. Tell them this rate increase is business hostile and makes our city a less  desirable place to live and work. Tell them how this has affected  your lifestyle, and ask how much of your rates go to pay insurance packages better than the one you have. And don’t forget the pensions – do you get a pension? Who pays for it? 

Then I’d really like to see some folks turn out at that hearing October 9, Holiday Inn, 2 and 6:30 pm.

Folks, you can’t let other people fight your battles for you. Here’s the simple truth – nobody cares about you the way you do. Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. 

 

 

 

 

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Snidely Whiplash in “PG&E rate increase – let’s foil it again!”

26 Sep

Still growling over PG&E’s pending rate increase proposal, I got a nice note from City Council  candidate Forough Molina today. I had sent out a note to city council candidates as well as sitting councilors, and county supervisors, asking for their help in publicizing and maybe strategizing for  CPUC hearings scheduled October 9, 2 and 6:30 pm.

So far I’ve only had responses from District 3 Super Maureen Kirk, candidate Rodney Willis, and today candidate Molina. Kirk and Willis were interested in hearing what others had to say, and I’ll try to keep them in the conversation. Molina expressed her frustration as a ratepayer, echoing everyone else’s complaint – we are all so busy with our jobs, kids, etc, how do we stay on top of this stuff?

Ditto here. I tried to get a meeting together, but found the library room is very booked, they didn’t have any openings that fit my schedule. So here we are, at our virtual meeting place. Let’s get our bananas together for that hearing.

We can rant, we can rave – they like that, it’s easier to write us off as idiots. I was reading a letter to the Board of Supervisors from Cal Water rep Pete Bonacich, in which he totally downplays the recent Cal Water rate hike. “...the typical customer using an average of 14,960 gallons of water per month (20 Ccf) will see water utility charges of $40.94 in 2014…  The “typical” customer? Who is the “typical” customer?

I realized when I read that letter – we should have all done the math, taken our bills and figured out exactly what the Cal Water rate increase would mean to us, and then,  with a full head of steam, really let our elected officials, as well as our CPUC officials, know a little more vividly how we felt about  that. I find, I never really get mad-mad, until I have the numbers waved in my face.  Bitch-slap me with a utility bill, and I’m raring to go to a hearing.

So, there’s your homework assignment Kids, I’ll work on my bills too, we’ll do some scenarios for our PG&E rate hike, and see what we come up with. 

Ha, ha – joke’s on me – I notice in my new bill for period 8/20/2014 through 9/18/2014, they’ve changed the rates! Damn that Snidely Whiplash, we got to foil his next caper, before he has us all so corn-fused, we don’t know which end of the hose the pie is coming out of.

Vogon poet Marc Vandenplas

24 Sep

I have to say something about new airport Commissioner Marc Vandenplas. If you read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” you already get it.

This man was recently appointed to fill a position left vacant when another commissioner ran away screaming. Just kidding – but I know, I couldn’t sit through those vapid, ridiculous airport commission meetings, where anybody who brought up anything truly important was drowned  out by a chorus of snores.

This Vandenplas guy is going to do well – he has the gift of gab. In fact, this man is a human cobra – he can hypnotize an audience just by talking. Nobody can understand his yadda, or figure out where it is going, so they all just sit by politely, going into a stupor.

I don’t have time to recount what he said at the meeting last night, but reading the ER this morning, I found a comment he’d made on one of Dave Little’s clueless editorials regarding the “bum” problem:

Spending a great deal of my time between Chico and San Francisco, I observe that “bums” do leave a mess, while “the mentally ill” also leave a mess. The use of quotes are not meant to be scary – rather to aid delineation; it’s difficult to tell the bums from the ill and each require different responses. The most immediate response is enforcement: move the bums along and out and the mentally ill into treatment. Unfortunately, we don’t have treatments available to the ill and we can’t readily distinguish the bums.

In San Francisco where I maintain an apartment, both the presence and consequences of bums and the ill are chronic and acute. And Chico is certainly getting trashed. However, the Jesus Center is but an upstream tributary contributor to our city’s problem. You can’t close the Jesus Center because it feeds more people than the bums and it’s not in our better nature to have people go hungry; it ain’t decent, if you will.

Toward a solution, I’ve found that engaging bums / ill on the street (to wit, “what kind of a man begs?” and so forth) is a particularly effective approach. Citizens should take up greater responsibility for the solution. Our lax society has contributed greatly to the problem of the disenfranchisement of bums, and “the mentally ill’s” living dissipated and sometimes horrific lives.

What we do about the mentally ill, I don’t know. But the disenfranchisement of the bums and their de facto licenses to sleep in, and trash, our public places is, I put to you sincerely, partially a result of men not holding other men accountable. Good men – and that begs a question – need to challenge bums resolutely – but legally.

So, excuse me Marc, but you just babbled a blob and didn’t offer any specific solution. But David Little, who obviously  checks the comments on his editorials, just thinks the guy is a genius! Great. So now we won’t get any media opposition to what he’s proposing for the airport – spend money on studies and committees, vet, vet, vet!

 Who appointed this guy? 

NOTE: “this guy” has been posting abusive comments unrelated to the subject matter and will therefore be banned from commenting. 

Skywest leaves with million dollar federal grant – that’s what commercial air service has really meant to this town, money to pay management salaries

24 Sep

I been waiting forever for our beloved council to show some interest in Chico Airport, so I dusted off the old broom and headed over to their joint session last night at City Chambers.

The agenda was pretty vague – something about hiring a new manager –  but I got what I suspected I’d get – a bunch of idiots trying to breathe life back into commercial air service. 

If you ever used Skywest, you know two things – the service was horrible, and the planes were always mostly empty.  I don’t fly, but my husband has relatives in Germany, so we’ve experienced the airlines. On one trip home, the flight was late getting into SF, so my husband and 14 year old son missed their Skywest connection. Skywest told my husband  he would not get another flight that night, they wouldn’t pay for a hotel room, nothing. They didn’t even apologize. I don’t drive, so I had to ask a friend to take me to pick them up.  When our cousin came in from Germany earlier this year we not only drove to SF to pick him up we drove him back to catch his outbound plane.  

Whenever my husband has used Skywest, the plane has had less than half a dozen passengers total. Once he was flown back alone, by a couple of pilots who chattered at him the entire flight. 

What I already knew before last night, is that this conversation is being perpetuated by the very few people who can afford to use Skywest on a regular basis.  But, here’s the thing: it’s being facilitated by the city staff and council because they know that commercial air service comes  along with a $1 million dollar annual grant from the feds.

This I suspected, but having tried to read the budget many times, I could never figure it out. Well, there it is, right out of Mark Orme’s mouth. That’s what Skywest service and the airport in general mean to Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen and their staff – a million dollars in “free money” to pay their management salaries. They been embezzling the airport fund for years, it’s been in the red for at least six years, to pay Dave Burkland and then Brian Nakamura’s ridiculous salaries. It started with either Tom Lando or Burkland. With the approval of council, they let the old airport manager retire (early?), and then took his job, along with at least a $35,000 pay increase, I remember seeing the breakdown. At that time, the city manager was given a number of “hats” – he was the city manager, the airport manager, the head of the Redevelopment Fund (!). etc. I think it happened under Lando, because we watched his salary go from about $65,000/year to over $150,000 in about four years. 

Mark Sorensen seemed to be making sense when Skywest first announced their pullout. He said we didn’t need commercial air service at that time, and needed to come up with an alternative plan  for the airport. But last night he seemed to have drank the Kool Aid – when he should have been talking about the financial condition and budget of the airport, where all the money has been going for the last four years he’s been on council, he kept directing the conversation back to commercial air service. At one point little Tami Ritter asked a very pertinent question about the airport budget, and as soon as Frank Fields was done answering her question, Mark Sorensen jumped onto the mic to wrangle the conversation back to commercial air service. He acted as though Ritter was coming from another planet.

At one point, Sean Morgan said “if Skywest hadn’t left, we wouldn’t be talking about this (the airport)”. I think he was trying to say how important commercial air service is. They did get a pretty hot reaction to Skywest’s announcement. But not from the general public, just those privileged few in this town who can afford to pay over $250 for a trip out of town. 

I heard Morgan loud and clear – these people don’t have a clue how to save our airport. They just want to kick and scream for commercial service, to get back on that sweet federal teat. Orme said the feds are going to cut us off, and they’re not even saying, how soon. I think Orme isn’t telling us everything. I think the feds might be a little miffed at us because we didn’t use any of that money to fix the airport all these years. An old airport commissioner, Greg Fischer, got up to tell us how great things are at Redding airport – they didn’t lose Skywest service, and Skywest is talking about bringing in the new jets, because Redding used their airport money to hire a fulltime manager and FIX THE AIRPORT! Wow, how did they think of that!

Meanwhile, our tarmac is way behind the times, too short for the new jets. Orme went on – there’s a projects list of equipment that must be replaced. An example – a $150,000 water tank. It’s been going for years, he said, management has known about it, but has continued to take that million dollar grant to pay exorbitant salaries Downtown. 

Mark Sorensen signed those contracts. He lobbied for the hiring of Brian Nakamura at $212,000/year, plus all but 4 percent of his pension and benefits payments. Knowing we didn’t have the money to pay him, and his salary would need to be embezzled out of funds that went into the red – like the airport, development, and sewer funds.  All the while, Sorensen has tried to lay the blame on lower level staffers, he’s been responsible.

Not just Sorensen, of course, but I’m sick of hearing about what a fiscal conservative that guy is. He will support a sales tax increase in 2016.  Vote for him at your own peril, your lifestyle is about to get a lot more expensive in order to pay for theirs. 

Orme tried his best to put a positive spin on this situation – remember, he’s the city manager now, and his salary as ass man was coming out of that grant too. He kept saying what a great asset the airport is, but tempered that every time with stories of how crapped out it’s gotten. He kept asking for council to give direction – cause it’s council’s responsibility.  

He said  there are investors interested in the airport, but in the end, he was talking about government money again – the only interest in our airport is it’s location for fighting forest fires. He mentioned two investors – a government forestry agency, and Airspray, the local company that owns and operates the fire planes. Those contracts are negotiable, any time they find our airport is inadequate, they can leave for Redding or Sacramento. 

The media isn’t covering this story. I saw Jason Atchoo from Ch 7 at the meeting, he was there when we left, and his story later was a piece of fluff. Just a rehash of the commercial air thing, no film from the meeting, nothing about the million dollar grant we’re losing. 

You’ll notice Laura Urseny has posted her story -http://www.chicoer.com/news/ci_26594263/plans-chico-airport-surface-at-meeting

but doesn’t talk specifically about the million dollar grant. She says the airport “has been in deficit for years,” and mentions that commercial air service qualifies the airport for federal grants, ” to help improve the airport , such as with runway work…”   But not one word about how much they’ve been getting, or where that money has actually been going. She does mention that Chamber Madam Katy Simmons put the hand out for a study – that’s just the beginning. 

The commercial air advocates are going to come forward to ask for more money. They want a “passenger use study” out of the city, to start with. None of that was seriously discussed last night because the meeting was public. I predict most of the airport discussion is going on behind closed door with the “stakeholders” – again, those who can afford  to pay $250 for a trip out of town.

 

 

 

 

Thanks Maureen Kirk, Bill Connelly – but where are the rest of our “leaders” on this PG&E rate increase?

22 Sep

I am really disappointed in the lack of response I’ve had from our elected and wannabee elected officials over PG&E’s proposed rate hike.  I have heard from Maureen Kirk, Bill Connelly and Rodney Willis, and that’s it.

I can only assume that Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen and the rest of council are well aware that as rates go up the city’s Utility Tax revenues will go up right along with them.  UT is one of our top revenues. This city doesn’t produce anything – like a leech, it just attaches itself  to the flesh of the taxpayers, and SUCKS!

I don’t know what the other supervisors are thinking, but I appreciate Kirk and Connelly at least having the decency to respond. And Willis seems to be the only candidate who sees the opportunity to do something real for the community, too bad. 

The candidates aren’t talking about any real issues. Some of them say they want to fund more positions in the cop shop, but only Willis will talk about how.  They’ll put “At Least He Was Honest” on his political tombstone. Nobody else has the nerve to touch the tax maggot. But I’ll predict now – as soon as the dirt settles from this election, they’ll trot out their sales tax increase, with Gruendl and Sorensen driving the bandwagon.  Or maybe they’ll go for a bond – if those two win, they will consider it a solid gold mandate from “the people,” and there will be no stopping them.

So, we just got a 19 percent water rate increase, and Cal Water has already informed us they have another rate increase proposal coming in 2015. Our electric rates trickle up steadily by a variety of means, as I’ve explained, and now PG&E wants to effectively double them. Statewide lemmings voted to raise our sales tax two years ago, and now cities up and  down the state are tacking another quarter to full cent onto every dollar their taxpayers spend.

Bad consumer, stop spending so much money!” is what I’m hearing, and I’m listening! I just ordered all our winter underwear and socks on Amazon.com, thankyouverymuch.  And I just got another order of household  goods like soap and toothpaste from Lucky Vitamin.  I’m just doing what my local officials are telling me to do – stop spending money. The prices are waaaaay cheaper than local stores, and here’s the cherry on top – the sales taxes I pay never get within 50 miles of Chico. 

Until I see more community spirit out of Chico City Council, I will continue to spend elsewhere. I don’t have to go online.  It’s fun to holiday shop in Oroville, they have a lot of grocery stores and gas stations too. Red Bluff is a great Christmas shopping town, big sidewalks, lots of ginchee locally owned shops. 

So, I sent the following letter to the ER, asking our “leaders” for more help with this PG&E rate hike. I honestly do believe that the letters written by the supervisors had some effect, when taken in with all the protests from people around the state. I’m asking you to jump in too, write those e-mails – check my previous post for addresses. We can beat this rate increase, at least beat it down a little.

 

PG&E is making proposals that may double our electric bills. The Public Utilities Commission will convene public hearings in Chico at the Holiday Inn, on October 9, at 2:00 and 6:30 pm.  

PG&E currently uses a complicated system of pricing tiers. As we use more electricity the price increases, at first only by a penny per kilowatt hour, but at “Tier 3”, the price jumps from 15 to 31 cents per kwh. At Tier 4, 35 cents. In alternate months, without explanation, Tier 1 is reduced by about 50 kwh for the last week and a half. 
They are proposing the elimination of Tiers 3 and 4, “merging” them into Tier 2. They don’t give specifics, but I’m afraid this means, the Tier 2 price will double.  They also want to double the flat service charge from $4.50 to $10 by 2016, with annual “consumer price index” increases.  
I have contacted Chico City Council members, council candidates and county supervisors, asking them to protest this increase on behalf of their constituents. I believe the letters our Board of Supervisors wrote to the CPUC helped to reduce Cal Water’s requested 38 percent rate increase to 19 percent. 
I hope you will join Chico Taxpayers Association in asking our elected leaders to get involved. And, please attend one or the other timed hearing on October 9 to voice your opposition to PG&E’s rate increase. 

Maureen Kirk, Bill Connelly respond to my request for help with PG&E rate hike

20 Sep

Thanks to Maureen Kirk, my District 3 super, for responding to my plea for help with PG&E’s latest G-snatch. She asked me to nail down a date and time for a meeting – not so easy.

I ask people  – “what’s good for you?” and they come back with, “why don’t you just set a date so I can complain about it?” Well, not exactly in those words, but you know what I mean. So, I’ve tried to get ahold of the library room – but they’ve taken the mechanism off the website. I e-mailed the gal who had helped me in past, but no response. So, today or tomorrow I will call  or go over there. I’m busy as hell right now, wouldn’t you know it.

So, that’s where I’m at with this “public” effort.  

Bill Connelly also responded, but I’m not sure what exactly to make of his response:

I agree that PG&E seems to get every rate hike they request. On the other side the state requirements that more power come from solar and wind may be a complication. The avoidance of using coal power is also an issue. Also it would be better to pay any solar excess from homes and business full value to induce more panels.

Is he attempting to rationalize the rate increase, or what? I’ll have to get back to him when I get a chance, I’m off to work. As usual I will keep you posted.

No response or reaction from council or board of supes regarding PG&E rate increase. Write those e-mails!

19 Sep

Well, I sent my sad little notes around yesterday. asking for help in protesting the PG&E rate hike. I sent to the full city council, all the candidates (including the current mayor and vice mayor), and then I sent to the board of supervisors. I included staffers.

I sent that yesterday afternoon, with a couple of hours left to the work day, and the only response I got so far is candidate Rodney Willis.  I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to be very disappointed in these people if they don’t have something to say – I’m going to be pretty disgusted in fact. 

At least I got the supervisors to write a letter protesting the water rate hike, and I really feel that protest, mainly from Marysville, resulted in half as big a hike. I know, 19 percent still sucks, especially when most of it will go toward pensions (they said so in my rate increase notice), but at least it’s not 38, and you know they would have taken 38 if they could get it. 

So let’s jump on this, NOW! Write to the addresses I gave in the last post, and then write to your city council and your supervisors.  Tell them we want to see where the money from the rate increase is going. We want to know, how much do PG&E employees pay toward their own benefits and pension? 

scott.gruendl@chicoca.gov

mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov

randall.stone@chicoca.gov

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov

tamiritter@chicoca.gov

ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

mary.goloff@chicoca.gov

dteeter@buttecounty.net

mkirk@buttecounty.net

bconnelly@buttecounty.net

slambert@buttecounty.net

lwahl@buttecounty.net