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. 





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 -

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, 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?

PG&E asking for ANOTHER RATE HIKE! Public hearing scheduled for October 9 at Chico Holiday Inn. Should we form a posse?

18 Sep

I always wonder how many people read the notices in their PG&E bills. When I try to talk about this stuff to anybody outside my own family,  I get one of two responses – 1) OMG! How  do they get away with that? 2) Did you see the Giant’s game last night?

It’s hard to get people to talk  about this stuff, aside from an occasional howling rant when they get their latest bill. I’ve talked about the tiered pricing – it’s so confusing. But the weird thing is, they change the billing from month to month. Every other month they use a method of billing that raises rates dramatically for the last week and a half of the month. They do this by lowering that base tier amount, the amount you are allowed before they start raising the rate – they cut it in half. So, you’re in Tier 2 twice as fast, and Tier 2 doesn’t amount to diddly, so you’re in Tier 3 before you can say “Turn off those GD lights!”. Your price per kilowatt hour has just gone up from .13 to .31, wham-bam-thank-you-ratepayer.  You probably don’t use as much gas, but  they use the same scam on the gas pricing, look at your bills.

I wonder how many people know about what their electric or gas usage is every month. I wonder how many people throw away their utility bills when they pay them. This is frustrating for me. It’s like trying to rile up a bowl of Jello.

This latest notice is really  bad.  They are eliminating Tiers 3 and 4, and want to “gradually merge Tiers 3 and 4 usage into Tier 2”. I’m guessing, they will raise Tier 2 from it’s current 15 cents  to at least 25 or 30 cents.  Wow. Tier 1 is not even enough for a family of three in an 800 sf apartment. This I know, because my family hasn’t been able to do itfor a couple of years now. 

I save my bills for years – I wonder if anybody else does that. I have bills from both houses. I just got curious enough to look into my filing cabinet, I pulled out a bill from this apartment from 2010.  I found they have systematically pushed my family out of Tier 1, all the while making us feel like pigs with charts that show not our usage but the increasing amount we pay. 

In 2010, they were already using the weird billing, changing the baseline for that last week and  a half. But,  for that first three weeks, Tier 1 was 313.5 kwh at .11/kwh – compared to now – Tier 1 is currently 262..2 at .14/kwh. Looking over those bills, I see my family was well within Tier 1, right up until they cut it by about 50 kwh. That’s several days of our average daily usage.  

Do you really believe we have an electricity shortage? You’ve got to be kidding, with all the options for producing energy these days? The problem is the market, the brokering, and our governments’ total negligence to it’s duty. The California Public Utilities Commission has been completely loaded with utility company shills, including CPUC President Michael Peavey, who is currently being investigated for inappropriate behavior in the aftermath of the San Bruno disaster.

The notice in my bill says there will be a public hearing over this proposal, along with a proposal to double the monthly service fee from $5 – $10.  They’ve scheduled two sessions on October 9 at the Chico Holiday Inn, one at 2pm and another at 6:30. I don’t know if they will handle the proposals separately. It says there will be an administrative law judge present, possibly some CPUC members, and of course, PG&E reps to make sure to negate anything the ratepayers might have to say.  Cal Water has a guy, Justin Scarb, whose job is just to go around putting the opposition in the trash can.  I’m guessing PG&E has at least two reps for just that purpose. 

The CPUC hearing in March 2013 for the Cal Water rate hike was a big joke. There was no administrative law judge, nor any members of the CPUC present. The man who presided explained to us that he was, in fact, “a judge,” but not a CPUC judge. He’d been asked to fill in for the CPUC ALJ who was “very fatigued from traveling to hearings up and down the state…”  Wow, excuse me, Herr Emperor, while I get out some rose colored shades to shield my sensitive eyes from the nakedness of your puny junk.

Worse – the public was completely unprepared, just a pack of howling idiots,  reminiscent of those two old guys on The Muppets. The first speaker was the only one who had something worthwhile to say – Ray Schimmel. A retired finance manager, he tried to explain the benefits and pension packages the utility employees get – “defined benefits, the Cadillac of coverage…”  He explained, these packages come with a guarantee that no matter the financial shape the utility company or other public entity is in, those retirees get their benefits, no matter what.  

As Schimmel tried to make his point, the judge interrupted him repeatedly to tell him he had  to limit his comments to three minutes. Schimmel got frustrated and asked him to stop interrupting, and it went completely south from there, with some old shithead standing up from the audience to tell  Schimmel to sit down, there were other people who wanted to “talk.” Of course, he meant, vomit launch, but he called it talking. The whole meeting went down the tubes and my family left. 

Schimmel is right – these agencies have become nothing but salary/benefits/pension troughs.  That’s why CARD laid  people off to make a side-payment to CalPERS last year. The management salaries go up, the benefits and pensions get paid, no matter how they have to make lay-offs and scale back service.

You saw that with PG&E during a long power outage here in town about 5 years ago. Businesses all over town were hit – Spiteri’s Deli was closed for almost a week, with a cold case full of rotten meat.  Thank goodness we were living in a house with a wood stove then – temps went into the 20’s, and PG&E was denying overtime. They had a mandate that trucks had to be back in the yard by 10pm, no matter where they had been sent. No night work, because PG&E didn’t want to pay overtime on their field employees – it might cut into their stockholder profits. We’ve heard that before Folks, they’ll screw us for money – think ENRON.

So, I don’t know how mad you are about this latest proposal to stick us, but I’m not showing up alone  at that hearing, just to be handed a piece of crap in a Dixie cup and told to go home. If anybody’s interested in having an emergency Chico Taxpayers Association meeting  at the library to discuss  this and prepare some sort of comments, let me know at the “contact us here” button at the top of the page. 

We can also send  comments via snail mail or e-mail,or phone them in. I’d recommend jumping on that immediately, and writing a series of short notes, rather than some long blathering diatribe. Keep it simple, and they’re more guaranteed to read it.  Here’s the contact info that I got from my notice – you got it too:


Mail: Public Advisor’s Office, 505 Van Ness Avenue,Room 2013, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: (toll free number) 1-866-849-8390

Don’t give in too fast – we were able to pare down Cal Water’s rate hike proposal from 38 to about 19 percent with protest letters, calls, and the actions of groups like Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates. We can fight PG&E. Now’s the time – they and the CPUC are under incredible pressure and negative publicity over the San Bruno disaster. The mayor of San Bruno is asking for CPUC president Peavey to be removed. Let’s jump on this dogpile folks, we might get something for ourselves.

Here’s my question: when will we get to see The Books? Where does this money go, if we aren’t guaranteed perfect service 24 hours a day 365 days a year? We pay premium prices – for what? Certainly not secure service.  Pensions? Stock holders profits?  We are supposed to be able to ask for the books on these utility companies. Cal Water told us in their rate hike proposal, of a million dollar local rate hike, only $168,000 was going into infrastructure projects, the rest was going into salaries, pensions and benefits. That’s what’s going on here, and we need to point that out. I think that’s what worked with Cal Water, but I’m just the piano player. 





Sac Bee: Do we have an “overabundance of Democracy”?

16 Sep

I enjoy a copy of an out-of-town newspaper once in a while.  I hadn’t seen the Sac Bee in a few years, grabbed a copy at The Store when my husband drove me up to the hills to get out of the pea soup hovering over the valley.

The leading editorial was right out of my mouth – “Overabundance of Democracy: Elected bodies often avoid Scrutiny.”  The editors opine that while choice is wonderful, sometimes too many choices lead to nobody really doing any choosing. Voters in Sacramento County are faced with “32 special districts elections with one, two or even three open seats apiece…” California has “roughly 2300. They include mosquito and vector control districts that decide when to spray your neighborhood with pesticides and water districts that decide how much you have to pay when you turn on the tap. Others manage sewers, parks and cemeteries.” 

In our upcoming election we have a school district election and Chico Area Recreation District board positions. Unfortunately, we don’t get to elect our Mosquito and Vector Control Board, they are spoils appointments made by the county supes and the city councils in the district.

I agree with the editor – there’s nothing wrong with having these boards, but they need to be monitored. The Bee points out some districts they feel should not even exist – I’d say we need to lose Vectors and turn the operation over to the County Health Department – but ideally, these boards are a way for us to have more control over agencies that can put bonds or assessments on our homes.  As you may know, BCMVCD did just that earlier this year, in a process that I think we should all be questioning more seriously.

The Bee feels, “People are so busy and disconnected…”, cites low voter turnout, and complains “local governments rarely get the kind of oversight they deserve when making decisions about how to spend our money.”

Hear hear! How many times have I said this, well, you know, in my own way: “If we’re not paying attention, they may do things we don’t want. They may even line their own pockets, as the leaders in the Southern California city of Bell did for years before getting caught.”

Matt Ball, the guy who runs Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control, makes about $110,000 a year, and pays less than four percent of his own benefits. The new CARD director is making about same, and while I don’t know what his benefits package looks like, his predecessor, now retired, Steve Visconti paid nothing toward his own benefits and pension.

I have attended CARD board meetings, this is really easy.  They are monthly, start at 6:30 or 7:00 pm, and are usually over by 8:30. Right now they are talking about putting an assessment on our property taxes to pay for a grand new aquatic center. You can find information about all this at the CARD website – the “resources” page has budget and agenda information.

I have never been to a BCMVCD meeting. I think they’re monthly, in the evening.  They seem to be held mostly at the little office in Oroville, but are sometimes held at the “Taj Majal” out on Otterson  Drive. You can find out a lot about this agency via their website:

The editor sums up “Citizens have to get involved. Just think, if every adult picked just one local elected body to pay attention to just once a year, it would go a long way to keeping just the right amount of democracy.”

Well, I’d  say, get out there more than once a year. I myself have tried to keep up the blab on this stuff, but frankly, I haven’t been able to get to the meetings like I used to, I been busy in my personal life. But I don’t have to be disconnected.  I go to the websites and read the agendas, the documents, I do some research, I talk to people.  Try to get out there and find a commission to follow. If you want to send a report about a meeting, please send it to the “Contact Us Here” button at the upper right corner of the front page. 


ER ran my letter, here’s a few comments from Faceblob

11 Sep

We’ve seen letters to the editor, the police seem to be pushing a sales tax increase “for public safety.” 


Folks, the cops get over $20 million a year and fire gets another $17 or so. Million. Our budget is only about $42 million, do the math. According to a recent revelation from Downtown, the cops [sorry – correction – I’m sorry I screwed this up –  cops and fire between them get 72 percent, over half of which goes to the cops] get about 72 percent [more like 42 percent] of the General Fund [almost half the total budget], and they still can’t do their jobs. While the college students seem to have been keeping the fire department off their butts lately, the cops have gone on vacation as our crime rate goes up, up, up. We had a fatal stabbing at Downtown 7-11 last week, and a tussle with a guy who was later found to have a knife at Rite Aid on Mangrove.  Compare that to the number of cops who have EVER died in Chico – one.  And those are just the incidents that made it into the press. Chico is becoming much more dangerous for the general population, while the cops, who eat half our budget, walk away from their duties saying they don’t get paid enough. 


Months ago, I sat in a meeting Downtown, with Chief Trostle and now-retired officer George Laver, and told them how bad the situation was getting at Mangrove Plaza. I told them how twice I’d been in the Payless Shoes store when shoplifters had just about run over customers getting out the door with shoes. Payless takes a responsible stance – their clerks are told to stay put, never follow anybody out of the store. Wise thinking, you can get dead so fast, over a radio or a pair of shoes? Forget it – that’s the cops’ job.

All it would take is an undercover cop at that shopping center for a week, just a guy in shabby clothes, or a woman dressed like a housewife, and you’d be able to figure out who’s who and what’s going on down there.  I think the cops could learn something by talking to the people who work in those businesses, but Trostle just sat there as I told that story, the muscles in the sides of his head moving like boiling milk. I told him about an encounter I’d seen between some customers and a screaming drunk in front of Rite Aid. I told them about a guy who stood in front of me in line, stinking drunk, and bought a bottle of whiskey at 10:00 in the morning. I got no response. I don’t even know if they approached the management of either business.

Our police problem is not financial, it’s mental. They think they’re too good to serve people. What they’re doing in “public service” is anybody’s guess. Oh, I’ll answer that – they know the money is  great, the benefits are unreal, they don’t have any illusions about doing society any favors.  As soon as they put on that uniform they start to breathe their own farts and their attitude goes right through the top of their silly little hats.

I sent the following letter to Chico Enterprise Record two days ago, we’ll see if they run it:

Any candidate or incumbent who wants to be elected to Chico city council in November should be quizzed extensively about the employee contracts which will be back on the table in December. So far none have discussed the contracts in detail, nor have promised to curtail excessive compensation.  They all complain that employee negotiations are complicated, and promise to save the city with cuts elsewhere, but won’t elaborate.  So far, cuts have resulted in the disgraceful deterioration of our streets, our parks, and public  safety in general. 


One provision of  the contracts that needs to be changed is the city’s collection  of union/political action committee dues, even from employees who do not want to be  union members. These same funds are channeled into every city election, throwing the odds ridiculously. 


And, as pointed out by former candidate and administrative law judge Joe Montes, it creates a terrific conflict of interest. The city councilors sign the contract that allows the money to be collected, at taxpayer expense, and handed over to PAC’s that turn right around and hand it back  to the council candidates of their choice, either through direct contribution or through “indirect” support such as mailers and billboards. 


This election will be a turning point for Chico. As the public safety unions become more powerful, the average citizen will see their influence over their locally elected leaders get weaker and weaker. Speak while you have a voice – join Chico Taxpayers Association. 


The ER ran my letter yesterday. I noticed there were a few comments – I don’t participate in Faceblob, so I brought the comments here, where anybody who can use a keyboard is allowed to participate in the conversation, not just people who are mainlining their social life through a box.  I’d like to see this conversation go beyond “the usual suspects”. 

Juanita you are wrong about the power of “public safety” unions. The fire union is powerful, the police union is not. The fire union was taking raises when then the police union was giving money back to the city. The police department is losing officers to higher paying agencies where the fire department has hundreds if not thousands who would do the same job for half the pay. You should recognize the difference.

This woman is not speaking to my letter, she’s a cop groupie who attacks the fire department. That is so distressing – aren’t they all public safety workers? Why do they act like characters from Super Troopers or Gangs of New York? Aren’t they supposed to support each other? But you’ll hear this same rant from police Chief Kurt Trostle – “the firefighters get paid to sleep and play X-Box!” He said exactly that when Stephanie Taber and I were invited to meet with him at the police station one day. He is very juvenile, like a big pouting teenager.  Angela is also playing with the facts – look at the salary charts, the cops have continued to get salary increases despite the theatrics played out in city chambers. 

Michael Jones answered:

I agree the Fire union members are more overpaid than police. And if it can be independently confirmed that Chico pays below market rates for police, then perhaps they’re not overpaid. But they make a lot more than the sheriff. Did you know that Dave Main Chico fire captain makes more then the Secretary of Defense? Is anybody really OK with that??

I don’t know what he bases this claim on, that fire fighters “are more overpaid” than police.   Maybe he will come around with the background on that. Does he mean they take more overtime? Also, he just showed a chart that blows the “Chico pays below market rate for police” out of the water – look at Chico Politics.  It is clear that both are fire and police are paid well above the average.

I don’t really understand this entire remark, but I will say, no, it’s not okay with me that both our police and fire chiefs make more than the Secretary of Defense. Furthermore, they make more than four times the median income.  They are paid by people who live on less than a quarter of what they make, just in salary, then we pay their benefits. No, this is not okay with me.