Archive | November, 2014

People before pensions – do you really have “the right to work”?

29 Nov

My step-dad was a truck driver, he built the freeways we use everyday. He was an owner operator who drove his belly dumps mostly for Lindeman Brothers. He is one of the drivers that dug out “Teichert Ponds,” named after one of his favorite people, “Old Henry” Teichert.

Ironically, Lindeman Brothers was essentially driven out of business about 10 years ago by Teamsters and the California Prevailing Wage Law.  The 160 people left unemployed blamed the company for being “anti-union” – they should have looked in the mirror, they cut their own throats with their outrageous demands. Lindeman Brothers/Yuba Agregate was a family  business.

Mr. Lindeman and his wife, Ethel, used to come to our house, in West Sac, for chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, at our crappy old dinette set. They were regular people, trying to keep a business afloat. My dad was one of their employees but they were never too good to have dinner with us.

My dad did not receive a “substandard” wage – in the 1970’s he was making about $22/hour. He used to say, “Sure, that sounds like a lot of money, but there ain’t much left after union dues.” 

My dad was a member of Teamsters, but he didn’t like it. I’m glad he didn’t live to see what Teamsters did to his old boss. He always told us he was forced to join, but we didn’t get that. He complained that his union dues cost him more per hour than tires for his 18-wheeler.  We thought unions were supposed  to protect the working man,  but coming from my dad it sounded more like a shakedown.

Now I get it. I read about “right to work” legislation. Apparently, Chico PD are not the only ones who are allowed to force employees who don’t want to be members of their union to pay dues anyway. This is the core of “right to work” legislation – how can that be legal? That’s a fucking shakedown. 

According to wikipedia, here:

A “right-to-work” law is a statute in the United States that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers, that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers,[1] or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract all the employees work under.

How interesting. I think this subject needs more study. 




Sipple et al v. City of Chico – city of Chico has been accepting illegally collected utility taxes, AGAIN!

26 Nov

I was just looking over next Tuesday’s agenda and saw something interesting in the closed session schedule at  the end – since 2011 the city of Chico has been sued over “taxes erroneously paid and collected in violation of the law” .  Apparently cell phone and internet provider New Cingular has been collecting taxes for internet access and handing the money over to some 134 cities and two counties, including the city of Chico. 

Donald Sipple is the same man who sued to stop cities all over California from illegally collecting a “utility tax” off our cell phones. They’d been doing it for years, without our consent, even after a federal court ruling made it illegal.  That’s the way it is – you sue somebody, maybe you win – then you have to collect. In that case, the city of Chico decided to put a measure on the 2012 ballot, asking us to forgive  them their trespasses, and allow them to keep right on trespassing, offering to lower the tax by a puny half a percent if we’d allow them to keep collecting it. That campaign was low and dishonest, but we beat it, and the city had to hand over refunds to those who went through their ridiculous process to get them. 

Given that, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked to find out, they’ve been collecting an illegal tax on internet access, and now must be sued to comply with a court order to stop doing it and refund the money. Sipple and friends won their suit, and then went about trying to collect on behalf of their consumer clients. Only 40 “defendants” complied with the court order. Chico was among the cities that simply decided not to comply, for whatever reason. In 2011 Sipple and friends mounted another suit to collect the refunds.

At next weeks’ council meeting, behind closed doors, our new council and our revamped staff will discuss how to handle it. Almost three years after the suit was mounted in 2011. 

Here we go again.

Here’s a little something to think about – city assistant manager and former administrative services director Chris Constantin has proven himself to be a very capable finance man. Is he going to tell us he didn’t know this tax was illegal? Is he going to tell us he didn’t know the city was taking it? What about Sorensen?  


How to qualify an initiative for the ballot

25 Nov


I got a big kick out of this skit on Saturday Night Live, now making it’s way around the internet:

I realize there are those who feel this is an inaccurate portrayal of what’s been going on with immigration reform, but I think it’s a pretty accurate as far as how things really work in our government.

I love the part where the Executive Order says, “I didn’t have time to read myself!” Except for the fact that a bill is an inanimate object, not a person, I think that’s pretty accurate.

But we can’t blame President Obama, or this faceless entity known as “The Gub’mint” without turning the mirror on ourselves – we can’t just sit back and throw tomatoes, we have to roll up our sleeves and get in there and try to take more responsibility for governing ourselves.

As we all know,  our government is  still set up to allow us to create our own laws. It’s quite a task, I will say, but not insurmountable for a dedicated group, especially on the local level. In Hemet, the taxpayers association got two measures on the 2010 ballot, and both passed with some 80 percent  of the vote. They spent about $7,000. One measure created term limits for city council members and the other ended the practice of paying for the councilors’ health insurance policies.

I already knew, an “initiative” is a proposal directly from some group of citizens, to be placed on the ballot for general election, given that the proponents can demonstrate enough support by collecting signatures. I wanted to find out more about the actual process so I got online and did some research. When I looked at the city charter to find out more about placing a measure on the local ballot, I found the city defers to the same laws  accepted by the state of California, so I went to the Secretary of State’s website here:

It sure sounds simple enough – get a group of 25 or more people willing to sign a petition to request help from the Office of Legislative Counsel in writing a draft of your proposed law. This is free, but you will need at least 25 dedicated people. You could also get a lawyer, and pay for that, or you could write the draft yourself(ves) and take your chances.

Once you have cleared this hurdle, you will need to pony up a refundable (or maybe not) $200 fee to get a title and summary written by the Attorney General to be placed on the petitions. If you collect enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot, you get your $200 back, but that remains to be seen.  Here’s where the going starts to get rugged – I don’t even know what it costs to have a petition printed these days, but it’s not free.  And, there’s all kinds of rules. Of course there’s help with the rules from the elections office, but if you print it wrong and they throw it out for one reason or another, all that money is out the window.

I’m glad this process is not easy. If you can’t get 25 or 30, or even 50 other people interested in an idea for a ballot measure, you should probably let it go. It always boils down to The People.


Turkey makes you sleepy – try to stay vigilant over the holidays!

24 Nov

With the holiday season bearing down on us, it’s hard to think about our city’s problems, but it’s hardly a good time to go to sleep at the wheel. The employee contracts expire in December – I think that’s on purpose, Folks. They have Tom Turkey and Santa Claus running interference, so they try to get away with a lot of stuff behind closed doors.

If you haven’t seen the new employee contract proposals, look here:

I’ll say, the clerk has gotten a little better at posting this stuff on time, but there’s still discrepancies – some meetings are still missing minutes, some are even missing agendas. I don’t have time to snoop into that, but I’m guessing something happened at those meetings she doesn’t want people to know about? Just asking! 

I don’t go to the meetings anymore because it’s just public theater. The real news is in the documents. I used to think it was important to go to the meetings, participate in the soap opera drama – no, that is how you give your “tacit consent.” Don’t let them hand you a pile of crap – do your own digging. I’ve had some comments lately from people who actually read this stuff, and I’ve seen links getting used to important documents off this blog, so I know SOMEBODY is paying attention. 

Thank you Somebody!

I want to enjoy the holidays like everybody else, and the city tends to shut down anyway, meetings go underground, just get cancelled. But, let’s not forget, George Washington mustered his half-starved and freezing troops to attack on Christmas Eve. The Viet Cong made their most successful attack on US troops over their New Year holiday, supposedly the most important holiday in Vietnam. Tet is probably even more significant now than it was before 1968.

So keep your ears open and your eyes peeled, you don’t want to wake up to a hangover in January. 


White House consultant spills the beans on Obummercare

21 Nov

Here’s one of my favorite local papers, The Territorial Dispatch out of Marysville. Read their front page article on the Obummercare scandal.  I know it’s been in the news, but this article lays it out very clearly.

I would compare this directly with what the city is doing to our garbage rates and service with their new franchise mandate.  Sorensen, Orme and Constantin are keeping this subject behind closed doors because they don’t want us to know what they’re doing until it’s done.

Chico PD’s latest contract proposal is unsustainable

21 Nov

I wrote a letter to the News and Review, I want to keep the city employee contracts in the news. 

Again, Chico Police employees put more money into local campaigns than any other group. In addition to the CPOA, former police chief Mike Maloney formed his own PAC, allowing police employees to get around rules limiting contributions.  

The new council majority will negotiate with a police department asking for 5 percent raises as well as payment of various benefits currently paid by employees. The city already pays over 25 percent of their pensions while most police employees pay 9 percent. Salaries in the police department average over twice the local median income. 

Police employees continue to complain they are understaffed, ignoring practical suggestions to lower their salaries to reasonable amounts and pay a more rational share of their own pensions in order to loosen up money for new hires. 

Despite an obvious conflict of interest, the proposal still includes a provision that the city collect union dues from employees who do not wish to be union members, this money being poured into campaigns at election time. 

The city is currently suffering “liabilities” over $75 million, about $50 million of which are pensions. We’ll soon see how new councilors installed with CPD money will react to the cops’ demands.

Here’s the cops’ proposal – I cut and paste this verbatim from the city agenda, the typos are all theirs. I highlighted stuff in red to show, they’re not only refusing to reign in their salaries and benefits, they’re asking for more stuff!  And they want a three year term, so these contracts would stand for three years with very little chance of review. 

Chico POA
Proposal – September 24, 2014
The following is a proposal for a successor MOU to the one expiring 12/31114 between the
Chico Police Officers’ Association and the City of Chico. This proposal is intended to begin the
bargaining process and introduce several ideas that the POA believes can create a better
environment within the City of Chico Police Department, specifically the Departments ability to
retain and recruit police officers. When possible, the current MOU provision that would be affected is listed. Wording is NOT
final and will be edited to reflect any changes prior to submission to the City in formal
1. Three year term of MOU: 111115-12/31/17. 1.3A
2. Salary. 5% increase effective 1/1/15, 1/1116 and 1/1/17. 5.1 and Exhibit B
3. Longevity. Add four new longevity step increases of 4% at the following length of time
of employment with the city: 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and 25 years. New Article
5.12 “Longevity Pay”
4. Pay Step Addition and Adjustment. 5.1C

a. Add a Step H at 5% salary increase. 

b. Add a “training pay” step equivalent to $18 per hour.
5. Cash out Holiday Time Banlc Reinstate policy of allowing employees to cash out
unused holiday time bank hours each year. 6.2
6. Vacation Cash Out. Allow employees to accrue vacation above the maximum caps and
to cash out any unused vacation accrued above the caps at the end of each calendar
year. 6.5
7. Holiday Hours. City shall provide ten hours of Holiday Time Bank pay for holidays.
8. OT Pay for Holidays. City shall pay employees overtime rate for working holidays. 5.2
and 6.1
9. FICA and Dental to be paid by City. 6.3
a. City shall pay the 1.45% of FICA that has been paid by employees since 1/1111.
b. City shall pay the entire employee portion of the dental insurance (or allow the
employee to opt out of coverage). 6.3 and Exhibit C.
10. Call Back Pay. Increase the call back minimum pay to four (4) hours. (3 currently). 5.5
11. Shift Differential. 5.9
a. Increase swing and graveyard shift differential pay by 5%.
b. Shift differential to be calculated into base pay for overtime pay rate calculations.
12. Adopt and/or publicize the ability to put OT earnings directly into deferred
compensation. 6.6E

Please write letters to council and the papers, this contract is not sustainable. No matter what Mark Orme tells us, this city is up Shit Creek and nobody can find the paddle. 

The paddle we need right now would be a local Right To Work initiative.

Tonight’s council meeting just another step down the Road to Perdition – $7 million Gen Fund deficit! And counting!

18 Nov

Chris Constantin is such a considerate fellow. He sent me a note the other day (Sunday!) to tell me, there’d been some changes Downtown, and he wanted to be sure I knew who to direct my questions to in the future. Seems he’s been promoted to Assistant City Mangler, and Frank Fields has been moved up to Administrative Services Mis-Director. Scott Dowell, who ran CARD into the ground as chief finangling officer there, will be sidling into Frank Fields’ position.

And you all heard, we have two new councilors, yippee doo-dah.  I’m going to throw out a no-brainer – Mark Sorensen will be our new Mayor, and Sean Morgan will bask in the glory of Vice Mayor – go get ’em Big Boy!

This will be a short hayride for both of them – Ann Schwab and Mary Flynn will get a big laugh when they ride us right into bankruptcy. I know, I’ve been hard on Mary – I hope she learns to laugh again, and not like a crazy lady.

At this time of year, with darkness and my PG&E bill closing in on me, with no hope of jobs here for my kids, looking at higher and higher prices at the grocery stores despite the recent downturn in gas prices – it’s hard for me to muster a “fuck you” about what’s going on Downtown. Especially when I look at tonight’s agenda

and see nothing but trouble – grants for salaries, fund transfers, unsustainable raises for management and police.

That’s Trouble, right here in River City. Trouble! And that starts with ‘T’ and that’s rhymes with ‘C’ and that’s your City Council.





Council offering management employees 12 percent raise over 5 years, and we still pay their pensions

16 Nov

I know I’m not a “Human Resources” expert, but I think city employees are overpaid. When you’re paying a guy $80,000 a year to collect change from parking meters, you have to ask yourself, “am I getting a good deal?”

The management employees’ contract proposals have been made available here:

Read it yourself. Yes, it’s true that management employee have taken pay cuts over the last few years  – I’d call them “adjustments.” They are still making almost twice the median income, and probably at least twice what they would be making in the private sector, if they could find jobs in the private sector. 

They want a step raise system by which their salaries are automatically raised by 2.5 percent a year. Who gets that? Only public employees would have the gall.

And  sure, they’re giving up their workman’s comp payments – because we will still pay over 90 percent of their pensions and benefits.

This is not as bad as the cop contracts that ask for 5 percent raises, but this kind of “Me Me Me” is going to sink our ship. According to John Chiang’s new charts, here:

Chico has over $70 million in “liabilities”. Brian Nakamura said our pension liability was over $60 million – I think he said exactly $68 million.  When I looked at  the chart, it looked like the figure was going down for a couple of years after 2010, but now it’s headed right up again, going from $75 million in 2012 to $75.8 in 2013. 

Meanwhile, Mark Sorensen plays his fiddle over our burning ship. I like to make salads with my metaphors, it’s so hard to choose one when they all fit our perfectly disastrous scenario. 


Latest numbers posted for election night – attendance still falls miserably short

15 Nov

Look here –

and then compare here –

Voter turnout was in the dirt last week, look at the numbers. In 2012 we had eleven candidates for four city council seats – the top vote getter got over 15,000 votes. Last week we only had seven candidates running for three positions, Andrew Coolidge winning with just over 11,000. I wonder if he’s asking himself this morning – what happened to 50 people who voted for him in 2012 but didn’t vote for him last week?

Almost 1,000 people left the city council portion of their ballot blank, while almost 4,000 “undervoted,” choosing less than the three requested.

Here, compare with Election 2010 – Sorensen got roughly 3,000 more votes in that race, and there were two more candidates running in that race.

Voter turnout was definitely down folks, and we have to wonder why. I blame the choices – look how many people only voted for two, when both parties ran a slate. Meaning, they voted for part of a slate,  but couldn’t stomach the whole team?  This does not bode well – our council and our town are divided, but not evenly. The conservatives have the power, and they are backing the police department, because the police department put up the money to get them in there. When the cop contracts come up later in December we will take more steps down the Road to Perdition. In 2016 a frenzied council will place a tax measure on the ballot, let’s see what they decide to flop out.

I’ll be making signs, let me know if you want one.  



Observant Reader asks a good question – why is city of Chico so quick to destroy records?

14 Nov

An observant reader sent this alert:

I just noticed something odd, and I thought that I’d ask if anybody knows if this is as out-of-place as it seems.

The agenda for the next city council meeting has now been posted:

The last city council meeting was on election day, before the polls closed. The next city council meeting will be the first meeting in December, when the new council members are sworn in. This is the Lame Duck session (for lack of a better term). We have 2 councilors who know that this is their last chance to get things done, because they’re not coming back next month. This includes Mayor Gruendl. The new council is anticipated to be more conservative, changing the type of items that can be successfully tackled.

So what’s on the agenda? Destroying finance records. Say again?

“2.2. RESOLUTION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHICO AUTHORIZING DESTRUCTION OF FINANCE AND HUMAN RESOURCES RECORDS IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES DEPARTMENT Adopt – In accordance with City of Chico Administrative Procedure and Policy Manual, section 11-9 and Government Code Section 34090, the Administrative Services Director requests permission to destroy historical records maintained by the Finance service area over five years old and by the Human Resources service area over seven years old. (The Administrative Services Director recommends approval of the resolution.)”

(They’re also going to talk about shuffling millions of dollars around between accounts, as recommended by the Administrative Services Director down in item 4.2)

The timing here is lousy, to say the least. I expected some spending to get passed, or some policy to be adjusted by the outgoing council. I didn’t expect this. Why do it in this meeting? Why not wait a month, when it would look far less suspicious?

The city does destroy records from time to time. As near as I can tell, destruction of various records have been on the consent agenda 5 times in the last 6 years (maybe more, but that’s what I’ve found; and not in November of an election year). The odds that it would randomly land on this particular council meeting? Roughly 1 in 30. That’s not impossible, but it is unlikely.

Now, I’m not making any accusations. I’m only observing that this looks suspect. Is this a big deal? Should we be worried about this? Can or ought anything be done? Or am I just overthinking this? I don’t know.

I could easily be overlooking something relatively obvious, so you may know something I don’t. If so, I’m always open to learn.

Thanks so much for saying – I noticed a few years back, they quietly passed a resolution saying they could destroy records after only a year.  I think that’s weird, given the stuff I’ve managed to mash into my computer or on disc for years. I also have a stand up filing cabinet in the corner of my garage that has city agendas and documents going back at least 6 or 8 years – why can’t they store stuff? 

In fact, I just found some hilarious notes from a morning meeting, I been trying to get around to blogging it.  You have to pay attention around here, you have to snoop, you have to call them on their bullshit. 

And yes, Orme and Constantin are moving money faster than a pair of New York City street barkers, moving those shells at the speed of light – where’s that dam-ned pea?!  

Thanks so much, I have to admit, I was ready for a long winter nap, but yeah, we got to pay attention. Thanks for the wake up. I will have to dust off my chaps and ride into town for the December meeting.