Archive | January, 2015

Why is CARD being so secretive about the aquatics center?

29 Jan

Today I called CARD, and simply asked, what is the process for putting an assessment on property taxes. The woman who answered the phone handed me over to new CARD director Jerry Haynes. Haynes replaces Steve Visconti.

Haynes immediately asked me where I’d heard about an assessment. Well, I’d been going to meetings the last couple of years, I told him, and they’d been talking about it in the Enterprise Record. 

Haynes doesn’t waste time – he got right in my face, telling me there was no such mention in any newspaper article. This guy is very aggressive.

So, I asked him about a consultant that had been discussed – he said the consultant was to help them update their general plan (see in the ER story below, he says the consultant will tell them how to proceed with financing the aquatic  center). 

Then I told him, I’d seen an item on last week’s agenda about appointing board members to the various committees – the first listed was the Aquatic Center Advisory Ad-hoc Committee. First he denied the existence of this committee, then he denied that they had been having or planned to have any meetings in future. I repeated my questions about the agenda item to him at least three times before he interrupted me, blurting out “Bob Malowney!” 

This is why I don’t make phone calls, but I get nowhere with CARD via e-mail. Steve Visconti told me again and again he’d put me on the notifications list, but later he also denied there were any meetings, even when there were reports of such meetings listed in the agendas. This whole thing is surreal.

Haynes got really agitated at this point. I told him I was also frustrated, it is so hard to get information about this aquatic center, but whenever I write letters to the paper about it I am accused of passing misinformation, even lying.  I told him, “but you see here how hard it is for me to get the right information…”  He started raising his voice, he said, “Please listen to me!” but his tone didn’t say “please,” it said, “look you little so-and-so!”. I responded that I’d e-mail him.  As I was saying Thank You, he flat hung up. 

If you don’t believe me, call CARD yourself and ask about the Aquatic Center Advisory Ad-hoc Committee. Be nice! Record your conversation, I wish I had. 

UPDATE:  Here’s an excerpt from a story the ER ran in December, full story here – look at the headline in the link. When I quoted this story to Jerry Haynes he denied everything in it:

A proposed aquatic center is part of CARD’s master plan and has been discussed for more than a year. For this meeting, several plans with different attributes were going to be discussed, with costs ranging from $10.8 million to $18 million.

A CARD subcommittee of board members and the public hoped to trigger large contributions from the community, but it looks like CARD will have to take the issue to the voters for a tax measure to pay for the facility.

The board happily accepted an offer from members of the subcommittee, including a swim association, to pay for a feasibility study on the center.

General Manager Jerry Haynes suggested and the board agreed to bring in consultants to talk to the board about ways to proceed financially with a center’s development. As far as mounting a successful public education campaign, that should be up to the swim group and its supporters, the board agreed.

In a phone call yesterday, CARD director Jerry Haynes denied everything in that article. Maybe Laura Urseny needs to check her notes. 

Campaign reports: Chico citizens for responsible government – what do Mark Sorensen, Andrew Coolidge, and Reanette Fillmer have to hide?

28 Jan


The only person listed behind this is an Elk Grove lawyer.  Only a few big-money donors. This is what you people elected! Enjoy!

CARD still moving toward assessment for Aquajets swimming center

28 Jan

I’m sorry I have not been following the latest activities of Chico Area Recreation District – CARD.  This morning I’m noticing – Laura Urseny didn’t cover the last meeting either. I see I will have to get out that poker again.

The CARD board announced their intention to put out an assessment ballot. Last week they assigned board members to committees – including an aquatic center “ad-hoc” committtee – meaning, they don’t have to announce those meetings to the public, or keep particularly good notes. 

One thing I will do today is call the CARD office and ask them point blank about the assessment – how will it be done? 

I notice, Ed Seagle is out, replaced by Bob Malowney, owner of the yo-yo store Downtown. Seagle, unfortunately, was the only board member who seemed to have any sense of propriety on the aquatics center, being very honest about lack of support in the community, the cost of such a venture, and the sad fact that “these things never pay for themselves.” Malowney is pro-aquatic center, I think that’s why he ran. 

When my kid’s hockey league took off, they had to get sponsors. As the long-time owner of a successful local business, I’d like to see Bob Malowney take out his check book and fund the studies that are now being funded by CARD, but he has made no such offer. Jan Sneed, another aquatics supporter, is not poor either – she could easily afford to write a check for $10,000 or more. So could a lot of the proponents of this center, but they keep their purse shut, expecting us to foot the bill for their kids in Aquajets.

For that matter, why isn’t Aquajets doing more to fund this proposal? When I attended the early meetings, it was all Aquajets parents and grandparents, the Aquajets manager (who gets a paycheck), and some folks from the school district (the proposed pool will be on CUSD property, the existing pools are owned by CUSD but are supposed to be maintained by CARD). There is no support for this pool from the general community, but the Aquajets people are just standing there with their palms up. They don’t even have anything about it on their website.  When writing about this, Laura Urseny coquettishly refers to them as “a local swim organization.”

Meanwhile, Pleasant Valley and Shapiro pools have been neglected into the ground for years, while the money has gone into pensions and benefits for which CARD employees pay NOTHING. Only about 33 management employees get those fully-paid pensions and benefits – last year the board voted unanimously to cut the rest of the work force – the folks who actually provide the public with services – to 28 hours or less to avoid paying for Obamacare.  They had to cut programs as a result, the rec supervisor saying they’d cut 200 kids from one popular program, and were left with two part-time employees to supervise the other 300 kids. 

I’ll get back to you on the assessment procedure.




Ain’t no sunshine!

25 Jan

Below is the original proposal from the Chico Police Officers bargaining unit to the city of Chico. This was posted on an agenda, because of our “sunshine” ordinance, but was later removed, I was told by a city councilor, at the request of the CPOA. Apparently, the public didn’t react too well to their demands – I had posted the link here – and the cops didn’t like the criticism. They removed the proposal below and put up a new diatribe with “explanations.” If Michael Jones had not saved this particular document, we wouldn’t have it.

I also have the city’s counter proposal, but I’m having a devil of a time cut-and-pasting it. The proposal below also included a cost analysis chart which I posted in a blob at the bottom – some of the figures wouldn’t even cut, make whatever you can out of it. The total cost of this proposal over three years, estimated by the CPOA, is more than $5 million.  There are no savings.

I have not had time to compare this to the new proposal they buried as an attachment to an old agenda on the city website but I’ll try to get to that again.  I also have the city’s counter proposal. I’ll try to get those posted soon.

This is not my job. This is the city manager’s and the assistant city manager’s job. Those guys get paid about $200,000/year each, plus benefits and pension. They don’t want the public to know this stuff. Pay attention. Constantin has already remarked that he wants a sales tax increase for public safety, the gauntlet is down. He also said he doesn’t think the cops are overpaid. Look over this proposal and tell me what you think.

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 bargaining.

1. Three year term ofMOU: 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. 6.1A

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 J+tvY\ ~ z, Qv£A;1vuf C{(tf8t u: ~ a. City shall pay the 1.45% of FICA that has been paid by employees since 1/1111. 6.8G

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

CPOA Initial Proposal Estimated Costs/Savings Initial Proposal – 9/ 24/ 14 2) 5% Increase 3) Longevity 4a.) Additional “H” Step 4b.) “Training Pay” Step 5) HTB Payout 9a.) City Pick-Up of FICA 9b.) City Pick up of Dental 6) Vacation Cash Out 7) 10 Hours Holiday Time Bank 8) OT Pay for Holidays 10) 4 Hours vs 3 hours Call-Back 11) Shift Differential 1/1/15 – 12/31/15 1/1/16 – 12/31/16 1/1/17- 12/31/17 Total $ 447,360 $ 922,968 $ 1,438,726 $ 2,809,054 $ 222,622 $ 286,354 $ 364,010 $ 872,986 $ 328,847 $ 369,216 $ 385,040 $ 1,083,103 $65,637 for full-time FTE vs. hourly employees currently paid outside of CPOA From $200,000- $300,000 per year plus taxes/benefits $ 89,454 $ 90,136 $ 91,174 $ 52,954 $ 52,954 $ 52,954 Unknown- will take research to see who is at cap for the year Currently a “Use it or Lose it” Benefit Currently Coded as Straight-time- more research needed Need to look at individual timecards for analysis Need to look at individual timecards for analysis

Making heads or tails of the police contract talks

23 Jan

I’ve been struggling to keep track of city business lately, but in these paranoid times, I can hardly get a straight answer out of anybody Downtown.  I thought I was alone in my concerns over city finances, at a time when management is crowing about an upturn in the economy (?), but most of my friends and people I talk to on a regular basis share a similar outlook – the city is spending too much on compensation, and at some point, the fiddler is going to have to be paid.  A lot of people I’ve spoken to lately believe there is a movement just off the radar to put a “public safety tax” on the 2016 ballot. 

Right now, the most important thing going on Downtown is the police contract talks. The police contracts were up December 31, and so far, there’s been proposals made by both sides – see the CPOA proposal here:

I got a copy of the city’s counter, but have not figured out what it means or how to post it. It’s not included with the agendas, you have to ask Chris Constantin for it. He sent me a copy that can’t be cut-and-paste. I’ll work on it. Tomorrow I’m going to talk to some folks who might be able to explain it to me.

The other day I talked to a friend of mine who spent about 20 years working for a California county, during which time she served as part of a “bargaining team.”She tried to fill me in on the basic workings of your average public employee contract talks. In the little county where she worked, it was done in the county administrator’s office, with the CAO serving as the negotiator. The bargaining teams would work with the CAO/negotiator, and then, in a separate session, the CAO would meet with the board of supervisors. The proposals would go back and forth, with additions or changes made, and eventually all parties would agree. At that time, the public wasn’t anywhere in the equation – people hadn’t started to ask about public compensation.

Now we have sunshine laws, the city of Chico is supposed to make available to the public all proposals made back and forth, before any decisions are made. I talked to a city of Chico official, who told me, the big difference in Chico is the use of a hired consultant to help out with the negotiation process. Nowadays, the process is not so friendly anymore, and council has probably been wise to bring in a consultant. I was told this consultant has cost a little over $100,000, which might be a cheap price to pay for some semblance of objectivity.   

When I’ve talked to various people about the contract talks, I’ve found, they are aware we spend a lot of money on compensation, and most people are also aware that in Chico, as in many cities in California, the lion’s share of compensation goes to the police and fire departments.

But people have a lot of misconceptions about how the contracts are made, myself included. Over the years I’ve tried to find out more, but people Downtown are very secretive. Which only adds to the speculation that something sneaky is afoot. The general picture is this: a bunch of sulking cops/firemen sitting directly across a table from council members, throwing ugly looks and veiled insults and threats at each other. One former councilor told a friend of mine, “it takes nerves of steel…” This only added to the mystique for me, I didn’t know what he meant, didn’t sound good. Sounded like racketeering. This is how many people who work in the private sector view the public sector unions – bullies, mobsters, Rod Steiger in “On the Waterfront”.

A few years ago, council voted to “sunshine” the proposals after each bargaining session. This didn’t seem like much to me – I still felt we needed to know exactly what went on in the sessions. I’d like to know the councilors’ reasoning behind their votes, but they all hide behind the veil of secrecy – they say they can’t discuss the details. They won’t even discuss it afterwards.

An insider recently told me, a lot of people think the cops’ proposal is outrageous. She told me, council members had thought the CPOA would be more reasonable in their demands, knowing that the proposals must be sunshined to the public, but instead they seemed to be surprised that the proposals were made public, coming to a recent council meeting to  complain. They felt the council had turned the public against them, when it was their own outrageous demands that have pissed people off.

Alot of my friends opine that Sorensen, Morgan, Coolidge and Fillmer told the cops to come up with an outrageous proposal that will make their eventual really sweet deal look pared down and more reasonable by comparison. Could be. We’ll have to see how this goes.

Also, let’s be sure to check the February campaign reports, in which lie the last contributions made in the recent elections. A lot of the big donors wait until the last minute so the voters won’t know where the money came from until after the  election is way over and pretty much forgotten. It would be interesting to see what the CPOA did with their money, as well as the Chico Firefighters Association. 



Ban the Bag Ban – interesting website shows widespread opposition to the bag ban

23 Jan

I got this link from fellow blogger Anthony – thanks!

Thomas Elias: Government attorneys should be investigating CPUC

21 Jan


sorry for the sloppy cut and paste, but I also included the link here:

Thomas Elias: Government attorneys should be investigating CPUC
Posted: 01/20/15, 3:46 PM PST |
# Comments
Memo to U.S. attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego: It’s high time you investigate the former president of the California Public Utilities Commission,
along with some current CPUC members and officials, for things like conspiracy to commit fraud.
Evidence against current commissioners and former commission President Michael Peevey has mounted over the last six months, but there has been no action against
State rules forbid utility regulators from communicating individually with executives of the companies they regulate. Any letters, texts or emails must go to all five
commissioners, as a means of preventing secret deals favoring the companies over their customers.
Yet, emails have shown that Peevey for years communicated privately and had understandings with executives of both Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California
Edison Co., of which he was formerly president. He even hosted at least one high PG&E official at his country home in Sea Ranch, north of San Francisco.
He also communicated privately with Edison execs, setting up a dinner in London with one, and in one case reported by the U­T San Diego newspaper agreeing to delay a
CPUC action that would limit the percentage of Edison’s executive bonuses it could bill to ratepayers until after that year’s bonuses had been paid under old rules.
Current Commissioner Mike Florio has recused himself from some votes affecting PG&E because of his role in a “judge­shopping” attempt. Emails showed Florio helped
the utility choose a sympathetic commission administrative law judge to preside over a key case.
And there was the recently disclosed 2012 phone call between Edison’s external relations director and the administrative law judge presiding over a case to determine
how Edison and its customers would split the cost of retiring the disabled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Edison says that call covered only technicalities.

All this led Michael Picker, the new commission president, in a public meeting, to call the emails “troubling and very painful to read.” Yet, in the year he served on the
commission with Peevey, Picker never voted against him in any major case.
Customers of California’s big regulated utilities — PG&E, Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — pay power rates averaging almost twice as much as consumers
served by the municipal utilities in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Riverside, Sacramento and Anaheim.
Utility profits are not supposed to lead to doubly high energy bills. That, in fact, is what the CPUC was set up to prevent.
CPUC favoritism of the big companies over their rate payers has been a constant criticism, but the emails released in recent months provide a smoking gun pointing
toward possible criminal conspiracy. If so, it could be charged as mail fraud and/or wire fraud because excessively high rates set via conspiracy would have been billed by mail or email.
Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre suggests the U.S. attorneys convene special grand juries like the one that indicted PG&E for its conduct surrounding the
fatal 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.
“We need to investigate how utility rates got so high,” Aguirre said. “It’s been a swamp of dishonesty.”
Aguirre suggests investigating, for example, what happened to money collected by the big companies to ensure utility safety. “Edison was paid money for defective San
Onofre steam generators. PG&E was paid money (since the 1950s) to fix (gas lines), but failed to do so,” his report said. Similarly, he said, defective SDG&E equipment
caused a huge 2007 San Diego County fire.
“In each case, the PUC blocked its (staff’s) investigations into utility executive wrongdoing,” Aguirre charges. No one knows what happened to billions of maintenance
dollars paid by customers.
The bottom line: The evidence of utility regulators’ favoritism of the companies they oversee is so strong, it would be dereliction of duty for prosecutors to ignore it.
Thomas Elias’ syndicated column appears each Wednesday. He can be reached at