Archive | April, 2015

Utility tax rebates available May 1 through June 30

28 Apr

Starting Friday May 1, the City of  Chico – bless their black little hearts – will be offering the annual “rebate” of  money they’ve been dipping out of your utility bills  all year. You have until June 30 to gather all your bills and your tax return together, and mail or deliver them to the city finance office. Here’s the application with the income requirements:

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/UUTREFNDApplicationPageupdated.pdf

Remember, the taxpayers were never asked about a Utility Tax – it was mandated by city council back in the 70’s. Scott Gruendl led the charge about 10 years ago to raise it to the maximum 5 percent. If we barnstormed Sorensen and the council now we might be able to get them to lower it back to 3 percent, now that they’ve found all this money ($4.8 million) in the couch cushions. We’ll put that on our wish list under, “Overturn the stupid bag ban.”

Last year Chris Constantin instituted a new policy – you have to leave all your paperwork, and they will review it for a couple of months, then send you a check. They used to give you cash on the spot if your rebate was under a hundred dollars – this is Constantin’s way of belittling people out of reclaiming their stolen money. You can ask for your billing back – last year they actually paid the postage to resend me twelve months of PG&E bills, I can’t remember what it cost them. It also took them about two or three months to get it back to me. 

Yeah, I save all my bills, that’s how I know what kind of screwing we’ve been taking from PG&E. I know, a lot of people prefer to be ostriches – put their heads in the sand. Well, you know where that leaves your ass…

I even have copies of a month’s worth of the city’s PG&E bills, from last year. I’m waiting to go down and get the billing for the same month 2015. I’ll let you know what I find.

People who aren’t curious about this kind of stuff might as well paint a bull’s-eye on their rear end, as far as I’m concerned. 

We only have about $50 coming, so my husband had to ask, “Why bother?”  I reminded him, they just take it from our utility bills. I’m sick and tired of the taking.  I’d go in for that rebate if it was 5 cents, just to tell Chris Constantin, “you’re a thief, little man, you steal from the poor to line your nest!” 

I hope that gets in his guts, I hope it eats a hole the size of an SUV. 

 

 

Do your research on CARD budget, come to some meetings – we need to shut down their tax grab before it gets out of the gate

26 Apr

Chico Area Rec District (CARD) is going to be mounting a phone campaign, I’d say within the next couple of months, maybe sooner, to get the public to support a tax measure. They say the money will go toward a new aquatic center, but we’ll have to wait for the details. If they put the money in the General Fund it can be used for anything, including their pensions.

At the last board meeting I attended, the board approved the hiring of a consultant to conduct the phone campaign, we’ll see how long that takes. I will try to keep an eye on these meetings – regular board meetings are held once a month, on a Thursday around the 15th of the month. Board agendas are posted  on the website, in advance, so it’s easy to keep an eye on them.

http://www.chicorec.com/About-Card/CARD-Resources/Board-of-Directors/index.html

They are supposed to notice me if they have an Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meeting, but there’s all kinds of ways to get around the notice list, as I’ve seen over the last couple of years. Who cares about me anyway – the entire community needs to be in on this conversation, and  they need to do a little research to avoid being hood-winked. Here’s a letter I wrote about it to the Enterprise Record:

Last year Chico Area Recreation District announced that Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools had fallen so badly into disrepair they would be closed in 2016.

They’ve talked for over a decade about a new aquatic facility but excessive management salaries and fully paid benefits and pension have caused financial problems. In 2013 they cut staff hours to make a $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS for management pensions.   At an “emergency” meeting April 2, interim director Steve Visconti told the board, “with day-to-day operations, and all these projects, it’s really hard for staff…they are spread so thin…”  

CARD spent $25,000 surveying property owners in 2013 but the bond consultant reported “no support” in the community for an aquatic center, suggesting they mount a campaign to change public sentiment. CARD formed a committee that met without public scrutiny for over a year, contacting designers and other consultants. At the April 16 board meeting, former CARD director Jerry Hughes and Aqua Jets president Brad Geise recommended  a $30,000 phone campaign to convince taxpayers they need to pay for this project. The board approved. 

I’d like to caution the public – do some research on your own before you answer any questions.  CARD budgets, reports, and minutes of their past meetings are available on their website, under “Resources”. The State Controller website shows the salaries and compensation packages:  http://preview.tinyurl.com/nzn3n8c

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I don’t know if that link for the State Controller worked, here’s a regular link to that website:

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrict.aspx?fiscalyear=2013&entityid=1875

CARD management pay nothing toward their benefits or pensions.

When I talk to my friends who have grown up in Chico they are floored to find out CARD is closing Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools.  I took my kids to those pools for five or six years, and they were packed full for both the CARD swimming lessons and the “rec swim” every afternoon. I remember when people had to line up at 7am on Saturday mornings to sign their kids up for swim lessons, and they would, bringing drive-thru coffee and lawn chairs, staking out the line at 6:30 am three or four Saturdays every  summer.

The pools declined before our eyes. They  had needed to enlarge and update the restrooms at both pools for years, but nothing was done. I watched the same maintenance man lumber between both pools, cursing the equipment as he mended this and monkey-rigged that, trying to keep things running. I remember him admonishing the pool staff – “if you hear  that pump making that noise again, you shut it down!”

One day I listened to a contractor tell the manager at PV pool that the  pool had a crack, that’s why it wouldn’t heat, it was leaking too fast. He said it could be fixed for $2500. The manager responded he didn’t think CARD would pay for it, they wanted to build a new pool. I thought he meant, a new pool at that site, I didn’t know about the proposed aquatic center. Aqua Jets ended up leaving over that crack, taking their business to In Motion Fitness. I believe that loss of revenue really hurt CARD.

Sure, CARD management wants a new pool, but they know it won’t happen for years. Kids whose parents support this thing will not use it. They know most of the revenue will be eaten by administrative costs – their salaries, benefits and pensions. They also know the cost will climb steadily, probably double or triple the $10 – 18 million estimate range  consultant Greg Melton put on it. They know, it may never even happen.

I’ll keep you posted on the phone campaign.

 

 

Huntington Beach has overturned their bag ban – “the citizens of Huntington Beach are adults and deserve to be treated like adults who can make their own choice”

22 Apr

I think people in Huntington Beach California hit on an important point here – we are adults, and deserve to be treated like adults who can think for ourselves. The bag ban was “heavy handed government,” and not based on hard science, but on the hysteria of a few environmental zealots. Here’s an article from last January, when Huntington Beach council began the process of overturning their ban. Like Chico, they’d had a turnover in their November election, the councilors who’d strong-armed the ban onto the public were ousted. 

http://fighttheplasticbagban.com/2015/01/22/huntington-beach-city-council-votes-to-repeal-plastic-bag-ban/

The bag ban was clearly behavioral modification, and that’s not what we need out of our government. When God scratches, “thou shalt not use plastic film bags…” on a rock, and throws it through the windshield of my car, I’ll pay attention.

Yeah, now I’m wondering about Sorensen and his posse. We’ll have to see what happens in 2016 when the state bag ban ban goes up to the people. For a change.

No wonder the county behavioral health department can’t recruit people

22 Apr

I noticed this ad in the online Chico Enterprise Record. Butte County is looking for Behavioral Health workers. The Behavioral Health department is responsible for collecting “people who are a danger to themselves or the public” from Enloe Hospital when they are brought there by Chico PD, and transporting them to the mental health facility on Rio Lindo.   The county has three open positions:

Supervisor, Behavioral health clinician – $51,981 – $69,660 annually

Behavioral Health Clinician III – $49,476 – 66,304 annually

Behavioral health clinician II – $47,092 – 63,108 annually

You’ll find descriptions of duties here:

http://agency.governmentjobs.com/ventura/default.cfm?action=specbulletin&ClassSpecID=731127

http://www.mindspringshealth.org/careers/clinician-iii/

Please note – hirees are expected to deal, hands on, with “people who are a danger to themselves or the public.” Are they serious with these salaries – our city clerk makes over $135,000/year, plus benefits and pension, but they expect these employees to deal with “people who are a danger to themselves or the public” for less than $70,000 a year?

I did some investigating online – look what I found – an ad posted two years ago! same position!

http://www.counties.org/job-opportunity/behavioral-health-clinician-iii

Is it really surprising the county can’t fill these positions? A couple of years back they received a million dollar grant, most of which went to two salaries, one of them for a guy who doesn’t even set foot in Butte County – he supervises the other employees online? I think the supervisors need to pull their heads out of their frackasses on this one.

Chico PD has long complained about having to deal with “crazy” people. They are trained for a week at Butte College, that’s it. With that training they are expected to be able to tell the difference between the mentally ill and the consummate bullshitter. Would they know if they had a case of diabetes shock or multiple sclerosis on their hands? Not sure.  I know they’ve used this ill-placed responsibility to demand more money every time the contracts come around the pike. 

Let me point out – Chico PD officers are required very little college, paid average salaries over $100,000, plus overtime, benefits and pension at 90 percent of their highest year’s pay, at age 50. Oh yeah, and then there’s the gun.

Mayor Sorensen, I never said you got any money from the cops, I said they spent money electing you, and all it takes is one look at the reports to see the truth

20 Apr

 

Letter: ‘Police department money’ not a factor in election
Juanita Sumner’s reference to thousands of dollars of “police department money” influencing the 2014 Chico City Council campaign is simply false.In truth the Chico Police Officers Association (CPOA) spent a whopping $100.50 in the 2014 election to pay to rent the Council Chambers for a candidate forum which was open to the public.

In my 2014 campaign I received exactly $0 from the CPOA; $0 from Chico police officers, past or present; $0 from labor unions; and received $0 “police department money.”As for the independent expenditure committee (which had a former police chief as a figurehead and the issues of rising crime and dwindling police staffing among its concerns), it received exactly $0 from the CPOA; $0 from Chico police officers, past or present; $0 from labor unions; and $0 “police department money.” As always, all of the documentation is public record and is posted on the city website.

— Mark Sorensen, Chico

Here’s my letter Mark, read it again, LIAR!

 I was shocked by Chico councilwoman Reanette Fillmer’s ill-conceived and insensitive remark about approving another $1.46 million to Chico PD. She said, “you get what you pay for.”

Fillmer is mistaken – she gets what the taxpayers pay for.   Fillmer’s 2014 campaign was the run with 10’s of thousands in police department money. Now she, Sorensen and Coolidge, also the beneficiaries of generous donations from the police, have approved a new contract that allows more pay increases over the coming years. 
This is a clear conflict of interest, as pointed out by former city council candidate and one-time administrative law judge Joe Montes.  Montes dropped out of the 2014 campaign under mysterious circumstances, something about some other, unnamed people convincing him not to run. His charges of conflict of interest were never taken seriously. 
Fillmer is rude and insensitive to the taxpayers, obviously  knowing who  butters her bread. Will we get any accountability out of a council beholden to  public employee unions? I don’t think so.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Here’s the link to the clerk’s campaign reports:

http://www.chico.ca.us/city_clerk/campaign_disclosure_files/currentyearcds.asp

Here’s the link to ex police chief Mike Maloney’s PAC reports:

http://www.chico.ca.us/city_clerk/campaign_disclosure_files/documents/ChicoCitizensCampaignDisclosureForms_Redacted.pdf

Here’s what it says right at the top of Form 496:

Chico Citizens for Accountable Government, supporting the election of Fillmer, Sorensen and Coolidge for Chico City council 2014

Mike Maloney is a retired cop who sits on a pension of over $100,000/year, plus health insurance and COLA. He ran the PAC that spent the most money electing Sorensen, more than Sorensen spent on himself! And Sorensen, our Mayor, who is supposed to be a beacon of morality, like Scott Gruendl and Mary Flynn before him, plays it exactly right! It’s true, he received no money from these PACs. What he forgets to mention, is that they spent money on him

Kinda reminiscent of Donald Sterling and his whore, isn’t it?  Well, get used to it, cause this is what you can expect from your “leaders” over the next four or so years.

I’m not going back to the newspaper to argue with Sorensen – judging from remarks posted on my letter, there are other people who’ve been watching local government for a long time who agree with me. Rick Clements disagrees with me, so that should prove I’m right 🙂

Meanwhile, I received a note recently saying the Nature Center hasn’t made one payment on their loan since the meeting where Sorensen told me  “That’s enough!” when I asked them for their books. Not to mention, the city just wrote off a few hundred thousand in bad loans given to home buyers through the low-income loan program. 

Ain’t it great to have Fiscal Conservative Mark Sorensen watching the cookie jar!

CARD will run a phone campaign to talk public into paying for $10-18 million aquatic center

17 Apr

Last night the Chico Area Recreation District Board of Directors voted (Sneed, Malowney, and Ellis, Lando and Worley absent) to spend $25-30,000 on a consultant to run a phone campaign to get support for their proposed aquatic  center. 

Early estimates for a trio of designs ranged from $10 – 18 million. As former board member Ed Seagle said, these facilities never pay for themselves, the whole wad will have to come from the taxpayers in the form of a bond or assessment on our homes.  

I don’t know the exact boundaries of the district, but it includes Forest Ranch.

The task ahead will be to inform the voters about CARD’s sketchy history, their budget, their excessive salaries and benefits, the revolving door they seem to have on their directors, and pattern of poor spending decisions. Most recently they voted to spend over $150,000 on a rose garden instead of fixing the two existing swimming pools, scheduled to be closed in 2016 after years of neglect.

 

 

CARD board meeting tonight, Lakeside Pavilion, 7 pm – there will be a report from the Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee

16 Apr

Again, a meeting is taking my day. I say, it takes my whole day because I have to plan and rearrange to make room for it. And, it’s not the meeting I’ve been trying to get into – that’s the Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee, and you’ve read here the runaround I’ve got from CARD staffers Steve Visconti, Jennifer Marciales and now, Robert Hinderer, about being notified of those committee meetings so I could attend. Just last week they blew me off for a meeting, Hinderer making some bullshit excuse about my name not being on the right mailing list. 

Rob, this is why you don’t have any friends.

I’ll try to attend, because if you don’t play the game they try to say you’re not serious and dump you out of the loop. Even though this meeting is warmed over hash compared to what goes on in the committee meetings and the private conversations, I will try to attend, just to show face. There’s a lot of ridiculous face-showing in this business, it’s worse than a game of No Limit Holdem.

I have finally got some other people watching, and I want them to know I wasn’t just yanking their chain.

I wish more people would attend these board meetings though. I’ll say, they’re prompt, start at 7 pm, and usually over by 8:30, even 8:00. For me, the drive out to Lakeside Pavilion is onerous, but after seeing Maureen Kirk running all over the county, night meetings in Forest Ranch, then another night meeting in Chico, I feel lame for complaining about driving to a meeting. Hope to see a few new faces, the board seems to be malleable to public scrutiny. 

I would like somebody to stand up during the public comment period and ask about plans to salvage Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools- as far as I know, they plan to shutter these pools and hand them back to  the school district after the 2015 swim season. They’ve neglected those pools for years, it’s in the books. Now, instead of bringing those much used facilities back up to par,  they throw over $150,000 at a rose garden?

CARD is a recreation district, but they have gutted their funds with exorbitant salaries and benefits and pensions for which the employees pay NOTHING. You might have noticed, city and county workers pay a percentage, the cops have raised their share to 12 percent.  But CARD employees still enjoy 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at 55 for NOTHING.  Director Steve Visconti retired last year at about $112,000/year – do the math – that’s about $77,000 a year, with COLA, to do NOTHNG. CARD hired a new manager at about $117,000, but he left within six months because of a disagreement over the aquatic facility discussion – I think he wanted to put that to bed, tried to tell them it was crazy given their budget – and there he went. Now Visconti is back in – does he get an interim salary in addition to retirement pay? Now there’s another question you could ask during the public comment period! Get in there! 

A year or so ago they bottomed out their general fund making a $400,000 “side fund payoff” to CalPERS. Their general fund is still pretty tanked, they’ve had to let off most of their part time staff.  Now they try desperately to raise funds to keep the doors open – and the CalPERS payments made – with a rose garden wedding chapel? That’s why they said they were spending over $1 million on Lakeside Pavilion. They’re trying to compete with private industry, when they’re supposed to be providing low-cost recreation activities. All for the salaries, benefits and pensions of about 33 management employees, who are quickly running out of underlings to do the actual work. 

They expect volunteers to run the Junior Giants program, while they all get salaries in excess of $50,000 a year, plus fully-paid benefits and pension. The Giants, by the way, foot all the expenses for Junior Giants, they even train the volunteer coaches. They just need somebody to advertise the program locally, so CARD steps in like a wolf in the sheep pen.

Have you ever seen a sheep get pissed off? Here’s a guy we could all learn a lesson from:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdX4JobRCUc