Archive | September, 2015

Chico PD announces quarter cent sales tax increase campaign through “Business Support Team”

29 Sep

I don’t like the Annie B’s Foundation because it’s misleading. This is supposed to be a community fund through which the willing and able can channel their disposable dollars into various “community benefit” organizations. Lately it is more and more misused by public agencies phishing for money to cover their outrageous salaries, benefits and pension packages.

And, here’s something that makes my teeth hurt every time I read it – “In addition to receiving a grant from Annie B’s, The City of Chico will match your donation by 40-60%! If you give $100, this organization can receive an additional $50 or more, based on how much is raised!”

As a city of Chico taxpayer, I am forced to give to these organizations whether or not I believe they provide any kind of “community benefit.” 

Like Chico Police Department. They’ve found a way to use a good-will organization to get more money for themselves, through an outfit called “Chico Police Department Business Support Team.” Mysterious front man Jack Van Rossum was interviewed a couple of months ago on Alan Chamberlain’s podcast variety show “Chico Currents”.  Van Rossum makes it very clear – Chico PD runs this organization, telling Van Rossum and his friends what they want and sending them out to get the money for it, one way or another.

Not only is Van Rossum stumping for money from Annie B’s Foundation, with the 40-60% matching grant from the city of Chico, but he says CPDBST is asking Chico city council to place a quarter cent sales tax measure on the ballot, “specifically used only for the police department…the primary concern is staffing.”

Backing Van Rossum and the  CPDBST are organizations like Chico Chamber/Clean & Safe, Chico Rotary (of which Mayor Mark Sorensen is past president and an active member), Chico Exchange Club, and Neighborhood Church.  Van Rossum says members have been very generous – he mentions the license plate readers purchased in 2013, as though they were completely paid for out of the donation fund. He forgets to mention, “40 – 60%” of that money came out of the tax coffers. 

He mentions the city of Chico is “on the verge of bankruptcy.” But can still make a 40 – 60% match on charity funding? 

Van Rossum begins by describing the “close to a substation” Chico PD is requesting at Enloe Hospital – that’s what they want the Annie B’s/City of Chico charity handout for. Van Rossum claims police officers spend a lot of time at Enloe Emergency Room,  “because of their requirements when they deal with people they meet on the street…”  He says Enloe will give the space, but it needs to be outfitted with special radio equipment because the cops can’t use their cell phones or radios from inside the hospital. He also complains that the emergency room is “always backed up…the hospital does not provide priority to the police department.”    Anybody who’s ever been to Enloe ER, he says, “knows there’s a long tedious wait to get someone to serve you…” So, these officers need their own space to do “other work.” What other work? Their other work is outside the hospital.

Wow, I don’t know where to go with that – I sat at a meeting earlier this year and listened to the head of Butte County Behavioral Health talk about the new building the county just bought over near the old Chico Community Hospital. This building would house the staff who are supposed to meet the Chico PD officers at Enloe Hospital and take these “street people” off their hands, freeing police officers up to, well, get back to their jobs.  Here Van Rossum is telling us it’s their job to sit down at Enloe cooling their heels “in the cue…”  

So, we need to pay for a county building, and we need to provide a substation at Enloe Hospital? 

And then Van Rossum goes off on a bender about how the police department is having trouble filling the positions approved and funded by our “on the verge of bankruptcy” city because the police department is understaffed. Feel dizzy?

Here’s a direct quote: “the police department has a low morality.” Chamberlain didn’t correct Mr. Van Rossum, neither will I.

 Listen to the complete interview for yourself. This is the beginning of Clean and Safe’s campaign to raise our local sales tax. 

U-6, labor force participation, the poverty rate, and the New One Percent

28 Sep

I was just questioning the affordability of Cal Water’s proposed rate increase, here:

Since then I’ve been seeing more evidence that NONE of California can afford to foot the bill for Cal Water’s champagne lifestyle anymore. Read Dan Walters, here, in the Sac Bee, published just the other day.

Walters is talking about our “true unemployment rate” or U-6, “which counts not only workers who are officially unemployed, but those ‘marginally attached’ to the labor force and those involuntarily working part-time.”

In Chico, for example, we have hundreds of part-time CARD workers, who by a decision of the board, were cut to 28 hours or less so that CARD would not have to pay Obamacare on these people. Meanwhile, roughly 33 CARD management employees enjoy fully paid packages running as much as $23,000  a year and full retirement at age 55 – for which they pay nothing. 

Walters reports, “Our U-6 rate is 14 percent, down a bit from the recession but still the nation’s second-highest, topped only by Nevada’s 15.2 percent.”

And here’s something I had never heard before – Walters compares our unemployment figure with our employment figure – the “labor force participation rate”. 

“Finally, the true employment picture is affected by the “labor force participation rate,” the percentage of those in the prime working age group (16-64) working or seeking work. Ours is 62.3 percent, the lowest level in 40 years.”

So, “When more than a third of potential workers sit on the sidelines, the official unemployment rate, or even U-6, look much better than they truly are. The true underemployment rate may be closer to 20 percent.”

That sounds more like Chico to me, where most of the people I know are not as employed as they would like to be – construction workers who are not getting 40 hours a week even in this supposed “building boom” we’ve been hearing about, salespeople who are not making enough sales to earn a living, retail workers who are held to less than 30 hours a week because their boss, like CARD, can’t afford Obamacare. 

I talked about the poverty rate in Chico in a recent blog – that’s people living below the poverty level ($24,000/year for a family of four). Chico’s poverty rate is higher that California – 23% compared to 17% statewide. That’s according to,0613014

Statistics are tough – we aren’t counting all those street people, this is information given by households to the Census Bureau. “Household” meaning a group living under one roof. We also have the State Franchise Tax Board, the IRS, the Social Service administration and the welfare agencies. According to all those people, Chico is poor by state standards, even with all those public salaries over $100,000/year – it takes a lot of poor people to balance out Mike Ramsey and Mark Orme. 

So, we’re poor for California – according to Walters, California is poor by national standards.

Back to the poverty rate. It’s not only higher than the national rate, but as the California Budget and Policy Center points out, the data indicate that 22.7 percent of the state’s children are living in poverty, and they are nearly a third of all officially impoverished Californians.

As dark as that situation may sound, it’s actually worse. By the Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure, which uses broader factors including the cost of living – especially housing – 23.4 percent of Californians are impoverished.

Those data are bolstered by two other factoids. Nearly a third of California’s 39 million residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the federal-state health care program for the poor, and nearly 60 percent of K-12 students qualify for reduced-price or free lunches due to low family incomes.

According to the Census Bureau, a lot of Chicoans have no healthcare insurance, more than the state average, so yeah, we have a lot of people who are eligible/enrolled in Medi-Cal. 

I found another “factoid” site when I was looking at all these figures, the California Employment Development Department:

Above you will find the “High Wage Occupations” in Chico. Are you surprised to find it is mostly doctors and other medical professionals? Of course not, that’s come up before – doctors are the highest tier of the new One Percent who own most of the wealth in America, followed by professional athletes.

Are you surprised to find “Chief Executives” at Number Four in Chico? That includes public and private enterprises. In Butte County as well as Chico, I will throw out a guess – most of these positions are in the public sector, Dave Little just ran an editorial about it.

I would also include the “quasi-public” sector – the utility companies, like Cal Water and PG&E. Cal Water management pay nothing toward their benefits and pension, I haven’t been able  to find out about PG&E. 

The One Percent, vs the Ninety-Nine Percent who are too stupid to get it? 


Why has CARD neglected Shapiro Pool? Why would Laura Urseny say “there’s not much hope” when it can be rebuilt for less than a million dollars?

27 Sep

Chico Area Recreation District board heard a report from local pool builder James Dougherty on the condition of Shapiro Pool.  Shapiro Pool was built on school district property at Chico Junior High, but has been run by CARD for the last 20 or so years, not sure when CARD took over.

This report is a story of neglect. The things Dougherty has listed are all items that should have been included on an annual maintenance schedule, and kept up to date. There are building code, public health violations that have been going on untended for about 25 years. They have done nothing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act – apparently most CARD facilities are not ADA compliant, they’ve only recently spent $60,000 on a consultant to tell them how to get ADA compliant. 

ADA was first passed in 1990. There is absolutely no excuse for a public recreation agency like CARD to ignore the law.

Worse – right in the beginning of his report, Dougherty casually mentions that he was handed another consultant’s report from 2009. This was all reported in 2009 and NOTHING was done. 

If you want to read the full report, you will have to ask Willman for a copy – she did not send me a copy I could share or a link. You can reach Ann Willman at

The good news – and we all knew this –

  • the pool is big enough to accommodate local demand
  • the pool, deck, and surrounding grass areas are large enough to accommodate competitive swim meets

But here’s where everything goes downhill – 

  • the pool itself has features that are out-of-date and do not comply with current standards – such as gutters that make ” entry and exit difficult for children and mature adults.”  
  • the lights are inadequate for night swimming
  • the deck is cracked and that causes trip hazards – substandard patches have been made that exacerbate the situation
  • the pool plaster has deteriorated and there are sharp edges where metal has been exposed
  • they took out the diving board at some point but not properly, and now the remaining hardware “presents a trip hazard.”

Things were already going downhill 20 years ago when I took my kids to Shapiro Pool one day. The place was awful, the staff was awful, the kids there were out of control. The place got vandalized a  lot because it was obvious nobody cared about it, including CARD or the school district.

But here’s things I have only suspected:

1. The two pools have different loads during swim lessons, lap swimming and public swim sessions and CHSC and NISPS call for two separate recirculaüon and watertreatment systems. There is only one circulation system for both activity areas with equalizer lines connecting the two pools.

2.The pool re-circulation system is undersized to handle the flow per CHSC* FPSSR and FPSSA.

3. The bottom drains are undersized to meet current CHSC, FPSSA, and NISPS.

4. Thousands of gallons of heated, chlorinated, pH adjusted, alkalinity adjusted, calcium hardness flows through the gutters weekly, so the pool water level is normally kept below the gutter line and the code required skimming action is, for the most part, nonexistent. 

5. The chemical control is adequate, although staff reports some issues with tracking chlorine and maintaining desired chlorine levels, requiring frequent staff


6. The chlorine and acid feed pumps are of adequate size to handle the volume of the pool and the load.  The chemical feed lines are not double contained per current UFC ART 80 and OSHA standards

7. The chlorine and acid barrels are st01ed in such a way as to not meet current UFC and OSHA standards.

8. The steel high-rate sand filters keep up with the demand by patrons, however, is somewhat undersized to handle die six hour turnover flow rate called for by CHSC and NSIPS. In addition, this type of filter requires considerable backwashing time, using many more treated water gallons to clean the filter than do state-of-the-art sand filters. In addition, the backwash discharge plumbing does not have the CHCS and NSIPS “air gap clearance” above the backwash pit. 

9.  The heater is of conventional gas-fired, standard efficiency (75-78%)  It does not meet current “LowNox” air standards. 

Dougherty has included cost estimates. He says we could get Shapiro fixed up as good as new for about $568,000.  Compared to the millions they are asking to build their Taj Majal aquatic center, that’s peanuts. 

Here’s my guess – the CARD board isn’t really thinking about a swimming pool, they’re thinking they need to get a bond on our homes to pay down their pension obligation. 

Ann Willman has been telling the skateboard group she’s short of money and staff – well, that didn’t stop her from taking about a $10,000 increase over Steve Visconti’s salary.

Willman pays NOTHING toward her benefits and pension package, we pay $24,000/year to keep her in stretch pants for the rest of her life.

While you are at that website, look at Durham rec district, which has a budget of about $300,000/year, compared to CARD’s $5 million plus budget. They spend about $35,000 a year covering their employees, who must pay toward their own packages because the dollar amounts listed wouldn’t get you into Oroville Hospital.  Their pool – only one of their very nice amenities –  is in excellent condition, hosts swim meets. They even train lifeguards for CARD. Their director only makes $63,000 a year, and he has less employees to help do the work.  

People actually drive from Chico to swim at Durham’s pool. That’s called “leakage”. 

I’m going to ask Willman, what is CARD’s unmet pension liability? I’ll get back with her answer.




Guest blogger Scott Bailey: make skateboard park about skating and not a place to drink or do drugs

24 Sep

Scott Bailey,  a teacher at Table Mountain School in Oroville, has approached Chico Area Recreation District about dealing with the problems surrounding the skateboard park on Humboldt Ave. As he says, this discussion has stalled in CARD meetings for a couple of years now. CARD’s former maintenance manager Jake (can’t remember his last name) wanted to get rid of the park altogether, frustrated with a lack of action from the board, he finally left CARD. He was the guy who had to deal physically with the human filth and vandalism that has plagued that park almost since it was built. He also had to field complaints of inappropriate activities.

BMX bikes are not supposed to use the skateboard park. When I found this video I was looking for one I’d seen about a year ago in which a small car was driven around our little skatepark, really fast and furious. Not to mention, the usual drug and alcohol activities that aren’t caught on video. 

So, below, Scott Bailey details efforts to fix the current skateboard park and maybe get a bigger one at DeGarmo Park. What impresses me, is that the aquatics center group was never asked to do any of this stuff. Read on. 


Prior to the skatepark being on the agenda with CARD for September, I met with Ann Willmann, the new general manager, to discuss the topic. Ann and I worked a bit together when she was in Oroville and she was instrumental in getting replacement skatelite (smooth skateable surface material) for the Oroville park. Our meeting in Chico was really just to discuss the major issues: underbuilt park, lack of draw for adults and families with cars, issues with non skaters (drugs and alcohol, homeless presence), too much “hang out” space, surrounding cities with nice skateparks and far less population size, what is needed to bring in adult skaters, and more.

Ann informed me that with the current unfilled staff positions and several projects she is currently working on, that she would be asking to table the skatepark agenda until January. This was frustrating because the skatepark has a history of being tabled. In fact, last summer CARD held a series of sub-meetings with local skaters to discuss similar issues and even though a draft was created of the results, they were never presented to the CARD board. Instead they were tabled. Needless to say, I walked into the September CARD meeting ready to defend why it is so important that we move on this now.

The goals of our group, Chico Skatepark Solutions, are to eliminate the grass and seating areas in and next to the park and to replace those items with quality skateboard amenities. Our plan includes offering things that will bring in adult skaters and families. Currently adult and family skaters travel to neighboring communities and beyond to skateboard nice parks. If we make the Chico park into a nice park with challenging events, those skaters will be in Chico and will help to increase the adult supervision in the park. Eliminating the “hang out” spots will also help to make the park about skating and not a place to drink or do drugs.

The Chico CARD board all seemed very interested in making the skatepark expansion happen and in moving towards the solution now. They specifically asked about the cost of such an endeavor and we let them know that the bare bones for building a skateboard bowl would be approximately $60,000, but if we want to make quality changes, it will be closer to $120,000. The board was very pleased that this was such an attainable number and even discussed parks money that the City Council oversees that may work for the project. It was decided that an ad hoc committee would be formed, including board member Jan Sneed, and possibly Tom Lando. Ann Willmann will also be part of the committee as will the Chico Skatepark Solutions group.

We are hopeful that this momentum will continue and that the skatepark expansion will happen in a timely fashion. We have recently been given permission from producer, Greg Hunt, to show his new Vans skateboarding film, Propeller, as a fundraising event and we are waiting for a reply from Sierra Nevada Brewery if they will donate the Big Room as a venue and also donate the dinner for the event. We have been in contact with Grindline and Evergreen skateparks to ask about help with developing plans for the area. We have also approached a printing company about making T-Shirts that will bring in some money and help show the community commitment to making this project come to fruition. Additionally, we have contacted Golden Valley Bank to potentially create a non-profit account under their 501c3 umbrella. Ultimately, we will become a non-profit organization ourselves as we move forward and in the future we will also help with a new skatepark at Degarmo.

Are Cal Water’s rates affordable for Butte County?

23 Sep



Kern County Board of Supervisors has stood up for their constituents and mounted a formal protest against Cal Water’s latest rate hike. One of the reasons listed in their argument ‘against’ is “affordability”. They claim that Cal Water rates are already not affordable for many residents of Kern County, including Bakersfield, where the census bureau lists the median income at around $56,000/year and a poverty rate of about 20 percent. 

“The EPA’s recommended affordability threshold for water and wastewater costs combined is 2.5% of income, and the California Department of Public Health sets affordability at 1.5% of income,” Supervisor Couch said. “Cal Water’s current rates in the Kern River Valley already far surpass the affordable level and would climb even higher under the current rate proposal. “

Something else Chico has in common with Bakersfield is the little “!” next to the listings “persons in poverty” and “persons without health insurance”.  Chico has a poverty rating – that’s people living below the poverty level (for a family of 4 it’s about $25,000/year) – of 23%. The state level is only about 16%, and for Butte County it’s 20.4%. 

The median income in Chico, even with all these public salaries, is only $43,752. Those dirt daubers in Bakersfield are making a median  income of $56,204.  I would guess that might be because Bakersfield is also the seat of Kern County, so there are a lot of public salaries there too. 

This rate increase is unreasonable, an obvious grab for money to pay down their pension liability. 

From Census Bureau Quick Facts,0613014


Kern County supervisors vote to formally oppose Cal Water rate hike – what are our local elected officials doing about it?

23 Sep
Kern County Supervisors voted unanimously today to actively oppose a water rate increase by the County’s largest water supplier, California Water Service (CWS).   The action allows the county to officially intervene in a proceeding before the California Public Utilities Commission, which is considering CWS’s request to raise water rates up to 19.2% in Bakersfield and 10.5% in the Kern River Valley.

Supervisors said they believe it is unfair to expect these residents to absorb such a large increase in their water budget, particularly since CWS has not offered sufficient financial justification for the rate increases.

“More than half of Cal Water’s Bakersfield and Kern River Valley residents have low to moderate incomes or are senior citizens living on fixed incomes,” Board of Supervisors Chairman David Couch said. “This rate increase would impose a significant hardship on these people.”

Supervisors said they have many questions regarding the need for rate increases that could send water bills for CWS customers in Bakersfield to an average of $1,176 per year and as high as $1,596 on average in the Kern River Valley. The rate increases would come on top of higher water rates approved in 2013.

CWS’ proposal would raise rates incrementally over three years (2017, 2018 and 2019). Its CPUC filing claims the increases are necessary to replace water lines and upgrade facilities in the region, but Supervisors question whether CWS has been providing responsive and effective water service in return for the rates it charges, and they expressed strong concerns about the affordability of the proposed increases.

“The EPA’s recommended affordability threshold for water and wastewater costs combined is 2.5% of income, and the California Department of Public Health sets affordability at 1.5% of income,” Supervisor Couch said. “Cal Water’s current rates in the Kern River Valley already far surpass the affordable level and would climb even higher under the current rate proposal. In Bakersfield, half of Cal Water’s customers have incomes below the federal poverty level, and their water bills will be nearly 50% higher than the affordable threshold if this is approved.”
Couch said county officials will provide formal testimony in opposition to the rate increase later this year.

Reader makes some good points

21 Sep

Reader James made a comment on

“I have read that with so many PG&E and other power company ratepayers going to solar to reduce their bills, the power companies are/will be faced with revenue shortfalls.”

I did a little checking and I wanted to clarify – PG&E actually makes money on solar.  They buy it from their customers for about 4 cents a kwh, then turn around and sell it for 16 – 33 cents (baseline to Tier 4).

James also reasoned “ there are legitimate costs for upkeep, repairs, replacement, upgrading etc, as well as salaries/benefits. “

That’s true. I’m asking anybody who sees PG&E or Cal Water engaged in any  of those activities in Chico to send me a photo.