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.

What about assessment districts?

20 Sep

Word Press provides statistics about my readers, my favorite of which is the search terms by which people arrive at this site.

This week’s prize goes to the individual who punched in “bullshit district assessments”

Because assessment districts are bullshit.   A district that is formed to take your money based on some service that you most likely would not have asked for and will very likely never receive. 

Take the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District. These guys just put a bond on all our homes a couple of years ago, through a process by which people who own more properties get more votes, and your assessment is based on acreage. Here’s the thing – homeowners who live on a quarter acre pay more than rice farmers who flood thousands of acres of mosquito habitat a year. 

Chico pays – I pay for 11 houses because that’s what the city of Chico has planned for my two acres. But I keep up with the spray notices – they only spray South Chico. My complaint is not that I want spraying – I haven’t seen a mosquito all Summer. So, why am I paying $20 a year for mosquito fogging? 

Where do they spray? Mostly the rice fields and towns like Biggs and Gridley. Why do they need the money? Mostly for management – see here:

They have a Taj Majal HQ  over at Otterson Park where they have a manager, assistant manager, and office manager who take over $300,000 in salary just between them, and another $100,000+ in benefits and pension. District Manager Matt Ball told me they only paid 3% of their benefits and pension – he was glad to say that had been raised from 1%. 

Notice how salaries go down rapidly for the people who actually do the service. A pilot who spray toxins all over Butte County makes less than a guy with soft hands who sits at the office, in Chico, all day?

And then there’s CARD, who has cut their lower-paid, unbenefitted staffers, in favor of raising management salaries over $100,000 a year. CARD management pay nothing toward their benefits and pension, which are about the same as Butte Vectors.

CARD will put a bond measure on the ballot in 2016.

Yes, assessment districts are bullshit. See how many assessment districts run out of Butte County:

This adds to the cost of housing and everything else in our town and county, not only through assessments on our homes but because these outrageous salaries raise the cost of everything from housing to daycare to healthcare to groceries and gas. 

You might have seen the “ratesucker” commercial run by some auto insurer. It’s funny as hell, and it’s true – bad drivers add to your insurance costs no matter how good a driver you are. Well, bad voters, asleep-at-the-wheel rate and taxpayers, and corrupt politicians and public employees do the same thing to your cost of living. 


How many ordinances do we need to clean up the park and get rid of the criminals?

15 Sep

Today I had some errands Downtown, so I set off on my bike about 1pm, on the usual trek through lower Bidwell Park and over the creek via various trails, bridges and subways. As the park becomes more overgrown and the trails deteriorate it’s become more of a gauntlet.

I have never liked the subway at Annie’s Glen. I wanted to believe it would encourage more, hmmmm, should I say appropriate use, of that part of the park, and provide a safe passage over a very busy car zone, but I knew it would become a pee-smelling dungeon of horror.

I was trying to get a good picture when a cyclist entered the tunnel and I got out of the way.

I couldn’t get a better picture of the tags, the litter, or the still wet puddles of pee.

The tunnel is dark and the light shining in at the end washes the shot. I didn’t want to stand around down there too long – it stinks, and you have to be careful somebody doesn’t come along and run you over. As I was standing there, a man carrying a dirty back pack and covered in grime himself, slowed to a stop and said “Hi” way too friendly. I got on my bike and left.

The whole park gives me the creeps. Overgrown weeds, stands of dead trees, fallen piles of dead limbs, and overgrown poison oak as far as the eye can see. Long used trails, both paved and unpaved, undermined by gophers.

Here the bike trail is crumbling into the weeds.

Here the paved bike trail is crumbling into the weeds.


Broken pavement is dangerous for bikes and pedestrians, a real liability for the city of Chico.

Broken pavement is dangerous for bikes and pedestrians, a real liability for the city of Chico.

I wanted to take more pictures, but I’ll tell you what – I don’t feel safe milling around Bidwell Park by myself, anywhere in the park, any time of day. Every time I stopped to hold my  camera to my face, I could hear some cop saying, “well, you really got to keep an eye out for yourself Ma’am…”  I felt uncomfortable taking my hand off my bike to steady the camera.

It’s not just the park, of course.  How about that sign on the post office annex on Vallombrosa – after it’s been open 24 hours for years, they’re closing it at 10pm, until 7am, “due to security concerns.” How many of our personal freedoms will we end up handing over to these creeps? 

Clean and Safe, a group started by Downtown business owners, in partnership with the city of Chico, Chico Police, Chico Chamber and Downtown Business Association, held a press conference to talk about a general feeling of insecurity around town, the rise in crime, and the filth in our public areas. They’re asking citizens to come out for a creek clean-up this weekend.

I’ve participated in public clean-ups run by Butte Environmental Council, but I feel this has become a job that goes way beyond the scope of a feel-good volunteer weekend. They’re talking about deconstructing homeless camps, dealing with human feces, old bedding and clothes that could be contaminated with bed bugs and scabies, hypodermic needles, and all kinds of questionable debris. 

Here’s a red light – they want all participants to sign a waiver of liability.  BEC has never asked me to sign anything like that. 

I did stop at One Mile to take a picture of the work being done there at the parking lot. They’ve contracted with Butte County sheriff for low-risk “home release” inmates. Wow, this is just the kind of work they should be doing all over the park.

Here at the parking lot at One Mile they've cleaned away non-native species and just plain dead stuff.

Here at the parking lot at One Mile they’ve cleaned away non-native species and just plain dead stuff.


Here's a pile of Vinca they've just rolled away - Vinca is non-native, pushes out natives, and makes a great hiding place for  rats.

Here’s a pile of Vinca they’ve just rolled away – Vinca is non-native, pushes out natives, and makes a great hiding place for rats.


Wow! There's the usual pile of broken beer bottles.

Wow! There’s the usual pile of broken beer bottles at center.


Here's our crew - "home-release" inmates from Butte County jail.

Here’s our crew. The guy in the reflective vest is jumping up and down on a pile of stuff they’ve loaded into the dumpster. 

While I love what they’re doing, I wish they would move it along a little. It’s been going on for a few weeks now. These people are obviously not professionals. It’s a physically demanding job, they should have better equipment, better shoes and clothes too. They move like people who are doing it for free. 

Some friends of ours who live in Forest Ranch got their entire five acres swept like this by a professional outfit with industrial power tools, arranged through Butte Fire Safe Council. It cost them $900 and it was done in three days.

Looking at Bidwell Park right now, you see what would be considered egregious fire code violations only 15 minutes into the hills. That park cuts a swath right through some of the most heavily populated areas of our town.

The overgrowth and neglect of public properties just invites camping and other illegal activities being reported throughout the park and other water ways in town.  The park and creeks serve as highways for criminals to predate our neighborhoods. 

Cleaning up their camps just allows them to come back and make a new mess. 

I feel the police need to be more aggressive in their sweeps of these areas. I think they should do a different section of park or water way every day, and use the kind of lines used in cadaver searches – line up arms’ length apart with people from fence to creek, and literally beat the bushes. They should continue this aggressive policy until they stop finding people camping in these areas.  I don’t know what they’re doing, but we keep seeing pictures of extensive, filthy abandoned camps under bridges and other obvious places, camps that were obviously built and lived in over a long period of time, at least a week – but we wait until they leave and then we clean it up?  


I’m assuming this is what is behind Clean and Safe’s efforts to get a new ordinance, extending the Sit and Lie ordinance, which was written specifically only for Downtown Chico, to creeks and other public greenways. I don’t know how many ordinances they will have to pass before things get better. 










Latest police logs show car burglaries – with windows smashed out – on the rise in Chico

11 Sep

Almost a month ago, my husband and I encountered broken glass littering the ground at the park entrance there where Centennial meets Chico Canyon Road.  It was obvious cars had been broken into, at least four of them, right there at a popular parking lot in full view of the road. 

I was shocked that a person had just driven right up and parked on top of an obvious crime scene.

This picture was taken the morning of August 19. I was shocked that a person had just driven right up and parked on top of an obvious crime scene.

There were about a half dozen newer model cars parked there, never mind the scattered safety glass.  I wondered if people realize how many cars are broken into in various parts of the park and surrounding areas, and I’ve been watching the police logs run in the Enterprise Record. 

I was shocked to see what appears to be a jump in crime, specifically vehicle burglaries. Maybe they’re reporting better? Today I saw a lot more stuff listed than I’ve seen over the last few weeks. 

For example, did you know, there were 16 vehicle burglaries reported in the paper for the period of six days between September 4 and September 9? A vehicle burglary means something was taken without the owner’s permission from within the car, whether the car was broken into by force or the thief got in through an unlocked door or window. If the car got stolen, that’s a vehicle theft. In 10 of those vehicle burglaries, the cars were broken into, 9 of them through a smashed window. Maybe you read the blog in which I posted this video:

This is so for real, “ninja rocks”, or ceramic or porcelain spark plug chips or pieces”, were added to the California burglary code, possession a misdemeanor worth six months in jail or a $1,000 fine:

When I wrote that last blog a month ago, I realized, something like that is so easy to carry and dispose of, good luck ever catching anybody with them. You’d have to catch a fella in his sleep, catch him at something else illegal – say, illegal camping – and find things like that through a legal search.

The cops have been rousting bums at One Mile lately, it’s their latest campaign. They come in about 5 am and, I’m assuming, sweep the picnic tables and the ball field, maybe the roads and bigger trails directly around One Mile, with flashlights. So far I think they’ve busted about half dozen illegal campers, including some people with warrants or in possession of drugs. But no “ninja rocks” so far. 

Critics have pointed out that One Mile isn’t the only place the bums are camping. There are camps all through the over grown muck from Sycamore Pool to Five Mile, and beyond. You see the garbage littering the blackberry stands, toilet paper fluttering gaily from a dead  tree branch,  backpacks/bindles stuffed into the bushes along the dirt trails, stashed away for the owner to pick up later? I’ve seen a lot of abandoned underwear, just hanging in the bushes. 

This morning about 9am we were riding some trails in Middle Park, just below Manzanita Ave, when we smelled a wet campfire. I know there was a fire in town, but this was close, and very wet. I suspect people are camping without fear in the vast overgrowth between the creek and Vallombrosa, and I don’t know if the cops are going in there. I’m afraid they focus their efforts in areas like One Mile, and they’re just pushing the illegal campers farther up into the park. When the focused on the Downtown area they pushed them onto the Mangrove corridor and into those neighborhoods along Mangrove and Vallombrosa. 

The first thing I would say is, I’m not talking about the truly needy, or the mentally ill, I’m talking about the criminal element that swims among those others and even predates on them.

I believe the police could be more aggressive in enforcing the laws against camping on public property – that would seem simple enough. It’s covered in the city code, first in Title 9 – “Public Peace, Safety and Morals”,   “Except as otherwise provided in this Chapter, it is unlawful and a public nuisance for any person to camp or occupy camp facilities on any public property or any private property which is not operated and maintained as a campground in conformance with the regulations set forth in Title 19 of this code.”

‘Camp’ means to place, pitch or occupy camp facilities; to live temporarily in a camp facility or outdoors.”  And, “’Camp facilities’ include, but are not limited to, tents, huts, vehicles, recreational vehicles, or temporary shelters”

I will say, the definitions seem to indicate there’s some sort of structure involved. Does this leave a loophole for the bum who sleeps on the ground under the stars? I don’t think so. I think that’s covered under the prohibition on “Depositing Foreign Matter in Public Ways,” which prohibits leaving “any glass, broken wares, hay, straw, dirt, rubbish, garbage, waste matter, filth, butcher’s offal, or branches of trees” laying around on public or private property. 

Vice Mayor Sean Morgan, Busy Bee he is, is proposing to “broaden” the “Sit and Lie” ordinance passed a couple of years ago, (which pretty simply prohibits people from laying on sidewalks Downtown) to our parks and riparian areas, even the grass around City Hall.

The City of Chico (“City”) currently has an Ordinance Prohibiting Sitting and Lying on Sidewalks in Specified Areas (“Obstruction Ordinance”); however, the City Staff recommends adoption of the attached Ordinance to broaden the language of the existing Ordinance to eliminate potential obstructions to the public right-of-way and interference with public property. Furthermore, the proposed Ordinance will designate City Hall and the immediate surrounding area as the City’s Civic Center and allow and prohibit a set of uses that preserve government and civic functions. Lastly, the City does not have regulations in place to protect its creeks, tributaries, riparian corridors and associated natural resources. The proposed Ordinance will create comprehensive regulations specifically prohibiting deleterious activities, such as: disturbing natural resources; staying or camping overnight; entering unauthorized areas; possessing alcoholic beverages; littering and illegal dumping; urinating and defecating; and discharging weapons and fireworks, in the City’s waterways.

First of all, I think our current code covers the problem, makes it pretty clear. Why they had to spend more money having the law consultant write this up is beyond me. Second of all, I’m not really sure what I think of the part where “the proposed Ordinance will designate City Hall and the immediate surrounding area as the City’s Civic Center and allow and prohibit a set of uses that preserve government and civic functions.”  

So, who gets to pick and choose which activities are appropriate for the open space around city hall? I don’t like the sound of that.

When Chico PD screamed for Sit and Lie, I happened to find an article from 10 years ago in the News and Review, regarding a similar ordinance they’d passed way back then, an ordinance that specifically banned lying on sidewalks, panhandling within certain specific boundaries, and many of the other activities the cops were ignoring. They said they needed a stricter ordinance. I didn’t get that, and I don’t get this. 

I do notice, crime is getting worse and worse in Chico.