Archive | October, 2015

If you attended the dog and pony show without attending the AFAC meeting, you are being misled

29 Oct

Ann Willmann dropped a little bomb yesterday as she started the Aquatic Facility committee meeting – she announced there would be a public meeting at 7pm last night!   She had noticed me of the AFAC meeting, yesterday, 4pm, but didn’t think I’d be interested in the public meeting held later that evening? Apparently she advertised it somewhere, I’m guessing, about a 4 x 4 ad buried in the back pages of the ER. She announced she’d had 12 e-mail responses – I’m going to throw out another guess here – those were from the people she personally noticed, none of which was me.

Willmann is doing everything she can to shove this aquatic center past the voter’s nose and down our throats. Of course, in the mindless chatter that accompanies all these meetings, she said her son is on a swim team that hopes to use the facility. That’s what this is all about – a pack of dogs making demands for a bigger share of meat for themselves.

If you were not at yesterday’s AFAC meeting, you are being misled. The consultants are here to try and make us believe we need to build a pool for Chico Swim Association.  But, I notice, they are also trying to reel this committee into a more reasonable project – I believe Dennis from Aquatics Design Group was trying to tell them it would be more reasonable and rational to repair the two existing pools. Of course, he is all about getting the taxpayers to float some sort of bond or sales tax increase, but at least he’s trying to calm these people into accepting a more rational end figure.

He told a story about a group he worked with in Walnut Grove. When they handed him a Christmas list of goodies, he handed them back a $29 million price tag. They were shocked. He told them, like he was trying  to tell this group of dummies yesterday, “why don’t you find out what you can afford and give me a call…” They came up with $12 million. 

This group wants all the bells and whistles. At one point, members were discussing the different pool temperatures required for different activities – toddler swim lessons and therapy activities need about 10 degrees warmer water than competition practice. Tom Lando asked, exasperated, “is there no innovative technology to heat water?!”  The sky is the limit for Lando, who makes almost $150,000/year IN PENSION. Both the consultant and committee member Haley Cope rolled their eyes and said “yes, but it’s reeeeeaaaaallllly expensive.”  

Lando is really pushing this project, but I don’t believe he is sincere when he says it’s for the good of the community. He has to keep the money rolling into CalPERS to pay his own pension, I think that’s his biggest motivator. $150,000/year – that’s more than $10,000/month! Where does it all go Tom? Care to throw down $100,000 to pay for the consultants we’ve had in on this thing?

Former CARD directors, past board members, and current pension obligations Ed Seagle and Jerry Hughes both reminded us that CARD ran a survey a couple of years ago that came back negative – Jerry said  it – Chico taxpayers are not willing to pay for this project. Seagle also reminded everybody, these projects never pay for themselves, ever. The consultants told them again and again – at best, they could hope for a “35 – 45% return” from users of this facility, they kept repeating – this pig will have to be subsidized by the voters.

Loren from “Sports Management Group” said the taxpayers have to pay for it – “the community has to make a decision about things worth having…” She said, “you can find a bazillion partners who want to use it, but they don’t bring anything of material value…” Meaning, they don’t want to raise money for funding, and then they don’t want to pay fees based on actual cost. She reminded the group – it’s about “price sensitivity…if you make it cheap enough, everybody will want to use it, and then it’s not big enough…” 

So, let’s face it, this project is a money pit, and here she’s admitting, the users will never pay for it. At one point, citing a job they did in the city of El Paso, Texas, Dennis reported, it was determined that only about 15 percent of the total population would even use the facility. 

Yes, we need swimming pools here. We have two that have been steadily used for years, while meeting the needs of the community, that have been neglected into dysfunction. I used those pools for about 10 years when my kids were small, they were always well attended, but never so crowded that we had to wait in line for anything. Sometimes Shapiro would get kind of hoppin’, and the diving board would get backed up.

In the beginning the pools were clean, the staff was nice and eager to please, they knew the kids by name, played games, mandated “Time Outs”. But, by the time my younger son was in lessons, snot hung in the pool (now we find out the filter at Shapiro has not functioned properly for years), the decks were littered with trash from forbidden food, and the staff would stand around in a circle with their backs to the swimmers and chatter gossip. If you asked them for something they acted like you were standing on their junk. 

When I read the report given by a local pool company, I was shocked to see that CARD, who has been responsible for the pools and their finances for years, had not even kept the pools up to code. Nevermind the ADA – that’s the Americans With Disabilities Act – I’m talking about the health and safety code.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/09/27/why-has-card-neglected-shapiro-pool-why-would-laura-urseny-say-theres-not-much-hope-when-it-can-be-rebuilt-for-less-than-a-million-dollars/

There are trip hazards on the deck at Shapiro, for example – some created by the improper removal of the popular diving board.  

Chico is a city of over 80,000. I can’t believe CARD would so badly mismanage our pools. In the meantime, they’ve continued to pay 100 percent of their management pensions, with a $1.7 million pension liability hanging like a wrecking ball. As I sat in that room yesterday, I looked around at four pension liabilities sitting right in front of me – Seagle, Hughes, Lando and Willman – none of whom pay or paid a penny toward their own retirement.

Just imagine getting a check for $10,000/month, for nothing.  Wow, wouldn’t you think a guy like Tom Lando, who is so quick to put a sales tax increase to the rest of us, would yank out his checkbook and cut a quick one for $10,000? Hey, how about $100,000 Tom? 

The whole meeting yesterday was insulting and outrageous. Yes, Aqua Jets was the only organization represented – none of the other “users”, as Loren speculated, are bringing anything to the table. Aqua Jets has done no fundraising for this project. Yes, they expect all the bells and whistles and the public to pay for it. 

When I get a chance, I’ll sit down and work off my notes, but right now I’m afraid having to hash it all over again would ruin my day. Committee members Haley Cope and Jackie Santos made some really insulting remarks – they wouldn’t have made those remarks in a public meeting, I’ll tell you that right now. 

UPDATE: Here’s the “public notice” Willmann ran with help from her pet news reporter Laura Urseny – notice the date and time this article was posted – 11am, the day of. No wonder only 25 participants – Willmann needs to go. 

CARD seeking pool-related comments at Oct. 28 meeting

Chico >> Chico residents will have a chance to comment about a proposed aquatics facility through the Chico Area Recreation and Park District.

A consultant hired by CARD will be taking input starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Chico Community Center, 545 Vallombrosa Ave.

There is no specific design in mind, but this workshop will help CARD decide what the facility should look like and what activities need to be considered.

CARD’s board has agreed to pay Aquatics Design Group of Carlsbad $50,000, plus $10,000 contingent for the feasibility study.

Willmann says there will be a short program, and then people will be asked to offer their ideas and desires.

CARD hopes to have preliminary information and a broad — not defined — design before Christmas. It will take from five to six months for a finished product to come from the consultants, Willmann said.

During the two-day visit this month, the consultants will also be sitting down one-on-one with stakeholders like competitive and recreational swim groups to get a feel for the swim and water communities, as well as CARD’s aquatics subcommittee.

But the open house is especially designed for the general public.

“It would be nice to have people like parents or grandparents, and to hear what the community wants,” Willmann said.

Willmann said she would ask the community “If there was a different type of pool, what would encourage me to use it?”

Information gathered from previous meetings will be shared with the consultant as well, she said.

The consultants will also be weighing-in on the existing pools CARD uses, which are the ones by Bidwell and Chico junior highs.

At its last board meeting, CARD directors agreed to keep Chico Junior’s Shapiro Pool open through March. Because of its age and amount of maintenance it takes, CARD was going to discontinue its lease of the pool. Both public pools are owned by the Chico Unified School District, which has not been interested in taking over their operation from CARD.

Willmann said one benefit the consultant will bring is the ability to see how much revenue will be brought to CARD depending on the design and size of the proposed facility.

There is no designated budget for the project yet, other than what the consultant will be getting.

Those who can’t make the meeting can write emails or letters to Willmann through annw@chicorec.com or CARD, 545 Vallombrosa Ave., Chico 95926.

Contact reporter Laura Urseny at 896-7756.

Airport Commission will not recommend AVPorts; CARD committee will hear from $60,000 swimming pool consultant tonight

28 Oct

At last, good news to report.  The Airport Commission will not recommend hiring AVPorts to manage the airport – just when I thought these guys would trade a cow for a bag of magic beans.

And, here’s the refreshing part – 13 people lined up in the council chambers to tell the commission not to recommend this deal. That’s actually a lot of people to attend one of these commission meetings. They all said they thought AVPorts’ proposal was too expensive and many felt AVPorts was making promises they could never keep. For one thing, somebody pointed out, AVPorts has never successfully brought commercial service back to any airport they’ve worked for, and that was the carrot they’ve been dangling for months now. 

Some people opined that “there’s no hope” for regaining commercial service.  I’m glad to hear that – why we need commercial service with Sacramento International Airport less than a two hour drive up a road we’ve spent millions of tax dollars improving is beyond me. The commercial service conversation is being kept afloat by a very small group of self-servers, who, as my grandma used to say, can’t see past the end of their own nose. They want commercial air service, for themselves, for their puffed up visions of what Chico is “supposed to be“, so they don’t have to feel as though they come from a podunk town when they are hobnobbing with their expensive friends in the Bay Area and LA. They’re embarrassed of our town because we don’t have big, stinking jets flying over our homes, dropping space peanuts through our roofs?

It’s hard to relate to this crowd – maybe because they don’t really live in Chico, they live on the road and in the air between their “homes” – storage units – in the Bay Area and Hawaii and other wonderful places. Chico is just one of the places they temporarily hang their hat, sticking their johnson into our business here for their personal gain and then hitting the road for better prospects. I’ve met these people through these meetings Downtown, I get to know their faces just about the time they pack up their carpet bag and head for some other little burg that still has a few loose bucks to grease their palms. 

AVPorts got about $200,000, just for coming to Chico and entertaining us at a couple of meetings. I’m still laughing about the idea of putting city staffers in pilot’s and stewardess uniforms, having them walk around City Plaza during functions, acting like, “Flying is FUN!”  Brings back memories of a, uh, simpler time…

The real simpletons here are the council who agreed to this deal. AVPorts actually mentioned hiring a specific person – Rod Dinger, who has run Redding Airport. What’s wrong with our council and staff? Why can’t they just hire an airport manager?  We need a $200,000 consultant to hire a person? 

The same thing is going on at Chico Area Recreation District this afternoon, 4pm, CARD Center on Vallombrosa. A consultant will report on the $60,000 “feasibility study” being run to get the voters to put a bond on their homes to pay, not really for an aquatic center, but for the $1.7 million pension deficit currently hanging over CARD, and CalPERS, like a time bomb. I’d sure like to think 13 members of the public would come in to express their concerns about CARD’s spending policies – especially now that they are thinking of taking over the Nature Center, including another management salary, and promising money for projects like the recent pump track and improvements at the skate park. In 2012 they laid off employees and cut hours so they could avoid paying Obamacare for their hourly workers, opting instead to make a $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS toward salaried management pensions. Current CARD management pay NOTHING toward their own pensions out of salaries over $100,000.

They also ran a survey a couple of years ago that came back negative – the taxpayers do not support a bond for a facility that will primarily be used for private clubs.  But the CARD board recently voted to spend another $60,000 trying to tell us we do! Helloooooo? 

Meetings People, you got to attend the meetings.

 

Noise ordinance causes conflict of tenant rights

20 Oct

Chico Mayor Mark Sorensen agendized a discussion of the noise ordinance at tonight’s council meeting – they want to hold landlords responsible, without a written complaint, and expect to be able to use mail as “proof of service.” 

This is an obvious revenue grab by the cops. When I saw an article about a similar situation in Yuba County, I sent Mayor Sorensen a note – it took me less than 15 minutes to write, send, and post this note on this blog:

Mayor Sorensen,

Regarding the discussion of the noise ordinance provision to fine landlords – please read Yuba County Superior Court judge’s decision below regarding fines on landlord for tenant’s illegal activities.  “Property owners have argued the county’s actions violates their property rights and places them in direct conflict with state law that protects tenant’s rights. They have claimed county code provides for exceptions to the owners responsibility and that is being ignored by the BOS. In his order, Barrier concurred saying there are exceptions to an owners responsibility if the owner did not cause, permit, or otherwise allow the existence of the violation and cannot legally abate said violation…” 

 

 I believe this rings true of noise violations as well. I don’t know what our county or city code says about tenant’s rights but I don’t think it matters in the face of state law.

Holding landlords liable for tenant’s  illegal activities causes a conflict of tenant’s rights.  I am limited in my rights to regulate my tenants’ behavior and can be held legally liable for anything resembling harassment. I have a tenant’s/landlord’s rights attorney – what’s Vince’s specialty? 

Notice of landlords by mail is unacceptable. That’s not “proof”, and USPS turnaround is not adequate to avoid the second offense.  You will have to make an ordinance that says rentals  must be registered with contact information provided. Good luck with that. 

It is very obvious this is just a revenue grab by Chico PD. Please tell them they need to pay their own pensions, or go get a job in the private sector.

Thanks for your ear, Juanita Sumner

From Territorial Dispatchhttp://territorialdispatch.biz/2015/oct/Oct14-2015WEB.pdf

The Cost of Justice in Yuba County – Judge Overturns Fine on Property Owners –  By Elden Fowler 

Yuba County Superior Court Judge Stephen W. Barrier has ruled in a lawsuit filed by Jon and Amy Messick against Yuba County and the decision does not bode well for the Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) plan to fund code enforcement by levying fines against property owners where marijuana is being cultivated by renters. The Messicks own a property where a tenant illegally cultivated marijuana. The County claimed administrative costs, abatement costs, and penalties in the amount of $18,774.51. Subsequent to an administrative hearing before the Yuba County Board of Supervisors (BOS), for which property owners are now required to pay $4,118, a lien was placed on their property in the amount of $15,974. While it now costs $4,118 to have an administrative hearing or appeal before the BOS, it also is expensive to proceed to have the matter settled in the courts. The costs associated with the Messick’s legal challenge were approximately $7,500, for a total in excess of $11,600 by today’s standard. If the county decides to appeal, those costs will undoubtedly climb higher. The administrative hearing process is similar to being in court for a trial. However, an administrative hearing involves disputes under the authority of governmental agencies. The courts have held that the hearings must be fair and administrative decision makers must be impartial. It is difficult to believe the decision makers, the BOS, are impartial when it is they that wrote the law that is being challenged, It was estimated the county would need more than $700,000 to fund an enhanced Code Enforcement Department with several new officers being hired. The BOS was counting on marijuana cultivation permit fees, fines, and penalty assessments to provide the funding. Collecting fees from landlords made good sense to this BOS. Barrier’s decision apparently places that program in question. Property owners have argued the county’s actions violates their property rights and places them in direct conflict with state law that protects tenant’s rights. They have claimed county code provides for exceptions to the owners responsibility and that is being ignored by the BOS. In his order, Barrier concurred saying there are exceptions to an owners responsibility “if the owner did not cause, permit, or otherwise allow the existence of the violation and cannot legally abate said violation…” With a host of assessments already approved by the BOS and more being prepared, this will undoubtedly not be the last case to go to court leaving the county with little choice but to change tactics or appeal the decisions in hopes of a more favourable ruling. In the meantime, property owners, without the financial resources to defend themselves against a county that holds them responsible for the actions of their tenants, face continued code enforcement actions and liens. 

CARD aquatic center consultant discusses future of Shapiro Pool, aquatic center feasibility study – CARD Center, Oct. 28, 4pm

17 Oct
Here’s a letter I just sent off to the ER:
 
CARD Aquatic Facility committee  meets October 28, 4 pm, at the CARD Center on Vallombrosa to hear from the Aquatics Design company  currently conducting a $60,000 feasibility study for the proposed multi-million dollar aquatic center. 

CARD has discussed putting a bond before the voters to pay for a $10 million-plus facility that will be largely devoted to the use of the Chico Swim Association. They are also discussing the futures of Shapiro and Pleasant Valley Pools. Now that both have been badly neglected for years and a consultant is recommending roughly $500,000 in repairs just  for Shapiro, CARD wants to dump responsibility for these pools back on Chico Unified. Meanwhile, they’ve spent nearly $100,000 on studies for this multi-million dollar aquatic center. 
Senior CARD management, with salaries over $100,000 a year, pay nothing toward their own retirement. The most recent figure available on their pension liability – that’s the difference between what retired CARD employees will collect in pension and what they’ve paid into the system – was for June, 2014 – $1,700,721.     
Do you want a bond on your home to pay the outrageous expenses of an agency that doesn’t maintain it’s facilities? For employees who don’t pay anything toward their 70% pension out of their six figure salaries? What is the future for Shapiro and Pleasant Valley Pools? If you care, try to put aside an hour or two for Wednesday, October 28, 4pm, and tell this taxing entity what you think. 

Getting ready to finish my letter to the CPUC – have you written yours yet?

11 Oct

I’ve been working on my protest letter to the CPUC. I always start by gathering information, below is my notes mess.  I think I’ve got enough peanut butter and jelly, time to mash it all into a sandwich.

I was talking to an old friend, a guy who’s owned a popular business in town for years, and who bought an old apartment house for his home.  Sure he’s got a water bill. But he had no idea, expressed real shock – Cal Water pays dividends to their investors. In fact, their shares became so valuable back in about 2011 that they did what is known as a “stock split” – they divided their shares all in half, not only because they wanted to have more shares to sell, and therefore raise the price through demand, but because the individual share price was “ either too high or are beyond the price levels of similar companies in their sector.”  See below.

I was just looking over the list of Cal Water salaries – their “low” salaries are over $70,000/year. And, so far as I can tell – go ahead and chime in if I am wrong Jenny – Cal Water employees pay little or nothing toward their pensions or benefits. 

So, if Cal Water really needs money for infrastructure improvement, as they say, I would say it’s in the best interest of the investors and the employees if they both come together to find the money between themselves before they turn on the ratepayers again. They are about to kill their Golden Goose. Cities all over the state are talking about eminent domaining their water companies, including Marysville.

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=483886418437712&id=176321489194208

I’ll be working the notes below into a letter to the CPUC when I can  get to it. I’ll post it here when it’s done.

  • public advisor’s office
  • name and contact info, 
  • proceeding info,
  • grounds for protest
  • effect of application on protestants – higher rates for water lead to degradation landscaping, lowering of property values, onerous costs for removal of dead trees,  and higher energy bills
  1. despite lowering our consumption, our bills have doubled, even tripled. 
  2. degradation of landscaping and property values
  3. degradation of rental value 
  4. dying trees cause a safety hazard and will cost thousands of dollars to remove safely
  5. loss of protection from sun means higher energy bills for ourselves and our tenants
  • reasons why application may not be justified – employee costs and investor dividends are too high to justify increasing rates
  1. Employee costs.  Notice from 2013:  “Based on water usage patterns in your area that have decreased significantly since Cal Water’s last filing, if the CPUC approves Cal Water’s proposed application, rates would increase the typical residential customer’s monthly bill by $9.37, or 29.4%, in 2014; followed by additional increases of $1.76, or 4.3% in 2015; and $1.83, or 4.3%, in 2016. Most costs of operating the water system are fixed, regardless of the level of usage. With lower water usage in your area, rates then have to be increased to cover the fixed costs.”Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:
    • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
    • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
    • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
    • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
    • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016

    “Approval of the proposed rates would allow Cal Water to continue to maintain the system of water supply sources, pipes , tanks, fire hydrants, and equipment needed to provide safe and reliable water service.”

  2. salaries – http://www.salarylist.com/company/California-Water-Service-Salary.htm

California Water Service Salary

California Water Service average salary is $90,849, median salary is $88,004 with a salary range from $77,340 to $115,848.
California Water Service salaries are collected from government agencies and companies. Each salary is associated with a real job position. California Water Service salary statistics is not exclusive and is for reference only. They are presented “as is” and updated regularly.
3.    Dividends paid to investors. 

March, 2013 – Cal Water requested 38% rate hike, most of it for pensions and benefits

9 Oct

Here is a post from March of 2013 that everybody should read again.

worldofjuanita

I got my water bill today,  and you probably got the same notice – they are applying for that “30 – 40” percent rate hike they warned us about last year.  To be exact, 38 percent.

Yep, your bill will go up by more than a third, you can do the math. This may not mean much to people who spend the majority of their time at work/school/car,  live indoors, using their home as a storage unit, a place to flush, shower and shave.  But if you like to enjoy your yard, particularly if you like to garden, get ready for a kick in the pants. Not only the lush lawns but vegetable gardens and small orchards may become a thing of the past as soon as the cost of water eliminates the economy of home grown food.

Last year I had seen this coming. You may remember, I killed…

View original post 934 more words

CARD pension liability as of June 30, 2014 – $1,700,721

9 Oct

Yes, that’s one million, seven hundred thousand, seven hundred and twenty-one dollars. That is the difference between what CARD owes it’s retirees, and what they have saved to pay them. In other words, CARD is $1,700,721 in the red.  For an average of 30 full-time employees, whose salaries continue to climb and who continue to pay nothing toward the fund they expect to dip into.

I got that information from CARD’s new Business Manager, who hired on at over $100,000/year plus a $30,000 package.  She reminded me that figure for their pension liability is over a year old, she couldn’t give me a newer figure, but use your imagination and whatever math skills you were able to eke out of the public school system.

This is why they want to put a bond on the 2016 ballot, not for an aquatic center, or a skate park, or a pump track – to pay off their pension debt to CalPERS.   The experts have been saying CalPERS will be bankrupt by 2043, because the pension payments are going out a lot faster than they are coming in. At CARD, they keep raising salaries, and that raises pensions, but CARD employees do not contribute anything to their own pensions or health benefits.

If you look at CARD’s budget, available here, you see in 2012, they took about $400,000 to make a pension pay-off to CalPERS. Every year, their salaries and benefits take more of the budget:

http://www.chicorec.com/About-Card/CARD-Resources/Public-Resources/index.html

Here’s how that works – the last director, Steve Visconti, made about $115,000/year salary. He left earlier this year and was replaced by a former underling, Ann Willman, at $124,000/year salary.  She receives about another $24,000 in pension and benefits, for which she pays nothing out of her salary. Out of their $6.9 million budget they pay over $5 million in salaries and benefits, mostly for their 33 full-time employees, and most of that goes to five or six top staffers. Most of the CARD employees who actually get their hands dirty serving the citizens of Chico make less than $20,000/year and get NO BENEFITS. They have to turn to the county when they need medical care. 

CARD actually creates poverty in our town, while the top management get salaries in excess of two times the median income and enjoy “Defined Benefits”.

From   http://www.qdrodesk.com/plans/CALIFORNIA-WATER-SERVICE-CO-PENSION-PLAN-15764.shtml

“CALIFORNIA WATER SERVICE CO PENSION PLAN is a Defined Benefit Plan providing retirees with a predetermined monthly retirement benefit upon reaching a specific age. The retirement benefit paid to a retiree is typically calculated using a formula which often employs years of credited service under the plan and salary information. The retirement benefit is typically payable to the employee upon attainment of their normal retirement age for the remainder of his/her lifetime. “

In the private sector, employees might be offered a “Defined Contribution Plan,” if anything:

http://www.investopedia.com/university/financialstatements/financialstatements9.asp

There are various sorts of pension plans, but here we review only a certain type: the defined benefit pension plan. With a defined benefit plan, an employee knows the terms of the benefit that he or she will receive upon retirement. The company is responsible for investing in a fund in order to meet its obligations to the employee, so the company bears the investment risk. On the other hand, in a defined contribution plan, a 401(k), for example, the company probably makes contributions or matching contributions, but does not promise the future benefit to the employee. As such, the employee bears the investment risk.”

The Investopedia article had an interesting perspective – that of the investor. The general gist of this article was this: don’t invest in companies that offer defined benefits, because you will be on the hook for paying people into perpetuity.  Why would something that is considered a bad investment in the private sector be business as usual for the public sector?