Archive | January, 2016

The state of our city is disgraceful

30 Jan

At yesterday’s “State of the City” address, Mayor Sorensen admitted that pension liability is the biggest problem we face, that only 51 of our 400 and something employees are under the new “post retirement reform” laws (meaning they pay 50 percent of  their own benefits instead of 9 percent like the others), but cried like a baby that we “have no control” over the situation.  Soon we will be paying 41 percent of their pensions, while most of our employees pay 9 percent. We’ll pay more next year, and the year after that. We don’t have the money – that’s why they call it a “liability.” 

Sorensen even had the nerve to say, the city is putting their “deficit” to bed soon. If you look over the meeting agendas of late, you will see how they have separated the pension deficit from the budget – a second set of books – to hide the millions we owe on pensions for long-gone city employees. 

Mayor Sorensen might be a master chef and book cooker, but his daddy must have been a glassmaker, cause we can see right through him.  Although, I don’t think Sorensen can see past the end of his own nose. He simply has to protect the pensions, because he’s going to get one when he retires from his job as city manager of the little town in the orchards, Biggs.

Knowing people in town are pissed off about the condition of city and neighborhood streets, letter after letter asking that the Esplanade be left alone, and just another letter this morning describing our City Plaza as a “refugee camp,” Sorensen apparently didn’t touch those subjects. Fair weather mayor. Instead he’s going to spend a bazillion more dollars on gadgets for the cop shop. 

Like Nextdoor, the website that was touted as a kind of “Neighborhood Watch” on the computer? A big crime fighting tool? I wouldn’t know, apparently I was held out of most conversations because I did not have a “neighborhood group.” None of my neighbors were joining, nor were they interested. When I asked to be added to another group they simple never responded.  So,  I was left out of most conversations, left with general postings like, yard  sales, ad for local services, now and then a report of a suspicious activity, and meandering chatterfests about what neighbors were doing that would come to a halt as soon as somebody got their nose out.

Frankly, I began to wonder – are there even 100 Chicoans signed up for this service?

Then, after I’d been signed on about a month,  they sent me the notice about their “privacy” practices, including this blurb about cookies:

Server Logs. We automatically collect information created by your visits to our website and use of our apps, your use of Nextdoor, and your interaction with the messages we send. This information may include the browser you are using, the URLs you came from and go to, the model of your computer or mobile device, the operating system version, IP address and protocol used by your computer or mobile device, your mobile device or app identifier, and usage and browsing habits. We use this information to provide and improve our Services, to diagnose and resolve problems, to analyze trends, to help target offers and other ads (if and where applicable), to monitor aggregate usage, and to gather broad (aggregate) demographic information.

You can configure your browser to reject cookies, but doing so will prevent you from logging into our website. Our systems are not configured to accept browsers’ Do Not Track signals.”

So, I realized, this was the entire idea behind Nextdoor – gathering data for advertising. Wow.  And, I never found any useful news – I know there are car break-ins and other property crimes going on within a mile of my house but nothing ever turned up on Nextdoor.  My husband and I are able to find out more about what’s going on in our neighborhood simply by taking a rake out to our front yard and puttering around for half an hour. We also walk the hood at different times of night and day, we try to stay in touch with our neighbors. Having face time with neighbors is probably the best way to keep your hood safe.

Chico PD has credited chatter on “social networking sites” with helping them solve certain crimes, but they’ve never named Nextdoor so I don’t know what sites they’re talking about. I’m sure they watch Facebook, I’m guessing it looks like a scene from “Batman Forever”.

Take a good look, this is what you look like to passersby when you’re texting. So much for technology and crime fighting.

I didn’t hear Sorensen’s whole speech, I had to rely on the media! I didn’t hear him talk about the crime rate. But I did read a back page story about a guy who was just arrested in October for stealing a car – grand theft auto – furthermore, assault on a “police animal” – and just got arrested for essentially the same thing again this week.

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20160129/chico-police-nab-man-allegedly-spotted-in-stolen-pickup

In fact, Anthony Raymond Beck seems to bust out and steal a car quite frequently. In 2013 he was arrested and convicted for stealing a  car under the influence of drugs and booze, causing injury and property damage, but let out on probation in January 2014. By March he had violated his probation, arrested again for obstructing a police officer. He was arrested three times within a week in April 2015, released “O/R” each time, even after found with burglary tools.

He was arrested a total of six times in 2015, found with drugs and needles, burglary tools, under the influence, with stolen cars, yadda, yadda, yadda.

And now another stolen car. This guy is a crime spree. Why is he still out there, endangering the public safety? 

The cops will tell you it’s because these crimes have been lowered to misdemeanors by the voters. The jail is overcrowded, and they are forced to release criminals without serving a sentence, because of the voters.

No, it’s because their salaries and benefits eat the budget so that we can’t build a decent and sufficient jail. Now we are told we must pass a bond to pay for improvements at the jail or we will be at the mercy of criminals.

I feel like we’re at the mercy of the public workers. When will we get these people to do the right thing, pay their own way? 

 

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I think we all agree we need some level of help for homeless people, but we need to be asking questions about the expense and lack of results

28 Jan

 

After I read about the Torres Shelter threatening to close it’s doors, I went about researching the kind of salaries they pay down there. I couldn’t find director Brad Montgomery’s salary info anywhere, but I did find an ad for a counselor to address clients at both the Torres Shelter and the Jesus Center – salary about $42,000/year.  This position was offered through Northern California Catholic Social Services, which I was surprised to find gets most of it’s funding through the county Behavioral Health Department. Look at the wages they are offering and the duties they heap on.

For example – $13.40 an hour for these  “Minimum Employment Qualifications” – Experience working within the foster system, court system and/or with volunteer preferred. Must have reliable transportation, valid driver’s license and insurance. Must be able to multi-task and have solid computer skills; especially Word and Excel. Needs to be able to communicate verbally and in writing, documenting work on a computer is a required. The successful candidate will be able to work independently, use good judgment and be part of a team.

The list of duties would insinuate a lot better salary. This particular position does not offer paid benefits but ” is eligible to participate in our benefits package including: medical, dental, vision, EAP and life.”  On $13.40 an hour, you’re supposed to provide your own insured vehicle, gas to drive it, and then pay for your own health benefits? And this is a position that includes hands-on duties with clients. Wow.

https://nvcss.org/careers/

Meanwhile Butte County Behavioral Health Director Adrian Kittrel, who does not work with  clients, makes over $200,000 in salary and pays less than 10 percent of his own benefits and pension.

This is the typical lop-sided situation with most public agencies. This is why they have trouble filling these positions.

On another job website I found positions listed for Chico Area Recreation District – a “coordinator” who works with social media from their office gets a salary of  about $42,000, with benefits paid by the taxpayers (CARD management pay nothing for their benefits). Meanwhile other CARD positions – those who actually run the activities for the public and supervise our children – pay less than $15 an hour. These are part-time positions – 25 to 27 hours – that do not come with any health or pension benefits. You’re working too many hours to get another job, but you can’t make enough money to support yourself.  Most of CARD’s jobs are poverty level  jobs, while they pay their general manager over $120,000/year, and she pays nothing toward full health care and pension.

Researching this topic I came across a very interesting article about doctor burnout. The author just happens to be a psychiatrist.

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2016/01/doctor-beat-burnout-can.html

She is pretty frank about her disappointment in the medical sector. Her biggest problem seems to be over work and a “factory” atmosphere at her job. This prevents her from doing her best for her patients, and that adds to the frustration and depression. 

It is interesting to hear from the other side of the coin, this goes a long way to explain the patient’s miserable experience.

And you may feel same – I’m frustrated that we pay for this. Butte County Admin Officer Paul Hahn says over half the county budget goes to behavioral health and other services for the indigent. The money does not seem to solve the problem, it only results in more behaviorally disturbed and indigent people being brought into our county. In Chico it’s becoming a total disaster.

This morning my husband and I cleaned our garage and took our horde of recyclables over to The Work Training Center. I asked my husband to drive me over to take a look at the Torres Shelter, I have not had a good look at it for years.  The first thing I notice are what looks like cars being lived in, parked along the street outside the center, along the Costco parking lot. It looked like a gypsy camp. According to their website, “guests” are only allowed to check in from 4:30pm to 6pm. If they want to check in at another time, they must call between the hours of 10am and 3pm to make an appointment with shelter staff.  The shelter is “open for guests from 4:30 pm – 6:40 am daily.”  

I’ve heard complaints that the clients are “kicked out” at about 7am. I don’t know if there is a meal in the morning, but I think the Jesus Center offers a breakfast. There used to be a shuttle service that picked up those who do not have cars, took them to the Jesus Center, or various public agencies around town, because local businesses were complaining that they stayed in the area, “milling around” the commercial sector. That shuttle was largely funded by city of Chico, who discontinued their funding last year. So now you find this little encampment surrounding the shelter, out in the public  right of way, cars full of flotsam everywhere but the driver’s seat, windows covered with old tarps, a van with foam core over the front windows. A little group of dirty and disheveled men working under the hood of a car that looked like it should be headed for the scrap yard. It looks like any other homeless camp.

Last year when we were at Chico Locker one afternoon, my husband and I noticed the same scene in the parking lot surrounding the Jesus Center. A dilapidated motor home sat behind the JC building, some crappy cars, even a tent, all  obviously occupied. We wondered how that could be going on, the Jesus Center was supposed to have all these rules. Not long after that conversation, we heard Bill Such was being let go. We realized, he’d been allowing the laissez faire camping. We found out, a new board had taken over, a bunch of realtors, bankers, business people. They were ready to hold a higher bar for the center.

This is what needs to happen at the Torres before I am willing to support them in any way. I don’t think they should get city funding, and I think donors should ask more questions about why this shelter is so expensive to run when it is of such marginal service. 

 

 

 

Torres Shelter closing may be reason to celebrate

27 Jan

I’ve been hearing a lot over the last couple of days about Torres Shelter losing funding and threatening to close.  In one report, shelter director Brad Montgomery said he had to let three staffers go because he can’t afford to pay them anymore.

The first thing that came to my mind is, what’s Montgomery’s salary? He’s admitted that salary is the biggest expense at the shelter, while claiming to serve some 100 people or more per night. But only 750 a year? He also claims to be finding permanent housing for another person every “29 hours.” 

Visualize that – a regular conga line of “homeless” people moving into our area by way of the Torres Shelter.

And let’s not forget the bed bugs.

I don’t think the shelter is managed properly, I’m sorry. I think it facilitates a salary for Montgomery and it facilitates more creeps coming here, knowing they can have a place to get out of the weather.  Looking online, I find many local services that cater to the homeless, even their dogs. This is why we have so many homeless, we invite them here.

I know we have local homeless, I believe there is a need for some sort of overnight shelter.  But I think Torres Shelter needs to close until they find better management. I wonder how this would affect our “homeless” population. 

 

 

CARD to put their parcel tax plans on the table at February 18 board meeting

24 Jan

I miss all the good stuff – I was out of town for CARD’s board meeting last week, and they FINALLY fessed up and announced they are after a parcel tax.

Remember, almost exactly a year ago, I had called then-director Jerry Haynes, just to ask, how would they go about seeking a tax?  I didn’t know what the procedure is, and I couldn’t find much information online, so I just decided to ask. Ask a simple question!

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/01/29/why-is-card-being-so-secretive-about-the-aquatics-center/

Haynes resigned about a month later, citing “differences with the board“?  I have to wonder, did Haynes try to tell them they couldn’t afford a new aquatic center? Did he drag his feet in facilitating the studies and public meetings? He sure as hell didn’t want to talk about any aquatic center to me, denying even that there were any plans to build an aquatic center. He was really pissed off too. If I’d been standing in the same room with him I would have been afraid for my personal safety, like I was when Jan Sneed went off on me after a board meeting a couple of years ago.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2013/05/13/jan-sneed-attacked-me-at-todays-card-finance-meeting-this-woman-is-out-of-control-and-isnt-suitable-for-public-office/

When people act  that crazy, you can bet there’s a pot of money on the table. Or a pot of debt? 

CARD spends a lot of money for a district that does not offer much in recreational opportunities. If you look at their budget you see payroll eats all their money, with 33 employees sitting on top of a few million dollars.  Despite budget problems over the past few years, current CARD director Ann Willman makes about $12,000/year more than her predecessor Steve Visconti, the controller’s office reporting her salary at $124,000/year. She pays nothing toward her benefits/pension package. That’s right – CARD management pay nothing toward their packages. Same  deal as city of Chico and other entities – only new hires, who have never been “in the system.” Willman has been around the block a few times, working for CARD, then switching over to director of Feather River Rec in Oroville, spiking her way back to Chico in less than two years. She left FRRD after a scandal involving a camera planted in the girl’s toilet at one of their facilities, landing safely in the Chico director’s chair. 

At one meeting, they planned to cut all part time staffers to 28 hours or less so they would not have to pay Obamacare for those employees, despite reports from their own staff that programs were being cut and children turned away due to lack of staff. But their management employees’ salaries just go up, up, up. And they pay nothing toward their benefits. They are sitting on more than $2 million in pension liability, for 33 employees. 

And they’re trying to tell us, they need this parcel tax for an aquatic center? It doesn’t add up. 

The board will discuss placing a parcel tax measure on the November ballot at their February 18 board meeting. Here’s the board page from their website:

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

Note the e-mail addresses of board members, if you’d like to contact them to voice your opposition to this grab. Tell them their employees need to stop being dead beats and pay their own pensions. I don’t mind chipping in, but this is ridiculous.

You’ll also notice, their minutes are six month behind, ask them what’s up with that too.

 

 

 

You public employees are nuts if you think we are going to pay down your $220 billion unfunded liabilities – pay your own bills, you slackers

19 Jan

But even as the governor and lawmakers debate how to spend a budget surplus, there’s a looming financial hurdle: Unfunded pension and health care liabilities of $220 billion for future retirees who work for the state and the University of California system.

Wait, shouldn’t that $220 billion been included in the total deficit? How can you have a budget surplus when you owe $220 billion?

As the Brown administration prepares to enter labor talks this year, the governor is seeking changes to help the state cut future costs, warning there’s “a serious long-term liability.”

Oh, you don’t say?!

Over the past four years, the Legislature moved to improve the financial outlook for the state’s largest public-employee pension systems, the California Public Employees Retirement System and California State Teachers Retirement System. Brown is now setting his sights on a rapidly growing retiree expense, health care. He’s asking workers to pay more to fund those benefits.

Get out! Asking workers to pay their own way! Stop it!

Reform advocates warn that failing to address unfunded liabilities will ultimately require higher taxes or cuts in other government services so the state can pay for its obligations to retired workers.

I guess that makes me, a reform advocate.  I don’t really like the word “reform,” cause they can turn that word in any direction, like a .45. “Reform” can just as easily mean, taxpayers pay more.

The state has promised an estimated $72 billion in health care benefits for its current and future retirees, an amount that will increase to more than $300 billion over the next three decades, according to the governor’s Department of Finance.

The bill for retiree health care has historically been paid year-by-year, about $2 billion in the proposed 2016-17 budget. Brown proposes prefunding benefits similar to the way the state pays for pensions — by paying into a trust fund that accrues investment returns over time, reducing the amount of money that taxpayers must contribute in the future.

In negotiations with public-employee unions, he’s asking state workers to pay into a fund through a deduction on their paychecks. The state would pay an equal amount.

“Over the next three decades we’d have enough money to basically eliminate that unfunded liability going forward,” Finance Director Michael Cohen told the California Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

That sounds like a no-brainer to me – have the employees pay ALOT MORE. But here’s the catch – if we expect them to pay their own benefits and pensions they want pay increases.

Brown’s budget proposal includes $350 million for pay raises that could be used as a bargaining chip in labor negotiations. The state is actively negotiating with four of its 21 bargaining units, including corrections officers, firefighters, scientists and maintenance workers. Talks with 15 others open this year.

The governor points to an agreement last year with state engineers as a model he’ll pursue with other bargaining units. Engineers agreed to pay an escalating portion of their paycheck toward their future health care benefits, eventually reaching 2 percent of salary, matched by the state.

Two percent of their salaries?

“The employees would not be too thrilled with paying the state’s bill” for retirement, but the agreement on the whole was viewed as acceptable, said Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, the union that reached the deal. The three-year deal included pay raises of 5 percent and 2 percent, he said, and there’s a chance to renegotiate before the health contributions are fully phased in by 2019.

Prefunding health care can help protect the benefits, but asking employees to contribute is part of the give-and-take of collective bargaining, said David Lowe, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of public-employee unions, their members and retirees that has fought to preserve the current pension system.

“That’s a legitimate way to ensure that the benefits get funded into the future,” Lowe said. “It’s just a question of figuring out how much the employees are willing to pay … and bargaining it.”

Find out how much they are willing to pay? Has anybody ever asked the taxpayers how much they are willing to pay?

“Reforms” enacted to date have done nothing to slow this train.  Public workers are determined to rip off the taxpayers.

“We can see from where the numbers are going how it’s going to crowd out education and all the other California services, and it’s ultimately unsustainable,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “The governor has to address it now and he’s been clear that he’s going to try to do that.”

I don’t see that, I see a big  train wreck ahead. Public workers have gone completely crazy.

Sipple vs. City of Chico – lawsuit settled over illegally collected Utility Tax

18 Jan

I wrote about this lawsuit, filed in 2011, a couple of years ago.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2014/11/26/sipple-et-al-v-city-of-chico-city-of-chico-has-been-accepting-illegally-collected-utility-taxes-again/

It’s finally been settled, and was discussed by council in closed session at their Dec. 1, 2015 meeting, but I don’t know what they are going to do about it, how much of the money is owed by Chico, or any of the details. I just know, they illegally collected and kept money out of people’s cell phone bills, and when we found out, they tried to get us to make it legal at the ballot box. When we overturned it, they only refunded part of the money they’d taken from us. They still spent our taxes fighting the suit as long as they could. 

I wonder if “Bob H.” has anything to say about this? 

[Settlement of Lawsuit – New Cingular Wireless, LLC, Donald Sipple, John Simon, Kark Simonsen, and Christopher Jacobs – $3,038,832] Ordinance authorizing settlement of the lawsuit filed by New Cingular Wireless, LLC, Donald Sipple, John Simon, Karl Simonsen, and Christopher Jacobs against the City and County of San Francisco for $3,038,832; the lawsuit was filed on May 27, 2011, in Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC462270; entitled Donald Sipple, et al. v. City Of Alameda, et al.; other material terms of said settlement are dismissal of the crosscomplaint filed by the City and County of San Francisco against New Cingular Wireless, LLC, and AT&T Mobility, LLC. 11 Be it ordained by the People of City and County of San Francisco: 12 Section 1. Pursuant to Charter, Section 6.102(5), the Board of Supervisors hereby 13 authorizes the City Attorney to settle the action entitled Donald Sipple. et al. v. City Of 14 Alameda. et al., Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC462270 by the payment of 15 $3,038,832 and by dismissal of the cross-complaint filed in the same action by the City and 16 County of San Francisco against New Cingular Wireless LLC and AT&T Mobility LLC.

Be it ordained by the People of City and County of San Francisco: 12 Section 1. Pursuant to Charter, Section 6.102(5), the Board of Supervisors hereby 13 authorizes the City Attorney to settle the action entitled Donald Sipple. et al. v. City Of 14 Alameda. et al., Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC462270 by the payment of 15 $3,038,832 and by dismissal of the cross-complaint filed in the same action by the City and 16 County of San Francisco against New Cingular Wireless LLC and AT&T Mobility LLC. 17 Section 2. The above-named action was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on 18 May 27, 2011, and the following parties were named in the lawsuit: Plaintiffs New Cingular 19 Wireless LLC, Donald Sipple, John Simon, Karl Simonsen, and Christopher Jacobs; 20 Defendants City and County of San Francisco, City of Alameda, Alameda County, City of 21 Albany, City of Alhambra, City of Arcadia, City of Arcata, City of Baldwin Park, City of 22 Beaumont, City of Bell, City of Bellflower, City of Benecia, City of Berkeley, City of Burbank, 23 City of Calabasas, City of Cathedral, City of Ceres, City of Chico...

Election 2016 sneaking in the back door – what rough beast, know what I mean?

14 Jan

Here’s the latest schedule of events for Butte County Election 2016.

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln33/33_election_calendar.pdf

What I was looking for are the deadlines for announcing candidacy and for putting measures on the ballot. Looks like all that stuff has to be done by late February – by March 14, the county clerk is supposed to be appointing letters to the various measures and turning ballot information over to the state printing plant. 

I don’t know all the rules for measures and bonds, but it looks like the paperwork needs to be submitted by February 4th for consideration at a February 23 Supervisor’s meeting. So, I will keep an eye on county agendas. 

Here’s the schedule on the Secretary of State’s website, easier to read:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/upcoming-elections/june-7-2016-presidential-primary-election/key-dates-and-deadlines-june-7-2016/

I’ve been waiting so long, I was afraid I’d go to sleep before the action started. Now’s the time to check these websites regularly to see what is going to end up on our June primary ballot. 

As usual our lazy city clerk, $135,000/year plus benefits Debbie Presson, has not posted any election information. I think we have three seats up in November – Morgan, Schwab and Stone.  Correction (thanks R.K.): Tami Ritter’s seat is also up for grabs.   Our lovely clerk is still posting old information from Election 2014. She insists she does not have to post up-to-date campaign contribution information online because the city does not require her to do so. I would like to see both her and “deputy” clerk Dani Brinkley retire soon. I’d just like to see what kind of clerk’s office we could have if those two weren’t sitting on it, like a couple of hogs in the manger.

http://www.chico.ca.us/city_clerk/election_information.asp

 None of the encumbents are campaigning publicly right now, but I’m pretty sure they are all gathering money.  But no websites, no press releases. Why is this election so quiet?