Archive | March, 2016

Where will the taxpayer find shelter?

29 Mar

At 3:22, I found myself too awake to lay in bed, but not quite awake enough to do anything.  I got up and followed the glow of light to my coffee maker, and I pushed the little button. I always set myself up a cup of coffee for these mornings when I wake up ahead of Me.

The moon was hanging so bright outside – not even full, but lighting up my driveway like a flashlight. The wind has scoured the sky very clean, the planets and stars look very bright too. 

As I wandered around the house in the dark, I could hear the 3:20 train, a few minutes late, screaming it’s way across town – GET THE HELL OFF THE TRACKS!  

I have a couple of things screaming their way across my head, I guess that’s why I can’t sleep. 

First are the rate increase notices I’ve got – not from Cal Water or PG&E, but from the California Public Utilities Commission. CPUC is having a hearing for both rate increases in April, on the same night, giving the public one hour to discuss the PG&E hike and then opening the floor to ratepayers from Willows to Marysville regarding the Cal Water hike. 

CPUC does not work for the ratepayers, they work for the utility companies. This is not really a “hearing,” it’s a “telling.” Our CPUC judge will explain to us that in 2018, PG&E will switch all ratepayers to “time of use” rates – meaning, your smart meter will keep track of the market price on the hour, and as you go along using your electricity through the day, you will be charged whatever power is selling for on the open market at that very moment. 

After the PG&E “telling” the judge will explain to us that Cal Water is merging Willows, Oroville, Chico, and Marysville into one district so Chicoans can help pay for “improvements” in those towns. When Cal Water asked for rate increases in those towns to cover the cost of long-neglected repairs to their infrastructure, CPUC said the increases were not reasonable. So, CPUC sat down with Cal Water to work out a system by which the costs for those districts will be handed over to Chicoans. 

Here’s the thing – those towns have all suffered from a lack of development. Here in Chico, we have development out the ass, so we get a lot of new water stuff. Right now Cal Water is getting ready to put a new water tower in at Fogarty’s new subdivision on Hwy 32, held up arguing over who will pay for it. Meanwhile, Willows, O-ville and Marysville (named for a survivor of the Donner Party, omigosh!) have been sidestepped by prosperity, and their local governments have not held Cal Water up to any standard, so their infrastructure is substandard. I’m guessing those towns have pipes dating back to the time when lead poisoning was considered a fact of life.

What will the ratepayer do?

Meanwhile, I’m being harangued by the director of a local homeless shelter because I criticize the way he runs the shelter and efforts he’s making to get more funding out of the city of Chico. When I said he already gets county funding by way of other agencies that share staffers with him, he really got pissed off. He denies getting public money – I keep explaining, he gets it by way of other agencies. He admitted he shares the staffer position I found, but now denies that agency gets public money. I got sick of arguing with him, but he keeps coming over  to argue, saying the same crap over and over.  

County Admin Officer Paul Hahn says the county spends over half it’s budget on “indigent” services, “including homeless services.” They fund agencies like the Catholic Relief Services, so does the city of Chico. These agencies spend that money on staffers who work at both the Torres Shelter and the Jesus Center. 

We have definitely become a magnet for criminals who use “homeless” like a shield. Just the other day, I read about a couple of guys who were found standing over a sleeping man in his apartment in the middle of the night. They were later found by the cops in the stolen vehicle the victim had described, with not only stolen articles but drugs. When I typed their names into the superior court index, they both came up, multiple arrests over the years, including robbery. 

Again and again, these people are released “OR” – own recognizance – back into the community to commit the same crimes over and over. They seem to disproportionately attack the campus neighborhoods, breaking in even when people are in their homes, stealing electronic items and any other valuables they can grab. They steal cars, they steal from cars.  And they commit strong-arm robberies, using knives and beating their victims.

I believe the services offered by our city and county attract these people. They know they will find sympathy here, they will find people who will shield  them from the law.  We have way too many people that enable the behavior – cries to build “little tiny houses” for the “homeless,” people who clean up their encampments just so they can move back in, etc.  We have too many public salaried voices screaming about the “criminalization of homelessness.”  So we have a regular army of people who don’t have fixed addresses, who wander out of the supervision of the law and turn up six months or a year later, arrested for the same crime or worse.

I have studied the operation of the Torres Shelter, and I feel they attract the criminal element without doing anything to control them. The director admitted that they have strict rules for who they will let in – but when they get turned out, they are only told to leave the immediate property. Right out front of the center you will find a little camp in the street. Then there’s the area between Park Ave and Fair Street known as “The Wedge” – a de facto homeless camp, sprawled out there behind the old Victor toxic Superfund site.

From the Chico Chamber of Commerce “Team Chico” report:

VICTOR SITE Redevelopment of the Victor Site, which is under a state consent decree overseen by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), has been recognized by all interested parties as a key to successful redevelopment of the Wedge. To promote that effort, EPA agreed to allow grant monies to be utilized to hire a local design firm to develop a range of development scenarios for the site that in turn will be used to develop a conceptual cleanup plan for approval by DTSC. This process is involved and the outcome uncertain, but it is intended to lay the framework for the purchase and redevelopment of the property by a viable interested party. The City, DTSC, and local development interests are working together toward that end.

That site has been known to be toxic since the 1980’s or earlier. Here they received money from the EPA, and they used it to hire a design team? What? And now, added to whatever Victor pumped into the  ground, is the toxic mess left behind by these criminal campers – the usual garbage, feces, drug paraphernalia, etc. 

No, I don’t like the Torres, I think it’s run badly, I don’t like taxpayer money supporting it.  I am also sick of Team Chico masturbating our money away with their concepts.

Meanwhile, my tenants and I, working class slobs, trying to pay our bills, trying to keep a roof over ourselves so we don’t end up on the street, get no sympathy – the city, the school district and the rec district are all considering separate tax increases. 

Where’s the angst from all these bleeding hearts? Nobody to cry for the working people? Brad? 

On a positive note, The Wedge is also a great tune by Dick Dale.

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

Editor playing coy on swimming pool tax

27 Mar

I sent my swimming pool letter to the Enterprise Record, and I got a note back from the editor.

“Reading your letter today (sorry, there’s a long queue), I think we need to change “will” to “may” in the first sentence. The board has not voted on any revenue measure.. They’re still weighing a set per-parcel tax or a ‘benefits assessment” tax on property owners based on property valuation. They were leaning more toward the assessment because they didn’t think they could get their act together for the November ballot for a question on the parcel tax. The benefit assessment would allow them to send out a mailed ballot to property owners on their own time schedule. Regardless, though, that decision hasn’t been made.

Unless you know something we don’t …”

 

Being as I have no confidence with vernacular in these tax deals, I submitted to the editor’s opinion and allowed him to make the change, and then I changed the ending to, “Please contact your CARD board now and tell them you do not want to be assessed for poor management.”

But I had to ask the editor, since he seems to know so much, had he attended a meeting?

 
“thanks, I was unsure what word to use. “may” is good.

 

I think they had plenty of time to make the November ballot – at the meeting I attended, Lando expressed concern about the city putting a sales tax initiative on the ballot, as well as the school district, and he thought the voters would be overwhelmed with all those taxes.  

 

so, did you actually attend a meeting?”

 

His answer surprised me, but not really.  “No, we had a reporter there. I was not.” 

 

This is a guy who has refused to print letters in which I’ve used direct quotes, telling me he did not believe the person actually said that, even though he was nowhere near the meeting, and there was no recording. He refused to take my word for stuff, but I am expected to take his second hand crap.

 

And then he wrote the following, really misinformed – actually uninformed editorial.  I’ve added my commentary in blue, cause it’s Easter and all.

Difficult to say how much pool will be missed

Thinking ahead to Chico’s sweltering summer days, it’s hard to imagine this community having one less swimming pool for cooling off.

It’s hard to imagine that the newspaper editor would be surprised the local pool is crapped out after years of neglect. 

But that will be the reality, with the Chico Area Recreation and Park District’s decision last week to shut down Shapiro Pool.

An antique that was built in 1956, the pool next to Chico Junior High School has had plenty of problems dragging it down.

The filtering system has been limping along for several years, with problems from overuse to age. Old equipment has been babied, patched, repaired and patched again. Steps to bring the pool in line with Americans With Disabilities Act laws have lagged, and there have been other safety issues.

“babied, patched, repaired and patched again…” – that’s exactly what’s happened, but no mention of that $400,000 pension payment. “Steps to bring the pool in line with ADA...” Oh come on, Mr. News Reporter – there haven’t been any steps to bring the pool up to ADA.

Knowing the pool’s role in the community, CARD directors even asked if Shapiro could be dragged through 2016. The answer was no because of public safety concerns.

“public safety concerns” that the board has been well aware of, since at least 2009. Still they let the public use a pool that was below sanitary standards and had other “concerns,” like tripping hazards. Tripping hazards at a swimming pool? 

While the pool will not be open, CARD will still hold on to the lease that has no cost to the district other than non- operation maintenance costs.

What would Little define as a “non-operation maintenance cost”? Is this guy an  idiot? Everything you do to maintain a pool is an “operation cost.” A pool should not be operated if filtering and safety are not maintained, but CARD ran Shapiro at sub-standard levels for at least six years. Oh, but now the pool has to be closed!  

We guess there still is hope that CARD might find a way to resurrect the pool at some future time, but that has not been officially said.

As a matter of fact, an aquatic center consultant recommended against trying to rebuild Shapiro, saying it would cost about $2.5 million.

But no mention of that 2009 report. 

Strange to us is that the pool owner, Chico Unified School District, has not made any effort to help CARD with the pool. The school district has made it clear that it’s not interested in operating swimming pools, even though some of its schools have P.E. swim programs or competitive swim teams.

Strange to you, and the mouse in your pocket, because you don’t know anything?  Mr. Little, the school made the same deal with CARD that the city made over Humboldt Skate Park. CARD agreed to take on maintenance and supervision of these facilities, but did not. It’s interesting to note, that CARD wanted to close the skate park altogether, but is allowing a private group to raise money and make plans for a remodel. Meanwhile they plan to raise taxes to build a center for Aqua Jets. Read further.

It’s hard to know how much Shapiro will be missed. We know there will be an impact. Already CARD has rescheduled Shapiro’s programs to its other pool, Pleasant Valley, next to Bidwell Junior High, including part of the Aqua Jets youth swim program, CARD swim lessons, and recreational swimming.

The only public use listed in the paragraph above is rec swimming, the rest are programs run for profit by CARD and Aqua Jets. And, the public still has to pay to get into rec swim, there’s no “low-income” scale or waiver. 

That means a busier swim season for Pleasant Valley.

Which CARD has also reported is in trouble and they are looking at closing it within the next few years. That conversation has not been mentioned by either Urseny or Little. They know how pissed off the public would be if CARD announced they were closing both pools. 

In the past, Shapiro has been busy with activity from residents trying to cool off, have fun and get exercise.

I’m pretty sure the editor is not speaking first hand – he has a backyard pool. Shapiro has been in terrible decline, has been badly vandalized by the public that is supposed to love it, and according to reports on CARD’s website, attendance and revenues have been down for a couple of years.

Swimmers may shift to PV, or find relief in local creeks, including Sycamore Pool in Bidwell Park. They may seek out the community’s privately owned pools, like those at sports clubs, or could head up to Redding, which has a water park.

CARD would love to have another choice for swimmers, and has been talking about a community aquatic center, but no funding has been identified. Maybe one reason for hanging on to the lease is to see what a year will bring.

Little plays coy here – I think he knows otherwise. Although, he just admitted to me the other day, he hasn’t attended any of the meetings, he gets his information second hand. I’m guessing he has regular conversations with Tom Lando, but that’s just my speculation.  

There hasn’t been a huge outcry to keep the pool open. It was built at a time when not so many residents had backyard pools, but that has changed.

Speaking for himself, again.

This time next year, CARD may be ready to give up the lease or will have a better understanding of what the next step should be.

Maybe one reason for hanging on to the lease is to see what a year will bring.

What a journalist. 

Team Chico – city still spending $taff time on “economic development”

26 Mar

My husband and I are turning over a rental. We had a big load of cleaning rags to wash, so we took them over to Bubbles laundromat at Mangrove Plaza. We’ve used that laundromat for years, whenever we have an oversize load, to use their bigger, more powerful machines.  I think that was the last load we’re going to do there after the experience we had yesterday.

Over the last few years, Bubbles has been dealing with the homeless problem that moved to Mangrove Plaza with the Downtown “sit and lie” ordinance. There are almost always homeless people sitting in there when we have brought in laundry. They usually sit quietly, I assume they also have laundry to wash, so I’ve never thought anything about it. Yesterday I found out, it is a problem.

As we entered with our bag of laundry and handful of quarters, a woman came walking toward us, she looked very pissed off. She stepped right in front of us to confront a man who was sitting in a chair, staring at a row of unused machines. “If you’re not doing laundry,” she said, “you will have to move along.” She was not friendly, she had already decided the guy would be moving along. This seemed to be a situation she had dealt with before.  My husband and I skipped across their confrontation like a pair of deer avoiding a car wreck.

This man, about 30 years old, sat back in his chair and challenged the woman’s authority to kick him out, challenged the idea that he did not have laundry in one of the machines, and challenged the notion that he was not allowed inside unless he did have laundry in a machine. She asked him to show her his laundry, and the conversation got belligerent on both ends. The woman lost patience and stalked toward the office, saying she would be calling the police.

At this point, we had our machine running, and we left to walk to Safeway to get groceries.  We felt a presence behind us, it was the homeless man, grumbling his way out the door.  A little boy who had witnessed the scene was crying, and his dad took him outside to comfort him.  We watched as the ejected man lumbered out across the parking lot toward Mangrove Avenue, then we went about our business, wondering if the woman actually called the cops, and if they would actually respond.

When who should we almost run into but little Katie Simmons, Chico Chamber shill. She had a bundle of papers, and seemed to be standing there in front of that new sandwich place, waiting for somebody. I saw a couple of young, office-dressed men join her, and then an older, casually dressed man – Team Chico.

Team Chico is our “economic development” policy. They go out and walk around whatever retail area, checking in with businesses, letting them know the chamber and the city are there to help them with whatever. Whatever. You mean, like these homeless creeps who stand around the front door of my business, scaring away customers?

I sure wanted to ask her if she was planning to go into Bubbles, but I had business of my own to attend to.  I believe Team Chico is nothing more than a membership drive for Chico Chamber of Commerce, which has come to have way too much influence in city business. It annoys me that she has city employees in tow. When I asked former city staffer Shawn Tillman what the city was spending on Team Chico, he said, “The City put no money in it–just staff time.”   

Just staff time. 

Look how quickly idiot Tillman landed in a sweet new job! While still living in Chico!

http://www.lincolnnewsmessenger.com/article/1/13/15/tillman-says-residents-can-help-shape-city%E2%80%99s-future

There’s no accountability in government. 

 

CARD too chickenshit to go to the general ballot – they’re sneaking their assessment into your mailbox

23 Mar

I sent the following letter to Chico Enterprise Record this morning, we’ll see if it gets ink.

Chico Area Recreation District will seek to assess residents in a mailed ballot election, saying they need the money to build an aquatic center and make other improvements in district facilities.

What they are not discussing before the voters is their unfunded pension liability – $1.7 million as of 2014.  Management employees pay nothing toward their own retirement.

CARD says Shapiro Pool is beyond  repair. That was not the story in 2009, when a consultant reported Shapiro was adequate to handle local demand as well as swim meets, and could be brought up to code for about a half million dollars. At that time, he reported, there were safety code and Americans with Disabilities Act violations – including substandard filtration and sanitation, and trip hazards due to incomplete removal of a diving board.

CARD’s board of directors chose to do nothing. Annual budgets on CARD’s  website show very little money has been spent maintaining either public pool over the years.

The ADA was passed in 1990, but CARD only last year commissioned a study, $60,000, to find out just how non-compliant their facilities are, including California Park Lakeside Pavilion. Lakeside Pavilion also  has extensive rot damage.

With all these problems, they chose in 2012 to make a $400,000 “side fund payoff” to CalPERS for their pension fund rather than make badly needed repairs to facilities like the Humboldt Skate Park.

Please watch your mail for a ballot and vote NO.

Something else you might do is write to or call CARD, and ask longest standing board member Jan Sneed why she let the swimming pools go without maintenance for so long. 

 

 

We hear from Dwight Grumbles, candidate for Butte County supervisor, District 5

22 Mar

Well, the election is finally starting to materialize on the horizon – I got this note below from 5th District supervisor candidate Dwight Grumbles. That seat is currently held by Doug Teeter. 

Hello, My name is Dwight (DH)Grumbles. I am running for Butte County 5th. District Supervisor election June 7 th. 2016.If elected I have pledged half on the base pay (approx. $28,000.00 per year each year of the 4 year term to go back to the 5th. District in the form of donations to youth athletics, school sports and other campus organizations, music,art dance etc.. Also to community service organizations. It’s a start.The pay package for supervisor is $90,000.00 plus. The average household income in Butte County is approximately $33,000.00. If the people of the 5 th. District are not happy with my job after my term, at least they will have gotten back $112,000.00 and if they are happy with me and I’m reelected I will do it again. dhgrumbles@gmail.com Ph # 530-520-1010

Thanks Dwight, and I look forward to a couple of months of intelligent conversation between now and June. If that seat is not decided in June, the candidates will have the summer to debate their qualifications and come back to the ballot in November. 

I’m sending Dwight some information about upcoming rates hikes by PG&E and Cal Water, and hope he will jump in and help us protest these onerous grabs. 

 

Efforts underway to undermine Prop 13 for both commercial and residential

14 Mar

We barely recovered from paying our property taxes (which empty out our bank account twice a year just in time for some personal emergency to manifest itself) when I found this article online. 

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2016/03/40-years-later-prop-13-to-be-a-main-attraction-on-2018-ballot/

For years I’ve been aware of the effort to undermine the protections of Proposition 13 for commercial properties, but now we have an effort to undermine the protections on people’s personal homes.

Wow, after that last BOOM!, can you imagine what your property taxes would have looked like under the old law? How many people would be forced out of their homes if we lost Prop 13? I know my elderly neighbors would be paying more in taxes than they paid for their home, and that seems very, very weird to me.  

And if they sold, they’d still have to pay tremendous income tax, regardless of the property taxes. Why don’t people see this for what it is – SHAKE DOWN!

In a perfect world, property taxes would be assessed based on projects within a certain distance of your house – your “neighborhood”.  We should pay for maintenance of the streets and other public infrastructure around our homes, that seems fair. When was the last time you saw any road work in your neighborhood, that didn’t involved hooking somebody up to sewer? Yeah, the city wants folks on the sewer, so they can pilfer the sewer fund for salaries and benefits, but you notice they don’t fix the street after they gopher their way in, they say they don’t have the money…

The streets in my neighborhood and around my rentals are a disaster, but the paychecks still roll out, and we are still on the hook to pay for pensions of 70 – 90 percent at age 50 – 55.   

It’s hard for little people like me to fight these big efforts, I spend most of my energy locally.   If we had better local watchdogs, we could make a difference. We need better people on council, who can negotiate down the pay and benefits and get more employees in the bargain. We have so many overpaid management positions, paying less than 10 percent toward their own pensions, we can’t afford anybody to actually do the work. 

Mark Sorensen and his friends are the beginning of the end for Chico. These people have taken business behind closed doors, actually cancelling this week’s meeting, saying there’s no business for the agenda.

Well, I’d sure like to know why my garbage man is telling everybody that Waste Management will get all the residential accounts east of the freeway when Mark Orme keeps telling me the deal is “still in negotiation”?  I’d like to know what the city, who was supposed to register with the CPUC as an “Intervenor” in the latest rate increase case for Cal Water, has not made any announcement of the hearing that’s been scheduled for next month.  It seems Mayor Sorensen feels it is not important to keep a rapport open with the public. It’s just too damned expensive to keep the public in the loop, isn’t it? 

Write those letters, ask those questions.  

Bits and pieces – readers’ questions lead me to some interesting reading

10 Mar

Recently somebody got so frustrated they typed in the search term “why is pge screwing us!!!!!!!!”

Yes, eight exclamation marks, I counted ’em.

Here’s an answer: it’s the pensions, it’s the pensions, it’s the pensions. I don’t know what PG&E’s pension liability is, but I’m guessing it would be more than the city of Chico.  They don’t pay into their own pensions, but they expect the same 70 percent at age 55, do the math.

Here’s another answer: cause they can.  Something happened at some point, and all the public watchdogs turned on the people, including the California Public Utilities Commission. Here’s an article from the Sac Bee on how that happened (sorry, old column from last October, but full of details):

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article38487060.html

Eight exclamation marks, but I wonder – has this question asker written any letters, attended any hearings? 

I’ve been getting a lot of searches regarding “Chico homeless problem” and “Torres Shelter,” as well as “Brad Montgomery salary.”  I see I’m not the only one who is curious how much it costs to run that place. Montgomery came around to answer some of our questions, including, his own salary and how much that translates into day-to-day costs – see his comments here:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/02/02/its-good-to-see-people-asking-questions-about-funding-torres-shelter/

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/01/27/torres-shelter-closing-may-be-reason-to-celebrate/

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/01/28/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/

He says they don’t receive much public money – he seems to forget all the salaries that go into that place that are paid with public money. I’ve given examples in those posts. According to Butte County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn, over half the county budget goes to indigent and mental health services.

Montgomery says it costs roughly $25  a day to house each person at the Torres, asking who can beat that. Well, I can’t – I did the math on our property taxes yesterday, and that adds $26 a day to our expenses, right off the top. We also house people, and yeah, given they have to pay their own utilities (including the salaries and pensions of utility company management), buy groceries and gas in a town swimming with public salaries, and compete for everything from daycare to clothing with people who can afford anything they want, I’m pretty sure it costs them more than $25 a day per person.

And when we go to Enloe Hospital, we are on the hook for our whole bill, or we are dead beats. Not only does Enloe serve the indigents for free, they just handed $20,000 of patient’s money to the shelter, as if it came out of  Mike Wiltermood’s back pocket.

Got any more comments to make Brad? Please, step right up, don’t wait until a post is a couple of weeks old and you don’t think anybody is reading it anymore.  

I also noticed in my stats, somebody had been looking at posts I made about Tea Party presentations. We used to have a very active Tea Party, they met monthly, and had guest speakers, like Brian Nakamura, short term city assassin. They’d filmed these presentations and posted them, sending me links to post. Now those links don’t work anymore, sorry about that. When I checked into the Chico Tea Party, I see it’s pretty dead. I can’t find current information on any local Tea Party groups. Wow, talk about a tempest in a Tea Pot.

As I recall, Tea Party patriots I knew started joining the “State of Jefferson” movement. They were having regular Sunday meetings at the library, but I don’t see those scheduled anymore. State of Jefferson, or the Pacific State, as some call it now, is still active elsewhere. 

https://www.facebook.com/StateofJeffersonParty/

At last, the unfunded pension liabilities are getting some attention.

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2016/03/doing-the-gasb-gasp/

John Moorlach actually considered a run for governor a couple of elections ago, but I’m  guessing he stared straight into the machine that is Jerry Brown and his testicles went right into his throat. At least he’s still banging his drum.  

Reading that, we must wonder, what is Butte County’s unfunded liability? City of Chico is carrying over $90 million.