Archive | May, 2016

There is no accountability

21 May

I got a kick out of David Little’s “Hits and Misses” column today.

“MISS >> We had to shake our heads over the issue of couch fires, not because it’s silly to assign undercover investigators to locations where furniture is likely to burst into flames, but because it wastes our public safety resources.

The fact that many of these incidents happen around the Chico State University campus near the end of the school year is disappointing, considering how hard local educational institutions work to stress civic responsibility, sustainability and recycling.”

Does this man read his own newspaper? There on Page A4, a story about a man arrested, not for setting a couch on fire, but for a “string of suspicious fires”, including an incendiary device thrown through the window of an apartment, a garbage can, and a mattress laying in the back of a pick-up.

Police arrested James Henry Newsome, who was reportedly seen by witnesses prying open a window and tossing something into the apartment that caught fire minutes later. Channel 7 News reported a young woman lived in that room, luckily she was not home at the time. Her room was gutted by fire, leaving her and five of her neighbors “homeless.

http://www.krcrtv.com/news/local/apartment-fire-displaces-students-arson-is-possible-cause/39645572

The irony here is, this Newsome guy, in one arrest report after another for the last five years, has been described as “homeless” or “a transient.”  He’s been arrested again and again over the last five years, mostly for the continuing harassment of some person who has been granted a restraining order against him. Looking up his name in the Superior Court case index, you find one after another charge of “disobeying a domestic court order” followed by “failure to appear.” One arrest after another at One Mile or City Plaza or various business establishments in the Downtown – Mangrove Corridor. One “dismissal” after another. I don’t know why – the superior court doesn’t give those kind of details in language the layperson can understand.

Newsome is a one-man revenue disaster. Look at his history in the court index, and ask yourself – “what does it cost to entertain a jackass like this in court?” 

Is this why Butte County courts perpetuate this cycle? For the money? And Chico PD? The cops arrest them, they go the court circuit, they end up back on the street.   All the while, the cops, the DA,  the Public Defender’s office and the judges continue to get their paychecks and over 80 percent of their pension and benefits paid by the taxpayers.  Eventually, something really bad happens.

Like that apartment fire – according to Channel 7 –

“The fire was contained to a back bedroom. Firefighters said the house is split into three apartments and 12 college students live there. The back bedroom was gutted. Fortunately the young woman who lives in that bedroom was not home at the time.”

Fortunately?  The frame pushed up against the wall and the pile of ash there on the floor is all that’s left of the young woman’s bed.

Can you imagine having to make this phone call – “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Parents of a College Girl, we regret to inform you that your daughter was roasted to a turn as she slept soundly in her bed, by a guy who’s been in the custody of law enforcement about a dozen times but they’ve never managed to convict him of anything…”

We don’t have a crime problem in Butte County, we have a law enforcement problem.  

This reminded me of the story I saw on Chico Action News about a man who had closed an entire neighborhood down with a threat to set his own house on fire. An undisclosed number of police and fire personnel were on site, getting paid out the ass, for “a couple of hours.”   The media should have to translate that into  $$$$$$.  In the end, “no charges were filed and no arrests were made. The man was transported to a mental health facility.”

I wonder, what mental health facility? Will he be held under the new ruling the county supervisors passed recently, giving the county behavioral health department authorization to hold someone against their will for 45 days? $$$$$$$$$$

Police diffuse situation on Marjorie Ave

From ACTION NEWS NOW (5/16/16)  by Darren Leeds

The Chico Police Department was tied up for a couple of hours Monday evening as they responded to tense and even bizarre situation on Marjorie Avenue.

Police were dispatched to 959 Marjorie Avenue around 4:30pm after they got a call from a man at that address saying he was going to burn his house down.

The Chico PD says the name of the man is not being released. Law enforcement and Chico Fire had to close off Marjorie Avenue just off of Cohasset. The fire department shut off the gas lines to the home and neighborhood.
Police say they were able to get in touch with the man in the home on his phone and had a lengthy conversation with him. After a couple of hours, the man decided to come out of the home peacefully.

McKinnon says, “So we evacuated the surrounding houses in the event that the house caught on fire, and if the houses next to it caught on fire we needed those residents to be out of there. We blocked off the road so any vehicle traffic wouldn’t come down there and get involved. You never know.”

Lieutenant McKinnon says no charges were filed and no arrests were made. The man was transported to a mental health facility.

But if my tenants have a party of more than 20 people, and the neighbors call the cops twice in a certain number of days, I as a landlord am liable for police and fire “response costs,” a minimum of $1,000. This man won’t pay “response costs,” he won’t pay for his stay in the mental health facility, and, I’d bet my last dollar – he won’t quit being an expensive pain in the ass for the taxpayers, cause nobody is going to hold him accountable for his actions. 

I found the discussion following this article, posted at Ch 12 website, very interesting.

Laurie Tozier

Good job CPD for peacefully difusing this situaton and saving the man’s life and property. Best wishes to him on getting help, I hope he has good family.

 

Gary Martin · California State University, Chico

No charges were filed? We had to be evacuated from our house for two hours, 13 police officers spent over two hours on this call, a fire truck and ambalance were on standby. I could not return to work as the culdesac was blocked off. This is the second time in a vear that Steve has held the police at bay with threats of lighting himself on fire, I hope he gets help before he really does it. He and his wife care for a severly disabled man in a wheelchair, we have small children that live close by what happens to them! Who pays for the cost both monetery and emotional that this man has causes. Ok thanks for listening I am going to go look up JUSTICE in the dictionary

Kathy Childers

This time I hope he gets the help he needs! My son and his family live in that culdesac! Having a mentally ill neighbor should be a disclosable item when you sell a house there!!!

 
Michael Barns

I agree, I think the landlord of the mentally ill person should be made accountable for not evicting them do to the danger that they invite to the comunity.

 
Tammy Nelson ·  Client Services Manager at UnitedHealth Group

Police were here longer than he was detained! I hope the landlord is advised of all the police activity at that house, as well as the people that are paying them to care for the disabled! If he was evaluated and he needed help commit him, if he was just trying to avoid getting put in jail put him in jail! When there are no consequences for your actions people continue to do these things and even worse!

Michael Barns

Exactly if the landlords were notified that thier properties were in danger and that the tenants were a nusance maybe the city would be a safer place

 

 Michael Barns

I think that the Chico PD needs to do welfare check on the wheel chair person I believe his name is Ben and these folks are taking care of him. It does not seem to be a safe environment for a person with limited mobility, I wonder if he is a ssi or ssa receipent please someone in social services check out this story

 

Stephan Farris ·  Retired Law Enforcement at Retired

Mental health conditions are just that. A health condition and thus protected by law from disclosure. Further, people can’t be evicted for most health conditions. It would be no different than if someone tried to evict you because you had HIV or tuberculosis or some other communicable disease.
While I empathize with the neighborhood and understand the frustration at the impacts it causes to you and your families, what many of you are proposing isn’t right either.

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I think we’ve got a bunch of thugs here!

18 May

Good luck Bernie!

Humana, United Healthcare are bailing out of Obamacare, other insurers will increase premiums as much as 13 percent – something you aren’t hearing from either Trump or Clinton

16 May

This is the weirdest presidential election I can remember in my adult life. Somehow they’ve managed to campaign for the better part of a year without talking about any really substantive issues.

One thing they’re not talking about is the failure of Obamacare. It’s happened just like the critics predicted – not enough people are paying in, and too many people are collecting.  The big health insurers are not making the profits they wanted.  According to this article from Virginia-based financial services company Motley Fool, two major insurers are opting out of states that signed on to Obamacare and others are set to raise premiums to “scary” new levels.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/healthcare/obamacares-2017-insurer-rate-requests-are-starting-to-stream-in-and-the-figures-are-scary/ar-BBt4YY5?li=BBnb4R7&ocid=mailsignout

“Worst of all, it doesn’t appear as if insurer rate hike requests are going to ebb once we get beyond 2017.”

Low enrollment, especially among healthy young people, seems to be the biggest problem.  Obama had expected the young to bear the larger burden, assuming young people would be healthier and fitter and make fewer claims while paying their own premiums. Who would sign on to something that dumb – would Barack Obama advise his daughters to sign in on to something like that? Well, he doesn’t have to, they will continue to live under the umbrella of their dad’s publicly-paid insurance until they are 24, at which time I’m going to assume they will use their considerable wealth to purchase very nice plans for themselves.

Motley Fool blames the low penalties, still “considerably lower” than the “cheapest health plans.”  True, I am not intimidated by the penalty. What intimidates me is finding myself with a policy that is not accepted by local caregivers, or a policy that won’t even get me into a hospital, much less pay for adequate care. My biggest fear with Obamacare is going into a hospital with a label on my forehead that says, “can’t afford anything, leave her in the hallway until her family picks her up…”

What is angering the big insurers is the failure of promises made regarding the “risk corridor.” Obama promised to protect the insurance companies should they not achieve the profits they were expecting – wow, is that legal? – but apparently has not. “In 2016, insurers that were losing money on Obamacare’s exchanges requested $2.87 billion in financial assistance. Unfortunately, the risk corridor doled out just $362 million, or 13% of what was requested.”

That was surprising to me – I had thought it was all about enriching the insurance companies, but here, Obama screwed them too.

Fool also blames subsidies for hiding the impact of the rate increases from most ratepayers, leaving a smaller disgruntled crowd who can’t seem to attract much sympathy for their problem. See, those who make too much to qualify for subsidies are in fact paying for those who do qualify, and they’re paying more all the time. Just like people who don’t get welfare pay for those who do get it. That pisses people off. But there are apparently too few pissed off people to make much of a wave, most of those enrolled are apparently being subsidized. Again, those healthier younger people just aren’t taking the bait, so those that do bite will bite twice as hard.

The article reports that “ Hillary Clinton has proposed building on Obamacare’s success, while Donald Trump is focused on its repeal.”   Really? I haven’t heard them say anything about it.  I’ve just heard enough carping back and forth to fill a standard 2.5 gallon toilet.

What an election.

I love that old poem – Yeats? – “what rough beast, it’s hour come round at last, slouches toward Washington DC, to be born?”  or something like that.

 

So much for public safety – city of Chico doesn’t take Americans with Disabilities Act too seriously

13 May

Bureaucracy gets a deserved bad name because it sucks up a lot of money and resources without producing anything.  Here in Chico we spend 10’s of millions – I’ve lost track of our total budget – on salaries, health benefits and pensions, but our streets are broken to pieces, our park is in disgrace, and public buildings all over town are in disrepair. Former public works manager Ruben Martinez reported a few years ago that instead of having a regular schedule of maintenance for city fixtures and facilities, the department just waited  for things to break.  This he called, “Failure Maintenance.”

Think about that. Say it a few times, and think about it good.  It sounds like the City of Chico is maintaining failure.

 I was telling my friend Jim how the city of Chico has bottomed out the gas tax fund – a cash register rings Downtown every time you gas your car in the city limits – paying salaries and benefits of people who have nothing to do with fixing our streets. Jim reminded me that the gas tax is supposed to go toward repairing streets, so I was telling him about “cost allocation.” This is the legal process by which they move money from one fund to another, “allocating” funds to pay for salaries. Here’s a simple example – if they have a meeting about the sewer facility, every body at the meeting gets their salary for that hour or two out of the sewer fund, everybody from the clerk to the city manager.  They even “allocate” an amount appropriate to pay for the PG&E  in that room for the duration of the meeting.

I first heard this many years ago – remember Jennifer Hennessy? She delivered the news to the Finance Committee, which included Mayor Mark Sorensen at that time, very casually and matter of factly, as if it was okay. Since she left in a hail of insults, her replacement, Chris Constantin, and his replacement, Frank Fields, have made it administrative policy. Moving peas under walnut shells is now the official finance policy of the City of Chico, CA.  Before he was mayor, Mark Sorensen complained they’d bottomed out the Sewer and Development funds the same way. Now you don’t hear him saying much about the red ink all over the city books, cause they juggle them so fast nowadays it’s just a blur of pink.

The other official policy Downtown is, they only fix stuff if they can get grants for it. In fact, as we have seen with the plans they made up for Esplanade, they will fix stuff that doesn’t need fixing just to get the money. And here’s the real sticker – they have to match that grant money with city funds. So, as in the case of the Downtown remodel undertaken over the last five years, with all the bulbing of the sidewalks and the traffic circles, ended up costing about 4 times as much as if they’d just fixed the sidewalks and put the ADA compliant access points at the intersections like the feds told them to do.  But, oh boy! We can get all this extra money to pay down our pension deficit if we put traffic circles and switch parking from parallel to angle parking!

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed about 1990. Intended to make our streets and public building more accessible to people with “mobility issues” like wheelchairs, the ADA is pretty simple – if a competent wheelchair jockey can’t navigate a section of sidewalk, it’s not ADA compliant. Cracks, buckling around trees, potholes in sidewalks or streets – these don’t just prove challenging for people with disabilities – try getting a stroller out there, you find out quick, there’s whole parts of town that aren’t doable.  

And then there’s the liability. There’s a section of sidewalk across the street from my house with a buckle in it. It’s not much, it’s hard to see, but when I occasionally kick that buckle with my foot, it hurts all the way up my spine to the back of my head. Think I should talk to a lawyer about that?

I don’t remember how many years ago the city was told the Esplanade was not ADA compliant, but they’ve taken that and turned it into a gazillion dollar remodel, with over sized traffic circles and other changes necessitating the removal of many huge trees.  In the drawing I saw, the traffic  circle in front of Bidwell Mansion looks as if it will send cars right through the front doors of Northern Star Mills.

Protest led council to shelve the traffic circle plans, but only until 2017, just after the upcoming election. Wow, that’s not obvious. You’ve got Cheryl King whooping up a war dance, she’s got a basket to put your head in, so you postpone your decision until after the election. Gotta hand it to Sorensen, he knows how to handle the liberals. He won the Farmer’s Market battle, and he’ll win this one, just watch. 

Meanwhile, what about the ADA? Are they going to fix Esplanade at all? There’s miles of busted up sidewalk, and other liabilities that just need to be fixed. What about complaints about speeding? The  cops have made a big deal of patrolling it – as if it’s a big effort on their part to do their jobs, we’ll see how long it lasts.

Jim sent me a picture of ADA compliance in his neighborhood.  

Speaking of ADA, they put in these handicapped access a few years ago in my neighborhood. Nobody uses them, cars block them off, and they are full of dirt and water.

Jim says, “Speaking of ADA, they put in these handicapped access a few years ago in my neighborhood. Nobody uses them, cars block them off, and they are full of dirt and water.”         

Aquatic center proponents form non-profit, hire consultant, plan “Megacility”

11 May

Has CARD dropped plans to put a bond on the November ballot to pay for a new aquatic center?

Monday I was forwarded an invitation to a presentation at CARD’s new headquarters, Lakeside Pavilion.

You’ve been invited to participate in an event on May 10th which could be a milestone for Chico, involving large scale recreational facilities as a major community amenity and economic driver.   

 

It’s far from a new topic.  The adequacy of Chico’s facilities, the strain and economic drain travelling someplace else for events and tournaments, limited programing, limited funding, limited facilities and limited opportunities for people of all ages, etc.  All far below what could be accomplished if local talent, leadership and resources were tapped and channeled to accomplish what has been accomplished in other communities, many of which lack the talent, leadership and resources which already exist in Chico.

 

What is new is that out of this long running and seemingly endless conversation, a  catalyst non-profit has been formed to move the ball downfield.   Doing that requires community involvement and support.  Partnership and collaboration is essential!!!

 
DATE: Tuesday, May 10th
TIME: 6:30 PM

LOCATION: Lakeside Pavilion.  2565 California Park Dr, Chico, CA 95928

 

It’ll be an informative and enjoyable event on the Lake in Cal Park.  

 

Looking forward to seeing you there,

Brad Geise
EVERYBODY, Healthy Body
Collaboration and Partnerships for Athletics Facilities and Programming

530-715-0035 

Of course this invitation was not intended for me, but addressed to a local elected official who forwarded it along to me, knowing I’ve been trying to follow the aquatic center conversation.  This invitation confirms what I’ve suspected – as the public, and even the local daily newspaper, has failed to support CARD’s bids for public funding for this venture, the tiny but well-heeled group of aquatic center supporters has turned to a consultant, and formed a “non-profit” group. Ostensibly they are looking for private funding, but a quick look at their website shows a pattern of private ventures that quickly turn to the public for major funding. 

Under “FAQ’s” you will find this link:

http://sportsplanningguide.com/rise-of-the-megacilities

Here’s the bait …

Spooky Nook Sports was funded privately by its owner, Sam Beiler, for approximately $11.25 million. After traveling for his daughter’s various sports tournaments across the country, the family decided to create an indoor facility that offers quality customer service, ideal playing and spectator conditions and additional activities during downtime.

the usual sales pitch about how these facilities are a benefit to the entire community  … 

There’s no denying the impressive impact of sports tourism these days; destinations are taking their sports inventories to the next level. These herculean sports venues, or what we like to call megacilities, have generated an estimated combined economic impact of more than $200 million to date. They open their doors to competitions of all calibers where players, coaches and spectators alike will have to pick up their jaws from the state-of-the-art floors and fields.

 and here’s the switch – from the 2015 Pennsylvania Urban Land Institute report …

Although by all accounts the Nook has been deemed a success, that success has not been quantified in terms of fiscal or economic impact. 

The report goes on to detail the major traffic problems brought about during tournaments at this facility in Pennsylvania, finally recommending “The Nook” apply for public road funds to fix their inadequate private parking lot. The report describes the development of the site as “haphazard,” and recommends that the governing authorities take a harder look at the actual benefits of this development and ways to curb the problems it is causing.

Read on about a facility in Georgia – 

LakePoint Sporting Community was privately funded until it received a $32-million bond to support the next development phase: the indoor facility.

According to the Rome News-Tribune, “Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor said the Bartow County Development Authority issued $37 million in bonds to finance construction of the pavilion.”

According to wikipedia, Bartow County is, well, kind of poor.   The median income is only about $44,000 a year – much like Butte County. How in the hell will they pay those bonds? 

Read on about one facility after another in one state after another – entirely funded with taxpayer money.  Revenue bonds, city self-financing and hotel occupancy taxes, just to name a few sources of revenue that have been tapped to pay for facilities that have so far failed to prove any sustainable economic benefit for the surrounding area. They all create traffic problems that are addressed with more public money.

I expect the aquatic center group to follow the same tack.  They will try to impress us with their ability to attract “stakeholders,” but in the end they will try to get into our purses with this thing.

Meanwhile, CARD must also find some way to fund itself. Now they’ve privatized the backside of the CARD center and will charge money for weddings and other events. This is a conflict of their mission.  CARD was formed to facilitate recreational opportunities for taxpayers, not to compete with private enterprise to pay their own salaries, pensions and benefits. But, I will be keeping my ear to the railroad tracks, waiting for CARD to roll out another tax campaign of some sort. 

So, the aquatic center is not off the table, it’s turned into a “Megacility”.  A consultant and a group of local proponents has formed a covert group aimed at using private money to attract public money, just like a lot of other scams. It’s up to us to remain vigilant against this kind of misappropriation of public money.

The system is only as good as the taxpayers who support it.

County public works director complains our streets “are falling apart in front of our eyes” – but he still gets his $168,000/year plus benefits

8 May

What now for the Esplanade? Council has laid that decision over for after the election – cute, eh?

The real issue on Esplanade is the collapsing infrastructure – buckling, incomplete sidewalks, lack of crosswalks, high curbs that force wheel chairs out into the street.  It’s an outrage that a city the size of Chico, with a payroll of over $28 million dollars, another $12 million on pensions and health benefits, would look like this.

 

 

pothole

Cycling through my neighborhood I encountered a sink hole. Notice it’s already been patched at least once, quite recently.

 

A few years ago, former Mayor Ann Schwab make a big deal over the new “Hwy 99 Bike Trail” through town. You can see part of it from the freeway. The purple light poles and other “art treatments” – stuff like, thousands of dollars for boulders shipped in from the Eastern US – ran almost a million dollars.

What you can’t see is the section that runs through my neighborhood. Cal Trans wouldn’t grant access on the freeway overpass, so the trail leads back into the neighborhood, winding down one street and up the other, using a series of stenciled white bicycles to lead the eager traveler to and from Bidwell Park.  The actual trail was resurfaced, but, as you can see in the picture above, the surrounding streets were left to rot. 

I wonder what the purple signs cost.

As you can see, the resurfacing job follows the purple signs. I wonder what each sign cost.

Every now and then a citizen complains and a city works truck comes out to patch holes with “slobbers” left over from other road jobs.  Those patches only seem to exacerbate the pothole – within a week it’s back, even bigger.

I remember sitting in a meeting at which then-Finance Director Jennifer Hennessey explained that the gas tax fund – money that is supposed to be dedicated to fixing streets – was routinely bottomed out paying salaries Downtown. That seemed sketchy to Mark Sorensen before he was mayor – now he has sat by as city staff has manufactured ordinances allowing “cost allocation” – meaning, if a staffer attends a meeting in which the gas tax is mentioned, their salary for that meeting comes out of the gas tax fund. As well as the PG&E bill for that meeting, etc. 

You see the streets sit and rot, but City of Chico employees continue to collect their paychecks, as well as pension and benefits payments.

It’s no better in the county, according to county Public Works Director Mike Crump (Enterprise Record, Letters, 5/4/16)

It was great news reading about all the road work Caltrans is doing locally, including the resurfacing of Highway 99 in Chico and constructing passing lanes on Highway 70 south of Oroville that are all important, but what about our local roads? We can all see (and feel) our local streets falling apart in front of our eyes.

Cities and counties have been measuring the condition of our roads and bridges and the news is not good. With the existing California gas tax funding formulas, there is a clear downward trend in our local road conditions projected over the next 10 years unless our state legislators begin to address this issue.

Here in Butte County, where I am public works director, on a scale of 1-100 with 100 being excellent, our local road pavement condition index (PCI) is an “at risk” 66. We (cities and county) need more than $65 million per year over the next 10 years if we are to bring our roads up to a good condition with a PCI over 70 and this does not include the needs of our bridges, traffic signals or sidewalks. Last year, unincorporated Butte County could only afford to spend $2.5 million to resurface 25 miles of our 1,000 miles of paved roads we need to maintain. If future funding to maintain our local roads is not addressed soon, we can expect many more of our roads to fail. Please log onto savecaliforniastreets.org for more information and cool maps.

— Mike Crump, Oroville

Mike, or “John” Crump as he is listed on the county payroll, made $168,000 in 2014, and took a $28,000 benefits package. The county spent over $118 million on wages in 2014, with another $35 million going out to retirement and health benefits. All that money spent on wages and benefits – what do we have to show for that? A bunch of fat employees driving to work in their new vehicles – a lot of them provided by the tax payers (who also pay the gas tax to fill them up) – over shredded roads. 

Is Crump looking for us to tax ourselves further to pay more in wages – his wages have creeped up over $20,000/year in the last 10 years, while, as he admits, our roads “are falling apart in front of our eyes.” 

This is what keeps employers out of the North State – our backwards, corrupt, over-fed public workers and our sagging, neglected infrastructure. 

 

Kamala Harris is corrupt, but I guess that’s nothing new in politics

3 May

I was talking to my supervisor Maureen Kirk about the Cal Water rate increase case, and she asked me about former CPUC President Michael Peevey. I had written some e-mails to Peevey, not only protesting the rate hike as I was instructed by the ratepayers advocate’s office, but I sent him a picture I’d got from some folks in Lucerne, CA – a shining brand new bass boat hooked up to a Cal Water truck. People in the Clear Lake area were getting hit really hard with rate increases, they were pissed off enough to form a tar and feathers party. 

Of course Peevey never got back to me, he was way too busy.

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/How-dinner-for-ex-PUC-head-Peevey-hit-nerve-at-UC-6166762.php

Peevey is a bad man, and deserves to go to jail.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-watchdog-peevey-20151230-story.html

but Kamala Harris is a shill, and blew the investigation.  On purpose? Because her buddy Jerry Brown and his sister Kathy are in up to their necks? 

Kamala’s got big plans, it would be a poor time for her to rock the boat.

http://www.ebony.com/news-views/kamala-harris-senate-run-could-set-her-up-for-bigger-things#axzz47ayvaQ58

Wow, I’ll ask this question out loud – how did Kamala Harris get on the cover of Ebony magazine? Is this her game plan? Be the first “black” (ha ha) woman to be governor of California? 

This election is going to be a disaster no matter how you cut it up.