Archive | December, 2016

Camping in Bidwell Park is a crime – report it!

31 Dec

Yesterday, having reported an illegal camp in Middle Bidwell Park to city of Chico officials, my husband and I walked over to the site to find that the campers seemed to be gone but had left mounds of trash behind. In fact, we encountered more trash yesterday than we’d seen the day before.

These pictures were taken yesterday morning. 

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Here’s the pile we encountered Thursday December 29, still there – notice the dismantled bikes. Somebody had added – a real estate sign? – to the pile.

We noticed new piles, clothes,  trash bags,  kipple of all kinds.

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I wonder if they steal from each other, and here’s somebody’s stuff that has been rifled and left.

 

This is located about a block or two from my home, my tenant’s home. We’ve always locked everything up – Chico was never that nice of a town that you could leave your valuables unlocked, that’s been known for some time.  

But lately we’ve been hearing about weird stuff, stuff that goes beyond home security.  One guy was caught stealing a woman’s panties off her back yard clothesline, in broad daylight. Her husband  caught him in the garage, having broken in through a back door to steal a bike.

A man on the  website Nextdoor reported someone had torn the door off a storage shed in his side yard, but said there was nothing of value, so nothing was taken. Lucky him!  I had been bothering my husband to buy one of those metal  sheds at Home Depot for our tenant’s bikes, so she wouldn’t have to keep them in her laundry room. He laughed  and told me, “that’s like telling the transients, ‘look, here’s some stuff for you…'”  He’s right, these people can just rip the door off a shed, hidden in your back  yard, you and  all your neighbors gone off to work. 

As I’ve said, Chico is not a nice little town anymore. How do we fight this? Report it, report it, report it. Demand action.  I’ll e-mail city manager Mark Orme and ask him who is responsible for cleaning up this mess and when that will be done.  I’ll cc both news editors as well as my third district supervisor Maureen Kirk. I may cc the entire council, but Reanette Fillmer is the one who has shown the most interest in this issue.

Please join me in reporting illegal campers. Follow up – if you still see the problem the next day, politely ask what has been done or why nothing has been done. Don’t be intimidated by their polite refusal to do anything – send your e-mail conversation  here, and I’ll print it verbatim. 

  • Mark Orme, city manager – mark.orme@chicoca.gov
  • Sean Morgan, mayor – sean.morgan@chicoca.gov
  • Reanette Fillmer, vice mayor – reanette.fillmer@chicoca.gov
  • Maureen Kirk, Butte County Supervisor District 3 – mkirk@buttecounty.net
  • Larry Wahl, Butte County Supervisor District 2 – lwahl@buttecounty.net
  • David Little, editor Chico Enterprise Record – dlittle@chicoer.com

NOTE: As of Sunday Jan 1 the trash is gone.  I don’t know who picked it up but will thank Orme for staff’s response. 

 

 

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Bidwell Park becoming a hobo camp

30 Dec
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My dog investigates a pile of trash left behind by illegal campers in Middle Bidwell Park. We saw several bike frames and various parts laying among the piles.

My family lives a block from Middle Bidwell  Park – ooooo! Lucky us!

When we bought and fixed up this old crapper, we were re-assessed very eagerly by the old county ass-essor, Fred. He told me, our proximity to Bidwell Park added to the valuation of our house.  He jacked us good!

Now we live next to a hobo camp. Wonder what  that does to property value?

We walk our old dog Biscuit in the park every morning – she’s got the diabetes, just like a person, she has to have regular exercise to keep her blood sugar down.  So we walk the two or three blocks worth over to the creek every day, early, in the cold and damp, kind of a morning ritual

We let ourselves get into kind of a rut, taking the same main trail every day. One morning this couple was coming along with a pretty tough looking poodle – and you know, Biscuit is not one to back down – so my husband shooshed us off without warning onto a less-beaten path – The Fitness Trail!

The Fitness Trail runs between Vallombrosa and Petersen Drive in the park. The city spent I don’t know how much, putting in these “fitness stations” – I think they’re nothing but a liability, and would like to have seen the money spent on trail maintenance, but the  people who made that decision are already long gone, so what’s the use of complaining?

The park has become a disgrace. Non-native species  have been allowed to grow up and push out the native growth. Overgrowth is everywhere, smothering big trees, causing limb drop. Big trees have been falling, including a tree that smashed to a million pieces all over Vallombrosa a week or so ago and shut the street down while  crews swept it off to the side of the road. Where it still  sits, creating rot and blocking the view of the park from the street.  It’s not nature, it’s an eyesore.

The park used to be nice to look at, now I’m more concerned about the cops being able to see in there.

As my husband and I followed Biscuit up the unfamiliar trail, we suddenly spotted an obvious, well-entrenched homeless camp.  Five tents and an E-Z up were visible from where we stood.  All occupied. Garbage littered the ground in every direction, including a scattering of those poop bags the city provides to pick up after dogs. They were laying on the ground full of poop and tied in knots. Whose poop is anybody’s guess.

We skee-daddled – I don’t want to mess with those people. I remember how Ann Schwab snickered as I told the story of a guy named Jerry Paddy. I used to live and work in Sacramento, I used to ride the city bus. I had to change busses at K Street Mall, walk a few blocks up K Street. Every morning as I joined the mass of commuters I’d see this guy, dressed in bed sheets. We all called him “Jesus,” and we all walked within arms’ distance of this beaming idiot.

One day a man who was visiting a relative at Sutter Hospital noticed this Jesus character wrestling in the bushes near Sutter’s Fort with a woman. This passerby thought it was a sexual assault, and confronted  “Jesus”, who reached into his sheets and took out a 12 inch knife and stuck the poor man right through the gut. This is where Ann Schwab snickered, cause I used the word “gut”. I got news for you Ann – the poor bastard with the stuck guts wasn’t laughing, he was dead before they could get him into the hospital.

“Jesus” was a man named Jerry Paddy, and he showed no remorse for the murder. He went off to the state hospital wearing his idiot grin.

So this is what I’m thinking as I encounter that same grin in the park, or around town, or walking down the sidewalk in front of my home or  one of my rentals.

When we realized we were standing in a homeless camp, my husband and I went home and called the Park Division.  The woman who answered told me a ranger would be sent over to the location – The Fitness Trail, between Stations 3 and 4.  Later we realized, it was more extensive than that, but we figured the rangers would see it.

Next day  the tents and E-Z up were all still there, with more trash.

So, I e-mailed city manager Mark Orme. He said,

“Thank you for this e-mail.  To answer your question, yes, the City is following up on these reports.  I’ll follow-up with staff in relation to this specific site. “

Later he got back to me,

“Again, thank you for your reporting of this.   As additional follow-up, I can tell you that the Park Rangers did engage with this group yesterday, after the report was received.   Additionally, the Rangers have engaged and ticketed this group of illegal campers several times over the past week.  The Park Rangers are coordinating with the Police Department for follow-up today for this specific illegal encampment. “

Yesterday morning this is what we encountered.

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The tents and E-Z up were gone, but they’d left all the trash. I don’t know whether the city came back to get it, but if it’s still there this morning we’ll take more pictures and get back to Mark Orme.

Why should the public be saddled with the “burden” of public worker pension debt?

28 Dec

Here’s a letter I sent to the Enterprise Record in response to the editorial run Monday – “CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt”.  

In answer to the editor, I’ll ask why the taxpayers should be stuck with the “burden” of public employee pensions? 

At Chico Area Recreation District, for example, management has only recently started paying into their own pensions – at a rate of 6.25 percent.  “Classic” management members pay 2 percent. For 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55. The current CARD director makes over $110,000/year in salary.  

The median household income in Chico is about $43,000/year, while the average city of Chico worker makes over $80,000.  Many public safety workers and  most of city management make over $100,000, plus perks. Why can’t they contribute more than 12 and 9 percent, respectively?

The state mandated that “new hires” – that’s an employee who has never been in any public retirement system – pay 50 percent. Why aren’t existing employees asked to pay 50 percent?

Our current mayor, and vice mayor, and two council members are or have been enrolled in the public retirement system. The spouses of two others are enrolled in the system.  Does this make it difficult for council to demand more from our city employees? 

Join me at chicotaxpayers.com to demand that  public “servants” pick up more of the tab for their retirement.

For some reason, Little failed to post that editorial in the online edition. That is a physical job, requiring intent. Little once admitted to me that he doesn’t print every letter he gets in the paper edition, but chooses instead to post them online. So, it’s definitely a choice he makes, whether or not to post in the online edition.  

What? Didn’t want to open the editorial to discussion on Disqus? 

So, something tells me, he’s not going to print my letter. Well, there it is. I hope the rest of you will give him your two cents.

NOTE: I contacted the San Jose Mercury register, a managing editor told me the editorial had been written by one of his co-workers. He explained to me that the ER is owned by the same company at the MR, and has permission to reprint.

So, this is “local” journalism?

Enterprise Record a “conservative” paper? Really?

26 Dec

Here’ s the latest editorial from the man who endorsed Measure K and then refused to interview me when I mounted official opposition to the bond measure.  I had to post the whole thing because it’s not available online, there’s no link.

NOTE:  This editorial ran in the Monday December 26 edition of the Enterprise Record, but for some reason,  as of Wednesday the 28, it has still not appeared in the online edition.

NOTE-NOTE:  Looks like Little picked up this editorial from the Mercury News, but failed to identify it as a pick-up in the the e-edition that I get.

So, I took the opportunity to add my own commentary.

CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt

Chico Enterprise Record, Monday December 26,  2016

The nation’s largest pension system last week demonstrated once again that it’s willing to drive taxpayers deeper into debt to placate government worker labor unions.

Why drive the taxpayers deeper into debt? Why not demand that the workers either pay their own pensions or lower their expectations for retirement bling?

Directors of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System voted to lower their investment forecast, a move in the right direction that means employers and in many cases employees will contribute more to shore up the ailing pension plan.

Again he’s saying employers – and that’s the taxpayers – should have to pay this debt – why? 

But the changes will be phased in at a glacial rate over the next eight years and CalPERS’ own numbers show they’re not nearly enough.

CalPERS has known about this pension debt problem for at least ten years, I’ve been blogging it myself for at least four years. 

By its actions Wednesday, CalPERS acknowledged it has only 63.5 percent of the assets it should. That places the system’s shortfall at about $170 billion and on the backs of taxpayers. It averages more than $13,000 of debt for each California household.

The backs of the taxpayers? Why? We were never consulted when Gray  Davis made this scheme, we recalled him, but we still got stuck with the deal he struck with the employees’ unions.

It’s actually worse than that. And the longer the union- dominated CalPERS board fails to comprehensively address its funding problems, the larger that debt will likely grow. Unlike upfront contributions that are shared between government employers and workers, the shortfall lands solely on taxpayers.

Why?!

Nevertheless, Gov. Jerry Brown touted the deal, which his office struck behind the scenes with labor. He said the change is “ more reflective of the financial returns (CalPERS) can expect in the future. This will make for a more sustainable system.”

More than what? Yes, it’s closer to a reasonable target than the past policy, which was completely divorced from reality, but it doesn’t come close to actually putting CalPERS on a sustainable path.

Like the governor’s muchtouted pension law changes of 2012, this CalPERS adjustment only marginally slows the bleeding. It doesn’t come close to solving the problem.

Specifically, the CalPERS board voted to lower its assumed rate of investment return from 7.5 percent to 7.375 percent in fiscal year 2017, 7.25 percent in 2018 and 7.0 percent in 2019.

That means the pension system will lower its expectation for how much interest it can earn from its assets and instead turn to government employers to kick in more.

But that increase in contribution rates for state and local governments, many of whom are likely to pass on some of the burden to workers, won’t be fully phased in until 2024.

Oh my God – he’s calling pensions of 70 – 90 percent of a worker’s highest year’s earnings a burden on the workers!

To understand how far short this move falls, consider that CalPERS announced Wednesday that it hadn’t hit a 7 percent average over the last 20 years and, going forward, it estimates that there’s only roughly a 1-in- 4 chance that it will meet that target.

And CalPERS’ consultant warns that the pension system should anticipate only an average 6.2 percent in each of the next 10 years.

CalPERS officials rationalize that state and local governments couldn’t afford higher payments that would result from lower investment forecasts.

If that’s true, the solution is to change the system, not keep denying reality.

I believe Little is talking about further raising taxes to float these pensions. That’s why he endorsed Measure K, and that’s why I believe he will back up CARD and eventually the city of Chico when they put their own tax increase measures on the ballot. He refuses to admit that these pensions are unsustainable, period, he just keeps expecting the rest of us to set up these public workers like Phay-rohs!

When are we going to get a real newspaper in this town?

NOTE: I contacted a managing editor at the San Jose Mercury Register – this piece was actually written by one of his co-workers and reprinted by permission in the ER (same owner owns both papers…)

This year, state employee pensions will cost taxpayers $5.4 billion, according to the California Department of Finance

23 Dec

Bob sent this link, a must read for those of you who  don’t understand “The Pension Bomb”.

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-pension-crisis-davis-deal/

As Jack Dolan reports, “It was a deal that wasn’t supposed to cost taxpayers an extra dime. Now the state’s annual tab is in the billions, and the cost keeps climbing.”

“This year, state employee pensions will cost taxpayers $5.4 billion, according to the Department of Finance. That’s more than the state will spend on environmental protection, fighting wildfires and the emergency response to the drought combined.”

Agencies like CARD and Chico Unified School District make promises to build new facilities and replace mold, rot and asbestos, upgrade to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, but this is what they really want the money for.

 

CARD pac distributing new video about “sports complex” – gee, what happened to the “aquatic center”?

22 Dec

Jim sent this video, an early pitch for the CARD bond.

Produced by a group called everybodygoodbody, this shows us just how much money they are willing to sink into this bond measure. I don’t know if CARD provided funding for this video, but yesterday I got a note from CARD director Ann Willmann regarding employee pension contributions.

“The management staff has 3 PEPRA PERS members, therefore they pay their 6.25% employee portion. There are two CLASSIC members who currently pay 2% of the employee portion.

 Our pension Liability for the 2015-16 fiscal year was $1,758,200 which is an increase of $57,480 from the previous year.”

As you can see, CARD management pay little to nothing for their pensions, which amount to 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55.  Willmann currently yanks in over $100,000 a year – I can’t get the exact figure out of CARD, but the public pay website says she makes over $120,000/year just in salary. But still expects the public, with average household income at about $40,000/year, to pick up 98% of her pension. Ann, you’re a pig.

Meanwhile, like the auditor told the CARD board, their pension deficit “will never go  away…will never go down…” He gave the room every expectation  that the pension deficit is going to go up at least $50,000/year in perpetuity.  In fact he said as employee salaries go up the increase amount will go up. He smiled like a goon as he said it.

Because this board, including pensioneer Tom Lando who gets more than $11,000/month in pension paid by the city of Chico, refuses to make the employees pay their own pensions.

Sneed, Mulowney and Ellis are up in 2018, and they need to go. Sneed has been on the board through CARD long decline. She was on the board when CARD agreed to take on the skate park, and now she and the rest of the board want to give the skate park back to the city.  She was on board through years of neglect of Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools, refusing needed maintenance for those pools while encouraging the Aqua Jets to hold out for a big, taxpayer funded “aquatic center”. The public rejected that, so now she’s come back with a “sports complex”.

We know they won’t build it, not on the first bond anyway. The first bond will go to their salaries and benefits, stuff for their offices.  Think people – the school district has passed three bonds since they first promised to “fix the schools” in 1998. How many bonds will CARD tack on to this one in years to come?

 

 

 

CARD plans phone survey for late January to promote new funding measure

20 Dec

The school bond and the lawsuit CUSD pressed against Chico State to hide the e-mail conversation regarding mold in classrooms has kept me distracted from Chico Area Recreation District’s plans to assess homeowners to pay down their pension deficit and eliminate other problems caused by poor management and bad decisions on the part of the board.

An audit report from Matsom and Isom showed that CARD’s pension deficit has actually increased by about $50,000  over the last year, but the board is only now asking employees to pay into their own pensions, and they’re asking less than 4 percent. 

CARD is also under the same pressure all public agencies are under – CalPERS wants more money, more money, more money. They’ve stepped up their demands and are threatening fees on late payments.

And then there are some poor decisions made over the last 10 years that beg examination.  For example, I’ve always wondered, who approved the purchase of Lakeside Pavillion at over a million dollars, a building riddled with rot and out of compliance with 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act?  Who profited from that sale? Who arranged it?

Here’s a good question – why not sell it?

Here’s a better question – why should the taxpayers have to bail them out?

This is the kind of stuff people need to know and ask about before they vote to give this agency any more money.

CARD has spent almost $100,000 so far on consultants who keep telling them the public does not support a bond and will need a lot of convincing. These consultants, ranging in price from $50,000 to about $3,500, have told the agency one thing over and over again – it’s going to be an enormous amount of work for staff, especially manager Ann Willmann.    The last consultant told the agency they needed to run extensive Public Relations campaigns to make the public think they want a bond or assessment on their homes to fund rainbow promises.  That’s going to take a  really professional propaganda blitz, and Willmann is not up to the task, so she’s just kept hiring one consultant after another in hopes she could get a firm with a price tag acceptable to the board.

It looks like she finally convinced the board they needed to hire an out of town crapslinger –  the bay area firm that hammered the school bond through on us. The board approved  to run a “survey” after Christmas, probably late January.  Consultant Ruth Bernstein said they would try to do 400 “interviews” within about a week.  

These “interviews” will not be indiscriminate.  The consultant will use the voter roles – “we know demographics”  – meaning, they can call people they feel will support the bond.

The purpose?   Bernstein posed the question “How do we build community support for your vision…” and then answered it.

Building community support [for a bond or assessment] is difficult,” Bernstein admitted. A survey would identify “what they want…then you know what to say about yourself…”  

In other words, you simply find out what rainbow dreams the public has (well, 400 of them, anyway…) and then you tell them you need a bond to pay for it! Swwwwweeeeeeet!

No, it’s really not that easy. Bernstein went on to warn the board about opposition.  “We won’t recommend placing a measure on the ballot if we sense too much opposition in the community.” 

How to avoid opposition? Don’t  tell people what you’re doing. Bernstein assured the board the callers would make no mention of the agency, no mention of the bond effort – “We don’t tell them what it’s about. We don’t want to attract people who hate CARD,” she warned. “We have to be careful who we survey…” The callers, working from the Bay Area, will even program a local area code onto their caller ID so the respondent won’t know the agency is from out of town. 

So they will take this effort around the back  door, survey less than half of one percent of the population, and then use the information to make their bond campaign.  That’s what worked for Chico Unified with Measure K.

The board had a few questions. Michael Worley wanted to make sure Chico State students, an admittedly transient population, will be in town for the survey. That’s the kind of thinking that got Worley more votes than any CARD candidate in history.  He not only doubled Jan Sneed’s total for 2014, he got more votes than our new mayor, city council record spender Sean Morgan. As far as I know Worley did so without spending a dime cause he didn’t file any reports with the county.

The consultant answered Worley, “we’re not going to have a big  student turnout in 2018, so why include them in the survey?” She said statistics pointed out that students don’t vote in non-presidential election years. Right in front of us, they were marginalizing people using occupation.  What other demographics will go into how they pick  and choose who they will call? 

Then Tom Lando opined that he would rather hold off on a survey until CARD finishes their 2017 master plan, first draft due in February. Jan Sneed responded tersely, “the master plan isn’t going to change…” Wow, that’s an open mind, somebody toss a cigar butt in there.

Director Ann Willmann, who only recently agreed to pay less than 4 percent of her own pension premiums, having paid nothing up to now, was anxious to add that the “survey should define ‘quality of life’…”

Willmann is the stinking head of this fish, because she knows she ain’t going to get no pension if CalPERS doesn’t get their money.  She’s smart – yeah, get people to tell you their wishes and dreams, then dress that up on a platter for 2018. 

The board passed a motion to hire EMC, with Lando dissenting. I  think he supports the measure but worries about the timing.

They promised to fix the skate park when they took it over from the city. They’ve led a group of citizens along by  the nose, allowing them to raise funds, and now backing down. Why would we expect them to behave any differently with promises they make to pass this measure? 

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20161218/card-board-irked-over-skate-park-expenses