Archive | February, 2017

Call CARD and ask if you can participate in their survey

23 Feb

I got a question from a reader about CARD (Chico Area Recreation District) and their plans to put a revenue measure before property owners, so I gave them the link to the district budget:

I wish more people would pay attention to what CARD is doing. I’ve heard the excuses – sure, we’re all busy.  I been busy this week, up to my neck, I’m turning over a rental, so pardon me if I don’t have time for your whining.  I get up at 5 am to do this kind of stuff, try that sometime!  The stars are bright, the sunrise is brilliant, the morning air is fresh and the quiet will astound you. 

At least don’t stand there like a stooge while these bureaucrats pick you clean. Get off your duff, turn off the  tv, and stand up for yourself and your family. Write a letter to the CARD board and tell them to save their money – YOUR money! Tell them you won’t support another revenue measure, you want to see management pay their own benefits. Write a letter to one of the papers, but don’t just sit there waiting to be had.

Call the CARD office at 895-4711 and ask them how you can participate in the survey, see what they say, get back to me.

I sent this letter to the Enteprise Record yesterday. 

Chico Area Recreation District board approved $28,000 for consultant EMC to conduct a phone survey in late February, to vet the voters regarding a proposed revenue measure.

Complaining they are not able to maintain their facilities with a $5.5 million payroll, CARD wants to put a bond or assessment on property owners and take over the city’s developer impact fees.

The real problem is that non-management staff have been restricted to 27 hours or less per week in response to the Affordable Care Act. This has led to cuts in some programs and deferred maintenance for facilities like Humboldt Skate Park and Shapiro Pool. 

Meanwhile, management staffers continue to receive generous benefits, paying only 2 to 6.25 percent of their benefits package, out of salaries exceeding $100,000/year. An auditor reported their $1,758,200 pension deficit will grow by about $55,000 annually. The 2016-17 salary/benefits total of $5.5 million is $287,590 more than 2015-16, even after non-management staffers were restricted to 27 hours per week. 

Of a $7.8 million budget, over $4 million comes from property taxes, park impact fees on development, and homeowner assessments.  The agency spends less than $2 million on “services and supplies,” including maintenance of facilities.  “Capital Funding” is shown as a negative figure. 

Management over-compensation and deferred maintenance of facilities have led CARD to their current situation.    If you receive a call from EMC,  tell them you are not willing to further fund this agency.

“On the Waterfront” still rings true in many ways

16 Feb

Today I have a cold, so I am staying inside to watch movies on tv.  What luck – the old movies channel is playing “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando and Lee J. Cobb.

I know – it’s “just a movie” – but it tells the story of the unions and how they are corrupt by nature.  Based on a series of stories written by Malcolm Johnson for the New York Sun, OTWF dramatizes “the corruption and organized crime infiltration on the New York City waterfront… the inhumane treatment of longshoremen implicitly condoned by the unions, and the suspicious disappearance of anyone who spoke out against the system…”

As I sit at the keyboard I am listening to the “Johnny Friendly” character, played by Lee J. Cobb, explain to Marlon Brando’s “Terry” why his friend had to die,  how many people had died for the control of the waterfront jobs. As they speak around the pool table, Johnny is continually given reports of the thousands of dollars his minions have conscripted from the workers.

Later Karl Malden asks the workers why  they put up with the treatment from Friendly, ” what about your union?” The men cautiously tell the priest that anybody who raises any question about the treatment of the workers loses electricity in his apartment, “and then your lights go out..” “Name one place where it’s safe to talk without getting clobbered…” adds another man.

Did you know that in order to have a job with the Chico Police or Fire Department you are required to be to pay membership dues, whether or not you choose to be an actual member. You simply give up your right to vote in union matters, but you have to keep paying the dues that end up in campaign contributions at election time. The CPOA is routinely the biggest single donor in Chico elections.

This is a great movie, but here’s more information on the original stories:

Fueled by a dated system that does not always respond to market incentives or pressure, costs and surpluses of energy have both grown in California

14 Feb

More information on California’s “power glut”.

Our local government just a cesspool with a revolving door

13 Feb

Read this story from the Territorial Dispatch – remind you of anybody?

“Sutter County Community Services Director Danelle Stylos, 60, was arrested on Feb 1, 2017 by District Attorney Investigators for making false statements, providing false information, perjury and voter fraud. She was booked into Sutter County jail and released on $25,000 bail. “

I am immediately reminded of former City of Chico Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy.

Like Stylos, Jennifer Hennessy left her job right before the shit hit the fan.

The city of Chico, former employer of Temecula Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy, is facing a huge budget deficit that was covered up for months by city management, according to a Butte County Grand Jury report released late last month.

Hennessy was hired by Temecula in late March.

People screamed for Hennessy to be fired, arrested, tarred and feathered – instead, just like Stylos, she resigned and got a new job in another town. 

I think the major difference here was that Oakdale hired a sharper interim manager who really looked into the books and found improprieties.  Here, after a similar shake-up and several high-level forced resignations, Mark Sorensen and his council hired Brian Nakamura, a guy so up to his neck in his own problems, he decided to cut the losses and get rid of Hennessy to install his own friend, Chris Constantin, as finance manager. Constantin howled loudly about our “loosy goosy” finance management, but Hennessy was never charged with anything. 

Of course, Nakamura ended up leaving Chico as suddenly as  he appeared.

But Nakamura has a track record of relatively short stints on the job. He’s held 10 positions in the past 21 years.

“Looking at Brian’s employment history, he has this cycle of two or three years. That was a concern that we had,” Gruendl said.

Well, it didn’t take two years for the city of Rancho Cordova to figure Nakamura out, and he was forced to resign.

Rancho Cordova City Manager Resigns After Negative Performance Evaluation

Nakamura, a guy who always manages to land on his feet, wasn’t unemployed long.

Of course, former mayor Gruendl left Chico less than a year behind Nakamura in a shitstorm over his substance abuse, landing a high paying job in San Mateo County.

So, this man who used to scream about Chico being his “home town” until it was disclosed he had been in rehab a couple of times without telling either his Glenn County employers or his city of Chico constituents is now working for a county health department, specializing in re-hab? I  guess it takes an expert. 

These are the kind of people who work in “public service.” 

Cal Watchdog: California’s utility companies have been involved in a power-plant building spree, even though Californians have significantly cut their electricity usage over the same time period. And they’re allowed to raise rates to cover the cost, whether we need these plants or not.

11 Feb

Thanks Bob for this article detailing the way power companies are allowed to operate against the best interests of the California ratepayer:

“Companies are granted an electricity monopoly for a particular region, then are guaranteed a hefty rate of return for the infrastructure investments they make.”

“This price system, critics say, results in unforeseen consequences. A recent investigative report found that California’s utility companies have been involved in a power-plant building spree, even though Californians have significantly cut their electricity usage over the same time period. In three years, the state is projected to be producing 21 percent more electricity than it needs, without counting the growth in rooftop-solar applications, reported the Los Angeles Times.”


Chico Unified: we want more money or we hurt the kids…

8 Feb

A couple of weeks ago we read an article in the Sacramento Bee detailing the failure of the California State Teachers Retirement Fund – CalSTRS. Here’s the latest from Cal Watchdog:

Yes, as Chico Unified School District finance director Kevin Bultema told me, ” The increase PERS and STRS costs are certainly a challenge for the district’s operations budget and will need to be addressed with either increased revenues from the state or cuts in CUSD’s program expenditures in the future.”

I hear “we want more money or we’ll hurt the kids…” What do you hear? 

The bums aren’t the only problem with Bidwell Park

6 Feb

I haven’t given up on Bidwell Park yet. I had to respond to a letter writer who complained to the Enterprise Record that the city was removing too much plant material from the park. David Little complains that he’s getting so many letters about Donald Trump, its taking him a week to post the average letter to the editor, so I’ll post it here:

On December 27 I contacted the city of Chico to report an extensive transient camp in lower Bidwell Park. City manager Mark Orme thanked me and assured me that the city would follow up “at this specific site”.  

Over the next month I continued to find and report illegal campers in the same area, watching city staff chase them from one spot another, piles of trash left behind that included bike parts. Some sites were scattered with city-provided plastic bags full  of fecal  matter, whether from dogs or humans I wouldn’t know.  

Massive stands of non-native berry vines are tunneled into, dead limbs are arranged to conceal the campsites. Some of them appear to have been used for years. They are kept just out of sight of main trails and the road by the intense tangle of non-native and  dead vegetation. 

After a frustrating month of reporting these sites,   I was relieved  to see city crews have removed enough vegetation so that  campsites will be visible from the road for Chico PD. 

The city must continue to remove non-native, overgrown and dead vegetation from Bidwell Park. It’s not just about the bums – our big oak trees are in trouble, being smothered out by invaders like Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, privet, and vinca.

Unfortunately the park is in serious trouble after these storms. On a bike ride yesterday I saw sections of the south road that are falling into the creek. Dead trees laying across the creek cause the water to spread out toward the road, undermining the pavement. 

The north park road is a big mess from not just car traffic  but the garbage trucks the city sends in once a week to empty the trash cans. The city crews used to go in with a pick-up truck, but the city says they save money by using Waste Management. Really? 

This is gross mismanagement. It started years ago  under a “liberal” majority, but continues full speed ahead with a “conservative” majority that spends all our budget on salaries and benefits, and tells us we must pay more if we want the type of services generally expected out of a city with a $100 million budget and management paid upwards of $200,000 a year with 88 – 91 percent of their benefits paid by the taxpayers. 

Silly us! We, ourselves, are to blame, we let this happen.  The longer we let it go on, the more we are to blame.

I’ll continue to take pictures and post them here, send them to ER Hot Shots, and maybe even to the city council. You do same.


CARD makes some changes in their plans for a phone survey, now scheduled for late February

4 Feb

Since I wrote a letter to the Enterprise Record telling people to watch for a CARD survey in late January or early February, the ad hoc committee that was formed to make arrangements with the consultant has called for a few changes. For one thing, contrary to what the consultant told the board at the meeting I attended, the survey will now include a question about “ a potential revenue measure,”  according to GM Ann Willmann. The consultant had told the board, there would be no mention of CARD, no mention of a revenue measure, just a vague discussion of what kind of activities people were interested in. 

At least now they will be more honest, but I’m guessing there will be no mention of their $1.7 million pension deficit, expected to grow by roughly $57,000 a year. This needs to be part of the discussion. They also need to answer for years of neglect at various facilities,  such as Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools. They need to explain the decision to buy the rot-riddled and non-ADA compliant money pit known as Lakeside Pavilion. They need to explain what happened at DeGarmo Park, the flooding of the play field, the failure of the playground facilities, ten’s of thousands poured into repairs at that park since it opened. They need to be more up front about how they fund management pensions at the expense of other employee’s hours and benefits and deferment of maintenance to their facilities. 

They seem to be very defensive about the aquatic center. I didn’t even mention that in my last letter. They just want to avoid the questions I’ve raised about their pensions and other silly expenditures.

Phone survey for CARD planned for late February

By Laura Urseny

lurseny@ chicoer. com @ LauraUrseny on Twitter

CHICO >> During the week of Feb. 20, hundreds of Chico households will be getting calls, asking for a few minutes of time to answer some questions about recreation.

The survey is sponsored by the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, which wants to know residents’ feelings about recreation and CARD itself.

“ We’re rea lly tr y in g to determine what people know currently about CARD, how CARD is doing, what they would like to see in parks and facilities in the community, and how they recreate,” said CARD General Manager A nn Willmann on Tuesday.

Last year, CARD’s board of directors budgeted up to $ 38,000 for a contract to EMC Research of Oakland for the survey. EMC hopes to get at least 400 responses.

The survey will also ask a question about “ a potential revenue measure,” Willmann said.

That revenue measure was the catalyst for this survey and much of what happens in 2017. EMC Research did a similar survey for the Chico Unified School Distr ic t , which was able to put a successful bond measure on the November ballot for district improvements.

CARD has been considering building an aquatics center, which has been part of its master plan for years. The closure of C A R D – op er at e d S h ap iro Pool in 2016 pushed up the significance of the proposed center.

CARD has not had the money to build it, but has discussed a way to raise money for it, and possibly other CARD priorities. The board has been talking about a tax, choosing between a set per- parcel tax or a “ benefits assessment” tax on property owners based on property valuation.

Regarding the survey, Willmann said the board expects to get a repor t from EMC in March. After that, CARD will look at doing a public relations campaign to help the community better understand what CARD does and determine what the community wants in regards to recreation.

Another sur vey could follow the campaign to gauge its impact, and then CARD would determine whether to proceed with a revenue measure.

Willmann said the survey will include questions on the proposed aquatic center, but not ex tensively.

“ It’s about all forms of recreation, not just will CARD build a pool.”

Willmann said information culled from the community interaction may also be used in the general plan update, which is going on currently.

CARD’s board budgeted $ 28,000 for the sur vey, and a total of $ 80,000 in regards to the steps leading up to deciding on the revenue measure.

Poor spending decisions just lead to more poor spending decisions at Chico Area Recreation District

2 Feb

As my husband and I got on our bikes to head for a special Chico Area Recreation District board meeting, I noticed big wet dots on the old corn planter that sits alongside my driveway.  We’d  been hustling through chores all day, busting around town on errands, and I was tired. The big rain drops seemed to be  saying, “Oh forget it Juanita, you shouldn’t be out right now, go in the house and pull the covers over your head…”

My husband had already pumped the tires on our bikes, he’d adjusted the old Sturmy Archer on my 1956 Raleigh Superbe – I couldn’t disappoint, so I mounted up and we headed for the sprawling bum camp known as “Bidwell Park.”

I was surprised, my husband showed me what he’d discovered earlier in the day walking Biscuit in the section of Middle Park alongside our neighborhood- the bums were gone.  The leafy overgrowth and dead trees that had sheltered their illegal campsites were gone.  You can actually look right  through it from your car on Vallombrosa. 

This is just what I knew needed to be done, but I thought the city was dragging their feet, and I didn’t believe they would do it. When Mark Orme told me the program that employed jail inmates to clean the overgrowth was losing funding, I lost hope. My husband and I stopped using the park for a few days, taking Biscuit farther from home, which took more time out of our day and used precious fuel.

Wow, turns out, I owe Mark Orme and staff a big thank you.  We’ll see how long this lasts. 

By the time we got to the freeway overpass the rain drops were starting to splash on my eye glasses, and I wondered what kind of storm we were getting ourselves into. I was wearing wool from head to toe, you know how wet wool feels. And smells. We made it to the CARD center and locked up our bikes. We noticed the roof top skylights had been covered with heavy plywood, wondered what was up with that but forgot to ask. 

As we walked into the building I felt a sudden panic – I had forgot to check the location of the meeting, I’ve done that before and ended up at the wrong location. We found the room where meetings are usually held was busy with some sort of meeting or class.  I was really feeling stupid when my husband noticed the open doors at the end of the hall, board members seated around a table in the “big room.”

We sat down with the League of Women Voters observer – I appreciate the league covering these meetings. They pay attention to legalities, like the Brown Act.  She immediately asked if there were copies of the agenda for “the audience”, and yeah, the staffer had to go make copies. They really don’t expect the public to attend, I was shocked they put out chairs.

It was all very nice and chatty.  The meeting started promptly and was well run. Ann Willmann gave her report as to why the roof job  would need an additional $75,000.  Willmann is personable and professional. She said that removal of the roof tiles had exposed a layer of moisture soaked fiberboard. That would need to be removed. The “good  news” is, she said, they would now be able to add a layer of R-14 insulation, which hadn’t been in the plans. 

As an old landlady, I had to wonder – weren’t they planning on taking off the whole roof anyway? Didn’t they know how rotten it was when they purchased this building just four years ago?  Wouldn’t they have been wise to plan the insulation from the get-go? As board member Michael Worley pointed out, this would result in a huge savings for PG&E. 

Ever wonder what it costs to keep a building like Lakeside Pavilion lit and heated/cooled? 

Willmann had more “good news” – the contractor had suggested, since they would be removing the whole roof, how about removing those ugly columns – they look like Stone Henge, he said, and will  no longer match the roof. So that was added to the cost overrun.

And of course that will necessitate repainting.

All this “good  news”! 

They’ve already budgeted and spent $250,000 on this roof job.  So what’s another 75 Grand?

These people talk about $75,000 as if it’s chump change. I’d like to remind them, the median income among people who don’t have their snout in the trough is $43,000/year. They’re talking about almost twice that amount for a budget appropriation for a roof job. 

They paid over a million for the building, and are currently paying interest only. This is paid semi-annually – $38,351 twice a year. CARD still owes $915,000 on Lakeside Pavilion, at 5.75 % interest.  

In 2015 they spent $6,000 on dry rot, that was before they started the roof job. 

I’m guessing they have not begun the updates for Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. They did spend $40,000 on ADA requirements for the CARD center, but I don’t know if that is complete. 

I have to wonder again why they bought Park Pavilion in the first place. They could have put that money into maintaining Shapiro and PV pools, the skate park, and other facilities. They could have used that money to pay for more worker hours and the required benefits, but instead cut most workers to 28 hours or less to avoid paying benefits. 

And if you think Lakeside Pavilion is a money pit, check out the figures for DeGarmo Park – they’re paying 10 percent interest on $700,000, with payments of about $82,000/year. That park was bought in 1996 – they have already spent tens of thousands on repairs. That’s in the budget, look for it yourself. 

This agency’s actions do not warrant more tax dollars. When recently pressured by CalPERS for more money, they only raised employee contributions from zero to 6.25 percent, with “classic” members paying only 2 percent. They expect the taxpayers to foot the rest of the bill, for salaries that could support three families. 

It’s time to be vigilant, these agencies are under more pressure from CalPERS all the time. They would certainly rather pass the buck  along to the taxpayers, it’s time to tell them how you feel about that.


CARD staff to appropriate an additional $75,000 to fix rotten Cal Park Lakeside Pavilion roof

1 Feb

Chico Area Recreation District posted a cancellation notice of their January board meeting on their website:

The January 19, 2017 Regular Board Meeting has been cancelled.

The next Regular Board Meeting will be on February 16, 2017. 

But they didn’t mention a “special” board meeting scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon. They probably didn’t want us to know they’ve gone way over budget on the mammoth repair job they call “Lakeside Pavilion.”

They’re on the hook for over a million dollars for that building, which was riddled with rot and non-compliant with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act when they bought it. When I attended board meetings there, I found it a challenge to make it across the parking lot and into the building without tripping over buckled asphalt and cement. They said it would pay for itself with regular bookings for weddings, but that just didn’t happen. CARD director Ann Willmann told me they rented it to “Every Body Healthy Body” at a discount because they didn’t have any other bookings at the time. 

So, I will try to make it to their special meeting to find out why the roof repair has gone $75,000 over budget. Hope you can join us – that’s TODAY, at the CARD center on Vallombrosa Avenue, 3:30 pm.