Archive | May, 2017

Sorry to lose Mark Wolfe

26 May

Thanks so much to my friends who have contacted me about my roof – we’re getting it taken care of, and it’s not going to cost too much.

It’s good to have friends!

 

Speaking of good people, I was sorry to hear Mark Wolfe is retiring. First of all, he’s only 55 – I’m disappointed he’s chosen to take advantage of the pension system when he’s got a good 10 years of service left in him, at least.  Second, he was a competent and conscientious employee who told the truth about the expenses the city was incurring with various stupid projects, whether anybody would listen or not.

For example, I was sitting in a morning meeting listening to former police chief Kirk Trostle’s plans to tax local alcohol vendors. Wolfe tried to inform the group several times that staff had already put over $35,000 worth of time into studying Trostle’s proposal and it wasn’t feasible, why put more staff time into it?   Finally,  former city attorney Lori Barker informed everybody it was illegal for a local entity to put a tax on alcohol vendors – there went 35 thousand bucks. 

Some staffers care, I think they’re just out-numbered. I guess that’s why Wolfe is leaving – it would be very demoralizing for a decent person to work for the city of Corruption.

 

 

 

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Garbage franchise deal just another ploy to get more money for salaries, benefits, PENSION TIME BOMB

23 May

Our city is a small mirror to the state. I was reading about Jerry Brown’s gas tax proposal and I read stuff I’ve heard in Chico meetings over the years.   The city and the state both collect fees related to vehicles based on rhetoric about road repair but actually don’t spend the money on our roads.

http://reason.com/blog/2017/05/23/california-gov-jerry-brown-calls-gas-tax

“‘California has plenty of money to fix our roads,’ says state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), arguing that no increase would be necessary if the state would stop siphoning off revenue earmarked for road maintenance and repair.

Allen points out that about $1 billion a year of transportation revenue is diverted to the general fund. Almost all of that comes from “weight fees” imposed on heavier vehicles, money that is supposed to cover the damage they do to roadways.

Brown’s transportation package raises the state’s gas excise tax from 18 cents to 30 cents a gallon, and diesel excise taxes from 16 to 36 cents a gallon. A special sales tax on diesel would jump from 1.75 percent to 5.75 percent. Car registration fees would increase by at least $25 and as much as $175, depending on the value of a vehicle.

Where is the money going?”

At least 30 percent will be diverted toward programs to get Californians out of their cars, like the Active Transportation Program. (How effective is the program? Since it was created in 2013, the number of Californians commuting by bike increased from 1 percent to just 1.1 percent.)

“These kinds of expenditures make the governor’s rhetoric about road repair ring ‘hollow,’ Allen argues. ‘Fully 30 percent of funds will not be spent on roads.’ And there’s no guarantee that still more of the transportation money won’t be diverted into the general fund.”

The city of Chico gets gas tax revenues from the state, but it’s diverted into the General Fund. In fact, former city finance manager Jennifer Hennessy admitted it goes to salaries and benefits for people who have little or nothing to do with fixing our streets.

The city is getting ready to launch a new garbage franchise deal. They say they need money to fix the roads, and why not make the garbage companies pay, since they do so much damage with their big trucks. Oh sure – read that again – “Allen points out that about $1 billion a year of transportation revenue is diverted to the general fund. Almost all of that comes from “weight fees” imposed on heavier vehicles, money that is supposed to cover the damage they do to roadways.”

And out of the General Fund they can take money to pay anything.  

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20151210/NEWS/151219978

Transparent California gathered data on full-time, year-round employees for 2014, and Chico paid better benefits than any of the 30 cities surveyed.

The contribution rate for non-public safety, or miscellaneous employees, in Chico was 28 percent, while that rate for police and fire department employees was 33 percent…”

The employees pay 9 – 12 percent of their contribution, the city pays the remaining 19 – 21 percent. The rest constitutes our “pension deficit”.   CalPERS wants 50 percent contribution out of public employers, whether they pay it themselves or get it out of the employees. New hires will pay that 50 percent – like the firefighters the city just laid off.  But existing – or “classic” – employees continue to pay their trifling contribution, sending the city of Chico and other entities like CARD scrambling to find new revenues to pay.

Like the garbage franchise deal. 

Is Chico a corrupt town?

16 May

I haven’t been myself lately, haven’t been posting, haven’t been attending meetings – like so many families in  California right now, my family is under a crippling stress. We’re worried about our finances, we’re worried about the town crumbling around us, we can’t even think much about the future, and we worry about our health –  because we can’t afford healthcare.

Today my husband and I got a report that our roof was heavily damaged in the last couple of hail storms, and the shingles all need to be replaced. That’s a huge job for my husband, and the kids can’t always help. The roofer wants over $10,000. So we decided to drive over to the AAA office here  in town and see about making a claim on our policy. We’ve never made a claim to AAA, so we were really disappointed to find out, in that building full of people, there’s nobody to take a claim. You have to phone in a claim. 

Excuse us for being spoiled. When we had our old Allstate agent, Don Fiore, he actually liked us to come into the office, he did everything for us, he was the last of the real service providers.  The AAA building is full of sales people, and clerks to take your payments, but there’s no service there.

What sucked was the drive across Chico.  We had another errand that took us Downtown first. On the eve of Graduation weekend,  we found Downtown looking, well, like SHIT.

When did the city just stop mowing public property?  At their May 2 meeting, the Chico City Council declared  “weeds, rubbish, refuse, and debris to be a public nuisance – ordering abatement and removal, setting a deadline for abatement, and providing assessment of the cost of abatement…”

I looked here at the list of non-compliant, who must abate or pay, but I sure didn’t seen any city properties on this list.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=671&meta_id=54602

Drive by One Mile, take Vallombrosa toward the Downtown area – look at the “weeds, rubbish, and debris” – and then there’s the bums! One guy looked like a pile of garbage, but as we drove by he sat up. Another man stood astraddle the sidewalk, blocking passersby, going through his shopping cart full of crap. 

All along sidewalks Downtown, especially the area near Rangle Park and the Downtown 7-11, the weeds along the sidewalks are knee-high and covered with stickers. Trash litters the ground everywhere.  Looks great for all those parents and extended family members coming into town – this, by-the-way, has traditionally been the biggest TOT – or “bed tax” – weekend every year.  What I’ve heard lately is, people are finding nicer hotels, willing to drive as far as Willows and Corning, to get a hotel that is not surrounded by the army of the night.

Another big TOT totaller around here was the Concourse D’Elegance. You newcomers don’t even know what I’m talking about, huh? Cause they moved to Butte Creek Country Club, oh, I don’t know – 10 years ago?  That event used to be spread all over the campus and out into the Downtown area, with car lovers coming from all over the state to stay a couple of nights in town. Now they spend their day at the Country Club out on Hwy 99, from which they can be in Corning in about 30 minutes.  Why even drive into bum-infested Chico? 

Our town is really pissing me off lately.  I was trying to forget about Chico, and I made the mistake of reading the Sacramento Bee instead of the Enterprise Record. You see patterns when you read the big newspapers. 

I like to read Dan Walters cause he spoke to my high school journalism class. He tried to get us kids to pay attention, think about our future. He also told us we should stop screwing around and eat our expensive dinners. He impressed me as a guy who cared, and he still seems to be one of the only voices of reason left in the state. Here he is talking about the government corruption that is swallowing California alive. 

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article150699127.html

Chico has a budget of over $100 million, up from about $53 million only a few years ago. Our city manager makes over $240,000/year, PLUS BENEFITS. His predecessor Brian Nakamura made about $212,000/year, and before that long-gone city manager Dave Burkland made about $180,000/year. That’s happened just since 2012. 

We also spend a lot more money on police and fire, but we continue to get mixed signals from our “public safety” officials. In January a consultant’s report said the fire department needed to be a lot more efficient – including a suggestion to close stations that overlapped services. A couple of months later we’re told that new hires made with a grant would be let go – the chief threatening us with slower response times. At about the same time, the police department told us they would cut services if they didn’t get more money – and then about a month ago the chief said he “found” enough money in the budget to hire three more cops.

What?

Tonight city council will discuss a new “property and business improvement district assessment” for Downtown Chico. Is that what they’re doing? Withholding services like landscape maintenance and street cleaning so the Downtown property owners will fold and pay more? They say the assessment will be directed towards:

• Public safety – safety patrols and stewardship ambassadors to support law enforcement  

• Maintenance and Beautification – cleaning team and image enhancements

• Economic Services – advocate on downtown policy issues, address the interests of property owners, and provide information and services to assist in recruitment and retention of tenants/businesses

• Administration – provide daily management to carry out PBID operations

These are the city’s job already. This is what local government is here to provide.  But here they are again – threatening to cut services if they don’t get more money.  

How long before everybody in town has to pay into one of these assessment districts just to be able to call a cop to take a report, or – think ahead – get a firetruck for a house fire? 

This is exactly what Dan Walters is talking about. You folks were so outraged! about Bell California, you don’t recognize it when it’s right in front of your faces.

 

State legislature again trying to lower the voter threshold for tax measures

12 May

While I’m not formally affiliated with any other “Taxpayers Association,” I try to keep an eye on the Jarvis website, and there’s an active group in Sutter County that’s good for the latest news. Here’s a notice from SCTA regarding two bills that are winding their way through the state legislature. 

The Sutter County Taxpayers Association (SCTA) has voted to join the California Taxpayers Association, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, other local taxpayer groups and organizations to oppose two State Constitutional Amendment (SCA) bills working their way through the California Legislature. They are:

 SCA 6 which would allow local governments to increase local transportation taxes, including sales taxes and parcel taxes such as for schools, levees, maintenance areas, etc. which appear on property tax bills, by lowering the voter threshold to 55% instead of the two-thirds vote as required under current law.

 SCA 3 which would allow local governments to increase property taxes to fund library bond debt payments with a lower popular vote than currently required under our state constitution. Under current law, bonds that fund library facilities require a two-thirds approval from voters, and local bonds are repaid by increased property taxes.

Both of these State Constitutional Amendments erode Proposition 13 which was approved by the voters nearly 40 years ago to limit the local property tax rate. Increased property taxes can lead to increased housing costs, including for renters. SCA 6 would also open the door to higher sales taxes and California already has the highest sales tax in the nation at 7.25% (not including local sales taxes).

SCTA President Pat Miller encourages voters from all counties to contact their legislators and tell them to vote no on these two tax increasing bills.

I contacted Assemblyman James Gallagher via his website – we’ll see if he responds. He has not made any statements regarding these measures that I am aware of. These measures usually sneak through below the radar – let’s face it, these people want tax increases. Let Gallagher know how you feel about these bills:

james@gallagherforassembly.com

You should also contact Senator Jim Nielsen – I can’t find an e-mail for him, try his Chico office – 2635 Forest Ave, Suite 110, Chico, CA 95928
Phone: (530) 879-7424

Fillmer wants to discuss the pension deficit? Morgan wants campaign limits? Public safety assessment for Downtown businesses? Don’t miss the next council meeting, it’s chock fulla nuts!

11 May

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=264

Engage your “leaders” regarding the transient problem

9 May

After I posted the picture my husband took in Bidwell Park I sent it to Mayor Sean Morgan with this note:

Mayor Morgan,
>
> I am sending a photo of a mess my husband and dog walked into Friday morning in middle Bidwell Park, along the Fitness Trail. I don’t know the station numbers, but I think this bears investigating. A cursory walk through the area between the freeway and Manzanita Avenue would turn up many illegal camps. You will see small but well established trails leading back into the blackberry vines and other non-native, overgrown brush, where you will find trash piles and oftentimes occupied camps. My husband has encountered people in tents right on the main trail.
>
> We’ve reported these camps in past, this very spot has been cleaned within the last six months by the alternative custody program.
>
> This is disconcerting given Chief O’Brien’s recent revelation that bicycles are being stolen to fuel heroin habits. We see other articles in these trash piles, oftentimes bike parts, stuff that looks like it’s been taken from people’s garages  – even a real estate sign in one pile. We’ve found poop tied up in those bags the city provides to pick up after dogs, piles of them. We’ve found the little caps that go on syringes at places like Cedar Grove and along the Fitness Trail. This is our neighborhood, where we live, our adult children live, and where we have rentals. We wonder why illegal camping is being allowed in a park that traverses a large area of town, and is so overgrown, a criminal can disappear through a gate and into the bushes faster than a jack rabbit.  These people are predating our neighborhoods, and public works department staffers have told us the campers have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and must be given notice before they can be kicked out. They are not required to take their garbage.
>
> How ironic.  These people are practicing illegal Search and Seizure in our homes while our families are at work and school, but they get Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by pitching a tent in the park.
>
> Having heard/read your comments regarding the parklet for Starbucks (and I wholeheartedly agree with the latest decision), I know you must be as disgusted as I am with what’s going on  in Bidwell Park. My family and my tenants need to hear you have a plan to do something about it. All we hear is how the city doesn’t have enough money to fix roads and clean the park, but the pensions get paid no matter what.
>
> Thanks, at your convenience, for your anticipated response, Juanita Sumner

He responded fairly quickly and it seems we are in agreement about the problem.  

Juanita,

Disgusting picture to be sure.  I am frustrated by the transient issue and short of throwing all the service providers out of town (which I’m told won’t work) I’m short on plausible solutions.  Our police Target team and Park Rangers break up camps on a regular basis only to see them started again. 

 I am forwarding your email to Chief O’Brien who I know will forward it to Target.  The camps will move then pop up again (leaving trash, debris, and worse).

I believe making Park Rangers fully fledged police officers will have some effect but not a magical one.  Until we stop protecting the people taking advantage of our community we’ll continue down this slippery slope.  The Governor says they’re not criminals and the Sheriff can’t house them.

Regarding the pensions: you nailed it.  Illegal not to fund CalPers (which can’t seem to earn a decent return to save it’s life) while we can’t keep up on street maintenance in our town.  Municipalities in California are in for a rude awakening (one we avoided once) as sales tax revenue disappears (lost to the internet) and pension cost rise.  In Chico we’re doing all we can to hold pensions and salaries in check without losing valuable safety officers.

We do have some things coming (not tax increases, those are on someone else’s agenda) and I expect to see some improvement soon, but if the majority that runs this state doesn’t realize how they’re killing it, there won’t be much left to fight for soon.  BUt fight we will.

Thanks for letter and continued vigilance.

-Sean

Well, there he acknowledges the problem.  Since he offered no solutions I offered him some of my suggestions.

Thank you for your courteous reply,

I think the first thing you can do is reject the “continuum of care” coordinator – this position is nothing more than a grab for more federal money to house more of these people in our county/town. [The city of Chico has been asked to approve and provide funding toward this position, which requires matching funding to get the grant.]

Also, I don’t know where you live in town, but you might consider running for county supervisor. Both Kirk and Wahl have consistently voted to fund the Behavioral Health programs that are bringing these people here.  I think they’ve had their term and they need to step down, time for somebody new give that office a whack.  [Both Wahl and Kirk are up in 2018 and maybe Morgan could do a better job as county supervisor than he has done as mayor – he would have more authority to defund Behavioral Health.]

I’ve worn myself out reporting these camps to the police and public works department. Eric Gustafson told me these people have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, in our park?  I’m also tired of hearing we don’t have enough money to deal with this stuff. We’re paying people to tell us they don’t get paid enough to work. The spot I showed you has just been cleaned by the alternative custody program, but they don’t go far enough. They need to remove non-native, dead, and overgrown vegetation.  We’ve talked to these people – they’re not real workers, my own kids could run circles around them. They stand around yakking, looking for the first passerby to stop and talk to.  [They aren’t supervised.]

I’m glad to see Dan Efseaff get the boot, we need to get rid of more management do-nothings. He once  told me he had brought the Salt Creek crews in and the work we saw was great. He said these crews cost about $100 day, but he couldn’t afford to bring them in again?  [See the link below for professional services these crews provide.]

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Conservation_Camps/Camps/Salt_Creek/

No more Alternative Custody Service, let’s get the real crews into the park and you’ll see how many hobo camps they find buried in there. I grew up here, I remember the Bidwell Park of the 1960’s, and it’s a disgrace how bad it’s got just in the last 5 or so years since Nakamura gutted our work force to give management bigger salaries. You and council must figure out how to get rid of these overpaid suits and get more workers in here on the same budget. Good luck.  [I didn’t want to remind Morgan, but he and Sorensen stood by and cheered as Nakamura cut positions and quietly raised management salaries.]

thanks again, Juanita  

I have not received any response to my second e-mail, and neither Chief O’Brien nor the Target Team have contacted me about the homeless camp I pictured. 

Please engage these people – sean.morgan@chicoca.gov – mark.orme@chicoca.gov – michael.obrien@Chicoca.gov  – and let them know how you feel about this situation.  Send pictures, that seems to get their attention.

Tom Wolfe called it “Mau-mau’ing the Flakcatchers”.

Let’s stop calling them “homeless” – let’s call them what they are – “transient criminals”

7 May

My husband found this abandoned (?) campsite in Middle Bidwell Park. This is a spot that was cleaned by the city’s alternative inmate program earlier this year.

Try as I might, I can’t discourage my husband from taking my old dog for a morning walk in Bidwell Park, about two blocks from our house. She needs the exercise, so does he.   I can’t stand the sight of Middle Bidwell Park anymore, I won’t go. Badges and I stay home and do yard work before the heat sets in.  

Friday, walking near the Fitness Trail, they found another pile of trash/campsite.  These are usually concealed from the heavier used trails by the dense overgrowth of non-native plants, shrubs, small trees, but it doesn’t take much investigation to find them – my husband usually stumbles in when he is trying to avoid other dogs. Biscuit isn’t one to back down, and if another dog gets aggressive, there’s going to be vet bills. So, my husband keeps his eyes open, and whenever he sees what looks like Trouble heading up the path he herds Biscuit onto some smaller side trail. These usually lead right into some hobo camp or another.

The city staff knows this, they really don’t try to find these camps. They don’t want to engage these people. They want to walk through life with their little knapsack full of our taxes on their back without upsetting anybody’s apple cart.  I’m getting tired of reporting this stuff, they always act like it’s the first thing they heard about it. “Geeshy Sakes Ma’am, well, cornsakes and sech, we’ll get out there in a humdinger!” 

I sent the pictures I took at Home Depot to Chico ER Hotshots, but they didn’t see fit to print them. I know, they have so many important pictures of the sun going down over the after bay. 

Recently the Downtown Starbucks applied for a “parklet” – “essentially… an upgraded, beautified curb space outside Starbucks with bicycle parking and seating for the public, not just customers…” (Chico ER)  Council had originally approved the idea, but Mayor Sean Morgan brought it back for reconsideration “because of concerns about how the area will be managed and maintained.”  At last week’s council meeting, Morgan and the others reneged on the parklet, Morgan opined it was “‘maybe not the best time’ because of what is happening with homelessness in the city and downtown.” (Chico ER)

I’ve heard Morgan and other councilors complain loudly about the “homeless” problem. Andrew Coolidge told a gathering of Chico Taxpayers that his family called Downtown Plaza “bum park”. 

First of all, let’s call it what it is – it’s not a “homeless” problem, it’s a “transient criminal” problem. Second, let’s talk about the rest of the city for a change, it’s not just about Downtown. Bidwell Park is a Hobo Jungle. “Quality of life”crimes are becoming prevalent all along the Bidwell Park corridor. The police have admitted we have a bicycle theft problem “fueled by heroin addiction.” We’ve had two transients die in public places, frequented by children. I’ve seen discarded syringe caps at Cedar Grove many times, that seems to be a really popular place to shoot. Why isn’t the city addressing this problem? 

Because, according to Eric Gustafson, city of Chico Public Works chief, these people have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

How do you feel about that? You know if you left your car in a parking place Downtown without paying the meter you’d get a ticket, eventually it would be towed.  

Why do these people have more rights than us? Because there are too many public agencies that make money off these people. 

I’m sending this picture to Sean Morgan and the rest of council, city mangler Mark Orme, and my county supervisors. I’m going to ask them who is responsible for cleaning this up.