Archive | July, 2017

Sales Tax Increase Anyone?

30 Jul
 

The headline read, “Chico government can’t be trusted with tax increase.” The letter implied current city management is deceitful in its handling of city finances. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the letter writer attended monthly Finance Committee meetings, any accusation of supposed mishandling of taxpayer monies could be explained. I know, I attend those meetings.

Since our new management staff (Mark Orme, city manager, Chris Constantin, assistant city manager, Scott Dowell, administrative services director, and Barbara Martin, deputy director-finance) took office many positive changes in financial reporting have taken place. Detailed financial reports are presented at both the committee meeting and at City Council meetings. Those reports are published online for all to see and pick apart if the public chooses. I cannot recall the letter writer coming forward with a question, comment, or criticism this entire year.

Most of the letter seemed focused on past majority driven ultra-liberal councils (2004-2012) and the old management team that was either unwilling or incapable of controlling their spending. Things have changed dramatically. All it took was one conservative council member and the Grand Jury report of May 2013 to shed light on the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.

I have no misgivings in suggesting that the city raise sale tax by one-quarter of 1 percent (7.25 percent to 7.50 percent) equaling $4-$4.5 million annually. I will gladly pay that extra 12 cents on a $50 purchase if that meant we could repair/replace our hazardous city streets in this century.

— Stephanie L. Taber, Chico

 

My response to Taber, e-mailed 7/29/17 (we’ll see if this is printed, ER staff removed similar comments I made on Taber’s letter )
We have been assured that all Chico’s financial problems have been put to bed under our “new” staff.  
Former finance director and current assistant city manager Chris Constantin instituted the policy by which whenever a fund is in deficit money is “administratively” transferred from other funds. For example, the gas tax, which most people believe is dedicated to road repairs and improvements is routinely “allocated” for  salaries, pensions and benefits, just like when Jennifer Hennessy was our finance director.
Current administrative services (finance) director Scott Dowell was with Chico Area Recreation District when they failed to make recommended repairs to Shapiro Pool, instead spending $400,000 on a “side fund payoff” to CalPERS.   When he left that agency CARD had over $1.7 million in pension deficit for less than 35 employees, despite spending over $300,000/year in regular payments.

The city’s pension and benefits liability is now over $180 million, and the state is demanding an escalating payment scale. Meanwhile, we continue to pay the majority of our employee benefits, giving them raises to cover their increased shares.  We will never get out of our financial morass until our management staff agrees to pay 50 percent of their own pensions and benefits without corresponding salary increases to cover it.

A quarter cent sales tax increase would be spit on a griddle.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

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JetChico presentation tonight – small airports cannot support themselves, will need heavy subsidization from taxpayers

25 Jul

Yesterday I received this agenda for an Airport Commission meeting tonight:

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/Agenda20170725finala.pdf

I’ve signed up to received these agendas for various meetings Downtown, they’re usually sent out the Friday before the meeting. Why only a day ahead? Probably because city staff doesn’t  really don’t want the public to get wind of what they’re talking about with JetChico, the group that is working to get taxpayers to subsidize commercial air service at Chico Airport.

jetchico.org

Wanna be Turlock?”?   Really?  Ooooo! Trash talk!  

This group is shady, they don’t say who they are – you have to attend their meetings – at a winery? – to find out what they’re up to. Or you can attend tonight, or you can watch it online.

 

I hope you will – I cannot attend, I’d already committed myself to a work week out of town by the time I got the notice.

Or you can read JetChico’s reports – it’s all there. I read their financing reports, and what I see is, they expect to get most of their money from grants and bonds – tax money.  The reports are pretty damning, and make it pretty clear – small airports cannot support themselves, they need over 50 % subsidization from the tax payers, most of whom will never fly.

 

You heard it in the Enterprise Record: “Chico Government Can’t Be Trusted with Tax Increase”

22 Jul

I wrote a letter to the paper in response to Stephanie Taber’s suggestion of raising sales tax to support salaries and benefits Downtown, it ran yesterday, now it’s gone! You have to know it was there and search it! How LOW will they GO?

That’s how Dave Little treats people he doesn’t agree with, he just squelches their letters.  He’s a very “Little” man, his testicles have to be put in the microwave every morning.

So, I ain’t proud – here’s the link:

http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20170720/letter-chico-government-cant-be-trusted-with-tax-increase

And here’s the letter:

A letter writer has suggested a sales tax increase to “fix a couple of major roads a year”.   

Chico has reached financial crisis because of employee overcompensation.  In 2013,  third-party auditors found a $15 million deficit. Council cut workers and services, while raising management compensation to unprecedented levels. By October of 2016 we were one of six cities in California being investigated for fraud, having exhausted our emergency fund and outspent revenues for six years.. We are still on the state’s “watch list”.  

To avoid further audit, staff cooked up an “aggressive” repayment plan, purporting to raise employees’ share of compensation costs. But the increased shares came with salary increases that more than covered the new CalPERS shares.  According to publicpay.gov, the city now has a $180 million deficit and will soon be paying more than a million a year to beat it down. 

According to California Policy Center, “As Chico recovers, new development projects have been downsized to reflect the city’s long-term financial reality.”   Staff has spent all the money on management pensions and benefits, there’s no money left for road base, asphalt, or  qualified workers needed to fix the roads. 

Proponents of a tax increase measure say the money will be dedicated to the roads – don’t believe it. Staff has instituted a “fund allocation” policy – they move money from one fund to another like peas under walnut shells. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

It’s sad to me that we have such poor media here, Dick Little and Melissa Dogtree are just government shills. We have a council that plays lackey to the staffers who are ripping us off because all but one member of our council either get public  pensions or are married to one. 

Humboldt Fire caused by transients?

21 Jul

You have probably heard about the 100 acre Humboldt (Road) fire that occurred along Hwy 32, just above California Park and the new Forgarty houses on the other side of the road. It came within yards of Cal Water’s new tank.

When my husband and I drove out on Hwy 32 yesterday, we saw that it came from the area where we had reported illegal camping a few months ago.  There was a tent with a tarp, clearly visible from Hwy 32. When we investigated we found a fire pit surrounded with garbage and scattered household goods. The fire pit was well established, lined with rocks gathered from the surrounding hillside.  The site looked as though it was regularly used for years, and very recently.

We reported it and were referred to Office Scott Zuchin, who told us he hadn’t seen any camp there. He offered to set up a neighborhood meeting, but when I persisted in my complaint he got testy. 

Please be more specific then. We may not be speaking about the same location. You may attach photographs to your email if that helps.

I had given him the exact location, and told him it was visible from Hwy 32.  I don’t think these people read an e-mail completely before they respond. Shortly thereafter, the tent and tarp disappeared, but the campsite was never cleaned up.  We saw signs of illegal camping all along Humboldt road, in the exact vicinity of that 100 acre fire, and aside from a poorly organized last minute clean-up of the road by a private group for the Wildflower Century, there have been no attempts made by any city or county agency to clean the garbage out of that area.

I had cc’d  Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk into that discussion because she lives in Cal Park. She is fully aware of the transient camps along Humboldt Road and complained about crime being on the increase in Cal Park. This woman needs to wake up and get off the pot – she’s up for re-election in 2018 and doesn’t have a clue as to the problems she is causing every time she votes to fund some “homeless” program. The county brings these people in here for the stipend attached – $550 a day to pay down a pension debt that has them cutting  staff and closing fire stations. But to these agencies money is like an ice cube in hell – it’s already gone to management salaries and pensions before it even hits  the floor.

Write to Kirk and tell her she has to do something to stop the flood of insanity she’s turned loose on our town – that’s mkirk@buttecounty.net

Safari Inn murder just another symptom of our collective mental illness

20 Jul

I’ve had to turn off the news lately – I’m sick of hearing about the murder at the Safari Inn.

Yes, this is news – a woman brutally murdered at a local hotel. But why aren’t they giving us all the details?

For one thing, the man who was seen coming and going from her bedroom window on the night of the murder,  well known transient Marc Valcarenghi, was on a second probation for grand theft and possession of crank.  He’d been arrested in 2014 and again in 2016 for roughly the same crimes – including possession of a drug known to cause unpredictable and violent behavior. Placed on probation, you ask? Yes, not once, but twice this guy was had by law enforcement and allowed to skitter off into the bushes. 

For another thing, the Safari Inn has always had a questionable reputation despite recent efforts to clean up the outside of the place. Back in the 80’s it looked like a total dive, the city went after them to clean it up, so it looks like a “normal” motel. But see what out-of-towners have to say about it here, complete with pictures:

https://www.yelp.com/biz/safari-inn-motel-chico

I have never seen so many graphic and bad reviews of a motel, and we always checked with Yelp! before we went on road trips. 

What’s creepy is, you can see, the outside of the motel looks pretty harmless.  Check those reviews before you go on the road people – imagine ending up in a place like this in a town like SF or Sa-crap-mento!

Here’s another dead giveaway – the price is so low, transients can stay there on the proceeds of tipping garbage cans. Apparently, the victim was staying there in exchange for cleaning? Did you read some of those reviews? 

I think it’s used mostly by transients and even prostitutes. And let me ask you – the motel employee that talked to both Ch 7 and Ch 12 told them the room was so “trashed” she didn’t find the body right away. The newspaper said the woman had been badly beaten and strangled. How does all that happen in a motel and nobody notices? Nobody calls the cops? Cause it’s pretty common there? 

One person who reviewed this place says the health department needs to give it a look. Ya think?  Another person reported finding syringes and a shopping cart in the parking lot. 

What does it take to get the city to investigate a place like this? For a short time we also had a very high-profile routing by the health department, restaurants all over town were shut down and others started sporting the health department clearance sign. But not motels? 

This murder has caused quite a sensation – we’ll see if it causes anything to  change in city and county policy. 

 

 

City of Chico and County of Butte continue to exacerbate the transient problem

17 Jul

My husband likes to get out with our old dog for a quick walk in Bidwell Park before the heat sets in. He took this picture at a campsite off Bryant Avenue this morning.

Yes that is a very well established campsite along Chico Creek. I presume the man is just asleep but if you’d been watching the news lately you might want to poke him with a stick to make sure.

This guy took over a picnic spot that is supposed to be for day use only. 

Look hard – right behind this guy there is a picnic table. And it’s taken him a few days unmolested there to gather all that crap. And I’m not using the word “crap” loosely, I’m guessing there is human waste in the bushes.

Remember the “Occupy Movement”?  Well here it is folks. 

The other day I read about the new “Harm Reduction Center” being opened at Mangrove and First Avenues. 

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20170710/harm-reduction-legal-center-for-homeless-opening-in-chico

“With the help of Butte County Bar Association, homeless service provider Stairways Programming is opening a harm reduction and legal center this week at 1112 Mangrove Ave. It will provide free legal help and therapy to those who are homeless or living in poverty and struggling with severe mental illness or substance use disorders.

“Attorneys will volunteer their time, offering pro bono work 1-4 p.m. every Monday. During the center’s other hours of operation, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, Stairways will provide case management and therapy, and trainings for service providers on methods used at Stairways such as de-escalation, said Stairways Executive Director Michael Madieros.

“’Here’s a chance for them to meet with an attorney, get advice … and start to feel good about the justice system and like somebody cares,” Madieros said. “And when they do show up in court, they feel positive.’”

What I’m hearing is another bum magnet opening up within a mile of one of my rentals, just blocks from the retail centers where I (have done) a lot of my shopping for years. Mangrove shopping center is becoming a bum camp, not to mention that alley that runs  behind Cash and Carry between Palmetto and First Ave. And now this. 

“The new program will also serve as a harm reduction center, operating on a model that Stairways Programming has been using for quite some time. It will provide a space in which those who are experiencing homelessness can learn about and understand the harm they may be creating for themselves and their community by their behaviors, and how they can take small steps to be safer.”

Harm reduction? Stairways has been using this model “for quite some time” ? Well, Mike old buddy, it’s not working.  And here’s why.

“The ultimate goal for those abusing substances is abstinence, Madieros said, but it isn’t the starting point. One of those small steps may be teaching someone how to dispose of needles correctly.

It’s about helping people up, rather than pushing or forcing them, he said.

According to the Oakland and New York-based Harm Reduction Coalition, the philosophy meets drug users where they are, accepting that legal and illegal drug use is part of reality and its effects should be minimized rather than ignored or condemned. The conditions of people’s drug use, such as childhood trauma or mental illness, must be addressed along with the drug use itself, which is where therapy and case management plays its part.”

“legal and illegal drug use is part of reality and it’s effects should be minimized rather than ignored or condemned”? These people are mollycoddling junkies.  Is it part of reality to allow people to commit crimes to support their drug habit, and for shills like Madeiros to take advantage of the system for their own profit? Yes, Madeiros receives quite a nice salary for “managing” Stairways. Then there’s “CFO” Megan Harriman, another salary.  Stairways receives funding from various public agencies, including Butte County. 

But they still want us to volunteer, not only our time, but money and supplies. 

When this story popped up there was the usual criticism on Disqus, and Madeiros was quick to come back with a response.

“Harm Reduction is the model of treatment. Stairways provides emergency services to anyone in need but our commitment to Chico is we only provide services and programs to people from Chico. This is not a safe space this is a place people can come and start being accountable for their lives and actions. 
Looking forward to your donation!”

But when I chimed in to ask about site supervision and for a look at Stairways financial reports, I got no reply. 

I don’t know if they received city money for this enterprise, but I know the city had to permit the use of the building, and I’m wondering if the neighbors were asked for input as is the normal routine. 

I have to laugh – the city refuses marijuana dispensaries, but allows these centers to open all over town without any supervision or input from the neighbors. They wait til problems develop, and then they don’t do anything to fix it. 

But it’s Butte County Board of Supervisors who keep approving more and more “beds” and “centers” that bring these creeps flocking. You can start with Chico supervisors slambert@buttecounty.net, mkirk@buttecounty.net, and lwahl@buttecounty.net. 

Lou Binninger: The Pension Heist

14 Jul

Here’s a must-read:

http://territorialdispatch.biz/component/edocman/?task=document.viewdoc&id=337&Itemid=0

Cities  going broke paying down pension debt, CalPERS investments based on bribery, a scandal that led to the suicide of one CalPERS official. 

The city of Chico agrees to contracts with public employees stipulating all employees must pay union dues whether or not they want to be in the union. The city also agrees to collective bargaining. The unions are the biggest donors in every local election.  These problems could be solved with city ordinances. 

Think about it.