Archive | August, 2017

Trash Tax: $taff divvies up trash tax among themselves, no scraps left to fix streets

30 Aug

Next week’s (9/5/17) Chico City Council meeting will include a discussion of how to divvy up the new trash tax, and just as I’d expect, $taff put their pensions first and service, well, third or fourth, according to the report (entire report available at the following link)

Budget Policies
Pursuant to the Council’s Budget Policies, the following would be followed by staff without Council earmarking. ( Meaning, without council approval, or any public oversight.)
D.1.a. The City will dedicate new ongoing revenue sources in the following manner and priority·
Priority 1. Fixed cost increases, such as built-in contract escalators, benefit increases outside City control including CalPERS pension contributions, etc.; (pretty clear – we are not allowed to refuse to fund the pensions/benefits, we have to give them as much as they want)
Priority 2: Funding significant long-term liabilities, and replenishing General Fund and Emergency Reserve, Workers Compensation, General Liability, and Compensated Absences funds to established targets; (more employee benefits, plus money for the General Fund, which has no spending rules or limits. All for employee benefits. Compensated Absences – the city pays for sick days and vacation that weren’t taken, so when an employee doesn’t take these days, they get paid for them in addition to 52 weeks of working pay.)
• Priority 3: Replenishing internal service funds, such as Vehicle Replacement, Building
Maintenance, etc.; (this is another employee benefits – they put their vehicles and maintenance of the air conditioned offices they work in ahead of fixing public infrastructure. The public doesn’t own City Hall, the employees own it – ever see the fee schedule for using the council chambers or any of the meeting rooms?)
• Priority 4: Discretionary expenditures and negotiable items.  (“negotiable items” – that means, services we always assumed they’d be providing for us, but now we find, they will expect us to pay extra to fix streets, sidewalks, or any other public fixtures.)

Ever read/see “A Christmas Carol”? Well, here, $taff divvies stands over the corpse of our city and divvies up our last possessions. 

Loyalton Calif cuts pensions – why can’t Chico do same?

27 Aug

Thanks to Jim for picking up this article, from the Los Angeles Times, about a little town not far from Chico.

I think we have a similar situation here. Early in the 2000’s, a city council including current county supervisors Maureen Kirk and Larry Wahl, at the behest of then city manager Tom Lando, signed an MOU with city employees, attaching salaries “to revenue increases, but not decreases…”  

Staff then went on a permits binge, permitting development all over town, houses piled into Grandma’s back yard, raising city revenues and salaries along with them. Staff got 14, 19, 22 percent raises over a very short period.  Lando’s own salary went from around $65,000 a year to over $120,000 a year within a very short time. 

When this scam was figured out by the public, they stopped it, but started paying the “employer paid member contribution” –  the city started paying most, even all of the employee’s pension share.

We’ve been screeching about that, so lately they just  raise the employee’s salary to cover their new pension share – they are determined that the taxpayer will foot the bill for these pensions (the following list is from 2012, remember, these people get cost of living increases) :

Tom Lando hasn’t been pumping the sales tax increase lately, but I’m sure he’s behind it. Lately, in his position as Chico Area Recreation District Board member, he’s been pushing for a bond on our homes. It doesn’t matter which agency gets the money, as long as they pay their CalPERS deficit with it. 

Loyalton only had four employees – can we do the same thing? I think we can sue the city for the outrageous raises given these pensioneers – spiking – right before they retired, like Lando. But I’m not a lawyer. 

What do you think? 

City facing $178,075,000 in unfunded street projects, less than $2 million in the street improvements fund

18 Aug

Speaking of the proposed sales tax increase – “to fix the roads” – here’s another knee slapper – the city needs over $178 million to bring our streets up to standard, just to mitigate the effects of new construction. Here’s the link to that report in next weeks Finance Committee agenda.

Right now city staff is wrestling with developers like Bill Webb, who feel the city is expecting too much of the money to come out of new construction fees.

The report is difficult to understand, but what I’m guessing is, they don’t want to pay the “Urbanization” fee at all, they think the taxpayers should have to pay to fix the streets. But, I’ll give it to staff – they make a very good argument, pointing out the obvious – new development, especially these high density subdivisions that are going into Grandma’s backyard all over town again, generate more traffic and the developers/homebuyers who build them should have to pay for the added impacts.

What about the proposed sales tax increase?  Taber admitted, “The city would only raise 4 to 4.5 million per year if they increased the sales tax by a quarter cent. ” 

Well, like I said – $4.5 million compared to $178 million – that’s a little tiny bubble of spit on a great big griddle.  According to the Finance Committee report linked above, just one of five currently approved projects – a stretch of Humboldt Road that has been heavily impacted by new development – will cost over $6 million. Other’s ranged between $800,000 and just over $2 million.  

But, $4.5 million would cover the increasing amount CalPERS is demanding to cover our pension deficit – $800,000 now, expected to increase to $1.5 million within the next three years, and on up from there.  Meanwhile, Chico City Council is handing out raises that increase the deficit while refusing to ask employees to pay more out of their own paycheck.

Tsk, tsk, get good tires on your car.





So much for the idea of a “citizens advisory committee”…

18 Aug

Given the latest news about Chico’s pension deficit, I have to laugh at Stephanie Taber and her suggestion of a quarter cent sales tax increase to “fix the roads”. Good one Steph, especially that part about a citizen’s advisory committee to make sure the funds are spent appropriately.  Read the latest Yuba-Sutter Political Notes from Lou Binninger in the Territorial Dispatch.

On August 9, the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency (SBFCA)
in charge of managing more than $200 million in levee upgrades
disbanded the Citizens’ Assessment District Advisory Committee
(CADAC). It did so after promising to establish and utilize the ‘watchdog’
group in exchange for the public’s support for the 2010 levee
improvement assessment measure.

Two previous measures had failed until public assurances were
given that a citizens committee would examine the finances and
ongoing management of the revenues from stiff property assessments
on more than 30,000 parcels and continuing for 33 years. The
public did not trust huge property assessments handed over to an
unelected and unsupervised agency. “

The other problem with “citizens advisory committees” is that they are not elected either, but appointed by the board or council that has passed the revenue measure.  Chico Unified  school district got to set up the rules about who could participate and then appoint citizens to their advisory committee. I’ve looked for information online, but in the case of the recently passed Measure K, all I could find was the Charter Schools advisory committee.  It looks like the committee members are all district employees, like Margaret Reece, CEO at Country Day, and Dan LaBar, principal at Inspire.

I wrote to district finance manager Kevin Bultema to ask for more information, let’s see what he says. But so far, I don’t see much oversight on Measure K, just puff pieces in the ER about all the wonderful projects they’ve been doing. I still see the portables standing at Hooker Oak. 

Meanwhile, do you think Taber and her quiet friends on staff have given up on a sales tax increase? I don’t. 

Who wants to go to the CARD meeting with me tomorrow night?

16 Aug

When I ran into Mayor Sean Morgan at LaMalfa’s community meeting, he asked me, “Where have you been?!”

Morgan and I have kind of a Junior High School relationship – like many other members of our local government, he would like to put my head in a toilet, but in a light-hearted, good sported kind of way.

The guy loves to argue, but he’s never screamed “Bullshit” or “Shut Up!” at me. 

That said, as I told him, I almost never agree with anything he does. He voted with council to give Mark Orme a $9,000 raise to cover Orme’s new pension share, having heard the pension deficit is poised to send us into bankruptcy. 

I guess I should have answered him, “Where have you been? On another fucking planet?”

A planet where everybody has a public salary and a public pension, and money  grows on trees…

But given the spirit of LaMalfa’s meeting, I decided, us two old porch dogs should give the public an example of how to be civil to somebody you’d cross the street to avoid, but they happen to be standing between you and the exit.  

This does not affect my feelings that Morgan needs to go. He’s just a shill for the public employees. 

Where have I been? Well, I don’t get paid to go to meetings, I get paid to work. Sometimes I have to do a job that’s beyond a 58 year old woman, and I get a work related injury.  I have sprained my back, it feels like somebody kicked me right between my shoulder blades, really, really hard. It only hurts when I sit up, walk, reach my arms out, or breathe.

Actually, it hurts all the time, but who am I to complain – if you are in pain, you are still alive. That which does not kill you, will only make you stronger and bitchier.

CARD has a meeting tomorrow night. They will undoubtedly discuss their plans to put a bond on our homes. My husband can’t take me, and I can’t make it by myself. Any takers?

The new trash deal is going to stink

14 Aug

Tomorrow Chico City Council will finalize the trash deal. I’ve read and commented on it for years now, this latest draft still has a lot of problems.

  • they will require everybody to pay for a yard waste bin
  • if bins are damaged, including graffitti, more than once, the customer is on the hook for the replacement of the bin – no prices included, we have to wait til our bin is damaged to find out
  • no rates published, but Waste Management is allowed to raise our rates at will with the CPI

Right now my family pays about $25 for a 96 gallon bin which we share with our tenants. Nobody would tell me what the new rates would be, but I’ve checked in other towns – we should expect to pay $25 for a 35 gallon bin under the new deal, so the bigger bins will be closer to $35 and $50 a month. Plus the additional whatever for the yard waste bin. Recycling will also be required, but free. 

I’ve howled about this deal, which former mayor Mark Sorensen called a “trash tax.” I don’t think the public will pay attention until they get their new bills. We’ll see what kind of stink rises up over Chico when people find out, trash service will not be mandatory under this  deal, just a lot more expensive!

Hi Council,

I just wanted a few last words before you hit us with  the trash tax.

I won’t pay for a yard waste bin I don’t need. I’ve got rentals, I do my own yard work and hauling, I pay to take the stuff to the green waste facility on Cohasset, so I shouldn’t have to pay for yard waste bins for tenants who don’t do any yard work.   Besides, why should I have to have a third truck stop in front of my property, every week?

Also, they should have to tell us how much these bins cost, UP FRONT, if they are going to require us to replace them when they get damaged/tagged. That also makes the yard waste bin a liability I don’t need.

Waste Management should also have a rate schedule on their website that is good for a year. When I tried to sign up for Waste Management earlier this year, the dispatcher gave me old rates, and told me she had no idea what the rates would be when the franchise takes effect in October. That’s called “bait and switch”.

Thank you  for your anticipated cooperation – Juanita Sumner, Chico


The city budget is just a suggestion! See how they appropriate our money into their own pockets

13 Aug

The city of Chico posts the budget online:

But the budget isn’t set in stone, rather merely a suggestion.  Every month you will find appropriations – departments go over budget, and council just routinely approves mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money.  The memo below is on this coming week’s council agenda, available here,

Here we have an appropriation for the fire department – oftentimes it’s either cops or fire. The chief has given us a “partial” list of “unanticipated” costs, without any explanation. What, for example, did Chico Fire have to do with the “Oroville Spillway Incident”? What were they doing at the Santos Fire?

And how could we miss – $73,000 for “Unanticipated Retirements and Lay-offs”?

This is how they fritter our money, right under our noses.  This is why the state has their nose up our ass for fraud.

Meeting Date: 8/15/17
TO: City Council
FROM: Bill Hack, Fire Chief
RE:  FY2016-17 Supplemental Appropriation/Budget Modification No. 2017-FD-004


Throughout a fiscal year there are unanticipated costs incurred by the Fire Department. These costs are generally
associated with emergency response to large incidents or multiple medium sized incidents within the City of Chico,
unanticipated retirements or long-term absences, and other anomalies. The Department attempts to absorb all
unanticipated costs in the current adopted budget. However, depending upon the timing and/or amount of the
unanticipated costs it is often impossible to do so.

For Fiscal Year 2016-17, the Fire Department incurred at least $192,000 in unplanned expenses. The Department
was able to absorb approximately half of the unanticipated costs, but due to the magnitude and timing of the events
the department was unable to absorb $101,602 in expenses

A partial list of the unanticipated Fire Department costs for Fiscal Year 2016-17 is included below:

Oroville Spillway Incident (Partial Reimbursement Pending) – $25,000
Santos Fire – $20,000
Pay-outs for Unanticipated Retirements and Lay-offs – $73,000
Fire Investigations (Complex) – $10,000
Retroactive Salary Payments due to a processing error (2015-Present) – $27,000
Emergency Call-Back Coverage – $12,000
Other (Long-term Leave) – $25,000



In Chico we shout down anybody we don’t agree with

7 Aug

On the surface this looked like a nice crowd.  This was the opening prayer.

My husband and I decided to put aside chores this morning to attend a Q&A session with 1st District Congressman Doug LaMalfa at the Elks Lodge here in Chico. I don’t agree with him on very much but wanted to hear what he had to say.

And, it’s a very nice bike ride from our house to Manzanita Place, traveling along Lindo Channel. The temperatures have been hilariously cooler the last day or two, we didn’t even bust a sweat peddling along at 7:30 am.  We had our water and sunscreen and were determined to enjoy the morning regardless of politics.

What I wasn’t ready for, was the crowd that showed up.  You know me, I like to say it like it is, I like to use “colorful language”. But I refrain from standing up and screaming “Shut UP!” or “BULLSHIT!” when somebody else has the floor at a meeting. I mouth stuff and make faces, but I sit down and shut up.  I may be nasty here at the blog, but at public meetings I really try to respect the other person’s right to have their say, including our politicians.

Besides, you have to listen to these people to find out what they’re up to. LaMalfa opened the meeting quickly and courteously, with remarks about the progress Congress is having “reforming” the Affordable Healthcare Act – Obamacare. I had to agree with most of what he said, what I could hear, because at this point, less than 20 minutes into the meeting, the crowd started to go nuts. 

Frankly, I should have guessed what was going to happen, when the red cards went up during the opening prayer. It got pretty ugly, one man shouting “shut up and let us talk” while a woman behind us shouted “Bullshit!” to everything LaMalfa had to say. 

This folks, is public discourse in Northern California. I don’t get out of town much anymore, I don’t know how they do it in other congressional districts, but here we shout down anybody we don’t agree with. 

And here we’re made fun of in the LA Times.

Well, DUH!

4 Aug
Every dog has her day, and I’ll say, I am enjoying the latest titter about the pension deficit – as if people just heard about it?

Finally David Little says, “But asking government to solve a government-created problem is like asking the fox to tuck the hens into bed every night.”

But he offers the solution, as if he hasn’t known it all along: “Meanwhile, city councils need to quit handing out pay raises and benefits increases as if somebody else is paying for them.

He says, “ But convincing government to cut benefits to current employees — colleagues, co-workers, friends — isn’t easy.”

I’ll say same about convincing our local media to report this stuff.  This has been an issue for over 10 years. When I’ve tried to say something about what I’ve seen at meetings, the local media has treated me like a zoo monkey who throws her own excrement.

I’ll never forget taking my then-6-year-old to a morning meeting at which then-mayor Scott Gruendl was broaching this problem for the first time. He stood up to one of those tablets on a stand, with multi-colored Sharpees, and he proceeded to doodle as he rambled about our financial problems. At that time he didn’t say anything about the pensions, he just said “we” had spent all “our” money.

At one point he started to open the red Sharpee, but laughed nervously and put the cap back on. He said, “we don’t want to scare anybody…but seriously, this is bad, this is really bad…”  He fumbled with the colored pens, leaving caps off – that really bugged my kid, who was always expected to take care of his stuff.


My son, now 22, asked me on the way back to the car, “if we’re in so much trouble, how come Scott’s got all those pens?”  He mentioned the caps being left off, and I realized what he was really saying – these people are capricious  with other people’s money.

For years when I attended meetings, sitting alongside fellow howling cur Stephanie Taber, I tried to tell people, in my own white trashy way, what was going on. At one point I realized at least two of our city council were having some sort of drug – or sanity? – problem. Meanwhile David Little ran an editorial about what a nice lady Mary Flynn Goloff was because she hand delivered him a jar of her “home made” jalapeno jelly.

That guy would not recognize Satan if he rode into town on a goat.  He’s been too friendly with these people, he has no objectivity.  He actually thinks some people are better than others because of their position in life. 

So excuse my absolute shock when I read his recent editorial, condemning council’s recent approval of a $9,000 raise for city mangler Mark Orme, to cover his new, slightly increased pension share. Right on the heels of a “lions, tigers and bears” discussion of the pension deficit. Oh My!


Editorial: Pension reform won’t come from government employees

 POSTED: 08/03/17, 12:34 AM PD. T | UPDATED: 17 HRS AGO
 Back in April, Chico’s vice mayor asked the city staff to research what can be done about the ticking time bomb that is pension debt. The council finally got a report on the matter this week and the short answer was: not much.

So far, the city’s response has been much like most city, county and state governments. They describe an awful problem, wring their hands a little, then say “Oh well, we looked into it.”

But asking government to solve a government-created problem is like asking the fox to tuck the hens into bed every night.

Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer’s request to learn about the pension liability was a vital one. The overview the council heard Tuesday night is one repeated to most city councils statewide, and the same one state legislators are hearing. The obligations for governments to pay generous pensions for its current employees when they retire is eventually going to cause big problems, they are told. If a course correction isn’t made, government will be faced with having to cut services to pay pensions. And since the biggest part of local government budgets is police and fire protection, those visible cuts would finally get people’s attention.

By then it would be too late. So government needs to act now. But convincing government to cut benefits to current employees — colleagues, co-workers, friends — isn’t easy.

That’s why elected officials need to act. They’re elected by the people to make sure our government remains solvent. It does us no good to repeat over and over again, as City Manager Mark Orme did on Tuesday: “This is not a Chico-specific issue. This is a statewide issue. This is something we’re all going to have to face.”

Yes, we know. So face it.

Instead, the councilors and the city talked about all the things they can’t do, the steps they can’t take. They didn’t leave much hope that anything would get resolved anytime soon.

Normally, we hope for citizens to lead the way with voter initiatives. But the California Public Employees Retirement System has its interests protected. The only way a city can get out of CalPERS requirements is to withdraw entirely and pay huge up-front costs.

“We can’t just leave CalPERS without paying $175 million,” said Mayor Sean Morgan.

There may come a time when that buyout looks like a bargain.

Meanwhile, city councils need to quit handing out pay raises and benefits increases as if somebody else is paying for them. The problem is, somebody else is paying for them — our children and grandchildren, who will be stuck with the tab long after current elected officials leave office.

Citizens are tired of hearing what can’t be done. Let’s hear what can be done.