Archive | September, 2017

Who’s the criminals here?

14 Sep

Monday I got up at 5 am so I could get a loaf of bread baked and finish my day’s chores around the rentals in time make it to a 4 pm Chico Internal Affairs Committee meeting.

You know, Fall is going to come down hard this year, mark my words – get your gutters clean and take a tube of caulk around your eaves and windows. We swept the siding too, looks like it just got a fresh coat of paint.  That’s always a good way to see stuff that needs attention, like bubbling paint, or rotten spots.

The bread turned out great, BTW.  S’cuse me – that should be ‘BLT’.  Our garden is finally putting out tomatoes now that the heat has let up.

And I made that 4 pm meeting.  No Stephanie Taber!?! I thought she attended allllllll the meetings!

Maybe she didn’t think it was that important – committee member Ann Schwab did not make it either.  I went, even though there was only one item on the agenda – a report on the status of Downtown public restrooms

In January the city decided to try leaving Downtown restrooms open 24 hours, in an attempt to curb (ha ha) public defecation and urination. This has been an increasing problem over the last five or more years.  My old buddy ;), Downtown business owner Lon Glazner, used to post pictures of human poop he routinely found outside his back door.

Committee member Reanette Fillmer got a lot of laughs from liberals at a meeting when she described her disgust at having stepped in human poop on a trip to San Francisco. I looked at the shoes she wore to this meeting – ever see those commercials for “Shoedazzle!” – and I can understand her disgust. I would never wear open toed shoes out of the house, although, I  can see the reason for her outrageous heels – throughout history, people have worn high  shoes in an attempt to keep their feet out of urban filth. She should really invest in a good pair of sneakers, that can either be washed in bleach or thrown away.  When I go Downtown, I wear my work shoes, the same shoes I wear when I pick up dog crap around my yard.

Committee members Fillmer and Coolidge were on hand, as well as $taffers Mark Orme Debbie Presson, and Public Works Directors Eric Gustafson, who was scheduled to give the report.

For some reason, city financial officer Scott Dowell slinked in at the beginning of the meeting – he was not scheduled to give a report. I can’t help but believe these  $taffers use these meetings as an  excuse to get out of work.

There were a couple of county behavioral health interns, and three other people, the only one I recognized was homeless advocate Patrick Newman.  The other men spoke as though they were also homeless advocates, but I don’t know who they were.

Gustafson reported that in a three month trial that ended in March, 24 hour bathrooms were a disaster (my word for the multitude of problems he described).  He said vandalism was “unsustainable” (his word).  I know what he’s talking about – when I went to the Plaza one morning to help set up for an event, we found the toilet had been stuffed full of paper, and was blocked to over flowing. It was a disgusting mess, it was Saturday, and we expected hundreds of attendees.

The fellow who was “in charge” called city $taff, and about an hour later, a very grumpy man showed up with the usual tools (plunger, mop and bucket).  He went in and dealt with the plug and made a cursory cleaning.  The bathroom was still disgusting by my standards, and I never saw any of the event attendees enter it.

Let’s face it, those restrooms are for the transients, so they will  stop  bothering Downtown businesses.  Gustafson reported that since the restrooms were no longer open 24 hours, instead opening at  7 am and closing at 9 pm, Starbucks has complained that they open their doors  at 5 am to a “line waiting to use their restrooms.”

Anybody remember Sal Corona? Malvina’s Caffe?  Ever happen to be in there on  a busy night when somebody tried to sneak in and use the bathroom without buying a meal?  Sal would put down his spatula and wipe his hands,  come out into the busy dining room in his apron and confront them loudly.  He’d have a grin on his face that said, “I’m gonna eat you!” He’d humiliate them out the door, even young women. God, I miss that man. He was the real mayor of Chico, for years, and Downtown died when he hung up his apron.

Gustafson said it costs $13,000 a year, just to clean the restrooms, and city staff puts about 3 hours a day into “emergencies” – vandalism. He says Rangel Park restroom is vandalized almost every day.  The Downtown Business Association pays $10,000 of the janitorial costs, but “$taff time” is left to the taxpayers.

Gustafson mentioned right away that he wanted Portland Loo.  Committee members received a written report – I wonder if Gustafson mentioned all the problems and cost overruns that have plagued cities who have bought and installed Portland Loo?

The main problems have been increased crime in the direct vicinity and the tab for cleaning. In one year Portland spent $99,000 cleaning two Loo’s, and the city was successfully sued by water and sewer rate payers for spending  ratepayer money on the Loo’s. Prostitution and drug use increased so much in Seattle and San Diego that they removed their expensive Loo’s – over $500,000 total cost of purchase and installation for each unit. Seattle- I’ll give them credit for creative thinking – ended up offering theirs on E-bay for about $2500 a pop.

These units  have to be hooked up to sewer and water. I didn’t see any mention of the specific costs there – what’s the water bill for one of these babies?  Can they be broken in such a way that they leak constantly?

Gustafson didn’t talk about any of that stuff, and  I didn’t ask questions because I wanted to get home and get back to my life. It’s better to ask these people for answers in writing, anyway. The clerk doesn’t record the whole conversation.

Well, here’s the real problem – a bunch of bums have taken over, not only Downtown, but all our public spaces.  The county brings them here for the revenues, but the money never seems to be enough to deal with the problems they create. We have a police force that is understandably frustrated because the county DA won’t prosecute any of these criminals, who are processed in O’ville and released back onto the streets.

We are told we have to cater to these people, with free food, shelter, and 24 hour bathrooms for them to trash.

Here’s why – San Diego is currently having an out-of-control Hepatitis A outbreak.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/13/550674476/san-diego-washing-streets-with-bleach-to-combat-hepatitis-a-outbreak

In a report on our local Channel 7 news, they said five people are dead. NPR reports 15 dead and 400 infected.

Hepatitis A is spread, mainly, through the ingestion of fecal matter, but can also spread through urine, blood, semen and spit. Just like e-coli – infected people spread it by way of dirty hands. They touch surfaces, they poop and pee in the street, it spreads all over town.

What about Downtown food service and coffee businesses? What about Enloe Hospital?  What about Butte County jail? What about the various homeless shelters?

Wasn’t it just last year that Torres Shelter had a bedbug problem? And one of the dorms at Chico State was infested. Yes, bedbugs bite, and they can spread any disease that is transmitted by way of blood.

Will Portland Loo solve this problem? No, it will just be another boondoggle – will we sell our  old units on E-Bay?  Will Starbucks start hosing out their bathrooms with bleach and water?

E-mail your county supervisor and tell them to stop bringing these people into our area. Write to your city council and tell them we want enforcement of the laws, we want people prosecuted for these so-called “quality of life” crimes.

Tell these people you will hold them directly and personally responsible for a Hepatitis A outbreak in this area.

Mike Ramsey needs to get a bitch slap in 2018.  Like, don’t let the screendoor hit you on the ass, Mr. Ramsey.

Not only the transients, but public employees are stealing our quality of life, and that’s a crime.

 

Chico Public Works Director: 24 hour restrooms are needed! But vandalism is “unsustainable…”

12 Sep

Yesterday I attended the City of Chico Internal Affairs committee meeting and heard a report from Public Works Chief Eric Gustafson regarding “unsustainable vandalism” in public restrooms Downtown.  Here’s the letter I wrote to the ER this morning:

Chico Public Works Director Eric Gustafson reported to Chico Internal Affairs Committee (9/11/17)  that Downtown public restrooms are suffering “unsustainable vandalism”.  He suggested the city invest in Portland Loo. 

Portland Loo is a toilet designed to keep criminal activities – including prostitution and drug sales – out of public restrooms. With slats at top and bottom so police (and everybody else) can see inside, they are coated with vandalism resistant paint and made in such a way that they can be routinely hosed out by janitorial staff. They must be connected to water and sewer but can provide  their own lighting. They are supposedly tamper-proof.

The manufacturer lists a price around $250,000, but other cities, including Portland, have found initial costs can exceed $500,000 per unit. Both the city of Portland and the city of San Diego have installed and later removed these devices because of increased crime in the immediate area. In Portland, costs for cleaning the devices were so high – $99,000/year for two units – that water ratepayers sued the city for  $617,588  spent on marketing and maintaining their Loo’s,  the cost attached to city sewer and water bills. 

Why do city staff continue to placate transient criminals? Gustafson is the staffer who told me transients have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to sleep in Bidwell Park. What about the taxpayers’ rights? 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Citizens and ratepayers of Portland won their lawsuit – here’s the links:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/02/portland_loos_not_core_to_sewe.html

While the Portland Loos are front and center in a lawsuit over questionable spending of water and sewer ratepayer money, those ubiquitous public restrooms may not be such a target going forward.

City leaders continue to play hot potato with the Loos, and the latest funding plan would shift operation and maintenance costs away from utility ratepayers and onto the city’s general fund.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/03/judge_portland_city_council_ov.html

Bushong also concluded that the Portland Loo outdoor public restroom program was essentially a $618,000 business venture gone bad. Before Bushong’s decision, city officials had conceded that the Loos weren’t a core utility serviceand have proposed paying for them with general fund money in the future.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/11/judge_delivers_split_decision.html

As part of the 2014 decision, [Judge] Bushong blessed utility relocation efforts tied to light-rail projects and acquiring land for stormwater purposes, which totaled about $10.4 million. But he rejected about $1.2 million spent on outdoor public restrooms and publicly financed political campaigns.

Time to ring their phones “off the hook” about the trash deal – city manager’s office, (530) 896 – 7200. Ask them why this rate increase wasn’t handled like PG&E and Cal Water rate increases.

11 Sep

I followed the advice of my fellows, Jim and Bob, and wrote the following e-mail to City Mangler Mark Orme and my 3rd District Supervisor Maureen Kirk, and cc’d city attorney Vince Ewing cause I have some questions of a legal nature. 

Good Monday Morning Mr. Orme,   Supervisor Kirk, and Mr. Ewing,

Have either of you seen this Chicoosity Facebook page? (linked  below) Scroll down to the garbage franchise conversation.

Like I told both of you, the public needed to be better informed of this city trash deal, given the lesson that should have been learned when the county rolled their deal out.  Remember what Mr. Hahn said – “phones rang off the hook with complaints for two weeks…”  I see people are just as mad about the city deal – wait until they get their new bills!

Something I realized recently – when PG&E and Cal Water raise rates, they put notices in their bills, a year ahead, and there are public hearings.  Why wasn’t that done with this trash deal? Why didn’t Recology or Waste Management make any attempt to notice customers more than two weeks ahead of roll-out? I just got my postcard on Friday (9/8/17). Why didn’t the city notice customers and hold public hearings?

Those are not  rhetorical questions, so I cc’d Mr. Ewing, maybe he can answer. 

Here’s the link to that facebook page – thanks, at your convenience, for an answer to my questions.  — Juanita Sumner

https://www.facebook.com/groups/chicoosity/

As I was reading that over, I realized, people called the county. You can reach city manager Mark Orme’s office at (530) 896 – 7200.  Be really polite, his underlings don’t get paid as much as he does. He won’t answer your call, but he’ll know about it. 

Make those phone lines dance People!

 

Not sure what happened with the trash tax, but it looks like the money will be going to the roads. Or something.

9 Sep

I’ve been busy lately but I’ve been trying to keep an ear to the trash tax discussion. You may have seen my letter in the Enterprise Record recently:

Next week Chico city council will discuss how the trash tax will be spent. While they promised to fix the streets with the new revenue, staff has listed “Priority 1” as “Fixed cost increases, such as built-in contract escalators, benefit increases outside City control including CalPERS pension contributions”. 

I am quoting directly from the staff report, available at the city website, with the city council agenda for September 5, 2017. 

“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”  Employee costs, and money into the General Fund, which can be spent without the restrictions placed on other funds. 

“Priority 3:  Replenishing internal service funds, such as Vehicle Replacement, Building Maintenance” So, staff get new cars and upgrades in their office buildings?

Finally we get to “Priority 4: Discretionary expenditures and negotiable items.”  That would be, fixing city streets, cleaning up Bidwell Park, and dealing with increasing crime? Negotiable? As usual, public service is the lowest priority for staff. 

Let’s call this “franchise fee” what it is: The Big Lie

And get ready – next they will come at you by way of your toilet – sewer fees are going up, and so are septage pumping fees. All to pay down the pension and benefits liabilities.

David Little wrote a similar, but nicer editorial, we agreed – $taff told us this money would go to fixing the streets, and now they try to pull a bait-and-switch, trying to spend it on their own pensions. That’s called “fraud” and it’s illegal, at least in the private sector.

So, no wonder city mangler Mark Orme was just a little defensive in his opening remarks, saying there were other options, mentioning what was said in the newspaper – hey, Mister, I quoted from the agenda report you approved and signed. Here’s the preceding headers I left out of my letter:

Pursuant to the Council’s Budget Policies, the following [4 “Priorities” listed above] would be followed by staff without Council earmarking.
D.1.a. The City will dedicate new ongoing revenue sources in the following manner and priority·

In fact, road work and maintenance were the last “options” under “Options to Consider” Read the report here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=271&meta_id=56052

Mark Orme needs to go.   Having given and heard numerous reports about our financial situation, Orme still demanded a $9,000 raise to cover his increased pension payment – still less than 10 percent of his total package – still expecting to get 70 percent of over $220,000 in salary in retirement. 

But I was shocked with the conversation that followed. Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge refused Orme’s proposal and made a motion to dedicate the money to road work. I tried to type as I listened.

Morgan: I understand we have our own policy about what to do with new money… a continued discussion about how many trucks were on the road…how much damage that was doing.. no question the roadways are bad…biggest thing we deal with after unfunded pensions…allocate most of not all of that increase into roadways…in the report two line items for road maintenance…that was my initial thought…we could hire we could hire we could hire …. staff has done an incredible job of [lowering costs]…that doesn’t work when it comes to  repaving roadways...[mentions a group that wants a sales tax to fix roads]…

Stone: [admits the streets are bad]  I’m kind of comfortable dedicating for a year some amount…I’m uncomfortable about dedicating this long term, I don’t like to tie our hands…

Sometimes I think Stone should be bound and gagged, but I’ll admit, that’s not very nice. I will say I’m uncomfortable with him having a free hand to the til.

Sorensen: I think any action we take is only good as long as we take it…everything in the budget is up for grabs… my preference would be capital [improvements] … there would be much more grant opportunities [if we had matching funds dedicated].

Ann: things we really need…certainly roads is definitely a need…however we have an opportunity to at least start to pay for the permitting system that would certainly help streamline permitting process [more money for city]  … interpretive program for our park… 3 priorities – roads, permitting, parks.

Coolidge then asked for public comment.  

Sales tax increase advocate Stephanie Taber commented that the “$200,000 – $600,000” expected in the first year of the franchise is inadequate – “what’s that going to do for that $7 million we have missing [$taff indicated roadwork might cost up to $10 million a year, and there’s nothing in the road or capital improvements funds] …you guys have got to grab hold of the fact we haven’t got any money… the thing we need to fix [is that we are] millions of dollars behind in many things we really need…you really need to come up with a long term plan. I am very much in favor of the tax increase, I don’t see any problem whatsoever I think it’s the best thing for our city.  My 2 cents.”

Local businessman Mike Reilly commented that “most or all should go to capital…” with “50 percent toward the roads.” But he also opined that streamlining the permitting system “ is a one time [$250,000] cost and will help immediately.”  He believes it would save the cost of another employee, paying for itself within a couple of years. For this reason Reilly felt the franchise revenue should be “looked at on a yearly basis…but I don’t think we should pay PERS or add salaries…”   Adding police officers was one of the first “options” listed in the $taff report.

Coolidge:  Certainly there’s a long list of things we need…but at the end of the day I recall all our conversations about the franchise agreement…over and over…almost all my colleagues spoke to the fact that they were were doing this because of the impacts the trucks have on the roads and the roads had been neglected…personally I’d like to see it [the franchise revenues] locked up forever…the problem we get into is when funds aren’t locked up...[makes a motion to dedicate the entire amount toward “the roads”]…”for the period of the first year…”

Here I had a problem – for the first year?  Sounds like a trick! Luckily Morgan moved in with a “friendly amendment.” 

Sean: I absolutely agree with the motion..my fear is if we only do it for a year…we’ll be whacking the mole, we never end up getting anything…I would support your motion but I’d rather see it all go into road capital for a period of 5 years.

Then Sorensen tried to address another concern of mine – what fund are we talking about? There seems to be a road fund, a capital improvements fund – I haven’t been to the meetings lately, and they’ve changed everything.

Sorensen: I was going to add, it’s not clear, is it capitol or road maintenance he wants? [if] we can’t lock it in, we could vote to change it in two months…we should take it up as a budget item…

Morgan seems to agree with Sorensen, but poo-poos his concern about the possibility of an overturn of the decision. Morgan said he wanted the money “earmarked” so it wouldn’t “just end up in the General Fund,” where it can be spent with little or no restriction as to purpose. 

So, what’s the legal term here, earmarked? Dedicated? This is never explained fully to the public, and that’s how they get away with moving this money like carnival barkers.

But Morgan opined that any council member(s) who tried to overturn this decision “would have to stand up to the community…”

Ooooo, you’re scarin’ me now!

 

So I don’t really understand the motion they eventually made, I guess I will have to look at it when Her Royal Clerk posts the minutes on the website. They seemed to be saying both the capital and road funds, but they seemed as confused as I was. Presson didn’t read anything back, she just called for the vote. I don’t know if that’s appropriate – it sure doesn’t give anybody a chance to ask about the motion, whether they understand it or not, and I’m telling you, these people are not the sharpest pencils in the box. The clerk has made mistakes before – the most expensive being the motion that first passed for the scrap yard – and the council seem to follow with their noses to her behind without thinking about stuff.

The motion passed with Ory absent, and Schwab and Stone dissenting. 

League of Women Voters to host forum regarding economic impacts of Oroville Dam – open to the public

6 Sep

 League of Women Voters of Butte County Forum

Economic Impact of the Oroville Dam: Past-Present-Future 

Saturday, September 16th  9am to 1pm  

Southside Oroville Community Center  

2959 Lower Wyandotte Rd, Oroville

for more information go to    http://www.lwvbuttecounty.org/LocalNews.html

                       

Robert Marbut fails to address a public sector that looks at “the homeless” as cash cows

5 Sep

Yesterday an old post got an unusual amount of traffic.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/02/02/its-good-to-see-people-asking-questions-about-funding-torres-shelter/

Reading this morning’s paper, I see why –

http://www.chicoer.com/social-affairs/20170904/chico-homelessness-to-do-list-revisited-a-year-after-robert-marbuts-visit

Here’s the article from last year –

http://www.orovillemr.com/article/NB/20160923/NEWS/160929822

I don’t think any of the agencies here took Marbut very seriously. This is what Marbut failed to address – a public sector that looks at these people like cash cows. 

 

What do the Ponderosa Fire and yesterday’s midday Downtown robbery have in common? You got it – the “homeless”

2 Sep

When I saw the news stories about these two incidents, I immediately typed the suspects’ names into the Butte County Superior Court “Smart Search”.  

Ponderosa Fire suspect John Ballenger was arrested in 2009 for illegal camping, arrested since for weapon, dui, hit-and-run, etc.

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/08/30/suspect-arrested-in-connection-with-growing-ponderosa-fire/

Downtown robbery suspect Ethan Young has been arrested numerous times, including failure to obey domestic violence order.  

http://www.krcrtv.com/news/local/butte/a-chico-man-was-arrested-for-trying-to-rob-a-jewelry-store/615621989

Both of these men have an extensive history with local law enforcement, but have been released repeatedly by the court.