Archive | October, 2017

Geeshy sakes kids, Jerry’s ripping us off! Again!

31 Oct
thumbnail_20171030_142144

Great sign.

Yesterday I happened to be watching the news at noon when they announced a gas tax protest rally would be held at 2pm at Sinclair’s gas station (the one with the big green plastic dinosaur next to Walmart).

Hosted by the Butte County Taxpayers League! Well excuse me, but who the hell is that?

https://buttetaxpayerscom.wordpress.com/about-2/

Seems this group has only been around for about six months, fronted by a local lawyer. They have a faceblob page as well. What’s funny is, they hadn’t posted anything about this rally, in fact, there’s been nothing posted on either site since June.

I like the sentiment, but I wonder – why so exclusive?

So, I signed up for e-mail updates, and left a note, inviting this shadowy group to come over and chat on  the CTA blog, but I’m not holding my breath.

I did stop over at the rally, and I was happy to see a pretty good little mob, and more people arriving as we stood by.

thumbnail_20171030_141443

Jim Nielsen is a good speaker, natural, and he made it clear – Californians are being ripped off, the gas tax hasn’t been used to fix the roads.

I had a hard time getting a picture of Nielsen, he’s small and the guy in front of me kept shifting back and forth. Nielsen is worth listening to, he knows the facts. You might not agree with him on everything, but he’ll engage. He was our first speaker, back when we still had meetings at the library, and he has always taken my concerns seriously, responding personally to e-mails.

What nobody addressed was what the  state is actually doing with the gas tax money. Nobody has the nerve to talk about the pensions. Nielsen just went on and on about how we’re getting ripped off – I have to wonder, how much money goes into legislative salaries, including their well-heeled staffers.

How much money are they giving this lawyer to front their “taxpayers league”?

I was lucky to have just missed Gallagher’s little blab – that guy is all about himself. He’s going places alright, I’m just not sure I want to be holding onto his coattails.

When LaMalfa stepped up to the microphone I lost track of what he was jammering about and began to pay attention to the crowd. Some of them were obviously staffers and other government connected people, but there were others at the rally, including the hostile looking man who made the “Taxifornia” sign. He looked completely out of place – an old, disheveled man with tattoos on his hands, he looked like he had missed the turn into Walmart. But he held the sign, and let me take a picture of it, so he must be a believer.

I know the state steals from us. But I didn’t see anything in this rally but politicking. These guys are up for election again – the campaign starts the day after every election, remember? This rally, held long after the damage has already been done (the tax takes effect Wednesday), just didn’t seem very genuine.

Advertisements

Still think Agenda 21 is a big joke?

30 Oct

I don’t know how many people are aware of our city’s efforts to get “Green”.  For years I tried to cover Chico’s Sustainability Task Force, formed originally by then-Mayor and current city council member Ann Schwab.  When current chair Mark Stemen took over a few years ago, the committee went completely underground, ad hoc, no council members, no staffers to take notes – like former city staffer Mary Fitch once said, these ad hoc committees are just “an end-run around the Brown Act”.  

https://chicotaxpayers.com/?s=sustainability+task+force&submit=Search

A committee member is tasked to take “notes”, which appear every few months on an agenda, after they’ve been abridged and approved by the committee. Read those here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/sustainability_task_force.asp

The STF gave us the bag ban. They also passed an ordinance by which we have to put new toilets, new shower heads, new light bulbs and do up to $800 worth of insulation and other weatherization in our house before we can sell it. Read through those agendas and “notes”, see what other short hairs they are grasping for.  But I still had to laugh at this video Dude sent me:

Recently, local developers were told they could pay lower fees for building smaller houses in new urban type neighborhoods.

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20171025/NEWS/171029818

What does the average family want? I don’t know, because the average family was neither invited to nor represented at the meeting, it was just a bunch of developers and suits. Oh yeah, and Ken Fleming, who likes to talk philosophy. Ken’s a nice guy, but he lives on some planet where everybody is on Valium.

They think the smaller houses will get us out of our cars, that’s so funny.  Read the following story and don’t forget to watch the video – note, the woman is driving a Prius – didn’t she see the Audi commercial? 

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-28/prius-driving-ny-legislator-fakes-ptsd-panic-attack-get-out-minor-speeding-ticket-vi

Go on to her campaign speech below – she’s an urban planner! 

The Sustainability Task Force also gave us our trash deal, are you happy with that? Got your postcard, telling you all the things you can be fined for? Not so funny now, is it?

 

Thanks Dude, for sending those videos, and reminding us to keep an eye on the Sustainability Task Force.

Post office annex again shortens hours to deal with bum problems

29 Oct

My family got a post office box about 15 years ago because our mail service to our house was horrible. We had a mail carrier who didn’t believe she should have to suffer any kind of inconvenience in delivering the mail. She was already fighting with several of our neighbors – she wanted them to move their mailboxes from their front porch to the street, so she wouldn’t have to get out of her vehicle. She was driving onto my next door neighbor’s lawn to access her front porch, and my neighbor was understandably annoyed at the mud ruts that were forming across her lawn. 

Our problem was that the title company and recorder’s office had not recorded our address correctly and the mail carrier kept leaving notices saying she couldn’t deliver our mail because it wasn’t addressed correctly. We tried to  get the recorder and assessor to deal with it, but just his past year we found out it’s still a problem – when the house next door burned down, the building inspector’s office and the assessor both contacted us instead of the actual owners. But, we dealt with the mail problem – we got a PO box, and slowly directed all our important mail to that address. 

The post office annex is an easy bike ride through the park, right there next to Safeway Mangrove, so we can get groceries too. But as I’ve posted in past, this is Bum Central. In fact I just complained about the Vallombrosa post office earlier this month:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2017/10/08/please-stop-feeding-our-bums/

They’d broken the annex door, and I saw two different lock smiths working on it over a period of a week. Now this:

The old sign said 6 am to 10 pm. Before that the annex was open 24 hours.

This is disturbing. Another instance of my rights being abridged for the bums. 

 

 

PG&E seeks to charge ratepayers for fire fees

28 Oct

From the San Jose Mercury News:

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/26/pge-pushes-for-ratepayers-to-pay-millions-in-california-wildfire-costs/

In a 30-minute meeting on Oct. 17, Meredith Allen, PG&E’s senior director of regulatory relations, told Travis Foss, an adviser to PUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen, that PG&E and other California utilities are in “an untenable situation,” according to a record of the meeting that PG&E sent to the PUC as required under state lobbying rules. PG&E should not have to pay “a disproportionate” share of the costs of wildfires because of the growing risk and a tough insurance market, Allen argued.

The utility companies want ratepayers to pay instead of their shareholders.

A share of PG&E stock is worth about $57 today, having reached a three year high of $70.63 a share just last month. Then the wildfires hit, and PG&E was found liable. 

http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/PG-E-cited-for-late-maintenance-work-more-often-12303697.php

California regulators auditing Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s work in the field cited the company for late repairs and maintenance jobs far more frequently than any other electric utility in the state, according to documents made public in the wake of this month’s deadly Wine Country fires.

This isn’t the first time PG&E has been found to be negligent of their infrastructure. Up in the hills that means dead trees standing right under and alongside power lines, here in Chico it also means un-maintained gas lines. 

http://www.krcrtv.com/news/pge-emergency-repairs-underway-for-gas-leak-in-chico-dam/11441480

“Emergency repairs” for a leak they’d known about for a year?  Read this recent article from CNBC –  look at all the fires that have been caused by PG&E negligence, and the bills PG&E has received.

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/13/pge-plunges-on-concern-its-power-lines-may-have-started-california-wildfires.html

Shareholders got nervous, causing the stock price to “plummet” to $57.  But, shares have risen steadily despite the “plummets”, worth $10 more than they were in 2013. Why are shareholders nervous? Because they’re afraid they will have to pay.

Of course, in the San Bruno deal shareholders were awarded $90 million? This article is confusing:

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/21/court-oks-90-million-pge-san-bruno-explosion-settlement/

Why do we allow utilities to be publicly traded for profit? That seems to be the whole problem, one court declaring PG&E “placed profits ahead of safety…” the San Bruno disaster having been caused by ” a combination of PG&E’s shoddy maintenance, flawed record-keeping and the PUC’s lazy oversight, according to an official investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.”

The utility companies should be run strictly for the benefit of the ratepayers. 

Recently I heard from a group in Silicon Valley that has “united in supporting non-partisan, bi-partisan legislative reforms in how consumer rates are set for investor-owned water utilities.”

They have recently put up a website:

https://www.waterratescoalition.com/

I’m glad to hear from these people, I’m glad somebody is still fighting these outrageous utility rate increases. I also find the Lucerne group is still having meetings.  Here’s their facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/LucerneFLOW/

As you can see, we in Chico are not getting as badly screwed as other towns, but my bills continue to inch up, even though I’ve drastically reduced my water usage. 

It’s time to get on board and fight. 

 

Well, this is confusing! Are we paying to send them out or taking money to keep them here?

23 Oct

Here’s Item 3.1 on the Board of Supervisors Consent Agenda for tomorrow:

Agreement with BHC Heritage Oaks Hospital, Inc. for Inpatient Psychiatric Services- BHC Heritage
Oaks Hospital, Inc., provides inpatient psychiatric hospitalization services. The State mandates
contracting with managed care hospitals based on a county’s historical utilization. Butte County
Department of Behavioral Health (BCDBH) began drafting the managed care hospital agreements
in March but needed to wait for each “host county” (county in which the hospital exists), to
negotiate its rates with the hospital for the new fiscal year. Once negotiated, the contract must
be fully executed by the respective governing board. The State is notified by the host county of
the contracted rates, and all other counties who contract with the hospital utilize those rates per
the direction of the State. Due to these requirements, agreements with managed care hospitals
are typically approved later in the fiscal year. Approval is requested for an agreement with BHC
Heritage Oaks Hospital, Inc. to provide inpatient psychiatric services for clients referred by
BCDBH. The term of this agreement will be July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019. The maximum
financial obligation under this agreement shall not exceed $700,000 ($350,000 in fiscal year (FY)
2017-18 and $350,000 in FY 2018-19) – action requested – APPROVE AGREEMENT AND
AUTHORIZE THE CHAIR TO SIGN. (Behavioral Health)

Heritage Oaks is in Sacramento. I don’t understand the rhetoric about mandates, historical utilization, contracted rates, etc, but I do see, a lot of money is flowing into these psychiatric facilities, taxpayer money. 

Here’s Item 3.2 – an agreement to take patients from Shasta County:

Revenue Agreement with Shasta County for Provision of Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Care – Shasta
County wishes to enter into an agreement with Butte County Department of Behavioral Health
(BCDBH) for the provision of acute psychiatric inpatient care. Through this agreement, Shasta
County may refer clients to BCDBH’s Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF) for services. Approval is
requested for a revenue agreement between Shasta County and BCDBH for inpatient psychiatric
services at the BCDBH’s PHF for Shasta County residents. The term of this agreement will be July
1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. The maximum revenue under this agreement shall not exceed
$37,000 – action requested – APPROVE AGREEMENT AND AUTHORIZE THE CHAIR TO SIGN.
(Behavioral Health)

And here they come –  “homeless advocates” would have us believe these people are “from Chico”.   I guess it doesn’t matter where they were born, but where they’ve been keeping themselves lately?

 

Board of Supervisors offering more support for the homeless? Again?

23 Oct
 
Oroville >> The Butte County Board of Supervisors may approve Tuesday a resolution in support of providing housing and wraparound services to address homelessness.

 

The county plans to coordinate with public, private and nonprofit agencies like the Chico Housing Action Team to develop housing and provide mental health services, social services, and public health services to the local homeless population.

“The county is committed to providing supportive services through the departments of Behavioral Health, DESS, and Public Health to multi-agency partnerships providing emergency, transitional, or permanent housing solutions for the homeless population in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county,” the staff report reads.

The board will accept for information only that the Public Health Department was awarded accreditation, after an over three-year process.

“Some of the benefits of achieving accreditation include strengthening of internal and external partnerships, encouraging health departments to prioritize and address long-standing concerns, increasing competitiveness for funding opportunities, and making departments accountable to external stakeholders,” staff wrote in their report, noting that fewer than 5 percent of those who apply for accreditation receive it.

Well, there you have it – the county board of supervisors continues to approve measures, or “resolutions”, that bring transients to our county. As a man said in a recent letter to the Enterprise Record, our town suffers a disproportionate transient population because these services continue to expand.

In fact, the supervisors have approved a funding system by which we take in transients from other counties and cities in California – transients that come with $550 per day in funding. The city of Tahoe, for example, has no services for transients, they are routinely transferred to counties like Butte, who are desperately in need of the revenues to pay down their burgeoning deficit, and stave off bankruptcy for a few more years.

The county plans to coordinate with public, private and nonprofit agencies like the Chico Housing Action Team…”

http://www.chicohousingactionteam.org/

I don’t want Simplicity Village in my town – I don’t think it’s humanitarian in any way – Tuff Sheds?

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article89968682.html

And all over the state, we hear reports of increased crime around transient camps.  I know the neighborhoods along Bidwell Park, including mine, have suffered increased crime. There have been car break-ins within doors of my home and rentals, including my son’s car.

All along Bidwell Park f- as well as the Lindo Channel corridor – we have a big problem with car break-ins, look at Next Door some time. The thieves seem to operate with impunity, right out in the open.  Just the other day my husband and I found a pile of  plastic buckets taken from people’s cars laying on the ground along the bike trail through Annie’s Glen – you know, the little removable bins that sit in the console between the car seats, where a lot of people keep parking meter or snack change, even cell phones and other valuables.  I believe they were stolen from cars parked along Vallombrosa – a popular parking spot for both CSUC students and employees of nearby businesses.

I believe erecting these “villages” at taxpayers’ expense is just insulting. Here’s a report from nearby Sutter County:

http://eterritorial.com/47-guest-writers/lou-binninger/11984-govt-in-spite-of-the-people

Binninger doesn’t offer police numbers to back up the crimes he mentions, but I bet you could find them if you looked at the police and sheriff logs. Look at the Chico and Butte County logs sometime.

We have a transient problem here, and the Board of Supervisors is just making it worse.

 

 

Colossal waste of time – trying to engage a Chico city council member about why they perpetuate the CalPERS disaster

18 Oct

(Sorry the following is messy and crammed together – I cut and pasted it out of my e-mails, VERBATIM, I don’t have time to fix it)

Me:

Hi Randall,

I’m sorry I didn’t ask you sooner, but do you understand this, and if so, could you explain it in layman’s terms for my blog?

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/ORD2248-RetirementPlan-MiscellaneousMembers.pdf

Juanita Sumner

Randall:

It looks like a sample CalPERS agreement from some years ago – a rather boiler plate doc.  What did you need with it?  Things have changed quite a bit since this was written in 2002.  But mostly it doesn’t detail any terms with employees or otherwise.  It is just an Exhibit document that identifies Chico as a CalPERS member city (which has been the case for a while) with special notations about various details with such an agreement (i.e. retirements and separation from service, payout terms as standard in 2002).  Counties and cities do not all agree to the same benefits packages (which is the decision of the local governing body, in this case of course the City of Chico).
I’m not sure what else you were looking for with this document.  Can you please advise and I’ll try to help.
Randall
Me: (the next day)

It is a reference document from Item 4.4 in last nights agenda. I had to ask Presson for it, and it took her all weekend to send me a cut-and-paste copy. Then she decided to post it on the agenda site, which makes me wonder if she was legally required to do so.

I’ll ask you sincerely – do you thoroughly read the agenda reports? I try to, but I feel like I need a lawyer to understand this stuff.  Can you explain what “3 percent at 50” means, in English? 

Thanks, Juanita

Randall:

3% x years of service x final base pay (if at least age 50).  I’m certain you’re aware of that already.
You didn’t need it as a reference item to complete the agenda discussion.  In fact, the 2002 reference is one of the first times I’ve seen the Misc details.  They change based on bargaining details, but Chico hasn’t adjusted to that level since before PEPRA.  Since PEPRA already mandates a substantially reduced benefit, AND because Miscellaneous rates prior to PEPRA are already quite well known, who needs the reference definitions.  I don’t and you shouldn’t either.
I’ll be honest in that this seems as though someone’s trying to trip up the Clerk.  There is no reason (related to clarity) to have included this doc.  The Misc rates are already clear.
Randall
That document was referenced in the agenda for the discussion – why wouldn’t it be provided?
Me:

No, I sincerely don’t understand the formula, I don’t think most of the public understand this stuff.

Trying to trip up the clerk? Randall, I am making an honest attempt to understand how this city racked up $184 million pension deficit, and you’re accusing me of trying to “trip up the clerk”? 

I’ll  be honest – I think somebody is trying to trip up the taxpayers, the voters, and keep the general public, who make less than $40,000/year, in the dark as to how we are constantly being put on the hook for these outrageous pensions. 

Thanks though, for the discussion, I’m not accusing you of anything, but the city is in a mess, and it looks like council just threw gas on the fire.

Juanita

Randall:

Perhaps, but the Council obviously didn’t throw gas on a 2002 document referenced by ***every single Misc position offered for employment by the City***.

I have referenced these rates before with your public acknowledgement of your awareness of these formulas.  You’ve independently referenced these formulas in your blog over the years as well.  Numerous articles reference this formula as well including articles I’m certain you’ve read.  Other cities and counties make the reference to their formulas in every employee contract or offer of employment, including even references to positions that are being added in *any* California community (i.e. When Glenn County opens a new position, they list these formula rates in the posting of the position.  So does Butte, Tehama, all 58 of them, and all 482 municipalities).  I’m not sure a 2002 reference to Misc rates, Pre-PEPRA no less, was misunderstood or not understood.  Sure, simply citing the formulas is just as easy.  But if you were looking for a wet signature page to castigate those Aye votes over 15 years ago, then yes, it is a relevant reference.  I’m not interested in who to blame pushing two decades ago.  I’m interested in the fix, and that fix right now.

If the Clerk’s inclusion to the Item 4.4 was beneficial to you, great.  That would be the reason the Clerk would include it in the revised agenda packet.  That seems entirely prudent since you requested it.  But there are literally hundreds of other documents that have referenced this detail (read: the rates are quite well known.  I don’t need the 1978 reading of Proposition 13 to understand where property tax rates are.  If someone on the Council needed that reference, I’d say they shouldn’t be on the Council.  But if a member of the public is unclear about that detail, I’d say the Clerk should include it.

I’m not one to defend the Clerk – she fights her own battles.  But this one is a pitch in the dirt for information you already had.

Randall

a “pitch into the dirt for information you already had...” What kind of trash talk is that? 

Me: (from my phone, as I was doing chores in my tenant’s yard)

Randall I have perpetually said I do not understand the formula I also don’t understand why there is not a more public discussion of a formula that has put this city on the path to bankruptcy later the public employees will tell the taxpayers that we promised them these pensions we were never allowed into the conversation
Randall:
Good eye.  The resistance in adjusting the formulas *isn’t* a limited discussion.  It just isn’t as fruitful.  I understand you don’t understand influence of these variables.  But you certainly knew that 3% (or 2% of 2.5% or 2.7%, etc. etc. etc.) at (some minimum age) times the years of service is the formula.
But let’s say you didn’t.  You asked the Clerk and she provided it and then provided it to the rest of the community (because another resident wanted that original citation).  The formulas are of course part of every single CalPERS community in California.  They are referenced in the contracts as well.  They are referenced in all offers of employment (again, in every single community in California that uses CalPERS).  They are referenced in your blog posts about “90% of their pay” at retirement.  You couldn’t have determined that (except to take it on faith) without that formula.
Anyway, you’ve got your answer.
Randall
you’ve got your answer…” Really?
Me:
Here’s what I don’t understand how does that formula result in Tom Lando getting $150,000 a year in pension
Randall:
Work backwards.  And since I can do absolutely nothing about Tom Lando’s pension, and since I am not even able to adjust *existing* contracts with employees past and present (there’s part 2 of your answer…these references are contractual arrangements at hire date and therefore are not subject to collective bargaining), and since Lando’s contract was negotiated long, long, long before I was on the Council (and perhaps before I was even born), and since it has zero *variable* influence on my budget calculations for the City of Chico, it is largely an unimportant detail for me since it cannot be adjusted accept by bankruptcy court.  And if we keep doing what we’re doing, we just might get that chance.
Now you have two answers.
Randall
Well, that’s an interesting answer – “cannot be adjusted accept [sic] by bankruptcy court...”  
Randall again:
Do the math.
This crack from a guy who can’t spell!  Actually, I did the math, I came up with a $45,000/year pension for a 15 year employee who made a top salary of $100,000 (I’m not a mathematician, frankly, I think you have to be a wizard to come up with these pensions)
(THREE PERCENT) at $x base salary times years of service.  Once you have that calculation done, calculate what that payment is in relationship to that final year’s base pay.  90%, right?  And they have COLAs (as you know).  COLAs are also contractual.  They aren’t part of the bargaining discussion.
Now try it with 2%.  60%, right?
Years of service (30 is a full career).  Base factor (a contracted number varying from municipality to municipality.  For example, Glenn County employees are *paid* less, but their CalPERS factor is higher for the same positions in Butte County.).  Final *base* pay.  Those are the three variables used in this formula.  Those are all the details you need to know to calculate someone’s pension.
What happens if you’ve served with CalSTRS for 10 years and 30 years with CalPERS.  That’s 40 years of pension payments, albeit calc’ed a little differently due to some options for the employee.
Well, there you have it, I guess that’s the answer I was looking for. 
Me:
OG that’s not confusing! I’m at work I’ll have to get back to you later thanks for the conversation
I thought about that conversation all day, I’m sure my dentist will notice the damage to his fine work.  I feel Stone was being flip and evasive – I asked a simple question, I was nice, he accused me of “trying to trip up the clerk”?  I’m struggling to understand how this city is going to get out of this financial mess without either throwing out the CalPERS agreement and waiting for the union to sue (and settle), or just keep putting the squeeze to the taxpayers for more money. Right now they just finished sticking it to developers, raising the nexus for developer fees to a whole new level.
Sewer fees for EVERYBODY are next. 
How much more will the taxpayers take?