Archive | November, 2017

Portland Behavior

28 Nov
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You’ve heard of “toll bridges,” well this is a “troll bridge.”

I just posted that blog about Portland’s bum troubles, and then I got on the bike with my husband to do some errands. Like many people we use Middle Bidwell Park bike/pedestrian trails to commute Downtown and the Mangrove Corridor, and often use the bridge, pictured above, that spans Chico Creek there across from Immediate Care and Wells Fargo Bank.

The bridge has always been a gathering place for transients, but this morning was over the top – this old man had placed his bike and belongings well into the trail on one side, and situated himself and his backpack into the trail along the other side of the trail. I couldn’t help but think of the story of Three Billy Goats Gruff, and the troll who shouted, “I’m going to gobble you up!”

This is what I would call, “Portland Behavior.” I  feel he’s taking possession of the bridge. 

He muttered something at us as we passed, sounded like an opening for panhandling, but we kept moving.  I wasn’t intimidated because I was on the bike, with my husband, but if I were on foot I might think about taking a different route, or giving up walking altogether. Walking in the park alone is getting to be risky business.

We have a post office box so stopped at the post office annex on Vallombrosa.  There a disheveled man had scattered his crap – uh, excuse me, belongings – along the sidewalk and was pacing the sidewalk muttering at his feet.

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I felt sorry for this man, he was obviously mentally ill. But I also feel sorry for the people who are trying to run a family oriented business on the other side of that doorway he’s standing in front of.

This man’s behavior was very agitated.  Try being a parent with small children at hand, navigating these people at the doorways to businesses all over town. 

These people are brought here by the county, which gets $550/day for housing them.  They can be held 45 days without their consent, and then they are released to their own recognizance, oftentimes with prescription medications. I never know if I’m seeing insanity, or the result of prescription drugs and alcohol. 

There’s no supervision after release unless these people voluntarily enroll in one or another housing program. They can fall off their meds, get back on the booze, and end up right back on the street – in their new home, Chico – get arrested again, and around she goes…

Nobody is served in this cycle, except those who receive  the salaries and benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why would we want to do anything the way Portland – a “planning nightmare” – does it?

28 Nov

Portland, the home of Portland Loo, is having a serious bum problem.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/11/27/columbia-sportswear-may-close-downtown-portland-office-over-threats-public-defecation-by-homeless-people.html

The headline says it all,  but go ahead and read the article – like the bony hand of Christmas Future, Portland points out the fate of Chico. 

Portland sucks, that’s why they have one of the funniest online shows around, making fun of themselves:

http://www.ifc.com/shows/portlandia

Portland is also “the hub of smart urban planning,” while at the same time “a planning nightmare.”

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/379685-266393-east-portland-planning-nightmare

Why would we imitate this town? Our council needs a Post-it note right in front of them – “Do the OPPOSITE of anything Portland tells you….”

But tomorrow, the city Finance Committee – made up of Mayor Sean Morgan, and council members Mark Sorensen and Randy Stone – will discuss giving new urban high density developers lower fees than traditional developers. $taff is trying to say, high density development has lower impacts than lower density development. 

I know, what a crock – but it’s happening, look down your street.

Here’s another story of interest:

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/379637-266104-city-hall-update-police-crack-down-on-camping-in-retail-core-

 

The bigger the lie, the more often you repeat it, the more people will believe you – repeat after me – high density residential produces less impacts than low density residential…

26 Nov

Today I was walking my dog along the street in front of my house, and as we crossed the tattered asphalt from one corner to another I found myself in a minefield of potholes. The street was wet, cars were approaching in both directions, and as I stepped on a piece of loose asphalt my ankle turned sideways –  the pain was instant.   I was afraid I’d sprained it, and hobbled off to my house, dog in tow.

After I’d rubbed it out, the pain was gone, but it still makes me mad – in the past 15 years, the city has allowed a lot of development and sewer hook-ups along our street without doing any maintenance to the street. Crews come around occasionally with “slobbers” – leftover asphalt from other jobs – and make patches that just end up on the tires of the first cars to come along.  

There is a particular pothole at the corner of Filbert and Bryant that voided the warranty on my right front tire – excessive road hazard, according to the fellow at Big O Tires. This particular pothole is hard to miss – you’d have to go into oncoming traffic, or into the rut that passes for the “pedestrian right-of-way”  – and has been repeatedly filled with slobbers, only to return. Ever since it ruined my tire I call it “Jaws,” and yeah, as long as there isn’t a southbound car in the way, I cross the center line to avoid it.

Whenever you build a new house or add any square footage to an old house you are supposed to pay fees of all kinds toward the “impacts” you are creating – to the sewer, sidewalks, streets and other infrastructure directly surrounding your project. That stuff is for everybody’s benefit, and everybody is supposed to share in the cost of maintaining it. 

Unfortunately the city of Chico has not been very fair in who pays what over the last 20 or so years. If you build a house yourself, as my family did, they demand all the fees right up front or they will shut you down. But developers get “deferred” fees – they don’t have to pay their street fees, for example, until their project is fully built out. Some of these subdivisions take 20 or 30 years to build out. Look at West Side Place over on Nord Avenue, it’s been sold by the original developer, who never paid any street fees on it, and there it sits, unfinished. 

Cal Trans threatened to sue the city of Chico years back, because the city had approved all these new subdivisions without dedicating any of the fees toward needed improvements of Hwy 99 and 32. Five developers were named in that lawsuit. The city rolled over and gave the money – but as of two years ago when Cal Trans began work on Hwy 32 there between 99 and Del Monte, city council member and Mayor Mark Sorensen admitted to me that none of the developers named in the lawsuit had paid any fees.

Those widenings not only cost the city millions but those of us in the surrounding older neighborhoods put up with three years of earsplitting noise running right through the night, five to six nights a week. Those highways went right into people’s back yards. 

So I was very interested two or so years ago when I heard the city was talking about raising developer fees. I knew they hadn’t updated the “nexus” for years and the sewer fund was tanked from hook-ups. I also knew – existing homeowners were being charged far more for hook-ups than developers – anywhere from $10-20,000 in fees for  the homeowner  as compared to $3500 per house for developers.

But I also know, city management has been pilfering the development fund to pay unrelated salaries and benefits for years.  Back in 2002 several local developers forced the city of Chico to return fees that had not been spent on the subdivisions for which they’d been collected.

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/developer-fee-refund-doesnt-add-up/content?oid=11788

The article leaves out the fact that one of the developers had actually installed sewer  trunk lines at his own cost, and others had installed sidewalks and other infrastructure – all that is supposed to be done by the city with development fees. So the  city had to  give the money back. Why would the developers refund the home buyers when they paid for the stuff the fees were supposed to provide? 

I believe developer fees need to be updated on a regular basis to reflect the true costs of city infrastructure – that’s labor and materials, period. Instead developer fees are being hi-jacked to reflect the cost of city management salary and benefits. 

But here’s the really distressing part of the discussion – this Wednesday, staff is trying to convince members of the Finance Committee to make a recommendation to essentially force new urban development. They want to lower fees for new urban, with traditional builders picking up the difference.  Staff says new urban developments – which are at much higher density levels than traditional development – create fewer impacts on roads and other infrastructure. 

I hope you’re asking yourself, what kind of Kook Aide are they drinking? 

Well, they’re not crazy. They know – the fees are lower at the get-go – but who cares – developer fees don’t even make a blip on the budget radar. What they are doing, is cramming in more houses, which will generate more and more and more property taxes forever.

And no, they’re not going to fix the street in front of my house.

 

 

 

 

Homeless agencies fighting like dogs over scraps

21 Nov

The other day I got a mailer from the Jesus Center, their annual fundraising drive. 

The Jesus Center has a long history here in town. The first location that I know of was a building situated down the street from the current location. They offered very spare meals twice a day – sometimes just a slice of American cheese between two pieces of white bread, contained in a sandwich baggie. They also offered Salvation – at times they were accused of asking clients to pray for their meals. 

In the early days the center was privately run, by a local family. By the 1990’s the center had a staff, and a manager – Al Kay, who was very popular in town. He renamed the operation “Loaves and Fishes.”  Kay started to ask for community support, encouraging donations of food. We had a good year in our tomato patch and I took him a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes, for which he thanked me up and down.

But some of the neighboring businesses often complained that the center was bringing in transients, who would wander that length of street, drunk, panhandling, ranting and raving away customers. 

 

We had a rental in the neighborhood, when we were working on it, we bought lunch a lot of times out of the window at Duke’s Liquor – they had really good  wagon-style tacos for about $1 each. I saw what the locals were complaining about – we’d always encounter at least three drunks while waiting for our food, including one woman who would walk up and try to start a fight. The others would just walk back and forth mumbling and smoking cigarettes, which they picked up from the ground.

Around the corner, there was a house full of working girls – yeah, daytime hookers – who would hang around the intersection of Park and 13th wearing the usual clothes, stand at the stoplight smoking cigarettes and engaging passersby, oftentimes running back to the apartment house to meet them in the parking lot.

That corridor has had a problem with transients as long as I  can remember.  Part of the problem was an old building known as the Ice House – at some point, ice was manufactured there. It had been empty since at least the 1960’s, and was a serious public nuisance. It wasn’t only an eyesore, it was a gathering and camping place for the transients, as well as a rat house. 

In the 1990’s, the city and the Jesus Center had an idea that seemed to kill two rats with one stone – let’s renovate the ice house and turn it into a functional shelter, set it up with the county, get some funding, etc.  The old building that had housed the JC had been burned down at some point in an arson fire – nobody was ever even blamed for it, they just moved  along toward relocation.

The ice house was gutted and revamped into a kitchen and dining hall with an office and even a couple of living spaces. And renamed The Jesus Center. 

I was happy about that – like a lot of people, I believed the transient problem was already there, and they needed some center to deal with it. 

I don’t remember when the Torres Shelter came on the scene, sometime around 2000? The city gave them the use of the land, and donors built the shelter, and several groups have tried to run it. 

Both centers started to hit the skids, in my recollection, sometime during the early 2000’s. My husband and I started to notice the JC was looking very run down, with tags on the outside of the building and trash piling up in front. At some point we noticed a broken down old motor home with a tarp pulled half-heartedly over the roof, parked in back of the building. On different occasions we saw different men staggering out of it.  Whenever we’d go to Chico Locker to buy meat or sandwiches, we’d see a surly, dirty group at the picnic table provided for customers, smoking cigarettes, making inappropriate comments. The staff kept them out of the store, but couldn’t keep them off the table.

The trash started to pile up all around that corner. One day not too long ago I sat in the parking lot and watched two really drunk people repeatedly walking out in front of cars that passed through the intersection of 14th and Locust.  They acted as though it was some sort of game.  If they do get hit, it’s an all expenses paid stay at Enloe Hospital.

We were glad when we heard Bill Such had been sent packing and a new, no-nonsense board had taken over the JC. But things did not get better under new director, Laura Cootsoona.  The JC started giving bums sleeping bags, back packs, and other camping supplies that we’d find in piles in Bidwell Park, under various bridges around town and along our creekside greenways. 

I believe locating the Torres nearby was a mistake, they seem to compete for funding. And I don’t think the Torres Shelter board is led by practicality, they are led by Pollyanna fantasies. They don’t hold high enough standards for their clients. They say they have rules – the rules end at the public sidewalk in front of the shelter. The Torres board won’t be responsible for the behavior of the people they attract. 

Neither entity will take responsibility for the rampant illegal camping going on in their area. Neither will patrol the park to get illegal campers to come to the shelter. They sit and collect their salaries and wait for the transients to come to them. 

And North Chico has no open door services – transients are expected to find their way South. The old hotel on Esplanade and the Esplanade House accept clients through the courts, and have long-term programs. The Esplanade House is having internal problems over the current director’s insistence that they accept single drunks – he wants the money, the original founders want to protect the families living there. 

So, right now, our homeless agencies are all fighting among themselves, and it looks like the Torres Shelter will be gone within a year. 

I don’t know if I’ve shed any light on this situation, I’ve had a hard time remembering the timeline. But I do know, the situation is worse now than ever, and all we have is bickering among these publicly-funded agencies. 

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/plan-lacks-transparency/content?oid=25360445

So when I got the annual fundraiser notice from the Jesus Center, I hucked it. I’m tired of supporting this bullshit. 

 

 

 

 

Sorensen suggests a ballot amendment that limits council members to three terms – what is he up to?

18 Nov

From next Tuesday night’s council agenda:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=276

Re: Request to agendize Council Member term limits
I request to agendize a discussion regarding placing on the November 2018 ballot a
proposal to amend the City of Chico Charter limiting the number of Council Member terms to
three (3) terms in office.
Sincerely,
Mark Sorensen
Council Member
City of Chico

Not that I don’t like the idea – Hemet voters passed a similar measure in 2010, spending only about $3500.

But, I have to wonder – is he out to get Schwab, or  what?

 

Mutineer Sherry Miller says I have to make an appointment and drive out to the airport if I want to see the video she promised to have on the website

15 Nov

I got an e-mail from City of Chico Airport $taffer Sherry Miller yesterday, saying, “I do not have a time frame for when the video will be available on our web page.”

I can never decide – is it incompetence, or outright insubordination?

Yes, I’ll use that word – insubordination – because this woman is supposed to be working, excuse me, “serving” the public, and she’s just refusing to do so.

But she offers to loan me the DVD, if I drive out to the airport, by appointment, to get it.

A friend of mine asked me how we’ve come to this level with public employees – I’ll say, we’ve allowed it, we’ve put up with it, we’ve let ourselves be put in this situation.

I think we need Cesar Millan.

Mutiny! City $taff decides they don’t have to answer questions

14 Nov

I’ve been distracted by city of Chico improprieties lately – I have two requests for information that are being point-blank ignored by $taff.

Last week the clerk’s office posted the city council agenda with an item regarding the current Chico Police contract negotiations. The agenda report referred to a document – 

“Section 1. That an amendment to the contract between the City Council of the City of Chico and the Board of Administration, California Public Employees’ Retirement System is hereby authorized, a copy of said amendment being attached hereto, marked Exhibit. and by such reference made a part hereof as though herein set out in full.”

that was not attached to the agenda. I had to ask for it. The clerk sent me the document later in the day – it turns out, last March, council signed a release, indemnifying CalPERS from any harm caused to the city by that agency.

The document clerk sent was not cut-and-paste and she did not provide me a link through which I could share it. 

This is the second time I’ve had to ask for a document that was supposed to be attached to a  report on an agenda.  So, I wrote an e-mail to city $taff, asking why the document wasn’t attached to the agenda, as was described. They just aren’t responding. 

Here’s an article Dude sent that might shed some light – thanks Dude!

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article184235683.html

Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for airport commission $taffer Sherry Miller to post the video of the “special” airport commission meeting held last week. She had been posting notices of the meeting for about a month, saying, “As I noted in an earlier email, the meeting will be videoed and a link posted to the Airport Commission web page.”

I would have attended that meeting, but about half an hour previous, the heavens opened up for a dumper, and I thought, “well, she did say the video would be posted…”  I was born here, I know – you think twice before you go out in a storm. I’ll never forget the time I went to an evening meeting, it was storming, public works hadn’t cleared drains, and not only the city building parking lot and courtyard but two businesses across the street flooded. I remember standing inside the lobby with a group of people, including then assistant city manager John Rucker, telling Rucker I had to walk on curbs to get in from the parking lot.

Miller also said, “In addition, the City Council Chambers are not under construction so the meeting will be held in the usual location at 421 Main Street in the City Council Chambers.  This works out better for viewing the presentation.”

But the agendas page still posts the meeting at the old Municipal Building, “441 Main Street, upstairs…”  In red.

So, if the meeting was held in the council chambers, why did she later claim that the video is not in the right format for posting or sharing? That’s the same chambers the council holds meetings in twice a month, and those videos are available the next day, almost without fail. 

So, I’ve been asking her when that video will be available, and she’s just not answering. 

Mutiny on the Good Ship Lollipop?