Archive | December, 2017

2018: We need to dismantle the Hobo Highway leading into Chico

30 Dec

Another year is coming to a close, I like to scroll over to “Archives” and see what I was doing a year ago.

At this time last year I was posting a lot of pictures of bums camping in Bidwell Park. I’ll tell you what – my husband still hits the park trails with my dog every morning, and even though the weather is dryer than this time last year, he hasn’t found any campers in our section of the park. Yesterday, feeling guilty about taking a shorter walk the day before, he took Biscuit down into the depths, following the meandering bum trails through the overgrowth – not even a trash pile.

One morning about a month ago he found the remains of a camp, but by the time we mounted up on our bike to head to the grocery store later that morning, the camp had been cleaned by a group called Chico Community Watch. They have a city staffer as liaison, kind of a supervisor – which means we essentially pay this volunteer group over $100,000 a year plus pension and benefits. 

Jack Lee, in his blog Post Scripts, has an interesting interview with member Trevor Skaggs here:

http://www.norcalblogs.com/postscripts/2017/10/11/story-pending-chico-community-watch/

The interesting part of the interview is where Skaggs essentially admits that when providing any kind of service for the transients,  “ you kind of setup a slippery slope, you are providing services that make Chico an amenable place for individuals to migrate here from other locations. “

Yes, I feel volunteers like this just exacerbate the problem, while allowing highly compensated city staff to shirk their responsibilities. Why would I want to pay the property taxes that support salaries over $100,000, plus very generous benefits packages, and then wade into the park and pick up human filth? 

And it’s not just the city of Chico – Chico Area Recreation District is currently in talks to take over maintenance of Bidwell Park. CARD has a $7.2 million budget projected for 2018,  $5.2 million spent on salaries and benefits, mostly for about 30 full time employees, who have managed to rack up over $1.7 million in pension deficit. Will they expect volunteers to clean up after the bums?

They will pursue a bond or assessment on our homes in 2018, but haven’t announced yet whether it will be on the general ballot or a mailed ballot. 

I don’t think it’s a permanent solution either – they might chase the bums out of Bidwell Park – temporarily – but they just move to other parts of town. North Chico has had two sprawling homeless camps, one near a trailer park mostly inhabited by elderly people. Residents reported not only illegal camping but public defecation and urination in their door yards, and even threats from transients.

Chico has become a destination on the Hobo Highway, and we need to stop offering the services that are bringing them here. How about a few services for tax paying residents? 

Here’s  the street out front of my house – when do I get some services? 

So yes, I plan to go on complaining about the transient problem in 2018. That’s a resolution. 

 

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Chico Housing Action Team needs to follow same permitting process as any other shelter

27 Dec

Chico Housing Action Team is looking for volunteers to man secret shelters in various neighborhoods around town.

https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/2110378/false#/invitation

This is why I can’t use the mail box at the end of my driveway. This is why I have to  get up at 5:30 am to take out my trash bins. This is why I  can’t leave my garage door open for air while I’m running my dryer, or step inside for a drink while I’m working on my bike or car in the driveway.

Within the last two years there have been break-ins and other crimes within doors of my home and rentals.  Ironically, a neighbor of mine who used to work at the Torres Shelter had a window broken out of her vehicle, parked in her driveway. She said nothing was taken but I would say she got robbed of whatever she spent having the window replaced. A neighbor across the street had her window broken and her purse taken. I know it’s stupid to leave your purse in your car, but this was in broad daylight right within sight of people’s front windows. Another neighbor said she’d seen a transient and heard the sound of breaking glass but he was gone by the time she got out of her house.

For weeks a neighbor had a homemade sign in front of his house – “Please bring back my cordless drill, no questions asked…” He had left it in his driveway while doing some work, gone inside to  get another tool, tarried to listen to something on the radio, and gone back outside to find his drill gone.

My next door neighbor texted my husband one morning asking us to “be on the lookout for my red weed whacker…” which had disappeared from her back yard shed. This was particularly alarming to me as her shed is located well within her back yard, not visible from the street, surrounded by a fence with a gate, and right along side my garage.  She admitted she doesn’t lock her  gate – didn’t – but, the thief would have had to walk the length of her driveway, right under her kitchen window, to get to the gate. That’s pretty bold.

Reminded me of the man who came stumbling in through our back yard during a dumping downpour one evening. We were sitting on our porch, and we suddenly noticed a figure in the darkness, walking across our fenced back acre, open our garden gate, stumble across our garden, and then open the gate into our immediate dooryard. He was wiped out wasted, on something, didn’t know where he was, told us he’d fallen while climbing over our back fence. He would have had to travel across other neighbors’ property to get into our back yard. I wanted to call the police, but my husband reminded me that would be far more trouble than it was worth, and, taking this man by the arm, escorted him out our front door yard gate, out our locking driveway gate, to the street. He asked, “which way to the park?” and my husband pointed him on his way.

People treat us with suspicion because we have locked gates.  An insurance man once denied us coverage, saying Farmers wouldn’t insure us with a locking gate. A police woman who was investigating an incident at our neighbors once left a phone message for us – she said she’d encountered our locked gate while looking around our property. She had no explanation for being on our property.  She said she had thought to climb over it, but didn’t want to “taco it.” We were out at the time, the idea that a police officer would come on to our private property over a locked gate was pretty shocking. That gate cost over $100, and some big ass cop would have bent the hinges and required a new gate. How’d you like to come home and find your property damaged, and a note from some fat-ass pig saying, “Oh, uh, sorry…taco’d your gate looking for a perp…”   She didn’t even explain what had happened, didn’t identify the neighbor who had called in the complaint, nothing. She seemed to think it was weird we had a locked gate. 

But CHAT is allowed to take transients in at secret sites around town, with no public permit process.

 

Hey – while you are gathering around the tree with a cup of cider in your face, the city of Chico is getting ready to stick it to you in 2018!

22 Dec

I got  the agenda for the January 2 2018 city council meeting

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=279

and here are some immediate observations:

  1. Looking at the police contract up for consideration, I see our cops are hugely overcompensated and given many perks and benies but are still demanding raises. While city mangler Mark Orme insists this contract will only cost $37 more per employee per year, he doesn’t give the figures and he doesn’t even mention how many employees the police department has.  I went to the State Controllers Government Compensation charts and I see cops in Chico make well over $100,000/year, plus nice benefits packages, and I’m wondering – how long can we afford salaries that compare with those in much bigger cities?

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=79&fiscalyear=2016#P80f0121adc79480a9f9ed94f9dc3314e_2_oHit0

    2. They’re raising the cost of housing and other fees to pay for it.

    3.  The clerk isn’t posting city council minutes again. She’s only posted selected meetings since about July.  She constantly complains about not being able to use the equipment.  She just got a raise to more than cover her own pension share – which is less than 10 percent.  Presson’s salary is comparable to a police officer.  

Presson always includes a little personal note with the agenda – she wishes all of us and our families a great holiday season! Well, her Christmas, with that kind of salary, much be just ginchee! 

All I want for Christmas this year is for the CalPERS building to implode and collapse back into Hell where it came from.

Image result for calpers building sacramento

As for Chico PD? I hope their kids all grow up and leave.  

As for the rest of you – make a resolution for 2018 to stop putting up with this shit.

 

 

No Kidding – our city is headed for deep doo-doo

21 Dec

This is a repost from November, 2015.  

I sent the letter below last Saturday, I had to resend, although Dave Little excused himself – “just a lot of letters in the queue”  Sure, okay, at least he printed it before this item goes to council.

There’s another Finance Committee meeting scheduled this coming week. They will pick up the conversation they left in the “workshop” I’m speaking of below. This time they will talk about how developers have got off without paying sewer fees, and how the sewer fund has been in arrears for years. From the staff report, available here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/12-2-15FCAgendaPacket.pdf

“For over a year, City staff have highlighted the impact of reduced revenues received from development for sewer capacity fees. As a result, the City’s general sewer operating account has picked up the significant annual loan obligations required to pay the state for the capacity expansion made to the sewer treatment plant.”

Yeah, I’ve been following this conversation – what they don’t mention is, like the Private Development Fund, the Sewer Fund has been dipped into to pay salaries, benefits and pensions for people who have never even been in the neighborhood (where property owners complain they are being eaten by flies from the poorly managed plant, staff admitting they dump raw sewage in the Sac River during heavy rainstorms…)  They don’t mention the constant tug-o-war going on between the sewer operation and M&T Ranch – both suck water out of the river for operations, which has left City of Chico leach lines “on the rocks” on several occasions, leading to millions in repairs paid by taxpayers.

Our sewer plant is a disaster, but city of Chico keeps trying to hook more people up, cause they want those fees to pay – you got it – the Pension Liability.  Now they are holding a carrot out to Paradise? Wow, this is just getting surreal. 

So, I’m just glad Little finally decided to run my last letter, I already feel another one forming in the old Brain Pan.  I wish you folks would write too. Our biggest question being – all these years you been letting the developers off, you been charging private homeowners by frontage – meaning, the length of your property that meets the street. Developers pay a flat rate – why not homeowners? Here we been subsidizing development for years, and the fund is still RED.  

$taff has been embezzling. I realize, the developers have been getting a better deal than we have, but we all been taking a screwing from $taff. 

My letter, run this morning:

A consultant’s report given to the city Finance Committee says homeowners pay about 130 percent of the true cost of building permits while for-profit developers pay less than the cost of services they receive  from the city. But this is not the entire reason for a $9 million deficit in the private development fund. 

Consultant Chad Wolford explained, while we cut our workforce heavily, we failed to cut “overhead” – that is, the management positions that take most of our budget. 

Next door, the Internal Affairs committee tackled the subject of civility as I watched our mayor attack a local developer who came to the podium to question the allocation of a $6 million pension deficit on the private development fund. Mayor Mark Sorensen listed two other options – “keep moving in your direction…racking up a million dollars a year in debt…” he told Pete Giampoli.  Sorensen’s other option was to take the money out of the General Fund, already empty because of such transfers. 

The unspoken option is  cut management positions. One recently hired finance department employee, salary over $100,000, attended the meeting for no apparent reason.  He gave no report, sat in the audience, and left the building several times during the meeting. 

This is why we’re in trouble – we have too many redundant positions, getting over $100,000 in salary and paying little toward their benefits. Most of our management employees are longtime CalPERS participants who pay less than 10 percent of their pension premiums. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Here’s why the price of housing will never go down in Chico – houses will get smaller, but the price per square foot is going to keep climbing

20 Dec

Thanks Dude, for this article from zerohedge.com –  

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-19/calpers-goes-all-equity-bubble-boosts-stock-allocation-50

CalPERS has decided to raise the stakes by $50 billion, and critics are saying they are investing in “bubbly stocks”. As defined by Wikipedia, “a bubble occurs when investors put so much demand on a asset that they drive the price beyond any accurate or rational reflection of its actual worth.”

In past CalPERS has failed to bring in anticipated returns because they’ve made bad investments, first based on bribery, and later, on philosophy – buying stock in “green” companies that failed miserably. I believe those “philosophical” investments were also based on bribery or other influence but that hasn’t come out yet.

Here in Chico CalPERS failure will determine the cost of our housing market, since developers/homebuyers are expected to pay for the salaries, health benefits and pensions of Downtown $taffers. Last night council deadlocked over fees – Mark Sorensen correctly stating that there is no data to support lower fees for high density builders, and Karl Ory throwing up that ages old argument that has led us on the BOOM and BUST trail again and again – we need more housing for the “workforce.”

15 years ago, it was, “more starter housing for young families.” They change the words but it’s still the same – more profits for developers, more fees and property taxes for the city.

This city has suffered two big BUSTS in my adult lifetime. I learned about the economy when, in 1989, my family bought an entirely over-inflated house. Within three years prices went through the floor again, and when we tried to sell we couldn’t even get what we paid. Families all over town, like us, were paying over-inflated mortgages and property taxes, which means no “discretionary” income.

In the early 2000’s the market was flat and the developers turned to their friends in elected positions – like Larry Wahl and Dan Herbert – to campaign for “starter housing for young families”. They wanted lower fees – Dan Herbert almost went into tears complaining about the $17,000 in fees he’d just paid to build his new house, he just kept repeating that over and over at the council meeting. 

That campaign led to the biggest building BOOM in Chico history. But wait! Prices didn’t go down! Houses went from the$90,000 range to over $300,000 within eight months. 

And of course by 2010 the BUST rolled in, with foreclosures all over town. Foreclosures never went away, we still have many foreclosures in Chico.  Right now Zillow is listing 68 foreclosed homes. Over the past two years I’ve lost five neighbors to foreclosure, while one foxy old bastard next door actually re-bought his own house at auction, reducing his mortgage debt by about $100,000. 

That should tell you, some of these housing prices are just made of air…

The BOOM we are experiencing now has all the hallmarks of the previous BOOM – housing prices up sharply, sales quick and high over the Summer. I sold a home this Summer because I saw that, and I wanted to unload before the prices hit rock bottom and stayed there for years to come. We essentially sold the place at Open House, within the first two weeks, for asking price. I had feared the realtor had asked too much, and was surprised at the full price offer.  They were ready to jump through hoops for us to get the house, they were almost annoyingly pushy. 

Two realtors I spoke with when I was selling told me uneasily they expect a BUST by Spring 2018. Already I’ve noticed sales are slowing, but  that just might be a Winter thing. We’ll see.

CalPERS is going to take California down. 

 

 

 

 

 

Go ahead and laugh, you’re paying for it

17 Dec

I was spreading an old issue of the Chico Enterprise Record under my dog dishes and I noticed a story I had missed.

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20170923/NEWS/170929854

The Butte County Association of Governments – BCAG – runs the B-Line.

http://www.blinetransit.com

When I looked at the schedules for the B-Line, I was reminded how riding the bus really sucks. Have some fun – use those schedules to get yourself to the airport, in less than an hour. Because you can drive there in less than 20 minutes from just about anywhere in town, and then you have your car for whenever you want to leave. Please note – there are hours long blocks without service in the middle of the day and then only two buses leaving the airport at the end of the work day. And no stops – it’s an EXPRESS line. You get on Downtown – which means, you have to get Downtown.

Which leaves the use of the bus to catch a plane almost out of the equation – because the buses aren’t for the airline passengers, they’re for employees of airport located businesses. The story says they need at least 64 people a day to pay for this line, and so far they’ve managed to convince about 30 to ride.   Until then, the taxpayers will subsidize this line while BCAG tries to convince employers to buy monthly passes. 

Do you have a car?” is one of the first questions most employers ask. “Missed the bus” is the last excuse you want to pitch at your boss – sounds made up. Until you see the schedules, one misstep and you will be left for an hour. That’s not your boss’ problem, unless he’s Ken Beerman or Dan Got-t-shirts, who are also pitching the New Urban Life Without a Car. Of course, Ken Beerman lives in Forest Ranch, on a private road. Gonzales lives Downtown – if you can get picture of him boarding B-line I will give you a crisp five-spot.

The story is a push piece – thank you Laura Embedded Reporter! The reporter actually tries to tell us employees should take the bus to avoid road damage to their cars. 

“While there is no precise data on the cost of wear and tear on vehicles encountering potholes on Cohasset Road, AAA has determine that nationally potholes cost drivers about $3 billion annually.

Hitting potholes and deep cracks can damage tires, rims, struts, steering and suspension, according to AAA, but what may be worse is that the damage may not be immediately noticeable and deepen as travel continues.”

But the city has no immediate plans to do anything about the road, despite the current jingle for commercial air service.  

“While the city will be improving Cohasset Road in 2018, repair stops short of the airport.

“‘Yes, we are working on the design for road rehabilitation on Cohasset Road from about East Avenue to Eaton Road. This will not do anything to widen or improve Cohasset to the airport from Eaton Road,’ Chico Public Works Director/Engineering Brendan Ottobani wrote this publication on Wednesday.”

That’s interesting. You will not find that kind of information in any story about the city streets, the garbage franchise, or the pensions. But here she uses it to try to get people to ride the bus. 

You really think it costs $250,000 to run one bus half a dozen times a day out to the airport and back? No. BCAG wants  that money for salaries and pensions for themselves. The director of this agency is compensated at over $200,000 year.  Eleven employees – not counting board members – are paid over $777,000/year in wages and another $350,000 in pensions and health benefits.

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrict.aspx?fiscalyear=2016&entityid=3468

The board is made up of other salaried individuals, including two county supervisors and council members from every town in Butte County, as well as representatives of other public agencies like CARD. Yes, CARD director Ann Willmann, for example, gets paid over $100,000/year plus pension and health insurance to sit in these meetings, facilitating the looting.

According to various sources online, the average transit bus driver in California makes between $30,000 and $40,000/year. I didn’t see anything about benefits. I don’t know where to look to see what they spend on the buses but I’m going to guess that’s less than they spend on the driver. So that leaves a couple of hundred thousand a year to go into the coffers, to pay those management salaries and benefits, or pay down BCAG’s pension deficit.  

These government entities – of which there are far too many – drum up a confusing babble, they seem to contradict each other around every corner. Here the county is pushing a bus line that nobody really wants, while the city won’t fix the road. Why don’t they just use the grant funding to fix the road? 

How ’bout Urseny’s little pitch about air quality – “Buses also help curb air pollution from vehicles.”  That’s bullshit – buses are not only gross polluters, they grind the roads to a pulp. All to carry 33 passengers a day – what’s that, five passengers or less per trip? All the way across  town? 

The airport is a viable business park, many businesses there are tenants of the city of Chico. But their landlord won’t maintain the road in. Meanwhile a group is using city funding – yes, the city paid $15,000 for that last consultant – trying to re-establish commercial air service – but they don’t think the airlines pay attention to stuff like this? 

Go ahead and laugh – you’re paying for it.

 

 

Dave, Dave, Dave – when you gonna learn?

16 Dec

 

Wow, what a world we live in. All these accusations of “inappropriate behavior” coming out of Hollywood and Washington, and even right here in Chico!

Guzzetti is being investigated “for reportedly using nearly $12,000 of Chico Conservation Voters campaign funds on gambling, dining, groceries, bookstore charges and personal computer services, the FPPC says.”

Yes, Dave Guzzetti seems to have been busted, AGAIN, this time with his fingers in the cookie jar. Kelly’s cookie jar.  Kelly often told me that “they only want me for my money,” but I always assumed Guzzetti spent the money on his political agenda – stuff like illegal campaign mailers. Instead we find out he’s been gambling? And using, mostly Kelly Meagher’s money, for other definitely personal expenses.

When I have looked at the reports, I’ve seen that he took a salary out of his PAC, but I figured that was all legal. It’s amazing what’s legal with a PAC. But what Guzzetti was dong with the money was not only inappropriate by FPPC rules, it could  be considered embezzlement, which involves criminal charges and possible jail time, maybe restitution. In light of what Guzzetti has admitted, I hope Ramsey presses charges, but I won’t hold my breath – Ramsey’s a Democrat.

Guzzetti is a creep, he’s been warned for sending the dirty fliers, for not making legally required reports – this has been going on for years, but he’s always wiggled out of anything serious. Now I’d like to see his ass nailed for good to the barn door. I’d like his friends like Mike Worley and Karl Ory to see just what happens when you think you can pull a fast one on the voters and taxpayers.

Here’s a funny little trip down Memory Lane – a two-part story from 1985, from the LA Times.

http://articles.latimes.com/1985-04-28/news/mn-21341_1_political-force

http://articles.latimes.com/1985-04-28/news/mn-21341_1_political-force/2