Keep rattling your chains – write letters to both papers, tell them we know where the money is going

31 Mar

Dave Howell wrote a great letter to the News and Review, taking on the pensions. Thanks for going to the trouble to write these letters Dave, I know it’s not easy to get a letter in the N&R. 

The problem is pensions

Re “Taxes and police” (Letters, by Martine Stillwell, March 14):

Martine Stillwell is justifiably outraged that our city’s politicians are pushing a tax increase to fix the roads after letting them fall into disrepair thus increasing the cost to repair them.

I wonder how much more outraged she would be if she knew that tens of thousands of our tax dollars are being paid to an opinion research firm to sell us that tax increase. And that doesn’t include the cost of the city bureaucracy’s staff time.

The reason for the awful condition of our infrastructure and the reason for this tax increase are the unsustainable cost of government employee compensation, especially pensions. For many years money for infrastructure repair has been siphoned off for raises and unsustainable pensions. Does she know our bureaucrats have pensions worth millions?

Yet instead of pension reform, our politicians believe that in a county with low wages, very high living expenses and a 21 percent poverty rate, the answer is to pass a tax increase that hits the poor the hardest.

I wonder if Martine and others will be outraged enough to vote in the next election against the tax increase and the politicians who push it and encourage others to do the same.

Dave Howell, Chico

In the same issue this letter appeared, editor Melissa Daugherty bitched about the park budget being shorted these last few years – but she didn’t mention why?  So I wrote a letter about it.

Melissa Daugherty is correct (3/28), Bidwell Park has suffered deferred maintenance since massive layoff of park staffers over the last six years. The park department was absorbed into Public Works, where director Eric Gustafson oversees not only the park, but the airport, city buildings, street trees, right of way zones, street cleaning, traffic safety, city vehicles, and the sewer plant.

Like Dave Howell said (3/28), the problem is “the unsustainable cost of government employee compensation, especially pensions.” I’ll add, management top-heavy.  Twelve  management positions overseeing the park, including Gustafson, cost over $1 million in total compensation. The park division only has five “maintenance workers”, amounting to less than $300,000 in total compensation.

While staff defers maintenance in the park and other infrastructure all over town,  they continue to pay almost $20 million a year toward their pensions, about $8 million of that toward the pension deficit. At the April 2 council meeting, staff recommends renewal of the CalPERS agreement, requiring employees to pay only 11% of the cost of their pensions, the taxpayers expected to pick up the deficit.

As long as council and staff continue to place the pensions ahead of the public, infrastructure will continue to be short changed, including Bidwell Park.

Juanita Sumner, Chico 

I got my information from publicpay.gov (GCC, secretary of state)

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=79&year=2017

and the city website – management contracts are available on the Human Resources page.

http://www.chico.ca.us/human_resources_and_risk_management/labor_agreements_home.asp

At the GCC website, you’ll see, the park budget also pays for several police/traffic officers, interns, and two “administrative assistants”. The city has to bring in Salt Creek inmates because they don’t have enough workers. And management is without a clue.

Eric Gustafson spends most of his time in meetings, same for “Resources Manager” Linda Herman. I’d bet my last $5 they don’t even own an appropriate pair of shoes to walk in the park. Both are clinically obese, and neither has any kind of credentials suggesting they are qualified to run a park. 

The city continues to use the park and other sagging infrastructure to press for a revenue measure – I think we need to press for some firings Downtown. Starting at the top, with Mark Orme, followed by Chris Constantin, Scott Dowell, and every department head. It’s time for a tick dip. 

9 Responses to “Keep rattling your chains – write letters to both papers, tell them we know where the money is going”

  1. Jim March 31, 2019 at 7:01 am #

    I think we could get rid of half the people in city hall and none of us would notice a difference. The taxpayers want police not more bureaucrats.

    • Juanita Sumner March 31, 2019 at 7:25 am #

      Good point, why do we need a city manager, an assistant city manager, and a Finance director?

  2. bob March 31, 2019 at 7:17 am #

    Did you see this? Can this possibly be correct? It’s going to take 300 million dollars just to fix the roads in Chico? Where will they ever get that kind of money? I don’t think even a sales tax increase could come up with that much.

    https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/Chico-Road-Repair-Money-506582881.html

    And the crooks in City Hall admit they no longer do preventative maintenance.

    “That is preventative maintenance, Ottoboni said. But the city is not doing preventative maintenance at all because it doesn’t have enough funding for roadways.”

    https://www.chicoer.com/2018/02/24/rocky-roads-streets-will-take-years-millions-to-rebuild/

    So for years they been siphoning off money for themselves, letting the roads fall apart so it will be super expensive to fix and who pays? Who gets punished for all this? The taxpayers.

    That is criminal. And of course as is always the case in government, no one is held responsible.

    If we had a City Council that wasn’t in on this (just part of this corruption), they would clean house. Get rid of all these useless bureaucrats that are costing the city millions: Orme, Gustafson, Ottoboni, etc.

    But instead they will all continue to get cost of living increases and raises and of course pensions worth millions.

    And we will get big tax increases and crappy roads!

    • Juanita Sumner March 31, 2019 at 7:26 am #

      Yes you’re right, eight hundred million dollars is the cost of deferring maintenance to pay your pension.

      • bob March 31, 2019 at 7:37 am #

        What’s that amount to per resident? About $3700? And that’s just to fix the roads, not add any new roads or do things like widening roads. Then of course we have the cost of everything else: the cops, fire, parks, schools, etc.

        If people don’t rise up and raise hell and demand some accountability and for heads to roll, at the rate things are going no one except government employees and ex-government employees with fat pensions and those feeding off government contracts like those Knife River bigwigs will be able to afford to live in Chico.

      • Juanita Sumner April 1, 2019 at 5:23 am #

        I think people are slowly waking up. We’ve had some good letters in the paper, I hope to hear from more people as the tax proposals are made more public. That’s what we have to do – let people know what’s going on.

        When the city ran Measure J, the cell phone tax, some friends of mine and I typed up the facts about the pensions onto little strips of paper and handed them out at the farmer’s markets. People were really pissed off. The general public doesn’t know about stuff until it’s on the news, and even then, what, 1 out of 3 pays attention? So we told them about the measure, and we told them about the pensions. People were stunned and disbelieving, the average comment being, “what does the city have to do with my cell phone service?” Simple answer – nothing.

        When I participated in what turned out to be the last successful Tea Party rally at the city plaza, we made up 8 1/2 x 11 sheets with facts like, “management salaries now over $90,000”, “pension deficit $180 million”, and hung then a on portable wall. I had not made any kind of presentation like that since college, and was skeptical, but later I was surprised to see people studying and talking about those cards throughout the day.

        Measure J lost, but it was a little close for my liking. I think we should have sent flyers in the mail, telling people what Measure J was about and reminding them to vote. I don’t need a mailing list to do that, and stamps aren’t that expensive.

        We also used signs for Measure J – 100 signs was about $300. We could do a campaign without even forming a PAC or submitting any kind of reports – as long as we collect and spend less than $1,000.

        But I’m considering forming a PAC – that’s free, and it lets them know we’re serious.

  3. bob March 31, 2019 at 7:26 am #

    And this is just criminal. No wonder Brown pushed so hard for those big fuel tax increases and the vehicle registration tax increase.

    California state workers hoarding vacation days, creating $3.5-billion debt for taxpayers

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-government-worker-vacation-payouts-20190307-story.html

    Will people ever realize that no matter how much the politicians take, it’s never enough for all the special interests that have bought off the policiticans and that government is a criminal enterprise?

  4. Scott Rushing March 31, 2019 at 7:24 pm #

    Excellent work Juanita, watch for increases in contributions to the Joint Powers Authority premiums due to the loss of the Mindy Losee/Breanne Sharpe legal fees/settlement expenses and the on-going wrongful death lawsuits filed against CPD from the Phillips and Rushing family. Feckless O’Brien needs to go. *Scott Rushing*

    On Sun, Mar 31, 2019 at 6:51 AM Chico Taxpayers Association wrote:

    > Juanita Sumner posted: “Dave Howell wrote a great letter to the News and > Review, taking on the pensions. Thanks for going to the trouble to write > these letters Dave, I know it’s not easy to get a letter in the N&R. The > problem is pensions Re “Taxes and police” (Letter” >

    • Juanita Sumner April 1, 2019 at 5:09 am #

      “Feckless” O’Brien, I love that! Tony Soprano called people like O’Brien “happy wanderers”.

      Thanks for commenting Scott, I hope your suit is successful.

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