Archive | April, 2019

“This is how democracy fails…”

30 Apr

I notice a lot of people are writing letters to the editor these days – so many, apparently, Enterprise Record staffers can’t keep up!  You’d think they’d run more letters per day, maybe expand the letters page. Instead they wait until they have an enormous backlog and folks are complaining and then they barf a bunch of letters all at once, like they did this morning. 

The result being, at least two letters about the Orange Street “low barrier” shelter that would have been pertinent a week ago but are now moot because the Jesus Center announced yesterday they will not be pursuing that idea.  And, in a pile like they printed this morning, important letters can be overlooked.  Here’s a letter that warrants a good read:

Don’t Fall for the City Council’s Tax Increase Lies

In FY 2017-18 city revenues grew at 7.4%. Director Dowell told the City Council revenue growth is expected to continue. Yet Director Orme said the city has a revenue problem that requires tax increases. Despite increased revenue the City continues to let our infrastructure crumble.

Mayor Stone tells us city employee compensation costs will double in less than ten years and CalPERs will be devouring 25% of the City’s budget by 2023. (That assumes an unrealistic CalPERS 7% return rate.) Stone admits this is unsustainable.

The obvious answer: pension reform.

Instead the City Council is giving tens of thousands of your tax dollars to a PR firm to sell you a tax increase. Their pitch will be that the money is needed to fund infrastructure and public safety. That’s a lie. It’s needed because for years the City has put unrealistic pension promises ahead of everything else and the City Council has no intention of changing that.

Other cities in California have taken the same approach. Instead of fixing the problem the result has been demands for even higher taxes.

Initial estimates indicate the City Council’s tax increase would cost a family of four an extra $1200 a year. This in a county with a 21% poverty rate where city bureaucrats have pensions worth millions. It’s unconscionable.

This is how democracy fails. The people need to let the city’s politicians know loudly and clearly that this will not be tolerated. Email to voice your disapproval to the entire Council.

Dave Howell, Chico

Dave Howell is right – democracy can’t work when the voters are willfully misinformed by their elected and appointed officials. City staffers talk out of both sides of their mouths. If you listen to the propaganda blitz in the local media, you hear we are nearly broke and need a tax measure, but attend a meeting, or read a report, and you see that city revenues are constantly growing.

Utility Tax revenues, for example, are projected to increase almost a million dollars a year. Every time PG&E and Cal Water rates go up the city cash registers are ringing. The flurry of home sales and now new construction are bloating city coffers with higher property taxes and new home  fees. And new housing will provide more utility tax, it’s just an endless cycle. 

But even with a healthy revenue stream our self-serving staff can’t pay their outrageous pensions without gutting services all over town? But they manage to come up with $8 million a year – siphoned out of even “dedicated funds” –  to pay down the pension deficit? Pensions eat 18% of our budget. 

Council tells us they’ve achieved pension reform – they asked staff to pay another 3 percent, making employee share a BFD figure of 11 percent. We, the taxpayers, are on the hook for the rest. Time to take that hook out of your mouth and demand REAL pension reform – meaning, all employees, not just new hires, must pay their own pensions. Or they need to hit the road.

Employees, including city mismanager Mark Orme and his wrecking crew, must go before council every year to have their contracts renewed. Why do we allow them to keep renewing  these contracts without demanding that they pay their own pensions?

Like Howell says, ask your council members about that. 

Yuba County Measure K: supervisors finally admit they have a pension deficit, and it’s a whopper!

23 Apr

I got the following report from the “No on Measure K” folks in Marysville, Yuba County. 

Currently the county is in litigation with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and two local residents over  sales tax increase measure K that passed in November. Plaintiffs are charging the measure was a special tax and should have been required to have 2/3’s approval from the voters, but was run as a general tax and barely passed with a simple majority. 

Throughout the campaign the county not only used public safety as bait, used taxpayer funds to run their campaign, but also repeatedly denied they had a pension deficit. 

Get aload of one supervisor’s response to a citizen’s evidence of pension deficit – “I know that you really want the numbers to back up the talking point that Measure K is all about CalPERS increases, but the numbers just don’t support that claim.”  

Of course, now that they passed their measure with a questionable margin they not only deny it was a special tax but also admit they have a $147 million UAL (unfunded accrued liability). 

This is what we can expect from the city of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District as they pursue their revenue measures.  They will bully us, they will lie to us, they will simply refuse us, but we have to keep squeezing out the truth.  We have to make sure the propaganda isn’t the only thing the voters hear in the coming year. 

From Yuba County No on Measure K:

For many, and many months [Yuba County Supervisor] Robert Bendorf and all five Yuba County Supervisor’s have denied that there is a large CalPERS liability looming. One Yuba County resident worked long and hard to find the truth. He pulled the CalPERS publically published pension numbers, examined the Yuba County budgets and he even had a CPA double check the numbers (They were correct).

All those numbers, pointed to the same thing, Yuba County was in a deep pension hole.

That same concerned resident, ran the numbers by Yuba County Supervisor Gary Bradford for his comment. Gary Bradford publicly stated over and over again: “I know that you really want the numbers to back up the talking point that Measure K is all about CalPERS increases, but the numbers just don’t support that claim.”

All his efforts were met with rude, evasive comments, verbal attacks and lies. Facebook posts during this time ridiculed any notion that there is a problem with CalPERS.

Fast forward a few months……….

The County and Supervisors PROMISED that Measure K (don’t you trust us?) is all for safety – well that was then, now they are claiming in Court (where the Legality of Measure K is coming into question) that it wasn’t about safety.

That is a moving target – was it or wasn’t it a safety measure???

With Measure K, increased revenue estimates are predicted to swell the Yuba County coffers by about $4.5 million annually (that’s another moving target).

Between the Miscellaneous and Safety Budgets, the county owes $147.6 Million to the pension pot ($106.8 Million for the Miscellaneous and $40.7 Million to the Safety Unfunded Accrued Pension Liabilities). They have to make payments to try and catch up.

But, paraphrasing Gary Bradford again “CalPERS isn’t a problem”

It’s bitter sweet to note that all five Yuba County supervisors will be meeting April 23rd 2019, to……

“Conduct a workshop to discuss options for addressing the County’s unfunded employee pension liability”

(see Agenda Topic 23 – Title:
County Administrator: Conduct a workshop to discuss options for addressing the County’s unfunded employee pension liability and provide further direction to staff. (20 minutes estimate)….

Reading through the public document for the supervisors comments, they state “In recent years, the CalPERS Board made a series of decisions regarding assumptions for future costs of pensions, mostly on life expectancy and assumed investment returns, which have resulted in a significant escalation in the County’s unfunded accrued liability (UAL). Despite the County having made all required payments, over a seven-year period from FY 2010-11 through FY 2016-17 the assumption changes have resulted in an increase of $58.9 million (66.4%) in the UAL.”

A few months ago, the County said there wasn’t a Pension problem, but now they are meeting to discuss options to try and address the Pension Problem.

A few months ago, the County said it’s all about Safety, but now they are claiming in Court that it wasn’t about safety.

What a curious World our Yuba County Supervisors live in:
Where a Problem isn’t a problem, but then is
Where it was all about safety, but then isn’t.

A lie will stick unless you call the liar out on it

17 Apr

Al Franken wrote a really funny book years back, before he became a politician, you might want to check it out –

It’s not balanced, or fair, but it’s sooooo true! And it’s not just “the Right,” either. They all lie. Have you heard about the latest attempt to keep voters from knowing the truth about tax measures?

Dan Walters:

“Two years ago, in a rare display of support for transparency in government finance, the Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown required local governments and school districts to tell voters how proposed bond issues would affect their property taxes.

That would seem to be just common sense and good government, but local officials complained that Assembly Bill 195 would be too difficult to implement. Their real motive, however, was a fear that telling voters that their tax bills would increase might discourage them from voting for the bonds.

It’s a good thing we have Dan Walters, because our local media have fallen in with city staff and council to run their tax measure campaign, both the tv news and the daily running at least a story a week about how we need a tax measure to fix all the problems brought about by years of poor management and self-service. I finally had to ask ER reporter Laura Urseny where she got the numbers regarding how many Camp Fire evacuees are still residing within the Chico City limits.

I covered that here:

I knew they didn’t have any numbers, or I’d have asked, “how many people from the burned areas already drove into Chico five or more days a week to their job, already shopped in Chico regularly, already used Chico roads and services?”  I already know the answer – probably more than half the people – more like two thirds – in the affected areas already came to Chico, drove our roads, used our retail sector, our post office, and other services, on a regular basis. 

But a lie will stick unless you call the liar out on it. So I wrote the following letter to the ER.  

Stories in this newspaper claim the city of Chico “has absorbed many displaced Camp Fire victims.” When I asked one reporter for a specific figure, she paraphrased the city manager as follows.

“He [Mark Orme] said he doesn’t have hard numbers from FEMA because of nonregistration, couch-living, trailers parked on streets etc. He said  the city is still using the  10,000-15,000 estimate.”

A FEMA map shows a great many of the roughly 20,000 evacuees have spread out around Butte County, California and the US, with no figures for Chico.  Staff is simply using numbers that suit their purpose.  To date, Staff has used their “estimate” to excuse poor road conditions, crime problems, housing shortage and cost, and now a “$5-6,000,000” roundabout.

Staff admits they have deferred road maintenance in Chico since long before the Camp Fire. The city’s welcome mat for transients is the source of our crime problems. The short-lived boom in the Chico housing market immediately following the Camp Fire has been over for some time – there are 247 listings on Trulia. The proposal to place FEMA housing near the Eaton Road interchange has been abandoned.

Staff is pressing for a tax measure using Camp Fire evacuees as bait. Dan Walters points out “the underlying real reasons, such as to cover rapidly increasing employee pension and health care costs.” Chico’s pension deficit is over $130,000,000.  The Wall Street Journal reports, “despite bull market, pension plans in miserable shape…”

Staff needs to fess up, and pay their own pensions. 


Now it’s “many displaced Camp Fire victims” – they don’t have any numbers, they’re just making it up to get the money

13 Apr

Gavin Newsom partnering with Chico for affordable housing on state property

“Randall Stone, the mayor of Chico, is welcoming the governor’s efforts which could help build much-needed housing locally, as the city has absorbed many displaced Camp Fire victims.”


Orme “estimates” 10 – 15,000 refugees living in Chico, based on “nonregistration, couch living, trailers parked on streets…”

12 Apr

I don’t know how you feel about roundabouts, but one fact we know for sure – they bring a lot of money into the city by way of grants.

From the Chico Enterprise Record, “According to senior traffic engineer Bikramjit Kahlon, the cost of the project is between $5 and $6 million. ‘It just depends when we go out to bid,’ he said Monday. The city’s match is about $1 million, with Caltrans funding the remainder amount.”

Eaton Road roundabout proposed for traffic, safety

$5-6 million for one roundabout? Most of that will go into the salaries Downtown. An old contractor I know says “boots on the ground labor” and materials make up about 2% of the cost of these public jobs.  This is one way Staff turns money we paid toward maintenance of our roads into their salaries and pensions.

Here’s a thought – how’d you like to see that million the city is kicking in on the street in front of your house? How far would that million go toward the streets in your neighborhood? 

And again, they are using Camp Fire refugees as bait.  Read these excerpts.

“Even before the Camp Fire pushed thousands more new residents into Chico, the intersection was known for commute-time traffic jams and lines of traffic out to the freeway, along with traffic accidents.”

“thousands more new residents”?  I had to ask reporter Laura Urseny if she has any hard numbers on how many evacuees have settled in Chico since the fire. She had none, but asked city manager Mark Orme if he had any. “He [Orme] said he doesn’t have hard numbers from FEMA because of nonregistration, couch-living, trailers parked on streets etc. He said  the city is still using the  10,000-15,000 estimate.”

So, Orme drives by your house, sees a trailer in your driveway, and assumes it’s full of evacuees? Sees somebody sitting on your couch through a front window and assumes you have a “couch liver” in your household? On this basis he assumes and reports that we have “10,000-15,000” new residents in our town?

Excuse me, this guy gets over $200,000/year in compensation, and he expects to give up this kind of crap?

Unfortunately he’s  got a willing media to help him pull the wool over our eyes. Urseny skirts the truth, but keeps promoting the lie – “The project has been proposed for a long time, but has been sped up with the city’s dealings with Camp Fire impacts. However, Kahlon said there is no FEMA-related funding in the project.” If this project was truly necessitated by the Camp Fire evacuation, or any impacts, the city would be getting FEMA funding.

They started this campaign before the fire was even out.  “The project was discussed during a public meeting about Camp Fire impact on Chico last year, but has been in the works much longer.”  Here Urseny mentions a proposed refugee housing project that was rejected, but still includes it as a “Camp Fire impact”.  “Initially, a FEMA proposal called for Camp Fire mobile homes to be placed on a vacant parcel on Eaton Road between Highway 99 and Cohasset Road, but that residential project has been abandoned.  Nevertheless, the traffic on the current two-lane road is huge, impacted by Chico’s growing population, but also by residential subdivisions developing in north Chico.”

In the same edition that Urseny ran her promo piece, there was this map:

Map: See where Camp Fire evacuees have moved across the country

“Relocation destinations are also listed below from most to least popular, in terms of the number of households registered with FEMA now living there. FEMA only provided information about individual counties in California, not other states.”

In other words, if you had insurance on your destroyed home, and therefore did not go to the ridiculous lengths to register for something you were not eligible to receive, you were not counted.  

The article said that 16,583 of the registered (and that includes entire households who live under one roof) have remained in all of Butte County. That includes Paradise, Magalia, Butte Meadows, Yankee Hill, Concow, Cohasset, Forest Ranch, Gridley, Live Oak – did I miss any? Personally, the Camp Fire victims I know  are all planning to rebuild their homes in Paradise. Some have already hired private contractors to clear their lots and are already living back at their property. Some are struggling to live in unburned homes with no safe water or power, and dead/dying trees hanging over their heads. Roads are a mess, workers everywhere, and Butte County has not even started their lot-clearance program. But the folks I know are all determined to return, they have no desire to remain “stuck in Chico.” 

And here’s another fact that Orme cleverly ignores – many of the folks who evacuated to Chico already worked here and drove down to town almost every day, where they also shopped and socialized.

So, the “impacts” are largely MADE UP. Staff continues to lie to get their way. Next Tuesday they will bring a revenue measure consultant to make report regarding the $25,000 survey they are planning to get us to tax ourselves to pay their pensions. They want $65,000 more for a consultant to actually run their campaign. This is illegal, but who will call them on it? 

Will you?


How do you feel about low barrier shelters? Part of the solution or part of the problem?

9 Apr

You have to click on this post (title) to vote. Thanks for participating.  You can only vote once but feel  free to comment at the bottom of the post.


UPDATE: That was fun, I was surprised how many people participated, but no surprise at the results – 85% joined Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson in expressing disapproval of putting a low-barrier (anything goes) shelter a block from the college. 

My kid is at University of Nevada, where they have a zero tolerance policy regarding “walkers” – transients are not allowed anywhere on campus. Workers, like my son, have radios, and whenever they see somebody who is obviously not a student or employee they are instructed to call security immediately. It makes me feel better to know they are serious about student safety at UNR,  Meanwhile, here in Chico we’ve had a transient murder right on campus and reports of armed robberies and dead transients in the college neighborhoods. 

Hutchinson, if she’s sincere about what she says about the shelter, should also do something to get the transients off campus, away from campus housing facilities, and out of the student parking areas. 

And hey, let me know if you think of a good question for another poll, that was fun!

Yuba County enacts 1 cent sales tax increase, taxpayers fight back

8 Apr

I asked my friend in Marysville about the latest news regarding the lawsuit Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and two Yuba County citizens have taken to court over Yuba County’s recently enacted 1 cent sales tax increase – Ballot Measure K.

The issue at hand is whether or not Measure K was promoted as a special tax, and therefore needed 2/3’s vote instead of 55%. The county now denies it was marketed as a special tax. But my friend recalls the campaign, “promises everywhere were made that it would go into a Special Fund. All of those safety meetings, polls/surveys, signs with flames and badges saying Keep Yuba County Safe. All the flyers and FB posts with promises after promises.”

She says the plaintiffs have “about 100 emails with proof of all of this. A County document that was done in Sept 2018 has how the Measure K money will be spent. 93% was designated to safety. 7% to essential services. “

Unfortunately the court recently refused the injunction to stop the tax increase until the trial, set for the end of August. So the increase went into effect April 1 – how appropriate. Folks are being told they can keep their receipts, and get a refund later if the lawsuit is successful. Like my friend says,  “Ridiculous.”  Imagine yourself sitting over that shoebox full of receipts, figuring the .01% refund on your cell phone calculator.

We’ll have to watch this one!


Lou Binninger is back on the air!

7 Apr

I got good news from Connie in Yuba City – Lou Binninger is back on the air!

Here’s the original link:

Here’s the tinyurl link, with preview:

The Yuba County radio station over which Lou previously broadcast his show was suffering a lot of problems with their infrastructure, and Lou’s show finally went off the air earlier  this year. I heard from several frustrated fans who had been enjoying his Saturday morning show, and wanted to know what happened. 

Of course he continues to write a weekly column or two with the Territorial Dispatch.

The Dispatch is a good read, with lots of local writers. Even a fishing column! They are also supported by lots of local businesses, you can see from their ads, they are truly a local paper. Too bad we don’t have anything like the Dispatch in Chico!

I hope you’ll give Lou a listen and a read, he keeps us informed of issues that don’t always make the papers. 

The pension deficit is the difference between what public employees expect to get and what they are willing to pay into it

5 Apr

Well, anybody who saw my last post and then saw my letter in the News and Review can see that I had to edit dramatically to get my letter in.  When I sent my original letter to the address I’ve used for years, it was sent back, rejected for size? And I was told to use the form letter mechanism on the N&R website, which only allows 150 words. Snip, snip, snip – I still got my point across, and it was a good exercise. 

Write those letters folks! When do I find the time? When I’m so pissed off I can’t sleep. Writing letters to the editor will save your teeth, believe me!

I sent the following letter to the Enterprise Record two days ago, watch for it, and write your letters too. Just yesterday Dan Walters ran a column about the spending of taxpayer money to pass revenue measures that will only end up being squandered on the pension deficit –

so people are thinking about this subject. Write now!

And don’t just write to the papers, forward to the city manager and CARD general manager Ann Willmann

Chico Area Recreation District board and staff have spent over $100,000 on consultants to help them pass a revenue measure  but have yet to show the taxpayers that they can be trusted with money.

In 2014, CARD staff reported a pension deficit of $1,700,721 .  Only five years later, that deficit has ballooned to $2,800,000, despite nearly $1,000,000 in “side fund payoffs”.  

CARD staff announced they have “set aside” another $1,700,000 for payment toward the  deficit, having admitted they have deferred maintenance to various facilities for years, including Shapiro Pool, which was closed permanently last year.

CARD only started asking employees to pay toward their own pensions in 2013, but management staffers pay 6% or less, with the general manager paying only 2 percent of an $108,500 salary.

CARD staff describe the pension/unfunded liability as “What we owe to CalPERS because of the difference in their guesses.”

Wrong.  The pension deficit is the difference between what employees expect to get (70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55) and what they want to pay for it (less than 10 percent of their salary). For example, the general manager pays $2170/year toward a pension of  more than $75,000.  That is not sustainable.

CARD staff have used taxpayer revenues to enrich themselves while ignoring their mission. Now they tell us we need to pass a revenue measure, or they will further defer maintenance, close facilities, and cut programs. At the same time offering a grandiose new sports facility south of town? Let the board of directors know how you feel about that, at