Archive | July, 2019

Will the taxpayers be left holding the Pension Deficit Bag?

31 Jul

Have you been “left holding the bag“?  This expression is generally used to describe a situation wherein a person or persons create a problem and then leave others to deal with it.  According to Grammar Girl,  there are different shades of meaning – “this idiom grew out of an earlier expression from about 1600: to give one the bag. That expression referred to someone being left with an empty bag after everyone else removed the good stuff.”

We all know what it’s like to be left holding the bag – empty or full – but I wonder, how do you all feel about the bag being handed to your children? This is what City of Chico staff are trying to do – hand their pension deficit bag to our kids.

The other night I took in a Chico Parks and Playgrounds Commission meeting to hear a pitch for a sales-tax-to-secure-bonds scheme that Ass City Mangler Chris Constantin has been pitching for months. Constantin describes a trick by which he can use the additional sales tax revenue to secure bonded debt. What it amounts to is trying to convince us that it won’t be that painful to pay this tax, because it will be stretched out over years. But when I looked into this scheme I found, that means our kids and their kids will be paying this debt, and it’s very unlikely they will see any benefit.  The bag we will be leaving for our children will be full of debt, crapped out infrastructure, and public salaries and benefits still spiraling out of control.

From the Tax Policy Center –

“State and local governments issue bonds to pay for large, expensive, and long-lived capital projects, such as roads, bridges, airports, schools, hospitals, water treatment facilities, power plants, courthouses, and other public buildings. Although states and localities can and sometimes do pay for capital investments with current revenues, borrowing allows them to spread the costs across multiple generations. Future project users bear some of the cost through higher taxes or tolls, fares, and other charges that help service the debts.”

At a meeting I attended earlier this year, Mark Orme admitted that the city had “kicked the can down the road” on street maintenance for many years, instead paying millions toward their pensions. This included payments toward the actual deficit, instituting a “Pension Stabilization Trust” that siphons money from every fund, even funds “dedicated” to capital maintenance. Through the PST, staff has tricked us into believing we only pay a certain “employer share” of the pensions, in reality, we pay most of their pension cost. This has created what I’m going  to call “the Pension Deficit Bag“.

If we  don’t get a handle on the public employee compensation now, we are handing our kids a disaster. This is the dilemma – the public employees want crazy salaries of as much as 4 and 5 times the median income, AND they want 70 – 90% of those outrageously inflated salaries in retirement,  BUT they don’t want to pay for it.  Years ago CalPERS promised they would make up the difference with investments in the stock market – but their investment strategies, including a bribery scandal, have only deepened the divide.  Now they want the taxpayers to take the bag. In fact, Constantin is trying to convince us that it’s okay to let our kids pay for his ridiculous lifestyle demands.

With groups like Pension Tracker shining a light on this grab, CalPERS and the unions have agreed that “new hires” (our kids) be asked to pay 50%. But top heavy management employees, “classic employees“, are only paying 11%. That is not sustainable. Sounds like a classic Ponzi scheme to me!

“Future project users bear some of the cost through higher taxes or tolls, fares, and other charges that help service the debts.”  But will they receive any benefits? That’s uncertain, in fact, I’d say it’s not going to happen. According to Constantin, we need hundreds of millions to bring existing streets up to safe standards, but the sales tax increase will only bring in a couple million a year. He explains enthusiastically that’s why we will use those proceeds to borrow money (bonds). That sounds nuts to me.

At that Finance Committee meeting earlier this year, Constantin also warned us that the economy is about to tank. If you’ve been paying attention over the last 35 years, as I have, you’ve seen that pattern of boom and bust.  Chico just enjoyed a giant BOOM, despite the poormouth complaining about the Camp Fire refugees. Contrary to the city’s claims, those refugees not only caused a short term blip in the price of housing, meaning MORE PROPERTY TAXES, but those who have remained are still providing a boost to our local sales tax revenues. This will dry up as the retail sector in Paradise recovers, and people start moving back to the Camp Fire burn area. The resulting correction will be tough times for Chico.

Constantin admitted there is such a downturn on the horizon, telling the Finance Committee that his scheme will “shore us up“. What? Who would borrow money in the  face of economic downturn?  The bonds he’s proposing have to be paid no matter what happens in the economy – just like Constantin’s “defined benefits“.

Throwing a sales tax increase onto people who are already experiencing uncertainty is another nail in our coffin. Studies suggest that when people find out there’s a sales tax increase on the agenda, they start hoarding, buying the bigger ticket items ahead of the sales tax increase. This of course creates a bubble. The same studies show that people develop different shopping habits, such as buying online.

Here’s my anecdote – when Tom Lando first suggested a sales tax increase in 2012, I started shopping out of town and online. Of course these purchases are still taxed, but here’s the message – local businesses lost my money, and they won’t get it back. Local businesses need to realize what they stand to lose. It’s not the box stores that are stealing your business, it’s the sales tax rhetoric coming out of the city of Chico.

 

 

 

 

Excessive taxation ruins the economy – time to act to reverse this trend

26 Jul

I saw Patrick Newman’s letter calling (jokingly I assume) for a limit on letters about President Trump. I had to laugh –  there have been letter writers, and probably requests made to the editor, to limit Newman’s letters. People have contacted the editors of both the ER and the N&R asking them to stop printing my letters. Some people only want to hear stuff they agree with, that’s nothing new. 

I have to agree with Newman’s assertion that people need to pay more attention to what’s going on locally. Not that federal matters are not important, but I feel a person can have more effect locally. And, as citizens become more powerful in local affairs, those localities become more powerful and have a bigger effect statewide, and eventually nationwide. 

I think excessive taxation is becoming a huge problem in Butte County, and the state of California, I wish more people would wake up and act. In the city of Sacramento, taxpayer groups who supported their sales tax Measure H quickly realized the funds weren’t being used as promised – too late, they’ve already approved the tax, and Mayor Darrell Steinberg has proposed even more taxes as a result. 

I think the root of excessive taxation is incompetent, insubordinate public employees who have fostered a negative and hostile environment for the rest of us. Their salaries and perks not only raise our taxes, but the salary imbalance makes a normal middle class lifestyle unaffordable for the rest of us.  These public salaries raise the price of everything from housing to groceries to healthcare. How can the family living on $43,000/year compete with public employees making in excess of $100,000/year? Especially when we are on the hook for their outrageous healthcare and pension packages.

Here’s an irony – most of us get by with catastrophic care, with huge co-pays, packages that won’t get us into a lot of hospitals. Hospitals and doctors can actually refuse our insurance.  Meanwhile we fund “defined benefit” health packages for public employees that guarantee them the best of care at top hospitals. 

What’s your retirement plan? Die? Well, as long as you live, you’ll be paying pensions of 70 -90% of $100,000+ public salaries. Our city manager, in his 50’s, is already making over $220,000 a year – do the math – if he retired tomorrow we’d be paying him $154,000/year, plus cost-of-living-adjustments, for the rest of his life. Unfortunately I’m afraid he has quite a few more years of self-service left in him, especially since he has what amounts to automatic annual pay raises based on a percentage of his salary. 

Currently more than 100 city employees receive salaries of $100 – 225,000/year. Another 25 make $90 – 99,000/year. These folks pay less than 10% of their pension cost, they want us to pay the rest in the form of a 1 cent sales tax increase. They say the money will be dedicated toward streets and safety, but even if they are sincere here, that just loosens up other money to be transferred into the Pension Stabilization Trust. And who can believe what they say when they promised to fix the streets with the trash tax but have instead transferred it into the General Fund? 

So we have a sales tax increase measure from the city of Chico and a parcel tax coming from the Chico Area Recreation District. Two regressive taxes aimed at the same population, neither agency having any concern for the economy.

Newman is right – get involved locally. There are a lot of meetings, scheduled at different times, at which you can not only learn more about how these agencies operate, but you can get into the conversation. Check out the schedules and agendas at these links:

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

https://www.chicorec.com/board-meetings

 

Chico Area Recreation District lawyer tells the board what $taff wants them to hear – don’t buy it

24 Jul

I don’t know how many of you read the Chico Enterprise Record, but I only recently  found out – in a town of over 85,000 the ER has a circulation of less than 10,000.  Wow, that was a shock – especially since that would include readers all over Butte, Glenn, and other nearby counties. I grew up reading the ER out in Glenn County, most people had a subscription to both the Sacramento Bee and the ER.  As Chico’s population has almost tripled since my childhood, you’d think the ER would have at least 50,000 subscribers. 

10,000? And that includes people who only subscribe to the Sunday paper.  But, it’s the local daily, so I continue to read it, and send letters to the editor.  It’s better than nothing, and I mean that quite literally.

So yes, I saw the article ER shill Laura Urseny wrote about  a letter I had written to the CARD board. I told them I believe they are spending taxpayer money illegally to promote a tax measure.   District General Manager Ann Willmann had put my letter on the July 18 agenda for discussion, and also asked the district lawyer, Jeff Carter, for his opinion. That’s all a lawyer can give you, his opinion. 

Urseny reported, as I would expect, “Thursday night, CARD attorney Jeff Carter said outside the board meeting that CARD has not violated rules in dealing with EMC because it was a survey of the community and nothing more. The survey did question whether citizens would support any kind of revenue measure.”

Of course Carter says they haven’t done anything illegal – for one thing, they haven’t, yet. That’s correct – after I wrote the letter I finally received a response from Howard Jarvis Association counsel Tim Bittle, who said, “Unfortunately, it is not illegal.  Government Code section 54964 provides, ‘An officer, employee, or consultant of a local agency may not expend or authorize the expenditure of any of the funds of the local agency to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure.’ “

He explained, ” Notice two things about that statute. First, it contemplates that the local agency may lawfully hire a ‘consultant.’ Second, the statute cannot be violated before the existence of ‘a ballot measure.’”

Apparently, they can’t violate the law until they have actually written and handed the measure over to the county clerk. But, as soon as that measure is given approval and a ballot title, the district is not allowed to spend any more money on it.

Well, what’s “legal” isn’t always “right”, and I still think this is an important detail when considering passage of a revenue measure. The district couldn’t get support from the citizens, who would have had to put it on the ballot by way of petition, which would have meant there was some support in the community. But that’s not what happened. So CARD has spent over a hundred thousand in taxpayer money putting this measure on the ballot themselves, that is a fact.

They’ve hired consultant after consultant – EMC has been hired twice. The district originally tried to get Aqua Jets swim team to front this measure – for a new “aquatic center.” Then they got a group called Every Body Healthy Body to propose a “megacility” sports center south of town. But a recent survey done by EMC blew up in their faces. It seems the 400 respondents were more concerned about transients camping on their kids’ soccer fields and stealing their wallets, laptops and cell phones from the dugout at ball games. 

According to a report from Ch 7 news,

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/CARD-survey-shows-park-safety-a-top-concern–510232051.html

Rather than new facilities, the majority of people said they just want to feel safe.”

Here’s an interesting quote from that story, because this is what I have seen for over two years now –  “CARD is working on what to put into a possible tax measure.”  They are ready to promise us anything to get us to raise our own taxes.

This is exactly what EMC has been hired to do by  both CARD and the city of Chico – figure out what to tell people to get them to increase their own taxes. EMC blatantly claims to “offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations and ballot measures succeed.” 

Their questions lead the respondents to think the sky is the limit if they pass a tax on themselves.  Tom Lando’s 2012 survey offered a sports stadium, CARD has offered various sports facilities – what they don’t tell us publicly is they are getting deeper into pension deficit because employees aren’t paying nearly enough to support their own demands for these unsustainable pensions. 

You have to read the budgets to see that CARD employees are paying less than 10% for pensions of 70% of their highest year’s salary. General Manager Ann Willman makes roughly $110,000 a year, paying less than $10,000 to  receive a $70,000/year pension for the rest of her life. That is unsustainable unless you get a gullible, lazy and poorly educated public to agree to pay for it. 

In my letter below I said Willmann pays less than $2,000, because that’s what she’s been paying, as a “classic member” of CalPERS. Reading her latest budget message, I see she’s been asked to pay 6% by next year, eventually 7%. Let me be  the first to say, “Big Fucking Whoopee Mrs. Potato Head.” 

These people are like chiggers – they attach themselves to taxpayers, and then they suck you dry, providing you no benefit whatsoever.  

I am not going to let them lie their way to the bank this time, so I wrote the following letter and sent it to the ER yesterday. Let them know how you feel about this grab – maybe you can convince  them to stop spending money on this endeavor, and start using those funds for proper upkeep of facilities we’ve entrusted to them. 

I beg to differ with Chico Area Recreation District attorney Jeff Carter. CARD’s consultant is up to more than a simple survey.  Read EMC’s claims at their website – “Great campaigns don’t just happen. That’s why we offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations and ballot measures succeed.”

CARD has spent over $100,000 on consultants to help them push a tax measure, money that would have been better spent maintaining now closed Shapiro Pool.

In 2017, a survey concluded there was not enough support for the proposed aquatic center to go forward with a tax measure. The most recent survey showed the majority of the 400 respondents are more concerned with safety and lack of maintenance at the facilities CARD already operates.

In 2015 a consultant hired by CARD told them they could bring long-neglected Shapiro Pool back up to code with about $500,000 in repairs. For instance, the filter pump had not been working for years, and the diving board had  been torn out, leaving obvious trip hazards. Instead of doing the necessary repairs to keep the popular facility open, CARD made a $400,000 “side fund” payment toward their pension deficit.

CARD gets over $3,000,000 in property and vehicle taxes, another $2,000,000 in RDA funding. They spend $5,700,000 on salaries, benefits and pensions. Management pays less than 10% toward their own pensions, the manager paying less than $2,000 a year toward 70% of her $100,000+ salary in retirement.

 Join Chico Taxpayers in saying NO to self-service, greed and mismanagement.

Do you know the rules about parcel taxes? Better get schooled

18 Jul
  1.      What is a parcel tax?  a) a fee charged for delivery of packages  from out of state   b) same as a bond   c) a form of property tax   d) a, b, and c
  2.      What is a parcel?  a) a commercial property   b)  a single family home  c) an apartment complex  d)  a, b, and c
  3.      A parcel tax is assessed   a)  based on the assessed value of the property   b) based on the characteristics of the parcel  c) neither  d) both
  4.      A parcel tax may be imposed by a) a city/county  b)  a special district  c)  a school district d) a, b, and c
  5.      True or False: Parcel tax revenues can be used for any type of spending, including salaries, benefits and pensions.

 

I’ll post the answers tomorrow.

ANSWERS:

  1. c) a form of property tax, very different from a bond. They are assessed differently, and bonds are actually tax deductible, while parcel taxes are not.
  2. d) a, b, and c – a parcel tax covers any privately owned property. But, according to Ballotpedia, different types of parcels can be assessed differently. ”  A parcel tax rate can differ based on the type of property. For instance, improved and unimproved properties may have different rates, and residential and commercial properties may also have different rates.”
  3.  b) based on the characteristics of the parcel –  parcel taxes are “assessed at a rate based on the characteristics of a parcel—or unit of property—rather than a rate based on the assessed value of the property, which is the standard method of levying property taxes,”  such as bonds. 
  4. d) a, b, and c – any special district, including Chico Area Recreation District. Look at your Butte County prop tax bill – did you know you’re already paying an assessment for the mosquito district? 
  5. True: Parcel tax revenues can be used for any type of spending, including salaries, benefits and pensions.

If you got less than three of these right you should probably study up, a good place to start is wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parcel_tax

 

 

Ridiculous Chico PD press release – did they arrest 114 people? or arrest the same perps over and over?

14 Jul
I got this press release from a Badge Bunny I know. Written by the cops, about the cops, for the cops. Wow, they sure like to polish their own apples – and yes, we pay the  guy who writes this crap, including pension and benefits. 
But read it, and ask yourself…
  1. 114 people? Do they mean “people” or “arrests”?  And you see several of those named have already been arrested within the past weeks – “ arrested for the same charges” What? So, arresting somebody doesn’t taking them off the streets or preventing them from committing more crimes.
  2. “from Chico”? Does that even mean anything anymore? These people aren’t “from Chico”, they’re brought in here not only through Behavioral Health Department transfers but through jail transfers.

The cops will continue to blow their own horns, and then watch – as soon as the students come back to town they will tell us they are canning the street crimes unit because they don’t have enough cops to watch the campus and the rest of us. They’ve been using this as an excuse for more money and more positions for 20 years. 

less of a deterrent for citizens to enjoy.”   What the hell does that mean? Every time I go out around town I see stolen shopping carts,  garbage dumped along waterways, people sleeping in piles of rags in public parks, and the other day I watched a group pass a pipe of who knows what at the “Devil’s Triangle”. My neighbors are reporting thefts of things like weed whackers (“I just went inside my house to use the bathroom and it was gone…”) A friend of ours recently reported that while he was at a local home improvement store somebody tried to pry open the tool box in the back of his truck. Now the lid won’t shut properly and he’s worried about his tools getting swamped in Winter. 

Quality of life? 

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date 7-14-19

Chico P.D. Street Crimes “D” Unit Week seven

Chico, CA – The Chico Police Department’s Street Crimes D Unit completed its seventh week of operation. This week the unit seized more than an ounce and a half of Methamphetamine and another illegally possessed firearm during its 13 arrests. In total, the unit has arrested 114 people *, the majority of which were contacted in the East Avenue and Esplanade corridors. Besides these areas, the unit is still focusing on the Chico parks and other areas where the public enjoyment of the city has been affected by quality of life crimes.

Members of the SCU D Unit have been receiving input from citizens that their work in the city has been noticed. Areas where obvious criminal activity and disorderly conduct were visible, have cleaned up and become less of a deterrent for citizens to enjoy. With this in mind, the unit will continue to work hard as there is still much work to do.

The mission of this Street Crimes “D” Unit is to impact the street level crime that affects the quality of life in this community. Robbery, burglary, gun and drug offenses, bike and other theft are all examples of the crime this team is tasked on addressing. The team is also focusing on keeping our public spaces safe.

*Last week’s total arrest number was erroneously reported to have been 98 total arrests. The actual number should have been 101.

Below are several examples of arrests made by the Street Crimes D Unit this week:

Richard Batham (61 years old from Chico) was arrested for challenging officers and resisting arrest. Batham is new to Chico, having recently arrived here from out of state.

Melissa Rawlings (38 years old from Chico) was arrested for possession of Methamphetamine for sales.

Andrew Kelley (31 years old from Oroville) was arrested for possession of Methamphetamine and for bringing a controlled substance into a jail. This is Kelley’s second arrest in two weeks by the SCU D Unit.

Derrick Crist (37 years old from Chico) was arrested for an outstanding warrant and Methamphetamine possession.

Gabriel Hernandez was arrested for possession of Methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. This is Hernandez’s second arrest in three weeks by the SCU D Team. In week five, Hernandez was arrested for the same charges and an outstanding warrant.

Location: City of Chico

Supervisor: T. Tupper S11

Watch Commander: J. Struthers C8

Brown and Schwab want to take away your property rights

13 Jul

Part of the Big Lie being perpetuated by city of Chico council members and $taff is all these poor folks being “squeezed out” of housing because greedy landlords want to sell their rentals. Councillor Ann Schwab and Vice Mayor Alex Brown have brought up the subject of rent control. They call it, “eviction for good cause”. 

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/displacements-continue/content?oid=28403226

“At the council’s July 2 meeting, the panel considered Schwab’s original proposal. In general, an eviction for good cause ordinance requires landlords to prove there is a “good cause” to terminate a lease, such as a tenant failing to pay rent or damaging property, or the landlord needing to make substantial repairs or move into the property. Some require landlords to provide tenants with financial assistance to relocate.”

Do they mean “eviction” or “termination of the lease”? These are very different terms, legally, but Brown, Schwab, and now the press, continue to use the words interchangeably.

FROM pocketsense.com  –  When a landlord or tenant decides to terminate (or not renew) a lease or rental agreement, state law often requires one party to give written notice of his decision to the other party. This is sometimes known as a “notice to terminate”. An eviction is a legal proceeding in which a landlord asks a court to order the tenant to leave the property.

Yes there’s a big difference between “eviction” and “termination.” An eviction comes out on your court records. Forever. It’s called “unlawful detainer“. Here’s more information from Nolo Press.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-eviction-process-california-rules-landlords-property-managers.html

 Before evicting a tenant, California law requires a landlord to legally terminate the tenancy. To do this, the landlord must first give the tenant written notice, as specified by state law. If the tenant does not move out or fix bad behavior—for example, by paying the rent or finding a new home for the dog (when the lease prohibits pets)—then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (also called an unlawful detainer suit). For serious lease violations, the landlord does not need to give the tenant the option of correcting the problem behavior.  California law gives exact requirements to end a tenancy, with different types of termination notices and procedures required for different types of situations. 

Furthermore, “If a tenant has a month-to-month rental agreement and has lived in the rental unit for less than one year, then a landlord must give the tenant a written 30-day notice to end the tenancy. If the tenant has lived in the rental unit for over one year and is month-to-month, then the landlord must give the tenant a written 60-day notice to end the tenancy. Both notices must inform the tenant that the tenancy will expire at the end of the notice period and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time (see Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § § 1946 and 1946.1).”

So, landlords are already held to strict rules, and tenants can take their landlords to court if they violate any of these rules. I don’t see any reason to make such an ordinance for Chico. Proponents of this ordinance, mostly Brown and Schwab, have claimed they’ve heard from people who’ve been “evicted” by greedy landlords who wanted to sell their houses in the aftermath of the Camp Fire.  But Alex Brown, who has made this claim repeatedly since the Camp Fire, has not offered any names. So the News and Review plopped out this little story.

“After the Camp Fire, Chris Singleton and his two roommates invited a family who’d lost their home in Paradise to live with them for several months. That family found a home in Magalia in the spring and soon may be returning the favor.  Now, Singleton is losing his home in southwest Chico, too: His landlords want to sell. He’s been there for more than three years and has to be out by July 31.”

Wow, where’s the crime here? Did his landlord give him 60 days, as required  by law? Here’s a better question – did he have his landlord’s permission to let “a family” move into his rental? Because if he didn’t, it’s legal for his landlord to give him a 3 day notice to get them out or have his lease terminated (which is followed by a 30 – 60 day notice period).  

Three-Day Unconditional Quit Notice: This type of notice is given to the tenant if the tenant commits specific, serious violations. The notice informs the tenant that the tenant must move out of the rental unit within three days of receiving the notice. The tenant is not allowed any time to fix the violation, and if the tenant does not move out within three days, the landlord can go to court to file an eviction lawsuit. The landlord can use a three-day unconditional quit notice only in the following situations:

  • the tenant has assigned or sublet the rental unit in violation of the lease or rental agreement
  • the tenant has caused substantial damage to the property
  • the tenant has permitted or created a nuisance at the rental unit, or
  • the tenant has been involved in illegal activity on the premises of the rental unit.

Most leases have a clause that says nobody is allowed to move in without written permission of the landlord. Also a clause that says no overnight guests for more than 10 days in a 60 day period. Why? Because a landlord has a right to know who is living in their property.

I’ve had many applicants fill out applications and lie about the number and identity of others that will live with them. An applicant even has to list minor children on a legal application, even though the landlord is not allowed to reject families with children. And, while a landlord is not allowed to restrict the number of tenants per room or rental, the landlord is still allowed to require the tenants to fully disclose who will live there on the application.

Here’s a reason right off the top of my head – landlords are supposed to do background checks on prospects, and my neighbors appreciate that. You might have to rent to a registered sex offender, but you’re supposed to know that. But when his or her friends rent a place and then just let the sex offender move in, who would know?

Here’s another reason – parking. Too many cars is one of the top causes of fighting and neighbor complaints.  And then there’s damage – who gets the bill, when you don’t even know who lived there? 

I have found, most applicants who lie about that have prospective roommates who for one reason or another have a bad rental history, and they’re afraid the prospective landlord won’t rent to them. Well, that’s a landlord’s right under California law, and why not? Why rent a house to somebody who has a record of refusing to pay rent or failure to respect a legal document after signing their name to it? 

We have corporate landlords in town, and they ALWAYS have vacancies. Corporate landlords can afford dead beats, Mom and Pop can’t. While I know there are predatory landlords in town, they are breaking laws that just need to be enforced, like keeping deposits without proper billing.  That’s a big scam in the Chico corporate rental market  – why doesn’t the city enforce the current laws?

Because scare tactics are always a good campaign tactic. Brown and Schwab are trying to get the college student vote – never too early to campaign. A local campaign consultant once told me he’d “run the numbers,” available through the county clerk’s office, and while a very small percentage of local college students are registered to vote (meaning, they put “student” as their occupation), there are usually more than enough to throw a council election. At that time my friend reported to me that a little over 600 hundred “students” were registered to vote in Chico. Yep, more than one council election has been determined by less than 600 votes.

And then there’s the local crowd of “feel good” liberals, among whom words speak louder than actions.

The scare tactic they are trying to run is that Chico doesn’t have “enough affordable housing.” That is a crock of shit, take a whiff. Look around you – new apartments, new apartments, new apartments. Including the “luxury” apartments being built at Cal Park, and some pretty high end apartments over on Nord (rented by the bedroom, at $700 a room). Gee, if city council so worried about “affordability,” why do they keep permitting “luxury apartments”? Because they want the property taxes, you silly moose!

The department of numbers says we have so much housing our vacancy rate is actually increasing.

https://www.deptofnumbers.com/rent/california/chico/

Chico vacancy has more than tripled since 2006 and is more than double California vacancy rate. I realize there was a short-lived frenzy after the Camp Fire, but that is over. In fact, our vacancy rate has increase almost 2% over the last few years, to over 7%. That means 7 of 100 landlords have empty rentals, while they still have to pay mortgages, taxes, and upkeep.

While rentals here in Chico have always been more expensive than the county, we also have more a lot more to offer here than the rest of the county. People are always willing to pay more for services, like retail centers, nearby schools, public transportation, and silly stuff like sewer, water and garbage service.

The Department of Numbers also reports that Chico’s average rent is not only consistent with the US average but considerably lower than the average for all of California. 

I’ll admit, these are 2017 numbers. There are no more recent numbers. So where do Schwab and Brown get their information? Why don’t you ask them for names? Communications with council members are supposed to be public information. 

For some reason, council unanimously agreed to have the city attorney research and draw up a draft of an ordinance that basically strips landlords of their property rights.  Check out some of these doozies from around the country:

https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=E211US105G0&p=good+cause+ordinance

It seems these ordinances are usually backed with claims of “unscrupulous landlords” – but the behavior they describe is already covered by California law. For example, the mayor of Philadelphia says, “This Good Cause bill strengthens the Fair Housing Ordinance and will keep unscrupulous landlords from committing unfair rental practices and terminating leases simply because tenants request necessary repairs.” 

Let’s talk FACTS for a minute. Eviction or illegally terminating a lease because you don’t want to make repairs is against the law, especially if the items were in working condition, or if the landlord promised to fix them in writing, when the tenants moved in. All a tenant needs to stop a termination of lease is a record of written complaints about the items in question.

A fellow we met once told my husband and I a funny story – he had rented from infamous Chico landlord Mike Campos. Campos is a tough old bastard, but he knows the law. This fellow admitted, he and his friends had spent all their money “partying”, and were unable to come up with the rent for the month. They decided to complain about a faucet that had been leaking for weeks, telling Campos they were withholding the rent until the faucet was fixed.

That isn’t legal, they had no record of any written complaint, you’re only allowed to withhold rent when the landlord knows about but refuses or fails to fix the problem within a certain amount of time. They were shocked when Campos showed up that day, tool belt on, and demanded to be shown the leaky faucet. Fixing it within minutes, he then demanded the rent, which they had to admit they  didn’t have. I had to laugh – Campos was our neighbor for years, we knew his kids, and we would never have pulled such a stunt on that cranky old bastard.

Schwab and Brown are looking for a feel good measure that will help them get re-elected. That sounds harmless, but more cities across the country are passing these ordinances. This would have a major negative impact on the housing market in Chico. Just think – Mom and Pop selling out, rentals all over town being converted to owner occupied. Is that the kind of “help” renters need?

Contact Alex Brown at alex.brown@chicoca.com, and Ann Schwab at ann.schwab@chicoca.com, and tell them what you think of this ordinance. 

Why let a lie stand just because the liar keeps repeating it?

9 Jul

Joseph Goebbels – “ If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Well, here it is, July, and looks just like the average Chico Summer. As soon as school gets out, the college students “go home,” the school employees take their kids on vacation, and this town looks pretty dead.

Even with those 19,000 extra residents!  What the heck has happened to all the Camp Fire evacuees? Remember last November? Traffic backed up, lines out the door at local grocery stores, laundromats overwhelmed. Now what? 

The city of Chico and local media still claim 19,000 evacuees have settled in Chico. That is a total crock of you-know-what. Look around you NOW folks, where the hell are they? 

So, when I read another false claim in the Chico News and Review, I had to say something. They’ve made all these claims, and all they have to base it on is a press release from the state. The State Department of Finance made ESTIMATES – look that word up, would you? They based these estimates, not on the number of displaced Camp Fire refugees,  but on “changes to the housing stock”. The press release cited “new  construction, demolitions, housing unit conversions, and annexations.”   Apparently, if you build it, demolish it, convert it, or annex it, they assume more people have moved to your town.  They don’t have census data, they just ASSUME. 

On this “science”, the city of Chico, with the help of a lazy local media, bases their claims that they need more tax money to deal with crapped out streets and a serious public safety crisis. 

The real problem with our streets, as Mark Orme admitted at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this year, is that $taff has “kicked the can down the road” on maintenance of our streets.  And, the biggest public safety problem are transients, who camp illegally in our public spaces, and then fan out into town during the day to illegally panhandle, shoplift, and predate our neighborhoods while we’re at work all day.

Many of these people are brought here by way of Butte County Behavioral Health Department “transfers” from other cities and counties all over California.  Behavioral Health Director Dorian Kittrell told me the county gets $550 a day for each of these people, who are put on a 45 day involuntary hold at the county psychiatric hospital, and then turned out on their own recognizance in Oroville and Chico. 

I’m sick of the made-up numbers the city is using as an excuse to raise taxes, so when Melissa Daugherty over at the News and Review repeated the city’s fake numbers and opined we might need a revenue measure,  I had to write her a letter.

Wake up – real numbers don’t end “000”. 

Chico Police Chief claims Chico has grown by “19,000” since the Camp Fire, the editor uses the figure “almost 20,000”, but still no real numbers.

In April city manager Mark Orme was using his “10 – 15,000″ number, based on ” nonregistration, couch-living, trailers parked on streets”.  But to date, there is still no actual count, only “estimates”.

According to the state press release, these numbers are based not on actual population  but on new construction.  “Changes to the housing stock are used in the preparation of the annual city population estimates.  Estimated occupancy of housing units and the number of persons per household further determine population levels. Changes in city housing stock result from new  construction, demolitions, housing unit conversions, and annexations.”  Everything’s “estimated”. Then they even “adjust” the numbers “to be consistent with independently produced county estimates.”

I don’t support the recall either, but I’m tired of hearing the city and the media make claims based on fake numbers. Our town is a mess right now because people are not doing their jobs, but expecting to be paid into perpetuity.

Read more at chicotaxpayers.com

I originally sent this letter June 28. I used a figure I’d heard police chief O’Brien use on the Ch 7 news – he said “16,000,” whether it was a mistake on his part or not. Daugherty, who is very argumentative, thin skinned, and unable to take the slightest hint of criticism, immediately came back at me saying the chief had told council “19,000”. I told her I disagreed, but since I couldn’t find a clip of the story I’d seen, I edited the figure to please her and sent it back. She neither responded nor printed my letter. 

So I just resent it yesterday. We’ll see if Little Miss Thin Skin will remember she’s a “journalist” and print it.