Assistant city manager takes his tax “offering” to the commissions – these unelected boards have too much influence on city policy

3 Aug

I just heard bad news – the Chico Planning Commission has rejected Payless Building Supply owner Frank Solinsky’s appeal of Simplicity Village. SV is a “tiny home community” for transients, “senior citizens”, that is to be placed  adjacent to the PBS yard. Solinsky is partly concerned for his own interest – rampant thefts by transients to build their shanties at neighboring camps has always been a problemfor PBS.

As landlords my husband and I depend on PBS to keep our rentals affordable. We’ve long-realized that Salinsky’s problems are our problems, because the cost of enhanced security is passed along to the consumer. But my biggest concern is that Solinsky, given this latest turn, might just decide to throw in the towel and sell the property. That would leave my husband and I paying a lot higher prices at the box stores, and that pressure would matter-of-factly be passed along to our tenants. I’m not Mother Theresa,  neither is my mortgage lender, nor is the Butte County Tax Collector.

I don’t know what happens now. But I think it’s time to have a long overdue conversation about the amount of influence these unelected boards, commissions, task forces and ad hoc committees have on local public policy.

Look at the city of Chico agendas page here:

There are 20 listings. Some are “interagency”, meaning they have representatives from all the local agencies, including the county, CARD and the school district. Some of these people are elected, some are agency employees, but many are appointed. The city boards, commissions, and the task force are  made up entirely of members of the public who’ve been appointed one way or another.

Don’t ask me to explain the appointments process, it’s all over the place. Each new city council decides how they are going to make appointments, and I’ve lost track of how they are doing it now. Some commissions have requirements for the make up of the group. The rules might specify that at least some of the members have certain qualifications, such as professional expertise.  It’s gotten complicated since the days when each council member got to appoint a member, for nothing more than campaign donations.  All I know for sure is they are not elected by the voters.

I don’t think the Planning Commission should exist – it’s always been way too political. We have a planning department, made up of professional planners, we pay them a good chunk of money, why we need a bunch of political sycophants sticking their foot in the process is beyond me. We have public hearings at the council level, but it’s a fact – the commissions have more sway with the council than the public. And, these commissions require dedicated staffers, more $$$$$. The airport manager position is really just a glorified secretary to the airport commission, and she’s not even very good at that.

Right now Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin is using the influence the commissions have to rubberstamp his sales-tax-to-secure bonds scheme. He’s been reporting to each commission in turn, leading them to believe the money would benefit their particular interests.

Monday I attended the Park Commission monthly meeting. You just have to go to one of these commission meetings to believe it. The lack of professionalism is astounding. These commissioners are appointed, not elected, but they act as though they’ve been given the keys to the town.

Here’s something I’ve seen at just about every meeting I’ve attended over the last 15 or so years – council, committee, commission – there’s always somebody who doesn’t read the staff reports. Oftentimes, several of them. At the BPPC meeting the other night one commissioner asked questions that were answered directly in the reports, and I could tell Constantin was  getting kind of testy when he told her that. These people add hours to meetings, and that means $taff Time (=$$$,$$$.00)

In Constantin’s case it’s over $100/hour to sit in a room waiting through other agenda items, including the time it takes each commissioner in turn to make the same stupid observations. They seem to think every thought skittering across their brain like a jack rabbit in the headlights is SO IMPORTANT! Even if it’s completely off topic. At that same meeting I had to sit there while they thanked staff, each commissioner in turn, and told them what a FABULOUS! job they do. They thanked Constantin twice. That’s all nice and stuff, but even Constantin seems to get sick of it.

Nevertheless, he takes full advantage of their helplessness, leading them the way he wants. It was amazing to watch. One minute he’s convincing them they should recommend forgiveness of the $169,000 Nature Center loan balance, and by the end of the meeting he’s telling them if the city doesn’t pass a sales tax increase measure we’ll be laying off cops and fire by 2021.

This guy also negotiated himself a special type of retirement account available only to public workers, a 457 plan, IN ADDITION to his CalPERS pension. City Manager Mark Orme gets the same plan.

“Effective from the first pay period in January 2017 considered in calculating the maximum IRC 457 plan limit and annually, City agrees to contribute nine thousand dollars ($9,000) , to Employee’s IRC 457 plan. Additionally, effective October 5, 2017 the City agrees to contribute four and fifty-two hundredths percent (4.52%) of base salary to Employee’s IRC 45 plan.”

These guys have a vested interest in this tax proposal, they’re determined that we will pay their outrageous pensions. They need to go, in fact, every “classic” employee needs to go. We need young people who are willing to pay at least 50 percent. Which sucks, because they will just be paying for the old farts to live in luxury.





5 Responses to “Assistant city manager takes his tax “offering” to the commissions – these unelected boards have too much influence on city policy”

  1. bob August 4, 2019 at 6:47 pm #

    California tax revenue is soaring yet the corrupt politicians at the state, county and city level tell us taxes must be raised to maintain “vital” services.

    Walters points out, “However, the reality is at odds with the propaganda.”

    Remember that when the corrupt Chico City Council and the corrupt Chico City bureaucrats tell you, you must vote for a sales tax increase next year. And they are so corrupt they will use the revenues from the sales tax to get the City deeper in debt. Will you tolerate the intolerable???

    This issue boils down to the employee compensation, particularly the pensions. Even with record tax revenue the pensions are massively underfunded. Tax increases aren’t going to solve this problem. The only answer is reform of government employee compensation, particularly pensions.

    But do you hear CARD or the City Council mention this???

    Of course not because they don’t work for you. They work for the special interests such as city employees.

    • Juanita Sumner August 5, 2019 at 5:47 am #

      Thanks Bob, neither the city nor the media has been honest about the problem.

      • bob August 5, 2019 at 7:39 pm #

        The local media coverage of all this is shameful, or rather lack of coverage.

        No mention of the things Walters mentions and how they apply to Chico.

        No mention that even if they get their tax increases the money won’t even come close to covering the pension liabilities so they are going to get us into debt even more. And you can bet that will lead to even more tax increases!

        The local media is completely brain dead on all this or they are in bed with the politicians and bureaucrats. Or maybe both.

        It’s beyond disgraceful.

      • Juanita Sumner August 6, 2019 at 5:38 am #

        The local media is a joke. They are embedded, fed like little piggies by the local government agencies, because they are too lazy to do real reporting.

        And you’re right – Constantin admitted the revenues from the sales tax increase wouldn’t be enough to pay for the roads, not a fraction, but that we’d get all this money from the bonds. But he refuses to address who will pay – our kids. And by the time our kids are my age, they will realize the roads are even worse and they are still on the hook for the crazy pensions. We have to turn this train around.

  2. bob August 6, 2019 at 10:45 am #

    Here is a must read article.

    Number of pensioned public retirees in California’s $100K Club skyrockets

    But it can be considered the canary in the coal mine, signaling stresses on the system as a whole.

    Such payouts also tend to inspire “pension envy” in private-sector workers who must depend on 401(k)s and Social Security for income in their golden years — and who are ultimately on the hook for ensuring that public retirees get paid if CalPERS investments don’t cover the costs.

    The average Social Security benefit is $17,532 this year. Most Americans will never make $100,000 a year in their prime working years, much less in retirement, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    This is article is not written by a Chico reporter. The ER should write a similar article relating to the situation with CARD and Chico City employee compensation, particularly pensions since both are demanding tax increases. But you can bet the ER will NOT do that.

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