Somebody call Chico Fire Department – the city manager’s pants have just burst into flames

24 Jun

Wow, what a meeting that was. I thought for sure somebody was going to get stuffed into a teapot.

It all started with the usual staff report. After Chris Constantin gave a brief rundown on the recent history of the measure and council direction, he presented two sample measures – one a simple half-cent measure, one a simple full cent measure, and then explained that if neither of those were satisfactory to council, he had staffers set up with word documents so they could edit either or both into a new measure. He told council he was willing to work with them on a 2/3’s measure, but again warned them how restrictive such a measure would be.

Alex Brown remarked that the language in the sample ballot measures was “interesting,” and asked Constantin how he wrote them. Constantin explained simply that he had used the survey results from the city’s consultant, EMC Research. I told you this is how it works – “the language was premised on the polling results… including priorities the public felt were highest…”

Even though staff wrote these as simple measures, they included the “priorities the public felt were highest…” That is misleading, and they know it. That was the whole purpose of the survey, to find out what people wanted, in their own words, so they would think this measure was their idea in the first place, and that it would be dedicated to those uses.

At this point Karl Ory went into hyperdrive – this guy is a loose cannon, I think he could be censured for his behavior but you’d have to ask the guy who plays an attorney on TV. Ory became agitated over Constantin’s inclusion of a proposal for a full-cent measure. Ory was the one who brought forward the motion to dump the full-cent measure in favor of a half-cent measure, believing the voters would not pass a full-cent measure.

By whose authority,” he demanded, had Constantin brought forward another proposal for a full-cent measure? Ory then related the votes from the previous meeting, attacking Constantin in a mocking tone for being a “rogue staffer“, saying, “How do you do that, call the mayor and say, ‘we’re going to bring something different?'”

I felt Ory’s little tirade was unprofessional, and Constantin stood glowering like a schoolboy at the insult. He managed to pull himself together and reply, “There is no restriction on staff from providing as much information as possible,” and left the podium in a huff. Ory again taunted him off microphone – “Rogue Staffer!” and other disparaging remarks.

While I could see Ory was completely out of line in his behavior, I have to agree with his charge – Constantin is trying to push a full-cent measure on council. I don’t think it was appropriate for him to bring this to council after they’d said they wanted a half-cent measure. Constantin’s desperate to get a full-cent measure, because even THAT will never be enough to mitigate years of deferred maintenance and a out-of-control pension liability.

Constantin admitted as much at board and commission meetings all last Summer. He told assembled city policy makers even a full-cent sales tax would never generate the billions required to bring our streets back up to par, but that it would be enough to secure a bond. He needs at least half the money to secure the bond.

At the June 9 special meeting, Orme introduced the concept of the bond to council. He told them a full cent measure would provide about $18 million. He then said he wanted to use half the proceeds for “bonded debt for capital,” adding, “the City may safely use almost $9,000,000 for capital debt. ”

This is all in the report for the meeting, available here, page 7 (use Cont+F and key in “bonded” and “capital”):

I have always wondered if council members really read reports – Ory acted as though he’d never read that June 9 report. But, luckily Dave Howell had mentioned the bond in his comment on Chico Engaged – thanks Dave! Ory saw the comment and asked Orme, “will proceeds be committed to a bond, I see a comment here complaining about the expense of a bond…”

At first Orme just denied they’d made any “committment,” but went further, lying through his teeth, “at no point in time right now do we have anything in line to look at bonding…”

Here’s my dilemma – how do I reconcile Orme’s report from June 9 and his denial from June 23?

I hope to finish recapping this meeting later, it was a hum-dinger.

13 Responses to “Somebody call Chico Fire Department – the city manager’s pants have just burst into flames”

  1. Dave June 24, 2020 at 7:02 pm #

    If Orme says he has no intention of bonding why did he include it in his report?

    Why was it mentioned at the 4/16/19 meeting when they brought in their highly paid EMC consultant? That was the only meeting they actually talked about it, but only for a couple of minutes when the chart regarding bonded debt in the Power Point presentation slide Constantin had was displayed. And amazingly not one council member asked how much debt their administrators were considering and how much it would cost. My guess is at least a couple hundred million. After all, CARD was going to take on 36 million if their tax passed.

    And why did it take my Chico Engaged comment for Ory to even be aware of it? And why did no other council member bring it up? Don’t they even bother reading the documents their administrators provide? Obviously not.

    And if Orme had no intention of taking on debt with the money from the tax why didn’t the ballot measures he provided council members state that the tax money would NOT be used for debt?

    Obviously Orme and his staff want to take on debt with the tax money and he’s going about it in a very underhanded way and the council members are just clueless. Orme and his staff need to go and we need a new city council that at least has a clue.

    Instead we have very deceitful city administrators and a clown show for a city council.

    • Juanita Sumner June 24, 2020 at 7:08 pm #

      Thanks, I just wanted you to say it in your usual style.

      “We have very deceitful city administrators and a clown show for a city council. ” You really have a way with words, thanks Dave!

      • Dave June 24, 2020 at 11:14 pm #

        They put on a clown show every meeting. I used to be disgusted. Now I’m just amused.

        With the exception of Stone, they all wanted a tax increase last night, but only their hubris and bickering kept them from agreeing on how they would fleece us.

        Well, I’m happy with that. I’d rather have them at each other’s throats than in my wallet.

      • Juanita Sumner June 25, 2020 at 12:15 pm #

        I tell you Dave, I was so relieved when they dropped that tax measure, I could almost get complacent.

        I know you won’t let that happen.

  2. Scott Rushing June 24, 2020 at 10:06 pm #

    Good article Juanita. I love Orme’s comment, “at no point in time right now.” *Talk about political jargon! This is a great example. * *The council is dysfunctional at a moment in time when they all need to pull together. *

    *I will continue to be critical of CPD. Interim Chief Madden wants the job and talks a good game. CPD controls over 1/2 the projected 2020-2021 budget and increase of over four million from the 2017/2018 budget. I say the city needs better cops, not more cops. My son paid a high price for the cost savings Orme instigated by allowing your city to use scantily trained armed security guards in the city. *

    *Police work is mostly a deterrent. Read the police logs. Typically the cops are responding to a after the event; burglary, theft, spousal abuse, etc. Rarely do they stop a crime in progress or prevent a crime . They are an expensive visual, armed deterrent in real life. A few detectives could do the investigation work and cops on the street need to get out of their cars and walk their beat. They don’t. If a cop is afraid to do the job they can change careers and stop whining. They make a choice from their free will to put on the uniform, pin on the badge, and strap on the gun (and other “less-lethal” weapons). If they are not ready to go, menetally and physically they are placing themselves, civilians, and the taxpayer in harm’s way. There is a need for cops but not at the current cost. **The union really controls the budget and the politics of the city with NO accountability.*


    *The last moments of my son’s life were dominated by the view of the jaws of the police K9…..imagine yourself being confronted by a K9 trained to bite you and you have no place to flee or hide. *

    On Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 4:37 PM Chico Taxpayers Association wrote:

    > Juanita Sumner posted: ” Wow, what a meeting that was. I thought for sure > somebody was going to get stuffed into a teapot. It all started with the > usual staff report. After Chris Constantin gave a brief rundown on the > recent history of the measure and council direction, he p” >

    • Juanita Sumner June 25, 2020 at 12:14 pm #

      I think Orme is losing it – first thing to go is your hold on the language.

      Yes, we need better cops, not more cops. And we need cops and public employees in general who will accept reasonable salaries and benefits packages. If they would cooperate we could afford more, better cops.

      Here’s a crazy idea – maybe we should recruit out of better colleges, get mental health students, train them as cops. They keep saying they will train and send out “crisis units”, but it never happens, because they expect to use interns and pay them part-time. They expect these youngsters to go out on crisis calls at any time of the night or day. Who can do a job like that on a less than livable wage? If these people were paid as well as the cops maybe it would be easier to recruit.

      It’s all up to the police union, they are the usually the biggest single contributor in every election. It’s hard to win in this town without some endorsement from them.

      I grew up in a town not far from Chico where everybody knew who you were, who your parents were, and you knew the police chief’s kids, and all their dirt. It was hard to walk down the street without some adult asking you if your parents knew where you were. The fire chief lived behind us – he was also Santa Claus,so he scared the shit out of us. We had a good town, people watched out for each other. There were fights, but everybody watched. People didn’t go in their house and hide when something was wrong.

      People use the excuse that it’s a different world now, they have their jobs, blah blah blah. Chico needs to wake up and pay attention while we still have a reasonably small town. What we see on the council dais and in these paranoid little Facebook groups is a microcosm of our ugly little town. That’s on us.

      And yes, your son was a victim of the whole nasty little mess. I hope we can work toward a solution, cause it’s just not right.

      • Jon Scott June 28, 2020 at 12:48 am #

        They are worried about insolvency. I WELCOME IT. Only then will the truth of the pension BULLSHIT be widely known.

      • Juanita Sumner June 28, 2020 at 6:20 am #

        Thanks for keeping the chatter going Jon, we need to turn the conversation toward the pensions.

  3. Dave June 27, 2020 at 10:18 am #

    I urge everyone to watch this video

    It is very timely, especially since Ory is making a desperate last minute push for his tax increase. It is an increase that will solve nothing. As I have been saying for years and Greenhut says in the interview, at best these tax increases kick the can down the road a few years when the politicians demand more. And of course, if Ory’s tax passes they will use the revenue to get us into more debt.

    This council does not represent us. They represent the special interests, particularly the public employee unions. Proof of that is obvious. In all the discussion of the city’s financial situation THERE HAS NOT BEEN ONE WORD FROM THIS COUNCIL ON REFORMING THE UNFUNDED LIABILITIES. Their solution is to take as much of your money as possible through tax increases and to take on more debt.

    • Juanita Sumner June 28, 2020 at 6:18 am #

      I agree. I think the best way is to contact council members directly and demand employees pay more toward payroll and the UAL. It’s doable, they just won’t admit it.

      They should really just fire Orme and Constantin. I know that sounds nuts but it’s going to have to happen.

      • Jon Scott June 28, 2020 at 12:52 pm #

        We need to PULL out of CalPers. PERIOD. After that all employees can take the funds provided for retirement (“benefits”) and invest any damn way they wish without leaving the rest of us hanging. As I mentioned before, the drug addicts addicted to tax revenue will only sober up when they get cut off. Voting NO NO NO on any tax increase is the start.

      • Juanita Sumner June 29, 2020 at 10:06 am #

        I agree. I was just looking at the last few recent elections on ballotpedia, and the people of California passed taxes and bonds like crazy, election after election. In 2018 things started to change, slowly, then in March 2020 we really said NO MORE. Like, enough already.

        I’m over being mad, but I’m not going to back down. Thanks Jon!

      • Dave June 29, 2020 at 11:56 am #

        LIke Greenhut said in the interview, you vote for more taxes you still get awful roads.

        Our city council and bureaucracy diverted tens of millions of dollars over the years that should have gone for infrastructure to employee compensation, especially ridiculous pensions and other post employment benefits.

        Does anyone think that will change with a tax increase? If they do they are incapable of understanding reality.

        And those wanting a dedicated tax are especially deluded. They don’t understand the city council with the help of the city administrators will funnel more money to the pensions regardless.

        The city council does not represent us. They represent the special interests, especially the public employee unions. This is why their only plan is to raise taxes and debt. They have not even mentioned any type of pension reform and never will.

        They will do all they can to raise taxes and debt to kick the problem down the road an election cycle or two when they will demand more taxes. This is the way it has played out in cities up and down the state and the financial problems NEVER get solved.

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