Archive | August, 2020

City of Chico is management top-heavy, and it shows

31 Aug

Well, I don’t know if the needle giveaway happened at Humboldt Park yesterday. I had a stack of chores yesterday morning, including fix my bike, so I didn’t make it over there to check. I looked at various social media sites today, and there was no mention of it, so I’m  going to guess it just went away. We’ll see.

My bike looks great, and I’m getting the new tires today – all the freaking way from Holland. I guess they love old bikes in Holland. 

I probably won’t ride my bike in Bidwell Park.  What a mess. Tents still line the waterways, along with the requisite trash piles. We’ll see how long it takes council to be good on their word, and whether this new police chief – $20,000/year richer than the old police chief – will clean them out. There’s also a discussion scheduled for tomorrow’s meeting about a “sanctioned campground” at the Silver Dollar. We can’t let them take the fairgrounds, make yourself heard on Chico Engaged.

Yesterday I read Natalie Hansen’s interview with Councilors Brown, Schwab and Huber about social media. Brown is full of shit – I not only email them, I make comments on Chico Engaged. Brown has NEVER responded to even the most polite emails.  I believe she believes any disagreement is “impolite”.  I believe they all look at the sender before they read, and if you’ve criticized them or disagreed with them in past, they just skip your comments. Brown can prove me wrong by reading the Engaged comments out loud. The councilors should have to do that, not the clerk. But Brown has her own agenda, her mind is wrapped up in a Zip-lock bag to keep out any dissenting viewpoints. 

So I write the occasional letter to the editor.

The city of Chico is now being sued by a jogger badly injured in 2017 when a huge tree branch fell on her in Lower Bidwell Park. She was trapped for 30 minutes and had major injuries.

The suit alleges the city does not budget for tree maintenance in Lower Park, which is “traversed by tens of thousands of people every year.” The plaintiff was using an established path, alongside “various recreational amenities, including picnic tables and barbecue pits.” According to the suit, many staffers knew the tree, hanging over South Park Drive, was dangerous, but not only failed to prune or remove it, they didn’t bother to place signs or barricades to keep people away from it.

In 2017 the city budgeted about $45,000 toward “Park Tree Maintenance”.  This year $57,500. For perspective, my family paid $10,000 to have 16 dead trees removed from our property. Bidwell Park has thousands and thousands of trees, many of them dead or dying.

While staff claims to have been cutting positions and costs, the city manager recently hired another management position for Public Works, at $125,000/yr, plus benefits. He created a new management position – Public Information Officer – and is asking council to approve another full time management position – Homeless Coordinator.

Meanwhile staff is “considering” a fire suppression plan after homes were threatened near Annie’s Glen.

Our city is management top-heavy and it shows. The park is horribly neglected.  We need timber cruisers and heavy equipment operators, but we get people who sit in meetings all day.

Juanita Sumner, Chico




The battle for Chico: NVHRC loses in court, but seems to be winning on the battlefield; meanwhile, condition of Bidwell Park has the city in another lawsuit

29 Aug

Well, I was glad to hear about a victory in the lawsuit against the Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition, also known as “the needle exchange people”. Which is a misnomer because they don’t exchange needles, they just hand them out.  These idiots have been handing out needles, every Sunday, to crank and heroin junkies without asking them to bring back their used needles. As any rational adult would expect, these used needles are turning up in places where transient drug addicts congregate and shoot their drugs. It used to be a few needles here and there – but you’ve seen the pictures of NVHRC staff handing people whole boxes of needles. Now you see the results whenever you go to the park, any creek, parking lots, school play grounds, etc.

A group of local public safety advocates went to court and got a judgement against NVHRC, an order to cease and desist the handout, and another order to pick up needles at various known campsites in town. I thought it might send a message through the transient community, that Chico is getting tired of them. I wanted to believe it would be the beginning of a change.

But I tried not to get too excited, cause you know the thing about lawsuits, is you have to enforce the decision. It’s on the plaintiff. That’s why I never threaten to sue anybody, there’s a lot more to suing somebody than most people realize.

One local gadfly wrote last Sunday (8/23), “In a ‘stick it in your eye’ gesture, NVHRC has set up their tents in Humboldt Park right on schedule.”  He included this picture.

Image may contain: outdoor

“If you thought the lawsuit was the end of anything, you are wrong. It is the beginning. Hitch yourself up and get ready to fight for your community, one issue at at time. We WILL reclaim our heritage, our parks and waterways will be clean and safe, and we will fill our city with signs of beauty, not blight and the deplorable human condition of drug addiction. Being addicted is not a crime, but just about everything else associated with drug abuse is.”

But, am I reading this right – they aren’t passing out needles?

According with the lawyer associated with the plaintiffs,  “If they are not handing out needles it is legal. But handing out drug paraphernalia may not be. I would like to see them explain what the legit purpose is for tie offs and cookers…especially when packaged with Naloxone.”

We’ll have to watch and see.

Two meetings in two weeks, Council has got a full agenda for next Tuesday, with continuations of discussions from last Tuesday as well as new items such as two new employees.

Ironically one item is approval of the Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force budget. After he gives that report council will approve a $170,000/year salary for the new chief and he will be sworn in. Another item is approval of a NEW management position for Public Works at $125,000/year plus benefits. Here’s another irony – especially if you’ve seen the RV that’s been parked at the CalTRANS Park and Ride for about a week – they are updating the abandoned vehicle code to be consistent with Butte County and the state. Just now?

Something new is that they put those salaries right in the agenda, wow. Another new thing is they name names in suits brought against the city. A woman is suing the city of Chico for negligence, so I looked it up in the court case index. Something new there – the documents are available to read.  So I read it.  This woman lived my nightmare – she was jogging on a trail in Bidwell Park and a huge tree limb broke and fell on her. She had pretty major injuries, and laid under that tree limb for 30 minutes before help arrived. The fire department had to cut her out of that mess. She had various broken bones – leg, scapula, wrist – and this is the part I had to look up – her leg was partially “de-gloved.” Look it up for yourself, but watch out, there’s a picture.  She could have bled to death. 

The suit goes on to describe the setting – the condition of Bidwell Park. I remember taking this up with Mark Orme a few years ago, and all he had to tell me was “be careful when you are in the park.” That’s it? No warning signs, no closed trails, no removal of dangerous branches? There’s not even a sign saying, “you enter Bidwell Park at your own risk”, but that’s the truth. 

The woman made a claim to the city but was summarily denied, so she was forced to sue. 

Welcome to the City of Mismanagement. Who you gonna call? 

Here’s a hint  – don’t call the guy who used to work for PG&E.

Apocalyptic – out and about in the COVID shutdown

22 Aug

I saw some questionable things today as my husband and I went out and about running our errands around town.

As we pulled over at the CalTRANS Park and Ride at Hwy 32 and 99 to check our trash load, we noticed the abandoned RV was still sitting there.  A very dirty, mostly naked old man had laid his blanket in a parking space, and arranged his strange collection of belongings, including the child’s stroller he drove up in, like a little barrier around himself. He lay on the ground eating out of a crumpled bag.  As we drove in he popped his head up. A beat up BMX bike hung from a No Parking sign.

Sorry if I seem sensitive, but compared to the Chico I grew up with, this is Apocalyptic. This is scene you used to see in bigger cities along Hwy 99, and for years now people have said that Chico would “just turn into another town along Hwy 99,” but I never believed it.

Sitting at a gas station as my husband filled our tank and a gallon jug for the lawnmower, I watched people mask up to go into stores, and then rip their masks off as they walked into cancer causing toxins that you could see floating by your face. If that doesn’t say it’s about compliance and not about health, I don’t know what.

I drove by my friend’s shuttered clothing business, wondering how she’s going to keep making the rent. I saw her on the news recently, begging people to wear masks so Butte County could get off the watch list and open up again.  And then we drove by a house where a woman had set up shop in her driveway. E-Z Ups with racks and racks of new dresses.  The owner, a fan of bills in her hands, stood within a couple feet of a customer,  yakking away, no masks. I am so conflicted there, I’m hardly going to report people for not wearing masks, or trying to pay their bills, but I can’t believe how unfair this is for my  friend.

There are so many inconsistencies, so many obvious flaws of logic in this COVID thing. “Thing” – I don’t even know what to call it, because I know people out there get offended when I say “scam” or “con”.  I know a lot of people really believe the masks are important, I’m trying not to insult people. But to tell the truth, this is all very insulting to me.

So I did my grocery shopping mask-free today – thanks to Lou Binninger, for discussing “Mask Nazi’s” recently on his podcast at   I finally decided I am done wearing the mask to the grocery store. That’s the only Chico business I patronize these days, cause I’m sorry, I have to eat. I wash my hands, copiously. I pack my tiny spray bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket, and turn on my 6 ft radar defense system. I move quickly, making sure to avoid occupied aisles. I know what I’m going to buy, and I move in and out. I look with my eyes instead of my hands.  My husband does same, moving silently and quickly through the store, staying the hell away  from everybody.

I’ll admit – I usually mask up at check out because I just want to be polite – those checkers have to wear those damned masks all day. And I believe in science – if anybody’s at risk here, it’s people who work 8 hours a day with the public.

Here’s a positive note about COVID – my husband and I have learned to pack a cart with a week’s worth of groceries and be out the door in 15 minutes, average.  But there’s no more socializing, no more gossiping at the check-out, no more sharing of recipes. Just another town along Hwy 99?

Paul Valery: Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them

21 Aug

Since the COnVID shut down, I do almost all my shopping online. I’m not talking about major purchases, but anything that generates sales tax. One day I noticed the shampoo bottle was almost tapped, so I ordered some. They offer free shipping with a $35 purchase, so I bought a brake cable for my bike, some shirts for my husband, and a new winter bed sheet (I know, it’s hard to imagine right now, how cold your ass is going to be in a few months, and then all the winter bedding will be sold out).

I had the shampoo within 4 days. 

I’m still waiting for the break cable, which came from an East Coast vendor. My husband is fixing up my old bike, it’s been sitting in the shed ever since the brake cable snapped on me at a really inconvenient bend in the road. The back tire needs replacing – another online order, next time we need toothpaste.

I like online shopping. I used to hate it when I had my PO box in Chico. My family has had packages lost, packages destroyed, packages stolen from, at the Chico Post office. I had to do the “Repo Man grab” for the last package – the staffers were unwilling to look for it in the mess of their backroom, they just kept sending me away. Finally,  I insisted that one clerk look at the tracking number, and finally he comes sheepishly out of the back room with package.

We’ve tried having packages delivered to Fed Ex and UPS but found the same problem – lazy staffers who wouldn’t do their job.  News flash – Larry Wahl sold his UPS stores, and the new owners are out-of-towners who don’t  give a shit, and charge $5 for pick-up.  UPS and FedEx drivers are great, but if you’re not going to be home, do you want a package laying on your doorstep? In this town? 

So, when a transient lit a fire in the annex where our box was contained, and later when we heard reports that boxes were continually getting broken into at the annex where they relocated us,

Investigation continues into P.O. box break-ins at Chico, Durham post offices

we decided we should move our post office box. Out of town. We found out you can get a PO box in any one of half dozen nearby towns, for the same rate, and the service and security are worlds apart from Chico post office. Orland, for example, is great, and only 30 minutes away.

I grew up on a farm. We always had to drive, everywhere, this is nothing new to me. And while we are picking up our mail, we can hit the grocery store – smaller towns are more likely to respect the exemptions to the mask mandate –  mine being, it cuts off the oxygen to your brain.

Do you “dine out”? My husband and I used to eat out a lot, when Chico was a nice, clean town. That all ended when they got a new health inspector for Butte County and suddenly we found notices on the doors of many of our favorite eateries, saying they’d been closed due to unsanitary conditions. We noticed, none of the taco wagons had been shut down, so now we don’t eat anywhere that doesn’t have wheels.

Wake up, restaurants are dirty, if you haven’t been in the kitchen, you shouldn’t eat there. But now, the city has mandated outside dining. They’ve shut down Downtown three nights a week for restaurants to take over the sidewalks. Well, I hope they’re enjoying the temperatures, air quality, and don’t forget the flies. All over downtown this time of year the flies are on everything. In this heat, you have an ambience of garbage and human excrement that brings them buzzing in. Add floating ash and the smell of a wet camp fire, and you have a recipe for failure of small restaurants all over town.

So you’d think the city of Chico would be strangling financially from all these losses. No, plenty of businesses are thriving. Liquor stores all over town are ringing up record sales, while bar owners pay their rent and watch the calendar.

A friend of mine recently remarked that the shut down is ruining lives, and people are very depressed, even suicidal.  I agree – my neighbor has been acting completely out of character. But who do you call? Butte County Behavioral Health complains that calls are down? What?

With calls and funding down, Behavioral Health focuses on restaffing, crisis intervention

CHICO — While statewide suicide prevention measures are under review, Butte County Behavioral Health faces high budget cuts this year with fewer resources available.

Residents like John Doe in Oroville using the county’s mental health services worry there is a reduced amount of staff available to help family members or themselves with mental health issues, and that phone counseling is “not the same” as in-person services.

Doe said he and his daughter were told there would be no more in-person counseling as well as fewer phone counseling services. He feels telehealth is not the same as it is less personal and “there’s nothing like face-to-face.”

“They got essential workers working at Walmart and they can’t even put these mental health workers as essential workers?” Doe said. “Mental health workers need to be essential. They are just as essential as people hooking up respirators. Services like this should not be disregarded.”

I agree with John Doe, but I don’t think it’s a funding issue, I think it’s a spending issue. Look at the first page of Butte County salaries – two Behavioral Health Workers get paid more than $200,000/each, plus benefits. The psychiatrist who gets almost as much as the county manager doesn’t even work in Butte County, but meets with the board via computer.

Here’s just Behavioral Health – look at these salaries and benefits packages. For “managers”? What do they “manage”?

And they’re telling us, they don’t have resources? 

Well, you can call that in to your county supervisors cause their meetings are still closed. They have a better comments system, but, “Board of Supervisors meetings will  be closed to the public and all non-essential County staff for the foreseeable future. “

I read a great quote the other day, attributed to Paul Valery in the LA Times: “Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.”  I’d say, we’ve elected a bunch of artists to public positions, and we need to put a candle to their asses to open the county and towns again. 

Letter to council: Masks don’t work, end the mandate before you kill our town

19 Aug

Dear Council and Staff,

Thank you for rescheduling last night’s meeting. This morning there was ash all over my front patio and in spider webs around my yard.  It would have been onerous to have to stand out in 3-digit heat and deadly air quality, and the alternative – another closed meeting – is unacceptable.


You may have read this – a study of 14 masks at Duke University recently went viral. Here’s one article that details the findings:

 “It’s not the case that any mask is better than nothing,” he said. “There are some masks that actually hurt rather than do good.”

​The study showed that gaitors, bandanas, and homemade masks are actually bad – watch the video – “the porous fabric seems to break bigger particles into smaller particles, which are more likely to linger in the air.”


Meanwhile this study confirmed what I have suspected – the N95’s are the only ones that truly protect anybody, followed not too closely by real surgical masks with three layers of material. 


Right now N95’s are going for as much as $5 per mask. The boxes my husband and I used to buy for about $1 a mask are all sold out and Home Depot reports they are donating those to hospitals. Doesn’t this come under the “no gouging” ordinance you passed after the Camp Fire? I have not heard of one business being cited for gouging, but you threaten $1,000 for not wearing a mask? 


While the faux surgical masks are cheaper and more available,  they are not nearly as good according to the study. Wearing those outside with smoke and ash, I can feel ash moving in and out. They’re one size fits all and if you’re not the right size, too bad for you. I also see most people leaving their nose out, people wearing them like a beard on their chin, and people wearing outrageously filthy masks. I also see them all over the ground at retail centers, like those “single use plastic bags” Ann banned a few years back.

Those bags certainly made a comeback, when it was determined reusable bags are unsanitary and stores asked us to leave them in our cars. And at first, they gave us the film bags for free – now they are charging us again. That’s more gouging. 

Finally, I’ll say, it’s true, people get a false sense of security from masks. Every trip to the grocery store I have people wearing useless “face diapers” step right into my body space, some actually bump and touch. 

The new fines for not masking are outrageous. You put fascist rules on law-abiding citizens while you allow transients to destroy our parks and waterways, and threaten the local economy. You say your hands are tied by Newsom’s mandate, but elsewhere communities are standing up and law enforcement agencies are refusing to enforce. The mask mandate is not about safety, it’s about conformity.  Don’t you people have the guts to stand up for your constituents? Would you really rather kill the local economy than stand up to Sacramento? 

Is it really that the city is just too dependent on the state for money? Because our local economy is so weak, we have to take handouts for stuff like declaring a shelter crisis in order to pay staffers and their pension deficit? 

Sincerely, Juanita Sumner

Mask guidelines – know your rights

17 Aug

Where and when are masks required?

— Inside or in line to enter indoor public spaces.

— In hospitals, pharmacies, medical clinics or other healthcare offices.

— While waiting for and riding public transportation, taxis or ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Drivers should also wear masks.

— In work places that require interacting with the public, where food is prepared, packaged or delivered, or when sharing common spaces such as elevators and hallways.

— In office settings where people cannot physically distance.

— While outside if it’s not possible to stay six feet away from others.

Who is exempt?

— Children age 2 and younger.

— People with medical, mental health or developmental issues that prevent it.

— People who are deaf or have hearing loss and those who communicate with them if seeing someone’s mouth is essential.

— Workers who would violate workplace safety rules by wearing one.

— People eating and drinking at restaurants.

— People swimming, walking, hiking, biking, running or doing other outdoor activity where they can stay 6 feet from others.

— People in jails and prisons, which have their own guidance on face coverings.

Grand Jury 2019-20 – “The City of Chico needs to find additional revenue sources by March 1, 2021”

16 Aug

This Tuesday Chico City Council will discuss their response to the 2020 Butte County Grand Jury report.

Click to access 2019-2020%20Grand%20Jury%20Report.pdf

The BCGJ report is chock fulla nuts.  There are also interesting reports on the Sheriff’s Dept, the jail, the county clerk’s office, and the county Public Works Department.  But here I’ll try to focus on their findings and recommendations for Chico.

In order to make their report, the jurors did the following research:

o The City Manager
o The Chief of Police
o Butte County Board of Supervisors Districts 2, 3 and 5
• Attended:
o City Council meeting
• Reviewed:
o 2019 annual budget for City of Chico

The problem with the GJ is that they are completely dependent on  staff for their research. Their report about Chico sounds as if it came right out of the reports Mark Orme has been giving for the last couple of years. The don’t question anything, they just repeat what the city manager has told them.

The City of Chico estimates post Camp Fire financial impacts at $500 million, largely due to a
20% increase in population. In the future, some financial offsets will be made to this cost.
However, this unprecedented fire added additional strain to issues Chico was dealing with pre
fire. California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) payments limit Chico’s
revenue. The City of Chico continues to deal with insufficient revenue to repair roads, make
infrastructure improvements, and meet public safety needs, staffing levels, and pension

Again, we’re hearing about the financial impacts of the Camp Fire. $500 million? As you’ll see forward, this figure is a projection at least 10 years into the future. In the next paragraph they get to the real problem.

The financial situation facing Chico is problematic. The CalPERS unfunded liability, as of June
30, 2018 (latest available information from the state system) is $141 million.

This is a troubling – not quite a year ago, city finance man Scott Dowell gave me a figure of approximately $128 million. So, despite millions in annual payments toward the UAL – this report says it will be $11.4 million for 2020 – the UAL goes up every year. Here the GJ acknowledges same.

Unfunded accrued/actuarial liabilities are the calculated cost of promised benefits that are greater than the
current value of a fund’s asset. The yearly payments keep increasing along with the unfunded
amount. The 2019-20 budgeted payment is $11.4 million, almost 20% of projected tax revenue.
The State system gives the unfunded dollar amount to the city. This amount rises more than it
recedes each year even after the City makes multi-million-dollar payments. This situation is not
unique to Chico. Many other municipalities in California are facing the same issue, and some of
these municipalities have a higher unfunded amount and higher payments.

No mention of the payroll shares, now little the employees pay, they just write it off as a discrepancy in the value of the fund, as if that’s nobody’s  fault.

The fiscal year 2019-20 budget for Chico is $135 million, and the unfunded liability is more than
the budget. This problem cannot be solved locally. It will require either a change in state law or
judiciary changes through the court system if state law is not changed.

This is absolutely not true, the city has other alternatives, including switching to 457 Funds and getting out of CalPERS. Instead they began pilfering money out of every  department to pay the UAL. The Fund 903 is the only truly “restricted fund”.

To manage this difficult situation, the city of Chico has created a fund (903) to deal with CalPERS payments. As of fiscal
year 2019-20, the amount in the fund is $2.4 million which can only be used for CalPERS

The budget chart on page 106 shows the increasing payments made to CalPERS. And then this note, at the bottom of the budget – here’s why our roads and other infrastructure have suffered.

(1) Beginning in FY2017-28, each department will set aside a set percentage of payroll costs to fund the annual payment of the CalPERS unfunded liability. A target reserve of 10% of the annual unfunded liability expenditure will be retained in the fund.

With a UAL of $141 million, that would be a total of $14 million to be split among the departments. These are funds that would otherwise be spent hiring more employees and paying for street and infrastructure improvements/maintenance. 

And here they bring in the Camp Fire again. Remember, Orme claimed in the months following the fire that the city would lose money, but later admitted they brought in a windfall of over $3 million in sales tax, Utility Tax, and bed tax. But he continues to use the Camp Fire as an excuse for poor management.

The impact of the Camp Fire coupled with future and unfunded dollar amounts to CalPERS creates difficult fiscal decisions. The financial impact to the City from the Camp Fire is estimated by the City to be $500 million.

Yes this figure was given to them by staff. And, as you see here, these figures are projected over the next 12 years, and they were hardly necessitated by the Camp Fire. They were necessitated by at least 10 years of deferred maintenance. 

City staff estimate the $500 million Camp Fire financial impacts as follows:

 $196 million in personnel costs over the next twelve years to service the increased population

 $235 million for expansion of facilities
 $34.8 million for roadways
 $15 million for the sewer system

But the report also mentioned reimbursements of over $6 million, just in the first years after the Camp Fire.

The City received one reimbursement from FEMA in the amount of $7,302 to cover the cost of FEMA required high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for the offices. The City received $549,862 in property tax back fill from the State of California. The Office of the Butte County Auditor-Controller determined the dollar amount of the tax back fill. The City also received $3 million in relief from a State approved appropriation. Chico is using the bulk of the $3 million to implement technology upgrades and pay for a new
radio communication system.  

The report claims, “However, there is no guarantee of any more compensation coming to the City.”

That is not true – new residents always mean new revenues, new housing and higher housing prices drive up property tax, vlf, UT, etc. New residents generate new sales tax. 

The next subject is “Roads”.  No mention of deferred maintenance or figures given by Constantin last year – 10’s of millions to repair streets, many of which have slipped into such a state they will need to be reconstructed.

For fiscal year 2019/20, $2.5 million is budgeted for Capital Expenditures which includes road maintenance/repair. The Gas Tax Fund (Fund 307) funds road work/repairs. Fiscal year 2019/20 Fund 307 revenue is $4.8 million. 

$2.5 million for capital expenditures, which INCLUDES road maintenance/repair. $4.8 million more from the gas tax. But, when these funds are transferred into the public works fund, they are subject to the allocation mentioned above (1)  Here they report they’ve started a “Public Infrastructure Fund, but there’s no mention of this fund being restricted in any way.

The City of Chico staff, following the best government accounting practices, has set up a Public Infrastructure Fund (Fund 943), which is used for infrastructure projects and includes some of the waste hauler franchise fee. This revenue comes into the General Fund and is then allocated. The Fund 943 balance is $68,000.

“some of the waste hauler fee” – yeah, we all remember they said the “trash tax” would go toward fixing the roads, but it’s been emptied into the General Fund ever since. They don’t give a figure, why not?  Who are they kidding – this fund ($68,000?)  is far short of the costs projected by Chris Constantin for our streets and roads in coming years, long before the Camp Fire. 

 If you look at the budget chart on page 109 you see not of the money goes into actual street repairs. It looks like they’ve put about $40,000 into the “Bridge Plan of Action” and over $200,000 into “Pavement Management Asssement” but not much into the actual repairs. They spent $100,000 on the bike path extension to 20th Street Park – people don’t realize, not all the “street” money goes to improvements that facilitate cars. 

Another misleading statement in this report is that city staffers have not had “any pay raises in the last ten years”. That is not true. For one thing, when the city asked management to pay toward their own pensions (at that time, they paid nothing, the city picked up their share), Mark Orme and other staffers were given raises to more than cover their increased shares. Orme was also given a 457 plan, a special 401K for public employees. His contract states that he will get a fixed $9,000/year, plus 4.5% of his salary, which amounts to an extra $20,000/year. In addition to over $50,000 paid by the city toward his CalPERS benefits.

The report goes on to discuss the Police Department. Again, with the 2020 census still on the horizon, they claim fa 20% increase in population due to the Camp Fire.

The department consists of 158 employees and is budgeted for 168. Of the 158 on staff, 98 are sworn officers with a budget for 108 officers. With approximately 20% more residents in Chico post Camp Fire, more sworn officers and support staff are needed. However, officer recruitment
is difficult, largely due to low wages. After recruiting a candidate, another year to year and a half is required to complete the hiring process. This includes the Police Academy and department training. Technology upgrades such as automatic license plate readers and onboard computers
will help relieve some of the pressure for more sworn officers. However, revenue is needed for either to occur.

Earlier they admitted that the city received reimbursements that covered, spending at least $3 million on “technology upgrades and [to] pay for a new radio communication system.” 

Public safety (cops and fire) get over half the budget, and create over half the UAL because they only pay 15% toward their pension costs. They also as much as double their agree upon salaries with mandatory overtime and contract gadgets like “CTO”.  If public safety employees would agree to take more reasonable salaries and pay more toward their own benefits, we could hire more cops and fire. Period.

The report lists “challenges” – AB109, prop 57 and jail releases, NVHRC, the homeless. They need to talk to the sheriff’s department – the county approves the transfers and releases.  This report indicates a lack of cooperation between BCSO and CPD, and that’s another problem. 

I was very disappointed with the lackluster conclusions they drew, and their “findings” and “recommendations.

Chico faces several financial obstacles including insufficient revenues for CalPERS payments, along with the need for improved infrastructure, road repair/maintenance, public safety and staff salaries. Due to Chico’s growth, the infrastructure and roads need improving. To meet the safety
concerns of the growing population, public safety improvements need to be made. Both financial and personnel issues also need to be addressed. 

  • insufficient revenues for CalPERS payments – why not ask the employees to pay more?
  • need for improved infrastructure, road repair/maintenance – they act like that’s a new thing brought on by the camp fire, even though staff has been telling us fore years we needed to put more money into the streets 
  • more money for public safety and staff salaries if employees would pay more toward their benefits there would be money for more hires
  • They keep citing “growing population” as though that’s a complete surprise – the truth is, staff has looted our funds to pay down their pension deficit

The “Findings” page won’t cut-and-paste – so I’ve compressed it a little:

  1. CalPERS is putting ever increasing burden on the city’s General Fund, impeding the city’s ability to provide essential services
  2. the city is experiencing financial impacts and population growth from the Camp Fire
  3. the city roads need attention due to lack of maintenance
  4. city staff has performed well but has not received a pay increase for 10 years
  5. Chico PD is understaffed
  6. Chico Police department could face big changes with new chief
  7. the city has been fortunate “to receive 5 years of service” from outgoing Chief OBrien

I think this is one of the most pathetic, misled and misleading Grand Jury reports I’ve ever read. And here’s their even more ridiculous “recommendation” – hold onto your hats!

R1. The City of Chico needs to find additional revenue sources by March 1, 2021.

And there it is. That’s the result of months of “investigation” and “deliberation”?

The city will discuss their required response to this incredible stretch of logic at Tuesday night’s meeting. I’m going to make my own recommendations via Chico Engaged, I hope you will do same.

Keep it clean!



Orme, not council, will choose new police chief

14 Aug

City manager Mark Orme, who denied to me recently that he runs our town, should be announcing his pick  for new Police Chief today. Yes, Orme, a guy who was hired by people long since gone, not elected by the voters, will be choosing our new police chief. As of the Ch 7 news this morning, he was down to three candidates from the six announced earlier this week.

Orme claims he will rely on feedback from a “Community panel” – wouldn’t you think that means interested local folks, Chicoans who care? No, Orme chose his “vast array of this community”, all members of the government. Sheriff Kory Honea, District Attorney “Mark” (hey, Natalie, can you proofread your junk?) Ramsey, “police chiefs from neighboring cities such as Redding and Yuba City, non-sworn Chico Police department employees, and a representative from Chico State Univ Police Dept. were involved.”

In the press release, Orme didn’t name all of them, and here’s a question – how many of them live in Chico? And no introduction to the public? He’s not even naming the candidates. 

I’ll tell you why – back in 2015, Orme was vetting candidates for chief, here’s what I found out about one of the guys he was thinking about hiring:

Did illegal ticket quotas hasten Gesell’s exit?

Charges included an illegal speeding ticket quota, spending taxpayer money on vacations and other priveleges for his family, and lying to this employer about seeking other jobs. He was also under fire for the police shooting of an unarmed man.  When all this became public in Chico, that candidate ended up being abruptly dropped from the process, and was later asked to resign from his position in SLO. 

Here’s what Melissa Daugherty had to say about him:

She added a very important point – Chico is just a jump-off for police chiefs to spike their salary for retirement benefits.

“In all seriousness, it’s going to be interesting following this. One of my main concerns with Gesell is that he’s a career cop who is almost 50, which means he’s nearing that formula where he can retire at 90 percent of his highest salary for the rest of his life. Chico’s last two chiefs cut out at that magic number. What would stop this guy from doing the same?”

Right now I think the public is more interested in this hiring than ever. I don’t remember when the public has been so interested in a public process. But Orme apparently has not engaged any community groups, no Chico First, no Stand Up For Chico, just bureaucrats. 

Orme told little Natalie the Reporter that “having the council interview candidates is another way to engage with the public’s interests. If they were voted into office, not only did I get a community panel, but I have community representative giving me feedback.” 

Do you really feel represented by this council, which is split almost down the middle in coming up with a “policing policy” for this town? Do you feel represented by Mike Ramsey, who has declared every single officer involved shooting in Chico “justified”? Does Kory Honea represent you? 

All of those perspectives…will help me in my deliberations in choosing the chief.” Orme said. 

“Hiring a police chief is the most important hiring decision the city manager will make,” Mayor Ann Schwab said, saying she was pleased that “a wide perspective of the community” was considered in the interview process. 

Let’s face it – Orme runs our town, council just sits there waving their hankies. This takes all the pressure off council at election time, and Orme isn’t elected, he does not have to answer to the citizens. They protect each other, and to hell with the public.

ABC News: As coronavirus spreads through nation’s jails and prisons, lawmakers demand more transparency on toll, AND TRANSFERS

13 Aug

I hate to say “I told you so,” so stop making me! I just posted my suspicions about infected prisoners ending up in towns all over America, and here ABC news is telling us that’s exactly what’s happening.

Here’s a story from back East about infected prisoners being transferred.

These links won’t last, and I don’t have time to cut-and-paste the details in, so read them fast. And then do your own research, I hate to be accused of spreading misinformation!

And then go out and about in Chico, and ask yourself, where did these people come from?

AB109 just a revenue source for the county – how’s that working out in your neighborhood?

12 Aug

Well, after that post I made yesterday, including news that Butte County jail is a “COVID hot spot” and my suspicions that they are releasing infected inmates into the community, I found this piece in Cal Matters today:

Desperate to control the outbreak at California’s overcrowded prisons, state officials opened the gates to thousands of prisoners like Scull, including many before their scheduled release date.

The reporter speaks to an ex-inmate from San Quentin – a guy convicted of carjacking and robbery – who ended up in a motel room in LA. So how many of these people are headed for Chico? And since when is carjacking not a violent crime? 

And like I also suspected, the support and supervision system for these releases is thin to non-existent.

“I had friends out there protesting saying, ‘Let them all out.’ I said, ‘You don’t understand. There’s no system outside that can handle this,’” said Judith Tata, executive director of the California Reentry Program, which provides parole and pre-release services to inmates at San Quentin. “We have people who are transient when they’re arrested. They’re mentally ill, have substance abuse issues and we’re releasing them early to no social services.”

Tata said her program got letters from people in prison asking for help connecting with services on the outside, but by the time they could respond, the men were already out.”

This is how Butte County inmate John Conway ended up along a road outside of Downieville, now accused of shooting three people, one of whom died. 

Butte County needs to stop participating in AB109 transfers.  I wrote a letter to the editor about it – let’s see how long it takes Flash Read to print this one. 

A man who’d been released from Butte County jail is suspect in a Sierra County killing.  Arrested three times over 2019-20, charges including battery, criminal threats and auto theft. Butte County court dismissed charges in two cases. In January the court gave the man a “split sentence” – part jail time and part “community supervision,” despite at least two failures to appear for previous court dates.

Just six months later he appeared along a Sierra County road with a gun, accused of shooting several people, one dead.

Several grand juries have found our jail inadequate. Overcrowding leads to releases, including prisoners sent here through AB109. In 2011  256 “transfers” were sent to Butte County from state prisons, almost half of them under “community supervision”.  A 2014 report said 56% were rearrested, many for new offenses, including “a non-trivial increase in the number of failure to appear charges.”

AB109, The Public Safety Realignment Act, “transfers responsibility to local counties for supervising specified offenders released from State prison.” A 2011 report shows Butte County received over $3,000,000 to initiate the program. In 2015, the county received over $40,000,000 to expand the jail, but earlier this year, the sheriff revealed he has not taken any bids, blaming costs up due to the Camp Fire.

County budget reports show the AB109 money goes almost entirely for salaries and benefits – of $3,145,402, only $838,061 went toward “one time costs,” including “facilities remodeling”.

AB109 seems to be nothing more than a revenue source for the county to pay salaries and benefits.  How’s this working out in your neighborhood?

Juanita Sumner, Chico