Who’s really in charge here?

28 Jan

Last week I received an agenda for another closed Finance Committee meeting, the first since last September, when the FC heard a consultant’s pitch for a Pension Obligation Bond. 

These meetings have always been held during the work day, when the average person has no chance to attend, and they’ve never been recorded. About 8 years ago, with a lot of smack about Jennifer “Loosey Goosey” Hennessy, recently departed finance manager Chris Constantin instituted a new policy of giving detailed finance reports at every meeting. Those reports were always available with the agenda of the meeting, they still are. 

But here’s the thing – the conversations get pretty far-reaching, and darned frank. At one meeting I attended a couple of years ago, local banker Marc Francis took Constantin out into the hallway to have a private conversation about a sales tax measure. I think that’s inappropriate, and a lot of that goes on at these meetings. But who would know – it’s not only not recorded, the clerk takes very minimal notes. 

I guess Zoom is an improvement, but you have to have good internet, and you need to sign in at least a half hour early to work out the glitches. And it’s the same as a live meeting – who’s available to watch a city committee meeting from 8 – 10 am on a work day?

I used to go to a lot of trouble to attend these meetings, putting aside my day’s work and lining up outside the door in whatever kind of weather. Why? Because it’s toe-to-toe in there, you can actually look your “representatives” right in the eye and tell them what you think, including what you think of what they think. There’s a lot of give and take, and oftentimes, they’ve backed down  from bad ideas just because they know somebody is watching.

So yes, I believe those meetings should all be videotaped, and the public should be able to get a copy for viewing at home. Holding meetings when people can’t attend and refusing to tape them is obviously just their way of keeping the public from knowing what the hell is  going on. 

And who makes that decision? Not your duly elected “representatives”, but Mark Orme. Remember, last March, at the onset of the shut down, our lovely council passed the mantel to Orme – he’s our un-elected Boss Man now, and he’s running our town into the toilet.

Take this item from next week’s council agenda. 


The City’s Homeless Solutions Coordinator continues to evaluate options to mitigate the impacts of homelessness on the community and to help find ways for service providers to forge a responsible and sustainable continuum of care for Chico’s unsheltered populations.  This report provides options to build partnerships for the establishment of a legal camping environment, potential outdoor shelter environment, a non-congregate shelter collaboration, and a potential Park-n-Ride safe parking site.

Recommendation : The City Manager recommends the City Council consider the following:

I think this is outrageous – what happened to our “conservative” council who told us it is not the city’s responsibility to house anybody, it’s the county’s responsibility? Here they are going to take a piece of land from a group that promoted outdoor activities for children and give it to a group of transients to shit all over.

Authorize the use of city owned land at 2352 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to establish an outdoor shelter (legal camping environment).

This is currently the location of the BMX track, formerly rented by a non-profit group that was evicted to  fulfill certain people’s agendas.

Direct staff to return to the March 2, 2021 meeting, should the fund-raising efforts to raise $600,000, to fulfill the relocation of the current lessee, not be achieved.

If CHAT can’t fulfill their promise, we should pay?

Authorize staff to use $282,933 of Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funding in relation to issues of homelessness and to take steps necessary to implement its use.

This money should be going to people who have actually been affected by the COVID shut down, including small businesses.

Authorize the use of $250,000 in general fund dollars to support the efforts of the Chico Housing Action Team to secure a long-term lease for a non-congregate shelter site which will contribute to the advanced program engagement options for unsheltered populations.

$250,000 +

Consider the use of $400,000 in general fund dollars to support the hard costs (one-time costs) required to implement the outdoor shelter environment should funding from the Continuum of Care for alternative sheltering options not be available in the next 60 days.

$400,000 +

Consider the use of $200,000 in general fund dollars to support the operational costs required to begin operating the outdoor shelter environment should funding from the Continuum of Care for alternative sheltering options not be available in the next 30 days.

$200,000 = a grand total of $850,000 out of the General Fund. This is an important example of how they can do anything with money that is deposited in the General Fund.

Evaluate and provide direction on any other information contained herein as it relates to identifying sheltering options for the unhoused population, to include the safe parking proposal.

As stated in the introduction, this has something to do with a Park and Ride facility. You can read the full report for yourself, here:


And then be sure to comment at Engaged Chico when Staff decides to load the agenda there:


None of this stuff has been discussed at any Finance Committee meeting. It’s been discussed at Homeless Task Force “Ad Hoc” meetings. Ad Hoc meetings require no notice of the public and no record.  But the biggest point I’d like to make here is that this is all on the recommendation of City Manager Mark Orme. 

I had already sent in the following letter when I received the agenda, so I’ll be sure to write a follow-up.  Why letters to the editor? Well, I also wrote to my city representative Kasey Reynolds, twice since December, asking her direct questions about the “Shelter Crisis Designation” But she so far has failed to respond. So I write to the Enterprise Record. I believe Mark Orme is at the center of the problem, and he needs to go.

In 2012 Chico voters passed Measure L, calling for city council to appoint the city clerk.. Proponents claimed Measure L would make the clerk answerable  to city council.  But, with the COVID shutdown, council abdicated all leadership responsibilities to city manager Mark Orme. 

Since March 2020, Orme has created three new positions, appointed a new police chief and given him a raise.  Orme has continued to close meetings to the public, while bringing forward tax measures for discussion without public participation.

When a friend asked the clerk’s office if a closed meeting would be recorded for public scrutiny, Staff replied, “The City does not have a policy that requires staff to record Finance Committee meetings, and does not plan to do so.” When asked why, Staff deferred to Orme.  “My supervisor is the City Clerk, Debbie Presson.  However, she is out of the office on extended leave.  The City Manager, Mark Orme, is my supervisor in her absence.”

Two Shasta County supervisors recently opened their meeting to citizens. Supervisor Les Baugh said, “We did not receive a letter from the state of California asking us to close down our board meetings…” 

In Chico the meetings are closed under order of City Manager Mark Orme because he doesn’t want public scrutiny for his proposed Pension Obligation Bond. This bond would formally shift the pension burden from city employees, who expect to receive 70 – 90% of their highest year’s salary, to the backs of the taxpayers. At the cost of roads, parks and infrastructure. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico, CA






One Response to “Who’s really in charge here?”

  1. Dave January 29, 2021 at 5:58 pm #

    In the last finance meeting it was revealed that the UAL is not just 146 million but 146 million plus another 140 million in interest. And it wasn’t Dowell or any of the other city bureaucrats revealing that, it was the POB consultant.

    It was also revealed that the City’s cash flow was up $30 million from the prior fiscal year. Well, where did all the money go? Certainly none of it went to fix the streets.

    Is it any wonder why they have these meetings during work hours when most taxpayers can’t attend? And is it any wonder why they refuse to record the meetings and make them available online to the public even though Zoom can easily do this and the taxpayers are already paying for Zoom?

    They don’t want us knowing these things when they are trying to shove a POB and sales tax increase down our throats.

    Three days ago I emailed Orme, Presson, Rogers, Coolidge and Morgan asking why they refuse to record these meetings and make them available to the public online. None of them even bothered to respond. And they call themselves “public servants.” The only ones they serve are themselves.

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