Archive | June, 2021

Will HJTA’s C&D be the end of the POB? Wait and see!

25 Jun

I heard about “Pension Obligation Bonds” years ago, and the name seemed to be pretty clear – a bond that obligates the taxpayers to pay the pensions.

When I started this blog in 2012, we had just got a new city manager, Brian Nakamura. As I recall, he was the first person to mention the pension deficit – Unfunded Actuarial Liability – in front of the public. At that time, he gave two figures – one about $168 million, another about $193 million. I think the second figure included something else Nakamura brought up briefly – the benefits deficit, or “Other Post Employment Benefits”.

Nakamura didn’t stay long, he brought in his former assistant manager from Hemet CA, Mark Orme, and another co-worker from Hemet, Chris Constantin, to replace departing Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy. Nakamura was obviously setting us up for his quick departure to his next job in the town of Rancho Cordova, CA. When Nakamura left, Orme became City Manager, and promoted his friend Chris Constantin to Asst City mgr. Scott Dowell moved over from Chico Area Recreation District to take up the job of Finance Director, now called, “Administrative Services Director.”

These three immediately embarked on a plan to pay down the UAL with “allocations” from every fund in the city treasury. They brought in a consultant, Chad Wolford, who explained the process by which they could legally embezzle money from the streets, parks, sewer, and other infrastructure funds, to pay their own pensions. Allocations were institutionalized, with nothing more than a rubber stamp from council. A percentage of each department payroll is taken into the new “Pension Stabilization Trust,” from which Dowell makes investments, and then once a year, an increasing payment to CalPERS. At one point, they’d beaten the UAL down to about $138 million.

So, how has the UAL actually increased to $146 million? Plus another $140 million interest? Here’s how – Orme is not controlling employee costs. Instead he’s handing out raises, to himself and other management employees. Furthermore he’s added new management positions, three in the last year, at over $100,000 in salary.

Furthermore, management employees are only paying 9% of the cost of their own pensions. Do the math on that – 70% of their highest year’s salary at retirement, for a contribution of 9%? Meanwhile, Orme and several others have wangled themselves a special 401K fund for public employees – a 457 Fund. The city (the taxpayers) put $20,000 a year into that fund. Were you asked to rubberstamp this? Nobody was – I found it in his contract. People, you have to read stuff. I love it when the union lovers and the badge bunnies call me a liar but you ask and NO, they haven’t read shit.

Under this kind of strain, the PST is not supporting the payments. Dowell’s investments are coming in at less than 3%. Every month Dowell has to ask council to rubberstamp more allocations to meet CalPERS’ demands – look at the agendas before you call me names, okay? The annual payment gets bigger every year – this year, $11.5 million. Dowell says we’ll be paying $13 million within a few years. So, how, oh how, does that UAL figure keep getting bigger?

I’m glad to say, people are starting to ask questions. Staff wants to bury the whole thing, like it never happened. So, very quietly, behind closed doors (latest Finance Committee cancelled until August), Staff and council have been pushing forward with a tax measure they don’t want to put on the ballot – the Pension Obligation Bond. This bond will take front and center – the payments on this bond must be made ahead of all the city’s other obligations.

What are the city’s other obligations? Your streets, your sewer, your cops and firefighters, your park. All that has, as you can see, gone along the wayside while Staff has stuffed our money, hand over fist, into their own pockets.

Some people, including myself, believe a tax is a tax, and it needs to go to the ballot. Since this POB would be a “special” tax dedicated to the purpose of stuffing employees’ pockets (or whatever they want to call it), it’s a 2/3’s measure. When this point was brought up, Staff closed down the meetings and the planned “work shop” and went underground with it.

A local gadfly told me, “the POB is dead.” He cited the “cease and desist” order filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the cancellation of the workshop. I’m afraid that’s not true. A quick search on “cease and desist order” told me what I already suspected. The city can ignore it, and HJTA has to SUE. The filing date is this coming Monday, June 28. If nobody challenges the POB at Butte Superior Court, it will be approved automatically, cease and desist order be damned. A cease and desist order is just a line in the dirt, if the city steps over it and HJTA doesn’t do anything, it’s done.

If I had a lawyer, I’d file it myself, but I’ll have to wait and see what HJTA will do.

Remember, the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask. Is this vaccine effective, is it safe, and do you really need it?

23 Jun

Somebody asked me recently if I’m an “anti-vaxxer”. That’s a can of worms there.

Vaccination has always been a hot topic. Most people have accepted standard vaccines like polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diptheria, and whooping cough, because they’ve been used for years and most of us have never heard of any bad reactions. Those diseases also caused a lot of misery in recent history, so people were eager to protect their children. My dad remembered a whole family that died of diptheria, my mother-in-law was hospitalized for two years with polio as a child, and an aunt was left completely deaf after a bout with whooping cough. So as a society we’ve become pretty comfortable with the notion of letting somebody inject us with a tiny bit of a disease in the hopes that our body would learn how to handle it.

I started questioning vaccines after a bad reaction from a vaccination I had as a college student. My mom’s house had flooded and our vaccine records were lost, so Chico State made me take an MMR shot again. I got a weird rash and felt very run down for a few days, and thought that was it. But, about 5 years later, I got the same rash and got so weak I was in bed for almost three weeks, had to hold onto furniture to make it to the bathroom.

I assumed it was because I’d already had the shot. I went ahead and had my kids vaccinated – my midwife made a good point. Those diseases have been essentially eliminated in the US, but, she pointed out correctly, this area sees a lot of immigration from countries that don’t vaccinate, so those diseases can still come back. I got my kids the vaccinations I’d had as a child.

When the chickenpox vaccine came out, I resisted. When I was a child, if somebody in the neighborhood had chickenpox, you took your kids to their house to play. When my sister and I had chickenpox, my grandmother took us to a woman who wanted her 8 children exposed. She let us watch tv all day and eat Otter Pops. Both my kids had chickenpox, and I think it was good for them. Only later did they tell us – if you haven’t had a good case of chickenpox as a child, you have to live in fear of it the rest of your life because it’s much more severe in adults. If you vaccinate, it’s recommended that you have regular boosters throughout your adult life. I feel good about that decision.

We’ve also all had good cases of the flu, one year it was so bad we called it The Asskicker Flu. I feel good about that too – I believe having an illness gives your body the strength to resist. But I also saw a lot of things wrong with the flu vaccine. For one thing, the CDC admitted, there are so many different strains of the flu, they just plain GUESS which vaccine they should be doling out. According to their website, “The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.” And they also admitted, they haven’t always been right, and we’ve had bad flu seasons even when people have lined up out the door at Raleys to get the shots.

Then there was the case in 2019 of flu shots that turned out to be insulin.

Insulin will kill you if you are not a diabetic. How are we supposed to trust the medical community when they make mistakes like this? We’ve also heard a lot of contradictions during this pandemic, too many to list here.

I don’t think it’s stupid or foolish to ask questions. It’s supposed to be our duty to stand up when we hear or see something that is completely out of line with logic and reason. I’m very uncomfortable with how eagerly some people have given up their civil rights over this COVID panic, and even more uncomfortable with how they’ve tried to bully others into compliance.

We’ve come a long way since 1776, but we may have been moving in a circle.

CUSD Board Recall: if every parent whose family has been negatively affected by school closures would sign the petition, it would be a slam dunk

15 Jun

I would still like to remind folks to sign the recall petitions for CUSD board members Kathy Kaiser, Eileen Robinson, Caitlin Dalby and Tom Lando. Chico Parents For In-Person Learning need about 11,000 signatures, and remember, you have to sign a separate petition for each board member. Get a petition at their website here:

I outlined the reasons I was supporting this recall in a recent letter to the editor. I read the agenda and reports for the May 19 board meeting at which the four in question voted to dole out $2.5 million in bonuses to district employees who never missed a paycheck during the shut down. I got my teachers’ average salary figure right from the horse’s mouth – the agenda reports. But a few local union gadflies are trying to talk me down in letters to the ER. They should really read the reports first, available here:

Here’s my response, below, sent to the ER today. I wish those of you who have already signed the petition would write to the ER and outline the reasons you are supporting the recall.

Letter writers have questioned a figure I cited in a recent letter to the editor.

I got the average pay for a CUSD teacher from the 5/19/21 Chico Unified board agenda report. The lowest fulltime Chico teacher’s salary I saw on Transparent California was over $69,000/year. Benefits packages ranged from about $10,000 to $35,000. The average also includes a wide variety of miscellaneous part-time positions paid less than $1,000/year.

Chico teachers are very well compensated. They were fully paid through the school closures, even receiving bonuses, while working parents scrambled to find child care or stayed home from work, left to navigate the unemployment system.

My main concern with the CUSD board is that four of five positions are held by union members. While I agree that school employees are entitled to fair representation, that is a lopsided. Especially when you consider that members have a paid union arbitrator to represent them before the board. In fact, at least two of the four vote on contracts that directly benefit them. That is an obvious conflict of interest.

These four have kept the schools closed – dereliction of duty, the shameful failure to fulfill one’s obligations. These people are abusing a position of trust, with no regard for the community. They’ve ignored the concerns of parents and the welfare of the children.

If every parent whose family has been negatively affected by the school closures signed the petitions, it would be a slam dunk.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Butte County board puts the pensions first, the Camp Fire victims, well, we’ll get around to them later…

12 Jun

Been Busy, Busy, Busy this week, and I really appreciate this note from Dave Howell about a phone call he made to his district stupe regarding the Camp Fire money the Butte County Board just dumped into the pension fund.

I spoke to Supervisor Kimmelshue this week. The good news is that he confirmed there will be no POB. The bad news is the supervisors are going to use $20 million from the PG&E settlement to “smooth out” the pension liability. I told him that amount won’t even pay for the increase in the liability from the prior fiscal year which was $30 million. I told him they were just dumping money into a black hole because the pensions are unsustainable. The day of reckoning will come and $20 million sure won’t change that. And besides, why should settlement money for a horrific tragedy like that go to pension liability?

He listened to all the points I’ve made here before so I appreciated that. But if I am being completely honest, I don’t think he’s going to do anything that will make a difference in reforming the pensions and OPEB liability. I hope he proves me wrong and I will even help him do so. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

He asked me twice what it would take for me to support a tax increase. I tried to explain that taxes are already too high in California and taking more money from people is a bad idea, especially in a county with a 21% poverty rate before COVID. And it’s clear the supervisors will continue to dump more of our money down the pension and OPEB black hole. Who the Hell wants to pay more taxes for that?

To be honest, I don’t see any political leadership capable of solving this county’s financial problems which include over half a billion dollars in bonded debt AND the inexorably growing monstrous pension and OPEB liability. If I had to bet, I would bet the supervisors will go the route of higher taxes and more debt to appease the special interests and kick the financial problems down the road as far as they can. And why not? That’s what all the other politicians in this state have done and continue to do. None of them have solved the most important financial problems local governments face and that’s not going to change.

Thanks Dave, Kimmelshue sounds clueless. I emailed the board and had a response from Dist 1 Supervisor Bill Connolly that was equally frustrating. They seem to think, as does Sean Morgan, that their job is just to smooth over the voters, assure them that staff has everything under control… just lay back and think of Mother England, and take your screwing.

My district stupe Tami Ritter did not even bother to respond to my email. Bill was the only one who bothered. He tried to tell me they need to pay the pensions to attract quality employees. I asked him when we’d see some quality employees, and that was the end of the conversation.

These people are egocentric asses who don’t have the qualifications to do the job they have run for, they are at the complete mercy of $taff. To think, Connolly, a roofing contractor by trade, actually had the balls of brass to run for county assessor against longtime assessor’s office employee Diane Brown. He’d helped raise the salary to new heights, and then he tried to take the job. His daddy must have been a glass maker, cause I can see right through that old redneck.

I’ll remind people, that if you are unhappy with the jobs your elected officials do, it’s your responsibility to call them on it. Write those emails, write letters to the editor, and send any response you get here and I will run it.

And I’d like to thank Dave Howell again for taking the time to do this.

Butte County to use PG&E settlement funds to pay down employee pension deficit

5 Jun

I wrote to the county board of supervisors yesterday, sending them the links regarding Howard Jarvis Taxpayers litigating over the issue of Pension Obligation Bonds and their letter to the city of Chico. Meanwhile, Dave Howell got on the phone and called his district rep, Todd Kimmelshue, to get more information. Hold onto your seat, I was shocked to find out how the county plans to handle it’s pension deficit.

I spoke with Kimmelshue’s aid and was told the supervisors have decided not to pursue a POB. And apparently they made that decision not because a POB is very risky and an all around bad idea, but because they plan to dump money from the PG&E settlement into the pension UAL, so they don’t think a POB is “necessary” at this time. (They’re also going to use the money to go on a bureaucrat hiring spree but that’s another ridiculous story.)

Why should money from PG&E for the fire settlement go to the pensions? That money should go to fix the damage done by the fire and if it’s already been fixed it should go to prevent future fires or to fix the terrible roads or why not give it back to the county’s taxpayers who are also PG&E rate payers? After all, WHERE do they think PG&E got the money they have to give to the county? They got it from us, the rate payers!

But they are going to throw this money down the pension rat hole, just like they do with the money for the roads and so many other necessities.

Why oh why do we have such awful politicians???

I can’t answer that, but I will say, the politicians are only as good as we demand. Whenever I tell people to write to their elected officials I worry that nothing we do matters. But we’ve seen otherwise. So sit down and write those emails, make those phone calls. This is WRONG. People were burned out of their homes, some murdered, by a corporation’s blatant incompetence and greed, and now county staffers will dance on the graves of the dead while sharing the blood money among themselves?

I don’t think that’s over-dramatic.

GUESS WHAT! Howard Jarvis Taxpayers have sent a CEASE AND DESIST letter to Chico Staff, “advising against filing a validation action for a $146 million pension obligation bond…”

4 Jun

I got good news from council member Kami Denlay last night, I been too busy to post it.

Hello Juanita!
Since our previous emails we received a cease and desist style letter from HJTA. They outlined all of the same issues you have mentioned, as well as those issues I echoed at the April 26th meeting (violations of State Constitution, etc).
The City’s movement on the bonds is now temporarily halted until council is briefed on the legal letter from HJTA. I look forward to hearing how my colleagues respond now that our concerns have been further validated by this new HJTA action.

Talk about a gobstopper.

Ms. Denlay also sent me a screen shot of the letter, but I can’t cut and paste from it and have no link to refer to. So I’ll just give you some highlights.

This letter advises against filing a validation action for a $146 million pension obligation bond indebting the city of Chico’s Taxpayers without their approval.” They cite a resolution “to that effect” passed in April of this year. They also cite the California Constitution, as did Denlay when she voted NO to Staff’s proposal.

“No county (city etc) shall incur any indebtedness or liability … without the assent of two-thirds of the voters…”

Please note, they don’t say “tax” or “bond”, they say “debt” and “liability”. This leads me to question the whole “Unfunded Actuarial Liability” that Staff is always telling us is the responsibility of the taxpayers. Bull shit!

Hey, you know what else – the county has been pursuing a Pension Obligation Bond as well. Excuse me while I send a copy of this letter to the Board of Supervisors.

Thank goodness for recalls, but in future, let’s be more careful who we elect in the first place

2 Jun

I didn’t use to be a recall supporter. I always felt they were not worth the expense, let’s just do it at election time. But the COVID shut down has been a giant disaster, perpetuated by people who misused their power for their own agendas. For some it was just the absolute power of being able to run other people’s lives and dictate their behaviors. I think that would be Gavin Newsom, I think he just let it all go to his giant Joker-shaped head. Others saw gain to be made, and they took it. That would be the unions. So I wrote this letter to the ER in support of the recall that is being run by Chico Parents for In Person Learning. Here’s the link to their website:

And here are locations in Chico where you can sign:

Rosedale Elementary School
100 Oak Street, Chico

M-W-F from 10:00AM to 10:45AM

Hobby Lobby
1919 E 20th Street, Chico

M-W-F from 12:30PM to 2:30PM

I hope you’ll sign too, and if you get a chance, send a letter to the Enterprise Record. Here’s mine.

After I saw Chico Unified School Board members Elaine Robinson, Kathy Kaiser, Tom Lando and Kaitlyn Dalby hand out nearly $2.5 million in bonuses to Chico school employees who refused to return to the classroom, I decided to support the recall effort led by Chico Parents for In Person Learning. This board majority perpetuated the school closure without regard for our community.

Public employees are very generously compensated based on the assumption that they go above and beyond to serve the community. According to board agenda reports, the average Chico teacher makes $106,732/year, plus benefits, including health insurance for themselves and their families.

The median family income in Chico is $43,000/year. Those families can’t miss a paycheck. Suddenly finding their children locked out of school is an immediate disaster. Leave them home alone? Use up your sick days hoping for good news? Affordable daycare was hard enough to find before COVID. Quit your job and go on welfare? All this is crippling our economy.

To think that families all over town are under that kind of strain while school district employees are enjoying full pay, benefits, and now a bonus. As a friend of mine put it, this is a stab to the kidney for working parents.

All four board members are also members of public unions. That has been a problem with the school board in past years – members whose allegiance to the union overrode their judgement.

Lesson learned – in future, let’s pay more attention to who we’re electing.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Please write to Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and tell them we need their help with this illegal bond Staff is trying to shove down our throats

2 Jun

Well, the cat is out of the bag – the city of Chico is trying to foist an illegal bond on us without taking it to the ballot. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has sued both the state of California and the SoCal town of Simi Valley and stopped them in their tracks, Simi Valley council voting unanimously to rescind their POB just last year.

Other towns have gone through with these bonds, because nobody stood in their way.

So yesterday I wrote a note to the HJTA office in Sacramento – that’s I simply told them my city is taking a POB to court for approval, and asked them how I can stop that.

And I’m asking others to do same. Please write a quick email to HJTA and tell them you would like more information about stopping your city from issuing Pension Obligation Bonds. I’m afraid my little email won’t catch their attention. These people are busy with a lot of requests, we have to get on their radar if we want to get help with this illegal tax.

I also wrote an email to District 3 council member Kami Denlay, because she was the only council member to vote no when Staff brought this bond forward, telling me she thought it should go before the voters. I sent her links to the story about Simi Valley. I asked her what court Staff is taking the bond to. She responded,

I will double check the details for you this evening. When I previously asked about this I was told that legal counsel was taking it to court to check our legal ability to pursue the bond. I did not receive a lot of detail, so I will be happy to follow up and let you know what information I get.

Her response makes me suspicious – Staff is not telling council everything. They never told council about the Simi Valley case. Staff tends to treat council like children, manipulating them by omitting important facts and just plain lying. They have repeatedly denied this is a tax, denied that it will result in new debt, and refused to discuss other avenues for paying down the UAL.

I had almost given up on my own district rep, Kasey Reynolds, but I will also send this information along to her. Please send your rep an email, send them the link to the Simi Valley story. We need to nip this mess in the bud before it ends up costing any more money. They’ve already shelled out for consultants and put a $$$$ of Staff time into it. Let’s stop it before it goes any further. Here’s the Simi Valley story,