Archive | December, 2021

Will Chico Chamber endorse the city’s sales tax increase measure? Ask Chamber CEO Mark Chrisman.

30 Dec

At last, a somewhat more objective piece on the Chico sales tax measure council is working to place on the ballot (Spring ’22?) Of course it’s from the Redding news station.

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/chico-moves-forward-with-1-sales-tax-ballot-measure-business-leader-responds

The reporter didn’t go to a Chico city Staffer, they didn’t just stop some half drunk dooffass on the street, they went to the Chico Chamber of Commerce. Why is that important? First of all, the Chamber represents businesses all over town who will be affected by this increase. And, under past director Katie Simmons, goaded on by members Tom Lando and Marc Francis, they not only endorsed a sales tax increase but made an analysis of exactly where the money should go. In their January 2018 “Special Report,” the chamber recommended “$3 million for Chico PD, $90 million for roads, and $130 million for pensions…”

Here’s the blog post I wrote about it, but the report is no longer available at that link.

What the chamber describes is a “special” tax requiring 2/3’s approval by the voters.

Yes, the Chamber was describing a “special” tax. Then Katie Simmons left to become the disaster relief coordinator in Paradise. Things have changed at the Chamber, under interim director and local businessman Mark Chrisman. While I get the idea Chrisman believes the city needs to put a sales tax increase on the ballot, he’d be more inclined to support a special tax.

“First of all, it’s a general sales tax, not a special sales tax. The general tax goes into the general fund which means it’s at the hands of the city council, how they want to spend the money,” says Chrisman during a phone interview with KRCR Wednesday. “There are two sides to this coin. There’s the consumer side paying the 1%, but then there’s the other side: how are those funds going to be used?”

Good questions, citizen Chrisman. A general tax can be spent on anything, and judging from the conversation at that May 2021 Finance Committee meeting, it’s going to the pensions.

The city of Chico knows they can’t get 2/3’s approval. At that May 2021 Finance Committee meeting, Sean Morgan made it clear he does not want to pursue a special tax. Since this meeting was closed to the public, available only on Zoom, I’ll have to quote the minutes:

“Mayor Coolidge stated we should include parks. Chair Morgan stated that if we say parks, police, and fire, that’s a special tax.”

Morgan also asked staff to look into a Transient Occupancy, or Bed Tax increase. He and Coolidge also want bond(s) attached to the tax, and Morgan wants a Pension Obligation Bond. That’s so funny, because in his preceeding report, Manager Orme denies any such desire.

We keep hearing this is going to pensions and that is a false argument to be had.” A false argument? Really? Keep reading. Remember, these are the minutes as transcribed by the clerk and approved by every member of the committee and the city manager before they were posted.

Chair Morgan asked if staff could bring a recommendation to Council that includes a potential sales tax, show the difference in revenue based upon a half or one cent tax, and he is not opposed to a TOT increase as long as it’s not crazy. The POB was before mass inflation and the rates have changed. He suggested using a pie chart that shows how this would all flow together.

Services Director Scott Dowell was glad to oblige. “Director Dowell stated we’ll need more than $50 million, the City would need more like $100 million to pull that off. If we move forward on the pension obligation bonds, how will one affect the other?

So there they were, plotting to convince us that the revenue increase would go toward infrastructure and public safety, all the while intending to use the revenues to secure a Pension Obligation Bond. The committee directed Staff to bring back another report answering those questions at either the July or August meeting. Both were closed to the public, available only on Zoom. When I tried to participate in a Zoom meeting, my computer cut out constantly, and despite messages and phone calls to the clerk asking for help, the meeting continued without me. That’s how much they care about “transparency”.

When the POB came before council, little Kami Denlay informed the group that it’s illegal to foist a tax, including a bond, without the consent of the voters. The rest of council ignored her. Fortunately I wasn’t the only member of the community that was watching, and I wasn’t the only person who reported council and Staff’s intentions to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. HJTA immediately responded with a Cease and Desist order, meaning, if the city moved forward, they would sue.

The city’s response was to pull all discussions regarding the POB from the public. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for the clerk to post the minutes for the subsequent Finance Committee meetings. Yeah, that’s right, closed meetings, minutes over 6 months behind. Want to know why? Because there’s really only one staffer who transcribes ALL the minutes, for every meeting. And then she has to have then approved by every member of whichever council, committee, commission or task force, and let then redact, or remove, any comment they made that they don’t want the public to see. In fact, you see nobody is quoted completely, you get the clerk’s summary of what was said. They list members of the public who address the group, but not what they say. In fact, Dave complained that the Zoom videos were not made available for the public, and the clerk simply responded that she is not legally required to do so! I heard that exchange, but it was not included in the minutes.

Knowing fully well there is a back log (there have been lawsuits over lack of minutes), you’d think Orme would hire more employees for the clerk’s office. Instead, he gave Clerk Debbie Presson a raise and then hired $100,000+ “Public Information Officer” Linda Gizzy. If you study up on the duties of the “clerk of the record,” you’ll find, she’s supposed to be our Public Information Officer. She’s supposed to insure that the people have all the information, instead, it looks like she’s doing just the opposite.

So I wrote to the clerk, asking her when the minutes would be available. I’ve been enjoying a somewhat friendly relationship with the clerk’s office, but I sure as hell haven’t had a response to that inquiry. So much for Sunshine! Oh yeah, Orme talked about that too, let me know if you agree:

City Manager Mark Orme stated because of due diligence of staff and the policy makers, we now have more transparency and trust of the public.

Crime is most certainly on the rise in Chico – ask your gas station attendant

22 Dec

For years now crime has been on the rise in Chico, and city “leaders” have repeatedly tried to deny that fact while also telling us we need to give the cops more money, higher salaries, and “defined benefits” for all their sacrifice. Our city Staff and Council also refuse to believe that the Shelter Crisis Designation they just reinstituted has anything to do with it.

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/Chico-sees-a-rise-in-gas-station-robberies-575958411.html

Just after 6 a.m. the station in Chico located next to the Co-Op was robbed and the suspect got away. This same gas station was robbed exactly one week ago at just after 1 a.m. where the suspect also got away.

Simply put, we have criminals moving freely all over town while you can’t get a cop when you need one. It’s the funniest thing – the more we increase the cop budget, the more cops we hire, the more crime we seem to get. It reminds me of Looney Tunes – Elmer Fudd sticks his gun in the knot hole and it comes out pointed at him.

Chico Police tell Action News Now, they typically see an increase in crime during the holiday season and say their patrol teams are aware of these robberies and are working to keep adequate officers staffed for patrols to protect the community. They believe this gas station was targeted twice because it has late hours and a lot of foot traffic in general due to it being in the heart of downtown.

Here we see that the police are aware of the problem but don’t post a cop to watch the station? Are they saying this business shouldn’t exist, or at least that they shouldn’t try to provide service 24 hours a day? Cause that would mean the cops would have to provide service 24 hours a day? Maybe folks living and doing business Downtown should expect to shelter in place after dark?

This is insubordination on the part of Chico PD. They’ve allowed Downtown Chico to become a crime zone. And council just keeps handing then raises and hiring new positions. Cops use criminals to keep the rest of us in line, keep us paying our taxes.

Well, it’s raining, and not donuts. You know what that means for the rinky-dink.

City hiring a tax measure team to pass their sales tax increase

19 Dec

On this week’s agenda:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=374

REVENUE MEASURE STRATEGY CONSULTANT
City staff released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to obtain submissions from qualified firms to advise on developing appropriate ballot language for a proposed one (1) percent sales tax measure to appear on the November 2022 general election. The RFP further requested the consultant assist on educating voters on the revenue measure and on developing materials and conducting outreach efforts to ensure citizens receive objective and accurate information related to the revenue ballot measure. (Report – Mark Orme, City Manager)


Recommendation: The City Manager is requesting authorization to enter into a professional services agreement with CliffordMoss to develop appropriate ballot language and create materials and outreach efforts to ensure citizens receive objective and accurate information related to the November 2022 revenue ballot measure.

But the meeting is closed for the COVID shut down. The best way to contact these people is in their mailbox. Find that here:

https://chico.ca.us/city-council-directory

Come on, are you just going to sit there while they use your money to propagandize the public into passing a tax measure on you?

US Attorney reports that PG&E is not doing the ordered work on their electrical infrastructure

19 Dec

Were you left without power for days this week? Even though you pay you bill without fail? Well here’s why:

PG&E has not been doing the work they were ordered to do after the Camp Fire

This sentence is confusing: “The company also noted that the monitor does not suspect that the company’s leaders are honest in their efforts to rectify the situation.

If the monitor suspects the company is being dishonest, I agree. We have a property east of town, and we’ve had three different contractors from PG&E evaluate and mark trees on and adjacent to our property since the Camp Fire, asking us to open our gate so they can come in and cut the trees. We’ve showed up on the appointed day, left the gate open all day, and nobody has ever showed up. Same goes for trees marked by the same contractors all up and down the roads around our property, trees they could have taken at any time without asking for anybody to open a gate.

I sent pictures to Mike Wolcott and his former star reporter Natalie Hansen, and they never even responded, even though Hansen was doing a fluff piece on the subject.

Reading through this article, it doesn’t look like anybody is taking this too seriously, including the judge that ordered the work. So, this summer, we lost Greenville, and we almost lost Chester. Whole towns that have been inhabited by generations of tax and rate-paying citizens, just GONE.

It’s the same old story – the outrage isn’t big enough yet. How many more towns will they burn before people really get mad?

Orme’s tax measure will raise the cost of everything in town, while the problem is clearly Downtown

17 Dec

I happened to read the ER the other day, when Mike Wolcott ran a swishy push piece about Chico City Manager Mark Orme. I’ll tell you what – Orme has been hearing his own name around town lately, and not just from me, and it’s pissing him off. So he called Wolcott, who is a stooge, and asked him, could he write something nice, and oh yeah, don’t forget to mention the tax measure…

November 2022 may seem like a long time away, but there is a lot going on in the city of Chico government right now. A city tax is currently being planned to be on the ballet next year. Meet the person in charge of running the city of Chico day-to-day: Mark Orme.

This is called “rebranding,” or changing a bad reputation to a good reputation. I learned about this tactic watching the various consultants who have conga-lined through the city of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District. If there were polls on city leadership, Orme’s ratings would be dropping about as fast as Joe Biden’s. Let’s face it – look around you, and ask yourself, how much has the city deteriorated since Orme rode into town in 2013? How much have the pensions gone up? How come Orme got a 457 Plan (special 401K for public workers)?

Somebody had to answer this obvious push piece, so I wrote a letter to the ER. It’s time to push back, and keep pushing, until Orme gets the message – GET OUT!

Chico City manager Mark Orme is correct, the state’s CalPERS program is dysfunctional and puts a strain on the city’s finances. It’s frustrating that the only solution Orme offers is raise taxes.

How about opting out of CalPERS? According to CalPERS, someone would need to accept responsibility “for sufficient funding to continue paying the retirement and death benefits paid and for future benefits”. If employees would agree to pay their own pension deficit, take more rational pensions, and pay more reasonable shares of the cost, we could all be done with CalPERS.

Employees pay 9-15% for pensions of 70-90% of salary, creating the deficit. Just look at the math. But, employees do not pay toward the deficit – the taxpayers are left on the hook for an increasing amount every year. Last year Staff directed $11.5 million from city infrastructure and services toward “extra” payments to CalPERS. If they won’t agree to ditch CalPERS, why not ask employees to share in the “extra” payments?

According to Transparent California, Mark Orme’s personal pension deficit is about $70,000. At a base salary of $207,000/year, Orme could easily afford to pay his own pension deficit and more than his current 9% share.

The ER reporter forgot to ask Orme why he didn’t recommend a 2/3’s ballot measure – here’s why – a simple majority measure isn’t restricted to public safety, streets or fixing the sewer plant. The additional revenues would most certainly disappear down the pension hole.

If you are unhappy with the current leadership and direction of the city of Chico, remember this – city councils come and go, but the city manager stays in place, making the same recommendations no matter who’s on the dais. Write your letters to council, the paper, let them know how you feel about Orme’s tax measure.

NOTE: Here’s a union mouthpiece from Glenn County who decided to chime in on Newsbreak App:

Jeremy Lazarus16h ago – This writer knows nothing about PERS or the City’s budget. The current pensions are absolute trash and account for a very small amount of yearly budget. If employees are expecting to pay more without a wage increase then it is no longer a benefit and no longer a desirable job. I suppose you’d prefer unqualified workers responsible for the City’s infrastructure.

This is what I’m up against trying to shed some light on city operations and the pensions. As soon as you go up against a tax measure you find yourself up against the unions. When we opposed Measure A, the CARD parcel tax, we were fighting Chico Police Officers Association and the Service Employees International Union, the two biggest public workers unions in town. They put over $60,000 into pushing Measure A, because they knew it was intended to pay down CARD’s pension deficit, and whatever is good for CalPERS, is good for the unions. We beat their asses, sent them crying home to their mamas. And I’m ready to do it again, how about you?

Orme is lying when he says city employees have not received raises since 2013 – management salaries have gone up while worker salaries remain stagnant

9 Dec

Fighting a lying machine like Mark Orme is tough. You know what they say – liars never sleep. Over the last few days, we’ve been hearing about a group of Chico Public Works employees who went before council the other night to expose the disparity of pay in the PW Department. I’ve always noticed that the lower-level workers get paid squat compared to management. Here’s the story from Action News in Chico:

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/City-of-Chico-Public-Works-employees-express-concerns-at-the-City-Council-meeting-tonight-575880811.html

CHICO, Calif. – Dozens of City of Chico Public Works employees were at the City Council meeting tonight sharing their concern with low wages and lack of workers to the council. 

The story quotes one senior worker who makes the usual complaints about losing employees and difficulty in recruiting due to low wages. We’ve all seen the result – just drive around town. So I looked at the secty of state’s website, publicpay.gov, as well as Transparent California. Both sites depend on information given by the agencies, and most agencies aren’t too anxious to hand over this information. So you see some discrepancies, mostly due to how they list the figures. Let’s take a look at Erik Gustafson, who is listed under “Operations and Maintenance Director”, or by his original title, “Public Works Director”.

https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?q=Erik+Gustafson

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/PositionDetail.aspx?employeeid=27693769

On both sites you’ll see that his salary has gone up every year. Contrary to claims made by City Manager Mark Orme. In an interview with Chico Enterprise Record, Orme claimed city employees haven’t had raises for years.

Look at those two sites – they have slightly different figures, but both show a steady increase. According to TC, Gustafson’s salary has gone up every year, from total pay (which includes overtime and holiday pay but not benefits) of $132,623.06 in 2016, to total pay of $144,482.54 in 2019. Public Pay lists his 2020 salary at $147,925.

But look at the “workers” salaries. You need a name to search TC, but here’s the page from publicpay.gov that shows the disparity.

Three “supervisors” in the $90,000 range, then a sudden drop to $68,000/year for the highest paid “senior worker”. Also note the disparity in the benefits packages – hey, guess what, management pays the least contribution at 9% of cost. You also see another problem with Chico – top-heavy management. Two managers? One of those positions was just created by Orme earlier this year. Both making in excess of $100,000 to sit in the office buffing their fingernails? While the guys who drive the heavy equipment and man the shovels are living on less than $70,000/year? In Chico? No. I wasn’t surprised to hear their union rep say they can’t even afford to live in town.

So here’s the rest of that piece from Chico Action News. There’s another article in the ER, linked above. I wish the workers would point out what I just pointed out, but you know, they’re afraid to push too hard, might get fired. But Orme is obviously trying to use workers’ complaints to insinuate that the taxpayers are the problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Orme is behind this grandstanding. Don’t buy it.

“Ultimately, we wanted to point out to them that we have a serious situation with our wages and we’re trying to gain their support and trying to do that through educating them on what we do and what we bring to the city, what we bring to the table. Hopefully they got the message,” said senior maintenance worker James Erven. 

Erven tells Action News Now they have lost 12 people in the last four years to higher paying jobs and have several people who are constantly looking for new positions.

“We have positions that starting wage is beneath minimum wage, that’s a problem. We have a hard time recruiting qualified candidates,” said Erven

There was not an agenda item topic regarding this issue, but public works employees shared these issues to the council during the business on the floor portion of the meeting. 

Three employees shared their concerns, then they all left the meeting. City Council heard their concerns. Our reporter reached out to council members, but was unable to get a statement from them regarding these issues

The area director for the union representing public works, Del Mallory tells me these employees have not received a pay raise in 11 – 12 years and several can’t afford to live in the city. He says they are finally putting their foot down and addressing this issue.

“We finally reached this breaking point where folks are fed up and they’re ready to fight. That’s why we’re here because we need to engage our city council into this conversation so they know that we’re serious and that we need them to bargain with us in good faith,” said Mallory. 

He says their next bargaining meeting is tomorrow, and that they are determined to get what they need.

“We will bargain with the intent to get a deal, but we are willing to do whatever it takes to get a good deal,” said Mallory. 

City Council also directed the City Attorney’s Office to analyze the cannabis ordinance, so they can revisit the topic in a future meeting. The council was also introduced to ARDA Demographics tonight as their representative said there will be two public hearings regarding redistricting before any maps are created.

The city is running a tax blitz, and it’s all about the pensions

8 Dec

Staff’s comment to my inquiry about the rental tax bothers me – “The recommendations will likely come back to Council in January.” So I wrote a letter to the editor about it. I think it’s important to remind people – the city is running a tax blitz, and it’s all about the pensions.

I was glad to hear Chico Internal Affairs Committee directed Staff to stop pursuing the rental tax on the Dec 6 agenda. But a staffer told me, “The recommendations will likely come back to Council in January.”

Staff has repeatedly recommended a “gross receipts” tax on both businesses and all rentals within the city limits, as well as an annual registry fee. According to the staff report, “The City could consider removing the unit exemption entirely requiring even renters of single family homes to pay the tax. Furthermore, the definition could be changed to residential and non-residential property, picking up any property rental within the City.”

Staff’s only concern is to “raise additional local funds”. They are desperate for revenues to cover their pension deficit, created by unrealistic employee contributions. Council has already approved a general sales tax increase for the 2022 ballot. A general tax measure has no restrictions on spending. The mayor has suggested sales tax revenues would be used to secure bonds. The city has already attempted to secure a Pension Obligation Bond without the approval of the voters.

They’re determined to ignore the obvious solution – instead of raising the price of everything all over town, Staff needs to pay more realistic shares toward their generous pensions, or accept smaller pensions. Council instead grants salaries over $100,000/year and 70-90% pensions, with employee shares only 9 – 15%, the taxpayers on the hook for increasing payments. Let’s change the structure of our payroll from Defined Benefits to Defined Contributions.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Staff report: IA Committee votes to direct staff to stop pursuing the rental tax. For now.

7 Dec

I emailed the clerk’s office about yesterday’s Internal Affairs meeting and staffer Stina Cooley got back to me with good news – “The Committee voted to keep the recommendation for the Rental Registry and Sex Trafficking Ordinance the same, so the recommendation to Council will be to direct staff to stop pursuing those items.”

But she added, “The recommendations will likely come back to Council in January.”

I’m not going to bother Stina with the obvious question (why and who would bring it back?) because she’s under a ton of work, and Staff time is expensive. But it would be interesting to know who is behind this rental registry scam. That would take a read back to October 2020, when it was first introduced in the IA committee.

As a landlady, this rental registry is of special interest to me, but really, it’s just part of a bigger push to raise our local taxes to pay the pensions. So, I’ll dig that out and start looking at it.

Here’s the original report for the “rental registry” – still waiting to hear from Staff as to the outcome of yesterday’s discussion

7 Dec

Unfortunately, I didn’t make that meeting yesterday. Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I was able to get the report for the May 2021 meeting at which the decision was made not to further discuss this item.

https://chico.ca.us/sites/main/files/file-attachments/05-17-21_special_internal_affairs_agenda_packet.pdf?1620860475

Wow, what a gobstopper of a report. I’ll be looking this over today, and I’m looking forward to talking about it here later.

I’m also looking forward to hearing from Staffer Stina Cooley, who will hopefully tell me what the Internal Affairs Committee decided to do with this item.

Rent is going UP in Chico – meet your new landlord, Mark Orme

6 Dec

Today the Internal Affairs Committee is going to discuss the rental tax that was shelved earlier this year. This tax includes a “rental registry” (and a fee) and a tax on proceeds. One provision that ruffled my tenants – they want to inspect the rentals. I don’t think that’s appropriate – are they going to start inspecting owner-occupied housing? Read your constitution – they’re not allowed to treat citizens differently based on their housing situation.

Here’s another thing – the agenda does not include a report. There’s a reference to the May 2021 meeting at which it was first discussed, but I had to email staff to ask them where I could find that meeting agenda or minutes. I’ll get back with that.

https://chico.ca.us/sites/main/files/file-attachments/12-06-21_internal_affairs_agenda_packet_reduced.pdf?1638489659

Some years back, when the state proposed a sales tax increase, local manufacturer Ken Grossman said he would simply add that tax to every bottle of beer he sold. And then some. I’ll say, landlords will do same. So, it’s not really a “rent tax,” it’s a “renter tax”.

This tax, part of a bigger “business tax”, is just part of the tax blitz being brought forward by Staffers desperate to fund their outrageous pensions. According to the constitution, any tax should be on the ballot for the voters to decide, but Staff is making all the preparations to institute these taxes without voter approval. Let them know what you think – write letters to the editor, to your district rep, and to the council at large.

That meeting takes place today at 4pm, with members (newly appointed) Chief O’Brien, Dist 7 Deepika Tandon, and my rep Kasey Reynolds in the Chair. I will try to make it, because getting information out of these people is like pulling teeth.