Archive | January, 2022

COVID inflation hits the poor hardest – meanwhile, Chico gets ready to increase sewer rates, again…

28 Jan

There’s no question that the massive shutdown in much of the state’s economy, ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom to battle the pandemic, made things worse for the millions of Californians already feeling economic distress.

Yes, the shutdown, not COVID, has been the main source of our miseries in California. In Newsom’s California, the rich got richer, and the poor got poorer.

While most workers in upper-income brackets could adjust by continuing to work from home, Californians in low-wage service sectors such as hotels and restaurants saw their jobs disappear.

California has the highest gas tax in the nation – although, sometimes Pennsylvania edges us by a percentage of a cent. Ironically, both Pennsylvania and California are listed in the bottom 10 as far as roads go. Of course the price of gas affects everything.

Overall, living costs in California and the four other Pacific Rim states are up 8.2% in the last two years, driven by especially sharp jumps in the costs of food, energy and automobile fuel, PPIC calculated.

And not necessarily in that order – the price of gas drives up the cost of food and all other commodities. And they’ve admitted, as we buy more, they raise the prices, so it’s obviously manipulated with the blessing of the government. Think ENRON SCANDAL.

https://www.investopedia.com/updates/enron-scandal-summary/

What is the city of Chico doing to help the poor? Well, at present they sit in closed meetings discussing tax increases. The Finance Committee meeting at which they discussed their plans to raise sewer fees via such schemes as a “volume tax” or lease/sales of the sewer plant was closed to the public, as admitted by the clerk. The rest of the meeting was continued to a special meeting scheduled for this coming Monday (1/31/22). They held their discussion of the Community Grant Block Funding awards, but went right ahead and discussed the sewer taxes in a closed meeting. I can’t believe people don’t see that as a blatant move to keep us from knowing what is actually going on with city finances.

Here’s a blast from the past – an article from the Humboldt Times Standard, about a 2011 sewer increase – 22%. Read the article – it sounds like the city didn’t really inform the public, and people were not aware that they could protest the rate hike formally.

Sorensen and Schwab are no longer on council, but nothing much has changed in how council operates. And that would be Staff.

Clerk admitted members of the public were not able to sign into today’s Finance Committee meeting, but it went on anyway

26 Jan

On Saturday (1/22) I posted the letter I wrote to the Enterprise Record. Wolcott ran it Monday. I have complained here many times about trying to participate in closed committee meetings via Zoom, and I’ve made city staff and council members aware that I was not able to sign in or even watch meetings. I’ve also complained here and asked staff many times to make recordings of the meetings available to the public – they simply respond that they are not required to do so. They are required by law to post meeting minutes, but do so at their own speed. As of Christmas they were 6 months behind, so I complained about that. The clerk came back from Christmas vacation and posted the missing minutes in less than two days, without any explanation as to why those minutes weren’t posted within two days after the meetings.

My district rep Kasey Reynolds told me that the meetings would remain closed for the duration of Newsom’s mask mandate, February 15. Instead of holding important business – including various tax increases – until the public could be included, they scheduled an 8am Finance Committee meeting for today. Frankly, I’ve given up on trying to sign in. I have work to do, I can’t sit around all morning being held out of public meetings by the forehead. I was surprised to receive a notice from the clerk’s office about a half hour into the meeting.

We are having difficulties with Zoom this morning.  Please try the link again.

I received this message while I was at the grocery store. My grocery store does not enforce the mask mandate. Neither does the home improvement store at which I purchased a new washing machine this morning. I think that’s ironic – businesses I patronize are not supporting the mandate, why is the city of Chico still holding citizens out of meetings?

Today the agenda included discussion of a sewer tax. The city wants to tax the public according to how much water they use, water we not only already pay for, but water on which we pay a 5% Utility Users Tax.

And then there’s this scheme – read carefully, they’re basically issuing bonds on your toilet, another attempt at taxation without public approval:

For Option 1, The utility issues bonds secured by net revenues of the utility to pay the “sales” price. The General Fund receives an upfront cash payment from the utility. Alternatively, the City can do “seller financing”, where the City’s General Fund owns a note payable by the utility over time for the purchase price of the sale. In either the scenario, the utility is generating income for the General Fund, over and above what can normally be done under Proposition 218.
If the “sales” price is paid entirely upfront, and if the publicly offered bonds used to finance the
sale were sold on a tax exempt basis, then the proceeds of the sale/bond issue must be used by the City for public improvements. If the “sales” price is paid over time through “seller” financing, then the annual payments can be used by the City for any lawful purpose.

Read it again. They want to sell the sewer plant to themselves, and then issue bonds to pay themselves back? They put the money in the General Fund, and then it can be used for anything, and that’s going to be the pensions.

Read more here:

https://chico.ca.us/sites/main/files/file-attachments/1.26.22_fc_agenda_packet.pdf?1642784160

Mayor Andrew Coolidge and council member Sean Morgan are on the committee, Morgan is the chair. These guys are already under recall. Let them know how you feel about them planning to raise our taxes in meetings they have closed to the public.

andrew.coolidge@chicoca.gov

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov

All the sudden, everybody’s DOING THEIR JOBS! Is there a tax increase on the horizon?

24 Jan

Reading various local news sources, I see Chico PD are attempting to convince us that they are taking a “tough stance” on crime. A recent special tax force on retail robberies has made the news. A patient observer has to ask, “Just now? Now that the city is pursuing a sales tax measure?”

We’ve sat through 5 years of a growing anarchy in our town, a madness has swept the streets while city management have sat by wringing their hands. For years they claimed they couldn’t arrest people caught with stolen merchandise, caught in the act of shoplifting, caught in people’s homes in the middle of the night. City Public Works Director Eric Gustafson told me people who illegally camp in Bidwell Park have “4th and 14th amendment rights”. And they told us the jail won’t hold them. Now they are all the sudden going to switch gears? I smell something wrong here.

Dan Walters oftentimes seems to be thinking what I’m thinking. He sees this as a statewide pattern, coming straight from the stinking head of the stinking fish, Gavin Newsom.

It is amusing — and a little pathetic — to see California’s liberal politicians slide to the right in response to an upsurge in crime.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is leading the unsubtle rhetorical shift from criminal justice reform —i.e. reducing punishment for those who transgress — to demanding crackdowns on criminals”

As in Chico, they are responding to crime sprees reported during the holiday shopping season – the old “smash and grab”. In Chico it was more like simple looting, the perpetrators simply filled their bags with merchandise as helpless employees cowered nearby.

No, this doesn’t look good to customers, who broke new records this year for online shopping. According to CNBC and other sources, many Americans just “sat out” the shopping season this year, and over 60% of consumers did their Christmas shopping online in 2021.

Apparently, this freaked out both Newsom and the mayor of San Francisco.

A week before Christmas, with retail stores seeing a wave of smash-andgrab robberies and cities reeling from record levels of homicide, Newsom unveiled what he called a “Real Public Safety Plan” that “focuses on new investments that will bolster local law enforcement response, ensure prosecutors hold perpetrators accountable and get guns and drugs off our streets.”

“A few days before his announcement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed did a two-step of her own. Clearly worried that the wave of store invasion robberies would discourage tourists and Christmas shoppers, Breed pledged to end “the reign of criminals who are destroying our city” by becoming “less tolerant” of what she called “bullsh*t.” Breed also declared a state of emergency in the city’s Tenderloin district due to surging street crime.

And the city of Chico is worried too. Worried that they won’t be able to pass their sales tax increase measure! So, just look at the news – suddenly Chico PD is ENFORCING THE LAW!

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/chico-police-conducting-retail-theft-operations-to-curtail-shoplifting

Compare their current attitude to that of a year ago. While Chief Mike Madden refused to arrest transients for camping in the park, breaking into homes, or harassing business owners and customers, he personally threatened three women with imprisonment for attending a city council meeting.

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/chico-police-searching-for-3-women-involved-in-tuesdays-council-meeting-disruption

So, let’s ask ourselves, what’s behind this new attitude? Yeah, they want their sales tax increase, so they can put more of OUR money toward THEIR pension deficit.

City staff reports not everybody has adequate internet participate in remote meetings, but Council continues to close the meetings anyway – all the while discussing ways to raise our taxes

22 Jan

In the early 2000’s, the phone company came through our mid-Chico neighborhood, replacing the phone lines. They were out there for about two weeks, our service was interrupted, and we were able to chat with them about what was going on. The senior technician told me, “people all over this town are paying for internet, but they’re not getting it.” He said the phone lines were over 50 years old, and starting to crumble. He said we were lucky to get phone service.

Well, now that he had mentioned it, we realized – since we had moved into that house in 2001, we’d immediately found that we got better reception for our phone in the front yard. We also noticed that many of our neighbors would stand in their front yards, talking on their cell phones. It was an “a-HA!” moment.

We were new to internet, it hadn’t occurred to us – our internet would be out for days at a time, and we just figured that was par for the course.

Here we are, 2022, and it hasn’t changed much. We have better phone service, but our internet is still sketchy, we’ve had to learn to turn devices on and off to reconnect. I found out how weak it really is when I tried to participate in Zoom meetings after the city closed meetings to the public in 2020. I just couldn’t get into the meetings a lot of the time, and while staff was sympathetic, they couldn’t help me – they don’t run the internet.

When I tried to “attend” a Finance Committee meeting last year, I was unable to get in. I called the clerk on my phone as instructed, but neither she nor the IT guy could get me in. When they informed committee members via email (which is funny, they could get my emails but I couldn’t get into the meeting), Randall Stone was the only member who seemed concerned. Meanwhile, Sean Morgan observed, “she must have poor internet...” – as if that was my fault?

Fast forward to Mark Orme’s scheme to sell us internet service. Orme is planning to use COVID relief money to get into the internet business – $4.8 million – telling us he can offer it at a more affordable rate. While I don’t understand the mechanics of this proposal, it’s very clear – staff and council know we don’t all have equal access, but they keep closing the meetings and telling us we can “participate” via Zoom.

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/news/local/chico-city-council-unanimously-votes-to-approve-the-interim-broadband-master-plan-moving-closer-to/article_adcd2f6a-8a18-52e2-bd9b-bbb1665c40a2.html

According to the city’s consultant ($$$$), there’s not only gaps in service, it’s based on how much you can pay. So they are shutting out people who could least afford all the taxes they are bringing up in their closed meetings.

“There are gaps in affordability in Chico and there are gaps in service availability meaning that it is not ubiquitous. There are different pricings and different availabilities in different areas of town based on the infrastructure available,” said EntryPoint Networks Solution Services Director Bruce Patterson.

That’s right, “based on the infrastructure available…” So yes, we’ve been paying for service we don’t get, and with Staff’s knowledge.

Patterson says the average person pays per megabit is around 70 cents but says he’s seen cities using this same model that people pay as little as 3 cents per megabit.

And here finance director Scott Dowell admits those of us who don’t have good internet are “at a disadvantage…” This isn’t what they said when I was struggling to get into that meeting.

“You are at a disadvantage if you do not have a speedy, reliable internet service. We’re almost shifting the concept that, shouldn’t we treat internet service as a utility that everyone should have access to at a reasonable price?” says Dowell during a phone interview with KRCR Tuesday morning.

I’m fed up with the closed meetings. When I complained to my district rep, Kasey Reynolds, she just shrugged it off. “We discussed meetings last night, we will be having the next two by zoom (while the Governor has indoor mask mandate still) then returning to in person meetings. Trust me I would rather be in person too i hate zoom!

She has obviously heard the consultant’s report regarding the state of our internet infrastructure and service, but she unapologetically tells me that meetings will remain closed for another month, while they put the tax measure on the ballot. Having hired a consultant with taxpayer money already, in closed meetings. I’d like to see the screen door bust her right across the ass next November, but I don’t have the money to run against her, I’m hoping some good candidate will step forward. We’ll see.

So I did what I usually do, I wrote a letter to the editor.

As the city of Chico uses taxpayer money to pursue a sales tax increase measure, discusses a consumption-based sewer tax, and anticipates a state-wide rental tax, they continue to work in meetings closed to the public. Staff and council claim the meetings are available on Zoom, even while acknowledging that internet service in Chico is not equitable.

According to the city’s consultant, “There are gaps in affordability in Chico and there are gaps in service availability meaning that it is not ubiquitous… based on the infrastructure available.”

When I tried to participate in a morning Finance Committee meeting via Zoom last year, I made it clear to Staff and committee members that I was not able to sign into the meeting, it kept cutting out. Sean Morgan observed, “she must have poor internet.” But the meeting went on anyway.

Council and Staff are well aware that Chicoans do not have equal access to internet, but they continue to close meetings to the public. Furthermore, committee meetings, even though it is possible, are not recorded for further viewing. When one member of the public asked about this, the clerk informed him that is not required. That is council’s decision.

Furthermore, council and committee members are allowed to review and redact anything they do not want in the minutes, keeping the minutes held up for months at a time.

Taxation without representation – the quandary of a populace that is required by law to pay taxes but has no say in the matter.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

Chico City Staff (Orme) is duping the taxpayers into paying a lot more of the pensions than they are telling us

17 Jan

I was cleaning my computer files and found this report from a January 2018 Council agenda. I’ve contacted Jamie Cannon in the city Human Resouces Department and asked her to direct me to a more recent report with current figures, I’ll post any response I get from her.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=280&meta_id=57592

This is an old report but it shows how the city’s (taxpayers’) contribution GOES UP AUTOMATICALLY EVERY YEAR, with no input from the taxpayers, while any increase in employee share has to be bargained and approved by the employees.

This report also shows that we pay ALL OF THE UNFUNDED LIABILITY, WHICH MEANS, WE’RE PAYING MORE SHARE THAN IS REPORTED IN THE “REGULAR” PAYMENTS. They don’t include the UAL when they figure shares, they exclude it and just leave the taxpayers to pick it up. The whooooooole thing!

Tomorrow night council will consider asking employees to pay part of the city’s payroll share – 3 – 6%. But no mention of what a consultant told the Finance Committee in September 2020 – “each year the city makes two types of payments to CalPERS – the ‘normal cost’ or ‘payroll’, and the ‘extra’ payments toward the Unfunded Actuarial Liability (UAL)…”

https://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=79891

Look at the city’s share of the cost, and compare it to the employee shares, and then join me in demanding that the employees pay not only bigger shares toward the payroll share but pay the same share of the UAL.

Chico Staff and Council using the COnVID scam to shut the public out of meetings – meanwhile, they’re using OUR money to hire a tax measure consultant

14 Jan

Another COVID shut down – are you getting sick of it yet? Being told to wear TWO MASKS? Being told to vax-vax-vax, then BOOSTER? Then mask anyway? Get OUT!

Don’t worry, while we’re sitting around wringing our hands, Rand Paul is kicking the shit out of COVID.

Here Paul takes Fauci on over his fascist “take down” tactic – using his $420,000 salary, to “take down any scientists who disagree with him.” Paul reads directly from emails between Fauci and friends. Fauci protests like a teenager, “you just attack me...” But, as Paul asserts, Fauci’s own email trail confirms it. Hearing his own words, Fauci just keeps protesting that Paul is out to get him. “You keep distorting the truth!” protests Fauci, as Paul reads verbatim the private emails between Fauci and other “scientists”. Fauci claims this is a personal attack – wow, just like the personal attacks he initiated against doctors from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford?

What a world we are living in. Yes, politicians are using COVID for political gain. And as a power tool, they just like to screw people!

Right now, Chico City Council is using taxpayer money like a power tool, to hire a consultant to screw a sales tax increase up our collective ass. And they’re doing it in closed meetings, under cover of COnVID. I’m going to go back to calling it “COnVID” because that’s what it is – a big CON job, a SCAM, a FLEECING of the American public. With no real science behind it, Chico City Council used hysterical calls for reinstitution of the mandates to shut down “public” meetings, oh gee, just as they are hiring a tax consultant?

Here’s a good morning stretch exercise – put both hands back there on your ass. Find your tailbone. Run your finger up from there – that’s your backbone. Learn to use it, and write to your council now, tell them to get their hands out of your purse.

Mark Orme’s sales tax increase measure: With salaries well in excess of $100,000/year, the people who really make and implement these decisions are well-insulated from any negative impacts. In fact, they directly benefit from any increase in taxes

6 Jan

Here’s another letter writer who does not support the city’s sales tax increase measure. From the Chico Enterprise Record:

Don’t trust this council with more money

As a current taxpayer in Chico,, I do not support the proposed sales tax put forth by the city council’s conservatives. They already can’t manage the current city budget, what makes them think they can take on more responsibility? For example, millions of dollars are spent on Chico PD “overtime” pay and for Chico Firefighter’s “disability claims” right before they retire. They need to do a better job of examining loopholes and the exploitation of city funds by these groups.

This city does not need more money: what we need are people who know how to manage city funds in ways that actually support the community and address issues such as homelessness, poverty, climate change, etc. — Alicia Trider, Chico CA

I’m so glad this person is familiar with the police and fire contracts. People need to read this stuff, we are on the hook for it. The cop and fire contracts are very generous, I’ve written here about it many times. Here are a couple of posts from last year that proved very enlightening:

CTO = “compensated time off”
Look at the calisthenics these people go through to spike their last year’s earnings and, subsequently, their pensions.

I don’t know if Trider actually read the contracts, as I have many times, but if she did, she’d find all kinds of stuff that just raises the cost of public safety for no other reason than PURE GREED.

Trider goes on to list her priorities, which put her at 180 degrees from previous letter writers. So, this sales tax measure has already raised hackles on both sides of the aisle, as I expected. The skating rink also raised hackles on both sides of the aisle, as did using taxpayer money to hire a consultant to push the measure. So far, Staff and Council seem to be putting their foot in their own doo-doo at every turn. In fact, I’d say, Council keeps stepping in Mark Orme’s doo-doo.

A tax increase is a negative for everybody – business owners and consumers are connected at the hip. Businesses need healthy consumers, and consumers need healthy businesses. Raising taxes eats people’s “disposable income,” and that means less money to spend to support local businesses. I’m not threatening to leave – think you’re gonna get rid of me that easily? I’ll just take my business elsewhere. In 2012, when disgraced ex-city-manager Brian Nakamura and despicable ex-city-manager Tom Lando initiated this conversation, I discovered online shopping, and I love it. I also enjoy a trip to Oregon now and then, where they have NO SALES TAX.

Well, I should say, this measure would be a negative for almost everybody. With salaries well in excess of $100,000/year, the people who really make and implement these decisions are well-insulated from any negative impacts. In fact, they directly benefit from any increase in taxes.

Write to your district rep, include the whole council, ask them to pull out of this dive before it’s too late.

Robert F. Kennedy on the COVID mandates: “Nobody has ever complied their way out of totalitarianism. Every time you comply the demands will get greater and greater.”

3 Jan

I hate to discuss COVID or the mandates because it attracts the biggest creeps to my website, and it’s cost me at least a few regular readers. But I had to post this article by Robert F. Kennedy, son and nephew of two of the biggest Democrats of all time, criticizing the mandates.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: I’m going to tell you these three things that you need to remember in this critical day and age.
1.) Once government acquires a power, it never lets it go voluntarily.
2.) Every power that government acquires, using this pandemic as a pretense, it will ultimately abuse to the maximum effect possible. This is a rule that is as certain as gravity.
3.) Nobody has ever complied their way out of totalitarianism. Every time you comply the demands will get greater and greater.

Let me repeat, a Democrat said this. That surprises me, and gives me some hope of a sane resolution to all of this, because throughout the COVID scam, this country has gone completely partisan. Democrats have been expected to follow the party line, and they’ve been absolutely fascist about it. And if they haven’t stepped up, their creepy fascist friends have subjected them to public humiliation. Suddenly, here’s a Democrat whose family has been held up as liberal icons for my entire life, telling us the Democrats are WRONG.

First of all, what he says is historically true. Look at what 911 did to our rights – you can’t fly on an airplane, or even go into an airport without a special ID. AKA “papers”. Now you have to show papers to go to a restaurant or a movie theater.

Kennedy is right, “We need to resolve here and now that this is the hill we need to die on. ” And the Democrats know he’s right too, because they’ve launched a full-on attack on the long-time entrenched Democrat.

Attacks on Kennedy because he and his wife don’t see eye-to-eye on the issue, articles accusing Kennedy of “propagandism”, etc. What surprised me, were the tabloid style articles coming from longtime media standards like US News, AP, and the LA Times. This is just a hysterical tar-and-feathers party.

I don’t take partisan stands. If the government is wrong, Republican or Democrat, it’s wrong.

If we allow the city’s sales tax measure to pass, the taxpayers will be on the hook for the outrageous pensions and benefits forever

3 Jan

A couple of letter writers weighed in recently on the proposed sales tax increase measure our city manager and council are moving toward the ballot. I don’t want to get too confident, but I’m starting to wonder if this measure will be the slam dunk the city is hoping for.

From the Enterprise Record:

More jobs, no tax increase
Here’s a novel idea. Have Chico’s “less fortunate” get jobs and become self reliant (like the rest of us) and we won’t need a city sales tax increase.— Jeff Saine, Chico

Long time local newscaster and well-known meteorologist Anthony Watts included the measure in his 2022 predictions:

Forecasts for 2022
No. 1: The legislature will pass and Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign an “exit tax” on people leaving the state for a better life. They’ll tax U-Haul, Ryder, Bekins, United Van Lines, etc. on any out-of-state move contract. This will create a black-market for clandestine movers. It will also create a reverse “Grapes of Wrath” effect; people loading up their vehicles and leaving the state to escape the “great depression” of California.


No. 2: State sanctioned theft of electricity becomes the new normal. On Jan. 27, 2022, The CPUC will approve the new NEM3 system that will create the highest solar tax in the country and hugely reduce the bill credit solar customers get for selling electricity back to the grid. It also imposes new fees for the “privilege” of connecting to the grid. NEM3 will pay 25 cents on the dollar per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by home and small business solar owners, where under NEM2 it was 95 cents on the dollar. The result; a huge drop in installed solar on existing homes, and black-market electricians to wire solar to directly power homes instead of the grid.

No. 3: “Climate change” will be blamed for Nos. 1 and 2. Newsom and/or some idiot lawmaker will say “climate change” is the real reason people are leaving the state, and “climate change” is the reason we must steal electricity from your solar panels without fairly compensating homeowners.

No. 4: If it makes the ballot, the proposed 1% sales tax in Chico will fail spectacularly in November. Anthony Watts, Chico

I’m fairly certain this measure will make the ballot, but I’d like to believe it will fail. Now that the city is hiring a consultant to peddle it, it’s up to us to make sure the voters get both sides of the story. Important facts have been left out of the media interpretations of this measure – most important, staff and council members have already talked about using the revenues from this measure to secure bonds, including a Pension Obligation Bond. Bonds are permanent debt. As of now the city has no bond debt. The only real obligation against the city is the pension deficit, and who’s responsible for that is negotiable. If we allow this measure to pass, we’ll be on the hook for the pensions forever.