City Manager Mark Orme and Mayor Andrew Coolidge are trying to mislead the public regarding the sales tax measure

12 Mar

In a recent news conference, Chico Mayor Andrew Coolidge chastised those of us who are unhappy with the direction the city has taken. “You have the choice to be a critic and complain about the issues we face, or roll up your sleeves, get to work and help make Chico a better place to live,” he said, adding, “Progress was never made by complaining.”

Roll up your sleeves? Who the hell does this total jackass think he’s talking to?

Coolidge likes to avoid the real issues that are causing people to criticize. He won’t admit, Chicoans have plenty to complain about. City manager Mark Orme boasts that, “The City of Chico says it’s in the best financial shape it has been in recent years,” the next minute telling Chicoans they won’t get the usual basic services if they don’t pass the upcoming sales tax increase measure. “It’s an opportunity for the public to make a determination of what they want their future to look like. I’m not going to advocate one side or the other, but what I am going to be is honest about the constraints on current resources.”

Despite his dire warnings, Orme continues to make sure he and the rest of staff get their pensions, funneling millions of dollars from city departments – money intended for services and infrastructure – into the Pension Stabilization Trust. Every year that Orme has told us they have deferred maintenance because they can’t afford to fix the streets or clean the parks, or guarantee our safety in our own homes, he’s paid increasing amounts toward the pension deficit. We’re under “constraints” but we are still able to dump $11.5 million into the pensions? Apparently Mr. Orme gets to decide who is under “constraints” and who is not.

I also believe Orme is publicly insinuating that the measure is a specific tax. According to NSPR, “Orme, however, made indications during Thursday’s address that investments in police and fire departments, road maintenance, homelessness solutions and small business support would be made.”

Council members and staff have said repeatedly that this measure will only require a simple 51% majority to pass. That means – Sean Morgan has reminded people – if they state any intended expenditures for this money, it has to be a 2/3’s majority measure, that would be dedicated to those specific expenditures. Morgan has made it clear that he, for one, wants a general measure that can be spent as council and staff determine among themselves.

Let’s all remember, council and staff wanted a Pension Obligation Bond until Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association made it very clear that such a bond had to go before the voters, and threatened to sue the city of Chico if any such bond was passed without voter approval. And it would have had to get 2/3’s approval.

When Yuba County used specific promises to pass a simple majority tax measure, they were sued by HJTA and two Yuba County citizens. The first judge decided against the county, but the county used taxpayer money to take it to a higher court, where their appeal was approved. Very unfortunate for the taxpayers of Yuba County.

Let’s not make the same mistake in Chico. We have to make sure the voters get the straight facts. Don’t depend on Mark Orme to “educate” anybody.

I’d also discourage people from participating in the online survey – they can screw your submission any way they want. That’s why your responses are not made public on the site, you don’t even know if they are read by anyone but Staff.

Instead, notify your district representative, and include the entire council in your email, that you will not support this tax.

11 Responses to “City Manager Mark Orme and Mayor Andrew Coolidge are trying to mislead the public regarding the sales tax measure”

  1. Scott Rushing March 12, 2022 at 6:02 pm #

    Hi Juanita: I just wonder if the Chico City Council, their lawyers, and other employees, (my gripe is mainly against law enforcement), enjoy inflicting pain upon others? Doesn’t It seem that their decisions appear reckless and without consideration for the citizens? Regards- Scott R.

    • Juanita Sumner March 13, 2022 at 7:32 am #

      I think the cops need better training, I don’t think they are well equipped to deal with drug intoxication or mental illlness. I also think we need to better teach our children – cops are human beings, with human weaknesses. We all have to be responsible for our behavior, and teach our kids to do same.

      • Addison Winslow March 16, 2022 at 3:38 pm #

        “City manager Mark Orme boasts that, ‘The City of Chico says it’s in the best financial shape it has been in recent years,’ the next minute telling Chicoans they won’t get the usual basic services if they don’t pass the upcoming sales tax increase measure.”

        This is so on point. Obviously the financial foundation of the city is not sound, or new developments would be paying for themselves, not stretching us further thin: This was the first I heard of the intention to build a new police station. Wasn’t the current one built with an RDA loan less than 20 years ago?

      • Juanita Sumner March 17, 2022 at 8:32 am #

        Thanks for commenting.

        I can’t agree that developments don’t pay for themselves, that is a really complicated conversation. You have to ask yourself – what should developer fees be used for? Sewer, sidewalks, drainage, streets? At one meeting about 5 years back, local developers complained that the developer fees weren’t being used for streets, etc, but siphoned off to the pensions. In fact, back in the 90’s, 5 developers successfully sued the city of Chico on the grounds that their fees were not being used appropriately – they won, and were awarded $500,000 in rebates.

        It’s the pensions that are stretching us thin. It’s the pensions that are raising the cost of housing. It’s the pensions that have lead to unsafe streets and rundown parks.

        I can’t remember the details on the police station. But, the city used RDA funding to put new streets in that Fogarty subdivision there at Hwy 32 and Bruce, a little over $6 million.

      • Addison Winslow March 17, 2022 at 12:03 pm #

        My understanding is that the impact fees, like you said, have been used to fund normal city operations, which leads the city to push for new big developments to keep that cycle going. But the impact fees are one-time. Not the property taxes, nor sales taxes cover the maintenance obligations of the pavement, sewer, stormwater facilities, etc. So it’s not that the impact fees (or our taxes) aren’t steep enough, but the development pattern is too inefficient. Big yards, big garages are a low investment, quick return strategy for developers, but the liability the city picks up is the same as a higher value development (or greater, like in the case of the super-wide streets in Belevere Heights as opposed to Doe Mill; the need to widen Bruce Road to accomodate near 100% daily car commuting). Downtown, the Nord/West Sac area, and Meriam Park are generating surpluses for the city, but the preponderance of low-density suburbs and box stores has the city woefully unable to sustianably care for our infrastructure.

      • Juanita Sumner March 17, 2022 at 1:19 pm #

        That’s right, the impact fees are one-time, but should be used on the site where they are collected – they aren’t. Yes, the property taxes are permanent, and they increase. Those go into the General Fund to be used at Staff/Council’s direction.

        I don’t agree with your take on big yard and big garages – the housing market should be driven by the buyers. What we need to make housing more affordable around here is BETTER JOBS.

        You will get rid of cars when public transportation answers the needs of the people – which is never going to happen.

        I don’t mean to be flip, but you realize, Chico developers are on the hook for public transportation projects that don’t even benefit Chico, and of course they pass those costs on to home buyers, who of course get nothing for that.

      • Juanita Sumner March 18, 2022 at 2:25 pm #

        Hey, here’s something you might be interested in – the city wants to raise sewer rates, as much as triple, at least double. Do you pay sewer in your living situation? A lot of renters don’t – meaning, RENT IS ABOUT TO GO UP. Here’s the agenda for the Finance Committee meeting, there will also be a presentation from CalWater, who will be collecting the sewer bill.

      • Addison Winslow March 19, 2022 at 1:10 pm #

        If the buyers were driving the form of development than I think we’d be getting another Doe Mill or Meriam Park. Higher value per square foot of house but more importantly per square foot of sewer and roadway. If it wasn’t likeable, why else would dense, walkable neighborhoods be gentrifying everywhere you go? The landowners propose land use maps and the city mostly just accepts them. It’s illegal to build like downtown or Meriam Park on the vast majority of city land.

        Aesthetics are one thing, environmental well-being another, but car-dependent suburbs are financial disasters. Cheap subdivisions make everyone happy at the start, including the city picking up the fees, but in the long-term it generates an impovershed land base and the city ends up having to seek new sources of revenue or defund the older areas of the city. In our case we’re doing both!

        Of course you’re right about the pension issue too, but in case you think I’m exagerrating the importance of land use, there are some really good maps showing this is the case in every city:

      • Juanita Sumner March 20, 2022 at 6:53 am #

        Nobody likes Doe Mill, and Meriam Park is a tenement in the making. Shoving people in like that will never work, people need space. Are they even “affordable”? I know my working son can’t afford any of the new shit they are putting in, all crammed in like sardines.

        I know you grew up in Doe Mill, cause I knew your neighbors. They didn’t have enough play space for their kids – normal kids need space – so they parked their cars on the street so their kids could play in their driveway. Nobody in Doe Mill gave up their cars – the last time I visited that little neighborhood, the streets were so clogged – how would the fire department get in there, in the case of a house fire? How about an ambulance?

        The video you sent tells me that you assume that every city is the same, generic, dump along the freeway. Chico’s not “any city”, at least, it wasn’t when I was a kid. It was a neat little town of less than 50,000, and then the city people started moving here to get out of the crowding and traffic. Y voila – which means, they told us this was going to happen.

        You might look into the studies of Dr. Edwin Hall, on proxemics. Human beings can’t be shoved into storage like things – a back wall of your house, serving as your neighbor’s fence? Living like that makes people not only mentally but physically ill. I know, Having to put up with people at your job all day, at the grocery store, the schoolyard – when I go home, I don’t need my neighbor kid bouncing a basketball off my bedroom wall.

        Addison, you need to ask yourself, who are you to judge my lifestyle or tell me how to live beyond the laws we have all agreed to? I don’t shit in the creek, or leave my garbage in the park, or stick a needle in my arm on a school yard. I don’t masturbate on the street corner in front of anybody’s kids. So don’t try to tell me I’m not entitled to the lifestyle of my choosing. You are proposing FASCISM.

  2. Dave March 17, 2022 at 10:22 am #

    Also, this city government has by far more revenue flowing in than ever before due record tax receipts in addition to all the Cares Act and other COVID related federal money.

    Yet with record revenue what do they do? Try to raise our taxes, not to mention giving us a revenue losing ice rink instead of fixing the streets. This is beyond absurd and proves no matter how much they get it will never be enough.

    • Juanita Sumner March 17, 2022 at 10:58 am #

      And I’ll remind everybody – I attended a meeting at which a consultant told the finance committee that his firm had used a skating rink to get a small Tahoe town to pass a sales tax increase. It’s just so blatant, so obvious, I can’t believe the voters will be duped by this measure. We’ll see.

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