Archive | June, 2022

Letter to the Editor: Kim Nott says we HAVE TO pay, I say we DON’T!

27 Jun

I don’t subscribe to the Enterprise Record anymore, cause I’m a tight-ass bitch, and even 99 cents spent on bad rubbish is 99 cents too much. But, yeah, it’s the only real public forum we have – you don’t have to sign up for Faceblob, or Snitter – and at least Wolcott prints my letters. So I keep sendin’ ’em.

I got a response to a letter I sent a couple of months ago (?), from a guy named Kim Nott. He says we have to pay “the obligation”. I say, no, we don’t!

Kim Nott wrote, “Nobody is happy about our ever-increasing obligation to CalPERS.  But given the legal constraints guided by the ‘California Rule’ it is just that.  An obligation.”

The “California Rule”, was drafted by the unions and passed by the legislature without any input from the taxpayers. But Nott continues ” don’t be under any illusion that we can do anything at all but pay the bill CalPERS sends out.”

If City employees expect to get the generous pensions and benefits they demand, they need to make more reasonable contributions.. City council and management negotiate the contracts, and the deal with CalPERS, not the taxpayers.

The city is hiring a new city manager, but “sunshining” of salary and benefits prior to the approval of the contract is not required by any state law or by any internal policy of the City.  The City of Chico “sunshine” requirements, implemented by council in 2008, apply only to our union groups.

So, “sunshine” does not apply to the taxpayers, nor do we have any say as to salary or benefits, but we’re “obligated” to pay?

Nott concludes, “if you don’t like our roads now you would be more displeased when maintenance money comes out of the budget to pay for the CalPERS obligation.”

Staff has willfully deferred maintenance for years, taking money out of every city fund to pay their CalPERS debt. But the deficit continues to grow due to overgenerous salaries and benefits.

Any new revenues would just be spit on the griddle.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Letter to the Editor: In this economic atmosphere, the city of Chico is proposing a regressive tax. They’re spending taxpayer money to push it. Let’s stop it now – contact council and tell them this dud is DOOOOOMED!

21 Jun

KRCR News reports, “The Consumer Price Index shows food prices have gone up over 10 percent in the past year… products like dairy, fish, meat and cereal are at an even higher rate.”

No, it wasn’t just our imagination. One viewer comments, “Seniors and the disabled on very fixed incomes are also struggling. Our rent is going up almost $100 next month… gas goes up and up, PG&E goes up, food prices go up…”

Everyone feels the squeeze of higher utility rates, food, household goods, and gas prices, but the lower your income, the more disproportionate share of your budget goes to bare necessities. It is troubling, in this economic atmosphere, that the City of Chico would propose a regressive tax increase.

You have to ask yourself what you’re going to get in return. Other social media comments reflect distrust in council spending decisions – “I do not trust that the money will be spent wisely… it will be up to the city council (not us) to decide (again, in a closed meeting) where they want it to be spent…” True, this regressive tax increase is forever, it’s not dedicated to any specific use, and any future council could spend the revenues any way they please.

Do you ever wonder if your voice matters? Well, here’s an opportunity to be heard – contact council now and tell them this measure is doomed, and they should not spend any more taxpayer money putting it on the ballot or selling it to the voters.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Shock treatment – it’s dumb decisions on the part of council that raise our cost of living while lowering our quality of life

19 Jun

Yesterday I noticed the price of the pack of chicken I always buy at Winco has gone up. It was about $1.89/pound the last time I bought it, now it’s $2.28. Let’s do the math. First I’ll try to do it in my head, because that’s good for your brain.

Okay, subtract 1.89 from 2.28 = 39 cents. I’m going to check that on my calculator before I get mad. Hmmm. We divide .39 by 1.89 and we get a 20% increase. Wow, now I’m kinda pissed.

It’s a daily shock treatment. We go grocery shopping, get the bill for our vehicle registration, open a utility bill, go to the gas station – it’s like that great old Stephen King movie, Cat’s Eye.

I’ll tell you what – I might pay an extra sales tax to see Gavin Newsom and members of the Democratic legislature in this box.

Our own mayor and city council have put us in that box. They tax our utilities, put franchise taxes on our services, raise the cost of housing with their new developer fees, and squeeze local businesses for stuff like “improvement districts”.

And the double-whammy is that we get nothing for it. Crime is at an all time high even though the cops get over half the budget. We just got snookered into instituting a “homeless” shelter camp that, as Rob Berry twitters, is already inadequate because the city will not require that both beds in each box are occupied. As soon as the 177 pallets are “full”, the city will have to allow the transients to camp in our parks and open spaces again – and predate on our neighborhoods when we’re asleep and at work. And of course that will lead to more demands for money for the cops.

It’s dumb decisions on the part of council that not only raise our cost of living, but lower our quality of living. Look at an agenda, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

I saw an item in this week’s agenda that caught my eye – Deepika Tandon has requested a conversation about the Downtown trash receptacles. I still remember when the city underwent a “remodel” of Downtown, bulbing sidewalks – essentially inviting pedestrians to become human traffic calming devices. They also spent a bunch of money on those big, ugly concrete trash receptacles. The transients, who essentially own Downtown Chico after 10pm, had vandalized the old metal buckets, and the consultant who sold the city the concrete cans convinced them that concrete could stand up to the abuse of the bums.

No, they didn’t. They were vandalized, literally to pieces, until the city removed them. In fact, as my husband and I toured our out-of-town relatives through Thursday night market, shortly after the cans had been purchased, my husband’s cousin and I watched a filthy little perv completely destroy one of those cans with a bike chain.

So, let’s watch this conversation, and I hope some of you will chime in on Chico Engaged to let them know what you think of their ridiculous spending decisions. New garbage cans for Downtown – have you looked at the street in front of your house lately?

Sometimes I wonder if we should even have a city council. Every new council seems to repeat the mistakes of the past, like Tandon, they don’t do their homework. I think we might be better off voting on staff hires, but then I realize – that would be, the same idiot voters who elect these councils we’ve had, who have made these idiot decisions. I always wonder, how much homework does the average Chicoan do at election time?

This election is different. The idiots are demanding a one-cent sales tax increase to carry on their idiocy. This is a permanent increase in our cost of living, and again, you have to ask yourself, FOR WHAT? When was the last time you remember a council who didn’t make stupid spending decisions?

NO, and tell them that now, while they can still change course on this stupid tax measure.

It’s not too late to stop the city of Chico from putting their tax dud on the ballot – write to council, write to the papers, tell your friends – Chicoans have had enough, and we’re not taking any more

15 Jun

The other day I was washing dishes and I heard something on the morning news that made me put down my dish brush and reach for the remote – average electric cost across the country have gone up 12% over the last few years. In fact, I’ve seen the rate increase notices in my PG&E bills, at least one a year, sometimes several “rate cases” in one notice. Lately it’s been because of the fines they’ve been levied over various fires they’ve started and towns they’ve burned down due to neglect of their infrastructure.

When I dove into this issue further, I found this Cal Matters article from last year –

“California’s electricity prices are among the highest in the country, new research says, and those costs are falling disproportionately on a customer base that’s already struggling to pay their bills.

“PG&E customers pay about 80% more per kilowatt-hour than the national average, according to a study by the energy institute at UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School…”

Cal Water has been nudging their rates up too. The result – dead lawns and dying trees all over Chico. Big trees, that will cost homeowners 10’s of thousands of dollars to remove. I know, because my family paid over $10,000 to have an 80 year old cedar taken out of our front yard after Cal Water’s onerous water rates and threats of fees for watering your yard forced us to stop watering our yard. It’s that, or have an enormous torch standing over your house, waiting for the power lines to fail or the transformer next to your house to blow up. We’ve had three transformers within reach of our house blow up over the last 5 years, with no explanation whatsoever from PG&E.

In fact, they’ve got my neighbor’s line stapled to her huge, dying sequoia tree – in fact, they recently stapled up a new line! I can’t believe they still use trees as power poles, right in town, but it’s actually a subject of debate.

The utility companies are just like the city of Chico – service actually goes down as the rates go up, up, up. And they get no protest from the City of Chico because the city tacks a 5% Utility User’s Tax (UUT, or “local tax”) to your water and PG&E bills. Just because they can, and because it is one of their top revenue mechanisms, bringing in millions every year.

The city also adds “franchise fees” to your trash service. My trash service has gone up 39% since the city instituted the trash tax deal. No, they haven’t done one dollar’s worth of work on the streets in my neighborhood, although, every now and then they come through and pave and paint the bike trail that runs along the freeway. They also regularly tear up the streets for sewer hookups that are badly patched and just contribute to the mess.

This is willful inflation, caused by the city you live in. You get no extra service for this taking, and it adds to the cost of everything. And now they want to ladle on a sales tax increase.

Yes, it falls disproportionately on working class ratepayers, as well as the taxpayer-funded agencies that deal with the low-income and desperately poor. Did you know, the city of Chico pays Utility Tax to itself – just think how much those pallet shelters are going to generate when the temps hit three digits. The Torres Shelter pays UUT, the Jesus Center pays UUT, welfare families pay UUT.

Cal Matters contributor Laurence Du Sault explains “because lower-income residents use only moderately less electricity than higher income households, they end up with a disproportionate share of the burden, according to the study.” A person needs light, warmth, and in a “first world” country like the US, a decent refrigerator to protect their food, and a stove to cook it on. Kids have to have computers to participate in school these days. Of course, PG&E offers low-income programs like CARE and FERA, but these programs are tacked onto everybody’s bill, including low-income customers, before they get their discount.

Yes, the city offers a rebate to those qualifying by their income, but they make it very onerous to collect. You have to provide all your bills, physically, so you either have to pay to mail them in with your application or you have to appear at the Finance Department window between 9 and ? (when staff decides to close the window), Monday through Thursday. Look at the budget reports, less than 1,000 people – and no public or private agencies – apply for this rebate.

The city already adds millions a year to the cost of living, taking your money to feather their pension nest. Year after year our quality of life goes down while expenses go up. Time for council to get a reality check – let them know now, it’s not too late to stop them from putting this dud on the ballot. Write to council, write those letters to the editor, tell your friends, make it loud and clear – Chicoans have had it up to here, and we’re not going to take anymore.

Letter to the editor: This is a general measure, they can’t make promises. We have to look at the record.

13 Jun

One election over, time to get ready for the next one. I hope those of you who are opposed to the city’s sales tax measure will help me get the conversation going. Write those letters to the Enterprise Record, even the News and Review. The city is spending 10’s of thousands in taxpayer money to pump this measure, making promises they can’t keep. It’s up to us to fight their misinformation campaign. Here’s my first letter, and I intend to keep them coming.

On June 7 Chico City Council forwarded their sales tax increase measure to the county clerk for the November ballot. They approved a general one-cent measure, requiring only 50 percent of voters plus one additional voter to raise our sales tax.

Why? Because a general measure is not restricted, going into the General Fund, to be spent at the whim of whomever is on council. They can’t make promises of any kind, can’t promise to fix roads, or hire more safety personnel, because that takes a 2/3’s measure. They know they wouldn’t be able to spend the money as they want with a 2/3’s measure, so they voted unanimously for a general measure.

We have to look at what they’ve been spending money on, and expect more of same. They’ve already allocated part of the General Fund toward the pallet shelter site. Acting city manager Paul Hahn says he expects these costs to increase annually. He also admits that they are far from controlling illegal camping.

However, Hahn says, “the largest financial challenge is increasing contributions to CalPERS retirement benefits.” While streets have gone unmaintained and Bidwell Park and other public areas have sunk into a state of disgrace, staff has made increasing “catch-up” payments to CalPERS – last year $11.7 million, this year over $12 million. Ironically, the deficit just keeps going up – 45% since 2015.

So don’t be fooled by promises, look at the record. Please join Chico Taxpayers Association in opposing another one of council’s poor decisions.

The city of Chico already has their hand in your wallet/purse, and what have you got to show for that? And now they want more sales tax?

11 Jun

About a month ago I realized the city would have to move forward with their sales tax measure, that the deadline was approaching for them to turn it over to the county clerk for the November ballot. My husband reminded me that school would be out soon, with Memorial Day on the horizon, so we decided to take our last swipe at a vacation before the roads became clogged and gas prices went any higher, and before I got distracted with various election issues.

We went up to Portland to see relatives. Oregon is strange country. You drive over the border into the State of Jefferson, and the signs change immediately. Within a mile, “FUCK BIDEN” speaks prominently, in bold, capital letters, from barns, sheds, dead tree stumps – big, professionally made signs, you bet. The Oregonians are willing to spend money declaring their dissatisfaction with the federal government.

Then you get to Portland, where they seem to love the government. They use public transportation, they embrace high-density living, and they pay car registration fees based on the fuel efficiency of their car. To me, that’s like showing a stranger your panties.

I’ll tell you where the Oregonians have the right idea, they are one of only five US states that have NO SALES TAX. (the others being Alaska, Delaware, Montana, and New Hampshire).

I’ll be honest, I have never understood sales tax. To me, it’s a blatant, “in your face because I can... ” TAKING. It’s a shake-down, a racket. We already pay fuel and car taxes for the roads, which are embezzled away to pay for bike trails and trains to nowhere. We already pay developer fees on our homes, and then property taxes, which are directed not only into the pensions but into the pallet shelters, the cooling tents turned shooting galleries, and the constant state of emergency that is created in a town where certain people are not held responsible for their behavior. Pay a sales tax to a government that does nothing to secure your safety or even the safety of the supply chain? That’s a racket, wake the hell up. Why don’t you just go Downtown and give your purse/wallet to the first creep that holds his hand out?

Of course BC opined recently that “If you want perfect streets, perfect parks, top notch City services with free candy for the kids and a well functioning municipal government, you have to have lots of money. That is a tax increase.”

Well, I saw all those things in Portland. I might have to post a blog about the parks I’ve seen there, city parks, gorgeous. Incredibly maintained natural areas, restored forests and marshes. The streets, even in my son’s older, high density neighborhood, are in perfectly good condition – no potholes that void the warranty on your tires. You can walk the length and breadth of the city on safe sidewalks. Portland also has a state-of-the-art sewer system, integrating their old sewer system with new technology.

Free candy for the kids? Well, I don’t know why I’d want that, but what they do there is “food truck courts”. They have solved that problem with restaurants and food trucks, by designating a city-owned parking lot, located away from “brick and mortar” restaurants, for food trucks several nights a week. They’ve furnished tables and a little plaza, family-friendly setting where you can get a cheap meal, hang out with friends, from a different truck every night.

Did you know, Chico City Plaza was set up for food trucks, with electrical outlets and specially-built curbs to pull in the trucks. But it has never been used for that. In fact, the last time I looked, the fee schedule for Downtown Plaza was really onerous. That’s why Chico Farmer’s Market would not locate there, insisting instead on making a pretty behind-closed-doors deal with Chico City staffers to use the city parking lot instead.

BC is arguing an old line – give us the money or it will get worse. The city of Chico has admittedly deferred services and infrastructure maintenance for years, while paying increasing payments to CalPERS. In 2018, the California League of Cities, of which Chico is a long time member, released a report saying, in part, “City pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels, (2) Rising pension costs will require cities to nearly double the percentage of their general fund dollars they pay to CalPERS, and (3) Cities have few options to address growing pension liabilities.

The report first suggested creation of a pension stabilization trust – a fund dedicated to pensions. The next suggestion was a revenue measure. Followed by this dark advice: “Change service delivery methods and levels of certain public services: Many cities have already consolidated and cut local services during the Great Recession and have not been able to restore those service levels. Often, revenue growth from the improved economy has been absorbed by pension costs. The next round of service cuts will be even harder.” In other words, starve the taxpayers for services and they’ll pass your revenue measure.

Since 2018, we’ve seen the institution of two dedicated pension funds, meaning, they can only be used to pay the pension deficit. Those funds are siphoned from every department, ahead of any infrastructural or service needs, just TAKEN. They are used to make the annual “catch-up” payments to CalPERS, which are growing every year, millions of dollars taken from infrastructure, public safety, and every day services like development support

Ever wonder, why is housing getting so expensive when they’re building like crazy? Well, that’s because every few years they raise developer fees, which are essentially a tax, and which drive up the cost of housing, no matter how much you build.

The city of Chico has a lot of taxes you might not know about. The garbage “franchise fee” (trash tax), the cable “franchise fee” (tv tax), PG&E franchise fee (PG&E tax, which does nothing to secure our safety from wild fires). There’s some you might have forgot – look at your utility bills, how much are they shagging you in “local” or “Utility User Tax”? The city raises no protest when Cal Water or PG&E raise rates, because it means MORE UTILITY TAX. There are some I’ve probably forgot here, suffice to say, the city of Chico already has their hand in your wallet/purse, and there you are, being asked for an increase in Sales Tax?

There it was, in last Tuesday’s agenda. Here’s the report:

There’s your homework. Let’s talk about it next time.