Archive | November, 2022

Tell your council rep, the election is over – time to get to work

22 Nov

I know I’ve been writing a lot about Downtown lately – well, the other day, my husband and I were actually forced to go Downtown, to deal with our bank. I found out everything I’ve suspected is true.

The first note I’ll make is how dirty the sidewalks are. And it’s not soda, there are dried pee puddles in corners and porticos all over the place. Our bank shares a portico with a popular eatery, there was a huge pee stain right next to the door of the restaurant. Yes, it’s pee, don’t try to bullshit me – just like that huge stain in the lobby of the city chambers. The sidewalks Downtown are sticky with urine and filth, I felt a compulsion to throw away the shoes I was wearing, but opted for an alcohol wipe-down when I got home. This was a Thursday morning, I hate to see what a Saturday or Sunday morning would look like.

We had to make an appointment with our bank staff before the bank opened, because, we were told, they are currently short of staff. I could understand why – who would want to work Downtown? The first thing that comes to my mind is, where do they park? How far and through what do they have to walk to work? Cause after everything opens at 10am you’d be lucky to find a parking spot. I assume they are told by their employers to scout for spots in the adjacent neighborhoods, the neighbors have complained about that for years.

While city staffers try to tell us otherwise, there is a parking shortage Downtown. And not everybody can walk, ride a bike, or afford a taxi/rideshare. We encountered an older lady who lives outside the city limits, but does a lot of business in town – that is so common. Does Chico want to drive away business from people who live on the wrong side of the city limits? Council wants a viable Downtown, but they seem to be choosing alcohol related businesses over general retail. This lady told us, she comes into town as much as an hour ahead of an appointment just to secure a parking place. There she was, walking around, milling in front of various closed businesses, trying to stay two steps ahead of the panhandlers. We were panhandled three times as we waited outside our bank, once within an illegal proximity of the ATM machine.

I also got a good, up close look at the current parklets, and they’re filthy. While proponents claim people “just love outdoor dining,” I can’t imagine enjoying sitting there in a plastic chair, bumping elbows with drinkers, right next to moving cars, smelling the cocktail of exhaust fumes and garbage cans, waving off the flies and the panhandlers … wow, gross.

The last times we ate Downtown we were entertained by transients right outside our windows, and that was bad enough. Outside one restaurant, a woman stood in front of the window, acting as though she was using the window asa looking glass. She stripped naked, replacing her filthy clothes with a freshly-shoplifted dress – tag still hanging. She left her discarded clothes in a heap on the sidewalk and wandered away. At another restaurant. a really dirty man clutching a bundle of rags to his bosom repeatedly rolled across the window at our table, demanding our attention as we tried to enjoy our spendy meal.

I can imagine the entertainment available out on the street. It’s not that I don’t have compassion, but these people are not innocent, they know they are being obnoxious in their behavior. They’re not part of the community, and they don’t want to be part of the community – I believe they are screaming for help. They’re mentally ill, many of them criminally insane, and they need to go to a hospital where they can receive treatment instead of tormenting the rest of the community. I believe we all have a tenuous grip on our mental health, and as a community we need to make progress toward mental health, not allow some people to drag us all down into the nightmare.

Another elephant in the room is the perpetual atmosphere of alcohol and drugs Downtown. Council wants to ignore our historic community drinking problem, allowing bars to move into the streets? When grown men get so drunk they will piss in the street, in front of the doorway of a business, under an ATM machine, that’s just lawlessness. And that’s the atmosphere we have in Downtown Chico after 9 pm. I had to laugh when one bar owned insisted his business is “family friendly”. Yeah? Your 9 year old an alcoholic? Does he piss in the corner of his bedroom and then sleep in it?

Meanwhile, the pavement in front of my house is separated from the base. Years ago, we were told that if we agreed to be incorporated by the city, our neighborhood would receive “better service”. We’ve had one sewer hook-up after another, sloppy patches that turn into serial potholes, the street needs a total resurfacing. We were told the enhanced garbage rates would be spent on the streets in front of our homes, wow, that was another Whopper.

So, yeah, I’m angry about the way Council spends money, and I hear from other angry people all the time. One woman is is a block away from a sewer toll line for which the city has no schedule for completion. Then there’s the residents of Guill Street who have to drive blocks out of their way every day because the city has funding to fix their bridge but has not yet scheduled the repairs.

Tell your council rep the election is over, time to get to work.

Do you agree with Council’s spending priorities?

20 Nov

No, I have not received any response to my complaints about campers in Upper Bidwell Park, and as of Friday, the campers were still in place. I’ll keep you posted.

I just watched a story on the news about Gavin Newsom’s promise for more “homeless” funding if jurisdictions have an aggressive plan to “clean up ‘our’ streets...” I don’t know if more money is a good thing, given the spending habits Downtown – proof that money can get you into Trouble. With a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for Poor House.

On a related note, Friday I saw a story on Ch 12 news saying that three Downtown businesses have shown interest in applying for a total of six permanent parklets. It was a very poorly researched and written story. The reporter didn’t include the cost of the parklets or who will be paying. He admitted to me that he got the story from City of Chico staffers. I attended the meeting – staff reported 7 parklets would cost about $978,000 – that’s over $140,000 per parklet. According to the reporter, these three businesses will only pay $1500/year for the use of two parking spaces each, or $750/parking space/year. The reporter mentioned to me that American Rescue Plan funding will be used for construction, but for some reason he didn’t include that fact in the story. There was no mention of building fees, which are being waved because the city is doing the work. Which raises the question of prevailing wage. None of that was included in the story, included below.

They were just designed to be temporary ways for businesses to still serve people during the pandemic, but The Banshee owner Will Brady says it’s brought a big boom to business... ‘It’s probably 25% more revenue that we’re generating,’ said Brady.”

That is a problem for me. The parklets were intended to offset the affects of a government shut-down, and onerous spacing restrictions for customers. Since the local government had set “emergency” standards that threatened business’ bottom lines, it seemed appropriate at that time to allow these businesses to expand into the public right-of-way. But we’ve already suffered the “emergency” long enough, and it’s time to get back to business as usual. I think it’s going too far when a business owner admits the taxpayers have paid for him to increase his revenues 25% over what they were before the shut down.

I also resent that Brady threatens to lay off staffers if he doesn’t get the parklets. “He has hired even more staff because of that, so not having the parklet would be detrimental. ‘We probably would have to lay off 10 then,’ said Brady. ’10 out of 40 of us who work there would probably have to go and we really didn’t want to do that.‘” Well, since he brought that up, I’ll ask, what kind of jobs does Brady provide? What kind of salaries does he pay? Are his employees able to support themselves without public assistance? Where do they park, or do they sleep on the kitchen floor?

Council has decided to allow interested businesses to apply for permanent parklets with new rules – only two parking spaces per business, and “has to look more appealing than the current concrete or plastic blocks…” Here’s another problem I see – the taxpayers not only paid to rent and install those ugly cement and plastic blocks, they paid for the designs that will be recommended to replace them. And the taxpayers will be paying for the construction. The only payment asked of the business owner is the $750/parking space, per year.

Here’s their ploy – “’The idea is that, for it to be something that looks like it belongs to the city and is part of the beauty of downtown,’ said Downtown Chico Business Association (DCBA) Vice President David Halimi.‘” But not the taxpayers, who will not only be losing parking spaces but will only be allowed to use the parklets if they purchase food or beverages at the restaurants who pay the rent. That is a theft of public property, as far as I’m concerned. What next?

Not only does Halimi claim that lost parking revenues will be offset by the rent paid, he told the reporter “That’s on par with the annual cost businesses with permanent outdoor dining spots have to pay now.” But those businesses, like Crepeville and Tres Hombres, all paid for the fees, design and construction of their outdoor dining areas. And yes, they still pay rent.

Here’s what’s coming – “The city says it wants to see how these permanent parklets look and how much money is brought in, to make this a possible option for more businesses in the future.”

Our city council and staff seem to think American Rescue Plan money is just manna from Heaven, found money, like they just turned over the couch cushions and there it was. I don’t think using public money for the benefit of a handful of people is appropriate. If you agree, contact council and let them know about it.

CHICO, Calif. – Downtown Chico parklets might be here to stay for some businesses. Last month, Chico City Council voted to not extend them past Dec. 1 deadline, but some may become permanent.

The parklets were first introduced during the pandemic after the city announced the local emergency.

They were just designed to be temporary ways for businesses to still serve people during the pandemic, but The Banshee owner Will Brady says it’s brought a big boom to business.

“It’s probably 25% more revenue that we’re generating,” said Brady.

He has hired even more staff because of that, so not having the parklet would be detrimental.

“We probably would have to lay off 10 then,” said Brady. “10 out of 40 of us who work there would probably have to go and we really didn’t want to do that.”

City Council’s decision to not extend the parklets still stands though. The Banshee, Naked Lounge and Duffy’s Tavern are all applying to make their parklet permanent.

The city will work with all the other businesses that still have parklets on a time to help take them down around the Dec. 1 deadline.

There are several rules they’ll have to follow. The parklets have to shrink and can only take up two parking spaces.

“We feel like we can keep three tables that way and we can be full all the time then,” said Brady.

It has to be in front of the business and has to look more appealing than the current concrete or plastic blocks.

“The idea is that, for it to be something that looks like it belongs to the city and is part of the beauty of downtown,” said Downtown Chico Business Association (DCBA) Vice President David Halimi.

The city will meet with each business next week and as long as all the paperwork and design plans are in, they’ll meet in front of city council for the final decision that can come as early as Dec. 20.

If it’s accepted, they’ll get a grant of license letting them keep the modified parklet for $1,500 a year for the two parking spots they’ll be blocking.

“So that just basically offsets the revenue that space would’ve brought to the city,” said Halimi.

That’s on par with the annual cost businesses with permanent outdoor dining spots have to pay now.

The city says parking will still increase throughout Downtown Chico though. The parklets are currently blocking 26 spots and in December, at least 20 of those spots will open back up.

The city says it wants to see how these permanent parklets look and how much money is brought in, to make this a possible option for more businesses in the future.

Illegal campers are climbing higher into Bidwell Park

14 Nov

Above is the remains of a tent and a campsite located within Upper Bidwell Park on a trail above the disc golf course on Hwy 32. Just beyond the tent is a crumpled camp chair. To the lower left of the picture you can see that somebody carefully dug out a spot for the tent. They also amassed a pretty nice pile of fire wood before the recent storm apparently drove them out.

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Just over the ridge from the first camp, along an Upper Park trail, we found this site, seems to be occupied. You can see the tarp shelter, and a hoard of aluminum cans.

UPDATE: I reported these sites to my council rep Kasey Reynolds and City Manager Mark Orme but I haven’t had any response. We’ll see what we see the next time we venture out to this spot.

Yesterday my husband and I decided to get out and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. We headed for Upper Bidwell Park. There are a lot of nice trails off the abandoned section of Humboldt Road that runs along the Peregrine Point Disc Golf Course.

For years now we’ve encountered campers, but yesterday we saw the scenes above – a pretty entrenched campsite that seemed to have been rained out, and another that had been subsequently established just over the ridge. Both sites were carefully placed out of sight of the road, but the first one was sprawled out over the trail, hard to miss.

There was a car with a man sitting in it, parked just below the first camp, along the trail. He was sitting in his car smoking, parked well beyond the boundary of the park. I suspect he is the camper who established at least one of these sites.

This trail is located less than a mile above the Peregrine Point disc golf course, where we once encountered a park ranger who told us the park was closed, and to “get the hell out.” But we regularly see campers in this area, well within the boundaries of the park. I’ve been worried for years, that as they get moved along from one illegal camp to the next, they’re going to move up into the park, and here they are. In 2017, illegal campers started the Stoney Fire, the effects of which you can see in the pictures.

Should I report it or not?

Note to Council: $275,000 for another study, really? You got your tax increase – how about just fixing stuff for a change?

12 Nov

Yes, the election is over, we have a new one-cent sales tax measure – now’s the time to pay attention. You don’t have to be a CPA to see how the city of Chico mismanages money. Here’s a good example – I just sent the editor a letter about it.

A recent discussion about turning Downtown parking spaces into restaurant dining areas brought up some interesting problems.

Staff reported that the original allocation of $300,000 in American Rescue Plan funding would not be sufficient – seven parklets penciled out at over $978,000.

The city having already spent $25,000 on parklet designs, Internal Affairs Committee recommends the remaining $275,000 be used for a parking study. The goal – showing that Downtown has sufficient street parking to allow conversions to parklets, but is still in need of another parking structure – Pretzel Logic 101.

At that point in the conversation, Committee Chair Kasey Reynolds announced that Downtown streets will have to be torn up soon to replace sewer pipes dating from 1908. Remember the Downtown business whose toilet had been mistakenly hooked up to the storm drain, creating a septage pond in Little Chico Creek? I wonder how many other problems are lurking beneath Downtown streets, while council discusses another superficial remodel.

Reynolds also announced, “we have a lot of empty buildings Downtown right now…” Gee, could it be the failing sewers, dilapidated sidewalks, disappearing parking spaces? Remember when the sidewalk in front of Kona’s collapsed, and the city denied responsibility for months? Kona’s moved to Nord Avenue. Sports LTD moved to Safeway Plaza. How many other businesses have left Downtown because of lack of parking and services?

Note to Council: $275,000 for another study, really? You got your tax increase – how about just fixing stuff for a change?

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Spending priorities out of whack: Kasey Reynolds calling for a Downtown parking study on behalf of parklets, while admitting Downtown sewer pipes have not been replaced since 1908

11 Nov

It looks like people are following the parklets discussion so I’ll continue – I actually do have a point to make, I just keep coming to other points on the way. There are so many things about this Downtown Remodel that piss me off I’m having a problem putting my finger on the core issue – spending taxpayer money to prop up floundering businesses just because they’re located Downtown? My street isn’t getting fixed? City screaming poormouth-needs-a-tax while spending money on trendy fads? You pick one.

Yesterday I think I hit it – the sewer pipes Downtown are from 1908, and they’re talking about spending $275,000+ on a parking study. They want to twist the study to show that there is actually more than enough parking Downtown, so they should be able to eliminate more parking spaces to provide parklets for Downtown restaurants and bars.

Downtown streets and sidewalks have gone unmaintained for decades – eons! – while the city has gone about making cosmetic changes that have nothing to do with infrastructure. Yes, Downtown sewer pipes – and water pipes! – date back to the turn of the century, as do sidewalks. Over a hundred years of non-maintenance finally came home to roost in 2013 when popular Downtown sandwich shop Kona’s was summarily closed because the sidewalk in front of the door collapsed.

The business remained closed for two weeks, and then only partially open, while city management postured and flustered and tried to deny responsibility for the problem, even while admitting that sidewalks are city property. The building owner had to pay for fencing to close the sidewalkto prevent passersby from falling in the hole. In April, they were still arguing about who should pay.

The cause was found to be the collapse of an underground brick supporting wall, due to saturation from the adjacent gutter and the watering of street trees. That indicates years of negligence – you know they haven’t used brick supporting walls since horse and buggy days. Just think about that the next time you are walking along a city sidewalk, tripping over concrete shoved up by trees – you gotta wonder what’s going on under the sidewalk too!

Here’s the thing – Kona’s was also a bakery, they supplied bread for sandwich shops all over town, including my standard, Chico Locker. But City of Chico manager, Brian Nakamura, refused to pay for repairs, arguing that the building owner had the liability. Reminder – current city manager Mark Sorensen was on council at the time. When local outrage finally reached a peak, the repairs were made, but I don’t know who finally paid for it.

One thing I know – Kona’s is located on Nord now. Is this why, as Kasey Reynolds noted at Monday’s IA meeting,  “we have a lot of empty buildings Downtown right now…” ? The city is an onerous overlord, charging special fees to locate Downtown, but not necessarily providing the corresponding service.

Another business that left Downtown corridor is Sports Ltd. Owner Matt Smith complained there is not enough parking Downtown, and I’ll agree. I’ll never forget shopping there when we were a young family – we needed bikes for the kids, a cargo box for our car, and other gear. We wanted to Support Local Business! Here’s how it went – we’d park where we could, buy what we needed, and then Matt would stand out on the busy sidewalk with me and my kids and the stuff while my husband went to get the car. That’s okay for young people, I guess, but we sure were glad when the store moved to Safeway Plaza on Mangrove, where we can always find a parking space within sight, no crossing streets with hands full of packages, towing tots by the hand.

Downtown is going through a lot of changes, always trying to stay viable. But over the years, stores like Sports LTD have disappeared, replaced by spendy restaurants, bars – “a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot!“. Downtown does not serve the general population, and the general population should not be on the hook for upgrading these businesses.

The Internal Affairs committee forwarded staff’s recommendation that the $275,000 in American Rescue Planning that has not yet been spent on parklet designs go to a parking study. Staff says this study will be conducted with license plate tracking equipment already on hand, so I’m not how much it will actually cost. Chair Kasey Reynolds seems determined that this study will show the need for ANOTHER parking structure, which will loosen up those pesky street spaces for parklets.

Reynolds sees cars as a problem Downtown, opining that Chicoans have “gotten comfortable driving right up to the front door of a business…” She seems to forget the constant break-ins reported in the existing Downtown parking structure, calling for all of us to chip in on another structure.

Here’s an interesting note – the parking lots at the mall generate property taxes, which are paid by the private property owners. Same for big grocery store owners and Walmart. These shopping centers provide not only free parking but security service. Shopping centers provide a variety of businesses, and drive up convenience. I don’t think council is thinking straight on this one. And as usual, they expect us to foot the bill for their brain farts.

So, excuse me, I don’t see the parking study as important, I think the money should go to audit Downtown sewer and water infrastructure, and the FIX IT. All of it. No more parklets or fancy garbage cans until we get down to the meat and bones of our city. Stop studying and START FIXING!

POST SCRIPT: After I finished this post, my husband reminded me of this recent “mishap”

– a local eatery’s sewer pipe had been mistakenly hooked up to the storm drain, creating a “sewage pond”, and the city inspector didn’t catch that during the cursory inspection? A college class found it during a stream survey. Our town has a serious problem, and it’s gone on for years, because we’ve allowed it. Wake up Chico, before you’re up to your forehead in shit!

In this town that we call Home

10 Nov

I want to finish talking about the parklets discussion because I think it’s a good example of how council and staff do business. At the Monday (11/7) Internal Affairs Committee meeting, the committee (Reynolds, O’Brien and Tandon) approved Option 2 for the parklets plan –

2) Direct staff to analyze downtown parking needs and make a recommendation on whether to expand the Outdoor Café program to include Parklets. Authorize the use of the remaining ARP funding allocated for Parklets to update the City’s parking study and potentially develop a Parklets program

I’m sensing that I’m not the only skeptic – I think they’re getting some outrage from Downtown business owners who are losing parking spaces. Forty-two parking spaces, so far. I’ll guess, given past conversations, that they’re also hearing from residents who are sick of shoppers being pushed out of the Downtown core, taking spaces in the neighborhoods, even blocking alleys and driveways.

Here’s Kasey Reynold’s take on it – “here ‘we’ have gotten comfortable driving right up to the front door of a business…” She opined that people in Chico have “become too comfortable in their cars“. She also announced plans to tear up Downtown streets for new sewer pipes within the next couple of years, and a push for a new parking structure Downtown. She also dropped an interesting fact – vacancies are up Downtown – according to Reynolds, “we have a lot of empty buildings Downtown right now…

No, your street was never mentioned, neither was mine. Entire neighborhoods with failing septic tanks and years old promises of trunk lines were not mentioned either. Neither were the overnight break-ins and other “quality of life” issues. In a town of a million complaints, these people are spending American Rescue Money on a Downtown revival.

Committee member O’Brien: “we’re all supportive of Downtown and what makes it vibrant!”

The prevailing attitude seems to be that Downtown is the only important business corridor in Chico, while in fact, not one Downtown business makes the list of top sales tax contributors. When you get off the freeway entering Chico, you’re not Downtown, you’re looking at hobo camps. When you enter from the north or south of town you’re in two of the most neglected, poorly planned parts of Chico. But as far as council and staff are concerned, their only area of interest is the “U” District, “The Entertainment District”, aka, Downtown Chico. And they’re determined to get parklets, even though only four businesses have come forward with plans to use them, and neighboring businesses are seeing them as a financial problem.

I grew up here folks, and Downtown Chico has never been so vibrant as it was in the 1960’s, when Highway 99 came right through town. Ever since the movement for Downtown to become “a destination, not a drive-thru…” I’ve watched them dump money into trendy projects that never came to any good end. The bulbing of sidewalks that places the pedestrian in the street as a traffic calming measure. The cement garbage cans that have been beaten to crap by the transients. Bike trails placed in the street as an experiment, then removed, all at the taxpayers’ expense. Almost half a million for a new City Hall, and now a total remodeling of the third floor of the Administration Building. And at Monday’s meeting, Kasey Reynolds announced that the sewer pipes Downtown are from 1908 and within the next couple of years all of Downtown is going to be torn up for new sewer pipes.

If you voted for Measure H, I hope you will soon feel like the dummass you are. More on the parklets next time, in This Old Shithole We Call Home.

Wow – $978,000 for seven “parklets”

9 Nov

Well, as of the early returns, it looks might Measure H has squeaked by. If that’s the truth, then we have our work cut out for us – making sure they spend the revenues wisely. Like Mr. Jones says, you got to learn to take an ass-whooping, so you can live to fight another day. And like Big Worm says, when you mess with my money, you toyin’ with my emotions.

That’s why I attend the day meetings Downtown, that’s where all the action is. Monday the Internal Affairs Committee revisited “parklets”, or “streetlets” – which is apparently a legal distinction. More on that later. I take a lot of notes at these meetings, and when I read back over them, I’m often re-shocked at what these people say, how laissez-faire and let them eat cake they are in regards to the problems of everyday taxpayers.

Council and staff had set aside $300,000 in American Rescue Plan Funding, having received over $20 million for instituting the COVID shut-down. I’ll remind you – Chico is still under a state of emergency, until December 1, having finally cancelled the emergency order at a recent meeting.

Let’s harken back to those early dark days of the COVID shutdown. Let’s remember what this forced shut-down did to Chico. In the early days, city manager Mark Orme and his side-kick Chris Constantin reported that they and other members of staff had tasked themselves with driving around town following our cell phones, and investigating any congregations of parked cars outside of businesses. They were forcibly shutting down businesses, some of which did not recover.

But the economy started tanking so quickly they started declaring certain businesses “essential”. Of course Ann Schwab’s bike store was “essential”. And every restaurant and bar in town suddenly became “essential” as well. Take out dining was encouraged. Almost immediately the city approved “off-site” sales of liquor – drinks, brought to your car in keg cups, along with your dinner. Parklets soon followed – tables were flopped out in parking places, across sidewalks, and the city public works crews installed “K-rails” – those cement buttresses – to keep drivers from trying to park their car in the former parking spaces.

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Above you see wooden picnic tables behind K-rails, on both sides of the corner. They’re turned on their side to discourage use by non-patrons when the bar is closed. I can’t tell how many spaces are in use here, but so far Staff reports 42 parking spaces have been eliminated in favor of “outdoor dining”. Which, let’s face it, really meant, outdoor consumption of alcohol, and smoking tobacco and pot in areas once prohibited by the Downtown smoking ordinance.

And who wouldn’t have seen this coming – within the first months of the shutdown, alcohol use went through the roof. Chico city staffers reported a corresponding increase in alcohol and sales tax revenues, while the Behavioral Health Department saw a spike in drinking related mental health issues.

While many retail businesses remained closed or under heavy restrictions, the bar and restaurant industry enjoyed a spike in sales, including, “off-site” sales – usually illegal, but allowed in “temporary parklets” under ABC rules. Under COVID, parklets allowed bars and restaurants to enlarge their seating space and “off site sales” because they were under orders to leave tables open, to create space between customers. They made it sound as though the economy was going to collapse without relaxing the rules.

But, as spacing restrictions have been eased and eventually dropped, the parklets have remained and off-site sales have continued, allowing these businesses to actually enlarge their seating capacity instead of just mediating the loss of seats due to spacing requirements.

Council has finally lifted the COVID state of emergency, but Staff and four Downtown businesses have asked that the parklets be allowed to remain. One business owner complained that his building was small and poorly ventilated, and his customers needed fresh air. Another business owner complained that his clientele was older and more susceptible to COVID. Other businesses have chimed in to say they don’t mind the concept but the current parklets are “unattractive” and need to be made “attractive”.

Staff and some members of council thought that could be done with American Rescue Money, so last year they allocated $300,000 toward design and construction of permanent parklets. So far, they’ve spent $25,000 on the design phase, but staff indicated “$300,000 does not begin to cover this…” At a subsequent council meeting, the assistant city manager requested another $1.1 – 1.5 million. At Monday’s Internal Affairs Committee meeting she reported that seven parklets – parking spaces – would cost over $978,000.

She also reported that only four businesses had come forward with “serious” proposals for parklets. We don’t know how many each business requested, but it looks like there are three or four parklets pictured above just for one bar – that’s what, $450-500,000?

Council, staff, and the business owners are aware that not everybody feels this is a good use of American Rescue Plan funding. One business owner declared, “we need to do this ourselves, no more gifts from government…” Others were frankly anxious about using taxpayer money because it might incur prevailing wage. But Kasey Reynolds and staff had a solution – Option 2.

Let’s pick this up tomorrow, on This Old Lady Flew Over the Parklet

Democracy needs you! Get your ballots turned in at one of these secure locations, and then check your ballot status with the Secretary of State’s website

6 Nov

Election in two days – I’ve heard people are holding on to their ballots, with less than 20% already returned in Butte County. I’ve seen some chatter on social media, people who are distrustful of the post office, planning to turn them in by hand. I think, at this point, if you haven’t mailed your ballot, you might want to go to a drop-off location. I mailed mine just a couple of days after I received it. A few weeks later, I checked the secretary of state’s website and saw it had been received and accepted.

Here’s that link – thanks Dave –

I’m glad I voted early, but if you didn’t, you should probably head for one of these convenient drop-off locations in Chico. These secure drop-off boxes are available 24 hours a day as of October 10, until election day. I had previously posted that “polls” close at 5pm – I think that means the county clerk’s office is closed, but the boxes should be available until 8pm.

Butte County Library – Chico, 1108 Sherman Avenue
Chapman Elementary School, 1071 16th Street
Chico City Hall, 411 Main Street
Chico State BMU, W. 2nd & Chestnut Street
Department of Employment & Social Services (DESS), 765 East Avenue

Please vote. I care what you think, and Democracy is depending on you.

Chico Internal Affairs Committee to revisit parklets – new meeting time, 1pm

4 Nov

Yesterday I was telling you the real work continues after the election – have you ever considered attending a daytime committee meeting? That’s where things really happen Downtown, by the time it gets to council, it’s usually a done deal. But last week I saw council actually reject a plan approved by the Internal Affairs Committee. It seems not everybody was on board with the suggestion to use American Rescue Plan Funding for a complete remodel of Downtown.

Last year, Chico City Council approved the use of $300,000 in American Rescue Plan funding for the development of parklets at Downtown bars and restaurants. Downtowners raved about the trendy new fad – repurposing public parking places into dining islands restricted to the use of paying customers – meaning, expanding the size of their business without paying more in property taxes. And for some reason, staff suggested that the city pick up the cost of design and construction instead of charging the usual fees to business owners – with money intended to help the entire town recover from the effects of the COVID shutdown. In other words, handing public property over to a private owner without any vote of the taxpayers, and then using taxpayer money to improve said property. Giving away our communal goods seems to have become a habit with these people over the last few years.

Fortunately, not everybody was happy with the Asst Manager’s estimate of the total cost of the project – $1.1 – 1.5 million. Just for Downtown. Council balked at the plan, because of public scrutiny – that’s YOU! – voting to terminate the use of parklets on December 1, the date they also FINALLY decided to “end” the COVID “emergency”.

So far only $25,000 of the original $300,000 allocation has been spent. But, due to demands from bar and restaurant owners, as well as some people who think it’s okay to consume alcoholic beverages out on the street, staff has brought the subject back to next Monday’s Internal Affairs Committee meeting.

Yes, they decided to change the time of the meeting to 1pm, I don’t know why, but it seems more convenient to me than the old late afternoon meeting. I hope more people – including committee members Tandon and O’Brien – as well as a few candidates – will show up.

And maybe some of us would like to see this kind of money being spent on the street in front of our house – you still have time to contact committee members Reynolds (chair), O’Brien and Tandon to let them know what you think – ; ;

The report is available here:

Some highlights:

At the October 18, 2022 City Council Meeting, Council voted for businesses to terminate the use of Temporary Parklets on December 1, 2022 when the COVID-19 Executive Orders expire. Council redirected the topic of Developing a Parklet Program to Internal Affairs Committee.

Recommendation: The City Manager recommends the Internal Affairs Committee determine whether to study expanding the Outdoor Cafe program, and provide a recommendation to the full Council to either:

Maintain the current Outdoor Cafe program as is which includes Sidewalk Cafes and Permanent Cafes. Cancel RGA contract and redirect the remaining ARP funding (approximately $275,000) which was approved for Parklets to the Parking fund or another fund.

Analyze downtown Parking needs and make a recommendation on whether to expand the Outdoor Cafe program to include Parklets. Authorize the use of the remaining ARP funding allocated for Parklets to update the City’s parking study and potentially develop a Parklets program.

FISCAL IMPACT: The City Council allocated $300,000 of one-time American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds toward the design, construction, and implementation of temporary parklets in the downtown area. $39,000 of the ARP funding has been encumbered for a consultant agreement and $25,000 of the contract has been expended. During the estimating process, it was determined that the cost to build new Temporary Parklets would be $1.1 to $1.5M not including soft costs and program development; therefore, the $300,000 ARP funding was not adequate for its intended purpose. With Council voting to terminate the use of temporary Parklets on December 1, 2022, the ARP funding could be used to prepare an updated parking demand and update the Outdoor Cafe program to minimize the
impact to parking and potentially include Parklets.

I hate to mention it, but you realize, the real work begins AFTER the election…

3 Nov

I can’t wait for this election to be over and I’m expecting people to take down their campaign signs. I think this was a new high for illegally posted signs, with Tom Lando Jr coming in first – his little signs are flapping along sidewalks, road medians, parks, and other public spaces. No, no, no Tom, you were supposed to get your supporters to post them in front yards. Jessica Gianola comes in at a close second, with signs at commercial centers and along public sidewalks. Same for all of those candidates who posted at Bruce and 32 – that’s illegal, and it’s not a good sign of your character. It looks like a trash truck blew up there, thanks for caring!

Same with the flyers – I know they’re legal, but I don’t think they’re very nice. First there’s the content – which is absurd, blaming the challengers when it’s been Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds and the rest of the so-called “conservative” council who’ve been making all the bad decisions. Reynolds and her pac – Citizens for Safe Chico – has been loading my mailbox full, addressing their little shitbirds to both me and my husband. Reynolds has robo-called my son in Oregon – I don’t get that, he’s never even been registered to vote in Chico. They are pulling out all the stops, spending all that union money – guess why – they’re worried.

And they should be. Let them know why they should be worried. Tell them exactly why you’re unhappy and what they need to do about it. This is the only time they’re listening, or even pretending to listen.

What we also need to remember, is that this election is not the end of anything. No matter who gets elected or what passes, we’ll all wake up the next day to the same problems – our parks and public areas full of transient tents and trash, our roads still crumbling, and the ticker continuing upward on the pension deficit.

I like to ride my old bike around town, and that’s when I really get it – skinny tires pick up every bump in the road. You can hear the pavement jangling loose, it’s like riding on broken crockery. And if you watched me from behind you might think I been hitting the bottle – it’s a 70 year old bike, I try to avoid the big potholes, and that can be a challenge. Yesterday I jogged over to avoid a pothole about the size of a toaster oven – you could see dirt in the bottom. I also realized I need a better bra.

As I rode toward Upper Bidwell Park recently, I noticed a section of South Park Drive has been falling into the creek for years now, still falling. And you must ask yourself – are those houses along the south side of the park on septic or sewer? We went to a park in Sacramento years back where they’d allowed septic tanks from houses on either side to pollute the little creek running through the park, and had finally got the GRANT FUNDING to fix it. You could smell shit, and the water looked awful. They’d let it go all those years, waiting for the state to pick up the tab, while they spent those people’s property taxes on, oh, probably their own salaries and pensions.

And there’s those pensions – the herd of elephants that are crapping all over our living room rug. Here’s what you need to remember – they pay more every year, at the expense of our infrastructure and services, but the pensions deficit does not go away – it actually increases.

And here’s one reason why – besides the fact that employees pay unrealistic shares – in the past two years, city management has added three new positions (that I know of) at over $100,000/year. Council has also approved raises for both the fire and police departments, as well as the management unit, without asking them to pay more toward their own pensions. Employees pay less than 20% of their payroll costs and NOTHING toward the deficit created by those unrealistic shares.

So remember this – when I started this blog in 2012, most employees paid nothing toward their benefits. Former city manager Tom Lando, for example, PAID NOTHING toward one of the biggest pensions currently carried by the city of Chico. They only started paying when we discovered their scam, and only in tiny increments. We’ve had to beat their asses for every dime since then. They expect us to pay them twice – once for actually doing their job, and then another 70 – 90% in retirement. So the $100,000 salary we see really costs hundreds of thousands more in pension, benefits, perks like life insurance, burial insurance, and the interest accrued on the debt.

So, we have a lot of work ahead of us in 2023.