Archive | December, 2022

If you are having trouble figuring out whether or not you should have received a sewer rate increase notice, or how to fill out your protest ballot, please contact us here

31 Dec

I sent this letter to the editor just before Christmas.

It’s been two weeks since I contacted Chico City Clerk and my council rep with questions regarding their sewer rate increase notice. The city wants to add a $1.22/ccf “volume” charge to our sewer bills, based on the amount of water we buy from Cal Water, essentially double charging us for water. They are required by law to answer any questions we have regarding this notice before the January 17 hearing

My first question: I received a notice even though my property is not hooked up to sewer. The law states that if 51% of property owners noticed protest in writing, they can’t raise our rates. But, only people who get a sewer bill are allowed to protest. The number of protests needed is based on notices sent out. Am I allowed to vote, or did they send me a notice in order to raise the number of protests needed? 

Second question: The city is discussing selling the sewer plant to Cal Water. This notice is not just a rate increase, it’s a forever change in the way they figure the bill, allowing annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index. If they go through with the purchase, will Cal Water be able to raise our rates without going through CPUC hearings? 

Those “affected” must protest in writing by January 17. Why would city staff and council send a time-sensitive rate increase notice at Christmas, and then use the holiday as an excuse not to answer our questions?  

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I have not received any response from the city, but I’ve done some research of my own, and found one answer – I received a notice even though I am not hooked up to sewer because I could hook up if I wanted to. That make sense to you? Okay. I’ve also heard from other property owners who have or have not received notices. It seems they sent these notices only to Cal Water customers, although, I’ll guess, they might have sent them to people who have both wells and septic tanks because they are located within range of sewer and water lines.

The people I’ve heard from who have not received notices do not have a Cal Water account – they live in apartments, so only their landlord/property owner can vote. Apartment owners’ votes may be “weighted” as counting more than single family home owners – they didn’t explain that in the notice either. They didn’t explain who is able to vote or how much each vote “weighs”.

I still have other questions, including the second asked above – a can of questions really – is Cal Water still considering buying our sewer plant, and will this rate change make it possible for them to raise rates annually without notices or hearings? I’ll guess the answers to both questions are Yes and Yes, but we won’t know until after the hearing.

Here’s something I read just this morning – again, I don’t think the notices are correct. I think they were supposed to enclose a ballot. Also, I think they were supposed to make it more clear on the outside of the envelope that a vote was taking place. I’m going to guess that a lot of these notices went right in the garbage because people didn’t understand what they were getting.

“The face of the envelope mailed to the property owner with the ballot and notice must contain, in at least sixteen-point type, the following statement in substantially the following form: “OFFICIAL BALLOT ENCLOSED.”75 The ballot must include the special district’s address for the receipt of any completed ballot and a place for the property owner to indicate his or her name, a reasonable identification of the parcel subject to the proposed assessment, and his or her opposition to or support for the proposed assessment.”

One thing I know for sure is the city purposely waited until Thanksgiving to notice us about this rate change because they knew people would not be prepared and it would probably be a shoo-in. And remember, it’s not just a rate increase, it’s a change in the way they figure and raise your rates, permanently. You will never have another opportunity to have anything to say about how they charge you for your sewer service, or how much.

If you need help figuring out if you were supposed to receive a notice, or how to submit a protest vote please contact us here.

10 years of political activism in Chico – it hasn’t always been fruitful, but it’s been educational

28 Dec

Well, I’ve been doing this blog for over 10 years now, and let me tell you, it’s been an education. The most important lesson I’ve learned is that the community has to get involved, real people have to do most of the heavy lifting if we want to achieve anything. And, those people have to be convinced that their actions will have merit and they will make progress toward the goals that are important to them personally.

Frankly, sometimes it’s hard to convince myself any of that is true. But it is, and let me tell you about it.

When I started this blog in 2012, the city had put a cell phone tax measure on the ballot – a tax on the privilege of owning a cell phone. Like many people observed, the city has nothing to do with our cell phone service, they don’t even guarantee that the companies they license to operate here will provide the service we pay for. But they were trying to get a tax on our phone bills, because the city was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and they were desperate. They already collect the maximum 5% on our PG&E, water, and landline bills, but if you’ve paid attention as long as I have, you see they never have enough money.

The main reason for Chico’s fiscal insolvency, to this day, is their ever-increasing pension deficit. When I started this blog, city management paid absolutely NOTHING toward their pensions, and other staffers paid very little, less than 5%. Our former city manager Tom Lando, now collecting over $160,000 in salary at Paradise Irrigation District, paid nothing toward his $150,000/year pension. Yes, Tom Lando gets $150,000/year plus cost of living adjustments, when he never paid a dime for it. The taxpayers are paying for that, which amounts to paying him twice for a job done once, and not very well.

Once the public found out about the sweet pension deal, they applied some pressure, and council began slowly correcting the imbalance – shifting a tiny amount of the pension cost onto the employees. Today, the biggest employee share is 15% – for pensions of 70 – 90% percent of their highest year’s salary. And, here’s the problem – that’s 15% of what is paid, not what’s owed. CalPERS is tanking and our cities along with it because the system allows public agencies to accrue these huge deficits on the belief that either the stock market or the beleaguered taxpayers will pay it off. They refuse to ask the employees to pay a rational share, or accept lesser benefits.

As you can see, the public has a lot more pushing to do if we will ever right this ship. As it stands, the city is tanking under the pension deficit, and the demands for more taxes have only begun with the new sales tax increase.

Last year Andrew Coolidge tried to convince council to institute a Pension Obligation Bond. That would have been new debt, and it would mean the taxpayers would be on the hook for the pensions forever. That’s why such a bond would have to go to the ballot. One council member tried to tell the others they needed to go to the ballot, but the other six decided to try to shove it in through illegally. Only when they received a cease-and-desist order from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc, did they pull their illegal request. I think that’s a good thing to know about people – Andrew Coolidge, Kasey Reynolds and Sean Morgan, just to name a few, were ready to do something illegal to get us to pay down their pension deficit. What do you think they’ll pull next?

Well, don’t look down, buy they’re pulling it out of your toilet – a sewer tax. Rate increase notice mailed out in the days before Christmas – gee, that doesn’t look suspicious, does it?

I’ve posted information about that increase and the steps we need to take to throw it down in previous posts. I’ve written letters to the paper. But I don’t know if anybody is listening, because, as city council knows, it’s Christmas and New Years and a lot of Chico sewer customers are just plain out of town.

The notice is very plain and deceptively junk maily – it should say SEWER RATE INCREASE NOTICE in boldface on the outside of the envelope, but it doesn’t. But if recipients of those notices don’t reply with a formal written opposition by January 17, they will change the mechanism by which they figure your monthly rate, and then continue to raise it annually without any notice or opportunity to object.

People have got the wrong attitude these days – “it’s none of my business”. Yes it is. And your neighbors’ business, at least when it affects your business, is also your business. Yes, it’s okay to knock on your neighbors’ door and ask, “did you receive a sewer rate increase notice?” If they say yes, ask them if they’d like to talk about it. If they say no, write down their name and address and ask the city of Chico why you received a notice and this or that neighbor did not.

And below is a link to a junior high level article about getting involved in your community. Give it a read, there might be a quiz later. Or you could just go back to bed. Be sure to lay on your stomach, makes it easier for them to give you a good screwing. I don’t care if you’re offended by that, especially if you voted YES on Measure H.

Getting ready for 2023 in Chico California

21 Dec

Well, a Happy Winter to all of you. For me, the new year starts with Winter Solstice, because that’s when the days start getting longer, and sheesh we all miss the sun (don’t tell her that, she’ll just get a big head and cook our ass off next summer).

My husband and I got our holiday ahead of time – we skinnied in a trip to Oregon after the Thanksgiving rush was over and before the Christmas rush began. We took our Newsom Bonus Bucks (the gas rebate we actually got from the oil companies) and spent the whole wad. Boy did we have fun.

I love California, it’s my home. But here’s some things I like about Oregon.

No sales tax and cheaper prices. Of course the property taxes are outrageous, and they have a “luxury” tax on cars. So I won’t buy a house or a car there. But let me tell you another thing I observed – every town on the freeway has a very lively retail sector, many businesses, small and large, doing very well. And here’s another thing – they have the same chains, but there’s more selection, and oftentimes cheaper prices. I’ve just about given up on Chico retail – poor selection, high prices, crime in the stores and in the parking lots.

I’d say, Oregonians are not only friendly, they are more business friendly, and that’s why they have huge corporations like Nike and Columbia. They don’t just bring many, good paying jobs, but those businesses are grateful in many other ways. We stayed near the Nike “campus”, and all around there we enjoyed hiking/biking trails through beautiful parks and clean, gorgeous waterways, Nike having paid for much of it. In the middle of the park, they’d built a huge recreation complex, a gym, a huge aquatic center, indoor tennis courts, it was incredible. We watched families of all backgrounds, dropping their kids off in expensive sedans and total crapper work trucks. All around, banners announced this or that kids’ program. We need to attract the kind of businesses that add to our community – but we get pot dispensaries, smoke shops and liquor stores/manufacturers, because they produce a lot of sales tax. Maybe CARD should ask that LA dispensary to sponsor their new aquatic center, already having the support of a major alcohol distributor.

Most towns we visited on I-5 do have a runaway transient problem, but here’s what they do in Portland – they have a big, laminated ID on a lanyard, worn by those who have had any kind of “run-in” with police. They have to wear the lanyard with their ID on it, for all to see that his person has been “contacted” by police. If they enter a business and won’t leave they are arrested, instead of “counseled and moved along”. When a guy entered the sandwich shop in which we were eating and walked up to a table to panhandle, the owner immediately told him to get out or get arrested – and he turned on a dime and walked out. I’d like to see more of that in Chico. Instead, we have people on BCFAC who’ve been arrested like 40 times for the same and worsening offenses.

Here’s an interesting story about what one citizen in Oregon did when confronted with a worsening theft problem at his business –

That’s another thing I like about Oregon – the true Oregonians, who fight for their state, their families, and their way of life. But, like Dale Arden, I’m a California girl, so instead of limp-dick outta here, I’m going to stay and bitch at the rest of you to BUCK THE HELL UP! I just saw the returns for Measure H, and I am as disgusted with those of you registered voters who didn’t vote as I am disgusted with you voters who voted Yes without asking the pointy questions. I hold you all as responsible for the deepening mire as any local elected official. You get a big lump of coal in your stocking this year – and you made it yourself.

But here’s what I’ll say to council members – you passed a tax measure by the skin of it’s teeth, with less than 53% of the voters showing any confidence in your handling of money. You better get your asses in gear and get some streets fixed and the park returned to “normal” ASAP, because Morgan and Coolidge and Tandon the lip-syncer are all up in 2024. Winslow won this time, and both Kennedy and McDaniels made pretty good swipes at their competitors. The new districts make it a lot easier for a new person to win – in fact, a person can move into the district less than a month ahead of the election. Council majorities have flipped more times than Butte Creek has jumped it’s banks, so you better start listening to your constituents or get ready for Koyaanisquatsi in 2024.

Ask questions People! How many sewer rate increase notices did the city send out to people who will not be allowed to vote on the increase? How will this affect the voting process? Notices that are not returned as a protest are registered as a ‘yes’ vote – will they be counting the notices sent to people who can’t vote as ‘yes’ votes?

11 Dec

I had a lot of questions about my sewer rate increase notice, but it seems to me the most important issue is how these notices were distributed and how they will be counted. According to the Community Water Center, only those who receive and pay a sewer bill should have received these notices, and only those people are allowed to vote. Furthermore, notices that are not returned are counted as ‘yes’ votes.

If a property owner or tenant who pays a water bill directly does not submit a written protest, it is
counted as a vote in favor of the increase.
.. If a majority (50% +1) of property owners or tenants who pay a water bill directly within the service district submit written protests at the hearing, the provider cannot raise rates as proposed.

But I received a notice, and I’m not hooked up to sewer, so that led me to wonder – how many notices did they send to non-sewer customers, and will those notices be counted as ‘yes’ votes? I sent an inquiry to the clerk and my council rep earlier this week, and I didn’t get so much as a “received your email…” response. So I wrote a couple of my questions into a letter to the editor.

This whole conversation has been kept behind closed doors for several years now, as part of a further discussion to sell the sewer plant to Cal Water. They’re also discussing hooking Paradise up to our sewer system, which seems somewhat contradictory to claims that our sewer plant is reaching capacity. This rate increase was never part of the sales tax increase discussion, and now they’re trying to shove it through at Christmas?

Something stinks here alright. Wake up and smell the poo-poo Chico.

Merry Christmas – have you received your sewer rate increase notice? City of Chico wants to base your sewer charge on your water usage, at a rate of $1.22 per 100 cubic feet. You already paid $1.52+/ccf, and now the city of Chico wants another $1.22, whether it goes to the sewer or not.

That’s right, they want to double charge you, even for water that will not be processed at the sewer plant – water used to irrigate trees, wash your car, fill your swimming pool or hot tub.

Here’s another problem – the notice system is flawed. The only people who will be allowed to vote on this rate increase are those who are actually receiving sewer service. Then why did I receive a notice when I’m not on sewer? In this process, any property owner noticed who does not return a written protest is counted as a ‘yes’ vote. So, how many notices were sent out to people who will not be allowed to turn in a protest vote? Will those folks be counted as ‘yes’ votes?

I believe the notifications should be resent, and the hearing should be postponed to a later date, giving staff time to answer our questions as required by Prop 218. This is not just a rate increase but a change to the structure of the charge, allowing the city or whomever owns the sewer plant to increase the rate annually without public approval.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Community Water Center – How to challenge an unfair sewer or water rate hike – know your Prop 218 rights

9 Dec

Well, here’s a whopper of a link – information from the Community Water Center about your Prop 218 rights. Read it, learn it, live it… These laws also apply to sewer rate hikes. This link also includes a template for preparing your written protest.,(800)%20649%2D7570.&text=What%20is%20Proposition%20218%3F,water%20and%20sewer%20rate%20increases.

California Proposition 218 (Prop. 218) applies and there are strict requirements that your provider must follow before raising the rates... In general, the provider must provide information
on the amount of the rate increase, why it is needed, how the increase was calculated, and it must provide sufficient notification to impacted property owners and an opportunity to protest the increase.

I’ve read the notice, and I had some questions, so I called the number on the notice. I got a staffer who didn’t know what I was talking about, couldn’t begin to answer my questions, and tried to refer me to “”. So I emailed city clerk Debbie Presson ( and my council rep. I also cc’d Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association counsel Laura Dougherty, and I have also emailed the notice to Ms. Dougherty.

I suggest that you also inquire with the clerk’s office as to the procedure and any questions you have regarding the notice. It seems to me council has taken the low road – sending out a poorly written rate increase notice during the holiday season? When offices Downtown are closing? And I’ll also remind you – they didn’t say anything about this hike during their sales tax measure campaign.

The clock is ticking – get those protests written. Ask the clerk if you have any questions.

City of Chico wants to impose a new Sewer Tax – they’re not just raising rates, they’re “changing the process for sewer service charges”. Affected property owners have until January 17 to make written protest to City Council

5 Dec

Maybe you received a notice – the city of Chico wants to base sewer rates on your water usage. Simply put, they want to charge you another $1.22 for every ccf you buy from Cal Water.

This is called “consumption based” rate. Here’s an article from San Francisco about their proposal, which includes a low-income subsidy.

If a majority of property owners don’t protest this grab, council will pass it. I know, they just passed a sales tax measure. They placed a franchise fee on our trash service a few years ago, already having a franchise fee on our PG&E and Comcast service. They also collect a 5 percent “Utility Tax” on our PG&E, Cal Water (which includes your sewer bill), and land line bills.

Here’s a question for your council rep – will the new rates be subject to Utility Tax? Cause then you’d be paying UT twice on the same amount of water, and that really sounds like a grab.

Again, we only have until January 17 to make WRITTEN PROTEST of this forever change in our sewer rates. Write those letters now, emails will be rejected.