Archive | January, 2023

Will we be forced to sue the city over the garbage tax? Ask Debbie Presson

26 Jan

One of the better news sources we have here in Chico/Butte County is the Butte County Fires and Accidents Facebook – better known as “bcfac”. Here’s a story I have not seen in the local news media –

Chico, CA Saturday 1/21/2023 7:25 PM BCFAC: A juvenile just walked up to a house asking for help, reporting unknown people robbed him of his bicycle and property in Bidwell Park.

Yeah, sometimes kids make up stuff – unfortunately this story is true. Two 26 year old adults were arrested for “strong arm robbery, willful cruelty to a child and annoying or molesting a person under 18 years of age”.

How would you feel if that was your kid? I know what I’d do, but let’s not talk about it here.

Why should I have to behave myself? Our town has become lawless, and you know Folks, when the fish stinks, it’s the head of the fish that stinks. Here in Chico, we have a many-headed fish, including 7 council members, a police chief and a city council member turned city manager.

And now, according to lawyer/activist Rob Berry, the “public safety” measure Kasey Reynolds floated onto the last ballot is completely gutless. Here’s Berry’s description of how a citizen would use Measure L to complain about a problem, like, how about – rampant crime all over town?

Measure L gives you a means to report a public nuisance on city land. It has to be particularly injurious to you. That is, if you were going to report litter at an encampment, you need to live nearby, not across town. It is one tool, not for everything. So one example that has come up is the encampment at Eaton and Cohasset. Before, the only thing available was a civil lawsuit.. Now you can simply fill out a form and the city has to respond, and if it’s valid, they should abate the nuisance. For example, restricting the use, citing for littering, illegal structures, etc. They are required to reduce the impact of the nuisance. That is how it is used.

No disrespect to Berry, but there it is – this measure is completely useless to 99.9% of the population. I read the measure – did any of you who voted YES on it actually read it first? It is very clear – the city gets to decide whose complaint is valid – gee, walked into that one with your pants down, didn’t you?

Right now the city is trying to clear Teichert Ponds. I don’t live nearby, but I know the people that live in that illegal encampment are shoplifting from nearby businesses – again, you have to check bcfac to hear these reports, the local media doesn’t pay much attention to this type of crime. In many instances, these people are followed right back to that camp. Frankly, this is just another reason NOT to shop in Chico – many of these business refuse to press charges, passing the cost of the crime onto the paying customer. At Walmart, it means you have to find an employee with a key before you can buy everyday items like socks and underwear.

It also means the customer is at risk. At Mangrove Safeway I was almost knocked down by a guy stealing a bottle of booze. The manager apologized to me but I don’t know if charges were pressed. I later saw the guy laying on the sidewalk alongside Kwando, empty bottles on the ground next to him. We used to live two blocks from that plaza and shopped there almost daily. We sold that house as we watched the crime move up our street, into our driveway. We still live in the general neighborhood but we don’t shop there anymore.

When we run errands in Chico while we’re out doing chores, one of us always has to sit in the truck while the other goes into the store so our tools won’t get stolen. I’ll never forget the transient who tried to act super drunk while he rolled his way along the bed of our truck trying to see what we had in the back. When he rolled across my passenger window my dog went nuts – it was comical to see how fast the man sobered up and walked away.

Chico used to be such a great town, it’s hard to see. But you know, it’s our own fault – we elected the people on council. We elected the people who passed a “Shelter Crisis Designation,” got us into a lawsuit, built a cardboard “homeless” camp on a children’s bicycle track, passed a sham measure designed to force us to sue if we don’t like what they’re doing, raised our sales tax, instituted an illegal garbage tax and most recently, announced a sewer tax over Christmas holiday.

Speaking of the garbage tax, no, I have not heard back from our lovely and vivacious city clerk about my request to agendize “Zolly v City of Oakland”. I have the worst feeling this is going to play out like the illegal cell phone tax the city of Chico collected for years. Measure L will not help us here – Chico taxpayers had to wait for a rich guy named Donald Sipple to sue cities all over California for collecting the tax, and then wade through a very misinformative campaign for the measure Ann Schwab put on the ballot – Measure J. In my experience trying to defeat that measure, I was shocked how many people didn’t know they were paying such a tax, and the very common response was, “what does Chico do to provide me with cell phone service?” The answer – nothing, it was just a shakedown. Like the sales tax, the garbage tax and the sewer tax.

So I’ll keep you posted here, and you keep me posted – don’t just stand there with your mouth open, flies will get in. Please cc me on your email to clerk Debbie Presson asking for the Zolly v City of Oakland discussion to be agendized, and I’ll post it here on the blog.

Is it legal, or not? The trash franchise needs to be discussed – please write a note to your council rep and/or clerk Debbie Presson asking that this subject be placed on an upcoming agenda

22 Jan

This morning I sent an email to City Clerk Debbie Presson (, asking her how to agendise a discussion regarding the city’s trash franchise/tax. A recent Supreme Court decision says the city’s “franchise” is really a tax, and needed to be run in a ballot measure.

I’d like to ask for agendization of a discussion of “Zolly v City of Oakland” at an upcoming council meeting. Do I need to fill out a special form? Please advise – thanks, Juanita Sumner

INFO: Last August the CA Supreme Court ruled with plaintiffs in the case of Zolly v. City of Oakland, and “The court’s opinion answers the question of whether the city’s franchise fees are categorically exempt from the voter approval requirements as a matter of law — and concludes they are not”. (League of CA Cities)

Here’s a link to the case text

According to Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association lawyer Laura Dougherty, this is all it should take – notifying them of the legal decision. But you know these guys, it would be great if a few of you pitched in and wrote a note too. It’s all there, and you can google “Zolly vs City of Oakland” for skads more information.

I’ll keep you posted as to any response I get. Yeah, it’s Sunday – I wonder if Debbie Presson is watching the John Wayne marathon on GRIT? If you’re looking for me you’ll find me in front of the boob tube with a bag of popcorn, watching “The Three Mesquiteers”

Letter to the Editor: tell your city representative the garbage tax is illegal

19 Jan

I was surprised this morning to see my letter to the editor in the ER – I only sent it yesterday. Here’s a prediction I’ll make – Wolcott is going to be gone soon, and Tuchinsky will take over the paper. At least Tuchinsky’s a journalist, we’ll see what kind of agenda he has as time goes by.

Of course, the media was a lot of the problem with the sewer rate hike. For one thing, nobody said anything about it until the day before the hearing, and then the tv news ran a really misleading piece, saying nothing about the doubled charge, saying it would only raise the “average” sewer bill about $15, and then quoting two people who admitted they really didn’t know anything about it but guessed it was okay because the city says it’s in a heap of trouble. Wow.

So yeah, I’m feeling like a whacked mole alright. It’s hard to live in a city full of mole rats. Frankly, my husband and I tried to sell our property in Chico last year but one developer after another told us, essentially this: The city of Chico is impossible to deal with, and there’s a bunch of cheap land in Paradise.

There are big lots all over my neighborhood. That was the Chico lifestyle. Now it’s too expensive to water your lawn or keep big trees, so yeah, people want OUT. You’d think our one and two acre lots would be in huge demand. But, every time we get a new city council, we get a new philosophy of how to build. It was infill, now it’s sprawl again. They want that Valley’s Edge thing because: 1) Bill Brouhard and his partner Doug Guillon have their fists up half the asses in this town 2) it’s going to bring in a BONANZA! of builders’ fees, property taxes and new people to bring in sales taxes and other revenues.

You ever wonder where all the money goes? Do they just roll it up and smoke it? Just like the other one… Do they just eat it? Do they stuff it up their asses in some weird sex ritual? NO! They put it in the Pension Stabilization Trust and use it to pay down their bad decisions. It’s better than heroin – it’s POWER!

Well, that was my rant for the day. You should read HJTA president Jon Coupal – he’s scary! He says the government is trying to tax older folks out of their homes so cities all over California can foreclose whole older neighborhoods for redevelopment.

Well, he’s right, but you won’t believe it until you’re about 60. That’s the dilemma – young people like Addison Winslow, a product of the California schools, are picnic’ing on the railroad tracks, and you just can’t convince them there’s a train coming. We’re overbuilding again, and last time we did that, the foreclosure notices were posted in yards all over Chico and Butte County. Before 2008, you never saw foreclosed homes in Chico – a quick search just now brought up 153 foreclosures for sale, in Chico, on just one website.

So, put both hands over your junk and get ready – the Chico we’ve known and loved is headed for the Glory Hole. It’s replacement – just another shithole along the freeway. I may not be able to stop that, but I can bitch about it. I’ll run my letter here, for those of you who have given up on the ER. Below that I also included a link to the post I made last year(?) about garbage rates gone up.

The city of Chico has managed to trick residents into allowing a major sewer rate change without fully informing ratepayers of their rights. Homeowners were given 45 days between Thanksgiving and New Year to prepare, with no ballot to protest the change, which also allows for yearly increases without public approval.

The same council tried to establish an illegal Pension Obligation Bond without voter approval and was threatened with a lawsuit from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

So it’s not surprising that the trash franchise the city entered into years ago is also illegal. Last year the Supreme Court ruled in Zolly vs. City of Oakland that cities can’t collect franchise fees for the use of city streets.

My household trash bills have shown a 60% increase since we were forced to switch service to Waste Management. Now we’re told we must pay extra for a yard waste bin to separate food waste.

This franchise is clearly a tax that was run under the radar without public approval. The money does not go toward street repairs but is dumped into the General Fund. Last year it paid for raises for Chico PD.

According to Laura Dougherty, legal counsel for HJTA, “all a ratepayer needs to do now is send a copy of the Zolly decision to their city…”

I will certainly do so and urge other ratepayers to do same. I don’t like being treated like a cash cow – do you?

Why did the city give $8 million from the sewer fund to PG&E? New thermostats for city hall? Again?

16 Jan

Tomorrow night the city of Chico will hold a hearing regarding their proposed sewer tax. Make no mistake – this is a tax, but it’s legal now because the city owns the sewer plant. One thing that really bothers me about this “rate change”, is that when they sell the plant to Cal Water – and you can check the agendas for yourself, they’ve been talking about it – Cal Water will no longer have to notice us for annual rate hikes.

Not to mention, the city is going to be charging us for water we already paid for, including water that never enters the sewer system. All because they can’t handle money Downtown. Here’s a good example I found in the 22-23 budget – out of an $11 million sewer fund, they gave PG&E “$8,487,515 to Project 50522 PG&E SST Phase 2… to reduce the costs of energy usage at City facilities and to help meet Climate Action Plan goals.”

Sure, one of those facilities is the sewer plant, where PG&E made some upgrades, but new thermostats at City Hall? How does that pencil out of the sewer budget? Cause that’s how they spend money Downtown. Sure they have enough money in the sewer budget to make (more) upgrades at City Hall, or should we call it, “Taj Mahal”? But they need a sewer tax, and a sales tax, and they need the Utility Tax AND franchise fees on PG&E, Comcast and Waste Management?

As I said in my last post, those franchise fees, particularly the trash tax, are all under question as of a Supreme Court decision made about six months ago in the case of Zolly vs the City of Oakland. Laura Dougherty of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association suggests we inform our city of that decision, hoping we won’t have to sue, as did ratepayers in Oakland. But, she gave me a list of attorneys, I’ll be keeping that in my side pocket.

Something my dad told me when my brother went in the Navy – nobody is going to stick up for you, you have to learn to stick up for yourself. I’ll give you that same advice. And I’ll borrow a quote from actor/voice artist/radio ham Harry Shearer – if you’re looking for honesty and truth in government you’re looking for apples in the cheese section.

If you haven’t turned in your sewer rate protest already please do it either today or tomorrow at the city building. Don’t forget your parcel number – I did, and now I have to go Downtown to fix it. But, like my dad told me, nobody is going to do that for me. I just hope I don’t step in bum shit or get hit by a drunk walking by Duffy’s.

Next time let’s compare Chico to the state of California – both make too many spending decisions based on ideology – their own – instead of pragmatic solutions for the tax and ratepayers.

As the city of Chico moves forward with a sales tax increase and a sewer tax, the state Supreme Court throws a shadow on trash franchise deals

14 Jan

I don’t join many clubs, but I’m happy to be a member of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association because they take their job more seriously than our elected leaders take theirs.

For a donation of as little as $15 you can help HJTA spread the word about taxpayer rights and use their legal muscle to hold public agencies accountable. When concerned Chicoans contacted them about Council and Staff’s illegal attempt at a Pension Obligation Bond, HJTA quickly filed a Cease and Desist order, threatening to sue the city of Chico if they moved forward without putting a bond measure on the ballot.

I just received their free newsletter, a story about trash franchise fees caught my eye. It looks like the franchise fee the city added to our trash bills is illegal. The California Supreme Court upheld that decision in “Zolly vs the City of Oakland. The franchise fees were found to be a tax, and needed to be put into a ballot measure.

When the city made that deal, Brian Nakamura said it was about “getting all these trucks off our streets” by eliminating consumer choice. Then he told us the franchise fees would go toward repairing the damage done by the trucks. Neither of those promises were kept – every year the franchise fees are dumped into the General Fund and used for whatever whim of council.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see a total resurfacing of my street – a major “feeder” to many neighborhoods, overdue foe 30 years – than a stupid ass skating rink for the use of the priveleged few.

But you know, it’s the privileged few who run our town and make the rules to their advantage.

According to HJTA legal council Laura Dougherty, we can challenge our city’s franchise fee. In fact, during that first conversation back in 2012, our new city manager Mark Sorensen, then a council member, said this: “Let’s call it what it is, a trash tax.” Looks like Sorensen knows it’s illegal, but now that he’s yanking a $211,000/yr salary out of the city coffers, he’s keeping his trap shut.

So I’ll do some research as to how we would submit a protest to the trash franchise. Laura Dougherty says, “Hopefully all a ratepayer needs to do now is send a copy of the Zolly decision to their city…” I’ll get back to you with whatever I find out.

Sewer rate increase hearing set for Tuesday (1/17/23) – if you haven’t mailed your protest get it in soon or attend the hearing

12 Jan

My husband and I sent our sewer protest vote by mail the other day – at this point, if you have not mailed yours, I’d recommend delivering it to the city clerk in her office, or attend the hearing next Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall.

Here’s what’s important to remember – you don’t have to convince council of anything – you get to VOTE on this. Each parcel is worth one vote, and 51% is all it takes to stop this tax. Tell your neighbors – this is a permanent tax, allowing for an annual increase without any further notice or hearings.ew

51% was all it took to shove a full cent sales tax measure up our collective patoot, let’s turn that back on them.

All Cal Water customers in the city should have received notice and are eligible to vote. If you can’t find your notice, contact me here. All you need to do is write your name and address on a piece of paper, with “I protest the City of Chico’s proposed changes to the sewer rate charge”.

Yes, the city of Chico, under Mayor Andrew Coolidge, plays dirty and low. It was Coolidge’s idea to try to get a Pension Obligation Bond without putting it on a ballot, and Morgan, Reynolds, and Tandon went with him on it. But their dirty tricks are no excuse for a lazy public – get off your ass now, or every time you sit on your toilet you’re going to pay more.

Here’s the future for Chico if we allow this sewer tax to pass – because they were allowed to pass an ordinance, city of Lancaster Pa simply raises fees whenever they have a budget shortfall

3 Jan

I love the spin the Lancaster media put on this tax hike – “first tax hike in 4 years” . Well, how would you like to have a tax hike EVERY four years? That’s what you can expect from a city that passes a sales tax with a simple measure and then sends out a sewer rate increase notice over the winter holiday season when they’re all out of the office.

If you are a Cal Water customer living in Chico and you have not received a sewer rate increase notice, please contact me here, or contact your city clerk at

The hearing is set for January 17. I am interested in meeting any interested parties at the clerk’s office to ask our questions of her personally. Let me know here if you are interested in joining me.