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Chico Unified Recall: Petition signing event Aug 4, 4pm, at PV High

27 Jul

Chico Parents for In-person Learning report they are still receiving support and gathering signatures for the recall of four members of the Chico Unified School District Board – Kathy Kaiser, Elaine Robinson, Tom Lando and Caitlin Dalby.

https://www.chicoparents.org/

You can download and print your own petition and send it in, but I personally prefer to sign in person. There will be a signature gathering event at 4pm on August 4 at Pleasant Valley (PV) High School. You can get more information at their facebook site.

These four shut Chico schools down for a year of instruction, putting children behind in their studies, and leaving parents struggling between childcare and work. They hurt our community and our economy. All the while, teachers continued to get paid. The straw that broke my back was back in April, when the district divvied up almost two and a half MILLION in COVID relief funding in bonuses to those teachers. For what?

Of course, as you may have seen, my letters to the editor were answered by a shower of arrows from local union operatives, attacking figures I got out of a CUSD agenda. That speaks volumes about the need for this recall. All four recall candidates are union members, which I find a little lopsided. I’d like to see more parents of various backgrounds on the board, but with union support these people had the advantage and the insider edge. If you read those letters, you see what the union is all about – bullying.

So I hope you will support this effort made, not only on behalf of Chico’s kids, but Chico’s future. Do you want to live under the Union Thumb? Do you want your children to live under that type of fascism?

Will HJTA’s C&D be the end of the POB? Wait and see!

25 Jun

I heard about “Pension Obligation Bonds” years ago, and the name seemed to be pretty clear – a bond that obligates the taxpayers to pay the pensions.

When I started this blog in 2012, we had just got a new city manager, Brian Nakamura. As I recall, he was the first person to mention the pension deficit – Unfunded Actuarial Liability – in front of the public. At that time, he gave two figures – one about $168 million, another about $193 million. I think the second figure included something else Nakamura brought up briefly – the benefits deficit, or “Other Post Employment Benefits”.

Nakamura didn’t stay long, he brought in his former assistant manager from Hemet CA, Mark Orme, and another co-worker from Hemet, Chris Constantin, to replace departing Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy. Nakamura was obviously setting us up for his quick departure to his next job in the town of Rancho Cordova, CA. When Nakamura left, Orme became City Manager, and promoted his friend Chris Constantin to Asst City mgr. Scott Dowell moved over from Chico Area Recreation District to take up the job of Finance Director, now called, “Administrative Services Director.”

These three immediately embarked on a plan to pay down the UAL with “allocations” from every fund in the city treasury. They brought in a consultant, Chad Wolford, who explained the process by which they could legally embezzle money from the streets, parks, sewer, and other infrastructure funds, to pay their own pensions. Allocations were institutionalized, with nothing more than a rubber stamp from council. A percentage of each department payroll is taken into the new “Pension Stabilization Trust,” from which Dowell makes investments, and then once a year, an increasing payment to CalPERS. At one point, they’d beaten the UAL down to about $138 million.

So, how has the UAL actually increased to $146 million? Plus another $140 million interest? Here’s how – Orme is not controlling employee costs. Instead he’s handing out raises, to himself and other management employees. Furthermore he’s added new management positions, three in the last year, at over $100,000 in salary.

Furthermore, management employees are only paying 9% of the cost of their own pensions. Do the math on that – 70% of their highest year’s salary at retirement, for a contribution of 9%? Meanwhile, Orme and several others have wangled themselves a special 401K fund for public employees – a 457 Fund. The city (the taxpayers) put $20,000 a year into that fund. Were you asked to rubberstamp this? Nobody was – I found it in his contract. People, you have to read stuff. I love it when the union lovers and the badge bunnies call me a liar but you ask and NO, they haven’t read shit.

Under this kind of strain, the PST is not supporting the payments. Dowell’s investments are coming in at less than 3%. Every month Dowell has to ask council to rubberstamp more allocations to meet CalPERS’ demands – look at the agendas before you call me names, okay? The annual payment gets bigger every year – this year, $11.5 million. Dowell says we’ll be paying $13 million within a few years. So, how, oh how, does that UAL figure keep getting bigger?

I’m glad to say, people are starting to ask questions. Staff wants to bury the whole thing, like it never happened. So, very quietly, behind closed doors (latest Finance Committee cancelled until August), Staff and council have been pushing forward with a tax measure they don’t want to put on the ballot – the Pension Obligation Bond. This bond will take front and center – the payments on this bond must be made ahead of all the city’s other obligations.

What are the city’s other obligations? Your streets, your sewer, your cops and firefighters, your park. All that has, as you can see, gone along the wayside while Staff has stuffed our money, hand over fist, into their own pockets.

Some people, including myself, believe a tax is a tax, and it needs to go to the ballot. Since this POB would be a “special” tax dedicated to the purpose of stuffing employees’ pockets (or whatever they want to call it), it’s a 2/3’s measure. When this point was brought up, Staff closed down the meetings and the planned “work shop” and went underground with it.

A local gadfly told me, “the POB is dead.” He cited the “cease and desist” order filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the cancellation of the workshop. I’m afraid that’s not true. A quick search on “cease and desist order” told me what I already suspected. The city can ignore it, and HJTA has to SUE. The filing date is this coming Monday, June 28. If nobody challenges the POB at Butte Superior Court, it will be approved automatically, cease and desist order be damned. A cease and desist order is just a line in the dirt, if the city steps over it and HJTA doesn’t do anything, it’s done.

If I had a lawyer, I’d file it myself, but I’ll have to wait and see what HJTA will do.

CUSD Board Recall: if every parent whose family has been negatively affected by school closures would sign the petition, it would be a slam dunk

15 Jun

I would still like to remind folks to sign the recall petitions for CUSD board members Kathy Kaiser, Eileen Robinson, Caitlin Dalby and Tom Lando. Chico Parents For In-Person Learning need about 11,000 signatures, and remember, you have to sign a separate petition for each board member. Get a petition at their website here:

https://www.chicoparents.org/recall-petitions

I outlined the reasons I was supporting this recall in a recent letter to the editor. I read the agenda and reports for the May 19 board meeting at which the four in question voted to dole out $2.5 million in bonuses to district employees who never missed a paycheck during the shut down. I got my teachers’ average salary figure right from the horse’s mouth – the agenda reports. But a few local union gadflies are trying to talk me down in letters to the ER. They should really read the reports first, available here:

Here’s my response, below, sent to the ER today. I wish those of you who have already signed the petition would write to the ER and outline the reasons you are supporting the recall.

Letter writers have questioned a figure I cited in a recent letter to the editor.

I got the average pay for a CUSD teacher from the 5/19/21 Chico Unified board agenda report. The lowest fulltime Chico teacher’s salary I saw on Transparent California was over $69,000/year. Benefits packages ranged from about $10,000 to $35,000. The average also includes a wide variety of miscellaneous part-time positions paid less than $1,000/year.

Chico teachers are very well compensated. They were fully paid through the school closures, even receiving bonuses, while working parents scrambled to find child care or stayed home from work, left to navigate the unemployment system.

My main concern with the CUSD board is that four of five positions are held by union members. While I agree that school employees are entitled to fair representation, that is a lopsided. Especially when you consider that members have a paid union arbitrator to represent them before the board. In fact, at least two of the four vote on contracts that directly benefit them. That is an obvious conflict of interest.

These four have kept the schools closed – dereliction of duty, the shameful failure to fulfill one’s obligations. These people are abusing a position of trust, with no regard for the community. They’ve ignored the concerns of parents and the welfare of the children.

If every parent whose family has been negatively affected by the school closures signed the petitions, it would be a slam dunk.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Butte County board puts the pensions first, the Camp Fire victims, well, we’ll get around to them later…

12 Jun

Been Busy, Busy, Busy this week, and I really appreciate this note from Dave Howell about a phone call he made to his district stupe regarding the Camp Fire money the Butte County Board just dumped into the pension fund.

I spoke to Supervisor Kimmelshue this week. The good news is that he confirmed there will be no POB. The bad news is the supervisors are going to use $20 million from the PG&E settlement to “smooth out” the pension liability. I told him that amount won’t even pay for the increase in the liability from the prior fiscal year which was $30 million. I told him they were just dumping money into a black hole because the pensions are unsustainable. The day of reckoning will come and $20 million sure won’t change that. And besides, why should settlement money for a horrific tragedy like that go to pension liability?

He listened to all the points I’ve made here before so I appreciated that. But if I am being completely honest, I don’t think he’s going to do anything that will make a difference in reforming the pensions and OPEB liability. I hope he proves me wrong and I will even help him do so. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

He asked me twice what it would take for me to support a tax increase. I tried to explain that taxes are already too high in California and taking more money from people is a bad idea, especially in a county with a 21% poverty rate before COVID. And it’s clear the supervisors will continue to dump more of our money down the pension and OPEB black hole. Who the Hell wants to pay more taxes for that?

To be honest, I don’t see any political leadership capable of solving this county’s financial problems which include over half a billion dollars in bonded debt AND the inexorably growing monstrous pension and OPEB liability. If I had to bet, I would bet the supervisors will go the route of higher taxes and more debt to appease the special interests and kick the financial problems down the road as far as they can. And why not? That’s what all the other politicians in this state have done and continue to do. None of them have solved the most important financial problems local governments face and that’s not going to change.

Thanks Dave, Kimmelshue sounds clueless. I emailed the board and had a response from Dist 1 Supervisor Bill Connolly that was equally frustrating. They seem to think, as does Sean Morgan, that their job is just to smooth over the voters, assure them that staff has everything under control… just lay back and think of Mother England, and take your screwing.

My district stupe Tami Ritter did not even bother to respond to my email. Bill was the only one who bothered. He tried to tell me they need to pay the pensions to attract quality employees. I asked him when we’d see some quality employees, and that was the end of the conversation.

These people are egocentric asses who don’t have the qualifications to do the job they have run for, they are at the complete mercy of $taff. To think, Connolly, a roofing contractor by trade, actually had the balls of brass to run for county assessor against longtime assessor’s office employee Diane Brown. He’d helped raise the salary to new heights, and then he tried to take the job. His daddy must have been a glass maker, cause I can see right through that old redneck.

I’ll remind people, that if you are unhappy with the jobs your elected officials do, it’s your responsibility to call them on it. Write those emails, write letters to the editor, and send any response you get here and I will run it.

And I’d like to thank Dave Howell again for taking the time to do this.

Thank goodness for recalls, but in future, let’s be more careful who we elect in the first place

2 Jun

I didn’t use to be a recall supporter. I always felt they were not worth the expense, let’s just do it at election time. But the COVID shut down has been a giant disaster, perpetuated by people who misused their power for their own agendas. For some it was just the absolute power of being able to run other people’s lives and dictate their behaviors. I think that would be Gavin Newsom, I think he just let it all go to his giant Joker-shaped head. Others saw gain to be made, and they took it. That would be the unions. So I wrote this letter to the ER in support of the recall that is being run by Chico Parents for In Person Learning. Here’s the link to their website:

https://www.chicoparents.org/recall-petitions

And here are locations in Chico where you can sign:

Rosedale Elementary School
100 Oak Street, Chico

M-W-F from 10:00AM to 10:45AM

Hobby Lobby
1919 E 20th Street, Chico

M-W-F from 12:30PM to 2:30PM

I hope you’ll sign too, and if you get a chance, send a letter to the Enterprise Record. Here’s mine.

After I saw Chico Unified School Board members Elaine Robinson, Kathy Kaiser, Tom Lando and Kaitlyn Dalby hand out nearly $2.5 million in bonuses to Chico school employees who refused to return to the classroom, I decided to support the recall effort led by Chico Parents for In Person Learning. This board majority perpetuated the school closure without regard for our community.

Public employees are very generously compensated based on the assumption that they go above and beyond to serve the community. According to board agenda reports, the average Chico teacher makes $106,732/year, plus benefits, including health insurance for themselves and their families.

The median family income in Chico is $43,000/year. Those families can’t miss a paycheck. Suddenly finding their children locked out of school is an immediate disaster. Leave them home alone? Use up your sick days hoping for good news? Affordable daycare was hard enough to find before COVID. Quit your job and go on welfare? All this is crippling our economy.

To think that families all over town are under that kind of strain while school district employees are enjoying full pay, benefits, and now a bonus. As a friend of mine put it, this is a stab to the kidney for working parents.

All four board members are also members of public unions. That has been a problem with the school board in past years – members whose allegiance to the union overrode their judgement.

Lesson learned – in future, let’s pay more attention to who we’re electing.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Please write to Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and tell them we need their help with this illegal bond Staff is trying to shove down our throats

2 Jun

Well, the cat is out of the bag – the city of Chico is trying to foist an illegal bond on us without taking it to the ballot. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has sued both the state of California and the SoCal town of Simi Valley and stopped them in their tracks, Simi Valley council voting unanimously to rescind their POB just last year.

Other towns have gone through with these bonds, because nobody stood in their way.

So yesterday I wrote a note to the HJTA office in Sacramento – that’s info@hjta.org I simply told them my city is taking a POB to court for approval, and asked them how I can stop that.

And I’m asking others to do same. Please write a quick email to HJTA and tell them you would like more information about stopping your city from issuing Pension Obligation Bonds. I’m afraid my little email won’t catch their attention. These people are busy with a lot of requests, we have to get on their radar if we want to get help with this illegal tax.

I also wrote an email to District 3 council member Kami Denlay, because she was the only council member to vote no when Staff brought this bond forward, telling me she thought it should go before the voters. I sent her links to the story about Simi Valley. I asked her what court Staff is taking the bond to. She responded,

I will double check the details for you this evening. When I previously asked about this I was told that legal counsel was taking it to court to check our legal ability to pursue the bond. I did not receive a lot of detail, so I will be happy to follow up and let you know what information I get.

Her response makes me suspicious – Staff is not telling council everything. They never told council about the Simi Valley case. Staff tends to treat council like children, manipulating them by omitting important facts and just plain lying. They have repeatedly denied this is a tax, denied that it will result in new debt, and refused to discuss other avenues for paying down the UAL.

I had almost given up on my own district rep, Kasey Reynolds, but I will also send this information along to her. Please send your rep an email, send them the link to the Simi Valley story. We need to nip this mess in the bud before it ends up costing any more money. They’ve already shelled out for consultants and put a $$$$ of Staff time into it. Let’s stop it before it goes any further. Here’s the Simi Valley story,

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has successfully sued at least twice to stop POBs on the grounds that they must have voter approval

29 May
This article from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sheds some legal doubts on the whole POB scam.

On a tip from a reader, I found this article, originally printed in January 2020. Jon Coupal begins with statewide bond measures, but picks up with a warning about Pension Obligation Bonds. “...at the local level, taxpayers need to be aware of a recent resurgence in the use of pension obligation bonds, a risky financing method that fell out of favor during the recession but is now making a comeback.”

Coupal analogizes, “A POB is basically paying your Visa bill with your MasterCard,” adding, “Pension obligation bonds (POBs) are bonds issued to fund, in whole or in part, the unfunded portion of public pension liabilities by the creation of new debt.

Council members Andrew Coolidge and Sean Morgan, and other proponents of POBs, are denying that a POB is new debt, they chant it like a mantra, because they think they can hypnotize us into believing it.

Coupal continues, “The use of POBs relies on an assumption that the bond proceeds, when invested with pension assets in higher-yielding assets, will be able to achieve a rate of return that is greater than the interest rate owed over the term of the bonds.

Even Staffer Scott Dowell has used the word, “gamble“, even while he and city manager Mark Orme have pressed forward with this scheme. Council has given them permission to send this bond for judicial approval. The consultant told council and staff that this type of bond does not require voter approval. They said it would only take approval from a judge, which should only take a few months. The expect to implement this thing within the next few months.

If this seems odd to you, you’re not alone, the HJTA is on your side.

Back in 2003, the state of California attempted to float a statewide pension obligation bond without voter approval.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sued to invalidate the bonds and prevailed in court.

That’s not the only lawsuit HJTA has pursued against POBs. The reader who tipped me to all this sent me the story of HJTA vs the city of Simi Valley.

The Simi Valley City Council voted 5-0 on April 6, 2020, to rescind a December 2019 resolution authorizing a $150 million pension obligation bond and future similar bonds, thanking the Ventura County Taxpayers Association for working with the City in avoiding what could have been a lengthy battle over legally questionable bonds. The rescission was part of a settlement agreement with the VCTA and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Apparently, the city asked for validation from the Ventura County Superior Court. HJTA and the Ventura County Taxpayers Association then “answered” the suit. And the city backed down, but I’m not really sure why.

“In settling, the Simi Valley City Council recognized the constitutional concern in the VCTA/HJTA answer to the City’s lawsuit — whether the California Constitution requires two-thirds voter approval of any such bond. Agreeing to wait for legal clarity, and with each side bearing its own costs, the City agreed to dismiss its lawsuit with prejudice, and rescind the bond authorization resolution.

recognized the constitutional concern” ? ” Agreeing to wait for legal clarity” ? I’m not sure what has happened since then – has the court given any further ruling on these bonds? Any legal clarity? I’ll have to look into that. But I think that’s a good question for Staff at that POB forum.

DAY: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
TIME: 2:00 P.M.
PLACE: City Council Chamber – 421 Main Street

CANCELLED: City hosting an interactive forum to discuss POBs

27 May

I got this notice from Dave – thanks Dave!

I also got the cancellation notice from Dave – thanks again Dave!

DAY: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
TIME: 2:00 P.M.
PLACE: City Council Chamber – 421 Main Street


The City of Chico’s employees and retirees participate in the CalPERS retirement system. CalPERS has
determined that the City has an unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of over $140,000,000 which carries an
interest rate of 7%. As such, the City Council is researching all options on reducing this liability. One
possibility is to issue pension obligation bonds (POBs) at a lower interest rate than 7% and use the
proceeds to pay down the CalPERS UAL.


The City is hosting an interactive forum to discuss POBs including the benefits and risks associated with
their issuance. The consulting firm of NHA Advisors will be conducting the forum on June 8th starting at
2:00 pm and concluding by 4:00pm. This forum will be interactive and participants are encouraged to ask
questions and provide feedback to the consultant. Attendees are encouraged to join in person at the City
Council Chambers or watch online. There is no cost to attend this educational forum.

Orme and Dowell want to take the city of Chico on a Tax-stravaganza

25 May

Tomorrow the Chico Finance Committee is meeting, again, CLOSED in a room with public participation limited to Zoom, to discuss the smorgasbord of taxes and fee increases brought forward by city manager Mark Orme and Administrative Services (Finance) Director Scott Dowell. I will try to “attend” on Zoom, but in the meantime I wrote a letter to the ER.

The city of Chico is embarking on an unprecedented “tax-stravaganza”. At the 5/26/21 Finance Committee meeting, Mark Orme and Scott Dowell brought forth an incredible list of tax measures and fee increases for council’s consideration, including a sales tax increase, and new cell phone tax. Staff also suggested raising sewer fees by implementing volume charges, raising the transient occupancy tax, and increasing franchise fees on PG&E, the waste haulers, and other service providers. Mayor Coolidge has also suggested a road bond.

The common thread here is the pension deficit. Staff is desperate to pay CalPERS, to save pensions into which they have contributed less than 15% for 70-90% of their highest year’s pay.

The city has been receiving more sales tax, property tax, developer fees, and Utility Tax revenues every year as development brings more people to Chico. Instead of maintaining and improving infrastructure, Staff has poured these funds into their pension deficit, $11,500,000 this year, by 2025, $13,000,000. This money is allocated from all the department funds, at the expense of infrastructure and services.

Instead of pursuing new taxes that will hurt our local economy, council needs to switch from CalPERS’ defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, like 401Ks. Why should the taxpayers but never the employees bear the burden of the risks taken by CalPERS? The POB scheme, which Dowell admits is “gambling”, puts ALL the burden on the taxpayers, forever. Any new revenues will go to the pension obligation first.

We’re paying Staff for nothing but perpetuating their own retirement system.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Sign the petitions to recall CUSD board members

25 May

As soon as I posted yesterday about the Chico Unified board recall, I got several people asking, “where can I sign?” I am glad – look how the recall of Gavin Newsome has suddenly opened up the state! The school district is not complying because pressure from the school employees’ unions – four of five board members also belong to public unions. This recall is necessary to remind people the school is for the kids, not the other way around.

There is a separate petition for each board member. Maybe you think one or two of them are okay, you only want to sign the others? That’s your prerogative. Just remember the petitions are separate. Always read something before you sign it, make sure it’s legit.

Chico Parents for In Person Learning is running the recall. Here’s their website:

https://www.chicoparents.org/recall-petitions

There you can print out petitions, sign and send in, but they have petitions at locations around town, including the following:

Rosedale Elementary School
100 Oak Street, Chico

M-W-F from 10:00AM to 10:45AM

Hobby Lobby
1919 E 20th Street, Chico

M-W-F from 12:30PM to 2:30PM

Rare Air Trampoline Park
1090 E 20th Street, Chico

May 21 from 12:30PM to 4:00PM