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Gas tax petition gaining momentum – time to defund the special interest programs that are ruining our state

24 Jan

I’m glad I went to that meeting yesterday, because it relates to some other stuff I’ve been reading in the news. 

First of all, Dude sent me this article over a week ago:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-jackson-california-poverty-20180114-story.html

“Guess which state has the highest poverty rate in the country? Not Mississippi, New Mexico, or West Virginia, but California, where nearly one out of five residents is poor. That’s according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in the cost of housing, food, utilities and clothing, and which includes noncash government assistance as a form of income.”

I’ll buy that, because that’s what I’m seeing all around me – more than 1 in 5 of my friends are having money problems, and few of them have been living fast or fancy – they’re having a hard time paying their new PG&E, Cal Water, and Waste Management rates, which are going up hell-bent-for-leather compared to their wages. My kids are working jobs at reduced hours because their employers cannot afford to pay the still-required health care premiums for employees working 28 hours or more a week. 

While you might want to blame welfare recipients, read on:

“Self-interest in the social-services community may be at fault. As economist William A. Niskanen explained back in 1971, public agencies seek to maximize their budgets, through which they acquire increased power, status, comfort and security. To keep growing its budget, and hence its power, a welfare bureaucracy has an incentive to expand its “customer” base. With 883,000 full-time-equivalent state and local employees in 2014, California has an enormous bureaucracy. Many work in social services, and many would lose their jobs if the typical welfare client were to move off the welfare rolls.”

And then there’s the pressure on the middle income families who have to drive to work – The Moonbeam’s answer to poverty was higher taxes on cars and gas.  There’s no limit when you are spending other people’s money. Luckily a group has come up with a gas tax repeal petition:

http://act.reformcalifornia.org/petitions/cartax/html/gen/

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-gastax-repeal-20171127-story.html

“We need to stop the car and gas tax hikes because, number one, it’s hurting working families,” said Carl DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego City Council and now a talk radio host who has helped spearhead the repeal. “Secondly, the money is being diverted time and time again from road repairs and road expansion to any special interest project the politicians have.”

 

Yes, any special interest project – like a busline to Sacramento that  takes an hour longer than driving your car, that will still cost $24 round trip (and screw you if you miss that 4:55 bus), and will still have to be 60 percent subsidized by the taxpayers, even if they get the ridership required by the grant program. 

Read this again, “With 883,000 full-time-equivalent state and local employees in 2014, California has an enormous bureaucracy.”

Including the staffers at BCAG, SRTA, SJJPD, and a bunch of other special districts around the state. BCAG has a $1.5 million dollar payroll to meet, for 12 staffers – whipping out my handy calculator, I see that’s $125,000 per staffer. 

Public compensation drives up the cost of everything, from housing to food to gas to daycare to medical care and so on.  The private sector family living on $40,000 or less has to compete with these people for homes, groceries, everything – in a town with so many publicly employed residents as Chico, the seller or merchant is able to charge top dollar for everything.

This is how these stupid special projects affect our quality of life. Tell your county supervisor you don’t want to participate in this bus line to nowhere, it’s not too late, the grant applications haven’t been accepted yet. 

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Why do people ignore a problem until it’s too late to do much about it, then expect to complain? Trash deal has been in the works since 2012 – now people want to bitch about it?

5 Jan

I just got my new 2018 Waste Management bill for three months (32 gallons) of $59.70, up about 55 percent from previous bills of $38.55. I realize there is always a bit of inflation but 55 percent? By chance, did the city hire the negotiator from the Pentagon’s F35 program for the Waste Management contract?

I also read that pot was legal in California in 2018 but our City Council decided that a retail pot store was not appropriate for our fair city. How am I supposed to relieve the anxiety of opening my Waste Management garbage bill? I’m very unhappy with our City Council.

— Geoff Bartels, Chico

You know how I love to say “I told you so.”   

That’s not really true – it drives me nuts, trying to get people to pay attention to an issue when there’s still time to stop the bulldozers, but they give me that same old tired bullshit – I’m sorry, I have a life! Why don’t you get one Juanita?

But of course, later, they  get to whine and complain about it.

Somebody read one of my old posts on the subject yesterday, from 2014. At that time, Joe Matz of Recology was saying rates would triple, and the city was looking at requiring service for everybody. If you wanted to haul your own trash they wanted to inspect your vehicle, etc, which was tantamount to requiring a hauler’s permit.

When Juanita raised her scrawny little fist and said, “If you require service the city will have to provide a low-income subsidy…” 

To which the consultant answered, “She’s right.”  He smiled at me across the room. It wasn’t the consultant’s fault, he was very truthful about the whole thing.

OOO! The bulldozers had to stop and listen! You’ll notice, service is not required under this deal, and you can still take your trash to the dump without a hauler’s permit. Which means, neighbors/relatives/friends can still share cans to save money.

Just think if there was four more Juanitas.  Or at least four more people who went to these meetings and raised a scrawny little fist?

And here’s what I’ll  tell Geoff – read the Waste Management website – you can opt out of yard waste service and save almost $6 bucks a month. My family, who share service with our tenants, also opted for a smaller bin. Our son has moved away to college and our tenants don’t have much trash either – we realized we didn’t need that 96 gallon bin anymore.

Once I made those changes in our account, the rate is still about $5 more per month. No, I’m not happy about that. But I wish people who complain would educate themselves – the real problem at this point is the city wants to use the new revenue to pay down their pension deficit instead of fixing the streets like they said they would. That’s where we need to hit them, and hard.

In fact, public works director Brendon Ottoboni says the road/streets fund is tapped, and they are almost 10 years behind on necessary projects. When developer Bill Webb asked at a recent public meeting how a person could get their street on the projects list, Ottoboni again said there’s no money for fixing any more streets.

thumbnail_20171129_095754

This is the “pedestrian right-of-way” down my street. Every now and then I look in that pothole, make sure there isn’t an old lady or a jogger with a stroller stuck down in there…

Want to have some fun? Write to council member Randy Stone, who recently declared the deal was working cause we have less trucks on the streets.

randall.stone@Chicoca.gov

Really Randy? On Wednesday I have a Recology truck on my street, servicing the “commercial enterprise” known as the Evangelical Free Church. On Thursday my bins  are picked up by Waste Management. On Friday Waste Management picks up the bins on the street that intersects my street. So, I get a minimum of seven trucks a week running up and down the street in front of my house.

How about another picture.

thumbnail_20171129_095932

The asphalt is almost completely separated from the base here.

But here’s another funny fact – my street is not considered a  “feeder” by the city of Chico, because there is no new subdivision on my street, so my street will never be on the “projects” list – ask Ottoboni about that.

brendan.ottoboni@Chicoca.gov

Letters to the editor of a newspaper that reaches less than a third of local residents isn’t going to cut it. A few months ago council member Ann Schwab suggested a complaint line for garbage customers so they wouldn’t have to write to the mayor. Why not write to the mayor?  He approved this deal too.

sean.morgan@Chicoca.gov

Don’t forget the chief engineer – city mangler Mark Orme

mark.orme@Chicoca.gov

If you’re going to complain, make it count. 

 

 

Here’s why the price of housing will never go down in Chico – houses will get smaller, but the price per square foot is going to keep climbing

20 Dec

Thanks Dude, for this article from zerohedge.com –  

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-19/calpers-goes-all-equity-bubble-boosts-stock-allocation-50

CalPERS has decided to raise the stakes by $50 billion, and critics are saying they are investing in “bubbly stocks”. As defined by Wikipedia, “a bubble occurs when investors put so much demand on a asset that they drive the price beyond any accurate or rational reflection of its actual worth.”

In past CalPERS has failed to bring in anticipated returns because they’ve made bad investments, first based on bribery, and later, on philosophy – buying stock in “green” companies that failed miserably. I believe those “philosophical” investments were also based on bribery or other influence but that hasn’t come out yet.

Here in Chico CalPERS failure will determine the cost of our housing market, since developers/homebuyers are expected to pay for the salaries, health benefits and pensions of Downtown $taffers. Last night council deadlocked over fees – Mark Sorensen correctly stating that there is no data to support lower fees for high density builders, and Karl Ory throwing up that ages old argument that has led us on the BOOM and BUST trail again and again – we need more housing for the “workforce.”

15 years ago, it was, “more starter housing for young families.” They change the words but it’s still the same – more profits for developers, more fees and property taxes for the city.

This city has suffered two big BUSTS in my adult lifetime. I learned about the economy when, in 1989, my family bought an entirely over-inflated house. Within three years prices went through the floor again, and when we tried to sell we couldn’t even get what we paid. Families all over town, like us, were paying over-inflated mortgages and property taxes, which means no “discretionary” income.

In the early 2000’s the market was flat and the developers turned to their friends in elected positions – like Larry Wahl and Dan Herbert – to campaign for “starter housing for young families”. They wanted lower fees – Dan Herbert almost went into tears complaining about the $17,000 in fees he’d just paid to build his new house, he just kept repeating that over and over at the council meeting. 

That campaign led to the biggest building BOOM in Chico history. But wait! Prices didn’t go down! Houses went from the$90,000 range to over $300,000 within eight months. 

And of course by 2010 the BUST rolled in, with foreclosures all over town. Foreclosures never went away, we still have many foreclosures in Chico.  Right now Zillow is listing 68 foreclosed homes. Over the past two years I’ve lost five neighbors to foreclosure, while one foxy old bastard next door actually re-bought his own house at auction, reducing his mortgage debt by about $100,000. 

That should tell you, some of these housing prices are just made of air…

The BOOM we are experiencing now has all the hallmarks of the previous BOOM – housing prices up sharply, sales quick and high over the Summer. I sold a home this Summer because I saw that, and I wanted to unload before the prices hit rock bottom and stayed there for years to come. We essentially sold the place at Open House, within the first two weeks, for asking price. I had feared the realtor had asked too much, and was surprised at the full price offer.  They were ready to jump through hoops for us to get the house, they were almost annoyingly pushy. 

Two realtors I spoke with when I was selling told me uneasily they expect a BUST by Spring 2018. Already I’ve noticed sales are slowing, but  that just might be a Winter thing. We’ll see.

CalPERS is going to take California down. 

 

 

 

 

 

Why would we want to do anything the way Portland – a “planning nightmare” – does it?

28 Nov

Portland, the home of Portland Loo, is having a serious bum problem.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/11/27/columbia-sportswear-may-close-downtown-portland-office-over-threats-public-defecation-by-homeless-people.html

The headline says it all,  but go ahead and read the article – like the bony hand of Christmas Future, Portland points out the fate of Chico. 

Portland sucks, that’s why they have one of the funniest online shows around, making fun of themselves:

http://www.ifc.com/shows/portlandia

Portland is also “the hub of smart urban planning,” while at the same time “a planning nightmare.”

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/379685-266393-east-portland-planning-nightmare

Why would we imitate this town? Our council needs a Post-it note right in front of them – “Do the OPPOSITE of anything Portland tells you….”

But tomorrow, the city Finance Committee – made up of Mayor Sean Morgan, and council members Mark Sorensen and Randy Stone – will discuss giving new urban high density developers lower fees than traditional developers. $taff is trying to say, high density development has lower impacts than lower density development. 

I know, what a crock – but it’s happening, look down your street.

Here’s another story of interest:

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/379637-266104-city-hall-update-police-crack-down-on-camping-in-retail-core-

 

The bigger the lie, the more often you repeat it, the more people will believe you – repeat after me – high density residential produces less impacts than low density residential…

26 Nov

Today I was walking my dog along the street in front of my house, and as we crossed the tattered asphalt from one corner to another I found myself in a minefield of potholes. The street was wet, cars were approaching in both directions, and as I stepped on a piece of loose asphalt my ankle turned sideways –  the pain was instant.   I was afraid I’d sprained it, and hobbled off to my house, dog in tow.

After I’d rubbed it out, the pain was gone, but it still makes me mad – in the past 15 years, the city has allowed a lot of development and sewer hook-ups along our street without doing any maintenance to the street. Crews come around occasionally with “slobbers” – leftover asphalt from other jobs – and make patches that just end up on the tires of the first cars to come along.  

There is a particular pothole at the corner of Filbert and Bryant that voided the warranty on my right front tire – excessive road hazard, according to the fellow at Big O Tires. This particular pothole is hard to miss – you’d have to go into oncoming traffic, or into the rut that passes for the “pedestrian right-of-way”  – and has been repeatedly filled with slobbers, only to return. Ever since it ruined my tire I call it “Jaws,” and yeah, as long as there isn’t a southbound car in the way, I cross the center line to avoid it.

Whenever you build a new house or add any square footage to an old house you are supposed to pay fees of all kinds toward the “impacts” you are creating – to the sewer, sidewalks, streets and other infrastructure directly surrounding your project. That stuff is for everybody’s benefit, and everybody is supposed to share in the cost of maintaining it. 

Unfortunately the city of Chico has not been very fair in who pays what over the last 20 or so years. If you build a house yourself, as my family did, they demand all the fees right up front or they will shut you down. But developers get “deferred” fees – they don’t have to pay their street fees, for example, until their project is fully built out. Some of these subdivisions take 20 or 30 years to build out. Look at West Side Place over on Nord Avenue, it’s been sold by the original developer, who never paid any street fees on it, and there it sits, unfinished. 

Cal Trans threatened to sue the city of Chico years back, because the city had approved all these new subdivisions without dedicating any of the fees toward needed improvements of Hwy 99 and 32. Five developers were named in that lawsuit. The city rolled over and gave the money – but as of two years ago when Cal Trans began work on Hwy 32 there between 99 and Del Monte, city council member and Mayor Mark Sorensen admitted to me that none of the developers named in the lawsuit had paid any fees.

Those widenings not only cost the city millions but those of us in the surrounding older neighborhoods put up with three years of earsplitting noise running right through the night, five to six nights a week. Those highways went right into people’s back yards. 

So I was very interested two or so years ago when I heard the city was talking about raising developer fees. I knew they hadn’t updated the “nexus” for years and the sewer fund was tanked from hook-ups. I also knew – existing homeowners were being charged far more for hook-ups than developers – anywhere from $10-20,000 in fees for  the homeowner  as compared to $3500 per house for developers.

But I also know, city management has been pilfering the development fund to pay unrelated salaries and benefits for years.  Back in 2002 several local developers forced the city of Chico to return fees that had not been spent on the subdivisions for which they’d been collected.

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/developer-fee-refund-doesnt-add-up/content?oid=11788

The article leaves out the fact that one of the developers had actually installed sewer  trunk lines at his own cost, and others had installed sidewalks and other infrastructure – all that is supposed to be done by the city with development fees. So the  city had to  give the money back. Why would the developers refund the home buyers when they paid for the stuff the fees were supposed to provide? 

I believe developer fees need to be updated on a regular basis to reflect the true costs of city infrastructure – that’s labor and materials, period. Instead developer fees are being hi-jacked to reflect the cost of city management salary and benefits. 

But here’s the really distressing part of the discussion – this Wednesday, staff is trying to convince members of the Finance Committee to make a recommendation to essentially force new urban development. They want to lower fees for new urban, with traditional builders picking up the difference.  Staff says new urban developments – which are at much higher density levels than traditional development – create fewer impacts on roads and other infrastructure. 

I hope you’re asking yourself, what kind of Kook Aide are they drinking? 

Well, they’re not crazy. They know – the fees are lower at the get-go – but who cares – developer fees don’t even make a blip on the budget radar. What they are doing, is cramming in more houses, which will generate more and more and more property taxes forever.

And no, they’re not going to fix the street in front of my house.

 

 

 

 

Still think Agenda 21 is a big joke?

30 Oct

I don’t know how many people are aware of our city’s efforts to get “Green”.  For years I tried to cover Chico’s Sustainability Task Force, formed originally by then-Mayor and current city council member Ann Schwab.  When current chair Mark Stemen took over a few years ago, the committee went completely underground, ad hoc, no council members, no staffers to take notes – like former city staffer Mary Fitch once said, these ad hoc committees are just “an end-run around the Brown Act”.  

https://chicotaxpayers.com/?s=sustainability+task+force&submit=Search

A committee member is tasked to take “notes”, which appear every few months on an agenda, after they’ve been abridged and approved by the committee. Read those here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/sustainability_task_force.asp

The STF gave us the bag ban. They also passed an ordinance by which we have to put new toilets, new shower heads, new light bulbs and do up to $800 worth of insulation and other weatherization in our house before we can sell it. Read through those agendas and “notes”, see what other short hairs they are grasping for.  But I still had to laugh at this video Dude sent me:

Recently, local developers were told they could pay lower fees for building smaller houses in new urban type neighborhoods.

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20171025/NEWS/171029818

What does the average family want? I don’t know, because the average family was neither invited to nor represented at the meeting, it was just a bunch of developers and suits. Oh yeah, and Ken Fleming, who likes to talk philosophy. Ken’s a nice guy, but he lives on some planet where everybody is on Valium.

They think the smaller houses will get us out of our cars, that’s so funny.  Read the following story and don’t forget to watch the video – note, the woman is driving a Prius – didn’t she see the Audi commercial? 

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-28/prius-driving-ny-legislator-fakes-ptsd-panic-attack-get-out-minor-speeding-ticket-vi

Go on to her campaign speech below – she’s an urban planner! 

The Sustainability Task Force also gave us our trash deal, are you happy with that? Got your postcard, telling you all the things you can be fined for? Not so funny now, is it?

 

Thanks Dude, for sending those videos, and reminding us to keep an eye on the Sustainability Task Force.