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Ralph Nader: “If you don’t turn on to politics, politics will turn on you” – let’s put the “public” back in “public meetings”!

2 Jan

Well Happy New Year to you!

Here’s a resolution for you – attend a public meeting this year – make that TWO!

Here is the agendas page for City of Chico meetings:

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

There are three kinds of “committees” – those made up of elected officials, those made up of official appointees (spoils committees) and there’s one that’s made up of staffers – the Maps Committee. That’s a fairly new committee – I’m guessing, they either got in trouble for making these decisions behind closed doors or some rule changed and now they have to make these meetings public. 

Let’s face it – these meetings are only “public” if the “public” attends.

Chico Area Recreation District has a whole new website – you  gotta wonder, why? Their old website was fine, everything was available from the home page – now I had to search for information about the board, and I had to e-mail manager Ann Willmann to ask where to find the agendas. 

You also  gotta wonder, how much did the new website cost? 

Take a good look – this website is going to cost you a new bond or assessment on your home in 2018.

http://www.chicorec.com/board-of-directors

In 2018 let’s put the “public” back in “public information,” “public meetings” and “public participation.” 

UPDATE:  I was kind of shocked to receive this response when I e-mailed CARD manager Ann Willmann yesterday (1/2/18) about agendas for upcoming meetings:

 Sorry I missed you. I am currently out of the office until Monday, January 8th. The CARD office is  closed 12/25-1/5/18. I will be checking email occasionally during the break and will respond to emails as needed. Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season. Ann 

 

So, does this mean, parks and playgrounds are going unattended? Are CARD workers currently laid off, being designated “part time,” and living through the holidays without pay?  Or does it mean, the actual workers have to work while management gets two weeks off, with pay?  Either way it’s costing us. 

Willmann e-mailed me later yesterday, from wherever. 

Hi Juanita, agendas for our regular meetings are posted 72 hours prior to the meeting date. I’m sorry you are not finding the new website more user friendly, thank you for the feedback. I did make a few adjustments to better communicate when the agendas will be posted.  Thank you, Ann

And yes, she’d made that notation on the website. I’m not allowed to ask too many questions at a time, or I would have asked, “One meeting a month – don’t you think you could get those agendas up more than three days ahead?” 

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2018: We need to dismantle the Hobo Highway leading into Chico

30 Dec

Another year is coming to a close, I like to scroll over to “Archives” and see what I was doing a year ago.

At this time last year I was posting a lot of pictures of bums camping in Bidwell Park. I’ll tell you what – my husband still hits the park trails with my dog every morning, and even though the weather is dryer than this time last year, he hasn’t found any campers in our section of the park. Yesterday, feeling guilty about taking a shorter walk the day before, he took Biscuit down into the depths, following the meandering bum trails through the overgrowth – not even a trash pile.

One morning about a month ago he found the remains of a camp, but by the time we mounted up on our bike to head to the grocery store later that morning, the camp had been cleaned by a group called Chico Community Watch. They have a city staffer as liaison, kind of a supervisor – which means we essentially pay this volunteer group over $100,000 a year plus pension and benefits. 

Jack Lee, in his blog Post Scripts, has an interesting interview with member Trevor Skaggs here:

http://www.norcalblogs.com/postscripts/2017/10/11/story-pending-chico-community-watch/

The interesting part of the interview is where Skaggs essentially admits that when providing any kind of service for the transients,  “ you kind of setup a slippery slope, you are providing services that make Chico an amenable place for individuals to migrate here from other locations. “

Yes, I feel volunteers like this just exacerbate the problem, while allowing highly compensated city staff to shirk their responsibilities. Why would I want to pay the property taxes that support salaries over $100,000, plus very generous benefits packages, and then wade into the park and pick up human filth? 

And it’s not just the city of Chico – Chico Area Recreation District is currently in talks to take over maintenance of Bidwell Park. CARD has a $7.2 million budget projected for 2018,  $5.2 million spent on salaries and benefits, mostly for about 30 full time employees, who have managed to rack up over $1.7 million in pension deficit. Will they expect volunteers to clean up after the bums?

They will pursue a bond or assessment on our homes in 2018, but haven’t announced yet whether it will be on the general ballot or a mailed ballot. 

I don’t think it’s a permanent solution either – they might chase the bums out of Bidwell Park – temporarily – but they just move to other parts of town. North Chico has had two sprawling homeless camps, one near a trailer park mostly inhabited by elderly people. Residents reported not only illegal camping but public defecation and urination in their door yards, and even threats from transients.

Chico has become a destination on the Hobo Highway, and we need to stop offering the services that are bringing them here. How about a few services for tax paying residents? 

Here’s  the street out front of my house – when do I get some services? 

So yes, I plan to go on complaining about the transient problem in 2018. That’s a resolution. 

 

Hey – while you are gathering around the tree with a cup of cider in your face, the city of Chico is getting ready to stick it to you in 2018!

22 Dec

I got  the agenda for the January 2 2018 city council meeting

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=279

and here are some immediate observations:

  1. Looking at the police contract up for consideration, I see our cops are hugely overcompensated and given many perks and benies but are still demanding raises. While city mangler Mark Orme insists this contract will only cost $37 more per employee per year, he doesn’t give the figures and he doesn’t even mention how many employees the police department has.  I went to the State Controllers Government Compensation charts and I see cops in Chico make well over $100,000/year, plus nice benefits packages, and I’m wondering – how long can we afford salaries that compare with those in much bigger cities?

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=79&fiscalyear=2016#P80f0121adc79480a9f9ed94f9dc3314e_2_oHit0

    2. They’re raising the cost of housing and other fees to pay for it.

    3.  The clerk isn’t posting city council minutes again. She’s only posted selected meetings since about July.  She constantly complains about not being able to use the equipment.  She just got a raise to more than cover her own pension share – which is less than 10 percent.  Presson’s salary is comparable to a police officer.  

Presson always includes a little personal note with the agenda – she wishes all of us and our families a great holiday season! Well, her Christmas, with that kind of salary, much be just ginchee! 

All I want for Christmas this year is for the CalPERS building to implode and collapse back into Hell where it came from.

Image result for calpers building sacramento

As for Chico PD? I hope their kids all grow up and leave.  

As for the rest of you – make a resolution for 2018 to stop putting up with this shit.

 

 

Homeless agencies fighting like dogs over scraps

21 Nov

The other day I got a mailer from the Jesus Center, their annual fundraising drive. 

The Jesus Center has a long history here in town. The first location that I know of was a building situated down the street from the current location. They offered very spare meals twice a day – sometimes just a slice of American cheese between two pieces of white bread, contained in a sandwich baggie. They also offered Salvation – at times they were accused of asking clients to pray for their meals. 

In the early days the center was privately run, by a local family. By the 1990’s the center had a staff, and a manager – Al Kay, who was very popular in town. He renamed the operation “Loaves and Fishes.”  Kay started to ask for community support, encouraging donations of food. We had a good year in our tomato patch and I took him a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes, for which he thanked me up and down.

But some of the neighboring businesses often complained that the center was bringing in transients, who would wander that length of street, drunk, panhandling, ranting and raving away customers. 

 

We had a rental in the neighborhood, when we were working on it, we bought lunch a lot of times out of the window at Duke’s Liquor – they had really good  wagon-style tacos for about $1 each. I saw what the locals were complaining about – we’d always encounter at least three drunks while waiting for our food, including one woman who would walk up and try to start a fight. The others would just walk back and forth mumbling and smoking cigarettes, which they picked up from the ground.

Around the corner, there was a house full of working girls – yeah, daytime hookers – who would hang around the intersection of Park and 13th wearing the usual clothes, stand at the stoplight smoking cigarettes and engaging passersby, oftentimes running back to the apartment house to meet them in the parking lot.

That corridor has had a problem with transients as long as I  can remember.  Part of the problem was an old building known as the Ice House – at some point, ice was manufactured there. It had been empty since at least the 1960’s, and was a serious public nuisance. It wasn’t only an eyesore, it was a gathering and camping place for the transients, as well as a rat house. 

In the 1990’s, the city and the Jesus Center had an idea that seemed to kill two rats with one stone – let’s renovate the ice house and turn it into a functional shelter, set it up with the county, get some funding, etc.  The old building that had housed the JC had been burned down at some point in an arson fire – nobody was ever even blamed for it, they just moved  along toward relocation.

The ice house was gutted and revamped into a kitchen and dining hall with an office and even a couple of living spaces. And renamed The Jesus Center. 

I was happy about that – like a lot of people, I believed the transient problem was already there, and they needed some center to deal with it. 

I don’t remember when the Torres Shelter came on the scene, sometime around 2000? The city gave them the use of the land, and donors built the shelter, and several groups have tried to run it. 

Both centers started to hit the skids, in my recollection, sometime during the early 2000’s. My husband and I started to notice the JC was looking very run down, with tags on the outside of the building and trash piling up in front. At some point we noticed a broken down old motor home with a tarp pulled half-heartedly over the roof, parked in back of the building. On different occasions we saw different men staggering out of it.  Whenever we’d go to Chico Locker to buy meat or sandwiches, we’d see a surly, dirty group at the picnic table provided for customers, smoking cigarettes, making inappropriate comments. The staff kept them out of the store, but couldn’t keep them off the table.

The trash started to pile up all around that corner. One day not too long ago I sat in the parking lot and watched two really drunk people repeatedly walking out in front of cars that passed through the intersection of 14th and Locust.  They acted as though it was some sort of game.  If they do get hit, it’s an all expenses paid stay at Enloe Hospital.

We were glad when we heard Bill Such had been sent packing and a new, no-nonsense board had taken over the JC. But things did not get better under new director, Laura Cootsoona.  The JC started giving bums sleeping bags, back packs, and other camping supplies that we’d find in piles in Bidwell Park, under various bridges around town and along our creekside greenways. 

I believe locating the Torres nearby was a mistake, they seem to compete for funding. And I don’t think the Torres Shelter board is led by practicality, they are led by Pollyanna fantasies. They don’t hold high enough standards for their clients. They say they have rules – the rules end at the public sidewalk in front of the shelter. The Torres board won’t be responsible for the behavior of the people they attract. 

Neither entity will take responsibility for the rampant illegal camping going on in their area. Neither will patrol the park to get illegal campers to come to the shelter. They sit and collect their salaries and wait for the transients to come to them. 

And North Chico has no open door services – transients are expected to find their way South. The old hotel on Esplanade and the Esplanade House accept clients through the courts, and have long-term programs. The Esplanade House is having internal problems over the current director’s insistence that they accept single drunks – he wants the money, the original founders want to protect the families living there. 

So, right now, our homeless agencies are all fighting among themselves, and it looks like the Torres Shelter will be gone within a year. 

I don’t know if I’ve shed any light on this situation, I’ve had a hard time remembering the timeline. But I do know, the situation is worse now than ever, and all we have is bickering among these publicly-funded agencies. 

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/plan-lacks-transparency/content?oid=25360445

So when I got the annual fundraiser notice from the Jesus Center, I hucked it. I’m tired of supporting this bullshit. 

 

 

 

 

CARD, city $taff agree on one thing – it’s time to run a revenue measure!

4 Nov

Yesterday [11/3/17] I went out early to attend a meeting of the ad hoc committee formed between Chico City Council and Chico Area Recreation District to divvy up local parks, including Bidwell Park. 

There’s a lot of funding involved in these parks, and this was essentially a grab by CARD to get some of those revenues. The last thing CARD director Ann Willmann asked before she left the meeting was when she would start seeing the $$$$ from the neighborhood parks they were about to take over.

Ad hoc meetings do not have to be noticed to the public, but for some reason the news ran a story saying this meeting would begin at 9 am. There was no agenda posted either on the CARD website or at the city website, so I had to trust the news. When I arrived at the city building just before 8:50 I was glad to see the agenda posted alongside the door – it said 9 am. I went to a lot of trouble to push though my chores and get down there on time, and hey, my time might not be worth $139,000/year plus benefits but it’s worth something.

The Enterprise Record reporter and another woman, who told me she was at the meeting to see “if I still have a job” were waiting at the door when I arrived. As time went by and nobody came to let us in, we began to speculate. 9:00 came and went, so the reporter went over to the city office to inquire about the meeting. At 9:10 we were told that the meeting notice was wrong, the meeting didn’t start until 9:30, and someone would be along to open the door for us. 

Later, when councilor and committee member Karl Ory walked in a few minutes after 9:30, he looked around at the gathering and said, “I thought we agreed on 9:30?” Committee members and staffers all laughed. 

Like Lawanda Page says in “Friday,” “Well…Fuck You!” The way they treat the public down there is just gob-stopping. Our inconvenience doesn’t mean Jack Shit to $taff.

I’m sorry to be coarse, but these people treat me like garbage, and I get sick of it. 

Let me cut to the chase – the meeting started at 9:30 and by 9:45 the words “tax”, “assessment” and “tax assessment” had been used by staff or CARD representatives three times. Two staffers, Linda Herman and Eric Gustafson, said in so many words they want the city to pursue a revenue measure, and Tom Lando, CARD board director, made it clear, again, that he also wants a revenue measure. 

Herman said at one point, “I believe we have a united front for a tax [measure]…that’s better than going at it from opposite sides…”

It sounded as though CARD has already decided on a mailed assessment, but hasn’t made the formal announcement. I’ll try to attend the next CARD board meeting, usually held around the 15th of each month, and get more clarification on that.

The rest of the meeting was a jawdropper, the way these people wheel and deal behind closed doors, the stuff they say. I can’t write that fast, but the notes I was able to get are stunning. 

These people are not out to protect our interests, that’s for sure. I’ll cover it more when I get another chance to sit down. 

 

 

Blast From The Past: 2013 article shows city is not really serious about dealing with our crime problem, just giving more money to the cops

18 Oct

Here’s an article from the Enterprise Record, February 2013 – except that MacPhail has retired, has anything changed?

Yes, the police budget has gotten bigger, we have hired more cops, and cops are making more money than ever. Our city council is finally talking about the pension crisis, but isn’t really doing anything about it.  Downtown Chico and Bidwell Park have become disgusting.

What next? We’ll see!

Chico police: Tallying up the cost of south-of-campus raucousness

By ALMENDRA CARPIZO-Staff Writer
Posted:   02/22/2013 01:06:44 AM PST
 

Click photo to enlarge

Chico police Capt. Lori MacPhailAll Chico E-R photos are available
 

CHICO — Out of the estimated 33 square miles of Chico, half of a square mile is receiving much of the attention of the police department.Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., an extra police shift is active, said Chico police Capt. Lori MacPhail. The C Team’s sole responsibility is to focus on south of Chico State University and downtown.

The C Team is made up of one sergeant and seven officers, she said. On those days, there is also an extra dispatcher on staff.

The cost of the C Team to patrol is between $1 million to $1.5 million a year, MacPhail said. Although the amount doesn’t seem too high, it’s important to note Chico police are assigning an entire patrol team to cover half a square mile.

The overall budget for the Chico Police Department is $22 million.

A high percentage of the calls and arrests that occur on weekends are alcohol-related — drunk in public, drunken driving or noise complaints.

From Jan. 12 to Feb. 11, there have been 59 alcohol-related arrests in downtown Chico and south of the university, according to police arrests records. Most of those — 42 — were for disorderly conduct, and the bulk occurred on weekends.

In 2012, there were 1,628 alcohol-related arrests, according to police records. That was a drop from 1,963 arrests in 2011 and 2,145 in 2010.

The Chico Fire Department doesn’t feel much of an economic hit when responding to the south of campus, said chief James Beery. However,

there’s clearly an impact just based on the amount of calls received compared to when students are out of town.Firefighters work two 24-hour shifts in a row, and that doesn’t change on the weekends, he said.

If calls happen to overlap, the department works on a “first-come, first served” basis, Beery said. The department can’t afford to have extra firefighters out there.

Fire Station 1, which covers the area south of the university, tends to respond to more alcohol, drug overdoses and assault calls, he said, but calls run the whole gamut.

There is another issue that police and fire are responding to more on weekends — fights.

When people get “all liquored-up,” there are fights, Beery said.

Some fights are occurring at parties, but officers also see them as people spill out of the bars, MacPhail said.

Although the parties are not getting bigger, they are becoming more violent, she said. People are stabbing each other and throwing things at officers.

Chico police do receive help if things get out of control, MacPhail said.

There’s a good relationship between it and the University Police Department, said Drew Calandrella, CSUC’s vice president for student affairs. University police serve as backup at times.

Costs are important, he said. Everyone is worried about costs — costs relating to assaults, residence halls having to deal with alcohol-related incidents.

However, the focus is on changing the behavior and culture of drinking. That’s an issue for the entire city, not just for south of campus.

MacPhail acknowledges this is not a police department problem, she said. Enforcement isn’t going to be the solution either. There needs to be an examination of the root causes and an open dialogue to find solutions.

Reach Almendra Carpizo at 896-7760, acarpizo@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @almendracarpizo.

City $taff will be as good as we demand

21 Sep

I sent the following letter to the Enterprise Record, regarding a meeting I attended September 11 – the reporter, who I did not see at the meeting, did not post her story until the following week (9/17), and didn’t do any background on Portland Loo. She allows herself to be led by $taff – makes the job easier. 

Committee members Andrew Coolidge and Reanette Fillmer were strangely silent during the meeting, listening to the report. Fillmer asked a couple of questions about Gustafson’s remarks, then left the room right behind me after adjournment. But Coolidge babbled at the reporter – why didn’t he make more comments on the legal record? He told the reporter he thought we needed more public restrooms? This is the guy who told a gathering of Chico Taxpayers that he had taught his own kids to call City Plaza “Bum Park”. When will we get some action out of these idiots? 

When we write letters, make phone calls, show up at meetings. My letter, run in the Enterprise Record today:

Chico Public Works Director Eric Gustafson reported to Chico Internal Affairs Committee (9/11/17)  that Downtown public restrooms are suffering “unsustainable vandalism”.  He suggested the city invest in Portland Loo. 

Portland Loo is a toilet designed to keep criminal activities – including prostitution and drug sales – out of public restrooms. With slats at top and bottom so police (and everybody else) can see inside, they are coated with vandalism resistant paint and made in such a way that they can be routinely hosed out by janitorial staff. They must be connected to water and sewer but can provide  their own lighting. They are supposedly tamper-proof.

The manufacturer lists a price around $250,000, but other cities, including Portland, have found initial costs can exceed $500,000 per unit. Both the city of Portland and the city of San Diego have installed and later removed these devices because of increased crime in the immediate area. In Portland, costs for cleaning the devices were so high – $99,000/year for two units – that water ratepayers successfully sued the city for  $617,588  spent on marketing and maintaining their Loo’s,  the cost attached to city sewer and water bills. 

Why do city staff continue to placate transient criminals? Gustafson is the staffer who told me transients have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to sleep in Bidwell Park. What about the taxpayers’ rights?