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How will you celebrate “The Fourth”? Try acting like an American

4 Jul

I always wonder, how many Americans have even read the US constitution? How many of you have read the California constitution? The city charter?

Good homework for “The Fourth.”  

I’ve been reading up on the laws regarding tax measures, how they are enacted, and how the public citizen can resist an avaricious government.

First, we must “Watch the skies!”   Actually, we have to watch the agendas. That is where the initial discussion of putting a tax measure on the ballot is supposed to happen.  We all know it actually happens in private meetings, but, legally, it has to pass through a public discussion before it can be handed to the county clerk, so there’s a place for the observer to begin. I’ve been watching agendas not only for council meetings and county supervisor meetings but the smaller committee meetings in between.

I have to admit, I’ve been distracted with Chico Area Recreation District, trying to figure out whether their tax grab will appear on the November ballot or whether they will go the slimy way and deliver assessment ballots by mail.  Assessment elections aren’t the same as regular elections – they are rigged with bigger property owners getting more votes, the “weight” of each property owner’s vote being determined by the very board that is asking for the tax. These shouldn’t be legal – that’s our fault. We need to try to get rid of the entities that can attach us this way, starting with CARD, and including the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District.

I haven’t heard an elected official at either the city of Chico or Butte County mention a sales tax increase, but with municipalities all around us seeking, and in some cases, getting a sales tax increase out of the voters, I’m worried. Ex-city mangler Tom Lando, the guy who came up with the MOU that attached city salaries “to revenue increases but not decreases,” has been stumping for a sales tax increase for a few years now, saying he wants this and that amenity for the public, as well as better paid cops and fire fighters. 

Wow, what’s better than a base pay of $62,000/year with automatic step increases and mandated overtime that can as much as double that base salary? Not to mention paying only 12 percent toward a retirement of 90 percent of your highest year’s pay at age 50? What the helllllll could be better than that? 

Ask Lando, a guy who is in the regular habit of dropping a C-note for lunch.

I don’t believe Lando is worried about the public, I think he is worried about his $12,000/month pension payments.  Can you imagine living on $134,000/year, without having to work? Just getting a check for the rest of your life.  Ask Barbara McEnepsy – how’s life out on Keefer Road Hon? I don’t even know what Barbara McEnepsy did for the city, but she receives an even higher pension than Lando. 

Here’s the real stinker – these two individuals retired before the rules were changed to make employees “pay their own share” – neither Lando nor McEnepsy paid a dime toward their pensions.

If you are not outraged about paying these pensions, I’ll say – you’re not an American.

 

Short Attention Span Theater – we have the government we deserve in Chico

18 Jun

I’ve just been having a frustrating conversation with a friend about public participation. 

Sorry if I have been rude, Friend.

Friend tried to explain to me how overwhelmed most people are in their lives, they can’t pay attention.

That just got my skivvies in a bunch. I pay attention, and let me tell you, I got stuff going on.  I won’t bore you with my epic problems of the past months, but through it all, my close friends have been annoyed with my constant complaining about what the city and county and various local agencies are doing. My husband keeps telling me the government stuff is stressing me out, I should concentrate more on what’s going on at home. At least we can do something about our private problems, he says.

I have a hard time keeping it all under my hat.  Every morning, when I give my dog her insulin shot, I have to mentally prepare – “don’t think bad thoughts, don’t think bad thoughts…” as I skewer that needle into a lump of flesh behind her collar.   She lays on the floor behind me as I read the paper, read e-mails, she can hear me grumbling about stuff. I have to be careful or she’ll slip into the bedroom and stick her head under my husband’s side of the bed. I can feel the tension in her neck, makes it hard to get loose skin, sometimes she lets out a yelp and a half.

What bugs me is how people are so quick to use any excuse to stick their head in the sand, but they still expect to be allowed to complain when something finally gets under their skin.  I won’t mention names, but I’ve watched the local gadflies make big stinks about stuff, after a few months, the stink dies down, and the problem still exists.  All that blab about volunteers for the park – the park still looks like shit. The work they did at the One Mile parking lot last year has become completely overgrown with non-native invasive plants again. An area they did earlier this year is also going back to a mess.   Whole sections of the park are sub-code – if it was your yard, you’d get a notice to clean it up or pay the city to do it. 

And this conversation about keeping public restrooms open has been going on for two years now. Meanwhile, the million dollar One Mile restroom is pretty hit and miss – here’s the conundrum – if it is open, will it be usable? 

Short Attention Span Theater.

I’m going to tell you Esplanade lovers – don’t go back to sleep! Isn’t it pretty obvious, they’ve shelved the roundabouts until after the election? I’m hoping Cheryl King and friends are quietly looking for somebody to run for council, but I’m not going to bank on it.  

I’d like to see somebody run for CARD. Why don’t I do it? I would if I had some support – I ain’t going into those meetings without a posse anymore.  If they pass their bond, it means the people of Chico are completely gone fishing.

Tony St Amant said it in this morning’s paper – we have the government we deserve.

 

 

Next time you see a Cal Water truck driving by give them your middle finger

27 Apr

I’m listening to the Reverend Horton Heat. He says, “I’m mad, I’m mad out to here! I’m mad!” 

Think he attended the water rate hearing last night? 

I didn’t – I’m done with those stupid hearings. Like I told Judge Jeanne McKinney – they aren’t “hearings,” she wasn’t there to hear what we thought. She was there to provide the legal notice required before her utility company friends raise the rates. 

I was glad to see that Third District supervisor Maureen Kirk attended and spoke against the rate increase. She spoke very firmly, like your mom, my mom – she had that “I’m just about fed up” tone. 

But I didn’t hear much mention of the really important issue in this rate increase – they want to consolidate us with Willows, Marysville and Oroville – towns with major infrastructure repair needs. When Cal Water tried to raise rates a couple of years ago to cover their needs, the CPUC said the increase was way to onerous. So, they want to spread it over Chico too, and make us pay for improvements in those towns.

Not that I don’t feel for those towns, but I’d rather see them pick up torches and pitchforks and take care of their problems themselves. I’d like to see some folks riding out of Marysville on rails, covered in tar and feathers. 

Cal Water has not been taking care of infrastructure because they’ve been using ratepayer money to feather their retirement nests.  The ratepayers need to rise up. Next time you see a Cal Water employee, rise up your middle finger, wave it at them cheerfully and holler, “Pay your own pension, Leech!“. 

 

This is why taxpayers get cranky

5 Apr

Where have I been? Where have you been?

I’m still waiting to hear back from Enterprise Record editor David Little regarding the disparity between the public salaries he reports in his “newspaper” and the figures reported by the state controller. For example, Laura Urseny reported that CARD director Ann Willman makes $111,000 a year, the state controller reports $124,000 – just in salary.  I wrote the editor the usual polite note, and he promised to check into it and get back to me.

And the crickets chirped.

I am also waiting to hear back from my Third District supervisor Maureen Kirk regarding a joint Cal Water and PG&E “hearing” scheduled by the CPUC for April 26. Maureen sent me the notice, and I asked her what the county’s strategy is for opposing these rate hikes. 

And the crickets chirped.

I’m still waiting to hear the outrage of the public over all these rate hikes and tax increases, but, again, chirping crickets.

What is wrong with people in this town? I think it’s that everybody sits in their little houses, hiding, telling themselves it’s more important to watch American Idol. 

PG&E tells us they want to put us on “time of use” rates. That means, if you use power between 10am and 7pm, you pay whatever electricity is selling for on “the market.” Think back, think hard, think ENRON.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron_scandal

Hey, here’s something I never knew – CalPERs current situation has a lot to do with questionable deals they made with Enron (from Wikipedia):

In 1993, Enron established a joint venture in energy investments with CalPERS, the California state pension fund, called the Joint Energy Development Investments (JEDI).[28] In 1997, Skilling, serving as Chief Operating Officer (COO), asked CalPERS to join Enron in a separate investment. CalPERS was interested in the idea, but only if it could be terminated as a partner in JEDI.[29] However, Enron did not want to show any debt from assuming CalPERS’ stake in JEDI on its balance sheet. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Fastow developed the special purpose entity Chewco Investments limited partnership (L.P.) which raised debt guaranteed by Enron and was used to acquire CalPERS’s joint venture stake for $383 million.[26] Because of Fastow’s organization of Chewco, JEDI’s losses were kept off of Enron’s balance sheet.

In autumn 2001, CalPERS and Enron’s arrangement was discovered, which required the discontinuation of Enron’s prior accounting method for Chewco and JEDI. This disqualification revealed that Enron’s reported earnings from 1997 to mid-2001 would need to be reduced by $405 million and that the company’s indebtedness would increase by $628 million.

The wheeling, and the dealing – it’s enough to give you motion sickness, doesn’t it just make you want to barf? Here’s what the whole thing was really about;

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/enron-traders-caught-on-tape/

And who do we have to protect us? The CPUC? It was CPUC judge Jeanne McKinney who made the decision to consolidate a PG&E hearing with a Cal Water hearing for later this month. She also decided to consolidate the  Cal Water hearings for Chico, Marysville, Oroville and Willows on the same night, here in Chico.   Write her a note, and ask her why she would expect people from these towns to drive to Chico for a 6pm meeting.  Ask her why the PG&E hearing was scheduled for the same night.  While you are at it, ask her for her salary and how much of her own benefits she pays. There’s a phone number, if you find that more convenient.

Jeanne M. McKinney

Administrative Law Judge

California Public Utilities Commission

jmo@cpuc.ca.gov

(the address on the e-mail exchange was  jeanne.mckinney@cpuc.ca.gov  – I would use both )

Or give her a call at   (415) 703-2550 

 

Where will the taxpayer find shelter?

29 Mar

At 3:22, I found myself too awake to lay in bed, but not quite awake enough to do anything.  I got up and followed the glow of light to my coffee maker, and I pushed the little button. I always set myself up a cup of coffee for these mornings when I wake up ahead of Me.

The moon was hanging so bright outside – not even full, but lighting up my driveway like a flashlight. The wind has scoured the sky very clean, the planets and stars look very bright too. 

As I wandered around the house in the dark, I could hear the 3:20 train, a few minutes late, screaming it’s way across town – GET THE HELL OFF THE TRACKS!  

I have a couple of things screaming their way across my head, I guess that’s why I can’t sleep. 

First are the rate increase notices I’ve got – not from Cal Water or PG&E, but from the California Public Utilities Commission. CPUC is having a hearing for both rate increases in April, on the same night, giving the public one hour to discuss the PG&E hike and then opening the floor to ratepayers from Willows to Marysville regarding the Cal Water hike. 

CPUC does not work for the ratepayers, they work for the utility companies. This is not really a “hearing,” it’s a “telling.” Our CPUC judge will explain to us that in 2018, PG&E will switch all ratepayers to “time of use” rates – meaning, your smart meter will keep track of the market price on the hour, and as you go along using your electricity through the day, you will be charged whatever power is selling for on the open market at that very moment. 

After the PG&E “telling” the judge will explain to us that Cal Water is merging Willows, Oroville, Chico, and Marysville into one district so Chicoans can help pay for “improvements” in those towns. When Cal Water asked for rate increases in those towns to cover the cost of long-neglected repairs to their infrastructure, CPUC said the increases were not reasonable. So, CPUC sat down with Cal Water to work out a system by which the costs for those districts will be handed over to Chicoans. 

Here’s the thing – those towns have all suffered from a lack of development. Here in Chico, we have development out the ass, so we get a lot of new water stuff. Right now Cal Water is getting ready to put a new water tower in at Fogarty’s new subdivision on Hwy 32, held up arguing over who will pay for it. Meanwhile, Willows, O-ville and Marysville (named for a survivor of the Donner Party, omigosh!) have been sidestepped by prosperity, and their local governments have not held Cal Water up to any standard, so their infrastructure is substandard. I’m guessing those towns have pipes dating back to the time when lead poisoning was considered a fact of life.

What will the ratepayer do?

Meanwhile, I’m being harangued by the director of a local homeless shelter because I criticize the way he runs the shelter and efforts he’s making to get more funding out of the city of Chico. When I said he already gets county funding by way of other agencies that share staffers with him, he really got pissed off. He denies getting public money – I keep explaining, he gets it by way of other agencies. He admitted he shares the staffer position I found, but now denies that agency gets public money. I got sick of arguing with him, but he keeps coming over  to argue, saying the same crap over and over.  

County Admin Officer Paul Hahn says the county spends over half it’s budget on “indigent” services, “including homeless services.” They fund agencies like the Catholic Relief Services, so does the city of Chico. These agencies spend that money on staffers who work at both the Torres Shelter and the Jesus Center. 

We have definitely become a magnet for criminals who use “homeless” like a shield. Just the other day, I read about a couple of guys who were found standing over a sleeping man in his apartment in the middle of the night. They were later found by the cops in the stolen vehicle the victim had described, with not only stolen articles but drugs. When I typed their names into the superior court index, they both came up, multiple arrests over the years, including robbery. 

Again and again, these people are released “OR” – own recognizance – back into the community to commit the same crimes over and over. They seem to disproportionately attack the campus neighborhoods, breaking in even when people are in their homes, stealing electronic items and any other valuables they can grab. They steal cars, they steal from cars.  And they commit strong-arm robberies, using knives and beating their victims.

I believe the services offered by our city and county attract these people. They know they will find sympathy here, they will find people who will shield  them from the law.  We have way too many people that enable the behavior – cries to build “little tiny houses” for the “homeless,” people who clean up their encampments just so they can move back in, etc.  We have too many public salaried voices screaming about the “criminalization of homelessness.”  So we have a regular army of people who don’t have fixed addresses, who wander out of the supervision of the law and turn up six months or a year later, arrested for the same crime or worse.

I have studied the operation of the Torres Shelter, and I feel they attract the criminal element without doing anything to control them. The director admitted that they have strict rules for who they will let in – but when they get turned out, they are only told to leave the immediate property. Right out front of the center you will find a little camp in the street. Then there’s the area between Park Ave and Fair Street known as “The Wedge” – a de facto homeless camp, sprawled out there behind the old Victor toxic Superfund site.

From the Chico Chamber of Commerce “Team Chico” report:

VICTOR SITE Redevelopment of the Victor Site, which is under a state consent decree overseen by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), has been recognized by all interested parties as a key to successful redevelopment of the Wedge. To promote that effort, EPA agreed to allow grant monies to be utilized to hire a local design firm to develop a range of development scenarios for the site that in turn will be used to develop a conceptual cleanup plan for approval by DTSC. This process is involved and the outcome uncertain, but it is intended to lay the framework for the purchase and redevelopment of the property by a viable interested party. The City, DTSC, and local development interests are working together toward that end.

That site has been known to be toxic since the 1980’s or earlier. Here they received money from the EPA, and they used it to hire a design team? What? And now, added to whatever Victor pumped into the  ground, is the toxic mess left behind by these criminal campers – the usual garbage, feces, drug paraphernalia, etc. 

No, I don’t like the Torres, I think it’s run badly, I don’t like taxpayer money supporting it.  I am also sick of Team Chico masturbating our money away with their concepts.

Meanwhile, my tenants and I, working class slobs, trying to pay our bills, trying to keep a roof over ourselves so we don’t end up on the street, get no sympathy – the city, the school district and the rec district are all considering separate tax increases. 

Where’s the angst from all these bleeding hearts? Nobody to cry for the working people? Brad? 

On a positive note, The Wedge is also a great tune by Dick Dale.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbonHS_mONo

We hear from Dwight Grumbles, candidate for Butte County supervisor, District 5

22 Mar

Well, the election is finally starting to materialize on the horizon – I got this note below from 5th District supervisor candidate Dwight Grumbles. That seat is currently held by Doug Teeter. 

Hello, My name is Dwight (DH)Grumbles. I am running for Butte County 5th. District Supervisor election June 7 th. 2016.If elected I have pledged half on the base pay (approx. $28,000.00 per year each year of the 4 year term to go back to the 5th. District in the form of donations to youth athletics, school sports and other campus organizations, music,art dance etc.. Also to community service organizations. It’s a start.The pay package for supervisor is $90,000.00 plus. The average household income in Butte County is approximately $33,000.00. If the people of the 5 th. District are not happy with my job after my term, at least they will have gotten back $112,000.00 and if they are happy with me and I’m reelected I will do it again. dhgrumbles@gmail.com Ph # 530-520-1010

Thanks Dwight, and I look forward to a couple of months of intelligent conversation between now and June. If that seat is not decided in June, the candidates will have the summer to debate their qualifications and come back to the ballot in November. 

I’m sending Dwight some information about upcoming rates hikes by PG&E and Cal Water, and hope he will jump in and help us protest these onerous grabs. 

 

Efforts underway to undermine Prop 13 for both commercial and residential

14 Mar

We barely recovered from paying our property taxes (which empty out our bank account twice a year just in time for some personal emergency to manifest itself) when I found this article online. 

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2016/03/40-years-later-prop-13-to-be-a-main-attraction-on-2018-ballot/

For years I’ve been aware of the effort to undermine the protections of Proposition 13 for commercial properties, but now we have an effort to undermine the protections on people’s personal homes.

Wow, after that last BOOM!, can you imagine what your property taxes would have looked like under the old law? How many people would be forced out of their homes if we lost Prop 13? I know my elderly neighbors would be paying more in taxes than they paid for their home, and that seems very, very weird to me.  

And if they sold, they’d still have to pay tremendous income tax, regardless of the property taxes. Why don’t people see this for what it is – SHAKE DOWN!

In a perfect world, property taxes would be assessed based on projects within a certain distance of your house – your “neighborhood”.  We should pay for maintenance of the streets and other public infrastructure around our homes, that seems fair. When was the last time you saw any road work in your neighborhood, that didn’t involved hooking somebody up to sewer? Yeah, the city wants folks on the sewer, so they can pilfer the sewer fund for salaries and benefits, but you notice they don’t fix the street after they gopher their way in, they say they don’t have the money…

The streets in my neighborhood and around my rentals are a disaster, but the paychecks still roll out, and we are still on the hook to pay for pensions of 70 – 90 percent at age 50 – 55.   

It’s hard for little people like me to fight these big efforts, I spend most of my energy locally.   If we had better local watchdogs, we could make a difference. We need better people on council, who can negotiate down the pay and benefits and get more employees in the bargain. We have so many overpaid management positions, paying less than 10 percent toward their own pensions, we can’t afford anybody to actually do the work. 

Mark Sorensen and his friends are the beginning of the end for Chico. These people have taken business behind closed doors, actually cancelling this week’s meeting, saying there’s no business for the agenda.

Well, I’d sure like to know why my garbage man is telling everybody that Waste Management will get all the residential accounts east of the freeway when Mark Orme keeps telling me the deal is “still in negotiation”?  I’d like to know what the city, who was supposed to register with the CPUC as an “Intervenor” in the latest rate increase case for Cal Water, has not made any announcement of the hearing that’s been scheduled for next month.  It seems Mayor Sorensen feels it is not important to keep a rapport open with the public. It’s just too damned expensive to keep the public in the loop, isn’t it? 

Write those letters, ask those questions.