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Wake up with Lou!

6 May

Here’s a fun Saturday morning radio show – Live with Lou, at KMYC, Yuba City.

http://www.kmycradio.com/

9 am to noon, every Saturday, Marysville/Yuba City businessman Lou Binninger rants, rambles – says it like it is!  You go to the website at 9am and hit the link to the upper right. 

Right now he’s rolling along on one of his favorite topics – waste and fraud from our public employees.  “If you work for the government it’s like giving everybody in your soccer club a participation trophy…some of those people have just been sucking their assets for their whole career…this whole concept of draining the swamp…”

Yes, Lou is very conservative, he really lays into the Democrats. I’m sorry he doesn’t turn his pokey stick on the Republicans too, but I still enjoy listening to him. Right now he’s haranguing Maxine Waters for being a hypocrite. I have to agree.  Waters is getting out of touch, she really has become everything she told us was wrong when she was a young politician – entrenched power. 

Now he’s talking about the new sales tax that was passed in Marysville a couple of years ago – more money for fire and police. “They said they wouldn’t be able to respond to 9-11 calls anymore if they didn’t get this tax…”  But the money was not dedicated – that would require a two thirds vote of the public. Instead the council opted to go for a General Fund tax, which only requires about 51%. “The first thing they did with the new tax money – 1 percent on all sales in Marysville – was to raise the wages of all the employees of the city…  

Binninger says this is “bait and switchthey use a fear tactic, if you don’t vote for this, all hell is going to break loose in the city…”  And of course, once they get the money, they do whatever they want.

Here we have Chico Area Rec District and their proposed “revenue measure.” We don’t know which tack they will try – a bond on the general ballot or an assessment ballot mailed only to property owners. Most people don’t know the difference – I’ll admit, I’ve struggled with the rules. 

CARD has made many rainbow promises – switching back and forth from the Taj Majal aquatic center to claims that their facilities all over town  are suffering because they don’t have enough money or staff to maintain them. They say they want money to improve the existing skate board park, a longtime hobo jungle that has been closed more than it’s been open, due to vandalism and neighbor complaints.  CARD took it from the city about 10 years ago and one maintenance supervisor after another has thrown up his hands and walked on down the hall.

Remember that – bait and switch. CARD is already having problems deciding which story line to use – they don’t believe either story themselves, and that makes it hard to pitch. 

The real story is the $1.7 million pension deficit that  their Matson and Isom audit team said will grow incrementally as long as their employees continue to pay only 2 – 6 percent out of their own paychecks. Right now it grows by over $57,000 a year, and that will grow  – you know how to do “rabbit math,” don’t you? As their salaries and therefore their benefits packages grow, the deficit will grow. Whenever CalPERS makes demands, they will take money out of their General Fund to pay it down. In 2012, they ignored a consultant’s report regarding repairs at Shapiro Pool, they made a $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS, in addition to the roughly $500,000 a year they already pay. 

Excuse me – we pay.

But I’ll say here, Binninger doesn’t get it either. He tells us we should be sitting at home, “bathing your kids and driving them to school,” we should be able to trust our politicians?

Wake up Lou! We should all make more of an effort to watch these people. Everybody should go to at least one public meeting a year, even just one would make a difference. If the public would start attending these public meetings, it would be like shining a flashlight on a rat. 

Furthermore, I have faith in the public – I know they are asleep now, they don’t know what’s going on in these meetings. One meeting folks, listen, really listen. Once you know what’s going on, you can’t forget, you can’t not be disgusted.

The answer is more public scrutiny, not sitting at home trusting your elected officials. Wake up!

CARD fiddles our money – why would we support more money for this agency?

5 May

That rain sure dried up fast, eh? Thinking about watering your garden, huh? 

Well, don’t forget – according to my latest Cal Water bill, dated 4/4/17, “The State has extended the emergency drought regulation, so we ask that you continue to conserve.”  They still give me a “conservation  target.”  My extended family – including myself and my husband, Sometimes our college student son, plus our household of four tenants –  has consistently come in under our “target” for months,  but I notice, my “water bank balance” has disappeared.

Cal Water has suspended “drought surcharges,” which amounted to about $3 off the 5/8″ service charge. Instead of “water budget,” they now call it “water target”. I assume I wasn’t the only person giving the middle finger to any and all Cal Water employees I encountered around town, they finally realized – they are hated, they need to do something to clean up their image.

So, they raised rates – since April of last year the “Tier 1” price has gone from $1.55 to $1.58.  But, perversely, they continue to charge “WRAM” – Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism. When we don’t use enough water to meet “costs” (pensions and benefits), they recover the difference through a WRAM charge. So, since our usage went down from last year by 3 CCF’s, our WRAM charge went from 8 cents to $1.37. 

Way to stick it to us, Cal Water! Way to lay there and take it, Chico!

Sure my usage went down – my summertime water bills were over $100/month. I have two houses here, with two families, two yards, many trees. We lost two huge trees last year, we were just lucky they were under PG&E lines or we would have had to pay thousands to have them removed ourselves. Cal Water offers nothing to homeowners who lose trees by following their ridiculous – and still in effect! – watering rules. Repeat after me – odd numbered addresses, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, even numbered addresses, Tuesday and Thursday. Or wait a minute, is it odd numbered, Tuesday? What the helllllll!?!

So you must wonder, how has this affected public agencies?  Well, Chico Area Recreation  District seems to be unaware we are still under conservation targets.

These sprinklers run off into the parking lot at 5 Mile every morning at about 6:30 am.

I looked into the beds above – full of drought tolerant rosemary – and the ground  was hardly wet, most of the water was fanning out across the parking lot. Nearby we walked through sprinklers spraying the sidewalk. 

Our shoes got wet, but again, the ground within the planters was dry.

These plants are all drought resistant, many of them native, but every day between 6 and 7 am, you will see them being showered as though they were rain forest natives.  Except, I looked, most of the water is going onto pavement. 

I use drip in my yard, I know it has to be checked all the time. When it really gets hot the water gets hot enough to blow sprinklers off our lines, split lines, pop the nozzle off the spigot, etc. We know we shouldn’t run our sprinklers without supervision ever since we came out one evening to find our garden looking like the canals of Venice. 

This is the kind of waste that passes for “service” at the Chico Area Recreation District. It’s not their money, so they don’t give a shit, excuse my French.

You see the same kind of thing with City of Chico – a few years ago I had to report sprinklers that had been running across Forest Avenue for weeks. I had not reported those because I get sick and tired of being the haranguing hag, but when I finally told city staffer Linda Herman about it, she was very surprised and grateful. I like Herman, her kid played hockey with my kid, but I get disgusted with city waste too. 

I should send it to “Hotshots” at the Enterprise Record. They ran the pictures I sent of the city bobcat sunk into an asphalt path in the park and the damage suffered by the brand new $250,000 CARD center rose garden by Chico Creek. I’ll try to send these in too. There needs to be some kind of accountability for this kind of malfeasance and incompetence, even if it’s just one day in the public stocks. 

Stop the presses! CARD finally posting board meeting minutes on their website!

16 Apr

I sent a note to Chico Area Recreation District manager Ann Willmann because for years now I’ve turned to their website to look at reports of meetings and found them as much as a year behind in posting minutes. 

Hi,

I wonder why there are not minutes posted for a board meeting since Nov 2016? I know the minutes have to be approved by the board, but I’ve been present when minutes have been approved, and they still haven’t been posted on the website.

 Thanks for your response, at your convenience, Juanita Sumner 

I’ve asked before, and been ignored, I was surprised by Willmann’s response:

Hi Juanita, the website has been updated. Thank you for your email. I have established a new process to ensure our minutes are posted in a more timely manner after approval. Ann

I couldn’t resist telling her it was about time.  At least three consultants have been paid so far – make that six, including the informational meeting she presented for the board – to tell Willmann and her staff to get the public engaged in CARD’s business. Instead she seems to make every effort to keep people from knowing what’s happening – another question I’ve had to ask is, why so many “special” meetings – which only have to be noticed 24 hours ahead with a piece of paper on the front door of the CARD center. 

Next time I see an 8-and-a-half by 11 piece of paper flapping on that door I’ll have to make a screeching turn into the parking lot and vault up there to see what’s happening!

CARD has already started a campaign to subtly make us believe we want to tax ourselves to pay down their $1.75 million pension deficit. Pay attention Folks, there’s pick-pockets about!

CARD cut employee hours in 2013 to avoid paying for their healthcare

21 Mar

I’ve been cleaning through my drafts file, and here’s an article from 2013 that reports CARD cut a number of employees’ hours so they won’t have to pay Obamacare for those people.  Urseny is so embedded – she didn’t even ask how many people would be cut to 28 hours. She didn’t even bother to talk to those employees about how they would manage. She has never done a follow-up to this story.

Meanwhile, management pays between 2 and 6 percent for benefits packages which range from $25,000 to  $30,000/year.   CARD spends about $500,000/year on management benefits for employees who make as much as $120,000/year in salary. 

Chico Area Recreation and Park District hears about impact of Obamacare

By LAURA URSENY-Staff Writer

POSTED:   07/30/2013 12:01:24 AM PDT
 
 

CHICO — Like many getting acquainted with the federal Affordable Care Act, there are a lot of question marks for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District board and staff.Some of those were answered by Rose Krepelka of CARD’s insurance provider, InterWest Insurance Inc. of Chico.

“I can go for 15 minutes or for four days,” Krepelka told the board last week when she asked how deeply they wanted to delve into the Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare.

She acknowledged there’s a lot of confusion about the new regulations, especially since some affecting businesses have been delayed to 2015.

CARD already provides medical coverage to full-time employees, but more employees will be eligible for medical insurance in 2015 with the new definition of full time.

Obamacare’s definition of full time is working 30 or more hours weekly on a regular basis.

At CARD there are 32 full-time employees, and part-timers vary from 120 to 180, depending on the time of the year and recreational offerings. The full-time-equivalent is 85, according to General Manager Steve Visconti.

Medical care coverage per full-time employee currently costs CARD about $10,000 yearly. With the new definition, CARD was forced to adjust schedules of some employees to keep them part time. Visconti said CARD’s budget couldn’t afford to provide coverage to more employees.

Individuals without medical coverage can start shopping in October, with the coverage launching in January. Individuals without insurance are subject to tax penalties at $95 per adult $47.50 per child. That jumps to $325 adult, $165.50 child penalties in 2015.

CARD’s part-time employees can find insurance from California’s health exchange, called Covered California, or from Medi-Cal, she noted.

Employees will be getting information on obtaining insurance through letters from companies like hers. In addition to that, Krepelka noted there will be “navigators and enrollers” who are trained and certified to help Californians understand Obamacare. Residents might run into them outside a big-box store or at a mall.

Krepelka said the jury’s out on how successful Obamacare will be. People who have been unable to get medical coverage because of their conditions will now be part of the system — and an expense.

Krepelka said the balance built into Obamacare is that young people, who don’t need much in the way of health care, will pay for the older people who are greater users of services.

Likely, existing insurance rates will increase for those already covered as well, she said.

“There’s information coming out weekly,” she noted, including a Californian’s ability to sign up for insurance that starts in October.

Covered California’s website address is www.coveredca.com. The exchange is also on Facebook and Twitter.

In other news, the CARD board approved the 2013-14 budget unanimously and with no discussion, but directors Jan Sneed and Herman Ellis were not at the meeting.

Time to stand up – contact CARD and ask for a copy of the survey

21 Mar

I have been too busy in my personal life to keep up much chatter here, but I’m hoping to post more about the CARD survey next week.

I am also hoping that people will call the CARD office (895-4711) or e-mail director Ann Willmann and ask for a copy of the survey presented to the board on March 16.  The public is entitled to a copy of anything given to the board, so don’t pay for it. 

Once you’ve read it over, be sure to call back and ask questions. I was relieved to see the League of Women Voter’s observer at the meeting last week, she asked pertinent questions  about the survey. One thing she got out of  the consultant was that respondents were chosen on the basis of where they lived.  

Random eh?

We need more people like Margaret Bomberg in our community. Stand up people, or be had.

CARD survey heavily led, questions close ended – when did 28 percent become “overwhelming support”?

17 Mar

I was surprised to find the CARD board meeting well-attended last night, but I think more people, including city staffers and commission members, were there to hear the discussion  about CARD taking park impact fees from developers. I went to hear the consultant’s report regarding the assessment survey.

Survey? 400 people in a town of over 80,000? I know – but let’s look  at it anyway.

The consultant also spoke of significantly leading respondents, even asking them to choose between pitches at one point.

DSC00215

Can you believe that? The callers actually read these to the respondents and asked them, which one of these pitches would make you want to tax yourself and your neighbors?

Of course, respondents were chosen by demographics – they called people who lived close to various parks, for example, and found those people would certainly support a tax!   

They also reported a very real confusion between CARD parks (ball  fields, playgrounds and neighborhood parks) and Bidwell Park, owned and maintained by the city of Chico.  I think they will try to play that confusion to their advantage. 

I will post more of the survey later.

CARD meeting next week chock full o nuts

12 Mar

Chico Area Recreation District board will hear from their consultant Thursday. EMC ran a phone survey last month regarding a bond or assessment for CARD.  I would like to ask them for a copy of the results, we’ll see what they say.

CARD board will also be discussing taking over the city’s park impact fees on development. 

That’s Thursday March 16, 7pm, at the CARD center on Vallombrosa.