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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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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. 

 

 

CARD makes “new” agreement with employees? Nothing really new, Willmann gets a raise but still only pays 2.5 %

24 Sep
 

Chico >> Ann Willmann, general manager for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, noted good budget news following the conclusion of union negotiations.

Contract negotiations were concluded with different collective bargaining and employee groups, she noted during Thursday board meeting.

According to a staff report, each employee group with receive an annual cost of living increase of 3.5 percent each fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017 and ending July 2019.

Also, employees will be contributing more for their PERS coverage, ranging from a low of 2.5 percent per year to a high of 8 percent until 2020, depending on their collective bargaining unit.

Willmann noted that $1.7 million has been set aside by CARD to cover unfunded PERS liability, the exact amount of which changes.

On Friday, Willmann noted in an email, “The COLA increase is costing the district an extra $63,582.00 in this fiscal year.

“The increase in the percentage the employees are paying for PERS is saving the district $33,256.34 in this fiscal year.”

In addition, the negotiating units also agreed to reduce the salary schedule from the current 10-step configuration to a six-step schedule, which should be reached by July 2020.

Who wants to go to the CARD meeting with me tomorrow night?

16 Aug

When I ran into Mayor Sean Morgan at LaMalfa’s community meeting, he asked me, “Where have you been?!”

Morgan and I have kind of a Junior High School relationship – like many other members of our local government, he would like to put my head in a toilet, but in a light-hearted, good sported kind of way.

The guy loves to argue, but he’s never screamed “Bullshit” or “Shut Up!” at me. 

That said, as I told him, I almost never agree with anything he does. He voted with council to give Mark Orme a $9,000 raise to cover Orme’s new pension share, having heard the pension deficit is poised to send us into bankruptcy. 

I guess I should have answered him, “Where have you been? On another fucking planet?”

A planet where everybody has a public salary and a public pension, and money  grows on trees…

But given the spirit of LaMalfa’s meeting, I decided, us two old porch dogs should give the public an example of how to be civil to somebody you’d cross the street to avoid, but they happen to be standing between you and the exit.  

This does not affect my feelings that Morgan needs to go. He’s just a shill for the public employees. 

Where have I been? Well, I don’t get paid to go to meetings, I get paid to work. Sometimes I have to do a job that’s beyond a 58 year old woman, and I get a work related injury.  I have sprained my back, it feels like somebody kicked me right between my shoulder blades, really, really hard. It only hurts when I sit up, walk, reach my arms out, or breathe.

Actually, it hurts all the time, but who am I to complain – if you are in pain, you are still alive. That which does not kill you, will only make you stronger and bitchier.

CARD has a meeting tomorrow night. They will undoubtedly discuss their plans to put a bond on our homes. My husband can’t take me, and I can’t make it by myself. Any takers?

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!