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Joe Azzarito: The California Rule needs to be repealed

29 May

Well, they’ve thrown down their tax measure – at another “remote” meeting. 

5.2. ORDINANCE ADDING CHAPTER 3.90 TO ESTABLISH A ONE-CENT SALES TAX
On November 20, 2018, the City Council approved a Finance Committee recommendation to
engage a professional consulting firm to conduct a tax feasibility voter survey of City residents to
determine the viability of passing a tax measure and on April 16, 2019, the City Council directed
the administration of a voter survey for a 1 cent sales tax measure. EMC Research conducted the
voter survey and on October 15, 2019, EMC presented the results to the City Council which
indicates support for a 1 cent sales tax measure in November 2020. The City Council acted to
direct City staff to prepare the necessary documentation and related actions to place a 1 cent
general sales tax on the November 2020 ballot. The requested action would initial the formal
requirements to proceed with the measure. This action requires 5 affirmative votes. (Report –
Chris Constantin, Assistant City Manager)
Recommendation: City Manager recommends the City Council introduce the following ordinance
by reading of the title only:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF CHICO ADDING CHAPTER 3.90 TO THE CHICO CITY
MUNICIPAL CODE TO ESTABLISH A ONE CENT GENERAL PURPOSE TRANSACTIONS
AND USE (SALES) TAX TO BE ADMINISTERED BY THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF
TAX AND FEE ADMINISTRATION INCLUDING PROVISIONS FOR CITIZENS’ OVERSIGHT
AND ACCOUNTABILITY

As you know, the city of Chico is in financial trouble. So, wow, how have they pulled off a $9,000,000 annual pension payment, in addition to millions more paid in payroll? You realize, in 2012-13 they reported a $168,000,000 pension deficit – now it’s only about $130,000,000. That’s about $5.4 million a year – EMBEZZLED out slowly by our city staff to pay their pension deficit.  Look at your trashed streets, trashed park, and your increasing sewer fees – where do you think they  got the money? Bake sales?  

For years, Staff has siphoned money out of city funds into their pension deficit. They  take a percentage of payroll from each department, JUST TAKE IT.  According to the legislation known as The California Rule (no, you didn’t pass it, your pensioned legislators passed it),  the pensions get paid before anything else. Yes folks, that the law. You are second to the public employees. How does that make you feel? Like you got a pack of leeches in your pants? 

Here’s what Chicoan Joe Azzarito thinks about it.

Previously, I wrote about desired attributes of both elected and non-elected government office holders.  Attributes: 1) Integrity 2) Honesty 3) Accountability 4) Transparency 5) Experience 6) Reliability 7) Morality and lastly 8) Scruples.  Nowhere did I list the ability to lie with a straight face.

Prolific writers Scott Paulo and Roger Beadle feel that only Republicans, especially Donald Trump, exhibit this last most undesirable character flaw. They fail to examine and call out their own heroes – Democrats.  The Corona pandemic has exacerbated this negative feature that a vast majority of government displays daily.

Locally, CARD officiously wanted to put into force a parcel tax without owning up to hidden lies as to cost. Chico council plan to follow suit with a sales tax increase because government employees cannot live with six figure incomes. On a distressed airplane about to crash, we are told to care for our children first before ourselves.  Not so in government – they take care of themselves first and tell us every chance they get to live with broken streets, bad lighting, crime and ultimately homelessness.

The California Rule, behind which they all hide to insure their livelihoods, needs to be repealed.  No Chico person needs $100,000 to $200,000. How many police chiefs and fire chiefs should Chico pay forever. Chico council and their staffs love tax increases because from them come their salaries.  We need to clean house once again and get rid of these leeches. Top pay for one or two individuals should equal $100K and everyone should pay 100% of their pension – no more.

Joe Azzarito, Chico CA

 

Chico is in trouble – and here’s why

21 May

Bob sent a link to an article from Forbes – Why California is in Trouble”  It’s a good read. If you can’t make the link below work, just google the author, Adam Andrzejewski, or “Forbes, Why California is in Trouble” (Thanks Donna!)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2020/05/19/why-california-is-in-trouble–340000-public-employees-with-100000-paychecks-cost-taxpayers-45-billion/#12f7e2955fb8

The author, Adam Andrzejewski (Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO & Founder of OpenTheBooks.com – one of the largest private databases of government spending in the world. Andrzejewski documents salaries all over the US, and tells us, there are 340,000 public employees in California making over $100,000. 

“Our auditors at OpentheBooks.com found truck drivers in San Francisco making $159,000 per year; lifeguards in LA County costing taxpayers $365,000; nurses at UCSF making up to $501,000; the UCLA athletic director earning $1.8 million; and 1,420 city employees out-earning all 50 state governors ($202,000).”

Lifeguards costing $365,000/year? You say, that’s nuts?  No, it’s not. LA has miles of public beaches. Just think what would happen if CARD ran LA beaches – yeah, lifeguards would make $365,000/year. That’s what happens when nobody is watching the purse strings, except the thieves.

Right now this man, beaming like a ghoul, is running our town. Did you vote for him? 

Chico City Manager (High Dollar Whore) Mark Orme at the CARD Center following the State of the City forum in January. Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

No, he was hired by the pack of ninnies we know as “Chico City Council.”  We had nothing to say about his hire, and we have nothing to say about his salary – now $207,000, plus a $56,000 benefits package. We pay that, he pays another $24,000/year, and gets 70% of his highest year’s salary for the rest of his life. 

While Orme boasts that he has not had a raise for several years now, he certainly managed to negotiate himself a second pension – a 457 plan, which is a special kind of 401K for public workers. Orme wormed the city into paying $10,000 a year into that fund, PLUS 4.5% of his salary. In addition to the money paid toward his CalPERS pension and health benefits. 

That is why not only Chico is in trouble, but our entire state is in horrible financial straits – over generous salaries, and a crazy retirement scheme.  CalPERS clients are paying less than half the cost of these pensions, with employees contributing little or nothing, but expecting to get 70% of their ridiculous salaries, with COLA, for the rest of their lives. 

Ex Chico City Manager Tom Lando, for example, retired at about $134,000/year, but now makes about $155,000 – IN RETIREMENT. That’s the “cost of living adjustment” .  He also gets himself hired for various interim positions – like city manager of Oroville – and those salaries add to his pension. That’s why Lando was the first one to raise the notion of a sales tax increase for Chico, and used his own money to pay for a survey to push it. He also donated $6,000 to the Yes on Measure A campaign for CARD’s parcel tax. Lando knows better than anybody that CalPERS must be funded, or he’s out $155,000/year and counting. 

Essentially, CalPERS has led the taxpayers to a room full of straw and is demanding we make enough gold to keep our public workers like a pack of high-dollar whores for the rest of their lives. 

Right now, the city of Chico is working behind closed doors, using ConVID to keep us out of the tax measure conversation. They’re spending taxpayer money on consultants to write the measure and strategize the campaign, just like CARD. 

Don’t be discouraged by the remote meetings. I won’t recommend Chico Engaged, I’ll say, write to council members directly, and tell them we resent them spending taxpayer money on a sales tax increase when they’ve done nothing to reform the pensions and contracts. 

ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

alex.brown@chicoca.gov

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov

kasey.reynolds@chicoca.gov

scott.huber@chicoca.gov

karl.ory@chicoca.gov

randall.stone@chicoca.gov

 

A tax measure would be spit on the Chico griddle – we need TRUE PENSION REFORM

11 May

I’ve been busy with a lot of stuff, but like I promised, I wrote a letter to the ER about Robert Koyasaki’s “Pension Time Bomb” series. I’m embarrassed –  I mis-spelled Siedle through the entire post, I have to go back and fix that, sorry. But I think I got a good letter out of it – you tell me.

Cities across America, like Chico, are unable to provide basic services because all the money is going to pay for pensions. No matter how much money the taxpayers pour into this system, pension expense will continue to outstrip revenues.

Salaries are excessive. Chico city management positions pay four to five times the median income.  

The city pays too little, with employees contributing even less. Until the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2013,  management employees paid nothing toward their pensions. Now they pay between 10 and 15% of total cost, the total payment being 20 – 30%. 

Pension deficit  is created by agencies and employees that don’t pay enough on payroll. The excess becomes the Unfunded Actuarial Liability. Employees contribute nothing toward the UAL, which is over 65% of total employee cost. The California Rule mandates that the pension deficit must be paid ahead of everything else.  For example, our finance director says we have no money to fix streets, but in July he will make the annual $9 million (and growing) payment toward the UAL.

A tax measure would be spit on the griddle in this situation.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. Negotiate lower salaries for management, or hire somebody else
  2. Get all new employees off CalPERS, switch to 401Ks
  3. Pay more in payroll, which would mean, ALL employees would have to pay more, even based on their current shares.
  4. Pre-PEPRA employees should have to pay toward the UAL, or “catch up” payments – they should pay the same shares they pay toward the payroll portion.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

No matter how much the taxpayers dump into the pension system, it will fail and drag our economy down with it, unless we take immediate steps toward true reform

6 May

Listening to Robert Koyasaki’s Pension Time Bomb radio show made me so mad I had to take a break. But I finally finished the discussion between Koyasaki, a real estate investor, economist Edward Seidle, and Phoenix Arizona city council member Sal DiCiccio.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2020/04/30/if-you-see-more-revenues-coming-in-to-your-city-and-you-keep-wondering-why-your-roads-are-looking-like-crap-and-you-believe-youre-not-getting-the-type-of-services-you-should-be-getting-its/

DiCiccio explained that cities across America are unable to provide basic services because staffers are pouring all the taxpayers’ money into their own pensions. Because of excessive salaries, ridiculously low contribution rates, and horrific mismanagement of pension funds, the pension deficit, or Unfunded Accrued Liablity, ” will continue to climb. No matter how much money the taxpayers pour into this system, pension expense will continue to outstrip revenues.

First of all salaries excessive – our city manager, for example, at $207,000/year in salary, makes almost 5 times the median income in our area. Many economics experts, including Seidle, have said that if the salaries were more rational, the pension system would work.

Second, agencies pay too little, with employees contributing almost nothing. In fact, until Orme started paying in a few years ago, he was paying NOTHING. His predecessors, like Tom Lando, Greg Jones, Dave Burkland, and Brian Nakamura, paid nothing. Lando is now getting over $155,000/year in pension, plus COLA, having made absolutely no contribution for his entire career.

These agencies have used CalPERS like a credit card, and now they want us to pay.  First of all, the agency doesn’t pay enough in total.  As of now, the city of Chico is paying, depending on the employee group, between 20 and 30% of total payroll cost, with employees, also depending on bargaining group, paying between 9.75 and 15%. Finance mangler Scott Dowell said in his power point presentation that “City of Chico employees are paying, or are nearly paying, HALF of the CalPERS pension costs.” That is one of the Big Lies. See, he forgets to mention, the Unfunded Actuarial Liablity, or “pension deficit”, which is over 65% of total cost, and the taxpayers pick up that whole tab, with interest.

That UAL is created by agencies that don’t pay enough on payroll, and don’t require enough of their employees. The money they don’t demand becomes the pension deficit, and then the employees are off the hook to pay it. They contribute NOTHING toward the pension deficit, or UAL, payments, the  taxpayers are stuck with the whole turd. 

And then there’s mismanagement of funds. CalPERS is our pension system. They have been criticized for promising too high a return from the stock market, especially since they make horrible investments. They tell their member agencies they only have to pay so much, and then when their investments tank, they come banging on the door for more.

DiCiccio and Seidle explain that no agency requires any member of their pension boards to have any financial credentials or education – the boards are made up of union members. These people are completely dependent on Wall Street money managers.

DiCiccio says, “The wall street money managers are screwing everybody,” from the taxpayers to the employees. He gives an example, which is verified by Seidle – one Phoenix employee group paid $40 million to their money manager for a $4 million return on their investments. Seidle adds, “In the last 10 years the fees have grown exponentially because they are doing high cost high risk investments, which have much higher fees.” And there he also mentions the high risk investments – in one case, CalPERS board members were caught buying bad stocks off of friends.

https://www.breitbart.com/local/2016/06/03/former-calpers-ceo-sentenced-4-years-taking-huge-bribes/

So, what can we do? Unfortunately, we can’t just stop paying our taxes, that’s not going to go anywhere. Also unfortunate – most states, including California, have passed legislation that protects the pensions of those members hired before 2013. “The California Rule,” passed by the state legislature behind closed doors, says, in fact – we must pay the pensions before we pay for anything else.

Last night, watching Chico City Council’s latest remote meeting, I saw it right in front of my eyes. It was in the report Dowell made to council at last night’s remote meeting. He showed council that list of services that $taff plans to cut. One cut that was taken off the list since he made the same presentation at last week’s Finance Committee meeting was deferring payment of the annual Unfunded Actuarial Liability. That is an annual payment, the penalty for missing it would be about $355,000 in late fees. But last night Dowell said there was plenty of money to make that payment  in the General Fund – $9 million. That’s just this years payment, up about $1 million from the payment I saw in last year’s budget.

Dowell, Orme, Constantin and the Public Works staff have acknowledged for about 5 years now that they have not been funding street maintenance or repairs, but they’ve never missed a UAL payment. If that’s not Mutiny folks, I don’t know what to do with my yardarm.

So here are my solutions to this mess:

  1. Get all new employees off CalPERS and give them 401Ks
  2. The city of Chico needs to pay more in payroll, which would mean, all pre-PEPRA employees would have to pay more, despite their ridiculous shares.
  3. Pre-PEPRA employees should have to pay toward the “catch-up payments” or “UAL” – they should pay at least the same shares they pay toward the payroll portion.
  4. Retired employees making more than $(??,???) per year in pension should have to contribute or lose benefits.

Let me know what you think.

Koyaanisquatsi! Ann Schwab, the woman who denied we had financial problems, is our mayor again!?!

26 Mar

Yeah, I know, my last post was full of bravado! Don’t panic!

Then I watched the emergency city meeting last night, and wow – my guts went into a flutter – time to PANIC!

Just kidding, but wow, what a circus that was. And now we have Ann Schwab as mayor, AGAIN?! I’ve lost any remaining respect I had for Kasey Reynolds and Sean Morgan. 

I mean, I have to agree with Stone here – Ann Schwab was horrible, one of the worst mayors we’ve had. 

Thanks again for this pic PYPR – sheesh, how soon we forget!

Stone, in his tiny mind full of paranoia, opined that Schwab had made a “hard right”, even trying to accuse her and the others of colluding ahead of the meeting – a Brown Act violation. Well, not that I don’t suspect same – but here’s what I also see – Morgan and Reynolds went along with Schwab because they all want the sales tax measure on the upcoming November ballot, and they see Stone as an arbatross swinging low around their necks.  

It was after they’d removed Stone as mayor and inserted Ann Schwab that the meeting got really weird. With the exception of Ory –  who stomped his foot and disappeared into the floor as soon as he saw the handwriting on the wall – council went right back to work and voted to assert rent control on landlords all over town by telling tenants they don’t have to pay their rent during the coronavirus panic. 

Go ahead and watch it yourself, then do your research – they made this “emergency” ordinance without any concern as to how landlords will hold onto rentals without rent. They said landlords could collect back rent after the “crisis” has passed – really? And just how are you going to legislate that? 

Feel good morons is what we’ve got, and we need to find some responsible people to turn them out over the next couple of elections. 

Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin lays out his scheme to “shoot (taxpayer) money into the economy at the time the economy is tanking…”

14 May

Just last month Chico City council listened to a consultant’s pitch about placing a revenue measure on the 2020 ballot. They voted to hire the woman, from the same firm that has passed two school bonds, EMC, of Oakland. They also approved a $60,000 budget to run a voter survey and then make a strategy for Staff to use the information gathered to twist sentiment in favor of higher taxes. 

I attended an earlier presentation before the Finance Committee and taped it. I was shocked at the statements made – they talk pretty frank at these morning meetings because they know nobody will show up. I was particularly interested in the presentation made by Chico assistant city manager Chris Constantin. Constantin has hatched the same plot described by Sacramento City mayor Darrell Steinberg – a shells and peas scheme called “securitization.” People need to know about this scam scheme, so I wrote a letter to the Enterprise Record. 

In 2018 57% of Sacramento voters passed Measure U, a half-cent sales tax increase.  Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg had promised voters new revenues would not go to employee pensions, instead toward economic development. However, immediately after the election, Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to place the revenues into the general fund, which pays for  salaries and pensions.

Lesson learned – with a simple majority measure, the voters lose control over how the money is spent.

Promising again to keep the money from going to the pension deficit, Steinberg proposes to “securitize” $25,000,000 of annual Measure U revenue to create a capital equity fund. That fund would finance the sale of bonds, to be repaid by Measure U receipts over a 25-year period. So, half the sales tax revenue would go toward creating more debt.  And the bond money could be spent at council’s indiscretion.

City of Chico staffers have proposed the same “securitization” plan to our council, who plan to put a revenue measure on the 2020 ballot.  Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin has proposed using a sales tax measure to fund bonds. Constantin told the Finance Committee the fund could be used to “shoot money into the economy at the time the economy is tanking…” He would not further explain this scheme to a skeptical committee, but assured Sean Morgan “we’ll contract the type of folks who can do it.”

Subsequently, Council approved up to $60,000 from the general fund to pay a consultant to talk us into this scam. Don’t fall for it.

 

A lie will stick unless you call the liar out on it

17 Apr

Al Franken wrote a really funny book years back, before he became a politician, you might want to check it out –

It’s not balanced, or fair, but it’s sooooo true! And it’s not just “the Right,” either. They all lie. Have you heard about the latest attempt to keep voters from knowing the truth about tax measures? 

https://calmatters.org/articles/commentary/bond-issue-transparency-still-under-assault/

Dan Walters:

“Two years ago, in a rare display of support for transparency in government finance, the Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown required local governments and school districts to tell voters how proposed bond issues would affect their property taxes.

That would seem to be just common sense and good government, but local officials complained that Assembly Bill 195 would be too difficult to implement. Their real motive, however, was a fear that telling voters that their tax bills would increase might discourage them from voting for the bonds.

It’s a good thing we have Dan Walters, because our local media have fallen in with city staff and council to run their tax measure campaign, both the tv news and the daily running at least a story a week about how we need a tax measure to fix all the problems brought about by years of poor management and self-service. I finally had to ask ER reporter Laura Urseny where she got the numbers regarding how many Camp Fire evacuees are still residing within the Chico City limits.

I covered that here:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/04/12/orme-estimates-10-15000-refugees-living-in-chico-based-on-nonregistration-couch-living-trailers-parked-on-streets/

I knew they didn’t have any numbers, or I’d have asked, “how many people from the burned areas already drove into Chico five or more days a week to their job, already shopped in Chico regularly, already used Chico roads and services?”  I already know the answer – probably more than half the people – more like two thirds – in the affected areas already came to Chico, drove our roads, used our retail sector, our post office, and other services, on a regular basis. 

But a lie will stick unless you call the liar out on it. So I wrote the following letter to the ER.  

Stories in this newspaper claim the city of Chico “has absorbed many displaced Camp Fire victims.” When I asked one reporter for a specific figure, she paraphrased the city manager as follows.

“He [Mark Orme] said he doesn’t have hard numbers from FEMA because of nonregistration, couch-living, trailers parked on streets etc. He said  the city is still using the  10,000-15,000 estimate.”

A FEMA map shows a great many of the roughly 20,000 evacuees have spread out around Butte County, California and the US, with no figures for Chico.  Staff is simply using numbers that suit their purpose.  To date, Staff has used their “estimate” to excuse poor road conditions, crime problems, housing shortage and cost, and now a “$5-6,000,000” roundabout.

Staff admits they have deferred road maintenance in Chico since long before the Camp Fire. The city’s welcome mat for transients is the source of our crime problems. The short-lived boom in the Chico housing market immediately following the Camp Fire has been over for some time – there are 247 listings on Trulia. The proposal to place FEMA housing near the Eaton Road interchange has been abandoned.

Staff is pressing for a tax measure using Camp Fire evacuees as bait. Dan Walters points out “the underlying real reasons, such as to cover rapidly increasing employee pension and health care costs.” Chico’s pension deficit is over $130,000,000.  The Wall Street Journal reports, “despite bull market, pension plans in miserable shape…”

Staff needs to fess up, and pay their own pensions. 

 

Keep rattling your chains – write letters to both papers, tell them we know where the money is going

31 Mar

Dave Howell wrote a great letter to the News and Review, taking on the pensions. Thanks for going to the trouble to write these letters Dave, I know it’s not easy to get a letter in the N&R. 

The problem is pensions

Re “Taxes and police” (Letters, by Martine Stillwell, March 14):

Martine Stillwell is justifiably outraged that our city’s politicians are pushing a tax increase to fix the roads after letting them fall into disrepair thus increasing the cost to repair them.

I wonder how much more outraged she would be if she knew that tens of thousands of our tax dollars are being paid to an opinion research firm to sell us that tax increase. And that doesn’t include the cost of the city bureaucracy’s staff time.

The reason for the awful condition of our infrastructure and the reason for this tax increase are the unsustainable cost of government employee compensation, especially pensions. For many years money for infrastructure repair has been siphoned off for raises and unsustainable pensions. Does she know our bureaucrats have pensions worth millions?

Yet instead of pension reform, our politicians believe that in a county with low wages, very high living expenses and a 21 percent poverty rate, the answer is to pass a tax increase that hits the poor the hardest.

I wonder if Martine and others will be outraged enough to vote in the next election against the tax increase and the politicians who push it and encourage others to do the same.

Dave Howell, Chico

In the same issue this letter appeared, editor Melissa Daugherty bitched about the park budget being shorted these last few years – but she didn’t mention why?  So I wrote a letter about it.

Melissa Daugherty is correct (3/28), Bidwell Park has suffered deferred maintenance since massive layoff of park staffers over the last six years. The park department was absorbed into Public Works, where director Eric Gustafson oversees not only the park, but the airport, city buildings, street trees, right of way zones, street cleaning, traffic safety, city vehicles, and the sewer plant.

Like Dave Howell said (3/28), the problem is “the unsustainable cost of government employee compensation, especially pensions.” I’ll add, management top-heavy.  Twelve  management positions overseeing the park, including Gustafson, cost over $1 million in total compensation. The park division only has five “maintenance workers”, amounting to less than $300,000 in total compensation.

While staff defers maintenance in the park and other infrastructure all over town,  they continue to pay almost $20 million a year toward their pensions, about $8 million of that toward the pension deficit. At the April 2 council meeting, staff recommends renewal of the CalPERS agreement, requiring employees to pay only 11% of the cost of their pensions, the taxpayers expected to pick up the deficit.

As long as council and staff continue to place the pensions ahead of the public, infrastructure will continue to be short changed, including Bidwell Park.

Juanita Sumner, Chico 

I got my information from publicpay.gov (GCC, secretary of state)

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=79&year=2017

and the city website – management contracts are available on the Human Resources page.

http://www.chico.ca.us/human_resources_and_risk_management/labor_agreements_home.asp

At the GCC website, you’ll see, the park budget also pays for several police/traffic officers, interns, and two “administrative assistants”. The city has to bring in Salt Creek inmates because they don’t have enough workers. And management is without a clue.

Eric Gustafson spends most of his time in meetings, same for “Resources Manager” Linda Herman. I’d bet my last $5 they don’t even own an appropriate pair of shoes to walk in the park. Both are clinically obese, and neither has any kind of credentials suggesting they are qualified to run a park. 

The city continues to use the park and other sagging infrastructure to press for a revenue measure – I think we need to press for some firings Downtown. Starting at the top, with Mark Orme, followed by Chris Constantin, Scott Dowell, and every department head. It’s time for a tick dip. 

Speak now or forever hold your hands over your behind

13 Mar

I was thrilled to  read letters from Dave Howell of Chico and Steve and Lorraine Christensen of Oroville. I speak to people all the time who feel Californians pay too many taxes, but people seldom get around to writing letters about it. I think it’s important to let your “civic” leaders know how you feel, let them know you’ve had enough, let them know you’re ready to do something about it.

Now that the city of Chico has made it clear they will pursue a tax measure, I’m not mincing words – Mark Orme needs to  go. Old Yiddish proverb – when the fish stinks, it’s the head of the fish that stinks!

Orme claims he’s done a lot to lead out city out of deficit, but he’s overseen the siphoning of money from various departments into the pension deficit. Rather than fess up and pay more of his own salary toward his pension, he continues to take pay increases while offering up a mere 11% of his base salary toward his benefits, FURTHERMORE adding a tax deferred IRC 457 to his package. This guy is enriching himself out of the public cookie jar, time to slap his hands.

Write those letters!

  • letters@chicoer.com
  • chicoletters@newsreview.com
  • debbie.presson@chicoca.gov

At the February 27 Finance Committee meeting, city manager Mark Orme said he has resisted revenue measures in the past, but that Chico’s current situation calls for a new tax to mitigate the impacts of the Camp Fire evacuation.

City staff has been  calling for a tax increase since well before the Camp Fire.  They wanted to tax our cell phones. Then they said garbage trucks were wrecking our streets and added a franchise fee to our rates. Long deferred street and park maintenance. Transients  straining public safety agencies.  Now it’s the evacuees.

But on February 27 Orme finally acknowledged the “elephant in the room” – pensions. The city spends almost $20,000,000 annually on pensions. About $8,000,000 of that goes to the pension deficit.

Orme insisted staff has learned to “live within our means.” Really? The city manager’s base salary has gone from $192,000 to $207,500 since his hire,  but his total pay is over $225,000,  including perks such as a $400/month car allowance. Tack on another $82,000 in pension and health benefits, including $18,000 for an IRC 457 added to his contract just last year.

Orme only pays 11% of his base salary for a pension of 70 percent of his highest year’s salary at age 60.  This is how the deficit was created, the employees expect a lot but only want to contribute a  fraction of the cost.

The question isn’t whether we need a new tax, but why the taxpayers should bear the burden of a pension deficit created by public employees.

Juanita Sumner

“Special meeting” of city council, held at Cal Park Pavilion on Saturday at 8:30am in a dumping storm – think they really wanted anybody to show up?

6 Feb

I’ve signed up for various city meeting agenda notifications, and the other day I got a notice for a special city council meeting. It bugged me so much wondering what they were up to, I got out on the highway in a howling rainstorm to drive up to California Park Lakeside Pavilion to find out.

It just seemed weird. Saturday before the Super Bowl, weatherman making winter storm warnings, and they decide to have an 8:30 am meeting at the Pavilion.

I arrived with a few minutes to spare, following Mayor Stone into the  building. I found the rest of council and various staffers making their greetings and chit chat in one of the small meeting rooms that line the main hall. A big blue sheet was hanging on one wall next to the viewing screen. Three tables were set up in the middle of the room and a line of folding chairs was set along one wall.

A man immediately walked up and admired my rain boots. I must admit they are very attractive, and practical too. We introduced ourselves. His name was Scott Winter, and he said he would be running the meeting. His business, he said, was “Human Performance,” or, “how to get people to show up.”

So, I had to ask him, it just popped out of my mouth – if you want people to show up, why would you have an 8:30 am meeting on a Saturday in a howling storm at an out-of-the-way building with  little or no notice to the public?

Dammit, no wonder I can’t make friends or influence people, my mouth has no damned kill switch.

He looked shocked, and then recovered, saying he needed a room that would accommodate “everybody”, as well as his big blue sheet – he gestured toward the wall with the big blue sheet.

Well sheesh, there’s walls all over council chambers, and that accommodates hundreds. There are two meeting rooms at the city chambers that are at least as big as the room they used at the Pavilion.

The meeting got started, Winters showed a video of another consultant who talked for about 15 minutes about “collaboration,” and how you have to let your defensive down to be constructive when working with a group. 

After the video Winter handed out a sheet of questions each person was supposed to ask themselves about their own defense mechanisms. 

And then, Winter handed out sheets of sticky sided paper, several sheets for each council person, and asked them to list their goals for council in the coming year.

Suggestions ranged from “more enjoyable council meetings” to “more money for the city” and “house all homeless” Some of the suggestions were repetitive – that’s what the big blue sheet was  for – Winter hung the sheets of paper on the sheet and the group went about trying to put the suggestions in groups.

Meanwhile, we members of the public sat along the wall, being told we were not allowed to participate. 

Wow, this guy sure knows how to get people to SHUT UP, not sure if he really wants to get them to SHOW UP.

By about 10am the consultant and some members of the group started to get a little peevish. Not everyone was cooperative, I won’t say who, but I could tell Winters was  getting impatient. Nothing was being accomplished, and several members of council expressed confusion over what they were being asked to  do, and what was meant by some of the suggestions on the board. Most were vague to the point of stupid.

Winter had to get on his soapbox and remind these people, they have lost the trust of the public, been sued for Brown Act violations, and needed to start being more transparent. That, apparently, was the dilemma that necessitated a “special meeting.” 

At this point I had to leave – my time is worth something. I wasn’t being allowed to contribute, the public had been let in out of legal necessity. And I’d heard plenty.

I had to wonder, what is Scott Winter’s time worth?

So I wrote a note to staff and asked – Winter got $3,000 for his day playing little children’s games and calling a bunch of brats on the carpet. Another $472 for the room at the Pavilion. 

Why was this a “special meeting”? Why not schedule and notice a regular workshop? Winter told me it was because he is very busy, but his friend Mark Orme had called him in Poland to tell him it was really important so as soon as he got home they’d made arrangements for the meeting. I didn’t ask him why the Pavilion, I think it’s pretty obvious they didn’t really want anybody to show up.