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Humboldt Fire caused by transients?

21 Jul

You have probably heard about the 100 acre Humboldt (Road) fire that occurred along Hwy 32, just above California Park and the new Forgarty houses on the other side of the road. It came within yards of Cal Water’s new tank.

When my husband and I drove out on Hwy 32 yesterday, we saw that it came from the area where we had reported illegal camping a few months ago.  There was a tent with a tarp, clearly visible from Hwy 32. When we investigated we found a fire pit surrounded with garbage and scattered household goods. The fire pit was well established, lined with rocks gathered from the surrounding hillside.  The site looked as though it was regularly used for years, and very recently.

We reported it and were referred to Office Scott Zuchin, who told us he hadn’t seen any camp there. He offered to set up a neighborhood meeting, but when I persisted in my complaint he got testy. 

Please be more specific then. We may not be speaking about the same location. You may attach photographs to your email if that helps.

I had given him the exact location, and told him it was visible from Hwy 32.  I don’t think these people read an e-mail completely before they respond. Shortly thereafter, the tent and tarp disappeared, but the campsite was never cleaned up.  We saw signs of illegal camping all along Humboldt road, in the exact vicinity of that 100 acre fire, and aside from a poorly organized last minute clean-up of the road by a private group for the Wildflower Century, there have been no attempts made by any city or county agency to clean the garbage out of that area.

I had cc’d  Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk into that discussion because she lives in Cal Park. She is fully aware of the transient camps along Humboldt Road and complained about crime being on the increase in Cal Park. This woman needs to wake up and get off the pot – she’s up for re-election in 2018 and doesn’t have a clue as to the problems she is causing every time she votes to fund some “homeless” program. The county brings these people in here for the stipend attached – $550 a day to pay down a pension debt that has them cutting  staff and closing fire stations. But to these agencies money is like an ice cube in hell – it’s already gone to management salaries and pensions before it even hits  the floor.

Write to Kirk and tell her she has to do something to stop the flood of insanity she’s turned loose on our town – that’s mkirk@buttecounty.net

Lou Binninger: The Pension Heist

14 Jul

Here’s a must-read:

http://territorialdispatch.biz/component/edocman/?task=document.viewdoc&id=337&Itemid=0

Cities  going broke paying down pension debt, CalPERS investments based on bribery, a scandal that led to the suicide of one CalPERS official. 

The city of Chico agrees to contracts with public employees stipulating all employees must pay union dues whether or not they want to be in the union. The city also agrees to collective bargaining. The unions are the biggest donors in every local election.  These problems could be solved with city ordinances. 

Think about it.

Downtown Chico on a bender

30 Jun

I had a good shock last night – I went Downtown for Thursday Night Market. I wish I had taken pictures, but we had out-of-town guests, and I was embarrassed of my town.

I realized, I hadn’t been to TNM for probably 10 years. There used to be more fruit and vegetable vendors, with some local “artisans”, people we knew who sold T-shirts and other sundries they’d produced.

Last night I felt like Arlo Guthrie – I never saw a face I knew, as I went ramblin’ round. I remembered how many complaints I’d heard, how our friends one-by-one had let go of their Thursday night booths after years of dealing with Downtown Business Association, who runs TNM.  Too much cronyism, too much infighting, and they had rules they used selectively, like who was allowed to sell oranges, and who wasn’t.

As the number of produce vendors declined, and the number of crap vendors – just junk they buy wholesale – increased, we walked away. Downtown became increasingly unfriendly too – I won’t use the word “homeless” for these people, they’re just a pile of criminals and creeps. Our kids were pre-teens, we felt Downtown was no place for families, particularly after 6 pm.

So, what were we thinking when we took our out-of-town friends with two teenagers to TNM? We were thinking, there’s not much to do in this town, and we’d been holed up with them in the air conditioning all day.  We didn’t dare take them to Bidwell Park – besides the triple-digit heat, there’s the bums, bum crap everywhere, sleeping bags and old drawers hanging from the blackberry vines, etc.  They’d driven four hours to get here, so we hesitated to take them on a driving tour. We knew they wanted to get out and get some exercise before they got in their car again this morning, so we thought, “how bad could it be?” These folks live in a big city, they’ve certainly seen urban images.

It was me who was in for the shock. 

We arrived Downtown just before 8pm, parked at the parking lot that hosts Saturday Farmer’s Market, two big spaces right next to each other, we thought that was a good omen.  As soon as we got onto the sidewalk headed to Main Street, I realized we might have made a big mistake. The sidewalks are dirtier than ever, and wow – those fancy garbage cans the city installed, those cement receptacles that cost who knows what – they’re all beaten to a pulp! Looks like Barry Bonds had a steroidal fit with a titanium bat ( I love you Barry, but yeah, you had a bad temper when you were on the ‘roids!)

The sidewalks were crowded, mostly with transients walking around in various states of filth and intoxication. We had to walk single file, and the noise level made conversation uncomfortable. As we rounded the corner onto Main, we saw what was left of the produce vendors – one or two stalls with peaches and nectarines. If I’d realized that would be the only produce I would have stopped, but the teenagers were hungry and eager to get to the food wagons.  I had heard good stuff about the food wagons, and we’d eaten at one or two of them at other events, so we hustled along.  I did see the Bordin’s, with their honey, but that was  the last of the produce stalls as we wandered into the crap vendors’ area and on to the food trucks.

The live band at the Plaza was very annoying. I’ve heard all that 70’s and 80’s rock – why bother with a band, why not just broadcast Thunder? And does it have to be so loud as to necessitate repeating your order and your name multiple times to the food vendor? 

There we were, right next to the Plaza. At first I could see some families with kids – like us, they seemed to be looking for a safe place to get out at night. But the scene changed rapidly, before my eyes. At 8:30, the macaroni man handed my friends his last order and abruptly closed the door and window on his truck. The other food vendors started to do same. They seemed eager to get the hell out, which was weird – the event is supposed to last until 9 pm, and there were still people all over the street. 

The food area was quickly un-staging, people who looked like transients with “event” shirts were picking up trash  and dragging garbage cans away. I was still holding the trendy cardboard container and plastic forks that came with my Maria’s tamale (bland dry corn meal, stringy shoeleather chicken, flavorless rice, dry pasty beans), so I ran along after them to throw it away. As I walked back to my group, I could see, they were surrounded by drunken shirtless men making their bed on the Plaza grass. 

The band had packed up and split, and suddenly I felt insecure – it was like a scene out of “Escape from New York”.   So we split, ferrying our friends back to their hotel, hoping nothing weird happened to them there.

 I’d bet my last five dollars, after that freak show, they will tell us to visit them next time. 

Thursday Night Market? How about “Thursday Night Mayhem”?  I don’t patronize businesses Downtown anymore because it’s just plain unpleasant. The sidewalks are filthy, my friend was wearing very pretty open-toed shoes. The vandalism – everywhere – is hostile, you feel like you’re walking right into a war zone. The smell of garbage permeates the air – we walked by so many overflowing garbage cans, right outside restaurants, I don’t know how they keep the flies off their customers. And on every sidewalk, we had to walk single file, to keep from literally bumping into dirty, disheveled, intoxicated creeps.

Downtown Chico is in trouble, and no district is going to save it. If you’ve paid attention, you’ve seen one after another initiative that’s been taken, public money thrown in, to bail out a retail sector that refuses to take care of itself. Downtown businesses are not special, they’re not a charity, they’re not a public institution. They make bad decisions – like Thursday Night Market and Friday Night Concerts – but they are continually bailed out with public money. Now certain business owners, led by Ann Schwab’s husband Budd,  want a district with fees directed toward Downtown clean-up and more cops – when will we all be expected to form districts to get city services that we already pay for? 

Wake up Chico, you are being had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

City manager Mark Orme, Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin behind the chatter for a sales tax increase

23 Jun

I’ve been trying to engage our city “leaders” regarding the trash tax –  according to City Manager Mark Orme, “the Muni Code Ordinance (which is on Tuesday’s [June 20] Council meeting) is going forward for final reading.  This allows for the City to entertain the Franchise Agreements (Ordinances) which will come back on August 1st – originally they were anticipated to return in July, but due to the Council’s, yours, and other members of the public’s feedback/input we are negotiating further to ensure clarity and that the best deal is had, under the circumstances.  Therefore, the action for Tuesday will lead to further discussion and approval or disapproval of the new franchises in August.”

I have a lot of problems with this “franchise agreement”, the main problem being that it is a tax in disguise. We all know the city is standing in front of a pension shitstorm with a tennis racket – their tennis racket appears to be a quarter cent sales tax increase.  At the May 16 city council meeting – at about 1:14:44 – local government shill Stephanie Taber got up to the podium and told council we need to raise taxes. Here’s the link – 

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=673

I was not surprised,  but since Taber used to be a regular attendee of the old Chico Taxpayers Association meetings, I had to ask her what the hell she was thinking.

“Wow, what a tiger you are! Raise Taxes! 

I got a better idea Steph – why don’t you just get out YOUR own checkbook, donate all the money you want to the salaries and benefits, and leave the rest of us out of it.

Thank you! Juanita”

She replied, 

“First off, let me say that I would, along with other Chico residence have to “open my checkbook” and pay whether the city did this as a sales tax or GO bonds that would affect property taxes..either way I’d have to pay too.

The city would only raise 4 to 4.5 million per year if they increased the sales tax by a quarter cent.  Many of the city streets now utterly failing (there is a list in the 17/18 budget and discussed at Finance) would cost at least that much to now totally dig up and replace because of lack of maintenance during the Schwab years.  That is when millions of gas tax money was diverted to maintain S&B for city employees and to keep her in office along with Holcomb, Gruendl, Walker, Nickel, Flynn and that whole regressive crew.

The sales and/or GO Bonds that I think we must look at would be only used for infrastructure.  The funds coming in would be ear marked and put into a separate account that could be verified and restricted.  We’ve seen this new administration’s (Chris Constantin in particular) ability and willingness to do that and as long as we have fellow concerned citizens willing to spend a bit of time following the income and expenditures in a particular account I don’t see a problem.  Problems arise when administrations lie and hide as our state government is doing with the gas tax increase that the voters had no opportunity to weigh in on.

I’m a bit surprised that this is seen as a “Republican” /”Democrat” issue … there is no ideology involved in this.. it is simply a recommendation that we raise revenue (tax or GO Bonds) for a specific problem, infrastructure, that would benefit the entire city.   Today we are currently short 14 to 16 million and that figure will only go up if we sit and do nothing..to me that is not an option.”

Signed, “st

She always blames everything on the liberals, even now that the conservatives have been in power for almost two years. She also seems to forget all those meetings we sat at over the years, watching money transferred out of whatever restricted fund and into the General Fund. She even mentions the gas tax, which went entirely to salaries and benefits through “allocation” – a process Chris Constantin formalized as the rule of law almost as soon as he got hired here.  It’s now policy to keep funds balanced through transfers, any time a fund is low it’s city policy to take money from other funds to balance it, restrictions my ass.   At least before we saw when funds went into the red, now they just cover up with “allocations”. There’s a budget “appropriation” – that means “taking” – in almost every fucking agenda.

“Today we are currently short 14 to 16 million and that figure will only go up if we sit and do nothing…”

Who the Hell is “we”? I think the word we’re looking for here is “them,” or how about, “embezzlers…

I will say, she’s got a point – “Problems arise when administrations lie and hide as our state government is doing with the gas tax increase that the voters had no opportunity to weigh in on…” you mean, like the garbage tax Steph?

But there you see the puppet master – “The funds coming in would be ear marked and put into a separate account that could be verified and restricted.  We’ve seen this new administration’s (Chris Constantin in particular) ability and willingness to do that…”

I’ve known this woman for some years now, I’ve watched  her face light up every time Chris Constantin or Mark Orme paid her special attention. One day Mark Orme just put his arms around here after a meeting and gave her a big squeeze. These guys have her in their back pocket. It’s their work she’s at now. 

I heard it from a little shill…

Fillmer needs to go in 2018

8 Jun

I’ve been trying to follow the trash tax conversation since  2012. At some point it went underground, and every time I’d ask Mark Orme for an update he’d tell me it wasn’t ready for the public yet. He kept giving me dates that it would be “rolled out,” but those dates came and went as the city wrestled with the haulers over the deal. 

Ever watch “Repo Man”, with Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton? Then you know what the “repo man grab” is. This deal was a fight between two big dogs that both wanted to eat the ratepayers, they were just squaring off over who got what.

They only started talking public about this deal a couple of months ago, and the revised ordinance they approved Tuesday night was available to the public, on the city website, for less than a week. I got it from the clerk Friday, because I’m signed up to get the agendas. For some reason she had trouble getting it out – she usually has these in my mailbox on the Wednesday before the following Tuesday council meeting. 

When I read it, the things that stuck out to me the most are the requirement that we have and pay for a yard waste bin – 

  • after 5 years of drought many people have taken out lawns and big trees have died. The only thing you can put in those bins are leaves and grass clippings.
  • this is not free, it’s a requirement, and therefore should be subsidized for low-income households. I’ve been telling Orme that since 2012, but he would never respond
  • this means another truck stopping in front of my house – they said they would reduce trucks – liars!

The other item that bothers me is that trash service is not required.  That means, the burden of increased costs will fall on those of us who do the right thing and get trash service. It shoves out the lower-income households who can’t afford it – great! 

I wrote to the entire council one last time to try and get them to consider these points, forwarding them the conversation I’d had with Waste Management staffer Ryan West.

Hello Council,

I am forwarding questions I had asked of Waste Management representative Ryan West regarding the most recent revision of the trash tax deal, before you tomorrow night.  The only item he did not answer satisfactorily for me was regarding mandatory yard waste pick-up.   I understood yard waste would be optional, but Mr. West tells me it will be required. Wow – trash service is not required, but if we get trash service, we are required to pay for yard waste service. As I explained to West below, I don’t need yard waste service, why should I pay for it?  

One more thing I’d like to bring up with you folks is, if service is not mandatory, this will raise the rate for those of us who opt in. If service is mandatory, I believe the city must offer a subsidy program for low-income residents. This needed to be discussed publicly and still should. 

The whole thing needed more public discussion. I’ve been trying to follow this for about four years now, and the deal you have here is not what was talked about at the meetings I attended. Also, these meetings were poorly noticed, at times when the general public would not be able to attend. I think this whole thing was run under the radar because you know people would see – it’s a tax. Right Mark? And I quote, “Let’s call this what it is, a trash tax.” 

By any other name, this deal still stinks.

Juanita Sumner

Of course I got no response. The next night they approved the deal without discussing either point. I was frustrated, so I wrote a second note, but this time I only included Mayor Sean Morgan and Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer.  

Notice 

I will not pay for yard waste service I don’t need. If you move forward with this deal, you are depriving me of affordable service, and I think that’s going to come back at you later.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I do think they are breaking the law, but we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, I got a surprising response from Vice Mayor Fillmer.

How come the others that voted for it are not on your email?  Are you discriminating?

That’s it, that’s her whole response. As if she didn’t get my earlier e-mail. What is this, seventh grade? This woman is not only our vice mayor, she’s worked in the public trough for years, and runs her own “human resources” agency. I’d like to have an explanation for the yard waste requirement, but I get “are you talking to me!?!”  

I responded:

Ms. Fillmer,

When I wrote to the entire council on this subject earlier this week I got no response, so this time I just sent to the Mayor and Vice Mayor. Yes, I think you’re right – by definition, that is “discriminating – having or showing refined taste or good judgment.”

I have tried to follow this garbage tax conversation since 2012, attending various meetings. When the subject stopped coming up at meetings and  I asked Mark Orme for further information, he repeatedly told me they weren’t ready to show the deal to the public (I still have the e-mails he sent). The deal was not shown to the public until recently, and this most updated version was available to the public for less than a week before council approved it. 

The yard waste requirement only came up recently. Why? After 5 years of drought, people all over town have taken out lawns, trees and shrubs have died.  I have a large property but my needs are suited by a small compost pile. As a landlord I am constantly pruning trees – tree branches  are not allowed in the yard waste bin.  The rules for yard waste bins allow only leaves, grass clippings and small plant waste – why are we required to pay more for a service we don’t need when I am forced to make regular trips and pay to take my yard waste to the compost facility on Cohasset? This was never discussed in front of me, it never turned up in meeting minutes, and it really just looks like a bone you are throwing to Waste Management so they can jack up our rates.

Please explain to me any other good reasoning you might have behind this requirement. And maybe you should ask Mr. Orme or Mr. Ewing if required yard waste service will have to carry a low-income subsidy from the city. 

Fillmer is also trying to tinker with the city’s pension system – she’s trying to make new employees pay more but old, or “classic” employees will not pay. Mark Orme and Debbie Presson just got raises to cover their new pension shares. Orme’s salary was already over $200,000/year, and Presson’s raise takes her to $142,000/year, but they pay less than 10 percent of their own pension. 

Fillmer is up in 2018. She needs to fold up her legs and go home. 

Told ya so, told ya so, told ya so!

3 Jun

Wow, look! The Enterprise Record is acting like a newspaper! Now, that’s news!

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20170602/increasing-retirement-plan-rates-will-constrict-chico-city-funds

Next Tuesday night, council will offer clerk Debbie Presson a 2 percent raise, to $142,000/year, to get her to pay 3 percent of her pension.

City mangler Mark Orme just cut himself a similar deal.

It’s just a ball ‘o confusion! You sure can’t hide!

 

Maybe now we’ll get more bounce to the ounce?

 

This is getting pretty funky!

Is Chico a corrupt town?

16 May

I haven’t been myself lately, haven’t been posting, haven’t been attending meetings – like so many families in  California right now, my family is under a crippling stress. We’re worried about our finances, we’re worried about the town crumbling around us, we can’t even think much about the future, and we worry about our health –  because we can’t afford healthcare.

Today my husband and I got a report that our roof was heavily damaged in the last couple of hail storms, and the shingles all need to be replaced. That’s a huge job for my husband, and the kids can’t always help. The roofer wants over $10,000. So we decided to drive over to the AAA office here  in town and see about making a claim on our policy. We’ve never made a claim to AAA, so we were really disappointed to find out, in that building full of people, there’s nobody to take a claim. You have to phone in a claim. 

Excuse us for being spoiled. When we had our old Allstate agent, Don Fiore, he actually liked us to come into the office, he did everything for us, he was the last of the real service providers.  The AAA building is full of sales people, and clerks to take your payments, but there’s no service there.

What sucked was the drive across Chico.  We had another errand that took us Downtown first. On the eve of Graduation weekend,  we found Downtown looking, well, like SHIT.

When did the city just stop mowing public property?  At their May 2 meeting, the Chico City Council declared  “weeds, rubbish, refuse, and debris to be a public nuisance – ordering abatement and removal, setting a deadline for abatement, and providing assessment of the cost of abatement…”

I looked here at the list of non-compliant, who must abate or pay, but I sure didn’t seen any city properties on this list.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=671&meta_id=54602

Drive by One Mile, take Vallombrosa toward the Downtown area – look at the “weeds, rubbish, and debris” – and then there’s the bums! One guy looked like a pile of garbage, but as we drove by he sat up. Another man stood astraddle the sidewalk, blocking passersby, going through his shopping cart full of crap. 

All along sidewalks Downtown, especially the area near Rangle Park and the Downtown 7-11, the weeds along the sidewalks are knee-high and covered with stickers. Trash litters the ground everywhere.  Looks great for all those parents and extended family members coming into town – this, by-the-way, has traditionally been the biggest TOT – or “bed tax” – weekend every year.  What I’ve heard lately is, people are finding nicer hotels, willing to drive as far as Willows and Corning, to get a hotel that is not surrounded by the army of the night.

Another big TOT totaller around here was the Concourse D’Elegance. You newcomers don’t even know what I’m talking about, huh? Cause they moved to Butte Creek Country Club, oh, I don’t know – 10 years ago?  That event used to be spread all over the campus and out into the Downtown area, with car lovers coming from all over the state to stay a couple of nights in town. Now they spend their day at the Country Club out on Hwy 99, from which they can be in Corning in about 30 minutes.  Why even drive into bum-infested Chico? 

Our town is really pissing me off lately.  I was trying to forget about Chico, and I made the mistake of reading the Sacramento Bee instead of the Enterprise Record. You see patterns when you read the big newspapers. 

I like to read Dan Walters cause he spoke to my high school journalism class. He tried to get us kids to pay attention, think about our future. He also told us we should stop screwing around and eat our expensive dinners. He impressed me as a guy who cared, and he still seems to be one of the only voices of reason left in the state. Here he is talking about the government corruption that is swallowing California alive. 

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article150699127.html

Chico has a budget of over $100 million, up from about $53 million only a few years ago. Our city manager makes over $240,000/year, PLUS BENEFITS. His predecessor Brian Nakamura made about $212,000/year, and before that long-gone city manager Dave Burkland made about $180,000/year. That’s happened just since 2012. 

We also spend a lot more money on police and fire, but we continue to get mixed signals from our “public safety” officials. In January a consultant’s report said the fire department needed to be a lot more efficient – including a suggestion to close stations that overlapped services. A couple of months later we’re told that new hires made with a grant would be let go – the chief threatening us with slower response times. At about the same time, the police department told us they would cut services if they didn’t get more money – and then about a month ago the chief said he “found” enough money in the budget to hire three more cops.

What?

Tonight city council will discuss a new “property and business improvement district assessment” for Downtown Chico. Is that what they’re doing? Withholding services like landscape maintenance and street cleaning so the Downtown property owners will fold and pay more? They say the assessment will be directed towards:

• Public safety – safety patrols and stewardship ambassadors to support law enforcement  

• Maintenance and Beautification – cleaning team and image enhancements

• Economic Services – advocate on downtown policy issues, address the interests of property owners, and provide information and services to assist in recruitment and retention of tenants/businesses

• Administration – provide daily management to carry out PBID operations

These are the city’s job already. This is what local government is here to provide.  But here they are again – threatening to cut services if they don’t get more money.  

How long before everybody in town has to pay into one of these assessment districts just to be able to call a cop to take a report, or – think ahead – get a firetruck for a house fire? 

This is exactly what Dan Walters is talking about. You folks were so outraged! about Bell California, you don’t recognize it when it’s right in front of your faces.