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The last thing we want is for “pension reform” to turn into “leave the taxpayers holding the bag”

12 Jan

 Dude sent me this article from Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-10/california-s-brown-raises-prospect-of-pension-cuts-in-downturn

“[Jerry] Brown said he has a ‘hunch’ the courts would ‘modify’ the so-called California rule, which holds that benefits promised to public employees can’t be rolled back. The state’s Supreme Court is set to hear a case in which lower courts ruled that reductions to pensions are permissible if the payments remain ‘reasonable’ for workers.”

Before getting all his/her hopes up, the cagey  taxpayer would immediately ask, “so, what’s ‘reasonable’?”  And then, “who gets to decide what’s ‘reasonable’?” Remember, judges get pensions too.

As I was pondering that, I got next week’s council agenda from the clerk – I’m on the clerk’s notice list, which is just a matter of e-mailing debbie.presson@chicoca.gov and giving her your e-mail address. You can ask for notifications of any and all committee meetings too, stay on top of this stuff instead of bitching about it 10 years after.

Oh look – Reanette Fillmer is still advancing her discussion about city of Chico pensions! She asked council, months ago, to agendize a discussion of our employer [taxpayer] -paid benefits and how they compare to other cities in California.  

I’m not sure how helpful that would be, knowing that most of California is in trouble over pensions right now, but it’s damn sure interesting – see here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=280&meta_id=57592

 

I have never seen this information before, I’ve only heard bits and snatches at meetings – the rest of my knowledge is based on “facts not in evidence” – making guesses from other stuff I hear and watching the expressions on their faces. The last figures I saw showed the city of Chico paying about 26 percent of the pensions – now look! 46 percent! To the employees’ same old 12 percent or less. 

That is how we got into this mess, and  so far, the city of Chico is just digging us deeper into it. 

I don’t know what Fillmer’s agenda is, but we all need to pay attention right now.  The last thing we want is for “pension reform” to turn into “leave the taxpayers holding the bag,” which is what the unions want.

And let council members know how you feel

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov

reanette.fillmer@chicoca.gov

mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov

ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

andrew.coolidge@chicoca.gov

karl.ory@chicoca.gov

randall.stone@chicoca.gov

While you’re at it, send them a couple of pictures of the street in front of your house.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why do people ignore a problem until it’s too late to do much about it, then expect to complain? Trash deal has been in the works since 2012 – now people want to bitch about it?

5 Jan

I just got my new 2018 Waste Management bill for three months (32 gallons) of $59.70, up about 55 percent from previous bills of $38.55. I realize there is always a bit of inflation but 55 percent? By chance, did the city hire the negotiator from the Pentagon’s F35 program for the Waste Management contract?

I also read that pot was legal in California in 2018 but our City Council decided that a retail pot store was not appropriate for our fair city. How am I supposed to relieve the anxiety of opening my Waste Management garbage bill? I’m very unhappy with our City Council.

— Geoff Bartels, Chico

You know how I love to say “I told you so.”   

That’s not really true – it drives me nuts, trying to get people to pay attention to an issue when there’s still time to stop the bulldozers, but they give me that same old tired bullshit – I’m sorry, I have a life! Why don’t you get one Juanita?

But of course, later, they  get to whine and complain about it.

Somebody read one of my old posts on the subject yesterday, from 2014. At that time, Joe Matz of Recology was saying rates would triple, and the city was looking at requiring service for everybody. If you wanted to haul your own trash they wanted to inspect your vehicle, etc, which was tantamount to requiring a hauler’s permit.

When Juanita raised her scrawny little fist and said, “If you require service the city will have to provide a low-income subsidy…” 

To which the consultant answered, “She’s right.”  He smiled at me across the room. It wasn’t the consultant’s fault, he was very truthful about the whole thing.

OOO! The bulldozers had to stop and listen! You’ll notice, service is not required under this deal, and you can still take your trash to the dump without a hauler’s permit. Which means, neighbors/relatives/friends can still share cans to save money.

Just think if there was four more Juanitas.  Or at least four more people who went to these meetings and raised a scrawny little fist?

And here’s what I’ll  tell Geoff – read the Waste Management website – you can opt out of yard waste service and save almost $6 bucks a month. My family, who share service with our tenants, also opted for a smaller bin. Our son has moved away to college and our tenants don’t have much trash either – we realized we didn’t need that 96 gallon bin anymore.

Once I made those changes in our account, the rate is still about $5 more per month. No, I’m not happy about that. But I wish people who complain would educate themselves – the real problem at this point is the city wants to use the new revenue to pay down their pension deficit instead of fixing the streets like they said they would. That’s where we need to hit them, and hard.

In fact, public works director Brendon Ottoboni says the road/streets fund is tapped, and they are almost 10 years behind on necessary projects. When developer Bill Webb asked at a recent public meeting how a person could get their street on the projects list, Ottoboni again said there’s no money for fixing any more streets.

thumbnail_20171129_095754

This is the “pedestrian right-of-way” down my street. Every now and then I look in that pothole, make sure there isn’t an old lady or a jogger with a stroller stuck down in there…

Want to have some fun? Write to council member Randy Stone, who recently declared the deal was working cause we have less trucks on the streets.

randall.stone@Chicoca.gov

Really Randy? On Wednesday I have a Recology truck on my street, servicing the “commercial enterprise” known as the Evangelical Free Church. On Thursday my bins  are picked up by Waste Management. On Friday Waste Management picks up the bins on the street that intersects my street. So, I get a minimum of seven trucks a week running up and down the street in front of my house.

How about another picture.

thumbnail_20171129_095932

The asphalt is almost completely separated from the base here.

But here’s another funny fact – my street is not considered a  “feeder” by the city of Chico, because there is no new subdivision on my street, so my street will never be on the “projects” list – ask Ottoboni about that.

brendan.ottoboni@Chicoca.gov

Letters to the editor of a newspaper that reaches less than a third of local residents isn’t going to cut it. A few months ago council member Ann Schwab suggested a complaint line for garbage customers so they wouldn’t have to write to the mayor. Why not write to the mayor?  He approved this deal too.

sean.morgan@Chicoca.gov

Don’t forget the chief engineer – city mangler Mark Orme

mark.orme@Chicoca.gov

If you’re going to complain, make it count. 

 

 

Oroville cops and fire take another pay cut while Chico employees take another raise

4 Jan

Tuesday night Chico City Council unanimously approved a new contract for “public safety employees” including what city mangler Mark Orme described as “cost neutral” raises all around. 

Meanwhile, Oroville is considering pay cuts for their police and fire employees, having already cut their wages in August.

http://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/Pay-cuts-imminent-for-Oroville-police-and-fire-467771233.html

Chico and Oroville wages and benefits are similar, but Oroville has a lot more lower paid cops. 

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=81&fiscalyear=2016#P67b0cb8dccef403c9b8499e9b58196e4_13_oHit0

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=79&fiscalyear=2016#P69e1c5a3b77e4c65ba7e84bfa668398e_6_oHit0

In fact, Chico cops’ wages are on par with the city of Sacramento.

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=365&fiscalyear=2016

Oroville and Sacramento both have more violent crime than Chico – scroll down for crime statistics, and then look at the “per thousand” numbers and the index number at the bottom. Look at robberies and assaults. 

http://www.city-data.com/city/Chico-California.html

http://www.city-data.com/city/Oroville-California.html

http://www.city-data.com/city/Sacramento-California.html

Finally, here’s Chico’s latest budget – try to find street repairs for your neighborhood in there somewhere.

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2016-17CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

thumbnail_20171129_095932

Does the street in front of your house look like this? Thank a police officer!

Hey – while you are gathering around the tree with a cup of cider in your face, the city of Chico is getting ready to stick it to you in 2018!

22 Dec

I got  the agenda for the January 2 2018 city council meeting

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=279

and here are some immediate observations:

  1. Looking at the police contract up for consideration, I see our cops are hugely overcompensated and given many perks and benies but are still demanding raises. While city mangler Mark Orme insists this contract will only cost $37 more per employee per year, he doesn’t give the figures and he doesn’t even mention how many employees the police department has.  I went to the State Controllers Government Compensation charts and I see cops in Chico make well over $100,000/year, plus nice benefits packages, and I’m wondering – how long can we afford salaries that compare with those in much bigger cities?

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=79&fiscalyear=2016#P80f0121adc79480a9f9ed94f9dc3314e_2_oHit0

    2. They’re raising the cost of housing and other fees to pay for it.

    3.  The clerk isn’t posting city council minutes again. She’s only posted selected meetings since about July.  She constantly complains about not being able to use the equipment.  She just got a raise to more than cover her own pension share – which is less than 10 percent.  Presson’s salary is comparable to a police officer.  

Presson always includes a little personal note with the agenda – she wishes all of us and our families a great holiday season! Well, her Christmas, with that kind of salary, much be just ginchee! 

All I want for Christmas this year is for the CalPERS building to implode and collapse back into Hell where it came from.

Image result for calpers building sacramento

As for Chico PD? I hope their kids all grow up and leave.  

As for the rest of you – make a resolution for 2018 to stop putting up with this shit.

 

 

No Kidding – our city is headed for deep doo-doo

21 Dec

This is a repost from November, 2015.  

I sent the letter below last Saturday, I had to resend, although Dave Little excused himself – “just a lot of letters in the queue”  Sure, okay, at least he printed it before this item goes to council.

There’s another Finance Committee meeting scheduled this coming week. They will pick up the conversation they left in the “workshop” I’m speaking of below. This time they will talk about how developers have got off without paying sewer fees, and how the sewer fund has been in arrears for years. From the staff report, available here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/12-2-15FCAgendaPacket.pdf

“For over a year, City staff have highlighted the impact of reduced revenues received from development for sewer capacity fees. As a result, the City’s general sewer operating account has picked up the significant annual loan obligations required to pay the state for the capacity expansion made to the sewer treatment plant.”

Yeah, I’ve been following this conversation – what they don’t mention is, like the Private Development Fund, the Sewer Fund has been dipped into to pay salaries, benefits and pensions for people who have never even been in the neighborhood (where property owners complain they are being eaten by flies from the poorly managed plant, staff admitting they dump raw sewage in the Sac River during heavy rainstorms…)  They don’t mention the constant tug-o-war going on between the sewer operation and M&T Ranch – both suck water out of the river for operations, which has left City of Chico leach lines “on the rocks” on several occasions, leading to millions in repairs paid by taxpayers.

Our sewer plant is a disaster, but city of Chico keeps trying to hook more people up, cause they want those fees to pay – you got it – the Pension Liability.  Now they are holding a carrot out to Paradise? Wow, this is just getting surreal. 

So, I’m just glad Little finally decided to run my last letter, I already feel another one forming in the old Brain Pan.  I wish you folks would write too. Our biggest question being – all these years you been letting the developers off, you been charging private homeowners by frontage – meaning, the length of your property that meets the street. Developers pay a flat rate – why not homeowners? Here we been subsidizing development for years, and the fund is still RED.  

$taff has been embezzling. I realize, the developers have been getting a better deal than we have, but we all been taking a screwing from $taff. 

My letter, run this morning:

A consultant’s report given to the city Finance Committee says homeowners pay about 130 percent of the true cost of building permits while for-profit developers pay less than the cost of services they receive  from the city. But this is not the entire reason for a $9 million deficit in the private development fund. 

Consultant Chad Wolford explained, while we cut our workforce heavily, we failed to cut “overhead” – that is, the management positions that take most of our budget. 

Next door, the Internal Affairs committee tackled the subject of civility as I watched our mayor attack a local developer who came to the podium to question the allocation of a $6 million pension deficit on the private development fund. Mayor Mark Sorensen listed two other options – “keep moving in your direction…racking up a million dollars a year in debt…” he told Pete Giampoli.  Sorensen’s other option was to take the money out of the General Fund, already empty because of such transfers. 

The unspoken option is  cut management positions. One recently hired finance department employee, salary over $100,000, attended the meeting for no apparent reason.  He gave no report, sat in the audience, and left the building several times during the meeting. 

This is why we’re in trouble – we have too many redundant positions, getting over $100,000 in salary and paying little toward their benefits. Most of our management employees are longtime CalPERS participants who pay less than 10 percent of their pension premiums. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Here’s why the price of housing will never go down in Chico – houses will get smaller, but the price per square foot is going to keep climbing

20 Dec

Thanks Dude, for this article from zerohedge.com –  

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-19/calpers-goes-all-equity-bubble-boosts-stock-allocation-50

CalPERS has decided to raise the stakes by $50 billion, and critics are saying they are investing in “bubbly stocks”. As defined by Wikipedia, “a bubble occurs when investors put so much demand on a asset that they drive the price beyond any accurate or rational reflection of its actual worth.”

In past CalPERS has failed to bring in anticipated returns because they’ve made bad investments, first based on bribery, and later, on philosophy – buying stock in “green” companies that failed miserably. I believe those “philosophical” investments were also based on bribery or other influence but that hasn’t come out yet.

Here in Chico CalPERS failure will determine the cost of our housing market, since developers/homebuyers are expected to pay for the salaries, health benefits and pensions of Downtown $taffers. Last night council deadlocked over fees – Mark Sorensen correctly stating that there is no data to support lower fees for high density builders, and Karl Ory throwing up that ages old argument that has led us on the BOOM and BUST trail again and again – we need more housing for the “workforce.”

15 years ago, it was, “more starter housing for young families.” They change the words but it’s still the same – more profits for developers, more fees and property taxes for the city.

This city has suffered two big BUSTS in my adult lifetime. I learned about the economy when, in 1989, my family bought an entirely over-inflated house. Within three years prices went through the floor again, and when we tried to sell we couldn’t even get what we paid. Families all over town, like us, were paying over-inflated mortgages and property taxes, which means no “discretionary” income.

In the early 2000’s the market was flat and the developers turned to their friends in elected positions – like Larry Wahl and Dan Herbert – to campaign for “starter housing for young families”. They wanted lower fees – Dan Herbert almost went into tears complaining about the $17,000 in fees he’d just paid to build his new house, he just kept repeating that over and over at the council meeting. 

That campaign led to the biggest building BOOM in Chico history. But wait! Prices didn’t go down! Houses went from the$90,000 range to over $300,000 within eight months. 

And of course by 2010 the BUST rolled in, with foreclosures all over town. Foreclosures never went away, we still have many foreclosures in Chico.  Right now Zillow is listing 68 foreclosed homes. Over the past two years I’ve lost five neighbors to foreclosure, while one foxy old bastard next door actually re-bought his own house at auction, reducing his mortgage debt by about $100,000. 

That should tell you, some of these housing prices are just made of air…

The BOOM we are experiencing now has all the hallmarks of the previous BOOM – housing prices up sharply, sales quick and high over the Summer. I sold a home this Summer because I saw that, and I wanted to unload before the prices hit rock bottom and stayed there for years to come. We essentially sold the place at Open House, within the first two weeks, for asking price. I had feared the realtor had asked too much, and was surprised at the full price offer.  They were ready to jump through hoops for us to get the house, they were almost annoyingly pushy. 

Two realtors I spoke with when I was selling told me uneasily they expect a BUST by Spring 2018. Already I’ve noticed sales are slowing, but  that just might be a Winter thing. We’ll see.

CalPERS is going to take California down. 

 

 

 

 

 

Pensions before streets – business as usual in Chico California

3 Dec

The Finance Committee meeting I attended Wednesday (11/29/17) also included a discussion of “street urbanization fees.” The city of Chico supposedly requires developers to provide or pay for new curbs and gutters in existing neighborhoods whenever they build a new subdivision.

About 10 years ago the city approved a new subdivision in my neighborhood – in a former neighbor’s back yard – and despite the protests of our neighbors, gave the builder “variances” to just about everything in the city code. The result was seven houses where there was really only room for three or four. There is a constant turnover of residents and they all  bring lots of cars. A few days ago we noticed a giant moving van out on the street in front of the subdivision – there is absolutely no place to park a vehicle like that on their own street. In fact, there is no place for garbage trucks to turn around, they have to back out.

This was before the city even discussed “variable rates” for developers – see how they do what they want.

But no improvements were made on our main street, which has become a “feeder” or “through” street for all these little subdivisions that sprung up in Grandma’s back yard over the course of several building booms and busts.

Builder Chris Giampoli, who does a lot of CHIP housing, does not feel he should have to make those improvements when he shoves five CHIP houses into an existing neighborhood. Well, we’re not talking about the entire street, we’re just talking about curbing and guttering the feeder street where his new street breaks in. Giampoli opined that if the feeder is already crapped out, that’s from existing residents, and developers shouldn’t have to pay for bringing the street up to “current standards.”

What Giampoli and his friend Dan Gonzalez are suggesting through their “variable rates” ploy, is that existing residents subsidize their for-profit development business. Giampoli was one of five developers, along with Tom DiGiovanni, who got the permits for Gonzalez’ project at Meriam Park,  named in a lawsuit threatened by CalTrans, over subdivisions being built without fees being collected for the improvements recently made to highways 99 and 32.  According to Mark Sorensen, those developers have never paid fees toward those highway widenings, which their projects necessitated.  So beat it Chris, you been getting a free ride for too long there buddy. You couldn’t survive in the free market, like your dad did, cause you cut corners and build subsidized crap. Dan Gonzalez isn’t going to be able to sell Meriam Park without government hand-outs, and he knows it. These people expect the taxpayers to support them.

Let’s face it – developers bring people to our town, they use our neighborhoods – our town! –  to attract buyers, they should have to invest money into our neighborhoods.  We existing residents already pay for that service, it’s called “property taxes.” Our prop taxes are split 45 – 55 by the county and city,  the city of Chico gets roughly half our property taxes. What they do with it? Cause they sure as hell have not been spending my property taxes on my street.

I took this picture of my street on the way home from the meeting.

So we’ve got developers paying fees, and residents paying property taxes – why do our streets look like this?

This is the “pedestrian right-of-way” down my street. Every now and then I look in that pothole, make sure there isn’t an old lady or a jogger with a stroller stuck down in there…

The entire street is becoming broken up and the asphalt has separated from the ground – you can hear it rumbling under your tires like old pottery as you pass over.

In Chico, as all of California, the government has been pouring the gas tax and other revenues that were supposed to be used to fix streets and roads into their pensions. At last Wednesday’s meeting, City of Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell said 15 percent of the “street and urbanization fees” collected from developers goes to “indirect costs” which he identified as “CalPERS.”  At the mention of CalPERS there were audible groans around the room, including committee members and $taff. Nobody wants to talk about CalPERS costs down there.

Sean Morgan complained the explanation “didn’t help.”  

City works employee Brendan Ottoboni said that if developers weren’t willing – in fact, I believe they have been threatening a lawsuit, given the little remarks made about letters being sent and meetings being had – Ottoboni says existing streets that are not “feeders” or do not have new projects built on them will be taken off the projects list.  Staffer Steve said they are still working with a list of projects identified in 2009, but never funded. A specific section of Rio Lindo, which Sean Morgan opined is “one of the worst streets in town,” has been removed from the list.

At this point local builder Bill Webb asked a pertinent question – “how do I get my street on the projects list…” Staffer Steve said, “of 14 projects identified in 2009 as FUNDED, 9 have been taken off the list…” for lack of funding.  “We’ve had a lot of requests for projects…” but the city only fixes streets “where there will be problems due to higher traffic” generated by new subdivisions. 

So here we are on my street, where the “current level of service” is, as one woman sitting near me described, “just crap.” My street is a very heavily used through street, new houses have been built every few lots over the last 20 years, and here’s the level of service we get from the city of Chico.

Every now and then a crew comes through and fills potholes with “slobbers” – asphalt left over from jobs in newer neighborhoods. We got that from the guy who was running the crew one day.

Here’s what a patch job like that looks like within a week.

The asphalt they plopped in this old pothole took off on somebody’s tire.

The meeting ended with arguing, it was hard to hear what motion was made and passed. I believe they voted unanimously to “send the urbanization fees to council as described…” Chris Giampoli asked Brendan Ottoboni what would happen if the “urbanization fee” wasn’t approved by council, and Ottoboni answered “our road maintenance will continue to be unfunded.” He added, “new development…new growth…they use existing roads too…they don’t pay for them currently…”

To which Giampoli responded nastily, “people will continue to complain.” I’m not sure which people he’s talking about, but I’m feeling the beginnings of another lawsuit from the development community, one way or the other. We’ll see.  Years ago, Bill Webb’s dad and uncle and a few other developers sued the city for $500,000 in fees that had not been used for what they’d been collected, and won. 

Mark Sorensen, always politically incorrect, called the discussion a “Mexican stand-off.” So, that’s what we’ve got – a stand-off between the  city and the development community, with the good citizens standing right in the crossfire. 

POST SCRIPT:  Here’s an item from yesterday’s paper:

http://www.chicoer.com/government-and-politics/20171203/city-wants-to-improve-accessibility-of-lindo-channel-area

Apparently we have an Americans with Disabilities Act Citizen Committee – mentioned in this report:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=609&meta_id=49208

a year ago, which extensively details our ADA deficiencies and how far behind we are complying with a law passed in 1990. 

I don’t know anything about this “committee” or how it was established, whether the Brown Act applies or what. I’ll have to snoop into it.