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You heard it in the Enterprise Record: “Chico Government Can’t Be Trusted with Tax Increase”

22 Jul

I wrote a letter to the paper in response to Stephanie Taber’s suggestion of raising sales tax to support salaries and benefits Downtown, it ran yesterday, now it’s gone! You have to know it was there and search it! How LOW will they GO?

That’s how Dave Little treats people he doesn’t agree with, he just squelches their letters.  He’s a very “Little” man, his testicles have to be put in the microwave every morning.

So, I ain’t proud – here’s the link:

http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20170720/letter-chico-government-cant-be-trusted-with-tax-increase

And here’s the letter:

A letter writer has suggested a sales tax increase to “fix a couple of major roads a year”.   

Chico has reached financial crisis because of employee overcompensation.  In 2013,  third-party auditors found a $15 million deficit. Council cut workers and services, while raising management compensation to unprecedented levels. By October of 2016 we were one of six cities in California being investigated for fraud, having exhausted our emergency fund and outspent revenues for six years.. We are still on the state’s “watch list”.  

To avoid further audit, staff cooked up an “aggressive” repayment plan, purporting to raise employees’ share of compensation costs. But the increased shares came with salary increases that more than covered the new CalPERS shares.  According to publicpay.gov, the city now has a $180 million deficit and will soon be paying more than a million a year to beat it down. 

According to California Policy Center, “As Chico recovers, new development projects have been downsized to reflect the city’s long-term financial reality.”   Staff has spent all the money on management pensions and benefits, there’s no money left for road base, asphalt, or  qualified workers needed to fix the roads. 

Proponents of a tax increase measure say the money will be dedicated to the roads – don’t believe it. Staff has instituted a “fund allocation” policy – they move money from one fund to another like peas under walnut shells. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

It’s sad to me that we have such poor media here, Dick Little and Melissa Dogtree are just government shills. We have a council that plays lackey to the staffers who are ripping us off because all but one member of our council either get public  pensions or are married to one. 

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Let’s stop calling them “homeless” – let’s call them what they are – “transient criminals”

7 May

My husband found this abandoned (?) campsite in Middle Bidwell Park. This is a spot that was cleaned by the city’s alternative inmate program earlier this year.

Try as I might, I can’t discourage my husband from taking my old dog for a morning walk in Bidwell Park, about two blocks from our house. She needs the exercise, so does he.   I can’t stand the sight of Middle Bidwell Park anymore, I won’t go. Badges and I stay home and do yard work before the heat sets in.  

Friday, walking near the Fitness Trail, they found another pile of trash/campsite.  These are usually concealed from the heavier used trails by the dense overgrowth of non-native plants, shrubs, small trees, but it doesn’t take much investigation to find them – my husband usually stumbles in when he is trying to avoid other dogs. Biscuit isn’t one to back down, and if another dog gets aggressive, there’s going to be vet bills. So, my husband keeps his eyes open, and whenever he sees what looks like Trouble heading up the path he herds Biscuit onto some smaller side trail. These usually lead right into some hobo camp or another.

The city staff knows this, they really don’t try to find these camps. They don’t want to engage these people. They want to walk through life with their little knapsack full of our taxes on their back without upsetting anybody’s apple cart.  I’m getting tired of reporting this stuff, they always act like it’s the first thing they heard about it. “Geeshy Sakes Ma’am, well, cornsakes and sech, we’ll get out there in a humdinger!” 

I sent the pictures I took at Home Depot to Chico ER Hotshots, but they didn’t see fit to print them. I know, they have so many important pictures of the sun going down over the after bay. 

Recently the Downtown Starbucks applied for a “parklet” – “essentially… an upgraded, beautified curb space outside Starbucks with bicycle parking and seating for the public, not just customers…” (Chico ER)  Council had originally approved the idea, but Mayor Sean Morgan brought it back for reconsideration “because of concerns about how the area will be managed and maintained.”  At last week’s council meeting, Morgan and the others reneged on the parklet, Morgan opined it was “‘maybe not the best time’ because of what is happening with homelessness in the city and downtown.” (Chico ER)

I’ve heard Morgan and other councilors complain loudly about the “homeless” problem. Andrew Coolidge told a gathering of Chico Taxpayers that his family called Downtown Plaza “bum park”. 

First of all, let’s call it what it is – it’s not a “homeless” problem, it’s a “transient criminal” problem. Second, let’s talk about the rest of the city for a change, it’s not just about Downtown. Bidwell Park is a Hobo Jungle. “Quality of life”crimes are becoming prevalent all along the Bidwell Park corridor. The police have admitted we have a bicycle theft problem “fueled by heroin addiction.” We’ve had two transients die in public places, frequented by children. I’ve seen discarded syringe caps at Cedar Grove many times, that seems to be a really popular place to shoot. Why isn’t the city addressing this problem? 

Because, according to Eric Gustafson, city of Chico Public Works chief, these people have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

How do you feel about that? You know if you left your car in a parking place Downtown without paying the meter you’d get a ticket, eventually it would be towed.  

Why do these people have more rights than us? Because there are too many public agencies that make money off these people. 

I’m sending this picture to Sean Morgan and the rest of council, city mangler Mark Orme, and my county supervisors. I’m going to ask them who is responsible for cleaning this up. 

CARD to run phone survey in late January, early February, trying to convince us to tax ourselves for their pension deficit

21 Jan

Run in the Enterprise Record, 1/22/17

At their November 16, 2016 meeting, Chico Area Recreation  District Board authorized  $28,000 for  EMC Research of Oakland to conduct a community engagement survey.  Consultant Ruth Bernstein said a phone survey would be conducted in late January or early February. Callers will not mention CARD, nor that CARD is seeking an assessment or bond on property owners.  Bernstein told the board the survey will “build community support for your vision,”  identifying  “what they want…then you know what to say about yourself…”  

CARD has spent nearly $100,000 on revenue measure consultants since a 2012 survey came back negative. Consultants have told CARD repeatedly, they need to build their image in the community to get the public to tax themselves more for this agency. This survey is part of a campaign to convince residents CARD could give them whatever their hearts desire if only they’d agree to tax themselves more. 

CARD already gets about $3.8 million – roughly half their budget – from property taxes. They spend almost $800,000 on retirement and health benefits for less than 30 employees. Management, protected by “PERS PEPRA”, only pay 2 – 6.25 percent of their benefits. According to their auditor their pension deficit increased by $54,480 this year, now $1,758,200.  At the current rate of employee contribution the auditor reported the pension deficit “will never go away.”  

If you receive a call from this consultant, be sure to ask a few questions of your own.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

 

 

Camping in Bidwell Park is a crime – report it!

31 Dec

Yesterday, having reported an illegal camp in Middle Bidwell Park to city of Chico officials, my husband and I walked over to the site to find that the campers seemed to be gone but had left mounds of trash behind. In fact, we encountered more trash yesterday than we’d seen the day before.

These pictures were taken yesterday morning. 

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Here’s the pile we encountered Thursday December 29, still there – notice the dismantled bikes. Somebody had added – a real estate sign? – to the pile.

We noticed new piles, clothes,  trash bags,  kipple of all kinds.

1230160856r

I wonder if they steal from each other, and here’s somebody’s stuff that has been rifled and left.

 

This is located about a block or two from my home, my tenant’s home. We’ve always locked everything up – Chico was never that nice of a town that you could leave your valuables unlocked, that’s been known for some time.  

But lately we’ve been hearing about weird stuff, stuff that goes beyond home security.  One guy was caught stealing a woman’s panties off her back yard clothesline, in broad daylight. Her husband  caught him in the garage, having broken in through a back door to steal a bike.

A man on the  website Nextdoor reported someone had torn the door off a storage shed in his side yard, but said there was nothing of value, so nothing was taken. Lucky him!  I had been bothering my husband to buy one of those metal  sheds at Home Depot for our tenant’s bikes, so she wouldn’t have to keep them in her laundry room. He laughed  and told me, “that’s like telling the transients, ‘look, here’s some stuff for you…'”  He’s right, these people can just rip the door off a shed, hidden in your back  yard, you and  all your neighbors gone off to work. 

As I’ve said, Chico is not a nice little town anymore. How do we fight this? Report it, report it, report it. Demand action.  I’ll e-mail city manager Mark Orme and ask him who is responsible for cleaning up this mess and when that will be done.  I’ll cc both news editors as well as my third district supervisor Maureen Kirk. I may cc the entire council, but Reanette Fillmer is the one who has shown the most interest in this issue.

Please join me in reporting illegal campers. Follow up – if you still see the problem the next day, politely ask what has been done or why nothing has been done. Don’t be intimidated by their polite refusal to do anything – send your e-mail conversation  here, and I’ll print it verbatim. 

  • Mark Orme, city manager – mark.orme@chicoca.gov
  • Sean Morgan, mayor – sean.morgan@chicoca.gov
  • Reanette Fillmer, vice mayor – reanette.fillmer@chicoca.gov
  • Maureen Kirk, Butte County Supervisor District 3 – mkirk@buttecounty.net
  • Larry Wahl, Butte County Supervisor District 2 – lwahl@buttecounty.net
  • David Little, editor Chico Enterprise Record – dlittle@chicoer.com

NOTE: As of Sunday Jan 1 the trash is gone.  I don’t know who picked it up but will thank Orme for staff’s response. 

 

 

Why should the public be saddled with the “burden” of public worker pension debt?

28 Dec

Here’s a letter I sent to the Enterprise Record in response to the editorial run Monday – “CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt”.  

In answer to the editor, I’ll ask why the taxpayers should be stuck with the “burden” of public employee pensions? 

At Chico Area Recreation District, for example, management has only recently started paying into their own pensions – at a rate of 6.25 percent.  “Classic” management members pay 2 percent. For 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55. The current CARD director makes over $110,000/year in salary.  

The median household income in Chico is about $43,000/year, while the average city of Chico worker makes over $80,000.  Many public safety workers and  most of city management make over $100,000, plus perks. Why can’t they contribute more than 12 and 9 percent, respectively?

The state mandated that “new hires” – that’s an employee who has never been in any public retirement system – pay 50 percent. Why aren’t existing employees asked to pay 50 percent?

Our current mayor, and vice mayor, and two council members are or have been enrolled in the public retirement system. The spouses of two others are enrolled in the system.  Does this make it difficult for council to demand more from our city employees? 

Join me at chicotaxpayers.com to demand that  public “servants” pick up more of the tab for their retirement.

For some reason, Little failed to post that editorial in the online edition. That is a physical job, requiring intent. Little once admitted to me that he doesn’t print every letter he gets in the paper edition, but chooses instead to post them online. So, it’s definitely a choice he makes, whether or not to post in the online edition.  

What? Didn’t want to open the editorial to discussion on Disqus? 

So, something tells me, he’s not going to print my letter. Well, there it is. I hope the rest of you will give him your two cents.

NOTE: I contacted the San Jose Mercury register, a managing editor told me the editorial had been written by one of his co-workers. He explained to me that the ER is owned by the same company at the MR, and has permission to reprint.

So, this is “local” journalism?

Enterprise Record a “conservative” paper? Really?

26 Dec

Here’ s the latest editorial from the man who endorsed Measure K and then refused to interview me when I mounted official opposition to the bond measure.  I had to post the whole thing because it’s not available online, there’s no link.

NOTE:  This editorial ran in the Monday December 26 edition of the Enterprise Record, but for some reason,  as of Wednesday the 28, it has still not appeared in the online edition.

NOTE-NOTE:  Looks like Little picked up this editorial from the Mercury News, but failed to identify it as a pick-up in the the e-edition that I get.

So, I took the opportunity to add my own commentary.

CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt

Chico Enterprise Record, Monday December 26,  2016

The nation’s largest pension system last week demonstrated once again that it’s willing to drive taxpayers deeper into debt to placate government worker labor unions.

Why drive the taxpayers deeper into debt? Why not demand that the workers either pay their own pensions or lower their expectations for retirement bling?

Directors of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System voted to lower their investment forecast, a move in the right direction that means employers and in many cases employees will contribute more to shore up the ailing pension plan.

Again he’s saying employers – and that’s the taxpayers – should have to pay this debt – why? 

But the changes will be phased in at a glacial rate over the next eight years and CalPERS’ own numbers show they’re not nearly enough.

CalPERS has known about this pension debt problem for at least ten years, I’ve been blogging it myself for at least four years. 

By its actions Wednesday, CalPERS acknowledged it has only 63.5 percent of the assets it should. That places the system’s shortfall at about $170 billion and on the backs of taxpayers. It averages more than $13,000 of debt for each California household.

The backs of the taxpayers? Why? We were never consulted when Gray  Davis made this scheme, we recalled him, but we still got stuck with the deal he struck with the employees’ unions.

It’s actually worse than that. And the longer the union- dominated CalPERS board fails to comprehensively address its funding problems, the larger that debt will likely grow. Unlike upfront contributions that are shared between government employers and workers, the shortfall lands solely on taxpayers.

Why?!

Nevertheless, Gov. Jerry Brown touted the deal, which his office struck behind the scenes with labor. He said the change is “ more reflective of the financial returns (CalPERS) can expect in the future. This will make for a more sustainable system.”

More than what? Yes, it’s closer to a reasonable target than the past policy, which was completely divorced from reality, but it doesn’t come close to actually putting CalPERS on a sustainable path.

Like the governor’s muchtouted pension law changes of 2012, this CalPERS adjustment only marginally slows the bleeding. It doesn’t come close to solving the problem.

Specifically, the CalPERS board voted to lower its assumed rate of investment return from 7.5 percent to 7.375 percent in fiscal year 2017, 7.25 percent in 2018 and 7.0 percent in 2019.

That means the pension system will lower its expectation for how much interest it can earn from its assets and instead turn to government employers to kick in more.

But that increase in contribution rates for state and local governments, many of whom are likely to pass on some of the burden to workers, won’t be fully phased in until 2024.

Oh my God – he’s calling pensions of 70 – 90 percent of a worker’s highest year’s earnings a burden on the workers!

To understand how far short this move falls, consider that CalPERS announced Wednesday that it hadn’t hit a 7 percent average over the last 20 years and, going forward, it estimates that there’s only roughly a 1-in- 4 chance that it will meet that target.

And CalPERS’ consultant warns that the pension system should anticipate only an average 6.2 percent in each of the next 10 years.

CalPERS officials rationalize that state and local governments couldn’t afford higher payments that would result from lower investment forecasts.

If that’s true, the solution is to change the system, not keep denying reality.

I believe Little is talking about further raising taxes to float these pensions. That’s why he endorsed Measure K, and that’s why I believe he will back up CARD and eventually the city of Chico when they put their own tax increase measures on the ballot. He refuses to admit that these pensions are unsustainable, period, he just keeps expecting the rest of us to set up these public workers like Phay-rohs!

When are we going to get a real newspaper in this town?

NOTE: I contacted a managing editor at the San Jose Mercury Register – this piece was actually written by one of his co-workers and reprinted by permission in the ER (same owner owns both papers…)

We need a dog with some teeth

19 Dec

Well, here’s my answer from David Little regarding the missing link in the CUSD lawsuit story:

“The reason we took them down is, the data dump contained private information about juveniles, identifying information like Social Security numbers, that we weren’t comfortable publishing.”

It took me two days to get that answer out of him – at first he said he thought I was saying the link to the story didn’t work. I frankly don’t believe he’s that dumb, my e-mail was very clear. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

There was absolutely no reason why those e-mails should have contained SSN’s.   The district is usually very careful with people’s personal information, for example, students being considered for expulsion at public  board meetings are ID’d only by code numbers on the agenda.

When I asked Dick Little how he thought those SSN’s got into those e-mails, he dummied up on me, again. I mean, come on – if it was his kids’ socials it would have been a very,  very different story, wouldn’t it?  Remember how public he went with his own identity theft?  Here’s a story he wrote about it five years later! 

http://www.chicoer.com/article/ZZ/20131109/NEWS/131109157

It’s obvious to me Little is very vindictive about his personal problems. But as an advocate of the people?  He will forget the school district’s shenanigans within six months. 

Sheesh we need a real newspaper in this town.