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That’s $343,287.67 for the chamber remodel and it came from Comcast ratepayers

31 Jan

I  received the following response to my inquiry about the money for the city chambers remodel from city clerk Debbie Presson:

Hi Juanita,

 The technology upgrade project currently underway will cost $343,287.67 and is funded solely by PEG fees.  PEG (Public Education and Government) fees are paid by Comcast, our current cable provider, as required by their franchise agreement. The City is responsible for ensuring that the general public has access to the Public Access Channel (Channel 11) which is used for educational and local government programming, including City Council and Commission meetings.  The PEG fees are restricted funds and can only be used for equipment purchases, upgrades, or a capital project such as this current project.  Staff costs or department operational costs are strictly prohibited from being paid for by these fees.

Debbie Presson

Wow, she speaks as though it’s money from Heaven, FREE MONEY!

Double Wow, $343,287.67 – let me put that into perspective for you – a brand new three bedroom house on my street just went on the market for $360,000 this week. An entire, brand new house.

And just in case you aren’t seeing it, let me put a cup of coffee under your nose – Comcast isn’t paying for this, Comcast ratepayers are paying for this. 

Listen Pollyanna, you don’t think Comcast is a charity, do you? No, they pass the franchise fee on to the customers, just like Waste Management passes their city franchise fee on to the customers.  PG&E, Cal Water and any other utilities who want to operate here pay franchise fees too – excuse me – YOU pay it, in addition to the Utility Tax you see on your bill. They should have to spell that out on the bill, but who will demand that? Your legislators? Don’t wait up. 

I also wrote a note to the folks at Ch 7 news – they reported the chambers hadn’t been remodeled in over 40 years. I won’t say “lie”, but that’s misinformation – my husband put carpet in those chambers roughly 25 years ago, and they got new IT including a new big screen tv for the council to watch themselves during the meetings, only about 10 years ago.  I’m guessing the record would show, they’ve put thousands a year into gadgets for the chambers. 

But our local media is lazy and stupid and believes whatever  $taff tells them. 

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O-ville talking bankruptcy? Time for public employees to take a walk in “the real world”

30 Sep

Thanks again Dude, for this link – I’ve been too busy to read the papers lately, get a load of this story from the Oroville Mercury Register – Oroville going bankrupt?

http://www.orovillemr.com/article/NB/20170927/NEWS/170929752

“The city’s finance director Ruth Wright told the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) finance and administration committee last week that the word “bankruptcy” was being thrown around, though not at council meetings.”

Not at council meetings? Council still in denial? Well, here in Chico, we have a $186 million deficit, and council is fully aware. So they handed out raises to top management! Now that’s a plan!

“The city [Oroville] cut down its $1 million deficit to achieve a balanced budget this year but is not exactly thriving financially, operating with low staffing levels and recently negotiating a 10 percent pay cut for police, with more negotiations to come.”

A 10 percent pay cut for police? You could expect Chico PD to walk out on any such negotiations – they threaten to cut service – which is essentially a STRIKE – if they don’t get raises.

Oroville’s finance director Ruth Wright says CalPERS is the problem and CalPERS needs to fix it.

“’All cities and counties cannot keep up with the increases,’ she said. ‘I think it’s up to them (CalPERS). They need to do something. They need to do a better job investing.’ The organization announced in December that discount rates would drop from 7.5 to 7 percent over the next three years in an effort to make the fund more stable, but with impacts to state and local governments.

“’CalPERS has a few levers to pull in dealing with pensions, having to do with discount rates,” said Wayne Davis, head of public affairs for the pension fund. “We’re very much aware of what lowering the discount rate means.’”

Well,  “we all” don’t know what he’s talking about – “lowering the discount rate…”

From CalPERS – straight from the horse’s ass –

https://www.calpers.ca.gov/page/newsroom/calpers-news/2016/calpers-lower-dis

“Lowering the discount rate, also known as the assumed rate of return, means employers that contract with CalPERS to administer their pension plans will see increases in their normal costs and unfunded actuarial liabilities. Active members hired after January 1, 2013, under the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act will also see their contribution rates rise. Normal cost is the cost of pension benefits for one year.”

Remember, I asked Chico Unified School District finance chief Kevin Bultema about this, right after the passage of Measure K in last November’s election, and he said the district would need to find more funding to pay pension costs or cut programs for the kids.

So, of course, this means a bigger deficit for Oroville, and don’t forget Chico.

“Oroville’s finance director said the number of city representatives coming to confront CalPERS has been growing. At the meeting last week, officials from cities such as Chico, Santa Rosa, Laguna Hills, Lodi, West Sacramento, Vallejo, Yuba City, Hayward, Manteca and Concord were there. A legislative representative for the League of California Cities also participated.”

Well, that’s funny – this hasn’t come up in the Chico paper, which is edited by the same David Little that edits the Mercury Register. Neither have we talked as a town about the $186 million deficit, or the $500,000/year “side payments” (in addition to the regular premium payments), which will balloon to over $1.5 million/year within the next three years.

And the sky is the limit, since our elected morons – both Chico and Butte County – keep giving out raises as though everything’s just rainbows and lollipops. They’ve acknowledged the mess we’re in – because they want us to pay more taxes.

The reporter finally talked to Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell – formerly with Chico Area Recreation District, which has a $1.7 million deficit for less than 35 employees. Dowell doesn’t think Chico will go into bankruptcy, but has been trying to work with CalPERS.

“Dowell was hoping the pension fund representatives would do some research on the possibility of freezing cost-of-living adjustments, meaning retirees would receive a flat rate every year. They would no longer receive additional money — currently up to 2 percent of their annual salaries — to account for changing inflation.

The other concept was switching all employees onto the same kind of pension plan as employees who started after Jan. 1, 2013. The Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act went into effect then, offering fewer benefits to new employees. That could mean the difference between retiring at 55 and 62, Dowell said.”

Both no-brainers as far as I’m concerned, and “the way it works in the real world”.

 

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. 

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. 

1230160853

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?