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Contact council – there is still time for them to renege and pull that tax measure off the ballot

2 Aug

Yesterday I went to the grocery store and came home without two long-time staples from my shopping list – they were too expensive. I’ve watched prices go up all my life, but lately it’s been a little crazy.

I’ve been using Noxema since I was a child, it’s a good face wash, and it’s good for taking care of skin conditions like sunburn and chapping. Suddenly the price has jumped from about $3.50/jar to almost $5.00. Let’s do the math – $1.50 increase divided by the original price = 42% increase.

For Noxema?

Another item I’ve been buying for years is honey. I use it in my tea, it’s comforting. I used to buy it from a local distributor but switched to more generic brands as the price went up. I was paying $7.11 for a 32 oz bottle, and I was comfortable enough with that, even though it was starting to feel like a luxury. Yesterday the tag on the shelf said almost $11.

So I walked out of the store without two items I’ve been purchasing for years. Downsizing. I make my own skin scrub with coconut oil and sugar, I’ll just have to add some menthol oil – the key ingredient in Noxzema – and use that on my face. I already buy essential oils online for pennies per use.

We also noticed the price of our canned dogfood has gone up, again and again. Every time we buy it lately, it’s nudged up another dollar. He needs meat with his kibble, but I realized I was buying the commercial food for convenience. So, we bought a pack of chicken on sale at Raley’s and I cooked it up for him instead. I realize, now we know exactly what’s in his food, the canned stuff was always kind of a mystery. Chicken goes on sale regularly enough – and we eat it ourselves.

Like I say, I’ve watched prices go up all my life, but not usually like this. The last time I remember inflation like that was back in the early 2000’s – that’s when I stopped buying local honey, switched to generic crap brands from wherever. I had watched the local honey go up a couple of dollars over the last year, and I couldn’t see any rationale behind it. They try to tell us it’s “supply chain issues” – no it’s not, it’s gouging, and it’s permanent. We won’t see prices go down when the crisis is over – well, they’ll just manufacture another crisis anyway.

The other common thing I notice now – price of housing is going up like crazy. I remember that started happening in about 2003, and by 2008, we had foreclosure signs all over Chico. The city kept saying we needed more “starter” housing for young families, but the prices just kept going up. We all found out – it was the building industry that was demanding more housing, the unions.

That’s exactly what’s happening now – the trade unions are bitching for more building in California – they say we need “more affordable” housing, but that’s not what they’re producing.

Just making observations. The only answer I see is self-inflicted attrition. Cut your expenses, stop buying stuff you don’t need, become more self-reliant like Doug LaMalfa has been saying. And write to your city council to tell them you will not support the sales tax increase measure. There is still actually time for council to renege and pull that measure off the ballot.

Next time I’d like to go over recent budgets – the city has been forecasting doom and gloom, but our revenues are up steadily and there’s really no excuse for a tax measure.

Chico can’t afford a general measure

14 Jul

I’ve been watching the city of Chico move toward this tax measure since about 2012. I’ve watched them make some pretty desperate pitches, always threatening infrastructure and services, but constantly siphoning money out of every fund to make increasing payments toward their own pensions. Now they claim they need more money to fix the roads, they admit the transient camps are going to continue to drain more money from the Gen Fund, and they continue to raise the police budget. But Kim Nott, for one, has said it like it is – they want us to pay their pension deficit before CalPERS and other pensions systems start going down like dominoes. It disgusts me that our elected “leaders” won’t have an honest conversation. I’ve been especially disappointed in the “conservatives” – they came in promising to clean up our town and now Reynolds is claiming to make council accountable – with your money.

So I wrote a letter about it!

Councilwoman Kasey Reynolds’ proposed “Quality of Life” initiative seeks to assure the voters that council will be accountable with their spending of the enhanced sales tax revenues. Unfortunately it shows just the opposite. City Attorney says the measure is not legal, so why are we wasting Staff time pursuing it? It’s meaningless and unenforceable, and the idea that the city would fine itself and then pay with taxpayer money is ludicrous. This is a clear example of how council and staff whittle away money that is not specifically dedicated to a certain use.

Council members and staffers have insinuated that new sales tax revenues will go toward infrastructure and services, but they can’t promise anything. Council, advised by staff, voted unanimously to put a simple majority measure on the ballot, with no restrictions on spending, no accountability, period. And a feel good ballot measure that has been declared illegal by the city attorney is supposed to make us confident these people will do the right thing with the new revenues?

Council members have admitted they did not understand the Warren settlement and were intimidated by the judge. They didn’t understand the Shelter Crisis Designation, or that they were not legally required to sign it. No voter initiative will provide accountability for incompetence. These people are not only unaccountable, they’re indemnified – any lawsuit they get themselves into, the taxpayers finance the lawyer who gets them out, even if the taxpayers are the plaintiff.

Chico can’t afford a general measure.

Sorensen and Morgan would very much like us to forget their complicity in the slow degradation of Chico – don’t do it!

9 Jul

I’m still puzzling over remarks made by Chico councilman Sean Morgan in an interview with Ch 7 KRCR. First he made cryptic remarks about who is responsible for Chico’s abysmal situation, as if he had nothing to do with it. He praised Sorensen, who as past mayor and councilman, knew the situation Chico was in and why the city was in that situation but only made decisions that deepened the abyss, hiring new employees at outrageously high salaries without asking them to pay a rational share of their pension and benefits costs.

Morgan continued to emphasize Sorensen’s long track record in the City of Chico and said that the city needs a strong leader as officials, like the chief of police, retire and the city faces challenges with administrative staffing.” He mentions that the chief just retired without mentioning that Madden was only chief for about a year and a half before his recent retirement announcement. “challenges with administrative staffing“?

I’ll guess he’s going to say we need to offer bigger salaries “to attract talent”. That is the argument by which they continue to spiral the salaries up and out of reason. And it’s a lie – they gave Madden a raise, which increased his pension and his deficit, and you see how long he stayed – a year and a half, just long enough to spike his pension.

And then, another cryptic remark about “A lot more people will get away with a lot less,” Morgan continued. “I think that some of the decision-making methods [in city administration] were handled loosely and people were given reigns that shouldn’t have been given reigns. I think Mark will do a better job of focusing on ‘that’s your job’ or ‘‘that isn’t your job’”. What is he talking about? Who is he talking about?

I’ll remind us all – Sorensen took office in 2010 and Morgan took office in 2012. Sorensen hired Nakamura and agreed to a $40,000 salary increase for the city manager position with NO CONTRIBUTION toward pension or benefits. Both Sorensen and Morgan hired Mark Orme and both voted to promote him to city manager when Nakamura left, again, requiring NO CONTRIBUTION toward pension or benefits. As elected officials, both Sorensen and Morgan were included in the “decision-making methods“, both of them were handed the “reigns” as Mayor and both also served as Vice Mayor. Yet Morgan refuses to take any responsibility for our current situation, nor does he assign any to Sorensen.

Sorensen’s appointment is obviously supposed to comfort us and convince us that the city will make wise use of the extra revenues if we will just approve the new tax they’ve placed on the ballot. And here, Morgan is very clearly threatening us with more cuts to services if we don’t pass a general tax with no restrictions on spending.

“Morgan said the move is important at a time when the city is facing a number of issues. ‘The most important thing for the city is finances,’ he finished. ‘if we don’t have the finances, we don’t have the police, we don’t have the fire, we don’t have the public works. The city has gotten much cleaner and we need to keep that happening. We need a clean, safe city for business to prosper.'”

Oh sure, we can trust Old Mark! Oh please, let’s not forget, Sorensen served with a “conservative” majority, unfettered by the “liberals”, but still made painfully bad staffing decisions that drove the city deeper into debt. He also agreed to the increasing “side fund” or “catch up” payments to CalPERS, which at first seemed sensible. The deficit went down in the beginning, from about $168 million to about $130 million. But we found out – that was at a huge cost to services – Nakamura gutted staff with Sorensen’s blessing, eliminating the lower level “worker” positions in the Public Works and Parks Departments. This was the beginning of the city’s attack on the tax payers by attrition, “the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure.”

So how do our pension costs keep going up? Look at the 2020-21 Comprehensive Finance Report, page 70 – be sure to sit down. Our total pension deficit is a lot more than they’ve been telling us.

https://chico.ca.us/sites/main/files/file-attachments/1_2021_chico_city_acfr_-_signed.pdf?1641834874

You see that while they were getting rid of the city’s actual workforce, council agreed to increasing management salaries without demanding employees pay any more toward their pension or benefits costs. It wasn’t until Orme was city manager and agreed to a measly 3%, then 6%, then 9% – for 70% of his highest year’s salary at retirement. That’s about $25,000 a year, and for that Morgan agreed to raise “the Skipper’s” salary to a base of $207,000/yr.

Hey, don’t you have to wonder – what was Sorensen thinking when he agreed to raise the city manager salary to $220,000 for Nakamura? Think he knew he’d be Chico city manager someday?

Another ass-backwards attempt to get us to approve this tax is Kasey Reynold’s limp-wristed initiative to “hold council responsible” for ” quality of life” issues. Another waste of very expensive city attorney time. Let’s pick that up another time.

Shock treatment – it’s dumb decisions on the part of council that raise our cost of living while lowering our quality of life

19 Jun

Yesterday I noticed the price of the pack of chicken I always buy at Winco has gone up. It was about $1.89/pound the last time I bought it, now it’s $2.28. Let’s do the math. First I’ll try to do it in my head, because that’s good for your brain.

Okay, subtract 1.89 from 2.28 = 39 cents. I’m going to check that on my calculator before I get mad. Hmmm. We divide .39 by 1.89 and we get a 20% increase. Wow, now I’m kinda pissed.

It’s a daily shock treatment. We go grocery shopping, get the bill for our vehicle registration, open a utility bill, go to the gas station – it’s like that great old Stephen King movie, Cat’s Eye.

I’ll tell you what – I might pay an extra sales tax to see Gavin Newsom and members of the Democratic legislature in this box.

Our own mayor and city council have put us in that box. They tax our utilities, put franchise taxes on our services, raise the cost of housing with their new developer fees, and squeeze local businesses for stuff like “improvement districts”.

And the double-whammy is that we get nothing for it. Crime is at an all time high even though the cops get over half the budget. We just got snookered into instituting a “homeless” shelter camp that, as Rob Berry twitters, is already inadequate because the city will not require that both beds in each box are occupied. As soon as the 177 pallets are “full”, the city will have to allow the transients to camp in our parks and open spaces again – and predate on our neighborhoods when we’re asleep and at work. And of course that will lead to more demands for money for the cops.

It’s dumb decisions on the part of council that not only raise our cost of living, but lower our quality of living. Look at an agenda, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

I saw an item in this week’s agenda that caught my eye – Deepika Tandon has requested a conversation about the Downtown trash receptacles. I still remember when the city underwent a “remodel” of Downtown, bulbing sidewalks – essentially inviting pedestrians to become human traffic calming devices. They also spent a bunch of money on those big, ugly concrete trash receptacles. The transients, who essentially own Downtown Chico after 10pm, had vandalized the old metal buckets, and the consultant who sold the city the concrete cans convinced them that concrete could stand up to the abuse of the bums.

No, they didn’t. They were vandalized, literally to pieces, until the city removed them. In fact, as my husband and I toured our out-of-town relatives through Thursday night market, shortly after the cans had been purchased, my husband’s cousin and I watched a filthy little perv completely destroy one of those cans with a bike chain.

So, let’s watch this conversation, and I hope some of you will chime in on Chico Engaged to let them know what you think of their ridiculous spending decisions. New garbage cans for Downtown – have you looked at the street in front of your house lately?

Sometimes I wonder if we should even have a city council. Every new council seems to repeat the mistakes of the past, like Tandon, they don’t do their homework. I think we might be better off voting on staff hires, but then I realize – that would be, the same idiot voters who elect these councils we’ve had, who have made these idiot decisions. I always wonder, how much homework does the average Chicoan do at election time?

This election is different. The idiots are demanding a one-cent sales tax increase to carry on their idiocy. This is a permanent increase in our cost of living, and again, you have to ask yourself, FOR WHAT? When was the last time you remember a council who didn’t make stupid spending decisions?

NO, and tell them that now, while they can still change course on this stupid tax measure.

The city of Chico already has their hand in your wallet/purse, and what have you got to show for that? And now they want more sales tax?

11 Jun

About a month ago I realized the city would have to move forward with their sales tax measure, that the deadline was approaching for them to turn it over to the county clerk for the November ballot. My husband reminded me that school would be out soon, with Memorial Day on the horizon, so we decided to take our last swipe at a vacation before the roads became clogged and gas prices went any higher, and before I got distracted with various election issues.

We went up to Portland to see relatives. Oregon is strange country. You drive over the border into the State of Jefferson, and the signs change immediately. Within a mile, “FUCK BIDEN” speaks prominently, in bold, capital letters, from barns, sheds, dead tree stumps – big, professionally made signs, you bet. The Oregonians are willing to spend money declaring their dissatisfaction with the federal government.

Then you get to Portland, where they seem to love the government. They use public transportation, they embrace high-density living, and they pay car registration fees based on the fuel efficiency of their car. To me, that’s like showing a stranger your panties.

I’ll tell you where the Oregonians have the right idea, they are one of only five US states that have NO SALES TAX. (the others being Alaska, Delaware, Montana, and New Hampshire).

I’ll be honest, I have never understood sales tax. To me, it’s a blatant, “in your face because I can... ” TAKING. It’s a shake-down, a racket. We already pay fuel and car taxes for the roads, which are embezzled away to pay for bike trails and trains to nowhere. We already pay developer fees on our homes, and then property taxes, which are directed not only into the pensions but into the pallet shelters, the cooling tents turned shooting galleries, and the constant state of emergency that is created in a town where certain people are not held responsible for their behavior. Pay a sales tax to a government that does nothing to secure your safety or even the safety of the supply chain? That’s a racket, wake the hell up. Why don’t you just go Downtown and give your purse/wallet to the first creep that holds his hand out?

Of course BC opined recently that “If you want perfect streets, perfect parks, top notch City services with free candy for the kids and a well functioning municipal government, you have to have lots of money. That is a tax increase.”

Well, I saw all those things in Portland. I might have to post a blog about the parks I’ve seen there, city parks, gorgeous. Incredibly maintained natural areas, restored forests and marshes. The streets, even in my son’s older, high density neighborhood, are in perfectly good condition – no potholes that void the warranty on your tires. You can walk the length and breadth of the city on safe sidewalks. Portland also has a state-of-the-art sewer system, integrating their old sewer system with new technology.

Free candy for the kids? Well, I don’t know why I’d want that, but what they do there is “food truck courts”. They have solved that problem with restaurants and food trucks, by designating a city-owned parking lot, located away from “brick and mortar” restaurants, for food trucks several nights a week. They’ve furnished tables and a little plaza, family-friendly setting where you can get a cheap meal, hang out with friends, from a different truck every night.

Did you know, Chico City Plaza was set up for food trucks, with electrical outlets and specially-built curbs to pull in the trucks. But it has never been used for that. In fact, the last time I looked, the fee schedule for Downtown Plaza was really onerous. That’s why Chico Farmer’s Market would not locate there, insisting instead on making a pretty behind-closed-doors deal with Chico City staffers to use the city parking lot instead.

BC is arguing an old line – give us the money or it will get worse. The city of Chico has admittedly deferred services and infrastructure maintenance for years, while paying increasing payments to CalPERS. In 2018, the California League of Cities, of which Chico is a long time member, released a report saying, in part, “City pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels, (2) Rising pension costs will require cities to nearly double the percentage of their general fund dollars they pay to CalPERS, and (3) Cities have few options to address growing pension liabilities.

The report first suggested creation of a pension stabilization trust – a fund dedicated to pensions. The next suggestion was a revenue measure. Followed by this dark advice: “Change service delivery methods and levels of certain public services: Many cities have already consolidated and cut local services during the Great Recession and have not been able to restore those service levels. Often, revenue growth from the improved economy has been absorbed by pension costs. The next round of service cuts will be even harder.” In other words, starve the taxpayers for services and they’ll pass your revenue measure.

Since 2018, we’ve seen the institution of two dedicated pension funds, meaning, they can only be used to pay the pension deficit. Those funds are siphoned from every department, ahead of any infrastructural or service needs, just TAKEN. They are used to make the annual “catch-up” payments to CalPERS, which are growing every year, millions of dollars taken from infrastructure, public safety, and every day services like development support

Ever wonder, why is housing getting so expensive when they’re building like crazy? Well, that’s because every few years they raise developer fees, which are essentially a tax, and which drive up the cost of housing, no matter how much you build.

The city of Chico has a lot of taxes you might not know about. The garbage “franchise fee” (trash tax), the cable “franchise fee” (tv tax), PG&E franchise fee (PG&E tax, which does nothing to secure our safety from wild fires). There’s some you might have forgot – look at your utility bills, how much are they shagging you in “local” or “Utility User Tax”? The city raises no protest when Cal Water or PG&E raise rates, because it means MORE UTILITY TAX. There are some I’ve probably forgot here, suffice to say, the city of Chico already has their hand in your wallet/purse, and there you are, being asked for an increase in Sales Tax?

There it was, in last Tuesday’s agenda. Here’s the report:

There’s your homework. Let’s talk about it next time.

Let’s just call it “The Pallet Shelter Tax”

16 Apr

I was shocked when I went Downtown the other day and saw Downtown Plaza was still fenced off. And then I saw this story on the news:

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/news/chico-changes-its-focus-to-city-plaza-repairs/article_2cf3bc28-baca-11ec-a1a2-bbb329a05249.html

City workers have been focusing on other projects in Chico like the micro shelter site, but they want the plaza to be open by the end of the month for all the upcoming events in downtown.

This is more of their ploy to raise our sales tax – a subtle hint that the city is understaffed. Yeah, ever since 2013, when then city manager Brian Nakamura and his little toady Mark Orme gutted all the lower level staff positions – the worker bees! – and went about raising their own salaries and benefits. The archives (see right) are full of that, dig in and learn some Chico history! I’ve attended two meetings at which consultant Chad Wolford told successive councils city staff was getting “management top-heavy,” had “too much overhead“, and this was driving up costs while they were cutting services left and right.

We also see here the burden the city has taken on with their badly thought-out “plan to end homelessness”. Staff has been so busy – six-figure staffers by the way – putting up the pallet shelters, which were supposed to be put up by volunteers, that they don’t have time to do their jobs. They’ve allowed the plaza to fall into such a state of disrepair that they had to close it. They cite vandalism – how the hell was anybody able to commit vandalism while the damned thing was fenced off? For Pete’s sake, it’s right there, the cops can’t see vandalism going on through a chain link fence?

This is dereliction of duty, but they try to turn it around saying we don’t pay enough fucking taxes? Get the hell out!

Local gadfly Rob Berry opines that this is where the sales tax revenues will go, down the Homeless Industrial Complex drain.

For those of you who doubt it, and the many who have said it, expect the City to support the outyears for the Pallet project from the new sales tax. This from the explanation of what this tax can be used for: ‘• ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS: Providing solutions to address homelessness in Chico.‘”

You’re such a dummass Rob, you don’t see the real rabbit hole – the pensions. Who cares if they are working on pallet shelters or the streets, the sales tax revenues will be used to secure bonds that will be funneled into the Pension Stabilization Trust.

But the city knows people are pissed off about the illegal camps, and the filth and crime everywhere, and they will use it as a wedge to get us to approve their sales tax measure. Don’t buy it. Tell them they need to do their fucking jobs and pay a rational share of their own pensions and benefits.

Of course the city will continue to use taxpayer funding to forward this measure, and that is legal right up until June, when the county clerk will give it a letter designation. What letter should it get?

How about ‘P,’ for pallets and pensions?