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Letter to editor – staff can’t fix streets but they offer up a skating rink? If it sounds like a lie, it probably is

13 Oct

I couldn’t believe staffer Brendan Ottoboni had the nerve to propose a discussion about an ice skating rink on the city’s new comments mechanism “Chico Engaged!” He and other staffers told the assembled contractors, landlords and other concerned citizens that the city has no money to fix existing streets, or even maintain them properly. “Chico Engaged” is inappropriate – it’s a way for staffers and others with gain to be made to sprinkle little ideas in the public head – like rainbows and lollipops, and skating rinks. It also gives the public the idea that council is listening – oh yeah, they’re listening, they’re listening to the public being duped. 

I had to write a letter about the crazy contradiction between a city that has no money to fix streets or maintain the park but seems to have plenty of money to throw at gimmicks like “Chico Engaged” and ice skating rinks. 

At a morning meeting Downtown, Public Works staffer Brendan Ottoboni stated there is no more money to maintain or fix city streets. He said streets that had been on the repairs list for years were being taken off due to lack of funds. 

So why would Ottoboni propose an ice skating rink on “Chico Engaged!”?  

Look at the agenda for council’s 10/15 meeting – Council will discuss giving management employees a raise while  putting a one cent sales tax measure on the 11/2020 ballot. When  a city  doesn’t even have the money to perform the most basic of services, why even consider giving raises to people already making four times the median income? 

Chico has over $138 million in pension liability. Staff recently established the completely restricted “Pension Stabilization Trust”, and this year have transferred over $1.2 million from other funds into the PST. Employees pay 15% or less of “their share,” paying nothing toward the PST. The sales tax increase, a simple majority measure requiring only 51% voter approval, will go into the general fund, available for salaries, benefits, and the PST. 

Tax measures are being proposed all over California to fund pension packages that were never approved by voters, made by elected officials who receive donations and other political support from employee unions.  The taxpayers even pay for the consultants who guarantee to get the measure passed.

Coincidentally, a tax measure consultant told City of Chico Finance Committee, “We offered them (Heavenly Valley) a skating rink…” and the measure passed.

 

 

 

Getting public information out of city staff is like pulling teeth

26 Sep

Bob sent the article below the other day – it’s a good read for Halloween.

About 7 years ago, short-lived city manager Brian Nakamura told us about the pension liability, and he briefly mentioned the “benefits liability”, but that second topic never came up again. Here below, George Russell talks about the  “OPEB” liability – “other post employment benefits”.

 

George Russell: Marin County public pensions are due for reform

So, the League of California Cities, and city management all over the state are looking out over the back of the boat, the cigarettes are falling out of their mouths, and they’re saying, “You taxpayers are going to need a bigger boat...” 

Here in Chico, they have never told us point-blank about OPEB, but I’m sure it comes up at those small, daytime meetings that nobody attends. So I asked city finance manager Scott Dowell – he’d recently given me a figure for the “unfunded accrued liability” – I didn’t know if that figure was just pensions or included the OPEB. His response, simply, “No, OPEB is separate.” But no figure, I had to ask for that in a separate email. Cause they just don’t want to tell us this stuff, it’s counter to their best interests.

I call this “willful insubordination,” but I went ahead and sent a separate e-mail asking him for the figure. I try to be nice, I apologize for bothering this guy.  I’ll get back to you with his response. 

California League of Cities: local agencies cut maintenance because “revenue growth from the improved economy has been absorbed by pension costs”

6 Sep

Let’s have a good laugh, cause we probably need one.

 

 

I think that clip is a good analogy of the way public agencies spend money.

Seriously, I’ve been mulling over an article from Edward Ring, a financial analyst, co-founder of the California Policy Center. It’s a good read to get you ready for Halloween. See the link at the bottom of this post. 

Okay kids, turn down the lights and let’s sit around in a circle and see who pees their pants first.

In 2018, the League of California Cities released aRetirement System Sustainability Study and Findings.”

Key Findings”:  (1) 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.

According to CalPERSPublic Agency Actuarial Valuation Reports,”  over the next six years, participating agencies will need to increase their payments to CalPERS by 87%, from $3.1 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year to $5.8 billion by the 2024-25 fiscal year.

And that, according to Edward Ring, is a “best case scenario”.   This guy could scare the shit out of Stephen King.

“Bartel Associates used the existing CalPERS’ discount rate and projections for local revenue growth. To the extent CalPERS market return performance and local revenue growth do not achieve those estimates, impacts to local agencies will increase.”

Now remember, the actual authors here are CalPERS and the League of California Cities, Ring is just the storyteller, and I’m just repeating what he says. Here’s what I’ll add – Chico is a member of the LCC, in fact, Mayor Randall Stone has held office in the League. So this story is about Chico.

Ring continues his analysis, “The report from the League of California Cities includes a section entitled “What Cities Can Do Today.” This section merits a read between the lines”

You can go ahead and read his full article yourself, at least he’s got a sense of humor, but I’ll tell you what the league said, as it relates to the city of Chico, as well as Chico Area Recreation District.

1 – “Develop and implement a plan to pay down the city’s Unfunded Actuarial Liability (UAL): Possible methods include shorter amortization periods and pre-payment of cities UAL. This option may only work for cities in a better financial condition.”

Both the city and CARD have already done this. For example, in 2015, CARD ignored a consultant’s report that Shapiro Pool could be saved for about $550,000, instead making a $400,000 side fund payoff to CalPERS.  The city of Chico has also been stepping up their payments, we’ll get to where that comes from in a minute.

2 – “Consider local ballot measures to enhance revenues: Some cities have been successful in passing a measure to increase revenues. Others have been unsuccessful. Given that these are voter approved measures, success varies depending on location.”

The city of Chico and CARD have been hiring consultants to pursue tax measures since 2012. The common factor is former Chico city manager Tom Lando, who has sat on the board at CARD for over 4 years now, and who has also managed the Feather River Park and Rec District in Oroville. Lando is a pensioner, and receives one of the biggest pensions paid out to a city of Chico employee since the death of his predecessor Fred Davis. Of course Lando Man wants CalPERS to be funded.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2012/01/30/heres-why-lando-wants-to-raise-your-sales-tax/

Lando was the guy who floated an MOU in the early 2000’s to attach city salaries to revenue increases “but not decreases“. Ring discusses such measures.  We’ll discuss that later.

3 – “Create a Pension Rate Stabilization Program (PRSP): Establishing and funding a local Section 115 Trust Fund can help offset unanticipated spikes in employer contributions. Initial funds still must be identified. Again, this is an option that may work for cities that are in a better financial condition.”

Back to #1.  Despite claims that they are in poor financial condition,  both local agencies have established such programs, and have been siphoning money that should have gone into maintenance and capital projects to “step up their payments” into their pensions. That leads to # 4.

4 – “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.”

That’s where I had to stop reading for about a week, I felt like my blood pressure was going to blow my eyeballs out of my head. This is the evidence, I mean, we all knew it. This is where they admit it.  ” revenue growth from the improved economy has been absorbed by pension costs.”  We’ve been lied to – the economy has been improving but the public employees have been stealing all the money for their pensions. And now, as Chico Assistant Manager Chris Constantin has been threatening in his presentations, “The next round of service cuts will be even harder.” You know it and I know it – they’ve been screwing us on purpose. Think Bridgegate.

5. “Use procedures and transparent bargaining to increase employee pension contributions:  Many local agencies and their employee organizations have already entered into such agreements.”

Ring says,   “(reading between the lines) – MAKE BENEFICIARIES PAY MORE. Good idea. The League of California Cities might expand on the feasibility of this recommendation and provide examples of where it actually happened (cases where employees agreed to pay more towards their pension benefits but received an equivalent pay increase do not count)”

Yeah, cases where employees agreed to pay more towards their pension benefits but received an equivalent pay increase do not count.  Ann Willmann of CARD and city of Chico management have all been given raises to more than cover their “extra shares”. And now, only now, “classified” CARD employees (management) pay 8%, and PEPRA (essentially, non-management employees) only pay 5.5% of the total agency contribution of 14%. City employees pay confusing shares, covered below.

The Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) supposedly requires all employees pay 50% of agency costs. CARD “classic” staff has agreed to pay 1% more. I don’t know why CARD PEPRA employees are only paying 5..5%, they may still be phasing in.  

City of Chico employees have a totally different set-up, which confirms that the individual boards and employees have a lot more to say about this arrangement than either Chris Constantin or Ann Willmann will admit. 

I asked City Finance Mangler Scott Dowell (formerly with CARD, there’s just so much footsie in local government) what the shares were.  According to Dowell, the city pays different amounts for “miscellaneous” (everybody who is not a cop or  firefighter) employees and “public safety”, as well as “classic” and “PEPRA”.  Pay attention.

While CARD pays 14% total on all employees, City of Chico pays a  total of 21% for miscellaneous classic  and 20% for PEPRA.  For public safety employees (CPOA, IAFF), the city pays 31% for classic, and  33% for PEPRA. The employer/employee split is as follows:

  • miscellaneous employees: classic – employer cost  10.235%,  employee cost 11%;  PEPRA –  employer cost 10.235%   employee cost  9.75%
  • public safety: classic – employer cost 18.843%, employee cost 12%;  PEPRA – employer cost  18.843%, employee cost 15%

Dowell says the figures above include a 3% share of “employer cost” paid by employees. That’s confusing. That would make the “employee share” less than half the total cost. According to PEPRA, shouldn’t they just be paying half? Why say they are paying 3% of the employer’s share, and it only amounts to half? And, management (classic) make big yaya about paying 1% of “employer cost” – but PEPRA pay less than the employer share? What the heck?

Dowell also said that CPSA (public safety) employees pay 6% of “employer cost”. What? He says that is included in the figures above. You see, both classic and PEPRA public safety employees pay less than half.  And that includes 6% of the “employer cost”? What? Look – fire department classic members are paying 12% to the city’s 18.843% (19%). That’s not 50% of total costs. Do they think we don’t know the math?

So that all leads to the POB – pension obligation bond.

 6 – “Issue a pension obligation bond (POB): However, financial experts including the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) strongly discourage local agencies from issuing POBs. Moreover, this approach only delays and compounds the inevitable financial impacts.”

Both the city of Chico and CARD have said they will use the proceeds from their proposed tax measures to secure a bond. What kind of bond they have not specified, but I don’t know if they need voter approval to do this. Constantin has suggested issuing bonds for road and street maintenance. Whether or not Contantin is lying, here’s Ring’s analysis:

6 (reading between the lines) – GO INTO DEBT TO PAY OFF DEBT. Pension obligation bonds are at best a dangerous gamble, at worst a deceptive scam. The recommendation itself (above) dismisses itself in the final sentence, where it states “this approach only delays and compounds the inevitable financial impacts.”

Yeah, going into debt to pay off debt. I think the old people called that “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Ring makes an interesting observation. “Not everyone wants to blow up the defined benefit system,”  referring to the CalPERS’ model of guaranteed payouts.

“I think defined benefit is a tremendous opportunity. It can be sustainable. It was sustainable. And then they jacked up all the benefits by 50 percent and made it retroactive — basically doubled liability overnight. Now, they’re not sustainable. Make them sustainable again.”

Look back to #2 – that’s where Tom Lando, in the early 2000’s, pushed through a “memo of understanding”, getting a weak and stupid bunch of council members to sign off on attaching salaries to revenue increases “but not decreases”. That guy is the head of a very foul smelling fish.

Ring is a good read, he’s written extensively on this crises, how we got here, and how he thinks we can get out. 

https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=E2 LLP11US105G10&p=Edward+Ring+-+how+to+make+CalPERS+sustainable+again

 

How to Restore Financial Sustainability to Public Pensions

Dave Howell: Do they take us for fools?

29 Aug

I’ve seen some interesting letters to the Enterprise Record lately. A lady wrote the other day saying Chico streets are in such horrible condition she hates driving her car around Chico. I hear that – we just traded our son our F-150 for his tiny Chevy Cavalier. The F-150 sat higher off the ground, I could see the potholes but I didn’t feel them so keenly. The little Chevy feels like a Radio Flyer headed off Dead Man’s Hill, every crack in the road goes right through the seat covers, and sometimes there’s the sound of metal on asphalt as we hit a particularly bad hole. 

And of course, my 1956 Raleigh Superbe has seen her days, those skinny tires tooling along the park and neighborhood streets. I hit a pothole Downtown one day coming home from a meeting – ha ha, I was looking at another pothole instead of watching the street in front of my wheels – and CRASH! My bike basket flipped off the mounts and landed in the street. My feet slid off the pedals, which caught me right across the shins. And my bike seat stuck me one right in the small of my back. God I was so pissed off. 

There’s potholes on my street that look big enough to eat a stroller, complete with attached mom. But if you want to see something that looks like a third world country, head over to the neighborhood bordering the freeway off East Avenue, behind the old McDonalds and the abandoned For Kid’s Only Store. Check out the South Campus neighborhood, imagine out-of-town college parents seeing that for the first time.  

Sure everybody knows Chico streets are a mess – but do they know why? The city is going to tell everybody, in their campaign for a sales tax increase, that the streets are horrible because there aren’t enough revenues. But you know, if you go to meetings and listen to Constantin and Orme, they’ll admit that maintenance has been purposely deferred, while the city has been making, as CARD’s Ann Willmann likes to call them, “aggressive payments” on their pension deficit. 

So it’s good to hear from letter writer Dave Howell, who has it right – it’s the pensions. 

Howell asks, “will the people be fooled?” Well, he seems to be doing his best to prevent that. And thanks for the shout out Dave, I appreciate it.

Hats off to Juanita Sumner for shedding light on CARD’s tax increase measure. CARD has been considering a tax increase for years and has spent over $100,000 of our tax dollars on high priced consulting firms in an effort to get a tax increase measure on the ballot.  One consulting firm they paid openly brags about its ability to help get tax increases passed.  Yet CARD’s attorney claims these consulting firms are merely involved in informational surveys.  Only a fool would believe that.

The fact is that CARD, like the rest of local government, has made unsustainable compensation promises to its employees, especially regarding pensions. These promises are devouring money that should be going for infrastructure.  Like CARD, the City Council has used our tax dollars to hire a high priced consulting firm for a proposed tax increase.  The push for tax increases from our local government is all about unfunded liabilities that are unsustainable.

Without true reform we will face endless rounds of tax increases in a futile effort to fund unsustainable liabilities.  Scores of cities and counties raised taxes in the last several years and not one has solved their unfunded liabilities problem.  All passage of the latest round of proposed tax increases will do is kick the can down the road a couple of election cycles, but our local politicians and bureaucrats will never admit this.

Will the people be fooled?  We will find out next March when CARD’s tax increase will be on the ballot.

Dave Howell, Chico

Assistant city manager takes his tax “offering” to the commissions – these unelected boards have too much influence on city policy

3 Aug

I just heard bad news – the Chico Planning Commission has rejected Payless Building Supply owner Frank Solinsky’s appeal of Simplicity Village. SV is a “tiny home community” for transients, “senior citizens”, that is to be placed  adjacent to the PBS yard. Solinsky is partly concerned for his own interest – rampant thefts by transients to build their shanties at neighboring camps has always been a problemfor PBS.

As landlords my husband and I depend on PBS to keep our rentals affordable. We’ve long-realized that Salinsky’s problems are our problems, because the cost of enhanced security is passed along to the consumer. But my biggest concern is that Solinsky, given this latest turn, might just decide to throw in the towel and sell the property. That would leave my husband and I paying a lot higher prices at the box stores, and that pressure would matter-of-factly be passed along to our tenants. I’m not Mother Theresa,  neither is my mortgage lender, nor is the Butte County Tax Collector.

I don’t know what happens now. But I think it’s time to have a long overdue conversation about the amount of influence these unelected boards, commissions, task forces and ad hoc committees have on local public policy.

Look at the city of Chico agendas page here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas.asp

There are 20 listings. Some are “interagency”, meaning they have representatives from all the local agencies, including the county, CARD and the school district. Some of these people are elected, some are agency employees, but many are appointed. The city boards, commissions, and the task force are  made up entirely of members of the public who’ve been appointed one way or another.

Don’t ask me to explain the appointments process, it’s all over the place. Each new city council decides how they are going to make appointments, and I’ve lost track of how they are doing it now. Some commissions have requirements for the make up of the group. The rules might specify that at least some of the members have certain qualifications, such as professional expertise.  It’s gotten complicated since the days when each council member got to appoint a member, for nothing more than campaign donations.  All I know for sure is they are not elected by the voters.

I don’t think the Planning Commission should exist – it’s always been way too political. We have a planning department, made up of professional planners, we pay them a good chunk of money, why we need a bunch of political sycophants sticking their foot in the process is beyond me. We have public hearings at the council level, but it’s a fact – the commissions have more sway with the council than the public. And, these commissions require dedicated staffers, more $$$$$. The airport manager position is really just a glorified secretary to the airport commission, and she’s not even very good at that.

Right now Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin is using the influence the commissions have to rubberstamp his sales-tax-to-secure bonds scheme. He’s been reporting to each commission in turn, leading them to believe the money would benefit their particular interests.

Monday I attended the Park Commission monthly meeting. You just have to go to one of these commission meetings to believe it. The lack of professionalism is astounding. These commissioners are appointed, not elected, but they act as though they’ve been given the keys to the town.

Here’s something I’ve seen at just about every meeting I’ve attended over the last 15 or so years – council, committee, commission – there’s always somebody who doesn’t read the staff reports. Oftentimes, several of them. At the BPPC meeting the other night one commissioner asked questions that were answered directly in the reports, and I could tell Constantin was  getting kind of testy when he told her that. These people add hours to meetings, and that means $taff Time (=$$$,$$$.00)

In Constantin’s case it’s over $100/hour to sit in a room waiting through other agenda items, including the time it takes each commissioner in turn to make the same stupid observations. They seem to think every thought skittering across their brain like a jack rabbit in the headlights is SO IMPORTANT! Even if it’s completely off topic. At that same meeting I had to sit there while they thanked staff, each commissioner in turn, and told them what a FABULOUS! job they do. They thanked Constantin twice. That’s all nice and stuff, but even Constantin seems to get sick of it.

Nevertheless, he takes full advantage of their helplessness, leading them the way he wants. It was amazing to watch. One minute he’s convincing them they should recommend forgiveness of the $169,000 Nature Center loan balance, and by the end of the meeting he’s telling them if the city doesn’t pass a sales tax increase measure we’ll be laying off cops and fire by 2021.

This guy also negotiated himself a special type of retirement account available only to public workers, a 457 plan, IN ADDITION to his CalPERS pension. City Manager Mark Orme gets the same plan.

“Effective from the first pay period in January 2017 considered in calculating the maximum IRC 457 plan limit and annually, City agrees to contribute nine thousand dollars ($9,000) , to Employee’s IRC 457 plan. Additionally, effective October 5, 2017 the City agrees to contribute four and fifty-two hundredths percent (4.52%) of base salary to Employee’s IRC 45 plan.”

These guys have a vested interest in this tax proposal, they’re determined that we will pay their outrageous pensions. They need to go, in fact, every “classic” employee needs to go. We need young people who are willing to pay at least 50 percent. Which sucks, because they will just be paying for the old farts to live in luxury.

 

 

 

 

Will the taxpayers be left holding the Pension Deficit Bag?

31 Jul

Have you been “left holding the bag“?  This expression is generally used to describe a situation wherein a person or persons create a problem and then leave others to deal with it.  According to Grammar Girl,  there are different shades of meaning – “this idiom grew out of an earlier expression from about 1600: to give one the bag. That expression referred to someone being left with an empty bag after everyone else removed the good stuff.”

We all know what it’s like to be left holding the bag – empty or full – but I wonder, how do you all feel about the bag being handed to your children? This is what City of Chico staff are trying to do – hand their pension deficit bag to our kids.

The other night I took in a Chico Parks and Playgrounds Commission meeting to hear a pitch for a sales-tax-to-secure-bonds scheme that Ass City Mangler Chris Constantin has been pitching for months. Constantin describes a trick by which he can use the additional sales tax revenue to secure bonded debt. What it amounts to is trying to convince us that it won’t be that painful to pay this tax, because it will be stretched out over years. But when I looked into this scheme I found, that means our kids and their kids will be paying this debt, and it’s very unlikely they will see any benefit.  The bag we will be leaving for our children will be full of debt, crapped out infrastructure, and public salaries and benefits still spiraling out of control.

From the Tax Policy Center –

“State and local governments issue bonds to pay for large, expensive, and long-lived capital projects, such as roads, bridges, airports, schools, hospitals, water treatment facilities, power plants, courthouses, and other public buildings. Although states and localities can and sometimes do pay for capital investments with current revenues, borrowing allows them to spread the costs across multiple generations. Future project users bear some of the cost through higher taxes or tolls, fares, and other charges that help service the debts.”

At a meeting I attended earlier this year, Mark Orme admitted that the city had “kicked the can down the road” on street maintenance for many years, instead paying millions toward their pensions. This included payments toward the actual deficit, instituting a “Pension Stabilization Trust” that siphons money from every fund, even funds “dedicated” to capital maintenance. Through the PST, staff has tricked us into believing we only pay a certain “employer share” of the pensions, in reality, we pay most of their pension cost. This has created what I’m going  to call “the Pension Deficit Bag“.

If we  don’t get a handle on the public employee compensation now, we are handing our kids a disaster. This is the dilemma – the public employees want crazy salaries of as much as 4 and 5 times the median income, AND they want 70 – 90% of those outrageously inflated salaries in retirement,  BUT they don’t want to pay for it.  Years ago CalPERS promised they would make up the difference with investments in the stock market – but their investment strategies, including a bribery scandal, have only deepened the divide.  Now they want the taxpayers to take the bag. In fact, Constantin is trying to convince us that it’s okay to let our kids pay for his ridiculous lifestyle demands.

With groups like Pension Tracker shining a light on this grab, CalPERS and the unions have agreed that “new hires” (our kids) be asked to pay 50%. But top heavy management employees, “classic employees“, are only paying 11%. That is not sustainable. Sounds like a classic Ponzi scheme to me!

“Future project users bear some of the cost through higher taxes or tolls, fares, and other charges that help service the debts.”  But will they receive any benefits? That’s uncertain, in fact, I’d say it’s not going to happen. According to Constantin, we need hundreds of millions to bring existing streets up to safe standards, but the sales tax increase will only bring in a couple million a year. He explains enthusiastically that’s why we will use those proceeds to borrow money (bonds). That sounds nuts to me.

At that Finance Committee meeting earlier this year, Constantin also warned us that the economy is about to tank. If you’ve been paying attention over the last 35 years, as I have, you’ve seen that pattern of boom and bust.  Chico just enjoyed a giant BOOM, despite the poormouth complaining about the Camp Fire refugees. Contrary to the city’s claims, those refugees not only caused a short term blip in the price of housing, meaning MORE PROPERTY TAXES, but those who have remained are still providing a boost to our local sales tax revenues. This will dry up as the retail sector in Paradise recovers, and people start moving back to the Camp Fire burn area. The resulting correction will be tough times for Chico.

Constantin admitted there is such a downturn on the horizon, telling the Finance Committee that his scheme will “shore us up“. What? Who would borrow money in the  face of economic downturn?  The bonds he’s proposing have to be paid no matter what happens in the economy – just like Constantin’s “defined benefits“.

Throwing a sales tax increase onto people who are already experiencing uncertainty is another nail in our coffin. Studies suggest that when people find out there’s a sales tax increase on the agenda, they start hoarding, buying the bigger ticket items ahead of the sales tax increase. This of course creates a bubble. The same studies show that people develop different shopping habits, such as buying online.

Here’s my anecdote – when Tom Lando first suggested a sales tax increase in 2012, I started shopping out of town and online. Of course these purchases are still taxed, but here’s the message – local businesses lost my money, and they won’t get it back. Local businesses need to realize what they stand to lose. It’s not the box stores that are stealing your business, it’s the sales tax rhetoric coming out of the city of Chico.

 

 

 

 

Excessive taxation ruins the economy – time to act to reverse this trend

26 Jul

I saw Patrick Newman’s letter calling (jokingly I assume) for a limit on letters about President Trump. I had to laugh –  there have been letter writers, and probably requests made to the editor, to limit Newman’s letters. People have contacted the editors of both the ER and the N&R asking them to stop printing my letters. Some people only want to hear stuff they agree with, that’s nothing new. 

I have to agree with Newman’s assertion that people need to pay more attention to what’s going on locally. Not that federal matters are not important, but I feel a person can have more effect locally. And, as citizens become more powerful in local affairs, those localities become more powerful and have a bigger effect statewide, and eventually nationwide. 

I think excessive taxation is becoming a huge problem in Butte County, and the state of California, I wish more people would wake up and act. In the city of Sacramento, taxpayer groups who supported their sales tax Measure H quickly realized the funds weren’t being used as promised – too late, they’ve already approved the tax, and Mayor Darrell Steinberg has proposed even more taxes as a result. 

I think the root of excessive taxation is incompetent, insubordinate public employees who have fostered a negative and hostile environment for the rest of us. Their salaries and perks not only raise our taxes, but the salary imbalance makes a normal middle class lifestyle unaffordable for the rest of us.  These public salaries raise the price of everything from housing to groceries to healthcare. How can the family living on $43,000/year compete with public employees making in excess of $100,000/year? Especially when we are on the hook for their outrageous healthcare and pension packages.

Here’s an irony – most of us get by with catastrophic care, with huge co-pays, packages that won’t get us into a lot of hospitals. Hospitals and doctors can actually refuse our insurance.  Meanwhile we fund “defined benefit” health packages for public employees that guarantee them the best of care at top hospitals. 

What’s your retirement plan? Die? Well, as long as you live, you’ll be paying pensions of 70 -90% of $100,000+ public salaries. Our city manager, in his 50’s, is already making over $220,000 a year – do the math – if he retired tomorrow we’d be paying him $154,000/year, plus cost-of-living-adjustments, for the rest of his life. Unfortunately I’m afraid he has quite a few more years of self-service left in him, especially since he has what amounts to automatic annual pay raises based on a percentage of his salary. 

Currently more than 100 city employees receive salaries of $100 – 225,000/year. Another 25 make $90 – 99,000/year. These folks pay less than 10% of their pension cost, they want us to pay the rest in the form of a 1 cent sales tax increase. They say the money will be dedicated toward streets and safety, but even if they are sincere here, that just loosens up other money to be transferred into the Pension Stabilization Trust. And who can believe what they say when they promised to fix the streets with the trash tax but have instead transferred it into the General Fund? 

So we have a sales tax increase measure from the city of Chico and a parcel tax coming from the Chico Area Recreation District. Two regressive taxes aimed at the same population, neither agency having any concern for the economy.

Newman is right – get involved locally. There are a lot of meetings, scheduled at different times, at which you can not only learn more about how these agencies operate, but you can get into the conversation. Check out the schedules and agendas at these links:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas.asp

https://www.chicorec.com/board-meetings