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Council refers revenue bond measure to Finance Committee, Finance Committee cancels all upcoming meetings until September. What do you think that means?

27 Jun

This morning I attended the monthly City of Chico Finance Committee meeting because council has directed the committee to vet a bond measure for “street improvement.” Council member Mark Sorensen made the suggestion in response to councilor Karl Ory’s suggestion that the city put a sales tax increase on the November ballot. 

In her column in the cat box liner known as “Chico News and Review,” editor? Melissa Daugherty suggest the vote “went along party lines,” and the “conservatives” voted down Ory’s suggestion. What a laugh – there aren’t any conservatives on Chico City Council. 

It comes down to common sense – the voters have made it pretty clear they will not support a sales tax increase. More important, local business owners are screaming NO! – Chico retail is already suffering death by a thousand cuts, who needs a sales tax increase?!

Funny this suggestion comes from Chico Chamber of Commerce – until you look at their membership – mostly non-retail!

So Sorensen suggested a bond measure and sent it to the Finance Committee for discussion.

Except there won’t be any discussion of this measure until September, because Administrative Services Director (formerly known as Finance Director) Scott Dowell talked the committee into cancelling the July and August meetings. 

I’ll say for Morgan, he wanted to have the July and August meetings, he said the public would want to be in on the  discussion. But he sat there while Dowell essentially cancelled the meetings. Committee member Randall Stone seemed to go along more willingly with the cancellation. Committee chair Mark Sorensen, who suggested the measure in the first place, was absent because of an “emergency situation” in Biggs, where he yanks down over $100,000/year plus publicly paid benefits as Biggs’ city manager. 

You know how it is, you can’t have your dick in two places at once.

You realize, that means the discussion goes behind closed doors. In fact, while they wouldn’t discuss the bond measure at today’s meeting – they’re not allowed to discuss stuff that’s not on the agenda – Assistant city manager Chris Constantin tried to take it up after the meeting had been adjourned and almost everybody had left the room. Constantin immediately pulled Mayor Sean Morgan aside and started whispering, essentially, what did Morgan want? Morgan started to suggest that Constantin bring forward all possibilities for funding road work in Chico, and Constantin was telling him that he will be working with the public works department to come up with a figure. 

“It will be at least $100 million…” was the last thing I heard Constantin say aloud as I pulled my chair and my notebook up to the table. Constantin lowered his voice to almost inaudible and turned his back to me. I moved closer and asked, “is this a private conversation? Am I allowed to listen? I thought by the way you were whispering you don’t want me to hear what you’re saying?”

At that point Constantin turned to me and assured me it was not a private conversation. But the conversation ended, and Constantin left the table to approach Chamber of Commerce maven Jolene Francis. From what I could overhear, he was asking her how they would switch from a sales tax increase measure to a bond measure. But I was in a hurry to go  back to work, so I let it go.

This is how they run our town behind our backs. I’m pretty certain they would have talked about the bond a lot more today if I hadn’t been there – there was no other member of the public present except for pro-tax cheerleader Stephanie Taber.

I’ll tell you what was also funny – Dowell’s finance report was nothing but KUDOS! Budget right on schedule! Revenues up three percent! $11 million more in cash flow than last year! Sales tax revenues up 6 %! Kinda makes you wonder – why would we need a revenue measure?

But you have to read between the lines. Most of the report was about supplemental allocations and budget transfers – the budget means nothing, they spend money however they want. When they can’t pay salaries in one department they just  steal the money from another department. That’s why there’s no money to fix the streets, and the sewer fund is so flat the city is actually entertaining a hook-up with Paradise – 20 miles east of Chico, in the foothills.

Before he was elected to City Council, Mark Sorensen blogged about all the money the city was stealing out of the sewer fund to pay pensions – you won’t find that blog online anymore, and you won’t get Sorensen to talk about the sewer fund.

Dowell also announced, last year was a record year for parking fines! But he opined, fiscal year 2018/19 won’t bring in as many parking revenues. He said, “I’d like to believe people are becoming cognizant of the laws…”

You know the only place they enforce parking is Downtown? But they still have record parking fines? I was reminded of a trip I took Downtown to deal with PG&E. As I stood in the pee-stinking Downtown PG&E office, I watched a family park their car, put change in the meter and walk into the building. They were setting up PG&E for their college kid. The woman watched as a parking attendant walked up and placed a ticket on their windshield. She expressed disbelief as her husband went out to see what that was about. He approached the attendant, and then he got in his vehicle as the attendant took the ticket off his window. He moved the vehicle slightly, got out, watched the attendant walk away, and came back inside. She had informed him that his vehicle was a few inches out of the parking space, and when he’d protested she’d offered to let him fix it. So he moved his car about an inch, I mean, I couldn’t even see any distance, and she tore up the ticket. He was really angry about it, but afraid to disagree with a woman who could give him a ticket out of spite. 

The parking laws have not changed Downtown, it’s the method of “enforcement” that has changed. The private parking enforcement  company that the city hired is paid based on how many tickets they hand out. That’s incentive. I don’t know how this is legal, but the chief of police in San Luis Opispo had to leave his job because he offered his patrol teams pizza as a reward for tickets.

The problem we have here is a city who knows they are acting illegally but waits for some citizens’ group to pony up money for a lawyer to call them on it. They’re absolutely desperate to get money to pay down the pensions, because most of our council members are pentioneers, or are married to pensioneers.

We will assume that the city will have a bond measure ready for either the November ballot or a special election in an upcoming year. We need to let them know – especially those who are running in November, we could recall anybody who supports this revenue measure. The Reform California people successfully recalled the legislator who put the gas tax – SB 1 – on the legislative agenda. 

We also need to let them know, we can come up with a measure of our own – to dump the Utility Users tax. That’s $7 million a year they tack onto our PG&E and Cal Water bills. They add unknown amounts to our bills with their shake down “franchise fees.” 

Write those letters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chamber Special Report: $3 million for more cops, $90 million to fix roads – $130 million for the pension deficit?

24 May

Chico Chamber started marketing their proposed sales tax increase measure five years ago. Below is the link to their “Special Report,” the product of five years of committees, task forces, clandestine surveys, and other ploys recommended by various consultants. 

Below is the link to their “Special Report”.

They list four “priorities for Chico – “police, roads, pensions and fire.” Don’t let the order in which they are listed fool you – that’s not indicative of priority. $3 million for the cops, $90 million for roads, and $130 million for pensions

The report summary says the Chamber would like to get the public involved in the discussion, but given the way Katie Simmons has scheduled the “community meetings,” there really hasn’t been much public participation – mostly Chamber and City officials. 

The Chamber wants a sales tax increase to pay for all this stuff. Do you really want to pay for the pensions? You’ve already paid more than the employees. 

Read that “special” report here:

http://chicochamber.com/public/uploads/CC_January_Special_Report_FINAL.pdf

Chico Chamber ramps up sales tax increase campaign – And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!”

24 May

This press release below was made yesterday by the California Chamber of Commerce and forwarded by Chico Chamber of Commerce. Time to watch the county and city clerk’s office for a ballot measure. 

What this release doesn’t tell us is that Tom Lando is one of Chico’s biggest pension hogs – especially when you consider he never paid anything toward his pension. Current City Mangler Mark Orme pays less than 10%, and he’s been given a pay raise every time he’s agreed to pay a percent or two more. That’s like throwing gas on a fire – every time you raise his salary you raise his pension.

Here’s an old link – make note, at the time I ran this post, Lando was getting about $135,000, just in pension, it doesn’t include his health, vision, life insurance, etc. Look at that – $11,000/month. There are families in this town living on $19,000/year. 

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

That information is from 2012 – do you realize, pensions go up every year – “cost of living adjustment” – based on a percentage of the already gross amount. So, I’ll opine – he’s getting around $150,000 a year in cash and benefits. On top of that, Lando runs a consulting firm, the city has paid him consulting fees for various tasks. 

But now Piggy wants more! Read on!

From Michelle Woods at Chico Chamber:

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Chamber of Commerce honored business executives from Chico and Torrance today with its 2018 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award, recognizing them for outstanding advocacy on behalf of small businesses.

The CalChamber announced the awards in Sacramento before more than 200 attendees at the CalChamber Capitol Summit.

The 2018 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award recipients are:

  • Mark Francis, president and CEO, Golden Valley Bank, Chico;
  • Tom Lando, principal, Tom Lando Consulting, Chico; and
  • Michael Shafer, owner, The Depot Restaurant, Torrance.

 

Mark Francis and Tom Lando

Lando was chairman of the board of directors for the Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center in 2011 and currently chairs the chamber’s Legislative Action Committee. Francis was chairman in 2015 and spearheaded the chamber’s Community Vision, which not only guides local policy decisions, but has become a sought-after model for chamber advocacy throughout the nation.

At the direction of the Chico Chamber Board in early 2017, Mark and Tom spearheaded the effort to better understand how business priorities like a safer community and improved roads are indelibly linked to changing city finances.

Together, Lando and Francis co-chaired the groundbreaking Task Force on City Revenues and Expenditures, the first of its kind in the Chico Chamber’s 110-year history, which resulted in the publication of a special report and call to action. The task force investigated the solvency of Chico’s finances—past, present and projected—and delivered a bold and forceful recommendation that the City Council consider a revenue measure to fund business priorities outlined in the Community Vision.

The City of Chico is one of 11 cities its size in California to maintain a baseline sales tax rate of 7.25%. The region is largely tax averse.

The task force worked throughout 2017 to study four key areas affecting city finances—pension, fire, police and roads—and outlined needs, expectations and costs. Lando and Francis hosted several task force meetings with city officials to gain a deep understanding of the city’s financial status and met weekly to follow statewide news on pension reform, sales tax policy, the gas tax and other impacts, always weighing local opportunities and challenges.

Task force findings were communicated to the public via the chamber’s most recent state of the city address and through a publication entitled Special Report. A call to action was made directly to the Chico City Council to consider a revenue measure to preserve and enhance the quality of life in Chico, a risky yet pivotal move by a chamber of commerce in a tax-averse region.

In nominating Francis and Lando for the CalChamber award, Katie Simmons, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, wrote: “Mark and Tom deserve to be recognized equally for their tremendous insight, influence and service to the Chico Chamber of Commerce. This pivotal community conversation would not happen without the knowledge, dedication and time Mark and Tom give to the chamber and our community. Their work is relevant across all communities in California struggling with the very same issues.”

Council approves another $25,000 toward chambers remodel as Coolidge chuckles at complaints about street conditions

12 Mar

I’ve been seeing great letters to the Enterprise Record lately and decided to get back in the saddle. The media spin on the city chambers remodel really pissed me off – shills! So I wrote the following letter about the conversation I had with $taff regarding same – they just took another $25,000 for the project and council had the nerve to laugh about our complaints that they aren’t fixing roads.

Watch that here – jump ahead to Item 4.5 – and be sure to pay attention to comments made by Andrew Coolidge and laughter from other councilors at the end of Presson’s  report.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=721

Here’s Presson’s written report:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=720&meta_id=58377

Remember, this money came out of the pockets of everybody who uses Comcast. Isn’t that a SCREAM!?!

On March 6 Chico City Council approved a Budget Modification and Supplemental Appropriation, transferring $25,000 in available PEG (Public Education and Government) funds to cover additional costs associated with the Council Chamber Technology upgrade. 

This project, a complete gutting of council chambers for replacement not only of “technology” but new seating, carpeting, paneling, etc, started late last year and has run over Staff’s original estimate of $343,287.67.       

 PEG fees are paid by Comcast customers as required by city ordinance 2368, passed by council in 2007,  a fee of one percent of  gross revenues added to our bills, in addition to the existing franchise fee also paid by Comcast  ratepayers.

According to Staff interpretation, PEG funding is restricted to  “equipment purchases, upgrades, or a capital project such as this current project…the city is responsible for ensuring the general public has access to the Public Access Channel…”  

The new seats, carpeting and wall paneling are included, according to clerk Debbie Presson, because “unexpected things came up …we didn’t even have a diagram of what was going on in there… once we started tearing into the wall…” 

Then council had a big laugh – the very idea that this money would be used to fix city streets had them all in titters. 

Yes, how funny – they passed an ordinance adding a fee to our Comcast bills, and now they spend it as they please. What next, a sales tax increase? 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Will the gas tax repeal make the ballot? Stay tuned!

2 Mar

Carl Demaio and Reform California are still working to put the gas tax repeal on the November ballot.  I believe (?) the deadline was Wednesday (Feb. 28) but have not heard whether they were able to gather the required number of signatures. 

Here’s what Ballotpedia has posted:

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Voter_Approval_for_Gas_and_Vehicle_Taxes_Initiative_(2018)

“The California Voter Approval for Gas and Vehicle Taxes Initiative (#17-0033) may appear on the ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 6, 2018.”

Scroll down and have a laugh – Jerry Brown says, “I can’t believe the proponents of this ballot measure really want Californians to keep driving on lousy roads and dangerous bridges. Taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair borders on insanity.”

Listen, Moonbeam, you should think before you speak. You can’t believe it because it’s not true – proponents of this ballot measure have repeatedly said the money for road repairs is available but being siphoned off for other purposes. You’ve also just acknowledged lousy roads and dangerous bridges, for which you, as Captain of our ship, are responsible, and therefore, liable!  And yes, taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair to fund your pension borders not only on insanity, it borders on corruption, Sweet Cheeks. Should we have a court martial? Maybe set up a plank? Ooooo – keeeeel haul!

I think Brown is privately shocked about the voter’s response, lots of people have signed. I’m guessing the petitions were turned in, but it will take a while to verify the signatures. 

We’ve been talking about hidden taxes, such as the “franchise fees” the city and county are allowed to collect from utility companies such as Comcast and PG&E. This gas tax was shoved on us by the governor and the legislature, without any input from the voters.  For years now they – including Jerry Brown – have siphoned their outrageous salaries, pensions and benefits out of the road funding. I’ve sat in meetings many times and watched the local agencies pilfer “restricted”  fund to pay down their pension deficit, while roads and other infrastructure in Chico have turned to absolute crap. 

The foxes are in charge of the henhouse People.  For example, Scott Dowell used to be the finance manager for Chico Area Recreation District before he got hired by the city of Chico. While CARD allowed two public swimming pools to deteriorate to sub-code and sub-ADA conditions, Dowell made a extra $400,000 “side fund pay-off” on CARD’s $1.7 million pension deficit, saying it would save the agency money on interest payments to CalPERS. Meanwhile, CARD management has only started paying toward their pensions within the last two years, “classic members” like CARD manager Ann Willmann are only paying 2 PERCENT.  That all happened on Dowell’s watch.  Now he’s running City of Chico finances.  Next Thursday I’d bet my last $5 he’s going to lay down a pretty wild argument for a sales tax increase. 

Cause taxes are their heroin. As long as they can get a fix, put off rehab for just one more fix, one more fix, one more fix…

Just look at Chico Unified School District – they’ve had a bond measure on almost every ballot since 1998, and the last three have passed. But they are getting ready to put another bond on the ballot, because they just got new demands from both CalPERS and CalSTRS for more money, more money, more money…

You probably think you hang around with a nice crowd, but if you send your kid to a Chico school – any Chico school – you are leaving them all day with a bunch of freaking junkies. Wake UP!

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew city council member Randy Stone is running for Butte County Assessor. I was kinda bitchy – I told her I didn’t give a shit who was running for election, because elected offices don’t matter anymore – it’s $TAFF. And we don’t get to vote for them. 

But, voting is important, especially the initiatives. So I’ll gas up the old election buggy and try to get it out on the road, try to start posting some news about the local candidates, besides just…YECHHHHHHH!

cause we can’t and we won’t and we don’t stop…

 

 

City consultant: “more people, more payroll, more allocations” – this is how city of Chico management siphons money from the road fund into their own wallets

1 Mar

Thursday March 8,  City of Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell will give a dog-and-pony presentation about how the city spends money. That ought to be a gas, but instead, I attended yesterday’s (2/28/18) Finance Committee meeting to hear a consultant explain the process of “cost allocation”.

Dowell is disingenuous – who does he really expect to show up on a Thursday at 10 am? Oh yeah, I’ll just ask my boss if I can come in early and take two hours off at lunch, everybody does that! 

You know, I might have had bosses who would go for that, but only once. And you wouldn’t be allowed to discuss it at the work place, that’s a pretty standard rule of getting along with fellow employees  – leave your politics in the parking lot. So, in this way, Dowell is very pointedly leaving out the working class who would have to support the sales tax increase he is going to be selling at his “workshop”.

But, when you have limited time, you use it wisely. Who wants to hear a spin from the Fox in Charge of the Henhouse, when you can listen to a visiting watch dog? That’s how I see consultant Chad Wolford, eversince 2015 when he told council they were spending too much money on “overhead” – administrative salaries and benefits.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2017/12/21/no-kidding-our-city-is-headed-for-deep-doo-doo-2/

As the consultant describes it, cost allocation means, “central administration cost (also referred to as “overhead”) spread down to departments as operating costs.”  Just repeat that a few times, and remind yourself, “operating” means “actual work,” such as fixing the streets, or maintaining the sewer plant. 

Cost allocation is the process by which these ridiculous management salaries are cherry picked from all the departments. Makes it look legal and fair, but it’s really the same old system of moving peas under walnuts shells. Money is moved between restricted and non-restricted funds to pay for stuff that money was not originally earmarked for. 

What’s the use of restricting funds (to their original purpose, such as street maintenance) if you can just transfer them wherever you want to pay for whatever you want? This is the process by which administrators like Orme, Constantin and Dowell take grant money that was originally intended to fix streets and pad it into their wallets. 

The consultant is a nice man, he admitted to me, “this is a very complicated process.”  I replied, “No kidding!” That’s why  I had tagged him into the lobby of the building when he finished his presentation, I had to ask some additional questions. 

Well here’s something that he made pretty clear – the “changes”  (increases) in the allocations are based on staff and salary increases. “More people, more payroll, more allocations,” Wolford said. “Salaries and benefits have gone up, operating budgets are up…” 

So, I don’t think I’ll be bothered with Dowell’s dog and pony show Saturday – ‘scuse me, that’s Thursday March 8 – I already heard how the city of Chico spends it’s money. 

CalPERS nears insolvency – meanwhile city of Chico uses “cost allocation” to rationalize fund pilfering to pay pension costs

27 Feb

Thanks Dude, for this recent article regarding CalPERS insolvency. Former CalPERS board member and erstwhile gubernatorial candidate (2006?) Steve Westly has been speaking up about CalPERS growing pension deficit, warning the agency will collapse if it is not bailed out or “reformed.”

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-02-24/former-calpers-board-members-shocking-admission-calpers-near-insolvency-it-needs

I don’t know what he means by “reform” – to me, this would mean, no more 70 – 90 percent of highest year’s salary at age 50 – 65, cut employer contributions to 10 percent (based on merit and years employed), and make the employees pay their own retirement package. 

Here’s an article from last year that chronicles this mess we’re in from the beginning.

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-pension-crisis-davis-deal/

Of course now everybody is screaming for “reform” because they know the system is about to collapse and they won’t get their dough.  Most of these “reformers” mean, taxpayers pay more. That’s what the city of Chico is up to at tomorrow’s Finance Committee Meeting.

Chris Constantin first introduced the concept of “cost allocation” a couple of years ago. It is a process by which they transfer money out of the general fund to pay salaries, benefits and pensions for city employees. It’s very confusing, unless you are the consultant who is hired to explain it every year. That would be Chad Wolford. 

Two years ago, Wolford told us we were “spending too much money on overhead” – meaning, management salaries, and particularly, management pensions.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/11/29/no-kidding-our-city-is-headed-for-deep-doo-doo/

In response, the city raised pension shares but made adjustments to ensure employees would not have to pay. Mark Orme and Chris Constantin accepted what amounts to 401K plans, which they report will not add to our pensions costs – wrong again Chris! They still got salary increases, and we will have to pay them that deferred compensation, it just routes CalPERS. To me, this is just greed. Look at their salaries:

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20171002/NEWS/171009943

http://www.chico.ca.us/human_resources_and_risk_management/documents/OrmeEmploymentAgreement10-2017.pdf

Orme demands over $200,000 in base salary, but expects us to believe he has our best interests at heart? 

Tomorrow, at an 8:30 am Finance Committee meeting, they will go about “allocating” their fancy lifestyles onto the backs of the taxpayers, taking money that should be providing street maintenance, sewer plant updates and other services for those of us who pay for them, and putting it toward their 70 – 90 percent (do the math on Orme’s salary) pensions. Read the report here:

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/2-28-18FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

This is sneaky stealing, if you ask me. The taxpayers are never privvy to this stuff – wonder why they hold these meetings at 8:30 in the morning while you are rushing to work?