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Book In Common: PLUNDER! How Public Employees are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation, by Steven Greenhut.

25 Jan

I’d been waiting over a week for a book I’d ordered online that should have been delivered within a couple of days. I kept checking my PO box, by this past Monday, I worried it had got lost. Yesterday it finally arrived – well, I got it yesterday. I’m guessing it arrived at Chico post office about a week ago.

It was too big for my PO box, I know the routine – they put a key in your box that goes with one of the big boxes in front of the annex. I retrieved the package from the big box and immediately noticed – a postal worker had scrawled a box number in big black letters across the front of the package, unfortunately, it wasn’t my box number. My correct box number was listed in the address box on the front of the package, neat and tidy.  Postal worker transposed the numbers, in big black writing, so the key went to somebody else’s box.

Here’s where human decency comes in. Somebody else got my package, saw it wasn’t for them, and put it back in the stream. They may even be the same person who wrote the correct number above the transposed number. 

When this happened at my house, my neighbors got my packages. Both packages were clearly marked with the correct address, but mail man delivered them to my neighbors. Neither neighbor bothered to return the package to my clearly marked box on the street, both opened the packages, even though they were addressed to someone else. We got the packages back because my husband went door-to-door. 

Neither neighbor apologized for opening our packages, we let it go and stopped having stuff shipped to our home. 

Of course Christmas is a horrible time to get or send packages, we all know that. But I order a lot of household goods from an online seller in Vermont, and I had to have some stuff delivered in the first weeks of December. Right in the middle of the flood of evacuees driven out by the Camp Fire. But my package had a tracking number, I watched it move slowly across the US, and then I saw it had been delivered to Chico Post Office on Vallombrosa. But it wasn’t in my PO box, I kept waiting. Finally I went in very early one morning to ask for it. The man who called me up to the counter wouldn’t take the tracking number I’d written down, or look at the message on my phone that said the package had been delivered. He turned and disappeared into the back – which was a mess of packages laying all over the floor – and when he came back 15 minutes later he said there was no package. 

I looked him in the eye and shoved the tracking number at him and said real nice but firm, “please check the tracking number.”

He was huffy but he took the slip of paper. This time he was gone for 10 minutes, but by Gumm, he brought me my package. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind but the line behind me was starting to go out the door, so I said Thank You! with a big shit-eating grin and got the hell out. 

My family has received Christmas packages that have been ripped open, stolen from, and taped back together, so I  guess I was lucky to get my package intact.

Now the book, mis-marked by a post office employee. I’m getting sick and tired of the level of service we get from public workers. We bought a house in Paradise in exchange for an old rental we sold in Chico. My son was living in it at the time of the fire, luckily he had gone to work before the fire had hit town, and was safe. I’m thankful for that, but dealing with the county in the aftermath hasn’t been the least of our worries.

We were quick to send in our ROE – Right of Entry – so the county could get going with the clean-up. I understand the clean-up will take a long time, but when we didn’t hear anything about our ROE, I e-mailed them asking if it had been received. A fellow named Matt called my husband a few days later in response to the e-mail, saying we needed to submit a new insurance declaration from our policy, the old one we sent had expired when our policy turned over recently. They knew that for over a month, but didn’t contact us until we inquired about it. Is that going on all over Paradise?

And then yesterday we received a packet, sent in a custom “Butte Recovers” envelope, with  custom stationery inside, a letter telling us how important it was to complete the ROE form. They had included the entire form, over half a dozen pages. The letter was not addressed to us, it was a form letter, so I’m guessing they sent one to each and every address that had burned in the fire. 

How much did that cost? At 50 cents a letter? I’m guessing at least a few thousand bucks. Not to mention the custom printed stationery. How about $taff time, folding all those papers and shoving them in those envelopes, then running them through the stamp machine?

Here’s the irony I’ll leave you with – the book I ordered – PLUNDER! How Public Employees are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation, by Steven Greenhut.

Think the post office workers knew what was in my package? 

I’ll describe Greenhut as a government watchdog, journalist, and public advocate. His articles have appeared in papers like the Orange County Register, LA Times, San Diego Union Tribune. This book was written in 2009 – before I started blogging about what’s going on in Chico, before I ever even heard of the pensions. So, it’s history for me, finding out exactly how public employees garnered their power and position. 

I’m calling this our BOOK IN COMMON, if you’d like to get a  copy, I bought mine used for 99 cents, cost $3.99 to ship. It’s in great condition, and so far I’ve enjoyed reading the forwards by Congressman Tom McClintock and Mark Bucher, who co-authored a late-nineties attempt at requiring unions to “at least ask members before using their money for politics…”

So come on along, learn some recent history, maybe find out what needs to be done to turn back the tide of entitlement that is drowning our state.

Dan Walters: illegal use of taxpayer money continues to be a problem “because local prosecutors and the state attorney general’s office ignore complaints about its illegality”

6 Jan

I’m not alone in my complaints about misuse of taxpayer funds to run tax increase campaigns – here’s what Dan Walters has to say about it:

https://calmatters.org/articles/commentary/finally-a-crackdown-on-misuse-of-taxpayer-money/

Here’s something the city of Chico and CARD have both done.

“Local governments hire “consultants” to poll voters on what tax and bond measures they would find acceptable, to draft those proposals accordingly and, finally, to run so-called “information” campaigns to persuade voters to approve them.

It’s so blatant that firms seeking lucrative contracts openly boast of their successful campaigns, eliminating any doubt that they are truly political operatives.”

I’ve sat at meetings listening to these consultants, all they talk about is how to get the public to pass revenue measures. I’ve seen their websites, bragging that they can pass tax measures.  Sit in on a meeting sometime – and then look around the room and add up the staff salaries. That’s spending of taxpayer money to promote a tax measure, it’s right in front of our faces, like that big elephant that just took a giant dump on your carpet. 

Furthermore, Walters says, “The practice has ballooned because local prosecutors and the state attorney general’s office ignore complaints about its illegality. Indeed, local district attorneys often benefit from the higher taxes.”

Didn’t I just say that in my last post – theButte County DA and all his hangers on benefit from every tax measure that comes around the pike – it just perpetuates the salaries and pensions. He’s not going to answer a complaint from a citizen – we are forced to take our gripes to state agencies. 

I told you about the complaint that Yuba County citizens took to the FPPC with the help of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. They charge that a recent tax measure passed in Yuba County, Measure K, was passed illegally with only 54 percent, when it was written as a special tax requiring 2/3’s voter approval.  Another Yuba County citizen, Territorial Dispatch contributor Lou Binninger, has taken up the issue of the use of taxpayer funds to promote the measure. 

Unfortunately the FPPC (all on public salaries and benefits) has sent back Binninger’s complaint, saying he needs “evidence.” 

We all need to use our eyes and ears people, because nobody is going to come riding in to save us.

 

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”.

 

Chico Unified: we want more money or we hurt the kids…

8 Feb

A couple of weeks ago we read an article in the Sacramento Bee detailing the failure of the California State Teachers Retirement Fund – CalSTRS. Here’s the latest from Cal Watchdog:

http://calwatchdog.com/2017/02/03/pension-funding-catastrophe-threatens-california-schools/

Yes, as Chico Unified School District finance director Kevin Bultema told me, ” The increase PERS and STRS costs are certainly a challenge for the district’s operations budget and will need to be addressed with either increased revenues from the state or cuts in CUSD’s program expenditures in the future.”

I hear “we want more money or we’ll hurt the kids…” What do you hear? 

No, Measure K was not “about the kids”

1 Feb

I forwarded the article from the Sacramento Bee that I posted here yesterday

http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article128942009.html

to Chico Unified School District Finance Director Kevin Bultema, asking how the failure of California Teachers Retirement System would affect our school district. He responded,

Good afternoon Ms. Sumner,

This has been one of the key budget issues facing CUSD.  The recent downward adjustments in CalSTRS estimated investment earnings is adding additional pressure to employer contribution rates in future years.  Employees did have a small increase in their contribution rate in 2015-16 from 10% to 10.25%.  The employer contribution rate has increased since 2015-16 and is projected to increase each year through 2020-21.  We discuss the financial impact of the projected PERS and STRS rates at every budget presentation.  Below is a slide we include in all of our budget presentations to keep our board and the community informed of this issue.  I hope this helps answer your question.  Have a great evening. 

Bultema ran the Measure K campaign, but gee Beav, none of this stuff came up in his Argument For, nor in the rebuttal to my argument, where he and Mark Sorensen chastised me for not getting it. 

Maureen Kirk told me she was supporting Measure K because “The more I looked into it, I came to the conclusion that the schools really need our help and support. This does not support retirement and benefits and directly helps the students.”

I wrote to Kirk and Sorensen and chastised them for their support of Measure K, forwarding Bultema’s e-mail with the link to the Sac Bee. I hope you will do same:

mkirk@buttecounty.net

mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov

The rebuttal to my argument against Measure K claimed I didn’t “get it.” Well, do you get it now Mark?  Here Kevin Bultema admits, CalSTRS has been failing, but nobody mentioned that during the Measure K campaign.  It’s all about the kids, huh Maureen?  Just in case you don’t read The Bee, I included a link to the article I had referenced to Bultema, although I know Mark already knows exactly what’s going on.  Sincerely disgusted, Juanita

Kirk and Sorensen are both up in 2018.  Where can we find suitable replacements? 

Meanwhile, another thing to remember, Chico Area Recreation District has hired the same consultant to run their bond/assessment campaign, so be ready for LIES LIES LIES.

Thank a Teacher! California taxpayers will pay $153 million more a year for school district pensions

30 Jan

Thanks Bob for this article from the Sacramento Bee.

“CalSTRS will consider lowering its official investment forecast in a move expected to require higher contributions from state taxpayers once again for the teachers’ pension fund. The cost to the state could be an additional $153 million starting with the next fiscal year.”

 

I didn’t know this was legal:

Three years ago, the Legislature agreed to raise contributions to CalSTRS by billions of dollars a year. Assembly Bill 1469 affected the state, local school districts and teachers themselves. For example, the annual contributions from school districts is growing from $2 billion to $6 billion, although the increases are being phased in over several years.

The 2014 law does give CalSTRS some latitude to impose higher rates on state taxpayers without going back to the Legislature for permission. According to the staff report, Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for the new fiscal year includes an additional $153 million for CalSTRS, bringing the annual contribution to $2.8 billion.

No matter what Chico Unified said about crumbling classrooms, rot, mold, asbestos, old computers – it’s the pensions folks, it always has been.

Cut the pensions

3 Jan

Thanks Rob, for this link to yesterday’s Dan Walter’s column.

Walters opines, “If it’s not economically or politically possible to finance the pension promises made to state and local government employees, the system’s only hope for solvency may lie in reducing those promises.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article123886739.html#storylink=cpy

We must ask ourselves, who made these promises in the first place?

  • Jerry Brown – with contributions of $50,000 – 100,000 from just about every employee’s union in the state of California  (   https://votesmart.org/candidate/campaign-finance/69557/jerry-brown-jr#.WGu0MvkrKUk   )
  • Third District Butte County Supervisor Maureen Kirk.    As a council member Kirk signed the “Memo of Understanding” that attached city employee salaries to “increases in revenues but not decreases…”   She also signed one contract after another requiring the city to pick up the lion’s share of city employee benefit expenses –  not only the much larger “employer share” of pensions and benefits but all or most of the “employee share” – the “employer paid member contribution”. For years under Mayor Kirk “public safety employees” paid nothing toward their own pensions, while management employees were allowed to get away with 4 percent. Now she rubber stamps raises for the county, as well as anything the Behavioral Health Department wants.
  • Second District Supervisor Larry Wahl – Wahl signed on to all of the above as a council member and added a step-increase system for the police department that essentially means automatic promotions and raises. As supervisor Wahl has voted to fully fund every request made by the Behavioral Health Department.
  • Don’t look now, but your former and current mayor are public employees who collect their own pensions. Don’t expect either Mark Sorensen or Sean Morgan to turn down any raises or require higher contributions, especially for cops or fire. They’ll dump lower level employees to feather the public safety nest, which is why our streets are shredded and our park is a disgrace.
  • Your vice mayor is a former employee of CalPERS. When we asked Reanette Fillmer during her 2014 campaign if she is eligible for a public pension, she said she didn’t know.  Don’t expect a straight answer about anything from that little minx. 

Do you feel responsible for these pensions? Do you get a pension? If so, who pays for it? 

Our public employees are like junkies – they’re high on ENTITLEMENT, the notion that they are better than us because they are a member of the racket, and we aren’t. They are high on the notion that we will foot the bill for their ridiculous lifestyle.

Remember what Nancy Reagan told you – JUST SAY NO!