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One man’s story tells the story of Chico

16 Jan

I recently noticed a story in the ER that essentially details what has happened to our town.

This man was sentenced recently for vandalism and “hate crimes” for painting a swastika.  Just now? After running the streets of Chico for 15 years, arrested multiple times for crimes that escalated in violence. Here’s the first case in his Butte County Superior Court File, from 2006 – possession of a deadly weapon.

https://cabutteodyprod.tylerhost.net/Portal/Home/WorkspaceMode?p=0

He was fined and sentenced for charges including failure to appear, but only after this case made it’s way through the court for TWO YEARS. In the meantime, he was charged three more times in 2007, and three times in 2008, for possession of drugs, failure to appear, vandalism, and “willful disobedience of court order...”

Willful disobedience to the court means to me this person is not willing to live within the law, and that should mean he needs to be institutionalized. Instead, the judge released him to go on to a felony weapon possession in 2009, for which he was acquitted? But two more arrests in 2010 result in a felony conviction for “negligent discharge of a firearm...”

Of course he was right back out on the streets in 2012, this time arrested for “elder or dependent adult abuse…

His sheet goes on like this until 2019, when he FINALLY comes up for psychiatric evaluation – after the vandalism bender that included the swastika. The court determined he was competent to stand trial, and gave him 6 years for a “hate crime“.

15 years with a record like that, but they finally send him up for 6 years over “hate crimes”. Toward whom? His residence in Chico seems to me one long, extended orgy of hatred toward humankind.

Why does “hate” have to be directed at a certain kind of people before it is a crime? Twice this guy was arrested for “elder or dependent adult abuse“, but no conviction? I’m going to guess the victim had no family, felt intimidated, and dropped the charges. I can see the first time being a wash, but what was Ramsey thinking when this guy was brought in a second time for a charge like that? But he gets six years for scrawling a symbol he doesn’t even understand on a wall. There’s ugly, nasty, threatening vandalism all over town. In one night someone busted out car windows at the Enloe parking lot while the owners worked diligently inside to save people’s lives. That is hateful – why aren’t we seeing more arrests and convictions? 

Oh, but gee golly, they are finally clearing the camps at One Mile, I guess we’re supposed to give them a basket of kudos for that! 

Here’s one of my favorite lines,  from Yeats, by way of Didion, by way of Me – “What rough beast, it’s hour come round at last, slouches toward Chico to be born?” 

You ask your district rep and I’ll ask mine – is Chico still collecting money for the “Shelter Crisis Designation,” and if so, where is it going?

22 Dec

It’s hard not to obsess about the transient camps when they are the first thing you see driving out of your neighborhood. We have to contrive NOT to drive by tents as we go out and about town. Living just a couple of blocks from Bidwell Park is like having a salt patch on a burn, rub it in, rub it in. Having to read letters like this in the paper is a Super Burn.

ENTERPRISE RECORD, 12/12/2020

Merry Christmas, here’s a fine for being homeless.

Is stunning lack of empathy a conservative trait?

Our community members are hurting. They have been burned out, priced out, and driven outdoors. As winter approaches they are living in tents in the park because we have a lack of affordable housing, a lack of shelter space, and a lack of social services in this county.

The conservative “solution” to this problem isn’t to create more space and services, it is to levy a fine on people whose backs are already against the wall. What do they think this is going to accomplish apart from creating a criminal class, and putting the police into contact with a population they have dealt with notoriously poorly in the past?

Can the conservatives not see the ridiculous, and by that I mean worthy of ridicule, nature of their “solution”? These people aren’t rolling in dough, if they were they’d have a house to go too.

I keep hearing conservatives say homeless people are simply lazy and need to pull themselves up. Really? The numbers of homeless are rising nationwide. Did all of these people suddenly decide to abandon their homes and be lazy? Or perhaps is there some systemic pressure that is putting people on the streets en masse?

Speaking of lazy, this conservative “emergency resolution” is about the laziest piece of legislating I’ve ever seen. If this is the best the conservative majority can come up with, Chico is in for a long 2 years.

— Bob Howard, Los Molinos

The first burn is having met Bob Howard as “Mad Bob,” a musician who made his home in Los Molinos years back, but still thinks he is allowed to complain about what we are doing in Chico.  Bob doesn’t have to look at these people, he can live in his romantic imagination – they’re just vagabonds, free spirits! They’re not going to rob his garage while he’s at work, or sell his kid crank at the playground, or stand across the street staring at his wife or college age daughter while they yank off in the bushes. 

The second burn is in agreeing with him somewhat – the new parks ordinance is a lazy and worthless piece of legislation. Read it yourself, I don’t think you need to be a lawyer to see it has no teeth whatsoever, just another discretionary law. Like, move along Buddy, and if I catch you beating off in the bushes outside this sorority house again… well… I’ll counsel you and move you along… again… 

You heard another musician say this. “Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.” And the beards have, indeed, all grown longer overnight. The “conservatives” have done quite the about-face, all the sudden we have to find “some place for them to go.” 

A friend of mine was expressing frustration with a situation in his neighborhood. He lives very near the old Louisiana Pacific lumber yard, where he has seen transients camping for years. People seem to forget how many fires have been started there – an entire building burned down one winter – by transients. My friend and a neighbor of his have not only called the fires in but have run over to the site with picks and shovels to beat the flames back themselves. Right in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood, the city allows illegal campers to threaten homes with elderly and children inside. I’d have to ask Mad Bob – whose backs are against the wall here? 

Why aren’t these arsonists jailed? If you listen to the Chico side of the story, it’s because county DA Mike Ramsey won’t prosecute Chico Muni Code violations. Well, isn’t arson a federal offense? I would guess Ramsey is sick of trying to prosecute for urinating/defecating in public, littering and illegal camping because those are only misdemeanors. With our pathetically inadequate jail and now COVID, they would just be processed and released.  But I can’t believe he won’t prosecute for starting illegal fires. A local transient who fire bombed a college girl’s bedroom was arrested and held, but illegal campers who threaten people’s homes are not?  My friend says the fires are put out and the transients just disappear, no one is held accountable.  I believe this is a Chico problem, starting with cops who are unwilling to do their jobs and council members who are unwilling to push them to do their jobs because the Chico Police Officers Association is a big player in every local election. 

But yesterday I realized that the real lynchpin to this entire problem is the Shelter Crisis Designation, and the annual pot of money received for declaring it. Here’s a question for your district rep: why aren’t they discussing that declaration, and overturning it? Ask if they are still receiving the grant for this designation, and if so, what are they spending it on? 

I’ll  get back to you with my rep’s response, you do same. 

 

Time to sue the county of Butte

13 Dec

Well, you know how I love to say “I told you so…” So, I told you so – despite a lot of tough talk out of the local conservatives, the bum camps have not disappeared from our parks and waterways, in fact, there are more tents in both Bidwell Park and the “Devil’s Triangle” next to the Pine/Cypress bridge today than there were a week ago. The “urgency” ordinance passed last Tuesday by our new, conservative SUPER MAJORITY is toothless. I even got one of the conservatives to say it – “we can’t clear the camps until we find someplace for them to go…”

The real problem, according to Chico PD officer Scott Zuchin, is County DA Mike Ramsey’s refusal to prosecute for Chico Municipal Code offenses. 

As Zuchin reported on Chico First Facebook, “Unless something has changed, any misdemeanor violations of CMC Chapter 9 are filed by the city attorney. The DA won’t prosecute Chico CMC’s. That was the problem from the beginning of adding camping and waterways. Infractions were meaningless and misdemeanors were not getting filed. With regard to being an enforcement tool, the camping and waterways ordinances were a failure.”

Well, there it is, from a guy who actually is charged with enforcing the laws – they’re unenforceable if there’s no cooperation between the county DA and the city attorney. I’m no lawyer, but I forced myself to read the entire ordinance, along with the old ordinance, and I already saw it was vague and left too much discretion to both arresting officers and the court, including the DA.

Lawyer Rob Berry seems to agree, but he constantly lets the city out of any responsibility for the problem.  “That is true, but that, like drug adn mental treatment, is a failure that does not belong to the City of Chico. Our job is to establish and enforce constitutional laws for the benefit of the general welfare of our citizens. Jails, prosecution and the penal codes belong to the county and state. We have to continue to work to find a way to not make them meaningless. By the way, violation of camping and dumping ordinances are also violations of various state and federal laws. The problem is enforcement and meaningful consequences. If a law that makes perfect sense cannot be enforced, we need to change that. Let’s make sure, as a first step, that Chico is not the bottleneck to those changes.”

Rob, old Dog, Chico Staff wrote the ordinance, and the boobs on council passed it. Staff also recommended the Shelter Crisis Declaration and the Consolidation of Services at the fairgrounds. That netted the city over $8 million in state (and federal?) funding. 

Zuchin reiterates his statement, this time explaining the city attorney’s role in this mess. “I totally agree. In this case it will be up to the city attorney to file charges on misdemeanor CMC violations. Problem solved. Use of state and federal laws are obviously another option. However, it will then by up to our local DA or state prosecutor to file the charges. It is my experience that our DA did not file 647e PC or 602 PC violations related to camping. Why? Because the city adopted their own camping and waterway ordinances. So, the problem with enforcement was the city attorney would not file the misdo CMC violations and the DA wouldn’t file penal code violations. That was my experience but perhaps things have changed in the 4 years since I was involved in that process.”

Zuchin admits he’s been out of that loop eversince he got reassigned and hopefully neutered after unloading his service revolver in the back of a 16 year old girl’s head. But I’ll tell you what, things have only changed for the worse. Now we have Sheriff Corey Honea telling us the jail is over capacity because of COVID, even while he’s been sitting on a $44 million grant since 2015, money that was supposed to be used to expand the jail.  I’ll guess that has been whittled away on over-generous salaries and benefits. The county also has an awesome pension deficit, a pot of money melts like butter around here. 

All Berry can do is agree. “No, you are stating the status quo correctly. But this must change. A city has the right and the duty to protect it’s own parks, and has a mandatory duty to the state and feds to protect waterways. Everyone is failing to do so. That cannot stand.”

This a far cry from his comments directly after the meeting. 

“And that, my friends, is how it’s done.Mayor Coolidge and Vice Mayor Reynolds appointed without drama. On the first significant issue, making the Park Regulations enforceable under misdemeanor penalties, the vote was 5-2. How many times have we been on the losing end of this kind of vote. But not tonight. That was 5-2 despite the illogical and inaccurate musings of Huber and Brown, and the unintelligible “explanation” by City Attorney Jared. We win. Watch us reclaim our parks and waterways.”

“CHANGE IS COMING!!!”
 
Reminds me of what Ned Pepper says to Rooster Cogburn: “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.”  Unfortunately, Rob Berry, neither fat nor one-eyed, is also no Rooster Cogburn. 

Berry, a natural mouth piece, has been telling us his new Super Council was  going to sweep this problem out the door with their new, Bad Ass Urgency Ordinance. I imagine he feels like a little boy who got a lump of coal in his Christmas stocking.

Frankly, our whole town just got handed a lump of coal. 

Here’s my idea: let’s sue the county. 

Orme, not council, will choose new police chief

14 Aug

City manager Mark Orme, who denied to me recently that he runs our town, should be announcing his pick  for new Police Chief today. Yes, Orme, a guy who was hired by people long since gone, not elected by the voters, will be choosing our new police chief. As of the Ch 7 news this morning, he was down to three candidates from the six announced earlier this week.

Orme claims he will rely on feedback from a “Community panel” – wouldn’t you think that means interested local folks, Chicoans who care? No, Orme chose his “vast array of this community”, all members of the government. Sheriff Kory Honea, District Attorney “Mark” (hey, Natalie, can you proofread your junk?) Ramsey, “police chiefs from neighboring cities such as Redding and Yuba City, non-sworn Chico Police department employees, and a representative from Chico State Univ Police Dept. were involved.”

In the press release, Orme didn’t name all of them, and here’s a question – how many of them live in Chico? And no introduction to the public? He’s not even naming the candidates. 

I’ll tell you why – back in 2015, Orme was vetting candidates for chief, here’s what I found out about one of the guys he was thinking about hiring:

Did illegal ticket quotas hasten Gesell’s exit?

Charges included an illegal speeding ticket quota, spending taxpayer money on vacations and other priveleges for his family, and lying to this employer about seeking other jobs. He was also under fire for the police shooting of an unarmed man.  When all this became public in Chico, that candidate ended up being abruptly dropped from the process, and was later asked to resign from his position in SLO. 

Here’s what Melissa Daugherty had to say about him:

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/chief-concerns/content?oid=17230361

She added a very important point – Chico is just a jump-off for police chiefs to spike their salary for retirement benefits.

“In all seriousness, it’s going to be interesting following this. One of my main concerns with Gesell is that he’s a career cop who is almost 50, which means he’s nearing that formula where he can retire at 90 percent of his highest salary for the rest of his life. Chico’s last two chiefs cut out at that magic number. What would stop this guy from doing the same?”

Right now I think the public is more interested in this hiring than ever. I don’t remember when the public has been so interested in a public process. But Orme apparently has not engaged any community groups, no Chico First, no Stand Up For Chico, just bureaucrats. 

Orme told little Natalie the Reporter that “having the council interview candidates is another way to engage with the public’s interests. If they were voted into office, not only did I get a community panel, but I have community representative giving me feedback.” 

Do you really feel represented by this council, which is split almost down the middle in coming up with a “policing policy” for this town? Do you feel represented by Mike Ramsey, who has declared every single officer involved shooting in Chico “justified”? Does Kory Honea represent you? 

All of those perspectives…will help me in my deliberations in choosing the chief.” Orme said. 

“Hiring a police chief is the most important hiring decision the city manager will make,” Mayor Ann Schwab said, saying she was pleased that “a wide perspective of the community” was considered in the interview process. 

Let’s face it – Orme runs our town, council just sits there waving their hankies. This takes all the pressure off council at election time, and Orme isn’t elected, he does not have to answer to the citizens. They protect each other, and to hell with the public.

Interesting comments from readers

21 Jun

I get comments from people that deserve another look sometimes.

Yvonne asked me what I think about Newsom’s mask order and “other dirty deeds.” Thanks Yvonne, a quick search led me to some answers to questions I already had, and then more questions.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-20/gavin-newsom-n95-masks-byd-chinese-company-california-legislature

The question it answered for me is how California went from a $5.6 billion budget surplus to a $54 billion deficit just over the span of about three months of shut-down. Remember folks, we’re talking BILLIONS here. I don’t think most people could count to a billion in three months, but here Gavin Newsom went through $60 billion plus faster than prune juice through the guts of an 80 year old man. A billion off to China for substandard COVID masks, sheesh, I’d hate to see the governor’s credit card bill.

https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2020/05/07/california-faces-54b-budget-deficit-1282926

Legislators are asking Newsom’s staff for the details of the deal, but they won’t tell. Furthermore, the KN95 masks manufactured by the Chinese are not exactly top rated. In April the FDA updated their recommendations, “limiting the use of certain KN95 masks as suitable NIOSH alternatives in a healthcare setting…” The reason is that these masks have the over the ear straps instead of the tighter fitting around the head straps.

So, Newsom spent a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) on masks that are not the first choice of the FDA, and then won’t tell us the details of the deal.

I’m not sure how to feel about that. I’m still processing the new order that we all have to wear masks. I’ve read all the recommendations, and the N95’s are the only ones I would trust if I were truly afraid of this disease or thought I was in danger of spreading it. In fact, if I believed that, I would stay home. But I don’t believe it. I think this order is more about controlling people than controlling any disease. I will wear a bandana around my face when required to get into a food store, but I can shop online without a mask and that’s going to stick.

I got a comment from Robyn, who took offense to my use of the phrase “bum camp” to describe a place where people who do not contribute anything to society sleep, defecate, urinate, and accumulate large piles of trash, despite laws to the contrary.

I was appreciating this page until I read your term ‘bum camps.’ That’s horrendously insensitive towards human beings. Poverty is not a crime. Stigmatizing our most impoverished only fuels crimes against them.

I think it’s horrendously insensitive to trash the park and other public spaces that are supposed to be for all of us. Transients stigmatize themselves – their stigmata is their absolute refusal to comply with norms the rest of us have agreed to live by. Like, don’t shit and leave garbage on the ground next to a water way. Don’t leave needles on children’s playgrounds. Don’t set up camp in my neighborhood and then creep up to my house in the middle of the night to steal my catalytic converter or rout out my recycling bins.

Crimes against them? The only crimes I hear about against the transient population are assaults and robberies perpetrated by other transients.

Somehow she relates all this to racial injustice and police brutality.

By the way, a 1 or .5 percent sales tax, which is a highly contentious issue for so many people of privilege, is not the issue at hand nationally or globally. Racial justice and police brutality is. It would’ve been nice to see something about that here. Absence is silence, which is complicity with racism and white supremacy. But your “bum camp” comment already indicated your stance.

Here this nice lady is telling me what I’m supposed to talk about on my blog. Do I go to her house and tell her what to write in her diary? She tells me I’m racist because I want to discuss what’s on my mind. I’m a white supremist, because I don’t like people shitting on the ground in the park? Where does she get that?

It’s not okay for me to talk about a tax on “Chico Taxpayers Association” but it’s okay for her to tell me my concerns are not important because my skin’s not the right color – okay Robyn, I get it. When will these people learn how NOT to start a conversation?

Joe sent me some good comments related to the current unrest.

Is defunding police how streets are repaved? Don’t think so.

Good question. From what I understand, these people are not calling for the elimination of police services, but want a portion of the public safety budget to go to other agencies, unspecified. I don’t think the protesters understand how public agencies budget money. They don’t see how much money is poured into these public agencies – the Butte County Behavioral Health Department, for example, gets almost $100 million a year, but we still have old, mentally ill people and drug addicts dying on the streets, and we have a problem with police who don’t know how to handle either. The protesters need to come up with more creative answers than “throw money at it!”

Like Joe says, these agencies just use this angst as the basis for tax measure after tax measure, threatening to cut services if they don’t get more money, more money, more money. “Council’s dog/pony show, sales tax 101, promotes an immoral, unfeasible and regressive grab for people’s money, regardless of timing. “ Yeah, people are hurting right now, including local businesses – hardly a time to encourage people to shop less or shop online.

Here Joe suggests a harsher course than I’ve suggested so far, but I agree when he says, “California Rule be damned.

Best course of action: ALL city workers take a 50% pay cut and totally fund their retirement. California Rule be damned. Money would then be there to REPAVE the streets and address homelessness, lighting and crime.

The California Rule is a blatant taking. It’s like having some bum walk right in your front door and stuff his mangy fist in your cookie jar, take all your cookies, and then declare you have to buy more. The CA Rule says, point blank – the pension deficit will be paid before anything else. That’s what’s happened to our public programs, our streets, our park, The California Rule.

According to Joe Matthews in Zoccalo, “The California Rule is the misleading moniker we’ve given to our most troublesome legal precedent: public employees are entitled to whatever pension benefits were in place when they started work.” Matthews adds, “By requiring ever-escalating retirement benefits that force cuts in public services, the California Rule has effectively made a lie out of every significant guarantee in the state constitution, from balanced budgets to speedy trials.

In other states, Matthews says, “only pension benefits already earned by actual work are protected. California is one of only 12 states that have protected the right to earn future pension benefits for work not yet performed.”

 Joe expresses the frustration I feel, especially when I talk to a person like Robyn. “What’s a citizen like me to do? I don’t protest, pillage, rape, burn or kill!

Robyn, I wonder if you have an answer for Joe? Let him eat chocolate, you say?

Business hostile city management to hear appeal of Simplicity Village

19 Sep

It’s always interesting to see the search terms by which people find their way to this blog. For about a week now the Yuba County sales tax lawsuit has been at the top of the pile:

yuba county sales tax 1% increase by voters,

homeless in ca chico 2019,

homelessness problem chico,

homelessness chico,

kamala harris corrupt

But this week “homeless” related terms are moving in on the number 1 spot, bumping out the perennial favorite, “kamala harris corrupt”  

When my husband and I went out to run errands the other morning, we noticed the tents had sprung up again at “Devil’s Triangle,” the median next to Little Chico Creek at Mulberry Street. As we made our way out to 20th Street we saw the army of zombies leaving various shelters in the neighborhood, some of them carrying trash bags bloated full of aluminum and plastic stolen from recycling bins. Some pulled mounds of crap in their sagging bike carts. One man walked along behind a stolen shopping cart full of what looked like rags and unrelated objects routed out of garbage cans.

A man stood unabashed, panhandling at the door of Food Maxx. We’ve noticed a lot of stores have finally developed no tolerance policies toward panhandling, but transients still try to slip in unnoticed, walk up to you in the parking lot as if asking for directions, and hit you up.  We walk past these people stone faced. I don’t want to hear their stories, I got stories of my own that keep me awake at night. Spare money? Are you  fucking kidding me? Why would I be shopping at Food Maxx if I had money to hand out on the corner?

Next stop Payless Building Supply to replace some warped and broken old fence boards at one of our rentals. Payless has helped us keep our rental expenses down with low-cost building materials. We do our own work to save money, we know if our rentals are too expensive we won’t be able to find tenants. For years we’ve enjoyed a good relationship with PBS, who also offer credit so you can spread out your payments on big enterprises. This has really helped when we’ve bought old crappers that needed a lot of work before they were even habitable.

PBS owner Frank Solinsky notified us a few months ago that he was appealing a City of Chico decision to place a tiny house “Simplicity Village” on the lot adjacent to the PBS yard. For years that lot has been a problem because the city has turned a blind eye to illegal camping and other activities there. We’ve seen the shanties they’ve built with lumber and supplies stolen from the yard, just a hop over the fence and back. Solinsky has had to add security measures to the cost of our building materials, and I resent that.

I also resent this group not wanting to comply with the building code, or pay the ridiculous fees put not only on developers but any homeowner who wants to do anything to their property, even fix a leaking roof. I stood in the county permits line once behind a lady as she was told she would have to pay 100’s of dollars in permit fees to replace the rotting wooden steps off her kitchen door. 

Chico Housing Action Team, the group that is trying to force the tiny village onto a lot with no plumbing, no infrastructure like sidewalks, and against the city building code. They want put people in sheds with no plumbing, heat or air conditioning. They want a central toilet, but have not explained who will pay to have that facility hooked up to city sewer. They want to be excepted from just about every law on the books.

They say the residents will be carefully vetted, and held to rules of behavior. But there will be no onsite supervision, this group of otherwise dysfunctional transients will be “policing themselves”. I think Solinsky is right to be alarmed with this situation.

When the city council first permitted this pending train wreck, Solinsky hired lawyer Rob Berry of Chico First to bring an appeal before council.  You have to pay to file an appeal, so you have to have money to throw away. It used to be $180, and there was a low-income waiver, but years ago, former council member Andy Holcombe, outraged because our neighbors successfully appealed a decision in our neighborhood,  vindictively went about getting rid of the low-income waiver. It never came to council, he did it “administerially”  Holcombe couldn’t believe that a homeowner would be low-income, yet he champions low-income housing projects like CHIPS and Habitat for Humanity. The hypocrisy in this town is just overwhelming.

Solinsky is a small business owner, and it’s the nickel and dime crap that brings down a small business. As customers walk away  because they don’t like what’s going on in the neighborhood – or paying for it in the price of their goods –  he’s finding himself fighting for his livelihood.

So when Council (scuse me, that was the Planning Commission) rejected his first appeal, he decided to bring it back. I don’t know the process, but I’m wondering if there is a point where he will just sue the city. Anyhoo, council has agendized a special meeting to hear his appeal, on September 24, 6 pm. I don’t know why they need to have a special meeting instead of bringing it up on a regular agenda.

Council will also be discussing Vice Mayor Brown’s recent request to waive user fees for Chico State’s “Lame Debate,” which sucks – everybody else has to pay to use City Hall or City Plaza, just like we’d have to pay to use any facility at Chico State. Brown, Schwab and Morgan are employees of Chico State, which seems like inappropriate influence.

And, of course, there’s a closed session item – “conference with legal counsel” over “anticipated litigation”. Oh, gee, is somebody suing the City of Chico, again?

This special meeting deserves some special attention. Here’s the agenda:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=688

 

 

 

Chico Area Recreation District lawyer tells the board what $taff wants them to hear – don’t buy it

24 Jul

I don’t know how many of you read the Chico Enterprise Record, but I only recently  found out – in a town of over 85,000 the ER has a circulation of less than 10,000.  Wow, that was a shock – especially since that would include readers all over Butte, Glenn, and other nearby counties. I grew up reading the ER out in Glenn County, most people had a subscription to both the Sacramento Bee and the ER.  As Chico’s population has almost tripled since my childhood, you’d think the ER would have at least 50,000 subscribers. 

10,000? And that includes people who only subscribe to the Sunday paper.  But, it’s the local daily, so I continue to read it, and send letters to the editor.  It’s better than nothing, and I mean that quite literally.

So yes, I saw the article ER shill Laura Urseny wrote about  a letter I had written to the CARD board. I told them I believe they are spending taxpayer money illegally to promote a tax measure.   District General Manager Ann Willmann had put my letter on the July 18 agenda for discussion, and also asked the district lawyer, Jeff Carter, for his opinion. That’s all a lawyer can give you, his opinion. 

Urseny reported, as I would expect, “Thursday night, CARD attorney Jeff Carter said outside the board meeting that CARD has not violated rules in dealing with EMC because it was a survey of the community and nothing more. The survey did question whether citizens would support any kind of revenue measure.”

Of course Carter says they haven’t done anything illegal – for one thing, they haven’t, yet. That’s correct – after I wrote the letter I finally received a response from Howard Jarvis Association counsel Tim Bittle, who said, “Unfortunately, it is not illegal.  Government Code section 54964 provides, ‘An officer, employee, or consultant of a local agency may not expend or authorize the expenditure of any of the funds of the local agency to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure.’ “

He explained, ” Notice two things about that statute. First, it contemplates that the local agency may lawfully hire a ‘consultant.’ Second, the statute cannot be violated before the existence of ‘a ballot measure.’”

Apparently, they can’t violate the law until they have actually written and handed the measure over to the county clerk. But, as soon as that measure is given approval and a ballot title, the district is not allowed to spend any more money on it.

Well, what’s “legal” isn’t always “right”, and I still think this is an important detail when considering passage of a revenue measure. The district couldn’t get support from the citizens, who would have had to put it on the ballot by way of petition, which would have meant there was some support in the community. But that’s not what happened. So CARD has spent over a hundred thousand in taxpayer money putting this measure on the ballot themselves, that is a fact.

They’ve hired consultant after consultant – EMC has been hired twice. The district originally tried to get Aqua Jets swim team to front this measure – for a new “aquatic center.” Then they got a group called Every Body Healthy Body to propose a “megacility” sports center south of town. But a recent survey done by EMC blew up in their faces. It seems the 400 respondents were more concerned about transients camping on their kids’ soccer fields and stealing their wallets, laptops and cell phones from the dugout at ball games. 

According to a report from Ch 7 news,

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/CARD-survey-shows-park-safety-a-top-concern–510232051.html

Rather than new facilities, the majority of people said they just want to feel safe.”

Here’s an interesting quote from that story, because this is what I have seen for over two years now –  “CARD is working on what to put into a possible tax measure.”  They are ready to promise us anything to get us to raise our own taxes.

This is exactly what EMC has been hired to do by  both CARD and the city of Chico – figure out what to tell people to get them to increase their own taxes. EMC blatantly claims to “offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations and ballot measures succeed.” 

Their questions lead the respondents to think the sky is the limit if they pass a tax on themselves.  Tom Lando’s 2012 survey offered a sports stadium, CARD has offered various sports facilities – what they don’t tell us publicly is they are getting deeper into pension deficit because employees aren’t paying nearly enough to support their own demands for these unsustainable pensions. 

You have to read the budgets to see that CARD employees are paying less than 10% for pensions of 70% of their highest year’s salary. General Manager Ann Willman makes roughly $110,000 a year, paying less than $10,000 to  receive a $70,000/year pension for the rest of her life. That is unsustainable unless you get a gullible, lazy and poorly educated public to agree to pay for it. 

In my letter below I said Willmann pays less than $2,000, because that’s what she’s been paying, as a “classic member” of CalPERS. Reading her latest budget message, I see she’s been asked to pay 6% by next year, eventually 7%. Let me be  the first to say, “Big Fucking Whoopee Mrs. Potato Head.” 

These people are like chiggers – they attach themselves to taxpayers, and then they suck you dry, providing you no benefit whatsoever.  

I am not going to let them lie their way to the bank this time, so I wrote the following letter and sent it to the ER yesterday. Let them know how you feel about this grab – maybe you can convince  them to stop spending money on this endeavor, and start using those funds for proper upkeep of facilities we’ve entrusted to them. 

I beg to differ with Chico Area Recreation District attorney Jeff Carter. CARD’s consultant is up to more than a simple survey.  Read EMC’s claims at their website – “Great campaigns don’t just happen. That’s why we offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations and ballot measures succeed.”

CARD has spent over $100,000 on consultants to help them push a tax measure, money that would have been better spent maintaining now closed Shapiro Pool.

In 2017, a survey concluded there was not enough support for the proposed aquatic center to go forward with a tax measure. The most recent survey showed the majority of the 400 respondents are more concerned with safety and lack of maintenance at the facilities CARD already operates.

In 2015 a consultant hired by CARD told them they could bring long-neglected Shapiro Pool back up to code with about $500,000 in repairs. For instance, the filter pump had not been working for years, and the diving board had  been torn out, leaving obvious trip hazards. Instead of doing the necessary repairs to keep the popular facility open, CARD made a $400,000 “side fund” payment toward their pension deficit.

CARD gets over $3,000,000 in property and vehicle taxes, another $2,000,000 in RDA funding. They spend $5,700,000 on salaries, benefits and pensions. Management pays less than 10% toward their own pensions, the manager paying less than $2,000 a year toward 70% of her $100,000+ salary in retirement.

 Join Chico Taxpayers in saying NO to self-service, greed and mismanagement.

Throw the bums out!

5 Jun

Chico Area Recreation District (CARD) recently hired another consultant to run yet another survey trying to get the voters to tax themselves. As usual, the survey was leading and suggestive – but here’s something new – it didn’t produce the results they were looking for. Instead of a fancy new sports complex, the respondents made it clear they want their existing parks cleaned up and properly maintained and they want the transient camps gone. 

I mentioned in a previous post, if you read the comments on various social media sites, or if you happened to read former CARD board member Terry Cleland’s recent letter to the Enterprise Record, you hear complaints of transient camps at soccer fields, transients stealing from snack bars and even personal  belongings from the participants. 

When my son played travel sports, we found ourselves in towns all over California, like Oakland. The manager at the facility in Oakland told us to park and stay within two blocks of the facility, and to report “anything weird…”  Is that what’s happening to Chico? 

But Cleland’s letter sounded a little too in line with suggestions the CARD consultants have made – every  consultant they’ve had has told them, get members of the public to speak for you. As a former CARD board member and a candidate for the board in the recent election, Cleland would be the perfect dupe to put their tax proposal out there, as if it came from the mouths of babes.  Well, here’s my response – let’s talk about a real solution to the transient problem – throw the bums out!

Chico Area Recreation District wants a new tax to provide security at playgrounds. Terry Cleland detailed the problem in his letter, and the Editor has written of families who are moving out of Chico because of this situation.  We have a serious criminal transient problem in our city.

Here’s why.  78% of the nearly $74,000,000 Butte County Behavioral Health budget comes from “intergovernmental revenues” –  money received from other cities and counties to “provide beds” for their mentally ill and drug addicted transients. 

In 2016 BCBH director Dorian Kittrell told me the county received $550 a day for each “client” they took in from cities and counties all over California that do not offer services. He explained in a budget memo that these “intergovernmental transfers” are the main source of funding for BCBH. Transfer patients are held for 45 days, and then released at their own recognizance from either the Chico or Oroville BCBH facility. Many are given prescription medication. They are offered rides to various shelters, but are not required to enroll in any program.

This is a legal form of getting rid of transients – just send them to a mental health facility in another town. Unfortunately, Chico has become that other town.

Our once incredible Bidwell Park, CARD playgrounds, retail areas, the college district, and lower income neighborhoods, are becoming overburdened by this practice of human dumping. We don’t need new taxes or more services, we need to tell our county supervisors loud and clear – stop the transfers.

CARD consultant admits a tax measure might not succeed, will take lots of “education”

29 May

Chico Area Recreation District has hired a consultant, EMC, of Oakland, to help them put a new  tax measure on the 2020 spring ballot. EMC recently conducted a survey of 405 district “likely voters” (meaning, picked and chosen)  and brought the following conclusions to the CARD board at their May meeting.

Click to access Survey+Results+Presentation.pdf

“A parcel tax measure may be feasible for the March 2020 ballot but a bond measure would be a significant challenge.” Furthermore, “Initial support for a parcel tax for local parks and recreation is near the two thirds threshold needed to pass.”

Keep that word “initial” in mind, I’ll get back to that.

“Given the survey findings and the current community climate following the Camp Fire, we recommend that CARD begin an extensive public outreach and engagement effort before placing a measure on the ballot. Informational communications are essential to the community’s understanding of the need for revenue, particularly funds to maintain park programs and safety.”

You may have read that the majority of survey respondents indicated “public safety/safe parks and playgrounds” as their main concern. I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media from disgruntled parents – a very common complaint is the play fields their kids’ sports  teams use are becoming illegal campsites, littered with trash, poop, and used needles. CARD has also complained about criminal activity and vandalism at various playgrounds, such as broken glass littering the skate park – bottles and trash thrown over the security fence after closing. 

In order of importance, survey respondents ranked “Reducing crime and homelessness in parks, providing clean, safe parks and recreational programs, and upgrading park safety features would be important components of a parcel tax measure.”  A graph on page 6 makes it very clear – of topics “Homelessness, Public safety, Housing, Street and roads, Public education, Jobs and the economy, Parks and recreation,” 63% of respondents ranked “Homelessness” (whatever that means…) as a “very high priority“, while only 22% ranked “Parks and recreation” as same.

Looking at that list, I only see one category that has anything to do with CARD, “Parks and recreation,” so, if you believe in the results of a survey of less than 5% of the population, carefully chosen to reflect the desired results, you would think very few people in this town give a rat’s patoot about CARD. Doing the math, I find that figure to be 89 people, which is a little more than 1% of the total population of Chico.

There’s doublespeak in this report. They start off saying there’s enough support to pass this tax, but here they reveal it will really take some convincing. They also remind the board, such a campaign needs to be “privately funded“. I love the words, “make sure the voters understand…” 

A parcel tax measure would be vulnerable to opposition. Therefore, a successful measure would likely require a well-coordinated, privately funded outreach effort to ensure that voters understand how additional funding would reduce crime and homelessness in parks, provide clean, safe parks and recreation for local residents, and help maintain the Chico area as a desirable place to live, work and raise a family.”

And there you see them listing the priorities respondents chose from their carefully worded survey options, using what the people want to hear, just like Joseph Goebbels. That’s exactly the intention of these surveys – they aren’t out to get your true opinion, they’re out to get you to say what they want, and believe it’s your own idea.

What’s the anecdote to brain washing? 

These are good …

but the truth will set us free! On page 12 of the power point presentation, there’s a graph showing that initial support dropped off as respondents were given “information.” Parcel tax support went from 67% to 59% over the course of the interview, opposition went from 36% to 44%. It shows similar results for a bond. 

The survey questions are provided in the report, give it a read, see how they twist the “information” their way. On page 9, for example, they lead us to believe there would be ” NO money for salaries.”

That is true for a bond, which is restricted to use for facilities, not “operating costs (salaries and benefits)” But a parcel tax is different – they can spend the proceeds of a parcel tax any way they want. 

And here’s the thing – since 2013, CARD’s pension liability has almost doubled. Next post I’ll talk about WHY, and how much money has been diverted from “provid[ing] clean, safe parks and recreation for local residents, and help[ing] maintain the Chico area as a desirable place to live, work and raise a family”  toward staving off the pension tsunami.

 

A lot of our problems in Chico and Butte County could be solved with term limits on elected officers

11 Sep

I’ve been receiving interesting comments at the “Join Us” page.  I couldn’t ignore the common thread in these comments.  People are questioning the management of Butte County Behavioral Health and Chico Police Department. Scott Rushing, the father of Tyler Rushing, who was shot in an encounter with Chico PD, points a finger at our District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who has ruled each and every shooting by Chico PD as “justified,” resulting in a lot of criticism and a number of lawsuits against the city of Chico.

Mary, who says “ I have experience being on both sides of the equation. I worked for the State hospital system and bcbh,” confirms what I’ve seen – excessive bureaucrat salaries. She says other counties are doing a better job for less money.

“The plain truth is that BCBH facilities employees sit back in their cozy offices, collecting six figure salaries, socializing and planning their own week end retreats and seminars. For the many state tax millions spent on local centers, there isnt much effectiveness. There aren’t any services available for severely mentally ill. The money spent on these inflated salaries could be used to create crisis houses for acute cases. San Diego County has these facilities all over their county. They cost about 1/5 per bed per day of what the full fledged inpatient facilities costs. Each person gets therapy, a visit with a psychiatrist and a social worker planning their release. 21 days is the max stay. And it is intensive and effective. Patients do cleaning and cooking and have chores.”

I agree with her summation.

“We need a new system. Our current BCBH leadership seems to be a mutual admiration society who protect and promote one another yet are living in a bubble supported by way too many mis-spent funds.”

She’s right, go to a meeting sometime, that’s exactly what I’ve seen. It’s literally maddening listening to these idiots bloat about their private life and making crude jokes about what’s happening to Chico. When I complained to Supervisor Maureen “Don’t Let the Screendoor Hit You On the Ass” Kirk about an entrenched homeless camp less than a mile from her own house, she joked about moving to a Del Webb Retirement Village. She also denied that the county takes transfers for the money – $550 a day for a minimum 45 day hold – what an idiot she is. I’m glad to see her go, but I believe her anointed successor Tami Ritter will be even worse. Ritter was a short-term manager of Torres Shelter, but was asked to leave by the board.  I can’t believe Kirk endorsed her, maybe it is time for Maureen to spend a few days in the PUFF. 

This breakdown in behavioral health services, as well as poor management of local shelters, has made for more stress on the police department, I’ll admit that. I get around Chico on my bicycle, I know what the cops have to deal with.  But instead of going to the board of supervisors and asking for an end to the transfers that bring these criminals to Butte County/Chico, the police department meets the problem with excessive force and demands for more funding. They’ve just announced an end to the “Street Crimes Unit,” saying they don’t have enough officers to split between the college campus and the rest of town. They’ve made this threat, in one form or another, through chief after chief – give us more money or we won’t do our jobs…

There doesn’t seem to be any rational, middle ground at Chico PD. Either they ignore the problem, the city of Chico excusing them with “4th and 14th Amendment Rights”, or they plow right in and kill somebody. And Scott Rushing is right – District Attorney Mike Ramsey never holds them accountable for their fatally poor judgement.

As Rushing points out, this has resulted in lawsuits that have cost the city a lot of money. Just tragic waste.

 “Juanita Sumner points out the bureaucracy and increased cost, with little benefit, to civilians in need of mental health services. There are other inefficient departments in Butte County.  Taxpayers are also getting ripped off by the District Attorney Michael Ramsey and law enforcement leadership in your county. There are currently three active lawsuits against the Chico Police Department for lethal officer involved shootings. There is one active investigation by the Department of Justice, Attorney General’s office into the officer involved shooting of Tyler Rushing in Chico on 7.23.17. There are two active lawsuits against Butte County for excessive use of lethal force. There is a current legal action against former Chico PD sergeant Scott Ruppel for strangling a restrained suspect in the back of his police car just 22 days after firing two bullets into Tyler Rushing. Tax payers need to rise up and demand the resignation of Mr. Ramsey. From my point of view, he has promoted a “shoot first and ask questions later” policy in Butte County. Five civilians have been killed by officers in the past 18 months.Tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours are spent defending the aggressive actions of officers. The taxpayers are getting ripped off.”

We need to get rid of Mike Ramsey, who has been in an elected office for some 20 or more years because it’s hard to find a county resident who is both qualified and willing. When a Sacramento attorney ran against Ramsey people complained he was a carpetbagger, but do you really think anybody from Ramsey’s office is stupid enough to run against him? 

What we need are term limits. Here in the city of Chico we have a  term limits measure on the November ballot. It’s not retroactive, and it’s probably too long – three terms. Current council members, like old goat Ann Schwab, would be allowed to serve three more terms before they are out. Three more terms voting against Sit and Lie ordinances while voting for ordinances that  require homeowners to make major energy retrofits. 

What I would like to see for the county is a measure that would term out the long sitting losers like Ramsey and County Clerk Candy Grubbs. They’ve both been sitting in their jobs for too long, Grubbs has actually been caught using staff for her own private gain. It’s time to open the barn door and let out the flies.