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Don’t be fooled by city’s campaign to raise taxes

2 Oct

When I got home from that Finance Committee meeting last week I took a look at the city’s most recent budget, approved unanimously last June by a city council that had already drank the $staff koolaid. Then I wrote a letter about what I learned to the Enterprise Record.

At the September Finance Committee meeting assistant city manager Chris Constantin reported that Chico’s older neighborhood streets have been neglected in favor of  streets in newer subdivisions. “Money that comes available is steered toward roads that are in better shape, rather than replacing ones that have effectively failed.”

Staff reported $6 million in RDA funding was used to put new streets in the subdivision on Hwy 32 east.  So, the city is borrowing money at a rate of $3 for every $1 spent to build new roads for developers, while we in older neighborhoods will drive over potholes that void the warranty on our tires.

Council and staff want a revenue measure for “street maintenance”, but whose streets are we talking about?

The city already taxes our utility services, for “use of infrastructure”. $6,674,000 in Utility Users Tax added to our PG&E, landline and water bills. $845,000 in franchise fees added to our cable tv bills, $675,000 to PG&E, and another $800,000 to garbage. Another $7,490,000 added to our vehicle license fees. $7,597,000 in property taxes.  Over $2,000,000 a year in gas tax. Shouldn’t  these revenues be directly applied to the streets?

Where does the money go? Well, for example, roughly $2,000,000 of approximately $2,700,000 in annual state gas tax receipts is transferred into the salary and benefits pit known as the General Fund. Staff has also created a special fund to pay down their $180,000,000 pension deficit, council approving a $1,000,000 fund transfer earlier this year. That amount increases annually.

No to revenue increases, yes to more accountability Downtown.

 

 

 

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Why do people ignore a problem until it’s too late to do much about it, then expect to complain? Trash deal has been in the works since 2012 – now people want to bitch about it?

5 Jan

I just got my new 2018 Waste Management bill for three months (32 gallons) of $59.70, up about 55 percent from previous bills of $38.55. I realize there is always a bit of inflation but 55 percent? By chance, did the city hire the negotiator from the Pentagon’s F35 program for the Waste Management contract?

I also read that pot was legal in California in 2018 but our City Council decided that a retail pot store was not appropriate for our fair city. How am I supposed to relieve the anxiety of opening my Waste Management garbage bill? I’m very unhappy with our City Council.

— Geoff Bartels, Chico

You know how I love to say “I told you so.”   

That’s not really true – it drives me nuts, trying to get people to pay attention to an issue when there’s still time to stop the bulldozers, but they give me that same old tired bullshit – I’m sorry, I have a life! Why don’t you get one Juanita?

But of course, later, they  get to whine and complain about it.

Somebody read one of my old posts on the subject yesterday, from 2014. At that time, Joe Matz of Recology was saying rates would triple, and the city was looking at requiring service for everybody. If you wanted to haul your own trash they wanted to inspect your vehicle, etc, which was tantamount to requiring a hauler’s permit.

When Juanita raised her scrawny little fist and said, “If you require service the city will have to provide a low-income subsidy…” 

To which the consultant answered, “She’s right.”  He smiled at me across the room. It wasn’t the consultant’s fault, he was very truthful about the whole thing.

OOO! The bulldozers had to stop and listen! You’ll notice, service is not required under this deal, and you can still take your trash to the dump without a hauler’s permit. Which means, neighbors/relatives/friends can still share cans to save money.

Just think if there was four more Juanitas.  Or at least four more people who went to these meetings and raised a scrawny little fist?

And here’s what I’ll  tell Geoff – read the Waste Management website – you can opt out of yard waste service and save almost $6 bucks a month. My family, who share service with our tenants, also opted for a smaller bin. Our son has moved away to college and our tenants don’t have much trash either – we realized we didn’t need that 96 gallon bin anymore.

Once I made those changes in our account, the rate is still about $5 more per month. No, I’m not happy about that. But I wish people who complain would educate themselves – the real problem at this point is the city wants to use the new revenue to pay down their pension deficit instead of fixing the streets like they said they would. That’s where we need to hit them, and hard.

In fact, public works director Brendon Ottoboni says the road/streets fund is tapped, and they are almost 10 years behind on necessary projects. When developer Bill Webb asked at a recent public meeting how a person could get their street on the projects list, Ottoboni again said there’s no money for fixing any more streets.

thumbnail_20171129_095754

This is the “pedestrian right-of-way” down my street. Every now and then I look in that pothole, make sure there isn’t an old lady or a jogger with a stroller stuck down in there…

Want to have some fun? Write to council member Randy Stone, who recently declared the deal was working cause we have less trucks on the streets.

randall.stone@Chicoca.gov

Really Randy? On Wednesday I have a Recology truck on my street, servicing the “commercial enterprise” known as the Evangelical Free Church. On Thursday my bins  are picked up by Waste Management. On Friday Waste Management picks up the bins on the street that intersects my street. So, I get a minimum of seven trucks a week running up and down the street in front of my house.

How about another picture.

thumbnail_20171129_095932

The asphalt is almost completely separated from the base here.

But here’s another funny fact – my street is not considered a  “feeder” by the city of Chico, because there is no new subdivision on my street, so my street will never be on the “projects” list – ask Ottoboni about that.

brendan.ottoboni@Chicoca.gov

Letters to the editor of a newspaper that reaches less than a third of local residents isn’t going to cut it. A few months ago council member Ann Schwab suggested a complaint line for garbage customers so they wouldn’t have to write to the mayor. Why not write to the mayor?  He approved this deal too.

sean.morgan@Chicoca.gov

Don’t forget the chief engineer – city mangler Mark Orme

mark.orme@Chicoca.gov

If you’re going to complain, make it count. 

 

 

Still think Agenda 21 is a big joke?

30 Oct

I don’t know how many people are aware of our city’s efforts to get “Green”.  For years I tried to cover Chico’s Sustainability Task Force, formed originally by then-Mayor and current city council member Ann Schwab.  When current chair Mark Stemen took over a few years ago, the committee went completely underground, ad hoc, no council members, no staffers to take notes – like former city staffer Mary Fitch once said, these ad hoc committees are just “an end-run around the Brown Act”.  

https://chicotaxpayers.com/?s=sustainability+task+force&submit=Search

A committee member is tasked to take “notes”, which appear every few months on an agenda, after they’ve been abridged and approved by the committee. Read those here:

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

The STF gave us the bag ban. They also passed an ordinance by which we have to put new toilets, new shower heads, new light bulbs and do up to $800 worth of insulation and other weatherization in our house before we can sell it. Read through those agendas and “notes”, see what other short hairs they are grasping for.  But I still had to laugh at this video Dude sent me:

Recently, local developers were told they could pay lower fees for building smaller houses in new urban type neighborhoods.

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20171025/NEWS/171029818

What does the average family want? I don’t know, because the average family was neither invited to nor represented at the meeting, it was just a bunch of developers and suits. Oh yeah, and Ken Fleming, who likes to talk philosophy. Ken’s a nice guy, but he lives on some planet where everybody is on Valium.

They think the smaller houses will get us out of our cars, that’s so funny.  Read the following story and don’t forget to watch the video – note, the woman is driving a Prius – didn’t she see the Audi commercial? 

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-28/prius-driving-ny-legislator-fakes-ptsd-panic-attack-get-out-minor-speeding-ticket-vi

Go on to her campaign speech below – she’s an urban planner! 

The Sustainability Task Force also gave us our trash deal, are you happy with that? Got your postcard, telling you all the things you can be fined for? Not so funny now, is it?

 

Thanks Dude, for sending those videos, and reminding us to keep an eye on the Sustainability Task Force.

Time to mau-mau the flakcatchers – trash deal isn’t rolling out the way they promised

13 Oct

Over the last week or so I’ve noticed people have come to my blog with searches for information about the new garbage franchise deal the city of Chico cut with Waste Management. 

You know, I’ve been bitching about this deal, here and in the newspaper, since 2012. But, as I predicted, General Public – the guy who always has something better to do than pay attention – has not heard a word about it until he got a card from Waste Management about a week ago.

Friends of mine just told me, as if they were the first ones to figure it out – did I know the city had changed their waste hauler without their permission?! 

I watch the agendas, available here:

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

I wish more of you would do same, instead of waiting until the bad stuff happens, and then bitching about it after it’s too late  to do anything.

I also got a card from Recology, my old carrier, with whom I have been, rentals and all, since about 2000, when I told Waste Management to stay the hell off my property.   I had never signed up for Waste Management willingly – they took my account forcibly from a guy named Tom – remember Tom’s Dispose-All? For whatever reason, the county showed Tom the door, and gave all his accounts to WM – then known as Butte County Dispose-All.

This whole story stinks of racketeering and cronyism. Ask Butte County Landfill manager Bill Mannell what trash company he ran before he got the job at Neal Road dump. 

My service from Waste Management was horrible, so I switched to Recology, and I never had a single complaint in 17 years. As soon as Waste Management took over two weeks ago, I had problems. 

I could have set my watch by  Recology – they came at almost exactly the same time every week. Especially the garbage truck – every Friday, 11:27 am. At that time I knew my recycling bin had already been emptied and I could go out and get my cans off the street. I also knew I didn’t have to leave my cans out the night before because Recology never came to my house before 7am, I had plenty of time to  take the cans out in the morning.

Why is this important? Well I found out yesterday, when I came home from the grocery store at exactly 2pm to find a  transient, at least 4 full drawstring waste bags  hanging from his shoulders, making a move on my still-full recycling bin.

He had just finished taking stuff out of my neighbor’s bin. I pulled my car alongside my can and told him to “get the fuck out of there NOW!”  He immediately put his hands up and walked.  Smart man – I had my hand on that can of Whoop-Ass, and I was about to open it on him. I’m from Glenn County, where people don’t let their mouth write a check their ass can’t cash.

About 40 minutes later, the WM truck showed up and emptied my bin. 

I had a restless night, wondering what kind of town this was getting tobe. So, this morning I wrote a note to Ryan West at Waste Management – that’s rwest1@wm.com.  I cc’d city manager Mark Orme and my just-for-now county supervisor Maureen “I’m moving to a Del Webb retirement community” Kirk:

Hi Ryan,
 

Yesterday we put our bins out by 6am as instructed by our new hauler, but when I came home from a trip to the store at exactly 2pm yesterday I found my recycling bin had not yet been picked up. And here’s just what I’ve predicted – as I pulled along the street toward my driveway a man came along with at least 4 full drawstring bags over his shoulders, went through my neighbor’s recycling bin pulling items out, and then  walked over to my bin and started to raise the lid.  I pulled my car alongside the bin and told him to “get the ‘f’ out of there!” He held his hands out and left.

The recycling truck didn’t show up until after 2:30.

I’m not a paid law enforcement officer, I shouldn’t have to encounter people like that at the end of my driveway.  My husband was worried that I confronted the guy when I told him about it. He’s afraid this person might have attacked me. My kids  and my tenant’s kids and all my neighbor’s kids play in their front yards – we should not have to worry about people like that in our neighborhood.

I never noticed this kind of brazen behavior in my neighborhood before, and I’m going to lay it on Waste Management.  Recology had both our bins picked up by noon, 1 pm at latest. I’m not willing to accept lesser service because of this deal.  We’ve been told we could expect the same service and more!

I’ll tell you one thing, I won’t be putting my recycling bins out at 6am anymore, and I’ll be cleaning anything of “value” out of them before I put them on the street. I’m going to make sure there’s not so much as a plastic water bottle in there anymore. It’s just an invitation to the bums into our neighborhoods, and then they help themselves to anything that ain’t nailed down. 

Thank you for listening to my complaint, I hope it’s the last. I included Mark and Maureen to keep them up on the bum problem, and because they both advocated for the trash franchises. 

Juanita Sumner

But it doesn’t end there! This morning when  my husband took our dog for the usual walk in the park, he found bins all along the street leading to the park that had been put out for pick-up yesterday morning, but were still full. At exactly 2:38 this afternoon, I heard the trucks picking them up. So, those recycling cans were out there for two days, for the convenience of the little army of the night.

When I heard the trucks, I took out my cell phone (because I was outside doing chores in my tenant’s yard) and I wrote them another note.

Furthermore,  trash and recycling bins left out [in my neighborhood] for collection yesterday morning where still full this morning and I just saw the WM truck coming through to get the recycling bins 5 minutes ago at 2:38. 
 
This is not acceptable. 
Juanita Sumner
 

I’m sorry – am I a harpy? Well that’s what it takes. 

Our public employees have taken our fair market system and played it like a fiddle for their own personal gain. Management promised us they’d use the franchise money to fix the streets, but you saw how quickly city manager Mark Orme tried to talk council into using the money to pay down the pension deficit.  Listen – that didn’t happen because many of you squealed about it, and there’s an election coming next year. 

They promised us we’d get all kinds of new services – according to the WM website, all that extra stuff also costs extra.

They threaten us with fines if our can lids are “propped open” – you mean, left open by bums rifling through for valuables while our cans sit in the street for 12 – 48 hours, waiting for pick-up?

They say we have to pay for damaged cans – given the way the trucks handle the bins, and then leave them standing halfway out in the street? 

They say we are responsible for graffiti on the cans, when we are expected to leave them out before 6 am without any assurance they’ll be picked up quickly?

So, yeah, we’re allowed to complain, please do so. 

 

 

 

Oroville council, cops, take 10 percent salary cuts in face of bankruptcy – meanwhile, raises all around for Chico management!

6 Oct

We were just talking about Oroville’s financial problems  – here’s their action plan:

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20171005/oroville-city-council-takes-voluntary-10-percent-pay-cut

As you know, Chico City Council just approved sweet new raises for city management, more than enough to cover their slightly increased PERS shares. With over $180 million in unfunded pension liabilities, the city’s mandated extra “side fund” payments are now over $500,000 a year and expected to increase to $1.5 million within the next couple of years. And come on – at that  rate, we’ll never get rid of the pension bomb.  

Did you know our city council get salaries? Last I heard, their salaries are roughly the same as reported for O-ville, although, I think, a little more. In the article, it says Oroville councilors can also opt for a health benefits package – in Chico, those packages have cost anywhere between $8,000/year and $21,000/year. When I last checked, Ann Schwab and Mark Sorensen were taking the most expensive packages available. Here’s the scam – they pay 2 percent of their council salaries – less than $1,000 a year, do the math – for these packages. 

What kind of package do you have? How much do you pay for it? 

In Hemet, which was left in ashes by Brian Nakamura, Mark Orme, and Chris Constantin, the local Taxpayers Association put an ordinance on the 2010 ballot that ended health benefits for city council members. The voters passed it with over 75% of the vote. It cost the HTA about $7,000 to float two ordinances – the second, term limits for city councilors, also flew through with about 75% of the vote.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2014/04/19/hemet-taxpayers-association-eliminated-health-benefits-for-council-members-and-instituted-term-limits/

The city shall not pay for, fund, or otherwise contribute to, the premiums, charges, fees or other costs of health benefits made available by the city to elected city officials either during their term or after their term of office.

Just something to think about, as the city of Chico plunges further into debt and continues to cut services, cut services, cut services…

 

 

City has no financial emergency policy, $taff suggests a policy for revenue measures

25 Sep

The report I got is not cut-and-pastable, you can read it for yourself here.

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket-9-27-17.pdf

I’ve again asked the city clerk’s office to send me a cut-and-pastable copy, there’s stuff in this report that needs to be discussed publicly. 

Those of us who paid attention watched council first deny and then flub their way through near-bankruptcy.  They hired an out-of-town gun to “fix” things, he gutted $taff and walked away having established unprecedented salaries for management and a policy that allowed management to pay less than 10 percent of their own pensions.

So yeah, we need a emergency plan, but what I see here is a plan to pay down their pensions. 

“pay down scheduled debt payments…” 

The city’s biggest debt schedule is the $185 million-plus they owe on the pensions. $taff is currently paying $500,000/year on that debt, but payments will go up to $1.5 million within the next few years. 

How will they find the money?

“This policy authorizes the city manager…to investigate…enhanced revenue sources…including…tax increase proposals…”

I don’t have time to re-type the whole report, and our $100,000-plus clerk $taff screwed up sending me the report – as I’ve established with Presson and Brinkley, the reports are supposed to be loaded in such a way that they cut-and-paste, but Stina Cooley, recently promoted to the position, apparently does not know this. Or is just trying to put one over, I don’t know. 

Read it for yourself. 

UPDATE: Sorry to be so testy when I posted the above from my phone, but I get so sick and tired of $taff. Stina Cooley has been with the city for a while now, recently took on some clerk duties, and ignored me when I asked her to resend the reports in “cut-and-paste” format. 

I know people don’t hit the links – Word Press puts eyes in the back of my head. I know a lot of people read the posts without hitting the links, and I use cut-and-paste to quote sections of the reports so they will see, in exactly so many words, what $taff is up to. 

So today I resent my request, and done as I should have done in the first place – cc’d Cooley’s supervisor Dani Rogers. I cc’d Mark Orme because I want to keep him abreast of his $taff’s performance. 

And of course Rogers responded very quickly that the reports would be converted to text, and then she sent me the link. 

These people get paid a lot of money to have some old landlady tell them how to do their job. 

Time to ring their phones “off the hook” about the trash deal – city manager’s office, (530) 896 – 7200. Ask them why this rate increase wasn’t handled like PG&E and Cal Water rate increases.

11 Sep

I followed the advice of my fellows, Jim and Bob, and wrote the following e-mail to City Mangler Mark Orme and my 3rd District Supervisor Maureen Kirk, and cc’d city attorney Vince Ewing cause I have some questions of a legal nature. 

Good Monday Morning Mr. Orme,   Supervisor Kirk, and Mr. Ewing,

Have either of you seen this Chicoosity Facebook page? (linked  below) Scroll down to the garbage franchise conversation.

Like I told both of you, the public needed to be better informed of this city trash deal, given the lesson that should have been learned when the county rolled their deal out.  Remember what Mr. Hahn said – “phones rang off the hook with complaints for two weeks…”  I see people are just as mad about the city deal – wait until they get their new bills!

Something I realized recently – when PG&E and Cal Water raise rates, they put notices in their bills, a year ahead, and there are public hearings.  Why wasn’t that done with this trash deal? Why didn’t Recology or Waste Management make any attempt to notice customers more than two weeks ahead of roll-out? I just got my postcard on Friday (9/8/17). Why didn’t the city notice customers and hold public hearings?

Those are not  rhetorical questions, so I cc’d Mr. Ewing, maybe he can answer. 

Here’s the link to that facebook page – thanks, at your convenience, for an answer to my questions.  — Juanita Sumner

https://www.facebook.com/groups/chicoosity/

As I was reading that over, I realized, people called the county. You can reach city manager Mark Orme’s office at (530) 896 – 7200.  Be really polite, his underlings don’t get paid as much as he does. He won’t answer your call, but he’ll know about it. 

Make those phone lines dance People!