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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!

 

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Not sure what happened with the trash tax, but it looks like the money will be going to the roads. Or something.

9 Sep

I’ve been busy lately but I’ve been trying to keep an ear to the trash tax discussion. You may have seen my letter in the Enterprise Record recently:

Next week Chico city council will discuss how the trash tax will be spent. While they promised to fix the streets with the new revenue, staff has listed “Priority 1” as “Fixed cost increases, such as built-in contract escalators, benefit increases outside City control including CalPERS pension contributions”. 

I am quoting directly from the staff report, available at the city website, with the city council agenda for September 5, 2017. 

“Priority 2:  Funding significant long-term liabilities, and replenishing General Fund and Emergency Reserve, Workers Compensation, General Liability, and Compensated Absences funds to established targets”  Employee costs, and money into the General Fund, which can be spent without the restrictions placed on other funds. 

“Priority 3:  Replenishing internal service funds, such as Vehicle Replacement, Building Maintenance” So, staff get new cars and upgrades in their office buildings?

Finally we get to “Priority 4: Discretionary expenditures and negotiable items.”  That would be, fixing city streets, cleaning up Bidwell Park, and dealing with increasing crime? Negotiable? As usual, public service is the lowest priority for staff. 

Let’s call this “franchise fee” what it is: The Big Lie

And get ready – next they will come at you by way of your toilet – sewer fees are going up, and so are septage pumping fees. All to pay down the pension and benefits liabilities.

David Little wrote a similar, but nicer editorial, we agreed – $taff told us this money would go to fixing the streets, and now they try to pull a bait-and-switch, trying to spend it on their own pensions. That’s called “fraud” and it’s illegal, at least in the private sector.

So, no wonder city mangler Mark Orme was just a little defensive in his opening remarks, saying there were other options, mentioning what was said in the newspaper – hey, Mister, I quoted from the agenda report you approved and signed. Here’s the preceding headers I left out of my letter:

Pursuant to the Council’s Budget Policies, the following [4 “Priorities” listed above] would be followed by staff without Council earmarking.
D.1.a. The City will dedicate new ongoing revenue sources in the following manner and priority·

In fact, road work and maintenance were the last “options” under “Options to Consider” Read the report here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=271&meta_id=56052

Mark Orme needs to go.   Having given and heard numerous reports about our financial situation, Orme still demanded a $9,000 raise to cover his increased pension payment – still less than 10 percent of his total package – still expecting to get 70 percent of over $220,000 in salary in retirement. 

But I was shocked with the conversation that followed. Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge refused Orme’s proposal and made a motion to dedicate the money to road work. I tried to type as I listened.

Morgan: I understand we have our own policy about what to do with new money… a continued discussion about how many trucks were on the road…how much damage that was doing.. no question the roadways are bad…biggest thing we deal with after unfunded pensions…allocate most of not all of that increase into roadways…in the report two line items for road maintenance…that was my initial thought…we could hire we could hire we could hire …. staff has done an incredible job of [lowering costs]…that doesn’t work when it comes to  repaving roadways...[mentions a group that wants a sales tax to fix roads]…

Stone: [admits the streets are bad]  I’m kind of comfortable dedicating for a year some amount…I’m uncomfortable about dedicating this long term, I don’t like to tie our hands…

Sometimes I think Stone should be bound and gagged, but I’ll admit, that’s not very nice. I will say I’m uncomfortable with him having a free hand to the til.

Sorensen: I think any action we take is only good as long as we take it…everything in the budget is up for grabs… my preference would be capital [improvements] … there would be much more grant opportunities [if we had matching funds dedicated].

Ann: things we really need…certainly roads is definitely a need…however we have an opportunity to at least start to pay for the permitting system that would certainly help streamline permitting process [more money for city]  … interpretive program for our park… 3 priorities – roads, permitting, parks.

Coolidge then asked for public comment.  

Sales tax increase advocate Stephanie Taber commented that the “$200,000 – $600,000” expected in the first year of the franchise is inadequate – “what’s that going to do for that $7 million we have missing [$taff indicated roadwork might cost up to $10 million a year, and there’s nothing in the road or capital improvements funds] …you guys have got to grab hold of the fact we haven’t got any money… the thing we need to fix [is that we are] millions of dollars behind in many things we really need…you really need to come up with a long term plan. I am very much in favor of the tax increase, I don’t see any problem whatsoever I think it’s the best thing for our city.  My 2 cents.”

Local businessman Mike Reilly commented that “most or all should go to capital…” with “50 percent toward the roads.” But he also opined that streamlining the permitting system “ is a one time [$250,000] cost and will help immediately.”  He believes it would save the cost of another employee, paying for itself within a couple of years. For this reason Reilly felt the franchise revenue should be “looked at on a yearly basis…but I don’t think we should pay PERS or add salaries…”   Adding police officers was one of the first “options” listed in the $taff report.

Coolidge:  Certainly there’s a long list of things we need…but at the end of the day I recall all our conversations about the franchise agreement…over and over…almost all my colleagues spoke to the fact that they were were doing this because of the impacts the trucks have on the roads and the roads had been neglected…personally I’d like to see it [the franchise revenues] locked up forever…the problem we get into is when funds aren’t locked up...[makes a motion to dedicate the entire amount toward “the roads”]…”for the period of the first year…”

Here I had a problem – for the first year?  Sounds like a trick! Luckily Morgan moved in with a “friendly amendment.” 

Sean: I absolutely agree with the motion..my fear is if we only do it for a year…we’ll be whacking the mole, we never end up getting anything…I would support your motion but I’d rather see it all go into road capital for a period of 5 years.

Then Sorensen tried to address another concern of mine – what fund are we talking about? There seems to be a road fund, a capital improvements fund – I haven’t been to the meetings lately, and they’ve changed everything.

Sorensen: I was going to add, it’s not clear, is it capitol or road maintenance he wants? [if] we can’t lock it in, we could vote to change it in two months…we should take it up as a budget item…

Morgan seems to agree with Sorensen, but poo-poos his concern about the possibility of an overturn of the decision. Morgan said he wanted the money “earmarked” so it wouldn’t “just end up in the General Fund,” where it can be spent with little or no restriction as to purpose. 

So, what’s the legal term here, earmarked? Dedicated? This is never explained fully to the public, and that’s how they get away with moving this money like carnival barkers.

But Morgan opined that any council member(s) who tried to overturn this decision “would have to stand up to the community…”

Ooooo, you’re scarin’ me now!

 

So I don’t really understand the motion they eventually made, I guess I will have to look at it when Her Royal Clerk posts the minutes on the website. They seemed to be saying both the capital and road funds, but they seemed as confused as I was. Presson didn’t read anything back, she just called for the vote. I don’t know if that’s appropriate – it sure doesn’t give anybody a chance to ask about the motion, whether they understand it or not, and I’m telling you, these people are not the sharpest pencils in the box. The clerk has made mistakes before – the most expensive being the motion that first passed for the scrap yard – and the council seem to follow with their noses to her behind without thinking about stuff.

The motion passed with Ory absent, and Schwab and Stone dissenting. 

Loyalton Calif cuts pensions – why can’t Chico do same?

27 Aug

Thanks to Jim for picking up this article, from the Los Angeles Times, about a little town not far from Chico.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-loyalton-calpers-pension-problems-20170806-htmlstory.html

I think we have a similar situation here. Early in the 2000’s, a city council including current county supervisors Maureen Kirk and Larry Wahl, at the behest of then city manager Tom Lando, signed an MOU with city employees, attaching salaries “to revenue increases, but not decreases…”  

Staff then went on a permits binge, permitting development all over town, houses piled into Grandma’s back yard, raising city revenues and salaries along with them. Staff got 14, 19, 22 percent raises over a very short period.  Lando’s own salary went from around $65,000 a year to over $120,000 a year within a very short time. 

When this scam was figured out by the public, they stopped it, but started paying the “employer paid member contribution” –  the city started paying most, even all of the employee’s pension share.

We’ve been screeching about that, so lately they just  raise the employee’s salary to cover their new pension share – they are determined that the taxpayer will foot the bill for these pensions (the following list is from 2012, remember, these people get cost of living increases) :

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

Tom Lando hasn’t been pumping the sales tax increase lately, but I’m sure he’s behind it. Lately, in his position as Chico Area Recreation District Board member, he’s been pushing for a bond on our homes. It doesn’t matter which agency gets the money, as long as they pay their CalPERS deficit with it. 

Loyalton only had four employees – can we do the same thing? I think we can sue the city for the outrageous raises given these pensioneers – spiking – right before they retired, like Lando. But I’m not a lawyer. 

What do you think? 

The new trash deal is going to stink

14 Aug

Tomorrow Chico City Council will finalize the trash deal. I’ve read and commented on it for years now, this latest draft still has a lot of problems.

  • they will require everybody to pay for a yard waste bin
  • if bins are damaged, including graffitti, more than once, the customer is on the hook for the replacement of the bin – no prices included, we have to wait til our bin is damaged to find out
  • no rates published, but Waste Management is allowed to raise our rates at will with the CPI

Right now my family pays about $25 for a 96 gallon bin which we share with our tenants. Nobody would tell me what the new rates would be, but I’ve checked in other towns – we should expect to pay $25 for a 35 gallon bin under the new deal, so the bigger bins will be closer to $35 and $50 a month. Plus the additional whatever for the yard waste bin. Recycling will also be required, but free. 

I’ve howled about this deal, which former mayor Mark Sorensen called a “trash tax.” I don’t think the public will pay attention until they get their new bills. We’ll see what kind of stink rises up over Chico when people find out, trash service will not be mandatory under this  deal, just a lot more expensive!

Hi Council,

I just wanted a few last words before you hit us with  the trash tax.

I won’t pay for a yard waste bin I don’t need. I’ve got rentals, I do my own yard work and hauling, I pay to take the stuff to the green waste facility on Cohasset, so I shouldn’t have to pay for yard waste bins for tenants who don’t do any yard work.   Besides, why should I have to have a third truck stop in front of my property, every week?

Also, they should have to tell us how much these bins cost, UP FRONT, if they are going to require us to replace them when they get damaged/tagged. That also makes the yard waste bin a liability I don’t need.

Waste Management should also have a rate schedule on their website that is good for a year. When I tried to sign up for Waste Management earlier this year, the dispatcher gave me old rates, and told me she had no idea what the rates would be when the franchise takes effect in October. That’s called “bait and switch”.

Thank you  for your anticipated cooperation – Juanita Sumner, Chico


 

City manager Mark Orme, Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin behind the chatter for a sales tax increase

23 Jun

I’ve been trying to engage our city “leaders” regarding the trash tax –  according to City Manager Mark Orme, “the Muni Code Ordinance (which is on Tuesday’s [June 20] Council meeting) is going forward for final reading.  This allows for the City to entertain the Franchise Agreements (Ordinances) which will come back on August 1st – originally they were anticipated to return in July, but due to the Council’s, yours, and other members of the public’s feedback/input we are negotiating further to ensure clarity and that the best deal is had, under the circumstances.  Therefore, the action for Tuesday will lead to further discussion and approval or disapproval of the new franchises in August.”

I have a lot of problems with this “franchise agreement”, the main problem being that it is a tax in disguise. We all know the city is standing in front of a pension shitstorm with a tennis racket – their tennis racket appears to be a quarter cent sales tax increase.  At the May 16 city council meeting – at about 1:14:44 – local government shill Stephanie Taber got up to the podium and told council we need to raise taxes. Here’s the link – 

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=673

I was not surprised,  but since Taber used to be a regular attendee of the old Chico Taxpayers Association meetings, I had to ask her what the hell she was thinking.

“Wow, what a tiger you are! Raise Taxes! 

I got a better idea Steph – why don’t you just get out YOUR own checkbook, donate all the money you want to the salaries and benefits, and leave the rest of us out of it.

Thank you! Juanita”

She replied, 

“First off, let me say that I would, along with other Chico residence have to “open my checkbook” and pay whether the city did this as a sales tax or GO bonds that would affect property taxes..either way I’d have to pay too.

The city would only raise 4 to 4.5 million per year if they increased the sales tax by a quarter cent.  Many of the city streets now utterly failing (there is a list in the 17/18 budget and discussed at Finance) would cost at least that much to now totally dig up and replace because of lack of maintenance during the Schwab years.  That is when millions of gas tax money was diverted to maintain S&B for city employees and to keep her in office along with Holcomb, Gruendl, Walker, Nickel, Flynn and that whole regressive crew.

The sales and/or GO Bonds that I think we must look at would be only used for infrastructure.  The funds coming in would be ear marked and put into a separate account that could be verified and restricted.  We’ve seen this new administration’s (Chris Constantin in particular) ability and willingness to do that and as long as we have fellow concerned citizens willing to spend a bit of time following the income and expenditures in a particular account I don’t see a problem.  Problems arise when administrations lie and hide as our state government is doing with the gas tax increase that the voters had no opportunity to weigh in on.

I’m a bit surprised that this is seen as a “Republican” /”Democrat” issue … there is no ideology involved in this.. it is simply a recommendation that we raise revenue (tax or GO Bonds) for a specific problem, infrastructure, that would benefit the entire city.   Today we are currently short 14 to 16 million and that figure will only go up if we sit and do nothing..to me that is not an option.”

Signed, “st

She always blames everything on the liberals, even now that the conservatives have been in power for almost two years. She also seems to forget all those meetings we sat at over the years, watching money transferred out of whatever restricted fund and into the General Fund. She even mentions the gas tax, which went entirely to salaries and benefits through “allocation” – a process Chris Constantin formalized as the rule of law almost as soon as he got hired here.  It’s now policy to keep funds balanced through transfers, any time a fund is low it’s city policy to take money from other funds to balance it, restrictions my ass.   At least before we saw when funds went into the red, now they just cover up with “allocations”. There’s a budget “appropriation” – that means “taking” – in almost every fucking agenda.

“Today we are currently short 14 to 16 million and that figure will only go up if we sit and do nothing…”

Who the Hell is “we”? I think the word we’re looking for here is “them,” or how about, “embezzlers…

I will say, she’s got a point – “Problems arise when administrations lie and hide as our state government is doing with the gas tax increase that the voters had no opportunity to weigh in on…” you mean, like the garbage tax Steph?

But there you see the puppet master – “The funds coming in would be ear marked and put into a separate account that could be verified and restricted.  We’ve seen this new administration’s (Chris Constantin in particular) ability and willingness to do that…”

I’ve known this woman for some years now, I’ve watched  her face light up every time Chris Constantin or Mark Orme paid her special attention. One day Mark Orme just put his arms around here after a meeting and gave her a big squeeze. These guys have her in their back pocket. It’s their work she’s at now. 

I heard it from a little shill…

Fillmer needs to go in 2018

8 Jun

I’ve been trying to follow the trash tax conversation since  2012. At some point it went underground, and every time I’d ask Mark Orme for an update he’d tell me it wasn’t ready for the public yet. He kept giving me dates that it would be “rolled out,” but those dates came and went as the city wrestled with the haulers over the deal. 

Ever watch “Repo Man”, with Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton? Then you know what the “repo man grab” is. This deal was a fight between two big dogs that both wanted to eat the ratepayers, they were just squaring off over who got what.

They only started talking public about this deal a couple of months ago, and the revised ordinance they approved Tuesday night was available to the public, on the city website, for less than a week. I got it from the clerk Friday, because I’m signed up to get the agendas. For some reason she had trouble getting it out – she usually has these in my mailbox on the Wednesday before the following Tuesday council meeting. 

When I read it, the things that stuck out to me the most are the requirement that we have and pay for a yard waste bin – 

  • after 5 years of drought many people have taken out lawns and big trees have died. The only thing you can put in those bins are leaves and grass clippings.
  • this is not free, it’s a requirement, and therefore should be subsidized for low-income households. I’ve been telling Orme that since 2012, but he would never respond
  • this means another truck stopping in front of my house – they said they would reduce trucks – liars!

The other item that bothers me is that trash service is not required.  That means, the burden of increased costs will fall on those of us who do the right thing and get trash service. It shoves out the lower-income households who can’t afford it – great! 

I wrote to the entire council one last time to try and get them to consider these points, forwarding them the conversation I’d had with Waste Management staffer Ryan West.

Hello Council,

I am forwarding questions I had asked of Waste Management representative Ryan West regarding the most recent revision of the trash tax deal, before you tomorrow night.  The only item he did not answer satisfactorily for me was regarding mandatory yard waste pick-up.   I understood yard waste would be optional, but Mr. West tells me it will be required. Wow – trash service is not required, but if we get trash service, we are required to pay for yard waste service. As I explained to West below, I don’t need yard waste service, why should I pay for it?  

One more thing I’d like to bring up with you folks is, if service is not mandatory, this will raise the rate for those of us who opt in. If service is mandatory, I believe the city must offer a subsidy program for low-income residents. This needed to be discussed publicly and still should. 

The whole thing needed more public discussion. I’ve been trying to follow this for about four years now, and the deal you have here is not what was talked about at the meetings I attended. Also, these meetings were poorly noticed, at times when the general public would not be able to attend. I think this whole thing was run under the radar because you know people would see – it’s a tax. Right Mark? And I quote, “Let’s call this what it is, a trash tax.” 

By any other name, this deal still stinks.

Juanita Sumner

Of course I got no response. The next night they approved the deal without discussing either point. I was frustrated, so I wrote a second note, but this time I only included Mayor Sean Morgan and Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer.  

Notice 

I will not pay for yard waste service I don’t need. If you move forward with this deal, you are depriving me of affordable service, and I think that’s going to come back at you later.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I do think they are breaking the law, but we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, I got a surprising response from Vice Mayor Fillmer.

How come the others that voted for it are not on your email?  Are you discriminating?

That’s it, that’s her whole response. As if she didn’t get my earlier e-mail. What is this, seventh grade? This woman is not only our vice mayor, she’s worked in the public trough for years, and runs her own “human resources” agency. I’d like to have an explanation for the yard waste requirement, but I get “are you talking to me!?!”  

I responded:

Ms. Fillmer,

When I wrote to the entire council on this subject earlier this week I got no response, so this time I just sent to the Mayor and Vice Mayor. Yes, I think you’re right – by definition, that is “discriminating – having or showing refined taste or good judgment.”

I have tried to follow this garbage tax conversation since 2012, attending various meetings. When the subject stopped coming up at meetings and  I asked Mark Orme for further information, he repeatedly told me they weren’t ready to show the deal to the public (I still have the e-mails he sent). The deal was not shown to the public until recently, and this most updated version was available to the public for less than a week before council approved it. 

The yard waste requirement only came up recently. Why? After 5 years of drought, people all over town have taken out lawns, trees and shrubs have died.  I have a large property but my needs are suited by a small compost pile. As a landlord I am constantly pruning trees – tree branches  are not allowed in the yard waste bin.  The rules for yard waste bins allow only leaves, grass clippings and small plant waste – why are we required to pay more for a service we don’t need when I am forced to make regular trips and pay to take my yard waste to the compost facility on Cohasset? This was never discussed in front of me, it never turned up in meeting minutes, and it really just looks like a bone you are throwing to Waste Management so they can jack up our rates.

Please explain to me any other good reasoning you might have behind this requirement. And maybe you should ask Mr. Orme or Mr. Ewing if required yard waste service will have to carry a low-income subsidy from the city. 

Fillmer is also trying to tinker with the city’s pension system – she’s trying to make new employees pay more but old, or “classic” employees will not pay. Mark Orme and Debbie Presson just got raises to cover their new pension shares. Orme’s salary was already over $200,000/year, and Presson’s raise takes her to $142,000/year, but they pay less than 10 percent of their own pension. 

Fillmer is up in 2018. She needs to fold up her legs and go home. 

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!