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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!

 

Randy, you have got to be kidding

4 Oct

I noticed a person had come over to this blog from city councilman Randall Stone’s campaign website. I won’t direct you there – I’d rather direct you to this:

Because at least Robert Preston is entertaining. Stone is just obnoxious.

Saved the Esplanade? Is that the way you remember it? 

I have been studying the candidates, and I’m not looking forward to this year’s election. 

You have to read the agendas

30 Jul

I haven’t been hitting the public meetings lately folks – when I realized this the other day, it was like waking up at the wheel of a moving car.

You know, Butte County public works manager is threatening to close the poo ponds at the dump, he says this will double the cost of having your septic tank pumped (!), and our local government officials are sitting around with their thumbs up their asses cause most of them are on sewer.

I just realized, my supervisor is on sewer. She represents two of the hill-billiest communities around here, Forest Ranch and Cohasset, and a district full  of septic tanks in Chico, and she doesn’t have a clue about septic tanks. Does she think the residents of Cohasset will pay twice as much to pump their tanks? No, when their tanks fail, they will call “Midnight Septic Service” and neither the county nor the city will be the wiser.

I told Maureen about the new soda machine at the Cohasset Store. Within a week somebody had shot it full of holes, leaving a note: “What? No Budweiser?!”  

Maureen is over her head, I don’t think she knew what she was getting into with that district. When the county made their trash franchise deal, County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn said his office’s phones “rang off the hook for two weeks with complaints.” I’d say, he was lucky people used their phones.

Maureen’s constituents had been blind-sided. She’d offered up a little public meeting at the Forest Ranch store, but didn’t notice it properly, and nobody came. When the deal rolled out and rates were increased while service was cut,  they were really pissed. I made a point to make sure they all knew who was responsible – most of my neighbors in Forest Ranch did not even know what district they were in, much less who was their Supe. Now they sure as hell know. 

Did Maureen learn anything? I don’t think so, this poo ponds thing has been kicking around in meetings for the better part of a year, and she has not notified her constituents. She has an office, and a staff, paid for by us, and she could get a list of her district addresses from Candy Grubbs, send regular notices as to what’s happening – especially stuff like, “the cost of pumping your septic tank is about to double…” – but she chooses not to.  She could have a website, but does not. 

So, I will have to attend the “Local Goverments” committee meeting next week, how exciting. I’ll try to keep you awake.

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/LGC-8-3-16-AgendawithAttachments.pdf

Actually those meetings are full of interesting topics. At the same time they are discussing screwing septic tank owners all over Chico, they will give us an update about how they are trying to force more people onto city sewer. They will also discuss an accusation made by the Grandiose Jury that Chico does not spend enough “local taxpayer dollars” on the homeless. I’m sure some of you might have something to say about that. 

Of course there’s nothing on this agenda or any other I’ve received about pending rate increases from PG&E and Cal Water.  Nor is there an update on the trash franchise deal.

Does anybody pay attention to this stuff? No, at least half the residents of Chico are butt in air, head in gopher hole. That is a position that leaves a person is prime position for a good screwing.

How will you celebrate “The Fourth”? Try acting like an American

4 Jul

I always wonder, how many Americans have even read the US constitution? How many of you have read the California constitution? The city charter?

Good homework for “The Fourth.”  

I’ve been reading up on the laws regarding tax measures, how they are enacted, and how the public citizen can resist an avaricious government.

First, we must “Watch the skies!”   Actually, we have to watch the agendas. That is where the initial discussion of putting a tax measure on the ballot is supposed to happen.  We all know it actually happens in private meetings, but, legally, it has to pass through a public discussion before it can be handed to the county clerk, so there’s a place for the observer to begin. I’ve been watching agendas not only for council meetings and county supervisor meetings but the smaller committee meetings in between.

I have to admit, I’ve been distracted with Chico Area Recreation District, trying to figure out whether their tax grab will appear on the November ballot or whether they will go the slimy way and deliver assessment ballots by mail.  Assessment elections aren’t the same as regular elections – they are rigged with bigger property owners getting more votes, the “weight” of each property owner’s vote being determined by the very board that is asking for the tax. These shouldn’t be legal – that’s our fault. We need to try to get rid of the entities that can attach us this way, starting with CARD, and including the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District.

I haven’t heard an elected official at either the city of Chico or Butte County mention a sales tax increase, but with municipalities all around us seeking, and in some cases, getting a sales tax increase out of the voters, I’m worried. Ex-city mangler Tom Lando, the guy who came up with the MOU that attached city salaries “to revenue increases but not decreases,” has been stumping for a sales tax increase for a few years now, saying he wants this and that amenity for the public, as well as better paid cops and fire fighters. 

Wow, what’s better than a base pay of $62,000/year with automatic step increases and mandated overtime that can as much as double that base salary? Not to mention paying only 12 percent toward a retirement of 90 percent of your highest year’s pay at age 50? What the helllllll could be better than that? 

Ask Lando, a guy who is in the regular habit of dropping a C-note for lunch.

I don’t believe Lando is worried about the public, I think he is worried about his $12,000/month pension payments.  Can you imagine living on $134,000/year, without having to work? Just getting a check for the rest of your life.  Ask Barbara McEnepsy – how’s life out on Keefer Road Hon? I don’t even know what Barbara McEnepsy did for the city, but she receives an even higher pension than Lando. 

Here’s the real stinker – these two individuals retired before the rules were changed to make employees “pay their own share” – neither Lando nor McEnepsy paid a dime toward their pensions.

If you are not outraged about paying these pensions, I’ll say – you’re not an American.

 

Short Attention Span Theater – we have the government we deserve in Chico

18 Jun

I’ve just been having a frustrating conversation with a friend about public participation. 

Sorry if I have been rude, Friend.

Friend tried to explain to me how overwhelmed most people are in their lives, they can’t pay attention.

That just got my skivvies in a bunch. I pay attention, and let me tell you, I got stuff going on.  I won’t bore you with my epic problems of the past months, but through it all, my close friends have been annoyed with my constant complaining about what the city and county and various local agencies are doing. My husband keeps telling me the government stuff is stressing me out, I should concentrate more on what’s going on at home. At least we can do something about our private problems, he says.

I have a hard time keeping it all under my hat.  Every morning, when I give my dog her insulin shot, I have to mentally prepare – “don’t think bad thoughts, don’t think bad thoughts…” as I skewer that needle into a lump of flesh behind her collar.   She lays on the floor behind me as I read the paper, read e-mails, she can hear me grumbling about stuff. I have to be careful or she’ll slip into the bedroom and stick her head under my husband’s side of the bed. I can feel the tension in her neck, makes it hard to get loose skin, sometimes she lets out a yelp and a half.

What bugs me is how people are so quick to use any excuse to stick their head in the sand, but they still expect to be allowed to complain when something finally gets under their skin.  I won’t mention names, but I’ve watched the local gadflies make big stinks about stuff, after a few months, the stink dies down, and the problem still exists.  All that blab about volunteers for the park – the park still looks like shit. The work they did at the One Mile parking lot last year has become completely overgrown with non-native invasive plants again. An area they did earlier this year is also going back to a mess.   Whole sections of the park are sub-code – if it was your yard, you’d get a notice to clean it up or pay the city to do it. 

And this conversation about keeping public restrooms open has been going on for two years now. Meanwhile, the million dollar One Mile restroom is pretty hit and miss – here’s the conundrum – if it is open, will it be usable? 

Short Attention Span Theater.

I’m going to tell you Esplanade lovers – don’t go back to sleep! Isn’t it pretty obvious, they’ve shelved the roundabouts until after the election? I’m hoping Cheryl King and friends are quietly looking for somebody to run for council, but I’m not going to bank on it.  

I’d like to see somebody run for CARD. Why don’t I do it? I would if I had some support – I ain’t going into those meetings without a posse anymore.  If they pass their bond, it means the people of Chico are completely gone fishing.

Tony St Amant said it in this morning’s paper – we have the government we deserve.