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You heard it in the Enterprise Record: “Chico Government Can’t Be Trusted with Tax Increase”

22 Jul

I wrote a letter to the paper in response to Stephanie Taber’s suggestion of raising sales tax to support salaries and benefits Downtown, it ran yesterday, now it’s gone! You have to know it was there and search it! How LOW will they GO?

That’s how Dave Little treats people he doesn’t agree with, he just squelches their letters.  He’s a very “Little” man, his testicles have to be put in the microwave every morning.

So, I ain’t proud – here’s the link:

http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20170720/letter-chico-government-cant-be-trusted-with-tax-increase

And here’s the letter:

A letter writer has suggested a sales tax increase to “fix a couple of major roads a year”.   

Chico has reached financial crisis because of employee overcompensation.  In 2013,  third-party auditors found a $15 million deficit. Council cut workers and services, while raising management compensation to unprecedented levels. By October of 2016 we were one of six cities in California being investigated for fraud, having exhausted our emergency fund and outspent revenues for six years.. We are still on the state’s “watch list”.  

To avoid further audit, staff cooked up an “aggressive” repayment plan, purporting to raise employees’ share of compensation costs. But the increased shares came with salary increases that more than covered the new CalPERS shares.  According to publicpay.gov, the city now has a $180 million deficit and will soon be paying more than a million a year to beat it down. 

According to California Policy Center, “As Chico recovers, new development projects have been downsized to reflect the city’s long-term financial reality.”   Staff has spent all the money on management pensions and benefits, there’s no money left for road base, asphalt, or  qualified workers needed to fix the roads. 

Proponents of a tax increase measure say the money will be dedicated to the roads – don’t believe it. Staff has instituted a “fund allocation” policy – they move money from one fund to another like peas under walnut shells. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

It’s sad to me that we have such poor media here, Dick Little and Melissa Dogtree are just government shills. We have a council that plays lackey to the staffers who are ripping us off because all but one member of our council either get public  pensions or are married to one. 

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…

Told ya so, told ya so, told ya so!

3 Jun

Wow, look! The Enterprise Record is acting like a newspaper! Now, that’s news!

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20170602/increasing-retirement-plan-rates-will-constrict-chico-city-funds

Next Tuesday night, council will offer clerk Debbie Presson a 2 percent raise, to $142,000/year, to get her to pay 3 percent of her pension.

City mangler Mark Orme just cut himself a similar deal.

It’s just a ball ‘o confusion! You sure can’t hide!

 

Maybe now we’ll get more bounce to the ounce?

 

This is getting pretty funky!

The problem with Bidwell Park: they’ve deferred maintenance but kept on paying their salaries and benefits

11 Jan

I e-mailed park manager Dan Efseaff yesterday regarding the backhoe that sank into the asphalt path in Bidwell Park. This is a heavily used commuter trail.  In good weather you will see people riding Downtown to their jobs.  My husband and I use  it regularly to get out and do various errands around town, most of which involve SPENDING MONEY. So I wanted Efseaff to know, somebody cares. 

I wonder when we can expect repairs to the asphalt path under the freeway. My husband and I encountered a city back hoe sunk into it yesterday. There’s a big sinkhole there.  I got a good picture for my blog if you want to see it –   chicotaxpayers.com

 The asphalt was just laid right over dirt – this path has been undermined by gophers for some time. There should be road base laid under asphalt, with proper preparations. The little sinkholes that have formed over the years are a hazard, especially for pedestrians. This back hoe sinking was bound to happen, but it’s just lucky nobody has been injured. I use the park paths regularly, and there’s hazards out there  that need to be addressed, including these asphalt paths laid improperly over dirt. 

 Thanks, Juanita Sumner

The response I got was nothing short of depressing:

Hello,

 Yes, unfortunately the City skimped on road base years ago when the paths and roads were paved, we sometimes tread on the asphalt as if it is thin ice—the backhoe broke thru as we were clearing a hazard tree across the path.   In addition, the recent weather conditions have accelerated the decline of a number of deferred maintenance issues.

 We will need to wait until the soil is dry enough for us to do a temporary repair (fill and compact properly).  We will then put on some gravel base to provide a temporary surface (and better base for the future), and then later schedule an asphalt repair when Right of Way starts that operation later in the year.  The temporary fix will reconnect the path.

 Long-term, we will seek funding options for more comprehensive repairs and fixes to Lower Park roads and paths.

 We are collecting an inventory of issues, so let us know if you see anything new (530-896-7800), but be careful in the Park the next couple of days as the wind and saturated conditions are of concern to us.

Thanks.

 Sincerely,

 Dan Efseaff |Park and Natural Resource Manager

530.896.7801 | dan.efseaff@Chicoca.gov

Yes Efseaff admits the park has been “skimped on”, while salaries have gone up and benefits have been paid.

According to Public Pay, Efseaff makes $93,000 in salary and gets a $47,000 pension and health package.  He pays 9 percent of his package – what, less than $5,000/year out of a $93,000 salary for 70 percent of that salary into perpetuity. 

Whenever I read this stuff I want to slap their hands – “get the hell out of my purse, Leech! 

Here’s a guy who admits, he just hasn’t been doing his job – he collects the salary and perks, alright, but he “defers” the work. Great! 

A “temporary” repair for a trail that is a major commuter route in dry weather? They will “seek funding options”? 

Here’s the city’s 2016-17 budget:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2015-16CityFinalAnnualBudget.pdf

The park fund has a lot of money in it, but management eats like pigs.  Park salaries outpace the budget by almost $5 million, leaving a deficit in the General/Park fund of $4,266,937.

So I gotta wonder – what does he mean when he says “seek funding options”? 

And, he makes the usual plea for us to help him collect his $93,000 a year salary – “let us know if you see anything new”? 

Don’t get your loafers dirty Dan. 

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!

 

Why should the public be saddled with the “burden” of public worker pension debt?

28 Dec

Here’s a letter I sent to the Enterprise Record in response to the editorial run Monday – “CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt”.  

In answer to the editor, I’ll ask why the taxpayers should be stuck with the “burden” of public employee pensions? 

At Chico Area Recreation District, for example, management has only recently started paying into their own pensions – at a rate of 6.25 percent.  “Classic” management members pay 2 percent. For 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55. The current CARD director makes over $110,000/year in salary.  

The median household income in Chico is about $43,000/year, while the average city of Chico worker makes over $80,000.  Many public safety workers and  most of city management make over $100,000, plus perks. Why can’t they contribute more than 12 and 9 percent, respectively?

The state mandated that “new hires” – that’s an employee who has never been in any public retirement system – pay 50 percent. Why aren’t existing employees asked to pay 50 percent?

Our current mayor, and vice mayor, and two council members are or have been enrolled in the public retirement system. The spouses of two others are enrolled in the system.  Does this make it difficult for council to demand more from our city employees? 

Join me at chicotaxpayers.com to demand that  public “servants” pick up more of the tab for their retirement.

For some reason, Little failed to post that editorial in the online edition. That is a physical job, requiring intent. Little once admitted to me that he doesn’t print every letter he gets in the paper edition, but chooses instead to post them online. So, it’s definitely a choice he makes, whether or not to post in the online edition.  

What? Didn’t want to open the editorial to discussion on Disqus? 

So, something tells me, he’s not going to print my letter. Well, there it is. I hope the rest of you will give him your two cents.

NOTE: I contacted the San Jose Mercury register, a managing editor told me the editorial had been written by one of his co-workers. He explained to me that the ER is owned by the same company at the MR, and has permission to reprint.

So, this is “local” journalism?

Enterprise Record a “conservative” paper? Really?

26 Dec

Here’ s the latest editorial from the man who endorsed Measure K and then refused to interview me when I mounted official opposition to the bond measure.  I had to post the whole thing because it’s not available online, there’s no link.

NOTE:  This editorial ran in the Monday December 26 edition of the Enterprise Record, but for some reason,  as of Wednesday the 28, it has still not appeared in the online edition.

NOTE-NOTE:  Looks like Little picked up this editorial from the Mercury News, but failed to identify it as a pick-up in the the e-edition that I get.

So, I took the opportunity to add my own commentary.

CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt

Chico Enterprise Record, Monday December 26,  2016

The nation’s largest pension system last week demonstrated once again that it’s willing to drive taxpayers deeper into debt to placate government worker labor unions.

Why drive the taxpayers deeper into debt? Why not demand that the workers either pay their own pensions or lower their expectations for retirement bling?

Directors of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System voted to lower their investment forecast, a move in the right direction that means employers and in many cases employees will contribute more to shore up the ailing pension plan.

Again he’s saying employers – and that’s the taxpayers – should have to pay this debt – why? 

But the changes will be phased in at a glacial rate over the next eight years and CalPERS’ own numbers show they’re not nearly enough.

CalPERS has known about this pension debt problem for at least ten years, I’ve been blogging it myself for at least four years. 

By its actions Wednesday, CalPERS acknowledged it has only 63.5 percent of the assets it should. That places the system’s shortfall at about $170 billion and on the backs of taxpayers. It averages more than $13,000 of debt for each California household.

The backs of the taxpayers? Why? We were never consulted when Gray  Davis made this scheme, we recalled him, but we still got stuck with the deal he struck with the employees’ unions.

It’s actually worse than that. And the longer the union- dominated CalPERS board fails to comprehensively address its funding problems, the larger that debt will likely grow. Unlike upfront contributions that are shared between government employers and workers, the shortfall lands solely on taxpayers.

Why?!

Nevertheless, Gov. Jerry Brown touted the deal, which his office struck behind the scenes with labor. He said the change is “ more reflective of the financial returns (CalPERS) can expect in the future. This will make for a more sustainable system.”

More than what? Yes, it’s closer to a reasonable target than the past policy, which was completely divorced from reality, but it doesn’t come close to actually putting CalPERS on a sustainable path.

Like the governor’s muchtouted pension law changes of 2012, this CalPERS adjustment only marginally slows the bleeding. It doesn’t come close to solving the problem.

Specifically, the CalPERS board voted to lower its assumed rate of investment return from 7.5 percent to 7.375 percent in fiscal year 2017, 7.25 percent in 2018 and 7.0 percent in 2019.

That means the pension system will lower its expectation for how much interest it can earn from its assets and instead turn to government employers to kick in more.

But that increase in contribution rates for state and local governments, many of whom are likely to pass on some of the burden to workers, won’t be fully phased in until 2024.

Oh my God – he’s calling pensions of 70 – 90 percent of a worker’s highest year’s earnings a burden on the workers!

To understand how far short this move falls, consider that CalPERS announced Wednesday that it hadn’t hit a 7 percent average over the last 20 years and, going forward, it estimates that there’s only roughly a 1-in- 4 chance that it will meet that target.

And CalPERS’ consultant warns that the pension system should anticipate only an average 6.2 percent in each of the next 10 years.

CalPERS officials rationalize that state and local governments couldn’t afford higher payments that would result from lower investment forecasts.

If that’s true, the solution is to change the system, not keep denying reality.

I believe Little is talking about further raising taxes to float these pensions. That’s why he endorsed Measure K, and that’s why I believe he will back up CARD and eventually the city of Chico when they put their own tax increase measures on the ballot. He refuses to admit that these pensions are unsustainable, period, he just keeps expecting the rest of us to set up these public workers like Phay-rohs!

When are we going to get a real newspaper in this town?

NOTE: I contacted a managing editor at the San Jose Mercury Register – this piece was actually written by one of his co-workers and reprinted by permission in the ER (same owner owns both papers…)