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Get out of CalPERS, dump the pensions, clean house on management Downtown and hire people who will pay their own freight

16 Jun

Out running errands around Chico the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing the usual parade of transients is on the increase. They come from South Chico in the early morning with their bikes and trailers, shopping carts, backpacks, many of them toting a bunch of garbage bags, full of recyclables they’ve stolen out of residents’ recycling bins. There’s a real exodus on trash days in my neighborhood – we have our trash picked up on Thursday and then the trucks come on Friday to do the other side of the street. The bums follow the trash trucks along to rifle through the recycling bins. They know the recycling doesn’t get picked up until all the trash bins are emptied, because Waste Management doesn’t have enough trucks to do both at the same time.

We’ve seen them sprawled all over sidewalks, bus stop benches, commercial medians, you name it.  The little “parklet” at the intersection of Mulberry and Pine/Cypress, along Little Chico Creek, was becoming a de-facto transient camp, with more transients out of sight under the bridges and along the creek banks. And then yesterday we noticed, the cops were rousting them in force along the creek, with two cop cars and a ranger’s vehicle. Then we noticed – no more camps at the parklet.

I realized, this is what Mayor Sean Morgan was telling me about when I complained about the incident in front of my house.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2018/05/20/want-the-bums-out-of-your-recycling-cans-sheds-garages-cars-stop-putting-crv-in-your-bins-donate-it-to-the-work-training-center/

Morgan told me in a May 19 e-mail, “next week PD team normally assigned to South Campus area is heading into the parks.”

But wait, before you think the city is actually moving to solve a problem, read the agenda for this coming Tuesday’s meeting.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=290

Councilmember Ory has submitted a request for the Council to consider agendizing the Chamber of Commerce recommendation for a revenue measure to increase police staffing and improve roads.

But Ory left something out –  read the chamber report –

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2018/05/24/chamber-special-report-3-million-for-more-cops-90-million-to-fix-roads-130-million-for-the-pension-deficit/

They want $130 million to pay down the pension deficit. Only $3 million for cops, $90 million for roads – but $130 million for pensions. Who does Ory think he’s kidding?

Although, sometimes I wonder about Ory. I stood in line behind him at my bank ATM machine when he was a candidate. He had 5 people waiting while he unsuccessfully tried to figure out how to use the machine, and rather than step aside, he just pretended we weren’t there. Every time I’ve been near him, he’s acted completely senile, including at a meeting he was chairing, when I told him a question posed to staff had not been answered. He tried to tell me that I could only make one “comment” per meeting? I had to repeat myself a couple of times over his protestations, before the speaker just interjected and answered the question.  So, I couldn’t tell you for sure, whether Ory is nuts, stupid, senile, or really expects all of us to buy into his crap.

But, I do know, Chico PD can suddenly enforce laws they haven’t enforced for the last year. Why? They’ll tell us they spend most of their time hanging around campus when school is in, that they don’t have time to do anything else. What a crock.

Don’t buy into their sales tax increase pitch. They act as though we have no other choice than to pay their blackmail.

The best choice would be, get out of CalPERS, dump the pensions, clean house on management employees and institute the new 401K system where employees pay most of it.  

 

 

 

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Chamber Special Report: $3 million for more cops, $90 million to fix roads – $130 million for the pension deficit?

24 May

Chico Chamber started marketing their proposed sales tax increase measure five years ago. Below is the link to their “Special Report,” the product of five years of committees, task forces, clandestine surveys, and other ploys recommended by various consultants. 

Below is the link to their “Special Report”.

They list four “priorities for Chico – “police, roads, pensions and fire.” Don’t let the order in which they are listed fool you – that’s not indicative of priority. $3 million for the cops, $90 million for roads, and $130 million for pensions

The report summary says the Chamber would like to get the public involved in the discussion, but given the way Katie Simmons has scheduled the “community meetings,” there really hasn’t been much public participation – mostly Chamber and City officials. 

The Chamber wants a sales tax increase to pay for all this stuff. Do you really want to pay for the pensions? You’ve already paid more than the employees. 

Read that “special” report here:

http://chicochamber.com/public/uploads/CC_January_Special_Report_FINAL.pdf

Chico Chamber ramps up sales tax increase campaign – And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!”

24 May

This press release below was made yesterday by the California Chamber of Commerce and forwarded by Chico Chamber of Commerce. Time to watch the county and city clerk’s office for a ballot measure. 

What this release doesn’t tell us is that Tom Lando is one of Chico’s biggest pension hogs – especially when you consider he never paid anything toward his pension. Current City Mangler Mark Orme pays less than 10%, and he’s been given a pay raise every time he’s agreed to pay a percent or two more. That’s like throwing gas on a fire – every time you raise his salary you raise his pension.

Here’s an old link – make note, at the time I ran this post, Lando was getting about $135,000, just in pension, it doesn’t include his health, vision, life insurance, etc. Look at that – $11,000/month. There are families in this town living on $19,000/year. 

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

That information is from 2012 – do you realize, pensions go up every year – “cost of living adjustment” – based on a percentage of the already gross amount. So, I’ll opine – he’s getting around $150,000 a year in cash and benefits. On top of that, Lando runs a consulting firm, the city has paid him consulting fees for various tasks. 

But now Piggy wants more! Read on!

From Michelle Woods at Chico Chamber:

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Chamber of Commerce honored business executives from Chico and Torrance today with its 2018 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award, recognizing them for outstanding advocacy on behalf of small businesses.

The CalChamber announced the awards in Sacramento before more than 200 attendees at the CalChamber Capitol Summit.

The 2018 Small Business Advocate of the Year Award recipients are:

  • Mark Francis, president and CEO, Golden Valley Bank, Chico;
  • Tom Lando, principal, Tom Lando Consulting, Chico; and
  • Michael Shafer, owner, The Depot Restaurant, Torrance.

 

Mark Francis and Tom Lando

Lando was chairman of the board of directors for the Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center in 2011 and currently chairs the chamber’s Legislative Action Committee. Francis was chairman in 2015 and spearheaded the chamber’s Community Vision, which not only guides local policy decisions, but has become a sought-after model for chamber advocacy throughout the nation.

At the direction of the Chico Chamber Board in early 2017, Mark and Tom spearheaded the effort to better understand how business priorities like a safer community and improved roads are indelibly linked to changing city finances.

Together, Lando and Francis co-chaired the groundbreaking Task Force on City Revenues and Expenditures, the first of its kind in the Chico Chamber’s 110-year history, which resulted in the publication of a special report and call to action. The task force investigated the solvency of Chico’s finances—past, present and projected—and delivered a bold and forceful recommendation that the City Council consider a revenue measure to fund business priorities outlined in the Community Vision.

The City of Chico is one of 11 cities its size in California to maintain a baseline sales tax rate of 7.25%. The region is largely tax averse.

The task force worked throughout 2017 to study four key areas affecting city finances—pension, fire, police and roads—and outlined needs, expectations and costs. Lando and Francis hosted several task force meetings with city officials to gain a deep understanding of the city’s financial status and met weekly to follow statewide news on pension reform, sales tax policy, the gas tax and other impacts, always weighing local opportunities and challenges.

Task force findings were communicated to the public via the chamber’s most recent state of the city address and through a publication entitled Special Report. A call to action was made directly to the Chico City Council to consider a revenue measure to preserve and enhance the quality of life in Chico, a risky yet pivotal move by a chamber of commerce in a tax-averse region.

In nominating Francis and Lando for the CalChamber award, Katie Simmons, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, wrote: “Mark and Tom deserve to be recognized equally for their tremendous insight, influence and service to the Chico Chamber of Commerce. This pivotal community conversation would not happen without the knowledge, dedication and time Mark and Tom give to the chamber and our community. Their work is relevant across all communities in California struggling with the very same issues.”

City consultant: “more people, more payroll, more allocations” – this is how city of Chico management siphons money from the road fund into their own wallets

1 Mar

Thursday March 8,  City of Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell will give a dog-and-pony presentation about how the city spends money. That ought to be a gas, but instead, I attended yesterday’s (2/28/18) Finance Committee meeting to hear a consultant explain the process of “cost allocation”.

Dowell is disingenuous – who does he really expect to show up on a Thursday at 10 am? Oh yeah, I’ll just ask my boss if I can come in early and take two hours off at lunch, everybody does that! 

You know, I might have had bosses who would go for that, but only once. And you wouldn’t be allowed to discuss it at the work place, that’s a pretty standard rule of getting along with fellow employees  – leave your politics in the parking lot. So, in this way, Dowell is very pointedly leaving out the working class who would have to support the sales tax increase he is going to be selling at his “workshop”.

But, when you have limited time, you use it wisely. Who wants to hear a spin from the Fox in Charge of the Henhouse, when you can listen to a visiting watch dog? That’s how I see consultant Chad Wolford, eversince 2015 when he told council they were spending too much money on “overhead” – administrative salaries and benefits.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2017/12/21/no-kidding-our-city-is-headed-for-deep-doo-doo-2/

As the consultant describes it, cost allocation means, “central administration cost (also referred to as “overhead”) spread down to departments as operating costs.”  Just repeat that a few times, and remind yourself, “operating” means “actual work,” such as fixing the streets, or maintaining the sewer plant. 

Cost allocation is the process by which these ridiculous management salaries are cherry picked from all the departments. Makes it look legal and fair, but it’s really the same old system of moving peas under walnuts shells. Money is moved between restricted and non-restricted funds to pay for stuff that money was not originally earmarked for. 

What’s the use of restricting funds (to their original purpose, such as street maintenance) if you can just transfer them wherever you want to pay for whatever you want? This is the process by which administrators like Orme, Constantin and Dowell take grant money that was originally intended to fix streets and pad it into their wallets. 

The consultant is a nice man, he admitted to me, “this is a very complicated process.”  I replied, “No kidding!” That’s why  I had tagged him into the lobby of the building when he finished his presentation, I had to ask some additional questions. 

Well here’s something that he made pretty clear – the “changes”  (increases) in the allocations are based on staff and salary increases. “More people, more payroll, more allocations,” Wolford said. “Salaries and benefits have gone up, operating budgets are up…” 

So, I don’t think I’ll be bothered with Dowell’s dog and pony show Saturday – ‘scuse me, that’s Thursday March 8 – I already heard how the city of Chico spends it’s money. 

Chico Chamber says if we want usable roads and responsible cops we need to shake down with a revenue measure

28 Jan
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Biscuit snoops out another homeless camp in Bidwell Park.  If my husband were a member of Chico PD he’d get extra salary for Biscuit.

My husband and I noticed the bums vacated the park during the inclement weather, but predicted, correctly, they’d be back as soon as the rain stopped.

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There in the front of the trash pile you can see some scorched items – my husband said it was a partially burned pillow and what looked like clothing or bedding.

As soon as I saw this, I thought of the people who were fatally burned in their tent, just a block from my house, on a chilly winter morning a few years ago. They’d been drinking heavily, fell asleep, and the camp fire they had made inside their tent had caught their bedding and immolated them.

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This abandoned hobo camp is just off the main trail. in a well-worn path.

It’s also alarming because it’s within a mile of my house, in a heavily overgrown section of the park, easily prone to fire. This isn’t the first time my husband has come across the remains of a camp fire gone out of control – once we encountered a burned section of grass, at least 12 by 12 feet, right off the entrance to the park from our neighborhood.

The Ponderosa Fire this past Summer was started by a transient who was living illegally at a campground.

The City of Chico has essentially deputized park rangers, given them guns, in fact, required them to carry guns.  Critics predicted that the rangers would become part of the police force and be given other tasks around town. I don’t know if this is true, but I have yet to see or hear about the kind of sweeps they conduct regularly in Redding.

This section of park was cleaned not a month ago by a community group. That is not a solution, it’s enabling behavior. There is too much enabling behavior here. Just recently I saw a piece on the tv news about Salvation Army offering a liaison service for people who need social services. Wake UP! We already spend more than half our county budget on the social services departments, with a $63 million budget for Behavioral Health, and we still need to fund these private agencies (yes SA gets public funding) to act as liaison?

I don’t report the camps anymore – they just send the feel-good volunteer group – complete with $100,000/year staffer – to clean it up, and use it as another example of why the city needs more money. The Chamber of Commerce has launched their anticipated campaign for a sales tax increase – why would I want to give them more ammo?

What we need is a dedicated group to fight the propaganda blitz with facts.  Get your tennis rackets ready, and maybe get that old garbage bag suit you made for the Gallagher show.

 

 

Why do we keep paying consultants to tell us the same thing – we will have to bribe airlines to come here

11 Dec

I finally took airport mangler Sherry Miller up on her offer to drive out to Chico Municipal Airport and check out the DVD from the November 8 “special” airport commission meeting.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2017/11/15/mutineer-sherry-miller-says-i-have-to-make-an-appointment-and-drive-out-to-the-airport-if-i-want-to-see-the-video-she-promised-to-have-on-the-website/

I realized it had been exactly one month since the meeting, and I wondered, why am I doing this? My husband reminded me, this woman said, in two different e-mails, that if we couldn’t make the meeting it would be on video on the website to watch later. When a giant dumper opened up on the night of the meeting, I thought, why drag myself out in that, when I can watch the video in my own house tomorrow. The big meeting room at City Hall is all set up to videotape meetings, the videos of city council meetings are usually available the next day.

But Miller immediately reneged on her promises to have the video loaded onto the website, citing technical problems. When I pressed her about having promised a video she offered me the copy, but told me I had to make an appointment and drive to the airport to get it.

So I ground my teeth all the way across town, with real zeal as we drove out Cohasset Road, which is lined with garbage on either side. That is a pretty vital economic corridor, lots of viable businesses, but you’d never know that given the view from the road – asphalt pitted with potholes and cracks, narrow and broken on the edges, no visible maintenance. Weeds on either side, broken fences – Cohasset Road is the textbook definition of “blight”.  I kept thinking – this is what people like Governor Swarzenegger and Oprah Winfrey saw when they flew into CMA. Is that why President Barack Obama landed in Redding and drove south to view damage from wild fires a few years back?

The airport itself looks like post war Berlin.  Here’s a scene from a great old Jimmy Cagney movie – One, Two Three – with footage of East Berlin from 1961. It actually looks nicer in some parts than Chico Airport.

Empty lots, dotted with weeds, trash, even dumped asphalt and cement chunks. The parking lot next to the terminal, which is supposed to be for “rental fleet vehicles” is un-surfaced and has weeds growing up through the old asphalt. The rental fleet cars fill the “visitor” parking lot in front of the terminal.

There were about half dozen people waiting around the ticket counter inside the terminal. There was talk of “boarding” as I walked toward Miller’s office. So I see the airport is still used for flights, even if there aren’t many people waiting to get on one.  I’m going to guess the rental car business is busier – I know people rent cars here to drive to Sacramento or San Francisco airports.

Miller’s quarters are over to the back corner of the terminal – two rooms, with a small, private office in the back. I could see her through the windows, sitting at her computer, but was greeted by her small dog. She put the dog out into a fenced area when she opened the door for us. I couldn’t help but be jealous – wouldn’t everybody like to take their dog to work, not have to worry about leaving a pet alone all day, have a friend to take your mind off your job once in a while. Must be nice.

There was a sign-out sheet, which I filled out, and then she handed me the DVD. My husband chattered about the dog, which lightened the atmosphere slightly. I forgot to ask if I’d have to make an appointment to turn in the DVD – and then I wondered, does she even come in to the office every day? Any entire days? Or is she only there by appointment?

Must be nice.

I’d asked to have it over the weekend because I knew it would be hard to sit down and watch it over night. When I got home, I realized – it might take a day or so to figure out how to watch it. I had wanted to download it into my computer so I could try to post it on youtube – silly me. The DVD wouldn’t even play in my computer. I fiddled with it for half an hour, and then my husband came up for a snack, and he fiddled with it some more. He got it to work for a few minutes, but when I tried to rewind it a few minutes later, it froze, and continued to do so every time we loaded it. 

I decided to try it in our DVD player. Same thing – a blue screen came up and froze. As with the computer, I just left it and walked away, did some chores. What a morning – I had a batch of dog food on the stove, 10 pounds of frozen chicken parts thawing in the sink, bread dough rising on the counter, and it  was a gorgeous day, so I was trying to catch up on some laundry. 

Tote that barge, and lift that bale!  Somebody’s got to WORK around here!

Patience was it’s own reward as I suddenly heard the sounds of a meeting starting up, chairman’s voice announcing the Pledge, yadda yadda, and then here comes the consultant from Intervistas. The picture reminded me of my grandma’s old tv – snow! So much for the Power Point Presentation.

I don’t know who hired the consultant – Chris Warren – or who paid him – I put that question to Ms. Miller, and I’ll post her answer when/if I get it.

Warren ran through a short recent history of the airlines. He talked about the deregulation of the late ’70’s, and how that resulted in many tiny airlines, all vying for customers, offering crazy deals. He didn’t mention – we had a lot of ugly airline accidents over those days, with poorly maintained planes, overworked pilots and air traffic controllers. 

Then oil prices spiked, he recalled, and things started to fall apart for the airlines. The 80’s and 90’s were an era of “Boom and Bust” for the airlines.

As of 2000, Warren went on, the smaller airlines collapsed, many “logos” disappeared. Bigger airlines went about gobbling up the littler companies, investors came in, making the industry more “stable.”

But that wasn’t  good for smaller community airports, because the smaller airlines weren’t coming in, and the bigger airlines switched from turbo prop engines to jets.

Well, here’s what was going on in Chico at that time.  Our airport was in deficit – the city had been pilfering the airport fund to pay salaries and benefits for non-airport employees. Instead of upgrading the runway to accommodate the new jets, they bottomed out the airport fund on themselves. It got so bad – just a few years ago, city mangler Mark Orme announced we were in danger of losing the fire fighting planes because we hadn’t kept our water tanks up to code. The federal government was going to pull funding that was necessary to keep operations running. 

According to Warren, airlines are putting planes in “bigger markets.” Turbo props are becoming museum pieces for hobby pilots. Too bad for Chico – we don’t have a runway to accommodate nor do we have passengers to fill a jet.  Warren reminded us that the airlines are not going to fly a jet half full. 

I recalled the tiny group that had been in the terminal when I picked up the DVD – I only saw a couple of suitcases. This is the Big Lie – a small group of proponents keep telling us there’s a demand for commercial air service, but there isn’t any. It’s just too easy to drive to Sacramento, where they are light years ahead of us on infrastructure, and leaving us farther behind every day. 

Warren cited a 2014 report in the Wall Street Journal – “Why Small Airports Are In Big Trouble…”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-huntsville-airports-ill-fated-bid-to-boost-service-1396901376

To reverse years of declining traffic and fewer flights, Huntsville International Airport last year decided to offer its few remaining airlines incentives if they enhanced service to the small, northern Alabama city.

The city of Huntsville wrote up a plan to offer up to $5 million to airlines that “added flights, lowered fares, or otherwise encouraged” people to fly out of that airport.

Unfortunately the full article is not available, but there’s my segue – that’s where the consultant was leading the conversation.

Warren said that despite this trend away from smaller airports, there are “tools” the city could use to get commercial service in Chico. The first three are government grant programs – but he as quickly dismissed these avenues because we either wouldn’t qualify or they were a lot of work with little return. 

He cut quickly to the chase, just as the DVD was starting to freeze up on me again – a “revenue guarantee.”

The DVD was so bad at this point, I wouldn’t have understood what he was talking about if a previous consultant hired by the city had not explained the same scam. They want us to guarantee them – sit down – $600,000 in passenger fares, or pay them the difference. 

Again, I’ll say – there were less than half a dozen people at the terminal, and I don’t even know if they all had tickets to board. 

Warren went on to say, these funds can’t come out of the airport fund, they have to come from local government or the private sector. He chirped that if people fly “then the community doesn’t have to pay!”

And then the DVD froze and I gave up. I know he went on in depth about how they could convince the community to get behind this scam. The previous consultant suggested we put staffers in pilot and stewardess uniforms and send them to venues like Farmer’s Market – show people FLYING IS FUN!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_eye/2015/06/25/air_france_flight_447_and_the_safety_paradox_of_airline_automation_on_99.html

 

So I was interested in hearing what this consultant had to pitch, but the DVD was a wash. 

The airport is just another piece in the city’s pending sales tax increase campaign. They are promising unicorns and rainbows when we need better schools and jobs. And, one of the players behind “Jet Chico” is Howard Slater, one of Chico’s biggest old school developers. Here’s my guess – he wants the city of Chico to pay him to develop the airport. 

Now I have to make plans to drive out to the airport to return the dysfunctional DVD. I’ll post whatever answers I get from Miller. 

 

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…