Archive | public employee contracts RSS feed for this section

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. 

Lou Binninger: The Pension Heist

14 Jul

Here’s a must-read:

http://territorialdispatch.biz/component/edocman/?task=document.viewdoc&id=337&Itemid=0

Cities  going broke paying down pension debt, CalPERS investments based on bribery, a scandal that led to the suicide of one CalPERS official. 

The city of Chico agrees to contracts with public employees stipulating all employees must pay union dues whether or not they want to be in the union. The city also agrees to collective bargaining. The unions are the biggest donors in every local election.  These problems could be solved with city ordinances. 

Think about it.

Downtown Assessment is just another nail in the coffin

8 Jul

Last night my husband and I had a gift certificate for a new restaurant Downtown, and tired as we were, we decided to go for it, Restaurant Week be damned!  We’ve been working hard in the heat lately, we’d put out chicken for bbq but we couldn’t stomach the idea of standing over the grill in 112 degrees.

My patio, Friday, July 7, 2017, about 4 pm.

Luckily (?) for us, the chain place we’d been sent was almost empty, meanwhile, all the trendier places around were swamped with business, 45 minute to hour wait for tables. Oh well, this eatery had good air conditioning, and the meal was free. We ordered. Our server was a nice, professional person, things were clean. 

As we waited for our meal, we entertained ourselves by looking out the big windows, onto Main Street. People were meandering toward the Plaza for Friday Night Concert, some of them carrying lawn chairs. I wondered how these people felt about the bums who were threading along among them,  looking really dirty, and pretty drunk already. We’d seen a couple of cops trying to get a guy off the sidewalk on Second Street.  

A woman walked up with a bike and an enormous over-full back pack on her back.  she was carrying a plastic shopping bag full of other possessions. She hauled herself onto a cement bench sitting just outside the restaurant windows, and gave the phrase “take a load off” new meaning. 

Downtown business and property owner David Halimi came walking down the sidewalk from his Diamond W western wear store, toward the Plaza, looking like the cock of the walk. He’s a funny little guy – likes to wear cowboy boots and a big hat.  But yesterday he was wearing very sensible shoes, and he walked up a block or so and then turned back toward his store, as if he’d just been out for a jaunt. He, Budd Schwab and Bob Malowney (also CARD board of directors) were really pushing that Downtown assessment, and they got it. My husband wondered if Halimi was gloating, I didn’t see that. I saw him looking out at the bums and the filth on the sidewalks, and his eyes were very glazed, and the muscles were working in his jaws. 

As I gazed out on Main Street, my husband, with his back to the front of the restaurant, was watching the side street.  We were  describing the characters we were seeing to each other.  I watched an older woman with a wild mane of bleach-blonde hair cross the street in some pretty outrageous platform shoes, wearing this skimpy little jumpsuit outfit. My husband was watching a man walk along the side street, leaning on parking meters and garbage cans for support. 

And then I noticed the woman on the bench outside the window was changing her clothes. She was just pulling up a pair of underwear when I saw her. She’d been wearing a shirt and jeans, now she was wearing a very stylish looking sun dress.  She left the clothes she’d removed in a pile on the bench, and started gathering up her giant backpack and her other bag. She took her bike by the handlebars and left.

I couldn’t help but wonder where she’d got the dress, looked expensive, like from one of the trendy shops nearby. I’ve heard shoplifting is a problem Downtown, and I wondered – did she just steal that dress and change into it in full view of restaurant windows? Was she using the windows as a looking glass? What? 

She was already gone and the pile of old clothes was still sitting there on the bench. We’d finished our meal and were figuring the tip, cause the staff of this place was very attentive. Leaving the restaurant we realized the food had been pretty poor, cafeteria style, but we’d bolted it because we just wanted to get the hell out of there. We felt bad for the staffers – one cook had come out of the kitchen for his break, and was standing on the street looking at the ragged passersby with a look of disbelief. 

The Downtown assessment is just  the latest in band-aid ideas for Downtown. Yeah, let’s throw more money at it! But every time I go Downtown I see more empty store fronts, I don’t know who the property owners will have to pay their little tax before long. 

 

Butte County supervisors need their heads examined

6 Jul

This morning my husband and I went out early to do chores, expecting the digits to triple by noon or one pm. It’s nice to be able to look behind yourself at a day well spent by 2 pm, and find a shady spot to take a nap or a baby pool to soak your toes until the mercury settles back down a little.

It’s smart to do your shopping early these days. Just that trot from the front door of the grocery store to your car can take the crisp out of a head of lettuce and chop a day or two off the life expectancy of that carton of milk.

Unfortunately it’s not just the heat that makes going out around Chico unpleasant. Transients have set upon our town like some kind of locust plague. You’d think they’d head for the coast, or at least some river town, where the temperatures would be cooler. The temperatures here have proven deadly –

http://www.krcrtv.com/news/local/butte/chico-police-investigating-body-found-behind-ihop/555241431

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20170626/NEWS/170629827

I can only imagine what misery would drive this woman to lay down and die in a cluster of bushes along Hwy 99, trucks rumbling just yards from her body, but I do realize, she had nobody outside her immediate family to turn to.  A $63 million budget for the county Behavioral Health Department and we still don’t have any sort of crisis center or crisis team to deal with people who are in trouble. As we all found out from the Desmond Phillips disaster, calls for help are too often answered by Chico PD officers who may or may not have had one week of training at Butte College in determining, as former police officer Linda Dye put it, “who’s crazy and who’s just faking it…”

Today that was the answer for a young man I feel was determined to take his own life to get help.

As my husband and I rounded the corner out of the deli section of the Mangrove Safeway, my husband stopped to look at  the lunch meat. As I stood by the fancy cheese counter, this 20-something year old man, clean and shaven, with clean clothes, came walking toward us with a very determined look on his face. His expression was almost hostile. He walked straight into the liquor section and I turned my back. Suddenly a young employee brushed by me, smiling in apology. She ran toward into the liquor section saying, “wait, you can’t do that…Sir!”

As I turned, I saw the young man was trying to rip the security top off a liquor bottle. The employee rushed up to him, and around the corner came the manager, who also smiled at me. They know us, we come around the store every couple of days, we walk the same route, buy almost exactly the same items every time.

We saw the young man was argumentative, and there were other employees coming fast on the scene. As we hustled toward check-out, we watched the manager following the young man, who was more agitated, as he walked toward the front of the store. I was glad to have Rafiki and Pete at my check-out, but I worry about my friends at Safeway, having to deal with these people, more and more constantly.

The young man went out the front door, the manager watching at a distance. As we exited the store, we saw Chico’s finest putting the guy in cuffs and leading him toward their car.

We’ve seen similar people at the Safeway plaza – young, clean, new casual clothes, just loitering around the front of Safeway. Once we saw a young guy who seemed to be passed out on the sidewalk outside Kwando, with several empty wine bottles laying nearby.  As we came into Safeway, we watched him ambling up the sidewalk toward the store entrance.

I have to wonder – are these people who have been discharged by the Butte County Psychiatric Facility in Oroville? I have heard they are offered a ride to the Torres Shelter or other facilities, and then just left to their own resources. Many of them have been given prescription drugs, on their own recognizance, which seems, well, crazy to me.

It’s institutionalized insanity. These people are brought here from other cities and counties because we have, as BCBH director Adrian Kittrell describes them, “beds”. Each person come with a sort of dowery – $550 a day. The county is allowed to hold them with or without their consent for a total of 45 days. You do the math, this kind of transparent corruption makes me sick.

But do they treat them?  Well, go out and about around Chico, and tell me what you think. The streets are horrible even for the transients.  I think they seek out incarceration because  it’s meals and a place to get clean and maybe a little safer than sleeping along Hwy 99 or Bidwell Park. At least it’s air conditioned, and you can sit around and smoke cigarettes and not do anything productive.

Including treatment. I’m sure they are interviewed, just enough to glean the personal information required for funding the center. But therapy? I wouldn’t bet on that.

And after 45 days, they are released, by law the county can’t hold them any longer. Unless they make a bee-line for the nearest retail center and boost a bottle of booze, or display any behavior that shows they are a “threat to themselves or others”.

It’s a merry-go-round of insanity, starting with Butte County Supervisors. They all need their heads examined. Garry Cooper pointed out in this morning’s Enterprise Record, it’s all about the pensions and benefits.

 

Public employee unions take advantage of citizens

Here we go again. “Supervisors cut 69 positions” — mentally ill thrown to wolves, fire and public protection saved from cuts, thanks to their generous campaign contributions and vote-getting public endorsements.

“Pension liabilities looming” — both the city of Chico and county supervisors report, after these leaders put the taxpayers’ concerns at the bottom of the totem pole in exchange for public union bribes.

Next comes — “Half cent sales tax increase needed to enhance public safety,” when it is, in reality, needed to pay the over $100,000 per year retirements for these public union members which begins at age 55, 10 years younger than the taxpayers and five times their Social Security retirement.

How about new headlines, like “Supervisors approve term limits for themselves and abolish their CalPERS pension costs paid by taxpayers for their part time jobs” or “Chico leaders hire law firm to set aside public union contracts negotiated under conflict of interest with unions due to campaign contributions” or “Governor and Legislature require all public union retirees work until average age of taxpayers before receiving pensions” or “City leaders pursuing using privatized fire protection firms to same millions in salaries and pension costs” (instead of pursuing Cal Fire help — an even more bloated bureaucracy with a more powerful union able to contribute more to their campaigns.)

Our communities and public safety is being cannibalized by these public unions, and taking more from average-Joe taxpayers to support these exorbitant pensions and ridiculously early retirements is simply abuse of the taxpayer.

— Garry Cooper, Durham

 

 

 

 

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!

Engage your “leaders” regarding the transient problem

9 May

After I posted the picture my husband took in Bidwell Park I sent it to Mayor Sean Morgan with this note:

Mayor Morgan,
>
> I am sending a photo of a mess my husband and dog walked into Friday morning in middle Bidwell Park, along the Fitness Trail. I don’t know the station numbers, but I think this bears investigating. A cursory walk through the area between the freeway and Manzanita Avenue would turn up many illegal camps. You will see small but well established trails leading back into the blackberry vines and other non-native, overgrown brush, where you will find trash piles and oftentimes occupied camps. My husband has encountered people in tents right on the main trail.
>
> We’ve reported these camps in past, this very spot has been cleaned within the last six months by the alternative custody program.
>
> This is disconcerting given Chief O’Brien’s recent revelation that bicycles are being stolen to fuel heroin habits. We see other articles in these trash piles, oftentimes bike parts, stuff that looks like it’s been taken from people’s garages  – even a real estate sign in one pile. We’ve found poop tied up in those bags the city provides to pick up after dogs, piles of them. We’ve found the little caps that go on syringes at places like Cedar Grove and along the Fitness Trail. This is our neighborhood, where we live, our adult children live, and where we have rentals. We wonder why illegal camping is being allowed in a park that traverses a large area of town, and is so overgrown, a criminal can disappear through a gate and into the bushes faster than a jack rabbit.  These people are predating our neighborhoods, and public works department staffers have told us the campers have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and must be given notice before they can be kicked out. They are not required to take their garbage.
>
> How ironic.  These people are practicing illegal Search and Seizure in our homes while our families are at work and school, but they get Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by pitching a tent in the park.
>
> Having heard/read your comments regarding the parklet for Starbucks (and I wholeheartedly agree with the latest decision), I know you must be as disgusted as I am with what’s going on  in Bidwell Park. My family and my tenants need to hear you have a plan to do something about it. All we hear is how the city doesn’t have enough money to fix roads and clean the park, but the pensions get paid no matter what.
>
> Thanks, at your convenience, for your anticipated response, Juanita Sumner

He responded fairly quickly and it seems we are in agreement about the problem.  

Juanita,

Disgusting picture to be sure.  I am frustrated by the transient issue and short of throwing all the service providers out of town (which I’m told won’t work) I’m short on plausible solutions.  Our police Target team and Park Rangers break up camps on a regular basis only to see them started again. 

 I am forwarding your email to Chief O’Brien who I know will forward it to Target.  The camps will move then pop up again (leaving trash, debris, and worse).

I believe making Park Rangers fully fledged police officers will have some effect but not a magical one.  Until we stop protecting the people taking advantage of our community we’ll continue down this slippery slope.  The Governor says they’re not criminals and the Sheriff can’t house them.

Regarding the pensions: you nailed it.  Illegal not to fund CalPers (which can’t seem to earn a decent return to save it’s life) while we can’t keep up on street maintenance in our town.  Municipalities in California are in for a rude awakening (one we avoided once) as sales tax revenue disappears (lost to the internet) and pension cost rise.  In Chico we’re doing all we can to hold pensions and salaries in check without losing valuable safety officers.

We do have some things coming (not tax increases, those are on someone else’s agenda) and I expect to see some improvement soon, but if the majority that runs this state doesn’t realize how they’re killing it, there won’t be much left to fight for soon.  BUt fight we will.

Thanks for letter and continued vigilance.

-Sean

Well, there he acknowledges the problem.  Since he offered no solutions I offered him some of my suggestions.

Thank you for your courteous reply,

I think the first thing you can do is reject the “continuum of care” coordinator – this position is nothing more than a grab for more federal money to house more of these people in our county/town. [The city of Chico has been asked to approve and provide funding toward this position, which requires matching funding to get the grant.]

Also, I don’t know where you live in town, but you might consider running for county supervisor. Both Kirk and Wahl have consistently voted to fund the Behavioral Health programs that are bringing these people here.  I think they’ve had their term and they need to step down, time for somebody new give that office a whack.  [Both Wahl and Kirk are up in 2018 and maybe Morgan could do a better job as county supervisor than he has done as mayor – he would have more authority to defund Behavioral Health.]

I’ve worn myself out reporting these camps to the police and public works department. Eric Gustafson told me these people have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, in our park?  I’m also tired of hearing we don’t have enough money to deal with this stuff. We’re paying people to tell us they don’t get paid enough to work. The spot I showed you has just been cleaned by the alternative custody program, but they don’t go far enough. They need to remove non-native, dead, and overgrown vegetation.  We’ve talked to these people – they’re not real workers, my own kids could run circles around them. They stand around yakking, looking for the first passerby to stop and talk to.  [They aren’t supervised.]

I’m glad to see Dan Efseaff get the boot, we need to get rid of more management do-nothings. He once  told me he had brought the Salt Creek crews in and the work we saw was great. He said these crews cost about $100 day, but he couldn’t afford to bring them in again?  [See the link below for professional services these crews provide.]

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Conservation_Camps/Camps/Salt_Creek/

No more Alternative Custody Service, let’s get the real crews into the park and you’ll see how many hobo camps they find buried in there. I grew up here, I remember the Bidwell Park of the 1960’s, and it’s a disgrace how bad it’s got just in the last 5 or so years since Nakamura gutted our work force to give management bigger salaries. You and council must figure out how to get rid of these overpaid suits and get more workers in here on the same budget. Good luck.  [I didn’t want to remind Morgan, but he and Sorensen stood by and cheered as Nakamura cut positions and quietly raised management salaries.]

thanks again, Juanita  

I have not received any response to my second e-mail, and neither Chief O’Brien nor the Target Team have contacted me about the homeless camp I pictured. 

Please engage these people – sean.morgan@chicoca.gov – mark.orme@chicoca.gov – michael.obrien@Chicoca.gov  – and let them know how you feel about this situation.  Send pictures, that seems to get their attention.

Tom Wolfe called it “Mau-mau’ing the Flakcatchers”.