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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. 

Humboldt Fire caused by transients?

21 Jul

You have probably heard about the 100 acre Humboldt (Road) fire that occurred along Hwy 32, just above California Park and the new Forgarty houses on the other side of the road. It came within yards of Cal Water’s new tank.

When my husband and I drove out on Hwy 32 yesterday, we saw that it came from the area where we had reported illegal camping a few months ago.  There was a tent with a tarp, clearly visible from Hwy 32. When we investigated we found a fire pit surrounded with garbage and scattered household goods. The fire pit was well established, lined with rocks gathered from the surrounding hillside.  The site looked as though it was regularly used for years, and very recently.

We reported it and were referred to Office Scott Zuchin, who told us he hadn’t seen any camp there. He offered to set up a neighborhood meeting, but when I persisted in my complaint he got testy. 

Please be more specific then. We may not be speaking about the same location. You may attach photographs to your email if that helps.

I had given him the exact location, and told him it was visible from Hwy 32.  I don’t think these people read an e-mail completely before they respond. Shortly thereafter, the tent and tarp disappeared, but the campsite was never cleaned up.  We saw signs of illegal camping all along Humboldt road, in the exact vicinity of that 100 acre fire, and aside from a poorly organized last minute clean-up of the road by a private group for the Wildflower Century, there have been no attempts made by any city or county agency to clean the garbage out of that area.

I had cc’d  Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk into that discussion because she lives in Cal Park. She is fully aware of the transient camps along Humboldt Road and complained about crime being on the increase in Cal Park. This woman needs to wake up and get off the pot – she’s up for re-election in 2018 and doesn’t have a clue as to the problems she is causing every time she votes to fund some “homeless” program. The county brings these people in here for the stipend attached – $550 a day to pay down a pension debt that has them cutting  staff and closing fire stations. But to these agencies money is like an ice cube in hell – it’s already gone to management salaries and pensions before it even hits  the floor.

Write to Kirk and tell her she has to do something to stop the flood of insanity she’s turned loose on our town – that’s mkirk@buttecounty.net

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.

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”.

“On the Waterfront” still rings true in many ways

16 Feb

Today I have a cold, so I am staying inside to watch movies on tv.  What luck – the old movies channel is playing “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando and Lee J. Cobb.

I know – it’s “just a movie” – but it tells the story of the unions and how they are corrupt by nature.  Based on a series of stories written by Malcolm Johnson for the New York Sun, OTWF dramatizes “the corruption and organized crime infiltration on the New York City waterfront… the inhumane treatment of longshoremen implicitly condoned by the unions, and the suspicious disappearance of anyone who spoke out against the system…”

As I sit at the keyboard I am listening to the “Johnny Friendly” character, played by Lee J. Cobb, explain to Marlon Brando’s “Terry” why his friend had to die,  how many people had died for the control of the waterfront jobs. As they speak around the pool table, Johnny is continually given reports of the thousands of dollars his minions have conscripted from the workers.

Later Karl Malden asks the workers why  they put up with the treatment from Friendly, ” what about your union?” The men cautiously tell the priest that anybody who raises any question about the treatment of the workers loses electricity in his apartment, “and then your lights go out..” “Name one place where it’s safe to talk without getting clobbered…” adds another man.

Did you know that in order to have a job with the Chico Police or Fire Department you are required to be to pay membership dues, whether or not you choose to be an actual member. You simply give up your right to vote in union matters, but you have to keep paying the dues that end up in campaign contributions at election time. The CPOA is routinely the biggest single donor in Chico elections.

This is a great movie, but here’s more information on the original stories:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/malcolm-johnson/on-the-waterfront/

City of Chico fiddles while Rome burns

18 Jan

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I reported an illegal camp in Bidwell Park. It took the city a few days – New Year’s weekend! – to get them out and then collect up the trash. We knew that wouldn’t be the end of it, and again yesterday my husband found an illegal encampment – this time right off a main trail, right out in the open, unabashed and unafraid of detection.

0117170736-1r

Some people just get too comfortable in the park.

When my husband was taking a picture of the tent a woman actually confronted him. He had our 10 year old diabetic dog, so I started to worry – what if one of these people had a pit bull or other killing machine type of dog? I started to question my husband’s insistence to walk the park with my old dog every morning, even though this routine has successfully kept her blood sugar down to manageable levels.

There you are folks – I don’t feel safe in Bidwell  Park, and you shouldn’t either. Arm yourself and be ready to defend yourself and your children/pets. 

When the woman shouted at my husband, “what are you doing?!” he responded, “what does it look like?” And he took a picture of her tent. He told her, “you know what you’re doing,” and that she had about 30 minutes to clear it all out before he’d report it to the police. 

When he made he way back home with Biscuit, the tent was gone. 

Yeah, the park looks like a hobo camp, why not? The city has allowed the park to sink into horrible disgrace. It’s not “natural,” it’s a manmade disaster of non-native species and septic swamp. Nothing has been done to maintain the health of the park for at least 20 years. The city turned maintenance over to “volunteers”, has brought in jail crews a few times, but has no cohesive plan for how the park should be maintained.  How many millions have gone to plans for Bidwell Park? I’ve lost track. 

City council voted last night to spend more money on staffing Chico PD. I will make my official prediction – the homeless problem will continue to get worse, Bidwell Park will continue to sink into disgust.

UPDATE: I will say, Mark Orme is quick to respond to my inquiries.

Ms. Sumner,

 Thank you again for your input.  I’ve cc’d the Police Chief and Public Works Director over Operations on this e-mail, as they may have additional feedback to give.  I can tell you that staff is evaluating every opportunity to move forward with an effort to deal with this situation more aggressively.  One potential program we are working on is furthering the bond between our public works team and the Police department.  They already have a great working relationship, but we’re looking at a creative approach to securing an even smoother ability to deal with these park issues.  It will roll out during the budget process.  As for now, the Police Department and Public Works will continue to monitor and conduct sweeps on a regular basis…although not as often as staff would like to be able to do, simply due to resource constraints.  

 Have a great day,   Mark

 Mark Orme

City Manager

For the Beautiful City of Chico

But there’s your answer – “resource constraints”. A hundred million plus budget, and this guy is complaining about “resource constraints”?

So I had to ask him about this.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/09/29/chico-pd-announces-quarter-cent-sales-tax-increase-campaign-through-business-support-team/

The podcast is still available, listen to it yourself. Mr. Van Rossum spoke at last night’s council meeting in favor of increasing the police budget – without talking about his “Business Support Team” or mentioning that he raised a few thousand dollars through North Valley Community Foundation Annie B’s for Chico PD. I asked Orme if it’s still true, the police spend so much time at Enloe dealing with the homeless, they need a substation?

When I asked Dorian Kitrell, a director at Butte County Behavioral Health, why the cops were spending so much time babysitting the homeless,  waiting for county employees to pick them up for a ride to the facility in Oroville, he didn’t know what I was talking about. 

We’ll see what Orme says. I’m getting kind of tired of hearing about “resource constraints” from a guy who sits on a $100 million-plus budget and a $200,000-plus salary. 

 UPDATE UPDATE: I have to hand it to Orme, he’s quicker on that send button than Donald Trump!

Yes, the business support team is an independent group, not under the City’s auspices.  The person who usually speaks on their behalf is Ms. Donna Sherry.  I don’t have her contact information readily available, but it may be something you can reach out to Chief O’Brien to get.  As for the radio issues at Enloe, I know it has been an ongoing problem, however, one of the capital expenditures the City is evaluating this year is an upgraded radio system that would deal with this issue.  Again, the Chief would be the best person to speak to that concern.

 If you e-mail him on both of these matters, he is really good about getting back. 

 Hope this helps and gets you connected to the right folks,

Mark

So I wrote to the police chief:

Hi Mr. Obrien,

I was told by city manager  Mark Orme to forward the inquiries below to you.

First, I wonder when we can expect regular patrols of Bidwell Park. My husband and I keep encountering illegal campers on morning walks with our dog, and we don’t feel safe in the park or our adjacent neighborhood anymore. We feel the park has become a haven for criminals to predate our neighborhoods.  The online police reporting website does not have a button for “illegal campers” so we have made reports to the city manager and staff. 

Second, I wonder if you have contact information for the Chico Police Business Support Team, Donna Sherry.  I wondered about a fundraising effort made in 2015 through the Annie B’s drive, by Jack Van Rossum. He made comments on a local podcast show, Chico Currents, saying the police spend so much time at Enloe with homeless people, they need a private “substation” and special radios for communication. I wondered if this is still true and what became of the fundraising efforts. 

Thank you, at your convenience, for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner

I have not had any dealings with O’Brien, we’ll see what we get.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:

O’Brien responded with contact information for Officer Scott Zuchin. I had told Maureen Kirk about a tent spotted along Hwy 32 below the new  water tower, and she told the cops. Here was Zuchin’s response:

Greetings… The Target team linked up with realtor Tamara Lambert-Valencia from Coldwell Banker DuFour to address the encampment issue near the water tower located inside the new Oak Valley subdivision two weeks ago. This camp is no longer an issue. Target will continue to work with the realtor and developer as crime and safety issues arise. Please give me a call. I can arrange a neighborhood meeting with the Target team to discuss your questions and concerns.

I had told Kirk, I’d just seen it the previous weekend, and I saw it again the day before Zuchin responded. I told him it was still there, visible from Hwy 32, a green rain fly strung up over it, bike carts piled next to it. He responded again,

Please be more specific then. We may not be speaking about the same location. You may attach photographs to your email if that helps.

That answer pissed me off. I could tell, he didn’t even take a look. It’s visible from the road. I  gave him more specific directions, and told him he could talk to Kirk about it, she was the one who was complaining about break-ins to Cal Park garages,  etc, threatening to move herself and her husband to a “Del Webb Leisure Village.”

But yesterday, Saturday January 21, on their morning stroll in Bidwell  Park, my husband and  dog encountered illegal tents again.

0121170849b_resized

This tent was concealed in brush, but with a well-worn path leading right to it. I think the cops need more appropriate shoes.

They also saw piles of trash containing bike parts, the usual. So he took the usual pictures, and we made the usual complaint, this time to Zuchin instead of  the city manager. And this time we got no response.

That Orme, he responds very quickly, no matter the day of the week. This Zuchin person has the weekend off! What a boon for criminals! Wouldn’t you think the chief would give me a number that is good for weekends? I mean, if he’s really serious about wanting citizens to report this illegal activity. There’s no mechanism for reporting illegal camping on the Chico PD website.

So, I’ll tell you what, if my husband  finds campers again this morning, I’ll say  it’s official – Chico PD is turning a blind eye to illegal  camping.  They don’t want to do anything about it because it’s just more fodder for their threats to cut services if they don’t get more money.

 

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…)