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CARD propaganda blitz amounts to a lot of false claims

15 Aug

Chico Area Recreation District is hosting a series of informational meetings about their tax proposal over the next month. The first meeting was held this past Tuesday evening. It was short and very informative, I hope more people will take 45 minutes or an hour to attend one or more of these meetings.  It’s a perfect opportunity to ask questions. All meetings are scheduled at the CARD Center on Vallombrosa.

  • August 21, noon
  • August 28, 7pm
  • September 5, noon
  • September 10, 8am

Tuesday’s meeting started at 6 pm and was over shortly before 7pm.   CARD manager Ann Willmann gave a power point presentation. It was a good look at the coming propaganda blitz CARD is about to unleash.

Willmann shared some interesting general information.

• Created in 1948 (71 years ago)
• Encompasses over 250 square miles, beyond City of Chico city limits
• Population served is 121,000
• Operated separately from the City of Chico
• Oversight by an elected 5-member board of directors

I didn’t know those first three things, so here already I learned something by going to a public meeting. But it didn’t take long for Willmann to get into the full-on pitch.

What CARD Does  –  Provide parks & recreation facilities. Enrich our residents’ quality of life. Promote health, wellness, learning and fun. CARD is one of the most utilized agencies in our area,with our parks, facilities, and programs serving thousands of people annually.”

Beyond, “provide parks & recreation facilities,” none of that can be proven. Frankly, I’d liked to have seen a number besides “thousands” of people served annually. “one of the most utililized agencies in our area…” Well, prove it. There are no attendance numbers in the budget reports either. Are they including agencies like law enforcement and public safety, the road department?

I think a common misconception about CARD is that they are responsible for all the parks in town, not true. The city owns all of Bidwell Park. CARD leases the Nature Center from the city, and is responsible for maintenance on that specific property. I don’t know whether they own or lease the ball fields under the same type of agreement. But, I found the following claims to be a stretch.

Our parks:
Reflect the quality of our community.  Oh, that’s not good. Many of our parks are in pretty disgusting condition.

Improve property values.  I think this is highly disputable. When you look at real estate listings, parks and other public attractions like schools and churches are considered problematic. Especially when security and lighting are lacking, as has been one of the main complaints about CARD  facilities. Another complaint has been lack of upkeep, which damages curb appeal for any home.

Contribute to education.   I do notice,  since they took over the Nature Center, “day camps” have been their biggest source of income.

Reduce crime.   That’s funny – Terry Cleland said transients were stealing out of the dugout at ball games. CARD will have to keep working on this one.

Attract businesses and create jobs  Attracts businesses? CARD uses tax dollars to subsidize programs that drive local businesses out of the market. For example, Off the Wall Soccer, a longtime popular indoor sports facility, went out of business last year after CARD renegged on a promise not to compete with OTW’s special 7 man teams. CARD already had an outdoor program, why move in on a local business? Because they can undercut anybody with the guarantee of tax dollars. CARD is a very big competitor for private daycare facilities, and even the local wedding industry.

Creates jobs? CARD provides poverty positions, in fact, most of their workers earn less than $30,000/year, get no benefits, and rely on AFDC and Medi-Cal to fill in the gaps. A few years ago, they cut their part-time workers to 28 hours or less to get out of paying Obamacare.

Willmann shared the results of CARD’s recent survey, here are the “priorities” listed by respondents:

• Reducing crime and homelessness in parks by
providing security guards to patrol parks
• Providing clean, safe parks and recreational
programs for all Chico area residents
• Upgrading parks with lighting, security,
parking, and other safety features
• Improving and maintaining park bathrooms

• Repairing/updating aging recreation centers,
playgrounds, sports fields, swimming pools,
and facilities that promote active and healthy
living and maintain recreational programs for
seniors and youth
• Ensuring accessibility of parks and recreation
for persons with disabilities
• Renovating/expanding parks, trails, and
recreation areas, and completing parks under
construction

Here Willmann went on the defensive, listing “challenges”

• Aging Facilities + Reduced Funding =
Deferred Maintenance
• Continue to address safety needs
• Upgrades needed to aging parks and
facilities
• Create and maintain health-related
programs for all-youth to our seniors
• Discussions and studies have been
conducted
• Financial impacts out of our control
• Fees collected are not enough

Aging facilities? Willmann said most of our  facilities are over 35 years old, that’s not true.  DeGarmo Park, Humboldt Skateboard Park, the Disc Golf Course at 5 Mile, Oak Way Park – these are just some of the facilities that have been built recently. Wildwood Park is only about 25 years old. Reduced funding? Look at the budgets, available here, and tell me they haven’t been getting more money every year:

https://www.chicorec.com/district-budget

What’s true there is “deferred maintenance.” They’ve allowed facilities that should have been easy to keep in good working condition while they’ve paid more and more into their pension deficit, raised management salaries, and  taken on costly new liabilities like the rotten and aging Lakeside Pavillion and Nature Center. One of the top complaints listed in the survey was dirty bathrooms. But look at the budget, do some serious reading – they pay more for pensions every year, with employees only now being asked to contribute anything, and it’s still less than 10%. 

I was really shocked when she listed the Camp Fire as a challenge. 

“Reduced property tax base for the County means a reduction in property taxes for all public agencies. In 2019, CARD lost over $200,000 in revenue”

This was reported immediately after the Camp Fire, by city of Chico mismanager Mark Orme. But, as Orme reported, the state immediately announced they would “backfill” these lost revenues up to three years after the anniversary of the fire. So, CARD didn’t really lose $200,000 as Willmann tried to claim Tuesday night. Private homes within the Camp Fire burn area are already being rebuilt, some of them beyond their original footprint, which means they will be assessed for more within three years than they were assessed before the fire. 

Willman also claims that “Future tax reductions are expected, and plans are being made to adjust expenses.” What future tax reductions?  I’m calling bullshit on this one. There is currently a building boom going on in Chico, with more houses approved for the immediate future. That means more, more, more property taxes to maintain and upgrade current facilities,, not to mention, developer impact fees that pay for new parks. 

And finally she claims “We have seen an increase in participation in already impacted programs due to the increase in our local population.”

Oh, not this one again. Look around you  folks – the college students are back in town, families are getting  ready for school to start, but have you been held up  in any of the hellish traffic  jams that occurred in the weeks following the fire? Have you waited more than 5 minutes at a grocery store check-out? No.

When a woman asked from the back of the room if Willmann had any statistics to back up this claim, Willmann quickly answered, “No.” Furthermore, “we just noticed this increase…” 

I’ll have to stop here, I’ll pick up the rest of the meeting tomorrow. Things got kinda hot when the guy next to me brought up the pension liability. 

 

Is CARD trying to get me kicked off the letters page?

9 Aug

I read Terry Cleland’s letter in response to my complaints about the CARD survey, and their siphoning of money out of facilities and programs to pay  their pensions. The first version the paper printed Wednesday was 500 words, and kind of rude, referring to me as “Sumner”, insinuating I’m just some naysayer who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Then that version disappeared – in the time it took me to feed my dogs and  get my own breakfast it was gone. 

The next day (yesterday), a new version appeared, a lot shorter, and even a little more polite, but still insinuating I don’t know what I’m talking about. That was weird, but here’s what I’m guessing – Cleland didn’t intend that first letter for print, it was a complaint to the editor. He was trying to get the ER to stop printing my letters, was what I  was reading. In past, David Little has told me about complaints he received about my letters, including requests to “ban” me from the letters section. 

One night a few years back, when Steve Visconti was CARD general manager, my husband and I attended a board meeting at which Visconti asked the board, “what are we going to do about Juanita Sumner’s letters?” I was sitting right there, they all knew me, so the board sat silent while Visconti wandered along trying to convince them that they needed to get “somebody” to respond to me.  Nobody ever has, until now. Cleland made an unsuccessful bid for CARD board last fall, maybe this is his way of keeping his foot in the door. 

When I emailed editor Mike Wolcott Wednesday about the disappearance, he said he’d been out of the office and didn’t know anything, but he’d check the next day (yesterday). He never got back to me, but there was the new letter yesterday morning. 

If I were a petty bitch, like Terry Cleland, I’d email Wolcott and say something about the fact that Cleland was allowed to pull one letter and get a new letter posted at the top of the heap the next day. I’d complain about the weeks it has taken these people to run some of my  letters,  which I’ve had to resend and resend. But I know it does no good to complain to these people – so I just wrote a response to Cleland. Yep, I’ll resend it if I have to!

In response to Terry Cleland’s letter (8/8/19):

Over half of Chico Area Recreation District’s $8,900,000  budget comes from property taxes and vehicle license fees. Over half the budget goes to salaries and benefits. Less than 35 fulltime employees have managed to accrue over $2,500,000 in pension liability because they pay less than 10% toward their own pensions. That liability has grown by almost a million dollars since 2015. 

CARD has spent more than $100,000 on surveys, proposing new facilities, but each consultant has told the board there was not support for a tax measure. The respondents made it clear in this last survey that they just want the existing facilities to be better maintained and safer.

I have the 2015 consultant’s report that suggested basic repairs for Shapiro Pool – repairs necessitated by years of neglect, including replacement of a dysfunctional sanitary filter pump.  The total cost would have been about $550,000. Instead, Staff recommended and the board agreed to close the pool and make a $400,000 payment toward their pension liability.  As of 2016, Shapiro Pool, once a popular summer destination for hundreds of children, is “non-operational until further notice”.

Right now Chico is undergoing another building boom, generating millions in new, permanent revenues. If CARD were not so management top-heavy they would have more than enough funding to fulfill their mission. Instead, I have sat at meetings watching them cut workers’ hours to avoid paying for healthcare.  I watched as they cut a popular children’s program while approving a “side fund payoff” to CalPERS. That’s self-service, greed and mismanagement.

 

 

Pension Tsunami, Part 1: How we got here…

7 Aug

In the late 1990’s, Governor Gray Davis and other union-friendly legislators set up the current pension system, agreeing to “defined benefits”.  Public employees had previously been given a “defined contribution” system. The difference being, with a “defined contribution” system, the employer agrees to pay a certain amount, with a “defined benefit” system, the employer agrees to provide specific benefits, no matter the cost.

About 2006 an “MOU” – memo of understanding – was approved by the sitting Chico City Council, with the recommendation of then-city manager Tom Lando, to “attach salaries to revenue increases but not decreases…”  Read that again – “but not decreases…”

Does that sound right to you?  Think about that – give them raises when we’re flush, but no “adjustments” when we’re bust, just lay people off and cut services. That’s been the pattern in Chico for 15 years now. After Lando floated that turd, his salary went from about $65,000 a year to over $150,000 within a couple of  years. His successor came in at $190,000/year.

Council handed out raises of 14%, 19%, 22%, until that memo was outed to the public and the taxpayers started to howl about it. But too late –  City of Chico salaries had progressed well over $100,000  for management and public safety, and other salaries were not far behind. Council approves automatic raises in the contracts so the salaries just keep going up. Even though former city manager Dave Burkland agreed to take a lesser salary than his predecessor, our current city manager now makes over $200,000/year. Add his benefits package and he is taking almost $300,000.

When the public found out about this scheme the city dumped that revenue-based raises mechanism, but came up with something better – “the employer paid member contribution.” That meant, the city not only paid a share of the employee’s benefits, but paid a portion – in some cases the entire portion – of the employee’s share as well.

This finally ended a couple of years ago, when, under intense criticism, those staffers – public safety and city management – agreed to pay their whole portion. And, hold onto your hats – about a year ago, these people even agreed to pay 3% of the “employer share.” 

Excuse me, my hat didn’t even jitter on that, because that makes the employee’s total share less than 10 percent. Anybody who has been a member of CalPERS for 15 years is a “classic member” and pays only 6%, plus that extra 3% – 9%, for a pension of 70 – 90 percent of their highest year’s salary is absolutely RIDICULOUS.

Meanwhile, the employer share has increased and increased, not to mention, the employer is making altogether separate payments toward the deficit, by way of the newly established “Pension Stabilization Trust.”

So, I imagine you saw this article in the paper recently.

Number of California public retirees in $100K Club skyrockets, but they’re just part of the burden on state pension system

This article gives a good historic overview of how the pension deficit has grown. I call it “rabbit math” – first they based the contributions on the employees’ salaries, and then they jacked up employee salaries.

I wonder how many other cities in California used Tom Lando’s ploy of attaching salaries to city revenue increases and then going on a development binge. When overdevelopment finally tanked the local market a few years later and revenues plunged, the salaries, benefits, and automatic raises, stayed in place. Salaries got higher no matter how revenues dipped for Chico. And the pensions and city contributions are based on the salaries. 

Getting dizzy yet? Maybe a little pissed off? Well this is where we’ll close and pick it up again tomorrow. 

 

Assistant city manager takes his tax “offering” to the commissions – these unelected boards have too much influence on city policy

3 Aug

I just heard bad news – the Chico Planning Commission has rejected Payless Building Supply owner Frank Solinsky’s appeal of Simplicity Village. SV is a “tiny home community” for transients, “senior citizens”, that is to be placed  adjacent to the PBS yard. Solinsky is partly concerned for his own interest – rampant thefts by transients to build their shanties at neighboring camps has always been a problemfor PBS.

As landlords my husband and I depend on PBS to keep our rentals affordable. We’ve long-realized that Salinsky’s problems are our problems, because the cost of enhanced security is passed along to the consumer. But my biggest concern is that Solinsky, given this latest turn, might just decide to throw in the towel and sell the property. That would leave my husband and I paying a lot higher prices at the box stores, and that pressure would matter-of-factly be passed along to our tenants. I’m not Mother Theresa,  neither is my mortgage lender, nor is the Butte County Tax Collector.

I don’t know what happens now. But I think it’s time to have a long overdue conversation about the amount of influence these unelected boards, commissions, task forces and ad hoc committees have on local public policy.

Look at the city of Chico agendas page here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas.asp

There are 20 listings. Some are “interagency”, meaning they have representatives from all the local agencies, including the county, CARD and the school district. Some of these people are elected, some are agency employees, but many are appointed. The city boards, commissions, and the task force are  made up entirely of members of the public who’ve been appointed one way or another.

Don’t ask me to explain the appointments process, it’s all over the place. Each new city council decides how they are going to make appointments, and I’ve lost track of how they are doing it now. Some commissions have requirements for the make up of the group. The rules might specify that at least some of the members have certain qualifications, such as professional expertise.  It’s gotten complicated since the days when each council member got to appoint a member, for nothing more than campaign donations.  All I know for sure is they are not elected by the voters.

I don’t think the Planning Commission should exist – it’s always been way too political. We have a planning department, made up of professional planners, we pay them a good chunk of money, why we need a bunch of political sycophants sticking their foot in the process is beyond me. We have public hearings at the council level, but it’s a fact – the commissions have more sway with the council than the public. And, these commissions require dedicated staffers, more $$$$$. The airport manager position is really just a glorified secretary to the airport commission, and she’s not even very good at that.

Right now Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin is using the influence the commissions have to rubberstamp his sales-tax-to-secure bonds scheme. He’s been reporting to each commission in turn, leading them to believe the money would benefit their particular interests.

Monday I attended the Park Commission monthly meeting. You just have to go to one of these commission meetings to believe it. The lack of professionalism is astounding. These commissioners are appointed, not elected, but they act as though they’ve been given the keys to the town.

Here’s something I’ve seen at just about every meeting I’ve attended over the last 15 or so years – council, committee, commission – there’s always somebody who doesn’t read the staff reports. Oftentimes, several of them. At the BPPC meeting the other night one commissioner asked questions that were answered directly in the reports, and I could tell Constantin was  getting kind of testy when he told her that. These people add hours to meetings, and that means $taff Time (=$$$,$$$.00)

In Constantin’s case it’s over $100/hour to sit in a room waiting through other agenda items, including the time it takes each commissioner in turn to make the same stupid observations. They seem to think every thought skittering across their brain like a jack rabbit in the headlights is SO IMPORTANT! Even if it’s completely off topic. At that same meeting I had to sit there while they thanked staff, each commissioner in turn, and told them what a FABULOUS! job they do. They thanked Constantin twice. That’s all nice and stuff, but even Constantin seems to get sick of it.

Nevertheless, he takes full advantage of their helplessness, leading them the way he wants. It was amazing to watch. One minute he’s convincing them they should recommend forgiveness of the $169,000 Nature Center loan balance, and by the end of the meeting he’s telling them if the city doesn’t pass a sales tax increase measure we’ll be laying off cops and fire by 2021.

This guy also negotiated himself a special type of retirement account available only to public workers, a 457 plan, IN ADDITION to his CalPERS pension. City Manager Mark Orme gets the same plan.

“Effective from the first pay period in January 2017 considered in calculating the maximum IRC 457 plan limit and annually, City agrees to contribute nine thousand dollars ($9,000) , to Employee’s IRC 457 plan. Additionally, effective October 5, 2017 the City agrees to contribute four and fifty-two hundredths percent (4.52%) of base salary to Employee’s IRC 45 plan.”

These guys have a vested interest in this tax proposal, they’re determined that we will pay their outrageous pensions. They need to go, in fact, every “classic” employee needs to go. We need young people who are willing to pay at least 50 percent. Which sucks, because they will just be paying for the old farts to live in luxury.

 

 

 

 

Chico Area Recreation District lawyer tells the board what $taff wants them to hear – don’t buy it

24 Jul

I don’t know how many of you read the Chico Enterprise Record, but I only recently  found out – in a town of over 85,000 the ER has a circulation of less than 10,000.  Wow, that was a shock – especially since that would include readers all over Butte, Glenn, and other nearby counties. I grew up reading the ER out in Glenn County, most people had a subscription to both the Sacramento Bee and the ER.  As Chico’s population has almost tripled since my childhood, you’d think the ER would have at least 50,000 subscribers. 

10,000? And that includes people who only subscribe to the Sunday paper.  But, it’s the local daily, so I continue to read it, and send letters to the editor.  It’s better than nothing, and I mean that quite literally.

So yes, I saw the article ER shill Laura Urseny wrote about  a letter I had written to the CARD board. I told them I believe they are spending taxpayer money illegally to promote a tax measure.   District General Manager Ann Willmann had put my letter on the July 18 agenda for discussion, and also asked the district lawyer, Jeff Carter, for his opinion. That’s all a lawyer can give you, his opinion. 

Urseny reported, as I would expect, “Thursday night, CARD attorney Jeff Carter said outside the board meeting that CARD has not violated rules in dealing with EMC because it was a survey of the community and nothing more. The survey did question whether citizens would support any kind of revenue measure.”

Of course Carter says they haven’t done anything illegal – for one thing, they haven’t, yet. That’s correct – after I wrote the letter I finally received a response from Howard Jarvis Association counsel Tim Bittle, who said, “Unfortunately, it is not illegal.  Government Code section 54964 provides, ‘An officer, employee, or consultant of a local agency may not expend or authorize the expenditure of any of the funds of the local agency to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure.’ “

He explained, ” Notice two things about that statute. First, it contemplates that the local agency may lawfully hire a ‘consultant.’ Second, the statute cannot be violated before the existence of ‘a ballot measure.’”

Apparently, they can’t violate the law until they have actually written and handed the measure over to the county clerk. But, as soon as that measure is given approval and a ballot title, the district is not allowed to spend any more money on it.

Well, what’s “legal” isn’t always “right”, and I still think this is an important detail when considering passage of a revenue measure. The district couldn’t get support from the citizens, who would have had to put it on the ballot by way of petition, which would have meant there was some support in the community. But that’s not what happened. So CARD has spent over a hundred thousand in taxpayer money putting this measure on the ballot themselves, that is a fact.

They’ve hired consultant after consultant – EMC has been hired twice. The district originally tried to get Aqua Jets swim team to front this measure – for a new “aquatic center.” Then they got a group called Every Body Healthy Body to propose a “megacility” sports center south of town. But a recent survey done by EMC blew up in their faces. It seems the 400 respondents were more concerned about transients camping on their kids’ soccer fields and stealing their wallets, laptops and cell phones from the dugout at ball games. 

According to a report from Ch 7 news,

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/CARD-survey-shows-park-safety-a-top-concern–510232051.html

Rather than new facilities, the majority of people said they just want to feel safe.”

Here’s an interesting quote from that story, because this is what I have seen for over two years now –  “CARD is working on what to put into a possible tax measure.”  They are ready to promise us anything to get us to raise our own taxes.

This is exactly what EMC has been hired to do by  both CARD and the city of Chico – figure out what to tell people to get them to increase their own taxes. EMC blatantly claims to “offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations and ballot measures succeed.” 

Their questions lead the respondents to think the sky is the limit if they pass a tax on themselves.  Tom Lando’s 2012 survey offered a sports stadium, CARD has offered various sports facilities – what they don’t tell us publicly is they are getting deeper into pension deficit because employees aren’t paying nearly enough to support their own demands for these unsustainable pensions. 

You have to read the budgets to see that CARD employees are paying less than 10% for pensions of 70% of their highest year’s salary. General Manager Ann Willman makes roughly $110,000 a year, paying less than $10,000 to  receive a $70,000/year pension for the rest of her life. That is unsustainable unless you get a gullible, lazy and poorly educated public to agree to pay for it. 

In my letter below I said Willmann pays less than $2,000, because that’s what she’s been paying, as a “classic member” of CalPERS. Reading her latest budget message, I see she’s been asked to pay 6% by next year, eventually 7%. Let me be  the first to say, “Big Fucking Whoopee Mrs. Potato Head.” 

These people are like chiggers – they attach themselves to taxpayers, and then they suck you dry, providing you no benefit whatsoever.  

I am not going to let them lie their way to the bank this time, so I wrote the following letter and sent it to the ER yesterday. Let them know how you feel about this grab – maybe you can convince  them to stop spending money on this endeavor, and start using those funds for proper upkeep of facilities we’ve entrusted to them. 

I beg to differ with Chico Area Recreation District attorney Jeff Carter. CARD’s consultant is up to more than a simple survey.  Read EMC’s claims at their website – “Great campaigns don’t just happen. That’s why we offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations and ballot measures succeed.”

CARD has spent over $100,000 on consultants to help them push a tax measure, money that would have been better spent maintaining now closed Shapiro Pool.

In 2017, a survey concluded there was not enough support for the proposed aquatic center to go forward with a tax measure. The most recent survey showed the majority of the 400 respondents are more concerned with safety and lack of maintenance at the facilities CARD already operates.

In 2015 a consultant hired by CARD told them they could bring long-neglected Shapiro Pool back up to code with about $500,000 in repairs. For instance, the filter pump had not been working for years, and the diving board had  been torn out, leaving obvious trip hazards. Instead of doing the necessary repairs to keep the popular facility open, CARD made a $400,000 “side fund” payment toward their pension deficit.

CARD gets over $3,000,000 in property and vehicle taxes, another $2,000,000 in RDA funding. They spend $5,700,000 on salaries, benefits and pensions. Management pays less than 10% toward their own pensions, the manager paying less than $2,000 a year toward 70% of her $100,000+ salary in retirement.

 Join Chico Taxpayers in saying NO to self-service, greed and mismanagement.

Why let a lie stand just because the liar keeps repeating it?

9 Jul

Joseph Goebbels – “ If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Well, here it is, July, and looks just like the average Chico Summer. As soon as school gets out, the college students “go home,” the school employees take their kids on vacation, and this town looks pretty dead.

Even with those 19,000 extra residents!  What the heck has happened to all the Camp Fire evacuees? Remember last November? Traffic backed up, lines out the door at local grocery stores, laundromats overwhelmed. Now what? 

The city of Chico and local media still claim 19,000 evacuees have settled in Chico. That is a total crock of you-know-what. Look around you NOW folks, where the hell are they? 

So, when I read another false claim in the Chico News and Review, I had to say something. They’ve made all these claims, and all they have to base it on is a press release from the state. The State Department of Finance made ESTIMATES – look that word up, would you? They based these estimates, not on the number of displaced Camp Fire refugees,  but on “changes to the housing stock”. The press release cited “new  construction, demolitions, housing unit conversions, and annexations.”   Apparently, if you build it, demolish it, convert it, or annex it, they assume more people have moved to your town.  They don’t have census data, they just ASSUME. 

On this “science”, the city of Chico, with the help of a lazy local media, bases their claims that they need more tax money to deal with crapped out streets and a serious public safety crisis. 

The real problem with our streets, as Mark Orme admitted at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this year, is that $taff has “kicked the can down the road” on maintenance of our streets.  And, the biggest public safety problem are transients, who camp illegally in our public spaces, and then fan out into town during the day to illegally panhandle, shoplift, and predate our neighborhoods while we’re at work all day.

Many of these people are brought here by way of Butte County Behavioral Health Department “transfers” from other cities and counties all over California.  Behavioral Health Director Dorian Kittrell told me the county gets $550 a day for each of these people, who are put on a 45 day involuntary hold at the county psychiatric hospital, and then turned out on their own recognizance in Oroville and Chico. 

I’m sick of the made-up numbers the city is using as an excuse to raise taxes, so when Melissa Daugherty over at the News and Review repeated the city’s fake numbers and opined we might need a revenue measure,  I had to write her a letter.

Wake up – real numbers don’t end “000”. 

Chico Police Chief claims Chico has grown by “19,000” since the Camp Fire, the editor uses the figure “almost 20,000”, but still no real numbers.

In April city manager Mark Orme was using his “10 – 15,000″ number, based on ” nonregistration, couch-living, trailers parked on streets”.  But to date, there is still no actual count, only “estimates”.

According to the state press release, these numbers are based not on actual population  but on new construction.  “Changes to the housing stock are used in the preparation of the annual city population estimates.  Estimated occupancy of housing units and the number of persons per household further determine population levels. Changes in city housing stock result from new  construction, demolitions, housing unit conversions, and annexations.”  Everything’s “estimated”. Then they even “adjust” the numbers “to be consistent with independently produced county estimates.”

I don’t support the recall either, but I’m tired of hearing the city and the media make claims based on fake numbers. Our town is a mess right now because people are not doing their jobs, but expecting to be paid into perpetuity.

Read more at chicotaxpayers.com

I originally sent this letter June 28. I used a figure I’d heard police chief O’Brien use on the Ch 7 news – he said “16,000,” whether it was a mistake on his part or not. Daugherty, who is very argumentative, thin skinned, and unable to take the slightest hint of criticism, immediately came back at me saying the chief had told council “19,000”. I told her I disagreed, but since I couldn’t find a clip of the story I’d seen, I edited the figure to please her and sent it back. She neither responded nor printed my letter. 

So I just resent it yesterday. We’ll see if Little Miss Thin Skin will remember she’s a “journalist” and print it.  

Those letters don’t write themselves

5 Jul

Reno celebrates the 4th

I’m on the road for the holiday. Spent the 4th in Reno where the casinos do rooftop displays and the university does a big show at their stadium.

Nevada’s nice, gas is cheaper ($3.19/gal), but there’s no place like home. California is where I was born and I don’t believe in running from a fight.

Do you realize,  former Chico city manager Tom Lando has been trying to get a tax measure on the ballot since 2012? Why? Because he gets over $135,000/year in pension, and if CalPERS fails he loses it. He knows CalPERS is in deep financial trouble, so he has been trying to get a tax transfusion. He has not only lobbied the city to put a full cent tax measure on the ballot, but as a board member of Chico Area Recreation District  (CARD) he’s trying to talk the other board members into a parcel tax measure.

Both measures would be general measures that only require 51% voter approval,  meaning they would go into the general fund to be used for salaries,  benefits,  and the “pension stabilization trust. “

I know, you hear the city saying they will fix the streets and hire more cops, but that’s a lie. Not only did the city establish a “pension stabilization trust” and commit over a million dollars a year to it, but top management now recieve a special 401K in addition to having 90% of their pension paid by the taxpayers. Read their contracts,  available at the city website (Human Resources page).

CARD tried to use a new “aquatic center” as bait originally,  but after their recent consultant survey,  they promise cleaner parks and more security.  See how they change their tune, say whatever the voters want to hear? Well look at their budget, available on their website,  and see how much money they siphon into their pensions while they tell us they didn’t have enough money to maintain Shapiro Pool. They ignored a local contractor’s report and instead of doing much needed maintenance to save the pool they dumped $400,000 into their pension deficit fund. According to the contractor’s report,  they could have saved Shapiro Pool for about $500,000. And he made it clear the problems were due to years of neglecting simple maintenance.

Good lesson in civics for your kids, eh?

So now’s the time to write letters to council  and the CARD board, tell them they will have to get that money out of $taffers like city manager Mark Orme, who makes almost $300,000 a year in total compensation but pays less than $20,000 toward 70% of his $225,000 salary at age 55.

Speak now, or forever hold your hands over the seat of your pants.