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Will the gas tax repeal make the ballot? Stay tuned!

2 Mar

Carl Demaio and Reform California are still working to put the gas tax repeal on the November ballot.  I believe (?) the deadline was Wednesday (Feb. 28) but have not heard whether they were able to gather the required number of signatures. 

Here’s what Ballotpedia has posted:

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Voter_Approval_for_Gas_and_Vehicle_Taxes_Initiative_(2018)

“The California Voter Approval for Gas and Vehicle Taxes Initiative (#17-0033) may appear on the ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 6, 2018.”

Scroll down and have a laugh – Jerry Brown says, “I can’t believe the proponents of this ballot measure really want Californians to keep driving on lousy roads and dangerous bridges. Taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair borders on insanity.”

Listen, Moonbeam, you should think before you speak. You can’t believe it because it’s not true – proponents of this ballot measure have repeatedly said the money for road repairs is available but being siphoned off for other purposes. You’ve also just acknowledged lousy roads and dangerous bridges, for which you, as Captain of our ship, are responsible, and therefore, liable!  And yes, taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair to fund your pension borders not only on insanity, it borders on corruption, Sweet Cheeks. Should we have a court martial? Maybe set up a plank? Ooooo – keeeeel haul!

I think Brown is privately shocked about the voter’s response, lots of people have signed. I’m guessing the petitions were turned in, but it will take a while to verify the signatures. 

We’ve been talking about hidden taxes, such as the “franchise fees” the city and county are allowed to collect from utility companies such as Comcast and PG&E. This gas tax was shoved on us by the governor and the legislature, without any input from the voters.  For years now they – including Jerry Brown – have siphoned their outrageous salaries, pensions and benefits out of the road funding. I’ve sat in meetings many times and watched the local agencies pilfer “restricted”  fund to pay down their pension deficit, while roads and other infrastructure in Chico have turned to absolute crap. 

The foxes are in charge of the henhouse People.  For example, Scott Dowell used to be the finance manager for Chico Area Recreation District before he got hired by the city of Chico. While CARD allowed two public swimming pools to deteriorate to sub-code and sub-ADA conditions, Dowell made a extra $400,000 “side fund pay-off” on CARD’s $1.7 million pension deficit, saying it would save the agency money on interest payments to CalPERS. Meanwhile, CARD management has only started paying toward their pensions within the last two years, “classic members” like CARD manager Ann Willmann are only paying 2 PERCENT.  That all happened on Dowell’s watch.  Now he’s running City of Chico finances.  Next Thursday I’d bet my last $5 he’s going to lay down a pretty wild argument for a sales tax increase. 

Cause taxes are their heroin. As long as they can get a fix, put off rehab for just one more fix, one more fix, one more fix…

Just look at Chico Unified School District – they’ve had a bond measure on almost every ballot since 1998, and the last three have passed. But they are getting ready to put another bond on the ballot, because they just got new demands from both CalPERS and CalSTRS for more money, more money, more money…

You probably think you hang around with a nice crowd, but if you send your kid to a Chico school – any Chico school – you are leaving them all day with a bunch of freaking junkies. Wake UP!

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew city council member Randy Stone is running for Butte County Assessor. I was kinda bitchy – I told her I didn’t give a shit who was running for election, because elected offices don’t matter anymore – it’s $TAFF. And we don’t get to vote for them. 

But, voting is important, especially the initiatives. So I’ll gas up the old election buggy and try to get it out on the road, try to start posting some news about the local candidates, besides just…YECHHHHHHH!

cause we can’t and we won’t and we don’t stop…

 

 

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

1 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City franchise fees amount to a shake down of the ratepayers – now they want a sales tax increase? Tell them NO! with a Utility Tax Rebate Form

17 Feb

I got an answer from City of Chico Administrative Services Officer Scott Dowell regarding PG&E franchise fees – the amounts I had seen in the old news story from Ch 7 were not supposed to be added up:

Ms. Sumner:

The amounts reflected in the article totaling $609,017.71 for the combined PG&E Electric and Gas Franchise fees were received in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

They are included in the total amount of $649,760.70 reflected on the budget summary for the General Fund 001.  The difference between the two amounts is other PG&E adjustments paid to the City from prior year adjustments.  The $649,760.70 may be found on page 17 under object code 40404 at the following link from the City’s website:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2014-15CityAnnualFINALBudget_000.pdf

So, the totals I saw added up to $609,017.71, but the city also received an additional $40,000 or so from the previous year. I want to blaspheme right now – this whole thing is so confusing, how are we supposed to keep track?

By fiscal year ending June 2017, the total had gone up to $690,768.

This fee is based on a percentage of PG&E’s total take for the year, and then pasted right back on to our bills like a big booger.

It’s not like they hide it, not exactly.  Look at your bill, page 2, which lists “Your Electric Charges Breakdown” (I don’t find one for gas charges). Besides “Generation, Transmission and Distribution”, you are charged for “Electric Public Purpose Programs” (which I believe fund low-income programs for other customers), “Nuclear Decommissioning” (I believe this pays costs of taking down disabled nuclear plants), “Competition Transition Charges” (???) and then there’s “Taxes and Other”.

“Taxes and Other”. I did the math – that does not include the Utility Users Tax, which is a percentage of your total usage charges, including “Taxes and Other”. 

There are other charges listed – more hidden taxes – like the charge for bonds issued by the Department of Water Resources.  But what I’m looking at right now is how much money the city of Chico steals from ratepayers through these hidden fees. These fees are tacked onto our bills. No matter how we try to conserve we are hit, our bills go higher and higher. The city does nothing to curtail PG&E’s insatiable rate increases, because they stand to make a direct profit.

But they still need a sales tax? Next week they will raise developer fees, which is why Butte County/Chico have become less affordable to live in, according to the most recent housing affordability figures:

https://www.car.org/aboutus/mediacenter/newsreleases/2017releases/2qtr2017affordability

Butte County is included in the list of 29 counties where housing has become less affordable over the past year, despite developers who’ve used the “housing crisis” to wedge in their sub-standard subdivisions. High density developers have been after the city of Chico to let them build without paying fees, but their housing just keeps getting more expensive anyway. 

Here’s what you can get in Doe Mill – with no yard – for $422,000.

https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/Doe-Mill_Chico_CA

Builders have been making the argument that we need more housing to make houses cheaper – really? How come they just keep getting more expensive? According to this index, less than half the residents of Butte County can afford a “median priced” home.

https://www.car.org/marketdata/data/haitraditional/

They list the median price at about $299,000. Have you seen a house selling for $299,000 in Chico? Cause when we were looking for a house for our kid, anything less than $300,000 was in a neighborhood where you would want to park your car in your living room at night and push your dresser up in front of your bedroom door.  Even in my old neighborhood, a 3 bedroom house down the street just went for over $360,000. Do you really think the city of Chico, starving for money, is going to do anything that will cut their property tax revenues? All that crap about building more to bring down the cost of house is just LIES.

The city of Chico is desperate for revenues. You know how junkies are – they will lie through their teeth to get money, lie, cheat and steal.  A city can pass “measures” and “initiatives” at council meetings without so much as a peep from the public, especially a lazy, stupid public. The city of Chico takes advantage of our stupidity and laziness to siphon funding through the utility companies, the developers, business owners – anybody who wants to do anything in the city of Chico must participate in the shake-down. And they go along because all they have to do is pass the buck on to YOU.

So now we have a select group of business owners and publicly employed hawkers telling us we need to pay a sales tax increase? Answer them with more than a million in franchise fees we pay through our Comcast and PG&E bills. 

And then gather up your utility bills and add up the amounts listed as “Chico Utility Users Tax”. They are listed on PG&E, Cal Water bills, and if you still have a landline, your phone bill. But you have to look through these bills, sometimes the UUT charges are listed separately and have to be added up. PG&E lists them in with each electric and gas charge separately, look carefully. 

Most people in Chico qualify for the Utility Tax Rebate – a family of four making $47,000/year or less qualifies. Here’s last year’s application form:

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/UUTREFNDApplicationPageOneTwo_CombinedFILLABLE4-13-16.pdf

Applications for 2017/18 will be available in late April, or I’ll e-mail the Finance Office and remind them. You have May and June to turn it in, and I usually drop mine off to avoid paying postage on a stack of utility bills – yes, they want alllll your bills! But they will send them back – I’ve been doing this for over 5 years now, and I’ve always got my bills back with my check. 

When we didn’t know, we might have considered ourselves victims, but now that we know, if we don’t act, we’re idiots. Sending in your UUT rebate application is a way of telling them you’re sick of their constant wheedling and poking, lying, cheating and stealing.

 

 

 

Gas tax petition gaining momentum – time to defund the special interest programs that are ruining our state

24 Jan

I’m glad I went to that meeting yesterday, because it relates to some other stuff I’ve been reading in the news. 

First of all, Dude sent me this article over a week ago:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-jackson-california-poverty-20180114-story.html

“Guess which state has the highest poverty rate in the country? Not Mississippi, New Mexico, or West Virginia, but California, where nearly one out of five residents is poor. That’s according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in the cost of housing, food, utilities and clothing, and which includes noncash government assistance as a form of income.”

I’ll buy that, because that’s what I’m seeing all around me – more than 1 in 5 of my friends are having money problems, and few of them have been living fast or fancy – they’re having a hard time paying their new PG&E, Cal Water, and Waste Management rates, which are going up hell-bent-for-leather compared to their wages. My kids are working jobs at reduced hours because their employers cannot afford to pay the still-required health care premiums for employees working 28 hours or more a week. 

While you might want to blame welfare recipients, read on:

“Self-interest in the social-services community may be at fault. As economist William A. Niskanen explained back in 1971, public agencies seek to maximize their budgets, through which they acquire increased power, status, comfort and security. To keep growing its budget, and hence its power, a welfare bureaucracy has an incentive to expand its “customer” base. With 883,000 full-time-equivalent state and local employees in 2014, California has an enormous bureaucracy. Many work in social services, and many would lose their jobs if the typical welfare client were to move off the welfare rolls.”

And then there’s the pressure on the middle income families who have to drive to work – The Moonbeam’s answer to poverty was higher taxes on cars and gas.  There’s no limit when you are spending other people’s money. Luckily a group has come up with a gas tax repeal petition:

http://act.reformcalifornia.org/petitions/cartax/html/gen/

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-gastax-repeal-20171127-story.html

“We need to stop the car and gas tax hikes because, number one, it’s hurting working families,” said Carl DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego City Council and now a talk radio host who has helped spearhead the repeal. “Secondly, the money is being diverted time and time again from road repairs and road expansion to any special interest project the politicians have.”

 

Yes, any special interest project – like a busline to Sacramento that  takes an hour longer than driving your car, that will still cost $24 round trip (and screw you if you miss that 4:55 bus), and will still have to be 60 percent subsidized by the taxpayers, even if they get the ridership required by the grant program. 

Read this again, “With 883,000 full-time-equivalent state and local employees in 2014, California has an enormous bureaucracy.”

Including the staffers at BCAG, SRTA, SJJPD, and a bunch of other special districts around the state. BCAG has a $1.5 million dollar payroll to meet, for 12 staffers – whipping out my handy calculator, I see that’s $125,000 per staffer. 

Public compensation drives up the cost of everything, from housing to food to gas to daycare to medical care and so on.  The private sector family living on $40,000 or less has to compete with these people for homes, groceries, everything – in a town with so many publicly employed residents as Chico, the seller or merchant is able to charge top dollar for everything.

This is how these stupid special projects affect our quality of life. Tell your county supervisor you don’t want to participate in this bus line to nowhere, it’s not too late, the grant applications haven’t been accepted yet. 

Why do people ignore a problem until it’s too late to do much about it, then expect to complain? Trash deal has been in the works since 2012 – now people want to bitch about it?

5 Jan

I just got my new 2018 Waste Management bill for three months (32 gallons) of $59.70, up about 55 percent from previous bills of $38.55. I realize there is always a bit of inflation but 55 percent? By chance, did the city hire the negotiator from the Pentagon’s F35 program for the Waste Management contract?

I also read that pot was legal in California in 2018 but our City Council decided that a retail pot store was not appropriate for our fair city. How am I supposed to relieve the anxiety of opening my Waste Management garbage bill? I’m very unhappy with our City Council.

— Geoff Bartels, Chico

You know how I love to say “I told you so.”   

That’s not really true – it drives me nuts, trying to get people to pay attention to an issue when there’s still time to stop the bulldozers, but they give me that same old tired bullshit – I’m sorry, I have a life! Why don’t you get one Juanita?

But of course, later, they  get to whine and complain about it.

Somebody read one of my old posts on the subject yesterday, from 2014. At that time, Joe Matz of Recology was saying rates would triple, and the city was looking at requiring service for everybody. If you wanted to haul your own trash they wanted to inspect your vehicle, etc, which was tantamount to requiring a hauler’s permit.

When Juanita raised her scrawny little fist and said, “If you require service the city will have to provide a low-income subsidy…” 

To which the consultant answered, “She’s right.”  He smiled at me across the room. It wasn’t the consultant’s fault, he was very truthful about the whole thing.

OOO! The bulldozers had to stop and listen! You’ll notice, service is not required under this deal, and you can still take your trash to the dump without a hauler’s permit. Which means, neighbors/relatives/friends can still share cans to save money.

Just think if there was four more Juanitas.  Or at least four more people who went to these meetings and raised a scrawny little fist?

And here’s what I’ll  tell Geoff – read the Waste Management website – you can opt out of yard waste service and save almost $6 bucks a month. My family, who share service with our tenants, also opted for a smaller bin. Our son has moved away to college and our tenants don’t have much trash either – we realized we didn’t need that 96 gallon bin anymore.

Once I made those changes in our account, the rate is still about $5 more per month. No, I’m not happy about that. But I wish people who complain would educate themselves – the real problem at this point is the city wants to use the new revenue to pay down their pension deficit instead of fixing the streets like they said they would. That’s where we need to hit them, and hard.

In fact, public works director Brendon Ottoboni says the road/streets fund is tapped, and they are almost 10 years behind on necessary projects. When developer Bill Webb asked at a recent public meeting how a person could get their street on the projects list, Ottoboni again said there’s no money for fixing any more streets.

thumbnail_20171129_095754

This is the “pedestrian right-of-way” down my street. Every now and then I look in that pothole, make sure there isn’t an old lady or a jogger with a stroller stuck down in there…

Want to have some fun? Write to council member Randy Stone, who recently declared the deal was working cause we have less trucks on the streets.

randall.stone@Chicoca.gov

Really Randy? On Wednesday I have a Recology truck on my street, servicing the “commercial enterprise” known as the Evangelical Free Church. On Thursday my bins  are picked up by Waste Management. On Friday Waste Management picks up the bins on the street that intersects my street. So, I get a minimum of seven trucks a week running up and down the street in front of my house.

How about another picture.

thumbnail_20171129_095932

The asphalt is almost completely separated from the base here.

But here’s another funny fact – my street is not considered a  “feeder” by the city of Chico, because there is no new subdivision on my street, so my street will never be on the “projects” list – ask Ottoboni about that.

brendan.ottoboni@Chicoca.gov

Letters to the editor of a newspaper that reaches less than a third of local residents isn’t going to cut it. A few months ago council member Ann Schwab suggested a complaint line for garbage customers so they wouldn’t have to write to the mayor. Why not write to the mayor?  He approved this deal too.

sean.morgan@Chicoca.gov

Don’t forget the chief engineer – city mangler Mark Orme

mark.orme@Chicoca.gov

If you’re going to complain, make it count. 

 

 

Ralph Nader: “If you don’t turn on to politics, politics will turn on you” – let’s put the “public” back in “public meetings”!

2 Jan

Well Happy New Year to you!

Here’s a resolution for you – attend a public meeting this year – make that TWO!

Here is the agendas page for City of Chico meetings:

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

There are three kinds of “committees” – those made up of elected officials, those made up of official appointees (spoils committees) and there’s one that’s made up of staffers – the Maps Committee. That’s a fairly new committee – I’m guessing, they either got in trouble for making these decisions behind closed doors or some rule changed and now they have to make these meetings public. 

Let’s face it – these meetings are only “public” if the “public” attends.

Chico Area Recreation District has a whole new website – you  gotta wonder, why? Their old website was fine, everything was available from the home page – now I had to search for information about the board, and I had to e-mail manager Ann Willmann to ask where to find the agendas. 

You also  gotta wonder, how much did the new website cost? 

Take a good look – this website is going to cost you a new bond or assessment on your home in 2018.

http://www.chicorec.com/board-of-directors

In 2018 let’s put the “public” back in “public information,” “public meetings” and “public participation.” 

UPDATE:  I was kind of shocked to receive this response when I e-mailed CARD manager Ann Willmann yesterday (1/2/18) about agendas for upcoming meetings:

 Sorry I missed you. I am currently out of the office until Monday, January 8th. The CARD office is  closed 12/25-1/5/18. I will be checking email occasionally during the break and will respond to emails as needed. Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season. Ann 

 

So, does this mean, parks and playgrounds are going unattended? Are CARD workers currently laid off, being designated “part time,” and living through the holidays without pay?  Or does it mean, the actual workers have to work while management gets two weeks off, with pay?  Either way it’s costing us. 

Willmann e-mailed me later yesterday, from wherever. 

Hi Juanita, agendas for our regular meetings are posted 72 hours prior to the meeting date. I’m sorry you are not finding the new website more user friendly, thank you for the feedback. I did make a few adjustments to better communicate when the agendas will be posted.  Thank you, Ann

And yes, she’d made that notation on the website. I’m not allowed to ask too many questions at a time, or I would have asked, “One meeting a month – don’t you think you could get those agendas up more than three days ahead?” 

Still think Agenda 21 is a big joke?

30 Oct

I don’t know how many people are aware of our city’s efforts to get “Green”.  For years I tried to cover Chico’s Sustainability Task Force, formed originally by then-Mayor and current city council member Ann Schwab.  When current chair Mark Stemen took over a few years ago, the committee went completely underground, ad hoc, no council members, no staffers to take notes – like former city staffer Mary Fitch once said, these ad hoc committees are just “an end-run around the Brown Act”.  

https://chicotaxpayers.com/?s=sustainability+task+force&submit=Search

A committee member is tasked to take “notes”, which appear every few months on an agenda, after they’ve been abridged and approved by the committee. Read those here:

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

The STF gave us the bag ban. They also passed an ordinance by which we have to put new toilets, new shower heads, new light bulbs and do up to $800 worth of insulation and other weatherization in our house before we can sell it. Read through those agendas and “notes”, see what other short hairs they are grasping for.  But I still had to laugh at this video Dude sent me:

Recently, local developers were told they could pay lower fees for building smaller houses in new urban type neighborhoods.

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20171025/NEWS/171029818

What does the average family want? I don’t know, because the average family was neither invited to nor represented at the meeting, it was just a bunch of developers and suits. Oh yeah, and Ken Fleming, who likes to talk philosophy. Ken’s a nice guy, but he lives on some planet where everybody is on Valium.

They think the smaller houses will get us out of our cars, that’s so funny.  Read the following story and don’t forget to watch the video – note, the woman is driving a Prius – didn’t she see the Audi commercial? 

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-28/prius-driving-ny-legislator-fakes-ptsd-panic-attack-get-out-minor-speeding-ticket-vi

Go on to her campaign speech below – she’s an urban planner! 

The Sustainability Task Force also gave us our trash deal, are you happy with that? Got your postcard, telling you all the things you can be fined for? Not so funny now, is it?

 

Thanks Dude, for sending those videos, and reminding us to keep an eye on the Sustainability Task Force.