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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. 

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.

City manager Mark Orme, Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin behind the chatter for a sales tax increase

23 Jun

I’ve been trying to engage our city “leaders” regarding the trash tax –  according to City Manager Mark Orme, “the Muni Code Ordinance (which is on Tuesday’s [June 20] Council meeting) is going forward for final reading.  This allows for the City to entertain the Franchise Agreements (Ordinances) which will come back on August 1st – originally they were anticipated to return in July, but due to the Council’s, yours, and other members of the public’s feedback/input we are negotiating further to ensure clarity and that the best deal is had, under the circumstances.  Therefore, the action for Tuesday will lead to further discussion and approval or disapproval of the new franchises in August.”

I have a lot of problems with this “franchise agreement”, the main problem being that it is a tax in disguise. We all know the city is standing in front of a pension shitstorm with a tennis racket – their tennis racket appears to be a quarter cent sales tax increase.  At the May 16 city council meeting – at about 1:14:44 – local government shill Stephanie Taber got up to the podium and told council we need to raise taxes. Here’s the link – 

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=673

I was not surprised,  but since Taber used to be a regular attendee of the old Chico Taxpayers Association meetings, I had to ask her what the hell she was thinking.

“Wow, what a tiger you are! Raise Taxes! 

I got a better idea Steph – why don’t you just get out YOUR own checkbook, donate all the money you want to the salaries and benefits, and leave the rest of us out of it.

Thank you! Juanita”

She replied, 

“First off, let me say that I would, along with other Chico residence have to “open my checkbook” and pay whether the city did this as a sales tax or GO bonds that would affect property taxes..either way I’d have to pay too.

The city would only raise 4 to 4.5 million per year if they increased the sales tax by a quarter cent.  Many of the city streets now utterly failing (there is a list in the 17/18 budget and discussed at Finance) would cost at least that much to now totally dig up and replace because of lack of maintenance during the Schwab years.  That is when millions of gas tax money was diverted to maintain S&B for city employees and to keep her in office along with Holcomb, Gruendl, Walker, Nickel, Flynn and that whole regressive crew.

The sales and/or GO Bonds that I think we must look at would be only used for infrastructure.  The funds coming in would be ear marked and put into a separate account that could be verified and restricted.  We’ve seen this new administration’s (Chris Constantin in particular) ability and willingness to do that and as long as we have fellow concerned citizens willing to spend a bit of time following the income and expenditures in a particular account I don’t see a problem.  Problems arise when administrations lie and hide as our state government is doing with the gas tax increase that the voters had no opportunity to weigh in on.

I’m a bit surprised that this is seen as a “Republican” /”Democrat” issue … there is no ideology involved in this.. it is simply a recommendation that we raise revenue (tax or GO Bonds) for a specific problem, infrastructure, that would benefit the entire city.   Today we are currently short 14 to 16 million and that figure will only go up if we sit and do nothing..to me that is not an option.”

Signed, “st

She always blames everything on the liberals, even now that the conservatives have been in power for almost two years. She also seems to forget all those meetings we sat at over the years, watching money transferred out of whatever restricted fund and into the General Fund. She even mentions the gas tax, which went entirely to salaries and benefits through “allocation” – a process Chris Constantin formalized as the rule of law almost as soon as he got hired here.  It’s now policy to keep funds balanced through transfers, any time a fund is low it’s city policy to take money from other funds to balance it, restrictions my ass.   At least before we saw when funds went into the red, now they just cover up with “allocations”. There’s a budget “appropriation” – that means “taking” – in almost every fucking agenda.

“Today we are currently short 14 to 16 million and that figure will only go up if we sit and do nothing…”

Who the Hell is “we”? I think the word we’re looking for here is “them,” or how about, “embezzlers…

I will say, she’s got a point – “Problems arise when administrations lie and hide as our state government is doing with the gas tax increase that the voters had no opportunity to weigh in on…” you mean, like the garbage tax Steph?

But there you see the puppet master – “The funds coming in would be ear marked and put into a separate account that could be verified and restricted.  We’ve seen this new administration’s (Chris Constantin in particular) ability and willingness to do that…”

I’ve known this woman for some years now, I’ve watched  her face light up every time Chris Constantin or Mark Orme paid her special attention. One day Mark Orme just put his arms around here after a meeting and gave her a big squeeze. These guys have her in their back pocket. It’s their work she’s at now. 

I heard it from a little shill…

Fillmer needs to go in 2018

8 Jun

I’ve been trying to follow the trash tax conversation since  2012. At some point it went underground, and every time I’d ask Mark Orme for an update he’d tell me it wasn’t ready for the public yet. He kept giving me dates that it would be “rolled out,” but those dates came and went as the city wrestled with the haulers over the deal. 

Ever watch “Repo Man”, with Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton? Then you know what the “repo man grab” is. This deal was a fight between two big dogs that both wanted to eat the ratepayers, they were just squaring off over who got what.

They only started talking public about this deal a couple of months ago, and the revised ordinance they approved Tuesday night was available to the public, on the city website, for less than a week. I got it from the clerk Friday, because I’m signed up to get the agendas. For some reason she had trouble getting it out – she usually has these in my mailbox on the Wednesday before the following Tuesday council meeting. 

When I read it, the things that stuck out to me the most are the requirement that we have and pay for a yard waste bin – 

  • after 5 years of drought many people have taken out lawns and big trees have died. The only thing you can put in those bins are leaves and grass clippings.
  • this is not free, it’s a requirement, and therefore should be subsidized for low-income households. I’ve been telling Orme that since 2012, but he would never respond
  • this means another truck stopping in front of my house – they said they would reduce trucks – liars!

The other item that bothers me is that trash service is not required.  That means, the burden of increased costs will fall on those of us who do the right thing and get trash service. It shoves out the lower-income households who can’t afford it – great! 

I wrote to the entire council one last time to try and get them to consider these points, forwarding them the conversation I’d had with Waste Management staffer Ryan West.

Hello Council,

I am forwarding questions I had asked of Waste Management representative Ryan West regarding the most recent revision of the trash tax deal, before you tomorrow night.  The only item he did not answer satisfactorily for me was regarding mandatory yard waste pick-up.   I understood yard waste would be optional, but Mr. West tells me it will be required. Wow – trash service is not required, but if we get trash service, we are required to pay for yard waste service. As I explained to West below, I don’t need yard waste service, why should I pay for it?  

One more thing I’d like to bring up with you folks is, if service is not mandatory, this will raise the rate for those of us who opt in. If service is mandatory, I believe the city must offer a subsidy program for low-income residents. This needed to be discussed publicly and still should. 

The whole thing needed more public discussion. I’ve been trying to follow this for about four years now, and the deal you have here is not what was talked about at the meetings I attended. Also, these meetings were poorly noticed, at times when the general public would not be able to attend. I think this whole thing was run under the radar because you know people would see – it’s a tax. Right Mark? And I quote, “Let’s call this what it is, a trash tax.” 

By any other name, this deal still stinks.

Juanita Sumner

Of course I got no response. The next night they approved the deal without discussing either point. I was frustrated, so I wrote a second note, but this time I only included Mayor Sean Morgan and Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer.  

Notice 

I will not pay for yard waste service I don’t need. If you move forward with this deal, you are depriving me of affordable service, and I think that’s going to come back at you later.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I do think they are breaking the law, but we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, I got a surprising response from Vice Mayor Fillmer.

How come the others that voted for it are not on your email?  Are you discriminating?

That’s it, that’s her whole response. As if she didn’t get my earlier e-mail. What is this, seventh grade? This woman is not only our vice mayor, she’s worked in the public trough for years, and runs her own “human resources” agency. I’d like to have an explanation for the yard waste requirement, but I get “are you talking to me!?!”  

I responded:

Ms. Fillmer,

When I wrote to the entire council on this subject earlier this week I got no response, so this time I just sent to the Mayor and Vice Mayor. Yes, I think you’re right – by definition, that is “discriminating – having or showing refined taste or good judgment.”

I have tried to follow this garbage tax conversation since 2012, attending various meetings. When the subject stopped coming up at meetings and  I asked Mark Orme for further information, he repeatedly told me they weren’t ready to show the deal to the public (I still have the e-mails he sent). The deal was not shown to the public until recently, and this most updated version was available to the public for less than a week before council approved it. 

The yard waste requirement only came up recently. Why? After 5 years of drought, people all over town have taken out lawns, trees and shrubs have died.  I have a large property but my needs are suited by a small compost pile. As a landlord I am constantly pruning trees – tree branches  are not allowed in the yard waste bin.  The rules for yard waste bins allow only leaves, grass clippings and small plant waste – why are we required to pay more for a service we don’t need when I am forced to make regular trips and pay to take my yard waste to the compost facility on Cohasset? This was never discussed in front of me, it never turned up in meeting minutes, and it really just looks like a bone you are throwing to Waste Management so they can jack up our rates.

Please explain to me any other good reasoning you might have behind this requirement. And maybe you should ask Mr. Orme or Mr. Ewing if required yard waste service will have to carry a low-income subsidy from the city. 

Fillmer is also trying to tinker with the city’s pension system – she’s trying to make new employees pay more but old, or “classic” employees will not pay. Mark Orme and Debbie Presson just got raises to cover their new pension shares. Orme’s salary was already over $200,000/year, and Presson’s raise takes her to $142,000/year, but they pay less than 10 percent of their own pension. 

Fillmer is up in 2018. She needs to fold up her legs and go home.