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Do you know somebody who wants to/is running for city council? Tell us about it!

4 Aug

Well, I got my first election mailer today – Chico Democrats. I don’t like mailers because they clog my mailbox and trash can, but they’re always interesting. It seems the Demos are calling out the council “conservatives” on various charges, from DUI’s to bad staffing decisions to lawsuits, it runs the gamut. It’s pretty poorly done, the kind of juvenile trash talk that I’m sure will make a lot of local Democrats cringe. But it’s the first smack in the mouth, and I think we can expect at least ten rounds this year.

“Conservative” Kasey Reynolds announced she will run for reelection, which was no surprise. I believe this “Quality of Life” measure she’s trying to get approved for the ballot tonight is the first salvo in her campaign. I think she was talked into this BS by her guru Rob Berry, and I’m sorry, it was poor judgement on her part. The people already have plenty of mechanisms to take their grievances to council, and the best one is, throw them out on their asses at election time.

This is the third strike for Old Kasey as far as I’m concerned. The first was her vote to approve the Shelter Crisis Designation in 2020. The second was the rental registration tax she was trying to push forward for the city. And now, Strike Three – she uses staff time to forward her campaign, not only to get herself re-elected, but to pass the tax measure. That’s corrupt. While I may feel forced to vote for her based on what rough beast slouches forward to take the district, I will certainly not endorse or support her. She hasn’t done anything I can get behind, she just keeps shoving the city farther down the Road to Perdition.

Here we are, another election, forced to choose the lesser of two evils. I have only lately found out what district I’m in, it was difficult given the maps they presented. At one point we found ourselves in Deepika Tandon’s District, but only recently they updated the maps and we are back in Reynold’s district – but all our neighbors are cut out, the line runs right down the street in front of our house and around the first corner. I can see why people scream “gerrymandering!”, the process looks pretty sketchy.

At this point the new districts are making it hard to figure out who’s running for what, and few candidates have come forward to give any information about their intentions. A local developer and frequent contributor to the letters section and various social media sites, Tom Vanoverbeek is running in District 6, on the southeast end of town. I have no idea who he’s running against. TV, as I’m going to call him, actually wanted the city to approve a Pension Obligation Bond, writing a letter to the paper about it, without ever mentioning that the constitution requires bonds to go on the ballot.

The City of Chico currently has a $147 Million unfunded pension liability to the CalPers retirement system for city employees that it is contractually obligated to pay. CalPers is currently charging the the city 7% annually on the $147M.  By restructuring this debt with a Pension Obligation Bond (POB) the city can satisfy this $147M debt at interest rate of 3.5% to 4% instead of 7% saving the city millions of dollars. A Pension Obligation Bond is NOT new debt, it is exchanging one form of debt for another at a much lower interest rate and is why over 30 other California cities such as  Riverside, Pasadena, Pomona and Grass Valley have issued POBs.

The CalPers system is a defined benefit program which means that the payout to employees at retirement is fixed. CalPers is funded by contributions from employees, employers (the city) and returns from the investments made by CalPers. The unfunded liability exists because CalPers has failed to meet its’ investment return goals, currently 7%. CalPers’ 20-year average rate of return is 5.5% compared to the S&P 500 index of 7.5%.  Under the agreement between CalPers and the city, the taxpayers, you and me, are on the hook for the $147M shortfall.

It was an appallingly bad decision for the City of Chico to join CalPers 20 years ago but that doesn’t change the reality that we owe them $147M.  Think of this like refinancing your home mortgage, if you can pay 3.5% why would you pay 7%?

TV uses the argument that tells me, he doesn’t really understand, he’s just repeating what the consultants said: “Think of this like refinancing your home mortgage, if you can pay 3.5% why would you pay 7%?” That is a child’s mis-understanding of pension bonds, and that’s the kind of judgment that’s already got us into the pot of doodoo we find ourselves.

I wish these people would take their job more seriously, and maybe read the California Constitution, read the city charter, but they depend way too much on staff. And then yeah, blame staff when the stuff hits the fan. I hope we see some serious, better informed candidates come forward, but it’s tough given the pot of money it takes to run these days. If you think you have a candidate that is worth supporting, tell us about it HERE.

Letter to the Editor: Patrick Newman claims our city is underfunded, I say it’s overspent

28 Jul

I saw Patrick Newman’s letter to the ER last week, the first part looked like a bitch-fight with Oroville taxpayer Steve Simpson, but I thought the last paragraph deserved an answer.

Newman opines, “Thoughts: 1) Chico police and fire are the only “fully funded” city departments – true since the beginning of Mark Orme’s tenure. 2) Like it or not, elected officials are tasked with spending money.  3) While I’m not convinced dumping more money into police and fire services will make us safer, I am aware that our underfunded city has a backlog of over $200 million in failing infrastructure – to include crumbling roads, a neglected sewage treatment plant, an under-maintained storm drain system, aging traffic signaling, etc.  4) There are flaws in any taxation scheme.  Chico can go on dithering, but the consequence will be exponentially more expensive infrastructure decline.

Wow, Mr. Newman is a pretty astute observer of city business, but he always twists things around his way. How can he say a city with a $211 million budget, 80% of which goes to salaries and benefits, is underfunded? So I wrote a letter about it.

In response to Patrick Newman:

  1. Yes, Chico PD and FD are fully funded. Public safety gets over 75% of the General Fund – proof that you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it.
  2. Elected officials are tasked with spending money, and the public is tasked with making sure they spend it wisely. This isn’t always the case, and that is a good argument for a 2/3’s measure with specified spending goals. Instead council approved a simple majority measure that goes into the General Fund to be spent without public approval. 21% of the General Fund goes into the pensions.
  3. Our city is not “underfunded”, budgeting $28,890,000 in sales tax revenues for 2022, along with $11.5 million in property tax, $9.2 million VLF in lieu (your car registration fees) and $8 million added to your PG&E and water bills in the form of Utility Users Tax. Furthermore, the $200 million in failing infrastructure is a result of years of admitted deferred maintenance, while staff poured increasing amounts into their pension deficit – last year $11.5 million, this year over $12 million, $18 million by 2025, and so on.
  4. The major flaw in the sales tax increase measure is that it is not dedicated to any specific purpose. While staff and council have insinuated it would go toward infrastructure and services, they can’t promise that. They can promise a $12.2 million “catch-up” payment to CalPERS this year.

This is a bad measure, Vote No.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

DCBA worried about “e-shopping”? They should join the community in opposing the sales tax measure

24 Jul

“It’s going to take the community support to keep the local businesses able to compete with some of the big internet stores that are out there,” says DCBA vice president David Halimi.

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/slice-of-chico-summer-celebration-ventures-to-keep-spending-local-against-e-shopping

Well, I’d be worried if I were Halimi, Downtown property owner and proprietor of several long-time Downtown businesses. Sales tax eats discretionary money, and most of the businesses Downtown are dependent on discretionary money. But it’s the same for businesses all over town, really – people will even put off maintenance on their cars and homes when they are pinched for money. They cut their budget all over, not by choice, but because they have less money to spend.

I’d guess, like myself, the first thing most people cut from their budget is restaurants. If not altogether, they eat out less and they eat at cheaper places. One friend of mine told me he will quit eating at sit down restaurants in favor of “restaurants with a tip jar”. At home the family cuts the clothing budget and starts shopping at discount grocery stores. At a time like this, there’s no way small local businesses can compete with the prices at the big chains or online stores.

Of course, this hurts lower income people the most – restaurant workers, retail workers, service workers. They have to make corresponding cuts in their budget. It’s like a virus, causing a downward spiral for the economy.

I believe in supporting your business community, at large. Pricey Downtown businesses should not be asking for charity, they should be joining the community in formal opposition to the sales tax increase measure. I’d like to see the DCBA and the Chico Chamber make a public statement against this bad measure. Interim Chamber CEO Mark Chrisman has said he is afraid a sales tax increase would be bad for local business, but when I contacted him asking if they Chamber would oppose the measure he did not respond.

If you are, or you know, a local business owner or member of the DCBA or Chamber, you should oppose or ask your friends to oppose the measure. Furthermore, you should ask them to convince their fellow members to get a formal statement of opposition out of these organizations. The business community has a lot of pull with council, they donate a lot of money at election time and have a lot of customer clout. Let your business community know, this measure hurts you, and what hurts you, hurts them.

Housing market is tanking, rent is going up – what’s the city of Chico doing? Making it worse.

22 Jul

Yep, the housing market is crashing, and rent is going up. Why? Well, here in Chico, I believe the cause is overbuilding. Walk with me, talk with me.

The city has been permitting skads of new housing, despite concerns about water, traffic, and the general quality of life. That’s their answer to demands for “affordable housing”, but no, it’s not affordable, housing is getting more expensive as we speak.

How does that happen? Well, it’s that overused mantra – if you build it they will come. More housing attracts more people. People from cities where the cost is a lot higher, and oftentimes the quality of living has sunk to unimaginable lows. So they come here with their fistful of cash and bully down other buyers. I’ve seen it.

Another reason is that alot of those people are investors, not families in desperate need of housing. Right away the investor involvement drives up demand and the price. They have the money to offer more than the average family, and they snap up new housing before it is even built. I don’t have an exact figure, but I know a lot of the houses in that new Fogarty subdivision were bought new as rentals by investors.

Who could forget the scam that significantly raised the price of housing in Chico FOREVER. Developer Tony Symmes concocted a plot with cronies to recruit “straw buyers” to buy his houses at way more than market value. On my street, a group of local investors bought an old lady’s back yard and put in seven houses, which they all immediately bought for themselves, at outrageous prices – the cheapest little house at the front went for almost $700,000. But it was all just on paper, money never changed hands, they were the investors. Then they sold the houses, using the straw prices they’d invented – one 4 bedroom McMansion sold in 2020 for $743,000, with a current estimated value at over $800,000.

Once the price of housing goes up like that, it’s never going to go down to reason again. Take a look at the prices on Zillow, I was shocked. See, council can approve the permits, but they have nothing to say about the prices. The prices are set by the market, and the market is a screaming horde out of the Bay Area. That’s what you get when you permit a Build Fest like we got now.

Have we all really forgotten the recession that fell in 2008? I remember earlier, then-council member Dan Nguyen-tan, telling me things were great – interest rates were down, he said, so people could afford more expensive houses. I remember looking at that guy with new eyes – what an idiot, how do people like him get into positions of trust? Why would you want people to buy more expensive houses, just because the interest rate was low? Because that raises not only the cost of housing, but the amount of property taxes on those homes. Forever.

And then we found out, it was VARIABLE. And they were letting people buy with no down and no payments for a year. Who would not have seen what was coming on the heels of a frenzy like that?

I had heard about foreclosure, I’d seen pictures of whole sections of Detroit, houses sitting empty and in decay, old faded For Sale signs on the dead lawns. But I’d never seen it for myself. It was shocking, sign after sign along the streets all over Chico. Red Bluff was really bad, I saw a neighborhood in which most of the houses had Foreclosure signs in front. Chico had never seen anything like it, historically, foreclosures were rare. Now they are a fact of life in Chico. We’ve way over built our housing market, and that doesn’t mean, we’ve been “housing” anybody, and housing has certainly not become more affordable.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure, rent follows the housing market – rents are also shocking these days.

Furthermore, utility rates have also gone up steadily, without any reason except the utility companies want more money. PG&E burns down a town due to lack of maintenance on a 12 cent part, and use it as an excuse to raise rates. The CPUC wrings their hands and approves rate increase after rate increase, amid stories of bribery and scandal among board members. Who you gonna call? Well, when CPUC president Michael Peavey was caught red-handed accepting bribes from utility companies, then California Attorney General Kamala Harris threw her apron over her head and said the statute of limitations had run out.

Instead of using their collective might to mount a legal protest of the rate hikes, the city of Chico takes advantage of high utility rates, imposing franchise fees on PG&E and Comcast, and a 5% Utility Users Tax on your PG&E, Cal Water, and landline bill. But have they pressured any of these companies to update their infrastructure in your neighborhood? You might have seen the maps the city consultant made, showing which neighborhoods have high fire danger – most of them! But nobody asks, how old are the transformers and electric lines?

And how’s your internet/cellphone service? Does your Cal Water taste like PV Pool? How does paying a chump fee to the city of Chico affect the quality of any of these services aside from raising the price?

City of Chico is in trouble because of poor decisions based on employee wants instead of taxpayer needs. You see them out cleaning the bum camps they created because they don’t want you to think about what they’re NOT doing. They want you to say, “hurray Staff, thanks so much for doing the job you already get well-paid for!” And pass their sales tax increase. Don’t be a dupe, your kids are smarter than that.

American Rescue Plan included a bail out of the pension system – unfortunately, the bail out system needs a bail out!

19 Jul

Well, you think you know it’s bad, and then you find out, it’s badder than you think. Very, very badder.

First I read the city’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). I found out, the pension deficit figure that comes up in conversations is only a fraction of what the city actually owes – that made me mad. Worse, I saw what the city pays out monthly in payroll contributions, and that made me sick. How can we funnel hundreds of millions of dollars a year into a failing system?

And then Dude sent me this article from Zero Hedge, and little rockets starting flying out of my ears.

https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/america-just-bailed-out-bunch-pensions-taxpayers-expense

Yes, there it is – America just bailed out the pensions.

“Buried deep in the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Biden in March 2021 was a provision mandating the government to bail out ailing multiemployer pension plans.”

I knew the ARP was going to be full of pork barrel, so this does not surprise me. Like the author says, this act was jammed through quickly under cover of COVID, I’m going to guess most legislators never read it in full, not even their staffers knew what was in it. Business as usual in Washington, as well as Sacramento.

Well, here’s something I never even guesstulated – there’s a national agency tasked with bailing out the pension funds – the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. But here’s no surprise – they’re in trouble too!

 “The 25 largest U.S. public pensions face trillions in unfunded liabilities. If Americans took the time to stand back and look at the bigger picture they will see the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) an independent agency of the United States government responsible for acting as the nation’s “safety net” for failed pensions is also in trouble. When a pension fails this agency is expected to take control of its assets and dole them out to its pensioners in the coming years. The ugly truth is the PBGC is not a rock but is in need of its own bailout. 

Here’s another truth: the taxpayers pay the lion’s share of the pensions, and always have. We pay more than half the payroll amount, and we pay ALL OF THE DEFICIT. It is time for the employees to fess up and pay more, a lot more.

Or the reality is going to be this: “People are often led to believe pensions are a promise carved in stone, however, when the money is not there pensions and promises will be broken so pensioners should prepare for the pain. This is especially true in the public sector which has a history of granting pensions that are unheard of in the private sector. “

 

I think the time has come for the city of Chico to tell Judge England where he can shove it and start ignoring his insane orders. Can we get a competency hearing for a judge?

17 Jul

Driving in from Paradise the other day I noticed the Chico city limits sign has been updated to reflect the latest census figures – Chico’s new population is just over 111,000 people. As I predicted, that falls far short of the 120,000+ claimed by Mark Orme when he was crying about Chico being overwhelmed by the Camp Fire and other wildfires. I’ll guess his claims about the sewer being overwhelmed – while the city works director admitted it was at just over half capacity – were also false. Orme tried to blame the condition of our streets on the wildfire refugees – anybody who’s lived in Chico more than five years knows that is also a fib.

We also know, it wasn’t the refugees who added 11,000 to our total population – while some former Paradise residents ended up living in Chico, for now, what is really bringing new people to town is development. Look around you – while the streets in your old neighborhood are crumbling, the city of Chico is using grants and RDA money to put new streets in new subdivisions. Grants require matching fund and the RDA is a loan at 3%, so they will be using your tax money to make the match and then pay $3 for every RDA dollar they use.

This is an old, tired pattern in Chico – build new, because it brings in new money – state grant funding, builder fees (which council has just raised again) and new, enhanced property taxes. And of course, the added population brings in more sales tax and utility tax. Win Win Win! for city staff, who can use all that unrestricted money to pay their pensions.

But it’s a Lose Lose Lose for our town – they don’t spend the money as they should, and as our population increases, our infrastructure begins to fail. And somehow, despite all their promises of “affordable housing,” living in Chico just keeps getting more expensive.

Our town and council have fallen on a practice of taking whatever funding wherever they can get it, and sometimes it costs more than it’s worth. A “conservative” led council signed the Shelter Crisis Designation in 2018 for roughly $4 million. Where the hell did that money go? You see where it got us, our town is a loony bin. But our entire council, conservatives and liberals, signed to extend the SCD last year, having got our town into a finger trap of a lawsuit.

Ever tried one of these? City of Chico Council and Staff have put us all in this trap.

Don’t read the paper, or watch the news – look at the social media site “Butte County Fires, Accidents and Crimes” on Facebook. When I checked yesterday, I immediately saw a report of a stolen vehicle and another of a fire involving four transient tents at Ninth and Cedar. Right in the middle of the afternoon, on a 3-digit day.

Hey, did you know, you can cook a small batch of meth on a camp stove? With ingredients available at any drugstore. I’m just saying.

Since the opening of the Pallet Shelters at the fairgrounds, I’ve seen reports of thefts from nearby businesses, multiple overdoses requiring emergency service, and yeah, bum fights, including battery of a staff member. How could anybody not have seen that coming? You put a few hundred people into that kind of crowding, in the bleaching sun with no trees or grass, give them three bathrooms, relax the rules for stuff like dogs, drugs and stolen merchandise – tell them, oh no, we won’t kick you out if you break the rules! What the hell would anybody expect?

All conscious and willful decisions made by our council, advised directly by staff, that have had an incredible and easily foreseen negative effect on our “quality of life”.

Staff has admitted that all of our shelters are nearing their physical limits, and that we will have to stand by while the bums take over our parks, waterways and public spaces. All because the city signed the SCD. As long as we are in that finger trap, our city management has admitted, an increasing amount of the General Fund will go toward the shelters and the clean-up of the parks, not to mention the drug and crime problems that are exacerbated with the transfers from the jails and the mental hospitals.

Here’s my solution – ignore Judge England’s orders. Enforce the laws, rout the campers, and here’s a twist – arrest them! Jail is a form of shelter, and I think any moron could make an argument that even an overcrowded jail with drug treatment and regular meals is more humane than a filthy camp on an open toilet formerly known as a creek.

So, Man UP Chico City Council. Reach down between your legs, and find your BALLS!

Chico can’t afford a general measure

14 Jul

I’ve been watching the city of Chico move toward this tax measure since about 2012. I’ve watched them make some pretty desperate pitches, always threatening infrastructure and services, but constantly siphoning money out of every fund to make increasing payments toward their own pensions. Now they claim they need more money to fix the roads, they admit the transient camps are going to continue to drain more money from the Gen Fund, and they continue to raise the police budget. But Kim Nott, for one, has said it like it is – they want us to pay their pension deficit before CalPERS and other pensions systems start going down like dominoes. It disgusts me that our elected “leaders” won’t have an honest conversation. I’ve been especially disappointed in the “conservatives” – they came in promising to clean up our town and now Reynolds is claiming to make council accountable – with your money.

So I wrote a letter about it!

Councilwoman Kasey Reynolds’ proposed “Quality of Life” initiative seeks to assure the voters that council will be accountable with their spending of the enhanced sales tax revenues. Unfortunately it shows just the opposite. City Attorney says the measure is not legal, so why are we wasting Staff time pursuing it? It’s meaningless and unenforceable, and the idea that the city would fine itself and then pay with taxpayer money is ludicrous. This is a clear example of how council and staff whittle away money that is not specifically dedicated to a certain use.

Council members and staffers have insinuated that new sales tax revenues will go toward infrastructure and services, but they can’t promise anything. Council, advised by staff, voted unanimously to put a simple majority measure on the ballot, with no restrictions on spending, no accountability, period. And a feel good ballot measure that has been declared illegal by the city attorney is supposed to make us confident these people will do the right thing with the new revenues?

Council members have admitted they did not understand the Warren settlement and were intimidated by the judge. They didn’t understand the Shelter Crisis Designation, or that they were not legally required to sign it. No voter initiative will provide accountability for incompetence. These people are not only unaccountable, they’re indemnified – any lawsuit they get themselves into, the taxpayers finance the lawyer who gets them out, even if the taxpayers are the plaintiff.

Chico can’t afford a general measure.

Is Kasey Reynolds using public resources to forward a political measure?

13 Jul

The deadline for the city to turn over their tax measure to the county clerk is coming around soon, and now Kasey Reynolds has proposed a “Quality of Life” measure as well. She will have to pedal fast, as the city attorney has issued a report saying the measure they’ve proposed is not doable.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=766

“the Act is unconstitutional, unlawful, is in violation of the Warren Settlement,
and the City of Chico Municipal Code, and therefore is not recommended to be adopted or placed on the ballot as drafted.”

The report includes the draft of the ordinance Reynold’s and friends have presented. I’m no lawyer, but the first thing I thought was VAGUE and the second thought was UNENFORCEABLE. That’s exactly what city attorney Vince Ewing has said, read it all for yourself.

But the real sticker is that the ordinance calls for the city to fine itself, $5,000, should it determine that the complainant’s complaints are reasonable. How many problems do you see there? The first one I see, is that the city gets to determine whether the complaint is valid? And this is really cute – if they determine that the complaint is facetious in any way, they get to fine the complainant? I’m sorry, I don’t think Councilwoman Reynolds is being very sincere.

Ewing included the rules for using taxpayer money in his report. This is especially important since we can see the boundaries around the campaign for the city’s sales tax increase measure.

“It is unlawful for any local official, including any local appointee, employee, or consultant
(collectively referred to herein as “City staff”), to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity. (Gov. Code § 8314.) Campaigning is any activity that attempts to influence voter opinion in a particular way. (Stanson v. Mott, 17 Cal. 3d 206, 218 (1976). “

Of course public agencies are allowed “Informational activities that provide a neutral, fair presentation of a ballot measure or duties authorized by law, such as preparing ballot materials, are not campaigning and public resources may be used for those activities. (Vargas v. City of Salinas, 46 Cal. 4th 1, 24-25, (2009), citing Stanson, 17 Cal. 3d at 221.)

But I don’t believe that’s what Reynolds is doing. Where’s the information? Her draft ordinance is vague and leading. I believe she is trying to use Ewing to forward a fake, feel-good measure, leading the public to believe the city will be accountable with the new revenues from their sales tax measure, and I’m glad to see he told her where to stuff it.

I don’t know if Reynolds is running for re-election, but I know she’s failed miserably in her attempts to “solve the homeless problem”. City finances are a mess, the town is a mess, she knows people are angry, and it seems she’s desperately looking for a way to take the heat off herself. She should have to hire her own attorney for these activities. It’s not an appropriate use of the city attorney, a taxpayer funded public resource.

Sorensen and Morgan would very much like us to forget their complicity in the slow degradation of Chico – don’t do it!

9 Jul

I’m still puzzling over remarks made by Chico councilman Sean Morgan in an interview with Ch 7 KRCR. First he made cryptic remarks about who is responsible for Chico’s abysmal situation, as if he had nothing to do with it. He praised Sorensen, who as past mayor and councilman, knew the situation Chico was in and why the city was in that situation but only made decisions that deepened the abyss, hiring new employees at outrageously high salaries without asking them to pay a rational share of their pension and benefits costs.

Morgan continued to emphasize Sorensen’s long track record in the City of Chico and said that the city needs a strong leader as officials, like the chief of police, retire and the city faces challenges with administrative staffing.” He mentions that the chief just retired without mentioning that Madden was only chief for about a year and a half before his recent retirement announcement. “challenges with administrative staffing“?

I’ll guess he’s going to say we need to offer bigger salaries “to attract talent”. That is the argument by which they continue to spiral the salaries up and out of reason. And it’s a lie – they gave Madden a raise, which increased his pension and his deficit, and you see how long he stayed – a year and a half, just long enough to spike his pension.

And then, another cryptic remark about “A lot more people will get away with a lot less,” Morgan continued. “I think that some of the decision-making methods [in city administration] were handled loosely and people were given reigns that shouldn’t have been given reigns. I think Mark will do a better job of focusing on ‘that’s your job’ or ‘‘that isn’t your job’”. What is he talking about? Who is he talking about?

I’ll remind us all – Sorensen took office in 2010 and Morgan took office in 2012. Sorensen hired Nakamura and agreed to a $40,000 salary increase for the city manager position with NO CONTRIBUTION toward pension or benefits. Both Sorensen and Morgan hired Mark Orme and both voted to promote him to city manager when Nakamura left, again, requiring NO CONTRIBUTION toward pension or benefits. As elected officials, both Sorensen and Morgan were included in the “decision-making methods“, both of them were handed the “reigns” as Mayor and both also served as Vice Mayor. Yet Morgan refuses to take any responsibility for our current situation, nor does he assign any to Sorensen.

Sorensen’s appointment is obviously supposed to comfort us and convince us that the city will make wise use of the extra revenues if we will just approve the new tax they’ve placed on the ballot. And here, Morgan is very clearly threatening us with more cuts to services if we don’t pass a general tax with no restrictions on spending.

“Morgan said the move is important at a time when the city is facing a number of issues. ‘The most important thing for the city is finances,’ he finished. ‘if we don’t have the finances, we don’t have the police, we don’t have the fire, we don’t have the public works. The city has gotten much cleaner and we need to keep that happening. We need a clean, safe city for business to prosper.'”

Oh sure, we can trust Old Mark! Oh please, let’s not forget, Sorensen served with a “conservative” majority, unfettered by the “liberals”, but still made painfully bad staffing decisions that drove the city deeper into debt. He also agreed to the increasing “side fund” or “catch up” payments to CalPERS, which at first seemed sensible. The deficit went down in the beginning, from about $168 million to about $130 million. But we found out – that was at a huge cost to services – Nakamura gutted staff with Sorensen’s blessing, eliminating the lower level “worker” positions in the Public Works and Parks Departments. This was the beginning of the city’s attack on the tax payers by attrition, “the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure.”

So how do our pension costs keep going up? Look at the 2020-21 Comprehensive Finance Report, page 70 – be sure to sit down. Our total pension deficit is a lot more than they’ve been telling us.

https://chico.ca.us/sites/main/files/file-attachments/1_2021_chico_city_acfr_-_signed.pdf?1641834874

You see that while they were getting rid of the city’s actual workforce, council agreed to increasing management salaries without demanding employees pay any more toward their pension or benefits costs. It wasn’t until Orme was city manager and agreed to a measly 3%, then 6%, then 9% – for 70% of his highest year’s salary at retirement. That’s about $25,000 a year, and for that Morgan agreed to raise “the Skipper’s” salary to a base of $207,000/yr.

Hey, don’t you have to wonder – what was Sorensen thinking when he agreed to raise the city manager salary to $220,000 for Nakamura? Think he knew he’d be Chico city manager someday?

Another ass-backwards attempt to get us to approve this tax is Kasey Reynold’s limp-wristed initiative to “hold council responsible” for ” quality of life” issues. Another waste of very expensive city attorney time. Let’s pick that up another time.

Handing Sean Morgan a tax increase would be like giving a loaded gun to a chimp

8 Jul

Tuesday night (6/5/22), Chico City Council hired former Mayor and Councilman Mark Sorensen for the city manager position, unanimous approval. I was not able to get his contract before the meeting – the clerk’s office told me, as you may have read here, that they are not required to show the contract to the public until Sorensen has agreed to it.

So council/staff hurriedly agendized the appointment for the July 5 meeting, I assume they knew I was not going to bother them for the details over the Fourth of July weekend. How ironic – over Fourth of July weekend, they hoodwinked the taxpayers. $207,000 annual base salary, over twice what he was getting as city manager of Biggs. And Lord only knows what else.

I was watching the Ch 7 News and saw Sean Morgan talking about Sorensen. Get out your barf bag, this is tough to listen to.

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/chico-city-council-approves-mark-sorensen-as-new-city-manager

First there’s this cryptic statement: “He is almost single-handedly responsible for saving the City of Chico from bankruptcy,” Morgan said, praising Sorensen. “He had the courage to stand up when bureaucrats said, ‘you don’t need to know that, you need to get out of my office, you’re just a lowly elected official.'”

Just which “bureaucrats” is Morgan talking about? And excuse me, we haven’t exactly been saved from bankruptcy yet, we’re still picnicking on the railroad tracks as I sit here.

Here’s reality: As a member of council in 2012, Sorensen hired Brian Nakamura, agreeing to a $40,000 increase in the city manager salary to $220,000/year. At the time, management employees PAID NOTHING toward their pension or benefits. Nakamura immediately pointed out a $160,000 pension deficit (a total $190,000 if he’d added in the “benefits deficit”), but blamed it entirely on the police and fire departments. Citing threats from public safety employees, Nakamura left for a new job less than a year and a half later, receiving a year’s salary as part of the agreement he made with Sorensen and the others.

Sorensen then agreed to hire Nakamura’s chosen replacement, Mark Orme. Orme briefly took a cut to $180,000/yr but was not asked to pay ANYTHING toward his retirement or benefits.

Morgan was not on council when Orme was hired but later agreed to raise Orme’s salary to $207,000/yr if he’d pay more of his pension cost – his share gradually increased, first 3%, then 6%, then finally he agreed to pay “the city’s share” and is currently paying 9%. In return council agreed to give Orme a special kind of 401K for public employees – a 457 fund. Council, including Sorensen and Morgan, agreed to deposit an additional $20,000/year into that fund – how is that not a raise? Because he doesn’t have to pay taxes on it. In fact, in his contract, it states, that none of his benefits are taxable until he retires. That’s called “deferment,” and it saves him a shit-ton of money.

Orme pays a grand total of 9%, toward 70% of his highest years salary at retirement. At the base listed above, that would be over $140,000/yr, with Cost of Living Adjustment (Increase). And he only pays about $25,000/year. According to Transparent California, Orme alone has racked up a $70,000 pension deficit.

Thanks largely to his friends, Mark Sorensen and Sean Morgan. Especially Morgan and Orme had a very friendly relationship, with Morgan constantly referring to Orme affectionately as “Skipper”. So, it’s just a little weird now, to hear him refer to Orme as a “bureaucrat” and lay the entire blame for our current situation at Orme’s feet. A big turnaround from two years ago, when Morgan led the council to hand Orme total executive “emergency powers” during the COVID shutdown, allowing him to hire three new positions, and even appoint a new police chief at a higher salary than the former chief.

Excuse me there, Sean, you shit-for-brains – just exactly how is that “standing up to the bureaucrats”?

Handing an idiot like this a tax increase is like handing a loaded gun to a chimpanzee. Excuse me, that’s one of my favorite episodes of “Monk”. Yeah, we all miss Sharona.