Butte County supervisors need their heads examined

6 Jul

This morning my husband and I went out early to do chores, expecting the digits to triple by noon or one pm. It’s nice to be able to look behind yourself at a day well spent by 2 pm, and find a shady spot to take a nap or a baby pool to soak your toes until the mercury settles back down a little.

It’s smart to do your shopping early these days. Just that trot from the front door of the grocery store to your car can take the crisp out of a head of lettuce and chop a day or two off the life expectancy of that carton of milk.

Unfortunately it’s not just the heat that makes going out around Chico unpleasant. Transients have set upon our town like some kind of locust plague. You’d think they’d head for the coast, or at least some river town, where the temperatures would be cooler. The temperatures here have proven deadly –

http://www.krcrtv.com/news/local/butte/chico-police-investigating-body-found-behind-ihop/555241431

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20170626/NEWS/170629827

I can only imagine what misery would drive this woman to lay down and die in a cluster of bushes along Hwy 99, trucks rumbling just yards from her body, but I do realize, she had nobody outside her immediate family to turn to.  A $63 million budget for the county Behavioral Health Department and we still don’t have any sort of crisis center or crisis team to deal with people who are in trouble. As we all found out from the Desmond Phillips disaster, calls for help are too often answered by Chico PD officers who may or may not have had one week of training at Butte College in determining, as former police officer Linda Dye put it, “who’s crazy and who’s just faking it…”

Today that was the answer for a young man I feel was determined to take his own life to get help.

As my husband and I rounded the corner out of the deli section of the Mangrove Safeway, my husband stopped to look at  the lunch meat. As I stood by the fancy cheese counter, this 20-something year old man, clean and shaven, with clean clothes, came walking toward us with a very determined look on his face. His expression was almost hostile. He walked straight into the liquor section and I turned my back. Suddenly a young employee brushed by me, smiling in apology. She ran toward into the liquor section saying, “wait, you can’t do that…Sir!”

As I turned, I saw the young man was trying to rip the security top off a liquor bottle. The employee rushed up to him, and around the corner came the manager, who also smiled at me. They know us, we come around the store every couple of days, we walk the same route, buy almost exactly the same items every time.

We saw the young man was argumentative, and there were other employees coming fast on the scene. As we hustled toward check-out, we watched the manager following the young man, who was more agitated, as he walked toward the front of the store. I was glad to have Rafiki and Pete at my check-out, but I worry about my friends at Safeway, having to deal with these people, more and more constantly.

The young man went out the front door, the manager watching at a distance. As we exited the store, we saw Chico’s finest putting the guy in cuffs and leading him toward their car.

We’ve seen similar people at the Safeway plaza – young, clean, new casual clothes, just loitering around the front of Safeway. Once we saw a young guy who seemed to be passed out on the sidewalk outside Kwando, with several empty wine bottles laying nearby.  As we came into Safeway, we watched him ambling up the sidewalk toward the store entrance.

I have to wonder – are these people who have been discharged by the Butte County Psychiatric Facility in Oroville? I have heard they are offered a ride to the Torres Shelter or other facilities, and then just left to their own resources. Many of them have been given prescription drugs, on their own recognizance, which seems, well, crazy to me.

It’s institutionalized insanity. These people are brought here from other cities and counties because we have, as BCBH director Adrian Kittrell describes them, “beds”. Each person come with a sort of dowery – $550 a day. The county is allowed to hold them with or without their consent for a total of 45 days. You do the math, this kind of transparent corruption makes me sick.

But do they treat them?  Well, go out and about around Chico, and tell me what you think. The streets are horrible even for the transients.  I think they seek out incarceration because  it’s meals and a place to get clean and maybe a little safer than sleeping along Hwy 99 or Bidwell Park. At least it’s air conditioned, and you can sit around and smoke cigarettes and not do anything productive.

Including treatment. I’m sure they are interviewed, just enough to glean the personal information required for funding the center. But therapy? I wouldn’t bet on that.

And after 45 days, they are released, by law the county can’t hold them any longer. Unless they make a bee-line for the nearest retail center and boost a bottle of booze, or display any behavior that shows they are a “threat to themselves or others”.

It’s a merry-go-round of insanity, starting with Butte County Supervisors. They all need their heads examined. Garry Cooper pointed out in this morning’s Enterprise Record, it’s all about the pensions and benefits.

 

Public employee unions take advantage of citizens

Here we go again. “Supervisors cut 69 positions” — mentally ill thrown to wolves, fire and public protection saved from cuts, thanks to their generous campaign contributions and vote-getting public endorsements.

“Pension liabilities looming” — both the city of Chico and county supervisors report, after these leaders put the taxpayers’ concerns at the bottom of the totem pole in exchange for public union bribes.

Next comes — “Half cent sales tax increase needed to enhance public safety,” when it is, in reality, needed to pay the over $100,000 per year retirements for these public union members which begins at age 55, 10 years younger than the taxpayers and five times their Social Security retirement.

How about new headlines, like “Supervisors approve term limits for themselves and abolish their CalPERS pension costs paid by taxpayers for their part time jobs” or “Chico leaders hire law firm to set aside public union contracts negotiated under conflict of interest with unions due to campaign contributions” or “Governor and Legislature require all public union retirees work until average age of taxpayers before receiving pensions” or “City leaders pursuing using privatized fire protection firms to same millions in salaries and pension costs” (instead of pursuing Cal Fire help — an even more bloated bureaucracy with a more powerful union able to contribute more to their campaigns.)

Our communities and public safety is being cannibalized by these public unions, and taking more from average-Joe taxpayers to support these exorbitant pensions and ridiculously early retirements is simply abuse of the taxpayer.

— Garry Cooper, Durham

 

 

 

 

Downtown Chico on a bender

30 Jun

I had a good shock last night – I went Downtown for Thursday Night Market. I wish I had taken pictures, but we had out-of-town guests, and I was embarrassed of my town.

I realized, I hadn’t been to TNM for probably 10 years. There used to be more fruit and vegetable vendors, with some local “artisans”, people we knew who sold T-shirts and other sundries they’d produced.

Last night I felt like Arlo Guthrie – I never saw a face I knew, as I went ramblin’ round. I remembered how many complaints I’d heard, how our friends one-by-one had let go of their Thursday night booths after years of dealing with Downtown Business Association, who runs TNM.  Too much cronyism, too much infighting, and they had rules they used selectively, like who was allowed to sell oranges, and who wasn’t.

As the number of produce vendors declined, and the number of crap vendors – just junk they buy wholesale – increased, we walked away. Downtown became increasingly unfriendly too – I won’t use the word “homeless” for these people, they’re just a pile of criminals and creeps. Our kids were pre-teens, we felt Downtown was no place for families, particularly after 6 pm.

So, what were we thinking when we took our out-of-town friends with two teenagers to TNM? We were thinking, there’s not much to do in this town, and we’d been holed up with them in the air conditioning all day.  We didn’t dare take them to Bidwell Park – besides the triple-digit heat, there’s the bums, bum crap everywhere, sleeping bags and old drawers hanging from the blackberry vines, etc.  They’d driven four hours to get here, so we hesitated to take them on a driving tour. We knew they wanted to get out and get some exercise before they got in their car again this morning, so we thought, “how bad could it be?” These folks live in a big city, they’ve certainly seen urban images.

It was me who was in for the shock. 

We arrived Downtown just before 8pm, parked at the parking lot that hosts Saturday Farmer’s Market, two big spaces right next to each other, we thought that was a good omen.  As soon as we got onto the sidewalk headed to Main Street, I realized we might have made a big mistake. The sidewalks are dirtier than ever, and wow – those fancy garbage cans the city installed, those cement receptacles that cost who knows what – they’re all beaten to a pulp! Looks like Barry Bonds had a steroidal fit with a titanium bat ( I love you Barry, but yeah, you had a bad temper when you were on the ‘roids!)

The sidewalks were crowded, mostly with transients walking around in various states of filth and intoxication. We had to walk single file, and the noise level made conversation uncomfortable. As we rounded the corner onto Main, we saw what was left of the produce vendors – one or two stalls with peaches and nectarines. If I’d realized that would be the only produce I would have stopped, but the teenagers were hungry and eager to get to the food wagons.  I had heard good stuff about the food wagons, and we’d eaten at one or two of them at other events, so we hustled along.  I did see the Bordin’s, with their honey, but that was  the last of the produce stalls as we wandered into the crap vendors’ area and on to the food trucks.

The live band at the Plaza was very annoying. I’ve heard all that 70’s and 80’s rock – why bother with a band, why not just broadcast Thunder? And does it have to be so loud as to necessitate repeating your order and your name multiple times to the food vendor? 

There we were, right next to the Plaza. At first I could see some families with kids – like us, they seemed to be looking for a safe place to get out at night. But the scene changed rapidly, before my eyes. At 8:30, the macaroni man handed my friends his last order and abruptly closed the door and window on his truck. The other food vendors started to do same. They seemed eager to get the hell out, which was weird – the event is supposed to last until 9 pm, and there were still people all over the street. 

The food area was quickly un-staging, people who looked like transients with “event” shirts were picking up trash  and dragging garbage cans away. I was still holding the trendy cardboard container and plastic forks that came with my Maria’s tamale (bland dry corn meal, stringy shoeleather chicken, flavorless rice, dry pasty beans), so I ran along after them to throw it away. As I walked back to my group, I could see, they were surrounded by drunken shirtless men making their bed on the Plaza grass. 

The band had packed up and split, and suddenly I felt insecure – it was like a scene out of “Escape from New York”.   So we split, ferrying our friends back to their hotel, hoping nothing weird happened to them there.

 I’d bet my last five dollars, after that freak show, they will tell us to visit them next time. 

Thursday Night Market? How about “Thursday Night Mayhem”?  I don’t patronize businesses Downtown anymore because it’s just plain unpleasant. The sidewalks are filthy, my friend was wearing very pretty open-toed shoes. The vandalism – everywhere – is hostile, you feel like you’re walking right into a war zone. The smell of garbage permeates the air – we walked by so many overflowing garbage cans, right outside restaurants, I don’t know how they keep the flies off their customers. And on every sidewalk, we had to walk single file, to keep from literally bumping into dirty, disheveled, intoxicated creeps.

Downtown Chico is in trouble, and no district is going to save it. If you’ve paid attention, you’ve seen one after another initiative that’s been taken, public money thrown in, to bail out a retail sector that refuses to take care of itself. Downtown businesses are not special, they’re not a charity, they’re not a public institution. They make bad decisions – like Thursday Night Market and Friday Night Concerts – but they are continually bailed out with public money. Now certain business owners, led by Ann Schwab’s husband Budd,  want a district with fees directed toward Downtown clean-up and more cops – when will we all be expected to form districts to get city services that we already pay for? 

Wake up Chico, you are being had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

CARD gives director raise to cover her benefits share while programs are failing and non-management hours are being cut

18 Jun

I’m sorry, I’ve been busy with my own life, and have made a pointed attempt to ignore CARD. The public didn’t seem to be overly worried, so I figured – let them do their worst, maybe a new tax is the boot to the ass the voters need to WAKE UP!

But you know, I can’t turn my head when I read stuff like this – they cut part time workers again, complaining that program revenues were down, but had the absolute gall to raise manager Ann Willmann’s salary.

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20170615/card-mulls-over-proposed-2017-18-budget

Urseny wrote,  “In a closed session movement, the board approved a review of Willmann’s performance, approving a raise that covers her CalPERS retirement payment, a little more than $2,000.

Are you getting that? $2,000 for 70 percent of her highest year’s salary, with COLA, at age 55.  This for a woman who has badly mismanaged CARD, following the pattern her predecessor set in place – management salaries go up at the expense of the part time staff who actually run the programs. CARD’s mission needs a closer look – are they there to maintain our playing fields and neighborhood parks, or are they there to raise money to cover their own salaries and benefits? 

They made a poor decision to take over the Chico Creek Nature Center, which was almost $200,000 in debt to the city of Chico for the loan taken to build the $800,000 “classroom” next to the old building that houses the exhibits and poor creatures in cages.  CARD refused to be responsible for the debt – leaving it to be paid by ????? – while they made their plans to profit off the day camps. As badly run as CCNC was, their books in total disarray, at least they kept those camps going, for years.  CARD brought in a new group to run the center, projecting all kinds of profits to pay down their $1.7 million pension deficit, and the new group has already walked away. Meanwhile, the district has closed down after school programs formerly run by CARD – another revenue stream gone. 

“CARD is grappling with a slight reduction in the program-based revenue, primarily because private-based THRIVE education program won’t be using the Chico Creek Nature Center due to space constraints and because Chico Unified School District will not be offering an after-school program at Marsh Junior High.”

CARD is tanking, and the board gives their mis-manager a raise, her salary already over $120,000, plus her benefits package, for which she pays 2 percent. And the raise covers her 2 percent, how nice of us.

Board members Sneed, Mulowney and Ellis are up for re-election in 2018.

 

 

What does Cal Water have planned for the properties the tanks are sitting on?

13 Jun

Cal Water has announced that Chico’s old water tanks – located at three different sites surrounding the old city grid – are not earthquake rated and must be torn down. They say retrofitting is pretty much out of the question – “estimated at $800,000-$1.2 million each, compared to $150,000-$200,000 each for removal.”

Some people are upset at the loss to Chico’s historic skyline, but today I got a comment from Leonard Costa, who is skeptical of the cost and reasoning behind the removal.

“someone trying to justify their job condemned our water towers. An earthquake at that magnitude would level our town so the towers would be the least of our worries. So why waste our tax dollars taking them down?”

Good question Leonard, I have to wonder myself. While I hate to be capricious about safety, I have to ask – what kind of event would it take to knock over those towers? What magnitude earthquake or storm would be able to do that? 

I ask because I’m not convinced Cal Water is worried about that. I think they really want to sell the property the tanks are sitting on.

They mention that Dan Gonzalez of the Meriam Park development group would like to buy at least one of the tanks for it’s historical value. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised of the Meriam Park group would like to get a hold of at least one of the lots the tanks sit on. They’ve been wanting to build Downtown – live/work units – for years, first proposing a complex located at the city parking lot that hosts the Saturday Farmer’s Market, and then another at the site of the old Petersen building on East First Street, bordering the section of Chico Creek front known as “Lost Park.”

Both of those proposals were shot out of the saddle. We found out how much political clout the Saturday Farmer’s have and we also found out that section of Chico Creek at “Lost Park” is contaminated from years of dry cleaning activities in that building. Meriam Park principal Tom DiGiovanni tried to convince the city to clean it up, but given the city’s financial situation that didn’t go anywhere. 

So  now, I’m going to make my guess, the Meriam Park group has been wheedling Cal Water to tear down those old towers and make that land available for development.

Watch and see.

 

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. 

Told ya so, told ya so, told ya so!

3 Jun

Wow, look! The Enterprise Record is acting like a newspaper! Now, that’s news!

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20170602/increasing-retirement-plan-rates-will-constrict-chico-city-funds

Next Tuesday night, council will offer clerk Debbie Presson a 2 percent raise, to $142,000/year, to get her to pay 3 percent of her pension.

City mangler Mark Orme just cut himself a similar deal.

It’s just a ball ‘o confusion! You sure can’t hide!

 

Maybe now we’ll get more bounce to the ounce?

 

This is getting pretty funky!