As city leaders posture over the coronavirus, the real epidemic in Chico is crime

28 Mar

This morning I saw the paper – my teeth are old, and my dentist told me, if I didn’t quit grinding them all the time he would be taking them out. So, I when I read the paper, or watch the local news, I’ve adopted the habit of holding my mouth open, teeth wide apart – I know, it looks stupid, but it’s going to save me a fortune in dental work.

Cause today, right there on the front page, was a picture of a business I remember since very young childhood. The door was covered with plywood – oh wow, just like the post office annex! There was council woman Kasey Reynolds, owner of Shuberts, flanked by Chief Sitting Lame Ass and Mayor Again? Ann Schwab. I wonder if Schwab was wondering what I was wondering – why didn’t they hit Campus Bicycles?

I’m just so sick of the lawlessness. Oh sure, I better not congregate with my congregation in church, and any business that dares to stay open is shamed, bullied, and threatened into closing up shop while still cajoled to pay their employees. But St. Patrick can continue to take over Downtown Plaza with his “feedings” and the NVHRC can still hand out free needles to heroin and meth addicts and dealers every Sunday.

Oh sure, you know the PUBLIC employees don’t miss a paycheck, even though they have been on reduced hours, most of them off on Fridays, since long before the Coronavirus Panic.

Wow, this is a lot better than grinding my teeth.

The president says it’s “time to get back to normal.” I agree. I think the county and city need to end their imaginary state of emergency, because it is creating a real state of emergency. So I wrote a letter to the editor  about it.

As city leaders posture over coronavirus, the real epidemic in Chico is crime. 

During the week of March 5, a fire was started in a trash bin inside the post office annex at the main branch on Vallombrosa.  There are over 3,000 mail boxes in that annex. The mail that was in the boxes on the night of the fire is still being held indefinitely while the matter is being investigated. Box holders are expected to line up at the main desk during business hours to collect their mail. I got no response from the police chief or the fire chief when I asked if any suspect was charged. 

Sometime overnight March 27 Shubert’s Ice Cream front door was taken off  by a person caught on security camera wearing a mask and using bolt cutters. This criminal act was done right out on a public street in a well-lit area. 

Whether or not Shuberts was a political target, criminals have become more brazen as the coronavirus shutdown continues, while the talking heads Downtown discuss “suspending the rules”. I agree with President Trump – this country needs to pull it’s collective head out of it’s collective ostrich hole and “get back to normal.” As long as transients are allowed to congregate for feedings at Downtown Plaza or free syringes at Humboldt Park, I think it’s safe to get out and have an ice cream with your friends, and talk about the upcoming election.

Time to tell council you will not support a tax measure

27 Mar

Okay folks, the ramen shelves are fully stocked, please limit yourself to one case per person…

This coronavirus thing didn’t really hit me until about a week ago when we went to Winco and the ramen shelves were completely barren. I almost had a stroke. It’s one of my favorite snack foods, it’s so versatile. 

So when we went out early this morning on a hunt/gather mission, I braced myself for disappointment. When I saw the shelves were all restocked again, I had to restrain myself from skipping across the aisle like a goon, shouting OH MY GOD HONEY THERE’S RAMEN!” 

I’ll tell you what’s really  funny – when I went last week, they had tons of beef ramen. Screw that, I like chicken.  Apparently I am not alone. 

Yeah there was a limit posted – in fact, I saw little signs throughout the store, asking people to limit themselves to however many of each item, even soap and tooth paste. 

When we rounded the corner into the paper products area, we saw the shelves were still pretty sparse – like the stands at a late season Giants game – but Holy Shit! There was TP! Again, I had to restrain myself – I have plenty of TP at home, and I’m guessing the supply chain is going to come around pretty soon, but my palms itched to grab a 4 pack. Then we remember – our son was down to half a roll – so we grabbed one and scurried toward the check out. 

When we got to my son’s apartment, I wanted to say, “Okay, your friends  get THREE SHEETS, that’s IT!” but I, again, restrained myself.

At least Winco is not raising prices, that I can see. In my experience, whenever prices go up during a panic like this, they don’t really go down again. Like Cal Water rates during the DROUGHT! panic, and housing prices after the Camp Fire. 

So yeah, we’ve been hit again and again. Enterprise Record editor Mike Wolcott (and I’m trying to be nice to the poor guy, cause every time I write how I feel about his paper some schmuck sends him a screen shot of my blog) wrote the other day that this is a bad time for the city to put a sales tax measure on the ballot. 

“The Chico City Council has been leaning towards putting a sales tax hike on the November ballot. We’d suggest they hit the pause button.

That’s because of the coronavirus. The economic effects of businesses closing and people losing their jobs are rippling though the nation, although the ripples are more like a tsunami. Economic experts say we’re already in a recession, one that could last well into 2021.

In this environment, the likelihood that voters would approve another shot to their wallet is dropping rapidly.”

While that is reassuring for now, it sounds like Wolcott would support a tax if the economy were in better shape. The problem being, the economy rises and  falls. When it’s high, the sky is the limit, spend-spend-spend! When it’s down, overspending comes home to roost. We’ve gone from BOOM to BUST but every cycle brings city finances closer to the bone.  The cycle has to end – the city has got to change the overspending before I would even consider any revenue measure.  

I don’t know if the city will listen to Wolcott. See, it has nothing to do with coronavirus.  Chico is already in a bottomless pit of debt, funds in the negative, and still CalPERS at the door, demanding more and more. Staff doesn’t want this tax to fix the streets or sewers or the park, they want it to make the annual payments on their unfunded pension liability. 

What do we have to lose if we don’t pass a tax? You mean, what do Mark Orme and Chris Constantin have to lose if we don’t pass a tax measure. They stand to lose their pensions – 70% of salaries over and approaching $200,000/year. That kind of money is like cocaine, you get used to it, you get dependent on it, you way overspend and your lifestyle becomes very high maintenance. And you get desperate to keep it.

Like a cokehead starved for his candy, they’ll threaten us. No more street maintenance! Close Upper Bidwell Park! Higher sewer fees! Higher Crime! 

If you have lived in Chico for more than 10 years, you have seen the cycle of promises and  threats, every two years with elections. But if you look at the budgets, you see – revenues increase, even if just a little, every year, year after year. Gee, this year they found an extra $3,050,000 laying around the office. 

The only “loss” comes from the salaries and benefits – contrary to their claims, noooo-body at the city of Chico has taken any cut in pay.  The only employees who have sacrificed are the ones who were summarily fired after Brian Nakamura and Mark Orme took over city management. Those firings did not result in any savings, because Orme and his management staff quickly ate any gains. While Orme can boast that he has not  taken a salary increase for the last couple of years, he doesn’t mention his Fund 457 – a special 401K for public employees, into which the city puts a flat $9,000/year plus a percentage of his salary. If that’s not a raise, I don’t know what to call it. “Compensation” is “compensation,” and Mark Orme, at $212,000/year, plus “extra pay”, plus his 457, plus his pension and benefits package, is very generously compensated. He is a pig that could afford to give back a few pounds of bacon. 

Now Orme hides behind coronavirus, suspending the rules. Judging from that “special” meeting the other night, he means alllll the rules! I’m no lawyer, but I’d say the Brown Act took a good flummoxing the other night. As long as this “state of emergency” lasts, they will use the opportunity to advance the sales tax measure as far as they can without any public oversight. 

But, the website is still up, the agendas, reports and budgets for the last 5 or 6 years are all there for you to study. Look at the pattern of misspending and poor decisions, and look at the appropriations from funds that don’t even have any money into the Pension Stabilization Trust. 

And you  can still email your council and tell them to stop spending taxpayer money on their tax measure, because you not only won’t support it, you will work actively to defeat it. 

You can send those to debbie.presson@chicoca.gov

 

 

 

 

Koyaanisquatsi! Ann Schwab, the woman who denied we had financial problems, is our mayor again!?!

26 Mar

Yeah, I know, my last post was full of bravado! Don’t panic!

Then I watched the emergency city meeting last night, and wow – my guts went into a flutter – time to PANIC!

Just kidding, but wow, what a circus that was. And now we have Ann Schwab as mayor, AGAIN?! I’ve lost any remaining respect I had for Kasey Reynolds and Sean Morgan. 

I mean, I have to agree with Stone here – Ann Schwab was horrible, one of the worst mayors we’ve had. 

Thanks again for this pic PYPR – sheesh, how soon we forget!

Stone, in his tiny mind full of paranoia, opined that Schwab had made a “hard right”, even trying to accuse her and the others of colluding ahead of the meeting – a Brown Act violation. Well, not that I don’t suspect same – but here’s what I also see – Morgan and Reynolds went along with Schwab because they all want the sales tax measure on the upcoming November ballot, and they see Stone as an arbatross swinging low around their necks.  

It was after they’d removed Stone as mayor and inserted Ann Schwab that the meeting got really weird. With the exception of Ory –  who stomped his foot and disappeared into the floor as soon as he saw the handwriting on the wall – council went right back to work and voted to assert rent control on landlords all over town by telling tenants they don’t have to pay their rent during the coronavirus panic. 

Go ahead and watch it yourself, then do your research – they made this “emergency” ordinance without any concern as to how landlords will hold onto rentals without rent. They said landlords could collect back rent after the “crisis” has passed – really? And just how are you going to legislate that? 

Feel good morons is what we’ve got, and we need to find some responsible people to turn them out over the next couple of elections. 

Prepare instead of panic

24 Mar

The weekend after the Camp Fire, my husband and I and our adult son, two dogs, and two cats, found ourselves jammed into our tiny studio apartment. The sky was still black day and night, and ash was raining everywhere. The temps stayed in the 30’s all day. We knew by that time that my son’s little cottage in Paradise was toast. And, we were starting to run out of groceries and clean clothes. 

While we enjoyed milling in the Safeway parking lot, masks on, flagging down old friends who had been driven into town by the fire, the store itself was overcrowded and the shelves were looking frazzled. Chico Walmart had  been stripped of everything we needed – air mattresses, sleeping bags, toilet paper, shelves bare throughout the store. 

So we got up that Sunday morning and we headed for Red Bluff hell bent  for leather, to shop at their Walmart. We wanted out of Chico, out of the smoke, out of the crowds, off the backed up streets. The skies lightened as we sped up 99, by the time we got to Red Bluff you could actually see blue sky. 

That was also my first experience with a Walmart Superstore. I’d heard about it, mostly from friends who didn’t like Walmart. My Red Bluff friends said it was bad for the local economy, but also joked how many former lumber mill employees had found jobs there. Me, I’ve long gotten over any revulsion for Walmart. It’s about the only place I can afford to shop anymore. I think they’ve got better as a business under the scrutiny of the 80’s and 90’s, and I think they offer good jobs for a significant portion of the local populace, including older people who still need to work. 

So I stood marveling in the gigantic entryway. It was a real life “Me-ga-lo Mart” from King of the Hill. I wondered if Chuck Mangione was camped out under the paper products display. It was like an entire mall, all in one enormous room. And, unlike a lot of the retail scene in Chico, everything was sparkling clean and in perfect order. 

The greeter smiled us in, and we walked as if in a dream. Our clothes were scruffy and covered with dog hair, we looked like The Bride after she escaped her desert tomb. Suddenly we noticed other scruffy ragamuffins – fire evacuees. We were all headed for the camping section, where my husband and I got one of the last of the air mattresses. Sleeping bags were also flying off the shelves. We also needed a heater and a few other household items, clothes – our son had escaped with his cats and his car and the clothes on his back. Since he’d been headed for work, at least he had his lunch and Kleen Kanteen.

When I saw the grocery section I had to hold myself back. We were sharing a tiny counter-top refrigerator/freezer, so I had to make sure not to buy too much stuff. The produce section was as nice as Raley’s in Chico, with tons of fresh stuff, even a big organic section. We found a bigger selection of various products, with a range of affordable prices, than we have found at any store in Chico. So while I didn’t intend it, I’ll admit, I hoarded a little. My son exclaimed, as we unpacked our booty, “Mom, you have enough sugar here for Armageddon!” Well,  a lady likes to have some things…

A year and a half later, after a summer of PG&E shut-offs (a rolling blackout by any other name still stinks), my husband and I are more “prepared”.  I decided it’s okay to “hoard”, especially if you make a consistent habit of it and build your stockpiles slowly. Oh my god – yesterday I saw a younger couple, with very serious masks and gloves, piling huge quantities of food on two of those warehouse style dollies. They looked at me with that crazy shine in their eyes.  Don’t do that, it makes it hard for everybody. Make a habit of being well stocked ahead of time. 

I don’t know if the rest of you have noticed – prices at grocery stores are going up – one store we shopped yesterday had essentially stuck another dollar on every product I bought. I know because I buy the same stuff. It’s really disgusting to see how they act during a crisis, but you saw what happened to the housing market in the year after the Camp Fire. People kinda suck. 

So here’s my “Stuff to Hoard” list. Make your own, based on your lifestyle. But yeah, get ready for the next panic, and don’t be caught with your pantry down. 

  • toilet paper – I know, people have always looked at me funny with my 18 pack, but who’s laughing now?
  • Kool Aide – makes crappy water taste better. If you’re on Cal Water you know what I’m talking about. 
  • sugar – geeshy sakes folks, don’t ever get caught in the “Kool Aide with no sugar” dilemma
  • I drink coffee, so I never have less than two pounds of beans on hand
  • powdered milk/canned milk – and I’m weird, so I keep a pack of yogurt starter too
  • propane for your camp stove – get a 4 pack, it’s cheaper
  • I hoard dry goods, stuff like rice, barley, flour, yeast, salt, etc. These don’t take up much room in airtight containers
  • gas for your generator

 

 

 

 

 

Chico’s Tax Swindle: City bureaucrats expect YOU to pay higher taxes in order to fund unaffordable pensions

24 Mar

While your retirement investments implode in what is shaping up to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, city bureaucrats expect YOU to pay higher taxes in order to save their multi-million dollar pensions.

Over the years tens of millions of dollars that should have gone for roads, infrastructure and other necessities has been siphoned off to CalPERS in a futile attempt to fund ridiculous and unaffordable pensions.

Recently the city experienced a surplus in excess of $3 million. What did they do with the money? They didn’t spend a penny of it on the roads and instead shipped $400,000 of it off to CalPERS for pensions. (See https://chicotaxpayers.com/2020/03/15/time-for-true-pension-reform/ ) This is ON TOP of the money they already sent to CalPERS for the fiscal year!

In today’s ER city bureaucrat Constantin says the tax increase is “absolutely needed.” From the ER:

It’s likely, Constantin believes, that the city’s “most substantial needs” would be addressed.

It’s likely? He believes? Those are weasel words, folks. The ER goes on:

And yes, said Constantin, it could be used for pensions.

Hah! Ya think? OF COURSE IT WILL BE USED FOR PENSIONS!

If you want to read the rest of Constantin’s drivel you can read it here

If voters are stupid enough to pass this tax increase it will only enable them to continue what they’ve been doing for many years.

You may never be able to afford to retire but the city council and Constantin believe you should pay MORE TAXES so city bureaucrats can retire as multi-millionaires! ARE YOU GOING TO LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THAT?

LET THE CITY COUNCIL KNOW YOU WILL NOT PASS THEIR SALES TAX INCREASE AND DEMAND THEY REFORM THE PENSIONS!

As the city shuts down, if you want to stay engaged, you’ll have to try Chico Engaged!

21 Mar

The city of Chico announced they will shut down all meetings to the public, opting for social media to keep the public informed. For months now they’ve been toying with a website called “City of Chico Engaged,” or “Engage Chico.”  I’ve looked at it a few times, and the comments I saw did not seem related to any agenda items, people were using it as a suggestion box. 

Until recently. A lively discussion has come up regarding the sit-and-lie and crimes against property ordinances. Alex Brown has agendized a discussion of overturning these ordinances, and finally, the lobster pot might be overturned. We can hope.

I signed up for the site because I thought I had to have an account to be able to read the discussions. But, from what I can see, the site is no easier to see now that I have an account. This is important because this stuff is all supposed to be public information. We’ll see if this site gets any better as more people sign on. 

But don’t forget to unsubscribe from mailings – or you will get an email every time somebody makes a comment on a conversation you’ve read, commented or voted on. 

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/

 

 

A guide to staying politically active in the age of COVID-19

Write Early and Write Often

20 Mar

The early bird gets the worm. A local newspaper owner and editor I know told me, “Write early and write often.” He’s right – start before the ER announces their election cut-off, build your argument slowly and consistently, and then summarize in your last letter. 

I’ve been watching the agendas and reports for various meetings, available here:

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

This is something you can do if you want to be more involved – read the reports.  You’ll see stuff that makes you want to write a letter to the editor. I did – I read the report for the now-cancelled March 17 city council meeting, and I thought other taxpayers needed to hear about it. 

Chico City staff recently reported $3,050,000 in “unanticipated revenues” in this year’s budget, “$2,550,000 in additional sales tax revenue, $400,000 additional property tax in lieu of vehicle license fees and $100,000 additional short-term rental transient occupancy tax.”

Staff claimed Camp Fire evacuees had heavy impacts on Chico streets, now we see, they were also making a significant financial contribution. Why isn’t this money being put in the street fund?

Citing city budget policy, staff claims “unanticipated revenues”  are “dedicated to long-term liabilities and replenishing reserve and internal service funds to established targets. ”  How could they have not anticipated these revenues, having acknowledged other effects of the sudden population influx? And since the city has admitted to deferring street maintenance for years because of a shortage of funds, shouldn’t they replenish the street fund?

Staff instead suggests uses for these funds that are not covered by the above policy:  $1,405,000 to guarantee airline service,  $350,000 toward the city’s Community Choice Aggregation scheme, $100,000 to remove the BMX track from the fairgrounds to accommodate homeless services, $30,000 for questionable district maps, $250,000 for a “remodel” of Fire Station 1, and $515,000 for the “Homeless Solutions Project”. 

Putting $400,000 toward the long-term pension liability may fit policy, but I find it questionable – staff already transfers millions a year into that fund from other funds that remain in the red.

This appropriation shows how capriciously staff and council spend our money in their own interest, on their own agenda.   Is this an agency you want to trust with a sales tax increase?

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA