Finance Committee approves builder fee increases, including new fees from the fire department – this is how they tack their salaries to the cost of housing

21 Apr

Yesterday morning I attended a special Finance Committee meeting. “Special” meaning, off-schedule, called for some sort of immediate action. What was this special emergency? They wanted to raise builder fees.

The meeting only lasted about 20 minutes, including the Finance Director’s report. There was very little discussion, no questions from the committee, and only one comment from the public. The committee voted unanimously to accept staff’s (Mark Sorensen’s) suggestion to raise fees across the board, even though, as Sean Morgan observed (check this with notes) “these are some pretty significant changes... “

No kidding – a $9,000 increase in the fee for getting your subdivision past environmental review – about double the old fee. And, the fire department is adding NEW fees – almost $1,000 in permit fees for a fire hydrant – what is this, Gangs of New York?

The lone public comment came from Chico Chamber of Commerce CEO Katy Thoma, who said she was representing the Builder’s Exchange. She correctly pointed out to the committee the relationship between builder fees and home prices. She asked that the committee recommend delaying the increase until a new NEXUS (impact fees) study could been performed.

According to The Turner Center for Housing, “ Impact fee nexus studies should clearly identify the level of service currently provided by a city, and estimate the cost needed to keep that service at the same level after new housing is added.

Improving Impact Fees in California: Rethinking the Nexus Studies Requirements

Let me have a little laugh here – the Builder’s Exchange fairly well ran the Measure H campaign, and I’m guessing they thought they were going to get a break when it came to the fees, if they helped shoe-horn that measure up our collective patoot. Ha Ha Brandon, I guess you should be more careful who you get in bed with.

City staff do the NEXUS study in their own best interest, despite their hollow claims of providing more “affordable housing”. They look at development as their major cash cow, include all their salaries and benefits, including their pension deficit, as “costs”.

Looking at the finance report provided at the meeting, you see, through March 31, the city “Streets” fund, for example, has received $3,136,848.56 from state gas tax revenues, $2,235,970.49 already spent on salaries and benefits. Only $223,656.96 has gone to “Materials & Supplies” – over $6,000 of which went for “postage/mailing, books/periodicals/software, clothing/uniforms…” Leaving less than $220,000 for materials like aggregate, asphalt, and road crack filler, and other stuff they actually need to fix and maintain our roads. So you see, “impact fees” are largely paying for administrators, including Sorensen – not street maintenance.

Here’s that link:

In this way they add their incredibly generous salaries, benefits, and pension costs (+ interest) to the cost of the average home.

After Thoma sat down, City manager Sorensen responded that these fee increases are based on the “current” study, but didn’t say when that study had been done. The most recent study I could find was from 2018 –

Then the committee quickly dismissed Thoma’s concerns without discussion and unanimously agreed to forward the fee increases to council.

I’ll add here that on the previous night, amid a lot of shouting and bullying and bally-hooing over Valley’s Edge, council quickly and quietly approved an new management salary of $185,000 (a $40,000 increase from management salaries of two years ago) and agreed that this new employee would only pay 9% of his pension cost.

New hires with new higher salaries, and council wants to raise builder fees (i.e. – the price of your house…) to pay for it. This is how the city of Chico makes housing more UNaffordable.

18 Apr

Holy Bat Crap Nagmom, I’m bushed. What a month. That stormy weather had my teeth on edge, waiting for something to happen. Then one day as I looked out my kitchen window, as the wind was whipping across the tree tops, a huge branch snapped off one of our oaks and just fell to the ground, WHUMP! The end of the branch – as big around as both my legs put together – swept across the corner of our roof and did enough damage that we need to repair it before more storms (and yeah, I predict more storms, remind me to tell you about that week-long June dumper back in the early 2000’s…)

We were feeling the need for a road trip, so this past weekend we loaded up the car and headed for Oregon. It’s wildflower time, the cows and sheep are out in the pastures, the weather is spectacular (howling dumper one minute, rainbow around the corner…) and there’s a weird, spaceship shaped cloud hanging over Shasta. I got pictures – AWESOME – and I don’t just toss that word out there.

Mt Ashland is also very picturesque, but the thing about Mt Ashland, is that if you go to the summit (not very far), you see Shasta in all her glory. Again, AWESOME.

I love California, for better or worse, but I like Oregon because they seem to make better use of their tax dollars. The roads are better, there’s more affordable housing, and they have spectacular parks and greenways full of water fowl and other natives running into the most urban settings. I think Chico could take some lessons, but right now, our city leaders are about to make housing even more un-affordable, make band-aid patches on streets, and have no real plans to clean our parks or waterways.

I just got the agendas for the city council meeting (tonight) and tomorrows 8:30 am Finance Committee meeting, and here’s how they’re raising the cost of housing in Chico.

Section 605 of the City Charter states that the appointment of department heads is subject to confirmation by the City Council.  In order to meet this requirement, City Council is being presented with the employment agreement for the Public Works Director – Engineering. (Report – Mark Sorensen, City Manager)

Recommendation : A. In compliance with Government Code Section 54953(c)(3), the City Manager shall first orally report a summary of the recommendation for final action related to the Public Works Director – Engineering employment agreement as follows: “The City Manager is proposing to enter into an employment agreement with Brendan Ottoboni as the Public Works Director – Engineering; and The City Manager is proposing to appoint Brendan Ottoboni with an annual salary of $185,000.” B. The City Manager recommends Council Confirmation of the appointment of Brendan Ottoboni as Public Works Director- Engineering.

In 2019 Brendan Ottoboni was the Director of the Engineering Department at a salary of $141,622.73. He left the city of Chico briefly, now he returns as “Public Works Director – Engineering” at a salary of $185,000?

Current Public Works Director Eric Gustafson, as of 2021, was making about $144,000 in base pay. That’s as far as the records go at Transparent California, because it’s an arm-wrestling match getting these records, usually requiring legal action. Think Gustafson has/will get a similar increase?

Here I’ll refer back to this old post –

in which I recounted a presentation from a consultant regarding our “management top-heavy” town. Why are there so many management positions in Public Works?

Every management position they create at salaries approaching $200,000/year adds exponentially to our pension deficit. They keep telling us they don’t have enough money for anything. Here’s where “I told you so” comes into the conversation – I told you that the sales tax money would just go right down the pension rabbit hole, and there it goes. Ottoboni will only pay 9% of his pension cost, on a $185,000+ salary. How is that sustainable?

But they seem to have another plan – raise builder fees again.

Here’s what caught my attention, – “Planning Fees Negative Declaration PC (previous fee) 7,018.00 $ (proposed fee) $ 16,593.00 (fee change/increase) $ 9,575.00

Yes, that’s an increase of $9,575.00, to give plans a “Negative Declaration” – “prepared for a project when there is no substantial evidence that the project or any of its aspects could result in significant adverse environmental impacts.”

And read the pdf – they’re also creating NEW fees. Now you have to pay the fire department to approve a fire hydrant, and then pay them to inspect it. This is nothing short of a fucking shakedown, and it’s going to be tacked on to the price of YOUR home, not to mention merchandise and services YOU pay for.

Yep, they hoodwinked you into voting for a sales tax measure, telling you everything you wanted to hear, and you bought it. Now you get to pay for it.

Here’s the links and info on Gustafson’s and Ottoboni’s salaries referenced above.

Regular pay:$143,654.57
Overtime pay:$0.00
Other pay:$6,899.00
Total pay:$150,553.57
Pension debt:$63,046.80
Total pay & benefits:$247,775.47

Regular pay:$141,622.73
Overtime pay:$0.00
Other pay:$5,700.00
Total pay:$147,322.73
Pension debt:$37,228.18
Total pay & benefits:$217,901.00

SB 1383: Why should we pay for the privilege of sorting our food and yard waste when they turn around and sell it?

11 Apr

NOTE: After I made this post below yesterday, I received my garbage bill. The enclosed notice says we shouldn’t be putting our food waste in our yard bins yet because they haven’t figured out where they will take it. I believe that notice is months old, I believe they’ve been in negotiations with Republic for a while now. Why else would Republic have sunk so much money into this deal? So, get ready for an “education” campaign.

Earlier this year, Waste Management started sending us notices that we would be required to sort our “food waste” into our yard waste bins. They cited greenhouse gases and global warming, but the real reason is in the money. Here’s an interesting article about how the rendering plant out on Hwy 99 has opened a new business – harvesting energy from food waste.

What a child I am – I thought they wanted to make high-grade compost out of it, like the stuff they currently sell out of the Chico green waste yard. No, they have much bigger plans.

“The organics space, it’s growing so rapidly, especially in California. Right now every city, every jurisdiction is getting a lot of pressure to roll out these programs,” Chris Seneydirector of organics operations at Republic, said. “It’s an exciting time to be in organics.”

Yes, they are also getting food and yard waste from Chico customers. All sorted out by us, it is now a product they will sell. But, they want us to pay an extra $5+/month for the bin we’re supposed to use to sort it. What? Laura Dougherty at Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association explains – they expect the customer to foot the cost for the transition.

Through SB 1383, the State mandated that local governments help reduce greenhouse gases by changing residents’ trash removal procedures at home. This generally involves keeping organic material separate from the gray bin waste destined for the landfill. In some jurisdictions, this organic kitchen waste can be commingled with yard waste in the green bin because it will all be composted together. In other jurisdictions, organic kitchen waste must be specially bagged and composted separately. In still other jurisdictions, customers have received or will receive a new bin solely for organic kitchen waste, increasing the cost of trash service to purchase and empty additional bins. In order to cover the cost of creating new collection and composting systems, rates in many jurisdictions are increasing.

Why doesn’t the State pay for the higher costs if the State is the one requiring the transition to expanded composting? Good question. Unfortunately for ratepayers, and conveniently for the State, SB 1383 is not a reimbursable state mandate, so your local government cannot be reimbursed for increased program costs by the Commission on State Mandates. In fact, SB 1383 cites portions of the Constitution and the Government Code declaring that if user fees can recover the new costs imposed by the State, the State does not have to reimburse your city, county or district. Of course, the user is you.

Here this guy from Republic is gleefully rubbing his hands together, thinking about all the money his company is going to make, the taxpayers having foot the bill for all the upgrades. And now we still have to pay to have it picked up.

Well, guess what, there’s an exemption to the yard waste bin – you can compost it in your own yard. I compost along my back fence, 4 x 4 piles, and it’s dirt within 8 – 10 months, ready to go back to my flower and vegetable garden.

So, if you are exempt from the yard waste bin, why bother with a 96 gal can for your table scraps? You have a yard? Dig a hole, about a foot in circumference, make it as deep as you can. Go to Home Depot and get a new Homer bucket with fitted lid. Cut the bottom out with a sawzall. Stick the bottom end in the hole about halfway, tamp it down so it will stand in there, and voila – you have yourself an anaerobic food processor. I’ll thank my tenants for this suggestion – if you have a big family you might want to get a 32 gal Rubbermaid bin with the locking handle lid, we used one of those for years.

Worried about pests? Well, the average racoon can have that 96 gallon bin on it’s side in about two minutes, he’ll have to dig this one out. Late one night my husband and I watched Rocky fumbling with the handles on our Rubbermaid can, but he couldn’t get it open. He never bothered it again.

Flies will have to find a way under that fitted lid, while they are free to enter and exit your loosed lid WM bins at will. Did you know, fly eggs in your garbage bins gestate within a week? They hatch before the truck can dump your bin. We’ve composted this way for over 20 years, and I’ve never had flies in my compost hole. We’ve done same with our dogs’ poop, while we watched our neighbors dump it loose in their WM bins. Yech – just think, meat waste in your yard bin, that’s fly habitat. And don’t forget rats, they’re smart as hell and have fingers like a human.

Here’s an interesting note – apartment dwellers are exempt all together at this point, the talking heads haven’t figured out how to manage that demographic. Imagine how much they generate. See, it’s all on us homeowners/single family rental dwellers, and I think that’s a crock. So call WM today and tell them you want that yard waste bin gone and you want the discount. I know it’s only $5+ – go ahead Mr. and Mrs. Lobster, you can leave your tails in that pot, I’m out.

I have a couple of questions for Tyler Rainey: How did he rack up $9898.26 in overtime in 2021, and $18,212.36 in “other pay”? What the hell is “other pay”? Read the contracts folks – you’ll have more questions.

6 Apr

I was surprised to get an almost immediate response to my last letter, from none other than the president of the Chico Police Officers Association (Union). But I wasn’t surprised that all Tyler Rainey had was “False”. He sounded like Jim imitating Dwight on “The Office”

I can’t reprint his letter here so I gave you that little giggle. And then I went back to the contracts for more ammo.

I found even more outrageous stuff. See, I think it’s a little unreasonable and irrational, the way council caters to the cops – 8 minutes equals a half hour of overtime? Read on. And then read the contracts yourself, I couldn’t fit it all in 250 words.

In my recent letter, I quoted the very generous CPOA contract:

The city recognizes 11 “established holidays” – including Christmas Eve and the day after Thanksgiving. The contract states, “City shall provide ten (10) hours of Holiday Time Bank pay… Employee’s Holiday Time Bank shall be credited with one hundred and thirty (130) hours…”

Overtime is “work in excess of their normally assigned work shift or regularly scheduled day off.” Eight minutes beyond the end of their shift is 1/2 hour of OT, every 45 minutes is rounded up to an hour. They get 1-1/2 hours of CTO for every hour of overtime, or they can take 2 hours of STO. “Upon separation from city service” unused STO hours “are converted back to CTO, and employee shall be compensated…”

CTO “shall be limited to a total maximum amount of $60,000 each calendar year. If the requests
submitted by Employees exceed the amount available for payout… payout for each Employee shall be prorated so that the total of all payouts does not exceed $60,000 per calendar year.”

“Effective the first full pay period of July 2022, the City shall increase the salary schedule by 5%.” And again in July 2023. Chief Aldridge claimed 19 new hires since January 2022.

Did Tyler Rainey use his “CPOA Time Bank” hours to compose his letter? “The CPOA Time Bank, established for use by CPOA Employees for the sole purpose of performing or conducting CPOA business without loss of pay” City Contribution – 100 hours.

Juanita Sumner, Chico Ca

All I knew about Tyler Rainey was what he told us – he’s president of CPOA. You can find out more by checking with Transparent California. I have a question – how’d you rack up so much overtime Tyler?

Police Officer (2019)

Regular pay:$72,945.60
Overtime pay:$19,457.91
Other pay:$11,526.64
Total pay:$103,930.15
Pension debt:$27,853.53
Total pay & benefits:$166,068.08

$19,457.91 in overtime – another $11,526.64 in “other pay”. That’s how you take an reasonable sounding base salary of $72,945.60 and turn it into $103,930.15. That was 2019 – I searched the most recent files for 2021 and found this:

NameJob titleRegular payOvertime payOther payTotal payBenefitsPension debtTotal pay &
Tyler RaineyPolice Officer
Chico, 2021

Well, that’s so interesting. His base pay goes down about $1,000, his overtime is only about half – but look at that, he’s doubled his “other pay”. Think that’s when he was elected president of the CPOA? Because that’s about the time former president Peter Durfee decided to make his successful run for county supervisor, so he had to give up some of his “duties” with CPD. Look back at my letter – Rainey gets paid by the taxpayers for doing CPOA business. When I looked at their campaign contribution reports, I see that includes regular luncheons with other CPOA members. Great – we pay them for the time they sit plotting to screw us. Talk about a kiss afterwards!

Something else I’ll point out is that Transparent California figures the employee’s pension deficit using their salary plus the measly contribution they make toward their CalPERS costs. I’ve done the math on their figures, it’s good. Rainey has racked up a personal pension deficit of $34,994.37, that he also expects the taxpayers to pick up.

Weird survey is NOT from City of Chico

2 Apr

Well, here’s a weird post – did you get a text message regarding “City of Chico Issues”? I didn’t, but I heard about it from various people – including my husband, and my son, who doesn’t live here. I immediately suspected it was from the city. I didn’t like the format, it was sent directly to my husband’s phone, and only one person could respond. Furthermore, the first question seemed inappropriate, asking when and how the respondent would be voting. The second question was completely leading, – “do you like the direction in which Chico is heading?” – yes or no.

I’m sorry to say, after the way the city handled the sewer rate “change” (perpetual increase), I don’t trust them anymore, and yeah, I suspected some underhanded shenanigans. So I probably came off as pretty accusing when I asked my city rep Kasey Reynolds about it. I was surprised with her pleasant response – on a Sunday when she should be shoveling Easter candy out the door, she takes time to respond to little old me? Apparently I was not the first person to ask about this thing. Reynolds forwarded the city clerk’s response, “The survey is not being conducted by the City of Chico. It appears to be a survey regarding ‘City of Chico issues’ with nothing indicating that the survey is from the city of Chico. Additionally, I do not see a City of Chico logo or identifying information.

Reynolds went on to say, “I’m not exactly sure who is doing the survey, I received it also. My understanding is it’s being don’t to gather information about Valleys Edge given the questions asked.” She could be right – council will apparently take the referendum to the ballot – when I have no idea – and both sides will be pouring money into polling the public to help shape their competing campaigns. Knowing whether we’ll vote by mail or in person, and whether we approve or don’t approve of our council, will help them not only run their campaigns but maybe help them vet candidates for council in ’24.

This is a dogfight that has been years in the making. Brouhard and his partners have owned that land for years, planning to make a big killing by developing housing on it. The opponents are folks who’ve come from overcrowded decaying cities to make Chico their last Small Town stand. Many of them have lived here for a long time, but they aren’t as connected as Brouhard and his partners, who’ve had their hands in county, city and CARD business for 20 years or more. They know everybody who is in any position of power, including the unelected power brokers on important commissions, both state and local.

My dog in this fight is my Quality of Life. Yeah, they’re already doing the roadwork this thing will require, and it’s shutting down Bruce Road already. There’s only a few ways to get to that retail area, where my husband and I do most of our shopping – Bruce, Forest and the freeway. All of those will shut down during the building of this “city within a city”, and wow, wait til people start moving in.

Shopping in Chico is already getting pretty lackluster. Prices are higher than outlying communities, gas is more expensive, and there’s not much selection. Buying online is a natural selection – more choices, more competitive pricing, and Amazon gives you not only free shipping but streaming tv and movies. There’s no traffic, and no bums breaking in to your car while you’re in the store, or lurking outside the door to steal your purse.

If you really want to send the city of Chico a message, stop shopping in Chico, they’ll know by the end of the second quarter.

“Mandatory overtime” – that means, we have to pay them for it whether they work it or not

31 Mar

I called the police chief a liar recently, because I believe he knows darned well Chico police officers are not forced to work overtime but they most certainly get paid for it. He says overtime is the cause of “burnout” down at the PD – how is that possible, when they don’t work it?

How many of you remember the Pioneer Days riots? Let me refresh – I was at Chico State then, that’s how long ago it was – Spring 1987. My cousin worked at Gepettos, and I was on my way over to have a free cup of coffee with him when it started. Just like that, in the middle of a fairly nice Spring afternoon.

I was walking down Salem Street, when I heard a smash behind me – a girl had knocked a beer off a second story patio, it had blown up all over the sidewalk. She was completely wasted, giggling out of control – she’d almost hit somebody with a full beer, and she was just laughing. It felt weird, so I started walking faster – in those days, there were always parties on that side of campus, and worse parties as you got further into the “college ghetto”.

When I got to Gepettos, my cousin was just coming in with the trash bin, which he had to empty a few times a day into a shared dumpster across the street at the old bank. He was laughing, but he told me, “you better pack it up and head from Gram’s (our grandmother lived in Princeton, where we often spent weekends with her). He told me he’d just seen “a pack” of college girls, wearing sorority t-shirts, attack a police car with eggs. The officers inside apparently got out of the car and radio’d in as they watched the girls unload 4 packs of eggs on their cruiser and disappear around the corner in a shower of giggles. My cousin predicted that things were about to get weird.

He actually hadn’t the slightest notion of how weird it would get, but that night we watched it on Ch 12 from Gramma’s living room – a mob looted a laundry mat, burned their loot in a big pile in the middle of the street, and overturned a news van that showed up to do the story.

By the time I graduated, CSUC president Robin Wilson had ended Pioneer Days, an almost hundred year old community celebration. Playboy Magazine had named Chico State “Number 1 Party School”. Yeah, I had to go looking for a job with that albatross hanging around my neck – “wow, what did you major in, tapping kegs?” They all thought that was real funny.

When my husband and I had kids, Halloween in Chico was one of our best kept secrets – people used to come Downtown at dusk wearing costumes made at home, really imaginative, and just walk around the grid admiring each other. I’ll never forget the guy who came out as a man in a cage carried by a gorilla, or the young man who made a cardboard bus and walked around dressed as Al Mitchell. A family we know went out as a bunch of grapes. All homemade. The last year we participated, my husband made a last-minute Capt. America costume out of an old pair of red longjohns, and we dressed our kids with stuff we bought at the fabric store – Bam Bam and Count Dracula. We made Bam Bam’s club out of a brown paper sack. We walked the circuit, then we went to Malvina’s to hear what Sal Corona thought of our costumes. As we sat in the window, we saw the Pope pass by, we thought, wow, that’s a weird costume, but it looked like the kid put a lot of work into it.

Yeah, the next day on the news, we heard the Pope was stabbed by a young black man who thought he was supposed to be a Klansman and got very offened. That was the end of Halloween as we knew it. The next year the police department brought in the Sacramento Posse, on horse back, among crowds of pedestrians wearing costumes, and that was all it took to take the community spirit out of that holiday.

And what was instituted out of these events was “mandatory overtime”. The cops used these holidays, along with St. Paddy’s, and eventually Caesar Chavez Day, to add overtime to their pay, whether they worked it or not. Every year council and the CPOA work, behind closed doors, on a Memo of Understanding that requires a set amount of overtime for the cops, on the premise that these holidays demanded that kind of attention. As I’ve shown in previous posts, they’ve made a policy by which they’ve traded overtime they haven’t used for “compensated time off”, which accrues unused until they retire and then turns into money.

Chief Aldridge has been on the news lately, mouthing a lie about the police being burned out and hard to recruit new officers because of mandatory overtime? That is such a crock. I don’t think many people read the contracts, so I wrote a letter to the editor about it.

I agree with Chief Aldridge – the city needs to stop putting “mandatory” overtime in the police contracts. Overtime has traditionally been written into the contracts for certain holidays that caused problems in past, but those holidays don’t produce the arrests anymore. Even though St Paddy’s was on Friday this year. KRCR reported, “Spring Break, combined with a reduced student population, results in a significant decline in the number of house parties in the south campus and west side areas, according to police.”

Overtime has taken the department over budget. They call it “mandatory” overtime, but even if the officer doesn’t work those hours, they’re compensated through “Compensated Time Off”. According to the contract, CTO is offered “at the rate of one and one-half (1½) hours for each hour of overtime”. So they’re paid for not working, at overtime rates. Furthermore, if they’re not able to use that CTO, it becomes “Selective Time Off,” without pay. But try to follow this – unused STO is accrued, “at the rate of two (2) hours for each hour of overtime, which accrues until the employee retires”.  At retirement, unused STO hours “shall be converted to CTO in accordance with the formula set forth in this section, and Employee shall be compensated.” There you see, one way or another, officers get paid for overtime they don’t work.

With 19 new hires over the past year, our police department should be adequate to do their job without racking up overtime. End mandatory overtime.

Who’s in charge here? Where’s my slurry?! (my apologies to Matt Thompson)

28 Mar

Well how’s the weather treating you? Looks like customers around the Downtown core are experiencing rolling blackouts. Of course, the bars and restaurants in the core had their power lines buried years ago. That needs to happen all over town. I know, in my old neighborhood, we’ve had two transformers literally blow up over the past three years, knocking power out all down our street. That’s because they’re old, and they can’t take the wind. Not to mention, there are trees towering over lines throughout our neighborhood and all along Bidwell Park.

About 20 years ago, a phone company crew came through our neighborhood making band-aid repairs to the lines – the technician told me, as I picked up the crap he was dropping all over the ground, that “people in this neighborhood are paying for high speed internet that they’re not getting…” because the lines were old and rotten and “too far from the transmitter“. Yeah, he added, our phone service was shitty too – whenever we’d walk or drive out from our house we’d see at least one person standing in their front yard to use their cell phone. Great way to meet your neighbors.

Before he left, Mark Orme made a pitch for a publicly funded internet infrastructure improvements, saying the city would be the new internet provider. He admitted our city infrastructure was poor to non-existent, especially in the older neighborhoods, people just don’t have internet. This is a particularly poignant problem when schools require kids who don’t have internet to do homework on their computers. Talk about inequity – I’ll assure you, Orme’s kids have good internet, while kids all over Chapmantown and other neglected parts of Chico are excluded. Here was Orme’s solution:

Did we pay for that? Was it even made locally? And what became of it? I don’t know, but my service has not improved, and I haven’t heard another word out of any “commitee” about it.

Well, it’s that time of day – let’s talk about sewer service. I’ve had one frustrated lady come here to inform me that the city has sewer lines laid within a block in both directions from her house, but “can’t” give her any hook-up. Her septic tank is failing, but I’m guessing Staff is not answering her calls. Becca, if you’re still with me, you need to take this up with Kasey Reynolds and her Quality of Life committee. Let me know, I’d like to be in the front row for that discussion.

On my street – annexed when Dan Nguyen-Tan was still around – there are also voids in the sewer lines that have left people with failing septic tanks. When my neighbor’s tank failed, the city finally just let him replace it, because the sewer trunk line is too far from his house. They can’t make one property owner pay for the trunk line, only for hooking up to the trunk line. So here we all sit, on our septic tanks, waiting for the city to get another grant from the water quality department or something. About 10 years ago they used grants to lay trunk lines and allow cheaper hook-ups – well how about the rest of town you assholes?

Sorry, but you know, I just re-read an old post about the $22 million in COVID emergency funding the city received, and before that, it was over $20 million in Camp Fire relief. Where the hell did that go? Well, they’ve been spending alot of that COVID/American Rescue Funding on “improvements” Downtown, finally mentioning that they need to dig up Downtown streets to replace 100+ year old sewer lines.

Who’s in charge here? Well, we are, and we need to start acting like we’re in charge. Don’t wait for the Measure L committee, make a list of the services you aren’t receiving, and then how much you paid in property taxes for the last five years, and ask your city representative when you can expect that conversation.

Chico lies and the liars who are telling them: Chief Aldridge, how does “mandatory” overtime cause burnout when CPOA demands it in the contract and officers get paid for overtime they don’t work? Read the contract folks – the police chief’s pants are about to combust.

26 Mar

I had an argument with a local gadfly recently, over potholes. Well, read Frances Perata’s letter in today’s ER – wow, he really nails it. The street repairs the city is offering in return for their one cent sales tax increase are a total joke – pothole patches, like Perata observes, last about two days, before they are spread all over the undersides of people’s cars. And look at the streets they are talking about doing pothole patches – Cedar? There’s no surface left on that street, what will they be patching?

My grandmother used to darn the holes in our socks, and she’d be quick to say, “there’s nothing left to darn here”, and buy us some new socks. Likewise, here’s nothing left to patch in older neighborhoods all over Chico, where streets need to be completely scraped down and resurfaced. Pothole patches are a total insult to all of us who pay property taxes, apparently for nothing more than the privilege of living here. Taxes are just a shakedown in Chico, where the pension deficit created by unrealistic and unsustainable employee compensation has become a financial black hole.

Hey, you renters pay property taxes too – especially those of you who rent from Mom and Pop. Did you know, the recent sewer rate increase was only for single family homeowners? That includes any non-commercial rentals. Commercial rentals actually got a decrease in their sewer rates – they will not be paying the extra charge for consumption of water, as will those who live in regular single family homes.

Yes, it’s all about the pensions. Let me ask a question – how many of you have read any of the contracts our council has made with the unions? Read the police contracts. I had to laugh out loud when I saw our new police chief on the news the other night, complaining about “mandatory overtime”. You might have read this old post I made three years ago – read it again.

Public safety employees are guaranteed a certain amount of overtime. They call it “mandatory” overtime, but that doesn’t mean the employee is forced to work that OT, it means the city is forced to pay them for it. And, here’s the thing – the department (union) demands a lot more overtime than they need, and the employee ends up with un-worked OT hours (hang on the twists get wild). The employee can choose to exchange those un-worked OT hours for “Compensated Time Off” ( CTO ). Meaning, time off with pay. Un-huh – paid for overtime they didn’t need to work in the first place. 

Now before you accuse me of misinforming anybody, you need to read the contracts for yourself. In fact, don’t even come back to the table on this one if you haven’t read the contracts, posted here.

Then use “control F” to search “CTO” or “STO” and you’ll find it. Yes, they demand a certain amount of overtime, and when it’s not used, they get paid for it in a scheme that will make your head spin. Listening to Chief Aldridge made my head spin – like my husband said, he was lying through his teeth, you could tell by his body language. Watch the video here while it’s still posted:

“It’s a competitive process getting people now. We’ve had to come up with mandatory overtime and with mandatory overtime creates burnout and this job already has a burnout period, so now we’re expediting that burnout period,” he said. “This generation of people coming into law enforcement want their time off and that’s more valuable to them than money so that’s the challenge you know the welfare of your officers.”

Aldridge, whose pants should have burst into flames during that interview, also claimed the department is short of staff, even while admitting they hired 19 new officers since Jan 2022. What a fucking liar, and he knows he’s lying, cause you can see on the video he’s nervous as a cat. I’ll guess, this idiot doesn’t even understand his own contract, and they just put him in charge of the police department.

In the city of Chico, rules were made to be broken. One minute they tell us there’s a General Plan and a building code, the next day they allow a developer to violate everything in said General Plan and building code. You want to know why? Read the campaign contribution reports.

22 Mar

Yes, I asked for rain, I admit it. You don’t always get what you wish for, but when you do, watch out.

I see the organizers of the referendum to stop the proposed Valley’s Edge development have got what they wished for. And now I’ll ask, what next? The city of Chico can either pull approval and send this “city within a city” back to the drawing board, or they can hold a special election to let the voters decide. Sean Morgan complains this will cost about $100,000 – do you notice, Council and Staff always cry poormouth when it’s something the voters want, but they sure throw that American Rescue Plan money around like it’s just manna from Heaven.

I’ll note that this is just what I was saying in my last post – the city of Chico, like most California public agencies, wants to be able to do whatever they want without any fuss from the voters/taxpayers, or, for that matter, laws they made themselves.

I think the main thing I don’t like about Valley’s Edge, is that they are trying to change the General Plan to shoehorn this mess in, while telling us that Brouhard and his partners had stuck with the process and adhered to the General Plan. Let me tell you something about the General Plan – it’s completely worthless. They change it whenever they want, holding a public meeting here and there to make it look like the public was involved, and then they let a developer (Tom DiGiovanni) write a “parallel code” that allows all the stuff developers want to do that DOESN’T fit the General Plan. In other words, the General Plan isn’t worth the digits it’s written in, it’s a hoax.

Yes, we have a “parallel” code that allows variances to everything in the General Plan and the building code, including setbacks. In my neighborhood, it meant houses built right out to the property line to increase square footage ($$$). One day you have a big back yard, a year later, you have windows staring down from your neighbor’s McMansion, right into your house. They offer to buy you new curtains, but that’s about it.

You also heard about the Golden Rule – he who has the gold, makes the rules. Dan Walters wrote an interesting piece about that here:

Walters describes the “pay-to-play” system, which of course is how it works in Chico. The public employee unions, of course, have always been big contributors. But look at the campaign contribution reports, printed in the paper and available from the clerk’s office – local developers and their cronies also contribute heavily. In fact, in Chico, where an individual donor is limited to $500 per campaign, a relatively new PAC called “Citizens for Safe Chico” provided most of the funding. These folks are supposed to provide reports regarding how much money they collected and from whom, but state law allows them to file with the secretary of state, which makes it hard for voters to look at the reports. For one thing, you have to know EXACTLY how the group is listed, what acronym they chose, etc, or you won’t find the report, and nobody is going to help you. CSC organizer Teri Dubose is very secretive about her reports, and she was the biggest donor in the last election.

Walters explains that “The new law went into effect on Jan. 1 (2023), essentially prohibiting contributions of more than $250 to any local elected official from anyone seeking contracts, permits or licenses from the board or council on which the official serves. It would be retroactive, requiring the official who received such contributions in the past to give the money back.

Yeah, like Ethan Edwards said repeatedly, “that’ll be the day…” Don’t expect any forthcoming investigation into Bill Brouhard’s or Doug Guillon’s or any local developer’s campaign contributions. It’s the voters who need to enforce the rules, by doing their homework, and then rejecting candidates that are supported by these big money investors.

Here’s who opposes the TPGAA – the California Special Districts Association wants public agencies to be able to tax us at will for whatever they want

20 Mar

I love the URL for this article – yes, it’s about limiting the voters’ rights. A lot of government agencies seem to think the voters have too many rights. Tsk. Tsk.

The purported “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act,” a statewide initiative measure to amend the California Constitution sponsored by the California Business Roundtable (“CBRT”), is the most consequential proposal to limit the ability of the state and local governments to enact, modify, or expand taxes, assessments, fees, and property-related charges since the passage of Proposition 218 (1996) and Proposition 26 (2010). If enacted, public agencies would face a drastic rise in litigation that could severely restrict their ability to meet essential services and infrastructure needs.

That last line isn’t a fact, it’s a threat. If we pass this measure, government agencies around California are saying they’ll cut services again. They won’t cut their salaries, or their outrageous benefits, they won’t pare down their management heavy staff – they’ll turn and bite the hand that feeds them. Just like the French public workers, faced with a later retirement age (65), they are burning garbage in the streets of Paris. We already have that here, so what’s to lose?

On February 1, 2023, California Secretary of State Shirly Weber issued a memo to all county clerks/registrars of voters announcing that proponents of Initiative 21-0042A1, or Initiative 1935 as now numbered by the Secretary of State, had filed the necessary number of valid signatures to make it eligible for the November 5, 2024 General Election ballot. Proponents now have until June 27, 2024 to consider withdrawing the initiative before the Secretary of State officially certifies it for the ballot.

And here they are asking other agencies, like the City of Chico, to join them. Mark Sorensen carried this invitation to Chico City Council two weeks ago but they threw it out for reasons undisclosed.

CSDA has joined a coalition of local government leaders in adopting an Oppose position on Initiative 21-0042A1 and encourages all special districts, partners, and community leaders to join the coalition by passing a board resolution. Once approved, please email your resolution to and consider issuing a press release to local media. Individuals may also register their opposition with the growing coalition by emailing their name, title, and organization.

This is the kind of stuff that is carried on behind our backs constantly. Sorensen brought this “resolution” forward on the Consent Agenda, hoping for no conversation in front of the public. Kasey Reynolds, on the advice of her mentor James Gallagher, pulled the plug on it, asking to table it. Last week the city clerk informed me that Sorensen would no longer be pursuing the resolution. Just like that.

Here’s the opposition’s argument against the TPGAA:

Ballot Initiative 21-0042A1 would result in the loss of billions of dollars annually in critical state and local funding, restricting the ability of local agencies and the State of California to fund services and infrastructure by:

1) Adopting new and stricter rules for raising taxes, fees, assessments, and property-related fees. 2)Amending the State Constitution, including portions of Propositions 13, 218, and 26 among other provisions, to the advantage of the initiative’s proponents and plaintiffs; creating new grounds to challenge these funding sources and disrupting fiscal certainty. 3)Restricting the ability of local governments to issue fines and penalties to corporations and property owners that violate local environmental, water quality, public health, public safety, fair housing, nuisance and other laws and ordinances.

The initiative includes provisions that would retroactively void all state and local taxes or fees adopted after January 1, 2022 if they did not align with the provisions of this initiative. This may also affect indexed fees that adjust over time for inflation or other factors. Effectively, it would allow voters throughout California to invalidate the prior actions of local voters, undermining local control and voter-approved decisions about investments needed in their communities.

would result in the loss of billions of dollars annually in critical state and local funding – the only funding that is threatened are revenues from taxes that were passed without a full two-thirds voter approval. Two-thirds approval was mandated by the voters under Prop 13, but the legislature, behind our backs, went to cutting it out over the past few years. The only funding they will lose is funding they took illegally. In the case of the city of Chico, we hounded them for a 2/3’s measure – here’s the news – I was ready to support a 2/3’s measure! But they went the illegal route, they should have known better.

1) Adopting new and stricter rules for raising taxes, fees, assessments, and property-related fees. The 2/3’s rule is NOT NEW. Yes, it’s stricter than the loosey goosey rules the legislature put in place of voter mandated minimums, and that’s a good thing. See the way they twist the truth? Here’s a pretty blatant lie – ” Amending the State Constitution, including portions of Propositions 13, 218, and 26 among other provisions, to the advantage of the initiative’s proponents and plaintiffs..”

The TPGAA DOES NOT AMEND Prop 13, 218, or 26, it RESTORES provisions removed by the legislature without the approval of the voters. The opponents go on to insinuate that it’s a bad thing for the voters to challenge these illegal taxes. Oh Sweet Paul Revere.

I don’t know where they got #3 – sounds like something they pulled out of their ass to attract the environmentalists – don’t fall for it.

That last paragraph is a mouthful of hooey. Yes, this measure would void those taxes initiated without 2/3s approval – whether local or state legislature – after January 2022. This statement is absurd: Effectively, it would allow voters throughout California to invalidate the prior actions of local voters, undermining local control and voter-approved decisions about investments needed in their communities.

That is just not true. This measure would allow agencies to bring an illegal tax back as a ballot measure, and give the voters a chance to give it full approval instead of sliding it under the wire with 50% + 1 vote. A “simple” majority isn’t democracy, it’s arm-twisting, mob rule, and usually to the benefit of public employees, who get all the money.

Chico City Council knew when they were crafting Measure H and putting it on the ballot as a simple measure that they couldn’t get full voter approval. Why would they want a tax that doesn’t have full voter approval? Remember: a 2/3’s measure is also restricted to certain uses, and they didn’t want to be restricted in their spending. It’s a pay-to-play environment they’ve created Downtown and they like it that way.

For further reading, here’s a piece by Dan Walters that explains a lot about how they do business Downtown.