Yes on Prop 6 – write your letters now!

29 Aug

Knowing Enterprise Record Editor David Little will soon cut us off to one “political” letter before the November election, I’ve tried to write often about Prop 6. It looks like Rene Vercruyssen – one of the principals at Knife River Construction, the city’s sweetheart road contractor – is my opponent. The last letter he wrote was a little ridiculous, blaming all highway deaths in California on road hazards. I had to look that up – I didn’t even find road hazards listed by any of the reporting agencies. 

So I sent this letter, I hope you’ll write too.  Stand up and be counted. This might be the biggest revolution since Prop 13.

Update: What did I tell you? Do you believe that? Editor Dick Little held my letter for a full week, then announced the deadline, and ran my letter after the deadline! Gee, do you think he wants proposition 6 to pass or fail?

Write your letters folks and make them good!

 

 

Opponents of PROP 6 (Roll Back the Gas Tax) threaten highway deaths if 6 passes. A recent letter writer implies roughly 3,000 traffic deaths a year are caused by road hazards.

The California Office of Traffic Safety and the  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report the leading causes of deadly highway accidents are speeding (29%), and alcohol or drug impairment (25%).  The OTS believes cell phone distraction “plays a role” in 80 percent of all traffic accidents in California, lethal or non-lethal.

Opponents of PROP 6 claim people are dying on the roads because Californians haven’t  raised their gas tax for years. Nonetheless we paid the ninth highest gas tax in 50 states, until the legislature rolled out SB 1 last January. Now we pay the second highest gas tax in the nation.

But last year the American Society of Civil Engineers rated California’s roads as fifth worst in the US – “the percentage of roadway in sub-optimal condition is 28.5% – the fifth highest in the nation.”

While the governor threatens us with crumbling roads,  he is not sincere about fixing them. If you look at the text of SB 1, you’ll find only about $3 billion of the projected $26 billion will be dedicated to fixing roads over the next decade. At least half of the money goes to the discretion of local municipalities – like the city of Chico, who just spent $368,000 in Comcast franchise fees, added on to our Comcast bills for the use of roads and infrastructure, to remodel city chambers. 

Vote Yes on PROP 6, Roll Back the Gas Tax.

 

 

Advertisements

Butte County Budget shows county is bringing in more transients every year

25 Aug

It’s easy to read the Butte County budget at their website –

https://www.buttecounty.net/administration/CountyBudget/FY17-18AdoptedBudget.aspx

You’ll find a neat table of contents to save you a lot of scrolling. On page 99 you’ll find the Behavioral Health Fund. Or click here:

https://www.buttecounty.net/Portals/1/Budget/FY17-18Adopted/12-bh.pdf

The table shows the revenues and expenditures adopted by the board of supervisors for this past year. It’s not final – we’ll have to wait until the post the “actuals” – what was really spent – in retrospect. But, you can learn alot by looking at the adopted budget.

For example, The Behavioral Health Department’s single biggest source of income is “Intergovernmental Revenues” – $53,560,837. That’s nearly their entire budget. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office at http://www.gao.gov, “intergovernmental revenues” are “monies obtained from other governments and can include grants, shared taxes, and contingent loans and advances.” These monies exchange hands “as reimbursements for performance of general government activities and for specific services for the paying government.”

As Butte County Behavioral Health Director Dorian Kittrell told me, BCBH receives those funds for offering “beds” at various facilities, mostly the psychiatric hospital in Oroville. At that time the amount per patient per day was $550. 

I’m no math whiz, but I divided $53,560,837 by $550, and then divided that by 364 days a year. I got 266 patients per year.  

Notice the IR figure for fiscal year 2015-16 is about $8 million less than this year’s figure. Meaning, we’re taking in (you do the math) more transfers now than we were taking in 2015-16. Well, look around Chico – just the other day I saw several sprawling transient camps set up within plain sight of various streets around town. Bus stops taken over by chattering idiots waving cigarettes and screaming obscenities at whomever. My husband and I avoid Bidwell Park these days, but as we drove Hwy 32 out of town yesterday we watched a Cal Fire truck and some CHP officers routing an illegal camper who had driven his car into the scene of last month’s “Stoney Fire”. Who knows how long he’d been camping in there –  the neighbor told us he’d reported many illegal campers. 

I couldn’t find out what the current fee per day per patient is – ask your county supervisor. Ask them how many “patient transfers” BCBH orchestrated this year, and how many of those people are now on the streets of Oroville and Chico.

And watch this news story from Escalon, California.

Stanislaus County, Modesto Officials Accuse Escalon Police of Dumping Homeless Couple

 

 

 

 

Write to your county supervisor and tell them to stop funding Butte County Behavioral Health

23 Aug

As my husband and I drive around Chico and use Bidwell Park, it’s apparent our town has an out of control transient population. These people aren’t “from around here” – read the police logs, when arrested, these people admit to having no local address and list towns up and down the state as their prior residence. That’s not “homeless,” it’s “transient”. 

At retail centers, parks, greenways and intersections around town, we see an increasing number of transients standing alone or sitting in groups, laying in their sleeping bags, smoking cigarettes, sharing alcohol, at whatever time of day. One day waiting at a local sandwich shop for our lunch, my husband and I watched a couple stoned out of their gourds, weaving in and out of traffic at a busy intersection, laughing hysterically, as though it was the running of the bulls or something.

It used to be worse around the Jesus Center and Torres Shelter, but now it’s spreading all over town. They walk out in front of cars on Mangrove Avenue, stand at medians at the Mangrove Safeway, wander dazed up and down the sidewalks, sit in bus stop shelters babbling at spirits. 

And they get violent. I’ve had personal experiences, I’ve witnessed stuff, heard about the weird experiences of my friends, neighbors, tenants, and people in line at the grocery store or post office. And today I ran across this face book page.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/butte.county.fires.accidents.crimes/

These are folks who, like me, feel the local media has got a “vested interest” in suppressing negative news about our town. I’ve always known the college, for example, has an obvious interest in keeping bad news about town out of the spotlight because it would  make it harder to get parents to send their kids here. That whole “Number One Party School” thing was a nightmare for the administration at Chico State, it  really made a difference in how parents perceive our college. And then high profile tragedies – drinking and hazing deaths at fraternities. The police have put us on the radar for killing people and beating up young coeds.  Now it’s the bums. The college has obvious reasons to pressure the local media to keep a lid on these stories. 

One man puts a finger right on the problem – “Take a look at the June 26th Butte County Board of Supervisors agenda. It is online. The county behavioral health department had 19 consent agenda items worth millions of dollars dealing with mental health programs. Is seems those programs are not getting to those aggressive transients on our Chico streets.”

Here’s what he doesn’t know – it’s these very programs that are bringing the aggressive transients into our town. “19 consent agenda items worth millions of dollars…”  Yes, millions of dollars in “transfer fees” – the county gets $550 a day per transient they take from other towns/counties/hospitals.

Furthermore, they can hold these “clients” at the county psychiatric facility – nick-named “The Puff” – for 45 days without their consent – you do the math. 

So as you scroll down this facebook page, reading about people from other towns ripping newly planted trees out of the ground at a business on East Eighth Street and threatening the staff with the stakes from the trees, throwing and threatening people with a hatchet Downtown, breaking into cars at the Enloe Center at Cal Park, lighting a fire with a blowtorch on the front lawn of the Chico library – how do you think these people get to town? They are transported here by Behaviorial Health employees from cities and counties all over California. 

When I last inquired, Butte County Behavioral Health staffer Dorian Kittrell, who enjoys a salary of over $130,000 plus about a $35,000 package, told me they get about $63 million a year in transfer fees. 

When that 45 days involuntary hold is up, the “client” is released on their own recognizance, oftentimes with prescription medicine. They are offered rides to shelters in Oroville and Chico, but they are not required to either take the ride or register at the shelter. 

Yes, contact your county supervisors and tell them, first of all, these items need to be set on the regular agenda. They’re on almost every agenda, under the consent section, where they pass without any sort of discussion. 

You realize, many towns/counties don’t even have a psychiatric facility, they just send them to counties like Butte.  

Speak up to your supervisor, write a letter to the editor, describe how the situation is affecting your life. Like another commenter says on the BCFAC Facebook page, I used to  believe these programs were for the good of the citizens of Butte County, but it’s just another revenue scheme that ends up costing us more than it brings in. 

 

 

 

Look at your checkbook/credit card – how much has SB 1 (the gas tax increase) cost you since January? What have you got to show for it?

20 Aug

Watching the Yes on Prop 6 (roll back the gas tax increase) commercial, I was reminded some revenues from SB 1 (the gas tax increase) will not be used to fix our roads. I’d already read one analysis of SB 1 that reported roughly half the funding would be used for projects like bicycle lanes and public transportation projects. Looking for more information about how our state gas and vehicle taxes are divvied up, I found the Overview of the 2017 Transportation Funding Package.

About half our gas and car revenues – $400 million – go toward fixing state bridges and culverts – a report a few years ago listed an outrageous number of bridges all over the state that had been let go to the point of being unsafe, after years of neglect. While that seems appropriate, we have to wonder what else is going to pot while they’re concentrating on bridges and culverts.

But  it’s true, the other biggest chunk – about $300 million – goes into “self-help” counties and “active transportation.” “Self-help” is a weird way of saying, county owned public transportation lines. “Active transportation” makes a little more sense – any form of “self-propelled” transportation. So, they mean, bus and train lines, and bicycle lanes. 

I sat in on a meeting of various local agencies a few months back, a group of people plotting to get state and federal money for bus and train lines to nowhere, that weren’t even projected to have a 40 percent return in fares. This year we also saw grant funding being used for a questionable “experiment” pitting bike riders against people trying to park their cars Downtown. Do you really think it costs $350,000 to paint a white strip on the street? No, most of the money got allocated into paying salaries and pensions Downtown. 

The rest of the gas tax and vehicle fees pot is split up – $25 million for freeway patrols, $25 more for local planning  grants, $7 million for university research  and then $5 million in workforce development. You can use your imagination to figure out how they will spend those funds, I’m sure they will!

Okay here’s the sticker. I want you to rub this one in good.  At the bottom of the chart, there’s a box titled “Remaining Funds” – that would be, what’s left after they extract all that above from the roughly $1 billion they expect to generate annually in gas tax and car registration fees. I think that’s $300 million, read the report and do your own math.  That would be split 50/50 between “Highway maintenance/rehabilitation” and “Local streets and roads maintenance/ rehabilitation.”

Did you watch the commercial from Jerry Brown’s people? They insinuate they will use the tax increase to fix potholes and other road hazards, to prevent serious accidents. But less than half of the money will go in that direction. Less than a third. 

You can look for more information yourselves, the context of California SB 1 is available on line, you can read for yourselves – essentially, they’re strong-arming money out of us to force us to pay for bike lanes and public transportation that are not supported by the majority of the population.  We pay, but we still drive on roads that are voiding the warranty on our tires, and according to the NO on 6 people, causing horrific accidents. Their campaign is misleading. You have to ask yourself, look at your credit cards – how much has SB 1 cost you since January 2018, and what have you got in return?

 

 

 

YES ON PROP 6: Californians pay the second highest gas tax in the US, while driving on the fifth worst roads

16 Aug

Here’s the first YES on Prop 6 tv ad. Prop 6 repeals SB 1, the recent legislative increase in our gas tax and car registration fees.

 

Some points I’d like to make:

The ad says the typical family will pay $779.28 more taxes per year under SB 1. That figure does not take into account the effect this increase has on everything that arrives on a truck – from groceries to tooth paste and shampoo to clothes, shoes and school supplies for your kids. Neither does it include the effect this increase will have on services like public utilities, medical, day care, you name it. 

Before SB 1 went into effect last January, California had the ninth highest gas tax in 50 states. Now, according to 24/7 Wall Street (  https://247wallst.com/special-report/2018/01/26/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-gas-taxes-6/   ), we have the second highest gas tax in the nation, at 53 cents a gallon.   24/7 Wall Street quotes  the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Report Card For America’s Infrastructure  –  “the percentage of roadway in sub-optimal condition is 28.5% – the fifth highest in the nation.” In other words, we pay the second highest gas  tax but have the fifth worst roads in the entire United States.   

Think people, read that again – the threats Jerry Brown and his fellow pensioners are making about roads going unrepaired mean nothing.   We’ve already suffered some of the worst roads in the nation while paying some of the highest taxes, how much worse can it get? 

Here’s where the money has gone, and will continue to go, like kipple into a black hole – California now has over $1 TRILLION in unfunded pension liabilities. They know we won’t pay them outright, so they try everything under the sun to trick us into raising taxes for funds that can be pilfered later through allocation. Promises haven’t worked, so now Brown is threatening. Look at the visuals – I’m hearing, “Pay or Die”. 

The ads Brown is running are paid for with public money, including conscripted union dues from agencies like California Highway Patrol. They’re breaking the law, using taxpayer money to run ads for a tax increase campaign, that’s desperate. 

Write letters, tell your friends, it’s YES ON PROP 6. 

 

 

 

Dan Walters: “Despite Law Politicians use Taxpayer Funds for Campaigns…”

12 Aug

Thanks Bob, for sending me this link from Dan Walters over at Cal Matters. 

https://calmatters.org/articles/commentary/despite-law-politicians-use-taxpayer-funds-for-campaigns/

Chico Area Recreation District has done exactly this – use taxpayer money to hire consultants to vet, write and campaign for tax increases. How do you fight your own money?

Like Bob asked, I also wonder – will the Enterprise Record run this editorial piece? They’ve run Walters before, pick and choose, I assume, when they’ve agreed with what he was saying.  

They ran my letter about the city’s use of it’s taxpayer supported website to promote SB 1 road work, after I resent it three times over as many weeks. I sent my letter about staff holding the park and roads hostage for a tax increase measure last Tuesday. I hadn’t seen it by today so resent. 

I wish more people would write letters to the editors of local papers. I don’t mind waiting in line to get my turn, I’d just like to see some of the remarks I’ve been getting from friends and neighbors in the newspaper. People like to bitch, it’s human I guess. Well, bitch in newsprint, it’s even more satisfying!

 

Chico needs better management

11 Aug

I’m sick of hearing idiots blame the rash of fires burning around our state on Global Warming. The problem is, Cal Fire relinquished responsibility for fire prevention about 11 years ago, leaving it up to local entities like the city of Chico and county of Butte. So far, neither of those agencies have stepped up to the plate.

The city of Chico has allowed Bidwell Park to fall dangerously into neglect. Dead trees and other vegetation through out the park are a  huge fire risk for our entire town. While City management continues to enjoy salary increases and only pays a small portion of their own pension obligation, We are told they need more money to maintain the park.

Mark Sorensen and his cronies have suggested a revenue measure in the form of a bond on our homes, for street improvements. I think they abandoned the sales tax increase measure because it’s not as sure  a thing as a bond. They say they will dedicate it to Street improvements because then they only need 51% of the vote to pass it.

The problem with dedicated funds is they can be allocated to other funds and used for whatever purpose Council and staff agree to use it. Dedicated funds also free up other money that was not restricted . The whole concept of dedicated funds is a lie they use to get us to pass these Revenue measures.

I first heard of the concept of “failure maintenance” from former city of Chico Public Works manager Ruben Martinez. Martinez reported that city buildings and other public facilities were in serious need of repair, but as usual, he complained about lack of money, while collecting a salary of over a hundred thousand a year. I guess we’ve all gotten used to hearing people who collect a salary telling us they don’t have enough money to do anything.

Ironically, I was sitting in a morning meeting with Martinez present, when a woman tried to come into the room, finding the door knob was broken. Martinez, a handy enough guy, fixed it with his Leatherman Tool.

I was sad to see Martinez go in the first round of firings under Nakamura. I have the feeling Martinez was too open with the public about the financial problems downtown. He was apologetic, while current works manager Erik Gustafsson is completely the opposite. Gustafson is constantly taking projects off the Nexus, complaining there is not enough money for anything but his $200,000 per year compensation package.

Parks manager Linda Herman does same, collecting over a hundred fifty thousand a year in compensation while telling us she does not have any money for maintenance of the park.

Ever been on a farm when the farmer’s brought out the slops bucket? Ever seen a mama pig nursing a litter  of shoats get up and run for that slops bucket, babies flying and bouncing  in every direction? That’s city of Chico employees for you, they don’t really care about the citizens, they’re just after that slops bucket.

We’ve got Mutiny on the Bounty here in the city of Chico. We’ve got a bad captain and he’s steering our ship onto the rocks just to coerce us into paying more money. I frankly believe that if we got rid of Mark Orme and his first mate Chris Constantine, and hired better management for our city, things would turn around here.

I wrote the following letter out of a serious fear that it might be too late.

Could Chico have a catastrophic fire? In fact, a fire that started in Upper Park in July threatened a subdivision in East Chico and nearly jumped Hwy 32, coming within 100 feet of  a house near the Peregrine Point disc golf course. Fire investigators told the neighbor the source of the fire was an illegal campsite.

Only days before that fire, I emailed park staff to alert them to Illegal campers using campfires at the disc golf course. On August 2  I reported another illegal camper at that spot – as of today (8/7) he is still there. The city has closed the course but failed to remove or lock the portable toilet, creating a de-facto campsite.

We’ve watched Bidwell Park deteriorate into what is defined by Cal Fire as a “Fire Hazard Severity Zone”, with fuel,  weather, and  slope for a catastrophic fire that could easily destroy hundreds of homes through Chico. The Park Director, who has expressed support for a revenue measure, has closed an unprecedented area of Bidwell Park, complaining she doesn’t have funds to remediate the damage from the recent fire.

For years city staff has practiced deferred, or “failure” maintenance, while emptying one fund after another to pay an increasing share of the CalPERS obligation. Now they are holding our park, our roads, and our quality of life hostage for a revenue measure. The results are going to be disastrous.

Chico citizens deserve better leadership and better service. Don’t buy staff threats – demand new city management.

Juanita Sumner