Tag Archives: Ann Schwab Chico CA

Brown and Schwab want to take away your property rights

13 Jul

Part of the Big Lie being perpetuated by city of Chico council members and $taff is all these poor folks being “squeezed out” of housing because greedy landlords want to sell their rentals. Councillor Ann Schwab and Vice Mayor Alex Brown have brought up the subject of rent control. They call it, “eviction for good cause”. 

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/displacements-continue/content?oid=28403226

“At the council’s July 2 meeting, the panel considered Schwab’s original proposal. In general, an eviction for good cause ordinance requires landlords to prove there is a “good cause” to terminate a lease, such as a tenant failing to pay rent or damaging property, or the landlord needing to make substantial repairs or move into the property. Some require landlords to provide tenants with financial assistance to relocate.”

Do they mean “eviction” or “termination of the lease”? These are very different terms, legally, but Brown, Schwab, and now the press, continue to use the words interchangeably.

FROM pocketsense.com  –  When a landlord or tenant decides to terminate (or not renew) a lease or rental agreement, state law often requires one party to give written notice of his decision to the other party. This is sometimes known as a “notice to terminate”. An eviction is a legal proceeding in which a landlord asks a court to order the tenant to leave the property.

Yes there’s a big difference between “eviction” and “termination.” An eviction comes out on your court records. Forever. It’s called “unlawful detainer“. Here’s more information from Nolo Press.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-eviction-process-california-rules-landlords-property-managers.html

 Before evicting a tenant, California law requires a landlord to legally terminate the tenancy. To do this, the landlord must first give the tenant written notice, as specified by state law. If the tenant does not move out or fix bad behavior—for example, by paying the rent or finding a new home for the dog (when the lease prohibits pets)—then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (also called an unlawful detainer suit). For serious lease violations, the landlord does not need to give the tenant the option of correcting the problem behavior.  California law gives exact requirements to end a tenancy, with different types of termination notices and procedures required for different types of situations. 

Furthermore, “If a tenant has a month-to-month rental agreement and has lived in the rental unit for less than one year, then a landlord must give the tenant a written 30-day notice to end the tenancy. If the tenant has lived in the rental unit for over one year and is month-to-month, then the landlord must give the tenant a written 60-day notice to end the tenancy. Both notices must inform the tenant that the tenancy will expire at the end of the notice period and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time (see Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § § 1946 and 1946.1).”

So, landlords are already held to strict rules, and tenants can take their landlords to court if they violate any of these rules. I don’t see any reason to make such an ordinance for Chico. Proponents of this ordinance, mostly Brown and Schwab, have claimed they’ve heard from people who’ve been “evicted” by greedy landlords who wanted to sell their houses in the aftermath of the Camp Fire.  But Alex Brown, who has made this claim repeatedly since the Camp Fire, has not offered any names. So the News and Review plopped out this little story.

“After the Camp Fire, Chris Singleton and his two roommates invited a family who’d lost their home in Paradise to live with them for several months. That family found a home in Magalia in the spring and soon may be returning the favor.  Now, Singleton is losing his home in southwest Chico, too: His landlords want to sell. He’s been there for more than three years and has to be out by July 31.”

Wow, where’s the crime here? Did his landlord give him 60 days, as required  by law? Here’s a better question – did he have his landlord’s permission to let “a family” move into his rental? Because if he didn’t, it’s legal for his landlord to give him a 3 day notice to get them out or have his lease terminated (which is followed by a 30 – 60 day notice period).  

Three-Day Unconditional Quit Notice: This type of notice is given to the tenant if the tenant commits specific, serious violations. The notice informs the tenant that the tenant must move out of the rental unit within three days of receiving the notice. The tenant is not allowed any time to fix the violation, and if the tenant does not move out within three days, the landlord can go to court to file an eviction lawsuit. The landlord can use a three-day unconditional quit notice only in the following situations:

  • the tenant has assigned or sublet the rental unit in violation of the lease or rental agreement
  • the tenant has caused substantial damage to the property
  • the tenant has permitted or created a nuisance at the rental unit, or
  • the tenant has been involved in illegal activity on the premises of the rental unit.

Most leases have a clause that says nobody is allowed to move in without written permission of the landlord. Also a clause that says no overnight guests for more than 10 days in a 60 day period. Why? Because a landlord has a right to know who is living in their property.

I’ve had many applicants fill out applications and lie about the number and identity of others that will live with them. An applicant even has to list minor children on a legal application, even though the landlord is not allowed to reject families with children. And, while a landlord is not allowed to restrict the number of tenants per room or rental, the landlord is still allowed to require the tenants to fully disclose who will live there on the application.

Here’s a reason right off the top of my head – landlords are supposed to do background checks on prospects, and my neighbors appreciate that. You might have to rent to a registered sex offender, but you’re supposed to know that. But when his or her friends rent a place and then just let the sex offender move in, who would know?

Here’s another reason – parking. Too many cars is one of the top causes of fighting and neighbor complaints.  And then there’s damage – who gets the bill, when you don’t even know who lived there? 

I have found, most applicants who lie about that have prospective roommates who for one reason or another have a bad rental history, and they’re afraid the prospective landlord won’t rent to them. Well, that’s a landlord’s right under California law, and why not? Why rent a house to somebody who has a record of refusing to pay rent or failure to respect a legal document after signing their name to it? 

We have corporate landlords in town, and they ALWAYS have vacancies. Corporate landlords can afford dead beats, Mom and Pop can’t. While I know there are predatory landlords in town, they are breaking laws that just need to be enforced, like keeping deposits without proper billing.  That’s a big scam in the Chico corporate rental market  – why doesn’t the city enforce the current laws?

Because scare tactics are always a good campaign tactic. Brown and Schwab are trying to get the college student vote – never too early to campaign. A local campaign consultant once told me he’d “run the numbers,” available through the county clerk’s office, and while a very small percentage of local college students are registered to vote (meaning, they put “student” as their occupation), there are usually more than enough to throw a council election. At that time my friend reported to me that a little over 600 hundred “students” were registered to vote in Chico. Yep, more than one council election has been determined by less than 600 votes.

And then there’s the local crowd of “feel good” liberals, among whom words speak louder than actions.

The scare tactic they are trying to run is that Chico doesn’t have “enough affordable housing.” That is a crock of shit, take a whiff. Look around you – new apartments, new apartments, new apartments. Including the “luxury” apartments being built at Cal Park, and some pretty high end apartments over on Nord (rented by the bedroom, at $700 a room). Gee, if city council so worried about “affordability,” why do they keep permitting “luxury apartments”? Because they want the property taxes, you silly moose!

The department of numbers says we have so much housing our vacancy rate is actually increasing.

https://www.deptofnumbers.com/rent/california/chico/

Chico vacancy has more than tripled since 2006 and is more than double California vacancy rate. I realize there was a short-lived frenzy after the Camp Fire, but that is over. In fact, our vacancy rate has increase almost 2% over the last few years, to over 7%. That means 7 of 100 landlords have empty rentals, while they still have to pay mortgages, taxes, and upkeep.

While rentals here in Chico have always been more expensive than the county, we also have more a lot more to offer here than the rest of the county. People are always willing to pay more for services, like retail centers, nearby schools, public transportation, and silly stuff like sewer, water and garbage service.

The Department of Numbers also reports that Chico’s average rent is not only consistent with the US average but considerably lower than the average for all of California. 

I’ll admit, these are 2017 numbers. There are no more recent numbers. So where do Schwab and Brown get their information? Why don’t you ask them for names? Communications with council members are supposed to be public information. 

For some reason, council unanimously agreed to have the city attorney research and draw up a draft of an ordinance that basically strips landlords of their property rights.  Check out some of these doozies from around the country:

https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=E211US105G0&p=good+cause+ordinance

It seems these ordinances are usually backed with claims of “unscrupulous landlords” – but the behavior they describe is already covered by California law. For example, the mayor of Philadelphia says, “This Good Cause bill strengthens the Fair Housing Ordinance and will keep unscrupulous landlords from committing unfair rental practices and terminating leases simply because tenants request necessary repairs.” 

Let’s talk FACTS for a minute. Eviction or illegally terminating a lease because you don’t want to make repairs is against the law, especially if the items were in working condition, or if the landlord promised to fix them in writing, when the tenants moved in. All a tenant needs to stop a termination of lease is a record of written complaints about the items in question.

A fellow we met once told my husband and I a funny story – he had rented from infamous Chico landlord Mike Campos. Campos is a tough old bastard, but he knows the law. This fellow admitted, he and his friends had spent all their money “partying”, and were unable to come up with the rent for the month. They decided to complain about a faucet that had been leaking for weeks, telling Campos they were withholding the rent until the faucet was fixed.

That isn’t legal, they had no record of any written complaint, you’re only allowed to withhold rent when the landlord knows about but refuses or fails to fix the problem within a certain amount of time. They were shocked when Campos showed up that day, tool belt on, and demanded to be shown the leaky faucet. Fixing it within minutes, he then demanded the rent, which they had to admit they  didn’t have. I had to laugh – Campos was our neighbor for years, we knew his kids, and we would never have pulled such a stunt on that cranky old bastard.

Schwab and Brown are looking for a feel good measure that will help them get re-elected. That sounds harmless, but more cities across the country are passing these ordinances. This would have a major negative impact on the housing market in Chico. Just think – Mom and Pop selling out, rentals all over town being converted to owner occupied. Is that the kind of “help” renters need?

Contact Alex Brown at alex.brown@chicoca.com, and Ann Schwab at ann.schwab@chicoca.com, and tell them what you think of this ordinance. 

Wow, what a bitch – Fillmer seems to be campaigning two years early, goes after Schwab’s seat! Isn’t her own seat big enough?

25 Oct
Some city council members are more internet social than others – Reanette Fillmer seems to spend a few hours a week on Facebook. She also seems to have it out for Ann Schwab.
 
 
Reanette Fillmer

So for your information we did further research and a Ann Schwab has recused herself 114 times since she started in office. What are your thoughts?

Sheesh, you’d think Fillmer was up for re-election, but her term isn’t up until 2018. Getting a few cheap shots in early, huh Reanette?

I’m not crazy  about Schwab, but something I’ve learned since she’s been in office – she’s always been the top vote getter, miles ahead of the third and fourth seats, and until Sean Morgan came along, way ahead of the second seat. Does Fillmer actually think she has a chance to unseat Schwab? Does she think she’s helping her chum Morgan? And what about the 12 – 14 thousand people who vote for Ann every four years?

It seems petty and bitchy, if you ask me. I mean,  I’m a bitch, so I can say that. But see, I don’t hold a public seat, I haven’t been given a public  sector job (or a very nice benefits package) like Fillmer has got, or been voted into a seat of public trust. So  I can mean mouth all I want.

Fillmer needs to be more professional and less divisive. The divisiveness on council has got to stop – these idiots are fiddling while our park, our streets, our water quality, and public safety are going down the toilet. All  we need right now is more trash mouth from Reanette Fillmer.

Fillmer is a badge bunny, wants to give the key to the city to Chico PD.  I get the feeling Schwab has voted against that current, and the cops want her out.

Reanette, put your blouse back on and try to act like you have some respect for your constituents. If you want to campaign for Sean Morgan, sure that’s great. You can tell people you’re not voting for Schwab, and why, I don’t care. Sure, sign whatever arguments for or against whatever measure you want.  But this isn’t junior high school, it’s not the cool kids vs the nerds anymore.  Try to act like a grown up.

And, let me take one more shot – Fillmer should probably recuse herself from contract talks with Chico PD, she way too embedded with the cops.

“Super Troopers” starring Chico Police Chief Kirk Trostle

5 Aug

I attended the first Internal Affairs discussion a couple of weeks ago regarding Kirk Trostle’s request to fabricate a city licensing procedure for bars and restaurants, based on land use regulation, or “zoning.”   This is one of those conversations where almost nobody is saying what they really mean.

As I reported earlier, various people in the discussion have different motivations. The bar owners are all pretty afraid to express themselves. They seemed to be mouthing a line for the city’s satisfaction – don’t bite the hand, and all that.  The committee members, Sean Morgan, Ann Schwab and Tammi Ritter, were all in their separate corners on this, with Schwab doing her best Annie Bidwell impersonation, Ritter seeming to be dragging her feet against over-regulation, and Morgan acting like the moderator of this debate, trying to make sure everybody gets in on the conversation, even if the conversation goes on in perpetuity.

Chico Police Chief Kirk Trostle started this conversation, originally wanting an ordinance to go before the public, requiring bars, restaurants, and “any business having to do with liquor”, to pay a fee, based on square footage of the establishment, that would go to the police department.  When Lori Barker  popped his ACE ordinance balloon, telling him it would be an illegal tax on alcohol, Scott Gruendl came to the rescue with an order that staff come up with some kind of zoning regulation that could be applied with no input from the public. 

Yes, this would also generate fees – Mark Wolfe from the planning department said such an ordinance would add “$5,000 – $6,000” to the licensing procedure for each business. I asked where that money would go, but nobody answered. I noticed, Kirk Trostle stiffened up and his face turned red. I didn’t make any friends at the cop shop that day. 

Mark Wolfe also reported that when council ordered him to come up with some kind of marijuana ordinance, he kept track of his time and that of his limited staff. He said they used at least $30,000 worth of staff time on that sinker. I asked him to repeat that figure. Ann Schwab later made fun of me, saying, essentially, that $30,000 is nothing. I hate to tell her, but most of the families in this town live on very little more than $30,000, and many live on less. She makes $80,000+ in a fluff position at the college, a salary that is stapled onto your college kid’s butt. Then she has the nerve to take a salary of around $7,000 from the city of Chico, plus a $21,000 insurance package.  

Ann, you need to step down, you are completely out of touch. Or, at least, please stop wearing shorts to meetings with open front tables. Don’t make me take a picture of what those ham hocks of yours look like under that table. 

But, I digress. 

I told the council I thought they were simply duplicating the duties of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. This really got Trostle’s back up, sheesh he was pissed off. He said, the ABC “has staffing levels from the 1950’s,” claiming they have only two agents for sixteen counties. I’m sure that’s what he said, I wrote it in my notebook right then and there. 

I sensed a case of “Super Troopers.” “Super Troopers” is a very off-color and tasteless comedy movie about a medium sized New England town in which the local police compete with the state highway cops for revenues. Yes, there’s sex, drugs, and inappropriate stuff all the way through, I do not recommend this movie to stodgy buttheads with no sense of humor (“who’s up for mustache rides!”).  But the plot line is still good: the police lie, cheat and steal to get rid of the state troopers all together so they can get their hands on all the law enforcement budget. 

So, I wrote to the ABC office in Redding, where Trostle claimed there’s only two guys sitting around a phone. I just told the guy what I’d heard at the meeting, and he came back with this:

Dear Ms. Sumner,

I apologize for the delay in returning your email.  The Redding District Office covers nine counties (Butte, Glenn, Tehama, Shasta, Lassen, Siskiyou, Trinity, Plumas, and Modoc).  The Redding Office staffing levels in July of 2013 were 3 Agents, 1 Licensing Representative, and 2 front office staff.  The Redding District Office is a satellite Office of the Sacramento District Office.  In July of 2013 the Redding District Office was overseen by a Supervising Agent from the Sacramento District Office.  That Supervising Agent was overseen by a Supervising Agent in Charge who was based out of the Sacramento District Office.  Additionally, ABC has two Special Operation Units, one for Northern California and one for Southern California.  These units are available to assist District Offices with enforcement efforts, whether problematic locations, special events, or assisting district offices with handling complaints of ABC licensed locations. 

 If you have any additional questions, please let me know.

 Paul 

530-224-4830  

I thought about forwarding this to the council, Trostle, etc, asking for some explanation. What do you think? I think it’s “Super Troopers.” 

 

Ann Schwab and Kirk Trostle out to protect their own bottom lines – liquor ordinance just a revenue grab

25 Jul

In between gardening and putting up tomato sauce and peaches, I spent yesterday going back and forth to city meetings, a special Internal Affairs meeting at 8am and “economic development,” or at least, talking about it, at 4pm.

The Internal Affairs discussion was about what amounts to a money grab being attempted by Chico PD chief Kirk Trostle. Trostle, as you may recall from an earlier post,  was trying to get the ACE (Alcohol Compliance and Education) ordinance on an upcoming ballot, and told me at a Police Advisory Board meeting that he hoped it would result in at least $100,000 worth of (new) fees with which he could hire another officer. But, he admitted, the officer would not necessarily be dedicated to alcohol compliance or problems, he wouldn’t guarantee that.

Well, at a subsequent meeting, city attorney Lori Barker shot it down, informing Trostle that the “fee” amounted to a “tax”, and the city is not allowed to tax the sales of alcohol. So, Scott Gruendl moved for staff to work on an ordinance that would allow the city to collect some sort of fee without it being construed legally as a tax.  What a creep that guy is, a regular goniff.

Mary Goloff, Ann Schwab and Scott Gruendl are attempting to dress it up as the city’s plan to handle our “community alcohol problem.” Goloff and Gruendl are up for re-election, and Schwab is not only on the defense lately, she’s looking out for her interests at the college and her Downtown business.

Schwab has been hung out to dry, stripped of her former stately power. Lately she seems constantly to have been crying about something, and tears up at the slightest criticism or correction. She’s fallen back on her job at the college – an administrative fluff position that adds another $80,000 + in salary and benefits to tuition – and is desperate to show herself as champion for the college. She also needs to worry about her bike store – Downtown business is in trouble, and she has taken the tack of blaming the bars and other liquor-related establishments. She says “the university is doing what they can do.” Well, she sure knows who butters her bread.

She also made some questionable statements regarding liquor licenses, how they’re issued, and what happens when a business sells a liquor license. “Once a permit is issued,” she piped up, sounding like a character from “Th Music Man,” it’s ISSUED!” She went on to describe her nightmare scenario: a place could start out “respectable and low-key,” but that business might fail, and be sold to somebody else!  “It can change to PITCHER NIGHT  with no approval from council,” she concluded, setting her lips firmly and looking around the room for an “AMEN!

(…and that starts with ‘P’ and that rhymes with ‘T’ and that stands for TROUBLE! Right here in River City!)

Well, just like that pile of hooey she rolled out in support of Measure J, her statement above doesn’t turn out to be exactly true. Officer George Laver, who seems to be the guy in charge of liquor at the cop shop, informed all of us of the actual function of the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It turns out that “conditions can be placed by the ABC – such as hours of sale of alcohol and other specifics…” And, even if the business comes under completely different ownership, the new owner cannot make “significant changes to the business model” without a hearing from the ABC that includes input from the cops and other local agencies.

In fact, Laver went on to describe a “very good working relationship with the ABC.” The ABC allows local agencies to have input and set conditions, and according to Laver, Chico PD and the city of Chico have been “very successful” in getting what they want out of the ABC.

Later, the owner of the Winchester Goose also corrected erroneous statements Ann made. First, he told everybody that the ABC has a very complete process for input,  everything needed to make a complaint or check on a business’s license is on their website.  Ann had also bitchily asked, in direct reference to the Winchester Goose,  “why would anybody put so much investment into a business without getting the liquor license first?” The guy from the Goose told his story – last November, he’d received “the green light” from Chief Trostle as well as the planning commission. It was only recently that they’d been talking about denying his license, after he’d already spent a bunch of money. Ann hates being corrected, she’s testy and combative with anybody who disagrees with or questions her. But she sure didn’t have anything to say in response.  As usual, her eyes turned red and got watery, she just sat there like a spoiled brat being called on the carpet. 

Everything Laver said confirmed that the ABC is competent and willing to work locally.  But, Chief Kirk Trostle seems to have a different view of the ABC, which he says, “is working with staff levels from the 1950’s…just pushing paper.” He says there are only two agents for 16 counties.

Well, I just dropped off a note to the Redding office, which Laver described as being so cooperative, and asked them about  that. I’ll keep you posted.

What both Schwab and Trostle want is more control than the ABC is willing to give them in making demands upon businesses that sell alcohol. According to Laver, a local land use permit process would allow the city “to create whatever kind of language you think is reasonable.

For example, the ABC says stop serving at 2am, Schwab and Trostle want it over at midnight. They want serving to stop at 10pm on certain holidays, historically troublesome dates like Halloween and St Paddy’s. Laver reported, in past, they’ve just asked the problem establishments, like Rileys, to stop opening up with cheap booze at 6am, and they’ve complied. But Trostle and Schwab just want to be able to demand. They don’t want to work it out, they don’t want to discuss.

I think they want to be able to demand more money out of businesses, using this ordinance as a wedge, but that’s just my guess.

There are two camps here that want this new permits process – those who are freaked out about Chico’s perceived reputation as a druggy town that kills college kids with booze, and then there’s Chief Trostle, who wants the money. This is a revenue grab, plain and simple, a shakedown. Ask the guy from The Screwed Goose.

Later yesterday I went to the Economic Development committee meeting, and that was a hoot too, I’ll fill you in later. Now I am off to get some pasta dough going, with which I am going to serve homemade tomato sauce with dinky meatballs.  Ciao Babeee!

Happy Tax Day – give a taxpayer a hug today! They really need it!

15 Apr

Thanks to Sue Hubbard for getting a letter to the Enterprise Record about Taxpayer Appreciation Month, just in time for TAX DAY!

Her request to council was met with a ridiculous rant by Scott Gruendl, I’ve posted the text here:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/scott-gruendl-calls-defeat-of-measure-j-a-threat-to-the-constitution-where-did-we-get-this-guy/

But beyond taking a few really weird pot shots at the CTA, council did not even discuss the request. How predictable.  They’re too good to stand up there and thank the taxpayers for their own salaries and benefits, how very, very predictable.

But Sue’s letter was comforting:

Letter: Council needs to appreciate taxpayers

Chico Enterprise-Record
Posted:   04/14/2013 12:05:21 AM PDT

We at the Chico Taxpayers Association would like to proclaim April as Taxpayer Appreciation Month. Even though our City Council is proclamation and resolution happy, the mayor chose not to honor our request. So we will simply proclaim it ourselves. We think it is appropriate.

Whereas, the approximately 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax are supported by the 53 percent of those who do

Whereas, 5 percent of Americans are paying 60 percent of all income tax

Whereas, America’s top tax rate is the second highest in the world

Whereas, taxpayers’ money is used to fund government services

Whereas, taxpayers’ money is used to pay salary and benefits to government workers

Whereas, taxpayers are the ones who are paying for all the entitlements so generously given out in this country

Whereas, taxpayers pay America’s bills

Now therefore let it be proclaimed, that the Chico Taxpayers Association hereby recognizes April as Taxpayer Appreciation Month.

— Sue Hubbard, Chico

So Happy Tax Day! I mean that.  Taxes provide for the public convenience, necessity, and security. The fact  that taxes are often unfairly distributed and unreasonably high, and that  public officials and publicly-paid employees are often corrupt, lazy or stupid doesn’t mean taxes cannot be a good way to fund the everyday needs of society. 

It’s up to the taxpayer to keep an eye on their employees, and we haven’t. The average taxpayer is asleep at the wheel, saying to him/herself and anybody who listens, “that’s what I elect people for.”

And Mary Goloff – a woman our town has elected –  has told me, if I want to have a say in the public’s business, I have to run for public office. She is the typical politician who is so high on her own fumes she thinks she knows better than the public what’s good for them.  She doesn’t think she has to listen to anybody – she thinks it’s her job to run things as she sees fit. She thinks election has proven her some kind of mental giant among the rest of us pusillanimous midgets.  And, that is makes her so popular she doesn’t need anybody’s approval on anything.

There are two kinds of politicians – the Evita type, who gets so drunk on power she eventually collapses, and then there’s the “roll up our sleeves and work together” people, like Dan Logue. No, I don’t agree with Logue on everything, but he’s quick to get a public forum going when there’s a problem. And not a charette, where everybody breaks into groups with a handler, and gets spoon fed information to give a controlled statement supporting the proposal. Logue’s forums are a chance for the people to get in there and let the public workers know what we think. 

Where was our “single use” plastic bag forum? Well, I guess you could call those 8am meetings forums, the public is allowed. 

The biggest problem with paying taxes is that most taxpayers don’t pay enough attention to what happens to their taxes after April 15. We can’t blame the council for everything  – people have got to get more involved. 

And so, on this April 15, I would like to ask those of you who think our town is headed down the wrong path, who think they have some creative ideas for getting our city back into solvency – SAY SOMETHING! Come out to the meetings, and not just the dinnertime meetings, but those 8am meetings Downtown. Look at the “agendas and minutes” page on the city website. Familiarize yourselves with the issues Downtown, write letters, write letters, write letters. 

But for now, give yourself a hug, and hug somebody else who pays taxes. I just mailed off my property taxes earlier this month, and I sure needed a hug! 

The figures are in – Schwab, Gruendl and Goloff just flat LIED about Measure J

12 Mar

As most of you probably remember, Measure J, the cell phone tax measure, was promoted by Ann Schwab, Scott Gruendl, and Mary Goloff. I really have to hand it to them – they were the only ones with the balls of brass to put their names on this obvious money grab.  That doesn’t mean I have anything but contempt for this group, I’m just saying, I’d hand “it” to them, “it” being a big turd.

In the argument they posted in favor of the cell phone tax, Ann, Scott and Mary claimed, ” A loss of $900,000 a year would result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds.’

Where’d they get that figure? In the same argument, they cited “the average cell phone bill of $50 per month…”. I remember doing the math, and asking, “how could that add up to $900,000 a year?” My husband said it was possible, but I had to remind him – only AT&T and Metro PCS – the two cheapest cell phone providers out there – collected the tax. How many people in Chico use those providers? We don’t know, but it’s hard to figure how these two providers, who cater to welfare recipients and other low-income customers, could possibly come up with $900,000 a year in tax.

Well, they couldn’t. In subsequent discussions, finance department employee Frank Fields estimated a truer figure of $600,000/year, and, at a December council meeting, Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy reported the actual figure at $500,000. Yes, exactly $500,000, no odd dollars or cents. Go figure.

This whole discussion has been highly questionable. So you know Stephanie Taber, she did the asking. She stood up at the end of the meeting and asked very pointed questions about the figuring for Measure J. Crickets chirped.  Mayor Mary Goloff thanked Stephanie but neither offered answers of her own nor questioned $taff. So, Stephanie had to e-mail her questions to Brian Nakamura, Jennifer Hennessy, and the council.  The first two deal with Measure J, I didn’t include the others because I want to focus here on Measure J. I’ll  get back to the others.

Stephanie’s letter begins, “Perhaps you were unable to jot down the questions that I asked so here they are again:

1) What/who is the source of information that is now being used to verify the $500 loss (or whatever the current figure is) in revenue due to the defeat of Measure J?  At the offset of the proposal there was no definitive way of separating how much revenue was received based solely of cell phone calls and texting and how much on land line costs.  At least that was my understanding.

2) Are telephone tax collections a separate revenue line item that can be compared month-to-month and year to date?

(Questions 3 and 4 left out)

Stephanie Taber

On Sunday evening Silly Manager Brian Nakamura e-mailed back, saying, “I wanted to share that Ms. Hennessy has provided draft answers for me to review and share and its my delay that is slowing down the response to your questions.”  And he said he’d get back to Stephanie, which I assume Stephanie will clue us in there when she has something.

In the meantime, she answered Nakamura, ” As to the comparison one year against another to verify the $900K lost as a result of the defeat of Measure J, it would be of value to have that specific item as part of the quarterly report since a lot of taxpayers are skeptical of the figure. “

Yes, a lot of taxpayers are skeptical of that $900,000  figure – we’re damned sick of hearing it repeated. The News and Review used it in a February editorial, even after they’d printed Frank Field’s estimate back in November. I asked Robert Speer about it when I sent in a letter last week, he printed my letter and thanked me for it, but did not respond to my remark about the $900,000 figure.

What is this – the Big Lie? They think if they just keep repeating that figure, we’ll buy it hook, line and sinker? Well, that probably works when they’ve got both newspapers and the tv station to go along with them.  We need to get some folks writing letters, demanding answers to the “creative bookkeeping” they’re using Downtown. Ask questions people!

I did some asking – last week I dropped another note to Frank Fields over in Finance. I asked him, again, how many people have applied for and received cell phone tax refunds, and what’s the average refund amount? Frank is a sport, he got right back to me:

Ms. Sumner,
 
To date, we’ve processed 91 refund applications averaging $52.65 each.  In addition, I have another 10 or so applications waiting to be processed.
 
Finally, we’ll be posting the “UUT refund application” for the annual UUT refund program in the next couple of weeks.
 

Frank

Vielen Dank Frankster, that is just what I suspected above.  If the average refund is $52.65, that works out to $4.38 a month in tax – almost twice the figure Schwab, Gruendl and Goloff stated in their “argument for.” That would also make the average bill about $87 – again, almost twice the figure stated in the “argument for.” 

From the voter’s manual: “This rate, if applied to the average cell phone bill of $50 per month, would equate to a monthly charge of $2.25 as opposed to the current charge of $2.50.”

Boy, there it is – as Al Franken would put it, “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” 

And here’s the link to that refund application:

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/CellPhoneRefundApplication_011713.pdf

Write those letters! Sustainability Task Force needs to GO!

23 Jan

I have finally given up trying to attend city council meetings. It finally hit me that all the real business goes on in the daytime meetings, by the time it gets to council, it’s pretty done.  As if I’m going to sit through another plastic bag discussion when I know the votes are already there.  Or, if it’s an especially contentious issue, or too complicated for their tiny minds, they kick it down the road. Right now, service fees, for stuff like, monopolizing a city parking lot for five hours every Saturday morning, have not been reviewed since “2005 or 2006, not sure…”  According to Scott Gruendl, the city is losing money hand over fist as long as we don’t update, or raise, those fees.  But our Finance Director won’t have any reports on that until March or April – she waiting for her paid consultant to get back to her.

This is how they milk us for money, they just take FOR-EV-ER to do anything. 

All the real important stuff is done behind closed doors anyway. The employee contracts are being discussed tomorrow night behind closed doors. We are not allowed in there. They are supposed to bring us some contracts to look over, but according to one council member I asked, they have NOTHING right now, they’re still hashing it out. I’ll never forget Steve Bertagna’s answer when I asked why the public is not allowed in those discussions – it would put the city at a disadvantage he said, to have the discussion public. He explained how they play the various groups against each other, and secrecy is a big part of that. 

Yeah, just like the mafia, eh? Don’t worry about it! Just like Bronco Bama’s Chicago gang-style politics. Just like Richard Daley and the Chicago cops at the 1968 Democratic Convention. 

As long as the public is held out of the conversations we will continue to have problems with our public safety salaries and benefits. It was the public safety departments that forced Vallejo and Stockton into bankruptcy. 

The contracts are the only important discussion on the agenda. The “work plan” discussion is just more crap, they keep mouthing the same things over and over and doing absolutely nothing. Right now, the only important issue we’re facing is what these salaries and the refusal of the management and public safety staff to pay more of their own benefits is doing to our local economy.  

I’m not putting aside my family dinner for one more of these meetings. I might watch on the box once in a while, but the daytime meetings are where it’s at.  If you want to have any effect, you need to watch the morning meetings and write letters ahead of the council discussion. 

In February the council will discuss the future of the Sustainability Task Force. City manager Brian Nakamura has been meeting  behind closed doors with members of the STF, who are desperate to keep their little trolley on the tracks. He and Linda Herman assure me nothing illegal or inappropriate has gone on at these closed meetings, but that’s what they say.  How are we supposed to know when we aren’t allowed in? 

We need to write letters to Nakamura and council now, telling them the STF is a giant waste of staff time.  Read the old reports available on the city website, and look at the waste of staff time – how many meetings were cancelled because members didn’t care enough to show up.   I have the e-mail conversations – Linda Herman, at $85,000 plus benefits, e-mailing for days, trying to get up a quorum. Some of the original members have quit – either frustrated with the lack of real action, or because they just got bored, I don’t know. One original member told me it didn’t take him long to figure that Ann Schwab wasn’t going to do anything “real,” like squash the college parking structure, or force people into new urban housing. He agreed with me – this is just about Ann Schwab’s resume, feel-good gestures with regulations that end up affecting private citizens without really fixing anything. 

Look along the highway next time you’re out – she’s banned certain plastic bags, what about all the other garbage you see piling up out there? 

The STF needs to go. We finally have a city manager who is trying to clean house – let’s help him! Write to Brian Nakamura and council and tell them the STF needs to go. 

That’s bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us, and you can reach the council at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us