Tag Archives: Bidwell Park Closures

Park Commission needs to be completely “renovated”

27 Aug

Last night I had a dilemma – two meetings at the same time. I really wanted to get over and hear what Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and Senator Doug LaMalfa had to say about Obamacare last night, but I decided to go to the Park Commission meeting instead. I’m glad I did, because Laura Urseny’s report doesn’t tell the half of it.

Urseny’s report just sounds like a little groove fest – the meeting was actually pretty contentious.   For one thing, Dan Efseaff and Lise Smith-Peters kept trying to tell the commission that there is already a fund and a volunteer program in place, all the Caper Acres Volunteers need to do is come down and join in. But Caper Acres Volunteers seem to want more. Nobody is saying exactly what they want in this conversation, it just went around and around like a clogged toilet for an hour.

Commissioners Lisa Emmerich and Mary Brentwood kept bringing up the crucial point – if this group wants to collect money for the park, they need to establish themselves as a non-profit – form a 501C3 committee. I believe this is correct – I’ve looked into turning CTA into some sort of non-profit or PAC. You are not allowed just to collect people’s money unless you are going to file the proper paperwork, that’s basically the deal. Nobody would come right out and say it, but it was pretty clear to me – either the Caper Acres Volunteers must form a 501C3 or they just have to join Park Volunteers and do what they’re told by Lise Smith Peters and Dan Efseaf.

Caper Acres Volunteers representative Abigail Lopez indicated that she was willing to “look into” forming a 501C3, “if that’s necessary.” She said she’s already had offers of money donations as well as volunteers. The sticking point with these people is a good one – they are not too comfortable handing more money over to city staffers, without some rock-solid agreement that it will all be “spent on Caper Acres.” 

Well, grow up. What do you think that means? Dan Efseaf gets paid $93,000/year to oversee Caper Acres – his salary can come out of any such fund. See how that works? That’s how they’ve drained almost every fund Downtown to pay for their salaries and benefits when they are cutting services every day, locking up our parks, closing down community fixtures.

One man stood up to make a very important point, which “reporter” Laura Urseny point blank ignored – Chris Bolshazy (sp?) from the SEIU(!) came in to tell the commission, essentially, that they are derelict in their duty if they don’t complain about being left completely out of this decision to close the park.  Well, DUH! Why does this commission even exist – I ask myself that every time I attend one of these meetings. Bolshazy told the commission they need to read the city charter – good idea! This commission is just a discussion group, a “think tank”, they don’t DO anything. And, oftentimes, any recommendation they do make is overturned by city council. These commissioners are not elected, they do not represent the public – these positions are just political spoils. 

I mean, I like Mark Herrera, but when he said last night that the city “doesn’t have enough money to take care of the parks,” I wanted to slap him upside the head.  Here’s a guy who made a loud protest about trees being removed but not the couplets project that necessitated the removal.  He can’t get more pissed off about this? Where’s the real angst Mark? 

The Park Commission needs to be completely redone. The park is one of our most important assets in Chico – why is there no Parks Committee made up of our elected representatives on City Council? We have the Internal Affairs committees, Finance, and Economic Development. They have a “Mayor’s Business Advisory Board” with Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen that is not open to the public. They have a “local governments” committee made up of representatives from the city and county and various public entities. But no member of council sits on either the Parks Commission, or, get a load of this – the Airport Commission? Both of those entities are run by a bunch of feel-good  – sorry to say this – IDIOTS – who don’t have the slightest clue to the code or what they’re supposed to be doing. And even if they tried to do something, they are completely held off  by the forehead by $taff. Here we have the parks closed without any input from the “Parks Commission” and the airport fire station cut without any discussion by the “Airport Commission.”

These two commissions take up $taff time – last night Ruben Martinez, at his newly inflated salary of over $170,000/year, sat at that meeting with his usual stone-face posture, just sitting, staring, somewhat alert in case somebody asked him a question, but just sitting there. Next to him sat Dan Efseaf, at about $93,000 a year, and then little $62,000/year Lise Smith-Peters, who lists herself as “Mary” in the salary charts. There sat over $300,000 worth of staff beef, looking like they’d all rather be eating Dodger Dogs.

Efseaf and Smith-Peters were certainly “working”. They seemed to get a little exasperated toward the end – the whole conversation seems moot to me. Here it is: Caper Acres Volunteers wants to run Caper Acres, they want to have a fund “dedicated” to Caper Acres, but $taff wants them to join the existing volunteer group and hand any donations over to the existing fund.  CAV is understandably uncomfortable with that, but I’ll give them an ice cube’s chance in hell of starting their own non-profit.   We already have Tom Barrett, the guy who was dropped from the Park Commission because he had a nasty habit of sending rude e-mails to citizens, who has started his own non-profit, The Bidwell Park Foundation. I expect this to be as big a scam as the Bidwell Mansion Foundation. Barrett can even pay himself a salary – I’m guessing, that’s the whole reason behind his “foundation.” We’ll have to see. I don’t think Lopez has any such intentions, but I don’t know if she has any idea what she’d be getting into. You can really get into trouble with a non-profit if you don’t have good, salaried, legal advice. 

What I would suggest to Lopez and her friends is, stand up to city staff, and tell them to get their asses out there and do their fucking job or you’re going down to Home Depot to buy a good set of bolt cutters, In fact, that gate may be pretty easy to lift off the hinges, I’ll have to look into that. 

This may be a job for Robin Hood

21 Jul

Well, the best laid plans of mice and moms – next time I  tell you I’m going to hand out fliers at an event, tell me to stay home and make a cobbler. 

I want to get the info out, know what I mean? I’ve written letters to the editor, and then there’s the blog. I talk to my friends, I talk to grocery checkers, I talk to anybody who can’t run away. Yesterday I attempted a crowd that was not in the mood to hear about anything “negative.” 

I went over to One Mile a little after 4pm, not really sure what to expect of this “Birthday Bash”. It was about 105 outside, so there were the usual people – the young adult, social crowd, who are turned off to sitting under air conditioners all day, and like to spend their free time under some old trees, next to moving water, listening to music, maybe smoking a little dope, playing a little hacky-sack, seeing, being seen, and meeting others like-minded. They aren’t there to hear about politics, and that’s exactly what’s going on, so I didn’t want to intrude on their non-reality. From what I’ve seen every time I’ve visited Caper Acres since the Monday – Thursday closure, these people aren’t letting locked gates stop them from enjoying the park. 

It being Saturday, there were also lots of out-of-towners. In fact, the only people I spoke to were from elsewhere. I realized something else I should have known – tourists are usually a little friendlier than residents.  I’d make eye-contact, and if they’d say hello, I’d say hello, and as soon as I got my foot in the door, I’d add, ” I’m here handing out information about the park closures,” or something like that. They’d invariably say something along the lines of, “Park closures? I’m not from around here, what’s THAT about?”  They were always sympathetic, and some were actually aware of the pension problems, but none of them wanted to spend their weekend vacation yakking with some stranger about politics, so I never pushed it. 

Funny thing – none of them had heard there was any kind of event, they were just noticing something was afoot, wondering what?  

There was a group of park volunteers, wearing the familiar green t-shirts, their vehicles parked kind of pell mell on the lawn around the concession stand. They were kind of crabby, standing together in a little knot at one of the stands instead of mingling out through the crowd. I wonder if any of them had any crowd control experience, any experience setting up events like watermelon eating contests, etc. One man was testily announcing that there might be too many volunteers present at that time, that the event would be running until almost 10pm and he hoped there would be enough people to finish out the evening. No, they didn’t seem to be very tightly knit or organized.  

At this point I looked around myself and realized, this had not been a good idea.  I realized, I wasn’t going to find anybody there who really cared about what’s going on Downtown enough to do anything about it. I’d seen all the artwork and milled around the stands. The park volunteers had a petition at their stand, but I didn’t have my glasses so couldn’t read it.  I got on my bicycle and headed home to help my husband throw a chicken on the grill. 

Originally I thought I might go back after the sun got low and things cooled off, but I changed my mind.  CARD planned to finish off the evening with an 8:30 showing of “Hugo,” a very depressing sounding Martin Scorsese picture that for one thing has absolutely nothing to do with Chico, Bidwell Park, or the number 108. Whenever I tell people about the CARD movies in the park, they always ask, “Who’s responsible for picking the movies? ‘Bees’? Really?”  

I have to agree. I could think of at least one movie that would have been more appropriate for an annual celebration of Bidwell Park  – “Robin Hood,” outdoor sequences of which were actually filmed in Bidwell Park, an event that has long been one of Chico’s magical moments.You’d think they’d be able to get a week’s worth of activities out of that every year – how about exhibits at locations like the CARD center, the city building, Chico Museum? This movie has not only special interest to Chico, but was nominated for best picture in 1938 and  voted one of the best films of all time in 2001. Errol Flynn and the rest of the cast continue to be popular draws to film festivals.   But CARD will not be showing Robin Hood at all this year – “Hugo” was the last offering of the summer in fact. They only planned two movies, neither of which has any special significance to Chico.

That is my complaint about this recent attempt at “community” – the Bidwell Park Birthday Bash. It was like a robot trying to act like a Human.  I think it was just a last minute attempt to put a smiley face on our town when we don’t really feel very smiley, we’re not happy, and we’re all kind of pissed off at each other. I wish I could say “nice try,” but I can’t mean it. 

 

We need to educate the Siobhan O’Neil’s of our town – Chico doesn’t have a revenue problem, Chico has a SPENDING PROBLEM!

20 Jul

Well, the ER ran another propaganda piece for this city this morning – “Chicoans starting to feel impacts of reduced services…” Really? And how many “Chicoans” did you bother to poll on that?

The talked to a couple of women in Bidwell Park, one of whom, a publicly-paid child services worker, decided to take a smack at the defeat of Measure J.  She says, they’re closing the park because we defeated Measure J. 

“The sisters don’t understand why the city had to lock the gates on the pool’s north side. Both wondered about parking impacts in the surrounding neighborhoods and the hazards for families and children in having to cross the street.

O’Neil said she sees a direct correlation between the park closures and Measure J, a cellphone tax voters shot down during the November election. She had voted in its support.

‘You get what you pay for and what you don’t pay for,” she said. “For pennies a month, we gave up a source of revenue to help with services in an economy that’s still struggling.'”

I love that – “You get what you pay for…” Here’s a woman who admittedly doesn’t “understand why the city had to lock the gates “. What would you expect from a person who’s paycheck comes from tax money?

So, I called and left her a message on her publicly-paid voice mail, inviting her to the next First Sunday meeting of Chico Taxpayers. This is the kind of person we want to engage, the people who believe whatever their friends  tell them, their other publicly-paid friends. I wonder how many people this woman knows, outside her immediate family, who don’t have their snout in the trough? 

This is it Folks. You have seen the enemy, and it is IGNORANCE. 

I’ll be at the park today, handing out these:

park flier

Feel free to print them out and hand them around yourselves, we have to get this information out there. 

Chicoans starting to feel impacts of reduced services

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer

POSTED:   07/20/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT

CHICO — When tree limbs fall in the city of Chico, little can be done these days other than to drag them out of the way and hope they will be picked up soon.

People are tugging on the locked doors of bathrooms in Bidwell Park and find locked gates blocking access to the north side of the Sycamore Pool parking lot.

On Fridays, residents still approach the finance counter at City Hall to pay parking tickets, dog licenses or business licenses only to be told the office is now closed on Fridays.

It’s been two weeks since layoffs were finalized for dozens of city employees, including the entire tree crew, half the park staff, and more than 20 administrative positions.

No departments were spared from budget reductions as the city closed a $4.8 million budget gap, and citizens and city employees continue to realize the impacts of related service reductions.

“I’m trying to stay positive and do the best I can,” said street trees field supervisor Dave Bettencourt. “Public safety is paramount right now. We’ll make it work.”

He’s now doing the tasks of the now-retired urban forest manager, his job and the work of the former four-man crew. Response time for some calls is now triple, Bettencourt said.

When a report is made of fallen branches, he’ll go cut them up, pile them and add it to a list to be picked up about once a week. They used to be picked up the day they fell, he noted. For larger limbs or trees, like the one that fell across Vallombrosa on Thursday night, the city is finalizing an emergency contractor for 24/7 response.

It’s also working on a pruning contract, as growing trees start to obstruct stop signs and lines of sight, Bettencourt said. Summer is also usually when the city does its pruning in school areas, the downtown business area and around the college, but it’s all on hold.

When possible, Bettencourt piecemeals together help from other departments, including park staff, traffic signals and public works. “We are still going to need to maintain,” he said. “We are doing the best we can with what we have.”

He got a phone call recently from the Downtown Chico Business Association, asking what would happen to the decorating of the City Plaza tree at Christmas, a service normally done by the tree crew. “She said, ‘Should I be concerned?'” Bettencourt said. “I said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Some residents are also wondering what the impacts will be months from now, as park closures continue.

“What kind of degradation will happen in six months?” asked Siobhan O’Neil as she walked through the park with her sister Caitie Giusta on Thursday.

“It’s embarrassing,” Giusta said of the closure, noting the park is nationally recognized in travel guides and a major Chico attraction. “Here we have this jewel, and we are shut down 60 percent of the week.”

The sisters don’t understand why the city had to lock the gates on the pool’s north side. Both wondered about parking impacts in the surrounding neighborhoods and the hazards for families and children in having to cross the street.

O’Neil said she sees a direct correlation between the park closures and Measure J, a cellphone tax voters shot down during the November election. She had voted in its support.

“You get what you pay for and what you don’t pay for,” she said. “For pennies a month, we gave up a source of revenue to help with services in an economy that’s still struggling.”

Chico resident Bill Korte cycles through lower Bidwell Park almost daily. After finding the locked bathroom door Wednesday and reading the sign, he acknowledged he is used to not having the amenity because the bathroom is new but he still wishes it was open. “It’s a convenient pit stop for me,” he said.

The parking changes and the bathroom closures are what frustrate resident Cindy Ennes, she said Thursday as she finished her morning stroll.

“Because we are old and we often stop on that 3-mile loop,” she said with a laugh.

Turning serious, she said she’s noticed a significant decline in park patrons since the closures took effect. It saddens her to think the impacts are driving people away.

“I can’t believe what they are saving isn’t lost in the community’s enjoyment of the park,” she said. “I really feel like the city is doing this to punish its citizens.”

Councilor Sean Morgan said everyone has a difference of opinion about what the city’s priorities should be as it faces necessary cuts.

“Branches aren’t getting picked up as quickly … and Caper Acres isn’t open as many days as it once was and the park isn’t as clean as it was, and those are all bad things,” Morgan said. “But so is losing police officers, which is probably more important.”

“From a policy standpoint I have to do what is most important to the city and that is, are the citizens safe?”

The Police Department was slated to eliminate 19 positions as a result of budget cuts, though two community service officer positions were retained.

The City Council also has asked staff to find ways to restore more officer positions.

 

Reach Ashley Gebb at 896-7768, agebb@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.

Here’s what’s really behind the park closures – more than 21 retirees get over $100,000/year in pension, ex-fire chief gets over $200,000

13 Jul

The following is available at this link:

http://www.fixpensionsfirst.com/calpers-database/?first_name=&last_name=&employer=CHICO

Name Employer Warrant Amount Annual
ALEXANDER, THOMAS E CHICO $8,947.23 $107,366.76
BAPTISTE, ANTOINE G CHICO $10,409.65 $124,915.80
BEARDSLEY, DENNIS D CHICO $8,510.23 $102,122.76
BROWN, JOHN S CHICO $17,210.38 $206,524.56
CARRILLO, JOHN A CHICO $10,398.98 $124,787.76
DAVIS, FRED CHICO $12,467.78 $149,613.36
DUNLAP, PATRICIA CHICO $10,632.10 $127,585.20
FELL, JOHN G CHICO $9,209.35 $110,512.20
FRANK, DAVID R CHICO $14,830.05 $177,960.60
GARRISON, FRANK W CHICO $8,933.56 $107,202.72
JACK, JAMES F CHICO $9,095.09 $109,141.08
KOCH, ROBERT E CHICO $9,983.23 $119,798.76
LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48 $134,837.76
MCENESPY, BARBARA L CHICO $12,573.40 $150,880.80
PIERCE, CYNTHIA CHICO $9,390.30 $112,683.60
ROSS, EARNEST C CHICO $9,496.60 $113,959.20
SCHOLAR, GARY P CHICO $8,755.69 $105,068.28
SELLERS, CLIFFORD R CHICO $9,511.11 $114,133.32
VONDERHAAR, JOHN F CHICO $8,488.07 $101,856.84
VORIS, TIMOTHY M CHICO $8,433.90 $101,206.80
WEBER, MICHAEL C CHICO $11,321.93 $135,863.16

Total Amount for this Employer
$219,835.11 Monthly
$2,638,021.32 Annually

This list is not up to date – for example, it doesn’t include recently retired city manager Dave Burkland. Burkland retired at $180,865.44, and will recieve 70 percent of that salary in retirement – about $130,000.

These people paid little or nothing toward this retirement, we the taxpayers pick up most of the tab, now, as when they were employees. Right now we pay over 20 percent, while most Chico employees pay 4 percent to nothing. Only the classified staff pay their full share, and they’ve been mowed like spring hay.

We’ve been paying as little as 20 percent of the cost of these pensions.  CalPERS is going bust because they didn’t collect enough money to float these pensions – they told cities, counties, the state itself, and quasi-public entities all over California they’d be able to get most of the money by playing the stock market. That has been a disaster, and now they can’t pay the pensions they’ve guaranteed. They’re saying,  somebody needs to pay more, they don’t care who. They have handed the city of Chico, what was the latest total – a $46 million bill? That is the  unfunded pension tidal wave that is really busting Chico’s balls – not the payroll for emptying the garbage cans at the park.

You can cut and paste this post, print it out, and hand it out to friends, or e-mail it.  I’d be very happy if people would pass this information around, this is really what’s behind the park closures.

No volunteers, no donations – say it like Amy Winehouse – “NO, NO, NOOOOOO!”

13 Jul

I hate to be a naysayer, but you know me – when you’re good at something, you should run with it.

I’ve been trying to follow the discussion regarding the closure of Caper Acres. Facebook is a turn-off. I don’t have a Facebook account, and I don’t want one, capisce? Word Press is free and easy, anybody can get to it, anybody can contact me via the site, and if their comment is pertinent and non-offensive, I’ll print it. Hell, I’ll probably print it anyway.

Facebook is a way of excluding people, that’s hardly the way to get a community movement going.

That said, I was glad to see a new announcement today, apparently made by the monitor of the site:

The petition letter & “overview” received a face-lift today. Check it out. It doesn’t talk about ways to raise funds. It doesn’t talk about volunteers. It politely addresses the issue that a HUGE decision was made without taking into consideration the feelings or opinions or needs of the local constituents.

Well, I’m so happy to hear that. I don’t want to hear any more SHIT about volunteering or donating money.  Anybody who’s read the city budget should be marching Downtown to demand a fucking refund! 

We need to get a “take no prisoners” attitude here people. No more mamby-pamby, feel-good crap about helping out the poor city workers. Brian Nakamura is not doing a good thing, he’s trying to sweat us for more taxes.

And the Enterprise Record seems to be going right along with this little campaign – all the sudden, all these stories about crime and cops. As if, crime never happened here before?  No, it’s just never gotten the kind of coverage it’s getting these days from the Enterprise Record.

And don’t you love the way they’ve reported several assaults lately, but nothing about their proximity to some pretty well-established transient camps along Lindo Channel? Including yesterday’s attack at Verbena Fields, which has become a de-facto DUMP and homeless camp eversince it was installed as a dog-shitting area.   I think that’s odd.

Yes, camping on public  property is illegal. A lady who works at the county told me there’s been complaints about these camps, but the city says it’s the county’s jurisdiction, and the county comes right back at ’em with the same. There’s apparently been  some “rousting out” of these camps, but they just move a few hundred yards and wait for the cops to come back, maybe weeks later, after they’ve argued over whose job it is.

Right now there’s a pile of trash  behind S&S market, left by a camp that was plainly visible from the road, right there, big as life. They left due to some sort of harassment, but there sits the trash they managed to accumulate over the week or two they were there.  As far as I know, it’s sitting on city property, but I don’t have a map.  

“Volunteerism Could Work” says Little Pollyanna Daugherty over at the Chico News and Review.  Not given our city budget, it can’t.  Not given those salaries, benefits and pensions, it can’t. 

Brian Nakamura is inviting people who contact him about the park closures to the Bidwell Park Birthday Bash on July 20. This is an all-day fete, at locations around town. I plan to be at One Mile over the course of the day, handing out some information about the budget, the salaries, and the benefits and pensions. Please come on by, or get ahold of me and I’ll send you some information you can hand out yourself.  I’ll be posting it here too. 

Volunteerism could work

Plenty of people want to help keep the gates of Caper Acres open
This article was published by Chico News and Review on 07.11.13.
Advertisement

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Using volunteers to do cleanup at Caper Acres may not be the way to keep Bidwell Park’s fairytale playground open, but employing their help elsewhere to free up city staff to do that work has the potential to keep the gates open.

As reported in Newslines this week (see “Sacred acres,” by Tom Gascoyne), there is an effort afoot to organize a volunteer group. Bringing that effort from idea stage to execution will take some creativity over at City Hall, and also a dedicated pool of volunteers.

But it can be done.

Chicoans love Bidwell Park. Indeed, it’s one of the community’s biggest bragging points when touting the best things about living here. And parents of little kids are especially fond of Caper Acres, which is a one-of-a-kind play place.

Now is the time for everyone who enjoys the park to step up.

Volunteerism doesn’t address the layoffs of seven much-needed workers in the Street Trees and Parks divisions. That’s a separate issue altogether. The bottom line is that these workers are needed to keep the park operating smoothly, but their positions will remain unfilled until the city is financially solvent.

Using volunteers is certainly not a long-term solution. They shouldn’t be responsible indefinitely for helping sustain park services. But as a stopgap measure—until the city gets control of the budget—this could be the way to keep Caper Acres open more than just three days a week.