Tag Archives: Bidwell Parks and Playgrounds Commission

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. 

City of Chico meeting schedule for week of August 26, 2013

25 Aug

Bidwell Park and Playground Commission, Monday August 26, 6:30 pm, City Chamber Bldg, Council Chamber:  The only item on this agenda is commissioner Richard Ober’s request to agendize a discussion about creating a “public/private non-profit partnership” between the city of Chico and the Caper Acres Volunteers. This is total news to me. The Caper Acres Volunteers Facebook has not been updated for almost a month, there’s nothing on it about the meeting they had at the end of July, and I have yet to hear any news about this handful of moms starting a legal non-profit. I will try to make this meeting, I haven’t attended one of these for years. 

Here’s that link:    http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/bidwell_park_and_playground_commission/BPPC_Agendaandreports_13_0826.pdf

Finance Committee, Tuesday August 27, 8 – 10 am, City Chamber Bldg, Conf Rm 1: This meeting is chock full of interesting stuff – did you know the city takes in over a million dollars a year in Downtown parking revenues, and spends over $500,000 of it on salaries and benefits? Something tells me the fellows who service those parking meters are not taking in that kind of salary, I’m guessing, this is another fund that is being hit heavily for other than it’s intended purpose.  $taff is in fact requesting that this fund be opened up to all kinds of allowed expenditures, stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with securing you a parking space Downtown. 

Other items include a continuation of the user fee study, as well as the usual budget and finance department updates from Chris Constantin. If you can’t make the meeting, at least look over the agenda – over 100 pages, including a Downtown parking study and pages and pages of incriminating financial figures. 

Here’s that link:  http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/8-27-13FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

Economic Development Committee, Wednesday August 28, 4 – 6 pm, City Chamber Bldg, Conf Rm 1:  THIS MEETING HAS BEEN ERRONEOUSLY POSTED AND NOTICED AS BEING SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY THE 27TH.  Sean Tillman sent out a blast of e-mail corrections that loaded my mail box like a diaper, but has not corrected the notice on the website yet. I keep waiting for his name to disappear from the $taff roster, and I keep being disappointed.

I had been looking forward to this meeting, because at the last meeting I attended, Tillman excitedly promised the results of the shopper’s survey undertaken earlier this year by Tri-Counties Bank, sponsored in part with our tax dollars.  Audrey Taylor from city consultant Chabin Concepts even mentioned having some sort of exciting “event”,  “in August”. But I don’t see anything about that on this agenda. Instead they will be continuing the conversation about merging this committee with the underground “Mayor’s Business Advisory Council,” which operates without public oversight. I’ve asked to attend MBAC events and been refused by $taff, as well as Ann Schwab and Mark Sorensen. Only Ann would even tell me who else is in this secret committee – PG&E? So, I don’t know if this is a good move. I’ve heard, at last week’s council meeting, they’ve re-opened the conversation about hiring a new Economic Development Director, also behind closed doors. I’m sick of all this sneaky business with the Chico Chamber, DCBA, and various consultants who come around at Community Block Grant Funding time. This issue needs more sunshine. 

There will be a “report” from “Team Chico” – another behind closed doors effort between the City of Chico, Chico Chamber, Downtown Chico Business Association, 3CORE and the Alliance for Workforce Development and who knows what other “stakeholders”. Their meetings are not noticed to the public, Tillman reports whatever he feels the public needs to know. These reports are all full of rainbows and lollipops, nothing substantial.  But, city money, in the form of Tillman’s salary and benefits, is being spent on these consultants, many of whom also get CBGF money. I read the slick report included in the agenda, and some of the information is no longer correct (Hwy 32 widening was KO’d the other night), a lot of it is just soap bubbles. 

Here’s that link:   http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/8-27-13EDCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

I wish more people would take time to attend these meetings, just once. I hate to think people just like to sit around complaining but doing nothing! 

Park Commissioner Ober takes up sales tax pitch

9 Jun

I have had my ear to the railroad tracks, listening for the rumblings of a sales tax increase campaign, and I think the first train has come in – Park Commissioner Richard Ober wrote the opinion piece below for the Chico News and Review.

It’s a threat – pay an increased sales tax or we close Bidwell Park road, stop cleaning bathrooms, stop pruning trees, etc, etc. Funny thing is, a lot of his threats have already happened. The park is already dirty and disheveled, trash all over the place, invasive non-native plants covering the ground, choking out native species and leaving native animals without proper habitat.   Caper Acres is a trash pit, never know who will be hanging around there, when the gate’s open, that is. 

And he’s so out of touch with most people’s every day reality – a dollar for a cup of coffee? He’s trying to make it sound like we only pay sales tax on things we don’t need, like we’re all just dripping with discretionary cash. This reminds me of the time somebody asked George Senior, how much is a gallon of milk? Ober forgets all the household items we use everyday – soap, toilet paper, all those non-food items we buy at the grocery store are TAXED. 

Ober needs a reality check – but you apparently need to be a city insider to have his public e-mail.  The contact mechanism on the BPPC page doesn’t work.  You will have to contact him through $taffer Lise Smith-Peters, LSPeters@ci.chico.ca.us   Notice how she set up her e-mail with the first three letters capitalized, and leaves out the “Smith” in her hyphenated last name. These addresses are supposed to be set up so you can just use the first initial and last name, but it’s funny how many $taffers use these tricks to keep their publicly-paid e-mail address a secret from the public. Let Smith-Peters know too – she will just have to manage to drive that brand new city pickup truck around the park all day doing nothing on her current $56,000/year salary. 

If you don’t want to write to the papers, send your letters here, keep them factual and in somewhat good taste, and I’ll run them here. 

This article was published on 06.06.13.

The author is a longtime resident of Chico who has served on the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission for eight years.
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Ask anyone here what makes Chico special and the answers at the top of the list will always include “Bidwell Park.” The park is more than one of the largest municipal parks in the country hosting nearly 2 million visits every year. It is at the core of who we are. It is the heart and lungs of a landscape that is unique in its combination of urban charm and thrilling wildness.

Ask yourself: Whatever the reason you and your family came to Chico, is the park part of the reason you stayed? And then ask yourself: What is that worth?

We know that the city is under budgetary siege. Are we ready to endure the pain of draconian cuts? Or are we willing to step in and pay for that which defines us as a community?

Picture this: Upper Park Road is closed. The trails to Monkey Face are washed out. A fire has denuded all sides of Ten Mile House Road. There are no lifeguards at Sycamore Pool. Restrooms go uncleaned. And the trees are un-pruned and declining. Valley-oak seedlings choke under tangles of invasive blackberry vines. A chain locks the gate at Caper Acres.

Are we willing to accept this?

How much is Bidwell Park worth to us? We take pride in saying, “We’re from Chico, the town with Bidwell Park.” As the stewards of this place for a short while, it is our duty to do better.

How much is your park worth? When you spend a dollar at the coffee shop, is the park worth a penny? When you lounge in your back yard and know that you live in a town with a park like Bidwell (and your house is worth more because of it), is it worth a few dollars?

Let’s tell the leadership of our city that it is worth our pennies and dollars, and that we’ll do what we need to preserve it. Because we’re willing to add a few dollars in taxes in order to pass along to our grandchildren that which makes us who we are.

If you’re new to Chico, Bidwell Park might seem like just another place behind a gate, and so, why not leave the gate closed? But Bidwell Park is more than that. It’s who we are and we need to do the right things to keep that gate open.