Tag Archives: Caper Acres Volunteers

Caper Acres Volunteers meeting postponed until September 16

9 Sep

There had been a meeting scheduled tonight for those interested in issues surrounding Caper Acres closure, but due to an emergency it’s been postponed until next Monday – Sept. 16 – 6:30 pm, same location – Faith Lutheran Church on East First Ave. 

I will try to keep you posted!

Yeah, the park is still closed

6 Sep

I was on my way to the Economic Development committee meeting last week, late afternoon, and as I exited the park onto Vallombrosa Way,  getting off my bike to thread my way through a group of fat-assed park walkers standing directly in the gateway, a woman arrived at the locked gate in her car and just sat there, staring.

 

Why is this closed?” she demanded.

 

The other women, all of who seemed to have small credenzas taped onto their behinds, just stared back. I took my opportunity. “It’s closed because they spent all the park money on their $48 million unfunded pension liability…” Before I could finish that, she had shook her head and driven away. I don’t know if I was giving her too much info, or whether it truly disgusted her, but she left.   We’ll see what kind of outrage that sparks. 

 

How soon we forget.  Caper Acres Volunteers will be having a meeting on Monday at the Faith Lutheran Church on East First, 6:30 pm. They met last week with park management, Dan Efseaf and Ruben Martinez, as well as Lise Smith Peters, the volunteer coordinator, and we’ll see if there’s any fingerprints on their foreheads. I think they were told they could either join the regular Park Volunteers, or they could form a non-profit. Abigail Lopez seems pretty determined, but if I were her, I’d take a harder line with $taff, and join me at City Hall to picket the contract talks. We’ll see.

 

I asked Dan Efseaf about the park donation fund, he gave me the number of that fund so I could look it up. This is not a task to take lightly – drink seven cups of coffee and load your pockets with bread crumbs to leave you a little trail by which to get yourself out. I haven’t done it yet. But you may remember, when I looked into the Downtown Parking fund, I found they use over half of that to pay salaries and benefits, mostly for workers who don’t have anything to do with Downtown Parking. They pay for an entire police position out of that fund, over $100,000, and no, that cop is not “dedicated” to Downtown. He could very well be sleeping off a good beating over behind the Christian Science Reading Room on Palmetto. 

 

Oh yeah, we get some quality for these salaries, don’t we?

 

At last week’s Park Commission meeting, Efseaf mentioned repairs and maintenance needed at Caper Acres. Apparently, this is their excuse for closing Caper Acres – it’s “badly in need of repair,” and they don’t have the money to do it. Really? But they had the money to raise Efseaf’s salary by $20,000? And pay all but 4% of his pension? 

 

Efseaf lists some specific projects in his e-mail below, and makes vague references to more repairs. No cost estimates? What the hell does this guy do all day? Any workman could give you a cost estimate, come on Mr. $93,000 a year! Hey, I got an idea – why don’t they contact the contractors and other public volunteer organizations who did the Nico Project, who re-built the Crooked House from the foundation up, who rebuilt the tree house slide, etc. Local contractors like the Ritchie Brothers. I’m wondering if those people, given past experience, would work with city staff again. 

 

Dealing with our city staff is like dealing with a Repo Man – you have to be alert, all eyes and ears, and quick on the grab. “What’s right” doesn’t have anything to do with it – you have to be persistent, and you can’t ever be rude or the slightest bit belligerent, no matter how they treat you,  or they’ll use it as an excuse to cut you off.  It’s not a game for them, it’s a matter of money. They’re pretty damned ruthless, don’t forget who you’re dealing with. Egg stealers.

 

The entire park is a disaster. They’re trying to squeeze us, and they’ll do anything. They say they don’t have the staff to open the gates for us, but yesterday a giant garbage truck was trolling through the park. This used to be done by a guy or two guys in a city truck – you have to walk in and manually remove the bag. There’s no use to have a big garbage truck in there, and Nakamura himself has said these truck damage city streets, so what’s he doing sending them in there, with the park closed four days out of seven, to collect garbage sacks? 

 

This is mismanagement, pure and simple. And taking a salary for NOT doing your job is embezzlement as far as I’m concerned. 

 

Park manager Dan Efseaf’s e-mail answers to my questions posted below:

Ms. Sumner,

My contact information is below.  Here are some brief answers to your questions, let me know if you need anything else:
1)  What is that fund number?
I believe the fund number is 050-000-46001/xxxxx-000-3990, where the x’s represent the cost centers (one for Caper Acres, Park Improvements, Infrastructure, intern, trails and vegetation management).  This is also our 7th year participating in the Annie B’s Community Drive and they will accept donations on the City’s behalf at http://nvcf.org/index.php?q=donate&list=c31. Each donation will receive a partial match.
2) …specific “infrastructural needs” and “projects” at Caper Acres, and I would like to know exactly what infrastructural projects he’s talking about, and I wonder if I could get a cost estimate on those projects/repairs.
Caper Acres has many infrastructure needs (the roof to the restroom leaks, the wood footings to Locksley castle are rotting (or have been removed), Bunker Hill requires considerable maintenance to meet playground standards, fencing, irrigation, etc.). 
We do not have a cost estimate right now; however, the Caper Acres Master Management Plan that I mentioned will kick off this fall.  After obtaining input from the community the plan will assess and prioritize needs.  The plan will provide a cost estimate for each feature or repair.  The plan will be completed in 2014, but input will start this late fall (probably with one of the Committees).
 

Sincerely,

Daniel Efseaff | Park and Natural Resource Manager

Public Works Department | City of Chico

 

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. 

$taff closes park, Park Commissioner Richard Ober wants sales tax increase

10 Jul

I have been so mad about the park closures, I have not been able to blog it.  But last night I ran into Erika (sp?), and now I know I’m not even hardly pissed off  compared to some people. Erika is ready to march on city hall, and I hope she will do it. 

Her husband, as though he was herding a small child, kept reprimanding her. “Erika, calm down!” My husband does that. He gets kind of freaked out when my face turns grey and I start vibrating, but, I had my vet give me a check-up, and he says the old ticker is in good shape!

So, I’m ready for  trouble, with a capital ‘T’. I’m done with $taff, they’ve pushed it too far now. This is MUTINY people, and I say, they walk the plank.

We must ask our boy, Mark Sorensen, why we are paying new city manager Brian Nakamura $217,000 a year to close our parks. That’s msorensen@ci.chico.ca.us. Sorensen keeps telling us what a great job Nakamura is doing, but I’m not listening, I’m watching Nakamura. The first thing he did was demand a $50,000 increase in pay over old city manager Dave Burkland’s salary. His first act as city manager was to make a $50,000 “supplemental budget allocation” to cover his own salary. Then he “reorganized” the city departments, firing the hell out of the worker bees and then giving $30,000 salary raises to the remaining department heads – two of whom were friends he’d hired in the interim – new ass city mangler Mark Orme and financial trouble-shooter Chris “I really want to pay my own share but they won’t let me” Constantin. 

Watching these three “fix” our city problems is like watching Red Adair put out  a flaming oil well – bring in the dynamite! Oh, we’re sorry, did we blow up your little town? 

What they’re up to, is exactly what I’ve already seen play out in Stockton and Vallejo.  In Stockton, they hired a new city manager about three years ago. He proceeded to “reorganize,” hiring new administrators, at higher salaries. He gutted the police and fire departments in a town that has been a crime problem since the turn of the century.  Now, he’s screaming “crime problem!” and telling the city council they need to put a tax increase measure on the ballot to fund crime prevention. If you don’t think that’s funny, you need to take another shot of Wild Turkey.

So now we have Brian Nakamura  cut- cut-cutting the hell out of our town. Every day the Enterprise Record runs another propaganda piece about the “increase in crime.” The story this morning, about the cop who had to deal with the drunk Downtown, is absolutely comical.  Our police department is a joke, except, they’re not funny. They’re bankrupting our town with their insane pensions, and all they can do is stand there and refuse to serve us unless we give them more money. Ha ha – they have  a “no strike” clause in their contracts, but that doesn’t mean, they can’t just drag their feet and do a shitty job. 

I predict Nakamura will use the same time line as the manager in Stockton – he’s going to ask for a tax increase measure to be placed on the 2016 ballot. Research tells them that tax measures do better in a gubernatorial election, cause more people come out. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know this – they’ll lie through their teeth to get us to pay. They’ll threaten and twist our arms with NO SERVICE. 

Whose ready to take it right back up their ass? Let me know, I got some ideas. 

In the meantime, you can tell Brian Nakamura what you think at bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us.  You can reach the council at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us. 

While you’re at it, write to park commissioner Richard Ober at richard.h.ober@gmail.com to let him know what you think of his constant pushing for a sales tax increase. Read the story below.

Volunteers ramp up to save Caper Acres

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer

Posted:   07/06/2013 12:09:06 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge

The front gate at Caper Acres is seen in this file photo taken Wednesday in Chico. Caper Acres is…

CHICO — Without the ability to guarantee services in the wake of staffing reductions, the city was left with no option but to implement closures in Bidwell Park, Public Works Director Ruben Martinez said Friday.As the divisions adjust to reduced staffing, the city will start by providing services it knows it can guarantee and look for opportunities to restore other services as possible, Martinez said.

The crews want to keep Caper Acres, park bathrooms and gates open but it’s not feasible at this moment.

“Everybody wants to try it but we can’t be there sometimes,” he said. “We have to have that internal capacity to make sure we are there on days we say we are going to be there, rain or shine.”

City staff will now focus on preparing the park and its facilities for peak usage days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reductions in services start Monday.

Caper Acres, which has been closed on Mondays, will now be closed Monday through Thursday. If there is an opportunity to reopen the children’s fantasy playground to its old schedule, it will be the highest priority, Martinez said.

Residents are rallying to protest the closures and offering up the idea of volunteers to keep services afloat.

Abigail Lopez created a Facebook page called “Caper Acres Volunteers” in hopes residents would come together to save the fantasy children’s park.

“If the city is really concerned with the budget — and we have a $4.8 million deficit — I think they’d be willing

to provide the training to the volunteers to do what needs to be done,” she said. “I don’t see that in a community like Chico, why that wouldn’t be possible.”She is willing to step up and clean bathrooms, pick up trash, open gates — whatever it takes. It’s well worth the value to her 5-year-old son, Chase, who has autism.

“It’s really helpful for him to be exposed to the regular kids as well as the special-needs kids,” she said. “He loves to run around and be outside.”

When Lopez heard about the park closures, she knew she had to take action.

“That’s a part of the Chico experience. Having it not available so many days a week, it’s just not fair,” she said. “My mom has always told me if you think someone should do something, maybe that someone should be you.”

Other impacts include closure Monday through Thursday of the permanent restrooms on the north side of Sycamore Pool, at Cedar Grove and at Five-Mile Recreation Area. Portable restrooms will be added to Cedar Grove and Five-Mile, and the restroom on the south side of Sycamore Pool will remain open seven days a week.

Reservations will not be available for major group picnic areas in the park Monday through Thursday, and nearly all park gates will also be closed those days, except for the main entrance gate to upper Bidwell Park and the Fourth Street entrance to lower park.

Parks Commissioner Rich Ober wrote in an email that he is “sickened and saddened by what is being done to Chico in the name of short-term fiscal ‘responsibility.'”

If not addressed, the problems from such draconian cuts — declining trees, unrepaired park infrastructure and unpatrolled greenways — will have impacts for years to come, he said.

Ober is encouraged by the community support to step forward as volunteers, but it won’t be enough to prevent inevitable degradation of the park. He sees another totally feasible solution by way of a tax increase to support the park.

“This community is willing to step up in support of our parks and infrastructure,” he wrote. “If our community leaders will have the courage to ask, we’re willing to do the right thing.”

A Facebook page called Save Caper Acres has garnered more than 4,700 “likes” since the closures were announced Tuesday and an online petition had collected more than 2,000 signatures.

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

Staff has hit a beehive with a rock – they better run!

7 Jul

It’s Sunday and I’m feeling religious – THANK YOU GOD for bringing Abigail Lopez to our meeting this morning. Actually, truth be told, thanks to Jim in Chico for contacting Abigail and telling her about our meeting. Jim also has the power to move things, make things happen. 

Abigail brought us an update on her efforts to stop the closure of Caper Acres – here’s the letter she sent to the Enterprise Record:

One-Mile and Caper Acres are among the most visited attractions in Chico. Caper Acres is arguably the best park in town, and most certainly the one that offers the most shade and security. Generations of children have grown up playing there, and to cut park hours so that homemakers or parents who work non-traditional hours are unable to bring their children there is unfair and unconscionable. It makes no sense to close one of the best free sources of entertainment for children on weekdays during the height of summer.

In addition, closing restrooms that are needed by scores of visitors is short-sighted and will only result in increased maintenance costs when less scrupulous visitors elect to use the bushes as a toilet. It is also unfair to children, the elderly, and those with disabilities, as many have conditions that make it difficult to hold their bladders for any length of time.

Closing Caper Acres and several restrooms is a poor choice for Chico. I believe we can find a way via volunteers and donations to keep the park open in its current capacity. The citizens of Chico need to know exactly what would be required to maintain the park’s current availability. I have created a Facebook group called Caper Acres Volunteers to address this and will be contacting city officials to find out exactly what we as a community can do to keep our park the way it is.

— Tanya “Abigail” Lopez, Chico

I’m thrilled to have new people in the conversation. Abigail even read the budget to get ready for this conversation, that’s determination. I’m so glad to get new people involved in this discussion, but it’s so much better to talk to somebody who cared enough to read the documents and even  call various staffers to get explanations. Thanks so much Abigail for bringing something to the table. 

Of course, the meeting went all over the place. I read my notes later and think, “What the hell!?!” But mostly we talked about the real reasons for our fiscal distress – salaries, benefits and pensions. We talked about the employee contracts, which are only good through December, and will therefore be up for discussion from here on in.

We need to keep on top of this discussion, as best we can, being held off by the forehead by council and staff. The two sides, by way of negotiator Brian Nakamura and a human relations firm hired by the city, will each make their offers, chew them up, and spit them out with demands both ways. It’s just like you’d imagine – a total Repo-Man grab, with pushing and shoving, nose-twisting, shin kicking, and best of all – threats from unions to bring out their big wallets at election time to punish or reward councilors who vote the right or wrong way. 

The biggest issue in the contracts, for me, the simplest, clearest issue, is the payment of the benefits and pensions premiums. Right now, most city employees pay little or nothing toward their packages. Only the lowest paid, “classified staff” pay their full 9 percent share. Management pays 4 percent, which is less than half the suggested “employee share”, the fire dept pays 2 percent, and the  cops PAY NOTHING toward pensions of 90 percent of their highest year’s pay available at age 50. 

Just the “employee’s share” costs the city over $2 million a year. Nakamura is only trying to shave about $5 million from the budget right now, that $2 million would go a little ways toward his goal, wouldn’t it?

Right now we have one city councilor, Randall Stone, who has come to a CTA meeting and said he’ll press employees to pay their suggested 9 percent share, all of them. Stone has been taking heat from the fire department for being honest – we need to support him with more letters to the editor and also to council.

Scott Gruendl has also made comments to the Enterprise Record indicating he’d like to see the employees pay their share. Gruendl is up for re-election in November 2014, so we need to hold those remarks to his butt like a torch. 

We also need to remind him, he approved those contracts, as well as the MOU that linked salaries to revenue increases but not decreases. Mary Goloff also signed the contracts that gave public safety workers their incredibly generous benefits and pensions packages for little or nothing out of their own pockets. Mary actually went on and on about how great the contracts were at that time, thanking staff up and down for doing her job for her. I’m guessing she never even read the damned things. Jim Walker admitted same, almost like, “duh – who reads that stuff?

We need to tell these folks that the closure of a playground is not going to come out as they intended. I think they expected to throw a rock at a beehive, and those mad bees would all say, “hey Chico, you need to pay more taxes to keep our playground open!” After I met Abigail today, I think the bees are going to turn on the rock throwers.