Tag Archives: Caper Acres

Caper Acres – four years later, nothing new

20 Mar

Closure of Chico’s Caper Acres is frustrating for city, parents

By LAURA URSENY-Staff Writer

POSTED:   07/31/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT

Conrad Nystrom of Chico celebrates Father’s Day with his sons Sam and Roman at Caper Acres in…

CHICO — The public and the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission weighed in this week on the budget-prompted closure of Caper Acres playground in lower Bidwell Park.Several parents spoke to the commission Monday voicing “disappointment” and “frustration” in the surprisingly quiet way the closure came about, without public input or brainstorming.

And commissioners themselves, still noting Chico’s budget woes, hoped to talk over the matter more. The fact that there was no Park Commission meeting in June, when budget strategies were discussed by the City Council, was a sore point.

Early in July, the city announced Caper Acres would only be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays because of staffing issues. A diminished city staff couldn’t handle cleaning bathrooms, mowing, safety repairs and other actions.

But last week, a local cleaning business called ServPro said it would take over other kinds of park maintenance for free so city staff could attend to the playground. It opened to a six-day operation Tuesday, with the traditional Monday closure continuing.

However, ServPro can only handle the free maintenance through Oct. 1, and a group of local volunteers has started to meet to figure out alternatives for keeping the playground open.

Mom Abigail Lopez, one of the organizers of Caper Acres Volunteers, said she hopes the city can embrace volunteers as do local organizations like the Humane Society.

From a meeting on Saturday that Lopez organized, other ideas surfaced, like a Bidwell Park summit to share ideas.

Acting Park Commission Chairman Richard Ober commended the volunteers on Monday, and asked the matter be placed on an upcoming agenda so “volunteers’ work could be supported.”

“I want to know why the Park Commission and public were not able to weigh in on the closure,” parent Liz Gardner told the commission. She also asked for budget specifics.

Later, Park and Natural Resources Manager Dan Efseaff said he had lost $500,000 from his budget, and has been exploring cutbacks, including ideas about abandoning lawns or pulling down old structures that need to be replaced. He emphasized that it was “an exercise” and not a plan.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” Efseaff said.

Chris Boshazy, representing Service Employees International Union, noted the work — especially tree work — still had to be done, and should be done by city employees, not private tree companies.

The city has set aside $100,000 for contract tree work.

“That $100,000 could hire back someone,” he told the commission. “This is city employee work.”

Boshazy also said the Park Commission had more power than it realizes, handing them copies of the municipal code and job duties.

“The last few months have been extremely frustrating, the way decisions were made and how cuts were made, and the lack of role of the community,” Ober said, asking for a discussion at a future meeting.

“We haven’t been asked as a community to dig deeper into our pockets,” Ober said.

Other topics that came up in regard to Caper Acres included a user tax, asking participants in large events in the park to donate a dollar to Caper Acres, and participating in the Annie Bs fundraising program.

Parents also wanted to find a way so that donations could go straight into a dedicated Caper Acres fund, rather than into the city’s General Fund.

Efseaff noted that Caper Acres has been on the Park Commission’s work plan for several years, with features desperately needing update and replacement.

Reach Laura Urseny at 896-7756, lurseny@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @LauraUrseny.

2016 – the Year of the Tax

4 May

The other day I read a pretty comical article in the Enterprise Record – “Caper Acres Users Mention Tax.”

Excuse me – what the hell kind of a headline is that? “Mention Tax“? Was this overheard in casual conversation? Was it just  whimsy?

To me this word play typifies the verbal gymnastics people will indulge in to get around talking directly about raising taxes, just trying to put the notion out there so we think we came up with it ourselves. I’m wondering how long it took the editorial staff to decide to call this a ‘tax‘ at all.  I don’t trust the ER anymore.

This “mention” of tax is actually part of former City of Chico manager Tom Lando’s slow and grinding efforts at getting us to foist a tax(es) on ourselves to cover his and other grandiose pensions. Here, read up on it:


A pension that’s not mentioned in that list is Pam Figge’s pension. Figge is the Chico State instructor who brought her class into a Park Commission meeting to “mention” a sales tax increase.  Pam Figge was also a city of Chico $taffer under Lando. She’s one of those perpetual revolving door trough dwellers, like Lando, who also teaches at Chico State. I don’t know how many pies old Figgy has her finger in, but Lando sits on various boards around the county, including Chico Area Recreation District. 

A few years back, Lando undertook a campaign to get a sales tax increase on the ballot. He and business associate Jim Stevens hired a company from out of town to run a survey testing the waters for a sales tax:


These companies always boast their ability to get voters to approve tax measures on themselves, so of course, it was leading, using scare tactics, leaving out the reasons the city got into this mess. I was also contacted by people, including Larry Wahl, who said Lando used their names as though they supported the tax, without even asking them. Read it yourself.

Back when he was still city mangler, Lando was behind the MOU that nailed us into our coffin – the one that linked city salaries “to increases in revenue increases but not decreases...”  His salary rocketed up about $100,000 over a few years, going from about $69,000 to over $160,000. When  we found out about that MOU, they dumped it, but wrote the “Employer Paid Member Contribution” into the employee contracts – the clause by which we pay their share of pensions and benefits.  I know I’m not the only one that bitched about that too, and now look, they’re pretending to dump it – but only for new hires.  Brian Nakamura, Mark Orme, Chris Constantin and their over-priced management friends only just agreed to pay 9 percent of their own pension – please join me in a solid chorus of “Big Fucking Whoopie, Fellas!”   

Sorensen and Nakamura expect us to eat lint out of their buttcracks, because they are making NEW HIRES pay their own benefits. Again, BFW Boys! What they don’t like to say is, that won’t happen until our existing workforce retires on 70 percent of their fat salaries and walks on down the hall. Mother…

And then, the new hires only pay if they come from outside the retirement system. For the entire United States. Most of our new hires are picked up from within the system, we hire very few newbies.

And then, the new hires only pay  50 percent. Imagine yourself sitting at the city picnic, over on the railroad tracks, eating your slice of community pie, and some cop comes over and takes half your pie and puts it on his plate next to his big fat piece, and walks away. Then a fireman comes over and takes half of what’s left, walking over to the opposite side of the room to glare at the cop while they eat your pie.  

Actually, this analogy isn’t right – Brian Nakamura got your pie while you were standing in line, sorry about that. 

These people just don’t get how big of pigs they are being – the pig is always the last one to know, right? Who, me?  Then most of them have the nerve to put on the “I’m just (sniffle) outraged!‘ act, like little Beth Vice over at Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control.  I hope she is able to pull her panties out of her ass, cause I’m the one who gets to be outraged this time. I’m sick of paying for people like her to sit in air conditioning waiting for the phone to ring, making $60,000+ but contributing NOTHING toward a pension that will pay them at least $50,000 a year (plus COLA) for the rest of their bloated life.

This is the common core behind all these little tax bombs that are headed our way over the next couple of years.  Gee, isn’t it just coinky-dinkal, that BCMVCD just lost the same amount in RDA money that they were splattering out on their own benefits? They say the cost of pesticides has increased – well that’s funny cause their budget shows they’ve spent $150,000 less on pesticides this year than they did three years ago. At the same time,  they’ve laid off employees, but wow, their pensions and benefits costs kept climbing anyway? What gives Beth?

Don’t forget the garbage tax. When I sat in on that conversation, the consultant said repeatedly (and I have this on tape) that the main reason for doing a franchise agreement was to “help the city with it’s financial condition…”  He even admitted, there will be a period during which there is no restriction over how many companies can operate, due to legalities in noticing the companies of the new regulations (5 years). He also admitted, that in order to get Recology and Waste Management to agree to go along with this deal, some of which is on shaky legal ground, the city must agree to close the bidding process to just those two haulers. This whole thing smells worse than Garbage Day.

Don’t forget CARD, who has  committee of  “shareholders” scheming behind closed doors to put an assessment or a bond on our homes to pay for Aquajets new Taj Majal swim facility. Oh yeah, don’t worry, you’ll be allowed to pay to get in, when Aquajets aren’t using it for one of their legendary swim meets. 

Let’s talk about assessments. For lack of a better adjective, I’ll say, assessments suck. This is a way by which these rent seeking agencies (  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking  ) like BCMVCD and CARD stick it to us through our homes. Each property owner gets ONE vote. Did I say, each property owner? Well they count couples or families or groups of investment partners as an each, and they only get one vote among them. And, it doesn’t matter how many properties you own, how many assessments you will pay, what your total assessment would be – you and your spouse or partner(s) get ONE vote. Period. 

When I read into the text of the Caper Acres “users” story, I found the opposite was true – Figge’s class only polled people who came into Caper Acres with their kids.  I had to laugh – these college kids that Pam Figge rounded up and brought down to the playground (were they accompanied by a child under 13?) only “surveyed” people who use Caper Acres. They asked them, essentially, “would you like other people to pay more to secure your whimsy?”  Well, duh, 80 percent of them said “Yes!”  

And the demands – keep the Bunker Hill tunnels? Yeeeccchhh! My boys never wanted to go into those tunnels, and I was relieved. They have always stunk of pee, and I’ve long questioned the safety of tunnels in the dirt, come on.  Alot of Caper Acres should just be removed. Those structures were somebody’s silly fancy, nobody ever thought to ask – “how will we maintain these? How will we keep transients from camping out inside them, using drugs, leaving filth, etc?”  Time after time the city has faced liability issues over those crazy fixtures at Caper Acres. I once watched a woman and her kid fly off the end of that crooked slide and land in a heap on the dirt. They landed hard, the child bouncing off the woman’s lap and landing SMACK on the hard ground.Playgrounds are hazardous, fixtures fall apart. Structures have been cordoned off, the place has been closed due to either trees falling or vandalism a number of times – it’s a big liability to the city. 

We didn’t see the survey, we don’t know whether the respondents were informed off all the issues revolving around the park. I’m pretty sure they weren’t told about the salaries, the benefits, the pensions, the EPMC, etc. Just like the pamphlet from BCMVCD didn’t give any real information, and Lando’s survey didn’t give any real information. These people are ready to roll out a propaganda machine to get these bonds or assessments. 

Laura Urseny is part of the propaganda machine. She’s been writing articles about how bad of shape Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools are in – where has she been for the last 20 years that they’ve been left to rot? We can’t trust the Enterprise Record for the straight story, I’m sorry, Dave Little is a businessman, not a journalist. I have yet to see any comprehensive coverage of the garbage tax or the sales tax conversations that have been going on Downtown between the Chamber and other entities. I have this from people I know in the chamber and other organizations. They say it’s all being kept from the public, waiting for state laws to change regarding voting percentages for tax proposals. Our legislature is busy shifting the percentage from 2/3’s to 55 percent.  

And, a highly placed city staffer told me that Tom Lando is behind a lot of stuff, that he’s really pushing to annex Chapmantown because he wants the property tax revenues. The city has a 45/55 deal with the county over property tax revenues –  just think how much money that would mean to the city.  Mark Sorensen and city staff all scream that Chico can’t afford to annex Chapmantown because of all the issues over there, it would cost too much to repair their sagging infrastructure. Well, are they stupid, or just playing stupid? Lando knows like I know that Chapmantown would not get any more service than they currently enjoy, but Chico will get half of their property taxes to pay off their pension obligation. That’s a big conversation behind closed doors, I’d like to see the public get involved in that. 

So, I will try to keep on the ball, but to tell the truth, I could use a little help down here.  I feel like I’m standing in a shit storm with a tennis racket.  



Caper Acres users mention tax

By Laura Urseny lurseny@chicoer.com (mailto:lurseny@chicoer.com) @LauraUrseny on Twitter

POSTED: 04/29/2014 06:40:23 PM PDT

Chico >> Parents and other users of Caper Acres in Bidwell Park might be willing to consider a fee or tax to help out the playground which is destined for a renovation. A group of Chico State University students assigned to look at the play area as a class project uncovered that sentiment and shared it with the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission Monday night, along with other observations. More than 150 surveys were taken over a six-day period. According to the information presented to the commission, 85 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as city residents “were in favor of paying a local tax to fund the maintenance and renovation of Caper Acres. Forty-seven percent of all respondents would be willing to pay some sort of parking fee,” according to the survey results..The survey results indicated that users were willing to pay one or the other, but not both. Users said the funds must be earmarked for Caper Acres. Other financial suggestions included creating a maintenance district, user fee or crowdsourcing. The survey discovered other stances. Users wanted to keep the story book theme. “Must keep” features included the Bunker Hill Mine (also known as the tunnels), the Crooked House, Big Cheese and Locksley’s Castle. The tunnels are marked for removal in a proposal from Melton Design Group, hired by the city for the redesign. The city has problems with overnight campers inside the tunnel, as well as drainage of the area. Part of former city planner Pam Figge’s geography class, the students looked at the area from soil types and American Indian use to vegetation types, users and play equipment. Commissioners said the information was valuable, and referred later in the evening to the idea of a tax-supported areas in Bidwell Park. City officials have said there is no budgeted money available for the renovation, and is looking to the community for help. The Park Commission’s Natural Resources Committee is overseeing the Caper Acres renovation. The next meeting is planned for 6 p.m. May 8 in Conference Room 2 of the Chico City Council Chambers, 421 Main St. Chairwoman Mary Brentwood said there is plenty of time for more public comments. Contact reporter Laura Urseny at 896-7756.

$9,580 in cell phone rebates, and still counting

19 Jul

from Frank Fields 7/17/13

UUT refunds:

UUT cell phone refunds: $9,580

UUT annual refund program: $5,596 (May/June 2013)

Well, I am not excited about the UUT refund total, it doesn’t look like more than the usual number of people. At about $50 average refund, it only looks like the usual 100 people that always come in, myself included. I got almost $40, which puts the average Frank Fields gave me in perspective.

This tells me the process is too onerous for most people to take it seriously. You have to either mail that stack of crap in,  all your bills, all the pages, along with your tax returns, or, you have to find time during the work day to amble on down to the city building and make a personal appearance at the Finance Department window. 

To think, they’re ripping off the poorest people in town.  Maybe Brian Nakamura should grow a mustache, so he can twist it as he rips off the poor and closes them out of the playground. 

I’ve asked Nakamura, cc’ing the full council, to make the process electronic – something you could do over the computers at the library on a Saturday morning – but he just won’t answer.  I’ll get back to that soon. 

But, I do find the cell phone refund total impressive – $9,580 bucks. I didn’t get the number of applicants from Fields, but I’m guessing, that’s more than 100 applicants. Fields told me earlier this year, some of the applicants are businesses, with bigger refunds that kind of  mess up the average, but I’m still guessing, more than 100 people have filed for that refund, and that’s good. I get searches for the information in the blog daily, so I know people are still interested in getting their refunds, whether they will go through the onerous process or not. I wonder, how many people even keep their bills. 

I notice this morning, the city keeps announcing they’ve found this solution and that solution to the park closures, but the main park road and Caper Acres are still closed Monday through Thursday. I hope people get as mad about the park closures as they did about the cell phone tax. I’ll be in the park this weekend, for the Bidwell Park Birthday Scam, handing out fliers with dollar amounts and contact information – I hope we can turn this park closure on Nakamura, show him he messed with the wrong kind of bees.

I’ve reserved the library room for Sunday, August 4, 9am, for our First Sunday Chico Taxpayers meeting. I’ll have an update regarding the park closures, and more ideas for bringing the employees to the table. 

$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.