Tag Archives: CARD

What about assessment districts?

20 Sep

Word Press provides statistics about my readers, my favorite of which is the search terms by which people arrive at this site.

This week’s prize goes to the individual who punched in “bullshit district assessments”

Because assessment districts are bullshit.   A district that is formed to take your money based on some service that you most likely would not have asked for and will very likely never receive. 

Take the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District. These guys just put a bond on all our homes a couple of years ago, through a process by which people who own more properties get more votes, and your assessment is based on acreage. Here’s the thing – homeowners who live on a quarter acre pay more than rice farmers who flood thousands of acres of mosquito habitat a year. 

Chico pays – I pay for 11 houses because that’s what the city of Chico has planned for my two acres. But I keep up with the spray notices – they only spray South Chico. My complaint is not that I want spraying – I haven’t seen a mosquito all Summer. So, why am I paying $20 a year for mosquito fogging? 

Where do they spray? Mostly the rice fields and towns like Biggs and Gridley. Why do they need the money? Mostly for management – see here:

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrict.aspx?fiscalyear=2013&entityid=1663

They have a Taj Majal HQ  over at Otterson Park where they have a manager, assistant manager, and office manager who take over $300,000 in salary just between them, and another $100,000+ in benefits and pension. District Manager Matt Ball told me they only paid 3% of their benefits and pension – he was glad to say that had been raised from 1%. 

Notice how salaries go down rapidly for the people who actually do the service. A pilot who spray toxins all over Butte County makes less than a guy with soft hands who sits at the office, in Chico, all day?

And then there’s CARD, who has cut their lower-paid, unbenefitted staffers, in favor of raising management salaries over $100,000 a year. CARD management pay nothing toward their benefits and pension, which are about the same as Butte Vectors.

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrict.aspx?fiscalyear=2013&entityid=1875

CARD will put a bond measure on the ballot in 2016.

Yes, assessment districts are bullshit. See how many assessment districts run out of Butte County:

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrictCounty.aspx?fiscalyear=2013&county=Butte

This adds to the cost of housing and everything else in our town and county, not only through assessments on our homes but because these outrageous salaries raise the cost of everything from housing to daycare to healthcare to groceries and gas. 

You might have seen the “ratesucker” commercial run by some auto insurer. It’s funny as hell, and it’s true – bad drivers add to your insurance costs no matter how good a driver you are. Well, bad voters, asleep-at-the-wheel rate and taxpayers, and corrupt politicians and public employees do the same thing to your cost of living. 

 

If you don’t attend another meeting all year, here are a couple that would be worth your time

26 Jul

Two meetings I will attend this week are the Airport Commission meeting on Tuesday (July 28) at city chambers, 6pm, and a CARD budget meeting Thursday (July 30) at 3pm at Lakeside Pavilion out at Cal Park.

The Airport Commission will be discussing the airport budget, with a report from consultants AFCO AvPORTS (sic). AFCO is working under a $190,000 contract. They will report on their efforts to get commercial air service back to Chico Airport.

I’m curious to see what they could possibly add to the conversation that Chico Chamber director Katy Simmons has not already told us. Here’s my guess  – they want about $300,000 allocated from the city’s general fund to pay a new airport manager. Then they want hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money, spent over the next five or so years, with no guarantee that commercial air service will be restored.

First there’s the matter of a $60,000 study as to “who flies out of the airport and where they go“. This seems to have been answered in a recent survey done by the Chamber, in which only about 60 individuals indicated they used the airport on anything resembling a regular basis. Why the city continues to pursue this avenue is anybody’s guess.

CARD will discuss their budget, looking for public comment, and I hope they get it. But, I’m not expecting many attendees at a 3 pm weekday meeting in Cal Park. CARD staff and the board seem to be bending over backwards to keep the public out of their meetings.

One budget issue that screams for public comment is the study they want to fund for the aquatic center – the price has jumped from about $30,000 to about $75,000. Yeah, for a study.

I would hope to see some other members of the public at these meetings.

CARD board meeting tonight, Lakeside Pavilion, 7 pm – there will be a report from the Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee

16 Apr

Again, a meeting is taking my day. I say, it takes my whole day because I have to plan and rearrange to make room for it. And, it’s not the meeting I’ve been trying to get into – that’s the Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee, and you’ve read here the runaround I’ve got from CARD staffers Steve Visconti, Jennifer Marciales and now, Robert Hinderer, about being notified of those committee meetings so I could attend. Just last week they blew me off for a meeting, Hinderer making some bullshit excuse about my name not being on the right mailing list. 

Rob, this is why you don’t have any friends.

I’ll try to attend, because if you don’t play the game they try to say you’re not serious and dump you out of the loop. Even though this meeting is warmed over hash compared to what goes on in the committee meetings and the private conversations, I will try to attend, just to show face. There’s a lot of ridiculous face-showing in this business, it’s worse than a game of No Limit Holdem.

I have finally got some other people watching, and I want them to know I wasn’t just yanking their chain.

I wish more people would attend these board meetings though. I’ll say, they’re prompt, start at 7 pm, and usually over by 8:30, even 8:00. For me, the drive out to Lakeside Pavilion is onerous, but after seeing Maureen Kirk running all over the county, night meetings in Forest Ranch, then another night meeting in Chico, I feel lame for complaining about driving to a meeting. Hope to see a few new faces, the board seems to be malleable to public scrutiny. 

I would like somebody to stand up during the public comment period and ask about plans to salvage Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools- as far as I know, they plan to shutter these pools and hand them back to  the school district after the 2015 swim season. They’ve neglected those pools for years, it’s in the books. Now, instead of bringing those much used facilities back up to par,  they throw over $150,000 at a rose garden?

CARD is a recreation district, but they have gutted their funds with exorbitant salaries and benefits and pensions for which the employees pay NOTHING. You might have noticed, city and county workers pay a percentage, the cops have raised their share to 12 percent.  But CARD employees still enjoy 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at 55 for NOTHING.  Director Steve Visconti retired last year at about $112,000/year – do the math – that’s about $77,000 a year, with COLA, to do NOTHNG. CARD hired a new manager at about $117,000, but he left within six months because of a disagreement over the aquatic facility discussion – I think he wanted to put that to bed, tried to tell them it was crazy given their budget – and there he went. Now Visconti is back in – does he get an interim salary in addition to retirement pay? Now there’s another question you could ask during the public comment period! Get in there! 

A year or so ago they bottomed out their general fund making a $400,000 “side fund payoff” to CalPERS. Their general fund is still pretty tanked, they’ve had to let off most of their part time staff.  Now they try desperately to raise funds to keep the doors open – and the CalPERS payments made – with a rose garden wedding chapel? That’s why they said they were spending over $1 million on Lakeside Pavilion. They’re trying to compete with private industry, when they’re supposed to be providing low-cost recreation activities. All for the salaries, benefits and pensions of about 33 management employees, who are quickly running out of underlings to do the actual work. 

They expect volunteers to run the Junior Giants program, while they all get salaries in excess of $50,000 a year, plus fully-paid benefits and pension. The Giants, by the way, foot all the expenses for Junior Giants, they even train the volunteer coaches. They just need somebody to advertise the program locally, so CARD steps in like a wolf in the sheep pen.

Have you ever seen a sheep get pissed off? Here’s a guy we could all learn a lesson from:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdX4JobRCUc

 

 

 

 

Up to my neck in meetings

14 Apr

I get up in the morning, sometimes as early as 5:30, even 5:00, just to be able to deal with my correspondence and blog. I attend these meetings, which are a giant pain in the ass, and I feel if I don’t write something in my blog the time was stolen from me with no good purpose. 

As I whined in my last post, I’ve been trying to get into Chico Area Recreation District’s secretive little Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meetings. CARD staff has held me off by the forehead because I’ve been critical of their activities – no surprise there – the public sector seems to be full of petty, vicious little people trying to protect their snatch, what else is new?

It’s been frustrating – at one point I had board member Jan Sneed yell at me and stick her finger in my face, charging me down a hallway because I had asked for a copy of the monthly finance report. In another instance, I sat in the audience while former and currently interim director Steve Visconti told the board they needed to get people to write letters in response to letters I’d been writing about their activities. That was weird,  I was sitting right there, he knows who I am, but wouldn’t address me or even  look at me. 

When I noticed reports from the AFAC on the board agenda and asked why I had not been noticed, temporary director Jerry Haynes raised his voice to me on the phone, telling me there was no committee, no meetings, and no intentions of getting an assessment or bond. Shortly thereafter he announced his departure, citing differences with the board? Sure. And Visconti was back, but he passed me off to staffer Jennifer Marciales. Marciales told me repeatedly I was on the notice list, that there hadn’t been any meetings, and seemed annoyed when I asked her why there were still reports on the board agenda if there weren’t any committee meetings? I found out, Jerry Hughes and Aqua Jets president Brad Geise had formed an ad hoc committee to get around reporting and noticing rules. Then I noticed my inquiries were being handed to the Recreation Superintendent Robert Hinderer. 

Hinderer’s the poor dummass who was made to apologize to me. What a stupe – I would feel sorry for this person but he’s making twice my family’s annual income in salary, and paying NOTHING toward his own benefits.  A shill deserves no pity. 

I’ve tried to get the editor of the News and Review to send  a reporter or cover these meetings – Laura Urseny from the Enterprise Record has been at almost every meeting I’ve attended but her stories never say anything about plans for an assessment or bond, she won’t use the name Aqua Jets. She sat through that first meeting, where Jerry Hughes detailed the workings of the legislature, telling the 30 or so folks from Aqua Jets and the school district that they needed to wait until the legislature had lowered the threshold for tax  measures from 2/3’s to about 50 percent.  He talked about that for about an hour, but there was NOTHING about it in Urseny’s subsequent story. She is also a shill, and deserves nobody’s pity. 

The Good News! I got a note from Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk. I had been haphazardly trying to remember to include Maureen  in the conversation the last couple of years, and when she realized they’re giving me the business, she wrote to CARD and asked to be put on the notification list too. I really  appreciate her oversight here, this is an entity that needs a lot of scrutiny.  

Although, it remains to be seen if either Supervisor Kirk or I will actually get a notice, or just the usual lame apology.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

CARD moves meetings to Cal Park, moves ahead hiring consultant for proposed aquatic center

22 Mar

Thursday night I attended the regular Chico Area Recreation District Board meeting to see what I could find out about plans to build an aquatic center. What I saw and heard made me feel even more strongly that there’s a back room effort to get this project past the voters. The board voted unanimously to hire a consultant to come up with a proposal to sell to the taxpayers.

Jerry Haynes is out as CARD general manager and Steve Visconti has stepped back in to fill the interim while the board has (you guessed it!) hired a consultant to get a new director. They have had one director after another, Visconti “retiring’ last year only to be tapped to fill in again. One woman left citing “differences with the board” and the paper insinuated there was hostility. Now Haynes has left, citing same.  I don’t frankly know how anybody can get along with Board member Jan Sneed, who attacked me verbally and physically one night after a meeting. She’s hostile, I’ll tell you what, and I’m guessing you either do what she wants or you’re out of a job. CARD has an interesting staff history.

The General Manager of Chico swim team Aquajets was asked for a progress report on that committee that hasn’t been having any meetings. He said he was speaking on behalf of longtime CARD manager and board member Jerry Hughes, who has been the spokesperson for this effort from the beginning. I realize, they’ve taken everything into an “ad hoc” committee of Hughes and Brad, and therefore do not have to notice the meetings or include me in any way. But, Brad had a proposal for the board, they said they’d all received it. Despite Brown Act rules saying any document presented to the board must be available to the public, there were no copies. 

Brad told the board they needed to hire a consultant to design the new center, and the board voted to do so. End of conversation! 

I had to leave at that point, so I emailed the next morning asking for that proposal. CARD staffer Jennifer Marciales sent me a version that won’t cut and paste, but here’s the link:

3-9-15 Jerry Hughes Document

I noticed a little strain between the board and Brad. When he was done making his demand, Brad left with my husband and I, got into a very expensive little sports car, and zipped out. I really get a kick out of these people who come with their hand out for public money – same for the Cannons and their Bocce Ball request – they never come to these meetings, they don’t know ANYTHING about the CARD budget or the other programs, but they come in and demand money for something that serves less  than one percent of the city population.   But never any talk about how they will pay for it when they’re laying off workers to avoid paying Obamacare.

I noticed in this report that there have been three design proposals already submitted, but the only one I’ve seen is from local consultant Greg Melton, I posted that on this blog previously. So, I asked Marciales to send me the other two proposals,  but I haven’t heard back from her yet. 

Since I sat in on the Brown Act workshop with League of Women Voters, I’ve realized how little respect these  agencies have for the public.

I also asked Marciales why the meeting location was suddenly moved from the central CARD center on Vallombrosa to the very distant and removed Lakeside Pavillion. She answered, “the Board has requested that the Regular Board Meetings be held at Lakeside Pavilion”  That’s it, no explanation, just “let them eat cake…”

CARD responds! with updates

12 Feb

Hi Juanita,

 

I just wanted to let you know that based upon your conversation with our General Manager last week, you have already been placed on the notification list for upcoming Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meetings.  At this time, there are no meetings scheduled.

 

If you have any questions, please let me know.

 

Thank you,

 

Jennifer Marciales
Executive Assistant
(530) 895-4711
Chico Area Recreation and Park District
545 Vallombrosa Avenue
Chico, CA 95926

Well, that’s funny, I hadn’t given Mr. Haynes my e-mail, I’d told him I’d send it. I sent it that day, in the automatic form they give you on the CARD website, because Mr. Haynes had not given me his e-mail either. It took this gal almost two weeks to get back to me – funny thing, after my letter had run in the paper, and on the very day I’d posted it on the blog. But oh well, at least she responded.

I did have a couple of questions, so sent her the following response:

Thank You,

I didn’t give Mr. Haynes my e-mail, thanks for the follow-up.  I’ve been asking to be on this committee notification list since it was formed, and reports have been given of meetings but I never received notices of those meetings. Now you’re saying, despite designs having been made for this proposed center and talk of an assessment on property owners, there are no more meetings scheduled? I’ll be looking forward to notification of any future meetings, but I’ll be watching the board agenda too.

One question I have right now is, I would like to ask you for an exact figure on the designs presented for the aquatic center by Melton Design Group – the newspaper gave a ballpark figure of “$30,000 to $60,000”, but I’m sure you can give me a more specific figure. 

I had originally called to ask Mr. Haynes about the assessment process, which he refused to discuss with me. Since that call I have found a copy of the engineers report dated fiscal year 2013-14, in which SCI Consultant Group give a detailed report regarding assessment of property owners. If I have any questions about that I’ll be sure to get back to you. 

I’ve cc-d the news editors because I have either spoken to them about this issue or sent letters to the papers about it.

Thanks again for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner

UPDATE 2/14/15

Did I not make myself clear in my request? “I would like to ask you for an exact figure on the designs presented for the aquatic center by Melton Design Group – the newspaper gave a ballpark figure of ‘$30,000 to $60,000’, but I’m sure you can give me a more specific figure…”

She sent me the actual design proposals, with price tags, but did not answer my question about the cost of the proposal. I had to write back to her. I try to be nice, but sometimes I feel like these people are just messing with me. 

UPDATE 2/18/15

Well, sometimes people aren’t messing with me! Although it took her several business days to respond, Jennifer Marciales finally got back to explain to me the figures I had seen in an article in the Enterprise Record. The $30-60,000 figure I saw was an estimate for the full designs, not the price for the proposals. She says the proposals were simply submitted by Melton Design Group, with prices tags for each proposal ranging from $30 – 60,000. I’m sorry, that makes sense now, but it didn’t make sense when the folks at CARD were acting so weird about sharing public  information.

Thanks Jennifer! 

 There is a CARD meeting tomorrow night, with some interesting items on the agenda:

http://www.chicorec.com/documents/Board%20Agendas/2015/February%2019%202015%20Agenda.pdf

You find these agendas at the CARD website, under “CARD resources”, “board of directors”.  I will not be able to attend tomorrow night, I have another meeting that is a one-shot, so I’m attending that. These CARD meetings are easy to attend, held at the CARD center on Vallombrosa, they start and  end very promptly, I’d say, over by 8:30, tops. Everybody who pays taxes in the greater Chico area should attend these meetings once in a while. 

The public needs to press CARD about how they plan to fund the proposed aquatic center

8 Feb

I was so shocked by the response I got from CARD General Manager Jerry Haynes when I called to ask about the assessment process, I wrote a letter to the Enterprise Record. I’m glad they ran it, but I’m wondering if anything will come of it. I had filled out a website contact form, asking to be added to the Aquatic Center Advisory Ad-hoc Committee notice list, but haven’t had any response. I’m not surprised, actually – when I’ve made other requests via that website contact form, it’s taken weeks for a staffer to get back to me. I’m guessing nobody checks it very often.

I wish other people would call CARD, or attend a CARD board meetings sometime, and ask about this committee. Here’s the link:

http://www.chicorec.com/CARD-Resources/Board-of-Directors/index.html

Here’s my letter sent to the ER, run a couple of days ago:

On December 18, ER reporter Laura Urseny wrote, “A proposed aquatic center is part of CARD’s (Chico Area Recreation District’s) master plan and has been discussed for more than a year.”  

“A CARD subcommittee of board members and the public hoped to trigger large contributions from the community, but it looks like CARD will have to take the issue to the voters for a tax measure to pay for the facility.”  

“General Manager Jerry Haynes suggested and the board agreed to bring in consultants to talk to the board about ways to proceed financially with a center’s development.” 

I called the CARD center recently to find out more about this proposed tax measure. A man identifying himself as General Manager Jerry Haynes denied any mention of any assessment or tax in any news article. He further denied that the CARD board had any such plans, or had  even discussed it. 

When I asked him if I could be placed on the notice list for the Aquatic Center Advisory Ad-hoc committee mentioned in the January 21 board agenda, he first denied the existence of such a committee and said there were no such meetings planned. He finally admitted that new board member Bob Malowney had been named to this committee, but still denied there were any meetings planned.  

I am simply trying to learn more about the process by which CARD will “take the issue to the voters.”