Tag Archives: Chico Airport

Enterprise Record running the tax increase campaign? I thought newspapers were supposed to be objective

23 Nov

It seems  the Enterprise Record is running the campaign for a local tax increase – read Laura Urseny’s “Biz Bits” column for Sunday:

“Former Chico airport commissioner Karl Ory certainly brought a surprise to last week’s City Council meeting. During the public comment period over the AvPORTS proposal to manage the Chico airport, Ory suggested that airport improvements might warrant a bond measure.”

I know Ory has been beating this horse, can’t figure out what his interest is. Maybe somebody out there can fill me in. 

“AvPORTS — and others — have suggested that the terminal at the Chico airport is too small, given airline industry trends toward larger planes to carry more people. Sky-West used to fly in with a 30- seater, but nowadays the planes that might come to Chico — if commercial service ever returns — could be in the 100- seat size. AvPORTS suggested a larger terminal with a larger area for the Transportation Security Administration processing is needed.”

Chico couldn’t even fill the 30-seater, is the reason Sky-West is gone. Why in the hell would they send in a bigger plane? 

“One criticism was that Chico has no way to pay for the improvements. A counter was that no airline was going to come to Chico without those improvements.  Ory suggested Chico could turn to a bond for a public vote to pay for capital projects at the airport. Ory is a retired Chico airport commissioner and retired city councilman.”

Here she forgets to mention, the airline wants a subsidy to cover their losses when they can’t fill the planes – like $200,000/year!

Then she seems to be playing the Devil’s Advocate. “But this is one of those suggestions that raised eyebrows. We wonder if the community would vote to tax themselves for airport improvements, when a smaller group wouldn’t even fly out of Chico to help support commercial air service here.”

But here she comes again with that bond stuff.

“Since then, I’ve heard from another airport advocate who didn’t automatically dismiss the idea of a bond.”

She’s talking about Tom Lando, I’d bet my last $5.  Maybe Lando is finally getting a thin-skin about being tagged with this tax increase.

“Why such a thing might warrant community support, he explained, was because the airport benefits many in Chico. Benefits include the transportation for residents and businesses, as well as jobs. The advocate pointed out that large companies in considering a new location would consider getting in and out of Chico via commercial service important.”

Lando is also a member of the CARD board, as well as member of the Aquatic Facility committee. He listened to the consultant say that not having an airport was a bad indicator for the success of the Olympic style swim center CARD is pushing.  If we can’t support an airport, how could we support this aquatic facility? Lando and friends are even proposing a sports stadium for Chico, all to be built with a bond.

What neither Urseny nor Lando is talking about is how big of trouble every public entity around here is in over their unpaid CalPERS liability. You just read here, the city has assigned $6 million in pension debt to the Private Development Fund – that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  That’s what a bond would really be about, and then, in a couple of years, like Chico Unified, they’d be telling us they need yet another bond to actually improve the airport. Same old story. I hope you kids are paying attention.

Recently I’ve noticed our local media has fallen to yellow journalism. We don’t really have a newspaper in this town. I know, I’m just a blogger – internet gossip monger? But these people are supposed to uphold some sort of journalistic integrity. They are supposed to work for the public at large, not the government, or the corporations. 

Aside from the rather loose rules set before me by Word Press (for one, you have to publish, something, somewhat regularly, or they will take your blog away!) , I am free of corporate and government influences. I will continue to work in 2016 to inform you and be a tack on the chair of the Overlords. 

POST SCRIPT: And today (11/25/15) Dave Little has foisted an editorial – he’s actually mad because Chico isn’t “stepping up” to “save the airport”

Mr. Little, you need to step aside, and let a real journalist save the newspaper

Airport consultant just looking for a meal ticket

30 Jul

I went to the Airport Commission meeting the other night to hear a couple of reports and frankly, my head is swimming so full of bullshit I have a hard time putting it into words. 

Excuse me – Frank Fields’ budget report was no bullshit, just straight facts. Frank was detailing the actions that led to essential bankruptcy out at the airport – the airport fund has been completely in the red the last few years, despite a million dollar infusion from the feds every year. Frank explained that the airport fund has been pilfered by way of an initiative passed by council – “cost allocation.”

“cost allocation” is the system by which you steal money from one fund to pay salaries from another department. I sat through that meeting – Chris Constantin explained that every time they have a meeting, they pay staff out of the fund they’re talking about at the meeting, get it? So if they discuss the sewer at an Internal Affairs meeting, the staffers present at that meeting get paid out of the sewer fund. And the electricity for the room, the coffee, Dani Brinkley’s foot wear, the whole nine yards, comes out of the sewer fund. That, by the way, is also how the sewer fund, and the development fund,  ended up in the red to the tune of a million dollars or so a piece.

Then Fields explained another measure passed by council – when a fund is in the red, staff now takes money out of the General Fund to cover it.  And the books are good! 

I think we missed all this. I’m guessing they were threatened with some sort of punishment if they didn’t come up with a better set of books, so here we are. They had too much red ink in their books, and you know what that looks like.  On Perry Mason it’s called embezzlement.

Despite the fact that the city gets about a million dollars a year in federal grants to keep it open for the fire fighting planes, the airport fund is still in the red every year because of the cost allocation bullshit. They haven’t been putting any money into the airport. If you listened really carefully to Tom, the $190,000 consultant from AVPorts consulting firm, you find the real reason we don’t have commercial air service is we have no terminal, and our runway is inadequate. He really slid those by, talking instead about how we need to give him a contract to attract the airlines. He didn’t want to give us too much bad news at once.  He wants us to hire him to do a job he admittedly can’t do. 

We don’t have commercial air service because we haven’t been keeping our airport up to modern standards. We’ll need a new tower, a longer runway, and a brand new fancy terminal. We’ll also need to guarantee them a certain amount of profit – or pay them an “incentive” charge of hundreds of thousands a year. 

But Tom went on and on, getting really excited toward the end of his presentation. While he admitted our chances of getting commercial service were really poor, he kept saying we have to try. 

The major obstacle being – Redding has already done all the stuff above. He expects us to steal customers from Redding, that’s the only way his scheme will work. 

I’ve got pages of notes on this guy – I’ll boil it down for you. Watch “Music Man.” 

And I’ll tell you what else – the feds are going to walk away with their million a year if we don’t make major infrastructural improvements out there. We won’t even have the fire fighting planes if $taff doesn’t quit embezzling that fund to pay their pensions off. 

Orme isn’t telling us everything. He’s sitting on a pile of trouble, I hope it goes right up his ass.

Here’s what I think – why pander after the airlines? Why not wait until they are knocking on our door? 

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.

Airport Commission scheduled to meet July 28 – Chico Chamber demanding commercial air service, wants city to pay $40 – 60,000 for a survey

17 Jul

thanks Jim for reminding me – the airport report, released in March, is a must-read.

http://www.chico.ca.us/airport/documents/AirlineFeasibiltyCommitteeReport3-3-15.pdf

Read it and ask yourself why we need to spend money on another survey. Katie Simmons of Chico Chamber wants a survey “of who uses the airport and where they fly”, and then she wants the city to guarantee the airline over $3 million in revenues, meaning, if they don’t sell tickets, the taxpayers pay.  For roughly 60 people who fly regularly. Many of the businesses in the survey suggested they’d be as happy to use a ground shuttle to Sacramento Airport if shuttle tickets were priced more reasonably. The shuttle currently charges $60, one way.  Respondents said they’d be willing to pay $35. Most respondents expressed total disinterest in paying for any kind of study. Simmons is demanding the taxpayers pay for it.

Read it yourself. There’s an airport commission meeting scheduled  for July 28. 

Skywest leaves with million dollar federal grant – that’s what commercial air service has really meant to this town, money to pay management salaries

24 Sep

I been waiting forever for our beloved council to show some interest in Chico Airport, so I dusted off the old broom and headed over to their joint session last night at City Chambers.

The agenda was pretty vague – something about hiring a new manager –  but I got what I suspected I’d get – a bunch of idiots trying to breathe life back into commercial air service. 

If you ever used Skywest, you know two things – the service was horrible, and the planes were always mostly empty.  I don’t fly, but my husband has relatives in Germany, so we’ve experienced the airlines. On one trip home, the flight was late getting into SF, so my husband and 14 year old son missed their Skywest connection. Skywest told my husband  he would not get another flight that night, they wouldn’t pay for a hotel room, nothing. They didn’t even apologize. I don’t drive, so I had to ask a friend to take me to pick them up.  When our cousin came in from Germany earlier this year we not only drove to SF to pick him up we drove him back to catch his outbound plane.  

Whenever my husband has used Skywest, the plane has had less than half a dozen passengers total. Once he was flown back alone, by a couple of pilots who chattered at him the entire flight. 

What I already knew before last night, is that this conversation is being perpetuated by the very few people who can afford to use Skywest on a regular basis.  But, here’s the thing: it’s being facilitated by the city staff and council because they know that commercial air service comes  along with a $1 million dollar annual grant from the feds.

This I suspected, but having tried to read the budget many times, I could never figure it out. Well, there it is, right out of Mark Orme’s mouth. That’s what Skywest service and the airport in general mean to Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen and their staff – a million dollars in “free money” to pay their management salaries. They been embezzling the airport fund for years, it’s been in the red for at least six years, to pay Dave Burkland and then Brian Nakamura’s ridiculous salaries. It started with either Tom Lando or Burkland. With the approval of council, they let the old airport manager retire (early?), and then took his job, along with at least a $35,000 pay increase, I remember seeing the breakdown. At that time, the city manager was given a number of “hats” – he was the city manager, the airport manager, the head of the Redevelopment Fund (!). etc. I think it happened under Lando, because we watched his salary go from about $65,000/year to over $150,000 in about four years. 

Mark Sorensen seemed to be making sense when Skywest first announced their pullout. He said we didn’t need commercial air service at that time, and needed to come up with an alternative plan  for the airport. But last night he seemed to have drank the Kool Aid – when he should have been talking about the financial condition and budget of the airport, where all the money has been going for the last four years he’s been on council, he kept directing the conversation back to commercial air service. At one point little Tami Ritter asked a very pertinent question about the airport budget, and as soon as Frank Fields was done answering her question, Mark Sorensen jumped onto the mic to wrangle the conversation back to commercial air service. He acted as though Ritter was coming from another planet.

At one point, Sean Morgan said “if Skywest hadn’t left, we wouldn’t be talking about this (the airport)”. I think he was trying to say how important commercial air service is. They did get a pretty hot reaction to Skywest’s announcement. But not from the general public, just those privileged few in this town who can afford to pay over $250 for a trip out of town. 

I heard Morgan loud and clear – these people don’t have a clue how to save our airport. They just want to kick and scream for commercial service, to get back on that sweet federal teat. Orme said the feds are going to cut us off, and they’re not even saying, how soon. I think Orme isn’t telling us everything. I think the feds might be a little miffed at us because we didn’t use any of that money to fix the airport all these years. An old airport commissioner, Greg Fischer, got up to tell us how great things are at Redding airport – they didn’t lose Skywest service, and Skywest is talking about bringing in the new jets, because Redding used their airport money to hire a fulltime manager and FIX THE AIRPORT! Wow, how did they think of that!

Meanwhile, our tarmac is way behind the times, too short for the new jets. Orme went on – there’s a projects list of equipment that must be replaced. An example – a $150,000 water tank. It’s been going for years, he said, management has known about it, but has continued to take that million dollar grant to pay exorbitant salaries Downtown. 

Mark Sorensen signed those contracts. He lobbied for the hiring of Brian Nakamura at $212,000/year, plus all but 4 percent of his pension and benefits payments. Knowing we didn’t have the money to pay him, and his salary would need to be embezzled out of funds that went into the red – like the airport, development, and sewer funds.  All the while, Sorensen has tried to lay the blame on lower level staffers, he’s been responsible.

Not just Sorensen, of course, but I’m sick of hearing about what a fiscal conservative that guy is. He will support a sales tax increase in 2016.  Vote for him at your own peril, your lifestyle is about to get a lot more expensive in order to pay for theirs. 

Orme tried his best to put a positive spin on this situation – remember, he’s the city manager now, and his salary as ass man was coming out of that grant too. He kept saying what a great asset the airport is, but tempered that every time with stories of how crapped out it’s gotten. He kept asking for council to give direction – cause it’s council’s responsibility.  

He said  there are investors interested in the airport, but in the end, he was talking about government money again – the only interest in our airport is it’s location for fighting forest fires. He mentioned two investors – a government forestry agency, and Airspray, the local company that owns and operates the fire planes. Those contracts are negotiable, any time they find our airport is inadequate, they can leave for Redding or Sacramento. 

The media isn’t covering this story. I saw Jason Atchoo from Ch 7 at the meeting, he was there when we left, and his story later was a piece of fluff. Just a rehash of the commercial air thing, no film from the meeting, nothing about the million dollar grant we’re losing. 

You’ll notice Laura Urseny has posted her story -http://www.chicoer.com/news/ci_26594263/plans-chico-airport-surface-at-meeting

but doesn’t talk specifically about the million dollar grant. She says the airport “has been in deficit for years,” and mentions that commercial air service qualifies the airport for federal grants, ” to help improve the airport , such as with runway work…”   But not one word about how much they’ve been getting, or where that money has actually been going. She does mention that Chamber Madam Katy Simmons put the hand out for a study – that’s just the beginning. 

The commercial air advocates are going to come forward to ask for more money. They want a “passenger use study” out of the city, to start with. None of that was seriously discussed last night because the meeting was public. I predict most of the airport discussion is going on behind closed door with the “stakeholders” – again, those who can afford  to pay $250 for a trip out of town.

 

 

 

 

If Gruendl gets re-elected again, Chico voters deserve what they get

21 Aug

I can’t believe what an idiot Scott Gruendl is. How does this guy manage to get elected again and again?  My conclusion – Chico has become swamped with outsiders who vote by party instead of informing themselves as to what’s really going on.

Gruendl’s answer to Skywest leaving Chico airport? He continues to whine and moan about getting more people to fly out of Chico instead of drive to Sacramento or SF. The first question that comes to mind is, why was Scott driving 102 miles an hour into Chico if he could have flown to see his sick sister in the Bay Area?

Simple answer – flying and airports suck. Unless you are travelling hundreds of miles from home, it’s not worth the crap you are expected to put up with from the airlines.

Think about it – we’ve talked and talked about how people want to drive right up to the front door of businesses Downtown instead of parking in a centralized garage and meander through the gauntlet of filthy extended hands and minefield of human and animal waste to get where they are going. Yeah, I want to make a specific purchase or pick up some food, I’m not going  Downtown for a pleasant jaunt. The same applies to people who are travelling long distances – it’s just too damn convenient, for a million reasons, to take your own car.

If you park in a parking garage Downtown, you are left to tote your purchases around some pretty unsavory characters – with your hands full of bulky items, you are a sitting duck for a purse snatcher. And let’s not forget about your car – they don’t provide security in the parking garages Downtown, and they’ve had problems with cars being broken into and vandalized.

 Likewise, if you choose to fly out of town, you are left with a decision to pack as little as possible into a tiny tote that fits in the compartment over your head, or put your bags out there – like Freewheelin’  Franklin, you are never quite sure if you will ever see them again.

And, I don’t know if  Chico Airport provides any security in the parking lot, and it must get pretty dark and lonely out there at night.

I’ll never forget when our friend Dana the Bitch flew down to visit from Washington. She couldn’t get a flight to Chico until the next day, so instead of having her pay to stay in some fleabag at the airport, we drove to get her. When we met her she informed us that she’d brought a bag of gifts for all the Chico Deadheads, so we’d have to go and pick it up.

We went to the pickup point and waited about a half an hour. When Dana asked about the hold up, they told her that her bag had accidentally been loaded on a plane to Brazil.

This is a true story.

Dana is a hot little redheaded bitch. A small person physically, she has learned to puff herself up when threatened. She takes on the persona of an 1850’s river boat captain, raising profanity to a practical art.  You just had to be there, especially when they told her the plane hadn’t taken off yet, but that they just weren’t going to retrieve her bag. They told her she would have to put in a claim form and wait for it to be sent back from Brazil

And then this little fireball became agitated.  If this happened now, she’d probably be dead, but in the pre-911 days, the airport people were more malleable.  The little man behind the counter started to apologize fast, she was making one hell of a scene, and some of the other passengers were starting to join in.

Long story short – it took us an hour and a half, but we left with  the bag.

I won’t even bother to tell the story of my husband and son being abandoned in San Francisco by Skywest, by an agent who wouldn’t refund the tickets they’d bought, because I  know it’s a common story, an experience that’s been had over and over.

 Gruendl  continues to be one of the worst hypocrites I’ve known.  Instead of acknowledging that the airport has been seriously neglected by a city council asleep at the wheel, and that the airport fund has been completely tapped to pay pensions, he turns to us for charity – if only you people would pitch in for what we want!

If  this guy gets re-elected,we’re up shit creek without a paddle.

Did you know – firefighters are pigs too? Ever try to pull a shoat off a teat? Good luck. Might have to get rid of the sow too.

2 Aug

I went to the Airport Commission meeting the other night, but I been so busy since then I have not had a chance to sit down and post about it. As usual, I went to the meeting for one thing and ended up learning all about stuff I thought I didn’t care about.

I’m like a dog sometimes, when I am after something, I don’t always notice other stuff. I wanted to hear about the airport budget, the other agenda items didn’t interest me. I thought the first item – the closing of the airport fire station, #3, had already been hashed out, beaten to death, stuck a fork in and turned over twice. I forgot – the Airport Commission didn’t even get asked for their two cents during that entire conversation. Boy, hell hath no fury like a bunch of old guys who get passed over on an important decision.

It sure doesn’t seem like anybody puts any importance on this commission. They only have quarterly meetings. The council meeting at which this whole thing was set in motion was back in June, when council told all the department heads, including the fire department, that they needed to take 10 percent off the top of their budgets. The Airport Commission met in April, and wasn’t even noticed, apparently, for the council meeting in June.  It was left to the department heads to decide what to cut, snip snip. There really is no “Airport Department.” Chief Beery brought the airport into the fracas when he made a tactical decision to tie it to the railroad  tracks by closing Station 3, loudly insinuating that we would lose commercial air service because of the closure. Later, under intense criticism,  he reneged on that threat, suddenly remembering that the Federal Air Administration would be satisfied with one guy and a utility truck.

From the reaction the commission had last night, they don’t even read the newspaper. In fact, one commissioner complained loudly that “you can’t believe what you read in the newspaper.” Well, at least you could read it, and then check it out for yourself. These guys all spoke as though they’d been out of town the last few months.  Commissioners Gosling and Sanger just kept going on about how upset they were to be passed over, BT Chapman complained aloud that there is no real airport manager.  They all agreed they should write a letter to council about their feelings – well, look out for the Airport Commission, these guys are a pack of pistols! They be bad!

$taffer Debbie Collins and Ass City Mangler Mark Orme informed them that the decision had been made, they were just being “kept in the loop.” Orme and Chief Keith Carter, sent as a substitute pinata for Chief Beery, kept telling the commission it was a budgetary decision, as if that was supposed to be comforting in some way. 

Carter informed us that this decision did not even meet the 10 percent cut asked for by city management. When Commissioner Sanger asked him, childlike – “what if the city orders you to keep Station 3 open?” Without a pause, Carter replied, “We’d close Station 5.” “Where’s that?” responded Sanger. I wanted to throw my notebook at the old fart. Get the hell out of the kitchen Old Man!

Sorry to be rude. People think it’s such a lofty ideal to serve on one of these commissions, that they expect to be served like royalty at a table. These old gasbags just sit and wait for Debbie Collins to send them stuff – they don’t even attend meetings, read agendas?  This commission just serves as a badge of mismanagement at the airport. 

The commission spent an hour flapping it’s wings over this, even though Collins and airport facilities manager Kim Parks reassured them repeatedly that the station would remain open with one staffer and a utility truck and that is all the FAA requires for commercial flights. The commission just wouldn’t be satisfied.   At one point they demanded to see the e-mail correspondence between Collins and the FAA.  I frankly don’t blame them – Collins handles them like a bunch of escapees from a rest home. She was bitchy with me when I asked her about complaints about Northgate Aviation – said she has had plenty but wouldn’t show them  to me or tell me how many, of what nature, from who.  This woman is effectively our airport manager, the head of the stinking fish.  Nakamura didn’t even show up, sending Orme in his place. 

Laura Urseny’s story this morning reports that the firefighters’ union had something to do with keeping the station open at all , as if they are responsible for saving the station!  No, they made the decision to cut Station 3, from three firefighters and two trucks to one guy with a truck.   Now, from what Collins told us the other night, it will really mean no difference in service. None of the three that were there had medical training. They have special training in putting out airplane crash fires, but would still have to call for help from surrounding stations. So, nothing’s really changed – they still have a guy out there who can call for help, and that’s about all they would have done before anyway.  But the union was trying to play us, having Beery announce that this would threaten commercial air service. I will not forget what happened last year when council asked the fire department to cut their budget and Beery immediately closed Station 5  – union president Ken Campbell went door-to-door in the surrounding neighborhoods, lying to the neighbors and telling them to write to council. Bob Evans called Campbell on the carpet at the next council meeting, and Campbell admitted to telling people that council had ordered the station closed when it had been Beery’s decision. 

What got left out of this whole conversation is the pensions. We pay about $10 million a year in pension payments for our employees, over half goes for the cops, and almost that amount goes for fire. Paying their own pensions out of their outrageous salaries would solve the problem without closing any station or cutting any positions. But our fire department are greedy little shoats, who won’t let go of the teat.

I had gone to that meeting to hear about the airport budget, but  this ridiculous little howl took the entire first hour of the meeting. I don’t know if Orme was ever able to give the report, I had to leave to go to my kid’s hockey game.  But I got it from him the next day and will share that later.