Tag Archives: Chico city council

Who is really in charge Downtown?

9 Jun

I had e-mailed my question about the Nature Center loan (essentially, why was it pulled from last Tuesday’s agenda) to city obfuscators Mark Orme, Chris Constantin and fiscal bulldog Mark Sorensen. I got a response from Constantin. 

Hello Juanita,

 The City believes that there is an opportunity to renegotiation [sic] the loan and lease agreements with the Nature Center to avoid needing to write-off the loan.  The promising development is the reason why the item was pulled, and the City decided not to entertain a write-off of the loan at that meeting.

 Chris Constantin, MPA, CIA, CFE, CICA, CLEA

Assistant City Manager

Excuse me, this is always my immediate mental response to an e-mail from Chris Constantin – “What? Can you just tell us what the hell is going on?!”  

That’s why I call them names here, like “mangler” and “obfuscator”, because they won’t just talk about this stuff straight with the taxpayers, they try to wiggle out of a direct answer. Brian Nakamura was one of the best I’ve ever seen – he would contort his way through half sentences, acting as though he was under some brutal torture, and never finish what he was saying.  And nobody in the room was rude enough to say, “spit it out Brian, what the hell are you saying?”  I know my place – I get asked to shut up when I am too curious with these people, I really have to hold back. If you ask more than one question at these meetings, even on separate topics, they treat you as though you are trying to be difficult.

I notice the Enterprise Record editorial this week is getting at the same point – they are being too coy these days Downtown. Dave Little is blaming it on staff, as if the council is getting the same treatment as the rest of us. 

Ex city manager Dave Burkland and finance director Jennifer Hennessey acted the same way. At first the press said nothing, the council said nothing, but when the financial shit finally hit the fan, they were throwing their pointy fingers  around  so fast they almost got them caught in the fan blades. 

So now we have another little melodrama – according to the ER,  staff has now gone insubordinate on Sorensen and the conservative majority. Little accuses them of hiring without council oversight – including the promotion of Constantin to Assistant City Manager. Hey, you know, judging from Mark Sorensen’s reaction to the pulling of the Nature Center loan discussion from last Tuesday’s agenda, that action was a complete surprise to him. Was it? Is staff just wheeling their own deals these days? 

And Little accuses our lawyer consultant of putting up the back of his hand to protests from citizens. Well, as a person who’s seen the back of Little’s hand, I’ll say, nya nya nya. But he’s right, at least our former legal team answered our questions, even mine. Sorensen hired this new team – or did he? 

“without admitting any violation…” city responds to accusations of violating the Brown Act, promises to “cease” discussing salary and compensation in closed session

16 Jan

From next Tuesday’s council agenda, available here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=96

CITY of CHICO
January 20,2014
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
411 Main Street (530) 896-7250
PO Box3420 Fax:(530) 895-4825
Chico. CA 95927-3420 http://www.c, chico ca 

Jessica Allen
Citizens of the City of Chico

Re: Brown Act Cease and Desist Letter – August 5,2014

Dear Ms. Allen,

The Chico City Council has received your cease and desist letter dated August 5, 2014, alleging
that the following described past action of the legislative body violates the Ralph M. Brown Act:

– Discussion of employee compensation during closed session;
– Calling a special meeting to discuss or take action on the salary or compensation of a
local agency executive;
– Failing to report action taken by the City Council in closed session
– Failing to report the votes of each council member on action taken in closed session;
– Discussing or taking action on matters not specifically exempted from the open meeting
rules detailed in the Brown Act; and
– Discussing or taking action in closed session on items not posted on the agenda.

In order to avoid unnecessary litigation and without admitting any violation of the Ralph M.
Brown Act, the Chico City Council hereby unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist
from, and not repeat the challenged past action described above.

The Chico City Council may rescind this commitment only by a majority vote of its membership
taken in open session at a regular meeting and noticed on its posted agenda as “Rescission of
Brown Act Commitment.” You will be provided written notice, sent by any means or media you
provide in response to this message, to whatever address or addresses you specific, of any
intention to consider rescinding this commitment at least thirty (30) days before any such regular
meeting. In the event that this commitment is rescinded, you will have the right to commence
legal action pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 54960 of the Government Code. That noticewill be delivered to you by the same means as this commitment, or may be mailed to an address
that you have designated in writing.

Very truly yours,
Mark Sorensen
Mayor

Latest numbers posted for election night – attendance still falls miserably short

15 Nov

Look here – 

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln31/update-2.pdf

and then compare here –

http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/bt/city.html

Voter turnout was in the dirt last week, look at the numbers. In 2012 we had eleven candidates for four city council seats – the top vote getter got over 15,000 votes. Last week we only had seven candidates running for three positions, Andrew Coolidge winning with just over 11,000. I wonder if he’s asking himself this morning – what happened to 50 people who voted for him in 2012 but didn’t vote for him last week?

Almost 1,000 people left the city council portion of their ballot blank, while almost 4,000 “undervoted,” choosing less than the three requested.

Here, compare with Election 2010 – Sorensen got roughly 3,000 more votes in that race, and there were two more candidates running in that race.

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln22/22_official_results.html

Voter turnout was definitely down folks, and we have to wonder why. I blame the choices – look how many people only voted for two, when both parties ran a slate. Meaning, they voted for part of a slate,  but couldn’t stomach the whole team?  This does not bode well – our council and our town are divided, but not evenly. The conservatives have the power, and they are backing the police department, because the police department put up the money to get them in there. When the cop contracts come up later in December we will take more steps down the Road to Perdition. In 2016 a frenzied council will place a tax measure on the ballot, let’s see what they decide to flop out.

I’ll be making signs, let me know if you want one.  

 

 

We pay for Goloff’s rehab, like we paid for the surgery that supposedly hooked her on the meds. We need to dump health care benefits for city councillors

18 Apr

Chico Taxpayers Association would like to thank former mayor Mary Flynn Goloff for finally acknowledging that she has a substance abuse problem. But, I’d like to temper that with a good kick in the pants for having the nerve to sit up there for eight years high as a kite. 

Furthermore, I’d like to ask the other six council members and various close members of $taff how they could let this go on for almost eight years. In fact, when Goloff gave indications last year that she was unfit to serve, her cohorts on council voted to “forgive” the meetings she’d missed without any question as to why she’d missed them. Now we find out, as I suspected, she was in re-hab that time too. 

The last time I checked, Mary was receiving $21,000+ worth of health insurance from the city, for which she paid two percent of her salary as city councilor. Her salary is about $8,000, so she is paying less than $200 out of her own  pocket for a very nice policy. That policy not only paid for the rehab visits, but for the hip surgery she claims put her onto the meds. 

Yeah, I have a bad hip, wow. It started when I was carrying my first child, it got so bad, I could hardly walk.  It’s turned into “osteo arthritis”, which, as described by the doctor, means to me, “rotten bones.” I have taken  calcium supplements all my adult life, starting when I was working out at a gym. I’ve stayed physically active, toting my kids on a bike, making my errands by bike, swimming, hiking, biking, and snowboarding. See, it’s that Catch 22 thing – exercise helps the pain of arthritis, but it heaps it on too. The doctor recommended that I stay active, and he gave me some pain pills that would take the paint off Old Ironsides. I took one dose and laid awake all night cradling my gut like a screaming newborn.

Surgery? I’m sorry, I don’t have an insurance policy paid by the taxpayers – I have the bronze plan, or I have Medi-Cal.  No surgeon would return my calls, EVEN IF I were stoooooopid enough to think surgery would fix it. Right now they’re playing a commercial on tv – call a lawyer if you received a certain hip implant. And then there’s that episode of Rockford Files, where Abe Vigoda plays this old mobster who is having his hit men knock off every person who was involved in his botched hip replacement surgery, from the pharmaceutical salesman to the nurses to the doctors who did the surgery. I had to laugh at that episode, but it’s not really funny – this stuff really happens. And Mary just dragged us into that scam – we paid for her surgery, now we have to pay to get her off the painkillers “necessitated” by the surgery?

The only comfort I get out of  Mary’s statement is that she “has no plans to run again.” If only that was a promise.  

What we should do is form a PAC and put an initiative or measure on the 2016 ballot, ending health insurance for city councilors. We should also institute term limits – that would probably also take a ballot initiative or measure. I mean, do you really think any of the people currently sitting up there would voluntarily institute either provision? You think Mark Sorensen is so squeaky clean? Ask him why he takes the most expensive insurance policy offered and pays about $100 for it. I’ve asked him point blank, and he won’t answer. 

 

 

Butte County Supervisors discuss discussing Cal Water rate hike – pencil it in for December 10

18 Nov

We’re really lucky to live in an area where you can still reach out and touch your elected officials, at least figuratively.  When I wrote a letter to the Butte County Board of Supervisors recently regarding the Cal Water rate hike, I got answers from both Maureen Kirk and Larry Wahl. They’ve asked Paul Hahn to agendize a letter to both Cal Water and the CPUC, and Larry Wahl said it looks like they’ll talk about it December 10th. I’ll keep you posted. 

Ask and ye shall receive. I wish I would have thought to write to the supes earlier. Maybe I’ll rattle off a note to the city council. 

Denial, Anger – is this Bargaining?

15 Jun

I noticed people are reading an almost year-old old post, “Mary Goloff and Jim Walker gang jump Mark Sorensen on the dias”, and I gave it a read myself. How funny – Mark Sorensen trying, very gently I thought, to tell the rest of the nit-wits on council how he thought we’d overspent on salaries for various  programs and over-priced land for  housing projects, and Mary Goloff coming at him like a bull at a toreador.  Jim Walker was nasty too, showing his true personality – catty, insulting, trash talking.  They took turns sparring at Sorensen, pelting him with questions only to interrupt him as soon as he started giving an intelligent answer. It was like a junior high gang jump – “hey Bitch, whatchoo doin’ hangin’ round Jimmee? Whatchoo mean, you don’t like Jimmee? What the helz wrong with Jimmee you stuck up Bitch?!”

But now, look at Mary Goloff – she’s stepping and fetching to show us how fiscally responsible she is. See her playing all hard-ass with the Chico Certified Farmer’s Market, kicking them out of their almost-free location on Second Street and moving them to Downtown Plaza, where they will pay more for one day than they currently pay for a year at the parking lot on Second Street.   And, in the same agenda, renting Bidwell Park out to a for-profit outfit for an obstacle course foot race that is supposed to attract some 950 or more people to the neighborhoods along Lower Bidwell Park. 

What next – I’m afraid to say anything, even tongue in cheek. But I won’t forget how she kicked and screamed to throw the conversation off the tracks every time it got down to brass tacks. She denied we had any financial problems, getting angry whenever somebody tried to broach the subject of  trimming some fat.  

Now she’s the first one in line with a plate when it comes to BBQ’ing sacred cows like the Saturday Market and Bidwell Park. 

We need to come up with something better for 2014.

FROM JULY 3 2012 – “Mary Goloff and Jim Walker gang jump Mark Sorensen on the dais…”

I’m sitting here in disbelief of the attack I just watched Mary Goloff and Jim Walker wage on Mark Sorensen at city council tonight. I couldn’t make the meeting, so I have been watching it via computer. 

Sorensen had been challenged by a smarmy Jim Walker to list what changes he would make to balance the budget. Sorensen carefully began to explain that city funds had been depleted by millions over the last few years, with escalating costs leaving revenues in the dirt. He also explained that the lion’s share of our expenses are “operating costs,” meaning, salaries. He also carefully explained that there were programs we simply could not afford anymore, meaning, salaries. 

Mary Goloff could be heard heckling him off microphone. If you or I did what she was doing we’d be asked to leave the room, possibly with police escort. But Mayor Schwab just sat there looking at Goloff, saying nothing.  Goloff  finally got on mike, interrupted Sorensen, and asked him to be specific. So, Sorensen offered housing, saying it had been a mistake to undertake so many housing projects, and he also specified the arts programs – such as the requirement that any capital project include one percent of the total cost of that project be added for art. 

At this point Goloff began to interrupt Sorensen. She started heckling him about how “we all agree” that the arts are important, yadda, yadda. She just kept at Sorensen, not allowing him to answer any of her out-there questions, until Sorensen asked her to stop interrupting him. 

After a quick exchange Walker butted in to attack Sorensen. Out of nowhere, Walker bashed Sorensen about wanting to spend more money on the police department, asking Sorensen where he would get the money to hire more police. This question was off base, Sorensen hadn’t even gotten that far before Goloff had completely derailed him.

 Jim  Walker is just sitting out his time, he seems to be enjoying himself at all of our expense. He, like so many “public servants,” seems to think he is elected to do what he wants, what seems like “the right thing” in his fairy tale mind,  instead of carry out the law. 

Mary Goloff seems to think she has been anointed Queen in some farcical aquatic ceremony to lead us all in the light of her cough syrup-induced wisdom.  She seems to love the sound of her own voice, while here at my house, it sets off the hounds for blocks. 

My computer started failing at this point, and I was unable to watch the rest of the meeting. I am going on vacation tomorrow, I’ll see you folks on the flip flop.  

Time to write to the city council about these pension payments – Scott Gruendl thinks “pension reform” means making US pay MORE!

12 Dec

Hi Debbie, Council members, 

 
I was just going over the minutes for  the Finance Committee meeting I attended earlier this month. I see that one question I asked, about the cost of certain consultant reports, was included in the minutes, but not the question I asked regarding what the city pays toward the “employee share” of pension premiums. Jennifer Hennessy stated at that time, “about $7 million.” Later she sent me an e-mail correction – the actual figure was closer to $10.1 million.
 
I wonder why my question and Hennessy’s answer are not included in the minutes? I asked this question during the discussion regarding the loss of Measure J. I was trying to point out, that while the city is complaining about losing $900,000 on a failed tax measure, they spend millions paying THE EMPLOYEE SHARE of pension costs, in addition to the employer share. Our city’s financial problems would be solved if the contracts were rewritten so that the employee pays their own share. Why isn’t this option coming up in the discussion? 
 
I also notice, the police advisory board gets verbatim minutes. I wonder, why aren’t all the committee meetings, including the ad hoc meetings, recorded verbatim? 
 
I’d like this letter to be attached to the next city council agenda as a “communication.” 
 
I’d also like to thank Fritz McKinley for answering my flood notice question. 
 
Thank you for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner