Tag Archives: Chico Creek Nature Center defaults on loan

Nature Center lease to come to council next month; nothing “of a public nature to share” on Trash Tax

10 Sep

I went to the Internal Affairs meeting at 8am yesterday only to be told that the meeting would be delayed 45 minutes because “the chair can’t make it”. I cooled my heels for 45 minutes until Chair Tami Ritter walked in with wet hair carrying a steaming cup of drive-thru coffee, but I realized my topic would not come up until well after 9:30 and I had to be elsewhere. So I left with questions unanswered – sometimes it’s just more efficient to e-mail staff anyway.

So I did. I asked Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin about the Nature Center lease – this seemed appropriate since staff was introducing a new leasing policy. Constantin  says the new leasing policy needs to be approved by council and then they will tackle the Nature Center lease at some point in “late October, early November.”  Apparently the city has no specific leasing policy, they just negotiate with people on a case by case basis. Badly. Council is smart to start spelling out policy, that’s really how the city got into this mess in the first place. 

I saw several points on the proposed policy that should bring the Nature Center’s possession and use of the buildings in Bidwell Park into question.   Unfortunately, it’s up to Council, a subjective decision based on favoritism. We’ll have to see how they play it. 

The other question I had wanted to ask was not on the agenda for yesterday’s meeting – the garbage franchise, more aptly known as The Trash Tax. I’ve been asking city manager Orme for information, for a public discussion, for a year or so now, and I keep getting the same answer – we’re in negotiations. 

Well, who the hell is “we”?  When will the ratepayers be brought into the negotiations? I’m sorry, I have the feeling we have already been brought into the negotiations – like a piece of meat hung over a dog pit.

So I asked Constantin, sometimes he’ll at least give a hint of what’s going on. But he deferred to Orme, saying, “As for franchising, Mark is taking the lead on this with the consultant, so I don’t have anything of a public nature to share.”

Well there it is. Shake it, don’t break it, wrap it up and I’ll take it.

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?