Tag Archives: Chico Creek Nature Center

Mark Sorensen is a bully, and I hope he doesn’t let the screen door hit his ass on his way out of the council chambers

27 Sep

Last June I went Downtown for an 8:30 am meeting about a revenue measure. Mark Sorensen is the primary force behind such a measure. At that June meeting Staff was asked to prepare a report about what kind of revenue measure might pass. Then all Finance Committee meetings were cancelled until September, leaving the public completely out of the loop.

So, I waited all summer for the meeting scheduled for yesterday to ask questions. That’s supposed to be what these meetings are all about, get the public involved. Well, that’s BULLSHIT.

Sorensen is trying to ramrod this revenue measure through. When I questioned the need for a bond yesterday morning, he got super pissed – he was fucking shaking, okay? That’s super pissed.

Because, I got $taff to admit, $6 million in RDA funding went to new streets in the Fogarty subdivision off Hwy 32 East. That pissed Sorensen off so much, he told me my time was up. Then he allowed Stephanie Taber to go on a ramble about how the Liberals spent all the money. That got Randall Stone super pissed! He leaned forward in his chair and raised his voice, saying the road fund had been millions in deficit when “we” came in, then telling Taber, as he leaned across the table with an ugly sneer, “I don’t know what council you’re talking about.” I swear he was ready to kick the old lady’s ass.

At that point, I, not chair Sorensen, asked them both to stop talking politics and behave. Stone sat glaring at Taber, who looked surprised by his aggressive hostility. The rest of the assemblage sat looking uncomfortably around themselves.

People have complained that the council meetings have been uncivil lately. Hah! I’ve been going to these morning meetings for a long time, and Sorensen has always been an asshole if you cross him.

I think it was 2012 when Shark-Jump city manager Brian Nakamura suggested the city FORGIVE a $180,000 loan to the Nature Center. I happened to know the CCNC was raking in money on their daycare camp scam, so I went to the morning meeting. When I saw the “finance report” the CCNC handed to the committee, a sloppy hand typed list of figures that looked made up, I felt it was inappropriate. I just applied for a refinance of a mortgage, and they asked me for a stack of documents, including bank statements, even my utility bills.  So I very politely asked the director if I could see their books. “That’s enough Juanita!” snapped Mark Sorensen, who told me I was out of line. What?

Well, let me tell you why I wanted to see those books. At that time, certain Chico Democrats had taken over the board of the CCNC, including Dave Guzzetti. I know Guzzetti – not only does he cheat on his wife, he screws his friends. I had the worst suspicion he’d been siphoning money from the CCNC into his political campaign funds, and  as treasurer of the Chico Conservation Voters, he was allowed to have free rein over that money. When I looked at Chico Conservation Voters campaign expenditure reports I was not surprised Guzzetti paid himself salary.

Well, have you heard the latest about Dave Guzzetti? Busted for embezzlement, not only from CCV, but from his long-time “friend” Kelly Meagher. This was especially hard to hear since Meagher fell and injured his back last year and has been having a long, hard recuperation.

https://www.chicoer.com/2017/12/11/former-chico-city-councilor-faces-campaign-violation-fine/

I was asking the Nature Center to show their books because the figures on their little typed sheet didn’t look real, and Guzzetti had been running that store. It also seemed odd that all the sudden a completely new board had been installed. Led by a local business leader whose company is politically active.  But Sorensen cut me off. Anytime somebody acts like Sorensen you have to wonder what’s really going on. 

He acts like he’s going smack you. At least he acts like he’s going to smack me, and I don’t like that. It’s unacceptable behavior for a man in his position, especially a guy who created and signed a “civility code” for everybody else. It’s BULLY BEHAVIOR.

So I wrote the following letter to the News and Review,  because they’ve been covering the “incivility”.

Yesterday (9/27/18) I attended a city Finance Committee meeting. The topic was  a revenue measure Mark Sorensen wants to put on an upcoming ballot. A staff report was ordered by council last Spring and then Finance Committee meetings were suspended for the Summer, giving the public no chance to get into the  conversation.

I expected a discussion of road funding options. When I asked about funding for the recent road improvements around town, I found out $6 million in RDA funding was used to put in streets at the Fogerty subdivision on Hwy 32.

As I questioned staff about this, Sorensen became very angry, and cut me off, saying I’d used 4 minutes of staff time and that was all I got. Other attendees  were allowed to ramble on at length, including a rant about how “the liberals” had spent all our money. As I held my hand up, he called on others who’d already spoken, because they all supported his revenue measure. 

Sorensen has  become increasingly hostile to anybody who questions his intentions. He’s created a hostile environment for citizens who want to participate. I’m glad to see him go, but we better be careful who we put in his place.

Juanita Sumner

UPDATE  I had to edit my letter to fit the limit – here’s the edit
Sorensen has become increasingly hostile to anybody who questions his intentions. He’s created a hostile environment for citizens who want to participate.

Asking questions is not uncivil. More people need to ask questions.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

I think the Nature Center is lying about their revenues so they don’t have to pay back the city’s $186,000 (now $206,000) loan

9 May

I’ve been corresponding with Randall Stone regarding the outstanding debt owed to the taxpayers of Chico by the Chico Creek Nature Center. Stone and Mark Sorensen both sent me Nature Center Form 990’s when I requested them from the Nature Center director and she said I’d have to come down to the center and pick them up, it was too onerous a burden for her to send me this information that she had told me days previous was available to the public and she’d e-mail it to me. 

Randall and Brian Nakamura are pushing for “forgiveness” of $206,000+, consisting of a $181,000 loan and the interest and fees that have accrued over the last few years of NO PAYMENT. Both of these guys, who’ve never had a child attend the center’s daycare program, say the center provides wonderful services for the city and people of Chico.

It was good of Randall to send me the Form 990 filed by the Nature Center – “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax.” Wow, a daycare operation that pays no income tax? In this town? They try to say they don’t make any profit, only bringing in about $136,000 a year. $47,000 of that comes from a city grant. They expect us to believe they only bring in $80,000/ year from that daycare camp they run four months a year?

https://blu170.mail.live.com/mail/ViewOfficePreview.aspx?messageid=mg5P88qUbN4xGOVwAhWtiMYg2&folderid=flinbox&attindex=0&cp=-1&attdepth=0&n=31726321

When my kids attended, the fees were double what you’d pay for a regular daycare operation. People were willing to pay, because it’s in the city park. On city owned  land. In a city-owned building, and another building that should be owned by the city. CCNC and friends spent about $800,000 on that Taj Majal, $186,000 came from the city of Chico. It came out of the development fund, which is now millions in arrears. 

Sure, they’ve coughed up their 990, but there’s no accounting or paperwork for their daycare operation. I’d say, if they’re not lying about their revenues from that operation, they are incompetent. Who runs a daycare operation in this town without a profit? 

That’s why I tried to suggest we find somebody else to run this thing. It could be great, it was wonderful under the first director, a woman named Stephanie. Since then we are expected to put up with people like Tom Haithcock, who had no credentials for running  a kids’ day camp, and now this Caitlin woman who can’t even send me an attachment to an e-mail. 

When I tried to make that suggestion, Sorensen cut me off before my three minutes was up, and yelled at me that I was off topic.  When I tried to tell him why it was on topic, he yelled, “That’s enough!”

Sorensen sent me the 2011 990.

https://bulk.resource.org/irs.gov/eo/2013_02_EO/68-0341188_990_201206.pdf

Only a year previous, but revenues are more than double 2012?  They’ve lost some grant money, including city CBGF money, but not that much. What’s to explain for this sudden loss in revenues? I’ll opine, BOOK COOKING. They knew the city would be coming after that loan money, so they’ve hidden their revenues, is what I’m guessing.

Nakamura seems to be saying, “we’re not going to get this money, so let’s make hay by writing it off…”  I don’t think he’s telling us everything. 

My mom used to have this little sign over her desk – “I am a mushroom. They keep me in the dark and feed me bullshit.”  

Mark Sorensen is a mushroom farmer. 

 

 

Robin Hood Nakamura wants to raise our garbage rates so he can forgive a $206,000 debt for Chico Creek Nature Center

21 Apr

At tomorrow’s Finance Committee meeting they will discuss raising your garbage rates so they can “forgive” over $200,000 in loan, interest, and late fees to the Chico Creek Nature Center.

A quick read of the consultant’s report regarding the new garbage tax will tell you, the city is adding a pimp charge to your garbage bill – but no, you won’t get anything more in return. The “additional services” they are talking about are all services the city is supposed to perform already. They will turn these duties, like street sweeping and leaf pick-up, over to the haulers, in return for an exclusive contract for Waste Management and Recology to split down the middle.

This is a sweet deal for both haulers – we will all be forced to “subscribe” to service, even if we don’t need it.  You know there are single people and childless couples all over town who bust a gut to produce a shopping sack full of trash per week, who do not have garbage service at their home.  They throw their trash away at work, in that big dumpster out back, or they take it to the grocery store when they shop – why not, that’s where most of it came from. When they eat out, they leave their trash at the restaurant. 

There are also neighbors who share trash service, which seems like the answer to those whiners who complain about too many trucks on the street.  Why not talk to your neighbors? Agree between yourselves on a common carrier, share cans whenever possible.  Unfortunately, that will be doable under this new franchise agreement. 

As for those “additional services,” street sweeping sounds great, but leaf pick-up is something we all pay for that disproportionately benefits landscape businesses. Every week my neighbors’ landscape providers come around, mow, and then blow everything right into the street. In Fall it’s absolutely impossible not to notice, there are mounds of leaves in front of houses that do not have one tree in the front yard. The program has very simple rules, one  of which is, no back yard leaves. But who supervises any of this? People should be cited for depositing their yard waste in the street, but here we ALL pay to have it picked up, free of charge. To hell with the leaf pick-up program. 

Read the list yourselves – they’re talking “X-mas tree pick-up.” I’m sorry, I don’t use “X-mas trees,” and I certainly don’t leave them laying in front of my house in the street. Why should I pay for those other jackasses? 

But we will, we will pay and pay. The consultant says our rates are “artificially cheap,” compared to nearby towns. Well, that’s because, they’ve all instituted the same scam already. Get ready for your bill to go up, $15, $20, maybe as much as $30 a month. 

One thing I see in looking at this report, our rates are artificially low not because we don’t have all these rainbow services, but because we have a current agreement that forces the haulers to use Neal Road Landfill. I am soooo conflicted here. Neal Road Landfill is a dinosaur, I don’t care what Mike Crump says. Recology owns a much more modern landfill in Wheatland – but get this – people in Wheatland and the surrounding area pay Rocology $52/month for a 96 gal tote, compared to our $24/month. Well, excuuuuuse me! Sustainability, my  friends, is for the rich.

I’d like to see our service remain same, keep the provision that the trash be kept here in Butte County, and a fund be set up immediately for the modernization of Neal Road Landfill. They talked about that somewhat at Sustainability Task Force meetings, but they’re really not serious about it. That’s because Neal Road is run by the county now, public workers are just not as motivated as private industry workers, let’s face it. They turn everything into a salary trough, where service becomes the last priority after paying their unfunded pension liability. 

Aftr they talk about putting the screw to us simply because they can, City Mangler Brian Nakamura will recommend further deferral, possibly even forgiveness (excuse me while I enjoy a solid chorus, in four part harmony, of “I TOLD YOU SO!”) of the Chico Creek Nature Center’s loan. This loan was originally $185,000 in 2008 but has metastasized into about $205,000 due to unpaid interest and late fees. And, the money was originally stolen  from the development fund, now over $9 million in deficit. Nakamura is recommending that the city forget about the extra $20,000-something in interest and fees and switch to an interest-only payment plan, until such time as this shaky little organization can pull it’s head out of it’s ass and start paying it’s bills. He also has the city attorney look into forgiving the loan!

Which provokes an interesting question: can the forgiven Nature Center loan be written off by the city as bad debt, or will the city have to repay the Development fund out of the General Fund? 

This on the heels of over $500,000 in losses through the home loan program, “written off” at last week’s council meeting. They’re just handing our money out like candy down at City Hall!  This is why they want to triple our garbage rates? 

Tune in next time, for another exciting installment of “Runaway City!” starring Jon Voight as Brian Nakamura, and Eric Roberts as Mark Orme.