Tag Archives: Chico News and Review

Keep rattling your chains – write letters to both papers, tell them we know where the money is going

31 Mar

Dave Howell wrote a great letter to the News and Review, taking on the pensions. Thanks for going to the trouble to write these letters Dave, I know it’s not easy to get a letter in the N&R. 

The problem is pensions

Re “Taxes and police” (Letters, by Martine Stillwell, March 14):

Martine Stillwell is justifiably outraged that our city’s politicians are pushing a tax increase to fix the roads after letting them fall into disrepair thus increasing the cost to repair them.

I wonder how much more outraged she would be if she knew that tens of thousands of our tax dollars are being paid to an opinion research firm to sell us that tax increase. And that doesn’t include the cost of the city bureaucracy’s staff time.

The reason for the awful condition of our infrastructure and the reason for this tax increase are the unsustainable cost of government employee compensation, especially pensions. For many years money for infrastructure repair has been siphoned off for raises and unsustainable pensions. Does she know our bureaucrats have pensions worth millions?

Yet instead of pension reform, our politicians believe that in a county with low wages, very high living expenses and a 21 percent poverty rate, the answer is to pass a tax increase that hits the poor the hardest.

I wonder if Martine and others will be outraged enough to vote in the next election against the tax increase and the politicians who push it and encourage others to do the same.

Dave Howell, Chico

In the same issue this letter appeared, editor Melissa Daugherty bitched about the park budget being shorted these last few years – but she didn’t mention why?  So I wrote a letter about it.

Melissa Daugherty is correct (3/28), Bidwell Park has suffered deferred maintenance since massive layoff of park staffers over the last six years. The park department was absorbed into Public Works, where director Eric Gustafson oversees not only the park, but the airport, city buildings, street trees, right of way zones, street cleaning, traffic safety, city vehicles, and the sewer plant.

Like Dave Howell said (3/28), the problem is “the unsustainable cost of government employee compensation, especially pensions.” I’ll add, management top-heavy.  Twelve  management positions overseeing the park, including Gustafson, cost over $1 million in total compensation. The park division only has five “maintenance workers”, amounting to less than $300,000 in total compensation.

While staff defers maintenance in the park and other infrastructure all over town,  they continue to pay almost $20 million a year toward their pensions, about $8 million of that toward the pension deficit. At the April 2 council meeting, staff recommends renewal of the CalPERS agreement, requiring employees to pay only 11% of the cost of their pensions, the taxpayers expected to pick up the deficit.

As long as council and staff continue to place the pensions ahead of the public, infrastructure will continue to be short changed, including Bidwell Park.

Juanita Sumner, Chico 

I got my information from publicpay.gov (GCC, secretary of state)

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=79&year=2017

and the city website – management contracts are available on the Human Resources page.

http://www.chico.ca.us/human_resources_and_risk_management/labor_agreements_home.asp

At the GCC website, you’ll see, the park budget also pays for several police/traffic officers, interns, and two “administrative assistants”. The city has to bring in Salt Creek inmates because they don’t have enough workers. And management is without a clue.

Eric Gustafson spends most of his time in meetings, same for “Resources Manager” Linda Herman. I’d bet my last $5 they don’t even own an appropriate pair of shoes to walk in the park. Both are clinically obese, and neither has any kind of credentials suggesting they are qualified to run a park. 

The city continues to use the park and other sagging infrastructure to press for a revenue measure – I think we need to press for some firings Downtown. Starting at the top, with Mark Orme, followed by Chris Constantin, Scott Dowell, and every department head. It’s time for a tick dip. 

Daugherty still refuses to either print my letter or do her own investigating

6 Dec

I offered to change my letter for Melissa Daugherty  – I offered to pose my charges to the school district as questions. That’s called “opinion,” but Daugherty charges I am spreading “fake news,” and would not print my letter without editing it by about half.

She wouldn’t even look at the stuff I’d found online, nor would she do her own investigating.  JB called it right on the nose in his comment to my last post, so I stole  his words and wrote a new letter.

Chico Unified issued $126 million in school bonds between 1998 and 2012, built new facilities at both high schools, but the questionable portables are still standing.  Why is the editor surprised? As claimed in this latest bond campaign, Chico schools still contain asbestos and are non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990.  The district promised to upgrade computer labs  back in 2012, claims made again in the 2016 campaign.  

Last year  CUSD spent roughly a million dollars suing Chico State to keep the college from making public  e-mails sent through the college server by Chico Unified staff and board members. What were they hiding? I suspect the district is hiding information from the public, but the editor would neither investigate the evidence for herself nor let me include it in my letter. 

The News and Review has launched a “foundation” to ask funding from the community  ” to inform, engage and empower citizens”.   Apparently the editor believes that is a special category of journalism that her publication doesn’t have the time or wherewithal to pursue, so she throws up her hands and endorses the bond.

I got the boldface remark from JB – thanks JB, you nailed it. We have no real journalists in this town, we have propagandists. 

 

Impeach Gruendl?

27 Feb

DSC06049

 

When I was out doing some errands yesterday I saw this sign sitting in an empty lot over in South Chico. I’d heard about these signs from the gals over at Truth Matters, and I was so jealous, I wanted to get my hands on one.

http://truthmatterschico.com/?s=impeach+gruendl

I don’t know who made or distributed these signs. I’d say, if they were serious, they’d put some contact info on there.  Of course, we probably wouldn’t want to spend the money to impeach a guy we could just vote out, but it’s fun to talk about stuff.  Lately I do feel a groundswell of anger is about to overtake the assholes Downtown, and Gruendl is going to find himself out on his bum. 

There’s a great cover story in the News and Review today about the latest budget and contracts, which are a little too little, a little too late.

http://www.newsreview.com/chico/strong-arming-the-budget/content?oid=12851705

At last the whole story is getting out. It’s been out before – the late Dr. Richard Ek was all over the over compensation Downtown. He wrote article after article detailing not only the crazy spending, but the really enormous problem of salaries and benefits. Now Dave Waddell, who was Ek’s successor over at Chico State journalism department, is taking it up. Michael Jones and Kelly Skelton are taking it up. At last the dirty laundry has hit the air. 

Oh yeah, here’s a good one:

 

 

Bits and pieces – of asses and asskickers!

5 Dec

Just a few notes:

 I sent an e-mail to the Butte County supervisors recently, and got a much welcome response from my Third District Super,  Maureen Kirk. Maureen says they will be sending a letter of protest to the CPUC, it’s in the consent agenda for the December 10 meeting. I will keep an eye out for the agenda on the Butte County website to get the time specific and see if there’s any reason to pull the item. I haven’t written to the Chico Council yet, but will soon.

Take a look at Melissa Daugherty’s column in today’s News and Review – http://www.newsreview.com/chico/thin-blue-line/content?oid=12196688   Holy Cop Flap BatMom! “This whole flap is a result of the very contentious negotiations taking place between the CPOA and the city. Stone, who sits on the Police Community Advisory Board, has been the City Council’s most vocal member when it comes to pointing out that the city’s budget deficit is tied to the unsustainable pay and benefits packages that were afforded to public-safety employees when Chico was the land of milk and honey—or at least governed that way. The city can no longer afford them.”  Thanks to Daugherty for jump starting this conversation, I hope we can keep it rambling long enough to generate some citywide interest.

I will give these gals the “Asskicker of the Week” award. 

 Interesting item at Tuesday’s council meeting – Sean Morgan questioned a $6,000 raise for a $32,000 clerk who has been doing work beyond their job description, suggesting the clerk be given a promotion that entailed performance of those duties, but no pay raise. Council just gave the police department promotions with raises, what’s with that?  They gave Sergeant George Laver a promotion to Lieutenant knowing he would retire within a year, taking 90 percent of a salary for a position he held for less than a year.  The excuse? They said he was already doing work beyond his job description.

Well, he was getting paid beyond his job description too, they don’t mention that. As a sergeant, Laver’s base pay was about $95,000/year, but he was able to keep it around $120,000/year with overtime. That’s more than a lieutenant’s base salary, so how could Laver have been doing work beyond $120,000 as a sergeant? Bionic Man? But I think I’ve figured it out. I used to think “spiking” meant, running up one’s salary, and therefore their pension, with overtime. Some states allow “public safety” workers to do this, but I’ve been told it’s not allowed in California. So,  Laver would have retired at 90% of $95,000.  Now I find, “spiking” can also mean, last minute promotion to a higher salary. This has been done in Chico many times, I always wondered – why would they promote some of these chiefs so close to retirement age?  Well, there it is. Now Laver will retire at 90% of about $103,000. It might sound nickel and dime, but Laver’s just a drop in the bucket – they do this every day in police departments and other “public safety” agencies every day, and we pay for it.  

But Sean Morgan will deny a $32,000 clerk a $6,000 raise, saying “public safety should come first”  Well, maybe he should give the police department his $6,000+ city council salary, along with the $8,000+ spent on his benefits package, which he receives in addition to his public salary and benefits from Chico State. 

Morgan and Laver get the “Jackass of the Week” award.

Chico PD:  Yer getting a little close to our feed bucket there, Missy!

Chico PD: Yer getting a little close to our feed bucket there, Missy!

NO CTA MEETING THIS SUNDAY – regular meeting rescheduled for October 13.

4 Oct

I have other obligations this weekend so I have scheduled the monthly Chico Taxpayer’s Association meeting for October 13 – usual time and place, 9am, Chico Library.

I was happy to see a story about Truth Matters Chico in the Chico News and Review this week:

http://www.newsreview.com/chico/insider-talk/content?oid=11635933

I especially love the expression on finance department staffer Frank Field’s face in the photo – he seems to be saying, “oh oh, the shit’s about to hit the fan…”   Lately I been kind of worried they’re going to lay it all on Fields – remarks have been made to the extent that “Frank’s been here all along…” Ever been left holding the bag? Not me – I was always the one who ran to tell Gramma. 

Well, I’m off this weekend to scatter some TOT and sales tax around the sunny town of Antioch. My Christmas money is burning a hole in my pocket, but I ain’t letting it out until I’m over the Butte County line.   Some of the stuff they’ve been doing over at the County Center has me wondering – who do our supervisors work for? The garbage company? Southern California developers? “You got the money Honey, I got the time!” I’ll be sending them the same message – I will spend my sales tax elsewhere. It’s just another excuse for a road trip. 

 

 

 

Stephanie Taber answers Quentin Colgan’s letter to the News and Review

22 Jul

I get complaints from friends and strangers, and it has also been my own experience, that the editor of the  Chico News and Review is not always objective in deciding which letters received from the public will be printed in the paper and which ones won’t. Robert Speer has offered me excuses, but I have always found him to be disingenuous. For example – he told me he would only run letters that referenced an article or letter recently printed in the paper – untrue a million times over. He also told me he wouldn’t print letters that had already run in the Enterprise Record – also untrue a million times over. The man has his own reasons for running or not running letters.

David Little is more objective, but he’s got his faults too – once he threw out a letter from my husband and later admitted he had thought I’d written it and used my old man’s name. He just threw it out without even calling the phone number or e-mailing, just assumed I’d do something like that when I’d never done anything like that before, because he was mad at me over a snit we were having at the time.

I think Little gets his nose out at people personally, and Hell hath no fury, know what I mean? With Speer it can  personal but I think it’s most often political. Suffice to say, they both carry what my dad used to call a “Shit List,” and if you’re on it, you don’t get ink in their rag. 

Of course either paper is equally likely to print a total wad of lies or misinformation without so much as a google fact check. I will never forget the time Dave Little printed a letter saying the cops had been called to my house on a dog complaint. The letter writer insinuated that this was why I often wrote letters complaining about the cop contracts. I called Little and told him the letter was false, nothing like that had ever happened – but  he wouldn’t retract it. I had to look the old man up in the phone book and call him myself, tell him he had been misinformed, and ask him to write a retraction. He apologized profusely and the apology was in the paper within three days. He wouldn’t tell me where he got the information, but later I found out he was a member of VIPS, and he still is. I think that’s something Dave Little could have looked into before he printed a story like that about me and my family, not to mention my dogs, but he didn’t see it that way. Poor journalism, is how I see it, and that’s what I’ve come to expect out of both the daily and the weekly. 

So, pardon me if I was not surprised when my friend Stephanie mentioned to me that she didn’t think Speer would run her response to a letter from Quentin Colgan, regarding our current fiscal morass. QC made an argument he has been swinging around town lately – that Fire Station 5 had to be closed recently because the Tea Party forced the city to have a $150,000 election over Measure A. 

The first problem I have with this argument is, the city is out a heck of a lot more than $150,000. The second problem I have is, I happen to know that over 8,000 Chicoans signed that petition, and there’s not more than 600 active members of the Tea Party. I also know the Tea Party didn’t sponsor the petition drive, nor were they the only people that marched out with those petitions. Colgan’s argument doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s amazing what kind of “facts” the general populace will believe if you just keep repeating them.

Some folks are trying to use the Tea Party as a target to rile up their peanut gallery, using Measure A as their rally call. They keep banging the same old drum. They refuse to have a rational discussion about the situation we’re facing, because it’s going to mean some sour beans for them and their trough-dwelling friends. 

So, it’s up to a rational person like Stephanie Taber to lay it out straight for those who like facts. Stephanie attends the meetings, she reads the reports, she goes to the trouble of putting questions in writing for $taff, and then waiting persistently for an answer that practically has to be deciphered by a lawyer. She has followed this budget conversation since the day then-city-manager and first rat to jump, Greg Jones, expressed his grave concerns that we were headed straight for bankruptcy. She has followed the figures and checked the facts until she has forced these rats right to the wall – they have lately begun to dig their feet in and refuse to obey the sunshine laws, refusing to give the fiscal reports demanded by the city charter. Some people can try to run their little smokescreen of repetitive nonsense, but more rational people are finding out the truth. Thanks to Stephanie Taber for writing this letter below, which may or may not run in the Chico News and Review:

I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to Quentin Colgan’s letter of July 12th; primarily because the costs surrounding the Special Election held regarding Measure A have been distorted.  Yes, it did cost $150,000, but why?  That’s the elephant in the room. The progressives on the City Council chose the method by which the election would be held.  Per the City Charter (which is the City’s Constitution) Section 501 clearly states “The City Council may determine that any Special Election shall be held by mailed ballot” etc. That would have cut the cost by half, at least.  But the Council chose the most expensive means possible, voting at the precinct.   They were afraid that just telling the students they were being disenfranchised, which was an obvious lie, would not be sufficient to defeat it.

 As to “it’s all the Tea Party’s fault”; I was the only signature to the Measure.  I felt no need to consult the Tea Party before I took that action; but did enlist the help of many concerned citizens to gather the more than 8,000 signature required to put it on the ballot.

 Toby Schindelbeck has called upon our Finance Director to adhere to Section 908 of the City’s Charter which states “(the) Finance Director shall submit to the Council through the City Manager monthly statements of receipts, disbursements and balances in such form as to show the exact financial condition of the City”.  It does not state when you may want to or if you have time to; it says “shall”. No one on the Council or otherwise can remember when that may have happened last.  If it was being done as the Charter states it would have been recognize that the City was facing a financial Armageddon and steps could have been taken much earlier in the fiscal year to avoid the closing of Fire Station 5.

 Stephanie L. Taber

July 17, 2012