Tag Archives: Chico Sports Complex

CARD pac distributing new video about “sports complex” – gee, what happened to the “aquatic center”?

22 Dec

Jim sent this video, an early pitch for the CARD bond.

Produced by a group called everybodygoodbody, this shows us just how much money they are willing to sink into this bond measure. I don’t know if CARD provided funding for this video, but yesterday I got a note from CARD director Ann Willmann regarding employee pension contributions.

“The management staff has 3 PEPRA PERS members, therefore they pay their 6.25% employee portion. There are two CLASSIC members who currently pay 2% of the employee portion.

 Our pension Liability for the 2015-16 fiscal year was $1,758,200 which is an increase of $57,480 from the previous year.”

As you can see, CARD management pay little to nothing for their pensions, which amount to 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55.  Willmann currently yanks in over $100,000 a year – I can’t get the exact figure out of CARD, but the public pay website says she makes over $120,000/year just in salary. But still expects the public, with average household income at about $40,000/year, to pick up 98% of her pension. Ann, you’re a pig.

Meanwhile, like the auditor told the CARD board, their pension deficit “will never go  away…will never go down…” He gave the room every expectation  that the pension deficit is going to go up at least $50,000/year in perpetuity.  In fact he said as employee salaries go up the increase amount will go up. He smiled like a goon as he said it.

Because this board, including pensioneer Tom Lando who gets more than $11,000/month in pension paid by the city of Chico, refuses to make the employees pay their own pensions.

Sneed, Mulowney and Ellis are up in 2018, and they need to go. Sneed has been on the board through CARD long decline. She was on the board when CARD agreed to take on the skate park, and now she and the rest of the board want to give the skate park back to the city.  She was on board through years of neglect of Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools, refusing needed maintenance for those pools while encouraging the Aqua Jets to hold out for a big, taxpayer funded “aquatic center”. The public rejected that, so now she’s come back with a “sports complex”.

We know they won’t build it, not on the first bond anyway. The first bond will go to their salaries and benefits, stuff for their offices.  Think people – the school district has passed three bonds since they first promised to “fix the schools” in 1998. How many bonds will CARD tack on to this one in years to come?




CARD plans phone survey for late January to promote new funding measure

20 Dec

The school bond and the lawsuit CUSD pressed against Chico State to hide the e-mail conversation regarding mold in classrooms has kept me distracted from Chico Area Recreation District’s plans to assess homeowners to pay down their pension deficit and eliminate other problems caused by poor management and bad decisions on the part of the board.

An audit report from Matsom and Isom showed that CARD’s pension deficit has actually increased by about $50,000  over the last year, but the board is only now asking employees to pay into their own pensions, and they’re asking less than 4 percent. 

CARD is also under the same pressure all public agencies are under – CalPERS wants more money, more money, more money. They’ve stepped up their demands and are threatening fees on late payments.

And then there are some poor decisions made over the last 10 years that beg examination.  For example, I’ve always wondered, who approved the purchase of Lakeside Pavillion at over a million dollars, a building riddled with rot and out of compliance with 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act?  Who profited from that sale? Who arranged it?

Here’s a good question – why not sell it?

Here’s a better question – why should the taxpayers have to bail them out?

This is the kind of stuff people need to know and ask about before they vote to give this agency any more money.

CARD has spent almost $100,000 so far on consultants who keep telling them the public does not support a bond and will need a lot of convincing. These consultants, ranging in price from $50,000 to about $3,500, have told the agency one thing over and over again – it’s going to be an enormous amount of work for staff, especially manager Ann Willmann.    The last consultant told the agency they needed to run extensive Public Relations campaigns to make the public think they want a bond or assessment on their homes to fund rainbow promises.  That’s going to take a  really professional propaganda blitz, and Willmann is not up to the task, so she’s just kept hiring one consultant after another in hopes she could get a firm with a price tag acceptable to the board.

It looks like she finally convinced the board they needed to hire an out of town crapslinger –  the bay area firm that hammered the school bond through on us. The board approved  to run a “survey” after Christmas, probably late January.  Consultant Ruth Bernstein said they would try to do 400 “interviews” within about a week.  

These “interviews” will not be indiscriminate.  The consultant will use the voter roles – “we know demographics”  – meaning, they can call people they feel will support the bond.

The purpose?   Bernstein posed the question “How do we build community support for your vision…” and then answered it.

Building community support [for a bond or assessment] is difficult,” Bernstein admitted. A survey would identify “what they want…then you know what to say about yourself…”  

In other words, you simply find out what rainbow dreams the public has (well, 400 of them, anyway…) and then you tell them you need a bond to pay for it! Swwwwweeeeeeet!

No, it’s really not that easy. Bernstein went on to warn the board about opposition.  “We won’t recommend placing a measure on the ballot if we sense too much opposition in the community.” 

How to avoid opposition? Don’t  tell people what you’re doing. Bernstein assured the board the callers would make no mention of the agency, no mention of the bond effort – “We don’t tell them what it’s about. We don’t want to attract people who hate CARD,” she warned. “We have to be careful who we survey…” The callers, working from the Bay Area, will even program a local area code onto their caller ID so the respondent won’t know the agency is from out of town. 

So they will take this effort around the back  door, survey less than half of one percent of the population, and then use the information to make their bond campaign.  That’s what worked for Chico Unified with Measure K.

The board had a few questions. Michael Worley wanted to make sure Chico State students, an admittedly transient population, will be in town for the survey. That’s the kind of thinking that got Worley more votes than any CARD candidate in history.  He not only doubled Jan Sneed’s total for 2014, he got more votes than our new mayor, city council record spender Sean Morgan. As far as I know Worley did so without spending a dime cause he didn’t file any reports with the county.

The consultant answered Worley, “we’re not going to have a big  student turnout in 2018, so why include them in the survey?” She said statistics pointed out that students don’t vote in non-presidential election years. Right in front of us, they were marginalizing people using occupation.  What other demographics will go into how they pick  and choose who they will call? 

Then Tom Lando opined that he would rather hold off on a survey until CARD finishes their 2017 master plan, first draft due in February. Jan Sneed responded tersely, “the master plan isn’t going to change…” Wow, that’s an open mind, somebody toss a cigar butt in there.

Director Ann Willmann, who only recently agreed to pay less than 4 percent of her own pension premiums, having paid nothing up to now, was anxious to add that the “survey should define ‘quality of life’…”

Willmann is the stinking head of this fish, because she knows she ain’t going to get no pension if CalPERS doesn’t get their money.  She’s smart – yeah, get people to tell you their wishes and dreams, then dress that up on a platter for 2018. 

The board passed a motion to hire EMC, with Lando dissenting. I  think he supports the measure but worries about the timing.

They promised to fix the skate park when they took it over from the city. They’ve led a group of citizens along by  the nose, allowing them to raise funds, and now backing down. Why would we expect them to behave any differently with promises they make to pass this measure? 



CARD consultant ready to convince Chico voters they want to pay another bond, parcel tax, or assessment

18 Nov

Last night Chico Area Recreation District board and staff heard from Ruth Bernstein of EMC, a consultant that does the groundwork for agencies who want to pass bonds, parcel taxes or assessments. 

CARD manager Ann Willmann had been asked by the board at a previous meeting to find a local consultant but said there are no such companies in Chico – board members had mentioned Chico State, but I don’t know if Willmann checked into using CSUC resources.  She instead chose EMC because they did the groundwork for the recently passed school bond.

Bernstein had been scheduled to  give her presentation after the Nature Center report, but explained she had to drive all the way back to San Francisco, so requested her presentation be moved up. I couldn’t help but notice Nature Center manager Caitlin was kinda peeved  about that. She was pretty bitchy in the hallway outside the meeting,  seemed impatient. I’d be mad too – like Caitlin’s time doesn’t mean anything, just because she wasn’t hired from San Francisco?  

And then I have to wonder – despite Bernstein’s assurances that her mother-in-law lives in Chico and she “is familiar with this community,” she sure burned rubber getting out of the room when she finished her spiel. Yeah, a four hour drive, much of it through pitch blackness.  My husband and I left at the same time Bernstein did, and we waited at the bike rack to make sure she was well out of the parking lot before we ventured out on our old tandem.  She might be “familiar” with our community but care? I don’t think so.

Bernstein described her agencies services – “we do polling,” which she describes as figuring out  “how to actually communicate with the public…” Her task is to “build community support for your vision,” she told the board.

She means, talk the public into paying for it.

On their website, EMC claims “Professional interviewers can ensure quality control by probing and following up incomplete or invalid responses”

invalid responses”? They mean, what the district doesn’t want to hear.  They are offering to lead respondents to say what the district wants to hear. 

They admit that  “Results can be impacted by the human interaction and quality of the interviewer”

Two ways Bernstein admitted EMC misleads respondents 

  • cost of projects proposed will not mentioned in the survey
  • CARD will not be mentioned in the survey

Bernstein explained, “Building community support is difficult.” First, she says, you must learn what the community wants, “then you know what to say about yourself.”

She means, find out resident’s deepest desires, no matter how far-fetched or Taj Majal, and that’s what you promise in your tax measure.  They don’t really have to keep their promises, we found that out with the school district.

Chico Unified promised a third high school back in 1998, when they floated Measure A out on the turd pond. Trouble was, the fish and game department had already told them the land they promised to use was not usable, that they would never be able to build out there by Old Raleys. The district went ahead and promised that specific spot, promised to build a third high school they really never intended to build, and got the voters to swallow it, hook, line and stinker.

Bernstein says her company will phone landlines and cell  phones, looking for 400 respondents. Really? In a district of over 90,000, she’s looking for 400 people to tell her what the rest of us want? 

And of course, respondents are chosen from the voter’s rolls,we know demographics,” says Bernstein.

Wow, so that’s how they skew the results – she mentioned several times that a “conservative” town might not pass a bond. So, her company picks and chooses respondents to create the notion this bond is supportable. I love the way she just admits that right up front.

We might use some slight weighting, but only a little bit…” Weighting essentially means, providing responses for the respondent, they don’t get to use their own words. This makes it easier for the surveyor to get the kind of responses they want instead of having to analyze a person’s actual  thoughts. 

It’s also called “leading”.  They act as though it’s just for convenience but it’s totally skews the survey in the direction they want it to go.

Bernstein bragged about her company’s success rate in terms of how many of her clients had passed bonds. That’s what they do – they don’t help agencies figure out what the taxpayers really want, they help these agencies convince the taxpayers what they want. 

Phone surveys have other flaws. “Caller ID is annoying,” says Bernstein. She admits people don’t like surveys, don’t want to participate, and don’t pick up when they see it’s a survey company. She said they program their phones with a local  area code (!) but don’t leave messages because “people don’t call  back.” So they repeat dial the same numbers over and over, from morning till night (“we quit by 9pm”), for about a week, until they get 400 responses they like.

The board asked when she would time the survey. Tom Lando was worried that information gather in Winter 2017 would be “stale” by election 2018, and Bernstein agreed, suggesting another survey directly before the ballot.

So, is Lando proposing a bond measure to be put on the 2018 ballot? Because it looks to me like the rest of the board wants to go the sneaky route with mailed assessment ballots. We’ll see.

Michael Worley was concerned that “the students” would have an opportunity to participate, and Bernstein said the survey could be timed for after they come back from winter break. But, she also opined that students only vote in presidential elections, so why bother to include them in the survey for a non-presidential election?  Again, it sounds like they are planning a bond measure on the 2018 ballot, but they never talked directly about that.

Lando also argued that he wanted to finish work on CARD’s Master Plan – currently being concocted  behind closed doors in ad hoc committee. Ann Willmann argued that they need survey  results to finish the master plan. She won. The board voted 4 – 1 to pay EMC $28,000 to run a survey in January or February. They will be working, again in ad hoc, to come up with the questions they want on the survey.

Willmann says she wants the public to “define ‘quality of life'”. Board chair Bob Malowney wants to know, “what is the public perception of this agency.” Two distinctly  different questions. Willmann is asking the public for their dreams, Malowney is asking them what they actually think of CARD.   We’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, board members Jan Sneed and Tom  Lando,  who seemed to be getting a little testy with each other over the timing of the survey, announced they agree on one thing – CARD should have control over all of Bidwell Park. 

CARD board and staff show a pattern of thumbing their nose at the public and the rules

20 Aug

I didn’t get to tell everything I saw at the CARD meeting Thursday evening. Everything I saw that night fit a pattern that’s been catching my eye for the last couple of years.

When Chair Bob Malowney opened the meeting, he offered the floor to public comments “not related to items on the agenda”.  Chico City Council does that at the end of the meetings, calling it, “Business from the Floor”.  You can bring up concerns you think need to be addressed, either by the board or by staff, and they can vote to take action at some time in the future or just sit there like stone monkeys staring at the speaker until he/she goes away.

Two men identifying themselves as owners of “Off The Wall Soccer” on 20th Street came forward to air a gripe that sounded so familiar it brought me forward on my chair. Essentially, CARD had made an agreement with them and broken it, acknowledged it had been broken and promised not to break it again, and then proceeded to do so. Over and over.

Off The Wall offers indoor soccer year round, for people who want to be able to play no matter what the weather, and be able to depend on consistent “field” conditions. It’s a smaller venue, so they are restricted to 7 member teams instead of the standard 11, but this created a niche for Off The Wall, one of the owners acknowledging, “we were making a lot of money.” 

A business that is making money is always a good thing to have in your town. Private businesses make money by providing a service the public wants at a price they can afford, and that’s always good for the consumer.  

Until 1995, when CARD started to offer a 7 member team program in addition to their 11 member teams.  This created a drain on business for OTW. The owners finally went to CARD, accusing them of unfair competition. CARD was offering their programs at much lower fees, undercutting OTW by half. 

I don’t think it’s right for an agency that is subsidized  by the taxpayers to play price wars with private business. CARD should provide programs that are not provided privately, instead, they see a private business making money and try to cut in on the action.

CARD agreed to cut the number of 7-member teams they offered, and this was fine with OTW, so a “settlement” was made. I don’t know if that was on paper, but it was with Steve Visconti and Monica Jameson, both of whom have left within the last couple of years. 

“Within a year and a half “ CARD was violating the agreement. In 2006 Visconti acknowledged they were violating the agreement and promised they would stop.

Again in 2013, OTW “started to see a big slide in participation… we found CARD had added programs beyond  the agreement…”  Owners of Off the Wall again complained, and Steve Visconti acknowledged CARD had violated the agreement, and that they would stop. 

But, the two men reported, “this lasted less than a year.” 

Here’s the pattern. This is exactly how Visconti and other staffers treated me when I asked to be put on the notice list for the Aquatic Facility Committee. Over a two year period, Visconti alternately promised to include me on the list, denied the existence of the committee, denied that there had been any meetings, constantly contradicting himself, as well as agendas posted on the CARD website. 

Ann Willmann isn’t any better, having kept her communications with Every Body Healthy  Body like a state secret. I knew something stunk, and finally former county supervisor Jane Dolan and husband Bob Mulhullond had to point out to CARD that they were not running their meetings properly and were playing fast and loose with the entire aquatic center conversation.

Every Body Healthy Body, despite their 301-C yadda yadda, is a private corporation that will build a privately-owned facility.  Whether or not they get public funds, this facility will be run for a profit and anybody who wants to use it will pay fees well beyond the donation they make on their property taxes. 

So here’s the irony, just in case you didn’t see it – CARD competes with successful business Off The Wall Soccer, undercutting them by 50 percent, but they’re ready to go to the county supervisors to ask that a huge parcel of land be taken off the protected register so a private development company can develop the shit out of it for their own gain. 

The owners of Off The Wall say the situation is getting pretty desperate. “If we don’t have the Fall, if CARD keeps registering (beyond the agreement), we’re out of business,” said partner Mario Sagastume.

Longtime board member Jan Sneed admitted “I was on the board when we agreed to this…” but trailed off without a suggestion. Tom Lando claimed, “we did agendize  this and asked you for further information…” but he trailed off – the owners had already handed the board a packet detailing communications over the years, it was all right there.

Bob Malowney seemed unrepentant, saying that “people want to play soccer…” . 

 I think CARD has way overstepped it’s purpose. They are a district that is supposed to offer facilities for people to play sports. I think they go too far when they try to run programs too. They compete with a number of private businesses –  from weddings to fitness to daycare – all subsidized by the taxpayers so they can undercut their competition out of business. And they do it badly, cutting programs that people come to depend on as soon as there is not enough money in the kitty to pay their pension.

CARD pays more than $400,000/year on pensions, and more than $300,000 on health benefits, all for about 30 management employees.  They are pursuing an assessment because enrollment in programs is dropping and they need money to bring their facilities up to code and up to Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, neglected since 1990. 

Recently the board voted to make management pay some of their pension – they have previously paid NOTHING toward retirement at their highest year’s salary at age 55. They’ve paid their own pensions while neglecting facilities all over town. 

CARD has already signed up 7-member teams beyond the agreement for Fall 2016, but promised to agendize OTW’s complaint for an upcoming meeting. 

Dolan accuses CARD of Brown Act violation; Aquatics group wants Nance Canyon taken off protection list so they can locate their “mega-center” there

19 Aug

Wow, what a meeting you people missed last night. I hate going out at night, but every now and then I get a little prize for my diligence.

Last night I got to watch Jane Dolan and Bob Mulhullond call Chico Area Recreation District board and staff on the carpet for holding the public out of the aquatic center conversation. She used the words “Brown Act violation” in describing the way their agenda had  been noticed in the “local  media” – meaning, the Enterprise Record.

When I saw Laura Urseny’s blurb in the ER, I had already read the agenda, I knew she was leaving out the part about Nance Canyon. While Dolan turned around and explained she wasn’t blaming the paper, I am. Urseny works for CARD, she always has. She is a butt kisser, she thinks that’s the only way to get friends I guess.

Last night Bill Brouhard, of Guillon Brouhard Commercial Real Estate,  a member/representative of “Every Body Healthy Body,” described the organization as a “501 3C non-profit” started by parents of Aqua Jets, not mentioned by name. He said he and others had got tired of driving their kids “all over” to other towns who got “all this money” that he thought should be coming to Chico. 

As the parent of a kid who participated in travel sports, I thought that was the whole idea – get your kid out there, go places, see other towns.  I also doubt Brouard’s claim that Chico will see “all this money.”  The leagues we visited tried to get us to patronize hotels, usually the pricey places. Visiting parents – not just us – usually opted for the cheap hotels, or just drove  home. Others brought motor homes and stayed in the facility parking lots, bbq-ing meals, even selling tri-tip sandwiches and other such fare as fundraisers. I never saw any report detailing how much, by the dollar, that these tournaments bring into a town, and I’m doubting Brouard’s claims that such a center would be a financial triumph for our town. It’s already looking like they want all kinds of help.

If you want more information on Brouhard I think a quick look here will be of interest:



Of course, while Brouhard said EBHB came up with seven potential sites, the site they pick is right in the middle of a disputed area, a parcel that is being included in the Butte Habitat Conservation Register.  What is this group  thinking, wanting to build a facility like this on a politically and geographically sensitive piece of land, so far out of the city limits? 

Because Bill Brouhard and his partner Doug Guillon are investor/developer/realtors. All they see in Nance Canyon is dollar signs. I don’t even think this has as much to do with Brouhard’s complaints about driving two sets of kids to swim meets, I think it has more to do with the property owner and how much money they all stand to make. 

Brouhard says they’re thinking 50 years in the future! But they need the CARD board to act now, he says, and tell the county to pull Nance Canyon out of the conservation area.

He claims the owner is willing to sell for 14 cents an acre.  Those were his exact words – he’s a realtor, he should  know better, is he trying to mislead the board?  I know Lando should have called him on that figure, our ex-city manager knows exactly what land values are. My husband immediately bumped my elbow to hiss, “he means per square foot…” but I was busy scribbling other details, so failed to call him on it.

He also claimed the property would include rights to a creek – Butte Creek!

In order to make this pipe dream a financial drain on the citizens, Brouhard and EBHB need CARD to write a letter to the county, asking them to take that parcel out of the conservation area and place it in an Urban Permit Area.   He’s also asking CARD to form an ad-hoc committee – which means, staff time with no public oversight – to “coordinate” with EBHB. He specifically asked for an ad hoc,  because ad hoc meetings don’t have to be noticed or reported to the public.  I believe EBHB is trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes, and they know exactly what they’re doing.

He brought a box of printed materials for the board but when I reached out to take a map from his he turned abruptly on his heel and ignored me. That’s okay, Jane Dolan mopped the floor with his shiny ass.

She got right up  during public comment and got really mad. First she said the article in the Enterprise Record had left out specific information, hadn’t given the public a real idea of what was actually happening at the meeting, adding that the aquatic center had not been “publicly vetted.”

“Public discussion does not begin with a non-Brown act notice of your agenda…” referring to the story in the newspaper. 

Gee, where was Janey when they kept putting me off on my requests to attend aquatic committee meetings? Steve Visconti lied to me around every corner, staffers refused to do their job, and then Ann Willmann fixed it all by telling the aquatics center proponents to form their own non-profit so the public would be completely cut out. 

Dolan warned the board they were dealing with a very sensitive property, and even though she professed support for an aquatic center somewhere else in Chico, she would not support it at this site. “If I were still in the job (her appointment to the Central Valley Flood Protection board) it [Nance Canyon] would already be part of the conservation area.”  

He husband Bob Mulhullond stood up to ask the board where was the staff analysis? He and Dolan both accused the board of getting ready to make a decision without proper procedure. Mulhullond said further they should just “reject this!” 

I was astounded. All this time I’ve been trying to follow this stuff,  I barely  understand half of it, but I’ve smelled a rat. Well, Dolan and Mulhullond, bless their hearts, came down last night to say, “There’s your damned rat, right there! Kill it!”

This whole aquatic center business has been handled illegally, is what I’m guessing, and I’m also guessing at least two of the board know that – Lando and long time board member Jan Sneed.  Chair Bob “the Yo-yo” Malowney made vague statements about “we’ve been intending to take this before the public…” and Lando remarked that he’d “heard” there had been public meetings but he hadn’t attended any of them.

Lando then suggested they go ahead and name a subcommittee to coordinate with EBHB. As they were discussing this, Dolan stood up again to ask them, stuttering mad, “What is it you’re going to do?”   She pointed out, they were trying to go ahead and act without proper  procedure again. She said the whole thing was inappropriate without public vetting. 

Lando then agreed to agendize the subject of the ad hoc committee. This is when I started to wonder if anything they’d done with the so-called “Aquatic Facility” committee was legal.

The discussion was tabled with direction to staff to agendize the matter, and Dolan stepped out into the hall with Bill Brouhard.

It was 7:30, I was butt tired, husband too, but we decided to stay a little longer. There was a lot of important stuff on the agenda I don’t understand, something about creating a district that could issue  bonds. We listened to Ann Willmann’s report, because there’s never any written report, you just have to be there. 

Good thing we stayed. Willman had been meeting with EBHB! Of course! She’d also been involved with a contractor(s?) who is/are evaluating buildings and other facilities for CARD, telling them how far they’ve allowed things to slide, and how much it is going to cost to get all their facilities back in code compliance, including ADA.  Then there’s the total replacement of the playground at DeGarmo  Park.  The surface they laid down proved to be a total disaster, and has to be replaced. Problem is – why would they want to put that old playground equipment on that new surface? So CARD approved the replacement of the entire playground.

Where will they get all the money for this malfeasance? Willmann announced an “informational” meeting on  September 8 (TBA) at which the board and the public will hear from representatives of different organizations about bonds and other “funding options”. 

Mark your calendar, I’ll get back to you