Tag Archives: City of Chico “drinking problem”

Boss Hogg is at it again – Chico PD Chief Kirk Trostle using “drinking problem” to get more money for Chico PD

24 Oct

Yesterday (Wednesday 10/23) I attended the “Community Alcohol Policy Workshop” at City Hall. I could describe it in one word: Sheesh!

You can stop reading right here if you want, cause I’ll give you the gist of it – Chico police chief Kirk Trostle is trolling for money again, and he’s trying to ostracize two groups in the community – Downtown bar and restaurant owners, and mom and pop landlords – so he can apply discretionary fines and rules against them to get money to pay the cops’ CalPERS payments.  There it is in a nutshell folks, Boss Hogg is at it again. I know he doesn’t look like Sorrell Booke, or Ernest Borgnine in “Convoy”, but Kirk Trostle is a dirty, corrupt  money-grubber who will threaten the public and allow our town to turn into a dirt pile crawling with bed bugs if that’s what it takes to get his way.  

This “workshop” was actually a presentation, a nagging lecture really, by alcohol consultant James Mosher, hosted by Chico PD.  Trostle opened up the act with his sentiments – “Chico is way over-saturated with alcohol outlets…”  Hmmm, this is the thinking behind the approval of BevMo! earlier this year? Chief went on and on with the fake figures on the cost of our drinking problem. The figures he presented were prices, not costs. For example, he said Enloe loses $4 million a year on “uncollectable” bills from drinking “incidents”. Let’s see the paperwork, please. I think you will find, first of all, Enloe charges $7,000/hour for a visit to the ER, and they compute partial hours into whole hours, meaning, if you come in at 11:45 pm you are charged from 11:00. I have the bill, don’t try to tell me any different. The figure Enloe put forward in this discussion is a mushroom cloud. 

A man was circulating the audience, handing out 3×5 cards, telling us to write down any questions or comments – they’d be addressed at the end of the presentation, he said.  I didn’t know if I would be around for the end of the session, but I took a little stack, I’m not shy. The folks all around me took some too.

My first question was to the Chief – “Why did you lobby for the approval of BevMo!” ? Here he had just stated, “Chico is way over-saturated with alocohol outlets…” Exact words, I wrote them down in my trusty notebook. I’m guessing, if he ever did answer that question, he gave  this little speech about what a great business BevMo! is, how they’re all yuppy and upscale and, you know, different from Dukes and Mangrove Bottle Shop and Finnegan’s Jug and other smaller, locally owned liquor stores. How many of those stores sell a bottle of wine for 5 cents?

I’m not an “alcohol outlet” owner, but I couldn’t help noticing how this discussion, which I’ve sat through many times, always turns disproportionately towards Downtown. It’s subtle most of the time, sometimes very blatant – to the point where members of council and others have stopped the discussion to remind everybody that this is a citywide issue. But within sentences it ‘s back Downtown, as if Downtown is the only part of town that suffers and Downtown bar/restaurant owners are responsible.

The discussion also usually blurs the homeless disorderly problem with the student drunkenness problem, college with high school drinking, teenage house parties with frat and sorority activities, etc. I will give consultant James Mosher credit that he delineated two specific parts to the problem – retail availability (mostly bars and restaurants) and social availability (house parties).  But that was it – he seemed to be lumping negligent parents in with over-21’s who knowingly buy and supply alcohol to minors. By the end of the presentation, Mosher had boiled everybody down into plastic components, and most of it was speculation and extrapolation based on stereotypes. 

He was also very divisive. He pointed out the enemies – bar/restaurant owners, and landlords/parents – right off the bat, making really nasty comments.  “We have to show them…” he said several times, identifying “them” alternately as alcohol merchants, landlords and parents.  He showed insulting cartoons, made sexist remarks, and even made remarks that were blatantly untrue. He described the alcohol compliance officer in another town as “a cute little gal” and insinuated that it is okay for her to use her sexuality – all women do righ? – to do her job. In Chico a female Chico PD officer serving as alcohol compliance officer was found to be having sexual relationships with more than one bar owner – is he saying that’s okay?  He also stated that while servers in bars have to “have a certificate,” liquor stores can hire “any 16 or 18 year old to sell alcohol.” That’s not true, and people in the audience were shaking their heads along with me. I don’t know how much we paid this guy but I have a request in to Finance Director Chris Constantin for that information. As far as I’m concerned they should have used the money to pressure wash the sidewalks Downtown. 

 I don’t like discussions in which people are lumped into groups, or where groups are demonized by stereotype.  I was sitting next to a couple of long-time successful Downtown restaurateurs, and a typical landlady, and I got the same feeling from all of them – we’re about to get screwed. Chief Trostle has identified us as cash cows, and he’s coming with that bucket and those cold hands!

The cops, as former city manager Tom Lando said at a meeting years back, are “always trying to get their foot in the door for more money.”  The Chief’s chief pre-occupation seems to be raising money for his department, like the director of the Nature Center or the Boys and Girls Club. He’s not here to serve us, he serves the department. When Brian Nakamura asked all the city departments to make 10 % cuts, and even the fire department complied and made significant staffing re-arrangements, Chico PD answered by demanding raises, promotions, and new equipment.

Don’t you love a guy who can cry poor-mouth from the front seat of a brand new vehicle with all the bells and whistles, paid for by you, the taxpayer?

Trostle, for his part, has tried to float the ACE (Alcohol Compliance and Education) ordinance, which would have allowed him to set a fee for any business new or old that “provides alcohol”, a fee based somewhat on square footage, but also based on the Chief’s discretion.  This new fee would have gone to the police department, to “fund alcohol enforcement,” meaning, salaries.  Am I the only one here who questions the appropriateness of allowing the Chief to set the fees that he is going to collect for himself? And then also decide what the rules are, and when someone has broken them? There’s some conflict of interest there, wouldn’t anybody say?

When I asked him about it, Trostle admitted to me that he hoped to get $100,000 a year or more, enough to fund another position in the department. At that time he told me there would be no guarantee that that officer would be available for “alcohol related” problems. More likely the money would be sucked into existing salaries and benefits.

But city attorney Lori Barker took the air out of his balloon when she told him such an ordinance is illegal for a local jurisdiction to impose – it amounted to a tax, plain and simple, and only the State of California is allowed to levy taxes on alcohol (Prop 26). I can’t believe Trostle didn’t know this, and hope Barker would go along with him and NOT interpret the fee as a tax. You know, just like they call that a “fire fee” instead of a “tax for living about 500 ft. Trostle knows that if Barker had gone along with him, the alcohol establishments would have had to get lawyers and sue.    Good for Barker.

So now Trostle is pursuing ordinances that would make alcohol outlet owners/managers and property owners/landlords liable for “response fees” when police, fire or ambulance are sent to the location because of any sort of disturbance or “public nuisance,” as well as hospital bills. “Nuisance” would include drunkenness, fights, drug dealing, car accidents, alcohol poisoning – any “nuisance” behavior undertaken by folks who allegedly received booze at that location.

It’s already against the law to sell/provide alcohol to minors, or to sell or provide alcohol to intoxicated. Trostle is trying to make business and property owners responsible for illegal behaviors that other people undertake without their knowledge,  on or off their property. I’m responsible for a drug deal that goes down between two customers as they leave my restaurant? They could just as easily be exchanging money for their dinner, exchanging business cards, sitting to make plans for the next stop,  making a long goodbye.

Trostle wants to make bar owners and landlords/property owners responsible because they’re easier to attack than the irresponsible people who actually cause the problems.  Here’s the creepy part. Consultant Mosher recommended the same solution for both the “Downtown drinking problem” and the “house party problem” – instead of pursuing criminal statutes, he recommends a “Deemed Approved Ordinance” for liquor establishments and a “Civil Cost of Recovery” ordinance for landlords/property owners.

In a  criminal proceeding, it would have to be proven, “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the bar/restaurant/liquor store owner, or landlord/property owner, knew that an intoxicated or underage person was being served in their establishment /on their property. Mr. Mosher beamed like a demon when he told the gathering that a civil ordinance is “easier to prove liability” (there is no proof required!), there’s a “greater likelihood that punishment will be imposed”, because there’s no jury trial.  The “defendant” is literally sent a bill by the cops, fire department, ambulance company or hospital, and if they don’t pay it, they will be thrown into collections. If they want to appeal they can hire an attorney and go through an administrative process – there is NO COURT, no trial, no civil rights.

I came out of that meeting yesterday feeling like the city is attacking me. I think the Downtown restaurant/bar owners felt same, the guys next to me expressed a lot of frustration. We’re responsible, law-abiding citizens, and we know a shake-down when we see it. 

UPDATE: I made a roundabout asking various bureaucrats how much this consultant received and who paid, I finally had to go straight to the horse’s mouth.

From: juanita sumner
Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2013 6:49 AM
To: jimmosher
Subject: FW: community alcohol presentation


Hello Mr. Mosher,


I attended the presentation you gave in Chico, Ca on Wednesday October 23.  I wonder,  how much were you paid for the Chico presentation? 


I’m asking because, whenever I tell people about the presentation, the first thing they ask is, “how much did THAT cost?” 


If you could give me an answer, I’d appreciate it – thanks, Juanita Sumner, Chico Taxpayers, Chico Ca


Apparently, Mr. Mosher read my blog! Oh oh!  Sounds kinda bitchy!


From: jimmosher
To: juanita sumner
Subject: RE: community alcohol presentation
Date: Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:19:39 -0700

I was engaged by the Butte County Department of Behavioral Health as a consultant through a consultant pool program administered by the Center for Applied Research Solutions and funded by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.  The reimbursement rate is $400/day plus expenses.


For your information, here is Section 25663 (b) of the California Business and Professions Code:



   (b) Any off-sale licensee who employs or uses the services of any

person under the age of 18 years for the sale of alcoholic beverages

shall be subject to suspension or revocation of his or her license,

except that a person under the age of 18 years may be employed or

used for those purposes if that person is under the continuous

supervision of a person 21 years of age or older.


Jim Mosher


To which I responded:


Thank you Mr. Mosher, for your immediate response to my question.


That section you include is enlightening – at least three people right next to me heard you say that “kids 16, 18 years old” can sell liquor without the kind of training required of a bar or restaurant server, but nobody heard you say, “under the continuous supervision of a person 21 years or older.” Thank you for that clarification.  


Juanita Sumner

I’m glad, after I had to sit through his insulting hype for over an hour and a half of my work day, he got a snootfull of what I think. I hope he changes his tack, his presentation was offensive and divisive.