Tag Archives: City of Chico Economic Development Committee

Library funding up in the air – staff recommends funding, but you might want to e-mail city council

21 Mar

I got the agendas for next week’s back-to-back Finance  and Economic Development Committee meetings.  These committees have not been combined, but Nakamura said it would save money to have them on the same afternoon, with about a short recess in between. For me, that’s like some kind of all afternoon jail sentence, I am so sick of these meetings, I can’t even spit.

But, I did notice, they’re kicking around the idea of cutting library funding, again, along with Community Organizations (like the Blue Room and the Cat Coalition) and Economic Development/Tourism (like Artoberfest and the “Chico Open Boards Art” ).  “In light of the City’s budgetary constraints, and the impacts that staffing reductions are having on the city organization...”  they will “restructure“.   

NOTE:  Staff is recommending that library funding remain at it’s current $100,000/year. But I’ll also say, we should be worried anyway, they’ve gone against staff recommendations before. I’d also expect the other groups to be coming in to bitch, that is, if they were notified. When I called the library the manager told me she didn’t get a copy of the agenda, although she’d been told about a month ago that this discussion would be coming around. If they noticed her about it at all, should they notice her about this meeting? I don’t like to tell her how to run our library, but maybe I should have suggested she sign up for notifications. She asked me how I got it, I should have scolded her there, for cripessake. 

So, I’d say write a letter. It’s not worth your time or mine to attend these meetings anymore, they’ve restricted the public to speaker cards and three minutes, on subject. No more discussion, just an audience like a king gives.  In fact, I’d say, DON’T attend these meetings, you are just providing your tacit consent, they need to be able to say, “we told people!”. And your remarks will be put into the public record if and as the clerk or her staff see fit.  Those gals have attributed comments to me I never even said, while leaving out whole conversations about questions I’d asked. But if you write an e-mail or letter and ask that it be put into the record, there it is, for anybody who wants to see it.

After the Finance Committee meeting the Economic Develoment Committee will discuss dissolving itself. Again, “In light of the city’s budgetary constraints…”  I’m tired of hearing that. The budget is constrained because our council hired a bunch of overpaid junk and pays for it by laying off staffers hand over fist. They haven’t reduced our debt, we’re in as much trouble as ever, but we’re receiving little or no service for what we’re paying. They’re serving themselves, is what’s happening. 

If this committee is dissolved, the business they conduct will go completely behind closed doors. My biggest concern is that they are giving away city staff time to private businesses. That’s what TEAM is all about. While I hate these meetings, at least they are on the record. If this committee is dissolved, we’ll never know what’s going on in Nakamura’s office. 

Again, I’d say, e-mail or write a letter. 

 

 

 

 

Fascist new committee meeting rules throw out free speech – it’s the END of public discourse in Chico

23 Feb

For years now, I’ve turned my attention toward the day meetings, where there has always been a more conversational tone between council/committee members and the public. Although it was sometimes testy, it was what you call “give and take.”  It was one of the few remaining factors that kept Chico’s “small town” atmosphere – the notion that elected officials were just members of the public who had been chosen by their peers to do a job, that they were never above us, and if they didn’t watch it, they might just end up under our feet. 

Unfortunately, we’ve had one mayor after another who has abused their privilege as elected “official.” Yeah, that’s right – starting with Ann Schwab, I’d say, they just started getting a little too officious. Our current mayor Scott Gruendl has become a regular Pinochet, using his position and his gavel to silence criticism while he empties the city coffers into the pockets of his friends – his developer friends and city employee unions who have financed his campaigns for city council.

Gruendl’s latest abuse of power is the institution of new rules for those daytime committee meetings. And it’s not just Gruendl’s idea – Brian Nakamura is chiefly behind it. Didn’t I tell you he was up to something when he started charging that too many members of the public got “off topic” during meetings, and that it was a violation of the Brown Act?   

You know, the Brown Act he says does not need to be attended to when it comes to having staffers supervise the un-elected committees, namely the Sustainability Task Force. The STF can now have meetings with anybody they choose, make recommendations to council based on what their friends tell them in secret meetings,  without any oversight from the public.  But you and I need to put our name and address on a card to speak, and we’re limited to three minutes per agenda item?

From this week’s Finance and Economic Development committee agendas:

NOTE: Citizens and other interested parties are encouraged to participate in the public process and will be invited
to address the Committee regarding each item on the agenda. In order to maintain an accurate and complete
record, the following procedural guidelines are being implemented:

1. Speaker Cards – speakers will be asked to print his/her name on a speaker card to address the Committee and provide card to the Clerk prior to the completion of the Staff Report. 

2. Speak from the Podium – the Clerk will call speakers to the podium in the order the cards are received. 

3. Speakers may address the Committee one time per agenda item.

4. Speakers will have three minutes to address the Committee.

I’m sorry, that is not encouraging, that is discouraging. That is how they hold us off by the forehead. They have a conversation right in front of us, they say the most outrageous stuff, and then they tell us we only get to address them, from a podium, for three minutes, cramming every observation we have on their up to one hour long conversations into three minutes. 

For example, during the Internal Affairs discussion on the Social Host ordinance, a group of landlords came in to make it clear they would not tolerate being held financially responsible for tenants’ behavior, they’re landlords not babysitters. Sean Morgan, in an attempt to suck up, kept telling them, “don’t worry, the TENANTS will be held responsible…” He kept using the word “tenants.”  We’d just had a long discussion about how the only person who should be held responsible, is the person(s) who provided the alcohol to the underage drinker, and hey, that might be the landlord, or it might be the tenant, or it might be the under-age person’s parents, or a guy he/she met at the liquor store. I wanted to hear the legal lingo – dealing with these fuckers Downtown is a Repo-man grab – you have to get them to SAY IT, and you have to get them to say it in legal terms. Morgan is an ass, how he got a job as a professor at a college mystifies me – he just wasn’t getting it. We wanted to hear “responsible party,” which is what city attorney Roger Wilson finally gave us. There’s legal import to terminology, just like when you accuse somebody of LIBEL! But this idiot thought he had to tell us, they’d stick it to the TENANT, he was just trying to buy us off and shut us up. We had to demand, and that doesn’t happen in a three minute puke-up from the podium, it happens in a give-and-take conversation.

I’ll tell you why they did this – because the people have gotten a little too  tired and a little too wise to take any more of their illegal bullshit. People have been packing those little rooms to tell these fuckers where to stick it, and guess what – Brian Nakamure and Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen have got some kind of royalty complex – they think people are just supposed to do what they say without asking questions. They don’t like too many questions. And they have some kind of fatal allergy to THE TRUTH.

The people have been overthrown.  Long live King Gruendl and his jesters Morgan and Sorensen.  

What have I learned after 10 years of attending city meetings? Be a bitch, or get screwed.

29 Aug

Wow, isn’t that great that acting city Fire Chief Keith Carter has found a way to make those cuts at Chico Fire. The story behind that is, Brian Nakamura told an “exclusive membership” audience at the Chico Chamber luncheon he was considering out-sourcing the fire department to Cal Fire. Wow, all the sudden Carter got real imaginative on ways to save money! I honestly don’t think “public outrage” had anything to do with it – unless it was public outrage directed toward Nakamura.

I get a kick out of the editorial in today’s paper, saying the department could have kept the public better informed – what’s Nakamura doing, discussing city policy at private chamber meetings? This was never discussed before the full public in any council or committee meeting.

I bet you all wonder how much stuff goes on Downtown without any public oversight – plenty! At yesterday’s Economic Development committee meeting, that was a large part of the discussion. Unfortunately, Nakamura and  council have decided to cut expenses by cutting the staff who usually keeps the public in the loop. There was no clerk at yesterday’s meeting, and I didn’t notice anybody at that table taking notes. If you don’t attend these meetings, you wouldn’t know stuff like, they have a staffer almost completely dedicated to servicing the Chico Chamber, Shawn Tillman.

Tillman was apparently one of the staffers who was kept through the makeover but “bumped down” a couple thousand in salary – he used to make about $92,000/year, now only $89,000. At another meeting, I found out, his salary is paid out of the RDA because he also administers the oft-cancelled “RDA Successor Agency” meetings.  That means we really pay him about $250,000 – most of which goes to the interest on the RDA money. 

The Economic Development Committee is currently struggling with this problem – even while we spend $38 million of our $43 million dollar budget on salaries and benefits, they keep whining we still don’t have enough staff to cover meetings, notice citizens via e-mail or post agendas and minutes online. Paubrecitos!

Yesterday’s meeting started out with a discussion about how they will run this committee. Gruendl has foisted a plan by which there will be “regular business meetings” every other month, during which the committee can take action. In alternative months, the committee would meet with the business community via “events” orchestrated by Katie Simmons, director of the Chico Chamber of Commerce.

Simmons already has a city staffer, Tillman, assisting her with business that really ought to be done by the chamber. Why are we handing the Chico Chamber a free staffer, in addition to money they get every year from community grants?   Tillman administers “Team Chico,” a group of consultants, including Simmons, who are supposed to be reaching out to local businesses, telling them about programs they otherwise might not be aware of!  This little club of matrons visits businesses they choose to visit, offering them perks and benies of Chamber membership, as well as notifying them of city programs.

Isn’t that Katie Simmon’s job? All a business has to do to find out about what the city offers is come to the website. 

This is the kind of crap that passes for “Economic Development.” Tillman gives roughly the same glossy report every meeting – “our business climate is healthy!” He says there’s been 400 jobs added by existing businesses – businesses he’s actually contacted!  Do tell?

But I wish you’d also tell me Shawn, other than contacting these businesses and then reporting it to us, what did you do to create those job? Well, nothing.  It has become more than apparent to me that Tillman’s part in all this is simply the part of cheerleader, yakking up the marvelous magic of Economic Development! 

At one point, Mark Sorensen raised an interesting issue – just how far should the city, a public entity, go to promote private business? That went out the window.

I think they’ve already gone too far. There was the Mayor’s Business Advisory committee, with Ann Schwab and Mark Sorensen meeting privately with businesses – – like PG&E! Enloe Hospital!  – – but Sorensen, Schwab and the staffer attached to that committee denied me access to those meetings, saying the business people didn’t feel comfortable talking in front of the public.   Well, that tells me more than an agenda! What the hell could they be uncomfortable talking about in front of the public?

When I asked Gruendl about these meetings, he said they will be “absorbed” into the Economic Development Committee, I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

I was pleasantly surprised that yesterday’s agenda included something like a business roundtable – several members of Team Chico, local business owners, had come in to give reports about their activities with TC. Unfortunately, Item 1 was allowed to go all over the place, at least 20 minutes spent completely OFF TOPIC, and by the time these reports came up, I had to leave. 

Unlike most of the people in that room, I am not compensated to sit in those meetings.  I don’t have a housekeeper at home to make my family’s dinner. I have two to three hungry family who have been working physically all day to further my bottom line as well, and I like to offer some support in the way of a hot meal on the dinner table. The fact that they schedule these meetings at the dinner hour is frustrating to me – how does this save staff time? How do council meetings that go on beyond 11 pm save staff time? 

Scott says having these alternate meetings with businesses, outside the city chambers, away from the clerk and the recording devices, will save staff time!

I will call Scott The Rubberband Man – you gonna lose control when the rubberband starts to jam.

Scott can turn anything around and make it sound positive. Yesterday he told us that these “industry meetings” would save money. Oh? How’s that? By cutting out the pubic, that’s how. The conversation covered the Brown Act – Taylor cheerfully announced that if only one or two of them attended an “event” it wouldn’t be a Brown Act violation. Sorensen agreed. They all kept repeating a lot of crap about keeping the public involved – I felt this conversation was almost fully for my benefit – thanks for the yadda-yadda wave Katie – but you know how some people say exactly the opposite of what they really mean because they know you won’t like what they really mean? 

It was Tillman who said he didn’t think they needed to notice the “industry meetings” – he waved at “the partners” from Team Chico and said, “you can promote it…” he suggested. Oh really? Well, I’m not expecting to see any tv commercials or giant glossy ads promoting the “event” they’re scheduling for the “market analysis” they did with taxpayer’s money a few months ago. Remember the retail survey, you might have participated? Tillman told us in June that report would be made at this meeting, but all they have are tentative plans for a two day “event”, workshops planned mostly for businesses. They are planning workshops designed to show retailers how to “take advantage” of the data from the survey.   

Jesus Christ Katie, do you have to be so insensitive?  Great choice of words –  “take advantage”   This woman does not pretend to have any concern for the average citizen, consumers are her bread and meat.  She said it herself – those “exclusive to members” luncheons she’s been inviting city staff and council to attend are “a fantastic opportunity for our guests (city employees, elected officials) and for our members…” Yeah, they sure are. Legally, they call that lobbying. Unfortunately, not everybody benefits when special interests are allowed an exclusive event to lobby our policy makers.

When I pointed this out, they all sadly agreed. I told them, these meetings all need to be completely open to the public, and noticed, just like they have been in the past, or it’s going to look like something inappropriate is going on.  We wouldn’t want anybody like me thinking there was something funny going on, now would we?  Scott agreed, profusely, his tail so far between his furry legs you’d almost think he really meant it! Simmons actually said that the luncheons would be made public, but again, I’m not expecting a big ad campaign pointed at the taxpayers. 

What the hell does Tillman do with his time that he doesn’t have 5 minutes to send a list-serve e-mail? “I guess I could use the notice list for the regular meetings to notice the industry meetings?” he offered meekly, like a little child who’d been told he was expected to eat the crusts too.  Yes, that’s what you need to do Shawn, duh, please stop trying to make it sound onerous, you little drip. 

Scott runs these meeting horribly, he’s no improvement over Goloff. I’m all for public comment, I demand it, but Gruendl needs to keep the comments on topic or step down. He let a man go off topic for like 20 minutes. I had my hand up the entire time to ask on-topic questions about the public noticing of these meetings, and Gruendl just ignored me. After he let the other man go on at length, repeating himself, and going way off topic, he let Audrey Taylor in ahead of me – off topic, at length. I finally had to wheel my chair – from now on I will not sit in a chair without wheels at those meetings – and physically insert myself into the conversation to ask my on-topic questions. At one point, I just had to start yelling over Tillman, regarding the noticing of what Scott called “the listening meetings” – I had to keep saying, “No, that won’t work…” until they listened.

I’m not going to be polite, I don’t care who thinks I’m a bitch. One thing I’ve learned having dealt with these people all these years, be a  bitch, or get screwed.

I’ll keep tabs on these upcoming “events”. 

 

 

City of Chico meeting schedule for week of August 26, 2013

25 Aug

Bidwell Park and Playground Commission, Monday August 26, 6:30 pm, City Chamber Bldg, Council Chamber:  The only item on this agenda is commissioner Richard Ober’s request to agendize a discussion about creating a “public/private non-profit partnership” between the city of Chico and the Caper Acres Volunteers. This is total news to me. The Caper Acres Volunteers Facebook has not been updated for almost a month, there’s nothing on it about the meeting they had at the end of July, and I have yet to hear any news about this handful of moms starting a legal non-profit. I will try to make this meeting, I haven’t attended one of these for years. 

Here’s that link:    http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/bidwell_park_and_playground_commission/BPPC_Agendaandreports_13_0826.pdf

Finance Committee, Tuesday August 27, 8 – 10 am, City Chamber Bldg, Conf Rm 1: This meeting is chock full of interesting stuff – did you know the city takes in over a million dollars a year in Downtown parking revenues, and spends over $500,000 of it on salaries and benefits? Something tells me the fellows who service those parking meters are not taking in that kind of salary, I’m guessing, this is another fund that is being hit heavily for other than it’s intended purpose.  $taff is in fact requesting that this fund be opened up to all kinds of allowed expenditures, stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with securing you a parking space Downtown. 

Other items include a continuation of the user fee study, as well as the usual budget and finance department updates from Chris Constantin. If you can’t make the meeting, at least look over the agenda – over 100 pages, including a Downtown parking study and pages and pages of incriminating financial figures. 

Here’s that link:  http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/8-27-13FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

Economic Development Committee, Wednesday August 28, 4 – 6 pm, City Chamber Bldg, Conf Rm 1:  THIS MEETING HAS BEEN ERRONEOUSLY POSTED AND NOTICED AS BEING SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY THE 27TH.  Sean Tillman sent out a blast of e-mail corrections that loaded my mail box like a diaper, but has not corrected the notice on the website yet. I keep waiting for his name to disappear from the $taff roster, and I keep being disappointed.

I had been looking forward to this meeting, because at the last meeting I attended, Tillman excitedly promised the results of the shopper’s survey undertaken earlier this year by Tri-Counties Bank, sponsored in part with our tax dollars.  Audrey Taylor from city consultant Chabin Concepts even mentioned having some sort of exciting “event”,  “in August”. But I don’t see anything about that on this agenda. Instead they will be continuing the conversation about merging this committee with the underground “Mayor’s Business Advisory Council,” which operates without public oversight. I’ve asked to attend MBAC events and been refused by $taff, as well as Ann Schwab and Mark Sorensen. Only Ann would even tell me who else is in this secret committee – PG&E? So, I don’t know if this is a good move. I’ve heard, at last week’s council meeting, they’ve re-opened the conversation about hiring a new Economic Development Director, also behind closed doors. I’m sick of all this sneaky business with the Chico Chamber, DCBA, and various consultants who come around at Community Block Grant Funding time. This issue needs more sunshine. 

There will be a “report” from “Team Chico” – another behind closed doors effort between the City of Chico, Chico Chamber, Downtown Chico Business Association, 3CORE and the Alliance for Workforce Development and who knows what other “stakeholders”. Their meetings are not noticed to the public, Tillman reports whatever he feels the public needs to know. These reports are all full of rainbows and lollipops, nothing substantial.  But, city money, in the form of Tillman’s salary and benefits, is being spent on these consultants, many of whom also get CBGF money. I read the slick report included in the agenda, and some of the information is no longer correct (Hwy 32 widening was KO’d the other night), a lot of it is just soap bubbles. 

Here’s that link:   http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/8-27-13EDCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

I wish more people would take time to attend these meetings, just once. I hate to think people just like to sit around complaining but doing nothing!