Tag Archives: City of Chico

Chico Engages certain people, with certain opinions

13 Oct

It started so innocently, when the city clerk sent me the agenda for an upcoming council meeting, along with this notice:

“If you are unable to attend, you may now use the City’s “Engaged Chico” platform to submit your thoughts on items open for public comment at next week’s Council meeting.  Your comments are provided to the City Council and will become part of the official public record.  While not required in order to comment, if you set up an account in this online program… you will automatically be notified each time a Council agenda gets uploaded into the system.

Here’s the link to access the programhttps://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/meetings  “

Although, I prefer to make my comments in the letters section of the newspaper, I thought I’d better take a look at this new gadget. It looks like people are wading in with lots of suggestions – they must not have heard, our city is so broke it can’t fix streets or maintain the park. 

One interesting suggestion was an ice skating rink at City Plaza. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find it – I saw it on the site this morning (10/13) but while I was looking at other “ideas” the skating rink discussion just f-ing disappeared. I’ll ask the clerk what happened to it tomorrow.

That’s just funny, because I attended a morning meeting a couple of years ago, at which a consultant who had successfully passed tax measures for towns in the Tahoe area, suggested the city needed to bait their hook. “We offered the public an ice skating rink”  – and the measure passed. 

So I thought it was funny that this skating rink idea just popped up on the “Engaged Chico” site. I didn’t see a name attached, so I asked the clerk who suggested this idea. 

She responded, “It was Brendan Ottoboni’s department (Public Works Engineering).  I believe they were approached by an outside vendor about the idea right after the Paradise fire.  It’s only at discussion stages at this time which was why it was included on the civic engagement site so that staff could hear from the citizens.”

Nobody responded, but there it was, and now that I asked the clerk about it, it’s gone. Hmmmm.

And here’s another think I’ll have to ask the clerk about – the notice said we could comment without creating an account, but when I tried to comment, it wouldn’t post. My comment was in regards to the raises council is considering for management staffers, on the same agenda with a tax increase discussion. Disaparecido!

Meanwhile, the Chico Housing Action Team has hit the site with demands for Stuplicity Village. This is creating inappropriate influence with council.

I’m going to check a solid NO vote on Chico Engaged. 

David Little: “worst development of all was the advent of an online reporting system for crimes…”

16 Jul
This is a stupid editorial – Little admits the cops have dropped the ball, but instead of blaming poor attitude he blames staff shortages and low pay. He seems to miss what really happened – they let our town sink into a state of disgrace – “drug deals in City Plaza” – demanding bigger salaries and more cops. They got that in January – it’s been seven months, and the crime and homeless situations aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse. There’s still a sign on the post office annex saying, “Due to security concerns…” the annex is locked up tight between 10 pm and 7 am, no getting your mail late at night. That just happened over the last year because the homeless had turned the annex into a fleabag hotel and the cops wouldn’t stop them. David Little isn’t a journalist, he’s a propagandist.

Editorial: Community policing model needs to give hope to victims

The Chico Police Department says it’s going to give “community-oriented policing” a try. Though it sounds promising, we can’t help but wonder if it’s more than just a trendy phrase.

The community policing model is all the rage, and new Police Chief Mike O’Brien is excited about giving it a whirl. He called it a “major change” last week when the department was restructuring in order to implement that community policing model.

It’s not just O’Brien’s vision. Mike Dunbaugh, the interim chief before O’Brien took over last month, was also a big proponent of the community policing model.It’s easy to see why, because it sounds so rudimentary: Police try to fix crime problems that are important to the community.O’Brien said the department will focus on crimes that have eroded the quality of life in Chico, things such as bicycle thefts, home burglaries, vehicle smash-and-grab robberies and criminal activity by transients.

“I hear it from every segment of this community that this is what we need to get a handle on,” O’Brien said last week.Dunbaugh said on his way out that the new structure “simplifies our operation.” It divides the city into three geographic areas — the downtown area, and then the rest of the city east and west of Highway 99.The restructured department is set up to be more focused on patrol rather than administration. As O’Brien puts it, the department will be “more responsive … to the community.”Community-oriented policing is described by the U.S. Department of Justice as a philosophy that uses community partnerships and problem-solving techniques to address conditions that facilitate crime. Citizens will welcome this new model, because many feel crime has gotten out of hand and the Police Department hasn’t done enough to combat it.

Part of the problem was a shrinking workforce as the city budget took a nosedive. As the Police Department was reduced in size, management decided to discontinue many of the things that citizens value — downtown patrols, officers on high school campuses, traffic cops and so forth.

Worse yet, things like downtown crime, bicycle thefts and drug deals in City Plaza barely got the department’s attention.

The worst development of all was the advent of an online reporting system for crimes. If somebody would get a $2,000 bicycle stolen, $5,000 in electronics, or even a gun, victims were told to fill out a form online. In most instances, there was no interaction with a detective or officer. Victims would fill out the form and never hear from the department again.

The great online reporting tool was a black hole of information.

People undoubtedly stopped reporting crimes because it was a waste of their time. The only reason to fill out the form was if you were lucky enough to have insurance.

The message was obvious: Sorry, folks, you’re on your own.

The online reporting system started Jan. 1, 2013. Sure, it saves money, but we’ve yet to see evidence this supposed database of crimes is being used to solve them.

Since a new City Council majority took over in December, the department is growing again. That’s why some of the special enforcement teams, such as downtown patrols, have come back.

What really needs to happen, however, is for citizens to regain confidence that police can help crime victims. Even if the department doesn’t get rid of online reporting, human follow-up — just a call to let victims know the report was seen, and that officers are looking — would go a long way toward mollifying a skeptical public.

Catching a few of the thieves, and then publicly celebrating that success, wouldn’t hurt either. The department needs a few victories.

Fiscal morons about to cut nearly $2 million deal with Chico PD

12 Mar

City management and council met in closed session a couple of weeks ago to discuss the cop contracts. Here’s the link to the latest proposal:


I cut an excerpt here, in which the city manager reports, we don’t have the money to give these raises, but he is assuming our situation will get better? That’s pure speculation, and I think it’s irresponsible.

They say the cops are offering to pay (BFD) 12 percent of their pension. 12 percent of the cost of 90 percent of their highest year’s pay at 50 years of age. Oh, please!  “New hires” pay 50 percent – just watch, in future, they’ll  say that creates a conflict in the ranks, and they’ll want wage increases to cover that 50 percent.


Financial Capacity The City is projected to end the 2014-15 years with a negative $4.5 million general fund balance and no General Fund reserves. However, the 2013 financial measures, improvement in the economy, and operational savings allowed the city to finish 2013-14 with over $4 million to carry over into 2014-15. Preliminary information indicates that the same conditions exist for 2014-15, and the City estimates it will have additional funds to carry over into 2015-16, albeit it will not be as much as 2013-14. The City Council approved a deficit reduction plan that anticipated contributing $800,000 in 2014-15 towards the deficit. The strengthening of the City’s position allows the City to contribute about $3.3 million in 2014-15. The policy question before the City in negotiating this MOU shows a policy direction of balance. A very conservative approach would require that any and all available funds must go to pay the deficit before any additional expenditures in operations. However, this approach is not feasible due to the City’s need to continue to provide quality services as expected by our community. The conditions seen in the Police Department in terms of the attrition rate, ability to recruit, competitiveness of compensation and overall operations indicate a condition of instability. This is similar to what other cities are facing where large numbers of officers are leaving. In the City of San Jose, the lack of comparable salary and benefits has led to a staffing level that fell from almost 1,400 sworn offers to under 800 with more officers leaving than being retained. While Chico’s situation isn’t as dire, if the City does not balance the need for competitive compensation with other internal changes (which are underway), Chico will risk being under the same pressures as San Jose. This MOU will fit well into the City’s goal of turning the situation around and helping to strengthen the Department’s ability to serve the community.

“without admitting any violation…” city responds to accusations of violating the Brown Act, promises to “cease” discussing salary and compensation in closed session

16 Jan

From next Tuesday’s council agenda, available here:


January 20,2014
411 Main Street (530) 896-7250
PO Box3420 Fax:(530) 895-4825
Chico. CA 95927-3420 http://www.c, chico ca 

Jessica Allen
Citizens of the City of Chico

Re: Brown Act Cease and Desist Letter – August 5,2014

Dear Ms. Allen,

The Chico City Council has received your cease and desist letter dated August 5, 2014, alleging
that the following described past action of the legislative body violates the Ralph M. Brown Act:

– Discussion of employee compensation during closed session;
– Calling a special meeting to discuss or take action on the salary or compensation of a
local agency executive;
– Failing to report action taken by the City Council in closed session
– Failing to report the votes of each council member on action taken in closed session;
– Discussing or taking action on matters not specifically exempted from the open meeting
rules detailed in the Brown Act; and
– Discussing or taking action in closed session on items not posted on the agenda.

In order to avoid unnecessary litigation and without admitting any violation of the Ralph M.
Brown Act, the Chico City Council hereby unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist
from, and not repeat the challenged past action described above.

The Chico City Council may rescind this commitment only by a majority vote of its membership
taken in open session at a regular meeting and noticed on its posted agenda as “Rescission of
Brown Act Commitment.” You will be provided written notice, sent by any means or media you
provide in response to this message, to whatever address or addresses you specific, of any
intention to consider rescinding this commitment at least thirty (30) days before any such regular
meeting. In the event that this commitment is rescinded, you will have the right to commence
legal action pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 54960 of the Government Code. That noticewill be delivered to you by the same means as this commitment, or may be mailed to an address
that you have designated in writing.

Very truly yours,
Mark Sorensen

How to qualify an initiative for the ballot

25 Nov


I got a big kick out of this skit on Saturday Night Live, now making it’s way around the internet:

I realize there are those who feel this is an inaccurate portrayal of what’s been going on with immigration reform, but I think it’s a pretty accurate as far as how things really work in our government.

I love the part where the Executive Order says, “I didn’t have time to read myself!” Except for the fact that a bill is an inanimate object, not a person, I think that’s pretty accurate.

But we can’t blame President Obama, or this faceless entity known as “The Gub’mint” without turning the mirror on ourselves – we can’t just sit back and throw tomatoes, we have to roll up our sleeves and get in there and try to take more responsibility for governing ourselves.

As we all know,  our government is  still set up to allow us to create our own laws. It’s quite a task, I will say, but not insurmountable for a dedicated group, especially on the local level. In Hemet, the taxpayers association got two measures on the 2010 ballot, and both passed with some 80 percent  of the vote. They spent about $7,000. One measure created term limits for city council members and the other ended the practice of paying for the councilors’ health insurance policies.

I already knew, an “initiative” is a proposal directly from some group of citizens, to be placed on the ballot for general election, given that the proponents can demonstrate enough support by collecting signatures. I wanted to find out more about the actual process so I got online and did some research. When I looked at the city charter to find out more about placing a measure on the local ballot, I found the city defers to the same laws  accepted by the state of California, so I went to the Secretary of State’s website here:


It sure sounds simple enough – get a group of 25 or more people willing to sign a petition to request help from the Office of Legislative Counsel in writing a draft of your proposed law. This is free, but you will need at least 25 dedicated people. You could also get a lawyer, and pay for that, or you could write the draft yourself(ves) and take your chances.

Once you have cleared this hurdle, you will need to pony up a refundable (or maybe not) $200 fee to get a title and summary written by the Attorney General to be placed on the petitions. If you collect enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot, you get your $200 back, but that remains to be seen.  Here’s where the going starts to get rugged – I don’t even know what it costs to have a petition printed these days, but it’s not free.  And, there’s all kinds of rules. Of course there’s help with the rules from the elections office, but if you print it wrong and they throw it out for one reason or another, all that money is out the window.

I’m glad this process is not easy. If you can’t get 25 or 30, or even 50 other people interested in an idea for a ballot measure, you should probably let it go. It always boils down to The People.


Turkey makes you sleepy – try to stay vigilant over the holidays!

24 Nov

With the holiday season bearing down on us, it’s hard to think about our city’s problems, but it’s hardly a good time to go to sleep at the wheel. The employee contracts expire in December – I think that’s on purpose, Folks. They have Tom Turkey and Santa Claus running interference, so they try to get away with a lot of stuff behind closed doors.

If you haven’t seen the new employee contract proposals, look here:



I’ll say, the clerk has gotten a little better at posting this stuff on time, but there’s still discrepancies – some meetings are still missing minutes, some are even missing agendas. I don’t have time to snoop into that, but I’m guessing something happened at those meetings she doesn’t want people to know about? Just asking! 

I don’t go to the meetings anymore because it’s just public theater. The real news is in the documents. I used to think it was important to go to the meetings, participate in the soap opera drama – no, that is how you give your “tacit consent.” Don’t let them hand you a pile of crap – do your own digging. I’ve had some comments lately from people who actually read this stuff, and I’ve seen links getting used to important documents off this blog, so I know SOMEBODY is paying attention. 

Thank you Somebody!

I want to enjoy the holidays like everybody else, and the city tends to shut down anyway, meetings go underground, just get cancelled. But, let’s not forget, George Washington mustered his half-starved and freezing troops to attack on Christmas Eve. The Viet Cong made their most successful attack on US troops over their New Year holiday, supposedly the most important holiday in Vietnam. Tet is probably even more significant now than it was before 1968.

So keep your ears open and your eyes peeled, you don’t want to wake up to a hangover in January. 


Chico PD’s latest contract proposal is unsustainable

21 Nov

I wrote a letter to the News and Review, I want to keep the city employee contracts in the news. 

Again, Chico Police employees put more money into local campaigns than any other group. In addition to the CPOA, former police chief Mike Maloney formed his own PAC, allowing police employees to get around rules limiting contributions.  

The new council majority will negotiate with a police department asking for 5 percent raises as well as payment of various benefits currently paid by employees. The city already pays over 25 percent of their pensions while most police employees pay 9 percent. Salaries in the police department average over twice the local median income. 

Police employees continue to complain they are understaffed, ignoring practical suggestions to lower their salaries to reasonable amounts and pay a more rational share of their own pensions in order to loosen up money for new hires. 

Despite an obvious conflict of interest, the proposal still includes a provision that the city collect union dues from employees who do not wish to be union members, this money being poured into campaigns at election time. 

The city is currently suffering “liabilities” over $75 million, about $50 million of which are pensions. We’ll soon see how new councilors installed with CPD money will react to the cops’ demands.

Here’s the cops’ proposal – I cut and paste this verbatim from the city agenda, the typos are all theirs. I highlighted stuff in red to show, they’re not only refusing to reign in their salaries and benefits, they’re asking for more stuff!  And they want a three year term, so these contracts would stand for three years with very little chance of review. 

Chico POA
Proposal – September 24, 2014
The following is a proposal for a successor MOU to the one expiring 12/31114 between the
Chico Police Officers’ Association and the City of Chico. This proposal is intended to begin the
bargaining process and introduce several ideas that the POA believes can create a better
environment within the City of Chico Police Department, specifically the Departments ability to
retain and recruit police officers. When possible, the current MOU provision that would be affected is listed. Wording is NOT
final and will be edited to reflect any changes prior to submission to the City in formal
1. Three year term of MOU: 111115-12/31/17. 1.3A
2. Salary. 5% increase effective 1/1/15, 1/1116 and 1/1/17. 5.1 and Exhibit B
3. Longevity. Add four new longevity step increases of 4% at the following length of time
of employment with the city: 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and 25 years. New Article
5.12 “Longevity Pay”
4. Pay Step Addition and Adjustment. 5.1C

a. Add a Step H at 5% salary increase. 

b. Add a “training pay” step equivalent to $18 per hour.
5. Cash out Holiday Time Banlc Reinstate policy of allowing employees to cash out
unused holiday time bank hours each year. 6.2
6. Vacation Cash Out. Allow employees to accrue vacation above the maximum caps and
to cash out any unused vacation accrued above the caps at the end of each calendar
year. 6.5
7. Holiday Hours. City shall provide ten hours of Holiday Time Bank pay for holidays.
8. OT Pay for Holidays. City shall pay employees overtime rate for working holidays. 5.2
and 6.1
9. FICA and Dental to be paid by City. 6.3
a. City shall pay the 1.45% of FICA that has been paid by employees since 1/1111.
b. City shall pay the entire employee portion of the dental insurance (or allow the
employee to opt out of coverage). 6.3 and Exhibit C.
10. Call Back Pay. Increase the call back minimum pay to four (4) hours. (3 currently). 5.5
11. Shift Differential. 5.9
a. Increase swing and graveyard shift differential pay by 5%.
b. Shift differential to be calculated into base pay for overtime pay rate calculations.
12. Adopt and/or publicize the ability to put OT earnings directly into deferred
compensation. 6.6E

Please write letters to council and the papers, this contract is not sustainable. No matter what Mark Orme tells us, this city is up Shit Creek and nobody can find the paddle. 

The paddle we need right now would be a local Right To Work initiative.