Tag Archives: Jan Sneed Chico CA

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? 

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20161218/card-board-irked-over-skate-park-expenses

 

CARD too chickenshit to go to the general ballot – they’re sneaking their assessment into your mailbox

23 Mar

I sent the following letter to Chico Enterprise Record this morning, we’ll see if it gets ink.

Chico Area Recreation District will seek to assess residents in a mailed ballot election, saying they need the money to build an aquatic center and make other improvements in district facilities.

What they are not discussing before the voters is their unfunded pension liability – $1.7 million as of 2014.  Management employees pay nothing toward their own retirement.

CARD says Shapiro Pool is beyond  repair. That was not the story in 2009, when a consultant reported Shapiro was adequate to handle local demand as well as swim meets, and could be brought up to code for about a half million dollars. At that time, he reported, there were safety code and Americans with Disabilities Act violations – including substandard filtration and sanitation, and trip hazards due to incomplete removal of a diving board.

CARD’s board of directors chose to do nothing. Annual budgets on CARD’s  website show very little money has been spent maintaining either public pool over the years.

The ADA was passed in 1990, but CARD only last year commissioned a study, $60,000, to find out just how non-compliant their facilities are, including California Park Lakeside Pavilion. Lakeside Pavilion also  has extensive rot damage.

With all these problems, they chose in 2012 to make a $400,000 “side fund payoff” to CalPERS for their pension fund rather than make badly needed repairs to facilities like the Humboldt Skate Park.

Please watch your mail for a ballot and vote NO.

Something else you might do is write to or call CARD, and ask longest standing board member Jan Sneed why she let the swimming pools go without maintenance for so long. 

 

 

It’s Christmas, and Chico Area Recreation District has got their hand in your stocking!

17 Dec

Busy busy Christmas time – I wonder if anybody is paying attention to what CARD is doing.

I will be out of town Thursday night for a family affair, but the newly installed CARD board will finally be having a truly public discussion about putting a tax on the 2016 ballot to build an aquatic center for Chico Aqua Jets. That is, if the public bothers to show up.’

The alternative is, fix Shapiro Pool, which has suffered from just plain neglect for years. They’ve let Shapiro turn into a shit hole so nobody will care when they close it and take all our money to build their Taj Majal aquatic center.  So  far CARD has paid my kids’ old hockey coach (and you sucked as coach Greg) an undisclosed amount (somewhere, they say, between $10,000 and $18,000 per design) for three designs. They used money from their budget – at a meeting last year they said their budget was so overimpacted they had to lay people off and cut employee’s hours to avoid paying health benefits, but now they come up with somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000 to draw some sketches for an aquatic center that hasn’t been approved? 

I’m sorry, but if Melton’s designs are anything like his “commitment” as a coach, they aren’t worth the paper they’ve  been printed on.

See, this is the utter malfeasance that is Chico Area Recreation and Tax Sucking District. Nine thousand of you approved of this by voting for longtime incumbent Jan Sneed, so just suck it up and get out your own checkbooks, I ain’t paying. 

They say it will serve the public – I sat through earlier discussions, when the 30 or so people behind this move discussed how they would get the public to approve of such a tax. The lion’s share of this building will go to Aqua Jets, but the center will offer classes to children and the elderly. This will bring in some revenue, but longtime board member and former chair Ed Seagle admitted the center will “never pay for itself.” 

Legislative changes in the tax assessment process have made it easier to get these taxes passed – lowering the voter threshold from two-thirds to 51 %. Now 51 % of the public can shove a tax up the asses of the other 49 – wow, that’s not Democracy, that’s mob rule. That’s a G-Snatch! 

When I wrote a letter to the ER a couple of years back, talking about this discussion, former CARD director Steve Visconti actually brought my letter up at a meeting, right in front of me, and told the group they had to do something to counter my letter! He wanted to get a letter writing campaign going to discredit me, but I never found out where that went. It certainly didn’t make it into the newspaper. You’ll note that there has never been any real popular support for this center, only people with kids in Aqua Jets.

That’s the pattern of late – tax the poor to pay for fancy crap for the rich. Take note of the cop contracts – public safety workers are the new One Percent, with their lesser court made up of other public workers. Public workers who collect big salaries to “manage” – the manager of the local mosquito abatement district makes over $100,000/year, and pays less than 5 percent of his own pension and benefits. He just “managed” to put a open-ended assessment on your house – when was the last time you had any notice from Butte County Mosquito Abatement, that they would be doing any work in your neighborhood? Never? But look at your property tax bill – there it is. 

See, there’s this scam – if you could collect $1 from everybody in Chico, that would be over $80,000.  That’s twice the median, or normal, income, but it doesn’t seem like much when it’s just a dollar from each person, does it?  That’s how it works for all these agencies, CARD, BCMVCD, CUSD – they don’t do anything for most of us, but they can put a tax on your home to pay their salaries and benefits. And it’s a lot more than a dollar a year. 

 

 

 

Aquatic Center efforts go underground

18 Oct

I came away from last night’s CARD board meeting feeling like they aren’t going to fully discuss their aquatic center plans in front of me because I’ve criticized them publicly. I also saw something last night that tells me, these kind of people serve on these boards to forward their own interests, CARD doesn’t really serve the community. It serves the board members’ friends.

We sat through an audit report from Mattson and Isom. The woman reminded me of a school  teacher, she was very professional and cheerful.  I won’t pretend to understand or care. Of course she found everything in order – as long as they keep records of where the money goes, an auditor doesn’t care that they spend it all on their own salaries and pensions.  She was speaking as an auditor, not a person who pays for it out of her property taxes. Of course she gushed all over the board at the end of her report and told them how thankful M&I is to get their business, leaving as they moved along to the next item.  

The bottom line was, CARD revenues are down because the board has cut programs and cut staff, but they have continued to make the payments to CalPERS for benefits and pensions. Two of the board members, Tom Lando and Ed Seagal, are CalPERS pensioners, and Herman Ellis receives a pension through Cal State Chico. The conflict of interest seems obvious to me.  But the board moved right along to “Unfinished Business.” 

A regular item on this list, the Humboldt Skate Park is of constant concern down at CARD. From the time it was built, we’ve seen that it was poorly planned, never should have been done. It’s too small, stuck in a corner of town where no kids live, and destined to be a homeless hangout. It’s concealed by that stupid fence so people can do drugs, ride bikes, even cars! and vandalize, without the scrutiny of the non-interested cops or the unknowing public.  I’s closed due to vandalism at least twice a year, for weeks at a time. It has a bigger maintenance budget than larger area parks.  

Maintenance superintendent Jake Preston showed photos taken from the internet of “brawls” and even of a small car being driven inside the gated fence.  Board member Jan Sneed reported that she went into the skate park and had a conversation with some “hardcore skaters” who told her they’d “beat up” any high school kids who tried to use the skate park.  Instead of having these losers arrested, she says they need to  be part of the committee to figure out what to do about the problems. 

Does she think this is Mayberry RFD? 

Maintenance director Preston laid out four possibilities: 

  • leave the park as is
  • close and eliminate the park
  • give it back to the city of Chico
  • create a positive atmosphere with some supervision and even programs

I was surprised when about half dozen members of the established “skate community” attended the meeting, three of them stood up to talk about ways the park could be improved. Two of them agreed the park was too small. All three agreed with Jake Preston that the park is in a horrible location. They all blame the “bums” for the drug and alcohol use, the syringes and other paraphernalia that litters the site, and the constant reek of pee. They also pointed out that the best skate parks are private and charge a small entrance fee.  They said they drive regularly to Sacramento and San Jose to pay to skate. 

The board listened attentively and respectfully to these people. One thing I’ll say about CARD meetings is, the speakers are treated better. The board members don’t go on with their bullshit philosophy for hours on end, these meetings are very businesslike. But, I also noticed a distinct difference between the way they treat the skate board park and how they later treated the  folks who want an aquatic center.

For the skate board park, they want to “create ownership” – have some non-profit take it over. For one thing, bless his heart – Jake Preston is sick of the Humboldt Skate Park. I don’t blame him. He’s being made to be a babysitter for druggies and creeps who want to hide in that fenced yard where the cops can’t see them doing deals and shooting up. Preston clearly does not want to be responsible for the skate park anymore, and neither does the board. They want to hand it off to some bunch of dummies like the Outsiders, who took on the frisbee golf course at Five Mile.  These groups can then apply for grants to do the maintenance, and CARD washes their hands of it. 

That sounds great until that group falls apart. These facilities always end up degrading with time and neglect, and turn into a problem again. And, the skate park is poorly designed, too small to be safe, and tucked away into a corner where everybody admits – the homeless have “owned” that spot since before I was born. When I was a kid, that’s where “Bidwell’s indians” used to sit around and get drunk all day along the creek. 

But that discussion ended with Ed Seagle’s suggestion to start a “Chico Skate Board  Club” to pay for some supervision of the park.  Charging a membership fee to get in, and demanding membership cards would “get rid of the riff raff,” he says. As for the “money issue,” Seagle mentions contacting local businesses, “so we don’t have to spend any money…” on a CARD owned property. Wow, great Ed, thanks for your support. The discussion ended with the formation of another committee to continue studying things – more study?    Jake Preston handed his card to the skaters as they left the room.

And then it was off and running to the aquatic center discussion, which was a whole new ballgame.  They talked about the 15 people who signed up for the committee (only one had signed up at the Sept 23 meeting), but argued over that being too many – “we’ll never get anything done with that many people,” opined one board member. Director Steve Visconti suggested the list be paired down by having each applicant submit “a letter of intent,” with information about themselves and their interest in the project. Oh? Pick and choose, eh? This committee is starting to sound kind of exclusive.   They talked about wanting more “stakeholders” on board – they only have one right now – and I’m guessing, that’s the Aquajets manager who was the only one to sign up at the Sept 23 meeting.  Aquajets are considered a “stakeholder,” but not a member of the general public? They want people with some sort of credentials, is what I get. How about this – I  can bring my cancelled tax payment checks? 

At one point in the conversation, Jan Sneed, one of the longest running members, declared that the board needed to decide whether or not CARD would take an active part in this aquatic center promotion before there was any further discussion. She seemed to feel they were violating some rule.  So, they voted unanimously to support this project.  

While they refused to talk about funding, Visconti mentioned that the next step would be for CARD to pay an artist to come up with drawing of the proposed center.   Here we go – CARD money! This is not appropriate, as far as I’m concerned, but they also chose to pay about $40,000 for a survey that they aren’t listening to. The survey indicated the public would not support an aquatic center, but Laura Urseny indicated in her article in yesterday’s ER that they still intend to pursue a bond. They refused to talk about that last night, I believe, because I was sitting right there. 

Ed Seagle did make a remark about finding a “stakeholder with deep pockets,” but that didn’t even get a response. Instead they opened the meeting to public comment, and of course the first “member of the public” to stand up was former CARD director and board member Jerry Hughes. First Hughes argued that they should have another publicly noticed meeting, try to get more members of the public “to commit”. But, he also detailed past attempts at “getting the public to commit.” Failure 40 years ago, failure 20 years ago, and he still insists we “need” an aquatic center. He ignored the results of the recent survey, which indicated, not enough support.  Two public swimming pools that CARD has refused to maintain, a skate park they are trying to pawn off on somebody else, but we NEED an aquatic center? The people have spoken again and again, but Hughes and his friends, mostly Aquajets grandparents who remember how many times this effort has failed but refuse to see why, still insist we need this ridiculous money pit.  There is NOT sufficient interest in swim sports here to build a fucking Taj Majal aquatic center, get over it!

Hughes and another speaker tried that old tack – “what an economic boon to Chico!”  One woman claimed a swim meet in brings 3,000 people to town. I don’t want to call her liar, but I would like to see some numbers on that from a more reliable source, like local hotels, restaurants and gas stations. Maybe she meant, several meets over a year? 

Here Ed Seagle broke in,  admitting, in a very frustrated tone, “The reality is, most pools barely break even…”

But Seagle had a bad case of double speak last night.  He acts like he’s uninterested, but went ahead and voted to form a committee of Sneed and Worley to oversee the citizen’s committee, and at a future meeting, they will vote to pay for the artist’s rendering.  I’ll drop a note to CARD staff, let them know I want to be noticed of these meetings.

I’ll try to keep an eye on this effort, you should too.

I find it weird that the skateboard park, which is already an existing problem, is left to “new ownership,” but this aquatic center rainbow is getting a  conceptual drawing, a  citizen’s committee, and according to the story in yesterday’s ER, a bond measure on the 2016 ballot.

When my kid’s hockey club went to CARD, asking for a spot in the facility they planned for DeGarmo Park, they told our kids NO – it’s bad for Cal Skate! They said it would be directly competitive with a local business. But here the aquatic center isn’t competition for In Motion? It isn’t going to negatively impact the school swim teams? What about PV and Shapiro pools? Will CARD close those pools due to inability to maintain them? They’re already in such bad shape that the school swim teams “are forced” to use In Motion Fitness.  This conversation was completely different than the conversation they had with our hockey club.  And completely different than the skateboard park discussion.

Why aren’t we screaming “MISMANAGEMENT” ? I sure wish the rest of you would get some letters to the paper on this. I think we could beat it down before any CARD money is spent on it.

NOTE:  I e-mailed CARD manager Steve Visconti and he has placed me on the notice list for the aquatic center committee. I’ll keep you posted. 

Jan Sneed attacked me at today’s CARD finance meeting – this woman is out of control, and isn’t suitable for public office

13 May

I tried to attend the CARD finance meeting today, I had an appointment that ran long, and came in just as the meeting was getting over (wow, less than 25 minutes!)

 As I was apologizing and asking Finance Director Scott Dowell how I could get a paper copy of the finance report that he’d given at the meeting, longtime CARD board member Jan Sneed walked by me and whispered at me, “oh, the woman who’s harassing Maria Rock!” or something to that effect. In shock I turned and said, “Excuse me?” And she just launched at me with a verbal attack, her face got red, she raised her voice and she started poking at me with one finger, actually touching me at one point.
 
I kept telling her to back off, my husband stepped between us and told her to back off – she start pushing and poking him.
 
I kept telling her, if she wanted to  talk to me, she needed to write a letter to the paper. She kept saying, “I AM talking to YOU!” and kept advancing on me.
 
I turned to Dowell and frantically asked him again about the report. I was very polite to all staffers. Dowell held me off for a few moments, he said he wanted to hear what Sneed had to say!  I asked him, why are you holding us here to be attacked by that woman?” but he wouldn’t answer.  
 
She was ranting and raving about my letters, saying I’d accused them (CARD) of “being dishonest.”  I just kept telling her she needed to write a letter to the newspaper.
 
She also mentioned several times that I am “harassing Maria Rock.”  
 
We went to the office and she followed us down the hall, despite my husband telling her to stop following us. At this point I was near tears, shaking, and about ready to throw up – I’m sorry, but I work for a living, I’m tired, I make a lot of arrangements to attend these  meetings, and this crew of publicly paid people allow this woman to verbally attack me when I ask for public records. They all just stood there listening to her as though she was speaking for all of them. 
 
We told desk staff that if she came into the office while we were waiting for Dowell to get the records, we wanted them to call the police. Hearing this she turned and walked the other way down the hall. 
 
Staff never once apologized. Dowell gave us the report and told us it was the report he’d given at the meeting today.  The desk staffed offered to staple the pages together for us, but we politely declined.  We thanked Dowell and Visconti personally for their politeness, we thanked staff, and left with the report. 
 
When we attended the last regular board meeting, she made a similar move leaving the meeting – came up close to me and whispered something at me, but I didn’t make the mistake of saying, “Excuse me, ” so I didn’t get attacked. 
 
This isn’t appropriate behavior for a public official. All I did was tell the public what I’d heard at the last meeting. None of them denied any of the stuff I said in my letters to the papers, it’s all true. They just don’t seem to want people talking about their CalPERS payoff. 
 

Any advice would be  welcome – but what I’d really like, is some other people to attend the meeting Thursday night. 

I sent this above to county supervisor Larry Wahl, David Little over at the Enterprise Record, and some other folks in my mailbox.  Sneed’s behavior is outrageous. I wondered what happened to former director Mary Cahill – now I get it! 

From the Chico News and Review, Sept 15 2005:

Mary Cahill, who was terminated Sept. 6 as general manager of the Chico Area Recreation District, took issue with CARD board and media characterizations of her parting.

While a press release issued by CARD attorney Jeff Carter stated Cahill was “terminated … without cause,” Cahill said she left by “mutual agreement” after much discussion over a period of time. She was given $100,000 in severance pay as required by her contract.

“I was not fired,” Cahill said. “It was a discussion and it was definitely both-sided. … It makes it look like I did something wrong when I didn’t,” she added.

Jan Sneed is the longest running member of the CARD board, having been there since before any of the other standing board members, and before Steve Visconti was promoted to the rank of General Manager. I wonder how much her personality problems had to do with Mary Cahill’s “mutual agreement” to leave CARD, taking $100,000, just in severance.

I’ve long wondered what’s wrong at CARD, and now I’m figuring it out.

UPDATE:  This morning I came in from a few hours of weed pulling and raking to sit down with a cup of coffee and watch a quick episode of “Leave It To Beaver.” 

It seems Wally’s big friend Lumpy has been picking on Beaver. Beaver asks his dad for advice, and Ward tells him a comical story of a prank he himself had pulled on the neighborhood bully when he was a boy. Beaver pulls a similar stunt to get back at Lumpy, but instead, Lumpy’s dad ends up getting into it, and gets really mad. This creates a sticky situation for Ward – Lumpy’s dad Fred is not only his long time friend but a partner in his business. Of course Ward straightens the whole thing out and the boys apologize, and Fred forgives them, admitting that not only Lumpy but he himself had pulled some stunts too.

But the best part of every episode is the private chat between Ward and the boys.   Ward explains to Beaver, there will always be people who bully “to get their way, and you can’t always do anything about it. You just have to learn to live with people like that.” 

Hmmmm – how do you “live with” people like Sneed, without being taken advantage of?

Sneed complained loudly that I had insinuated the board was being dishonest. Well, yes, I am. I still have that survey, posted here:

img003

Look that over and show me where they mention their nearly $400,000 CalPERS side fund payoff, or their nearly million dollar budget overrun. Instead they make promises they can’t keep – “In order to construct and maintain a new aquatics facility…” AND  “to construct and maintain a new gymnasium…” These are totally unrealistic goals – during the RDA discussion about building an aquatic center, the figure they produced was EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS. Just for construction. And what does a new gymnasium cost? The survey insinuated that an assessment of $130 would pay for that,  adding  suggestions like  “Well maintained and accessible sports fields for sports programs help keep kids off drugs and out of gangs.” 

Right now the capital projects fund that would pay for all that bling is TAPPED OUT. That fund was cleaned out of over $350,000 to make that side fund payoff. 

Yes Jan, I’m accusing you, point blank, of  being dishonest with the public in asking for a bond or assessment to pay for an aquatic center or new gymnasium. Like I said at the meeting, you can answer me in your letter to the editor.