Tag Archives: Mark Orme Chico City Manager

Orme and Dowell want to take the city of Chico on a Tax-stravaganza

25 May

Tomorrow the Chico Finance Committee is meeting, again, CLOSED in a room with public participation limited to Zoom, to discuss the smorgasbord of taxes and fee increases brought forward by city manager Mark Orme and Administrative Services (Finance) Director Scott Dowell. I will try to “attend” on Zoom, but in the meantime I wrote a letter to the ER.

The city of Chico is embarking on an unprecedented “tax-stravaganza”. At the 5/26/21 Finance Committee meeting, Mark Orme and Scott Dowell brought forth an incredible list of tax measures and fee increases for council’s consideration, including a sales tax increase, and new cell phone tax. Staff also suggested raising sewer fees by implementing volume charges, raising the transient occupancy tax, and increasing franchise fees on PG&E, the waste haulers, and other service providers. Mayor Coolidge has also suggested a road bond.

The common thread here is the pension deficit. Staff is desperate to pay CalPERS, to save pensions into which they have contributed less than 15% for 70-90% of their highest year’s pay.

The city has been receiving more sales tax, property tax, developer fees, and Utility Tax revenues every year as development brings more people to Chico. Instead of maintaining and improving infrastructure, Staff has poured these funds into their pension deficit, $11,500,000 this year, by 2025, $13,000,000. This money is allocated from all the department funds, at the expense of infrastructure and services.

Instead of pursuing new taxes that will hurt our local economy, council needs to switch from CalPERS’ defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, like 401Ks. Why should the taxpayers but never the employees bear the burden of the risks taken by CalPERS? The POB scheme, which Dowell admits is “gambling”, puts ALL the burden on the taxpayers, forever. Any new revenues will go to the pension obligation first.

We’re paying Staff for nothing but perpetuating their own retirement system.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Joe Azzarito: Let’s DO EQUITY, not just TALK IT!

11 May

Thanks to Joe Azzarito for this thoughtful take on city resource allocation.

The term equity has been bandied about by social progressives lately as cause for radical change in
society. By definition, equality means “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and
opportunities.” It has to do with giving everyone the exact same resources, whereas equity “involves
distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients”.

Let’s apply these terms to City of Chico expenses, specifically to its employees’ salary, pension and other
benefits. Much has been rebutted against the use of Pension Obligation Bonds as a panacea for its
enormous and growing unfunded actuarial liability due its staff.

If we consider the most appropriate use of available revenue in the service of citizenry, it behooves the
Chico City Council to find a solution to the many ignored uses for money. The recipients of the excessive
largesse, in the form of city paid pensions, would not in the slightest be equitable when balanced off
against needs of citizens. With their six figure incomes, they can well afford to fund their own
retirement, regardless of what has gone before.

Chico’s many problems, such as affordable housing for all, street repaving, safety both from crime and
fire, should be the focused uses for reported increased revenues. The double indebtedness that pension
bonds would create, between bondholders and CALPERS, is not establishing equity. It is exacerbating the
problem. The city‘s citizens have more unmet needs, in the form of services, than well heeled staffs do.
Let’s DO EQUITY not just TALK IT!

Joe Azzarito, Chico CA

I’ll say this – the fox is in charge of the henhouse, so the fox gets what he wants, and the hens, well, they just get it.

Who’s really in charge here?

28 Jan

Last week I received an agenda for another closed Finance Committee meeting, the first since last September, when the FC heard a consultant’s pitch for a Pension Obligation Bond. 

These meetings have always been held during the work day, when the average person has no chance to attend, and they’ve never been recorded. About 8 years ago, with a lot of smack about Jennifer “Loosey Goosey” Hennessy, recently departed finance manager Chris Constantin instituted a new policy of giving detailed finance reports at every meeting. Those reports were always available with the agenda of the meeting, they still are. 

But here’s the thing – the conversations get pretty far-reaching, and darned frank. At one meeting I attended a couple of years ago, local banker Marc Francis took Constantin out into the hallway to have a private conversation about a sales tax measure. I think that’s inappropriate, and a lot of that goes on at these meetings. But who would know – it’s not only not recorded, the clerk takes very minimal notes. 

I guess Zoom is an improvement, but you have to have good internet, and you need to sign in at least a half hour early to work out the glitches. And it’s the same as a live meeting – who’s available to watch a city committee meeting from 8 – 10 am on a work day?

I used to go to a lot of trouble to attend these meetings, putting aside my day’s work and lining up outside the door in whatever kind of weather. Why? Because it’s toe-to-toe in there, you can actually look your “representatives” right in the eye and tell them what you think, including what you think of what they think. There’s a lot of give and take, and oftentimes, they’ve backed down  from bad ideas just because they know somebody is watching.

So yes, I believe those meetings should all be videotaped, and the public should be able to get a copy for viewing at home. Holding meetings when people can’t attend and refusing to tape them is obviously just their way of keeping the public from knowing what the hell is  going on. 

And who makes that decision? Not your duly elected “representatives”, but Mark Orme. Remember, last March, at the onset of the shut down, our lovely council passed the mantel to Orme – he’s our un-elected Boss Man now, and he’s running our town into the toilet.

Take this item from next week’s council agenda. 

CREATING SHELTERING OPTIONS

The City’s Homeless Solutions Coordinator continues to evaluate options to mitigate the impacts of homelessness on the community and to help find ways for service providers to forge a responsible and sustainable continuum of care for Chico’s unsheltered populations.  This report provides options to build partnerships for the establishment of a legal camping environment, potential outdoor shelter environment, a non-congregate shelter collaboration, and a potential Park-n-Ride safe parking site.

Recommendation : The City Manager recommends the City Council consider the following:

I think this is outrageous – what happened to our “conservative” council who told us it is not the city’s responsibility to house anybody, it’s the county’s responsibility? Here they are going to take a piece of land from a group that promoted outdoor activities for children and give it to a group of transients to shit all over.

1.
Authorize the use of city owned land at 2352 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to establish an outdoor shelter (legal camping environment).

This is currently the location of the BMX track, formerly rented by a non-profit group that was evicted to  fulfill certain people’s agendas.


2.
Direct staff to return to the March 2, 2021 meeting, should the fund-raising efforts to raise $600,000, to fulfill the relocation of the current lessee, not be achieved.

If CHAT can’t fulfill their promise, we should pay?

3.
Authorize staff to use $282,933 of Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funding in relation to issues of homelessness and to take steps necessary to implement its use.

This money should be going to people who have actually been affected by the COVID shut down, including small businesses.

4.
Authorize the use of $250,000 in general fund dollars to support the efforts of the Chico Housing Action Team to secure a long-term lease for a non-congregate shelter site which will contribute to the advanced program engagement options for unsheltered populations.

$250,000 +

5.
Consider the use of $400,000 in general fund dollars to support the hard costs (one-time costs) required to implement the outdoor shelter environment should funding from the Continuum of Care for alternative sheltering options not be available in the next 60 days.

$400,000 +

6.
Consider the use of $200,000 in general fund dollars to support the operational costs required to begin operating the outdoor shelter environment should funding from the Continuum of Care for alternative sheltering options not be available in the next 30 days.

$200,000 = a grand total of $850,000 out of the General Fund. This is an important example of how they can do anything with money that is deposited in the General Fund.

7.
Evaluate and provide direction on any other information contained herein as it relates to identifying sheltering options for the unhoused population, to include the safe parking proposal.

As stated in the introduction, this has something to do with a Park and Ride facility. You can read the full report for yourself, here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=353

And then be sure to comment at Engaged Chico when Staff decides to load the agenda there:

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/  

None of this stuff has been discussed at any Finance Committee meeting. It’s been discussed at Homeless Task Force “Ad Hoc” meetings. Ad Hoc meetings require no notice of the public and no record.  But the biggest point I’d like to make here is that this is all on the recommendation of City Manager Mark Orme. 

I had already sent in the following letter when I received the agenda, so I’ll be sure to write a follow-up.  Why letters to the editor? Well, I also wrote to my city representative Kasey Reynolds, twice since December, asking her direct questions about the “Shelter Crisis Designation” But she so far has failed to respond. So I write to the Enterprise Record. I believe Mark Orme is at the center of the problem, and he needs to go.

In 2012 Chico voters passed Measure L, calling for city council to appoint the city clerk.. Proponents claimed Measure L would make the clerk answerable  to city council.  But, with the COVID shutdown, council abdicated all leadership responsibilities to city manager Mark Orme. 

Since March 2020, Orme has created three new positions, appointed a new police chief and given him a raise.  Orme has continued to close meetings to the public, while bringing forward tax measures for discussion without public participation.

When a friend asked the clerk’s office if a closed meeting would be recorded for public scrutiny, Staff replied, “The City does not have a policy that requires staff to record Finance Committee meetings, and does not plan to do so.” When asked why, Staff deferred to Orme.  “My supervisor is the City Clerk, Debbie Presson.  However, she is out of the office on extended leave.  The City Manager, Mark Orme, is my supervisor in her absence.”

Two Shasta County supervisors recently opened their meeting to citizens. Supervisor Les Baugh said, “We did not receive a letter from the state of California asking us to close down our board meetings…” 

In Chico the meetings are closed under order of City Manager Mark Orme because he doesn’t want public scrutiny for his proposed Pension Obligation Bond. This bond would formally shift the pension burden from city employees, who expect to receive 70 – 90% of their highest year’s salary, to the backs of the taxpayers. At the cost of roads, parks and infrastructure. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico, CA

 

 

 

 

 

Staff trying to get their pensions bond under the wire by end of January

31 Dec

Next Tuesday city council will hear a presentation on a Pension Obligation Bond. They are trying to slide it under the wire as “restructuring debt,” which is really deceptive – they don’t mention the part where they take on millions in NEW DEBT.  This is really dirty and sneaky, and you need to let your council members know, you know what they’re up to. You can contact them directly through the clerk’s office – debbie.presson@chicoca.gov – or you can go to Chico Engaged. I’d recommend both.

Here’s the link to the agenda:

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/meetings/351-1-slash-5-slash-21-city-council-meeting/agenda_items

And here’s the POB presentation:

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/meetings/351-1-slash-5-slash-21-city-council-meeting/agenda_items/5fe748e0f395e716e400a434-5-dot-1-calpers-pension-costs-and-ual-restructuring-p

I also wrote a letter to the editor. Staff is trying to  get this thing done within the next two meetings, let’s stop it in it’s  tracks. 

Also, get a load of Coolidge’s request for a “streets bond”! 

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/meetings/351-1-slash-5-slash-21-city-council-meeting/agenda_items/5fe748e1f395e716e400a439-5-dot-6-mayor-coolidge-request-bond-for-improvement

Here’s my letter about the POB:

January 5, Chico City Council will consider Pension Obligation Bonds. Staff calls it “restructuring pension debt/Unfunded Actuarial Liability”, but it’s really millions in new debt. A new twist on the old Shell Game, Staff will invest borrowed money in the stock market, hoping to make enough to pay both the pension debt and the new debt. If their investments fail,  the taxpayers will be forced to pay not only the pension debt but the new bond debt, at the expense of city infrastructure and basic services.

Over the last couple of years,  surveys, letters to the editor, and comments on social media have demonstrated two main concerns: lack of law and order, and lack of maintenance to public infrastructure.  While Staff has claimed they don’t have enough money for either, they’ve continued to appropriate more money each year from city departments into the Pension Stabilization Trust – this year, $11.4 million, roughly 20% of tax revenue.  

Furthermore, even with 10’s of millions a year paid through payroll and the PST, the UAL has still grown, up from $126,000,000 only a few years ago to $146,000,000. Staff has recently revealed another $140,000,000  interest. This is the result of insufficient  contributions from employees, and poor returns from CalPERS investments. 

The Government Finance Officers Association says POBs are dangerous without a plan to manage pension costs. Instead, our city has increased pension costs through new hires and overly-generous salaries, without demanding more from Staff. 

The GFOA also determined POBs were the cause of bankruptcy in San Bernardino and Stockton. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

The discussion is finally getting interesting

13 Jun

Last week’s meetings (6/9 continued to 6/10) were the most outrageous yet. You can get an entertaining and informative recap from Rob Berry here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/chicofirst.org/

“One day later, another city council recap, June 10, 2020”

Berry’s a lawyer, he understands a lot more of this crap than the average housewife, and he loves to yak, so I like to read his recaps.

I also like to check the comments on Chico Engaged. I don’t think Engaged is a substitute for open meetings, but it’s an interesting site. For example, the biggest conversation regarding this past week’s meetings was the tax measure. Of 87 comments, I only counted 3 or 4 that said they would support a simple measure. The rest registered themselves as “opposed.” A few of those said they wouldn’t support any tax, others expressed a willingness to discuss a 2/3’s measure, even support it. Most of those cited public safety, but a few others mentioned roads.

Troubling to me was that some actually mentioned schools – it’s scary how little people know about the government and which agency funds what. The city has nothing to do with the schools, in fact, those agencies are often pitted against each other over property issues like mowing weeds and bum camps.

The most common reason to oppose was distrust in the current Chico City Council – 44 comments included that as a reason they would not support the proposed measure. Some named Ory, Stone, Brown and Huber directly, some included Schwab, and a couple included “the city manager.”

Here’s a high note – 22 people complained that the discussion was taking place in closed meetings. Some cited the shut down as their only or main reason to reject the sales tax measure, accusing the council of trying to shove a poor measure through the chute behind closed doors.

Which brings the conversation back to the mistrust in council and staff. Look further at the Chico First site, I see these comments:

“If 30 or 40 Chico City employees would reduce their fat bloated salaries, we might have enough money to operate.”

It is so refreshing to read someone else’s thoughts on that, I was afraid people are deaf, dumb and blind to the payroll expenses. I wish everybody was this interested in the budget.

Here’s another that says it pretty plain.

“If the council weren’t crooks wasting the tax money they already have and actually used it for its said purposes the city wouldn’t be in this situation! Cut the council’s salaries! NO NEW TAXES! Screw you your vagrants, addicts, park campers and the crime that you fucks promote! To hell with your communist college too!”

It’s comforting to know that other people know about little perks like the council members’ salaries and, hopefully, their overgenerous health packages. And, as I knew, people are pissed off about what the “homeless industrial complex” is doing to our town. But you know, I haven’t heard the college called “communist” since I was a kid!

Finally, a really well thought-out response to the weird meeting I watched on Tuesday night:

“My three thoughts from this meeting.

First, I found Chris Constantine’s presentation uncomfortable. I didn’t appreciate him telling the council his marriage ended because his job is so hard. The simple fact is the citizens of Chico do not trust this council or staff to spend the money wisely.

Second, I laughed out loud when the discussion of ‘sunsetting’ the sales tax came up. When has a tax ever seen a sunset? 😂

Third, did anybody catch Mark Orme’s sneaky maneuver with the Homeless Solutions Coordinator position during the budget discussion? When Joy Amaro was brought on board, it was only funded as a 4-month trial. When Ann asked about that approaching end date, Mark Orme said: ‘I asked them to put that in my budget…the full year’s worth of funding.’ Ann’s reply: ‘I appreciate that you have done that. I think that’s an investment this community really can’t go without.’ Hmmm.

The whole presentation was unbelievable. Very emotional, unprofessional, troubling behavior. Constantin’s melt-down, then Ory’s stuttering, shaking, desperate delivery, followed by a very visibly pissed off Mark Orme. I sense a lot of trouble Downtown. These people can’t even run their own lives, but they think we should be grateful to have them? Grateful to the tune of paying their outrageous salaries and then paying them again in pension? Thank you Mother, may I have another?

And no, I have never seen a tax sunset, including the recent sales tax that Governor Moonbeam foisted on us as temporary and then put it on the next ballot as permanent. It passed – people get used to things fast, especially when they are not implemented for a year after the election, as Ory suggests for this measure. People forget, and then they don’t notice a few pennies here and there. Ka-CHING!

And yes, while they keep telling us Orme just laid off 11 employees (which is misleading, they were empty and part-time positions, even interns), they don’t talk about the hiring of Amaro or the new Public Information Officer. Full time positions with benefits.

I’m so glad others are hip to the poor decisions and the misleading by staff that add up to a big mess for those of us who pay for all of it.

Yeah, what a meeting. So now we have a proposal for a half-cent tax that will not take effect for one year after the election and which will sunset in a short amount of time – did Ory say 9 years or something like that? But thank goodness we have some voters who question what’s going on. The discussion is finally picking up.

Schwab shuts down local businesses, kicks the public out of public meetings, but her bike shop is wide open and making lots of money – what?!

1 May

Happy May Day – whether you celebrate it as a tribute to the work force or as a rite of Spring, take time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Spring.  It’s my dog Biscuit’s 14 birthday, and she’s raring for more. 

Friends of mine have promised to go to Sacramento today and participate in a protest of the COVID Shut-down at the State Capital. Of course the CHP would not give permits, so they will drive around the Capital building in cars, honking their dissatisfaction with the governor’s foot dragging in lifting the order for counties that have not manifested a real threat – like Modoc County, who, in the spirit of Captain Jack,  went ahead and opened up today, despite Newsom’s onerous orders. 

https://news.yahoo.com/no-coronavirus-cases-california-county-165302692.html

Most Butte County towns would like to  follow suit. Mayors and county board chairs all over Butte, Glenn, Sutter and Yuba County have signed a letter to the governor, a written request from Senator Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher that he lift the order for our counties.

Conspicuously absent is the name of Chico mayor Ann Schwab. An excerpt from the Enterprise Record:

Jake Hutchison  4/

OROVILLE — Assemblyman James Gallagher and state Senator Jim Nielsen have put forth a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office with a request to begin opening up economies in their collective region amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.The letter, which was announced Friday, has gained signatures from elected officials throughout the north state including Butte County Board of Supervisors Chair Steve Lambert, Glenn County Board of Supervisors Chair Leigh McDaniel, Paradise Mayor Greg Bolin, Oroville Mayor Chuck Reynolds and Willows Mayor Kerri Warren.

Various points are covered in the letter such as economic impact and low infection rate. It also cites Enloe Medical Center’s handling of the potential medical surge by opening an additional facility with beds.“At this point, given the COVID-19 numbers locally — and our enhanced healthcare capacity — we ask you to allow our counties to exercise local authority to implement a careful and phased reopening of our local economies,” the letter reads.The letter also cites concerns of long-term economic impact creating health issues.“The public health stakes are high too,” the letter says. “We know that prolonged recessions cause dire public health issues of their own. The indirect impacts of this virus can cause a higher risk of heart disease, acute sleep deprivation, depression, decreased response to vaccines and an increase in smoking and drinking alcohol.”

In March, Newsom launched the stay-at-home order and numerous businesses were closed if deemed non-essential. Since then, many people have been out of work or furloughed as a result.

On the other side, the virus is considered deadly and highly contagious, prompting the extreme response.Chico Mayor Ann Schwab chose not to sign the letter, saying that she had a good discussion with Gallagher but after thinking on it was concerned about opening up too early.“I think the request comes too soon and could put an additional strain on our health care system and endanger lives,” Schwab said, adding that she does agree with many of the points made in the letter but still thinks some safeguards are needed.Additionally, Schwab said the governor has announced that he was aware of the differences from county to county in relation to how the virus has made impacts.

“The governor has already said he realizes the virus has affected different regions in the state differently,” Schwab said. “When the time comes that we can join the state in reopening, I want to have some parameters in place before those announcements are made.”

I just don’t know where Schwab is coming from. She says she wants more safeguards? Force us to wear masks, but not the N-95 which are the only ones that really protect us? She’s practicing behavioral experimentation.  This is the woman who gave us the single-use bag ban, but you’ll notice, she doesn’t make a squeak as grocers all over town refuse to allow our used bags in their stores. 

Schwab is just a Democrat, and that’s her first priority – toe the party line.  There she says it, ““The governor has already said he realizes the virus has affected different regions in the state differently,” Schwab said. “When the time comes that we can join the state in reopening, I want to have some parameters in place before those announcements are made.”

Sure, the governor has acknowledged different regions are different, and that some have a lower infection risk based on the characteristics of their region. But, little dictator that he is, he steadfastly denies our sovereign right to take care of our own business based on our needs and situation. Like Schwab, he’s  a creepy, entitled little fascist who wants to be king. 

Well, excuse me, but My President, The Donald, has declared the social distancing bullshit is over. Let us get back to work, and back to SPENDING MONEY. The city cries poor mouth, and wants a sales tax increase? Well, Mark Orme’s capricious and subjective shut-down order is doing more damage to local retail every  day. People are shopping online and in other, friendlier towns,  and liking it. If Chico Council doesn’t wake up soon and wrestle back control of the city from Queen Ann and Sir Mark of Gisborne, the damage will be irreversible. 

Let me tell you, I suddenly realized the other day, Schwab’s bike store, Campus Bicycles, determined to be “essential” by our city mangler Orme, have been open the entire time, every day of the pandemic. I called the store one day, and a bright and pleasant young man answered the phone. Yes, the store is open, wide open – no appointment necessary, nor did he mention any restrictions on how many people can be in the store at one time. I asked about repairs, cause I’ve taken my old puddle jumper in to Budd Schwab before – he’s got some kind of reputation for fixing bikes, from when he just worked at Campus. The boy on the phone surprised me – repairs are backed up 2 – 3 days, which is very unusual. He said business is very good, very brisk, and attributed that to COVID. 

I think that sucks Ann, you rotten bitch. Scuse me for emoting, but who the hell does she think she is? Who gets to decide, what’s an “essential” or “non-essential” business, what kind of shit is that? Orme decides, and Ann gets to decide if he keeps his job, I think that’s pretty obvious.

But you know the worst thing the city has done, is shut the public out of meetings, that’s very purposeful. They are also hiring a new chief of police right now, and that isn’t even on the agendas. Huber wants to bring back the supplemental allocation that was removed from the April 7 agenda. They’re playing hard and fast with the rules, hoping you’re just sitting behind that mask breathing your own methane, too stupid to say anything. Take off the stupid masks and wake the hell up People!

Here’s a letter I sent to the Enterprise Record.

Since March 13 Chico has endured the COVID shut-down. Schools closed, working parents left without daycare, “non-essential” businesses closed, and  city management threatening to close parks if we do not observe strict “social distancing” guidelines. 

The result – on the positive side, Butte County only had 15 (Wolcott updated me to 16) COVID cases and all have recovered.  On the negative, city management has admitted the shut-down has been bad for the economy, predicting millions lost in city revenues if the economic strangulation continues into Summer. 

But Chico mayor Ann Schwab has refused to sign Senator Nielsen and Assemblyman Gallagher’s request to open up the county again. The mayors of every other town in Butte County have signed the letter, which states, “We know that prolonged recessions cause dire public health issues of their own,” but Schwab wants to wait until the rest of the state, including hot-spots like San Francisco, are opened up. 

Meanwhile, Schwab’s bike store, deemed “essential”, is doing great. An employee told me, “people have a lot of time on their hands due to COVID,” sales are booming and repairs are backed up, which is unusual. 

I think that’s outrageous. How is a bike store “essential”, but not a clothing store or a barber shop?  Public meetings are closed to the public right now, but the Mayor’s business is open and making a hefty profit.  That’s ridiculous. Sign the letter Ann, and end the shut-down.  Or step down as mayor, due to obvious conflict of interest. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

City of Chico double ends us on our utilities, collecting Utility Tax on our total bill while adding franchise fees to our rates

31 Dec

If you watch the government steadily over time like I have the last 50 or so years, you see the contradictions and the outright lies. My favorite of late was Obama’s promise that we would not lose our health care providers under Obamacare.

So when Chico City management started repeating their Big Lie about the Camp Fire evacuees all landing on Chico  like a plague of locusts, I knew it was really all about pushing for the sales tax increase. In fact, at a Finance Committee presentation of the proposed measure, Ass City Mangler Chris Constantin actually said we should put it on the March ballot so we could “take advantage of the population influx.” He not only acknowledged then that the evacuees would be temporary, he also predicted that the economy would tank soon. That’s another blog.

But CARD got their parcel tax (Measure A) on the March ballot before the city could decide what to do with theirs, and knowing they would be stupid to have two tax measures on one ballot, the city decided to wait until November. That gives them more time to campaign anyway, since they can’t campaign for the measure once it has  been submitted and accepted for the ballot by the county clerk.

Brian Nakamura made the mistake of using taxpayer money to produce and distribute flyers promoting the city of Rancho Cordova’s tax measure, and that got him the can, so his former cronies will not make the same mistake.

http://www.kcra.com/news/rancho-cordova-faces-formal-campaign-mailer-complaint/28980752

So staff has to be creative, they need to create financial problems and then convince the taxpayers that they need to pay more money to solve them. They don’t want us to find out the real truth about city finances – whole funds are in arrears because they’ve been siphoning off money to pay down the pension liability. Look at the budget here,

Click to access 2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

and push “Control F” on your keyboard. Then type in the words, “pension” or “pension liability”, look at it for yourself if you don’t want to take my word for it. Then type in “gas tax” and be further outraged. 

I think you will see stuff that inspires you to write your own letter to the editor, here’s mine.

NOTE: Here’s a further irony I was not able to address in 250 words – they add a franchise fee that increases your rates, and then they use that total to figure the 5% Utility Tax. Sock it to me BABEE!

After a year of Chico staffers complaining that the Camp Fire evacuees were “straining” our services, we find a $20,000,000 “boost” in city coffers. Where did that come from?

Staff reports sales and bed tax were up, way up, during those months after the fire. Staff didn’t mention Utility Tax or the franchise fees that are tacked onto our utility bills. The city adds a 5% Utility Tax to your PG&E, Cal Water/sewer, and landline bills, taking $7,051,581 last year. With rate increases and new development, that goes up about $50,000/year. Think what a temporary population influx meant.

 A letter writer mentioned the trash tax or “franchise fee”.  The city also collects franchise fees from PG&E and Comcast. Last year the city added $1,102,674 to our trash bills and expects to collect about $1,600,000 in 2019-20. They tacked another $757,192 onto our PG&E bills and $899,942 to our cable tv bills. 

Shouldn’t these funds be used for street maintenance?  Last year staff used almost $400,000 in Comcast fees to remodel council chambers. These hidden taxes go into the General Fund, where they are available for any whim of council.

Council created the ordinances by which these taxes are added to our utility rates, and council can lower or eliminate them.  Ironically, they also created a “no price gouging” ordinance, but proceeded to make profit from the tragedy.  Let them know how you feel about that by claiming your annual Utility Tax Rebate, available from May 1 to June 30. Email the clerk at debbie.presson@chicoca.gov for details.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

Linda McCann: Wake up people, you should be concerned as another hand wants to slip in your pocket to remove your cash!

11 Dec

It’s official – I got my “free” subscription from Mike Wolcott and now I know – the only good part of the tired, old and fuddled Enterprise Record cat box liner is the letters section. Thank you Linda McCann for tipping us to the latest assault on Prop 13.

 

I read with interest and concern the article in the December 6 Chico E-R regarding AB 48, or as it’s been dubbed Proposition 13.   OK I get that,  a proposition to put to a vote a bond issue to raise money for our schools. However there’s one sentence that is of great concern to me as it should be to all home owners protected under the 1978 Proposition 13.

The article states and I quote, “AB 48, Proposition 13 is not to be confused with the 1978 Proposition 13 which some education groups hope to overhaul in November to raise revenue for cities and schools.”

Wake up people, you should be concerned as another hand wants to slip in your pocket to remove your cash!

— Linda McCann, Paradise

Here’s the legislative digest entry:

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB48

This is a proposal to lower the voter approval for bonds from 2/3’s to 55 percent. This is not democracy, it’s overpaid school administrators sticking their hands in our pockets to pay for their outrageous pensions. In Sacramento, one school district is tanking because of a 15% raise they gave their already generously compensated teachers. 

Do they really think we’re stupid enough to fall for this trick? Calling a bad proposition “13”? Are we that dumb? Don’t wait until after the election to find  out – tell your family, friends and neighbors not to fall for this trick. Write a letter like Linda McCann. 

Just think, what if Paul Revere had thought his actions didn’t matter?

The Homeless Industrial Complex is a failure – how many people will die on Chico streets this winter despite all the money shoveled into the system?

30 Nov

The headlines were conflicting this week in Chico – Black Friday shopping, Thanksgiving fun run, community meals, city setting up a “warming tent”, and a woman found dead along Lindo Channel.

Knowing how extensive our “homeless” services are here, I have to wonder – how does this happen?

The city and county continue to bumble the whole operation. We have services, plenty of them, but they are not coordinated, often compete for funding, and work toward their own instead of the public’s best interests. For example, Tom Tenorio gets a very generous salary out of the Esplanade House, even taking one of the apartments intended for housing a family to supplement his office. I’m reminded of a scene from Doctor Zhivago: “All this office, for just one fat-cat bureaucrat!

There’s alot of competing for funds and in-fighting in the Homeless Industrial Complex. They fight over money like crows fighting over road kill. When Stairways manager Mike Madeiros made a decision not to accept a grant because it would mean allowing transgender individuals into his shelter, Tenorio went on the warpath, complaining that they would lose that grant because Madeiros had refused it. Wow, that was an eye opener about the way these “non profits” are operated – too bad so few taxpayers were paying attention.

We also have disagreements over who will be served.  Madeiros was uncomfortable with allowing transgender or women in his all male shelter, worried about conflicts. Some shelters will not accept inebriated people, so CHAT (Chico Housing Action Team) has had set up “low barrier” shelters in houses around town. The city offers a warming tent, set up this weekend, that is supposed to be open to anyone who is cold. So far these tents have served less than 20 people a night, including city officials  and staffers.

And now Chico Housing Action Team wants to install “elderly” transients in Tough Sheds in a field along the freeway. 

All these programs are competing for money. And, as of this weekend, they are failing in their mission to get people off the street. 

In Chico we have many “low-income” subsidized housing projects. I just found out a huge old apartment building around the corner from one of my rentals is owned by HUD.  We have newer stuff, like Jarvis Gardens in south Chico, and 1200 Park Avenue, both built to house low-income seniors. These are public projects, paid for with tax dollars. 

But again, there is a lack of coordination. The Camp Fire is a good example of how these agencies have failed – here we had truly needy people, a natural disaster, and we couldn’t house them? But we spend millions a year on programs set up for drug addicts and criminals? 

CHAT proposes little sheds built on an empty lot along the freeway. These people are duplicitous. They already run low-barrier shelters in homes spread out across Chico, no noticing of the neighbors – CHAT knows they need to keep this project a secret. They have nothing to crow about – no list of names of people permanently taken off the street into stable housing. No success stories. And every year, several people die out on the street, regardless of all their feel-good fascism.

Now they want to build a project with city support –  they’ve already racked up a pile of $taff Time with their demands.  They want to be let out of the regular building process, sub code, no environmental review, NO FEES. And they are not being honest about how much it will cost to provide sanitary infrastructure. They first said there would be a common bathroom – now they show us plumbed sheds with toilets? Those will all have to be hooked up to sewer, which is not available on the property. There isn’t even water or electricity on the lot. 

But when my family bought a crapped out old house, the city and county, the school district, CARD – they all wanted to get their thumb in our pie, with all kinds of fees and constant inspections. The code enforcement officer, without so much as a smile, told us we had to put more Dap on the toilet because we had male children. She demanded a ladder to climb up on our roof.  She told us we had to  tear down an old building on the property before we could get clearance on the house.  And then she told us the tear  down required yet another permit. 

This is how taxpayers get treated. 

The city of Chico is a mess. Our finances are in the red, we have constant threats of bankruptcy, although, you will only hear about these problems in Chris Constantin’s pitch for a sales tax increase. Constantin and Orme are walking a fine line – trying to tell us what a mess our city is in without taking any blame for that mess.  For years they’ve mismanaged our money, putting most of it into their salaries, pensions and benefits, admittedly deferring maintenance on city infrastructure all the while. Management salaries are at an all time high, and Constantin admitted recently we spend more on cops than other California cities our size. 

The transient problem is just another part of the mismanagement. They allow these bums to trash our parks and creeks, predate on our neighborhoods, and spread drugs to our kids because they are a revenue source. When the city council signed the Shelter Crisis Designation, they got an annual grant worth over $4 million. They got another $4 million for handing part of the county fairgrounds over to the Jesus Center. That’s an annual grant, and it will go up. And they don’t have to spend it on the “homeless”, it just goes right into the General Fund. 

Just like the proposed  sales tax increase. 

So, we need to ask ourselves – why would we hand a tax increase to Mark Orme and Chris Constantin?  They stand over this whole mess, it’s their recommendations that council follows, dumb and blind. The best argument against this sales tax increase is our current management, and how they have mismanaged millions already.

Jen Sidorova: Why millennials should care about government pensions

25 Nov

Here’s something hopeful – Bob sent this piece from Market Watch, written by a young person. 

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-millennials-should-care-about-government-pensions-even-if-they-dont-have-one-2019-11-21

Jen Sidorova explains the pension crisis and why young people should be concerned. 

“Governments with underfunded pensions need to come up with the money somehow, and the most obvious way is to raise taxes. What this means for millennials, who are already the largest generational group in the workforce, is that more of their tax dollars could be diverted to paying down public pension debt instead of paying for public services. All the funds that should have otherwise gone toward schools, roads and state parks, could be redirected to cover underfunded pensions for employees who stopped working 10 or 20 years ago. So, pension debt will affect all millennials, even those outside public sector jobs — because everyone’s a taxpayer.”

That last line, “everyone’s a taxpayer,” seems to escape certain groups – like renters, and young voters who still live at home or are supported by their parents. Young people have to stop saying “No worries” and start worrying about this mess before it’s just a fact of their lives. 

Sidorova explains the two-prong fork – not only will young people live with crapped out infrastructure and higher taxes, if they go into the public sector – like my son and many of my friends’ kids – they will not enjoy the same level of pay and benefits generously lavished on their predecessors. In fact, their contributions go directly into the pockets of retirees they never even knew.

“Currently, state and local pension contributions make up about 26% of the total payroll costs. According to my analysis of the PPD, in states like Illinois and Kentucky, the government’s contributions exceed 50 percent of the total payroll costs of their largest pension plans — a consequence of enormous unfunded liabilities. All the money that could’ve gone toward increasing salaries and improving work conditions now goes toward paying pension debt. That means young workers are missing out on benefits and pay raises in the short term. For state employees, given the constitutional protection of pensions, salary freezes are another likely consequence of growing pension debt.”

Here she talks about solutions,

“As these systems try to find solutions, it’s crucial they focus on reforms that ensure paying down debt as fast as possible, adopt more conservative actuarial assumptions about investment returns, and introduce financially sustainable retirement plan offerings, as those could go a long way to ensure retirement security of the millennial labor force.

what she doesn’t talk about is who should pay down the debt. I believe the workers should assume much higher shares, or accept the loss of their pensions and go with 401ks. But that would take strong, publicly supported politicians, and I don’t know where we will find those people. What I do know is, neither our city councilors not the CARD board have the guts to do this. In fact, Tom Lando, who has been with CARD for a few terms now, is the city of Chico’s biggest current pensioneer.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2012/01/30/heres-why-lando-wants-to-raise-your-sales-tax/

LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48/mo $134,837.76/yr

That’s a nine year old post, they get cost of living increase every year. Here’s an up-to-date table from Transparent California.

https://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/search/?q=Thomas+Lando

Wow, cost of living increases more than $1,000/year, for some people, because Lando’s pension has gone up by about $16,000 in 13 years, to $150,671.00  And he serves in various interim positions, which come with more salary – for example, he was the interim director of Feather River Recreation District, and then the interim city manager of Oroville for a couple more years. 

https://www.chicoer.com/2018/03/21/tom-lando-appointed-interim-oroville-city-administrator/

He took a smaller salary – “not to exceed $30,000” – so what? How many of us would like to pocket another $30,000, in addition to the $150,000/year we already get? For nothing. 

This is so  ridiculous – people have to wake up.

It’s up to us to vote for better people. In the mean time, we need to get the word out to young people about how they can change their own futures for the better.