Tag Archives: Mark Sorensen

Private developer fund deficit due to $6 million pension liability

19 Nov

What a day I had yesterday, started it off with that Finance Committee workshop Downtown.  I was on my bike, bouncing through the park by 8:20, the air was damp and smokey and my muffler was wrapped around my head. When I rode home about an hour and a half later, the sun had warmed up and the day positively sparkled. I was home by 9:45 and off to work. All day I thought about what I heard at that meeting, and it really pissed me off.

Hey, do any of you remember that story out of Manton, just east of Red Bluff, about a group of school kids waiting for their bus one morning, witnessed a fight between a bear and a cougar over a deer carcass?  I can’t remember how that played out, who got the carcass, but the kids described it as quite a sight.  Well, yesterday I got to watch our mayor, Mark Sorensen, and one of our long time local developers, Pete Giampoli, go at it over a $6 million pension deficit. 

A couple of days ago I was complaining about the report for this meeting –


So yesterday I went to the meeting to see what the developer community had to say about it. There they were – Webb and Giampoli, and a few others, an old realtor named Doug, the usual suspects. I’ve watched Bill Webb get older,  but I am still waiting for him to grow up.  I know they read the consultant’s report because they carried it up to the dais and referred to various entries, questioning this and that. I know they are pissed because  the report makes them look like leeches – taking services from the city for which they pay less than the average homeowner. The homeowner has been subsiding the developers – when we put a new roof on our house, we pay about three times what they pay for the permit.

The real stinker –  ‘cuse my pun – is sewer connects. You probably know the homeowner pays thousands – our neighbor paid about $17,000 – just for the hook-up. Just to tap into the trunk line that runs past your house. Meanwhile, I got Tom Lando to admit, at that same time, about 2003 – developers were paying $3500 per unit. Why? Because developers are not made to pay for the trunk line to be laid, but the homeowner is expected to pay for that. That’s why the homeowner is charged by the “frontage” of their lot, the actual street length of their property. So, if you have a wide shallow property, you will not only pay more than the developer, you’ll pay more than your neighbor with the same size lot, but his is narrow and deep. Get what I’m saying?  Homeowners have been taking a screwing for years, while developers have oftentimes skipped without paying any fees. The city has been “deferring” fees – so the developer does not have to pay until his job is “built out”, or finished to the last lot. How long you think it’s going to take them to finish Meriam Park?

Ever hear of the Winchester Mystery House? That lady wasn’t crazy – check the records, she never paid one dime towards permits for that mess. As long as she kept building something she didn’t have to pay.

Developers have enjoyed a sweet hayride in this town, all the while telling us of the benefits they provide. They provide jobs – well, at least as long as the boom lasts. They provide housing – at inflated market prices that will fall in a few years and leave people all over town in foreclosure.  They destroyed our housing market over the years from 2005 – 2007, and the city went along with it for the one time fees. They might have thought property tax values would go up, but that was short lived. As foreclosures swept our town, property values went plummeting. A house on our street that originally sold for almost $600,000 last sold for less than $400,000.  Families were ruined.

 Over that period, city council signed an MOU attaching city salaries to revenue increases, “but not revenue decreases”, and salaries Downtown roughly tripled.

A couple of these developers tried to tell the city, the business has up-turns and down-turns, and the city should have responded to the downturns by cutting expenses Downtown. Frank Fields and Sean Morgan were quick to bring up the lay-offs, but forgot to mention – new positions have been hired since, and salaries have been raised. Morgan even made a creepy speech about how “the people who were responsible for this (our current financial morass) are gone now, you don’t see them around town anymore….”

See, he’s afraid to say, “Dave Burkland”. For your information, Sean the Idiot, I just saw Burkland at Mangrove Safeway the other day. He looked right at me and my husband with that “oh GOD!” look. He lives out off Hwy 32, west of town, in a great big nice house, and hauls in over $100,000 in pension a year. Wow, he’s so punished!  Hennessy pulls down a great salary in Temecula and her family still lives in a posh pad in North Chico. Unless she is caught literally stealing, she will enjoy a pension of over $100,000 for the rest of her life.

Morgan makes this speech at almost every meeting, reminding everybody that our new, fiscally conservative council is on the job! But, guess what – they’re not.

First I listened to Fields lay out the kind of mess we’re in – over $6 million pension deficit, just in the Private Development Fund. Yeah, remember that cost allocation Bullshit I told you about – well the developers got their introductory lesson yesterday. Yes, through the magic of cost allocation, the city can dip into funds to pay salaries and benefits and pension for employees who have nothing to do with that fund – they were at a meeting one day where that fund was discussed…

The developers railed, they said the cost study must be wrong.  Mark Sorensen became impatient – I’ll say it – bitchy.  He really attacked Pete Giampoli, telling Giampoli he wanted a specific point from that cost study that was wrong. I know Giampoli wanted to say, “the part where we have to pay the pensions”, but you know what, Pete Giampoli doesn’t have the ganas to say “shit” when he has a mouthful. I think “Giampoli” is the Italian equivalent of “peindejo.” 

Here I sat, like Little Black Sambo – watching the tigers fight. They both suck as far as I’m concerned, but I have to agree with the developers on this pension liability crap. And then, Consultant Chad Wolford moved up to the microphone to tell them both to put their peckers back in their pants.

I like Chad, he’s funny. I could tell he’d dealt with these developers personally, he used first names. I could tell he was slightly insulted by the cracks about his cost study, he assured us that the study was completely objective. He also pointed out he’d answered all their questions previous to the meeting – “in every case the critics had not read the study or had not listened to me when I explained it…”

The study involves the “actual” expenses – and, sorry, that includes the pensions – related to the services they receive – for example, plan checking. Through cost allocation, they’re not only paying for the employee who comes out to the job site and handles their plans, they’re paying for the maintenance and utilities for his office space at City Hall, they’re paying for the assistants who help that employee by making copies and coffee, they’re paying for the janitress who comes through to clean the coffee pot and empty the trash cans. 

And, since they laid off so many of his co-workers, plan checker man  told us, he’s “in the field all day and in my office until 7 o’clock at night…”  That’s Overtime sweetie, and they allocate that.

Sure you pay for that in private enterprise, but Giampoli reminded us – in the private sector, there’s competition to keep prices and salaries reasonable, affordable. The city has quite the monopoly here, and they get to make the rules. And they charge more for these services than the county charges, without any apology. 

Chad was not hired, he reminded us, to decide whether salaries or compensation were fair, he was there to tell us what those expenses were and what were our options for cutting the divide between revenues and expenses. He’s nobody’s friend, he has no dog in this fight. I bet if he did have a dog in this fight, it would have no hind legs.


As I listened to the consultant I realized I was running out of time – I promised my husband I’d be home by 9:45 so we could get a jump on our work day. He was home oiling and sharpening his chain saw, rounding up all the rakes and loppers, getting ready to spend a sunny afternoon clearing brush and cleaning up tree trash with our son. I was looking forward to a day of running between burn piles with a pitchfork, cause I’m a weirdo.  I started toward the front door of the chambers, pulling on my jacket and digging my hat and scarf out of my bag. I lingered in the front entry to put away my notebook, and I heard Chad saying something about the “real problem,” so I got my notebook back out and stood listening by the door.

He explained very plainly that when city management went through two rounds of cutting workers from the payroll, “you didn’t reduce the cost of overhead”. He doesn’t mean, the PG&E bill. He said, “management salaries, compensation and pension.”  The mayor and his “conservative council”  laid off all the worker bees, but they didn’t lay off any management. In fact, they hired more management and raised management salaries. 

Right now, our management employees are all veterans of the CalPERS system. As such, they are not subject to the new legislation that forces public employees to pay half their expenses – they pay 9 percent of pensions of 70 percent of their highest year’s earnings at age 55. 

Frank Fields made it very clear – the private development fund deficit is “largely due to pension obligation.”  They’ve emptied the General Fund making transfers, now they want the developers to pay more.

And not just the developers – they did not, in front of me, address the problem of homeowners paying so much beyond actual cost. 

PS:  Now you might want to read the conversation I had about a year and a half ago with Mayor Sorensen, in which he says I made up the pension deficit. That Mark, he’s a crack-up.


PSS: The consultant made a remark that stuck – he included city council as “overhead“, and actually mentioned that we could cut our city council. That’s true – a lot of towns operate fine with five, we have seven. I don’t have a current figure, but last time I checked, the mayor gets a $9,000 “stipend,” the other councilors get almost $7,000 each, and then they get health insurance packages ranging from about $8,000 to over $20,000 (Sorensen was taking a $21,000 package last time I checked, in addition to whatever he gets as city manager of Biggs). Cutting two councilors would mean a minimum savings of two $7,000 stipends and two $8,000 health insurance packages – $30,000/year.


Nakamura announces a $50 million dollar deficit but still won’t make the cops or fire pay their own way. When will Mark Sorensen and Sean Morgan pull their “fiscally conservative” thumbs out of their asses and do something?

23 Feb

My husband and I both laughed out loud the other night when Brian Nakamura announced our city is about $50 million in deficit. Not that we thought it was funny, it was more of a nervous reaction.   I had to hear him say it a couple of times before the smile slid off my face. 

Then he offered up his puny little reorganization plan that might shave, heavy on the ‘might” – $1 million a year. He’s firing people across the board, and it’s only saving, again, “might” save, $1 million a year. According to the budget figures, that would still leave us in deficit. Has he got some other plans?

His first plan, to land himself a job at $217,000 a year, with a sweeeet benefits package, including a full year’s salary in severance pay, was a roaring success. According to a human resources “wiki” I read, it is customary to give an executive employee a severance of a month’s pay for every year served – Nakamura has not served us six months, yet has a promise of a full year’s salary if we have to let him go for any reason short of homicide or red-handed embezzlement. Thank you again,  Mark Sorensen, proxy dupe, and Tom Lando, puppet master. Boy, wouldn’t you like to get a look at Sorensen’s contract as Biggs city manager, or the contract Lando just got as interim rec manager out in O-ville?

And now these overfed blue jays are the ‘thin blue line” between the city and BANKRUPTCY. They are currently negotiating contracts with Chico Police and Fire Departments.  According to an article in the paper the other day, I was right,  the police alone take over $22 mil, or about half our $43 million a year budget. According to that article, they spend over a million a year on campus, messing with the college kids. 

Let’s face it, it didn’t cost them $100 to arrest that pervert that’s been over there raping who knows how many young women for who knows how long. They claim to spend more than $1 million a year patrolling the college area. Why? There’s a college police department. Why not force the campus police to take over? Why do we have to pay more in taxes for a special “C Team”? Can they get Leslie Nielsen for that kind of money? 

Chico PD just wants more money, more money, more money. They can’t help themselves, they’re pigs. They demand all kinds of perks and benies out of the city – they don’t even pay to purchase or clean their own uniforms – meanwhile, they tell us, they are too short of staff to actually do the job. They don’t prevent crime, they come along afterward and make a report about it so they can ask for a bigger budget the following year. They still haven’t solved the “clown bandit” capers, or those robberies that occurred every summer, again and again the same victims, including the hair stylist over on East Avenue who had her plate glass window smashed out at least twice and her cash register stolen. 

Right now they’re replacing their vehicles – they get new vehicles every five to six years, wouldn’t you like to live like that? Well you ought to, you pay for it!  Go on, go over to Wittmeier, and when they send you into Jackie’s office, you just tell her to call Brian Nakamura, he’s got a little voucher over there for you. She will laugh that jersey girl laugh and say, “No, really Hon, how you gonna pay for this?” 

Yes, the cops get new vehicles, they get a uniform allowance, they get paid to exercise, they get paid to go to their third cousin twice-removed’s funeral. A bunch of them got paid yesterday, along with Brian Nakamura, to stand around and yak it up over a guy who was killed 75 years ago. 

Yes, Officer Carlton Bruce. I didn’t know him, I’m sure he was a wonderful man, 75 years ago. But if I were his wife, I’d still be pissed at him for walking into getting his face blown off. I think Bruce made a number of classic mistakes, and up until now, nobody thought it was worthy of an annual ceremony. Where’s the ceremony for Rod O’Hern? O’Hern was shot in the face and permanently blinded by the accomplice of a suspect back in 1995. He subsequently left the force and moved out of the area. I don’t know if his family still lives here, but at the time of the shooting, he had a six year old and a pregnant wife. These folks could probably use a little comfort for what they went through, but I guess you have to be dead to get any respect out of Chico PD.

I remember that incident, and the problems that caused it have not been solved. Just this past holiday shopping season, only a short walk from the scene of the O’Hern shooting, two women and a ten year old girl were maced and their purses stolen at the MacDonalds on East Ave.  That crime has not been solved.  Our police department continues to take without really giving us anything.  Now they want bigger salaries for their management positions, because they are so jealous and greedy they need to see $$$$ before they will do their jobs. 

Please write to your council – at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us – and tell them the police and fire need to pay their own pension premiums. Currently the police PAY NOTHING and fire only two percent, toward  pensions representing 90 percent of their highest year’s pay available at age 50. Our city is over $50 million dollars in deficit on these crazy contracts, and we will soon be forced to pay more toward the premiums. That either means new taxes, or it means the cops and fire need to step up and do the right thing. 

Mark Sorensen and Sean Morgan ran as “fiscal conservatives.” Somebody should write them a letter and tell them, “that means, you’re supposed to be saving money!”  Somebody might ask them what they’re doing taking  salary and benefits for their council position when both of them have very nice salaries and benefits from their publicly-paid day jobs.

Write to Brian Nakamura at bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us, and while you’re asking him to bring the cops and fire to the table, ask him to pay his own pension share as well – he currently pays only 4%. 

Ask a simple question.

3 Dec

We had another great meeting over at the library yesterday, and I was so happy to see, despite the ominous weather, a cheerful group showed up for a lively discussion. 

We crowed momentarily over the defeat of Measure J. Casey Aplanalp pointed out that we should consider it an important victory, and proof that a small group can make a difference.  Sue said we should remind other people, even if our voices are a little drowned out on the national level, we can make a more noticeable difference on the local level – it’s a matter of getting involved. We talked for awhile – what’s the best way to get people to be more involved in their local government? 

We could ask Stephanie Taber what motivates her to be so involved – attending meetings several times a week, writing notes back and forth to staffers, asking questions that get kicked all over the city building for as long as Stephanie is persistent in getting the answers. Stephanie combs over the reports and find the discrepancies, and asks the questions that need to be asked. We need more people willing to go to the meetings, morning, afternoon and evening, and ask the same kind of questions. And, go back time and time again, e-mail again and again, and get the answers. 

I’m just too easy – when I asked Jennifer Hennessy about the annual amount the city pays out in pension premiums, she told me about $7 million, and I swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Stephanie was not able to attend, or she probably would have caught it. Mark Sorensen caught it, and asked Hennessy about it later. He had some other figures that added up to more like $11 million. Hennessy sent me a note today – her figure is $10.1 million

Whoa. And here I was, thinking $7 million was a lot of samolians! What a dupe I am!

$1.9 million of that total is the “employer paid member contributions” – there’s that confusing terminology again – they mean, the “employee’s share” of the premium that is paid by the employer

Stephanie Taber pointed out, that $1.9 million would pay for a lot of police officers. 

Here’s the breakdown of how much the city currently spends annually paying the employee share of pension premiums:

Bargaining Unit  FY10-11 Amount  # of Members FY10-11 EPMC% Current EPMC %
Chico Employees Association  $      128,340.54 79 4% 2%
SEIU – Trades & Craft  $      179,805.62 68 5% 5%
Confidentials  $        12,295.11 10 4% 0%
Management  $      216,952.12 56 4% 4%
Public Safety Management  $      119,193.35 9 9% 9%
CPSA  $      175,646.81 44 8% 8%
CPOA  $      727,452.38 91 9% 9%
IAFF  $      425,517.02 69 7% 7%
 $    1,985,202.95 426

The police and fire employees  complain that safety is at jeopardy due to budget cuts, but read the chart. You see,  if they’d pay the “employee share” of their pension premium, we could save those officers and that 2/3’s of a fire station that Nakamura is threatening because of the failure of Measure J. The police department alone gets well beyond the $900,000 that Nakamura is claiming the city will lose if they can’t tax our cell phones.

Look at their salaries – it would certainly be no skin off their nose to pay their own damned pensions. And, it would leave the city the revenues to hire the extra personnel they’ve been screaming for. And then we could stop paying overtime, and there would be money to hire almost as many more.

I got these figures because I rode my bicycle to an 8am meeting and asked a simple question.  


Thanks Mark Sorensen for speaking to Chico Taxpayers Association

4 Jun

Yesterday Mark Sorensen was good enough to come down to the Chico library to fill in a group of interested citizens on some of the facts regarding the November phone tax increase measure. But, we probably won’t get alot out of the council or the city attorney’s office until August 7, when they are due to turn their “impartial analysis” and ballot arguments in to the city clerk’s office. 

Until then, we are left with a lot of speculation. But the important fact remains – this measure will raise the taxes of every city resident who owns “mobile messaging devices” – specifically , for now, cell phones. 

Councilor Sorensen explained to us that the city is very desperate to pass this measure because they have already been receiving this tax and are heavily dependent on the revenue – some $900,000 a year, in fact. Some cell phone providers, AT&T the most prominent, have already been collecting the tax for an undisclosed number of years, without any legal grounds to back them up aside from the fact that they make up your bill and you don’t ask any questions. The city has been receiving this ill-gotten gain, knowingly,  for years, in violation of our own code, which only allows for the taxing of land lines.  

I can hear the question forming in your mind Joseph – how the HELL do they get away with this shit!?!  It’s the psychic connection -oh oh – think they’ll find a way tax that? 

Well, we’re not the only ones. This is happening in cities around California. Because of a man named Donald Sipple, it’s been brought to the attention of the courts, if not the media. Mr. Sipple has sued AT&T, and won, and in turn, AT&T has had to sue the cities over which Mr. Sipple sued them. The case is still a big mess in the courts, because, despite two rulings to the effect that the money was taken from those city residents illegally, those cities will simply not return the money. 

Anyhoo, this is why the city is so desperate and so dishonest in handling this phone tax increase – they actually do stand to lose $900,000, in General Fund money, no less – the unrestricted kind! And yeah, if this measure doesn’t pass, they are left red-handed.

My-oh-my, how embarrassing for Ann Schwab and Dave Burkland. They know this, but they have made no attempt to tell the voters. Instead they try to tell us they are lowering our taxes and making everything fair for everyone. 

Tsk tsk! If they told the truth on this ballot measure, it would never get off the launch pad.  How can a  tax that is collected off of one very specific portion of the population – those folks whose cell phones are billed to a city address – but goes to pay for infrastructure and services that are enjoyed by everybody who uses our town – whether college students with a phone billed to their parents in LA or folks who work here with phones billed to a mansion in Forest Ranch – be  “fair for everyone” ?

We’ll have to see how they explain this when they come out with their “impartial analysis” in August. Until then, we need to study this issue among ourselves and try to get ready for the debate in the fall.  If you want to keep up on the agendas be sure to subscribe to Mark’s feed: