Tag Archives: Mayor Ann Schwab

Oh NO! We’re in the same boat with the Twinkie and Ding Dong eaters

25 Nov

I saw an interesting letter in the ER today – “Mismanagement doomed Hostess”.

I know, why would we care, those cakes are horrible. Studies have shown the high-fructose corn syrup they build those things out of literally tricks your mind into thinking you’re still hungry – off to Obesity!

But, as usual, we find, this enterprise was a giant pillar of the economy – go figure. To think, something that is unhealthy for human beings is good for the economy – you know, like cigarettes and alcohol!

Apparently there were almost 20,000 jobs lost. According to letter writer Paul Ellcessor,  “19,000 good jobs that pay a liveable wage have been eliminated because of mismanagement and vulture capitalism.”

I would challenge Mr. Ellcessor’s idea of a “good job” and a “liveable wage.” I don’t have the specifics on the wages or benefits or working conditions offered by Hostess, but I do know they operate in states where the unemployment level is such that most people aren’t going to question anything resembling a job.  They’re unionized, which means, some guy in a suit makes more than any of the actual workers, driving around from one shop to the other, telling employees to take it or leave it.

But yes, what Ellcessor describes in his letter is all too common in America today.  He calls it “corporate vulture capitalism,” but I would say it’s alive and well in the public sector too. 

A bunch of suits come around and buy a company, whether or not it’s doing well, doesn’t seem to matter.  They can use the company to leverage themselves some outrageous salaries, and as Michael Scott would remind us, “perks!” 

Ellcessor describes how they did it at Hostess: “In September 2004, Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They demanded and got over $100 million in concessions from their workers’ unions, claiming they could not compete under their labor contracts, even though their competitors operated under nearly identical contracts and were profitable.

At the city of Chico, management used the threat of bankruptcy to eliminate most lower-wage workers, leaving more money to pay management salaries, benefits, and pensions. 

When they emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 they somehow had nearly $670 million in debt, almost double the $450 million owed entering bankruptcy. Most companies shed debt, not increase it, when they seek Chapter 11 protection.

In Chico, finance director Jennifer Hennessy has made one report after another showing we are in deficit, but the city keeps signing contracts that offer pay raises and allow employees to get away without paying their full “share” of their own benefits and pensions. 

What did they do after emerging from Chapter 11? They continued the same business model and products. Plus, like all good corporate leaders, they gave themselves a raise — the CEO to $2.25 million and other top executives got raises of 35-80 percent.

Chico City Council are currently signing contracts that still offer raises and payment of the employees’ share of benefits and pensions. 

Guess what happened, in January? Now loaded down with over $1 billion in debt, from hedge funds Monarch Alternative Capital and Silver Point Capital, they filed bankruptcy again. Incredibly, CEO Brian Driscoll asked the bankruptcy judge to approve a salary increase and severance pay guaranteeing his compensation if liquidation occurred.

Despite Mayor Ann Schwab’s dire warnings that the city would fall into ruin unless voters approved the cell phone tax, she went ahead and hired a new city manager at a $50,000 pay raise over the previous city manager.   I don’t know what kind of severance package Brian Nakamura was promised, but I’m guessing it’s there in his contract, which you can see by appointment and at 10 cents a page. 

Nakamura is no different than the fly-by-night suits that buy and sell these big companies into the gutter. He has worked in cities all over California, staying for an average of just over a year, then moving along to the next town that promises him more money. He’s made his way up to a salary of $217,000 a year, of which he will be eligible for 70 percent a year in pension, on his 50th birthday, which I believe, is less than one year from now. My bet is, he will not make it in Chico more than 18 months, and he’ll leave us in the same quandary he left Hemet.  

How is this different from Ellcessor’s scenario? Well, the Twinkie and Ding Dong eaters pay the suits over at Hostess – Brian Nakamura is paid out of our property taxes. 

Ann Schwab’s argument in favor of Measure J – “to protect against the risk of losing” illegally collected tax revenues

25 Aug

Here is the “Statement of Accuracy” signed by those arguing in favor of Measure J – Mayor Ann Schwab and councillors Holcombe, Gruendl, and Goloff. Jim Walker submitted a letter of consent.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail with these documents attached – arguments FOR and AGAINST Measure J, the cell phone tax, submitted to the city clerk earlier this month.  None of them cut and pastable into my blog, so I’ve been hem-hawing around trying to figure out how to load them up. I hate to break this kind of news – I am not exactly a computer whiz kid.  Word Press is a wonderful forum, but there’s buttons I still haven’t figured out yet. 

So, I finally just took a picture of the above “Statement of Accuracy” sheet with my camera – you can see how that turned out. The “Argument in Favor” below had to be typed in from a window on the little “notepad” my kids gave me for Christmas.

The city clerk has said she can’t give me the cut and pastable versions cause she’s afraid I’ll “edit” them.  Well, I’ll assure you, I have typed this argument in very carefully, word for word, and this is what Ann Schwab has to say for herself. I will admit, I received this argument before the county clerk had assigned a letter to the measure, so I added the letter ‘J’.  Let’s discuss this over the next few weeks :

Argument in Favor of Measure J – Utility Users Tax

We recommend approval of Measure J to protect existing revenue to continue vital services for the residents of the City of Chico.

The City of chico is at risk of losing $900,000 each year if voters do not approve Measure J to modernize the language of it’s current Users Utility Tax (UUT) ordinance. This would represent a significant reduction in General Fund revenue. The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund. A loss of $900,000 a year would result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds.

In recent years, there have been significant changes in both technology and billing practices. The use of wireless services and voice over internet protocol has become widespread, billing for local and long distance services  is frequently bundled, and long distance calls are not always billed based on time and distance, even for land lines.

To protect against the risk of losing tax revenues in the face of legal issues, approval of Measure J will modernize this existing tax to ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same, regardless of the type of technology they are using or billing practices employed by their providers.

This proposed amendment includes a slight rate reductionk, from 5% to 4.5%. This rate, if applied to the average cell phone bill of $50 per month, would equate to a monthly charge of $2.25 as opposed to the current charge of $2.50.

Vote yes for Measure J and protect existing police, fire, roads and parks in the City of Chico.

Searching for accountability in local government – Good Luck!

21 May

At city meetings over the last few years, I have sat  through one after another “power point presentation” regarding the city budget mess. It’s like a kindergarten-level slide show, designed more to distract and confuse than inform. They always turn the lights down to make you sleepy. It’s maddening to sit through this insulting and condescending babble – I don’t even want to think about the hours of my life these people have stolen, in addition to my tax dollars.

These stupid reports and “PPP’s” add up to hours of $taff time and related expenses – the computer programs to produce this junk, and the paper and ink to print it for a cavalcade of $taffers and council. They say it’s for us, for our information – hah! What they could have done in a page and a half report, in plain language, they turn into a marketing extravaganza, complete with graphs, charts, little cartoons – color glossy photos!  I remember one whole page illustration, showing a sad, rather obese  man, looking quizzically at his surroundings, tentatively holding out his umbrella to a darkening, sinister sky. At the bottom of the graphic, the caption read, “How did we get here?” 

Oh here, let me field that question. As if it isn’t obvious – you people Downtown spend money like you were printing it in the basement, alongside all these glossy pamphlets and newsletters you hand around among yourselves. Not only do we have to pay your ridiculous salaries, we have to pay for something to keep you busy. 

I got an interesting e-mail newsletter from Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, who was kind enough to address our Chico Taxpayer’s Association meeting a few months ago. He says, Recent independent reports suggest that state government agencies and departments routinely spend on programs and projects with little accountability to taxpayers, failing to consider what is the most efficient and effective way to stretch tax dollars to the fullest. Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in state government is essential to our efforts to solve California’s long-term budget problems once and for all.”

I think you could substitute “Chico” for “state”, and “California” throughout that passage.  An example of a program on which the city of Chico routinely spends with little accountability to taxpayers is the Sustainability Task Force. Talk about your “color glossy photos” – get a load of this pamphlet recently produced by  city $taff  as a “Sustainability Indicators Report”:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/5-21-12STFAgendawreports.pdf

Yes, this is how they present a “report” to council – what the hell? I hate to see what they will do with anything REALLY important.

Hey, did you see the slick glossy pamphlet they produced to report about all the jobs they been bringing into town? TRICK QUESTION DAWG! You know they have not been bringing any jobs into town, look alive there!

This pamphlet mentions only two employers. They again mention Build.com, which has been here a few years now, as if they just got here and are hiring in droves.  B.c claims to “support” over 400 people, but I’m not sure if that means employees, or includes whole families. Also, I don’t know where their employees came from – did they move here to take these jobs? Placing more strain on everything from housing to groceries to roads and schools? And I realized – Build.com competes directly with Lowe’s, Home Depot, and a half dozen or so other small, locally owned hardware stores and suppliers. Sure they can sell goods outside Chico, but they will sell them inside Chico too, taking business away from other employers. I wonder if city $taff takes this into consideration when they write these “reports.” 

The only other business mentioned in the pamphlet is Springboard Biodiesel. The city apparently helped this developing company secure a $758,000 grant to start building it’s facility, but doesn’t say when they’ll start hiring people. I don’t know what “assisted in a grant submittal” means either – a lot of times, it means the city had to put up a certain amount of money to secure the grant. Nor any mention of who gave the grant – but I’ll guess, The Taxpayer! Thank Me Very Much! 

The $taffer who produced this report makes over $100,000 a year in salary with a $50,000 benefits package. You got to keep a guy like that occupied. 

At 5:30 this evening, Mayor Marie AnnShwabnette will be convening her court, the Sustainability Task Force, to give this “report” one last look-see before they present it to council on June 5.  Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend these meetings – Schwab and her committees are what my friend Casey refers to as “time vampires” – they will steal your life with their incessant clatter, suck your brain drier than a biscotti, and leave you thinking you participated in something. Something.

You don’t have to attend these meetings to keep up on them. Send an e-mail to  Linda Herman  at   lherman@ci.chico.ca.us  and ask her to put you on the e-mail list, not only for the regular meetings but ALL the ad hoc committees. At least you’ll see the agendas – you will have to attend these ad hoc meetings if you want to know what’s really going on, and let me tell you, you’ll get an earful. 

We will, by the way, be having a meeting of the Chico Taxpayers Association on Sunday June 3 – WE MAY DO IT EARLIER THIS TIME, I’LL KEEP YOU POSTED! Our agenda will be a discussion of the phone tax facts and also some background on the $255,000 hole in the city budget. Geez, let’s hope it doesn’t get any bigger before then! 

POST-IT-NOTEAt 4:12, about an hour and 15 minutes before the meeting was to convene, I got a note from STF $taff liason Linda Herman.   “After polling members, today’s the Sustainability Task Force meeting has been cancelled due to a lack of a quorum.”

Well, that’s the way to keep the public out of your meetings – have them at inconveniently inconsistent times,  with little or no notice, and then cancel them at  the last minute! 

Phone tax resolution is not clear as to exactly which services are to be taxed

14 May

Tomorrow night the council will again take up the subject of the phone tax – they tried to slip it by in the  consent agenda, but I for one will be there to ask that it be “pulled” for discussion.

Pull!   BOOOOOM!

We’ve already discussed the poor wording in the resolution. It was so bad that it was sent back for a rewrite. That’s how desperate Schwab and the other four are to pass this thing – it’s their life raft. If they don’t get us to swallow this hook, the city ship will begin to sink.   The last five years they have held their SS Titanic together with RDA glue.  Now that the RDA glue bottle has been taken away from them (I think they were sniffing it), they need a new revenue source. You know, like a vampire needs a fresh neck!

Oh yeah, that would be funny – everybody wear a string of garlic to council tomorrow! 

The resolution that $200,000-a-year city attorney Lori Barker brought back was no better than the first one – in fact, this one is more deceptive. She has continued to omit much of the pertinent information needed for the voters to make an informed decision.

At the first meeting, I distinctly heard Barker say, that she wasn’t even sure what would “happen” under this ordinance. That’s because, the ordinance provides for the Finance Director, currently Jennifer Hennessy, to add new technologies to the list of taxable services at her own prerogative, without any input from the voters. 

The definition of what can be taxed is so broad at this point, the city attorney says she doesn’t even know what might end up being taxable. Her ballot resolution describes the taxable services here:

2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services; 3) apply the tax to all telephone communications regardless of the technology used;

We are told, “new technologies such as…”, but she just lists two here. In the report she included texting and paging. It seems to me she has omitted those two from the ballot resolution  intentionally. And, in today’s ER, she says SCYPE can’t be taxed because it’s a free service, but “You could use a computer for telephone services”  What services could they include in this tax later? She isn’t telling us. She’s being as vague as possible. 

She says SCYPE is not included now because it is free. Well,  it will be included as soon as the phone companies get enough of you using it and start charging for it. Always be wary of FREE STUFF! It’s wrapped around a great big hook, my fine little fishes! 

Here’s something else they aren’t telling us. Right now, some carriers are collecting the tax ILLEGALLY. If we don’t pass this turkey, the city will lose a lot more than $9o0,000 a year.  They are this close to not being able to meet obligations they’ve made to $taff, and when that happens – oh oh! Bankruptcy! And then? None of them get paid until they go to court. 

Ever deal with an addict? Well we have a building full of them Downtown, hooked on the green stuff. And they’re about to get a serious case of the DT’s. 

 

“to ensure that all taxpayers are treated equally…” – oh yeah, let’s make sure EVERYBODY gets stuck!

10 May

Yesterday evening I received the city council agenda packet for next Tuesday, and wow, Lori Barker has already come up with a new version of the phone tax resolution. I’m sorry, I hadn’t even gotten around to discussing how deceitful the first version was, and she’s already re-done it.

Like I say, evil never sleeps.

She didn’t really fix it, is what I’d say right off the bat – it’s worse than the dawg she dragged in last week. 

AND, they’ve agendized it in the “2’s”, meaning, they just expect to vote on it without discussion. Either a council member or a member of the public needs to request that the item is pulled for discussion. I recommend people WRITE LETTERS NOW. To think they’d try to yank this by us without discussion – WHO DO THEY THINK THEY’RE DEALING WITH HERE? A BUNCH OF SUCKERS?! 

Here’s the ballot resolution Barker brought in last week:

“Shall the City’s current Telephone Users’ Tax be amended to reduce the tax on telecommunications users from 5% to 4.5% and to modernize the definitions of telephone communications services to keep current with changes in technology and federal and state laws. “

Please note, there is not one word in there about expanding the tax to take in our cell phones, not one f-ing word. Lori Barker is a duplicitous bitch. 

So, Sorensen and Evans and some other loud mouths, myself included, rammed and railed for her to rewrite the resolution to reflect, well, The Truth.

So, here’s what she flopped out:

“Shall an ordinance be adopted to amend the City’s Telephone Users’ Tax in order to: 1) reduce the tax from 5% to 4.5%; 2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services; 3) apply the tax to all telephone communications regardless of the technology used; 4) reflect changes to federal and state law? “

Take a good look at  #2 – “2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services”

She isn’t including the whole list of new services that are being made taxable by this resolution. Here’s what she says in her report from May 1:

“They generally capture interstate and international calls, voice over internet protocol, text messaging and paging.”

Duplicitous Bitch needs to add the above bold-faced services to the ballot resolution. Her failure to do so is obviously intended. Gee, who cares if they have to pay a tax on every text message they send? Nobody uses text messages! 

And here’s a question to ask – are they going to tax the Tweeters? Tweet Tweet my ass! 

And then we have #3, where they pit citizen against citizen:  “3) apply the tax to all telephone communications regardless of the technology used.”

She actually took the opportunity to put politics IN the resolution. She is trying to put this notion in  the voter’s head that not everybody is paying their fair share. How cute – you know their PAC is going to hammer this point for the next five months.  Cause frankly, that’s all they got. 

Well, it doesn’t belong in the resolution unless they’re going to explain that this resolution will FORCE EVERYBODY TO PAY MORE, including the pawns that pay the land line tax now. 

We need to expose Duplicitous Bitch. For one thing, I wish people would write to council now and complain about the agendizing of this issue onto the 2’s, and tell them we want it pulled for discussion. Also, I’d like to point out to them, it needs to be rewritten to include ALL the services they’re adding now, and the ones that the city finance director can choose to include in future. 

Yes, that is part of the resolution to – read it online. The finance diretor, and right now, that’s the same woman who’s driven us into this ravine, can decide which new services that come available in future can be added to this tax, without a squeak from the public. 

And finally, #3 needs to be stricken unless it explains that EVERYBODY will be paying a tax they do not currently pay.

Get mad now, it saves time later. 

City mangler Dave Burkland recommends tax increase for city – he lives in the county!

9 May

I find it interesting how many city employees live outside the city limits. 

Your mayor owns a fine place up above the Forest Ranch Store, staring down at the little smog ball hovering over Chico. Your city manager lives halfway to Dayton in the unincorporated area surrounding Chico. How these people find the nerve to tell us actual Chicoans how to live is beyond me, but you can read Dave Burkland’s recommendation to raise our phone tax here, under the report for Item 4.1:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/5-1-12CityCouncilAgendaPacket.pdf

“I concur with the City Attorney’s recommendation,” he says. Furthermore, he reports, “If Council takes no action, the City stands to lose a significant portion of it’s general use revenue.” 

It’s easy for Burkland to talk – Dave lives well outside the city of Chico. This TAX is for those of us unfortunates who, either by choice, or in my case, ANNEXATION,  live within the confines of the city, where we are seen as a little herd of cash cows to be milked at will by our oppressors. 

Time for a little Animal Farm? Yep, I believe it is high time we stood on our hind legs and threw these people off. 

Of course, our boy Dave, rat that he is, has already made his jump from our floundering shipwreck in the making. Retiring this coming August at 60, BURKLAND WILL BE GETTING 70 percent of his $180,500 a year salary – over $126,000 A YEAR  – with  cost of living increases and medical benefits – for DOING NOTHING but picking up a check, for THE REST OF HIS LIFE

Damn, he looks pretty fit too! We won’t be rid of that leech for some years. 

At our Taxpayers’ Association meeting the other day, one  participant opined that Burkland and other staffers are supporting these local tax increases to feather their own nests, to pay for their pensions. Another person present tried to say that these pensions are “paid by PERS”.

Well, wake up and smell the coffee.  Read the papers lately? Like for the past two years? PERS gambled all their funds on the stock market. They lost their asses. Well, actually, they lost our asses. 

Go ahead. Google “pension time bomb” or “California on the hook for unfunded pensions” – you’ll find all kinds of articles dating from the present all the way back to 2010, telling us, we can’t afford these crazy pensions, built on crazy salaries, bloated with overtime, and then gambled on the stock market. 

As the Wall Street Journal says, in an article from April 2010, “Calpers and Calstrs are decrying the Stanford study because it has revealed exactly who is on the hook for all of this unfunded obligation—California’s taxpayers.”

Yeah, we pay for Dave’s pension and benies, and that’s exactly what he’s out to protect. And we pay them out of our General Fund. And like Dave says in his recommendation to stick us with a expanded tax on our cell phones – “The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund.” 

 

Airport Lawsuit: $300,000+, and ticking…

8 Mar

I’ve had a lot of interest and questions about the post I made about the airport lawsuit:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/hostile-city-of-chico-mismanages-the-airport/

Alot of people I’ve spoken to have asked how much this whole thing is costing the taxpayers. Stephanie Taber actually went to the trouble of putting that question into writing and handing it to $taff. When you give them a written question, they have to give you some kind of response. 

Here’s their response:

Through the end of December 2011, the City has spent approximately $130,000 on
outside attorneys since the lawsuit was filed. The Assistant City Attorney has spent more than 1500 hours on the matter, plus additional hours spent by the City Attorney. Additionally, approximately $38,000 has been spent on non-attorney/salary costs (i.e. depositions).”

I don’t feel this is a particularly straight answer – notice how they just give us the amount of hours on the assistant city attorney, no mention of actual money, and then “additional hours spent” on the part of the city attorney, Lori Barker. Barker’s time is worth about $126 an hour. So, let’s make a ballpark shot – the assistant city attorney is making at least $90 an hour, maybe more, so we’ve paid him over $100,000, just to work on this case. Plus, he can’t litigate, so they have to hire the outside attorneys at $130,000. And that’s just so far.

My source has told me that Mr. Jay has a pretty big “Sue-sue-sue Ya!” budget, he’s not sweating this thing. And a little bird told me, he’s probably going to win, eventually. That’s what all the stalling is about, apparently. That, and two city attorneys lining their nest with the green stuff, and a third city attorney illegally and inappropriately using her position to help her parents also line their pockets. 

 While Alicia Rock is not working directly on the case, she is a member of $taff, and in my opinion, something stinks here. The whole thing is outrageous. 

Old Yiddish proverb: When the fish stinks, it’s the head of the fish that stinks. In this case, as in all cases before the city of Chico, the stinking head would be our mayor, Ann Schwab.