Tag Archives: Norcal blogs

The squeaky wheel gets the grease

26 Jan

I been rattling chains over at the Finance Department to find out how they plan to legally notify the public about cell phone tax refunds. I feel  it’s more their job to protect the citizens than to protect the city itself, but they agree to disagree with me on that. It’s all about civility people – don’t ask too many questions, you will be treated like you’re from Glenn County or something. 

I feel the city should be more responsible for returning this ill-gotten booty, so I’ve been e-mailing the Finance office about once a week for more details. I have to give Frank Fields some credit – at least he answers my e-mails.   He told me they’d finally decided how to notice the cell phone tax  refund:

Ms. Sumner:     The City will be placing a “Notice” (much like the notice for the annual UUT Refund program) in both the Chico ER and Chico N&R beginning late next week (i.e., sometime over the weekend).   – Frank

We’re so damned civil around here! Don’t fart, you gauche bastard! 

So, next Thursday there should be something in the N&R, and then we’ll maybe see it in the ER later that weekend.  

Of course, as far as I know, they’re still taking it out off people’s bills, which really isn’t very civil, but you know how they are. Down at the city, civility means, you get a kiss with your screwing.

 I have not heard one more word on their quest to inform the cell phone companies. That’s a question for Jennifer Hennessy, and I forgot to ask her at the last Finance Committee meeting. I’ll have to drop her an e-mail soon. 

What I do know is, people are hitting that link I posted to the refund application – here it is again:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/CellPhoneRefundApplication_0117

I hope people will get their refunds – that’s the real “victory” I’m looking for here, that the city is called on it’s bad behavior, and made to set things right. 

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Get those letters in to the ER – but remember, you only get one “election related” letter before November 6.

19 Sep

I think David Little makes a big mistake every year when he tries to limit people to one “election related letter” after Labor Day.  Instead of creating a discourse over a period of months, he gets a last minute bullshit storm. 

Right now, nobody is writing, because they want to get that last word in. That’s what happens. In the last few weeks, after about October 5, it will be standing room only. 

In future I wish Little would start encouraging discussion as soon as the candidates and the measures start popping up in the spring. The state ballot measures were posted way back in March or April. And the local ballot measures, like the cell phone tax, have been in the works since last spring too. But you don’t read anything in the ER or the News & Review until the last few weeks. That last minute scramble is never the best atmosphere for considering a ballot measure. 

But, if you have a mind to write a letter to the ER, it’s wide open. 

Schindelbeck is the only council candidate who’s been willing to take on $taff and Measure J

19 Sep

I got together the other day with some friends and talked about Measure J. We came up with a short analysis of this measure. These are FACTS that everybody should know about Measure J:

  • Measure J will add a 4.5 percent tax to cellular phone services and every form of electronic communication service existing now, as well as those yet to be invented.
  • Measure J allows the city Finance Director to add new forms of electronic communication to the list of those services taxed, without voter approval.  
  • Measure J revenues will be directed to the General Fund, which means there is no guarantee they will be used to fund public safety as proponents claim, but could be used for any purpose determined by council.
  • Measure J revenues can and will be used to pay the outstanding pension obligations of our city employees, more than 100 of whom make over $100,000/year and pay none of their own pension premiums. Only the fire employees pay any pension premium, and only 2 %. 

These can be typed or written onto a card or half sheet of paper and handed out or sent to anyone you know who receives a phone bill within the city of Chico. Or you can memorize them for enlightening conversations!

Here’s another list of facts –  these are the top 21 pension earners at  the city of Chico – those who get over a $100,000 a year, in pension. “Warrant Amount”, in case you didn’t guess, is how much they get a month.  John Brown, by the way, is our recently retired fire chief. Want to make a guess at what the new fire chief makes, the guy who shut down Station 5? 

Name Employer Warrant Amount Annual
ALEXANDER, THOMAS E CHICO $8,947.23 $107,366.76
BAPTISTE, ANTOINE G CHICO $10,409.65 $124,915.80
BEARDSLEY, DENNIS D CHICO $8,510.23 $102,122.76
BROWN, JOHN S CHICO $17,210.38 $206,524.56
CARRILLO, JOHN A CHICO $10,398.98 $124,787.76
DAVIS, FRED CHICO $12,467.78 $149,613.36
DUNLAP, PATRICIA CHICO $10,632.10 $127,585.20
FELL, JOHN G CHICO $9,209.35 $110,512.20
FRANK, DAVID R CHICO $14,830.05 $177,960.60
GARRISON, FRANK W CHICO $8,933.56 $107,202.72
JACK, JAMES F CHICO $9,095.09 $109,141.08
KOCH, ROBERT E CHICO $9,983.23 $119,798.76
LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48 $134,837.76
MCENESPY, BARBARA  CHICO $12,573.40 $150,880.80
PIERCE, CYNTHIA CHICO $9,390.30 $112,683.60
ROSS, EARNEST C CHICO $9,496.60 $113,959.20
SCHOLAR, GARY P CHICO $8,755.69 $105,068.28
SELLERS, CLIFFORD R CHICO $9,511.11 $114,133.32
VONDERHAAR, JOHN F CHICO $8,488.07 $101,856.84
VORIS, TIMOTHY M CHICO $8,433.90 $101,206.80
WEBER, MICHAEL C CHICO $11,321.93 $135,863.16

You not only pay these pensions, you pay the interest on the money we have to borrow to pay them. See, the California Public Employee Retirement System gambled it’s money on the stock market, and lost our ass. CalPERS officers still take huge salaries, and of course, get 70 percent of their salary as pension.

The salaries these Chico pensions were based on  were negotiated by people sitting on council now, including Ann Schwab. When Tom Lando  left the city of Chico he was making over $190,000 a year, largely because of a memo Ann signed that linked city worker pay to revenue increases but not decreases. 

That memo was really the last nail in our coffin. Like a little time-release bomb. The public salaries went up, up, up, and they took the cost of living in Chico with them, never to return. Unfortunately, at the same time, council, led by Ann Schwab and the liberals, went on a building permits spree to fund their salary increase, ruining the housing market and the construction industry in our town.  The contractors they brought in from towns like Fresno brought not only their own workers, but undocumented aliens, who took their paychecks out of town. Meanwhile long-time local contractors and workers were left unemployed. This had a long-term effect that is coming to fruition now – those folks are losing their homes, which are selling for much less than they were assessed at five years ago, and now the big stinking pigeon has come home to roost – the city is broke.

And that’s where the memo comes in again – revenue increases but not decreases – revenues went down, down, down, but salaries DOWNTOWN are still going up, up, up. I’ll never forget the time Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy was allowed to hire her own performance auditor, and when he gave her the expected favorable review, she gave herself a $14,000 a year raise. Wow – talk about your perks and benies – a job where you get to be in charge of your own pay! 

This hayride has to end, but when?  The only candidate I’ve seen in this election taking any of these people to task is Toby Schindelbeck, and that’s why he’s the only candidate who has the endorsement of the Chico Taxpayer’s Association.  I like Coolidge, but he hasn’t done much, and some of the stuff he’s said has left me wondering. And Morgan doesn’t know what he’s talking about –  he’s just a rubber stamp for the “public safety” unions. Meanwhile, Evans won’t admit he knows anything about Lando’s sales tax increase proposal, even though he’s been sitting in on the discussions. 

I‘m sick of the same old same old Downtown, I’m not voting for Fist Puppets. I want somebody different in there. Right now, most of them are public workers or ex public workers, including career military pensioner Bob Evans and Biggs city mangler Mark Sorensen.  I don’t think these people can stand up to $taff because they are blinded by self-interests – they know, pension reform could affect them! We need a small business owner, an employer, a person who does business with the general public – somebody who still has his feet planted firmly on the same dirt the rest of us are standing on. 

That’s why I’m supporting Schindelbeck. His future is more tied to Chico, and the rest of us. 

Ballot measures – today featuring state Proposition 30 and local Measure E

15 Sep

I thought I’d share this interesting link:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures.htm

Look them over, some of them are tax increase measures.  There at the top you see Proposition 30 – that’s Jerry Browns’ pit bull disguised as a tea cup poodle. “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Gee, they make it sound so harmless – “Temporary” – oooo! “Fund Education” – ahhhh!  That’s like saying,  “well he’s just a little ol’ alligatah, Honey!”

They write these titles knowing how many people actually read the text of a measure. Sure, some of those people don’t bother to read it because they ritually vote NO! on anything smelling like a tax increase – that’s not a bad strategy as far as I’m concerned.

But, it’s not my strategy. I know we need taxes to fund public needs. It’s not like I’m just Anti-Tax – my family is full of teachers, I went to public school. I’ve driven my car, rode my bike and hoofed it on public roads for over 50 years.  I like public utilities, which are largely subsidized with taxes, and I like having some sort of police and fire protection, even if I have to take the ticks with the hound. 

On the other hand, I also know, it’s stupid to throw money at budget problems. We certainly do have a budget problem in the state of California, but it’s not a revenue problem, it’s  a spending problem.  Year after year the governor and the legislature have screamed that we are in deficit, need to “cut back,” but they just keep approving more spending. For the craziest stuff, I don’t even want to go there. Mostly for the lifestyle they’ve managed to make out of it for themselves – why do we allow these public servants to live like demi-gods? Alot of us could live on their wardrobe and dry-cleaning allowances, their cell phone allowances, their car and gas allowances. We have “allowanced” these people until they are so far removed from our everyday reality –  I guess, we’ve made our own monster, and we deserve to be destroyed by this creature.

Well, not me. I’m going to fight. This “temporary” tax is another hike – add that onto the hike in the cost of housing, the cost of medical care, the cost of groceries and gas and everything else you need to live. Add that to the city’s utility tax hike and the state’s wood products tax and the proposed Chico art tax and a grocery bag tax – pending state legislation would allow retailers to charge the public for plastic grocery bags, currently illegal.  I’ll tell you what, it sure seems to me, the people of  California are being told to TAKE A HIKE!

First of all, “temporary” means, after the allotted time, the legislature can vote to extend it.  I don’t know if they need public approval for that. Like local Measure H, which would extend a “temporary fee” that was placed on our vehicle registration a few years back. Once you vote something like this in it’s like giving the vacuum salesman a foot in your door. 

And then there’s the WHY? of it. WHY? would we give the schools more money? Here in Chico, they just pad their behinds with the stuff. What does a school district the size of Chico need with all these $100,000 plus administrators, including Stuporintendent of Snooze, Kelly Staley, who makes well over $180,000 a year, plus benefits and pension paid by the taxpayers.

Furthermore, Chico Unified has foisted their own bond on the local ballot – how much money do they need down there? Are they making clothes out of it? Here’s the info on that:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#a

Staley wants to issue $78 million in bonds, placing a $45 tax on your home for every $100,000 worth of value. Read Staley’s request here:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/measure_e_resolution.pdf

Staley only wants $78 mil. Jerry Brown is hoping to raise $6 billion annually. I can imagine Santa Claus, and maybe even the tooth fairy, but I can’t begin to imagine $6 billion.

He says his measure “bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are spent.” That is a loophole – everything after “but” .  Everybody who’s dealt with government types knows what the words “discretion” and “open meetings” mean – in other words, we listened to what the public said but we did what we wanted anyway. 

And there’s this line: “Guarantees funding for public safety services realigned from state to local governments.”   Let’s have a collective, “oh, sure!” on that one – which turnip truck does Governor Moonbeam think we fell off of? How many times have they just TAKEN money from local jurisdictions, saying, “make us give it back” ? And we’re supposed to fall for it? Fool me once, Shame on You! Fool me twice, well, I’ll probably buy it a third time too. But the fourth time, I’m not only not going to fall for it, I’m going to kick your ass for trying to pull it.

Oh, you know, I’m not advocating violence, oh geeshy sakes no! I’m asking everybody I know, everybody within blog-shot,  to bring in a LANDSLIDE against Prop 30 AND local Measure E, the school bond. We have to clean our financial house, and it’s going to be a lot of work. Lately, adding more money to the state of California engine is just like putting cheap gas in your Pinto.  Clunk-clunka-clunk-clunk-clunk!  Clunka-clunk!

 I read an article today, in which the author professed being in favor of Prop 30, and challenged opponents to come up with good alternatives to the “problem”. Of course, he thinks the “problem” is, teachers don’t get paid enough, and we don’t have enough money to hire adequate teachers. I feel the “problem” is, the school system is top-heavy with administrative salaries and drowning in benefits and pensions obligations that should be paid by the employees.  His answer is either raise taxes or watch the California schools fall further into the abyss. I say,  cut administration positions down to bare bones, and make Superintendent a publicly elected position. Then,  fire people, and rehire other qualified applicants at reasonable salaries. Finally, throw out the notion of “benefits packages” altogether – benefits packages are something you use to lure highly skilled candidates in an employee’s market. That is not how I’d describe the average employee of Chico Unified, and Chico is certainly not an “employee’s market,” with Chico State squeezing out Liberal Studies candidates like a sausage press.

 What the government isn’t admitting, is that these contracts come up for review every so many years – every year down at the school district –  and they have the alternative of NOT RENEWING. Instead, they hold the public out of the negotiations with BS about “collective bargaining rights” and renew even worse contracts than those expired. Why do we pay our public workers three, four, five times the median income, while also paying even the “employee share” of their benefits?

That has got to stop. If we really want to live within our means, we need candidates for public office who are willing to tackle the issues of salaries and benefits, not in some future “tiered” system, but NOW. When existing contracts come up for renegotiation, we need candidates who are not afraid to look unreasonable employees in the eye and tell them not to let the screen door hit them on the ass. We need council members who are not afraid to tell employees they need to pay MOST, if not ALL, of their own benefits. I’m sick of these cowards, people who are more interested in keeping their ass in the chair than working for the taxpayers. People who are afraid of $taff because they are too lazy or intimidated to do their own homework and depend on $taff to feed them like infants. 

Do your homework this election, tell your friends, get the word out – “change” is actually a wonderful word, we’re all allowed to use it. 

 

Write those letters!

10 Sep

I’ve been asking readers to spread the word about Measure J, the cell phone tax. The proponents of this grab, including Mayor Ann Schwab and councilors Goloff, Gruendl, Holcombe and Walker, are using some pretty misleading arguments, and if we don’t do whatever we can to get the truth out there, we might just end up with a 4.5 tax on our cell phones, not to mention services like paging and voice over internet protocol – anything included in your phone bill. 

Remember, this is an extension of the current Utility Tax already collected on land lines, at 5 percent. Schwab is making the argument that she’s giving us a tax decrease because this measure lowers the current rate from 5 percent to 4.5 percent. But, once they extend the tax to your currently UN-TAXED cell phones, that half percent will dry up faster than spit on a griddle. The question being, how many people will understand what’s really happening? There’s nothing about that in any of the campaign literature – read it for yourself, here:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#d

We have to get the truth out there. Don’t be shy, this is really important. I just wrote a letter today to a local business I’ve patronized for years – Payless Lumber. I was inspired to do so because I received a letter from them in my recent billing, regarding AB 1492, which “imposes an assessment on lumber products and engineered wood products at a rate of one percent of gross receipts from the sale of those products…”  You mean, A SALES TAX? 

I read up on AB 1492 here:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_1451-1500/ab_1492_cfa_20120822_142638_sen_floor.html

I see the money will go to salaries – “Funds are required to be available upon appropriation for administrative costs… regulatory activities…management…grants…” 

The letter goes on to list contact information for the governor’s office – available here:

http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

I appreciated the time, effort and concern behind this letter, so I sent him a quick note about Measure J, with links where he could find more information. I think that’s a pretty “American” thing to do, and I enjoyed myself. I think you will too! 

Go for it!