Tag Archives: pension time bomb

CARD has allowed our public swimming pools to sink into disgrace while they paid their own benefits, now propose a fantabulous gazillion dollar aquatic center

24 Mar

CARD is still promoting the idea of a gazillion dollar aquatic center, and they’ve got “news” reporter Laura Urseny running their propaganda.

I get a kick out of Urseny – when I don’t attend the meetings, it takes her a couple of days to get the story in the paper, but when she sees me there, she posts that story the night of! If I accomplish nothing more that putting a match to the seat of her oversize drawers, that’s enough for me.

Too bad I can’t make a real news reporter out of her. She’s a propaganda hag, at best. The story she popped into the paper might as well have been dictated to her by aquatic center committee chair Jan Sneed.  Urseny posted two stories last week about what rotten shape Shapiro Pool is in, without once  telling us why. As if, rust just happens, things just fall apart, there’s no stopping expensive equipment from deteriorating. For at least 20 years the staff at CARD has neglected the equipment at the two public swimming pools in town, and now it’s rusted and falling apart, leaking like a sieve. In fact, the pool at Pleasant Valley (next to Bidwell Junior High) has been leaking for about 20 years. I sat listening to a pool company rep telling a life guard it would cost about $2500 to fix it, but the CARD board rejected his bid and watched Aqua Jets go to In Motion Fitness as a result. 

For the last 20 years CARD has been nothing more than a salary trough. The Board of Directors is nothing but a “look at me!” position, these people don’t really run the agency. The director runs the agency, along with the Finance Director, and they’ve both managed to shovel themselves some pretty good bling – salaries in excess of $90,000 and $110,000 plus fully paid benefits packages. CARD employees do not pay ANYTHING toward their own pensions, but still collect 70 percent at age 55 like other public employees. Steve Visconti will retire soon, on 70 percent of $112,000/year, having paid NOTHING toward his own retirement or benefits. 

Urseny saw me at the meeting, so she tells her readers “[Maintenance Director Jake] Preston added that CARD doesn’t have the money to fix Shapiro or build an aquatics facility, although it looked at a tax measure but backed off the idea.”  Preston whined a lot about the Americans with Disabilities act, but it became clear, they’ve used that as an excuse not to update the pools at all.  The showers at Shapiro are not only not ADA compliant, they’re disgusting, get in there with some Comet and a scrub brush Jake.  The bathroom at PV only had one toilet stall for all those kids, and they’d use it to change their clothes. The line would back up to the front gate. 

CARD gets over $2.5 million a year, just from the county, our property taxes. Where does that money go? Well, last year they took $400,000 out of their General Fund and made a back-payment on their own pensions because CalPERS was threatening them with higher fees. That’s where the money has gone. 

And let’s not forget – both pools are owned by the school district, which has allowed CARD to run them into the ground. Here they’ve built all kinds of junk on the campuses with that Measure A money (promised to build a third high school), but not one word about the swimming pools they’ve allowed to rot. 

Laura Urseny is not interested in the truth, she’s just interested in keeping her byline. According to the aquatic center committee spokesman, they have not got any sponsors yet, all these months and they’re still “identifying partners.”   And, according to Preston, Shapiro Pool has been operating at a loss for years. It’s been a mess since my kids were little, we went once and never went back. 20 years ago it looked like they’d abandoned it. It was a popular target for vandalism. Most of the kids in both pools were there as participants in CARD daycare programs.  Maybe they should realize – the public doesn’t support the pools we have now, CARD does not maintain them – what will change if we invest millions into a fancy new aquatic center that will be dedicated to the use of a private club? 

I’ll try to keep an eye on this, I  can’t believe they’ve given up on floating a bond or assessment. The survey they floated last year should prove they are willing to lie and distort to get our money. 

Henny Penny tried to tell them about Loosey Goosey, but would they listen? Nooooooooooo!

29 May

Yesterday I put aside a bunch of junk I had to do to go to a meeting Downtown.  I don’t know about the rest of you people, but when I don’t work, it shows up pretty immediately on the balance sheet as no dinner, or clean underwear.   But, I figure, a few hours spent each month riding herd on the city monkeys is worth the effort. 

They had to hire some out-of-town gun to tell us, our city staff has been operating, as Chris Contantin puts it, “loosey goosey.” So, that’s why they called me “Henny Penny” every time I said they needed to slow down on the spending? 

I have to say – I really like these new guys. I like Brian Nakamura. I like Chris Constantin. And, I like Frank Fields,  a guy who’s been with the city for some time. I also have to say, I didn’t like Jennifer Hennessy. I wanted to like her – her kid played hockey with my kid, her husband worked with my husband on the rink in Ham City. But she was a petulant little spoiled rotten bitch who cared more about herself than her job. She was lazy, I’ll say it. She just didn’t want to do her job.  She expected to have that salary and those clothes and that hair and that little hot rod, but she didn’t want to do the work that paid for it. No, I”m not jealous – women like her make me embarrassed for the gender.

So, excuse me  if  yesterday, when Chris Constantin came into the Finance Committee meeting and gave the type of report that we’d been asking, begging, demanding from Jennifer Hennessy all these years – NO POWER POINT PRESENTATION?! – just the horrible facts, Ma’am – I just about blew up trying to hold back with “I TOLD YOU BASTARDS SO!” 

We all knew, the entire time, that money was being moved from fund to fund, excuse me for REPEATING MYSELF – like peas under nutshells. If I used the shell game analogy once, I used it a hundred times.  And yesterday Constantin reported to those in attendance exactly that – money was allowed to be moved, from one fund to another – willy nilly, loosey goosey, whatever – without any supervision from Hennessy or the Finance Department or the city manager. Departments were padding their budgets so they’d have a surplus to “spend or lose” – how many times did I tell you that? Like that episode of The Office where Michael has to choose between a new copy machine or new office chairs, and then finds out he can simply give the money to himself as a bonus and does so. 

I think most of the senior management staff needs to be fired. This is why Rucker and McKinley were fired. This is why Hennessy was quietly found another job elsewhere – it wasn’t all her fault – how many times did the council listen to Hennessy say we were in deficit and simply refuse to act? I know I sat in those meetings for years. I sat in one meeting with my then-6-year-old son, during which Scott Gruendl took a fistful of marking pens and a giant tablet and tried to draw a picture of how much financial trouble we were in. He jokingly put aside the red pen, not wanting to alarm anybody! But he made it clear, the city of Chico was spending alot more money than it was taking in. 

After the meeting, my son was aghast – “if the city is in so much trouble with money, what’s Scott doing with all those marking pens?” He noted that Gruendl was using more than one at a time, leaving the caps off, not really acting like a guy who might not be able to afford another set of marking pens. This is the same man who has voted to spend money on overpriced real estate, bar a major retailer from expanding unless they lay down a million dollars to swap out wood stoves, and who has led the city on a windmill chase over banning plastic bags that has cost God only knows how many hundreds of thousands in $taff time.

Furthermore, to listen to Ann Schwab and Mary Goloff sit on that dais and say they didn’t have any idea what was going on is like listening to the captain of the Concordia say it wasn’t his fault the ship ran aground because he wasn’t present at the time.

But let’s face it, it wasn’t just the way $taff was running the books, it was that MOU that raised Tom Lando’s salary from around $60,000/year to over $150,000. That MOU was the killer, linking salaries to revenue increases but not decreases.  It was like some kind of time release poison, it has taken us to The Brink. Gruendl voted for that MOU, in fact, I believe he was one of the proponents who pushed it forward for $taff.  The same thing was going on in Glenn County, where Gruendl’s salary went from around $50,000 to $103,000 in less than five years.

When the public found out about that MOU, it was canned, but they replaced it with this practice of paying most or all of the employee share of pension and benefit premiums. Now our city has adopted a resolution requiring all new hires from out of the CalPERS system to pay “50 percent,” of what I’m not sure. But, Constantin explained to me yesterday – even if the new hire is from out of state, if they come from “an agency” that has an agreement with CalPERS, they come in as a member of CalPERS, and they will not be required to pay the new share.

Furthermore, Gruendl has already informed us, that if we are going to require employees to pay more of their share, we will have to pay them more salary.

At yesterday’s meeting, I sincerely thanked Chris Constantin, but I told the committee of Randall Stone, Sean Morgan and Scott Gruendl that we need to get management and public safety to pay their own share of their pensions. Constantin agreed with me. He  said he’d tried to pay his own share, but apparently the union won’t allow it? I didn’t get a very good explanation. But he also said that if public safety would pay their own share, their pensions would be cheaper.  I think he meant, they’d be cheaper because the city wouldn’t have to go into debt to pay them, the payments would be taken directly every month instead of put off. So, there would be enormous savings in interest. I’m not sure on that, but I think that’s what he meant. It makes sense. 

But there it sat. They won’t push it. Trying to get them to do something is like trying to push Jello. 

So, we have to put the heat to the people who really have control – the council. We have to start holding a match to Mark Sorensen’s ass – he’s up for re-election in November 2014, along with Gruendl and Goloff. They all need to be told, loud and clear, that they shouldn’t even bother to run in 2014 if they re-sign these contracts in January.