Tag Archives: pensions

CARD takes consultant’s advice, sends out messengers to brighten it’s image before the public

2 Jul

Today Chico Area Rec and Parks District, aka CARD, is starting a public relations campaign suggested by a consultant they hired to run a survey a couple of months back, trying to “guage,” or more likely create support for a new bond or assessment on our property taxes. 

The consultant came back with a “negative” –  not enough support indicated for any kind of tax to float CARD.  For one thing, only 1800 of 10,000 surveys were even returned – you can interpret that however you want, they sure did. I interpret that as, people don’t even CARE about CARD, much less want a bond on their homes.

The reasons listed by the consultant – summarized from respondents’ comments: “bad economy; recent passage of Measure E, prop 30, and other tax increases; and ‘government spending’”.

Of course she didn’t elaborate on “government spending.” You can speculate there too. I will speculate that at least some people either read my letters to the editor or found out for themselves – the aquatic center held up as a prize for your correctly-answered survey was nothing but a rainbow – it disappeared before the survey had even been completed. Board member Ed Seagle sat right there at a meeting and said they were wrong to even suggest they had anywhere near enough money to even think about building an aquatic center, and that notion dried up quicker than spit on a griddle. But not as loudly – they never took out a press release or anything, they let it ride silently. They knew I’d sent those letters, and Seagle was just doing damage control, covering his own ass if you ask me.  

Seagle of course didn’t mention the $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS for THEIR pensions. They act like they were buying something for us with that money – Scott Dowell keeps repeating, like some kind of snake handler, “we saved $40,000 with that pay-off.” Big fucking deal, Preacher Man. You saved YOURSELVES $40,000, you ripped the taxpayers off for $400,000, and counting. CARD staff does not pay one thin red dime toward their own pensions.

The consultant had some wisdom to offer the board and staff. She said they needed to get out  there and create a more positive image of CARD. I’d say, “an image at all.” How many people don’t even know CARD exists until they need an “after school program” to dump their school age kids in when school’s out?  That’s where CARD gets most of it’s “program revenues” – they get most of their money in property taxes and new home fees, but of the revenues they generate themselves, those after school programs are their Blue Ribbon Cash Cow. But recreation superintendent Monica Jameson loudly announced at one meeting, she doesn’t have enough staff to supervise your children properly – she’s going to have to turn hundreds of kids away. Good luck finding somewhere to dump your spawn this summer.  And, if you are “lucky enough” to get in, keep an eye on your own child – she said she only has two adults to supervise over 300 children in one program, and some 500 signed up! 

It’s going to take a lot more than some little gal sitting in the park handing out “free” flying discs and other stuff paid for by the taxpayers to untarnish CARD’s reputation with me. 

UPDATE:  I had errands to do in my car yesterday, so drove by Hooker Oak Park at 10:50 to see the CARD gal and get some of that free bling – she wasn’t there. “Almaguer will be at Hooker Oak Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 2;”    We drove all over the parking lot at Hooker Oak, looked around the playgrounds and the ball fields – nobody but the usual $5,000/year maintenance workers.   There was no place she could have been that we wouldn’t have seen her. If I’d rode my bike over there in that heat, I would have been pissed off. Why would she say she’s going to be there for a certain time block, and then right in the middle of it, nothing?

I’ll drop her a note.

CARD delving into community park-love effort

Staff Reports

Posted:   07/01/2013 12:55:40 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge

Marketing coordinator Lisa Almaguer shows off the flying discs she’ll be giving away at parks…

CHICO — Lisa Almaguer will be staking out a corner of several Chico parks through July, hoping to talk to lots of people about what’s behind their feelings for Chico parks.She’ll be at Hooker Oak Park on Tuesday morning.

This is the unfurling of “I love my parks and recreation” campaign, which she is pursuing as a way to reinforce how important play and parks are to people. July is National Parks and Recreation Month, designated by the National Recreation and Park Association.

Almaguer works for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, which owns Community Park and the others she plans to visit.

While she knows park users have an appreciation of CARD parks — because they’re already playing there — Almaguer hopes her campaign will bring a better understanding of how valuable parks are in people’s lives.

She’ll be asking park users what they love about the parks, writing down the comments on slips, and then displaying them on bulletin boards at each park. There will likely be a report to the CARD board as well.

The national association’s turnkey campaign came with minimal costs, so CARD decided to adopt it in July.

“Basically, we’re looking to find out why parks are vital to the users,” said Almaguer, who handles marketing for CARD.

Almaguer will be at Hooker Oak Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 2; at DeGarmo Community Park from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 9; at Wildwood Park from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 18; and at Community Park

from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. July 27.Initially, she’ll have give-aways like flying discs and stickers, and by mid-month, she’ll also have sunglasses, water bottles and more.

Chico Taxpayers welcomes city manager Brian Nakamura for a Q&A meeting Sunday July 7, 9am, Chico Library

29 Jun

I like Brian Nakamura because no matter how I argue with him and even accuse him of stuff, he’s always nice to me. I appreciate his agreeing to come in to our meeting next Sunday to answer our Mom and Pop questions about what’s going on Downtown.

I don’t intend to be a bitch, but I want to be able to ask dumb questions without being told I’m off subject, or off the agenda. We gave up agendas at our meeting about the third meeting – it’s too hard to predict what people want to talk about, and where a simple question or bit of information will lead a conversation.  Our meetings are dynamic, and I think we like it that way. 

Our meeting with Randall Stone was like a good loaf of bread – unique, nutritious, good to the last crumb. Councilor Stone explained the employee bargaining process to us, and shared our opinion that city employees need to pay their own share of pensions. He’s since been attacked by CPOA Peter Durfee for mentioning the combined total of salary and overtime enjoyed by the public safety employees. While I roundly disagree with Stone on other subjects, I sure appreciate his taking a strong stand on the pensions, publicly, opening himself to the usual trash talk that passes for discussion down at the cop shop.

I’m guessing our conversation with Brian Nakamura will be another productive meeting, I’m looking forward to seeing a nice group around the table July 7, 9am, Chico library on Sherman Avenue.

More questions for Ken Campbell – every answer is just another can of worms!

16 Dec

As I was saying in a previous blog, I recently been struggling through the city firefighters’ contracts, and I don’t mind saying, it’s all Greek to me. “Legalese,” I think it’s called. The worst thing is, they treat you like a moranus because you don’t understand the gobble-ty-gook they spin up just to make sure you don’t understand.

Here’s how they explain the pay rate in the current IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters, the union) contract:

Regular Hourly Rate

 1.2.5. Regular Hourly Rate. Regular Hourly Rate shall mean an hourly rate calculated by summing all non-overtime and non-out of class pay for the bi-weekly pay period, with the specific exception of Holiday Pay as defined in Section 2, Subsection 5.3.1, and dividing the total by 112 for Employees assigned to a fifty-six (56) hour work week, and by 80 for those employees assigned to a forty (40) hour work week.

As my friend Stephanie Taber said recently about the firefighters’ contract, “confused???? so am I!”   Stephanie is way more patient than I am, when she doesn’t understand these documents, she e-mails the appropriate department and asks the questions, then sticks around long enough to get an answer. 

In the letter I wrote to the editor, I asked about the 56 hour week – did that mean 16 hours of guaranteed overtime? Is that how some of these employees almost DOUBLE their salaries?   One person I saw on the salary charts had added $80,000 in OT to his $90,000 salary – and he’s not the only one who does that.  As I pointed out in my letter, the fire department alone bills for over a million dollars a year in overtime. I wonder, how do they do that? 

When Stephanie asked the human resources department about overtime, here was the response: “Under the terms of the IAFF MOU City firefighters get paid overtime for any hours they work in excess of 56 in a seven day period.”

Okay, now I’m confused. You can schedule people for 56 hours without paying them overtime? News to me. And, I still don’t understand, how do they rack up the overtime pay when they have to work over 56 hours a week to get  it? I mean, there’s not a house burning down or an accident every freaking minute. In fact, hours and hours go by, every day, when nothing justifying the use of gasoline even happens around here. 

I got a new question. Are we paying people to sleep? To watch tv? To take the hook and ladder to the grocery store? 

Human Resources offered more explanation: “In addition, under the terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act, they get paid overtime for any hours they work in excess of 182 in a 24 day period.  For the City of Chico this equates to an additional 5 hours of pay for each person every 24 day period.”

I keep seeing that word, “work”, and I keep wondering, “what do they mean by ‘work‘?” 

So I will keep asking my questions.

Scranton, Pennsylvania cuts workers to minimum wage – only $130,000 in their cash reserves

12 Jul

I finally got a chance to watch the video of last Tuesday’s council meeting. It cut on me during the meeting, just after Walker and Goloff were mopping up their attack on Sorensen, and I didn’t get it back til yesterday. I have watched the video in bits and snatches.  I made it to the noise ordinance conversation last night, but had to turn it off after Jessica Allen and a couple of her friends got up to demand their rights to be bad neighbors. 

One thing I learned is that the city of Chico has less than $200,000 in the reserve fund. No, I did not forget a zero on that figure, that’s it – less than $200,000. Read it and weep – and then call them to ask what they did with that property tax check you just sent in. 

You can look at the budget report here:  http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/budget.asp

You see the millions the city takes in, in sales tax (over $17 million) property tax (over $11 million), even taxes on your PG&E, phone and water (almost $7 million), and your visitors’ motel rooms (over $2 million). To me that seems petty – “bed tax”?   Some people think it’s a good idea to shake down the visitors of your town, as if  it’s not enough that they spend money on your motels, restaurants and shopping centers.  It’s a common grab all over California, every city does it.  A lot of distasteful things become “common” when no decent person stands up to say “enough is enough.” 

In Chico, as has been oft repeated, over 80 percent of our budget is in salaries and benefits. That’s the elephant in the room, and everybody’s getting pretty hip deep in elephant shit around here.  It’s a simple concept, no matter how convoluted $taff and council try to make it: if they spend all the money on salaries, benefits, and the Great Pension Stock Market Disaster, there’s no money left to pay for supplies to say,  clean up leaks in the sewer and water lines that are causing the state to fine us by the day, widen the roads that we are required to widen because of the permitting of Meriam Park, etc. And you can just get used to those pot holes in the street out front of your house.  Got bad neighbors? Get a lawyer.

What’s really frustrating are the reactions of the cops and fire – they act like they don’t get paid at all. Those guys take most of the 80 percent. They get overtime written into their schedules. According to Hennessy, both fire and the cops are over budget on their workman’s comp claims for at least the third year in a row. The city just slammed another cop contract past us without public review, and signed the new chief’s contract three days before it was made available to the public, and then only by request and a direct visit to the clerk’s office Downtown. 

So, we will get another year of poor response times, bitching and moaning from cops and fire. Get ready for your homeowners and your car insurance to go up – the insurance companies know when your local police and fire departments are a pile of shit. 

And don’t think I’m not wondering about all those suspicious house fires. 

 You can just forget about any of the services a city is supposed to offer.  Try to get something out of the city clerk these days – if you can catch her in the office! 

Well, here’s the story of Scranton, Pennsylvania – home of Michael Scott! 


The mayor of Scranton, when faced with a situation similar to Chico’s mess, did what needed to be done. Unfortunately, he waited until it was too late to do something rational. I’m afraid it’s come to that with our city council – if you think that scene between Goloff and Sorensen was rational, well, you deserve to live here. 

Oh, let me get my little violin for the poor policeman!

11 Mar

The Chico PD and fire department are the biggest salary suckers in town. Together they take about 85 percent or more of our city pie, with the cops getting over half.

It’s not just their salaries, which were artificially raised along with all city workers by that MOU that linked pay to revenue INCREASES but NOT DECREASES. The cops and fire department are the worst because they have managed to get overtime written in to their contracts. They are guaranteed a certain amount of overtime, and given just about as much as they want beyond that. Some of them double their salaries with overtime, a practice know in the industry as “spiking.”

Spiking has driven our city employee costs through the roof, especially pension costs. See, cops and fire are allowed to retire at 90 PERCENT of their highest year’s salary. So, you got these people who agreed to salaries in the $50 – 80,000 range, “spiking” their pensions up to  $100,000 plus. Fire Chief John Brown retired a couple of years ago at over $206,000. I used to watch this man struggle to stay awake in meetings, just so he could give his two cents that overtime saves money over new hires. What a crock of bullshit, but council has bought this line for years, allowing the police and fire departments to suck the city dry without really providing any service.

Another problem with the fire and police departments is workman’s comp. For two years running, I’ve heard Malfeasance Director Jennifer Hennessy report that we are “again” overbudget in this fund, due to excessive injuries in the Chico police  and fire departments.

So yesterday we are treated to a front page story in the Enterprise Wreched – “Officer who suffered career-ending injury in Chico riot dies in Willows.” 

I usually try to avoid disrespect for the dead, but I’m certainly not going to try to manufacture any phony respect for a guy who saw an opportunity to rack up some overtime playing “Riot Cop” in another town when he knew damned well he had a bad knee and didn’t have any business on active duty. 

According to Greg Welters epic sob story, then-47-year-old Willows police sargeant Bill Carter injured himself during the Rancho Chico day “riots” of 1990. But as you read the story, a few things stand out.  At some point during the mayhem, Carter claimed, “Something popped in his left leg, and he knew his knee had become dislocated.”  Yes, he knew his knee had become dislocated, because it had happened before.

What was a 47 year old man with a bad knee doing at a riot in another town? 

Well, of course, he was SPIKING HIS SALARY. And, he got his cherry on top – retirement with full disability at 47 years old, with a pension based on that last years spiked salary. 

And now I’m supposed to cry for a guy who just spend the last 20 years milking a bad knee? He even went on to another job – how ironic – he went into fraud investigation work. Maybe he should have investigated himself. Read the story – at several points, he knew his knee was injured, but he made the decision to keep re-injuring himself, until he had an injury that was sure to end his “career” and set him up for life.

Cry for a 69 year old man who just died after milking the system for the last 20 plus years? I don’t think so. I think there should be a special place in Hell for people who take advantage of the public trust. And their widows, too. 

When I did some research regarding knee injuries, I found a list of specific jobs in which knee injuries are considered part of the game – three were sports, the fourth was carpet layer. Neither cops nor firefighters were on the list. Only jobs in which a repetitive action will result in a predictable type of injury were listed. For carpet layers, it’s the knee kicker that moves the carpet into place. That will also give a person a hernia. So will carrying giant rolls of carpet onto a job site without any assistance. My husband has had both of those injuries, but because he’s a contractor instead of a publicly-paid trough sucker, we had to pay the doctors out of our own pocket, and he’s not eligible for workman’s comp, so he was just unemployed. 

The next two reasons given for the average knee injury were age and obesity. I didn’t know Bill Carter, but let’s face it – 47 is old for any active job. You wouldn’t have found a 47-year-old Nolan Ryan running out to fight with drunk 20-somethings in a riot. Any adult should have better sense. I think Carter did it on purpose, but that’s my opinion.

There also ought to be a special place in hell for journalists who write this kind of crap, but it’s about what I’ve come to expect from Greg Welter. Welter never writes a story that’s NOT slanted. He’s on the cop beat – funny, he was also on the Redevelopment Agency’s “citizen’s oversight committee” a few years back. The committee that was disbanded on Scott Gruendl’s request when I and some other citizens asked that the commitee’s activities be opened up to the scrutiny of the public. I was put on their e-mail chat list, and I read over the conversations they were having among themselves. At one point, when other members balked at the (then) $40 million price tag for the new police station, Welter argued that the cops should get whatever they want. “Whatever we do, ” he cautioned, ” we (the RDA committee) don’t want to be perceived as ‘anti-police’…” 

I don’t know why he’s so worried about being perceived “anti-police”.   Maybe he should try to be perceived as an honest journalist who writes unbiased stories. But maybe that’s not why he got into journalism, I don’t know. 

Let’s increase revenues without increasing taxes

4 Mar

We had a great meeting at the library today and again I want to thank everybody who came down.

Something that really impresses me is the diversity of this group, people who have had disagreements in the past, who take time out from their personal schedules to work together toward a common goal. These people are hard workers.

Today we had a great discussion about ways in which the city could address our current deficit without raising the sales tax.

First, there’s the need to reduce expenditures. We all realize we need certain staff services, but we also know there are problems with the current contracts. We’d like to see to see more employees, at lower salaries, who pay a bigger share of their own healthcare and pension premiums, instead of a few highly paid individuals who constantly complain that they can’t serve us adequately because they are short of staff.  There is an opportunity coming up this year to re-negotiate the generous contracts that were made behind closed doors during the boom years, before the “sunshine” laws required sharing the contracts with the public. We’d like to see some “flexibility” in dealing with these contracts, instead of being held off by the forehead by our elected leaders and staff and told that renegotiating  our way out of this mess, created by salaries and benefits, would be “reneging on our promises…”

We also discussed ways in which the city could raise revenues without putting the squeeze on taxpayers. We believe they could go farther to promote business and therefore generate more sales tax through increased sales instead of increased tax. I’ve seen the regulations and fees – yes, the city can come off as being hostile to business. This is a basic attitude problem.  Remember the WalMart conversation – Scott Gruendl asked WalMart for a million dollars, to be put toward swapping out woodstoves – in exchange for permission to expand on their own property in order to increase the amount of merchandise they could carry and therefore the amount of sales tax they could generate. The expansion would have allowed WalMart to carry a larger grocery selection, bringing in more customers who would also be exposed to more taxable goods. Our city staff and council need to adopt a more practical attitude toward promoting business instead of exploiting the very people who are willing to take risks to stimulate our local economy.

We’re planning another meeting next month, and we’re trying to line up some guest speakers. In the meantime, we’re trying to make council aware that we do not support this  tax, while trying at the same time to be part of the solution.  Keep writing those letters to the council and the newspaper, talk to your neighbors and friends.