Tag Archives: salaries

Engage your “leaders” regarding the transient problem

9 May

After I posted the picture my husband took in Bidwell Park I sent it to Mayor Sean Morgan with this note:

Mayor Morgan,
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> I am sending a photo of a mess my husband and dog walked into Friday morning in middle Bidwell Park, along the Fitness Trail. I don’t know the station numbers, but I think this bears investigating. A cursory walk through the area between the freeway and Manzanita Avenue would turn up many illegal camps. You will see small but well established trails leading back into the blackberry vines and other non-native, overgrown brush, where you will find trash piles and oftentimes occupied camps. My husband has encountered people in tents right on the main trail.
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> We’ve reported these camps in past, this very spot has been cleaned within the last six months by the alternative custody program.
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> This is disconcerting given Chief O’Brien’s recent revelation that bicycles are being stolen to fuel heroin habits. We see other articles in these trash piles, oftentimes bike parts, stuff that looks like it’s been taken from people’s garages  – even a real estate sign in one pile. We’ve found poop tied up in those bags the city provides to pick up after dogs, piles of them. We’ve found the little caps that go on syringes at places like Cedar Grove and along the Fitness Trail. This is our neighborhood, where we live, our adult children live, and where we have rentals. We wonder why illegal camping is being allowed in a park that traverses a large area of town, and is so overgrown, a criminal can disappear through a gate and into the bushes faster than a jack rabbit.  These people are predating our neighborhoods, and public works department staffers have told us the campers have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and must be given notice before they can be kicked out. They are not required to take their garbage.
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> How ironic.  These people are practicing illegal Search and Seizure in our homes while our families are at work and school, but they get Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by pitching a tent in the park.
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> Having heard/read your comments regarding the parklet for Starbucks (and I wholeheartedly agree with the latest decision), I know you must be as disgusted as I am with what’s going on  in Bidwell Park. My family and my tenants need to hear you have a plan to do something about it. All we hear is how the city doesn’t have enough money to fix roads and clean the park, but the pensions get paid no matter what.
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> Thanks, at your convenience, for your anticipated response, Juanita Sumner

He responded fairly quickly and it seems we are in agreement about the problem.  

Juanita,

Disgusting picture to be sure.  I am frustrated by the transient issue and short of throwing all the service providers out of town (which I’m told won’t work) I’m short on plausible solutions.  Our police Target team and Park Rangers break up camps on a regular basis only to see them started again. 

 I am forwarding your email to Chief O’Brien who I know will forward it to Target.  The camps will move then pop up again (leaving trash, debris, and worse).

I believe making Park Rangers fully fledged police officers will have some effect but not a magical one.  Until we stop protecting the people taking advantage of our community we’ll continue down this slippery slope.  The Governor says they’re not criminals and the Sheriff can’t house them.

Regarding the pensions: you nailed it.  Illegal not to fund CalPers (which can’t seem to earn a decent return to save it’s life) while we can’t keep up on street maintenance in our town.  Municipalities in California are in for a rude awakening (one we avoided once) as sales tax revenue disappears (lost to the internet) and pension cost rise.  In Chico we’re doing all we can to hold pensions and salaries in check without losing valuable safety officers.

We do have some things coming (not tax increases, those are on someone else’s agenda) and I expect to see some improvement soon, but if the majority that runs this state doesn’t realize how they’re killing it, there won’t be much left to fight for soon.  BUt fight we will.

Thanks for letter and continued vigilance.

-Sean

Well, there he acknowledges the problem.  Since he offered no solutions I offered him some of my suggestions.

Thank you for your courteous reply,

I think the first thing you can do is reject the “continuum of care” coordinator – this position is nothing more than a grab for more federal money to house more of these people in our county/town. [The city of Chico has been asked to approve and provide funding toward this position, which requires matching funding to get the grant.]

Also, I don’t know where you live in town, but you might consider running for county supervisor. Both Kirk and Wahl have consistently voted to fund the Behavioral Health programs that are bringing these people here.  I think they’ve had their term and they need to step down, time for somebody new give that office a whack.  [Both Wahl and Kirk are up in 2018 and maybe Morgan could do a better job as county supervisor than he has done as mayor – he would have more authority to defund Behavioral Health.]

I’ve worn myself out reporting these camps to the police and public works department. Eric Gustafson told me these people have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, in our park?  I’m also tired of hearing we don’t have enough money to deal with this stuff. We’re paying people to tell us they don’t get paid enough to work. The spot I showed you has just been cleaned by the alternative custody program, but they don’t go far enough. They need to remove non-native, dead, and overgrown vegetation.  We’ve talked to these people – they’re not real workers, my own kids could run circles around them. They stand around yakking, looking for the first passerby to stop and talk to.  [They aren’t supervised.]

I’m glad to see Dan Efseaff get the boot, we need to get rid of more management do-nothings. He once  told me he had brought the Salt Creek crews in and the work we saw was great. He said these crews cost about $100 day, but he couldn’t afford to bring them in again?  [See the link below for professional services these crews provide.]

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Conservation_Camps/Camps/Salt_Creek/

No more Alternative Custody Service, let’s get the real crews into the park and you’ll see how many hobo camps they find buried in there. I grew up here, I remember the Bidwell Park of the 1960’s, and it’s a disgrace how bad it’s got just in the last 5 or so years since Nakamura gutted our work force to give management bigger salaries. You and council must figure out how to get rid of these overpaid suits and get more workers in here on the same budget. Good luck.  [I didn’t want to remind Morgan, but he and Sorensen stood by and cheered as Nakamura cut positions and quietly raised management salaries.]

thanks again, Juanita  

I have not received any response to my second e-mail, and neither Chief O’Brien nor the Target Team have contacted me about the homeless camp I pictured. 

Please engage these people – sean.morgan@chicoca.gov – mark.orme@chicoca.gov – michael.obrien@Chicoca.gov  – and let them know how you feel about this situation.  Send pictures, that seems to get their attention.

Tom Wolfe called it “Mau-mau’ing the Flakcatchers”.

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! 

http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/10/12659748-scranton-pa-slashes-workers-pay-to-minimum-wage?lite

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. 

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.

The Pension Bomb is ticking – Chico Taxpayers Assoc meeting this Sunday, 11:30am, Chico Library

29 Feb

Tom Lando is being quiet about his tax proposal – that doesn’t mean he’s given up. Currently he’s conducting a “survey”, supposedly in order to gauge public support, but more likely intended to mold his proposal into something the public will support. He’s just trying to find out what rainbows he needs to promise in order to get it past the uninformed.

That’s why I’ve tried to keep people informed to what’s really going on here – the city is broke after 10 years or more of absolutely reckless and irresponsible spending and Lando has been tapped (because he doesn’t have an elected position at stake) to sell the voters  a tax increase. 

Last night council wasted another two hours on a rambling bullshit session regarding the budget.  It wasn’t a “work” session like you’d see if you attended a city council meeting in Red Bluff or Gridley. In those towns they actually fix streets and get money for school projects.Here they sit and babble for hours and come up with NO SOLUTIONS.

They’ve got to start cutting the upper level staffers. Dave Burkland should not be allowed to retire at 50 years of age, taking over $130,000 a year in pension.  He should be told that he’s going to get a 50 percent salary cut and if he doesn’t like it, there’s the door. Same for Assistant City Manger John Rucker, who is instead getting ready to insert himself as Police Chief, and I’m guessing his new salary will be within $5,000 of the big 2-0-0-0-0-0! Same for at least 20 upper level employees, and those are just the cockroaches you can see.

Ann Schwab won’t fight the union – she IS the union.  She works for the university – SEIU.   Same with Holcombe, Gruendl and Flynn-Golom.  These people are loyal first and last to their benefactor, the union. They know boat rockers get the pitch overboard.

They don’t want to “fix” the budget, they want more money to pay the pensions, including their own. They want a higher state sales tax, and they want a higher local sales tax, you can bet on that.

When I spoke to Ann Schwab at her “Meet the Mayor” event Saturday at the library, she assured me she would not support a sales tax “for a ballfield.” That was it. She won’t support a ballfield? Well, at the regular city council meeting last week she said she’d dip into the reserve fund to hire new people. She ‘s already used the RDA like a credit card to pay salaries and pension payments, that’s bad enough. Hiring new hires without getting your finances in order is like putting out a fire with gasoline.  Or in this case, putting out the Pension Bomb by throwing some more flaming pensions at it.

If you’ve already written a letter to council, I’d certainly like to post it here. Sometimes it helps if they see the conversation going public, makes it harder to ignore us. You can also post your thoughts here anonymously, as long as they are on subject (Chico sales tax increase) and within the legal boundaries (don’t knowingly spread misinformation, and if you make a mistake, please be sure to retract quickly). Just click the “leave a comment” icon at the bottom left of each post.

Also, don’t forget, Chico Taxpayer’s Association meeting this Sunday, 11:30, at the Chico library. We have the room for about an hour before the next group comes in.