Tag Archives: Save Caper Acres

2016 – the Year of the Tax

4 May

The other day I read a pretty comical article in the Enterprise Record – “Caper Acres Users Mention Tax.”

Excuse me – what the hell kind of a headline is that? “Mention Tax“? Was this overheard in casual conversation? Was it just  whimsy?

To me this word play typifies the verbal gymnastics people will indulge in to get around talking directly about raising taxes, just trying to put the notion out there so we think we came up with it ourselves. I’m wondering how long it took the editorial staff to decide to call this a ‘tax‘ at all.  I don’t trust the ER anymore.

This “mention” of tax is actually part of former City of Chico manager Tom Lando’s slow and grinding efforts at getting us to foist a tax(es) on ourselves to cover his and other grandiose pensions. Here, read up on it:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2013/07/13/heres-whats-really-behind-the-park-closures-more-than-21-retirees-get-over-100000year-in-pension-ex-fire-chief-gets-over-200000/

A pension that’s not mentioned in that list is Pam Figge’s pension. Figge is the Chico State instructor who brought her class into a Park Commission meeting to “mention” a sales tax increase.  Pam Figge was also a city of Chico $taffer under Lando. She’s one of those perpetual revolving door trough dwellers, like Lando, who also teaches at Chico State. I don’t know how many pies old Figgy has her finger in, but Lando sits on various boards around the county, including Chico Area Recreation District. 

A few years back, Lando undertook a campaign to get a sales tax increase on the ballot. He and business associate Jim Stevens hired a company from out of town to run a survey testing the waters for a sales tax:

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2012/03/05/lando-releases-survey/

These companies always boast their ability to get voters to approve tax measures on themselves, so of course, it was leading, using scare tactics, leaving out the reasons the city got into this mess. I was also contacted by people, including Larry Wahl, who said Lando used their names as though they supported the tax, without even asking them. Read it yourself.

Back when he was still city mangler, Lando was behind the MOU that nailed us into our coffin – the one that linked city salaries “to increases in revenue increases but not decreases...”  His salary rocketed up about $100,000 over a few years, going from about $69,000 to over $160,000. When  we found out about that MOU, they dumped it, but wrote the “Employer Paid Member Contribution” into the employee contracts – the clause by which we pay their share of pensions and benefits.  I know I’m not the only one that bitched about that too, and now look, they’re pretending to dump it – but only for new hires.  Brian Nakamura, Mark Orme, Chris Constantin and their over-priced management friends only just agreed to pay 9 percent of their own pension – please join me in a solid chorus of “Big Fucking Whoopie, Fellas!”   

Sorensen and Nakamura expect us to eat lint out of their buttcracks, because they are making NEW HIRES pay their own benefits. Again, BFW Boys! What they don’t like to say is, that won’t happen until our existing workforce retires on 70 percent of their fat salaries and walks on down the hall. Mother…

And then, the new hires only pay if they come from outside the retirement system. For the entire United States. Most of our new hires are picked up from within the system, we hire very few newbies.

And then, the new hires only pay  50 percent. Imagine yourself sitting at the city picnic, over on the railroad tracks, eating your slice of community pie, and some cop comes over and takes half your pie and puts it on his plate next to his big fat piece, and walks away. Then a fireman comes over and takes half of what’s left, walking over to the opposite side of the room to glare at the cop while they eat your pie.  

Actually, this analogy isn’t right – Brian Nakamura got your pie while you were standing in line, sorry about that. 

These people just don’t get how big of pigs they are being – the pig is always the last one to know, right? Who, me?  Then most of them have the nerve to put on the “I’m just (sniffle) outraged!‘ act, like little Beth Vice over at Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control.  I hope she is able to pull her panties out of her ass, cause I’m the one who gets to be outraged this time. I’m sick of paying for people like her to sit in air conditioning waiting for the phone to ring, making $60,000+ but contributing NOTHING toward a pension that will pay them at least $50,000 a year (plus COLA) for the rest of their bloated life.

This is the common core behind all these little tax bombs that are headed our way over the next couple of years.  Gee, isn’t it just coinky-dinkal, that BCMVCD just lost the same amount in RDA money that they were splattering out on their own benefits? They say the cost of pesticides has increased – well that’s funny cause their budget shows they’ve spent $150,000 less on pesticides this year than they did three years ago. At the same time,  they’ve laid off employees, but wow, their pensions and benefits costs kept climbing anyway? What gives Beth?

Don’t forget the garbage tax. When I sat in on that conversation, the consultant said repeatedly (and I have this on tape) that the main reason for doing a franchise agreement was to “help the city with it’s financial condition…”  He even admitted, there will be a period during which there is no restriction over how many companies can operate, due to legalities in noticing the companies of the new regulations (5 years). He also admitted, that in order to get Recology and Waste Management to agree to go along with this deal, some of which is on shaky legal ground, the city must agree to close the bidding process to just those two haulers. This whole thing smells worse than Garbage Day.

Don’t forget CARD, who has  committee of  “shareholders” scheming behind closed doors to put an assessment or a bond on our homes to pay for Aquajets new Taj Majal swim facility. Oh yeah, don’t worry, you’ll be allowed to pay to get in, when Aquajets aren’t using it for one of their legendary swim meets. 

Let’s talk about assessments. For lack of a better adjective, I’ll say, assessments suck. This is a way by which these rent seeking agencies (  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking  ) like BCMVCD and CARD stick it to us through our homes. Each property owner gets ONE vote. Did I say, each property owner? Well they count couples or families or groups of investment partners as an each, and they only get one vote among them. And, it doesn’t matter how many properties you own, how many assessments you will pay, what your total assessment would be – you and your spouse or partner(s) get ONE vote. Period. 

When I read into the text of the Caper Acres “users” story, I found the opposite was true – Figge’s class only polled people who came into Caper Acres with their kids.  I had to laugh – these college kids that Pam Figge rounded up and brought down to the playground (were they accompanied by a child under 13?) only “surveyed” people who use Caper Acres. They asked them, essentially, “would you like other people to pay more to secure your whimsy?”  Well, duh, 80 percent of them said “Yes!”  

And the demands – keep the Bunker Hill tunnels? Yeeeccchhh! My boys never wanted to go into those tunnels, and I was relieved. They have always stunk of pee, and I’ve long questioned the safety of tunnels in the dirt, come on.  Alot of Caper Acres should just be removed. Those structures were somebody’s silly fancy, nobody ever thought to ask – “how will we maintain these? How will we keep transients from camping out inside them, using drugs, leaving filth, etc?”  Time after time the city has faced liability issues over those crazy fixtures at Caper Acres. I once watched a woman and her kid fly off the end of that crooked slide and land in a heap on the dirt. They landed hard, the child bouncing off the woman’s lap and landing SMACK on the hard ground.Playgrounds are hazardous, fixtures fall apart. Structures have been cordoned off, the place has been closed due to either trees falling or vandalism a number of times – it’s a big liability to the city. 

We didn’t see the survey, we don’t know whether the respondents were informed off all the issues revolving around the park. I’m pretty sure they weren’t told about the salaries, the benefits, the pensions, the EPMC, etc. Just like the pamphlet from BCMVCD didn’t give any real information, and Lando’s survey didn’t give any real information. These people are ready to roll out a propaganda machine to get these bonds or assessments. 

Laura Urseny is part of the propaganda machine. She’s been writing articles about how bad of shape Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools are in – where has she been for the last 20 years that they’ve been left to rot? We can’t trust the Enterprise Record for the straight story, I’m sorry, Dave Little is a businessman, not a journalist. I have yet to see any comprehensive coverage of the garbage tax or the sales tax conversations that have been going on Downtown between the Chamber and other entities. I have this from people I know in the chamber and other organizations. They say it’s all being kept from the public, waiting for state laws to change regarding voting percentages for tax proposals. Our legislature is busy shifting the percentage from 2/3’s to 55 percent.  

And, a highly placed city staffer told me that Tom Lando is behind a lot of stuff, that he’s really pushing to annex Chapmantown because he wants the property tax revenues. The city has a 45/55 deal with the county over property tax revenues –  just think how much money that would mean to the city.  Mark Sorensen and city staff all scream that Chico can’t afford to annex Chapmantown because of all the issues over there, it would cost too much to repair their sagging infrastructure. Well, are they stupid, or just playing stupid? Lando knows like I know that Chapmantown would not get any more service than they currently enjoy, but Chico will get half of their property taxes to pay off their pension obligation. That’s a big conversation behind closed doors, I’d like to see the public get involved in that. 

So, I will try to keep on the ball, but to tell the truth, I could use a little help down here.  I feel like I’m standing in a shit storm with a tennis racket.  

 

 

Caper Acres users mention tax

By Laura Urseny lurseny@chicoer.com (mailto:lurseny@chicoer.com) @LauraUrseny on Twitter

POSTED: 04/29/2014 06:40:23 PM PDT

Chico >> Parents and other users of Caper Acres in Bidwell Park might be willing to consider a fee or tax to help out the playground which is destined for a renovation. A group of Chico State University students assigned to look at the play area as a class project uncovered that sentiment and shared it with the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission Monday night, along with other observations. More than 150 surveys were taken over a six-day period. According to the information presented to the commission, 85 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as city residents “were in favor of paying a local tax to fund the maintenance and renovation of Caper Acres. Forty-seven percent of all respondents would be willing to pay some sort of parking fee,” according to the survey results..The survey results indicated that users were willing to pay one or the other, but not both. Users said the funds must be earmarked for Caper Acres. Other financial suggestions included creating a maintenance district, user fee or crowdsourcing. The survey discovered other stances. Users wanted to keep the story book theme. “Must keep” features included the Bunker Hill Mine (also known as the tunnels), the Crooked House, Big Cheese and Locksley’s Castle. The tunnels are marked for removal in a proposal from Melton Design Group, hired by the city for the redesign. The city has problems with overnight campers inside the tunnel, as well as drainage of the area. Part of former city planner Pam Figge’s geography class, the students looked at the area from soil types and American Indian use to vegetation types, users and play equipment. Commissioners said the information was valuable, and referred later in the evening to the idea of a tax-supported areas in Bidwell Park. City officials have said there is no budgeted money available for the renovation, and is looking to the community for help. The Park Commission’s Natural Resources Committee is overseeing the Caper Acres renovation. The next meeting is planned for 6 p.m. May 8 in Conference Room 2 of the Chico City Council Chambers, 421 Main St. Chairwoman Mary Brentwood said there is plenty of time for more public comments. Contact reporter Laura Urseny at 896-7756.

Yeah, the park is still closed

6 Sep

I was on my way to the Economic Development committee meeting last week, late afternoon, and as I exited the park onto Vallombrosa Way,  getting off my bike to thread my way through a group of fat-assed park walkers standing directly in the gateway, a woman arrived at the locked gate in her car and just sat there, staring.

 

Why is this closed?” she demanded.

 

The other women, all of who seemed to have small credenzas taped onto their behinds, just stared back. I took my opportunity. “It’s closed because they spent all the park money on their $48 million unfunded pension liability…” Before I could finish that, she had shook her head and driven away. I don’t know if I was giving her too much info, or whether it truly disgusted her, but she left.   We’ll see what kind of outrage that sparks. 

 

How soon we forget.  Caper Acres Volunteers will be having a meeting on Monday at the Faith Lutheran Church on East First, 6:30 pm. They met last week with park management, Dan Efseaf and Ruben Martinez, as well as Lise Smith Peters, the volunteer coordinator, and we’ll see if there’s any fingerprints on their foreheads. I think they were told they could either join the regular Park Volunteers, or they could form a non-profit. Abigail Lopez seems pretty determined, but if I were her, I’d take a harder line with $taff, and join me at City Hall to picket the contract talks. We’ll see.

 

I asked Dan Efseaf about the park donation fund, he gave me the number of that fund so I could look it up. This is not a task to take lightly – drink seven cups of coffee and load your pockets with bread crumbs to leave you a little trail by which to get yourself out. I haven’t done it yet. But you may remember, when I looked into the Downtown Parking fund, I found they use over half of that to pay salaries and benefits, mostly for workers who don’t have anything to do with Downtown Parking. They pay for an entire police position out of that fund, over $100,000, and no, that cop is not “dedicated” to Downtown. He could very well be sleeping off a good beating over behind the Christian Science Reading Room on Palmetto. 

 

Oh yeah, we get some quality for these salaries, don’t we?

 

At last week’s Park Commission meeting, Efseaf mentioned repairs and maintenance needed at Caper Acres. Apparently, this is their excuse for closing Caper Acres – it’s “badly in need of repair,” and they don’t have the money to do it. Really? But they had the money to raise Efseaf’s salary by $20,000? And pay all but 4% of his pension? 

 

Efseaf lists some specific projects in his e-mail below, and makes vague references to more repairs. No cost estimates? What the hell does this guy do all day? Any workman could give you a cost estimate, come on Mr. $93,000 a year! Hey, I got an idea – why don’t they contact the contractors and other public volunteer organizations who did the Nico Project, who re-built the Crooked House from the foundation up, who rebuilt the tree house slide, etc. Local contractors like the Ritchie Brothers. I’m wondering if those people, given past experience, would work with city staff again. 

 

Dealing with our city staff is like dealing with a Repo Man – you have to be alert, all eyes and ears, and quick on the grab. “What’s right” doesn’t have anything to do with it – you have to be persistent, and you can’t ever be rude or the slightest bit belligerent, no matter how they treat you,  or they’ll use it as an excuse to cut you off.  It’s not a game for them, it’s a matter of money. They’re pretty damned ruthless, don’t forget who you’re dealing with. Egg stealers.

 

The entire park is a disaster. They’re trying to squeeze us, and they’ll do anything. They say they don’t have the staff to open the gates for us, but yesterday a giant garbage truck was trolling through the park. This used to be done by a guy or two guys in a city truck – you have to walk in and manually remove the bag. There’s no use to have a big garbage truck in there, and Nakamura himself has said these truck damage city streets, so what’s he doing sending them in there, with the park closed four days out of seven, to collect garbage sacks? 

 

This is mismanagement, pure and simple. And taking a salary for NOT doing your job is embezzlement as far as I’m concerned. 

 

Park manager Dan Efseaf’s e-mail answers to my questions posted below:

Ms. Sumner,

My contact information is below.  Here are some brief answers to your questions, let me know if you need anything else:
1)  What is that fund number?
I believe the fund number is 050-000-46001/xxxxx-000-3990, where the x’s represent the cost centers (one for Caper Acres, Park Improvements, Infrastructure, intern, trails and vegetation management).  This is also our 7th year participating in the Annie B’s Community Drive and they will accept donations on the City’s behalf at http://nvcf.org/index.php?q=donate&list=c31. Each donation will receive a partial match.
2) …specific “infrastructural needs” and “projects” at Caper Acres, and I would like to know exactly what infrastructural projects he’s talking about, and I wonder if I could get a cost estimate on those projects/repairs.
Caper Acres has many infrastructure needs (the roof to the restroom leaks, the wood footings to Locksley castle are rotting (or have been removed), Bunker Hill requires considerable maintenance to meet playground standards, fencing, irrigation, etc.). 
We do not have a cost estimate right now; however, the Caper Acres Master Management Plan that I mentioned will kick off this fall.  After obtaining input from the community the plan will assess and prioritize needs.  The plan will provide a cost estimate for each feature or repair.  The plan will be completed in 2014, but input will start this late fall (probably with one of the Committees).
 

Sincerely,

Daniel Efseaff | Park and Natural Resource Manager

Public Works Department | City of Chico

 

This may be a job for Robin Hood

21 Jul

Well, the best laid plans of mice and moms – next time I  tell you I’m going to hand out fliers at an event, tell me to stay home and make a cobbler. 

I want to get the info out, know what I mean? I’ve written letters to the editor, and then there’s the blog. I talk to my friends, I talk to grocery checkers, I talk to anybody who can’t run away. Yesterday I attempted a crowd that was not in the mood to hear about anything “negative.” 

I went over to One Mile a little after 4pm, not really sure what to expect of this “Birthday Bash”. It was about 105 outside, so there were the usual people – the young adult, social crowd, who are turned off to sitting under air conditioners all day, and like to spend their free time under some old trees, next to moving water, listening to music, maybe smoking a little dope, playing a little hacky-sack, seeing, being seen, and meeting others like-minded. They aren’t there to hear about politics, and that’s exactly what’s going on, so I didn’t want to intrude on their non-reality. From what I’ve seen every time I’ve visited Caper Acres since the Monday – Thursday closure, these people aren’t letting locked gates stop them from enjoying the park. 

It being Saturday, there were also lots of out-of-towners. In fact, the only people I spoke to were from elsewhere. I realized something else I should have known – tourists are usually a little friendlier than residents.  I’d make eye-contact, and if they’d say hello, I’d say hello, and as soon as I got my foot in the door, I’d add, ” I’m here handing out information about the park closures,” or something like that. They’d invariably say something along the lines of, “Park closures? I’m not from around here, what’s THAT about?”  They were always sympathetic, and some were actually aware of the pension problems, but none of them wanted to spend their weekend vacation yakking with some stranger about politics, so I never pushed it. 

Funny thing – none of them had heard there was any kind of event, they were just noticing something was afoot, wondering what?  

There was a group of park volunteers, wearing the familiar green t-shirts, their vehicles parked kind of pell mell on the lawn around the concession stand. They were kind of crabby, standing together in a little knot at one of the stands instead of mingling out through the crowd. I wonder if any of them had any crowd control experience, any experience setting up events like watermelon eating contests, etc. One man was testily announcing that there might be too many volunteers present at that time, that the event would be running until almost 10pm and he hoped there would be enough people to finish out the evening. No, they didn’t seem to be very tightly knit or organized.  

At this point I looked around myself and realized, this had not been a good idea.  I realized, I wasn’t going to find anybody there who really cared about what’s going on Downtown enough to do anything about it. I’d seen all the artwork and milled around the stands. The park volunteers had a petition at their stand, but I didn’t have my glasses so couldn’t read it.  I got on my bicycle and headed home to help my husband throw a chicken on the grill. 

Originally I thought I might go back after the sun got low and things cooled off, but I changed my mind.  CARD planned to finish off the evening with an 8:30 showing of “Hugo,” a very depressing sounding Martin Scorsese picture that for one thing has absolutely nothing to do with Chico, Bidwell Park, or the number 108. Whenever I tell people about the CARD movies in the park, they always ask, “Who’s responsible for picking the movies? ‘Bees’? Really?”  

I have to agree. I could think of at least one movie that would have been more appropriate for an annual celebration of Bidwell Park  – “Robin Hood,” outdoor sequences of which were actually filmed in Bidwell Park, an event that has long been one of Chico’s magical moments.You’d think they’d be able to get a week’s worth of activities out of that every year – how about exhibits at locations like the CARD center, the city building, Chico Museum? This movie has not only special interest to Chico, but was nominated for best picture in 1938 and  voted one of the best films of all time in 2001. Errol Flynn and the rest of the cast continue to be popular draws to film festivals.   But CARD will not be showing Robin Hood at all this year – “Hugo” was the last offering of the summer in fact. They only planned two movies, neither of which has any special significance to Chico.

That is my complaint about this recent attempt at “community” – the Bidwell Park Birthday Bash. It was like a robot trying to act like a Human.  I think it was just a last minute attempt to put a smiley face on our town when we don’t really feel very smiley, we’re not happy, and we’re all kind of pissed off at each other. I wish I could say “nice try,” but I can’t mean it. 

 

We need to educate the Siobhan O’Neil’s of our town – Chico doesn’t have a revenue problem, Chico has a SPENDING PROBLEM!

20 Jul

Well, the ER ran another propaganda piece for this city this morning – “Chicoans starting to feel impacts of reduced services…” Really? And how many “Chicoans” did you bother to poll on that?

The talked to a couple of women in Bidwell Park, one of whom, a publicly-paid child services worker, decided to take a smack at the defeat of Measure J.  She says, they’re closing the park because we defeated Measure J. 

“The sisters don’t understand why the city had to lock the gates on the pool’s north side. Both wondered about parking impacts in the surrounding neighborhoods and the hazards for families and children in having to cross the street.

O’Neil said she sees a direct correlation between the park closures and Measure J, a cellphone tax voters shot down during the November election. She had voted in its support.

‘You get what you pay for and what you don’t pay for,” she said. “For pennies a month, we gave up a source of revenue to help with services in an economy that’s still struggling.'”

I love that – “You get what you pay for…” Here’s a woman who admittedly doesn’t “understand why the city had to lock the gates “. What would you expect from a person who’s paycheck comes from tax money?

So, I called and left her a message on her publicly-paid voice mail, inviting her to the next First Sunday meeting of Chico Taxpayers. This is the kind of person we want to engage, the people who believe whatever their friends  tell them, their other publicly-paid friends. I wonder how many people this woman knows, outside her immediate family, who don’t have their snout in the trough? 

This is it Folks. You have seen the enemy, and it is IGNORANCE. 

I’ll be at the park today, handing out these:

park flier

Feel free to print them out and hand them around yourselves, we have to get this information out there. 

Chicoans starting to feel impacts of reduced services

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer

POSTED:   07/20/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT

CHICO — When tree limbs fall in the city of Chico, little can be done these days other than to drag them out of the way and hope they will be picked up soon.

People are tugging on the locked doors of bathrooms in Bidwell Park and find locked gates blocking access to the north side of the Sycamore Pool parking lot.

On Fridays, residents still approach the finance counter at City Hall to pay parking tickets, dog licenses or business licenses only to be told the office is now closed on Fridays.

It’s been two weeks since layoffs were finalized for dozens of city employees, including the entire tree crew, half the park staff, and more than 20 administrative positions.

No departments were spared from budget reductions as the city closed a $4.8 million budget gap, and citizens and city employees continue to realize the impacts of related service reductions.

“I’m trying to stay positive and do the best I can,” said street trees field supervisor Dave Bettencourt. “Public safety is paramount right now. We’ll make it work.”

He’s now doing the tasks of the now-retired urban forest manager, his job and the work of the former four-man crew. Response time for some calls is now triple, Bettencourt said.

When a report is made of fallen branches, he’ll go cut them up, pile them and add it to a list to be picked up about once a week. They used to be picked up the day they fell, he noted. For larger limbs or trees, like the one that fell across Vallombrosa on Thursday night, the city is finalizing an emergency contractor for 24/7 response.

It’s also working on a pruning contract, as growing trees start to obstruct stop signs and lines of sight, Bettencourt said. Summer is also usually when the city does its pruning in school areas, the downtown business area and around the college, but it’s all on hold.

When possible, Bettencourt piecemeals together help from other departments, including park staff, traffic signals and public works. “We are still going to need to maintain,” he said. “We are doing the best we can with what we have.”

He got a phone call recently from the Downtown Chico Business Association, asking what would happen to the decorating of the City Plaza tree at Christmas, a service normally done by the tree crew. “She said, ‘Should I be concerned?'” Bettencourt said. “I said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Some residents are also wondering what the impacts will be months from now, as park closures continue.

“What kind of degradation will happen in six months?” asked Siobhan O’Neil as she walked through the park with her sister Caitie Giusta on Thursday.

“It’s embarrassing,” Giusta said of the closure, noting the park is nationally recognized in travel guides and a major Chico attraction. “Here we have this jewel, and we are shut down 60 percent of the week.”

The sisters don’t understand why the city had to lock the gates on the pool’s north side. Both wondered about parking impacts in the surrounding neighborhoods and the hazards for families and children in having to cross the street.

O’Neil said she sees a direct correlation between the park closures and Measure J, a cellphone tax voters shot down during the November election. She had voted in its support.

“You get what you pay for and what you don’t pay for,” she said. “For pennies a month, we gave up a source of revenue to help with services in an economy that’s still struggling.”

Chico resident Bill Korte cycles through lower Bidwell Park almost daily. After finding the locked bathroom door Wednesday and reading the sign, he acknowledged he is used to not having the amenity because the bathroom is new but he still wishes it was open. “It’s a convenient pit stop for me,” he said.

The parking changes and the bathroom closures are what frustrate resident Cindy Ennes, she said Thursday as she finished her morning stroll.

“Because we are old and we often stop on that 3-mile loop,” she said with a laugh.

Turning serious, she said she’s noticed a significant decline in park patrons since the closures took effect. It saddens her to think the impacts are driving people away.

“I can’t believe what they are saving isn’t lost in the community’s enjoyment of the park,” she said. “I really feel like the city is doing this to punish its citizens.”

Councilor Sean Morgan said everyone has a difference of opinion about what the city’s priorities should be as it faces necessary cuts.

“Branches aren’t getting picked up as quickly … and Caper Acres isn’t open as many days as it once was and the park isn’t as clean as it was, and those are all bad things,” Morgan said. “But so is losing police officers, which is probably more important.”

“From a policy standpoint I have to do what is most important to the city and that is, are the citizens safe?”

The Police Department was slated to eliminate 19 positions as a result of budget cuts, though two community service officer positions were retained.

The City Council also has asked staff to find ways to restore more officer positions.

 

Reach Ashley Gebb at 896-7768, agebb@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.

$9,580 in cell phone rebates, and still counting

19 Jul

from Frank Fields 7/17/13

UUT refunds:

UUT cell phone refunds: $9,580

UUT annual refund program: $5,596 (May/June 2013)

Well, I am not excited about the UUT refund total, it doesn’t look like more than the usual number of people. At about $50 average refund, it only looks like the usual 100 people that always come in, myself included. I got almost $40, which puts the average Frank Fields gave me in perspective.

This tells me the process is too onerous for most people to take it seriously. You have to either mail that stack of crap in,  all your bills, all the pages, along with your tax returns, or, you have to find time during the work day to amble on down to the city building and make a personal appearance at the Finance Department window. 

To think, they’re ripping off the poorest people in town.  Maybe Brian Nakamura should grow a mustache, so he can twist it as he rips off the poor and closes them out of the playground. 

I’ve asked Nakamura, cc’ing the full council, to make the process electronic – something you could do over the computers at the library on a Saturday morning – but he just won’t answer.  I’ll get back to that soon. 

But, I do find the cell phone refund total impressive – $9,580 bucks. I didn’t get the number of applicants from Fields, but I’m guessing, that’s more than 100 applicants. Fields told me earlier this year, some of the applicants are businesses, with bigger refunds that kind of  mess up the average, but I’m still guessing, more than 100 people have filed for that refund, and that’s good. I get searches for the information in the blog daily, so I know people are still interested in getting their refunds, whether they will go through the onerous process or not. I wonder, how many people even keep their bills. 

I notice this morning, the city keeps announcing they’ve found this solution and that solution to the park closures, but the main park road and Caper Acres are still closed Monday through Thursday. I hope people get as mad about the park closures as they did about the cell phone tax. I’ll be in the park this weekend, for the Bidwell Park Birthday Scam, handing out fliers with dollar amounts and contact information – I hope we can turn this park closure on Nakamura, show him he messed with the wrong kind of bees.

I’ve reserved the library room for Sunday, August 4, 9am, for our First Sunday Chico Taxpayers meeting. I’ll have an update regarding the park closures, and more ideas for bringing the employees to the table. 

No volunteers, no donations – say it like Amy Winehouse – “NO, NO, NOOOOOO!”

13 Jul

I hate to be a naysayer, but you know me – when you’re good at something, you should run with it.

I’ve been trying to follow the discussion regarding the closure of Caper Acres. Facebook is a turn-off. I don’t have a Facebook account, and I don’t want one, capisce? Word Press is free and easy, anybody can get to it, anybody can contact me via the site, and if their comment is pertinent and non-offensive, I’ll print it. Hell, I’ll probably print it anyway.

Facebook is a way of excluding people, that’s hardly the way to get a community movement going.

That said, I was glad to see a new announcement today, apparently made by the monitor of the site:

The petition letter & “overview” received a face-lift today. Check it out. It doesn’t talk about ways to raise funds. It doesn’t talk about volunteers. It politely addresses the issue that a HUGE decision was made without taking into consideration the feelings or opinions or needs of the local constituents.

Well, I’m so happy to hear that. I don’t want to hear any more SHIT about volunteering or donating money.  Anybody who’s read the city budget should be marching Downtown to demand a fucking refund! 

We need to get a “take no prisoners” attitude here people. No more mamby-pamby, feel-good crap about helping out the poor city workers. Brian Nakamura is not doing a good thing, he’s trying to sweat us for more taxes.

And the Enterprise Record seems to be going right along with this little campaign – all the sudden, all these stories about crime and cops. As if, crime never happened here before?  No, it’s just never gotten the kind of coverage it’s getting these days from the Enterprise Record.

And don’t you love the way they’ve reported several assaults lately, but nothing about their proximity to some pretty well-established transient camps along Lindo Channel? Including yesterday’s attack at Verbena Fields, which has become a de-facto DUMP and homeless camp eversince it was installed as a dog-shitting area.   I think that’s odd.

Yes, camping on public  property is illegal. A lady who works at the county told me there’s been complaints about these camps, but the city says it’s the county’s jurisdiction, and the county comes right back at ’em with the same. There’s apparently been  some “rousting out” of these camps, but they just move a few hundred yards and wait for the cops to come back, maybe weeks later, after they’ve argued over whose job it is.

Right now there’s a pile of trash  behind S&S market, left by a camp that was plainly visible from the road, right there, big as life. They left due to some sort of harassment, but there sits the trash they managed to accumulate over the week or two they were there.  As far as I know, it’s sitting on city property, but I don’t have a map.  

“Volunteerism Could Work” says Little Pollyanna Daugherty over at the Chico News and Review.  Not given our city budget, it can’t.  Not given those salaries, benefits and pensions, it can’t. 

Brian Nakamura is inviting people who contact him about the park closures to the Bidwell Park Birthday Bash on July 20. This is an all-day fete, at locations around town. I plan to be at One Mile over the course of the day, handing out some information about the budget, the salaries, and the benefits and pensions. Please come on by, or get ahold of me and I’ll send you some information you can hand out yourself.  I’ll be posting it here too. 

Volunteerism could work

Plenty of people want to help keep the gates of Caper Acres open
This article was published by Chico News and Review on 07.11.13.
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Using volunteers to do cleanup at Caper Acres may not be the way to keep Bidwell Park’s fairytale playground open, but employing their help elsewhere to free up city staff to do that work has the potential to keep the gates open.

As reported in Newslines this week (see “Sacred acres,” by Tom Gascoyne), there is an effort afoot to organize a volunteer group. Bringing that effort from idea stage to execution will take some creativity over at City Hall, and also a dedicated pool of volunteers.

But it can be done.

Chicoans love Bidwell Park. Indeed, it’s one of the community’s biggest bragging points when touting the best things about living here. And parents of little kids are especially fond of Caper Acres, which is a one-of-a-kind play place.

Now is the time for everyone who enjoys the park to step up.

Volunteerism doesn’t address the layoffs of seven much-needed workers in the Street Trees and Parks divisions. That’s a separate issue altogether. The bottom line is that these workers are needed to keep the park operating smoothly, but their positions will remain unfilled until the city is financially solvent.

Using volunteers is certainly not a long-term solution. They shouldn’t be responsible indefinitely for helping sustain park services. But as a stopgap measure—until the city gets control of the budget—this could be the way to keep Caper Acres open more than just three days a week.

$taff closes park, Park Commissioner Richard Ober wants sales tax increase

10 Jul

I have been so mad about the park closures, I have not been able to blog it.  But last night I ran into Erika (sp?), and now I know I’m not even hardly pissed off  compared to some people. Erika is ready to march on city hall, and I hope she will do it. 

Her husband, as though he was herding a small child, kept reprimanding her. “Erika, calm down!” My husband does that. He gets kind of freaked out when my face turns grey and I start vibrating, but, I had my vet give me a check-up, and he says the old ticker is in good shape!

So, I’m ready for  trouble, with a capital ‘T’. I’m done with $taff, they’ve pushed it too far now. This is MUTINY people, and I say, they walk the plank.

We must ask our boy, Mark Sorensen, why we are paying new city manager Brian Nakamura $217,000 a year to close our parks. That’s msorensen@ci.chico.ca.us. Sorensen keeps telling us what a great job Nakamura is doing, but I’m not listening, I’m watching Nakamura. The first thing he did was demand a $50,000 increase in pay over old city manager Dave Burkland’s salary. His first act as city manager was to make a $50,000 “supplemental budget allocation” to cover his own salary. Then he “reorganized” the city departments, firing the hell out of the worker bees and then giving $30,000 salary raises to the remaining department heads – two of whom were friends he’d hired in the interim – new ass city mangler Mark Orme and financial trouble-shooter Chris “I really want to pay my own share but they won’t let me” Constantin. 

Watching these three “fix” our city problems is like watching Red Adair put out  a flaming oil well – bring in the dynamite! Oh, we’re sorry, did we blow up your little town? 

What they’re up to, is exactly what I’ve already seen play out in Stockton and Vallejo.  In Stockton, they hired a new city manager about three years ago. He proceeded to “reorganize,” hiring new administrators, at higher salaries. He gutted the police and fire departments in a town that has been a crime problem since the turn of the century.  Now, he’s screaming “crime problem!” and telling the city council they need to put a tax increase measure on the ballot to fund crime prevention. If you don’t think that’s funny, you need to take another shot of Wild Turkey.

So now we have Brian Nakamura  cut- cut-cutting the hell out of our town. Every day the Enterprise Record runs another propaganda piece about the “increase in crime.” The story this morning, about the cop who had to deal with the drunk Downtown, is absolutely comical.  Our police department is a joke, except, they’re not funny. They’re bankrupting our town with their insane pensions, and all they can do is stand there and refuse to serve us unless we give them more money. Ha ha – they have  a “no strike” clause in their contracts, but that doesn’t mean, they can’t just drag their feet and do a shitty job. 

I predict Nakamura will use the same time line as the manager in Stockton – he’s going to ask for a tax increase measure to be placed on the 2016 ballot. Research tells them that tax measures do better in a gubernatorial election, cause more people come out. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know this – they’ll lie through their teeth to get us to pay. They’ll threaten and twist our arms with NO SERVICE. 

Whose ready to take it right back up their ass? Let me know, I got some ideas. 

In the meantime, you can tell Brian Nakamura what you think at bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us.  You can reach the council at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us. 

While you’re at it, write to park commissioner Richard Ober at richard.h.ober@gmail.com to let him know what you think of his constant pushing for a sales tax increase. Read the story below.

Volunteers ramp up to save Caper Acres

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer

Posted:   07/06/2013 12:09:06 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge

The front gate at Caper Acres is seen in this file photo taken Wednesday in Chico. Caper Acres is…

CHICO — Without the ability to guarantee services in the wake of staffing reductions, the city was left with no option but to implement closures in Bidwell Park, Public Works Director Ruben Martinez said Friday.As the divisions adjust to reduced staffing, the city will start by providing services it knows it can guarantee and look for opportunities to restore other services as possible, Martinez said.

The crews want to keep Caper Acres, park bathrooms and gates open but it’s not feasible at this moment.

“Everybody wants to try it but we can’t be there sometimes,” he said. “We have to have that internal capacity to make sure we are there on days we say we are going to be there, rain or shine.”

City staff will now focus on preparing the park and its facilities for peak usage days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reductions in services start Monday.

Caper Acres, which has been closed on Mondays, will now be closed Monday through Thursday. If there is an opportunity to reopen the children’s fantasy playground to its old schedule, it will be the highest priority, Martinez said.

Residents are rallying to protest the closures and offering up the idea of volunteers to keep services afloat.

Abigail Lopez created a Facebook page called “Caper Acres Volunteers” in hopes residents would come together to save the fantasy children’s park.

“If the city is really concerned with the budget — and we have a $4.8 million deficit — I think they’d be willing

to provide the training to the volunteers to do what needs to be done,” she said. “I don’t see that in a community like Chico, why that wouldn’t be possible.”She is willing to step up and clean bathrooms, pick up trash, open gates — whatever it takes. It’s well worth the value to her 5-year-old son, Chase, who has autism.

“It’s really helpful for him to be exposed to the regular kids as well as the special-needs kids,” she said. “He loves to run around and be outside.”

When Lopez heard about the park closures, she knew she had to take action.

“That’s a part of the Chico experience. Having it not available so many days a week, it’s just not fair,” she said. “My mom has always told me if you think someone should do something, maybe that someone should be you.”

Other impacts include closure Monday through Thursday of the permanent restrooms on the north side of Sycamore Pool, at Cedar Grove and at Five-Mile Recreation Area. Portable restrooms will be added to Cedar Grove and Five-Mile, and the restroom on the south side of Sycamore Pool will remain open seven days a week.

Reservations will not be available for major group picnic areas in the park Monday through Thursday, and nearly all park gates will also be closed those days, except for the main entrance gate to upper Bidwell Park and the Fourth Street entrance to lower park.

Parks Commissioner Rich Ober wrote in an email that he is “sickened and saddened by what is being done to Chico in the name of short-term fiscal ‘responsibility.'”

If not addressed, the problems from such draconian cuts — declining trees, unrepaired park infrastructure and unpatrolled greenways — will have impacts for years to come, he said.

Ober is encouraged by the community support to step forward as volunteers, but it won’t be enough to prevent inevitable degradation of the park. He sees another totally feasible solution by way of a tax increase to support the park.

“This community is willing to step up in support of our parks and infrastructure,” he wrote. “If our community leaders will have the courage to ask, we’re willing to do the right thing.”

A Facebook page called Save Caper Acres has garnered more than 4,700 “likes” since the closures were announced Tuesday and an online petition had collected more than 2,000 signatures.

Reach Ashley Gebb at 896-7768, agebb@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.