Tag Archives: Stephanie Taber Chico Ca

Sales Tax Increase Anyone?

30 Jul
 

The headline read, “Chico government can’t be trusted with tax increase.” The letter implied current city management is deceitful in its handling of city finances. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the letter writer attended monthly Finance Committee meetings, any accusation of supposed mishandling of taxpayer monies could be explained. I know, I attend those meetings.

Since our new management staff (Mark Orme, city manager, Chris Constantin, assistant city manager, Scott Dowell, administrative services director, and Barbara Martin, deputy director-finance) took office many positive changes in financial reporting have taken place. Detailed financial reports are presented at both the committee meeting and at City Council meetings. Those reports are published online for all to see and pick apart if the public chooses. I cannot recall the letter writer coming forward with a question, comment, or criticism this entire year.

Most of the letter seemed focused on past majority driven ultra-liberal councils (2004-2012) and the old management team that was either unwilling or incapable of controlling their spending. Things have changed dramatically. All it took was one conservative council member and the Grand Jury report of May 2013 to shed light on the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.

I have no misgivings in suggesting that the city raise sale tax by one-quarter of 1 percent (7.25 percent to 7.50 percent) equaling $4-$4.5 million annually. I will gladly pay that extra 12 cents on a $50 purchase if that meant we could repair/replace our hazardous city streets in this century.

— Stephanie L. Taber, Chico

 

My response to Taber, e-mailed 7/29/17 (we’ll see if this is printed, ER staff removed similar comments I made on Taber’s letter )
We have been assured that all Chico’s financial problems have been put to bed under our “new” staff.  
Former finance director and current assistant city manager Chris Constantin instituted the policy by which whenever a fund is in deficit money is “administratively” transferred from other funds. For example, the gas tax, which most people believe is dedicated to road repairs and improvements is routinely “allocated” for  salaries, pensions and benefits, just like when Jennifer Hennessy was our finance director.
Current administrative services (finance) director Scott Dowell was with Chico Area Recreation District when they failed to make recommended repairs to Shapiro Pool, instead spending $400,000 on a “side fund payoff” to CalPERS.   When he left that agency CARD had over $1.7 million in pension deficit for less than 35 employees, despite spending over $300,000/year in regular payments.

The city’s pension and benefits liability is now over $180 million, and the state is demanding an escalating payment scale. Meanwhile, we continue to pay the majority of our employee benefits, giving them raises to cover their increased shares.  We will never get out of our financial morass until our management staff agrees to pay 50 percent of their own pensions and benefits without corresponding salary increases to cover it.

A quarter cent sales tax increase would be spit on a griddle.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

You heard it in the Enterprise Record: “Chico Government Can’t Be Trusted with Tax Increase”

22 Jul

I wrote a letter to the paper in response to Stephanie Taber’s suggestion of raising sales tax to support salaries and benefits Downtown, it ran yesterday, now it’s gone! You have to know it was there and search it! How LOW will they GO?

That’s how Dave Little treats people he doesn’t agree with, he just squelches their letters.  He’s a very “Little” man, his testicles have to be put in the microwave every morning.

So, I ain’t proud – here’s the link:

http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20170720/letter-chico-government-cant-be-trusted-with-tax-increase

And here’s the letter:

A letter writer has suggested a sales tax increase to “fix a couple of major roads a year”.   

Chico has reached financial crisis because of employee overcompensation.  In 2013,  third-party auditors found a $15 million deficit. Council cut workers and services, while raising management compensation to unprecedented levels. By October of 2016 we were one of six cities in California being investigated for fraud, having exhausted our emergency fund and outspent revenues for six years.. We are still on the state’s “watch list”.  

To avoid further audit, staff cooked up an “aggressive” repayment plan, purporting to raise employees’ share of compensation costs. But the increased shares came with salary increases that more than covered the new CalPERS shares.  According to publicpay.gov, the city now has a $180 million deficit and will soon be paying more than a million a year to beat it down. 

According to California Policy Center, “As Chico recovers, new development projects have been downsized to reflect the city’s long-term financial reality.”   Staff has spent all the money on management pensions and benefits, there’s no money left for road base, asphalt, or  qualified workers needed to fix the roads. 

Proponents of a tax increase measure say the money will be dedicated to the roads – don’t believe it. Staff has instituted a “fund allocation” policy – they move money from one fund to another like peas under walnut shells. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

It’s sad to me that we have such poor media here, Dick Little and Melissa Dogtree are just government shills. We have a council that plays lackey to the staffers who are ripping us off because all but one member of our council either get public  pensions or are married to one. 

Time to take back the cop shop

24 Nov

In past I’ve been friendly with Tea Party members, and I still will be. But when I got this notice today, saying Randall Stone should be dismissed from the Police Advisory Board because he made public harassment by a Chico police officer, I had to tell them, we’re 180 degrees apart on this one Folks.

Below is the section of the code pulled out by Tea Party maven Stephanie Taber. It says member of the PAB must sign an agreement promising to lie to the public about what’s going on in the police department. Yep, that’s what it says – PAB members are not allowed to tell the public when there’s a problem in the cop shop. Read it yourself.

219.11 CONFIDENTIALITY
(a) Matters relating to personnel issues are governed by various laws of the State of
California and the City of Chico as well as various labor contracts. Personnel matters
are confidential. No member of the Police Community Advisory Board may divulge
any information regarding a personnel matter that has been deemed confidential by
the Chief of Police.
(b) Every new member of the Police Community Advisory Board, prior to hearing any
personnel matter, must sign an agreement, as prepared by the City Attorney, agreeing
and promising to maintain the confidentiality of any personnel matter.
(c) Only the Chief of Police or City Manager (or City Manager’s representative), with the
advise of the City Attorney, has the authority to determine what information related to
any personnel matter may be made public.

I think I know Stephanie Taber well enough to say this – if she’d found out something she didn’t like in one of those meetings, she’d squeal like a pig.  And of course, that would be legal, because she’s a member of the public. Of course, those meetings were not being properly noticed to the public until I squealed like a pig to city clerk Debbie Presson.  I had to bitch about it a couple of times, but finally she said, “As of yesterday, Police Department staff was asked to include the agenda (as had been past practice) under the “Minutes and Agendas” page as that is where citizens look for such items.  They will be doing so for all future meetings. “

See where she says, “as had been past practice“?  Trostle just dropped the notice from the notice page, apparently he didn’t think it was important to let the public in on these meetings. When I’ve been to these meetings I’ve noticed Trostle is uptight and hates answering questions. I’m sure he’d just drop these meetings if allowed. 

Presson offered to put me on the notice list, but I realized, maybe it’s not so smart to be on that list. I thanked her for getting the notices put back up, that’s enough. 

And, I told Mark Sorensen too, but he didn’t seem to think it was important. He told me, “Police Advisory Board Meeting is on the web site”  and sent me a link to the obscure police page it was listed on. That’s what Sorensen always does when I point out a problem to him – admits I’m right, but gives me private band-aid information instead of getting the problem fixed.  Does he just expect me to disseminate this info? No, here’s what he thinks – the public doesn’t care enough to pay attention, that’s what he thinks.  Sorensen can be a really snotty little prick when you press him, no holds barred. When he wants something, he’s going to get it, and he wants to be credited with “turning the town around.” Instead, I think he’s going to be that kid who knocks the puck into his own goal – Sorensen and Nakamura are going to put the last nail in our coffin.

Koyaanisqatsi! I agree with Dave Guzzetti!

8 Oct

I oftentimes find myself wondering – why do I bother to do this?  Here I’ve been complaining about lack of Sunshine Downtown, and I have to ask – would anybody read the minutes of meetings if they were posted? Who besides me and the gals over at Truth Matters Chico are even worried about the minutes? 

Then I found this petition set up online by Jessica Allen, who I assume put up the website “Save Chico Now.” It’s been signed by 50 people, all of whom seem to agree with me that we need to get those minutes posted in a timely fashion.  Good Gawd Maude – I agree with David Guzzetti!  I hope that gives him indigestion.

https://www.change.org/petitions/chico-city-council-please-produce-the-minutes-for-the-past-6-months-of-city-council-meetings-2

The efforts seems to have fizzled a little, but not before Allen got 50 signatures.  That’s more people than I would have believed were interested.

I wrote a letter to the Enterprise Record, sent it yesterday, but I’m running it here below because I don’t know when Editor will post it.  I had to resend my last letter, which is pretty common. If you don’t get a response, resend your letters, and include dlittle@chicoer.com in the ‘to’ bar.  He will usually send a little response – “thankyou, it’s in the cue” – if you don’t get that, resend. As much as we detest each others guts, I still have some modicum of respect for Little’s integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.  Just because I disagree with the guy doesn’t mean I don’t respect him somewhat – I have yet to catch him in a lie, so I’m hanging in there. I also believe he hates liars, and wouldn’t intentionally lie. You can’t call a person a liar for their beliefs. 

I would say same about Stephanie Taber. I don’t agree with her right now, but I don’t doubt her integrity. Sure, she  can be wrong, and stubborn, and misled – who can’t? I challenge any of you to be right all the time, don’t make a mistake, don’t misstep – cause Macky’s back in town, Dear, and his teeth are shinin’ white.

I have finally come to doubt a couple of other people’s integrity – Brian Nakamura and Debbie Presson. I tried to believe the best about them, but given their actions, I feel like an idiot for trusting them.  I believe these people will tell the public anything to get their way.  Or not tell, as in this case of holding up the minutes for months on end, losing memos and documents, refusing to serve information requests. If you are friendly with her, Presson has all the time in the world to yak face about personal stuff – ask Sean Morgan –  but now suddenly she doesn’t have the time to honor information requests from the public? Doesn’t have time to post minutes for any meeting after April? I think this lady makes too much money to tell us she doesn’t have time to do her job. Maybe she should take some of that $135,000 a year salary (plus benefits and pension) and hire herself a staff? 

Here’s my letter to the Enterprise Record.  I wish some of the people on that petition would write letters too.

Chico City Clerk Debbie Presson says she struggles up to five hours transcribing minutes for one hour’s video tape of a city council meeting, citing a November 2000 council action approving  “‘action-only’ minutes, with staff to provide summary detail when needed.” This is why minutes are six months behind. 

 
 Presson decides when “summary detail” is needed, and which details to include, paraphrasing public comments, or leaving them out entirely.
 
Cities of Redding, Oroville and Willows offer up-to-date, “action only” minutes, a simple description of  motions made and passed, actions taken, etc, available in less than 30 days. They also offer videos, but the important facts are there at a glance for those who don’t have hours to sit through these meetings.
 
It is important to have the videos for better understanding of the council’s motives behind actions.  When I’ve tried to view Chico council videos online, I’ve seen “sorry, video is still processing…” When I asked Staff, I was told I needed to use Internet Explorer.  Google Chrome has over 53% of users, why aren’t our videos viewable on Google Chrome like other cities? 
 
We’re not being served. City management has eliminated positions and cut services to fund their own raises. Do they expect us to believe, if they pay one person four or five salaries, that person will actually be capable of doing the work of four or five people? 
 
Juanita Sumner, Chico

Letter: Chico Council has allowed salary spike

1 Apr

I wanted to get back to posting people’s letters to the papers, keeps them circulating, gives us a chance to talk about  them. This letter from Stephanie Taber ran about a week ago in the Enterprise Record.  

Chico Enterprise-Record

Posted:   03/26/2013 12:09:27 AM PDT

The city of Chico “has 106 people earning more than $100,000,” according to your Wednesday editorial and your database at www.chicoer.com/salaries.That’s not a surprise if you’ve been paying attention but that takes time and effort, not something a whole lot of people seem to want to do including our long-term City Council members — both present and those who have recently left office.

I’m not sure either of our two newest members, Tami Ritter and Randall Stone, have any inclination to curb the city’s incredibly generous benefit package. But then I don’t sit in on closed-door sessions so I don’t know what direction they have given to our still new city manager. After all, if the council does not bother to give direction, nor ask what the financial impact is of any proposed memorandum of understanding (contract) with any of the unions or contracts made with upper management, or ask where the funds to pay for that and our infrastructure too are, well you can see how personnel costs just kind of get way up there. And the potholes too.

It is the council’s responsibility to lead, to give direction. The city’s fiscal crisis is not the fault of the economic downturn, nor the current city manager, Brian Nakamura. If there is fault it lies with the former city management staff and a council unwilling to tackle hard fiscal issues instead of feel-good issues: nuclear bombs, human slavery, plastic bags and corporate personhood.   You get what you vote for, plain and simple.

— Stephanie Taber, Chico

Nakamura’s response to Stephanie Taber’s question about “compaction” between cop salaries. Or is it “compression” – he can’t make up his mind

2 Mar
Well, Stephanie had to resend her request once, but Brian Nakamura finally responded.  He’s done this to me – he always makes a dumb excuse why he hasn’t responded sooner. He told me he got my e-mail address wrong, and here he tells Stephanie he had a response in his drafts file. I guess he was too busy attending a ceremony for a cop killed 75 years ago, or maybe too busy driving between Chico and his home in Hemet?  Whatever – his response isn’t anything to write home to Mama about, but I’ll share it anyway.  For Stephanie’s request see

Hi Ms. Taber,

 I apologize as the email I was going to send you was still waiting in my draft box, but it was in regards to compression and my interpretation. Essentially, a compression issue occurs when a salary of a subordinate employee within a department creeps within a certain salary range of his/her immediate supervisor. In this particular case, and as you have identified, the incentive to become a manager is lessened when a subordinate’s compensation (with overtime) overlaps that of a supervisor with exempt status or fixed salary. Addressing the compression should not

 In regards to the newly created departments, those directors will be paid a salary commensurate with their span of control and duties. Their contracts will be negotiated in accordance with existing at-will employee contracts which spell out the salary and benefits available and as established in the management pay and benefits resolution(s). Severance is limited to a maximum of three months and that is still an option, not a guarantee.

To make it more clear regarding at will employee contracts I’ve provided you with a copy of a blank one for your review.

 If you have any additional questions Ms. Taber please feel free to contact me and I apologize for not getting back to you sooner.

 All the best,

 Brian

First of all, it’s not “compression,” Brian, it’s “compaction” – please get your Newspeak straight! They make up these words so we don’t understand what they’re talking about, but this guy spins it out so fast he can’t even remember what he made up. 

There he says it though, Stephanie was right. “Compression” or “compaction” – a turd by any other name still stinks. What it means – a boss is not getting paid enough more than their (oooo!) “subordinate,” and that makes the boss just plain jealous. 

In the dictionary, “subordinate” is often substituted with “inferior”.   Is that really what Nakamura thinks of our employees? Well, that’s the problem – we have two police lieutenants making a formal complaint, which is often the precursor to a LAWSUIT, over the fact that their “subordinate” sergeants get overtime, and are therefore able to extend their “subordinate” salaries up to and often well beyond that of their supervising lieutenant. In other words, the “subordinates” aren’t “subordinate” enough!

One solution to this problem, which would also solve some of our financial problems Downtown, would be to take “structured overtime” out of the cop contracts. Cops through the rank of sergeant are guaranteed overtime, which they trade back and forth among themselves in order to as much as  double their salaries. It’s pretty convoluted – they tell you they are actually required to work that 15 hours on regular pay, but they get so much beyond that 15 hours (which can be used to sleep, eat, go to a gym…) that the average officer making a base salary of $65,000 can easily boost his pay to as much as $120,000.  Look at the salary chart in the Enterprise Record and see for yourself. The police budget is over $22 million – our total city budget is about $43 million. 

Instead the cops are demanding and Nakamura is recommending a pay increase for lieutenants. He’s already recommended a $13,000 salary increase for Chief Kirk Trostle (that’s in the “reorganization” report in next week’s agenda).  The new cop contract is full of raises, can you believe that? How is this “reorganization” saving us any money?

I’ve invited Mark Sorensen to discuss this topic at a Chico Taxpayers Association meeting, but I haven’t had any response from him. I’m predicting Sorensen will rubberstamp anything Nakamura puts in front of him. This will prove to be his undoing in 2014. 


Ask a simple question.

3 Dec

We had another great meeting over at the library yesterday, and I was so happy to see, despite the ominous weather, a cheerful group showed up for a lively discussion. 

We crowed momentarily over the defeat of Measure J. Casey Aplanalp pointed out that we should consider it an important victory, and proof that a small group can make a difference.  Sue said we should remind other people, even if our voices are a little drowned out on the national level, we can make a more noticeable difference on the local level – it’s a matter of getting involved. We talked for awhile – what’s the best way to get people to be more involved in their local government? 

We could ask Stephanie Taber what motivates her to be so involved – attending meetings several times a week, writing notes back and forth to staffers, asking questions that get kicked all over the city building for as long as Stephanie is persistent in getting the answers. Stephanie combs over the reports and find the discrepancies, and asks the questions that need to be asked. We need more people willing to go to the meetings, morning, afternoon and evening, and ask the same kind of questions. And, go back time and time again, e-mail again and again, and get the answers. 

I’m just too easy – when I asked Jennifer Hennessy about the annual amount the city pays out in pension premiums, she told me about $7 million, and I swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Stephanie was not able to attend, or she probably would have caught it. Mark Sorensen caught it, and asked Hennessy about it later. He had some other figures that added up to more like $11 million. Hennessy sent me a note today – her figure is $10.1 million

Whoa. And here I was, thinking $7 million was a lot of samolians! What a dupe I am!

$1.9 million of that total is the “employer paid member contributions” – there’s that confusing terminology again – they mean, the “employee’s share” of the premium that is paid by the employer

Stephanie Taber pointed out, that $1.9 million would pay for a lot of police officers. 

Here’s the breakdown of how much the city currently spends annually paying the employee share of pension premiums:

Bargaining Unit  FY10-11 Amount  # of Members FY10-11 EPMC% Current EPMC %
Chico Employees Association  $      128,340.54 79 4% 2%
SEIU – Trades & Craft  $      179,805.62 68 5% 5%
Confidentials  $        12,295.11 10 4% 0%
Management  $      216,952.12 56 4% 4%
Public Safety Management  $      119,193.35 9 9% 9%
CPSA  $      175,646.81 44 8% 8%
CPOA  $      727,452.38 91 9% 9%
IAFF  $      425,517.02 69 7% 7%
 $    1,985,202.95 426

The police and fire employees  complain that safety is at jeopardy due to budget cuts, but read the chart. You see,  if they’d pay the “employee share” of their pension premium, we could save those officers and that 2/3’s of a fire station that Nakamura is threatening because of the failure of Measure J. The police department alone gets well beyond the $900,000 that Nakamura is claiming the city will lose if they can’t tax our cell phones.

Look at their salaries – it would certainly be no skin off their nose to pay their own damned pensions. And, it would leave the city the revenues to hire the extra personnel they’ve been screaming for. And then we could stop paying overtime, and there would be money to hire almost as many more.

I got these figures because I rode my bicycle to an 8am meeting and asked a simple question.