Time to put on the pressure over Cal Water rates

I woke up at about 4:30, to the thumpa-thumpa of rain, and before I drifted back to sleep, I realized, I can turn off the lawn sprinklers now. Things should be able to make it past this point.  I’ll be paying attention, might have to run the sprinklers now and then, but from here on in, I’m expecting my water bill to drop.

We turned things off in September, on our regular schedule, but within a few weeks we noticed the lawns were turning brown where we didn’t want them to, and the redwood trees were getting a little frazzled. So, most stuff went back on, on an abbreviated schedule. Our most recent water bill was a little high for this time of year, higher than last month. I was bothered by this, so checked the bills. Yes, we went five ccf over last month, I assume, because we turned the sprinklers back on. And, since that last five ccf was in Tier 3, we paid over a dollar a piece for them. 

And then there’s “WRAM” – Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism. You will see this charge (or credit!) in the middle of your Cal Water bill. Mine has been as high as $20, with no explanation. Here’s what I found online, first from the Golden State Water Company of Simi Valley, and then from the CA Dept. of Ratepayer Advocates:

WRAM. Golden State Water Company is required to file a report by March 31 of each year indicating the difference
between actual revenues derived from the usage charge for the previous calendar year and revenues that the company
was authorized to receive from the usage charge. If the actual sales were below what the company was authorized to
receive, resulting in an under-collection of rates, the company is allowed to pick up the difference in a temporary
surcharge. Conversely, if the actual sales were above what the company was authorized to receive, the company would
issue sur-credits. One of the primary reasons for this surcharge is to keep an incentive for the company to implement
conservation rates and conservation programs.

From DRA – The Water Revenue Adjustment Mechanism (WRAM) and Modified Cost Balancing Accounts (MCBA) were first implemented in 2008 and were developed as part of a pilot program to promote water conservation. The CPUC adopted the mechanisms as part of conservation rate design pilot programs. The goals of the WRAM/MCBA are to sever the relationship between sales and revenue to remove any disincentive to implement conservation rates and programs; ensure cost savings are passed on to ratepayers; and reduce overall water consumption.

In September 2011, the Class A water utilities with WRAM/MCBAs filed an application requesting changes to accounting-related issues, including a shortened time period for the amortization schedule.

Proposed Decision was issued on March 19, 2012. The PD implements a safeguard that establishes a limit on WRAM/MCBA surcharges of 7.5% a year with review and recovery of residual amounts in each applicant’s general rate case (GRC).

Huh? Here’s my take on it – they try to make this look like a safeguard for the consumer, but when was the last time you got a credit on this? I’ve only received charges, month after month, tacked on to my bill. And more of this bullshit about conserving – we know this is a lie!  This mechanism is just to guarantee that Cal Water gets their money.

This WRAM bullshit is just another way to siphon our money into Cal Water employee’s pensions, not to mention stockholder payouts. 

Are you sick of being a cash cow? Write to your county board of supervisors -

BConnelly@buttecounty.net

LWahl@buttecounty.net

MKirk@buttecounty.net

district4@buttecounty.net   (Steve Lambert)

Dteeter@buttecounty.net

and cc Paul Hahn, PHahn@buttecounty.net

Then write to your city council. I’ve been told you can still use the old addresses, but the formula for the new address should work like this: first.last@chicoca.gov  But some of these sneaky fuckers use capital letters, and some don’t. They don’t have the new addresses on the city website, and the links on the city council page are useless.  Of course it’s on purpose – show them they don’t get around you so easily! 

 Tell your elected employees that you’re tired of being had by an agency that pumps our groundwater up, throws in some Chlorox and charges us like it’s got steak in it. Tell them you want the county and cities to own the groundwater.  Cal Water has taken advantage of us for years, they don’t deserve our trust, or our hard earned money. Now, be warned – they might need a bond to do this. But in the city of Felton, near Santa Cruz, they came up with a plan to eminent domain Cal Water and contract another municipal water company to take over. According to the Territorial Dispatch out of Yuba City 75 percent of Felton voters  “ chose to accept a property tax increase of up to $600 per year for 30 years. However, the average citizen’s water bill decreased by at least 50%. Even with the tax increase, most residents are already saving as much as $400 per year overall.”

Write those letters. 

FYI – here’s a link that shows rates in different towns – https://calwater.com/rates/rates_tariffs/index.php?district=mrl&Submit=Show+rate+documents

Write a letter to council – tell them we want concessions out of the employees, or Scott, Mark and Mary are going to get the door

The employee contract talks are going on right now – well, not exactly right now, but currently.

It’s time to let your council know – through dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us – they need to make their employees behave. Here’s my letter below, sent to Mark Sorensen, Sean Morgan, and Brian Nakamura. I don’t care if it sounds bitchy – they better realize, I niced it up a-LOT.   I been pigmalioning myself – I mean, I been trying to quit cussing, but I’m not going to stop letting people know when I’m disgusted. 

At last David Little (and staff?) have chimed in to say the city employees need to pay more of their own health and pension costs – I’m fairly sure you have seen that editorial?

 Yes, city employee packages need to be completely thrown out. Do either of councilors have the nerve to offer this – we pay 9 percent, they’re responsible for the rest?
 
It’s time fellows, especially for you Mark. I can’t support you in 2014 and I know a lot of other people will be angry with you if you don’t get significant concessions out of the remaining employees. 
 
The park closures, the lack of street maintenance, the transients and campers – that all needs to get taken care of. In  fact Mark, I’d like to see you make that a main thrust in your campaign, how all that stuff is getting done because you put your foot down with Staff, including Chico PD, who met our requests with more of their demands. 
 
 I included Brian in this e-mail because I want you all to know – you’ve been told –  the acorn mess near the One Mile gate and on roads and paved paths throughout Lower Park is becoming a legal liability. It needs to be taken care of. I almost fell on my bike there yesterday, and the first thing I would have done if I got injured would be put in a claim with the city. I will be encouraging others to do same. This is getting ridiculous. Street maintenance, or actually, lack thereof, is also becoming a liability. Mark, Brian, try riding your bikes through my neighborhood. You will find whole chunks of lose asphalt, and plenty of pot holes that are causing tire damage on cars. I would also encourage any citizen who has to have a tire repaired to put in a claim with the city of Chico. 
 
As long as you are all collecting salaries, things need to  get done, I don’t care if you all have to put on over-alls and get out there with flat shovels and do it yourselves. 
 

Thank you, Juanita Sumner

UPDATE:  I sent the e-mail above to Mark Sorensen, Sean Morgan, and Brian Nakamura. I still haven’t had any answer from any of the three as of 10/10/13. 

Obamacare is making me sick

You can’t tune into the media – the tv, the computer, the print – without reading/hearing about Obamacare.   I’ve tried to stay informed since the first proposals were on the table, but I was never able to find out anything about cost, premiums, deductibles, nothing. I’ve been looking over the “Covered California” site, and I’m finding out – yeah, Obamacare is going to be expensive, for everybody.  They’ve promised a lot of rainbows and lollipops, but we’re going to have to give up a lot of things of real value to get the fantasy of “health care for everyone.” 

IThe literature is confusing and creates more questions than it answers, but here’s the basic gist.  The different plans are divided into “metal tiers,” based on income.  Income determines how much of both the premiums and the actual health care costs you will pay for yourself.  

The average, “median” family in Chico, at about $35,000/year for a family of three, can choose between the Bronze and Silver plans. The difference being, you will pay a few hundred dollars more a month for the Silver plan, but you will pay about $12,000 “out of pocket” before you collect anything off your “free” Bronze plan.

Of course, reading further I found, the Bronze plan isn’t exactly free – according to the Kaiser calculator, it will cost the little Chico median family between $700 and $800 a year, just in premiums. That doesn’t sound like much, until you don’t get anything for it.  At my dentist’s office, that would amount to check-ups for all four members of my family, with a couple of x-rays. And, it’s at least three visits to Immediate Care, where they will take care of those routine illnesses like allergies, colds and flu, even stitches, sprains, other non-life-threatening injuries that happen to normal “healthy” people.  That $5,000 deductible would go along way at Immediate Care, or the dentist. 

They describe a “very healthy” person as one who sees the doctor about once a year. Or is that for a family? I can’t figure that out. My family almost never sees a doctor. At most we get an ear ache or a bad cold/flu. We take the kids in to Immediate Care if they get something persistent, so they won’t miss school – usually a little over $100.  My husband and I see a homeopath – luckily cheap, because it’s not covered. We’ve had two “catastrophic” illnesses in 25 years, and both we times we were given a “cash discount” for paying within 30 days. Cash discount amounts to 20 percent of the bill, which is what the insurance companies pay. Under Obamacare’s Bronze Plan, we would pay 40 percent, after the deductible. 

If you’ve never seen a hospital bill, you probably wonder why anybody should get off with paying less than half, but historically the insurance companies have only paid 20 percent of the bill, including any deductible paid by the patient. Those hospital bills are padded like crazy – i.e. – $300 for one blood draw, $3,000 to test that blood, etc – so that 20 percent actually more than covers their true costs. And they might not admit it, but let’s face it – my family’s money was there within a week of our patient’s departure from the hospital, that has to be better for them than waiting through all that insurance company bullshit. The hospitals don’t really lose money off patients like us, they just don’t get to make as much profit as they’d like.

This isn’t “hospital” or “insurance reform” – it’s “patient reform”!

One thing I know – the insurance companies and the hospitals are going to rake under Obamacare. First of all, the insurance companies are raising their rates, and they’re guaranteed payment by the government. And then the hospitals will get whatever they charge, because the patient will be hooked up like a cow to a milking machine. Once you have insurance, you  can’t bargain with anybody. You pay or they come after your house. 

What this would amount to for my median family is, we would pay more and get less – that $7 – 800 a year would come out of our dental care budget. This law allows for a family to spend some 28 percent of their income on healthcare before they get anything out of it. 

Remember “single payer”? A single payer plan would cost the patient NOTHING to have basic healthcare.   It would be paid for with money the government already spends on the lavish healthcare and pension packages provided for public employees. The state of California could pay for a single payer plan if EVERYBODY was required to participate, including public workers, That’s why single payer will never happen – the public workers are too greedy, they’re enjoying those health benefits and pensions we pay  for, and they aren’t going to give them up. Right now, we actually pay for things like liposuction and plastic surgery for these people, not just “healthcare”. But how do you take something like that back? They like  being the elite one percent in their communities, and we will have to go into their badger holes after them if we want it to stop. 

To me that means, write those letters to your council and let them know what you think. Too long our city workers have been partying on our dimes, living lavish lifestyles in mansions in the spendier parts of town, driving new cars with all the bells and whistles, making us pay for their fancy uniforms, clean them, and pay the employee while he puts them on and off (“don and doff”). The cops and fire are of course the worst, but there are plenty in the management sector who view the taxpayers as nothing but a slave base.

Time for a slave uprising. 

 

New PG&E bills hide Utility Tax amounts on back pages – but I know they will have to try harder than THAT to get around you!

This itchy wind has kept me inside my house, I scutter out to water plants, play with the dogs, take out the trash, and then I get back inside, hands splitting at the seams. I rub Burt’s Bees hand salve into my skin – everything in my house has greasy hand prints on it.  

Inside the house, I am routing through my dresser drawers, putting the Summer clothes on the bottom and the Winter clothes on top. inventorying everybody’s socks and long johns.  The flannel sheets and Winter blankets have been aired out on the clothesline.  We’re going to see how long we can hold out from using the heater. We know we’ll need it in January.

You’ve seen the new PG&E bills?   It’s pretty cool having all those charts and graphs, but the old bill was better in this respect – the Utility User’s Tax was listed right on the front with the total bill. Now you have to dig through the bill and add it up, like my old AT&T phone bills.

Understanding your energy statements bill

Above, a sample bill. Where’s the yellow arrows showing the UT?  On the old bills, the “local utility user’s tax” was listed there at the top right with the other charges, above the total. Now you must dig through your electrical and gas charges, on separate pages, with separate billing for the first and second part of the month, and add up your Utility Tax charges. I found three different amounts on my bill  this month.

I’m sorry – is this not a blatant attempt to keep people from seeing it? See no Evil? PG&E and the City of Chico, plotting together like the parents in Hansel and Gretel. Sheesh.

All the better, My Dearies, to save your bills, especially those higher winter bills, to take in to the city of Chico Finance Department for a rebate in May and June, get that money back. Always pays to think ahead.

And don’t forget the CARE program, I’m guessing a lot of people qualify for that and don’t know it. Your taxes pay for it, if you qualify and don’t collect, you’re being had to subsidize PG&E. You also pay toward these programs in your bills, might as well take your dues.

One way to heat your house is make some cookies. 

This is a standard oatmeal cookie recipe with a cup of Rice Krispies and Fruity Pebbles stirred in.

This is a standard oatmeal cookie recipe with a cup of Rice Krispies and Fruity Pebbles stirred in.

 

Congratulations, “water warriors” – although it might not be all we hoped for, we may get intervention in the water rate hike

It does pay to protest – apparently the California State Division of Ratepayer Advocates have woke up and rallied to our defense on these outrageous rate hikes proposed by  Cal Water. 

I never knew there was such an office at the state. I’m guessing they’ve got all the teeth of the average grand jury, but I’m glad to have their help, hope it amounts to something. The article below concludes that the actual hike will be somewhere between Cal Water’s proposal and the DRA’s recommendation. Knowing that, I wish the DRA had made a more aggressive proposal – bid low, know what I mean? But what can I say – they’re public workers after all, can’t expect too much.

Now that I know this office exists, I’ll have to try to keep an eye on them – “Our statutory mission is to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels.  In fulfilling this goal, DRA also advocates for customer and environmental protections.”  

Here’s the link – although, there’s nothing about this news release on their website:  

http://www.dra.ca.gov/default.aspx

I’ll have to write a thankyou note to the Marysville and Oroville for Reasonable Water Rates – as far as I know, there was no protest out of Chico, not after the hearing held by the CPUC. I don’t even remember seeing any letters to the editor besides mine, correct me if I’m wrong.   I have been really frustrated with the lack of response out of Chico, especially since, as you can see, the rate increases were different in each town, Chico’s increase was higher than those in Oroville and Marysville. That seems pretty arbitrary to me, like, “let’s hit those fat tourists with the nicer car!”  

I’ll try to stay on top of this, but given the abysmally low interest in this subject, I’ve assumed you people like your lobster pot, and that’s where you’re staying. 

 

 

 

Agency: Cal Water rate hike should be slashed by 60 percent

Marysville Appeal Democrat and Staff Reports

POSTED:   09/24/2013 12:01:15 AM PDT

People in Chico and Oroville protesting proposed California Water Service rate hikes might be encouraged that the agency representing ratepayers before the state Public Utilities Commission has recommended slashing Cal Water’s proposed Marysville rate hike by more than half.The Division of Ratepayer Advocates is calling for a 14.1 percent increase in Marysville in 2014 instead of the 34.9 percent requested by Cal Water, according to the Appeal Democrat.

The Ratepayer Advocates report recommends increases of 0.2 percent each in 2015 and 2016 compared to Cal Water’s requested 0.8 percent each year.

Cal Water has also proposed increases in its Chico and Oroville districts, which have generated protests in both areas. Some people in Oroville have let their lawns die, saying it’s too expensive to water them.

In Chico, Cal Water is asking for 28.8 percent in 2014, 4.7 percent in 2015 and 4.7 percent in 2016.

The proposed Oroville hikes would be 13.8 percent in 2014, 12.2 percent in 2015 and 10.8 percent in 2016.

Despite the Ratepayer Advocates report, it is likely the 2014 increase in Marysville will fall somewhere between what Cal Water is asking and what the Ratepayer Advocates recommends.

The two sides are still working on a still-to-be-made-public settlement agreement that will go before an administrative law judge next month and, if the judge approves, on to the commission.

ANECDOTE: In San Fran, people paved their front lawns to park their cars, the runoff caused the streets to flood, and the city code enforcement had to make these people dig out the concrete and put lawns back in. Are they forced to water them? 

Downtown traffic circles are death traps for cyclists, pedestrians

For a long time now I’ve been avoiding Downtown. First reason – stuff is over-priced Downtown, everything from a parking space to a cup of coffee to a meal to a blouse or pair of shoes. We used to enjoy a few eateries, but as our income dipped, prices went up, and we can no longer afford it. Plus, as I get older, I find, I don’t have the patience to sit at a table in a crowded dining room, listening to bits and snatches of my own conversation over the din, waiting on a dinner that may or may not be worth $28 a plate.   I had a delicious meal out recently, on a gift certificate from (the best) friends (ever) – I had a salad and an appetizer and my husband had a steak and a beer – essentially a meal for one – and it cost over $80, plus the tip.  We got a similar meal at the North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg for three people and paid about the same. We almost couldn’t finish our meal in Fort Bragg – they put a plate of cioppino in front of me that threatened to collapse the table.  I forced myself to eat it, they have valet wheelbarrow service out to your car:)

And, guess what, you can walk the streets of Fort Bragg without having to sidestep human or dog shit, human or dog bodies, or garbage or makeshift beds/tents, without being accosted by a drunk or a snarling cur, without worrying about getting hit by a car as long as you look both ways before you step off the curb. And Highway One cuts right through their commercial district.  I notice, lately, they’ve worked to renovate some old buildings off the main drag, making room for lots of neat little shops. I can’t afford to shop Downtown Chico, but I took a pretty good whack at my Christmas list in Downtown Fort Bragg. I’ve been shopping at many of those businesses for 20 years, including Carol Hall’s Jelly, where they have this garlic wine jelly, whoa baby. Stop it!

The last two businesses I have to deal with Downtown are Smyth’s Tire Service – and don’t worry Dan, I won’t leave you down there all by yourself! – and my bank. Sheesh, I ain’t making any such promises to that bank, which I won’t name – they are already hanging on by a thread, not the best service in town. If the teller asks me how my day is going without really caring one more time I’m going to tell her I’ve just been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and give her a quick demonstration.

Especially now that they’ve put that traffic circle right in my path. Of course when I go over to Smyth’s, I am driving my car. As bad as the traffic is Downtown, I feel essentially safe in my car. But, when I’m making a trip that close to my house, I feel stupid taking the car, unless that’s actually the focus of the trip. When I go to the bank, or shopping, post office, etc, I try to use my bike. Me and Myrt are a common sight in the park and Downtown corridor, up Mangrove and over on Esplanade. Know who else rides his bike alot – Dan Herbert. My family always yells out  “Hi Mr. Mayor,” and he beams like a beacon.   I used to see Rick Keene alot, he jogs and walks in the park. I always say Hi to Rick, and he always looks nervous. I see Ann Schwab alot, she keeps that apartment right next to One Mile. I’ve seen her out jogging, and that’s not pretty, and I’ve also seen her taking a little white dog to shit along the sidewalk outside her apartments – I’ve caught them in the act!  But you know who I never seen on a bike or walking around town? Brian Nakamura. Have yet to catch that guy, and I really do ride my bike around all over town.

My husband and I tried the traffic circle right after it was opened – we hit it coming out of Annie’s Glen, which is our usual entrance to Downtown. I’ll admit, we used to go that way to the Saturday Market, get some garden plants and hit the food truck. But that intersection off the Vallombrosa bridge has always been bad. There’s no visibility – you can’t see the cars coming from Vallombrosa, and they can’t see you. With the traffic circle, I’ve noticed, cars are actually increasing speed – they speed up coming from Downtown because two lanes suddenly merge into one and people get into that herd panic. They speed up coming over that bridge for no reason I can figure – do they want my bike for a hood ornament?

We’ve tried it again since, and it’s awful. I told my kids, if I get it in that circle, you are to sue the city, and here’s a list of names to include! I’ve also considered telling my bank I’m leaving because of the Downtown remodel – I’m still mulling that over.

 

 

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning

The moon was red this morning.

I woke up just in time to see the moon slipping into the west. This photo didn’t pick it up, but it was red. 

 

Got meetings this week – three in two days, two mornings and an afternoon. Finance Committee, Internal Affairs at 8am, and Economic Development at 4 pm, Tuesday and Wednesday. What a shit storm.

I try to keep an eye on these meetings – you can’t really tell from the agenda what will come up in the discussion – bureaucrats say the darnedest, most incriminating things at these little, intimate committee meetings. 

The Internal Affairs committee is of most interest to me right now – they are discussing ways to shove an alcohol tax on us without allowing us to vote on it. Kirk Trostle is pushing the Alcohol Compliance and Education program – ACE for short – which would put a fee on any business that has anything to do with alcohol, including grocery stores. So far as I’ve heard, this fee would be based on square footage of the establishment, which is why I figure Trostle practically walked BevMO! through the process while asking the city to deny permits for dinky businesses like whatever they’re calling Bustolini’s these days (It’s a dumb name, I won’t repeat it, but I think they’re getting screwed).

When I first read about this ordinance, they were trying to get it on a ballot for the rest of us to decide, but Scott Gruendl motioned for staff to make it an administrative change, meaning the public gets no say in this decision? Well, we do get a say in November 2014, we can say, “Scott, get out, and don’t let the screen door hit you on the ass.” But if we don’t want this ordinance, which will be spread across the cost of everything at grocery stores and restaurants, we better say something now. I’ll try to keep you posted. It’s all about the wording – they can’t legally tax alcohol, so sneaky Gruendl instructed $taff to come up with some other way to get into our purses without getting caught. What a creep that guy is.

The Economic Development Committee will be discussing itself. Brian Nakamura has moved to reduce these meetings to a couple a year. I’m of two minds on  this – on the one hand, I’ve been attending these meetings for years, and so far, I’ve seen nothing positive come out of them. We’re just paying $taffer Shawn Tillman to shadow the activities of the Chamber and DCBA and give little high school reports. We could invite the directors of these organizations to give those reports, and I”m pretty sure they’d be glad to do so, they both get a substantial portion of their salaries from city handouts. On the other hand, if this committee is going to exist at all and direct Staff, we need these meetings to be regular so that the public can keep an eye on what’s going on.  I’ll have to attend this meeting to see where the discussion goes. Tillman announced at the last meeting that these meetings aren’t recorded. 

The Finance Committee will be discussing the budget, but an interesting part of the agenda is the diversion of parking meter fees to, essentially, whatever they feel like using them for. Right now they’re supposed to be dedicated to improving parking, but that fund has been pilfered half to death for years. I don’t know if I’ll make this discussion, three meetings in one week is about enough to gag a maggot. We’ll see what happens.