Got to mau-mau the flak-catchers once in a while

What weird weather – record highs for February, 70 degrees! It’s actually stuffy at night, but we’re keeping the windows shut because the rice and nut farmers are burning their fields and slash piles out on the west side and you never know when the wind will shift.

I don’t mind the farmers – dirt made my lunch, thank you a bunch. When I was a child and my grandfather had to have his field burned, he loaded us into the canned ham and headed to Fort Bragg for a week. We came home to wash the soot off the window sills.

I looked ahead at Accuweather – they are predicting a few rainy days in March, but nothing like the miracle it will take to make up for this dry Winter we’ve had.

No snowboarding for me this year – I play my Dick Dale records and carve around the apartment, cut some imaginary 360’s in the kitchen, do a jump or two out by the laundry line.   I guess I should put my boots on one day just to make sure my feet will recognize them when the time comes.  Heavy sigh…

I’ll  tell you what – I’ve gained 5 pounds, and that means a couple of pairs of jeans won’t button. Damn you Germans and your lebkuchen! Really, it’s my own fault – January is my sleep month, can’t get excited about much of anything.

Although, tomorrow there’s a 3:30 meeting I’m looking forward to – the Local Governments Committee. It’s a  good meeting because it’s a catch-all for issues that are before all the local commissions and boards, from Chico City Council to Butte Stupes to Chico Area Recreation District, and even the mosquito guy will be there.

Did you know, our mosquito board manager makes about $103,000 a year and only pays three percent of his pension?

There are many important issues on the agenda – including a report given by my kindergarten classmate, Dennis Schmidt. It’s  fun to listen to Dennis – he still  talks with a lisp, and his ears stick out just like they did when we were kids – eee-haw! He’s old and grumpy now, and working for the county, which means he’s up to no good about half the time. He’s the guy who raised the fee on pumping septic tanks, and now he wants property owners to be responsible for hiring their own security patrols for Humboldt Road.

Humboldt Road is a public road and a public disgrace – whole sections of asphalt missing. Here’s my guess – the county and the city are playing hot potato with maintenance of that road, since it goes in and out of the city/county. And, there’s so much illegal dumping up there, you’d think you were at the dump. There’s also homeless  camps. Neither the city or the county wants to take responsibility for that stuff, so they are laying it on the property owners? Who pay whopping property taxes. 

So Old Juanita has to get on her high horse and go down there and shame them. That’s about it. And I’ll tell you what – I’m not above making fun of a lisp and big ears and somebody who couldn’t tie his own damned shoes in kindergarten.

I’ll ride my bike, starting getting rid of some of this excess belly fat. 

 

 

 

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Welcome to Taxifornia

thumbnail_20171030_142144Bob suggested the bear in this homemade sign should be replaced with a pig.

I hadn’t heard about the rally until the day of, two hours before it was to start. I suspect this was because it was organized by our local congressman, Doug Lamalfa, who has been on the hot seat with local liberals lately, and probably

didn’t want them to show up. I think that’s kind of a (‘scuse me children) pussy attitude Doug. I get tired of their antics myself – at the last public event I attended, they screamed “liar!” and “shut-up!”.  But, Lamalfa needs to show a thicker skin. And they should just remove people who don’t know how to act at a public event.

So he ran this one under the wire, inviting only those who already agreed with him. That’s not very effective.

Not to mention, they chose to have this protest two days before the tax was to take effect – today. A hell of a lot of  good that is – and not very genuine, I’m afraid.

Where was the angst when this bill was winding it’s way through the legislature?

State assemblyman Jim Nielsen made some good points about how it would a

ffect our puny lives – not only will the price of gas go up, higher than any other state in the nation, but this tax will add a hefty chunk to car registration.

And, Nielsen pointed out, they’ve promised to fix the roads before – remember Prop 50? As soon as that tax passed, The Moonbeam was on the news saying it wasn’t enough! This money will go straight into the salaries and pensions deficit.

While I enjoyed the rally for a few minutes, my husband  and I were right in the middle of the work day. I’d been doing dirty work all morning, but when my husband   said he needed to run an errand on that end of town, and we could not only check out the rally for a few minutes but take the dogs out, I put on a clean shirt, socks and shoes and jumped in the car.

thumbnail_20171030_141443Jim Nielsen is a good speaker, natural, and he made it clear – Californians are being ripped off, the gas tax hasn’t been used to fix the roads.We timed it perfect, arriving just in time to miss that idiot gasbag James Gallagher, and just as Jim Nielsen was taking the mike. I don’t always agree with Nielsen, but he made all the pertinent points – this tax is aimed straight at working people.

Welcome to Taxifornia.

Tax storm on the horizon

It’s Wednesday, school is in session for most people, so my husband and I decided to go camping. I’m coming to you from the cloud.

I’m not sure that’s right, I don’t know what “the cloud” is. But, I use my husband’s cell phone to connect my tiny “notebook” to the internet, and I sit here in the semi-darkness, sipping hot coffee and babbling while he and the dogs get some quality zzzz’s.

I get up early no matter where I am, the old bod has to move.  My legs kick me out of bed every morning.

There were so many stars when I woke up I had trouble spotting Orion and his dogs. But Venus is unmistakable, her round bottom glistening in the morning sun.

I’ve been frustrated lately, with all the work my family has been doing all Summer, I haven’t had time to hold much of a candle on the government backside. Our town is in heaps of trouble, and every agency from recreation to education is holding their hand out for more money.

I was watching the news Monday, and in a “first day of school” feature, the district finance manager, Kevin Bultema, was already bitching that the district is short of money. Here’s my prediction – get ready for another bond measure in 2018. They’ve had a bond on the last three ballots, and the last two have passed, just whets their appetites. Bultema admitted to me earlier this year that CalSTRS has raised their premiums and will continue to raise them in response to shortfalls in the stock market. He said if the district can’t find more revenues they will cut programs for the kids. 

So much for the moral caliber of public servants.  This guy makes over $160,000 in salary and we pay another $51,000 toward his pension and benefits. But he cuts programs for the kids. What a pig. 

Meanwhile, the Chico Area Recreation District is moving shamelessly toward putting another revenue bond on our homes – I’ve flaked on this, I haven’t attended the meetings, so I can’t figure out whether they will put it on the general election ballot or go  with a mailed ballot of property owners. 

My friend Bob told me about a popular book on the market – “Taxifornia”. I haven’t had time to read it but I think I get the general gist. 

The city is also pandering for a quarter cent sales tax increase. Really? On what ? They have been annexing car lots into the city, trying to cash in on high ticket sales tax, but I’m going to tell you what – they get the sales tax off any car purchased by a city resident, anywhere, they don’t need to annex half the county. Whenever they annex, they get costs, like streets and sewer and other stuff they can’t even keep fixed in long-standing parts of the city. 

We’ve got a city $taff whose main purpose in life is bringing in revenues, by hook or by crook, to pay down their $178 million pension deficit. 

We have to get ready for Tax Storm, 2018. But how do you get people’s attention? They flocked like lemmings after the much-hyped eclipse – I enjoyed it from my yard, using a piece of cardboard with a hole punched in it.  I saw people on the news who drove 19 hours, then jumped back in their cars to drive 19 more. But show up for a CARD meeting to voice concern over 30 employees racking up $1.7 million in pension deficit and only recently being asked to pay 2% of their premiums out of salaries over $100,000/year? “We have a life…”

We’ve got “peace advocates” shutting down legal rallies, attacking marchers who have a different viewpoint, censoring speakers from public campuses, but show up for a city council meeting to voice concern over salaries, benefits, the pension deficit? “We have a life…”

When will people see the direct connection between quality of life and public engagement?

 

You haven’t lived until you’ve opposed a school bond

 

What an adventure – I decided to officially oppose a bond on my local ballot, and I found out – it’s a lot of work trying to throw a wrench in somebody’s carefully laid-out scheme.

 The school district put up a $152 million bond, saying the schools are rotting around the kids’ heads and they need to make repairs. That sounds almost reasonable – unless you know they have passed $126 million in bonds within the last 15 years, using the same excuses, but for some reason have not done any repairs.

They tout a new “Performing Arts” center at one high school and a new sports field at the other, but they weren’t able to include lights or even bleachers so need more money. What? 

It seems weird to me that a fancy theater and a sports field take precedence over removing asbestos ceiling and floor tiles, fixing rotten plumbing and dysfunctional electric systems, but you see, that’s how Chico Unified School District is run. And in the meantime, they continue to shovel millions out for pensions and health benefits, totaling over $100 million in premiums over the last four years.

According to budget reports, they spend between 82 and 92 percent of their total budget on salaries and benefits. They say, “we’re a service organization” – but that’s funny cause they don’t really serve anybody but themselves. If you live in Chico, you know how bad unemployment is here, our 20-somethings are literally living on the streets.  People come from all over the state to attend our college – I’m going to guess, they have the figures, and the local kids just aren’t going to college. That’s what I’m seeing with my kids’ friends, ages 20 – 26.  Most of our friends were able to send their kids to college of some sort, but found CUSD had not equipped their kids for 4 year school.  

Or a job. CUSD dropped their industrial arts programs years ago, they don’t have ROP, they don’t do anything to get kids ready for jobs.

So, when I read they wanted to put $60 per $100,000 evaluation on our homes, my teeth set to grinding and I knew I had to do something.  I detailed the next steps here:

https://worldofjuanita.com/2016/08/28/just-try-to-stop-me/

Just in case anybody is wondering, Badges is doing great and I love my new fake wood floor. But that ape is still around, gotta watch him.

After I posted my arguments with the county clerk, I realized it was time to plan letters to the editor of the local daily. I don’t write to the weekly anymore because the editor thinks she’s allowed to edit everybody’s letters.  The daily editor always announces election letter deadlines, and he warns everybody they need to stay on one topic, try to keep it shorter than the usual 250 words, etc.  He has also been running pro-bond  pieces, doing stories a couple of times a week about all the wonderful things the school district was planning with their $152 million. 

He ran my first letter, well ahead of the deadline. When he started doing “analysis” articles of each state and local measure, I wrote him an e-mail to say I was the official opposition of Measure K, and I’d like to be contacted by the reporter when they did the story on this measure.

If you know me, you know I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve been on a first name basis with this editor a long time. When he agreed with me, he was very friendly. We discussed family, vacations, even agreed that X was the best band ev-er. 

Yeah, our daily news editor, David Little, admitted to me an early crush on Exene Cervenka. I love her too. I thought I could relate to Dave Little. Unfortunately, he turned out to be one of those people that give me the creeps.

Little started to hold my  letters back a couple of years ago. At one point he refused to print a letter in which I criticized him by name until I removed the criticism. At one point he wouldn’t run a letter because I criticized his kids’ charter school. He admitted to me that he round-filed a letter my husband wrote because he believed I had written it and sent it via my husband’s e-mail. He broke down and ran it under criticism for thinking a carpet layer couldn’t write a complete sentence, but my husband won’t write letters anymore. Not that he doesn’t have opinions – he just doesn’t trust Little to be fair anymore, says he’s paid off.

So, of course he did not have the reporter contact me when they did their pro-piece on Measure K. They took quotes from my arguments against and then called the district shill to comment on my remarks. Wow, talk about a hit piece.

When I didn’t see my second letter within the usual number of days, I wrote old Dick Little a note, asking him why – and I told him about the ginormous typo he was running in  a half page ad – and he responded that I should see my letter within the next couple of days. It appeared. Well thank you for your due diligence to journalism!  

Now I have a reader who tells me he has written a letter against Measure K, sent it two days after mine – it still hasn’t appeared. 

So, we’re up against the school district machine, we’re up against the press machine. Did I tell you who signed the Argument For? The mayor, the chamber of commerce shill, our ex-city manager, a real cast of the elite around town. I’m the “sole opposition.” 

I doubt that. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who hate the school district worse than I do. I’ve got a former school district employee who is filling me in stuff like, fake e-mail accounts, document destruction parties, public employees fired over their refusal to participate in illegal activities, Chico State and city of Chico workers involved in covering up  – wow, it looks like I’ve just scratched the tip of the district iceberg. 

So, that’s what’s been distracting me lately. I’ve still been doing stuff like this every day

 

This will be a really nice loaf of bread in about an hour and a half.

This will be a really nice loaf of bread in about an hour and a half.

This chicken is salted up and ready to go on the grill tonight.

This chicken is salted up and ready to go on the grill tonight.

I’m glad I decided to oppose this bond. You can’t just lay there and take it all the time, or you end up like Mr. Chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star gazing, eating apples, squeezing melons, and mau-mauing the flakcatchers – Juanita’s been busy

When I went outside this morning I saw Orion finally pulling himself up over my neighbor’s trees, like a giant peering into my windows. Betelgeuse was bright red and blinking. The Sisters were sparkling like a little tiara, and Taurus’ red eye glowered down on Orion. A crowd of celebrities tinkled all around them, the moon having business elsewhere.

The last couple of nights have been tough – Arthur’s been sleeping over with us, Arthur Itis.  He’s literally a pain in the neck. When he can’t sleep, he sits next to my bed and whines and complains until I get up to keep him company. He actually makes a pretty good cuppa java, I’ll give him that.

I been working on the usual things – I write myself a note – “pick _______ today.” The tomatoes are coming around again, and we have green apples getting ripe now too. This is the time of year I have a hard time deciding, should I work inside or outside today? The temperatures have been so nice, we’ve been outside almost all day lately, coming in to lay under the fans when we need a break, eating chips and salsa, watching “A-Team” on the boob tube.

At this time of year, we have given up weeding, and the garden is a mystery patch. 

Look what we found in the crabgrass that has overtaken the melon beds.

Look what we found in the crabgrass that has overtaken the melon beds. Welcome to the Melon Nation.

 

Look what was hiding in the crabgrass that has overtaken the melon beds.

So ripe and sweet – I’m sorry I don’t have “Smellaround” on the camera.

Yesterday my husband brought in a payload of melons. We ate one, put another in the fridge, and then I cut the others into pieces and put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

I always try to shove these waaaay back in the freezer, forget about them, give myself a little surprise in January.

I always try to shove these waaaay back in the freezer, forget about them, give myself a little surprise in January.

We stripped our tiny Fuji apple tree, a good enough crop of sweet little apples.

Here's some nice Fuji's - I have about the same amount stowed away in the refrigerator drawer.

Here’s some nice Fuji’s – I have about the same amount stowed away in the refrigerator drawer.

Those will get eaten pretty fast, but I couldn’t resist throwing a few in the juicer.

I juiced  some Fuji's with a some "baby carrots".

I juiced some Fuji’s with  some “baby carrots”.

I found a 2 lb bag of “baby carrots” (which my husband reminds me are just big carrots put through a peeling machine) at Cash and Carry for the same price Safeway sells the 1 lb bag, so took a chance and bought them. It seemed like an awfully big bag, I was afraid they would go bad before I could use them.  Nope, we polished off the whole bag without any losses. They’re just too damned convenient!  We ate them on salads, juiced them, and chopped them up for the dogs’ food, so the bag went fast. I’ll have to pick up another bag next time, carrot juice is the nectar of the gods.

So, I told you I was going to get out there and do something different – yesterday I went up to O-ville and turned in an “argument against” a bond the school district has put on the ballot. I know, people think I’m nuts to consider that kind of stuff fun and interesting, but I’ll have to tell you all about it over at Chico Taxpayers. 

 

Wearing the horns

Me and Arthur are watching “A-Team,” resting up after a long day. When I get done with work, I’d really like to screw off the top of my head, pull out my brain, and put it in a jar of Kool Aid, but tv is good.

I rarely go anywhere at night, my husband and I might pick up some take-out food once in a while, but we generally stay close to home after dark. Biscuit has us on a regular schedule with her shots, and we’re usually tired enough to be swept into a pan and tossed into the stove by that time anyway.

I used to go to a lot of meetings, you know me. I used to hit a city council meeting once in a while, Democracy in Action and all that. But I learned, the real meetings were during the day, where they did the real business and made the recommendations that were rubber-stamped by full council at the night meetings on tv. That’s where you find out who has influence around here, and you hear the staff reports – very incriminating.  I like the morning meetings because they are oftentimes over by 9am, and there’s the rest of the day to be  productive, but I think I was the only one.  Tami Ritter changed the meeting start time to 9am, and it’s like the dentist’s office – after 9am, everything starts moving slower, everything takes longer, and the next thing you know, it’s 11:45 and you’re still  waiting to hear your topic.

Some meetings are held in the afternoon – those don’t start til 3:30 usually. Those are good meetings to attend, but onerous. Everybody’s tired, things linger, the next thing you know, it’s a quarter to Dinnertime.

Chico Recreation District has their board meetings at 7pm, and those are usually well-run, over by 8. They used to hold them at the CARD center, over on Vallombrosa, which is an easy bike ride from my house.  But CARD bought the elegant Lakeside Pavilion out at California Park a few years back, for some whopping million dollars, and last year they decided to move operations – including public meetings – out to the Pavilion. California Park is on the easternmost end of town, beyond the sidewalks and bike paths, in the outermost reaches of CARD’s district. When I asked CARD director Ann “Mrs. Potato” Willmann why the meetings were moved to the Pavilion she answered in her simple potato way, “the board decided to have them there…”  Uh-huh, and that’s a reason? I’ve learned not to push Willmann, because she just stops answering when you ask the wrong question.

Which apparently I did recently, when I asked her how much a new non-profit group seeking to build a “megacility” within CARD’s district had paid to use the Pavilion for a private presentation.

I’d been forwarded an invitation by a city councilor who knew I’d been following CARD’s efforts to place a bond on our homes to fund a new aquatic  facility.

Aquatic center proponents form non-profit, hire consultant, plan “Megacility”

I didn’t realize, it was a private presentation, so I prepared a quick dinner for my husband and myself, gave my dog her dinner and watched my husband give her dinnertime shot of insulin, and I jumped in my car to head for California Park. I don’t know that part of town, I tried to give myself plenty of time, but of course I got lost out there in the winding maze of “No Trespassing” signs. By the time I got to the Pavilion I was pretty frustrated and nervous.  The parking lot was pretty packed. I wandered toward the front entrance with my notebook, staring at a catering truck parked outside the front.

When I got to the door there was a table inside where a woman was asking for names and handing out pre-made name tags. I was alarmed. I’m not a crowd person, especially in a pile of strangers, and I was starting to panic. There were dinner tables set up. I wondered if I would be let in or not.

Suddenly a friendly face appeared as I stood there like a fish out of water – our city manager, Mark Orme.  He looked at me with a big smile  and asked me how I was doing – “Great!” I answered, and smiled myself away. Orme always seems charming and polite, but I don’t like trying to have superficial conversations in a loud room, and I’m sure he would have been uncomfortable if I walked up and demanded to know what he was doing there. I made a note to e-mail him the next morning and ask him if he was there representing the city.

CARD board member Bob Malowney was standing at center of a group of at least 50 or 60 people, acting like a jovial host. Suddenly I noticed a man standing in front of the door, as if greeting people.  It was Greg “Dutch” Van Dusen, of “Everybodyhealthybody.com”,  a “non-profit” group specializing in “collaboration and partnerships for athletics facilities and programming.”

I met Van Dusen about 35 years ago.  He was managing Hughes Stadium – Home of the Sacramento Solons – at Sacramento City College. I was the first girl sports editor of the campus newspaper, then known as The Pony Express. My friend and classmate Ed Gardner introduced us, very excited about all the rock and roll shows Van Dusen  was planning for the stadium. At that time we all considered Dutch to be a real rebel – bringing rock stars like Sammy Hagar, Heart – even a MUSE show – to the stadium, which had primarily been used for sports up until then.

For years Van Dusen and a group of friends, including my old journalism advisor Tom McClellan, had been lobbying to get a professional basketball team in Sacramento. They wanted a real stadium, etc. At that time I never would have believed it would happen, but they did. Van Duesen was the first manager of Arco Arena, and managed it even after the Kings left for their next stadium, bringing big music acts.

So now he has this consulting firm that helps organizations like Aquajets bulldozer “megacilities” into their little towns. Hmmm. Some people are just never satisfied.

I looked around the room – not a friend among the crowd. I realized I’d seen all I needed to see. The city manager and a CARD board member in attendance at a private function that wasn’t even covered in the newspaper.  I turned and left, went home to help my husband in the garden.

The next day I e-mailed city manager Orme to ask him about the meeting, if he would be giving a report, etc.  He responded politely,

Ms. Sumner,

I was attending to learn more about the 501c3 and what their objectives are in working with the community and local organizations.  I have not been asked to participate in any formal way to date.  Thus, I have no formal report until such a time I have received a request for the City to participate with this organization, which I would then report back to Council on to determine if they would like staff to be a part of the effort. 

It looks like, at this time, the only government entity that’s working with this group is CARD – but I’m not entirely sure what that relationship is – formal or informal. 

Good day,

Mark

I don’t want to be rude, so I let that go. But come on – he was invited because he’s the city manager, that’s the only way he would have known about it. He was wearing a pre-made name tag.

And then I wondered, did this group pay for the use of the Pavilion? CARD bought the Pavilion as an asset, they were going to make so much money having weddings there! That never panned – in fact, they are still in the red on the loan they secured to buy it, and now they find the place is full of dry rot. But it is still supposed to be a For Rent facility. So I  e-mailed Mrs. Potato – hey, I was nice – and asked her how much this consulting group paid for the use of the Pavilion.

That was yesterday morning. She has yet to answer. I cc’d my county supervisor and the “observer” from the Women’s League of Voters.  Ooooo, I be soooo bad!

We’ve allowed our “public servants” to become elite citizens who don’t have to explain anything to us anymore. We’re like the cuckold who pays the bills!

In the old days, they’d say, we’re wearing the horns.

Who’s in charge here?

Wow, what a day I had yesterday. I’m going to have to learn how to use roller skates.

I don’t know how I managed all of it, but at 8:33 I was sitting in a meeting of the city finance committee, listening to a report about a new online system that will allow citizens to do business without the onerous complication of human intervention.

The city was a good employer once, employing over 400 people at livable and sustainable salaries, with modest benefits. Now they’ve butchered the lower level staffers and given all the salaries to management. Look at the benefit packages some of these pigs get.

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?fiscalyear=2013&entityid=79

Look at page 15 – there you find our city council members and their seemingly petty salaries – look all the way to the right at the health insurance packages they get. Only one chose the cheapest package – I think that’s Vice Mayor Sean Morgan, who probably gets a very sweet package from Chico State. Some city employees – now allowed to work for other entities – are allowed to take the lesser package as a cash  payout, I don’t know if that agreement extends to council, but I’ll bet it does. The others all take packages over $15,000 a year, including Mayor Mark Sorensen, who takes a smaller package for his job as city manager of Biggs. This is a guy whose Form 700 shows he owns a business worth over a million dollars with hundred thousand or more a year in income. 

And then there’s the county –  look at all the salaries, the duplicate positions, over $100,000/year. Look  at the packages they pay less than 10 percent for.

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Counties/County.aspx?entityid=4&fiscalyear=2013

On page 19 you will find Board of Supervisor salaries, and look there to the right at the packages they get. Those amounts indicate a pension, but I don’t know for sure. I don’t know how much supervisors pay for their packages – city councilors only pay 2 percent of their salaries, all under $10,000/year.  

Board of supervisors just voted themselves a pay raise – are these people living on the same planet as the rest of us? Not Larry Wahl, a guy who has been fined $12,000 by the FPPC for a decision regarding a political donor who he did not identify at the time of the vote. Wahl has also publicly admitted he uses his position to enrich himself – as planning commissioner he worked to get the city to acquire Bidwell Ranch because he wanted it developed. He admittedly located his UPS store at East Avenue Safeway because he said he believed, knowledge gained through a  position of public trust, that Bidwell Ranch would be developed, giving him customers lined up out the door. If that’s not using a public position to enrich yourself, I don’t know what it is.

I don’t know what to say about Maureen Kirk, except I expect her to put a shine on it from now on.  No more excuses.

And, at $269,000/year just in salary, I expect the Behavioral Health Director  to start taking homeless into her living room in Yuba City.